Circus Tourism

Montreal is kind of the cirque center of the universe. There are a number of well-respected circus schools here, Cirque du Soleil has it's headquarters here, and on the nice days in the many parks around town, you can see acrobats, jugglers, slackliners, and more playing, practicing, and preening.

Call it a fringe benefit. In between doing the work* that I came out for, I got to scope out the circus scene. I juggled in the parks, I skulked around Cirque's headquarters, and I went to see Cirque's new show Totem under the bigtop. What can you say about a night of getting gussied* up, hanging out with good friends, and seeing some of the most premier circus artists plying their trade? Thank you Montreal!

Montreal has more to offer than circus stuff, of course, and I've got to do/see a lot of it. But circus is a part of this city and I love it! Maybe it's the beginning of a whole new type of tourism: circus-tourism! Look for tour packages come soon!
Friday May 28 2010File under: travel

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Montreal Food Post

I've crossed paths with a number of Montrealers in the past couple years, or people who at least have spent time here, and one thing that always comes up is the food. "Montreal has the best _____!", people would say. Or "If you go, you have to try ______'s." Well, with one or two exceptions, I've tried it, and I have to say I'm not that impressed.

Other than the food, I'm totally enjoying my Montreal experience. And the food isn't bad. I've actually had some really good meals*. Nothing has warranted a "you gotta try this", but I'm not going to come home complaining.

Among the "you gotta try"s were bagels and poutine. The bagels don't really do it for me. Give me Bellingham's Bagelery anyday. As for poutine, the famous Canadian dish of fries served with gravy and cheese curd, I love the concept, but in practice, was disappointed. I'm thinking maybe I will have to try some homemade poutine sometime and see if I can do better.

Another "simply must" was Schwartz's, home of the smoked meat sandwich since 1928. While I can't say that there was any false advertising (their sandwich did consist only of smoked meat), I not only walked away disappointed, but also with a healthy jump on a triple bypass surgery.

Yep, so far Montreal's food scene hasn't come close to living up to the hype. The one possible redeemer will have to wait until next visit, as it isn't the season. Sugar shacks, literally shacks that serve everything coupled with maple syrup, definitely have a chance to win it all back. I mean, it's a jug of freaking maple syrup. I'll keep you posted.
Monday May 24 2010File under: food, travel

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Happy Bike to Work Day


Montreal, Canada - Despite not really having a job and being 3000 miles away from my bike, I'm stoked to say that I got to participate in Bike-to-Work day, an "annual event held on the third Friday of May across the United States and Canada that promotes the bicycle as an option for commuting to work"wiki.
       Luckily, Montreal is about as bike friendly a city as you could hope for (except for the severely potholed roads*). There are bike lanes, bike lights, bike racks everywhere, and, at least as far as I have seen, bikers everywhere.
     Perhaps one of the most unique contributions to biking culture here in Montreal is Bixi (the Bixi? le Bixi?), a city-wide bike sharing program unveiled 1 year ago and spreading to other communities. As part of my work agreement(-ish), I've got myself access to Bixi bikes for my time here.
     In short, this is how Bixi works: there are MANY stations around town where you can check out a bike (with your
[extremely reasonably priced] subscription). You then have 30 minutes to return the bike to any other station in town. You can do this as many times as you like. So you ride from your house to the grocery store, return the bike to a holder, and get out a different bike for the ride home. Same for commuting to work.
     The bikes aren't your normal road, touring, or mountain bike. They have 3 gears inside the back hub (so no derailleur issues), a luggage rack on the handle bars, and front and back lights run off non-friction based generators. They are a comfortable ride, but not for hard-core cycling; they are definitely utilitarian (as they should be).
    Yep, it's bikes everywhere you look. And I've got more bike fun to look forward to. Along with exploring the city by [Bixi] bike, I'm really excited to check out Per's bike making shop. Maybe I'll get a little custom frame work while I'm there. Yeehaw!

Friday May 21 2010File under: travel, transportation

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FC 106 - Nice Try Lady

Oh boy, oh boy. Where to start? I guess firstly I should start by apologizing for this week's comic. Not really that funny. Not at all well drawn. And not really up to Friday Comic standards, which really means it must be bad. Anyway, I'm sorry. Here's the story:

I got the idea for this on a plane back from Mexico. This pretty much exactly happened to me. I think I was so aghast by the whole thing, that I set it in my mind to do a comic about it to point out how ridiculous it is. I was hoping that it would help me step back and look at the situation a little bit easier. It didn't. Anyway, I started drawing this at the Toronto airport this morning after getting about 3 hours of sleep on the red-eye from Vancouver. Now I am rushing to get it finished before the deadline (being that I am on East Coast time, I had 3 hours less this week to complete it). When I press post, I will collapse into a well deserved sleep.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it. The upside, however, of having a rushed comic due to travel is that there should be some good travel posts on the way. Life has a way of balancing the ups and downs. Anyhoo, happy Friday!!!
Thursday May 20 2010File under: comic

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Random Internet Anecdotes

As a nerd, specifically an internet nerd, you can imagine how happy it makes me when someone points out that they've seen something I've done on the internet, whether it be troothpicks, People's Guide to Anacortes, or just something from the blog. Well, the happiness factor sky rockets when someone I've just met announces that they actually POSTED something about me on the internet. In the past couple weeks, just that has happened to me....TWICE!

Case #1: I went up to the Western Washington University's celebration of Earth Day a couple weeks back. I had some circus friends performing and the year before it was a pretty good time. So while listening to the music and waiting for the circus folk to go on, I did a little juggling, as is my wont. During a break, a pretty girl comes up to me and says, "I used a picture of you and Amiel juggling from last year for the promotion for this event." Ga? I searched for said promotions afterwards but never found them. Next time I encountered the pretty girl, I inquired further and she told me she just did a google image search for "Earth Day 2009 Western Washington University" and there we were. Neat!

Case #2: At pub trivia in Portland last week*, I went to sign up with the quiz master. He asks, "You've been here before, right?". I answered, "Yeah. I'm from out of town though, but I try to come whenever I pass through Portland." He says, "From Anacortes, right?" Za? When I dumbly nod, he says, "Oh, I made a post on my blog about you." Ja? I was so confused that I went back to my table without asking WTF. Later, however, said blog post was tracked down by interchallenge expert Sara. It is definitely worth a read. (Here's a screen shot for if the link ever goes dead.)

Just a couple of neat little anecdotes, I thought. Yeah for life on the internet!
Tuesday May 18 2010File under: misc

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Productive Time on the Road

I just got back from a nice little week-long jaunt down through southern Washington and Portland. But besides being a great trip, I can say that it was productive as well!

First stop was in Olympia to help Jule finish up work on his stone patio (with a little extra landscaping thrown in for good measure). The whole thing turned out great* and even left some time for family meals, some frisbee golf, and a trip to the theatre.

Next stop: always wacky Portland. The plan was just to hang out, see friends, and of course get in as many pub quizzes* as possible. The result, however, is that I somehow talked my way into helping Andrew and Gretchen build the lovely pathway you see here. We gathered the broken concrete for free via craigslist so the only cost was the sand. I think it turned out awesome! (North agrees. I couldn't even get him to look away from the path to get a decent picture*.)

Last stop on my productive week on the road was a trip up the Columbia River for a "business meeting"*. While the meeting was productive, the train ride really took the cake. The views as we cruised along the Columbia were spectacular!

It is a nice feeling to combine seeing good friends and traveling around with being productive. Maybe I'll have to try that again soon*...
Sunday May 16 2010File under: work

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FC 105 - The Sandman Cometh

The idea of another Jeopardy! comic made me smile so big that I moved it to the top of the todo list. For those not around for the early days of Friday Comics, the first comic ever (which never had intentions of becoming a series) was Jeopardy based. FC 6 also poked fun at our favorite television trivia show.

Although I'm not super fond of the format (mostly because of technical constraints), I relented and made this a 3 panel comic. I suppose a variety in format isn't a bad thing. Hopefully you will chuckle which will make the format choice, the hours I drug tits over a hot keyboard*, and everything else worth it. Happy Friday!!

(Unlike my last Jeopardy comic, this one wasn't traced at all! Having that as a comparison shows me how far my computer comicking skillz have come.)
Thursday May 13 2010File under: comic

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Mount St. Helens

The last time I went to Mount St. Helens, I bet I was only 14 years old, if that. It's funny how you can live so close to something that is really quite spectacular and fail to give it the attention it warrants.

Well, since the 30th anniversary of the massive eruption is nearly upon us, I thought that no better an excuse to check it out again*. The weather for the day fell into the Oh-this-is-why-Washington-is-the-best-place-in-the-world-to-live category, which made everything glisten and gleam that much more.

Unfortunately, the tippy top visitor's center hasn't opened yet for the year, so we couldn't peer down into the crater, see the spectacular documentary movie, etc. Instead, we had to be content with just driving around and taking in some of the viewpoints which made for a spectacular day as it was.
Monday May 10 2010File under: misc

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FC 104 - Please Pass the Mashed Potatoes

While the worst of the comic is seen here, I should probably throw out of a bit of a warning: there is a chicken running around with its head cut off in this comic. If such grotesqueness offends you, it might be best to skip this week's comic. Otherwise, by all means, check it out.

In an effort to save time (believe it or not, but I've actually been quite busy of late), I considered cutting and pasting my last chicken drawing into this one. But just the thought of that made me feel a little bit dirty, so I bucked up and drew one from scratch (and then cut and pasted it, with a tweak or two, to come up with chicken #2). Oh if I could just draw things by hand like normal comics people, life would be so much easier.

Anyway, I hope you have a fabulous Friday!
Thursday May 6 2010File under: comic

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Another Compost Experiment

Remember that test I did with the supposedly compostable drinking glass from Pizzeria Pagliacci's a couple years ago? Well, I ran across another product making the "compostable" claim, only this time to a greater degree (to see the info, go here and then click "compostable packaging"*). Call me a skeptic if you want, but I just had to try it.

It turns out that the timing is such that the Sun Chips bag is the first item in this year's bin, having just emptied the now well composted soil into the gardens. This means maximum compost time, pressure, and heat. I'll check on it in 12 weeks or so, maybe a little longer to allow for enough other food stuff to really get the party started. Then I will report back.

This is skeptical environmental consumer lookout guy signing off.
Wednesday May 5 2010File under: environment

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