Sunday, December 28, 2008

Mont Royal

Here's Montreal's Metro that I mentioned earlier. We were closest to the Guy-Concordia station on the green line. Way back when I used to live in Montreal (1974-1979) we used to live on the mainland, beyond the Longueuil station (now called Longueuil-Universite-de-Sherbrooke). Several of the station names have changed as the Metro has expanded. I think when we were there the green line only went as far as Atwater, ending at Frontenac on the other end. I don't think the blue line even existed back then and Henri-Bourassa was the last station of the orange line. The 1976 Olympics had a lot to do with the expansion, although I don't recall which station was called Le Stade or even if there was one (I think there was one). A side-by-side map comparison would be interesting to look at.

Above are two Metro plans, atop the current (2008) plan, below the 1966 version (from From what I recall, in 1974 the metro hadn't changed much since 1966. I think it expanded for the 1976 Olympics, at which point the plan changed, but up until then, my first memories of the plan are as the 1966 one. Notice that back then the central transfer station was Berri-de Montigny, Jean-Drapeau was Île-Sainte-Hélène (adorned by the Man and His World logo) and Guy-Concordia was simply Guy.

But I digress...the title of this post is Mont Royal as it was meant to feature the pic from atop Mont Royal, where we ventured up one snowy day. My calves were sore for two days after that but it was an excellent hike. The view, while a bit overcast, still shows the iconic McGill library (at least that's what I think it used to be; I think it may still be).


Here's a walk down Ste. Catherine, sort of the main (touristy) strip, downtown Montreal. Lots of shops up and down the street. A lot of it accessible via the Metro, but we braved the snow and cold to get a pedestrian's viewpoint of the street in winter. And to bounce in and out of various stores. There's even the Swedish H&M that is a fixture of most European downtowns. Our first stop was a phone booth though, since I had to phone in to my bank to let them know that yes that was me trying to withdraw some cash up in Canada. A bit of a hassle getting my ATM card unblocked, but better safe than sorry I guess. I just need to remember to phone both the bank and the credit card people before flying off somewhere. Anyway, our destination that day was The Hudson's Bay Company, or simply The Bay, a Canadian department store. You can see the store in the pic below.

Flight to YUL

Last week we flew up to Montreal for the holidays. We flew through Detroit. On descent Corey spotted a shipping lane through an iced over section of what I think may have been Lake Erie. I had to look this up after our return to see whether this body of water might be visible on approach to DTW. I think it's the southwest portion of Erie, and possibly part of a shipping lane connecting Lake Ontario, which then I think connects to the Saint Lawrence Seaway and out to sea. All the Great Lakes are connected, and apparently connect down to the Gulf of Mexico as well as the Atlantic (via the St. Lawrence).

And here's Montreal at night a few minutes before our plane touched down. I used to live in Montreal back in 1974 for five years, but I can't recognize anything in the pic. The airport (P. E. Trudeau, formerly known as Dorval) is southwest of Montreal's downtown, but I can't tell where Centre-Ville might be in this pic.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

More Music Gear

The second band I play in, Klaxon, a roadhouse rock band (unlike the Hoodoo Hounds, a blues band), is gearing up to play gigs around town in 2009. One of our guitarists, and the guy whose barn we practice in, just went out and picked up a 32-channel mixing board. It's a Yamaha MG32/14FX model, and it's honkin' big! I've no idea how they intend on carting the thing around to gigs, hopefully it's not too heavy. If you don't know what one of these is for, it's for plugging in and mixing (equalizing) all the various sound instruments that produce sound. Why 32 channels you ask? They want to run two channels per guitar (direct in and off the mic pointing at the amp). We have two 6-string electric guitars that trade off on lead/rhythm and one bass. That's 6 channels right there. The front man wants to play a bit of amplified acoustic guitar, so that's potentially two more channels. Meanwhile we all want to sing as well, with the front man singing lead vocals and the rest of us providing backup when needed. That's another 5 channels for vocal mics. I just ordered a Shure WH30XLR headset condenser mic with XLR connection so that I can sing without bumping into a mic hanging off a boom stand. I've already sung like this a couple of times at practice and even though I'm a crappy singer it served the purpose. I looked at some comments on drumming review web pages, and one drummer's comment really made sense. He said that he got tired of having his neck in a very constrained position when singing and of hitting the mic with his sticks. I knew exactly what he'd been talking about, so like him, I decided on a headset mic. So that's about 13 channels. And there are the drums...

Here's the Tama Rockstar acoustic kit I play on at practice. I traded my old Pintech electronic kit for this one since I like the way the toms sound and I wanted to replace the Pintech kit with Roland V-Drums. This kit got my Zildjian Z-custom cymbal pack (that I've replaced with individually selected cymbals on my Gretsch road kit) and now I've just miced it up with a 7-piece drum mic kit from Digital Reference. The drum mics look ok and were relatively cheap, but the mounts it came with sucked. Cheapo plastic snap-on things that I broke on my first try. Three of the four snapped as I tried putting them on the drum rims. So I ended up having to spend another $50 on mounting hardware from Musicians Gear. These clips are really good and screw on to the rims instead of snapping on. I liked them so much that I bought another set for my road kit since I've always been annoyed at having to reef on the plastic snaps I have with that mic set. Screwing on will be much easier. With 7 mics, that's another 7 channels and so we're up to 20. I suppose a 24-channel board would have been enough, but he said something about that mixer not having enough XLR inputs, so he just went for the 32-channel beast—I think every channel as XLR input, so we should now have plenty. I contributed a 24-channel snake that will connect everything on stage (24 channels anyway) to the board when we play. I guess Tuesday we'll spend some time on doing a sound check and learning how all this stuff works. I think I'll peruse the mixing board manual myself to see what all the knobs do.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Frigid Late Fall

Our late fall this year has been dry and cold. One lake's all but dried up, so we do a lot of walks behind the house with the cats. Here's Sidney up a tree. Both the cats like climbing up trees. We're not sure whether it's a flight response (yes, we know of at least one instance where Sidney got treed by a neighbour's dog), or whether they do it to get a lay of the land. It seems to be the latter when we go out over the beaver pond to what I've started calling the land spit. There, out in the tall grasses, Sidney will often climb up a tree just to see where everyone else has gone. Or so it seems.

Christmas came a little early for us. We were both waiting for some packages and they arrived the same day. Corey got some coats and I got my Meinl 18" China cymbal that I bought back in Austin. I haven't had a chance to try it out yet, other than at Strait Music where I bought it. I think that's the only way to buy cymbals now—have to hit them to test how they sound.

Last weekend, we went out on the sailboat, on the second lake around here that still has water in it. They've pretty much emptied one lake (Jocasee) to keep the second semi full of water (it needs to have water to cool the nuclear plant that's on it). Here I'm just hamming it up on the VHF radio that I bring with me on the boat. Since there was no wind, we were just motoring around to exercise the engine. We'll need to bring some 2-cycle oil next time since we used it all up. It's a two-stroke engine but it has its own oil reservoire; somewhat unusual. Maybe one of these years when it finally conks out we'll look into getting a quieter 4-stroke outboard. We just bought a 4-stroke leaf blower and it's much quieter than our older 2-stroke screamer.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Band pics

Some pics from our Halloween gig a few weeks ago. These were taken by a pretty decent photographer. I've got a bunch of pics, but I'll just post a few here. The Hounds are a blues band so naturally the theme was Blues Brothers this year. So this pic pays homage to Elwood.

The pair above is of me hard at work...that night was pretty tough. We played two sets back to back and it wiped me out. I thought it'd be cold so I wore two shirts. And a jacket. And a hat. And by the third set I was overheating. Took off the sportcoat, took off the hat, even turned on the fan. Never wear two shirts.

I don't know when the photographer got this one. I had my jacket off but I still had my hat on. Second set maybe. Or after the gig just before teardown.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Campus Parking

Parking on campus is tough enough as it is, but you're better off if you can find a spot that isn't under a tree. In the fall it's bad enough with falling leaves getting into every vehicular nook and cranny, but on high-wind days (such as today) you can even expect whole branches falling on your wheels. Like this poor fellow here—what a bummer! Doesn't look like there's too much damage, luckily, but still, I'm sure this would tick me off seeing that on my way out to the car. All that's really missing from this pic is one of our campus squirrels jumping off the branch onto the hood. That tree happens to be one that is popular by the little grey critters.

Meanwhile, as I was synchronizing my iPhone's photos with iPhoto, I remembered that I snapped this pic of a primo parking spot I got on the Wednesday just before Thanksgiving break. I normally think of parking lots in "tiers", in relation to distance: Tier I is right close to the back of the building where I work (almost impossible to get a spot there), Tier II is just around the corner from Tier I, and Tier III is the large lot that has the highest probability of empty spaces up until about 08:30 when it fills up and then you're stuck and have to drive off to a far-off parking lot and get bussed in. I don't even have a name for this sweet parking spot that I found in the front of the building. From this angle, you can see my office window on the top floor. If they ever put up a parking garage with dedicated spots that cost thousands of dollars a year to park in, I'll buy one! Back at my old undergrad institution I managed to get a covered parking spot in the garage, right in front of the pub doors, as it happened, after about a year's wait on the waiting list. Today I think those same spots either cost a fortune or are passed down through generations, i.e., inherited :) Those were the days, though!