Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Place des Festivals en hiver

Winter shot that I never put up. I was catching a bus, so I didn't have time to play in that bubbly wonderland. Looks cool though!

Stump Destruction!

You may have noticed discrete dark orange lumps of woodchips on certain sidewalks or alleys or yards in Montreal this spring:

You may have also noticed that these piles of woodchips were once stumps. We had a pretty big stump outside our office where they took down an érable à giguère that had rotted in its core. I had watched that whole chopping up process from out my office window. A few days later, on the way back from lunch, I noticed this machinery in action:

It's some crazy stump destroyer. A big part of the operation is preventing chips and dust from flying all over the place. That's what those rubber flaps are for, as the direction of the grinding blade pushes the shrapnel behind and under it.

In concept, it is just like a giant grinder that goes back and forth across the top of the stump at an angle, digging deeper and deeper, coring the whole thing out and leaving ground up, presumably easily decomposable material.

I didn't get to watch them finish the job, so I don't know if it leaves a nice mound like that automatically or if there is a lot of shovelling and sweeping. I also don't know if they come back and get the chips or just let them sit there and slowly become part of the earth. Actually, if the pile remains there, I should take some to put on top of our work compost.

Monday, May 30, 2011


I came across this stump in one of the alleys at the far northern end of Mile End, right before Van Horne. I find it weirdly fascinating to look at. I wonder if it was deliberately cultivated to be surrounded by these fungi or if it just happened naturally. It looks like there is an ashtray or something built into the top, which makes me think it was deliberate. Or maybe that thing was just sitting there and got fungied in place, which is why the whole thing is out in the alley now. I should go back and get it and put it in my backyard to see what happens to it.

Earlier this spring, I also took a picture of a fallen tree in Parc Mont-Royal that had a similar affliction, except not as complete.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Alley Sightings

You can hear these birds before you see them and to see them, there is only a space between the high fence where they are visible. I wonder if this is the house of the Greek barber on Avenue du Parc, whose shop is full of singing birds?

This supposed to be a picture of the washing machine and the clever graffiti art behind it, but Charlie has a weird knack for getting herself into the frame.

A very nicely designed little cat ladder. I hope to see a cat using it one day.

One of the prettier alley segments (and one of the few alley intersections in Mile End)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Heavenly indeed!

Dieu de Ciel has a terrasse!

I wonder if its existence is due to the new changes over on Laurier? I can't quite see how, as it starts one block east of here, but the timing suggests that there may be a connection. In any case, hell yes!

Now if only it would stop raining. It's pretty funny because I took the dog out at around 3:30 or so and it was grey and spitty. We walked to Van Horne via the alleys seeing very few people. Then the atmosphere started getting lighter and the sun even came out. As we came out of the alley on to St-Viateur, we saw that the street was suddenly full of people. There were lineups at both hipster Italian coffee shops and groups walking up and down the street as if they had been out all day. It's amazing how quickly this city reacts to good weather.

I feel a bit guilty talking about how much rain we've had, just because for us in the city life is pretty cushy compared to the people getting flooded out right now to the south. I came up on the train through upstate New York on Monday and you could see flooded houses, business and roads for a good ways along Lake Champlain. Rough.

Laurier avenue improvements - the painting is down

I've been really busy with work and life as well as having a hard time believing that Spring is really here with this constant end-of-times rain we've been having. But seeing actual activity on the work being done on avenue Laurier spurred me to take a picture and do some blog posting.

Quite soon after Projet Montreal got elected to the borough of the Plateau, they announced a bunch of fairly radical traffic-calming measurements, the biggest one being the transition of Laurier from Saint-Laurent to Mentana from a two-way street to a one-way street with a dedicated bike lane and widened sidewalks. The project was supposed to start last fall but got pushed back to this Spring. I remember having a meeting with our landlord at work, which is the Fabrique of the church and one of the older Marguillier (literally Churchwarden, one of the people responsible for the management of a parish) saying with some smug bitterness that it was never going to happen. You may recall that much of the opposition against the closing of roads came from older members of the church for reasons I still don't fully understand. He seemed to be fully in that camp and as we were negotiating other stuff, I did not press him on this. I wonder how he feels today, seeing that early last week the cops blocked off the westbound lane, getting drivers prepared for its absence. Since then, they have painted the lines, funnelling traffic into a single lane heading east and creating two nice wide lanes for bikes.

Looking west

Looking east

It's pretty nice, but this much space for the bikes will only last until they start widening the sidewalk. Though I could be wrong about that. I think one side will be bikes going in two directions and the other will be the wider sidewalk, though it could be that bikes will have dedicated lanes in each direction, which would be pretty sweet.

Also, will there be no parking at all on Laurier?

When I see how bottled up the cars get with only a single lane, it makes me think that for sure smart commuters are going to start avoiding Laurier, which is a good thing. But it also makes me think that this transformation only affects the symptoms and not the disease, to some degree. There still are a lot of lazy, greedy car owners who live in and around the Plateau who could be using other modes of transportation, but the majority of drivers are coming from places where they don't have good alternatives other than cars for getting to their jobs. So these changes just make their commuting life less pleasant. Honestly, as people who know my position on cars can guess, I'm not too sympathetic with them. Nevertheless, our larger governments, the municipal and provincial need to start putting in longer-term and longer range mass transport alternatives for these people. This is certainly not the responsibility of the borough governments. I applaud Projet Montreal for making this change, as it is a fairly powerful move towards a more responsible and social form of urban transport.

I'll be keeping you posted as the work continues.