2008 in pictures

Once again, here is my year in pictures. Check out the 2006 and the 2007 editions.

January & February

Unlike the year before, when we were in Barcelona, our January and February in Toronto were pretty slow. Not much going on other than the occasional snow storm, of which there were many this year, to our delight!


We continued to enjoy the snow in Toronto and I showed some of my photographs at a talent show at Massey College


An academic conference took me to Chicago, a highly photogenic city!

View from hotel Cloud Gate Mummies! Admiring the view


In mid-May we left for a month in Spain. On our way, we stopped in Paris for a couple of days, during which we discovered the lovely Butte aux Cailles neighbourhood before taking the train to Barcelona where we enjoyed amazing cortados and celebrated my birthday with good friends.

Aeronaut ready Paris_080520_0010 Paris_080520_0023 Paris_080520_0054 Barcelona_080528_0128 Barcelona_080528_0150 Vonblum
Birthday 2008


A conference took us to Segovia. To get there, we took the high speed train (AVE) from Barcelona to Madrid, which traveled at over 300 km/h! Segovia proved to be a gorgeous town. Later in the month we were invited to a party at Lloret de Mar and took the chance to visit the nearby scenic town of Tossa de Mar and hiked from Tossa to Lloret. A very busy month!

Speeding to Madrid Segovia_080603_0379 Segovia_080603_0444 Segovia_080605_0337 Segovia_080606_0302 Barcelona_080614_0737 Barcelona_080614_0757 Barcelona_080615_0669 Barcelona_080614_0765 Wushu05 Jackie & Sylvie Self-evident Monument for the victims of 11-M


In July we enjoyed summer in Toronto and celebrated Canada Day and the many festivals that mark the summer months

Canada Day Our guide Dance Beaches


We rented a cottage for a week in Skeleton Lake, in the Muskokas and my family came to visit from Brazil.

Enjoying Turning weather High lake Familia Guerson

September & October

September came and went and before we realized, the leaves had turned and Fall was upon us. We cycled along the Don Valley and Janine and I took to the Word in the Street festival

Don Valley Tall Strength On the ground Victoria College


For Alan’s big 6-0 we had an impromptu dinner here in TO. This was a simple affair designed to distract Alan from the big surprise party on the works for him in Montreal. The Toronto party was a Brazilian kid’s party with balloons and brigadeiros and was a rather small affair. The week after we had to go to Montreal since Alan had a dentist appointment and surprise surprise when we took our hosts out for dinner on the saturday night we conveniently found nearly 20 of his closest friends waiting for us at the restaurant. It’s not easy to fool Alan and I was quite happy to see he was really surprised ;) I gave him a new bicycle and he went out exploring the Don Valley once again and snow came early.

Alan's Birthday Big 60 Party Big 60 Party Big 60 Big 60 Party Don Valley Snowy Toronto


We were adopted by our friends Norbert & Carole for Christmas and spent a lovely time with their family in Montreal. Carole loves Christmas and had a wonderful tree up. Most of the decorations were collected over many years of travel and some either represented family members (the family dog and cat are there as are decorations with the names of the kids and celebrating their first Christmas). I gave them a ball made of little bells to represent us. For the first time in years, it was a white Christmas from coast to coast in Canada.

Christmas 2008 Christmas 2008 Christmas 2008 Christmas 2008 Christmas 2008 Christmas 2008 Christmas 2008 Christmas 2008 Snowy Toronto Snow Snowy Toronto Snow & shadows


New York, New York

i_heart_nyWe just got back from Montreal on Sunday and I leave on Thursday for New York City. I have a conference to attend from Jan 2-5 but there will be plenty of time to wander around the city. The only time I’ve ever been to NYC was for a very quick visit – I got a research scholarship when I was an undergrad and went to the library at Columbia University to look at a microfilm. I stayed with a friend in New Jersey and was only in town for one day and since there was a big snow storm that day, I didn’t really get to walk around or visit anything. The little bit that I saw made me want to go back so I’m pretty excited about this trip. I bought the Moleskine City Notebook and I’m busy filling it with tips for restaurant and cafes. Any suggestions? I’ll also be meeting a few friends from the blogosphere, which is quite exciting.

Merry Christmas

Christmas candy

Wishing everybody a

Merry Christmas

Feliz Navidad

Feliç Nadal

Feliz Natal

Joyeux Noël

We are in Montreal and the weather couldn’t be more “Christmasy” – there’s lots of snow on the ground and flakes have been falling softly on and off all day. It’s beautiful!

Last year, we were walking on this promenade and having a cold beer sitting outside:

Olympic portHaving a Clara

Interview with David Suzuki

Living in Canada, one cannot ignore David Suzuki. I had never heard of him before coming to Canada but in the past few years, as I became more environmentally-conscious, I have come to admire greatly the man and his work. Suzuki has recently made it to the list of top ten greatest Canadians and I’m currently engrossed in his autobiography. His passion and his commitment are very inspiring and Alan and I have really enjoyed watching the Suzuki Diaries, a recent documentary in which Suzuki and his daughter travel through Europe to look for environmental solutions. The documentary can be watched online. When it comes to the environment, many people get confused about what they can do to make an impact. Not everybody can become an activist or has the time to do in-depth research on the issue.  Working together with the Union of Concerned Scientists, the David Suzuki Foundation came up with a list of the ten most effective things we can do as individuals to protect our environment. Calling it the Nature Challenge, the David Suzuki Foundation asks each of us to commit to implement at least three (3) of the following ten steps in the coming year:

  1. Reduce home energy use by 10 percent
  2. Choose energy-efficient home and appliances
  3. Don’t use pesticides
  4. Eat meat-free meals one day a week
  5. Buy locally grown and produced food
  6. Choose a fuel-efficient vehicle
  7. Walk, bike, carpool or take public transit one day a week
  8. Choose a home close to work or school
  9. Support alternative transportation
  10. Learn more and share information with others

Since I live a 15- min walk from where I work/study, numbers 6-9 are not at all a problem. The choice of where we live is important. In Montreal, we lived in the suburbs and were highly dependent on our car to get around. I’ve always disliked our dependence on the automobile and even in the suburbs would try to encourage Alan to walk to the grocery store or take the bus. This dislike was not necessarily related to environmental concern – I simply don’t like driving in a car – but when it came time to move to Toronto I asked that we find a place at walking-distance to the university. This choice has paid us back manifold in the past five years. Yes, living downtown may represent a slightly higher cost in term of rent but the amount of money we have saved in transportation cost and quality of life has repaid that many times over. We gave up our car after a year in Toronto and even Alan, a man who got a driver’s license while still a teenager and has had his own car since he was 18 and who would never have thought possible to live without one, now campaigns for alternative transportation and tells everyone who would listen how much easier his life is without a car. But of course not everyone can make that choice since many places in North America cannot be reached without a car and not every major urban centre in this side of the world has an efficient public transit system. But in that case, there’s still much that can be done about using cars responsibly and choosing fuel-efficient vehicles. During the past year, I’ve focused on numbers 4 and 5. It really wasn’t hard. At least one-third of our meals are now meat-free, probably closer to half. We support local business and shop for locally-grown produce at the market and small stores around our home. We feel healthier than ever before. We have become more aware of our energy consumption – this is the area we can most improve upon since we are both technology geeks and have our computers on 24/7. One of the resolutions for the new year is to focus more on number 10. One of Alan’s good friends is thinking of getting rid of her car and take transit more after hearing him talk about it so often. It’s a small victory but who said you can’t change the world one person at a time? And here’s an interview with David Suzuki done by  WWF-Australia.

New toy for Christmas

It’s official. I’ve known it for a while but I finally have to admit that I need a new lens for my camera. I used to shoot with a Minolta SLR with a 50mm lens and was quite happy with it but every once in a while it would make me wish I had a wide angle lens. On the Nikon, because digital has a crop factor of 1.6x, the 50mm lens feels like an 80mm, which is a bit too close for most urban shots. It’s great for portraits but not so great for landscape. That means I’ve been relying mostly in my little point and shoot recently and I feel bad for leaving the D80 lying around. So it’s time for a new lens.

But will it be the Sigma 10-20mm

or the tamron 17-50mm?

Giving up on resolutions?

The year will be over in two weeks so it’s time to look at how I did on the resolutions I took last year:

1. Eat more regularly at home. It sort of worked. I have been cooking more – as you can probably tell by all the food pictures on flickr – but not as regularly as I would have liked. On the plus side, since I started received a box of organic fruits and veggies every week, we have certainly started eating a lot better although some weeks some items go to waste.

2. Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet with enough calcium-rich fruits and vegetables daily (since I’m in a risk group for osteoporosis). I’ve certainly started eating a lot more vegetarian meals and have increased the fruit consumption. But I still have ways to go.

3. Go to the gym every morning before school – six times a week, alternating between weights and swimming. Total failure. But on the plus side, I’ve started learning yoga and have been practicing at home. A yoga studio has just opened across the street from where I live so I might join in January. I’ve also started learning to run. The new resolution is to run a 5k race in the summer.

4. Write at least three chapters of my thesis by December.Ha! too funny! I was certainly ambitious – I wrote one. The new resolution is to write three by July.

5. Publish something. I was asked to submit something to a journal earlier this month. Just finished the draft. Fingers crossed!

6. Spend less time browsing aimlessly on internet to be able to achieve #4 & #5. Not much success.

7. Recycle more. Thumbs up. I have also stopped buying over-packaged items at the grocery store. Actually, I don’t really shop much in large supermarkets anymore. I buy most of my food in markets and small stores. Going for whole foods vs processed foods make this much easier.

8. Devote more time to learning Hebrew. I started a course 3 weeks ago and it’s going well.

9. Travel to places I haven’t been before. We went to Segovia in the summer, I visited Chicago and we explored parts of Paris that were off the beaten path. Granted that most of those trips were work-related but it was fun being in a new place.

10. Keep a healthy perspective about work. So far so good. This past month has been very productive and the more I produce, the less anxious I get. The challenge is to keep the momentum.

Parisian Sailing

Kids playing with sailing boats in Paris.

Last year, we spent Christmas in Barcelona and as we usually do every time we go to Europe, we passed by Paris on the way back. We tend not to visit the big tourist sites; instead, we simple wander around and do the things one does when in a place like Paris – sit in cafés and watch people. Which is pretty much what we do here in Toronto too, but nevermind. Anyway, when we were there, we came across this pond near the Louvre that seemed to be quite popular. As we came closer we realized it was filled with little sailing boats:

Little kids had long poles with which they steered the boats as they got close to the margins. They’d run around the pond following their boats, some would race other boats, it looked like they were having a huge plast.

The boats were pretty cool too. They were these large wooden boats, with colourful sails.

And it was all done by this old man who carted his boats, which he clearly took good care of, and simply let the kids play with for as long they wanted. It was a Sunday and you could see families walking around in their best Sunday clothes and coming to the pond so that the kids could have a go at sailing. Alan and I sat there for quite a while enjoying the sight of kids playing with very low tech toys and having a lot of fun, a rare sight in this part of the world.