UN International Mountain Day

Banff, CanadaI never knew there was a United Nations International Mountain Day until I started researching mountain eco-systems for the novel I’m working on.

Almost one billion people live in mountain areas, and over half the human population depends on mountains for water, food and clean energy. Yet mountains are under threat from climate change, land degradation, over exploitation and natural disasters, with potentially far-reaching and devastating consequences, both for mountain communities and the rest of the world. http://www.un.org/en/events/mountainday/

The theme of the 2018 International Mountain Day is #MountainsMatter….for water, disaster risk reduction, tourism, food, youth, Indigenous Peoples, and for biodiversity.

Did you know that mountains provide “between 60 and 80 percent of all freshwater resources for our planet”?

Banff, Canada

The FAO is asking all those who enjoy (holidays? skiing? snowboarding? mountaineering?) or depend on the mountains (that glass of water?) to join the call to specify why mountains matter at #MountainsMatter.

elk, Banff, Canada

These photos are all from Banff. I had the great fortune to participate in a writing residency at the Banff Arts Centre in 2014.

Banff, Canada

 

 

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Montreal’s Golden Fingers

For the last few years two friends and I have been meeting at different metro stops and exploring the artworks in the stations before heading out to investigate the area around them. Montreal has 68 stations so there’s plenty of exploring to do.

Last Friday we went to Continue reading

Quebec’s Door Museum

Last summer, inspired by Thursday Doors master Norm 2.0’s post, we decided to drive the King’s Road (route 138) to Quebec City en route to Charlevoix rather than the much much faster autoroutes 40 or 20.

I insisted we start right from the beginning of the King’s Road. This meant creeping along rue Sherbrooke through the city and past some rather desolate areas in the east end of Montreal where the oil refineries used to be. It took us an hour and a half to get off the island.

The Moulin de La Chevrotière was most definitely one of the loveliest sights on the King’s Road (which is full of many lovely sights). Continue reading

Want That Happy Feeling? Clean Out a Bookshelf!

One afternoon my husband disappeared. It seemed he had vanished from the face of the earth.

I eventually tracked him down in the Trauma Centre at Montreal General Hospital where he was lying on a board in a neck brace, one eye completely closed, lip swollen, beard caked in blood, face covered in bruises and cuts. The injuries from his fall on the ice led to complications that eventually meant we had to cancel our upcoming trip to the U.K.

My sister, obviously worried that I might become depressed after all the stress and anxiety and cancellations, forwarded me a link to an article about happiness and how to achieve it…positive thinking, controlled breathing, meditation… Yeah, yeah. Sure.

For me, there’s no better way to get back to a happier, airier frame of mind after periods of stress and worry than sorting my overloaded bookshelves.

That 1947 Encyclopedia Britannica is just gathering dust. A lot of dust. Two shelves’ worth of dust. We rarely (never) refer to it but keep it because it belonged to my husband’s parents. We have other things of theirs that we enjoy. Time to bid it farewell.

Encyclopedia Britannica - 1947

But what to do with it?

And with those books I know I’ll never read again?

And all those literary journals? I used to leave them in cafés around Montreal for others to discover, but kind baristas would keep them and return them to me the next time I went in.

There’s the local church bazaar of course, but that doesn’t happen until November. If I’m to find my happy feeling, I have to get them all out now.

So, off I go with the novels to the hospital’s Book Nook that I discovered during a break from the Trauma Unit when searching for a latte. The literary journals make their way to another Book Nook (Take a Book, Leave a Book) – this one in The Hive Café Co-Op in the Hall Building of Concordia University.

And the 1947 Encyclopedia?

Turns out no one wants an old Encyclopedia.

Put it in the recycling, I’m told.

Recycling? Really? Must I?

I hate the thought of any book going into the recycling.

But one volume a week, into the recycling bag it’s going to go.

Encyclopedia 1947

Montreal’s Compassion Machine is Watching You!

It’s hard to go anywhere in Montreal these days without stumbling into a surprise.

On Friday the surprise was Montreal’s Compassion Machine.

Montreal's Compassion Machine

The music – a spooky hypnotic sound – catches my attention first, then the way people are stopping in their tracks as they stream into and out of St. Laurent Metro station.

One brave person has stepped out of the crowd and is looking into the smiley face on the screen.

The machine tells her (only women stepped forward while I watched) that it is a surveillance system:

“I am a surveillance system equipped with face recognition algorithms and computer vision. I observe your face and your movements to predict your behaviour. I am supposed to identify your suspicious movements and your consumption habits.

But my algorithms have been hijacked.

Instead I detect your smile and your level of empathy […] Look into the camera to discover what I know about you.” Km3 Compassion Machine

The machine then goes on to try to determine whether the person is male/female, their age, whether they are empathetic or not, attentive or not (is that ‘criminal tendencies’ that just clicks onto the screen for a millisecond?), then what their next empathetic act will be.

I go to check out the back of the machine. “I can see you you looking at me,” it tells me.

Montreal's Compassion Machine

Then this ominous message: “I want the best for you.”

Montreal's Compassion Machine

 

According to the surveillance information given on one side of the machine, the average number of times you’re likely to be caught on video surveillance every day is …. 75!

The Compassion Machine is part of Km3 which has created 22 art installations in the Quartier des Spectacles of Montreal during the fall of 2017.

(P.S., I’m not totally convinced by its age estimations!)