Transit maps for Giacomo

Last week, I got this message through my Mexico Metro site:

I am trying to obtain a map brochure of the train system for my autistic nephew’s birthday. He is very interested in public transportation, especially subways, and as a gift, I am collecting brochures of various transportation maps from around the world. If you could please mail a subway map brochure, it would be much appreciated. Thank you.

I’m going to look through my pile of papers and maps this weekend to see what I can find for her nephew, but I also sent her to the best person I know to get a wider audience for request: the Transit Maps blog. As I’d hoped, the great owner of that site, Cameron, came through:

He’s already gotten pledges for 17 different maps. Turns out that the nephew mentioned in the original message sent to me is a young boy named Giacomo who’s going to turn 9 soon. Let’s send him some maps! Go check out Cameron’s post to learn how you can contribute to making this little boy’s birthday a memorable one!

Water Main Woes

A couple of weeks ago, on August 13th, a major water main broke in my neighbourhood, Saint-Henri, a few blocks from where I live. We first noticed that the water pressure was low at around 11 in the morning, and when I changed the cats’ water, I noticed that the water was coming out a bit brown. Now, I’m used to this; on our stretch of Saint-Jacques, we have a couple of smaller leaks or breaks a year, it seems. Once it broke in the winter, and the street got covered in ice. They had to send big scrapers to scrape away the ice every few hours, until they could find the source of the leak and fix it. Over 900 water mains break every year in Montreal!


Here’s one that happened also not too far, just a month earlier.

And this one happened just a couple days later.

And another one happened just yesterday on Notre-Dame and Rose de Lima. I can’t find anything in the news about it though, I guess it wasn’t large enough, ha! Here’s a picture of the street this afternoon; they’ve finished fixing it, and I guess they’ll re-pave it tomorrow:


Anyway, the pipe that burst on Saint-Antoine was a 76cm pipe, so, not a small one! Have a look at this gusher:

Some of the theories I read say that they were caused by some work happening elsewhere which increased the water pressure in the mains in my area, and since a lot of the pipes are so old (some are even a century old or more), they just couldn’t deal with the increase in pressure. I’m obviously no engineer, but this sounds plausible to me. When they’ve dug up the road on my street, I’ve seen how some of the pipes are just crumbling.

So, here are some pictures that I took last week, a week after the original breakage:


And here are some pictures I took today:


What a mess. Apparently it won’t even be fixed until the end of this week, as they have to do some work on some parts to get them to fit together properly. Not fun at all. School starts this week, and with school, extra traffic. Our kids’ school bus will have some long detours because of this. Can’t wait for it to be fixed!

Opening Ceremonies

A version of this article appeared on my colleague’s site

I am a really big fan of the Olympic Games, and my favourite part of them is the Opening Ceremonies. Don’t get me wrong: I’ll be stuck to the TV / Live Streams / Social Media until the Olympic cauldron is extinguished! But I really love the Opening Ceremonies, and I don’t miss them for anything. I always take vacation from work during the Olympics, and I make sure to watch it, no matter what time of day or night!

What is it about the ceremonies that gets me, though? Well, I really like the more traditional parts of it. The anticipation to see who will light the cauldron. The raising of the Olympic flag. The fact that French is always used (an homage to Pierre de Coubertin). The declaration that the Games are now open. And of course, the Parade of Nations. I love seeing the athletes from smaller delegations walk in, looking so happy to be there, representing the country and their sport.

Some of the highlights from past Opening Ceremonies for me:

  • The bow and arrow that lit the cauldron in Barcelona!
  • Muhammad Ali lighting the flame in Atlanta:
  • The Australian women athletes who passed the torch around, and then Cathy Freeman (an Australian Indigenous person) actually lighting the flame (even though there was a malfunction!)
  • East Timor joining the Games for the first time in Athens
  • North and South Korea entering under one flag in Sydney
  • Wayne Gretzky lighting the outdoor cauldron in Vancouver, and the later joke about the malfunction during the closing ceremonies:

On the artistic side of the ceremonies, it’s always impressive to see how each country views their own history and culture, and how the choose to show it to the world. In Torino, the homage to Dante, and Pavarotti:

In Athens, the history of Greece through its art. In Beijing, the Chinese opera. Every country shows off what it considers to be the best parts of itself. I am very much looking forward to some Samba in Rio’s ceremony!

Featured image by Ian Patterson (IMG_3915) CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Madrid Metro Map

This week I got a nice surprise in the mail:

Madrid Metro Map

This came from the best HR director there is, @loriloo. Thanks Lori for being so thoughtful!!  No wonder her actual title is Happiness (w)Rangler!

Coincidentally, I saw this tweet earlier today:

A Radial version of the same official map (warning: large PDF file). Like he explains in the post, the map author was partly inspired by the radial maps of Max Roberts (I especially admire his Paris map, I find it soooo much easier to trace the path of individual lines on it compared to the official map). But back to Madrid!

I definitely agree with @transitmap‘s rating of this map, it’s really a great piece. I love, love, love how Sol station is right in the middle of the map; the Sun around which all planets (stations) revolve. I’m also particularly fascinated by the circular Line 12; how busy does Puerta del Sur get, I wonder?

I’d love to go to Madrid (and Barcelona) one day, if only to ride on their metros!


I love swimming. My friends at Automattic call me the “Chairman of the Party Planning Committee and Chief Poolparty Officer”. I’ve always loved going to the pool, or swimming in a lake. My first time in the ocean was an unforgettable experience for me: it’s salty! It was on January 1st, 1998, San Juan del Sur in Nicaragua; a great way to start the new year. Since then, I’ve been fortunate enough to have been in the ocean a few more times, each one as memorable as the last. I don’t think that the experience will ever be routine for me.

I’ve tried to pass on my love of the water to my 2 young boys, but they’ve been rather timid in the water, so this summer I put both of them in swimming lessons at the local pool. It was a breakthrough for both of them! In his last class, my youngest was able to float face down (face in the water!) for 15-20 seconds at a time, over and over, with no fear. My oldest keeps pushing himself every time he goes to the pool now, trying something new every time. Just a month ago, he never wanted to any deeper than his chin! I’ve been impressed and amazed by them, but also inspired.

See, I have a little secret (which isn’t really a secret to anyone I’ve swum with): I never learned to hold my breathe under water without holding my nose. So all these years, I’ve been swimming while holding my nose. It’s been somewhat limiting, but I’ve grown accustomed to it. But, now that my boys can do it, I decided that it was time that I figured out how to do it too. So I Googled for “unable to hold breath underwater” and came upon this site which explained that the trick is to pretend that you’re going to say the “ng” sound like in any word that ends in “ing”. A few days ago, we went to the pool. My first attempts were failures, and I felt like giving up; water going into your nose and into your windpipe is not a pleasant experience. I’d even convinced myself in the past that I must have something physically different with me, in my sinus cavities or with my velum, that kept me from being able to do it properly. But after some encouragement from my son, I tried again..  and I did it! I was able to go slowly under water, while blowing air through my nose and then somehow blocking it while underwater, and sitting there on the floor of the pool for a few seconds, then back up again. And again. And again! I found it to be quite difficult; any movement of my tongue or any loss of concentration meant that my velum would move and the pressure keeping the water out would go down, and cough, cough. But, I kept at it, getting more and more used to it. But that was about the extent of what I could do. Forget trying to move around, I was only able to sit on the bottom of the pool.

So, the past week or so, we’ve been hit with a heat wave in Montreal, which has made it pretty unpleasant. We’ve gone to the pool a couple of times, but my attempts at holding my breathe underwater just weren’t successful. Today, though… Today, I did it! I swam, first just on the surface of the water, and then, completely under water! I even was able to turn my head to the side! My son was very proud of me.🙂

I know that for most of you, this sounds like no big deal (and looking around the pool, seems to me that almost everyone knows how to do this already), but for me, it was so liberating. The more I did it, the less I had to think about it,and the more it just happened naturally! Next step, once I feel more confident: actually learning how to dive off the diving board, both hands in front of me. I’ve never done that!

Now if only I didn’t need my prescription goggles…

Photo by Jen Hooks,

Photo by Jen Hooks,

I’m going to WordCamp Buenos Aires!

I’m really excited about this: I was selected to speak at WordCamp Buenos Aires this coming weekend, so I’m going taking an overnight flight on Wednesday and will get there Thursday, giving me a couple of days before WordCamp to explore the city.

As I usually do, I’ve read a bunch of guide books, and of course, I’m ready and excited to take the Subte.

I’m looking forward to the wine, and exploring neighbourhoods likes Palermo and Puerto Madero. I’m definitely going to stop by the beautiful Ateneo bookshop; what are other must-see places that I should visit?

WordCamp Paris!

This past weekend, I went to Paris for WordCamp. I was lucky enough to have found a very nice AirB&B in le Marais neighbourhood, in the 4th arrondisment, really close to Hôtel-de-Ville metro station. The area was beautiful, with all the really old architecture, the little shops, cafés and bars, and the Seine close by. It was cold, though, between -5 to +5 degrees Celsius the whole time I was there. I know, I know, a Montrealer complaining about -5 weather? It felt colder than that, though, because it was also very humid, so it felt like the cold was just getting into my bones sometimes. It was also grey and cloudy for most of my time there, except for my very last day, when I explored the city. Before I get to that, let’s talk about WordCamp!

WordCamp Paris was on Friday and Saturday, in 2 different venues. On Friday, I saw a few talks, in the morning, but the jetlag unfortunately hit me quite hard and I left before the day was done, as I was having  hard time staying fully alert for all the talks. I did do a quick stint at the Happiness Bar before leaving, though! Saturday was billed more as a “workshop” day and was the day I was scheduled to talk, so I gave a quick overview talk on Jetpack and then answered people’s questions about it for the rest of my allotted time. I had hoped that I would also get the chance to perform some in-person Happiness Engineering, but no-one had any burning problems (which is a good thing, I guess!). Here are my slides that used for the overview (note the gratuitous use of Metro maps and images):

The best part of the whole WordCamp experience, however, was meeting so many kind, intelligent and motivated people, all wanting to learn about and share their knowledge about WordPress and the web. I was particularly pleased to meet someone I had been following for years, Ozh Richard, the creator of yourls and co-author of Professional WordPress Development:

Can you believe it was his first WordCamp? I think he got bit by the WordCamp bug now, though, and I hope to see him speak again. I had a lot of fun talking to him about his previous visit to Québec, and shared with him my insights on Québec swearing. Look at how pleased I am!😀

Finally, Sunday was my last day, and the day I took to explore. I walked all day, for about 7 hours all told, with stops at the Pont Neuf, the Jardins des Tuileries, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Eiffel Tower. Then, a quick hop on the metro all the way to Bastille stop, and a tour of Place de Voges. I really wanted to stop and have a coffee at Café Hugo, but it was completely packed with not a seat available anywhere, so I left disappointed. In any case, it was a a fun day, and I was especially lucky that the sun came fully out from behind the clouds once I’d reached the Eiffel Tower. Lots of pictures after the jump!

Continue reading “WordCamp Paris!”