Je me souviens d’avoir été plutôt anxieux lors de mes précédents départs, mais à un niveau plutôt gérable. Non pas du genre d’excitation que l’on ressent lorsque l’on quitte pour quelques semaines, mais plutôt du type vécu avant une épreuve importante du genre examen ou entrevue, où l’on a bien conscience du bien-fondé de la situation, mais où l’on est néanmoins stressé.

Cette anxiété prend sa source non pas dans la peur d’avoir oublié un détail administratif (tout se fait en ligne de nos jours…), mais davantage dans l’appréhension de quitter les gens qui nous sont chers, de quitter notre vie pour une autre. Finalement, une fois à l’aéroport, ce sentiment s’estompe pour laisser place à une fébrilité et le vertige existentiel de l’aventure et de l’inconnu.

Cette fois-ci, l’anxiété pré-départ a atteint des sommets. Elle était à ce point prenante que la veille, je me suis rendu chez mon ami dans Côte-des-neiges à Montréal depuis Saint-Bruno (30 kilomètres) à vélo histoire de faire le vide. Une fois à l’aéroport par contre, j’ai retrouvé en bonne partie la fébrilité ressentie lors de mes précédents départs, mais dans une moindre mesure, car la recherche et l’achat de voiture occupaient une bonne partie de mon esprit: la première partie du voyage reposait sur le succès de l’opération.

Une dernière poutine au St-Hubert (on manque de poutine [pas de Putin] à l’étranger) et j’avais traversé le contrôle de sécurité. Chanceux que j’étais, j’allais voyager sur Air France (vol payé moins de 100$) en raison d’un crédit de 1000 US$ obtenu l’année dernière alors que mon vol Montréal-Atlanta avait été sur-réservé et que j’avais gentiment cédé ma place.

Bagages en cours d'assemblage...

Bagages en cours d’assemblage…

The Canary islands

Punta del Teno

Punta del Teno

I visited those last march along with my girlfriend’s family. School prevented me from taking part in the whole two week trip, but during my stay, we visited the two main islands, Gran Canaria and Tenerife. Much of the days were spent touring around in rented vehicles to see the sights, which were mainly pretty villages, vistas and geological formations. Between this very busy schedule, I still managed to fit in a morning of diving with my brother in law.

In some respect, the Canaries are sort of the Fort Lauderdale of Europe: pleasant weather year-round, resorts, beaches and the kind of crowd that comes with it. The comparison ends there, the Canaries are much more varied and interesting in landscapes (I’ve never been to Fort Lauderdale, but according to my sources, Florida is flat…) and more importantly, they are in Spain, which equates to history, food and culture. Tenerife and Gran Canaria are both home to two large cities of the sort found in mainland Europe. Regrettably, we spend too little time visiting those, especially that some in the group had never experienced the old continent, but that’s just my opinion. Luckily enough though, some of us were brave enough to stay out on the first night and take par in Gran Canaria’s carnival.

On the whole, I can’t really complain. An all-expenses-paid trip to such a nice destination was a very much welcomed break from the winter.

Liquor cabinet

Liquor cabinet side view

Or rather a liquor table. It was built entirely using laminated baltic birch plywood with walnut, apple and padauk inserts. All the layers of plywood are grain-side up and held together using threaded rod. The table features its own lighting system for a spectacular effect at night.

Liquor cabinet

The projet was meant to match my computer desk and was put together using leftovers from its big brother.

Parallam (PSL) side table

The mother beam

The mother beam

During a remodeling project in the fall of 2016, one of my family member decided to remove a load-bearing wall that divided a living room and kitchen. In order to maintain the structural integrity of the three story building, my brother, a civil engineer, worked his magic and came up with a solution that involved a 17ft x 19in x 7.5in parallel strand lumber (PSL) beam, commercially known as Parallam. Had it been covered in gypsum, the beam could have been slightly smaller in width and depth (to account for the fire retardant properties of gypsum), but PSL being a beautiful engineered wood product, leaving it exposed greatly enhanced the appeal of the room it was in.

Parallam (PSL) side table viewed from under

As delivered, the beam had an extra foot of length that was removed using a chain saw. My cousin wanted to toss away the left over part, but interested in the looks of the material, I picked it up with the intention of turning it into a piece of furniture. This summer, I finally garnered enough free time to get to it. PSL being very porous and brittle, it took severe belt sanding and 13 coats of polyurethane varnish to get a decent finish. Four legs later, I had myself a curious looking side table that since then has never failed to catch people’s curiosity (even more so than those other tables).Parallam (PSL) side table

Who’s responsible for Trump? We all are (along with social media)

This morning, I was listening to a Radio Canada program reading excerpts from comments they had received after interviewing three Canadian Trump supporters to hear their views on the American election’s outcome. In those tweets/e-mails/comments, people were lashing out in mean ways (ways people take when they feel protected by anonymity) on both those three individuals for the views they upheld and the network for organizing this talk. Tonight, I got to hear the actual interview, the one that caused this liberal-progressive audience to explode in insults. What I listened to though were three well articulated persons expressing and justifying with good arguments their support and agreement for Trump’s campaign (with some restrictions) and election. I cannot help but admire their courage for ever accepting to go out on public radio knowing the backlash they would have to endure and facing a radio host that obviously was not being impartial (and incidentally not doing her job correctly). She even went so far as to question each of them on their views about gay marriage, death penalty, and abortion in an ultimate attempt to force fit them into the stereotypical views she held about Trump supporters.

Suffice to say this left me somewhat disappointed with that radio host, who failed at being a journalist that morning. However, this also made me grateful towards Radio Canada for taking the initiative to find people with opinions and values that opposed it’s agenda. That all got me thinking and made me want to add my two cents to the debate.

I for myself do not share the opinions that were voiced by the guests: I think Trump election is a step back and will spell potential catastrophy for the world at large. However, what I can’t deny is that some people hold views that are more conservative than mine and we’ve ignored them so much over that last couple of years for the sake of progressive ideals in so far as to create an immense divide in society. A divide so great that when all the people on the other side of that chasm decided to pull on the little line of communication linking us to them we call elections (and really the only time when our opinions are truly confronted), it won them the Trump election.

Who is at fault? us and them really. We’Re guilty for not discussing and debating among ourselves, for not trying to understand each other’s concerns and most importantly for not taking the time to reach out, listen and take the time to explain our respective views. At the risk of sounding condescending and demagogic, I’ll maintain that progressive ideas have the higher moral ground and are the way forward: that is empirically justifiable by a quick look at history. There really is no debate to be had about the need for civilization to progress, but there is a discussion to be had about how we should proceed towards this inevitable goal and at what pace should this process go. All of us will agree on that. Those that seemingly don’t most often have quarrels with the means rather than the principle. Paying attention to their arguments, understanding them, putting them in context and then making compromises while demonstrating that there’s something in it for then as well will go a long way towards making everyone happy and content that they’ve had a chance to partake in this collective endeavor called democracy.

Did we at one time take a step back to hear those people out? To understand where they came from where they wanted to go? It’s the failure to do that that got us where we are. Failure on both sides of the chasm, as I don’t foresee a Trump administration benefiting them either. I’ll admit those previous arguments were not really not mine. I’ve seen them pop out on a Facebook post and this hopeful Wait But Why article has hinted on them. However, now comes my own opinions about the matter or rather the likely explanation.

Yes, there’s always been divides in societies, counter-opinions and different point of views. That is an extremely good thing insofar as there exists channels of communication for those views to confront each other, otherwise, it’s all for nothing. Nowadays, we can no longer call this a simple division, it’s a canyon. A gap so wide very little information gets across to the other side even though we live in an age where communication has never been so easy. What’s responsible for this paradox? the information bubble (in large parts). Social media’s entire business model is built upon feeding us content we’re likely to look at. Our friends, well they’re our friends because they think just like us and those websites we visit, well we wouldn’t visit them if they didn’t agree with our values.Consequently, the fact we now mostly rely on the Facebook feed and biased news websites to gather our daily regimen of news and opinions isolates us from diverging points of views. And that’s abstracting the immense influence the media we read has on our opinions, which only furthers the issue. Those individuals on the other side of the canyon? they live under the same influences and face the same invisible barrier.

Over the years, partly because we get ever increasing parts of our information through social media and partly because news agencies can now only survive if they cater to specific views and values, we have isolated ourselves in our little information bubbles. It used to be that newspapers – albeit with agendas – were much better at giving us facts on which we could as citizens form opinions and confront them with those of others in the then offline world, because the public space was all that there was for communication. Nowadays, all we get are editorials and opinions and whenever we read something we’re not in agreement with, we’re quick to discard and expel it from our information bubble and move on to things that reassure us in our views. Other’s have called it the echo chamber effect, but it’s entirely equivalent. And since we no longer discuss politics and ideals outsides of our little circle because it’s seen as antagonizing, we’ve completely lost sense of what others  really think, those people poorer or richer than us, the unemployed and the employed, the city dwellers and the countrysiders, the religious and the irreligious.

The only time when we get to face each other now is during election time, and it’s done through a simple ballot that gives us two options.

No wonder the world has become so polarized.