I am in Beijing again for the annual PhD workshop…
November 29th, 2013

I am in Beijing again for the annual PhD workshop, about to interview, with a few colleagues, some 180 or more students with an interest in doing a doctoral program in Canada. As I always like to say, it’s really more about them interviewing us, because they are almost all smart, focused, and pretty sure of what they’re doing. Most of them speak excellent English, a fact that always makes me regret not knowing more than five grunts of comprehensible Mandarin. Last night Memorial hosted a large meal for our alumni and exchange students. One of the guests was a Canadian who ended up working and living in Beijing after he graduated. He has been here almost five years and his Mandarin sounded pretty impressive to me. He claims after a little Rosetta Stone he managed to learn by himself.  Enviable. (more…)

This is the eve of the Kennedy assassination, fifty years ago.
November 22nd, 2013

There’s been a lot of focus and nostalgia about the event, especially through television documentaries about every aspect of the Kennedy family, their personalities and flaws, and extensive attention to continuing theories about the fatal day itself. Like everyone else old enough to remember the moment, I vividly recall my own place in that history—when my elementary school teach came into our classroom in tears, announcing the tragedy and the closing of our school for the rest of the day. I went home and started watching the news coverage on both Canadian and American networks, and kept watching through the next few days with the rest of family, riveted as we were to the details, and participating in the mass expression of mourning electronically. (more…)

I was in beautiful beautiful Montreal for six nights last week…
November 14th, 2013

I was in beautiful beautiful Montreal for six nights last week, before heading to Toronto for another four. Growing up in Montreal I was taught that Toronto was a far inferior city, devoid of edge, culture, and attitude. That might have been somewhat true then, but things have changed. Montreal is still more interesting in so many ways. Bars stay open late, the streets are always alive, the poutine is vastly superior, and the women are gorgeous. The Toronto of today, however, is larger, intensely diverse, architecturally interesting and confused, and rich with ethnic restaurants, neighbourhoods, and shops. Montreal is always welcoming—a city of views. Toronto is a nice place to visit—and it now hosts one of the most bizarre spectacles of modern-day politics, the Rob Ford show. Throughout my stay in both cities I was totally transfixed by the day-to-day unfolding of that strange, sad narrative—a mayor out of control, emptying his addled mind in real time, on air, with the world’s cameras pointed directly at his enormous head. As I write this, the story keeps rolling, the mayor still performing random acts of candor, shocking candor. It’s hard to know whether the guy actually lacks a filter or knows that not using one gets him more attention, which he obviously craves. I remain totally transfixed by the show, as do millions of people who are tuned in around the globe. It’s not every day you see a public figure flaming crazy before your very eyes.

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Postcards From the Edge will return next week, as the Dean of Graduate Studies is out of town, and away from her computer
November 1st, 2013