Montgolfiere Weekly

An exploration of culture in its many forms

Two cultures: the constant of time

By Chris Atkins

Just as “characteristic times” exist in science, they may have their cultural equivalents. The best-known example of a “characteristic time” in science is the half-life of a radioactive isotope, such as carbon-14, which is used in the dating of archaeological artefacts comprising organic matter. The idea is that a radioactive isotope will decay by half in a given time, irrespective of how many atoms you start with. This phenomenon gives rise to the often-misunderstood term “exponential decay” and the more commonly abused related term “exponential growth.” Continue reading “Two cultures: the constant of time”

Welcome to Montgolfiere Weekly!

This is a blog with multiple contributors who will comment on culture in its many forms, from the visual arts, letters and music to human health, habits and customs, with occasional references to hot air ballooning. All of us have day jobs where we write about other things, but here we can explore our creative side.

If you like what you find here, please visit us again. And if you would like to join the conversation by either commenting or sending me a contribution, just let me know. It would be great to hear from you.


That one recipe

By Patricia Lightfoot

I have two cookbooks that I bought because I thought one recipe in each book was particularly enticing. The first of these books was Lucy Waverman’s A year in Lucy’s Kitchen. It was an excellent purchase. I have made almost every recipe in the book and have been very pleased with the results. The recipes are well-written, designed for the home cook and clearly extensively tested, so that they always work. The arrangement of the book by month means that key ingredients will be in season at that time. The “paella of the Caribbean” is a particular favourite, being easy to prepare and size up or down as needed. It is almost a one-pot meal, though the chicken stock and saffron have to be heated separately. That first recipe, cannellini bean and arugula crostini, featuring a roasted head of garlic and smoked paprika, is an excellent hors d’oeuvre or contribution to a potluck that I regularly make. Continue reading “That one recipe”

Show me the data!

By Chris Atkins

I have lived, studied and worked overseas for just over 20 years and have recently moved back to the UK, where I was born and brought up. Not much has changed in that time – certainly not the famed British weather – but having settled into living back “home” I have noticed one thing: there seem to be a lot more fancy cars around than there were before I left. In particular, the Audi marque seems to be much more common on UK roads than in the mid-1990s. Continue reading “Show me the data!”


by Patricia Lightfoot

Prague was the first stop on our recent self-guided tour of three capitals of Eastern Europe, the others being Vienna and Budapest. In addition to sharing a history of Habsburg rule, all three cities featured numerous Art Nouveau buildings, beer, amazing home-made lemonade of various flavours, ranging from raspberry to mint and cucumber (I am inspired to try these at home), Segway tours, music and substantial food. Continue reading “Prague”

San Francisco, 6 years later

By Kristen Hines

I visited San Francisco for the first time six years ago in July 2010.

I like to immerse myself in a new city the first time I visit. About two weeks — long enough to move through the five stages of grief for the reluctant traveller: bargaining (mostly at the airport), unfounded overconfidence in one’s navigational abilities, rage, eating and, finally, acceptance.

This initial immersion, while intense, makes subsequent trips much easier and more enjoyable. I learned a lot about San Francisco on that first visit and, when I returned for a long weekend this past June, I noticed how much had changed … and hadn’t. Here’s what I observed. Continue reading “San Francisco, 6 years later”

Dining with the Borgias, flip-flops as cultural icon and other matters Brazilian

by Patricia Lightfoot

As the Olympic Games begin, I am re-posting a small tribute to Rio de Janeiro, which is the most spectacular city I have ever visited. For the people of Rio and all who are competing, I hope that the Games go well.

There are mountains all around, ocean, beaches, lagoons and mysterious forests inhabited by parrots, toucans, monkeys, marmosets and myriad other fauna. There is a palette of dark greens with the contrasting colours of the flowers, as if the “Douanier” Rousseau had been commissioned to paint the backdrop for Rio de Janeiro. It looks as though the vegetation could swallow up the city if it felt like it. There are mansions, such as that at Parque Lage, now an art school, which is set against the rain forest and the Corcovado mountain, on which the art deco statue of Christ the Redeemer stands surveying the city. Continue reading “Dining with the Borgias, flip-flops as cultural icon and other matters Brazilian”

A conversation with Stuart Kinmond

Please could you tell us a bit about yourself?

I live and work as an artist in Ottawa. I am originally from Montreal, where I trained to be an architect. I worked for 25 years as an architect in Montreal, Yellowknife and Ottawa.

What sorts of buildings did you design?

In my final year at McGill School of Architecture, I worked with a community in St. Henri in Montreal that was fighting the proposed demolition of a part of their neighbourhood to allow for the construction of a new exit from the highway. We proposed alternatives to the city, including the construction of in-fill housing. Continue reading “A conversation with Stuart Kinmond”

My closet is bare: A clothes-free year, part 2

By Barbara Sibbald

I’ve got nothing to wear. It’s a common-enough complaint that women (primarily) utter, especially at the end of a long season (i.e., winter). Of course, it’s hyperbolic. There are lots of things I could wear, just nothing I want to wear. The usual solution is a shopping trip and a big VISA bill. But that’s against my New Year’s resolution to go without buying clothes for a year. So instead of turning outward to the shops, I turn inward and take a closer look at the contents of my cupboard. And not just my bedroom clothes closet, but also the overflow in the spare room. Continue reading “My closet is bare: A clothes-free year, part 2”

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