Sunday, September 6, 2009

Oh Canada!

Over the Labor Day weekend, Erik was in Canada attending the American Political Science Association Conference. Yes - the American Political Science Association met in Canada. Many of the participants were also shaking their heads about the venue. To be sure, Canada is a lovely country and Toronto has much to recommend it, but traveling to Canada created some logistical and financial hurdles that other conference sites would not have presented. Erik was also annoyed by some problems with his panels. On one panel where he and his Ukrainian colleague Nazar were presenting their research, the discussant was unable to attend. A discussant reviews and provides commentary on all papers, and plays a critical role in academic conference activities. So, they received no feedback. In addition, his second panel, scheduled for Sunday, was canceled.

Despite these complications, he had a productive visit. Erik met with his colleagues who are working together on a big research project funded by the National Science Foundation, spent several hours working with Nazar on their research projects, networked with other political scientists, and caught up with grad school chums.

Toronto is a great food town, but Erik's conference obligations did not allow him to explore too much. He did a bit of research with the help of Yelp to identify two must-visit roadfood sites. Erik took Nazar, as well as Rob and Frank (from Texas and Texas Tech universities, respectively), to the St. Lawrence Market for the "World Famous" peameal bacon sandwich. As we have noted on previous posts, markets are always key destinations to visit on trips. Lea and Erik cobbled together a lovely picnic lunch from cheese, bread, and other items from the St. Lawrence Market during their visit to Toronto over ten years ago. The peameal bacon sandwich did not disappoint. The freshly baked soft bun offset the tender bacon. Erik added horseradish, hot mustard, and some hot pepper rings to spice things up. Here you can see the sign advertising the sandwich (at the Carousel Bakery stall), and Nazar taking in the sites and smells of the market.

Chinatown was another important food destination, as Erik had identified a Banh Mi shop that he wanted to visit. Here you can see the sandwich that he ate on the road (the shop had no seats). The baguette had a wonderfully crunchy exterior and soft interior. The barbecued pork was sweet and was accompanied by fresh coriander, sliced and marinated carrot and daikon, and hot pepper. The whole filling was coated in a dark sauce that came out of a Sriracha sauce bottle, but its color and viscosity did not match Sriracha. The banh mi was definitely the most delicious sandwich Erik has ever tasted for $2.25 (Canadian, so take off 15 cents or so). It also ranks among his favorite sandwiches of all time.

Toronto has been hosting an air show, and during the day sonic booms regularly blasted eardrums in the city center. It was hard to capture the planes as they moved quickly across the sky, but this photo caught one fighter jet.

Early one morning, Erik took a 7km jog (the hotel provided nice maps for runners, with 2K, 4K, and 7K options) that took him up through the university to the Royal Ontario Museum, past Chinatown, and back to the hotel. He came upon some interesting buildings (the one below is an art school), and also was able to witness Toronto's sizable homeless population in many of their haunts. He passed by a Salvation Army trailer serving breakfast to a large crowd, and passed many people camped out on grates or in doorways. The man in the photo below - along with his dog - found a spot inside the locked yard of a historic home museum.

Erik had some time on Sunday prior to his departure to visit the Hockey Hall of Fame. His first stop was the shrine dedicated to the Stanley Cup. The Hall has been reorganized since his last visit, and unfortunately some of the historic gear was not on display. However, the international component has been expanded. He found alot of gear from his favorite area of the world - below
you can see the Kazakhstan and Ukraine national jerseys. Another great sweater was North Korea's - complete with a Nike swoosh.

While the visit had ups and downs, it was a success overall.

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