Time filler

Have you got some time you need filling? Have a hankering for some humour? A story was printed in the Surrey Comet recently and received many, many comments from readers. Apparently, Kingston, England, has a plague of pigeons and the city council opted for a Final Solution: they hired a marksman to shoot pigeons over the next year in an effort to reduce their numbers. The story is brief and succint; it's the readers' comments that make it worth your time.

Here are some exerpts:

Posted by: Fancy Coo-Coo on 12:57pm Thu 30 Nov 06
I'm horrified at the very idea anyone might want to harm these gentle creatures. I myself was raised by pigeons after being abandoned in Trafalgar Square as a young nipper. Therefore I know how noble and generous a species they really are. If anyone were to kill a pigeon in this way, it would be as though they are slaughtering one of my own family. It's murder, I say!
Posted by: Free Willy on 3:24pm Thu 30 Nov 06
I know what you mean, reader. I was raised by yaks but I'm sure the experience was similar. How about a council worker cull instead.

Posted by: Danny Delgado on 7:04pm Thu 30 Nov 06
I myself have never been attacked by a pigeon, nor indeed defecated upon by such a feathered being, but I feel it is my duty to point out to certain contributors to this discussion that it is no laughing matter to be on the receiving end of pests and vermin. Just the other day, for example, I was held prisoner in my own home by a violent squirrel who demanded I perform certain "acts" in order to regain my freedom. I was shamed. But the most shameful thing is, I secretly enjoyed it. How wrong is that?

Posted by: Percy Killen on 8:59pm Thu 30 Nov 06
I defecated on a pigeon once.

Posted by: Segley Farnsworth on 6:36pm Fri 1 Dec 06

I think it's disgraceful, the way that people are abusing the privilege to post replies to this article.

When I was young, my father would have given me the strap for behaving with so little respect.

Youngsters nowadays have no respect and cannot see that they are wasting hard working taxpayers' money.

I am going to write to the Daily Mail at once. You have been warned.



First attempt

I'm experimenting with my new Macbook (yes, you read that correctly!) and finally got a moment to play with iMovie. We only have a digital camera, no camcorder, so the image quality is not super, but I had a great time playing with the footage. Personally, I'm super excited!

I took a lot of pains with the timing, hopefully that comes through when you watch the compressed-for-web version. Sorry it gets fuzzy for a minute there - the cat just moves too fast. What do you think?

Best holiday treats ever

Our family has a bunch of recipes for squares, cookies, etc that we tend to make around the holidays. The best one by far is the almond caramel square. I don't know a specific name for these delicious goodies but we had a guest over last night who was convinced they are known by a particular name. If you know it, pass it on.

Almond caramel square thingies

1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 box graham cracker squares
1 cup sliced almonds

Line a 9x13 cookie pan with parchment paper. Lay out graham crackers in the pan tightly so no room is left around or between squares. Sprinkle almonds evenly over squares. In a small saucepan melt the butter. Add the brown sugar and vanilla and stir constantly over medium heat until the mixture is smooth and the butter is all incorporated. Be careful not to burn it at this stage. Pour the caramel evenly over the almond squares. You have a little wiggle room to push the caramel around after pouring but try not to move the almonds around as well. All the squares should be covered. Bake in a 350 C oven for 8 to 10 minutes. They will be gooey and bubbly when they come out. Let cool for ten minutes then pull the parchment and the squares off the pan onto a flat surface. Using a knife or a pizza cutter, cut into squares (along the graham squares if you can see them or arbitrarily works too.

Oh. so. good!


Forget the casbah, rock the committee!

I had my first PhD committee meeting today - and it was grrrrreat! I was excited to introduce committee member Randy (not the randy committee member) to committee member Stephen and it turns out they also think they have things in common and overlapping research areas. I was nervous, because you should be nervous about these meetings, and the discussion did go further than I intended, but good things were decided and it was very productive. We met for about an hour and a half and this meeting has decided my next three to four months of work. Funny how that happens, eh?

Anyway, I can breathe a sigh of relief that the first one is over. I owe the committee some more thinking and some decisions communicated in an e-mail within a week, and the next time we will all sit down together will probably be February or March. Before then I have to get a reading list organised and approved (by e-mail) and most of the list read. I'm stoked because it's been months now of spinning my wheels but finally I'm excited again about the work, the exams, the ideas...everything! As I exclaimed to Rocco on our way home from a debriefing beer at Caffe Barney, "I'm actually going to finish this PhD!" Yay!


Odd politics

First Stephane Dion wins the Liberal leadership race, then Ed Stelmach wins the Provincial Conservative leadership race in Alberta. Both of these candidates were third or fourth in the races when the polls opened, and I would say that the majority of voters did not think either of these guys would win. They are both only mildly charismatic, have mostly middle-of-the-road policy promises (within their parties' ideologies), and are generally unimpressive. I suppose they're the lesser of two or three evils in the race, respectively. Can Canadian politics possibly become more tepid, and should I be complaining that the more dangerous, more charismatic players didn't get in. No way! Morton, in Alberta, and Ignatieff, in the federal race, are both frightening options. I hope you see what I'm getting at though, that lukewarm has won out over hot or cold. We'll just have to wait and see what will change with these election results.

(PS. See what I did there with the images on the left and the right? Clever, huh?)


sad fact

It's 8:44pm PST and I'm at my desk, in my pod, on the 4th floor, in the Aquatic Ecosystems Research Laboratories building, on campus, completely alone. Just me, the electric kettle, and a disarray of journal articles. Please tell me you are doing something more exciting with your Saturday evening.



A foodie at Feenie's

Yesterday was Rocco' one year anniversary of moving to Vancouver. We celebrated in style with a reservation at Feenie's. Iron Chef Rob Feenie opened Lumière on Broadway, quickly followed by Feenie's next door. The two restaurants share the same kitchen but Lumière is considered haute cuisine while Feenie's is supposed to be Rob getting back to his roots, cooking for the people. Uh huh.

I promised a couple people the full report, so I hereby dedicate this blog entry to a description of our sumptuous meal.
Rocco began with the daily ravioli: butternut squash ravioli with roasted pine nuts in a light citrus cream sauce. This dish was truly amazing and I could have eaten just that and been satisfied. Reluctantly I limited myself to half a ravioli and a few dips of the sauce with bread. I chose the daily soup for my starter, a gin tomato soup garnished with basil oil. Yummy, but pretty much a basic tomato soup. We ordered a bottle of Yalumba grenache for the meal that turned out to be quite full and fruity but not overpowering.

On to the main course. I opted for the single vegetarian option in the entree section of the menu, rigatoni with butter-braised tomatoes, cultivated mushrooms, arugula and goat's cheese, finished with shaved parmesan. The dish was quite good, but the tomatoes were out of this world! I'll have to experiment a little to determine exactly what "butter-braised" actually means in practice because they definitely made the dish. Rocco had a number of items to choose from and he went with the shepherd's pie. Duck confit and corn topped with truffle scented mashed spud, accompanied by an au jus. I didn't taste this but he ate every last morsel on the plate and claimed it was delicious.

To finish, we split the daily brulee which turned out to be an amaretto, vanilla bean brulee. There's no way one person could have finished it, the portion was so large. Mmm, mm good! Perfectly torched, lovely and creamy, and still light enough that we didn't waddle away from the table

This meal was very good. Did it live up to his reputation as an Iron Chef? Maybe. Apart from the ravioli, the food wasn't shockingly good. The service was excellent (our waiter's name was something like Giuseffe (Gee-you-sef-fay)) and, wonderfully, we ended up being the sole table in a little private room so we felt very special. I will absolutely go back for other seasonal dishes but there are more restaurants in this town that are begging to be explored. Have no fear, I will report on our various foodie adventures in the city!


All purpose resource

I've got a joke for you.
What do Vancouverites use when faced with light, dry, fluffy snow?

This town is funny. We get this kind of snow so rarely that no one owns the right tools to deal with it, including all-purpose radials. My bus driver today went on the PA system to make fun of the impotent road grader we passed - the blade of the grader was maybe 1.5 meters long.

At least the city looks terrific! It hasn't melted much yet so the trees are still graced with icing. Turns out that Vancouver trees aren't built for this weather either and there are many, many trees down and even more broken. Cherry blossom trees are the weakest, apparently. It's very sad to see.

Flickr Pickr

Check this out: http://color.slightlyblue.com/
The tool selects photos on flickr.com that feature the colour you have chosen. Very cool. Makes you want to redecorate - or at least that's the effect on me.


A family affair

Can anyone guess who these lovely folks are? Here's a clue, now I definitely know who I get my hair from.


Another one down

Completed my third half-marathon in driving wind and lashing rain yesterday. The Fall Classic race wanders around UBC campus on a route that would be really pretty, and fast, in nicer weather. I was hoping to break 2 hours but now I can blame my 2:07 time on the weather. There was a point in the race when I realized that, with 5km to go, I could potentially turn on my inner ninja and fly to the finish line to achieve a time right around, if not slightly under, 2 hours. Of course, this was after running 16km already and now wearing sopping wet clothes (so they were heavy!). I decided it wasn't something I needed to kill myself for so instead I finished with an almost identical time to the half-marathon in Victoria at Thanksgiving. I guess I'm just not a very fast runner, but I think I'm ok with that.

The best part of yesterday was...wait, there were two things worth noting. First, by the time I finished the race, checked out the race expo a bit and had some grub, changed every article of soaked clothing for its dry equivalent, ran for the bus but didn't make it, took another bus, and walked all the way home from the bus stop, I still got to wake Rocco up from his sleepy cocoon since it was only 10:40AM on a Sunday morning. The second enjoyable part of yesterday afternoon was publicly yelling and shaking my fist at the sky; the sun shone brightly yesterday afternoon so we roamed the city doing xmas errands with our jackets tied around our waists. I ran 21.1km in a total squall, then walked around casually, fully clothed, in gorgeous sunshine. Oh the irony.

Edit: I'm not unhappy with my 2:07 time, sorry if I gave that impression. It does get frustrating when you go out and do something big like run a half-marathon and the most you can say about it is, "my time was exactly the same as my last race." I'd like to be getting better, or even to have something bizarre happen like all I could do was run 4:20 or my knees would fall off. The final story is that this race was pretty fun because of the ridonkulous weather, and I wish I was getting better at long distance racing. I guess I'm getting better at one thing: last year I was registered in the Fall Classic 10km that happens the same morning - and I didn't even leave my apartment to go to the race! So I'm getting better at getting out of bed for a race.


Mac Spoof: Performance

Helsinki Complaints Choir

Quite funny! The last minute and a half are blank so feel free to shut it off then.

What complaints would you add to their repertoire?


Boil water advisory

For anyone living in Vancouver, there is now a water advisory for the lower mainland. Water authorities are recommending boiling water for 5 minutes before any use, including for washing vegetables and brushing teeth. Water sediment levels (turbidity) are higher than the Vancouver Health Authority have ever seen!


This is all due to the tremendous storms we've been experiencing (no, not thunderstorms, just absurd amounts of rain). The wind and lashing rain have been disturbingly strong. Here's a link to the story as reported by CBC.

UPDATE on Friday: This morning it took me five stops at various (alleged) coffee shops to find one still making and selling coffee. I was seriously concerned that I would have to go caffeine-free on this rainy, sleepy Friday. The one cafe on campus that is still wisely selling the java juice will probably make their annual sales estimate today. Ha! Screw you Starbucks! Too afraid of liability, are ya? HA!


Lip smackin' good!

O'Rumba tofu salad:
  1. Marinate thin tofu slices in O'Rumba sauce for a while.
  2. Saute tofu pieces over medium heat; add leftover marinade to the pan when you turn the tofu.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare salad with mixed greens, thin slices of red pepper, sliced mushrooms, avocado, and thinly sliced green onion. Reserve some onion for garnish.
  4. Toss salad with a light dressing like maple syrup, lemon juice, Bragg's, and olive oil.
  5. Top tossed salad with cooked tofu. Garnish with remaining green onion and sesame seeds.
  6. Take a picture because it looks so damn savoury tasty good.
  7. Devour.
  8. Blog about it.
No, you can't have any because it's all gone!

Reading goal

My reading ambition for Spring 2007 is to read all the books shortlisted for the 2006 Giller Prize. I do make an effort to read Canadian fiction, partially to support Canadian authors, but also to learn more about what people in this country are thinking and talking about. I figure the Giller shortlist is a good place to start. Here are the five authors and novels:
  • Rawi Hage - DE NIRO'S GAME
  • Pascale Quiviger - THE PERFECT CIRCLE
  • Carol Windley - HOME SCHOOLING
Interestingly, the winning book is not a complete novel but a series of twelve short stories. The stories are connected and eventually a narrative arc emerges (so they say) but still I find it surprising that a collection of short stories won in a fictional novel competition. Windley's Home Schooling is also a collection of short stories. I'll keep the blog updated as I progress through the list (in random order).

Currently I'm reading
This Thing of Darkness by Harry Thompson. It's a really fantastic tale about the HMS Beagle, the surveying ship that carried Darwin to South America. The story is utterly readable and already I've spent many late nights reading well past my bedtime because the boat sails into a terrible storm and I can't put the book down before knowing the outcome. I highly recommend it to anyone even vaguely interested in that time or in that adventure.


Warning** Foodie entry **

My folks were visiting Vancouver this weekend so much time was spent walking, eating, planning where to eat, planning how to drive various people various places, planning what to do, eating, planning the next rendezvous for eating, walking, etc. Most people who have dropped by Vancouver will understand that my idea of showing someone around town is really touring them through restaurants, tapas bars, purveyors of fake meats, and sometimes even cooking for the mob in our own kitchen. This visit with my hilarious and fun parents was no exception.

Friday, five of us met at Sitar, an Indian restaurant in Gastown. The meal was very good, but I wouldn't say it's the best Indian food ever. The naan are a generous size and their palak paneer is very tasty, but Tandoori King in Little India is still my favourite in Vancouver. My sister did point out a major omission: the true test of a fine Indian restaurant is Malai Kofta (vegetable balls in a creamy curry sauce). Malai Kofta at Tandoori King absolutely rocks the house - damn! - but we neglected to try the same dish at Sitar so we have no true comparison. Our meal was fine, and everyone was talkative and relaxed. The next day mom and dad came over for knish at our apartment, then we drove all the way to Dunbar and 41st to gorge at the Celtic Treasure Chest on whiskey marmalade and flake bars only to find that the shop was closed for the long weekend (Remembrance Day). Bah! Dad was sorely disappointed that he couldn't get his hands on a jar of gooseberry jam. I'll see what I can do for you before my trip home, dad.

Saturday night found all six of us at Savory Coast Cucina Mediterranea, an Italian-style restaurant right in the heart of downtown, above shoe stores on Robson Street. The place was packed and loud. The food was amazing. I was a little worried because none of the Vancouverites among us had tried this restaurant before, and my sister and I aim high when we're choosing where to take my parents. Our first choice was an Italian restaurant in Gastown called Incendio. We went to check it out a week before my parents arrived and found the food mediocre, and their pet cockroach dead in the ladies' bathroom. No way, Jose! So, we were a little anxious that Savory Coast would cut the mustard. I think it's safe to say that everyone at the table was satisfied. I can vouch for the warm goat cheese salad with beets and greens, and the mixed mushroom pizza - both dishes were wonderful. Other people at the table tried the slow food lamb, the salmon (the server announced the arrival of Rocco's meal with "Sir, your slamon!" and no, that is not MY typo), and pastas. Desserts were awesome, the service was good, and we could almost hear each other speak for nearly 10 minutes when the huge birthday party beside us had their meals delivered. One note of warning to people who may be tempted to try this place, the wine list is absurdly priced! They demand $45 for a bottle of Chilean carmenere that goes for $15 at any wine store. Ridiculous, and not even proportionate to the price of their meals.

Sunday morning we all gathered at Caffe Artigiano on Hornby Street, across from the Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG), for a morning coffee. This place has what I consider to be the best coffee in Vancouver. The barristas also dabble in coffee art, making delicate designs in the crema of lattes and cappuccinos. Rocco and I breakfasted on their fabulous paninis while everyone else admired their coffees. Later on, after a visit to the VAG and a tour around Rocco's office, mom and dad came to our place for brie and bread, wine and olives. We were careful not to spoil our appetites since A&M invited everyone over for dinner at their place.

More amazing food! A&M went all out, offering both seered, breaded chicken and tofu, super tasty couscous with onion, olives and corn, baked potatoes and beets (frickin' amazing), mushy peas, and a delicious mushroom sauce for the chicken or tofu. Mushy peas? They are boiled peas mashed with mint and parsley and they are to die for! Anne, I want that recipe! The meal almost put me over the edge of my capacity to keep eating, and that's saying a lot!

Finally, mom and dad caught the plane home today, only in the nick of time since I really couldn't handle another day of indulgence and gastronomical excess! Of course, before they left they managed to feed us again, as we all met at Sunrise Pizza on Commercial drive for some great, basic pizza. I'm not naming names but some of us opted for one more glass of wine with our pizza lunch, to properly tie off a really nice holiday weekend.

That's it, I'm stuffed!


Oh the huge vanity!

On the spur of the moment I got my hair cut on Friday. I dropped in to Suki's (South Granville) and asked for a walk in appointment with one of the, *ahem*, less expensive stylists. Oh yes, Amy was available to see me right away. Yeehaw, thought I.

I've been growing my hair out for a couple years now. It seems to grow at the rate of an inch a decade, even with very few haircuts in the interim. August 2005 was a bad scene as a stylist at the Beehive gave me horrible layers and essentially lopped off all my efforts at growing my hair long. To rectify the situation, I went to a different hair stylist and had the rest of the travesty cut off, leaving me back at stage one. Do not pass go, do not collect your complimentary hair ties. Finally, more than a year later, it seemed that my hair was actually reaching a length that someone describing me to another person might call 'medium length'. I was really starting to like the weight of all that hair and enjoyed putting it in different arrangements like braids. Well, as I said, I dropped in for a trim on Friday to a new stylist.

I feel shorn! On Friday, the stylist gave me horrible layers and I went back to her today (Sunday) to get her to cut the rest of the travesty off. Do I repeat myself? The Friday through Sunday cut has been dubbed Le Champignon for its uncanny resemblance to a mushroom. I'm no longer mushroom-head but damn my neck is cold!

Yes, it will grow back. Yes, it is merely hair. But I'm still upset. I haven't had long hair in over a decade, if ever, and I was excited to know that my folicles have the ability to grow past my shoulders. A number of trips coming up would have meant that my good peeps in far away places would have seen me with long hair - a first for many of them. Do they care? Confucius thinks no. Do I? Sniff, yes. As it stands I'll have to dig around for any pictures that might exist of my long locks.

The moral of this story is Friends Don't Let Friends Get Layers. Or maybe, since I was alone at the time, the moral is Just Say No To Layers. Or maybe, just maybe, the moral is Stop Giving a Damn About Your Hair, You Vain So and So, Suck It Up And Get Over The Layers.


Nutty stirfry

Oh yum oh yum! I made the following recipe last night and had leftovers today. It's almost better the second day which is amazing since the first night of the dish tasted spectacular!


  • 1 tablespoon wok oil or peanut oil
  • 1 pound tofu - cut into bite-size pieces (you omnivores could use chicken as the original recipe calls for)
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cups broccoli cut into stems
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 (1 inch) piece fresh ginger root, peeled and chopped
  • 2 Tbsp peanut butter (crunchy OR smooth)
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped dry roasted peanuts


  1. Heat the oil in a wok over medium heat. Place tofu (or chicken) in the wok, and cook until browned. Mix in red bell pepper, and continue cooking until just tender. Add broccoli.
  2. In a bowl, mix the broth, soy sauce, sugar, garlic, cayenne pepper, ginger, peanut butter and cornstarch. Pour into the wok. Toss green onions and cilantro into wok (reserving some of each for garnish). Continue to cook and stir 5 minutes, until slightly thickened. Mix in peanuts, and garnish with reserved green onions and cilantro to serve.
We had this concoction over brown rice. A white rice like jasmine would also be tasty, or some egg noodles to soak up the yummy sauce. The original recipe does not call for PB added to the mix but it certainly makes the dish smell and taste fantastic. It is also very colourful and plates extremely well. I should have taken a picture!

Random wiki

Something to keep us entertained on a Friday afternoon. We all know about Wikipedia, but did you know there is a random wiki button? Click on either http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/special:random or go to Wikipedia.org, select your language of choice and the random wiki button will show up on the left side bar.

My random wiki of the day:

Porkbusters is an effort led by mostly conservative and libertarian bloggers to cut pork barrel spending by the U.S. Congress in order to help pay for Hurricane Katrina recovery projects.

The effort was launched on 2005-09-18[1], when the massive scale of the needed reconstruction effort became apparent. It quickly picked up steam as blogger Glenn Reynolds (aka "Instapundit") began promoting the idea and the influential-though-anonymous blogger N.Z. Bear set up a website showing which members of the U.S. Congress had committed to cutting projects in their own districts to help offset the disaster recovery effort.

Reynolds encourages his readers to send him copies of pork-cutting letters they send to their representatives and Senators, along with the responses from the elected officials. He then posts these on his website under the heading "Porkbusters Update".

In operation for less than six weeks, as of October 13, 2005 the project has already managed to garner $84,000,000 in specific budget cut commitments out of various Representatives and non-specific agreements out of many more. In addition, those Representatives who have been contacted and have negative responses are highlighted and their contact information is made available for their constituents.

Feel free to post a random wiki in the comments section. I will warn you that it sometimes takes a few clicks to turn up something odd or interesting - everyone has a wiki page these days!
The things you never knew you needed to know...


Aerial fun

From the Globe and Mail online edition today.

What rock does a ridge listen to?

Globe and Mail Update

Just west of the Alberta-Saskatchewan border, half-way between Medicine Hat and Maple Creek, lies a geographic enigma that is making quirky headline news around the world.

It seems completely innocuous: One driveway stretches north of a rural road to curl around a landmark that is perched on a hilly ridge in the Albertan landscape.

Nothing unusual there, until you view it from above.

Craggy ridges form a chiselled nose. The afternoon light when the satellite photo was taken define lips and a rounded jaw. Above it all, the rock formations branch out into chunky, spiked hair.

And that driveway? Naturally, it's an MP3 earpiece.

The land formation can be seen at Google Earth, the search engine's global mapping system that lets you peek into almost any corner of the planet.

Type in the co-ordinates 50° 0'38.20"N 110° 6'48.32"W, switch to ‘satellite' view and see for yourself.

Amazing weather

Living in Vancouver these days feels like absolute heaven. The weather for the last few days has been crisp, brilliantly clear, and sunny - though cold. It's my absolute favourite weather! Granted, every few days we get some rain but when that clears up we return to sunny days that nip at your nose. Ok, I'm waxing poetic, apologies.

I found a live cam of Vancouver and I'll try to link to it here. Hopefully it will be a live link so that when you next return to this page the image will be updated from the remote site. Let's give it a try.
It works, it works! You can also click on the link I provided above and see updated shots from the cam on the original site. Scroll down to see the picture after the multi-coloured text.

It is SO easy to be a runner in this weather. Granted, on those rainy days I tend to cancel running plans since clear days are not far away, but on days like today it feels good to be in training and good to be out shuffling through the piles of leaves on the sidewalk. I don't remember Autumn being quite so beautiful in Vancouver in previous years. In fact, I remember other years being dreary and soggy. This is truly a treat! Now let's just hope it holds out for a couple weeks when my parents are coming to visit. I'm sure they could use a weekend of crisp sunshine since they're under blankets of snow already in Southern Alberta.


Rocco's triumph

I give you... the Sad Mac O'Lantern!

based on

Later: Rocco posted a pic of the Sad Mac O'Lantern on his flickr account and it has had 90+ views - far more than all his other photos put together! There is now a cult of the Sad Mac O'Lantern.


Manufactured Landscapes

Edward Burtynsky is a Canadian photographer who is known for vast landscapes of industrial sites. He has traveled to India, Bangladesh, China, all over continental North America and other places to capture human impacts on the land and seas. In galleries the images are displayed in large format, sometimes taking up an entire wall, allowing viewers to see the detail, to spot tiny little humans working in immense landscapes of production and destruction. Strangely, the images are always striking and often very beautiful. The reviews claim he
raises all kinds of questions about ethics and aesthetics without trying to easily answer them.

Manufactured Landscapes is a full-length documentary on Burtynsky's recent trip to China to observe and document the effects of the rapidly industrialized economy. It was shown at the VIFF this year and is now playing at the Fifth Avenue Cinema for a few weeks. As a movie, it is fairly low quality and low budget. There is some narration and some commentary by Burtynsky, but overall the images are left to speak for themselves. It's amazing to believe you are being shown one of his still images, only to suddenly notice that the ant-sized truck in the upper-right is actually moving, turning a corner in an immense parking lot. Not only is the visual effect of the film fantastic, but the images alone create a strong political statement about the need for the radical socio-economic change that must accompany any biophysical changes or limits created in the name of environmentalism if we are to have a chance at achieving a sustainable future.

Fear not, the movie is not really a call to action; sitting in the theatre for one hour, twenty minutes will not leave you feeling beaten and persecuted for your SUV lifestyle. I do think his work is powerful and important and the movie certainly makes that clear but it is not overtly political. This is a film worth watching from many perspectives: aesthetic, intellectual, news worthy, and emotional. Also, for those of you in Vancouver, Burtynsky is currently showing at the Presentation House Gallery in North Vancouver until November 5th. It is a small show (small gallery) but a great opportunity to see some of his works in large format.


Acidophilus Magnificus

Some of you know I've had gastrointestinal issues for years. Around 1998, I believe I became lactose intolerant. I can still eat yoghurt and cheese, products that have been cultured, but more than a dribble of milk and real ice cream will send me straight to bed with a terrible stomach cramp and gas. When I started eating a vegetarian diet in 2000 it was mostly an ethical choice but it also served to relieve some of the pain I had been experiencing almost daily. A couple years ago I also realized how hard beer was on my system. Some people get angry on tequila or maudlin on whiskey, well I become a fighting drunk on beer and experience bad intestinal effects. That was a very sad realisation as I really love the taste of beer and considered myself somewhat of a (amateur) connoisseur, even brewing it in my parents' basement with The Duchess for a year or two.

So it has come to this: I cannot eat milk, ice cream, meat, or beer for fear that they will leave me incapacitated with pain and antisocial. Recently I started seeing a physical therapist for pain in my hip flexors. The first visit includes an extensive assessment and a checklist of all and anything that could be wrong with me. The doctor noticed I had checked off gastrointestinal issues on the list and asked me about it. When I told her what was working for me (i.e. the things I was avoiding and why), she told me she had experienced very similar discomfort. Now she takes acidophilus tablets every morning which seems to do the trick.

Lactobacillus acidophilus is a probiotic that occurs naturally in the human stomach but can be thrown out of balance when the digestive system is stressed. Taking it in pill form supplements the body's natural capacity for producing the probiotic and can reset the system. Some resources say that after balance has been reestablished the patient can stop taking acidophilus as a supplement as the body takes up the slack again and produces more of the probiotic naturally.

What do I say? I say I've found a whole new freedom! In the past month I haven't experienced any major instance of gastrointestinal pain except twice: once I forgot the pills at home when we left for a weekend away, and once I tested my new found freedom by having a night on the beer (too much beer, for sure). Other than those two episodes I suspect I feel very much like most people walking around who rarely think about their gastrointestinal system at all. I will keep taking them for now as it doesn't seem that my body is back in balance yet, but I'm so pleased to have found something that works, and that occurs naturally in the body. I don't really feel like I'm self-medicating because those little critters live in every one of us, just in different quantities. My medical doctor encouraged me to take them when I suggested it to her and said there are no side effects so long as I follow the dosage suggested on the bottle.

From here:
To put it into perspective, there are approximately 100,000 billion viable bacteria in the digestive tract and about 1,000 billion on the skin. The total number of cells in the body is approximately 10,000 billion, meaning that we have more bacteria in our body than we have cells! In the large intestine, there are at least 400-500 species of bacteria.

My mom just sent me an article from the Globe and Mail that appeared the same day I posted this blog entry. Have a read if you're interested.


I call bullshit

Ummm, right. See that icon and forecast for Thursday?
Baloney! Bullshit! Claptrap! Hogwash! In fact, I may go so far as to say Poppycock!
Vancouver weather is moderated by Vancouver Island, so although we get buckets and truckloads of rain, we never, I repeat, never get real storms. Those little lightning bolts in the image are pure fantasy in the minds of Vancouver meteorologists. What I wouldn't give for a real shake-'em-up, rip-roaring storm! But, instead of trusting the forecast and eagerly looking forward to Thursday, I sadly shake my head and prepare for another tepid run at the rainfall record. Bah.

Canada speaks...

A friend sent me this link to a cool display of languages spoken across Canada, produced by the CBC. Take a wander through the provinces; I think you'll be surprised at some of the tallies.

The first question I have is what are those 20 Filipino people doing in Nunavut besides freezing their butts off? Also, having lived the majority of my life in Alberta, I still couldn't have predicted the strong representation of Punjabi speakers in that province. Maybe that's a reflection of where I lived in Alberta, since most immigration occurs in larger cities - and in Alberta most of the immigration labour is in the oil industry that is certainly not centred in Lethbridge.
In the Yukon, I'm surprised that First Nations languages are not more represented. Yukon First Nations belong to either the Athapaskan or Tlingit language groups, yet only the Atahapaskan language even registers on this scale.

Anyway, some interesting numbers for you to ponder. Apologies for not blogging much lately. I'll try to be better about it this week.


Logan Toru Iwaasa

I've waited long enough. I wanted Iwaasas to tell their own news, and I think by now anyone who is close to them must know that they brought Logan Toru into the world last Friday. He's five days old already, crap!

For some early, ultra cute baby pics, and more details, go see Dora and Marko at Lost in LOMAH.

Congratulations guys!


Squash and leek lasagna!

We had friends over for dinner last night and I splashed out to make a big, kind of elaborate meal. A recipe for squash and leek lasagna appeared in the October/November issue of Living Well. It was very, very good and is listed as a light recipe. Here it is for anyone interested in trying it:

10 oz lasagna noodles (ready to bake kind)
2 Tbspn butter
4 large leeks, white parts thinly sliced
1/2 cup flour
4 cups milk
1 tspn dried thyme
1 tspn salt
3/4 tspn nutmeg
1/2 tspn black pepper
1 2-pound butternut squash (peeled, seeded, grated)
6 oz. grated parmagiano (about 170 grams)
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  1. First prepare the leek sauce. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat and add leeks. Cook, stirring often, until softened (~6 minutes). Sprinkle flour over leeks and cook for 2 more minutes, stirring constantly. Whisk in milk in a steady stream and cook until thick and bubbly (~9 minutes). Whisk in thyme, nutmeg, salt and pepper.
  2. Assemble lasagna in a 9x13" pan sprayed with Pam in this order: noodles, 1/3 of leek sauce, half of squash, 1/3 of cheese, noodles, 1/2 remaining leek sauce, pine nuts, remaining squash, half of remaining cheese, noodles, remaining leek sauce, remaining cheese. (I used more cheese than the recipe called for, maybe an extra 30 grams or so)
  3. Cover with parchment paper then foil and bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes. Remove covering and return to oven for 30 to 45 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting.
I grated the squash by putting it through the grater blade on my food processor to avoid repetitive strain injury, and toasted the pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat for about 3 minutes.

As I said, this is a really tasty recipe but truthfully it is not to-die-for delicious. I think it's missing a garlic flavour so next time I will add maybe 3 or 4 cloves of chopped garlic to the leeks as they saute. Also, this dish is a bit bland colour-wise since it is all yellow and orange. Next time I make it I will put a layer of fresh spinach between the leek sauce and the squash just to liven it up. Otherwise, no major changes to the recipe as published. It was the perfect meal for a rainy Vancouver evening, and though it looks like a lot of work, it wasn't really that bad. Now we have leftovers for the busy week. Yum.


Toothpaste for dinner

Yes, you can each visit www.toothpastefordinner.com at your leisure but every now and again one cartoon is worth republishing here. This one is called Failed T-shirt Idea Number 6001.

Holga images from Ucluelet

The vortex is sucking me in

Last night I was chillin' with my sis (Reflexive Verb) and her main squeeze, and they pretty much wouldn't let me leave until I had tried their new toy, Guitar Hero on Play Station II.

You play the game on this pseudo-guitar thing that is somewhat like a keytar except the buttons are on the neck and you have to strum with your right hand. It's a little tricky at first - I mostly sucked. The key to a successful Guitar Hero experience has got to be the stance! In fact, an aspect of the game is when you play well you get Star Power and have to rock out to get points, spiking your guitar in the air and slammin' it down. It's not as violent as it sounds, but it does make you feel like a rockstar!

I might be hooked. Woe is me.


Pain in the rain; fun in the sun

This past weekend we traveled to Victoria so I could run in the Royal Victoria Half Marathon. Rocco and Steve came along as my support crew (they were probably just along for the food and the good times, really), and we saw some good friends who live in Victoria while we were there. The weekend was pretty great, and most of the time the sun shone and the air was beautifully crisp. MOST of the time.

The morning of the race was rainy, rainy, rainy. I decided at the last minute to ditch my running jacket with the guys and that was probably a good decision. The race went well enough although I got a crazy stitch in my side and walked for a while. Of course, that means I was walking just where Rocco and Steve had camped out to cheer me on. People around me in the race laughed as I cursed my luck and loudly exclaimed, "christ, now I have to run!" [Note to self: remember to use your inside voice!] Unfortunately, the pictures of me hamming it up for the cameras didn't really turn out. This is the best we got on Rocco's camera and if you look carefully or follow the giant red arrow, you'll see a tiny corner of my shoulder and my blue tank top:

I've blown it up a bit for you. The other thing visible in this image is the weird finger of the runner ahead of me. I know running can do strange and terrible things to bodies, but I've never heard of wonky runner's finger!

I am happy with my time. This year I've been running slower than last year, the effect of winter pounds that refuse to come off, I suspect. I knew my time would be longer than last year but happily it turned out to be a difference of only 3 minutes. The major difference between last year's race and this year's is my recovery time. I guess training does pay off because last year I could barely walk for the next few days but this year a quick soak in the hotel hot tub seemed to cure most of the race-induced pain. I'm even thinking about going for a run tomorrow to stretch out a bit. That was inconceivable last year!

Overall, a great weekend was had by all. Going to Victoria for Thanksgiving long weekend is becoming a tradition. Already there are promises by people like Dora and Marko Polo to run the 8km race next year, and the Duchess will make a repeat performance in the half with me. Anyone else interested? I promise you a good time and a technical t-shirt!


I can't hear you with this banana in my ear!

That was a totally useless, gratuitous banana reference.The only thing it accomplished was to make you think about my ear. I have earaches, yes, plural. They've been bothering me for a couple weeks but it's not acute pain, more of a dull ache. I'm running a half-marathon race this weekend and I'm leary of putting myself on antibiotics so soon before the race (possible nasty consequences abound). Are there any home remdies out there for earache? I've tried holding a blow drier to the ear, which does work a bit but only for a short while. Someone suggested a few drops of warm olive oil. Ever used this? Come on, folks. I need some suggestions!

Gunther von Hagens

While our company from Amsterdam was visiting, we all went to Vancouver's Science World to see the Body Worlds 3 exhibit. Rocco and I saw Body Worlds 2 at the Toronto Science Centre and were amazed. I was super excited to see that the next show was appearing in Vancouver, so we talked our friends into coming with us (which didn't take much) and went on a weekday, hoping to avoid the crowds we experienced at Body Worlds 2.

Here's the low down: Gunther von Hagens was experimenting with new techniques in embalming when he discovered Plastination. During the process, plastics replace the fat and water in the body, leaving most of the organic material intact but preserved in a plastic matrix. The bodies and organs don't smell or decay, and in the exhibition you can even touch some specimens. I just had to smell them, as Rocco will tell you with great horror, so I leaned into one of the displays and took a big whiff. Nothing.

Body Worlds 2 was a massive exhibit, stretching through many rooms and halls. Many of the displays were highly artistic, the bodies being positioned in strangely non-human poses or partially exposed so that while part of the body looked intact, portions were excavated down to the nerves or the bones to give people a view into the body that we would otherwise never have. Body Worlds 3 was a much less artistically inclined show, tending to emphasise the learning afforded by exposing the human body for scrutiny.

Is the show creepy? Nauseating? I suppose it would be if that's what you told yourself to expect. Instead, to me both shows instill wonder in viewers, asking people to rethink their bodies, their physical relationship with the world inside and around them. Both shows gradually led viewers into the experience by first showing pieces of the body that are perhaps hard to relate to: a length of the spinal column, a femur. Eventually you're shown the whole body, often posed in sports activity like hurdling, tossing a javelin, diving for a soccer ball, or skateboarding as above. The human body is so fascinating and so rarely seen uncovered. Though I can't support the great wealth that these shows have afforded von Hagens, I do think that every person who passes through one of his shows learns more about the body and its capabilities. Both shows stress the consequences of bad behaviour like smoking and obesity, and display the realities of disease.

Abbotsford school district barred their teachers and students from attending the show in any officially sanctioned capacity. The Globe and Mail reports:
Superintendent of schools Des McKay didn't return calls yesterday, but he was quoted by the News as saying that, because the exhibit is "quite graphic," the board wanted parents to decide whether or not their children see Body Worlds 3.
But while watching the news one evening, we learned that the parents who supported their children seeing the exhibit felt let down by the school board. One woman complained that she wanted her children to experience the show but could not afford the tickets to take them herself; student tickets to the expensive show would have been partially subsidised by the school board if field trips were approved.

What do you think? Should parents have been given the choice to send their children to the show by a school field trip? Considering the extensive care Science World took in consultation with child psychiatrists, educational experts, various religious groups, and others, why would the Abbotsford school board refuse their students access to the show? Will you go see it? I definitely encourage you to see the show for yourself and contribute your thoughts on von Hagens' depravity or genius, or anything in between.



Another blogger joins the fray. Two new bloggers, actually. Mark and Stacie are now at Lost in LOMAH. I'll add their link to the right sidebar as well. Lomah, anyone? Land of milk and honey - the traditional name among our friends for Southern Alberta.

Now if only Judy would start a blog, we'd be all connected!



This image is called megishungry.jpeg. Hahahahahahahahahhaahahahahhahahaa

We put the U in Ucluelet

For some reason, I really like this picture taken through the screen door. In Ucluelet we had our own private deck, complete with private hot tub. The stars have never looked so good or so steamy! If anyone is looking for a brilliant, chilled out weekend, stay at Point West Cottages. They only have three cottages to let but they are each self-contained units with hot tubs and kitchens. The owners are really nice and they also know to leave you be. Walk the Wild Pacific Trail, see the lighthouse, rent a bike for an afternoon, and you could even do all those things we didn't do like like go surfing or kayaking or drive up to Tofino to check that place out. More pics will appear as they become availble!


Ok, eleven days since my last post. My bad. I tried to find an animated gif finger wagging at me but my search skills among animated gifs need to be sharpened.

What have I been up to in all this time? Having more super visitors, taking off to Ucluelet for a long weekend (bliss) and raking myself over the coals academically. At very short notice I had to give a presentation to my department, 20 minutes of presenting garnered me an entire course grade, and September always marks the emotional trauma of putting together scholarship applications that might come through next year. Handed that last piece in today and now I might go find myself a beer for my trouble!

This is a short and oh-so-sweet post (wouldn't you agree?) just to let you know I'm still alive. I won't leave you hanging though, I found something to entertain you while I construct a more elaborate post replete with images of Ucluelet, etc. I've just found out some very good news, you see. A recent update to wikipedia has alerted me that there is a movie coming out in 2008 we should go see, in fact, buy your tickets now before they sell out!

I'm sorry the image is so small but essentially the message is that Meg, a novel about a prehistoric, terrifying shark (the Megalodon) is being made into a movie! I never thought it would happen! Rocco found the terrible, predictable, really nauseatingly bad book at a Salvation Army store for a quarter and brought it home as a gift for me. I've had photocopies of the cover posted around my office, and often force the book upon unsuspecting friends. Can you believe they are making the movie for a novel whose tagline reads: If you see her glow... it's too late!? Now there's something to look forward to! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!


Two for tea!

Happy Birthday Dad!

Our parents were very generous in conveniently spacing their birthdays only a day apart for their scatter-brained daughters. When we were all younger and all living in the same house, we used to get two cakes! Nowadays people are too concerned about waistlines, etc, to even bother with one cake. Still, birthdays are a thing to celebrate.

Here are some sweetpeas for my dad. I hope you have a super day, make that a super week. Lots of love, dad!


You're aging well!

Happy Birthday Mom! Mom's favourite flower used to be, and may well still be, fresia, so here is a virtual birthday fresia. I hope you have a fabulous day, mom. You deserve it. Lots of love.


Techno wizzes

If you look closely at the (1983) television screen you will see two images, one on the left and one on the right, and a smaller image at the bottom, boxed in. C d iddy biddy webcam and Mac Mini on top of the tv? Not only did Rocco arrange for the webcam to video chat through the ancient tv set, we also managed to establish a three way chat with mom and dad in Lethbridge and my sister in Edmonton. Ma and Pa are on the left, K is on the right, and their view of us is in the little box at the bottom of the screen. There was a slight problem synching all three views and audio tracks up at the beginning (much humourous sign display ensued) but overall the experiment was successful. V. cool, as some would say.

Happy times

Wowzers, the past week has been busy, busy with fantastic visitors. Having people visiting means I get to explore more of the city in order to show them around and to keep everyone entertained. The Duchess and I rented electric bikes and putted around Stanley Park. For anyone out there in Vancouver trying to dream up an activity to entertain themselves or visitors, electric bikes are the way to go! I stole this picture of the Duchess on the electric cruiser from her blog so it will look familiar to some folks:
She's now on her way to Alberta then on to San Diego for a week of surfing with her cousin. We gave her a good send-off here with lots of pseudo-meat, beer, and Sega Genesis, of all things!

Dawn, Steve and Hailey were the next to pull up at Chateau O'. Look at these beautiful, happy people! Hailey is 15 months now and has mastered the word 'cat'. Let's just say Sophie was mildly traumatised by all the attention she was getting. To distract her, Rocco tried to get Hailey hooked on Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

Not sure why, but there seem to be zero pictures of Steve or myself during their visit. Mostly we ate really well, visited in the evenings while Hailey was passed out, and got into the wine and beer a little. Steve got totally hooked on kakuro puzzles - beware of trains and distracted engineers in Southern Alberta now!

One last pic to close out this post. Rocco was in Toronto recently, and though he had pictures of Beatrice the Volkswagen and other wild adventures on his digital camera, everyone seemed to be most taken with our toilet cat. Sophie the weirdo wins again!


Head's up!

The Duchess (of the great Yukon adventure) has started a travel blog for her Great South American Adventure. Hopefully she updates regularly so the rest of us can live vicariously. [Dee, that was a challenge, in case you didn't notice.] You'll find the link to her blog on the right sidebar of Liminal Me but it is also available right here: http://diedredavidson.wordpress.com/


Tuna breath

Yes, my cat has tuna breath. Yuck.


"It's a fair cop."

Academic admits to profane hoax on literary rival

Associated Press

LONDON — A biographer of English poet John Betjeman has confessed to writing a hoax love letter that duped a rival author, a British newspaper reported Sunday.

The Sunday Times said Bevis Hiller admitted sending the fake letter to A.N. Wilson — complete with a coded four-letter insult aimed at Wilson.

“It's a fair cop,” the newspaper quoted Hillier saying when confronted about the letter.

Wilson thought the passionate letter — ostensibly written by Betjeman to a Second World War colleague, Honor Tracy — was evidence of a previously unknown extramarital affair and included it in his recently published book Betjeman.

Wilson acknowledged the letter must be fake last week, after the Sunday Times pointed out the first letter of each sentence spelled out “A.N. Wilson is a shit.”

The newspaper quoted Hillier saying the hoax was prompted by annoyance at the attention received by Wilson's book, published after his own three-volume biography of the poet.

“When a newspaper started billing Wilson's book as ‘the big one,' it was just too much,” Hillier was quoted saying.

The two men have a history of animosity. Hillier previously denied involvement in the letter hoax but told the newspaper he thought Wilson was “despicable.”

In a 2002 book review, Wilson said Hillier's biography of Betjeman was a “hopeless mishmash of a book.”

Wilson's publisher said the letter would be removed from reprints of Betjeman.

Labour Day Madness!

Meh, not so much.

A number very close to everyone I know in Vancouver are away or otherwise occupied this long weekend, and I am the designated cat-sitter. Rocco is visiting friends in the Big Smoke, D&N are away in Alberta (their furry beasts are in my care for the duration), A&M are also away on a Rockies road trip, two friends are totally submerged in thesis hell, J has a new man who keeps her busy, so pretty much I'm left with little Sophie. Stevo is around and actually we moved him from one apartment to another on Friday and made the requisite trip to Ikea yesterday. Other than his company, it's been a very quiet weekend so far, promising to finish up much as it started.

I don't mind so much. I have this dang blasted paper to write for the folks funding my stay at UBC, so a bit of peace and quiet is not a bad thing. Have I actually been working on it, though, really? Not so much. I've got to dive into some Donna Haraway and a text called The Self and Social Psychology, and right now they look about as appealing as the load of greasy dishes by the sink and the stinky piles of runner's laundry. Ew.

I think I'll just go play with the cats. That way I'm fulfilling at least one of my duties this weekend, the cats are happy, I'm relaxed, everyone's happy except the UBC working group. But they'll get their paper before long. Just to show you how exciting it will be to write, here's the working title: Self-referential Techniques for Corporeal Awareness in Pedagogical Technologies for Sustainability: Activating action potentials*. Go me!

I should add that this weekend is the calm before the storm. As of Tuesday, we have numerous guests, some overlapping, until September 22. They are all super, duper people and I'm really excited to see all of them. It will be tricky to fit in school work and washing sheets between visitors, but it'll be a fabulous time of comraderie and eating at great restaurants!

*It's not an academic paper without a sub-title, after all. Just like it's not modern dance without some gratuitous nudity. See Marie Chouinard and butoh.


Another crazy cat video

The dog's passivity is what gets me, and the kitten's tenacity!
Good "cats are crazy" montage

Am I that fragile?

You Are 61% Grown Up, 39% Kid

Congratulations, you are definitely quite emotionally mature.
Although you have your moments of moodiness, you're usually stable and level headed.

I guess not, but according to their image of me I have much fancier undergarments than when I last checked.


The brunch connoisseur

I am a fiend for brunch. Every weekend we brunch, sometimes twice. There's an enormous selection of brunch spots in Vancouver, many within walking distance of the house. Saturday morning it can sometimes be a major debate as to where we should order our eggs benny. To make things a bit easier for friends who want to brunch, and to illustrate the extensive nature of my brunch habit and preferences, I created a tally sheet of places we have brunched. If you click on the image it should open larger in a new window (or maybe this window).

I'll tell you a bit about the categories.

Coffee: Drip coffee doesn't do it for me, especially at brunch. I expect an espresso machine and a good one at that! Any place receiving less than three stars for coffee has offered me drip coffee, sometimes crappy drip coffee. Locus rules the coffee category, hands down. They only serve espresso coffee and refills are free!

Cream: I'll do the little plastic creamer cups if there's nothing else, but a few places bring a small jug of cream or milk instead. Those places rock. One or two stars denotes plastic creamers while a higher number of stars means they bring jugs of liquid and the Tomato Cafe even asks if you want cream or milk.

Menu: Before the food gets to you, the best menu offers a wide selection of interesting options, appealing to a variety of palates. Locus certainly meets the diversity quotient, but they don't offer many standards like a tried and true, old-style benedict. The Tomato Cafe has terrific, fresh ingredients but a very limited, boring menu, particularily for vegetarian options. C'mon guys, vegetarian food can be very creative! Additionally, some brunchers get annoyed at over-the-top kitschy menus forced upon them before their morning coffee reaches their brains. Slickety Jim's have an extremely annoying menu, according to those people. I'm not one of those people; I find it amusing. *shrug*

Food: The heart of the matter. I judge brunch restaurants by their holandaise sauce since it is a key decision for the house chef: do we make sauces from scratch or chump-out and buy a can of gloop? Barney's, The Tomato, and Crave have the best holandaise on this list. The Main, though short on menu options, has great food even if their holandaise leaves something to be desired. The Templeton has great, traditional fare, including milkshakes, while Locus offers baskets of freshly baked, delicious bread with tasty flavoured butters. Everyone has a poison!

Service: A grumpy or inattentive server can ruin brunch, so can an overly enthusiastic, grovelling server. The Elbow Room, famous for their grumpy, nasty staff (they pride themselves on this aspect), actually give fair service meaning timely, etc. Service at The Tomato has never been exemplary and they run the gamut from absent to grovelling described above. Locus wins points again because the owner/manager guy is always around, bussing tables, getting fresh coffees, checking that everything is alright.

Ambiance: All the above plus decor, layout and architecture pull together to create an ambiance. Locus and Slickety Jim's have wacky decor that you can ponder while you await your meal, if you haven't brought a newspaper. Crave changes hands pretty regularily but no one seems to want to replace the crap baseball photos on the walls. Crave and The Elbow Room definitely leave something to be desired in terms of ambiance, while The Main, The Templeton, and Caffe Barney pick up the slack.

Decibels: Four out of five people claims a degree of hearing loss, so why linger over brunch if you can't hear the witty banter of your tablemates? The Tomato, for all its bright colours and funky look, is Too Loud when it's busy - which is almost always. The Main is a bit quieter at brunch time and I have never had any trouble hearing the conversation while brunching there. The Elbow Room is not called The Elbow Room because you get a lot of it. When I have been there it's been packed to the gills and those meager inches separating one table from the next make it impossible to hold a conversation at lower than shouting level.

According to the tally sheet Locus wins hands down. In truth, I couldn't brunch there every week because the food is a bit wacky and a bit rich (not the expensive kind of 'rich'). I'm head over heels in love with the Huevos Rancheros at The Main, but their coffee is kind of crap. We visit The Tomato too often for my taste (because of the boring menu) but the food is tasty and fresh and the coffee is definitely decent. What can I say? I love to brunch!


Hiney, hiney, oh!

My bum be sore!

Let me qualify that. At the cult on Tuesday we ran 5km then had a lecture/demo from a chiropractor who is also into biomechanics and stuff. She stretched us but good! I really enjoy stretching but I just never make time for it, so the rare day that includes stretching usually means a couple days of pain to follow. She showed us this glute (aka. ass) stretch that has caused intense ache in my bottom ever since.
I might go find a hot tub to sit in for a few hours until the muscles give up their pain to the sweet swells of bubbly water. I know, I know. If I worked regular stretching into my day I would not be in this much pain. Well, in a perfect world...


news brief

Apologies for not posting more lately. Life picked up the pace a little over the last week so it has been hard to find time to post, but not hard to find things to write about.
Bullet point update:
  • Mark and Stacie Iwaasa showed up unexpectedly and we had a terrific visit last week. They are about to have their first child so it was really nice to have a visit with the two of them, and Denali, just before their lives change dramatically. They are both super excited about the little Iwaasa, though maybe Stacie is even more excited to have a year off from teaching. Kidding! While they were here we ate, we ate a lot, visited the Science World (saw the Lego presentation of ancient Egypt - very cool), played some bocce ball at the park, and ate some more. It was truly a great time spent together. Thanks for dropping by, guys!
  • On the weekend, Rocco, Steven and I all went to the Great Canadian VW Show in Coquitlam. We drove little Beatrice out there (she performed admirably and got us there and back without any problems) Sunday afternoon to see the collection of Volkswagens. What cars! My friends made fun of me later for going to a car show but it was so much fun. There were maybe 7 or 8 Type 3s, some of them in immaculate condition and some being refurbished. More VW vans than you will see in one place, except maybe in the parking lot at a West coast folk music festival, and some very odd, rare cars like the Type 4 and the VW dual-cab truck (who knew?). I'll post some pics from the show soon. We picked up an extra seatbelt for $10 at the part swap so we can replace the rear passenger belt that rusted out of the car a few years ago.
  • Some of my friends suggested a beach picnic on Sunday evening so I met up with them and brought lots of dips, crackers, roasted red peppers and cut up endive. There was too much to eat, beer and wine, etc.
    It actually got quite cool out after sunset so the plan shifted to keep the party going at someone's house. I was the only one without a bike, so Miranda (of the Yukon adventure) doubled me the whole way. Thighs of steel, that Miranda. I sat on the rack behind her. Let me tell you about ab workouts! That was Sunday, today is Wednesday and I'm still feeling muscle ache in my abs when I sneeze, run, sit up, or turn a page in my book. I'm going to patent it and sell the process on the Home Shopping Network. Get your wallets ready.
  • The reason I didn't have my bike is because Sunday morning found me running with the cult (that's the Running Room to you uninitiated). I'm training for a half-marathon and we have worked up to 16km for the long runs on Sundays. Most of us in the group have 'suddenly' realized that the 10km distance is perfect - just long enough to get a good workout and not so self-punishing that you feel like you're atoning for the sins of 13-year-old Catholic boys everywhere. My feet were sooooo sore, and I'm beginning to question the sanity of this endeavour. Another 16km this coming Sunday, and 18km on next week’s long run. These days we are running about 40 to 50km a week, all told. I'm experiencing a lot of foot pain so am trying out some fancy arch supports. Since they seem fancier than they seem useful, I might be laying down the cash for new shoes sometime this week. Blah. The cult continues to make money off me.
This is a much more personal update than you usually get. I try to to stick to more newsy items than personal anedotes, but this is what's been a happenin' so this is what you get. You don't really want to hear about my cat's current and evolving issues with inappropriate defecation, do you? I didn't think so.