Am I dying? I have had a metallic taste in my mouth for at least two full days now. I wonder if it is due to the water in my building, or maybe something I ate. My new doctor is testing me for thyroid issues, though I'm not sure why, and it has perhaps made me a little hypochondriacal (yes, that's a real word). I also asked the internet whether or not I am dying. Feel free to weigh in in the comments section on what your best guess is, according to the results of the search. Here are the results of my query:

Conditions listing symptoms: Metallic taste:
The following list of conditions have 'Metallic taste' or similar listed as a symptom in our database. This computer-generated list may be inaccurate or incomplete. Always seek prompt professional medical advice about the cause of any symptom.


  • Gastritis ... foul taste in mouth
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease ... bitter taste in mouth


  • Heartburn ... acid taste in mouth


  • Jaundice ... bitter taste in mouth


  • Lead poisoning ... metallic taste in mouth


  • Postnasal drip ... foul taste in mouth


  • Scombrotoxic fish poisoning ... metallic taste


  • Tooth abscess ... foul taste in mouth

  • By the way, before you diagnose me, I don't eat fish, I'm not very yellow, I've never suffered from heartburn or the like, my teeth are pearly and healthy, my nose isn't running, and I try not to eat much lead. Ok, go at it.

    Garden update

    I can't get over how easy it is to grow things in Vancouver. The fire escape gadren is doing amazing things; we've been eating fire escape salad every night since I returned from Alberta. Today you are treated to a photo essay of the garden:

    Through the bedroom and over the threshold, we step out onto the fire escape. Beware the ji-normous sugar snap pea plants!

    The cat amongst the lettuce; cilantro and basil standing guard.

    Peas, glorious snow peas!

    The tomato plant may be infested with psyllids but I haven't yet seen proof apart from the yellowing leaves.

    It still bears fruit! The little tomatoes are delicious!


    Extreme kiting

    My friend Steven is getting very excited by kite surfing these days. He has already bought one full-size kite and harness and one training kite. Today being an absolutely gorgeous day in Vancouver (25C, feels like 29C with the humidex), he invited me and Rocco along to fly the training kite in the park.

    We went down to a green space along the seawall. There were plenty of people out including a community of kite-flyers. Here's a pic of Steven and Rocco setting the kite up:

    The wind was quite strong today so there was no problem getting the thing off the ground. In fact, Steven and Rocco were trying to get lifted off their feet by first sitting, then diving the kite and allowing it to hoist them up on the uplift.

    The whole thing was so much fun! The kite is attached to a bar that you hold onto a bit like gripping bike handles. Pulling one or the other arm toward you makes the kite go left or right. We practiced "parking" the kite which is a move that holds the kite in one place without letting it drop, doing spins and swoops, but we didn't practice landing so mostly the poor kite experienced crash-landings.

    I'm not sure I'm ready for kite surfing, but spending a few hours of the day outside flying a kite was a treat. There's a specialty kite store down in gastown that we might visit in the near future to get equipped for future kite adventures. D and I also had an ambition a few years ago to build a box kite at home out of dowling and other materials, so I might look into that again. Fun stuff!


    On the lighter side

    Ok, the last post is decidedly a downer, so today we'll discuss something a little lighter, a little more inspiring.

    My sister, Rocco and I are meeting at Havanas tonight, on Commercial. I haven't seen my sis since before leaving to Alberta, so I'm really looking forward to it. The food at Havana (and the drinks) set a high standard for the Drive so this evening will include not only good company, but great food. Havanas is Cuban, obviously, but they serve burgers and the like with Cuban flair. I've never been to Cuba so I don't know what the food is like or what constitutes Cuban specialties. Right about now I would devour anything bean-y, I'm probably a little short on protein these days. If I was cooking at home tonight, this would be the menu:
    Homemade salsa (tomatoes, cilantro, red onion, lime juice, jalapeno) & chips

    Side salad with fire escape lettuce, shredded cabbage, seeds and nuts, lemon vinaigrette


    Toastadas, you ask? Yum! Take a corn tortilla, dampen it with a bit of water, drape it over an upturned bowl, and bake it in the oven (400F) for maybe 4 minutes until it has wilted to take on the shape of the upside down bowl and is not yet brown. These are the bowls that will hold the goodies.
    To make the goodies, heat a bit of oil in a saucepan, sauté diced white onion, add cumin, hot pepper flakes, and chilli powder. When the spices become aromatic, add a can of black beans (drained and rinsed) and some lime juice, maybe also a splash of water, or, even better, tequila. Cook until the beans are warmed through; if you feel like it you can mash them down a bit with a potato masher.
    Meanwhile, dice red pepper, shred some iceberg lettuce, dice red onion, avocado, and fresh tomatoes. Grate some cheese, either cheddar or feta. When the beans are done, ladle a large spoonful into one of the tortilla bowls. Top with lettuce, red pepper, avocado, onion, tomatoes and cheese.

    Well, now that I'm salivating at the thought of fresh tostadas, Havanas better offer them on the menu. As I recall, no such thing is on the menu so I will have to "settle" for whatever they offer. This may mean that tostadas show up on the kitchen table one night soon - who's interested? I might add mojitos to the meal since our fire escape mint is overflowing and needs to be crushed up with some rum and soda. Seriously now, who could resist such a spread? I’m taking reservations…


    Like threads in a string

    Back in vancouver finally. It feels really good to be home but at the same time, I have barely slept since getting here because I am immediately back in the throes of PhD bullshit. I leave for three weeks, notch up the resume with conferences and network connections, see good friends (though not as much as I would have liked), hang out with family, see the Alberta mountains (aaaahhhhhhh) and the prairies (room to breathe!), and yet the moment I step off the plane into the Vancouver airport, the pressure of months previous are on the carousel with my backpacks, waiting to be shouldered.

    Vacations are supposed to refresh you and offer new prespective. It's true that while I was away I had a couple, rare moments of inspiration and enthusiasm for the work I should be accomplishing at UBC, but I didn't write them down and they didn't stick. I also had a breakdown/temper tantrum, sobbing self-pityingly because I am convinced I'm not cut out for this kind of work. What kind of work? The environmental fight against sloth, greed, gluttony, etc. This is a fight I wage with myself too, by the way. I believe I'm burnt out. The thought of ditching the PhD and finding something else terrifies me for two reasons: I've never done anything else so I don't think I have any street cred with which to get a non-minimum wage paying job in the sustainability field; I can't stand the thought of quitting something that I have committed myself to.

    This is probably another incarnation of what I like to call the Spring Crisis. Every year as I get notice that my scholarship applications have failed and I flounder about for the first months of summer wondering what the hell to aim to accomplish in the unstructured time before September, I freak out and indulge in existential doubt and questioning. This may be the annual freak out except that the Spring Crisis is usually over by mid-May. It's now the end of June. One of these years the Crisis will actually motivate me to try something different, to jump ship, but is it this year?

    I know so many of you have had moments like these. Care to share? How did you get over it or what happened to change the situation? C'mon guys, if I can bare my soul on a blog, you can send me virtual hugs and stories of your own.


    Obsess much?

    I have a new obsession. For a long time I have been addicted to Sudoku. It's a game played on a grid where the player has to fit the digits 1 through 9 in 3x3 cells, 9 cells per grid. You can't repeat any digit in one cell or in a row or column. There is no math involved so the numbers are really just symbols that are easy to remember. There was a time I was playing upto 20 games of sudoku a day! Now *that's* an addiction!

    But times change, people change. I've found a new obsession. Kakuro is actually not at all like sudoku except that numbers cannot repeat in blocks. It's a little harder to explain so you really need to play to figure out how the game works. There is math involved in this game, single digit addition only. The top and left of each cell block tells you what the cells must add up to. But really, once you memorise certain blocks of numbers that constantly recur, the game is less about addition and more about physical problem solving, like tetris. For example, in a 2-cell that must add up to 17, the only solution is 8,9. 16 in a 2-cell can only be 7,9, and 7 in a 3-cell can only be some combination of 1,2,4. You see the lower-right corner on this kakuro where 17 going to the right and 16 going down intersect? The point of intersection must be 9 since that is the only number common to both sums. Then the 7 for 16 and the 8 for 17 can also be filled in.

    The best online game I've found so far is
    this one. The only problem with that site is that you get only one game a day - arg! If I find as good a puzzle on a site that doesn't restrict puzzles-per-day, this PhD thesis will never get finished!


    Another notch on the CV

    Well, my second conference at the Banff Centre for the Arts has come to a close. This conference for the Society for Dance History Scholars has been a completely different experience from the GEOIDE conference a couple weeks ago. This weekend there were a million hugs, a broad tonal range in conversations, random acts of dance and movement, and lots of old friends reconnecting. It has been a really great time!

    I presented a paper called "Provocative Loci: The Banff Centre for the Arts and other places of dance creation", which is not really the paper I ended up writing or presenting. It's funny how the process of writing can totally shift the intended outcome to something very different, or at least skewed from the original inspiration. The paper I did present should more appropriately be called "Provocative Loci: Heterotopias and transitional places for artistic innovation." We can submit the papers for publication in the proceedings so I may change the title before submitting. These papers always sound so pretentious, and can be nerve-racking to present in case the audience also finds your work horribly pretentious, or worse, vapid. Ah well, it's done for now anyway.

    My paper was one of the more conceptual presentations and though it still fit into the conference ethos, many presentations were localized on a specific performance or dance artist. One presentation in particular was great fun: a textual analysis of Centre Stage (2000)! Centre Stage could have easily appeared in my matinee chick flick post a few days ago. It's a terrible, terrible movie about ballerinas in a pre-professional program who have eating disorders, body-image crises, bleeding feet, sexual affairs, and very tight buns (hair and ass!). The analysis - quite well done, I should add - focused on the use of the mirror as an element of plot and character development.

    Conferences, though sometimes very boring and always a hell of a lot of elbow-rubbing work, can turn up the most interesting people and projects. Now if only UBC would reconsider their meager conference funding for grad students, I could attend more of them and in more exotic locales.


    News tidbit

    From the National Geographic News:

    June 13, 2006
    —Perhaps not since the Cowardly Lion has an animal's appearance been so at odds with its attitude.

    On June 4 a black bear wandered into a West Milford, New Jersey, back yard, was confronted by a 15-pound (7-kilogram) tabby cat … and fled up a neighbour's tree. Hissing at the base of the tree, Jack the clawless cat kept the bear at bay for about 15 minutes, then ran him up another tree after the bear attempted an escape.

    Finally, Jack's owner, Donna Dickey, called the cat inside, and the timorous trespasser disappeared back into the woods.

    "He doesn't want anybody in his yard," Dickey said of Jack in an interview with the Newark Star Ledger.

    Unlike cats, bears aren't typically territorial, roaming instead over vast areas that would be impossible to patrol for intruders. With a habitat that includes much of North America, black bears are seen fairly often in this region of New Jersey.

    Full-grown black bears weigh between 200 and 600 pounds (90 and 270 kilograms) and measure as much as 6 feet (1.8 meters) long. Their diets can include fruits, honey, insects, acorns and animals as big as moose calves—a fact apparently lost on Jack.

    —Ted Chamberlain

    I love cats. That is all.


    Oh my Holga!

    Yep, I've got a birthday coming up. Yep, I also have a fantastic partner who is into photography and cool toys. He gave me a medium format, cheap as sin from Hong Kong toy camera (that's exactly what was written on the customs declaration sticker) called a Holga. Wicked!

    I'm no technophobe, but I am a bit of a ludite. I have a fancy shmancy Minolta something-or-other that goes both manual and fully automatic and various shades in between, but have I ever really learned how to use it? Not so much. The Holga is perfect. These cameras have two aperture settings, sunny and not so sunny (depicted graphically on the camera), four focus guides ranging from portrait to group shots to mountains (also depicted graphically), and only one button on the whole camera - the button to shoot the image. I think I can handle it.

    I've already taken half a roll, and I expect I'll have a roll to develop by the time I return to Vancouver on Monday. Can't wait to see how my shot of dad's socked feet turns out! The thing about Holga's is they leak light, mostly because they are cheap plastic things with only a plastic lens. The leaks tend to be unique to each camera and make the images quite atmospheric - when they don't completely obscure the image. The first few rolls will determine if the camera should be taped up with gaffer's tape so the shots I've already taken might turn out to be nothing.

    Very cool stuff. For more on Holgas and medium format photography, see the multitude of great sites online, like Edmund and Sophie's Page and Alternative Photography.

    Playing hooky with chick flicks

    I know, I know. I have a paper to read for, outline, flesh out, write, practice, and deliver before Saturday, but I still think a girl is entitled to playing hooky from the workload for a couple hours. This afternoon at the world's cheapest cinema, the Movie Mill in Lethbridge, I saw:
    Who knew gymnastics were so damn nasty? A pretty good flick as chick flicks go. Lots of pathetically neat montages of kaleidoscopic gymnastics, lots of buff girls and gross leotards, and a really annoying Jeff Bridges (WHAATTT?), but overall enjoyable. Especially as a matinee!

    Granted, it's no
    (the Best Matinee Movie Ever) but Stick It does hold its own in terms of action, drama, and teenage rebellion in the world of sport.

    Next on the list (well, actually it was top of the list a couple months ago but didn't happen so I'm hoping to catch it at a second run theatre pretty soon) is
    I want to see it with Jessica because she caught a nasty bout of food poisoning the first time she tried to see it. Well, if the chinese food doesn't getcha, Antonio Banderas as a ballroom dancer turned ghetto superstar/missionary might. Wish us luck!


    Support the independents

    I've noticed a strange paradox between the bigger cities I've lived in and the medium-small city I was brought up in. Lethbridge has a population around 75,000 but I have lived in Toronto and Vancouver as well. The strange thing I want to write about is that while in a smaller city you would kind of expect the population to support their own (after all, independent business owners will be your neighbours, acquaintances, friend's auntie, etc.), it is only in larger cities that I have seen independent businesses thrive.

    The Penny Coffee House is a small, locally owned bakery and coffee shop where I worked as a baker a few years ago. They have been in town forever and for a while had the art-house/coffee market cornered. Recently another coffee shop opened, the Round Street Cafe, and though now the two are in competition, they seemed to share the business quite fairly and both were surviving. Just this time last year, yet another Tim Horton's opened (there are now at least 4 in town) a few blocks away from The Penny with a drive through window. Yesterday while chatting with Clive, a co-owner of The Penny, he admitted that the banks tried to foreclose on them earlier this year and they are only managing to keep their heads above water by laying off staff and picking up the slack themselves, shopping at larger grocery chains for cheaper produce, etc. Clive doesn't blame the Round Street Cafe at all; most of the people he has asked about their disappearance from his shop have said they use the new Tim's instead.

    What is the problem? It seems that in a town this size, people should be willing to support their own and spend their money locally. As you can see from Clive's temporary solution (The Penny buying produce from a larger, international grocers), the cycle spirals upwards and fewer local businesses are included in the food chain. When a person has the means, I firmly belive they should be conscious of where they spend their money, supporting businesses they believe in and want to see thrive. I'm no economist but every individual does have dollar power: where you lay your cash you lay your allegiance. If you want to support a massive international conglomerate and watch your money leave town (sayonara local bucks!) then shop at Superstore and Tim Horton's and The Gap. If you believe in local communities and individuals trying something new or just trying to support a family, then spend your bucks wisely and conscientiously. I'm ashamed of Lethbridge for allowing their independent businesses to fold in the face of major chains. We lost the Macabees bookstore years ago to Chapters and no one seemed to mind. This year might be the last for Andrew Hilton's wine store since Superstore is undercutting them and attracting all their business. It is only in large cities, maybe because people have to actively seek out community and friendship in a way that is very different than in a small town, that indepedent businesses flourish. And don't give me that crap about having larger centres "the population to support it." A dollar is a dollar is a dollar and where you choose to spend yours says a lot about what you care about and believe in.

    Rant over. Comments appreciated!


    Graphically delicious!

    Someone passed along a cool web tool that depicts your website as a graphic representation of links, hubs, etc. Here's the website. For whatever reason, Liminal Me is an extensive network. See:

    For comparison's sake, here is the University of British Columbia site, www.ubc.ca:

    A little more understandable and much more reasonable is the website Rocco and I are developing, which has yet to be released to the public:

    Have no fear, dear reader, I will announce its release all in good time. The website has been a project in development for ages now, and hopefully this summer we will finally get around to producing something interesting, or at the very least entertaining.

    What I find fascinating but know nothing about is how the structure of a site represented this way reveals the quality of its design. Someone with a trained eye could analyse these images and dub one site vastly better than the other for navigational and/or informational purposes. I think, perhaps, off the top of my head, like, that the website might win for simplicity of design, but not for elegance. You just wait. We'll post and host so much fabulous stuff there that its graphic representation will astound even me.


    Interludes of possession

    Don't you just hate it when you think you've found something unique, unheard of, for your very own? Music gets that way, doesn't it?

    In the past I used to wonder if I was a musical visionary. Hold your horses, I'll explain that obviously ridiculous and fanciful declaration. As a teenager I watched my fair share of Much Music. I would sometimes catch onto a new group or singer and decide that they would make it big. Eventually the video/song would be everywhere and I would feel like I’d predicted greatness. Truth is, it is much more likely that the video was being hyped up and overplayed so I happened to see it more often – just like everyone else.

    A year ago (almost to the day), a friend introduced me to KT Tunstall, a Scottish singer/songwriter. I loved her smoky voice and attention to percussion. I tried to track her down back then but didn’t end up getting any of her music. This year, she’s suddenly everywhere, just like the pop groups of my youth I “discovered.” I still appreciate her music but I get a bit disgruntled when one of her tunes gets piped through the mall as background muzak (what the hell am I doing in a mall anyway, you may well ask). What the hell is everyone else doing with my soulful Scot? And why do I think she’s mine since I couldn’t even be bothered to find her stuff a year ago?

    On another musical note, we went to Architecture in Helsinki at the Plaza Club in Vancouver about a week ago. They are from Melbourne, Australia, and I counted eight musicians on stage that night. What a show! I was a convert by the third tune and this group can truly perform. Apart from one girl who affected a truly bored, disaffected persona on stage, the rest of the band members were on the whole time. I developed a strong crush on the girl in black (in case you were there, dear reader) who was totally fun and sparky. She kept giggling at other band members and doing little shoulder dances; very cute.

    Anyone see a good gig lately? I’m always looking for new tunes. Rather than visionary I purported to be earlier in the post, I would now describe me as being in a terminal musical rut. Send me tunes! Send me performers! I need more music resources so consider yourself responsible for future posts about music and musicians. The gauntlet has been thrown.


    Poor but healthy

    Well, bad news and good news. Which do you want first?

    The bad news is I did not win the presentation prize. The two winners highly deserve the honour and in fact are the two people I had pegged as potential winners. Still, I was complemented by a number of people and I feel very good about my presentation. 'Nuff said.

    The good news is that while returning to my hotel room on the campus, I spotted two deer happily munching and a female elk and the key here is that she did not charge me. I saw no whites of the eyes, no ears were flattened, everything is hunky dory. Very cool to be around these majestic animals while attending an otherwise innocuous conference.

    Great calving elk, Batman!

    This week I find myself at the Banff Centre for the Arts. This is a fabulous educational institute that promotes the arts and humanities, hosts conferences like the one I'm currently attending, holds internships and workshops and generally draws a very cool crowd. I'm writing an academic article on the Centre for a dance history conference here later in June that explores the concept of place attachment in an in-between place like the Banff Centre (not rural but not urban, not commercial but in the public eye, etc). For now though I'm a participant/presenter at a primarily scientific conference for GEOIDE. GEOIDE is a large funding body out of Laval University which supports geomatic technologies and their applications. This conference experience is a long way from the dance scholarship I'll be participating in here in a few weeks.

    Hey Dee, there was so much talk about ESRI, GIS and the like that I thought I'd walked into one of your conferences by mistake. Do you know the GEOIDE group? [By the way, my blog stats tell me when you visit so I know you're reading this. I'm watching you!]

    I represented our team of UBC researchers in a presentation this morning. It was surprising how nervous I was beforehand - my heart was thudding at an unhealthy pace and I couldn't focus enough to slow it down. I must have been nervous about presenting other peoples' work (my colleagues in Vancouver) but also nervous about audience reception; it's been five years since I presented at a scientific conference and I guess I feel a bit fraudulent being here. Still, there were only mild gasps when I revealed my social science proclivities and the talk went off without too many glitches. There are two prizes being awarded for $2000 to "Communicators of Excellence" that will fund the winner a trip to present their own research at any conference in the world. Considering there were only 16 presenters and many scientists feel totally uncomfortable speaking publicly, my odds aren't too bad. Keep your fingers and toes crossed: There's a kick ass conference for the humanities held in Hawaii every second year that $2000 will more than cover. Hey Rocco, if I win (if, if, if), want to come? I'd pay for your stay...

    I'll post more and about something more interesting when the conference is over. Lethbridge is my home for the next couple weeks so you'll be getting the Alberta update. I can't wait to see my friends and their various offspring when I get to the 'bridge after Banff. They can't take up all my time though since that other paper, you know - for the dance conference, has to be read for, developed, laid out, and written before the next conference starts, June the 15th. Ah, the sedentary, solitary life of a wannabe academic!
    Wait! I called this post "Great calving elk, Batman"! You're all wondering, "what the f*ck?" Ok, briefly, I'll link the title to the content.

    The Banff Centre has extensive lodgings as well as conference facilities, so I'm staying here for the duration of the conference (and the next one in June). In every room they have the usual pleather-bound binder with info about the Centre, food options, the town, etc. This time of year they also include an additional pamphlet, printed on bright red paper with the words "Danger. Be Alert!" across the bottom. What's the big hairy deal, you ask?

    Big hairy elk. Across the top of the pamphlet the warning is that "Elk Calving Season Has Begun." The sheet includes tips of what to watch for in an aggressive elk and what the hell to do when the mofo looks directly at you with her ears back, exposes her teeth and shows the whites of her hairy eyeballs: Put a large tree between you and beastie. The female elk are protecting their vulnerable young and you DO NOT want to feel their wrath. This picture is of an elk giving great assface. Sophie could take lessons from this one.

    I love Banff. There's that tang of calving elk on the air that really gets my blood up and the whites of my eyes shining!