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!