21.12.07

Catching the spirit

*Disclaimer: this is a long one as I've been pondering this for the last two weeks. Read on at your own peril.*

Earlier this week I was feeling kind of weird. I really love the December season and I'm usually up for it all, but this year I just couldn't seem to find the spirit of it. I'm definitely looking forward to going home but that warm tummy feeling of the christmas season wasn't there!

First, a justification. I don't consider myself Catholic even though our parents raised us in the church. I just don't buy any of it and, for a few years, December was a difficult time for me because I tried and tried to reconcile the joy I do experience at this time of year with a high level of unease with and distrust of organized religion. But here it is: the christmas season and all its rites outside the churchy stuff are some of the few rituals left in my life that help mark the passing of time and that celebrate traditions. I've abandoned just about every other seasonal ritual upheld by the church like Easter, etc., but christmas for me still holds the comfort of annual repetition and celebration, of the family coming together and traditions maintained. I can support that! I'm at ease with my own beliefs now and christmas finally fits right in as a seasonal ritual that for me has nothing to do with spirituality and everything to do with love between friends and family.

Back to my first point, with all this loving tradition to look forward to, I was having a hard time catching the spirit which for me is unusual. Definitely it is the work looming ahead in January that is making it hard for me to take a break right now. It feels more like I should be riding the wave of momentum to work hard on the workshops and really gear down to get shit done. But suddenly I have to break the momentum and shift focus from work to seasonal ritual. It sucks but I was really finding that shift difficult.

So I pulled out the big guns. Last weekend I made a family classic, date snowballs, to take to a party. In our family when the house fills with the smell of melting dates and carmelized brown sugar it's an olfactory cue that the holidays have arrived. Maybe it was the organic rice crisps I used instead of good old Rice Krispies but the snowballs lacked a certain something so the spirit eluded me.

Rocco and I went to the Chor Leoni Men's Choir christmas concert on Tuesday night. They sang some beautiful gregorian chants and new carols by Canadian composers, and a children's choir came in for a few songs too. The Ryerson United Church was lit with candles and soft white light; ceramic doves were in every nook and cranny and the audience was dressed in its holiday best. How could this not fill me with seasonal cheer? Well I loved the concert, but it didn't do it for me.

A couple days ago I was puttering about the house doing some knitting and planning holiday food and I suddenly started craving the music of my mom's house around this time of year: Handel's Messiah and Pavarotti singing Oh Holy Night. I know, I know, back to the churchy stuff. But it's all part of the ritual! It turns out that Rocco has a version of the Messiah on his iTunes so I cranked it up. I could sing along with a line or two since we sang a few sections of the Messiah with my high school choir, and of course I remember going to see my mom sing the Messiah at Southminster United in Lethbridge as a child. Again, the strategy failed and instead I felt like my attempts at holiday creation were hollow and false.

But something did do it. I am in the spirit now and I even did the "going home for the holidays" dance this morning when I bounded out of bed. What on earth could have triggered it for me, you ask? Where Handel and snowballs and ceramic doves weren't up to the challenge?

Brussel sprouts! Rocco's office party was last night and every year they do a potluck. We signed up to bring an appetizer and a veggie side - mostly to ensure I would have something to eat there since a colleague had signed up early to bring an Entire Roasted Pig, head and all. Yes, I was concerned. Anyway, back to the sprouts. I figured if someone had the audacity to bring an Entire Pig, then I had the audacity to bring every child's family dinner nightmare, the dreaded sprout. When Rocco told one guy what we were bringing to the party the guy made the face we all know, brussel sprout face. He was not impressed. Oh well, sucks to be him!

Rocco came home at lunch yesterday to help prepare the sprouts for roasting. I bought 2.5kgs of fresh sprouts (!) and we sat at the kitchen table eating grilled cheese sandwiches and trimming and chopping this massive mound of brassica goodness. As we worked our way through the pile, I could feel myself starting to settle into the excitement of the season. The familiar feeling of anticipation and warmth grew in my belly as I imagined the table at home absolutely loaded with fabulous food, the kitchen steamy with great smells and frantic activity and the counter littered with short glasses of gin and tonic abandoned halfway through then replaced by a new glass when the original can't be identified. Yes, I'm ready!

I'm ready to see all my wonderful friends and family in Alberta. I'm ready to swill beer with buddies while their children wander around our legs and to play a game of Scrabble with Rocco on christmas eve while the house is quiet since others have gone to midnight mass. I'm ready to face the hordes of travelers at the airport and my mother foisting yet another christmas ornament on me as she tries to pare down her own collection. There will undoubtedly be an impromptu performance of a song or two from an MGM musical by me and my sisters, and at least one trip to Coco Pazzo for pasta chips and pizza when everyone is so over home cooking. My dad will sit on the edge of the sofa arm and get excited about a soccer game and we'll play pass the phone while yelling down the line at our Irish relatives who will be in their cups. Yep, I'm ready for christmas. Bring it on!

Happy holidays everyone!

19.12.07

Vermicompost update

You all remember when I started my vermicompost? It's been nine months now and, just like human gestation, the vermicompost is ready to harvest. Hahahahahah, I slay myself!

According to numerous sources, unless you're farming worms to be used as bait in fishing or to be applied to a garden, you don't actually have to harvest or split the worms in your vermicompost. The population will stabilize in response to how much and often it gets fed. Too many worms and some will die off - their bodies decompose and enrich the compost. Too few worms and they will start to lay eggs; you can see the small brown eggs that are oval and look a bit like small grain brown rice. Many people split their vermicomposts twice a year because they think it is necessary to maintain a healthy worm population but that's not actually the case.

So when you're not harvesting worms, you can harvest the castings (worm poo) and the compost tea (I like to think of this as worm pee even though it's definitely not). The 'compost' of vermicompost is both the castings and the tea. Both are rich in nutrients and can be applied to gardens and beds and potted plants. The castings are messier to harvest but the way I set up my vermicompost allows for very easy harvest of the compost tea. The lower bucket catches excess liquid that seeps out of the upper bucket through mesh screens so harvesting is only a matter of separating the two buckets and pouring off the tea that has collected in the lower bucket.


A number of smaller (teenaged?) worms made it through the fine mesh in the bottom of the upper bucket. Actually, maybe the eggs fell through the mesh and the worms hatched in the tea. Anyway, whatever way it happened, there were some worms in the tea and I had to strain the tea in order to collect it and return the worms to the upper bucket.


Now I have a large mason jar full of gorgeous, rich, dark compost tea. I already mixed some in a jug of water in a 1:10 ratio, tea to water, and all my plants are singing its praises. I'm kind of wondering who I can share it with for christmas. Wouldn't you just love to see a large jar of worm pee under the tree, tied with a big fat red ribbon? Well, be careful what you wish for!

13.12.07

Supervisor on CBC

Recently my supervising prof, Dr. John Robinson, was invited to participate on a panel with David Suzuki for a Sounds Like Canada episode with Shelagh Rogers.
Here's the blurb posted on the CBC website:

It was another successful "Shelagh on Stage" - this time a live interview at Vancouver's Heritage Hall with famed environmentalist David Suzuki, and sustainability expert John Robinson. The discussion ranged from the role of the media in the environmental movement, to the importance of optimism in the face of news about global warming, to the lack of access to nature in the city.

John is a thoughtful and inspiring man. We have our differences but overall I have a lot of respect for him and he has been stalwart in his support for my work through thick and thin (i.e., the very definition of stalwart - how redundant of me).

You can listen to the episode in three parts here. A little way down the page, look for November 27th. John and David have very different views on how a sustainable future can be achieved and how to communicate the urgency of sustainability to people. Any die hard fans of Suzuki (in my books, those wearing blinders) might find this interesting, and anyone curious about the tone of conversation we have in my department (Resource Management and Environmental Studies in UBC) should take a listen. It's not long and it's fairly entertaining.

Live long and conserve!

11.12.07

How to make this girl's day

A new friend left me a mixed disc on my desk at school this morning. It's a fabulous mix of soul, old skool r&b, jazzy stuff. Oh my god. So welcome today! I think she is destined to become a good friend over many years. Oh, yikes, I wonder if I should return the favour of a Liminal Me compilation. This gal is so much cooler than me, I don't know how it could achieve her standards.

The gift is so welcome today because yesterday was a massive professional embarrassment. A project I've been on for 3 years is finally moving into the data collection phase meaning we are holding a series of workshops, recording participant engagement and collecting surveys, and looking for more or less successful ways of communicating sustainability. The way things have progressed, I am responsible for a substantial portion of the workshop that will be tested against the control workshops. Yesterday we held a dry run of the experimental workshop and my portion totally, absolutely, distressingly bombed. Of course everyone volunteering as 'participants' for the dry run have heard me talk about the work over the last couple of months and attended the workshop in part to see how the work played out. So you see, everyone in the room knew that it was my part that failed. Plus the facilitators made a point of asking me by name what to do next when they lost their way; I was supposed to be a non-participating observer at the back of the room and the facilitation should have been well-prepared and professional. Ugh. Just disgusted with myself and with the research team right now.

You caught me on a bad day (though yesterday was worse) and the mixed disc arrived at the perfect moment for a little spirit boosting. Life usually figures out a balance, doesn't it? Cue the cheesy art print:

6.12.07

Ha ha ho ho ha

From the online Globe and Mail:

Microsoft turns off 'bad Santa'

Associated Press

SEATTLE — — Microsoft Corp. quickly shut down Santa Claus' Web privileges after it found out the automated elf it created for kids to instant message with was talking naughty, not nice.


Last year, Microsoft encouraged kids to connect directly to “Santa” by adding northpolelive.com to their Windows Live Messenger contact lists. The Santa program, which Microsoft reactivated in early December, asked children what they wanted for Christmas and could respond on topic, thanks to artificial intelligence.


The holiday cheer soured this week when a reader of a United Kingdom-based technology news site, The Register, reported that a chat between Santa and his underage nieces about eating pizza prompted Santa to bring up oral sex.


One of the publication's writers replicated the chat Monday. After declining the writer's repeated invitations to eat pizza, a frustrated Santa burst out with, “You want me to eat what?!? It's fun to talk about oral sex, but I want to chat about something else.”


The exchange ended with the writer and Santa calling each other “dirty bastard."


Microsoft spokesman Adam Sohn said the company's engineers tried to clean up Santa's vocabulary, but even after making changes to the software, the company wasn't comfortable keeping him online.


“It's not like if you say, 'Hello Santa,' he's going to throw inappropriate stuff at you,” said Mr. Sohn.


Mr. Sohn said Santa's lewd comment was sparked by someone “pushing this thing to make it do things it wasn't supposed to do.”


Santa is just one of many “agents,” or automated IM programs, that computer users can chat with on Live Messenger. Some are useful — customer service agents, for example — while others are frivolous, like an alien that responds to IMs with burbling extraterrestrial noises. Microsoft disabled Santa Tuesday. On Wednesday, northpolelive.com appeared to be online in one reporter's Messenger contact list, but Santa did not respond to her messages.

5.12.07

Contact Improv Grand Dame

Peter Bingham, Andrew de Lotbinière Harwood
photo : Chris Randle

When I was dancing, I really loved the Contact Improv form. Essentially, dancers throw themselves at other dancers, are picked up, rebound off, slide under and around, balance, and flow. It's wonderful to do and less interesting to watch just because as an audience member you know how good it feels when it's really flowing and you want to be a part of the dance but you only get to watch. Ah well, live vicariously for a while!

I just found out about a contact improv show happening this weekend at EDAM, a Vancouver company and school, with Peter Bingham - the company founder and a huge name in CI - and Nancy Stark Smith. Nancy is one of the founding figures of CI; they call her the Grand Dame of the form, and as far as I know she doesn't perform much anymore. The opportunity to see her perform locally, with Peter Bingham no less, is irresistible. I've reserved a couple tickets for Friday night's show - anyone in Vancouver interested in coming with me?

EDAM also hosts a contact jam every Sunday afternoon - a contact jam is a random collection of dancers who have varying levels of skill in the form. The point is to play and explore. I've often been tempted to go drop in and refresh my dance senses but I'm nervous. I'm out of shape in dance terms and it's been years now since I was in a studio. Still...maybe.

3.12.07

Exciting night in the bedroom!

No, you dirty, dirty readers, not exciting like that. Exciting like this:



I know, it's really hard to see that this is a firetruck outside our house at 5am this morning. It was a fairly stormy weekend in Vancouver with two days of wet snow that turned to heavy rain Sunday evening. Pretty mucky out there and surprisingly cold too with temperatures feeling like -9 at one point. I know that means absolutely nothing to the rest of the nation, but it was not usual for these parts.

So last night we're snoozing away to the sound of heavy rain and a bit of wind, when I kind of slowly wake up to an intermittent noise that I can't place. It's a kind of whump or deep hum sound happening every minute or so and lasting a couple seconds. I climb out of bed to look out the bedroom window, hoping to identify the sound. Nothing...nothing...whump! What? Is that sparking? ...whump! Oh my god the shed is sparking and fizzling! Behind the main house there is a large shed that used to be a garage. The landlords use it as a large workroom now with fancy power tools, and they also carved out a storage space for us where we keep our bikes and other odds and ends. The sparks are coming from the bottom of the door to our storage compartment. And they're getting worse!

I wake Rocco up and we both freak out a little then grab the phone and call the landlords downstairs. They had heard the noise too but don't have a window in their apartment that looks out back that way. Keeping an eye on the phenomenon, it seems like the sparking has started little flames that hang about for a few seconds then get doused by the heavy rain. The landlords call the fire department and the truck arrives really quickly, in minutes. Three firefighters go around to the shed - and here's where all the excitement dissipates, really quickly - they look inside the storage room, they look outside the storage room, one firefighter kicks the bottom of the shed where it was sparking, and they leave. It turns out there is an exposed wire at the bottom of the door to our storage room and it was shorting in the rain. So freaky!

Anyway, the landlord cut the power to the shed before the firetruck arrived so there really wasn't anything else to see. They'll get the situation repaired and there's essentially no damage except a small bit of charring on the outside of the door frame, but it was definitely scary for a while when all I knew was that the large wooden structure immediately behind our house was sparking and trying to flame up. We were both dressed in warm clothes by the time the truck came, I had an emergency bag packed with some food and juice boxes, toques and mitts, umbrellas and reading material, and the cat carrier was out and ready to go next to our raincoats by the door.

5:20am and we were back in bed trying to get back to sleep as the cats were slowly emerging from deep under the bed where they cowered after we managed to freak them out with our own worry. Like I said, an exciting night in the bedroom!

24.11.07

Setting myself up

I've signed up for a health assessment available from the campus gym, the BirdCoop. For a mere $32 they'll take my measurements, give me cardio, strength, and flexibility tests, take my blood pressure and determine my body composition (% body fat, etc.). Someone tell me why I'm nervous about exposing myself to this assessment? They can only tell me ways to improve on areas of health and fitness and it's not like the assessment determines anything with serious implications like my ability to do my job. Still, knowing that it is looming - scheduled for Wednesday morning - makes me want to run an extra few km and bench press the cats and eat parsley by the bunch and get my hair cut in an attempt to shed a few ounces. Crazy, huh? I guess I expect that most people overestimate their level of fitness and I'm not above that myself, but it will still be hard to hear. The likely outcome is that my cardio will be deemed fairly good but my strength results will be abysmally low. I've never had my body composition done so whatever numbers they give me for that will not be comparable to anything, they will only be a starting point.

All this to say, don't expect me to report the findings in great detail here but I am curious to see how they do the various tests and how they assess my fitness and health measures. I'll let you know!

Update: I rescheduled. Not canceled, rescheduled. Why? Because a friend of a friend was graduating from stand-up comedy school and we went out to support her at her debut open mike night yesterday. You can't watch stand-up comedy sober, and apparently you can't get your health assessed within 24 hours of imbibing alcohol. So, it will be next week sometime. instead.

20.11.07

Applecare Shmapplecare

I got this spankin' new Macbook this time last year and did extensive research on apple.com and various mac forums on how to get the most out of warranties and protection, among other features. The best advice was to take full advantage of the one-year protection that comes with every new Apple computer, then just before the year of free coverage was up, buy the Applecare plan to extend the coverage over the next three years: four years of coverage in total.

Lats year I marked the date on my calendar this year to buy Applecare at the beginning of this month so I didn't miss the deadline. As you know, we were traveling like crazy in October, such that when I got home I had a bad case of empty pockets and a full work/school schedule to catch up on. Days passed, I put off calling Apple and found a way to pay the $300 for Applecare. Turns out that was unnecessary. I am six days late. Six (6!) days. They transferred me around to a couple different departments trying to score me an exception to the 1-year deadline, but in the end they just won't do it for me. Sucks! Misers!

Maybe the $300 sounds like a lot to you, but considering how disposable computers are made to be now, I figured that four years of top-of-the-line coverage would not only get me through my degree, but probably see me to my next computer. Now I'll have to pay the one-time fee when something breaks; I'm not sure what the one-time fee is, it probably is dependent on what breaks, but I am sure that a couple one-time fees over the next three years will add up to more than the $300 right now.

I'm pissed at myself. Now who's the asshat?

On another note, I'm finally going to pick up the car from the mechanic this afternoon. That's a whole other saga that I haven't really blogged about but is now going into its fourth month! Cross your fingers and toes that this time does the trick and we'll have a dependable car for the winter months and the year to come. At least now I have room on my credit card to pay the repair cost since Apple wouldn't take my money.

Sheesh. I need to go for a run.

19.11.07

Another meme

Office Lip Dub!

First there was Connected Ventures, a company with an office full of young folks with too much energy and a large stereo. After work one day, everyone was hanging out at the office, as you do when you totally love your workplace and your colleagues - sure. They cranked the stereo, put on "Flagpole Sitta" by Harvey Danger, and created the world's first Office Lip Dub.

Sorry, the Youtube embedding broke so here is a new link to the video. Trust me, I know a lot of people don't bother clicking on links but it is definitely worth watching!

This first one is still the best, by far, but lots of groups have responded with lip dubs of their own in a variety of work places. Part music video, part workplace promo, all fun, the office lib dub is now a meme popping up all over the internet. It even has its own website. Wikipedia has heard of lip dubbing but not the specialised form of the office lip dub.

Here's one that will appeal particularly to Rocco:

Again, no embedding but watch the video here. Do it! Doo eeet!

I want to make one! There's at least a few people in my building at UBC who would definitely be into it. We'll need a catchy but unusual song, a video camera (the department has one) and some willing volunteers. So fun! You can search for lots more lip dubbing on youtube.com or vimeo.com, but the original and the first responses are all at www.officelipdub.com.

17.11.07

The South, Part 2: Savannah, Georgia

After the wedding in Charleston, Rocco and I had planned an escape-à-deux from the wedding hordes. We took a Greyhound bus two hours southwest, following the Atlantic coast, to Savannah, Georgia. I'd booked a room in the Forsyth Park Inn, a gorgeous little B&B with two resident cats. We both felt weirdly grown up to be staying in a B&B with 5 other 50+ couples, and apparently we weren't the Inn's usual customers. The guy who greeted us was fairly shocked that we arrived by Greyhound and further upset that we grabbed a cab from a cab company "owned by blacks and they only employ blacks". Huh. Thanks for the tip, asshat. I worried that we were about to see the dark side of the south and be surrounded by racism and prejudice, but really that was the only remark about race we heard the whole time.

Savannah is very different from Charleston which I found surprising since they are so close geographically and share a similar economic, social and political history. It's obvious that Savannah was the seat of industry, receiving, processing, and selling cotton, while Charleston was the seat of luxury where the rich had their sprawling homes and went boating for pleasure.
The map above shows you the historic district of Savannah - the area is gridded and inlaid with little gorgeous public squares. Each square is in honour of an historic figure like civil war heroes, politicians, etc. It's very lovely to encounter a treed green space every couple of blocks and each square has a distinct feel and surrounding neighbourhood. The Forsyth Park Inn is just to the left of Forsyth Park, about halfway up, and it took us about 20, 25 minutes to walk to the waterfront from there.

Down at the water, the city splits into two levels: water-level streets where cotton was hauled off the boats and brought into the warehouse buildings that line the row, and city-level streets two or three flights up. The cotton was brought in from the boats by slaves, then processed as it moved up the buildings, finally being sold at auction at the city-level. Here's a view of the city-level street bridging across the water-level street.

The architecture in Savannah is mostly brick, very austere, and few yards or verandas in sight until you get towards Forsyth Park, unlike Charleston.

Mostly we walked and walked, checking it all out and trying to walk off the ginormous southern breakfast the Inn offered every morning. The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) is a large and respected institution that is very hard to miss around town. SCAD has bought and refurbished many of the historic buildings in the downtown core so the name and student and faculty art are everywhere. We took advantage of one tourist trap - a ghost tour! It was the most bizarre and hilarious thing; we rode around in a 1981 hearse that they popped the top off to make room for eight swivel seats in the bed.


It was just so corny! The guide drove us all around town, stopping in front of random buildings and trying to freak us out with gory stories and fanciful phantasmagoria. No, I didn't see anything spooky, but it was still kind of cool. The guide is a maniac, some dude from New York City just trying to make a buck and trying to make us believe that he believes in his stories. He also spotted a car he used to own and we stalked it from the hearse for a few minutes. Rocco and I got trapped for much longer than the tour should have lasted and ended up in the hearse for 1.5 tours. The stories and buildings changed in the subsequent second half-tour. Take of that what you will.

Things we missed out on while in the South: grits - it just didn't happen and I don't mind; mint julep - didn't see a dram of bourbon even once. Things we really loved and had in excess: verandas! Sitting on verandas with cats and wine or cats and breakfast or cats and books.

After two nights in sunny Savannah, we boarded a plane for New York. Big Apple, here we come!

9.11.07

Superkalefragelisticexputtanescadocious

Continuing the theme of seasonal cooking, kale is abundant right now and the stores need to shift it. Do your part! Eat your greens!

Kale puttanesca

Ingredients:
1 small onion, chopped
4 or 5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp red chili flakes
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp tomato paste
2 Tbsp capers, drained
4 or 5 cups kale, stems removed, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp black or Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
1/2 box whole wheat thin pasta like spaghetti or spaghettini
parmesan, shaved

Directions:
Set pasta to boil with a little salt, drain when al dente.
Meanwhile fry the onion, garlic, tomatoes, chili flakes, s&p in olive oil over medium heat until onions are very translucent and tomatoes are gooey. Add balsamic, tomato paste, capers., and 1/2 cup water. Give it a stir, then add kale on top of other ingredients, cover and let the kale wilt for about 5 minutes. Add olives and stir to mix.
Dump drained pasta and some parmesan shavings into kale pot and toss to mix. Serve topped with more parmesan shavings.

Holy cats this stuff is good! I took a kale puttanesca recipe that called for anchovies and replaced the fish with a few other ingredients to sub-in for anchovy characteristics. Extra capers for the saltiness of anchovies, balsamic vinegar for a bit of tang, and because anchovies tend to break down and go mushy with any heat, I used a bit of tomato paste for the gush. It worked out really well. I might need to buy more kale this weekend and attempt a replication. Next time I'll leave out the chili flakes. The heat was nice but I think almost overpowered the other flavours. Instead, I'll sub in 1/4 tsp of nutmeg. Yeah, nutmeg.

The dish really went well with a celebratory bottle of vino, Marquis Philips 2004 Shiraz. Celebratory, you ask? Well, that will be revealed in time. It's Rocco's news, not mine, and we'll hold onto it for now until everything is finalised. Don't worry, it's all good. In any case, a strong red goes really nicely with the puttanesca! So do lap cats, and a cozy Friday night in.

Have a fantastic long weekend!

Door cat

Weirdo.

7.11.07

The Sow-uth: Charleston, SC

Rocco and I caught the Quick Shuttle from Vancouver to Seattle on Thursday, October 11th, after work. His cousin collected us off the bus, we had a quick meal in the Ballard district where everyone and every bar/restaurant is funky and cool, then we crashed for a couple hours at his bachelor pad. He kindly drove us to the Seatac airport the next morning and we boarded a plane to Charleston, South Carolina by way of Cincinnati, Ohio. For some reason, although we crossed the width of the continent, it really didn't feel as long a trip as Vancouver to Toronto sometimes feels.

We were in Charleston to attend a friend's wedding. Colman, the groom, met Rocco in Ireland but has been living in New York for about 4 years. He met a gal there who is half American, half Brazilian, and who went to college in Charleston. An Irish-Brazilian wedding in the American South? Hell yah!

The wedding was bee-you-ti-full! They chose amazing venues for the ceremony and the reception, really showcasing the structures of the south.


The wedding party (Colman and his bride, Bell) in front of the church


As the wedding meandered around Charleston a bit, they arranged for these old-school trolleys to ferry guests from one venue to another. You can also just see Rocco looking dashing in his grey suit if you zoom in on the photo.

There are many other photos of the wedding night but most of them are drunken, blurry photos. Too bad we didn't get some shots of the reception venue because it was held in an old rice mill that has been renovated and sits right on the water. The bride and groom provided a 5 course dinner and open bar, a Brazilian band, and the building was strewn with buckets of plastic flip-flops for guests to put on when their stupid dress shoes started to hurt. brilliant! I still have my hot pink pair, and since I didn't pack very well for the heat of the south, they came in handy during the rest of the trip.

The day after the wedding, three of us rented bicycles and toured around the historic district of downtown Charleston. I'm now convinced, cycling is the best way to see a city! The fact that they call a specific area the historic district is a bit of a misnomer since the whole city (that we saw) was done up and maintained to the same degree and aesthetic.
Two goofs crashing their rental bikes, Matrix-style. John is a great guy and a good friend of Rocco's. The three of us spent most of our time together while in Charleston.

A very expensive-looking street facing the water.

So many houses look like this: a skinny street front with what appears to be a solid front door, but behind the door, from the side, you can see that the "front door" opens onto a veranda. This style apparently was so popular because street frontage is the most expensive cost of a lot so home owners built long and skinny. I love the double veranda!

Everywhere you look, white trim and open-air verandas.

As you can see, we had crazy sunny weather the whole time in Charleston, and later in Savannah as well. We failed to get to the beach but I feel like we got a good feel for Charleston. The people are super friendly and everything moves at a relaxed pace. I got in the habit of answering almost everything with the pervasive "mmm-hmmmmmmmmmmm" affirmative that every local gave us. For all its charms, we didn't see the upscale side of Charleston outside of the wedding festivities. I couldn't find an espresso to save my life and eventually broke down to buy a Starbuck's americano on our last morning.

The wedding over, most of the oversea guests decamped to New York, but Rocco and I headed to Savannah, Georgia which is about two hours away by bus. I'm really glad we did since we got to see two very different cities of the south, and we stalled the culture shock of moving from the slow pace of Charleston to the fast pace of New York City. But that's all a story for another day. Check back later!

5.11.07

Fall cooking, continued

Now that we're back (and yes, more about the trip will be posted - lots more) I feel like I've had two summer-to-autumn transitions. Vancouver started feeling like fall before we left, then we experienced super hot weather in Charleston and Savannah. Moving north through New York, up the Hudson Valley, and into Toronto where it was cool and rainy, it felt like that transition was happening all over again and in a condensed time frame. I thought I had the fall cooking bug before we left, well now it's on me ten-fold.

Today I made Irish stew, using seitan which is a gluten product that can absorb flavours and kind of mimics the texture of beef - well, kind of. The house smells so good! When was the last time I had Irish stew? Probably over seven years ago before the whole vegetarian thing kicked in. The result today looks and smells terrific. It turns out we forgot that a friend from Toronto is coming to town and we had casual plans to meet him out somewhere for dinner. The stew will definitely keep until tomorrow, and will probably even improve with sitting, but now neither of us wants to go out for a night on the town! Sometimes comfort food is just the thing.

Ingredients

1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups seitan -- chunked
1.5 cups carrots -- chopped
1.5 cups portobello mushroom, chopped
1 cup onion -- chopped
1.5 cups potatoes -- peeled and chopped
2 bay leaves
1 tsp rosemary -- whole
1 tsp garlic -- minced
1 tsp basil
1 Tbsp tomato paste
2 cups water
4 tsp tamari soy sauce
1 Tbsp Worchestershire sauce (vegan)
1/4 cup celery -- chopped
4 Tbsp water -- cold
3 Tbsp cornstarch

Directions
1. Saute seitan in oil over medium heat in a large pot until seitan crisps up a bit.
2. Put veggies (except celery), and herbs and spices into the pot. Sautee in a little water or veggie broth at medium heat for about 8 minutes, stirring to prevent burning.
3. Add tomato paste, water, Worchestershire and tamari and bring to a simmer. Cook about 10 more minutes or until veggies are soft. [I used pretty big chunks of veggies so cooked it quite a bit longer in this stage]
4. Add celery (add at end to help retain color and texture).
5. Mix the 4 T cold water with the cornstarch. Turn off heat under stew. Vigorously stir in cornstarch solution. Turn heat back on under stew and stir until thickened.

Number of Servings: 4 - 6

3.11.07

In the beginning...there was Victoria.

Wow. Long time no post. But LOTS has been going on. I'll start posting it, bit by bit, as I find time. Still playing catch up with work and school now that we're back. We were away almost all of October! The cats still recognise us, so that's good.

Ok, first of all, The Duchess came to town! She stayed in Vancouver a couple days with us then went over to Victoria to meet up with Dora, Marko Polo, and others. Rocco, Steve and I followed the next day. It was round 3, you see. Third year in a row for me to run the Royal Victoria Half Marathon. And this year I was going to kick its ass. This year, many people were going to do a lot of kicking.

The weekend was pretty rainy and the race morning forecast was not good: Heavy rains promised for the entire day. But, it seems my friend N's luck of never racing in bad weather rubbed off on me, or it was the confluence of great people all in one town for the weekend creating good energy. Whatever the vector, race morning dawned quite dry and even a little sunny. Two of our party ran the 8km and I ran the half, all in a surprising window of nice weather! Not that you can tell from the darkness of our pre-race photo:


But, a few minutes later as the races began, the sky was lightening, offering enough light for Dora and Rocco to perform the necessary crotch check just before the starting gun went off.


The gun went off and the race began! Look how excited these two are!


And for good reason. Dora ran a 47 minute 8km, a personal best, and Rocco ran the course in 51 minutes 15 seconds (he'd like me to point out that his time is palindromic) on an injured hamstring. Rocco had been training for this race for two months and injured his hamstring two weeks before it. Being his FIRST EVER race, and receiving a good race number, he was convinced to run it anyway. Both Dora and Rocco are very happy with their results, as they damn well should be! Yay!

I also had a great race in the window of good weather. I was aiming to run it under 2 hours, with a secret - unspoken - goal of coming in between 1:50 and 1:55. Good training, good weather, great support, and my fast laces helped me run the course in 1:48. I'm so, so satisfied and pleased! It was also great for the spectators that the rain held off as they hustled between different viewpoints along both the 8km and the half-marathon courses all morning.

After a bit of R&R, and a post-race massage generously donated by The Duchess (oh baby!), we went for turkey dinner at a good friend's house with everyone, I think 16 or 17 people, in town for race weekend/Thanksgiving. Good food, good times, good wine. Later on, Rocco, The Duchess and I went on to a fantastic concert by a Winnipeg band, The Weakerthans in downtown Victoria. Holy crap, by the end of the night I was more ready for bed than I have ever been. I wish I had some pictures of more of the gang because there really were lots of fun folks in town including two cute little noodles (at the time) still under the age of 1. I guess the cameras were worn out from covering the races.

A little more socialising and museum-visiting the next day and finally we caught the ferry back to Vancouver. The Duchess kept us company for a couple more days before heading back up north. One day later, we headed south, but that's another, longer story. To be continued...

28.9.07

The subject is forced

So people have been whining that I haven't blogged since the bike trip. Well, cycle camping is the bomb and has kept me going for the past couple of weeks, but, yes, I acknowledge that it's been a while and it's about time to be updating Liminal Me. Unfortunately, besides some really long work days, not much is new. So instead, I'll return to something tried and true.


This evening, it being Friday, we've reverted to an old habit from last year. We made a last minute reservation at Henry's. Henry's is a crazy kinda place, located in a strip mall nearby (Oak and King Edward) and serving mostly Italian goodies but with some surprising Asian influences scattered across the menu. For example, you can dine on penne putanesca with escargots to start, and finish with a banana chocolate spring roll. Alright, the restaurant is in a strip mall. Alright, their idea of interior decor is those crappy painted roosters you can buy at Winner's. But, the food is seriously, seriously now, really super tasty good.

Rocco and I both ventured away from our usuals today (bolognese and primavera, respectively). Rocco tried the boeuf bourguignon and I opted for the "seasonal vegetable platter". I knew it was a risk. Though I quite adore the spaghettini primavera because the sauce is very good and the vegetables are usually, ok mostly, fresh, I was betting that a "seasonal platter" might throw the chef for a bit of a loop. I was wrong. I admit it. I'm a food snob and the painted chicken was giving me the beady eye. The seasonal platter of veggies was terrific! They offered mushrooms with parsley, perfectly steamed carrots and broccoli, some delicious ragout, roasted tomatoes with a sundried tomato sauce, braised green beans, and maybe a few other bits I've now forgotten. Really, it was delicious. To offset the lack of starch in my dish we ordered Henry's cheese garlic bread (heart attack platter but necessary) and a starter salad of radicchio, escarole, glazed walnuts, grapes, and cambozola. Yum! After dinner, since we still had some Las Rocas grenache left to finish, we didn't bother with dessert, and, in fact, we're usually too stuffed and sated to bother with dessert at Henry's.

Maybe I shouldn't go into the dinner conversation that mulled over where the division lies between art and craft, between intention and creation. It's enough to say that a fantastic meal can be had in a strip mall and you should all try Henry's. We're happy to take visitors and locals there anytime you please. They specialize in fresh fish dishes (Rocco had the salmon once, and now denies it, but I recall him saying it was quite tasty) but everything on the menu is produced with a great respect for the ingredients.

Henry, we love you!

23.9.07

Autumn feasting

Autumn has definitely arrived in Vancouver. The day after we got back from Galiano last week both Rocco and I noticed that suddenly the city was experiencing Fall. A nip in the air, multicoloured leaves, that soft but crisp light that filters through red and orange and yellow leaves... it's gorgeous around here lately.

This kind of weather makes me want to cook! Last week we had a mid-week extravaganza with barley pilaf, sauteed swiss chard (thanks, mom!), Tuscan white beans with sage, baked portobellas with oregano and mozarella - oo la la. Visiting the farmer's market yesterday inspired me to cook another blow out. Tonight we've invited friends over to help us eat zucchini and heirloom tomato casserole (again, my mom's recipe), roasted sunburst squash with sage, lentil loaf, boiled new potatoes with parsley butter, and Rocco's cooking some organic mustard chicken for the carnivores. Sunburst squash are so super cute (see pic). They're about 1.5 to 2" across and are soft enough that you eat the rind, like zucchini. I chopped them into quarters and tossed the chunks with olive oil and dried sage. Roast for about a half hour and they're good to go. Here are the directions for the remaining dishes we're devouring tonight.

TOMATO ZUCCHINI CASSEROLE (from Canadian Living)
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
1 tsp each chopped fresh (or ½ tsp each dried) oregano and basil
1 clove garlic, minced
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground pepper
3 medium zucchini
2 large or 3 medium tomatoes
¼ cup butter or margarine
2 to 3 tbsp finely chopped onion
½ cup dry breadcrumbs

Combine cheddar, Parmesan, herbs, garlic, salt and pepper. Thinly slice zucchini and tomatoes. Butter or spray an 8 x 8 or 9 x 12 pan.

Arrange half the zucchini slices in the pan and sprinkle with ¼ of the cheese mixture. Add half the tomatoes and sprinkle with another ¼ of the cheese mixture. Repeat with zucchini, cheese, tomatoes, ending with cheese.

In small skillet, melt butter and sauté onions until translucent but not browned. Add crumbs and stir well. Spread evenly over top of casserole.

Cover loosely with foil and bake at 375 for 30 mins. Uncover and bake for 20-25 mins longer, or until top is crusty and veggies are tender. The idea is to dry up any liquid during cooking.

Parsley butter
1 cup (packed) coarsely chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 teaspoons (packed) grated lemon peel
1 garlic clove, peeled
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

Finely chop parsley, lemon peel, and garlic in processor. Add butter and process until well blended. Season parsley butter to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before using.)

Boil potatoes in just enough salted water to cover. Drain when potatoes are just tender (~25 or 30 minutes), then toss with a few tablespoons of parsley butter.

Lentil Loaf (made up by Me as an amalgamation of online recipes viewed)
1/2 cup shallots, diced
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 can lentils, drained and rinsed
4 Tbsp quick oats
2 Tbsp Heinz chili sauce (like ketchup)
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp marjoram
dash of salt and pepper
1/4 vegetable broth
1/4 cup Heinz chili sauce

Sauté shallots in oil over medium heat until translucent. In a mixing bowl, lightly mash lentils then add oats, 2 Tbsp chili sauce, eggs, and spices. Mix well. Add shallots and broth and mix. Pack into a greased loaf pan then spread 1/4 cup chili sauce over the top. Bake in 375 C oven for 1 hour.
______________________________________

There were virtually no leftovers! Tonight we'll just have the few remaining potatoes, another piece of mustard chicken for himself, some tofu for myself, with salad and steamed broccoli. I don't think I have the autumn cooking bug out of my system yet though, so there may be some good soup this week, and maybe lasagna next week. Have to take advantage of the harvest season!

17.9.07

The wheel of the future

Last weekend we went cycle camping on Galiano Island. Holy smokes! Cycle camping is the best! It is...the wheel of the future! Well, I think it's in our future, because we really enjoyed it. On the ferry home I was already scheming to design another cycling holiday - three weeks of cycle camping (with some B&Bs and maybe the odd hotel) around Italy in the summer. Not next summer, but in a few years maybe. How great would that be?

Friday morning we traveled by bus down to Tsawwassen ferry terminal and caught a morning ferry to Galiano. Our reserved site at Montague Harbour Marine Park was in the walk-in and cycle camping area so no cars or generators in neighbouring sites to annoy us. The site overlooks Montague harbour and is a 10km ride from the ferry terminal. The camp site view:

One thing we knew but hadn't internalised before the trip is that the Gulf Islands are hilly. Those 10km took a while and we worked up an awesome sweat. We borrowed panniers from friends and it felt great to not have a backpack making the sweat situation worse, but, man, bikes loaded with a weekend of gear + island topography + a set of commuter gears on Rocco's bike (they are missing the lowest gears, designed for city riding) made the going tough. But, it's so worth it! The big difference we noticed between backpacking and cycle camping is that when you arrive at camp, your feet don't hurt from hiking and you've been sitting all day on the saddle, so you still have leg energy to set up camp, do your cooking, and explore around a bit.

Since we had beautiful clear blue skies and summer heat, we sat on the beach for a while then took a meander around a nearby point. This tree was delicately balanced in the water, forming a kinetic sculpture that we shook hands with. It also looks like a shark. Maybe a megalodon. Rocco had heard all about arbutus trees but couldn't remember having seen one before. This shot is of the blood red arbutus bark molting away. That first night we made it back to the beach just in time for a beautiful sunset. The camera never captures it completely, does it?, but here is the requisite shot anyway.

It has been a terrible summer for us in terms of getting outside and getting any tent time. We kept getting foiled by sick cats, broken cars, exams, blah blah blah, so this weekend was all about quintessential camping. We built fire. Lots of fire. I brought Jiffy Pop, and we used fire to make Jiffy Pop. Hallelujah, it doesn't get any better!

Saturday morning dawned a bit cloudy and breezy but dry. We had kind of a lazy morning, savouring fantastic camp pancakes, then cycled out to see the island. Mount Galiano is 341m elevation and we climbed up for an amazing view of the South Gulf Islands, the San Juan Islands in the US, and Vancouver Island. There's a panoramic shot on the camera but it isn't stitched together yet. Here's a sample:

On the hike up to the viewpoint the trail leads you past the wreck of a small plane! Rocco figures it might be a beaver, and that it's been there for at least a few decades. We couldn't find anything about it on Google when we got home so there's finally proof that Google is fallible and will never know everything. Mwah hahahahah!
After the hike (we guessed it was about 6km round trip), the clouds cleared and we cycled up to the Hummingbird Pub for a late lunch and a beer on the sunny patio. The resident cat Bart joined us as we basked in the sun. The Hummingbird Pub runs a shuttle service from the campground every hour on the hour, so for future reference, it's an excellent pub with great food and good tap choices plus they'll drive you to and from your camp site. Brilliant.

But of course we were on our bikes. Saturday night we were back at the campsite for another fire and star gazing since the night was completely clear. Again, an almost empty campground even on a gorgeous Saturday night.

Sunday morning we had the option of breaking camp quite early to make it to the ferry for a 9:25am sailing, but that sounded less like a holiday schedule. Instead we lazed about in the dry tent, listening to the rain on the fly. Sweet! Eventually we got up and made breakfast (and another fire) in the group shelter down the lane. Here's a pic of everything packed up and on the bikes, ready for the ride out, and a very grubby Me showing three days of hard, sweaty work and no showers.
I think we traveled even more lightly than we would have if we'd been backpacking. We did have extra space leaving Vancouver so could have brought a few more things but we did have everything we needed. It's surprising how compact it all gets, packed into panniers and strapped to the rack. Leaving the campsite, we had a few hours to kill before the 5pm ferry sailing (yes, only two a day at this time of year!) so we checked out Bellhouse Park for a bit. Saw some seals, or maybe sea lions, cavorting in the waves, and some crazy rock formations.
After the park, we headed back to the Hummingbird Pub and spent most of the rainy afternoon playing travel Scrabble, cuddling Bart, and generally relaxing. The trip home was uneventful, we made all our transfers between ferry, bus, and bus, very smoothly although it did take us ages and hours to get home. Being at home in our own bed with loving cats last night felt fantastic after such a superb weekend.

Here are the stats: 52kms cycled, 6km hiked, 1 pair of long underwear worn (me), 2 deer spotted (Rocco), 3 or 4 seals or sea lions, 2 pub lunches, 3 campfires, 1 Jiffy Pop, countless stars, and wild ambition to do it again! The distances don't look that impressive, but remember that it is a small island, and we wanted to ease our way into cycle camping with a plan that was not to strenuous. I tell you, it was a perfect weekend, and cycle camping is the only way to go.

8.9.07

Feline Figaro

Apparently, the following is a very famous You Tube video that never hit our radars. It's pretty damn cute, and the sequel is even better. What's super weird is that they have made merchandise around this cat playing the piano. Some people will stop at nothing to achieve kitty fame and fortune.



7.9.07

Running Related, Part II

Another running blogger/podcaster is a guy calling himself Steve Runner who hosts Phedippidations. Steve focuses on running tips and techniques, fueling, heart rate monitors, the technical side of running. To tell the truth, I find the phedippidation podcasts boring since they only ever talk about running, but he has another project on the go that is truly fantastic.

Steve Runner organises the Phedippidations World Wide Half Marathon and 5km and this year marks the second race in the annual series. The PWWHM tagline is Think Global - Run Local. Here's the deal, you sign up at www.worldwidehalf.com then run a half-marathon or 5km distance in your local area any day between October 6th and October 22nd and record your time at the site after your race. If there's no race locally within those dates, organise a run among your friends along a 13.1 mile or 5km route you've mapped out. I love the tie-in to sustainability issues, and the way the event tries to bring together runners all over the world to share their running experiences. It's totally free and you can pledge funds for a charity already listed or list a new charity that is dear to your heart. You can form virtual teams if you like, and PWWHM offers a virtual goody bag of discount offers and other stuff that entrants have donated or suggested.

As usual, I'll be running the Royal Victoria Half Marathon on Thanksgiving long weekend which falls within the date range of the World Wide Half. It's not truly local since we do have to take a ferry and a few buses to get there, but there's at least no flight involved and I'm already registered, so there you go. I registered for the PWWHM last week and, surprisingly, I'm the first Vancouver entrant. That really surprises me. So I'm going to promote it locally among the folks I know who run. Maybe we should start up a Vancouver team.

Another cool thing that PWWHM have organised around the virtual event is a website (The Extra Mile Podcast) where entrants can record a short, 2-minute podcast describing their training or their thoughts and feelings about the upcoming races. I'd like to try to record one of my own to submit; I'll let you know if/when that happens. You can hear the submissions on the blog or subscribe to the podcast through iTunes.

One more thing, did you know Rocco is running now? He's been following a Running Room program to train for a 10km distance and as it turns out, he really likes it and is quite good at it. At the Victoria weekend they also offer an 8km race. Rocco and Dora will be running the 8km. Yay! I'm sure if they wanted to they could track their 5km time on their own and enter their results at the World Wide Half site for the 5km distance. It's like accomplishing two races by running one, see? Clever.

In my opinion, a great initiative to support. Maybe next year we'll skip the RVM and organise a 13.1 mile and 5km group in our neighbourhood. I'd likely spend way, way too long designing a t-shirt though and the whole thesis thing would be thrown out the window. Huh, maybe this isn't such a great idea after all... Anyway, Think global - run local!

2.9.07

Running Related, Part I

Against the advice of elite athletes and their supporters (Toni, I'm looking at you!), I do usually run with my iPod Shuffle. Of course, when I'm lucky enough to be running with warm blooded panting partners, I leave the Shuffle at home, but my long runs are getting up around the 20km mark these days and that's a long time to entertain yourself when I have to run alone. I used to check out audio books from the library and rip them to my iTunes to listen while pounding the pavement. That got tedious, especially since public media like library CDs get treated like shit and are often scratched and useless. I got with the times - I found podcasts.

Virtually anyone with a little internet knowhow can create and distribute a podcast, and the running community got on board fairly quickly. Now I subscribe to a few running podcasts from people like Nigel at Running From the Reaper and I get virtual company on my runs. You can hear the podcaster breathing and hear his or her feet striking the ground, and outside noises like birdsong and traffic often get confusing since it can be hard to tell if they are in your own environment or were previously recorded in the British countryside by Nigel. I really enjoy the running podcasts and they often are very informative about running tips and upcoming races or events; more often they are just good company though the 'conversation' is at the mercy of whatever the podcaster is thinking about that day. I also find that my pace adjusts to match the pace of the podcaster, which usually means I speed up a bit to match Nigel's pace.

I also subscribe to a few podcasts of radio shows, from CBC and from NPR. On CBC I like Quirks and Quarks, even though the summer has been a season of reruns of shows I listened to in January and February, and Ideas. On NPR I now subscribe to This American Life, a show devoted to the uncanny inanity of life in the northwest hemisphere and often featuring the hilarious David Sedaris, and Fresh Air, a more political and somewhat serious show that hosts interesting people covering a variety of topics, some topical and some random. This week, This American Life looked at romantic break ups. I really enjoyed the podcast so I thought I'd host it here for some of you to listen to while you're doing the dishes or flying to Ghana or cleaning up cat puke or even, dare I say it, running!

The MP3

The podcast features a girl who is trying to recover from a bad breakup. She claims the relationship was the most cheesy, corny relationship ever, even to the point that they listened to Phil Collins together and eventually both honestly began to appreciate the Genesis band mate's romantic croonings. So, somehow, the girl gets a hold of Phil Collins' contact info, and phones him! She tells him about the breakup and asks him about his heartbreaks, and decides to write a breakup song. Eventually she writes and records a song, and phones him back to play it for him. This segment was really quite hilarious. Who the hell phones Phil Collins? Anyway, the podcast also includes a child of divorced parents recorded twenty years ago and now, at the age of 29, a father who is currently divorcing his wife, and some other minor contributions. An interesting listen. I hope you appreciate it too. If you have any trouble listening to the MP3, you can search for This American Life on iTunes Podcasts. Shouldn't be hard to find.

27.8.07

Start spreadin' the news!

New Yawk, New Yawk!

It's on! We've started planning and purchasing for our autumn vacation. This year we really haven't travelled anywhere, mostly because it's been one hell of a year for school work, work work, parent parties, sick cats, and other expenses. [Mom, the parent party was GREAT - don't read this the wrong way!] Well, we're rewarding ourselves for getting through my comp exams and tough work for Rocco with a two week adventure.

First, we'll bus to Seattle and hang out with Rocco's cousin for a night. Then we'll fly to Charleston, South Carolina, to attend an Irish-Brazilian wedding in the Sow-th. Can you dream up a wedding that sounds like more fun? The groom is an Irish friend of Rocco's so we'll see some great friends who are coming over for the wedding as well. I pledge to drink a mint julep on a veranda at least once! From Charleston we fly to NYC. Yep, New York City! I've never been and have always, always wanted to experience it. It looks like we'll spend maybe five nights in the city and I do have some idea of what to do and see but I need tips too! The Guggenheim, the Met, Broadway, Schlotzky's Deli, maybe the statue of liberty, what else???

From New York we'll go to Toronto to stay with some of Rocco's TO friends who he hasn't seen in far too long. I haven't been back to TO since he moved West so I'm really looking forward to visiting the city again and the few friends I know who haven't moved away. Also, the last weekend of our two week trip I'll be in a conference in Toronto, delivering that paper on gooey sustainability (the gross, wobbly bits of environmental behaviour that we have to come to grips with) that required the book on fecal matter through the ages. This conference is exactly the kind of scholarship I love and want to pursue, and it promises to be fantastic. Plus they gave me a $200 bursary for travel expenses - a drop in the bucket of the larger trip but every little bit helps! After the conference, and after numerous meals and other fun times with Rocco's friends, we'll finally head back to Vancouver.

YAY! I would leave today except that there's much to do before we go and the sun is finally shining in Vancouver so I'll soak it up while I can. Please, please send me ideas and tips for New York. I don't want to come home and have people ask me, "You mean you didn't see ______? That's like skipping New York altogether!" Sex and the City references, music, dance, theatre, food, it's all acceptable and desired so, c'mon, cough it up!

Oh, an update! Rocco had the brilliant idea that Savannah, Georgia, is very accessible from Charleston, SC, so we might spend a couple nights there before going to New York City. If you're going South, might as well be the true South!

12.8.07

Successful integration!

With minimal fuss and fighting, Sophie and Franklin (?) finally met face to face today and are already sharing nap space! We introduced them through a small gap in the door for about an hour, then gave that up and allowed them into the room together. They've been separated for about four days and have had lots of time to smell each other and hiss under doors, etc. They chased each other around for a couple hours but no blood was shed and Sophie even seemed to be holding back a little, content to chase but not to kill. Seriously, we are amazed and delighted! I think they should still spend the night separated just in case, but otherwise, a successful integration!
By the way, no need to point it out, we do recognize that we now have a cat who disappears on our sofa and a cat who disappears on the grey carpet. I'm not sure what that says about us...

10.8.07

snuggle muffin




Disclaimer: The subject of this blog post is crafted solely to antagonize Miranda and is not intended to represent my usual manner of address for things cute and cuddly.

Second disclaimer: the cat does have eyeballs, he's just quick on the squint when the flash goes off. We'll attempt to get a face shot with open eyes soon.

9.8.07

Our new cat

We picked up a little grey feller from Forgotten Felines last night. He's lovely, playful, impish, cuddly, and still relatively young, about 7 months. He needs naming! Help! For the next few days we are keeping him separate from Sophie, though she definitely knows he's there. Within an hour of his arrival she puked all over the living room to show her disgust with the situation. I'm sure she'll come around, in time.

31.7.07

Purchase intentions


I think when I earn my first real paycheque for professional work after this degree, my first major purchase (after the beer, of course) will be a fold up bike. Some people use them around campus and they're such a cool idea. Sometimes your commute is too far to realistically cycle, or it's pouring rain or a host of other excuses, but you need wheels to get around campus quickly or at least efficiently. A fold up cycle is perfect! Ok, I admit that a skateboard is also a great solution, and I did try to figure out skateboarding but haven't had any success. Maybe a young prof looks cooler riding around campus on a skateboard, but I'm onside with the collapsible cycle. Read more about it at Bike Friday. They start at around a thousand bucks US (which is currently about $999 Cdn - tee hee!) and go way up from there. I wonder if it would be very tricky to build my own... might have to work on that and check out some plans. I suspect it's all about light materials and good hinges. Hmmm.

I'm going to look so cool cycling around campus on those dinky little tires!

24.7.07

Les fleurs



Donald, Stacemeister, you guys rock!

23.7.07

Fainting goats!

Turn your speakers on for the narrative.



This is what I was concerned may happen to me during the comp exam this morning. But, no, I managed to stay upright (ok, seated) and generally comprehensible, so they passed me! Fools!
Yay!

18.7.07

Performing sustainability

So I'm cruising around the Internet, looking for creative things people might be doing with 'performance' and 'sustainability', thinking about this thesis project I have to design and get off the ground in the next year or so. I found a very cool project happening in Rotterdam, Holland.

'Green' nightclub plans unveiled
Wednesday, 15 November 2006, 16:04 GMT

A new nightclub in the Netherlands plans to offer clubbers an environmentally-friendly night out - in part by having them power the place through their dancing.

Plans for the Sustainable Dance Club in Rotterdam have officially been launched, detailing, amongst other things, a special dancefloor which converts the movement of the dancers into electricity.

Other methods of making the club "greener" include rainwater toilets, biological beer, and walls which change colour according to the heat generated inside the club, without using any electricity.

There is more in the BBC article, but the point is that all that human bodily energy being expended in self-expression, flirtation, stress relief, and general shimmy-shakin' is being converted to electrical energy to power the club. Freakin' awesome! They haven't defined the science of the dance floor yet but have proposed a few potential models, for example the floor could act as a large bellows that pumps air in and out as the weight of dancers changes across the floor, generating wind for mini-turbines. Simple and idealistic, but it just might work!

My creative juices are feeling a little drained from the exam process of the last few months, so if anyone hears or thinks of anything really cool and innovative that involves human body energy and sustainability options, please send it my way. I'm hoping to develop a project that will involve some travel, some innovative technology or innovative application of older technology, and interaction with a sustainability initiative already on the ground and running (or just about to). McGyver, I'm looking at you!

11.7.07

Va-kay

I know where my brain is. My brain is on vacation! I finished Topic 3 not eight minutes ago, sent it off, and now I'm free until July 23rd when the oral defence is scheduled. w00t!
Ok, not free, not really. Lots to do. But it doesn't necessarily involve sitting in front of a computer for 20 hours a day, ten days in a row, ya know?

I'm going to make a mojito - good thinking, Katie! Too late for The Reef, but I'm sure I'll have lots of time to celebrate this weekend with my folks, family, and friends, and lots of time next week to tear myself to pieces before phase 2.

Egads. It's half done.
oops - there's no time stamp on these posts. I finshed around 10:15pm. Later than I had hoped, but still...DONE!

It's 2:02am. Do you know where your brain is?


Dripping out of my ears, as far as I can tell. I'm going to bed for a few hours. Then back to work. Maybe with Bailey's.
Almost there. Almost there. Almost there.


Does anyone want to go to The Reef for dinner when I'm finished this evening?*



*Can you tell I'm ready to be finished all of this? SO losing momentum. Actually, momentum is lost. At least there is plenty to look forward to after this intensive period is done. Visits, camping, waterparks, surfing, good times.

8.7.07

Making progress

Alright, that's two exams handed in. Topic 2 went out to the committee yesterday around 7:30pm, then Rocco and I beelined it to the theatre to see Pirates of the Caribbean - finally! I was worried about spending even MORE time on my ass after six days of sitting but the movie was so entertaining that it didn't matter. I think Pirates 3 is waaaaaay better than Pirates 2. Frickin' Johnny Depp is fantastic - and Keith Richards as his dad? Perfect.

That was a brief break. I've already received the questions for Topic 3 but this time I have four days to write instead of three. I'll be done the entire writing process by Wednesday night and then have almost two weeks of grinding my teeth until the oral defence. There's lots to do in the interim, work that I haven't been getting to because of the comps, but I expect it will still feel like a loooong window.

Thanks for your support! I love getting little notes of "go, go, go!" at random intervals. It actually really keeps my spirits up, so thanks, and keep 'em coming! Also, you might not notice it but so many of the comments are coming in as anonymous that I usually spend a couple minutes trying to figure out who the author is. Ooo, brain teasers!


Part 3, Sun Jul 8 - Performance frameworks for understanding human action

1. Discuss the major issues surrounding the dramaturgical framework for socio-cultural theory and how it has been applied to the literature on Performance in Human Geography. What are the advantages and disadvantages of such applications, especially with regard to the short-term and long-term implications of Performance frameworks for understanding human action?

2. Some theorists on Performance have asserted that the Subject is constituted in public performativity and daily enactments of choice. Drawing on the concepts of repetition and iteration, discuss how the performance of values, emotions, beliefs, and lessons constitutes a form of social communication, contributing to social discourse. How might such a dramaturgical framework apply to sustainability and environmental issues?

7.7.07

You Tube comes in handy



Give this a chance. It looks dicey to begin with but actually is quite brilliant. Unfortunately goes out of focus near the end. No, I didn't make this. These are not my hands. I am not this talented.

And yes, I am 5 hours (and counting) away from handing in Topic 2 so I thought I'd waste some time on You Tube. Ya gotta pro'lem wit dat? Huh?

(It's going pretty well now, by the way)

6.7.07

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr

need. motivation. stat.

grrrrrrrrr



Haha! After I posted the complaint, Milli Vanilli sent me this comic. It looks like I'm behind the times!

5.7.07

Round 2 please, bartender

I sent off Topic 1 last night at 10pm on the nose. That's four hours late for the deadline I set myself and two hours early for the committee's deadline. I'm already second guessing myself and wondering if I read the question wrong or if I tried to skew it too much to be able to fit in more of the readings... Oh the debilitating nag of self doubt.
The beast came in at 13 pages, single spaced. Wha? Yeah. 13! Single spaced! Usually things get handed in double spaced (that would be a shocking 26 pages) but I didn't want to intimidate the committee and start them off with a unfavourable impression so I left it single spaced. I think I learned a lot from doing the first response and the next two will definitely be more efficiently completed and shorter, for my well-being and the committee's!

The next set of questions should arrive in my mailbox in less than one minute. Oh. My.

Update 2 minutes after blogging:

Part 2, Thur Jul 5 - Individual behaviour change for sustainability

1. Psychological and socio-cultural theories of individual behaviour operate at different scales of causality (e.g. individual and socio-cultural) for behaviour. Do the differences lie deeper than that? That is, are these approaches consistent or compatible, or do they conflict, in terms of their underlying theoretical positions? Can the arguments from these two approaches be combined or must a choice be made about what are the most important drivers of behaviour?

2. How do psychological and socio-cultural theories of behaviour change engage with the concepts of the body or embodiment? Do these theories operate primarily at the cognitive level where behaviour is simply the physical manifestation of intention, or does bodily awareness or understanding play any role in the understanding of behaviour change? If such understanding does not play a role is these theories, how might this be done? Would it require any significant reformulation of these theories?