Friday, 29 February 2008

Paradise and Küba

Kutlug Ataman: Paradise and Küba
Vancouver Art Gallery
February 9 to May 19, 2008

Riding the narrow elevator to the third floor of the old courthouse, it was impossible to escape the echoing cacophony emanating from the Küba installation. All that was missing were the sights and sounds and smells of the marketplace to provide a more hospitable welcoming. And then, you discover your self midway in a small sea of recycled televisions and broken down seating, seemingly stripped from the Turkish community itself. Being attentive to the subtitles requires intense concentration to block out the competing voices, even though for most, they will be unintelligible. Since the video content totals twenty eight hours, listening or reading becomes a hit or miss affair and how one chooses may reflect ones own personality or beliefs. Allotting myself an hour, I listened (read) to twelve story lines for about five minutes apiece, trying to balance between male and female, young and old, and three or four simply because I was drawn to them for unknown reasons. Without benefit of the history of the shantytown or the Turkish nation during the period the town came into existence makes it difficult to attain any truly coherent understanding. However, what came across for me was the sense that the interviewees were surprisingly content, and even happy, considering the circumstances of living in a shunned neighbourhood. Much of the narrative concerns family, its importance, its ability to bind people together and the continuance of life in spite of hardship. Whether this is merely a façade to sublimate underlying resentments or a chance to enjoy their fifteen minutes of fame with the artist or is truly a reflection of their everyday existence remains a mystery unless the viewer chooses to decide.

Meanwhile, across the rotunda awaits the sterile village of paradise: twenty four silent plasma screens, flawless titanium-like supports and identical benches to support the earphones. Again it is a hit or miss affair choosing a screen, donning a pair earphones, closing off the outside world and retreating into the closed communities of one. Most of the denizens of Paradise displayed coolness with the subtle warning to keep at a distance because only the worthy are welcome. Here, individuality runs rampant, freedoms are relinquished to permit living in the bardo worlds or astral planes, and table flower arrangements more important than the meal. The disparate members of this society do take comfort in knowing there are others out there almost like them, but exude relief at never having to touch or suffer the indignity of having personal space violated. But throughout there is an undercurrent of whining and dismay at having yet to achieve the perfect happiness. Never-the-less, the exhibit should draw in the Boomers by the SUV load to permit their egos to connect to the center of the universe.

In reality, comparing and contrasting the two installations may be unfair as I doubt this was ever the intention of the artist. Counter pointing Küba with a middle class working town or even an upscale enclave in California would not draw American patrons into the galleries – it would be like gazing at one’s reflection in the early morning mirror. So instead we are treated to the caricatures of the ‘West Coast Dream’, a mythology existent in California since the dawn of the Hollywood lifestyle, the talkies and the spectacular. However, in keeping with the artistic nature of the exhibit, recalling the final character in the Californian tableau solidified the legend of the west coast, as he quietly exhibited his pride in his suppleness to enable his performance of auto fellatio. The epitome of Paradise turns out to be the ability to be both self-loved and self-absorbed.

Thursday, 28 February 2008

E is For Eating

Hmmm! Coming up with a pertinent vegetable or fruit starting with E to prepare a recipe proved more difficult than I imagined. Elderberries were a possibility, but wines, jams and herbal concoctions are out of my league. Besides, the red varieties are reputed to be poisonous and my preference runs to blueberries, huckleberries or blackberries. My second hope was eggplant. I’ve had eggplant moussaka, however never made it. On a couple of occasions, I’ve had it cooked on the barbecue: slice the eggplant into 3/8” slices, salt generously and set aside for 20 minutes to allow the moisture to bleed out, lightly brush on olive oil and grill on both sides for two to three minutes. Great with lamb chops.
And then the thought floated across the face of the screen – E is for Eating – which made me consider the loose rules I follow for nutrition and the intake of gastronomic delights.

• Try not to eat alone. Dining is one of humankinds social functions, both the preparation and consuming is eminently more pleasurable when in the company of family or friends.
• Breakfast is important. Running through the morning on an empty tank heightens stress. Apparently, eating some whole grain products in the morning can also facilitate the regulation of blood sugar over the balance of the day.
• Three meals a day minimum. Even better idea is to reduce the size of meals and spread it out during the day – also known as grazing.
• Varied food sources. While some may scoff, using the government food pyramid guides provides an excellent template to ensure a balanced diet.
• Nutrients. Not easy to ensure proper uptake of vitamins, minerals, fibre etc. so here is a site chock full of info.
• Caloric intake. Touchy subject, so the only suggestion is the 15-30-55 (protein, fat, carbohydrates) rather than any fad method. As people age the tendency rises to decrease protein, so a good way to avoid this problem may to make more use of plant protein in the form of peas, beans or other substitutes. Every once in a while when I’m checking my calories, I’ll use NATS to keep track for a week.
• Fatty acids. Trying to maintain the correct 2 to 1 ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 fatty acids presents a challenge. Either indulge yourself in a lot more fish or drastically reduce reliance on pre-packaged foods plus kick out the trans fats.
• Slow it down. Reliable evidence suggests taking your time, chewing food thoroughly and some conversation will aid in digestion. Not only will this aid in reducing digestive problems, but also allows the fullness receptors to signal stop before you have a chance to overeat.
• If you really don’t like it, don’t eat it!
• Moderation. Follow the French notion – leave some of the éclair on the plate, the bakeries will bake plenty of fresh ones again tomorrow.
• Good eating is habit forming.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Golf on the Decline

Can’t help myself on this one. Having been in business (construction), I find it easy to take issue with the whining of golf course owners both private and public. Chasing after the dollars, it was so easy to overbuild capacity as though every last person was going to pick up the clubs and spend every last cent on the golf greens. And skiing resorts, along with other outdoor activities, also believed an endless supply of well heeled customers would forever generate enormous profits, fuelling even more rush to provide ever increasing amount of facilities. Whoops, all of a sudden people found differing sources of entertainment – perhaps at reduced expenditures – and drifted away. Now course owners expect the taxpayer to pick up the tab in order to maintain their profitability. They are quote: “seeking tax breaks, on the premise that golf courses, even private ones, provide publicly beneficial open space.” No they do not! Unless you are playing rounds of golf even public courses will have you removed from the premises, with force if necessary, due to so-called liability issues i.e. you may get dinged by a golf ball and react by suing the owners. Much the same rationale extends to ski areas attempting to prevent backcountry enthusiasts from passing through leased public land, unless of course, they purchase lift tickets etc. even if they do not use these items. If municipalities succumb to this blackmail, then any private citizen who sustains a reduction in their income should receive a property tax break on their home – hey, their front and back yards provide publicly beneficial open space. Going into business requires taking risks which are meant to be handled by either the owners or shareholders, not by the general public.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Museum as Creche

Perusing this blog from the Guardian online caught my eye as I focused in on the word ‘creche’ which I initially read as crepe; thereby raising visions of crinkled cloth or fancy desserts, and subsequently the expectation of a performance art article. Thumbing through my Webster’s, I discovered the British definition – a day nursery – or more simply a day care centre.
So on first read, I almost agreed with the writer’s viewpoint, but on further consideration I decided mandating five hours of cultural activities each week has merit. Reminded me of my last visit to the Vancouver Art Gallery during the final days of the Georgia O’Keefe exhibition when there were scattered groups of eight year olds (just a guess , I could easily be out a couple of years on either side) on both the main floor and top floors. Yes, there were some ribbons, laughter and general running about as they went back and forth to their colouring pencils and paper strewn on the floor. But the scene was in sharp contrast to the ‘Monet to Dalí’ exhibition a couple of months previous. Even with a staggered admission schedule, the procedure compared to leading cattle from pen to pen onward to the slaughter house: necks craned, low murmuring and a studied trek to the final gateway. At least for the gallery patrons, it was not the end of the road. They are encouraged to purchase mementos from the final convenient store before being ushered out onto the rain drenched streets.
Over the last ten to fifteen years art galleries have relied heavily on the superstar shows; nothing like name dropping Picasso, Monet, da Vinci to pull in the paying crowds and top up the coffers. While from a money making point of view, this is good business, unfortunately for most of the visiting hordes there is scant opportunity to truly understand or appreciate any of the art presented. Not that it matters because for most people, being there becomes just another notch in one’s journey through life. This year see the Mona Lisa: next year the Super Bowl. Was it the lack of exposure to culture preventing them from yielding to the art and seeking its raison d'être?
An advantage of youth is the seeming ability to learn and acquire by apparent osmosis – simple exposure to stimuli somehow locks into memory – so continued introduction to culture may provide the foundation for future understanding. Thus, thirty years down the road we can anticipate a greater number of forty year old men, and women, who appreciate, comprehend and support art in all its many forms. The experience, of either suddenly or slowly over time, deciphering what an artist was attempting to put forth or elucidate, can offer us moments of true wonder and perception.
As for the playgrounds, I vaguely recall reading an article in the Times or another British paper commenting on playgrounds designed for and restricted to seniors. Too bad for all the forty year olds; they will have to wait another twenty or twenty five years to go out and play!

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

What's for Lunch?

My first thought on reading the article was the service would not have taken so long if the staff were not all busy passing grade school notes back and forth to each other.
My second thought was assuming a younger, technologically savvy group of workers would be able to operate the computerized billing without such an error coming to light.
My third thought revolved around the dinner party having to pay a 10% service charge to acknowledge the extra service accomplished by the waiter in adding the comments to the bill.
My fourth thought was why the patron complained about how they were spoken to since I’ve yet to hear a talking bill?
My fifth thought - where was Gordon Ramsay when the patrons needed a linguist to retaliate in kind?
My final thought is an eyebrow raised at the prices for the starters, but having endured any number of English cooking shows, even the lowliest of greasy spoons gets to overcharge at will.

‘Journey of the Money’

This one really got by me as the revelation to the world was made on January 28th, but since it has yet to depart on its luxurious, first class jaunt across country, comments, on the ‘Journey of the Torch’, are thus far, not behind the times. One has to be amazed only $31 million dollars have been earmarked for the production and handheld propelling of the torch, replete with iconic emblem, from ‘sea to shining sea’ and as yet venues unknown. As the news release has scant information on the exact route, it would be a shame if the Torch does not visit the shores of the third sea – Arctic Ocean – although maybe this is one of Vanoc’s penny pinching efforts or a lack of hardy volunteers willing to brave the northern icebox. Still, I surmise that organizing committee, together with a couple of well heeled sponsors; have no concern with the costs involved – a mere pittance of $2583 per person or $886 per kilometre – 35,000 kilometres seems overwhelming - to ferry the Olympic flame hither and yon. Before anyone points out the money comes from companies, might I remind everyone who purchases a Coca-Cola product pays for the trip and RBC will reduce the interest on savings to finance their share. And let us not forget, Vanoc’s share gushes straight out of the public purse – the old tax bag.
But alas, this represents only a partial accounting of the true costs involved in staging this world class spectacle: the tab for security was neglected for the initial cost analysis; therefore, add in the expense of innumerable members of the RCMP, provincial and municipal police for the over 100 ‘shining days’. Remember most of the hours involved will be at premium overtime and not even gas is cheap these days, even in Alberta. And don’t forget the politicians, with their retinue of staff, taking time off their rigorous duties to attend the functions as they pass through their individual bailiwicks. Opportunities for ‘photo bites’ do not always fall so easily into one’s grasp; and as such, cost takes precedence over fiscal responsibility. Of course, these additional expenses will not be considered Olympic debt, but simply written off as petty cash charges allotted from countless slush funds. Might I pass along a suggestion to VANOC? Since the torch relay falls into the realm of Olympic business, prevent anyone – under threat of fine or imprisonment – except authorized photographers and cinematographers from capturing the sights, sounds and glory of the pageant; and then, sell these items and memories back to the public under the Olympic banner to provide bonuses for the hard working committee members and blatant handouts to the IOC.

Monday, 18 February 2008

D is for Dates

Neither dates nor figs have been high on my list of must have foods. After a debilitating experience with overeating pounds of dried apricots as a kid, I decided fresh fruit was the only way to go; besides which, gnawing through leathery produce leaves a lot to be desired unless it is your final meal. Mind you, there are outlets now carrying fresh dates and figs, lovely when extremely fresh, as the city becomes more cosmopolitan. In addition some brands of dried dates are exceptionally edible when reconstituted for use in date squares which are exceedingly tastier when made fresh and eaten within a couple of days. Oodles of sugar in this recipe, but a religiously followed running program will melt away any excess pounds.

5/8 cup margarine, softened
5/8 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/8 cup sugar plus1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 cup water
7 ounces dried pitted dates, chopped into 3/8” chunks

  1. Combine dates, white sugar and water in pan and cook over medium low heat for at least 10 minutes or until thickened sufficiently, consistency of peanut butter, stirring constantly. Set aside to cool.
  2. Combine margarine and brown sugar in bowl until fluffy. Add flours, oats and soda. Mix thoroughly together with spoon.
  3. Spoon 2/3 of flour mixture into 8"x8" glass baking dish and press down. Add in cooled dates and level out evenly. Spread remaining flour/oat mixture on top and lightly press in to dates.
  4. Cook on center shelf of preheated 375' oven for 30 minutes or until nicely browned on top.
  5. Remove from oven to cool. Slice into 16 squares while still warm.
  6. Store in fridge up to 6 days.

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Birthday Greetings


Love Gramps.

Although your birthday is the 13th, party day seems more appropriate.

Friday, 15 February 2008

Is Anybody Up There?

Who would have thought? All those times someone caught me talking to myself, I was actually hard at work growing hair on my head. Having only a rudimentary knowledge of cell biology – I was under the impression cells spend all of their hours either intaking ‘food’ or pushing out ‘waste’ – little did I realize they were in fact conducting periodic information exchanges and gabfests. Sort of like the crows gathering around lunchtime to discuss garbage piles, compare road kill and aggressively caw their heads off. Obviously, for the hair ‘challenged’, nobody up there is carrying on a dialogue resulting in the expansion of a bald pate. Chances are it starts out as a minor disagreement allowing the shedding of only a few stray hairs, but before long settling into a silent war of attrition dooming the follicles to barrenness. Alas, evolution appears to have overlooked the necessity of a ‘Freudian’ gene or cell to mediate internal disputes with a view to equitable resolutions.
As for me, conversation up there must be reasonably amicable. Coverage has barely suffered through any recession, although some minor thinning has occurred – likely a cultivation technique to allow the remaining follicles to grow stronger. Communicative genes may be passed down the generations. Dear old dad, not that I ever knew him that well, left this earth with most of his follicles intact maybe as a consequence of the voices, not only caring for his hair rejuvenation, but also having direct tête-à-têtes with him. Apparently, this was not a medical condition, rather a peculiar choice in light of his preferred lifestyle and choice of residences. But I digress. As an issue of self-interest and taking cues from perusing myriad health articles, I’m off to dose myself with vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids; thereby treating my head cells to fine dining in hopes of encouraging their continued friendship and talkative nature.

Thursday, 14 February 2008


If you reside in a small apartment or high rise condo, trying to find a couple of living plants to liven up the décor can be difficult. Most choices have a tendency to grow and grow, requiring more of limited space, plus they want a bigger spot for their roots which means the hassle of re-potting. As if storage space wasn’t already a problem, now part of it is taken up by half used bags of potting soil, the older pots (just in case you decide on one more plant to go through the growth cycle) and various small tools apropos to the plant world.
Next time you experience a hankering for a new plant, try one that typically has a limited size, lives on water and air, has no root system of importance and requires no soil so never needs the re-potting drama. Tillandsia, an epiphytic member of the bromeliad family, more commonly referred to as an ‘air plant’ may just be the answer. On a whim, I bought one half dozen specimens – each a different variety – over four years ago and still have five healthy remaining plants. The really, funny velvet to the touch one never quite got its legs, so as to speak and gradually faded out to brown. Both of those in the photograph have more or less doubled in size, so there appears to be little danger of morphing into ‘triffids’, and have seemingly reached their mature size. Although placed fairly close to a window, a north facing one, I doubt there will be adequate natural light to cause them to flower any time soon. The ionantha variety did have ‘pups’ without flowering and the mother plant is still alive two years later although the offspring are now equal in stature.
Finding objects with the right size crevices for the plants to sit in turned out to be trickier than first contemplated. Using a shell as most sites suggest works like a charm, but I figured more than one would reduce my creativity, so I turned to rocks which were plentiful and free. Not that it was necessary; I drilled 3/8 inch holes, about the same in depth with a concrete drill and a bit of oil for coolant, not to push the plant into, but to provide a better holding surface for the adhesive. Best glue I found was ‘shoe goo’, any brand used to repair runners; it doesn’t require too much time to set up (sprinkle fine sawdust, preferably cedar, around the base before it dries for decorative appearances) and does not breakdown from the watering or sunlight. Gluing them to driftwood is another choice; however I’ve been too lazy to pick some up.
Caring for the tillandsia is a breeze. As the air in most living quarters lacks the dust and particles normally used for food, my choice was a liquid fertilizer designed to be weak enough to use every watering without danger of burning. Every second day with a very heavy misting, making sure to also do the undersides of the leaves, accomplished over a sink and then lightly shaken. Twice a year I plop them in the sink and almost cover them with water for an hour or so – that’s where being attached to rocks comes in handy – and it really perks them up. Going away? Fill up the tub with 3 inches of water and leave them in there with the lights left on – I’ve left them up to ten days with no apparent problems. Good site with lots of pictures and information.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Squirrel Saga – Part Five

My initial thought was I’m tired, I’m hearing things, it’s the birds in the trees, it’s an echo from next store or it’s a malfunctioning instrument in the attic I know nothing about. Sure enough, the noise abated quickly and disappeared. I remembered to convince myself there was nothing to cause concern and re-entered my silent realm. And just when I felt it was safe to stop worrying again close to a week later, all my past inconveniences came back with a vengeance. Scratching and clawing could be heard above my head, over in the corner, in the bedroom and high up near a skylight window. Not just in one location at a time, but in at least one other if not two spots as if an entire family had suddenly moved into the attic suite. And we’re hearing goings on very early in the morning and even after dark which leads me to suspect an invasion of Norway rats (why is Norway not protecting their wildlife and recalling them home to Europe?) who are nocturnal. After searching the web for answers – thousands of pages on squirrels, who would have thought they were so popular – I settled on the theory that a mother and two kits (is that the right appellation?) had chosen the vacant quarters as their new abode. Apparently, dad is not welcome at home due to his habit of killing the kids so mom is more amenable to having some fun in the sack. Anyways, since the clattering started to become almost constant as the family rarely went out together, I had no choice but to inform management of my newest pests. Since I had proven the existence of the squirrels due to my excellent subterfuge in capturing one before, they immediately agreed to attack the infestation with vigour and prompt action. Needless-to-say, the old, failed exterminators were out and a brand new team was contracted for the job. Now, according to their card I was in the capable hands of a pest technician, I took that to mean they had handled a trap before and were experienced in setting it up so that it would actually work. To begin ‘my technician’ suggested locating the cage on the flat roof portion, but over the past few days I had inadvertently discovered the true front entrance. Watching from ground level, I realized the squirrels were gaining entry via a small, rotted out portion of the fascia, next to the concrete block firewall, which could not be seen from the deck as it was hidden by a rain gutter. Once this was pointed out to the technician, he simply hung the trap up in this spot advising me to call if the trap was sprung.
Talk about quick action! Now, it ended up as easy as picking cherries. Set the trap in the morning, have a visitor spring the door in the afternoon, and wait for the techie to drop by in the morning, remove the unwanted tenant and reset the trap. Bang. Bang. Bang. The first two days snagged the kits, which were pretty quiet, and the last bagged momma herself who was in a spitting mood, not at all motherly. Don’t ask because I’m not privy to where these varmints end up once gone with the techie and he didn’t seem interested in discussing their fate. Using a small l-shaped piece of metal flashing affixed with a couple of screws permanently sealed off the entryway. At long last, peace came to my condo unit.
Now about the pileated woodpecker who has decided to punch a hole in the cedar siding next to the window searching for bugs!

Monday, 11 February 2008

C is for Cucumber

Another one of those – is it a vegetable or a fruit? Because of the reproductive seeds, it is botanically a fruit, just like the tomato, but don’t ever expect to discover them in the fruit section of your local supermarket. Oddly enough, cucumber slices are employed as a beauty treatment in spas by being placed on the eyes surrounded by facial mud packs. Whether this affords any beneficial effects, other than providing moments of visual relief from stress, I do not know. If you opt to try the eye patch custom, I advise disposing of the leftovers rather than reusing them in cooking! But don’t consider cucumber as only a salad item, also consider: pickles, sushi, grilled, in sandwiches, tzatziki, and relishes are a few other ways to make use of this ‘vegetable’. That being said I’m awfully partial to Greek salad, with the delightful combination of red onion and cucumber, as a tasty break from lettuce based dishes.

  • Tomatoes                        3 medium
  • Cucumber                       ½ English hot house
  • Sweet green pepper      ½
  • Red onion                        ½
  • Feta cheese                     ½ cup crumbled
  • Kalamata olives              16 pitted
Dressing.     Combine 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 clove minced garlic, pinch of sea salt, ½ teaspoon dried oregano and ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Whisk together until well mixed.

Slice tomatoes into ½” wedges. No need to peel or seed the English cukes, slice in ½ lengthwise and cut into ¼” half moons. Coarsely chop green pepper into bite sized ½” chunks. Thinly slice red onion and separate into rings. Toss together with olives and dressing. Sprinkle feta cheese on top.

Saturday, 9 February 2008

Suzuki Be Gone!

I’m a long way from being a profit mongering, raping the land industrialist, but I have to agree with the National Post editorial in considering David Suzuki last century’s news. On any number of occasions over past decades – yes decades, he may be from Middle Earth – he has ranted about the need to convert from fossil fuel to environment friendly biofuels. Lately, there have been a lot of scientific articles indicating that biofuels may not be quite as environmental friendly as had been hoped, one of them the topic of a New York Times article. A lead author of one of the papers, Joseph Fargione, also happens to be a scientist at the Nature Conservancy, which could hardly be described as being or acting anti-environment. Transportation costs, processing and razing more land for crops may actually cause greater problems, including increasing global warming. In addition, it has driven up the cost of wheat, corn and other food crops as they are diverted to fuel usage. This is not to say that biofuels will not be part of our future energy needs, but it will undoubtedly require more time and experimentation to lessen the negative impact now existent with their production. Meanwhile, David Suzuki ignores any science he does not agree with and is now pushing to plant the world with ‘switchgrass’ to become the next great fuel source. Professor Suzuki must have tons of fuel on hand, especially aviation gas, so he can continue to run after the disappearing limelight to which he has become addicted.

Friday, 8 February 2008

Fitness Gene

Another day, another ‘study’, another dump of data threatening to sent my cranial mass into overload. Keeping fit has been transformed into an agonizing, decision making process amalgamating this wealth of information into a coherent exercise regime. No longer can one pump a bit of iron, run a couple of times a week and pass on the seconds at meals; it requires an advanced degree in well… I don’t know.

1. “Lifting weights 'good as running'” – we already know extra muscle mass burns off more calories, but what about the cardiovascular system?
2. Muscle types – aren’t we already genetically predisposed to having more of one than the other? That’s why some can become body builders and some marathon runners.
3. “particularly useful for older people” – if you are having trouble with endurance exercise, are you not likely to encounter difficulty handling weights or resistance?

I’m guessing what you need is a mouse gene transplant with a little toggle switch to cycle between pumping iron and running triathlons. As a bonus feature, you will constantly crave cheese in all forms whether it leads you into a trap or not.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

B is for Broccoli

Broccoli - either you like it or you don’t like it or you end up getting used to it. Every food expert has jumped on the band wagon extolling its virtues and those of its cruciferous cousins: packed full of nutrients, cancer fighter and now a sun screen! Wonder whether you tan or just turn green? Other than making sure the florets are deeply colored, not yellowed or pale, and the stalk is not suffering from limpness, there seems to be no way to ascertain whether any particular bunch may be bitter which has undoubtedly caused many to avoid this particular vegetable including a former President. I suspect quantum fluctuations alter the taste according to the interference of the diner. Another problem is overcooking which not only erodes the nutrient value, but results in a mushy unpalatable mess. Best cooking method is to stick to purchasing heads without the stalk and steaming the split up florets for 4/5 minutes. If in doubt, whip up a creamy cheese sauce to smother any potential taste dilemma.

Flour                              2 tablespoons.
Butter                            2 tablespoons.
Mustard                        1 teaspoon dry hot.
Milk                                1 1/2 cups.
Salt                                  to taste.
Pepper                            1/4 teaspoon ground white
Cheese                            1 cup shredded old cheddar

Over low heat in a small pot (.75 liter non stick is perfect), stir the flour and seasonings into the melted butter with a wooden spoon until combined to form a smooth roux. Either have the milk warmed in a second pot or remove the roux from the heat allowing it to cool – this will prevent the milk separating from heating too quickly. Add in the milk slowly, stirring constantly as the heat is raised to medium. Once bubbles form over the entire surface, cook and stir for another minute to fully cook flour. Toss in the cheese and stir in well to combine.
For an upscale version, leave out the dry mustard and use ½ cup of crumbled Gorgonzola Piccante instead of the cheddar.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Too Healthy to Live

Shades of Logan’s Run returning to haunt us. Now we know there is an optimum economic moment when for the benefit of our country, we should expire willingly or the system may decide to step in, at a future juncture, to aid our demise with a reminder and a helping push. Who would have contemplated that a struggle for health and fitness would eventually become a drain on the earth’s resources? Then again, we could simply accept it as a further step in the development of the green movement. Meanwhile, instead of tax breaks or seniors discounts etc. the government could legislate a ‘too old user’s fee’ for taking up hospital space, doctors time or other valuable commodities. I can hardly wait for that special envelope to show up in the mail; informing me I’ve tipped over into the overuse of communal assets zone and should consider earlier ‘retirement’.

Watch Your Balance

Until this article popped up in the New York Times, I never gave much consideration to the balance aspect of falling down. Usual scenario is to trip over some object or have something or someone accidentally knock you over. And then, age and bone mass kick in determining whether or not bones break or less critical forms of injury result. I’m a great believer in plenty of activity including weight bearing exercise either with real iron or as a consequence of hauling a backpack full of supplies hiking or scrambling in the mountains. Therefore, I figure I’m preventing the loss of bone density or at least slowing it down, so I’m less likely to suffer fractures or serious injury from minor falls. While aware of the factors contributing to a good sense of balance, I never contemplated the gradual deterioration of each function and the possibility of basically losing my balance for no apparent reason – not the best situation when it’s steep enough to require the use of hands to summit a peak. Also, I’m pretty positive all the walking, running, hiking and climbing must have upset those little proprioceptors on the bottom of my feet causing them to react a mite slower or simply get fed up with all the work.
As soon as I finished reading, the obvious next step was to try the one legged balance assessment and slot myself into a category. Phew! Can’t you just anticipate the onset of stress and the threat of failure having to submit to a test? Didn’t ace it, but passed with seconds to spare. The suggested exercises are easy enough to fit into a yoga routine or one legged stands could be performed in a check-out line. Doing the training is fairly quick and simple, besides which you never know when you may have to walk a straight line.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Poor Jimmy!

The latest downturn in the market must have caught the almost destitute Mr. Pattison deeply in his pocket book. How else to explain his attempt to retrieve his losses from the pockets of his most poorly paid employees? According to this story, he is requesting food store employees – Overwaitea, Save-On and Price Smart - to accept minimum 2 hour shifts in place of 4 hour; thus helping him in his desperate quest to lower expenses and improve his bottom line. One also has to remember it was his good pal Gordon Campbell – our beloved premier – who forced through the legislation lowering minimum shift hours which now allows Mr. Pattison to bring down the hammer. Assuming most employees require some form of transportation to get to work, we’ll compare the hourly wage to cost of transit fares. Okay 2 hours at $8.00 per hour yields the grand total of $16.00 less single zone fares of $2.50 each way leaving $11.00 to cover CPP, UIC, taxes and some to pay for the ‘benefits’ which are being offloaded from the company. For the unlucky workers who may need a 2 zone fare of $3.75 each way, they will have only $8.50 to cover expenses. There is little sense in discussing how anyone lives on the amount left as this item does not show up in the ‘human resources’ manuals – Jimmy’s people are merely interchangeable worker units.
Methinks Jimmy doth still don the food stained shirts and ties from the used car lot days!

A is for Apple

As American as apple pie! Since the sole apple native to the Americas is the crab apple, it is a mystery why an apple pie received this appellation. Stranger still may be including a maternal parent in the adage. As American as Mom and apple pie suggests that mom may just be a little ‘crabby’. Mmmm! Let her be crabby as long as she keeps churning out the pies. There appears to be no end to the variety of apples at a time when other food are tending to monocultures, so Johnny Appleseed would be proud of the way we have continued his life’s labour. Meanwhile how about a dish of applesauce?

Apples                 About 2 pounds (usually 5/6 apples) peeled, cored and sliced ¼ “thick, Pick them according to your own taste sweet or sour, but use crisper ones - Granny Smiths are my choice.
Water                   ¼ cup boiling (no instructions for this one).
Cinnamon            1/8 teaspoon ground.
Cloves                  1/8 teaspoon ground
Sugar                   1/2 cup granulated.

Over medium high heat, heat the first 4 items to boiling, cover, reduce heat and simmer 10/12 minutes until tender for chunky applesauce. For smoother sauce break up slices with wooden spoon and cook for additional 5/6 minutes until of desired consistency. Either way, add and stir in the sugar for the last 3 to 4 minutes of cooking time. As a bonus treat for the grownups pour in a ¼ cup of Grand Marnier or orange liqueur along with the sugar.

Monday, 4 February 2008

Squirrel Saga – Part Four

So for the first couple of days again nothing happened even though I’m continually checking the trap and the environs. Then, at long last, I began to notice a furry head poking around the corner of the block wall once again. Gingerly making his way along the stucco Mr. Sticky Toes slowly manoeuvred closer to the aroma cloud hovering above the trap, but held back either through judicious, intelligent, decision making or just sensing my presence peeking out from behind the drapes. However, the next morning the opportunity to almost have breakfast in bed, so as to speak, proved too much of an enticement and my attic dwelling pest went for the bait with the door clacking down behind him in a flash. And this time, there was no simple escape. The door held, the bars did not bend, the structure remained intact. Success! Quickly, I’m on the phone to notify the manager of the capture, so they can pick him up and take him on his merry way. Alas, there was no answer, so I trundled down to the manager’s suite to inform them in person and there appeared to be nobody home, as there was no response to the little knocker mechanism on the door. You wouldn’t think a critter that small could maintain such a racket for long, but three hours later the shrill squeaks and hissing were still emanating from the cage. And the incensed inmate managed to move the cage all around the deck with the boisterous and angered movements. Since I tend to sit close to the sliding doors, this racket got to be extremely annoying in short order and my pleas to be quiet fell on deaf ears. Finally tiring of the noise, I carefully pushed an unbent coat hanger through the bars to pick up the trap (the small carrying handle on the trap seemed easily reachable by the nasty claws) for immediate transport elsewhere. Deciding it was not my job to relocate the ticked off squirrel, I opted to place him in one of the stairwells where he would be out of the way for the time being. Because there is an elevator in the building the stairs are rarely used and I thought my captured villain would not pose a problem. Of course, later a couple of people related to me that they had decided to walk up the stairs, but were deterred by the shrieking they heard coming from the third floor. The following morning, the manager informed me of their discovery of the imprisoned squirrel and the subsequent release of said prisoner at the nearby golf course.
Now it was my chance to sit back and enjoy the quiet. After two weeks with nary a sound spoiling my bliss from above, I logically assumed all the problems had been transported away never to return. Not only had the pesky little beast not been able to stumble on the reverse route back to his attic dwelling, but no other homeless squirrel had managed to locate the vacant digs. So in my elation I put all the follow up procedures on hold – like finding the entrance and sealing it off for ever – and ignored the proper path, trusting nothing would again spoil the peace and quiet. Until a day about three months later when I thought I heard a scratching up in the rafters!

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Cars from Mars

After years of watching sci-fi programs from the Twilight Zone to the X-files, I had assumed alien visits were basically clandestine except for the UFO sightings over mountainous and desert areas. Typically, they landed in farmer’s fields to mutilate domestic cows and wildlife or in remote forest clearings to sweep up unsuspecting earthlings for dissection and experimentation. Imagine my shock when I discovered they had started up their own used car lot in British Columbia. Are economic conditions that tough on our sister planet or is their answer to global warming on Mars to ship broken down gas guzzlers off world? Difficult to report on the employees – afraid to get to close in case it is merely a deceptive front for kidnapping unwary humans – they did appear uncomfortable in suits and soup stained ties; however, having to squeeze their bulbous skulls down to homo sapiens size could account for the misshapen appearance and odd manners. Most of the vehicles on display are carbon copies (intellectual theft?) of earth model cars – did not spot any Ladas or Yugos – although they are rather beat up from the dirt roads and potholes on Mars. Of course, it has forced me to alter my opinion of the drivers in this city. While I always considered a lot of them to be lousy behind the wheel and had suspicions of how they had managed to score a license, I imagine having to adjust to operating a ‘foreign’ automobile causes unintended problems. Pardon me as I rush out to locate an alien second hand clothing store to get me a nice red sweater with three sleeves and a double v-neck.

Friday, 1 February 2008

No Longer Lost About Lost

When Lost premiered I managed to watch for a grand total of fifteen minutes before my attention span wandered so I’ve been absolutely blank about any of the buzz or let downs associated with the show. After perusing the television listing for last evening, I decided to record the ‘Past, Present’ segment and the season premiere for later viewing. It was exceedingly brilliant to encapsulate three seasons into basically a 45 minute synopsis and discover I’m right up-to-date. Also, this way I’ve not wasted any time or energy in identifying with the cast or their problems, on or off the boob tube. This year’s premiere definitely caught my interest. Now, do I wait three years for another ¾ hour catch-up episode or record the program and wade through it sans ads?