Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Buy My Vote!

Rather than allow the Kokanee Corporation to use my free vote for their own advertising campaign; I’ve chosen to permit either the Ranger or the Sasquatch to purchase my vote for a miniscule sum – to be revealed at the conclusion of this story.
Years ago, we decided our next mountain top venture would be to conquer Bald Mountain (prior to the erection of a lodge barely outside the park boundary and the hordes of out-of-shape tourists) in Glacier National Park, and stay overnight for a rustic campout. Now this is not an extremely high vista – 2317 meters – and not a huge elevation gain – 1130 meters – and only a middling distance – 17 kilometres one way. So because it was to be two day venture, we didn’t hit the trailhead until one in the afternoon which left plenty of time to climb up to the designated camping area near the upper ‘Ranger’ cabin, pitch the tent on the side of a barely trickling streamlet and put together a one-pot supper before turning in at dusk. Bless the mountain weather. Less than two hours later, a walloping storm blew in bringing not only gargantuan downpours, but a thunder and lightening show on a cosmic scale. In moments the wee stream became a six foot wide creek, lapping at the edge of the tent which had decided to give up and allow the rain, propelled by sudden swirling winds, to enter at every possible seam. Gathering our stuff, leaving the shelter to its own devices, we scrambled over to the cabin which had a small covered front deck where hay was stored. Being on the east side out of the wind, we used the bales as a mattress, wrapped ourselves up in our sleeping bags and lay back to enjoy the spectacle. Very interesting to watch bolt after bolt of lightening, not only skyward above Copperstain and Moonraker, but hitting constantly down below in the Grizzly Creek valley. A couple of the closer strikes were only about one hundred meters distant which tends to leave a jagged pattern of light seared on the eyeball for quite a few seconds. Once the storm abated, we were able to grab some shut eye and awoke to a gorgeous sunny day.
After a quick breakfast, we headed up to the summit, realizing why it received the appellation ‘bald’ and spent three or four hours enjoying the tremendous view of the Selkirks, with Mount Sir Donald right in your face. Interestingly, we spotted a large, hairy creature disappearing into the undercover as we passed the ‘Ranger’ cabin on the way down. While we assumed it must have been an elk, over the years the tale leans toward the sighting of the elusive Sasquatch. Then it was an easy return trip to the vehicle and over to the park headquarters at Rogers Pass to check in. There we learned from one of the long term employees that the storm was considered to be one of the most intense in the past forty years. Deciding to salute our own accomplishment of braving the extreme elements, we headed to the Glacier Park Lodge for a victory supper. Opting to quaff a couple of ales, we were introduced to Glacier Light – direct from Creston and the Columbia Brewing Company. Then and there, we decided the attainment of future peaks were to be rewarded with the downing of a Glacier Light, a ritual to be upheld through the ensuing years. Unfortunately, some misguided marketing type chose to eventually re-brand our traditional beer by sticking a great big Kokanee on the cans and bottles while reducing the glacier and light to secondary importance.
Therefore, in order to receive our votes, either the ‘Ranger’ or ‘Sasquatch’ must convince management to return Glacier Light to its former glorious position in the pubs of BC; and once accomplished, deliver one dozen properly chilled cans to a British Columbia peak of our choosing to celebrate our summit party.

Friday, 25 April 2008

Odds and Ends #5

Moose Miracle

While I was waiting for the page to load, I was chastising myself for having missed any previous articles concerning the intelligence of moose. Up to that moment, I was unaware they even had the ability to add or subtract; never mind learning to multiply. I was immediately in awe of those stoic Scandinavians being able to herd these high strung ungulates into a classroom; and then instilling in them the basis of mathematics and the opportunity to become partners in the worldwide capitalist society. After all, years ago Mr. Ed could only add and chimpanzees have been restricted to short pictorial sentences, with a lot of food rewards for encouragement. So I eagerly anticipated reading the complete story as soon as it flashed on the screen.
Drats. I was sucked in by a cleverly worded headline. Moose in Scandinavia are no smarter than their brethren in Northern British Columbia, except they may be more amorous – how else to explain the multiplying.

Robot Rollouts

What the good professor is not telling us? Robots are loose among us and not only the benign ones building the cars and vacuuming the floors. Already, the competent companions for the elderly population and the happy helpers for the playschools and daycares may have been instilled quietly, with little fanfare, into our society at the behest and backing of our federal government. The head mechanical man is already well placed to continue infiltrating his kin into our population with the complete cooperation of our national ministries and departments. And who is this chief architect of our introduction to widespread robothood and possible ‘big brothers’ – why our very own Prime Minister Stephen Harper! What else could explain the slow, deliberated body and brain movements? None-the-less, rumour has it he is concerned about the appellation ‘dumb’ machines as applied to his extended family in the linked article.
Somehow the moral and ethical dilemmas concerning the future of robotics fail to get close to the top of the current impending doom list of troubles facing society. Concerns about climate, energy, food, and terrorism are but a few of the problems; living in fear of an ankle biting vacuum cleaner hardly hits the top one hundred.
BTW, if a robot doctor examines and operates on your prostate, will he/she/it be offended if you request that he/she/it warm up their hands or claws or snippers?


What a revelation; once again science triumphs over common sense. Anyone who has ever laboured in a dead end job, a repetitive function or non-stimulating atmosphere can attest to the fact of wandering focus. And in most cases, we know ourselves our attention begins to dart ever more swiftly among many competing thoughts and are entirely aware of our drifting concentration. The answer, of course, involves adjusting those in monotonous positions into regulated lab rats. Stick a beanie on them, insert wired probes into the brain mass and punish them for misplaced thoughts or inappropriate day dreaming. Given the opportunity to machine enhance the human species; science will continually opt for an invasive solution to problems instead of altering the task to better suit our psychology.
From my observation, it may be over concentration producing the same negative results and an electric impulse fired into the brain may not have the desired effect. Not long ago, I happened to be in a hospital emergency department where I was watching paramedics bring in a person who had suffered from a fall or possible heart attack. The patient was on a stretcher and breathing through an oxygen mask hooked up to a stationary tank. One of the paramedics began to adjust the intravenous needle in the crux of the man’s arm and casually pulled the stretcher over into the light. Unknowingly to the attendant, this wrapped the oxygen supply tube around the victim’s neck and pulled tight enough to restrict his breathing. Even though the gasping became audible the paramedic was so involved in replacing the needle properly, he failed to respond. Moments later, the other paramedic returned and initially began to help with the needle. As I started over to warn them about the man’s discomfort, the second paramedic finally became aware of the problem and moved the stretcher back to loosen the tube. Had a brain machine restricted their focus to the importance of replacing the needle correctly; the patient could simply die from lack of oxygen.
Personally, I have reservations about injecting fish genes into the DNA of tomatoes, and like experiments; so any unnecessary enhancements to my brain requiring relinquishing my decision making to a machine are presently rejected.


In a hockey centric city like Vancouver, it will be more than strange to find the lowliest member of the team structure – the stick boy - have more experience and knowledge than the newly installed General Manager. After mumbling through a press conference on the firing of Dave Nonis and explicitly acknowledging the need for a seasoned professional in the driver’s seat, the team ownership, led by Francesco Aquilini, opted instead to install a bobblehead figure in the front office. Based on previous interviews, the Aquilini’s have left no doubts as to their desire to micro manage the team themselves and are unlikely to tolerate independent underlings. Once they have Gillis totally indoctrinated, he will become the perfect figurehead to send to league meetings, handle the press and preside at photo ops. Be sure to take special notice if both Mike and Francesco are together at the same functions – are Aquilini’s lips moving when Gillis pretends to hold court? All in all, a very tactical and intelligent move. Should the situation not improve and the Canucks continually denied the glory of a Stanley Cup triumph; simply fire the underperforming general manager who was given’ carte blanche’ to build a contender and failed. Should a miracle occur and the cup come to Vancouver, make no mistake- all the credit will be claimed by ownership for their prescience in taking a hands on approach.

Thursday, 24 April 2008


Not necessarily in that order, but I’ve wondered about the transition zones and, in particular, whether the run/jog question depends on the individual. I used to believe only two methods existed: either you walked or you ran. And without the benefit of a degree in kinesiology, most people if put to the test would agree on which is which just from watching. However, watching the Olympics some years back introduced me to the sport/pastime/athletic endeavour of race walking, a seemingly mechanical or robotic approach to moving quickly. No matter how often commentators explained the rules – I think a part of one foot must always be in contact with terra firma – it remained a mystery how the sideline referees managed to detect rule violations on route. Even with the benefit of slow motion, spotting violations appeared difficult and I began to suspect the officials were surgically altered with eagle eyes. Besides I can’t help thinking the awkward motions must put undue strain on body parts. It does, however, suit the description of a transition between jogging/running.
Most runners I’ve talked with seem to agree a difference exists between jogs and runs, although most of the explanations tend to a personal view rather than based on science. For some time, my division rested on the amount of bobbing I witnessed in other runners – if up and down motion seemed almost greater than forward motion; then I described it as jogging. With faster forward movement and the upper body seemingly almost stationary above the churning legs, I elected to call it running. My system works well when viewing other runners, but was difficult to apply to myself. I’ve heard others try to base the transition on pace which is okay if comparing high to low, but as one approaches the middle this begins to get fuzzy. Finally, I settled on taking note of how my body would sway slightly from side to side when I went for slow runs and opted to call this point the transition from running to jogging.
Since I don’t race the question is solely academic, merely another random thought momentarily bouncing around my brain cavity until it fades and ends up replaced by important concerns such as ‘what’s for dinner’.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Follow Up #1

Rodent Renegades

Had I known of such aggressive behaviour amongst the squirrel clans, I may have reacted with additional care when I was a party to their eviction from my attic space. A bear killing carp should be expected – bands of irate blood-thirsty squirrels are another kettle of fish so to speak. Only by chance while generally wasting time surfing did I happen on the old report of squirrel mayhem in the depths of Russia. Since the breed of dog is never mentioned, one would assume a yappy, lapdog - like a Chihuahua - would be at risk; any larger mutt should be able to defend itself unless it is too old to run. And still, I’ve never witnessed bands of squirrels roaming the city parks plotting havoc against larger foes. Normally I notice the little pests chattering and madly chasing each other in order to defend their territories. Since the females run the males away from the nesting area (apparently they have a penchant for disposing of their offspring) before the pups are born, the males could be cloistering in groups bemoaning their fate, but becoming marauders seems beyond their genetic make up. Yet, I hope the Russian rodent mob are not yet internet savvy or cell phone wielding enough to send messages to their brethren here in North America fomenting revolution halfway around the globe. To be on the safe side, I will refrain from standing near trees engaged in any loud or threatening conversation. Also, a few pine cones stuffed in my jacket pocket could serve as ransom if I do find myself cornered.

Where are the Tillandsias?

Not long after I wrote this entry, I decided to head off to the local garden shop to purchase another type to add to my collection. After wandering around for some time, I was unable to spot any displays – the indoor plant area had been rearranged – so I asked an employee where they might now be hidden. Turns out they had none in stock owing to the nursery suppliers also being out of stock. Apparently, all the air plants are in short supply, but nobody knows whether it may be due to an importing problem from the United States or some growing or breeding difficulty. Visiting three or four other outlets, the plants were still unavailable and the reasons identical. Deep in the dead flower department of a local supermarket, I did come across a few bedraggled specimens of Ionanthas – comforting to know the air in a grocery store may be toxic to air plants ( in truth just a lack of water). Thank goodness my blog entry was not the cause of hordes of people rushing out to corner the market. As if anyone is actually out there in cyberspace grinding through the onslaught of thousands of blogs per hour. However, I suspect a conspiracy in the works: all the tillandsias have been stripped from their supports and tossed into the chippers to become the next source of biofuel.

The Lost Book

Once I learned my requested book had been declared missing-in-action, I assumed I would be waiting for a new copy to be purchased or the return of a copy on loan. Less than two days later, I received notification via e-mail the book – ‘The Mindful Way through Depression’ – was ready for pickup at my local branch. As I had extra time to waste the day I went to pick it up, I decided to query the librarian on the whys and wherefores of the wandering text. Expecting an explanation to the lost days in the life of the wayward tome, there was none to be had. It had seemingly turned up at her work station as if by magic. Apparently, before she even had the chance to launch an investigation, it had been placed close to her computer where she found it the following morning. She surmised one of the part time employees working the previous evening had located it elsewhere, by accident, realized there was a hold on the volume and did not return it to its usual shelf position. Such a banal ending to the story of its disappearance – hardly worth writing about or coaxing a blog entry out of my fingers. More likely, the book elves were having their fun moving the book surreptitiously from place to place right under the noses of the book herders. Now, I just have to buckle down and read the book while hoping the most important pages are intact and not torn out!

Sunday, 20 April 2008

H is for Haas Avocados

Cheating on this one because it could have been used under A, but then I would have lost the applesauce and sacrificed a guacamole recipe. Why have a guacamole recipe? Because I’ve been blessed with a spicy gene flowing down through the years from one of my ancestors and it needs to be expressed. Excellent for dipping taco chips, for fajitas, on top of huevos rancheros, alongside grilled chicken breasts, even smothered over pork chops. Unless you’re lucky and bought your avocados a few days previous, they are usually hard as rocks when picked up in the supermarket. Buy them anyway; drop them in a paper bag with either an apple or banana and they will ripen in a couple of days and be soft enough to mash up. Anticipation will make the end product even tastier.

4                          avocados ripe about 2 pounds
½ cup                 tomato peeled, seeded and finely chopped
¼ cup                 red onion finely diced
¼ cup                 cilantro
3 tablespoons     lemon juice or lime
1 clove                 garlic minced
1/4 teaspoon      cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon      salt
1/8 teaspoon      chile powder
2                           jalapeño peppers seeded & minced
  • Peel and pit the avocados; then use a fork to coarsely mash them in a bowl.
  • Mix in the lemon juice and then the remainder of the ingredients. Stir until well combined, but do not over mix into a smooth paste. Using a food processor tends to turn the mixture to mush.
  • Chill for 30 to 45 minutes before serving.
Mince up 2 additional jalapeño peppers into a small bowl so the more adventurous can add heat to their taste.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Odds and Ends #4

Crocodile Tears

Is it only me or does everyone else notice the trend for public figures to burst into tears at the slightest provocation to engage our sympathetic responses? Poor J.K. Rowling, sobbing before the trial judge over the grand theft of her ideas, the possible loss of a few thousand dollars from her billion or so and her total loss of creativity due to the ongoing strain. But wait – then the defendant takes the stand and lets his tear ducts loose in the courtroom. Can we expect the judge to deliver his verdict in a veil of tears a la the Anna Nicole Smith custody trial? And not only have the entertainment figures reacted in this manner. Current vogue even for financial industry CEOs, chairmen and senior management after losing billions in mortgage scams is to shed copious tears at the terrible market place for the ruination of their hard work and good names.
Shouldn’t all these people be banned to their vaults to endlessly count their money like Scrooge McDuck?
Almost forgot to add that crying worked well for Hillary Clinton the first time, but fell rather flat the second – maybe a warning for the rest.

Blame it on the Mortgagee

Now that the spin doctors have been given the chance to respond to the sub prime mortgage meltdown, you could expect the blame to be lifted from the shoulders of the captains of the financial world and thrust onto the true creators of the crisis – the evil mortgagees. After all the scams convincing people to overbuy, coercing them to falsify their income stream and assuring everyone house values would reach the heavens with never a downturn, the mortgage brokers, salespeople and lenders will reap the benefit and sympathy from government bailouts.
I love this.
Quote:   "witnessing a dramatic change in the behaviour of borrowers in California where there had been "significant" increases in defaults as house prices fall.  They warned that "the propensity to default rises dramatically" once equity in a borrower's property falls to zero, with further increases in foreclosures on the horizon.” End quote.

So there you have it. Borrowers are guilty of bad behaviour: lenders are just doing their job in good faith.

Head Miswiring
As if internal arguments and lack of communication in the brain were not problems enough, now we have the belly fat chiming in to screw up the signalling system. Up to this point, all evidence suggested wiring in the brain was responsible for indicating when we were sated, and then sent the crystal clear message to disengage from the knife and fork. Now instead of patting the stomach to indicate the pleasure of a fine, satisfying meal, we are attempting to shut up the fat cells that are still screaming for food and cajoling us into shovelling down ever greater amounts.

Safekeeping the Spoils
Easy to just write this one off as a weird coincidence, but it does leave a couple of questions unanswered.
Shouldn’t a bank employee have learned not to keep valuables at home where they are open to theft?
Could we consider the thief to be intelligent in his bid to safeguard his plunder; since you never know when your home may be the target of a cat burglar?
Do we now find the criminal (alleged) slightly less brainy because he failed to contact his victim to ascertain where he did his banking, in order to avoid a conflict of interest, not to mention possible discovery?
Moral of the story is not to do your banking in the same area you conduct your entrepreneurial business.

Vodka Tales
Wonder what the blood/alcohol reading would have been on this one? At some percentage, the booze in the blood stream must turn into a beneficial coagulant to prevent blood loss or it may only occur with vodka. I know puncture wounds tend to seal around the piercing weapon, but this guy was also on the move trying to work and travel home, conditions which normally would cause at least a bit of oozing. Guess when you’re that soused a knife driven into your back only feels like a friendly slap!

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Price of Rice not Nice

And it is not just rice: corn, wheat, soy and other cereal crops are bumping up the price hike ladder. Plenty of reasons expounded for the sudden increases:

  • Droughts and crop failures especially in Australia where the explanation lays the blame almost entirely on climate change, as though localized lack of precipitation has never been experienced over the millennia.
  • Reduced government stockpiles, particularly in Asian countries, which worked to smooth out yearly production bumps in the past. Now capitalism and the invisible hand of the market rule.
  • Too much grain fed to livestock to support the surge in meat consumption in China. Too many McMeat restaurants springing up.
  • Increasing trend of farmers, in North America and Europe, raising crops solely for processing into bio-fuels, despite current scientific evidence suggesting it may be more damaging to the environment than oil production and wastes too much energy to manufacture.
My theory: once the hedge funds and insiders milked billions for themselves from the sub-prime mortgage fiasco – leaving taxpayers to clean up the mess – they are now driving up the price oil, gas and foodstuffs on the commodities markets to further siphon off wealth. Even as the demand for oil has either stalled or inflated at below 2% per year the price continues to vault to new records.

Actually, the initial indication for the fast price jumps came when I was in one of the larger, warehouse type, local grocery outlets. I noticed three of four people struggling to the check outs pushing carts loaded with ten to twelve 40 pound bags of rice, bad luck if you had one of the sticky wheel ones I usually pick. At first, I wrote it off to coincidence, just happenstance running into a number of small restaurant owners stocking up at a cheap price. And then, I received my own lesson in the world economy when I headed over to grab a 10 kilogram bag of flour – whole wheat, not organic, but still better for you – and ran into sticker shock along with a sign from store management explaining the soaring price. Once home, I was able to check back on old bills to document the upward trend.

Flour 10 kilogram bag:
  • Sept 15/07      $5.98
  • Jan 11/08        $6.98
  • Mar 30/08     $10.58
According to my cool scientific calculator, that is a 76% increase in retail price since last September and the wholesale cost increases almost daily.

Ways to handle the crisis:
  • Purchase dedicated hand held vacuum to clean up dusting flour on counter and return to container.
  • Strategically placed jar to hold wayward rice grains picked up from floor.
  • Check out price of ‘Brent light crude’ for use as salad dressing before olive ‘oil’ converts to bio-fuel.
  • Use wild rice – yes, I know it is actually a grain – as it becomes cheaper to replace normal rice.
  • Purchase kitchen grindstone appliance to mill grains gathered surreptitiously from roadside farms after midnight.
  • Switch from the documented healthy Mediterranean diet to the just announced cheaper, bland Starvation diet.
  • Seek out lower cost alternatives such as potatoes – oops, too late. New potatoes advertised at ‘only’ $1.69 per pound.
All prices in Canadian Dollars.
Feel free to attempt novel solutions of your own.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Spring has Sprung

Finally last Saturday a true hint of spring reached Vancouver rewarding us with some clear skies, sun and temperatures in the teens. Couldn’t imagine a better way to celebrate than a hike part way up one of the local mountains; and so we scooted up the 550 meters to the viewpoint overlooking Buntzen Lake. Even under the heavy canopy, there was plenty of sparkle from the invading rays of sunlight dancing through the treetops and the steadily increasing warmth soon had us in t-shirts. With last winter’s heavier than average snowfall, the trail was still covered for the final 80 meters of elevation with about a foot of snow – treacherously slippery in the well trodden spots, but easy going just off to the sides. A few minutes stopped at the lookout gazing across to the North Shore mountains, sipping some water and snacking on a energy bar, before wending our way back to the parking lot. Not only lots of fun, but we get to add 2 hours of vigorous physical activity to our weekly total – take that Participation Canada! Pretty well everyone we met trekking both ways were in exuberant moods enjoying the sudden climatic change, all except for the unhappy soul, in a rather gnarly mood, escorting her unleashed snappy, lapdogs. Yes, the trio were very much alike in both temperament and appearance.
Meanwhile back at the vehicle, our choice was to prowl the nearest supermarket for a couple of handfuls of Portobello and Shitake mushrooms. With the grocery shopping accomplished, a pleasant day was finished off with platefuls of Linguine con Funghi and some generous glasses of Shiraz. Now what is on the agenda next weekend in order to scoff down a decadent meal?

Friday, 11 April 2008

Odds and Ends #3

Knut the Killer

Makes me wonder how many post graduate degrees are required before somebody realizes Knut is a polar bear – aka a wild animal – basically doing what his mother should have taught him. Stop chucking food into his enclosure; he will quickly catch on to the tastiness of raw fish and other moveable feasts. As for his howling for a friend, maybe the media reporter carping about a bear who "senselessly murdered the carp" can volunteer to sit across the table from Knut to discuss their mutual psychological problems.

Fabulous Feet

Almost positive some of the under socks I use for hiking are laced with silver threads making my feet much more valuable than the rest of my body. Last quote I remember was $13 per ounce for silver so I’m planning to wash my feet each time into my gold pan and attempt to swish out the silver, instead of allowing my foot odour to become part of the toxic sludge problem. Then I recalled that the Borg were heavy into nano technology and am beginning to suspect we are being assimilated despite our protestations. Trust the big corporations to have been taken over by aliens, right under our noses while we worried about malodorous foot scents.

What about the Bags?

For years we have been treated to the sight of millions of plastic bags waving throughout the countryside and quivering like sea kelp over acres of dump sites. All of a sudden, the garbage police have discovered evil contents within the confines of the plastic beast – tons and tons of unused foodstuffs reeking and fermenting, inundating the atmosphere with tons and tons of obnoxious gases fuelling the spread of greenhouse warming. Since I eschewed the use of plastic, I’ve been driven to carting my putrid leftovers to the bin wrapped in my best Sunday shirts (they are washed in non phosphate detergent and hung on my balcony to dry despite the protests of neighbours) which are manufactured with organic cotton in approved factories somewhere off world. Now I’ll have to take a course in fruit wine making, to prevent the unneeded produce from being discarded, even if it means I spend all my spare hours getting soused.

Stonehenge Spa

Over the past decades this stone circle has been explain in many ways: an astronomical observatory, pagan ritual site replete with human sacrifice, Neolithic convention center for end of harvest celebrations, alien landing zone (von Däniken theory?), and now it is a healing place. Unless an error in reporting comes to light or I’ve just read the reports incorrectly, I’m amazed that among other findings the archaeologists have unearthed some Roman ceramics from the sockets under the bluestones. While over the past decades, there have been numerous readjustments of the timeline of construction due to carbon dating inaccuracies; the general consensus suggests the total building period stretching from 3000BC to 1600BC. – give or take a couple of centuries, but whose counting. Historically, the Romans visited here during the first century BC and naturally proceeded to slaughter enough of the inhabitants to ensure adding the bulk of the island to the Empire. Therefore, barring the ability of the roman centurions to time travel, how does some of their dinnerware show up under mammoth stones placed over two thousand years before their arrival?

Green Screen Relay

Not even going to take sides. But does it make sense to have an Olympic torch relay when the spectators are lining a different route. You might as well hold it in front of green screens deep in the bowels of the ‘Forbidden City’ and add the background of cheering people from a Santa Claus parade, the rose bowl festivities or the gay-pride celebrations. It would be in keeping with the Communist iron fist ruling party plus save the bother of rewriting or re-video taping history to show the true wonder of the Olympics held in the Middle Kingdom.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

G is for Green beans

Grapefruit leapt to mind, but never cooked – either a half in the peel topped with a couple of dollops of honey or squeezed into a glass. Next up were grapes, usually tossed into a summer salad, although there is a decadent way to cook them. Halve red or green seedless grapes and poach quickly over medium heat in some Marsala; then heap around a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream.
So I ended up settling on green beans, also known as string beans or French beans or haricots vert – the latter still rolls off my tongue having grown up in Quebec. The following is a quick way to put together a side dish for grilled chicken breast.

1/2 pound fresh green beans with ends snipped off
1/2 large red bell pepper, julienne into 1/4” strips
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon or lime juice
Pepper to taste

  1. Using a large pot , bring 2 quarts of water to a rapid boil, add the green beans and return to a rolling boil to cook for 6 to 7 minutes until they are tender but still crisp. Pour the beans into a colander, rinse under cold water to stop cooking and set aside.
  2. In a dry skillet over medium heat, toast pine nuts until lightly browned. Remove to small bowl.
  3. Add oil to the skillet. When the oil is hot, sauté the red peppers for 5 to 6 minutes until almost softened. Then add the green beans, juice and pepper – stir gently for about three minutes to reheat the beans. Toss in the pine nuts and heat 1 more minute. Serve.
Important in this recipe to prevent the green beans from cooking too long, becoming soft and flabby, losing the slightly crispy snap and the textural difference with the softened peppers. As an added treat slice red onions into rings and cook at the same time as the red peppers.

Monday, 7 April 2008

Anagram This

Just as I was tossing out Saturday’s paper – oops, make that consigning to the appropriate recycling bin – I realized I had been doing the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle for over a decade. Since the Vancouver Sun publishes the weekend edition on Saturdays, the puzzle is a week behind although that appears to be the norm in publication. In fact, it is the sole reason I even buy a newspaper once a week; news has become much easier to access online with the added opportunity to compare multiple points of view from varying countries.
When I began attempting to solve the puzzles, I was lucky to complete half of each without resorting to the dictionary, thesaurus and online assistance over a period of days. Now, I can usually polish them off in a couple of hours except for the odd time when pesky three letter clues or abbreviations escape me. There are moments I definitely come close to fire off questioning e-mails, but attribute the difference of opinion to regional preferences – everybody knows the West Coast is the true center of the universe – and variances in cultural usage. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t consider deciphering the puzzles contributes to preventing deterioration of my cranial cavity and its contents or increasing its elasticity. After a while, you simply develop crossword solvers brain and begin to think like a crossword designer, although there are nuances between different series and editors. On the occasions I try my hand at the Saturday Times puzzle, I find it helps to use an differing mind set to gain the solution and understand the way the constructor provides the clues.
Normally, the main hint for the puzzle becomes an important aid as you begin to comprehend the deviousness for many of the longer or highlighted clues. Once you grasp the trick, it gives a head start on the others. Alas, this Saturday ‘mixed feelings’ was completely lost on me and even with a couple of solutions, I remained without a clue. In the end, it did not prevent me from polishing off the puzzle and putting it aside. Only later as I glanced at one of the shorter sets of circled letters did it finely dawn on me that they were anagrams; hence, gear rearranged is rage, epho is hope etc. Obviously, solving crosswords has done nothing to improve my vision.

Friday, 4 April 2008

The Peripatetic Book

Despite the ‘wealth of information’ online, I continually skulk about a couple of branches of the municipal library searching for reading material. However, I find it easier to access the collection online from home to place holds on tomes whose titles I’ve gleaned off websites or my feeds. Requesting ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child’ – already in cold storage – was to follow up on the book Julie and Julia by Julie Powell. The e-mail notification showed up a couple of days later. On the same evening I entered a second request for an item currently in the branch so it was a lock to be there the following day when I could pick up both books. So I was mildly surprised the next morning when the Julia Child cookbook was sitting on the shelf awaiting me, but the second volume was nowhere to be seen. Perhaps, I surmised, it was still early and maybe no one had yet had a chance to pull it from its assigned spot. No problem. Headed over to the library computers where I quickly located the call number and hustled over to the correct aisle. No luck. Aha, I reasoned, it was simply in between shelves and one of the staff was busy logging it through the system. After all, the computer said it was there and it is difficult to argue with a computer. Therefore, I concluded, I should talk to the kindly librarian who would clear up the matter in a flash. Not so. Not only did she have the request print out in front of her, but she had checked for the book to discover it was....well missing, even though it had been returned to the library the previous day and scanned in via computer. Obviously, since it had never been returned to its allotted location, there was no opportunity for some dastardly, light-fingered bookworm to purloin the text, so logically it had to be somewhere in the vicinity. So I headed back to see if it had been misplaced close to its supposed resting place, while the librarian did a check of the behind counter spots and non public areas. Success, I anticipated, would shortly see me with both of my holds and heading out the door. Wrong again. Back at the information desk, I found a very puzzled librarian who had not only been unable to locate my book, but had discovered another four missing volumes. Not much rationale in requesting an explanation and we agreed I could wait while another copy was forwarded in from another branch. Maybe library books eventually tire of the constant pawing, page pinching, spine bashing and coffee dribbling; at which point they sprout little legs and run off to the old book home? Lucky for me, my missing choice was not critical to my well being and only a follow up to my interest in meditation, since I’ve found it an excellent method to corral my brain after running off simultaneously in multiple directions. So it was interesting to discover Jon Kabat-Zinn had contributed to ‘Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)’ which was described as 80% meditation and 20% cognitive therapy towards the alleviating the effects of chronic depression. Only one of the texts on the subject - ‘The Mindful Way through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness’ – but the particular one I located online and which caught my interest. Apparently, in Britain the costs are covered under National Health Care which may explain its popularity and wide spread referral by general practitioners. As for me, I was left to wonder if the universe in its infinite wisdom had conjured up an esoteric message disguised as a personal Zen koan for me to solve – ‘What is the sound of no page turning?’