Monday, March 29, 2010

My mini-book-pile for a week of holiday travel.

We leave for a week in Rome tomorrow, and I've decided on the books I want to take with me to read on the plane and during down times.  Normally, I'm frantically working my way through the books that come up on my library hold list, but I've made all my holds inactive so I can choose from my home library (mostly full of yet-to-be-read books!)

Here are the four I've selected (at this point!):
  • Peter Robinson: Wednesday's Child.  I love his books, and I"m reading them in order.  This is the next one on the list.
  • Robert B. Parker: Sudden Mischief.  Parker is about as light as they come in the genre, and he just died.  I only have one of his left on my shelf, so it's a go.
  • Pierre de Calan: Cosmas or the Love of God.  Unlike most of my books that I get used through BookMooch or Paperback Swap, this one was purchased new.  It's a Loyola Classic, a study of a young man experiencing life as a Trappist monk.
and finally...
  • Morris West: The Shoes of the Fisherman.  An oldie (1963) but a goody...Book One of his Vatican trilogy. It was made into a movie with Laurence Olivier and Anthony Quinn. 
I will register three of these (all except for Cosmas) with Book Crossing and "release them" in Rome if I get them done (and Z doesn't want to read them.)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Wilson's weekend treat...


I posted a few months ago about the benefit of marrow bones to Wilson's dental health.  We've been giving him a bone every weekend, and his teeth are in fine form.  We have to put down a towel to protect the floor as they're kind of messy, but the bone keeps him occupied for a couple of hours and he really enjoys it.  He's also been chewing on his non-edible Nylabone more, which also helps.  The only problem is that if we don't supervise him, he will hide the bone somewhere in the house when he's finished with it and it can be kind of a shock to stick your hand behind a sofa cushion and find a bone, but I've managed to keep track of most of them so far!

We'll be boarding him for a week while we're in Rome, and I'll send a couple of bones for him while we're gone, as an extra treat, and to allay some of our guilt about kennelling him.  

Dim Sum in Chinatown

My sister-in-law Gemma and her daughter Magali visited us this weekend.  Gemma lives in Paris and Magali is working in Montreal....Gemma was here to visit her daughter and the two of them drove to Toronto for the weekend.  We took them to the AGO Saturday morning and then wandered through Chinatown, stopping for Dim Sum at Rol San on Spadina.  It was my first visit, and we were seated near the front door, where we noticed that we arrived just before the noon-hour rush.  Even so, the tables turned very quickly and there was very little wait.  The trick employed here (and this is the first time I've ever seen this) is a stack of thin plastic covers on each table.  When a party leaves, the bus person simply draws up the corners of the table cloth, wrapping all the dishes, napkins, tea cups, steamer baskets together, and whips the bundle into the kitchen, leaving a pristine new table ready for the next group.  

The food was excellent, steaming hot, and our teapot was refilled regularly.  We tried to order low-sodium soy sauce but our server didn't seem to understand English.  The hostess came over and offered us sweet soy sauce, which I guess is the same thing as it was definitely lower sodium.  Who knows?  We really enjoyed our meal and will be back.  Prices are very reasonable and service is quick and pleasant.


Friday, March 26, 2010

Dream Dresses - brief review of a must-read!

I don't read a lot of short stories, but this 2009 collection Dream Dresses from anthropologist Hilary (Cunningham) Scharper is terrific.  She examines the relationship between women and clothing, exploring a different aspect in the stories.  They range from the longing of a school girl for different boots, boots that will make her fit in and stand out at the same time, to the way sisters compare bodies in their rivalry for a dress: what our clothing says about us, what it says to others  and the meaning we imbue in these items.  

Her tales evoke emotions that most women feel at some time in their life.  That with just the right dress, everything will be okay.  That if I lose the baby weight, I'll please my husband.  That if I bury morther-in-law in a conservative suit, no one will remember her embarrassing behaviour in real life. From girlhood longing, to teen angst about acceptance, through mid-life and aging, Scharper writes about the hopes dreams that our clothing is laden with, about the dresses we have and those that we long for. 

I highly recommend this wonderful collection.  There's more about Scharper and this book in this article from the Toronto Star in 2009.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Almost 50 and still causing a stir.

At the behest of my dear husband, who never says a negative word about my appearance or behaviour, I decided to go back to covering my gray.  I had it done this morning, plus some highlights, and it looks great I must say.  I look younger and less tired, just in time for our romantic trip to Rome next week.

I dropped into a local fast-food joint on my walk home from the salon and settled in to my burger and book, when a gentleman sat down at the table next to me.  I live in a very Jewish neighborhood, and this guy totally reminded me of my (Jewish) father:  one of those older guys, not too tall, thinning grey hair and, ahem, a relaxed look about his clothing. You know, sort of loose fitting trousers, a short sleeved mostly polyester button up shirt, and a plaid wool jacket over top.  (My father was a cardiologist and no doubt made quite a good living, but his casual clothes made him look like your neighborhood Home Hardware salesman.*)  

Shortly thereafter, a similar looking fellow walks up and exclaims "There you go again, Mort...sitting next to the most gorgeous gal in the place!  Every time I see you, it's the same thing!"  

Mort:  "Don't start with me. We've got business to do.  Leave the poor gal alone....she's trying to read." 

"But did you see....?"

Mort shakes his newspaper at the friend, exclaiming "Enough already.  Get me some coffee...there's something I want you to read."

My eyes were boring holes into my book at this point, and I'm trying to stifle a smile, but I have to say, it made my day.  It's even possible I did a little hair flip when I turned the page



*And it's true.  One time I was in a hardware store with him when I was about eight, and someone came up to him and asked him for help with some paint.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

That's my boy....


Not the one in the picture, Dante Shepherd (one of my fave internet comics,writing at Surviving the World.) My boy, Michael, has synesthesia. He sees words (or letters) as colours. He could definitely be an awesome (and possibly mutant) superhero. But not useless!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Scotiabank Theatre Bar


We were down here this morning for a preview screening and I was able to get these shots of the (empty) bar area, which I find strangely beautiful.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Seven Quick Takes Friday


Welcome to visitors from Conversion Diary and Company Girls.

  1. Z and I went to the preview of Cooking With Stella last night, courtesy of Mika at Good Egg who tweeted an offer for a double pass.  Dilip Mehta, the director and co-screenwriter was there and took questions at the end of the film.  Before the screening, Mehta suggested we look at it only as a comedy.  I didn't understand what he meant until afterwards.  The film addresses the relationship between employers (in this case diplomats living in the Canadian compound in Delhi) and servants (the Indian staff), and is a look at the discomfort that can arise for both parties, as well as the various "businesses" that the cook runs given her access to duty free goods and the apparent wealth of her employers.  It stars the most fetching Don McKellar .  You can view the trailer here

  2. Tuesday afternoon, our hot water tank went.  I was trying to do some dishes and the water wouldn't get hot.  It's a rental tank from our local gas company, so I got on the horn and, after looking at our file, they determined that the tank was 18 years old.  At that point, they just decided to send out a replacement tank, which came the next day.  I have no idea if it will be more energy efficient, but I'm hoping so.  I guess we'll be able to tell from our gas bills, to some extent.  I also very much need to replace our washer and dryer.

  3. Last Sunday, we picked up some flowers for my aunt's birthday and bought ourselves a pot of spring bulbs at the same time.  It's wonderful to have that little blast of living colour in our kitchen.  I used to always have some fresh flowers around, but have gotten out of the habit since we've been back in Toronto.  I think I'll pick it up again because they are really refreshing.

  4. I read an extremely compelling piece yesterday at a new-to-me blog called Exile Lifestyle.  The author talks about undertaking short (a few months) experiments with lifestyle to push him in new directions and encourage positive habits.  For example, (and I really encourage you to read his whole post), he did a period of no TV.  A period of no black clothing.  An experiment with no new paper products (except for some personal-hygiene related ones and his notebook.)  Z and I talked about this last night, about some experiments we might try individually and together.   More to come on this one, I'm sure.

  5. Does anyone else have an issue with the shortform for microphone?  "mic"  It just doesn't work for me.  It should be "mike".  

  6. I "made" a loaf of bread last night, that is, I loaded up the breadmaker and set the timer for fresh bread this morning.  I do this every two days or so.  I was having a glass of limoncello at the same time, having just returned from Cooking With Stella and dinner at the Bloor Street Diner.  This morning, it didn't smell like it usually does, and I couldn't see the bread through the window in the machine.  I had forgotten to put the paddles back into the pan and the bread didn't mix,  It just baked itself into the pan in a big floury lump.  Now I'm just waiting for it to cool down enough so that I can dump it into the compost.  No sandwich for my sweetie's lunch today.

  7. Spent a couple of hours in the Kensington Market area with Michael yesterday afternoon.  We had just picked up his tuba from Long and McQuade where it was in for repair, and were heading to Good Egg on Augusta to get my movie passes.  I had assumed Michael had been to Kensington as he spends quite a bit of time in Chinatown with his friends from Japanese class, and it's just a little north of there.  But it was all new to him, a bit of a wonderland of cheesy discount shops, produce markets, funky shops and restos.  He found a Point Zero sweater at 50% off and I picked up a couple of scarves at Zimmerman's Discount, where Mr. Zimmerman told him to come back often as there are lots of nice-looking girls in the area.   It was a gorgeous day, and MIchael is a 15yo kid who doesn't mind hanging with his mom, so it was all good!  


Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Future of Publishing?

Via @J_Lab on Twitter.

Paging James Sherwood (Ottawa, 1997)


The Ottawa Citizen is looking to help a ROM paleontologist locate the finder of this rare fossil of "an ancient armoured worm that predates dinosaurs."

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Melon Balls all 'round for St. Paddy's Day!


Forget green beer. Our beverage of choice for today has to be the Melon Ball.

Mix melon liqueur and vodka (2:1) and top with pineapple juice over ice.

Bottom's up!

Seen today in Sunnybrook Park


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A curious and fun read: auction catalog as narrative.

I heard Leanne Shapton interviewed on CBC's Q a few months ago about her book-disguised-as-an-auction-catalog.  Entitled Important Artifacts and Personal Property of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, including Books, Street Fashion, and Jewelry:  Sunday, 14 February 2009, New York", it's a kind of diary-in-objects of the relationship between Lenore and Harold.  I immediately requested it from the library and it just came up a few days ago.


I've included a few pages here to give you the drift...Lot 1079 (above) is a Cosmetics Case and contents...reading through the list  gives a little picture of Lenore, it's owner, right down to the miniature bottle of Heinz ketchup which other commentary suggests she has a need to have with her at all times.  Lenore is a professional cake-baker and writes a food column called "Cakewalk".  Harold is a photographer or journalist who travels a lot.  We see the time-line of their relationship in emails, photographs, clothing, gifts, letters, invitations, books, tschockes, all of which are up for sale.  

We see a number of St. Valentin dinner menus crafted by Lenore, and the strain that begins to appear in the emails and notes to each other. It's kind of a voyeuristic journey into a relationship, told in objects that have been described for auction.  

Example (photo of mug with broken handle and note) :  
Lot 1232.  
A brown mug.  
A broken brown glazed mug stamped "Brickett Davda Made in England" on base. 
$5-7 (auction estimate)
Included in this lot is a note handwritten by Doolen.  
Reads: "H I'm so sorry, I know this was your favorite.  Will get it fixed, I promise."

It was the perfect read for a rainy afternoon, and allowed me to create my own story around the ephemera and objects that Ms. Sharpton has so carefully photographed and documented.

Four new-to-me podcasts that I've recently picked up...

Definitely Not the Opera (CBC) - With Sook-Yin Lee;  An entertaining look at popular culture.

Wiretap (CBC) - I love Jonathan Goldstein's columns in the National Post.  This is even better!  Wilson's been getting long walks so that I can listen to two eps back to back.

Freakonomics Radio (NYT) - You read the book. Now listen to the podcast.

The Therapeutics Education Collaboration podcast is intended for medical practitioners.  It presents information on evidence-based drug therapy content, and give that I've been getting some, I'm interested in looking at the evidence.  It's Canadian too, which is good 'cause we've got a slightly different approach to pushing the pills.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Unhappy Hipsters Caption Contest!


Here's your chance to win a "limited-edition, super-secret Unhappy Hipsters prize." Come up with a caption and follow the instructions over at the site (link above).

I've sent mine in!

What I've Learned (Maya Angelou)

I've learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow. 
I've learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights. 
I've learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you'll miss them when they're gone from your life. 
I've learned that making a "living" is not the same thing as making a "life." I've learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance. 
I've learned that you shouldn't go through life with a catcher's mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back. 
I've learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision. 
I've learned that even when I have pains, I don't have to be one. 
I've learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back. 
I've learned that I still have a lot to learn. I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

— Maya Angelou

(I have no idea where I read this, but I had it copied into Evernote, my virtual notebook.)

Miracle potion for coarse hair! Silicon-free Argan Nectar oil from Live Clean.


Sorry for the foray (once again) into hair talk. This product was recommended in some fashion mag I borrowed from the library, and it's great! Can be used on both wet and dry hair.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Seven Quick Takes Friday.

Welcome to visitors from Conversion Diary and Company Girls.

Had a lovely lunch with my sister-in-law on Wednesday.  She and my brother and their three young children moved to Toronto last fall and she's starting work in a couple of weeks.  I realised that we had never spent much time together without children or husbands as they've always lived in a different city.  She's starting a job at the end of the month, so before her days get filled with work (as opposed to children) we headed to a lovely restaurant (Fieramosca Trattoria) in Yorkville and spent a peaceful hour and a half in front of a fireplace with a delicious Italian lunch. (Think: truffle-stuffed gnocchi!)

Tomorrow, Z and I have tickets to the King Tut exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario.  We got early ones as apparently the crowds are sparser, so we'll be there bright and early at 10 am.  We'll see the exhibit with an audio guide, and then a 3D film.  The AGO is in China town, so we'll likely head for Dim Sum or something afterwards.  

It's March Break for Michael next week.  We have nothing planned, as Z and I are heading to Rome in a couple of weeks. Michael had thought about visiting his brother at Queen's but Alex already had friends coming on the weekends and he's in the final countdown of the term right now, so it's not a great time for visitors.  Michael's pretty happy just hanging out for the week with friends, so it'll be a pretty low-key break for him.

Rosa: A Novel
I've been reading a novel called Rosa by Jonathan Rabb.  I think I read a review of a later book of his, and decided to borrow this one first.  It's not the kind of book I"d typically's set in Germany in the last days of WWI, and is a fictionalized account of what may have happened to Rosa Luxemburg, a socialist revolutionary, who was assassinated in January 1919.  I started the book with some sense that I wouldn't be able to "get into" it, but it very quickly grabbed me.  I'll finish it this morning and start on another of Rabb's, Shadow and Light, set in 1927 Berlin.

My to-do list for today includes errands (library, Costco, cleaners), write up the minutes and prepare executive agenda for parish Catholic Women's League, research and price some new washer/dryer pairs, get gifts for a birthday party this Sunday and think about the salad I'm bringing (likely Greek).

Speaking of a new washer/dryer:  my ancient washing machine (that came with the house) is giving up the ghost.  It's not spinning well, and leaking oil, so it's got to go.  We have a reasonably new dryer so I will plan to sell it on Craiglist and get a stackable set of high efficiency machines.  We had a high efficiency pair in Atlanta but we sold them with the house and I miss them a lot.  With Toronto (Ontario?) moving to time-of-use pricing for electricity, it makes sense to get machines that (a) use less electricity/hot water and (b) have a timer so that I can run them at low priced hours (like, in the middle of the night). Right now, I have to spin our washer twice and the clothes STILL come out sodden.  I am tired of hand-wringing anything towards the bottom of the machine.  A stackable pair will free up space in our laundry room for a freezer which we've wanted for some time but have had nowhere to put.

I just bought a new Moleskine diary that I will start on our trip to Rome.  My old one is just about full, and it would be nice to start the new one with notes, pics, and ephemera from out trip.  I've been using my diary as a notebook, journal, and scrapbook, gluing in event tickets, restaurant business cards, and even some rose petals.  I enjoy looking back at these items that trigger such great memories.  My own memory is not so hot, so by including these sorts of things and annotating or journalling around them, it brings them back a little bit.  I also recently joined the International Association for Journal Writing to help me progress in the actual writing part!  It's helped keep my book with me in my bag at all times, and I use it as a learning journal as well as a space for personal writing.

Please check out other Quick Takes over at Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

On attending a graduate seminar.

I attended a seminar at an institute at the Munk Centre for International Studies recently.  It was a talk given by a doctoral fellow and was tangentially related to my interests in health information and policy.  I was very surprised when the speaker proceeded to read her talk (for 40+ minutes), accompanied by slides that had densely worded sentences on them, summarizing what she was saying.  She was very articulate, but it was like having someone read a journal article to you, and in a field with which you are not completely familiar.  I managed to stay on track for the first 30 minutes, but the last few minutes went right over my head, particularly when she got into this.

We had a break, and then the respondent read her comments.  Again from what appeared to be a typed script.  

[Is this reading-from-a-script the norm at academic talks?  It certainly wasn't in mathematics, but that's a completely different animal.  I don't remember it happening in any of the epidemiology talks I attended as a grad student, or in public lectures I've attended recently.  Definitely in some homilies though!]

Once the questions started, and no script was available,  the presenter appeared extremely nervous and quite ill-at-ease, punctuating her partial sentences with "like", "um", "er".  Many times, a simple "Good point.  I will have to look in to that."  would have sufficed to answer questions.  Rather than going at the question indirectly with a vague answer.  

She also nervously played with her hair, which was extremely distracting. 

I started thinking about the different skill sets required for writing and speaking, and how proficiency in one certainly doesn't guarantee the other.  And how we probably get better at both as we get older.  I certainly did.  The major problem with the reading from the script is that finely crafted sentences that work on the page can be very difficult to parse when they're coming at us aurally.  By the time on ehas  figured out what a sentence means, the speaker can be three or four sentences ahead.  

Ah well.  Right now I have a sample of one from this institute, so I will certainly return and see if it's the norm for presentations.  It's good for my aging brain to work a little.  Sort of like sight-singing of renaissance music with no bar lines and tight harmony.  You just have to keep going and hope it all hangs together by the end.

Ghost in the Machine- Santana


Erika Iris Simmons works in recycled materials, namely cassette and film tape, to create these incredible images. Check out her Flickr set.

(H/T to MrXStitch!)

Urban marketing


Shot 1:  Love this poster on Bloor West near Spadina.  

Shot 2:  On my to-do list.  The Bata Shoe Museum.  Bonus opportunity for star-sighting.  Reports Shinan Govani in today's National Post:

That tapping into his inner Carrie Bradshaw the other day was none other than Mr. Omnivorous -- John Malkovich! The stupendous star of the big screen was spotted over the weekend at Toronto's famous foot locker, a.k.a. The Bata Shoe Museum, on Bloor.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Alice in Wonderland: my thoughts

I rarely go to see movies in the theatre.  It pains me to spend the kind of money it costs, and I rarely feel I've gotten my money's worth.  I'd rather buy a book and get hours and hours of enjoyment (or a bottle of wine, for that matter!)

But I wanted to see Alice in Wonderland.  I love Tim Burton.  I love Johnny Depp.  And Helena Bonham Carter.  I knew the (first) story (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland).  For whatever reason, I didn't feel the same way about this film as I did about the Narnia pictures.  I couldn't bring my self to see those because they were such well-loved books and my mental imagery was so fixed, that I didn't want to experience anyone else's portrayal of the children and their adventures.  But, perhaps because I had seen various versions the Alice story before, I really wanted to see Tim Burton's take on it all.

Burton's Alice has the right feel.  It's fantastical, magical, swooping, and dazzling.  Dark and then light, funny and then sombre and then a riddle.  It's a little darker than I expected, but it worked.  The CGI work done to the "live" actors is incredible, on top of terrific performances.  I was particularly taken by Anne Hathaway's White Queen, the subtle, airy, insubstantial feel she gave to her character, greatly supported by the pale colours and contrasting dark brows, lips, and nails.  Her little finger wiggle-wave when she's thinking or stating something is perfect.  Enough has been said about Depp.  He's great.  Not sure about his little scene near the end.  Helena Bonham Carter is a stunning, big-headed, wasp-waisted Red Queen.  

I"m not so sure about the story itself.  I haven't read Through the Looking Glass, so I'm not sure how much is Carroll's and how much the screenwriter's.  The ending was weak, and quite unbelievable (if I can even say that about such a film), but set as it was in the real world, it just didn't ring true.  Whatever.  

The weakest part of the experience was the 3D.  I had read reviews suggesting it was better seen without this technology, but I didn't really believe it.  The problem is that the 3D effects come in and out, changing the depth of field, and momentarily knocking you out of the film and reminding you that you are watching a movie in 3D.  And this happens frequently.  Now, I like the switch from black and white to colour (and back) in the Wizard of Oz.  It made sense, and happens when it should.  But in Alice, we are constantly being reminded that "ooh, cool, 3D"  when the background suddenly goes fuzzy and something comes out at you.  This review says it better (Alert: spoilers and a few bad words).

Bottom line:  I would have been happier to spend my $15.50 (ack) on a set of Alice books and wait to rent the film to watch on Blu-Ray at home.


Monday, March 8, 2010

Who's Counting? The Value of Women's Work.

In honour of International Women's Day, I ask you to consider the value of women's work  

Tara Hunt writes a guest post today at the NFBs blog about the documentary Who's Counting?  Marilyn Waring on Sex, Lies, and Global Economics:
Marilyn Waring is a powerhouse of a human being. Born and raised in New Zealand, she has dedicated most of her life to addressing the inequalities in what we value in the world, in an attempt to have women’s work (often unpaid) considered a societal contribution that is as valuable, if not more valuable, than much of the paid work that contributes to the GDP.
In 1988, she published If Women Counted: A New Feminist Economics (also published under Counting for Nothing: What Men Value and What Women are Worth), a sharp assessment of what we do and don’t value by only calculating paid work into the GDP. She raises many of the same examples used in the NFB Film, such as oil spills, drug trade (through money moving around, policing and incarceration) and war as contributing to the GDP, while child rearing, housework and taking care of one’s aging family members are not.
As Marilyn explains, what we measure matters. When driving towards specific goals in, say, increasing the GDP to show growth, policies change to encourage economic growth, but remove costs in social growth. For example, a country wanting to increase the GDP may remove or reduce fines on companies that commit environmental damage in order to raise that company’s yearly earnings and shift the burden onto the education system, an ostensible drain on the economy.

Go read the whole thing, and watch the documentary.  Or read her book.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Algebra in Wonderland #alice #nyt

From The New York Times:

OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR: Algebra in Wonderland

The other-worldly events in “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” can be interpreted as satire on 19th-century advances in mathematics.

Year-to-date Book List (2010) - Edition 2

I posted the first set of books (to Feb 17) here.

Since then, I've finished:

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Wangechi Mutu: This You Call Civilization? | AGO Visit #2


Very moving works. Women in art, marketing, pornography...consideration of culture, beauty, consumerism, body image and health, race. Holes hammered into the walls. Power and powerlessness.

This exhibit made me want to make art.

Anselm Kiefer: Palmsonntag | AGO - Visit #1


Quite the monumental installation. Didn't quite understand all the references to Mary in many of the parts of the work on the walls. I mean, I understand the references, just how it fits in with the Palm Sunday thing. Will watch the press and maybe try to get to a lecture.

Another reason to love this city!

Ontario College of Art and Design.


Seen at the Osgoode Station...

Ads for French Connection. C'est tres marrant, n'est-ce pas?


Friday, March 5, 2010

Because you haven't thought enough about math lately.

I've been remiss in not sharing more of my mathematical ponderings.  

Well, this isn't mine, but have a listen to this terrific podcast from BBC Radio 4's In Our Time where Melvyn Bragg discusses Mathematics' Unintended Consequences with some very articulate (and at times humourous) mathematicians.  

They look at the history of mathematics, the distinction between pure and applied math, and how discoveries in pure mathematics that, at the time, seemed without real life application, have turned out to be behind things like electricity (roots of cubic equations) and cryptography (prime numbers), among others. About how the field of statistics emerged from a heavy gambler's need to win at dice. This is a very accessible program, and makes a good case for the funding of pure science which is perennially under pressure in the face of market-ready endeavours.

Prime Numbers Double Pentagon Spiral

I don't understand the pruning approach...

Will the tree grow anew? Is it waiting to be taken down completely? Is it urban art?

(Sorry for the lousy's from my phone which doesn't do sunlight all that well!)


Seven Quick Takes Friday


Special welcome to Company Girls! Pull up a do you like your coffee?

Michael is home sick with a cold today.  It had been threatening for the past few days, but I thought he'd fought it off.  He's in Grade 9, and today is his "light day" (Art, Music, Gym. and French) so he's not missing much. And then he'll have the weekend to recover.  I"m heading over to babysit two of my niblings midday, but he'll be fine on his own for a few hours.

I've been helping my brother organize his office and systems in his new job as director of an institute at the university.  Yesterday, we met with the finance guy to go over the budget for next year and got some ideas on setting up his books.  The budget categories we came up with are fine, and so we can go ahead and prepare for the new fiscal year.  We also made decisions about some new office furniture...we popped down to King East to see some pieces in person and pick out colours.   We still need some chairs for his conference table, and a couple of small (read, tiny) end tables.  It would be great to find some used office furniture.  We also got some boxes of books and journals unpacked, so the office is starting to take shape.  He has an advisory board meeting in a couple of weeks that he would like to be able to host in his office, so it would be great to have the chairs by then.

I feel like I'm going through culture withdrawal!  We had so much stuff on in February, and nothing on the books this weekend.  I'd really like to see Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland in 3D, so I'm hoping Z and I will pop down to the Scotiabank Paramount on Saturday to catch that.  There is an open house at Regis College tomorrow, where my brother works, and he's doing a talk that I'd like to catch.  Maybe I'll meet Z in the afternoon for the movie.

I've been fooling around with foursquare, a new social-networking app that's about finding new ways to explore the city.  It integrates with twitter and facebook, and has some game attributes as well, awarding points and badges for doing stuff in the city, as well as the crown of "mayor" for being the most frequent visitor to certain spots.  I'd like to get connected with some friends in the city to try this out with, so if you're interested and have a smartphone, install the app and try it out.  

My favorite blog post (of my own) recently was this one on minimalism and focus.  I'm still thinking this through, and trying to work on implementing it in real life, but it has a lot of potential for me in terms of attaining some of my goals for myself and my family. It came out of reading this post by Everett Bogue....his stuff is really thought-provoking and I have been meditating on it regularly.

Apart from a half hour lapse last Sunday when we popped into a bar after the opera to watch the end of the gold-medal hockey game, I haven't watched any television since the beginning of Lent.  And I'm not really missing it for the most part.  I've been getting lots of reading done, as well as paperwork and more time to rest and just be with people.  That being said, I **will** be catching up on Lost after Easter! Probably the best thing is that Z doesn't turn the TV on when we're getting ready for bed and then leave it on 'til he falls asleep (while I"m trying to read).  I know that we should probably just ditch the TV from our room, but until both boys are gone, I need a sanctuary where I can watch something in peace.  Not to mention folding and ironing clothes.  Those two activities are suffering during my TV fast.

Further to my post on friend-of-the-show's Rob Teehan's Juno nomination, check out this photo from Urbanology Magazine!

Modern Soul Final.jpg

That's him on the sousaphone, backing Saidah Baba Talibah in her SolRawkestra!


Th-th-that's all, folks!
Check out other Quick Takes at Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Congratulations to Rob Teehan on his Juno nomination!

Rob Teehan, Michael's tuba teacher, has been nominated for a 2010 Juno award for Classical Composition of the Year.  Dreams of Flying was composed for the NYOC while he was composer-in-residence last summer.  We heard it when the Orchestra played at Roy Thompson Hall last summer and I've got it on my iPod.  You can listen to it here at CBC Radio 2 Concerts on Demand.  (Look for the misnomer "Bob Teehan"...they better get that fixed up pronto!).  The orchestra was also nominated (or the first time) for Classical Album of the Year: Large Ensemble.

Six days ago, I was sending my regular email to Rob regarding setting up a lesson for Michael and added this:

I was listening to the NYOC recording of [Dreams of Flying] on the subway yesterday, and realized that it would be the perfect score for a movie about immigrants to Canada crossing the country by train to their new home.  It capture both the rhythm of the train and the hopes (and dreams) of a new country/new opportunities. It was so evocative that I started to feel like **I** was part of a film shoot, sitting there on the Spadina line with my ipod, LOL!

Thanks for inadvertently helping me pass the time...I"m not usually such a daydreamer.

Who knew I had such great taste in music!  

Congrats to Rob. He's 27, and it was his first composition for orchestra.  Whew!  Press release here.

A glimpse

As Michael and I were driving home from his tuba lesson last night along Dupont, we noticed some bright flashes in the darkening vista in front of us. As we approached Ossington, we could see light stands and white studio umbrellas of a photo shoot in an upper story window of a low-rise building.  Contrasted with the deepening night sky, I desperately wanted to get out of the car and shoot some pictures, but it's a crazy intersection and we just kept going.  It was a glimpse of something unexpected, in the midst of a somewhat grimy intersection.  Fresh, white, bright.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Meditation on "Minimalism: the ultimate life hack" (Everett Bogue)

I've been thinking about this post by Bogue for a number of days.

He lays out nine ways to focus on your priorities, and I've been mulling them over.  And like one of those jawbreakers, the questions keep changing but are still hard.

And then I signed up for some free journalling prompts and on day one, today, had something of an epiphany, and it's all fitting together.

But first things first:  the nine.  Go over to the original post to see Bogue's commentary on each of these.  It's important.

1.   Identify the four areas of your life that are most important to you.
For purposes of full-disclosure, I have some other "must-dos" that don't fall into the "most important to me" category.  Housework.  Cooking. Chauffeuring.  So these are my top four things that are actually important to me, LOL!
  • Reading/Study/Journalling
  • Music
  • Craft
  • Genealogy

2. Learn to say no to requests.

I don't think I have a lot of requests that I deal with on a day-to-day, week-to-week basis.  But I'll keep this in mind.

3. Start to eliminate things you don’t care about.

I have some volunteer work that falls into this category.

4. Give yourself huge blocks of time to work on one project.

This is an eye-opener.  For me to focus on items 2 or 3, I really need to have hours at a stretch.  Bogue suggests finding chunks of 5 hours.  I could really make progress on these items if I can allocate that kind of time.  I mean, I CAN allocate that kind of time....I just haven't realised that I NEED to.

5. Turn off distractions.

Uh, yeah.  This is a huge thing for me.  Internet, blogs, twitter, etc etc.  I need to corral that time into some manageable chunks.

6. Don’t comment on things that you don’t want to be involved in.

Not sure that this is an issue for me, although something along these lines came up today and it got dumped in my lap.

7. Make time for important things.

If I plan it right, I can get my must-dos into a manageable time commitment and then can chunk off big swaths for my important things.  

8. Tell people about your priorities.

Not an issue here.  Very supportive family and friends.

9.  Learn as much as you can.

Again, I'm already doing a lot of reading and not enough doing!  I know where and what I want to learn.  With some time-chunking, I am coming to the realisation that I can accomplish a lot. 


The journaling prompt had me write and reflect on a highlight of my day.  Without going into detail, I learned that what is important to me, and what I have been missing over the past few years since I left the paid workforce, is a sense of focus, with a deadline (self-imposed is fine), and the resulting sense of accomplishment.

You see how this all fits together?  By chunking my time, and focusing on the important, I hope to be able to set myself some real goals for each of my important areas.  And actually make progress on my family tree.  Make myself a computer bag.  Sew curtains for our bedroom.  Read my Western Civ book.  Things that I haven't "had time for" because I was trying to get them done in an hour here or there.

Book Review: The Gargoyle Code


Fr. Dwight Longenecker's The Gargoyle Code is a twenty-first century homage to C.S. Lewis's Screwtape Letters.  A set of missives from a Master Demon to his trainee (with adjustments at the end for some plot twists), this slim volume is a sharp look at sin in this decade.  The master (Slubgrip) writes to his devil-disciple Dogwart with advice in handling “patients”, the earthly beings they are charged with tempting.  The former’s patient is an elderly male conservative Catholic who has cancer, the latter’s a lazy,TV-watching Catholic High School graduate who is getting involved with a young woman.  In the course of the book, we learn about both parties, their successes and failures, as well as Slubgrip’s views on various types of sin, the ways to induce them in patients, and the human acts that stymie them.

Longenecker is very insightful in his take on spiritual warfare, in how easily we can slip into various types of sin, and the acts of our faith that can serve as a sort of immunization against temptation.  From staying up late on Saturday night and missing mass the next day, to the self-righteousness that is sometimes associated with traditional Catholics, Longenecker doesn’t leave many stones unturned.  Most everyone will see themselves portrayed somewhere in this book, and in his opening “Letter to the Reader”, he asks us to read this story as if we were looking in a mirror.

The set of letters are written over the period of Lent, with a letter or other communication for each day in that period, which makes it ideal reading for this time of year.  But it’s a worthwhile read at any time, and is quite convicting.  He makes a strong case for self-reflection, for holding on to some traditional faith practices that keep us close to God, and asks us to consider where our weaknesses are, that is, where we may be prone to temptation and sin.

At the same time, and entertaining and thought-provoking read.  Highly recommended!  

Crazy concrete pour

I just love watching the process of getting concrete poured at the back of a teardown project. This is not a great photo, but the truck at right is a mixer. They pour cement into a machine that pumps it up and over the site into the forms. That red arm in the air holds a pipe that concrete is forced through. Very cool!


Janet Berkman

Some sage advice about life...from a 26 year old.

Wil Wheaton tweeted this Reddit post (are they called "posts" there?) earlier this afternoon and I was struck by how true so much of the advice offered by this 26-year-old woman is.  Maybe all of it, for all I know.  For example:

They didn't lie to you in elementary school, being different is awesome.

In high school and my early twenties I was teased for wearing video game related t-shirts. Now the the same girls who teased me often complain to me over facebook about being suck in generic relationships and "wish they had found something to love the way I love gaming". Also, I recently made a bet that my $15 TMNT purse would get more compliments at a bar than a $900 coach purse. I won.


Having a few close friends is better than a huge group of associates.

I somehow became the cool nerd girl when I moved to my current city. I went to a different party every night of the week. It's so pathetic to admit this, but in a month I went from having around 33 pics of me on facebook to over 300. I felt cool. Then I had an issue I needed to talk to someone about. All of my cool friends were as helpful as paper weights in a hurricane. I went back to my small group of "unpopular" friends. They helped me through my issue and loved me just the same.

Wheaton adds one piece of advice of his own, which you can peruse over at his blog.  It involves "not being a dick", and is good advice to most people under 20, and lots over 20.

Every high school senior should probably read this.

On Mindfulness: wash your bowl.

There’s a famous Zen story that goes:

A monk told Joshu, “I have just entered the monastery. Please teach me.”
Joshu asked, “Have you eaten your rice porridge?
The monk replied, “I have eaten.”
Joshu said, “Then you had better wash your bowl.”
At that moment the monk was enlightened.

I’m not going to try to explain that story, as I am far from enlightened enough to understand it. Instead, I’d like to focus the wonderful simplicity of that advice:

Have you eaten your rice porridge? Then you had better wash your bowl.

This is something I think of every time I eat, and in fact whenever I’m done doing something. “Done eating? Then wash your bowl.”

There is something profound and yet minimalist about this advice. It’s: don’t get your head caught up in all this thinking about the meaning of life … instead, just do. Just wash your bowl. And in the washing, you’ll find all you need.

I’ve found this to be true. I literally wash my bowl after eating, slowly and with mindfulness. It’s satisfying, and takes no money and little resources.

When I take a shower, I hand wash my dirty clothes (if they’re dirty), wring them out, hang them to dry. When I change, I carefully put away the clothes I’ve change out of. When I prepare food, I wipe the counter and put away the ingredients. At least I try to – I don’t claim to be perfect.

Remembering to do these things when we’re done with the activity isn’t just about neatness. It’s about mindfulness, about completing what we started, about being present in all we do instead of rushing to the next activity.

Wash your bowl, with care and joy.

This is what appeals to me about minimalism: the ability to focus, to be in the present, to not be thinking of the next thing (or the last thing).

I have a lot of housework to do this afternoon and am going to try to do it with this sense of presence. And get done what gets done.

Nifty #Moleskine promo from Fairmont!

My sweetie got one of these handy folders from The Fairmont hotel chain yesterday. It's the size of a large Moleskine diary so can hold folded letter-sized paper. Same cover and elastic closure. Classy!


Monday, March 1, 2010

Because it doesn't have to cost a lot to smell good!

It's possible that y'all have seen this a million times and I've missed it due to my TV-fast.  But what IS it about Old Spice? That stuff is intoxicating. (I know....I"m a cheap date.)


H/T Laurent via FB