Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Take a deep breath.....and read!

The Goodreads Seasonal Reading Challenge Summer 2011 has come to a close.  I hit a personal best for these 3-month challenges, reading (or listening to) 61 books and almost 19,000 pages. My list is here (I managed to read the books in bold type.)

Most of the tasks have been posted for the Fall Challenge, and I've made up my reading list. This varies over the challenge as new books come my way or I move some around, but I'm trying to read from my shelves this quarter so that I can continue with my book purge.

I'm starting off this challenge with a few items from the library:


What to Eat by Marion Nestle. I've been wanting to read this ever since it was published, but hadn't gotten around to it until it finally came up on my hold list at the library.  It's 600+ pages of clear, straightforward, no-nonsense writing and I'm enjoying it.

The Idle Parent: Subtitled "Why Less Means More When Raising Kids".  Recommended on the excellent blog Mental Multivitamin, I'm reading this mainly to feel better about our laid-back attitude to parenting, as it's too late to change much at this point.

The Young Man From Atlanta by Horton Foote. I borrowed this Pulitzer Prize winning play from the library for the summer challenge, but didn't get to that task. I'm hoping to find a place for it on my list when all the tasks have been posted.

Three graphic novels that I picked up after browsing at my local library branch. I like this genre because the story is told in fewer words but the artwork is typically engaging and tells a good part of the tale. The first two are by American writers and the third Japanese.

Filthy Rich

Narcoleptic Sunday

Ristorante Paradiso

Audiobooks that I've downloaded from the public library onto my iPod:

The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande. I know about the essence of this book having read an article in the New Yorker (I think), but I'm looking forward to a longer description of this approach to reducing errors in different industries.

The Night Road by Kristin Hannah. I don't know this author and the book was published in March 2011, so I must have read a review of it somewhere and put it on my hold list.

Prisoner's Base (Nero Wolfe mystery) by Rex Stout. I like Nero Wolfe mysteries and they're good, quick listens.The narrator on all the ones I listened to in the past has been excellent.

The Good Guy by Dean Koontz. I chose this for a task where you have to read a book by an author who has a retired hurricane name. You "get out" of reading a second book if the book you read was written in the year the hurricane name was retired, in this case, 2007.


TIFF is coming: my first weekend lineup.

The Toronto International Film Festival, that is.

This year, I'm jumping in with both feet, seeing 5 films with my spouse when he's not at work, and ....ahem... 20 on my own during the day. Because we're "castmembers" at TIFF, we got our order processed early and got 23 out of 25 of our first picks, 1 second pick, and one voucher.  I'm hoping to get another ticket (with my voucher) to Habibi so that Z can come with me to that screening (it's a Saturday morning at 9 am.) It's a recasting of a classical 9th century Arabic tragic love epic, Mad for Layla (Majnoun Layla), set in modern day Gaza.

On the first weekend (Sep 9-11), this is my lineup:

Friday afternoon:  Urbanized - Documentary on Urban Design

Saturday morning: Ides of March - George Clooney and Ryan Gosling star in this polical drama about a presidential primary.

Saturday afternoon: House of Tolerance - A look at a fin-de-siecle brothel in Paris. 

Sunday noon: Take This Waltz - Sarah Polley directs (and wrote) this romantic drama.

My fears about having to run from venue to venue have been allayed as I have at least 45 minutes between any two films, so with my TTC pass and comfy shoes, I'm good to go!


Safety first!


Saw this set of signs on a residential build in my neighborhood. Map on the left shows the directions to the nearest hospital (Sunnybrook).

Very impressed.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Get Lost Wasp! A humane approach to wasp-free living.


We've been enjoying life on our deck this summer, but the wasps have been terrible. I was mentioning this to my Aunt Lillian and she told me that she'd seen a product in a nature store that was supposed to be a natural wasp repellant.

Well, my man and I were wandering through Canadian Tire today and spotted it. It's called "Get Lost Wasp" and is essentially a faux wasp nest in the form of a paper lantern sans light bulb. You hang it 6-8' high and apparently, being territorial creatures, wasps will clear out once they spot it. I hung one from a tree branch close to the deck.

So far, so good, but the real test will be having a meal out here. I'll keep you posted.

[No wasps were killed in the clearing of my deck.]

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

My father and the Ozark Rambler

I've been browsing through a box of old photos from my father's mother. I've been through them many times before, but these caught my eye and I'm trying to follow up on them.

The first is of my father, Franklin Berkman, who would have been six years old.  


The second has some writing on it.  It says "Bunny's girl Gloria Jane and the Ozark Rambler of KMBC Radio on the roof of Pickwick Nov 8/30." Bunny was the name that my grandmother called my father all his life. I have no idea who Gloria Jane is.


I did some online searching and determined that KMBC (now KMBZ) joined CBS in 1928 and moved to the 11th floor of Kansas City, Missouri's Pickwick Hotel in 1930 (Reference)

Union Bus Terminal and Pickwick Hotel Kansas City Missouri

[Image courtesy of]

All I've been able to find out about the Ozark Rambler is from some photos on the site of the Kansas City Public Library's Missouri Valley Special Collections. I haven't received permission to reproduce images here, but you can go to the links to check them out.

Ozark Rambler (second from left) with touring cast of Happy Hollow Gang outside Pickwick Hotel. The Happy Hollow gang performed a radio show that was a precursor to the Beverly Hillbillies. 

Informal group portrait of "Ozark Rambler" (left), Brookings Montgomery, and others.on roof of Pickwick Hotel.

I'm not sure what my father was doing in Kansas City. He was born in Regina Saskatchewan in 1924 and by 1934 he was living in Ottawa. His father David had a fur shop in Regina until 1930 and then owned dress and hat shops in Ottawa where his mother Vera worked. His parents eventually divorced and I never met David, but Vera married Maurice Winer and they were known as Grandma and Grandpa Winer.

[Update Aug 18: A check of my family history records reminded me that one of Vera's younger sisters, Lally, had married a KC man named Conrad Orloff in1929 and so Vera was very likely visiting her.]

Anyway, I'd love to hear from anyone who knows anything about the Ozark Rambler in 1930s Missouri. Or recognizes Gloria Jane.


Monday, August 15, 2011

Soap from the old country (via Sweden)


Z picked up a couple of boxes of olive oil and bay leaf soap when he was in Sweden. It comes from Aleppo and is one of his childhood memories. He also really likes it! We've got enough for months now.

Make LEGO Models, Not War with a LEGO Exclusive VW Camper


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Yeah...that's a bagel on the sign...


Taken at Bagel World Wilson

Old Age: Quality vs. Quantity

Excellent and thought-provoking piece for all of ua with aging parents. Click on the link at the bottom to access the full article. An excerpt:

            Jimmie, my colleague, asked why I needed to yell at my father on my mother's behalf. I explained to her that I always had to yell because my father's hearing was so bad.

            "No, that's not what I meant. Why do you have to say anything at all? So what if he has a cookie?"

            "His sugar level goes through the roof."

            "So what if his sugar level goes through the roof?"

            I was honestly mystified. What was she saying?

            "He's not going to live forever, you know. So what if his sugar level goes up?"

There, she said it. It still took a while for me to understand. She told me the joke about the old guy who went to the doctor and asked what he could do to live longer. The doc said, "Well, you can give up alcohol, smoking, and women. You may not live longer, but it will SEEM longer."

What she was pointing out was my own bias; I assumed the best thing for my father was as much quantity of life as possible, and that I needed to use my authority with him to keep him in line to do the healthier thing.  It suddenly occurred to me that I should be thinking less about his sugar count and more about his quality of life. And, besides, what did I really have control over when it came to my parents' lives? More important, what should I have control over? I started asking questions I didn't like the answer to.

            Like, what was he doing all day.

My beautiful city...


Friday, August 12, 2011

Seven Quick Takes Friday


  1. I was interviewed by a writer from the Wall Street Journal yesterday for a piece on white noise apps. I had blogged about it at some pointWhite Noise iPhone Icon (although I can't seem to find the piece now) and she contacted me by telephone. While white noise machines have been around for a long time for use in helping people sleep, the emergence of apps for smartphones is relatively recent and she's exploring what people do with them. My main uses are to block out noise when I am trying to read (in a waiting room, on the subway, etc.) or to help me sleep when I'm in a noisy environment like a plane or train. The app I use is White Noise and it's available from the App Store on iTunes.
  2. I dropped by the Oakwood branch of the Toronto Public Library for the first time this week.Michael was at a trombone lesson nearby and it offered comfy chairs in a lovely light-filled space. Check out the door handles!
  3. We've been loving our new grill! I can't believe how much more I am willing to cook in the summer when it does't involve heating up the house. We've made some great steaks, chicken, lots of grilled veggies with onion and mushrooms, and tonight we've got some wild salmon that I think I'll do in foil. Corn is in season, so I've also been enjoying that, although I haven't grilled any yet. I'm going to try that tonight using the advice from the National Post, which is to just shuck it, brush the cobs lightly with oil and pop it directly on the grill. Easy peasy. 
  4. A couple of pieces from Zen Habits have really struck me this week. The first is a guest post by Chris of Zen to Fitness called Four Simple Fitness Fundamentals in which he encourages people to focus on the basics of living a fit life before getting all fancy. These include (1) using your bodyweight (squats, pushups); (2) not hyperfocussing on cardio; (3) walk and stretch every day; and (4) live an invigorating life.

    The second piece, written by Leo Babauta (the host of Zen Habits) is The Amazing Power of Being Present. So many people have monkey-brain these days, and spend a lot of time worrying about what they SHOULD be doing instead of focussing on what they ARE doing. There is definitely a lesson for me here, and practicing this, along with using the brain dump(pdf) recommended in Getting Things Done, are probably crucial to moving forward the million projects I have spinning around in my head.
    I'm looking orward to living an invigorating life when the temperature drops a bit!

  5. I just discovered Val McDermid, a writer of rather gory police procedurals set in England. I've read the first two Tony Hill and Carol Jordan mysteries namely The Mermaids Singing and Wire In The Blood. Very gory. But hard to put down. I put them down when I needed a break from the gore and then picked them back up again. 
  6. Another discovery this week:  we have free on-demand stuff with our cable* service. Maybe it's a new thing, but there are quite a few decent movies and a bunch of series that we can get. I watched the HBO mini-series Mildred Pierce earlier this week and it was fantastic! Starring Kate Winslet and Guy Pearce, it is apparently a more accurate portrayal of the James M. Cain novel than the 1945 film starring Joan Crawford. I'm now catching up on Season 3 of Nurse Jackie that I somehow completely missed. Makes ironing pass quickly!
    *[Edited to correct: we don't have cable per se. We have IPTV or internet television. Glorious HD over a telephone wire.]  
  7. My current reads are:
    Book:  Bech: A Book by John Updike. I haven't read any of the Bech novels, so am looking forward to this one.
    Audio: Apple Turnover Murder by Joanne Fluke. Slightly better than I was expecting, plus bonus recipes for baked goods.
    Kindle: Alice Adams by Booth Tarkington. Haven't actually started this yet, but it's on my Goodreads list to finish by the end of August. 

Pop on over to Conversion Diary for more 7 Quick Takes! 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Freakonomics » Dutch Subway Slide: An Exercise in Efficiency


Having a little fun with their subway system, Utrect has installed a "transit accelerator" (aka "slide") in one of their stations. Makes that trip down the stairs a little quicker and a lot more exciting!