Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The authority to build our cities

So yesterday I talked about going to a community meeting about the site plan for the big development project going up across the street. Now I know that for anyone reading this blog who doesn’t live in the immediate vicinity, this topic is likely quite boring. I apologize.

However, if you happen to live in Ottawa, I do hope you care. Actually, if you live anywhere in Ontario I encourage you think about what recourse you’d have if a development company bought a property in your neighbourhood and decided to build an urban monstrosity and the city caved to their demands since the taller the tower, the bigger the tax revenue. What would you do? To whom would you appeal?

 This is the issue we’ve been facing. As a community, we’ve tried to do everything – letters, phone calls, meetings, rallies, parades even! But in the end, the developers win. One of the people at the meeting yesterday pointed out that Ontario is the only Canadian with a municipal board that rules on development issues. He suggested that in the forthcoming provincial election campaign period, we ask our candidates about urban development and how citizens can have a say in how their cities develop. The board is stacked with developers and lawyers – why do they get to trump decisions made by city politicians or challenges brought by community groups?

One of the things that we were encouraged to do at yesterday’s meeting is to demand that our councillor lift delegated authority. As I mentioned yesterday, usually by the time a development proposal is at the stage of site plans, all the big issues have been settled so the file is handed over to city staffers and authority is delegated to them to make decisions. However, at request from the community, the Councillor has the power to lift that delegated authority off staffers and put it back in council – meaning that the public would have opportunity to express their concerns and council would vote on issues.

So please, if you live in Ottawa, write to your councillor and request that delegated authority on the convent site be lifted and the public be allowed to have a voice.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Community battles on

Tonight there was a community meeting regarding the on-going saga of the development on the convent site. The meeting gave us an overview of the proposed site plan and highlighted some of the outstanding issues.

This whole story has been very discouraging for the community surrounding the development site. Right from the start the community has worked hard to express our concerns to the city, our Councillors and the developers. Time after time we find that public interests are trumped by the will and power of developers. It’s been a very negative lesson in municipal politics for me.

At this meeting, the planner-consultant hired by a local community group went over the proposed site plans which the developer has given to the city. It was interesting to hear her point of view since she is not emotionally vested like many of the people who speak at these meetings and she also has the experience to identify what aspects of the site plan are unusual or which do not fully address the issues at hand.

One of the problems she pointed out is that normally by the time a development gets to the ‘site plan’ stage, all the big issues like density, drainage and vehicular access have been addressed. In this case, these have not been fully addressed – not just to the community’s satisfaction, but even city staffers and councillors admit that all these issues have not been sorted out.

However, since site plans usually address such things as ‘birch tree here, fir tree there; red paving stones here, brick here, etc’ so there are not the mechanisms for real community input. So even though the big issues have not been answered, we’ve somehow skipped ahead to approving the colour of the building façade. Wtf?

But another big problem we face is that the developers have split the development into two phases (which apparently is quite typical) but they’re being purposefully vague about what will happen during the second phase. Essentially there’s a large 9-storey building smack in the middle of the property to which developers are mum about how there will be vehicle access.

There’s much more to say about this, so I’ll continue tomorrow.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Friday Night Lights

Watched the series’ finale of ‘Friday Night Lights’ tonight – a television drama series based on a high school football team in a fictional Texan small town. I think the show actually aired about 6 weeks ago, so I’m not exactly timely with this blog. But hey, it’s something to write about.

V got into this series before I did and when he first told me about it I wasn’t too interested. I wasn’t much into football and the idea of a high school sports show didn’t appeal to me. I imagined 90210 with cleats.

But after watching a few shows with him I got into it. Some of the characters were interesting, the acting generally good and the cinematography quite stunning. Although the show never gained a huge following, it did receive some critical success for its personal drama and strong acting. And even though it was billed as teen drama, two central characters were the coach (Kyle Chandler) and his wife (Connie Britton).

When I was doing the reading challenge a few years ago, I read the book ‘Friday Night Lights’. As with the show, I didn’t really expect to like it. High school football –not something I was exactly into. But, like the show, football served as a window into exploring identity, culture and small town dynamics.

I played sports quite seriously in high school – although not with anything close to the devotion that is given to small town football in Middle America. Actually, I think that more than high school basketball, my experience in military basic training has more in common with the type of training and bonding portrayed in the show and in the book. I get the team thing –how it can lift people above their individual circumstance. It can be incredibly powerful and, for many, life changing.

Watching Friday Night Lights reminded me of the power of a team. It also reminded me of the thrill of physical exertion and competition. I think I miss that more than I do the whole team aspect (which was always complicated by personal dynamics, jealousies, etc.) I miss the physical and mental challenge of giving 110%...

I feel old and nostalgic now.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

#11: Blog about what to do with large zucchinis

So I have a goal: not to waste any of the zucchinis we harvest from our garden. This means all zucchini that is edible when harvested should at some point be consumed.

It’s not much of a challenge to use the zucchinis that are still small when we find them. Chop up a couple and toss them in with a tomato sauce to have with pasta, throw them into chilli or add them to the soup. If I get a nice young tender one I’ll add it to my salads, especially hearty salads like quinoa and chick peas.

But the real challenge comes in using the zukes that we didn’t notice until they’re the size of baseball bats (we have one here that weighs 6 lbs 9 ozs – children are born weighing less!).

Tonight I made ‘Garden Oatmeal Muffins’ that had 1 cup of grated zucchini (along with carrots, oats and other basic muffin stuff). But 1 cup of grated zucchini barely makes a dent in this bunch.

In the muffin recipe book I have, there are recipes for zucchini muffins with carrots, chocolate, lemon, nuts, oat bran and whole wheat. If I can find the time, I would like to make up batches of each and freeze them. Luckily the cooler air that’s blowing through today makes me feel more inclined to cooking than I do when the humidex is over 40.

It’s been suggested that I can also just freeze grated zucchini, so I will likely do that with much of these – ideally in 1 or 2 cup batches so that it’s easy to use them. I can imagine though that our little freezer downstairs will quickly fill up with zucchini baked goods and grated zucchinis. I guess that’s what having a garden is all about.

Some of our produce we barely have time to admire, let alone store, before it’s eaten – like little cherry tomatoes that Miya loves, and cucumber that all of us are pretty fond of. (And I’ll add that our cukes are much tastier and crunchier than Superstore versions.)

We still have some more things to harvest – including more zukes. Better get my cook books and freezing guides out.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Delta: the dog who thought she was a cat

Delta is dog who looks like a dog, but feels like a cat inside. Everyone treats her like a dog, tells her she is a dog, but it feels wrong somehow.

Still, at times she will play along. What is her motivation, you ask? Well, for one, dog treats are much bigger than cat treats.

Still, she’s unsure of what to do about her size. She’s never really known where she fits in – she’s bigger than the other cats, so obviously she’s not a cat. She fits in better with dogs; people treat her like a dog. Sometimes you act to people’s expectations, temporarily secure in the parameters of their demands, but always feeling a little unstable, a little false.

For example, she knows that dogs should turn in circles before lying down, but she doesn’t quite understand why or how to do this, so she ends up facing the wall.
When someone tosses her a ball, she chases it and catches it, but then leaves it there. As a ‘dog’ she knows she should chase it, but as a cat, she is not going to bring someone something just because they ask.

She avoids puddles and hates walking in the rain.

She preens her fur when it starts to get dirty.

She knows dogs are supposed to bark, but is not clear on the whole whys and whats of this, so releases barks at any occasion that could possibly be required, making sure her bases are covered.

She sleeps as much as a housecat would.

Some other things that are not what they seem:
- Mickey Mouse is certainly not a mouse and is quite likely a foreign spy.
- Velveeta is not cheese.
- A hybrid SUV is not, no matter how you look at it, an environmentally friendly choice.
- A durian is not a tropical delicacy.
- Graphic novels are not novels. Please.
- Turkish towels are not thick and fluffy, although they are very absorbent.
- Kids on skateboards in the public square are actually quite friendly and polite.
- Three girls + alcohol will not necessarily = strip dancing and pillow fights, despite what you may have read online.

Friday, August 26, 2011

This one's for the boys...

Setting: Three women, a late summer evening. Cool breezes drift through the windows, conversation is friendly – we’re excited to see each other again. We eat, we sip some wine. But this doesn’t quite quench our thirst.

“Would you like to try a Pink Stripper?” I ask. They giggle.

I pour the frothy drinks into tall glasses. “Cheers,” we say, our glasses clinking together.

“How is it?” I ask.

“Not quite as tart as I expected,” says L.

“Delicious,” says T. On the next round she tries a Black Feather. “Too bad I left my black feathers at home,” she says. “Ooh, but I have red ones.” She leaves the room and returns with a lush, feathery boa. She sashays around the room, working the boa, and her hips.

She drapes it around her neck. “It doesn’t quite hang right when I’m wearing this shirt”….

L smiles and winks at me. “Now this is what I call a girls’ night out.”

I turn on the music. Sultry jazz. The room is getting warm.

T says, “I know this song.” She starts to sing, “Oh Honey, Oh honey, please don’t! Oh honey! Please! Don’t! Stop!”

We giggle.

“Com’on, let’s dance,” she says.

We start to shimmy around the living room, a little self-consciously at first, but the music is liberating.

I pour another round.

“Oh no, I splashed some on my shirt,” says L….

The music picks up rhythm. “Oh this is great,” T says as she sways her hips. “I need more than a boa for this. I’ll be right back.”

She drapes her boa over my neck and quickly slips out of the room. When she comes back she is jingling and shining in a little top made of coins linked together with fine chainmail.

“I knew you’d look good in that,” says L admiringly.

“I brought one for you too,” says T. “Here, let me help you.”

“You’re overdressed,” says L, looking at me.

T unties her coin-bikini top and teasingly shakes it. “Try it on,” she says.

As the hostess, I feel obliged to indulge my guests. Obviously, this party is taking a certain turn.

The Montreal Burlesque show has nothing on us.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Responding to blog suggestions 17-19

#19: Blog about your monthly blogging gifts to date
Thus far, V has given me the following things for each month I of sticking to my blogging challenge:
Jan – an iPod touch (previously used, but new to me – and much enjoyed).
Feb – gift certificate for the lovely Nordik spa in Chelsea, Quebec (sadly I have yet to use it).
Mar – Mumford & Sons album ‘Sigh no More’ (I’d never heard of these guys before, but am now a fan).
Apr – Little Princes by Connor Grennan (read and commented on in previous blogs).
May – The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of the Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure (not yet read).
Jun – Donation to Canadian Red Cross for famine relief in Somalia (much appreciated).
July – Moleskin notebook (V was originally going to carve out the middle of the notebook and make a sort of iPod holder, but I convinced him to just let me have the notebook as is. I am sucker for little notebooks, especially moleskin ones).

#18: Blog about what you imagine occurs at a weekend long stag party in Montreal attended by geeks.
Since I know the geeks involved in this ‘weekend long stag party’ this is what I think will happen:
a) a lot of drinking – whiskey, wine, champagne…
b) some eating of smoked-meat
d) such things as geeks enjoy such board games and discussing interwebby stuff
d) an evening watching women dance, prance, sing and perform (and if I’m jealous it’s not because V is watching other women dance, but rather that I think it would be very cool to see a real burlesque show)

But since we don’t need to be in Montreal to have some Burlesque fun of our own…

17) Blog about the perfect cocktails to serve at a Burlesque-themed house party.
How about the Orange Striptease with 1 oz brandy, 1 oz tequila, 4 oz ginger ale and 1 ½ oz orange juice?
Or the Pink Stripper with 2 oz vodka, 2 oz cranberry juice and 4 oz pink lemonade?
Or the Black Feather recipe of 2 oz brandy, 1 oz dry vermouth, ½ oz Cointreau and a dash of Angostura bitters.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

More blog suggestions from V

It’s late and it’s been a long day. I’m feeling quite overwhelmed with work responsibilities and deadlines. So once again I am soliciting blog topics and this is what is being suggested here at home – ideas from both V and myself. Any (sane) suggestions are welcome and yes, votes can be cast for any of the ideas below.

1) Blog about the appropriateness of the CARVER+Shock risk analysis methodology in deciding how to protect things in the real world.

2) Blog about Steve Jobs’s impact on popular culture (this being the day he announced his retirement).

3) Blog about the sensory capabilities of cats as compared to humans.

4) Have Bacall walk on your keyboard for 15 minutes. (Wouldn’t that be a fun read…. well if monkeys could write Shakespeare, perhaps she could at least write Marlowe.)

5) What is the metatron – with supporting passages from religious texts (V suggests it is God’s press secretary, but that’s all he knows and wants to know more).

6) What do you do with a no-ing toddler?
What do you do with a no-ing todder?
What do you do with a no-ing toddler early in the morning?
(And he expects full stanzas in reply.)

7) Blog about everything that goes into building a website.

8) Blog about cardio and other exercise possibilities when you have a bad knee.

9) Find out what exactly the monster plant is and blog about its life cycle. (The monster plant referred to here is this ugly, mysterious plant that does not thrive but refuses to die).

10) Blog about what to do for a weekend to entertain guests (and a toddler).

11) Blog about what to do with large zucchinis.

12) Blog the plotline of an episode of Elmo’s World.

13) Blog a new, original short story.

14) Blog about the wines of Ontario as compared to the wines of British Colombia.

15) Blog about the new model of US intervention as typified in Libya.

16) Blog about the results of an experiment comparing 3 identical batches of chocolate chip cookies left to sit for varying times before baking.

17) Blog about the perfect cocktails to serve at a Burlesque-themed house party.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Missing Unicorn

In November of 2010, signs were posted around Manhattan offering a reward for the return of a ‘missing unicorn’. They showed a photo of a beautiful white unicorn, described as a “large female with a friendly disposition” last seen entering Central Park.

Obviously I’m a bit late coming to this story – but am grateful to a summer encore of CBC’s Definitely Not the Opera that tuned me into this.

Host Sook-Yin Lee interviewed Camomile Hixon, the artist behind the production and dissemination of the missing unicorn signs. She had been inspired to start the project after seeing the despair that was hanging over Wall Street and much of Manhattan. She was looking for something to make people smile, to get them thinking about magic or the possibility of it.

Not surprisingly, the signs soon went viral and Hixon was receiving calls and photos from around the world as people ‘reported’ seeing signs of the missing unicorn. The magic spread.

Hixon told a funny story about a formal ‘cease and desist’ letter she received from the police department – apparently posting signs around Manhattan is illegal – the letter warned that she must remove all signs or face a penalty of thousands of dollars. It added that the unicorn was being kept in a holding cell.

I love hearing about art projects that seek not just to bring attention to the artist, but to inspire, to warm hearts, to encourage.

A friend of mine has been sending me links she comes across about yarn bombing – even some that combine yarn bombing with guerrilla gardening. Love this sort of anonymous art – it’s sort of like charity, a giving of oneself (and one’s talents) for the good of others.

There is so much ugliness and despair in our lives. The death of Jack Layton yesterday brought out a collective mourning that was about more than just the man. I think it was about mourning the loss of a figure of optimism, courage and strength.

I would love to come up with some ‘missing unicorn’ type equivalent idea which could bring smiles and hope to people beyond the reach of my arms. I love the idea of spreading a little magic.

Monday, August 22, 2011

"Courage my friends"

“My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.” With these words, Jack Layton ends his last letter.

Tonight I join the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who are mourning the loss of an inspiring, passionate leader. I never had the chance to meet him, or even hear him speak in person, but he struck me as someone of incredible character, strength and integrity.

As were so many, in the last election I was galvanized by Jack Layton. The wave of orange that swept through Quebec was not only historic and unprecedented, it was exciting and uplifting. It’s ironic that so shortly after Jack breathed an incredible new life into the New Democrats, his own has slipped away.

The loss many feel is personal. I have been repeatedly surprised throughout the day by how much sadness and grief I feel as I hear tributes to Jack on the radio, read another news article about him, or hear a replay of an old radio interview. I can only imagine how great this personal loss must be to those who had been fortunate enough to count him as a friend. My heart goes out to his wife and children.

But while this loss is personal, it is also very, very political. We have not only lost the Leader of the Opposition of our elected government, we have lost the leader of the democratic left. We can’t help wondering what will happen to the second largest but most inexperienced party in the House. What is the future?

I should not despair; certainly that is not how Jack Layton would want to be honoured. In his parting letter he sought to encourage and inspire: “Canada is a great country, one of the hopes of the world. We can be a better one – a country of greater equality, justice, and opportunity.” I can only hope that many strong hands will pick up his torch and hold it high.

In the words of a leader so sorely missed: “Courage my friends, ‘tis never too late to build a better world.”

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Smart Justice

Tonight I thought I would blog about something I’m part of which perhaps may be of interest to some of you who read my blog.

As you have probably noticed, I’m quite concerned about just, humane and effective responses to crime. Because of this, I’m part of a new initiative called the Smart Justice Network. It’s a collaboration of individuals and organizations who are troubled by current practices and trends within the Canadian criminal justice system.

We are concerned about the increasing emphasis on punishment over prevention, about the people impacted by heavy-handed crime legislation, and about money that’s being poured into prisons – money which is desperately needed in so many other sectors such as health, education and social services.

We believe there is an urgent need for an informed public conversation that presents smart, safe and effective responses to crime and its consequences – and this is exactly what the Smart Justice Network hopes to ignite.

To ignite this public conversation we are creating a vast network of Canadians who believe in proven, effective and compassionate justice policies and practices. We plan to disseminate and produce comprehensive, carefully sourced information on the justice system and on smart justice approaches and practices, and to respectfully engage with the perspectives and stories of people who have experiences in the criminal justice system.

Our vision is a responsible criminal justice system which values justice and human dignity for all – victims, offenders and communities.

One of the things I’m doing as part of this network is building a website which will serve as a hub of resources, information and dialogue about Canada’s criminal justice system. The task of building such a site from scratch is a bit daunting, but it’s exciting to see people from across Canada and from different sectors join in the conversation. I really believe this has the chance to be something unique and very important.

If you are interested in learning more about the Smart Justice Network, please let me know. I can send you documents which describe in more detail our objectives, values, communication priorities, etc. You can follow also me on Twitter @Smart_Justice.

A just and compassionate society is worth striving for.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Pink Lake (or a short lesson in meromictic lakes)

I went for a hike today with a friend of mine around Pink Lake in the Gatineau Park. I hadn’t done this trail before – which is an easy 2-km loop around the water. In order to protect the delicate ecology of this lake, the trail is very well-maintained with lots of boardwalk sections and wooden steps.

One distinctive aspect of the lake is that is one of 16 meromictic lakes in North America. In most lakes, water mixes completely during spring and fall - due to such things as water density and air temperature and wind - evenly distributing nutrients and oxygen. But in meromictic lakes, the waters of different levels of the lake don’t mix.

Pink Lake is in a uniquely sheltered position with steep hills all around it protecting it from the wind and bowl-like shape with a small surface area. Because the waters do not mix, the bottom 7 metres have no oxygen in which thrive an anaerobic prehistoric bacteria which uses sulphur instead of oxygen.

Apart from the anaerobic bacteria, nothing can survive at the bottom of the lake. So anything which sinks into the depths of Pink Lake will not decompose. This is a historian’s dream since analysis of the 10,000 year-old sludge in the bottom of the lake can reveal such thing as the history of the surrounding ecosystems and the changing levels of lead in the air.

Another distinctive thing about Pink Lake is that it’s fed only by runoff water. Like most of the surrounding lakes, it was once part of the Atlantic Ocean which left pockets of water behind when it retreated, most of which desalinated in the course of about 30 years since they are fed by rivers and streams. But Pink Lake took more than 3,000 years to desalinate – a process so slow that the stickleback, a salt-water fish was able to evolve and adapt.

One interesting thing about the sticklebacks is their unusual mating behaviour. Males construct a nest from vegetation held together by secretions from their kidneys and attract females to their nests. The female will lay her eggs inside the nest after which the male fertilizes them and guards them until they hatch.

Friday, August 19, 2011

World Photography Day

If you haven’t taken a picture today, quick, go and do it! Today is World Photography Day and people all over the world are celebrating by taking photographs.

August 19 commemorates the birth of the daguerreotype – the first commercially successful permanent photographic print. Invented in France by Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre (shown in daguerreotype photo), the original process used a direct-positive process to create an image on copper that had been plated with a thin coat of highly polished silver, sensitized over iodine, developed with hot mercury, fixed with salt, and toned with gold chloride. This process was not only expensive and time-consuming, it was dangerous. But it was still an instant hit and almost an over-night sensation. The amount of detail which could be rendered in a daguerreotype image is still impressive even by today’s standard of high definition.

On August 19, 1839, the French Academy of Sciences publically released the daguerreotype photo methodology – ushering in not only a new way of permanently recording images, but also of making art. Within a decade daguerreotype studios had popped up in Europe and North America, capturing images of celebrities, political figures and members of the public. But since exposure time for early daguerreotypes ranged from 3 to 15 minutes, the process and product was very different from the instant images we produce today.

As I write, V is taking pictures of the cat. Although I intended to go around with my camera today and take some shots, I didn’t actually start taking photos till this evening. One is of the lovely bouquet of hydrangeas which V brought home today (it being our 4th anniversary, the anniversary whose flower is the hydrangea).

The other is of M looking through the window at me when I was outside looking for things to shoot. Miya is by far the primary subject of any photo taken around here (such that we really need to start making effort to take pictures of other things).

So tonight, in addition to thanking my husband for four lovely years of marriage, I’d also like to thank M. Daguerre for his role in allowing us today to record the images and memories of our lives.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Crane party!

We were invited to a ‘crane party’ tonight – a party to say good-bye to a gigantic crane (the construction apparatus not the bird) that’s been towering above our friends’ house since November. A new condo building is being constructed almost directly behind their house, so a crane has been swinging over their block for the past 9 months, hoisting construction materials and even porta-potties. Apparently some merlins nested temporarily in the structure.

Our friends have a little girl very close in age to Miya who has been a big fan of this crane. Hard to beat having your own backyard construction site when you’re a toddler. But the crane is being dismantled on Saturday, so tonight our hosts gave a tribute to the crane and the entertainment it brought to their lives. We raised glasses and sippy cups in a toast. One guest composed an impromptu song (‘The crane is going away’ sung to the tune of ‘The farmer in the dell’).

At the end of the party – after delicious rice rolls, roasted veggies, corn on the cob, salads and sangria – we had a crane parade to the foot of the crane – which basically was some tired toddlers racing each other down the sidewalk, but calling it a parade was a good way to transition from party to going-home-time.

Funny story about this crane (I’ll get some details wrong since this is a story passed on to me and I don’t know those involved directly)... Because this crane was so big, the radius of its arm extended beyond the construction site. The development company informed the homeowners who lived directly behind the site that the crane would be operating above their houses, and to compensate them for their inconvenience, offered some amount like $500.

This worked on all the neighbours except for one very savvy individual who knew his rights to the vertical space directly above his home and refused to grant permission for the company to trespass this unless they gave him something like $20,000 (I wish I could remember the actual amounts). The company baulked of course, but ended up having to give in. Gotta love a story where the little guy wins!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Relief slow to come in East Africa

Oxfam Canada blames donor fatigue for the slow pace of donations to aid the millions of starving people in East Africa – the majority of whom are children.

The United Nations has thus far raised only $1.1 billion of the $2.4 billion requested for famine relief. More than 12 million people are in urgent need of food following severe drought and conflict. In Somalia, it’s estimated that half the population needs food aid.

It’s not that Canadians aren’t donating. We have given about $20 million so far to registered charities such as the Oxfam and UNICEF – meaning that the government of Canada has matched these amounts. The government will continue to match aid donations until Sept 16. They funds provided through the government matching program go into a wider funding pool, not specifically to the program or organization to which a donation was made.

For my blog gift last month, V donated money to the Canadian Red Cross, and I made a donation to Medecins san frontiers (MSF). Both of these organizations are registered Canadian charities, so our gift will be matched by the government. Importantly for me, both of these organizations are highly respected in the field for being neutral in conflict and egalitarian in their aid delivery.

If you are interested in how donated money is being spent, organizations will provide breakdowns on their program funding. The CBC is also doing some analysis of where money for drought relief is going. For example, the World Food Program has spent $25.5 million to fee 11.5 million people. Oxfam has spent $3.75 million to provide water, sanitation services, and work projects such as promoting health and protecting livestock. Care Canada has targeted their $3.75 million on severely malnourished children under five and pregnant or lactating women.

GiveWell, an independent non-profit charity evaluator, notes that this famine in East Africa is very challenging for aid organizations – citing such factors as the hostile militant group al-Shabaab’s control of famine-stricken territories. However, they cautiously say that donations from individuals are more helpful in situations like this as compared to the 2010 Haiti earthquake.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Caravaggio at the National Art Gallery

V and I went out tonight on an anniversary date (a few days early). Since we are members of the National Art Gallery – along with nearly every other museum in town – we took advantage of their ‘members only’ evening which included a screening of the Caravaggio exhibit featuring more than 40 paintings by Caravaggio and other painters inspired by him. This is the first time Caravaggio’s paintings have been shown outside of Italy.

I learned tonight that Caravaggio was an Italian artist who “changed the course of art history” by becoming one of the first painters to combine dramatic pose and expression with naturalist lighting and details.

The paintings were all very bold and much larger than life. Expressions, postures and gestures were dramatic. Many of the images dealt with emotionally-charged subjects, such as Judith beheading Holofernes. Interesting, in a few cases several paintings addressing the same subject were hung side by side so that we could see how different artists depicted the same subject as their contemporaries. One might focus on the physicality of the act, another on the vulnerability. A little gruesome, but still interesting.

But V and I didn’t actually stay a long time at the gallery. We likened our tour of the Caravaggio exhibit to a heavy Italian dinner of rich sauces and hearty pasta. One fills up quickly and doesn’t have room for more.

After half an hour among the dramatic paintings of Caravaggio and his followers, I was full.

This is one of the nice things about having memberships at galleries. If I pay a one-time admission to a gallery or museum, I feel an obligation to make the most of it and visit as much as possible, even after I have passed the point of absorbing what I am seeing. But when a gallery is free, or if I have a membership, I enjoy passing through and staying long enough to be inspired, but not so long that my eyes glaze over.

Tonight was a perfect example of how I love using our membership. We strolled through the exhibit at our leisure and when we were sated we headed out for drinks and dinner. A lovely anniversary date.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Garlic Festival

Yesterday we drove out to Carp (a cute little town despite its strange name), for their 12th annual Garlic Festival (and our third consecutive visit). It’s a dusty fairground rimmed with small tents where local farmers sell many varieties of garlic, displayed in braids, rings, bunches and baskets.

Before my first visit to a garlic festival, I had no idea how many varieties of garlic there were, or how weak the garlic was that we’d been eating up till then. Organic, local garlic is infinitely tastier and juicier than the generic China-grown bulbs typically found at our Superstore.

But the Garlic Festival in Carp was more than just garlic bulbs. V couldn’t resist buying some garlic ice cream (which mostly tasted like vanilla but had just a faint, inoffensive aroma of garlic on top). There were garlic spreads, dressings, pottery garlic holders... as well as other local garden produce like corn, beans, zucchini and tomatoes.

We weren’t able to watch many of the events, but had we been there at the right time we could have seen a garlic string braid demonstration which would have been very cool to learn. There were also sessions on growing garlic, using scapes, and cooking with garlic.

And much to Miya’s delight, there was Crash the Clown who was making balloon animals for kids. He gave Miya a little ladybug that he said was to be worn as a bracelet – but the part that went around her wrist was super tight, so I used her hairclips to turn it into a ‘fascinator'.

I think Crash should have been sharing his profits with Miya for the rest of the festival, since by traipsing around the fairgrounds with a ladybug in her hair, she managed to prompt nearly every kid we passed to ask for their own balloon.

Last year we bought some bulbs to plant and V put them in the ground in the fall and harvested them a few days ago. Not a bumper crop, but still a pretty good showing of a few different varieties. With our own harvest and the 30-some bulbs V picked up yesterday, hopefully we have enough to see us through to next August.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

100 Random Questions (xi)

90. Are you a morning person or a night owl?
Honestly, it feels like since having a kid I am forever sleep deprived, so I am neither one nor the other. But that said, I’m most productive in the morning (especially if I’ve had a good night’s sleep) but peter out during the day and have learned that I can’t do important or creative writing in the evening.

91. Can you touch your nose with your tongue?
I’m very proud to say that yes, I can.

92. Can you close your eyes and raise your eyebrows?
I would look in the mirror to check, but my eyes are closed.

93. Do you have pets?
We have two cats that we got in 2006. They were exclusively indoor cats until about two weeks ago and they are now loving the freedom of being outdoor cats – especially our gib (neutered tomcat) who likes to spend his nights outdoors and his days passed out on his back on our bed, sleeping off his untold escapades.

94. How many rings before you answer the phone?
Depends on how close I am to the phone and if I can find it. If it’s my cell, I often forget to have the ringer on.

95. What are some of the different jobs that you have had in your life?
One of my first business ventures was when I was about 12 years-old when we were living in Nepal and I was put in touch with a man who made peanut-butter and needed a distributor to the expat community. I became this distributor, taking orders from expats across Nepal for crunchy or smooth and shipping out pb. I had stacks of oily plastic jars of pb in my bedroom. Smelled very nutty.

Since that promising start, I have gone on to such illustrious jobs as chicken pickin’, carrot cutting, baby sitting, lawn mowing, garbage hauling, camp counselling, canoe instructing, wine serving, cabbage hoeing, pea picking... I have worked for the Canadian Armed Forces, Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, Canadian Crossroads for International Development, Canadian Conference of the Arts, Residence of the British High Commissioner, Domus restaurant, Voluntary Services Overseas, Statistics Canada, Starbucks...

Saturday, August 13, 2011

100 Random Questions (x)

79. Where would you retire to?
It’s hard to answer this question since a) I plan to never really retire since I’ll continue to write as long as I have ideas in my head and b) it’s very hard to predict where life will take me.

80. What kind of car do you drive?
We drive an aging, rapidly deteriorating Honda CRV.

81. What are your best physical features?
I’m particularly fond of the arch of my left foot.

82. What are your best characteristics?
V says my compassion for humanity.

83. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation where would you go?
I’ve been thinking lately about contacting my friend who lives near Barcelona and asking if she could find a little place that we could rent for a few weeks next summer. I’m not too big on tourist destinations, so love the idea of finding a little place somewhere different and interesting where we can relax and explore. Renting a place in France, Switzerland, Cuba, Thailand... also quite enticing.

84. What kind of books do you like to read?
I like to have a mix on the go at all times – something fiction, some autobiographies/biographies/letters, something French, something non-fiction and educational. Ramping up my CanLit reading lately too.

85. Where would you want to retire to?
Obviously whoever wrote these questions did not have someone like V as an attentive proof-reader.

86. What is your favorite time of the day?
I like coming home to Miya at the end of day, especially on days when I come back at 4:00 and can take her to the park or on errands with me. I also like reading stories with her before bedtime.

87. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Nepal and moved to the prairies when I was 12.

88. How far away from your birthplace do you live now?
I was born in Vancouver – so about 3538 km.

89. What are you reading now?
I am reading Dance on the Earth by Margaret Laurence, Iris and Friends by John Bayley, Select Letters of Margaret Laurence and Adele Wiseman and La force de l’age by Simone de Beauvoir.

Friday, August 12, 2011

100 Random Questions (ix)

69. What is the last movie that you saw at the cinema?
I have no idea, it’s been that long.

70. Do you sing in the shower?

71. Which store would you choose to max out your credit card?
My answer has not changed since responding to this same question at #39.

72. What do you do most when you are bored?
I’m someone who’s rarely bored – esp. since I have to-do lists and dream lists that are miles long. I don’t take enough time to simply do nothing, take the time to be bored. It’s actually very creatively important and I should seek it out more often.

73. What do you do for a living?
‘For a living’ is odd to me – to live I breathe, move, eat, love... but I suppose the question is getting at what I do to earn a pay cheque. Well, in my typical fashion I am currently juggling 3 part-time jobs and trying to squeeze other things on top like child-raising and writing a book.

74. Do you love your job?
What I love to do is to write. What parts of my work are writing, I love. Other parts, I enjoy to varying degrees

75. What did you want to be when you grew up?
I think that changed a lot over the years. When I was really little I wanted to be a “plain mommy” and later it was things like teacher and nurse. Growing up in Nepal I wasn’t exposed to a lot of professions. I think it was probably around the age of 12 or 13 that I began to know more clearly that I wanted to be a writer.

76. If you could have any job, what would you want to do/be?
Sigh. These questions are getting redundant as are my answers.

77. Which came first the chicken or the egg?
Who knows? (Although V says the egg came first by a long shot because there were things laying eggs well before chickens came along.)

78. How many keys on your key ring?
2. It’s a very sad key ring. I don’t even have a copy of the key to my front door.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

100 Random Questions (viii)

55. Do you touch-type?
Yup.V just covered my eyes to make sure.
I can also touch type on a French keyboard.

56. What's under your bed?
A tripod, some shoes, random socks, a box of papers, and so much dust and cat hair that we could make our own golem. Maybe two.

57. Do you believe in love at first sight?
Attraction, sure. But love is not love without knowledge and understanding.

58. Think fast, what do you like right now?
V asked just now, ‘would you like some wine.’ I said yes. So that answers that.

59. Where were you on Valentine's day?
Probably at home doing dishes or laundry or something that effect.

60. What time do you get up?
7:45. I know. I’m very lucky to get to sleep in that late.

61. What was the name of your first pet?
When I was growing up we had a dog named Cobbler, so named because as a puppy she would gnaw on shoes. She was a fantastic dog – a cross between a purebred Scots Terrier and the local Nepali mutt nicknamed Foxface by the expats – lots of personality and a fantastic temperament and our pet for around 10 years.

62. Who is the second to last person to call you?
Hard to remember. Guessing it was an associate at a bank.

63. Is there anything going on this weekend?
We’re going to a wedding on Saturday and a local garlic festival on Sunday.

64. How are you feeling right now?
Full of Vietnamese take-out.

65. What do you think about the most?
Miya. Work. V. House. Friends.

(V says he thinks about the cats wearing little top hats and dancing with canes.)

66. What time do you get up in the morning?
Is this to differentiate between what time I get up from my desk? from the couch? from the table?? What odd questions.

67. If you had A Big Win in the Lottery, how long would you wait to tell people?
If it was a really big win, I wouldn’t have much of a choice since the Lottery company would notify the press.

68. Who would you tell first?
My husband.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Prisoners' Justice Day

Today is Prisoners’ Justice Day, an annual day of memorial, vigil and protest when prisoners and supporters remember the men and women who have died inside prisons. On this day, thousands of inmates around the world refuse to work or eat in a show of solidarity with the brothers and sisters who have died behind bars.

In the decade between 1998 and 2008, 532 inmates died in federal custody in Canada from a range of known causes including natural death, suicide, accident and homicide. Correctional Investigator Howard Sapers argues that Canada’s federal prisons are more crowded and more tense, which contributes to an increase in violence and death behind bars. For example, from 2009-10 to 2010-11, both inmate injuries and self-harm rose by more than 60%.

Prisoners’ Justice Day is historically a day in which prisoners and their supporters draw attention to prisoner maltreatment and lobby for positive change. The day began to commemorate the death of Eddie Nalon who bled to death from suicide in the segregation unit of Millhaven Maximum Security Prison in Bath, Ontario on August 10, 1974. He was serving a life sentence at the time and had spent the previous two months in “the hole”. An inquest into his death found that the call buttons in his and other solitary cells had been deactivated by guards.

On the first anniversary of Eddie’s death, August 10, 1975, prisoners at Millhaven refused to work, went on a one-day hunger strike, and held a memorial service even though they faced the punishment of solitary confinement.

On May 21, 1976, Robert (Bobby) Landers, a prison rights activist, also died in solitary confinement at Millhaven. Despite his repeated requests for medical aid due to a heart condition, Landers was left unattended in solitary confinement. An inquest into his death determined that he died from a heart attack.

On August 10, 1976, prisoners in Millhaven again went on a hunger strike – this time to commemorate both Eddie Nalon and Bobby Landers and to protest the lack of implementation of recommendations following the inquests into Eddie’s death, as well as the practice of solitary confinement. Low-key peaceful protests have been since held annually in prisons across Canada.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

100 Random Questions (vii)

46. Who was the last person you ate dinner with?
V was out playing ultimate tonight, so I ate an early dinner with Miya.

47. Is the glass half empty or half full?
My glass of wine is half empty, but my water glass half full.

48. What's the farthest-away place you've been?
Farthest from where? From where I am right now? I checked on a site and Ottawa to Kathmandu, Nepal is 11,650 km, to Christchurch, New Zealand is 14,747 and to Sydney, Australia is 15,852. So I guess Sydney wins.

49. When's the last time you ate a homegrown tomato?
Yesterday V brought in two purple cherry tomatoes from the garden, but he and Miya gobbled them up. I think the last one I ate was about a week ago. We have a lot of green tomatoes on the vine right now, so I’ll have plenty of opportunities soon.

50. Have you ever won a trophy?
In high school my basketball team won every tournament we played in during my senior year, and we took home the provincial gold for our level. That was by far the most successful team I’ve ever been on.

51. Are you a good cook?
I consider myself a competent cook. I can prepare healthy meals quickly, but am not one for carefully prepared, gastronomically-advanced dishes – I leave that to V.

52. Do you know how to pump your own gas?
What sort of woman do you take me for? I pull up to a pump, climb daintily out of the car in my high heels and short skirt, and start pouting. If necessary, I will cry a little. Eventually someone will take pity on me and fill my gas tank while I watch admiringly and buff my nails.

53. If you could meet any one person (from history or currently alive), who would it be?
Didn’t we do this one already? Oh yeah, that was lunch.

Well, now that I’ve had lunch with Leonard Cohen, I suppose I would like to meet with Margaret Laurence, my favourite female author.

54. Have you ever had to wear a uniform to school?
Not unless you count sports uniforms.

Monday, August 08, 2011

100 Random Questions (vi)

37. If you could eat lunch with one famous person, who would it be?
Does this assume that the famous person would be interested in talking to me? I mean, I could ask to have lunch with world leaders like Obama or Ban Ki-Moon, but would they actually want to have a conversation? I’d have a hundred and one questions to ask, but why would they bother to give me an honest answer?

So I think I will rule out politicians. I’m also not too interested in Hollywood and television celebrities, or the people routinely featured in the tabloids… so that brings me to artists… and I would absolutely love to have lunch with Leonard Cohen. I would probably be too in awe to talk or eat, but even just to have a brief conversation with him, to hear that voice speaking to me…

38. Who sent the last text message you received?
Miya’s nanny.

39. Which store would you choose to max out your credit card?
I’m not a big shopper, so maxing out my card would probably have to done on big ticket items. If I had to limit it to one store, I’d maybe pick a place like Home Depot so we could finish our home renos, or a furniture/appliance store in order to re-do our kitchen or bathroom…

40. What time is bed time?
For my daughter, 8:00. For me, between 10:00 and 11:00.

41. Have you ever been in a beauty pageant?
No and I never wanted to be.

42. How many tattoos do you have?

43. If you don't have any, have you ever thought of getting one?
There were a few times in my life when I wanted to get one for a significant event, but usually something prevented me and I don’t regret it now. The tattoos I might have got on those occasions, those perhaps I might regret now.

44. What did you do for your last birthday?
I can’t remember.

45. Do you carry a donor card?
No, but I have registered online with the Ontario Ministry of Health, which is more secure than a donor card and accessible should it ever be needed.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Books: The Sacrifice

The Sacrifice, by Adele Wiseman (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1956) is a story of faith, ambition, family and, as the name suggests, of sacrifice.

Written by Winnipeg-born author Adele Wiseman, a close friend of Margaret Laurence, the book is set in a Jewish immigrant community of an anonymous Canadian city. At the centre of the story is Abraham the immigrant butcher, a stubborn, devout patriarch who brings his wife Sarah and son Isaac to the hope of a new life. As the names suggests, Wiseman is telling a story that deals with biblical themes and profound questions.

“One of the things I want to do,” she'd said, “is explore the absolutely best reason for doing the worst thing.”

What are the worst things humans can do, and what are the motivations which drive them? These are the questions Wiseman explores – and she does so with masterful character description that presents people in their frail humanity, their limitations and flaws, but also their dignity and heroic potential.

One of the strengths of this book, which won the Governor General’s Award, is the dialogue and the authentic voices Wiseman gives to her characters, even the secondary ones. The writing is careful, even too loaded at times, but vivid and poignant. The plot advances slowly; we are aware of a tapestry unfolding before us and of the rich complexity of narrative weaving it together.

This novel raises questions of devotion, loyalty, faith and sacrifice, yet leaves them to be answered by the reader. Wiseman is compassionate in her character portrayal but uncompromisingly real. There are no saints and angels here, only people struggling through a troubled world.

The main protagonist, Abraham, is driven by his need to understand and interpret divine guidance. Faced with exceptionally cruel circumstances, his faith is stretched to the edge of reason, and beyond.

“When a human being cries out to you, no matter who it is, don’t judge him, don’t harm him, or you turn away from God Himself,” he says in his final understanding.

This book is a portrait of the human cries and the downfall of a man so obsessed with seeking the voice of God that he cannot hear them.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

100 Random Questions (v)

31. What was the last thing you bought?
A sandwich and a bottle of water from the Tim’s in Smith’s Falls.

32. Have you ever ridden on a motorbike?
Yes. Once, I was with my friend Jenny en route to Timbuktu by local bus. We’d asked the driver to let us know when we reached the town of Sevaré since we going to be spending the night there before continuing on. The driver called out that this was our stop so we grabbed our stuff and hopped off the bus. It was just starting to pull away when I realized I’d left my camera on board. I took off running down the street after it.

A young man on a motorbike asked Jenny what had happened and she quickly told him. He pulled up and said ‘hop on’. I did, in the process badly scalding my left calf on the exhaust pipe. He had a big backpack on his back, which I held on to as we sped off after the bus. We caught up with the bus when it stopped to let off more passengers. I climbed on and recovered my camera. Later I discovered a large burn blister on my leg.

33. Would you go bungee jumping or sky diving?
Bungee jumping is not something I would choose to do, but I’m not ruling it out. Sky diving I am slightly more open too, but don’t think it’s something I would seek out. Not too fond of heights.

34. Do you have a garden?
We have a small vegetable garden that V had done quite well with. For dinner tonight we had fresh cucumber and zucchini from our garden – along with other fresh local vegetables from the farmer’s market. Unfortunately the local squirrels are big fans of our few veggies and often get to them first.

35. Do you really know all the words to your national anthem?
Of the first verse in the English version, yes.

36. What is the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning?
If I’m woken by my daughter before 7:00 a.m., my first is whether we can get her back to sleep.

Friday, August 05, 2011

100 Random Questions (iv)

21. Would you ever consider living abroad?
A more appropriate question to ask me: would I consider not living abroad again during my lifetime?

I would consider and would say I am not in favour.

22. Does your name make any interesting anagrams?
Nope. Some anagrams I’ve found are: A race giant, A crane gait, Neat cigar, A cat era gin. Sad.

23. Who made the last incoming call on your phone?
The president of the board of directors at my job. He wanted to discuss the annual report I am putting together.

24. What is the last thing you downloaded onto your computer?
Trial version of Adobe InDesign. Loving it.

25. Last time you swam in a pool?
I was in a wading pool with Miya at the park this morning. On Saturdays we do parent and tot swim classes, so that would have been the last time I swam in a pool – although it doesn’t really count as swimming I guess since I’m mostly standing in the water holding Miya. It’s probably been at least a month since I last went to the pool on my own to swim laps.

26. Type of music you like most?
Probably folk or world music.

27. Type of music you dislike most?
Punk rock. I just don’t get it.

28. Are you listening to music right now?
Yep. ‘Le toi de moi’ by Carla Bruni. She’s the wife of French President Nicholas Sarkozy. When I first heard she was a musician I was sceptical – she seemed too much a beautiful celebrity. But I actually really like her music. Listening to her makes me feel like I’m sitting in a little French café sipping a glass of red wine.

29. What color is your bedroom carpet?
No carpet in the bedroom. What odd questions.

30. If you could change something about your home, without worry about expense or mess, what would you do?
Ah, now here could be a long list. I’d finish the bathroom downstairs, wrap our entire foundation in water-proofing and then finally finish the walls, install heated tiling on the basement floor and make a family room down there... and I’m just getting started.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

100 Random Questions (iii)

14. What do you think of this quiz?
I am grateful for not having to come up with blog ideas for a few days!

15. What is the last film you saw?
The Social Network.

16. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?
I don’t know if I could pick a place to live permanently and am pretty happy with Ottawa as a home base, but I would like to live in a few other places at least for awhile. Top choices are: India, Nepal, Switzerland, Sweden, Croatia, Reunion, Ghana, Senegal...

17. If you became a multi-millionaire overnight, what would you buy?
I would love to be able to buy a hospital or a school for a community in desperate need. But aware that good intentions don’t necessarily produce good results, I would probably research into a local, community-led development organization I would like support, invest my money in them and perhaps take a role on the board of directors.

I would also like to buy a lovely little townhouse for my mother and hire someone to fix all our nagging home reno projects...

18. Tell me something about you that most people don't know.
Most people do not know that I have very slight dyslexia and when tired mix up letters like b, d and p.

19. If you could change one thing about the world, regardless of guilt or politics, what would you do?
I suppose saying ‘ending human suffering’ would be a bit too facile. What about reversing climate change? Providing adequate clean water to everyone? Stopping the spread of AIDS and diseases like malaria? Ending child mortality? Feeding the hungry? Housing the poor??

But of course coming up with a practical response to any of these problems is not as simple as wishing them away. So it’s unlikely I could find some sort of change that would end suffering from hunger, poverty and disease. But I’d like to think that in my lifetime I’ll contribute in some way to making things better...

20. Do you like to dance?
What an odd sequence of questions – but yes, I love to dance and should do it more often.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

100 Random Questions (ii)

7. With the exception of the computer, what can you hear?
Bob Marley signing ‘Could you be love?’ from the stereo. Outside birds are chirping, and the occasional car passes by.

8. When did you last step outside? What were you doing?
I was last outside to take my daughter to the library and the grocery store.

9. Did you dream last night?
I think it was last night, or maybe the night before, that I had this dream that we had moved into a different house. It was rather small and I was moving things around to figure out where everything would fit (all the furniture was all different). I kept discovering new things, like pushing aside carpet and finding out the floor was made of glass. I remembering thinking that I liked the way it looked, but wondered how cold it would be in the winter. I also opened some curtains to find a bunk bed … probably too many conversations about home renos in the evening.

10. Do you remember your dreams?
Logically, this question would have preceded 9 and only if one answered yes to this would one then answer the next question. Having already answered 9, I figured the answer to 10 is a given.

11. When did you last laugh?
I don’t know when I had a good belly laugh, but I do laugh a lot with Miya. It’s very cute to listen to her while she is playing, i.e. “Put the ball in here. Have to move it over. Good idea!” She also sings rather off-key and gets stuck in a loop when she can’t remember the next line of a song so skips back to the start.

12. Do you remember why / at what?
Again, the order of these questions is rather puzzling.

13. What is on the walls of the room you are in?
I’m sitting in the living room. Bookshelves take up much of the wall space, but there is an old oil painting hanging above the fireplace, a batik from Nepal on the wall facing me. To my left hang an African mask and a framed piece of birch bark biting from Saskatchewan.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

100 Random Questions (i)

So I’m getting desperate. Looking for blog ideas I typed ‘random questions’ into a Google search and the first hit was a page with 100 random questions. Aha. I now have a blog subject (although readers do have my sincere apologies for the lack of creativity in the resulting blogs – 7 months and counting, sometimes inspiration run dry...)

100 Random Questions
1. Grab the book nearest to you, turn to page 18, and find line 4.

The book nearest me is ‘Connected Parenting: How to Raise a Great Kid’. It’s out on the coffee table because my nanny was interested in looking at it. The sentence starting on pg 18, line 4 reads: “So don’t get frustrated if you’re doing everything you can and your toddler just doesn’t get it.”

That’s actually a rather encouraging, through random, thing to read. As much fun as a two-year old can be, there have also been some struggles lately as she tests the limits and her independence. Rewarding, challenging, tiring... thus is parenting.

2. Stretch your left arm out as far as you can. What can you touch?

This question does not specify the direction in which I to reach my left arm... but reaching around I could touch the book I just set down, my bag of knitting (I’m finishing up a crazy striped sweater for M), the couch I’m sitting on, the curtain behind me, this computer (obviously)... this is boring.

3. Before you started this survey, what were you doing?

I was seeking inspiration on what to blog about.

4. What is the last thing you watched on TV?

Ah, this is too embarrassing to answer. I am ashamed of my tv watching habits and will disclose them only to a priest. And no, it’s not because I’m watching some sort of dirty porn channel, but rather that I watch insipid poppy reruns that are like comfort food to me but to which I would never want to admit to watching in public.

5. Without looking, guess what time it is

10:00. Geez these questions are dull.

6. Now look at the clock. What is the actual time?

10:26. Dammit, I should be in bed.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Knit graffiti flags

Several months ago a friend proposed that we knit up little flags for our local park. I loved the idea and jumped on board.

Together we made about 45 little flags and I strung them together sometime in June. At the time, we were planning to hang them up for the first summer park party of the year. But the party was delayed by rain and the flags never made it up.

Finally today I got my act together and hung the flags. V helped out by lugging over our rickety ladder. He kept Miya amused on the swings while I nailed up the flags.

One of the interesting things about knit bombing is watching the reaction of people when I am putting up the installation. Some are curious and even enthused – but most are indifferent, especially today.

A man who was at the park with his son (a son old enough to play unassisted) sat and watched me the whole time I was climbing up and down the ladder stringing up the flags without once offering to help or hold the ladder. When we were leaving he said, “They look nice.” Um, thank you.

Another dad who was pushing a little girl in circles around the park just gave me a few puzzled, blank stares. Two women chatting on a park bench tossed a couple of glances my way, but otherwise ignored me.

Point taken. Seeing a woman nail knitted items to a gazebo is nothing remarkable.

My mum sent me a clip of a news story about women in Montreal who are yarn bombing their urban neighbourhoods. Maybe if I was just a little more edgy I could get some press coverage too. But I think I need to come up with something more interesting for my next project.

Maybe I need to think bigger. Continue that knitted scarf till it could drape the length of the Peace Tower. Knit a body suit for the Terry Fox statue. Knit a mock-up of the proposed development project for the convent site. Perhaps I need to be thinking in terms of life-size installations, neon colours and high-traffic locations.... I need more hours in the day.