Tuesday, October 31, 2006

trick or treat

It's amazing how a scent can take you right back. And not just to where you were but how you felt. Last night as I carved the top off of the first of these pumpkins I took a deep breath of childhood. One sniff of fresh, raw, pumpkin and I was back with my brothers at a kitchen table covered with newspapers. Pumpkin carvers in hand we were all set to go. (To this day I don't understand how they cut pumpkin but not skin.)

There were years when we had a pumpkin each and years when we had one huge pumpkin between us. Either way what I remember along with that scent of pumpkin was the anticipation. Something wonderful was about to happen. It happened about the same way every year. I loved the feel of "pumpkin guts", Dave didn't like it as much. Mark tried to smear it in my face. I squealed. Our designs stayed on a theme. We were mostly a traditional "faces" bunch. This was long before we'd learned the finer points of pumpkin carving, the importance of carving the tiniest details first and largest details last. But it was something we did together. And it was wonderful.

Tonight as I've been on the other side of the trick-or-treat door I was thinking about the costumes I can still remember. I was a clown several times, an Indian squaw (complete with brown woolen braids). There was the year I was Wee Willy Winkle and learned why Hallowe'en costumes should have as few props as possible. One year I went as a high society lady swanning around the neighborhood in my Grandma's real fur coat. She would have had a FIT if she'd known. I remember Mark as the blue ghost from PacMan one year and a gangster another. Later on Dave would prove to be the best at costuming. He has an imagination that dreams entire worlds.

I remember the trial of eating dinner Hallowe'en night. (It took so long.) We had endless existential discussions of what constitutes "dark". "Is it dark now Mom? Can we go?" After the frenzy of the night was over my brothers and I would meet in the front room. I don't know why we always met in there, it was one of those rooms that you weren't really supposed to use. But each year we met there dumping out our bags so the yearly sort could begin. Anticipation gave way to excitement and then in the manner of children, bargaining. It seemed that we went out that night in the fullness of Fall but found winter waiting for us in the morning.

All these years later it's all still there. Just waiting in the scent of fresh pumpkin.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

only that which can be fixed is broken

The good news is that I'm fine. Bruised, but fine. My car is not looking so pretty. Coming home from work last night I was in my first car accident ever. I would be quite happy for it to be the last.

Everyone is fine, thank God Himself. Only that which can be fixed is broken. As the doctor told me the car did its job and "sacrificed itself to take the brunt of the force". Poor little car. I feel very fortunate. It could have been so much worse. I was looking at the accident report the police officier gave me. There are two tiny little boxes labelled "Number of Injured" and "Number of Dead". Mercifully both boxes on my form are empty.

I've spent today resting. Driving is a little painful -- seatbelt buckle resting on top of a seatbelt buckle bruise. I went to the local pool to sit in the hottub for a while. I think it helped. Public hot tubs are a strange concept but we haven't quite gotten one installed at the House of Mirth just yet. Needs must.

There were four of us in the spa and I was the only one without tattoos. How strange. One guys had two half sleeves and it was hard not to notice them. No one looks anyone else in a public hot tub. Sleeve guy and I made eye contact only once, brief and awkward, shattering the lie that each of us was here alone.

For the next couple of days I'll be bumming around in a rented Chevy Aveo. As the commercials promise it does have a "neat-o sound system" but I'm not convinced that it's "fun to drive". Here's hoping I'll be back in my little, black Civic before long.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

got moo?

This has to be one of the coolest things I've seen in a long time. Everytime I look at it I get a head full of a thousand ways to play with it. It's like a really big box of crayons for grown-ups only so much cooler.
Moo.com is a company out of London that is offering custom printing of minicards from your Flickr photos. Cool right? But here's the best part: they're $20/100 and you get to choose up to 100 different images per pack! There's also space for up to 5 lines of text, full colour, on the back along with your Flickr buddy icon (optional). No additional charge.

Imagine the possibilities. . .

A contact of mine who is a professional make-up artist has started using them in place of traditional business cards. I'm imaging art projects and think that I might just have found the ultimate cure to grey cubicle walls. There is already a gallery of what people are doing with these on Flickr. Just looking at the promo photo inspires me. So much colour, so many choices. So much fun! And at this price, I can afford to play.

I'm placing my order this week-end.

Monday, October 16, 2006

amazing indeed

Over the week-end I finished reading Michael Chabon's Pulitzer prize-winner The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. Wow. Wow. Wow. If you're looking for a feast, this is your book. It's taken me a couple of weeks to finish, not because it was slow or uninteresting but rather because the story, the language, is so delightfully dense. It's like my Mom's British Christmas cake -- so rich and full of flavour that it would be a sin to rush through it.

This is a book that begs you take your time and well rewards those willing to linger. I found myself reading sentences over again. I caught myself reading aloud in places because the music of the text was too good to waste in silence. I savoured this book over breakfast and at the beach and in bed and in stolen moments waiting for the office microwave to warm-up my lunch. It was so worth the savoring.

Chabon made me reach for a dictionary more than once, so he'd have my gratitude if had he written a story only half as satisfying. This is a truly epic tale. On the surface it's about a pair of cousins who stumble into the comic book business in New York just as the jaws of the second world war are opening to devour Europe. But just past the cover of what they are supposed to be doing lies a world of real heroes: a boy trying to save the family he left behind, a girl reaching out to an unreachable boy, a man stepping into another's responsibilities, a child speaking the words the grown-ups have forgotten how to say. It is a story of family, of struggle, of loss, of the great surprise of coming home and the paradox that sometimes the only way to truly get home is walk out of your own front door.

I had to delay the book that was next on my list and sub-in something lighter. My brain isn't ready for another serving of solid food quite yet. I'm still digesting this one. I picked up a short novel, something to cleanse the pallet. It would be disrespectful to go back to the table so soon after being so well satisfied.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

visitors and photos

Guess what I'm thankful for this year. . . . I'll give you a hint, it starts with "F" and it rhymes with "tamily". I know I'm a few days late for a Thanksgiving post, but hey aren't we supposed to be thankful all year? I guess I'm starting early for next year.

It's crazy to think that Thanksgiving has come and gone already but there are pumpkins on my mantel so it must be true. I had a great time setting out leaves and gourds again this year. I never used to decorate for Thanksgiving but there's something about this house, this neighborhood, that just makes it make sense.

Janie and Corrina spent the day after Thanksgiving here and we had a great time. It was such a beautiful day we HAD to go to the water -- afterall these ladies live in a landlocked province, horrors! We bundled up the baby and headed down for a good, long walk. What a great way to spend an afternoon. Dave, we took the next two pictures for you, one of the kite surfers who were really, REALLY enjoying the day, and one of your girls walking the boardwalk (and missing you I'm sure).
There are, of course, more photos of the Little Bean so for Grandparents, Parents and any other interested parties, you can see more of Corrina and the lady responsible for at least half of her cuteness on Flickr. But because it can be such a long way all the way over to Flickr, here are a few more gratis.

Enjoy! (I know I did.)

Saturday, October 07, 2006


Time is one of the great luxuries in life and today has been a very indulgent day. It didn't get quite as far as the "complacencies of the peignoir and late coffee and oranges" that Wallace Stevens wrote of but it came close. I realized this morning that I couldn't remember the last time I had taken my lunch down to the beach. Clearly today was a day to take to the sea.

There are many great sandwich shops in White Rock and after doing my civic duty and supporting local business I made a beeline for the water. I had almost forgotten that it is October -- I swear it still feels like it should be late August at best -- but down at the water's edge the Fall in inescapable. I breathed it in.

I still miss my favorite reading spot that got blown away in the storm last winter. It was a HUGE piece of driftwood that must have been part of a barge at some point. I remember trying to imagine its slow progress up the beach. One day it was there, immovable. It was a perfect spot to stretch out, level enough to set a cup of coffee on. The next day it was gone. I haven't found a good replacement yet, but I came a little closer today. There's a new configuration of driftwood that acts almost like a recliner just with a little less padding. All in all, not a bad place to read.

All day today I've moved at my own pace, doing only exactly what I feel like doing. I bought pumpkins to decorate the fireplace and strung leaves into a garland. I learned today that you can bake cookies in a toaster oven if you're really determined to do so and willing to wait out baking two dozen four cookies at a time. You have to double the cooking time which seems strange to me but there you go. I've kept the TV off and the radio on. It's been a good day.

Sidenote: anyone have any ideas on fixing an oven that spontaneously stops working? It's not the power supply because the range top still works. I've replaced the fuses in the stove and also checked the main kitchen fuses. It shouldn't be the element itself because that was replaced last year. Very strange. Good thing I'm not the one cooking the turkey tomorrow!

Speaking of turkey, Happy Thanksgiving one and all! May your table be full and your heart satisfied.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

not exactly high speed

Well that was weird. The YouTube video I tried to load over a week ago magically appeared on my blog today. I'm pretty sure it would have arrived faster if I had put the video in an envelope and mailed it to myself -- and that's using Canada Post. Wow.

Consider this a public service announcement:

If you're planning to embed a YouTube video in your blog skip the easy looking "add this video to your blog" link and just grab the code. Turns out it's much faster.

Long live the code monkeys (just because Blogger made everything push button doesn't mean we can't still come out to play).

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

this one's for Dave

Hey little brother, I enjoyed the Animaniacs vid so much I deided to see if I could dig up a copy of Conversational Norewegian with Freakazoid. And sure enough here it is. Do you remember way back when. . . you drew me a poster of this? It hung on many of my dorm room walls and always made me smile. Even when Calculus was doing a serious number on my head I can't help but smile at the "happy little narwhale" (although personally, I'm still waiting for that to come up conversationally). Here's to blue heros you can't fly but still fight crime, sortof.


Sunday, October 01, 2006

shiny, pretty things

Scott Adams has outdone himself once again. Take a look at the center panel from one of last week's strips --->

Brilliant. It reminds me of one of the quotes I have pinned up at my desk at work "The world is still deceived with ornament." (from The Merchant of Venice) It never ceases to amaze me that we are so consumed with how things look and so willing to turn a blind eye to how things are. I remember a couple of years ago I was asked to write an article on the perception of beauty around the globe. In my research I came across a quote from a plastic surgeon in Brazil. He said "Half my patients don't want to feel better, they just want to look better." How scary is that? We're so convinced that how we look is the only thing that matters that we're willing to endure painful and often risky surgery, not to correct a medical condition, but solely so that once the bandages come off we can look a little more, or a little less.

In July of 2003 James Poniewozik wrote an incredible article for Time entitled "Trading Faces". The version online is not the full article so I can't find the exact quote, but he was writing about the phalanx of make-over shows on TV (even in 2003) and the desire for someone to be able to see past our bland exterior and catch a glimpse of the real us. "We used to call that the look of love, " he wrote. "Now we just call it television." If you can get your hands on the full article, I highly recommend it.

We are like little children, reaching out for the shiny, pretty things, making no distinction between a diamond a piece of tinfoil. I think in a lot of ways, Adams is right. Hotness is like a superpower. It can blind otherwise functioning human beings into making decisions based on the most fallible of factors. I took a sociology course years ago on marriage and the family. One of the things I still remember the professor saying is that so many marriage fail today because we often choose a partner based on the one thing about them that is guaranteed to change -- they way they look.

Why are we so obsessed with what we can see? Seeing is not the same as knowing. It's easier. Is there more to it than that?