Archive for December, 2012


My long affair with braising

It was quite a while into my life before I came to really like meat.  As a child, I wasn’t a big fan, although we ate it almost daily at home.  Sure, I liked the processed stuff such as ham or wieners  filled with sodium and nitrates, but  a roast or a steak was not something that I relished.  Even now, I could live fairly happily without these, were it not for braising.

My first exposure to the joys of braising came with my mother’s braised short ribs.  Always succulent, her luscious tomato-y concoction took all that was unpleasant about meat, to me at least, and hid it in a delicious, flavourful sauce that softened the meat into tender strands that melted in the mouth. Short ribs day was a special day and one in which there was no struggle to finish everything on the plate. Continue reading

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Bill Gaston’s “The World”

The World, by Bill Gaston. (Image credit penguin.ca)

I have mentioned that I’m a fan of CanLit, and so from time to time I like to comment on books I’ve recently read.  Good CanLit for my money should be evocative of the country and the Canadian ‘condition’ all the while telling a good yarn.  Bill Gaston’s newest novel, The World, the first of his work I’ve read, hits the mark on all counts and won’t be the last from this author I pick up.

Gaston’s quintessentially Canadian biography, growing up in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Toronto, Ontario, and North Vancouver, British Columbia and working variously as a logger, salmon fishing guide, group home leader and writing professor at universities on two Canadian coasts is apparent in the cross-country narrative of The World. The novel is part road trip, part love story and part tale of coming of (middle-)age as the protagonist, the recently retired Stuart Price begins the story having accidentally burnt down his house the day after paying off his mortgage.

Frustrated with discussions with his insurance company about the state of his coverage, Stuart out of the blue decides to rekindle a friendship with an old flame who, he has recently learned, is dying of cancer in Toronto.  We travel with Stuart in his old Datsun across the country – a check mark for the road story which paints the Canadian landscape from west to east as the old car (almost) makes it to Toronto. Continue reading

A page in a career

English: Steacie Science and Engineering Libra...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Every time I walk into my local Manotick branch of the Ottawa Public Library, I’m reminded of my first job, as a page in a library.  The Manotick branch is just about the smallest library I’ve ever seen, including the small branch I used to work at as a teenager in Toronto.  But of course, that doesn’t matter because like every public library system and the reason everyone should love and support their library, it provides you access to any publication in the system with an easy on-line reservation system.

I parlayed my love of reading to a job as a library page at age fourteen – it was the only retail job you could get at that age, and paid the princely sum of $2.15 per hour.  As I recall we worked 10 – 14 hours a week, depending on whether it was summer or school was in session.  The library staff was populated with a set of quirky, but generally amiable biddies (there were no men) of which, Mrs. Murphy the head librarian was the most formidable.  Like her name implies, she was Irish, and a redhead with a temper to match.  She tended to wear bracelets dangling with charms that jingled and jangled increasingly as she became more vexed with some perceived infraction of page or, occasionally, patron.  We learned to stay out of her way. Continue reading

The demise of the PC

The evolution of mobile computing

It was an interesting read, going through Kleiner Perkins partner Mary Meeker’s recent presentation on Internet trends.  The piece covered the expected stats about growth in internet, smartphone and tablet users by country and provided an interesting split on trends.   A fascinating fact was that mobile internet traffic has already exceeded land-based in India, and I loved her section on thinking like a 25-year-old.   As a user, I wasn’t ecstatic about the news that mobile ad revenue is way under-subscribed, but I guess that is inevitable with these trends.

Meek’s re-imagination, as she puts it, of knowledge, photography and navigation are spot-on.  The camera in my two-year old Android phone is more powerful than the digital one I bought a decade or so ago.  And when was the last time you asked someone to give you directions to somewhere?  In fact a whole industry has arisen not only to show you how to get somewhere, but also to track where you’ve been, whether it is employers who want, ostensibly, to optimize vehicle mileage, or individuals who want to know how far they went in their Sunday morning run. Continue reading

Super-spinning

January 17, 2011

Photo credit: Jeremy Jenum

If you’ve read some of my other blog posts you’ll know that I recently completed my first triathlon.  That exercise got me back on bicycle for the first time in over 15 years, and I loved the feeling of motion with the wind in your face.  But as winter approached, I knew I needed a way to keep it up without having to face the perils of an Ottawa winter.  So luckily for me, I found  my local yoga studio offered a series of SpinFit classes.

This fitness studio is a great example of a local business success.  I have to admit when I saw another studio go into the spot in our local mall, I was not optimistic; we have seen small gyms come and go — it seemed that none had found a winning formula that catered to the community in a way that resulted in a profitable business.  But the ladies at Maitreya have proved me wrong. Continue reading

A half-century “athlete”

As a child, I was never good at sports.  I was the tall, gangly, klutzy one with no strength.  Early on, I did manage to do some ballet (I know, ballet is not a sport), and actually got quite good at it, but after about grade 3, the schedule was inconvenient and Mom decided it was time to do something else.  My parents did have my sister and I learn to swim and ski, for which I thank them, but I have to admit we were never stellar at these, by any stretch.

So when high school came along, I took the opportunity to drop “gym” as soon as I could, and thought I would never look back … clearly I was on an academic path and had no need of such things.  At university, I admired my sporty friends, including my roommate who made the women’s hockey team and was constantly travelling for tournaments on top of her pre-med workload.   But I had little curiosity about those who bee-lined for the phys ed centre at spare moments, not understanding the draw of ‘de-stressing’ during those anxious times of mid-terms and exams. Continue reading