Monday, January 25, 2010

Bialys, burritos and screwed up thinking

Browsing some blogs today, I came across something new to me, the bialy, and an interesting article in Wired magazine, "Accept defeat: the neuroscience of screwing up", thanks to Ageless Marketing.

I've been thinking about wanting to make something new in the way of bread, the bialy sounds like an interesting challenge. In reading some of the stuff on the web about bialys, there seems to be a lot of attention being paid to authenticity, the real bialy. Myself, having never tasted a real bialy, don't presume to reconstruct one authentically. But it sounds like an interesting idea, a small flatbread with a fried onion centre.

When I was young and married, I attempted to reconstruct the burrito. I'd never heard of a burrito, but my husband grew up in southern California and had fond memories of trading his peanut-butter-and-jelly lunch sandwiches for his Latino classmates' lunch burritos. He loved burritos. He tried to explain to me what a burrito was, and I tried to reconstruct it from his description. At the time we lived in a log cabin back of beyond with extremely limited financial resources, no electricity and no running water.

I'd had Indian food, I knew what a chapati was, and his description of the flour tortilla sounded like a chapati to me and I thought I could reconstruct that, more or less. Refried beans, how hard can that be? But salsa? I'd never heard of salsa, and his description of a kind of spicy tomato sauce translated in my head to ketchup and tabasco. Thus was born my recipe for burritos: an unyeasted flatbread rolled thin with a rolling pin and baked at high heat on a cast aluminum griddle, a dollop of kidney beans cooked, mashed and then fried in bacon fat to a soft but not runny consistency, topped with grated cheddar, fine chopped onion, chopped tomato, lettuce, and lots of ketchup and tabasco to taste.

If my husband found them odd he never said anything, we happily ate lots of them and so did our kids. I have photos of my first as a toddler with refried beans and ketchup smeared all over his face and hands (we withheld the tabasco on his burrito).

To this day I prefer ketchup and tabasco over salsa, and apparently so do my kids. When my daughter-in-law serves burritos, she always sets the ketchup bottle by my son's plate. So I am not particularly hung up on authenticity, anyone who can substitute ketchup for salsa is clearly not a purist. If I make a bialy, it'll be of the ketchup-and-tabasco variety.

The other article, about how science is really done, just makes complete sense to me, having spent a period of my life studying biology and working in a biology lab. Also how naivete and skepticism actually work to solve scientific puzzles. In the article, there was one particularly intriguing scenario about two labs faced with the same puzzle, and how they approached the problem.

One lab was full of experts on the particular area of science being studied (in this case the bacterium E. coli), and the other was full of people with a variety of backgrounds, very few or none of them experts in E. coli. The problem was that the filters being used in the experiment were getting clogged with protein matter, thus preventing the experiment from proceeding properly. The E. coli experts spent a lot of time methodically trying various fixes over a period of several weeks until they eventually got the filters working properly. The other more diverse lab discussed the problem amongst themselves and by the end of a single meeting came up with an effective solution. The first part of the meeting was seemingly unproductive, a lot of fumbling around trying to pinpoint the problem to everyone's satisfaction. But once that was done it took all of 10 minutes to come up with the working solution.

Experts in a narrow field (such as everything there is to know about E. coli) know a lot about a little, and develop a highly specialized language to discuss it among themselves. A language few others could understand. Put a bunch of experts in a variety of fields in a meeting together and they are force to speak English in order to be understood by each other. They must resort to metaphor and analogy to explain their points. And if some of those present are not experts at all, then everything must be explained in simple terms. This leaves the whole group wide open to lateral thinking, thinking outside of the box. Assumptions based on a narrow field of expertise just get trampled by too many non-experts. The diverse perspectives brought to bear on a single problem and the creative language used to describe the problem opened up possibilities that were simply unavailable to a group of people sharing a single perspective and a single, very precise language to describe the problem.

We believe in experts, people who are trained to understand a single subject absolutely thoroughly, but therein is our creative downfall. Narrow fields of expertise impose blinkers, blinkers shield out the unexpected and improbable. Skeptics and intellectual outsiders are often wrong and misguided, but they are also responsible for astounding breakthroughs, because they attack or bypass the blinkers.

Some have commented on how the best science is practiced by young scientists, that as scientists age they lose their edge. I don't think it is so much a matter of losing edge as it is of becoming mired in expert assumptions. Those who are new to the field retain naivete that lets them think and act beyond scientific assumptions, and those who are new to a field are most often young.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Another life

He was in his early 50s---53 to be exact---when he was laid off by the hospital. He worked in a lab there. They gave him a severance package and a counsellor, and sent him on his way.

The counsellor was actually quite helpful, told him the best way to handle his severance for tax purposes and encouraged him to go back to school. She told him there was money available for retraining but it would take time for the application to go through so he should get that started right away. He could figure out what he wanted to study later.

Well, this was in Ontario's Bob Rae days and that counsellor wasn't kidding about there being money available. However she grossly overestimated how long it would take for Walter's application to go through, he had hardly submitted it when they told him it was approved.

Now what school was that again that he intended to go to?

He had no idea.

He did know that at 53 finding another job was going to be darn hard, but he didn't have a clue what he wanted to study or retrain for. The counsellor helped him fill in applications for various community colleges.

He grew up in Saskatchewan, when they said they wanted his high school transcript he was dumbfounded. His graduation diploma had been typed out on a slip of paper, how could he expect to get a transcript? But he wrote away for it and I guess that high school managed to type out a transcript for him, 35 years later.

Most of the colleges he applied to said forget it. They weren't interested in his transcript or him. But he got a call from somebody in Admissions at Centennial College who told Walter to come down right away and talk to him.

Walter hurried down with his transcript, the fellow glanced at it and said, "You're in! Now what was it that you wanted to study?"

Walter didn't know.

So together they went through the college prospectus, and ended up selecting some art classes for him. The fellow told Walter that he could use these classes to put together a portfolio if he wanted to apply to OCAD, the Ontario College of Art and Design.

Walter spent a couple of years at Centennial. He'd never studied art before, but he had the most wonderful time at Centennial doing art of all kinds. By the end of his time there he was pretty sure he wanted to go on to OCAD, and he was pretty sure that the thing he wanted to study there was silk screening.

Walter applied to OCAD, was accepted, and then he applied to have his two years at Centennial accepted as the equivalent of the first two years at OCAD. They agreed. So another two years at OCAD, painting, sculpting, photographing, weaving and of course silk screening, and now he had a degree in art.

Walter owned a house. He bought it when he was in his 40s, back when interest rates were through the roof but house prices were still reasonable. He worked diligently to pay off the mortgage and in ten years he was debt-free. So when he got laid off he owned his own home free and clear, and he had a little bit in savings. Between the help that the Bob Rae government gave him and his own resources, he managed to survive four years of school. After that he just kept taking courses in things that interested him, quilting, weaving, this, that and the other thing.

He says he never thought he'd manage a "Freedom 55", but I guess he did, and two years early at that.

Walter started a small business. It was not intended to be a big moneymaker, but he loved to shop and he had an awful lot of stuff that eventually he had to get rid of if he wanted to continue to buy new things. So he started selling his puchases at the St. Lawrence flea market, then later he got space at an antique mall.

The antique mall suits him perfectly. He has space there for his items, mostly china and pottery, and the operators of the mall handle the sales and take a percentage of the sale price. He periodically shows up to resupply his space when his items have been sold. He goes to second hand stores to browse for more, occasionally goes to yard sales, and has handled one or two estates for people. It's perfect, enough work to keep him moving and learning, not so much to tire him out or prevent him from pursuing other interests.

I sit next to Walter in weaving class. He's been in this class for around 12 years now. He's working on a large tapestry based on a photo of a lake surrounded by multi-coloured trees and rocks.

He's been working on this particular tapestry for a couple of years.

He's in no rush.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

What I am reading these days

Now that I am back in Toronto and have unlimited access to probably one of the greatest public libraries in the world, I am spending a lot of time reading. Between internet surfing and library book reading, I could easily fill up all my days. I have set a couple of goals for this winter, but at the present rate I suspect that those goals will go the way of the goals I set for myself last summer. Nowhere.

Anyway. What I am reading.

Now or Never, by Tim Flannery. Dire predictions for the future based on the prospects for climate change and the lack of adequate action on that front. I read his earlier book, Weather Makers, and had heard good things about this one too. However, I think I may have maxed out on climate change books, it kind of went in one ear and out the other.

Elsewhere, and I wish I could remember the website (or had bookmarked it!), I was reading about a company that was trying to develop better weather/climate modelling software. Virtually all of the dire predictions for climate change are based on modelling software, programs that take inputs of a variety of data and churn out predictions of what the earth's climate will doin response to all that data. But apparently the current software being used is seriously limited, and the predictions based on that software are rather shaky. Anywhere from: the world as we know it will end this century regardless of any action we may take, to relax, not a problem, go back to sleep. Kind of makes it difficult to organize globally united action when you don't know what's happening, what we can do about it, or what the consequences of action/inaction are.


...but moving right along:

U-turn, by Bruce Grierson. This is kind of fascinating, I haven't finished it yet but the further into it I get the more fascinated I am. This book is about people who make U-turns in life, who, how, why. Not just why they made the U-turn (e.g., turning from active career as animal experimentalist to ardent PETA activist), but examining theories about why and how people make that kind of radical change in life direction. The author is not content with simple answers. One of the interesting ideas he mentions (but doesn't necessarily dwell on) is that frequently U-turns involve returning to childhood dreams of what one wants to do in life.

Grierson suggests that around age 11 we are fully formed as who we are, but then life gets complicated and before we know it we are headed somewhere else entirely different. When we finally get a chance to think about what we really want in life, it turns out that what we really want is what we wanted when we were 11, no matter how impractical or outlandish that may have been. And when we talk about becoming truly ourselves, we are talking about returning to who we were when we were 11. Well, not exactly 11, for some of us it's 10 or 12 or somewhere else in that rough time frame. But you get the idea.

Where were you when you were "11"? What did you think you would be doing with your life? Are you? Would/could/should you?

Another thing is about changing your mind. A lot of the U-turns described in this book involve 180 degree changes of mind, but he asks the question, why do some make the change and some do not? There is a lot of pressure in life to maintain the same viewpoint, perspective, opinion on things, changing your mind can be traumatic. But additionally, there is neurological resistance to changing your mind. Children can change their minds comparatively easily because they have a multiplicity of neural pathways in their brains that make it easy; after a certain point in brain development "pruning" sets in, our brains systematically remove large numbers of neural pathways, narrowing our thinking process options in such a way that changing your opinion is actually hard to do. There is biological pressure to maintain the status quo, to stick to the tried and true even if it's not so true any more.

With a Tangled Skein, by Piers Anthony. This is fairly light reading, a fantasy/science fiction novel in a series of seven books altogether called Incarnations of Immortality. Each book is about an aspect of life such as Death, Fate, Nature and so forth. This one is about Fate. I liked some of the ideas expressed in the first book of the series (On a Pale Horse, about Death) so I thought I'd read the rest. So far this one is a good yarn but nothing striking yet.

I like to keep something relatively light to read by the bed for those nights when I wake up in the middle bright-eyed and bushy-tailed but unwilling to give up entirely on sleep. At the end of each novel in the series the author writes about what was going on in his life while he was writing the book, and how it relates to the theme of the book. In the first book I found that part of the book very interesting, so I am looking forward to reading that part of this book too (the central theme/character is Fate).

But first I have to finish the story. May take a while, I bought this book when I was in Nova Scotia and so far I am less than halfway through.

How to Live, by Henry Alford. This is supposed to be a book about the wisdom of old people, the search for and recording of while they are still alive. It seems to be as much a story of the author's parents' divorce as anything else. He goes after a few well-known elders for their bits of wisdom, some bite some don't, and there's a few "ordinary" old people too. I don't know what to say about this book other than that. Well written and enjoyable but unless I find some really wonderful nugget of wisdom in the book I won't be urging you all to read it.

National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America. This book was recommended to me by a naturalist and guide in Belize as one of the better bird books. I left my trusty old bird book at a friend's place out west and am debating whether to ask them to mail it to me or just bite the bullet and buy a newer one, my old book being over 40 years old now. What I like about this book is that it is very comprehensive and the illustrations are drawings not photos.

So far the bird books I've seen that rely on photos for identifying birds have been inadequate. You'd think a photo was better than a drawing, it is after all the "real thing", but when you're trying to identify an unknown bird you need to know what it's key characteristics are and how those key characteristics differ from every other bird possibility. A photographer has to be both extremely knowledgeable and lucky to get the exact right photo of a bird for identification purposes. And if the light or the angle is wrong the bird in the photo may not look like the bird in your bush at all, or your bird may appear to ressemble some other bird in another photo for the same reasons. Colour drawings on the other hand can be made to show the distinguishing characteristics and the right colours, the artist can pose the bird in the most useful way.

So this book is definitely good in that respect. It shows range maps, has good descriptions and even includes a bird or two that my old book did not have. I looked for the Harpy Eagle (I saw this bird in Belize, which in my opinion is part of North America, but so far I have not found a bird book that concurs with me) and it was not there, but the White-tailed Eagle and the Steller's Sea-Eagle were, even though they are not native to North America. I saw one once in Atlin BC, but at a distance I could not tell which eagle it was. But definitely too big to be either a Bald or Golden Eagle, the only native eagles in those parts.

There's a few name changes: the Oldsquaw Duck is now the Longtailed Duck, the Whistling Swan has been subsumed into the Trumpeter Swan. Not sure I like that, but that's more about taxonomic than editorial decisions.

The one thing I do not like about this book compared to my old one is the greater size and weight. Increased knowledge and information comes at a price, this is a book that will do damage to my shoulder hauling it around on walks. Also, my old book has checkboxes in the index for keeping a life list, I have a 35-year old life list in that book which I do not want to lose.

I will borrow a couple of other bird books from the library to see how they compare. Maybe even the more up-to-date version of my old book.

I've got some other library books waiting in the wings (a stack by my livingroom couch), and at least a dozen on my Holds list on the TPL website. When I am websurfing I keep the TPL website open in one tab of my browser (I love tabs!); if I run across an interesting book being cited I go there to see if the library has it and if it does I put a hold on it. Last year my Holds list peaked out at almost 40 books, but a lot of them were books I had no intention of reading all the way through, I just wanted to look at them.

8 - )

Monday, January 18, 2010

Long hair

I wrote this after reading 20th Century Woman's post about her latest haircut (which looks very nice!), as my hair has been on my mind, so to speak, too.

Last time I got a haircut was just before I moved away from New Westminster BC, in 2007. I got my usual cut, just over my ears. I was thinking of getting it cut again when I went back to visit in the fall of 2008 and also this Christmas, but somehow I just didn't. In 2008 I still liked the way it looked so opted to wait, and in 2009 I couldn't decide, so when in doubt, do nothing. So now as you can see, it's long.

Well, for me, this is long. Last time I had it this long was, gee, back in my hippie days? I've got a couple of photos from when my two older boys were toddlers that show me in long hair, but by the time the third was born, I was cutting it shorter. That would be mid-70s. Still shoulder length, but only just barely.

In 1998 I cut it really short because I was planning a four month road trip and camping; I thought short hair would be easier to manage. And it certainly was, so for the next decade or so I kept it short. Why, I could go up to a week without even combing it!

By last summer it was long enough to require regular (=daily) combing. Boy, that was a shock. I had gotten so used to only occasionally combing it, that the tangles that were starting to form on the backside of my head just seemed odd, but increasingly annoying. I finally bit the bullet and started using a comb regularly, um, sometime in September I think.

And since September I've been debating whether it's worth it.

One thing I find a bit annoying about long hair, besides having to comb it, is getting it in my throat. Sometimes, I swallow a hair and it sits in my throat for days. I can feel it there but I can't swallow it. Eventually I guess it finds its way further down (I imagine there's a bit of a hairball forming somewhere in my guts now).

I've had a few compliments on the long hair, and I can't say that I dislike the look of it. I just wonder if it's worth it. I've gotten used to using a comb again, but oh boy, the shedding! I think now I could easily get a long-haired dog because I wouldn't be all that concerned about dog hair everywhere, it would just go with all of my hair everywhere.

But here's something odd about it. I don't know if you can see it in the photographs, but the top part is grey and the bottom part is actually a very fair brown, maybe even blond.

Since my school days my hair was dark brown. I do not remember a time when it was blond or even light brown, but I have seen baby pictures of me with blond hair. I grew up with dark brown hair, most of my adulthood I had dark brown hair. Sometime in my forties it started to lighten, to the point that when I moved to BC and got a new driver's licence in the '90s, it said I was a blond. I actually didn't notice that until years later, and was kind of shocked by that. In my mind's eye I'm a brunette!

If I lift the hair at the back of my head, I can still see the dark brown underneath. But on the surface, it's blond and grey.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Household repairs

This past week I took my netbook in for repairs. I also bought (at a nearby Home Depot) a faucet set for my bathroom sink. The existing faucet drives me crazy, the spout is so low and so close to the sink edge that there is hardly room to put your hands under the spout for washing. So I bought a nice new one that promised lots of room, the spout being both higher and further from the base.

However Isaac told me that he was sure I could get one much cheaper at the local hardware store. On my way home from the war rug sale I stopped by the local hardware store and sure enough they had exactly the right faucet set for less than half of what I had paid at Home Depot. It's labelled a "Laundry Faucet" but it is exactly what I want. So much for the idea that a big box store will have better prices than the local hardware store!

Today Isaac installed the new laundry faucet on my bathroom sink and it works great and looks fine. I am very happy with it. He also installed a small fluorescent light over my kitchen sink. We'll see tonight if that makes a difference.

Now all I need is for my netbook to be fixed and returned to me in perfect working order. Store technician thought it might be in a couple of weeks but he didn't know, first time he'd had to send a netbook in for repair. He thinks it might be a faulty motherboard. He had to fill in a special form defining the problem so he asked me if there was anything else I was concerned about. I mentioned a couple of minor items, and who knows, maybe those will get fixed too.

Old buildings, trees and bike posts

This is a photo I took walking home from the war rug sale, trees and buildings on King Street West. I like the image of the trees against the old buildings. You can't see it in this photo, but the trees are festooned with little white lights, they look as if they have some weird disease with all these little spikey things sticking out of their trunks and branches.

Also, in this photo, see the bike posts on the sidewalk, for locking your bike to. Several years ago Toronto replaced all of its parking meters with automated parking ticket dispensers, so instead of pumping coins into a meter you could walk a short distance from your chosen parking spot and buy time on your credit card. This is a mixed blessing, no longer can you zip into a recently vacated spot and claim the unused time of the previous occupant.

However, the city wisely replaced all the parking meters with these bike parking posts. The city of Vancouver is starting to remove its parking meters in favour of the automated ticket dispensers and they are also starting to get complaints from cyclists about the disappearance of posts to lock bikes to, which is what the old parking meters did double duty for. Vancouver did not have the foresight to replace their parking meters with bike posts, so they are now scrambling to do so.

War prayer rug

Yesterday I bought a war rug.

In my weaving class, one of the women is a volunteer at the Textile Museum of Canada. She told me that their director, Max Allen, was selling off a bunch of Afghan war rugs that he had collected in a special sale to benefit the museum. You had to buy a membership in the museum and then could pay $50 for your choice of small rugs available, about 80 of them. You could also bid on one or more of the larger rugs that would be on display.

The sale was yesterday. I went downtown to the sale location to arrive right at opening time, but there were already fifty people ahead of me, and Max had decided that each person could buy up to two rugs apiece. I guess he was worried not enough people would come to buy the rugs.

Of course, they sold out within ten minutes of opening the doors. When I got in, there were three rugs left, and two of them appeared to be claimed by a young couple standing by them. I picked up the third rug.

I've kind of been thinking about getting a membership in the Textile Museum, so this was an incentive to do it. And looking up my rug on, I figure it is probably worth around $200. Some of the larger rugs that were snapped up in the first few seconds of the sale were in the thousand dollar range.

As you can see from the picture, this is not the most beautiful rug, filled as it is with images of war (mostly vehicles, some rugs are more blatant with images of weapons). It is small, about 2.5 x 1.5 ft. This would be a prayer rug. Can you imagine praying on a rug like this? What would you be praying for? Or about?

I wrote last year about the war rug exhibit at the Textile Museum, and there is a lot of information at about this subject. There are also videos of Max Allen speaking on the subject (a short video here, and a longer one here). He was at the sale, wandering around explaining the details of the rugs, about how they were made, how you could tell where they came from, what the imagery signified, that sort of thing.

I think the beauty of this rug for me is in its construction and its backstory. I do not know the details of the weaver's life and circumstance but I do know some generalities. She is most likely a woman. She incorporates images from her life, and with Afghanistan being a battlefield for more than thirty years now, war defines her life. In all likelihood she lives or has lived in a refugee camp. She may have learned her craft there, she most certainly was influenced by the refugee camps.

Before the war, Afghan women rarely left their home towns, and this was reflected in the design of their rugs, you could tell where a rug came from by the details of its design and imagery. No more, for weavers forced into refugee camps learned the styles of weavers all over their country, they melded their imagery and techniques. Today it is very difficult to tell where an Afghan rug was made, there is very little specific imagery based on locale.

They say you should write about what you know, weavers weave what they know.


I heard today on CBC a recording of the speech Governor General Michaele John gave on the disaster in Haiti. She was crying, it was moving. I am proud that she is our Governor General.

My son says that the current estimate of fatalities in Haiti is now 200,000. That is horrific. What a terrible terrible tragedy. Isaac says some people are trying to compare this earthquake to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, but this is a false analogy, America has the infrastructure to deal with such a disaster, Haiti does not.

I read a story about a man who was rescued from a collapsed home, he had crushed legs. The American rescuers left the scene promptly, knowing there were many others needing attention and there was nothing further they could do there. But they also knew that man's chances of survival were very slim, as there are no medical facilities, drugs or supplies to deal with his injuries and state of shock.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Paddy and the U-boat

This is a third-hand true story, as told to me by the son of the central character, Paddy.

Paddy was Irish, he went to sea at an early age, sailed on a variety of ships and eventually worked himself up to owning and skippering a ship of his own. First ship he skippered was sunk by a German U-boat during World War I, second one was too, and the third one bankrupted him. Eventually he emigrated to Canada, settled in Baie Comeau, and his son grew up to be a merchant marine sailor too, got his captain's papers and spent half a lifetime sailing up and down the North American Atlantic coast. Now he (the son, that is) is happily retired in Toronto.

This story is about Paddy's second ship. Paddy was out there off the coast of Ireland, when they spotted the U-boat. It had risen to the surface and the U-boat's captain was out on deck hailing Paddy's ship. The German captain gave Paddy a choice, he could be bombed or torpedoed, whichever he preferred. I'm not sure what Paddy replied, and the German captain wasn't either because although he spoke perfect English, Paddy's thick Irish brogue was beyond him. So the U-boat captain got into a little lifeboat and had his men take him to the ship he intended to sink.

Paddy waited for him on the deck, and as the German captain climbed the Jacob's Ladder onto the ship, the two men cried out in surprise and delight, and embraced each other heartily. The tears flowed. Turns out that before the war they had sailed together as young men on a Norwegian whaling ship in the North Sea. In fact Paddy had saved the young German's life after he was seriously injured in a whaling accident.

After the emotional reunion they retired to Paddy's quarters to discuss the situation, and again the German captain offered Paddy the choice of torpedo or bomb. He told Paddy that he could not shirk his duty to the Fatherland in time of war, but he would certainly ensure that Paddy and all his men would be safely off the ship in lifeboats before the deed was done. Paddy chose the bomb.

True to his word the U-boat captain allowed time for Paddy and all his men to depart the ship in the lifeboats.

The U-boat submerged and disappeared and the men in the lifeboats waited.

They waited twenty minutes and nothing happened.

They waited another twenty minutes and still nothing happened, their ship still sat at a safe distance away.

In all, they waited a couple of hours in the lifeboats, no bomb went off, no ship exploded.

Finally, Paddy ordered the men in his boat to row him back to their ship. He climbed the ladder up onto the ship's deck and ordered his men to paddle safely away. He looked around, finally ending up in the galley where he found a note on a table.

The note said that not even for the Fatherland could his old friend bring himself to leave Paddy on the sea in a lifeboat, there was indeed a bomb but it was defused and the note gave directions for where to find it.

Paddy found the bomb, it was sure enough defused, and he called his men to return to their ship. They sailed away unscathed.

Unfortunately Paddy's next encounter with The Hun ended less happily, he survived but his ship was sunk.

I heard this story this afternoon, in my woodcarving class, the narrator swears it is true and that it can be found in the archives.

Today was the first day of classes in the new year, it was good to see my friends from last year in the weaving and woodcarving classes.

I am at a stage with my carving that I need our instructor's help, but she is busy with a new student for the first couple of classes, so I spent most of the class wandering around looking at other students' work and chatting. In this class there are four women and eight men, and I am one of the younger ones. Several of the men are in their eighties and full of interesting stories. Such as this one.

I also chatted with a fellow student who grew up in a Japanese internment camp in Kaslo, BC (during World War II). He said it was fun for him but maybe not so much for his parents. They started out in a hotel room, and later were moved to a little house. His father was required to do forced labour at another location, building roads. He said his father was a tiny man, it was hard to imagine how the Canadian government thought he was suitable for hard labour on road construction, but eventually they saw the light and returned him to his family in Kaslo.

The instructor tells me that I may have to switch to another class if I want more instruction, I hate to leave this class because these people are so great, but I may have to do it if I want to get anywhere with my carving.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Back in Toronto

I arrived home in Toronto this past evening (it's the wee hours of the morning now), everything fine.

I goofed about what I am allowed in carry-on baggage; Peter and Pat gave me some preserves which I should have packed in the checked baggage but instead tried to carry through security. Fortunately my son Josh who had driven me to the airport was still around as he had to update some documents there, so I called his cellphone and he came by security to pick up the suspect preserves. Merry Christmas Josh!

Isaac picked me up at the Toronto airport, he had Dobby in the van who was happy to greet me in the airport parkade. Except Isaac closed the van door on his tail. Oops. Dobby howled briefly and then wagged his whole body in greeting when he saw me.

I've mostly unpacked, but I'll finish tomorrow. I'm still on Vancouver time so it doesn't feel all that late, even though everyone else in the house packed it in hours ago.

When I come home after being away for awhile, and my place has been rented out to someone else, it's a bit strange coming back to things not being quite normal. Not only do I now have to unpack my bags but also all the closets and boxes that I packed my personal belongings away in.

I never met the tenant, all I know about him is what he left behind in the kitchen. Apparently an American who likes Tennessee bourbon and organic blueberry jam.