I'm back -- and I brought tardigrades!

2015-12-31

I won’t bore you with endless apologies for failing to keep this blog updated for more than two years … instead, I want to delight, educate, and entertain you with something that is apparently missing from the otherwise limitless Internet — a downloadable template for making your very own paper model of a tardigrade (hypsibius dujardini) more or less).

This squashed-flat, cut-and-fold template is based on Coma Niddy’s awesome tardigrade spaceship from the Water Bear Don’t Care SciTunes episode. No apologies for minor or massive inaccuracies. You can download the full-sized pattern (12×12cm) here.

The wheels fall off ...

2013-11-15

wheel held in place with twigs Today I decided it was a good time to take copies of our magazine to the post office so they could be sent to federal MPs.

I spent a merry half-hour or so sticking on labels, and then boxed them up and put them on the office’s rarely-used hand truck. I was heading across Spadina—enjoying the warmish weather—when suddenly the hand truck lurched to the right. An entire wheel had rolled off into the gutter.

On closer inspection, it became clear that I no longer had any of the bolts which held the two halves of the right wheel together. Thinking quickly, I hunted for a couple of twigs which would be about the same diameter as the missing bolts, and jammed them through the lug-holes. Moderate success — I was able to get into the subway station, down the elevator, and onto a train.1

As I exited Ossington station, the wheel fell off again—my twiggy bolt-replacements had worked loose and no longer had enough width to hold tightly enough. I very gingerly wheeled the dolly the rest of the way to the PO, then repaired it with some fresh twigs (which you can see in the photo above, if you’ve read this far).

1 A historical note. When I was 15, I carved my own replacement brake blocks out of Western red cedar—not because I had a bicycle-related emergency, but because I was terribly stingy.

Teeny tiny cinnamon buns

2013-10-25

mini-bhakarwadi, with ruler for size check

… which are savoury and actually taste of cinnamon! They’re made from wheat and chickpea flour, mango powder, ginger, black pepper, cloves, bay leaf, ajwan, fennel and of course a bit of cinnamon.

They’re called Mini-Bhakarwadi and are made by Haldiram’s in Nagpur, which makes other tasty snacks as well, though I wish their bhel mix were crispier and had more pooris.

My partisan agenda is sparklier than yours

2013-02-07

From the BBC, 6 Feb 2013 (still not corrected, as of 7 Feb 10pm GST):

“Douglas Schoen, another high-profile US pollster, thinks business-speak is a way of papering over this widening gap between the poles of political debate.

‘At times of great partisanship, politicians want to talk in non-partisan rhetoric about partisan things. They use corporate language to outline a sparkly partisan agenda’.

Fun at the Terminal

2012-09-22

Lots of folks will be posting (better and more professional) photos from the very first open day at the Ontario Food Terminal — a benefit to raise money for Foodshare. But I had to snap a fuzzy photo of my own all-you-can-carry salad. From top left: mango, coriander and mint salad on top of shredded heirloom carrots; avocado in pico de gallo (basically about two whole avocadoes with a bit of zesty sauce); broccoli and cauliflower with roasted almonds; at least three different colours of heirloom beets; a bit of kale (can’t recall the dressing). I already ate up the bean salad, the potato salad, and the Asian slaw (heavy on the sesame).

And I didn’t forget my glasses.

Twinned with West Queen West ?

2012-08-30

We found this bit of wall art in an alley in Marolles, a somewhat hip, slightly rundown neighbourhood in central Brussels. We immediately thought of the walls of Queen Street West in our downtown Toronto neighbourhood.

Nearby is La Fleur en Papier Doré, one of the world’s great arts/ literary cafés, though they no longer have poems laminated to the tables as they did when we were first there in the ’90s.

Allez, vite!

2012-07-14

Simone and I generally take a three-day bike trip through some transit-accessible part of Southern Ontario in early July. It’s also Tour de France time, of course: as such, I was not entirely surprised to see these road markings on a particularly nasty climb on Cottingham Road between Omemee and Peterborough. Thankfully, there were no elderly men dressed as devils (or out-of shape younger men in their swimming trunks, yelling and firing flares) running alongside us as we climbed a fairly modest hill on a hot day.

Bored-teenaged-girl instant ramen

2012-03-29

This product comes from Thailand, and it is possible that the bored girl is a famous animé character, but I’m too old to know.

As I (perhaps imperfectly) recall, the first person to introduce me to ramen noodles was a teenaged girl in Calgary. As it was the early seventies, we were all a bit hippie—some of us still are—and considered ourselves very earnest.

There were giants in the earth in those days

2012-03-12

Look up, way up … Okay, there’s clearly some construction going on — naturally for central Toronto, it’s yet another new condo building. But c’mon, none of us are walking on stilts. Or, in the case of us cyclists, riding on (extreme!! 360-inch!!!) penny-farthings.

Burns Nicht, or the Mexican vegetarian haggis-imposter

2012-01-27

I enjoyed making this, though I was leery of calling it haggis. It fails on almost all accounts, but it is sausage-shaped and does use up leftover and cheap ingredients.

  • 100 g tofu — in this case, the trimmings from a block of extra-firm “Rooster” brand tofu from Loblaws
  • 1/4 onion, diced
  • 50 g frozen peas, thawed
  • about 50 g of tortilla chip crumbs — which give the sausage the red colour as it was the dust from the bottom of a bag of red Que Pasa chips
  • a bit of paprika (more red)

I chilled the sausage overnight and then fried it gently on both sides before putting it in a medium oven for 20 min. Served it on top of Mallorcan-style cabbage stew. Then I read the “Address to a Haggis” to an unsuspecting Simone. I later read bits of The Flyting of Dumbar and Kennedie to myself, as it mentions haggis in passing.

Be sure to read the ...

2011-11-02

Scaffolding outside Theatre Passe Muraille, at Ryerson and Wolseley, Toronto. I don’t necessarily suspect that the alteration was done by theatre people, as there’s a whole warehouse-full of artsy types on the south side of the intersection.

I apologise (again) for this blog’s long fallow period. I have an even larger stock of silly photos which are lacking clever captions, which I will post one day (really).

The random images are now captured on an iPod Touch rather than a 2005-vintage Palm Zire, but the good news is that the maximum possible resolution is still less than 1.3 megabytes. I’d call it constraint-based photography, but it’s not really that much of a constraint, is it, kids?

Official: This is now a party photo blog.

2011-03-16

Click here for a full view of the original artwork/scenester parody/unsightly grafitti/garage door (delete as applicable) on the alley north of Queen West, between Northcote and Beaconsfield in lovely downtown Toronto.

On a more serious note, the mayor of Toronto has declared war on Queen Street West’s grafitti. No matter that a forward-looking government (for example, any but the current mayor’s) would treat the walls of Queen Street West as an Intangible National Treasure.

Separated by a common language, again

2010-11-22

Okay, the problem is that, back in the old days, people in Canada were accustomed to compare cars’ fuel consumption in miles per gallon — much like people in the US did, and still do.

Now we — like other metric countries — measure our cars’ fuel efficiency in litres per 100km (I’m using a rhetorical ‘our’ here, since I don’t actually have a car).

However, whoever translated this billboard from the American didn’t realise that the emoticon :) doesn’t rhyme with “litres”.


Dreams of Our Father

2010-05-18

Another recent dream featured a foreign city — in this case Paris — and an extraordinary hotel. It was a very large hotel, with a bank of paternoster lifts (see the animated gif to the right) — some of them travelling horizontally to a nearby annex, a bit like a toy train or a gondola. On reflection, this was an oddly reassuring dream … sort of showing that a dream about small enclosed spaces isn’t necessarily always about claustrophobia.

My only personal contact with a paternoster lift was back in 1983, at the Cooperative Retail Services offices in Stratford, East London. The CRS was hosting free workshops for worker co-ops, and I was there as the official delegate of the Balham Food and Book Co-op. All us unwashed hippies were fascinated by the paternosters, and wasted so much time frivolously riding them up, over, and down the CRS’s five-storey building that, when the afternoon session began, we were sternly told that we were grounded — the paternosters were now out of bounds.

Dream town

2010-04-10

This morning, I did a rough sketch map outlining some of the features of a city which appears in my dreams every now and then.

The city sometimes seems to be in southern Germany or Austria; at other times it’s clearly in South America. It’s never a capital city or anywhere remotely famous, but it appears to be of some regional importance, and probably has a population of around half a million.

The city’s cheap restaurants are nothing special, though they are cheap.

The city’s bus system is very frustrating — the main dilemma of many of my dreams seems to revolve around how to get to the university, which is on the west side of town, when all the buses tend only to go east.

May not laugh or roll

2010-01-11


It must be a recessionary phenomenon, these heart-wrenching displays of broken toys (five dollars yesterday, just two dollars today, a dollar tomorrow, and then, who knows?)

Cats and .cats

2009-11-09

I was just sent this rather peculiar, nationalist email image. If you follow the address, you find a countdown clock to 11 am on November 11th — accompanied by text which seems to suggest that, because Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia won their freedom because of the First World War (I know what you’re thinking … fat lot of good it did them), it would be a grand Remembrance Day gesture to give Catalunya its independence as well…

I'm Catlan I love freedom

Note the web address. Now, the history of the .cat top-level internet domain is a bit vexed. It was fnally approved in 2005 as the first language-specific (rather than country-specific) domain. There are rules in place to ensure that it won’t be taken over by (English-speaking) people who fancy small, crepuscular carnivorous mammals — or indeed by the small crepuscular carnivores themselves!

I'm a cat I love freedom

The Sea-Cat is to be feared

2009-08-05

I don’t want to get in trouble with Julian (our lovely little cat, of whom there is more below) by dissing cats as a species, but an article in the latest issue of the New York Review of Books has reminded me of the existence of a dreaded beast called the Sea-cat.

“The hero is alone at night on the seashore when he hears a terrible, unrecognizable sound … He eventually sees a huge black quadruped like a giant hairy seal with legs. He manages to escape and the following day tries to describe the beast to his grandfather, who asks him to sketch it.”

A crude version of his sketch appears below.The author of the original story (paraphrased here) was Brian O’Nolan (1911-1966), better known as “Flann O’Brien”. The novel which mentions the Sea-cat, An Béal Bocht, is perhaps the greatest (well, certainly the most post-modern) novel written in the Irish language. It’s included (in English translation) in a new edition of O’Brien’s collected novels from Everyman Press.

Turn this image sideways to see where the Sea-cat lives

[Look sideways at the picture to see the Sea-Cat’s secret identity … and be sure to read O’Brien’s bicycle-themed novel, The Third Policeman, if you haven’t done so already.]

More tales of bears and popes

2009-07-13

If you really need to know, the link is here.

Julian's fishcake

2009-05-10

birthday fishcake Seeing as how we don’t know when our lovely cat Julian was actually born, we decided to celebrate her birthday on May 8th, since that’s the feast day of Julian of Norwich (and thus her name day).

Alas, Julian wasn’t too crazy about her mackerel and rice cake, though the glowing candle did hypnotize her briefly.

Ah, but at least the bottle is recyclable

2009-04-29

Still with the food theme as I continue my little series of street-art posts.

I have a great number (well, three or four, maybe) of other grafitti photos which I took during the winter and never got around to posting because I couldn’t think of clever enough captions. Watch this space in case I get my mojo back sometime soon.

In the bisque

2009-02-26

Another food-related mural, this time on the side of a poultry butcher on St. Andrew’s Street in Kensington Market.

The bucolic bagel

2009-01-10

A happy, and very Canadian, scene depicted in a mural on the wall of Bagel House on Avenue Road. My one quibble is with the appearance of the bagels. The Bagel House (there’s another branch on Bayview) is justly famous for their dense,chewy Montreal-style bagels, baked in a wood oven. But the bagels in the picture seem to be too large and fluffy by half.

Ceci n'est pas un train

2008-11-29

old train image from Wikimedia Commons Apologies for running three items in a row about public transit — the thing is, I spend a lot of time on it these days. Anyway, the main point of this anecdote is the way that people with autism frequently have a better grip on the difference between ‘real’ and ‘not-real’ than do the neurotypical.

We were walking to the subway, overhearing an autistic-spectrum boy we know telling his helper what he wanted for his birthday.

— I want trains, he said.

— Real trains? asked his helper.

— No, not real trains, pretend trains. (Pause.) Pretend trains, like in a book about trains, he explained.

About 20 minutes later, we were on the Queen streetcar and a couple of blokes were talking loudly about macho stuff. One of them said how he was going to get a train set for his four-year-old nephew.

— A real train, he said, so he doesn’t have to play with girly things.

Out, damned stream, out I say!

2008-11-22

On the (so far) ill-fated St. Clair streetcar right-of-way, a historical plaque tells us all about Victorian worthy Samuel Nordheimer, for whom the Nordheimer ravine is named. I suspect they are exaggerating the details of his struggle with Castle Frank stream, however.

Happy birthday, dear roundel

2008-10-09

Man Ray LT poster The London Transport symbol is 100 years old this week. Here it is, in the upper left of a 1938 Man Ray poster, which appears to offer the prospect of a ride through multiple zones (a tip of the hat to The Guardian website and its gallery of old LT images).

Some (not entirely) unreliable factoids: • “Roundel” is the heraldic term for a circle, though in modern usage it tends to be used mainly for rings or concentric circles, like you see on the sides of warplanes. • Arguably, the LT roundel is much more recognizable than any old airforce’s. • The Toronto Transit Commission’s logo is called a “pylon” but this seems to have more to do with electricity than heraldry.

How Julian got her purr back

2008-09-18

 

Julian the cat has had quite a week, as have we. On Monday, she went in for a spaying and died while under anaesthetic, or so we believed at the time. The vet stopped performing CPR on her when it seemed to have no effect and then she spontaneously (bless her little heart) started breathing again. Warning us that she might not make it through the night, or might be severely brain-damaged, they called us to pick her up that evening, as they had no night doctor on duty. So we took her home, watched her slowly experiment with moving her legs, head, and tail, and waited for hopeful signs.

It’s been nothing but hopeful signs since then — Tuesday she managed to stand up in her litter box (and use it!); Wednesday she ate catfood from her dish and walked all around the ground floor of the house; and today we haven’t been able to stop her from climbing the stairs. Her eyesight is still dodgy — optic nerve damage is a common side effect of post-op respiratory failure — but she does seem to be well on her way back to being a happy little indoor cat.

Evil! censorship! by the evil! state!

2008-09-12

nothing to see here, folks

I was waiting for a streetcar outside 180 Queen Street West and I noticed the big (about 3 metres high) Haida sculpture in the lobby of the building.The figures at the bottom of the carving looked a bit peculiar — were they eagles with strange facial expressions and what looked likwe cravats around their necks? I went through the revolving doors to get a better look. Turns out that — this being a modern Haida carving — they were meant to be lawyers (legal eagles, anyone? Groan.) And the building was, among other things, a federal courthouse.

A security guy saw me taking a picture with my Palm Pilot and told me to cease and desist, as photography is never permitted inside federal courthouses – even in the lobby, which is basically spillover seating for the local Starbucks. So I deleted the photo, hence the empty frame on this page.

All manner of things shall be well

2008-08-28

Lady Julian This is Lady Julian. She is named after Julian of Norwich, who was in turn named after the Church of St. Julian (where she lived as an anchoress), which was in turn named after a saint who may have been fictitious.

Julian is nine months old and very sweet-tempered. She used to live in (or around) an auto-body shop. But now she lives with us.

Variety store, Queen and Ryerson

2008-07-21

Perhaps he’s a monster because he is incapable of showing emotion. Or maybe it’s just the pointy head.

P'edants corner

2008-06-17

do not feed pigeons, or other birds So what’s with the comma? Nothing much, really — it’s not one of those errors which changes the whole sense of the sentence. But you have to admit, it does look a bit odd.

I like the artwork on this sign as well — nice detail on the breadcrumbs.

Warning sign

2008-05-21

I spotted this sign in Eglinton Park just minutes after reading a story in Metro about a 100kg bear stuck up in a tree in downtown Winnipeg.

Abril em Portugal

2008-04-25

It’s the anniversary of the Carnation Revolution and a Portuguese national holiday. Here’s a link to the song which started it all, Grândola vila morena. The song, a celebration of workers’ solidarity in the small Alentejo town of Grândola, was written by José Afonso, the celebrated left-wing Catholic singer-songwriter. [Afonso, popularly known as Zeca or Zé, died in obscurity in 1987.]

The Movimento das Forças Armadas (MFA) actually sent out two signals for the 25 April 1974 rebellion — first, a piece of Eurovision pop called A depois do adeus, which didn’t alert the censors, and about an hour later, Grândola — a banned song by a banned artist.

We were on holiday in Lisbon at the time of the 20th anniversary of the revolution, but somehow missed every occasion where Grândola was sung in public. But we did get hold of a great souvenir — the tribute album Filhos da Madrugada, featuring about 20 hip young bands doing covers of Zé Afonso’s most famous songs.

[comment added on 2008/08/01: I just saw a charming little claymation video of the song, put together by some Portuguese schoolkids. You can play it here or link to it here. The old oak tree, which has a background role in the song, is a featured performer in the video.]

Happy box

2008-03-27

happy box, beside 720 Bathurst St, Toronto

This box is happy. I hope you are happy as well.

La tarte des demoiselles Tatin

2008-02-16

I used to draw a lot of cartoons, but I’ve been off my form in recent years. I blame the internet.

This strip was my first ‘toon since about 2002, and went out to a few selected people for Christmas 2007.

A streetcar named Oslobodenje

2008-01-16

This is a ticket from the Sarajevo streetcar system circa 2002. One of the main streetcar lines runs down Bulevar Me¨e Selimovica and passes the building where the daily newspaper Oslobodenje was published.

Oslobodenje means “Freedom” or “Liberation” in the Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian language. The paper was founded by supporters of Tito in 1943, and for most of its history it was a fairly safe Communist Party paper. During the 1992-1994 seige of Sarajevo, it came out daily — with only one exception — under some of the worst conditions imaginable. The building itself was shelled several times.

“A streetcar named Oslobodenje” was the title of my personal (but fairly inactive) webpage from 2002 until I started this new site.