19 October 2009

Note to self #1: Greenstone

Nothing really to see here. I'm just cleaning off my long-suffering laptop, and uninstalling greenstone. Being the packrat that I am, and given how many hours I put into getting my greenstone library just right, I wanted to put my macros somewhere where I'd remember I put them. Unlike my usb keys, which thankfully are sitting in good hands waiting for me to pick up next semester. If any LIS students by some weird chance stumble upon this, you're welcome to use this for reference if you can make sense of it.

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Welcome to the Historical Photographs of Minden Collection</H2>
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<iframe width="425" height="350" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" src="http://maps.google.ca/maps?q=minden+ON&amp;oe=utf-8&amp;client=firefox-a&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;hl=en&amp;t=k&amp;ll=44.926982,-78.728714&amp;spn=0.010635,0.018239&amp;z=15&amp;output=embed" style="border: 1px dashed; margin-right:10px;" align="left"></iframe><br />
<h3 style="font-family:sans-serif, arial, helvetica; font-size:20px;">About Minden</h3>
<p style="font-family:sans-serif, arial, helvetica; font-size:14px;">The town of Minden, Ontario was settled in 1859, on the banks of the Gull River. During this time, British North America was keeping a wary eye to the south,
nervous of being the next target of the U.S. philosophy of Manifest Destiny. As such, the government began building roads into the yet-uninhabited Crown Land of
Upper Canada, expanding its colonized land northward in case of an invasion from the south, and attracting new impoverished immigrants away from the Great Lakes
with the promise of free land. The Bobcaygeon Road was one of these Colonization Roads, and reached the south bank of the Gull River in 1859 - then only a trail through
the dense forest. </p>
<p style="font-family:sans-serif, arial, helvetica; font-size:14px;">Today, Minden has a population of approximately 1,700 people, serving the township of Minden Hills
(pop'n 5,500). The County Seat of Haliburton County, the town is drastically different from its pre-Confederation beginings yet eerily similar. Built on and still
maintained by the trappings of a rough and tumble lumber town, Minden has become a popular arts and tourism destination, experiencing a population explosion
of 400% every summer.</p>
<p style="font-family:sans-serif, arial, helvetica; font-size:14px;">This photographic collection documents Minden's history, from the early days of dirt roads and
hitching posts, to modern day Minden Hills. </p>
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<small><a href="http://maps.google.ca/maps?q=minden+ON&amp;oe=utf-8&amp;client=firefox-a&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;hl=en&amp;t=k&amp;ll=44.926982,-78.728714&amp;spn=0.010635,0.018239&amp;z=15&amp;source=embed" style="font-family:sans-serif, arial, helvetica; font-size:10px; text-decoration:none; color:#000000;text-align:left;" align="left">View Larger Map</a></small>
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24 May 2009

celebrating 3 generations of lunacy...

Some pictures of my visit up in KW with my Gramma, Great Aunt, and Mom.

On your right, some yankee tack brought back from the US by Mom to display her American roots. I suppose you could say I'm half American on my mother's side. ;)

Most of the weekend's conversation was dominated by horticultural pursuits. One of my Gramma's raisons d'ĂȘtre is gardening. Both my Gramma and my late Grandpa's families were farmers - tobacco, veggies, whatever. When Grandpa was still alive, I remeber there being a big vegetable garden in the back yard, and vaguely remeber some of those vegetables coming in the house. Apparently the dog was fond of eating the peppers. Now Gramma has her perennial beds, and this patch of rhubarb that grows like mad every year. We've tried to take some of the roots home to grow, but we're forever killing it... goes to show that subsequent generations have not inherited a green thumb! So, the best we can hope for is a trip to Gramma's and raiding her rhubarb patch.


Rhubarb patch ready to raid...

Raided!

Having a bit of a rhubarb over rhubarb? NO! It's MINE!


Now, where did I put that tierra??

18 May 2009

The urban rural divide

[RIGHT: exhibit A - pickup truck]

There was an interesting debate on The Agenda last week... or rather what might have shaped up to be an interesting debate... on sustainable living. Specifically, which of urban, suburban, or rural living were the most sustainable. I began watching with interest, thinking that I might get some food for thought, and some preconceptions (being a country girl living in the city) challenged. For instance, I know that I walk way more in the city than I do in the country. Why? Generally in the country I'm not leaving the house for much, when I am it's usually something I need a car to carry (kitty litter, groceries for 5), or I'm driving to the next town over. In the city, I'm only shopping for myself so I can carry everything I need while walking, I take public transit which does not always drop me off right at my door, and if I can walk it in a shorter amount of time it takes me to wait for the bus, I do. So, I was expecting this kind of stuff to be addressed in the debate.

Steve Paikin had a rather large and unwieldy panel, consisting of planning experts, architects, and consultants - but only one of them was an expert in rural planning. The rest were very much on one side or the other of the urban/suburban fence. So early on in the episode, I figured that this was going to be a focus of the debate - alright, compact urban vs. suburban sprawl is an interesting topic in itself. My dismay came when Paikin finally did come around to the rural planning expert, Wayne Caldwell, this exchange, bookended with some commentary on urban rural interdependency and rural challenges took place:

(The entire episode can be seen here. This exchange took place around 14:00)

PAIKIN: Wayne, let me just follow up. The assumption would be that obviously many people in rural Ontario... they're taking their garbage to the dump, right? They're just tossing it into an open pit somewhere.
CALDWELL: I would disagree...
PAIKIN: I'm sure. But it does happen... and they probably drive there in a big pickup truck that's pretty smokey out the back too. That view is out there.
CALDWELL: Another stereotype.
PAIKIN: Another stereotype, so help us out here, because I'm sure that view is out there.

Now, I get that Paikin was attempting to use stereotypes to educate (so, sort of ironically). However, given the exchange lasted only around a minute, it was hardly enought time for the obnoxiously loud stereotype to be overtaken by the soft spoken reality. Perhaps I'm underestimating the intelligence of The Agenda's audience... but given the state of current events television today, I'm not inclined to be apologetic about it. I would have liked to see each kind of living get equal billing, dispelling stereotypes, rather than brazenly throwing them around with no particular point made in the end. Not that I want a sugar coated view of rural living... having more of its challenges spelled out and analyzed would have been nice too.

So, rather than become a little more educated about sustainable living, I wound up face to face with a lesson about the urban rural divide. Now, being a country girl living in the city, I can say I certainly prefer rural living. I enjoy the quiet, the more open spaces, the feeling of community, and the low crime rate. But, urban living has its advantages too - more services (healthcare, transportation), more amenities, and more educational opportunities. But I get the feeling that those of us aquainted with both rural and urban living are in the minority - which means that there is a divide in terms of understanding one or the other.

This lack of understanding presents roadblocks for development and cooperation between urban and rural areas. I would argue especially for rural since 85% of people live in urban areas, and only 15% live in rural (StatsCanada, as quoted in the show), and consequently urban areas are more represented by policy makers in Queen's Park and Parliament Hill. In order to remove these roadblocks, people in urban areas need to understand the dynamics and challenges of where many of them play - rural Ontario. At the same time, rural areas need to - and in my experience indeed do this with intermittent success - be the squeaky wheel and show their urban counterparts the merits of sharing some of the pie. After all, the more sustainable we can make the urban playground that is "the country", the more prosperous the whole province can be because one segment isn't leeching off the other.

Misunderstandings can also lead to resentment. Agricultural areas feel as though they are misunderstood, underfunded, and under appreciated - which lead to farmers driving their tractors out onto the 401 in protest. Tourist areas feel inundated by impatient urbanites who bring the busy urban lifestyle to their slower quiet rural vacationland - resulting in altercations in the grocery store. These are two extremes - obviously there are many folks in the middle who appreciate both - but what causes these two extremes? Lack of understanding.

Later on in the episode, Pier Giorgio Di Cicco, urban consultant and Toronto's Poet Laureate, brought up an interesting point about the sustainability of rural living, and in my opinion why it is desirable. He described the public realm as spaces and places in the community where the public gather and interact - though at times he seemed to be also defining that interaction itself as the public realm, which works for me too. He basically posited that the public realm in urban areas is just about dead. People stay within their private dwellings, kids don't play much outside, people don't go out merely for the sake of being sociable, people don't know their neighbours. However, in rural areas the public realm is still alive and well, and people are less insular, neighbors chat, kids play together outside. This, Di Cicco reflects, leads to more spending (read: shopping) in urban areas, and less pocket money spent in rural areas.

I think, though, that Di Cicco missed that there are many small public realms in urban areas in what almost might be considered subcommunities. This isn't surprising, considering that subcommunities may not be geographical, rather based on interests, education, etc. These people do gather - in both public and private places - and interact in a decidedly not-insular way. But this may be irrelevant to Di Cicco's point - because in the city I still find myself shelling out more money than when I'm in the country, and gathering with my classmates is still relatively sporadic. Perhaps we still need the geographical public realm after all.

So, while I started out dismayed at the urban rural divide made so evident by the pickup truck at the dump stereotype, at least the debate winded down with some though provoking commentary on how rural life can actually nourish us as human beings. But, I do hope that as more people flock to more rural climes to retire, or claim their little piece of Ontario's playground, that they try and understand the place to which they are going. Likewise, perhaps more rural folk should spend some time in the city. It could be like job sharing... sort of.

10 May 2009

Remarkably unremarkable

If you cast your eyes to the right of the screen, you'll notice I am a frequent user of the microblogging service, Twitter.

This post isn't actually about Twitter.

If it were, I'd be coming in on this typically too late, as the maelstrom over the merits or lack-thereof of Twitter has ebbed into a persistent shower. But, something I've noticed about those decrying Twitter as a time wasting, pointless exercise is that they have one thing in common:

They are bewildered at the amount of banality "tweeted" on any given day, especially by celebrities.

This got me thinking, not so much about Twitter, but about our obsession with remarkableness... remarkability... being remarkable. There is an attitude, that in order to be at all worthy of attention, you have to somehow be very very important. But this importance, especially when it comes to the online world, usually does not mean actually important - name the Secretary-General of the United Nations, and the heiress to a certain high profile and very rich family in the hotel business, and I'm sure you'll come up with Paris Hilton faster than Ban Ki-Moon. It would seem that importance, in the North American psyche anyway, does not always mean one who helps the world the most, but rather one who is known by most of the world.

There is something to be said about indulging in the representative rather than remarkable. And it seems like there is a great deal of unhappiness when people mistake the remarkable for the representative. Really, if our view of the world and ourselves were formed only by the remarkable then we would all be oddly young go-getters with high paying jobs, disproportionate amounts of liesure time, high skill hobbies (musician, artist, author, race car driver), and a fair amount of public attention. We would all be the very best of the best churned out of the sausage factory, while the seconds and defects get tossed into the dog food pile. Problem is, as the bar of success gets raised, the dog food pile gets larger - and no matter how clever and hard working you might be, that's where you wind up.

That's not to say that 'important' people don't play a valuable role in society. Those that are lauded for their talents and good deeds provide something for us to strive for. Perhaps we won't ever reach their success or fame, but we may find ourselves following their example and developing our own talents, or doing our own good deeds. But, when remarkable people become the only people who are deemed worthy of paying any attention to, we find it difficult to measure up to that standard - feeling that we ought to and are failures if we do not.

Here's where we come back to Twitter for a moment. Twitter is a lagoon of the representative. What people tweet about is the same stuff you would hear around the water cooler at work - the latest news, what you ate for dinner last night, the latest antics of your sister-in-law/kids/pets. Sometimes people tweet about random thoughts that occurred to them while reading, watching television, or working out. Others tweet about their daily routine "Dragged myself out of bed at 6 am, ran for 8 miles, showered, now off to work." These are all things that we can relate to on an everyday basis, and they represent the basic units of the human condition in the Western world.

Some celebrities have chosen to share with the world the more representative aspects of their life. Wil Wheaton, David Hewlett, and Robert Llewellyn are just a few who tweet about their kids, playing with the dog, and procrastination. There is a certain comfort that these folks who are 'remarkable' on select days because they are actors in the public eye, are actually 'representative' on any other given day. I often wonder if those who are turned off by celebs tweeting the more 'boring' aspects of their lives are secretly ashamed of the uneventfulness of their own lives.

But really, representative does not always mean boring. Just because someone isn't in the limelight does not mean they aren't interesting in their own right. Just because someone hasn't made it on Oprah doesn't mean they don't have an inspiring story to tell. It just means that no one else has heard it. Suddenly, 'remarkable' looks pretty arbitrary. Or perhaps 'remarkable' is just ill-defined. Maybe 'remarkable' isn't how well we're known, but how well we live.

Perhaps its time that we celebrate our representativeness, while striving to be remarkable in our own right - and not worry about what everyone else thinks remarkable ought to be.

08 March 2009

this is going to be very nerdy...

I was cleaning out my gmail account... a totally unnecessary and futile exercise, but good to do while trying to recover from "spring forward" fatigue, and came across a series of emails that made me laugh.

Two of my favourite sci fi shows evidently prompted a rare fit of mathematics leading to a discovery of gargantuanly geeky proportions.

So here was the stream of consciousness:

The Doctor, in the episode 42, gives us a lesson on happy numbers:



So, if you didn't get that, a happy number is a number when you take the sums of the squares of its digits and iterate that process until it gets to 1 is a happy number, if it goes in an endless loop it's not a happy number.

Alright, next, we have Rodney McKay's password from an episode of Stargate Atlantis:



Which of course lead me to naturally ask, is 666 a happy or unhappy number? What does that have to do with 42 you may ask? Well, that's the freaky part:

666 = 6^2 + 6^2 + 6^2 = 36 + 36 + 36
= 108 = 1 + 64
= 65 = 36 + 25
= 61 = 36 + 1
= 37 = 9 + 49
= 58 = 25 + 64
= 89 = 64 + 81
= 145 = 1 + 16 + 25
= **42** = 16 + 4
= 20 = 4 + 0
= 4
= 16 = 1 + 36
= 37 = 9 + 49
= 58 = 25 + 64
= 89 = 64 + 81
= 145 = 1 + 16 + 25
= **42**

666, that number that holds all that weight as being the mark of the beast and the sign of the End of Days, is indeed an unhappy number.

Add to that, it also loops forever in that sequence to 42... the answer to the ultimate question of life the universe and everything.

Freaky no?

Okay... no.

But it was nerdy.

06 March 2009

a lesson about assumptions

Updated 2009/03/07

John Tory's victory in the Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock byelection hinged on several assumptions that were clear on the outset.

1. H-KL-B is a Conservative riding.
2. Because H-KL-B has a high %ge of seniors, they will vote Conservative.
3. Because H-KL-B is largely rural, the rest of us will vote Conservative.
4. Because Tory was unseating a lowly back-bencher, people would jump at the chance to have the leader of the Official Opposition as their MPP.

And really, Tory seemed to get us half right... which means he got us more than half wrong. So he lost.

What Tory underestimated... well... besides all of the people within the riding he was sure he'd be representing as of this morning... was the power of caring about your constituents. Love or hate Chris Hodgson - the beginning of our over-decade-long run as a blue riding - there are many things in our riding, specifically in the County of Haliburton, that would not be there otherwise. He made an impact on the community, and the community rewarded him with votes. Likewise with Laurie Scott - effective or not - she has roots in H-KL-BR, and again she made attempts to get things done for her constituents.

Tory, a not-we from the city, could not have picked a worse riding to run in. Even worse, when he was pitted against an effective local candidate, he still all but declared victory long before the bulk of the ballots were even cast.

What gets me more than Tory's blatantly wrong assumptions about the riding from which I hail, is that what little urban-based media coverage the byelection had, prior to his loss, also made the same assumptions about H-KL-B. But then again, maybe I expect too much in that regard...

In the end, one political career has finally gone down the drain, and the other is most certainly circling. And while I think it's only fair to be angry at Laurie Scott's decision to resign and let Tory run in our riding, I'm not sure it's fair to be angry at her. I'm sure there was quite a lot of pressure for her to - as the party probably put it - "do the right thing". Afterall, she was - as Tory collectively alluded to in his press conference this morning - an "under-utilized" Member of Parliament. Should Scott decide to run again in H-KL-B, I think it is only fair that people give her a fair shake in 2011 - that is, measure her equally against the other candidates and chose the best person regardless of this most recent episode of political theatre.

However, I think Rick Johnson - who I hear was somewhat shellshocked at his victory - was a good choice this time, and in 2011 will make for a challenging incumbent. I'm cynical when it comes to politics - at the beginning of this election I held the somewhat surly sentiment that we had the choice of a failed Leader of the Opposition, or an ineffectual backbencher.

However, when prompted to look into it more, I saw many of Johnson's concerns mirrored those of my own - such as keeping young people in H-KL-B, and supporting local heritage... not to mention developing infrastructure, something everyone wants to see - his resume spoke to someone whose past experience would serve well in the political arena, and as someone who really "gets" the area. Who understands that we're an intelligent, ambitious, and self-sufficient lot that needs and deserves as much attention as any other riding.

I'm still cynical, but I'll go as far as to hope that I see Rick Johnson stick his neck out for H-KL-B from his place in the Legislature... may your seat be rarely warm Mr. Johnson, best of luck to you and all of us.

Update 2009/03/07: It is interesting to see the snide remarks and digs that are starting to come from some of the Tory supporters on various news media websites. Even the Sun, the bastion of credible journalism that it is *sarcasm*, is joining in with "In one almighty hissy fit, the good burghers of Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock decided this week to teach the city slicker a lesson."

Again, just goes to show a) what a sure thing they all that this riding would be, and b) how little they actually understand about this riding's constituents. Really, if this were indeed a protest vote, as posited in the Globe and Mail, John Tory would have lost by way more than just 906 votes.

John Tory himself said, "... the voters can never be wrong..." Those of his supporters who are now stamping their feet should follow his example and exhibit a little pride. The man was just not good as a politician, he would not have served the riding well, and we should all look forward to him succeeding in whatever he decides to do next... as he also said, there are places outside of politics where he can make a difference. Maybe even more of a difference.

20 February 2009

Spam!

The joke about how spam "used to be a luncheon meat" has definitely become passe. Partly because anyone not living under a rock knows that Spam still is a lunch meat, and also because the currently retiring are tech savvy enough to know the slang term for unsolicited email.

There was an interesting debate over the MLIS listserv at UWO over whether or not the listserv itself should be used as a forum for debate. The whole thing is summed up quite nicely by this fellow, who invited people to continue the debate over on his blog. It appears there haven't been any takers, but kudos to him for trying.

His argument is that information overload squelches intellectual freedom. I'm not sure that I agree. I think this particular incident was about location and intellectual freedom. Thinking of Speaker's Corner in Hyde Park, these debates were also unsolicited and in a public forum. However, people had the option of bypassing Speaker's Corner entirely, or walking away from the debate when they tired of it.

When it comes to the MLIS listserv, the option to walk away is less available. These are emails that we are expected to read as MLIS students, and there are an awful lot of them. Really, our choice to avoid debate is taken away from us by virtue of the nature of the forum. Shouldn't intellectual freedom also include the freedom to not engage?

I exercised my right to not engage by closing (and eventually deleting) the email. Others protested for their right to not engage by responding. Oddly enough, before I had made the decision to delete the email, gmail interpreted the thread as being Spam and relegated it to the same fate as male enhancement tools and work from home scams.

I don't think intellectual freedom was in any way squelched here. The debate just took a different direction than the presence of Timmy Ho's on the lower floor.

12 February 2009

It are fact. I know it because of my learnings.

Having been plunged back into academia unexpectedly, I am finding it slightly difficult to adjust to a few of the quirks of intellectualism. In fact, I think I'm feeling ever so slightly anti-intellectual. Or am I?

I have this one class which is highly theoretical, and taught by a very nearly growed-up PhD (I don't mean that disrespectfully, only to say he is nearing completion of that honour). It is the class, he asserts, that is supposed to make us think - amongst the rest of our highly practical learnings. In this class we are supposed to give a lot of thought to very thoughtful things, and give definitions to things that defy definition. We're suppose to gain insight into the broader, and perhaps idealistic, scope of what the library is all about.

In other words, we are navel gazing. Which I get, being a champion navel gazer myself.

But this class I don't get. Yes, we get into some interesting quagmires about information ethics, plunge into the blurry gray areas spawned by intellectual freedom's conflict with societal norms, and run amok in the vast planes of definitions for information. And I can see the value in pitting my little grey cells against the dragons that in there be. However we seem to spend a lot of time getting to the dragon. And when we do, it seems that we never actually slay the dragon. And, while I don't neccessarily think that we always can slay the dragon, it seems that we also never acknowledge that we haven't slayed the dragon, or even explore ways of maybe tricking the dragon into having a snooze, or getting stuck in a cave.

Even if we could maybe talk about the dragon actually not being a dragon and being something else completely might help me out. But as it is we seem to spend more time arguing about the sword... or whether it is actually a sword... or what it might mean to be a sword and why not a crossbow or one of those spiky balls attached to a stick with a chain.

And the class is on a Monday. I've never gotten the hang of Mondays.

So this week, my challenge should I accept it is to write an essay for this class about whether or not we live in an information society by analyzing the arguments for and against. The thing is, these arguments don't seem to actually be for and against... they seem to be more about whether it is good or not (which maybe is for and against, only in a different way). So now, instead of arguing about the sword, they are arguing about whether the sword makes the dragon good or bad. Personally, I think if we keep this up, the dragon is just going to skewer us WITH the sword, and use its firey breath to cook us for dinner - happy to not only have something to eat, but also to be rid of the chatter.

So, I'm going to argue my case as I see it (that is, that both sides say that we do live in an information society, they just don't agree on how we arrived here, whether it is good or not, or what we should actually call it), and hope that the dragon is on my side.

But the whole exercise has made me realize how tethered I am to practicality. I like an intellectual exercise as long as I can eventually find a way to integrate it into my day-to-day and make it practical. So far, I'm not finding it in this class. And maybe I won't... or maybe the tether is just way longer than I'm accustomed to. Either way, I hope that I don't reach the end of it by April.

01 February 2009

- GRRRRRRR!


Check out my new mug. Got it at this cute little art shop today. The artist has some really funky designs... they can be seen at her website: http://www.kettodesign.com

26 January 2009

Please don't steal this card, it's already stolen

So, things are more or less going well right now. I've been concentrating on getting my readings done, and forming a routine. I've made some new friends as well, so I'm starting to feel gradually more settled.

Saturday I decided to challenge myself and audition for a play. I didn't get the part, but it was a fun experience, and I received some very positive feedback. So I'll keep an eye out for further opportunities and give 'er another shot.

Also went over to my classmate's flat for some Canadian film goodness. She's subletting the funkiest little place right now. Dodgy side of town, but it's in the upstairs of this beautiful old home with big windows and tall ceilings. The decor is very funky with all the rooms painted white with one coloured wall. Lots of art, antique doodads, and crazy furniture - turquoise brocade settee anyone? Gives me lots of ideas of how I'd like to decorate my own home one day.

Oh, and I went grocery shopping at Walmart the other day. Seriously. They have a huge Walmart grocery store that is almost identical to the big Tesco that I used to visit in Glasgow. I went in figuring everything was going to be product of [insert impossibly far away land here] - which is okay for certain things, but not so much for others. Surprisingly, this was not the case. I actually found a lot of closer-to-here produce - Leamington tomatoes even! So, I was suitably impressed. Further investigation is of course required, but this looks like it might be one of my regular haunts.

Finally, I went to make a credit card transaction the other day, and to my surprise my card was declined. Further investigation revealed a whopping $650 charge to some gambling website based out of Dublin... obviously not mine. So, I had to call the credit card company and get that all straightened out. Guess it was only a matter of time... and I'm glad that I make a habit of regularly checking my transactions. Still, not a fun thing to have happen, no matter how painless the procedure is to fix it.

16 January 2009

I have frozen lungsicles!

It is damn cold in London today. The windchill this morning was -32 C. I had to lightly jog (more like shuffle, shuffle, slide) to my bus this afternoon, and I swear my lungs had ice crystals clattering around in them.

I've made it through my first week alright. This is definitely going to be a lot of work (as expected), though some classes are going to be more painful than I thought, and others are going to be less painful than I thought. Either way, there will still be pain... but you know what they say about that.

Pleasant surprise... the whole class appears to be really keen. Usually there are a few you can identify as having to carry... not here. As well, there are a wide variety of backgrounds, so a lot to learn from everybody.

This would appear to be an enriching experience in the making. And I'll re-read that sentence in March when I'm swamped with work, and needing reminded about what possessed me to come back to school. ;)

11 January 2009

"Pack the car and leave this town, who'll notice that I'm not around?"

People from the north country take a masochistic pride in their winter driving abilities. Conditions that would cripple most cities to the south, northerners plough through and call just another day. We complain about the driving conditions, with the full knowledge that we can make it through with very little problem. When it comes down to it... I think we all like winter driving on some level... even if it's just a weird matter of pride.

That said... I liked nothing about the almost 6 hour drive to London on Thursday. It's one thing to drive 20 minutes on a nearly empty country road... it's another to have your destination still hours away, knowing you have some heavy lifting to indulge in, and an empty fridge to thank you in the end.

But, I'm now quite settled, having got through all that big-move angst. I did the whole sleep on the blow up bed until Dad and James brought my furniture down on Saturday. Had some help (by which I mean I held open doors while everyone else moved my stuff) from the boys (individually known as Jason and Tristan) moving it into my little hovel downstairs. Spent the better part of the afternoon hanging out with them until going home with a couple of samosas in hand, and munching on one of those for supper. Tristan was also kind enough to help hook up my cable.

Things are now feeling much more homely. I have my bed made, my furniture arranged. I have a great picture on my dresser of Main Street Minden of olde with cows running by the Sterling Bank. I've even smelled the place up with my scented oil burner. And, on a slightly morbid note, I've even cleaned Jason's blood off my tv... the lesson? Always pack bandaids!! You never know when your friends will incur pesky scrapes and cuts when they help you move. Not only did I not have bandaids... I didn't even have kleenex.

Housekeeping notes: Still trying to pin down this blog's identity. Really, food was just a topic that normally comes up in life for me to write around. But, I'm hardly a food aficionado - I just desire to share little tidbits that I enjoy rather than express my non-existent genius. Really, this is more an online journal... as much for me as anyone else reading it. So, I continue to diversify and expand. You'll notice the Cork'd feed is gone (it crapped out on me, and I wasn't inclined to try and fix it... if indeed it was fixable), and it is now replaced by my Digg feed. These are just interesting net things I've dugg. Twitter feed continues to go strong...

Nice thing about where I'm living, is I'm a 10 minute walk from the grocery store. In fact, it is faster for me to walk, than to rearrange the vehicles in the driveway and then drive. So, I did my first real substantial grocery shopping today. I hate setting up brand new food wise. But I think I've managed to get stuff for a week or two's meals anyhow. And yay for my frozen lentil soup... that's kept me going for these disorganized couple of days.

Oh yeah, and orientation was on Friday, thus far things look promising...

So, on with the motley. Monday classes begin.

02 January 2009

Social Networking and Booze!

My friend, Aaron, put me on to Gary Vaynerchuk on Twitter which through a series of clicks got me onto Cork'd, which in turn has a nifty javascript generator which allows you to put your wine review list on your website. Ta da! How's that for social networking. Look right and down for the wines I've reviewed thus far.

Truth be told, I am not much of a wine taster. I can't taste all the different notes that real wine conesseurs can - my palate is just not that sophisticated. But, I do know what I like, and what I like to enjoy it with. Call my contribution that of the common man... my pleebian tastes.

Speaking of gourmet alcohol, Mom broke out the bottle of Laphroaig last night. Like drinking a campfire built with mossy logs. Great with a big hunk of cheese... smoked gouda or old cheddar please! Definitely needed to add water to it though... not that there is any pride to drinking scotch neat - adding water takes away the fire and lets you taste all those oils. In the interest of full disclosure, I'm also a scotch n00b, but my parents are most definitely not. Perfect that I'm getting my scotch education from them.

And of course, because I do drink responsibly, I am also a very cheap date. ;) Any takers?

01 January 2009

New Year, New Stuff... time for a latte

Goodbye 2008, and good riddance!

So it's a New Year, and you can see I've tidied up the place (can't say the same for my room... but that too will come), and I now have a snazzy new URL! Makes a bit more sense than "erin in scotland", doesn't it? More changes will occur throughout 2009. I'll try and make up some graphics of my own, instead of using the canned ones from blogger.

We had two good ol' birthday celebrations... one for my brother and one for my sister. My brother and I are both sci fi geeks, so I made him a TARDIS gingerbread house. Really... it's 5 pieces of gingerbread mumified by royal icing and sprayed with blue food colour (which creates an ominous haze in your kitchen). But the effect was still carried of with my usual mediocrity. This is actually a sequel to the TARDIS cake I did last year (which I can't seem to find a picture of). Why a TARDIS? Well, besides being a Doctor Who fan... it's a big rectangle. So, either a TARDIS, or the monolith from 2001 *yawn*.

I also made my cousin's hubby zombie gingerbread men. Got the green by using neon green food colour tempered by regular green, yellow, and a touch of blue.



Christmas here was pretty low key. I cooked the turkey and it came out wonderful! I used Alton Brown's method of steeping the aromatics in the microwave before pouring the lot into the bird. I didn't brine the sucker though... that's a lot of work, and we don't have a 5 gallon pail kicking around to brine a 20 lb turkey in. That's an experiment for another time. Mom made her best-in-the-world stuffing, which I ate waaaay too much of.

I did the sugarless cheesecake thing as well. This time I had let the cheese and yoghurt mixture drain for 24 hours... much better texture and flavour... and I cut the splenda in half. Just about everything agreed with Dad's blood sugar.

New Year's eve was spent at That Place in Carnarvon, then at home munching on cheese and grapes. I managed to stay up until midnight... hooray!

This morning I am sipping a homemade latte and watching my cat try and worm his way around the mess on my desk. He is a trained killer, now exiled to the indoors because of the cold and snow.... but back to the homemade latte!

I started drinking cafe latte's in Scotland, namely at Nero's Italian Coffee. Then I came home to Minden where there are precious few places to get them... Gravity House is only sporadically open during the off season, and then there is Heritage House in Haliburton (which is also haunted from what I hear). Both make good lattes, but are hardly at my fingertips like a Second Cup or Timothy's would be in the city. Someday, I would love one of those espresso machines with the foaming wand... but right now I don't have a kitchen to put one in, let alone the money to buy one. So I've devised an uber simple way of making your own latte, without any fancy equipment.

Pour milk into your favourite microwave safe mug, and nuke on high for 2 minutes (or so).
Meanwhile, boil the kettle and in a small cup (if you have an espresso cup, it works very well) mix up a single shot of espresso using instant espresso powder.
Take a whisk to the milk, rotating the whisk between your hands until the milk froths up.
Pour in your espresso as artfully as possible and voila! Almost but not quite instant latte!

Btw... the mug with the blackbird on it is done by local potter, April Gates. She does really cool work!