Thursday, October 31, 2013


You can see eight of the little babies born today in this rather blurry shot. They are TINY so I am on huge magnification here.

One of my bursting female guppies had over twenty  babies today. I tore to my small tank and tore out some plants and dumped them to float in my big tank to give them somewhere to hide. The babies like the water at the top of the tank and that is where I floated the the plants. So far, most of them are surviving. I am feeling the tank often to keep the fish from eating the babies

Costin, the aquarium consultant I engaged is rockin'. He sent me emails with videos and photographs of samples of his work for me to react to and he got an idea of my tastes, then he called me from Aquariums West where I get all my fish and supplies. He was buying all the stuff he needs to create the kind of environment I want in my tank. I am so excited.

Tomorrow afternoon, my tank, the stand and the carbon dioxide tanks arrive. I have prepared a space. Then on Tuesday, Costin comes to set everything up. He'll be helping me get the bacterial cycle started in the new tank.

Something's Fishy

Okay, okay…. I have a bit of a problem. I am a piscineophile, an aquarist, a fin man. First I got a 12-gallon tank and then, about a month later, I got a second tank. The second one is only six gallons and it was designed to be the maternity ward/sick bay but the 12-gallon tank is where the best breeding is going on.

I've had them a few months now and I can hardly wait for every morning when I turn on the lights to see all my little fishy buddies. We have gotten used to each other and they get all excited knowing I am going to feed them. My Beta is amazing. He practically leaps out of the tank to get the food. He is curious and brave and I love him. His name is Liberace. (No other ones have names. Don't worry!)

Well yesterday I bought a 60-gallon tank. Not only that, I hired a professional aquarist to design the interior and install a carbon monoxide system so that my new tank can really be a stupendous growing medium. I am as fond of the plants as the fish. I am super excited. Costin, the aquarist, is coming here on Tuesday to get me started.

It is like being a kid again and having a hobby. I haven't had anything like a hobby for half a century.

This morning a mother fish had a lot of babies so I ripped out some plants out of my small tank to dump into the large tank to give the new babies more places to hide. And more are imminent and I have found it thrilling to watch them grow and the colour start to come in. Only then can I tell who had the babies — sometimes. I just love this hobby!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Summer in Fall

There's been virtually no rain for three weeks and it's October. Too much of the wonderful weather was in fog, but now that the fog is gone, we've  had spectacular sunshine. Yesterday was so warm, I was in a t-shirt; today was as sunny buy much cooler. Today I needed a coat and I kept it done up.

Yesterday was a brief walk. My first short-distance walk since my left leg started acting up. It went okay and I could not stop being amazed at the temperature. Today, on impulse, my friends John and Bunny called me up and we went to the Pitt Addington Marsh Wildlife Management Area at Pitt Lake.

The area is stunning just like the Reifle refuge; you feel like you are hundreds of miles from the city there. I loved it.

Yesterday, going over the Cambie Street bridge.

 The blueberry bushes are on fire right now near Pitt River.

 The Pitt Addington Area.

An egret?

 A Trumpeter Swan.

The mashslands have an eerie beauty.

Walking the berm.

Not the colours of the East, but still beautiful.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Dacquoise: Eight out of Ten

I am satisfied but not proud. I haven't tasted one yet. This is not what I envisioned. I need to do work on the butter cream. I wanted a different outside surface and to use a butter cream, but I used whipping cream for the outer layer.

They're good. Sweet, but not too sweet and the lemon taste is subtle. The aftertaste is good but I'll be making changes. Next time, I think I'll make some lemon custard in which to nest it.

It's okay; not great.
Presentations: Seven out of ten.
Taste: Six? I'll ask my friends at dinner. A reconsideration: Eight!

Dacquoise Day Part One

Vingt petites dacquises dans le four

Another stunningly sunny day, and today is a free day with no PAL meetings, no marking (its all done) and no dates with friends. It's a perfect day to bake and try my first walk since my injury on September 18th.

Friend and kitchen mentor, Bunny, gave me a bunch of recipes for dacquiose because I had swooned over a pastry we once had together called "lemon dacquoise" that were gorgeous and delicious. But the recipe calls for a kind of pancake to be made and other recipes I found on line to the same, adding butter creams between layers and over the top to make dacquoise cakes. But I do not like hard meringue cakes; they are impossible to cut cleanly. Besides, what I enjoyed had been a single-serving pastry.

Dacquoise is not a form, it refers to either almond or hazelnut meringue that is credited as originating in the town of Dax, France. So I have decided to make individual pastries using one layer of hazelnut meringue on the bottom, then lemon butter cream between it and an almond meringue layer. I hope to then cover the whole thing in more lemon butter cream, sprinkle them with chopped hazelnuts and top each one off with a twist of sugared lemon rind.

Saturday, October 26, 2013


Proposed new Presentation House Gallery.

I am exhausted and the day is not over...
  1. Teaching from 9:30 to 12:30. It was a good class. My new lesson plans are much better than the old ones. When I went to work, it was low fog. An hour later a glorious sunny day broke out. It is our 19th day without rain in October!
  2. Rush home by cab to meet Laurence, daughter of the most delicious woman in the world, my friend Sylvie. Laurence is 20 and here for a conference. I took her to an Asian lunch that she really liked and then I got a co-op car and we drove around looking at the city. She is a delight.
  3. Friend Dana sent me a link to an article about Presentation House Art Gallery's plans for a beautiful new building on the waterfront. The article references my work: establishing the photography mandate and several shows. It makes me happy and proud that an idea of mine has such legs.
  4. More proof I am old: I found an iPhone on the way home from teaching today. I didn't know what to do and in the meantime, its owner was getting text message after text message. So when I got home, I knocked on my handsome young neighbour's door (I use any excuse) and he answered the incoming textures and took over the job of returning to the owner.
  5. One of these days the phone is going to ring or an email is going to arrive saying either: We want to produce your play, or not. With you in it (or not). This is going to happen to me twice soon. I wait; I am busy, thank God.
  6. Next up: I go to dinner with friend, Dianne. This old man hasn't had this busy a day in a long time.

Friday, October 25, 2013


Honestly: Sometimes I think I am the happiest retired person alive. I do not take this blessed state of being retired for granted. It is a privilege to live as one wants without financial anxiety. "Inheritance" is one of my favourite words. Back pain aside, I live in a state of bliss and have for some time.

So I was shocked this morning to hear from my friends who warehouse my books in an attic of their warehouse that I had only 180 books left. I don't sell a lot of books. Artist Survival Skills (a textbook for visual artists) came out in 2008, but 4,820 have sold since then. This afternoon, because it is just before Christmas, another order for 90 books came in. Now I have 90 left.

Suddenly my tranquility is gone. I spent a fair bit of time today talking with my book sales agent and the biggest seller to see what I should do and now I have a massive project ahead of me: I have to revise and expand the book to create a "new and improved" version. I am not feeling retired any more.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Some Nostalgia from a FAN!

This was recorded in March 1962. Almost exactly two years later Julie started filming Sound of Music. Who knew!!! And there arose fuss over Carol's slap to Julie's stomach at the end - Julie was to soon find out that she was pregnant. YouTube continues to astound me with its archive of so many masterworks.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A Good Day

From my kitchen... the fog creeps in...
  1. Actual sunshine got through today. There has been no rain for nine days but nearly all of them have been very foggy. There is nothing but sunny sky predicted for the foreseeable future as well, but fog cannot be predicted so many may be like the past week.
  2. I got an order for 120 books today. That is a good order almost five years after publishing it.
  3. I spent three hours with theatre friends at my friend, Chris', house. Chris is housebound with bone cancer but it is a good news item because in spite of significant pain and mobility challenges, his spirit is strong. We laughed and gossiped and talked about the beauty of life. Perhaps the greatest aspect of visiting Chris is Brent. Brent has moved into Chris's tiny apartment to care for Chris who otherwise would be in palliative care. Brent and Chris are showing us how great a thing we humans can be.
  4. This magnificent radio station I have found in Boston that plays only Broadway show tunes played Thank Heaven for Little Girls. I have so few memories of my poor crazy mother who so dreadfully lost her way, but one is her taking me to see Gigi — twice! That's what probably made me gay.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

FOG / Back Pain / Bliss

I absolutely adore Mr. Radcliff. I have never seen a Potter film but his scenes from Equus and How to Succeed and his interviews on YouTube reveal a witty, well-bred and well-adjusted young man with a marvellous and diverse talent. What wise casting he was for Potter.

Today is day six of thick, thick relentless fog — day and night. In the evening, watching TV, it felt like a winter night because it was white outside every window — like snow. It is really weird to be on the seventh floor, right in it. It makes you want to be under a warm cover and with your pet and/or a good book.

I am feeling really great today because it was my last day at the physiotherapist — at least until something else happens. I did "the rack," was electrified as usual and I got exercises to do to at home in order to continue my healing. But I can walk at a normal pace and I am no longer constantly looking over my shoulder, wary of being bumped. And best of all, Mr. Physio says I should try going back to fitness. Yay.

But the best part of life lately has been finding a web radio station called The Best of Broadway and Beyond (WERS HD2 in Boston, found using the search engine on iTunes music/internet). It broadcasts endless broadway show music without any commercials. I am in heaven. And, of course, when the always glorious voices sing particularly wonderful songs, you can read who is singing and what show it is from.

Being stuck at home with a bad back not only drove me to find my new favourite radio station, it got me searching on YouTube as well. I watched a lot of slam poetry, listened to lots of Moth stories, watched cooking demonstrations and broadway scenes. I like lazy relaxing entertainment at times and more and more YouTube wins over television.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

My Beloved Swainson's Thrush

The best aspect of today was the sense that I will get better and go for more long walks. I am waiting for one more appointment with the physiotherapist to discuss resuming exercise and walking, but I am hopeful — if I start moderately. When I do, I will go to the park to hear the song of a Swainson's Thrush. It is my favourite birdsong here in southwestern BC. It is the song of my years on the mountains and in the parks. It is our nightingale.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

I love Wes Anderson

This preview of the Wes Anderson film coming out in March looks delicious. It had me from the first scene.

The back/hip/leg issue is two things: it is physical and mental. The mental part is a seesaw of "I can hardly wait to get better" and "this is never going to get better." I am better than I have been in a month, but only if I am sitting in a good chair or sitting on a cushion that keeps my legs down, not parallel with the flow, or if I am standing.

Every morning at around five am, Leon meows and comes up on the bed to get under the covers. I go back to sleep and get up around six. I stay in the dark so that the fish wake up slowly with the light when the sun comes up. Only then do I turn on the lights in the main room. Then I feed them.

I got these fish on impulse after seeing a fish in a bowl at a friend's house. I couldn't be happier. I just love my tanks and fishies. I have babies maturing that were born here and are looking gorgeous and a new set was just born that are surviving in the jungle of plants I have for them to hide in.

Saturday my second section of my course starts. And in the mail, I got another royalty cheque. I have had a few lately and still can't get over how my little book has become a valued pension.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The BEST Audience Ever

The love of the audience for this gifted singer, Lara Fabian, is palpable, as is her clear sincere emotion at the spontaneous singing by the crowd. Lara has Canadian citizenship; she is hugely popular in Quebec.
The first concert of Lara Fabian after the death of a loved one, Gregory Lemorshalya. She came on stage, but could not sing, and then everyone stood up and started singing and the whole hall replaced the words "Je t'aime" (I love you) with "On t'aime" (We love you) Then her producer Rick Alisson, on piano, comes up and says: 'Look ... and you said that you had nothing to live for ... Live for them, for people who love you.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

I read this today...

For tens of thousands of years the reality of human existence was discomfort. It is only in recent years—evolutionary speaking—that homo sapiens have been able to kick back and relax. In an excerpt from his new book, The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health, and Disease, evolutionary biologist Daniel Lieberman explains why this new phenomenon of being comfortable is hazardous to your health. 
Comprehensive analyses of the incidence of back pain around the world consistently find that back pain is twice as high in developed versus less developed countries; further, within low-income countries, the incidence is roughly twice as high in urban versus rural areas. For example, lower back pain afflicts about 40 percent of farmers in rural Tibet but 68 percent of sewing machine operators in India. Neither of these populations lounges about in La-Z-Boys, but a general trend is that people who frequently carry heavy loads and do other “back-breaking” work get fewer back injuries than those who sit in chairs for hours bent over a machine.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Thanksgiving with John & Bunny

Long-time close trusted friends J&B and I had a truly lovely evening. I used a co-op car to get there and back and I went early so that Bunny and I could make gnocchi while John visited his ailing mother. Then we ate a marvellous meal, as always and then we looked at slides and movies taken on their vacation. Simple and wonderful and I came home with a pot they gave me in which to make bread. Friends and good food! Mmmm.
First course: chanterelles, cabbage and cheese.

Our rather gooey gnocchi.

The plumb cakes with ice cream melted my soul.

...and God was there... 


Friday, October 11, 2013

C'était trés FUN!

The French Meet Up group was great. There were only nine of us there but the host was fabulous. He is an extrovert from Algeria and is very welcoming. There was an absolutely stunning woman from France there who arrived here three weeks ago to learn English. I really enjoyed myself and will go back.

When I got  home, the apple tart above was waiting for me. I made this one with hazelnut flower and added ground cloves and it is delicious.

Brave Chris

Like everyone, I am a mixture of contradictions. I am very, very comfortable and outgoing with my friends but completely terrified of strangers. I love people and I love solitude; I can't do without either. So I am proud of the step I am taking tonight.

I have gone to the website and joined a French conversation group and I am going to my first function tonight. I will be eating with twenty people who want to speak French and I know not a single one of them. It is a craps shoot as to how things may go. I will be reporting.

Catching Up

I wondered how it would be trying to live through Fall without a writing project to fill my abundant time. Well that challenge has been considerably ramped up by my damaged back. My recovery progresses, but very slowly. If I walk too far, I suffer all night. Pooey.

The most difficult thing is sitting. Hence my absence from here. But thanks to reading and living close to many good food stores, I survive. And I mentalbate: I feel almost autistic when faced with certain challenges. Instead of scaring me, these certain challenges are like a drug. I was good at aspects of math as a kid and, for a while, took Math 101 at UBC starting when I was eleven. I still cannot believe that.

Anyway, PAL needs a lot of data stored, tracking the ongoing activities of a lot of people going through a multi, multi-stage process and with different cohorts starting at indiscriminate times. And it has to be a very flexible system. I took to the challenge like a drowning man to air. Here is a sample of a work in progress, wherein I try to chart how data will flow.

And of course, I bake.

And my course has started at Emily Carr — two sections of the same course: one section has seventeen women enrolled and the other has eight women and one man. I am using new lesson plans and assigning fewer assignments and the change has re-energized my teaching — even with back pain.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Light at the End of the Tunnel

Hallelujah! I have awoken with faith that my back will heal. Optimism returns. I am still uncomfortable, but I am getting better and I have faith again. The psychology of illness and disability is a challenge. What a treat it was watching Soapdish last night.

Back to the physiotherapist today. Another term of teaching starts on Wednesday and it is a big class.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

I'm Lovin' Janelle

YouTube for a bad back.

Do You Know an Amputator?


 Searching for drugs.

I need my back amputated. Know anyone who can do the job?

I have gone from a person who regularly walked three-to-four hours a day to someone who walks two-to-four blocks with rest stops. I swing between optimism when I can feel less pain, to depression when the pain is acute. I hate it. Thank God for books to read.

Last night, I watched 2001: A Space Odyssey and I loved it all over again. Then I watched the series finale of George Gently. GG is a delicious diversion; the actor Lee Engleby who plays Gently's sergeant, John Bacchus, is a fabulous study in acting.

About the photos: Urban life makes me often go to bed dreaming of living in a country cottage in a place like Midsummer or Oxford. One photo is of the garbage dug out of a dumpster across the street from me. I assume it is street people looking for drugs because the garbage is from a medical building. The other photo is of the parking lot right behind me. Every night there are traces of the people who pee at night in the lot and not all are men — trust me, I see it.

Thursday, October 3, 2013


I was diagnosed with asthma after my third acute asthma attack two years ago.

Every morning, one of the first things I do is measure my breathing. I do that by blowing into a calibrated tube called a "peak flow meter." It measures the volume of my capacity to exhale. Put another way: it measures how alive you are. Asthma is a disability to exhale, not inhale as you might think.

Measuring my breath is also one of the last things I do at night, so I am always aware of my state of respiratory health. I use the flow meter to know how much medicine to inhale but I never wrote down the numbers and they rarely varied. My baseline became 500; that became obvious after a few months of writing down my numbers.

The challenge was not feeling down when the number was low. I loved the high when I blew high numbers, but I had to stop the roller coaster and that became easy once my baseline was clear so I stopped writing down my numbers and, after a while, even measuring my flow.

Then, in mid-July, I got sick and I blew 240; I could barely breath and had to go into the hospital, for antibiotics and steroids in industrial doses.

Once I was better, I saw my Pulmonologist, Dr. Dorschied whom I love. Now, my base meds are double what they have been for the past two years and if I blow 425, I have to double my meds again to eight times the original base rate, so 425 my fear factor.

The point of telling you all this? Today I blew 565, an all time high.

Heat / Pain

LOVE that heating pad!

The Bad News
I have not been comfortable since waking Monday morning but I  feel like God's BFF because I had an appointment for that afternoon with a physiotherapist due to a sore hip. But as of Monday, I was walking with razor blades in my back. It made my legs feel thick and heavy and the pain was relentless.

Boyd the physio cracked my back like a chiropractor would and I survived. I had feared that all my life and if I had known what Boyd was going to do, I would have freaked out.

He gave me exercises. I did them throughout Tuesday. Wednesday was like living in a torture research station so today I am not doing those exercises as much. I have earned a BS in self pity.

The Good News
Because Pacific Theatre here in Vancouver took an interest in my play and because of the encouragement of my friend, Stephen, I wrote to the artistic director of Centaur Theatre in Montréal, to ask if he might be interested in reading my script.  I wrote to him because Centaur has a small space as well as its big theatre.

Well!  Yesterday I got a lovely email from Roy, the AD. What has thrilled me about his response is that he had heard of my play and by coincidence he is coming out here in a week to direct a play that is happening at — wait for it — Pacific Theatre.

Regardless of the outcome of the readings by these theatres, I feel an incredible mix of positive feelings from just their interest in the script. All this and a fresh batch of (as yet uneaten) babies in one aquarium. I do feel like God's BFF.