Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Last post.

I think this blog has outlived its usefulness.

Thanks for reading.


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Life gets in the way - update on the unread shelf project and ephemeral

I'm a bit behind on my posts for the unread shelf project, because life happened over the last few days. All of it expected, some of it challenging (two flights in two days), other parts fun. My family also was around visiting, so I'll add that to my list of excuses along with the beautiful weather, an evening at the Orchestra and lots of walking.

I was digging around in my personal papers, photos and data and found an old practice cassette from my Grandfather's barbershop days (possibly recorded in the late 80s/early 90s), popped it into my walkman and recorded one of the songs to share with you. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Graphic novels, photobooths and props

I found and read an awesome graphic novel called Photobooth - A Biography by Meags Fitzgerald (a Canadian, artist, photobooth adventurer and now author) earlier this spring:

And one of my friends read the tweet, she loves photobooths, she then read the book and invited me on an Ottawa photo booth adventure. 

Today we visited two of the photo booths catalogued on photobooth.net. First we visited the booth at the bus station on Catherine Street. It was converted into a digital booth, but as I confessed to my friend in the car on the way there, I cannot remember ever having my picture taken in a photo booth. She was shocked and shared her memories of taking photos with a friend when she was younger. So here's my first ever set of photo booth shots. (Oh, and I planned ahead and brought props).

1. Us with our copy of Meags book
2. Ukelele and Kazoo
3. Playing catch (the tennis ball rolled out of the booth.)
4. I made it back just in time to make it into the frame.

Our second booth was a bit further out of downtown, to parts where parking is free and pull-thru spots are still possible. We were ecstatic to find this photo booth hasn't yet been converted into a digital machine. I emailed the photobooth.net site to give them an update on the location and to confirm that in the 4 years since Meags visit it remains and is still kept up. This means too (spoiler if you haven't read the booth yet) that the photos are taken and developed within the machine. The flash has a funny poof sound. It also translates into a bit of a wait, but many iPhone selfies and excited prop and purse gathering meant we weren't really waiting.  We're planning on checking out the two remaining booth listed in Ottawa.

1. Sunnies on.
2. Cocktails anyone?
3. You better be supporting local (Apt613 T-shirt)
4. Smiles (we both expected this one to come out with our eyes closed).

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Halfway reflections

Tomorrow's post marks the halfway point of my unread bookshelf blogging project. It also marks the halfway point of June and the start of the first week of summer.
The stack left for the second half of June. Somewhat unstable and unbalanced.

This project has increased my appetite for reading. And opened my mind to not feeling so bad about putting a book down or just skimming for the interesting chapters. And I'm reading other works at the same time, so I feel less anxious about having multiple threads going through my head at the same time or getting them confused. It's perhaps easier to see patterns of humanity across genres, writers and subject areas. At 10:00 pm I usually put down my book, pickup my computer while listening to CBC radio 2's The Signal with Laurie Brown and type my post for the day. An awesome way to end the day, new personal insights, fresh ideas about the world and mind-bending music. #recommend

Micro-adventure: Economics day 2 (serious business)

On Thursday, I picked up a Governor General's Awards finalist with a musical focus. Then yesterday evening and this afternoon, I started a micro-adventure in economics. I started with A Very Short Introduction to Economics. You can read this short introduction too. I got bored halfway though the chapter on trust and set the book aside (already having given it two days instead of just Friday). It was a bit hard to read, it was either so simplistic or too quick to jump to economic reasoning. If I had a bit more time, I'm sure I'd pick it up and get to the chapters in the later half of the book appeared more interesting to me.

At that point, my micro-adventure got real, as I crack open Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-first Century. I read about it in the The New York Times so I decided I'd check it out. Or rather pick up a copy, I have my own system of notation when reading books, incase I need to flip back to check for important ideas. It's just a mirror of the way the dictionary places the first and last word on the top outer corners of pages. Nothing too sophisticated.

I read the Introduction to Piketty's book, specifically the translated version by Arthor Goldhammer. It reminded me of all the chapters I read during my history degree. And it follows the structure of most academic research, question, previous work published, methodology, scope, data sources, summary of results. Piketty is very aware of his position as an economist, social scientist, French national and the historical interpretations and use of economic theories around wealth and income. He thanks computers, data sources, outlines the gaps in his study and shows a keen awareness of his vulnerabilities being a researcher in this moment. I found his chapter easy to read. I also associated with his critiques of academics who toil away on questions that ignore the world in which the question was formed. I appreciated that he included his experience of coming to America and realizing this about academics and how he returned to France where he could gather data and publish (more useful?) economic literature. For now I'm going to put the book down and move on. You can read Piketty's tome, I think your first assumptions about it as an important piece of longwinded economic literature will be challenged.

For the next two days I take a peek at reason, logic and informal fallacies. Uh, what?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

What's a Governor General's Literary Awards finalist doing on my unread shelf?

Yesterday, I read a cookbook about molecular gastronomy from Quebec. I only glimpsed into a subject area which I am sure could inspire years of study and travels, or at the very least grocery store trips more akin to treasure hunts.

Today, I started into a book by Eric Siblin, titled The Cello Suites: J.S. Bach, Pable Casals and the Search for a Baroque Masterpiece. It was shortlisted for the Canadian Governor General's book award in 2009

I read the first section, "Suite No. 1 (G major" while waiting for my laundry. Really I was just reading and the laundry was waiting for me. And I that I sit down to write this post, I am aware that I just want to keep reading instead of writing. But I finished putting my laundry away, The Signal's on CBC radio 2. And I know this is just one of those books you shouldn't read too fast. For me after some 50 odd pages, I see shades of A Night Train to Lisbon, maybe it's the intertwined structure of the stories of Bach, a Cellist named Pablo Casals and the author, mirroring Night train's Raimund Gregorius, a school teacher and his focus, the deceased Amadeu de Prado a Portuguese Dr. Eitherway, I appreciate the thought and storytelling structure that Siblin built into his non-fiction. 

I'm not going to recount what I learned about the author, a former writer for the Montreal Gazette, J.S. Bach or how this is my first introduction to Casals (*blushes*). This isn's what's important about picking up this work, I wanted to tell you, that it's worth reading a bit of non-fiction outside your area of interest (if it comes with good reviews, because there's a lot of dry non-fiction on the shelves) ocne in a while to expand your mind. 

Siblin isn't quite as talented as Simon Winchester in weaving together his narratives, but the question he asks at the beginning of the book and which he aims to explore, Why we don't have the original copies of Bach's Cello Suites (p. 4) was enough to enthral me to invite the mystery into my own mind. The question remains for me, will Siblin find enough of an answer to make the work feel complete.

You can find this book and read it too. Tomorrow I start a two day survey of the topic of Economics. Will it be dry and boring? Or timely and valuable? Stay tuned to find out.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Reading about food always makes me hungry.

Yesterday I read about Ruskin, Proust and reading. How very meta of me. Today, for a bit of a lighter reading challenge, I cracked opened Levi Reiss' translation of François Chartier's Tastebuds and Molecules. With a introduction by a Canadian doctor and cancer researcher, links to the now closed Spanish restaurant elBulli and a darling acknowledgement to the Canadian author's wife, "Without [her]...the volatile compounds of daily life would not have so much flavour" (p.13). Even in his view of his loves, he spoke the language of food. I couldn't wait to read more.

Early on, I had to google, oenology. Chartier describes working with wines and with oenologists, whereas I'm used to hearing about a restaurant having a sommelier. I like rosé and red wines. I don't drink them very often, but when in the company of good friends, a good chef and given suggested food pairings, it's always worth taking a chance to see what transpires.

After reading the introductions, acknowledgments and early chapter description of science, molecular biology and a shift in thinking, preparing and eating, I knew this wasn't any ordinary cookbook. There's a quote by a Cirque du Soleil Director that is reminiscent of a Einstein quote about problem solving by using the same process resulting in the same outcomes, something in life that I empathize with and this book seems to offer ideas will push my boundaries and thinking in the kitchen. (ah! Einstein's even quoted in the next column over) (p. 23).

I skipped a head a bit and found many mindmap-like diagrams. And knew I should keep reading before heading back into the kitchen to make cookies.

You can read this book too or even cook from it. Chartier also has a website where you can post questions.

Tomorrow, I read from the A Very Short Introduction series and start a two day micro-adventure to Economics.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

On reading: A prologue by Proust to his translations of Ruskin's Sesame and Lilies.

Yesterday and the day before I read a bit of Foucault.

Today, I started reading a defence of reading by Proust. I read his introduction to his translation of John Ruskin (an English writer and artist from the 19th century). The purpose Proust puts on his structured defence of reading as something greater than a conversation with a great person long dead, makes you nostalgic for late night flashlight sessions, grief of finishing a good book and many more emotions that arise when reading.

I remember reading about Proust's "On reading" and ordering it from amazon.ca before the translator had finished and the press had released the title. A few months after placing my order and still empty handed, I checked in with amazon to discover I'd pre-ordered almost or maybe even a year in advance (I can't quite recall how long it was now). When the work finally arrived I had no idea about Ruskin, or Proust translation work. I just recalled that this book was about the joy of reading. That was a subject, I was willing to spend some time considering. But this translation by Damion Searls with a foreword by Eric Karpeles took some digging, some patience and this blogging project to get me to sit still and fade into the pages. I think it was worth it. I think you might like it too, but you'll find the right time/place.

For now here's peek into the thoughts of Proust, on why this isn't just a conversation, but something more:

"There are nevertheless certain circumstances, pathological circumstances one might say, of spiritual depression, in which reading can become a sort of curative discipline entrusted with the task of continually leading a lazy spirit, by means of repeated excitations, back to an inner life." (p. 25 Searls)

You can read the original french work by Proust, it's a preface to Ruskin's Seasame and Lilies, or this shorter version English of "On reading only",  it's not easy to find actually, here's a copy for sale. (Link might not last long)

Tomorrow, I read a cookbook gifted to me by my sister when I was her Maid of Honour in 2010. I'm hoping it's a bit lighter than what I've read so far.

Monday, June 09, 2014

"Seeing and Knowing" from Foucault's The Birth of the Clinic

Yesterday, I introduced you to The Chomsky-Foucault debate.

It's safe to say, that despite studying Foucault in Undergrad and later in graduate school, I'm still not as acquainted with his writings, his philosophies and ideas as I could be. I enjoyed but still struggled through the chapter titled "Seeing and Knowing". I found his writing to be well structured, logical, but the language and his references to the structure and composition of language (meta-philosophy) still difficult to deconstruct and understand.

In this chapter (if I read it correctly) the concept of a doctor's methods of interacting with a patient are discussed. Actually Foucault describes various doctors' approaches of the time, aligns these with his thoughts on language, the doctor's "gaze" (p. 132) (his observations), and further moves to introduce the concept of a skilled doctor who doesn't look and observe, but who takes a glance and is able to understand more, despite having the inability to replicate modern diagnostic tests or to see within a patient. I think this is an accurate summary what he's written, there's obviously more to the piece, references to other theorists from the period, examples and a deeper breakdown of structuralist, semiotics, linguistic and other theoretical concepts and subjects. I should spend some more time with Foucault, he has ideas that are worth exploring, but they take time to uncover.

You can read more from Foucault's work The Birth of the Clinic.

Tomorrow, I jump into a book, I pre-ordered over a year early in 2010, but still haven't read in 2014.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Foucault speaks about "Truth and Power"

Yesterday, I recycled my old LSAT PrepTest booklet and took advantage of a beautiful Saturday.

Today, I read a dialogue of questions posted to Foucault. It was interesting to hear about his research and work on power. I was especially drawn to how he developed his thoughts around politics, intellectuals, working scientists and the rise of scientists who became involve in politics. (Around pages 161-166.)

There are other interesting philosophical discussions with Foucault and Chomsky within this debate collection.

Tomorrow, I stick with Foucault and see what if anything I can understand of his work The Birth of the Clinic.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Tests, lazy saturdays and current passions

Yesterday, I read from a book by a famous Canadian author.

Today, I skimmed an old 2007 law school admissions (LSAT is a trademark of the Law school admission Council) practice test that's been on my shelf for too long. Something about the sunny day, the plans I have for the rest of my summer prevented me from following through with my plan to take the first section of the four part test. I just couldn't get further in than a skim. And I don't feel one ounce guilty. Seriously.

I went for a beautiful walk this morning, checked out some local architecture, took the slow bus to a nearby shopping hub, ate delicious leftoversnapped (subscription required), BBQed and might make some thank you macarons now while I listen to The Signal.

I used to think someday I'd go to law school. Law was my favourite class in high school. I took a special Information Ownership and governance class at Western University's law school during my Masters degree and even worked in a law library as a co-op student. I used to see myself in the legal profession, but for now it doesn't quite fit.

You can find out more about taking the LSAT here. Maybe the fit is better for you.

Tomorrow, I read a bit philosophy discussion with Foucault on "Truth and Power" from The Chomsky-Foucault debate on Human Nature.

A little bit of Urban experimentation and the afterlife of the Capital reading garden furniture

There's the most amazing park in a somewhat or so-called rougher neighbourhood in Ottawa, called Dundonald Park. I've mentioned it before on the blog. The park features amazing mature trees, community cared for flowerbeds, a playground, a newish food truck serving Dosas and the Centretown movies (film showings).

I visited the park today at lunch to check in on an urban place making experiment (it's not mine). For this experiment, some of the previously existing Capital reading garden non-profit's furniture has been placed in the space. The most amazing part is, it's been left there overnight for at least 5 days in counting! Without any disappearing! This is reminiscent of early Byrant Park before it was widely associated with Parisian café chairs, a reading room and outdoor ping pong tables.

Against the backdrop of green, the red tables and line up at the food truck invited my friend and I in the park. The chairs/tables are heavy enough, you wouldn't want to take them home, but they're light enough to rearrange to suit groups of lunching public servants and locals. Or to move from shade to the sun. Just check out the scene (my old team happened to be lunching there today too).

When I was there at lunch two interactions made me realize how awesome this experiment (and it's experimenter) are in their approach. One, I had a nice conversation with a neighbour woman who was walking her dog. She felt comfortable enough to wonder out loud about the furniture appearing in the park. I obviously shared the philosophy and concept of place making (ms. no-filter), I know too much but she didn't seem to be rushing off. She was positive about the space and said that by this time last year there were more incidents, more police patrols and she hadn't noticed the same thing this year. (Win!)

The second incident was my favourite, and shows how not only does the neighbourhood notice the shift with the addition of a few tables and chairs. A city grounds worker, pulled his truck up to my friend and I as she ate her dosa. He commented out the open truck window, how great it was to see people using the furniture. I am biased and couldn't agree more.

Nothing like a beautiful friday lunch in Dundonald park to contribute to the wellbeing of an urbanite and cubicle-dweller.

Place making is so simple. The lessons I've learned from my own experiences and this short experiment, is that it shouldn't be anxiety inducing, require expensive insurance and a weekend only project requiring a car. As the Project for Public Spacers  say it should be easy, inexpensive and not time intensive. I'm glad a piece of  the awesome Ottawa grant I won has a new life in this great neighbourhood park. I believe that the park's community is ready to more fully embrace the only piece of green-space available to it.

Don't take my word for it, just look at the evidence in the photos I've included in this post.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Bowties, Cats and Arctic Dreams: My relationship with Pierre Berton's The Arctic Grail

Yesterday, I read from a collection of Hans Christian Andersen stories and grew a little bit older.

Today, I succumb to the weight of the week and though I have chosen the tome The Arctic Grail by Canadian author and frequent (when he was alive) bow-tie wearing storyteller Pierre Berton. My copy is signed, since I met the author when I purchased the book. It was a bit strange, the reading I attended at a Chapters. Berton sat in front of a fireplace and read from his books, I especially remember one he'd written about cats. Strange. It was a good evening out for a high schooler, he seemed to have so much to say. And now I look back at my first year of undergraduate history studies, the strong critiques of his writing as popular and not scholarly. Also he seems to have had many helpers, if I understand the Author's notes correctly. I could write some fantastic books, if I had a researcher, editor, copyrighter and moral support. Couldn't we all?

Back to The Arctic Grail, I scanned through the many sections, page after page of narrative. Instead of digging deep to see how far I could get, I forgave my tired end of week eyes by skipping right to Berton's Afterword and Author's note. Berton focuses on place names, historical figures, explorers and their financial supporters that remain on visible on today's maps, but are only distantly familiar place names to those of us outside the Arctic, we the strangers to the piles of research and primary sources documentation that remains from these years of exploration.

Berton tells us he tried to humanize, deduce from the heroic accounts of earlier writers how explorers were "[m]en like themselves with human weaknesses and failings" (p. 630). For me this is reminiscent of Virginia Woolf's fictional attempts to observe, to show humans as they are without any subjective lenses or influences. I imagine that this was hard for Berton given the limitations of primary source accounts. The historian is left in a position where a document might be the only material available and without a witness to vouch for it's authenticity, some trust is required.

Published in the late 1980s (1988), The Arctic Grail's concludes with Berton's thoughts about important current issues, Arctic sovereignty (p 627), it's peoples, the Inuit, their place and lack of Inuit place names. I was impressed by Berton's admission that this absence "is not their loss that the map ignores them; it is our own." (p. 631) I know there are modern day projects that try to map and build up today's Inuit knowledge of the landscape, but there is a sad tone and note to Berton's admission. Historical knowledge is still a loss that cannot be recovered from. We have also lost something in the secondary source documentation, the British and other nationalities focus on their greatness. Berton wants us to recognize the process of exploration and from having only certain primary source documentation as evidence he wants to pull us back from the heroization of individuals. Not an easy task.

You can actually read the full book. I think you might enjoy all the adventures it contains. Don't let my weariness discourage you.

Tomorrow, I consider a copy of The Official LSAT (Law School Admissions Test) PrepTest #52 that's been collecting dust on my shelf. Law school, wft?!?

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Birthday edition, The Adventures of a Thistle from A Treasury of Hans Christian Andersen

Yesterday I cracked the spine on Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. I should have started from the beginning instead of skipping to chapter 10/11, I know now that Susan Cain's book has more to offer me, if only I dedicate the time.

Earlier today I posted that today is my birthday, so today's reading is from a book I was given when I was born. It's from one my mom's old nursing school friends, I've posted the cover and dedication below.

It's been ages since I've read a fairy tale. I found the short story of The Thistle honest, easy to relate too and only somewhat dated (courting rituals don't feature button holes much anymore). I appreciated how Andersen raised and worked with the following themes:

  • hope,
  • adventure, 
  • a desire to be special (i.e. sit in the button hole of a young man's coat),
  • immortality (the Thistle's image ends up being made into a ornamental object), 
  • our responsibly to inspire the next generation, 
  • reality that we may just contribute to the success of another, and 
  • lastly the passage of time. 

Themes I have thought about during past any  experiences and especially today as I mark my 3rd decade. And I think most of them will be around for a bit longer ;)

You can read more about Hans Christian Andersen and his stories translated from Danish online.

Tomorrow, I read from my signed edition of Pierre Berton's The Arctic Grail.

June 5, 1951 - A postcard that found its way home.

London, Ontario on a weekend in May during a to visit my folks, I went to one of my favourite used bookstores, Attic books. They also sell old collectable paper goods (local church and school cookbooks, local histories, postcards, etc).

I bought some Ottawa postcards. It's hard to find any images besides Parliament Hill (important and symbolic and all), the cards failed to represent the city where I live, it's citizens and the everyday life of the place.

This postcard features the famous Chateau Laurier, so not quite as local or cool as images of the Elgin st. streetcars or folks of lowertown, I know. But for some reason I bought it. When I got it back home to Ottawa and turned it over and noticed that it was dated for my birthday. Today's my 30th. So, for this reason I decided it was meant for me.

I'll post a picture of my favourite postcard purchased and my idea for new local postcards another day.