So you want me to eat a potato?

Food has been much on my mind lately, as I seem to be dwindling away. It used to be that I had to be careful not to swell like a giant pumpkin, and adding pounds was as easy as looking at cheese. But these days the pounds aren’t sticking, and I have reverted to eating lots of carbs in the hopes I can join the Sumo wrestling team once again. Why we eat what we eat is not nearly as obvious as it can appear, and the history of food is fascinating (unless you read The History and Social Influence of the Potato, which my father-in-law has nominated for most boring book ever, which I question, having attempted to read Ospreys: A Natural and Unnatural History), and not just a question of taste. Public policy has come to play a remarkable and not so benign role in our diets, as we get nonsensical food pyramids thrust at a diverse ethnic population, and grow fat and diabetic listening to the advice of the “experts” who are frequently compromised greatly by their funding and academic in-fighting. At least according to the very convincing Gary Taubes and his excellent work Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Healthwhich is a better title than his more recent Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It, and also considerably longer.

It was the inestimable Russ Roberts who lead me to Gary Taubes, and he has just interviewed the author of Cuisine and Empire: Cooking in World History:

Rachel Laudan, visiting scholar at the University of Texas and author of Cuisine and Empire, talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the history of food. Topics covered include the importance of grain, the spread of various styles of cooking, why French cooking has elite status, and the reach of McDonald’s. The conversation concludes with a discussion of the appeal of local food and other recent food passions.

Cuisine and Empire2

Most enjoyable, and as you root around like a pig eating potatoes, you will at least understand why. Bon Appetit.

Posted in LIFE | 110 Comments

For goodness sake, Mr Dickens, make up your mind!

One of my favourite cartoons:

Which in a round about way leads me to this, also one of my favourite cartoons, from Randall Munroe:

Someone_Is_Wrong_On_The_Internet1That really sums up my experience at the Swamp. I still have trouble with insomnia, but somehow I am have been able to let fools rest. But this is not to say I have a problem with stirring up the soup, primordial or otherwise, as long as one uses a long enough pole. I just haven’t found one yet that is longer than thirty-nine and a half feet.

And speaking of insomnia, one of my favourite podcasts, by the fellow who played the PC in those memorable MAC versus PC ads,


now has a feature called “Someone on the internet is right” where he deals with the pedants who correct his grammar so helpfully after his show airs. [In my quest for aural entertainment I have actually gone back and listened to all the episodes, from the beginning, because it all makes more sense that way.]

But to add meaning to this little consideration, why can people not admit they were wrong? I have really changed my views politically over the past thirty years and yet we seem to expect some sort of robotic consistency from our putative leaders. Ah ha! we cry: “You said something different ten years ago! Waffler.” Hmnnn. Are there other adults in whom we prize inflexibility and rigidity of thought? Scientists? Doctors? Engineers? Teachers? Au contraire, a flexible and open mind is far preferable in any so-called expert, and why public policy should differ eludes me.

Now please excuse me while I go and reform some opinions. And eat a banana. Have a wonderful Wednesday if possible, unless, to paraphrase my dearly departed father when told to have a nice day, you have made other plans.


Posted in LIFE | 78 Comments

I have become uncomfortably numb … and the whirlwind continues …

It has been a whirlwind indeed, and I have not had time to sort my thoughts, let alone my pictures, such as they are. We are (or probably were by the time anyone is reading this [anyone? At least realism is setting in, ed.] back in Ottawa, eldest offspring in tow, and now boat to be in tow as she and hubby are off to fetch the tow truck … as in the truck that will do the towing. We hope no tow trucks are involved as we take our caravan to the cottage, van with kids and dog, truck with parents and boat, but I did renew our CAA membership before hand, including long distance towing, just to frustrate the gods in their choices of ways to toy with their peeps.

But to tide you over until we get to Sunday at the cottage when the 60th wedding anniversary is over, and I can chill for two seconds, here is a picture of my favourite Quebec place name which also gives you a pretty good idea of yesterday:

IMG 6996 600x450  I have become uncomfortably numb … and the whirlwind continues …

And just so you will know I am still alive, me in the morning yesterday, leaning over to help include Mouse, at Les Jardins de La Republique provincial park in New Brunswick:

IMG_6980But now back to the races, or in my case the hobbles … and hope to be Bacq soon. I miss myself.

I hope you have a fruitful Friday …

Posted in LIFE | 136 Comments

Happy Canada Day … or Dominion Day … or excuse to party day …

A bit like the Queen’s birthday [Queen Victoria, that is, no getting all modern around here!] which we celebrate on a day that is specifically, by statute, never her actual birthday, May 24th, Canada day is a holiday dedicated to outdoor eating and drinking. Fireworks, yes, but mostly drinking and eating. Like July 4th, but with hesitant polite patriots. And a lovely neighbour, who hails from the U.S., who has managed to fill in enough paperwork again to get us barricades so we can block off our block, almost legally.

Setting the ambience for this public display of eating and drinking, much waving and wearing of the Liberal Party colours will be evident here in Ottawa, the nation’s capital, ostensibly picked by said Queen because that is where her finger landed on the map … not really, just a bad Ottawa joke … there are three rivers that intersect here that were of significant navigational and economic import at the time. And speaking of said Queen, I just have to add, she seems to have enjoyed her eating and drinking, as they can date her underpants by their waistband, having what one might call an expansive photographic record of their owner’s expanding waist: Queen Victoria’s ‘big pants’ to be sold at auction in Wiltshire:

83966911 img 2853 600x338  Happy Canada Day … or Dominion Day … or excuse to party day …

The liberal government of the day cleverly remade our national flag into essentially a Liberal Party sign, removing any trace of blue, the colour associated with conservatism here, and any symbols other than the maple leaf, during one of our spasmodic attempts to reinvent our past and create a national story by destroying all remnants of our colonial history. But I am proud of our slow shedding of our colonial yoke and the use of argument over weapons and will raise a glass of not Canadian wine in thanks for wonder at being born at all, let alone into such a magically lucky setting.

IMG 5040 600x400  Happy Canada Day … or Dominion Day … or excuse to party day …Replacing the flag at the cottage, May 2013

Bonne Fête, Canada, and Santé, which we could all use a little bit of, to go with our dwindling sanity.

Posted in LIFE | 115 Comments

If being current on modern currency isn’t your cup of tea … how about a slice of ancient constitutional history?

It worked for my grand-pa Bertie, and it works for me, on occasion. And this year is one of those occasions.

Nicholas Vincent on the Magna Carta

Did an 800-year old piece of parchment really change the world? Nicholas Vincent of the University of East Anglia talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the Magna Carta, the founding document of English law and liberty. The Magna Carta was repudiated just ten weeks after King John issued it. Yet, its impact is still with us today. In this conversation, Vincent explains what led to the Magna Carta and how its influence remains with us today in England and elsewhere.

A delightful exploration of the roots of English law on the occasion of the 800th anniversary of the signing of this vague promise to behave. A promise that needs renewing.

Behave out there!

Posted in LIFE, RANDOM | 106 Comments

He does call them fanatics and someone goes to jail …

Bitcoins, they just won’t go away … unless they were mean’t to be in your wallet ..

I do find bitcoins an intriguing approach to currency, but have a great deal of trouble taking them seriously. I think owning gold might actually be easier, and more secure. Anonymity is always desirable, but with bitcoins anonymity is virtue and vice combined. You cannot prove who stole your bitcoins and it is a little hard to return merchandise. But also any currency designed to enable criminal conduct and evade taxation is bound to attract attention and most governments do loathe competition.

[And it should be fewer people, not less, near the end of the interview. And now a niece mentioned number versus amount as in there was a large amount of people … no! There were a large number of people. There was a large amount of slime. But I digress.]

I should say there is a large amount of curiosity about currency and an even larger amount of greed and shenanigans hovering around it.

Nathaniel Popper on Bitcoin and Digital Gold

Nathaniel Popper of the New York Times and the author of Digital Gold talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about Bitcoin. Can Bitcoin make it? What went wrong with Mt. Gox? Why did Ross Ulbricht, the creator of Silk Road, just get sentenced to life in prison? Why are venture capital firms pouring millions of dollars into companies promising easier ways to use Bitcoin? Popper discusses these questions along with the technical side of Bitcoin to help listeners understand why so many investors are excited about the potential of Bitcoin.

May you have a truly tangible day, and avoid the Dreaded Pirate Roberts while listening to the dulcet tones of the Professorial Russ Roberts.

Posted in ECONOMICS | Leave a comment

And she was …

It was a sweet send off and now …

we rest in peace.

Posted in LIFE | 3 Comments

Good Morning

I couldn’t seem to comment even on my own blog! I have banned myself without knowing it. But here was yesterday, and it went surprisingly well.

IMG 6602 600x450  Good MorningIMG 6601 600x450  Good MorningIMG 6600 600x450  Good Morning

And here she is, from the patio of the club house.

IMG 6607 600x450  Good Morning

What a nice change. In many ways.


Posted in LIFE | 140 Comments

And at the end of the rainbow, a little lighthouse …

Crossing the bridge at Prescott. I may love Americans but I am nervous in America. You really do seem to have a lot of police everywhere. Or maybe I just don’t worry about Canadian police. We are just so less likely to be incarcerated.

IMG 6515 600x450  And at the end of the rainbow, a little lighthouse …

Finally in Wareham, Massachusetts, and there she be! Just as remembered, or maybe a little cleaner … on the outside. The promised interior cleaning never happened, but I was prepared mentally for same, and it is a mess, but inch by inch it gets better.

IMG 6540 600x450  And at the end of the rainbow, a little lighthouse …

Ugh. Not happy with one axle.

IMG 6524 600x450  And at the end of the rainbow, a little lighthouse …

But hey! What a store! A lot like our Princess Auto, which is honestly like going reverse shopping, with women hanging around outside drinking coffee waiting forever for their men folk while holding their purses.

IMG 6519 600x450  And at the end of the rainbow, a little lighthouse …

And then the tow home. We really tried to do things by the book, but losing the licence plate on the way home wasn’t part of the plan. But having a spare trailer light wasn’t either, but we luckily had only had to replace one rear light set and the kit had two … we just didn’t tighten the bolts enough … shook itself off somewhere in upper New York State. But the border guard turned out not to give a hoot, and it was after 1 am on a rainy Mother”s Day (well, technically Boxing Mother’s Day)

IMG 6581 600x450  And at the end of the rainbow, a little lighthouse …

and we drove uneventfully the rest of the way to the Nepean Sailing Club, where they have a tiny lighthouse.

IMG 6583 600x384  And at the end of the rainbow, a little lighthouse …

So far so good!


Posted in LIFE, PHOTOS | 1 Comment

First the sad stuff …

OldPhotos040 600x511  First the sad stuff …150509_YOWCit_D10_APR_Obit

OldPhotos106 600x424  First the sad stuff …

I don’t know why mum wasn’t wearing her cap with her gown … it is a most splendid cap and suited her to a tee, as you can see:

IMG 5301 600x400  First the sad stuff …

IMG 5303 600x400  First the sad stuff …

In the staged photo above, Bertie Wilkinson, her father, is at the far left, and her brother at the far right. Bertie was a mediaevalist, and strangely fascinated by 12th century constitutional law, and a treat. I mention that just to make sense of the donations mentioned in the obit. Her brother was a professor of Library Science. Yes, I don’t really understand either. My dad was getting sworn in as the head of Victoria College at the U of T at the time … I am a happy black sheep of the family, having run screaming from the thought of doing a PhD … had to distinguish myself somehow!

We have received condolences that have mentioned the passing of an era. Does every generation just feel that, or do we live in a small enough pond that the generations were fairly distinct? But now it is my turn to grow old, I hope. And for that I am exceptionally grateful. Thanks mum.


Posted in LIFE | 5 Comments