Friday, March 21, 2008

Eclectic Easter

To celebrate the holiday we made a great big Monster Cookie (Charlie alternates between saying "Monster Cookie" and "Cookie Monster") in the shape of an egg. All right, it wasn't a chicken's egg per se, but I'm sure it resembles some kind of animal's egg. Maybe a T. Rex.

This is our time of year to get ready for the garden (and damn the snow falling outside my office window as I type!) We let our "winter spinach" die and plan to use the pots to put mignionettes underneath the strawberry print kitchen curtains. They'll be "grabbing distance" from the cereal bowls.

The compost is looking like... compost! If you've followed us since the installation of Darth Vader, you'll understand how thrilled I am by this most ordinary of miracles. I haven't wanted to put our pesticide-laden winter produce compost in the old DV; everything has gone into our regular community compost.

I hate putting food in our bodies that I don't consider good enough for my compost. This summer, I plan to can (as in mason jar). Our food strategy is to cultivate mostly unique and heritage strains of veggies, herbs, and medicinals, while we stock up on basics at the market. We'll can and freeze as much local, organic produce as we can to try and make it through the winter. Many thanks to Cindy Bablitz for inspiring me to take the leap to canning!

So it'll be an eclectic garden. Here's our Easter order from Salt Spring Seeds:

Yellow Mortgage Lifter (tomato)
Russian Rose (tomato)
Gramma Walters (bean)
Triumfo Violetta (bean)
Friggitello Pepper
Georgescu Chocolate Pepper
Italian Sweet Pepper
Sue Senger's Chile Pepper
Nantes Carrot (Daucus carota)
Early Yellow Globe Onion
Parsley Giante d'Italia (Petroselinum crispum)
Greek Oregano (Origanum vulgare)
Horehound Green Pompon (Marrubium vulgare)
1000 Year Old Tobacco (Nicotiana rustica)
Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis)
Marshmallow (Althea officianalis)

I imagine we'll add to this list as seeds tempt me throughout the spring. Plus we'll grow both varieties of pole beans from last year, our usual raspberries, the five varieties of garlic we put in last fall, and an apple tree--"wood" to celebrate me and John's fifth anniversary. I'm hoping for success with a Honeycrisp. Svenja and I are also planning to grow a flower playhouse for the boys.

And perhaps a butterfly flower garden under the apple tree.

And, er, some old world roses under the living room window.

I sure hope Charlie loves gardening...

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Here's a taste of what I'm working on now. Big thanks to the editor at grubstreet.

Randal Marlin: he’s an author, a philosopher, a teacher to thousands. An expert in the shady ins and outs of propaganda, he’s been called “Ottawa’s Orwell”. Marlin learned his first lessons about the nature of power—and its abuses-- from the most influential of teachers... his childhood peers. Of course. Didn’t we all?

Marlin’s colourful childhood saw him bounce from DC, to QC, to the UK. After some powerful Quebecois culture shock and a generous helping of what would be labelled “bullying” today, he graduated to yet more culture shock (and more bullying) in the class-centric world of British boarding schools. Orwellian, indeed! He overwhelmingly experienced how power over others can be a slippery slope for anyone, himself included.

As a young man Marlin experimented with exercising his personal power: on the student newspaper at Princeton, where he butted heads with the university administration; with his professors as he tested their tolerance for his late-night poker matches (and subsequent class absences); and as a new homeowner fighting to keep his neighbourhood a welcoming place for families to grow and play.

Now 70, Marlin shares the wisdom of someone who has pushed himself to learn and develop throughout all of his life. He’s not afraid to say when he’s goofed up—he owns up to his share of pain inflicted and opportunities missed. I wouldn’t like him otherwise. In this interview, he allows peeks into his personal make-up along with the basic principles behind his most recent book, Propaganda and the Ethics of Persuasion.

Alternately quoting cartoons and Plato, Marlin shows how the most pernicious falsehood is one that brims with truths told in a deceiving manner. His main thrust, however, is not purely philosophical, or concerned with purely academic matters of “truth” and “falsehood”. Instead, it is the very everyday ways that the media (and other interested parties) stir-fry facts like tofu and present them on a platter to look like, well, whatever they want them to look like--in the hopes that the public will eat them right up and ask for seconds.

Marlin is a big proponent of each person having a unique contribution to make to the world. Clearly, part of his own gift is to discern, to dissemble, to say, “Hey! That’s tofu under there! Didn’t we order steak in the last election?” (No offense to tofu. We love us some delicious stir-fried tofu—we just want to know what it is we’re putting in our mouths!)

From the rugby field to the office of the US “president”, Marlin notes well the ways in which people relate to one another with genuine intention, or complete lack thereof. His faith in humanity is endearing. His work is elucidating. His personal example is powerful.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Things I Learned in School

1. How to tell a universally believable lie.
2. How to clean my hands really, really well through the fastidious application of Elmer's glue.
3. How to stay awake by writing in backwards script.
4. How to stay awake by self-administering a slow series of pinches.
5. How to sleep sitting up.
6. How to endure being closely surrounded by people I loathe and who loathe me--all day, every day (this may be the most useful skill yet, especially if I ever end up in prison).
7. How to store vast quantities of information in short-term memory without allowing any of it to seep into the permanent files.
8. How to make a sub cry.
9. How to hold in-well, any bodily fluid--for up to 55 minutes at a time.
10. How to wait years upon years without (much) protest for "real life" to begin.