(mostly) daily photoblog

Archive for February, 2011

Mmm…cookies after a long day.

Today just seemed like a cookie day.  My daughter, who turns ten in two weeks, loves spending time in the kitchen.  She loves measuring things and mixing things and licking the MixMaster beaters.  She finds great joy in adding ingredients to the mixing bowl.  My day had been pretty good, so I figured, why not?  Let’s make cookies.  Below are the cookie embryos before they go in for some really warm gestation.

Afterwards, I can barely get the cookies off the baking stones before my family is swarming around like a bunch of starving raccoons.  They’re all claws and sneakiness.  It’s lucky I made it out alive.

So that’s how my day ended.  How was yours?

By the way, thanks to WordPress for throwing my post from February 22 on Freshly Pressed.  Also, thanks to all of you who subscribed and commented.  I really appreciate your participation in this process.  That’s what blogging is all about, after all, isn’t it?

Stop, in the name of snow.

I don’t often shoot in the high aperture range.  I think it flattens out a photo.  Today’s photo was shot at f16 entirely to show the mountain in the background in some detail.  If you shoot manually at all, try playing with the aperture on your camera.  If you want shallow depth of field, shoot with as low a number as you can.  If you want everything in detail, shoot with a higher number.

Oh, and this is why I was whining about the snow.  Snow?  In February in the Lower Mainland?  Really?  Ha ha, global warming.  You got us again.

Word Association: this makes you think of what?

I’m quite certain this is some guy’s name, or maybe the name of a graffiti crew, but it makes me think of one thing:  Noam Chomsky.  When I saw it on the concrete highway support, I thought that some student of media and communications, or maybe a linguistics students.  Then I realized that it didn’t actually say “Chomsky” – it says CHOMtcki or something.  Too bad, seeing as how Chomsky was a student of language and communication.  When I saw this my mind went back to the first time I watched “Manufacturing Consent” and how outraged I was at how mass media twists and manipulates, often through the simplest means like inclusion vs. exclusion, the popular opinion on major issues.  It was through Chomsky I first came across the plight of the East Timorese and the lack of coverage of their problems with Indonesia.  I also thought back to my earliest years in university when I first started reading Chomsky’s work.

It is kind of weird, however, to see what came to my mind through a mistake in reading.  This got me thinking: how much of what I read is what is actually written and how much of my experience while reading is a direct result of where my mind goes while I’m reading?  How much is a result of my own experience that, while it may be somewhat non sequitur to the reading material, shapes my understanding of what I read, of how I see the world.  If a misread word can conjure up memories of my earliest years in post-secondary academia, what happens when I read things properly?  I have taught introductory psychology courses and I know, basically, how my brain works.  I also know that both “nature and nurture” play a big part in how I have become who I am today.  But what if the way I see the world is entirely different from the way you see the world, but we both believe that we see it the same way because we only have the vocabulary we share to make sense of it?  Words would, then, make our ability to express our experiences less personal and more communal, thus bringing us together when our own perception is moving us apart.


Maybe I need some sleep.

Photo Friday: Open (for business)

You have to love gas stations.  I only recently became aware of their appeal from a photographic standpoint.  We have this love/hate relationship with these places, don’t we?  American Pickers tells us that gas station signage from years past is more popular than ever.  Oil cans from yesteryear are collectors’ items.  There’s a nostalgic remembrance of the “good old days” when gas stations were full service (check out the blog Down The Road).  Most of us even have a story or two about a time when gas was cheaply purchased (102.9 is per liter, for my American friends and there’s about 4 liters to a gallon).

But we hate these places, too.  They’re always open because we have to drive.  Canada, I have realized after traveling a bit, is a huge place.  Everything is a driving distance away.  We even measure out where we live in reference to other landmarks by how long it will take to get there by car (with a little relativity based on the heaviness of your right foot).  We want to escape the gasoline strait jacket in which we’ve placed ourselves, yet few people are willing to give up their cars, trucks, SUV’s, crossovers, and so on.  Electric cars promise to get us out of this marriage of oily convenience, but even that seems like a promise too far down the road, so to speak.

But one thing we all know – the gas companies are always OPEN to help us out.

I feel like Ned Flanders!

So, I was driving home from work yesterday and as I left Abbotsford and grew closer to Chilliwack, the snow started to fall.  Well, not fall, exactly.  More like, um, assault my car.  I could hear it hitting the windshield with a “paff” sound that made me think of disintegrating moths.  But thousands of them, at once.  Visibility grew to nearly nil, drivers around me slowed to a near halt, and we all took part in the Lower Mainland ritual of cursing weather we don’t understand.  For whatever reason, the moment it started, I thought of Ned Flanders, when his house was torn away by a tornado and the town pulled together to build a new house for him.  The work they did was done “Shoddilly-iddily-iddily-diddly” and Ned tries to “diddly” his way out of his rage, but then finally explodes in “aaaw hell diddly ding dong crap!

Every time I see this episode I think that someday that’ll be me.  It makes me laugh, a lot.  And when the snow started to fall last night on the drive home, I felt like Ned.  But then I got to thinking.  Why do we curse the weather?  What is it about precipitation that can bring out the worst in us?  Why is it that snow can make me curse, and hail makes me laugh?  Why do I feel better when the sun comes out, even in the middle of a cold and stormy day?  Why are clouds associated with depression (even the pharmaceutical companies have played on that trope)?  Why are we so emotionally wrapped up in weather?

BTW, I “sepia-ed” this same photo because both my wife and I thought it had an “old” look to it.  What do you think?  Which is the better photo?

Which is worse: graffiti or garbage?

Both are against local bylaws.  Both are frowned upon by the good citizens who pay their taxes and are, by extension, paying for both of them to be cleaned up.  Both can be eyesores, a blight on the visual landscape.  But, if I had to choose, I’d take graffiti over garbage any day of the week.  Let’s be clear here, though, that the graffiti I’m talking about is ART graffiti, not tagging a random wall in a school or bathroom stall with a Sharpie; not writing insults and epithets that should be painted over as quickly as possible.

Garbage is indicative of laziness, the seeming inability of the perpetrator to take their junk a few meters over and dispose of it properly.  Graffiti is indicative, often, of an overabundance of artistic energy.  I just wish we had better public places where graffiti was encouraged.

But, what do you think? Garbage or graffiti?

I don’t know what it says. Do you?

I am a lexophile.  I love words.  I love learning new words.  I love crossword puzzles, when I have the time, which is nearly never.  I love using a lovely or antiquated or cryptic word in a sentence only to notice that no one near me understands.  I love having someone say, “Well, if that’s what it means, why didn’t you just say that in the first place?”  I’ll tell you why.

I love the sound of a word.  It may mean the same thing as a more pedestrian word, but the more pedestrian the word, the more insipid it tastes and sounds.  In a time when the best imperative words are seen as bossy, when spelling seems to be under attack, when Twitter only allows me 140 characters, I take refuge in a nice, possibly polysyllabic, impossible-to-define in a word, word.

Here’s ten of my favorites (in no particular order):

1.  Queue (because it’s where I spend too much of my life).

2.  Antithetical (because I’m not living if I’m going along with everyone else).

3.  Aesthetic (because beauty can bring me to my knees) .

4.  Counterintuitive (because it is a route by which many people have found genius) .

5.  Feckless (because it describes too many people I know).

6.  Ennui (because it describes the state I wish to avoid).

7.  Altruism (because it’s what I’m striving for).

8.  Loquacious (because it describes me).

9.  Pulchritudinous (because it sounds exactly like what it is not).

10.  Voluptuous (because it sounds exactly like what it is).

Please feel free to post your favorite words here.  I love learning new words almost as much as I like using them.

Oh, and those of you wondering where this is all coming from?  I couldn’t read the word in the graffiti I’ve posted above, so I thought I’d talk about language.  Good enough?  I hope so.

Canada Dry and saltines…someone must have the stomach flu.

I don’t know what happens around your house when someone gets sick, but when anyone in my house gets the stomach flu (and this time it’s my daughter), we make sure we have plenty of Canada Dry Ginger Ale and saltine crackers on hand.  It’s weird, because if I was ever offered ginger ale and saltines at a party I would immediately be transported back in time to the many times I’ve had stomach flu.  And what would that look like, you ask?  Let me tell you.

Firstly, I make sure that I pull out the sleeping bag and move it to the couch.  Preferably the couch in the basement, because it has the creaky springs and grooves where my back fits.  Secondly, I make sure there’s plenty of ginger ale (has to be Canada Dry) and saltines around.  Thirdly, the sad vomit bucket has to be nearby.  Fourthly, the path to the bathroom has to be cleared.  And, lastly, the t.v. has to be set to something inane and insipid.  I now have satellite t.v. and three hundred channels of insipid to choose from, but when I was younger, I would watch whatever came on.

That meant that I got to catch up on how Bert and Ernie were doing.  I got to see if Oscar was still grouchy and whether anyone had seen Snuffleupagus yet.  At the same time, and I loathe to admit this, I would catch up on soap operas like General Hospital and One Life to Live.  I guess I was a closet soap fan, but only in between bouts of barfing.

A little educational t.v.  A little trashy t.v.  And a little ginger ale and saltines on the couch.  The recipe for getting well.


I thought, “Maybe today I’ll get things done that need getting done.”  There’s a short errand trip to take, a fence to clean up (fell down in a recent wind storm), laundry that needs putting away, a Barbie that needs purchasing (birthday coming up).  Why not get a post done up bright and squirrely and then get the rest of the list done.  So, GRAB NEVR!  I don’t know what that means, but I think it’s my new motto.

Contrast: The Photo Friday challenge

I love the contrast between the bright colors and the water stained concrete.  The bounce off the wall that the graffiti letter create.  I think I’ll track this artist down and have him do a wall in my basement.  Something Superman/Batman plus graffiti color and lettering.  Sound good?

Local culture; or how I learned to stop worrying and love my city.

This is my kind of local culture.  Railways and graffiti.  I think it just fits Abbotsford perfectly.  What do you think?

BTW, I’m still looking for new graffiti sites.  Has anyone spotted any?

Lord of the Raccoon? Super Awesome!

I promise I’m not making fun.  Can anyone shed light on the meaning of this guy?  Clearly there’s some Aboriginal influence here and at the same time the artist is not impressed by the commercialism of, let’s say, art [check out the dollar sign in the raven's (?) eye].

My story in this?  I went for a little wander in a part of Abbotsford where I’m sure my wife wishes I wouldn’t go.  It’s situated under the highway near WalMart.  There are two railway lines that run through this area and a creek, which I’m sure is healthy seeing as there’s two railway lines that run through this area (repetition is on purpose).

It is also home to some of Abbotsford’s best underground artists.  I can’t say that I’d hang this painting in my living room, but the skill it takes to paint something this large using spray-paint is impressive, formidable even.  I love the free expression of talent and skill and, sometimes, anti-commercial commentary.  I also love raccoons; especially ones that sit on your head and have stars tattooed on their bellies.

BTW, if anyone can give the 411 on where I can find other examples of this, I’d sure appreciate it.

For Service Call

Okay, so this is not the best photo I’ve taken.  You can barely see the front wheel.  It is, however, the truck that excites my imagination.  When I was a kid, I would see trucks that had the crane arm and the man-bucket (I don’t know what it’s really called – that’s what I used to call it) on the end and wish that I could climb in there.  I don’t know what I thought I’d see, but it seemed cool that a man could drive the truck, then climb inside the bucket and control the arm and make himself go way up high.

I know.  Kind of geeky.  But I bet there’s a thing from your childhood that you wish you could have used, and even now when you see that thing it takes you back to your imaginative days, your childhood days.

So, what’s the thing that excites your imagination?

There comes a time in a man’s life…

…when to get where he has to go – if there are no doors or windows he has to walk through a wall.  (Malamud)

This is a Valentine’s Day post that has little to do with love.  It does, however, have a lot to do with an old window and how I’m feeling right now.  It seems that I’m walking through more walls than walking through doors or climbing through windows.  Huh…

Hmm…where does this lead?

I’ve written quite a bit about Simon Fraser University over the past week.  This will, in all likelihood, be the last SFU photo for a while.  The thing about this photo is that I honestly do not know where it might lead.  The reason for my lack of knowledge is twofold:  1. I’ve never walked to the end of this hallway.  I’ve never had reason to.  I’ve never been so overwhelmingly curious that I felt I had to.  2.  I cannot reason out, in my puny mind, where it might lead.  This is the basement of the Maggie Benson Building.  The building itself, like most of SFU, is built into the side or slope of Burnaby Mountain.  The building also has only so much space, and I’m pretty sure I’ve covered most of it, and yet this hallway seems to extend into what I can only predict is more workspace, but I don’t know.  It seems, in my brain, to extend into part of the mountain, because I know that there are no classrooms that are that far out of the building.  Perhaps this is a secret place, a special place.  Perhaps it’s where they put you when you don’t pay your tuition.

Or, maybe my brain isn’t as spacial as I’d like to think it is.  I guess I’ll have to wait to find out.

Let me shed some light (on bad puns)

I’ve noticed a horrifying trend in my life:  the older I get, the more I use puns in everyday conversation.  This worries me.  If it were just a fad, a short-lived obsession that ends nearly as quickly as it began, I wouldn’t worry.  The fact that, over the last few years, this fad has grown into a full-blown trend has made me think I might become a stereotypical “Dad.”

The title of this photo, taken from the upper level walkway between the W.A.C. Bennett Library and the West Mall at SFU looking toward Burnaby, is just a minor indication of the problem.  A symptom, as it were.  I’ve begun making the same jokes my father does.  If there’s an obvious pun, I have to use it.  No, I need to say it.  I used to think it was just my overflowing wit, a cleverness that could not be contained.

Now that I think about it, it began when my daughter was born and worsened after my son was born.  Is it a condition that all fathers suffer from?  Is it the universe’s way of making sure that all fathers embarrass their kids whenever they can?

Is there a cure?

Two puffs 4 times daily

I never needed an inhaler.  My only reference points for asthma were my grandma and Piggy (sorry Grandma) from Lord of the Flies (“Sucks to your ass-mar”).  Last May, however, I suddenly needed some assistance breathing.  I felt like a fat guy was sitting on my chest.  I couldn’t breathe fully.  I knew I wasn’t having a heart attack because there was no radiating pain down my left arm.  I didn’t know what was happening, but I was not enjoying it.  My doctor, later that day, prescribed an inhaler and a whole bunch of tests on my heart.

The inhaler worked almost immediately.  I felt a lot better.  Until I went for heart tests, that is.  Having an EKG test is an interesting mix of electrodes and sticky goo.  If I was a little more in touch with my masochistic side, I might have enjoyed it.  It turned out that my heart was fine.

Photo Friday‘s challenge this week is “Breathless”.  I thought of taking a photo of a set of stairs, which definitely makes me breathless.  This seemed less pathetic.

Stop watching that clock. Stop it! Seriously!

How is it that something inanimate, a clock, can be such an enemy.  We feel like time is always running out, as seen on the clock, when we’re doing something we enjoy.  Time is standing still when we’re doing something we don’t like.  Time is running out when you get older, but not moving fast enough when we’re young.  A watched pot may never boil, but a watched clock never moves.  It seems that the more I look at my clock, which is no longer a wristwatch because my Blackberry Curve can tell me the time, the slower it seems to move.

About that, I’ve stopped wearing a watch entirely.  I have two great watches, one a Batman watch and one a dress watch.  I never wear them.  I thought it was some kind of breakthrough.  I no longer existed within normal time.  The world is full of clocks; why wear one?  It turns out I’ve become addicted to my smartphone because it does all kinds of things, the least of which is tell me what time it is.  I think I may have become more of a clock watcher now that I’ve stopped wearing a watch.  Sad…

Choose your own adventure…

I used to love these books.  I would always go to both options, read them both, see which one I liked better and then read from there.  I never wanted the “adventure” that I chose to end the story, so I’d always pick the next move to be one in which there was another choice.

Then I snapped this photo.  Everyone else is turned away and moving in other directions, but the guy in the center, he seems kind of sinister, no?  Like he’s on a mission somewhere to do something?  So…you fill in the blanks.

Where’s he going?  What’s he about to do?

Man is the only being who knows he is alone.

The entire quotation is, in fact:  “Solitude is the profoundest fact of the human condition. Man is the only being who knows he is alone.”  It was written by Octavio Paz, a Mexican poet and writer.  It stands out to me from a video I once saw of a poetry reading and interview with him, only years before his death.  I remember it making an impact on me, specifically because there are those moments when, even when one is surrounded by others, one may feel completely alone.  There are a couple of types of solitude, however.

There’s the kind of solitude that is not desired – think loneliness.

Then there is that solitude that is self-imposed, and even enjoyed.  I found, over the past few days, a certain kind of enjoyable solitude.  Those moments when there was no one to talk to, no one to ask for anything, no one needing anything.  Just me.

In order to ensure this state of silence and solitude, I left my iPod at the hotel, my laptop behind and turned my Blackberry to “silent”.  Unless I felt the need, I was alone.  And what I found was that my thoughts have long been ignored.  I don’t spend enough time by myself thinking, planning, brain-storming, relating, even plotting (not in a Pinky and the Brain kind of way).  I want to fill my head and time with useless endeavors, with mental dead-ends, with noise so that I feel busy.  I found myself figuring out ways to finance a Master’s Degree, appreciating the utilitarian, if not beautiful, architecture of SFU and thinking of what makes my children so amazing.  In silence and solitude, I found many things I was ignoring.

Maybe we all need a bit of silence and solitude.

The AQ; or why SFU architecture is really cool

Okay.  I know. Yesterday I wrote about how much I hate the depression caused by all the concrete on the SFU campus.  But I am large enough to contain contradictions.  But there are introductions to be made, so…here goes.

Everyone, this is the AQ.  AQ, this is everyone.  Well, not everyone, but a bunch of people who are nice enough to read my blog.

AQ stands for the Academic Quadrangle.  On the left, you’ll notice there is some water.  That water extends all along the west end of the AQ.  In that water live a school (pun intended) of koi fish.  Also, there are some chairs and a safety cone, but those are probably not supposed to be there.  To the right is a bronze statue of Terry Fox, a Canadian hero.  The two stories of the AQ you can see in this photo are classrooms.  The all have a great view of the quadrangle itself, except for the corner classrooms, which have an outside view.  What you can’t see are the two floors of classrooms, lecture halls, theaters and museums that are underground in roughly the same shape as the quadrangle you see here.  It’s pretty cool.

One bit of personal trivia:  you’re looking north toward the Education department, which is where I spent the summer of 1999 while attending class in my PDP year.  Pretty cool, I know.

BTW, if you click on the photo above (a panorama made up of three individual frames) you’ll get a larger view that might add some details.

Where do these stairs go?

Sorry about the scrolling down.

These are stairs that exist in the back hallways at Simon Fraser University.  I marked Provincial Exams there today (and yesterday and tomorrow and Tuesday).  I marked 660 exams today and over 1000 over the last two days.  It’s been fun.

What really has been fun is the Maggie Benson Center.  We mark exams in three different rooms in this building and I’ve spent quite a number of days over the last 10 years marking exams here.  What that means is that I’ve tried out as many back hallways as possible.  Some are not accessible without a security pass, but quite a few allow anyone to wander around.  I haven’t taken these stairs, but I think they come out near the student services area.

SFU is a big, concrete mass on the top of Burnaby Mountain, and was designed by Arthur Erickson.  I love Erickson’s vision, in that he followed the contour of Burnaby Mountain with his designs.  What I’m not sure I love is that it’s all grey.  On the top of a mountain.  In the Lower Mainland of BC.  What that means is that it rains a lot, and even when it’s not, it’s cloudy a lot, and when you’re at the top of a mountain you’re often surrounded by clouds, even when everyone else is not.  Let’s just say, it gets a little depressing up there.

But what the school has done is put in these splashes of safety yellow.  On stairs.  On railings.  All over the place.  Yellow explosions amongst the sea of grey.

Slightly creepy…but aren’t you curious?

I’m away from my family tonight.  I am marking exams in Burnaby, so I’m staying in a hotel in Coquitlam (if you check out Google Earth you’ll see that this makes sense) for three nights because I was up at 5:00 this morning to get to Simon Fraser University by 7:30 so that I could mark exams and that’s too ridiculous to do for four days straight.  But I miss my family…

…so I’m spying on other families.  No.  I’m not.

Actually, I took this photo because my wife is a people watcher.  Not in the “let’s go get the binoculars, I think the neighbors are up to something” kind of people watching.  More the “sit on a bench in the mall and watch people walk by” kind.  So when I looked out my 10th floor hotel room window and found an apartment building, I thought I’d snap a couple of shots for her.

But here’s the thing.  I’m actually kind of curious about what’s going on over there.  And if you’re truly honest with yourself, you are kind of curious, too.  In fact, some of you would probably periodically check up on your neighbors if you had this kind of vantage point.  Is curiosity creepy?  There was a time, not so long ago, when everyone knew who their neighbors were.  You were greeted when you moved into an apartment building or a neighborhood, and you did the same for other new people.  You wanted to know who they were.  Now…not so much.  And yet, you’re probably reading this because you read about it when it was posted to one of two different social networks wherein you stalk and creep other people’s photos and lives without having to knock on their doors to find out what they’re really like.

So, who’s creepy now?

Photo Friday: Self Portrait…Yikes!

Photo Friday:  Self Portrait, 2011.

I shot this tonight, just for the challenge.  I’m worried about the way I look.  The close-up shot shows off some eyebrows that need some gardening and the eye looks pretty tired.  And what’s with that vein?  That doesn’t look healthy.  I wonder if there’s something wrong.  Maybe it’s a problem.  Maybe it’s a sign of something bad.  Maybe I’m feeling hypochondria.

Yeah, that’s probably it.  Hypochondria.  You can’t die from that, can you?


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