Power Success

Well, we’re back to the 20th cen­tu­ry (we’ll get to the 21st in a few more days, I think). The pow­er came back on at about mid­night last night. So far, the only per­ma­nent dam­age is a lot of spoilt food in the freez­er and fridge. Most of the clocks have been reset (except for the Rice Cook­er — who thought of putting one on that? Oh, right, some peo­ple set it in the morn­ing to cook rice for when they get home from work).
The com­put­er seems 100%, but the TV is still dead. Actu­al­ly, it died a day or two before the pow­er fail­ure, so it’s not relat­ed, as far as I can tell. Too bad that it didn’t mag­i­cal­ly heal itself when the pow­er returned.
The rea­son for the pow­er not com­ing back in our build­ing (when it did for the rest of the area of South False Creek that was affect­ed) was that our Main switch blew (and that is to say ‘splod­ed!) when the cur­rent start­ed flow­ing again. With lit­tle or no com­mu­ni­ca­tion (some of the land­line phones were out as well) we relied on the old fash­ioned game of tele­phone. Rumours were run­ning ram­pant as we came and left the build­ing. “It was a huge rat that got torched.” said one neigh­bor. “It’ll be down for 4 or 5 days.” said anoth­er. I’m sur­prised we didn’t get sto­ries cir­cu­lat­ing of aliens or zom­bies in the Gen­er­a­tor room.
Hav­ing show­ered, shaven and reset most of the radios and clocks, etc. I now have to get to the task of throw­ing out all of the bad food. It could have been much worse; this week we had less left­overs than we usu­al­ly do in the fridge.
I still chuck­le over the for­tune cook­ie (which I tweet­ed last night) that we got at the end of din­ner: NOW IS THE TIME TO DEPART FROM YOUR REGULAR ROUTINE. Yes, Mr. Cook­ie, it was indeed. Now, I’m just hop­ing to get back to some sem­blance of that rou­tine, if you don’t mind.

Lights Out

I was in the mid­dle of an email ear­ly yes­ter­day evening (about 7PM), when *poof* all the pow­er went off. It wasn’t as much of a shock to me as it was to Pam, who was down­stairs in the base­ment stor­age room, but she was able to feel her way out in the total dark — emer­gency light­ing kicked in after a minute or so, just as I was mak­ing her way to get her, should she have become locked in. There was a Blue­ber­ry Buck­le in the oven (it’s off now, leav­ing the dessert about half-baked. I had already made a light din­ner of tuna sal­ad and some hot rolls (which were, for­tu­nate­ly, done).
I checked with BC Hydro peri­od­i­cal­ly, and yes, they were work­ing on the out­age, which spanned about 6 streets (5th thru 11 or so), in rough­ly a 15 block area from Hem­lock Street to Yew or so (we are at the far­thest east­ern point of the out­age. The oth­er side of Hem­lock to the east is fine — Doh!). They first post­ed that it was a cable prob­lem and would be fixed by 7 PM. Then the set it to 11 PM. Curi­ous­ly, they said the out­age only affect­ed 1100 res­i­dents, but since we know for a fact that there are 500 in our block of Hem­lock thru Granville, that num­ber is seri­ous­ly out of whack.
We ate din­ner, locat­ed some can­dles and flash­lights, took a walk, got back and went to bed. Still no pow­er. I checked again (although my phone was start­ing to run out of pow­er), and BC Hydro had updat­ed to their esti­mate of when pow­er would be back to 2 AM. Then this morn­ing, we got up at about 6:30, and still no change. I went to the near­by Wicked Café to get some cof­fee (since mak­ing our own was out). Appar­ent­ly pow­er was restored at 2AM to every oth­er build­ing but ours. Great. Our build­ing man­ag­er is out of the coun­try, on vaca­tion, so that might account for the prob­lem, but it doesn’t help, either. Anoth­er call to BC Hydro reports that it is ‘A prob­lem with Cus­tomer Equip­ment’ and that the time they esti­mate that pow­er will be restored is 4 PM, but giv­en that the his­to­ry of this set of missed mile­stones is start­ing to sound a bit like BP in the Gulf of Mex­i­co, I’m not hold­ing my breath.
So, it’s about 9:45 and I’m writ­ing from Waves down­town. I plan on head­ing to the library at 10 when it opens, and have an appoint­ment about 3PM, which I will attend unshow­ered, unshaven (no hot water) and in what­ev­er clothes I could put togeth­er. I’m hop­ing that my com­put­er will come back with all dri­ves and that not too much food in our fridge and freez­er was spoiled, but it’s hard to say how much dam­age has been done.

Did She Just Say That?

Hap­py July 4th to all of my friends and rel­a­tives back in the US. Pam and I tuned in this morn­ing to the news and polit­i­cal talk shows, expect­ing a pret­ty unevent­ful roundup of pre-Fire­works chat­ter, and were sur­prised to see some news­wor­thy items. One was a final reac­tion by pun­dits to the Repub­li­can Nation­al Committee’s head, Michael Steele. For the past cou­ple of years, Steele has been ‘the gift that keeps on giv­ing’ to Lib­er­als like myself, and it was always hys­ter­i­cal when he came out with one of his either undig­ni­fied or ridicu­lous state­ments. The lat­est one, how­ev­er, seemed to go over the line. At a fundrais­er in Noank, Con­necti­cut, some­one caught Steele in the fol­low­ing video that became one of those gaffes heard round the world:

“The [Gen­er­al] McChrys­tal inci­dent, to me, was very com­i­cal. I think it’s a reflec­tion of the frus­tra­tion that a lot of our mil­i­tary lead­ers has with this Admin­is­tra­tion and their pros­e­cu­tion of the war in Afghanistan. Keep in mind again, fed­er­al can­di­dates, this was a war of Obama’s choos­ing. This was not some­thing that the Unit­ed States had active­ly pros­e­cut­ed or want­ed to engage in. It was one of those areas of the total board of for­eign pol­i­cy [that was at least?] that we would be in the back­ground sort of shap­ing the changes that were nec­es­sary in Afghanistan as opposed to direct­ly engag­ing troops. But it was the Pres­i­dent who was try­ing to be cute by half by flip­ping a script demo­niz­ing Iraq, while say­ing the bat­tle real­ly should in Afghanistan. Well, if he is such a stu­dent of his­to­ry, has he not under­stood that you know that’s the one thing you don’t do, is engage in a land war in Afghanistan? Alright, because every­one who has tried over a thou­sand years of his­to­ry has failed, and there are rea­sons for that. There are oth­er ways to engage in Afghanistan…”

Now I won’t go too much into how wrong that is on so many lev­els (not the least of which is that it’s his­tor­i­cal­ly inac­cu­rate — there was no ‘choice’ involved and the US, led by George W. Bush, attacked Afghanistan after the ter­ror­ist attack on the World Trade Cen­ter and the Pen­ta­gon on Sep­tem­ber 11, 2001), but the con­dem­na­tion from Democ­rats and Repub­li­cans has been pret­ty severe, with the excep­tion of the always-sur­pris­ing Ron Paul, who said that Steele, “has it right and Repub­li­cans should stick by him.”
At any rate, we did a dou­ble-take when we heard this from Cyn­thia Tuck­er, the Pulitzer prize win­ning reporter of the Atlanta Jour­nal-Con­sti­tu­tion:

Wow! It’s not often you hear some­one deliv­er as blis­ter­ing a cri­tique as that. In fact, I dare say if any­one else had said what she said, (par­tic­u­lar­ly some­one who wasn’t also black) they might have been accused of being racist.

It’s pret­ty clear that Steele is toast. As I hint­ed ear­li­er, that’s a shame for Democ­rats (Al Hunt a few moments before this clip sug­gest­ed that Steele was actu­al­ly a Demo­c­ra­t­ic Mole). How­ev­er, he (and Ms. Tuck­er) did pro­vide some ear­ly fire­works for this July 4 morn­ing.


July 5 is also a big date, at least for Pam and me. On this date, 5 years ago, we left Cam­bridge, MA and began our jour­ney to Cana­da. While I’m always a lit­tle pen­sive on the 4th, remem­ber­ing those long after­noons on the bank of the Charles riv­er get­ting ready for the fire­works and singing patri­ot­ic songs, I also remem­ber how excit­ed we were to be start­ing a new chap­ter in our lives. These days, I don’t intro­duce myself as a ‘new Van­cou­verite’ any more. I now con­sid­er the low­er Main­land my home, and despite more than a few glances back at the US, we have no plans to return to liv­ing there. The July 4 of 2005 will prob­a­bly be the last one we spent as US res­i­dents.

Happy Canada Day 2010!

It’s that day of the  year again, when we all wear red and white T-shirts with Cana­da on them, head down to Granville Island to get tem­po­rary maple leaf tat­toos and cel­e­brate Cana­da Day (or as it was orig­i­nal­ly called, Domin­ion Day).

Thanks to Heather for some pho­tos of us in our regalia (well, the T-shirts any­way). The island was jammed, despite less-than-per­fect weath­er. It sprin­kled on and off all day, but that didn’t damp­en the spir­its (and appetite) of peo­ple, who chowed down on all sorts of good­ies: we got some oh-so-tra­di­tion­al bar­be­cued squid and tofu and bub­ble tea; oth­ers had Chow Mein noo­dles and Pork Dumplings, Viet­namese cof­fee, hot dogs, shaved ice and But­ter Chick­en. I’m always thrilled at how so many peo­ple born in Cana­da and  immi­grants like us cel­e­brate and share in the good fel­low­ship of ‘Our Home and (near­ly) Native Land.’
Pam and I show off our Canada Day Tattoos

Pam and I show off our Cana­da Day Tat­toos

Canada Day on Granville Island

Cana­da Day on Granville Island

The Seal pokes up his head

The Seal pokes up his head

Canada Day Cookies

Saw these cook­ies cool­ing off a few days before

A Bit of an Ode to Granville Island

Entrance to Granville Island at Dusk

Entrance to Granville Island at Dusk

I often tell peo­ple that liv­ing near and shop­ping reg­u­lar­ly for food at Granville Island has ‘changed my life’. It’s true, and I thought I’d spend a lit­tle time try­ing to explain how and why.

First of all, it’s changed the food that I buy. I rarely get food that comes in a box or is pre-processed, and get most­ly fresh meat and veg­eta­bles. The things I do buy that are cooked or pre­pared include sausages and oth­er meats and paté from Oya­ma Sausage com­pa­ny, soup from the Stock Mar­ket soup kitchen, the occa­sion­al pie (dessert or entrée) from À la Mode, and bread from any of the 3 bak­eries (French — La Baguette & L’Echalote, Arti­sanal — Ter­ra Breads, or English/North Amer­i­can — Stu­arts). I try to buy what’s in sea­son (although that can be hard in Jan­u­ary or Feb­ru­ary), and look for­ward to cer­tain months when I know some­thing will be appear­ing and grad­u­al­ly (or swift­ly) going down in price. We are about to hit the sum­mer fruit sea­son, and I love see­ing the arrival of peach­es, apri­cots, plums and blue­ber­ries. Because of this, I’ve learned which ven­dors have the best of each vari­ety of fruit, veg­etable or meat. While I do get some organ­ic veg­eta­bles (onions and pota­toes), I also try to buy things that are grown local­ly. Again, this makes the win­ter months a time when I have to com­pro­mise a bit, but most of the year it’s quite pos­si­ble.

We are very lucky in that we live a short walk from the mar­ket, and I quite frankly can’t imag­ine liv­ing far­ther away from it. The fact that we walk there and car­ry our gro­ceries back adds just a lit­tle bit of exer­cise (or at least the excuse to go out­side and get some air, even if the weath­er is rainy or sim­ply drea­ry.) For the vast major­i­ty of vis­i­tors to Granville Island, the mar­ket is a curios­i­ty, a kind of liv­ing muse­um of the way peo­ple used to shop for food (and still do in many oth­er coun­tries out­side of North Amer­i­ca). I’m always amused to see some­one tak­ing a pho­to­graph of a stack of cher­ries or straw­ber­ries (although they are pret­ty); They’re get­ting a snap­shot of my gro­cery store, and in a few cas­es where they flood the aisle and are obliv­i­ous to the rest of us, I wish they’d just get out of the way and let me get on my shop­ping. That doesn’t hap­pen too often, but some days, when a tourist bus lets off, the mar­ket has to walk the thin line between attrac­tion and gro­cery store.

I shop at the mar­ket often, and near­ly always bring a sack. Since I’m there so much, I’m rec­og­nized by near­ly all of the mer­chants, and am on a first name basis with sev­er­al of them. I’ve also learned about their fam­i­lies, heard some sto­ries, found out their likes and dis­likes, and think of them as peo­ple, not just some­one at a cash reg­is­ter. I’m impressed with the close-knit fam­i­lies who work in the Mar­ket, and am often been cheered up (or calmed down) by sim­ply enter­ing the mar­ket, espe­cial­ly when it’s not crowd­ed with tourists, which unlike a Super­mar­ket, is not lit sole­ly by flu­o­res­cents. (I should add that on Foursquare, the social media ‘game’, I’m the may­or of Granville Island Mar­ket, and have yet to be replaced by some­one who checks-in there more.)

Speak­ing of Super­mar­kets, I do go to Cost­co about once every 2 months or so for a few items (olive oil, paper goods, maple syrup), and also go to an organ­ic gro­cer on Broad­way (who used to be the Dan-De-Pak home office, or so it seemed) for rice, the odd box of break­fast cere­al or crack­ers, etc.) I always feel kind of dis­ap­point­ed and maybe even a lit­tle depressed when I walk into a cav­ernous Safe­way, IGA or Save-On Foods, all lit by those flu­o­res­cent lights, and very cold from the frozen aisles.

Back to the Granville Mar­ket: In addi­tion to the peo­ple, the food and the light, there are the smells. I can near­ly nav­i­gate the mar­ket by my nose. In the fish mar­ket, I can smell the brine of today’s catch. There’s fre­quent­ly the aro­ma of fresh­ly baked bread by the bak­eries (and La Baguette has that mar­velous yeasty smell of pain de mie near­ly all of the time). The food court (which I must con­fess, I some­times go to first, in order to eat before I shop, which helps stop larg­er pur­chas­es made when hun­gry), there are areas where you smell piz­za, cur­ry, or falafel. In sev­er­al spots in the build­ing, the smell of cof­fee and tea wafts out into the aisle, and you can under­stand why there’s such a line at J J Bean.

In the sum­mer, there is the extra treat of Thurs­days, par­tic­u­lar­ly in the morn­ing, when local farm­ers truck in their pro­duce, and sell some of it out­side, next to the Mar­ket. In recent years, some farm­ers have spe­cial­ized in Heir­loom Toma­toes, and I’ve actu­al­ly tast­ed cel­ery (yes, cel­ery!) that is actu­al­ly mind-blow­ing­ly sweet and tasty. Some of the farm­ers stay all day, but most of them are there main­ly in the morn­ing, so Thurs­days are par­tic­u­lar­ly good to get ear­ly and get the best pro­duce.

I’ve dis­cov­ered new fruits and veg­eta­bles at the mar­ket. We’ve tried Sting­ing Net­tles as a side dish, and boiled down elder­ber­ries into syrup. I’ve cooked sour cher­ry soup, and after our trip to South­east Asia, have made Ataulfo Man­goes (Mani­la Hon­ey Man­goes), Drag­on­fruit, Rambu­tans, Lon­gans, Lychees, Pom­leos and Pas­sion­fruits a treat for break­fast or dessert. Near­ly all are avail­able (although not cheap­ly most of the time) at the mar­ket. I’ve fre­quent­ed the Asian Food spe­cial­ty shop in the mar­ket, The South Chi­na Seas Trad­ing Com­pa­ny, where I’ve final­ly learned to appre­ci­ate the fin­er points of coconut milk, fresh tamarind, lit­tle red chiles, lemon­grass, galan­gal, and even fish sauce. I’m thrilled to have found great fish that is cheap (Rock­fish — big, red, and ugly, but they’ll filet it for you for free, so you have a love­ly, firm white flesh for cur­ry or soup), and am sur­prised at how good the turkey is. I’ve cheat­ed a lit­tle, and got­ten pre-mar­i­nat­ed Maui Ribs, as well as Cor­nish Game Hens, and one of these days this sum­mer we’ll make a Caribbean Goat stew with the fresh goat meat we some­times see them cart in. The spot prawns are in this week, and every year I look for fid­dle­head ferns (in the Spring) and Okana­gan pears (in the Autumn).

All in all, Granville Mar­ket has expand­ed my diet, made me more in tune with the pas­sage of the sea­sons, low­ered my blood pres­sure (at least when I’m vis­it­ing, I think), and pro­vid­ed me with a sense of con­nec­tion to my food with the peo­ple who grow it and sell it. It’s helped me learn to cook new and more com­pli­cat­ed dish­es, and also let me off the hook when I’m stumped and just get a home­made turkey pie or soup. I feel as if I’m rich­er and my life is health­i­er and fuller with the mar­ket in it, which is about the most one can say about any activ­i­ty, espe­cial­ly one as mun­dane as food shop­ping.

Heirloom Tomatoes at Granville Island Market

Heir­loom Toma­toes at Granville Island Mar­ket