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 entree) from À la Mode, and bread from any of the 3 bak­eries (French — La Baguette & L’Echalote, Arti­sanal — Ter­ra Breads, or English/North Amer­i­can — Stew­arts). 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