And Now, a Word About My Avatar

or, excuse me, I meant to say blavatar. Anyway, in my history of avatars, the current one is only my second. For years, mine was Ms. Frizzle, and she was apt. I taught four academic subjects to at-risk middle and high school students. I have read hair and a somewhat wacky personality (I encouraged this perception, of course!) and did hands-on stuff when ever I could. I remember scrambling through the woods and bogs of Southampton, Massachusetts looking for remnants of the canal network. The girls I took were not like my girl scouts. Oh, no, not them (whiny-ass crybabies). So they got a few scratches and whatnot. I picked the ticks off them myself, didn’t I? Anyhoo, back to Ms. Frizzle. I had to say goodbye to her this year when I quit teaching this past spring. For one thing, any reminder of teaching made me anxious, and hard to avoid looking at your avatar, innit?  ‘It was no longer appropriate’ said Ms. Frizzle gently, and drove away in her magic school bus, her little lizard on her shoulder swivelling his saurian head around as they faded into the cybersphere.

It was at this time that the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan. Many of my friends changed their avatars to the Japanese flag (some even to the empirical Japanese flag, although I’m not sure they understood why they did-I didn’t ask, but I had my doubts). I changed mine to The Wave to bide me some time while I found another avatar.

Meanwhile, I kept noodling around in Photoshop, trying to create a cartoon of a picture of me. There’s a few hundred ways to do this, at least, and I kept noodling.

Plus, there’s so many other cool things to play with in photoshop, like the liquify tool and the self healing brush. Like the undo button, the self-healing brush is a tool I hope will one day be actual and not just virtual, but not likely to be available in my lifetime. So I was searching and noodling at the same time (could be a name for this blog, hey?)

And then I found her.

Vindicator, one of the all Canadian members of the new Alpha Flight. Isn’t she lovely? and a righteous babe, ta boot!

The only thing I don’t feel quite honest about is, while there was a time I could have easily pulled that look off (and almost did! I still have my circa 1982 Diane Von Furtstenbug jumpsuit).  I don’t think I can pull it off as well as the whole Ms. Frizzle look.  For one thing, my hair is just jaw length now. It can’t shake and sway like a superhero’s (although there are parts of me that shake and sway just fine, thank you). I’m just issuing a caveat about my appearance in case you’re don’t recognize me without the crime-fighting costume if we met ftf. Just so’s we got that cleared up.

Community Supported Fisheries: An Idea Whose Time Has Come

Tonight I went to a really cool event, the Summer Season Launch of Off The Hook 2011, a community supported fishery here in Halifax. CSFs give local people the opportunity to support their neighbors and get fresh fish harvested in a sustainable fashion. Being from away, CFAs are new to me, but I belonged to a CSA farm in Massachusetts, so I get the concept. At the beginning of the season, people buy shares from the farmer, or in this case the fisher. Every week for a certain number of weeks, the producer gives you an amount of the seasonal produce (or fish). This concept is win-win: the farmer/fisher gets some cash up front when they need it, and the customer gets the very freshest produce/catch organically/sustainably grown and harvested. Like CSA farms, CSFs  at their best become a community of people who share ideas, recipes and a commitment to small scale cooperation. In checking out the Facebook page for Off The Hook, it seems to be all of that, with wall photos of members at get togethers (one fed 160 people!) and photos of fish pizza, fish in foil and Brazilian Fish Stew among other choices. This is an example of Facebook using their powers for good and not for evil, by the way.

In the CSA farm system, a ‘share’ is just that–if the farmer has a bad season, or a storm at the wrong time, you share in the poor harvest. I don’t know how that works with a fishery–is it ever a bad year for fish? I suppose if there was some environmental problem like a red tide or something (heaven forfend) the subscribers would share, which is only fair, but I can’t imagine something taking away the whole season like a bad storm might do to a particular harvest. I never thought to ask.

I thought the subscription prices were quite reasonable: $120 for a 2-3 lb. whole (gutted) fish every week for eight weeks. At an average of 2.5 lbs./wk, that’s about six dollars a pound for fresh haddock or pollock. Your order can be picked up at the Brewery Market (on the Halifax Waterfront) every Thursday. Here is a photo of Chef Chris Velden demonstrating how to debone a whole fish.

Speaking Canadian, part 1

Living my formative years in the land of the silver birch, and summers thereafter, I have, from birth, been able to speak fluent Canadian.  In fact, I often speak ‘Canadian’ in the states. When I taught in a high school, whenever I said ‘the washroom,’ the kids would say “What? Why do you call it that?” “Well, I know you’re not going to bathe there, but I hope that you wash!” I replied. Also I say ‘process’ so that it rhymes with ‘no less’ rather than the ‘lot less,’ rhyme of the American pronunciation.  (These are not great rhymes, sorry, hope you get it.)

Today, at the store I saw an endcap display of Kraft Dinner.For Americans who may be reading this, I am talking about macaroni and cheese. Now I have a certain song running through my head…if I had a million dollars, by the Barenaked Ladies where they sing about Kraft Dinners. Apparently, there was a time in the early years when fans would throw boxes of the stuff on the stage, pelting the performers and strewing powdered cheese onto the equipment, where the lights and the heat would bake it into a stinky, bubbling mess. Ewwwww. Here is a happier thought: The songs were written when Ed Robertson and Steven Page were camp counsellors. they also sing about a chesterfield, which is a sofa. According to Wikipedia:

If I Had $1000000 is one of the earliest-composed Barenaked Ladies songs. It was first conceived as a simple improvised song while Page and Robertson were counsellors at a summer music camp. On the way home from camp, Robertson played the tune for the campers, randomly listing amusing things he would buy with a million dollars. Upon returning to camp, he brought the idea to Page, and the two fleshed out the song.

But anyway, I loved hearing BNL singing about Kraft Dinner, because it reminded me of Canada, and 99% of my memories of time in Canada are happy ones. I wonder, is Kool-Aid still called “Freshie’?

the old burying ground


I had to re-read Anne of the Island, book 3 in the Anne of Green Gables series by Lucy Maud Montgomery this week. In this book, Anne attends “Redmond College” (Dalhousie University) and Halifax is called Kingsport. Here is a section describing the city:

Kingsport is a quaint old town, hearking back to early Colonial days, and wrapped in its ancient atmosphere, as some fine old dame in garments fashioned like those of her youth. Here and there it sprouts out into modernity, but at heart it is still unspoiled; it is full of curious relics, and haloed by the romance of many legends of the past. Once it was a mere frontier station on the fringe of the wilderness, and those were the days when Indians kept life from being monotonous to the settlers. Then it grew to be a bone of contention between the British and the French, being occupied now by the one and now by the other, emerging from each occupation with some fresh scar of battling nations branded on it.

It has in its park a martello tower, autographed all over by tourists, a dismantled old French fort on the hills beyond the town, and several antiquated cannon in its public squares. It has other historic spots also, which may be hunted out by the curious, and none is more quaint and delightful than Old St. John’s Cemetery at the very core of the town, with streets of quiet, old-time houses on two sides, and busy, bustling, modern thoroughfares on the others. Every citizen of Kingsport feels a thrill of possessive pride in Old St. John’s, for, if he be of any pretensions at all, he has an ancestor buried there, with a queer, crooked slab at his head, or else sprawling protectively over the grave, on which all the main facts of his history are recorded. For the most part no great art or skill was lavished on those old tombstones. The larger number are of roughly chiselled brown or gray native stone, and only in a few cases is there any attempt at ornamentation. Some are adorned with skull and cross-bones, and this grizzly decoration is frequently coupled with a cherub’s head. Many are prostrate and in ruins. Into almost all Time’s tooth has been gnawing, until some inscriptions have been completely effaced, and others can only be deciphered with difficulty. The graveyard is very full and very bowery, for it is surrounded and intersected by rows of elms and willows, beneath whose shade the sleepers must lie very dreamlessly, forever crooned to by the winds and leaves over them, and quite undisturbed by the clamor of traffic just beyond.

“I’m going across to Old St. John’s after lunch,” said Anne. “I don’t know that a graveyard is a very good place to go to get cheered up, but it seems the only get-at-able place where there are trees, and trees I must have. I’ll sit on one of those old slabs and shut my eyes and imagine I’m in the Avonlea woods.”

Anne did not do that, however, for she found enough of interest in Old St. John’s to keep her eyes wide open. They went in by the entrance gates, past the simple, massive, stone arch surmounted by the great lion of England.

In the previous chapter, Anne’s friend Priscilla Grant, had described the Old Burial Ground (Called St. John’s Cemetery in the book)

Old St. John’s is a darling place… a few years ago they put up a beautiful monument to the memory of Nova Scotian soldiers who fell in the Crimean War. It is just opposite the entrance gates and there’s `scope for imagination’ in it, as you used to say. (Anne of the Island, Chapters 3 and 4, Lucy Maud Montgomery)

Here is the very monument Anne Shirley is describing!

I looked up the old burial ground in Wikipedia to find out more about the ‘lion’s gate’ entrance, and found tit is called The Welsford-Parker Monument, a memorial standing at the entrance to the cemetery.  The memorial, commemorating the Crimean War was built in 1860 and is named after two Haligonians, Major Welsford and Captain Parker, who both died in the battle at Redan in 1855 during the Siege of Sevastopol (1854–1855).

Why Halifax?

One question I am asked a lot when people find out I came here knowing no one is why here. I mean, why here? I usually give some smartass answer like “I just closed my eyes, held my credit card to my forehead and here I am!” and the person laughs, and we move on. It wasn’t accidental how I landed here, though. It was the result of research. Herewith, my formula of livable parameters:

1. It had to be on the East coast. While I love the town of White Rock B.C. all over again every time I watch the TV show Psych, my entire family is on this coast, and here I shall stay. Moving out of the country is transition enough, and least I can stay one hour within the time zone, and even some of the weather (a dubious benefit, perhaps, but it makes for a great opener for calls to my parents).

2. There had to be a university nearby. This was my husband’s stipulation. He works. in a University now, and likes the environment and career prospects for his line of work (IT). NB: my husband didn’t actually accompany me on this journey.

3. There had to be good public transportation. This was also M’s requirement. He currently drives to a carpool lot, then rides a bus to the university. In the summer, he bikes from the carpool lot, which brings us to

4. Bike paths, and lots of them! We have been taking our bikes on vacation, and it has added a really fun dimension to our travels.

5. A ‘green’ community. Massachusetts is relatively progressive on environmental issues, and we like the direction a lifestyle less dependent on fossil fuels.

6. Quality of life issues. How does one determine this? This was in the late ’90s, before the onslaught of ‘best places to live’ surveys. so we asked our friends. One friend in particular, gave us some great advice. ‘You should look for gay-friendly communities, because it’s likely they have everything you want.’ He was right. I’m straight, but I’m not narrow, and people who accept gays are simply better people to have as neighbours.

and that’s it–that was our formula that resulted in Halifax.Here’s another reason: some photos I took yesterday.Halifax Harbour at dusk

Canada Coast Guard cutter, Hallifax Harbour near Georges Island


Hardly anyone in Halifax uses an umbrella. I noticed this right away when I got here, since it was raining. People kind of bend their heads into the rain, stoic as cows. Almost everyone wears a hat of some kind or other, though. I asked my landlady why nobody uses an umbrella and she said “it rains sideways, so an umbrella won’t help.”

I brought two umbrellas up North with me, a little wee lavender job that fits in my purse and a big black English ‘walking umbrella’ with flowers sewn around the edge for when I want to bring out my inner Mary Poppins. Today, I was running a bit late, and I couldn’t find the big one. It had been on the bedpost, as a handy weapon, but it kept getting in my way so I banished it somewhere. The wee lavender one was in my purse already, so I went with that.

I don’t really like the collapsible umbrellas, I feel like Charlie Chaplin when I walk with one, because of my height. I mean, from elbow to hand is parallel to your body, while shoulder to arm is straight out. It isn’t comfortable and it looks silly. One more reason to dislike them, I discovered today, is that they’re not very strong. I don’t think it was so much a matter of the rain moving sideways today as the wind gusting in different directions. It did blow my brolly inside out once, but I was able to snap it back. After a while, though, I gave it up and tucked it back into my purse.

As I wasOK, this wasn't the one I saw; it was too damn wet to stop and take a picture, so I got this one from another blog. walking along, I was able to raise my head enough to see a couple of trash cans with broken umbrellas in them. This picture is not one of them. It was raining too damn hard for me to want to stop and take a picture.

Now I have lived in windy cities before. Boston’s weird buildings create wicked wind tunnels. One time, I saw a

Cambodian woman swept right off her feet. If she hadn’t been hanging on to a post, she would have been blown right off the face of the earth, I think. I also lived in Chicago one summer. They say the name is from the politics, not the climate, but it was a hot summer, and even the shore breeze we got felt like a blow dryer aimed at your face. I say this so that readers will not think I am some sort of delicate flower, but DAMN, this place is windy!


Kijiji is pretty cool. It’s like the craigslist of Canada, with just nice people on it. My landlady said you can ask for anything you want on Kijiji, and who knows, you might get it. So I asked for a lift to Massachusetts for the weekend of June 25-27…on a plane or boat!

Airline flights are off the chain-four figures, three stops and fourteen hours before it is all over; dearliord there must be something better than this! So treating Kijiji like my own magic lamp, I am wishing for speedy transport with interesting people at little monetary cost to myself.

Who knows? Maybe it’ll happen. Like they said at the TEDx Halifax on Friday, don’t wait for it to happen, get out there and create your reality.