Sunday, May 20, 2007

Community Garden in NYC

The East Village is nestled in lower Manhattan, around 12th and Avenue A. Tightly clustered brownstones have folding doors covering up secret stairways leading to the basement. Tiny shops and cafes with metal trash cans outside. Fenced off little parks have play areas for kids. It looks a little like Sesame Street.

That's where I found this public garden; a gated but unlocked community garden where people grow a few vegetables and flowers.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Spring is Here

Spring finally arrived here in Toronto.

We celebrated by installing a new fence in our yard in April. Hum. I'm ambivalent about the new fence. The old fence had character; it sagged crazily from side to side. It was intertwined with trees growing in the fence, and it was unabashedly rusty. The new fence has the charm of an East German passport control zone. Perhaps we will install a guard tower and patrol the bare earth strip with guard dogs and AK 47s.

Removing the old fence was extremely challenging since a number of small to medium Manitoba maples had grown along the fence line. The old timers recommend the following method of stump removal:
1. Drill holes in stump
2. Pour gasoline into stump and let liquid seep into the stump
3. Light stump on fire

Or not. I don't want my lettuce to taste like an Esso station. So I dug around the roots and hacked away with a hatchet and a pruning saw. It took about a day per 6-inch tree trunk. Hard work, indeed.
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Saturday, April 21, 2007

American Airlines

American Airlines has a new website for the ladies.

No need to tax your poor lady brain with those complicated search options, girls.

Friday, April 20, 2007


Well the tap water was tasty but I saw a total of 2 fountains and one was in my hotel. City of Fountains, my ass. I did see an art gallery and a couple of downtown eateries. Spring is here in the Midwest and I was pleased to sit on the patio and sample a local brew or two after work.

The urban renaissance in KC is occurring at a rapid pace. The Federal Reserve Bank and H&R Block are both building large headquarters buildings.

But the most interesting redevelopment is the recycling of old factories and warehouses into downtown residential and commercial real estate spaces. No need for fake loft buildings here.

A new Roy Thomsonesque arenacalled the Sprint Center is also under construction.

Thursday, April 12, 2007


I'm travelling to Kansas for work. I'm looking forward to drinking the cleanest tap water in the US, seeing historical archictecture (KC is known as the City of Fountains). KC straddles the Missouri-Kansas border, and as such it was the location of Civil War battles. The state of Kansas was part of the Union (the good guys) and repelled incursions from Missouri from the Confederates (the bad guys).

Kansas was a participant in the City Beautiful movement of North American architecture from the 1890s-1900s; an attempt to use city beautification to fight moral decay allegedly caused by urban environments.

Post World War II, KC was the site of considerable urban sprawl enabled by tax policies and free roads built by local governments. According to Wikepedia the formerly blighted downtown has undergone a revival in urban planning.

Strange that the only local highlights mentioned by my downtown hotel are proximity to malls and casinos:

Located downtown, the Kansas City - City Center Hotel is close to a variety
of major attractions and adjacent to Bartle Hall KC Convention Center.
Shoppers can catch the MAX (Metro Area Express) transient [sic] system across the street from the hotel for transportation to Country Club Plaza and Crown Center
Shopping. Worlds of Fun & Oceans of Fun located 10 miles from the hotel.
Gamblers will appreciate the quick 10 minute drive to 4 world class casinos.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Vegan Porn

Vegan Porn is a site with resources for vegans and vegetarians. They have good recipies and lively discussions.

Horse Chestnuts

I dug up a horse chestnut tree from our front yard because
(a) my wife doesn't like horse chestnuts and;
(b) it was growing out from under the porch and would eventually damage our house

The horse chestnut is actually native to Europe and was a popular tree in the 19th century in Toronto. The horsechestnut was for sale at Dundas and York as early as 1827. Due to a supply glut, George Leslie a local nursery owner, sold many horse chestnuts to the city at a reduced rate, and this accounts for the high number of horse chestnuts on downtown streets. I wonder if the friendly tree on my lawn was a descendant of those early trees...

Sunday, April 01, 2007


Artichokes are in season and arrived in our food box. My wife consulted her colleague on how to cook them since we've never cooked this particular veggie before. Eating them is fun; a little extra work, sort of like eating a crab or lobster.

The leaves are quite tasty and once boiled the artichoke, the leaves can be peeled off. Dip the leaf in a dipping sauce (mayo or vinegar and oil). Squeeze each leaf with your teeth - the meat of the leaf will slide out. Once all of the leaves are gone, the artichoke heart is edible too.

Winter's Last Gasp

Lake Ontario, by Ontario Place in March.

100 Mile Diet and No Garbage

James MacKinnon and Alison Smith have published their account of a 100-mile diet. For one year they only ate food produced within 100 miles of their home, a staggering feat of will power and innovation. Their first meal was spring salmon with sage, organic egg fritters, and grated potatoes and turnips. The cost of that food was a whopping $128.87. MacKinnon describes a visit to the grocery store, where he came to a realization that it was all unavailable:

There was nothing there for us. Nothing. All of that plenty vanished in an
instant of cockneyed imaginatino. it would be a year without ice cream. A year
without salad dressing. A year without all-purpose flour, olives, olive oill.
Without Cheerios, Peek Freans, Fruit Cremes, Rip-L-Chips, High Liner Multigrain
Tilapia Fillets.

In Toronto, Sarah McGaughey and Kyle Glover are trying to generate zero trash. In 2005 they generated one garbage bag of trash over the entire year(!) and have vowed to beat that target. Their blog documents their struggles.

The other day, I took my family, including my Mom, who is visiting from Edmonton, to a dance performance at the Textile museum. Afterward, we looked for somewhere to have dinner (with two babies) and decided upon Tim Hortons. They are the worst for anything other than the status quo. They don’t know what is in anything so if you have allergies or are vegetarian, you are SOL. Also, they can’t seem to grasp the idea of not giving any packaging. Once, at the Tim Hortons in Lawrence Square I managed to get a bagel straight on a plate, and it was a victory! I also got a smile. There were no smiles for us this time though and the bagels came wrapped,on the plate and Kyle’s coffee came in a disposable cup,even after we asked for a mug. I hate roll up the rim to win.

So true. I am struggling just to get coffee in a travel mug, mainly because of my own forgetfulness and propensity to lose the refillable mugs. Also the local coffee shop in my neighborhood has stupid coffee machines that can't accomodate tall coffee mugs. So if I visit with my travel mug, they get out a paper cup, fill up the paper cup, POUR the paper cup into my travel mug, and then THROW AWAY THE PAPER CUP. Aaah! Also I remember visiting a Wal Mart where I was informed that I HAD to have my purchased socks in a shopping bag, it was "store policy". So I took the bag, and stuck it on the nearest mannequin and walked out with just the socks.