Communicator, cooker, drinker, poet. Grew up in a mining town, wore a hard hat.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Best Quote Ever

I mentioned to Joe (we're being more conscious about our meat consumption these days) that he could get organic sausage or bacon for tonight's perogie dinner if went to Atwater Market, which is about a kilometer further than the IGA. His response was: It's too cold to be moral.

Fair enough. At minus 26 with the wind chill, I'm tempted to agree.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

You're Smart, You Know That?

It's happened to me, more than once, to have someone turn to me, look rather honest and say, "you're really smart, you know that?" Not in some many words. More awkwardly, or quickly or something. But more or less that. It happened to me today.

Does it happen to everybody? Not because I'm interseted in knowing whether I'm smarter than other people (I am, but I'm also stupider than a GRRREAT many others), but because I'm interested in the kind of people who make these confessions, accusations of intelligence. Is it about complicity? "We're smart, but not everbody is. We've got something in common."

I think it's about complicity. I think it's the secret handshake of my intelligence bracket (it's a spectrum, I know, but the purpose of conversation...): not smart enough to exist exclusively in subtlety (booze doesn't help), but smart enough to know when they've got company. Bonjour.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Cookies, Of The Online Persuasion

I had to answer a couple of questions about cookies for a continuing studies certificate I'm taking in Web Intelligence. The whole exercise was so interesting that I thought I'd share.

Are you willing to give up your "privacy" in order to have easier-to-use websites?

The author’s use of quotation marks implies that even he/she is unsure as to whether veritable privacy, or “privacy” as it is commonly understood, is at stake. The question presumes that first-party cookies (the tool employed to make websites easier to use) require you to give up some kind of privacy.

Wikipedia (although not always the most reliable, by far my favourite website) describes privacy as the “ability of an individual or group to seclude themselves or information about themselves and thereby reveal themselves selectively”.

Do cookies threaten a user’s ability to selectively reveal themselves? I think third-party cookies do, but I believe that “giving up privacy in order to have easier-to-use websites” is a question about first-party cookies, since third-party cookies are most often used by advertisers to track visitor behaviour across a broad portfolio of websites and not to improve a particular website’s ease-of-use.

To explore a different angle of the debate, I don’t necessarily think first-party cookies require us to give up privacy. I should mention that I understand first-party cookies to be tied to a single domain. It occurred to me that multinational conglomerates might use cookies to track user behaviour across multiple sites and brands; I would consider those to be third-party cookies. Although I don’t think the distinction will be valid for long.

The issue of health care related web interactions is an interesting one. If I visit a disease-specific information site and provide my email address in order to receive news alerts, I am privately and consciously transacting with the operator of the website for the purpose of receiving communications. If my email address, associated with that disease-specific site, is eventually the basis for an insurance provider to deny me coverage, I think it’s fair to say that my privacy has been violated and that I (sure as hell) didn’t sign up for that.

Similarly, in the case of cookies, if I visit a site and my settings are such that a cookie is downloaded to my machine, I am choosing to reveal a discrete amount of information to the website operator. Data is being created about a private interaction, between me and the operator’s site. But I don’t agree to be eventually denied insurance coverage because the site’s cookie history was sold to an insurance company.

Just like walking down the street, I’ve never thought that interacting with a website was an entirely anonymous activity. The web is a community of users, gathered behind websites, and interactions with users, people create information. If you want to wear a paper bag, you’re welcome to change your privacy settings, but people are still going to see you walking down the street (i.e. analytics solutions will recognize your location, browser settings, length of visit, pages viewed).

I may be rambling. To wrap it up, I don’t think that we have to give up privacy to have easier-to-use websites. But I think that we need to have more clearly articulated privacy standards where the onus is on websites to comply and not on users to review lengthy and complex privacy policy statements. But that’s a question for another day.

Are you willing to give up your "privacy" so that the ads you see on websites are likely to be more relevant to you?

Yes, but only because it’s useful for work: to see what kind of targeted campaigns people are running. I subscribe to the widespread marketing industry hypocrisy that loathes being on the receiving end of a sales pitch, however relevant.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

My Secret Confession

I can't cook rice.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Baked Fish Fillets, Love Aunt Betsy Anne

1 pound fish fillets
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
Dash salt and pepper
1/2 cup milk
1 cup bread crumbs
1 tablespoon snipped parsley
Oven 350 degrees

Cut fillets into serving pieces. Place in greased shallow baking dish. Sprinkle with lemon juice, paprika, salt and pepper. In saucepan melt butter; blend in flour, salt and pepper. Add milk; cook and stir until thick and bubbly. Pour sauce over fillets. Sprinkle with crumbs. Bake at 350 for 35 minutes. Trim with parsley. Makes 3 or 4 servings.

I’ve used lots of different kinds of fillets with this recipe and all seem great – although our favourite is orange roughy which unfortunately is hard to find here in Jasper. You can also add more spices if you want and it’s quite easy to double the recipe. Double if you want lots of sauce.


Love Aunt Betsy Anne

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Meet Our New Pet Rats (No, Really)

We adopted a couple of young male rats at the Montreal SPCA today. Named them Eegrek and Doublevé, my original spelling of the French letters Y and W. We're just getting used to each other at the moment, but they're terribly cute and have great taste in food, just like their parents. They had barbecued chicken, avocado, blueberries and cheese for dinner tonight. But we're planning for a more grain and fruit-based diet as a rule.

Meet Eegrek, as Joe notices that there is a wee pit of poo on his back (probably acquired during the metro ride in the cardboard box) that needs to be cleaned up.

Meet Doublevé, who's feeling a little bit shy.

Friday, August 07, 2009

The Club Sandwich Made Well

There are many things I appreciate about North American greasy spoons. The club sandwich isn't one of them. You know how there are some dishes that even the sketchiest of restaurants would be hard pressed to screw up? You guessed it, the club sandwich isn't among them. You can screw up a club sandwhich alright - and how. I was reminded of this when I ordered the "flagship" turkey club at a greasy spoon somewhere in Orillia on my birthday. Limp iceberg lettuce, mayo in little packets on the side. I dare not recall the horror in further detail. As for the matter of my being in a greasy spoon in Orillia on my birthday, that's a story for another time.

Clubs are the boyfriend's favourite sandwiches, so I made a couple for us last night. Follow these rules and you'll be just fine.
  1. Don't use cold cuts. Like EVER. Use yesterday's leftover chicken or turkey, or cook a breast especially for the occasion.

  2. Layer, you haven't got a choice. I hate sandwiches that fall apart and that's what you're bound to end up with unless you work with three pieces of bread. When building a club sandwich, you're an engineer. Test the viability of your structures on a sample sandwich before applying your blueprint to the whole batch.

  3. Speaking of working with bread, skip the standard loaves and splurge for something gourmet. I tried a lovely olive loaf yesterday and it was worth the slightly outrageous price.

  4. Spreads! Each piece of bread should be spread generously with something. A lovely Dijon, or something spicier if you prefer. If you're die-hard for mayo, you could opt for Dijonnaise. Marmalades and jellies can be interesting as well, just remember not to complicate the taste of your sandwich too much. You've already got tons of ingredients coming together in your masterpiece and need to be wary of a clusterfuck (pardon my French).

  5. Make sure your vegetables are fresh - a rule that applies to all recipes. Limp lettuce is the worst. My preference is romaine, tomato (thinly sliced) and avocado. Simple but classic.

  6. To toast or not to toast, that is the question. In my opinion, it's really up to you. Depends on the bread, depends what you like.
We had ours last night (untoasted) with curry cream of asparagus soup and tabouleh. As per usual, there was too much food.
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Thursday, August 06, 2009


Eats me like a thick steak
Masticating at a masterful pace
Grinding, licking, tearing
At every raw and salty bit
Of flesh on the plate.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

New Thyme

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My Mother's Chicken Amman

I have had this recipe scrawled with a dying pen on a crumpled piece of paper stained with red wine for far too long. This was one of the dishes my mother would make when we had company coming over, before my father became a vegetarian, as I recall.
  • 600 ml plain yogurt
  • 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp cardamom
  • 2 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 6 chicken legs
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Press the garlic into the yogurt and let it sit in the fridge for an hour or two, if you've got time. Remove from the skin from the chicken, place thighs snugly in a lightly greased pan. Mix the spices and flour together then blend into the yogurt. Pour spiced yogurt on to chicken and bake for just under an hour.


Bud Light Lime: You Can Run But You Can't Hide

It's everywhere. Like absolutely everywhere. I can't even conceive of the scope of the marketing plan. Saw this driving home from the train station the other day. Joey is determined not to try it; I think I'll cave eventually. Love Stephen Colbert on the product: "It's like drinking Bud Light downwind from an artificial flavor factory."

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Friends + Chipmunk + Peanuts + Video Camera =

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Touch Yourself, Thank Me Later

I'm obsessed with medical blogs. This is mostly because I've started fantasizing about becoming a doctor, unlikely as that may sound to those who know me. I know, I know. I don't get it either. Relax, they don't let people like me into med school.

Anyway, while reading my favourite medical blog, Vitum Medicinus, I stumbled across a new one, coincidentally (or ironically? I give up) named Incidental findings. So I poked around a little and ended up reading a post called Why I didn't do oncology.

It was a very interesting post (I had no idea there were such dirtbag oncologists out there), but the bit that really got me was about the 46-year-old woman with two young daughters and a really bad kind of breast cancer. The kind that doesn't respond to treatment. The kind that metastasizes to parts of your body you didn't even know you had while the people who love you are helpless to do anything except wear pink ribbons and cry a lot. Which got me thinking about the last time I conducted a breast self-exam.

I realized that I couldn't remember the last time I had given myself a breast exam.

The Canadian Cancer Society states plainly that 1 in 9 women is expected to develop breast cancer during her lifetime and that 1 in 28 women will die of it. Bloody hell.

So this is me, telling you (and me), that we need to conduct monthly breast self-exams. STARTING NOW. Like tonight. Go home and touch yourself, thank me later.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Aw, A Heart-Shaped Potato! Or, How I Still Don't Get Irony

So we were barbecuing the other day and my boyfriend Joe came across a heart-shaped potato. Then he surprised me with it. Then I took pictures because I thought it was so damn cute. Then I got excited about framing the picture. Then I realized that his t-shirt had a big swear word on it. Then I sighed because ALL of his t-shirts have swear words on them. Then I thought that the swear word might make the photo ironic instead of cheesy. Then I realized that I still don't get irony.

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Saturday, June 20, 2009

This Is What I Have To Deal With When I'm Trying To Work...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Life Is Too Short To Have A Job You Don't Like

Simple as that. I had a lunch meeting with a person who recounted a simple, but very insightful anecdote about happiness at work. For the purpose of the post, I'll refer to him as Marc.

Marc was once having beers with an old friend who worked for a big telecom company. They started talking about the lottery and Marc recalled that he had once met a woman who would keep her job if she won the lottery. He asked his old friend, "Would you keep yours if you won 10 million tomorrow?" The friend replied that he sure as heck wouldn't. Then he asked Marc the same question. After a brief pause, Marc replied that he probably would keep his job. Why not? He liked it: the people were nice, lots of autonomy, not too much stress. We should all be so lucky.

I've had a couple of jobs that I would quit in a heartbeat given the chance. But I've also had one or two that I would totally keep if I won the lottery. As Marc recounted to me, smiling, "No big deal. Win the lottery? Call the boss, take a couple of weeks. Blow off steam on a cruise or something and get back to it."

What kind of job do you have: lottery-win-quit or lottery-win-keep?

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Perth Potato Salad

Who doesn't like potato salad? Well, some people, I guess. But some people also buy Viagra online, drive without insurance, think privatizing medicare is a step forward, etc. Basically,
there's no trusting people who don't like potato salad, especially THIS potato salad, which is really friggin' good. My friend Sarah's parents made it for me once while I was at their cottage near Perth. There's been no looking back.

I don't use measurements when making this recipe, or most recipes, for that matter. Use your judgment, adjust for taste.

1) Start by boiling potatoes. Try red-skinned or new and don't worry about peeling them as long as you give 'em a good scrub. I don't keep track of time, but usually poke regularly with a fork until they're easily pierced. Remember that they'll cook a little even after they've been strained because they're still so damn hot. So yeah, boil 'em, strain 'em and then refrigerate for a couple of hours, or overnight, if you can manage it.

2) Now for the eggs. You're going to want (despite what your doctor may say) to use quite a few eggs. I go with about half the volume of the potatoes; remember, your celery, radish and other veg are going to increase volume further. Egg hard-boiling best practice: rather than boiling them for the duration, let the water come to a boil, cover, turn off the element and leave for at least 15 minutes. The heat from the water is sufficient to cook the eggs beautifully and this technique minimizes that grey yolk effect that is kind of gross.

3) Veggie time. Chop celery, green onion, radishes, lots of dill and a bit of parsley.

4) Dressing! There are various schools of thought on potato salad dressing: mayo versus Miracle Whip, mustard powder versus 'tard from the jar, multiple spices versus plain. Generally my advice is to go with what you like. But when it comes to Miracle Whip, I have a bit of a different opinion. As far as I'm concerned, Miracle Whip is one of the things truly wrong with this world. A super-artifical, sugary "dressing" marketed to poor people as a more economical and tasty alternative to mayo. These days, it won't save you much: mayonnaise and Miracle Whip cost pretty much the same thing. And if you're really die-hard for sugar or spice, throw in your own. But for the love of cooking, don't buy Miracle Whip. Stick with mayo; it has a cleaner, more neutral taste and a more useful texture.

My potato salad dressing usually looks something like this: 5 parts mayo, 1 part mustard, onion powder, paprika and last, but not least, lots of black pepper.

5) Get it together: mix potatoes, veggies, eggs and dressing in a big bowl and refridgerate for an hour or two before serving.

Goes well with nearly everything. This weekend we had it with barbecued ribs and tandoori chicken. Yums!

Sunday, June 07, 2009

*New* Management Implements Style Guidelines

Oh yeah, and *new* management has just implemented style guidelines. As of now, katesversion employs a home-grown mix of Chicago, Canadian Press, titles-in-start-case-cuz-I-can and some-rules-are-made-to-be-broken.

Under *New* Management

So not exactly *new* management, but more mature management. I've decided to pick up blogging again at the ripe old age of twenty-four. I am more thoughtful and interesting than I was the first time around. Okay fine, I may not be more thoughtful and interesting, but I've improved in some ways. At least a few. I'm not sure which. I'm still self-indulgent. And kind of crazy. Oh yeah, and I live in Montreal now. But the good news is, I'm bloggin again. That's good news, right? Right. That's what I thought.