Tuesday, December 26, 2006

look it forward

In this final week of December, we close the book on a 2006 that was, at different times, happy, painful, exciting, quiet, disappointing, surprising, unsettling and beautiful. Here's to a better 2007, wherever you are.


Every baby (and her bear) is looking forward to the New Year, including my two-month old niece, Amelia. The crew at starfish and waffles wish you all much luck and love in '07.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

a starfish and waffles christmas card

The dedicated staff of felix's daily starfish and waffles wish you all a safe, warm, and very Merry Christmas.


We didn't grow up with very many holiday traditions in our household. But that's alright because it's allowed us to start our own traditions ... like, for instance, the Christmas Pineapple. We're pretty sure that, one day, sweet, juicy pineapple rings will become as synonymous with Christmas as Santa, reindeer, and getting. Pictured above from left to right: The Inaugural Christmas Pineapple, me (Felix), and the Editor-in-Chief and Chairman (Chairbear?) of starfish and waffles.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

(untitled)


The architecturally-acclaimed town church of Vík, Iceland. (2006). If God exists, I believe He or She would choose to hang out here on Sunday afternoons.

***
I peered across the choppy waters of the North Atlantic to the edge of the horizon and determined, as a matter of fact, that the world was, indeed, flat.

"The world is flat," I announced, to no one in particular.

And, no one in particular talked back.

Satisfied, I sat down on the black sand, folded my arms over my knees, and rested my chin on top.

Sometimes, things are so blindingly obvious they simply can't be wrong.


Fine, black volcanic sand graces the shoreline upon which Vík, Iceland, is perched. (2006). If you waded into the water and swam due south from here, you would not reach land again until you washed ashore Antarctica. (That would be a long swim).

Saturday, December 09, 2006

where on the globe?

The last time we held a guess-the-location-of-the-photo contest here at starfish and waffles, we had no winner. And to this day, I am still bitterly, bitterly disappointed. In ALL OF YOU. Especially those of you who weren't around back then to guess. You know who you are!


Try to guess the location of this photo I took. Come on, go ahead, give it a try. Admit it. You have no idea. You have no chance. I laugh at your impending wrongness! Bwahahahaha!

But, happily, we're all about second chances around here, so ... here's your second chance. Contest instructions: see the photo above ... read the following customary haiku hint ...

Far from anywhere
But can you see the ocean
On the horizon?

... and click on the comments link below* to register your guess. Be specific - because anyone who guesses anything vague like "the Western hemisphere" or "Asia" will be mercilessly mocked and taunted by me and the editor forever and ever!

So what's in it for you? The first person who gets it right wins fame, fortune, and a year's worth of free meals at the starfish and waffles café!

* Note: asking you to comment on this post does not make me a comment whore. Or, wait, maybe it does. Nevertheless, quit judging me! You have no right!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

meet me at the café

Someday, long after I've left the shallowness of the institutional money management business forever, you'll find me wiping down the counters at the starfish and waffles café, my very own seaside, hole-in-the-wall, coffeeshop and bistro.


My Café Calzones with Pepperoni, Peppers and Olives can defeat any case of the afternoon munchies. Yes, it's another recipe brought to you by the dingobear kitchen.

The starfish and waffles café would be a comfortable kind of place, where I'd never chide you for putting your feet up on the modular, Scandinavian furniture. There would be yellow ochre walls, green-leafed ficus in red terra cotta pots, and expansive picture windows with views of the azure, sweeping Pacific. Overhead, ceiling fans would perpetually spin between the open skylights because, at the starfish and waffles café, it would be forever summer.

And you - you would be one of my regulars. Maybe you'd drop by early in the morning for a plate of waffles and the chance to read your Sunday paper in silence. Or maybe you'd come visit on Monday night and, over a few rounds of Shamrockhoppers, together we'd watch the Saints pummel the Seahawks on ESPN. Or, just maybe, you'd come by on a Saturday afternoon not much unlike this one, so you could type out your next blog post on your Apple Macintosh laptop while satisfying a mean case of the munchies.

"I want a hot dog and a Diet Coke," you would say.

"I don't serve filth like hot dogs and Diet Coke tastes like cancer. I'll make you a calzone and bring you a beer," I would reply, while scribbling your order on a plain, white notepad.

"But I want a hot dog!" you would protest.

"One calzone and one beer, comin' right up! Don't forget to tip your server," I would say with a smile, while walking away to get your order.

You would mutter something unpleasant under your breath and I would pretend not to hear you. But you would stay anyway because, as a longtime starfish and waffles regular, you'd know that I would never charge you for your calzone and, more importantly, you'd know that this was the best coffeeshop in world.

Someday, one way or another, all of this is going to happen. But for now, the only part I have figured out is the calzones. Here's the recipe.

Café Calzones with Pepperoni, Peppers and Olives
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cups unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
4 grams quick-rise dry yeast
several dashes dried oregano
several dashes dried basil
several dashes dried red pepper flakes
3/4 cups hot water
125 grams smoked mozzarella, cubed
125 grams jalapeño Monterrey jack, cubed
1/4 sweet red bell pepper, diced
1 small Roma tomato, diced
1 small garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tablespoon black olives, sliced
3 to 4 crimini mushrooms, sliced
6 to 9 slices pepperoni

In a large mixing bowl, add together, in order, the olive oil, flour, salt, oregano, basil, and red pepper flakes. Let stand for the time being. In a separate measuring cup, dissolve the yeast and sugar with the hot water. Make sure the water is very hot, almost scalding. Once dissloved, pour the yeast-and-sugar mixture into the mixing bowl with the flour mixture.

With your bare hands, diligently work the mixture so all of the ingredients are blended together. If you find the dough very sticky, dust in some additional flour. Working and kneading the dough shouldn't take too long - 5 to 10 minutes should be sufficient.

Cover the mixing bowl to allow the dough to rise, for 10 to 15 minutes. Uncover and form the dough into a ball. On a non-stick, 12-inch round pizza pan, flatten out your dough ball such that you make a 10-inch circle, about a quarter- to half-an-inch thick. I never do, but you can use a rolling pin if you wish.


What one of my calzones looks like, before it goes into the oven.

Evenly cover half of the dough circle with the smoked mozzarella, jalapeño Monterrey jack, red bell pepper, Roma tomato, chopped garlic, black olives, crimini mushrooms, and pepperoni slices. Fold over the uncovered half of the dough circle and press together the edge such that it is tightly sealed. Brush the unbaked calzone with olive oil. Also, poke several holes in the top of calzone with a fork before baking.

Preheat your oven to 400F. Bake for 20 to 23 minutes, or until golden brown. Once done, cut the calzone into the slices and serve on platters garnished with baby basil. Serves anywhere between 2 to 4, depending on hunger levels. Eat and enjoy!

For more original dingobear kitchen recipes, look down the left sidebar on the main page of felix's daily starfish and waffles.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

my simulated reality tv life: episode eighteen

The air temperature outside my apartment right now: -25C (-13F). That's freezing! You might as well come indoors and get out of the cold, so you can enjoy tonight's hot, all-new episode of My Simulated Reality TV Life! Miss the last episode? Click here for a rerun. New to the series? Click here to start at Episode One, or look down the left side of the main page of starfish and waffles to find links to all of the old episodes. Now don't delay, because tonight's episode begins in mere seconds!


Fire! As simulated Felix discovers, unbridled flambé can be a risky affair.

Episode Eighteen
As clearly evidenced back in Episode Four, the simulated me is pretty handy in the kitchen, with a proven record of whipping up gourmet meals on demand. But even simulated gourmet chefs like myself can get themselves in trouble when they push the boundaries of culinary wisdom a little too much.

Like tonight. With wife Bridgette and toddler Felicia out of the house, the simulated me apparently decides it might be fun to prepare a little flambé hamburger for supper. Fun? Definitely. Tasty? Well, maybe. Fire safe? Ummm, not so much.

In a simulated jiffy, my simulated kitchen is engulfed in simulated flames! The simulated fire alarm goes off. I panic. What do I do? Well, don't just stand there, simulated Felix, dial simulated 9-1-1!

Luckily, a fire engine is not far off, and a fireman with some kind of super-fire extinguisher appears and saves the day. Phew! Disaster averted. What a relief!

After all is said and done, my kitchen's become quite a mess. Happily though, somehow my flambé hamburger is still relatively intact. Well, no use in letting good food go to waste. The simulated me proceeds to plate the charbroiled burger and sit down at the dining room table with a knife-and-fork.

"Mmmmm, fire extinguish-y."

Make sure you tune in to the next delicious episode of My Simulated Reality TV Life!


Phew! Disaster averted. Props to the local simulated fire department! Now let that be a lesson to you, simulated Felix: make sure you charbroil your burgers in the barbecue, not on top of the kitchen stove.


I'm not exactly sure what's going on here, but I assume from the concerned look on Bridgette's face that simulated Felix has cooties. Haha, aren't these two adorable? They're just like a couple of love monkeys.


Surely, being declared "cootie-free" is a reason for both you and your simulated wife to smile.


Toddler Felicia continues her "learn-to-talk" sessions. Not sure if simulated Felix is trying to teach her to say "Daddy" or "simulated Felix."


"If you buy one of our rubber trees, not only will you be able to grow your own tires, you'll also become more attractive to men!" With salesmanship like that, it's no wonder that simulated -c was hired to pitch the wares in Bridgette's new flower shop.


Felicia's teddy bear explains to Bridgette: "I wanted to impress this female panda so I went with her to the Justin Timberlake concert last night. Now I feel dirty. Dirty like my gonorrhea."

Thursday, November 23, 2006

bi-polar game theorist (the fibonacci countdown)


According to Inuit elders of the Canadian Arctic, most Polar bears are left-handed. Because of this, sometimes I wonder if life for right-handed Polar bears is just that much more difficult ... it must not be easy dealing with issues such as having to use can openers designed for left-handed bears and getting made fun of for being different while growing up. Note: the left- or right-handedness of the Polar bear in the file photo above is unknown.

***
Thirteen (13)
This is my life. It's become a game. Sitting around a table where the next person sports a better poker-face than the last. My odds aren't good. The dealer deals. I peek at my cards. I can't believe my luck.

Eight (8)
Well, lucky me - it all comes down to simple chemistry. Boyle's Law. At a given temperature, the product of pressure and volume must always be constant. No exceptions. So when the walls start to close, I know what's coming. I need an outlet. But one doesn't exist. It's not in the equation. It's not there. It can't be there.

Five (5)
Five countries in five days, in the month of May. "You travel insensibly!" laments the man from Milan, shaking his head with a passionate anger only an Italian can get away with. But I don't care. I find comfort in the urgency of places to see, people to meet. When I travel, time slows. I can think clearly again. Pressure eases. There's more air to breathe.

Three (3)
There are two outs in the bottom of the tenth, the game is tied, and our best hitter is at the dish. I'm the baserunner on first, representing the winning run. With an eye on the pitcher, I stretch my lead because a few extra inches could make all the difference. The pitcher wheels and delivers. The batter swings. I hear a loud crack! and take off. In my peripheral vision, I see the shortstop stretch for the ball, but it's way over his head. I round second in a burst of speed. I don't even need to look for the ball, I know it's in the gap and I know I can score. Halfway to third, I catch a glimpse of the third base coach. He's frenetically throwing up the stop sign. I ignore him. I'm fast - faster than the throw. There's no way they can get me. So I head for home, full throttle. The catcher is waiting for the ball, blocking the plate. "Slide around the tag," I tell myself, "slide around the tag and you won't be the third out." Just as the ball arrives, I hit the dirt. Through the cloud of dust, I reach for the plate with my left hand and immediately swivel my head to the right, toward the ump, for the call. This is my moment. I'll worry about Coach yelling at me later.

Two (2)
It was a late summer evening. She watched me make supper, like she usually did. We ate. I watched her do the dishes, like I usually did. We talked. Everything was nice but uneventful, simple but profound, plain but beautfiul. I didn't want the night to end because I was happy. Had I known it would be the last, I would've told her. I wanted to tell her. I never told her.

One (1)
"Your move, Chief, last chance." So it's come down to this. One decision, black or white. I don't know what to do. I don't know which way to turn. It's not right. I'm not right.

Zero (0)
Out of time. Paralyzed by fear, I peer over the edge and fail to consider the consequences. I close my eyes and take a step forward ... truth brings me back. Shaking, I crumple to the ground, in the safety of the spot on which I had been. I understand. There's time. This is not a game. This is my life.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

taking the plunge


Take the plunge down Skógafoss in Skógar, Iceland. (2006). Actually, you probably shouldn't take my advice literally because, by throwing yourself down a powerful Icelandic waterfall, you could seriously hurt yourself. And I wouldn't want that because if you were seriously hurt, you probably wouldn't be able to log onto your computer and read starfish and waffles. And, quite frankly, I want you reading starfish and waffles because I need your attention - yes, it's true, I really am that shallow! Admit it - this is the reason why you love me.

***
The other night, Blogger somehow tricked me into converting to Blogger Beta, and now there's no going back. Unfortunately, along the way, dingobear:miami, the sister site of starfish and waffles, became a casualty of the conversion. D:M ... we'll miss you ... *sniff, sniff* ... may you rest in peace.

But we do have some positive news: like a good parent who immediately replaces his or her child's recently-deceased puppy with a new dog that looks and barks just like the old one, I've set up a new blog, dingobear photography. As you might expect, it's pretty much a pictures-only photo blog. So for those of you who always secretly hated my writing or only frequented starfish and waffles to steal my pictures, you now have a new place to go. You haters! (And thieves).

Monday, November 13, 2006

upsetting the apple cart

Flip, flip, flip. Do you hear that? That's the sound of calendar pages accelerating by, while life settles into a constant loop of routine. Quack, quack, quack. Hear that? That's the sound of a duck. Ok, so ducks have nothing to do with this post, but sometimes it's fun to make quacking noises. I never did promise this post was going to make any sense, see.


Presenting the warm, soothing Applejack. The shrewd editor of felix's daily starfish and waffles knows a good November drink when he sees one, and he'll stop at nothing (not even apples) to get himself a mugful.

Now where were we ... right, routine. Routine, in and of itself, doesn't necessarily have to be bad. Routine is familiar. And familiar can be comfortable. Like my Sunday evenings the past month or so, which have all approximately gone like this ...

Every Sunday, after watching the late NFL game on TV, I make a beeline to the cozy Starbucks down the street for my weekly infusion of chai tea latté, which nowadays seems to cost about $12 a trip. And, every Sunday, the same cute girl with the auburn hair and high cheekbones makes me my latté behind the counter. I smile. She smiles. Then she says with army efficiency, "Tall Tazo Chai, enjoy your night." I smile. She smiles. And then I sit down and go about my Sunday evening business, which usually consists of reading a book or working on my next starfish and waffles post.

So what's the point of this story? I don't know, in this Seinfeld of a post, there probably isn't a point. Maybe next week, I'll ask the Starbucks girl out. Now that would be upsetting the apple cart. Haha, "upsetting the apple cart." I love that phrase.

Applejack
8 to 9 oz. Apple Juice
1.5 oz. Canadian Whisky
3 dashes Cinnamon
1 Cinnamon Stick

Pour the apple juice into a coffee mug. Microwave until piping hot (45 seconds does it in my Radiation King, but your microwave may differ). Measure in the whisky. Dash the cinnamon. Stir with a cinnamon stick. Drink up!

A warm, soothing Applejack is somewhat akin to an apple cider - except it's way less lame. So, for a less lame way to cuddle up in front of the fireplace on a cold November evening, well, you know what to do. Enjoy!

Just can't get enough of your favourite starfish and waffles drink recipes? Check out the politically-charged Canada Citrus Crush and the ethincally-inspired Shamrockhopper for more original ways to get yourself absolutely sloshed. You boozehound, you.

P.S. Please drink responsibly, boozehound.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

aperture 3am


It's kind of hard to tell because I'm pretty sure I had the aperture and shutter speed all wrong, but the snow was literally coming down in silver dollar-sized clumps when I snapped this photo a couple of hours ago. Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (2006). Those who know me know that winter is my least favourite season, so I'll only admit to this once: snow is pretty when it's falling late at night and there's no one else but you who's around to experience it.

***
Sometime around 8pm, I fell asleep after what had been an exhausting day at work. Immediately, I began to dream ... of scraggly olive trees, island breezes, and sapphire-blue Mediterranean waters. I was skipping from rock to rock along the jagged edge of a wayward Maltese shoreline, trying hard to keep my balance because, for some reason, I happened to be eating a peach(!). Leading the way in front of me was a smiling brunette, who must have been pretty, in an apple-green sun dress with straps that made a delicate 'x' across the soft skin of her upper back. Actually, because her face was turned away from me, I couldn't tell for sure that she was smiling, but somehow I just knew that she was. Because anyone with me who was skipping from rock to rock along the jagged edge of a wayward Maltese shoreline should be smiling.

For a second, I wondered if the pretty, smiling brunette was the fictional Bridgette of My Simulated Reality TV Life, and when I wondered what I did, it suddenly occurred to me that she couldn't be so, and thus neither could the scraggly olive trees, island breezes, and sapphire-blue Mediterranean waters ...

I awoke to find a blizzard outside the window of my downtown apartment. I checked my alarm clock. 1:21am. You know what? A logical mind and a dreamy soul simply don't mix.

P.S. Because of tonight, I'm thinking of taking a trip to Malta. Anyone want to come?

Sunday, November 05, 2006

my simulated reality tv life: episode seventeen

We've let the anticpation build for a month now, and it's finally time for the next episode of My Simulated Reality TV Life! Did you miss the last episode? Click here for a rerun. Never seen the show before? Click here to start at Episode One or look down the left sidebar of the main page of starfish and waffles to find links to all of the old hilarious episodes. Now sit back and buckle up, because tonight's exciting episode begins ... now!


Sometimes simulated Felix likes to dishwash in the nude. However, as you know, My Simulated Reality TV Life is a family show, so the best we can do is this shot of him suds-ing it up in his turquoise silk boxers. Booty-dawg-asstastic!

Episode Seventeen
Many of the major paths we end up following in our real lives can be attributed to key decision points rooted in the past. Yet, upon reflection, it's funny just how many of these life-changing decisions seemed absolutely trivial at the time, as if we didn't even know we were making them. And wouldn't you know it, this axiom also holds true in my simulated life.

I like to call it: "The Rock Paper Scissors Match That Shocked The Simulated World" (or, TRPSMTSTSW, for short). The adversaries in the aforementioned said rock paper scissors match? The sexy simulated me and my dangerously-smart-and-beautiful simulated wife, Bridgette. The stakes? The loser buys the winner anything he or she wants.

Luckily for the simulated me, I know I can't lose ... because nothing - EVER - beats rock. So, needless to say, I'm feeling pretty smug right before we begin. Ok, here we go ... one, two, three ... and the simulated me, without a second thought, chooses rock! And, the smiling Bridgette chooses ... paper!

Yes!! I win! No, wait ... paper beats rock ... oh no, I've lost! Bridgette celebrates - and a little too much, if you ask me. I'm left frowning in puzzlement. How did I lose? Nothing ever beats rock, right?

"All right, Bridgette, you win. What do you want?"

"I want $10,000 so I can buy a store, start my own flower shop, and quit my job as a professional soccer player!!"

Oh. My. God.

Only one episode after reaching the echelons of the upper middle class with our plush new pool, I have a feeling we're going to be poor once more.


Wife Bridgette and simulated Felix in the rock paper scissors match of the century. "Good old rock ... nothing beats that!" Poor, predictable, simulated Felix - always chooses rock. As you can see, the cunning Bridgette is already way ahead of him, outfoxing him with paper.


Bridgette wins! And just why is Bridgette so happy and simulated Felix so not? Because Bridgette's win was worth an estimated $10,000! With the proceeds, Bridgette buys a flower shop, and our simulated lives are never the same again.

In no time at all, Bridgette uses her winnings to buy a tiny flower shop on the other side of town. It's actually quite a cute little place with a lot of potential. Bridgette's just downright giddy. The simulated me, however, seems a little worried. C'mon, simulated Felix, lighten up! Money's for spending, right? Besides, it'll probably be fun being entrepreneurs.

My concerns are quickly assuaged when I see how many customers stream into the store as soon as Bridgette opens for business. I help out by stocking the shelves. Bridgette works from behind the cash register. Customer after customer rings up purchases. Phew! This venture looks like it might be profitable but it's going to be a lot of hard work. Before long, it becomes apparent that we may need to hire some help.

In typical fashion, Bridgette wastes no time. Immediately, she spots a girl in the store with the kind of California cool image she wants her flower shop to portray.

"Hey you, in the pink looking at the sunflowers, have you considered your career opportunities with Bridgette's Flower Shop?"

Simulated -c turns around.

"Are you talking to me?"

And the rest is history. (-c, I'll have you know that the simulated you accepted a job at Bridgette's simulated flower shop for a paltry $15 an hour).

Ohhhh, this is going to be fun. What adventures are in store for the next episode of My Simulated Reality TV Life? Make sure you tune in to find out!


Bridgette tries to figure out the cash register as she rings in the very first customer in her beautiful little flower shop.


Ooof! Oops, wrong button ... Bridgette takes one right in the gut! Good thing she's a former pro soccer player and has washboard-like abs of steel.


Bridgette interviews simulated -c for a position in the flower shop. Apparently, as part of the standard interview process, Bridgette likes to tell some kind of Halloween ghost story. Simulated -c's reaction suggests it was a good Halloween ghost story.


Bridgette hires simulated -c. Sold! For $15 an hour.


My Simulated Reality TV Life's resident novellist, simulated Penny, has been very busy with her graduate studies lately. If you ever wondered what kind of books they study in the English departments of those Ivy League schools neither me nor you could ever get into, now you know ... Harlequin romances! Wow, I never would have guessed. Penny, I just lost a little bit of respect for you.


Felicia's teddy bear explains to simulated Felix: "Donald Trump kept going on about how much money he made in the stock market - and how much money I didn't have. He was obnoxious and made me feel bad. So I slept with his wife."

Sunday, October 29, 2006

arctic standard time


You see, better October weather is one of the reasons why I want to move to French Polynesia. I took this photo early this morning with my Olympus SP-310. Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (2006). If you're not doing anything later, you're all invited over to my igloo for marshmallows and hot chocolate!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

mon champs des rêves

Later tonight, the Detroit Tigers are taking on the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 3 of the World Series. Unless you're actually from St. Louis, I assume you're cheering for Detroit because, well, you should be: up until this year, Detroit was so bad for so long, it would be wrong for you to root for anyone but the Tigers, those lovable losers. But I'll have to admit watching the Tigers in the playoffs this fall is making me nostalgic for my all-time favourite, lovable loser of a ball team ... the Montreal Expos.


Florida Marlins pitcher Ismail Valdez delivers to the plate against the Montreal Expos' left fielder, Termel Sledge, in the first inning of the second last Expos game - ever - at Olympic Stadium in Montreal, Quebec, on September 28, 2004. I can't take credit for this terrific photo; it was taken by my buddy Glenn. Note the sparse crowd which, in the end, was what would ultimately doom the hard-luck franchise's stay in Montreal.

Actually, the Expos weren't so much losers as they were poor. Years of apathetic ownership, bad television contracts and a widening fiscal imbalance between small and big market major league teams meant the Expos could no longer compete financially and keep its own players. And, man, over the years, there were some pretty good ball players. Like Cy Young Award winner Pedro Martinez ... league MVPs Vladimir Guerrero and Larry Walker ... perennial All-Stars Moises Alou and John Wetteland ... and Gold Glovers Marquis Grissom and Orlando Cabrera ... just to name a few.

Regrettably, as their favourite players kept leaving town, most fans in Montreal simply stopped caring and quit showing up for home games at Olympic Stadium. Finally, in 2004, the team packed it in and moved to DC, becoming the Washington Nationals. But right up until the end, I remained a die-hard Montreal Expos fan.

For the last few weeks, I've been trying to write some kind of meaningful post on baseball and Montreal but, so far, nothing has sounded right. Maybe there are just too many angles for me to condense into one coherent post. Angles such as ... Jackie Robinson's minor league stint for the Montreal Royals in 1946, a year before making history with the Brookyln Dodgers as the first black player in the major leagues; the important symbolism provided by the Expos for a coming-of-age Montreal during the late 1960's, and the place the team had in Quebec history; the 1994 Montreal Expos, by far the best team in major league baseball that year and the odds-on favourite to win the World Series, only to have its dream season wiped out by a players' strike and; personally, for me, the fact that the only French I can still understand are baseball terms, from years of growing up and watching the Expos on Radio-Canada, Canada's French, public television station.

Maybe on another night, I'll tackle some of these angles in more detail. But for now, I'm just left thinking about what might have been. It makes me a little bit sad that I'll never be able to see the Expos play in a World Series, but there are still a lot of good memories nonetheless. And, I suppose, tonight, that's something to be thankful for.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

sockeyed ... oishii!

Every year, at around this time, schools upon schools of Sockeye salmon return from the sea to spawn in the freshwater, Pacific Northwest streams and rivers of their fishy, fishy youth. With predators at every turn, this dangerous migration provides testament to the awesome power of pure animal instinct and is truly one of the most miraculous sights in nature. Yes, Virginia, this is the dream stuff of Animal Planet and the Discovery Channel. But you know what?


Straight from the dingobear kitchen: Smoked Sockeye Oshi-zushi (on the left) and Smoked Sockeye, Persimmons, & Cucumber Nori-maki (on the right) are a feast for the senses.

I don't care! My interest in Sockeye salmon only goes as far as eating Sockeye salmon, whether it's raw, cooked, steamed, grilled, broiled, baked, breaded, buttered, poached, roasted, filleted, steaked, fresh, canned, cured, marinated, or ... especially, if it's smoked. And if my Sockeye is smoked and served as sushi, well, then that's just solid gold, baby, solid gold.

If you're a longtime reader of starfish and waffles, right about now you may feel another one of our dingobear kitchen recipe posts coming on. Well, if that's the case, I'm sorry - you're wrong, kid. I actually have two recipes ... there's my (1) Smoked Sockeye Oshi-zushi and (2) Smoked Sockeye, Persimmons, & Cucumber Nori-maki.

They take a bit of effort and patience to make but give them a try: the Sockeye-lover in you won't regret it.

Smoked Sockeye Oshi-zushi
100 grams smoked Sockeye salmon
1 cup Japanese short-grain rice
1-1/2 cups water
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt

Prep your rice first by washing it. I usually measure mine into a strainer, and then run it under cold water for a minute or two. If you have an electric rice cooker (like I do), transfer your rice to the cooker, add the water, and cook according to the manufacturer's instructions. If you need to cook your rice on top of the stove, transfer the rice to a pot, add the water, bring to a boil for about 5 minutes, lower the heat, then simmer for another 10 minutes.

Whichever method you use, once your rice is cooked, remove it from the heat and let it sit, still covered, for 10 to 15 minutes so the rice can absorb any excess water.

While you wait, prepare your rice vinegar mixture. You'll need this to make your rice sticky, so it'll stay together better when you try to eat your sushi. In a small bowl, whisk together the rice vinegar, sugar and salt. Stop whisking when no sugar or salt granules remain. And that's about it for this step.

Transfer the cooked rice to a large, shallow dish or container and, as evenly as possible, slowly pour in the rice vinegar mixture. Next, use a wooden spoon to further blend in the rice vinegar mixture into the rice. Let the rice cool to about room temperature before making the sushi.

Next, transfer the rice using a wooden spoon, plastic spatula, or your hands, into a rectangular mold - for this, I simply use a 4.5" x 9" x 2" tupperware container. Make sure the rice is pressed firmly and evenly into the mold. Next, layer on your smoked Sockeye on top of the rice. Using your hands, press down on the Sockeye to meld it into the rice.

Using a sharp knife, cut the sushi into 1.5 inch squares. Carefully remove and arrange on a plate. Garnish with lemon and serve with wasabi, pickled ginger, and soy sauce. Eat!

Smoked Sockeye, Persimmons, & Cucumber Nori-maki
100 grams smoked Sockeye salmon
1 medium-sized Fuyu persimmons
1 cucumber, unpeeled
3 sheets nori seaweed
1 cup Japanese short-grain rice
1-1/2 cups water
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt

First step: prepare your cucumber. Note you'll only end up using maybe a quarter of the cucumber, the rest you can reserve for something else like a salad. Cut the cucumber into quarters, then cut out all of the seeds. With what's left, cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch, matchstick-type strips. You'll need 3 strips, each with at least one side of green skin on them. Set aside.

Next, prepare your Fuyu persimmons. Can't find persimmons? Then use mangoes or peaches. Really, any sweet, fleshy, orange-toned fruit will do. Slice into 1/4-inch, matchstick-type strips. Set aside.

Prep your rice in the same manner as in the Smoked Sockeye Oshi-zushi recipe above. Put a sushi-rolling mat on a flat work surface, then place one nori seaweed sheet on top. Take about a third of your rice and dump it onto the center of your seaweed. Using your hands or a wooden spoon, spread the rice evenly all over, leaving about a 1/2-inch margin on the far-side.

Next, arrange one cucumber strip across the rice, in the middle. Then, line up some persimmons strips in a single line, right below the cucumber. Finally, take a third of your smoked Sockeye and place it on top of the cucumber and persimmons.

Pick up the sushi-rolling mat from the near-side and roll it to meet the far-side such that the rice stays inside the seaweed. Lift the top edge of the mat. Press and snugly roll the seaweed cylinder you've created just a little bit. The adjoined part should be underneath; it'll stick together nicely due to the moisture from the rice. (If it doesn't stick together well, then dip your index finger in some water and add a little moisture manually).

Remove the cylinder from the mat and, with the adjoined part down, place on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, cut into 6 pieces. Repeat the above steps with your remaining 2 sheets of nori seaweed.

Arrange your rolls on a nice plate, garnish with baby basil, and serve with wasabi, pickled ginger and soy sauce. Enjoy!

Looking for other dingobear kitchen recipes? Look on the left side of the main page of starfish and waffles for more original food ideas.


Oh no! starfish and waffles' famous editor - a Sockeye salmon-loving Canadian Brown bear - spots and threatens to usurp the sushi I made myself for dinner.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

chasing after october


Happiness is my two-year old nephew running through leaves of chokecherry and ash on an unseasonably warm, October evening. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. (2006). My dad, who's still a better photographer now than I'll ever be, is responsible for taking this gorgeous photo.

***
I turned around only to be transported to some kind of distant, alternate bizarro-world, where everything was exactly the same except on one account: in this new world, they measured time in metric. In every minute, there were 100 seconds. In every hour, there were 100 minutes. In every day, there were 10 hours. In every week, there were 10 days. In every month, there were 10 weeks. And in every year, there were 10 months. And so it was ... and, I was, too, and life continued on just like it would have, had I remained in the world from which I just came.

As luck would have it, it just happened to be the tenth month of the year and, therefore, October. And, as fate would have it, I was among old friends again, a veritable metric decade after the fact. To be precise, there were three of them - and, clockwise from my right, the initials of their first names spelled "ask," though their significance to me had never really been in question.

And so it was.

Over dinner at a trendy, downtown restaurant, we caught up on jokes and stories, wives and girlfriends, work and school, past and future. I was secretly proud of my boys but I never did tell them as much ... because, after all, it was never my way to say aloud what I felt should have already been known.

After dinner, it was on to the high school reunion at a sports bar bordering the edge of the warehouse district. I'd like to say that I'm able to give you a full ten-spot of tales amazing, scandalous, and hilarious but, in honesty, I can't. Everything was just so damn pleasant ... even if it was so in a dreamy, surrealistic sense. It seemed that mostly everyone who came was doing well, and genuinely appreciative of the others who made the effort to show. Maybe, this was a story in itself. Maybe, ten years from now, the story will be different.

And so it was.

In a blink of an eye, I was back in the world in which I was familiar, the one where the measurement of time wasn't dictated by the orderly, efficient ethic of metric, but rather in a disorganized, unstructured tapestry.

***
Tonight, as I reflect on the past unstructured time period of vivid colours, pretty faces, bittersweet glimpses, and faraway places, I come to the realization that, after all the years, I'm still chasing after October ... and I no longer know how to feel about it.

Meanwhile, outside, October waits.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

my simulated reality tv life: episode sixteen

All of those long summer nights of yearning are finally over because, as of right now, you're only seconds away from the highly-anticipated season première of the most beloved simulated reality series in all the land, My Simulated Reality TV Life! Miss the last episode? Click here. New to the series? Refer to the links on the left side of this page to catch-up on all of the old episodes, or just click here to start at the very beginning. Ok, enough talk ... because tonight's episode begins ... now!


"My charm and good looks paid for this pool ... and my talent filled it with water!" simulated Felix proudly explains to his friend, simulated Penny, who apparently has absolutely no respect for the newly-planted poppies in simulated Felix's flower bed. Meanwhile, on the right, simulated Felix's wife, Bridgette, is getting along just swimmingly.

Episode Sixteen
After a long, summer layoff, the simulated me has been forced to start thinking about getting back into the routine of daily working life. But really, this isn't much fun. And besides, what person would want summer to end? Not the simulated me. And not wife Bridgette.

So in defiance of the upcoming winter, the simulated me and Bridgette do the only logical thing: we shell out the big dollars to install a swank, heated swimming pool in our backyard ... to extend the feeling of summer indefinitely! The possibilities are endless: Bridgette in skimpy-clad bikinis, belly-flops off the diving board, Bridgette in a bikini, pool parties with all of our friends invited, and Bridgette looking hot in a bikini! Oh baby!

Now, a regular viewer of My Simulated Reality TV Life may wonder where the financially-challenged simulated me came up with the cash to buy a swimming pool. I'm not sure, but I think the answer may have something to do with drugs. Oh well, at least the drug money was for a good cause ... I mean, it's a pool, people!

And so the story goes. Make sure you tune in to the next episode of My Simulated Reality TV Life for the continuing saga of simulated Felix!


Romantic pillow-talk between simulated Felix and Bridgette. "The first time I looked deep into your beautiful green eyes, I knew it was meant to be and I had no choice but to turn my back on sumo forever."


Simulated Felix teaches daughter Felicia a few first words. But instead of trying to get her to say old standard stuff like "Daddy" or "Mommy"... or even "cookie," simulated Felix apparently opts for something a little more difficult: "Felicia, can you say 'Fisher-Price Deluxe Baby High Chair Supreme 3000?'"


Two simulated blogworlds collide: simulated Penny, on the left, introduces herself to the mysterious (and hot!) simulated -c on the right. We don't know what to say other than the fact that this groundbreaking tête-à-tête can only lead to moments of hilarious proportions in the future.


Simulated -c daydreams of ... Felicia's teddy bear? Wait, what's the connection here? Stay tuned to future episodes of My Simulated Reality TV Life and find out! (And check out that toilet on her front lawn!)


The fun never stops with Felicia's teddy bear. Here, he tells simulated Felix: "I was at the eye doctor's the other day, and the optometrist guy tells me to read the second row of letters. And I'm like, 'what letters?' So he laughs at me - the arrogant bastard. He laughs at me! Obviously, I don't like his attitude, so I dropkick him right between the eyes. As he clutches his face and falls to the floor writhing in pain, I think to myself: now, THAT's funny. Bwahahahahaha!"

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

south of why


Looking south across the Golden Gate Bridge to San Francisco from Merrin County, California. (2005). I took this photo with my Olympus Stylus 35mm on a foggy, misty, January afternoon.

***
I walked across the bridge to the other side and did exactly what you're not supposed to do: I looked back. But, by then, it was too late and I couldn't see anything because of the thick layer of fog which had drifted in from the sea. Without waiting for it to lift, I left.

A long while later, I wondered if I had been foolishly impatient. Had I just stayed a little longer, maybe what I was hoping to see would have been looking right back at me.

But, by now, it's far too south of why to care. Or, at least, it should be.

Friday, September 22, 2006

inflection point


Full moon rising over the urban islands of Kastellholmen and Djurgården in Stockholm, Sweden. (2005). I took this photo last November with my Olympus SP-310 from the Fjälgatan, high above the cliffs of Södermalm.

"It doesn't matter anymore," she says.

"Why not?" he asks.

"Because things change. Because we've changed," she says.

He says nothing.

"I'm sorry," she says.

"I'm sorry, too," he finally says.

"I should go now. Goodbye," she says, before getting up and disappearing into the crowd.

And for one last time, he says nothing.

***
Somewhere beyond your peripheral vision, it's the same, and then, all of a sudden, never the same again. Yes becomes no. Here becomes there. Optimism becomes doubt. And you feel it.

But one Friday night in nowhere, you'll quit making lists of things to forget. Because, finally, it doesn't matter anymore.


Deep underground one of Stockholm's T-bana (subway) stations, there's nowhere to go but "upp." (2005).

Monday, September 11, 2006

dingobear 10,000

Here at starfish and waffles, we live to celebrate the little things in life. Like sunflowers. Ambidextrousness. And long walks through dewy meadows.* Therefore, you shouldn't be surprised that when we recently surpassed 10,000 hits on the website counter, we felt it was only appropriate that we properly commemorate this milestone event. How so? With a new drink recipe, of course.


The fun-loving, hard-drinking editor of felix's daily starfish and waffles enjoys the fittingly-named cocktail, The Editor.

The Editor
1.35 oz. Canadian Whisky
0.12 oz. Maple Syrup
3 to 5 oz. Root Beer

Over ice, pour the above ingredients into a chilled cocktail glass. Add a maraschino cherry. Stir. Garnish with a slice of starfruit. Celebrate dingobear 10,000!

In addition to its obvious celebratory connotations, The Editor also works well as a sweet, bubbly, fall drink, what with its pleasing earthtones and warming sensation. Enjoy!

* Did I really just write the phrase: "long walks though dewy meadows?" You bet I did!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

you can('t) go home again

"Have you booked your vacation yet?"

"No."

"Ok, I'll ask you again in an hour."


My hometown of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. (2006). Though not without its problems, the city of a quarter million people remains a pretty place from a number of angles. The castle-like building in the picture above is the Bessborough Hotel, which was built by the Canadian Pacific Railway as a make-work project during the Depression-era 1930's.

Every morning for approximately the last eight weeks, I've had that very conversation with my direct supervisor. Obviously, work has been strongly hinting that I take more time off, probably because they fear I'm starting to burn out. Secretly, though, I just think they want to get rid of me. If it's the latter, I guess I can't blame them - I'm so good-looking that it has to be distracting for all of my co-workers, and that can't be good for office productivity.

In any event, I finally buckled at my boss' demands and decided to take this entire week off. However, this time, I didn't have an exciting European getaway (Hello, Iceland!) at my fingertips so, instead, I decided to go to ... Saskatoon, Saskatchewan ... my hometown.

I left Saskatoon ten years ago, at age 18. Every time I come back, it feels a bit like stepping into a time machine - a strange mix of the vaguely familiar and broken thoughts of what things might have been like had I never left in the first place.

I guess this isn't exactly groundbreaking but on this day, it's all I've got. I suppose things are what they are and, sometimes, life simply is, and there's no use in trying spin it otherwise.

***
In related news, remember this post? They just called me about my ten-year high school reunion - apparently, it's now taking place Canadian Thanksgiving weekend (that's Columbus Day weekend, for you Americans). Nine months hence, I still haven't decided if I'm going to show up or not.


Sunset over the Victoria Bridge and South Saskatchewan River, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. (2006). "Saskatchewan is so flat, you can watch your dog run away for a week!" ... or so the joke goes, about the province's featureless topography. The silver lining, however, is really great sunsets that hang onto the horizon longer than anywhere else.

Monday, September 04, 2006

wild animal kingdom: panda-monium!

It's been six months since our last Wild Animal Kingdom post, so we figured it was about time we did an update ... on pandas!


The giant panda: cute, cuddly, and the face of the World Wildlife Fund. With a CV like that, you'd think that it would be completely harmless. Well, I hate to break it to you, but you think wrong. Take note of the panda above ... the bamboo is just a starter, before he eats your face as the main course! So be forewarned. About pandas.

(Cue National Geographic theme music here).

Here at starfish and waffles, we aim to bring you the world. Unfortunately, many of the fascinating animals in our kingdom - the wild animal kingdom - do not live within a walkable radius of our head offices in western Canada, which presents us with something of a problem when we're searching for new material for this series. One example of such an elusive animal: the giant panda of south and central China, one of the world's most recognizable and beloved mammals.

So, never in our wildest dreams did we ever imagine we could bring you footage of the giant panda. That is, until we learned about two months ago that my long-estranged brother was planning a wildlife expedition to south and southeast Asia. Perhaps a deal could be worked out?

Immediately, we dispatched our editor to negotiate. It took a suitcase full of unmarked bills and a promise of non-disclosure, but eventually an agreement was reached. Later, my editor would remark it was kind of strange that my brother had worn to the meetings a hat made of ivory, a suit made of baby seal skins and mocassins made of minks, but he was so excited about securing exclusive footage of wild Chinese pandas, he didn't think anything of it at the time.

Fast forward to yesterday. We received an anonymous email, with several panda pictures attached. Our wild panda pictures had come in! Or had they? Upon closer inspection, the wild pandas pictured mysteriously looked like zoo pandas. Feeling cheated, I shook my fist in the air and shouted:

"That wasn't part of the deal, Blackheart! THAT WASN'T PART ... !!!"

So ... yeah. Here are a couple of zoo panda pictures. Hopefully they're wild enough for you.


An An, an adult male panda resident of the Ocean Park (Zoo), Hong Kong.


Bear or raccoon? For years, the taxonomic classification of the giant panda has been the subject of heated scientific debate. My editor tells me pandas are definitely bears, but I think his opinion is biased.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

the last four-dimensional bloom of summer

If you've logged in at any point in the last few weeks, you probably noticed that things around the offices of starfish and waffles have been pretty quiet. Chalk it up to the late summer doldrums or a wicked bend in the space-time continuum but, in any event, we're back now. And we're glad you're still here with us.


Take time to enjoy the last bloom of summer before it inevitably fades into fall. In the picture above, the famous editor of felix's daily starfish and waffles shows you how.

***
Altitude
May 2006. Flying at 37,000 feet over Greenland, en route to Boston from Reykjavik. Seated next to me in the coveted window seat is Ladawn, the blonde-haired / steely-blue-eyed / warm-hearted / outgoing head nurse of the massive NATO air force base at Keflavik, Iceland. I envision scenes from M*A*S*H, with scores of war wounded. No, Ladawn says - it's basketball injuries - I'd ban basketball, she says. This girl is a year younger than me but even at 37,000 feet, she's at least a summer wiser.

Length
As the shadows grow longer and the days grow shorter, somewhere in this August the answer lies. Finding and/or believing it, however, requires a reach of sorts, a leap of faith. Maybe it depends on how you view things. Maybe it was never meant to be. Maybe things change in September.

Depth
I daydreamed that there were reporters asking me questions, and I only replied with two answers, more or less. Specifically: "I'm human. But I'm a good one." I woke up in a daze, which is weird, because I was never asleep to begin with.

Time
They explained it to me this way - of course time moves faster as you get older. When you're only a year old, the summer that's just passed you by comprised 25% of the life you've already lived or, relatively-speaking, a really long time. When you're 28 years old, the summer that's just come and gone ... well, that's less than 1%.

Time. Like the last bloom of summer, it feels like I'm running out of it.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

my simulated reality tv life: the clip show

As you may have already figured out, the cast and crew of My Simulated Reality TV Life - quite possibly the most critically-acclaimed simulated reality series of all-time - is on summer holidays, probably lying in the sun at some Caribbean beach, sipping piña coladas. But instead of making you sit and watch reruns like all of the other shows in prime time, we here at starfish and waffles are going to do you one better and run a clip show, complete with new scenes you've never seen before! Now, if you're one of the few people out there who have yet to see an episode of My Simulated Reality TV Life, you're pathetic and need to get a life ... but luckily, it's not too late for you so click here and start at Episode One! For everyone else, let's get to the clips!


In the beginning ... the simulated me, living the unglamorous simulated life. Plunge, simulated Felix, plunge!


But then Bridgette comes along ...


... and she decides to marry simulated Felix after less than 20 minutes of courtship! Now that's love at first sight, people.


Naturally, love at first sight leads to much snuggling, kissing, and tons of hot, dirty sex (woohoo!) ... which, inevitably, creates ...


A new baby! Enter scene right: little Felicia ...


... who grows up faster than our writers can properly write her into the script. But here, we have a great shot of the toddler playing in the toilet!


Meanwhile, simulated Felix and Bridgette adjust to life in suburbia and its occassional boredom ... but that's ok ... because the happy couple know how to make their own fun!


Happily, there are plenty of friends in the neighbourhood - like simulated Penny. Refer to the scene above: what are simulated Penny and simulated Felix doing? You tell me!


And even better, there are always zany new characters to meet. For instance, who is this mysterious stranger in the scene above? She could be a Lakers fan. She could be a famous world traveller. She might even contemplate topping off her lemon bars with salsa and guacamole. But one thing is for sure - she's hot! Make sure you stay tuned for future episodes of My Simulated Reality TV Life and find out why she has a toilet on her front lawn!


Finally, a few closing thoughts expressed by Felicia's outspoken teddy bear to simulated Felix and Bridgette: "I make beautiful, beautiful music for a living. Well, sort of. Replace the word 'beautiful' with 'sweet' and the word 'music' with 'love.' Oh, baby!"