Monthly Archives: January 2011


Today this arrived:

I’m pretty excited to read it.


two notes on telephones

1.  I made a new friend on the bus, and he does not have a cellular telephone. Remarkable! You know how I feel about cell phones, so this makes me very happy. Whenever I call him I know exactly where he’ll be. In a world of chaos, it’s comforting. Land line to land line, that’s the way to go.

2.  Lady Gaga’s song “Telephone” is available as a children’s book. Good grief!  But observe below, the illustrations are done in a retro, Curious-George-ish style and they’re completely charming. Bizarrely, I think that the repetitive nonsense of the song translates extremely well to children’s book format.  It may make more sense, in fact, to small children than to adults…

P.S. In case you think I’m making fun of Gaga, here’s the truth: I love her.



It’s true, I like Vancouver.  But I like Victoria better.

Here’s a picture of the Bridgeport skytrain station:

A magical airborne highway to anywhere.  I do like the skytrain.  When the train bursts free of its tunnel and enters the open air, there’s such a feeling of exhileration.

I had two very successful meetings with professors at UBC:

Prof. Brian Leander, who leads “The Laboratory of Marine Serendipity and Spectaculars.”  He’s a young professor, a chilled-out dude from San Diego who is wildly excited about his work with marine microeukaryotes.  If you click through, there are some amazing electron microscope images of various critters he’s discovered.

Prof. Eric Taylor, who studies fish evolution in various ways, and works closely with the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, which advises the Canadian government on what to do regarding various endangered species.  In short, he leads a life that I would like to have!  He is prone to winding tangents in conversation, and also madly in love with his work.

Now that I actually believe I will get into grad school, I’m very excited about it.  Six more years of school?  Bring it on.  There’s nowhere I’d rather be.




swartz bay to tsawwassen

6:55 a.m. and I walk onto the ferry. My mother has driven me up the narrow peninsula to the terminal, perched on the tip as an outpost of light in the pitch-dark January morning. The waiting area is subdued. People drink coffee. A calm woman’s voice announces that we may start boarding, and in a weary huddle, we shuffle through the doors. As I cross the tiny metal walkway onto the ferry, I look down to the thin slice of the harbour, swimming with the flickering reflections of streetlights.  It’s a long way down.  To my right, the cars are impatiently crawling onto the ferry, two levels of traffic-jammed automobiles fighting their way on.  Their headlights are bright eyes staring down the walk-on passengers, and I feel as though we’re all fugitives, escaping the island in the pre-dawn darkness.

Vancouver Island is a separate dimension. I leave it at my peril, reluctantly, re-entering the real world with my hands hidden behind my back. Outside the ferry windows the dark forests are sliding by, a film reel that unrolls steadily as we glide past the tangled little islands between Victoria and Vancouver. The sun is rising but there’s no direction to the pale morning light; the mist has diffused it completely, so that you can’t tell which way is east. Banks of tattered fog hang over the islands, fuzzing out the lonely orange pinpricks of dock lights and faint warm window-glows. Everything is silent. The birds are sleeping or muffled, aside from a few seagulls that soar beside the boat without opening their beaks once.  The waters are still except for our wake.

I watch the sunrise until I’m too cold, and then go back inside. By the time we clear the Gulf Islands and are cruising through the open strait towards Tsawwassen, the clouds have dissipated and a soft, gorgeous sun illuminates the waters.  Layers of rose and lavender flow between sea and sky, and the seagulls fly past continuously.  They follow each other to the front of the boat and then tilt their wings to soar up, up, landing on the top deck before beginning the circle again.  Why?  Just for fun, to feel the wind?  There’s nothing to eat, but perhaps they’re waiting for something to appear.

At eight-thirty we dock. The tugboats are puttering around, tending to their oversized charges. I feel my usual thrill at the sight of bright, industrial infrastructure: docks, cranes, backhoes, big metal bridges that can be raised or lowered by an operator perched in a glassed-in tower. Leading away from the ferry terminal is the thin thread of land connecting us to the mainland. The surface of the highway shines in the morning sun. Onwards to Vancouver!

Already, Victoria and the Island are a world away. It’s a new day. My pre-dawn exodus has already faded to the tenuous memory of a dream.


Docks at Tsawwassen

Passengers exiting at Tsawwassen

Cars and trucks disembarking

Nabokov’s butterflies

When I was reading Pale Fire a few months ago, I decided to google Nabokov and discovered that he had been a serious lepidopterist (butterfly expert).  Fascinating!  He had a number of other strange obsessions, but butterflies came in at the top of the list.  Most other butterfly researchers didn’t take Nabokov very seriously, unable to stomach the fact that the brilliant writer might also beat them at their own game.  So nobody gave any credence to Nabokov’s theories about butterfly migration and evolution…  UNTIL NOW.  And it turns out he was totally, completely, absolutely right.

Read all about it on the New York Times:

Nabokov Theory on Butterfly Evolution Is Vindicated

sen zushi

My family has a monthly ritual: going out for dinner. The choice of restaurant is rotated between the four of us, and is ideally a place we haven’t been to before, a well-reviewed gem we’ve yet to devour.  This month’s choice – Sen Zushi – was not a new venture, but it was delicious as ever.  Octopus sunomono salad (I love octopus.. dead or alive.. I know that sounds somewhat barbaric, but it’s true), salmon oyako don (pictured above), mounds of sushi and sashimi, grilled squid, spinach salad, miso soup, prawn tempura, warm sake, perfect Japanese green tea.  And the company of my family!  What more could one ask for?

There is no food I find as aesthetically appealing as Japanese food.  The presentation is meticulous; the colours, garnishes, array of beautiful ceramics, pale tangles of daikon radish, rainbow of sliced-open sushi rolls.  But never overdone.  Japanese food would never go over the top, never push itself on you. (Excluding, of course, the gigantic sushi boats available at many restaurants. I have occasionally been guilty of ordering and enjoying these boats!  I’m also guilty of a few sake bombs – sorry, surrounding restaurant patrons.)

misuse of technology

Occasionally, I copy memorable text messages into my paper journal with an old-fashioned, metal nib, dip ink pen.