Wednesday, March 31, 2010

83 - A New Printer

After I broke our old printer, we were compelled to buy a new one.  It's quite cheap.  We will recycle the old one.

When I draw office equipment, I like making the controls look like faces or body parts.  I don't think people notice that very much, though.  I used to have a fax header page where the fax and the phone looked like they were about to make out.  Despite sending the image out dozens of times, nobody said a thing.  Either people are more progressive than I give them credit for, or my fax page wasn't all that hot. 

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

82 - Iconography

This is a set of icons I worked at for a brochure.  The idea was, if a picture is worth a thousand words, a bunch of little pictures would allow me to condense what amounted to a twenty-minute speech onto a single side of paper, and I could even use large fonts. 

The more complicated icons tend towards the left of the page, some simplfied versions show up on the right.  Blank areas or blue pencil represent parts that I thought would be easier to draw with a computer stylus than by hand. 

I ended up scrapping the whole page in favour of even simpler computer rendered icons.  Even though the duck tested well, simplest turned out to be the best. 

Monday, March 29, 2010

81 - "1167: Fate Is The Artist"

Is it art?  Maybe not.  Like my "2636" picture ( please click here to see it), "1167" is an abstract-like piece of photography.  In both cases, I made mistakes with the camera settings before pressing the shutter trigger.  I end up with a folder of normal-looking shots, and then one of these periodical nonsensical pieces.  I'm starting to like them a lot.

Most true abstract art, however, has some foundation in a logical progression from a real shape and form that leads to abstraction.  Sometimes the path is based on shape, design, and colour, sometimes it is guided by the necessities of the medium.  Usually, the artist can point to a series of decisions to create the piece (perhaps fuelled by drugs or altered sensory states, or even the paranormal), but the means of creation remains within the bounds of the ability of the artist.

Pictures like "1167" may have visual appeal, but they are also accidental.  If you believe in determinism, then Fate is the artist, I am the delivery mechanism, and life is the artistic medium.  Otherwise, no matter how pretty the picture, accidental forms are not abstract art. 

(What on earth is this picture, anyways?  If you need to know, it's a crowd shot from the Paralympic Opening Ceremonies, with the wrong aperture and shutter settings as well as a blown focus.)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

80 - Stock Photographs (With Recipe)

I'd like to take the opportunity to document another of my recipes.  This one's easy, tasty, and very practical.


Good beef stock can be used as a fluid base for gravies, sauces, and stews.  Simply replace water with flavourful stock.  Or make delicious soup: consommé, beef barley, or use the stock as a base for tomato or other hearty vegetable soups.  My recipe isn't much less expensive than buying broth from the store, but the big advantage is that I don't add any salt at all.  Store-bought broth can be extremely salty. 


These terms can be used interchangeably, if you don't mind being imprecise.

I make stock, which is the fluid from is boiled bones, savoury vegetables, and spices in water.

Broth is similar, except that you use more meat and less (if any) bone.  Boiled bones give up gelatinous collagen, so broth tends to be clearer and lighter than stock.  You end up using more spices in a broth, though, so broth can be used immediately for soup, but it won't make a good base for sauces. 

Consommé is a clear soup.  Boil pre-made stock, add meat, vegetables and spices, and whipped egg whites.  The egg acts like a sponge to collect floating particles in the stock.  The liquid is strained and comes out as clear as water.  A little wine is added to give the consommé a boost. 

Beef bones (enough to fill a frying pan)
Vegetables (use up savoury leftovers.  I prefer bell pepper, onion, parsnip, carrot, celery - including the green stalk bits)
1 tb Peppercorns, optional -  1 tsp mustard seed
1 tb oil
Parsley (what you don't put in the soup, use as a garnish - that impresses folks)

Start this recipe early in the morning.  You can leave it alone for hours, but don't leave home!  You'll need to check on it from time to time as it progresses. 

Set your oven to "Broil".  Place the bones in a large oven-safe pot or pan, and broil them in the oven for up to 1/2 hour.  They should cook to a rich brown colour.

While the bones broil, start a large soup pot with water, maybe about half full.  Put the pot on high heat on the stove to begin with.  Also start a pan on the stove over medium-high heat.  Add the oil to the pan.  Chop the vegetables into large, coarse pieces and dump them all into the pan.  Fry the vegetables until they are fragrant and starting to brown a little. 

Once the vegetables have cooked, you can dump them in the pot of hot water.  Add the parsley, pepper and optional mustard seed (never spreadable mustard!). 

Turn down the heat on the water to very low!  Whatever you do, do not allow the water to boil!  By thermometer, the water should ideally be 180 degrees F (80 degrees C).  If you are doing it by eye, you'll see little tiny bubbles rising from the bottom.  Roughly one tiny bubble per second is close to 180 degrees.  You may fiddle with the stove dials for a few minutes until the temperature stabilizes where you want it.
Once the bones have broiled, use kitchen pincers to gently place each bone in the pot of water.  It's important to disturb the water as little as possible with the bones. The hot water will dislodge collagens and impurities from the bones.  The more agitated the water is, the more stuff will come off of the bones. 

There's differing schools of thought here.  Some places I know will put the stock on full boil.  You will get stock in 2 - 4 hours that way, but you'll have to keep a careful eye on the water level.  As well, your stock will be incredibly murky, and you will have a difficult time removing "soup scum": impurities that tend to rise to the surface along with fat.  In the end, you'll have a rather fatty, cloudy, somewhat impure-tasting stock.  Toss in some spices and chances are you can get away with it.

Other places will throw out the stock if it ever comes to a boil.  Boiling guarantees that whatever impurities are in your ingredients will stay suspended in the broth.  Slow heat will allow the impurities to rise to the surface.  Periodically, you can "de-scum" the top layer of the stock with a large spoon.  Simply scoop off surface-layer gunk. 
With slow heat, count on simmering for at least 8 - 10 hours.  Check frequently to make sure your water does not boil.  Keep the dial set to low.  If in doubt, it's better to be too low than too high, as the heat will build.  The water level should always at least cover the bones.  I like at least 1/2 inch coverage.  

If you need to, you can add cold water to top up the level.  Pour the water very gently down the shaft of a wooden spoon or down a knife blade to avoid agitating the stock.  After a while, the stock should look clear and brown like tea.

Before you go to bed for the night, set up your strainer.  I use a large collander with a single piece of paper towel in the bottom.  The collander sits directly over a large bowl for collecting the stock. Carefully pour the stock into the strainer.  The strainer will catch the large pieces, while the paper towel will filter out any extra fat and the small bits.  Collect the stock in the bowl.  Immediately put the stock in its bowl into the refrigerator.  Clean up and go to bed. 
As the stock cools, the fat will rise to the surface and solidify.  Since the fat is less dense than the stock, it will float. It will also hopefully soak up any impurities you missed while de-scumming.   All you have to do the next morning is to scoop up the floating solid bits.  What remains is good quality stock. 

Separate the stock into smaller containers.  The stock will keep well in the fridge for a few days, but if you don't plan to use it right away, then freeze it.  Stock freezes very well.  Just re-heat the amount that you want to use. 
Sometimes, frozen stock will have a gelatinous look to it when re-heated: gooey bits suspended in the liquid.  That's fine, it's just collagen, which breaks up when you cook the stock.  It adds flavour to the stock, so don't scoop it out. 


Instead of beef bones, you can use a chicken or turkey carcass left over from dinner.  If you can get veal bones, that makes the finest stock.  Otherwise, the technique and ingredients are mostly the same.  You can also make stock out of fish bones, but that's a different recipe, and you cannot slow-cook fish stock.  Finally, you can omit the bones altogether and make vegetable stock just using veggies and spices. 

Thursday, March 25, 2010

79 - The Paralympics Rant

Ooo, a political cartoon.  You'd think I'd draw tons of these.  Sketchy art, cynicism, and a strong willingness to drink right from the bottle should all add up to a career as a political cartoonist.  However, I don't think I've ever drawn more than four or five political cartoons at least semi-seriously.

First of all, it's hard work.  If you don't believe me, try it sometime.  Laughing all the way to the bank?  Holy cliché, Batman!  At least fair-use laws give a lot of leeway to artists who work in satirical formats. 

I think the most difficult part is where you end up taking jabs at some poor slob who's doing it all wrong (and who no doubt deserves it), but you don't come up with anything better yourself. 

Take for example Mr. Ivan Fecan, the CEO of CTV.  I liked drawing him because he has this wildly improbable mane of hair, like Homer Simpson would have if he could have kept using the Dimoxinil treatment (bald as a cue ball in the evening, hair like Samson the next morning). 

Ivan Fecan's CTV was the major host broadcaster in Canada for the 2010 Winter Olympics.  I thought they did a super job.  Along with TSN, they were also the main broadcaster for the 2010 Winter Paralympics, for the first time ever that this event has been held in Canada.  And CTV did a crappy job.  What happened? 

It's easy enough for me to sit in my chair, spend the day rattling off a satirical cartoon, and point my finger at Mr. Fecan.  I know very little about him, or about how he runs CTV.  All I really know is that CTV paid the IOC a lot of money for the rights to broadcast the Olympics and Paralympics.  To set something up like that would take a tremendous amount of dedication and hard work.

By all accounts that I could find, Mr. Fecan is a stand-up guy.  A biography of important Canadian broadcasters lists him as a "Philanthropist".  Now there's something we have in common: I often claim to be a philanthropist when I have to list  my occupation.  Philanthropy is probably easier and more effective if you have lots of money to spend, like Mr. Fecan does, unlike myself, where this year I am in the lowest tax bracket.  It's a form of financial discrimination, being a charity-case philanthropist. 

Of course, one does not succeed in the world of broadcasting by running a charity.  CTV paid a lot of money to the IOC because they expected to recoup a lot of money in advertising revenues.  According to CBC (that other Canadian broadcaster), CTV paid $90 million for the broadcasting rights to the Olympics.  That's roughly double the $47 million the Canadian government spends annually on athletic programs geared for the Olympics (although there have been significant one-time bonuses, including money from the provinces and private sponsors).  With the success of the Games assured, CTV ought to make their investment back and then some.  The financial numbers have not been released yet, but I do not see how CTV could have taken a loss given the popularity of the events.  By way of an example, the Gold Medal Canada-USA Men's Hockey game was the most-watched television event in Canadian history, earning an unprecedented viewer share of 80%.  Even VANOC expects to break even, or at least come close. 

So, how exactly does one make a profit off of what is supposed to be an amateur sporting event?  It takes a scheme of relentless marketing that uses non-professional athletes as spokespeople, or at least infers that they are.  Most of these athletes are not millionaires.  Rather, they and their families have spent their money and their lives to be able to come up with performances that meet the Olympic ideal.  It's an incredible and inspiring personal sacrifice for a Canadian to become an Olympian.  CTV is happy to broadcast the pictures of the events, as long as you don't mind sitting through sixteen minutes of sponsor ads for every hour you watch.  You buy the product the sponsor advertises, some money goes back to the sponsor, some goes to CTV, and a bit goes back to the athletes.

So why did CTV and the philanthropic Ivan Fecan almost completely turn their back on broadcasting the Paralympic Games?  They paid for the access, the technical people and the equipment were all in place, and most importantly, the people of Canada desperately wanted to watch.  Would not a true philanthropist find some way to broadcast the majority of the Paralympic Games?  Olympic atheletes are inspiring, but Paralympic Atheletes are absolutely astounding.  Each of them has overcome a physical disability to particpate in their sport, and then on top of that has refined their technique to the Olympic level.  God forbid if Sidney Crosby got into a wreck that paralyzed his legs and then he lost all of his money (there's way fewer millionaire Paralympians than Olympians), but if that happened, and then he found a way to actually move again, and get into shape, become competive, and then be a world-class athlete... if I was a philanthropist with money, there would be NO WAY ON EARTH I would pass up a chance to showcase these Canadian Paralympians - in Canada for the very first time in a Paralympics - to any and all Canadians who wanted to watch it.

As it was, only intense public pressure convinced CTV and TSN to air more than a few token hours of coverage, to replace their precious sit-com re-runs and afternoon dreck programming with Paralympic sport.  Honestly, it was like twisting the arm of CTV.  And what people don't understand is how CTV could have been such a gracious host to the Olympians and so lukewarm towards the Paralympians.  The IPC, God bless them, seemed happy with the crumbs that CTV scattered for them on the broadcast schedule.  From what I hear, Vancouver  exceeded their expectations, which is nice.

CTV and TSN are not charities, and under the IOC, niether is the Olympic movement.  However, is it too much to ask for them to properly recognize the time, money, and commitment spent by all athletes to become Olympians, disabled or able-bodied?   Canadians have shown beyond doubt that they support their Olympic athletes.  I say it's time that our broadcasters  show some Canadian spirit.  Look up from counting your dollar bills, Mr. Fecan! 

If CTV and TSN want to show the Olympic Rings in their logo, they must have to do more than just pay royalties to the IOC.  Olympic broadcasters must themselves be at least a bit Olympian.  They must see that all of our athletes matter.  If our Olympians are good enough for commercials to sell us credit cards and SUV's, they deserve to be damn well good enough to be on live television competing for their country, our Canada. 


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

78 - More Infamous Beetles

If you've seen "What In My Sketchbook Lives" (click here to see it), then you might appeciate this thingamajig as a companion piece. 

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

77 - More Famous Than The Beatles!!!

A quick test proves that if you enter the search term "JSVB" into the Google™ search engine, my blog is the number one top entry in all of the known universe!  This ought to make it easier to find JSVB in the future. 

This only seems to work for the Google™ domain , not in any of the other popular search engines, at least not so far.  There are a number of other JSVB's out there; I am not affiliated with any of them at all (or with Google™ services ). 

Here's what the Google™ lawyers have to say about permissions for using their logo:

Google Logo or Screenshots

You don't need our permission when you want to use a standard, unaltered Google screenshot (an image of our homepage or search results page) in either print (book, magazine, journal, newspaper) or digital (web page, DVD, CD) formats for an instructive or illustrative purpose.

 You get the idea.  Also, I borrowed the look of the title scroll from LucasFilm's Star Wars series.  That's pretty much a no-brainer, but you never know: there are kids out there who've never seen a Wookie. 

Oh, and for that matter, Rosebud was a sled.

Monday, March 22, 2010

76 - Jeff Takes Care Of Some Mail

Mail for JSVB is piling up, and I'm not the world's most ardent correspondent.  Today, I plan to tackle some miscellaneous entries.

One item I've had the most response to was the picture I took in "Profound Signage" (click here to see the photo). 

The story is that I saw the sign while crossing the newly opened Coast Meridian Bridge.  I held the camera up and quickly snapped the picture without losing a step.  Then, I said, "Ladies, stand by your man!", which earned me this funny  evil-eye look from a woman who was walking next to me. 
The strange thing about the picture is that I was walking in a crowd of a couple of hundred people when I snapped the shutter, yet none of them appear in the photo. 

My brother-in-law showed "Stand By Your Man" to his friends in the signage operations of VANOC (the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games).  Apparently, they spent some time discussing ways to make the sign easier for folks to understand.

Pish-tosh, I say (and I never say that).  This sign is perfect the way it is, any effort to improve it would just make it worse.  I love things that end up like that. 


A big hello to "TripodGirl", who says, "I like your website!".  Well shucks now, I'm blushing!


Also props to Earl, who is so far the most loyal correspondent to JSVB.  He makes the comment regarding the coverage of the Paralympics (click here to see more): "It's interesting how the media coverage has dropped off so precipitously..." I have to admit that at first I did not agree with Earl, but time and experience has proved him right.  If I can, I will come up with a feature entry to address this topic in the future. 

Lastly, Earl has plugged JSVB on Facebook!  Now that I've been featured in legitimate social media, I'll try to remember him and all the rest of you once I get more famous than The Beatles.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

75 - Scenery For A Wet Mouse

Another call-up for my sketchbook.  A very rare request had me working on some 3D rendered models.  At the time, I could run SoftImage v.1, so my primitives really were primitive, at least compared to what the kids are using these days.

Before I could work on the model, I needed a sketch to help cement the visuals.  This is the bedroom of an Irish mouse who lived on the Titanic.  He goes on to a new and happy life in America.  Actually, much of the disaster is sidestepped, the focus is before and after the event. 

I am disappointed that I cannot find any of my model files (not that they were spectacular, but even so), nor any record of the mouse character.  Maybe it's for the best, though.  If I were do do it over again, I would do it all differently.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

74 - Pink Fortress Of Doom

A quick pencil sketch I did some time ago.  I think I was inspired by one of J.R.R. Tolkein's books, but somehow missed the influences of the Lord Of The Rings films or the many great illustrations that people have based on the series over the years.  I don't follow the fantasy genre very closely. 

Thursday, March 18, 2010

73 - Blackout Pretzels

Earlier today, our cable got cut off, which temporarily blacked out both our TV and our Internet.  The cause was just regular system maintenance.

Good thing we had some fresh homemade pretzels to keep us going!  Too bad I can't upload how good these little beauties smell. 

I don't have a recipe to share.  I just used a recipe for bread machine pretzel dough, and got good results.  I did replace the water in the recipe with an equal amount of beer, which makes for a richer flavour and a chewier dough.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

72 - Green Beer Day

Today is St. Patrick's Day, which seems to bear little resemblance to Saint Patrick's holy mission.  I cannot criticize, though, I am just as Irish as Chairman Mao. 

So, bring on the drinking holiday, and we all get a free pass to pinch (playfully!) anybody we catch not wearing kelly, emerald, or #008000.  

I will hoist a pint o' th' Harp, and go hide everything in my wife's wardrobe that's green.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

71 - Jeff Versus Physiotherapy

Tomorrow, I visit the physiotherapist.  It appears I pulled a deep muscle in my back during one of my coughing fits during the Jeff Catches A Cold episodes (click to see Part V here.)  The discomfort has reached the point where I need to see the physio.

They will ask me, "Where does it hurt?"

I will show them my drawing (hint - it's the really red muscle that's bothering me):

In the actual drawing, I omit the DESTROY!/SHUT UP! bits.  I won't include them anymore in JSVB, either, three times is the charm. 

Today's sketch is based on Grey's Anatomy, plus some da Vinci.  DESTROY! and SHUT UP! are explained two days ago on JSVB here, and are based on the work of Scott MacLeod. 

Monday, March 15, 2010

70 - Brutus Versus Caesar

Today is the Ides of March!  It's the anniversary of the assassination of Roman dictator Julius Caesar by his good friend Marcus Brutus.  The cartoon I drew may not make sense without reading yesterday's JSVB entry (click here to learn more).  Even so, I am borrowing the idea from cartoonist Scott MacLeod's "DESTROY!" comic book. 


  • The Romans marked the end of the month with "kalends" and the middle of the month with "ides".  So the "kalends of February" would be two weeks before the "ides of March".

  • We don't really know what Caesar's last words were.  "Et tu, Bruté" was popularized in William Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar".  It's excellent reading. 

  • Even today, citizens of the city of Rome leave bouquets of flowers at the steps of the ruins of the old Roman Forum to honour the memory of Caesar. 


Sunday, March 14, 2010

69 - MacLeod Versus Mouse

Answering replies to JSVB (slowly!). 

QUERY: Have I ever read Scott MacLeod's "Understanding Comics"? 

REPLY: Not much of it.  For those who have not seen it, "Understanding Comics" is a thesis-level textbook in the form of a comic book.  There are three parts to it, now, I think.  

I'm not much of a comic book person.  I own less than ten: a couple of Frank Miller's, an old Star Wars, and a few Asterix books.  I have some textbooks by Burne Hogarth and Wil Eisner, and a collection of art books. 

I found "Understanding Comics" to be very long-winded (even by my standards) and short on practical lessons.  It's more of a sociological/philosophical approach to the comic book culture, but not very illuminating on the industry itself. 

Frank Miller and Wil Eisner are the same way: brilliant in terms of the thought that goes into comic books, shy/sly on how to place the lines or dab the ink.  I find that many, many graphic artists are like that. 

MacLeod puts emphasis on six creative steps he calls Idea/Purpose, Form, Idiom, Structure, Craft, Surface.  He believes that Idea and Form are the most important to be successful.

I disagree (which may be why I am working on JSVB instead of pulling in nine figures at Pixar...).  I feel that Craft is the most important, and is often the most neglected facet of graphic arts.  That's why I gravitate to Burne Hogarth and classical studies (although my own style and level of accomplishment is nowhere near that level - maybe in 20-40 years?).

Animators have their own "bibles", which tend to be much more practical guides to poses, layout, and line than those intended for comic book artists.  Richard Williams' "Animator's Survival Kit" is a modern classic, and then there's the magnificant "Illusion Of Life" by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston.  One of the best are the unpublished works of Walt Stanchfield, which you can find by searching the Internet.  Brad Bird also has a lot of great samizdat stuff available from when he was young, angry, and overworked on The Simpsons. 


Anyway, the image above shows a very rough version that might be Scott MacLeod's avatar duking it out with a perhaps-recognizable iconic mouse.  Mr. MacLeod's property is his, and so too is that of the big motion picture company, so I hope I am not ripping off stuff too blatantly.  The pose is a satirical homage to "DESTROY!", a one-off comic book by Mr. MacLeod of pure undiluted violence. Satire falls under fair use (no matter how weakly presented), so I believe I am okay as far as rights may be concerned.  If not, I will replace the picture with a pot of daisies. 

Saturday, March 13, 2010

68 - Paralympic Opening Ceremony

Last night was the Opening Ceremonies for the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games.  These are a "parallel" Olympic games for atheletes who have overcome physical disability.  We had ground-level seats for the Opening Ceremonies, which were a dramatic viewpoint.  We got to see many of the atheletes and the celebrities from close-up, which was amazing. 

The whole ceremony was less formal than the regular Olympics.  The crowd was cheering and full of energy, the music rocked, and the whole event just seemed to be one huge outpouring of joy.  I guess that some of the cynicism and stress of the larger Olympics was missing.  These atheletes are true amateurs, and all of them have already proved themselves simply by participating in the games.

67 - Lumphead

Yes, the thirteenth of the month: Ungood Art Day.  It's not that this poor little lumpheaded boy is all that bad, at least in terms of penmanship.  I consider this to be one of my more careful inking jobs.  What bugs me is that I spent all of that time laying down good, accurate line, only to realize after I was done that the boy has gorilla arms and a lumpy head, not to mention a horribly clunky pose.  Why didn't I try to refer to a photograph or a model?  Gahhh.

As the boy was required in a larger composition, I used Photoshop to give the kid's head a more humanoid shape, and I fixed up the arms a little.  It was like putting lipstick on a pig, though. 

Thursday, March 11, 2010

66 - Ddua Bawdheolia

Here is an interesting historical piece.  Apparently, it's an 18th century Welsh ink drawing of a mother putting her children to sleep with the story of "Ddua Bawdhoelia".  Ddua Bawdhoelia is a legendary black beast so loathesome that if men (or women or especially children) stared at it long enough, they would go mad with madness. 

If you are to look farther, you will understand the true nature of Ddua Bawdhoelia...

Yes, I have to admit it, the true Ddua Bawdhoelia is this stupid black toenail I've been sporting for about a month now.  I have stared at it long enough, and it is starting to stir my imagination in dark ways.  It will truly be ugly if it falls off: Grilliwch! indeed. 

The English To Welsh translations are courtesy of a free on-line service called InterTran.  I have no idea if InterTran's interpretation is any good.  If I ever get a job at the UN, maybe someday I will find out. 

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

65 - Canada's Final Gold: #14!

Here, I finally catch up with Canada's gold medal count for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics.  This was a picture I took of goalie Roberto Luongo (all the Canuck fans cheer "Loooooo!") receiving his medal at Canada Hockey Place.  I am actually next door at BC Place, snapping the photo from the big screen as we wait for the Closing Ceremonies to begin.

Since the video feed is directly from OBS (Olympic Broadcasting Services), I am allowed to post this image for personal purposes. 

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

64 - Canada's 13th Gold!

We were fortunate enough to get to see Canada's Kevin Martin and his team curl against the world's greatest rinks.  Ahhh, curling?  It's one of those things where either you get it or you don't.  I've had to work a bit to come to understand this sport, but now that I have an idea of what's going on, I can speak to how thrilling the game is at the Olympic level. 

Curling is a difficult game to describe.  I am just beginning to learn chess, so I compare curling to chess, except that your physical prowess guides where the pieces go and the board has no squares.  Well, also, there's a lot of ice, too.   Unless you are playing against rank beginners, curling is an extremely strategic game.  Not only will the better team be the strongest and fittest, they will also be the smartest.  It takes a finely-tuned talent to make precise draws, raises, and dramatic multiple take-outs.  Curling will take its toll on knees, backs, hips, and shoulders, so the best players stay in healthy shape. 

Here is a picture I took of skip Kevin Martin at work during the Olympics.  As good as the other teams played, Kevin Martin, John "Johnny Mo" Morris, Marc Kennedy, and Ben Hebert (with Adam Enright as alternate) were like killer sharks among lesser fish.  An amazing golden performance, as long as you were cheering for Team Canada!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

63 - Yet More Canadian Gold!

Part-time blueberry farmer Jasey Jay Anderson won gold for Men's Parallel Giant Slalom.  It's a big downhill chase through gates on snowboards.  The positions for the finals are decided by heats.  As a result, Jasey Jay was required to start 75 100ths of a second after his race rival, Austrian champion Benjamin Karl:

Saturday, March 6, 2010

62 - Profound Signage

Ladies, Stand By Your Man!

We are blessed to live in a country that understands profoundly the value of interpersonal relationships. 

61 - Coast Meridian Overpass Bridge

Today, we attended the opening of the new Coast Meridian Bridge (CMO), which is an enhanced traffic link between north and south Port Coquitlam.  PoCo is divided laterally by the massive CP Rail Yards, so to go north or south one has to drive all the way around the yards, which can easily add 20 minutes to a road trip.  The new CMO should make that route a lot easier.  The name "Coast Meridian" refers to the first survey line of the Vancouver area, which rises north exactly where the curve of Semiahmoo Bay crosses our border with the United States. 

Friday, March 5, 2010

60 - More Gold For Canada!

Yes, the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic are over, which means that if I want to add more Canadian gold medalists then I am behind on my posts. 

Today's picture commemorates one of the newer sports, Short Track Skating Pursuit.  Two teams of three skaters (plus one alternate in case of injury) start on opposite sides of the rink course.  Both teams run laps at the same time.  The team that finish all  their laps first wins.  Time starts when the first skater of a team crosses the start line and ends when the last skater of the team crosses the finish line.  This means that team-mates must stick together!  If one team passes another on the ice, that team wins automatically, although I wouldn't expect to see this happen at an Olympic event. 

Canada's Men's Pursuit team won gold: Mathieu Giroux, Lucas Makowsky, Denny Morrison, and François-Olivier Roberge (alternate). 

It was hard to come up with a good image of short track speed skates, as the skaters go very fast, and it's dangerous to get close to them for a photograph.  I had to settle for a quick paint'em-up job. 

Thursday, March 4, 2010

59 - Chile

On February 27, a massive 8.8 earthquake struck central Chile.  I can't even image what it would be like to survive a quake like that.  I've learned now that the old Richter Scale doesn't work well for earthquakes larger than 7.  The U.S. Government now uses a "Moment Magnitude" scale, which is somehow even scarier. 

If we can get help to the Chileans, who are under "a state of catastrophe", please let's do so. 

The images I used for this post come from U.S. Government sources, and are all public domain. 

58 - Perogies For The End Of Prorogue

Canada's Parliament has resumed today after being "prorogued" since December 10th, 2009.  Very basically, a prorogue is a form of enforced interruption of normal Parliamentary activities.  Politically, calling for a prorogue can be a controversial thing to do.  For the rest of us, this unusual act makes us hungry for perogies.  This might help:


Perogies are little dumplings made out of dough filled with cheese, potatoes, fruit, or berries.  They are boiled and then may be fried afterwards.  This is my family recipe (minus a couple of secrets). 


This is an authentic Ukrainian recipe for the dough.  Assemble these ingredients:

2 cups white flour
1/2 cup room temperature water
1 tablespoon canola oil

Pour the flour into a mixing bowl and make a hole in the pile.  Pour the oil and 1/4 cup of the water in the hole.  Mix the flour, water and oil.  When the water gets taken up my the flour, add the rest.  Knead the mixture with your hands for at least 5 minutes. 

Form the dough into a ball.  If the dough is flaky, add water a tablespoon at a time and knead.  If the dough is sticky, roll it in a tablespoon of flour and knead the flour in.  The flour should be soft and malleable without being powdery, flaky, or sticky.  This may require extra kneading.  You will need two batches of this dough for the filling.  


The recipe above requires a fine touch with kneading the dry and wet ingredients.  This recipe is easier, but not authentic.  Tastes great, though!

2 cups white flour
2 cups sour cream

Knead equal parts flour and sour cream in a bowl.  This will make flour of a near-perfect consistency.  You can scale this recipe up or down as needed.  


There are many fillings for perogies.  The only one I find acceptable is dry cottage cheese.  However finding authentic cottage cheese is difficult, and the stuff they sell in supermarkets is only one half-step up from abysmal.  Quark is servicable, as long as it is not one of the runny varieties.  Ricotta is too sweet and runny for use. 

If I use supermarket dry cottage cheese, I will dress it up using:                                

2 cups dry cottage cheese
1 teaspoon salt or Lowry's Seasoning Salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1 or 2 tablespoons sour cream
1 egg

Mix everything together except the egg.
Taste the mixture and add any seasoning you prefer.  Then stir in the raw egg thoroughly.  If the mixture is runny, place it in a seive over a sink and press down on the mixture with a large spoon or spatula to force the liquid through the seive. 


You will need to roll out the dough.  You may find it easier to work with if you roll out small balls of the dough at a time (no larger than a baseball).  Make the dough as thin and uniform as you can.  Paper thin dough makes very delicate perogies which are delicious but difficult to cook or store.  Try for dough that is about as thick as a DVD at its thinnest or two DVDs at the thickest.  After cutting the dough, take the scraps and re-roll them out to make more rounds. 

  Now you will cut the dough. Traditionally, Ukrainians will use a drinking glass pressed into the dough to cut out circular pieces. Bah, I say, I've never seen that. I have seen a metal Mason Jar lid used like a cookie cutter, but unless you sharpen the edge of the lid, you will bruise your hand with all of the pressing.  I use a lid as a guide and cut around it with a circular pizza slicer.  The shape of the dough pieces do not have to be perfectly round, just get the basic shape and size. 

Here is a picture of a plate of dough rounds.  You can see how thick they are, and how they look when cut out.  When you have a few of these ready, you can prepare to fill them.  Start a large pot of water to full boil.  Then get a clean teaspoon for the filling. 

Don't make too many rounds at once before filling them, as they tend to stick to one another if you stack them. 

Place a round in one hand, and using the teaspoon place a dollop of the cheese filling in the middle of the round.  Do not overfill the round.  Do not allow any moisture to come into contact with any edge of the round.  If the round is overfilled, or if the edges get wet, it will fail to seal when you form the dumpling. 

Seal the dumpling by folding the round over the filling and pressing the edges together with your thumb and forefinger.  Some people will form scalloped edges by pressing a pattern into the dough with the flat part of a butter knife or the tines of a fork.   Make sure the edges seal securely so that nothing can get in or out!  The dough must completely enclose the filling.

At this point, you may choose to freeze any perogies you don't want to eat right away.  Store them on cookie sheets covered with wax paper in your freezer.  Once frozen, you can just throw all of your "rocks" into a big freezer bag, and retrieve the wax paper and cookie sheets for other uses.  Whether they be fresh or frozen, when you are ready to cook the perogies, simply drop them a few at a time into your pot of boiling water. 

When are your perogies done cooking?  When they all float, after three or four minutes (the egg and cheese will be cooked!).  Remove the dumplings from the water with a slotted spoon.  Some people fry their perogies.  Blasphemers! I say.  However, you can risk my wrath and fry them until golden on both sides on low-medium heat in a pan with chopped onions and butter.  In the Ukraine, they will fry them in lard.  Holy arteries, Batman. 

If you don't fry the dumplings, get them into a serving bowl with lots of butter before they have a chance to cool down.  As the butter melts, stir the dumplings to make sure they do not stick. After all that work, it would be miserable if your entire bowl of dumplings got stuck together!  If you are using paper-thin dough, do not boil dumplings with rolling water, and watch as they cook to avoid breakage.  When serving these thin-dough perogies, place them on a serving plate so that they do not touch one another, and pour hot butter on


So here is the final product.  Cheese perogies with a dab of sour cream are paired with a slow-roasted prime rib with fresh Polish horseradish, baked carrots, squash, and snap peas.  The Chateauneuf du Pape is much too pretentious a wine to go with this meal, but I like the bottle, and I promise to drink it on the right occasion.  Ukrainian sausage and hearty oven-fresh bread would be more traditional with perogies than what I have served here.  Sprinkle fried onions on top, or chopped up bits of cooked bacon for garnish.  Vodka would flow like a river.  Budmo!