Friday, 28 March 2014

Ottawa's restaurant scene in the Capital

For years Ottawa had very little to offer in terms of good restaurants, with the turn of the millenium everything changed. We now have a serious food scene and here is a compilation of the best in the Capital. Of this list I have been to several of them more than once. I would certainly recommend them and see my list of preferred at the bottom of this post.

Black Cat Bistro
Where: 428 Preston St.
Type of food: Modern French bistro
Words of praise: "The flavours and textures were already expertly layered, without my having to do the work of dabbing and assembling all sorts of dips, foams, and frills." - Ottawa magazine
Navarra by Rene Rodriguez
Where: 93 Murray St.
Type of food: Spanish and Mexican
Words of praise: "[How] could your meal be as good as the extravaganza of dinner at Navarra? Indeed, you could pose the same question to all of Rodriguez’s competition." - Ottawa Citizen
Bonus reasonRodriguez is competing on season four of Top Chef Canada.
Where: 296 Elgin St.
Type of food: Modern Italian
Words of praise: "Every so often a restaurant surfaces that, right from the get-go, seems exactly in the swing of its time and place. Such is Town." - Capital Dining
Oz Kafe
Where: 361 Elgin St.
Type of food: Asian shared plates with a twist of Mexican
Words of praise: "But the real magic of Oz is that its tiny closet of a kitchen has the best karma in town." - Ottawa magazine
Fraser Cafe
Where: 7 Springfield Rd.
Type of food: Seasonal and local
Words of praise: "[We] want a restaurant with thoughtful, fresh, delicious food that doesn’t require an enormous splurge. Fraser Café is all that." - Ottawa Magazine
Restaurant 18
Where: 18 York St.
Type of food: 'Cutting edge' French-based cuisine
Words of praise: "When you are rating a restaurant you want to be sure that you do not become too generous in your praise lest no one believes you. But 18 is one of those that requires an alltogether [sic] different scale." - OpenTable
The Whalesbone and The Elmsdale Oyster House & Tavern
Where: 430 Bank St., and 1084 Wellington St. W.
Type of food: Seafood, of course, that is sustainably sourced
Words of praise: "I love a place with a raunchy vibe that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Is The Whalesbone Oyster House menu pricey? Yes it is, but my friends, that’s the price you pay for sustainable seafood, line-caught, farmed in sound conditions and approved by the watchers of the sea at Ocean Wise." - Food Gypsy
Murray Street
Where: 110 Murray St.
Type of food: A carnivore's dream
Words of praise: "They take ordinary things and they do an extraordinary way of preparing them." - Food Network Canada
Where: 18b York St.
Type of food: Thai-influenced tacos
Words of praise: "Refreshingly unlike anything else in Ottawa, Sidedoor is about small, Mexican and Asian-inspired, produce-driven sharing plates." - Capital Dining.
Bonus reason: He was the second runner-up for Top Chef Canada's season three.
El Camino
Where: 380 Elgin St.
Type of food: "Tacos. Tequila. Raw bar."
Words of praise: "We didn’t recall a place having such high energy on a Wednesday night on Elgin street in quite a while.
There was a good reason. The place was fantastic and didn’t affect our pocket books too much." - Apartment 613
Supply and Demand
Where: 1335 Wellington St. W.
Type of food: Heavy on the seafood, with pasta thrown in
Words of praise: "All in all one of the best meals I've had in Ottawa, even though I'm not much of a shellfish person. My boyfriend and I have already made plans to go back." - Ottawa Foodies
Where: 6400 Hazeldean Rd.
Type of food: Asian-influenced cuisine
Words of praise: "[The] food presented an exceptional balance of textures crisp, crunch, soft and supple, embellishments salty and sweet, rich yet refreshing, often on the same plate." - Ron Eade
Where: 337 Richmond Rd.
Type of food: Global cuisine
Words of praise: "The Lake Erie Pickerel was seasoned to perfection, laid on a bed of salted fingerling potatoes and chard. If you are looking for light but filling, this dish was perfect." - Food Search Ottawa
Where: 87 Holland Ave.
Type of food: Fresh and local, with a constantly changing menu
Words of praise: "Allium is our favourite spot in Ottawa. Delicious food, complex enough to be special but still accessible." - TripAdvisor
Where: 540 Rochester St.
Type of food: (Stunning) molecular gastronomy
Words of praise: "[Chef Marc Lapine] masters the unique modernist techniques and weaves them into the local and seasonally inspired ingredients, while having fun with his menu descriptions."
Union 613
Where: 315 Somerset St. W.
Type of food: "The Canadian take on Southern hospitality," so lots of comfort food
Words of praise: "With its communal seating, ear-busting playlist, and late-into-the-night hours, Union is ushering Ottawa into a new dining dimension, already adored by restaurant-industry insiders and those who think everything’s better when smothered in Thousand Island dressing." - Ottawa magazine
Where: 1208 Wellington St. W.
Type of food: Contemporary comfort food (and fondue Mondays!)
Words of praise: "This joint is one of the most reliable in the city, IMO. Relaxed but professional servers, good wine list and good variety of delicious dishes make this a solid stand by." - Ottawa Foodies
Zen Kitchen
Where: 634 Somerset St. W.
Type of food: Vegan healthy, whole foods prepared in an environmentally friendly manner
Words of praise: "The food is so satisfying, so balanced, and so incredibly varied -- nothing like the old-fashioned stereotypic if not cafeteria-like vegetarian eateries where you pile greens and sprouts on a tray to weigh at the cash register." - Ron Eade
Domus Cafe
Where: 87 Murray St.
Type of food: Canadian, with a focus on local ingredients
Words of praise: "Domus never fails to satisfy me. We go there at least once a year on special occasions. Last time was my 10 year anniversary." - Ottawa Foodies
Where: 366 Dalhousie St.
Type of food: Made with beer!
Words of praise: "There’s an excellent burger and fries, to be sure, but the menu otherwise travels as far as possible from traditional pub fare. Forget baskets of greasy nachos and wings — Flowers opts to make a delicate tuna crudo and plates it beautifully." - Ottawa magazine

So here is my list based on what I know and have tasted.
I really enjoyed the quality of the food and the service coupled with the imagination the Chef showed in preparing and presenting dishes at the following restaurants,
my list of restaurants in no specific order;  OZ Café, Absinthe, Fraser Café, Allium, El Camino, the Whalesbone, Play Food and Wine on York Street. We will be trying out Union 613 this week, I have been wanting to go there for a long time.

On another good cheerful note, I am happy to report that Yesterday's in Spark Street at O'Connor the last of those dreadful Ottawa Family restaurants has closed and is gone. Thank You GOD. Yesterday's formerly known as Sharry's was one of those restaurant which at one point in the very early 60's could pass for a restaurant, service was surly, food lukewarm and the theme of the restaurant was more important than the cuisine, not to mention the fact that it was for families with lots of screaming kids, stretch pants and well you get the picture. All those restaurants are gone and this was the last one to go. Not a minute too soon, a blight on Sparks street just one block from Parliament.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Ottawa 1949

Ottawa the great Capital of the Dominion of Canada, this 1949 film made by the National Film Board shows the city as it was then. Not a pretty sight. The Greber Plan has been implemented, but much remains to be done. One thing that has not changed is the traffic jams in the centre at rush hour. It has only gotten worse now that the City has a population of 1.5 million.

Funny also to see people diving into Hog's Back Falls back then, now it is forbidden due to too many deaths, a very dangerous place. Cycling on the driveway nowadays is un-heard of again far too dangerous with all the crazed motorists going 100Km per hour. Ottawa is a nice place and improving but it is not as quaint as it once was. The messenger boys are gone too, with all the cut backs and decentralization in government there are a lot less people working in the bureaucracy.

Still it is a funny little film of a more naive era.

dopo, après

Today is an odd day for me, the 25 march marks the date my paternal grandfather died in 1955 at 48 years old. He was a police detective and had been involved in all the big organized crime investigations in the 1940's. He died on a cold very windy winter night not so unusual back then as he walked to the Police Station just a few steps away from his home, he apparently had a serious heart condition but never mentioned it to anyone. The sad part for him was that he ended up at the City Morgue a place he dreaded. He left a widow and 5 boys.

Those were the days before social programs and pensions etc.... in Canada.

I was born a year later so I got his name Laurent in his memory.
One day is my birthday and the next his my grandfather's anniversary of his death. My mother always thought it strange that I was born so close to that anniversary. I was also baptized in my mother's family church in Ville Saint-Laurent, so I was destined to carry that name.

Here are pictures of my birthday cake from Thimblecakes in Ottawa. A wonderful place for cakes such talent.

Moka cake my favourite!

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Auguri di Compleanno, Bon Anniversaire

Another year, a little song, a little dance, a little seltzer water down your pants. (Quote from the Mary Tyler Moore show). Birthdays are a funny thing for me, each year is different, different cities or continent, in all kinds of places. This year in Ottawa, though we are suppose to be in Spring now it is still cold and full of snow, however all this is set to change dramatically by Thursday when temperatures soar to 10C over night and a massive melt will start quickly, meaning floods, ah Spring in Ottawa.

I have many things to be thankful for on this Birthday, good health, good teeth, my dentist told me this week that for a man my age having all my teeth is remarkable. It seems that like 300 years ago most people in their fifties today have lost a large amount of teeth or are looking at dentures.

We have a nice home, friends, our dogs and each other. We still travel a lot, I have taken in my lifetime more trips to exotic, strange and foreign lands than anyone I know. I have seen 45% of the planet and have lived in many countries for extended part of my life. Going abroad for a few days does not appear on my chart. I have studied and learned foreign languages. I understand quite a few others and am not lost or put off by foreign cultures or mores when I travel.

I now work as a volunteer in two National Museums in Ottawa and I enjoy it immensely. Spending easily upwards of 50 hours a month doing volunteer work, it is like a second career and it is fun, something I always wanted to do and can now do. Not a bad life Maggie Muggins.

Here are some pictures of little me through the ages.

In Ville Saint-Laurent in our backyard in the little pool, I am about 5 yrs old with my little brother.

My first morning going to school, grade 1, on my own in Quebec City

On the train in Poland going from Warsaw to Krakow, 1998.

Italian Cooking School near Rome 2009

In Rome in 2013 at dinner at our friends house

With our Reesie in Rome in 2008 our first apartment on Via Asmara

 In Assisi in 2010
At dinner in Salzburg at the Sketch Bar, Hotel Bristol

With Nicky in Rome on Via dei Villini

On the old Via Latina, with one of the many old aqueducts, Rome

At the monastery of Pedralbes in Barcelona
 At Cap Sounion near Athens at sun down 2010

In the Silk Merchant Guild Hall in Valencia, Spain

Breakfast Italian style at the Hotel in Ragusa Ibla, Sicily  

On the Island of Capri

At the Festival in Salzburg the Karl Bohm Hall 

Infamous photo abroad the Azamara where I was mistaken for Karl Lagerfeld 

Café Bazar, Salzburg, my favourite café at Festival time.

The little wood house in which Mozart wrote his music, beautifully preserved in the garden of the Mozarteum in Salzburg

This for me is the most beautiful fountain in Rome, the Turtles fountain in the area of the Portico Ottavia and the old Ghetto

With Professor A. Testa on Easter Sunday in Rome 2010 

On Via Appia looking for Spartacus 

On board Air Transat going to Italy, a good airline 

Friday, 21 March 2014

Festa di San Giuseppe 21 marzo

Today is St-Joseph's day in Italy or Father's Day.

Beautiful pastries and doughnuts stuffed with cream or jelly.

Incredible array of pastries and sweet wine, not to forget the stuffed doughnuts.

Buona Festa! Auguri!

Let's not forget it is also Johann S. Bach's birthday today 21 March 1685, what would we do without all his beautiful music.
He died and is buried in Leipzig in the St-Thomas Church where he worked most of his life in 1750.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Kolonnade am Neuen Palais

I started going to Berlin around 1997, it was a time when the whole city was under a major transformation effort. Berliners had lived in a strange suspended atmosphere since August 1961 when the Berlin wall went up and very effectively divided the City in two, isolating the Western part within the greater East German State. The Old East side of the City was left untouched by the Communist as a monument to war and the new Socialist model city was built on the Eastern side of the Spree River. On the Western side there was renovation and reconstruction but it was a siege mentality, no one knew how long it would go on. Well, the wall fell in November 1989 and life in Berlin and Germany changed for ever.

With Reunification in 1990 the re-established Capital of Berlin and it's City Government decided that a new philosophy was required to give Berlin a boost. Politicians decided that Berlin should return to its roots and this could be achieve by putting the emphasis on the Spirit of the Age of Enlightenment.
Promoting Germany's great philosophers, musicians, poets, artists and academics, it was said that the Nazi Dictatorship which lasted 12 years could not and should not be the only thing that defined Berlin or Germany.

Potsdam as a suburb of Berlin just a few minutes away by public transport was also greatly disfigured by the second world war and then fell into a somewhat sleepy state for many decades of negligence by the Communist authorities. Potsdam was the Residence of the Kings of Prussia and then the German Emperors. It is said it was a garrison town, yes in a way it was, however having the Court living in the City made for a centre of art and culture. The King would travel to the City Palace in Berlin for important State functions otherwise would simply live and work from the Potsdam City Palace or in one of the many other palaces in Potsdam, like the Neues Palais (New Palace) located in the great Royal Park where the famous Sans Souci Palace of Frederic II the Great is also located.

Neues Palais c.1763, Royal Park Potsdam

Berlin in the 1990's was a beehive of activity, still is, everything on the Eastern side of the City where most of the marvellous Baroque Architecture was located was in need of re-building. The infamous wall had to be removed completely to the point that it is difficult nowadays to say where it was. The Reichstag was re-built by the famous English Architect Norman Foster in 2000 to serve as the new Parliament of the re-united Germany.

The old Reichstag now the German Bundestag

At the same time all the museums on the museum Island on the Spree in the heart of the Capital were re-built or restored as well the high Italian Renaissance style Lutheran Cathedral and the Roman Pantheon like Catholic Cathedral St-Hedwige. Many other buildings throughout the city and monuments like the famous Brandenburg Gate were also restored in it's XVIII century style.
This of course included the necessary and expensive work of infrastructure and railways to be modernized. Postdamer Platz and Liepziger Platz where the Canadian Embassy is now located were totally rebuilt given that this was where Hitler had his Chancellery and then the Wall crossed the area, it was nothing but empty expanses for decades after 1945.

 Leipziger Platz, Berlin, newly rebuilt

So I decided while visiting Berlin in 1999 to visit Potsdam. Easy enough to do since it is a suburb, though a separate city and the seat of the Parliament of the Land of Brandenburg.
Potsdam being the Residence of the Hohenzollern dynasty has many palaces, parks and magnificent villas in the Italianate style. Though on my first visit what I really wanted to see was the palace of Frederick II, Sans Souci where he entertained his friends like Voltaire, musicians like J.S. Bach and others.
I remember walking from the train station across the Havel river and up the street to the Royal Park. Potsdam is an old city so it is very walkable and the distances are not great. So I first visited Sans Souci which is a gem of the baroque age. Built on the specification of Frederick II it was his hermitage, a place where no one came unless specifically invited, his grenadier guards would keep others at bay. A small palace more like a large mansion decorated in the colours and taste of Frederick, his wife was never invited to come here, she lived in the Charlottenburg Palace in Berlin.

Frederick was re-buried as was his wish in the garden of his palace beside his Italian hounds in 1991.

I then walked in the park the 2 Km distance to the Neues Palais built by Frederick after the Seven Year War. The vast park is dotted with Chinoiserie like the Tea House and Palaces like the Orangerie and the Marble Palace, there is also the Antique Temple which at the time was a museum for the coin collection of Frederick but became a mausoleum to the Hohenzollern family around 1850. The Neues Palais was built for Official functions and for Frederick's family to live in when they came to Potsdam or attended Court. This way no one came to Sans Souci and could be barred from approaching again by his faithful Grenadier. 

What surprised me at the Neues Palais was how small the rooms used by Frederick or his brothers were. They are very utilitarian, a bedroom is also your dressing room and a room to have a meal in.
A second room is for your aide de camp to sleep and work in and for receiving visitors. All the other great State rooms where for Official functions and opened only on such occasion so to save on heating and lighting cost. Frederick was a Calvinist after all. Sans Souci on the other hand was to live in so he had many more rooms and privacy. Though guests were made to sleep in town at a Tavern or some house put at their disposal.

When I visited Potsdam much of the renovations we see today like the restored Canals and rebuilt Palaces and other monuments was just getting under way. Much was in the planning phase such as the re-building of the City Palace in front of the St-Nicholas Church.

In front of the Neues Palais is a large courtyard for military reviews and parades on the other side of which is a Colonnade in late baroque style c.1767. It was in a terrible ruined state, victim of the weather, neglect and bombing during the Second World War. Originally this colonnade and buildings was used  to house the servants and staff of the Palace. Today it is one of the four campuses of the University of Potsdam.

The renovations have just been completed at a cost of 2.5 million Euros. I was impressed with this restoration work given the dilapidated state of this colonnade after 60 years of neglect and damage by war. It is basically plaster, stone and masonry work and needs to be regularly maintained to keep its pristine appearance. Here in Canada we do not maintain anything, usually we simply demolish and put in a parking lot or some terrible modern structure. Recently I read that the City of Ottawa had given the green light to the demolition of no.7 Clarence street in the old By Ward market. The building is simple and small, it is made of leftover stones which were used for the construction of the Rideau Canal. There was so much cut stone left over that the Government simply sold it to whoever wanted it for a low sum of money. This is why in the entire Ottawa Valley every building has a grey stone facade on Main street and many public buildings of the period c. 1830 are of stone.

The National Capital Commission and its architects said that the building had come to the end of its life and should be demolished. They proposed instead a what was described as a ''sensitively designed  modern building for the 21th century''. It's a glass box with steel here and there, it simply does not fit with any of the other buildings in the market area. The City Committee refused the design saying it was not acceptable for the historic district. I wrote a Letter to the Editor of the Ottawa Citizen to present the point of view that if in Europe buildings can be saved and restored why can we not do the same thing. The letter was very popular and well received, the NCC wanted to know who I was and looked my profile up on Linked In.

No. 7 Clarence will be demolished unfortunately because of the mediocrity which permeates all levels of government and the NCC nowadays. Lack of vision and no imagination, preferring to do whatever the developers want. Hopefully the design proposed by the NCC will not be as offensive as the first draft.

Colonnade opposite the New Palace in Potsdam c. 1920. It was built in 1767.

In 1997 prior to any restoration work, the damage of time can be seen clearly.

 There are 65 sculptures on the colonnade and many were either missing or damaged. They had to be replaced and artisans sculpted new ones identical to the old ones.

 one of the corner pavillon of the colonnade being restored in 2012

Central arch of the colonnade prior to restoration looking across at the New Palace

Monday, 17 March 2014

Who loves a parade?

In the Courtyard of the Royal Palace in Madrid, the guards play the National Anthem.
The King is in Residence on that given day.

We have similar parades in Ottawa with the Governor General's Guards on parade every morning
at 10am in the summer time.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Justin Trudeau our next Prime Minister

Well the campaign is on in Canada, all parties have started to speak to the electorate and this despite the fact that the election is still not before the Fall of 2015 at the very latest. However it could happen sooner, as soon as October 2014.

Who knows, will PM Harper who is immensely unpopular hang on? All the polls are against him and there is nothing positive about his government and this despite all the spin and the millions of tax dollars he spends to prop himself up.

Canada needs a change and in a big way, governing with grand gestures to attract the ethnic vote is not the way to go. Having enemy list including Veterans, the elderly, the poor, the Public Service, ecologists, the Natives and anyone  who disagrees with Harper makes for a far too long a list.

Here are some recent pictures of Justin Trudeau, Liberal Party Leader and son of Pierre Elliott T. one of our most famous Prime Minister, Justin is now a major contender or the only contender it seems for the top job.

 At the recent Liberal Convention in Montreal with a large video screen behind him of his wife Sophie Grégoire who was pregnant with Hadrien born just a few days later, and their 2 other children Ella-Grace and Xavier.

Justin also boxes and here he is in training 

With Hope and Hard Word we can make a change!

Monday, 10 March 2014


Had a busy Monday today. Love to listen to Ravel, such wonderful music for a tired soul.

Angela Hewitt is an Ottawa native and a great world talent, such a pleasure to hear her play such wonderful Ravel music.

Pavane pour une Infante défunte by Maurice Ravel with Russian Pianist Elena Kushnerova.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Systemic ( endemic, pandemic) power politics, who controls what

Last week I was dismayed to hear of 2 reports from my old Alma Mater, the University of Ottawa on a matter relating to a chatline described as sexually aggressive speech and another one a few days later to allegations that some weeks ago the Male Hockey team had been involved (it is alleged) in a gang rape of one unnamed female student at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay after a game with the other Varsity Team. The Ottawa U team was staying outside town and this is where the alleged incident is said to have occurred. Upon learning of the incident from an anonymous source and then from the Police, the Rector of Ottawa U. suspended the entire team for the time being. Though no one appears to know exactly what happened and who was involved, police investigation is on-going.
The CBC sent reporters to Lakehead U. no one had heard about the alleged rape by the Ottawa U. team.

The first incident of a private conversation on a social chat line involving 4 male members of the Student Federation of Ottawa U. all in various positions on the board where they discussed in graphic details having sex with the Student Federation President Ms. Roy. She became aware of this private conversation because someone anonymously sent her copy of the conversation. She then published the graphic conversation twice on FB to shame her male colleagues. They apologized to her, some resigned their position on the Student Federation Board but two refused and made threats of legal action against her for publishing what was essentially a private conversation which was leaked to her by a source.

Now all the parties involved are young adults, 18-25 years of age. The media became aware of the incident and it was widely reported on radio and television news. Ms.Roy spoke to the media and made a statement along the lines that the University had a systemic rape culture, in other words the Campus which is across the canal from where I live is not safe for any women, it is a inner-city neighbourhood campus.

This attracted even more attention, the media correctly pointed out that several universities in Canada have problems with drugs, alcohol, vandalism and violence, usually during the first weeks of a new semester around August-September, loud parties and raucous behaviour, people living in the Sandy Hill neighbourhood can attest to that. At this point the University felt it had to say something about what was going on, trying to reassure that procedures and policies were in place to ensure the safety of all on campus and especially women student. The University of Ottawa like most Canadian Universities has a larger proportion of women student than male student, this is a growing trend in Canada, it appears that males simply are no longer interested in higher learning, many drop-out before high school graduation. There are many reasons for this situation in our society which in the long run will have a very negative impact on society at large. Social-Engineering as it is practice currently in our society is never a good thing because humans in general are so unpredictable.

The University administration remained above the fray, there are difficult relations between the Student Federation its members and University administration, this is reflected in the hectoring and confrontational tone of the Student Newspaper on Campus towards teachers, administrators anyone in authority.

Then a second incident involving the Varsity Hockey Team became news. The Rector Alan Rock announced immediately the suspension of the Varsity Male Hockey team and then called a press conference with the Chancellor of the University the Right Honourable Michaele Jean, former Commander in Chief and Governor General of Canada. The team suspension announcement was made without any knowledge of who if anyone is involved. The knee jerk mentality of let's punish everyone pro-actively than do nothing for the sake of image.

Rock explained that he was setting up a committee to study the problem of sexual violence against women on Campus and that the committee would present suggestions and proposals in 6 months to deal with this question. He repeated that the University has a good security system and a program to accompany female students on campus if they so wish, the campus is well lighted and surveillance cameras are everywhere, so is Campus Police Unit.

He also announced that in the meantime the male students who had the private conversation on a chatline about Ms. Roy had all resigned from the Student Federation and dropped any threat of legal action against her. No further action would be taken against them, since the conversation involved adults, had not taken place on Campus and it was private and on personal computer equipment belonging to the male students involved.  Needless to say I do not think any of the 4 students involve will remain at Ottawa U now that their identity has been revealed, everyone on Campus knows who they are and have now been stigmatize. Feminism score one male zero.

As for the second incident it is still sketchy and the police are still gathering information. It was not clear if they had spoken with the victim yet the incident had taken place a month ago.

The Chancellor Ms. Jean then spoke and she launched into a speech about systemic violence against women on Campus and in our society at large, in the board rooms and in all level of our society. The media just lapped it up, words like systemic make for good copy. It simply re-enforces the stereotypes that all men are dangerous rapists and must be controlled. I found her speech totally un-helpful and frankly un-balanced and full of histrionics about changing the world, attitudes, etc. What was interesting also is who was at the Press conference, the room was full of women all nodding to every word of the Chancellor. There were a handful of men mostly reporters. Who sent out the invitation to this event and what was the image the University was trying to convey.

These two incidents are sad and disturbing and the treatment it received under the cover of the ever elusive Equity debate.  What is also interesting is the amount of anonymous persons who leaked information. In the first incident, someone unknown sent the text of the private conversation to Ms. Roy. Why, for what purpose? Is there an agenda here? Why did Ms. Roy not bring the matter to the attention of the University Security and Administration in the first place? Why did she try to resolve it herself by publishing the contents twice. Could it be that there is a lot of tension and power politics at the U of O Student Federation?  Also being a University Campus full of young adults there is a lot of irresponsible and immature (childish) behaviour. Many young adults are on their own for the very first time in their lives, away from Mom and Dad's supervision, full of the arrogance of youth and pretty naive in general.

It was childish and silly, straight jocks talk, pretty adolescent behaviour, it was also a private conversation and did not lead anywhere. Such talk probably takes place fairly frequently in male circles. However what was implied in the various comments coming from the University and Ms.Roy was that such behaviour should be stamped out and not tolerated, typical PC thinking which is all to frequent in our society. Hopefully the University will not be so foolish as to try to control thoughts to conform to PC standards, though it might in the wording of message it sends out. What the Rector and the Chancellor and many others do not seem to acknowledge, though they must know it, you simply cannot legislate, nor control the way people think nor can you change attitudes or the world.
No committee can bring about this change, we live in a very imperfect world.

As for the other incident involving the Varsity Hockey Team, so little is known, most of it at this time is innuendos, based on another anonymous tip and what one coach said he heard. Hopefully the police will be able to get to the bottom of this matter quickly and find out who the culprits are.

Again the Rector in speaking of this incident said that the image of a University is to foster higher learning and is a place to teach important values to students we want to see in our society. A bit late really when we are speaking of young adults their formative years are behind them at this point and if they have not learned from their parents and family at home values like respect towards others by the time they are 19, it is really too late now.  A comment was made that young male athletes in competitive sports are usually aggressive and that comes from the mentality fostered in the male sporting world. Well yes, as anyone read the Sun Newspaper lately or listened to Don Cherry on Hockey Night in Canada. Young male athletes are admired by their peers for their proficiency, this is very empowering and dangerous, it goes to their head, inflates egos and should be curbed. Again we return to the Feminist speech of men are bad and need correction, very political B&D speech.

The University and the Student Federation would do well to drop language and words like systemic which are meaningless histrionics to attract media attention. A systemic culture of rape on Canadian University campus has not been demonstrated and there is no factual proof that all women are at risk, all the time in a systemic fashion while attending university or in the workplace.

Teaching the value of respect towards others would be more valuable than some committee looking for solution to a non-existent systemic problem.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Blog almost demised

I was told some days ago that my blog might have been hacked or highjacked by some kind of device. I was unaware of anything wrong but I did ask people to try to access by blog from other devices and sure enough they were re-directed to a commercial site and then to some video on Youtube. It turned out that the clock device on my front page was the culprit, apparently of some Russian device. So I asked Mr. W to help me with this and he quickly discovered that it was that clock device, we deleted it and everything went back to normal.

I was considering shutting down my blog or erasing it, luckily that was not necessary, after all the work I put into it.

This weekend we go on Summer time and spring the clocks one hour. That is always a good thing.

From 1968 for those of you who remember.

Thursday, 6 March 2014


I do not know what the word Meme means but the concept is fun nonetheless.

1. Which class was the hardest in high school?
I really don't remember maybe Gym which I found boring beyond belief.
2. Which is harder - house work or yard work?
Well the staff seem to work fairly hard and they are so pleasant.
3. Which is the hardest household chore?
It is not really a chore but I would say making cocktails in the afternoon, you have to get the right mix.
4. Which is harder, eating right or exercising?
I always eat right have done so all my life. Exercising no I do it when I feel like it.
5. Which is harder, waking up early or staying up late?
Who wakes up early, crack of noon is early for me. Staying up late not a problem.

6. Do you have a hard time deciding what to wear?
Rarely. I decide what I will wear based on where I am going and who I am meeting.
7. Which is harder, your ass or your abs? Which would you rather?
Sorry do not understand that question, is that important?
8. It is harder to wade slowly into a body of water or to just jump in?
Try regulating the water temperature first and you will have no problems. It is more difficult to remember what the right temperature should be for a gentleman's bath or shower.

9. How hard is it for you to make decisions?
Not hard at all. I know what I want and get it.
10. What's the hardest decision you ever had to make?
Saying goodbye to our dogs, when old age and disease overtake them, you have to make a decision and that is very difficult but you have to be brave for the sake of your companion.

Prince Eugène de Savoy,

Carciofi alla romana - cleaning and cooking artichokes

It's artichoke season right now and it is wonderful to enjoy this vegetable. Makes a great starter or main course. This recipe by Elizabeth is the classic and it is easy to enjoy.

Elizabeth Minchilli in Rome: carciofi alla romana - cleaning and cooking artich...

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Crimea, Ukraine, Russia, then what?

During the Sochi Winter Olympics we were told by numerous officials that this was the symbol of the New Russia, post-USSR, modern dynamic etc... What we were really seeing was a bunch of modern buildings and infrastructure. Mentalities had not changed one Iota. Remember the Beijing Summer Olympics a few years ago. Well I was posted the that Communist Paradise from 2004-2007 and I saw how you can transform a city like Beijing by State Decree to impress the world with shiny new buildings and infrastructure this does not mean that attitude and government policy or general culture has changed. You can install new drapes and paint walls, you still have a derelict house.

Just a few days after the end of the Olympics it now seems we are back in the old Russia. President V. Putin decided that given event in the Ukraine he had to protect Russia's National Interests. Now Putin is playing to a National audience, his home base want a strong eternal Russia, the Mother Russia of Peter the Great or Ivan the terrible, it wants its Icons of its old past.

Putin has strong and influential supporters, the Orthodox Church in Moscow who wishes to control the Orthodox Church in the Ukraine, H.I.H Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, pretender to the Romanov throne and would be Tsarina and her son HIH Crown Prince George, Tsarevitch and Prince of Prussia, they are allied with the Church and can claim many monarchist who dream of a return to Imperial times, the Russian business elite who has grown rich with Putin, the Russian armed forces who feel they are regaining their old strength and part of the Russia people who are xenophobic and respond well to anti-Western propaganda.

Today the Communist Party of China and the President of the People's Republic of China came down on the side of Putin and Russia. This is why China was so quiet since the operation Crimea started. The Ukrainian Puppet and Moscow's man, President in exile Victor Ianoukovitch who is just over the border is also supporting all of Russia's moves. All his moves and words are stage manage by handlers in Moscow. Ianoukovitch is largely irrelevant now but useful nonetheless.

Why would Russia decide to occupy the Crimea? Well history should be our guide, first the city of Sebastopol where the Russian Navy is anchored was the creation of Tsarina Catherine II the Great in 1783. Before her Tsar Peter the Great at fought with much vigour the Ottoman Turks to get free access to the Black Sea. Historically the Crimea is part of the mythical greatness of Imperial Russia.
Of course the native people of the Crimea where the Tatars who lived under the Ottoman Turk rule until 1782 when Turkey lost the war against Imperial Russia and gave up the Crimea to Russia. Many Muslim Tatar fled to other parts of the Ottoman Empire, the Crimea was then populated with Russians, Ruthènes (Ukrainians) Moldaves and Germans.

Many Russian and Soviet leaders came from the Ukraine, Christianity entered Russian through Kiev 1000 years ago, the Kievian-Rus links go back centuries and have nothing to do with what Vladimir Putin wishes, he is simply using history as a guide.

There is also the question of the Ukraine of today compared to the Ukraine of 1946, the whole Western part was Poland, cities like Lviv were Polish not Ukrainian.  All this to say that the picture is a very confused one and not a simple black and white issue.

In 1954 under the rule of Nikita Krouchtchev, Crimea was given to the Socialist Republic of Ukraine.
A personal gift of the Secretary of the Communist Party to his adopted homeland Ukraine.

What is now emerging of this situation is that Russia had a very well prepared strategy to take over Crimea. A given sets of circumstances would trigger the deployment of Russian troops. While the world was looking at various events in and around Russia, Putin had given orders to prepare for this eventuality, supporting the then President and marginalized the Opposition groups. That NATO, the EU and the USA failed to see what was happening is not credible, they most probably knew but thought that it would probably not happen. It is now known and the US Congress is investigating, that the CIA had reported numerous times of the very real possibility of Russia taking over Crimea. But in an inter-governmental agency dispute the State Department ignored the reports and did not pass them along.

So we are presented with a fait accompli, the Russians have taken over Crimea, NATO has done very little despite the meetings and posturing. A resolution was passed by member countries. NATO could have asked Turkey a member State to close the Bosphorus to prevent Russian Navy ships to travel up to the Black Sea but it did not. The EU and Britain are not in favour of any economic sanctions, remembering that gas and other trade investments come from Russia. Germany and France prefer dialogue, the UK has done nothing to freeze assets so as not to anger President Putin. Everyone seems to be looking out for their economic interests.

The USA cannot do much either despite threats which are largely empty. Canada has huffed and puffed because our PM Harper is big on grand gesture always with an eye for the easy vote, in this case the Canadian-Ukrainian community in Saskatchewan. Our Foreign Minister Rusty Baird has made silly remarks about the Sudetenland and 1939 making a show of his ignorance and puffery.
Trade between Russia and Canada has increased from $1.5 billion a year to $4.5 billion in the last 3 years, a detail that seems to elude our PM and the Government. It would appear that Canada is not much interested in trade and more so in grand empty statements. It is well known that Putin has a profound dislike for Harper.

As for war, the media has gone on and on about it, really war with Russia? Is anyone serious? There is no chance of war between the USA and Russia, first because the public in the USA is not interested in Crimea or Ukraine after the adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. But more importantly war between the 2 powers would mean a nuclear war or the end of the world. NATO has been careful not to mention war and the wording of its declaration has been more of denunciation than anything else.
The EU even Poland which borders Russia is not talking war, sanctions maybe.

No politician cares much for this situation because Ukraine is a bankrupt country with multiple socio- economic problems, Russia remains the main important trade partner. What EU politicians are carefully doing is a ballet, giving one message to the masses in their respective countries to respond to their concerns over Human rights etc... but on the other hand carefully manage the fall-out with Russia to protect economic interests.

President Putin knows that the West is not going to do much beyond talking, he has carefully assessed past situations. He knows that he is still required to provide support to the EU and USA for the situation in Syria and Iran. So it is important not to alienate him otherwise those situations could drag on and become more complex than they are now. Just on the question of Iran, PM Netanyahu of Israël was making noises today while the world is busy with the crisis in Crimea.

The public also knows little about the new Government in Ukraine, though the various EU governments and politicians know probably more. There are some extreme elements in the group and some discredited Ukrainian politicians like Ioulia Timoshenko who was released from jail a few days ago, she certainly is not a unifying voice in Ukraine.

Will we discover later that the Ukrainian opposition are not partners with whom we wish to engage politically? Is Putin right in describing them as ultra-Nationalist and Fascists? His pronouncement are based on local history and how history is viewed and understood there. We cannot fall in the trap of deciding that Putin and Russia is wrong and all they say is merely propaganda to be dismissed. We too are often played for fools by our own politicians and media outlets.

Latest story today was that the EU was ready to concede the annexation of Crimea to Russia simply to buy peace and get guarantees that Putin will not try to annex the Eastern part of Ukraine. Stay tuned to see where this situation will go nowhere. Other developments reported by the magazine FP
mentions a private conversation between Catherine Ashton, EU Foreign Minister and Urmas Praet Estonia's Foreign Minister, they spoke on the phone and it was revealed that the sniper in Kiev who was responsible for most deaths is believed to be on the pay of the Opposition now in power.
Baroness Ashton was surprised to learn this from Urmas Praet who informed her that the Opposition now forming the new Government does not want the matter of the sniper to be investigated. Baroness Ashton simply said, neither do we. Could Putin be right, Kiev has been taken over by ultra-Nationalists and other extreme right groups but in the continuous East-West dispute we refuse to believe a word he is saying.

I want to offer my own solution to this crisis, since a lot of the power of the Russian Government stands at the moment on Oil and Gas and the enormous revenue it gives Russia, why not weaken Putin by attacking Oil and Gas revenues. Canada has lots of oil and gas and nowhere to send it. Why not offer energy contracts to the EU as a safe and reliable supplier.  It could be shipped directly from Canada's East Coast to Europe, no need for the Keystone XL Pipeline which is dead in the water at this time.

Canada by becoming the supplier of energy to Europe could help make Putin feel insecure. The Russian threat to cut-off shipments of oil and gas to Europe would vanish. A potential energy weapon which would force Putin to be far more agreeable once he has less money coming into his coffers.
It would enhance Canadian trade and increase our world profile.