Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Rose Guardian progress

Finally back in the writer's chair after long weeks away. Have been searching for a work-around to the problem created by this frustrating D-Link router which won't let me access the main computer from the laptop.

So why not work from the office on the weekends? Well, cause the office is on the third floor, I'm arthritic, and want to be in the thick of what goes on in the house during the weekend, and don't want the temptation of doing work for the publishing house instead of writing.

Then, voila, lightning struck my brain! Doh! Why not use DropBox for The Rose Guardian files (thanks to J.W.Schnarr for this oblique epiphany) and access them remotely from the laptop on the main floor. Brilliant.

Did I say how much I love DropBox?

Was able to work in my favourite channel back chair in the dining-room. Bashed out nearly 1200 words of solid story. Very happy with that. And very much look forward to another wee go round after I put together green pea soup, and set rice pudding to baking.

So, months of cogitating have helped. DropBox has helped. Feeling very confidant this novel which has been in the works some three years now will finally come to fulfilment by end of February. Then my first reader will review and I'll set to a revision. Should have the revision to Robert Runte by fall I expect. Depending on his schedule, I may have a novel ready for publication by spring of 2015.

Anyone who thinks writing is easy is just plain insane.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Slow-roasted pork shoulder roast, and more

It's Sunday. A kitchen therapy day. I had a pork shoulder roast in the freezer, bone in, saddle attached, and thought I'd experiment with a fusion of eastern fragrances and tastes in a slow-roasted environment.
pork shoulder roast

The ingredients.

  • olive oil
  • bulb of whole fennel, stalks included, washed and sliced thickly
  • red pepper, washed, seeded and cut into chunks
  • whole bulb of garlic, peeled and minced; or frozen, pureed garlic scapes, about 2 tbsp.
  • whole onion peeled and cut into chunks
  • zest of one lemon
  • lemon, rind cut away, and fruit cut into chunks
  • a tart apple, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
  • 2" ginger root, peeled and minced
  • 2 long peppers cracked (if you don't have access to long pepper, you can use cinnamon or grains of paradise, about 2 teaspoons)
  • large red chilli, finely minced
  • 2 tsps sea salt
  • 5-7 pound pork shoulder roast, bone in, saddle attached.

fennel bulbs

Preheat oven to 200F. Liberally coat a medium roasting pan with olive oil. Toss in prepared fruit, vegetables and seasonings, drizzle with a little more olive oil, and combine to evenly distribute flavour base. Make a hollow in the mix for the pork.

fresh garlic scapes

Score the saddle of the roast with a sharp knife, cutting through almost to the flesh. Place roast saddle side up in the hollow off the flavour base in the pan. Cover with foil.

long pepper

Roast for about five to six hours at 200F. When roast is nearly falling off the bone, turn heat up to 400F. Remove foil for last 30-60 minutes to allow the saddle to crisp.
grains of paradise

Serve over steamed brown rice and mushroom pilaf with a green salad.

Serves six to eight.

Leftovers can be made into a wonderful, fragrant soup with the following ingredients:

  • bone of shoulder roast
  • water
  • olive oil
  • large onion peeled, and finely minced
  • leftover pork roast and vegetable/fruit mix
  • 2 cups shredded greens like bok choy, romaine, spinach, kale, or chinese cabbage. You could also use bean sprouts
  • 2 litres of chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup soya sauce
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce (optional)

In a large, heavy soup kettle pour enough cold water to cover the bone of the shoulder roast. Cover and place on high heat until water comes to a boil. Reduce heat to minimum and simmer for about 60-90 minutes.

bok choy

Remove from heat. Strain stock. Remove what meat you can from the bone and add to stock. Discard bone.

various fish sauce brands

Return pot to stove. Add enough olive oil to sautee the prepared onion, and cook until colour begins to develop. Add prepared greens, leftover pork and vegetable/fruit mix; stir and cook for about 5 minutes. Add stock from bone and about an additional 2 litres of chicken or vegetable stock, the soya and fish sauce. If you wish a spicier soup, add more chilli peppers.

Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Simmer for about 5 minutes.

Serves 6-8.
Freezes well.

Friday, November 15, 2013

What were the jurors of the GG thinking?

I do have to wonder sometimes about the artistic and literary pundits of this country we call Canada and home. While I completely recognize the subjectivity of art and its appreciation, the jurors of this year's Governor General's Award I cannot help but feel have collectively been dropped on their heads, or have slick palms, or fail to recognize citizenship, or just plain didn't read all the books on the short-list, or the biographies of the authors whose works were short-listed. Truly, something is amiss here.

What first strikes me as incomprehensible is the awarding of one of Canada's most prestigious literary awards to a writer who has been a Canadian for all of six years of her life. Eleanor Catton, author of what I consider to be an abysmally pretentious bit of fiction (The Luminaries), it would seem, has been deemed a beloved daughter of Canada, and her work pre-eminent. My review of her novel is here.

Eleanor Catton

The decision of this year's GG jurors is simply incomprehensible when the list of the other nominees is considered, most especially Joseph Boyden and his novel, The Orenda. Why it is Boyden's novel should have been overlooked is mystifying. Artistically considered it is a superior work, in my opinion. Culturally it is a scintillating lens on Canadian history and concerns, written by a man who is quintessentially Canadian.

Boyden was born in Willowdale, Ontario, educated in Canada, has lived most of his life in Canada, and now divides his time between Louisiana, United States, where he is a writer in residence, and northern Ontario. He writes Canadian stories, about Canadian people, primarily First Nations. My review of his novel, The Orenda, is here.

Joseph Boyden

So how did the GG jurors fail to recognize any of that?

For what it's worth, I urge all of you to give Catton's novel a pass, unless you like a little masochism. Instead, treat yourself to a truly Canadian writer, Joseph Boyden, and novel, The Orenda, that will illuminate, edify and linger hauntingly for years to come, and in this way support those who are entitled to call themselves Canadian.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Open complaint to College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario

I have filed the following complaint to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, and am making that complaint a matter of public record by posting it here on my blog.

NB: This post has been edited from the original letter, omitting names of the physicians.

re: --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


I first saw Dr. ------- October 7, 2013 as a new patient. Although very pleasant, from the outset it was clear Dr. ------- was determined to recommend not only outdated and ineffective practices regarding obesity, but cast into doubt the veracity of any of my statements.

The appointment was concluded, and I was told to book another for follow-up, which I did.

The second appointment took place on October 21. I was immediately informed this appointment was to be a complete physical, with an array of blood and urine tests to follow, none of which I had consented to undergo. I refused the physical, and obtained prescriptions for rampipril 10mg, and atenol 50mg, prescribed by my former physician for hypertension.

I made a third appointment which took place November 8, at which time Dr. ------- terminated our doctor/patient relationship.

Areas of Concern

No understanding of, or sympathy with, the dynamics of chronic pain

I deal with chronic pain from both osteoarthritis and sciatica.

Around 2007 I was treated by Dr. ------------ in ------- for osteoarthritis and sciatica, which resulted in long-term prescription of Tylenol 3, 30mg, to be taken as required, not to exceed six tablets/day. I usually only took 2 tablets before bed in order to dampen the pain enough and allow me to fall asleep.

In 2009, I was treated by Dr. ------------- for osteoarthritis, with the end result he prescribed 375mg naproxen twice daily in order to better address arthritis pain, with full knowledge of my hypertension and medication history. The result of that treatment resulted in a dramatic improvement in my quality of life.
I continued to take T3s when necessary at night, as Naproxen does not address nerve pain.

Upon my first visit with Dr. -------, he immediately told me to discontinue use of Naproxen because it can elevate blood pressure. I asked how I was to deal with the pain of arthritis, and he had no answer, and instead discussed obesity. I subsequently refused to discontinue use of naproxen, knowing without it my daily mobility and function is greatly impacted.

My third visit to Dr. -------was to refill my prescription for T3s, and to give him a copy of the medical report I’d received from Dr. ------------- regarding his diagnosis and treatment for my arthritis. At that time, I also gave Dr. -------a detailed chart of my daily food consumption, with daily blood pressure and pulse records, to prove his assertions of over-eating were erroneous, and that at home, in a stable, controlled environment, my blood pressure is within acceptable levels.

Dr. -------became quite incensed when he glanced at Dr. -------- report, and even further incensed when he read my daily record. When I then asked for a prescription renewal of T3s, he vehemently, even angrily, stated he would not prescribe narcotics. I asked how I was to manage sleep without pain relief. He stated I was already on naproxen. I pointed out naproxen addressed arthritis pain, but would not touch nerve pain from sciatica. It was then Dr. ------- tossed the reports back at me and stated our relationship is over.
It became clear to me that because I had refused to accept his path of treatment, and his dismissal of my chronic pain difficulties, that Dr. ------- would brook no questioning of his authority. A patient has a right to access an informed, understanding physician, without prejudice or bias. It is clear Dr. ------- is incapable of accepting a patient’s will, and is lacking in understanding in the area of treatment of chronic pain.

Adherence to outdated practices regarding obesity

During my first visit with Dr. -------, he naturally focused on the fact I am obese. Quite understandable. However, he immediately zeroed in on the highly questionable (and now under intense research and investigation) theory of thermodynamics, and made it clear he doubted my veracity when I asserted I do not over-eat, the fact I’m obese is not a matter of quality or quantity of food. I explained I have been either over-weight or obese all my life, that even on 600 calories a day and vigorous exercise I can still gain weight.
Because of his dismissal of my assertions, he then wished me to see a bariatric surgeon. I emphatically refused. He asked why, and I responded the research clearly indicates bariatric surgery is ineffective over the long term, quite outside of the enormous monetary consideration for treatment not covered by government health care, and often the equivalent in cost of a very expensive new vehicle. I was not prepared to mortgage my home for treatment clearly proven ineffective.

Dr. ------- then asked if I have difficulty sleeping, which I confirmed, adding pain was usually the reason. He ignored the latter and asked if I snored. I confirmed that from time to time I snore, especially when over-tired. He then asserted I snore because I’m obese, and he wished me to see a sleep therapist in order to address sleep apnea. He further asserted I’m obese because I snore (bit of circular thinking there), because if I wasn’t sleeping, I was eating. I made it clear I remained in bed and read when I couldn’t sleep, which he dismissed. Again, I refused to see a sleep therapist, because, quite frankly, by this time I suspected the snake oil was going to come out at any moment, you will please pardon the unprofessionalism of that statement.
I asked Dr. ------- if he had read any of the current research regarding obesity, in particular:
or if he’d read the fascinating research presented by Gary Taubes in: Good Calories, Bad Calories.

The answer to all of these was no. So, it was clear Dr. ------- was simply repeating outdated, ineffective, uninformed and sometimes dangerous medical practice, rather than pausing to consider the most recent research into this global problem.

Frankly, I’m weary beyond expression of doctors who simply will not listen to patients, who are not keeping current. And Dr. --------- dismissal of any of my statements was an expected and disappointing repeat.

No respect for patient’s wishes

After these three visits to Dr. -------, and his subsequent refusal to treat me, it is clear he will brook no disagreement with his authority, his opinion, or his theories. I am tired of being poked and prodded for tests which will come back negative. I am tired of doctors looking for diseases which I don’t have. I am tired of doctors looking at me like I’m a revenue generator. And I’m tired of doctors calling me a liar, albeit in very politic and polite terms.

It is clear Dr. -------is no exception from what has become the norm in the paradigm of medicine. When the Hippocratic oath was replaced with imperative of profit and business, patient care went out the window. I imagine if I had been like so many other patients, and particularly female patients, and simply accepted his statements as truths, never questioned, never bothered to research my own health and conditions, I would still be under his care. But I’m not. And despite the fact I am once again without a physician, there is a relief, also, that comes with knowing I won’t have to deal with someone so autocratic and ignorant.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Review: The Luminaries, by Eleanor Catton

The LuminariesThe Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I've often said art is subjective. The Luminaries, by Eleanor Catton, is certainly a prime example of that adage. Winner of the Booker Prize for 2013, lauded, praised, esteemed by critics and readers alike, I was prepared for this literary whodunnit to amaze and delight. Unfortunately, for me, I felt like the child in the Emperor's New Clothes fable, pointing at Catton's naked majesty while others apparently better informed praised their mighty leader for the beauty of her raiment.

So, then, what was it that failed to impress? Certainly the concept of carrying the plot through multiple characters with an unreliable narrator's voice is a known, respected and often brilliant literary device. Sequencing back and forth through time periods is also a respected and often brilliant literary device. Using astrological charts to preface every section of the novel was a touch of ingenuity, albeit one lost on a reader unfamiliar with the nuances and language of astrology. Including phrases of Cantonese and Maori is also laudable, were it not for the fact there was no contextual reference to give weight and meaning to the phrases so that they became nothing more than white noise.

The execution of many of these devices was, in my opinion, clumsily handled. The leaping around through time sequences often left me confused, in that there was rarely any linear progression to these sequences, so that one was unsure if we were in 1864, or 1857, or whenever.

The constant recapping of events ended up reading very much like a modern reality TV show, wherein we are told over and over again after each commercial break of disaster past or pending. For the first half of the novel we are endlessly regaled with this person's experience of a particular event and relationship to a particular background character, only to be followed by another chapter from a different person's perspective, and so on, and so forth for about twelve chapters. After about the third viewpoint I'm afraid I started to go a bit tharn, much like one of Richard Adam's unwitting bunnies.

Character development ended up feeling somewhat flat because of the cool distance of the voice of the unreliable narrator, and sometimes I had to wonder if Catton was in fact attempting to write farce instead of an historical mystery.

Catton chooses to open each chapter with a 19th century literary device by way of a synopsis of what is about to unfold, which is fine, up to a point, which I will reference later.

The denouement, which occurs somewhere around the two thirds mark, ended without resolution because although court sentence is passed upon villainous and guilty parties, we never really are given a complete resolution of the mystery, or what is to happen as a result, and instead the latter third of the novel again transports the reader to various, disparate points in the past.

And here we return again to the synopsis which prefaces each chapter, in that in those last chapter the synopses, which employ run-on sentences and breathless writing, end up becoming the narrative or story, with the actual events of the chapter little more than a few paragraphs of some almost irrelevant vignette. And these chapters hurtle on in a race, almost as if Catton wished done with the novel, to the point of being little more than drafts.

The last chapter is astonishing, with its verbose synopsis and sudden end of the novel through a declaration of one lover to another that she can hear the rain, something apparently extraordinary in New Zealand which has been portrayed as very wet, with near constant rain. One might better declare she can see the sun, that she is transported by the light, because certainly the novel failed any kind of transport of the imagination, and, instead, very much called to mind one reviewer's comment that The Luminaries was a big box full of nothing.

View all my reviews