Sunday, August 30, 2009

Day 242: The Math of Music

Day 242: The Math of Music, originally uploaded by susanvg.

In the 2009/365 photo group on Flickr, the theme for this month is mathematics. You may ask what the math is behind this image. If you look at the bottom two recorders, their relationship is 2:1 The length of the alto recorder is twice that of the sopranino. What is the musical relationship? They are exactly one octave apart. Similarly with the top two recorders, a soprano and a tenor, the length of the soprano is 1/2 of the tenor and it is one octave higher. If students were to look at this image, it would be good to think about why a smaller recorder plays at a higher pitch. Is this true about other instruments? Can the students make instruments to demonstrate this principle?

Music is full of mathematical ideas - the length of notes (whole notes, half notes, quarter notes...), the relationship of a time signature (2/4, 3/4, 6/8..), repeated patterns of notes and on and on. It's a great place to see real life applications of mathematics in all its beauty.

Day 241: Rainy Day

Day 241: Rainy Day, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Waking to the sound of rain.
An excuse to have a quiet day.
A short walk for groceries.
Wind blowing and the struggle to keep the umbrella from flipping up.
Five dollar umbrella - you get what you pay for.
Umbrellas drying after an outing.
Sleep and read.
A rainy day.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Day 240: Wood Trim

Day 240: Wood Trim, originally uploaded by susanvg.

I was driving in Ottawa to meet up with family for dinner when I spotted this house. Stopped at a light, I snatched my camera and took a picture. I like to live with clean lines and little in the way of frills and scallops. But I do enjoy looking at the architecture of another time.

It's interesting to me that for each of the arts, I pick and choose the eras that speak to me the most. I love to listen to and play baroque music, but find the architecture of that time too ornate. Baroque art, when based on religious themes, does not speak to me. I may appreciate the technique, but I am not moved. Yet Bach's cantatas reach into my core. I love art from the late 1800s and early 1900s - that period when artists went outdoors to try to capture the essence of nature, not just try to reproduce it exactly. I like some of the music from that time, but have little interest in more modern composers.

So as I photograph, I am often drawn to the architectural details of structures built in another era. Yet this is as an observer, I prefer to live in a building where my Danish furniture doesn't feel out of place.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Day 239: Old Tree

Day 239: Old Tree, originally uploaded by susanvg.

I passed this great old tree today. It has cavities, great homes for a variety of insects. Many of Montreal's streets are tree-lined with great big maples and ash as well as many other trees. Some trees were lost in the ice storm of 1998. Our latest threat is the emerald ash borer. It is not yet in Montreal, but is some 30 km away. There is an attempt to isolate it; let's hope this is possible.

Our world is getting smaller, with travel and the shipping of food across the world. Hitch-hiking along are insects, which settle in new areas where they have no predators. The devastation they can cause is enormous. We need our local insects, but this is one case where immigration is not welcome. How do we keep that balance in nature that existed long ago?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Day 238: Nasty Neighbours

Day 238: Nasty Neighbours, originally uploaded by susanvg.

I stepped out of my front door today and noticed this wasp's nest in a large bush at the front of my house. It must have been growing slowly; I am not sure why I did not notice it before. Fortunately it is away from my door. I do not want these nasty neighbours buzzing around the entryway. This will put a stop to my plan to trim the bushes which were obstructing part of my windows. I've been told this is not good as thieves have easier access without being spotted. Perhaps these stinging stormtroopers will be a deterrent to such activity.

Day 237: Break time

Day 237: Break time, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Back to rehearsals - this time for an upcoming concert in September. It is Flutissimo's tenth season and we have a special event planned. After two hours of playing we had a break. I like the feeling of working in a group towards a goal. It is satisfying when the director's comments are put into practise and the music comes to life.

Music is a connector - bringing people from all walks of life together for a common activity.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Day 236: Pollinating

Day 236: Pollinating, originally uploaded by susanvg.

My garden is a riot of colour. I love to see the bright hues; the more colours the better. The bees agree and are frequent guests, darting from flower to flower and feasting on the nectar. These yellow rudbekia spread each year, taking their place and more. I don't have the heart to cull them as their sun-drenched hue is such a happy colour.

Day 235: Sparkling Water

Day 235: Sparkling Water, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Here is one of my guilty pleasures - sparkling water. I remember the first time I tasted it. As a teenager, I went out to dinner with a friend whose father was Hungarian. In Europe, sparkling water was a common accompaniment to dinner (along with wine); in my house club soda was something you put in a mixed drink. The effervescent water was a surprise to me. Later, as an adult, I started to enjoy club soda, especially in hot weather. When my children were young, they, too developed a taste for it and drank it in fancy glasses when we had wine with dinner. It was dubbed tickle water.

Club soda was exchanged for mineral waters and S. Pellegrino has become a favourite, especially after a trip to France. When I asked for l'eau petillant, "San P?" the waitress asked. I know imported water (but it's not just water) is not politically correct (I recycle all those bottles). I nurse my glass like a fine wine. It is a great accompaniment to a meal!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Day 234: Mossy Temple

Day 234: Mossy Temple, originally uploaded by susanvg.

This moss covered temple sits on my patio. The very damp summer has provided a thick covering, like a fancy hat. When I moved into my house over two decades ago, the temple greeted me. The former owner had created a very zen space. I admit to not spending a lot of time sitting out back. Somehow, there are always things to do, the wasps are whizzing around or the weather is not conducive. But I enjoy looking out as I eat my meals.

The local squirrels enjoy perching on this temple to eat the horse chestnuts they snatch from my neighbour's tree. They leave the dropped shells as offerings to the temple gods.

Day 233: Barbequing

Day 233: Barbequing, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Summer is the time for the barbeque. The air conditioned house stays cool while the hot coals outside do the cooking. With the hot,humid air we have been having, it just seemed like the right thing to do. The cicada and cricket chorus serenaded us as our supper cooked.

We always start the fire with a chimney - a metal cylinder with air vents at the bottom in which we crumple up newspaper, followed by coals. Light the bottom and within a short period of time the coals are hot. Then we just lift the chimney and spread the coals. Years ago the local general store near our country place sold chimneys for about $5. A manufacturer fancied it up, added a handle and sells it for considerably more. Either way, it works beautifully without the addition of toxic firestarters.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Day 232: Train Bridge

Day 232: Train Bridge, originally uploaded by susanvg.

I have always liked this bridge, constructed to carry trains over the road. Built of stone and draped with greenery, it has character. Just down the street from this are concrete overpasses - sterile. They seem to need repairs more often than this venerable bridge. It was built in a time when labour was cheap and architecture was for the aesthetic as well as function.

Day 231: Teatime

IMG_4528, originally uploaded by susanvg.

A day feeling under the weather. I spent much of it sleeping and sipping on tea. My daughter provided the sympathy. Fortunately this was really a 24 hour illness so by evening I was already feeling much better.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Day 230: Small Chair

Day 230: Small Chair, originally uploaded by susanvg.

This chair sits very low to the ground. It is quite ingenious, coming apart to carry it easily. I originally got it to sit by the fire, but my spouse likes to sit in it to read. It is actually quite comfortable. I got it some years ago at Ten Thousand Villages, a store which only carries fair trade goods. But what a dilemma - to support fair trade (which usually comes from quite a distance) or to buy local. You can't win in the attempt to walk lightly on the earth.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Day 229: The Oratory

Day 229: The Oratory, originally uploaded by susanvg.

St. Joseph's Oratory dominates the skyline in the western part of Montreal. Montreal is a city of churches and this is its largest. The building went up because of Brother André. According to the website of the oratory, about two million people visit yearly. This helps defray the huge cost of maintaining a structure of this size.

The number of people in Montreal going to churches on a regular basis has diminished. A number of churches have found new uses - turned into condominiums, a dance performance space, a library. Others share their space as concert venues, community centres etc. Still others have been sold to other religious groups and are serving a different population. I am all for a more secular society, inclusive of all people. However, these buildings played a part in the architectural history and social history of our city. I wonder if we can preserve this heritage through finding even more uses that are inclusive, reflecting the more multi-cultural face of Montreal.

Day 228: Ottawa Greek Fest

Day 228: Ottawa Greek Fest, originally uploaded by susanvg.

We went to the Ottawa Greek Fest. Just as everyone is Irish on St. Patrick's Day, everyone is Greek at this festival. There were people from many nationalities enjoying the music, the food and the fun. This photo was taken during the Zorba Show, in which the men demonstrated their vigour with high kicks and the women showed off their fancy footwork. The music (provided by the band, Melodia, from Greece) is infective, causing everyone to move, whether tapping their feet, nodding their heads, clapping along or letting any part of their body move to the music. Young children would start to dance spontaneously. One woman, a 90 year old Romanian, was pointed out to the crowd. She is a regular and despite her age and her walker, she could not hold back, swaying to the music and dancing with great joy. When it was the turn of the public to dance, lines snaked along with people of all ages joining in; the younger participants danced energetically in the 30°C (86°F) heat, while the older dancers, moved more sedately.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Day 227: Variety

Day 227: Variety, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Anyone who follows my blog knows I spend time in a small town in rural Ontario. Casselman, with a population of about 3300, is part old town and part bedroom community for Ottawa. I think it is the latter that has had an influence on what is available in the supermarket. Many varieties of lettuce can be found, including radicchio and Chinese lettuce.

I remember, as a child, about the only lettuce available was iceberg. Now you rarely see it on the shelves. Green is in, in more ways than one.

Day 226: Freedom Writers

Day 226: Freedom Writers, originally uploaded by susanvg.

In June I had the privilege of hearing Erin Gruwell speak at the NECC conference in Washington DC. She moved the audience to tears with her story of teaching and impacting on the lives of her students. Since then I wanted to watch the movie based on her and her student's stories.

No TV in our Casselman residence, so we watched the DVD on my computer. Once again I was moved to tears. Visit the website of her foundation to find out more about her work and the achievements of her students. Through her teaching and through writing their stories, the students lifted themselves from dead-end situations to productive lives.

Story - so powerful, both in the reading and the writing. We never know how our writing and stories will resonate with others so that our words live on, transform and get transformed. And we never know how telling our stories may transform ourselves.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Day 225: Viola da Gamba

Day 225: Viola da Gamba, originally uploaded by susanvg.

An afternoon of music: Scarlatti, Telemann, Fasch, Handel... This viola da gamba was built from start to finish by my friend WB. The viola da gamba has gut strings and has a much more mellow sound than the cello. It must be so satisfying to play something you have built yourself. Before I got involved in Early Music, there were some workshops held in Montreal for people to build their own instruments. I looked on the internet and found a set of daunting instructions. At CAMMAC, the music camp I go to, I took some lessons on the viol (another name for the viola da gamba) but decided I was really not a string player. I'll stick to my recorders.

Day 224: Cow

Day 224: Cow, originally uploaded by susanvg.

In every kind of weather this cow lies in front of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Despite this being the centre of the city, she seems very much at home. She watches over Sherbrooke Street traffic and is often seen posing for a photograph with visitors. I love the fact that you can go up and touch and see her from any angle.

The sculpture was created by artist, Joe Fafard, from Saskatchewan. You can read more about him here.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Day 223: Scavenger

Day 223: Scavenger, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Lunch today outside at a lovely Greek restaurant. Towards the end of the meal this little bird came along and snatched some crumbs off the next table. A young girl then started putting out small pieces of bread. Soon the bird's friends came to join the feast. These birds were fairly skittish.

Last year I was sitting in a Paris cafe. The birds there sat right on the table and tried to take food right from your plate. They were obviously used to people and were pleased that more kept coming to order food for them.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Day 222: Skyline

Day 222: Skyline, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Most of the time I do not think of Montreal as an island. Many days pass when I do not even glimpse the river. Today I met with a colleague at her apartment on the south shore. Coming back I admired the view of downtown Montreal. I am often frustrated as I cross the Champlain Bridge that there is nowhere to stop and take a photograph. Today traffic slowed to a halt. I grabbed my camera and snapped this picture through the window before the cars ahead of me started to inch forward again.
Montreal Skyline...

Day 221: New Backpack

Day 221: New Backpack, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Back to work - I always feel the year starts sometime in August when the school year begins. I've always liked to start the year with something new. I remember the feeling of a pencil case full of newly sharpened pencils and a clean eraser, new pens and a ruler. Most of my work is done on computer now, so the case full of pencils doesn't have the same appeal. My old backpack was getting ragged. So I'm starting the "new year" with a brand new backpack, with padding for my laptop and many compartments (the more zippers to pull until I actually find what I'm looking for).
Now I feel ready to start focusing on all that is ahead.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Day 220: Unruly Garden

Day 220: Unruly Garden, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Despite my being away for a month, my garden thrived in this rainy summer. No need for watering (not that I do that unless in drought conditions), my perennials have proliferated, showing off their colours. Weeds, too, have taken hold and my assault on them has begun. It has been good to see bees enjoying the floral feast; they are so essential to the continuation of so much that grows.

Day 219: Chez le Portugais

Day 219: Chez le Portugais, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Dinner out at a Portuguese restaurant, we sampled petiscos - the Portuguese version of tapas. Delectable, delicious, tasty - we lingered over this feast, savouring every morsel, sipping on white Portuguese wine and enjoying the music of fado playing in the background. An evening on the Mediterranean right here in Montreal.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Day 218: Tomatoes

Day 218: Tomatoes, originally uploaded by susanvg.

A trip to the market - I try to restrain from over purchasing, but it is hard with all the beautiful fresh produce. The colours of these tomatoes were too hard to resist. The green ones are particularly sweet. It's nice to see so many varieties. So much of what we see and do is becoming homogenized - one suburb looks like another; restaurants in one town are the same as in others. The market celebrates the diversity in nature. I love to make a salad with as many colours as possible - pleasing to the eye and the palate.

Day 217: Road Narrows

Day 217: Road Narrows, originally uploaded by susanvg.

We travelled over 7000 km in the last month and are now home. We passed many of these cones narrowing the road to one lane. Many times it seemed that no roadwork was happening. Other times men were hard at work. Some caused no slowdowns; others created long lines of traffic inching through as the lanes went through the merging dance, jostling for position. I have seen my fill of RVs and 18 wheelers. At least for a few days I'm sticking to city driving and nesting once more at home.

Day 216: Glass Houses

Day 216: Glass Houses, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Toronto spreads and keeps spreading. What always surprises me is just how far from the centre there are still office towers and tall apartment buildings. A number of them are mirror-like, interesting to see but a hazard for birds who see what seems to be the continuation of the sky. I found a number of articles all stating that up to 5 per cent of birds are killed this way.

At one point I had one window in my house that was tinted so I could work without the sun glare. In daytime it was like a one way mirror. From the outside you could not see in. At one point a young cardinal kept coming back to perch on the window ledge, occasionally pecking at its image. Unbeknownst to him, my two cats were watching him from inside, no farther than the thickness of the glass. After a couple of weeks he stopped coming. My cats had to find another source of amusement. No birds were killed taking this photograph!


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Day 215: Bicycle Post

Day 215: Bicycle Post, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Outside the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) are a number of bicycle stands each of a different design. I rather liked this zebra head and was glad it was free of a bicycle so I could admire it properly. It is wonderful how bicycles have become a mode of transport in our cities. Montreal's Bixie bikes have been very popular.

How times have changed since I was in Grade Seven. At one point I rode my bike to school, proud of the freedom this gave me. Until.... While the bike stands on the boys side of the playground were full; those on the girls side supported fewer bikes - I noticed I was only one of two girls in my grade to lock a bike on the rusted stands and the other girl wasn't popular at all. I caved - no more bike riding to school for me. I wanted to be seen as mature. Oh how times have changed, fortunately.

Now I hesitate to use my bike for transportation in the city - the traffic is too busy, the hills too steep for me to feel truly comfortable. But my bike has been getting use in Casselman when I am there. I can handle the smaller streets and flatter terrain. And once again I feel the freedom of bicycling.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Day 214: Kite

Day 214: Kite, originally uploaded by susanvg.

A walk in the park - and there it was - a kite flying. I have never managed to do much with a kite. When my children were much smaller we bought a nice kite in Florida and went to the beach - after all the winds off the water should get it aloft. This kite was an excellent nose-diver. We tried again in Montreal - running up a hill thinking that the wind blowing up should launch our kite. It was all to no avail. So I have always admired people who could keep a kite aloft. As we got closer to the kite flier, the kite gently came down.

Here was an opportunity to chat. I admitted I had never managed to fly a kite. "Try it," he said; and I did. It caught the breeze and started to lift. I let out some more string, careful to keep the line taut and it stayed up. Success! I could feel the breeze playing with it some more and adjusted. It was not a long flight, but I felt as if I had taken wing myself.

"I wanted to get a photo of my kite flying," he said and here you came along. We had each given each other something and parted the richer for this short exchange.

Day 213: A Shot of Pink

Day 213: A Shot of Pink, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Flowers - their blossoming lasts only a short time - appreciate each bloom. Breathe in the intoxicating aroma. A reminder to treasure each moment. Today's flower is tomorrow's compost - ready to nourish the next generation.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Day 212: Foggy

Day 212: Foggy, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Foggy, my Toronto sister-in-law and brother-in-law's cat (this is a very flattering shot of her) is getting on in years. Like many of her human counterparts, she has added girth as she aged, has her share of aches and pains and indulges in a daily dose of painkillers to keep limber. She lumbers down the hall a couple of times a day to eat, but otherwise spends most of her day sleeping. A strategically placed stool helps her attain her goal of the bed. Foggy reigns over her territory like a queen, looking down on those who are visiting her realm. Once feisty, she is now just haughty, allowing the interlopers to visit, but keeping her distance and her pride.