I dreamed about my superpower

February 21, 2013 at 10:23 am | In writing | Comments Off on I dreamed about my superpower

Some pieces

Before going to bed last night, I posted a status update to Facebook that read, “Spent an hour or more reading about maternal haplogroup T2b, from the sublime (well, not really) to the ridiculous (yes, really).”

Then, I foolishly dug around a bit on a new online publishing platform — foolish, because it made me feel like I was missing something.

And this morning, glancing over my email while the coffee brewed, I noticed a link to a yet another new book that teaches you common household and “life” hacks, including something to do with threading needles.


With that word “needles,” bam!, a dream I’d had during the night came into focus, except it came back in that annoying way dreams will: partial, half-remembered, missing key pieces.

The Dream

I was somewhere, doing something (with my hands?). I was somewhere doing something with my hands and it involved trying to repair something.

I was somewhere doing something about stitching something that had torn.

I was somewhere — oh no, it can’t have been there, surely? — trying to put something right.

I was somewhere where I had been …disturbed, hurt.

I was somewhere, on the ground, the earth, the dirt, the field, the patch, the clearing, held down in the place where I was trying to fix something that I didn’t know how to fix, and I gave up hope.

I lost the needle. (I felt, in my dream, how I lost the needle I needed to repair the fabric, but I had no words. I was little.) Someone entered the frame, but because this is a dream half-remembered, I can’t say whether it’s one or two people, nor who it is. Someone — or something — prompts me to look for the needle in the grubby leaf-littered dirt I’m sitting on.

That’s when it happens — the part of the dream I remember most vividly: I find another needle. It’s not the one I lost — it’s a different size — but it’s a needle, a tool. Then I find another one, (again a different size) and another (yet another size). I have three now, all different sizes: my found treasures are turning into a tool kit.

Then I make an amazing find: a tool for threading needles! It’s super-elegant and unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. After that, nearby, a fourth needle, and a fifth. At some point in the dream I’m clutching a whole handful of needles, as well as this beautifully designed tool that looks like no other. They’re all available for me to use. It’s amazing.

I’m still trying to sort out what it means, beyond the obvious: finding not just a needle in “a haystack” (or dirt and leaf-litter covered ground), but many needles of varying size, plus a nearly magical new tool for threading them all.


In the dream I don’t have any thread, but it “felt” as though I could probably get some. I also don’t have any clear purpose in the dream: no reason for needing these needles except that I had been trying to fix something at the outset, and lost the tool for it. But I can’t remember what I was trying to fix, nor whether I should still try to fix it, or whether this bounty of needles (and that marvelous threading tool) meant that I could finally move on, like an apprentice who’s graduated from his apprentice piece and now sets out on his trade sojourn, looking for work.

Looking for work, looking for purpose, looking for a way to ply my trade: dream it six ways to Sunday and back, it remains hardened, difficult stuff.

But: I can thread any needle, any needle at all. The needles were always in me, they had fallen out of my pockets — out of my body — and into the dirt. I just have to find them again and pick them up. The threading tool, however? That was newly forged in me, it’s my super-power.

I can thread any needle, any needle at all.

How to Save Downtown (Victoria BC)

May 30, 2011 at 8:16 pm | In affordable_housing, architecture, dying_downtown, FOCUS_Magazine, land_use, urbanism, victoria, writing | 2 Comments

Below is the real version of my article, How to Save Downtown (it’s about downtown Victoria BC, but applies to many city centers crushed under the weight of overly needy – and stupid – municipal governments as well as strapped economies…).

I submitted this article to FOCUS Magazine for publication in its June 2011 issue. I was subsequently horrified to see that the publisher truncated the article so severely as to make it nonsensical. After I complained, he put a more-or-less intact version online (at last reading, there was at least one paragraph still missing), but the print version of the article has unfortunately already gone to press. I wish I could have taken back my submission, but I couldn’t. I’m much embarrassed (and angry) to see my name attached to it.

Here’s the article  as it was intended to appear. Readers might notice that it grew out of my previous dying downtown series:

How to Save Downtown

Victoria City Council recently offered the business community an olive branch when it addressed the tax ratio of commercial to residential rates by voting to reduce marginally (very marginally) that ratio by 0.004% in favor of commercial rates. While the Chamber of Commerce responded with tepidly mumbled words of encouragement for council’s decision, the daily newspaper merely reported the other side of the coin: that residential property taxes will rise by 7% compared to 1.1% for businesses.

Anyone who bothers to walk around downtown Victoria can see that many businesses are struggling. Take Fort Street’s Antique Row. Start at Cook, continue to Douglas, and note the number of “for lease” or “going out of business” signs. Too often, though, we ignore the plight of businesses and focus instead on the rise in residential taxes.

I recently posted photos of the many empty Fort Street storefronts to my blog. The comments that came in were instructive. Readers (including business owners) blamed downtown’s desuetude on many things: big box stores; tourism downturns; street people; lack of community support for independent merchants; problems related to overzealous parking commissionaires.

Everyone cited high rents, worsened by excessive property taxes:

“I have been perplexed that while we saw a recession start in 2009 retail rents continued to rise right through it as though there was nothing happening.”

“There is certainly no shortage of eager, creative and motivated entrepreneurs in Victoria. If they can deal with the impossible rents, along with the fact that the City is inherently anti-small business (zoning, permits, etc), they may have a chance.”

Comments repeatedly cited the City of Victoria’s lack of business support, noting that it burdens businesses with adversarial inspectors and bylaws.

Others noted that there is too much emphasis on tourist retail and not enough on incubating innovation for the homegrown market.

And people asked: if so many storefronts are empty, why are rents still so high? Bound to triple-net leases, tenants are typically on the hook for property taxes, and even building improvements. For paying property taxes, the City delivers nothing in services, not even garbage pickup.

In 2005 Greater Victoria had a retail vacancy rate of 3.5%. By 2010, that rate had climbed to 5.9%, and it doesn’t look better for 2011. According to Colliers’s Market Report, “2011 is likely to be a year of ‘status quo’ for Greater Victoria retail.” While the forecast admits that “2010 was a year of uncertainty,” it also posits that “the overall market has remained relatively healthy.” Downtown’s empty storefronts suggest otherwise.

Perhaps macro-analyses of Greater Victoria, which include data points around “secure federal and provincial employer presence” (read: consumers) and Uptown or Westshore shopping mall expansions (read: vendors), don’t speak to what’s going on specifically in our downtown.

I asked Graham Smith, who looks after Greater Victoria retail for Colliers, about lease rates and their responsiveness to the market. Smith pointed out that every property is different, each has its unique qualities. Whether it’s on this or that side of the street or in this or that block affects its lease rates. And just as properties are unique, so are owners. Smith likened it to selling a house: most people are convinced that their property is uniquely valuable, and some owners will insist on getting their price, while others just want it rented.

Why would a property owner let his property stand empty instead of offering struggling tenants a rate reduction? Smith’s market-based answer seemed cruel, albeit realistic: if a business is struggling, there’s something wrong with the business model besides leasing expenses. A 10% rent reduction isn’t going to help that business thrive if there either isn’t really a market for what it’s retailing, or it’s not open when customers want to shop.

However, consider the tax burden imposed on business. Take 789 Fort Street, a property assessed at ~$2 million; its 2010 property tax was $49,130.18. A comparable ~$2 million residential Victoria property (1989 Crescent Rd., for example) is taxed at ~$13,685.00. That’s a difference of nearly $35,000.

Who pays the property tax on commercial buildings? Typically, the triple-net lessee.

According to sources at City Hall, Victoria relies equally (50-50) on residential and commercial property taxes, but commercial property is clearly carrying the brunt. Nor is Victoria alone. 2010 Tax Rates reveal that Victoria taxes businesses the most, but Saanich and Langford are close behind:

Victoria Residential: 3.6581
Victoria Commercial: 13.1471
Ratio: 3.59
Langford Residential: 2.3343
Langford Commercial: 7.3764
Ratio: 3.16
Saanich Residential: 3.2697
Saanich Commercial: 11.6980
Ratio: 3.58
Oak Bay Residential: 2.9305
Oak Bay Commercial: 5.0610
Ratio: 1.73

True, every municipality has a pro-residential bias. After all, residential taxpayers elect the politicians. However, the difference is very much skewed against City of Victoria businesses in absolute terms: a lessee will pay much less property tax for a similar property in Langford since the property has a lower assessed value. This difference can be the make-or-break factor for a business, and partly explains the exodus from downtown. Let’s also not forget that fewer than ten years ago, Victoria’s ratio of commercial to residential taxation was 2.63, while it has now climbed to 3.59. (source [PDF])

An effective way to reduce the currently painful ratio would be to increase the number of residential properties on the City’s tax roll.

Recall my conversation with Graham Smith of Colliers. From his 11th floor CIBC Building boardroom we could see 789 Fort Street, a one-story building with two storefronts. Presently, half the building is rented, while the other languishes.

I pointed out that this building should have rental apartments on top, which would provide both customers and even employees. The newer building next door (at Fort and Blanshard, southwest corner) was built within the last fifteen years. Although newer, it’s also just a single story, with zero residential above the store. It seems we haven’t been adding mixed-use buildings with a view to bringing a diversified demographic into the downtown.

So why don’t we encourage more development that brings residents into the downtown, which would help “spread the pain” of property taxes on mixed-use commercial/residential buildings and would benefit retailers who need steady repeat customers? Consider that downtown Victoria’s population has actually declined since the 1970s when new seismic regulations left buildings vulnerable to unaffordable code upgrades. If you’ve ever wondered why some buildings downtown don’t have people living on the second or third floors, it’s because they didn’t remain “continuously occupied” since new codes came into effect. If a building remained continuously occupied, it’s exempt. If it’s vacated, however, it becomes subject to the new rules, and requires fearsomely cost-prohibitive seismic upgrading.

As for new buildings, condo towers (which target just one small slice of the larger demographic pie) have added some population, but we’re still below 1970s population levels. Newer one-story buildings, as well as older one-story buildings, represent a missed opportunity to diversify the downtown and to bring its residential levels back up to what they used to be.

There is a new proposal that’s heading in the right direction. The Cosmopolitan is a 5-story development for the 600-block of Fort. Currently making its way through City Hall, it includes ground-floor retail, with 4 stories of rental housing above. If the project is approved (it needs a minor height variance), it’s an opportunity to build exactly what Victoria needs: residential over the store. I asked the developer, Jurgen Weyand, how the numbers work when building rental. The short answer: they don’t, really. Compared to building condos, building rental is an investment on his part that may pay off for his grandchildren. But retailers will benefit from having residents that live where they work and shop.

So let’s look out Colliers’ 11th floor boardroom window again. Sometime in the last 15 years, a new building went up at Fort and Blanshard. But it’s just one story and has no apartments above the store. Sometime in the last few years, tenants came and went at 789 Fort Street, but it’s just one story and there are no residents living above the store. There are scores of downtown buildings that have no one living over the store. The Cosmopolitan will hopefully contribute to reversing that trend.

Clearly, we need more development downtown, whether it’s condo towers or five-story walk-ups above ground floor retail. New condo towers may attract retiring empty-nesters who want to shop and re-create in a walkable downtown. Rental apartments above ground-floor retail diversify the demographic, to attract a younger, more mobile tenant who works in those businesses for her day job (and shops there, too), while incubating the next great thing in the creative economy after hours. Win-win.

Bottom line: if we want to save downtown, we need people living there, right over the store. That would provide customers for businesses, as well as defray the property tax burden currently off-loaded via triple-net leases solely on businesses.


Reading in the archives

January 31, 2011 at 8:41 pm | In authenticity, creativity, ideas, victoria, writing | 2 Comments

I was rooting around in my Google documents just minutes ago and came across two 2006 blog post drafts I’d parked there. I published them to my blog at the time, but hadn’t re-viewed them since then: All Eyes (Oct.22, 2006) and Winter will come soon enough (Oct.25, 2006).

Both posts convince me of two things: 1) that I should be leveraging my own archive; and 2) that I’ve become stupider over the past couple of years.

When I started blogging in 2003, I paid attention to what was said about blogging – what it was “supposed” to be, and what it wasn’t supposed to be. I guess I wasn’t particularly good at following instructions, though, so I never rose anywhere near the ranks where the big A-listers hung out – and instead I usually wrote long, convoluted posts.

Why? Probably because I had enough belief in my own ability to analyze – and most importantly: to synthesize – ideas. I continued to pursue my “big” ideas, irrespective of my marginal status and my inability to be popular. So what if my texts were an acquired taste and had a readership of …a few? These few were my readers, and that’s what counted. And so I wrote what I wanted to write.

While it bothered me that popular bloggers insisted that one should write at a Grade 8 level or that one shouldn’t write large blocks of text and that one should always break text up with lots of images and bullet points and paragraph headings, I kept going along in my style. Why? Because it helped me think – and I happened to be thinking about important matters.

That changed.

Somehow, in the last few years I lost touch with my intellectual side, the side that kept me thinking about important things. And it wasn’t other bloggers or A-list pundits who convinced me to lose that touch. It was my local environment. Here, in this island city, I tried to be a local pundit, and lord, what a disaster that was. I wrote for a print publication, which garnered me even less feedback than my blog posts had. I tried writing simply, because I was made to understand that overly complex texts aren’t popular. But I still wasn’t getting any resonance, even if I tried to write at a Grade 8 level. Therefore, it must all be my fault, I concluded. In 2007 the local mainstream media ripped me off, which hammered home the insight that ideas count for nothing when there’s an old boys’ network and $$ at stake.

Things got worse: in 2009 I also got sucked into a very fraught local political issue, which nearly completely destroyed my sense of …being able to make sense. That disaster happened in the slipstream of another lowlight of 2008, the aftereffects of which have dragged on for over two years: a municipal election that swept into power an awful mayor and council, further alienating me from Victoria. The 2011 election promises no relief, incidentally.

Doubly alienated – from my academic self as well as my engaged civic self – I have spent the last many months floundering. I’ve thrown myself into other projects and subjects, but my output has gone to the lowest common denominator. I tried to make myself understood locally, and that was my personal Waterloo. So much time wasted… talking to …whom? The town closed ranks and shut me out.

And I have lost years of serious thinking. What an idiot I’ve been to waste my time like this.

Time for myself

November 1, 2010 at 8:18 pm | In just_so, writing | 2 Comments

Keeping up with my self-imposed goal of blogging daily got a little harder in recent weeks. If I’m brutally honest about it, I have to agree with organizing-and-time-management expert Julie Morgenstern‘s recent tweet, When you view time as slippery and elusive, you have problems managing your time. (I’ve relied on Morgenstern in the past, using her terrific SHED method to get at least a bit unstuck. Can’t believe that was last April, though: my house still needs more decluttering, especially if we want to move. But I’m getting ahead of myself…)

Back to how I view time: do I see it as slippery and elusive? And do I have problems managing it?

Yes and no, but mostly yes…

I don’t have a schedule (I’ve tried keeping one, albeit unsuccessfully). After years of home-schooling my kids (and therefore being liberated from a school timetable) and years of all of us working from home, my sense of time is tied to mental lists of what I should accomplish in a day or a week. In that sense it’s not completely elusive. But given how, for those home-schooling years, it was tied to goals that the children needed to set and achieve (versus personal or professional goals of my own), my sense of time is far from optimal if we’re talking about efficiently managing it.

My real problem is managing my time for myself. Even now, after a couple of years with both kids at university on their own, I still rely on my dog to tell me what has to be done every afternoon, regardless of the weather: walkies. I’m struggling with managing time for myself, and – because I was always extremely goal-oriented – I’m churning through stuff in a mad attempt to find my focus.

Wake-up calls and the seduction of the snooze button

October 4, 2010 at 10:45 am | In creativity, housekeeping, ideas, writing | 5 Comments

Last week, while attending a professional / academic conference in Toronto, Vancouver-based academic and “social media power userRaul Pacheco-Vega posted a blog entry called The future of my personal blog. He noted:

I am in awe of the depth of knowledge and caliber of colleagues I am sitting with, and I am honored to be sharing the floor with so many passionate and great specialists in water. It’s also a very strong wake-up call for me, as an academic whose career is, despite my relative success, still in development. I am well-established in some topics I’ve done work on, but in others I am still learning. (source)

Raul was wondering about the future of his personal blog: it’s where he focuses much more on “social” and far less on “academic,” and increasingly it’s also the public profile he’s most closely associated with. Does he have to choose between the two (social “vs” academic) – and if yes, what does that choice look like for a multi-faceted/multi-talented person? If no, how does he avoid letting some part of him atrophy?

I’m at another point in the spectrum – I don’t want to say “at another end,” since that implies a binary structure: it strikes me that it’s precisely the absence of simple binaries that makes these choices (or traps) difficult if not seemingly impossible to resolve. But I can relate to what Raul struggled with in that entry. Read optimistically, I suppose that in some ways, he could well be at the forefront of forging a new type of career – a hybrid “creative” trajectory that defies traditional placement.

I’m quite a bit older and have a very different personal history than Raul. Married with children (who are now both at university), I torpedoed my academic career in 2000 when I chose to homeschool my kids (which meant giving up the luxury – pardon the sarcasm – of the adjunct professor career: I did not have tenure and wasn’t in a tenure-track position, and I also wasn’t in a position to move around the country, chasing a series of 2- to 3-year appointments). In that process (of placing the perceived needs of my children over my own for a career) I also hitched my economic well-being to my spouse’s success. In hindsight, I can’t say I would recommend this to anyone. Now it’s 2010 and two years have passed since we stopped homeschooling, and I’m still trying to find terra firma – without success, to date. That the economy melted down in the interim hasn’t helped, but that’s a whole ‘nother story…

A while back I had a meeting with Elisa Yon, a talented young architect I met here in Victoria, but who is now in Vancouver continuing her graduate studies in design at Emily Carr University of Art and Design. Elisa talked about how invigorating it was to be back amongst high-caliber people who are working hard in a field she believes in. It was more than slightly depressing for me, because it made me realize that I have none of that in my life here. I no longer have “the children” to homeschool, but living on an island in a provincial capital often enough seems like living in the suburbs – or in Lake Wobegon. Victoria tends to hype self-congratulation to the point where it emulates (unironically, alas!) Garrison Keillor’s mordant portrait of a self-satisfied place “where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.” (source) As they might say on Star Wars, “It’s a trap!”

I hope Raul figures out how to square his particular circle. Every time I feel like I’m getting close, something happens to make the solution slip away again: I currently have no idea how to inject my serious side (my “academic” interests, my desire to study patterns – and to recognize them – or my wish to have meaningful conversations with people who care about the same things I do) into what I do here. Perhaps it is a question of making a new type of career, that hybrid “creative” thing outside traditional expectations.

Right picture

July 20, 2010 at 10:29 pm | In just_so, writing | 2 Comments

The right picture would, I knew, put things in perspective. It has been “one of those days” and I’m not coping too well with the assorted slings and arrows, feeling put out by incessant bearing and wanting instead to take arms, …but not knowing how. Not a clue.

So I googled images for “dark sky black cloud” and found this perfect picture. It’s perfect because it makes me think and takes me outside of my immediate mirror/mental space(s):


Does anyone remember L’il Abner? That comic strip famously had a character I always swore I would not become: Joe Btfsplk, aka The World’s Worst Jinx.

It’s nothing short of nuts to think of Cai Guo-Qiang and Joe Btfsplk in the same context, and maybe Adorno would have something to say about my state of Halbbildung. Yet there they both are, rubbing elbows. At the end of the day, however, when I’m trying to salvage my dignity, the snob in me turns her back on The World’s Worst Jinx and instead identifies with all the nicely-dressed people on the Met’s roof, as they contemplate what looks for all the world like Joe’s defining insignia …the black cloud that follows wherever he goes.

…And then she gathers her accouterments and concocts a half-theory about why her depression is more artsy (see Cai Guo-Qiang) than common (see Joe Btfsplk). (Or maybe a sip of Kickapoo Joy Juice would suffice…)

Staring at the mystery

July 16, 2010 at 11:11 pm | In victoria, writing | Comments Off on Staring at the mystery

This afternoon, a brilliantly clear sunny day, my dog Jigger and I walked up to Moss Rock Park, right up the “summit,” to survey our surroundings. Well, ok: I surveyed; he sniffed about.

Moss Rock is one of our local treasures: you can climb up here to savor the multimillion dollar views, gorging yourself silly on the beauty that stuns the senses in ways familiar to Odysseus – who had himself strapped to the mast of his ship to resist siren songs. Odysseus, who was also fair canny about lotus leaves.

As I sat surveying, I wondered about the gorgeous ocean view on three sides and its literally spell-binding effect. Then I turned my back on the sea and looked at the city instead.

I haven’t worked this out, but it struck me that imagination can get blinded by this place: beautiful ocean vistas and incomparable topography – steep, stony eruptions of land, chthonic reminders of how this place was shaped – and irrepressible vegetation.

There’s no doubt that people spend a lot of time marveling at, weeping over, and basking in the natural beauty that’s simply given to every single person here. I would argue that, collectively, we spend a lot of time staring at it.

I want to say this simply, but I’m having a hard time with it. What struck me was this: our gaze is turned to the immutable too much, at the expense of what can and must be mutable: the city. We’re not building our city. We’re all trying to find our place in this beauty, perhaps trying to secure our little piece of it – as if it were ours to secure – but we’re not giving much back. We’re kind of indifferent about building a beautiful city – we suffer sprawl, but don’t want to compete with nature when it comes to building up our downtown. We stare at the majesty of nature – do we “honor” it by keeping our city abject and unambitious? We stare at nature, enthralled, but we’re not staring at the city. We should be staring at the city, too. We’re not building a city that rivals the (natural) beauty we’re given. We sit on summits to survey what’s out there – the ocean, the sunset, the rocks – and if we’re feeling frisky, we bike along the scenic route to survey our bounty from sea level. But doing so, we’ve turned our backs (literally) on the city.

In Dream City: Vancouver and the Global Imagination, Lance Berelowitz described how Vancouver’s setting shaped its brand of urbanism. In the years since reading his book, I’ve wondered about Victoria. Today, it struck me that our island setting persuades us to look out – at the sea that surrounds us on all sides, for example – and that this looking out blinds us to looking in constructively, with a builder’s eye, looking back in on the city, on the downtown that we’ve learned to ignore. Sure, we keep the tourist areas on life support, but as for the rest?

Photo of Victoria by Stewart Butterfield

Note: photo above is by Stewart Butterfield, on Flickr here, captioned as follows: “Mt. Baker over Victoria / Some fortunate and some unfortunate habits of building in a young city on the Canadian coast, about 125 years in. Reminds me of photos of Chile.” Another Flickr user, Roominant, commented: “Victoria was incorporated in 1862, so it’s actually closer to 150 years old than 125. Then again, the newest building in that photo is probably 25 years old if not older, so it depends how you measure it.” Many of the buildings in the photo are from the 1970s and 1980s; in the 2000s some good new buildings went up downtown, but we’re still dealing with a legacy of neglect and blindness.


July 9, 2010 at 10:04 pm | In just_so, writing | 1 Comment

In the part of the world where I live, mosquitoes are not supposed to be a problem, and generally they aren’t. Until, that is, one or maybe two (and who knows: a possible legion of them!) appear in your bedroom …at night …waiting …waiting.

You have fallen asleep. Suddenly, the whining pitch known to anyone who has ever been pestered (what a great word), sounds in your sleeping (perchance dreaming) ear at close range – and zap!, you’re on alert, instantly.

Buh-bye, peaceful sleep.  The mosquito is about to feed – and you’re its victim. Consequently, I was up every hour or so of last night.

It began when, ninety minutes after going to sleep, I awoke because my legs were burning and itching and hurting from the multiple bites the mosquito had already inflicted. That was the first clue, Sherlock! Something’s up – or a-wing. Lights on, hunt starts.

After twenty futile minutes, lights out. Another ten minutes, and the beast strafes my ear, the signature whine too sovereign to ignore. Ok, …rinse and repeat with the search maneuvers. And rinse and repeat a few more times – it’s such a treat trying to go to bed more than once (or twice or five times or fifteen) a night. Meanwhile, the spouse, slightly annoyed at my sudden athletic solo moves on the bed as I swat with a washcloth at things seen and unseen on the wall near his head, continues to snooze. The mosquitoes don’t like him as much as they love me:

Mosquito prefer some people over others. The preferential victim’s sweat simply smells better than others because of the proportions of the carbon dioxide, octenol and other compounds that make up body odour [38]. The powerful semiochemical that triggers the mosquito’s keen sense of smell is nonanal.[39] A large part of the mosquito’s sense of smell, or olfactory system, is devoted to sniffing out human targets. Of 72 types of odour receptor on its antennae, at least 27 are tuned to detect chemicals found in perspiration.[40]

Visible, irritating bites are due to an immune response from the binding of IgG and IgE antibodies to antigens in the mosquito’s saliva. Some of the sensitizing antigens are common to all mosquito species, whereas others are specific to certain species. There are both immediate hypersensitivity reactions (Types I & III) and delayed hypersensitivity reactions (Type IV) to mosquito bites (see Clements, 2000). (source)

Great. My special friend with the terrifically annoying spit…

After a really long time, I decided to take my pillow and a sheet from the linen closet to the downstairs sofa. We’ve had a bit of warm weather lately, and it was a lot cooler downstairs. I figured it would be more comfortable downstairs, and that the mosquito would probably continue to lurk upstairs.

But after a while I woke up, freezing. Spare blanket to the rescue, and another attempt at sleeping. Failing (repeatedly), I decided by early morning to return to my more cushy upstairs mattress, and the comforts of a proper duvet. By the time I woke up again, the day really had begun. Alas, I looked like I felt (death warmed over), and the world can count itself lucky that I don’t have a job controlling nuclear reactors. If I did, my special friend the mosquito could easily have caused a melt-down with consequence, versus the little Armageddon the day that followed last night turned into for me.

I’m not too sanguine (pun) about tonight. I’m sure the beast is still hiding in my room somewhere – and it doesn’t even go bump in the night. Just bzzzeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee at close range.

Talking to a deaf dog

June 28, 2010 at 8:58 pm | In health, writing | 4 Comments

A while back, I posted that I was worried about my dog. He’s getting on (he’s 12 years old), and he has had some chronic health issues for years (hypothyroidism, eg.)

Well, last week (after I got back from a week away), I noticed that he is really quite deaf. He seems to hear some things (high-pitched calls, some loud noises), but he’s clearly oblivious to most sounds – because he can no longer hear them.

This afternoon we went to see his vet. After two of us restrained him (he has become a most ornery and crotchety animal), the veterinarian managed to inspect both ears: nothing to see, no obstructions, no infections, no damage to his eardrums.

And so, old age it is.

Paraphrasing (and slightly altering) what the Buddha said, Decay is inherent in all compounded things …even ears; sniff on with diligence.

(Use the nose, Luke …er, Jigger.)

I wonder what the next age-related indignity will be. And I’m now more worried about his little attempts to dig his way under the fence in our back garden – his escapes into the neighboring apartment block parking lots and busy nearby streets will present new challenges, now that he can’t even hear us calling him as his search party fans out. One web source suggests ‘belling’ one’s deaf dog – at least that way, the humans can hear the dog.

I suppose I could get one of those harnesses that goes around the ribcage. I could sew some jingle-bells on it; then, add some reflective tape, and clip on a couple of flashing bicycle lights (for when I let him out at night).

Talking to a deaf dog is quite frustrating. I spent years perfecting all these silly voices, just for him – and now he can’t hear them. He still gets the hand signals – when he can see them through his ‘bangs,’ that is.

File this one under #whatadrag…

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