The World Around Us

Friday Night Live at the ROM


Photo of Marlowe and Elizabeth in front of Futalognkosaurus

Marlowe and Elizabeth in front of a very cool-ly lit Futalognkosaurus (according to Ren).

Hello all, long time no write.

I great deal has down down in the last nine months and one positive thing is I’m now a volunteer at the Royal Ontario Museum! As a Gallery Interpreter, I greet guests with an artifact (in my case a hadrosaur vertebra or Egyptian canopic jar) and pass on information by engaging with lots of simple questions.

Another activity that I really enjoy is doing this during ROM’s Friday Night Live event (FNL). ROM FNL is on the first Friday of most months and replaces the daylight hours with Toronto nightlife. One might assume that music and drinks doesn’t mix well with a stuffy museum environment, but that’s not the case. People are really engaged when you talk to them and sometimes the hardest part is ending the conversation (we’re told to keep it under five minutes). I always have a good doing this and this time I went as a guest!

The name of the most recent event was Blue . The ROM recently procured the skeleton of a blue whale and will begin the exhibit Out of the Depths: The Blue Whale Story any day now. Having received some free tickets, I went with my friends Elizabeth and Ren and we all had a blast! The spirits and conversation flowed and while we missed the preview in the basement, we learned a thing or two about blue whales.

Image of Blue Whale and Dolphin with a Human Diver for Scale

Here are a few factoids about whales!

  • Blue whales and fin whales can interbreed. One theory as to why this is happens is because of scarcity of mates due to diminished populations. Blue whale are currently listed as a threatened species.
  • Pakicetus, an early whale.

    All whales evolved from ancestors what walked on land! Although already semi-aquatic, animals like Pakicetus are what whales used to look like.

  • A large blue whale’s heart is about the size of a Volkswagen Beetle car, weighing about 400 pounds or 180 kg.
  • There was a completely fascinating talk by a researcher who said they were able to, through DNA, estimate blue whale populations many years ago in an effort to gauge decline. Unfortunately, the ROM has taken down the lecture web page. If anyone reads this and knows the answer, please leave it in the comments.

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My Only Wish, To Eat a Fish…


Fish. Seafood. Fruits de mer. These have been words I’ve avoided on cans, packages and menus for close to three decades, and for good reason. Here’s a tale of love lost, the culinary kind.

Back in the day

So I’m 12 years old and my dad is a salesman for the Canadian Automobile Association, putting food on the table and holding up the roof. On weekends, and to give us something to do, we’d spend Saturdays or Sundays at the various malls my dad used to plied his sales skills on passing patrons. If the mall had arcade games, I was playing them. Otherwise, I was bored.

In any case, one mall deep in Mississauga had an awesome fish and chips booth in the food court. I’d eaten there countless times, but this day would be different. After stuffing a double portion of fish and chips down I felt a tickle in the back of my throat. This progressed into a crushing pain in my chest, vomiting and hives all over my body. I’m not sure happened next but I remember taking a bath in oatmeal that night.

So it’s a year later and me and the fam are at Red Lobster. I’m munching unsatisfiededly on something fried when my dad says I should have my mom’s leftover piece of fried fish. “Dad” I say “you know I’m allergic now”. “That was a year ago”, he replies “you’re not allergic anymore”. The insistence that I try goes on for five minutes until I relent and eat the fish. Guess what happened? Fortunately, there was a drug store nearby, where the trail of vomit led with my father coaxing me on. This reaction was worse and my dad couldn’t convince me after that.

Late 2015

So it’s much later and Lisette and I, having moved into a new building, are at the building’s Holidays party in the lobby. Fear of a reaction has made me cautious over the years; here I’m shown the only item containing seafood and avoid it. Fortunately, there’s plenty to choose from and I choose a sandwich that resembles chicken salad from a serving platter. Having enjoyed the first few bites, I then see the super pointing at the same platter and saying “that’s tuna”.

So, I’d just eaten tuna and we’re in high alert as head to Mt. Sinai hospital, waiting for the tingling tongue, crushing chest pain and other symptoms. Ninety minutes later, I’m talking to a underwhelmed doctor that I feel nothing, nothing at all. Am I not allergic anymore?

Summer 2016

It’s many months later and I’ve been through several referrals, several skin tests and a blood test. Now I’m sitting at Toronto General with a piece of cooked salmon in my lap. Purchasing it had been strange, cooking it on the stove top had been stranger and putting it in my mouth after 20+ years was downright unnerving. I had imagined a  nurse looming with epi-pen poised to inject at the first signs of trouble, but it’s just me and the allergist (and no visible epi-pens).

The “Food challenge” as it’s called involves one eating a piece of the allergen, waiting 10 minutes for a reaction and progressing to larger portions until there’s a reaction or they declare that you’re not allergic.  First they put the oil on the inside of your lip: no reaction; a tiny piece: no reaction. An hour later I’m eating pieces the size of my thumb and I’m none the worse for wear. Not allergic!

By the time I leave the hospital I’m also starving so eat the rest of the salmon fillet with great zeal. I am one happy camper. Scenes of battered fish and chips with tartar sauce dance around in my head. This is going to be great!

Update, Fall 2016

I’ve eaten salmon a few times now since then and it turns out that it’s not so cut and dry. Small portions of salmon, say smaller than a hardball, don’t bother. However, if I eat more than that, fairly intense chest pains ensues. All in all, I consider myself lucky. I no longer have to worry about severe reactions from salmon and can have the occasional bite.

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Another Tower Climb Bites the Dust


CN Tower Jut a few days ago, I, with a friend, ascended the CN Tower for the World Wild Life Foundation; raising $250 for the organization.

Starting off slowly around 7 AM, the idea was that I would burst towards the end to make up the lost time. However, I think I’ll stick to the usual “fast at the beginning” to beat this time of 17 minutes and 13 seconds (about a minute slower than my best time).

These kinds of climbs are a great way to motivate oneself to get into shape. To prepare for the event, I used my apartment’s staircase two or three times a week repeatedly until I had done more than the 1,776 steps equal to the tower.

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I like dinosaurs, so I built a website


After many months in the making, my new website, , is finally done!

I’ve long been interested in paleontology, the study of dinosaurs and other ancient life but more recently become passionate about physics, technology and culture studies. Ever had a crazy theory in your head and forgotten it later. This is the kind of situation I hope to avoid by committing these ideas, ramblings and musings online where everyone can see it.

This site is not meant to be like a scientific journal, I’m not qualified to do that. Rather it’s a place where I and other like-minded enthusiasts or guest bloggers and post their professional or layperson ideas and questions about the natural world, philosophy or culture.

Right now it’s just me on there but I hope to be joined by a couple of others to wonder about the world.

Want to be a contributor? Yes I do!

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Halloween and St. Martin’s Day


image pumpkin My family didn’t celebrate Halloween when I was younger. That was a strange North American tradition I only knew of from Hollywood movies. And thought it was strange… kids dressing up and shouting “trick or treat” to the people living in the houses on their block.

And those horrible carved orange pumpkins at the door. What was up with that, I wondered.

Yet, I never thought it strange that in the Netherlands kids (certainly in the south) carved a lamp out of (ugly) sugar beets in November. When done we’d proudly pair up and go knock on the houses in our neighbourhood. We’d sing a short, silly song in our dialect and were rewarded at every door with some candy.

This was our celebration of St. Martin’s Day, November 11, officially marking the end of the harvest season and the start of the natural winter. Originally built upon the famous Saint Martin, a humble man who was a Roman soldier and baptized as an adult and became a gentle monk.

The two events sure must have been inspired by the same events or thoughts. So, I took a look at the history of both events. (“Google it”, is what I whispered to myself.)

October 31 st is All Hallows’ eve, the evening before All Saints Day, and is not only celebrated in North America, but also in the UK and in Ireland I learned. The Celtic calendar starts on November 1 st – in other words New Years Eve! To ease people into the Gregorian calendar, the Roman-Catholic Church turned this into All Saints Day in the 9 th century. Many Irish immigrants brought the festival to the United States in the 19 th century.

In the Netherlands, Saint Martins Day (“Sint Maarten”) is celebrated on November 11 th and instead of using sugar beets, kids use pretty paper lanterns nowadays. The beets however were part of the old tradition thanking for Light, Warmth, Crops and Harvest with an enormous bonfire.

It surprised me to learn that in latter years even in Amsterdam children seem to take part in this festival! This has been connected to the many migrants Amsterdam gets from and gives to surrounding agrarian areas.

Here is a St. Martin’s song I found on the Internet. My dialect is a bit different and I recollect singing only these couple of lines:

“Sinte Merte’s veugelke,

haaj un roöd wit keugelke,

haaj un roöd stertje,

danke Sinte Merte”

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What happened in the past month or so?


The past few weeks have been extremely hectic for both of us. We’ve been to the family cottage with friends and our new-found love – Silly, the puppy – and got Kaleidoscope Consulting ’s online presence scaled up with appropriate branding.



The cottage was our chance to sleep, cook and barbeque and just hang out. We were obsessed with the world-famous pumpkin pies of British heritage. No, we did not bake a pumpkin with apples, spices, and sugar. We civilized weekend-cottagers were lazy and went into town searching for the best pumpkin-pie maker.

When I was younger, I never ate pumpkin. It’s not a popular vegetable in the Netherlands and has been imported there only in the past few years. We certainly didn’t celebrate Halloween (though we did have our own “trick or treat” game on St. Martin’s Day on November 11 th ) and don’t bake vegetables in our pies. Yet in the past few years I have come to love the taste of pumpkin pie and using pumpkin as a vegetable, for example to make soups.

A couple of days before driving up to the cottage a friend of ours left for a 2-week work / holiday in Europe. Marlowe and I had agreed to take care of Elizabeth’s 14-month old dog named Silly.

13-10-05-Cottage18W Silly
Silly soon became the center of our attention. We checked if she ate well, if she pined for Elizabeth, if she skipped during walking. You see, some dogs skip when they are happy. And Silly is one of those. We soon learned she preferred it if we both walked her and would skip along the sidewalk when we did.

As she stayed longer with us (she had been with us before), she became bolder and more playful. And looked at us with stars in her eyes when she thought we’d give her a treat. During the weekend, one of our friends said suddenly “you’ve become a real pet-parent, Lis” and -shocked- I thought she had it all wrong. Thirty minutes later I realized I was still bringing Silly up about every five minutes. 🙂

13-10-05-Cottage15W Fall coloured walks
The cottage is at a beautiful lake and set in a trail-covered forest. Naturally we wanted to check out some trails and enjoy the autumn colours.

Unfortunately, this area has not been GPS-mapped or signed well, the reason why we walked in a few circles last time. This time we thought we had a better understanding of the area and confidently set out for a 2-hour walk.

About 90 minutes in, Marlowe thought he had found a short cut. We tried out the path and soon realized it was dwindling and kinda… disappearing. We backtracked a little and guessed that as long as we walked in the right direction, we’d hit the lake and the trail. We got to the lake, but not yet the trail.

[This is Marlowe’s version: Marlowe was a great navigator, fearlessly leading our expedition through one peril after another without the slightest fear or hesitation. We were all impressed by his rugged outdoorsiness.]

13-10-03-Silly2W About an hour into this, we found ourselves in the jungle-like backyard of a couple that lives here year-round. They kindly pointed us in the right direction and off we went again. I was so happy to be back at the cottage that all I wanted was to relax and brush Silly (all knots and tangled with tiny twigs). Silly too was tired!

And then it was time for a fire. All weekend Tulan had been eager to start a campfire. She and Marlowe kept it going for a long time, while I just chilled out with a glass of wine.


Classical Music

A week afterwards, we had the chance to listen to a beautiful concert in Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church downtown. The concert was a combination of violin and piano, organized by Moshe Hammer and a Dutch pianist Paul Komen. All I can say is WOW!

If you’d like to know more about Moshe, please watch and listen to this video . Paul is the artistic director of the Peter the Great festival and Summer Academy in Groningen, the Netherlands.

And of course, last week was my Convocation.

13-10-18-Convocation-twopix Convocation Ceremony

The last big October event was the ceremony at Ryerson University to celebrate my graduation. I figured this would be a great “Canadianization” moment as an immigrant and asked Marlowe to come. Though I wish to continue learning, on the job and at university, it is also nice to have a little breather after receiving my Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Management Certificate.

All in all it has been a busy month with Kaleidoscope Consulting shaping further with appropriate branding (thanks Yes Creative !), cottaging and Silly-sitting.

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Marathon training: 22 days left


It’s been a while since I’ve had time for a proper training session. I managed to get away from the computer on the 28th of September and have a quick go for a few hours.

I walked from my place just west of St. Clair and Yonge and headed up towards the 401 highway. I had recently discovered that the marathon is in fact 43 kilometers and not 42. Sure, that’s only 1 KM more, but it’s good to know what I’m up against.

In any case, my goal here was to walk this route’s 14.8 KMs in less than 130 minutes and did so in 125. That’s about 7.1 KPH including waiting for the streetlights, so that puts me on time for the 43 KMs later next month. I’m not sure how much time was lost at streetlights but am hoping subtracting that time from the walk makes me fast enough. Wish me luck!

Want to sponsor me for the event? Sponsor me.

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Marathon training: 41 days left


The last training on the 5th had gone well at just over 7 KPH, but things like street lights and pedestrians had been major obstacles. Also I was wearing runners that I bought in India in 2008, as my feet reminded me later.

It was time for a new pair. Scarborough Town Centre had a nice pair of Nike Lunar Glides in my size and I decided to kill two birds and walk back in the new shoes. I had to do 17.6 KM in less than 2.5 hours to exceed 7 KPH.

Google Maps chooses the shortest path by road between two points and this path was rather complex. Going the wrong way added some 10 minutes and 0.8 KM to the train, making it 18.2 KM in total. Better shoes and a scarcity of street lights made a big difference and I finished in 2 hours and 35 minutes (155 minutes). That’s just over 7 KPH. Of course during the Scotiabank event, I won’t have to contend with street lights or getting lost and if you take five minutes off the time for that, I was moving at 7.25 KPH. Everything seems to be going all right so far. Of course this is not even half of the distance I’ll have to keep that speed up but I’m optimistic I’ll be able to adapt.

Proceeds of my fundraising will go to Cuso International .

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Marathon training: 45 days left


These will be short posts about my training sessions for the Scotiabank Waterfront Marathon . I’m raising funds for Cuso International.

During past walk events, Pound the Pavement and Trailwalker (2011, 100km each), I conditioned for distance. This time, because the 42-km marathon needs to be finished in less than six hours, I’m conditioning for speed. The math says I need to walk at least seven KMs per hour to finish in time, and I’m going to progressively add distance to the training sessions at that speed . September 5th was the first try, so here goes…

The training session was the familiar Yonge Street route. I started from Yonge and St. Clair headed down to the Lake and came back. I have to do the 12.2 KMs in less than 1 hour and 45 minutes .

The way down was quite slow but I managed to get back home in 1 hour and 43 minutes, so a success! I’ll be posting more of these, so keep posted!

Want to sponsor me for the event? Sponsor me.

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Haliburton’s best kept secrets


13-08-20-Cottage-Dock2W Two weekends ago we went to a cottage to chill out with Marlowe’s parents recharging our batteries for a lovely 3,5 days out of the city.

The cottage is in a quiet corner of one of the lakes around Haliburton with a beautiful deck and dock. I spent quite some time on the dock, chilling out in the sun, drying up after swimming and searching for snapping turtles and loons in the water. The evenings were full of barbeque smells and loons calling out to us.

Marlowe and I promised one another a hike and with a not-so-detailed map we started on one of the nearby trails and hoped to end up relaxing in a small town nearby. The trails twisted and turned, went up and down as we wondered where we were ending up after two hours.

We decided to ask for directions and a friendly cottager preparing his boat, laughed quietly. “Uhm… You’re nowhere close to the town” and pointed out we came out of the woods to return to the same lake!


We also visited Haliburton Wolf Centre to learn about wolves and watch them from a viewing room. The centre’s educational and research work is noteworthy and amazing. During lunch at the basecamp Marlowe realized there were literally hundreds of kilometers of forest trails . The rest of the weekend was devoted to planning a hiking trip.

My input was minimal with the notion we would need bells. In bear country, it is always best to attach a little bell to your backpack to forewarn bears you’re in their territory. When warned, they’ll stay away.

Image huskies While we were up north we heard about the huskies. Well, that’s a magic word in this family. Within seconds we all excitedly pointed out to each other how keen we were to see the huskies. We went to the kennel and soon found out there were 150 lovely beasts running around here!

We were allowed in the girl kennel with 70 beautiful ladies, all eager to get some attention. Of course there was a pecking order and the dominant ones came up first, then the shyer ones came with some coming back for more and more petting.

I was surprised to find out there were many kinds of huskies with different colours: gray, black, copper red and white. With the popular pale blue eyes, but we also saw many with brown or green eyes. Some had two different coloured eyes.

And some were up for adoption! I would have loved to take one with me right there and then. Unfortunately our housing is not optimal for a husky. Therefore, I want to go out in winter and go dog sledding . Who is coming with me?

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