Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Receipt Diary 

Vacances du Québec
Dig a little deeper and you can expose the complete EXIF data for every photo taken.

For years I’ve kept receipts. They have piled up on dressers and side tables. On the surface I keep them in case I need proof of purchase for a return but more deeply, they are a record of my life. Paper print-outs of data that record where exactly you were at what time, doing exactly what. Paper fossil records of a day in the life. I’ve definitely missed some including items purchased where I refused a receipt or lost an inconsequential one (ice cream bought at a truck, items at a corner store, a fast food meal purchased with the tap of a debit card), not to mention use of things procured within a mobile phone app or on a tap-to-use transit card. Yet this marks a journey of just some of the data bread crumbs I’ve left behind. You can even garner the exact time the photos were taken (somehow that seemed like overkill - or I was too lazy to note it). I’ve added notes where I remembered the transaction but amazingly you forget what it was you were thinking or even doing despite having an actual record of it in your hand. This seems a little strange to share how much I spent and what I bought but it also feels “truer” if that makes sense? I’m not sure why I’m starting this on August 5? Maybe it was the first August receipt I could find. I’ve also included my activity data to fill in when I wasn’t buying something. It’s strange how there are very little impressions from these moments yet it feels like it adds up to something. This is how I spent August including a week on vacation in Québec.
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Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Seen in July 

There are very few things I love more than escaping the summer heat by retreating into an air conditioned theatre to watch a movie about people enjoying the summer. In theatre there is a term, synecdoche, appropriately Greek in origin which is when a singular word or phrase is a stand in for a longer term or larger idea (like saying "Ottawa" when you really mean the entire system of the Canadian federal bureaucracy). Or when the curtain rises on an interior in a Manhattan apartment which is really a set on a stage in Toronto but we all just accept that we the audience are there, in an apartment in another city in another country. The set on the stage is a stand in for another place which is itself inside a place in city within a country. Of course, this shared self-delusion and layering of experience happens all the time in film and theatre. Perhaps it's even a stranger phenomenon in film when we are watching a movie set in London, that was really filmed in a Hollywood studio that we are watching in a theatre in Toronto. For me, the somehow "meta" synecdoche of watching summer movies in the summer only adds to its dreamy otherworldliness and transports me much more easily than say a plane or ferry to a faraway vacation spot. Here's some of the transport I took in July.

Dakota Johnson in A Bigger Splash

A Bigger Splash
Tilda Swinton is a vacationing rock star recovering from vocal chord surgery and enjoying a holiday with her filmmaker boyfriend on a beautiful and remote Italian island when an old flame, played by Ralph Fiennes shows up with his beautiful daughter (Dakota Johnson). Their unexpected arrival causes ripples then waves and ultimately, a dangerous storm. Based on the 1969 film La Piscine the movie reminds me of a lot of other summer dramas involving sunbathing, swimming, meals, music, dance and, of course, tension (like Stealing Beauty, L'Avventura or La Collectionneuse). Ralph Fiennes is great as the enthusiastic old lover hoping to somehow tip a happy relationship into disarray. Tilda Swinton is unbelievably ageless while Dakota Johnson is sort of annoyingly perfect as the overly confident and coy ingenue looking to push whatever boundaries exist.
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Monday, August 01, 2016

Summer is a Girl 

Haydée Politoff in Eric Rohmer's La Collectionneuse represents the kind of girl the protagonist says he has no interest in, despite being seemingly obsessed with her.

Summer is a girl on a bike, gliding effortlessly, brown shoulders bared with her hair blowing in lazy loose wisps and a tattoo dripping down her thigh. Summer is an ice cream that started to melt before the first sting of cold even touched your lips. Summer is when you savour the last rays of daylight like a candy you let dissolve on your tongue. Summer is the flutter of birch leaves and the dappled sunlight diffused beneath its branches. Summer should be warm cheeks and cool breezes, sudden storms, fresh cracked cans of beer, the spit of a sizzling steak and the electric hum of cicadas. It should be air from open windows disturbing papers while fans throb and sweating glasses leave rings on tabletops.
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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Appointment Viewing 

“You'll have to stay in the waiting area for fifteen minutes after the shot, to see if you have an allergic reaction. Do you have time for that?” I did and so the end of my first routine physical exam in over two years arrived with a jab and a bandage. I didn't realize tetanus shots were required every ten years. I'm guessing I dodged enough rusty nails over the last umpteenth years for it not to come up. I genuinely do not recall having one before. Apparently I had. It was in my file.

There I was, checking my watch and waiting as the nurses called out for the next patient, “Martha? Martha?”

Waiting for what? I had no idea what an allergic reaction to a tetanus shot would be. I felt anxious. Accelerated heart rate. Hot. Sweating. Slightly nauseated. But that could be called Monday morning. It was my first physical in a few years and it couldn’t have been more uneventful. Basically it was simply a review of my blood work I’d had done months before. A nurse took my blood pressure, heart rate, height and weight then, after reviewing my file with my GP, they gave me a tetanus shot.

There was one little thing. My cholesterol was up. Not “up” enough to need medication but not low enough to not have to tell me about it. This presents a couple of problems. The blood test that resulted in this scolding was done in December. I have no idea if now, months later it is lower, still high or worse, higher still. Then there is the fact I can’t really do anything with that information. By all other metrics I’m not over-weight, diabetic, have hypertension or anything else that could be easily monitored. There is no easy way to measure your cholesterol so how do you know? I don’t eat a ton of fatty, salty foods or sweets or whatever but maybe I could add more greens (kale?) but how would I know if cutting out mixed nuts and adding more mixed greens would do anything? I exercise regularly and doubt I could add much more. I’m sure I could but at the cost of being an even more unbearable jerk who tells you how much exercise they do. I guess modifying diet and exercise is doable but would it be significant enough to move the needle?

It’s only been a few weeks since I learned of this but I think the only way to know if I’ve made any changes is to go to private lab and get the test done on my own. Which I will do. As soon as I know where to find such a lab that I can only guess actually exists. I’m going to have to make an appointment to view the unseen, to learn the knowable and do the doable.

Apparently there is such a thing as a home cholesterol test kit but I've never seen them in a Toronto pharmacy.
Update number two: apparently you don't have to pay for private tests, just get 'em from your physician and the reason it's hard to find home cholesterol tests in Canada is they are known to be inaccurate and often don't provide separate HDL and LDL numbers so what's the point?


Friday, July 22, 2016

Hot Town 

Today it’s expected the mercury will hover around 35°C with the humidex values feeling more like between 40°C - 45°C which has triggered a heat alert. Basically, avoid being outside if you don’t have to be. This is of course almost impossible. I’m lucky enough to work in a modern air conditioned building near one of the world’s greatest natural air conditioners - Lake Ontario. Riding in this morning felt like a late afternoon heat. Maybe “end of days” heat might be more accurate. I’m already feeling every bit the asthmatic I am so I will avoid exercise (easy, I’ve been avoiding it for years), and unfortunately, due to a persistent sore throat I won’t really be able to go the pool either. The options may be running out but luckily there are at least three or four movies I plan to see this weekend and again, there is the Lake. Even with crazy high humidity, the air off the Lake is incredible and there are a few pleasant Lake-facing parks to hang out beneath the shade of a tree or two. Last week when the house was lingering in the mid-30’s I took my time going home and spent some time in a couple of Toronto’s newer waterfront parks. I expect I’ll be doing more of that this weekend. The odd thing about it being so hot is how much like a winter snowstorm it can be. You just can’t do the things you planned on because everything comes to a crawl. Did you plan on working in the garden? Don’t. Were you going to meet some friends at a funky new pizza place with a wood-fired oven? Don’t. Planning on a long run or bike ride. Do not do that. The symmetry from last winter is also eery. The Saturday in February when I was without power, the temperature was -40°C which is 80°C cooler than today. To paraphrase James Murphy, if you're worried about the weather, then you picked the wrong place to stay.

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