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The Starling Crew

A few years ago, a guy who was doing some work for us gave us a traffic light. It’s a real traffic light, which has been re-wired so that when you plug it into an ordinary outlet, all three lights come on. We rarely turn the thing on, but there it sits, out on our deck, and I suppose it fits in with the train set and the garden sculpture and the imagination stations.

There is a hole in the top of the traffic light, and each year a family of starlings builds a nest and has a bunch of babies in there, around the red light. Last week they hauled out some residual materials from last year, something I haven’t seen before, and now they’re busily building a new nest.

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What happened?

When I awoke this morning, the first thought bubbling up from the depths of my ever-so-tiny brain was, “I think it’s time to shave off my beard”. And so I did it before my better judgement could kick in and stop me. I would have much preferred to have the fabulous Steph at the Nite Owl do this, but there is a pandemic and all, so I used the tools at hand.

Tuffy P had to ask me some skill-testing questions, like: “When is our anniversary?” to make sure I was her actual husband and not some cheap knock-off. I apparently passed the test.

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Go with Vox

I usually play Go over the board with Vox weekly, but with the Covid-19 virus, we’re staying isolated. Fortunately, we can play online. There are a number of Go servers available, and in fact there are a lot of players who rarely play with actual stones and a board.

Usually, we’re pretty close, but I had a particularly good night last night, winning most of the games.

In this game, Vox (he played the black stones) had a group of floating stones in the centre. There were several stones in the group and lots of liberties, but only one eye for sure. He didn’t take the time to secure a second eye, and I don’t think he realized what danger his stones were really in. I made an eye-stealing move while there was still a good deal of space and things started looking ugly for him immediately. Running wasn’t going to work because I had stones in all directions. He groped around for a while to see if there was some way he could complicate things and kill something but it was futile.

I prefer getting together with Vox and playing in person over the board, but still it’s great we can play online when we need to. I’ve been doing life and death problems (tsumego) daily lately. I don’t know if that is starting to help my game or if Vox just had an off night. I suspect he will have his revenge soon.

Filed under: Go
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173 Big Ideas

I’ve been working on a little book of collages, and previously I’ve posted some of the images. Of course I continued to work on the book, even changing pages I thought were complete. I decided this afternoon it was done and glued 173 Big Ideas to the front cover. That must be the title. Here it is…..

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Murder Most Foul

About the last thing I expected today was to hear a new 17 minute long song by old weird Bob Dylan. It’s more like a recitation than a song, with a lovely musical backdrop, a drifting narrative based around the assassination of JFK, filled with references to pop culture. “What’s new pussycat, what’d I say? Said the soul of a nation being torn away. And it’s beginning to go into a slow decay. And it’s 36 hours past Judgement Day”. It seems like a stream of consciousness ramble, a reflection on his own life and times and experiences. Strange and strangely compelling too. Listen here.

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We’re in this together

It seems that the current virus situation is bringing out the best and worst of people, and companies too. I read that James Dyson has designed up a new ventilator – on 10 days notice – which can be manufactured quickly and at volume – and he’s donating 5,000 of them off the top. Labatts has started making hand sanitizer – the first 50,000 bottles are being donated to food banks, front line workers and partners in the restaurant and bar industry. It is heartening to see some companies jump in and help, and there are many other positive stories. As I type this, I’m hearing on the radio that Budweiser is donating $500,000 to the Red Cross.

At the same time, yesterday I heard Premier Ford call out a food company called Pusateris for price gouging, selling hand wipes for 30 bucks a box. The company, which is known for their high prices at the best of times, has apologized and called it an oversight. I wonder. Then there was the couple in BC, buying up pick-up truckloads of Lysol wipes from Costcos to resell at 4X the price. They are despicable, but I’m sure not unique. There will always be people willing to profit from the misfortune of their community, won’t there? I suspect this time around, people will have long memories.

One thing is clear. The virus is egalitarian. It doesn’t care if you are rich or poor or where you’re from. It doesn’t recognize borders, and we’re seeing that even the most privileged people are becoming infected. If there is one lesson for us, it’s that we’re in this together. Please be kind and helpful during this difficult time, and carry that on later, as our communities recover.

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Isolation Cornbread

This morning I made some yummy skillet cornbread with bacon and cheese. Social distancing demands comfort food. Here’s how I did it….

Cook some bacon in a 9 inch cast iron pan until it’s crispy. Put the bacon aside on a paper towel. (OK you can make it without bacon in a pinch, but…..) Take the pan off the heat. Turn the oven on to 400F.

In a bowl mix together….
1 1/4 cups corn meal
3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt (if you use a lot of bacon in the recipe, but back on the salt)

Grate some cheese – cheddar is fine or whatever you like.

Take a minute to crumble the bacon and toss it in with the dry ingredients. Add some of your grated cheese to the dry ingredients but save about a third of it.

Put the pan with the bacon drippings in the oven.

In another bowl….
Beat 2 eggs with a fork for a few seconds
Add a cup + 1/4 milk (use whole milk if you have it but if not, use what you have…..buttermilk is fine too)
I used 1% milk because that’s all I had, and added a teaspoon of vegetable oil. It was fine.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix with a spatula until it’s all mixed together. Don’t overmix.

Take the hot pan out of the oven. Pour in your mix, getting it all off the bowl with a spatula. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top.

Put the pan in the oven for 15 minutes, and check it at that time. It should be golden brown. Poke it through the centre with a skewer. If it comes out clean, it’s ready.

The cornbread should release from the pan easily. Let it cool on a rack until you can’t resist anymore, then sample at will.

The Agency Podcast is collecting recipes for your fave isolation comfort foods for an upcoming episode. Please send yours to You’re welcome to send us a voice clip as well and we’ll insert it into the episode.