Acrobats at the PNE

Thanks to a real­ly cool gift from my par­ents, a Flip Ultra Video Cam­era, I’m thrilled that now I’ll be able to add not only pho­tos, but now videos of my own to my blog, and plan on doing that from time to time.

Here’s some­thing from the first day I got to use my new toy, at the PNE. We went with my par­ents and had a great time. Once again, the high­light of the day for me (and for the rest of our group, I think) were the Bei­jing Acro­bats. We saw them last year, and were thrilled to see them again. Here’s a short video I did of some of their rou­tines. The light­ing is not ide­al, but most of the time I think you can get the gist of what they are doing. Not bad for a first try, I hope:

Whistler in the Summer

We got back on Sun­day from a few days at Whistler, where we spent some days of vaca­tion with my broth­er and his fam­i­ly. While we all nev­er felt very rushed, we man­aged to get quite a few activ­i­ties in while we were there, includ­ing a gon­do­la and chair­lift trip up to the top of Whistler moun­tain, a Zip­Trek tour in the for­est above and around the Fitzsim­mons riv­er, a hike to Lost Lake, a cou­ple of movies (“Get Smart” at the local cin­e­ma, “Jumper” on DVD) and sev­er­al lunch­es and din­ners out. My niece Rena­ta also got in a cou­ple of ses­sions on the bungee tram­po­line, which helped her to bounce a cou­ple of sto­ries (at least) into the air. While I can’t doc­u­ment all of it in pic­tures and video, here are some high points (sic):

The View from Whistler Mountain

The view from the top of a very cold Whistler (which I’ve now put into this blog’s ban­ner)

Pam wasn’t quite pre­pared for how cold it would get, but for­tu­nate­ly, there were some blan­kets avail­able at the chair­lift, about 2/3 of the way up.):

Of course, the cold is one thing. The lit­tle men climb­ing on tow­ers
on your head are anoth­er (Clas­sic pho­to bloop­er. Sor­ry about that…)

I also thought I’d include a few Zip­Trek videos. This gave me a chance to try out Flickr’s video fea­tures. I’m not includ­ing one that I can’t seem to flip hor­i­zon­tal­ly (my Sis­ter-In-Law held her cam­era side­ways and no mat­ter what I do, includ­ing chang­ing the file and sav­ing it to a new movie, the uploaded file seems to revert to that ori­en­ta­tion).

Here’s Pam slid­ing on the wire across the Fitzsim­mons Riv­er:

Now, from the point of view of a par­tic­i­pant. Need I add that this is a blast?

In addi­tion to the rides up in the trees (about 5 times over the riv­er and back), you get a bit of an ecol­o­gy lec­ture about the area and some tips on what you can do to be more ‘green’. I real­ly like Zip­Trek, who seem to prac­tice what they preach, in terms of an eco­log­i­cal­ly-aware busi­ness. Aside from the vans that they use to trans­port peo­ple to and from their sites (and I heard that once there are elec­tric ones or per­haps hybrids that will serve in this capac­i­ty, they’ll switch to those), they are pret­ty gen­tle on the envi­ron­ment. They even have a small water-dri­ven gen­er­a­tor via the riv­er that pro­vides most of the elec­tri­cal pow­er for the A-Frame where they house their offices, train employ­ees, and end some of the tours. Our tour lead­ers were col­lege stu­dents major­ing in Eco-tourism and Geol­o­gy, and they made sure that none of us were ever in dan­ger or uncom­fort­able, despite what looks like an ‘extreme’ sport.

In addi­tion to some good meals togeth­er (Monks up there is very nice and beau­ti­ful to look at; Pam’s Hal­ibut dust­ed with porci­ni mush­rooms and sun-dried toma­toes was superb), Pam and I also had an excel­lent cel­e­bra­to­ry din­ner of our third Anniver­sary of com­ing to Cana­da on July 5th at Il Caminet­to , one of the restau­rants of Umber­to Menghi (his Il Gia­rdi­no and Umberto’s are both down­town). He’s one of the three celebri­ty chefs in the White Spot com­mer­cials, (the oth­er two are Rob Fee­nie and John Bish­op) always talk­ing about ‘the sauce’. We ate a light din­ner; Pam chose a sub­tly flavoured Roast Cor­nish Game Hen atop chick­peas and mixed veg­eta­bles, and I had a sim­ple but per­fect­ly done home­made Fet­tuc­cine with cream sauce, peas and pro­sciut­to along with some excel­lent wine: A good BC Pinot Gris made by the Pen­t­age Win­ery from Ska­ha Bench in the Okana­gan, as well as an intense Ital­ian Mus­cat for dessert . I’ve become a big fan of dessert wines, and some­times pre­fer them over a cake or tart.

So for try­ing of celebri­ty chef restau­rants in the area, we are now 2 out of 3. I guess a vis­it to a Cac­tus Club would now count for Rob Fee­nie, since he has become the ‘food con­cept archi­tect’ of that chain. That’s what the arti­cles say, at any rate.

A nice time was had by all (I think), and we feel pret­ty lucky to have this beau­ti­ful resort area so near to us (for those who don’t live in Van­cou­ver, depend­ing on traf­fic and con­struc­tion on the Sea-to-Sky High­way, it’s about a 2 1/2 hour dri­ve from the city). My broth­er summed up Whistler by and large bet­ter than I could: “It’s a bit like Dis­ney­land for adults.”

Summer, Finally

Not so Hazy and Not so Lazy

Maybe it’s because we have our first bona-fide day where you could go out with­out a jack­et. Maybe it’s because the sun tru­ly doesn’t set until near­ly around 8:30. Maybe it’s because Granville Mar­ket is brim­ming over with sweet local straw­ber­ries, most of the spot prawns and aspara­gus are past, and the heir­loom toma­toes are start­ing to appear. All of the above is con­tribut­ing to a feel­ing that we have final­ly passed into the sum­mer sea­son.

For me, being between contracts/jobs and with some time on my hands, it means that I can enjoy some of this, although I’m cer­tain­ly not spend­ing my days at the beach. Next week, being the Cana­da Day and Fourth of July hol­i­day week, both Pam and I are going to get a lit­tle sum­mer break, with a trip to Whistler with my broth­er and his fam­i­ly. We’ve been look­ing for­ward to that for a long time.

Planning for the Autumn Demise of Classical Radio in Vancouver

Sum­mer is also the time when a few things end. This morn­ing was the last time that Tom Allen would do his ‘cage match’, a whim­si­cal fea­ture of ‘Music and Com­pa­ny’ where he would pit one piece of music against anoth­er and call for a vote. This week’s final cage match theme was: ‘With a bang or a whim­per’, since it will be the last one of these bits of fun…forever. Rep­re­sent­ing an end­ing with a bang was Chabrier’s ‘Ah Hur­rah’ from the Opera, Le Roi Mal­gre Lui. The oppo­nent (rep­re­sent­ing a ‘whim­per’ or soft end­ing) was the last move­ment from Haydn’s clever Sym­pho­ny No. 45, ‘The Farewell Sym­pho­ny’ (where one by one, the musi­cians leave the stage until there are only 2 first vio­lins left to end the piece, a clev­er­ly chore­o­graphed hint to Haydn’s patron, the Prince Niko­laus Ester­házy that his court musi­cians as well as his com­pos­er were all home­sick and want­ed him to close up the sum­mer palace so every­one could return home to Eisen­stadt).

It was a typ­i­cal cage match; one part joke, one part seri­ous, one part dra­ma. Like just about every­thing Tom Allen does on the pro­gram, it makes one think a lit­tle, and sets up the day. I will sore­ly miss this along with some of his oth­er reg­u­lar fea­tures. Prob­a­bly my favourite comes at about 6:30 AM: This Day in… which observes some event in his­to­ry that shares today’s date. Today’s was the first solo cir­cum­nav­i­ga­tion of the globe in a boat by Joshua Slocum, a Nova Scot­ian sea­man who fin­ished the trip that he had begun in Boston three years ear­li­er in 1895 on today’s date. Like so many oth­er ‘This Day In…‘s, I didn’t know about this event, and felt the joy I often do from gain­ing a bit of knowl­edge just as I’m start­ing the day.

With­out going off on anoth­er rant about the stu­pid­i­ty and wrong­ness of the CBC get­ting rid of the best clas­si­cal music morn­ing pro­gram in the world, I’ve final­ly accept­ed the inevitable and made plans. A cou­ple of weeks ago I picked up (on sale) a curi­ous new device at Lon­don Drugs: a BLIK Inter­net Clock Radio. This the new clock radio we'll start using on Labour Day, 2008 It’s a stan­dard-look­ing radio (unfor­tu­nate­ly with infe­ri­or speak­ers to the Bose Wave Radio that we’ve been using for the last 10 years or so) that ‘tunes’ to a stream­ing radio sta­tion on the Inter­net rather than local FM (although you can do that, if the Inter­net is down). I’ve test­ed it, and while there is about a 20-sec­ond delay while the sta­tion ‘resolves’ to the URL you’ve cho­sen, it will indeed allow you to awak­en to over 9,000 dif­fer­ent sta­tions all over the world (although in prac­tice the num­ber one would want to tune to is a small frac­tion of that num­ber). I was able to set the pre­sets to the BBC’s Radio 3 (which I knew well from my days as a Grad Stu­dent), the local CBC Radio 1, NPR in Boston, as well as the nation­al NPR sta­tion. I’ll look for some oth­er sta­tions, as there are 8 pre­set slots. As you can imag­ine, retriev­ing and sift­ing through 9,000 sta­tions in a tree-like menu using a ter­ri­ble LED screen is a bit of a chal­lenge (oh, if only Apple would make one of these- I guess they do, it’s called a Mac Mini with mouse, key­board, speak­ers and a small flat-screen mon­i­tor run­ning a brows­er with some pre­set stream­ing radio sta­tion book­marks, but even some­thing like that is too large for a night-table). Most of these sta­tions have us wak­ing up at 9:00 AM East­ern on North Amer­i­ca, or 68(!) hours ahead in the UK. I fear that at noon 2:00 in the after­noon in Lon­don we may not get a com­plete­ly morn­ing-friend­ly clas­si­cal music feed, so I’ll have to search fur­ther until I find a new place to tune to. Both Pam and I hope that we don’t have to resort to NPR, which always put me in a bad mood in the morn­ing, par­tic­u­lar­ly now that it has moved so much far­ther to the Right polit­i­cal­ly than it used to be (hear­ing the appalling Cok­ie Roberts sneer at the Democ­rats every Mon­day morn­ing got my blood boil­ing ear­ly in the week — fun­ny, but that was my word, but appar­ent­ly it’s still what she is doing, defend­ing Dick Cheney on the TV Pro­gram ‘This Week’).

While they are get­ting rid of Clas­si­cal Music on Radio 2, I do remem­ber the some­what encour­ag­ing news that the CBC said that they were going to add a stream­ing clas­si­cal music chan­nel on the Inter­net. I doubt if it will have the incom­pa­ra­ble Tom Allen on it, but at least there will be a Cana­di­an alter­na­tive for our move from FM Radio to almost exclu­sive­ly Inter­net radio from Labour Day on.

Observations From a New Point of View

Since she’s got­ten back, Pam has said that she’s been see­ing the world (includ­ing our home) a lit­tle dif­fer­ent­ly late­ly:

  1. While the coastal moun­tains may look big to us (and they cer­tain­ly loom large enough that I use them to ori­ent myself when­ev­er walk­ing down­town), the Andes Moun­tains in the south of Chile and Argenti­na make them look small.
  2. The ice­bergs she saw were ‘rough­ly the same size as the con­tain­er ships’ we saw yes­ter­day in Eng­lish bay. Bear in mind that this is just the vis­i­ble tip of the object. 7/8 of it is under­wa­ter.
  3. While it’s been pret­ty much dis­missed as a myth, Pam did notice that the water going down the drain where she was always went down clock­wise. We did a lit­tle test here and although the bath­tub goes coun­ter­clock­wise, the guest bath­room sink went clock­wise as well. I stand by the opin­ion that the Cori­o­lis effect, while clear­ly hav­ing an effect on large-scale weath­er pat­terns (like hur­ri­canes), does not pro­duce enough force on small local­ized phe­nom­e­non in order to lead to a con­sis­tent direc­tion either way when things go down the drain. Instead, in these cas­es, it’s more a func­tion of the size, shape, and angle of the bowl or tub.
  4. When they left South Amer­i­ca, the cap­tain of the Pam’s ship said: “Say good-bye to trees for 10 days”. Indeed, there wasn’t a sin­gle tree on any of the pho­tos Pam took on any of the islands or the coast of Antarc­ti­ca. A land­scape with­out a tree is some­thing I’d have a hard time get­ting used to.
  5. Moss (which was found on these islands) always grew on the South side of rocks (as opposed to the North side here).
  6. Birds in Antarc­ti­ca (includ­ing the Pen­guins, Terns, Alba­tross and Petrels) were all much larg­er than the birds we see here. They call the Cor­morant (which we some­times do see here) a Blue-Eyed Shag.
  7. Even on a cloudy or rainy day, you need sun­glass­es in Antarc­ti­ca because the reflect­ing snow is so bright.

I’m sure she’ll think of oth­ers as they strike her.

Last Dispatch

While I was at North­ern Voice, Pam’s final email came in:

There won’t be many pho­tos from the Zodi­ac cruise through Ple­neau Island, also known as ‘The glac­i­er grave­yard’. Get­ting from ice­berg to ice­berg for obser­va­tion proved to be a wild ride. Wind, waves, and snow hin­dered pic­ture-tak­ing for all but those being paid to do it. The rest of us clung to the side robes with heads turned into sleeves. I sup­pose we learned that form of pro­tec­tion from the pen­guins.

When ice­bergs become ground­ed, it’s ero­sion that shakes them apart, even­tu­al­ly becom­ing ‘burg­er bits’. It might take an ice­berg 10 years to rot. They look snowy from a dis­tance but up close you see accu­mu­lat­ed rocks frozen in the sol­id ice. We cruised through icy chunks where a leop­ard seal hid out and taunt­ed Zodi­acs try­ing to land.

The next day oppo­site weath­er in qui­et, sun­ny Cuverville Island. We observed more gen­too pen­guins in a big smelly rook­ery. One of the guides not­ed that in the past 3 years, snow cov­er has retreat­ed from the shore expos­ing sharp rocks and pro­duc­ing new moss­es. We could hear the pen­guins squish as they stepped across the tour trail.

In the evening a British base com­man­der lec­tured on ‘A Year in Antarc­ti­ca’. He described how a par­tic­u­lar sci­en­tif­ic group phys­i­cal­ly and men­tal­ly han­dled a 12-month rota­tion. In addi­tion to work­ing in pairs, they also had to deal with per­son­al annoy­ances such as soup slurp­ing. If a cowork­er got the bet­ter of you, they were asked to ‘repair a meter’ in the out­er­most hut. (It was equipped with essen­tial overnight gear.) When the base sup­ply ves­sel returned the fol­low­ing year, the com­man­der explained that, nat­u­ral­ly, out­go­ing crew went through with­draw­al and grief. Replace­ments were to allow them a few days for intro­spec­tion before they left.

Our stops over the last 5 days have includ­ed Decep­tion Island, Peter­mann Island, Half­moon Bay, Par­adise Bay, and Neku Har­bour. We crossed 66-degrees south lat­i­tude, a joy­ous moment for the cap­tain, with­in spit­ting dis­tance of the Antarc­tic Cir­cle, the fur­ther­est south this ves­sel and this cap­tain have ever been.

We’re now think­ing about home. Tonight at the Captain’s farewell par­ty ‘Las Pen­guinas’ my pic­ture-tak­ing bud­dies and I will rem­i­nisce about this incred­i­ble jour­ney to the awe­some Antarc­tic.

Pam will be back on Tues­day, and I’m hop­ing that her pho­tos will be up short­ly after that.