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:
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 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.”
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. 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.
Since she’s gotten back, Pam has said that she’s been seeing the world (including our home) a little differently lately:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Moss (which was found on these islands) always grew on the South side of rocks (as opposed to the North side here).
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.
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.
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.