Go East, Old Man

It will be inter­est­ing to see how this has changed since 2005

Well, I’m not quite old, yet, I hope, but I am going East, for about a week. Here’s the the plan: My fam­i­ly is hav­ing a reunion in Orlan­do, Flori­da next week­end, cel­e­brat­ing my Aunt’s Birth­day (suf­fice to say It’s a big one). In the week lead­ing up to that date, I’m going to vis­it some parts of the east­ern US that I haven’t seen since we left in 2005 (a year and 10 days ago, to be pre­cise). First stop is Dublin, New Hamp­shire, to vis­it The Walden School Sum­mer ses­sion. I’ll write more about this amaz­ing insti­tu­tion in my next entry. I’ll be vis­it­ing and hope­ful­ly soak­ing in the cre­ative juices there from Tues­day through Wednes­day. On Thurs­day I’ll be in Boston, vis­it­ing our old neigh­bor­hood in Cam­bridge and look­ing up some some old friends. I have to admit that while I con­sid­er Van­cou­ver my home, we did live for 14 years in Cam­bridge, and since we’ve left, every once in a while I’ll do a lit­tle dig­i­tal sleep­walk using Google Maps Street View to our old court­yard and the oth­er streets in the neigh­bor­hood. I know every crack in the side­walk between Hamp­shire Street and the Kendall Square T stop, or used to know, rather. I expect that I’ll be sur­prised at how things have changed. I don’t know if I’ll get a chance to taste some Toscanini’s Ice Cream, or even an Emma’s Piz­za or Kendall Brew­ery beer, but any and all of those will be nice to sam­ple once again, just to make sure that they are all as good as I remem­ber them. I’ll also have no chance to hear the BSO, or go to any con­cert, for that mat­ter. Per­haps a ‘cul­tur­al’ reunion is some­thing I’ll have to plan for anoth­er time. In the mean­time, 3 whirl­wind days in New Eng­land book­end­ed by flights all around North Amer­i­ca will be how my week goes. Let’s hope the heat wave has bro­ken before I get there.

Ear­ly Fri­day morn­ing I fly out of Logan (which I must admit I’m not look­ing for­ward to see­ing again — I hate that air­port — often called the worst in North Amer­i­ca — with a pas­sion and hope that some­day they will mer­ci­ful­ly tear it down, but I’m not hold­ing my breath ) to Orlan­do, where Pam and I will join my par­ents, cousins and oth­ers in the Flori­da heat (although I sus­pect we’ll be in air-con­di­tion­ing much of the time).

Paradise Found

One of the hard things about blog­ging on the road when you trav­el far east­ward, is that you tend to conk out ear­li­er in the evening. Com­bine that with ear­ly morn­ing starts, and, well, I’m not mak­ing excus­es, but upload­ing my pho­tos is just about all I’ve been able man­age.

So, with about an hour before din­ner, and a bit of the day’s adven­tures behind me, I can try and write a bit.

I won’t try and catch up com­plete­ly the last 6 days or so, which includ­ed our vis­it to Bangkok, Siem Reap, and Ho Chi Minh City, but will try to get back to them in a future entry. If I have to go through all of my notes and write them back in Van­cou­ver, I guess I’ll do that.

Let me try and describe the scene before me. We are in what they call a ‘Vil­la’ in the Nam Hai resort, near the town of Hoi An, in Cen­tral Viet­nam. This place has been list­ed as one of the lead­ing resorts of the world, and I can’t argue. As it grows dark out­side, we can hear the surf of Chi­na Beach on the South Chi­na Sea, as well as my iPhone, which is con­nect­ed to their iPod plug, play­ing some Chopin on the invis­i­ble sound sys­tem. The tem­per­a­ture is cool, around 24C, with a strong breeze, which is toss­ing the palm trees. Pam found a cou­ple of fra­grant Frangi­pani blooms on the front lawn and brought them in to per­fume our laun­dry bag.

This ‘house’ (which is near­ly as large as our con­do back at home) has what I can only describe as a ‘room with­in a room’. A frame of dark wood encom­pass­es a bed, lounge, desk, bath­tub and white tapes­tries (almost like mos­qui­to net­ting, but there’s no need for that). The bed faces the sand lead­ing to the beach. There is an exquis­ite bon­sai tree at one end, and indoor and out­door show­ers of our own. The floor (aside from the inner ‘room’) is dark stone, with steps lead­ing down to the back of the room and exit to the beach. The 60 Vil­las are laid out in 5 horse­shoes, with the beach behind them. The com­plex includes 2 Restau­rants and bar, Library, swim­ming pool, Spa, Gym and Ten­nis, Bas­ket­ball and Bad­minton courts.

The only bad thing about this place is how short a time we’ll be here; just two nights, and dur­ing the day, I’ll be in Hoi An, attend­ing a cook­ing class. Still, it’s an extra­or­di­nary resort, and even though some of the places we’ve stayed dur­ing this trip have been pret­ty good, they just can’t com­pare with this, which I’d say is about as lux­u­ri­ous a spot as I’ve ever seen. I could eas­i­ly spend a week here, but that kind of a stay is some­thing only a movie star or Steve Jobs could afford. I haven’t spot­ted him, but we haven’t ven­tured out to the main com­plex yet. Dare I say, we feel a lit­tle under­dressed.

On the Road

Years ago we decid­ed that we’d make room for some of the vis­i­tors to Van­cou­ver dur­ing the Olympics. So, on Mon­day evening, we set out, rolling our suit­cas­es down the hill to the Olympic street­car. Four min­utes lat­er, we got on the Canada­line Sky­train and got off at the Van­cou­ver air­port. It couldn’t be eas­i­er, and I’d rec­om­mend any­one who’s on the fence about the new mass tran­sit vs. a taxi to look seri­ous­ly at tak­ing the Canada­line, espe­cial­ly if you have lug­gage on wheels (which the vast major­i­ty of bags are these days). About the only down-side was the Olympic crowds, even at 8:45PM.

Our flight on Cathay Pacif­ic left at 2:00 AM, so we had a qui­et air­port and some time to use the Wi-fi to make some last tweets (and to chat with a friend in Hun­gary — what a small world this is becoming…but more about that in a lat­er post).

The flight was OK, but very, very cold. Hon­est­ly, it was like spend­ing 10 hours in a meat lock­er; You could almost see your breath. Pam and I had coats with hoods, which we kept up the whole time. There was one blan­ket per per­son, and no more. We got in to Hong Kong at their 7:30 AM or so (a day lat­er). After a short lay­over of about an hour, we board­ed anoth­er flight to Bangkok. A cou­ple of hours lat­er, we touched down and saw their new(ish) air­port, that had been built 3 years ago. It’s a very impres­sive struc­ture, with cater­pil­lar-like gates con­nect­ed to a steel, con­crete and glass main sec­tion. We were imme­di­ate­ly met by two young reps. for the tour com­pa­ny (Aber­crom­bie & Kent, who Pam used for her tour of Antarc­ti­ca). They whisked us through bag­gage and cus­toms, and we then were hand­ed off to one of the tour guides here, who goes by the nick­name Tukke (Took­ie). She, and a dri­ver, drove us through the enor­mous city of Bangkok, to the hotel where we are stay­ing here, the Man­darin Ori­en­tal. It’s a very fine hotel (offi­cial­ly 130 years old), albeit old enough that I saw echoes of my grandmother’s taste through­out: the Eng­lish colo­nial fur­ni­ture, the palms and white palm tea­room, the pool with cabanas and teak walk­ways through­out. It’s well main­tained, how­ev­er, and the Inter­net in the room was good enough that I could phone my par­ents back in the states via Skype on my iPhone and it was good enough for them that my father thought it sound­ed like I was ‘next door’. The view, of the Chao Phraya riv­er (Riv­er of Kings) is pret­ty impres­sive too:

The View out our Hotel Win­dow — That’s the French Embassy’s Gar­den in the Low­er Right

We man­aged to stay awake (bare­ly) until about 7:30 PM before col­laps­ing and then wak­ing up at 3, and then 6 this morn­ing. After one of the best break­fast buf­fets I’ve ever eat­en (includ­ed with the room — I’ll try and take some pho­tos tomor­row), we returned to the room, and after a short rest, I write this update.
I’m going to try and update the Flickr set of our trip as we go, and it’s here

Update: After many prob­lems with the set get­ting too big, I’ve split it into 7 sets, includ­ing:

So, it’s off for a short boat trip across the riv­er to explore some of the city (after we change into shorts to adjust for the heat). Then, per­haps a ride on the Sky­train (Hah, Just like home!). I’m also plan­ning on a mas­sage for my aching shoul­der, back and neck, which may be from the plane ride, plus accu­mu­lat­ed stress from the past few weeks.

More to come…

What a Month!

Is it real­ly Hal­loween again? The month, like Scar­bo the ‘half gob­lin, half ghost’ char­ac­ter from Gas­pard de la Nuit, a poem and the third in a set of 3 extra­or­di­nary piano pieces by Mau­rice Rav­el, has twitched, jerked and reared up and dropped down, pirou­et­ting like a threat­en­ing demon (at least in terms of my nail-bit­ing regard­ing the Stock Mar­ket and the US Pres­i­den­tial Cam­paign)  and now is about to van­ish:

Mais bien­tôt son corps bleuis­sait, diaphane comme la cire d’une bougie, son vis­age blémis­sait comme la cire d’un lumignon,—et soudain il s’éteignait.

But then, his body would change, became as blue and diaphanous as the wax of a can­dle, his face as pale as can­dle grease – and sud­den­ly he would be extin­guished.

– The orig­i­nal poem by Louis Bertrand

(The first few mea­sures and an excerpt that goes on a lit­tle longer are below. It’s tru­ly some of the most men­ac­ing and spooky music that Rav­el ever wrote, I think, and appro­pri­ate for this dark evening):

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Play­er (ver­sion 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Down­load the lat­est ver­sion here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your brows­er.

He he he, creepy enough for you?

Earlier in the Month

I guess the piano music excerpt is part­ly because piano music is part­ly on my mind. Last week I got to a con­cert at the Chan Cen­tre by Piotr Ander­szews­ki, a very inter­est­ing pianist who was mak­ing his return engage­ment to the Van­cou­ver Recital Soci­ety. He played Bach, Mozart and Schu­mann, and I’d have to say that it was the Mozart that I real­ly liked best. Mozart Sonatas, like the Sonata in C minor, K 457 that he played are often played (bad­ly) by chil­dren. Teach­ers give them to their stu­dents fair­ly ear­ly in their devel­op­ment, part­ly because the music seems sim­ple and ‘easy’ to play. The fact is, when a real­ly good pianist plays them, the music reveals how com­plex and real­ly dif­fi­cult it is. I didn’t always love what Ander­szews­ki did; some­times, par­tic­u­lar­ly in the Schu­mann Humoresques (op. 20), he would take long float­ing paus­es, and play some pas­sages so soft­ly and weak­ly that it was almost as if they were being whis­pered. Even if his read­ings seemed to lose the thread of con­ti­nu­ity at times, I have to admit that he made me think — a lot, and that’s some­thing that not every per­former can do for you. I think we’ll be hear­ing more of him in the future on the inter­na­tion­al con­cert cir­cuit. In some ways, he remind­ed me of Radu Lupu, a Roman­ian pianist who was par­tic­u­lar­ly active in the 70s and 80s, and who won an Edi­son award for his Schu­mann (includ­ing the Humoresques as well!).

Last Night

Pam and I got an invi­ta­tion to attend anoth­er live film­ing of a tele­vi­sion sit­com pilot, this time in the South Burn­a­by area in a stu­dio right by the River­way Golf Course. The pilot, called Mem­o­ry Lanes and was pro­duced and cre­at­ed for the CBC by one of the actors in it, Ryan Stiles, of The Drew Carey Show and Whose Line is it Any­way? fame. While it is fun to see, it is also a real edu­ca­tion, because near­ly every scene is filmed a few times, and it was a real plea­sure to see Janet Wright, who plays Brent Butt’s moth­er Emma Leroy on the series Cor­ner Gas prac­tice her craft in per­son. Ms. Wright was a per­fec­tion­ist, sculpt­ing her deliv­ery and ges­tures with each take, and always mak­ing it bet­ter (and fun­nier). For me, she stole every scene she was in. I found out from her bio that she’s direct­ed over 40 pro­duc­tions at the Van­cou­ver Arts Club the­atre (in addi­tion to work all over Cana­da, includ­ing the Strat­ford Fes­ti­val). It shows. I hope I’ll get to see more of her; I real­ly gained new respect for just how much a great actor can add to a sit­com char­ac­ter.

Oh right, the sit­com? Mem­o­ry Lanes may make it to the CBC line up next year. I’d say it was a bet­ter than aver­age script, and the char­ac­ters and sit­u­a­tion show some promise. In some ways, it remind­ed me of Wings, anoth­er sit­com that revolves around a pair of odd-cou­ple broth­ers who end up run­ning a fam­i­ly busi­ness. In the end, it will be the writ­ing that makes or breaks it. Lets hope it gets a chance, some­thing that nev­er hap­pened to the pilot of All the Com­forts that we saw near­ly a year ago.

A Life In Motion

One of the rea­sons that I haven’t been post­ing as often this month as last month, is that it seems that I’m always in town, busy attending/watching/participating in some­thing. You’d think that being on the job hunt and not tied down with a 9-to-5 com­mit­ment would mean that I have tons of free time to spend on blog­ging, clean­ing up my office, and doing all of those oth­er ‘things I’d do if I had time’. No such luck.  It seems my calendar’s clut­ter increas­es to fill the allot­ted time. I do want to at least men­tion, and pro­vide a snap­shot or per­haps a snip­pet of video (because I can) of some of what’s been going on for the past 2 1/2 weeks or so:

Sep­tem­ber 13th: To cel­e­brate my (and my brother’s) birth­day, we took a week­end trip down to vis­it him and the rest of the fam­i­ly down in Belle­vue, Wash­ing­ton. This includ­ed a trip to the Sculp­ture Park:

At the Seattle Sculpture Park

At the Seat­tle Sculp­ture Park

and a cel­e­bra­to­ry Din­ner out at Wild Gin­ger, a favourite Seat­tle restau­rant of theirs:

OK, so I got a little silly, but a birthday candle is just asking to be played with.

OK, I got a lit­tle sil­ly, but a Birth­day Can­dle is just ask­ing to be played with.

Sep­tem­ber 16th: I had lunch with a friend and attend­ed the Mol­son Brew 2.0 event, which I had writ­ten about a lit­tle ear­li­er.

Sep­tem­ber 17th: Met with sev­er­al peo­ple dur­ing the day and attend­ed Launch Par­ty 5 at UnWined.

Imbibing and meeting Startups at Launch Party 5

Imbib­ing and meet­ing Star­tups at Launch Par­ty

Sep­tem­ber 20th: Attend­ed Bar­Camp­BankBC, a real eye-open­er about the con­cerns of the peo­ple in the Bank­ing and Cred­it Union busi­ness (Ques­tions includ­ed: “If increas­ing­ly, every­body does most of their bank­ing online or at ATMs, what’s the new design/experience of a Bank branch sup­posed to be?” ):

A session at BarCampBankBC

A ses­sion at Bar­Camp­BankBC

Sep­tem­ber 21: Made it to the first Annu­al Canary Der­by in Gas­town, a fundrais­ing race of soap­box-style rac­ers, main­ly to cheer on the team of Web­names, who regard­less if they won or not (they didn’t), still had the classi­est look­ing race car of the day. Here’s one of the ear­li­er tri­als that they won:

Since that was mov­ing pret­ty fast, here’s what the car looked like stand­ing still:

The Webnames.ca entry in the 2008 Canary Soapbox Derby in Gastown

The Webnames.ca entry in the 2008 Canary Soap­box Der­by in Gas­town

(Note: The child at the wheel in this shot is not the dri­ver in the race)
Sep­tem­ber 23: Thanks to the gen­eros­i­ty of a dear friend, Pam and I were able to get to one of the Pre-Sea­son games of the Can­nucks. They were play­ing Edmunton, and despite that team’s (appar­ent­ly well-known) speed, the Can­nucks won! Here’s a snip­pet:

Sep­tem­ber 26: The Par­ty for Bar­Cam­p­Van­cou­ver 2008, the year­ly uncon­fer­ence, took place at Work­space. This year I helped out in the plan­ning as well as the food prep (and even played bar­tender a bit).

Sep­tem­ber 27:We lucked out, and the weath­er was gor­geous, which helped since Bar­Camp was held on Granville Island, at 3 sep­a­rate loca­tions includ­ing the Revue Stage, Emi­ly Carr Uni­ver­si­ty, and the Playwright’s The­atre. I had pre­pared a talk on Ubiq­ui­ty, the fas­ci­nat­ing Fire­fox plu­g­in that extends some of the ideas about inter­act­ing with infor­ma­tion on the Inter­net. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, I was bumped because the con­tract for the room had us there until 5PM, not 5:30 as we had been led to believe. Moral of the sto­ry: Nev­er resched­ule your ses­sion to what you think is a bet­ter time (orig­i­nal­ly I was ear­ly in the morn­ing and oppo­site sev­er­al oth­er ses­sions that I want­ed to attend myself!) I am work­ing on refor­mat­ting the pre­sen­ta­tion and slides so that I can put them online on my oth­er blog and will try and let folks know when it’s done. Here’s me pitch­ing my ill-fat­ed pre­sen­ta­tion:

Making my pitch for a presentation on Ubiquity at BarCamp Vancouver 2008

Mak­ing my pitch for a pre­sen­ta­tion on Ubiq­ui­ty at Bar­Camp Van­cou­ver 2008

Sep­tem­ber 28: Word on the Street, the Annu­al fes­ti­val of books, writ­ers and oth­er things lit­er­ary took place down­town, around the library. Pam and I man­aged to make a talk by the enter­tain­ing and inspir­ing Col­in Moor­house, a free­lance speech­writer that Pam had man­aged to hear at a BC Edi­tors Meet­ing last year.

That brings me to today. I near­ly feel out of breath just recount­ing this. And it doesn’t include a cou­ple of job inter­views, meet­ings with friends and col­leagues, and the usu­al day-to-day stuff. It has been a busy month, to say the least.

I think that what’s been going on is a grad­ual accru­al of year­ly events. We noticed a cou­ple of years ago that there seems to be a tac­it agree­ment that in Van­cou­ver, any­thing worth doing is worth doing annu­al­ly. Our year is get­ting busier, which is prob­a­bly OK, but soon we’ll have to pick and choose what we can or can­not make and say instead that we’ll catch what­ev­er we miss ‘next year’.