Turning the Ignition Key

I’m going to just start typ­ing, and bear with me, because it feels a bit like start­ing up a car that’s been sit­ting in a garage for sev­er­al weeks. Not rusty, but a lit­tle creaky and not quite ready for the open road for a few min­utes, at least until it starts to warm up…

Speak­ing of tem­per­a­ture, today was chilly, and for the first time, it tru­ly felt like fall was in the air. Nev­er mind that sum­mer has offi­cial­ly been over for 3 weeks. Van­cou­ver doesn’t get the spec­tac­u­lar dis­play of autumn leaves that we used to see in New Eng­land, and it was part­ly what made it my favourite sea­son. Now, I’m not quite as fond of it as I used to be, but I still do like the sea­son­al dish­es and pro­duce: Rata­touille, roast­ed squash, pears and cran­ber­ries, and I also like the fact that it’s typ­i­cal­ly the time of year when I feel as if everything’s start­ing up, that the year is real­ly begin­ning. Jan­u­ary 1st may be the offi­cial kick-off of the cal­en­dar year, but as the son of two teach­ers and now some­times one myself, the aca­d­e­m­ic cal­en­dar always seems more appro­pri­ate.

Back to class­es here also means the return of the Fringe Fes­ti­val, and I’m a fan. That’s over and done with now, but I did make it to a few shows. It was grat­i­fy­ing to see that the annu­al fes­ti­val of inti­mate the­atre that takes place near­by us on Granville Island as well as through­out the city was more pop­u­lar this year than ever. I’m afraid that I didn’t get to the Inter­na­tion­al Film Fes­ti­val, which usu­al­ly comes on the heels of the Fringe, but it also looked to be well attend­ed.

So what’s com­ing up? I’m look­ing for­ward to Bar­Camp, the year­ly uncon­fer­ence where every­body gets to be an expert in some­thing. I think I have a sub­ject to talk about this year, and I’ll be putting some of that up before­hand, main­ly to tease those who might be inter­est­ed in it. I’m also antic­i­pat­ing the Cas­soulet fes­ti­val that Oya­ma Sausage Com­pa­ny cel­e­brates. I’ve writ­ten about it before, and per­haps I will again. After all, it’s not ever day that you get to eat what’s prob­a­bly the most sub­lime dish ever made with beans, herbs and meats.

I’m not look­ing for­ward to the elec­tion back in the US. Pol­i­tics and gov­ern­ment in the US has reached the point of com­plete and utter absur­di­ty. The Amer­i­can elec­torate is now by and large so irra­tional and dri­ven by Pub­lic Rela­tions manip­u­la­tion that I don’t expect any sane out­come in Novem­ber. I’ve been lis­ten­ing to the audio ver­sion of the book The Age of Amer­i­can Unrea­son by Susan Jaco­by, and I’m becom­ing con­vinced that she is right on tar­get. Polit­i­cal cul­ture in the US is a reflec­tion of gen­er­al cul­ture, which has become less and less informed, knowl­edgable and rea­soned. Amer­i­cans have stopped talk­ing about any­thing impor­tant, except the lat­est scan­dal, goofy YouTube moment, or gaffe. Instead of call­ing the Tea Par­ty out on their igno­rance of what the Con­sti­tu­tion says (like for instance, the sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers which makes it clear that a Pres­i­dent can’t send in sol­diers to anoth­er coun­try with­out the approval of Con­gress, which is exact­ly what George W. Bush did in Iraq), the TV net­works focus on enter­tain­ing peo­ple with sound-bites. Amer­i­cans don’t read news­pa­pers any more, much less books. With enter­tain­ment trump­ing real infor­ma­tion, it’s clear to me that the most pow­er­ful voice in US pol­i­tics is not any of the politi­cians, but Fox News. Dur­ing my US trip, at cer­tain motels, Fox News was the only cable news chan­nel avail­able on the tele­vi­sion. That would be like Prav­da being the only news­pa­per avail­able at a news stand (for those who aren’t famil­iar with the name ‘Pravi­da’, it was Russ­ian for ‘Truth’, and was the offi­cial news source of the USSR). With Fox the most wide­spread and pop­u­lar source of info-pablum, the US is now effec­tive­ly being led by Rupert Murdoch’s News Cor­po­ra­tion.

There, it looks like my motor is run­ning again.

Back In the Saddle

I’ve learned what it’s like to get out of the habit of writ­ing in this blog. For me, at least, just start­ing again has been excru­ci­at­ing.  Part of the prob­lem is the first few para­graphs. I’ve been try­ing to invent a clever, or unique way of resum­ing, but there doesn’t seem to be any­thing I can do that’s nov­el, wit­ty or deliv­ers a sat­is­fac­to­ry expla­na­tion as to why I’ve not added any­thing here since we were on the beach in Hoi An, Viet­nam. I’ve been told that you should nev­er, nev­er apol­o­gize for not hav­ing writ­ten in a blog for quite some time. In fact, some par­tic­u­lar­ly pathet­ic blogs are noth­ing but a series of these ‘O-I’m-so-sorry-I-haven’t-written-lately’ posts. So there, no apolo­gies.

OK, since I’m break­ing a long, awk­ward silence at this table, I’m going to clear my throat and move the con­ver­sa­tion back to you. So, what have you been doing for the past 2 months, dear read­er? Noth­ing much?

With no smi­ley equiv­a­lent of a shrug, I’m just going to pick up with the here and now, and prob­a­bly will fill in some of the details about the past 10 weeks or so in due course.

So, from the here and now front… Today:

The Vandusen Garden Sale

Pam, a friend of ours and I all got up ear­ly this morn­ing and drove down Oak street and parked about a block before the entrance. Before we got out of the car, there were 4–5 cars pulling in behind us along Oak! We got in line, and soon the rain start­ed. About a half hour lat­er, they opened the doors, and we all sloshed in, many folks with wag­ons, carts and bas­kets. For us, this year was herb year. We picked up some sweet basil, Thai basil, Rose­mary, Viet­namese corian­der and thyme. I’ll be cook­ing with most of that, and hope­ful­ly the herbs will grow all sum­mer enough to keep up with my har­vest­ing them. We found out at the check­out that any­thing edi­ble (i.e. herbs) was tax-free! Note: Odd­ly enough, we learned that manure is also tax-free, although I have no idea why.
We were in and out with­in about 2 hours, and Pam is repot­ting some of the plants now. Good times.

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…

Happy Thanksgiving to the US

While here in Cana­da we cel­e­brat­ed our Thanks­giv­ing back on Octo­ber 12th, this one is ‘the big one’ that we hear about from the South. With that in mind, I thought I’d send a lit­tle bit of Beethoven­ian Good Will (by way of the Mup­pets) your way, my Amer­i­can friends and fam­i­ly:

(Thanks to Bren­da Cad­man of Octo­ber 17 Media for find­ing this. )

I haven’t been blog­ging much this month (maybe it’s the rain — 22 days of it this month!, maybe it’s the time of year — very busy). I will make a seri­ous effort to get some­thing more sub­stan­tial here this com­ing week. In the mean­time…

Seid umschlun­gen, Mil­lio­nen!
Diesen Kuß der ganzen Welt!

Be embraced, you mil­lions!
This kiss for the whole world!

Cold Season and Another Try with FontKit

I haven’t had a cold in quite a while, so the one I have now feels par­tic­u­lar­ly annoy­ing. It’s not as if I’ve for­got­ten what a cold is like, but I think you can get used to them, when you get them more often (and I’m sure I did suf­fer from fre­quent colds- near­ly every few months or so when we lived in Boston). It’s a rainy day, and this is Cold: Day 2 ( which means, run­ny nose, sneezes and a lit­tle less ener­gy), Cold: Day 2 is always eas­i­er for me than Cold: Day 1 (sore throat, run­ny nose, feel­ing like crap). Hope­ful­ly, this cold will progress at the usu­al rate, or maybe even faster.

It’s Labour Day week­end, and although I do have a con­tract I’m work­ing on, I do have the lux­u­ry of not hav­ing to work very much this 3-day week­end. This hol­i­day falls on the last week­end of sum­mer and ush­ers in School, Work, and gen­er­al ‘Lets-Get-Down-To-It’ sort of things that we asso­ciate with the Fall sea­son. We’ve had a spec­tac­u­lar­ly sun­ny sum­mer, and it real­ly was extra­or­di­nary, with months and months of sun­shine, sun­shine and more sun­shine. That was unfor­tu­nate for those peo­ple who had to deal with wild­fires to the East of us, but for those of us in the city or near the water, July and August have been a rarely inter­rupt­ed suc­ces­sion of one beau­ti­ful day after anoth­er. Does this mean we are in for some weath­er come­up­pance?  Will we see a Jan­u­ary and Feb­ru­ary mon­soon, or worse, lots of snow, like last year? Time will tell, I sup­pose. What I can say for sure is that for the first time in ages, the rain that we have (and there has been a lit­tle of it), is falling on a week­end. Rainy week­ends hold their own charm for me; you don’t have to feel guilty about indoor pur­suits like movies, TV, blog­ging, lis­ten­ing to iTunes or even clean­ing up the place. I’m not miss­ing any pre­cious hours of vit­a­min D har­vest, and it can be nice to be cozy, wrapped in a blan­ket, snooz­ing through some of those snif­fles.

The end of the Sum­mer real­ly began a cou­ple of weeks ago when Pam and I once again went to the PNE, which is in its last week­end right now. While we missed Dal Richards, (Canada’s answer to Guy Lom­bar­do and Glen Miller and a liv­ing leg­end, still per­form­ing well into his 90’s), we did make it to see many of the ani­mals (and on Open­ing Day, there are many of them):

Cow and Handler

I loved how this pic­ture came out

The Open­ing Day crowds, brought out by the per­fect weath­er were large:
Crowds

Crowds

We chat­ted with an old friend at the Home Improve­ment Pavil­ion, ate some of those famous lit­tle donuts:
Mmm Donuts!

Mmm Donuts!

David Eats the Donuts

They were Hot and Deli­cious

and Pam got a bar­gain of 4 ears of roast­ed corn for the price of 1 (the line was so long, they were get­ting behind and she got a plate of not-quite-good-enough-for-1-serv­ing ears):
Pam's Corn

Pam’s Corn

We also went to the ‘Mar­ket­place’ where you see all of those demon­stra­tions of every­thing from Sham­mies to Blenders and end­ed up get­ting a Smart Liv­ing Steam Mop. We’ve since put it through it’s paces on our car­pets, wood and tile at home and while it does not per­form mir­a­cles, it does work pret­ty well, and we hope it will help us keep the place a lit­tle clean­er. We still do need new car­pet, but that will hope­ful­ly come in the next few months or so.

So, with the sea­son now clear­ly com­ing to an end, it’s time to return my atten­tion back to this blog, which I’ve been giv­ing a bit less atten­tion this sum­mer. With that, I’m try­ing to once again look at the new Font tech­nol­o­gy that will be com­ing soon to a web page on your screen…

Squishy Fonts?

I’ve tried some dif­fer­ent Type­kit fonts, and it seems as if the body text is always look­ing a bit squished. I’m con­vinced it’s not the fonts them­selves, but the met­rics I’ve spec­i­fied on the orig­i­nal Geor­gia font (which is what old­er browsers see when they view my pages). I’ll keep at it, but for ref­er­ence, here are the fonts as they appear on the Type­Kit Edi­tor page:

typekit_screenshot

Click to see the full-size, which clear­ly shows how the fonts should look.

As you can see, the new font, Luxi (Sans and Serif) are not sup­posed to be that squishy, so I’ll have to work on the orig­i­nal CSS (and do so with­out ruin­ing the look of the page for old­er browsers. Back­ward com­pat­i­bil­i­ty with­out mess­ing up the new fonts is going to be one of the chal­lenges for us using these new fonts, I guess.