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:


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:


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.