Category Archives: Travel

London (not the Ontario Version) Camera Horror

Posted on March 29, 2016 by

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I am newly back at work after a thoroughly fun-filled week in London, where Kelly and I devoured one incandescent play, seven museums, multiple castles, some exquisite cream tea and scone combos and Tube Stations beyond count. We posted highlights and selfies as we went, along with dance videos.

One of the social media things I’m incredibly enchanted by, with regard to my own photography, is watching my Instagram map fill up with little tags of the places I’ve been and seen. This is a snippet of my posting activity for the period when we were gone.

If I had nothing but time to spend on zooming in and out on this map, attempting to create the maximum density of Polaroid-shaped images that prove I Was So Totes There!, I would do little else. Dinner would burn and the children would starve. One Of the main reasons we walked through Covent Gardens was so I could fill a blank spot on the map.

One of the other geeky things I did was accept a Fitbit challenge from a friend who perhaps should have guessed I’d walk as much or more if I was on vacation. He did very well, though–I didn’t quite walk him into the ground. Still won, though. (This concludes the unattractive gloating portion of our post.)

I didn’t mention this online while we were travelling, but I killed my camera on the first night.

This wasn’t an entirely terrible thing. I have been engaged in low-grade waffling about my birdhunting camera for a fair number of months now. It was somewhat elderly, but not so frail it couldn’t have been donated to a good home. Like all of my cameras, it was a point and shoot, but for a P&S it has an enviable zoom for nature photography, and it let me get good candids and some appealing faraway details on architecture and other inaccessible pretty things. But I haven’t done much birding and wildlife shooting since moving to Toronto, and Birdhunter was heavy. I have wee, wimpy overused wrists, after all.  The thing was also always a bit of a lemon: glitchy in minor but irritating ways. I was trying to figure out what I wanted in my next camera. I did a lot of thinking and feeling and maundering and I won’t spell it all out here, lest someone mistake this as an invite to advise me.  I hadn’t reached any conclusions.

So I took it to London and, on the first night in a bathroom stall at the globe, hung it on a hook that did not support its weight. Smash! So all but the first hundred or so of the 1572 London pics in my Flickr Album were shot with the iPhone. I have a set of lenses for the phone, a gift from a friend, and I experimented with them for a couple of days–I’d been meaning to do that, so hurrah! Then I decided to just keep it simple.

Upshot: most of the pictures I got are ones I’m quite happy with. I grieve for the close-up I would have gotten of that fox in Kew Gardens. I got so close! (The reason: an old lady was chumming the lawns with bread.) I wish I’d had a shot at one of the parrots. But the phone worked decently well for tourist pics, and the next phone, with a better set of lenses… that may be the route I take until I’m ready to start seriously birding again.

Why, yes, I did say dance videos. Here’s Kelly performing at the Tower of London.

Is this a Stratford I see before me?

Posted on September 26, 2015 by

SONY DSCKelly and I are off to Stratford, Ontario  to see Carousel, She Stoops to Conquer and The Alchemist with my parents. They’ve been in town all week, and if you’re waiting on an e-mail from me, that’s the short answer as to why. (The long answer is “…an’ also I have a cold, and also also I had a three-hour seminar Friday night in the burbs–oh, the humanity!–but I sincerely like you and so appreciate the thing you sent me, and I will absolutely get to you as soon as is mammally possible because you are a wonderful human being and a treasure to behold. Seriously. Cough, cough.”)

In other words: regular service, including an increasing number of posts about ​A Daughter of No Nation, will resume on Tuesday. And in the meantime there will no doubt be geotagged Instagram and other pictures of yet another Ontario town I never saw before, in my whole life.

Lions and rhinos and bats, oh my!

Posted on July 21, 2015 by

imageThe first person I met when I went to university orientation, back in 1985, was Christina: a voracious reader, Henry VIII aficionado and fellow theater geek who joined the student newspaper the same day I did. We laughed, we learned, we did a bunch of shows… and, in the fullness of time, we eventually graduated. Due in part to the mixed miracle that is Facebook, we have remained connected.

Xtina came to Toronto with her husband Scott last weekend, and by way of celebrating Kelly’s birthday took us on Sunday to the African Lion Safari in Cambridge. Ontario friends, I am surprised that it was a couple of Alberta kids who told us there were lions, omg lions, within easy driving distance. To say nothing of the rhinos.


We rounded out the day with a quick run to the Devil’s Punchbowl and then went on to the Vegas-for-families tourist explosion that is Niagara Falls. The splendid natural impressiveness of all that falling water did, once again, transcend the horror of the crowds and the tourist tack.

(I will note for the record that Niagara Falls has the most sewerific Starbucks bathroom I have ever seen. Scott will back me up on this, so you don’t need a photo.)

The full photo set is here.

Wisdom of the Pinternets

Posted on July 16, 2015 by

alyx babyWhen we were recently in Boston, we ended up tooling through Whole Foods in search of fruit, yogurt, airplane snacks and the particular kind of entertainment that comes of briefly staring at things you would never seriously consider buying. Among these were some slogan-y fridge magnets, including one that seemed like it could be my new national anthem: Let Go or Be Dragged.

This, at first glance, seemed like a kinder-gentler revision of an attitude I sometimes find myself holding, which might be characterized as Get Out of My Way Before I Set You on Fire.

I do not like to feel impeded. Oh, I know–who does? I’m not a special snowflake in this, though I may be more than usually mulish about plowing on regardless once I’ve decided on a goal.

Anyway, we got back to the fabulous Oasis Guest House, where the WiFi was free-flowing and delicious, and I decided to pin the expression. Upon googling the phrase, I found it’s credited as being a Zen proverb. This presumably means that it doesn’t necessarily arise from the I and my flamethrower are coming through now, thanks place, as I had initially assumed.

I decided I was okay with that, and that I could hold the one reading but maybe strive for the other, and so I pinned it. And damn if Pinterest didn’t then offer up all sorts of other peace & luv bon mots. Of which I did genuinely like a few:

You can’t fix yourself by breaking someone else seemed kind of pertinent to some of the things I’ve been talking about lately.
What you allow is what will continue is something I mean to think about. It’s not bad, but there may be a kernel of victim-blaming there.
Fall seven times, stand up eight, on the other hand, has that Karate Kid can-do spirit we all know and love.

What are your mantras and how well do they hold up to overly critical scrutiny?

Here’s the Boston photoset. I’m still curating, a little, but it’ll give you the general idea. https://flic.kr/s/aHskfCerFP

Propitious Birds (Toronto Day 532)

Posted on October 31, 2014 by

imageA thing about living right downtown here is I mostly see sparrows and pigeons. Starlings, sometimes. Grackles and gulls, for sure. I’ve had cardinals and finches in the tree outside my window, there’s a young raptor who taunts me on Queen Street when I’m out without the big zoom camera, and I can go to the lakeshore for ducks and cormorants. It’s not as though the birds aren’t here.

But, day to day, it’s mostly sparrowkind.

In Vancouver last week I caught glimpses of all my faves: crows (commuting crows, by the hundreds!), starlings, great blue herons, three species of duck, bushtits, cormorants, and a glimpse of northern flicker. I thought I’d have to content myself with the scolding of a Stellar’s jay in the bushes, but it turns out my sister-in-law feeds them. I almost collided with one Monday on my way out the door; it was headed to a clutch of peanuts on the kitchen windowsill.

It was satisfying and soul-nourishing, and a nice concrete example of a difference, neither good nor bad, between Then and Now. But not truly between Here and There, because if I’d got a house outside of the downtown core, I’d be hip-deep in feathery company.