Category Archives: True Stories

Anecdotes from my past and present.

Making the quick getaway

Posted on June 4, 2011 by

Kelly and I spent Saturday night in Victoria last weekend; I had a meeting for the mentoring gig and rather than spend an entire day getting there and then back on the ferry, we decided to make an Occasion of it.

Before 2001 we used to visit the city periodically–check out Canada’s most magnificent bookstore, poke around, admire the waterfront, hit Craigdarroch Castle. Then when the parents moved to Parksville, all our Vancouver Island to-ing and fro-ing got subsumed into family visiting. We’d catch the ferry to Nanaimo, get a ride to their place, and hang out. They were great trips–I still miss doing that–but all we’ve seen of Victoria since then was a brief sail-by last year when the Alaska cruise we went on with my family happened to pause in Canada.

This wasn’t exactly leisurely either, but kelly-yoyoKelly and I did manage to pack in some foodie tourism. We hit a lounge named Clive’s Classic Lounge, where they made interesting cocktails: their punch was incredible, and I had a thing called a rhubarb fizz that was very tasty. We also had insanely good Vietnamese food at a place called Kim’s on Johnson and a good brekkie at a hipstery joint, Mo:le.

Our big dinner at Il Terazzo was only just okay; the salads gave me high hopes, but the food–while nicely put together–was entirely lacking in special, or nuance. It is also a massive place, a pack ’em in cheek by jowl and let the noise mount venue. Nothing there was terrible, but the end result was, essentially, meh.

There were a couple big events happening in Victoria–a 90K bike race, and a boat festival of some kind. We were lucky to get a room at the Best Western. We were even luckier to get one on the fourth floor, directly across from a nesting seagull. Her egg began cracking as we were checking out of the hotel, and part of me wanted to stay until the thing not only hatched but grew to adulthood and started applying for colleges. It’s a good thing I didn’t–after kicking a hole in the roof, it crawled out of the bottom of the egg. Kelly and I saw some wriggling and one waving leg above the crown of the nest, but the miracle of bird birth didn’t yield any pictures more amazing than this blurry close-up of parent bird peering at the progress of its offspring as it busted out.

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My baggage, let me show it you

Posted on May 25, 2011 by

Until I started taking pictures I was a grab the wallet and go woman: no purse, no supplies, no nothing extraneous. But when I got into photography I knew that I had to carry the camera everywhere; otherwise I’d be seeing things I wanted to shoot when I didn’t have it along. I’d also be leaving it at the library or wherever I went because if I didn’t always have it, I wouldn’t be able to remember if I’d left the house with it on any given occasion.

And so my soup to nuts big bag o’ stuff, Titanic, was born.

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Now I am trying to streamline. I have gotten myself a wafer thin bluetooth keyboard to go with the iPad I’ve finally ordered. The desired end result, after months of scrimping my pennies, is that these gadget will all but eliminate carrying the laptop around, and also allow me to move the camera and other must-have stuff into a lighter backpack.

(Oh, there were other rationales, too. We want to use it for comfort viewing when we travel. We got so media-deprived in Greece that we tried to watch Tango and Cash.)

Titanic the monster bag is gloriously big and ridiculous, and there’s no doubt benefit to my bones and muscles to be ambling around with twelve pounds on my back all the time, but the laptop makes it seventeen and that’s sheerly ridiculous.

Though the tablet hasn’t arrived yet, the keyboard also works with the iPod. So I have been tip-tapping at the cafe this rainy morning, trying it out and thinking about apps.

I do almost all of my first-draft writing longhand or on an app called Simplenote, which lets you put together simple text files and sync them, when the Wifi is flowing, to the Internets. I found Simplenote in a “top apps of 2010” article and though I’ve played with other versions of the same thing, it’s been the best so far for my needs. Ninety percent of what I do is text, after all.

Still, Simplenote won’t play nicely (or at all) with Word documents, which would make the prospect of revising 500-page novels while off-line–something I do a lot–rather challenging. I went ahead with the pad purchase on the theory that something that can handle Word files while offline, and sync to the cloud (preferably Dropbox) will eventually emerge from the nethers of the app store. Just yesterday I saw there’s something called “Office2” … I can’t tell from the salesbumf if it syncs, though.

This ornate activity and insistence on syncing comes of my being someone who refuses to pay an exorbitant monthly fee for mobile Internet access wherever I go. Even so, it does seem to me that a meta-app, something that opened up and auto-synced all one’s various cloud-based computer stuff when the Wifi was flowing, would be a good addition to the app store. It’s also one they don’t, as far as I can tell, already have.

And maybe I’ve just missed it, but I have spent a ludicrous amount of time surfing the App store. It’s just my kind of shopping: I can do it on my butt, from my house, none of the toys come wrapped in plastic and half the stuff I’m interested in is free. What’s also true, is that in an odd way, there’s not much there. Oh, there are twenty or fifty or a thousand “To-Do list” apps, but I’m guessing the average human needs one. Or two, if they want a dedicated grocery list that beeps when you’re near the store with the good price on kitty litter. I limit my game-playing to things that require at least a little brain–puzzles, essentially–and though I’ve loaded up a blogging portal for all my various online real estate, I still tend to compose things in Simplenote and then clean up the HTML on the computer when I get home.

Dear Blog: Today I did Stuff

Posted on May 22, 2011 by

–Wrote but did not type words on the new story.

–Took big weekend project from 75% to 95% done.

–Decided I didn’t need rain gear and left house. Goggled at the sky: green-slate Apocalypse clouds, a day late. Went in, packed rain slicker. Came out, caught a spider with my face, relocated it.

–Tried to tweet about spider and realized a) I’d left my phone indoors; b) it probably wasn’t Tweetworthy.

–Fetched the phone and finally headed up the north False Creek seawall. Stopped ten minutes in to put on slicker. Walked in deluge to the burrito place in Yaletown. Which was, surprisingly, full of televised hockey and its worshippers, but their chorizo taco is so good I stayed anyway.

–Took Skytrain under False Creek and examined iGadgets at Best Buy. I was going to ask if any of you knew if the Belkin bluetooth music receiver was any good, but these guys say it’s about average and glitchy. Those Belkin guys! I suspect them of always making crap. Why is it they’re always the ones making the stuff I want?

–Walked the south seawall side of False Creek. Stopped halfway and stripped off rain gear to shoot ill-lit and no doubt fuzzy pictures of my Kingfisher friend. Raindrops kept falling on my head.

–Hit Safeway, Donald’s and La Grotto for groceries.

–Burst o’ teaching.

–Prepped flip chart for week’s mentoring.

–Italian homework!

–Another hour on big project. Got it to 96% and 10k words.

–Polished and submitted an article.

–Heated up the second half of godlike carnitas burrito.

–And now this!

Tomorrow, if I like, I can make like a slug.

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Horse tails and assorted bloggage

Posted on May 21, 2011 by

I am alternating bits of blogging and correspondence with bursts of work on a big project today, so there are lots of photos going up in the usual places: my Flickr page, the Tumblr blog, all my virtual real estate. Some will come from yesterday’s dawn walk in Stanley Park.

I was at the park by 6:30 a.m., having walked Kelly to the bus so she could catch a plane to her aunt’s funeral. When I got to Lost Lagoon, it was me and about a dozen joggers, some with dogs. Later, when I picked up the lake trail, I had the entire place to myself… I saw maybe three other urban hikers in ninety minutes.

All but one of the swans seems to be off their nests but I’ve seen no cynets; in terms of photo ops, the best subjects were turtles, who were very happy indeed with the sunshine.

I don’t know Stanley Park all that well, despite having lived in Vancouver for twenty years. Now that I have a reason to be in Coal Harbor more regularly, I’m getting to know the place. I printed off a map and yesterday’s goal was to find Beaver Lake, which turned out to be gorgeous and smelly and apparently home to newts.

After three hours in the park (the herons sound like they’ve hatched, but are apparently too small to poke their baby dinosaur heads up yet) I came home and tackled the work pile in fits and starts, with naps and errands in between. It didn’t go all that well: my mind was too much on Auntie Joan, and the family, and when I embarked on a long errand I strained an already-tired muscle in my foot. But things got done; the day passed. At eight I knocked off and rewatched the first Sherlock, rang my wife, and dragged my butt off to bed.

Turtle in Bright Sun

Risked getting birdcrap in my hair for these…

Posted on April 17, 2011 by

I swore I would make it out there with the big zoom, and now I have. In fact, I meant today to head straight for the Stanley Park Heronry, as it’s called, but the allure of a spin around the reservoir caught me. This means that at some point in the not too distant I’ll be uploading more swans, scaups, and gulls. But I made it in the end, and it was wondrous. Here’s my first sighting.

Each clump is a nest…

Stanley Park Heronry

Each nest has two birds… and probably four photographers.

Oh, there were some big-ass lenses and mighty tripods there, and a heck of a lot of people, all crammed into the four square feet with the best light and the least evidence, on the ground, of bird droppings. (Since I was willing to get slimed and not wed to a forty pound tripod, I circled a bit.)

Stanley Park Heronry

I observed that some of my feathered friends have strong feelings, possibly about our upcoming national and provincial elections. If you’re local, I recommend going to hear what they have to say. Herons are usually so quiet and dignified!

Stanley Park Heronry

Others, however, clearly have already decided how they’re voting and have turned off the TV until both elections and @$@###%! hockey season are over.

Stanley Park Heronry

My mission: get back when the chicks are hatched.