Sea Lions and bird life

Yesterday we went out to Steveston at nine–early, but not exactly crack of dawn–and caught a Vancouver Whale Watch tour along the 7km jetty to see the young male sea lions, both Steller and California varieties, who hang out there at this time of year. According to our guide, these handsome young bachelors come to the Fraser River Estuary to bulk up on salmon, hoping to bulk up so they can eventually challenge some big daddy lion for a harem.

This is the sort of thing that may conjure up an image of seals pumping iron, no? But of course the reality looks a lot more relaxing:

Sea Lions

It was a ninety minute boat ride, in a covered boat, and there had to be about fifty bald eagles on the route. Most of them were immature–it takes five years for an eagle to grow into that snow-white head! I rather adored that the sea lions were hanging out peaceably with double-breasted cormorants and the occasional gull.

Sea Lions

Afterward, we walked along the wharf, checking out fish for sale out of the backs of boats… including sea urchins!

Sea Urchin

And then we went to the Tapenade Grill for lunch.

The girl who came through the ether

It was about a year ago that I got myself an iTouch, and at some point I also got the iBook app. (They were giving away Winnie The Pooh.) Then kelly-yoyoKelly got a Kindle, so I got that app too. Once I had successfully read a few books on the gadget, I got myself a third book-reading app so I could experiment with downloading books from the BC Libraries without Walls program.

I started this phase of the experiment with Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy–the trio that ends with The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. I knew the database would have them all, I figured they would be fast easy reads, and I was betting I’d never want to own them. All of that, as it turned out, was true.

I have been mustering up a post about what makes a book good. Not okay, not good enough, but good. And this Larsson trilogy falls into the category of books I liked a lot that are not, strictly speaking, good. In this case, that means they have terrific stories and poor prose.

This isn’t just my opinion. Others have pointed out that in translation (and possibly in the original) these books have a clunky prose style. June Casagrande does an interesting edit on the opening passage of the third book, and Nora Ephron makes great fun of the series in The New Yorker. The points made in both articles are valid, but I have no real problem with liking a bad book (or TV show, or movie) now and then. In this case, Larsson’s protagonist and her story pulled me in. It was a tour around the bureaucratic backroads of a foreign country.

I was particularly intrigued by the weird legal situation that Lisbeth Salander is in as the series begins. She’s in her twenties but she’s also trapped in an odd sort of reversed emancipated minor status. Emancipated minors can act as adults in some cases, even though they aren’t legally of age. Lisbeth, meanwhile, is an adult in fact but a dependent minor in the eyes of the System, and she has a court-appointed guardian.

There must be a comparable structure here in Canada and in the U.S., but I have never seen it used in fiction. And it is a great obstacle for a character, especially a socially awkward one, to be stuck with–the threat of being institutionalized hovers over Lizbeth’s every move.

I liked the cluster of allies Lisbeth gathers, somewhat against her will, and the way each novel ends with a gory explosion of violence and crushing public exposure of the bad guys. I like the examination of the role of the media in making big crime stories, and the glimpse of Swedish constitutional law, and the fact that Larsson clearly had it in, bigtime, for homophobes and racists and human smugglers and guys who batter women.

Finally, I have to say that it didn’t hurt that the phrase “lesbian satanist bikers” pops up on every third page of the last two books.

Paying for tube

I have had an account with for about four years, and kelly-yoyoKelly and I have borrowed 469 DVDs from them in that time. It works reasonably well but for one thing: we have a long list of wants, so they rarely send the thing we want most.

So at the tail end of the holidays I looked into Netflix streaming possibilities. They offer unlimited viewage for $8 monthly. The main delivery system, weirdly enough, is our Wii, but we can also watch things on our pods. They have The Life of Mammals, which we have been wanting to watch again, so I took them on the free month’s trial.

Their overall selection, though, makes skim milk look like cream.

We have a hundred things on our Ziplist. The bulk of these are BBC series and foreign films. Netflix lists 90% of what we want as unavailable. They are a fairly new thing here in Canada, and my assumption is their list will improve over time.

If they built up a decent library of TV on DVD, I could be very happy. For me, having my cake and eating it too means getting things legally at a decent price, having them available on demand so I can rewatch my favorite stuff, commercial-free, whenever I want, and as much as possible not buying piles of glossy packaging and DVDs that could one day be as obsolete as Betamax tapes. I know that’s a lot to ask for eight bucks a month.

And certainly the selection hasn’t stopped us from watching stuff: Blue Planet: Seas of Life (which actually qualifies as research for me), two eppies of Life of Mammals, and a morbid double feature on New Year’s Eve: The Buddy Holly Story followed by La Bamba. And they do have the first three seasons of Farscape, and Fantastic Mr. Fox.

So far, it has been a partially successful experiment. I am wondering, though–does anyone know the scuttle on whether and when the selection ought to improve?

Favorite thing notebook

Happy long weekend, everyone!

If it’s Monday, I must be blogging over at Favorite Thing Ever, and this week I’m talking about one of my favorite green companies, the makers of Ecojot notebooks. Do you write longhand, or love to journal? Would you prefer to feel like you’re not cutting down forests to do it? Wanna trickle-down some of your stationery budget to schoolkids in need? Surf on over there and have a look at the eco-journal treasure.

And for those of you who may be putting in a few hours today, despite the statutory holiday, here’s a worker bee:
Vancouver flowers

Stanley Park, crops and closeups

Sunday morning after I hit the cafe for some writing time, Barb and I went for a walk through Coal Harbor to Lost Lagoon, and it was like the wildlife of Coastal B.C. was lining up for us. Here’s a small sample:

After three happy hours in the baking, blazing, sharp-shadow-casting sun, we returned to East Vancouver, where I hooked up with kelly-yoyoKelly for coffee and a panini. Afterward, we decided to hit a sale at Cotton Ginny that faith0322Faith had mentioned… and it was like the pretty, price-slashed clothes of Vancouver (okay, Burnaby) were lining up for me. I got a couple of allegedly, organic, sustainably farmed, farmer-friendly cotton tops and a pair of jeans, and then we went next door and stocked up on socks for winter. (The socks, I admit, may have been made from baby spandexes whose parents were taken away in the night by very unkind people.)

Then we puttered home, or meant to, and ended up in Tierra del Sol, where the other clothes were waiting. A dress and a cute, cute, CUTE! top later, we were ready to go. Then we heard a cheerful-sounding “I need a hug!” and Lotus was standing behind us. Eeeee!!! Lotus lives in Edmonton now, so her hugs are rare and precious things. She had somewhere to be so we walked her back to the Skytrain station, chattering all the way, and then turned back for what could be counted as my fourth attempt to return home in the six hours since I’d left. This time we made it as far as Falconetti‘s new deck. Kelly had a Caesar and I had an Innis and Gunn; we shared a plate of calimari and all was right with the world.

Then, finally, we went home, so I could wash off the sunscreen and chortle over my photographic treasure. That, and telling you all about it, is what I’m up to now.