July 30, 2009

Some Like it Hot

I can't sleep, I can't eat, I can't think.

We seem to be in the midst of a heat wave in Vancouver -- some say it hasn't been this hot this long since the 1920s. We hit 34C(94F) yesterday and with the humidity it felt like 39C(103F). Right now, at noon, it is 31C but feels like 37C. We Vancouverites can't handle this. We don't have air conditioning as it NEVER gets this hot. We are like Goldilocks when it comes to our weather. We like it somewhere in the middle. The winter's are never too cold nor have too much snow (some years, none at all) and the summers are warm enought to spend time at the beach and the evenings cool off enough that you need a light sweater. This make sleeping easy.

After one week of heat we are all getting grumpy.

July 27, 2009

Girls Just Wanna Have Sun

My great friend Michelle called a few days ago to say her husband and two boys were heading to Seattle to catch a Mariners game and she would have Sunday all to herself. I jumped at the chance to have her all to myself and suggested we do something, anything that meant hanging together for the day. I thought maybe a pedicure, then a picnic at the beach as the weather forecast was for sun and heat. But Michelle's toes didn't need doing and neither of us felt like preparing for a picnic. It was a day off for both of us. Let someone else do the preparing.

We headed to White Rock, a seaside community that is about forty-five minutes south of Vancouver and a mere five minutes to the US border.

View Larger Map

I had heard about a great restaurant called Washington Avenue Grill (WAG for short) and friends of Michelle's had just recently eaten there and given it the thumbs up. We arrived around 12:30pm, settled into a table in the atrium (with a view of the beach)

and ordered a Corona, a Hoegaarden, and dry ribs as an appie. The restaurant was quiet so we pretty much had the place to ourselves. It was glorious. Fish and chips for a main course, another beer each and we were both happy. We paid the bill and headed to the beach.

The rest of the pictures pretty much speak for themselves.

Pebbles -- just because I love pebbles.

The tide was out and the beach went on and on.

Michelle's toes (see, they really don't need doing) and someone else's footprints.

The someone else?

Just thought they looked lovely.

And don't we?

Lucky homeowners.

A bit of green to cool our feet.

White Rock pier.

The main street.

We strolled the town for a few hours until the heat turned us towards Michelle's air conditioned van and home. It was a great day and a great way to spend a sunny Sunday -- with a great friend, just talking and laughing. Just the two of us.

July 25, 2009

Symphony of Fire

The thunder has been rumbling for over an hour now. At first we thought it was the warm up to The Symphony of Fire, an annual fireworks performance that showcases three different countries' fireworks, over four nights. Tonight South Africa is set to perform. We realize the booming isn't stopping. Now there's lightning. Electrical storms are rare in Vancouver. And even rarer is what I'm seeing in the sky, and out my window.

This is nature's Symphony of Fire.

Sorry South Africa - you just can't compete.

(It just occurred to me that as the world is ending, there will be those of us outside with our cameras)

July 22, 2009

I Wanna Be a Cowgirl

I have had a bad week and a half at work but as I don't want to vent here, I have done the next best thing. I booked a flight to Calgary, Alberta. I'm so excited. I need a mini-vacation and Calgary calls. I'm off to see my fabulous friend Parm, and do what we do best -- shop, drink wine, watch movies, and talk about books (sometimes even all at the same time!) West Jet had a one day sale and I was able to get a return flight for $250. I know that's not such a crazy deal when I can fly out of Bellingham, WA to San Francisco for as little at $7 each way (gotta love Allegiant Air), but for a flight within Canada, it's not too bad.

For those that aren't familiar with BC and Alberta, I've included a map. Vancouver is the little red dot in the bottom left corner and Calgary is the red dot in the middle. Not too far, just over 1000kms (600 miles). It takes about 11 hours to drive (of course this depends on how often you have to stop to eat, pee, take pictures of elk, big horn sheep or a wolf that turns out to be someones dog) and it's some of the most spectacular country. I love living on the ocean, but there is something about the Rocky Mountains that still inspires awe. They reinforce my insignificance which is weirdly comforting. How can I possibly be expected to tackle all the woes of the world when I am nothing but a little spec?

The actual flying time is just over one hour. I will just take a carry-on (with all my liquids and gels properly stored -- see my previous post) making sure to leave room to bring back duplicate books that Parm has bought and is now giving to me (her books are currently in boxes awaiting bookshelves -- so she buys a book thinking she doesn't have it, only to discover it hidden away), cheap Drambuie (no insane liquor tax in Alberta and a girl has to have her Rusty Nails), and the most amazing meat pies in the world; chicken curry, Jamaican beef curry and tourtieres (they also have vegetarian pies, but what's the point?). They are sold at the Calgary Farmer's Market and are lovingly made by Simple Simon (not himself but a company named for him).

Parm will pick me up at the airport on Friday August 14th at 6PM and drop me back at the airport on Sunday August 16th at 4PM. We will sleep little, eat and drink lots, and I will vent to her about this past week and a half. That's what friends are for.

Only 24 more sleeps.

July 19, 2009

Let's Get Crack-a-lackin

What ever happened to Adam Carolla? Loved him in The Adam Carolla Project where he decided he was going to buy a house and renovate it. Always good for a laugh.

Miss him.

Finally found him again in The Hammer. Apparently this movie is loosely based on Adam's life. Hmmm...I'm not a radio personality, not a stand-up, not a carpenter, not a boxer. How can I ever compete?

Adam, where are you now?

Babes in Blogland

KImberley has a webring with over 20 blogs, so she thought it would be fun to have a contest to determine the top 10. I am fortunate to be considered in the running, so if you like what you have read here and would like to vote for me please click on this blog title and it will link you to Kimberley's blog (where you just click to vote). I also want to thank everyone for your visits and comments. It is amazing to meet gifted and talented people from all over the world. I love the community that is being built and seeing your faces on other blogs that I visit.

July 17, 2009

CAPTCHAs gotcha?

Well all know them, we've all had to figure them out, we've all been beaten by them. What's the point of them?

CAPTCHAs are those annoying, weirdly written words (and sometimes numbers) that show up on your computer screen when you want to do something (like leave a comment on blogger) because the owner of the website wants to ensure you are human not another computer. They are tests that humans can pass but computer programs can't. This supposedly ensures that spammers can't access these protected websites and do their nasty spammy things.

All very fine I thought, but come on. Some of the damned things are so distorted, fuzzy and wavey with lines running through them that you need a PhD in Hieroglyphics to dechiper them.

(this one is easy -- some of the CAPTCHAs, not so much)

The term CAPTCHA (an acronym for Completely Automated Public Turing Test To Tell Computers and Humans Apart) was coined in 2000 by Luis von Ahn, Manuel Blum, Nicholas Hopper and John Langford of Carnegie Mellon University. I discovered Luis on 60 Minutes several weeks ago and was kind of taken with him. He's a complete computer geek who teaches at Carnegie Mellon University, and watching him in action I found myself thinking it would be great to sit in his class (I know, I know). The one thing he said that completely endeared him to me was what he is currently doing with CAPTCHAs with his reCAPTCHA website. "Over 60 million CAPTCHAs are solved every day by people around the world. reCAPTCHA channels this human effort into helping to digitize books from the Internet Archive. When you solve a reCAPTCHA, you help preserve literature by deciphering a word that was not readable by computers." He is using these annoying little hieroglyphs to digitize world literature? Now this is my kind of guy.

So next time you have to solve a CAPTCHA and say WTF, what's the point, know that you could be doing your part to preserve the annals of literature -- one word at a time.

(not sure which great work of literature these are from though)

July 15, 2009

The Money Pit

We went to look at the little yellow house the other day. The neighbourhood was incredible with a real feel of community. There were three little houses sitting in a row and the yellow one was on the end. We learned that the house was built in 1892 for labourer Edward Fallon and was originally 350 square feet with no indoor plumbing or electrical (this meant no kitchen, no bathroom). The lot was 28 feet by 76 feet, not big but big enough for me, the boyfriend and our DLD (dandy little dog). Entering the house, we were treated to this:

The wood gleamed, the kitchen sparkled (even without the Christmas lights). It was adorable. There was a tiny laundry room, and the washroom still had the clawfoot tub, completely resurfaced. The bedroom on the other had was, well, impossible. At 15' by 6'11" we'd be lucky to fit our queen-size bed in. And a few months ago I had put my foot down that we were upgrading to a king-size bed (the boyfriend likes to sleep diagonally). Also, horror of all horrors, the one and only closet would be perfect for, oh say a broom, but not much more. I don't have rooms filled with clothes and shoes (but what girl doesn't dream), but a decent closet would be appreciated.

We pondered and decided that we might be able to do something because the place was just so damned cute. And as we headed out the back door, onto the fabulous deck (begging for a BBQ), down the stairs to the charming, low maintenance back yard, we had visions of summer entertaining while the DLD frollicked unleashed, to her heart's content. Wow, what a spot!

Back inside we headed upstairs. The top of the house was converted attic space. The owner had actually knocked walls down (of the former second bedroom) and built a beautiful staircase up to the new addition. But once we got up the stairs the love affair came to a smashing halt. I whacked my head on some weird protrusion the owner had created (I think it was part of a new dormer) and as we walked, bent over, into the first "bedroom" then the second "bedroom" we realized that there was something seriously wrong. These rooms couldn't be legal.

Back downstairs we were confronted by the realtor with the hard, cold facts.

Now, I don't expect you to read these, but have a peek at the very official looking letterhead and know that it's not good news. it would appear that the owner had done some naughty things and pissed off the City of New Westminster. Apparently there are zoning by-laws which state that a dwelling's square footage can be no more than 50% of the lot's square footage. This lot was just over 2000 square feet and with the renovations of the attic, the house now came in at a whopping 1250 square feet. But this wasn't the most outrageous thing the owner did. The thing that really pissed the City off was that they had told her to stop working on the property as she didn't have the proper building permits -- and she IGNORED them! The gaul, the conceit, the misplaced sense of self-importance. So they slapped a Section 57 on her and forced her to abandon the property and flee the country (she is now hiding out in Los Angeles somewhere).

And what the Section 57 means is that we would have to remove the dormers she installed, seal up the attic and live in 750 square feet. It would mean extensive re-renovations and a tiny house.  It would mean entering into a bidding war through the courts, in the hopes of winning. What it means is that we won't be buying the cute, little, yellow house. I'm saddened by this as I feel the little house needs loving. It has such a long history, and it could have a bright future. The current owner has applied for a demolition permit. The City of New Westminster is assessing its historical value. Let's hope it's enough to spare it the wrecking ball. And that someone with a lot more money that us can save it .

Our search continues....

July 13, 2009

Where Have You Been?

Sharon of Bookish Blonde asked how many times can a woman find love. Reading her post I was reminded of a song that I heard many years ago but has always stuck with me.

I was working as a courier for FedEx and my route was Southern Ontario with stops in Paris, Scotland, Delhi and Woodstock (all without any of the ambiance of their much better-known counterparts). We are talking rural baby. My van was usually full of parts for combines, harvesters, that sort of thing, for the local J.I. Case dealers.

The year was 1989 and I had been in a relationship for almost two years. I thought it was going well, but in reality he was still hung up on a woman who had dumped him 10 years before. I knew this but believed my love would heal his heart and I would win his true affection, undying love and committment (ok, so I was young and naive).

So picture if you will -- I'm driving a van through small town, rural Ontario. Most of the people in the towns wave as I drive by. I'm listening to the radio. This song comes on by Kathy Mattea called "Where Have you Been". I've never heard it before. Almost from the first verse I am crying so hard I have to pull my FedEx van over to the side of the road. I can't see a thing, I can't breathe. Towns people stop to ask if I'm okay. I'm extremely embarrassed, but I can't stop crying because I realize that the relationship I have doesn't hold a candle to what Claire and Edwin have. But I also realize that it might just be possible to find it. I don't know if I'm crying more for the lost illusion or the future promise.

Claire had all but given up
When she and Edwin fell in love
She touched his face and shook her head
In disbelief she sighed and said
In many dreams I've held you near
Now at last you're really here

Where have you been?
I've looked for you for ever and a day
Where have you been?
I'm just not myself when you're away

He asked her for her hand for life
Then she became a salesman's wife
He was home each night by eight
But one stormy evening he was late
Her frightened tears fell to the floor
Until his key turned in the door

Where have you been?
I've looked for you for ever and a day
Where have you been?
I'm just not myself when you're away

They'd never spent a night apart
For sixty years she heard him snore
Now they're in a hospital
In seperate beds on different floors

Claire soon lost her memory, forgot the names of family
She never spoke a word again
Then one day they wheeled him in
He held her hand and stroked her hair
In a fragile voice she said

Where have you been
Ive searched for you forever and a day
Where have you been
Im just not myself when your away
Im just not myself when your away

Kathy Mattea wrote this song as a tribute to her grandparents' love story. I'm sending it out to all my friends as a reminder to never give up.

This song still makes me tear up, but for different reasons.

July 12, 2009

The Book has Arrived!

When I checked the mail on Thursday I found a delivery notice from Canada Post indicating the attempted delivery of a package too large for my mailbox. This could only mean one thing. The long anticipated arrival of The Scottish Himilayan Expition. I picked the parcel up on Friday and as soon as I tore into the cardboard wrapper I could smell that musty, old book smell. It was love.

I ordered the book from The Old Bookshelf over a month ago. The whole London bookshop thing called to mind one of my favorite movies, 84 Charing Cross Road and while I didn't develop a relationship with the proprietor, I did have a completely satisfying experience. Looking for an out-of-print book or a hard-to-find book? Check them out. My book arrived in perfect condition, and exactly as stated. It looks old and well-worn, but loved, as the dedication inside the book indicates:

Flipping through the almost 300 pages, I found a photo of the author, W.H. Murray, and loved the fact that he was the only one looking directly at the camera and me, the reader.

The reason I wanted this book was for the quote "Until one is committed..." Will I ever as committed as these men?

Skimming through the pages, the book looks like it will be an enjoyable read. It doesn't appear too technical (I'm not a climber) or jargon-filled. I'm looking forward to discovering the man (and his world) behind one of my favorite quote.

July 11, 2009


I was enjoying my morning coffee watching CNN's In The Money when this commercial came on:

Thigh Master for the jawline -- Suzanne Somers, where are you now?

July 8, 2009

Blog Awards

It has been one of those weeks where I get the sense that everyone is a little under the weather -- either physically or emotionally. I'm not sure the cause, and I'm suffering with the malaise as well. But the blog award I received this week did go a way to lift my spirits. And I discovered that it also lifted the spirits of those I sent it to.

Which leads me to send out another award. There are several blogs I follow that aren't "lovely" but are highly entertaining. So I have found an award that I think applies and I am sending it to some of my favs:

Honk If You're A Knob...
beyond wunderman
Things Best Left Unsaid

I'd like to thank Cassandra at Moon Face for sending the award to White Rabbit (where I found it).

July 7, 2009

haiku 85

at my kitchen table
surfing for a house to buy
could this be it?

July 6, 2009

Tickled Pink

I received my first blog award today from Sharon. Please find your way to her blog and enjoy.

I understand that I am to pass the award on to five other lovely blogs, so here they are:

Gary Heller Photography
At The Table In My Sunroom
Cheryl de los Reyes Cruz
Something I Wanted To Tell You
Airborne Confessions

Happy Monday everyone.

July 4, 2009

Free and Independent

Happy 4th of July to all my American friends.

July 3, 2009

Sleep-driving, sleep-shopping, and aggressive sleep-sex anyone? Just pop a pill.

Sleep. Most living creature do it. Some of us even look forward to it. If we were to go without sleep for 10 days we would die, which technically means we could last longer without food (banish the thought). But what happens if sleep becomes illusive? I once stayed awake for 48 hours when I was young and stupid. (I also tried fasting for a month around the time hunger strikes were de rigueur, and almost made it. Day 24, movie theatre popcorn got me.) I remember the incredible feeling of exhaustion around five or six in the morning of the second day. But once that passed an amazing sense of euphoria kept me going for about another six hours. It was delightful. I was giddy and light and vowed never to sleep again -- until I regained my mind and came crashing down to earth. Bed called me at 3AM on day three. Sleep, it seems, has a mind of its own. Try to stay awake and it will claim you. Try to force it and it will elude you.

I was mindlessly zoning out in front of the TV the other night when a commercial caught my attention. It was on an American channel and for a medication that we can't get in Canada (apparently it is approved for use, but not available for sale.) Ambien CR. What caught my attention wasn't the soothing music or the pretty woman tossing and turning, unable to sleep. It was the voice-over which, in a soothing tone (that alone could put me to sleep), was calmly selling the wonderful benefits of Ambien CR.

According to the "voice" Ambien CR is a prescription sleep-aide; the panacea for insomniacs everywhere. The commercial then showed the sleepless woman, after popping a pill, settle into a blissful sleep. Nothing could disturb her.

Not even the voice-over now reciting the list of possible side-effects:

Difficulty with coordination
Binge eating
Memory problems
Spinning sensation (vertigo)
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) -- heartburn is the most common symptom
Heart palpitations
Muscle pain
Suicidal thoughts
More outgoing or aggressive behavior than normal
Strange behavior
Hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or feeling things that are not really there)
Agitation or restlessness
Slurred speech
Coordination problems
Vision changes

According to an article on CBC.ca, Ambien has some other unusual side effects. "When a cough was keeping Rosalind Cartwright, 84, up at night, she took a cough suppressant and Ambien. The Chicago resident does not remember what happened next, although there is a dent in her refrigerator that was not there before. While sleepwalking, she likely fell several times, fracturing her wrist, breaking three ribs, cracking her pelvis and a front tooth and scraping her elbow which was bleeding profusely when she awoke, she said. She also bruised her face and had internal bleeding on the right side of her head. Cartwright had to be hospitalized for a week."

"[Some people] who took Ambien...have driven while asleep, gone grocery shopping or had aggressive sex. They don't remember what they did when they wake up."

Now don't get me wrong. I know that insomnia is at the least, annoying and at the worst, debilitating. But I just can't help feel that in this case the cure is worse than the disease. Aggressive sex while asleep? I don't know about you, but I want to be awake for something like this?

I'm thinking a glass of warm milk instead.

July 2, 2009

Bitter Heart

Stephanie posted a great song the other day -- Dreamer by Jenn Grant -- so I thought I'd return the favour. I keep hearing Zee Avi's Bitter Heart and love the juxtaposition of the title with the upbeat tune.


July 1, 2009

Happy "Dominion Day" Canada

For Canadians who are older than 27, we remember when our national holiday was called Dominion Day. As a kid I thought it celebrated the grocery store chain and my suspicions seemed confirmed when the hamburgers, hot dogs, assorted condiments, salads, beverages and odd paper table clothes appeared.

Canada Day actually celebrates the creation of the Dominion of Canada through the British North America Act 1867, which came into effect on July 1, 1867. The holiday was formally established in 1879 and was originally called Dominion Day, making reference to the Canadian-originated term 'dominion' to describe the political union, at a time when the Fathers of Confederation were hesitant to use the name the Kingdom of Canada. I'm kind of partial to the Kingdom of Canada, but perhaps it's a little grandiouse for our polite, demur country. The name of the holiday was changed to Canada Day on October 27, 1982.

So Happy Canada day everyone.