Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Swiss Music

Swiss folk music is pretty high-spirited... last night Christa downloaded some from Kazaa Lite, so my music folder is a bit of a mixed bag today. I've got AC/DC's "Hells Bells" followed by acid jazz, Eric Clapton next to Moloko...

Back to Swiss music. One of the songs is called "Alperose" or "Alpine Flower." In fact, you can certainly tell when you're in Switzerland, because everything is alpe-something. It's the Swiss prefix! Alpeflower, alpebitter chocolate, you get the idea... (I can't be bothered to go over to the fridge to check out the wrapper on the Swiss chocolate for the Swiss-German spelling.) Well, this alpe-music, or folk-music, is lively, and not just the oom-pah-pah polka stuff you expect from the German-speaking regions of Europe, although yes, there's some of that too.

Last year as I was bombing around Switzerland in my rather conspicuous rental car with the bright orange easyCar.com logo (see left), I was constantly switching between stations to hear the different music styles between the German, French, and Italian-speaking regions. This year, I spent most of the time in the German-speaking area in the east, so except for passing through the Italian canton of Ticino after our camping stint in Northern Italy to drive to St. Gallen (where Christa is from), there wasn't as much station-switching. We had to listen to Christa's music all the way! How much of CCR can I take!?!! I shot some video in the car one night driving from Lecco to Bergamo when Iris was protesting very loudly about how painful Swiss music was to her ears -- she made a dive for the console, trying to eject the CD out of the player and almost made Christa go off the road! I'd share that video with you, except she'd probably kill me... she's howling like a wolf!

One thing I should mention about these Mercedes A-class cars -- they are pretty spacious, but they have all kinds of crappy blind spots and a terrible turning circle!

Monday, September 29, 2003

Sushi, Anyone?

Octopuses can get erections, US researchers have discovered. They are the first soft-bodied animal found to have erectile tissue.

Just thought I'd share this from my current issue of Nature Science Update. Believe me, most of the updates I get aren't quite this suggestive. I just thought, in the general scheme of things, how strange to imagine a gelatinous creature achieve something that's totally foreign to the rest of his body! (The term inflatable organ made me laugh!)

You won't think of octopus quite the same way again...

My Hospital Experience

No, I wasn't hospitalized. I went to Burnaby Hospital this afternoon because I was on a little mission for my friend Berit in Hamburg. She's in PR for Draeger Medical, a giant medical supply company that just recently became a 65:35 Joint Venture with Siemens, an even larger corporate giant. Berit is producing the company's first magazine for their clientele, which spans the globe, and she wanted to know if I personally knew any doctors or nurses who were resident in a hospital. I didn't, but I didn't think it would be difficult to track one down through one of my friends. I could also ask an aunt or go through any of my relatives -- 90% or more of the Filipinos I know work in health care, mostly as nurses. This doctor or nurse would answer one question: Happiness is... ? and provide a photo.

On Friday, I ended up phoning May, and she phoned up a nurse she knew, a girl named Natalie. I forwarded the e-mail on Friday night so she could read it over, and we arranged to meet today so I could take some photos of her, get her to sign the disclaimer, and get the answer to the happiness question.

I could finally use my U-PASS, since I left my car in Sechelt for a week so the mechanics could do a thorough inspection. The U-PASS is an unlimited use of the Translink public transit system voted on by referenda of UBC and SFU students. I've only used the U-PASS twice since its advent earlier this month because I have a car, but despite the fact I don't think I will ever use $92 worth of transit per term, I am behind its premise 100%. In fact, I don't mind leaving the car in Sechelt, because I want to use it less. All of my courses this term are by Distance Ed., so I don't attend any classes. Everything I need in day-to-day life is within easy walking distance, and anything else is accessible by transit. The only reason I need the car is to get to the office, which requires a ferry and the remainder of the route is very transit-challenged, and ferrying the kids around when I'm taking them places. I think if my Volvo ever completely dies, I would opt either for a car in a co-op network, or if I really used a car often I would buy a hybrid, such as the Toyota Prius or Honda Civic or Insight. To find out more about auto co-operatives, some benefits are outlined in this 2001 BC Institute for Co-operative Studies write-up.

It was Sunday, so I wasn't expecting to get to Burnaby Hospital that fast, but after two buses and the Skytrain, I was still there in about half an hour. I was rather impressed. I think public transit has improved greatly over the time I've been here in Vancouver. When I first moved here in 1995 and depended on it every day, it really pissed me off... constant delays and lots of waiting. Now that they've expanded the Skytrain with the Millennium Line, it seems to be much more efficient. I noticed in December while at JFK Airport in New York that they were building a Skytrain -- or ART (Advanced Rapid Transit) as Bombardier calls it -- into Manhattan, so it looks like the Kuala Lumpur project completed in 1998 was a success.

Once I arrived at Burnaby Hospital, which is located in a residential area only a few streets east of Boundary, I was reminded of how rarely I ever set foot on hospital grounds. No matter how you look at it, hospitals are pretty bleak places, whether they're for people or animals. Thankfully, nearly all the times I've been to a hospital in recent years were for more joyous occasions -- Melissa, Michael, and Madeleine. Knock on wood, I've never had visit a hospital for personal reasons, only to see other people. Maybe it's a combination of things -- the distinct hospital smell, the fluorescent lighting, the waxed floors, the cold colours, the unemotional double doors that you could swear emit whiffs of pain and suffering... there is definitely that institutional feeling. If I had the means to be a career philanthropist, I would get interior decorators to do hospital make-overs and deliver flowers every single day to every single hospital room and reception area. Hospitals are always in need of money, so aesthetics are at the bottom of the priority list, I can understand that.

Sunday, September 28, 2003

The Sun Sets Over the Rantings of a Heretic

It was a gorgeous day in Vancouver, and I watched it end while waiting for the Aquabus across the street. Tom invited me to check out The Heretic -- one play in "The Pick of the Fringe" (The 19th Annual Vancouver Fringe Festival). It was playing at The Waterfront Theatre on Granville Island, so I didn't have far to go.

Just as I was getting on the Aquabus, a bunch of geese floated by in a little bird parade...

The Heretic was a one-man show, written by Christian O'Conner. The actor, John Murphy, was AMAZING! What a talent! He was all over the stage, playing God, Jesus Murphy, Tom, Tom's gay friend Gary (my favourite character), a professor, and more, in rapid succession without skipping a beat. The guy can sing, too!

As you might gather from the title of the play, the performance was centred around heresy. It would be easy to dismiss the act as a one-hour extended railing against the Catholic Church and The Powers That Be, but the sputterings and mutterings of Tom were actually well-articulated, rational musings about questions we've all asked ourselves from time to time: Why am I here? Am I just entertainment for God? Is there even a God, or is God a concept?

Here's a description of the show, from the Fringe's website:

Religion is a virus, fear is the illness, and Tom needs an antidote. Jesus Murphy, evangelical atheist, declares war on the Word of the Lord, to save Tom and the rest of the world from its evil grasp. It's no holds barred, nothing sacred, word on Word fight to the death. Performer - John Murphy. Director - Jonathan Ryder. Warning: Gunshots + Blasphemy!

Saturday, September 27, 2003

Limo Ass

Ah, the folly of youth!

Last night, as Eliza and I were driving home on Georgia St., a bunch of very loud young girls in a limo decided to moon the traffic going by. There was a bit of a delay, so Eliza slowed down a bit, I whipped out my camera and took a photo! It was hilarious -- they saw the camera and started to scream! Unfortunately, I didn't use the flash, so it's pretty blurry, but they don't know that... they were probably more worried if their thongs could be ID'ed...

Where is a Makeup Artist When You Need One??

I haven't visited Smoking Gun for a long time, but some stream-of-conscious trigger made me go there, and I checked out their lovely celebrity mugshots page. You know, instead of seeing what trainer so-and-so is using, if you really want to look just as good as a celebrity, find out who does their makeup!

I've included some doozies for your mocking pleasure:

Nick Nolte
DUI, September 2002. Gee, what do you think tipped off the police??
I guess he won't be turning this into a Christmas card.

Yasmin Bleeth
Cocaine possession, September 2001. This should be in an ad for Say No to Drugs.

Friday, September 26, 2003

Notice Anything New?

This blog passed the 1,000 visits milestone in 38 days, so I thought we were all due for a change. Who wants the same old, same old? Not me.

I've been messing around with colour and CSS, and this is what I came up with! If it makes you go blind, just say so and I'll tweak it some more.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Eddie Murphy Gaffe

I am so easily amused...

I have this weekly thing for reading the Fashion Police section of E-Online, and on rare occasions get sucked in by the celebrity sightings section. Most sighting posts reek of banality ("she was soooo nice and soooo cute"), but once in a while you find one that just makes you want to have been a fly on the wall so you could laugh your little fly head off and no-one would notice:

Lauren (Jun 01, 2003, 02:26 PM)

My aunt was at a casino in Vegas, and she got into the elevator, holding her cup of money she won at the slot machines, when three black guys walked into the elevator. She is a little woman, so she felt intimidated. One of them went 'Hit the floor..' So she dropped to the ground, dropping all of her money. The one who spoke went 'Ma'am, I'm sorry, I meant hit the button for the floor you want to go to.' She was so embarassed, gathered what money she could, and left. The next morning, a dozen roses arrived at her door, each wrapped in a $100 bill. The note read 'Sorry for last night-Eddie Murphy'

Work Website Finally Live

You might notice on the left panel the links to my office and to SFU.... scroll wayyyy down. They've FINALLY approved the website to go live, and it has now replaced that horribly-designed site that Chris Hale made. Yuk, we've had to live with that for two years, and I've been too embarrassed to give out the URL.

Haloscan Operational Again

Now we're cooking with gas!

Blogger and Haloscan appear to be back up again, and I did some system tweaking this morning on my computer to fix some OS problems, so hopefully things will be relatively smooth again in electronic-land -- though I might be speaking too soon!

I've noticed that Darwin's Web is tracking a rather consistent number of visits per day to this blogsite. Currently there are over 975 visits and counting since August 18, so I can't help but wonder....who's reading this blog????? gimme me a sign! post a comment! I feel like a radio DJ, talking to air...

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Blogger Archives Operational Again

Whew! I have to admit, Blogger Support is pretty on the ball. I got a reponse from them in less than a day, and they restored everything within an hour from that. And I'm not even a paying customer.

Unfortunately, Haloscan is down, so the commenting feature is temporarily gone...

Blogger Archives Temporarily Down

OK, so I've been scrounging around Blogger's Support pages, checking scripts on my template, and sending e-mail to Support for nothing... the one time I don't read the Status Report first is the one time when it actually applies to me!

Curiously, only the archive links to posts from July, August, and September are down, but everything before July '03 works... I have no idea why only the last three months have gone AWOL, but at least I know the individual posts are still actually there, it's just the Blogger pages of the posts formatted on the template are missing.

Once Blogger gets the archive pages up again, I'm going to archive the entire blog... I would be absolutely choked if 14 months of my life just disappeared into the ether like that.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

English Reading

Thanks to my workaholic friend Berit in Hamburg who sent this to me this morning:

Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by it slef but the wrod as a wlohe. ceehiro.

I was amazed by this! I read this half-asleep at an only slightly slower pace than normal.

Monday, September 22, 2003

When It Rains, It Pours

I'm taking a breather.

The last few days or so have been far too manic... this is one balcony that needs a hammock or something so that I can get away from it all...

We've been working on the monthly report, which is always chaotic, but I had the added pressure of working on a presentation for Verle in Chicago. I swore after getting tendonitis from working on his Mead presentation in 2001 that I wouldn't put myself through that again, but the glutton for punishment that I am wouldn't say no. The problem is, Verle himself doesn't know what he wants this thing to look like until he sees part of it, then he keeps changing it, and the monster starts to grow... and grow... hours and hours later, I start to get pissed off, and curse him under my breath. But it's also my fault for taking on a project from someone who is unorganized as Verle. I should know better! But part of me also refuses to put out something mediocre, even if mediocre takes less time. I'm sure he would've been happy with a presentation that had no animation, less formatting, less colour. The presentation doesn't have my name on it, but I can't take any pride in producing anything less than what I did. Hopefully after my conversation with Ross this afternoon, my bid for a free flight to Chicago is still -- if not more -- viable than before.

Today was the first time I have ever submitted a paper that wasn't complete. My choice was either to have more time to complete the Sociology paper by 1) not working on Verle's presentation, and 2) not going out yesterday with the kids. I devoted the rest of the weekend to catching up on the course material, and it was still a struggle to get this assignment to resemble anything remotely worth handing in.

What I have to keep reminding myself is that I could either be a stellar student with no life, or a less-than-stellar student with a life. It is my own personal choice whether to be one or the other, but it doesn't appear possible for me to be a top student while holding a full-time job (with its own set of challenges), spend time with my family, organize this event in November, et cetera et cetera. What I have to do is to get through everything one deadline at a time and not look back. At the end of the day I will graduate, and then I can look back at the work in aggregate and say I managed to get a degree while still doing the rest.

The taxi driver on the way home from the print job was high-spirited and very talkative, and asked me what I do in my spare time. I had to laugh... maybe I'm still a bit delirious from pulling an all-nighter last night. But then he proceeded to give me his phone number and told me to give him a call. I thought he was pretty charming, but we'll see if I will actually phone. Maybe if I need a test subject for Psychology -- ha!

Sunday, September 21, 2003

A Rare Day Out With Alvin and the Kids

Alvin made a rare appearance in Vancouver over the weekend, so I pulled an all-nighter on Saturday night reading Sociology material so I could make some time for all of us to spend the day together. Allan couldn't join us as he had a paid tech support gig for a Maddocks customer on Sunday. Too bad for Dad!

Cheryl drove Alvin and the kids out from Surrey, and we headed straight for Stanley Park. I wanted to take everyone on the miniature train and the petting zoo, but I found out later they'd closed the farmyard only the weekend before, and they were doing prep on the train to transform it into the Ghost Train for Halloween.

The kids were pretty disappointed -- they love the train, and the petting zoo, although they get pretty wary around the baby goats, who love to nibble and eat children's shoelaces. But we found a playground to amuse them and spent the whole afternoon in the park.

When we were in the parking lot to leave, I tried to flog our paid parking ticket, which we'd bought for $2 from someone else, and the guy I tried to sell it to happened to be none other than Jeremy Knowlton, a classmate of Alvin's from high school, and who've I've known since he was 10 years old... but hadn't seen for something like 13 years. Jeremy's mum was there, too, so it was a bit of a quick catchup, and I introduced Mrs. Knowlton to the kids, none of whom I think she's seen before.

Wacky. This is only the second time Alvin's visited this year, and we bump into a guy from high school! -- a tiny high school an hour east that had only 100 students. Jeremy lives in Seattle now, and he brought his girlfriend here on a sightseeing trip, so this is also a rare visit for him.

Michael and Maddy were so cranky we had to make sure they had a nap, so we drove to Deep Cove to hang out for a bit, then drove to Ambleside Beach in West Vancouver to burn off a bit more of their steam before dinner at the White Spot on Georgia. It was a gorgeous day, so I was glad to be out and about, but boy -- did I ever pay for it last night... I went to bed at 7am this morning, feeling like utter shite. Christa, who had to be at school early, was just waking up as I was going to sleep!

Photos Around Vancouver with 3 Big Edwins and 3 Little Edwins

Thursday, September 18, 2003

'80s Music Lyrics

the Taco man himselfI'm an 80s kid. I can usually identify an '80s song within the first five bars (I'm not as good with the early '80s... my religious parents didn't approve of "secular" music, so there was very limited opportunity for me to hear it until I was old enough to be sneaky about it). There are a lot more '80s stations in the U.S., and I listened to them all the way down the coast when I drove down to San Francisco and back in 2000, sharpening this underrated skill for '80s music recognition. Here I am, listening to Netscape Radio (formerly Spinner.com) while I'm working, and they're playing Taco's 1982 hit (wasn't it his only hit?) Puttin' On the Ritz, a cover of Irving Berlin's original song from the early part of the century...

To get some "where are they now?" info on Taco, I came across a fairly well-maintained 80's site, which has stuff other than lyrics, eg. 80's arcade games like Pacman, Frogger, Tetris, and Simon... you don't even need to download anything to play:

Revisit the '80s

The Wrath of Mother Nature

A crew loads sandbags in Virginia Beach, Va., to protect the city against hurricane Isabel on Thursday.
Photo: Steve Helber/AP

From the Globe and Mail:

Canadian weather experts are predicting heavy rain to begin early Friday in southern Ontario and spread north to Sudbury by late afternoon and to James Bay by evening. The area west of Toronto is expected to be soaked with upwards of 50 millimetres of rain, while the eastern part of the province will likely receive no more than 10 millimetres. Residents from Toronto east and into Quebec face the harshest winds, though, with winds blowing at between 40 and 70 km/h.

Click here for full article.

U.S. National Hurricane Center

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Hoof and Mouth Disease? How About Foot in Mouth Disease?

Klein's idea of promoting Alberta beef at the Calgary StampedeLook what happens when Alberta Premier Ralph Klein opens his gob... *oops!* -- out comes an inflammatory remark:

Klein takes jab at rancher who owned cow with BSE

He must be attending classes at the Jean Chretien School of International Relations and Public Speaking.

MPs vote down Alliance motion to preserve traditional definition of marriage

One of the most divisive issues currently being debated in Canadian politics is same-sex marriage:

Text of an amendment to the Alliance motion which lost by a vote of 137-132 in the Commons on Tuesday:

That, in the opinion of this House, it is necessary, in light of public debate around recent court decisions, to reaffirm that marriage is and should remain the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

Results of the House of Commons vote Tuesday on the following Canadian Alliance motion, which was defeated:

"That, in the opinion of this House, it is necessary, in light of public debate around recent court decisions, to reaffirm that marriage is and should remain the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others, and that Parliament take all necessary steps within the jurisdiction of the Parliament of Canada to preserve this definition of marriage in Canada."

To give you an idea of how same-sex marriage is viewed by the Canadian Alliance leader, Stephen Harper, here's a quote: "Regarding sexual orientation or, more accurately, what we are really talking about, sexual behaviour, the argument has been made... that this is analogous to race and ethnicity... (For) anyone in the Liberal party to equate the traditional definition of marriage with segregation and apartheid is vile and disgusting."

In my view, if reference to sexual behaviour is all Stephen Harper can point to when he defines marriage, we should interview his wife, too... the moment we start legislating private matters is the day I no longer want to be part of this national identity. Conservatives like Harper think this ruling is a slippery slope, but I think it's progress rather than declension. Our guiding principle as a nation should be to protect personal freedoms within the framework of national interests, but how the Canadian Alliance or others in opposition to the ruling can argue that marriage between same-sex partner infringes upon the freedom of others is, to me, inscrutable.

New Democrat MP Libby Davies: "Nobody is forcing the leader of the Canadian Alliance to marry a man if he doesn't want to... I think this motion does display a very homophobic attitude."

6,037 Airmiles! woo-hoo!

I now have enough Airmiles to book a trans-Atlantic flight! The only thing is, I can't book it until I register for the Spring Term and find out when that last exam is, and registration for that won't be until probably November... oh well, at least I know I can book it when I'm ready. And it should be far enough in advance that I won't have any problem getting the flight that I want.

Tonight I dragged Christa out for a walk down the seawall and around the West End. She isn't very familiar with Denman Street, so I pointed out some good places to eat and took her to the West End Community Centre to check out their facilities. I just felt like we should get out of the apartment more while the weather is still OK, otherwise we might get cabin fever. I have lots of reading to do, as always, but I have to make time for other things in the evening besides books. Or maybe it's because I don't feel like reading Marx. That was probably why I also managed to get down to the pool at 9:30 for half an hour of treading water, something I haven't done since the first year I moved in here. It felt easier than I'd expected, but then I took the stairs to come back up, and that's when my legs started to send messages of resistance to the nerve control room that is my brain.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Sweet Basil Jazz Festival

Sweet Basil Jazz FestivalIn the hubbub of Sunday's petty theft and subsequent investigative activities (eg. dumpster diving), I neglected to mention attending on Saturday a couple of performances at the Vancouver Public Library (one of my favourite buildings) for the annual Sweet Basil Jazz Festival. I hadn't been to this festival before – I'd only heard of it. As far as festivals go, it seems to be eclipsed by the Vancouver International Jazz Festival, but it could just be that Sweet Basil is newer... I tried to look up how old it is, but it doesn't seem to want to show its age...

We first saw Pepe Danza, a Uruguayan musician living in Canada since '89. To give you an idea of his musical versatility, this man has over 300 instruments in his house. With his percussion group the Rhythm Fools, they reverberated the walls at the Library. Danza even painstakingly crafted a flute from an eagle feather given to him by a Haida group and played it! Before putting the holes into the feather, he explained, he went to Stanley Park to gather goose feathers to practice on those. Ultimately, he had to guess where the holes would go on the eagle feather and hope they would work.

The second musician was Francois Bourassa, a 2002 Juno award-winning pianist from Montreal. What was interesting about his performance was his use of the piano strings! He'd have one hand on the keys, and the other plucking the strings... I've never seen anyone do that before, and in combination it sounded great.

Monday, September 15, 2003

The Sunday Report: the Good, Bad, and the Ugly

OK, let's get the bad stuff out of the way first:

Security Breach at Hotel Gail

Christa is on the phone to Switzerland right now to try and recover through insurance some $2,000 worth of hardware (digital camera, mobile phone, CD player) and cash which was stolen today from the apartment, but it's not looking good at the moment... her insurance policy was recently renewed, and theft was left out...

The worst part about this situation is that around 2:15 this afternoon, someone snuck into the apartment, took Christa's bag from the closet about a metre and a half from the door, took her digital camera on the shelf further into the room, and her mobile phone off the table while she was asleep on the couch, less than two metres away!!!

At first, Christa wasn't thinking about her personal safety. She phoned me right after she realized it wasn't me who went into the apartment, which was only a moment before she realized her bag and stuff was gone. I phoned the police, the police told me that they would need to speak to Christa directly, so I gave them the home phone number and quickly reversed the call-forward from home to my mobile number. Then I phoned the building managers to inform them of a very recent theft and the possibility of a burglar still in the building, then I phoned FIDO to suspend the account on the mobile phone. At the time, I was in Surrey playing with the kids, so when Christa phoned me to tell me the news, I was horrified at the thought of a burglar stepping over Christa to steal her stuff... but at the time, the bed was put away, and she was napping on the sofa. But after she updated me tonight on how the home invasion had happened, I was still very creeped out to think someone could do that.

I feel at least partly responsible, since I left the apartment twice in the morning, but when I went back the second time to retrieve something I'd left behind, I'd left the door unlocked in my haste to catch transit.

Thing is, every single day when I'm working at home, I leave the door unlocked... I only lock the door when I leave, and most of the reason why I do that (the same goes for my car) is because my insurance coverage is contingent open forced entry. I don't think a deadbolt or a carlock would stop someone from breaking into my apartment or my car, but at least if that ever happened, I want to make sure the insurance people cough up because I followed their rules. When I'm at home, I don't anticipate burglary. Naivete or stupidity? I have been living here for five and a half years this way, and don't recall ever locking my door when I'm at home. (The neighbours made me knock on wood that my karma holds out.) The only history of theft I've had (in Canada) occurred outside of the apartment, or to people who've stayed here or visited, and none of the situations made me feel a heightened concern about my personal safety:

1) Eliza's bike got stolen from the bike rack out front (she only locked the front tire, though, not the frame, so they left the tire);
2) Chris Hale's old bike was stolen from the bike rack when Shaun, the guy from Florida, borrowed it;
3) Chris Hale's car was broken into while it was parked in my parking spot (California license plates were probably the main attraction);
4) My keys were stolen from Eliza's car, which was parked in her underground parkade (which has security cameras and two sets of gates);
5) Christa's bike was stolen from outside the Burrard Street Skytrain station, five days after she bought it;
6) While Christa was staying here last year, her homestay in New Westminster was burgled (they stole her cash).

None of the above, or anything I say to Christa about my feelings toward security in the building or the West End or Vancouver in general is going to get her stuff back, but at least she did not come to any harm. Other home invasions in Vancouver have had different outcomes which, if I'd elaborated, would only serve to freak her out...

When I arrived home this evening, I went to my neighbours' doors to inquire if they were around the floor this afternoon, because Christa heard an apartment door locking, and the elevator bells. When the burglar/s exited the apartment, the door was left wide open, so the perpetrator was in a big rush to leave. But did anyone see anything? I woke up my next-door neighbour, and spoke to the neighbours down the hall, most of whom are old-timers like me. One of the neighbours suggested we check the garbage bins downstairs, so we went down to inspect them and the ones outside. In the elevator, we spoke to another neighbour from another floor, and she informed us that with the recent change in building ownership, some policy changes had resulted in eviction notices...

What did this mean? She (the neighbour) seemed to think it was related to the recent elevator vandalism -- broken glass... a possible connection?? An inside job? The more we considered the details of the entry, the more convinced we were that it was an inside job.

Personally, I don't think it was anyone on this floor, but I think Christa is not so sure I should rule everyone out. I have my reasons why I think it's someone on another floor, but more on this later.

While we were dumpster diving outside (this part was just plain GROSS) to see if we could find any discarded stuff of Christa's, we met up with one of the the Concord Security guards who patrol the building, to see if he could help us. The guy turned out to be a good sight more sympathetic to us than the Vancouver Police, who did not even bother to come to the scene of the crime, only conducting the investigation by way of a phone call to Christa...

What's next?

I reviewed my insurance policy, and confirmed that forcible entry needed to be proven. According to the policy, they want visible marks. We definitely don't have that. We can't even get invisible marks -- no fingerprints were taken by police, and we've effectively smeared off anything worth checking now, since we've touched the doorknobs on both sides. So we may be checking out some pawn shops tomorrow, to see if we can find some joy there... we're not holding out much hope, though.

When I mentioned to my neighbours what had happened, everyone was similarly horrified that someone had the nerve to go into the apartment while Christa was there! It was after that point that she realized a number of other possible scenarios IF she had woken up while the burglar was burgling...

Let's not dwell too much on the WHAT IF, at this point, otherwise Christa will never sleep properly again...

So, what about the Good, or even the Ugly??*

(*Note: I changed the time on this post, so it would be separate from the other)

The rest of Sunday was, thankfully, good, and mercifully otherwise a typical Sunday: I was with the kids. We went to Crescent Beach. Later, I gave Maddy, Melissa, and Cheryl a haircut. No mishaps. The only part that was ugly was trying to cut hair with kitchen scissors. I don't recommend it. But not a bad effort, even if I do say so myself.

Crescent Beach Photos and Melissa's New Hair a la Attie Gail

We were supposed to go swimming, but the day turned out to be nicer than anticipated, so we kept our outhouse (out-of-the-house, that is) activities to the outdoors rather than inside the Rec centre.

Saturday, September 13, 2003

Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash died yesterday of complications from diabetes. This brought to mind the first time I had heard "Hurt," his cover of the Nine Inch Nails song, and how haunted I was by this version. It was sometime last year, I think, and I tried to download it from Kazaa, and all I could find was the NIN version. This summer, in the last class of American History, a bunch of us went to the pub and I asked my professor if he knew whether Johnny Cash covered "Hurt" or if NIN covered Johnny Cash, and he said he didn't know. But he and some others went on to describe how influential Cash had become, and to every genre of music, not just country or western. Ever since early exposure to his music – my dad was a fan – I'd always put Johnny Cash in his own music category. He didn't seem, even when I was young, to have a "slot."

"Hurt" is my kind of song... very dark, simple, brooding lyrics. Maybe some wouldn't ascribe these characteristics to me, but it's a part of my personality that manifests itself in my musical tastes.

42 Airmiles Away from a Free* European Flight

As of right now I have 5,958 Airmiles.

In April – as soon as the ink dries on my last Spring Term exam – I could fly to England via Birmingham and take the train down to Wolverhampton to get this bridesmaid dress fitted and visit with Lucy and family, then fly from Liverpool on EasyJet to Barcelona for next to nothing, travel down the Spanish coast to Malaga and fly back to Liverpool, or if I have time I could continue through to the south of Portugal and fly to the East Midlands from Faro (of course trying not to eat too much so I can fit back into the bridesmaid's dress), then attend this wedding before flying home!

* We all know it isn't really free... I had to eat an obscene amount of Safeway baba ghanoush to get these Airmiles...

A Darwinian Moment

Is selfishness inherently characteristic to humans, or would the other animals whip and cajole us into submission, too, if they had the chance?

A postscript musing on Thursday's post (scroll down a bit).

Friday, September 12, 2003

2:30am Phone Call

The phone rang at 2:30 this morning, and I happened to be awake. Who on earth would be phoning at this hour??? It could be one of two possibilities:

1) international phone call, someone with a wrong number; or
2) international phone call, someone who knows me well, figuring I'm probably awake.

Normally this wouldn't be news, except that I'd been lying awake in bed for nearly two hours with a very rare bout of insomnia, brought on by a bit of anxiety about this big party I'm planning for November.

It was Iris! I think she forgot we're 9 hours behind, but it didn't matter since I was awake anyway. Turns out there was something wrong with her plane in Toronto, and it was stuck on the tarmac for two hours, so she missed her flight to Frankfurt, and had to wait another four hours for the next flight. So, her trip home ended up lasting 24 hours... actually, if you know Iris and her track record with flights, this is not so unusual.

OK, so back to this big party... scale-wise, it's like planning a wedding, or a conference. Guests will number around 200, and the occasion is my employers' "pre-retirement" and "retirement." Except for the date, the party details are shrouded in secrecy -- Ross and Lee don't know the location, who's invited, the program, or anything else besides the fact that it's on November 22. Meanwhile, I've been e-mailing, phoning, and generally caught up in a communication whirl, getting this event organized.

PNE Pig and Duck Races; May Survives the Human-Size Salad Spinner

I uploaded the PNE videoclips (all are in Quicktime):

(Note: no animals or friends were harmed in the making of these videos)*

duck race
pig race
May on "The Revolution"

PNE photos

Read the original post.

*I should mention here that I've always felt a certain ambivalence towards any kind of animal performance, whether it's a dolphin show or horse race. While it would be an incredible stretch to describe the pig and duck races as a commercially-driven event, at the other end of the spectrum I have strong feelings against the capturing of wild animals for entertainment or amusement – by this I mean elephants and tigers and orcas and such. I went with my friend Berit and her son to SeaWorld in San Diego a couple of years ago when they were visiting from Hamburg, and I experienced an immense sadness watching the "Shamu Show." All the other animals at Seaworld had their own names, except for the orcas, who were all referred to as "Shamu" or "Baby Shamu." Also, the Vancouver Aquarium had just shipped their one orca, Bjossa, to SeaWorld earlier that month after 20 years residence, and she died about six months later. All I could think of during the show was 'Where was Bjossa?' and 'How does these orcas feel about living in a pool and doing tricks?' Having said that, I even felt some pangs watching the PNE "superdogs" and later found myself wondering about the human tendency to try to dominate and manipulate the natural world through breeding, domestication, and conditioning. Is selfishness inherently characteristic to humans, or would the other animals whip and cajole us into submission, too, if they had the chance?

Thursday, September 11, 2003

audblog : sounding out

Wow, just when you think spilling your guts out to the world couldn't get any easier, you come across this: www.audblog.com

You make a phone call from anywhere in the world, this site record it, and it's added to your blog!

Ramon's Report of His Last Vancouver Fly-By

Bye bye Ramon! Posted by Hello

I mentioned bloglooping on an earlier post, and here's another example:

Tuesday, 22 July 2003
train --> Vancouver --> Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

Ramon finally posted, nearly two months later, the last reports of his trip through Canada, and he posted links back to me...

Both Ramon and Steve had this thing about taking early morning photos.... why, oh why??

law, order and google

I read an interesting Canadian blog post that, in part, remarks on the Google reflex, highlighting how much some people (including myself) have become dependent on the internet for information.

Perhaps interesting in of itself is some of the feedback posted to the author, in particular with regards to factual journalism (as opposed to "nonfactual" journalism – a term that should be contradictory, but in this day and age is practiced and received all too often). Factual journalism sounds redundant, but it appears that a distinction must be made.

Can you tell I'm back at the books? It's finally raining – liquid relief for the firefighters, and easing the transition Christa and I have to make back to our "serious student" mode.

Our vacation from education is over (*sniff*). At least Christa has afternoon classes, so she can sleep in. Not me. But, don't cry for me Argentina, at least I'm not paying for my education flipping burgers!

Wednesday, September 10, 2003


There are some gorgeous photos on this site.

What Tosca's Wedding Dress DIDN'T Look Like

When Tosca told me early this year that she had a Maid Marian-type dress, I was envisioning something more like this. Just kidding, Tosca... actually, it would've been fun, in a medieval sort of way...

more Hopkins-Rulli wedding photos

Thanks to Graeme for passing on photos taken by Gary Anderson:

more Mike & Tosca wedding photos

These photos are excellent! (Sorry about all the Ofoto advertising, though – that's the price one has to pay for 'free' online photo storage.)

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

The Chickens are Back at YVR for the 2nd Time in 26 Hours

Iris Says Sayonara to Vancouver (once again)

After a very, very late night that included some tasty martinis, some incredibly stiff cocktails, homemade white wine (thanks Gisela!) buffered by only a couple of hours of sleep, the three of us dragged our pathetic selves out of bed well before 6am (!!!) so we could get Iris to the airport on time for her flight back to Germany. There was, as you could imagine, a lot of complaining, but it was a beautiful bright morning and squinting did wake me up a bit more during the drive. It was a slight improvement over my usual one-eye-open-in-the-morning routine. My last early-morning long-haul flight was from New Zealand to Singapore (that's a whole 'nother story), which -- after a big night in Auckland -- felt like the longest flight of my life, even though it was only about 10 hours. Since then, I've sworn myself off those...

We skipped the entire Air Canada queue by going to the Express kiosks, which apparently you can use even with a paper ticket. Very convenient. I thought you couldn't use it once you had a paper ticket. She also wanted to change her seats, so we thought we'd give it a try. She inserted her credit card as reference, and a number of touch-screens later we obtained 3 boarding passes (Vancouver, Toronto, and Frankfurt), declared how much luggage she had, and selected seats for all three segments. That's such a time-saver, especially since she wouldn't have to take her bag off the carousel in Toronto for her flight to Frankfurt. Then we went to the GST rebate office to try to get some of her tax back, but her purchases were $2.51 off from the minimum requirement for a claim... well, you win some, you lose some. Iris won some money in Las Vegas, so it was her turn to lose a bit, even though it wasn't very much compared to her wins at the Vegas slots.

We said our goodbyes after some breakfast and industrial-strength coffee, and tossed up the idea of meeting in Spain next spring, before I fly to England for Lucy's wedding on May 1. I was thinking of Barcelona... the architecture there is something I want to see for myself.

Tschüss Iris, see you in seven months or so!

Speaking of early mornings, I had a reminder of another early morning meeting in July, when I read Ramon Stoppenburg's latest update:

Ramon Finally Posts His Last Photos of LetMeStayForaDay.com in Canada
wake up Christa!

Just what Christa was dreading... Ramon Stoppelenburg posted on his website the photo of her sleeping after I picked him up from the train station at an almost-equally-ungodly hour of the morning on July 21. We brought his stuff to the apartment for a layover before his trip to Vancouver Island. I took him to my local coffee shop for breakfast to let Christa sleep and so we could have a bit of a catch up. By the time we returned, Christa was showered and awake, so I plugged Ramon into my home network and got him high-speeding on the information highway so he could post his updates. After getting him a healthy start to the day, I gave him a bit of a mock interview.

Here's the link to that post with his PhotoJams and video clips.

The German Chicken's Last Day in Vancouver

bye bye van Posted by Hello

The weather held out! A wee bit chilly, but sunny, at least. The day started way too early... Iris and Christa flew back to Vancouver from their weekend in Las Vegas at 4 o'clock in the morning, so I pulled an all-nighter and picked them up... I went to bed after they did and woke up before they did!

After nearly 3 weeks in Vancouver, Iris's last day went something like this: funny eggs for brunch, dinner at the Sandbar on Granville Island -- on the top-floor patio with views of False Creek, finishing off the evening at the revolving restaurant/bar at the top of the Landmark Hotel on Robson Street for more views.

We go to the airport in a few hours!!! Where did the night go??

Monday, September 08, 2003

New York City photos

Ofoto is great!

I've FINALLY posted the photos of my memorable trip to New York City last New Year's: New York City, Dec 02/Jan 03

I flew to New York on Boxing Day and did a lot more while I was there compared to the previous trip at the end of 2000... and, a lot has happened to the city in the two years between. I spent some time at Ground Zero, walked all over the city, went on a museum crawl (MoMA, Guggenheim, The Whitney, Museum of Natural History) and stopped at major landmarks (Rockefeller Center, Empire State Building, Times Square, etc.). I also attended three performances: De La Guarda (Union Square), Proof (Walter Kerr Theatre), and -- my favourite -- Chicago (Schubert Theatre).

On the afternoon of December 31, I took a boat trip around Manhattan, then watched the final sunset of 2002 in New York Harbour. That was really special. Watching the ball drop on New Year's in Times Square with over half a million other people (!) was surreal. I have never been in a crowd of that size... it's a good thing I'm not claustrophobic.

Some of my favourite photos:

Grand Central Station
Metropolitan Museum of Art
George Washington Bridge and New Jersey
Museum of Natural History
Empire State Building and Madison Square Garden
Times Square just after the ball dropped
The Guggenheim Museum, New Year's Day

Sunday, September 07, 2003

The 3Ms at Science World

Look! A snake! Posted by Hello

I took Cheryl and the kids to Science World today, since the weather was pretty dodgy....

... good thing, too, since it rained when I picked up some food at Urban Fare. I think Science World has come to be my favourite indoors place to take the kids. With its different age levels of games and activities, plus the steady lineup of live shows, it entertains them for hours on end.

All the photos from today have been posted to the Ofoto album:

Melissa, Michael, and Madeleine at Science World

The Mighty Michael Tower Posted by Hello

Tosca & Mike's Wedding

The beaming bride. Posted by Hello

Saturday, Sep 6

Hopkins-Rulli Wedding
Harrison residence, Kerrisdale

I've uploaded all the photos I have to Ofoto and they can be viewed here:

Tosca and Mike's Wedding Photos


Added Wednesday, Sep 10:

Thanks to Graeme for passing on photos taken by Gary Anderson:

more Mike & Tosca wedding photos

These photos are excellent! (Sorry about all the Ofoto advertising, though -- that's the virtual price one has to pay for free online photo storage.)


Ofoto has a slideshow feature (see right side menu), or you can view the photos as a PhotoJam, set to music (I'm limited to 3 songs, and I have to use Shockwave's music, so I apologize in advance for less-than-optimal selections...):

The Wedding PhotoJam

I threw this PhotoJam together with the intention of making improvements later, but my photo collection of the wedding is pretty limited. If you have any photos you would like to add, please send them to me! (I will add Gary Anderson's photos to the 'Jam shortly.)

I've also posted the video of The Grand Entrance, which is in AVI format, so you'll need Quicktime to view it. (*It's more than 20MBs, so if you don't have high-speed, chances are you could go out for dinner and be back before it finishes downloading.)

Last year I also made a PhotoJam of Mario & Roula's wedding (smaller photos on this one), which was in January 2002. (You will need the Shockwave Player to view this PhotoJam)

Mike in his early days of courting Tosca
-- my, how things have changed . . .

Newly-expanded Rulli family. Posted by Hello

Newly-expanded Hopkins family. Posted by Hello

Friday, September 05, 2003

Blog of Note

Ass Be Gone: "Chronicle of dieting follies by two sisters"

Chickens at Sea Video Addendum

I've uploaded a video clip of our exit from Horseshoe Bay to my SFU webspace:

Kristin the Ringer

I am soooo tempted to post videos related to the story Alcohol Hits Sesame Street, but it is just too incriminating. Tomorrow **Elmo** and **Cookie Monster**are having a housewarming party on, well, Sesame Street, of course. Tomorrow is also Tosca's wedding, and I told Kristin and Eliza that I probably won't be able to make the big Sesame Street party, with all its cast of characters -- don't forget **Snuffleupagus** and **Big Bird** -- even though Kristin assured me it would go really late. Thing is, I would have to change first. Showing up looking like I just came from a wedding would make me stand out a bit too much.

So, I started writing my speech for the wedding, and it just feels so strange writing something that should be unscripted and sound natural. So, I got out my digital recorder with the intention of practicing.

Yahoo Photo Albums

Some of you may be wondering why I haven't kept up with adding photos to the Yahoo albums, then putting links in the Blog. Well, there have been announced changes for Yahoo Albums that won't take effect until sometime between now and October 10, so I'm reluctant to do anything with the albums until the changes have been implemented. In short, the main change for me is that subfolders will be removed, and all current subfolders will be moved and renamed to the parent folder.

Changes to Yahoo Photo Albums

For example, right now I have a parent folder of 2003, and under that I have subfolders for every month, then under individual month folders, sometimes I have more subfolders of separate occasions.

What I could do is to move all the subfolders and rename them myself, but oy vey, what a job.

The other day I had an epiphany. About half a dozen times in the past week I've been at the point of filling out my credit card information to buy more webspace, but -- being a self-admitted commitmentphobe -- I didn't want to pay for a whole year of webspace from what could turn out to be a dodgy company. Then I realized that SFU students probably get webspace as part of having an automatic account at the university, so I e-mailed the webmaster and he informed me that all students get 100MBs. Great! It sounds like a lot, but video clips take up loads of space, and with only SIX videos currently in the directory, I have already used up half my quota!

Thursday, September 04, 2003

Cocktails in the Garden

Wednesday, Sep 3

Cocktails in the Garden in Honour of Tosca and Mike
Meekison residence, Point Grey

More pre-wedding celebrations were thrown, this time at the home of Mike's and Graeme's godmother. Family and friends gathered to imbibe, indulge in culinary delights, and enjoy each other's company a few days before the BIG DAY. A glorious sunset over the horizon of the Pacific Ocean was the backdrop for the garden party in Point Grey, with the beach below and the burnt amber shades of sun above. Now, if only we could be so lucky to have a repeat weather performance for Saturday!

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

The Boy Turns 3

The boy and his balloon. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, Sep 2

My nephew Michael had his 3rd birthday last night, which was enthusiastically celebrated by his two sisters, Melissa (who just turned 4) and Madeleine (who will be 2 years old next month).

Oh yes, and his parents, Attie Gail, too... and later on the 3 kids upstairs and their 2 visiting friends. So, 8 kids in all!!

Of course, the best part of having a birthday -- besides the cake and ice cream -- is the loot! While I held tightly onto Maddy, who was chomping at the bit to open whatever she could find, Michael opened his presents from his maternal grandparents in Maine, his parents, and me. It was a very co-ordinated birthday: Cheryl and Allan bought Michael a Thomas the Tank Engine foil balloon, which went with my Thomas the Tank Engine video and train, which fit on his IKEA wooden track! Michael also received a set of toy tools, and with them a set of safety goggles -- which he LOVED. Michael wore them all over the house, and to watch his new Bob the Builder videos.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Chickens at Sea

Monday, Sep 1: Labour Day

As a surprise for Christa, I rented a motorboat from Sewell's Marina in Horseshoe Bay for Monday, which was the ONLY day I could find when we could all go boating before Iris's flight back to Germany!

When Christa and Iris booked their flight to Vegas last week, I had to scramble to change the date for the boat rental, and figure out a way to get us back to Vancouver for Monday (yesterday) without making Christa suspicious. Sheesh, being sneaky is a lot of work! When Iris and I were swimming in Canim Lake the other day and Christa was sitting in the boat, we were trying to come up with all kinds of excuses to go back to Vancouver -- not so easy when we were having such a great time up there.

But our excuse -- to return to Vancouver in the middle of the night to avoid traffic -- was a legitimate one. I didn't fancy sitting in a hot car with no air conditioning on the TransCanada Highway, in an automobile crawl.

What was tougher, though, was trying to hurry up on Monday to make that boat rental time of 1:00. We arrived home from our trip north around 3am and we were bagged. I drove the whole way down, and I felt OK, but by 5am, I was ready to pass out. And getting up was no picnic, either. THEN Christa discovered the Vegas hotel reservation fell through, and she was determined to get another place booked asap. And here I was, nagging her to get off the computer to go to the beach! Christa must've thought I was out of my mind! I knew they had no accommodation, and it was only a few days before their trip, and I was in a rush to get to... the beach??

We got to Horseshoe Bay, and Christa still didn't ask any questions. I think she was still half-asleep. Kristin was privy of our little mission, and I told Christa that Kristin knew of this secret beach in West Vancouver, so that's why we were headed to Horseshoe Bay.

It's a good thing I made a reservation. Sewell's Marina was a zoo, and everybody looked so stressed out there that I thought we weren't going to get any instruction on how to operate our boat!

"What? No brakes?!?"

Kristin got us out of the Bay, and we headed into Howe Sound. It was a perfect day, and we had four hours of sightseeing: harbour seals on Pam Rocks, cruising around Gambier Island, passing Port Mellon, Langdale, Gibsons, and checking out the expensive houses around Bowen and the smaller islands. I read last night that some of those properties are among the most expensive in the country -- $4m+!! Yikes! We bought tickets to the PNE draw for the dream home on Bowen Island, so we pretended we were checking out the weekend house we were all going to share!

Only Kristin and Iris were brave enough to jump off the boat when we turned off the engine between Woolridge and Gambier Islands. Iris assured me the water was warmer than Canim Lake, but I've got this thing about deep ocean... I don't want to swim in it! Gimme a lake any day, and I'm fine, but I've got a healthy fear of swimming in deep ocean.

Kristin's very informative but rather alarming ocean seminar on the abundance and species of sharks and other marine life in northern Pacific coastal waters didn't help, either...

And neither did the little scare we got when I couldn't get the engine started again!!!!

You see, Christa is a jinx for anything motor-related... last year she drove my car through Stanley Park and broke down on the north side. This year she drove up to Vernon with May and when she was at the wheel the car overheated and died. A few months ago after our Italy trip her Audi completely died. At Canim Lake the pontoon broke down. Can you see a pattern here??? I was also a bit worried because we were between two islands and my mobile phone signal was going in and out. When I finally got the engine to turn over, the whole motorboat felt a little lighter as our spirits lifted and I moved us forward into the Sound.

As you can see, I wasn't handling the rougher waters, although the boat felt like a bucking bronco when I was heading back to Horseshoe Bay at top speed so we would return on time...

Iris had to manoeuvre the boat in the fairly choppy waters of the open ocean around the islands west of Bowen Island, and we hung on tight. The last thing we wanted to do was capsize or lose someone overboard!!!

But, we made it successfully back to shore, after some crazy navigational watercraft moves in the marina by Gail the novice skipper trying to park the damned thing... let me tell you: when you're trying to operate a boat for the first time in your life, you do NOT want a Swiss-French, a German, and a Swiss-German all yelling out directions on how to park!!!

Addendum: Friday, Sep 5

I've uploaded a video clip of our exit from Horseshoe Bay to my SFU webspace:

Kristin -- Elle Capitano

Monday, September 01, 2003

The Chickens Made It Back to the Coop

Friday, Aug 29: Molly and Don's 40th Wedding Anniversary, Kamloops

On Friday, we tried to leave early, but there was a bunch of things I had to do before we headed north to Kamloops to celebrate the 40th wedding anniversary of my longtime friends, Molly & Don Dieno, in Kamloops, about 4.5 hours drive north of Vancouver. We first had to drop off the second set of apartment keys over at West 8th, then we made a very roundabout journey over to SFU so I could get my course materials and textbooks... roundabout because it was rush hour, and there are no left turns on major arterial roadways! Traffic, traffic, everywhere... it's what I'm definitely NOT missing as a telecommuter.

By the time we left SFU with my two large bags of course materials, it was after 3:30 and the long weekend mass exodus was well underway. We saw a couple of grassfires in the highway median between Abbotsford and Chilliwack, which was a grim reminder of what else was happening in British Columbia this weekend. BC is a tinderbox. There was a total backcountry ban because of the extreme fire hazard, and all provincial parks were closed for the next two weeks: no camping, no hiking.

By the time we arrived at Sherri and Kelly's house in Kamloops (Sherri is Don & Molly's daughter and we're the same age), it was somewhere near 8pm, and everyone was hanging out in the backyard. We had a typically warm Kamloops welcome, and it was clear to Christa and Iris why I really enjoy driving up to Kamloops every summer -- everyone in that family is super-friendly and loves to laugh. I shot some video and took loads of photos, with the plan to burn them all to CD and make prints later.

When most of the guests started to leave, we made a plan to visit Bob (Don & Molly's son) and Wendy over at their house to try this Caribbean rum they were raving about. We were there late before heading over to Don & Molly's new place nearby. They just moved to Kamloops from their much-loved property half an hour away in Lac le Jeune, which was their house after Bob and Sherri left the nest. It started out as a cabin and weekend house, and later became their full-time house. I think we'll all miss it -- it was lakefront and like a retreat!

On Saturday morning, we dragged our sorry carcasses out of bed and woke up slowly to make our way over to Canim Lake, where Iris's aunt and uncle, Gisela and George, make their recreational home.

Canim Lake is near 100 Mile House. You would think that they would come up with a more original name for a place than 100 Mile House, but there doesn't seem to be much more than a house there. Actually, I jest: 100 Mile House is a marker for the hundredth mile on the Cariboo Gold Rush Trail of the 1800s and has historical significance in BC history, as well as being a gateway today into the Cariboo Region.

At Canim Lake, Gisela has made a beautiful home away from home for 30 years and continues to commute there after a full-on work week in Vancouver. On Saturday afternoon she and George welcomed us to their weekend paradise and invited us to head out on the boat for the afternoon.

Das Boot is a brand-new party pontoon that was only purchased in June, and was not muskrat-proof! How did we know this? We had barely gone 5 minutes from shore when the engine died and we were adrift on the lake, and Gisela and George mentioned that a muskrat had eaten through the fuel lines the previous week, and there was a possibility for more critter-related problems.

So, after some major tinkering, it was determined there was nothing that could be done at that moment except drink beer and wine, eat, and swim! All mechanical problems should end up this way!

Swiss Chicken Christa chickened out of a swim, but Iris and I gamely followed Gisela into the lake... which at first was pretty cold, but after about 30 seconds was just fine! I kid you not... as I floated around and looked at the mountains, I remembered how much I enjoyed doing this every summer before I started uni. It's been a couple of years now, but I loved just throwing my bike in the back of the car and driving to Chilliwack Lake for a ride and a swim. I love lakes... I call them nature's bathtubs. Yep, I must do more to get back to my former lifestyle. I just have to trick my brain to be less lethargic when it comes to non-academic stuff, and my body will follow.

After a belly-pleasing BBQ dinner out on the upper floor deck, a few games of pool downstairs, and bottles of wine and beer later, we hit the hot tub!

(It occurred to me later when I was downloading the pics of Canim Lake from the camera that the majority of photos have a drink in it -- beer, white wine, red wine, brandy, caesars...)

The hot tub was fantastic! Drinks in hand, we could see Mars, which was especially bright, and we watched satellites go by, plus an amazing display of shooting stars. These were no ordinary shooting stars -- it was like watching Disney's Fantasia right before our eyes, in the sky. It was surreal -- those streaks in the sky were so bright it was like watching a fireworks display... Iris and I were facing the lake, and we saw one at the same time and got so excited we started shouting, startling Christa, who nearly jumped right out of the hot tub onto the sloped lawn!

No one who lives upcountry should have arachnophobia.

There are plenty of these creatures running around. There was one on the upper deck of the house, and Iris and Christa -- who both admit they have arachnophobia -- could barely watch me sneak up to our furry friend with my camera... I was pretty apprehensive when I figured out I had to use the macro setting to get the spider in focus, but it was probably too busy catching prey to notice my lens in its face. There's nothing like being watched with beady eyes close up.

On Sunday George headed over to the lake with their neighbour Murray to fix the boat while the ladies of leisure had a leisurely brunch. Gisela and George used walkie-talkies to communicate (no network signals), so we could hang out on the public beach and meet up with him later once the boat was fixed. Turns out the muskrat was the culprit, and they'd even caught it in the act! The little devil was chewing through the lines! But, they were able to fix the boat and we were ready to go out on the lake again!

This time we got further away from shore, and cruised part of the lake. Cleo the dog loved it!

After a scrummy BBQ dinner, we pushed off south to Vancouver around 9pm to avoid the weekend crush on the highway. We said goodbye to our gracious hosts Gisela and George, who were so generous and hospitable I wanted to adopt them as my aunt and uncle, too!

The drive back to Vancouver was fairly uneventful, except for a few paranoid moments when Christa and I went for a restroom stop off the highway. Iris told us she heard a knocking noise, and we were so freaked out we jumped back in the car and I could only conjure up images of Grade B horror movies where the victims couldn't start their cars after some nutcase comes out of the woods with an axe... You could hear a collective sigh of relief once the engine turned over and I put it into gear!!