Monday, January 30, 2006

Made it through the mountain passes!

No problems in the mountains although lots of snow on the side of the road. Mostly miserable driving conditions in terms of rain and looks like more rain today and winds. Stayed in Redding last night so didn't have a really long drive. We saw there was a Hilton Garden Inn (We really liked the one in Palm Desert) so stayed there and it's been great. Our room had a nice view of the river and we had a great steak and jumbo shrimp dinner in their restaurant.

We have only about a 5 hour drive today as we've decided to stay at this fabulous Harris House Ranch in Coalinga. We had a superb meal including a huge plate of "prairie oysters" there about 20 years ago (we were in a 6 Motel then) and they had had a 6.5 earthquake a few months before. No casualties but the town was reduced to rubble. The night we were there they had the 5.7 aftershock. It was quite a shake; however, Richard slept through it. Should be fun staying there this time and their outdoor pool is heated to 78F so we'll definitely get a swim.

Palm Springs is 75 F and sunny today and we'll soon be there!

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Greetings from Salem, Oregon

A pretty good day driving yesterday and made it to Salem. Quite a bit of squally rains which made driving difficult from time to time...we will be thrilled to get into the desert and away from the "wet coast". Over an hour at the border so that made us get itchy feet to get going. Through the mountain passes today. Hope that goes well. We decided it was better to keep on I - 5 than head out to the coast.

We had a really fun dinner last night at a place called the Roadhouse Grill. Started with peanut in the shell on the table and got in the swing and threw the shells on the floor like everyone else! Did give a certain atmosphere. Very crowded on a Sat night but we got served at the bar right away and started with a bottle of Woodbridge Merlot for $14 (would have been over $30 in a restaurant in Canada). We split a sampler appetizer and it ended up being enough for dinner so $9 for dinner was a pretty good deal. There was Texas Eggrolls (deep fried cream cheese...great), bourbon "legs" (wings), potato skins, and taco chips. Very animated and a lot of fun.

Prices always seem pretty good in the US and now with our dollar it's looking really great. Lunch was a 1/2 beef burrito at Taco Bell for 1.49.

Gas is a good deal too and we seem to be getting good mileage in our car. We figure we'll do the whole drive for under $150 CDN.

It's great to be using a US keyboard!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Desert Modernism

Looking forward to all this neat architecture around Palm Springs. This site gives pictures and commentary on the top 20 buildings in the area. The Winter 2006 edition of Western Living also had an interesting article on Palm Springs.

We're really looking forward to our trip and think we'll head over to the coast route after Eugene and avoid the mountain passes. We've left ourselves lots of time to get there and we haven't done the coast route for years and never at this time of year. Should be fun.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Blogs Everywhere

I enjoy taking a look at British newspapers online and they're now into blogs and podcasts too.

The Times of London has 14 blogs and the Telegraph has 9 blogs.

I mainly look at the ones that are posted from France. And I've found St. Bloggie de Riviere rather interesting too. This was linked to by the fellow who posts from Paris for the Telegraph.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Election Day

We were in France on Election Day in 2003 and all over the papers were pictures of the French going to the polls holding their noses while they voted for Chirac. I think most of our electorate today will be doing the same. I know I will. I remain undecided. I was thinking Liberal until I heard that this David Mulroney has done some sleaze bag things as a lawyer, then I thought I'd vote for the NDP until I received an automated message from Jack Layton at 9pm last night. I doubt whether I can actually vote Conservative. I'm not amused by the Green Party's candidate Ariel Lade and his election button playing on his last name. I guess that leaves the Marijuana Party....

Here's a preview of people voting today

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Kitty Cat Teapot

While Jim was looking for books in Value Village I found this delightful teapot for five bucks. I'm sure my cat loving friends will enjoy having tea from it.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

The Blue Bridge in Black and White

We had lunch at the Canoe Club the other day and I liked this photo I took of the Johnson Street bridge. It really wasn't all that gray a day but it almost looks like a b & w photo.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Itty Bitty Book Review - "Letters From Provence"

"Letters From Provence" by Cecilia Phillips.

I found this for $3 at the Haunted in Sidney. I felt the price was worth if for the photo of the old guys playing boules on the front. It was published in 1975 and was really quite neat to read especially since we won't be going to Provence this winter (really looking forward to the California desert!)

There was an interesting chapter on bullfighting in France. I knew bullfighting in France was bloodless but didn't quite understand how it worked. Seems like the bull has cockades (rosette of ribbons) behind each horn and the matador has to pluck them off. Much more civilized. The bull's life is never in danger...however, the matador can get into serious problems.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

More Flora and Fauna in January

I went out especially to take a photograph of this wonderful rhodo that is always the first out in the area.

And then I was rewarded by seeing these three deer strolling along!

Well, all good things must come to an end, I guess. Unfortunately, we have the blight of election signs as well this Jan.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

First artwork of 2006

I decided to do a mat of the view from the Pins Penchés since I had a piece of linoleum that wasn't quite as wide as normal and the design fit it well.

“View from Les Pins Penchés”
22 x 26 acrylic on linoleum mat

Monday, January 16, 2006

Estevan Village

These are special banner for the Oak Bay Centenary..nice design, I think.

Bungalow is painting its display window...first time I've seen it empty.

Rather cute to see these Xmas ornaments at Jennings. I wonder how long they'll stay there.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Flora and Fauna in January

Fern, your snowdrops are always the first thing to appear in my garden in January.

Now this actually seems like a BROWN squirrel...the ones all these grey ones are chasing out apparently.

Marigolds always seem in bloom.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Sun Came Back!

Nice to get out in the sunshine finally and take a few pictures...way too much text on this blog lately.

Oak tree AND BLUE SKY!

Winter beach debris at Willows Beach AND BLUE SKY!


Friday, January 13, 2006

Victoria Golf Course Links

I really liked the way this photo came out...perhaps I'll try to paint something like this. I could get a little more colour by adding some golfers in wildly coloured plus fours!

Due to all the rain lately, most all the golf courses and playing fields are closed. The rain hasn't really bothered us. It's been rather cosy and soon we'll be in the desert.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Our reliance on Google

So, James Frey's "A Million Little Pieces" is a fraud after all. I think this occurs to most people when reading it but I figured since it had been out a while and due to its popularity any fraud would have been run to ground. I googled it in December and concluded most of it must be true since not a whisper of its lack of veracity could be found. Quite a change googling it now!

Strange fascination these days with "real life"...certainly reality shows have very little to do with reality (thank goodness for that!) "Reality" is always better expressed in fiction. Read Alice Munro if you're looking for real life.

Too bad Frey wasn't as honest as Sybille Bedford who answered the following when chatting with Bruce Chatwin about her "travel book" on Mexico ("A Visit to Don Otavio: A Traveller's Tale From Mexico"):

"Of course it's a novel. I wanted to make something light and poetic. I didn't take a single note when I was in Mexico. If you clutter yourself with notes it all goes away. I did, of course, send postcards to friends, and when I started writing, I called them in."

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Word of the Year...Podcast

Richard learned about "Podcast" being "Word of the Year" on a podcast...very cool. I learned about it from Richard.

Erin McKean, editor in chief of the New Oxford American Dictionary, said:
"Podcast was considered for inclusion last year, but we found that not enough
people were using it, or were even familiar with the concept. This year it's a
completely different story. The word has finally caught up with the rest of
the iPod phenomenon."

"Choosing the word of the year is incredibly difficult," said McKean. "Not
just because of the enormous amount of data we look at-everything from blogs
to technical journals to suggestions sent to because
everyone has such strong opinions about what makes a word Word of the Year
material. You'd be amazed at how hard our editors campaign for their
favorites. I'm surprised nobody tried to bribe me -- except that the only
thing I really want is more cool new words!"

Runners-up for the 2005 Word of the Year include:

bird flu (an often fatal flu virus of birds, esp. poultry, that is
transmissible from them to humans, in whom it may also prove fatal)

squick (cause immediate and thorough revulsion: "was anyone else squicked
by our waiter's piercings?")

sudoku (a logic-based puzzle consisting of squares that form grids within
a grid. Into each smaller grid, the numerals 1 through 9 are entered but not
repeated, and they may not be repeated in any row or column of the larger

trans fat (fat containing trans-fatty acids, considered unhealthier than
other dietary fats.)

Itty Bitty Book Review - "The Year of Magical Thinking"

"The Year of Magical Thinking" by Joan Didion

An account of her experience during the first year after her husband died and her daughter's critical illness. Painful, poignant, powerful. She is a writer and some of the first words she wrote at this time were:

"Life changes fast.
Life changes in the instant.
You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends."

While we all know this on an intellectual level, it is one of those things we need to experience it to really know it at a gut level. I knew this at a gut level 36 years ago when my brother was seriously injured in a helicopter crash. Our family life changed in that instant. I think this knowledge has contributed a lot to my living in the moment.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Time Magazine 50 Coolest Web Sites 2005

This year Time has a special category for blogs...yeah! Take a look at Coolest Web Sites

I've been following some photoblogs and while I think the Daily Dose of Imagery that I provided a link to before remains pretty much the best there are some others I feel are worth looking at like chromasia and Utata

Another site that is really fascinating to me is Moco Loco which has loads and loads of neat stuff on contemporary design.

Anyone else come across some good sites lately?

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Mini Movie Review

We've watched a few things lately...all available at Pic-a-Flic

"Bright Young Things" based on Evelyn Waugh's "Vile Bodies". Set in England between the wars, the novel examines the frenetic but empty lives of the Bright Young Things, young people who indulge in constant party-going, heavy drinking, and promiscuous sex. Changed the story line somewhat and used the wrong period of music but more or less captured the essence of the novel.

"De-Lovely"...a dramatized biography of Cole Porter. The music was great and they had singers like Alanis Morrisette, Diana Krall, Natalie Cole, etc. but pretty hokey. This would have been so much better as a BBC radio documentary.

"Juno and the Paycock" of our favourite plays by Sean O'Casy and this 1929 production was directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Really quite dreadful. The Captain Boyle character was played by a completely hopeless actor. I suppose the only excuse was this was the beginning of the "talkies".

Friday, January 06, 2006

Sloan Oak Tree

I've been meaning to take photos of this wonderful old Garry Oak on Beach Drive.

Some local trees are at least 400-years-old and grow to 110-feet in height, with almost the same spread. Their main trunks can be up to 50-inches in diameter. Oak Bay's famous "Sloan Oak" at 1069 Beach Drive is one giant with a heritage. A plaque in front recalls the memory of the Hon. Gordon Sloan, jurist and forester.

And if you see a Garry oak snaking along the grass, with no apparent attention of vertical growth, don't be alarmed, it's perfectly normal. The "Reclining Oaks" of Oak Bay are so named because the trees grow on their sides in a reclining position. A beautiful specimen is at 3375 Midland Road.

An interesting story, though unverified, tells of the naming of these reclining trees as "Treaty Oaks". Apparently, the Indian tribes used this area to sign treaties. Part of the ceremony was to bend over a Garry oak sapling and place a stone on the trunk to hold it in place. If the tree continued to grow from this bent position, the treaty was upheld.

* This information supplies by the Oak Bay web site.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Itty Bitty Book Review - "A Million Little Pieces"

"A Milliion Little Pieces" by James Frey.

My bookclub chose this book because everyone seemed to be talking about it. Some hesitation since it was an "Oprah" book. (Just a slight rant about people being snobby about Oprah books. I think it's great when ANYONE encourages people to read ANYTHING and to point out that she has recommended the likes of Faulkner and Toni Morrison, End of rant.)

If you are one of the few people in the world who hasn't heard about this book it is a non-fiction account of a 23 year old addict, alcoholic, and criminal who has hit rock bottom and went into rehab. His story is told in a non-traditional quotes, creative use of punctuation and capitals. Not sure what the author of Eats, Shoots, and Leaves would think. I think it works and suits the telling of his story.

It's quite compelling to read and perhaps a little fanciful but I couldn't dig up any dirt by googling on the veracity of the story so I guess most of it is true. James isn't a particularly likable person but his independence of spirit is to be admired. He also rejects the "higher power" aspect of the 12 steps and I can relate to that. I think a lot of people couldn't relate to the 12 steps and perhaps that's one of the reasons why there is only about a 15% rate recovery from addiction. Surely, if we recognize in education that children learn in different ways, it would also seem logical that we must approach helping people with addictions in a number of different ways.

James' brother gave him the Tao Te Ching when he was in rehab and the spiritual yet contradictory and confusing phrases ring true to him. I must say they have a resonance with me as well and perhaps this quote from the book tells why:

"They do not tell me to do anything or be anything or believe in anything or become anything. They do not judge me or try to convince me. There is no righteousness or pretension. They don't fight me or insult me or tell me I'm wrong. There is no Authority and there are no Rules. They are just words strung together on a page sitting and waiting patiently for me to accept or reject them."

This one ended up to be not quite so itty bitty...most will be!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Introducing the Itty Bitty Book Review

Every month or so I've been posting "What I've been reading lately..." and I generally copy the brief notes I've made in my book journal. I've been keeping this journal since I retired six years ago and its purpose was mainly to remind me what I had read and something about it since my mind seems a complete sieve when it comes to remembering what I've read. My journal is getting towards the end of its pages and since I now make a hard copy of my blogs I'm going to skip the writing in the journal part and post my impressions of books as I go along...hence the "itty bitty" part.

I have a disclaimer in my written book journal that goes like the following and this will apply to these writings as well.

"To anyone who happens on this little notebook. My sole criteria for my jottings is that I didn't feel I had to be profound, accurate, or make sense to even myself. Please read these scribblings with this in mind."

Monday, January 02, 2006

Billie's Calendar - January

Billie (one of Emily Carr's dogs) announcing the month of January. I especially love this one!

McSweeney's Publishing

Richard got a gift certificate from Bolen's from Monique and bought some rather fascinating materials I hadn't seen before from Dave Egger's publishing venture called McSweeney's. It's pretty counter traditional publishing but this article in the very traditional Forbes financial magazine was rather interesting, I thought.

Dave Eggers' Small Notion -

Some of the McSweeney materials.