Monday, June 29, 2009

Itty Bitty Book Review: "The Outcast"

"The Outcast" by Sadie Jones

A pretty amazing first novel by a young woman who lives in London. Not as good as Zadie Smith's first novel "White Teeth" but then maybe Jones will surpass her accomplishment in her next novel. I haven't been impressed with anything Zadie Smith has done since.

A very compelling and heartbreaking portrait of family life and community in the stiltifying post war 50's. Thanks, Claire, for the recommendation.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Experience Music Project

This was a lot of fun to see and I love Frank Gehry architecture so what a bonus. Jimi Hendrix is a big feature and I even came away thinking I might take up the electric guitar...I did think better of it! We took the monorail to it so that was fun for old times sake and seeing the Space Needle again made me think of the time many years ago when we had lunch at the top and were horrified they only had wines from Washington State. I can see the point now to feature local good wines but I still think one should have a choice.

Great sculpture...a bit blurry since you weren't really supposed to take photos.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

A vast wasteland

We returned our PVR (glad we were just trying it out renting) since there just doesn't seem to be much on TV even if you can tape things and edit out commercials when you watch them. Depressing to go through the schedule to see what's on and seems like such a waste of time. Even programs that might be somewhat interesting we found we really didn't feel like watching them...guess we're just not really into TV. We did keep the digital terminal part so we get all these music stations and we like getting the NYC news and other things.

One great tech find was this adapter I bought at XCargo for 10 bucks that allows us to listen to our iPod in the Mustang since it doesn't have an MP3 possibility only a CD player. Great technology...just plug it in the cigarette lighter (finally a use for that) and tune a station to the adapter and voila...iPod! The Concorde has a cassette player as well as the CD player so we can listen to the iPod there with a cassette adapter which also cost about 10 bucks. I love technology when it's so cheap and useful.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Airforce One

There was also an old Airforce One plane from the Eisenhower to Nixon era...quite fascinating. I wonder what major decisions were made in these spaces? I think taped conversations from Airforce One could be pretty darned interesting.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

BA cost-cutting measures: 800 staff offer to work for free - Telegraph

This article was in the Telegraph today just as I was about to post my photos of the Concorde that I toured when we were in Seattle. There is a very interesting Museum of Flight that I hadn't visited before. Loads of things but what really attracted me was being able to tour a Concorde. I was always fascinated by this plane and was fortunate enough to see it flying on a special run in Vancouver and seeing it on the tarmac a couple of times in Heathrow. Those heady days of flying being fun and exciting are now over with the security problems and now the economic downturn. Makes me glad we've done lots of travelling.

BA cost-cutting measures: 800 staff offer to work for free - Telegraph

This photo doesn't do it justice but it's still beautiful to me.

Not exactly luxurious seating but think of travelling at supersonic speed!

I hope at least the bathroom furnishings were real marble...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The cat came back

I guess Puss-Puss thought we abandoned him but he came back this afternoon and seemed to want to settle in permanently. He has chosen my wicker chair in my den/sunroom as his "lazyboy". We did remove him quite soon as I don't think he would ever leave on his own.

I took this little video before we went to Seattle. Puss was helping Jim with his research.

What Puss Puss really thinks...

I got a real laugh out of this from John:

"It's not even your cat and it gets up on your lap. Really! I've been
showing that film to Mr Darcy hoping he will get the hint and pop into my
lap a few times in this lifetime."

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Sea Cruise to Seattle

We just got back from taking the Victoria Clipper to Seattle for a couple of days...saw lots of new things! Blogger doesn't seem to want to upload photos so those later.

A rather blurry look at Victoria Harbour through the window.

This scene may be one of the past if they replace the blue bridge...I hope they do come up with a great new design.

In Seattle now and thought this building looked very much like the Marine Building in Vancouver..actually quite a lot of art deco in Seattle even the Roosevelt where we stayed.

The wonderful new Seattle Public Library and it's a super facility with lots of stafff around to help. Certainly well used. I'm always very attracted to unusual architecture but it didn't quite feel right to me but if I lived in Seattle I may have comed to love it.

What a wonderfully bathed in light reading room...and I think it would be quite wonderful in the pouring rain too.

This is the fifth floor which is all meeting rooms and yes, the halls are all red. Rather gimmicky and also a weird sensation. I think it could be quite unpleasant and disorienting for some people.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Amazing cactus

I planted these cacti last year just for fun and to remind me of the desert and there were three and one had died but the other two are just amazing this year. One has bloomed and the other is almost ready to bloom. Imagine...after all this cold weather this year and I didn't do anything...just left them out.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Our regular visitor

Our new friend is quite a regular visitor now. We get quite a kick out of him (or her).

He finds me in the morning checking my email.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Three Itty Bitties

"Selected Stories" by Alice Munro
"The Spa" by Fay Weldon
"Embers" by Sandor Marai

I started reading through Munro's selected stories after she won the Booker International Prize recently. We have all her collections and I've read them all but I thought the selected stories would be a good way to give me a taste of the various collections. When I mentioned this to Claire she asked "Did she develop as a writer or was she just always great?" I had to answer she was always great. In fact, one of her earliest stories, "The Dance of the Happy Shades" is just amazing.

"Embers" was a novel originally published in Budapest in 1942 and was translated into English and released in 2001. It's a very engaging story with wonderful descriptions but I was beginning to feel it was rather melodramatic and predictible and felt it needed an Alice Munro touch. Well, lo and behold, it ends up that way!

I was very amused by "The Spa" but picked up Embers half way through because it was due soon, couldn't put it down, loved it, and then found Weldon quite tiresome and silly when I picked it up again so read a bit more of it but think I will put it down.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Obama just might make it with health care...

From the Whitehouse blog:

MON, JUNE 15, 4:19 PM EST
Why Reform, Why Now
Posted by Jesse Lee

This afternoon the President gave a landmark, sweeping speech on health care reform to the American Medical Association in Chicago. More so than at any time before, he explained his vision for comprehensive reform that addresses every weak point in our health care system. It is a vision that implements best practices that have allowed some towns and companies to cut costs by as much as half compared to others. It is a vision that makes sure everybody has access to quality, affordable coverage, whether your family hits a rough patch or you have a pre-existing condition. It is a vision in which patients’ and doctors’ interests are aligned. And it is a vision where Americans’ choices of doctors and coverage are maintained, and they also have a choice of a public option that can help keep private insurers honest. It is a vision that focuses on prevention, making sure Americans stay healthy throughout their lives.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

No. 1 not so No. 1

I have loved the McCall Smith series of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency but I was somewhat disappointed with the HBO series. It is big budget, well cast, and quite well done but somehow it doesn't work for me. The novels are light and fairly predictable but have a charm that doesn't quite translate in the TV series. I think the TV series is going for obvious broad stroked humour whereas McCall Smith goes in for the light ironic touch. A shame but I'm sure they will be very popular anyway.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Snow in June?

The other week at the University Club there was an amazing amount of cottonwood fluff around...more than usual.

We're assuming this is a cottonwood tree.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Our new friend...Puss- puss

This very friendly cat wandered into our back yard the other day and was comfortable enough to jump on our laps and hung around until we left. We decided to call him/her Puss-puss. Then the day after we were sitting outside and Jim went back in the house and he was in the kitchen making himself at home! We gave him a bit of cheese which he wasn't too fussy about but loved the tuna. Then he went darting down to the basement and Jim had to find him. Rather like our old cat friend, Tigger, except Tigger wasn't a lapcat...just wanted to be around and also made himself completely at home.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Urban myths

Don sent me this today and it seemed a bit fishy:

Subject: The car park

From yesterdays Bristol Evening Post:

"Outside Bristol Zoo is the car park, with spaces for 150 cars and 8 coaches. It has been manned 6 days a week for 23 years by the same charming and very polite car park attendant with the ticket machine. The charges are £1. per car and £5. per coach.

On Monday 1 June, he did not turn up for work. Bristol Zoo management phoned Bristol City Council to ask them to send a replacement parking attendant.
The Council said "That car park is your responsibility." The Zoo said "The attendant was employed by the City Council... wasn't he?" The Council said "What attendant?"

Gone missing from his home is a man who has been taking daily the car park fees amounting to about £400. per day for the last 23 years...!
total sum 2.9 million"

So I googled around and it seems Bristol has a lot of urban myths and this is one of them. It did make me think of whether the two small toll bridges we encountered in our trip to Wales in 1997 were actually legit. We came across some fellow collecting 5p (about 12 cents) and another one collecting 25 p.

Later in this trip we went to the Isle of Skye in Scotland and we had been reading of the scandal surrounding the high tolls for the new Thatcher era privately built bridge there. Farmers went to jail over not paying them and they were the highest tolls in Europe. Now, after our Wales experience we figured the toll might be all of a pound but it was 7 pounds each way if I remember correctly...we couldn't believe it! Eventually Scotland bought the bridge and eliminated the tolls around 2004.

Looking up my photos and info for this post I realized that I have almost no photos for this extended trip we took to Europe from July - October. I remember I took a quarter off and I believe Jim was on a post doctoral grant so was free from teaching.

Of course this was long before I got my digital camera. I think over the next few posts I'm going to scan what photos I have and write these experiences up while I still remember them. I can't believe I was working full time and managed to organize three house and car exchanges (Yorkshire, London, Edinburgh), Jim did a week's seminar in Oxford, a week's trip to Bandol when we stayed in the Hotel Splendid for the last time I guess, a week's driving trip around Wales, a week's driving trip around Scotland, and two weeks in Paris renting an apartment.

These are a few photos I grabbed from the Internet:

This was the hotel we stayed in in Skye. I remember the bed was on a slope and we had to hang on all night. Fabulous fish and chips just outside the door.

Skye was amazing scenery and we were very lucky with the weather...apparently you don't always see the mountains since they are shrouded in mist.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Quote of the recession

Quote of the recession:


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Two babies...

I love the beluga whales at the Vancouver Aquarium and was thrilled to hear of the successful birth of a female the other day. Then I noticed a story in the Telegraph about a baby panda born in the Chiang Mai zoo in Thailand. I'm quite sure they didn't have pandas in this zoo when I was in Chiang Mai as I'm sure we would have gone to see them. The first pandas I saw were in the San Diego zoo. Amazing the difference in these two babies in terms of development but I guess if you are born in the water you need to be fairly developed to survive.

The baby panda is about 6-7 inches long and weighs about 7 ounces. In this photo the mother has the baby in her mouth.

The baby beluga is over 4 feet long and weighs 110 pounds.

Monday, June 08, 2009

The wonderful world of PVR

This PVR (allows access to digital and HD channels and allows you to tape things) business is a bit of a learning curve so it's a good thing Shaw offers telephone help 24 hours a day...the number is now on our speed dial.

We figured we really needed to do this since we pay so much for all this TV and watch almost nothing. Just playing around a bit today and found a movie on Josephine Baker, the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, Elvis Costello's music show called "Spectacle" which is getting rave reviews, and Charlie Rose which Claire recommends highly but I never seem to get around to watching it. The last three are series so you can set it up so you the series is taped automatically.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

The Whitehouse Blog

I've been rather missing hearing about US news and especially all the great things Obama continues to do so I signed onto this blog. He continues to be absolutely amazing.


Saturday, June 06, 2009

Anne Frank, aged 80

This was in the Telegraph today and I found it quite interesting:

The 'age progression' image shows the diarist as she might have appeared today had she not died of typhus and starvation at the age of 15 in Bergen Belsen in March 1945, just a few weeks before the Nazi concentration camp was liberated by British troops.

Created for the Anne Frank Trust UK to mark her birthday on Friday - using the same techniques developed to artificially age missing people such as toddler Madeleine McCann - it is hoped the picture will help inspire Britain's school children to think about the kind of lives they would like to lead, and to remember the loss of six million people in the Holocaust.

The Trust will launch a competition for children to write a letter to their 80-year-old selves, one of a number of projects being run across the world to mark the anniversary and challenge racist attitudes...

Anne's half-sister Eva Schloss, a survivor of Auschwitz who played with her as a child in Amsterdam, saw the aged image for the first time on Thursday.

"I must say I was a bit shocked... I don't really know why," she said.
"It is a beautiful lady, very gentle, very kind-looking with this gentle smile.

Dr Schloss believes the loss of her mother and sister and Anne's experiences in Auschwitz and then Bergen Belsen would have left their mark if she had lived, however.

"Personally I think she would have been more bitter and disappointed. I don't see anything of this in the picture."

Friday, June 05, 2009

Could be Old Blighty

While going to the fairly new Apple outlet on Quadra I noticed that it really seemed a bit like London down there with the restaurants.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Hot summer days and The University Club

Monique has been taking us to the University Club for years and while it's a great all year setting it does have one of the nicest terraces for outdoor dining around and we are a little short of them in Victoria. We decided to join the club ourselves since it's very reasonable and handy for Jim when he's doing research at U. Vic and they have a super pool table so already we've had a few meals and games and he's had pool games and lunches with others. I'm not quite sure why we didn't join it years ago.

Jim enjoying the sunshine.

Monique making an important decision about food.

A cool pleasant view but no baby ducklings so far this year...lots more eagles around so perhaps they got them. It seems the crows are the only ones to really discourage the eagles. We've recently seen various eagles being dive bombed by crows while sitting on our deck lately. Very effective as the eagles get out of the area as soon as they can.

The turtles are still there...I guess they don't have many predators.