Monday, November 07, 2011

VanBC Day 3: The Play is the Thing

(Actually, tourist day was Day 4. Sorry for the confusion.)

I am not sure there is a name for the phenomenon, but most working people who are bustling all day, then attending various activities at night for months on end wind up experiencing a singular sensation once the wheels of life pause for a bit. The sensation is fatigue and the response is sleep. For us, this was the day.

We had our fruit and pastry breakfast in our room (saved money!) and prepared for more fun on Granville Island! After some low speed web surfing and light reading (including rule books for OSRIC role playing games), we headed off to the island once again.

There are two services that compete to provide ferry service between Granville Island and various points crossing False Creek. (False Creek is an inlet off of English Bay that separates downtown Vancouver from the rest of the city.) On this trip we wound up using False Creek Ferries for all of our travels. Their competitor is Aquabus and their boats are brightly colored (the last picture of Day 2 morning shows this). The interesting part of this story is that the two companies formed within a decade of one another and the founder of Aquabus is the son of the former partner of False Creek Ferries. I sense some drama here, though Wikipedia lacks some of the juicy details, it gives a few hints.

(For those sea-faring readers, some of the craft we boarded were probably designed and commissioned by the Benford Design Group. The "spec" PDF for the ferries we took can be found here. It is quite interesting.)

Here is a False Creek ferry:


Another picture looking westward just because:


We bought lunch from food stands at the Granville market and settled down outside under a covered area to eat. The food was unremarkable but edible. The doves, pigeons, and seagulls were plentiful and rather aggressive. It took a fair amount of shooing to keep them at bay. Some dumb lady thought it would be amusing to throw a hand full of seed into the middle of the tables and, of course, the birds went crazy flying and crashing to get at the food and making everyone cover their food. I guess she didn't give a damn about public health and what diseases birds transmit...well, her smirk told me that.

Away from the human consumption of food, the conflagration of birds was more interesting and, for one little girl, completely welcome.


We wandered around looking at shops and museums while we waited for the doors to open at The Arts Club for a local play we bought tickets for.

The native art from the Haida, Salish, and other people was on display in many places...



After our walking tour of the island, we arrived at the Granville Stage of The Arts Club theater company and gained admittance to the production of the day:


Here is the blurb from the website describing the play, Circle Mirror Transformation - A Comedy of Secrets:

When Marty gathers four locals for the first ever drama class in a small Vermont town, she has no idea how an injection of hula-hooping and wacky acting games will come to change their lives—including, most unexpectedly, her own..

It took me about 10 minutes to warm up to the plot and characters but was glad I did. It was an interesting look at how people behave towards each other in a public setting and how relationships can form and dissolve between people. I think the acting crew achieved the 3 E's (entertain, educate, and elevate) fairly well.

After the play, we adjourned to the adjoining food establishment and decided to try a signature Canadian dish known as poutine:


As you can see, it was french fries covered in brown gravy and accompanied by cheese curds. It was good, but not great. I suspect that I permanently gained the weight of whatever I ate from that dish...sigh.

We walked around a bit more, then returned to the Sand Bar for dinner. You may recall we had lunch there earlier in the trip, but I digress.

I ordered Hamachi Nigiri (yellow fin tuna on a bed of rice) and something called a Canadian Roll:


Sadly, I can't remember precisely what was in the Canadian Roll other than salmon, a couple other seafood items, and some green onion and other vegetable items. Maybe you can figure it out from the close up...I don't know. It was tasty. I do remember that. I also ordered a wok fried squid dish which was enjoyable as well:


Ladybug ordered a roast chicken dish. She enjoyed it, though the chicken was a bit on the dry side. They also could have thrown in a few more vegetables but I guess you can't win them all.


We shared a very tasty lemon tart for dessert.


As we departed the island, we bid adieu to the theater building.


We also passed by a visually appealing set of house boats.


We spent the rest of the evening unwinding and preparing for our tourist adventure!

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Almost there

While you wait for me to get through my information bottleneck, check out Moody Minstrel's excellent trip to Okinawa.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

VanBC Day 2 Afternoon/Evening: Granville and a Chinese Dinner?

The centerpiece of Granville Island is the Public Market. It is a large building housing dozens of vendors who sell fresh produce, poultry, soaps, jams, jewelry, native art, many cooked food vendors, and much more. For those in Portland, it is like Saturday Market and a Farmer's Market rolled into one indoor experience. It is reason enough to become a Canadian (assuming you have the income level to subsist in this spendy town) all by itself.

On this day, it was still quite drizzly so just being under the roof was a great service. We wandered through slowly and enjoyed the wonders without buying anything at this time. We left the public market for lunch at the nearby The Sandbar. With views of False Creek and cloth napkins, this restaurant seemed upscale, but one thing we found out is that price is uniformly pretty high in BC and only partially due to the 10+% HST tax. You might as well eat at nicer places because the greasy spoons (or General Tso's bone emporium) aren't much different in price. I had a salmon burger and Ladybug went for a small sirloin steak.

From there, we went back to the market and bought some apples from the Okanagan (assuming the BC side rather than Washington), some organic grapes, and some local pastries for breakfast to save calories and money and allow us to move more lazily in the morning without worrying about sustenance. We then took our boat back to the train and headed back to the hotel.

Medical Aside: Permanent conditions and pain management

I have a ruptured post-tibial tendon in my left calf/foot that was misdiagnosed and became apparent over the course of years. At this point in time there is nothing to be done surgically that wouldn't carry consequences as serious as the condition. So I have a severe pronation in my gait (arch collapsed inward) that tends to pull other bones (right sacroiliac, I am talking to you) out of position.

We made a decision to use public transit instead of driving everywhere. While there are many pluses to this decision, it does involve a lot of walking. I do have a custom-built ankle brace with does improves things quite a bit, but walking miles each day does bring out the pain in my foot and back.

Advil does take the edge off, but I found myself with severe arch pain after day 2. I was able to use a gel sheet from my backup brace placed just below the worst pain spot to really make a difference for the rest of the week. Nonetheless, when I returned to the hotel at the end of day 2, my foot was really hurting. Sometimes it pays to use the MacGyver approach. The full effect of this didn't happen until after dinner however.

After relaxing for a while, we decided to seek out dinner. After our experiences on Day 1, we decided to refrain from local Asian cuisine using based on our shaky experience eating bones and nudged around at the market. Though it was obvious that we were intruding in some areas where we were clearly not welcomed, it would be premature to make a blanket decision about the whole area. Even so, we opted to go farther afield in order to find alternate cuisine for dinner.

There was an Italian place called Cucina Toscana about 5 blocks away. That sounded good. We started walking. Well, the blocks were rather long and 5 blocks ended up being about 1/2 mile (0.9 km). With each passing block, Chinese characters graced of every business along the way (sometimes with English subtitles). Three, four, and five blocks and and this was still the case. When we reached our Italian restaurant, it was in a 100% Asian business center and the Italian restaurant was announced in large Chinese characters with English subtitles. So much for escaping Chinaburb geographically.

Entering the restaurant was a different matter. The young man who greeted us was definitely Asian, but the table layout was Italian. The fabric curtain partially hiding the kitchen was very Chinese as was the layout of the kitchen I saw behind. I was worried as anyone with useless stereotypes in his head would be. I needn't have worried.

Our host was quiet and very pleasant; he brought us the obligatory Italian bread plate and told us about the menu. I ordered the house white wine to start and Ladybug ordered an interesting and very different beverage. It was hot water with honey and lemon and she found it to be very pleasant. Sometimes it is nice to enjoy a pleasant beverage without alcohol or caffeine.

Ladybug ordered fettucine with chicken and I went for a seafood penne dish. They were both quite tasty and coupled well with our beverages. Any residual collective blame for the crummy lunch incident was expunged with this fine meal. Since we were the only customers for the entire experience, we tipped somewhere around 30% to make up for the lack of business a little bit. [We ate at the Old Spaghetti Factory for lunch today around home and it was comparatively nowhere near as good. Good cuisine transcends national origin.]

We walked back to the hotel in the waning light. The pain in my arch was growing quite acute on the way back. I was happy to return to the hotel. We spoke about what to do on day 3 and decided to hit a couple of big tourist traps.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

VanBC Day 2 Morning: Pannekoeken and Granville

One of the fortunate things about our location in Vancouver was our proximity to the Canada Line of the BC Transit SkyTrain. Well, they call it a sky train, and it is an elevated line for some of its length, then it becomes a subway for the rest of the way into downtown.

Ladybug recalled a nice Dutch pancake experience from an earlier trip, so after some research, we found a place called De Dutch that appeared to be in the location she remembered. She remembered the name, "Original Dutch Pannekoek House" but I could not find that. I did not find out until after we got home that De Dutch was a renaming of the old place. The link goes to a quite interesting history for those so inclined.

We managed to board the train during the Monday morning commute. We were in for a bit more culture shock. Riders of Portland, Oregon's MAX train line seem to run the gamut of types, colors, styles, and personalities. In Vancouver, boarding the train seemed more a trip to the land of Kafka. Though the terminal and train cars were nice, airy, and light, the passengers were overwhelmingly decked in the gloomy colors of streets and rain. Black, gray, and tan were the order for the day. Urbane telecommuters wore designer shades of it and students and the working class had mass market or counterculture versions of the same colors. Ladybug and I looked like the little girl in Schindler's List on Monday morning with our bright colored clothes and jackets. Also, while Portland trains have some level of noise and conversation, this line was nearly silent save for the grind of the tracks and the automated announcer. Most riders had their noses buried into their phone where, I presume, they carried out a 4 inch version of their lives.


A colorful art display beneath an overpass



We detrained at (formerly) Olympic village and found De Dutch easily enough. The woman who served us was quite talkative and friendly and hosted our meal admirably. Here is an excerpt from their menu:


I ordered the meal of the left while Ladybug tried the dish on the lower right. We started a recurring theme for the week wherein I ordered green tea and she would order a breakfast tea with milk. Luckily for Ladybug, tea with milk is a given in a place called British Columbia. In Oregon, they often believe that a mix of chemicals called creamer will suffice. It never does. Our breakfast went a long way to wipe away the horrors of Sunday's boney, gristly lunch.

From there, we hopped on the train past downtown and on to the waterfront. We wandered around for a bit, then trundled up through Gas Town to be regaled by the more touristy aspects of Vancouver. Since it was off-season, it was a much quieter place with several businesses closed for the season.



The Gas Town Steam Clock (and my finger)

We did our duty as consumers by stopping by a store filled with maple leaf t-shirts, hats, moose themed items, etc. and got a few things to give to moms, dads, etc. Then it was back on the train, then off, then on a little boat to take us to Granville Island.




Tuesday, October 11, 2011

VanBC Day 1: Don't Mess with the Yaohan


It seemed like a good idea for Ladybug and I to get away for our first trip alone since our honeymoon 10 years ago. Destination: Vancouver, BC, Canada. I was able to get a good hotel discount and the plane tickets were fairly reasonable. We were so busy prior to leaving for Vancouver BC that packing and leaving came up on us by surprise. We must be old pros because we didn't forget anything of consequence.

The first serious rain of autumn had just started in Portland when we took off to the airport. With my new ankle brace, I have to actually sit on the floor to take off my shoes in airport security (all the chairs are on the other side of the scanners). The brace is designed for the shoe and the rounded heel is not a good fit for walking, so I face the decision of exacerbating a permanent injury (removing it) or risk injuring something else by walking anyway. All of this because some dork tried something, failed, and the DHS Permanent Overreaction Squad makes the rest of us suffer (read Bruce Schneier to find out why it doesn't work). I decided to hobble through in my socks.

It was a nice, short flight into Vancouver and it was dryer there, though still damp. Canadian customs asked us a few questions and we were off and running. We had to wait about 45 minutes for our shuttle to the hotel (which was about 3 miles away), so maybe not running.

Our room wasn't ready yet, so we checked the bags in at the desk and wandered off in search of lunch. What we didn't know was that we were walking into a major culture shock. I am not talking about back bacon, Molsons, and hockey jerseys. I am talking about walking into China. After leaving the hotel, we were definitely in the minority with our round eyes and pasty skin, as in 5%. Vancouver has a Chinatown so Richmond must be Chinaburb. This was not a polyglot Asian area either; it was pretty much Chinese as far as I could tell. We walked through a food market and were bumped and jostled by people who were walking through us rather than around us. It was weird and interesting for about 2 minutes, then it was annoying. A person can wait a long time when trying to be courteous and move aside for others. Yep. Culture shock.

After failing to find an eatery that fit our mood, we moved farther afield. Yaohan market is like a shopping mall in any other part of Canada except that only about 1/2 the signs had English translations. We visited the food court and found a couple of places that had some pretty good looking food...I guess what you would call "American" Chinese food. We didn't go to Canada looking for a food adventure.

Well, we got one anyway. We both ordered combo plates. Ladybug's had a chicken entree with pineapple, beef with broccoli, and fried rice. I opted for a breaded chicken entree (similar to General Tso's or Orange Chicken), a vegetable mix, and the chow mein noodles. Ladybug's didn't turn out too bad. The meat wasn't super high quality (kind of fatty), but not bad.

I bit into my first nugget of chicken and it was half bone, half cartilage under the breading. Well, that could have gone better but I tossed it aside because these things happen, right? The vegetables were okay, but slimy and mostly tasteless. Sadly, they were the highlight of my meal (other than stealing a bit of Ladybug's meal). The noodles were cooked in oil that tasted old enough for the biodiesel reclamation barrel. No problem, I thought, I will just have more of the chicken. Except there wasn't any. There were about 10 breaded nuggets and they were all bone and cartilage. Every one. I choked down enough noodles to keep me going until dinner, threw away half my "meal", and moved on.

We kept walking through the mall, but the experience left me in a sour mood. There was a food market with a large display of dried shrimp. To me, it stunk like it had been there too long. There were various phone stores, purse shops, etc. with nothing we were interested in, so we gave up and headed back to the hotel. It took another hour for our room to be ready so we just hung out in the lobby and waited, talked about what to do for the week, and muttered about how crazy lunch was.

After we got into the room and settled in, we had dinner at the hotel (which was a Radisson) and had our first good meal in BC. We made some travel notes and decided to plan only one day ahead for this trip. All in all, it was a quiet night and off to more fun stuff on Monday.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Teaser

I have a tale of my worst restaurant meal in years...but it will have to wait until I have better internet access.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sunrise, Sunset

This last week was a great week for sky colors. Autumn is laying in the clouds despite the best attempts of a late summer to hold on. It has made for some beautiful mornings and evenings. Even my crummy phone camera couldn't screw these up.

This was the sunset after (possibly) our last 80+ degree F day of the year. We had a 24 mile bicycle ride with a couple of decent climbs earlier and were relaxing at the Rock Creek Tavern as the day faded away:


A few days earlier in the week, we were treated to a sunrise that lit up the sky:


And the next morning was nearly as bright, but added more textural variety to keep up with the day before:


With such beauty, it is tough to complain...though I usually find a way. :D

Monday, September 12, 2011

35 miles on the West Side

The forecast for Sunday in Portland was 95F (35C), so I decided to get the bike ride in early. I woke up at 5:30AM and took the family out to the local Elmer's pancake joint for breakfast at 6am. I enjoyed my Saturday market skillet with egg whites and green tea. We unloaded the bike and my family drove home.

It was a chilly start with temperatures in the mid 50sF (12-14C)...you have to love a temperate climate. I ended up stopping at a gas station in the first half mile...the back tire felt kind of squishy so I filled it, then onward.

Thanks to a number of lightning-caused fires in the Cascade mountains, the morning sky was tinged red and the smell of distant smoke was with me:


I had a nice quiet ride through the Tualatin Hills Nature Park encountering a couple of wild rabbits in the open areas. I proceeded southward through a few power line parks making my way towards the flanks of Sexton mountain and Cooper mountain. With names like that, it is no doubt that some climbing would occur. Here is a look back from part way up the hill:


My trip calculator indicated 580 feet of climbing and I believe it. There were a few ridges and gullies as I weaved between the two peaks. Finally, I headed north towards and worked my way to Greenway Park and the Fanno Creek Park and watershed. Just as the heat of the open road was just gathering into a palpable presense, I found Fanno Creek and a foliated reprieve:



After a couple of miles riding the thin, green line between Beaverton neighborhoods and the industry near highway 217, I finally reached the end of the park trail and wound my way towards downtown Beaverton. I worked my way back to the Tualatin Hills Nature Park. Along the way, I rode through some old(er) growth firs and pines. This particular area has an affinity for pines not generally found in Western Oregon so it is a bit of a novelty:


Continuing on through the wetlands area, I heard a thrashing in a thicket while riding along a boardwalk over what would be swamp for 9 months of the year. I stopped and rolled slowly to find a doe who wasn't expecting me. Pausing a bit longer, I noticed two fawns following close behind. My grainy phone camera took the following picture:


The morning was warming up and I found myself working through my 2 liters of water a bit quicker. I emerged from the nature park and worked my way through a few miles of power line parks. Here is a view north towards my next destination from a temporary apex:


After weaving my way through a busy business district with few trees and burgeoning heat, I turned westward making my way through suburbia and into the inner farm belt. I approached a country road near a highway that makes a nice, free vantage point for a couple local airshows at the Hillsboro airport as I found out by accident on a night ride last year. On this occasion, a wheat field was planted in clover and left to recover near this point:


The freeway I mentioned gets busier each year, so the forlorn dead end I frequent before turning around has piles of gravel, pipes and restricted areas all working towards expanding the highway:


Continuing back eastward, I meet up with another power line park which skirts soccer fields before diving through an easement at the local golf club:


This picture was take at the apex of the last power line park looking down the hill I climbed:


I worked my way home through surface streets for the last few miles. The lack of vegetation along with the ascension of the sun made the last half hour a warm, sweaty finish with more grabs of the water bottle. 35 miles later, I pulled into my driveway ready for it to be over and to cravenly hide in front of the air conditioner sipping ice water...it was a nice feeling.

With a custom ankle brace and an inoperable knee problem, I feel fortunate to have been able to lose the weight necessary to ride a bicycle for 3.5 hours with minimal pain. I am a far cry from my rotund, lethargic, and, frankly, unhappy self of two years ago. I feel very lucky to have found the right needle in the right haystack to help myself...I hope the same for all who suffer and keep looking for a way to feel better.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Small Change

Given that nobody has posted here in quite some time, I decided to go solo and set the blog to post only my own stuff. Ladybug, Moody, and Info Geek posts from the past will remain on the site. I am always happy to link to other blogs or posts from said people that are of interest. In fact, I already am.

Friday, September 09, 2011

The upcoming anniversary

There is an anniversary coming up for a criminal event. The horrific nature of the event itself and the subsequent perversion of civil reality along with the consequent destruction of innocent lives, property and the permanent establishment of state power as an end unto itself renders me unable to reverently mourn, in public, those innocent lives lost or properly acknowledge the sacrifices of individuals whose acts are obscured by the innumerable crimes and enduring lies of the vultures who have profited politically and financially from the event on every side.

While I am not a believer, I can see a kind of wisdom in Matthew 6:6...

But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Regardless of whether a "reward" is forthcoming, I will have to sort my grief out on my own I guess.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Spam is not just a job...

I figured that my regular commenters would prefer to forego the Captcha-style identity verification so that they may comment easily on the blog. While it is a noble quest, I now find myself saddled 2 to 5 times per day with comment moderation requests for various spammy adverts or possibly even malware.

I don't mind marking them all as spam. The price for a free place to blog and a convenient commenting zone is a bit of horse pucky. I suspect that it will continue since all replies are anonymous and target the more politically juicy posts from the last 5 years.

...it is an adventure. However, if I start requiring a valid log on, you will know why.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

The Simple Pleasure of Dry Heat

After a cool and humid summer with a few warm, humid days and a couple hot humid days, we arrive at September when the high pressure finally camps to the east of Portland and the humidity drops like a rock. Today it reached 90F (32C) but the humidity was likely in the teens. It was dry enough to need chapstick and protection against nose bleeds. My kind of day.

It is unfortunate that a few lightning caused fires in the mountains (hey, blame that on humidity) wafted a white plume of smoke over the city for a while, but the wind shifted today and most of it went somewhere else. Hopefully the good folk who fight the fires can get them under control.

I have a group of two or three friends that try to get a bike day in every weekend during the summer. Today we chose the Banks-Vernonia Linear trail for a shadier ride given the forecast heat. The state parks website said it was a 21 mile trail, but I seem to remember passing a 21.5 mile marker on the way, so I will say 22 in both directions for a total of 44 miles (71km). We are recreational riders, so we generally seem to stick to about 10 mph (~15 kph).

The morning was cool and when we started, it was in the low to mid-70s. One of the nice things about a dry September heat wave is that the nights are still quite cool. The ride climbed from about 250 to 950 feet in elevation with changes up and down in between. The shade of the coast range forest augmented the cooling as well. Even though we rode in the heat of the day, there was only about 5 miles of riding under the hot sun with the rest either in shade, at some altitude, or both. If only we could bottle this stuff and send it to the rest of the humid world.

Due to the cool and wet beginning, this summer marked a fairly late harvest of blackberries. For those outside the Pacific NW, the Himalayan blackberry is an invasive species that grows does very well here and produces tons of free food for us. It is a longstanding memory for me to breathe in the sweet scent of ripe berries this time of year. We made a stop along the trail to pick a couple handfuls to enjoy along the way. The scents reinforce this good feeling. If there must be an invasive species, let it smell beautiful and provide good food (I am looking at you, useless English Ivy).

After the ride, the consensus was for burgers and beer at the Rock Creek Tavern. They did not disappoint as we sat at an outdoor table in the shade and enjoyed our meal.

After about 102 miles (164km) in 8 days, I believe I will spend this Labor Day in a more relaxed state. That total included a nice ride along the Springwater bike trail and the Cazadero unfinished extension that was quite nice as well.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

When all else fails, Tom Sawyer by Rush.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Test 2: I am going to test this post as an equivalent to a Twitter or Facebook post.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Viking is Biking

Hi there. I rode about 39 miles today on my bicycle. I got these fancy kevlar street tires to replace my knobbies and, thanks to a cool and wet summer, my first long ride included a spill that still hurts my wrist. Today was perfect with temps in the low 80s and a nice light breeze. My street tires once again had problems for about 5 miles of thick gravel, but what the heck...no falls.

It was nice to ride with El Tigre and Seymour Deth and I hope for a good ride next weekend before school starts.

I am happy to be blogging and communicating with some good folks again. Technology is an unknowable cross between "1984", Kafka, some ebullient Apple commercial, and an amazing banana split. Who knows which one it really is.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

I am back

I tried Wordpress for a while and didn't get into it. Now Snabby is back. Then again, I've been a flake about posting, so who knows?