Welcome to Vancouver, Couch Surfers!

•October 9, 2011 • Leave a Comment

 

Some fun stuff to do in Vancouver and Victoria, from an insider’s point of view!

  • From the start, I would suggest that unless you are a big big hiking or outdoors fan or have the $$$ to do whale watching and kayaking, that most of your stay be in Vancouver, with maybe 1-3 days on Vancouver island. The Island and Victoria (our provincial capitol) are very beautiful, but Victoria is also usually billed as the Senior Citizens City, due to it’s mild weather. There are definitely things to do there, but it would usually only take a couple days to take in the highlights before you get bored
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  • It’s easy to get to the Island though – you can bus to either ferry terminal (there’s 2 – one mainly serves the provincial capitol, Victoria, while the other mainly serves another city, Nanaimo and all the tiny little islands between the mainland and Vancouver Island, like Bowen, Salt Spring and Galiano – all of which are good to explore and have good hiking and artsy craft shops. The walk-on fee for the ferry is approximately $14, easy for CSers to afford and there’s buses from all the major terminals.

 

  • As for Vancouver, if you like running, I would suggest taking a jog or a walk around the Stanley Park Seawall, which is very beautiful and provides a good view of most of north Vancouver and the ports.
  •  Out at the University of British Columbia (it’s about 30-40 minutes from downtown) there’s the Museum of Anthropology and the Nitobe Gardens, both of which are very interesting and worth visiting, even if you’re not a big anthropology or Japanese garden fan usually. UBC also has a lot of walking trails and a big provincial park next to it, as well as a nude beach 😉 .

 

  • There are a lot of places to simply walk around downtown, mostly Granville, Robson and Gastown and along the seawall that goes from the Convention Center out to Stanley park. The Vancouver Art Gallery is a bit of a hit or miss – sometimes they have very interesting shows, other times, not so much. Check the website, and see if what’s there might interest you. I wish they’d bring the comic exhibit back, or the one they did on the Dutch Masters.
  • There’s a very interesting trio of museums out in Vanier Park (which is easy to get to from elsewhere in Vancouver by a little ferry, called the False Creek Ferries, that goes around the bay – which is totally different from the previous ferries I mentioned and worth taking on its own, because you get to see a lot of interesting things) – the museums are the Maritime Museum, the Vancouver Museum and the Space center, and they’re all very close to each other. They’re also close to a shopping/restaurant district on 4th Avenue.
  • False Creek Ferries also can take you to Granville Island and to Science World, but there are other better transportation options if you want to visit either of those places separately. However, a good plan for the day is buying a day pass ($15) for the little ferry and then getting off at each stop to explore what’s there – you’ll hit Granville island, the previously mentioned museums, several shopping districts and a casino!
  • Another interesting place to look around is our China town, even if just to take in the atmosphere.Lots of shops and the Sun Yat Sen gardens, which are very pretty and have guided tours. There’s also one of my favourite bakeries there – the New Town Bakery on Pender, next to the Vancity bank – the food there is cheap and awesome, even if the service is a little off. Eat in or Eat out, the place is cash-only. A good snack is their $1.50 steamed buns. I can’t do much shopping in Chinatown – my hips and boobs are too big for all the gorgeous clothes 😦 But it’s still fun to window shop.  Chinatown is fairly large, but it is also right next to the poorest area of the city – it’s not usually a dangerous place (I’ve walked around there alone at night), so if you turn a corner and suddenly things seem a little seedier than they were, I’d just say turn around and go back the way you came.
  • Mostly, the rule is, if a restaurant is busy, the food will at least be pretty good. If it’s empty, especially in the evening, there’s a reason! 😛
  • Other cool places I would say to check out, if you have time, are Queen Elizabeth Park and the Bloedel Conservatory (they’re easy to get to – get off the Canada Line at King Edward and walk south up the hill). QE park has some of the best views of the city, and the conservatory in the park is a bit of a mini-zoo for birds and it’s cheap. There’s also the Aquarium in Stanley Park and the Richmond Night Market. There’s also a couple theater companies that do outdoor performances – both are a bit expensive, but very interesting – “Bard on the Beach” is Shakespeare done in a open theater and then there’s “Theater Under the Stars” in Stanley Park.

 

  • Don’t get sucked into going to Capilano Suspension Bridge. It’s expensive and a tourist trap. There’s a better suspension bridge that’s free at Lynn Canyon. 😛 Lots of hiking too.

 

Buying Pets New Makes You An Idiot

•August 13, 2011 • 5 Comments

 

In which I rail about the idiocy and cruelty of people who insist on buying their overpriced designer pets as babies. This is not a “no one should have pets” rant. Everyone who can provide for and love a pet should have one, if they want one. I just take issue with how a lot of people go about getting their pets and why.

I see it every day on craigslist, kijiji, forums and in newspapers. I see it in the veterinary clinic where I work.

People are enamoured with baby animals. Not that I blame them – baby animals are pretty effing cute. Kids can even be excused for wanting a puppy or a kitten. However, if you’re an adult and you’ve given into a hankering and bought a baby animal – of ANY type – you’re an idiot.

The only times when you’re not an idiot is if the animal is required for a very specific purpose and you have exhausted all other options. I will detail examples later.

Back to the topic at hand, let’s start with an example. Say you’ve always wanted a little rat-dog. You know. The ones that yap and sit in the purses of obnoxious celebrities.  I don’t blame you, trained right, chihuahuas can be pretty sweet little pets. But you want one right now!  So without troubling your head over the various ways you can obtain your little new friend, you run over to the pet store and drop $900 on a Chihuahua puppy. Oh Squee, isn’t he so cute?   Fake Bonus points if you spend an extra grand and bust out for a purebred Chihuahua from a reputable breeder. (While I’m sure some chihuahua breeders do care deeply for their animals and want to see them to good homes – you’re still an idiot if you buy from them). You’re feeding into an often-destructive industry that encourages people to buy baby animals. This makes you an idiot.

Why? Because there are hundreds of little Chihuahuas and other companion dogs who are abandoned and given up each week in every city across North America.  The reasons are innumerable and would take up several pages. Some of the reasons (not many) are legitimate, but for the moment, the point is that it happens. There are shelters and sanctuaries for every and any type of dog, cat, bird and reptile you could name across the continent, all of them desperately searching for loving homes for the animals they have taken in.

So why are you buying your animal new????

Unless you are buying your animal for a very specific purpose (and here, the word PURPOSE is not interchangeable with PREFERENCE), you have NO REASON to buy a new, baby animal. 

Now, a lot of people are leery of animal adoption, and some very pervasive myths have crept in. So, I have taken the liberty of lifting Pet Finders’s nifty list of six adoption myths.  (I take no credit for their article, only heap praise upon them for writing it) and have pasted it here:

Myth #1: I don’t know what I’m getting
There may in fact be more information available about an adoptable pet than one from a breeder or pet store.

Many of the pets posted on Petfinder are in foster care . Foster parents live with their charges 24-7 and can often tell you, in detail, about the pet’s personality and habits. If the pet is at a shelter, the staff or volunteers may be able to tell you what he or she is like.

At the very least, you can ask the staff if the pet was an owner surrender (rather than a stray) and, if so, what the former owner said about him or her. Quite often pets are given up because the owner faced financial or housing issues. You can also ask about the health and behavioral evaluations the pet has undergone since arriving at the shelter. In contrast, pet store owners rarely have an idea of what a pet will be like in a home.

Myth #2: I can’t find what I want at a shelter
While it’s true that adopting a purebred or a young puppy can require more patience than going to a pet store or breeder, it can also lead to a better match for you and your family, for the reasons described above.

If you can’t find the pet you’re looking for on Petfinder, don’t give up. The Humane Society of the United States estimates that 6-8 million cats and dogs enter shelters each year. Some shelters even maintain waiting lists for specific breeds, so don’t be afraid to ask! There are also breed-specific rescues for just about every breed, and most of them post their pets on Petfinder. (Petfinder can even e-mail you when a pet that fits your criteria is posted — just click “Save this Search” at the top of your search results page.)  Blogger’s note”

Myth #3: I can get a free pet, so why pay an adoption fee?
According to the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy (via the ASPCA), approximately 65% of pet parents in the U.S. get their pets for free or at low cost, and most pets are obtained from acquaintances or family members. The NCPPSP also reports that pets acquired from friends make up more than 30% of pets surrendered to shelters (read the article here).

While getting a “free” pet may seem like a bargain at first, you’re then responsible for veterinary costs that shelters and rescue groups usually cover, including:

Myth #4: I’ll be “rescuing” a sick puppy from a pet store
Pet stores play on our sympathies by keeping pets in small enclosures and in storefronts. But paying the pet store to let you “save” the puppy or kitten gives those stores exactly what they want — income — and perpetuates a cruel industry (read more about puppy mills).

Myth #5: Pets are in shelters because they didn’t make good pets
In fact, the main reasons pets are given up include:

  • Owners are moving to housing that don’t allow pets (7% dogs, 8% cats)
  • Allergies (8% cats)
  • Owner having personal problems (4% dogs and cats)
  • Too many or no room for litter mates (7% dogs, 17% cats)
  • Owner can no longer afford the pet (5% dogs, 6% cats)
  • Owner no longer has time for the pet (4% dogs)

(Read “Why Are Pets Relinquished to Shelters?”) As you can see, many of the reasons have nothing to do with the pets themselves. Working with shelter staff and volunteers can be a great way to figure out the best match for you and your home.

Myth #6: Shelter pets have too much baggage
Rescued pets have full histories … something that can actually be GREAT for adopters. Remember, all pets– even eight-week old puppies and kittens — have distinct personalities. Those personalities will either jive with your home and lifestyle or not.  Work with rescue group or shelter staff to find the right fit for you

 

I bet you learned something new while reading that list of myths, and I can personally vouch for a lot of the points made.

Many of the animals I deal with at the clinic and at previous volunteer stints in animal shelters, both exotic and otherwise, a lot of the animals surrendered stay in the facility for over six months. This gives the staff plenty of time to become well acquainted with each animal’s personality and idiosyncrasies. With a couple questions to your home environment and personality, I could quickly determine whether one of the animals I work with would be a good fit with your family – even if sometimes, the animal has a disability or is a bird that’s missing half his feathers.

You also wouldn’t believe the anger I feel when a middle-aged client brings in a newly purchased parrot and states proudly that they really wanted a baby bird to raise.  Unlike children, who can look after themselves once they hit age twenty, parrots are wholly dependent on their owners for care for their entire lives – which can be LONG. I have personally encountered big parrots who are 60-68 years old. I once worked with a snapping turtle that was documented to be 112 years old!  (granted, this is pretty extreme, but long-lived animals do exist!).

So what’s going to happen when this middle aged client gets old and is confined to a nursing home or deathbed?  Their animals would be only 30-40 years old! Where’s that parrot going to go? Who’s going to look after it? This is frequently when the animals get turned over to places like the clinic I work at and various shelters.   It makes me ask – What were these idiots thinking!?

I’m in my early twenties, but I’ve made sure that all but two of my eleven birds were adopted  or fostered from various sources. I’ve made a vow to myself that I will never go into a pet store to buy an animal and to avoid, to the best of my ability, buying a young animal when an older one could be given a new home instead.

The two birds that ended up being the exception to this vow were a pair of young male budgies obtained with the purpose of balancing the numbers in my flock – I had 4 females and 2 males and any experienced budgie owner can tell you that is a recipe for a lot of jealous fights among the females. I had previously searched extensively for unattached males from various sources for several months, but in the end couldn’t find any that weren’t either already paired up with a female or ended up being birds that were advertised as male, but upon personal inspection, I discovered them to be female, so I visited a local breeder and picked out two frisky little boys who have added quite a bit of hilarity and plenty of wooing to my avian menagerie.

Other examples of good purposes for looking for new animals is when the animals are trained for very specific jobs – police dogs, seeing-eye dogs, assistance animals or for developmental research purposes (Think of Irene Pepperberg and Alex the African Grey) or for if you’re looking for a specific companion to an animal you already own, as it is easier and sometimes less stressful to introduce a young animal into a home with an older one than it is to try and have two similar aged animals come to terms with each other.
Nearly every other reason has to do with a potential owner’s preferences.   And if you do have preferences, you can still look for them – in the context of an adoption situation. However, if you HAVE TO HAVE a certain colour or breed of animal, with no exceptions, you’re obviously too picky, rigid and idiotic to be owning an animal in the first place.

 

 

 

•June 29, 2011 • Leave a Comment

When was that moment you finally felt like an adult?

For some, it’s the first night they rent their own place. For others, it’s their first legal drink.

For me, it was the first day I had pretty bottles of perfume on my dresser. It was like a secret bastion of womanliness, being able to afford and use real perfume and keep the elegant bottles somewhere conspicuous. It always seemed to me that all the adult women I knew while I was growing up kept their perfumes on their dressers and vanity tables, their pleasing shapes open for all eyes to see. So when I finally had some of my own to show off, I finally fully felt like a woman and not a girl.

One Movie Everyone should see.

•June 29, 2011 • Leave a Comment

June 10th: One Movie Everyone Should See
Whether a chick flick or a slasher, take go ahead and gush about a film you love.

I am a huge foreign film and musical lover, but my tastes usually stay on the sunny side of things – comedies, musicals and adventures. I can appreciate and even sometimes really like a good, gritty and violent film. But to be honest, with all the shit that’s happened in my life, I really don’t get much of a visceral thrill from these movies – Instead, they tend to depress and while I understand why some people declare that these movies are better because they are “gritty” and “real” (psh) and subsequently dismiss more light hearted movies as not-as-worthy,  I’ve often found that people who think this way tend to have had soft and gentle lives, who feel they haven’t experienced enough thrills.

Personally, I don’t need a movie to sell me on what’s real. I see that every day. Movies, to me at least, are about the art of storytelling and inspiration – to be able to escape from your life and into a world of sound and colour that’s a bit different from your own.  One of the movies that’s done that for me is a musical.

Now, musicals tend to bring about divided reaction. Some “LOVE” musicals. Others detest them. Some people wish that everyone around them would break into song and dance down the street at a key emotional moment. Others dismiss musicals for being trite, over the top and (the old complaint) “unrealistic”.

And that’s just the western ones. Add the word “Bollywood” and musicals get taken to a whole new height of love or loathing.

One of my favourite movies is a Bollywood musical called 3 idiots. I saw it in theaters over a year ago with a rather jaded movie buff friend of mine and we sat through the entire 3.25 hour film, absolutely mesmerized and totally unaware of how much time had passed.

Going into the movie, we weren’t exactly aware that it was a musical (indeed, in many ways, it might not be considered one), but the songs didn’t subtract anything from the gripping story and the absolute hilarity of the characters.  One of the reasons it’s one of my favourite movies, is because it has one of the best examples of Chekov’s Gun that I’ve ever seen.

I won’t spoil that particular plot twist for you, but instead, I’ll summarize for you the movie’s premise:  Three students: Farhan, Raju and Rancho are from wildly different backgrounds, but all rooming together at one of India’s engineering colleges. Other than some minor tensions, they become fast friends, with Rancho far outstripping the other two in academics, but also getting them continually embroiled in trouble with his often unorthodox and improvisational ideas, earning the emnity of the school’s Dean, who repeatedly tries to break up their friendship by blackmailing Farhan and Raju with expulsion.

Add in a romance, several suicide attempts (both successful and not), a cross-India roadtrip and a drunken bet and you have a movie that’s quite unlike any other.  I haven’t been able to find a properly subtitled version of the movie (which uses English and a couple of Indian dialects), but I still watch the botched version I found with fascination, even though half the subtitles make no sense.

Go and find it. It’s worth it.

Useless Knowledge

•June 24, 2011 • Leave a Comment

May 27th: Useless Knowledge and its Uses
Between books and the internet, there is a vast repository of useless knowledge. What are some of the useless things you know? Why do you bother remembering these things?

Alec, I seriously dispute this topic, but I think enough people have taken issue with it that I don’t have to say much more than that.

So yeah, useless knowledge for other people.

The big one would be the idiosyncratic conversations and ideas that my characters trot out into my head on a daily basis. While I do consider my characters “as good as” real people, I don’t usually have conversations with them. But they do tend to lead me in interesting directions. I mean, I was writing a fanfiction the other day (Artemis Fowl, I’ll admit) and upon adding a new original character to the storyline, a different original character was suddenly crushing hard on the new one. It caught me completely off guard, because it wasn’t something I had considered or even planned. Now I just have to figure out if this crush can blossom or if the character’s love will be unrequited.  It might be the latter. Different worlds and all that.

Or when I tried to kill off a character in a different story, he refused to stay dead. He kept worming his way back into the story, significantly altered by the incident that would have otherwise killed him if I had had my way, but still alive and fully capable of causing all sorts of plot-thickening conflict and confusion, particularly for his wife.  Unfortunately, I’m months and possibly years away from this info actually appearing in the story, so it’s not like I can (under normal circumstances) suddenly turn to someone and exclaim “Oh man, he totally was going to die, but instead now he’s brain damaged from the attack and it fucks everything up and makes things super awkward with his wife, who has the hots for someone else but now feels guilty about it.”

They’d probably toss me in the bug house.

Another big useless info thing is all the weird little behaviour quirks of the ten birds I have in my house. (yeah, you read that number right).  Most people have no idea how much personality birds have, until they’ve had upclose exposure. So me rambling on about how Aries and Lego got into a lovers quarrel and then Azula tried to bite Aries again because she was jealous would probably just be met with raised eyebrows.   Or trying to relate how proud I feel when I can pick out which bird is singing from the sound of their chirping. (Medea is super distinctive, but I have a hard time telling Bentley and Aries apart, as they are sisters from the same household, and thus have roughly the same chirp. One can imitate a cellphone ringtone however). Or when I’m at work and one of the cockatoos, Apollo, absolutely super-duper LOVES being sprayed with water and wing rubs and how I’d love to take her home and cuddle her all day if I could. But most people don’t get bird personalities because birds aren’t furry like dogs.

I’m also scared because the vet discovered a tumour under Bentley’s wing, and I feel pretty useless right now, because there’s nothing we can do until we know what type it is. Papiloma, and she will probably be alright. Carcinoma and I’ll have to make some difficult decisions about her future. :/ She’s such a pretty little bird. I still really miss Gemini and he’s been dead for almost a year.  I think he’s still in the freezer :/ I haven’t found a good place to bury him where the raccoons wouldn’t get him.

Other useless information includes all the baby-bird nests I pass on my way to work (I hear the chirping from when I ride by on my bike. I love watching fledglings hop around…).  I’ve re-read several archives for major comics like Questionable Content, Gunnerkrigg Court, Code Name Hunter and Girl Genius more often than I care to admit (and have found many things I’d love to fangirl over, only not many of my friends are really “fan-girl over comics” types. I think the only exception was when me and my friend Christine both went SQUEEEE over when Parley admitted she loved Andrew in Gunnerkrigg Court and Andrew’s rather priceless eyebrows upon hearing this news.)

I sing pretty well, which is usually pretty useless because nobody other than my coworkers and the birds usually hear me, because I’ll sing at work to keep my brain on task.  I’ll never win any awards, but it’s a full and relatively on-key voice, even if the range is rather narrow (I have a range of about nine notes, somewhere between alto and mezzo soprano). See, even me knowing that is useless, because I never use my singing voice in groups. Not that I’m ashamed of it or scared of singing, but just because mostly I get stuck singing only alto parts and they’re usually background noise in choir settings and I tend to piss off the sopranos by stealing their parts without realizing it and singing them nasally.

There’s tons of other useless knowledge floating around in my brain. I’ll mine it all later.

Silence of the Gods Art post!

•June 13, 2011 • Leave a Comment

…. Because this is what I’ve been up to when I’m not doing the essay challenge.


“Don’t let go! DON’T LET GO! AHHHHH!!!!”

… Don’t piss Riyan off enough to make her let go of a dragon 500 metres into the air. Poor Tuyan. Trying to keep them both on Madrion while Riyan is trying to curse the living daylights out of their pursuers. Not a fun job.

<<<Riyan in various costumes

Ri and Mendel

The One book that everyone should read

•June 8, 2011 • Leave a Comment

My answer to this essay query, however out of order it is, is Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.

I have read Captain Corelli’s Mandolin at least 37 times since I first picked it up in Grade 10.  This number alone should tell you a number of things: a) this book has never bored me, b) I’m amused by many things and c) I’m a ridiculously fast reader – I will usually finish an average length book (400 pages) in about 5-7 hours. I rarely get 7 hours of uninterrupted reading time, so spread that out into maybe 2-3 days.   Often when vacationing, I will pick books for their length, in hopes I can minimize the amount I will have to carry around.

But I digress, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin is a wonderful book.  However, it was one of those books that was totally raped by its movie version. I particularly like the author, Louis de Bernieres’, comment (roughly paraphrased) upon seeing the premiere:
Reporter: Mr. de Bernieres, what did you think of the movie?
de Bernieres: I feel as pleased as I would have had my firstborn arrived with his ears on backwards.

Anyways, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin is one of those books where I have discovered something new every time I’ve read it. It’s a historical book, set mostly before and around the second world war on the greek island of Cephallonia. It’s a romance and a tragedy and covers almost every genre in the space of it’s pages, except sci-fi (which oddly enough, usually is my favourite genre). It’s also one of the few books I’ve read where it treats all of the characters, with one or two notable exceptions of famous historical figures, sympathetically, no matter in what light they appear and what side they’re on. And aside from making me still cry and laugh each time I’ve read it, it remains one of my favourite books and indeed, one of the better books to have been published.

The plot synopsis can be found in a variety of places.  Forget that, just go read the darn book. 😀