Winter Solstice 2009 in Vancouver

Posted 27 December, 2009 by graham in Canada

For Winter Solstice there was all sorts of fun organised in Vancouver. First, Janette went to a workshop at the community center to make a lantern.

Lantern making, originally uploaded by GrahamKing.

It’s papier-mache glued around a balloon. Once the glue sets you pop the balloon and peel it out from the inside. Put a tea-light on some aluminium foil, attach the whole thing to a bamboo pole, and hey presto a lantern.

We took the finished product to a lantern procession. Several processions started all over Vancouver, and three of them, including ours, converged on Granville Island.

On a hill, on the island, torch bearers told tales and sang songs.

Winter Solstice torches, originally uploaded by GrahamKing.

We decorated Julian’s stroller with battery powered icicles. We received many compliments. Possibly people genuinely liked the lights. Possibly they thought we were homeless, and were trying to be nice.

Decorated stroller, originally uploaded by GrahamKing.

Then, incongruously, a marching band led us all to the other side of the island, where a fire dance was starting.

Shadow fire shapes, originally uploaded by GrahamKing.

The company performing is called M. Pyre Fire.

Dancing with fire, originally uploaded by GrahamKing.

Fire loops, originally uploaded by GrahamKing.

After that, all sorts went on. Cookies, hot chocolate, line dancing, and even Morris Dancing, which Julian loved. He clapped to the music and bobbed his head.

Watching the Morris Dancers, originally uploaded by GrahamKing.

Finally, it was getting late, and we crowded into a small room to watch a shadow puppet show, about a bear emerging from hibernation.

Behind the scenes are two people, a slide projector, and lots of transparencies and cut-outs. With such simple equipment, they put on a wonderful show.

Shadow puppets, originally uploaded by GrahamKing.

As we walked home, we stopped to talk to a women heading to the celebration. She told us that a new condo development had put some trees out with a ‘Free’ sign. We weren’t going to get a tree this year (we have an outdoor one), but we felt like it found us.

So the three of us, a stroller decorated with icicle-effect lights, a papier-mache lantern, and a 7ft pine tree, attempt to get the bus. The first two buses to go past politely declined to let us board. The third bus had a young driver, he was amused, and kindly let us on. Thanks!

Christmas Tree on the bus, originally uploaded by Janetterie.

However the ancients celebrated the longest night of the year, we like to think that they would not have been disappointed by our attempt.

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A day in Vancouver

Posted 4 August, 2009 by graham in Canada, Vancouver

The last section is the fireworks competition – four night of fireworks!

The webcam is downtown, pointing West out over the Pacific. If you cycled West along the shore on the left of the picture for twenty minutes, you’d be at our house.

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I’m 6 months old today!

Posted 12 April, 2009 by graham in junior

I’m 6 months old today!, originally uploaded by Janetterie.

And my favorite food is cardboard.

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Happy St Paddy’s Day, Everyone!

Posted 16 March, 2009 by janette in Canada

Down the Pub

The leaders of the big beer companies meet for a drink. The president of Budweiser orders a Bud, the CEO of Miller gets a Miller, the head of Coors orders a Coors, and so on. Until it’s Arthur Guinness’s turn. He orders a soda.

“Why didn’t you order a Guinness?” everyone asks.

Guinness replies, “if you guys aren’t having beer, then neither will I.”

Photo credit: Grandpa King.

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Why We’ve Moved to Vancouver

Posted 22 January, 2009 by janette in Canada

Canada: America's hat We debated our next move for quite a while. Did we want gleaming high-rises or wide open spaces? The hustle and bustle of big city life or locals who have all the time in the world for a chat? The density to support a variety of shops and restaurants and good public transport, or a place where property is cheap enough that we can afford a cute little house to live in?

And if the doomsayers are right, that the bottom’s going to fall out of the economy, climate change with wreak havoc, the freshwater supplies will dry up, and civilization as we know it will break down as resources become scarce, where would be the best place to set up our Mad Max camp?

Up until a few centuries ago, Vancouver was one of the few places in the world where the environment was so productive that hunter gatherers didn’t have to migrate with the seasons.

Robson St, VancouverToday, Vancouver is a mix of shiny steel sky scrapers, little craftsman houses, and blocky low-rise apartment buildings, surrounded by 1500m high snow-peaked mountains and the Pacific Ocean. There are two snowboarding parks within the city limits, reachable by a $2.50 bus ride. Then there is the 1000 acre Stanley Park (New York’s Central Park is 843 acres), with wild woodlands at its heart and beaches on 3 sides.

The locals are almost universally NICE, which was a little disconcerting at first. Not in a peppy, cheerleader sort of way, but in a genuinely good-hearted way. You almost forget you’re in a big city.

BirdhouseProperty is apparently the most expensive in Canada, but after London and LA, rents seem very low. We’re currently staying in a vacation rental run by a whimsical Frenchman who is crocheting a hat for the baby. Our garden is full disco balls and decaying statues, and there is a gilt-framed portrait covering the thermostat. We’d happily stay here for a while, but the rent is so much cheaper elsewhere that we can’t really justify it.

The Economist twice named Vancouver the most livable city in the world, and numerous other indices name it the best city in the world overall.

The Canadian economy is expected to experience a recession for only 2 quarters in 2009, shrinking by 0.5%, according to last week’s report by the Conference Board.

So why doesn’t everyone move here? Well, from this Californian’s perspective, the weather is TERRIBLE! The city was built on a rainforest. The winter temperature hovers a bit above freezing, so you get all the cold without the fun of the snow. I was prepared for grey skies, but there has been dense fog since we’ve come here, so the grey is all-pervasive. I’m convinced it would seep into my bones were I not fighting it off with extra strong Mexican hot chocolate and my HappyLite.

YurtAnd just in case it all goes Pete Tong, Canada was named the best place to escape the consequences of climate change, and Vancouver has one of the largest freshwater supplies in the world. And I bet the Vancouverites would still be nice to each other after the fall of civilization, in their moose-skin yurts!

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Julian’s Vancouver accomodation

Posted 18 January, 2009 by graham in Vancouver

We moved to Vancouver, B.C., Canada, last Monday. It was a 33 hour train ride up from L.A., then a 3 hour coach over the border.
So far Vancouver has been grey and overcast, so we visit the town carrying Julian in his pouch (thanks Jeff and Emily) all wrapped up like this. The ladies in tourist information loved him, the cool dudes in the snowboard shop loved him, and the bus driver let us ride the bus for free.
There’s train photos here and here

We still have lots of Vancouver to explore, and we need to find somewhere to live and eventually some gainful employment. But in the meantime, it’s snowboard season!

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Julian Atticus Girod King

Posted 14 October, 2008 by janette in junior

Julian Atticus Girod King, originally uploaded by GrahamKing.

Julian Atticus Girod King was born at home in Dogtown on Sunday 12th October 2008 at 3:57am, after a two day labor. He weighed 9 lb 4 ounces, and measured 22.5 inches. He looked surprised and let out a great holler. We were attended by our wonderful midwife Davi Kaur Khalsa and her assistant Jackie.
The next day Julian said his first word, a propos of nothing: ‘More’. He charmed his mother with a purr at his first feeding, and since then has been a very enthusiastic eater.

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More Woo-Woo than you

Posted 21 September, 2008 by graham in usa

Reincarnation, originally uploaded by GrahamKing.

Southern California was always going to be a little ‘alternative’, spiritual, or as I like to put it, ‘woo-woo’.

Americans are significantly more religious than Europeans, in a spectrum of religions ranging from varieties as dull as the Church of England, all the way to snake handling Pentecostalists. And that’s the official established religions.

Here in Santa Monica the official religion is Yoga, and ‘energy’ and ‘karma’ are common conversational terms.

I expected it, I like it, and it wouldn’t be Southern California without it. But, inevitably, some people always have to out woo-woo everyone else, and I think I found them. This is a flyer placed on all the cars on our street. Take a look.

I don’t think the upside-down image of John Adams (past and present) is intentional.

Yes, you are reading it right, it’s a conference on reincarnation, featuring speeches by a reincarnated Anne Frank and Michelango, music by a reincarnated Edward Grieg, and comedy by the reincarnation of Lauren and Hardy. Seriously. Those people are more woo-woo than you.

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Los Angeles survival guide – Transport

Posted 7 September, 2008 by graham in usa

Big car, originally uploaded by GrahamKing.

First, you’ll need a car, and I do mean first. There are drive-through restaurants, pharmacies, and even drive through banks (ATM’s and real human tellers). If your car has tinted windows, you might not even need clothes.

In the first half of the 20st Century Los Angeles had one of the most extensive tram (called trolleys, or streetcars) networks in the world, covering over 1000 miles. Around the time of the second World War the tram companies were struggling. General Motors acquired them, ripped up the lines, widened the streets (trams typically ran down the middle of the road) and replaced them with buses. By 1963 all the trams were gone. Conspiracy or economics? Read the full story of the demise Los Angeles’ tram system – click on ‘Show transcript’.

In 1993 the first line of the new L.A. metro system opened, and Los Angeles now has good public transport, with a metro, mainline trains, and buses. The metro doesn’t go to the airport, or to the beach, but it serves the rest of Los Angeles pretty well. I expected it to be popular only with poor people and those who have had their license suspended for drunk driving. It is popular with those people, but not exclusively. No-one has told Angelinos that talking to strangers on the underground is forbidden, so it’s a surprisingly friendly place.

When I share my surprise to friends about the metro system, they usually turn to their partner and say “We should go ride that metro one Saturday, see what it’s all about. Do you want to do that? It’ll be fun”.

The Amtrak mainline train runs from San Diego on the Mexican border, up the coast through Los Angeles, and on to Santa Barbera. It is called the Pacific Surfliner, and it gets surprisingly close to the surf of the Pacific Ocean. The trains are massive two-story affairs. When I rode one there was no-one else there, insane amounts of legroom in sofa-style seats, power-plugs for your laptop, a well stocked bar and snack car, and it cost about $12 from L.A. to San Diego.

The overwhelming majority though, drive. This is partly because they can watch Oprah on their in-car TV when the traffic slows down (I’m not making this up), but mainly because it’s their God given right as Free Americans. And as you would expect, the freeways are BIGGER. I have counted 10 lanes in each direction on one freeway.

In L.A., more than anywhere I have been, your vehicle defines you. Men, and butch lesbians, drive pickup trucks, with macho names (Super Duty, Titan, etc), huge engines, and a high rated towing capacity. This is not because they have to haul or tow anything, but simply because they are men. Pickup trucks come in many sizes and price ranges, from small dusty student models, to 4-door family models.

Women have a much greater choice of car, depending on their age, marital status and political views. Students get a dusty Honda Civic, divorcés a soft-top Mercedes Roadster, liberals a Toyota Prius with an ‘Obama 08’ bumper sticker, and conservatives a luxury S.U.V.

If you get awarded a Purple Heart (a military medal) in addition to the medal itself you can get a license plate holder. Many more people see your license plate than your chest.

L.A’s great contribution to transportation are carpool lanes, more properly called High Occupancy Vehicle lanes. I’m not sure where they were first invented, but Los Angeles has certainly taken them to heart. Many highways have been converted so that the inside lane is reserved for cars with two or more people in them. In rush-hour being able to use this lane can make all the difference. A legal test case showed that being pregnant doesn’t count as having a passenger.

Hybrid cars and electric vehicles are allowed to use the lanes even if they have a single occupant. Partly because this is all a bit latte-sipping liberal, and mainly because the California government is seriously short of funds, there is pressure to turn them into toll-lanes.

A politicians choice of car is vital to their career. Arnie, the state governor, drives the butchest S.U.V. converted to bio-diesel. A real man, but environmentally sensitive. Now if he would just make another movie and donate the proceeds, California could keep it’s car-pool lanes.

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Family Portrait

Posted 3 July, 2008 by graham in usa

Family Portrait, originally uploaded by GrahamKing.

Hi. How’s y’all doing? We are in fact still alive, as the photo proves. Doing really rather well actually.

This photo was taken at Jill (Janette’s Mom)’s retirement party, two weeks ago. She retired after something like 20 years as teacher and principal of a local elementary school.

Miss you all.

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