Category Archives: driving

VANOC, RCMP and the Olympics

Okay, another update. I didn’t post for the last two days because yes, I’ve ventured into Olympic land, only because friends came up from the US and I wanted to see them. Wednesday I braved driving downtown. Yes, driving, not busing, walking or other. One friend works for city parking and he said the parkades downtown are nearly empty because no one is driving.

Well, “no one” isn’t quite true but I left New Westminster around 4:30 pm, took the highway to E. 1 Ave., then turned down Clark Dr. to Pender St. I took Pender to downtown (already knowing which streets were closed) to Gastown but anticipating Gastown’s usual traffic jam I turned up to Hastings St. In retrospect I should have gone through Gastown to Richards. On Hastings I had about four blocks to go to Hastings and it took about 20 minutes, or about four lights to get through each light. Yes, there was traffic there but there was nothing to do but just endure. And true enough the parkade was empty.

I met my friends at the Kingston Pub on Richards St. and yes there were people but I seriously didn’t look around at anything else. The Kingston’s alcohol seems to be in the normal range but they had an ahi tun caeser salad for $19. That is overkill. I did get a serving of calamari for $10, which would have been quite fine but the batter wasn’t cooked all the way through, but they were crazy busy.

On Thursday I spent the day with my friends on Granville Island (where they are charging for parking, with a 2-hour limit, where normally it’s free parking). There was a huge Francophone pavilion but we didn’t go in, but we wandered into one studio to see a video broken glass show that was short and interesting. Bridges Restaurant is the Swiss House but there was a line-up even for a drink (the Swiss-Canada hockey game was about to start) so we didn’t get in there. We got into the Atlantic Provinces show (we say Maritimes) because a friend was working the show. Music with some tales of the musicians’ homes and slide shows behind. It was very good and fun. I wished there’d been room to dance as Maritime music always has you toe tapping. Basically there were line-ups for everything and I hate line-ups so a lot of patience is needed to get into any of the houses. But it is a free cultural Olympiad (some of it) and that’s kinda cool, fun and informative all at once.

Now I’ve been looking at the results for the Olympic games online but have not been able to get any so-called channel (CTV) to actually show what’s supposedly being broadcast live.And I have not gone to see the Olympic cauldron for which VANOC has received huge criticism for putting it (and everything else) behind huge chainlink fences so that people couldn’t see or take pictures. They’ve now cut holes and moved the fence in but it’s typical of the VANOC heavy handedness and the blocking of lanes (which they somehow didn’t have to do in Salt Lake City). And I’m not venturing to Whistler where you need a permit to drive (or do it after 6 pm) or have to take a bus that yes, you must also buy a ticket for.

Another aspect of the whole Olympics is the SECURITY, which doncha know does not include taking care of the violent anarchists. That falls to the city’s police force and is not included in the budget. But there’s the tale of a guy who is a doctoral student and works at a local hospital in one of the labs. He decided to be part of the Olympics and was interviewed to be a guard. He got his uniform, was accredited and worked two shifts. When he showed up for his third shift his security card didn’t work. In between the accrediting and working and the nonworking card he’d been called and questioned by the RCMP, that bastion of moral righteousness and law.

It’s not that he’s a protester. It’s not that he belongs to any subversive organizations. It’s not that he has any criminal record. It’s because he works with a nonviolent protester of the Olympics, a professor by the name of Chris Shaw. He works with the guy but doesn’t really know him and was in fact a supporter of the Olympics and did not believe in Chris Shaw’s point of view. But it seems even if this man who had already passed all the testing to be security for the Olympics did not pass the RCMP’s scrutiny because of working in the same lab as a nonviolent protester.

This is typical of the ineptitude and misplaced scrutiny of the RCMP. Of course, any time the media asks for the RCMP to comment they say they can’t because of privacy concerns. Those privacy concerns are really only for themselves because the media has usually already talked with the person on the other end. And if the RCMP actually used this tight of a scrutiny of their own members we might not have a man tasered to death at the Vancouver airport, or a man shot in the back of the head while in a holding cell. The RCMP used to be reliable, balance and upheld the law. They are so tarnished now they may as well get rid of the brass buttons on their red serge. They continue to pull the “Homeland Security” fiascos that George Bush would be proud of, while at the same time doing nothing to stop the anarchists who did smash store windows and injure city police. Between VANOC and the RCMP it’s amazing that we’re not all being questioned and ticketed.

So while you’re here enjoying Canada’s open hospitality (why is it that I almost wrote hostility) make sure you’re squeaky clean. And if you’re not, don a black hood and the RCMP won’t be able to see you. It’s just to bad the sports and arts of the Olympics are constantly overshadowed but the idiocy of ineptitude of the various arrogant and money grabbing Olympic committees.

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The Olympic Torch and Being Green

Vancouver 2010 Olympics, given a bronze medal by the Suzuki society for green initiatives. Just made it but still somewhat green, right? I’m in New Westminster and today the torch has gone through on Columbia Street. Here’s what it looked like.

First there were four Greyhound bus size trucks that went through. I might have missed one or two but at least three of these were Coca-Cola with people in red playing drums, waving flags, drumming, cheering. Then there was a five minute gap and a bunch of cars drove down the street, just trying to get through.

We waited (I watched from the second floor of a building) and then a large 2010 bus drove by, empty from what I can tell. Next two motorcycle cops drove by pushing people back from the road, and then and RCMP car and two more cops. Then a 2010 (what we would call Handydart) bus drove by. Next came the runner with six people jogging about him to keep the crowd back that had surged onto the street. There were about 100 people out there at most but then the torch and runner have already been through most of New Westminster by this point. Then came another four motorcycle cops. And then we saw where that billion dollar security budget came from.

At least six more RCMP unmarked trucks/SUVS brought up the rear, sitting in their sleek new vehicles, just driving along. In all, not including the motorcycles I counted 15 or 16 vehicles for one runner and a torch. They were so far back that if something happened it would only be for picking up the pieces of the runner and finding the bad guys after the fact. But you’ve got to give the guy space, right? Of course, but then why so  many vehicles for one runner so far behind. And just think, the same in every part of Canada.

Fifteen. How is this green? None of those vehicles looked like hybrid vehicles. Oh yes, there was also one Olympic guy who pedaled by on a bike. That was green as were the people on their feet. Fifteen vehicles. Okay sure, four were big branding hullabaloos and not a free Coke between them. Two were buses, empty I must say. But are we just finding jobs for the 15,000 security guys who are living on a cruise ship just waiting for bad to happen? Can we say overkill.

This, folks, are your Olympic dollars at work and the great brains of the Olympic committee doing more than taking the fun and sport out of the Olympics. This is puffed up importance and Olympic BS. Some security is needed but these guys were joyriding. Pretty sad to see and a detraction to the runner with all those vehicles. I wonder how many runners are getting sick from sucking exhaust.

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VANOC Police State?

Well, Vancouver, are we about to be a police state? Will we feel more protected or more repressed with the beginning of the Olympics? The one billion dollar budget (that somehow the provincial government forgot to include when they were selling BC on this venture) for security means we’ll have such a plethora of police and guards that criminals are bound to take a vacation elsewhere.

A police state is defined as the “government exercises rigid and repressive controls over the social, economic and political life” of the people. It’s hard to know in advance how our social life will be affected because two weeks before they start road closures (yes, 12 days before the Olympics) we still don’t know what roads will be closed. You’d think that they might at least let us know this in advance because it will inconvenience people. And of course road closures do curtail social aspects in certain areas and affect the economic realities of businesses in these zones. And let’s see, political life. Well, Stephen Harper has decided to prorogue parliament on another whim, saying it’s to get the budget in order. Errr, excuse me, but that’s what working every day as a politician is about, not taking a vacation from the hard questions. But let’s just cease any government until after the Olympics. I’m not sure Canada will have much difference from Beijing on repression.

Interestingly, this morning CBC interviewed the person who had been in charge of the Salt Lake City Olympics security. He said police were in bright jackets so you always knew where they were. When asked about how he handled road closures he said he didn’t know because they only closed a couple of roads around the site. Unlike Vancouver, where routes into the downtown core will be closed completely, and other areas around the city will be blocked or narrowed to one lane. Anywhere where an athlete might go, might practice or might compete, will have numerous restrictions. Of course with no map yet of what areas this will be we, the simple citizens who live and work here will be left with a bewildering maze to maneuver last minute.

Oh and Translink and VANOC spoke the other day urging people to not take transit between 2 and 7 pm  so that people could get to their “time-sensitve venues.” So what are people supposed to do with those time-sensitive things called jobs? Signs put up at various intersections are already spouting to bike, walk or take transit for the 2010 Olympics. So which is it, VANOC? Do you want us to take transit but only when it won’t inconvenience all those people paying big bucks for tickets?

On top of that, we have had lessons by way of radio (and I can presume TV but I don’t watch it) on how to behave. Be nice to visitors, they say. Duh. Hello, VANOC, you’re dealing with Canadians and we are supposed to be polite by nature. Maybe not perfectly polite and we’ll be less so after we deal with delays in transit and road closures (and believe me, there is enough road rage/aggressive driving already). In fact, I’ve changed doctor’s appointments and moved them back so that I don’t have to go downtown during the Olympics. I’m not even sure I could get down there, let alone that it wouldn’t take four hours.

So the VANOC thought police are trying to bring us into line, make us behave, line up where we should and stay away if we interfere with their game. We will only be able to protest in set areas. We’ll see how that goes. I just wish all the ridiculous overkill in security (far more than heads of state even get) was not deterring from the actual Olympic feats of the athletes. As it is, I won’t be able to afford to go, I probably would not be able to drive up to Whistler without using some VANOC sanctioned vehicle, and I’ll be paying, along with everyone else for a long time.

This could have been cheaper if it wasn’t taken to olympic proportions. These people aren’t gods and nor is VANOC god. I really hope that we can survive this without feeling that we’ve been scrutinized in every direction. On that note, I haven’t heard from the VANOC thought police yet but because I’ve been protesting here I’m sure that I’m on their radar as some sort of subversive. I protest with words but VANOC would prefer even that to be repressed. Sorry, folks, but I find little to be shiny happy about with this. To the athletes, I hope you have a marvellous competition and that you’re treated well. You should be; we’re being told to greet you on bended knee.

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Parking Nazis: The Price You Pay

Parking in Vancouver has been annoying for a long time and is probably this way in most major cities. In some areas there are two (0r one) hour parking zones but they are few and far between and becoming more limited. These are usually in residential areas with high populations, such as the West End or around any commercial streets. The two-hour zones have gone down in recent years as the city puts in more and more metered parking.

Right now those meters run at about $4 an hour. That’s a lot of change but you can pay by cell phone with many of them. However, it was only a year or two ago that the city raised the price of parking, including their EasyPark lots. EasyPark’s mandate is supposed to be affordable parking and while the city said they were raising meter parking to encourage people to not stay in those spots too long and open them up for others, there was no reason to raise the price of parkade and lot parking. Except there’s that Olympic thing, and the deficits that would not happen.

So here we are a year or so later and the city is talking about raising street parking again, to cover their budget deficits. And we all know, once a price goes up it rarely if ever goes down. It will be $6/hour at least. You can bet the city-run EasyPark parkades will follow suit or be ordered to do so. If they really wanted to help with encouraging people to leave their cars at home, then running the SkyTrain later that 12:30 would help and lowering the price of the transit fair especially for going to the downtown core would be an incentive. I believe Calgary does this.

But what’s even a more surprising and sneaky move, voted on quietly behind closed doors was that TransLink will be raising the tax on parking in the New Year. How can one raise a tax when the PST and GST are set amounts. Well, TransLink thinks they are a power unto themselves and have voted in to raise the PST to 21%. How they can do this when it’s legislated by the government? I don’t know but I’d like some answers. So consider this: when you park anywhere in the lower mainland next year, if it’s run by EasyPark or possibly even the metered parking, the cost will reflect 26% in taxes (5% GST). How this will change with the GST might be even higher.

Translink has said they don’t have the money to build anymore lines but were still spending millions on doing the studies. Well now we know where those millions and where those possible future lines will come from: nearly a third from people’s pockets just for taxes and illegally done at that. They are an arm of the provincial government I believe though it’s been hard to find that and the provincial Liberals are overbugdget on the Olympics too.

Let’s add in that the government will be taxing us on things not previously taxed with the HST and you’re looking at a province that won’t be spending as much. If you eat at a restaurant with ther liquor tax and the HST, that’s going to be at least 12% plus 15% tip and that will be near 30% on every food bill. If you’re parking, it will be nearly 30% on every parking spot.

We’ve hit a new era and the only thing difference between TransLink, or the provincial government and a thug’s is they’re not holding guns to our heads but they’re robbing us on the sly nonetheless. If you don’t want to be taxed to death, protest the HST, write your MLA and MP and ask for accountability from TransLink. If every merchant of anything refused to charge HST, then the government would be stuck but in this case being Canadian will be our downfall, where we’re too polite to truly protest.

http://www.easyparkvancouver.com/

Translink

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Pedestrians and Cars: A Two-Way Street

I cannot imagine what our ancestors of long ago would have thought of our casual disregard for motor vehicles. Tons of metal hurtle towards us and we will blithely walk in front of them with presumptions of our safety. And we, as drivers, hold these leviathans at our fingertips, feeling invincible as we do so.

But the truth is that hundreds of people are injured and killed everyday, the world over, because of cars, trucks, buses. Here in Vancouver, and most of Canada, pedestrians have the right of way. That’s most to protect the flesh and bone as they’re more vulnerable that people in cars. However, should a person run into traffic or jaywalk I believe they still have the right of way, even if they are breaking the law. But it’s great way to get yourself made into road pizza.

In Vancouver, the areas that have a lot of shops tend to be the ones that will bring out the jaywalking. I will never ever jaywalk if a car is coming because I don’t believe in inconveniencing people who truly have the right of way, just because I want to skip an extra minute by walking to the corner. I have watched people and been in my car having people step out into the middle of traffic or saunter across, or end up stopping the flow because in laziness they can’t wait.

This gets back to my pet peeve of the me-me-me world where everyone only thinks of themselves. The selfish pedestrians inconvenience the drivers and other folks because they pretend they own the world. Conversely, the selfishness of drivers can be even more deadly than the accidents that law-disregarding pedestrians cause.

Too many people pay no attention but to the road in front of them. A good driver and a law-abiding one is supposed to be reading signs and watching what goes on around. Without reading you won’t know if you’re in a construction zone, if the speed limit changes, or if there is a merge lane. And without observing what’s going on around you (in a non-rubbernecking way) you won’t know that traffic flow will change, that a person is crossing a street or someone has signalled and is backing up to parallel park.

It is every driver’s responsibility to pay attention and observe. That doesn’t mean pulling out into oncoming traffic just because your signal is on (if it’s on) but do so when it’s safe. The same goes for changing lanes. And should you see someone standing at a crosswalk, you are supposed to stop and let them cross, not zoom through because they can cross after. I have almost been smeared because I was more than halfway through the crosswalk when someone decided to just keep going. People get clipped when cars turn corners.

Of course car manufacturers can be blamed for some of this. My Saturn has a huge blind spot and when I’m turning a corner I have to look behind and in front of this blind spot. However, I almost hit someone when turning one night, not because I wasn’t looking but because it was dark and raining and this guy decided to run across the street. I only saw legs flashing by as I hit the brake. It behooves every person to keep a healthy ounce of self-preservation and realize that it is sometimes hard for drivers to see in rain, fog, snow and dark.

And yesterday I almost hit a bicyclist. I signalled, stopped and looked both ways, then pulled out to turn from an alley. But this guy sailed in front of me at a fast speed and there had been a parked van to my left. Every person on the street, whether driver, bicyclist, pedestrian (and god forbid, skateboarders) needs to consider what their actions will cause, and think about if a driver/pedestrian can see them. Crossing the street that has no lighting and wearing all black at night makes you hard to see. Consider that and make sure the driver has seen you before you step in front of them.

Pedestrians, use the corners and crosswalks and don’t dash in front of cars. Drivers, consider the road, the signs and the people along the walks. Follow the rules and laws of the road and consider that you’re not the only one on it. If more people just did this; pay more attention, be aware and conduct themselves safely, we could probably cut down on accidents by 30%.

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Orycon 31 Wrap-Up

I just got home from a weekend at Orycon, Portland’s Science Fiction convention. Since I didn’t really attend Vcon I can say that this is the first fan con I’ve been to probably since Worldcon in Toronto. Orycon is a midsized convention I think, neither as large or Dragon Con or Worldcon  but not as small as Vcon.

I can only speak to my experiences from being there as a pro, in writing and editing. My early experience was with the committee in charge of organizing the panels. First, they found me through this blog as my email had changed since the last time I was down (probably a dozen years ago), and sent me an invitation to attend. They then sent out a list of possible panels and asked which ones I might like to be on. This form allowed for submitting a bio and a bio picture at the same time.

A couple times I needed to contact the committee to clarify some things (such as was the reading at midnight Saturday meaning midnight Friday because that’s technically Saturday) and they got back to me promptly. Thanks to Kami Miller and Rick Lindsley for all their help and organizing the panels well.

I did notice on site that there were no bios at all except for the guest of honor so I’m wondering why we needed to submit it. A bit disappointing that but the panels were listed in the large program book and the little pocket booklet. It would have been better to put some bios in the program book and left the panels to the booklet but then they needed room for describing them. I had offered (beforehand) to fill in on a couple more panels if needed but I never heard back and I did notice several panels only had two people on them. However, there were panels offered on art, editing, writing, costuming and other fan-oriented activities so that there were about five panels or more on at all times.

The booklet listed panels by room or by time and basically you could cross reference any way you wished. The kept all the readings off of the main listing though and had them separate which means many people missed them because they weren’t listed in the regular schedules. And I guess they were several hundred programs short in the printing.

I went to the art show, which was so spread out in a very large room that it look kind of empty. It might have been better to put the art panels closer together. The show ranged from the professionals like Lubov (the artist GoH), Alan Clark and a few others to the amateurs. There were fewer pictures of characters from Star Trek and other shows but it almost seems as if the unspoken theme was that of dragons.

That theme of dragons carried over into the dealers room, which was quite large. From what I could see I’m predicting Steampunk is on a huge rise and it will be flowing into mainstream fashion soon. There were many steampunk items from hats and goggles to other mysterious items and corsetry. There were very few books at all in the dealers room and the only presses selling their publications were Apex Book Company, Bizarro Fiction from Eraserhead Press,  and Talebones/Fairwood Press. I meant to go back and by one of the Bizarro books but forgot (and Apex too).  Darn. But the dealer’s room had gadgets, toys, comics, books, clothes, jewellery and all the goodies that people love to buy.

I missed taking a gander at the dance or masquerade and though there were few room parties they were fun and casual. The Pirates of the Columbia hosted one and I think they just do it for fun, plus there was the Radcon party, the hospitality suite and IRoSF, which my brain is blanking on right now.The costumes I did see were quite fun, from women in baroque dresses (complete with ship on the hair) to steampunk farmers and the Joker.

The hotel itself seemed fairly nice, and new from the Jantzen Beach hotel of previous Orycons. It was an extremely cold hotel though and they could have done with turning up the temperature a couple of degrees. I didn’t eat much but the food seemed all right and the hotel very apologetic when they screwed up our reservation. The rooms were quite spacious and nice with small balconies.

I’m notorious for not getting to panels at cons. Because I arrived at 6 I don’t think I attended a panel Friday except to do a reading at midnight in conjunction with Darklady Reed, Kal Cobalt and Tami Lindsley (hopefully I have those names right). Saturday I moderated the “Drowning in Slush” panel and attended one on Steampunk and on neural interfaces.  That’s a better average than usual. The Steampunk panel was quite interesting and well balanced. The neural interface panel was in jeopardy of being dominated about people talking about their disabilities but was save by the other panelists extrapolating into what’s being done and where it might go. And I managed to chat with the physicist so that I can worked out the logistics of a virtual environment story I’m working on.

Overall, I enjoyed the con and would consider going again. I also lucked out on driving weather, which was perfect. With stopping to visit friends, it was a pleasant (if long) drive.

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Skateboarders are Buttheads

This should get me a bit of hate mail but it’s true. Okay, not ALL skateboarders are buttheads but the vast majority that I run into on the streets are. The ones that go to the skateboard parks and other safe areas to do their acrobatic feats of derring-do are no problem at all.

The ones that careen through traffic trying to race Death out of Darwin’s gene pool: now those are the giant buttheads. They care for little, not themselves, nor anyone else and have the arrogance that equates to a short life.

We have many forms of locomotion; cars, buses, bicycles, feet, motorcycles, roller blades and skateboards. Skateboards are the least suited to sidewalk and road. Bicyclists and motorcyclists ride small wheeled vehicles with their flesh exposed to the elements and the hard metal of other machines. They wear reflective and protective clothing, and helmets. Of course there would probably be a few death-wish hopefuls who would try to ride without helmets if it weren’t law, like it’s cool to have your brains splat on pavement or something. Cool to be stupid: that’s attractive.

Bicyclists, if they want to remain alive, pedal along beside cars as they can’t go as fast. Drivers and bicyclists should always respect each other’s space and cut out any ego issues. Unfortunately there are attitudes on both sides, but we can always dream of better tolerance. But back to skateboarders; they don’t wear protective or reflective clothing, they don’t wear helmets. Two fails right there.

Pedestrians have the right of way of sidewalks. They walk on them, not on the road where they would soon be road pizza. Of course there are butthead pedestrians who jaywalk in front of cars as if they own the road. But most stick to the sidewalks where they belong. Skateboarders get another fail for having a wheeled object on the sidewalk. Bikes aren’t allowed there; neither are skateboards.

Skateboarders don’t fit the rules of the road because they can’t go fast enough, not even as fast as a bike unless it’s downhill. They don’t wear the proper gear and on top of that they’re kicking a leg out and veering, long undulations in and out of traffic. Skateboarders don’t fit the rules of the sidewalk, because they’re on wheels. They’re hazardous to the pedestrians and often swerve all over the place.

On top of all this, they, who are least protected on the road, take the biggest risks, rolling down the middle of the street, nonchalantly getting out of the way–eventually, when a driver has had to break or slow down for them. It always amazes me that the less protection a person has from vehicles, it’s almost as if the arrogance goes up exponentially.

There is nothing more irritating or dangerous then guys flying down the road, or chugging along weaving in and out of cars and people, flipping up on curbs, doing near nose-dives onto pavement. Skateboards should be like ATVs, banned completely from roads and sidewalks and only given to certain terrain. The skateboard parks and abandoned underpasses are the ideal terrain for the skateboarder but not as a way through the streets.

A view of an extreme skateboarder’s world is revealed in Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash where pizza drivers wield swords and couriers skateboard along freeways tossing their magnetized discs onto speeding vehicles to hitch a ride. (A review of this book is in a previous blog entry.) So I will stick with my thoughts that skateboarders on the streets today are buttheads, pursuing a delicate dance with death while endangering others.

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Solo Travels in Mexico

Many years ago, on a whim I decided to go to Mexico because it was cheap. So up I went and flew to Mexico City for a week. This was the first time I had travelled on my own and I figured it would be a safer country to try my solo travel in than farther away in Asia.

I knew pretty much no Spanish and had a little phrase book at the time with your essentials. I arrived in Mexico City, finding a hotel to stay at that was also a residence for some people. I don’t even remember if I had a guidebook but somehow I got around. Mexico City was huge, at something like 25 million people, and the pollution was so bad I could taste it. Still I went to the Zocalo (the city center or public square) to see some of the buildings. And of course to a few churches as well.

The first night I went down to a local restaurant to order something to eat. I wanted to avoid the Zona Rosa, the tourist zone, as much as possible. After all, tourist areas tend to be pricy and don’t give you a real slice of the local haunts. As I sat in the restaurant with my tiny phrase book, I looked at the menu in bewilderment. Another customer must have seen my consternation. He came over and talked to me and told me what the food was so I could order something.

I was only in Mexico a week and even before I tasted the water my stomach started to suffer from Montezuma’s revenge. The airport had actually had people giving out pamphlets saying you could be affected from the altitude and so it was with me. I also had tummy troubles in India and Nepal (from dysentery) curtailing some of my gastronomic adventures. So I don’t remember much about Mexican food but there were a few highlights.

One day I asked a street vendor for naranja–orange juice. He asked, con huevos? And I said si, not knowing what it was. I received an orange juice with a raw egg floating in it. Gah! I drank around it and left the huevo behind. I also wandered into one market in the city that had various vegetables and tortillas and cactus. I never did try cactus. But at one booth there was a basket of white nuts. When I looked closer I realized it was grubs. Thankfully I never ordered those by mistake. I did get to try pulque (pullkay) which is a fermented cactus juice, very thick but tasty. It was considered to be a drink of the gods and I guess the old kings used to imbibe.

At that time my hair was nearly to my waist, blonde and brunette. As I walked through the city of brown-skinned Mexicans I stood out with my white skin and lighter hair. The men would hiss at me and call out, “Muy buenita.” I didn’t know what this meant and I found it disconcerting. It turns out that in certain countries they don’t whistle, or wolf whistle as we call it when men whistle at women. Instead they hiss their appreciation.  And muy buenita meant very beautiful. I began to realize how latin lovers got their names.

In fact, every day some man hit on me. There was the guy living at the hotel who tried to tell me he had met me at a party in Vancouver. It didn’t work but what he had done was ask the desk manager what my name was and where I was from. There was the hotel owner in Taxco who wanted me to accompany him on his holiday to a town that had a church for every day of the year, and another young guy looking for someone to buy him dinner. There were the guys at the restaurant in Cuernavaca, and a guy at a cantina who wanted me to go to Puerta Vallarta with him, but I wasn’t about to embark on trips with strangers.

My second last night, no one hit on me except to rob me on the train as I returned from Chapultepec Park which houses the world-class anthropology museum. It was the least invasive robbery, my bag being slit with a knife and my wallet taken. Lucky for me, my passport was tucked behind my camera lenses and the wallet held only about ten dollars and my Visa card. Even my traveller’s cheques were back at the hotel. No Mexican would look like an Anderson but I cancelled the card. I ended up not eating that night as it was a Sunday and I had no cash left for dinner. Most of the places wouldn’t take the traveller’s cheques.

Then on my last night I did go for drinks at a cantina with a Mexican man, named Fernando. He tried to get me into bed, pretty much like all the other guys, except the thieves. I wouldn’t give in and he proclaimed I wasn’t like all the other American women, many of them teachers who came down for a good time with the Mexican lads. But he did give me a ride back to my hotel. Before we got there though, the cops stopped him though he wasn’t speeding.

It seems they wanted a little bribe. So Fernando came back to the car, passed me money below the view of the window and then had me hand it to him visibly in view so the cops would think we had given all our money. Then we were free to go.

Fernando and I did exchange addresses and continued to write each other for years. Now we both have email and Fernando and I still keep contact. Some day one of us might actually travel to the other’s country again. There’s a lot of Mexico I never saw.

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Thoughts on Alberta

I haven’t lived in Alberta for a long time so that now when I go back I notice the difference. I am just a tourist in the place of my birth. Calgary is an immensely spread out city. In the middle of the prairies there is room to grow like a slowly encroaching disease. Alberta itself is known as Big Sky Country. When you compare it to BC, which is mountainous all the way to the coast (we are part of the Rockies), there is a huge difference.

Edmonton to Calgary (canola fields)

Edmonton to Calgary (canola fields)

Calgary is in the foothills, on the other side of the Rocky Mountains. You come out of Banff, if you’re driving from BC and the sky just opens up. It is rolling hills and flat patches. There is nothing but sky and fields. I can see how someone growing up in the mountains or heavily wooded areas could find that great blue expanse disconcerting. I find it noticeably different in comparison to Vancouver.

Calgary, years ago, built their downtown core fairly compacted with buildings set close together. It made the downtown darker and colder than the outlying areas. The city center is also in a dip or a bowl and the city rises up out of the bowl on all sides. Keeping the downtown in that dip served to concentrate the center but the rest went its own way. There are major thoroughfares that crisscross the city north to south and east to west. They have such names as Sarcee Trail, Crowchild Trail, Deerfoot Trail, John Laurie Boulevard, Shaganapi Trail, Edmonton Trail, McKnight Boulevard, etc. Many, as you can see are reminiscent of the First Nations bands that originally occupied that area.

These roads are two to three lanes (there are others I haven’t named) and though they have lights at intersections, those lights are spaced very widely apart. Many of these freeway style roads are bordered by giant boulevards. It would be better to call them small inclines rather than boulevards because they often slope up (or down) and are 20 to 30 feet wide. Many of these roads are also bordered by large walls, used to keep sound out of the residential areas.

I grew up in the northwest (Calgary works on a quadrant system of street names and numbers split into NW, SW, SE, and NE) and at one time it was bordered by Spy Hill, or Nose Hill. I believe there are still houses on the other side of the area but it is protected land. Once I believe it was ranchland and may still have be partially privately owned but it is the only true hilly region (small part of the foothills) in Calgary. We used to go up there and do bow and arrow shooting at targets or just explore.

Just these major “trails” alone in Calgary take up a lot of space. Without them it would take far longer to go from one side of the city to the other. The last time I was there it took two hours one day to go from NW to SE, and I’m not sure we even hit the farthest reaches of the city. I cannot fathom how I managed to live on one side of the city and used to take the bus to work on the other side, before they had rapid transit.

One place to go for hikes is Bragg Creek. I went with my friend for a hike. Some uphill and some flat Picture 141spaces and a very nice view from other parts. Bragg Creek has a meandering creek that has never been particularly high from what I remember. Farther away is Elbow Falls. We didn’t go that route but did a three-hour hike (or a bit less) which gave us good cardio but was not hard. Runners are all you need but watch out for the bugs. Something bit my arm while we were walking though it neither itched nor swelled up.

Back in Calgary, one thing I did notice was the very high price of food, comparable to what I’ve seen in Seattle. Onions here are between .69 and .79/lb. In Calgary, $1.49/lb. Other fruits and vegetables were similarly expensive. Ouch.

The weather was hot, pulling in a short and fierce windstorm that killed two people and injured about 100 others and yet we missed it going from building to house. It lasted no more than a half hour. It poured one night, growing toward thunderstorm, but that never happened. Thunderstorms are common in Alberta and tornadoes are not uncommon in the southern parts of the province.

After so many years, I saw the differences in weather and land and city structure. I still prefer my home in Vancouver where usually the summers aren’t as hot, nor the winters as cold.

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Sustainability and A Planet Out of Whack

We are talking more and more about sustainability, as an end to our oil resources is something almost calculable by now. As our living space will decrease with population growth and demands on usable water will increase. As our landfills overflow and seep toxic gunk into the groundwater.  As our land turns to dustbowls or swamps and arable land becomes scarce, as millions of cars belch fumes into the sky.

Right now fires are sweeping across BC, again, threatening people living in cities. In Westbank/Kelowna 11,000 people have been evacuated with another 6,000 on alert. This echoes the terrible, devastatingly traumatic fires that swept through parts of Australia earlier this year. Fires so intense and vicious that they caught people as they tried to get into their cars, that burned land to a cinder killing all living things, whether plant or animal, that stood upon the land. Australia faces the collapse of its wine industry, vines grown for years either burned to a crisp or without water to keep the crops going. Their cattle industry is also in danger. A whole country and continent without enough water.

This is not a new thing. Disasters and climatic devastation have happened throughout history but the ferocity and frequency are increasing as the planet warms and suffers under the onslaught of chemicals and fumes not meant to play with nature. The change in the planet probably began with the industrial revolution, once machines were chugging blue smoke into the sky and sluicing runoff into the streams. It began with the first car. And if we think about it, that was only about a hundred years ago. A tenth of a millennium and civilization has existed for at least twenty thousand years.

Think about it. We are exponentially increasing the danger to the planet and to ourselves, and sticking our heads in the sand won’t make it go away. So just what is sustainability? Let’s look at defining it first, from Merriam Webster: 1: capable of being sustained 2 a: of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged <sustainable techniques> <sustainable agriculture> b: of or relating to a lifestyle involving the use of sustainable methods <sustainable society> 

So that a resource is not depleted or permanently damaged. Wow. Perhaps it’s easier to look at what is not sustainable than what is. What’s left over is what we have to work with. Let’s start with the biggest resource. Our planet. It is of a finite circumference with finite water and land. The world population is at 6.7 billion. It is expected to increase to 9 billion in 2040. That’s within a lot of our lifetimes. There will be less land to live on and the more building that happens takes away from land to grow upon. Water is already an issue in many places. What will it be like in thirty years?

This means no matter how much you love children, think they’re cute, want to be surrounded by bundles of joy or your religion has said, go forth and multiply, it is just not sustainable. Everyone can take personal responsibility and for every couple have one child. That will bring our population down. It will make the planet breathe a sigh of relief and continue a bit longer. Plagues, diseases and flus won’t spread like wildfire. And yes, businesses will have to restructure from the grow grow grow buy more mentality. But we’ll survive.

What is not sustainable is manufacturing more and cheaper cars, SUVs, Hummers and every gas guzzling monster. For sustainability they should be outlawed. And we see right now the glacial progress of moving to electric cars. Governments need to move faster on this and provide incentives to get people to change. More cars plug city thoroughfares and raise costs in maintenance, accident prevention and care. Fewer cars and bigger carpool systems will lessen the strain and road rage. Electric cars, bicycles, viable and cheap public transit will help alleviate both pollution and the sucking of the world’s limited oil and metal resources. Another unsustainable depleting resource.

Manufacturing that uses water needs to be looked at, if our water is becoming limited. Healthy, interactive systems of filtration need to be used to keep our water pure and reusable. We could end up like the people in the novel Dune, having to wear suits that recycle and sweat and urine into drinkable fluids over and over because the planet is desert. Water saving devices for taps, toilets and showers must be used. Education will help stem the tide there.

Building homes and offices, making paper all work on depleting trees. The forestry industry has been made responsible for replanting for quite a few years. But you can chop down more trees in a day than will grow in  a year. it takes years to get a big tree, centuries. Ripping out too many tress not only affects flora and fauna of an ecosystem but also affects the topsoil, the nutrients and the infrastructure of the land for both stability and water.

I could go on but every person as well as every company and government must take responsibility and look at what they use and how it’s reused or discarded. Everything from food to clothing. If we don’t start now, we should have started fifty years ago. And if you truly love children, start now and look at what you can do for sustainability because there could be no tomorrow.

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