Monthly Archives: September 2008

Travel: We’re in Belfast

I was hoping to post something else today but by my late hour, I’m swamped at work. So here’s another one from my Ireland trip. First posted on Blogger on 9/30/07
Well, we spent till Friday in Dublin and went to pick up the car on Friday morning. Then with at least six people asked for directions we seemed to cross the Liffey and cross back so we were on the south side when we should have been on the north side. We did Baggot St. and lots of Dublin that we never meant to do. Plus we went far east before ending up going south and north again. A 15 minute drive took about an hour and a half.

The Charleville was very good to us and didn’t charge us for being late. We also had to get her to show us how the reverse worked in the car, which even she couldn’t find so we had to call the rental company. Signs in Ireland and in Dublin can be nonexistent, or on buildings, and covered by trees. Not to mention no streets are parallel. This city wasn’t planned, it grew. Many intersections have five or six streets off of them too.

Randi drove and I navigated and it was a big big mess. Finally we got directions out of Dublin to go north but they gave us the N1 when we needed the N2. We tried to get over but they have all of these semie routes (R123, R153, etc.) and somehow not on one of the three maps we had was there any R132. The ones that showed on the map petered out into townships and at one point we asked a woman at a petrol stn. where to go and she said turn left at the garda stn. (police) and right at the cemetery. Maybe they moved it because all we saw was a subdivision with children playing so maybe they were zombies. Eventually, four hours later we made it to Newgrange, 45 minutes too late.

We drove into Slane, a cute little town with a castle and asked if there were any B&Bs and it turns out there was a wedding in town so that there were no openings. But we got a place just 2 km from Newgrange and Roughgrange farm with a lovely woman, Irene, and her husband. Clean, cheapish, and friendly. We went into Donore that night for dinner at Daly’s a pub and a restaurant.

Next day, Saturday, we went to Newgrange and Knowth (neolithich passage graves), then on to the Hill of Tara (soggy soggy weather), then on to Trim Castle and St. Peter and Paul’s Cathedral in Trim. We drove into Kells but were too late and would have had to wait till 2 pm today. So we drove back to Slane and had a drink at the Village Inn Bar (disappointment is that there is only one type of cider so far in Ireland–Bulmers) then across to the Old Post Office Restaurant and B&B, one of only 2 places in Slane that serves food. It was pretty good but food is not cheap here. (Meals can be about 20€ average though you can get pub meals for cheaper.) We also had a good, not cheap meal in Dublin at Fitzers; very yummy and good for celiacs which my sister is.

I should say that I took over driving on Saturday and we’re both much happier. My sister tended to scream and freeze if she saw a car coming at her. The Garda swerved into our lane to get around traffic and the streets are very narrow and windy and the speed limits relatively fast. Except for getting down that center line thing and not going too far left, I’m doing okay. The care we have is crap and very hard to shift into the correct 1st or 2nd gear. And we couldn’t find a way to open the gas tank today, nor the gas jockey. Turns out you just push the lid.

This morning we did Monasterboice and Mellifont Abbey before heading north.

Time’s nearly out but we’re hoping to see the Crown saloon here and go off towards Giants Causeway tonight. Whoo and we made it into Belfast without a map of the city.

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Filed under Culture, driving, entertainment, history, humor, Ireland, life, memories, myth, travel

Things to Know About Traveling

Here are my posts (originally on blogspot) about my trip to Ireland last fall. One of my most popular posts on this site is the two-part “Stones of Ireland.” I decided people searching those out might enjoy my other posts on Ireland. The first four were what I managed in two weeks while traveling. After that I’ll post the entries with pictures. This was first posted 9/27/07

Well we made it. Just slept like the dead in Dublin and we’re off to a slow start.

Backing up, it was a bit of a whirlwind beginning. My friend Lorna picked me up around 7 and my flight was leaving at 10:10 pm. Plenty of time, right? Well originally this flight had been leaving at that time and going straight to Glasgow, but along the way Air Transat changed it to Vancouver, via Calgary onto Glasgow. I looked at all the changes when my sister first sent them and thought the only change was Calgary, after initialing thinking they had shortened our flight by a day.

So here we are at the airport and there is hardly anyone there. I naively said, geez they say get here three hours early and there’s no lineup. We walk up to the counter and I tell them the flight. They say no it’s gone already. But then these guys (more airport security than the ticket people) say they don’t work that counter; go over to the Air Transat counter. We do and the woman says it’s too late, it’s gone, it leaves at 8:00!

At this point my stupidity is dawning on me. I misread numerous times 20:10 at 10:10. I know the 24 hour clock but my brain had been stuck on the previous time. This woman calls upstairs as I’m breaking into a sweat (literally) and finds that they can get me on the plane but not my suitcase because the plane is packed. I’m going, what can I do and she says nothing because it’s a charter flight and only goes out once a week with not agreement with the other airlines.

But somehow, bless their hearts, a guy comes down, checks my baggage, almost forgetst to give me the boarding pass and then I have to take my luggage to the xray machine. The guy there jokes that I have to wait a half hour. Then I speed through security, luckily without any additional searches and jump on the golf cart they have waiting, lacing up my boots as we go, thanking them profusely. I got on the plane but if we had been 5 minutes later I would have been hooped and my sister would have thought I was dead when she got on in Calgary. I was lucky and the plane was not late in taking off.

So then my sister gets on in Calgary and she’s put on 50 pounds in 6 months from thyroid issues. Let’s just say the small Air Transat seats are more crowded now. We got into Glasgow and went through the cattle gates for the passports with the customs guy joking that he wasn’t happy because we were going on to Dublin.

A note to people travelling to Ireland: you can’t very easily get a direct flight from the West Coast so it’s Gatwick or Glasgow for joining up a new flight. Glasgow really has two airports, which we didn’t know at first. Glasgow International only has Aer Lingus that flies to Dublin (about $150 CDN) and Glasgow Prestwick (about an hour away by bus and train) has Ryanair (only) and is cheaper. But if people tell you (even those that supposedly live there or are Irish and go all the time) that you can just book when you arrive from all of these different airlines, they’re mistaken. There are only those two and though we could have made it to Prestwick in time for the late night flight, there were no seats left.

So we had to take Aer Lingus, but first we met up my friend Erin who is doing her PhD in Viking archaeology in Glasgow. She fed us and let us freshen up (and we saw these lovely foxes, the local vermin, in their back yard). Then we caught a taxi back to the airport and caught our flight, an hour late because the plane malfunctioned and they had to get a different one. So we left at 11:20 pm instead of 10:15. We finally got to our lodge and into bed at 2 am.

Scary things: a phone call requires constant money put into the machine. A call of a few minutes cost about 2.5£. Yikes. About 5 bucks. Glasgow is pounds. Ireland is Euros until you get to the Northern parts. And now, it’s off to see what we can of Dublin after our late start.

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Fall and Farmer’s Markets

On Saturday I suffered the pain of a mammogram. For some people it doesn’t hurt and for some, like me, it’s excruciating. The attitude of the technician was as if I was being a petulant child and causing a ruckus because the plate had “barely touched” me. I most assuredly was not and the fact that my breast and arm are still sore can be attributed to that. I’d like to clamp that woman’s breast as hard as mine were and see if she didn’t squeal in pain. Meh.

Anyways, on the way home I stopped by the Farmer’s Market at Trout Lake park. It’s a combo of bakery items, olives, jewellery, pottery, cutting boards, cheese, meats, vegetables and fruits. There are some repeats along the veggie lines but some variety from one to the other. I still find it pretty hard to pay $2 for four carrots though. Everything is supposed to be organic, from the beef to the beets.

I don’t get to the market often but I like to get items I can’t normally get, or in the case of tomatoes, something with tastes. Whether hothouse grown or not, tomatoes these days have no flavor. They’re red globes of water so I definitely buy organic. I have a cherry tomato plant growing at the front of the yard and it’s getting quite a few fruits now, somewhat late due to the cool year. But I also bought some cherry tomatoes at the market, with dark red and green streaks. They are very tasty.

I bought a smoked turkey haunch (something I can’t get usually), some crimini mushrooms, a variety of Italian squashes and zucchini, hot Tunisian olives and a pair of earrings with lampworked beads. The market is in a parking lot with many people talking, musicians playing, dogs barking and a few people on their cell phones. I was one, talking to my friend about the evening, while I looked at the jewellery, when this woman beside me burst out, “Oh for heaven’s sake!”

I looked up and she said, “I came here to get away from cell phones,” and stormed off. Well, lady, I came here to get away from judgmental people. Yeesh, what business was it of hers. I wasn’t driving (thank god) and there was enough ambient noise for everyone. There certainly was no sign that said, only barefoot hippies in homespun with no technology allowed. It didn’t ruin my day.

When I got home I took notice of the changing leaves. That fall chill is already in the air. The apple tree in the back yard is dropping its apples. We never eat them because they’re a 100-year-old variety that tends to be soft and mushy. My landlady takes them to the deer on Galliano Island. The pear tree, also 100 years old, developed rust a couple of years ago and now produces fewer, blighted pears. The plum tree has already seen its season come and go. The strawberries are on another burst and producing more fruit. Daisies, echinacea and gladiolas are getting ready to bloom. In some areas they already have. My neighbor has these huge, head-sized dahlias in amazing colors.

So fall is not yet here but the leaves are turning a bit, and others are just going brown. If we continue to get some more sun, like this last week, it will extend the growing period. I’m hoping for this because it’s been such a wet and cold year. The longer we can hold back the wintry weather, the better. Though like I said, that chill is already in the air in the mornings. And fall has not officially arrived quite yet.

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Writing: Cone Zero Reviews

Following are three reviews of Nemonymous 8: Cone Zero. I still cannot reveal which story is mine until March 2009. It’s fun to play the guessing game and see if you can match up the authors. I’m as unfamiliar with most of them as they are with me. Many are Brits because this is a British anthology. I’ve done some snooping to try and match up the stories and writers but it’s hard, not knowing their style.

I did read the full anthology and overall liked most of the stories. The caliber is quite high. There are a few that could have stood a bit more editing and I dislike red herrings that don’t go anywhere but the majority read very well. They’re engaging and encompass quite a range of worlds.

Before the review though, here is a little You Tube piece I found titled “Cone Zero.” I think it must be by someone involved with the book (writer, editor) because it certainly captures the feel of some of the stories.

http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=IvtUetTd8iU

This review does not list every story but mentions some of the thematic aspects of the book: http://www.magicalrealism.co.uk/view.php?story=89

http://charles-tan.blogspot.com/2008/07/magazineanthology-review-nemonymous.html

The Fix’s review give a synopsis of each story and sometimes a critical comment. It’s very thorough. http://thefix-online.com/reviews/cone-zero-nemonymous-8/

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Politics: Is This What We Can Expect?

This was recently reposted from Craigslist to one of the writing sites I’m on:

Reply to: gigs-834027754@craigslist.org
<mailto:gigs-834027754@craigslist.org?subject=Republican

%20Blogger%20Needed%20%28Anywhere%29> [?<http://www.craigslist.org/about/help/replying_to_posts> ]
Date: 2008-09-09, 12:47PM CDT

College News site is looking for a Republican political blogger for its site. You need to have some experience in the Republican movement (College Groups, Org. acceptable).

You will be required to post a daily basis until the election. Compensation is $35 a week.

Please reply with your credentials and a possible mini-post.

* Location: Anywhere
* it’s NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
* Compensation: $35

PostingID: 834027754

Excuse me? Credentials? For the whopping sum of $35 for a week’s daily posts! Say it’s just five days. That’s $7 per post. Wow. Can I just call that slave labor instead? But then, maybe this is the sign of the times. If the Republicans do win they’ll just be popping babies sitting at home barefoot, in the kitchen, fixin’ their man some vittles and posting a nice little bog piece every day.

Maybe Senator Palin could fit this into her schedule since she thinks VP won’t be a very hard job.

But I have to say I guffawed when I saw this Craigslist post as one of the most ludicrous writer jobs ever. It’s not worth the effort to write for someone for that cost. Might buy you a big Mac and fries but that’s about it.

Maybe this College News site (sic) thought Republican writers wouldn’t notice the lack of real money, and do it for love of country and dumbasses. Credentials, puhleeze. I’m sure the quality will be stellar for $7 a pop. A great part of the unofficial campaign and really makes me want to vote Republican.

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Shopping Cart Drivers

I’ve always believed that you can tell a way a person drives by the way they use a shopping cart. The same self-centered me-me-me attitude is exhibited, where no one else exists in the world but that one shopper, or driver.

Shopping aisles become completely blocked if two carts are side by side or if someone stops their cart in the middle of the ailse, at an angle, and then fills the rest of the space with their body. They’re oblvious to the fact that anybody else may be trying to move through that space. You can bet if they drive and park their car in the parking lot, that they park over the line, on an angle, taking up two spaces.

Those shoppers, with or without carts, who meander down aisles also tend to weave back and forth, chosing neither the right-hand nor the left-hand path and making it impossible for anyone to pass them. I’ve seen drivers doing the same thing on the road, turning into the lane but straddling it without choosing a lane.

There are also those shoppers who walk along and stop abruptly, causing you to walk up their legs. Or they might suddenly turn around and run right into you. Ever been behind someone driving along in a nice steady flow and for no reason they hit their brakes? Enough said.

In both cases we have examples of people who are inconsiderate. They do not look at any space they occupy as also having other people in it. The self-serving person never considers if their actions affect anyone else and believes they have the sole and proprietary right to do whatever they please. No matter what anyone thinks, we don’t live in a bubble. Consider those around you and they might just consider you.

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Drugs, Thugs and Hugs

Vancouver is starting a community court as an attempt to stop filling up the court system with repeat criminals who happen to be drug addicts and stuck in the perpetual cycle of addiction>money>crime>drugs>addiction.

There are several stats that contribute to trying something new. I’ve always contended that our criminal justice system is broken. The Downtown Eastside is considered the poorest postal code in Canada, as well as having the worst and largest number of addicts. Vancouver suffers from a high number of crimes ranging from car to house break-ins. Many of these can be contributed to addicts looking for that fix and needing money. So in their jittery, drug addled state, they trash cars, or steal purses and backpacks or invade homes.

I’m not speaking speculatively but as someone who has been a victim of these crimes. I’m not particularly rich, don’t drive an expensive car and don’t live in a ritzy neighborhood. That doesn’t matter in Vancouver. When I had a Honda Civic (the most stolen car in BC at the time) it was broken into sixteen times. Licence plate, registration, sunglasses, ashtray w/coins, first aid kit, half a tire jack, gear shift knob, cassette tapes, etc. were taken. Some can be contributed to kids and car thieves (gear shift knob, licence) but the ease of getting into a Honda was well known.

Although the break-ins happened all over the city, the majority happened where I live in East Vancouver. My next door neighbor, who at one point had a nice heritage house, became an addict. We had no proof that he was the perpetrator but the crime rate on our street was very high while he could still pay the mortgage on his place. My apartment (part of a heritage house) was broken into when I was away but my landlords were watching it and at home that night. We’re pretty sure it was the drug addict neighbor who even seemed to be paying a couple of teenagers to scout out places.

Twice more my place has been invaded. The second time I was actually home and someone walked into my back door (facing into the back yard) and took my purse. I suspect it was my no longer homeowner neighbor who had lost his house to drugs. The last time was last year when some other addict crowbarred my French patio doors and stole my camera.

This happens time and time again in Vancouver and although some criminals are of a higher organization, most of these crimes are caused by drug addictions, homelessness and sometime mental health concerns. Locking up these petty criminals for a short time doesn’t solve the problem overall. Most get very minimal sentences and are back time and again in the courts.

The community court (that some are labelling Hugs for Thugs) is to deal quickly with the criminals, where they meet with a triage team of counsellors and/or social workers. They’re sentenced to varying degrees, where community work or reparation is included, and sometimes jail time. This court has just begun and has been successful in other geographic areas. It’s the first in Canada and hopefully, along with the safe-injection site, will help keep the crime down and maybe, just maybe get people off drugs and off the street.

We’ll need affordable housing, which there is a lack of for even people who are poor and not yet homeless, as well as those on drugs or suffering from mental health issues. But I wonder how it will work if the addicts don’t want to change. And I know, after talking to someone who was a police officer for 25 years, that those on crystal meth will be the hardest to reform. Crystal meth literally eats the brain, making those addicts the most violent and least likely to be able to get off the drug. They usually have a five-year lifespan from when they get addicted.

But considering the rampant crime and the ineffective court system for this problem, I’m willing to hope this could be a win-win situation, with everyone suffering less from crime and people getting off the street and off drugs.

The official community court, justice reform site: http://www.criminaljusticereform.gov.bc.ca/en/justice_reform_projects/community_court/index.html

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Politics: The Same Old Same Old

Well, the notice that Canada is going for its third election in four years was made just 24 hours ago or so and already it’s begun. The campaigning, of course. But worse…the name calling. Okay, it began before the official out of the gate date.

Driving to work this morning I already passed NDP folks waving placards. I’ve seen a few posters. That’s all fine, but I absolutely detest a political campaign that does nothing but poke at the other parties. A party should be campaigning on its platform, on what it hopes to accomplish. Yet time and time again we see the kids in the sandbox. There’s one shovel and one pail (are there even sandboxes anymore?) and everyone is fighting over it, throwing sand in each other’s eyes, and then getting down to hair pulling and fisticuffs.

Oh, I guess I’ll run but um…I don’t have my platform. Well, I do but it’s not very strong. And the voters aren’t going to like this aspect and I can only get through so many lies and false promises that I won’t keep once I’m in power. But in the meantime, I will use the good ole political smoke and mirrors and that is to drag my opponent down into the mud. Should he already be there, then I’ll try to look noble while doing it and stepping on his back.

Just once I’d love to see a campaign run on honor and value and what a party hopes to accomplish, not on how much mud they can sling. There have been some true lows in the past that cost parties votes. Such as making fun of Chretien’s crooked face. That went over really well, Conservatives. Probably won’t happen this time as Stephen Harper has whipped his party into shape better than a dominatrix. No loose lips until his spindoctors hand out the doctrine.

It was nice to hear that when critics in the US jumped on Senator Palin’s wayward family that Obama said, We don’t touch family. That, truly is refreshing. Talk about what you’re going to do, not what the other guy is not doing. I’d love to see courtesy and honor make its way back into politics. It’s the toughest road, but I wonder if any Canadian party leader can handle it.

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An Appetizer by Any Other Name

A month ago my brother was visiting from Edmonton. He wanted to hear blues music (jazz, if not blues) and I tried to find a restaurant with said music. We found one in Yaletown (and spent a half hour finding parking) and finally went into the restaurant called Capone’s. As you can guess, it’s an Italian theme, with some pasta dishes on the menu. Not particularly memorable food either.

But there on the first page was “Tapas.” My brother raised an eyebrow and said, “We call these appetizers in Edmonton.” And you would think in an Italian restaurant these dishes would be called “antipasti,” not the Spanish “tapas.”

Well, I explained to my brother the new wave of tapas bars or restaurants in Vancouver. If you’re a restaurant you have a tapas menu and on it you list all sorts of sumptuous morsels. You bring them out on simple plates, but elegantly and artistically arranged. Then no one seems to mind that they’re paying $12 for three scallops. Tapas menus tend to range from $10-$14 with $12 being the average.

If you switch out the word tapas and pop in “appetizer” suddenly it’s not as appetizing and people would protest paying the higher price for just an appetizer. Granted we don’t need as much food as our hunter-gather ancestors did but the tapas drapery does seem to pull the wool over people’s eyes. Sure some restaurants do have appetizers reaching that range but the prices are not comparable always to the style of restaurant. Stella’s in East Van is a Belgium beer and tapas bar. A little cultural mixing there. Their dishes are pretty tasty.

Last night I was at Habit on Main St. They have a small menu with items ranging from $9-$18. There is no true differentiation between an appetizer and the main meal and the small menu says right at the top, Best to be shared. Some of these items that we had–the beet salad and the crispy tofu with eggplant–could have been considered tapas, but they were much larger portions and though two of us shared, these dishes could have been tapassed out to four people easily. If they had been listed as tapas, they would have been half the size for the same price.

So next time you’re sitting down to an artistic repast of bite-size tapas, presume you’re paying for the art and the name, and enjoy. Oh, and chew slowly to get your money’s worth.

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Writing Update

My two copies of The Mammoth Book of the Kama Sutra arrived in my mailbox yesterday. It’s a hefty, trade paperback with black and white illustrations for all positions. Not all are done into stories but they’re all describe. My story “Janukurpara” is one of many written in exotic or Asian settings. It’s edited by Maxim Jakubowski and published by Robinson, in the UK, and Running Press in the US.

Two poems have also been accepted for future publication in PanGaia magazine. They are “Of the Corn” and “Secrets of Trees.”

This review has just come out at The Fix on Nemonymous 8: Cone Zero. I still can’t tell you which story is mine but the review is there in great detail. .hmmessage P { margin:0px; padding:0px } body.hmmessage { FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY:Tahoma } http://thefix-online.com/reviews/cone-zero-nemonymous-8/

I’ve completed a couple of flash fiction pieces, a couple poems and a story. I’m working on a skewered fairy tale right now and can give more information once I know it’s accepted. And I’m considering applying for a larger grant to take some time to write my novel. I have limited days and must get going on that soon.

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