Saturday, December 24, 2011

How to Really Share the Christmas Spirit

I walk a neighbour's dog. He is a lovely and friendly creature and for some reason people in the neighbourhood want to stop and chat and get their hands licked by said doggie. One of the people with whom I chat is a gentleman who lives in a nearby park . I have seen him several times, sitting on a sunny bench and doing crossword puzzles. Beside him is his transportation - a shopping cart loaded with all his worldly possessions. A tarp, a ground sheet, two sleeping bags, miscellaneous supplies and cooking utensils. And two or three extra large plastic bags loaded with the daily haul of pop cans and bottles. From this he earns his income. What always strikes me is his dignity and his gentle manner. He is always clean, his white hair brushed and pulled back into a pony tail, his beard well-groomed.

I asked him once whether he stayed in a shelter and he said no, the shelters are not always safe from predators. He can't afford to lose anything. so he lives in the park in a secret place that is protected from the weather. One week he wasn't at his usual bench and I was worried that something had happened to him. The following week he was back, looking very weak. Two brave and class-act young men had been walking around with a can of pepper spray, zapping homeless people. My friend was one of their victims. He managed to get help but his lungs were affected and he ended up with pneumonia and had massive doses of penicillin. Wouldn't stay in hospital though - didn't want to lose his worldly possessions.

Once a week, he helps the trash collectors roll the big garbage bins out of the apartment blocks. In exchange, he gets to rummage around and take any refundable bottles and cans. He performs a function much needed in our wasteful society, as do many of the homeless men and women who rummage around in our leavings - tools, small furnishings, old clothes, anything that may still have some monetary or exchange value. I respect their independence and dignity, their friendliness and their courage in the face of illness, aggression, scorn and derision. 

So while the rest of us are enjoying turkey with all the trimmings and the pleasure of watching loved ones open that Christmas present they really really wanted - take a few minutes to set aside a small collection of cash, maybe a scarf or sweater you no longer wear and perhaps make a nice big turkey sandwich and go search out one of those folks who clean up after us. And thank them for the valuable work they do in the community.

That's how you really share the Christmas Spirit.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Save Your Pennies!

In Canada there is an ongoing debate about whether to eliminate the humble copper penny from circulation. Reasons are: Copper is expensive and costs more than a penny to produce, and therefore is debased with cheaper metals. Nobody wants to carry a pocketful of change because they don't know how to use needle and thread any more and they are tired of buying new jeans when the pockets develop holes. You can't buy anything with a penny - not even penny candies. They make a hell of a noise when scooped up by the vacuum cleaner. And on and on.
However, before the banks remove the pennies from circulation and sell the copper to manufacturers of copper wire and copper pipe and copper roofing for fancy hotels and office buildings for a very large profit, save a few for posterity. In fact, make sure the handful you save - [but just a handful mind you, because you want them to be rare] -  is passed down in perpetuity to your most favourite and responsible heirs. With the proviso that the collection must stay within the family forever - or until at least until the price is right - your family will be well off for centuries.

This - from Reuters a few days ago ~

Rare Greek coin could sell for $2.5 million at auction
 The Dekadrachm of Akragas, which was minted in Sicily and dates to 409-406 B.C., will be sold at auction on January 4 from a U.S. collection by the Classical Numismatic Group, an international firm that deals in ancient, medieval and British coins.
The price would make it one of the top-priced coins ever sold at auction, although collectors of extraordinarily rare coins have paid more than $5 million in the past.
Earlier this year a rare, gold Islamic coin, the Umayyad dinar which dates to 723 A.D. sold for $6 million at a London auction.
The Greek coin, one of only 12 examples known to exist and only the third to come to market in a generation, measures about 35.5 mm (1.4 inches) and weighs 43.4 grams (1.5 oz). It depicts four horses and a chariot on one side and an eagle on the other.
Six versions of the coin are in museum collections.
In its online catalogue CNG described the coin as "a masterpiece of late 5th century Greek art" and "one of the most beautiful of all Greek coins."
Bids will be accepted at a live sale in New York and online in real time for preregistered bidders via, CNG said.
*Sept 2013 Update: Pennies are now an official pain. Tried to pay for a pack of gum with a few rolls of pennies. No go, says the corner store owner. The banks won't take them as part of a cash deposit. Sigh.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Sustainable Farming

Just received my first order ever from Big Bear Ranch in Canada's BC Interior. It's a long drive from Horsefly to Vancouver but the delivery arrived right on time. [577km/359mi]      I think it is is really important to support local businesses that incorporate sustainability and are aware of the biodiversity of the ecosystem.

Our co-op has a private site - members only - so it's a great way for us to share co-op news and community info. A neighbour invited several of us to place a meat order. After doing my research about this very successful sustainability/biodiversity-focused farming business near Horsefly in BC's Cariboo countryside, I did order some pork and lamb products - and beef bones for soup. I'd offer up a link for the Cariboo but there are so many it would best for you to just do the googling yourself.

So far, I've only tried the smoked back bacon. The protective fatty layer is beautifully white and the meat itself has a wonderful full flavour, not salty. I can almost see the happy piggies running around their acreage instead of being 'stuck like a pig' in factory barns never seeing daylight. The difference in quality and flavour is ... wow!!!

If you happen not to be omnivorous take a look anyway at the website to see what else this amazing family is into - including eggs, honey and raising Icelandic horses. Looking at their horse pics reminds me of the Lascaux cave paintings of those marvellous strong, sturdy, wild horses dashing across the ice age European tundra. If you have read Jean Auel's books, this is one of the caves where Ayla travelled.

I have jumped around too much on this post but one thing inspires the next!

See you later. And please, please- I love hearing from you so do leave your comments and reactions, and pass the post on via the social links below. Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, November 28, 2011

UN - 2012 International Year of Cooperatives

The UN has proclaimed 2012 as the International Year of Cooperatives.

This is a huge subject encompassing so many aspects of housing, political, social, sustainability, ecological and economic existence that to try and cover it all in one blog entry is well nigh impossible. All cooperatives are democratic, owner-operator ventures.

But ... the cooperative movement is hardly a new phenomenon. One of the most successful business models for a cooperative is Mondragon located in the Basque region of Spain. Internationally, farmers co-ops, business co-ops, website co-ops, medical & health co-ops, banking & insurance co-ops are proving to be models for sustainable, long-term social and economic success. Food co-ops buy in bulk, sell to co-op members and distribute excess to those members in various ways, from a cheque in the mail to deeper discounts the following year. The Co-operators is Canadian insurance co-op that is one of the most successful businesses in Canada.

Co-ops also support other co-ops in the form of charitable work and are deeply involved in international development projects.

In Canada, not-for-profit housing cooperatives provide housing for a tremendously diverse population:
"Across Canada, over 2,100 non-profit housing co-ops are home to about a quarter of a million people in over 90,000 households. there are housing co-operatives in every province and territory"  CHF Canada
I live in a co-op in Vancouver. I own one share in the co-op. This entitles me to live here, have a democratic say in how the co-op operates, spends it's money - BUT the most important factor for me is that I don't just live here, I live in a village in the middle of a large city. I know my neighbours. We volunteer our time and whatever expertise we have to help run our organization and help make it one of the most successful co-ops in the country. None of us receive financial compensation but the benefits are huge in social interplay and security. 

Co-op members come from all walks of life - some are high income earners, some middling and some on fixed income from pensions or other government sources. We are governed by various government acts and we develop our own internal rules and policies. Our co-op is large enough that we hire a management company to handle day to day financial matters. The final decisions are made by the members.

We do not own our units so we pay a percentage of our total income as a monthly housing fee. And considering the larger global financial situation, home ownership is not all it's cut out to be! The rate is fixed annually after we work on our budget needs for the following year and then vote for it. Currently, our housing fee rate is a little over 30 per cent of our total earnings. There is a cap on fees based on market rent for this area of the city - and a minimum as well.

Many housing co-ops assist lower income earners in the form of partial subsidy. As most Canadian co-ops will have paid off their mortgages by 2020, the small percentage of subsidy provided by the Canadian government will end. By continuing to carefully balance our resource, co-op members will continue to live here and contribute financially to the physical, social and economic well-being of the co-op as a whole.

I will blog more about cooperative choices. And in the meantime please spend a few minutes checking out the links provided. It just might change your life - for the better.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Pictorial - MEXICO

Here are a few of the sites and sights to see in Mexico. While I'm attempting to transfer pics from one PC to the other I thought you might enjoy just a taste.







Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Waiting for My New PC

Hi everyone!

I will be purchasing a new PC and should have it set up within a few days. I'm really looking forward to this because my poor old Presario needs to be retired. Almost no RAM and if I open more than two windows it freezes up on me.  That's okay - she's 10 years old.

Anyway, once the new one is up and running, I will be able to redesign this Blogspot. I have about 4,500 pics to go through and will offer some of my favourites so please check back often and click on the pictorial pages in the right side column. I have a long list of topics to share with you, too. And I have pics on my cellphone of the Judas Priest concert and other things. Once I have figured out how to get them from the phone to the memory card - one at a time apparently *sigh* - I'll post them as well.

I enjoy taking pics of my West End neighbourhood, the trees and flowers in the parks, architectural and weather shots, scenery from around Vancouver, a few from the Okanagan area of British Columbia and I will also share pics of my trip to Mexico. So there will be some of the city, some from the Museum of Anthropology, florals, some archeological sites and some from the bird sanctuary in Yucatan. Oh, and I think there are already some Mexico pics in here that I posted a few years ago.

Stay tuned. That's it for now.

And Happy Thanksgiving to all my American readers.

Friday, November 04, 2011

FLOWCHART: Navigating NPR's Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Books

For anyone who loves reading Science Fiction, Science Fantasy, Fantasy, Speculative Fiction, have a look at this printable chart. It was gratifying to look through and see many old favourites here.

FLOWCHART: Navigating NPR's Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Books

Two Sushi Places to Avoid

(Quick update: Osaka has updated their menu, changed their servers and food is - well, it's better. A great thing in their favour is that they have TVs so you can watch the game while you chat with friends and eat your teriyaki and sushi. And very reasonably priced local beer, too.I have not been back to Daikichi yet but will let you know when I have done so).

Anyone who lives here, or indeed has just wandered about as a tourist for a day or two knows Vancouver is jammed with little sushi joints. They are cheap, the food is quick to prepare and serve, and the ingredients are fresh - well, mostly fresh. Visits to two places on Burrard just north of Pacific and directly across the street from each other - Osaka Sushi & Daikichi Sushi proved to be exceptions. One's food was a little too fresh, the other's very very old.

Now, I've frequented both over the years they've been in the neighbourhood and although not greatly impressive (how hard can it be to roll up short grained sticky rice and chopped fish in a sheet of nori) the proximity is a great incentive on a rainy night.

Here's what happened at Osaka about 2 months ago. New management. Late summer. Balmy. Sunset. A friend wanted some teriyaki. I just wanted edamame and a beer (at $2.49, a great price!). The place was not busy, maybe two other tables had diners. They were open for another hour. We sat outside. The menus were dropped on the table. Less than a minute later the server rushed out again. "What you order?" She was obviously pushing us to order and move on - quickly. So we ordered. Food was produced, and served in the same manner as the menus. We were not made to feel welcome - in fact the attitude seemed to be one of resentment that she actually had to work. So we ate. As the plates were emptied they were scooped away and the bill produced while she cleared the last bits from the table. We paid and left. We did not feel the least bit guilty at leaving no tip.

I did make one more attempt about a week later. I love smoked eel so ordered some on rice. I've eaten eel before and know how it should be served - cooked! Uncooked it is a slimy, gross mess. Give 'em credit though. Each 1inch x 4 inch paper thin slice was grilled perfectly - but only the first 2 inches of each slice! The rest was raw slimy mess. I set it aside intending to tell the server; and ate the rice. What the heck, I'm willing to give the benefit of a doubt and I was hungry. At the end of the meal the server, a different one from the previous week, came to take away the bowl. I showed her the raw eel. Told her it wasn't cooked. She suggested to me that perhaps I didn't know about food. I told her that I had eaten eel many times at Osaka, and this is not cooked. A this point I'm insulted and getting indignant. She goes to the cook. She brings me the bill. No apology, which would have sufficed, no 'how can we fix this for you?', no offer of a discount or a free coffee, just the bill. I paid and left. No tip. No ever going back either.

So what to do when I get a sushi craving? Go across the street to Daikichi. Slightly better food plus you get a flavourful miso with most orders. The folks there have always been friendly and to tell the truth, the food was always better than Osaka's. Well damn! New faces, new management. Had a decently so-so meal. Left a tip. When my brother visited, I took him there. Another decently so-so meal. Left a tip. Went back a few days later. The cook is hovering over a little guy who is studiously stirring a pot of something. Cook is berating little guy. Server is watching anxiously from the safety of the dining area. We order. Bro asks for chicken teriyaki on rice. I ask for salmon teriyaki on rice. Food comes. Bro eats just about anything. But he is also a cook by profession. I look at my salmon, expecting something pink, grilled, flaky. I get burnt, breaded, dried-out, hard, yellowish stuff. Not salmon and with a distinct after taste of unpleasantness. Bro tastes it. Nope, definitely burnt, breaded, unpleasant, not-salmon. I eat the rice. Server clears the bowl, sees I've left the not-salmon. I tell the server this is burnt. It's not salmon. "Oh yes. It is salmon. I tell cook." She tells cook. She comes back with the bill. No apology. No "how can we fix this for you?", no offer of a discount, no offer of a free coffee. At that point my bro hands her $20. She says "This not enough". He says, "She's not paying for burnt food. She ordered salmon. This is not salmon." We left. No tip. Bro confesses later that he spent the next few hours on the toilet getting rid of his chicken teriyaki.

I love my brother.

There is also another sushi place, a pho shop that serves great vietnamese coffee, a few more cafes, and a lovely coffee bar - all in the same block. And a few Thai places, award-winning sushi places, award-winning Greek places, etc. just a few blocks away on Davie Street. 

Wonder if they serve smoked eel or salmon? Sure they do. :)

ps I tried to use google maps but it's just plain wrong. Sorry.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

More ...

Here are a few more pics ... taken at Sunset Beach

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Trees at the Foot of Thurlow Street

Thought I would share these with you all. The trees at the southern foot of Thurlow are a wonderful place to visit if you are out for a stroll in Vancouver's west end. Rain or shine, or even on those rare occasions when it snows, you will share Sunset Beach with picnickers, dog walkers, old folks, cyclists, skateboarders, tourists and in late July and early August with thousands of people making a day and night of it, enjoying fireworks and the Pride parade.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Fall in Vancouver

I took these photographs, as well as the blog's background pic one October a few years ago, all at the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park in North Vancouver. A friend had travelled all the way from Hamilton to visit - on the bus! Of course, when he first arrived it was pouring rain but he insisted on walking the few miles to my place because he had been sitting for three days! We were soaked.

The next morning the sun was a wonderful gift, so off we went via more buses and the translink ferry to North Van, then another bus up Capilano Road to the park. It was perfect picture-taking weather. We spent hours wandering around under the trees, over the trees, around the trees - one of which is original old growth that had been a seedling when Columbus first pulled up on the east coast without a parking pass.


Friday, September 16, 2011

One Book I Really Love

Okay, this is an experiment. One of the hundreds of books I read during my "exile" is The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson. If you have read his series about the colonization and areo-forming of Mars then you already know the high calibre of writing to expect from this newer book. It's a world history "what-if" - what if ALL Europeans had died of the bubonic plague. As in his Mars books Robinson delves into religious differences, trade, exploration and colonization issues, the place of women in these alternate societies, world wars, philosophical perspectives, social mores, scientific developments, ecology and economics, and spiritual matters.

I originally read this a few years ago when it first published - and given the current state of world affairs - it is as timely now as then. Beg, borrow, steal or (preferably) buy it. You will read it more than once.

I'm Ba-a-a-a-ck!!

Well, it's been over a year since I last posted - due to a self-imposed internet blackout. And I see that nothing much has changed in reference to the post below. Very sad.

Anyway, I suspect my few blog fans are horrified at the mere thought of not having internet, but here are a few things I discovered from the experience:

  • Reading - yes - reading real books! The printed on paper kind! I re-read just about every book I own. Fell in love with some of them all over again and donated some to my co-op's lending library. Picked up a library card from SFU.
  • I am still attractive to the opposite sex. A very interesting experience.
  • I have a vacuum cleaner and I know how to use it.
  • There are hundreds of TV channels but on many occasions there is nothing worth watching.
  • I have friends and family with whom to have dinner, who enjoy walks along the seawall, to chat with on the phone, do things with, commiserate with, watch DVDs with and generally make eye contact with rather than sit alone and chat with over the 'net.
  • I live in a very interesting neighbourhood.
  • I can actually enjoy peace and quiet without needing the visual stimulation of the 'net from 8am to 12 midnight
On the other hand, I am really, really, really am happy to be back. YIPPEEEEE!!!