Wednesday, November 27, 2013

"Are We There Yet?" The Eternal Question Solved -

Years ago, husband and I travelled around BC and our little girl frequently came with us. And yes, we often heard the "Are we there yet?" from the back seat. Despite the 'no, not yet'; 'no, soon'; 'no, we've only just got in the car and we have a loooong drive before we get there ' - well, our answers never satisfied her.

There are ways to occupy a small person on a long trip. Counting the cars, counting the cows, counting blue cars, red, yellow; spelling games, reading a book, a snack, a stop to look at something interesting.

When my daughter was just three and half, we moved from Vancouver to a small city in the East Kootenays. My husband drove the moving truck. Mom and daughter flew there a few days later. One of the lasting memories of the flight was the plane flying over the house we had lived in. My daughter was fascinated to see the the horses in the field behind our house, the roads we travelled daily, the supermarket, and the bridge to Stanley Park, too.

For me, that was the Aha! moment.

So I taught her to read maps. Since she was still small, I kept it simple. We would look at books with maps - National Geo magazines and atlases were great for that since she could associate the pictures with the map we looked at. We would make up stories about what we would find at that point on that map. If we were going to travel, we would sit and plot out the route we would take, using road maps and coloured felt pens.

Even before she could read, she could follow the lines on the map and I would show her where on the map the park or town we were passing through was located. As she learned her numbers, she began to associate the mileage numbers on the road map with the distance and time it took to get to the next town.

She also learned directions and symbols - Left, right, straight, winding road ahead; and ordinals. The sun is in our eyes in the morning so we must be facing east. The Rocky Mountains are on the left side of the car - we driving south now. See, we have just eaten dinner, it is six o'clock and the sun is going down behind us; so we are driving east and west is behind us.

At five, she was telling us which way to turn and when.

At six, she was the Official Map Reader.

And the driver in the front seat would ask, "Are we there yet?"

She has kids of her own now. She can look at a map once and get to where she is going without getting lost. She recently thanked me for that.

Not sure how she answers her little ones when they ask "Are we there yet?" but these days, they can always follow along with Google Maps on the iPad or Mom's Blackberry apps. Much easier than trying to refold a map, eh?  :)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Mushroom Season

Bruno is a great dog friend with whom I walk around the neighbourhood. He checks out every blade of grass, is very particular about where he leaves calling cards and is very patient with me when I stop to admire all the rich diversity of plants and animals that live under the canopy of trees that keep the air clean in the West End.

It is Fall in Vancouver. We have been fogged in for about 10 days and it's gloomy, damp, chilly but the fog blanket helps to promote the growth of some fascinating and very fast growing mushrooms. Here are a few we found over the past month or so within a few blocks of home. I have no idea what types of mushrooms they are but the orange ones with speckles are beautiful, 5-6 inches in diameter. The photo is kind of washed out as the weather was dull; in reality they are a bright deep burnt orange. Not great pics but it's hard to hold a cellphone steady and hang on to a moving doggy at the same time. If you know what types they are, please comment. Enjoy:

Monday, September 02, 2013

A Trip to Thailand and Laos

Last year I had the privilege of spending 5 weeks in Thailand and Laos. The people are wonderful, friendly, helpful, kind, infinitely forgiving of foreigners' faux pas, and they love to party! The land and climate are so different from BC! Cost of getting there is high, cost of being there is very low.

You will not starve. You will struggle with the heat and humidity, showers that may just trickle, some toilets that you may have to squat over to use. You may travel in buses that are old and rickety on roads that may not exactly be the TransCanada or Germany's Autobahn. If you are lucky enough you may find a seat on the trains with fans and windows that open. And you will love it there.

Trying to compress 5 weeks of travel into a blog post is well nigh impossible so I will occasionally post a few pics and write a bit about my impressions. Starting now:

We flew from Vancouver to Tokyo's Narita Airport. I was very sad actually and the reason is that in all of the reading about other cities the thing you never experience is the smell of a place. Mexico City has a certain smell - of hot dust, charred corn from the market stalls, clean clothes. In Paris you can smell the dampness of the Seine River, smell 2,000 years of people living, eating, dying, growing things, breathing. So, emerging from the jet at Narita, I was looking forward to knowing what Japan smelled like. Only to be disappointed by the hermetically sealed building. I could look out the windows at a view suspiciously like Vancouver's - flat airport concrete, gray, rain, mist. But no scent - Narita is just another sterile concrete and glass building. Could be anywhere.

On to Bangkok. Built on, around and over the Chao Phraya River and an intricate canal system close to the where the delta empties into the Gulf of Thailand. The predominant scents are river, fish, heat, humidity, vehicle exhaust, people, food cooking - it's a wonderfully heady richness. The place itself is big, noisy, a delightful mixture of old and new, traditional and ultra-modern - in clothing, architecture, transportation, shipping, available foodstuffs, buildings going up, buildings coming down, people, people, people!

View from the Bangkok Skytrain. The mix of horrendously complicated wiring and the intricate carvings on the roofs, foodstands everywhere, motorbikes, scooters, real estate signs. Busy city 24/7
We took a day to wander up and down the river, hopping on and off water taxis to explore. Very inexpensive and a wonderful way to see what Bangkok is really all about.
This might be a restaurant. Plenty of these are usually associated with the finer hotels that line the river banks.

A royal palace?

Not great pics. Was having trouble with my camera. And I always seemed to be in motion!
More later.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Vancouver Aquarium - Jellies!!!

Wandering around the Vancouver Aquarium in Stanley Park in Vancouver Canada is a great way to spend a few hours. Easily accessible by bus and car.

They have just opened a Jellyfish exhibition that takes up two large rooms. The Aquarium also rents out these rooms for private events - I recently attended a wedding there. Food, service, dancing while the softly lit jellies fluttered about in their super-sized
tanks. Beautiful!

Here are a few photos of what to expect. None do justice, of course. These are just the appetizers.

Enjoy ...

OH!!! And an FYI:

"Vancouver’s Stanley Park was named the best park in the world this week, according to TripAdvisor’s first ever Travellers’ Choice Awards. New York City’s 840-acre Central Park took second place, while Colorado’s Garden of the Gods was third place". ~THE PROVINCE JUNE 29, 2013 3:05 PM

Friday, June 07, 2013

My Veggie Garden

 Well, okay. Not exactly a garden. Just an experiment with some herbs and snap peas. I am fortunate that my tiny balcony gets sunlight from late morning onward. It is a covered balcony so I can sit outside and read year round. In fact, during high summer temps it gets rather too hot so I hang two panels of sheer fabric to protect my plants and myself from dehydration and burning.

Anyway, the snap peas are living in plastic salad and bulk candy containers and share space with geraniums and some herbs. I cut little flaps in each container about an inch (2cm) from the bottom for drainage and aeration, popped in some good quality soil and added 5 starter plants about 4 weeks ago.

Not wanting to block the view with a wood trellis or long dowels, and having two hooks in place already, I ran fishing line from the small trellis (see pics below) up to the hooks. Added another line between the two hooks and have added extra lines that hang down from the horizontal one. Works like a charm; the pea tendrils curl around the fishing line quite happily and I don't have to worry about any latent chemicals that might be impregnated in the wood.

As much as I love my balcony it does have drawbacks. Even though it faces south and manages to draw a lovely breeze from the water there still seems to not be enough air circulation to prevent thrips, aphids and other pests for making themselves at home in the soil and on the leaves. The result has been that after years of experiments I've pretty well had to settle for tough hardy plants like geraniums, aloe and wood sorrel that are resistant. So the peas really are an experiment. But YAY!!! There are pea pods! There are still thrips; those tiny little fly-things that live in the soil and fly out every time the plants get watered. But now they fly right onto the bright yellow bug strips and stick there. Muahaha.

The peas look kind of spindly but they are producing so I have stepped up the seaweed fertilizer schedule. The herbs are two kinds of rosemary, oregano, basil and thai basil, chives and cilantro. The blue paperback is King of the Vagabonds (Book 2 of Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle). Brilliant and funny. Magazine is Wired. I hid the ashtray so you wouldn't know I smoked.

Sadly, by early August I had to admit defeat. The bugs destroyed the plants but I did manage to harvest some peapods. They were yummy, crunchy and sweet.

***I did read on-line about spraying plants with a very weak dishsoap/water solution. Haven't seen a bug since spraying the surviving herbs every second day for a week. I'll try growing peas again next spring. The bugs did not bother the hens and chicks, geraniums, aloe or wood sorrel.

Cheers :)

Thursday, March 28, 2013

How to Phish Out Phishing Scams - I Love This One

A few years ago during some very lean times I posted a guest room available for short stays. Someone wanted to book the room for a few days. They sent a deposit cheque for a very large amount, asking me to cash it and give them the difference when they arrived. Was it a scam? Of course it was a scam. The letter and cheque came from the US but the cheque was a fraudulent one written on a Scotiabank account in Ontario. Envelope addy handwritten but letter was by a different hand. Beautiful handwriting, too! I reported the scam to the bank then I took all the paperwork and emails to the local cop shop and we all had a good laugh. 

And of course, because I couldn't get a coherent commit date for her arrival without several emails (I knew this was a scam btw) I finally just emailed her saying sorry the room was booked and no longer available. What address, please, so I can return the cheque. I never did get an answer to that one ... LOL

Here is the latest one and here is how I did my research. I've included names and sites here because it's all on the 'net and freely available. Read on:

Received a letter for a relative from a supposed lawyer regarding an inheritance from a Robert XXX (surname same as relative's), last address Knightsbridge, London. This is a scam. Did a little googling.

The letter is from a Thornhill, Ontario address from a Peter Meyers – QC. This address exists. Odd thing is that the return communications are through phone number and fax with UK numbers.

Looking at Google Maps it is an office building on Commerce Valley Drive East, Thornhill, Ontario (return address on envelope but not in letter and mailed from Canada).

I could not find a Peter Meyers QC listed in England or Canada. There is no Walton & Meyers LLP listed in UK phone directories or law firm lists.

The Brit phone number is not listed after a quick search of the number on Google. As this is supposedly a law firm, you’d think they would have a phone number. Poking around a little more reveals that if the number were from England it would be written as 44 20 323 … etc., instead of 44 (0) 203 239 xxxx. Area code 203 is, surprise surprise, in Connecticut.

The supposed inheritance is in the Butterfield Private Bank. The venerable bank exists. It’s in wiki. The founder is probably twitching in his venerable grave.
A little more searching. There is no law firm listed by this name in the UK or Canada or the USA. has a listing of all internet domain name changes. was created on March 17th, 2012. It belongs to:

Domain Name..........
  Creation Date........ 2012-03-17
  Registration Date.... 2012-03-17
  Expiry Date.......... 2014-03-17
  Organisation Name.... virginia lemus
  Organisation Address. 8303 riverbirch drive
  Organisation Address. apt 207
  Organisation Address. 
  Organisation Address. charlotte
  Organisation Address. 28210
  Organisation Address. NC

  Organisation Address. UNITED STATES

Google and you see “This site is under construction”. Umm … A law firm website under construction for one year!!! Yeah, right. shows many Virginias with several aka’s, none in Charlotte, NC. Doesn’t mean she is not there, just that she is not listed as being there.

How it works is, you contact “Peter Meyers” aka Virginia, by fax because the phone number is screwy or you leave a message because "no one is available to take your call at the moment. Please leave a message". Or you send a reply to the supplied email addy. The firm's "secretary" now has your phone number and probably your email addy because you were silly enough to supply them to a complete stranger. 

The scammers/hackers/she will contact you after fishing around to discover if you have money because of course processing the inheritance, with them as go-betweens and executors, will cost you money. You understand of course that because the paperwork  all goes through the bank's "authorized" US offices and thence back and forth to London, there will be costs involved. Please send XXX dollars. Please send more. Please, there is a hold up for additional fees so send me everything you have in all your banks accounts. Oh, so sorry! A  claimant with closer ties to the “deceased" has suddenly appeared. No further correspondence is possible due to the privacy laws in place. And because they have moved on to other fishing grounds y'all ain't gonna get a refund. 

Looking at the domain registration it would appear Virginia gives this particular scam a 2 year shelf life.

And Virginia laughs all the way to the bank. Not Butterfield’s though.

Bye bye, have a nice day, y’all. 

Sept 2014 UPDATE: Just got another one! From some yahoo supposedly in Togo with a yahoo! email addy. Again, (this time they don't even have a name for the dead relative), no identification, return office address, etc.

"Dear Friend,

My name is Barrister Ben Martins, a solicitor at law. I have an
important message for you concerning the death of your relative, and
he funds US$ 9.6 million and 25kg of gold bar which he left behind in
bank here in my country (Togo). He died On the 30TH of April 2008 in a
fatal accident, All occupants of the vehicle unfortunately lost their
lives. Contact me for full details at(

Enclose the following information's Below.


FIRST NAME:...............................
LAST NAME:................................
DATE OF BIRTH:............................
TELEPHONE NUMBER:.........................
EMAIL ADDRESS:............................

I am waiting for your urgent reply in my private email address

Your's Sincerely
Ben Martins- (Esq)
Telephone;+228 9022 8004."

December 14, 2015 - Just received another one! These guys just never quit. $10.5M, eh? *Turns around and walks away. (

I write to you in good faith,a solicitor at law,personal attorney to
(late) Mr,R.xxxxxxxx,who worked with Shell Development Company in
lome-Togo for more than twenty years,On the 2nd of June 2009, he and
His wife and only daughter were involved in an automobile accident.Your
Assistance is needed in repatriating the fund valued US$10.5M) left
Behind by my client After these several unsuccessful attempts to locate
This family.
I decided to contact you since my client died without testified
For more details contacted.

Thanks for your prompt response.
Lomax Chambers & Partners.L.L.B
Corporate Office.
Address km 220 Airport Rd.
Lome-Togo West African.
Barr,Lomax Browe

Here are few links to organizations that track internet fraud:

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Think About...

This is the sort of thing I think about when washing the dishes... Disposable razors ... Sure, they are convenient ... for you maybe. But think about this for a minute.

How many billions of the things are manufactured globally in a year? The info I found says "In the US 68 MILLION men use them every year". (LOL - no mention of women who shave underarms, legs and other body parts frequently)

How often are they used before tossing them in the garbage? Anywhere from twice to a dozen?

Did you know that using a safety razor will cost you way less? Let's face it, we pay more for the packaging than for the product. And that goes in the garbage, too.

Since the blades are made of poor quality metal and the handles and cartridges are plastic, that's an awful lot of non-biodegradable stuff going into landfills and being dumped in oceans. Millions of cubic feet annually. It will sit there forever too. A thousand years from now our descendants will come across these in their billions and curse us. Justifiably.

Think about it.

And I like the way a beard looks on a man. Just let me wipe that egg from your moustache for you - unless you are saving it for a snack ;)