Friday, June 27, 2008

Flight to SEA

My short week in Vancouver came to an end with a very picturesque flight out from YVR to SEA. Only a half-hour flight (I remember the drive down there was about 3 hrs). The sun was out in a cloudless sky and the views were excellent. Above is YVR itself, with Richmond off to the right. I could probably find my parents' home in the pic if I zoomed in and studied it a bit.

To the right we have the Tsawassen ferry terminal, with two ferries in the pic. The last time I was on these in 2005 on the trip to Graphics Interface in Victoria, they took a very interesting route, right in between a number of small islands. I had forgotten about that, thinking that they ferry just went straight through from terminal to terminal.

The rest of the flight to Sea-Tac was over a bunch of islands (San Juan?) which I thought provided a really nice area for gunkholing on a cruising yacht. Indeed, I saw several interesting anchorages, marinas, and the like. There were a number of sailboats, but I think outnumbered by power craft, at least this morning. I'm not quite sure what these islands were, were they Canadian or American? At one point the pilot said that Victoria was visible off the starboard side. I was on a port seat so I didn't see Victoria, but if it was there, perhaps the islands are Canadian. Would need to consult a chart to confirm.

No Fun Zone

Vancouver, the no fun zone. As I was driving to Richmond from UBC I caught a glimpse of the RCMP doing what it does best: setting up speed traps! I just had to pull a U, turn around, drive down the side street, stop, and snap a picture. You can just make the cop by the van looking at me and starting to run towards me. I didn't hang around long. Besides speed traps, the cops usually set up road blocks to check for drunk drivers. I didn't come across any of these this time, but you know with the Canada day long weekend coming there'll be plenty of 'em set up.

Yesterday the weather rolled in, to remind me of what a typical Vancouver day was like. Right now they're calling it Junuary, since it's been fairly chilly most of the month. The sun is just now starting to make an appearance...every other day or so. Of course it's out now again, just as I'm about to fly out. Looks like it'll be a nice weekend.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Dinner on Kits

Last night I went out for dinner with my UBC hosts. I was treated to dinner at the Watermark restaurant on Kits beach. Apparently there was some controversy about establishing this restaurant as it was thought by local residents that it could be too rowdy (what with alcohol being served and everything). Meanwhile, as it was beforehand, the building housed the dilapidated (or nearly so, so I was told) changing rooms. I think the renovations made transforming the changing rooms to this seaside restaurant were brilliant.

Excellent location with an excellent view of the harbour. Facing west, the restaurant offers the potential for very nice sunsets. It was almost a bit too much yesterday as the sun (yes, sun! in Vancouver; it's true) was a touch blinding before it slid in behind clouds. So we got all of the white glare but not enough of the beautiful oranges, purples, and pinks.

The menu was fairly contemporary, with local items, BC or west coast at least. I had a pint of Sleeman's and the lobster dumplings for appetizer: fantastic! I love dumplings and I love lobster. Whoever put this combination together is a genius! I could feast on these for dinner regularly. They're somewhat similar to the fried dumplings that our local Chinese fast food place makes, except that our local cook's dough is a bit thicker and I'm never quite sure what meat is actually used inside the dumplings (pork maybe...hopefully nothing more "exotic" :)

For the main course I had BC salmon on a bed of risotto accompanied by a glass of Pinot Blanco. Simple, fresh, delicious! For dessert we had The Cholocate Bar—some kind of chocloate moose with a scoop of raspberry ice cream on the side, dotted with raspberries on top. Smooooooth... Walking outside after dinner, looking at the water and mountains made me wonder why I ever left!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Residency at UBC

Yesterday I flew (most of the day) to Vancouver out of CLT. It's a bit of a drive up there from home, but the airline tickets were about $300 cheaper, so even with gas as high as it is and with parking ($16 a day?!) it should still be better than flying out of GSP. As a bonus, I got upgraded to first class flying from DTW to SEA, sweet! The seat at lower right was the one I got. Plenty of leg room and nice and wide seat (I slept the majority of the 4 hr flight and enjoyed the in-flight meal—they didn't serve any complimentary meals in coach, just the $5 buns from what I heard). And I still accrued 1,200 miles. It'd be nice if they upgraded me on the way home as well.

Since we don't have an opthalmologist in Clemson (that I know of), I visited one in Richmond. I wanted to make sure my retinas are in good health. This fellow dilated my pupils and took good long looks at my eyeballs before giving them a clean bill of health. A bit of a relief, although I suspect that next month's visit to the optometrist will reveal my right eye's prescription will have changed from last year. Which will probably mean new contacts again. Meanwhile, I think the basketballs in my eyes have finally shrunk back down to their normal size so I don't see halos around everything.

This afternoon I checked in to the UBC campus residences. Nice rooms at a reasonable price. Small, plain, with a kitchenette and an internet connection. Just the essentials :)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Motorcycle Maintenance

From what I've read and from my previous experience, Zen-like motorcycle maintenance is achieved with proper tools, parts, and manuals. Last week when parking the bike at school I had a brain fart and forgot to extend the parking stand. So when I went to lean the bike to left like normal, it just kept going right down to the asphalt. STOOPID! Well, I tried to hold it up to lessen the impact, but it was destined to go down. Once it leans past a certain angle, there's no way to hold it up. For me anyway. It hit on three points: transmission cover (scratched!), left tail light (scratched!) and clutch lever (busted!). Somehow the clutch still worked, but the metal (metal? that brittle crap) lever and its housing cracked. It was off to the Harley dealer to get replacement parts. Looking through the shop guide, I noticed that there was a little ring clamp that in the manual a special ring clamp tool was prying off. Sure enough I found the ring clamp. I took one stab at trying to scrape it off its pin, but this is one of those tasks that is sure to fail without the proper tool. I would have either scraped the old housing (wasn't worried about that) or broken or lost the ring clamp. That would have caused my blood pressure to spike for suuuure, so I just decided to stop right there and go get me one them ring clamp tools. $20 later, the ring clamp came off without any trouble (well, there was one slight moment of angst when the thing uncoiled itself and sprung free to fly across the garage; luckily Friday's gig still hadn't disrupted my binaural stereo location hearing ability, so I heard where the little ring clamp was bouncing before I noticed it, still spinning on the floor). After that though, through the application of various other wrenches (some used for plumbing than bike repair), the repair took only a few minutes. I even adjusted the clutch lever to be a bit higher up on the handlebar—something that's been bugging me for a while now. So $75 and a couple of scratches later, the bike should once again be operational.

Gig at Country Walk

Last Friday night we played a rehearsal dinner gig at Country Walk. A fairly small room, but we managed to fit in. Our giant speaker cabs and "wall of sound" were probably too much for this gig, but the audience seemed to enjoy it. Of the new things we had, the new sound system was working off and the beginning I had no lead guitar in my monitor. Then later it came alive and blasted my ears (left ear) off! Man that was loud. Meanwhile, our new lights seemed to only have two settings: on or flashing. The on mode was all-on, so that it was a mixture of reg, green, blue, yellow. THe flashing setting was supposed to react to the music, and it sort of did, but I found it somewhat distracting. I would much prefer if the lights could be manually controlled so that they could set the mood for various song types: fairly basic blue for slow, red for fast would probably work. Hopefully we'll get these things worked out eventually. Next gig is "First Friday" (the first home football game) at 356—should be fun!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Poland : Croatia

I decided to "work from home" this afternoon, seeing how the Euro 2008 Poland v. Croatia match was being televised. Turns out that the match is televised on ESPN Classic, a channel we don't get since we only have basic cable. However, video-on-demand is finally here. I read about VOD about 15 years ago but it never really materialized. With broadband internet (DSL in our case), you can now get a fairly decent signal, although of course at limited resolution. Still, it's not bad; almost the same apparent size as our normal TV when viewed on the laptop. ESPN is showing Germany v. Austria, the other match of this group being played simultaneously. In order for Poland to go through to the next single-elimination round they'd have to win by a larger goal difference than the Austrians, with the latter defeating the Germans. Both scenarios seem somewhat unlikely.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Anchoring on Keowee

This weekend we did a bunch of cleaning: housework, cars, and pudgy, our little sailboat. Our motor boat is sitting on the trailer in the storage yard, luckily still free of ants (knock on wood). The storage yard is basically a gravel yard cut out of a piece of forest, which seems to want to retake the patch of land. It's full of weeds, poison ivy, and ants. Last year we found a whole colony of them parading around the boat. This year we're bug spraying the boat with the same stuff I use to spray around the house to keep the bugs out. So far, this seems to be working. Meanwhile, in soaring temperatures during our current heatwave, we were looking to cool off. Along with the house, the sailboat was also in need of a scrubdown. So armed with buckets, rags, and scrub brushes we headed out to the boat. Our sailing club has a work dock where you can dock your boat, grab the hose, and start scrubbing. After doing that in the midday sun (and 98F temperature) we were ready for some swimming. To do so we anchored by this little island in about 25 feet of water. The water was perfect! Not quite as bathtub-warm like it gets on Hartwell around July and not quite as cool as it was just last week. Although the ladder on the sailboat is rather wimpy and not quite as easy to get out of the water of as the power boat, it's still a decent way to get out in the sun and get wet.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Molto Mario

This weekend we decided to keep going with Mario's recipes, so this time we tried Spaghetti with Clams, Mussels, and Peppers, Spaghetti con Cozze e Vongole. It's somewhat similar to the Linguine and Clams dish we often have as one of our "emergency meals" because it's pretty quick to fix. Mario's dish is a little fussier since it calls for fresh clams and mussels, which you buy still living (something I didn't know previously: you can test them by tapping on them and if they open briefly they're still alive, if they open prematurely, toss 'em out). The fussiness carries on into the dining phase since you have to open up each mollusk to fish out the meat. For the Linguine and Clam dish we use canned clams so it's a little faster to eat. But Corey liked the extra work so we might have this dish again. I think it needs some lemon, however.

Prior to making our latest Italian dish we went out on "Pudgy", what Corey calls our sailboat. Cause it's beamy (meaning wide) and not very fast :) Since Lake Hartwell is down this year, we don't have our normal "floating beach" on which to sit, tan, and read books on. So I suggested that this year we use Lake Keowee for the same purpose. The idea was to go out on the sailboat and just anchor somewhere. The lake was pretty choppy (20 mph wind gusting to 30!) so we turned back and just sat in our slip. It was pleasant enough and so I started reading Truman Capote's 1966 In Cold Blood, the book that basically started the non-fiction true crime genre. A fairly chilling account of the Kansas murders of the Clutter family by two drifters. Pretty gruesome and senseless. But the book itself is very well written. I finished it the very next day as it was hard to put down.