Sunday, May 31, 2009

Round round, I get around

Well, I have been slightly at a loss as to what to write about. JMB gave me an idea with her post about sailing, so I am posting on Second Life transport in general. I have included a few pics to make it more interesting...

The title? Well following JMB's lyrical lead, "dock of the bay" I could have paid homage to 2PAC, but the Beach Boys won out, being more of a match. Otherwise I would have used Dragonette's song of that title, one of my current favourites ^_^ maybe more me...

Getting about in SL can mostly be done by walking, running (if you are feeling energetic), flying and teleportation. To some extent other modes of transport are really for fun. Except when limitations are deliberately placed on regions for the sake of realism.

The ocean is a great resource for swimming, jet ski, sailing, lilos and blow up rings. These are great for beach parties. There are also places you can hang out to surf and scuba. They can be great fun. Here I am trying to look sexy by the ocean.

I have been on Tudor wooden sailing ships down at the docks, but only when they were docked.

Also there are balloons and airships from the small, one or two person things, to vast Zeppelin type blimps.

For a while JMB lived on a space station, believe it or not. So I have been on a space station, but I am not sure if that counts as a method of transport.

Up to now I mostly tended to hang out in more old fashioned sims. Mostly Tudor and medieval, low tech.

So I have a lovely horse to get about on when needed, also for fun. Up till now he has been all I really needed.

Those of you being observant will notice in the pic that though I am in a medieval sim with half timbered buildings I am dressed as a squaw. I had just got back and not had time to change. OK?

I have seen a horse drawn cart too and once got to ride a dragon.

Recently, for various reasons I have been mostly hanging out in a more modern urban environment. You can't fly (except in a copter or something) and you can only tp if someone sends you one/invites you, you generally can't do it on your own.

It is what you might call a “dodgy neighbourhood”. Now I can get to and fro to some extent on the bus and subway if I want to chance it.

Apart from police cruisers if people have their own transport it is mostly a “hog” or bike. I wanted to be able to get about and I didn't quite see myself as a 'biker' I like my jeans sexy, maybe tailored, not covered in oil (for the moment anyway), so I went shopping...

I bought myself a cute Vespa scooter clone called a Vezpa. I have it in pink and I get about the city on it in (for example) waist high tailored blue jeans and a pink top with blue trim. I was aiming for cool european retro, I so love that outfit. I got a new hair do, shortish and black too.

I am learning how to handle the scooter, but I guess it is quite realistic in how it handles because it is more difficult to ride than some others I have tried. But I forked out around Linden$600 I had saved up so I am persisting. It came with a nice girly crash helmet.. and a coffee machine... so I can now have a virtual cappuccino.

Someone I know who built their own ( that is I must say easier to ride) said they could have done me one with my own paint job for that price. But by then I had spent the Linden$. Isn't that always the way?

I have crashed it several times and went into the bay twice avoiding parked cars, once I almost lost it avoiding running over a hobo.

One time I had to swim for it when I lost it... and another I was rescued from the ocean by a nice guy ^_^ We went exploring the City after.

The other day I was visiting with someone from the City who right now has their home/business at a small airport outside the city. She has a Priv-Jet and I got to go for a ride in it. That was fun and it seemed quite realistic. I don't know how it compares to flight sims that guys seem to love but I thought it was fun. I got to sit in the co-pilot's seat.

And finally...

A gratuitous pic of me in skimpy cut down jeans looking for my scooter keys in the sand after a beach party... ^_^

Friday, May 29, 2009

Saturday Photo Hunt --- Books


My post this week for Photo Hunt is not so much about books themselves but about where books are kept. Libraries. One of my favourite places in New York city is the New York Public Library. I have written about it before, even used these same photos but not for Photo Hunt.

I took this hasty shot of the magnificent reading room as we passed through on a tour. This is but one half of the famous main reading room, with a majestic 78 feet (23.8 m) wide by 297 feet (90.5 m) long, with 52 feet (15.8 m) high ceilings - lined with thousands of reference books on open shelves along the floor level and along the balcony; lit by massive windows and grand chandeliers; furnished with sturdy wood tables, comfortable chairs, and brass lamps.

Yes, there are books there on the shelves, but consistent with this day and age, knowledge is stored not only in books but also in computers and here is a room in the library where you can tap into that vast store of knowledge known at the internet.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Fort Denison -- Keeping Sydney Safe?

I don't know how many times I have passed Fort Denison while on a ferry journey in Sydney Harbour and never really thought much about it. This well known landmark in the harbour is a small island fortress, constructed of beautiful Sydney sandstone and the tides, which are a very important in Sydney, were always measured there and that was the extent of my knowledge of the place.

On our recent visit to Sydney we decided to make a visit to Fort Denison and take a tour of the Martello Tower. After a swift boat ride to the Fort, we met up with our guide, a Park Ranger from the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Services who have managed the Fort in recent years.

A closer look at the Martello tower

Originally the small island stood 25 metres high and it was used as a place of punishment in the early settlement and prisoners were confined there for a week with meagre rations. As a deterrent, in 1796 a murderer was hanged on a gibbet on the highest point of the island and the body left in place for four years.

After a scare in 1839, when 7 American vessels arrived unannounced in the harbour and it was obvious that the defences of the harbour were inadequate the island was leveled and turned into a gun battery but the British government refused to permit further defence works.

The barracks part of the fort. The beautiful sandstone is typical
of many Sydney buildings

At the outbreak of the Crimean War a review of the defence strategy resulted in a decision to build a fort on Pinchgut, as it was known. 8000 tons of sandstone were brought by barge to the island from the nearby shore and for the next twenty two years the construction of the Martello tower, gun battery and barracks took place.

The circular Martello tower, named so after a similar one used so successfully in the defence of Mortello Bay in Corsica, was one of 200 built around the world. At the bottom of the tower the walls are 4 metres thick and it consists of three levels with the powder kept on the lower, storage in the centre and the three cannons, one eight-inch, one ten-inch and one twelve-inch, were installed in the gun room on the upper level. The three cannons were actually lifted into place and the walls built around them so there they remain today although in actual fact they were obsolete by the time the fort was completed in 1857. The battery itself held nine 32 pounder guns.

The cannons still in place inside the tower

Initially the fort was manned by a volunteer force and Tuesday was practice day for all the forts which had been constructed in the harbour. It took ten men to fire each gun, and in the limited space of the tower only one could be fired at a time. A well trained team took 1.5 minutes to complete a firing and the range was one mile. The cannons on Fort Denison were never fired except in practice.
The one o'clock gun is to the right in this photo of the battery

For a time the British Royal Artillery manned the fort with a garrison of 2 officers and 44 soldiers but by 1870 Fort Denison was no longer a military installation. Later it became a place to measure the tide levels and a navigation aid with an electric fog bell, a navigation light and a gun fired at 1pm for the ships to set their clocks. The one o'clock gun is still fired to this day, albeit electronically since 1986, but now it is just a grand tradition.

The only vegetation on Fort Denison, besides grass is
this fig tree which seems quite healthy if rather small

During the Second World War the Fort was manned again by a military force and Japanese submarines did get into the inner harbour. The USS Chicago fired upon a Japanese submarine however they missed and hit the Martello tower.

As you can see, it would have been difficult to manoevre in this small space
when firing the guns

We found it both an interesting place to visit and the view from the tower was spectacular. Sitting in the cafe which now operates on the island we had a great view of both the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House, a triangle of the three icons of Sydney Harbour.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Gone Fishing!

Not really. Hardly my thing at all.

But I do seem to be rather busy these days with this and that and thus a little neglectful of this blog and my blogging friends.

Recently I have taken on several administrative positions in organizations I belong to and every now and again they demand a lot of attention for a period of time.

The latest of these is Treasurer of the Faculty Women's Club and although I held this position for three years previously and had no qualms about doing it again, the recent transition period was more problematic than it should have been. The previous treasurer did not hand over everything before she left on a trip and I was dealing with the bank regarding signature changes on the account without much current information. We also held a major fund raising event in the middle of all this so I had a lot of cash and cheques to be deposited and a statement to generate.

But all is well now and I think I have covered all the bases for the moment. The amazing thing is that when you are retired you make such a big deal of these things, whereas when you are working you just add them to your to-do list and fit them all in. When I was working fulltime I was the treasurer of another organization for some years and it never phased me in the least.

Well I am sure it will all be fine, fine, fine and I'll be back soon with places I've been, things I've done and books I've read.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Saturday Photo Hunt --- Plastic


I just noticed that this is my 105th post for Saturday Photo Hunt (which I of course do on Friday, just to confuse you all). May I offer a big thank you to tnchick who started this all in March 2006 and hosts it faithfully week after week.

I remembered we have had this theme before so I am using not the exact same photo but one I took at the same time.

We are very big recyclers of used plastic in Vancouver but recently I read that maybe we should not feel so virtuous about it. In fact it is not really such a green thing to do after all and it certainly does not reduce our carbon footprints.

We take our recycling to the depot or it is collected. At the recycling facility it is sorted and cleaned using various machines, then maybe shipped off to China to be further treated and then shipped somewhere else to be manufactured into something else and finally back to North America to be sold again. All this involves the use of vast quantities of fossil fuel and electricity, contributing to carbon emissions.

It seems there is always a good side and a bad one to everything we do, even recycling our plastic. Sigh.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Rottnest Island --- Perth's Little Jewel

My friend from Perth spoke often of Rottnest Island when she was on sabbatical here in Vancouver last year, so when we went to visit them recently, a visit there was mandatory.

Located a mere 18 km from Perth, this tiny island, a mere 1900 hectares, can be reached by 30 to 45 minute ferry ride on the Rottnest Express or by private boat. Beloved by locals, it also attracts interstate and international visitors, in all around 500,000 each year. Private vehicles are not allowed on the island which is a nature preserve and you can travel its roads on the public bus, popping on and off at various points as you will, or via bicycle which you can hire.

A typical bay with crystal clear beautiful waters, rocky outcrops and scrubby greenery.

There is limited accommodation on Rottnest Island, with one hotel and a lodge, along with various furnished cabins, heritage cottages, bungalows, some of which have spectacular ocean views. There is also some accommodation for backpackers and other places where you can pitch a tent if you desire. So popular is Rottnest as a getaway destination, it is necessary to book a year ahead and during school vacation and public holiday times, accommodation is allocated by ballot.

This area is known as the Basin with a view of Bathurst Lighthouse, one of two on the island

I don't think I have seen more beautiful colours than those of the waters around Rottnest as we travelled via the bus, making several stops at some of the many bays and coves around this tiny island. It's a very popular place for snorkelling and scuba diving, swarming with fish and marine wildlife and most of the activities centre around the ocean. It is quite a barren place really with several large naturally occuring salt lakes in the centre.

Ospreys or sea hawks breed on Rottnest Island during the summer months and here we see one on the very unique nests they build. These nests are a large heap of sticks, driftwood and seaweed usually built in forks of trees, rocky outcrops, utility poles or offshore islets. There are around 15 of these nests on Rottnest and some have been in use for more than 70 years. Click to enlarge for a slightly better view.

Another typical Rottnest Island bay where we stopped to eat lunch and enjoy the view

My friend went for a paddle and inspected one of the huge offshore boulders while the two men went off across the rocks to see what was around the corner.

Apparently there can be snakes lurking in these rocky outcrops so you have to be beware of them. Ugh, I have always hated snakes, since I was a child, although fortunately they mostly get out of your way.

This little creature is a quokka, a small herbivorous marsupial which exists in large number on the island, although rare in nature in general and found only in the small islands around Perth. It is rather like a tiny kangaroo or wallaby and has no fear of humans, who are forbidden to handle the small animals in any way, with threat of a very large fine.

All in all, it was a splendid day, both weather wise and as an occasion for we truly enjoyed the charms of this island getaway. It was wonderful to visit this spot about which we had heard so much previously from our friends who have spent many happy occasions on Perth's little jewel.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

My Life as a Model

Actually this is referring to Second Life of course. Miss Moggs mentioned in her post that I was a model for hats and I thought you might like to see the photo in question. I took it to submit to a Flickr group called Hatpins. The owner of the store saw it, framed it and put it on the wall in her store. Click to enlarge if you wish.

As you know by now, I am very fond of hats and this lady, Miss Reghan Straaf, creates the most gorgeous hats in Second Life. I have a very large collection of her hats in my inventory and without further ado may I present Miss Balogh, suitably outfited for a time gone by.

Monday, May 18, 2009

What it says on the tin

This post owes it's existence to one at Zaftig. So hat tip there.

Her post got me thinking about how people think about others what they perceive, their expectations and how they judge others.

At the extreme I guess it probably slides into prejudice and racism.

Her post was about Susan Boyle. For those of you who don't know, she is an entrant into a UK TV talent show. She does not have star looks but quite a good voice, enough to stand out amid the other talents on display.

The contrast in, I guess, what people expected, to her actual performance makes her noteworthy.

Not quite what Ruthie was getting at, but what I am posting about.

I have even seen Ads that play on the same thing, people's expectations and perceptions. These Ads were clever in that they presented the apparent expectation and then showed that the situation was opposite to what was expected. Maybe they made people a tiny bit less likely to just assume too.

Put bluntly, why should it be so staggering that Susan Boyle can sing? Or.. Who knows? Maybe paint great art! Or any number of things. How you look is not all that relevant concerning how well you sing.

Or maybe that a blonde should actually be smart instead of dumb. Or an older guy going thin on top and grey can be warm, perceptive, witty and captivate a girl's attention. Or a plain girl on the tubby side be fun and sexy, know fashion and be great company? A guy do ballet, a girl in the marines? A bright black child who wants to study and get on in the inner city...

They may all be, but how often does it get noticed when people have preconceptions about who can do what? Expectations of others can hold people back sometimes too.

How many other Susan Boyles are there out there quietly getting on who no one expects to be able to sing? Or who get a chance? How many other talking horses out there?

That is one thing I do like about Second Life. Ha! You just knew I would have to mention it eventually, I mostly avoided it the last few posts. ^_^

I remember, ages ago now it seems, I was chatting with JMB and telling her about a guy in SL and how I liked him. Well you discuss the pitfalls of the internet and such... Anyway she pointed out he could be a ninety year old for all I knew.

I thought about it and realised even if he was... well he wasn't too, or it was not relevant.

Most of my close friends in SL are young and cute/beautiful. They can be so they are. In fact in sl it is difficult not to be. (If you judge by appearances in sl at all it is more based on how convincingly realistic someone looks.)

They are generally kind, considerate, thoughtful, mature, protective even, yet with a sense of fun, adventure, humour and a lively imagination. Good company. That's what they are consistently like every experience I have of them confirms it.

That is what they are like inside, be they 19, or 90, whatever they look like, and I realised I didn't need, or even care, to know about him or any of my other SL friends.

To be honest I have real difficulty imagining/seeing JMB as past retirement age. Intellectually I know she is, but not really she isn't, to me. She is feisty and striking enough for shots of her to be put in a gallery to model hats.

SL lets us all be Hollywood beautiful, only our imagination limits what we can be. We can dress as we please. Even be another species, or maybe a clockwork robot. When that can happen it is more important what a person is like inside.

Maybe we ought to let a little of that leak over into RL?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Saturday Photo Hunt --- Painted


For some years my son has wanted to buy a hand carved painted Haida cedar mask but he did not seem to be able to make up his mind among the large number of choices for sale in this part of the world. I did not have that trouble when I went into the gift shop at the Vancouver Museum, looking for a birthday present for him. There was only one. I liked it, so I bought it for him.

Luckily he liked it too.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Sitting on the Dock or Sailing in Second Life

Sittin' in the mornin' sun
I'll be sittin' when the evenin' come
Watching the ships roll in
And then I watch 'em roll away again, yeah

I'm sittin' on the dock of the bay
Watching the tide roll away
Ooo, I'm just sittin' on the dock of the bay
Wastin' time*

When one of the docks at the marina near my cabin in Second Life became available I thought I might rent it and explore the world of sailing in SL. No, that is not my boat. That big sucker belongs to my landlord, who has two of them, one for personal use and this one which he rents out and remains permanently docked.

No, this one is mine, a very small Flying Tako, with a red hull. It is the very latest version and it comes with a centerboard and a spinnaker as well as the main sail, for a more authentic sailing experience.

You can see the difference between my little boat and the big yacht as I bring her home to dock. A process fraught with stress, let me tell you. But so far I have managed to bring it back home each time.

Now sailing in SL is powered by actual wind. I have no idea how Linden Labs does it, but real life sailors compete in races in Second Life quite regularly and I must go sometime to observe them, to see how it is done. There are sailing classes in SL but I never seem to remember to go at the right time, however I have taken the self directed course at the Starboards Yacht Club. It's still a bit of a mystery to me but I am enjoying it. This boat comes with all kinds of information readouts on the screen as you can see here. They are called HUDs or heads up displays. I don't have really know how to make much use of the information, but I am learning on the fly.

You can see one in the upper left corner and another in the lower right hand corner. They give wind direction and speed and other information, along with adjustment options. Do I sail in real life? Only as a passenger. But in SL it is a lot of fun and you can never drown or if you crash into the land, it is no big deal.

I was in a bit of a quandry whether to buy the Flying Tako or the Flying Fizz. When you can't make up your mind, buy both is my friend's motto in Real Life. So for once I decided to try it in SL and after a bit I succumbed to the Flying Fizz as well.

Now this one, with the blue hull, is a different experience altogether. Giving a much wilder ride as you can see here, it really whips along and I did crash it once. But no serious damage. I just teleported home and took another one out of my inventory and set off again.

Now I don't always rip about the SL seas in my sailing boats. Sometime I go canoeing. I don't actually own a canoe, but my landlord thoughtfully provides one for his tenants in another lovely area he owns so I pop over there sometimes and take a more sedate ride on the lake.

Nothing like paddling along enjoying the sunset, a very relaxing experience indeed. It makes a change from sailing or "just sittin' on the dock of the bay, wastin' time".

Click to enlarge the photos.

* Otis Reading, 1967

Monday, May 11, 2009

Working in the City

I remember at school they had a textbook that showed light moths and dark moths.

It showed how, with industrialisation and sooty trees, the dark moths became more numerous... and then later, when there was less soot, the light moths came back into their own.

It was all to do with protective camouflage and natural selection.

With the moths it was because the birds that ate them could not so easily spot and eat the better camouflaged ones.

Recently one Friday was the dress down Friday of all dress down Fridays.

I set off for work that day, not in my normal work clothes oh no.

I guess I have been a bit more conscious of my appearance since the economic downturn and tried to be professionally and attractively turned out. Not that I was a slob before, but you do worry don't you?

That Friday I had on trainers, jeans and a fleece jacket. I had my laptop in its usual back pack... and a solidly constructed fold away umbrella.

That Friday the usual, normally quite smartly dressed, commuters at my station mostly looked more like a slightly raffishly disreputable football crowd, maybe a little down on their luck.

Lots were carrying supermarket carrier bags, instead of cases or over the shoulder laptop bags, us back packers smugly carrying on as usual.

Why? We were being like the moths, remember their protective camouflage?

That Friday was May the first. It used to be marked by getting to wear a pretty dress and skipping round a maypole holding ribbons, that seemed like innocent fun at the time but probably had something older related to fertility and sex at it's heart. Traditions change, by that time things had moved on to ribbons and skipping.

I guess they moved on again while I was not paying attention. Now it is more a day when traditionally the...

I am trying to think of a good word for them, maybe I should run a competition? Comments please...

… the work shy? ...thugs? ...anti “Capitalists” where “capitalist” basically means us poor wage slaves? You know... workers.

Anyway, on May first they dress up in their quaint traditional costumes of worn army surplus camos, hoodies, headgear and optional ski masks.

Then, like salmon, (only obviously a lot less clean) they are known to make the arduous journey into the very centre of London from far and wide. Many fall by the wayside laid low by alcohol, but still enough make it. In my best try at a "Documentary voice" ^_^

Those who get to complete the annual (except if there is a G8, 9, 10, 11... summit or some such, then they get to have an extra outing) journey conduct the ancient semi-religious ceremony of trashing McDonald's.

Plus maybe having a go at anyone they suspect of having 'sold out to the system' and got a job who looks half smart and has a lap-top and the places they work. The people who probably support them with the taxes they pay out of their earnings.

I so resent them, they so annoy me, I figure they do the other commuters too, like they do those I work with, messing with their routine and making life more difficult. Just as well for the protesters we are peaceable sorts. Otherwise... Beware the sheep! Baaah! "Movie Ad" voice; Be afraid, be very afraid...

Some insects like hover flies look like wasps, though they are pretty harmless. Pretending to be wasps makes critters that recognise wasps and don't want to get stung leave them alone... but it also makes them more likely to get swatted by people who can't tell the difference. So there can be disadvantages to camouflage.

That day I was really hoping things would go quietly and we wouldn't all get mistaken for protesters and accidentally 'corralled' or 'kettled' or whatever it is by the boys in blue.

As it turned out I got my wish, our dressing down efforts were thankfully not needed, not in this particular city, not this particular time.

The not so edible "Berlinners" (of JFK fame ^_^), did need to, and the commuters of Istanbul (formerly Byzantium/Constantinople) and Ankara. Ditto the Athenians, the citizens of Linz in Austria, Madrid and even Moscow.

Surely there are better, more peaceful ways to make a point?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

To all mothers, I wish you a very happy Mother's Day. To the rest of you, go phone or visit your mother and if she's no longer here give a thought to the one who nurtured you and loved you, no matter what....

Here are the mothers with their daughters in my family.

My mother with me, in 1959, at a friend's wedding where I was the maid of honour in my "posh frock". She died in 1993, aged 85.

My daughter with her mother, around 1970. It wasn't easy to find one of the two of us.
It seems I am always the photographer.

My granddaughter with her mother, 2005

Happy Mother's Day

Yes, this is a repeat of last year's post. I liked it then and I like now so why mess around with a new one.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Saturday Photo Hunt --- In Memory


Vancouver is a bit thin on the ground for impressive memorials, or I don't seem to have any photos of one. I wish I could show you a photo of the Taj Mahal but I have never been there. Now that's an impressive "in memory of".

But a recent visit to Perth gave me some examples for this theme. The first, while very impressive in fact, was difficult to photograph so this is not a good shot. But it was a truly moving "in memory of" those from Perth who died in the Bali nightclub explosion on October 12, 2002. As well, in the background, each stately eucalyptus or gum tree has a plaque at its base, " in memory of" an Australian soldier who died in the service of his country. There are actually 1100 such trees with memorial plaques in King's Park, Perth.

The Bali Memorial in Perth

Again from King's Park this is the Pioneer Women's Memorial Fountain, "in memory of" those women who struggled as settlers in this remote place.

A closer look at the lovely bronze woman, holding a child


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Spring -Three Weeks Late!

Sean of Omnium has been posting Spring photos of his garden at Seanhenge recently and it reminded me that I had not put a single one here this year. These are not of my garden but were taken here and there. Yes, it is still quite cold some days and Spring was three weeks later than usual in this part of the world.

Someone had decided that instead of a clump of tulips all the same colour they would mix them up. There were half a dozen of these clumps in near proximity and they really appealed to me.

Vancouver is really proud of its boulevard tree program and while they are not all Kwanzan cherries Prunus serrulata, as seen here, it is one of the things that make Vancouver so beautiful in the Springtime.

In this particular street the trees grow together to form a canopy and the cars drive under and are sprinkled with pink petals. I have a Kwanzan in my garden and it covers the deck and all the other shrubs with fallen petals. They fill the gutters and it is a pain as you have to constantly sweep the deck to avoid tracking them into the house. But they are beautiful and I call if Fairyland at this time of year.

This is a modest house with a white picket fence but the Magnolia soulangia in the front garden is a very fine specimen and gives pleasure to so many who pass by.

Here is a gorgeous bright display of Taraxacum officinale, growing by the side of the road. What, you thought they were dandelions? Well you're right of course. But I think from a distance of a few feet they are as beautiful as a crowd, a host, of golden daffodils*.


- Dandelions were introduced into Canada from Europe
- in the evening the flowers close.
- young tender Dandelion leaves can be cooked or eaten raw as a salad green
- a Dandelion coffee is made from dried and ground roots; the roots can also be cooked and eaten
- dandelion wine is made from the flowers.

There, useful as well as beautiful.

* I wandered lonely as a cloud - William Wordsworth. But you knew that, didn't you?