Friday, November 27, 2009

Autumn Beauty

I keep forgetting to put my fall photos up here -- or just procrastinating, I guess. It's been a real source of happiness for me to get out and take photos of beautiful things, and I'm at least a month behind in posting the results. Orchards (slideshow here) have been the most frequent target, as they've been putting on the most spectacular displays as the seasons change again. I've been noticing shadows (and here) and tunnels lately, but colour is getting elusive as it drains away into winter.






Thursday, November 26, 2009

Skytrain to the Airport

I finally downloaded the photos from our point-n-shoot, unearthing some neat pictures from summer. Also on there were some video clips and shots of our skytrain adventure to the Vancouver airport -- I cobbled them into a quick video. There's a bigger version in the original post below, and I'm pretty happy with it. The outing had a profound effect on Ezra, and he brings it up several times a day (weeks later): "Daddy, someday I wanna go onna skytrain again yesterday."

Big thanks to Angelo and Imogene for hosting one of the highlights of our trip.



Sunday, November 22, 2009

Early Ice

We haven't seen too much winter yet, but a few cold mornings have yielded some interesting ice. On one of my days in Kelowna, I grabbed sushi and went down to Mission Creek Park -- just beneath the main bridge, there were some shaded puddles that were frozen over, so I spent a few minutes taking photos. The creek down to Peach Orchard has had some great icicles too. Yes, I'm such an ice geek. (...or a nice geek, as Tannis says)







Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Newest Member of the Family

Did I need another stringed instrument? No. It's almost embarrassing already, as the total including guitars is now approaching 10. I've decided to sell my beloved violin because it's just not getting any use. If this new viola pans out, I can let go of my first viola too.

This is an interesting one. As part of my discovery of Oliver Schroer, I found out that he primarily played a five-string violin. My curiosity piqued, I picked up a cheap-o 5-string electric from a company in China that was listing on eBay. As I had my eye on five-string violas as well, I asked them if they'd be able to make an acoustic one to my specs, and they gave me a very reasonable price. After some back 'n forth, fits and starts, they finally got it built and sent it out across the planet. It blows my mind that I can exchange some e-mails with someone in China and have a custom-made instrument shipped here in a few weeks.

It arrived on Monday -- the woodwork is beautiful, exactly like I had hoped. As expected, the fittings and setup are poor -- this is apparently the story with nearly every instrument imported from China, as if they've figured out the wood part, but not much else. By the time I put good strings on, get it adjusted and set up properly, it won't be such a bargain any more, but hopefully the sound will make it worthwhile. My plan is to string it with a low F, giving it a range nudging into the cello world...or if that doesn't work out, the standard tuning plus a high E string to cover the range of the violin.


Dec.7 Update: I've been playing this beast daily for a few weeks now, and it's getting better. Different strings improved the sound a lot, especially a very expensive (rare) F string. I wouldn't say it's better than my old one, but not worse either. I've been working on a half-dozen songs lately, and recorded them with the camera, since I don't have a proper audio recorder yet. So this isn't compelling viewing, but if you're curious about the kind of music I'm composing right now, this gives a pretty good overview. My challenge now is to envision how other instruments might join these tunes, ideally meaning that the viola could fade into accompaniment at times -- I'm thinking that these could be arranged for a small group of three-four instruments, and crafted into 2-4 minute instrumental songs. Some percussion would be great, some plucked strings, and something to fill in the bass end.

Saturday, November 07, 2009


When a guy doesn't post for a couple of weeks, then busts out a thousand words on the minutest details of a rock concert, you know he doesn't have much else going on. Work's been blah, the weather's feeling like late fall, and I think I've been wallowing in a shallow pool of self-pity over my stupid thumb, which should finally have its last foreign objects (bone stitches and button) removed on Monday. I've regained a few millimeters of movement in it too, which is better than the zero I had last week. I've really missed riding my bike. Thankfully I've still been able to play viola and take some pictures.

So now I'll bust out another 1000 words on our five days in Vancouver, an adventure for us that would barely register as a real trip for normal people, never mind something worth taking 400 photos of and rambling on about online for imaginary audiences. Nevertheless, we needed a getaway, and the highs outweighed the lows by a longshot.
  • Not the best drive in, with Ezra cranky and high-maintenance, but he did sleep for about an hour (small mercies). Highlights included fancy bread and coffee from Bliss in Peachland, then fries and milkshakes in Hope, because we're all about the healthy living on vacation. Snow on the connector, but not enough to slow us down much. We squeaked across the Port Mann before the traffic got too insane (bigger mercy).

  • Checking in at The Sylvia is the best. It is totally our home away from home in Vancouver. We love starting our days there with breakfasts overlooking English Bay.
  • Esther and Imogene kindly dropped me and Angelo off near GM Place where we proceeded to wrangle a couple of beers and burgers at one of the packed pubs. I've already said too much about the U2 concert, but I'll repeat how great it was to meet my old friend for a couple hours of merriment.
  • The next morning Ezra and I walked across downtown to meet Angelo and Imogene at the Roundhouse, where we explored the old steam engine, then got on the Skytrain. Ezra had been talking about riding the Skytrain ever since the girls reported on their experience a few weeks ago. Many times a day: "Daddy, I wanna go on the Skytrain sometimes". So we did, and it was quite a thrill. Better yet, we took the new line to the airport and watched giant planes taking off from the new observation deck. Planes and trains in the same outing = Ezra in his glory. It was outstanding to hang out with Angelo and Imogene.

  • Dear friend (and midwife) Barb hosted our clan for supper that night, which was brave and generous of her. Salmon and squash feast with stir-fried greens and pasta...yum. The kids were a total gongshow, so I whisked them back to the hotel so Tannis and Barb could hang out a bit like normal people. No photos, sadly.
  • The next morning Tannis and the girls went for breakfast while Ezra and I went to see Cass and her new (8 months old) little Luke. Very nice to see her in her element and catch up a bit. Also forgot to take any photos...duh.

  • We had some gloomy clouds and rain, but a few stretches of nicer weather. We did a few great walks along the seawall that yielded a whack of photos. Fantastic to spend time by the ocean.
  • I snuck out to the art gallery later in the afternoon. I love being there. The main floor exhibit was devoted to landscape photography and painting. I haven't tended to pay much attention to this genre, but it was beautifully displayed and I felt like I was studying and learning. There was an interesting photography exhibit and some great Group of Seven stuff, but it was the Emily Carr/Jack Shadbolt exhibit that really rocked me. I was familiar with both artists, and had seen most of the Carr paintings before...but the Shadbolt stuff blew me away. Incredible energy and evocative images. I resorted to arguing with a tired security guard to let me get one more look before they closed.

  • Bill hosted our traveling gongshow Friday night. We hadn't seen his apartment before -- he had made it out to be a dump, but we thought it was fantastic. Unfortunately, traffic woes and Ezra's screaming had us arriving in mental tatters. Thankfully, Bill saved the day by busting out a killer train set that kept Ezra mostly occupied for pretty much the whole visit. Excellent pizza, some beers and hanging out. Our breakfast plans for the next morning didn't pan out, but perhaps we can lure the Baker Boys over here once more before winter begins in earnest.
  • After checking out of the hotel, we hooked up with the Eidse crew again, descending on their lovely home in East Vancouver. Great welcoming vibe there, and everyone was pretty happy and mellow. We ramped things up for Halloween later, getting everyone (well, except humbug me) costumed and geared up for trick 'r treat action. We couldn't have asked for a better evening -- warm, calm, a bright moon, good old friends, and a great neighbourhood for the kids. There was definitely some Halloween magic floating around. I put a few photos here.

  • We checked into a Super8 in Langley that night; a decent place with a nice pool that everyone enjoyed after breakfast the next morning. Then out on the open road, with no real stops until Sanderson's in Keremeos for veggies and curry. Ezra slept even less and solidified his status as the worst roommate ever.