Monday, July 20, 2009

Wrap up

The rest of my trip to California was filled with training, knitting, petting kitties, eating out, and a silent film at an outdoor theatre. Very good trip. I had many more blog notes but I misplaced the notebook. Good to be home.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Day 2

Today was a long day. Mostly training. Nothing I have to do is particularly difficult, but there are a lot of steps and a lot of little things to keep in mind.

Lunch was at a buffet called Souplantation that was some drive away in Ventura County. Salad, soup, pasta, dessert. I had a most excellent strawberry lemonade. I got to see a lot of ocean and a lot of farmland.

Supper was at a wee little Chinese restaurant in Agoura. Sesame chicken, pepper beef, and crispy shrimp. It's no Lingnan, but it was good. My fridge is filled with a few groceries and leftovers.

We packed it in early tonight and I've just been relaxing in my lovely fluffy bed, watching television and blogging.

Hampton Inn

My hotel is gorgeous. I took pictures of my room, which Barbara cherry picked for me, but I can't upload them until I get home. This bed is incredible. It's either a king or California king. It has lovely sheets, five pillows with two more in the closet, and the most wonderful fluffy duvet. It's like sleeping in a giant soft white fluffy cloud. The Hampton Inn actually markets the mattresses, pillows, linens, and even the towels and shower curtain for purchase. If I had a few thousand dollars and a larger bedroom I'd be pimping out our bedroom with this.

This morning, though, I had to switch rooms. I discovered that my door didn't latch properly and was unlocked all day yesterday. It wasn't an issue overnight since I had the dead bolt and slider both engaged. The hotel took 50% off last night's room rate and moved me to a new room down the hall. This room has nearly everything the other room had, but it's smaller and the layout isn't as nice. I'm fine with it. If I were staying longer or in the room more often I'd probably have held out for the latch to be fixed.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Day 1

So far I've seen a little stone cafe that is a Sunday morning celebrity biker hangout, the area where they film a lot of westerns, such as Dr Quinn Medicine Woman, and (from afar), Mel Gibson's crazy church (which is not in Malibu as the media always reports, but actually in Agoura).

There are a lot of mobile home parks here, but they don't fit the stereotypical image you get of a trailer park. These are classy mobile homes in lushly landscaped hills with stunning views. A modest mobile home about the size of my former house suite goes for about $250k. In Malibu, there are large and fancy mobile homes with ocean views that go for more than $1 million.

Two things really stand out:

1) The landscape here looks a great deal like the Okanagan and other parts of the BC interior, but with more flowers.

2) Palm trees! Honest to goodness palm trees, everywhere!

This evening we had a late dinner at Paradise Cove. I had the Macadamia Coconut Jumbo Shrimp. It was good, but the prices definitely include the amazing ocean view.

Sensory Overload

Farmland in California is incredibly precise. Perfect squares and rectangles, all neatly laid out.

The ocean is really big. I've never seen a body of water so large that I couldn't see any land on the other side.

Los Angeles is huge. It goes on forever. You can't conceive of how huge it actually is until you see it. I saw at least 4 football fields, Dodger Stadium, the Staples Centre, all kinds of baseball fields, lots of pools, and endless terra cotta roofs. Beaches that go on forever. The Pacific Coast Highway.

LAX is also huge, but not as confusing or overwhelming as I feared. It was pretty easy to go from the gate to the baggage claim, my luggage came quickly, and I had to wait about 20 minutes for my van to take me to the hotel. It's very loud, though. It was hard to find a place that was quiet enough to make a phone call that also had decent enough reception.

The drive from the airport was various kinds of crazy. First, there were a bazillion different buses, vans, and taxis all trying to pick up passengers at each of the seven terminals. Drivers here are very aggressive. Everyone drives far too close together because there are just so many cars. It doesn't feel overly dangerous since traffic moves so slowly so often. You know the wall-to-wall rows of cars, five lanes wide in each direction that you see in the movies and on TV? That's exactly the traffic I was in. The motorcycles routinely zip between the lanes! Crazy!

The neatest part of the drive was seeing famous routes I know from movies. Sunset Boulevard. Mullholland Drive. Ventura. Santa Monica. Malibu. Everything is familiar even though it's entirely new.

Carson City

I've never used an aircraft lavatory before today, but I've heard a lot of complaints about them. Gotta say, it really wasn't so bad. Nowhere near as a bad as using the lavatory on a moving charter bus.


I think I'm somewhere over southern Oregon. I was in Portland briefly in 1987 when we went on a big camping trip along the Pacific coast. I remember really lush forests. There a massive canyon below us. I don't know my US geography or landmarks well enough to guess at what it might be. The satellite map shows it continuing into Nevada.

I'm very confused about what time it is. I know I'm in PST airspace but I don't know if my phone recognizes that when it's on airplane mode. I'm either 40 minutes from landing or an hour and a half.

We're approaching Nevada and there's a definite change in the landscape. It's getting flatter and browner, fewer trees except on farmland. There are some weird huge circular fields. Some are a lush dark green, others are golden brown. I wonder what the crops are and what the advantage to that shape of growing space in a square or rectangular plot of land might be.


According to the little poorly scaled live satellite map, I'm somewhere over Montana and approaching Idaho. I'm having a Sam Gamgee moment: This is officially the furthest I've ever been from home.

I can see some foothills with a fairly wide river meandering through and a smallish town (or at least a town that looks small from 42,000 feet) is situation along a bend. A big downside to flying is not having roadsigns to tell you where they are. I suspect I'm looking at Hwy 90, roughly over Missoula.

Flying South

I'm on a Boeing 737 aircraft at 41088 feet going 517mph while watching Star Trek: TOS. I forgot headphones and my Zune, so I paid the $3 for WestJet cheapo headphones. They're not terrible and will be good for the kids when I get home. I'm drinking barely passable coffee. It's not even noon and I'm ready for a nap.

I have a whole row to myself, which is fantastic. There are only 90 other people on the flight and none of them were next to me. Huzzah! No feeling crowded, no small small. This is the way to fly.

Also, West Jet has name brand Bits and Bites now. I miss the old generic "packaged for WestJet" pretzel mix with the spicy cheese bits and little sesame crackers.

Airport Rage

We've reached the point in the airport waiting game where I start to hate things, perhaps irrationally. There's a young couple sitting near me that are getting on my nerves. They're playing a portable DVD player too loudly, snuggling, feeding each other, he's sucking cream cheese icing off her finger. I just hate them so much.

And we're off

I get very stressed about time whenever I fly. I've never even been close to missing a flight, but today's stress was compounded because I had to go through US customs and security. I was worried about documentation, knitting needles as carry-on, and if I should declare the case of Hershey's Eat-More bars in my luggage. I rushed David out the door, left him with time to kill downtown, and with his help made sure I was on an earlier Sky Shuttle.

As it turns out, I was very early. Way too early. Stupidly early. There was no one in line for check-in. The upside was getting a really good seat. Normally I prefer aisle seats because I don't feel like being boxed in and and it gets me off the plane faster. Additionally, I've always only been flying between Edmonton and Vancouver for which the view isn't important because I've seen it so many times. But this is a long seat to somewhere new so I wanted a window. I suspect the flight isn't very full because I got a window at the front.

Customs was very easy to get through. $32 worth of Eat-More bars was not a concern. The Customs officer was interesting. He gave of every impression of being the bored government drone, devoid of personality. At the same time, however, his choice of words was very light, friendly, and conversational. He was just completely deadpan about everything.

Security was also a breeze. I mean, it was easier than every time I've flown domestically. I put my shoes and purse on the conveyor, walked through the detector, and that was it. No wanding, no checking the camera. Just the standard questions about if I had anything in my pockets, liquids, or gels. Here's where I told a triple lie. I answered no to all of the above, when in fact I had two Advil Liquigels in my pockets. Ack!

Once through security, there was a Starbucks (there's a Second Cup on the domestic side). Breakfast eaten, now I wait.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

People are still animals

We made sure all of the garbage bags were put away into the large wooden garbage bin in hopes that would get people to leave it alone.

Nope. They opened the lid, took the bags out, and ripped them open all over the grass. If it keeps happening David's going to padlock the bin.

From the crazy mind

I was going to sleep in for a little bit and then get up and be about my business. I ended up sleeping nearly three hours and I had one of those huge, crazy, cinematic dreams that you wish you'd been able to stay asleep for until the end credits. I need to write it all down before I forget even more.

I wasn't me, and I was in some large touristy place where I didn't know anyone but it felt safe and comfortable. It was a large site with lots of different buildings to walk to. Everyone in my immediate area slowly came to notice that the large room we were admiring was being surrounded by large mysterious figures in black hoods. Someone recognizes them as escaped Norwegian prisoners who have become...well, not zombies, but weird automatons, and we are all taken hostage. (I don't know why they were Norwegian since we were not anywhere near Norway, except that I was just talking about that new Norwegian zombie Nazi film).

They were dumb automatons who didn't notice us all escaping in pairs by jumping through a window and running to the river which takes us straight to another building where we can set up some defences. As luck would have it, the majority of us escape before the automatons notice and start their pursuit. What they lacked in perception and intelligence they made up for in meticulous dogged persistence. Several dozen more automaton prisoners marched in and made ranks just to wait their turn. They would come at us in two or threes and would be quickly dispatched by our greater numbers. They sent evil blonde dolls in matching dresses at us (though honestly compels me to admit they may have been small children, like the Little Sisters in Bioshock) which had to be beaten off as they swarmed.

Then there was something about fighter jets (or maybe A-wing starfighters?) having a hovering dogfight immediately above us. And I do mean immediately above us, because we were in a building with a glass roof and we could see the aircraft a scant few feet above the glass. I don't know what they were doing, but it seemed unrelated to the Norwegian automaton prisoner invasion.

Then I woke up.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

People are animals

As I've mentioned, we've been moving. David's parents moved out and we moved from a dorm-room existence to having a whole house. As with all moves, we had a lot of garbage, recycling, and just stuff to get rid of. The garbage and recycling was bagged, boxed, or bundled as appropriate and left where it always goes in the alley. Slightly apart from the garbage, we left any items out in the open that were still good for people to take. A side table, a small entertainment unit, a kettle, etc. Everything that was usable was long gone in no time at all, which was great.

What was not great was the scavengers who tore into the garbage looking for treasures, leaving ripped open bags and garbage strewn about alley alongside our garage. It was a filthy mess. Last week I went out before the garbage pickup to bag back up what I could so the trash collectors would take it. It was a filthy mess this week, too, though I didn't think ahead and go out to make sure everything was bagged up again before the pickup. Everything is once again in tied bags in the garbage bin awaiting garbage day next Thursday.

If people must dig through garbage, they should at least be tidy about it and not leave a huge mess.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Happy Birthday to Boy2

Yesterday was the littest one's fifth birthday. We went to the World Waterpark at West Edmonton Mall with a total of five kids and eight adults, spent a couple hours there, went to a party room for cake, then back to our place for a barbecue. I think we ended up with a total of six kids and thirteen adults. David stood out in the pouring rain grilling up hot dogs, smokies, and his excellent hamburgers. I was in the kitchen handling snacks and dishes.

David's mom, with only helpful intent, kept trying to insert herself into the kitchen. She's very used to being the one in charge of this kitchen, and I suspect she thinks I'm probably a bit incomptent since she never saw me do much cooking here. I did live on my own for eight years without getting scurvy or starving to death. Each time she tried to do something helpful, I'd already have it covered. She finally sat down and enjoyed the party without worrying about being the cook/hostess.

Naturally, the rain cleared up as soon as the cooking was done. The kids moved outside and found the waterguns, and later we did presents. Everyone finally departed and David and I got to cleaning up.

We did good. I wonder how Boy1's birthday will go in September.

Saturday, July 4, 2009


On Friday, I found myself watching over an eight week old baby for about twenty minutes. I don't know anything about babies. Fortunately, he was asleep and wasn't at all fussy each time he started to wake up a little. I kept anxiously going to the window to watch for mom to come back, especially when he started to wake up. Eek! Babies are terrifying!

Mom, incidentally, happened to be the mother of David's children. She's previously not been too fond of my existence, but recently she's decided to go from just this side of civil to actually friendly and conversational. We ended up chatting for about an hour on Friday. For whatever reasons, the ice has been broken and things are a lot more pleasant without having to put up with the tension that was there before.

Why America is Great

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The fastest cat

Somehow or another, Thalia managed to catch a live bird outside while on her leash, possibly through the fence slats. I didn't see it happen, I just intercepted her as she tried to bring it in the house. The bird survived and Thalia is mad at me for making her lose her prize. I didn't want a live or dead bird in my house, but I'm very impressed with her!

More RIPs

It's not been a good few weeks for celebrities. David Carradine died unexpectedly. Farrah Fawcett and Ed McMahon both died after long illnesses (cancer and pneumonia, respectively). Billy Mayes, the television pitchman whose internal volume control was broken, died at age 50. Lorena Gale from Battlestar Galatica succumbed to her battle with GI cancer. English actress Molly Sugden from Are You Being Served? who was a master of well-timed racy double entendre died after a long illness. Karl Malden, who was in A Streetcar Named Desire, Patton, The Cincinnati Kid (among many, many other films) died at age 97.

They say these things are supposed to come in threes, not gaggles.

Canada Day

I don't think Canada Day has ever been so uneventful or unpatriotic for me. I think I ate a hot dog, which was as close as I got to anything festive. I used to live in Old Strathcona, and the Silly Summer Parade marshalled in front of my house on Canada, so I used to invite people over to watch it from my front yard.

This year we spent most of the day unpacking boxes, taking stuff out to the trash, and trying to get the house organized the way we wanted it. David took the kids and their maternal grandma to a park for a little bit while I stayed home to keep at it. It was a long day and not at all holiday-like. But the house is coming along nicely.

RIP Mr Jackson

I find myself a little saddened by the passing of Michael Jackson. Not a true mourning of loss, but a sort of mild melancholy at the surrealism of a world without the surreal figure of Michael Jackson in it. My sister was a teenager when Michael Jackson was at the height of his '80s King of Pop days, so I grew up with his music as part of the soundtrack of my childhood. He's been on my radar, either for his music or his wacky personal life, for my entire life. While I'd never really thought about his demise, he seemed more like the type to end up dying at an old age after living a bizarre life of seclusion . He (rightly, it turned out) feared he would die like Elvis, but I figured he'd go more like Howard Hughes.

I think he was brilliant and talented. He always kept himself very involved in his work, right down to being around during the stage set up for concerts to ensure it met his standards. He was a master of timeless catchy beats. In 50 years I bet people will still start giving a head bop and shoulder shimmy to Thriller, Beat It, and Billie Jean His music videos are, by and large, great. They weren't just music videos, they were events. And often they were groundbreaking from a digital technology standpoint. Watch the video for Black or White and tell me it's not fantastic for the time it was made.

I also think that he was a fractured, fragile, and lonely person with childlike naivety and genuineness. His father is one of the most notorious bad stage parents ever known. Jackson was denied any sort of life or childhood because his father pushed him into show business. I do believe that he behaved inappropriately (though not necessarily sexually) with children, but I also think he incapable of seeing that due to his own stunted maturity level. I also think the parents of the children were very much in the wrong for allowing their children to be in such a situation.

The degree to which he hated his physical self is incredibly saddening. For all that he was brilliant and talented, he also hated himself to the point of mutilating his face to hopelessly seek out perfection. In his teen years he hated his large nose and suffered from acne that made him unrecognizable when he didn't have his stage makeup on. Vitiligo, the skin disease that causes splotchy loss of pigmentation, is not easy to live with even for a normal person with a mundane job. I worked with a woman who had vitiligo and she was incredibly self-conscious about it. She started off life with lovely clear olive skin, then in her early twenties her hands and neck started to speckle white. At the time I knew her, her hands and forearms were very pale while her upper arms and shoulders were her former darker skin tone. Her face was splotchy and her neck speckled in varying colours. Except on the hottest of summer days she wore long sleeves and high-necked shirts because she was so embarrassed. The stress it must have caused Jackson in an industry where appearance is so important must have been crushing.

My thoughts are even more with his children. I was a child of custody battles and also of disputed wills, and I can't imagine what turmoil life will have in store for them right now. Jackson's eldest son was there when he collapsed and was present while CPR was being performed. The rumours and questions about the biological parentage of all three children have ramped up even more, though I don't believe it should matter. Whether he provided the sperm or not, Michael Jackson was their father. Temporary custody has been granted to their paternal grandmother, who was very involved in their lives, but she's in her late 70s and is unlikely to receive permanent custody for that reason alone. The woman who gave birth to the eldest two may have been a surrogate and have no biological relationship. Twice before she has made moves for custody but gave up when offered money, so even if she is the biological mother a family court is unlikely to grant custody to a woman who has twice sold her rights to her own children.

I hope the children will come out of this as normally as possible. I hope the back catalogue of music will be released with as little exploitation and reworking as possible, and that for the sake of the children it will earn enough money to offset the massive debt of the estate. I hope Mr Jackson has the peace now he didn't have in life.

Michael Jackson's absence from this world will be missed by me, even if for superficial reasons.