Monday, 8 June 2015

Ponds, Performances and Perfection

The word of the week is forelsket.

June 1 – Terrible Treats

Cookies aren't on my menu anymore, sadly.

I've been weaning myself off sugar over the last six months. These days, even one cookie is enough to set my metabolism racing enough so that it's noticeable.

I hadn't quite realized how much of an effect sugar has on me nowadays until I started using a heartrate monitoring app on my phone. There's quite a few different ones out there and most follow the same design aesthetic: you place your finger over the smartphone’s camera and it reads your pulse - surprisingly accurately, as I've found.

My sugar experiments over the last few months with various treats have all shown consistent results. The most sugary treats, including chocolate cookies and donuts, raise my resting heart rate by at least 20 beats per minute( bpm ) – from the low 80’s to well over 100 in less than 10 minutes.

Given that the average male my age in my physical condition should have a resting heart rate of around 75 bpm, that's a BIG increase for doing nothing except metabolizing sugar while sitting down on the couch.

Ideally, I'd like to be exercising regularly and eating well enough so that my resting heart rate is almost always within the 70’s range. Right now, I am averaging in the mid-80s and that's a little worrying to me as I think about long-term health effects accumulating over the next couple of decades.

If I can achieve my health goals in the next few years, I think I'll treat myself to a cookie - a healthy one, of course!

June 2 – Smokin’ Angry

Victoria’s a wonderful place for fresh air.

Situated by the sea, there’s a constant breeze from the south, running from the Olympic mountains in WA State that cools the city and picks up the crisp snap of the ocean year-round. Wherever you walk in the city, you can always expect lovely fresh air to greet you.

This dovetails nicely with another fun phenomenon I’ve come to call ‘driftage.’

Driftage is when someone on a nearby balcony, not necessarily even a neighbor, lights up a cigarette( or other combustible of choice )and the smoke flows with the wind.

In the case of my apartment, the prevailing wind always carries the smoke straight into my place through the windows – every time. Ironically, this is exactly what happened with my old apartment on Moss St: people would smoke out the front of the building and I’d be forced to leap over to the window to slam it shut before my entire apartment fills with the stench. As that window was the only source of fresh air I had, I’d then bake for 5-10 minutes at a time – or longer, depending on if the considerate people down below decided to prolong their vaporous leisure.

Long story short: we have several folks upwind( and by several I mean too many )who enjoy stepping onto their balconies to light up, too often several times, every single evening. Sometimes more than once and, depending on the weather, late at night and early in the morning too. The byproducts of their enjoyment immediately find their way through the open windows in my apartment, forcing my sister or myself to close up fast and air out the place. It’s especially irksome when it’s 2am and my sister chokes awake to her room smelling like an ashtray instead of summer breezes.

We’re pursuing changes through channels, but its slow going. I fully understand that people have the right to enjoy smoking in the privacy of their own homes… but at the same time, THEIR smoke is invading MY home on a regular basis – and I don’t smoke. I also understand the old saw of ‘If you don’t like it, move’ and I’m drawing the line there: I’m not doing anything to them, so why should I have to be the one to smile and move somewhere else… and hope that the exact same thing doesn’t happen again? For me, this is the third time unlucky.

There’s no easy answer, save to do what I’m doing right now: paperwork.

June 3 – Jazz!!!

What a phenomenal night!

My date and I went to see a jazz show this evening at Herman's, a little club downtown that I have often walk by but never really paid much attention to. Tonight's performer was Danny Michel, a talented modern jazz artist who, unknown to me until the show started, has a g33ky streak a mile wide. I mean, he’s traveling the country doing a musical video series in this van:

Fantasy, Star Trek and airbrushes collide...

The show began at 8pm and was off to a running start: Danny had already warned of the audience with his easy g33ky banter and most everyone in the audience was quite focused, with only around 100 people in total as it was a small venue. Apart from an inattentive waitress and a table of strangely inattentive people in one corner who kept talking long after the music had started, the show was an hour and a half of excellent musical variety in the key of jazz.

I think we'll be going again soon and I'll most certainly be keeping an eye out for more from Danny Michel; his video show is debuting this month and looks to be full of surprises - I’m jazzed!

June 4 – Starbucks Success!

My writing group’s shifting gears this summer.

We've been meeting on Mondays for a few years now, in the atrium downtown which is a public space and therefore free to use. However, as I've mentioned before, often times it's a noisy venue and difficult for our members to hear presentations or even speak to each other in normal tones. Not to mention the extraordinarily uncomfortable seating arrangements to be had.

That changed tonight, as we met at the Chapters, just a block away. Inside's like this:

A few weeks ago, I made an arrangement with the store manager to allow us to hold our meetings in the Starbucks upstairs on the second floor in the downtown Chapters store. They were more than happy to accommodate us, with the group size of around 15 people or so, for as I see it the management sees we writers as a source of double revenue: caffeine from the coffee shop and books from the handily-nearby shelves. It works for us too: we get access to refreshments and a free meeting space that isn't too noisy.

As it turns out, my gamble paid off and the evening was a success!

We had about a dozen people show up, completely filling the tables that have been reserved for us and among them were several new members as well as a few faces we haven't seen in a while. The discussion was lively and varied, with topics ranging around the craft of writing itself which is very much my bailiwick for the last few years. Everyone seemed enthusiastic and engaged and the inaugural meeting in Starbucks wrapped up with the closing of the store around 9 PM.

It looks to be a great start to the summer for the group! And, I daresay... a new chapter?

June 5 – Untranslatable Words

What’s in a word?

The question gains even greater meaning when you consider that there are many words that cannot be translated into English from other languages, at least not in a singular form.

As there are so many languages on Earth, the list of ‘untranslatable’ words is rather large. I often like to tell people that there are many words in Russian that don't translate as easily into English, at least as related to me by my grandfather many years ago - that story of his has always stuck with me.

To illustrate my point, here's one of a selection of images that talented artist Marija Tiurina has created to show us that some things just can't cross the language barrier easily – or at all:

Personally, I find this subject fascinating. To know that there are concepts in other languages that cannot be translated into English without a lot of fiddling or cajoling and still part of the original meaning is lost in the effort. For myself, having a decent vocabulary combined with no notable skill in any language other than English, it's a fascinating topic.

Makes me wonder if there's any single word in English that doesn't translate well?

June 6 – A Perfect Day(te)

Today was a perfect day. Absolutely, magnificently perfect.

My date and I met for breakfast, sitting outside on a patio in the warm breezes in Cook Street Village. We’d met last night to view some episodes of Babylon 5’s first season, which I myself haven’t seen in about 4 years – sacrilege! Once we'd finished our delicious repast, we strolled downtown to pick up our new boat.

Yes, we bought a boat together this week! Here’s a few images of us sailing it:

 We spent an hour or so assembling the boat( which for now is called the Haulin’ Trawler )and then we took our new shared prize down to the Harrison Yacht Pond, located next to the seashore on Dallas Rd at the southernmost edge of Victoria. The picnic lunch we brought along was delicious, having stopped at the Beacon Hill Drive In for sandwiches and milkshakes.

Built in 1953, the pond was specifically designed for model boats to be raced on it and to our delight today, we were the only ones there. We happily sailed our boat to and fro across the surface, joined after a while by another model boater who tested his homemade airboat. We all had fun until it's time to go in the early afternoon and we returned to shore.

As it was a perfect summer stay outside, not a cloud in the sunny sky and warm breezes blowing, we took a long walk through the park, stopping at the Beacon Hill Children’s Farm( an odd name )to visit the residents. One in particular seemed to be really enjoying his day too:
A bucktoothed goat? Now I've seen it all...

Heading back to Cook Street Village, we decided to frequent the same patio we’d started our day on: the weather was simply too good not to enjoy it over some cool drinks in the dappled shade. It was quite magical: our conversation simply flowed and the hours passed by in mere eyeblinks.

Our evening was( surprise! )filled with more episodes of the first season of Babylon 5. I can't overstate how wonderful it is to watch the show with someone who loves it as much as I do. The rest of the date went wonderfully well and it was close to midnight before we could bring ourselves to say goodbye to each other. It seems incredible to us both that a breakfast date of a few hours with the possibility of lunch as well had so easily and naturally turned into nearly 14 hours spent continually in one another's company… and that at the day's end, it felt like we’d only just started.

I can't wait for the next time we get together.

June 7 – The Journey, Animated

In searching, we become.

Nowhere is that more evident in the Hero’s Journey, which was the centerpiece of J.W. Campbell’s theories about the heroic mythos that has permeated human storytelling for millennia.

I posted about this same mythic journey some months back, with a stylized animation that nicely explained how it all worked - have a look here if you missed it, or want to see it again.

But what of the journey itself? What does it represent, and how does it affect those who walk it?

I discovered today a lovely short animated film titled The Reward that examines these two questions in the context of the unlikely hero( or in this case a pair of heroes ) who have no idea what they're getting into. While I don't completely agree with all the lessons that are taught or all the choices the heroes make during the course of this film, it’s still a good story beautifully told.

Mild NSFW warning, by the way:

It was an incredible week that on one hand crawled by as my workplace was frustratingly busy and yet flew by as I was able to spend time with my lady date on no less than four separate occasions. I can't recall any other week in my life that I've been so roundly happy and what really boggles my mind is that it seems the best is yet to come.

It’s truly a new beginning and I can’t wait to see how the next step in the journey turns out!