Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Dr Elizabeth “EFM” McClung 1970 – 2013

It is with mixed emotions that I write this blog, informing you that my wife Elizabeth died in the early morning hours of Monday, April 29th.

For all her loyal readers who have shared parts of the journey with her, this will come as no shock. Her health had declined significantly in the past month and as she wrote so vividly on Saturday, April 27th what was happening to her, I don’t need to repeat it again. The end, when it came, was quick. Her autonomic system failed and her heart gave out.

I am happy that despite how she was feeling, we had a good final day. Cheryl and I visited with her, she taught us about what she had learned the previous day in a documentary. She found a song that she and I could sing so we sang it multiple times. She shared that she loved us and thanked us for all that we have done for her.

In her final blog she mentioned how she regretted not being able to post Sakuracon pictures. Here are a few that I wanted to share with you. Cheryl and I are both so glad that Elizabeth was able to go this year. The prep was hard on Elizabeth, she got a manicure and got her hair done. She commented how she felt beautiful again, or as beautiful as one can be when swollen with edema.

Friday was the busiest day for us at the convention. In the morning there was a kimono workshop. Beth had brought her yukata along so that the women there could help her dress. I also joined in the fun and tried on a kimono, too.

After the kimono workshop we went to the foam sword fighting event. She REALLLLY wanted to participate and thought she could clear the floor with her epee expertise. All the places were filled so she couldn’t participate in the competition itself. But the manager of the con made arrangements with the organizer that if there was time left over that Beth would be able to bout with someone. Beth had already picked out her someone – the blade runner.

Luck was in her favour and there was time for her. They agreed to two short bouts – the first one with Beth using NDY and the second with Beth standing. The first, Beth won and it was quite a site to see. She was zipping around in NDY and he was running around on his blades.
The second bout Beth didn’t win. It ended when she made a lunge and couldn’t come back out of it.
She fell on the floor and hurt her hand and one side of her body. At the time she didn’t mention the pain because she was so pumped from getting to be an athlete again.

We went back to the hotel that afternoon for a short nap before the masquerade ball. Last year we were all too exhausted to go, despite best intentions. We were determined that this year we would make it. Beth really wanted to dance with me again. Over the years she mentioned how she’d love to see me in a tux. I found a tuxedo shirt and did my best to make her wish come true. It took so much effort for Beth to get out of bed that evening, but we made it to the ball in time for the last dance, to which we waltzed. A great memory for me.

Saturday we spent mostly in the exhibition hall. Beth found the dentist from previous conventions who made custom fangs. She got a pair made and showed them off that afternoon.

Sakuracon came at a great physical cost to Beth, but one she was willing to pay for a chance to experience life. I have often thought and have heard others tell me that she was larger than life. It was an apt description because she was always doing grand things. Who else can say they were listed in the community paper as one of the best things about their city? Here are just a few examples…

Screw Bronze – Elizabeth published 1240 blogs. There are several more that she partially completed but didn’t have the energy to finish. Earlier this year she reached the milestone of 1 million views.

The Postcard Project – What started off as a cool idea to send postcards to a few readers on our Japan trip turned into an outreach project touching hundreds of people’s lives. We estimate she wrote approximately 6,600 postcards, sending to every continent except Antarctica. Anyone who was lonely, sick or just wanted a piece of fun mail could ask and they would receive one or many postcards at no cost to them. Many recipients aided the project by sending blank postcards from where they lived, others sent stickers or donated to the cause. Huge thanks go out to Jane and Michael in particular and to Cheryl who footed the bill for the majority of the postage over the years. Elizabeth, Cheryl and I worked through many nights making each postcard with love and good wishes.

Zed – How many people have dreamed of writing a novel and never get past the first 20 pages? Or are so daunted they don’t even try? That didn’t stop Elizabeth. Zed was published in 2006 and received high praise. If you want to read it and don’t have your own copy, I have a few copies which I can let go at cost.

Travel – In our nearly twenty years together we spent a lot of time travelling. We visited nearly every American state. She has travelled across Canada by rail, we both travelled to Churchill, Manitoba in the far north of Canada. We lived in Wales for seven years and while there visited the following European countries: Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, England, Holland, Belgium, France, Germany, the Czech Republic, Italy, Turkey and Greece. We also spent a month in Thailand. In recent years, she tried not to let her disease prevent her from travelling. In 2008 we went to Japan for nearly 3 weeks and in 2009 we went to Hawaii. Both were lifelong dreams for Beth. In 2010 we did a road trip down to San Diego. The past couple of years we stuck closer to home, but still made shorter trips around BC and Washington state. One highlight was watching the salmon jumping which gave her great encouragement. She took thousands of photos – a self-proclaimed camera whore.

Athletics – Beth always enjoyed running. In her late teens she ran the Los Angeles Marathon, trained for the Commonwealth Games in 1994, and ran various 10km races with me. She took up epee fencing in 2006 and by early 2007 was competing in the Canadian National fencing competition. Shortly after the nationals her disease made itself known. She then went on to boxing in her wheelchair, rock climbing with just her arms, sailing, badminton, wheelchair racing and in the last year focused on walking despite having 180+ heart rates and neuropathy in her legs. She participated in 5 Terry Fox runs. Terry Fox was a huge inspiration for Beth.

Advocacy – Beth hated lying, hypocrisy and injustice. Locally, she confronted VIHA, Beacon Community Services, doctors, specialists, the Times Colonist 10km race organizers, local politicians, Assistant Deputy Ministers and the Public Service Agency just to name a few. At the global level she wrote for the BBC website’s Ouch blog about disability issues. Several of those posts were subsequently published by various care-giving organizations around the world. Screw Bronze was peppered with advocacy in women’s athletics, GLBT rights and rights for those living with disabilities.

She was a remarkable person and I am honoured that she loved me and that I could share the best part of her life with her.

I have had several people ask whether they could send flowers/cards/donate to charity. Please don’t send flowers (I’ll be off visiting my family for a week or two). Cards for me and/or Cheryl can be sent to PO Box 2560, Port Angeles, WA 98362. If you want to make a donation to honour Elizabeth’s memory, you could donate to the Terry Fox foundation (either directly through their website or via the paypal link on Girl’s Gotta Fly). Over the years a number of people have suggested a book be compiled based on her blog entries. If this is something you would like to see happen, you could donate to that through Girl’s Gotta Fly. Please make sure you mark it as such so that I know whether the donation is for the Terry Fox Foundation or for the book.

One final note... please feel free to leave a comment here.  As this was Elizabeth's blog, no future posts will be added here.  I will update Girl's Gotta Fly with arrangements/memorials, etc.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

drop dead.

Final days and hours of life are a lot worse than anything I had anticipated. Prepping for Sakura-con used up my reserves and I’m glad I got to go to Sakura-con, but it just was that downhill which ended in a cliff.

A hole is when the edema builds up around your heart and lungs so fast that you gasp as much as you can, and are still asphyxiating. It feels like being at the pool as a kid when your siblings kept kicking you down under the water. That 30-120 seconds when you start thrashing, or trying to reach air. Only here it is in a chair, because you shifted to wash your hands.

No one comes up and says: "What would you prefer: going to Sakura-con OR gasping and choking while trying to brush your teeth for over a week, because it slows your air intake just that little bit.

I can’t keep it all straight, the days I spat up blood over and over, or the day I peed blood. But once the edema build up on my diaphragm, that was it. Plus the kidney’s stopped working. I couldn’t transfer, I gasped for minutes or longer, just trying to stay conscious. And in my lungs moisture started to accumulate while up top, the drowning feeling of the fluid meant I was coughing and blood was coming out. Plus blood was coming out of my nostrils.

"Oh, that’s what they meant by the lungs inability to absorb the moisture." I thought to myself, the line in my disease under ‘terminal outcomes’ finally making sense.

I didn’t do anything from Saturday until Thursday except try to take one breath in and then another out.

Linda had to take time off because I couldn’t feed myself, couldn’t move and passed out often. In between thoughts like, "Shit, I don’t have the time to put up the Con pictures…and I resized them too." And ‘I didn’t get my envelopes written and sealed for individuals.’ It just took a flow. Frustration about hospitals and doctors that still won’t help become secondary to cleaning blood out of nose so I can breathe.

Linda listened to my breathing while sleeping. There were three gasps, then silence, as likely, I needed energy to conserve to breath again. This was followed by shallow breathing, then another couple large gasps of breathing. I wasn’t strong enough to keep a steady breathing, or steady heartbeat. At going to sleep, two hours later, six hours later, eight hours later it was the same rhythm.

That particular cycle of breathing is clinically standard for terminal patients when they lose consciousness and they up the pain medication to keep them there. People hear that their relatives are dying and want to be there, to sit beside them. But a few hours of the gasping sliding to the stopped breathing finally broken by another gasp brings the reality of dying home and them out of the room.

I doubt I will slipping off into any night and will likely suffocate while conscious, or the blood pressure of my lungs squeezed by the edema causing a massive stroke.

My parents, unknowing of this, of my life at all, sent a card writing they were staying away lest they hurt me.  Not sure how much more love I could take from them.  But I now have their Canadian address for the first time in three years.  If you have been postponing something, like calling a loved one: do it.  I won't be driving the bus that kills them, but I don't anyone worth knowing who didn't have more life than time to do it all.  

The person who matters was here. Even if I was fevered and couldn’t recognize them.

I peed on Thursday: so maybe I am postponing the death cycle on this week. But it is just a temporary thing.  That physical reality beaten into me, with dispassionate apathy.  It is also a mental realization. This is why; why the edema, why the lasix won’t work, why the sleep doesn’t give rest.   Blogging doesn't matter, email just hurts too much to try to type, but so does eating.  

I have so much more to do, so much more planned. I think that would be true of any day, any week, any year.

As I had said only a day before: I’m lonely. Anyone who can relate or who is just willing to be with me has already gone. There is nothing, even cutting off eyelids that I could do as an act of desperate attention getting which would a) cause me much discomfort or b) get that desperate attention. Those who do care, are already in the trench and while the disease caregiving is but a fraction of living it, it still is enough to exhaust a healthy, active woman into a zombie.

I am who I am, from birth to death, an 'accident of nature.'  I got four to five years less than the doctors adult adjustment.   So what?  

I am a fraction of a fraction – 20% of me at 75% - still enough to regret that everything I was, everything I would be, everything I did unknown all fall into dust; swept by the angel of history.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

I heard owl calls this morning (hear it too!)

It was 4:45 a.m. and I heard soft but steady note of the call: 'hoo-hoo hoo-hoo' of the Great Horned Owl in the darkness right outside my window.   Either it was one calling twice or a pair right on the power pole outside my window as within a couple seconds the 'hoo-hoo hoo-hoo' came again.

You can hear the sound I heard (recorded in BC) by clicking here . (from list scroll down and pick double call for Great Horned Owl - our calls were all quite close, like in your closet, and the soft throaty sound)

I woke Linda and the call/reply or double call came again. She couldn't see them but it was totally dark. It has been a long, long time since I heard an owl call.

There are not only owls in the park two blocks from us, but also an Owl Cam on two Great Horned Owls raising three owlets. The link for the live cam is here (still at bottom of page).
Pictures of the Great Horned Owls moving hooting yesterday (white are the young, black are the parents) shown here.

For trivia: a group of owls is called 'a Parliament.'

Any wildlife encounters yourself?

Monday, April 15, 2013

Skary World: Hell Barbie versus Gothic Graveyard lanes.

I went out wheeling because it was a sunny day.    A neighbor's yard caught my eye: Barbie naked, barbie in bondage, barbie missing body pieces, and barbie torqued and twisted.    The Goth question: a) is this a tortured soul reaching out b) a place to dig to find human remains or c) BOTH.
The further I went, the more cirque de barbie revealed itself. I took pictures of 35% of it with these two pictures.   If you look past the tree below to that brown is hair from full mannequin head perched in the bush.   And who says it isn't a GOTH world if you aren't looking. 

I noticed a few things: a) lots of head transplants, b) all the dolls were stripped of clothes, c) women were hung upside down d) those who had clothes were wearing HANDMADE tutu's, corsets and bondage leather and e) the whole thing was very, very sexualized.  That seemed a lot of effort - less a communication and more of a SCREAM.
Time to go somewhere comforting: the cemetery!  This 1860 cemetery does the trick (just outside the grounds is a company where you choose your tombstone).   A single 1890 grave held eight names, recording how it took until the third child before one child lived past the age of two, and only the fourth child lived to be an adult. 
This is one of my favorite structures in the cemetery; maybe because of the imported marble surrounded by local granite.  I call it 'The Dog House'
A cold spring, long shadows and bitter winds give the leaving lane an ominous look.    Back to the world of 'Playing with body parts.'   Then how exactly does my love of cemeteries and a skull backpack and corset make ME odd? ("Don't go down your street today or you're in for a big surprise....")

Friday, April 12, 2013

In the Flesh and Colorful: zombie family drama

When the BBC adds ‘Zombie family drama’ as a classification, I but blindly follow, muttering ‘brains...moist brains…” Oh, even better, it is Gay Zombie family drama. In the Flesh does two things new to the Zombie genre: 1) Gay Zombie forbidden love and 2) Life after ‘The Cure’ (you know, the thing every zombie film and series is ‘hoping for’ but never gets).

We start four years from ‘The Rising’ with Keiren (I must assume a family name meaning: ‘You will be bullied at school and called ‘Karen’) in a rehab center, enduring through a 'sharing circle' with other PDS sufferers (Partial Dead Syndrome). Because what could be more calming than slapping a label on the people eating grandma than saying they were ‘ill’ and then putting them back into the community (where grandma lived). We get to see the rollout of this reintegration via the government all presented with a horrific glee. Do you take brown contacts or blue? And don’t forget your ‘flesh colour’ makeup, the daily shots into your spinal column, your therapy notebook and remember not to eat any food or drink….as your insides have rotted away.

Keiren, still protesting he needs more time, is sent to back home to Roarton (say it fast, like ‘rotten’) in the Northwest of England. The bad news is that despite government ads advising people to ‘stay indoors, lock windows and call the hotline’ the troops never made it this far north (meaning the rest of your brief life on 'hotline' hold). So the people of Roarton created the HVF army to ‘kill the rotters’ with inspiring sermons on killing and abominations from the local pastor.  Four years on, and the HVF remains, with patrols and kill orders.  With standard grey NHS irony, the wife of one of the biggest HVF supporters, who ‘used to be a nurse’ is made the local PDS liaison (which she must do in secret). And that is what the series is about; fear, secrets, and the mess left by not only the dead rising and eating (which is coming to Keiren in flashbacks) but by families who have gone through a death.

In the Flesh would be a great series if you simply wanted to see what suicide does to those around you but it is more. The series is about prejudice, denial and what happens when, whether zombies or someone trans transitioning, everyone sees and the ‘not in my village’ erupts. Yes, there are guns and chainsaws and rotters (zombies) in the woods, there is also the love that dare not speak its name (particularly in Rourton). But it also asks constantly, is it worth being alive again this way? You don’t fear death…just your neighbor.

Gals: Look past the small bits of gore andthis is a zombie drama for you, with Keiren ala Heathcliff stalking about the wilds and pondering his forbidden love.

Lads: Guns, knives, zombies BUT also an intelligent drama about family and community tension and the cost of silence; a series far more applicable than Game of Thrones and just as gripping.

BBC Three will be rebroadcasting this on TV and online of free (use Iplayer from BBC) starting April 15th. There is no DVD release and only three episodes so jump quick to view (you get a week from broadcast for online viewing). For those not in the UK, I recommend a VPN, which can allow you to watch Dr. Who, In The Flesh, MayDay, The Village, Ripper Street and all the other top series as they air in the UK.

Colorful the anime film won last year’s Best Animated Film in Japan’s Oscars (and it isn’t a Ghibli). It starts with you in a grey limbo full of lines. A little annoying person (angel? Demon?) tells you that you’ve won a chance to return to a host body. You literally come back in a hospital bed with the doctor having given up on Momo. Yup, you’re Momo, a 14 year old who killed himself. Annoying guide tells you that you get a host based on your sins. The entity inhabiting Momo assumes they must of killed people to get a friendless 14 year old who is picked on and whose family is FUBAR. Older brother doesn’t even speak to you, mom had an affair and can’t live with the guilt and Dad is a cog who pulls endless overtime but is never promoted. A picture of the family at dinner says it all.
Both In the Flesh and Colorful are about the ‘What next?’ in going on. It avoids the escapism of so much of film and TV these days. In the Flesh isn’t about escaping into a world where who cares about homework or the family dinner this weekend because now it is zombies, a mall and guns; it is about living through and beyond trauma, and suckage and the pain that goes with being alive. Colorful is a type of zombie drama, in that the family is doing over and over again the same pain, same problems, and they need to lurch toward something new.

Colorful has a viewpoint of an outsider who is inside one family that is imploding, while they all tiptoe around Momo and pretend nothing is wrong. It is a suitable award winning films because it doesn’t promise that everything will be alright, or that this is the formula to happiness but that even in the gutter of hope there can be times of beauty.

Colorful is currently available on youtube free, here is the link (recommend watching it sooner rather than later as these links often disappear – right now, Colorful is too honest, too real for Hollywood to pay actors to voice over it and release it for North America. Grab good series and films when you can – there is a sea of ‘blah’ out there).

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Susan Griffiths (72) isn't tragic, is bigoted and shouldn’t get assisted suicide.

Susan Griffiths of Winnipeg was diagnosed with MSA (multiple system atrophy) in 2012 and after several national and local newspaper and TV interviews has flown off to be evaluated for assisted suicide.

I will give five quick reasons why Susan Griffiths should NOT be given assisted suicide (and lest you think I am ignorant of the disease, I was diagnosed with it several years ago - MSA v AAN or see 'my disease' bar).  I am sad that disability groups have not spoken out against her decision and desire for publicity.  I hope that is because they have either overlooked that she a woman only months into a decade long diagnosis, with little to no deterioration of life quality or disease progression OR it is due to the complete ignorance about MSA and autonomic diseases in general.

1) Suicide is not illegal in Canada. 

Susan Griffiths, in her many interviews, talks about the future but her main complaint about the present is her belief that MSA has affected her tennis game and that she might (statistically) need an assistive device like a wheelchair by 2017.    At the airport she "carefully reapplied her lipstick" before greeting TV reporters, "Sorry, vanity comes first."   This means she has the dexterity to hang herself, throw herself off a bridge, overdose herself, slit her forearms or legally kill herself.

She doesn't want to kill herself.  She says on the CBC that she won't go into because the details of suicide are 'grisly.'  She wants someone to do it for her, easily.   She doesn't NEED the assistance.  MSA hasn't limited her finger movement or arm movement, but she wants her suicide assisted anyway, like ordering up a value meal.   

2) She is not making an ‘informed decision.’

Susan openly stated that she never bothered reading or finishing the list of symptoms much less treatments (and there ARE treatments) for this disease, "I stopped reading. There wasn't going to be any good news." To the CBC TV she states her reasons for dying are about losing her eyesight. Yet that is not an MSA symptom.  I have neurological eye problems, and nerve damage that makes the left eye droop, but glasses correct that. She worries about the ‘eventual’ of the disease (which would arise in 2023) when she would be over 80.  Having 80+ year old eyes do cause vision problems. 

So is this about her wanting to die while still in good health, die because she doesn’t want things to change or about the disease she knows nothing about? If her reasons are about the normal events of life after 70, then this isn’t about having a terminal disease. And until she is informed about her disease and options, and finds out (at the least) which of the three variants of MSA she has, how can doctors say that she has the mental awareness and is making an informed decision?

3) Growing old always results in death.

Many of Susan’s complaints are issues that a person who is looking at the last 5-20 years of their life. The saying ‘No one gets out alive’ is true and whether it is help to the bathroom or living in a facility, these are common stages of elder life. As is taking medication. Susan stated she didn’t want to spend money on nursing homes but on assisted suicide instead. Assisted suicide is for those who a) are facing a significant diminished quality of life atypical to average and b) are in the end stages of terminal diseases, and require assistance. Susan’s letter to MP’s state that her not riding her bicycle or cooking the Sunday roast are the level of her diminishment of quality of life. If Susan Griffith was taken seriously every senior, disabled individual or person with chronic conditions requiring life changes like diabetes, or arthritis for example, could demand assisted suicide.

4) Vanity shouldn’t be rewarded. 

Much like an aging actress in Sunset Blvd, Susan has decided if she can’t be on top, then she will kill to get what she wants. She was only diagnosed with MSA months ago in 2012. With her active lifestyle, she would expect to live beyond the 10 year average. Griffiths decided almost immediately that she would not stick around, "I'd have done it now. Definitely. Months ago, probably" Susan said, "I knew that my future was absolutely hopeless."

How did she know? She didn’t consult with MSA experts. She didn’t join MSA support groups.  She decided immediately on ‘assisted suicide’ and has worked for months toward that end. "Griffiths wants to die on her own terms." She stated it was her body and she wanted control. Except that she wanted someone else to kill her.

She says this is about dignity and quality of life, not spotlight, yet she recounts to the newspaper that her regret with her final dinner was that she didn’t use the fine china. And then, trudging through the sub zero night snow in Winnipeg, "She walked up and down her street her final evening at home, telling neighbors she wouldn't be coming back. ‘"I made them all cry.’"

Ready for her close up!!

5) Fear of change is not a reason for assisted suicide

Yes, Susan has a diagnosis of a terminal condition, but she is not terminally ill. Many diseases from Parkinsons’ to MS will eventually be terminal diseases, or at least major factors, but simply having the diagnosis doesn’t mean you are terminally ill.  Susan is not in a mid or late stage of the disease, she is in a very early stage where she is just starting to notice effects. It would be like someone feeling a lump or fatigue and getting a stage 1 cancer diagnosis, immediately deciding the doctors should help them commit suicide.

The one thing that a disease does do is change our life, much as old age does.  Griffiths she states that "It’s my life" as the reason someone should pour her a glass and help her die with ease.  She has decided "The future’s too grim." But she simply doesn’t know.  Her disease is so rare that progression is unknown.  But she doesn't want to spend her mobile years with family, friends or in travel.  If she waited a few years, spent the time knowing it was limited and then made the decision I could have supported that.

Her thinking and vocab, including the whole 'better off dead than using a wheelchair or being dependant' are the exact stereotypes from 1940's that we are to be changing.  Sadly the news agencies are lapping it up along with comments from readers which follow the whole 'If I was diagnosed with xxxx, I'd shoot myself' philosophy.    One news story states that through there is no treatment she takes several pills, in another she is quoted saying 'hundreds', then 'zillions.'   Opening lines about 'Date with Death' and 'Death is inevitable' bring out the violins in the background. 

Yes, she is a drama queen and yes, her statements about the lives that most seniors and wheelchair users live are ignorant and openly bigoted.  Perhaps she really does see carrying a pot roast as important a quality of life as assisted breathing or assisted heart beating.  Or that death is better than a walking stick.  She's wrong, but maybe she believes it.

Either way, please say no to her loudly enough for the media to stop making a romantic heroine out of her and in time for her to come home and spend time with her family.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Sakura-Con 2013: Zombie junk food needs

The zombies’ face was covered in dried blood, having slated his hunger of the ‘other white meat,’ but his fingertips were stained orange. It turns out even zombies like junk food.

We are just back from Sakura-con 2013 and I will post pictures and stories tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Sakura time for anime hair (and nails)

Linda and I have been working hard the last two weeks getting ready for Sakura-con. Huzzah….slump! With appointments every few days, it tends toward exhausting.

But spring is here...some days. The other days it is windy, freezing or like yesterday, hailing. But today it looked like this: Sakura celebration.

Good news, I raised the money needed for food and housing! And after a few failures in communication (Me: “How about we do this?”; They: “That will take four hours and cost $250+, and I’m not going to do that anyway because you don’t really want that.” Me: “Well yes I do, and can you explain how a $75 hair cut turns into four hours.” – repeat for a full Saturday, Tuesday), Linda found a great place.

Kate did my hair. She has the same ‘extra electrical node’ as I do in our hearts, and can feel it skip the beat. She says it feels like someone is grabbing her collar bone while for me it fels like time stopping for an instant, before giving you the whammy (your heart skips extra beat before it overbeats – I had this diagnosed during fencing). I asked for red, red hair, and purple tips. She delivered the anime red (and one day, if it isn’t windy, I will let my hair down and show you with style). All I need are some giant purple or green eyes to match. Or to have Ehlers-Danlos, a disease which give you a) extra large eyes and b) a small pixie-like face - it really does: perfect for elf, anime or other costumes. It also gives you hyper mobility of joints, spine and skin: massive dislocations of bones out of joints including hip bones, spine bones, and fingers. Sometimes the price of beauty IS too much (to wish for that).

With another trip I was to get nails done in deep purple. Except I couldn't find the purple I wanted so I got what I thought was a brown which was almost black. It is instead a deep-deep burgundy with purple flecks in the sunshine, but does look like black indoors.

Anime hair – check
Place to Sleep – check
Packing – er..not yet
Day plan – er…not yet
Recovered enough to take the Ferry – er…soon I hope (we leave late Wednesday).

Monday, March 25, 2013

Foggy one morning...

We looked out the window at 7 a.m. a few mornings ago and a blanket of fog had surrounded us. It was very ‘Victorian London’ without the black lung.

By 8:30 a.m. much of the fog had worn off, but enough was still around, obscuring the world to make a nice cathedral shot.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Herons, squirrels and flowers in Beacon Hill; We celebrate St. Patrick’s Day

Here are two herons, likely male and female. 

The male heron would sit atop this 14 story tree top keeping watch while the female fed below. After 20 minutes they would fly back to the nest, then repeat. Perhaps there are young being fed?

We went to Beacon Hill park 12 days ago to take pictures of the new flowers coming up through the moss and grass.

Now the sakura cherry blossoms are out but I can’t find a sunny day to take the picture. Today was cold wind and blustery.

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, the apartment smells of mulligan stew and beer marinated beef. Linda bought me the most beautiful cupcake I’ve eaten from the dark chocolate cloverleaf and real cream green icing to the light batter cake below. It was admired, it was kept close and then it was eaten.

If you are the creative sort, or wish to be so, March 19th is the festival of Minerva. She is the goddess of medicine, music, poety, weaving, crafts, wisdom and magic. Her sacred animal is the owl. And the 19th is a day free of toil and dedicated to arts, be it poetry or knitting, in honor of her. The trick is convincing your boss that you deserve a paid holiday due to a 2,400 year old festival. Minerva certainly part of US custom, and is on the official California symbol as well as the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest award given in the US.

Back to the Beacon Hill Visit, we met and fed a new squirrel which I named ‘Fussy.’ The name was due to his checking here and there, and then over there as well before deciding what to do with the peanut.

When he did decide to eat one, he managed to climb up to a branch directly over Linda so as to drop peanut shells pieces onto her head.

Still it was heartening to see the leaping bounce, bounce, bounce across the grass before standing up on hind legs to try and see where we were. Then it was leaping bounces onward. 

Happy St. Patrick's Day.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Fun with Doodles

I dislocated my jaw. That hurt. I forced it back into the socket, but it makes chewing painful so eating is in the ‘not so much’ category.

Yesterday was Douglas Adam’s birthday so Google did an interactive doodle, which I couldn’t get to work. I found that for recent doodles I had to use Google Chrome (why oh why do ‘search engines’ need to be upgraded?). Searching around I found a link to the old Google interactive doodle screens as well as interactive screens for other countries. I recommend Star Trek, Nemo, Valentine’s Day 2013 and Halloween 2012 (plus Jim Henson's and Art Clokey's Birthday). The bonus of the page is seeing the interactive Google Doodles for other countries, like the 2013 Chinese New Year game, Havoc in Heaven plus the USA only six channel TV of Lucille Ball (click interactive version).

Plus watch this Japan seen only doodle for Hisashige Tanaka’s 213th birthday (good for either Google versions), which shows one of his invented mechanical dolls from 1825-40, which could pour tea, do calligraphy or shoot a bow and arrow. If you liked the film Hugo, you will like this animation (like the mechanical mouse in the film, he made a sake carrying tortose). Here is the original mechanical which does it with a wooden, not steel, gear ring system. Hisashige Tanaka was the 'Edison of Japan' and founded what became Toshiba Corporation.

And finishing with this USA only tribute to the Drive In Movie.

Back tomorrow.

P.S. For those doing Jim Henson's birthday you need to use Chrome: there is no sound and the bonus animations are a) second 'red head' move mouse back and forth under head a few time to make specs fly, 2) fourth 'purple head' put cursor in bottom right corner and do long then couple short mouse clicks for a sneeze effect and 3) sixth 'red monster' click mouse while moving cursor from bottom to left corner then up the left side to trigger 'monster attack'

Friday, March 01, 2013

Happy St. David's Day & Welsh Cross-dressing Riots

Happy Saint David’s day! I hope you had Welsh Cakes while wearing your leek or daffodil. St. David is the Patron Saint of Wales and March 1st is the annual celebration of Welsh culture (protected and isolated from the invasions and change in England over the centuries by Offa’s Dyke (which may be atop the Wall of Severus from 4th century Roman Britian).

Let’s not forget Merched Beca, Rebecca’s Daughters, a four year campaign in 1840’s by the farmers and land workers of protests and riots in full drag. ‘Rebecca’ targeted and destroyed toll gates, seeking a way for farmers and working families to grow food and sell it without taxation or profit by those already rich. Interesting that leaving social and civil law also meant cross dressing. I can only think of so many farm wives saying, ‘tsk, but you’ve stretched it all to pieces!’

Boo to Tony Blair who in 2007 ignored the 87% of Wales that wanted March 1st a bank holiday and rejected the petition. Though St. David’s day has a long history of bringing out patriotism as Samuel Pepys wrote how ‘Welsh celebrations in London for Saint David's Day would spark wider countercelebrations amongst their English neighbours: life-sized effigies of Welshmen were symbolically lynched.’

Welsh have historically been considered ignorant, poor and the Welsh people are associated with stealing and cheating, hence ‘Welshing on a deal.’ Plus how oft the thief or cheat was welsh in boys’ tales and girls’ tales of Victorian and Edwardian period it is good to remember: the future King of Britain is first the Prince of Wales.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Urban Selunking and Roman festivals

I oft seem in a time warp, not the groovy trip to the 70’s but once the haze of pain, exercise, recovery or sleeping 24+ hours, finding it to be a week later. So, in recap, for Valentines Day, Lupercalia: the Roman festival of fertility kept on Feb 14th. That Festival is notable as the day Mark Anthony (of Mark Anthony and Cleopatra fame) ran naked through the streets proclaiming Julius Caesar as god and striking women with a whip made out of bull balls (it was like catching the flowers from the bride; if you get hit by the whip you are likely to get pregnant soon).

No whips were used in THIS household for Feb. 14th, I did however get Linda a West Coast Native art mug for work and helped buy a hoodie designed by Tony Hunt. Love is proclaimed in variety, isn’t it?

Then it was off to the shops to buy half price chocolate. Not quite a good a haul as Xmas when I scored on toblerone and marzepan, but got a decent sale priced chocolate.

This weekend Linda made Swedish Meatballs with rice. Hers were made of beef, NOT horsemeat, as has been found to be the case with IKEA. I always did wonder why the meals were so inexpensive.

We also went to the University of Victoria Library to look at the native art collection on the third floor. Limited traditional art prints from Davidson, Hunt to Henry Roy Vickers.

I took a left out of the library building to show Cheryl and Linda the Tunnels under the Science building, which run under the grass and walkways as well as two further university buildings.  Sadly I brought no camera, but the first sign you see is a large ‘Radiation’ and ‘Radioactive’ sign. The ceiling is stacked and lined with pipes carrying all sorts of fun stuff. Which is why the outside of the Science Building has a ‘free air’ pump for bicycles on the side, next to a small sign. The tunnels are still used as labs with lots of ‘if light is on laser is firing’ and ‘hazardous materials’ signs across from a hazmet shower.  It used to handy, when raining or snowing, to be able to go from the library to the science building then take the underground tunnel most of the way across campus. Of course, the flickering lights and sparse grad students holding beakers and wearing goggles peering out of labs just added to the fun.

That was my urban spelunking for the day. Though Linda and I used to use the tunnels and spans in Winnipeg to get from one end of downtown all the way to the Science Museum. We even used to practice dancing there on the weekend, when we both wanted to get away from housemates as well as the snow. The malls were empty so hey, lots of places to dance….until a guard came out and told us they had been watching us all the time on the monitors. Oops.

Have you been anywhere interesting in Urban Spelunking?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Bright moon: cold, dark night.

It was good to get out of the apartment. The sky was blue but by 8:00 pm, the air was cold, and as we went on the trail along the beach cliffs it got colder. Far below, on the beach, a bonfire was going amidst the stacked driftwood timber.

In a secluded fold with a hedgerow on one side and cliff on the other, the trail led towards the moon.

The red glows are not predators but the many beacons warning the landing float planes, “Please don’t crash into my condo!” The shot was with a tripod on 10.5 seconds exposure. I had hoped for a clear sky to take a 30 second shot in order to capture stars too faint for the eye. Alas, the clouds crept in.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Spectacle Lake 'Accessible' trail (isn't) but great green of nature

Just down the road and up the mountain, Linda wanted to take me to Spectacle Lake, as she had heard it was a 2 km ‘Wheelchair Accessible’ trail. We had high hopes.

It was overcast, as seems standard the last few months, with snow on the sides of the trail and ice on the lake.

We parked in the gravel and stone parking lot and followed the old road to a boat launch, fishing and picnic area, once you climbed down the long slope of exposed bedrock. It was not wheelchair accessible. The picnic tables were at the bottom of the climb down from the bedrock.

But the road was wide, and lead to a nice overlook of the lake (covered in ice). Linda is on the bedrock overlooking the lake, with crows were nesting in the trees across. As you can see, this outlook, going out past bedrock, is not accessible either.

But the trail was still good and trees, second and third growth thick, had branches covered in moss, creating a green overhang and surrounding ever green to walk or wheel through.

Twice in the first kilometer there were bridges. One had arm rests on both sides, while this one, with an impressive downhill leading to it, and steeper uphill leading away had the left side exposed encouraging careful wheeling

Along the way ‘nursery trees’ had fallen, perhaps twenty to fifty years ago, in some cases leaving almost no wood, while a more recent fall like this was covered with tiny ferns (use the leaf to compare), already breaking down the hard wood.

We continued but as each tenth of a kilometer went on, the narrower and more up and down the trail became, with roots, then rocks as obstacles. After the first kilometer I should have turned back, but I didn’t, convincing myself it would get better.

Soon there were vertical gaps, rocks to step up and even more elevation gain before a brief rest: though now we were half way up the trunk height of the trees. Yes, that six inches wide of non-moss covered sharp rock edges is 'trail'. Woah, look at those trees ENTIRELY below us now: Some elevation gain.

I kept on until I couldn’t keep on anymore. And though it might have been only .3 or .4 of a kilometer to go, there was no choice but to go back the way already come. The only advantage was knowing that the path was going to get wider and easier as we backtracked.

It was nice….till it turned into a sinktrap. Was Linda’s info wrong? No. The official site states: “ easy hiking trail that winds around the lake for more than 2 kilometers. Much of this trail system is wheelchair accessible.” As the trail goes in a circle, ‘much’ isn’t good enough. I would charitably say that ‘some’ of the trail is wheelchair accessible, perhaps .9 out of 2.2 km. For example, see the roots and trail narrowing every few feet to inches? This is on the 'really good' and 'easy' .5 km of the trail. For manual or power chair, that is not 'easy', unless you have an ATV for a powerchair. In the USA, land of the Disability Act, the National Park would label this as 'inaccessible' - as the do for Hoh's Hall of Moss'.

Spectacle Lake is not an ‘easy’ trail but 'medium'. I would not recommend the trail for those with heart problems, RA, MS, and advise caution for those using prosthetics. The trail is not graded or filled. It was covered with snow in parts. Parts require balancing on one leg with full body lift of up to 1.5 feet, often on wet rock. It is popular with joggers as it is short and gives a strong cardio workout.

The trail is not currently accessible for more than the first third of the 2.2 km, nor are the facilities accessible. I wish, for world disability day or ‘recognition of Canadian Human Rights Day’ for the Premier, the head of Parks BC, and the local mayor to sit in those hospital transfer wheelchairs with plastic wheels (the ones they always seem to get into for photo ops during fundraisers or for promoting wheelchair sports) and enjoy this ‘accessible’ trail.

Perhaps then they could figure out the problem with having a circle trail around a lake where ‘much’ of the trail can be used (like the M25 where ‘much’ of it does not have traffic cones reducing lanes and creating eight, twelve or twenty hour gridlock).