36 Hours Away

Never underestimate restorative powers of a 36 hour adventure. Demanding nothing more than a window of opportunity, willingness to get off your ass and a mutual resolve to go with the flow. Spontaneous excursion void of itinerary or expectation is a catalyst, one that knows exactly what we need.

Myself and Mr. Notes left Tsawwassen ferry terminal at noon Tuesday – destination, Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island. By 3 pm we’re in our hotel room on Victoria’s inner harbour. Free to do what we pleased, obligations’ release delivered an inexplicable wave of energy.

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Mr. Notes

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Parliament from the hotel balcony.

Morning must have been notified – on cue, tendrils of sunlight pried sleep from our eyes. Breakfast could wait, our ferry returned to Vancouver at 6 pm. First stop Sooke, or so we thought – a sign for Sooke Potholes sent us off the highway. Who cares about potholes in a river when stumbling upon a clifftop construction site, dreams of a resort abandoned close to a century ago –

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Next stop French Beach –

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On to Jordan River. Complete with surfers –

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Backtrack to Whiffen Spit at Sooke.

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Just enough time for a quick pint and dinner in Victoria –

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Home by 9 pm on Wednesday with goofy grins and a spring in our step.




A few minutes ago I heard what sounded like a loud explosion, at the same time items on the dresser top swayed as my windows rattled and blinds smacked the glass. It only lasted a few seconds, yet felt like nothing I’ve ever experienced. I ran out of the room, husband runs up the stairs, phone starts bellowing texts – “what the hell” “was that an earthquake?”

Not like any earthquake I’ve ever felt – my first thoughts were an explosion at the gas station 10 blocks away, or a massive propane tank explosion. Earthquakes are supposed to roll, not buckle your knees with audible concussion while tossing possessions about. The last Vancouver earthquake on my radar came 14 years ago – middle son stayed home from school with a cold, we were watching TV on my bed when I said “stop jiggling the bed” . Son replies “we’re having an earthquake, look at the door Mom”. Sure enough, bedroom door is swaying back and forth.

Within 15 minutes, the USGS confirmed an earthquake 18 Km NNE of Victoria B.C. – initial magnitude reported at 4.8. Downgraded since to a 4.3, does nothing to quell the jolt in my home at 11:39 pm. Pacific rim – you have my full attention.

The “big one”, predicted and long overdue in the pacific northwest would be 15,000 times more powerful than this evening’s shake-up. Anyone who felt it and doesn’t have an emergency plan or emergency kit – needs their head examined.




Before Da Vinci there was Al Jazari


The name Leonardo Da Vinci is known worldwide. Ponder the name Al Jazari, and the remarkable things he made, long before Da Vinci was born. Until his death in 1206 , Al Jazari invented the flush toilet, robotics, crank and gear shafts, piston driven pumps for water wheels, gear shafts, and his astounding list of automatic machines for telling time, washing hands, pouring tea, or playing music. All this while Europe muddled about in the Dark Ages. Some of his water wheels are still operational, 800 years later. Before his death Al Jazari recorded his inventions in a book, it is said Da Vinci used it as inspiration.


Al-Jazari, an islamic golden age scholar
Al Jazari

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Vladimir Putin 2016 Calendar

Prior to the Sochi winter Olympics, shirtless Vladamir Putin wasn’t a matter of global scrutiny. Sochi  introduced bare chested Putin in gob smacking splendor. Images of stripped down Putin photo shopped atop exotic animals ambushed unsuspecting hotel guests. Shirtless Putin became the face of modern Russia.

Vladimir Putin’s official 2016 calendar tempers bare skin with representations of a man for the people. Dough eyed Putin sniffing a flower, suited Putin snuggling a puppy, rugged camouflage Putin with fish (perhaps after shirtless fishing rod Putin caught a chill ), tough guy sweat pants Putin working out – a publication one must see to believe.

What compels the leader of global super-power Russia to strut his stuff is anyone’s guess. On the cusp of 2016, as I hang a northern lights calendar on my kitchen wall – millions of Russians nail Putin’s surreal calendar to theirs.


2015 – The Year of Pluto

Without a smidgen of hesitation, I name Pluto news-maker of 2015. Not since childhood Moon landings, has space exploration garnered the attention of New Horizons mission to Pluto. New Horizons doesn’t mind collective ignorance of her stoic journey. Ten years across 3 billion kilometers was never meant to be a matter of public scrutiny. July 14, 2015, New Horizons blushed with pride. Unprepared for accolades and global admiration, New Horizons mid-summer fly-by of “once a planet” Pluto snagged imaginations of the world. Overnight, Pluto and its moons rode a wave of awe and wonder. Mars might be a proper planet, but insignificant Pluto is glorious. Pluto captured our hearts in 2015 – nothing will ever be the same.

Pluto gets into the holiday spirit, decked out in red and green using a pair of Ralph/LEISA instrument scans

Pluto gets into the holiday spirit, decked out in red and green. This image was produced by the New Horizons composition team, using a pair of Ralph/LEISA instrument scans obtained at approximately 9:40 AM on July 14, from a mean range of 67,000 miles (108,000 kilometers). The resolution is about 7 kilometers per LEISA pixel. Three infrared wavelength ranges (2.28-2.23, 1.25-1.30 and 1.64-1.73 microns) were placed into the three color channels (red, green and blue, respectively) to create this false color Christmas portrait.


A day on Pluto, July 2015

On approach in July 2015, the cameras on NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft captured Pluto rotating over the course of a full “Pluto day.” The best available images of each side of Pluto taken during approach have been combined to create this view of a full rotation.
Snakeskin terrain

In this extended color image of Pluto taken by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, rounded and bizarrely textured mountains, informally named the Tartarus Dorsa, rise up along Pluto’s day-night terminator and show intricate but puzzling patterns of blue-gray ridges and reddish material in between. This view, roughly 330 miles (530 kilometers) across, combines blue, red and infrared images taken by the Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC) on July 14, 2015, and resolves details and colors on scales as small as 0.8 miles (1.3 kilometers).


erosion and faulting has sculpted this portion of Pluto’s icy crust

In this highest-resolution image from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, great blocks of Pluto’s water-ice crust appear jammed together in the informally named al-Idrisi mountains. Some mountain sides appear coated in dark material, while other sides are bright. Several sheer faces appear to show crustal layering, perhaps related to the layers seen in some of Pluto’s crater walls. Other materials appear crushed between the mountains, as if these great blocks of water ice, some standing as much as 1.5 miles high, were jostled back and forth. The mountains end abruptly at the shoreline of the informally named Sputnik Planum, where the soft, nitrogen-rich ices of the plain form a nearly level surface, broken only by the fine trace work of striking, cellular boundaries and the textured surface of the plain’s ices (which is possibly related to sunlight-driven ice sublimation). This view is about 50 miles wide. The top of the image is to Pluto’s northwest.



New Horizons scientists use enhanced color images to detect differences in the composition and texture of Pluto’s surface. When close-up images are combined with color data from the Ralph instrument, it paints a new and surprising portrait of the dwarf planet. The “heart of the heart,” Sputnik Planum, is suggestive of a source region of ices. The two bluish-white “lobes” that extend to the southwest and northeast of the “heart” may represent exotic ices being transported away from Sputnik Planum.

Four images from New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) were combined with color data from the Ralph instrument to create this enhanced color global view. The images, taken when the spacecraft was 280,000 miles (450,000 kilometers) away, show features as small as 1.4 miles (2.2 kilometers).

Image Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI


After About and Seven Black Widow Spiders, Gavrinis is my most viewed ponder. Go figure.


Most people have some knowledge of Stonehenge; without question the mack daddy of Neolithic sites. A sprinkling have heard of Carnac; over 3000 carefully aligned stones – some of monolithic proportions – erected between 3300 – 4500 BC around the village of Carnac in France. Very few have ever heard of Gavrinis.

Gavrinis, a tiny island off the coast of Brittany in France; was part of the mainland when a burial tomb was constructed sometime between 3500 and 5000 BC.  Not much more than a bumpy little outcropping of rock – only 750 by 400 metres, uninhabited Gavrinis slept undiscovered until 1835. French archaeologists poked around the sunken entrance to the burial tunnel but it wasn’t until the 1930’s that serious excavation began.

Gavrinis is unlike any other Neolithic site; consisting of over 50 stone slabs, placed to form the entrance tunnel and inner chamber – carvings on these slabs…

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Solstice Auroras

Northern hemisphere winter arrived this morning at 4:48 UT. For an imperceptible moment -23.5 degrees on the celestial sphere heralded our shortest day, longest night. Oblivious to the sun reaching its southernmost declination, far north chortled in approval to the sorcery of aurora’s incantation.

Whitehorse, Yukon December 21, 2015

Oliver Nagy made this cool image between the June and December solstices in 2014. The camera was fixed to a single spot for the entire exposure time, and it continuously recorded the sun's path as glowing trail s across the sky. The breaks and gaps between the lines are caused by clouds. This image shows the shifting path of the sun over the months between a June and December solstice. As seen from the Northern Hemisphere, the sun's path gets lower each day.

Oliver Nagy made this cool image between the June and December solstices in 2014. The camera was fixed to a single spot for the entire exposure time, and it continuously recorded the sun’s path as glowing trail s across the sky. The breaks and gaps between the lines are caused by clouds. This image shows the shifting path of the sun over the months between a June and December solstice. As seen from the Northern Hemisphere, the sun’s path gets lower each day.




Forgive another re-post. In three days Christmas party season evaporates, returning Notes to her former self.


There’s a pack of postage stamps somewhere, I saw them last spring while searching for tax receipts. A book of ten glossy peel and stick intentions, tossed with irreverent haste into the chasm of a bottomless drawer. With nothing to mail, all I wanted was to hold the possibility.

Trying to remember the last time a hand written letter arrived at my door-step,  I faced the reality a Christmas card from my sister counted – her decision to pen sentiments meant more than an e-card. At least she bothered to find a stamp.

The more I thought about it, my mind’s eye paraded her distinctive calligraphy to a shoebox on the closet shelf. There it was, resting atop a lifetime of penned treasures, stoically guarding a dusty box of tender expression. Letter after letter passed through my hands, serenaded by  pen strokes’ symphony.

I found myself mourning a future of…

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Annoyances and Bad Form

Time for my annual Christmas party ponder. A grumpy, exhausted caterer’s list of annoyances and bad form –

You failed to inform us “Sparky” is a very bad dog. You – executive of a major corporation hosting a Christmas party with your lovely wife. Never mind ridiculous expectations and timeline, we’ll make it fabulous. Pardon me? Sparky is snarling at my chef because he doesn’t like men wearing caps? Would you like a hair in your prime rib? Never mind. Oh, Sparky is hungry. You want my chef to feed him while carving the beef? Maybe you should feed Sparky and put him in another room. How silly of me, Sparky is much too precious. Just watch him beg for food as your guests awkwardly pretend Sparky isn’t drooling at their feet. Let me assure you – bad dogs are neither cute or entertaining, Sparky is a very bad dog.

Bad dogs have nothing on bad people. Being a reflection of his clueless environment, Sparky pales in comparison to blithering clunk-heads oblivious to their surroundings. You’re a guest at a company dinner – guests at 6 pm, passed appetizers and drinks for an hour, please be seated for dinner at 7 pm. Look around – this isn’t a restaurant, did you notice the kitchen we set up behind pipe and drape. Never mind, please be seated. Oh wait, you changed tables and now are making a scene because servers couldn’t find you to deliver a gluten free vegan meal? My sincerest apologies, if you would be so kind as to take your seat we’ll have you eating in no time.

Place setting jumpers and bad dogs pale next to passed appetizer garbage dumpers. Garbage dumpers catapult beyond canape lunges. Pushing guests aside to ensure first crack at a platter,  only embarrasses individuals oblivious to polite decorum. Taking an appetizer then depositing the pick, spoon or napkin back on the tray of canapes epitomizes bad form. Garbage dumping eclipses annoyance, forcing an immediate server about face to the kitchen. Clearly common sense eludes these geniuses – why should they care when a full platter returns to the kitchen for a scrub because their garbage prevents servers from feeding co-workers.

Baked Brie is not a pie. Yes, I see you put half a pound on your plate but no, I don’t have a fork. See the little knife for spreading it on sliced baguette? Notice scores of people politely waiting to spread a morsel of Brie on that bread? Is grumpiness trickling from corners of my forced smile? Fair enough, you probably haven’t seen a wheel of Brie large enough for fifty people – figure it out – I still don’t have a fork.

I’m sorry, your host didn’t order coffee. No, I don’t have any hot water with lemon. Can I make an exception for you? With all due respect please don’t confuse my good nature with perceived ability to pull a kettle out of my ass. I’m sure you’re lovely, mean well and truly desire a warm beverage – please look around, this isn’t a restaurant, there isn’t a pot of coffee in the back. This is the observation deck of an office tower – even if I could boil water, your host didn’t pay for hot beverage service. Can you understand my limitations, has it occurred to you one exception opens a can of worms I haven’t the staff, authority or inclination to deal with. Do you really think one exception ends with you, that none of 200 in this room will demand equal consideration? You don’t like my attitude, poor customer service? Take it up with your host – I don’t have a freaking kettle.

Why are you blocking our service area? Are you vacant, oblivious, gripped with self importance vast enough to deem it your right to stand where you damn well please? How many times have I politely asked you to step aside? Are you passive aggressive, amused by my servers struggling to maneuver around you, honestly this inconsiderate? Did you notice that one ton truck outside? What crosses your mind each time I ask you to move? Are you conscious of exhausted staff struggling with enormous loads, dolly after dolly of heavy equipment hauled outside, loaded on that truck? Silly me, of course you didn’t.

I’m tired – Christmas party season is over in a week. Like childbirth and tequila, destined to seem like a good idea the next time it rolls around.