bike route, in theory

There are some side streets in Vancouver that are designated bicycle routes. I’m not sure what this means entirely – I know it doesn’t mean there are only bicycles. I have noticed there are some intersections where cyclists can go on through and cars cannot. But there are loads of cars – some driving with caution but many are zooming, or 5 point turning in the middle of the road, backing up into the road, going the wrong way around a roundabout, etc. Sigh. I know vehicle transportation is part of our current system (that bicycle I bought didn’t fly here). Sometimes I drive – when I have heavy things to move, really far to go, or I’m broken somehow. Mostly I bike or bus. Or walk, if I can take the time for it. You see different things when you are moving at different speeds. And it feels good to mix it up.

It seemed that something was missing from the bicycle routes around our neighbourhood, specifically the East 10th Avenue route between Main St and Commercial Drive. There is no noticeable signage. There are tiny pictures of bicycles on the street name signs. Nothing else at side street roundabouts and intersections alerts vehicle drivers to the fact that they are about to cross or turn onto a bicycle route. And many people in cars are not expecting a cyclist. Heck, they’re probably just taking a short cut because the main commuter street is clogged with traffic. They are used to looking out for other cars, not cyclists.

Bicycles are not integrated into our idea of “traffic’. We in North America cruelly dumped all slower modes of transport for the shiny speedy gasoline automobile. We built our communities and our road systems with the car the main mode of transport. We didn’t realize how bad rush hour, oil prices and smog levels would get.  So naturally, through a lack of practice and a lack of consistent infrastructure already built in, many car drivers and cyclists do not know how to share the road.

The lack of cues to prod car drivers into realizing they are sharing the road with bicycles seemed like a hurdle we could tackle. Applied for a community grant from NSGP, and with a bunch of help from neighbours and friends, we made bike route signs and hung them along the bike route wherever possible, facing drivers as they approach a bike route.

See Bike Route Signs for the photos and more of the story>>>

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cell phoneability

Bah, cell phones. I live in Vancouver, BC, Canada, and it sure seems like everybody has one. I know that’s not true: cell phones cost money, and that doesn’t flow free for everyone. Buuut you can get a phone at the flea market or yard sale for cheap (or free from a friend who’s upgraded – beware the locked-to-a-network phone) and also, you can ‘pay as you go’, as opposed to ‘use and then pay’.

So, most people around here have cell phones, including me. I left my land line phone # at my last house of roommates – a phone # which I’ve carried from home to home with me since 1998. That’s when I lived briefly in Kits, the end of the era where the first 3 digits of the phone number was related to where in the city your phone was attached. Like with a CORD. Because even cordless phones had cords – from the base to the wall. Since then, phone systems have changed and prefixes have nothing to do with location – though Telus still lives in the Boot, near Boundary and Kingsway – you can see it from the Skytrain if you look south between Joyce and Patterson Stations). But I digress. A few times.

So my cell phone was acting funny. I suspected its demise was near. But who knew when? Surely, later. Not now…and then, it refused to turn on again. Which rendered it useless and left me without phone device suddenly. I could only hope that nothing out there was urgent. Because, I realized, I was kind of cut off. I live in an apartment building, with no front porch. No front door opportunity. There is yell-up-to-the-2nd-floor opportunity, but it’s not for the shy or the lazy. I also have no land line. There are phones I could borrow, for the most urgent uses…but I am used to having my own portable text mssg box/telephone. I like that I can think of a person, want to tell or ask something, and I can just send a quick text mssg. I like that I can be in touch with friends the other side of the world at the same time as I’m at work. I like that I can make plans at the last minute, and that I can communicate with close peeps without leaving the lineup to go the pay phone, wherever that may be. Cuz there ain’t as many around in this city. Cell phones have edged out some of the usefulness of the pay phone box…and I have a hard time thinking of where there actually IS one around here.

Do you know the location of your nearest pay phone? Usually at gas stations. Definitely not as many as there used to be around….before cell phones. And many remaining phone booths are not looking so good, or like they work at all.  And remember the country song lyric ‘here’s a quarter, call someone who cares?’…well it will now take you two darn quarters to make that local call. Dang.

I guess I will buy a new cell phone.

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Oh, look there’s a riot.

Riot 2011:  cars on fire in downtown Vancouver

Yup. Hockey Riot 2011. The second time the Canucks have lost in the final Stanley Cup game and some Vancouverites just can’t handle it. My hometown  has made the news with a bunch of destructive idiots taking the opportunity of a gathered crowd to riot. Just for the point of rioting. This is the worst part – they weren’t fighting against anything. Just behaving badly. They weren’t protesting to uphold human rights, not striving to change things for the better…nope. Just breaking shit.

I watched that Wednesday evening hockey game with friends at a house in Vancouver just outside downtown. Good job Canucks…better job Boston. I’ve grown up with the Canucks as my team – but we have the classic saying – there’s always next year! Shortly after the game ended I saw black plumes of smoke rising from the downtown core. Oh. no. Shit. Really, People? Damn. Some of my friends were downtown – they texted that it was getting bad there so they were trying to get out.

Chapters on Robson and Howe, downtown Van

It was also nice to see the next day when folks came out and helped clean up. Plywood boards put up over broken windows became a space for message of love, apology, and calls for respect. This reminds me of writing on the cast on your friend’s broken arm.

I wonder if part of the reason why so many people were drawn into destructive and aggressive behaviours is that life is so complacent for us – so easy, so many choices, so free. There is a lack of fighting for survival – which is what our ancestors did for thousands of years…maybe we miss it? Rioting and looting is misdirected of course – but maybe at its core is a restless striving energy. Maybe some people need to get out and run around some more.

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wild Saturninian goats

Did you know? There are feral goat herds on the Southern Gulf islands in the Straight of Georgia, BC.  I knew they had lots of cute-but-annoying deer already. But I learned about the wild goats on a recent trip to Saturna Island. To histornerd out for a moment…the name Saturna comes from Santa Saturnina, a Spanish sailing ship under the command of Jose Maria Narvaez during his exploration of the Pacific Northwest coastline in 1791.

wild goats on Saturna Island

Estimates vary, but apparently there are around 100 wild goats. I saw about 12. They are descended from domesticated goats brought from Europe – either the ones kept on a ship to provide milk or escaped farm animals of the early farmers. Europeans starting settling on the islands in the late 1800s. Of course, the first nations peoples had villages on Saturna for thousands of years before that. There were fairly large permanent villages at one time, and they lived in cedar bighouses – some of the corner cedar posts are apparently still here.

i found this in the grass

The feral herds have roamed the nearly vertical slopes of Brown Ridge at the island’s south end for nearly a century. A couple of them looked like they were fighting (or play-fighting) but most seemed pretty low-key, not what I’d hope from something ‘wild’. But they are goats, not dragons, so okay then. Munch away endlessly on the grass, you chill wild goats.

They keep the grass trimmed short like a golf course – the slope looked like a giant steeply angled lawn… though with some bare patches, and narrow brown dirt goat paths winding along sideways.

view from Mount Warburton Pike on Saturna Island

sea lions, meet helicopter

Next visit on the Island was the spectacular East Point. There we saw sea lions lollygagging on a big rock. Also spotted flying right over the sea lions – a military helicopter.

Also at East Point is a dramatic sandstone shore, full of curves and holes. The rock  so clearly shows how it has been carved by water over many many years.

cool carvings, water!

Other fauna spottings included bats, deer, ravens, eagles, colourful hummingbirds…and the magnificent turkey vulture: shown below…soaring and probably looking for something to eat. Unfortunate name for a bird that is much like the glorified eagle.

soar like a turkey vulture

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crispy kale chips

A magical thing happens when you roast or pan fry kale. it transforms from a chewy tough leaf to a light crispy chip. It is the delicate cousin to the potato chip. I mean that in a good way. And you can make it at home, in about 15 minutes.

Rip the kale into pieces and mix them with some oil, salt and pepper, and whatever spices you like ~ add garlic! add Hungarian paprika! You can add a squirt of vinegar to the mix too. And then you can either roast or pan fry it.

Roast it in the toaster oven at 375° or oven at 400° for 10-15 minutes, stirring every 5 mins. Pull it out when lightly browned but still greeny – it will crisp up more after you take it out and it cools down a little.

Pan fry it (i fry kale alongside a few perogies for a quick little meal) and stir regularly so it doesn’t burn.

It doesn’t take long for kale to transform into crispy chip, and beware of cooking too long…turning the chip towards a future of bitterness and darkness…bwahahaha

I’m gonna try this with collard greens and swiss chard…both also nutritious green leaves that but can be a bit tough to eat.

{WASTE NOT TIP: Toss those tough leaf spines into a pot that you keep in the fridge and use it to make veggie stock, along with other edible but undelightful veggie bits like ends of carrots and garlic cloves. Stock freezes well}

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urban bubble

I believe that so many of our societal and individual problems are directly related to the lack of community in our culture. People live alone or in very small groups, disconnected from family, neighbours, elders –> these days most people do not have a ‘village’. When I say ‘village’, I mean a connected group that supports each other – a network of people that know each other.

In the urban setting, it seems the norm is to ignore most people around you; kind of necessary when you are passing by hundreds of people every day. Yet this norm of ignoring now includes anxiety and fear of talking to strangers. I’d say that in our culture it is considered odd to intrude on someone’s personal bubble when you don’t know them already. Say hello to a stranger and see the fear in their eyes – why is this person talking to me? What do they want from me that I might not want to share? Ask them the time and the relief oozes out of them as they respond and get to move on.

What must this isolation among strangers do to a person’s mind? Increased levels of anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive behaviours…I’d say most of us need community to have happier healthier lives.

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dandelion days

Spring in Vancouver! The park near my home is full of dandelions. 

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