on may 2, 2011, i woke up happy in my brand new vancouver apartment. my life had been going down the tubes in calgary –shitty job, shitty roommate, shitty breakup with my husband–and i left it all behind to pursue my dream life in vancouver (note: in this instance, “dream life” means something like not having to shovel snow and wait for the bus in -30C and instead is more similar to hanging out with my friends in a beautiful city, rather than the traditional incredible job, great house, low stress ideal that the phrase brings to mind. anyway, carry on). though i was surrounded by people who told me i would fail, things have turned out quite well…
in the moving van, filling up on the edge of calgary. brown grass & snow on the ski hill.
there was this raw-edged excitement that went along with packing up my things and charging out into a new life. in some ways, the time since i’ve been here has felt like a dream.
it hasn’t all been sunshine and roses, but the quality of my life has gone up dramatically, and i very rarely ever miss alberta. i have a solid group of friends, two jobs that satisfy my creative urges (photographer and florist), and my own small but lovely space. i’ve started riding a bike everywhere and that makes me so much happier than i ever expected it would. even just seeing a peek of the mountains through the clouds lifts my spirits so much and fills me with gratitude for living in this beautiful place.
here’s to two more years in vancouver (and two more, and two more, and two more…)
yes, a little departure from weird animals to show you something tiny and beautiful.
using sand collected from beaches the world over, dr. gary greenburg meticulously sifts through and photographs delicate, colourful, and fascinating grains. the results are somewhat astonishing. each photograph takes hours to compose; dr. greenburg had to invent a new way to photograph these sand grains, and combines several images with different focal points into the finished product. it makes me think of snowflake photography – so much effort to show us the simple beauty of something tiny and overlooked.
last thursday, i saw purity ring live, in what was one of the best concerts i’ve ever seen, and i’m a concertgoing veteran. it takes a certain amount of incredible to push me off my feet. but, whatever, that’s not the point of this entry. their opening band, blue hawaii, perfectly hit the spot.
today i discovered an incredible resource: free, online, university courses, from reputable schools such as mit, ubc, uc berkeley, yale, stanford, etc. the courses range from the history of rock, to intro to biological anthropology, to understanding epidemiology.
mit offers most (all?) of its courses for free, by sharing the materials used in teaching each course. you can find those at mit opencourseware.
openculture.com has over 700 free online courses to choose from. most are in a similar self-directed format as the ones from mit, linked above, and has direct links to many of the mit courses. most of the courses are available as lectures that you can download in mp3 format.
coursera.com offers courses in a more traditional format; the courses have start dates, modules released week-by-week, and optional workloads that you can take on to participate more fully. if you choose to take on the coursework, you will get certificates of completion/excellence, depending on your passing grades. i chose a course called useful genetics; i’ve read a lot about evolution and biology in the past year, and this will help deepen my understanding as i continue to learn about this field.
i took a year of university at the university of alberta, dropped out, and later took a course in canadian history from athabasca university (an online school), but have decided not to pursue a bachelor’s degree. this newly discovered resource makes me so happy, because i love to learn, but prefer a more self-directed path. i’m so excited!
another segment in my slowly-growing book love series; janna was rad enough to let me take her photo in her favourite coffee shop. i had a great afternoon hanging out with her and chatting over coffee.
and in her own words, why she chose these books:
Dungeon World: This is the core rule book for an indie tabletop Role Playing Game I bought off Kickstarter last August. It’s a game that aimed to bridge old-school dungeon crawler games with modern mechanics, and, reading it, I feel it was quite successful. It’s one of my favourite books right now because it inspires me. Almost every page in it sparked an idea. I haven’t felt so overwhelmed with creativity in ages. It has been a phenomenal story springboard for me and I’m actively channeling it into writing fiction and planning game worlds.
The High Window (Raymond Chandler): American Noir detective fiction from the 30s and 40s is probably my favourite fiction genre. Raymond Chandler is one of the top names in it and wrote a series around a private detective named Philip Marlowe. The High Window is the third book in the series and is one of my favourites because it’s one where you actually learn a lot about what it is that motivates Marlowe to lead the life he does, but also what cripples him from participating in a “normal” life. It’s particularly fun because he never actually TELLS you anything, the reader is actively puzzling it out based on Marlowe’s actions, many of which he simply does but refuses to justify or explain, even to himself (it is a first person narration). I love books that are also puzzles.
The Plague (Albert Camus): I have not actually read this book yet. I started it the morning this photo was taken. And it is that, the newness and mystery of this book, that qualifies it as a favourite. There’s very little I love more than a mystery bound between two covers.
Make Room! Make Room! (Harry Harrison): Make Room! Make Room! is a dystopian thought experiment on overpopulation written in the 1970s with an underlying argument in favour of birth control and sex education. The first time I read this book I was completely awed by it. It is everything I have ever wanted to write. It’s bleak and hopeless, and the characters are pathetic and sad but hopeful and proactive, and in the end life is just this indifferent juggernaut that steamrolls everything and reminds the reader of both the resilience of the individual, their adaptability, and the complete meaninglessness of anything they could possibly do.
Catch 22 (Joseph Heller): One of the most absurd and disturbing books I’ve ever read. It’s about some fighter pilots stationed in Italy during WWII who are all steadily being driven insane by the absurdity of the war and the army. It very steadily pushes from hilarious to horrifying, to the point where, by the time I hit the 2/3 mark and the story really starts going to hell, I would often have to put the book down just to keep from throwing up. Spectacularly powerful story, especially if you are like me and love war fiction or non-fiction.
holy cats, you guys! even though i have spent the whole day laying on the couch, being ineffective (except for the part where i dragged myself to the doctor to learn that i have strep throat), i had to share this with you all! at one point in the past, this blog kind of celebrated weird animal wednesdays, right…?
okay, onto the spider. it was recently discovered in the peruvian amazon and is noteworthy because it piles debris onto its web in order to make a spider shape much larger than its own body. some of the decoy spiders even have eight legs. is this an example of self-awareness in an insect?
here is a video of its discovery:
you can read more about the arachnid itself here.
i’m sick, it feels like my eardrums are going to flop out of my ears, and i’d rather just lay on the couch for the next three days…
but here is some swoony music, anyway.
a couple weeks ago, courtney turned me onto this version of vivaldi’s four seasons. i’d never heard the concertos before in their entirety, but this recomposition of a classic is mindblowing. whatever your stance on classical music, you should give your ears this treat.
holy fuck, you guys. charles bradley! this man recorded his first album two years ago, at 62, and is just about to release his second album (you can stream it on music.cbc.ca if you’re in canada).
and there’s even a documentary about him, because how often do sexagenarians break into the music business with soul albums?
i have found something that makes me feel so happy: carl sagan’s cosmos. many thanks to my friend michael for showing me this incredible series!
bandwagon, blah blah, but his excitement is overflowing and contagious. his vocabulary and style of talking were both precise and beautiful. for some reason, just hearing his voice cheers me up so much. i was interested in space as a kid but lost the desire to learn about it for years, until space became trendy recently, and although cosmos was filmed thirty years ago it remains relevant today.
the things carl sagan said just lift my heart indescribably.
“if you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe”
“the cosmos is also within us. we’re made of star-stuff. we are a way for the cosmos to know itself.”
and here you can watch the entire series legally, for free, on youtube.