August 22, 2017

Eclipse-shape shadows appear on ground....

The recent partial solar eclipse provided an obvious darkening of the skies in MetroVancouver. Temperatures actually cooled ever so slightly during the moments of near totality.

It also created a rare, perhaps once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon, along the pathway at Langara Golf Course, but reportedly repeated throughout the region.

Looking at the shadows on the ground, at about twenty-five percent eclipse, one can see clearly: the crescent shapes of the moon and sun!

Eerie. Strange. And only lasting the brief minutes of the actual eclipse. Most people miss the celestial event on the ground, because they are all looking up!

This scientific phenomenon won't be seen again in this area, until the next solar eclipse to come our way in 2033.

Photos by Jeem. 
Copyright 2017 by Jim Murray.

August 21, 2017

Total Eclipse of the Brain

Sherry had been given an idea from Susan to view the eclipse using binoculars. Something about the big end and little end and focusing and....

It sounded easier than it turned out to be.

Apparently it's not all that easy aligning the sun with the big end of the binoculars.

Oh wait a minute, something is appearing now... or not.

"Ya dragged me out here for this?" asked our lawyer friend, BT Mendlebaum (disbarred) to no one in particular.

Meanwhile, our dedicated photo-journalist was staring at the sun using spectacles provided by BT Mendlebaum. Something about back-engineering. "It's a prototype," offered Mendlebaum. "I don't necessarily vouch for their authenticity. Still. What's the worst that can happen?"

"This can't be a good idea" said G.G. Blynn.

And still, in the interests of science, Jeem continued to view the eclipse, giving full commentary to a bunch of golfers who had stopped on their way to their next tee.

The landscape continued to darken as we approached eighty-three percent.

Shadows were softer. Birds sought shelter in the trees. And golfers were confused and started heading towards the club house.

At the full impact of the eighty-three percent eclipse, Jeem was done too.

He plans to volunteer at the CNIB just as soon as he gets his special cane. "It'll be a prototype," says Mendlebaum.

Photos by Jeem and Sherry MacDonald.
 Copyright 2017 by Jim Murray.

August 13, 2017

Cornerstone Café in Victoria's Fernwood Neighbourhood

Not so long ago we had reason to visit Victoria and we stayed in a neighbourhood called Fernwood. It's a wonderful part of the city that is outside the normal tourist hustle and bustle.

In advance, Sherry discovered the Cornerstone Café, across from the Belfry Theatre, and we all went one bright, sunny morning.

This is not a regular coffee shop, though one might not know without asking. Sure it's about coffee and reading and socializing... it looks like a coffee shop. It's story is something else.

Cornerstone Café is a social enterprise, which means its profits go to the Fernwood Neighbourhood Resource Group, a non-profit society committed to creating a socially, environmentally and economically sustainable neighbourhood.

Prior to 2005 the building itself was a neglected eyesore, boarded up and unused. Local activists decided to revitalize the building and the area, and to provide space for a café, artists and locally owned and operated businesses. Within a year the Fernwood NRG had purchased the Cornerstone Building and in another year the heritage building was renovated, including affordable family apartments on the second floor. The renovation addressed environmental sustainability by installing, among other things, a geothermal heat pump and that energy, from the ground below the building, provides 70 percent of the building's heat and hot water.

The Cornerstone Café is working towards creating zero waste in all that it does, and maintains proper recycling and composting. Customers are encouraged to bring their own mugs, or those dining-in are given proper mugs and cutlery.  If someone wants a to-go cup, it will be one that is readily compostable.

Cornerstone Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

And finally: the coffee is pretty good too, though the cappuccino was too milky for our traditional tastes.

This wonderful café is a place where you can relax, meet friends and neighbours, take in music and special events, and discover community.

We should do this kind of thing more often and in more places.

Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2017 by Jim Murray.

Butchart Gardens in the springtime

We were in Victoria during the tulip season and while that floral burst is long gone, BT Mendlebaum suggested this post, mainly because she didn't get to join the rest of the gang at Butchart Gardens. 

Technically Butchart Gardens are in Brentwood Bay but over a million visitors each year seem to be able to find the place.

The gardens grew out of a quarry on Tod Inlet where the Butchart family had established a mining operation at the end of the 19th century. The limestone was exhausted in 1909 and the business of the gardens began. Slowly.

To this day, ownership of Butchart Gardens remains with the family. Tulips were the focus during our visit, but the Gardens are a delight anytime of the year.

Photos by Jeem. 
Copyright 2017 by Jim Murray.

August 10, 2017

Koko Monk Chocolates in Vancouver

If one believes the promotion pieces, Koko Monk could be one of the best chocolate places on the planet. It's an amazing yet small operation with creative and artfully designed chocolate confections and drinks, and the best Turkish coffee in the city.

Koko Monk opened in 2013 and since then has created a tremendous following and some major press.

We've been here a couple of times. It can get crowded and though it's nice enough inside, it can be a problematic finding a seat. That shouldn't deter anyone from visiting.

Koko Monk Chocolates Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Koko Monk uses raw chocolate, which is a whole, organic food with live enzymes. Natural sweeteners are used in all products, rather than the processed sweeteners found in most chocolates.

Share a flight of hot chocolates!

The benefits of raw, dark, organic chocolate are legend, including being a natural anti-depressant with a mood balancing chemical called Anandamine. Apparently it also unclogs arteries, detoxifies, aids in weight loss, increases UV resistance, slows the aging process and enhances your sex drive. BT Mendlebaum was impressed.

Vancouver's best Turkish coffee.

A signature hot chocolate.

Koko Monk has a large assortment of hot chocolates, made to order. Well worth the visit, and while there, talk to the owner Paul Dincer. He's passionate about chocolate and highly entertaining, informative and engaging.

Photos by Jeem. 
Copyright 2017 
by Jim Murray.

August 09, 2017

Vancouver's Pride Parade

The whole gang went. Well almost the whole gang: BT Mendelbaum marched of course. G. G. Blynn wheeled along, and Jim and Jeem went too.

A selfie with Morgan Oger.

The idea was to join our political leader, and the new premier, John Horgan, in the march. And we did, one way or the other.

Getting there was difficult. The West End was crowded with tens of thousands on the sidewalks and in the streets, making it especially difficult for G. G. Blynn to navigate. "Would ya keep up already!" exclaimed BT Mendlebaum, always helpful.

We finally got to our designated group only after Jeem was questioned by police for jumping over a barricade. And then we waited.... and waited. Our "float" was to join the parade at 12:30, and most of us arrived before noon. We waited, or most party members waited, until 1:20 before they actually took a small step.

Our gang, restless and fading in the heat, wandered off, to rejoin fellow New Democrats later, around the corner and down the street.

Jim's union.
What can we say about the parade? "No bagpipes. That's a problem," according to Mendlebaum. "Marching bands and marching soldiers would be nice" suggested Blynn. "It's not that kind of parade," said Jeem, as he looked up to see some people on a roof top. "Now that's where we should be!" and G. G. Blynn wheeled off to find an elevator.

Ever cool and smiling.

Thousands of people marched,  and several hundred thousands more watched, and our new premier received a fantastic response along the entire route.

Hedy Fry, a federal Liberal Party MP, was less well received though highly flamboyant. As usual.

Hedy Fry, MP.

G. G. Blynn never did find an elevator to a rooftop. BT Mendlebaum, our favourite lawyer (disbarred), handed out business cards. While taking photos Jeem backed harmlessly into a cyclist. That didn't go well, and there was more explaining to do with a nice constable from the VPD. Mendlebaum decided to represent her client and we all ended the day down at the station. For about four hours. "It's like going to Emergency," said Blynn.

And almost hidden, and certainly nearly forgotten, the homeless were present too. A reminder of the kind of the world class city we've become.

Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2017 by Jim Murray.