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Monday, September 19, 2005

Time’s Arrow: Leros to Keci Buku

Today is the day James and I board our sailboat. We embark at 11 am in Lakki, which is the main harbour on Leros. We get all the details, like how to use the boat toilet, then we sail for Lipsos, island of the 42 blue-domed churches. Lipsos is a pretty untouristy place, which I’m sure will be well appreciated after the bustle of London and Athens.

The next day we head to Arki, a little island with a permanent population of 47 people. Perhaps we’ll be able to meet them all. We’re going to Manoli’s place. Manoli runs a little oasis of a taverna and is apparently quite the DJ.

Day 3 we sail to Patmos and explore the famous Monastery Island where St. John was inspired by visions to write the Book of Revelations. The 10th century monastery built by the Crusader Knights is still active and part of daily life. I’m looking forward to the bakery.

Day 4 we sail for Pandeli, day 5 Paleonissos, which has little more than a herd of goats, day 6 Vathi and up to a tiny fishing village to Poppy’s, which is a little family taverna. I hear that Poppy’s mom makes the best homemade dolmades. Then day 7 we leave for Kos at sunrise. While the skipper is dealing with the paperwork to get us into Turkey, we’re going to see the famous tree where Hippocrates supposedly taught, then we’ll enjoy a chocolate milkshake on the waterfront as recommended by the skipper.

We’re sailing with SeaScape Sailing and they sail the boat but also teach us how to sail. I think there are about 8 people per boat and they take 3 boats. The first thing they told us was to read the itinerary then ignore it. We go where the weather lets us go and some of these small islands can become inaccessible.

Next stop Turkey.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Santorini Sunsets

James and I just spent 3 really fun days on Santorini. We stayed in a hotel called Rena’s Place, which is in Fira, the main town. The hotel is off the beaten path but not so far off that you don’t know where the path is. We rented a scooter and drove around the whole island.

I am truly no stranger to peril.

We rented one scooter and James drove. The first afternoon he came to pick me up and it was like the pelican landing in The Rescuers, not sure if anyone remembers that old Disney flick. We got better.

Yesterday we went to Perissa, which is a black sand beach. It was pretty nice, then we scootered over to the Red Beach, which requires a bit of a hike in, but was really lovely. The sun set on the red sand was picture perfect.

We just spent 10 hours on a ferry, and arrived at the hotel in Athens, the one that did not honour our first reservation, and now our room is being cleaned. There was something resembling an undershirt hanging from the bathroom door and unidentificable debris on the floor. One night only and close to the train stop.

So Travis, James will sample the kalamari for me because “stay safe” also means don’t eat things you are allergic to. I did have great pasta last night with Santorini tomatoes, olive oil and garlic. And, there seems to be a large number of Mexican restaurants on the island, not sure what that is all about.

Crazy, thank you for the reminder that I am in Europe with my best buddy and clearly no hot sticky metro can beat the fact that we are away for a whole month. Bollocks to the work life. This is the life part of the work/life balance.

Tomorrow we get on a sailboat for 2 weeks, yahoo! I have nothing but exciting thoughts, but I must go to bed.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Athens Arrival

James and I arrived in Athens last night. Our flight was delayed 1 hour because someone missed the plane but their bag did not. The baggage had to be unloaded and reloaded without the offending case. Such is airline travel. The British Airways’ “industrial action” with their cater also meant we had vouchers for food rather than service on the plane.

Our Athens hotel was apparently 50 m from the train station but that was not the case. Well, okay, it is probably true but there are no signs so we spent an hour wandering around, circling in really, like with prey. When we finally found Hotel Diethnes, they did not have our room. Yes, we had a reservation, but there is a conference in town and we think they double sold our room. We were transferred to Hotel Remvi, which is actually quite nice and may be better than our first choice.

James and I wanted to go to the Acropolis and the Plaka today but it is so damn hot, and we slept until 10:30 and by the time we crawled out of the hotel it was 1 pm. Now it is 2 pm and we’ve found the cool of the internet cafe.

I think I’m allergic to Greece, maybe Europe in general. There is smoking everywhere and I’m having a hard time of it, especially having come from Vancouver where it is practically a crime to even think about cigarettes. The last patron in our hotel room was clearly a smoker, it is hanging in the room. Nothing like second-second-hand smoke.

Athens reminds me a lot of Bogota, narrow streets, lots of pollution, crumbly buildings ... but I like it. Friends I spoke to who had been to Athens said I’d be disappointed, but I don’t like to set travel expectations so I haven’t been disappointed yet by a city. They each hold interesting pockets. Like right now we are on Folkinos Negri, which is a tree-lined pedestrian street. There are all sorts of cool cafe/bars and it is around lunch time so lots of locals are hanging about having coffees and icy drinks.

Being somewhere without English signs is pretty cool. I now understand the saying “it’s all Greek to me.” Sefcharisto was my word of the day yesterday. No idea how to spell it in Greek, but it means thank you.

Friday, September 09, 2005

London Highlights

James and I arrived in London on Sept 8. It was a rather long flight but not too unpleasant. A fellow who lives in our apartment, on the same floor as us, was also on the flight, and was also taking the Picadilly Line into Central London. His family lives in London so we had a rather able guide right off the bat. Thankfully my London friend advised me of the best way to get to the Victoria Services Club because neither James or I bothered to find out the address in advance. It is an adventure afterall. I knew the general area, and again, my good fortune was that I’d written down the phone number. It is on Seymour st. right near Marble Arch.

We got off the tube at Hyde Park Corner and walked through the park to get to Marble Arch, which was also our starting point this morning. We took The Original Bus tour to the 20 or so stops that hit the West End highlights. Buckingham Palace was first. Lovely, big, and tourists aplenty. Across from the Palace is St. James Park and the entrance is Canada Gate. We rode the bus over to Westminster Abbey, which is also stunning. The Abbey is huge and it took us a very long time to go through. It is like IKEA in that you are cattle herded along a particular route. Lots of people stop and hold up the queue. My favourite part was the Quire, which is where the choir sits. It is three rows on either side of the aisle, with little red-shaded lamps. Chapter House was also interesting. It is a round room with frescos and medieval floor tiles. The images and text on the tiles are worn in many places but in Latin it says, “As the rose is the flower of flowers, so is this the house of houses.”

We went across to Big Ben, “look kids Parliament”, then got back on the bus for St. Paul’s Cathedral, which was closing as we drove by so we stayed on the bus and carried on to London Tower, which a friend told us to avoid at all costs. So much for the advice of friends. We had to get on a river boat at the London Tower Pier. It wasn’t so bad. The London Tower is where Anne was beheaded. The four towers of London Tower date back to 1078.

It started to rain while we were on the boat. It is London afterall. Now we are in an internet cafe trying to figure out how to get to Watford to watch a rugby match on Sunday.

Tomorrow, St. Paul’s Cathedral, lunch at the Old Miter, which is where James’ grandfather used to hang out during the war, then hopefully to Sadler’s Wells to see the Alvin Ailey Amercian Dance Theatre (which is sold out, but I hope they have one ticket somewhere). James is going off to the British Museum, which is open until 8 pm. I’ll meet him there after the show. I don’t think I can be in a museum for more than a couple of hours. I get artefact overload.

Now, there’s a city out there to discover. May be off to Ronnie Scott’s ...

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Trafford pledges $1.6 million for endangered languages

Print-on-demand publisher Trafford, based in Victoria, pledged $1.6 million on August 31 to help in the global race to document and teach endangered indigenous languages.

The donation was announced at WITFOR 2005 in Botswana, where over 800 delegates were gathered to discuss ways to give those in the developing world access to technology.

$1.6 million is a tremendous gift. The full press release is available on the Trafford website.


Leaving Lotusland

Tomorrow is the day! I’m leaving ... on a jet plane ... leaving ... but I’ll be back in a month.

James and I are off on an adventure. We leave for London tomorrow on the overnight flight, arriving jetlagged at 1:30 in the afternoon. We spend 3 full days in London then leave on the 4th day for Athens, spend a couple of days there.

Despite the millions of people who visit Santorini, we’ve decided to go. I was leaning to full avoidance, but then friends who had visited convinced me to go. So we’re going, and now I’m excited about the whitewash walls and marine blue skies.

On Sept 18 we fly from Athens to Leros. In Leros we get on a 55 ft sailboat and sail from Greece to Turkey. We do that for two weeks, then go from Keci Buku to Marmaris, hang out in Marmaris, ferry across to Rhodes to visit the medieval city, then travel up to Istanbul.

We spend 5 days in Istanbul and it is one of the cities I’ve always wanted to visit. I’m in complete awe of the Blue Mosque and Aya Sofia, maybe there will be some belly dancing and carpet buying.

In the meantime, the shop will not be tended for the next couple of weeks, but I’ve set up the auto-blogger with the itinerary details so that my today self can write about my future self so that you can read my past self in the present. Time’s arrow.

Posts from the road are also likely but I suspect infrequent. Cheers to all and I’ll down some ouzo on your behalf.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Swinging from the Phone Tree

I have been on hold for approximately 1 hour today. I have spent a maximum of 20 consecutive minutes on hold. The rest of the time has been navigating phone trees. I nearly lost my mind in the Yahoo Search phone system, now I am on hold with VISA.

First, there is no reason that I should have spent as much time as I did speaking to Yahoo. It is online advertising, why do I even need a person for this? Well, if you need a credit for clicks not authorized because the helpful representative activated your account without authorization, then you need to speak to someone. The madness of the phone system is not conducive to speaking in a friendly voice to the person who eventually answers your ring.

And VISA, need I say more. The phone options do not match what I need and yet all options force me to enter my 16 digit number relentlessly. I’m being driven to drink here.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005


Just so I don’t forget, and in case anyone else is interested:

Nina Smart, publishing liaison librarian at Simon Fraser University, has a blog of informatiton resources for publishing.


CNN via Slashdot: Automatically Returned Audiobooks

On Slashdot there is an interesting story from CNN about some US libraries using Microsoft Media DRM to automatically return audiobooks that are overdue.

Essentially a patron borrows the title for 3 weeks or whatever the standard borrow time is. After 3 weeks, when the book is due, the patron must renew it or return it. If the book is not renewed or returned, the audiobook is unreadable because the encrypted file is no longer playable.

Here’s the CNN story.

Just yesterday James and I were talking about distribution models in a digital era and how technology is or will be used to protect copyright. (There are lots of things I’d like to say on copyright, but for the moment, let’s assume that we do want to protect copyright.)

The conversation came up in part because I came across this blog Freedom to Tinker, which had a link to a Princeton student’s thesis on the affect of filesharing on the music industry.

PDF: Music Sales in the Age of File Sharing

I haven’t had a chance to read all 73 pages, but the abstract notes that although filesharing had a negative affect on sales by the 15-24 age group, there was a positive affect on sales by older age groups, which resulted in an overall positive affect.

So what does this mean for books? Should we give away content? Should the above librarians not worry about encrypting audiobooks?

I sit on both sides of the fence at the moment.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Rhythm Bound—Tap Dance Hits Vancouver

Tonight I took Roxane Butterfly’s two workshop. She taught two classes for the West Coast Tap Dance Collective, a very fine organization.

Roxane was named Butterfly by legendary tapper Jimmy Slyde, who will be in Vancouver this weekend for the Vancouver International Tap Dance Festival. The festival weekend means hundreds of tap dancers and the best tappers in the world will be in this city. And, on Monday, they will be performing at the Playhouse.

$42 for adults and this is a 2-3 hour show, absolutely fantastic. These are the top dancers in the world, who rarely, if ever, share the stage in this way.

More photos of Roxane


Friday, August 26, 2005

OK Computer goes to the Blogs

Radiohead has a blog. Dead Air Space. I like the candid photos, but is that really a dog?

Forget 50 Cent, Amazon.com has short fiction for 49 cents

Amazon.com is way ahead of its fellow online book retailers. You can still buy the latest 50 Cent album, as well as cameras, phones, jewellery—bless their cotton socks—almost anything. Earlier this year you could also watch short films, and now you can buy short stories for 49 cents. Right, I forgot they also sell books.

Amazon announced this week Amazon Shorts. They are starting with 59 authors who’ve submitted short fiction, and Amazon is selling the stories for 49 cents each. You get a digital file. I haven’t bought one yet so I don’t know what it looks like.

Amazon Shorts web page

Categories include Literature and Fiction; Nonfiction and Essays; Biography and Memoirs; Maybe You Know ...; Mystery and Thrillers; and Editors’ Picks.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The First Day of School

Powells.com has a fantastic newsletter. They’ve got book reviews, first editions that they flog, interviews, bestseller lists and great bits of personal information, like where their staff went on summer vacation. This month they also solicited 200-word essays and comments on the best/worst day of school, which got me thinking about first days of school.

As a girly girl, the first day of school always meant a new outfit. I wasn’t a fan of dresses, but I did accessorize at an early age. My fashion downfall occurred in second grade when I was still at the age when allowance only bought penny candies not ensembles.

The current fall fashions are forcing fashion flashbacks upon me: the browns, yellows and greens of the 70s. My first day of second grade my mother adorned me in relish green slacks and a mustard yellow turtleneck. I understand. She was a slave to the fashion mags of her time. But it was still wrong. And the rainbow belt? So misguided.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Fall Preview

The Fall book season is upon us! Fall seems to be busy for every industry, but September and October are particularly busy times in publishing. Lots of literary festivals, lots of marketing and pushing of the “hot books this fall.” Publisher spend most of the fall trying to get readers’ attention, hoping their top books will be remembered at Christmas time. Not sure whether that is misguided marketing or not, but it happens.

Based on advance reading copies, Quill’s Fall listings and the Globe and Mail, here are my Fall Picks. The disclaimer is that these are the books I want to read, not necessarily the ones that I think will be the hot books. I noticed a strong native theme in my picks. Not sure why that is.

Amazon Listmania: Monique’s Fall Picks

And what am I reading now? I was asked that today.

Bookmark Now by Kevin Smokler. Little disappointed that Kevinsmokler.com has not recently been updated. I found out after the fact that Kevin was in Vancouver talking to the SFU book immersion group. I would have loved to sit in on that discussion.

Also reading Seth Godin’s All Marketers Are Liars (and hoping that Darren Barefoot will remember to pass on Seth’s link about book publishing).

What do you think about book marketing? Do you read reviews? See book ads in the papers, here about books from friends?

I heard that promoters of Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink were handing out copies at Robson Square on Saturday and were having a difficult time getting people to stop and talk to them. I guess the “power of thinking without thinking” was too much for people.

I passed by a mother and daughter this weekend. They walked by Book Warehouse on 4th Ave. and the mother stopped to look at the bargain books out front. “Books!” the little girl said. “I hate books.”

Scott told me once you can gauge how smart someone is by the number of books they’ve read or have in their library. My apartment is wallpapered with books. Smart maybe, but cool?

Kevin Smokler’s introduction to Bookmark Now is a great essay on the fun or coolness of books and the book industry. It’s definitely worth reading.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005


Shamble, stumble, flail, have a good time? No, we’re not getting legless, I’m talking zombies. Any Zombie obsessions out there?

Please join me Saturday, August 27 from 4 pm onwards.

ZOMBIEWALK 2005 starts at 4 pm from the VAG and 5pm from 15th and Sophia (near Main St).

Here are the details I’ve received:

The walk will start in two-stages as follows:

1. All non-lazy zombies (or “super zombies”) are invited to gather on or around the big steps at the Vancouver Art Gallery no later than 4pm. From the VAG the horde will be skytrain bound. After a stumble through the mall and a short jaunt on Vancouver’s fine public transit system we will de-train at Main St. station and stumble on up to the Bethlehem Lutheran Church - 320 East 15th - two blocks east of Main. Once there, we will take a short pause to collect ourselves, gnaw on brains, and meet up with . . .

2. The lazy zombies. A second group of zombies will gather in front of the above mentioned church (Bethlehem Lutheran, 320 East 15th, at Sophia and E 15th) at or around 5pm. Remember - zombies tend to move slowly and occasionally have problems with limbs falling off, body stiffness and possibly skytrain security officers. If you do not see any of your brethren exactly at 5pm, be patient. Mill about and look scary.

Once all zombie factions have massed at the church it will be time to head onward and uphill to Mountainview Cemetery at Fraser and 31st. For reference, the walk will proceed along Main Street to 31st should any zombie stragglers be left behind and/or spontaneous zombies wish to join the braaiiins procession.

Once at the cemetery, please be on good zombie behaviour - respect your brethren.

We will linger a short while in the cemetery before moving onwards to nearby Queen Elizabeth Park for some games, brains, fun, prizes, brains and a pinata or two.

Yes, you do have to dress like a zombie. Those who do not do so are welcome, but risk having their brains eaten by confused zombies. You have to admit - they’re not all that smart, but they know a good living brain when they smell it.

Potentially useful things to keep in mind:

Causes of zombie-ness:

As everyone knows - or should know - zombies are usually attributable to one or more of the following:

1. voodoo
2. science gone astray - chemical or biological accidents, experiments, viruses and the like
3. the apocalypse

Of course, there are many more possibilties. Be creative. Corpses in all stages of decay are encouraged.

For the low-budget zombie:

1. Oatmeal and liquid latex works wonders.
2. Food colouring and corn syrup makes convincing blood, but sticky. However, also tasty.
3. Value Village - but I’m sure it’s hardly necessary to mention that.

Finally: As mentioned previously - zombies are only really effective when travelling together in large groups. Bring your friends, foes, family and other loved ones.

Nothing says you love someone quite like caking yourself in make-up, limping down the street together and eating them in the park!

Not sure where this started but here’s a blog link that looks like the original. Supernovajuice.com

Wanna come?