Monthly Archives: June 2012

Barn cuteness

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted something that makes me want to go “awwwww!”. Let me introduce you to Ally and Carson – two kittens who were born at the barn this year from yet another orange cat that found a home there. Both are still kittens, despite their size and they are still playful; pouncing on anyone and everything. I can’t attest to how bright they are as they do tend to chase at nothing from time to time! They are learning how to be barn cats and catch mice and voles, etc and here is Ally sharpening her claws on the fence!

And here she is, perhaps peering at a mouse below?

But Carson takes the cake for being the most flexible, laid back cat. Here he is nestled into the grass. But don’t let appearances deceive you. You can flip him over and he will just dangle there, perfectly content to hang in mid-air. I think he purrs sometimes too. oh, and he’s not just furry, he’s fat too!

Travel: Yet Another Airport

Ever feel like a mouse? Go to an airport. You never really know what the big picture is, there are hidden pathways that you cant see, someone is always watching you and the cheese at the end is dubious. Some airports are better than others, but that’s more a reflection that you will be spending a lot of time in them and someone took pity on the poor travellers than any desire to make them destinations. Noone ever goes on vacation and raves about the gardens in the airport or the quality of the airport day hotels, but oh, to the business traveller, every bit of false normality is welcome.

The small airport. This is the airport that everything is right there in your face. The one I saw was in China…way inwards in China. You can see the ticket sellers, the check-in booth, the luggage handler dude, the security check and the door to the plane all from standing in one spot. There is a nice benefit to all this because you aren’t ever really separated from your group – which is a great security blanket when you don’t speak the language!

The very small airport. There is the quaint airport in this little town in the South-Eastern US. The one that still issues a ticket in a piece of regular paper. I carried that ticket with me to a major hub airport where they said that had never seen that and promptly tore it up and issued a regular one. The airport was also so small that the prop plane pulled up to the door and we just walked out and got on. Oh and the car rental dude had to wait for the plane because it was late!

The developing country airport. Then there are the airports that are too big to be quaint, but too small to really have a lot of the modern conveniences. So the bags were unloaded into a room and then the passengers fought to get in and out of the room and grab their bag (also in China). Or there are the airports where there are no rooms at all (one of them in Brazil – fastest service I ever had though).

The airport decoration. However, no matter the size of the airport, those uncomfortable scoop plastic chairs from the 70s are always in style. These are the chairs that you stick to in hot weather, that give you a hemrroid in cold weather and that you slide off of if you’re not careful. And they are usually orange or dirty white. I still remember those chairs. ow.

The airport constants. These transcend language. There are just things that you don’t do at an airport. It doesn’t matter where I am, I know the security pat down routine. It may vary a little but you still have to hold your arms out, feet slightly separated, wait, turn, wait, explain you are wearing a belt buckle, turn, smile and hope for the best. Interestingly, the only parts that generally change are a) whether they pat down all of your bra, just the middle or just the underwire or b) whether they physically feel your hems/cuffs. Other than that, I swear all security people around the world go to the same “pat down” school.

The luxury elements. But the airports you really remember and appreciate are the ones with business lounges. With hot free food. And hot showers with fluffy towels. Like the one in madrid! Even the toiletries were nice almost to the point that you wanted to take them with you. Then there are amenities like in schiphol in amsterdam with a mini art gallery to while away the time between connections; but only if you are in the right area of the maze…i mean airport. The singapore airport of course has the gardens and the pool and if you get the right angle your photos look like you visited the botanical gardens. The  british airways lounge in heathrow term 5 is very nice. Any of the airports with the massage clinics rate high in my book.

And I’ll leave you with a last thought….if I can write a post this long just about airports, you know I’ve travelled way too much!!!!

Review: The Water Rat of Wanchai….2

huh. Ok, I had only meant to read a few more chapters, but I ended up finishing the book. So this will be the 2nd and last of my reviews of this book (read the first here). I left our heroine in Thailand and about to hop over to Guyana hot on the trail of the money. It’s when she gets there that it becomes apparent that she’s really out of her normal locations. She stops being the super-know-it-all-bullet-proof go to girl and starts to be a bit more human. Just enough that you think it would be cool to be her, but not too much smugness that would turn the reader off.

The book continues at a good pace – not too slow, but not so fast that you can’t keep all the details in mind. There are a few twists and turns, but nothing too radical (like you can’t tell who the bad guys that are going to double cross you from a mile away!). The characters are all quite practical as well – which is a nice change from the homicidal maniacs you general run across in books to the point where on the 3rd or 4th double cross, etc that leaves you thinking “enough already! just let it go!”.

All in all, a very satisfying read and good start to the series.

Happy reading!

Book: The Water Rat of Wanchai

Here’s something new – a book review when I’m not finished reading the book yet! It’s sort of like a travel blog as you’re travelling. I’ve been wanting to read this book forever, but it was over my price point (if I didn’t have a price point, I’d buy a LOT more books). When kobo FINALLY gave me a certificate I could use, I went crazy (just a little). If you haven’t heard about this series by Ian Hamilton yet, where the heck have you been??? First, it’s about a forensic accountant, and, yes, that’s as exciting as it sounds. However, the main character is not your usual forensic accountant – she’s more of a troublershooter-mercenary type of girl. I’m on chapter 13 (they are short chapters) and she has yet to bring her martial arts to bear, but you can just imagine her frightening competency that would send most people scurrying away. I mean, how many accountants do you know that use a rolodex to organise international sim cards and have alias at the tips of their fingers?

Another attraction for me are the settings for the story. Ava Lee lives in Toronto (as do I) and it’s always fun to read how fiction authors describe a place you know really well. She also travels to Hong Kong (been there) and then onto Bangkok (didn’t make it there) and I believe Guyana (have friends from there) is in her future. Ian Hamilton does a pretty good job of capturing the essence of the places without a lot of tedious detail.

One thing in the last couple of chapters that have emerged is that Ava Lee is a lesbian. Now, whenever sexual preference is highlighted in a book that is not a romance, I wonder if it is there for the plot or if it is a poorly constructed character development – one step up from a shopping list of the character’s physical attributes. Only the next few chapters will tell!

So far….I want to keep reading.

A Black Barn and Yellow Rapeseed

The first time I heard canola called “rapeseed”, I was on a train in Europe and I was sure I didn’t hear the guy properly! Either way, it’s so pretty when it’s in full bloom. I was driving by and saw this black barn and knew the field was rapeseed (don’t ask how I knew, I don’t know how I knew!) and made a point of getting up at 5 AM and coming back when I knew it was going to be full bloom. This is the first time I’ve actually gotten up out of my cozy warm bed to get a photo. ugh. (Is that a sign of maturity?) Unfortunately, the sky didn’t cooperate, but other than that, I love the yellow and black contrast.


Adventures in Climate Change Travelling to the Dirtiest Places

Well, there’s no point in cleaning up clean places, is there?

[WARNING! the following may be distressing to some readers who think travel is pretty and exotic]

Here’s a job tip for you: In the interview, if they ask if you can travel, find out not only WHERE their projects are, but what KIND of projects are they. Example: As I am a Chinese born outside of China, I was excited at the prospect of visiting the Chinese projects and seeing the country for the first time. If they had told me I would be going to mining towns, I may not have been quite so excited.

I didn’t sign up for this job because I wanted to go to exotic Bali (that was just a perk!), but coal mines and landfills? My wardrobe consisted of black jeans, safety shoes, coats that could be rinsed off and wet wipes. Lots of wet wipes. (That should be one of my travel tips!)

Most of the Chinese towns I went to were industrial towns built up around a main mine. I remember scenes as dusty and grey. Seeing how locals lived was like learning a new language! Shops looked different – no neon signs. Towns were often only marked by the “gateway” you drove through (usually red) when you turned off the main road.

It was landfills in Africa. The African safari I went on once in Tanzania is not the same as visiting an African landfill. Same deal with Mexico – it doesn’t matter that there is an agave (for tequila) farm across the road, you won’t really notice it as you are climbing a landfill past decomposing biological matter (and I’m not even talking about the decapitated head – you think I’m kidding, don’t you?).

Africa as well – the main cities like Accra and Dakar were choking on diesel fumes and dust from the unpaved roads or markets or gathering areas by the side of the road. You do get used to it – the same as you get used to the heavy smoke from cigarettes! You either stop coughing after awhile or not!

And landfills! Here’s another tip: if you are going to work with greenhouse gas reduction projects, stay away from landfills (they smell and I still don’t know what’s on the bottom of my shoes), coal mines (ditto) and any type of agricultural waste (pig crap, chicken crap – doesn’t matter who crapped, you just don’t want to have to count it in any season except winter!).

It’s all part of the adventure. The ying to the yang. These were the trips that made life interesting; the colour commentary to the dry spreadsheets of numbers that I dealt with back at the office. These were the true adventures of the carbon warrior!


That’s not fog……

Travel: West Ireland

There is a place called Fahamore on a little tip of Ireland that smells of the salt from Brandon Bay and the green of County Kerry. You wouldn’t really know it unless you were looking diligently for a little heaven on earth. It’s a tiny place with a famous pub Spillane’s (and of all the places to meet a fellow Canadian who recognized my accent, really!). There isn’t anything but sea, sky and land – you have to go elsewhere to even find a movie theatre (or seaweed baths in Ballybunnion), but the views of the fishermen at the dock are quite satisfying 🙂 You can rent a house amid the horses and fields and bikes from the pub. Not far away, there is a lovely quiet bay to learn kayaking and another bay for wind and kite surfing. It’s the type of place you can go for a bike ride at 10 pm in the summer twilight or a horse back ride over the dunes and sandy beach.

He's a stallion!


And a wee red car



Travel: Ballybunnion Sneak Peak

Where? It’s in Ireland. I visited it when I was staying at Dingle for a work offsite meeting. And the names just keep coming….

I just posted on the climate change job I once had and it reminded me of the first offsite I went to. It was a complete mystery to me as to what an offsite was. Why was the company paying to take us all to another country for a couple of days. I get it now and the formation of the team was key for keeping the company together for as long as we did. But just wanted to leave you with this tidbit on this corner of the world.

Ballybunnion is an oceanside town known for its seaweed! You rent a bath and they fill it with seaweed and hot water and you soak. At first, one thinks ewwww!!!, but it’s really quite nice once you leave the prudish, North American obsession with anti-bacterial soaps behind. In any case, here is the beach the seaweed comes from.

Lonely? Want to meet people? Work in Climate Change (Adventures – 2)

Raise your hand if you know what a climate change-r does? Is that a word? My friend, when asked what he did, used to say “I save the world, and you?” – mostly because it is easier to describe what an astrophysicist does than a climate change-person. I don’t think he says that anymore, because we’re not certain that what we did saved the world. It tried to, but the results are inconclusive.

One aspect of joining this indescrible field was meeting people. When I started, it was all on the job learning. My boss was a political scientist, my senior colleague was a biologist, and I hired an environmental scientist. The centre of the carbon markets was London at that time (we’ve since learned that the world is round) and a more rabid cosmopolitan city there never was. When I moved there to a tiny little firm, the office was filled with investment people, shark-tagging biologist, a former bar owner, traders, linguists, musicians and a lawyer. Tell me you couldn’t have fun at work with that mix!

If we weren’t discussing the latest art exhibit, we were trading travel tips or flying remote control helicopters around the room. There was lively discussion about living in London and real estate, of course. Our offsite meetings were hilarious – setting up the guys for a wax job at the spa or stealing each other’s cars or jumping into the freezing Celtic sea in underwear or trying to take compromising photos.

But they were all smart and well-travelled. If you only knew 2 languages, you were backwards (I know 1+0.75+0.10+0.05). Mostly, we all learned on the job and made things up as we went along – some worked and some didn’t, but I learned from each one. It was one of the most dynamic places I’ve ever worked. Maybe because of all our backgrounds, we approached working in a team from a more open, accepting point of view. We knew each of us was different so we made allowances and learned to deal. May you find as dynamic a work place as I did.