Christchurch

March 2, 2011

Over the last week or so, I’ve been following the news about the earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand.

In 2004 and 2005, I travelled to New Zealand twice, including visits to Christchurch. I’ve walked through it’s streets. Years later and an ocean away, seeing the state of the city after the quake…there are no words.

Donations can be made online via the New Zealand Red Cross website. More information can be found at the New Zealand Herald website.

The images below are random shots of Christchurch, circa April 2004. My apologies for the poor image quality. These were shot on a 5MP Vivitar, the first digital camera I owned.

Christchurch – April 2004

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Three Months Later…

September 18, 2010

It’s been a crazy three months…

Shortly after my last post, I headed south for my annual summer pilgrimage to the US. Highlights included Arches National Park, a visit with a friend in New Mexico, day trips to Santa Fe, the old Crossroads Diner in Mount Olive, IL and a flying visit to Chicago before crossing the border to Toronto, Canada.

The two Rush concerts went off like frogs in socks, particularly the Molson Amphitheater gig. RushCon Toronto also went well and much fun was had. Being one of the organizers, there was a lot of running around to do both before and during the convention.

Somehow, I had the endurance to go north and west via Highway 1. On the way, I battled the torrential summer storm downpours in Ontario, stopped in at a friend’s for the night in Winnipeg, chased star trail and prairie shots in Saskatchewan and left my driver’s license behind in Canmore, Alberta (more details later).

Upon my return to Vancouver, I collapsed for a few days. Little wonder – driving over 10,000km (6,213 miles) over the course of a month does tend to tire one out.

Here’s a map of the entire route:

In August, I flew to Las Vegas for another Rush concert and RushCon Vegas. This was the first time we’d held the Con outside of Toronto. New city, new venue, a one-day only event…we were a little nervous about it! It turned out that we didn’t need to worry. The Con was a success! Many new faces, a lot of enthusiasm and so many attendees that we ran out of stars for our Charity Auction! 😀

The Rush concert at the MGM Grand that evening was deemed by many to be one of their best-ever shows. Another spectacular performance by the boys. Following the concert, a couple of Rush friends held a private party in their suite at the MGM Grand. Caught up with some old friends and (finally!) being able to put real-world faces to a couple of names in the virtual world. Good times. 🙂

Whilst the Sunday was a relatively chilled out day, I wasn’t able to sleep that night. As a result, I have it on very good authority that I looked like hell at McCarran Airport on Monday morning. Props to C for holding seats for my friend & I on the flight to Denver. I’d sat down in the plane and fell asleep almost immediately – I don’t even remember taking off.

My friend and I landed in Denver, proceeded to our hotel and had a nap before the Rush concert at Red Rocks that night. Despite a number of technical glitches, the boys went off, particularly Alex during  “Working Man”.

May I present the evidence:

Red Rocks itself is a spectacular outdoor venue. If you ever get the chance to see a show there, take it.

During all this Vegas/Denver madness, I’d also returned to college on a part-time basis for Digital Intermediate Photography. Unlike previous studies at Langara, this was an Accelerated summer course. Classes were held twice a week, rather than the standard one. My friend Cindi and I finally got the chance to take a class together!

Overall, I was quite disappointed with this particular unit. I didn’t really click with the lecturer, there was a lot of concepts repeated from the Basic levels and it ultimately turned photography into a chore for me.

During the Basic units, we’d gone shooting on location to places like Granville Island and Vanier Park. I had thought the Intermediate unit would be similar, but upping the ante. For instance, a late afternoon/evening shoot on location with models and lighting (set up by the instructor – can’t do our own lights until we’ve completed Practical Lighting).

Instead, we were stuck on the college campus. I can understand what the lecturer was trying to do, by forcing us to be creative in difficult situations. Such an approach, however, only dimmed my enthusiasm for the subject in general.

On top of that, I’d started full-time studies in Publishing in early September. The last two weeks of Photography clashed with Publishing classes, so I’d be at one class at 6pm, then bolting to Photography for 6.30pm. Yikes! It is not a scenario I recommend to anyone!

The Publishing Diploma is going to be a lot of work, given that it’s a 2 year course crammed into 12 months. Despite the intense workload that lies ahead, it’s going to be fun!

So, that’s the nutshell version of my life over the last 3 months. Much of my time is going to be taken up by college studies until August 2011, so travel will be limited at best. If nothing else, it’ll give me a chance to catch up on posting photos of these journeys…


Busy Times on a Panoramic Planet

May 30, 2010

It’s been busy times these last couple of weeks. The project that holds most of my attention at the moment is the RushCon Photo Archive. A collection of images from RushCons past, it will be the central ‘herding point’ for any RushCon related photo I can find. So far, I’ve added a bunch of others people’s images (with permission, of course!) as well as selecting and editing some of my own. Not an easy task at the best of times.

Between the RushCon photo project and choosing images for my own website, I’m finding I’m developing a more critical eye when it comes to my photography. No doubt, my recent Photography studies have helped. Cultivating a form of ruthlessness is also an essential component. There are photos that I may have included on the old (now defunct) version of the site, but they are now being filed to the Trash bin. Some are not quite ‘good enough’ but I’m putting them aside for the moment. I may eventually post some of them here.

In closing, I came across the Photoble website this morning and found an interesting tutorial on creating mini panorama planets. As landscapes are one of my favorite forms of photography, I do have a few panoramas hidden in my collection. Some are quite good, others…well, I was still learning at the time!

Here’s my first panoramic planet attempt:

This was a series of shots of the Ottawa River, as seen from Gatineau, QC, that I took back in the summer of 2005. Probably not the greatest example of a panoramic, due to fluctuating lighting levels, but it’s a start. I’m going to play with this idea a little more and see what else I can produce! 🙂


Whither the (Kinky) Pixie?

April 19, 2010

I seem to be forming a tradition of making blog posts every few months. I really need to work on self-discipline.

So…

I made it down to Australia and back in one piece, arriving back in Vancouver around March 7th 2010. Highlights of the Australia trip included two cross country drives, catching up with some old friends, a reunion with my boyfriend and an unpleasant incident with a kangaroo in outback New South Wales. I’ll be posting some pics and a dedicated blog about the Australia trip soon.

“Boyfriend?”, I hear readers say. That would be my ex-partner from a couple of years ago. We were together for a while prior to my move to Canada, but parted ways shortly thereafter. We didn’t speak for a while, but got back in contact in 2008 and have talked regularly ever since. During my time in Australia…well, it’s pretty obvious. 🙂 At this point, it’s a case of seeing how things go. Long-distance relationships are difficult, at best, but one never knows, eh?

Since returning to Vancouver, my college studies have been my primary focus. The time and effort I’m putting in seems to be paying off. The Dreamweaver class finished last week and I submitted my final assignment last night. Fingers crossed that my self-imposed challenge of A+ marks across all Dreamweaver levels comes to fruition!

The other three classes are still in progress. Final Flash class is tonight – hoping I’m going to get a decent mark there. I’ve also been getting great marks for my photography assignments, but I won’t have the final verdicts until the end of April/early May. All the indicators are positive, though. 🙂

I’ll be taking a break from studying for a while once these four units are concluded. I’ve been at it non-stop since October last year and I need to absorb what I’ve learnt so far. The general plan for the summer is to pick up some work for a while before diving back into academia in August and September. I also need to spend more time with my camera.

A certain milestone was reached in early April: my 30th birthday. Bit of an odd time, I have to say. I had a small celebration dinner on the Saturday night, followed by my first trip to Grouse Mountain and a Canucks game on the Sunday. The following week, however…ugh, I shudder to think of it. Let’s just say “the deep dark hole” appeared and ate me for a few days. Thankfully, it’s now passed, I’m back to relative normality and feeling a lot better about things.

I also have a number of events to look forward to in the coming months. I have my friend K coming up from the States next week for a few days. It is my intention to send him back with a sore bottom, if possible. 😉 All going well, my boyfriend will be coming over for a couple of months later in the year. On top of that – Rush is touring! Woohoo!!

On another note, I’ve been reviewing my blog posts from the beginning. One thing has struck me – the lack of ‘twisted’ travels or ‘twisted’ anything to date. Plenty of ordinary travelling, yes, but not much on the kink side of things.

I can’t say I’m surprised. I’d effectively dropped out of the Vancouver community by the latter half of last year. Indeed, I’ve been to one kink event in the last six months and that was a Sin City event back in November 2009. Since then, nada.

My wager is that it’s the nature of life. Some kinky peeps are fortunate enough to be able to live the lifestyle on a regular basis. Others cycle in and out, depending on time, energy and circumstance. At this point, I’m one of the latter.

As much fun as it is to be tied up and beaten (or tying up and beating someone else! ;)) there are times where play winds up taking a back seat due to the demands of college, work and everyday life. It’s not to say a person has lost their kinky desires or is merely a dabbler. Far from it.  It’s just the way it is.

* * * *

Freeze this moment a little bit longer
Make each sensation a little bit stronger
Experience slips away…
Rush – “Time Stand Still”


Layover Limbo in LAX

February 11, 2010

Thursday 11th February, 8.18pm.

The Departures Hall in the Tom Bradley International Terminal (aka Terminal 2) buzzes with activity. Incipient travellers engaging in a number of past-times. Standing in check-in lines. Watching the departures information board. Talking on cellphones or typing on computers. Wandering the upper concourse in search of food, drink or diversion from the boredom of waiting.

Out of all the food establishments, Mickey D’s has the longest lineup. Camacho’s Cantina is behind me, shuttered – renovating or out of business? Same for Sushi Boy next door.

To the left of me is a young woman on a laptop. To the right, a young man talking on his cellphone as he rummages in a fast food bag. The latest in a parade of travellers witnessed during the past six and a half hours. The sky outside has progressed from light grey to blackness, punctuated by the lights of taxis and control towers.

I entertain the thoughts of photos, of a snack, of  more internet surfing to kill the next 94 minutes. Once those 94 minutes are up, my limbo ends. I’ll find out whether I continue on to my final destination or not.


Musings of a novice web designer

January 26, 2010

It’s almost one o’clock in the morning. I’ve spent almost the entire day at the computer, working on the site overhaul for wanderingpixie.com.

So far, reasonably good. I’ve created the primary template & CSS for use across the entire site and generated all the first level pages today.  However, for the articles and photo galleries, I daresay the “Detach from Template” command in Dreamweaver may come in handy from time to time! 😀

In conjunction with the design work, I’m also going back through my entire travel photo archive. I’ve done this before, back in 2007, whilst working on the “Phase I” version of the site. Even though I’ve just started on the Photography Certificate program at Langara, the lessons I’ve learnt so far have been invaluable. I’m cultivating the ability to be more critical and objective when it comes to my own photography. It’s an essential trait, particularly when one is sorting through about 20-30,000 photos (!)

I went through the entire 2004 archive yesterday, followed by some of the early 2005 shots today. This part of the project led to some colorful idioms spouted to the thin air and the pigeons on the balcony. Even when one takes the relative primitive capabilities of my old Vivitar digital camera into account…AGH! A major portion of the photos from that period aren’t really usable, for various reasons. Dodgy composition, blurring, you name it. Most of the shots in question are great memories for me to reflect upon personally, but they’re not really suitable for publishing them on the Internet for all to see.

If I had the ability to travel back in time – or at least, Doctor Who’s telephone number – I would go back to the early 2000s, slap myself around the head and tell myself to get cracking with some photography related studies sooner. Yes, it is true that every photographer has to start somewhere. Yet, I can’t shake the feeling of kicking myself for the lost photographic opportunities that were all but handed to me on a silver platter, particularly in Europe.

One valuable lesson I did learn in 2004 was the concept of taking charge of one’s own photographic storage. A dodgy CD burn job at a photo place in London led to the loss and/or corruption of some of my Europe and UK shots. My trip to Stonehenge was the worst casualty – only two or three photographs survive from that entire day. 😦

If nothing else, that debacle has given me inspiration for the second of what will hopefully be many articles on wanderingpixie.com.

1.23am – all caffeine has worn off and I’m getting tired. Time to call it a night, I think.


Emerging from the Road

October 7, 2009

It’s almost horrifying to see that I haven’t posted anything since April. Self-discipline is something I REALLY need to work on.

So, life has been rather interesting – and busy – these last few months. I was working full-time for a while at the data entry center (as mentioned in the “New Job” post). I say “was”, as I received an email at the tail-end of my recent travels advising me of no work being available. Yes, I was away for 5 weeks, but give over, eh? Thank the Gods I have a partner who’s helping me out or I’d be sinking again. The price I pay for being the “Wandering Pixie”…

In July, I went to Toronto for RushCon 9. I’ve been part of the organizing committee for the past two years and it was good to catch up with my fellow Rush peeps. Notable moments include Chickenman, Random Guy, the Limelight gig, rain & shine on Toronto Island and the surprisingly lovely Michael Mosbach. 🙂 Although I can’t stand the thought of ever living in Toronto, it does make for a pleasant visit.

Soon, the committee will be meeting to start planning for RushCon 10 next year. There is talk of perhaps holding it somewhere other than Toronto. Whether that comes to pass or not, time will tell, but personally I think it’ll be a good thing. A change of scenery, a breath of fresh air…all that. 😉

On the Vancouver front, I’m now sharing an apartment with my partner. Whilst I do miss my old apartment, my current situation just made it financially untenable. Sharing a one-bedroom place does get a little cramped at times, but it’s working out quite well.

The big event of the last few months was the 5 week trip to the US from late August to early October.  My partner and I travelled together for the first part of it, from Vancouver down to the Oregon Coast, then out to Nevada for the Burning Man festival. Together being somewhat subjective – she drove the camper truck and I travelled in my own car, as I was continuing on with my travels after Burning Man.

Burning Man itself was quite an experience. It was my second burn, having lost my “burn virginity” back in 2006. There were some good moments, including:

  • Ranging out into deep playa on my bike.
  • Flying my kite in various locations on the playa.
  • Meeting up with George & Gloria again. They’re a lovely couple from Texas who come to the burn every year and are famous for their friendliness, hospitality and breakfast pancakes. Indeed, George introduced me (and my ex-partner/friend Kevin) to the concept of Carolan’s in coffee).
  • Bumping into Lady Laughter & Calico at the Temple Burn. (Another couple I met in 2006).
  • Quiet time and personal tributes to loved ones at the Temple.
  • Dancing my butt off at Opulent Temple.
  • “Fire Night” – watching a number of fire performances around the playa, including our neighbour Jim from Florida and the Flaming Lotus Girls.
  • John – a guy with whom I had a very interesting conversation out near the playa fence.
  • The deep playa drumkit and Hippy Guy.
  • Painting myself blue and tearing around the playa on Friday afternoon (including my black pixie wings). This was followed later that evening by a clean-up attempt that lead to the shower cubicle being dubbed the “Exploding Smurf Chamber.”
  • Self-bondage & the viking helmet. 😀
  • Making a contribution at Picasso Camp.
  • Taking an accidental swandive off the back of the camper and onto the playa on Friday night, leaving a heck of a playa mark (which I had to remove by hand) and two trips to the Med Tent. Props to November Anne for the initial first aid!
  • Lunatics at the Burning Man (which took FOREVER to come down!)
  • Random Conversations. This was my partner’s initiative – we couldn’t settle down on the Saturday night, so at about 5am, we went meandering about on the playa, having random conversations with people and polishing off an entire bottle of wine in the process. Definitely one of the highlights of the burn, not to mention that it’s possibly the first time in my life that I’ve been inebriated at eight o’clock in the morning.
  • The Temple Burn.

Overall, a mostly positive experience. However, there were the occasional downsides. There was some personal conflict between myself and my partner during the week, not to mention the dust storms from hell. By Friday, the interior of the camper was an absolute dustbowl. Rather than stressing about it, one gets to the point of simply accepting the fact that playa dust is now a part of oneself. You eat it, breathe it, drink it, sleep in it. It’s simply part and parcel of the whole experience.

Despite my still relative newness to the Burn, I did detect a change in the ‘vibe’ of the event since 2006. Part of it may be a result of no longer having the first-timer’s “Wow!” reaction to everything, but I definitely felt a difference. It seemed that the event was being taken over by the candy-raver/tourist/”let’s go out to the desert and party for a week” crowd. Whilst that element has certainly been present at Burning Man for many years now, it seemed to be much more prevalent this year, crowding out the artists and community-builders. Maybe the event is getting too big or too mainstream, but if the trend is not reversed, the artists will go elsewhere and BM will simply become nothing more than a rave in the desert.

Having said that, there is a possibility I will attend again next year. I’ve certainly learned a few lessons from this year’s experience:

  • Camper vans are a cool idea, but when the battery runs out, you may as well have hired a cargo van.
  • Kite flying is fun! 😀
  • Stay away from the blue greasepaint! Maybe the silver powder may come in handy next year…
  • Buy half (if not less) the amount of food – we bought WAY too much food! I wound up taking some of it down to New Mexico with me and donating it to Kevin’s pantry.
  • Have an IUD implanted by the time the next burn rolls around so I’m not poleaxed with period cramps for the first 3 days (this seems to be becoming a playa tradition for me).
  • Take better photos – scout more, get creative and use the damn tripod!

* * *

Following Burning Man and a turbulent night in Reno, I proceeded south via the east side of Nevada. I’ve always wanted to drive the Extraterrestrial Highway and check out Rachel, Nevada, thanks to it’s proximity to Area 51. Ergo, a good time to take the roads less travelled. On the way, I got pulled over near Hawthorne for speeding (all hail the great god Leadfoot?) but got let off with a warning.

Thanks to the late departure from Reno, the light ran out, so I pulled over for the night in Tonopah, Nevada. My accommodation for the night was the amusingly monikered Clown Motel, named for the collection of clown paraphernalia amassed by the original owner. The collection is now arranged in the main lobby area of the hotel. Some cute, some downright creepy. Dinner that night led me to the conclusion that small casino dining is nothing to write home about. Thankfully, the breakfast the next morning was somewhat more palatable.

The road out to Rachel was one of the loneliest highways I’ve ever encountered during my daytime trips in the US. Barely any traffic for miles, which made for a happy wandering pixie! Mostly desert and ranchlands, with the occasional cattle crossing.

I stopped by the Little Ale’Inn. It turned out to be rather cheesy – a lot of overpriced ‘souvenirs’ and a few UFO photos and articles. Not quite what I’d expected, really. From there, I went through Las Vegas, saw the Hoover Dam (finally!) and hit I-40 west through Arizona to land at my friend Kevin’s place in New Mexico. Wound up overnighting in Flagstaff after attracting police attention again. This time, though, it was for a dead license plate light, a small problem easily remedied the next morning at the Goodyear shop near the Super 8 motel.

New Mexico is a place that has been rather dear to my wandering self since my first visits way back in 2005. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is, but there is certainly an energy down there. Maybe it’s the desert landscapes, the mountains (Sandia in particular), the unusual clarity and vividness of the sky, the friendliness of the people…who knows. It’s no mistake that New Mexico has a large population of artists, photographers and other creative types. I’ve said for a long time now that if I had the chance to live in the US, New Mexico is where I would go.

I spent a very pleasant two weeks around the Albuquerque area. Unfortunately, Kevin & I didn’t get to do much together, thanks to his punishing work schedule, but we were able to get away to Santa Fe on the first weekend. The goal of the trip was a day at the Ten Thousand Waves day spa, just the thing I needed after the rigors of Burning Man. A day spent soaking in the tubs, having a wonderful massage and an all-over salt scrub helped to wash the playa away. We timed it pretty well – the Santa Fe Fiesta was happening at the same time. Food stalls, street markets, parades, the town was packed! I was also re-introduced to the joys of New Mexican cuisine at the Blue Corn Cafe, just off the Plaza. I swear, the chili is that good, you walk out feeling high!

Whilst I did spend a fair bit of time on the house front, helping Kevin get his apartment set up, I also took the time to explore the Albuquerque area. Checked out Old Town, the Albuquerque Museum, the Balloon Museum, Petroglyph National Monument and rounded it all off with a trip up to the top of Sandia Peak the day before my departure. Spectacular views over Albuquerque and surrounds, but by the Gods it was COLD! (Note to self: bring a jacket next time).

Refreshed from my New Mexican sojourn, I struck out on what would become the Epic Drive of ’09, crisscrossing the bulk of the continental US and Canada. On the way…

  • I captured a beautiful New Mexican sunset with my camera.
  • Had my second speeding warning whilst crossing the Texas panhandle.
  • Witnessed the morning mists in Arkansas.
  • Got woken up from an afternoon nap attempt by a local high school parade in Kansas City, Missouri. I also went on a fruitless goosechase in downtown Kansas City whilst looking for the Central Public Library. The library carpark is painted to look like books on a shelf, a point of interest to my photographer self.
  • Went stomping through mud in sidewalk roadworks whilst taking photos of a church and the Arch in St. Louis, Missouri.

The evening/day I drove from western Ohio to southern New York state would have to rate as one of the all-time driving days from hell. Whilst the lightning storms around Columbus were suitably spectacular, the pounding rain, the endless stream of trucks, roadworks on Interstate 80 and crazy Pennsylvanian drivers made for a rather miserable day. I breathed a massive sigh of relief as I entered New York state and later turned north on I-87.

The primary aim of this part of the trip was to meet and spend time with a dear friend who lives in the top part of the state. We’ve been acquainted for a couple of years, thanks to the magic of cyberspace and phones, but never wound up meeting in person…until now. Even though it was a fairly low-key visit, it was still good to see him and hang out with him. He’s been having rough times for a while now and whilst I do worry for him, I think he’ll be OK eventually. His dog was also an absolute sweetie – barked at me for 5 minutes, then became my new best friend. 😀

I do know this – given the drive that followed, the next trip I take over to that part of the US WILL involve a plane flight to Montreal!

* * *

I’ll be posting pics from various legs of the journey in the coming days & weeks. All I will say for now about the final leg of the journey is this: 3,027 miles – 6 provinces – 93 hours.

Never again!