Monday, September 27, 2010

The morning commute

I couldn't ask for a better one.

Monday, September 20, 2010

A day at Marineland

Yesterday, Davis and myself and another veterinary student had the amazing opportunity to spend a day shadowing one of the veterinarians at Marineland in Niagara Falls.

I'll preface this with a short blurb saying that I have worked with marine mammals before during a summer as a research assistant at the Vancouver Aquarium. I wanted to visit Marineland because I am interested in working with wildlife - though not necessarily in a zoo or aquarium, more likely with wild animals in a research setting.

I do have an ethical stance on keeping animals in captivity in zoos and aquaria that I won't delve too deeply into at the moment. Suffice it to say that I don't personally believe that zoos and aquaria are inherently cruel, and I believe that captive animals can serve a greater good for their species in the wild, however for me to be morally comfortable with it I have my own minimum requirements in terms of educational and conservation goals of the institute, as well as habitats for the animals. I have visited places that I felt met these standards, and others that really did not. Again, this is just my own beliefs, and in no way do these reflect those of Marineland or the vet college, nor are they a judgment or exoneration of these places.

Anyway. The veterinarian at Marineland was really excellent, and was kind enough to take us around on her day. We started off with breakfast for belugas, and were able twice in the day to feed them! We were each assigned a beluga and mine, serendipitously, was named Tofino. I was shown how to scratch them under the chin to signal the start of mealtime, then slide the fish into his pink and fleshy throat. Beluga skin is quite soft and yielding, and they peer at you with mischievous and intelligent blue eyes. We followed the trainer and vet as they checked over the orca, and were shown where you would take blood from - it's the tail fluke vein and (thank you fotolia) can be seen in this photo crossing the tail from the corners diagonally to the centre.

Between beluga feedings we went to visit the pinnipeds (seals and sea lions), walruses, and dolphins. The vet stopped to check out one of the dolphins who had been reluctant during the morning's show, but fortunately she was given a clean bill of health. These are bottlenose dolphins of the Black Sea subspecies, and enjoy getting a head scratch. Dolphin skin is a little firmer than beluga skin and more rubbery - apparently they are always shedding dead skin and love getting it rubbed off - like me and my Biore exfoliator, I guess.

In the afternoon we went to check on some bison that had been injured in fights. Bison are massive animals - males can weigh nearly a ton with huge shaggy heads and pointy horns. To treat them you have to get them in a chute much like you do with cattle - our squeeze looked much like this one and basically secures the animal so you can examine it. All the wounds we saw were pretty superficial and were treated with a thorough antiseptic wash, skin regenerating cream, and antibiotics.

After the bison, Davis decided he wanted to end our day with a ride on the Sky Screamer. So we voluntarily catapulted ourselves 450 feet in the air.

It gave us a nice view of the belugas.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Random August Photos

... of fireworks in Montreal that I never had a chance to post due to moving, etc. I wish I'd had my SLR with me, but even with a point-and-shoot I think these turned out okay.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Chipmunk in the garden


Oh. Hi.

Teeny tiny chipmunk paws!!!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Trans-Canada, day five

Driving through northern Ontario at night is an interesting experience. The towns are quite small and far apart, with dense boreal-deciduous type forest in between. At night, there is danger from moose and deer which can total your car and kill you if you run into them on the highway. Add to that limited cell reception and if you run out of gas or your car breaks down, you're pretty much all alone until a car or truck drives by possibly hours later.

Because of this, caravans tend to form along the highway, often consisting of one or two freight rig trucks and a small assemblage of cars. It reminded me of the little fishes who swim along with sharks to be protected from bigger fishes, with no one knowing who the others are or where their final destinations are, only that there is safety in numbers.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Trans-Canada, day four

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Trans-Canada - day three

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Trans-Canada, day two

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Trans-Canada, day one

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Towhee Thursday

Monday, July 19, 2010

Richmond Night Market

One of the many things I love about Richmond - aside from Asian grocery stores, Japanese dollar stores, green tea cream puffs (and Blizzards!), fish n chips on the dock, daily eagles, and a plethora of farm markets - is the summer night market. All night every weekend during the summer, what seems like hundreds of booths set up in a huge lot in an industrial park on the river, drawing enormous crowds.

You can get pretty much anything at the night market - handmade incense burners shaped like houses from South America (the smoke comes out the 'chimney'), grasshopper hats, bootlegged Korean DVDs, exotic fruit, underwear both scandalous and matronly, live goldfish, and knockoff Gorillapods.

But the food is the best part - and the most packed with people. At times, trying to navigate through the food tents, we would just spend a few minutes standing still waiting for space or movement in the crowd. The variety of food is amazing...lamb skewers from the Middle East, marinated and barbequed octopus from Japan, airy pancake-like egg puffs from Hong Kong, pho noodle soup from Vietnam, dragon beard candy made from spun sugar and peanut paste from China, deep-fried Mars bars from Scotland, and a hundred other things that I can't even describe or remember. It was as common to see someone walking by sucking on an octopus tentacle as it was seeing someone drinking from a coconut. It was a little surreal.

Hope you enjoyed your weekend! Davis booked my birthday present for next weekend - I am pretty much rolling on the floor squeeing in excitement, but I think I will wait to share until I have photos. :)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Saturday afternoon book cave

I love used bookstores, and I love Booktown in particular - it's everything a used bookstore should be. Overflowing shelves, dark basements, creaking chairs and two elderly men taking care of it all...

Unfortunately, they're closing at the end of the month, but in the meantime all their books are 50% off... which was like a siren's song to me, Davis, and my mom. We all headed down there today and came home with an embarrassing amount of books.

It's a familial thing, I think, possibly genetic... my grandfather had to custom-build his own bookshelves in order to accommodate his enormous collection, which my mother inherited to add to her considerable stock when my grandfather passed away last year. Davis's family must have the same genes... I'm a little worried for our future children, I think their collection will probably rival the national library.

Well, there are worse addictions.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Tree swallows

Surprisingly, way more difficult to photograph than hummingbirds.

I think this proves what some people say is a key to great photography... take lots of pictures! I took almost 200 to get these 4 that I like. I can't imagine being into photography before digital cameras... I guess that was incentive to get good fast!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Mint and white chocolate brownies

half a cup melted butter
half a cup unsweetened cocoa
one cup sugar
two eggs
two teaspoons vanilla extract
half a cup flour
one quarter teaspoon salt
half a cup mint chocolate chips and half a cup white chocolate chips

1. preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. mix together the melted butter and cocoa until smooth
3. add sugar and mix well
4. add eggs, one at a time, and stir until combined
5. add vanilla, flour, and salt and stir until just mixed
6. fold in chocolate chips (you can substitute anything you want... smarties, peanut butter, nuts, maraschino cherries, etc!)
7. spread batter in a greased eight-inch square pan and bake for 25 minutes
8. don't overbake! or your brownies will be dry. I discussed this with my mother and for brownies, unlike for cake, a toothpick inserted should not come out clean, it should have moist crumbs clinging to it.
9. eat like a pig and enjoy. I cleaned out half the pan before Davis got home...

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Cats being strange

These are my mom's cats... and the orange one, Llewellyn, is always strange. He's struggling with diabetes at the moment, and although his blood sugar still won't go down, he has recovered almost 100% in terms of coordination and energy. But he's strange. We sort of wonder sometimes if he's a little... challenged, because he'll often sit staring into space with his tongue half out. In retrospect, maybe it was the diabetes.

Today, I heard strange yowls coming from upstairs. The cats were lying on the landing, as you see in the photo, and Llew was making strange noises and pawing at Princess, the white cat. At first I thought he was feeling amorous, but it didn't seem to be so; he was just squawking and pawing at her paws. Not getting up, not being particularly active, just... poking her. It was... strange.

It does look like they're holding hands though, which I guess is cute.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Live long and prosper

My name is Victoria, and I went to a Star Trek convention yesterday.

I blame it all on my mother though.

I grew up on The Next Generation, and followed Deep Space 9 and Voyager with some regularity during high school, so I guess you could say I'm a mild Trekkie (Trekker? I don't even know the lingo). My mom is a big fan though - she's seen all the series and movies and loves Patrick Stewart. So when she found out the convention was coming to town featuring both William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, she felt it was a once-in-a-lifetime chance she couldn't pass up.

We got there a little late and wandered through the vendor's area, which was surprisingly bare. I expected something like the photos of craft fairs I see all the time - tons of booths packed with merchandise. I wanted Spock ears and a communicator, but mostly all they were selling was autographed photos and some T-shirts - and not even the nice ones. Davis says I was disappointed because I was expecting ComicCon or something, but I think it was because we only went to the 3rd and last day - maybe it was busier on the Friday?

After lunch we caught the end of the auction - which was flabbergasting. They were selling off banners from the convention and signed photos and other memorabilia - this banner of Kirk and Spock which came with front-of-the-line autograph privileges sold for something like $1600. That's more than my tuition for a semester. But, I guess there are people who are really into this stuff... and would rather have an autographed poster than a vacation. It must be a good conversation piece.

Most people, of course, were bidding by raising their hands and sometimes calling out their bids - but there were a handful of guys who would place their bids by standing up and bellowing, "Qapla!" This made things interesting.

Finally, Leonard Nimoy came out! He was wearing a shirt that said LLAP, which I didn't get at first. I'll let you think about it.

He seems like a really interesting guy, and apparently he's working on a lot of photography projects. He also told us how Bill Shatner stood him up for breakfast that morning. And speaking of Bill, fellow McGill alumni:

Bill is really funny. I haven't seen him in much other than the Star Trek movies, but he's very charismatic. He told us some stories about when he performed at the closing ceremonies for the Olympics in March, and about his involvement with the farmed vs. wild salmon issue, which is something I'm concerned about as well.

Finally Leonard Nimoy came back out and they made fun of each other for another half hour or so. As funny as Bill is, he's even funnier with Leonard as his straight man. They kept us in stitches the entire time.

And that was my first Star Trek convention!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Richmond Nature Park

Song sparrow (?)

Cedar waxwing

Spotted towhee

Somebody seemed to want some privacy to get ready for the day, so we ambled off.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Somewhere, beyond the sea

Thank you to demetgun3 for including my ship's wheel earrings in this awesome marine treasury! Click on over and check out all the awesome stuff - aren't those shoes amazing?

Friday, June 18, 2010