Monday, December 22, 2008

Bogota pics


We just spent two nights and one day in Bogota. Here is a pic of Luis is Plaza de Bolivar, which was beautifully lit for Christmas.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Pasamos un buen tiempo

or, in English, We´re having a great time.
We have done a lot since arriving on Wednesday. We´ve visited Luis´ siblings, nieces, nephews, cousins and an aunt. He has 22 nieces and nephews, and maybe 80 cousins. He doesn´t know exactly because he hasn´t met them all.
Today we went with his sisters Marta Luz and Estella and his brother Gustavo to visit Gustavo´s new parcels of land near Santa Fe de Antiuoquia, a colonial town founded in 1541. Gustavo bought two parcels near there, and he will build a large home there.
The countryside is beautiful -- huge, lush mountains. We passed through a 2.7-mile-long tunnel under the mountains.
We´ve been so busy I haven´t had a chance to upload photos. But they are forthcoming. Meanwhile, you can enjoy some photos of Luis that we scanned and uploaded.
Luis en Colombia

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

We´re here

We arrived in Medellin at Luis´ sister´s house a short while ago. Luis´ sisters Fabiola and Estella and three nieces met us at the airport. They hired a driver with a van because we all couldn´t fit in one car. the drive from the airport was beautiful. the airport is on a plateau high up in the mountains. we passed through one short tunnel, and you knew it was a tunnel through the mountains because you could see the rock all around; it´s not covered up.
we´re staying at Fabiola´s house, which has two balconies that overlook the city. there´s a stadium nearby and the metro is close.
his family immediately introduced me to some tropical fruit i´ve never seen before. one fruit looked like some sort of orange from the outside. but inside it is full of pits covered by a sweet gel. it is really delicious but at first it seemed quite weird. they also prepared a juice made from the fruit lulu (spelling?).
by the way, the keyboards are totally different here. it´s a real pain to type. the { is where the ´ is.
the ? is to the right of the 0.}
time for dinner.
hasta luego

leaving Bogota

We're in the Puente Aereo Airport in Bogota waiting for our flight to Medellin. Luis has barely slept since Sunday. It was about 24 hours from the time we left our house till the time we arrived at our hotel. He didn't sleep on the flight, though he slept a little in Mexico City's airport while awaiting our flight to Bogota.
Monday and Tuesday he couldn't sleep well at the hotel. He's just very anxious.
We had a nice time in Bogota. We went to the Plaza Bolivar, which was all lit up for Christmas. A chorus was singing Christmas carols.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Vancouver International Airport

There are numerous restaurants in this airport, but at 10:30 p.m., the only eatery open was a Subway. That's pretty sad for a city this size. The Subway was quite busy, so obviously there is demand. Anyway, we're just waiting to head out. At least they have free WiFi here.

Christmas Dinner 2008

Our friends Joe and Frank's wedding gift was a nice Christmas dinner at a place called Edible BC. We had such a nice time. The chef showed us how he cooked the food, and we had wonderful dishes.
Photos of the dinner

A white Christmas in Vancouver?



Well, last night, Luis and I went to the Vancouver Mens Chorus for a fabulous night of Christmas carols. It was a bitterly cold night, and the heater wasn't working in the church. But it was the most amazing night of carols. They even had a very funny song about cheese -- not sure how that fit into Christmas carols. A Frenchmen with a big chunk of plastic brie on his head sang about brie, and an Italian with mozzarella on his head sang about mozzarella. Then the American comes out with a hamburger topped with American cheese waving an American flag. It was quite funny.
Anyway, we emerged from that wonderful night and it was snowing.
Several inches accumulated. It was the lightest snow, nearly as light as Splenda. "And it was real snow because it's made from snow!"
So, to everyone whom I told it doesn't get that cold and we rarely get snow and if it snows it's not a lot: I was wrong.
But this was part of an unusual cold snap. At least it wasn't -22 F, the low in Regina. That's one cold Regina!
Here are two pictures of the view of the snow from our apartment.
The flag you see is the flag of British Columbia.
Well, we're off to another Colombia.
We leave at 11:59 p.m. on Mexicana Airlines and get into Bogota at 8 p.m. because of a terrible layover in Mexico City. Then on Wednesday we head to Medellin on Avianca.
Adios.


Friday, December 5, 2008

The border


There's a little peninsula called Point Roberts. The northern part of the peninsula is Canada. The southern part is the United States.
Luis is standing in Canada. Behind the yellow barrier is the United States, where there is the sign (on top).
The third picture is Luis and Ken in a different part of the border, which actually has a fence and a marker beyond the fence identifying the international boundary.
But if one follows along the fence to the beach, you get to where Luis is standing in the last pic. He's on the Canadian side of the beach. A few feet beyond is the United States. But, as I said, on the U.S. side is merely a small peninsula, so there's nowhere to go to.








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Some friends

Our friends Angelina and Kieran were over for dinner recently.

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I've never seen four raccoons together like this. And this was dusk. It wasn't even nighttime. (It merely looks a little darker because of the tree cover and the contrast with the flash.)
Luis and I also have seen a few skunks in the city. One time we ran across the street to get away from one, and he followed us across the street and started coming in our direction. Fortunately, we got away. One Vancouverite said he had to throw out a good leather jacket after getting sprayed by a skunk.
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A winter afternoon at Jones Beach

My parents and I had a nice afternoon at Jones Beach during my Thanksgiving stay.
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jones beach bird ignores sign

this bird happily ignores the "no stopping or standing sign."
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Big Wong

Ken, Pete, Nora, Josh, Noah and I went to Big Wong Restaurant in Chinatown during my visit to New York for Thanksgiving.
It is highly recommended for good barbecued meats.
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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

nice visit back to NYC

I had a nice visit back to see family and friends in New York, except, for the last half of the trip, I had the worst cold I've ever had. I basically just rested for the last day and a half.
On the plane on the way back, I was daydreaming and I thought I was headed home -- to New York.
That lasted just for a second.
When I arrived, the weather was mild. I didn't really need a winter jacket.
It was great to see Luis. It was the longest we've been apart since we met six years ago. When we were heading to the apartment, I realized I was heading home, and home felt good.
I think a new place officially becomes home when you go on vacation and then return. And you walk in the door, and you relax on the couch or bed and say, "Ahhhh. I'm home." That's when a new place really feels like home.
It was great to see many people, but it also was tough leaving everyone. I realize I didn't get to see everyone. But
I apologize that I didn't get to see everyone. I was so busy before I left that I didn't really organize my trip very well. I started making calls and e-mails when I arrived.
Anyway, I'll be back soon. I'm looking forward to having people visit, too.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Prop 8 protests

Luis was quoted in an article in a local gay newspaper. The story was about a protest on proposition 8 passing in California.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A clip of our wedding video

Here's a small clip, a promo, of the "Whose Wedding Is It Anyway" episode featuring our wedding. Our clip starts at 1:30, after the couple with the groom who is in a band. You can fast forward to the clip.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Proposition 8 Protests

Today, at 1:30 p.m. ET around the world, people protested against the passage of proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage in California.

Luis and I spoke at a rally in Vancouver.

Here's the speech we gave. I read part, and then Luis read part.

On May 31, Luis and I becoming newlyweds.

It was the most joyous day of our lives.

We had a church service with piano music.

We had a cocktail hour and reception with 135 guests.

We had a first dance.

We cut the cake.

I danced with my mother and so did Luis.

And we had our last dance.

But our wedding day lacked one key ingredient: Legal recognition.

We merely had a “commitment ceremony” in New York State.

At the time, only Massachusetts and California legally recognized gay marriage.

We were hopeful, though, that the United States was making progress.

New York’s governor David Paterson ordered all state agencies to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions.

And he said he would sign a same-sex marriage law if presented to him.

But on Nov. 4, the United States took a giant leap backward for equality.

With the passage of Proposition 8, California banned same-sex marriage.

The same people who won that ban are mobilizing across the country to ban gay marriage in other states, including New York.

We must resist.

And we must fight to repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages.

I’m not sure how that law defends marriage.

The title of the act is merely Orwellian double-speak.

But, effectively, the law made us a second-class couple.

Unlike heterosexual couples, who could sponsor their spouses for residency, I could not sponsor Luis, even if we had gotten married in another state or country.

The U.S. federal government wouldn’t recognize our relationship.

So unlike most newlyweds, we didn’t have the luxury of enjoying a honeymoon after our May ceremony.

Instead, we began packing boxes.

Less than a month after our commitment ceremony, we moved to Canada.

On America’s Independence Day, we experienced true independence, getting legally married in Victoria.

The move here was a major sacrifice.

I had to quit my job as a writer.

We sold our belongings at rock-bottom prices.

But there’s one thing we wouldn’t bargain: The right to marry each other.

I left a close-knit family.

Not long before I left, my mother was diagnosed with bone cancer.

And my father was diagnosed with a heart condition.

The decision to move was painfully difficult.

People shouldn’t have to be forced to decide between living close to relatives in the United States or living in a place where they can legally marry the person they love.

But the fight for that right continues.

And it’s intensifying in states across the country.

Because we moved to Canada, on July 4, we could proudly proclaim: “Just Married.”

But too many gay and lesbian Americans can only say: “Unjust. Not Married.”

We must change that.

We must move forward.


Here are more photos the event.



Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Talk about not being able to live without each other...

On Sunday, a heart attacked killed a 76-year-old Brazilian man. The next day, his coffin killed his wife.


Here's the rest of the story...

SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) -- Police say a woman has died on the way to a cemetery when a traffic accident hurled her husband's coffin against the back of her neck. Police said 67-year old Marciana Silva Barcelos was in the front passenger seat of the hearse when the accident occurred Monday in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul.

Barcelos died instantly.

Her 76-year-old husband Josi Silveira Coimbra died Sunday of a heart attack while dancing at a party.

The driver of hearse and Barcelos' son suffered minor injuries.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Bush's legacy

Bush has desperately been trying to leave a legacy. Now he has one. His failure as a president helped elect the country's first black president. You can't ask for a more memorable legacy than that.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Voting shifts

This dramatic picture of the shift in voting from the New York Times shows which counties became more Democratic and which ones became more Republican.
Most of the country became more Democratic, except for a swath of the Bible belt, McCain's home state of Arizona and a pocket here and there. Click on it for a close-up view.

So I'm fashionably bald

I was wearing a T-shirt that said "Ban Republican Marriage" while watching the results with Democrats Abroad at a brewery here. The t-shirt gathered a lot of attention, and several reporters interviewed me, including some from CBC radio, The Vancouver Sun and The Tyee, a local daily online magazine, whose reporter called me "fashionably bald."

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Pretty close prediction

It's 1:40 p.m. ET (10:40 PT). I spent the afternoon and evening at a bar with a bunch of Americans and Canadians watching election results. (Luis was working as an extra in "Farewell Atlantis," a movie about the end of the world. I spent the night celebrating the beginning of a new world.)
Anyway, I must say that my prediction was pretty close.
I had North Carolina as a toss-up, and at this time it is leaning toward Obama. The other toss-up I listed was Florida, which was very close but has been called for Obama.
The Times now lists Montana as leaning McCain (I guess McCain), Missouri as light red (I had McCain) and Indiana as light blue (Oops! I had that for McCain.)
So I missed North Carolina and Indiana if they go as they seem to be leaning now. Not bad that I missed just two -- two of the states that are still aren't a solid color 1:40 PT.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Time for some campaigning

As you know, we've been doing some work as extras in movies.
This is Luis' first role in a political cartoon. Pay close attention to the end of the cartoon when the song refers to getting voters to the voting booth in this cartoon.
OK, well, anyone can make this cartoon at JibJab.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Electoral Map

I've been following the election from afar. It's very exciting. A bunch of us will go to a bar on Tuesday to watch the election results together. I've never been into Monday night football, as much as it is fun to watch football players in those tight uniforms. But I'll be glued to the TV for Tuesday's night election results.


As for the electoral map, here are my guesses on the toss-up states.

Missouri is a toss-up state. I've lived there. Though Obama has made a hard push there, I believe it's still a red state; McCain gets the show-me state.

Indiana might be turning blue, but it's not there yet. I give that state to McCain, too.

Ohio and Pennsylvania have been hard-hit by the bad economy. I believe they're going to go for Obama.

I've left two as toss-ups at this point. I've lived in North Carolina, and I have a feeling it's going to be a very close race. Florida will be a very, very close race, too. If I had to pick at this point, I'd give North Carolina to McCain and Florida to Obama.

I'll also note that I'm uncertain about Nevada, Colorado and Virginia being in the Obama-leaning side, but I left them that way.


Here's my prediction as of Sunday night.


Obama from 311 to 353 electoral votes

McCain from 185 to 227 electoral votes


Here's my electoral map projection.

You can make your own electoral map.








Wednesday, October 29, 2008

poor Karen Hughes

I was doing some work on my computer while watching CNN on my Media Center PC.
This quote caught my attention: "What Barack Obama is benefiting from as well in this discussion is a wholesale rejection of George Bush."
CNN then showed the face of Karen Hughes, W's former press secretary, who looked as if she was about to cry. Check out the pic of her below left. I think there's a lot of Republican faces that look like that right now.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

My first Canadian drug purchase

I mentioned how prescription drugs are cheaper here. Well, I made my first purchase for Synthroid, which is a thyroid medication.
In the States, I had private health insurance through Tribune Corp. I would pay a $25 co-pay for a 30 day supply for the name-brand Synthroid.
On Wednesday, I just paid U.S. $24.83 for a 300-day supply.
That extra zero is correct -- three hundred days. I got 10 times the supply for the same price -- without prescription drug coverage, as I won't meet my deductible this year.
I said to the pharmacist it was my first drug purchase here, and I told him what I paid in the United States.
He was baffled. "Who's making all that money?" he said.
And that's a lot of money.
About a third of that cost was a fee. I imagine a fee to the pharmacist -- not a lot of money out of $25.
That means the drug company was getting about $16 for this -- and making a profit or they wouldn't sell the drug here.
So when I spent my $250 co-pay for a 300-day supply, plus my insurance company's money, that's a nice windfall for the drug companies.
So if the presidential candidates want to fix healthcare, maybe they should see how Canada keeps its drug prices low.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Origins of Thanksgiving (in the United States and Canada)

Both the American and Canadian Thanksgiving celebrate the end of the harvest, but they are very different holidays: Americans are forced to spend the holiday with in-laws, whereas Canadians can celebrate it with whomever they dam well please.
Otherwise, they're the same because the United States stole Thanksgiving from Canada, as you'll see later.
Each year, citizens of both countries have Thanksgiving to thank the Lord for three things:
  • Getting fatter and fatter each year
  • The fact that Ice Capades hasn't made its way north
  • The fact that a lot of ice separates Canada from Sarah Palin
The U.S. holiday is modeled after a feast in Plymouth in 1621. Naturally, the people in southern states didn't like anything from northern states. But northerners encouraged southerners to go along, saying they could even e-mail talkline@butterball.com with any questions about cooking turkeys. Southerners complained that the Internet hadn't yet been invented, as Al Gore hadn't been born yet. But soon southerners had no choice about the holiday, as Northerners dominated the federal government and forced the holiday upon southerners.
In 1863, Pres. Abraham Lincoln said that to unite the country, Americans would have to end slavery, kill turkeys and watch football. That year, on Oct. 3, he proclaimed a national day of thanksgiving to be celebrated on Thursday, November 26. Subsequent presidents also chose the last Thursday in November.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt, however, wanted to boost the economy with more holiday shopping. So in 1942, he declared Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday. Of course, the fourth Thursday is usually the last, which led Roosevelt to coin the word "Duh!"
But Roosevelt apparently planned ahead, as 1944 had five Thursdays, so Americans got an extra seven days of Christmas shopping that year. (The next November with five Thursdays is 2012.)
In the following decades, people began to move around the country and decided that getting stranded in an airport was preferable to spending time with in-laws. So Thanksgiving became a day to thank airlines for long delays and cancellations.
In Canada, Thanksgiving goes back to 1578. To take a break, Martin Frobisher, an Englishman who explored Canada's northeast coast, went to Boston Market to buy a turkey and to tax Americans for their tea. Realizing he had arrived 195 years too soon to protest the tea party, he went back to Newfoundland to celebrate his safe arrival in the New World by killing a turkey.Canadians loved the celebration so much that they quickly made it a national holiday 301 years later.
Canada's first Thanksgiving in 1578 preceded America's first celebration by 43 years, yet Canada's holiday only fell a couple of weeks before the American one.
So as not to appear to have stolen the idea from the United States, Parliament, in 1957, moved the holiday even earlier, to the second Monday in October. Another reason for the move: Most of Canada is buried in snow by November, therefore:

  • It's too cold and difficult to get out of the igloos to hunt down a turkey
  • Many Canadians got sick of ordering in Domino's Pizza for Thanksgiving
  • The pizza deliverymen complained the igloos had no doors to knock on

Oh, and the harvest ends a bit earlier in Canada, as the country is further north. So that was yet another reason to celebrate the end of harvest in early October.
So at the end of harvest, Canadians and Americans stuff themselves with turkey and top if off with a healthy dose of fruit in the form of pumpkin pie.

This posting comes at the request of
Caryn, my most loyal commenter. Ahem, people, you can comment on my posts. Thanks to those who let me know my musings are actually being read.

The factual information, if you can distinguish it from the jokes, comes from the Encyclopedia Britannica entry on Thanksgiving, thanks to the awesome online resources available from the Vancouver Public Library.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

debate

We have the time for our TV show. Check out www.richandluis.com.

How rude that the debate is scheduled on my birthday. But I have a broadcast journalism class to attend tonight, anyway, so it's not as if we would be celebrating my b'day tonight. Then when I come home, we're going to watch the debate, which I'm recording. Tomorrow, we're going to go out for dinner for my birthday. A CNN story says more states have gone toward Obama.

On Monday, we had a great Canadian Thanksgiving. I'll update you more when I get the pics.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

the election and more

I've become sort of obsessed with the U.S. election. I'm regularly checking the electoral vote map. It really is an exciting race.
The latest changes to The New York Times electoral map:
  • New Hampshire, which was a toss-up, is now leaning toward Obama
  • North Carolina, where I once lived and has long been a red state, is now a toss-up state
  • Oregon, which was leaning Obama (light blue) is now solid Blue, with a new poll showing Obama surpasses McCain in that state even with the margin of error
That brings Obama to 196 solid blue states (Obama well in the lead) and 68 light blue (close but Obama is in the lead), for a total of 264 electoral votes, with 270 needed to win.

My absentee ballot was supposed to arrive last week, but it hasn't gotten here yet. If it doesn't arrive on time, I'm catching a flight and voting in person. I WILL NOT miss voting in this historic election. Well, OK, I can't really fly there as I'll be swamped with my freelance work at the time.
I'm sure it's going to arrive this week. The mail here is just really slow. One thing I really appreciate about the United States government is that the mail is really fast.
As for our place, it's really coming together with all the furniture we bought. Soon I'll take some video and post it so you can see the layout.

Friday, October 10, 2008

a few trips in the works

I'm coming back to NY for Thanksgiving. I'll be traveling all day Nov. 22 and on my return Dec. 3. So I'm available in between to see my family and friends. I can't wait to see everyone.
I would love to plan my trip ahead so I don't find myself heading back home and missing visits with anyone.
I don't know if I'm more excited about booking the trip or finding out the news that a certain politician abused her power. No, of course, I'm more excited about this trip -- and another one.
Luis and I are going to Colombia. We just booked the trip. Not that we can afford it. But, hey, how often would we have enough time to visit Colombia for a month. Luis hasn't been there for eight years. So this is going to be an awesome trip. I can't wait to meet his family. And he can't wait to see them once again.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

digital garbage

We got a bookcase and filing cabinet for my office, a table for the living room and coffee table, end tables and some display tables.
Because I have a place to put even more stuff that I should have gotten rid of, I'm going through all of my stuff to put it away.
Somehow it's hard to part with gadgets that I've collected over time. That's not so bad. But I even keep manuals for the gadgets. I figure I never know when I might need to refer them, not that I ever refer to paper manuals; I get all my tech help online.
But this has gone a bit far. I opened one of the manual that I transported up here at about 70 cents a pound. It is a Pocket PC manual -- in German. It has been taking up space in our house in Huntington.
Now it will be taking up space in a Vancouver recycling plant, unless there's a German-speaking tenant in my building who has lost his or her Pocket PC manual snatches it out of the recycling bin.
Boy are we getting tired setting up all this new furniture. Luis has been crouched over putting together the kitchen table and chairs. He just said, "I need to see a doctor about the back in my pain."
I said, "You need to see a speech therapist for that problem."

Prescription coverage

We met our three-month mark, so I called up for prescription drug coverage, which is based on income.
The representative just asked for our social insurance number, medical care card number and 2006 U.S. income. She gave us our Pharmacare number right over the phone. I was quite surprised how easy it was.
But I didn't realize it wouldn't be very useful for us. The deductible is $1,500. After the deductible is met, the plan covers 70 percent of the cost of prescription drugs. After I've paid $2,000, the plan will cover 100 percent.
We don't even approach $1,500 by along shot, fortunately So it won't really help us.
I had a pretty good income in the United States. So it's understandable there would be a high deductible. This is an income-based plan.
I mean, there's no additional premium for prescription drugs, as it's part of our dirt-cheap $96 monthly premium for our healthcare coverage. That's $96 total for two of us. So we can't complain.
But I imagine it's a good plan for anyone who requires a lot of prescription drugs. And for low-income people, the deductible would be a lot lower.
So far, I still give Canada high marks on its medical care coverage. As I've said, the coverage will actually make it feasible for me to freelance.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

a beautiful sunny day

Staples delivered some bookcases an hour ago. It would be nice to install them and get things organized.
But it's going to be a LONG fall and winter of rainy, rainy days. And today is a beautiful, sunny day.
Later this week is going to be crazy as more data is coming in for me to analyze for my freelance project.
So we're going outside to enjoy the nice weather while we can.
Oh, my driver's license arrived in the mail today. I can't believe it was so fast. I went to the office mid-day Thursday. I'm hoping for the renewal I won't have a double-chin for the photo.
I can't wait to watch the debate tonight.
My absentee ballot should arrive tomorrow. I'm looking forward to voting. I don't want to state the candidate I'll vote for.
I'll just say I favor an intelligent, well-spoken candidate who focuses on the issues, understands the economy during these difficult economic times and has chosen a qualified running mate.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

I miss my bomb shelter

Luis and I had a big, unfinished basement on Long Island. We would go to Costco and buy everything in bulk. There were shelves alongside the staircase to the basement and then lots of shelves in the basement, all filled with food, neatly arranged.
Someone once dubbed it a "bomb shelter." There was enough food for a couple of years. I learned from my Mom to buy in bulk when things are on sale.
Now we have a little locked storage area in our apartment's ground level. Maybe it's 5-feet-by-8-feet and about 7 feet high.
We had lots of storage area in our apartment and the storage area -- until 63 boxes of our belongings arrived just under two weeks ago.
Yesterday, we just went grocery shopping, and then we had to figure where to put all the stuff.
In addition to ground-level storage, the apartment has a storage area right near the apartment's front door but we use that as my office. That room can't fit all of my office stuff.
In the living room, we've got our collectibles -- fossils, kaleidoscopes, crystals -- all over the windowsill and on the mantel.
So we just bought a bookcase and little tables for the living room and a bookcase for the office.
All of this comes AFTER we purged so much stuff before our move. We had two garage sales, made lots of trips to the thrift store and gave away stuff.
It was actually very cathartic to purge all that stuff. But every once in a while, I say, "Do we have this or that or did we sell it, give it away or donate it?"
But the apartment is very nice.
At least we aren't making trips upstairs, downstairs and all over the place. With 650 square feet, including the 45-square-foot balcony, there's not a lot of place to move around.
And as I've said in earlier posts, we are in the heart of the city. We overlook the inlet, the mountains, part of the skyline and even Stanley Park - the Central Park of Vancouver, though it's not as central here -- it's at the west end of the city.
And at least we have parking in an underground garage, so we don't have to worry about driving around forever looking for parking.
So overall, it's nice. But we've decided we'll only stay here until our lease expires July 15. Then we'll look for another place.
So for my family and friends reading this, if you want to experience the heart of Vancouver, you'll have to visit by July. Who knows where we'll be next. Maybe Saskatoon.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Our 3-month Anniversay

Today marks three months from the date we got on a ferry in Seattle and arrived in Victoria, BC, becoming new residents. I cannot believe all that has happened in three months. It feels like a year.
The other day I said to Luis that we had such a long to-do list and only two things remained:
  • get a driver's license
  • get a job :)
OK. So the last one is a big task. I got my driver's license today, though. Luis already has his. So now we're just onto the last item.
I'm going to do some freelance and see how that works out.
Luis will try to get a job as a lab assistant, as that doesn't require a license.
We're starting to see the beginnings of fall / winter here, with lots of rain. I guess you just have to remember to always have an umbrella in "Rain City."

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

We've got healthcare and other news

This is just a mix of various items...
  • New residents receive health insurance two months from the 1st of the month after their arrival. We arrived on July 2, so the two-month anniversary from Aug. 1 is today. So we have health insurance. We applied soon after we arrived, and had already received our cards with today's start date. That means I can now go to a doctor for my hypothyroidism. We still have to wait for our prescription coverage. But, as I may have written before, prescription drugs are so cheap here.
  • I finished tutoring one of my students in the SAT. He takes the test on Saturday. He's hoping to go to a university in California. He started out with a very low grade on the grammar. Now he's getting either a perfect score or just missing one or two questions. That's awesome. He also improved in the math section. I started on blog on my SAT tutoring in Vancouver, hoping to attract new clients.
  • Tonight I had my fourth "Introduction to Broadcasting" class. It's really interesting how broadcast writing is so different from newspaper writing. The leads have to be in the present tense. We had to interview another student and write about it. I wrote about how this other student became a volunteer in emergency preparedness after a fire struck his apartment building. He told how Luis and I came here to get married and that our commitment ceremony will be on TV.
  • Funny that I just had to pay $375 for the last two months of my electric bill from Long Island Power Authority (LIPA). Today, I received my first bill here: $37. I thought, "Wow! that is so cheap for one month." Then I saw that it was for TWO months. Sure, I'm in a smaller apartment. I really think LIPA scams people. There have been times when I was away on vacation for a month and still had a big LIPA bill. Come on. My refrigerator doesn't use that much electricity.
  • Earlier this week was insane because I was doing my freelance for the AP. I had to analyze a government database that was in complete disarray. So it took so much work. I was up until 8:30 a.m. on Monday working on it.
  • I've cut back on the work as an extra on TV and movie sets because I want to focus on doing more freelance work. Yesterday, Luis was on the set of a movie called "Tooth Fairy" with The Rock.
  • I might be going back to New York later this fall. I got a call from the law firm representing Newsday and me in a lawsuit filed by the subject of a story I wrote. I have to go back to New York for a deposition. The lawyers haven't set the date yet, though.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Settling In

Now we're really settling in. On Friday, I got my license plate, which says "Beautiful British Columbia." It was very exciting to finally have a license plate.
I now have insurance in New York and British Columbia because I can't cancel my insurance there until the state provides me with proof that British Columbia destroyed my license plate.
And the next part of settling in... Our goods arrived today. They arrived on four very tall skids. Our boxes were inside a giant box with the thickest cardboard I've ever seen.
Because we had everything in boxes, I used a cargo shipper, not a regular mover. It was so much cheaper. They actually shipped very quickly after I had finalized everything. It just took me a while to finalize everything because we had so much else going on.
In other news, I'm doing some freelance for the Associated Press.
I've also been tutoring in the SAT.
We've also been very busy doing extra work. We were on the set of The L Word a lot last week. It's the last season of the show.
We were also extras a movie called Trust a week ago.
So we've been very, very busy.
Now with our stuff arriving, it's going to be crazy here.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Bear Warning


This bear-warning sign, sent from a blog fan, speaks for itself.
Click on the picture to see it larger.
WARNING to squirrel lovers: You may not want to read this.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Luis and I have a date... on TV, that is

Our commitment ceremony will appear on The Sytle Network on Oct. 21. Read all about it
TV show page of our wedding Web site.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The story of a speeding ticket and my lost wedding ring

We spent two days on the set of Night at the Museum 2 on Monday and Tuesday. We were on the set with Ben Stiller. He's such a nice guy, very down-to-earth.
The Wednesday shooting was canceled, so I decided to head down the States to import my car, which had been sitting in the Bellingham International Airport parking lot for 12 days.
I picked up the car and drove to Blaine, Wash., to get the title, which my Mom mailed there. (It's sort of my U.S. address for parcels and priority mail.)
As I was driving to US customs to export the car, I pulled over to look at a map. Then, way in the distance, I saw a police car with sirens on. "Good thing I pulled over so he can pass me," I thought.
Well, he didn't pass me. He pulled up behind me, then got out and told me I had been driving 40 mph in a 25 mph zone. He said this is a neighborhood with children. I asked, "Are you going to give me a ticket. I just moved here, and I really can't afford it." He said, "You were going pretty fast." Then he went back to his car and I could see him writing up the ticket. A few minutes later, he walked up, and I could see him holding the yellow ticket.
"I rarely do this," he said, "but I'm just going to give you a written warning." I was so relieved.
I then got my title stamped to export the car. I wanted to then turn around and go grocery shopping in the States, where groceries are much cheaper. But the US officer said I had to enter Canada, then I could turn around. So I imported the car through Canadian customs, then I returned.
I then drove on Interstate 5, which goes from the border down to Bellingham, Seattle and all the way to San Diego. All of the sudden, I just looked at my ring finger and said, "Oh, my God!" Where's my ring??? My heart started racing.
Dam! I knew it. It must have slipped off in the bus on the way down. The bathroom light was broken. I had to hold the lock on the door to keep the light on. Then the sink was broken, too. It was full of towels. There was only that alcohol hand cleaner crap. So I used that. But it was all sticky, like a combination of soap and alcohol cleaner. I dried off with toilet paper and threw it out in the garbage. My ring must have gone in the garbage with my toilet paper.
Then I thought it could have happened when I went to the bathroom at Bellingham Int'l Airport to clean that crap off my hands. Wait! I remember that when I washed there, which was after the bus, my ring was on because I remember trying to get the water off my hands without losing my ring, which had seemed a little loose over the last few days.
I went back to the airport and looked in the bathroom, including the garbage. Nothing.
So I left.
Later, I figured I would call there to ask for a lost and found. But 411 gave me the phone number to a guy who fuels the planes on the runway.
I then called the bus company, too, thinking I could have been mistaken about having my ring.
I even thought that maybe I hadn't put my ring back on after I had taken it off for the second day of Night at the Museum 2. I remembered putting it on in the morning, but I thought maybe I had just dreamt that I put my ring back on.
Anyway, I was having difficulty finding the right people at the airport and bus company. And, at this point, it's in some garbage bin somewhere. It's never going to be found. So I just went shopping at Costco and returned home.
I looked in the spot near the bed where I had placed my ring on Tuesday. "There it is!," I thought. "Oh, no ,that's my hematite ring."
I guess I was a bit on edge. No ring. I just began crying.
I placed a call to the airport using a number I found online. I was forwarded to a voicemail in an administrative office, and I left a message. It was very clear how despondent I was.
I could replace the physical ring, but this is special. It's the ring Luis placed on my finger when we had our commitment ceremony on May 31 and our marriage on July 4.
I was so depressed.
All day, Luis was working on "The L Word" as an extra, so I couldn't even cry on his shoulder.
But I had my first class in broadcast journalism at 6:45 p..m., and it was 6:41 p.m. So I hopped a cab and went to class.
Later, I picked up Luis and told him what happened. He was very supportive. He said that it's not the first time a guy has lost a wedding ring. I thought of my cousin Judy's husband, who has lost his ring four times. What he must have gone through each time! It's so devastating.
This morning, I got a call. "Hi! It's Patsy from the Bellingham Airport. Is this Rich?"
"Yes"
"We found your ring."
"You did! You found it. Luis, they found it!!!"
"We did find it."
"You didn't find it???? What???"
"No, we found it. Guess where it was?"
"On the floor?"
"No. It was in the garbage."
"Can you give me the name of the person who found it?"
"It was the cleaning person. Normally, the cleaning person just pulls out the entire garbage bag and throws it out. But there weren't a lot of paper towels. So she reached in and just pulled out a few paper towels. And she saw the ring. We can mail it to you."
"No, I'll pick it up. Thank you so much."
This was just a miracle. I will be so, so, so cautious from now on with that ring. I think I'm going to be checking it every time after I wash my hands.
I was so happy after I just got the written warning for speeding. And that was quickly replaced by sadness over the lost ring. But to get word, just a day later, that it was found, is awesome. I'm so happy!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Listeria outbreak

There's been a nasty outbreak of listeria in processed meats in Canada. Every few days more investigations into deaths are announced. So far, Listeriosis has killed at least 15 people.
Consumers have been told to avoid so many products, including the Kirkland Signature food platters at Costco warehouse (in Canada, at least. I'm not sure about the U.S.) What amazed me is the number of products recalled. It's practically a book.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

We're husband and husband now

As Luis and I were legally married on July 2, we are officially husband and husband. At least now there should be no confusion as to what we should call each other, and the term others should use.
But we were speaking to an immigration official. I said my husband needed to speak to him as well. So he asked me to put my "partner" on the line.
Well, Luis and I are not in business together.
OK, I may have used that awkward expression before. But I don't need to anymore.
If I call him my husband, he is my husband. It has happened a couple of times now.
I had e-mailed my former colleague and friend Carrie Mason-Draffen about this and felt a little better after reading her response.
She said when she got married in the early 1980s, she hyphenated her name, a source of constant confusion. One time when she said her name to an airline reservation agent, the agent asked her how many people she was referring to.
"Society does change," she wrote. "So take heart."
That's true.

Monday, August 25, 2008

A cautionary immigration tale

I just read a terrible story in a column by a lawyer at Mamann & Associates Immigration Lawyers. A guy planned to fly to Canada just two days before the expiration of his permanent residency Visa. But he got sick and had to stay in the hospital before leaving. By the time he arrived to Canada, his Visa was just one week old. Immigration officials unfortunately have no leeway and told him to start the process all over again, possibly taking another three years. And he would have to pay most of the fees again.
Luis and I flew from New York on June 30, and our Visa expired July 13. We are so lucky nothing happened to delay our arrival.

I'm going to post the column as soon as I get permission from the law office.

Monday, August 18, 2008

There's been an explosion

We had no idea that every night a cannon explodes at 9 p.m. in the marina right across from our apartment.
So our first night here, we heard this loud, and I mean LOUD, explosion. I figured it was thunder. But Luis said it had to be an explosion. Then we looked out at the marina, and we saw smoke rising.
Figuring I should be a good resident and report on the unusually loud explosion, I called 911. I said we heard a loud explosion and smoke must have risen but was no longer rising from the marina. The 911 operator asked a few questions, including my location. Then he said they would look into it and get back to me.
Then a friend told us about the cannons going off every night at 9 p.m. And it clicked. He said the 911 operator probably got off the phone and started laughing with his colleagues.

our neighborhood

We live in just such a beautiful location.
We're surrounded by a huge park, the skyline, the water and the Coast Mountains.
We took a nice walk along the marina on Saturday night, looking at the reflection of skyline on the water as the moon was rising over the cityscape. Then we made our way to Stanley Park.
The 1,000-acre park is stunning, with a seawall surrounding it. It has an aquarium, gardens, pool, totem poles and a cannon that goes off at 9 p.m. every night. (I'll do another post about my 911 call regarding a "loud explosion" the first time in went off. How was I to know?)

We were supernumeraries

Other news: We were extras on "The L Word" on Monday. Vancouver is called "Hollywood North," and the film/TV industry is always looking for extras. It was fun.
The scene was a gay men's party.
About 250 guys and a few women packed into a studio about a 20-minute drive from downtown Vancouver. The studio looked like a very high-end dance club, beautifully decorated with an Indian touch. We would dance, and then the music would stop so the characters could talk. But we would have to continue dancing in silence. It was very weird seeing a room full of 250 people dancing in silence.
We wrote to a local agency, who will be seeing us to discuss more gigs as extras.
The other day, Luis told me that we were "supernumeraries." I had no idea what he meant.
Well, his "word of the day" was supernumerary. (I guess they recycle the word of the day because that link shows it was from 9/23/03.
Anyway, it was fun being a supernumerary, and next time we'll bring a book. We sat around for two out of the nine hours. It's a good thing to do while we're job-hunting.

Back in the U.S. - soon

...unfortunately, nowhere near New York.
In order the export my car, which already is in Canada, I must return the car to the United States. Under U.S. law, it must remain in the United States for 72 business hours before I can bring it back into Canada. I must comply with this, otherwise I could be heavily fined or my car could be seized.
That means I have to drive to the Bellingham, Wash., airport and park my car. Once it has arrived in the U.S., I can apply to export it and the three-day waiting period begins.
Then I can take a bus back to Vancouver, wait the three days, and then take a bus back to the Bellingham Airport. Don't ask me to explain why it is done this way. I guess they want three days to make sure I haven't stolen the car. But if I'm already in Canada with the car, I don't see the purpose of having to bring the car back into the United States.
Anyway, I have to go the United States anyway because my desktop computer arrived last week and didn't work. Costco Canada won't fix it. They said they'll mail me an empty box to a United States address, and I can then ship it to them. Then they'll return it to a United States address. So I have to make the trip twice anyway.
Normally, Vancouverites go to Blaine, Wash., which is just minutes across the border, to accomplish their U.S.-related business. But they have no public transportation for me to return to Vancouver.
I can still drop by in Blaine on my way down to Bellingham, though. I just got a temporary address from a mailbox-type business in Blaine so I can get packages. ($5 for packages less than 20 lb, $10 over 20 lb.; half price with annual membership of $10.)
I thought of this as a great business idea but obviously many businesses beat me to the punch.
So Costco will mail the box there and I'll pick it up there. (What a pain!) That also means I have to deal with customs on both sides.
The good news on another front: I'll get a 40-percent discount on my car insurance for a good driving record. (They go back eight years.). Basic car insurance (liability) is issued by the province and purchased through private agents.
We had our first meeting regarding help with our job search. It was just filling out paperwork. Tomorrow through Thursday and then on Monday we'll get our actual training on Web sites to use, resume writing, etc.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Check out our Victoria Wedding photos

Last month we got an e-mail from our photographer saying he couldn't retrieve the photos from his memory card -- not his fault at all, some problem with the card. But experts at Lexar managed to retrieve the photos, fortunately.
Now we've finally posted them.
Check them out here. (By the way, when you see a photo with a border as if one photo is behind another, that's a photo album, as is the case below. Please click on it to see the entire album.)
There are seven people in the photos: Us, of course; Joyce & Peter, the owners of the B&B, who served as our witnesses; Laurie Smith, the marriage commissioner; and the string duo musicians. Unfortunately, you don't get to see our great photographer. We are so happy with how the photos turned out.
Rich and Luis' wedding. Victoria Canada. July 4th 2008

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Squirrels




For my most loyal commenter, squirrelmama: Here's some squirrel info from a sign in Banff. It might look like a chipmunk or something, but it's a golden-mantled ground squirrel. We captured a pic of one during a hike.

Still here

Luis with our friend Ken (back right) and Ken's friend at Vancouver Gay Pride, Aug. 3, 2008.

Fireworks competition, Aug. 2, 2008

Sorry I haven't posted in such a long time. We arrived in Vancouver on Saturday afternoon. Our landlord arrived right at the appointed time and gave us the keys to our apartment.
Vancouver welcomed us with a fireworks display. :) We saw a bunch of people all heading the same direction, and it turned out there was a finale to several days of a fireworks competition. So we headed there with our camera and tripod, trying to have some fun catching fireworks pix, not a very easy task, especially among crowds. But we got some good shots.
We made a little gaffe, though, related to Canadian's politeness.
We were watching the fireworks and saw that a bunch of people were standing about three feet back from a fence. Maybe they were standing back a bit because the fence would have obstructed their view if they were any closer. Well, being New Yorkers, we saw an opening and took it. Then someone tapped me on my shoulder and politely said I was blocking his view. I thought it was a bit strange. "If you wanted to stand where I was standing, you should have stood there," I thought. But being new to the city, we were polite and moved.
Then I told this to a bunch of people at a party. When I began to say that I saw the open area, they knew I was going to say we moved there, and their jaws dropped. "You didn't, did you?" someone said.
He said that Canadians are so polite that there's even a joke.
Q. What does a Canadian say when you step on his foot?
A. I'm sorry.
But it's really not a joke. He said a Canadian would assume that they were in your way and apologize.
Sunday was Vancouver's gay pride parade. The city probably has it in August because the temps can reach as high as 80 degrees now. :) I keep joking with Luis that it's so nice that the city air-conditions the outside. When you're walking around, it's the perfect temperature, the temperature you would set your thermostat to.
We had a great time at Pride.
Monday was BC (British Columbia) Day, but we didn't realize it until we arrived at Costco and it was closed. We got some practical things done, like getting a shower curtain. It's weird being in a new country and city because we don't know the stores or anything. I used to love Walgreens but now I've discovered its equivalent, London Drugs, which carries everything at decent prices.
We won't have Internet access at our apartment until Friday. I can't wait!

Friday, August 1, 2008

On our way to Vancouver

We're going to leave in minutes to Vancouver, a day later than expected.
It's about a 12-hour ride, so we'll stay over somewhere tonight. We'll update you when we're back at our new apartment. It's been a great vacation. I hope you've enjoyed following it. The next chapter begins.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

No, we weren't on the bus

A horrific crime happened in Canada that apparently has made news in the United States. (I saw it on CNN this morning.) But this is a big country. So, no, we were nowhere near the Greyhound bus in which a crazed guy stabbed and decapitated a fellow passenger (caution before clicking on this. It's disgusting). The suspect apparently did it for no reason at all. By coincidence, though, we recently camped in Brandon, where the 37 bus passengers/witnesses are staying in a hotel. And we stayed in Winnipeg, the bus' destination.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Animaux Sauvages

We get a kick out of seeing everything in English and French. Animaux Sauvages is wildlife. We're learning a lot of French. Luis no longer tells me that the exit on the highway leads to Sortie. (Sortie is "exit" in French. All the exit signs say "Exit Sortie")
Anyway, here's some wildlife. A beautiful black bear. We hiked to Johnston Canyon and went to the lower and upper falls. After that is a pic of Luis at Moraine Lake.





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Hike to the falls; Today we freeze

Yesterday we hiked through Johnston Canyon, which has two beautiful waterfalls. Then we went to Moraine Lake, a turquoise lake surrounded by 10 peaks. We then saw Lake Louise, which is one of the most well-known lakes in Banff. It's also a beautiful turquoise lake, but the Fairmont put up this ugly hotel and charges $40 for a half-hour canoe ride. (Oh, and by the way, if you fall out, you have about 15 minutes before hypothermia kicks in.) The Fairmont says it's not responsible for deaths of canoe passengers. We took the beautiful Bow Valley parkway on our way up to the Lake Louise area, and two park officials stopped us to tell us to slow down but not stop because a bear was alongside the parkway. We didn't see the one she mentioned, but then we saw an adorable bear a little later. We then looped around again, embarrassed that we would have to pass the same official. Luis said "Put on your sunglasses and a hat." The official approached us and apparently didn't recognize me. She began to give us the spiel, then she looked in the car, and saw Luis, and said, "Oh, you know what to do."
We went past the same spot on the way back in the evening, when the bears come out. We would drive along the parkway, looking at both sides for a bear. Finally, we spotted one. We got some great pics and video of this bear eating berries. It was so cute.
We also saw some elk with really big horns.
Today, we're off to the Columbia Icefields, the largest remnant of a giant glacier.
We hope to post pics tonight.