Archive for the 'Travel & Adventure' Category

Tour de Pondichéry

Janice Valdez on her Tour of India

Our friend Janice Valdez is a woman with a mission… or at least an adventure… or perhaps both. She is in the midst of a two-month tour of India to promote an extremely cool machine: the Stromer electric bicycle. Unlike the old mopeds, which used peddle energy as a way of forcibly jump-starting a motor, or electric scooters, which use no human power whatsoever, the Stromer uses an electrical drive to augment the rider’s contribution to forward motion.

Back home in Vancouver, Janice cycles everywhere and her (non-power-assisted) bike is her principle form of transportation within the city. With a strong commitment to sustainable, low-carbon-footprint living, Janice is a contributor to isCleaner.com, a web portal of news and ideas on clean energy. So she was, perhaps, a natural ambassador for this tour of India to show-off the Stromer.
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Born Orphans, Died Childless

Mating Pair of Sockeye Salmon, Adams River, BC, October 2010

Sockeye salmon have a four-year life cycle. The hatchlings spend their first year in the streams and connected lake systems of their birth and three years roaming far-and-wide in the northern regions of the Pacific Ocean. In the late autumn of their fourth year, they return to the streams of their birth – by imprinted sense of smell for the terroir of the natal drainage, perhaps along with some combination of sensitivity to magnetism and light polarization, or other Hogwartsian capabilities – to spawn and die.

In British Columbia, approximately half of the annual sockeye run occurs in the Adams River, 12 kms of class II water in the heart of the Shuswap, 450 km upstream of the sea. The fish make this arduous journey in five or six days. By the time they reach their spawning grounds they are exhausted, having taken no nourishment since leaving the ocean. They have also turned color, from silver to brilliant crimson.

Because the return of the sockeye is cyclical, the runs are not of equal proportions each year. One year in four is an enormous run, followed by a lesser run, and then two small runs. This year was a big year in the cycle. How big? Perhaps the biggest run of sockeye in 100 years.

Continue reading ‘Born Orphans, Died Childless’

Enjoy Your Stay

Peace Arch US - Canada Border Crossing
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The US – Canada “Peace Arch” border crossing, south of Vancouver, has always been a slightly Kafkaesque experience. In fact, until I got a second, “clean” passport (in which I don’t allow visa stamps from the Islamic Republic of Anywhere) and the new passport card, I used to be routinely “orange carded” upon entering the States, requiring interviews with various INS morons about my activities in countries they couldn’t pronounce or find on a well-labeled map.

My favorite television commercial from the Olympics nicely parodies the experience of crossing into the US from Canada.

My experience going the other way has always been different. Sure, Canadian Border agents are probably no smarter than their American counterparts, wear essentially the same uniforms, ask the same questions, and have the same concerns and jurisdiction. But there is a marked contrast in tone. The same questions asked accusingly by the American officers are asked politely and without any sense of prejudice by the Canadian officers. Going south, one is essentially told, “Okay, we’ll let you enter the US.” Going north, the tenor of the message is, “Welcome to Canada.”

This is a story of a northward crossing.

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Riding the Rails

All Aboard

All aboard!

I love train journeys. In India, where I reside half of each year, I make long-distance rail trips whenever I’m not pressed for time, generally snoozing-away most of the miles from a top berth in a second class bogey. I’d never traveled long distance by train in North America, however, until this week. On Thursday night, Yoo-Mi and I boarded Amtrak’s Coast Starlight Express at Oakland’s Jack London Station and headed north to Seattle, from which we’d jump the border to Vancouver on a connecting bus.

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Be Careful

Sam's BBQ, Austin, Texas

I arrived in Austin as dusk was beginning to descend and was at loose-ends until a meeting at noon the next day. I had a relatively sedate, if not exactly sedentary, evening planned. I had mapped-out a three hour trek that would take me to a seemingly well-regarded BBQ joint, into the heart of the downtown South by Southwest Festival scene, and back through the University of Texas campus to the crappy hotel where I was staying.

Forty minutes after setting-out, I found myself on Austin’s East 12th Street, as grim and raw as any nighttime streetscape you might care to imagine. The streets were just empty enough to feel abandoned, just populated enough to exude a palpable desperation. There was almost no car traffic, despite the relative breadth of the thoroughfare. I had no intention, of course, of wandering into an area of human tragedy. Google Maps can chart one’s path to bypass such things as toll roads or highways, but it does not counsel the avoidance of poverty and hopelessness. And I was not of a mind to alter course, in any event.

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Accidental Environmentalism

Birds on Ousteri Lake

When the Government of Pondicherry takes decisive action in favor of environmental protection, one thing is for certain: there is more to the story than meets the eye.

Here is the astounding-but-true story of the designation of Ousteri Lake, Pondicherry’s largest water body, as an “Important Bird Sanctuary,” thereby providing a significant legal tool to stop the industrial development which is ravaging its watershed.

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Could India Host an Impressive Olympics?

India and China. China and India.

Whenever discussion turns to the New World Order, these neighboring giants are always mentioned in the same breath as the up-and-comers. I understand the arguments, but remain deeply skeptical about the prospects for both countries, though for vastly different reasons.

With the Beijing 2008 Olympics drawing to a close, one must concede that China has managed to pull off a fabulously successful advertisement for itself, even though its ugly authoritarianism and environmental shamefulness remained on plain view throughout. So the question nags: Could India hold an Olympics that would flatter, rather than embarrass the nation? I, for one, seriously doubt it.

Continue reading ‘Could India Host an Impressive Olympics?’


Blasts from the Past

Man Up!
Man up you pussy!

... because the idiocy of manliness is an evergreen topic.

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Talking Turkey
how to cook a perfect turkey in half the time

... because Canada and the US will celebrate their Thanksgiving holidays and, regrettably and preventably, not 1-cook-in-10 will serve a decent turkey.

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Filial Piety Awareness Day
Kaki Tusler, Mother's Day Celebrant

... because everyday is Mother's Day.

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America Dreaming Small
American Dream

... because the American Dream seems but a distant memory, given the country's dominant ethos of small-mindedness.

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Serenity and Gratitude to Bring in the New Year
New Year's Eve at Tibetan Pavillion

... to remind us that not every mix of Tibetans and Western spiritual seekers has to be nauseating.

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Incredible Vision
Infinite Vision

... to celebrate the new edition of Infinite Vision published in India.

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Expelliarmus! Harry Potter and the Path to Gandhian Nonviolence
Expelliarmus, Potter, Gandhi, Nonviolence

... reprised because military strategy seems more cruel and less effective than ever -- and certainly there is a better way.

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India Going Nowhere Fast
Nano in Flames

... because cars are ruining Pondicherry, where I live. How badly are they fucking up your Indian town?

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Understanding the Gift Economy
Gift Economy Explained

... reprinted because more-and-more people seem want to understand the gift economy. (Yeah!)

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