Category Archives: Uncategorized

Visiting Cirque Du Soleil for “Alegria”

It’s a long weekend here in BC, and Mrs Dim had booked tickets for the pair of us to go see Cirque Du Soleil’s new show “Alegria”. Every time Cirque come to Vancouver, they pitch a huge big top on False Creek, just by the Rogers Arena, across from Science World. Even amongst the interesting architecture of Downtown, the tent stands out.

I hadn’t seen a live Cirque performance since I went to see “Quidam” in London with Paul, one of my juggling partners, but our eldest had been to this show last week and said it was awesome.

It was definitely weird, being in such a busy space – our largest gathering of other people since local restrictions were lifted, but staff were masked and so were quite a few visitors. We had opted not get VIP seating, or upgrade when offered the chance on arrival, but our seats looked pretty good. We weren’t right at the edge of the performing area, and there weren’t any support structures in our way. We were pretty close to our neighbours, but this is BC, so we said Hi and chatted with them. They were, of course, nice people.

The performing area was bare, except for a bent stick with a crystal in the end, slowly rotating on the spot.

If we craned our necks and looked to the right, we could see the entrance, guarded by an ornate throne.

Like most Cirque shows, there was a kind of story, and sometimes that story seemed to be part of the circus performance, and sometimes it didn’t figure at all. The characters spoke in a kind of semi-intelligible fashion, like Minions, so you didn’t have to speak English to “understand” them.

What were the acts? Well, I didn’t take any photos of them. Photography is not forbidden, just no flashes and no video, so it’s safer not to try. The first act was acrobatics using poles, supported on shoulders to propel the acrobats into the air. It was big and showy and really, really impressive. Then there was a more traditional trapeze act, a pair doing release and catch moves right up at the peak of the tent,

In between acts, either the “main” story of the jester who wanted to be king (or whatever) or the more minor but more fun story of the two clowns would continue. The latter produced the most unexpected moment of the whole show, when there was an actual blizzard – paper snow, blasted from the area of the throne, all the way across the stage, and right into the faces of the people who HAD bought the VIP seats.

There was an amazing fire twirling act, whatever you call a trapeze act that doesn’t use a trapeze but just has a wrist through a rope loop, a hula hoop flow artist, an awesome trampoline team act, and a pair of captivating acro-balancers. Did I miss anyone? I can’t remember, but it was a great show. Oh yeah, the guy Mrs Dim really liked who did the act with the big steel wheel he rocked around the stage.

Thank you, Cirque du Soleil, for a great evening out!

Training Day

The Skytrain is a big plus in our neighbourhood. The nearest station used to be fifteen minutes’ walk away, but then they expanded the line through to Coquitlam Centre, and now we have one just around the corner. On a good day, I stride to the station, hop on the train to Lougheed station, then change and ride eight stops to Metrotown. Then I only have to walk across the road, and I am at work. If I time it right, it’s about forty minutes, door to door, and I can listen to audio books all the way there and back.

Today was NOT such a day. Although the sky was blue and the weather pleasant as I walked to the first station, I arrived at Lougheed to a baffling message on the arrivals board. No mention of the Waterfront train I usually took, and the one that would take me back up the hill to my home station wasn’t due for 25 minutes. These trains are normally running four or five minutes apart at most. A twenty five minute gap meant a serious issue, not to mention that I’d be travelling in the wrong direction.

But I had another option. There’s a longer route to work, requiring an extra change, but it only adds ten minutes or so. I reluctantly went down the stair and up the other stairs to reach the far platform. I boarded that train a minute later, then noticed a train arrive at the platform I’d just left. As it pulled out, I could clearly see the destination on the end carriage – Waterfront. MY TRAIN.

But now I was on the VCC Clark train, also pulling out. I scowled to myself and stared at my feet. Which were in the centre of a spreading pool of coffee. My travel mug had fallen out of my bag, and I hadn’t closed it properly. Everyone in the carriage watched the stream of liquid as it gurgled back and forth with the motion of the train, getting in under all the seats. I had to stay on that train for eight stops.

At Broadway I leapt off, and raced up the stairs to the next platform. My brain was still hung up on the train I had missed, so when the “Waterfront” train chugged in, I didn’t hesitate to leap on it. A crowd heaved on with me, and I was shoved far down the carriage. That meant that, when I noticed we were going THE WRONG WAY, I could not get out at the first station to change trains. I had to work my way through the crowd and eventually escaped at Stadium/Chinatown.

I rolled into the office at 9.05am. It barely counts as late, given that most days I’m around twenty minutes early, but I was DONE. Lucky for me, my co-worker was happy to do the deliveries, so I could stay in the office and pack for tomorrow.

Tomorrow, as it happens, is my day off. I won’t be taking the train anywhere.

If you want to follow this trip on the map illustrated, start at Burquitlam and move your counter down to Lougheed. Pause there, then go on along the yellow line to Commercial/Broadway. From there, move your token onto the Blue line, going the wrong way past Main Street/Scienceworld and stopping at Stadium/Chinatown. Then go back along the blue line all the way to Metrotown. Phew! For true realism, pour coffee on your feet as you begin.

Moving on…

Not from my house, but from Twitter. The news about the takeover has pushed me to make the jump, although I haven’t found any of the alternatives (MeWe, TapaTalk, Mastodon…) to be quite as good. That said, it took me a long time to get used to using Twitter after G+ got shut down. THAT loss was a big spur to getting my own domain name for this blog, in an attempt to ensure that the content I put up here stays online for as long as I can manage it.

So, if you see me on Twitter, that’s not me. If you can come find me on Mastodon or any of the others, I’m @Dtrasler and I’d love to follow you there.

Upgrading Derek

You may be familiar with Derek the dalek from earlier posts – he’s a project I embarked on thanks to my eldest kid, who has always been the chief Whovian of the family. We built Derek for a Vancouver Fan Expo, and he nearly worked. Then we rebuilt him for the last Fan Expo before the Great Pandemic, and he was something of a triumph.

But, like a lot of the things I have built over the years, he has his issues. Assembled from scrap wood and bondo and papier mache and more bondo and lots and lots and lots of paint, he’s really HEAVY. He’s hard to pack into the car, even though he comes to pieces, and he’s hard to wheel around. Mrs Dim has been suggesting for ages that we make him lighter, but I simply didn’t know how.

But then, the other day, we were talking about how to store Derek somewhere less obtrusive than the basement. Maybe he could go out in a shed? I immediately designed a TARDIS that would accommodate him, and would cost a couple hundred bucks less than the cheapest shed, but Mrs Dim said no. So I went to the Project Dalek Forum to look for alternatives.

I didn’t find any. I find a complete set of files for a life-size 3D printed Dalek, the same model as Derek.

WHAT IF WE REPLACED SOME OF THE HEAVIER PARTS WITH 3D PRINTS?

See, I have TWO 3D printers, thanks to an accident of fate.

Neither has a particularly large print bed, and I’m stingy with buying PLA, so I rearely have more than one full roll at a time, but still…

I decided to start with the dome, printing a new bottom edge to sharpen up the lines on Derek’s dome.

This looked like it was going to take ages! But once I had a few of those blue edge pieces printed, I couldn’t resist printing the next part up, just to see what it would look like. The red part in the picture took 8 hours to print, and wiped out the last of the PLA I had for that printer. But it looks great!

So I restrung that printer with an old quarter-reel of PLA and churned out another two blue pieces, then got that printer working on a bigger blue piece while the first one turned out a yellow.

Which is where I am now. That hole you can see should be filled tonight, and then I need to order more PLA so I can continue. Two more edge pieces and one more curved piece, and I am halfway round the dome! Slow going, yes, but faster than the way we built the original dome, and way, way, waaaaaay lighter!

I want to complete the dome, print a new neck section, and preferably a new set of shoulders too. All of those are heavy elements, and none are weight bearing. If we can trade them for 3d printed versions, they’ll make Derek lighter and easier to move, as well as being more accurate and having cleaner lines.

3D printing a life-size dalek sounds crazy, but so did building one when I didn’t have access to a 3D printer. We did a great job with Derek Mark 1, and a better job with Derek Mk 2. This is just Derek Mk 3, the same axe with perhaps a new handle and a new head, but the same axe nonetheless.

Fighting the Fatigue

We’re just about a month out from the anniversary of Mrs Dim’s stroke. Though we were lucky that she avoided the physical effects that you’d expect from a stroke – partial paralysis, muscle function disruption – she is still dealing with the after effects. Damage to the area of the brain that deals with memory is permanent, and though she has developed new systems to help compensate, we’ve yet to see evidence of her brain creating the new pathways. It’s possible that it’s happening, but it’s hard to chart progress.

Having had several encounters with physical injuries in the past, Mrs Dim is used to rehab work. It appeals to her nature – building up stamina by regular hard work, pushing yourself just a little further each time, until you regain full strength. Unfortunately, that’s not the way to deal with brain injuries.

Added to this, there’s the very real issue of “Post Stroke Fatigue”. Affecting around 40% of stroke patients, it can persist anywhere from 6 months to 2 years after the actual event. The Physical Therapists anticipated this, and suggested Mrs Dim get used to doing little and often – do an activity for a half hour, then take a half hour break. But it’s hard to change the way you’ve lived your life, so when she wakes up full if energy, she goes full bore at the day. This means she’s wiped out by lunchtime.

Our doctor did have some medical suggestions, but the medication we tried only woke up her brain, it didn’t provide any extra energy, with the result that she was exhausted, but her brain wouldn’t slow down enough to let her sleep.

I’m writing about this because she often worries that she’s some kind of fraud. Without a visible injury, with the ability to hold a sensible conversation for up to an hour (at the right time of day!), it’s easy to forget she’s impaired. But the fatigue is undeniable, and so out of character. Her ambition is undimmed, whether it’s about the house, the garden, her work, or the family. She’s not making concessions about life, just because it’s harder than it used to be.

This year has been tough, even coming off the first year of covid. We’re hoping that the next year might include a return to work in some form or other, which means different challenges, more new schedules and finding yet another new normal. But then, I get the impression that that’s how life is for everyone right now.

Another woodwork/stupid juggling box post

I keep telling people I’m not a woodworker, but weirdly, my posts “The Stupid Juggling box” and “I am not a cabinet maker” keep getting likes from woodworking blogs and sites. Or maybe the same ones keep liking it, I don’t know. Anyway, in that first link, I explained that my brain likes to complicate my life by coming up with unlikely but just possible woodwork projects that I really, really don’t have time for. This week, as we work to reclaim the wall now the fireplace has been removed, and we fail to go on vacation, and we try to finance the purchase of an apartment, and we want to get the taxes done, my brain decided I should build a handle onto the juggling box.

Not just any handle though.

A retractable handle.

Now, I did not do a series of photos as I went along, nor did I make an easily accessible video for my YouTube Channel. I didn’t do those things because I wanted to get this stupid idea out of my head and done as soon as possible, preferably without purchasing any new materials.

So, using only the plans in my head, I built the system illustrated below. Here it is in retracted position:

And here it is raised, ready to pull along.

Could this have been done better? Yes. Is that a comfortable handle to pull? No. Am I going to make further improvements? Almost certainly, but right now my brain is wrung out and I still have a week’s worth of ironing to get done by tomorrow. If I get time during the week, I might show you the book holder I made for the nice lady who’s had hand surgery and can’t hold her books right now.

Vacation failure again…

How the living room has looked, for way, way too long.

I may have mentioned the last couple of vacation failures. They were supposed to be our great trip to Hawaii, the first because it was our 25th wedding anniversary, but was also Covid and so we couldn’t go, and the second because we didn’t go the first time, but it was still Covid and then stroke, so we ended up taking a three day break in Whistler instead. Very similar, in many respects.

Mrs Dim keeps pointing out that I am under a lot of stress, trying to manage the house and help with the kids’ schooling, and Mrs Dim’s medical requirements, and do my day job. I don’t really notice the stress until she points it out, but I suppose she’s right. Anyway, this led to me deciding I would just impulsively take a week off work. Not worry about who would pick up the slack, or anything, just announce my leave, fill out the forms and go!

Mrs Dim fixed up a couple of nights in the Coast Hotel in Osoyoos, somewhere we had stayed before and very much enjoyed. It’s a four-hour drive, but I like the journey, and it would just be the two of us. No leaping out of bed in the morning to feed pets, no collecting kids from this or that, no washing up after meals. A real break.

Unfortunately, that break was *something* in the back of the car, 200km from home AND 200 km from our destination. We were close enough to Manning Park to limp into the car park so we could look under the car. Everything looked ok, but the car was definitely making a weird rattling noise it hadn’t before, so we called BCAA. They said they’d send someone out to look at it. Now, the last time I called BCAA for help with the Cursed Mini, they sent a guy with an entire mechanic’s tool collection in the back of his truck. He could have built another car out of the spare parts he carried. This was the kind of person I was expecting.

A very confused tow-truck guy (called “Guy”, as it happens) came out. He was confused because he was told the car was a “Mazda F-150” (which doesn’t exist) and it had a flat tyre (which it didn’t.) We drove him up and down the car park so he could hear the worrying sound for himself, but it turned out that didn’t matter because

A: He wasn’t a mechanic

B: He didn’t have any tools and

C: he’d only been driving a tow truck for three months.

He offered to tow us to Princeton where there was a tyre company and a motel. He then admitted the tyre company probably couldn’t fix the car, and the motel was full. On the other hand, it was close, and he lived there, so it was convenient for him.

We instead opted to be towed to Hope, which was only an hour away, had an actual garage that could at least look at the car, and was close enough to home that a Weasel could come out in the Cursed Mini and take us home. An hour isn’t much, but it’s a long time in the cramped cabin of a tow-truck owned by a forty-a-day smoker with no teeth, who tells you fifteen minutes into the journey that he’s unvaccinated and believes Covid to be a scheme by Bill Gates to reduce the world’s population….

Anyway, Middle Weasel drove out to Hope to rescue us, and Eldest and Tiny Weasel made sure there was food ready for us, and that the guy putting the finishing touches to the living room wall was done and paid before we got home.

The wall looks a lot better like this. When it’s painted, it’ll be better still.

It was not the two nights away from home we’d hoped for, but there were reasons to be cheerful. BCAA covered the costs of the towing. The garage fixed the car and it only cost $600 (yes, that’s a lot, but it’s way less than I thought it was going to be. Also, ANOTHER mysterious rattling noise that no one ever thought was serious has now ceased.) The hotel refunded us our booking. And yes, we DID have to drive back to Hope to retrieve the big car, but that meant Mrs Dim and I got another drive together, and another romantic Subway lunch in picturesque Hope*.

*This is sarcasm. Subway is the only reason to stop in Hope, with no offense intended to those people who, ah ha ha ha, “live in Hope”.

Surprised by West Side Story

Not too long ago, we watched “In The Heights” for the first time. While I can’t escape the notion that it is not my story, the value lies in seeing common ideas in the stories of others. Taking the “other” and finding the parts that connect us. Having great music and clever lyrics really helped, and compensated for it being yet another story about New York (I’ve been, and it’s ok. It’s not Rome, or Barcelona, or London, or Paris, but it’s ok. It’s not Basingstoke, so that’s a plus.)

When I heard there was a new version of West Side Story coming out, I must admit I was a little stumped, not as incisive as Jessica :

She’s right, of course. We occasionally talk about “the definitive” this or that, and how remaking certain things would be “blasphemy”, but stories can grow and reinvent themselves for new eyes, new experiences.

I saw the original West Side Story movie many times. My dad had the record, and it played from time to time. My favourite production may have been the one my elementary school went to see at Eggars Secondary, but I only really loved that because the fatal shot never came from the prop gun, so the avenging actor had to say “uh..bang?”

Anyway, a remake? Why? But now we’re watching it, and it seems to me we’re getting a better deal for the Puerto Rican characters, they’re more rounded, more grounded, My Middle Weasel commented approvingly on the lack of subtitles for the spanish that is spoken. I feel the changes more than seeing them clearly, but it’s a good movie done well (and what else would you expect from Spielberg?)

And you know what else it points out? That America has always been racist. That the natural expression of an old story about a rivalry between two families has to become about race when transferred to America. A colony that grew with genocide, that thrived on slavery, that invited all-comers with a promise of freedom, only to treat them as less than human.

The golden age that Republican talking heads hark back to only ever existed for wealthy white folks.

Reading into 2022

It’s a pretty good time to be a fan of epic fantasy and Sci-Fi. Thanks to viewer-hungry streaming services looking for the next Big Thing, adaptations of all kinds are finally hitting the screens. Of course, if you’re a reader more than a watcher, you may have already hit the biggest problem with these kinds of series – getting to the end of them. After all, ask a Game of Thrones reader how it all turns out in Westeros, and they’ll likely groan and mutter that George Martin always takes his time with books. Or mention the KingKiller Chronicles at a Convention and see who moves to defend Patrick Rothfuss, and who curses his name.

The point I’m trying to make is, when the “Shadow and Bone” tv show appeared on Netflix, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to tackle the books, in case I was committing myself to another unfinished epic. But I found the first trilogy of books in a nice box set and bought them for Mrs Dim for Christmas. After a week, she still hadn’t started them, so I borrowed it back and read them myself. Then I bought the audio book of “Six of Crows”, one of a “duology” set in the same world, but a different part with (mostly) different characters, and then I borrowed the second book “Crooked Kingdom” from the library. Once I had got through those, I went back to the library for “King of Scars” and “Rule of Wolves” which is ANOTHER duology that follows on from where both the trilogy and other duology leave off. They don’t END the story, as such, but they do tie up a lot of threads from all the earlier books. It’s safe to start is what I’m saying.

The first trilogy is the story that the tv show is telling, about Alina Starkov, who starts out as an orphan in the army of Ravka, working as a Mapmaker and trying to stay close to her childhood friend and fellow orphan Mal. But Alina is, unknown to herself, a Grisha, someone who can manipulate matter through what looks like magic. More than that, she’s a rare “Sun Summoner” , who may be able to undo the damage done to her country by the Heretic, hundreds of years ago. He performed such evil magic that he released “The Fold”, dividing the country in two and making travel from East to West deadly dangerous.

I won’t go into the story much further, because it is built of twists and turns and reversals. Leigh Bardugo has NO qualms about letting her characters get out of danger, recover, make plans and then get thrown to the wolves, or have the floor fall out from under them. It can be hard on the heart, but it guarantees an exciting story, even across three books.

“Six of Crows” and “Crooked Kingdom” focus on the Ketterdam crew, Kaz Brekker and his associates from The Barrel, the roughest part of Ketterdam. While these characters also appear in the tv show, the story runs a little differently in the books. Here, Kaz and his crew are hired for an impossible job – to get into the Ice Palace in Fjerda, where the Royal Family live, and also the headquarters of the fearsome Drüskelle (witch hunters). While getting in is impossible, they’ll also stand out from the blond, pale Fjerdans if they do get in, and they’ve been tasked with rescuing a high-value prisoner, which will be impossible. And then, even if they can get in, stay free, find and release the prisoner, they have to get out again.

It’s a huge heist adventure, with magic and thievery and romance and danger. And again, Leigh Bardugo is not gentle on her characters. They get hurt. Things go wrong.

In the final duology, both the strands of story have relevance, as the situation in Ravka comes to a head. The King must defend his throne from those trying to depose him, and he must defend his kingdom from Fjerda in the North and Shu Han in the South, and save his people from The Blight, a terrible phenomenon laying waste to land and people.

I loved being able to read all of these books in such a short span of time. The actual events are trying, and some of the losses are heartbreaking, but it’s a great story and a GRAND story. Seven books may seem like a lot, but they encompass the movements of entire nations. It’s well worth your time.

It’s February?

No one was seriously expecting the world to go back to “normal” on Jan 1st 2022, but I have to admit, I’m a little rattled to arrive in February with everything almost as crappy as it was last year. FanExpo Vancouver is coming up fast, and while I would love to go and show off Derek the Dalek one more time, I don’t feel safe AT ALL with the idea of pushing through crowds of folks. Besides, Derek still needs a lot of work, and I don’t have time.

Which is another weird thing, because I have NOT written a ton of plays in this last month. Sure, I’ve added a couple of scenes to the latest TLC project, and I have an outline of the first act of a new play, but I haven’t actually completed anything. And I haven’t finished any cosplay projects, or DIY either. Yes, I taught my God-daughter to snowboard, but that didn’t take a whole month…

We have bold plans afoot, trying to cash in on the value of our house (alright, the land it’s on, not the house) to give the weasels a head-start on the property ladder and replace the aging, polluting cars we pootle about in. We’re saying farewell to our lovely fireplace, because wood-burning fires are going to be outlawed in a couple of years, so we should make the jump now before electric fireplaces become, aha, HOT property.

Anyway, February is here, and I’d better get used to it. And maybe spend my lunchtimes writing pays instead of blog posts?