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The Last Travel Vlogs

Wow.  Bet you didn't expect to see a notification for this blog ever again.  :)

I want to round things up a bit, and the very minimum I need to do for that is to post the last batch of video blogs I made while I was travelling.  So here goes:

And the final video, as a tribute the whole year and an expression of my excitement at being on the way home to all the people I was looking forward to seeing again:



Medieval Adventures

Québec City.  It is pretty.

It is not a place for thinking about real things.  It is a place for castles and cannons, and dresses and dragons.  It is like a little piece of ye olde Europe in the middle of Canada.  It has a city wall, complete with towers and turrets.  It has tiny quaint twisty streets lined with brickwork boutiques and cafés.  It has History with a capital H.  And I, um.  May have gotten a little carried away.

It started out innocently enough...
(click to embiggen)

And then we passed a medieval outfitters store, and I saw this:

It's all fun and games until someone puts a dress like that in their window, and then shit gets serious.

I need to get the hem taken up so I can walk without treading on my dress or having to clutch my skirts up round my knees.  Lord alone knows when I will wear it again, but dammit, it's pretty!  *__*

The Epic Trek Continues

Woo!  I guess I'd better update this thing some more, as there are plenty more videos knocking around my Facebook timeline now!

Fun times are most certainly being had.  At the same time, I'm very excited to know I'll be screaming through the hallways at Heathrow in JUST TWENTY-FIVE DAYS.  Awesome times now + awesome times to look forward to = the very best of both worlds.



The Epic Trek Begins

Greetings from Banff, Alberta!  :D  The city of Vancouver, and indeed the province of British Columbia, are now firmly behind me.  I am presently chilling out in a coffee shop in the mountain town of Banff, enjoying my first day off in what seems like a very long time.  I do believe I may play some Dungeon Keeper.  :3

There are lots of mountain hikes and wildlife viewing trips available here, but I'm not planning to do anything much today.  I will be seeing an awful lot of the Banff-Jasper area between Monday and Thursday, when I am on another Moose tour.  I scheduled this free weekend in Banff primarily as downtime - if I'm going to keep travelling for the next seven weeks (and I am!), then I need some time to just be chill or my brain is going to explode.  I loved the four-day tour around Vancouver Island, and the people I was travelling with were brilliant - Marc kept calling us 'our Moose family' - but I also need me-time.  I was feeling the lack of it on the two-day trip from Vancouver to here.  And now, I'm feeling pretty well exhausted.  I'm too tired to go climb any mountains, although maybe I will potter around some museums this afternoon, and my tonsils have been giving me warning signs the last couple of days.  The last thing I want right now is tonsilitis, so today is definitely a chill-out day.  As for tomorrow, well, I'll see how I feel tomorrow.  I want to be fully recharged and feeling AWESOME when I hit the road to Lake Louise on Monday!

Here commenceth my video blog of my travels thus far.  If you've been watching the daily videos I've been posting to Facebook, then there's nothing new here.  I just want to have them on my LiveJournal too.  ^__^


Expo Saturday and Sunday!

By the time I bounced out of bed on Saturday morning, I’d decided I definitely wanted to get a photo with Katee Sackhoff.  That meant that my first challenge of the day was to insert myself under one of the hostel’s shower units, and stay there until clean.  This might not seem like much of a challenge, but for those of you who may not know, I suffer from a woefully inconvenient and sometimes hygiene-impeding phobia of extractor fans.

It’s not as bad as it was when I was a kid, thank god.  These days, if the fan is not pointing its gaping predatory maw directly at me, and if it’s not snarling like a jungle beast in heat, then I can generally just suck it up and rush through whatever I need to do.  A brief scouting of the hostel washroom facilities on Friday morning, however, had confirmed my fears.  Although mercifully quiet, the extractors were planted squarely in the centre of the ceiling of each shower cubicle, less than two feet above the top of my head.  I could have reached up and touched the casing with my hand easily, had I had a mind to, which I most certainly did not.  At the time, I let the waterproof curtain fall back into place with a delicate shudder, and began calculating my chances of avoiding a devolution into a ball of stink and grease by Sunday evening purely through the use of wash basins, ample deodorant and a hair-tie-and-hat combo.  My last shower had been at home on Thursday morning before I left for work.  Thursday to Sunday seemed do-able.  I wouldn’t be pretty by the end of it, but I could He-Man through.

And then I got up on Saturday feeling the beginnings of grossness invading the edges of my senses, and my hair starting to fall lankly down my cheeks, and I thought of standing next to Katee Sackhoff with my arm around her and her arm around me, and of how I wanted to feel and smell and look in that moment and how it would be immortalized for all time by the photographer in a picture that I wanted to be able to display proudly, and I gulped hard and straightened my back and said to my dirty self in the mirror, Dirty Self: YOU SHALL NOT PASS.

I fetched a towel from the front desk, and approached the shower cubicle closest to the safety of the washroom door with great trepidation.  I hooked back the curtain and regarded my enemy with a hard stare.  It stared back, and harder.  I quailed.  It smirked.  Squashing the urge to scream or puke or both, I stepped into the little cubie and closed the curtain behind me.  I shit you not – every single hair on my body stood up on end.  It was like looking a velociraptor in the eye and daring it to eat me.

I have never undressed, showered, washed my hair, dried off and dressed again so fast in my entire life.  I think I was done and back out of there within three minutes, tops.  The whole time I could hear the fan humming away right over my head and the temptation to cut and run, to flee wet and naked and screaming right out into the public hallway where the world and her targ were all on their way to breakfast, was extreme.  I fixed my eyes on the tiled floor while shoving globs of two-in-one into and out of my hair, and chanted Katee Sackhoff Katee Sackhoff photo op with Katee Sackhoff under my breath over and over like it was a mantra to ward away evil.  And it must have worked because somehow, I actually did not die.

And the photo came out pretty darned good, check it out!  Totally worth forty bucks, two hours of standing in line, and three minutes of unholy washroom terror.  :D

Now, Saturday was filled with awesome things, and frankly I can’t be arsed to write about every single one of them.  A special mention goes out to the Star Trek: The Next Generation events, of course, since they were what I really went for.  Unfortunately I was rather out of range for any decent photos or videos, so I didn’t bother trying and simply concentrated on enjoying the show.  Wil Wheaton is AHMAZING by the way, so bloody witty and funny in almost everything he says, and then turns around and suddenly says something really sincere and touching a moment later.  He’s knocking on forty now but holy cow I think I just got a whole new crush on him.

Anyhoo, there was an absolutely brilliant moment toward the end of the big evening show, when all nine cast members were up on stage together, and someone asked Sir Patrick Stewart who or what his favourite enemy on the show had been.  I was in the half of the audience that was screaming ‘Q!’ and the other half were screaming ‘Borg!’, and Sir Patrick was all, ‘Oh, I think it was Damon Bok, you know…’  And then a familiar voice of omnipotence booms ‘What a TOTAL CROCK!’ and everybody is all WTF? with heads and turning left and right, including everyone on the stage, and suddenly there’s John de Lancie, striding up the centre aisle with a bouquet of yellow flowers in his hand, and the whole audience erupts to their feet in a fit of screaming and cheering.  The cast are clearly just as shocked and delighted.  For several minutes, it is nothing short of a party.

When things eventually settle down and John takes a seat with the rest of the cast and the questions continue, Sir Patrick takes the bouquet he’s been given by John and starts quietly and unobtrusively making his way around the stage, giving one flower to each of the cast members and interviewers, and giving each a peck of a kiss at the same time – a peck for all except Gates McFadden, that is.  Gates receives a respectable smooch, and the crowd goes wild.  A few minutes later, when Sir Patrick is back in his seat and Gates’s face has returned to something resembling a normal colour, Gates slides to her feet and first collects Marina Sirtis’s flower with a kiss, then Denise Crosby’s, and so on, working her way slowly and oh-so-casually down the line toward Sir Patrick at the far end.  The hosts are still trying to have a dialogue with Sir Patrick and Jonathan Frakes, but nobody is paying any attention to that.  The half-stifled giggling reaches fever pitch as Gates leans over the back of the final sofa to collect-and-kiss with Wil, then Jonathan… and finally she reaches Sir Patrick, and he tilts his head back and hold up his flower with a cheeky smile, and she grabs the flower with one hand and his face with the other and kisses him so long and hard that she damn near drags him off his seat.  The screams and wolf-whistles are deafening.  We waited twenty five years to see this, and it’s about bloody time!

Actually though, as amazing as TNG was, I think the very best part of my Saturday was the forty-five minutes I spent watching the relatively unheard-of Harold of Galactus, a duo improvization team who took direction from the audience in creating a superhero (‘Doctor Werewolf’) and concocted a whole story arc around it and play-acted the whole thing on the fly.  It was JUST SO GOOD.  Oh, I wish I’d recorded it, but my memory card will only stand up to fifteen minutes of video.  I did find another sketch of theirs on YouTube, so I’m posting it here for your entertainment.  It’s nearly fifty minutes long, but seriously, if I can recommend you just one thing: BOOKMARK THIS LINK.  THEY WILL MAKE YOU LAUGH UNTIL YOU PEE.  When you find that fifty minutes, it will be the best fifty minutes of your day, I guarantee it.

I was only at the Expo for a little bit of Sunday, but the part I was there for was seriously awesome.  I am of course referring to the Battlestar Galactica panel.  By making devious use of unstaffed entrances to the Corral, I was able to get to the Boyce Theatre just over an hour in advance and plant myself firmly first in line, when everyone else was trying to get there by the standard route via the main hall and were thus still stuck behind the primary barrier, being told to wait for the hall to open at ten o clock.  Folks, I am just too good.  So I bounced into the theatre right behind the VIP passholders when the doors finally opened, and got myself an epic seat for garnering video footage.  And here it is: I leave you with this awesomeness!


Expo Friday!


So, just after sunset on Thursday evening, I jetted on out of Vancouver and up to Calgary.  The flight was short at only an hour and ten minutes, but it was entertaining enough in its own way.  The views over twinkly twilit Vancouver during takeoff were stunning.  I think the best part, however, had to be the bit where the elderly gentleman in the seat next to me found himself wearing my complimentary pretzels and ginger ale.  Oh turbulence, how I do heart you so.

I fell into my hostel bed around midnight, and spent the first half of today moseying around Calgary since the Expo didn’t open until three this afternoon.  There was riding of trams, and exploration of the Fort Calgary museum.  When it came time to head over to the Expo, the girl in the bunk above mine came with me.  She’d journeyed down from Edmonton for the event, and her name was Victoria.

We didn’t want to get caught in the inevitable massive line-up so we delayed a little, and got to the Stampede Grounds shortly before four.  Victoria really wanted to see something that was happening in the Boyce Theatre at four, so when we looked across a parking lot and saw a set of glass doors with Boyce Theatre stenciled above them, we made a beeline for that entrance.  A large, white, and somewhat dirty car overtook us just as we were nearly there, and a guy leapt out, a backpack slung over one shoulder.  Victoria and I were chatting up a storm about Star Trek and not really paying attention, but I do remember he said something to the driver before closing the door and heading for the same entrance we were making for, just ahead of us.  The car drove away.

Victoria was talking and walking fast, but I was now looking at this stranger and feeling funny, and my footsteps slowed.  He had a broad back, brawny shoulders, and close-cut dark hair; and even though I hadn’t seen his face, he was pinging on my dradis something fierce.  I dropped behind slightly, thinking furiously: Is that…?  No!  How silly.  But… could it be…?

And then he reached the doors and pulled one open and looked over his backpack-laden shoulder at us, and fuck me sideways if Aaron Douglas wasn’t giving the two of us a small polite smile and waiting for Victoria to take the door.  There was a moment of inner screaming hysterical joy and panic where actual Aaron-Douglas-and-Kate-Griffiths eye contact happened and my social processing centres went blank.  In the name of Staying Cool, I somehow managed to smile back and tell him thank you, although my words came out so barely audible that I doubt he heard them.  Victoria, who had to actually take the door from him and thus came this close to touching his hand, made a noise like she’d swallowed her squeaker.

Inevitably, the vast legions of security inside pegged us for the squealing fangirls that we were and blew us out the airlock, with directions to go around to the main entrance at other side of the building.  Aaron melted through the ranks of security like hot butter, and vanished.  Oh Aaron, Aaron, you were so good while you lasted.  You looked into my eyes and held a door for me.  I will never forget.  *sigh*

The line-up to purchase tickets was still ridiculously fierce, so I left Victoria to her own problem devices and went on in to look around.  I got a glimpse of Marina Sirtis, Brent Spiner and Jonathan Frakes signing autographs, although I didn’t join the fray.  If I get one autograph, I’ll want the complete collection, and unfortunately it turns out that celebrities do not give autographs at Expo out of the goodness of their hearts.  Nine autographs will run considerably more expensive than I’m happy with.  Given that I’m seeing the panel show tomorrow night, I might forget about meeting any of the Star Trek cast in person altogether, and diversify instead.  I’m content that I’ve ‘done’ Aaron Douglas already, but it’d be nice to say hi to Katee Sackhoff while I have the chance.  If I pony up $40, I could get my photo taken with her.  This prospect tempts me sorely, I must confess.

I watched a really funny piece by an improvisational drama group, wandered aroud a lot, and fetched up back at the Boyce Theatre for an evening of music by James Marsters.  The audience was predominantly female, and let me tell you, the hormones were running pretty darned high in there.  I wasn’t sure I’d make it out alive.  I was having flashes of precognition about being accidentally trampled to death by the ravening herd of middle-aged women fanning themselves and screaming in the next row.

Well, I best get to bed, the biggest day is tomorrow.  I leave you with this – it’s not from tonight’s performance, but James did perform this song tonight, and I liked it a lot.


The Great Cross-Canada Travel Plan

Well, folks.  You've been asking for it, and here it is.

Now you can rest assured that, should you ever be cool enough to wake up in the morning thinking, 'Huh, I wonder what The Amazing Kate is up to today, and which particularly aweome part of Canada she is in,' you can refer back to this and find out.  :)

Leg the First:  Coastal BC & Vancouver Island
Friday 18th May – Final day of working in Canada.

Saturday 19th May – Final packing day.  Last full day in Vancouver.

Sunday 20th May – Riding the Moose bus onto the ferry boat, bobbing out west to Nanaimo, exploring some of Nanaimo itself, and then Moose-ing on across Vancouver Island to Tofino.

Monday 21st May – Free day in Tofino.  Today I shall be mostly lying on the beach in my swimsuit-sundress, cultivating the ever-popular lobster look.  I shall also be modelling an array of brightly-coloured cooling drinks and they will all have little paper umbrellas in them.  <3

Tuesday 22nd May – Riding the Moose out of Tofino, checking out the birthplace of Pamela Anderson (woopwoop) and some other local sights during the day, and heading into Victoria, British Columbia’s capital city, in the evening.

Wednesday 23rd May – Guided Moose tour of Victoria in the morning.  Parting ways from my Moose group in the afternoon to return to Vancouver independently via floatplane.  Back to my Point Grey stomping ground in the evening for ‘The Last Supper’ with Owen and Buster.
Leg the Second:  BC Interior and Rocky Mountains
Thursday 24th May – Riding the Moose out of Vancouver, this time for good, and heading east.  Passing through the coastal mountains and stopping at Bridal Veil Falls.  Houseboat barbecue dinner when we arrive at Shuswap Lake in the evening.

Friday 25th May – Riding the Moose on eastward.  Crossing the provincial border from British Columbia into Alberta.  Stopping at Emerald Lake for lunch, and bumping up against the foot of the Rocky Mountains in the evening as we arrive at our destination town of Banff.

Saturday 26th & Sunday 27th May – Free weekend in Banff.  Shall mosey around seeing the old town, and get my journal updated with all the legendary travel happenings so far.  I expect to mostly be found in quaint old coffee shops.

Monday 28th May – Riding the Moose north into the Rockies.  Most of the day will be spent exploring around Lake Louise and hiking in the mountains as a group.  Stopping for the night at Rampart Creek.

Tuesday 29th May – Riding the Moose onward into Jasper National Park to see the icefields, glaciers, lakes, waterfalls and mountains.  Spending the night at a wilderness hostel in the shadow of Mount Edith Cavell.

Wednesday 30th May – More opportunities for wilderness hiking, swimming and climbing, before heading into the town of Jasper for a free afternoon and evening.

Thursday 31st May – Riding the Moose back down through the Rockies, stopping along the way for more outdoor fun, and finishing up back at Banff again in the evening.

Leg the Third:  Traversing Central Canada

Friday 1st to Monday 4th June – Taking the Greyhound bus out of Banff on the Friday morning and heading north into the city of Edmonton.  I have almost four full days with which to explore Edmonton and discover what I’ve missed by not spending my whole year there.  According to the natives of Vancouver, the short answer is: not much.  Although having said that, it is widely agreed that the West Edmonton mall, largest mall in Canada and second-largest mall in the world, is the city’s bright redeeming feature.  It contains its own theme park, water park, and golf course.  I’ve been strongly advised by more than one Vancouverite to just spend the full four days at the mall.

Monday 4th to Thursday 7th June – Taking the train out of Edmonton late on Monday night and chuffing steadily eastward across the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba into Ontario, arriving in Toronto early on Thursday morning.  Canada’s population is concentrated very strongly toward the coastal regions, so for the duration of this epic two-days-and-three-nights train journey I will be mostly seeing endless prairies of waving golden grass stretching as far as the eye can see, and the occasional startled critter.  I expect to get a lot of reading done.

Leg the Fourth:  In and Around Toronto
Thursday 7th June – Free day to unravel the kinks out of my legs and explore the city of Toronto.

Friday 8th June – Riding the Moose north out of Toronto to Algonquin Park, stopping for a picnic lunch along the way.  When we arrive at the park, dinner will be a round-the-campfire affair beside our base camp’s log cabins.

Saturday 9th June – A day of group activities in Algonquin Park, including hiking, swimming, canoeing, and a barbecue dinner.

Sunday 10th June – More park activities in the morning before heading back toward the city.  Stopping along the way for a picnic and to climb the Dorset Fire Tower and see the epic views.  Finish up back in Toronto in the evening.

Monday 11th June – Free day in Toronto.

Tuesday 12th June – Moose day trip to see the Niagara Falls, with a stop along the way to sample the wares of an award-winning winery.  Tour includes both Niagara village and the famous falls.

Wednesday 13th and Thursday 14th June – Free days in Toronto.
Leg the Fifth:  Moose Schooner Tour
Friday 15th June – My three-week Moose tour of Eastern Canada begins.  Day one is spent travelling from Toronto in Ontario to Montreal in Quebec, Canada’s largest French-speaking city.  The evening is dedicated to exploring Montreal’s nightlife.

Saturday 16th June – A day for exploring Montreal, eating authentic squeaky poutine, checking out cathedrals and cafes and bars, and botching up attempts to communicate with the natives.

Sunday 17th June – Leaving Montreal behind to continue east along the St Lawrence river, through small French-speaking fishing towns.  Seals and other marine mammals are common on this part of the river.  We stop for the night in the town of Riviere du Loup (‘Wolf River’).

Monday 18th June – Continuing east and crossing the provincial border from Quebec into New Brunswick.  Visiting the Bay of Fundy to see the Flower Pot Rocks formation.

Tuesday 19th June – Travelling on through the Annapolis Valley and stopping for the night in the coastal fishing town of Digby.

Wednesday 20th June – Exploring the area around Digby and getting involved in a clam dig on the beach.  (I have no idea what a clam dig is, but it sounds fun, and tasty!)  Staying in Digby for a second night.

Thursday 21st June – Heading out of Digby and crossing the provincial border from New Brunswick into Nova Scotia.  Stopping along the way for a hike in the Kejimkujik Park.  Our evening destination is Nova Scotia’s capital city of Halifax.

Friday 22nd June – Group tour of Halifax, covering museums, cafes, bars, and boutique shops.  Then a visit to the Alexander Keith’s brewery, followed by dinner at a local pub.

Saturday 23rd June – Short trip to the scenic village of Peggy’s Cove.  Otherwise, a free day to continue exploring Halifax independently.

Sunday 24th June – Heading into the Cape Breton Highlands, an area famous for the heavy Scottish influence in its culture.  Also, a group hike to look for moose (as in REAL moose, as opposed to an antlered tour bus full of backpackers).  Overnighting in a hostel on the Cape Breton road.

Monday 25th June – Further exploration of Cape Breton, including whale-watching and a hiking trip.  Staying the night by the lake at Bear-on-the-Lake.

Tuesday 26th June – A halfway mark chill-out for catching our collective breath.  Swimming and relaxing on the beach are the order of the day, followed by another night at the Bear-on-the-Lake hostel.

Wednesday 27th June – Taking the ferry across to the province of Prince Edward Island, Canada’s smallest province.  We spend the evening in PEI’s capital city, Charlottetown.

Thursday 28th June – Continuing to explore Prince Edward Island, with visits to Cavendish Beach and the Anne of Green Gables homestead.  (Memo to me: get hold of a copy of Anne of Green Gables to read on the epic trans-Canada rail trip.)

Friday 29th June – Heading over the Confederation Bridge back into New Brunswick and enjoying a lobster boat cruise with lobster dinner, and a tour of the Hopewell Rocks.

Saturday 30th June – A long drive westward back into the French-speaking province of Quebec and to Quebec City, the only walled city in North America.  French cuisine awaits us in the evening.

Sunday 1st July – Another day of exploring a major city and its culture.  Quebec City is all about the narrow walkways, cobblestone streets, boutiques, museums, cafes, and of course the poutine and the crepes.  In the evening it’s a visit to a local bar for a night of live music.

Monday 2nd July – Continuing the westward return journey through the Quebec countryside and back into the province of Ontario.  Stopping just outside Ottawa, capital city of both Ontario and Canada, to admire the Montmorency Falls, which are half as high again as the Niagara Falls.  Then on into Ottawa itself for a leisurely afternoon and overnight stay in the city.

Tuesday 3rd July – A day to spend in and around Ottawa, visiting the aboriginal village of Turtle Island and hiking in the Gatinaeu Park.  A second night in the city follows.

Wednesday 4th July – On this final day of the tour we strike out from Ottawa to take a tour of the old city of Kingston and a boat cruise through the Thousand Island resort.  We finally get back to Toronto in the early evening, with time to spare for an end-of-tour party on our hostel’s patio.
Epilogue:  My Final Week in Canada
From Thursday 5th to Wednesday 11th July, I have a week to do as I please in Toronto before I fly home.  How much excitement I manage to pack into this last week in Canada will depend largely on how much money I have left – I may hop on day-trips left, right and centre and eat out three times a day like a baroness; or I may sit on my bed in my hostel room and cry quietly into my last packet of dry crackers.  I would very much like to visit the Elora Gorge River Tubing Park if I can, and I’m sure the hostel noticeboard will be stacked with things to do, so if I am not poor then I should not be bored.  :)

The first leg of my homeward flight takes off from Toronto late on Wednesday 11th July, and deposits me at Iceland’s Reykjavik Keflavik airport in the tiny wee hours of the night.  Then on the morning of Thursday 12th July I fly onward from Iceland to London Heathrow, and epic hugs shall ensue.  <3


REAL MEN: Five Glorious Examples

Well, I've been meaning to get on this for roughly the last hundred years now, and here it is at last.  The results of the Real Men survey I posted on Facebook are in and up!

It has come to my attention that a few people are looking forward to me posting this because they're interested to see what I'll say.  This puts me in a somewhat perplexing position.  A lot of the people who read this journal have, I'm sure, already read all five sets of survey answers on Facebook.  Some seem to assume that I will add some further comment to what they've already read.  However, after a great deal of deliberation, I've decided not to.

The men who were kind enough to share their thoughts on the joys and pressures of being men in a public space showed a either great deal of pride and satisfaction in being exactly who they are, or a great deal of courage in being so open and honest about what can be a touchy topic, or indeed perhaps both.  What I want to do here is showcase that.  I want to point to it and flag it up and go, Look at these guys! I am so proud to call them my friends!  It's not my place to pass comment or judgement on the individual answers that each man gave, and I'm really not at all comfortable with doing that.

Holding somebody up against traditional cultural standards, and commenting on the extent to which they do or don't meet those standards, is passing judgement.  It is disrespectful, unfair and wrong.  I am pretty sure that everyone here agrees on this.

Creating your own set of standards to live your own life by is, I am convinced, the route to true integrity and fulfilment in life.  When you do this, you are going to believe that your personal standards are better and more meaningful than the general cultural kind, and you will probably be right.  I certainly believe my personal goals and beliefs are far more worthwhile than the crap I am expected to say, do, want and like by the world at large.  But holding somebody else up against my own personal standards, and commenting on the extent to which they do or don't meet my own idea of the perfect human being, is still passing judgement.  It is still disrespectful, unfair and wrong.

Sometimes we accidentally judge people when what we really mean to do is compliment them.  It would be so easy for me to insert editorial comments into these surveys, praising the thoughts and feelings that speak to me the most, and publicly applauding those stereotype-defying responses that put a big silly grin on my face (of which there are many).  But who the hell am I to do that?  Who the hell am I to tell these men that this part and this part and this part of their wonderful selves is what counts for the most, in front of the whole world?

Who died and made me God?

These men don't need me to speak for them.  They can clearly speak for themselves, and they do so openly, articulately, and with great depth of thought and feeling.  Any comments I might add to their individual writings would be nothing more than graffiti on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

And so, being as I am entirely mortal and merely a fond admirer of these men, I leave you in their capable hands.  Enjoy.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

My name is:  Arthur George Inkpen

I identify as:  Male, Early twentys, Nerdy, Bi and a complex quilt of conflicting ideas and emotions that never seems to boil down to a person, just a set of ideas or feelings I can hold onto until the next tiny change. A weak willed amorphous blob creature often masked with the guise of bad humor and false confidence.

My friends & family call me:  Arthur, Art, Arty, Arty fax, Inky, Inkpen & Inkpwn (Forum name)

In my busy time, I:  Busy time? I'm unemployed and single, I guess the time I'm most busy is when I'm trying to get a job, cv showering companys and ringing up smucks that really have no time for me.

In my free time, I like to:  Avoid productive urges by painting shiny metal objects and playing various card and skirmish games. I also LOVE animation in all its forms, read comics and bitch about movies like a injured harp seal.

Activities in which I have no interest include:  Playing sport, clubbing, fighting, arguing, competitive video games/mmos.

The colours I like best or wear most are:  My favorite colours are green and purple, I mostly wear greys, greens, browns and blues because lord knows I don't want to bring attention to myself via fashion because that would require some actual effort and thought into how I dress and present myself to the world.

My favourite things about being my gender are:  You can pee behind a tree, scratch an itch without having to make an excuse, pick up a pint and have conversation with a stranger, pick up a pair of jeans a shirt and underwear and your ready to go with no thought, the ability to start the invisible gun fight scene from spaced whenever and wherever you want.

Things that frustrate me about being my gender are:  Can't talk to a strangers kid without someone assuming you could be a pedophile, I have often been assumed to be physical strong or have a high emotional fortitude because I am male. I'm apparently also after 'one thing' from every woman I meet and because I'm fat I'm immediately disregarded as partner material.  Can't enjoy a feminine show or sad moment in a film because its not the masculine thing to do. Grave of the fireflys is my favorite ghibli movie because its the most emotionally devastating, and yes I will cry openly to it if you don't mind.

If I could become a member of the opposite sex for a limited time only, I would use that opportunity to:  Standard sexual exploration, go the movies and salivate over the hunky lead, experiance the social and relaxing aspects of a salon. Weep openly about something small and get someone to buy me a drink.

In the world of public figures I admire:  Clancy Brown, Tara Strong, Tom kenny, Osamu tezuka, Rumiko Takahasi, Hyden Walch, Steven Fry, I'm not in tune to politics or anything important so these guys are all celebritys that left a small impression on me, for example Osamu Tezuka is most know for astro boy but things like pheonix, ode to kirihito are all excellent and have some great world views and ideas even if they are clumsly handled. Kate, check out dororo for a classic gender issue or there's another series by tezuka (I forget the name of it) about a woman literally born with the soul of a man. Or Ranma 1/2 by rumiko takahasi for a story of a man with a curse that changes his gender when expossed to hot or cold water, more of a gag martial arts series but it has its moments.

One day I would like to be:  I don't really have any goals, I made a terrible decision and left education for work and ended up in a three year emotional relationship with the first person to ever give me a passing glance. They were abusive and the experiance was physical and emotionally devastating, I lost all dreams and aspersions during that time. It's part of the reason I struggle to hold onto an idea for long.

Something else I’d like you to know about me is:  I have used this as an excuse to rant a bit, that can really tell you a lot about me. Sorry if this isn't what you wanted kate but, I guess, it helps with your gender arguments when you know theres a guy will to gush his thoughts like this.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

My name is: Caleb

I identify as:  Male, Geeky, Polyamorous, Autistic, Perverted, A little bit of a Sadist and Homeless.

My friends & family call me: Caleb, Omadon, Mr Shaw, Dickhead (and a plethora of more or less offensive terms from my immediate family)

In my busy time, I:  Attempt to paint toy soldiers for a living, and at present find myself a place to live in which to do just that.

In my free time, I like to:  Endulge myself in competition - I'm a tremendous geek, and play games to support this ^^ Presently a lot of League of Legends, and I'm looking to get back into the games that house the things I paint for my day job. Beyond that, I read, and spend far too much time traveling back and forth across the south west, as due to a combination of events I'm presently homeless. My life is in limbo until I find a way to remedy this.

Activities in which I have no interest include:  Driving, swimming, directly relating movement in any way that isn't walking. Most sports. Most foods. Hm.

The colours I like best or wear most are:  Red, Black, Purple and the odd bit of psychadelic mess.

My favourite things about being my gender are:  In all honesty, I've never really thought about this. I'm not a particularly masculine individual. Most people I know already lump me into a weird, private-to-me third gender with it's own inbuilt stereotypes. I guess I enjoy the freedom to aim my pee.

Things that frustrate me about being my gender are:  Orgasms are SO MUCH WORSE than female orgasms! Either that or melodrama is endemic to women as a whole (Which I doubt)

If I could become a member of the opposite sex for a limited time only, I would use that opportunity to: Have a whole bunch of sex. Thats about it. Idealy Kitty would magically swap at the same time ^^

In the world of public figures I admire:  Stewart Lee, Mike Krahulik & Jerry Holkins, Naomi Novik, Patrick Rothfuss, Iain M Banks, Stephen Fry, Richard Dawkins, Richard Feynman, Moira Laidlaw (Not that she's as public figure but who cares), Regina Spektor, Laura Marling. I could go on.

One day I would like to be:  Financially Solvent and otherwise happy in my relationship with my mind/body.

Something else I’d like you to know about me is:  I cannot come to a consensus over what to put here. I've stood up, walked away and changed my mind about four times now. I am in a particularly skittish mood and this does not lend well to articulate thought. If anything - I am not the person I was when I worked in yeovil. Much has happened since then that has only really been directly shared with a number of people I can count on one hand and yet many people seem to still think of me as some kind of villainous cartoon. This is no longer accurate.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

My name is: Jay

I identify as: most consistently I identify as human, and right now I identify as tired. These two aside, I identify as a plethora of things at various times. Sometimes I identify as a genius, other times a moron, sometimes very left wing, sometimes a little bit right. sometimes I even identify as awake and energetic(!) Essentially, I identify as whatever I feel at the time of identification, but most consistently and aside from human, I identify as a thinker, a lover, a nerd, ohsoveryliberal, working class, male, straight, not a robot, a student, in pursuit of a good life, lots of other things.

My friends & family call me: Jay, Jay-Jay, Jay, Jay Stone, Kharnac, captain, and a number of other things i'm sure.

In my busy time I: Am a student of philosophy, and in some loose way a teacher as well! I am also a leader in a tf2 team, although this has taken a back seat as of late (and also constitutes busy time!)

In my free time I:  Am a student of philosophy and a player of games! many games. I think that mostly I relax, although I expect on many days 'procrastinate' is an acceptable term too. I like to read and watch and listen to things that make me think or laugh or both. I have spent an amount of time constructing an ontology and then taking it apart again lately, I think it can stay taken apart for now. As I say, I'm in pursuit of a good life. The first part of that is comprehending the meaning of good! or perhaps understanding the way things are, or ought to be, or what life is. I guess the order isn't important; learning and understanding and experiencing are the way forward. Of course, ensuring my other non-intellectual needs are also met is cruicial as well. Also Chess.

Activities in which I have no interest include:  Sports, spending most evenings just watching TV, and some other stuff I'm sure.

The colours I like best/wear most are:  I like purples and reds, they tend to be pretty good. in terms of what I wear it used to be blacks/dark blues pretty much exclusively, now I tend to wear whites/blacks/greys/blues/reds/purples/browns/greens.

My favourite things about being my gender are:  that it is acceptable for me to put minimal effort into my appearence when simply cannot be arsed (most of the time), facial hair, not having to endure childbirth.

Things that frustrate me about being my gender are:  The entire male stereotype. Or more accurately, being treated initially as if I conform to it (proud, defensive, ignorant, only really interested in sex and football and beer, not a feminist, etc). Fortunately this doesn't happen often, or at least not for long. The shit people try and market to me because I'm male. Numerous things that essentially all stem from gender stereotyping rather than anything about the person involved.

If I could become a member of the opposite sex for a limited time only, I would use that opportunity to: Discover what really does/not go on in the ladies room - I hear some have sofas. Have sex. Actually, I think given the spontaneous metamorphosis I'd like to create a whole new identity and see what I could do with that rather than simply be '(real)LadyJay'. Or, more likely, I'd do the same shit I do now. We won't know until it happens I guess!

In the world of public figures I admire:  Nietzsche, Kant, Schopenhauer, Socrates, Aristotle, Epicurus, Zeno, Pyrrho, and a number of other long dead Philosophers. Stewart Lee, Charlie Brooker, and anyone involved in intelligent satire of the world/britain. Billy Bragg, Akala, the Occupy movement, Stefan Moleneux, anyone involved in pointing out/trying to fix(not in the wrong way - see David Cameron) what the fuck is wrong with the world in one way or another. People that stand up for people. People that respect people. Hank and John Green, nerdfighters.

One day I would like to be:  still happy on a personal level, perhaps happier! certainly happier with the state of the world, although I appreciate that this is a long shot. A teacher. A writer. A father. A ninja (or at least physically fit). Still learning.

Something else I’d like you to know about me:  I need to be out of the door in ten minutes and I'm not even dressed.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

My name is:  Benjamin Alexander Terah Dike

I identify as:  Um, lots of things. If you're asking about sexuality and gender I am a man and I'm mostly straight. I'm a white Englishman. I am a human being, with a complex and varied life in which I play many roles. I have an inconstant, fluid sense of who I am and what my relationship is to the world around me. Sometimes I am one thing and sometimes I am another, and there are many things about myself that I do not see or understand. Different aspects of myself are in tension with one another, or are contradictory and paradoxical.

My friends & family call me:  Benje, Ben, Benjamabo, Uncle Benje.

In my busy time, I:  Work in a pharmacy.

In my free time, I like to:  Discover things, explore the world, learn stuff, ponder life's mysteries. Dance dance dance, with head and with heels! Try to master the trick of getting whatever mood it is I happen to be in, be it sorrowful or joyous, to open me up to the shining of sacred truths. Go to the pub, eat tasty things, talk to people I love. Get lost in fictionary and imaginary worlds. Explain to people why the things that I think are amazing and brilliant are amazing and brilliant.

The colours I like best or wear most are:  Black, brown, grey, dark green.

My favourite things about being my gender are:  Being tall and physically strong. Of course many men aren't tall and physically strong, and that doesn't make them Not Real Men, but my being tall and physically strong is caused by my possession of a Y chromosome. Also, having a deep voice.
Having lots of potential role-models of my own gender, not just in contemporary culture but throughout the recorded history of civilisation. As I am a history nerd, I like being able to find historical figures - great philosophers, artists etc - who I can identify with, learn from, and emulate. That's not difficult for me, because history is often viewed by looking at Great Men. The same goes for fiction, in particular Hollywood movies - I think male actors generally tend to get more interesting roles to play than female actors.
I'm aware that there are many sufferings that women endure that men rarely or never experience, but I'm struggling to find positive things to say as opposed to the absence of negatives. I don't really get much gratification from knowing that other people are in a worse position than I am. Awareness of my own privilege doesn't make me think "Lucky me, I'm glad I'm a man!", it makes me think "The world is an awful place, people are cruel and men are monsters."

Things that frustrate me about being my gender are:  Continuing from my last answer, one of the worst things about being a man is knowing that you are a source of fear in others. I am a large, powerful man and although I am quite good at controlling my anger (or rather redirecting it so that it only hurts myself) a furious Benje can be a frightening thing to be around. Even when I'm not displaying anger, I understand that in many situations women have good reasons to worry about me posing a threat to them. I know that I'm capable of violence and cruelty, and that there are aspects of my sexuality that are quite unpleasant. This causes me a lot of guilt, and I suspect that most men have similar problems. Carson MacCullers, in her beautiful novel The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter, describes a character as having "That dark guilt in the hearts of all men, unreckoned and without a name".
I think male sexuality is deeply misunderstood by society at large. I keep hearing people say stupid shit like "Men just think with their dicks", and I think it's an utterly wrong-headed way of thinking about it. People take a very superficial look at the sexual behaviour of men and apply some cheap, trivial pop-psychology to it without bothering to search for the underlying causes and motivations. Men often go along with the "Men just think with their dicks" comments, partly because they don't understand themselves very well and partly because it's more socially acceptable to say "Yeah, I just think with my dick" than to point out "Actually, I'm a fucking mess and I'm motivated by a complex tangle of unspeakable yearnings, unquenchable needs, defence mechanisms and Oedipal issues".

If I could become a member of the opposite sex for a limited time only, I would use that opportunity to: Fuck, wank, dance, sing, cry in public, wear pretty clothes.

In the world of public figures I admire:
Living: Hubert Dreyfus, Billy Bragg, Kate Tempest, Josie Long, Mark Gatiss, Ali Smith, Kieron Gillen.
Dead: Friedrich Nietzsche, Emma Goldman, Odysseus, Saint Francis, Saint Juniper, Emperor Norton I, Socrates.

One day I would like to be:  I would like to learn some kind of manual craft and become highly skilled at making stuff. Unfortunately I haven't yet decided which craft.

Something else I’d like you to know about me is:  I miss Kate.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

My name is:  Ian

I identify as:  Male, White, British, early 20s, geeky

My friends & family call me:  Ian, Ianx, Ianxy, son, grandson, Shortypants and snuggle bunny.

In my busy time, I:  study Chemistry.

In my free time, I like to:  travel and see different places; spend time with friends and partner; read the Guardian, BBC, Facebook and reddit; read non-fiction and autobiographies; learn something inspiring; watch topical, comedy and si-fi television.

Activities in which I have no interest include:  playing sports; watching sports; clubbing; being publically drunk; casual relationships; drugs.

The colours I like best or wear most are:  purple, blue, green, pink.

My favourite things about being my gender are:  it is seen as reasonable to walk alone at night; there is no expectation for me to plaster myself with makeup to be seen outside; ability to minimise contact/contamination in public toilets.

Things that frustrate me about being my gender are:  belief that it's less wrong to physically (or mentally) hurt a guy, or that it couldn't be perpetrated by a female; unwillingness of strangers to offer any assistance lifting, holding open doors (although those that do are usually the sort of people you want near you); belief that emotions of distress, fear, or unhappiness are a sign of character weakness; stereotypes and discomforts surrounding male-male relationships; ability for females to sometimes get preferential treatments due to their physical appearance, commonality with which women can believe that their feelings won't be understood by guys.

If I could become a member of the opposite sex for a limited time only, I would use that opportunity to:  see what more people are willing to do for me as a female - I think that would likely make me rethink my true friends.

In the world of public figures I admire:  Doctor Who.  I'll also add Nick Clegg to the people I admire (not that he's a good politician).

One day I would like to be:  I don't really know - see how things go...

Something else I'd like you to know about me is: I have mighty strong grip.
Oh, and one thing I totally hate: 'positive discrimination' or 'affirmative action', or as the (supposed) Equality Act 2010 would call it: 'positive action'.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I am smiling all over right now.  I am so privileged to know you guys.  <3

Real Women survey to follow!

Farewell to Coal Harbour

Yesterday was packing day.  The entire office became a flurry of casual wear, plastic crates, flat-pack boxes and brightly coloured labels.  The hired removal team is coming over the weekend to transfer everything from our old office on the waterfront at Downtown's Coal Harbour, to our new office on the twenty-eighth and topmost floor of MetroTower One at the MetroTown mall in Burnaby.

We visited the Burnaby office in November as a kind of company field trip, when it was newly vacated.  Since then it's been gutted and reconstructed to suit our needs.  The views from up there are absolutely incredible, and I will be taking lots of photos to show you the birdseye view of Vancouver it affords us.  I believe it may be the highest point in all of Metro Vancouver, outside of Downtown - certainly it's the highest point for miles around, aside from its sister MetroTower Two right next door, which is of equal stature.  It's so freaking high up there, it seems entirely plausible that we will see snow falling past our sheer glass walls when the folks down on the street are getting rained on.  Or that, while everyone outside is walking around under a shield of umbrellas beneath a thick blanket of gloomy grey cotton candy, we will be enjoying the brilliant spring sunshine pouring in through the walls, and looking down in amusement on the layer of cloud obscuring our view of the world below.  Pointing and marvelling at the airplanes rising and sinking through the marshmallow carpet over the airport that sits on the Pacific coast, seventeen kilometers west of us, with the mountains poking up in the north to join us and the airplanes in our crazy skyscape.

As much as I look forward to this, I am really, really going to miss the view at Coal Harbour.  Our office is north facing so we get first the harbour, then a strip of evergreens behind it, the little peninsula that plays host to the most easterly part of the Stanley Park forest.  Beyond lies the greater expanse of water that is the Burrard inlet, freighters and cruise liners drifting into and out of the Pacific ocean.  Then, the office towers of North Vancouver on the opposite shore, giving way to suburbs on the lower slopes of the mountains, which in turn gives way to dense forest running all the way up to the rocky (and sometimes snowy) peaks.  Here; I'll show you.

You look out at this, on a clear sunny day, and you slide open the glass door to the balcony to let the fresh air in.  You can smell the salty tang that comes with being on the edge of the world; the largest ocean on earth is lapping gently at your doorstep.  You can hear floatplanes gunning their jets for takeoff, and feel the distant low blast of ocean liner horns vibrating in your ribcage.  Everything is in dreamy, peaceful motion.  And you could easily be forgiven for thinking that the world cannot possibly get any more beautiful than this.

And then Vancouver thumbs its nose at your naive concepts of beauty, and laughs.  It takes five minutes out of its busy schedule to blow your brain apart with something more beautiful than you could even imagine, and leaves you slumped on your knees in a puddle of broken gratitude.  I am talking about Rainbow Days.

I have been privileged to see two Rainbow Days in my time working at Coal Harbour.  The first was back in the fall, during the week that October handed over the baton to November.  The second was on Wednesday just past.  It goes a little something like this.

It's a beautiful day.  A few puffs of white float carelessly from west to east overhead.  It's a couple of hours past lunchtime and the sun is slowly dipping from high south into a south-westerly slant, occasionally disappearing behind one or the other of the taller downtown skyscrapers.  You push your chair back, stretch, and think about making a cup of tea to see you through the last hour and a half of the day.  You turn, and lose your bearings momentarily: the mountains have vanished.  Thick tendrils of low greyness are creeping inward from the ocean, coating the north shore in a dark shroud.  The sunshine still pours in at the windows and glints off the blue of the harbour, but by the time you have made your tea and returned to your desk, the world has faded.  The city has been swiftly and stealthily enveloped in cloud.

The first few intermittent drops of rain strike the windows hard; they are fat and heavy, streaking the glass in short wet lines.  A murmur runs around the office as people look up, but already there are large ragged patches of blue sky in the far west; it's going to be an intense shower but it will pass quickly.  The drops come faster, the lines collect thicker on the panes and then blur together into a constant vertical wash of water as the rain hammers down on the city in earnest.  The office feels dim and sluggish under the flat ceiling lights.

When the change comes, it's like a world is taking a breath.  The rain is still beating down like crazy, but the dimness lifts and everything is suddenly washed with a thick golden light.  You abandon your work, forget your tea, and run out onto the northwest balcony, because every molecule in the air is charged with magic and anticipation.  Dark spots crowd over your clothes as the rain hits you; fat drops fight through the layers of your hair to run gleefully down the back of your neck.  You look left to the immediate southwest.  Streams of liquid sunlight pour through the city streets above the closest intersection, so dense that you could surely push out from your vantage point eight floors up and swim right over to the tower kitty-cornered across the way.  Everything in sight runs with melted gold.

You tear your eyes away and turn about-face because, as beautiful as the sight is, you know that something even better is about to happen behind you.  In the north, the mountains are visible again, and the harbour is shining in the sunlight once more, even though a lot of the sky above it is still dark and grey.  Everything is clear and open and smells incredibly fresh, as if the world has been washed clean.  A feeling of newness and beginning permeates every brick and pillar, every tree and blade of grass.

And then, it happens.

Like a technicolour lance from the heavens, the rainbow streaks down out of the northeastern sky.  It spears through the layer of grey cloud, arches cleanly through the dead centre of the beautiful bowl of the landscape, laughs in delight at its own reflection in the harbour, and finally plunges itself directly into the heart of the Stanley Park forest.  It seems incredible that the forest does not explode with the impact; that birds and woodland critters do not burst out of the treeline in alarm.  Incredible, too, that the surrounding blue waters are not splashed with multicoloured splatters of floating paint.  It happens without fanfare, without sound.  Half the people in the office are too busy to even notice until, a few seconds later, the cry goes up: Rainbow!  Rainbow!

The most beautiful sight I have ever seen.  Period.  Sending you love, Coal Harbour - as long as I live, I will never, ever forget you.  <3


Little Clock

A nimbus shift in scudding skies
As seasons drift and powers rise
Great cities fall and through it all
You tick, little clock, tick.

On panelled walls of darkened oak
Where silence falls, a velvet cloak
On dusty books and cosy nooks
You tick, little clock, tick.

The constellations dip and spin
Our aspirations hang therein
While dreamers yearn for earthly turn
You tick, little clock, tick.

No will might sway your steady pace
Though hearts betray and pulses race
You recognise no mortal cries
But tick, little clock, tick.

The stolen hours fade to years
A hope that flowers disappears
A midnight bell, a broken spell
Oh little clock, little clock,
Tick, little clock.

MapleJack! is now a part of the Project Authenticity blog network. Click here to go to the Project Authenticity homepage.

Hi, my name's Kate! This journal is a record of my experiences leading up to and during my year working and living in Canada on a working holiday visa. I'm mainly using it as a way to let all my friends back home in England know what's going on in my life.

It's called MapleJack as a bit of a mash-up of the Canadian Maple flag, and the British Union Jack flag. Yeah. See what I did there? Way too cool for school.

In any case, for tales of adventure, culture shock, meeting new people, trying not to fall on my arse on the ice, exploring new foods and new customs, making complete cock-ups, and other general hilarity, read on!

Thanks for taking the time to read. x


Kate Griffiths

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