Today there was an Ericsson BBQ on the fields in front of the former Nortel campus. There was great food (too much food!), lots of people, some volleyball and a soccer tournament.

Ericsson BBQ
Ericsson BBQ

After the lunch, door prizes were given out. I sat down on the grass while the winners were randomly drawn.

The earth started to vibrate. It started like a truck passing along Carling Avenue, or like a plane taking off, but there was no planes or trucks around. Everyone started looking around to see what was the cause before it sank in that it had to be an earthquake.

The ground vibrated strongly. It was not like the ground was moving up and down or side-to-side. It was like a very strong vibration deep below. As the shaking continued, I tried to take in all of the experience. It was exhilarating. The earthquake lasted about half a minute. There was no sound as we were in the middle of a grass field and there was nothing to move around and cause noise.

Reading about the quake later, I found that it was strong enough to break windows in the Ottawa City Hall, break chimneys around the city, and it destroyed a bridge closer to the epicentre. The epicentre was just over 50km from the former Nortel campus. It was an magnitude 5.0 quake. It was the largest quake to be felt in Ottawa in 65 years.

About 10 years ago, when I lived in the Glebe, I was awoken by smaller quake. I had a glass jar of change on a table in my bedroom. It was the coins shaking in the glass jar that woke me up.

There are forces and powers in nature that are awesome and humbling if you spend time thinking about it.

Papa's Baptism

My mother-in-law, Lemin (I call her Mama), is a devout Chinese Roman Catholic. Christianity was brought to China starting as early as the Tang Dynasty in the Eight Century. Her family’s beliefs date back possibly as long as Yuan or Ming Dynasties.  However, it has often faced persecution, particularly since the take over by the Chinese Communist Party in 1949. One of the reasons Lemin married my father-in-law Jinduo (I call him Papa) was to gain some protection from persecution; he is a typical non-religious Chinese.

Lemin prays multiple hours per day. She prays for Jinduo to get better, as he is very ill. He has rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes. Recent blood tests have shown that his liver and kidney functions are down 25%. Our doctor estimates that he has about 2-years left before his body completely fails.

Lemin is his full-time nurse, as he needs help to do everything – get up, use the washroom, brush his teeth, eat and move between the bed and his wheelchair. With this 24-hour supervision, she also the only person he talks with. No one visits him. It is very sad.

A few weeks ago, out of the blue, Rosa and I were told that Papa wanted to be baptized. Mama must have been talking to him about this for a very long time. Papa doesn’t really believe in God, as far as we can tell. He is certainly not indoctrinated into Christianity and I doubt he knows and understands the basic tenets of the religion.

It seems evident that he is scared of dying. He must understand that his time is growing short. He is weak and in great pain during the entire day. He is dependent on mama for everything. He can no longer walk or push himself up or move from the bed to his wheelchair without great help.

Three weeks ago, Peter, a deacon with the Ottawa Chinese Catholic Church, came to visit all of us to discuss the baptism and to see if his family (meaning Rosa and I) supports Papa’s decision. Rosa and I both agree that we support his decision and will do whatever we can to help out. We said that if he wishes to go to church, we would book ParaTranspo to take him to church and back. However, that doesn’t appear to be his desire – plus the church service is only in English, which he does not understand.

When I was in Los Angeles, Rosa let me know that the baptism would happen when I returned. I asked that it be held on the weekend so that we can prepare and so that we can invite others to come too.

Chuxiong Huang performs papa's baptism.
Chuxiong Huang performs papa's baptism.

Today we had the baptism ceremony. Chuxiong Huang was the Chinese priest and he was assisted by Peter the deacon. Other attendees included the family of one of Papa’s health-care attendants, a family from the church and another woman from the church.

The ceremony took about 15 minutes. We all stood in the living room while the rites were performed. Even though it was performed in Chinese, Papa didn’t seem to understand very much, which is not unexpected for someone without any education and indoctrination in the Catholic Church. He was baptized and took his first communion.

Afterwards, everyone stayed for some snacks and to talk. When Papa grew tired, I carried him upstairs to sleep.

So then I fainted…

I’ve been feeling sick since Saturday, and I got worse on Sunday. My throat and nose were sore and burning. By Monday, I thought perhaps it was a reaction to the smog. The burning sensation is uncharacteristic of a cold or flu.

Mountains near Rancho Cucamonga
Mountains near Rancho Cucamonga

During the day Monday, I debated what to do: should I see a doctor or just get some rest and wait to see if I would get better.

After talking with Rosa, I decided to see a doctor. I had to call my (business) travel insurance provider. They sent me to a care facility in the city. I went and the doctor looked me over, listened with his stethoscope and prescribed some antibiotics and cough syrup.

Two hours later, I went out to supper with two co-workers, Roddric and Theirry. I ordered a pound of snow crab legs. I normally would not order them because of the mess and cost, but I thought I should treat myself – the company would cover the meal. I love crab.

I was still not feeling well though. I started to eat but had only eaten a single leg before I started feeling much, much worse.

I stopped eating for a moment but I was still getting worse. I was feeling light-headed. I waited for it to clear, but it just got worse. I knew that something was very wrong, and told my co-workers that I was feeling light-headed. As I was seated on the inside of the both, I could not sit down to get my head between my knees, so I slid down in my chair to lower my head.

So then I fainted…

When I came to, Roddric had already called an ambulance. I was immediately coherent and I told everyone the current date and that I knew were I was and that I had passed out. My face streaming with sweat for some reason, even though I did not feel hot.

The ambulance and a firetruck arrived in less than 5 minutes. The paramedics asked me what happened and looked me over. They checked my blood sugar. They hooked me to a portable EKG machine I think. They offered to take me to a hospital and after thinking about it, I agreed. I hoped that my travel insurance would cover the costs, but decided that my health was important and that if they did not, it was still the right decision. The paramedics would not allow me to walk to the ambulance in case I passed out again and hit my head. They strapped me to a stretcher and pushed me outside through the crowded restaurant. I hated that. I was embarrassed.

The ambulance trip took about 10 minutes. I was wheeled into the emergency room.

The doctor came to speak with me after I had been checked-in. He told me that they would run some tests. Everyone asked me if I had a seafood allergy, which I do not. I was hooked up to an IV drip, had my blood taken, and a more extensive EKG taken. A chest X-ray was also taken.

The tests confirmed that I did not have a heart attack or stroke, and did not have low blood sugar. But the doctor was not able to determine the root cause for me fainting. We doubted that I had had a reaction to the antibiotics either.

The doctor explained that the fainting was caused by vascular dilation, meaning that all my blood vessels dilated open. This very rapidly decreased my blood pressure and drained blood from the brain. I felt the process starting when I felt lightheaded. He said that this was the body’s way of ensuring that the person lay down, and it is a involuntary reaction.

He also thought that I had a virus inflection, so the antibiotics would not be effective. Unfortunately, there are no medications for viral inflections. I just have to wait it out.

I was supposed to go to work at the customer switch for the maintenance window starting at midnight. My co-workers called my manager and director back in Ottawa. The director said that I was not to go into the switch, and that someone had to stay with me in case I had another problem. I made a compromise that I would connect from my hotel room and that one co-worker with a backup room key was just down the hall in case I needed something.

I was able to talk with Rosa from the hospital for about 15 seconds before the batteries in the cell phone died. I told her that I was fine. I was so worried that she would be worried about me when I was already feeling much better.

It was an interesting experience. I’ve never fainted before. I remember the sensations as I started to pass out, and I’m glad I had enough sense to say something and attempt to lower my head before I blacked out.

I still have to deal with getting over my illness, which is not really diagnosed. I just need lots of sleep. I’ll keep up with the antibiotics though, as they should not do any harm.

Visiting Los Angeles

I’m here in Los Angeles (technically, I’m in Rancho Cucamonga, which is east of LA) for a customer testing cycle. I’m here for a full week. As there is no testing planned during the weekend, I’ve had the weekend free to play tourist around Los Angeles. This is my first trip to LA.

Saturday morning I woke up quite early, as I am still adjusting to the 3-hr time difference. I packed up what I needed and went down to the car. I had an iPod Nano with some podcasts and audiobooks, hat, jacket, sunscreen and the Eyewitness Travel Guides Top Ten Los Angeles. I brought all my camera gear as well, including my Amod AGL3080 photo tracker.

I stopped for breakfast at McDonald’s and was on the highway around 7am.

Dennis Hopper - Walk of Fame
Dennis Hopper's star

My first stop was Hollywood. It took about an hour to drive there (Los Angeles is huge – more about that later). I parked the car and started walking down Hollywood Boulevard. My first stop was the Art Deco style Pantages Theatre and the Capital Records building. From there I walked down the Walk of Fame towards the Kodak Theatre (where the Oscars are currently presented) and Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. I could see the famous Hollywood sign in the distance on the hills to the north. The sign is smaller than I expected. As with the Statue of Liberty, the photos I’ve seen are shot in such a way as to make it look bigger than in real life. It’s also because it is actually quite a distance from this part of the city.

In front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre are the handprints, footprints and signatures of famous Hollywood stars in concrete tiles.

After walking back to my car, I drove south from Hollywood Boulevard to Sunset Boulevard, where I drove westward. I drove by the Viper Room (where River Phoenix died), the Rainbow Bar and Grill and the Whisky a Go Go (where The Doors were the house band). From there, the road leads through Beverly Hills, past UCLA, Bel Air and into Santa Monica. Lots of nice homes, but I didn’t spend much time looking around as I did not want to get lost.

Once I reached the Pacific Ocean, I took Highway 1 south with no particular destination in mind. Driving by kilometer after kilometer of beach, I decided to pull over and take a walk. I could see a pier in the distance.

Santa Monica Pier
Santa Monica Pier

It was a great day for walking along the beach. From where I parked, it was about a kilometer to walk to the Santa Monica Pier. I did not realize until I arrived that Santa Monica Pier is also the west coast terminus of Route 66. The Pier had an amusement park, including a roller coaster and Ferris wheel. There is a trapeze school as well. Many people were fishing off the end of the Pier. I walked around for about an hour, taking lots of pictures before I stopped for lunch – deep fried shrimp – and then headed back to the car. I decided to walk on the beach instead of the sidewalk. At first it was nice walking barefoot along the sand, but the sand was unbelievably hot. I walked along the edge of the water to cool my feet  before crossing the beach to the parking lot.

I wanted to head south to Long Beach. I thought it would be easy to get there. Lacking a good map, I had no idea how difficult it would be.

I followed along the coast for as long as I could before I had to start taking other streets, due to the marinas in Marina Del Ray. I took Washington Boulevard, thinking that it looked big and I thought it was heading south. After driving for what seemed like an hour, I drove by the Sony Pictures Entertainment studios in Culver City, which allowed me to find out where I was the tiny map I had brought. All that driving and I had barely moved on the map. This is when it really hit me how big Los Angeles is. Almost an hour of driving and I was maybe 10% of the way to Long Beach. The only way to get there would be to get on a highway.

I found the 405 and 110 and it still took about 40 minutes to drive to Long Beach.

The map I had did not show Long Beach, so I had to guess my way around. I was looking for the Queen Mary. I thought, “Hey, how hard can it be to find a huge ocean liner?” Stupid question. I was still not grasping it how big the city is! I stumbled upon the SS Lane Victory, a World War II Victory Ship, so I stopped to take a look. I found out that it still functional and is used for tourist cruises!

The Port of Long Beach is stunning in size. The Port of Long Beach and the nearby Port of Los Angeles combine to be largest port in the world (109km of waterfront and 43 km^2 of land area in total). It goes on for mile after mile. I had heard that the rows of giant cranes along the many waterfronts inspired George Lucas in the design of the AT-AT Walkers in The Empire Strikes Back.

I took a bridge and highway east until I could see signs for the Queen Mary. I got off the highway, followed the signs to the entrance to the parking lot, but for some reason all the cars were being waved back onto the surrounding streets. I thought perhaps there was a problem, so I circled back around. This time I was allowed into the parking lot, but was soon directed back out again. I was driving around in circles, all controlled by the parking attendants. I circled around once more and again was directed back towards the exit. I stopped at one of the parking attendants to explain that I wanted to stop and see the Queen Mary. I was told that the parking lots were full. Oh, that would be why I was directed out of the facility. I was told that the facility was being used for the 7th Annual Iron and Ink Tattoo & Kustom Culture Festival. Oh, that would explain all the goths, biker dudes and pink-haired punks.

RMS Queen Mary
RMS Queen Mary

I explained that I only wanted to take some photos of the Queen Mary. I guess the parking attendant liked me because she let me try to find a place to park for free. I thanked her and found a spot next to a light standard (technically it was not a parking spot). I walked through the crowd to the bow of the ship. I felt awkward because it was obvious that I The RMS Queen Mary is a fine example of an Art Deco ocean liner of a time when liners were the only way to travel between continents. Incongruously, there is a Cold War Soviet Foxtrot submarine moored next to the bow. I was not able to get on the ship (or sub) to look around due to the festival. I wish I had been able to go onboard.

After that, I decided to head north again to see the Hollywood Bowl. Once I got there, near suppertime, I was mired in a traffic jam. I found out that it was a jam to get into the Bowl, as it was the Playboy Jazz Festival.

I gave up and drove north past Universal Studios, and into North Hollywood and Sherman Oaks. I gave up randomly driving around and decided to head to see Griffith Observatory, which was a good choice.

Griffith Observatory
Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory overlooks Los Angeles. It’s a fantastic example of the Art Deco style. It’s still a functioning observatory, and I went inside to see their coelostat (solar telescope). I was starving, so I stopped at the cafe. I bought two peanut butter and jam sandwiches and a huge Rice Krispy square. That really hit the spot. I sat on the patio eating and watching the sun set by the Hollywood sign. At one end of the patio was a photo shoot – an Asian girl in a cocktail dress posing on the stairs while her boyfriend (?) snapped away. An assistant was holding the rest of the equipment and flash.

I went back to the roof to watch the lights of Los Angeles in the growing darkness. I waited about an hour for night to fall and then started shooting some longer exposures of the expanse of the city, bright against the clouds (or is that smog?).

I walked back to my car with some difficulty. It was pitch black and my knee was felt like it was burning – my body was telling me I walked too far for one day. It was a long day and I arrived back at the hotel around 9:30pm.

Today, Sunday, was a little shorter. This was because I needed to get some sleep before heading into the customer site at midnight for the start of the maintenance window.

Again, I stopped for pancakes at McDonald’s, filled the gas tank and headed back to LA.

Hollywood Bowl
Hollywood Bowl

My first stop was the Hollywood Bowl. I had no problems getting in and parking at 8am. I grabbed my camera and walked into the site. No one stopped me, as I think everyone thought I was part of the event staff.

Next I went north to the start of Mulholland Drive. It winds along the top of the Hollywood Hills. There are some fantastic views north and south over the city. All along Mulholland you can see spectacular homes. I stopped at one viewing area and took a short walk (my knee started to hurt again) though the hillside. Lots of people were out walking their dogs along the dusty trails.

Once I reached Interstate 405, I drove south (past the Getty Center) and down to Venice Beach. Venice Beach is just south of the Santa Monica Pier. I parked and started to walk along the infamous boardwalk. I was expecting it to be a complete freak-show, but to be honest, it was actually nothing like its reputation. Perhaps Sundays are quieter.

There were lots of artists displaying their works, a few buskers, a dozen shops offering “free medical marijuana tests”, clothing stores and tourist traps. There was a fantastic skatepark, where I stopped to take lots of pictures. I could also practice my french with another tourist who was visiting from France. Next were the streetball courts, where there were multiple pick-up games going on.

Further down was Muscle Beach, although there was no one training when I walked past. I bought some ice cream for lunch and then started to head back.

Venice Beach Drum Circle
Venice Beach Drum Circle

I took some more pictures at the skate park and then came across a drum circle. I sat and watched the drummers for a while. Everyone was having fun. One older guy in a muscle shirt and surfer shorts was whaling on his drum while a Che Guevara look-alike was in his own groove on a shaker.

I started back to the hotel around 4pm. It took longer to drive home because it was close to the Sunday rush hour.

Iron Man 2

I went to see Iron Man 2 this evening with two co-workers from Ericsson. We are in Rancho Cucamonga for a testing cycle with one of our major customers.

Iron Man 2 is a fun movie. Lots of action, great costume design, great special effects and so forth. Scarlett Johansson is gorgeous.

But, just like the first Iron Man, the dialog is awful. Cring-inducing. Tony Stark’s character needs to be over-the-top, but the dialog doesn’t sound crisp for that purpose. It sounds like it was written by a 14-year-old.

When we got home from the theatre, there was a police helicopter flying circles around a local field. A police car showed up, but it did not have the light bar on. I’m not sure what is happening, but it is obvious that they are watching something.

So I’m watching the detectives.

This is the live entertainment I don’t get to see living in Canada.

Manufactured Landscapes

On the flight down to Nova Scotia, I watched the documentary “Manufactured Landscapes” about Canadian photographer Edward Burtynski. It was so fascinating. He produced a series of photographs about the landscapes that humans create. It is visually stunning and thought provoking.

There were two common shots. The movie started and continued with long, slow pans across huge landscapes (or factories as the case may be). Another technique was to show a photo of something on a human scale (such as some discarded irons), and then pulling back to show the entire photo (of the enormous piles of rubbish towering like multi-story buildings).

I must find out if the exhibit is travelling to any nearby galleries.

I was happy to see that it is produced by the National Film Board of Canada.