30 August 2018

Northwest Passage - Pt. 3: Victoria: Imperious Flora

Victoria is the capital of the Canadian province of British Columbia. A small, lovely city, it inhabits a peninsula on the southeast corner of Vancouver Island (which is, I might add, across the Strait of Georgia from the city of Vancouver). It is walkable and bikable. It prides itself on being the most English city in North America, and, indeed, we made a point of having high tea at the Empress Hotel. Charming.

The weather, they claim, is moderate year round—more so than the larger city of Vancouver and the mainland. Victoria receives very little snowfall and rarely gets freezing temperatures because it nestles in a weather shadow of the high mountains that make up the spine of Vancouver Island and take the piss out of the violent Pacific storms that winter tourists flock to Tofino, on the Pacific coast of the island, to view. Likewise, while we were there, the city was cooler and clearer than Vancouver city and the rest of the inland areas (other than the highest mountains). We saw no trace of smoke or haze from the vast, record-level wild forest fires that plagued the mainland.

(Click pics below to embiggen.)

The Fairmont Empress Hotel presiding over the harbour from the ferry arriving from Seattle.
The imperial façade of the Parliament Building.
Every block of downtown was adorned with flower displays.
Flowery view of the Empress from the Parliament.
The Harbour bounded by flowers.
More harbour.
You may no know this but Canada has only one road, and this is Mile 0 of the TransCanada Highway.
Inside the Empress where we had high tea (the British kind, not the Seattle kind).
A totem bear eating a totem salmon inside the Empress sunroom.
Beach wrack.
Gateway to North America's oldest so-called 'China Town'.
Adorable harbour taxi.
Red Bark of the Pacific Madrone tree (Arbutus menziesii).
Found art along the harbour quay.
Butchart Gardens, touted as one of the finest in the world.
The Gardens. Just go. 
Monkey Puzzle tree

26 August 2018

Northwest Passage - Pt. 2: Seattle = Funky Town

Seattle is a weird and funky town. And by that I mean that pretty much anywhere you walk in Seattle you're probably going to pass through a funky cloud of that dank weed which is now legal in the state of Washington. There are pot stores all over town, and people argue over which is the best. You can buy gummies, brownies, hard candies, bars, cookies, and all manner of infused edibles—including Earl Gray High Tea and many other beverages—as well as a huge variety of bud (indica or sativa or hybrid) in pre-rolled or loose or vape-ready juice or concentrate form, and lastly various and sundry topicals for what ails you. And then there are the accessories. Lordy! Spent a few minutes (or was it hours?) browsing in Uncle Ike's, one of the original stores. The folks there are knowledgeable and more than happy to tell you about their wares. Mind. Blown. It's hard to get my head around the fact that what was a mere pipe dream to folks who went to high school in the 70s and 80s is now a street reality in a number of places in this country.

There are also any number of weird and funky stores of the sort that sell novelty items you probably won't be able to find any other place. Archie McPhee is one such place. Home to the redoubtable "Rubber Chicken Museum." (See pic below) On the flip side, I also stumbled across the local Virgin Galactic Accredited Space Agent. Unfortunately, it was Sunday night, and the place was closed. I could've booked a flight right there and then to an asteroid or something. And, of course, we did the truly indispensable tourist thing and went to the Pike Place Fish Market and watched the fish guys toss fish. Those dudes are not fooling around when they throw those whole salmon across the counter; they bring the heat!

How weird is Seattle? This weird: At dinner on Saturday night down by the harbor at a restaurant called Aqua, our party was enjoying the sunset and arguing over who was going to pick up the tab (I lost) when the manager showed up with a large dessert plate of bread pudding and six spoons. We didn't order that, we said. No, the manager said, a group inside wanted to buy it for you. Well, why? I said. Now don't take this the wrong way, he said, and I know you're actually not him (he's looking at me now), but they think you're Michael Stipe. The fuck? I said after a stunned moment. And we all burst into howls of laughter. That's some next level weirdness right there. But in a good way.

But that's how weird and funky Seattle is. And we were only there for a weekend. (Click pics to embiggen!)

Speaking of Michael Stipe, I am Space Ghost and this is my Ghost Plane over SeaTac airport (that's a reference that probably all of two of you will get)
Archie McPhee
As promised: The Rubber Chicken Museum
The Fremont Street Troll (BTW Under his left hand there is a real VW Beetle)
HEMPFEST!! See what I'm talking about? Translation: "Don't ride your freakin' bike on the freakin' bike paths when you and everybody else around you are stoned on your ass!"
The Space Needle through the legs of a Calder in the Seattle Art Museum outdoor sculpture garden
Mt. Ranier makes a majestic appearance at dinner over the harbor. Lousy camera lens. Sorry. Still. Wow!
Infrared sunset on the harbor. Just before the Michael Stipe incident.
Secret: This is REALLY Seattle's Best Coffee. But you have to find it first.
Closed. No bookings today.
And Uncle Ike's. Not linking to it because I live in Georgia.

25 August 2018

Northwest Passage - Pt. 1: Stats and Modes of Transport

Planes, trains, boats, bicycles, automobiles, and boots: these were my means of exploring a tiny corner of our great northern neighbor Canada for two weeks in August, 2018.

Detail Map of Southern British Columbia and Alberta, Canada (click to enlarge and trace route below)

If you're planning a trip, here's our agenda:

•  flew to Seattle, spent a weekend with daughter and her fiancé from LA and his parents - 2182 miles;

•  took a ferry to Victoria, British Columbia, spent two days exploring - ~ 3 1/2 hours;

•  caught another shorter ferry ride to Vancouver, met up with son and daughter-in-law from Honolulu - ~1 1/2 hours;

•  rented a camper and drove to Kelowna on Lake Okanagan - 393 km

—from there to Kinbasket Lake near Glacier National Park - 319 km

—then to Banff National Park and Lake Louise with a detour into Yoho National Park - 399 km 

—then to Jasper National Park along the Icefields Parkway - 303 km

—then to Clearwater Lake near Wells Gray Provincial Park - 349 km

—then to Whistler ski resort - 530 km

—spent our last night at a campground in Squamish - 49 km

—back to Vancouver - 33 km

•  dropped son and d-i-l at Vancouver airport, returned camper, and caught Amtrak from Vancouver back to Seattle - ~4 hours.

•  flew next day back to ATL.

By my inexact calculations,

—I drove the RV a total of 2450 km, or 1522 miles

—hiked ~52 miles with a total of ~3500-4000 feet of elevation change

—city walked (Seattle, Victoria, Vancouver) ~25 miles

—biked ~13 miles (Victoria).

Ferry Seattle, WA to Victoria, BC
U-bike rental, Victoria, BC
Adorable water taxi, Victoria Harbour
Ferry Victoria to Vancouver
RV Camper
Merrell Hiking Boots
Details and pics galore to follow.

01 August 2018

Conspiracy Theory

Let's say a bunch of dudes are sitting around one night drinking. They're bored. There's nothing to do in this town, they say. They want excitement.

"I know," one of the brighter lights, call him Danny, says, "Why don't we rob a casino vault?"*

"Hmmm. I don't know. Is it possible? What about all that security?" Several dudes pipe up.

"I have a plan," Danny says. "Who's in?"

Everyone agrees, all eleven of them. Danny lays out the plan, assigns specific roles and duties, and tells them the potential outcomes—jail if you're caught or eight figures if you get away with it. "Do the math."

The plan goes without a hitch until one of the group, call him Basher, can't get his hands on an electromagnetic pulse ("EMP") generator that the plan requires to create a blackout so the gang can, at least in theory, bypass casino security.

Danny is forced to call off the heist. And everybody goes home.

Question: Has Danny or any of his crew committed a crime? It's clear no robbery was committed. The plan failed.

The answer is yes. The entire gang, if caught, could face conspiracy charges. Conspiracy is a crime.

How so? They didn't do anything. They didn't break into any security systems or vaults. They didn't steal anything. It was just a bunch of guys being guys. They knew it was going to fail because it was so outlandish to begin with. They claim that it's not a crime if a bunch of screwballs colluded to advance a plan that was destined to fail in the first place and did, in fact, fail. How is that a crime? "Yeah, like where's my money?" Danny's eleven ask in unison.

Let me tell you.

The crime of conspiracy is defined as two or more persons conspiring to commit any sort of crime, together with proof of the commission of an overt act in furtherance of that plan by one or more of the parties to such agreement.

A bunch of dudes can agree to do anything they want. A potential charge of conspiracy is only triggered if what they agree to do is otherwise a crime—be it a bank heist, computer hacking, election fraud, RICO, money laundering, fraud, etc. In our little scenario, it was to rob a casino which, of course, is a crime.

But a potential charge of conspiracy is not triggered by a bunch of dudes sitting around a swimming pool drinking and talking like big shots. Yet, when Danny laid out his plan, they started down that road. And as soon as any one of the group did the first action in an effort to carry out that heist plan, it became a criminal conspiracy.

Let's say one of the gang, let's call him Linus, starts casing the casino, learning how things operate; or another member, call him Rusty, borrows and copies some detailed architectural plans to find out how to access the casino vault. Either of those things constitutes a specific overt act in furtherance of the plan. And when that happens, ALL ELEVEN can be charged with—and most likely convicted of—conspiracy to commit the crime of robbery.

It doesn't matter that Basher failed to carry out his task, or even that none of the rest of the guys actually did anything in furtherance of the plan, or that the group called off the plan, disbanded, and went their separate ways without carrying out the robbery. Their collusion and specific actions in furtherance of an agreed-upon plan constitutes the crime of conspiracy.

* Apologies to Steven Soderbergh