Friday 29 January 2010

Bench of the Week (34)

This bench is located at the Lake Side Park in Oakville, Ontario. I imagine it's a popular spot in the summer.

RuneE of Visual Norway started an informal meme on benches. Please visit his blog to learn of other participants.

Photo Credit: Gemma Grace CC=nc-nd-flickr. Click to enlarge.

Thursday 28 January 2010

Sixty-One Nails by Mike Shevdon (Book Review)

Sixty-One Nails, a debut novel, is the first book of The Courts of Feyre series. The title and cover photo, integral to the plot, are revealed through the telling of the story while providing another slant at urban fantasies.

A life which was hidden to Niall Peterson suddenly becomes opened to him when he has a near-death experience after witnessing an accident on the London Underground enroute to work. A woman named Blackbird rescues him and begins Niall’s introduction into the world of the Fayree by giving him the moniker of “Rabbit”. Blackbird shows Niall a new road to self-discovery of his abilities. In the beginning Niall is frustrated with his new found abilities, learning to cope with them as they appear and how to apply them to the pure blood fey, who are executing all the half-blood mongrels they find. The pure bloods have a section calling themselves The Untainted, the darkest of the Seven Courts, who have made a play for power intending to enslave the other Fayre and humans.

Niall has to find a way to correct the wrong in an old English ceremony which has been performed annually since 1211 to defeat the Untained. There are excellent descriptions of locations and plenty of dastardly villains to keep any reader happy.

All characters including those who are fey are well developed with strengths and weaknesses and the story moves along steadily with excellent attention to detail of location with some historical details provided.

Mr. Shevdon used a piece of English history: the Quit Rents Ceremony that occurs every year. He provided an explanation of the background of this history and how it relates to the plotline. I liked his descriptions of the London locations and felt as if I had returned there in person seeing the sights again.

Once I started this book I could barely put it down, wanting to know how certain threats would be dealt with and solved. There are no weak spots, and the action kept moving at a good pace. I really enjoyed reading this book. I recommend this book to anyone wanting to delve into a different look at urban fantasy.

I look forward to reading the second book in this series, “The Road to Bedlam”, available in the UK July 2010.

Book format: paperback, 528 pages
Publisher: Angry Robot Books, imprint of HarperCollins
Author website: Mike Shevdon
Available: October 29, 2009 (UK / Australia)
May 25, 2010 (Canada / US)


Monday 25 January 2010

Household Hazards

Would you use a product for your household if it showed these symbols?

The skull and crossbones are universal for poison and other lethal substances.

Corrosive, although another common symbol is that of the skeleton of a human hand.


Sulfuric (Sulphuric) acid is meant to be handled by professionals who are trained to use it. This chemical is unsafe in the hands of the general public or consumer, i.e. the residential homeowner or tenant. Sulfuric acid is not available for retail sale, and anyone in possession of such chemicals have obtained them from industrial sources.

It is not meant to be used in toilets for clogged drains. There are stringent warnings on the bottles to remind users of the dangers in this product:

- to wear acid resistant gloves and goggles or face shield
- not to get in eyes, on skin or on clothing
- not to breathe the vapors or mist
- to use sufficient ventilation to prevent build-up of vapors or mist
- not to be used where other drain chemicals (cleaners and openers), hot water or bleach are present
- this product attacks all organic and inorganic material or chemicals and may cause an explosion or fire
- contact with metals liberates flammable hydrogen gas
- not to allow product to come in contact with stainless steel, chrome, aluminum, certain plastics and non-acid resistant enamel.
- Not to use in old drains or traps
- CORROSIVE to the eyes, skin and respiratory tract. May cause blindness and permanent scarring. Causes lung injury – effects may be delayed. Strong inorganic acid mists containing sulphuric acid are CARCINOGENIC. Risk of cancer depends on duration and level of exposure to the sulphuric acid mist.

The skull and crossbones symbol means the product is VERY TOXIC, immediate and serious. Products which have this symbol ought not to be used at all in a household where it is all too easy to have accidents.

The reason I have posted information about Sulfuric Acid is because one of my housemates decided to assist in the declogging of the kitchen sink on the weekend by using Sulfuric Acid. Despite being told quite firmly that she not use it as other chemicals had already been used on the drain (without much success), and the fact that it was a hazardous chemical, she poured it into the kitchen sink drain and the two toilets between 12:30am and 1:30am on Saturday when the rest of the household had retired to bed. No windows had been opened for ventilation. The toilets had been flushed afterwards, yet the next day the kitchen sink sported large black areas around the drains, along with chemical odour in the kitchen, in the bathrooms and in the hallways.

I had used one of the bathrooms around 2am, felt dizzy while there, and upon returning to my room had opened the window and left it open for several hours despite the chilly temperatures. I have been to the doctor since with complaints of burning eyes, severe headache, sore throat, tightness and pain of the upper chest and difficulty breathing at times. I suffer from occasional asthma, but now wonder what will happen in the coming days. I am drinking large quantities of water and fluids to flush my system hoping the more serious effects do not occur while wondering why this roommate chose to take such a risk with others health and her own.

Source and photo credit: wikipedia

Friday 22 January 2010

Bench of the Week (33)

This snowy bench is located in Parksville, British Columbia.

RuneE of Visual Norwaybegan an informal meme on benches. Please visit his blog for other participants.

Photo Credit: Alanna Vanisle CC=nc-nd-flickr. Click to enlarge.

Thursday 21 January 2010

The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction: 60th Anniversary (Book Review)

Gordon Van Gelder has been the editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction since 1996. Mr. Van Gelder prepared brief paragraphs to introduce each of the short fiction selections of when it was first published in the magazine. He also included a little background on the authors which I found to be a nice touch.

I have placed the year behind the author’s name to indicate the year the story was published in the magazine.

Of Time and Third Avenue by Alfred Bester, 1951

A brilliant piece of short fiction to start: a meeting of present and future with consequences. It stands the test of time to reread again and again to delight the senses.

All Summer in a Day by Ray Bradbury, 1954

Venus has endured seven years of continuous rain and school students are skeptical of a scientist’s prediction of no rain for one specified hour of a day where the sun will be seen.

One Ordinary Day, with Peanuts by Shirley Jackson, 1955

Shirley Jackson is best remembered for writing “The Lottery”. In this tale, a man performs multiple good deeds throughout the day with a nice twist at the end.

A Touch of Strange by Theodore Sturgeon, 1958

A man and a woman swim out to make their rendezvous with a mermaid and merman just before moonrise.

Eastward Ho! by William Tenn, 1958

This is a wonderful piece of speculative fiction where the aboriginal natives of North America are in control of the United States.

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes, 1959

A timeless story of a medical experiment with tragic results, which has held my fascination even after many years when I read it in high school for an English class. The prose remains fresh and keeps the reader spellbound to the pages.

Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut, 1961

An excellent speculative parable of what might happen when certain types of behaviour are controlled.

This Moment of the Storm by Roger Zelazny, 1966

Life on a far off planet with bizarre predator life forms which come out of the forests during rainstorms.

The Electric Ant by Philip K. Dick, 1969

An executive learns the dark side of his reality.

The Deathbird by Harlan Ellison, 1973

This story contained many convoluted sections that I found distracting. One section I did enjoy was about a Puli.

The Women Men Don’t See by James Tiptree, Jr., 1973

A quirky fun adventure of a downed plane in the Yucatan with the perfect last sentence: “Two of our opossums are missing.”

I See You by Damon Knight, 1976

The forerunner to infrared spying: wonderful stuff.

The Gunslinger by Stephen King, 1978

Although I’m not much of a fan of this author, I did find the bits about the crow entertaining in this futurist look at the old west.

The Dark by Karen Joy Fowler, 1991

Excellent story leading the reader from intriguing scenarios to creepy with a satisfying ending.

Buffalo by John Kessel, 1991

John Kessel meets H.G. Wells in Buffalo with interesting results.

Solitude by Ursula K Le Guin, 1994

A woman observes life on a far-off planet while her children are able to mingle with the native humans and adapt while she does not. This reminded me a little of “Lord of the Flies”.

Mother Grasshopper by Michael Swanick, 1998

This story wasn’t for me. I’m sure others will enjoy it.

macs by Terry Bisson, 1999

Robots cloned from a human and were expected to be returned to the government within thirty days: dead. This is an interesting premise underlying this story of government manipulation of its citizens.

Creation by Jeffrey Ford, 2002

After reading that God had created man, a boy creates a stick man named Cavanagh using his father’s breath.

Other People by Neil Gaiman, 2001

A man forced to deal with the consequences of his life’s choices in the afterlife.

Two Hearts by Peter S. Beagle, 2005

Several characters from “The Last Unicorn” join forces to face a griffon terrorizing a village. Excellent.

Journey into the Kingdom by M. Rickert, 2007

This was a story I was unable to get into. Others may find it to their liking.

The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate by Ted Chiang, 2007

Lovely story set in Arabian Night style like Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves with time travel. Various characters learn about their other selves by entering the Gate of Years, twenty years in the future or the past.

All in all this was a great anthology book to get into while knowing that each of the stories would be relatively short.

A special thank you to Matt Staggs for providing this book for my review.

Book format: paperback, 475 pages
Publisher: Tachycon Publications
Publication Date: September 2009

Available at:

Monday 18 January 2010


This photo was taken near Mt. Shark Creek in Kananaskis Provincial Park in Alberta.

The past few days have been mild for Toronto, and on Sunday afternoon freezing rain had been forecasted which resulted in me staying indoors.

For me winter is meant to have copious amounts of drifted snow, similar to that depicted in the photo, including frigid temperatures that require bundling up in downfill coats, toques, mittens/gloves, scarves, and boots with good tread on the bottom (preferably with warm woolen socks inside). I like it best at about -5F (-23C), as the snow will crunch underfoot and if the nose is exposed to the air acquires a numb feeling in a matter of minutes. Another feature at this temperature is the telephone and electrical lines hum.

Cold temperatures tend to keep influenza and cold bugs at a minimum, whereas warmer more temperate days produce a multitude of different ailments to afflict humans.

Photo Credit: photofox CC=nc-nd-flickr.

Thursday 14 January 2010

Bench of the Week (32)

This bench is near the bridge on Centre Island located in Toronto, Ontario. Previous posts about the Toronto Islands were about the Ferry Service and history.

RuneE of Visual Norway started an informal meme for Bench of the Week, and if you visit his blog you will find other participants.

Photo Credit: bensonkua CC=sa-flickr. Click to enlarge.

Monday 11 January 2010

Hiking Trails - Lake Agnes

[1 - Lake Louise and Mount Victoria - click to enlarge]

The hike to Lake Agnes starts on the lakeshore trail of Lake Louise in front of the Chateau Lake Louise. This hike is considered moderate which starts out with an elevation of 1735m (5691 ft) with a gain of 400m (1312ft). The distance one-way from the Chateau Lake Louise is 3.6km (2.2 miles).

[2 - From lakeshore trail looking NW to the Beehive - click to enlarge]

[3- Lake Louise from trail]

[4- Lake Louise trail - click to enlarge]

After leaving the lakeshore trail the hike takes a steep switchback climb to Mirror Lake. When I did this particular journey to Lake Agnes I had the luxury of going on horseback, something I would do again to spare the knees.

[5- Lake Agnes trail, view west to Mount Victoria - click to enlarge]

Here the hiker makes their way through Englemann spruce and subalpine fir.

[6 - Looking down to Lake Louise and the Chateau from the trail - click to enlarge]

[7 - Lake Agnes trail looking SW to Mt Victoria and glaciers - click to enlarge]

[8- Western Anemone]

[9- Beehive and Mirror Lake - click to enlarge]

[10 - From the Lake Agnes Trail - Big Beehive - click to enlarge]

[11 - Here the outflow from Lake Agnes can be seen - click to enlarge]

[12 - Lake Agnes outflow - a closer look]

[13 - East view to the Bow River Valley from Lake Agnes outflow - click to enlarge]

[14 -Benches at Lake Agnes Tea House - click to enlarge]

The tea house was first built in 1901 and later replaced in 1981 with this replica.

[15 - west view of Lake Agnes Tea House]

Lake Agnes is located in a hanging valley.

The tea house serves sandwiches, soup, hot meals, fresh scones, cake and excellent varieties of tea throughout the summer.

[16 - Lake Agnes - click to enlarge]

The lake is named after Lady Susan Agnes Macdonald (wife of the former prime minister Sir John A. Macdonald) who made the climb to the lake in 1890.

From the teahouse is a trail along the north shore of the lake that will take the hiker to the top of the Big Beehive where there are fabulous views for 1km (0.6 mile) with an elevation gain of 120m from the teahouse – steep switchbacks up a north-facing ridge.

[17- Typical greedy chipmunk - click to enlarge]

[18 - Big Beehive Trail next to Lake Agnes]

[19 - Lake Agnes from the Big Beehive Trail]

At the crest the trail forks, to the right it descends to the Plain of Six Glaciers and to the left it continues 300m to a gazebo lookout. This is a place for a person who has no fear of heights.

[22- Beehive lookout toward the ski runs to the east of Lake Louise town - click to enlarge]

[23 - Map of Lake Agnes hike is line to the right, and to the left to the Plain of Six Glaciers]

Photo Credits: [1] Alex Art CC=flickr, [2]-brilang CC=nc-sa-flickr, [3]-totten photos / photos by mark CC=nc-nd-flickr, [5][6][10]-Inspiration Point Studio CC=nc-nd-flickr, [7][15][17][18][22]-Maggie T CC=nc-flickr, [8][9][11][12][16]-retropc CC=nc-sa-flickr, [13][23]-subindle CC=nc-nd-flickr, [14]-dangingnomad CC=nd-flickr, [19]-12th CC=nc-nd-flickr,

Monday 4 January 2010


This photo is of Berg Lake with Mt. Robson in the background and in the reflection.

I have been taking these past few days after the holiday season to reflect on what resolutions I really need to adhere to for the remainder of the year, and into the future. Some situations will be discarded, some replaced and new situations added.

As I have an interest in spirituality, I have been clearing out past memories that needed healing and closure in order to properly move onto to the work I have decided I ought to take part in. This does not mean that this blog will end. The posts will continue, as will my history and hiking articles.

Photo Credit: brilang CC=nc-sa-flickr. Click to enlarge.