No, Really, the Policemen’s Ball doesn’t Revolve around Cheese

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Reception entrance

I attended the Vancouver Police Department holiday reception and the local Winter International Lolita Day tea a few days ago. Nothing artsy, just nice outings after two weeks of cake and fiction.

B-cat and I have birthdays just a day apart. Although we’re not the type to throw ourselves birthday parties, there were still several dinners to go to and candles to blow out. I personally received three full birthday cake — two black forest and one red velvet, if you like minutiae — and the sugar and my advanced age combined to remind me of how little fiction I’ve written since high school…

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Artichoke and granite-like mystery cheese

…So that kept me busy until I took B-cat to, as he puts it, the big policemen’s ball (look up “Simpsons garbage man can song”). Held at the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club with its beautifully decorated entrance — especially past the lawn — the event is the first I’ve attended since the foundation started sending me invitations.

B-cat was held up teaching undergrads, so he was 1.5 hours late to the two-hour event. Instead of going in alone, I sat in the club lobby and wondered why all the serving staff were Asian. I also watched the police officers presenting that night interact with the public and police dogs.

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Justice, a canine officer

The police dog in the shot is wearing a vest with a mounted camera, equipment courtesy of some grant or the other. With him are his handler, a higher-up, and two members of the emergency response team (the Canadian equivalent of SWAT) with their gear. They later went in to speak of these and things they hoped to raise funds for, like shallow-water rafts.

It was only then that I remembered VPD was in charge only of Vancouver proper. I rushed home with a guilty conscience to look up the Burnaby RCMP, the people I bug about noisy neighbours and lost passports… but they don’t appear to be soliciting donations.

Anyway, the VPD has many community programs to support. And knows good cheese!

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Seriously, though: Can you identify this cheese? It’s delicious.

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As for the ILD afternoon tea… the tea shop was dimly lit and overpriced, and the Chinese owner kept taking pictures of us without asking. Still, we had good company.

On a vain note: Unlike most Asian women, my face is long and droopy rather than wide or round, so ordinary hairstyles that hide the sides of the face are amazingly unflattering on me. But I hardly ever wear anything gothic, and B-cat never dresses like a man from centuries past, so let me leave this here:

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Black Hole Thursday Wash Away the Rain

A nebula on screen
A nebula on screen

For the early portion of his birthday, I took B-cat to Cosmic Nights: Black Holes at the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre. It was raining so hard he eschewed the motorcycle for a borrowed van. With nice dry feet, we saw the new Black Holes: The Other Side of Infinity film in the dome of the observatory.

The dome is tiny compared with IMAX/OMNIMAX at Science World or Canada Place, and the relative proximity of the screen to the seats always makes me nauseous. I last went for the Pink Floyd laser light show around 2011 (just before the Space Centre cancelled laser shows), when, with the music both lulling me to sleep and blasting my eardrums, I barely managed to prevent a biohazard for my then-boyfriend and the venue.

Blackhole beer pong
Blackhole beer pong

The volume control and animation are much better for Black Holes, and while B-cat and the UBC astronomer narrating live* for the evening disagree on whether Hawking radiation or white holes, respectively, are the best theory, I enjoyed the clear explanation of this aspect of our universe. If B-cat hadn’t spent months patiently feeding me tidbits of quantum science, though, I wouldn’t have retained much.

*He narrated the presentation before and after the film narrated by Liam Neeson. Surprisingly, Neeson as a narrator is not annoying at all.

We touch a real piece of moon rock
We touch a real piece of moon rock

Most of all, Black Holes is moving. It will make you feel insignificant in the best way while reminding you of the energy and beauty of this cold, vast universe.

I was holding back tears at times.

Blackhole trivia contest (from left: recipient of prize, winner, 2nd place)
Blackhole trivia contest (from left: recipient of prize, winner, 2nd place)

The night also included blackhole-themed painting, beer pong (get the matter across the event horizon!), and trivia contest.

B-cat wanted to observe the game before participating, so he missed the awesome prize of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. In his own round, he tied the person who then beat him at rock-paper-scissors (strangely, being a physicist didn’t help at that), but both of them declined the Star Trek bobblehead and let the loser enjoy it instead. Such sportsmanship!

Five kinds of cheese!
Five kinds of cheese!

Although the Space Centre phrased the ads as if there’d be free drinks, it provided free cheese and chips and charged for beverages. Suited me — we devoured about a kilogram of cheese; I even ate some of the garnish.

Between that and our being late, losing a phone, accidentally throwing two handfuls of marbles off the fabric of space-time model, and misplacing our nebula paintings, B-cat and I are just the worst.

At least, in all the civilizations that probably have existed or will exist throughout time, we probably aren’t. Happy birthday!

Moving marbles showing the warping of space-time
Moving marbles showing the warping of space-time

See Black Holes Saturdays or catch Gentlemen Hecklers mocking Disney’s The Black Hole on Nov. 26 at the Space Centre.