Saturday, March 31, 2007

Music review - If I Hadn't Got You - Lisa Stansfield

Lisa Stansfield is, in my humble opinion, a contemporary icon. She is the doyenne of disco-influenced soul and rhythm/blues music. In this piece, she does a cover of another singer, Chris Braide (really good too). Completely different again from other songs I have posted before... this is just to show the range of tunes I am into... I have to admit that I prefer this version but I also like Chris Braide a lot... Judge for yourself.

Music Review - Sola Sistim by Underworld

In a very recent conversation with H, we discussed our respective music interests. I think that while my taste is quite varied, my repertoire is not as vast as his. That being said, in complete contrast to other tunes I have looked for, Sola Sistim by Underworld is the type of experimental, new-age song that people could very well associate me with.

While "experimental music" doesn't seem to be a phrase that many of my friends would have in mind when talking about my music, I can completely see myself writing at a downtown coffee shop at 11 pm (I am a creature of the night) while listening to this tune. I managed to find a video with the song as a background (still have yet to find the actual album!).

Update - I read some reviews and apparently this is downtempo, chill-out. Wow, I really need to amp up my terminology!

More music from the 90's - "Don't talk, Just Kiss" by Right Said Fred

Right Said Fred was best known for "I'm Too Sexy", a song often associated with catwalks and beautiful models. However, they also had a rather sweet tune that I have loved ever since I first listened to it. Since I'm stuck in the 90's for a short while, here is the tune. Judge for yourself.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Music Review - Gonna Get You by Lonnie Gordon

For those of you who are 80's music lovers (and who love to dance to really contagious music), below you will find the video to the opening sequence to the movie "Cool as Ice" starring Vanilla Ice. Touted as the first white (Caucasian) rapper (and perhaps this was true, I've never actually checked pop culture history books), Vanilla Ice had a few tunes that stuck in a lot of people's minds. This video features Naomi Campbell (pre-maid hitting behavior) singing with Vanilla Ice. Rhythmic and contagious, this tune makes me want to dance every time I listen to it. Hopefully it will have the same effect on you :)

Moreover, I found that Lonnie Gordon had done a song in the same soundtrack, so I tracked it down to ... a YouTube segment of a Vanilla Ice movie ("Cool as Ice"). Whomever uploaded the video wasn't very happy with the female lead! Lonnie Gordon has achieved much success, and is a wonderful singer. This type of music is sort of high-energy, rhythm and blues, mixed with a bit of house. Check it out.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Dining Out for Life 2007 - Vancouver

For the past few years, I have made a point of going out for dinner on a special night: Dining Out for Life. This event takes place this year on Thursday, March 29th, 2007. Participating restaurants will donate 25% of your food bill to A Loving Spoonful and Friends for Life, two charities in the Lower Mainland that support local people living with HIV/AIDS. If you live in the Greater Vancouver Regional District area, I would strongly encourage you to participate in the event. Any contribution (small as it might be) counts.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

A glorious day of Spring in Vancouver

This is what today looked like in pictures :) To your right, the Rose Garden at UBC, overlooking the Burrard Inlet and the North Shore. You can now understand why people want to live in Vancouver despite the super expensive and over-priced rental units here!

Eatery review - Curry Point (UBC and Cambie)

Those of us who love Indian food and happen to be all the time on the go really appreciate having a place where you can go, consistently find good food, very filling and at a reasonable price. I have been a customer of Curry Point for perhaps a decade (not 100% sure on this one, but I am sure that I've eaten here at least since 2000).

The original Curry Point I knew is located in the basement of the University Village (often called the 'Food Court', although there are so many new restaurants in the village that I think they'll need to actually name that area so that people can recognize it!). The owners must have been super successful because they recently opened another branch, located on Broadway between Cambie and Ash.

I have been to both locations. The downside of the UBC location is that it is ALWAYS packed. The line to order food sometimes blocks other establishments, which I find quite annoying. It's almost impossible to find seating if you want to eat on site at lunch time. The downside of the Cambie location is that it is small and can make you feel a bit claustrophobic. The upside of both establishments is that the food is consistently good.

Their butter chicken, curry chicken, curry lamb and potatoes and onions are must-haves. Lunch can be around $ 7.00 if you order a combo with two meat items, pop and naan bread. The only things you need to keep in mind are: First, when you eat lunch at Curry Point, you have to forget about dinner. I have had lunch at 11.30am and still feel the need to continue processing food by midnight of the same day. Second, if you eat at Curry Point UBC, arrive early (or late) so that you can actually seat. The food is excellent! And they have plenty of vegetarian options.

Eatery review - The Papaya Hut

Strategically located on Burrard near Broadway, the Papaya Hut is a true gem of good Thai food. The place is small. Very small, although I am sure it is certainly bigger than some establishments in the downtown Vancouver area. The food is amazing and the service is quick and corteous.

A combination # 1 will be hovering around $ 11.00 (plus tax and tip) and you get to enjoy satay, salad, good quality rice and one menu item. I ordered the yellow curry, and quickly discovered that Thai food can be extremely hot even for my palate! My complaint is not with the actual quality of the food, but with the spice in it. Salads are not supposed to be hot. This salad was. So was the dip for my chicken Satay and I don't even want to mention the yellow curry.

I got to the point where it was clearly inedible. I had to take my food to go and come home and mix it with coconut milk. So, if you happen to order at the Papaya Hut (they have delivery within reasonable distances) or eat in, I would recommend to make sure that your food can be eaten (mine was too hot).

Still, lots of people have praised it and I enjoyed the food (while I could eat it). I have seen that they have lunch for $ 5.95. Now, that's what I call good food at a reasonable price!

Note to my readers: Please be informed that the next few restaurant reviews will discuss fast-food, cheap-eats. Not fast food in the way of McD or BK, or KFC, but local haunts with small places that provide sustenance in order to go on with our daily activities. I've decided to name these posts "Eatery review", and the label for this type of post will be "cheap eats".

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Long distance calling and technological hindrances

If you agree with the assumption that everyone in Vancouver is an immigrant (regardless of whether you left another Canadian province or arrived from a foreign country), you will have to agree that we all have to make long distance phone calls. At one point, I had to call Spain, the United States and Mexico.

In order to keep in touch with my family, I signed on to an e-mail account more than 11 years ago. I started using online messaging systems (aka Microsoft MSN, or Yahoo! Messenger) a few years later, still with the purpose of keeping in touch with my family and more recently, my friends. For a while there, I even wondered why my family would keep calling me over the phone (from the US, Mexico or Spain) if we could communicate over the Internet. Truth be told, after a few years, I have realized that I enjoy phone conversations much better.

Well, the fact that I live in a different country to that of many of my friends and family has made me a reliable customer of phone cards. Many (not sure if all of them) use Voice-Over-IP technology to connect long distance. I do have Skype and I am aware that there is Skype-Phone now, but for some reason (perhaps the fact that I am slightly technology-challenged) I still prefer to either have a phone plan or use phone cards.

This sort of random self-assessment is very much the result of a realization ... I am getting old!!! My nieces had cell phones before I did. They have MSN accounts since they were 13 years old. I still don't own an iPod and I'll confess that, up until I actually sat down and played with a digital camera, I was totally puzzled as to how I was supposed to download the pictures from my camera (don't worry, I now know that all I have to do is plug a USB cable to my laptop!).

It is surprising that I am so adept (and eager to adopt) new technologies in my own field of research, I am totally incompetent in others. I love Geographical Information Systems, GIS and I am quite happy to use systems modeling software such as Analytica, Stella or Extend. I feel confident using new qualitative or quantitative research software (Atlas.ti, or STATA) but I am still reluctant to adopt Skype.

I often wonder why I make these choices. From an economic standpoint, it probably doesn't make any sense that I do not use Skype, given the frequency of my long distance phone calls. But I believe that adopting new behavioral patterns is also dependent on comfort levels and particular consumer preferences.

Do we get the same degree of satisfaction/pleasure from talking with our loved ones online (on MSN or the more recent three-dimensional alternate world Second Life) or over the phone? I would have to go with the phone.

Taking this reflection one step further, that's perhaps one of the reasons why I thoroughly enjoy going out for brunch with my good friends (like I did with H just recently to Rhizome). I could have chatted with him over email or even on the phone. But we do enjoy going out (we are both brunch lovers and really appreciate good food -- what do they call it? we are foodies). I doubt we'd have the same good experience if we did most of our "hanging out" online.

I keep a really busy social schedule because I enjoy my friends company, something I don't think an online world would give me. L and I often go work at a cute coffee shop on Main Street. I could work at home or the office, but I enjoy her presence, in real life. My Sunday nights are usually movie nights with J. I could just as easily pop a movie in my laptop but I enjoy the post-movie discussion. There is a lot to be said for enjoying the physical presence of loved ones. And technology can't really replace it, no matter what. Even over the phone, you can feel your loved ones closer to you than using webcam, I think.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Restaurant review - Rhizome

Well, we finally made it! I wanted to go to Rhizome ever since I read a review on the Vancouver Courier (I think that was the case) about a cafe with a penchant to empower disenfranchised people and building community. Besides, I wanted to see if their chilaquiles were just as good as my Mom's. So HZ and I went there this morning... we had to walk around and wait for about 30 minutes in the rain! This is Vancouver! Darn it... On that note, we walked to East 8th Avenue and discovered "The Nice Cafe", where apparently they do have brunch (and boy do they have customers!)... I was looking for SoMa but they don't seem to have moved yet to their new location. So I guess I'll check "The Nice Cafe" sometime next week and see how their brunch fares. The prices (from what we could see) were fairly reasonable.

At any rate, the service was excellent, I think it was one of the co-owners who brought us our food. She was keen that I ordered chilaquiles the right way (I hate cheese, so I tend to cook them without cheese). So I accepted and ordered "chilaquiles, but easy on the cheese". H did enjoy the real chilaquiles with lots of cheese (I think he is still bewildered that I hate cheese).

The food is excellent, the decor is absolutely cozy and you can't really beat the food choices. They have vegetarian, vegan and for those of us who admit to being meat eaters, they have organic options. I can't imagine my breakfast without sausage, for example. But Rhizome carries organic sausage so that's awesome.

I didn't have coffee but I had a variety of Cola drink that is neither of the two major competitors. I had to go and find the name, and it fits perfectly with Rhizome's theme. My drink was Blue Sky Cola. After brunch we had a short conversation with the co-owner and congratulated her for actually living up to our expectations! I'd seriously recommend Rhizome not only because they have a social responsibility slant to their activities, but also because their food is great. And the prices are really reasonable.

I read somewhere that you can actually stay at Rhizome and do work on your laptop but I'd find that hard. They have an excellent selection of salsa music and my own instinct would be to start dancing. I am still tempted to check it out as a "work on my laptop" kinda place.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Restaurant review - Banana Leaf

Banana Leaf is actually one of those restaurants that I feel confident about recommending (and reviewing). I think the last time I was at the Banana Leaf was around 1997. So, it had been a decade since I last had set foot in this restaurant. I vaguely remembered that it was good and that there were certain flavours that were typical (peanuts, curry, spices, coconut milk).

Banana Leaf's food is not only good... is is EXCELLENT! With three locations in the Vancouver area (two on the Broadway corridor and one in the West End), Banana Leaf brings you the best in Malaysian food. I ordered the Rendang Chicken Curry (which is more than enough food even if you are really hungry) and committed the mistake of over-eating by ordering six assorted Satay skewers. The food was amazing and not really expensive (as you can see from their meat and vegetable menu). That being said, there are some more expensive items I would have to try when I want to splurge and indulge (lobster, for example).

Dinner was in the realm of $ 40 bucks for two people (fairly inexpensive for the amount of food we had!) and the service was prompt and corteous. Small catch - make reservations. I am not kidding you. This place gets so full and the line-ups are so long that I've actually declined to wait in line (M and I went there two times before and tried to get in - to no avail!). The decor and ambience is nice, and they have some really neat drinks (lychee mojito, for example!).

Wonder Woman - Lynda Carter

I think everyone who saw the 1970s show "Wonder Woman" fell in love with Lynda Carter. At least, I did!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

World Water Day 2007 - Coping with water scarcity

I thoroughly believed that World Water Day was celebrated on Wednesday March 21st, 2007 (at least in Canada, since there was an event being held here) but now I stand corrected, it was today (Thursday March 22nd, 2007).

Water is an important resource, one that has deserved lots of attention. The 10 year period from 2005 to 2015 has been marked as the International Decade for Action: Water for Life by the United Nations. Recently, UNESCO released the Second UN World Water Development Report: 'Water, a shared responsibility'

I have studied water (especially wastewater treatment, both from the natural sciences and engineering and now more recently, the social sciences) for over 14 years. I am passionate about water. My "baby steps" included collecting and sampling wastewater in several locations in Mexico, in order to test the effectiveness of activated sludge, bench-scale treatment processes. More recently, I became interested in the social aspects of wastewater management and wastewater policy. I have argued that the "scarcity discourse" can only get you so far.

Before I get bombarded with e-mails that criticize me, let me explain what I mean. If you look at the water cycle, there are several points where we can intervene to prevent environmental damages to water bodies. We could, for example:
a) Change our water consumption patterns at the individual level to reduce the amount of water used.
b) Change our processing technologies to reduce the amount of water consumed.
c) Clean up polluted streams through advanced wastewater treatment.

Shouldn't we stop polluting water in the first place? In a conversation with a professor we discussed this topic at length, when I was informed that the city of Victoria (in British Columbia) lacked wastewater treatment plants. I would agree, but the fact is... we are still polluting water, so it should have at least some degree of treatment. The compounding factor is that building wastewater treatment plants (and operating them) can also have detrimental environmental effects (energy consumption, generation of waste). More recently, more natural treatment processes (such as constructed wetlands) have become more popular. My concern with wetlands is that they might require too much area (and with the changing land-use patterns and increased pressures for compact urbanization, I wonder - who will be able to have a constructed wetland in their backyard, when housing is only available in units of 550 square feet?)

So, are we really in a catch-22 situation that we can't escape? I don't think so. I think that, when examining options for adequate water management, we can apply some complex adaptive systems (CAS) thinking. Professor Donella Meadows, who worked for many years trying to create solutions for environmental problems, argued in one of her last publications that there were twelve leverage points where one could intervene and effect change in a system. She argued that the point where the most change could be effected was in paradigm change.

I concur with this notion. If we were able to shift our own consumptive paradigms and transform our behavioral patterns to reduce water pollution (and attempt to find effective and non-harmful ways to treat whatever water we've already polluted) then I would think that we'd be in a better position in regards to water.

A couple of years ago, I gave a talk to a group of youngsters (probably between the ages of 7-11 years old) that I entitled "Saving the planet, one drop at a time". In this lecture I spoke about the fact that only 2% of the world's water was drinking water and that most of it was in glaciers and other non-easily-accessible points. At the end of the talk I asked them to sign a pledge to change their own consumption patterns and to try and change those of their parents, siblings, friends, so that we could stop wasting water. I was thrilled when I heard their voices all in unison repeating the pledge. I think that we might have found another important intervention point - educating young people.

This post follows the pattern of reflections I have engaged in for the past few years, and I think I will continue along this line of work for a while... in the mean time, please think twice when you open the water tap.

Good references I found include an advocacy guide published by the World Health Organization, the website for UN Water, and of course, the very appropriately entitled Human Development Report 2006, "Beyond scarcity: Power, poverty and the water crisis". One of my very good friends has done a lot of work on energy, poverty reduction and development. My mentor has done excellent work in this field and has strongly advocated to never forget about poverty. And if I had the time, I would go on about the links between water scarcity, pollution and poverty, but I don't... that will be the subject of another posting.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Music Review - New Jersey Deep by Black Science Orchestra

Most of my friends know that I love deep house, although I can go for different variations (slightly techno, beats, dance/trance, chill-out). Well, some time ago I heard this song (most likely at a cafe - I seem to recall that Tatlow's on 4th Avenue usually plays this type of music - either deep house/chill-out or jazz) and wrote down its name. I never looked for it online. However, today I was cleaning my desk to start working and I came across the piece of paper where I wrote the tune. So I searched for it... and became addicted upon listening to it again.

New Jersey Deep by Black Science Orchestra. That's the name of the tune that occupies my thoughts (and my earphones) right now. The link I have provided will take you to the VitalVynil website, the first site I've seen that has full-length promotional tidbits of their tunes. This particular tune combines funk, beats and house in a rather intoxicating concoction that urges the listener to start dancing... the imagery I get from this tune is sort of New York/Paris at night... I would recommend that you listen to it and then give me your opinions ;)

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Restaurant review - Cafe Crepe (UBC)

Well, I must have been to Cafe Crepe about a gazillion times. Cafe Crepe is a European-style cafe, which serves primarily, well, coffee and crepes... Just off the top of my head, not including today, in 2007 I have visited Cafe Crepe at the very least:
  • When my brother was in town (about two months ago)
  • When A and I wanted to go for tea and a crepe, about two weeks ago.
  • With H after shopping for his shoes about two months ago.
  • With K after dinner at Earls Robson.
  • ...
And the list could go on. Cafe Crepe is one of the best places to go if you *really* are craving a crepe. So this posting should review all the locations I've visited in the past few weeks. I'll start with today's visit (UBC).

Cafe Crepe (UBC)
The company was by far the best part of lunch. I ordered a burger and N ordered a spinach and feta cheese crepe (for those of you who know me well, you know I absolutely dislike cheese... yes I know I am an abnormality). Clearly, this place is popular and thus the staff is always scrambling to try and provide good service. But I can't complain. We weren't really in a rush so it wasn't like I had any problems. A took me last semester here for my birthday lunch celebration (and she had to run to a meeting) so that time was really bad. But today was good. Their burgers are good, and I wasn't hungry after lunch at all. That being said, I still have to check Moderne Burger.

Cafe Crepe (Granville Street, two locations downtown and one near 12th Avenue).
Again, the company was definitely the highlight of these evening. I visited all three sites with three different friends of mine. Cafe Crepe's nutella crepe is to die for, and they do have the cheapest booze in town, so I ordered a martini too :) Their chocolate martini ... mmmmmmmmmm! :)

Overall, I'd rank Cafe Crepe as one of my favourite spots. I worry sometimes when I bring friends because I know that, if we are in a rush, we won't get quick service. But the staff is always attentive and you can't go wrong with crepes.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Restaurant Review - Seb's Market Cafe

Ok, so this IS indeed far overdue... I went to Seb's Market Cafe with two friends in December (just before I headed south for a holiday). Since this is right in my neighborhood, I thought it was an awesome idea. I always enjoy exploring restaurants that are nearby.

Seb's Market Cafe is a great place for brunch. I haven't been there for dinner so I can't say but they most definitely have a dinner menu. However, if you go there for brunch on a Sunday, it is REALLY PACKED. That can't be because it's bad, right? :) So, the place is really good.

I ordered scrambled eggs with sausage, potatoes, etc. Standard brunch fare. Very well done, and the price is slightly Kitsilano-ey but the portions are generous. Coffee is excellent. Service is, well... slow at times, but they try their best. And their compotes are prepared in-house.

I would come back to Seb's at some point, but I want to try other brunch spots first. But if you live in the neighborhood or want to just check it out, you really should. Worth the visit!

Restaurant review - Mogadishu Cafe

I have a good friend who lives near my place in East Vancouver and we've taken it upon ourselves to visit all the neighborhood restaurants that we can. Clearly, this was a long overdue visit.

The Mogadishu Cafe is located on Broadway between Carolina and Fraser St. The cuisine is Somali and the service is super friendly. The place is very clean and the portions are SUPER abundant. You can have dinner for two with $ 20 dollars. I am so not kidding you. You will not even have dessert.

Somali cuisine is (like Ethiopean/Eritrean cuisine) very much based in stews. We didn't have any injera this time but we didn't need it. The meat and chicken dishes had plenty of veggies, rice and vermicelli. I would definitely go back to Mogadishu Cafe!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Vancouver's weather

Yesterday (March 12th) we had such a wonderful day (sunny and dry) that I thought we had finally welcomed Spring. I was wrong. DEAD WRONG. Today I woke up to the sound of water falling from the sky. Yes, it is RAINING yet again! So much for Spring :(

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Restaurant review - The Gramercy Grill

Located almost at the corner of 10th Avenue and Arbutus, The Gramercy Grill was one of the restaurants that kept me puzzled and intrigued for a long time. You'll see, I am fascinated by spatial location and geography. So, for a few years now I had always wondered ... "where do residents of the 12th and Arbutus area go for brunch/coffee/dinner?"... it didn't seem as though they had much choice other than going north towards 4th Avenue (where you can of course find-- well, just about anything you want!).

Apparently, the Gramercy Grill is the answer to my question. Catering to the local community, and quite strategically located (you can't really beat this location - even if you take the bus, you can reach it quickly through the 16 Arbutus or 9 Broadway), this place is also considered a "posh", high end restaurant (though apparently, other reviewers think of this place as a casual bistro or even a sports bar?!). I kid you not, the decor and the ambiance was definitely sophisticated.

My friend L took two of her closest friends (one of them, me of course!) for brunch at the Gramercy Grill. This happened a few weeks back, so yes, this review is delayed! At any rate, I digress... I happened to order a chorizo-based scrambled eggs plate, and some coffee. I have to say that, despite the fact that the eggs were nice, and the chorizo was good, I was not overly impressed. The place is relatively pricey for what they offer for brunch. BUT (and here is the big but) I don't believe they cater to "brunchers".

I came across their "Dine-Out-Vancouver" menu and for a measly $ 25.00 you could have had a really amazing dinner. So, it would be unfair to qualify the Gramercy Grill as an overrated place. I believe that their specialty is dinner, so I'll have to come back for that. The service is absolutely friendly and adorable, and the decor is fabulous. Besides, on that specific occasion we were celebrating my friend, so the company made this brunch date totally worth it.

Finally!!!! -- I slept in!

The title of this posting may be completely strange for any new reader to my blog (or anyone with whom I have never discussed this particular side of my personal life). Well, I should provide some context. I live in a shared house, though I have my own ground-level basement suite. As a result, my little apartment is private yet not so private.

The house has no insulation whatsoever, so I can hear the next-door neighbors, the people living upstairs, even the person living in the top floor suite! I hear EVERYTHING. And by everything, I mean it! Yesterday (Saturday), I was violently and abruptly woken up at 7 am thanks to the upstairs neighbors kid who started screaming. Then the family got organized to go out (making a lot of noise during the process). Finally, my torture ended at around 9 am. I was grumpy for most of Saturday, and I was even grumpier when we lost a fairly close volleyball game (we won the second, but still... we could've beat the crap out of the first team).

Well, the great news are that the family living upstairs went out for the weekend. This meant that, for the first time in five months, I was able to sleep in without anybody waking me up at 6:00 am crying "Daddy, daddy, mommy, mommy" and proceeding to yell, throw stuff, run around the house and make noise for the next two hours. So I disconnected my cell phone, my land line, and closed my curtains. Today, I wanted to sleep in. And I succeeded!

One of my good friends called me early and asked me if I wanted to join her for work at a coffee shop where we usually hang out and do work. But I didn't. I was happy asleep because, for the first time in months, I was able to sleep soundly through the night without any noise.

Many people have recommended to sleep with ear plugs, or talk to my neighbors, etc. I talked to them, and while they are very nice people, they don't seem cognizant of the level of noise they make. So I might actually go for ear plugs. But I am happy to report that, for the first time in five months, I actually was able to sleep in soundly!

Friday, March 09, 2007

Interior design in Vancouver [limited spaces!]

In my past lives, I studied just about everything you could have imagined. I learned about library sciences, criminology, interior design (which by the way in Spanish is called "Decoracion de Interiores" (interior decoration)], and just about a dozen random other things.

One of the things I have kept near and dear to my heart is interior design. And now that I live in Vancouver, it has become more and more important.

You'll see, I live in a very tiny apartment. And by very tiny, I mean less than 550 square feet. I am, however, proud of what I have managed to accomplish with the very limited space I have. So here is my apartment's floor plan. I constructed this with Visio(R) since I don't have AutoCAD and frankly I needed to learn how to use it.
And I figured it'd be handy for my friends who are now shopping for furniture and re-decorating their apartments to see what I could accomplish with mine.

Restaurant review - Water Street Cafe

I have been to the Water Street Cafe at least six times within the last year. No less... Was there for Valentine's Day this year, my birthday last year, dinner with H last October... at least three times in six months off the top of my head. What makes me come back to this restaurant all the time?

The answer is fourfold:
a) Great food.
b) Great service.
c) Great ambience.
d) A chance to speak in Italian to the owner.

Ok, so I might sound horribly conceited for citing reason # 4, but what are languages for if you can't use them? I might as well take the chance! [That's the reason why I haven't learned Swahili].

Truthfully, the Water Street Cafe is the place to take someone if you want them to really enjoy great food and a great atmosphere. Located at the corner of Cambie Street and Water Street (hence the name!) and literally across the street from the Gastown Steam Clock, this restaurant is owned by Mr. Domenique Sabatino. Mr. Sabatino is an amazing host. Every time I show up there, he'll come and say hi in person, chat with me in Italian, ask me what I want for dinner and seat me and my guest in less than 10 minutes. I am so not kidding!

The food is amazing, and even if they don't have it in their menu, they'll make it for you. Trust me on this one. I am a fan of linguini a la Puttanesca, and the Water Street Cafe doesn't officially have it on their menu. But they'll make it for me. Actually I am pretty sure they'll make it for anyone who orders it.

Any dish on their menu is amazing, but I can totally swear by their pastas and their chicken and meat dishes. Their Caesar salads are good too. Prices are reasonable (not really cheap, but then again this is one of the best restaurants in Vancouver!)... I would seriously recommend it to anyone. Note: I have only done dinner here, but it's open at 11:30 so I guess they do brunch too.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Matt Damon imitating Matthew McConaughey

Matt Damon is one of the finest actors of our generation. And here is an example of why (if you recall, I reviewed Good Will Hunting a few months back, and I blogged a YouTube video of the pivotal scene where Will breaks down and cries his heart out in Sean's arms). Well, this is Matt Damon being funny and I just couldn't help but laugh!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Restaurant review: Moderne Burger (Not yet!)

My friend J asked me if I had ever had Moderne Burger's food ever - she claims that it's better than Vera's Burger Shack (I am not about to engage in a dispute with a true Kitsilano resident, so I'll just say -- "ok, if you say so"). But this is the reason why I haven't been to Moderne Burger: They are closed for renovations!

If you read below, I reviewed Alexis Restaurant a few weeks back. Well, on our way to the bus stop, H and I walked past Moderne Burger, and they were closed! I couldn't help but laugh incontrollably when I read the sign posted outside. You will understand when you see it!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Restaurant review: Paul's Place Omelettery

I had previously reviewed this amazing place on Granville (and I think 6th Avenue, but don't trust me on this one). However, I had read other reviews that indicated that it was way too busy so I was a bit worried this morning, as I went to Paul's Place for brunch with H and his girlfriend. Got to give Paul's my congratulations. I mean, we got there about 10.50am, we were seated by 11.05, we had coffee by 11.15 and our food was on our table by 11.30am. UNBELIEVABLE. And the beef hash is to-die-for.

The best part was really the company, as we had a great brunch and then headed to go shopping for furniture... Ah, I was born to shop. If only I had been born with a bottom-less credit card attached, that would've been fantastic.

Restaurant review: La Bodega Vancouver

For birthday parties, a romantic date, taking friends out to dinner or just to satisfy a craving for Spanish food (and by Spanish I mean, food from Spain), La Bodega Vancouver is by and large the best place I've been to in a long time. I am always fond of flavours from Spain (given my personal connections). La Bodega is located on Howe, between Davie and Drake.

The first time I went to La Bodega, I went with the same super close friend whose birthday we celebrated last night. All of La Bodega's dishes are amazing: Patatas Bravas (hot potatoes), Montaditos de Cerdo (pork slices on bread), Chorizo (spicy sausage), ChampiNones (mushrooms). I had been here last summer with Mom and a few other friends as well, but this time apparently it was our lucky night (or it was the fact that it was A's birthday!).

Nine people had enough food and the bill wasn't even in the realm of $ 240 Canadian. I mean, this was unbelievably inexpensive (that being said, there've been times before when I've had hefty bills at La Bodega, but apparently last night we chose well!). I would seriously recommend this place to anyone who wants really good Spanish tapas and great service.

Make reservations, though. The place can get packed!

Friday, March 02, 2007

The politics of climate change

Very often, people ask me what I think of climate change. Given the nature of my work, this conversation topic is inevitable. And unfortunately, I am always afraid to venture an opinion because I worry that I am not sufficiently knowledgeable. I can speak about water, wastewater and toxics management at length without any worries because I've worked on pollution control for so many years. But climate change is not my forte.

That being said, I can say that I find it interesting that interest on climate change (mitigation and adaptation) has increased in Canada, particularly in the past few months. A recent poll by the CBC showed that environment was the top priority for Canadians. But that's just opinion. Are Canadians actually doing something to reduce their environmental damages? Are lifestyles shifting? Are we consuming less? What exactly does concern entail?

I worry, though. Is climate change the only concern of Canadians? Can we afford to only focus our efforts on climate change? Wouldn't Canada we be better served by actually using climate change to frame other environmental problems? I am particularly concerned with issues like poverty alleviation. Could we try to correct income disparities through climate-change related projects? I ask myself these questions and I don't have answers yet. But I think that there is value to thinking through these questions. Particularly since I believe that my own work will have to deal with climate change in the not-so-far future.

Finally, we need to admit that climate change is a political issue. There are political agendas behind "greening" strategies. In this regard, I have to say that while a bit skeptical, I am hopeful. If politicians want to "appear to be green" and do some environmental good in the process, all the better.

Restaurant review: Vera's Burger Shack

Finally, somebody had mercy on me and decided to bring Vera's Burger to the Main Street area (SoMa or Mount Pleasant, depending on what you want to call it). Located between 14th and 15th Avenues (2922 Main Street), Vera's Burger is a true Vancouver gem. I don't care what people say about other burger places, Vera's Burger is by and large, the best burger in town. And apparently, everybody in Vancouver thinks the same way! I was just reading the West Ender and I found that Vera's Burger was voted AGAIN Best Burger in Town (Gold Award).

I had stopped at Vera's Burger with many of my friends (different locations: on Davie Street, at UBC, on Cornwall Street) [note: this was usually because they were drunk or hung over and needed FOOD pronto!] but I had never actually eaten there until last Sunday. Wow, do they ever make a wonderful burger! I had the Drunk Chicken and loved it. My brother also loves Vera's Burger (and he is a true connoisseur). So, I can't be wrong. Vancouver can't be wrong. Thank you Vera's Burger for bringing amazing burgers closer to our neighbourhood.

Puttering around

The word puttering puzzled me (as a non-native speaker of English) for a good decade. I have read emails from many of my Canadian friends, chatted with them over the phone and found the term in conversations all over the place. "Oh, don't worry, I will be at home, puttering around". Or even worse, "We could just putter or chill". For a while I thought they meant "computering" (some sort of abhorrent verb related to working in their computers) but then last month I finally decided I was sick and tired of not understanding what puttering meant. So I looked it up in the dictionary.

This is the definition that I obtained (in my own words): puttering is the act (or series of acts) of basically working but at the same time doing nothing. Puzzled enough? Yeah. Puttering is a leisure activity. You don't clean your house in 20 minutes... you putter around and move this object to there, clean up over there, dust here, etc. That is, you putter when you are working but not working at the same time. You are not supposed to get tired of puttering. has a really clear definition: to waste time idling. In Spanish from a very specific country and region, this would be the definition of "echar la hueva" or "holgazanear". But I prefer my own understanding of the word. I find that, when I wake up from a nap and I plan to work for an extended period of time without interruption, I need to putter before. For example, I know that I am going to pull an all-nighter to try and finish some stuff, and I spent about 15-20 minutes puttering. I put away clothes, dusted my fridge, put dishes in the cupboards, checked email.... and now I am ready to actually work. Thus, there is value to puttering.