Sunday, July 29, 2007

I survived Blogathon 2007

You can still sponsor me using the link at the right of the screen ("Sponsor Me"). So far I've raised around $85.00 USD!!! Thanks to all sponsors so far, and if you haven't pledged, you still have until Tuesday night (9pm PST) to do so.

My last Blogathon post. I did it!

Updates for late sponsors! Calling all sponsors! And this is my last post for Blogathon 2007!

I just read that pledges can be submitted by sponsors up to 48 hours after Schedule B is over (which means, 48 hours after Sunday at 9 pm Pacific Standard Time – therefore, you guys have up until Tuesday night, August 1st, 2007 at 9pm PST to make a pledge and sponsor me! I will be forever grateful, you’ll get positive karma and A Loving Spoonful will receive a few more donations!)

Sponsor me… you know you want to! You have almost three full days!

I felt a lot of pressure when I saw that someone was looking forward to Rebecca’s last post. Since this is my last, I thought I should make the most of it and call for donations. I’ll post the winners of my “pledge as much as you can” contest in the next few days.

Thanks to Rebecca and Jeff for contributing commentary, to H for suggesting the theme, to all my friends who kept encouraging me, to my sponsors (you know who you are) for donating to this worthy cause, and now I should also announce that I am going to turn my phones (both land line and cell) off. Actually I probably shouldn’t, come to think about it. I think I can sleep through anything!

It’s amazing how my body is shutting down at an astonishingly fast rate. I already took my contact lenses off, and am counting the minutes until I actually post this last entry. I have read in other blogs that they plan to stick it up until 9 am, or whatever. Sorry, can’t do. My body can only take so much pain.

The last 5 minutes (from 5:55am to 6:00am) have been painfully excruciating. My body is claiming “hey you started blogging at 5:40am, you should get some credit minutes”. So I am trying to brainwash myself into hanging on to 6:00am sharp. I’ve already congratulated Miss604 for completing the task. I survived too. Yowza!

Because nobody living with AIDS should live with hunger” (A Loving Spoonful), please consider donating.

Ahh.... the pressure ... and the excitement!

I'm starting to feel the pressure and the excitement at the same time. On the one hand, I feel pressured to post something significant instead of just dropping words and trying to scramble to finish Blogathon. Incredibly, I managed to actually go all the way. To be fair, I have pulled my share of all-nighters. This one was not the first time I've done it. I usually recover quite well with a few naps. The first one is (strategically) only an hour long. The others usually are a few hours. And within 24 hours, I am back to normal.

The excitement is that I have accumulated a total of about $ 66 dollars for my charity, which isn't bad. It was very encouraging to have Jeff and Miss604 drop by and have them comment on my site. I have had some sad things happen throughout the day but I've done my best to counter them. And finally, I have done this for a good cause: A Loving Spoonful.

Because nobody living with AIDS should live with hunger” (A Loving Spoonful), please consider donating.

Wonder Woman - Lynda Carter - More thoughts

The most beautiful woman in the world, Lynda Carter, as Wonder Woman. Boy, she sure loved to jump!

Because nobody living with AIDS should live with hunger” (A Loving Spoonful), please consider donating.

The video is here.

More randomness

My blog is entitled "Random thoughts of a student of the environment" basically because I am interested in environmental issues, but that's not all I blog about. I normally write about life in general, things that happen around Vancouver, I do a fair number of restaurant reviews, movie reviews, coffee shop reviews. And hopefully I'll start to do some more Vancouver-centric content.

Because nobody living with AIDS should live with hunger” (A Loving Spoonful), please consider donating.

A darker version of Charlie's Angels Full Throttle main battle

I loved their first movie (Charlie's Angels - Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu and Cameron Diaz), but this video of their second movie's main battle is a little too dark. Nevertheless, worth seeing :)

Because nobody living with AIDS should live with hunger” (A Loving Spoonful), please consider donating.

The video starts here.

What's in a name? Hummingbird604

I know I promised H that I would blog according to a theme, but frankly, I was starting to go too technical. My next environmental post was going to be on the environmental kuznets curve (a theory that argues that as countries increase their GDP, their level of environmental protection also increases) but I thought “ok, you’re going a little bit too far”. I’ve tried to keep the environmental posts as general as possible, but this was going a bit beyond easy conceptual descriptions.

So, I’ve decided to continue with the somewhat personal journey. Some people have asked me if I have basically opened up my soul 48 times throughout the Blogathon. I wouldn’t say that, at all. I think anybody who knows me even a little bit knows that whatever is visible here, is visible everywhere else. I like house music, I love cooking, I tend to be sensitive, and sweet (but not fragile).

So H asked me why hummingbird604. Well, 604 is the area code for Vancouver (although now we also have 778). And hummingbird is a nickname I got a few years back (2003 to be exact). Hummingbirds fly at amazing speeds from flower to flower. I have tended to do many things really fast (I type fast, I speak fast, I think fast). So that’s why I am Hummingbird604.

Because nobody living with AIDS should live with hunger” (A Loving Spoonful), please consider donating.

Teamwork – and the elusive quest for love

I knew this moment would come at some point throughout the night, and I am not surprised to see that it’s happening near the end of the journey. I am tired, I am sleep-deprived and I am (quite obviously) emotional.

The past few weeks, I have been fortunate to spend time with people who are partnered. For example, my dear friends C and B have been married for over five years, they knew each other for over nine years, and they are perfect for each other. They are a team.

My friend A and her husband A are also perfect for each other. They even bought a condo in the West Side of Vancouver. Their adventure is a joint journey. My friends M and Z are in the process of planning their wedding and look as complete lovebirds, entirely heads over heels for each other. They are also part of a team. Even my friend H and his girlfriend C have been able to maintain a solid long-distance relationship despite the fact that an ocean separates them.

One of Miss604’s earlier posts described how much she loved being part of a team. Her husband John has been extremely supportive of her Blogathon challenge. I have also read other blogs where partners, husbands, wives, are all cheering for their significant other. Some (John included) have done guest posts.

This has led me to the following reflection: Where am I in the elusive quest for love? Do I actually need to be part of a team, and if so, what are the characteristics I am looking for? I haven’t really thought about it for a long while, and I am guessing that I won’t be thinking about it until I am ready (I don’t think I am ready just now). But it’s always nice to see these teams, and sometimes I long to be part of a duo too. Tonight is one of those times, when I really, really would like to have someone to be here with me and share this challenge. We’ll have to see if that ever materializes, and if it does, where does it take me. Love is a battlefield, or so would Pat Benatar say.

SIDE NOTE – I have decided to take a shower after this post. And I’m feeling peckish. I think I’m going to have a small slice of banana bread and a glass of cold milk with instant coffee.

Because nobody living with AIDS should live with hunger” (A Loving Spoonful), please consider donating.

Overpopulation and the environment - A thorny issue

I am so baked that even within my own specialty (environmental issues) I needed to go and ask for ideas. So I went over to Wikipedia and typed “list of environmental issues”. And voilá! There is a list. In the list, one of the topics that is touched upon is increasing population.

If we assume that the number of people that the Earth can sustain is a limited number, when population grows at high rates, increasingly our resource based becomes more taxed and stressed. Therefore, it sounds like a good idea to try and curb overpopulation. However, just like any other environmental issue, the linkages between population and environment are still hotly debated and contested.

I won’t enter into this debate, I just thought it was important to mention that we ought to think about population control when we try to reduce the pressures on ecosystems.

Because nobody living with AIDS should live with hunger” (A Loving Spoonful), please consider donating.

Coffee shop review - Waves on Broadway

During Blogathon, I have had at least four instances where I’ve almost not been able to make it to my post due to commuting and I’ve felt really frustrated. Well, luckily for me, there are a few coffee shops that are open 24 hours. This is the case with Waves, a Vancouver-based coffee chain.

Their most recently opened shop, Waves on Broadway near Oak, is completely different to the other Waves’ that I’ve seen. Located at 1095 West Broadway, this Waves is extremely well illuminated, it’s spacious and it has a much more elegant feel than the other shops. And most importantly, the tables don’t wiggle. So as I type this blog entry, I feel completely safe and I can read and write.

And on top of that, how cute is this? The backseats of Waves’ chairs have steaming cups of coffee carved! I don’t have a digital camera available or otherwise I’d totally take a few shots.

On the fundraising note, my pledges haven’t increased in the past few hours, but I plan to e-mail a few of my friends and guilt them into donating :-) hehe. After all, it’s a great cause.

UPDATE – I don’t think I can hang around Waves much longer, so I’m going to have to commute home. That means that the 2:00 am post will be slightly early (I’m posting it as early as now to allow me to cross the street and catch the bus), and there’s a chance that the 2:30am will be slightly delayed. Just in case Blogathon folks think I’ve folded. No, I haven’t and I will not. I’m still going strong… :-)

Because nobody living with AIDS should live with hunger” (A Loving Spoonful), please consider donating.

Hybrid cars - Are they worth it?

A good friend of mine studied hybrid cars for her Masters of Science project, and I have always been curious about their health impacts (she is defending soon so I’ll find out soon enough). But more importantly, I wonder if they really are worth the hype. These vehicles are predicated on their fuel efficiency and reduced air pollutant emissions. I just Googled a few pages and found this report, which sounds interesting.

A friend of mine owns a hybrid car, and paid a premium because he wanted to reduce the amount of air pollutants released by his car (if he had to have a car, at least it was a less-polluting one). He is not the only one to have done so, though. Leonardo DiCaprio, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins are amongst the celebrities who are said to own hybrids (in the case of DiCaprio, apparently he owns a hybrid Prius)

Because nobody living with AIDS should live with hunger” (A Loving Spoonful), please consider donating.

Blim Gallery - For the artsy folks

The Main Street area (South Main or SoMa as some people tend to call it, extending from Main and 1st Avenue south up until about 33rd) is considered home to many artsy folks. It has a few funky art galleries, and one of the funkiest I think is Blim. Located on 17th Avenue, near Main, this is a great place and worth checking out. Now, bear in mind that it’s in my neighbourhood, so I am all for visiting my stomping grounds.

Blim organizes a number of movie showings, button-making workshops, and all sorts of really fun stuff. I remember that recently they organized a Mexican-themed event. But I declined to participate in this one because I actually think I know how to make tacos, quesadillas and a few other items. Yummy… now I am hungry!

Because nobody living with AIDS should live with hunger” (A Loving Spoonful), please consider donating.

The World Urban Forum: Urban Sustainability Redux

Last year, Vancouver was host to the United Nations – Habitat World Urban Forum. This unique event brought thousands of delegates to Vancouver’s own Convention Centre to discuss how to best implement urban sustainability. I had the opportunity to attend a few sessions, and it was really interesting.

Now, there were thousands of discussions. My question is – what happened after those discussions? Where are we, one year after WUF3? I haven’t read the WUF3 report but I’m curious to know what progress have we made 12 months after the event was held here.

Because nobody living with AIDS should live with hunger” (A Loving Spoonful), please consider donating.

UPDATE - Again, WiFi issues. Blogging from Waves Coffee on Broadway and Oak. Phew!

Making margaritas :)

At S’s going away party, held at B’s place in the West End of Vancouver, I was in charge of feeding everyone their alcoholic beverage of choice. Of course, everyone drank responsibly. However, the most fun part was that I got to make frozen margaritas. People kept coming for them. As soon as my (professional) blender started, I could see their ears perk up and they’d flood the kitchen to have me pour them another cold one.

This was really fun, as it was S’s going away party and we wanted to bid her farewell in style. B was a very gracious host, and A kept me company all evening in the kitchen. I did not get to hang out, but I really didn’t care because I was having a blast. I think I’m a pretty damn good bartender, and it’s fun to feel like I can help my friends when they’re throwing a party and they need someone to mix the drinks.

I’ve had this conversation with other friends, and out of all of them, only one feels strongly against me mixing the drinks for his friends. I have told him that there’s no issue there, and that I’d gladly do it because I think that as a friend, we ought it to our closest ones to be available and help, be it assembling a new desk, carrying a new TV or mixing margaritas. That’s what friends are for! :-)

Here you’ll find a nice recipe for frozen margaritas. Drink responsibly. Don’t drink and drive. Don’t drink too much.

UPDATE - I am late because I was trying to find WiFi. I am in Point Grey, so I'll post this and I might be late for the next one.

Because nobody living with AIDS should live with hunger” (A Loving Spoonful), please consider donating.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Environmental disaster preparedness

People tend to ask me challenging questions and a very good friend of mine mentioned the local (Burnaby) oil spill as a suggestion. What should have been done? Was it properly handled? There’s a whole line of research in environmental studies that looks at disaster preparedness and vulnerability. The challenge really I think is to be prepared for everything. Can we really be ready to face any environmental disaster?

The November 2006 boil water advisory in Vancouver and this week’s oil spill in Burnaby are just two reminders that we need to be seriously prepared for contingencies. What do you do to prepare yourself against any potential environmental disasters?

Because nobody living with AIDS should live with hunger” (A Loving Spoonful), please consider donating.

The quality of blog posts

Do people believe that our blogging ability goes down as the day progresses? I’m starting to think that they do think that way. And I wonder if it’s a reality. I remember that earlier today I posted a (quite thoughtful, I think) blog entry on the meaning of ‘forever’. And now I am blogging about how we are going downhill because we’re tired and exhausted.

I would argue that this is always the case. In my case, I work better at night than during the day. But the only problem is that I started blogging at 6:00am, so right now my brain is sort of fried. Next year, I’ll ask for shared duties (e.g. guest bloggers). I am keeping up with the pace, and as it stands I think I’m going to have to leave my office fairly soon. That means, at least one stop in Kitsilano and one stop in either the Cambie area or the Main Street area. Since I’m commuting by bus, I would think I’m going to need to make the two pit stops.

If I think about it, I start getting tired. But when I don’t and just keep both working and blogging, I don’t feel it. Right now I have been blogging for almost 14 hours, which isn’t all that bad. As long as I don’t listen to any more depressing songs (I can’t get the Jann Arden tune out of my head), I ought to be ok.

UPDATE – I just got my second wind, I don’t know how. It’s about 11 pm and I’m suddenly feeling good again. Strange how this thing works.

Because nobody living with AIDS should live with hunger” (A Loving Spoonful), please consider donating.

Eco-labeling: Putting a green label on things

I blogged about OceanWise earlier and I know that some people wonder if this is some eco-certification system. My friend J is doing her entire PhD thesis on eco-certification and corporate social responsibility, and if she was here, I would probably ask her to do a guest post for me. But alas, she is not, so I’ll re-direct you to a paper on the Environmental Protection Agency website that will explain a little bit about the Canadian eco-label version, Environmental Choice [Eco-Logo] which could be considered a variation on the eco-certification theme. Eco-certified products are (allegedly) less harmful to the environment.

Because nobody living with AIDS should live with hunger” (A Loving Spoonful), please consider donating.

More salsa :)

I should have chosen this as my second thread or overall theme. I am a salsa dancer, it’s in my veins and I can’t stop myself when I listen to tunes such as “La Vida es un Carnaval” (by the late Celia Cruz) or Micaela (by La Sonora Carruseles). Thus, I thought I should show an instructional video from Addicted2Salsa. My skill may have dropped a bit but I’m pretty sure I can still do these combinations. And my very qualified salsa partners (A, L, S and L) would look amazing too!

Because nobody living with AIDS should live with hunger” (A Loving Spoonful), please consider donating.

Here’s the video

The 100 Mile Diet - eat local, source local

While we are on the topic of greener restaurants, some people have switched over to what is called the 100-mile diet. The creators of this diet indicated that they wanted to drink and buy food from suppliers within a 100 mile radius. It’s a good idea, I think, if you want to really act and support local farmers. As the authors James and Alisa indicate, it’s a challenge mostly because it’s hard to find where to source everything. But it’s not impossible to do, though.

Because nobody living with AIDS should live with hunger” (A Loving Spoonful), please consider donating.

The Bionic Woman (original 70s show)

If you were like me, you liked TV shows like “The Six Million Dollar Man” and “The Bionic Woman”. Interpreted by Lindsay Wagner, the bionic woman (Jaime Sommers) became an icon of the 70s and early 80s. To this day, I love their rendition of the bionic powers (chichichichiching). This video shows the Bionic Woman in various episodes.

There’s a ‘reinvention’ of the Bionic Woman coming this fall, and it’s being filmed in… guess where… yes! Vancouver. It’s definitely not a remake.

Greener restaurants

Ok, so I'll have to show J this post so that he can believe that I wasn't joking when I mentioned that I wanted to make a career in restaurant sustainability (down the road, perhaps not now). Well, I found out that there is such a thing as the Green Restaurant Association. While still a US organization, I am hoping that we'll be doing the same here in Canada very soon. And to be fair, I eat out enough that I can say I know a lot of Vancouver's local restaurants (make sure to check my posts on places to dine out by reading through the 58 posts that have 'dining out' as the tag).

Because nobody living with AIDS should live with hunger” (A Loving Spoonful), please consider donating.

UPDATED - It is annoying that the time stamp doesn't show correctly. I posted this at 8.30pm sharp. Grrr... not funny. Anyhow, needed to add the link for sponsorship anyways.

Vancouver bloggers - building a community?

I've had these discussions on community-building over, and over, and over... ("do you feel part of a community?" is a question I often ask, and I am often posed this question). Throughout the Blogathon, I've actually felt part of an online community (those of us who are blogging for charities, being a small sub-community, and we the three Vancouver representatives are like the mini-mini-community). I've felt supported throughout the endeavour not only by my close friends (who are probably reading all the stuff I've posted) but also by the Blogathon community (very special thanks to Miss604, who in the end was the one who convinced me to join the Blogathon, has linked to me and who has kept the comments flowing).

I have kept a very low profile with my blog, and I'm even blogging sort-of-anonymously, but I wonder if down the road, I might join the community of Vancouver bloggers. I read some of them quite religiously, and I guess this effort will help me gain some additional readership. Perhaps then I'll feel as though I am part of a Vancouver-blogger community.

Because nobody living with AIDS should live with hunger” (A Loving Spoonful), please consider donating.

More environmentally friendly churches?

It’s not the first time I see religion associated with environmental issues, but I found it fascinating that reports indicate that the “Holy See is seeking to become the first ‘carbon neutral’ sovereign state” (the phrase is taken directly from the source, the Winston-Salem Journal). What are your thoughts on the matter?

Because nobody living with AIDS should live with hunger” (A Loving Spoonful), please consider donating.

Prizes, prizes and more prizes

Ok, so the owner of Curry Point (two locations: one on the UBC campus and one at Broadway and Cambie) offered very graciously 5 (five) coupons for a one meat + one veggie combo with bottled water (total value ~ $6.50 CND). Of course, since I have to try and make it fun, I had to wonder how to do a contest. So anyhow, this would be a VERY local contest (since both locations are on the West Side of Vancouver). Hmmm… let’s say I’ll give one of the gift certificated to the reader who can answer one of the questions I’ll be posting throughout the evening.

I think I’ll also have a gift certificate for another restaurant (I just need to confirm details). So, all in all, not bad for a day’s work. And all for a good cause:

Because nobody living with AIDS should live with hunger” (A Loving Spoonful), please consider donating.

UPDATE – Feeling incredibly lethargic. I wonder if it’s the food or the fact that I’ve been blogging for more than 12 hours straight. I’ve often wandered to other blogs, particularly Miss604 and OpenUp (both local Vancouver blogathoners) but even so, I am exhausted. I am really hoping I can go the distance.

I have also noticed a dramatic drop in blogs. The first time I checked we were at over 500 blogs. Now we’re at 394 (6.51pm). WOW. But they’re right – if you can’t do it, you can’t do it. It’s not worth over-doing it.

I am just running out of ideas for environmentally-related posts!

An eco-friendly vodka?

Well, since I do enjoy one vodka tonic sporadically (e.g. every few weeks), a friend of mine suggested that I looked into Vodka 360. The creators of this beverage indicate on their website their commitment to “eco-awareness and corporate social responsibility”. Of course, all disclaimers apply here (e.g. drink responsibly, don’t drink and drive, etc.) And full disclosure – I have nothing to do with this company. I just like vodka-based drinks once in a while. It’s exciting to see that environmental issues are gaining more visibility.

Because nobody living with AIDS should live with hunger” (A Loving Spoonful), please consider donating.

Music review - Running in the Family by Level 42

Considered by many the best bass of the 80's, Mark King was the leader of a great British band, Level 42. This is one of their best tunes, in my humble opinion. Makes you want to stand up and dance. Or at least, it has that effect on me.

UPDATE: I made it through the first 12 hours!!!! I can't believe it. I've commuted from home to the office, stopped 3 times, almost didn't get my post on time 3 times, and I'm still standing.

Because nobody living with AIDS should live with hunger” (A Loving Spoonful), please consider donating.

The video starts here.

Ocean Wise and eco-certification of seafood

Ocean Wise is a program initiated by the Vancouver Aquarium and it is intended to encourage the consumption of seafood that comes from certified (presumably sustainable fisheries). It's a great idea, I think, and lots of Vancouver restaurants have adopted Ocean Wise. I'd encourage you to check out their webpage.

Because nobody living with AIDS should live with hunger” (A Loving Spoonful), please consider donating.

Living in Yaletown and rental prices

I’m not going to lie and say I wouldn’t enjoy living in Yaletown. There are plenty of good restaurants near by (Nu, El Patio and La Terrazza are just a few of them), a beautiful park (David Lam Park) and an amazing seawall. However, the rental prices are through the roof, and if I wanted to live in YT I would necessarily have to share accommodations and find a roommate (or make A LOT of money). I don’t think I’m ready to go into debt to live in YT. Although it’s a beautiful neighbourhood.

All these years of living alone have given me a newfound freedom. I absolutely enjoy having no issues with regards of who gets to shower first, how clean our apartment is, etc. I have all these conversations with myself. Living in Yaletown would mean to me having great perks (hey who doesn’t enjoy taking the AquaBus for a short trip to Granville Island or Kits Beach?) but also would mean paying much more than I pay now. Unless, of course, I found a really great one-bedroom within my budgetary restrictions :-), which may be hard to do but definitely not impossible.

Because nobody living with AIDS should live with hunger” (A Loving Spoonful), please consider donating.

Green buildings

*** Ok, so I admit this one is slightly early but I've been having wireless issues for the past two hours and frankly, I need to change my location ( I am currently blogging from Kitsilano but have posted from the Main Street area and Cambie :-) ). Will try to post exactly at 5:00pm but may have Wi-Fi issues - so don't think I've given up if I don't show up by 5:00pm sharp) ***

So a good friend of mine is writing her PhD thesis on green buildings, and I thought, "hey this might be another environmentally-related topic". So I would just like to call your attention to the issue. Green building practices seek to increase materials, water and energy efficiency in buildings. I could mention lots of them in the Greater Vancouver area (like the Center for Interactive Research on Sustainability, or the C.K. Choi Building) but in addition to that, I want to call your attention to the role played by organizations such as Canada Green Building Council or the Cascadia Region Green Building Council. These organizations promote the implementation of sustainable practices in buildings. Very cool work.

Because nobody living with AIDS should live with hunger” (A Loving Spoonful), please consider donating.

V.I.P. Theme

Pamela Anderson, from our own beautiful British Columbia, has made a name for herself in many ways, one of them through her formerly syndicated TV show, “VIP”. I loved the music and I always wanted to have the YouTube clip. Managed to find it once, then it was quickly removed. Managed to find it again, though. Don’t you like the music? If I had my own TV show, I’d like this type of music as the theme. Of course, I don’t have my own TV show but hey I still like this tune!

UPDATE - My pledges are up to $ 57.00 already! YAY :-) I thought I would do worse than that, hehe. So keep'em coming... and to those who have donated, many thanks!

Because nobody living with AIDS should live with hunger” (A Loving Spoonful), please consider donating.

The video starts here.

Treehugger: An environmentally friendly blog.

Ok, so I got hooked on to Treehugger thanks to M (who is now way up North undertaking some really exciting archaeological work). And recently I got an e-mail from a friend who suggested that if I used Black Goggle instead of normal Google I would save energy. I am not going to enter the debate (mainly because I don’t have the time to calculate the savings and all that, although it would be fun), but here is the Treehugger post that discusses this particular tool.

Because nobody living with AIDS should live with hunger” (A Loving Spoonful), please consider donating.

An appreciation of friends

It would be a gross understatement to say that I love my friends. I think that if there is such a thing, I am friend-addicted. I have a fairly solid bunch of people around me who keep me sane through thick and thin.
  • They have to put up with phone calls at night when I have to rant and complain about stuff at work (or heartache, as the case might be).
  • They join me in adventures around town (shopping at IKEA or the Kwik-E-Mart).
  • They follow my craziness throughout the day (yes I know this Blogathon is a crazy idea, but I’m doing it for a worthy cause that you all know I strongly support).
  • They sponsor me (thank you guys!!!) at Blogathon 2007.
  • They are ready to tell me the truth even when it hurts.
  • They share in our enjoyment of the fine things in life (such as brunch on Saturdays and Sundays, taking in a concert, shopping on Main Street, having a home-made dinner, watching movies, and sometimes, they even read my work-related stuff!)

I am grateful for the friends I have. At all times, you know I think the world of y’all !!!!

Note on A Loving Spoonful donations page – I was just informed by one of my friends that there might be an issue with the secure donations at the A Loving Spoonful website (it appears as http instead of https). So maybe you may want to do your donation by cheque or something. A good friend of mine who was kind enough to pledge me has called to inform them of the issue. However, you don’t need to donate today. All you need to do is pledge, and then fulfill your pledge soon-ish!

Keep’em donations coming! And to those who have donated, thank you for your kindness!

Because nobody living with AIDS should live with hunger” (A Loving Spoonful), please consider donating.

Eco-density: Urban form and sustainability

Increasing urban density is considered as one of several potential solutions to urban sprawl, and an alternative that would lead to a more sustainable urban form. The phrase Eco-Density has been mentioned several times (some people argue that the term has even been trademarked, but I am not too sure about this). Among the proposed strategies towards 'Eco-Density', we can find increasing density around transit routes, reduce single-unit dwellings, to name a couple.

The Vancouver Eco-Density Planning Initiative seems like an interesting idea, and I'd like to learn more about it in the near future.

Because nobody living with AIDS should live with hunger” (A Loving Spoonful), please consider donating.

My passion for dancing.

Phew, I almost didn't make it - I needed wireless access and I had to find a place.

I used to be a trained dancer, and abandoning it is something I regret every day of my life. It is something that defines me and that I am actually good at. And now I see all these fun dance-related events and I feel that my heart sinks, because I have been unable to participate in any of them. So I have decided to start anew, and to join several of these events.

  • The Sunday Afternoon Salsa at Robson Square, organized (I think) by, take place on Sunday afternoons during July and August, from 3:00pm to 7:00pm.

I think I need to go back to dancing as part of my weekly routine and my life in general. And these events are free, so they shouldn’t weigh heavily on any of our wallets.

Hope you’re enjoying the blogs. I got to go to work, so I need to find a couple of coffee shops with wireless. I tell you, it’s hard to blog and take the bus!

Because nobody living with AIDS should live with hunger” (A Loving Spoonful), please consider donating.

Cycling as a mode of sustainable transportation

Many of my colleagues cycle to school, work and many other functions. I have found that living in East Vancouver, I feel less prone or tempted to bike all the way to work. But many of my East Van peers commute using their bicycles, so in theory, it can be done. Of course, it also depends on equipment. I used to have a bike, and when I did, I biked everywhere. Now I don’t and I am not entirely sure I want to buy one just now (other more pressing needs).

I commute by bus, and walk A LOT. But more recently I’ve thought about taking up biking. If I end up buying a bicycle, I will want to ensure that I have a good one that allows me to commute fairly long distances. Of course, the alternative would be to take my bike and commute by bus and then run around using my bike. I just haven’t gotten around purchasing a good bike. Now, with this Vancouver weather, I am strongly discouraged about biking in the fall, when the weather can be actually quite gloomy and rainy. But I am all for encouraging others to commute using alternative, more sustainable modes of transportation!

The Greater Vancouver Transit Authority has a good website that offers several commuting options within the GVRD.

Because nobody living with AIDS should live with hunger” (A Loving Spoonful), please consider donating.

Monica Seles def. Steffi Graf, Australian Open 1993

Monica Seles is a Yugoslavia-born, US-naturalized tennis player, whom I’ve admired for many, many years. According to her Wikipedia entry, Monica Seles is listed as the 13th greatest player of all times. She won 9 Grand Slams (4 Australian, 3 French and 2 US Opens). One of the matches I most enjoyed was her defeat of Steffi Graf in the 1993 Australian Open Final in three sets (4-6, 6-3, 6-2). During the first point of this match, you can see Monica Seles actually serving and volleying (even though she was more of a baseline player). This is one of the best matches in women’s tennis you’ll find.

Because nobody living with AIDS should live with hunger” (A Loving Spoonful), please consider donating.

The video starts here.

The Grouse Grind

*** Sorry for the slightly delayed posting -- I needed to find WiFi access ***

So out of sheer will, I decided to do the Grouse Grind. For any Vancouverite who prides him/herself of being truly Vancouverite, this is a must-do. The Grouse Mountain trail (Grouse Grind) is a 2.9 km hike, with an elevation gain of 2,800 feet. Some people say that for a fit person it should take about an hour to complete. In my case, even though I think I am pretty fit, I took longer because I had to stop more than once. I actually stopped more to talk to people than because I was tired. You can get to the bottom of Grouse Mountain by bus, and it is one of the most frequented hikes in Vancouver. Worth doing it, even if just to say you did it. And yes, it is a way of connecting with nature (hence the sustainability tag).

Because nobody living with AIDS should live with hunger” (A Loving Spoonful), please consider donating.

Backtracking comments?

I have to confess that I’m a non-expert blogger. I create my posts and link to websites, and post some YouTube videos, but that’s the extent of my blogging savvy. When I’ve been browsing other bloggers’ sites (mainly because we are all doing Blogathon) I have noticed that people can track who has linked to their site. How do you do it? I use Blogger, so perhaps my platform isn’t the best suited (I don’t know). I know some people like Typepad or WordPress. But I have grown used to Blogger. And I kind of like it.

Because nobody living with AIDS should live with hunger” (A Loving Spoonful), please consider donating.

Water scarcity - Saving the world one drop at a time

With so much rain year-round, it would be tempting to think that there is no water scarcity in Canada. This thought could be misleading. Tofino, a small town in British Columbia, almost shutdown last year because of water droughts. Water scarcity is a reality, and just because we don’t see it we can’t deny it. Click here for a website chock full of resources on water (the World Water Assessment Programme, based in Paris).

Because nobody living with AIDS should live with hunger” (A Loving Spoonful), please consider donating.

Caffeine crazed - The tradition of working at coffee shops

The phrase “working at a coffee shop” has often triggered a few strange comments from my friends. “Are you actually working as a barista?” is often one of them. The truth is no, I don’t work at a coffee shop, but I do work AT a coffee shop. Yeah, I know it sounds strange. What that statement means is that I often bring my laptop and some papers to work with and start my work. That’s what I mean by “working at a coffee shop”. And on that note, two things.
  • Caffeine is not working. I’m very sleepy.
  • Vancouver has LOTS of coffee shops with wireless that you can work at.
I found a really neat webpage that tracks WiFi in Vancouver (coffee shops particularly). Check it out.

Because nobody living with AIDS should live with hunger” (A Loving Spoonful), please consider donating.

Environmental behavior in Canada

In a relatively recent (March 2007) poll, the CBC quoted Angus Reid Global Monitor’s figures saying that 4 out of 5 Canadians believe in global warming. Angus Reid Global Monitor further reported that class and education are associated with environmental behavior. They find that “…the more education a person had, the less likely they were to live an environmentally-conscious lifestyle…” (page 2 of the news release). What do you think of these results? Where do they place you (skeptic, activist)?

Because nobody living with AIDS should live with hunger” (A Loving Spoonful), please consider donating.

Music review - Jetstream by New Order

I hadn’t been much of a fan of New Order up until I heard Bizarre Love Triangle. Then I heard about Electronic and how Bernard Sumner had teamed up with Neil Tennant and Johnny Marr and created awesome tunes such as “Getting Away with It”. Then somebody sent me a link to this tune, and I became instantly hooked. Jetstream makes me want to dance, so I always enjoy listening to this tune. The video doesn’t thrill me much, but the song is totally worth it. Enjoy!

Because nobody living with AIDS should live with hunger” (A Loving Spoonful), please consider donating.

The video starts here.

Solid waste management - Take that trash back!

Some people call it the “waste hierarchy”, others call it the 3 Rs (reduce, recycle, reuse). Whatever name you want to assign to these waste management strategies, these are intended to minimize human impacts on the environment. The principle is that we should choose to prevent generation of waste, reduce amounts that are being generated, and dispose of waste only as a last resort. With the recent civic strike in Vancouver, the 3Rs seem like one of several possible strategies to cope with the disruption of service. But I would argue that waste minimization shouldn’t only occur when garbage collection is disrupted. It should be part of our daily lives. However, behavioral changes are hard. Our consumption and waste generation patterns may be very powerful. Nevertheless, I believe we can effect change, one less plastic bag at a time.

Because nobody living with AIDS should live with hunger” (A Loving Spoonful), please consider donating.

Strategies for Blogathon 2007

When I told him I was entering Blogathon 2007, H suggested that I choose a theme for my blog posts. At first, I toyed with the idea and thought “oh yeah, I should do that”. He suggested looking at some environmental issue in a different time zone than mine. And then I thought “well, to actually write a meaningful post I’d have to really do some research”. And once you start the Blogathon, let me tell you, there’s really very little time in between posts. You think “oh yeah, I got 30 minutes until the next one” and then all of a sudden, you find yourself scrambling to gather some thoughts and write a meaningful one.

I think other bloggers had been better prepared than I have – some at least sketched some ideas beforehand, came up with a theme, etc. In my case, it was a really last-minute decision. Had I thought about this more, I would have
  • Contacted A Loving Spoonful much more in advance so that they could advertise my efforts.
  • Contacted my friends who are actually on Facebook and asked them to post a link to my blog.
  • Thought about the theme for my posts.
  • Prepared a few ideas in advance.

But … I didn’t. So I’ll just have to go with the flow. There’s really nothing I can do about a, b, and c (though Miss604 was very gracious and nice by linking to my blog on hers, so I am hoping some of her readers will go through mine).

As for d and e, I think that the best thing I can do is to follow H’s advice every hour. That is, starting at 9:30am Pacific Standard Time, I will be posting on environmental issues every hour (10.30am, 11.30am, 12.30pm, and so on). This post does not count because this is the one that explains what I plan to do.

Then, every hour on the hour I will post about what I usually post – my random thoughts, some restaurant reviews (yes I eat out a lot and no I don’t feel guilty about it), some music reviews, and some local content that is not food-related, but still is Vancouver-centric.

I also thought that I should post a link to the “Sponsor Me” page on every post so that you don’t need to scroll up and down to find where the link is. Hope you are enjoying the posts, that you’re feeling in a giving mood and that you sponsor me (or other bloggers, for that matter. We are all doing it for a good cause). Come by, leave a comment...

Because nobody living with AIDS should live with hunger” (A Loving Spoonful), please consider donating.

More random thoughts...

I thought this Blogathon was going to be piece-of-cake, up until the moment when I realized that my mind had wandered so much that I didn't have enough content to post a very coherent essay. So I'll have to post what I had on my mind before, which was a little rant on the fact that there are no 24-hours Safeways or Superstores. We need those! What if I wake up (as I did today) and I don't have food in my fridge for breakfast?

-- Next post will be more coherent, once I have had some food...

Movie review - The Simpsons Movie

I am not sure how other bloggers are doing it, but in my case, I am getting inspiration pretty much from very recent experiences (time spent together with friends, activities I've undertaken, my Mom's visit, etc.)... This post will not be the exception. I recently went with a very good friend of mine (J) to watch The Simpsons Movie. Now, full disclaimer: I had no idea about the Simpsons until he loaned me Season 1. I was perhaps one of the very few people in North America who didn't understand references to the Simpsons (M used to tell me "thank you, come again" with an Apu-like voice and I wouldn't get what she was referring to).

Anyhow, J wanted to watch it and I wasn't about to say no (he's sort of a die-hard fan and it was nice to share the movie together). Anyhow, I loved it. I laughed like I had not laughed in years, and at one point I couldn't stop until tears welled my eyes. It is a really funny movie. Granted, it has an environmental theme and given that environmental affairs are issues that are near and dear to my heart, I was particularly pleased that these topics were touched upon.

Of course, it would really help if you actually had watched The Simpsons before going into the movie, but in my case, I was a neophyte and I still could understand everything that was said in the movie, so no complaints here.

On opening night, the Rio Theatre (on Broadway near Commercial) had organized a movie launch party, so I am guessing you can still see it there. Other venues include the Scotiabank Theatre (Smithe and Burrard). I'd seriously recommend the movie. And "thank you, come again".

Restaurant review - Favorito Pasta Trattoria

I am known for my love of Italian food, and I jump at every opportunity that I get to either make it or go out for dinner and have it. With my Mom’s recent visit to Vancouver, B and C offered to take us out for dinner and we settled on Favorito Pasta Trattoria (552 Broadway, pretty much between Ash and Cambie). Favorito has pretty much every Italian dish you want, although I again settled for something a bit fusion – penne with curry. I know, oh the heresy!

With all the construction around the Canada Line, I have made a point of eating around Cambie more often (support local business is one of my mottos). So, I was pleased to go to Favorito (even if it isn’t technically located ON Cambie, it’s close enough). The food was excellent, and the service was impeccable. Of course, the best part was the company. C and B are married and they have always made me feel part of their family, and I am very grateful for having friends like them.

I would recommend Favorito, although I found that the music was a bit too loud for me. But I am sure they’d compromise if you asked them to turn the volume down, as the service was excellent and attentive. And the best part of it all? The food is not expensive. So, good food, great service and your wallet won’t have a hole… what else can you ask for?

PS – In addition to another friendly reminder to sponsor me and encourage you to donate for A Loving Spoonful (again, the money goes directly to the charity – Blogathon only keeps track of who has raised how much money) I would also like to encourage you to comment. Many people are awake already (I noticed comments on Miss604’s blog and other Blogathon-related blogs, so I decided to open up my comments and leave them non-moderated). Throw ideas, comment on the content, encourage us.

PPS – I hate that most corner stores will open until 9 or 10 am. Didn’t anybody tell them that I need breakfast food? I’m getting hungry! So now I’ll be forced to go to one of the 24 hours stores that charges a premium for the mere fact that they are open 24 hours (well, that’s the convenience right?).

Favorito Pasta Trattoria in Vancouver

Restaurant review - Capricorn Restaurant & Grill

I had wanted to come to Capricorn for years, even before I moved out of the neighborhood (I used to live around the Fairview Slopes area, and for a while there I moved closer to Cambie and Broadway). The décor is beautiful and sophisticated, and I can’t really remember why I never got around to eating here in almost a decade.

We had tried to come here on Sunday night a couple of times, but they’re closed on Sunday nights, so it hadn’t worked out. Up until recently, when we actually ate here on a weekday. And I am going to have to say that I don’t understand why I hadn’t come here earlier.

I ordered Cajun penne pasta with chicken, and it was really good. The food is well cooked, and the décor is very pretty. Granted, we got there too early during the day to actually see the lights but it was overall a very nice experience, not only for the company (a great friend of mine) but also for the actual meal. It wasn’t expensive, contrary to what you could expect on the Broadway corridor. Apparently this area is filled with nice inexpensive restaurants. I had dinner at Favorito Trattoria recently and it was very good too (but that’s the subject of another review).

Located on Broadway close to Ash (656 Broadway), on the south side of the street, I would very much recommend Capricorn for dinner. Never been for lunch, though I am curious about their lunch features. Will tell you more about it later.

Capricorn Restaurant & Grill in Vancouver

The meaning of "forever"

Taken out of context, I am almost 100% sure everyone who reads this blog will define the word forever pretty much in the same way as would: "without never ending". I think just about everyone would agree with that definition. Forever would mean sort of "till death do us part". In recent years, I have learned to use this word sparingly, even though I know I love hearing it, particularly in the context of friendships or romantic relationships.

Guilty as charged. I have used it in the past without any degree of measure. The phrase "I love you. I always have, I always will" was frequently uttered by yours truly (and in the same way, I loved hearing it). Yep, I used to be the one who promised to love [XYZ] forever. The key word here being forever. Nevertheless, I never thought about the fact that forever is a bloody long time.

You may ask yourselves "why do you ask yourself this question? why now?" ... well, honestly, this is not something I just started thinking about today. As a matter of fact, my life at the moment is really fulfilled in many ways. No, the thing is that recently, I have become keenly aware that geographical distance, time elapsed and bi-directionality are factors that influence the meaning of forever (whenever used in the context of friends and romance). Can you really love someone forever if that someone is thousands of miles away from you, you haven’t talked to him or her in a very long time and the relationship was pretty much unilateral (where you loved them more then they loved you)? I would doubt it.

In promising someone that you’ll love him/her forever, I would argue that you are implicitly forgetting about the potential challenges that may loom in the horizon, particular circumstances that may separate you from the loved person, etc. The truth is, things change, and we change. And expecting people to love us “forever”, while extremely sweet in theory, is somewhat impractical. Now, the problem is that saying “I love you for the time being” isn’t really that practical either. Would somebody propose an alternative to saying “I love you forever” or “I love you, I always have, I always will” that would work? I’m listening …

PS – Remember to click on the link at the top to sponsor me for Blogathon … I’ve seen a few of my fellow bloggers offer prizes, rewards and goodies… I’ll think of something throughout the day.

Music review - At Seventeen by Jann Arden

Well, this is my kick-off post for Blogathon 2007, and what a better way to start the 24 hour marathon of blogs than doing one of my music reviews. I had the opportunity to watch The Simpsons' movie recently, and just before the movie started, during the previews, we had the opportunity to watch Jann Arden's recent video "At Seventeen".

Now, I want to first stand corrected, because I told a very good friend of mine that I thought this was an original song by Jann Arden. It actually isn't. "At Seventeen" was a Janis Ian song that Arden covered in her "Uncover Me" album. According to Wikipedia, Ian won a Grammy in 1975 for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for this tune.

I love this song, even if I find it sometimes a little bit depressing. It does bring tears to my eyes when I listen to it. However, that's the case sometimes with Jann Arden's songs. An accomplished songwriter and singer, Arden is capable of bringing out very strong and powerful emotions.

Here is the video rendition of Jann Arden, "At Seventeen". Hope you like it. Happy Blogathon! And to my fellow blogathoners, go bloggers go! :) Vancouver participants of this year's blogathon that I know of are Miss604 and Open Up.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

I'm now officially on the Blogathon 2007 roll

I just checked Blogathon's website and they have updated their website, so now you can find me on their list :)

I've got a list of potential topics, but I'll appreciate thoughts and ideas for blogging content. Furthermore, I'll appreciate donations to A Loving Spoonful :) -- Remember, you have to go through the Blogathon website to register your donation (for statistical purposes), but your donation does not go through Blogathon nor I. There's a direct link to A Loving Spoonful donations website.

Thanks for your generosity, thanks for reading my blog and more than anything, thanks for the support! :)

Blogathon 2007

Well, it's going to happen. After hearing that would be blogging for Surrey Food Bank and learning that I could do some good as well, I decided to join Blogathon 2007. I will be blogging for A Loving Spoonful (Vancouver) (they don't know just yet. I haven't yet sent them an e-mail saying I would). So, while my profile is still getting set up, I thought I'd just tell you a bit about Blogathon and give you the URL to my sponsor page.

Blogathon is an effort to make a difference through blogging. Bloggers all over the world will be blogging for a specific charity. In my case, I chose A Loving Spoonful because I believe that this charity makes a difference. They deliver meals for people living with HIV/AIDS in the Vancouver area. I remember that I learned about A Loving Spoonful at the Elbow Room, a wonderful diner located on Davie and almost Seymour. Their owners require you to make a donation if you don't finish your (usually huge) meal.

Since I am just setting up my account, I can't do the beautiful buttons where you can click and sponsor me, so I'll just have to go with ... if you want to sponsor me and contribute to the charity of my choice (A Loving Spoonful), click here.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Mole con Pollo

There are a few perks associated with having a mother who knows how to cook well. First, you learn when you observe (or when she shares her recipes - and my mother has lots of them). Second, you get to eat tasty yummy food all the time (or at least, when she visits). Third, you learn the tricks of the trade for when you need to cook dinner for guests. Only problem? You end up having A LOT OF FOOD IN YOUR FRIDGE.

During my Mom's recent visit, she taught me how to make mole con pollo. Mole is considered a traditional Mexican dish. The way my Mom serves it is with chicken breast, red rice (arroz rojo) and refried beans (frijoles refritos). She cooked it when H came over for dinner, and I did it recently when I invited another very good friend for dinner.

The only problem with being single and living alone is that most days, I cook for myself. And since I don't know how to cook very small portions, I often make food for a bunch of people and end up having to throw some of these into the freezer and then warm them up for a later occasion.

At any rate, I am glad I can make my own food. For the most part, it works well. And luckily, it works well for my guests too :) My friend M is often the one who checks whether my food is edible or not (she has not had any food poisoning so I must be doing something right).

Monday, July 23, 2007

BC Cancer Foundation 2007 Tour of Courage

I am always amazed at the number of events that are organized in Vancouver, particularly those that support many relevant causes (amongst those that I am passionate about are HIV prevention and treatment, poverty alleviation, sustainability and cancer treatment). I found out about the BC Cancer Foundation 2007 Tour of Courage recently and thought I'd throw in a call for support for this worthy cause.

Having lost three members of my family to cancer, and having one close family member currently afflicted by the disease, I know first-hand its devastating consequences. I blogged last year about the 'invisibility of cancer'. In that post I wrote that sometimes, close family members of the person who is afflicted with cancer may simply not want to talk about it and 'wish it were gone'. Cancer thus becomes a non-spoken word, stigmatized and feared.

All this brings me to the event I wanted to promote - the BC Cancer Foundation 2007 Tour of Courage. In this event, you sponsor a biker (or you bike yourself and raise money) that goes to support cancer-related research. So I'd like to ask you, dear readers, to consider the possibility of supporting this event. Full disclosure - I am in no way associated with BC Cancer Foundation, although someone I know is biking in the event. But I am also someone who has lost family members to cancer. Thus, I'd like to help, and it would be great if you could help too.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Restaurant review - Burgoo

While Burgoo is highly touted as "the" place in Vancouver where you can get any type of soup(s), we decided to try for brunch. K, M, H and I went there recently for brunch and we weren't disappointed. Well, at least I wasn't :-) I think they liked their breakfast too.

I have to say that, besides Crave on Main, I don't think I have tasted better scrambled eggs than those of Burgoo. I ordered the Mesa Scramble and I loved it. The potatoes were amazing, the chorizo was spicy and the eggs were very well done.

By the way did you know that a burgoo is a Kentuckian stew? I certainly did not! Burgoo was recently voted Best Restaurant for a Rainy Day and it certainly shows. The staff is super friendly and they took good care of us. They weren't pushy with the bill or anything to that extent. The food is reasonably priced (brunch for two can hover around 30 bucks after tax, coffee included). I was surprised at their Pain Francaise, but then again, I've seen other versions. But their brunch menu, while not all-encompassing, is good for many different palates.

This beautiful gem is located in Point Grey (yeah, a bit out of the way for those of us who live more in the central area of Vancouver). But it's definitely worth the trip uphill. Besides, what else do you really have to do on a rainy morning? :)

Burgoo (Point Grey) in Vancouver

Music Review - Makes Me Wonder by Maroon 5

I think the last tune I heard from Maroon 5 was "She Will Be Loved", somewhat nostalgic and a bit sad. But "Makes Me Wonder" is the type of tune I love listening to while writing or at a bar/club. Funky enough to dance to, and not too crazy, so you can actually concentrate on whatever you are doing. Do you like it?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Restaurant review - Incendio Pizzeria

Finding good Italian food in Vancouver is a challenge. Not for lack of restaurants, but sometimes for lack of consistency. Nevertheless, I've been very lucky in that I always end up finding good Italian restaurants. Incendio is one of the best, and it has two locations that I know of: Incendio West on Burrard and 6th and Incendio in Gastown (on Columbia near Water).

Truth be told I have only had pasta here. The name Pizzeria means that it sells pizza, but I've never had it here. Shame on me, yeah. But hey if I am going Italian, I might as well have pasta! Anyhow, I have read some mixed reviews, but I'm going to have to say that this is a solid place. Every time I've had dinner at Incendio (both locations), the food has been great.

Pasta is hard to do well because sometimes it may be overcooked or undercooked. I find that Incendio's pasta is consistently good. Their portions are generous. Furthermore, they seem to be willing to experiment with flavours. More recently I've sampled some non-traditional pasta, like penne with curry. And I've got to say I like it a lot. Incendio likes to experiment with these non-traditional flavors too, which I appreciate. The Dragon's Breath pasta is unbelievably good. And their Puttanesca is very good, a worthy rival to that of Water Street Cafe. Their Pancetta pasta is excellent too.

Again, I admit I have nothing to say about their pizza because I have never had pizza there. But the service (bread and water refills) is top-notch. Many people like this place for dinner and a movie at 5th Avenue Cinemas.

Incendio in Vancouver

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Coffee shop review - Higher Grounds

If you love hanging out and drinking coffee in Kitsilano, and eavesdropping on loud customers' conversations does not bother you, you'll love Higher Grounds.

The coffee is really good and I always have a fun time watching customers. Drawbacks - wireless is not officially theirs (you might catch some signals here and there) and not enough electrical energy plugs. So this is perhaps a good place for a nice read, work on something that doesn't require much internet and/or just relax sipping a nice coffee. It still remains one of my favourite coffee shops.

Location I have been to: Broadway at Vine.

Restaurant review - The Sunset Grill

This is one of the best places for brunch. Consistently reliable, great service, friendly, not overpowering. I love the Sunset Grill's Huevos Rancheros and the standard brunch fare they offer. The best thing about this place? Location. It is so close to Kitsilano Beach and to other amenities/restaurants that it's almost impossible to miss it. Located at York and Yew (if I am not mistaken, which I think I am not), the Sunset Grill offers comfort brunch food.

I remember reading that they offered burgers, beers, and specials. So if you are a Kitsilano resident and want to just go rent a movie (there's a Rogers Video right beside) and then have some lunch at the Sunset Grill, that sounds like a nice lazy afternoon for me!

Music Review - Gonna Catch Ya by Lonnie Gordon (Version 2)

Well, I finally found the right version on YouTube. This is Lonnie Gordon's "Gonna Catch Ya"... if you ever watched Vanilla Ice's movie "Cool as Ice", it's included in the soundtrack and the movie. This is one of the most dance-able songs of the early 1990s (I think it's 1993). I have never found the MP3 though :( I suppose that when I transition to iPod (which I am fairly soon) I'll be able to find it on iTunes. All this is still theoretical, though! In the mean time, hope you enjoy it as much as I do. The sound and video quality aren't stellar but hey who am I to complain? :-)

Monday, July 16, 2007

Restaurant review - The Mongolie Grill (Broadway and Cambie)

One of my close friends (T) is leaving for Ottawa, so a bunch of us agreed to go out and have dinner with her before she left, and we settled for The Mongolie Grill. I can't recall the last time I ate there, but it seems like a popular location and I hadn't had Mongolian food in a long while so I thought "why the heck not". Furthermore, it was T's farewell so I am not one to complain about location choice when my friends are leaving town.

Anyway, the deal in this restaurant is that you choose your meats, veggies, noodles and sauces and then they weigh your place and stir-fry it. Quite simple. Surprisingly for me, all my friends (all of them female) knew the weight of their food, approximately. So did I, but I think it's because I cook too. I think that helps :-)

So we had the patio, our server was attentive (I wasn't shocked at the high level of service, but she was nice enough) although splitting the bill was a bit of a hard time. Nevertheless, if you think about the fact that it came to about 12-15 dollars per person, and they serve complimentary rice, it wasn't that bad. We weren't served the soup, though (now that I think about it - I did not even remember!) but I am sure we could have if we had remembered to ask.

The food is nice and the cook is a really nice guy, but I am not entirely sure people are satisfied with the level of service of this particular location (Broadway and Cambie). I read some pretty nasty reviews that are here and here.

I can't complain much because I got what I wanted: tasty food and the company of awesome friends, in a well ventilated space (we got the patio). But I suppose that there are good and bad elements to this restaurant. In my view, it's worth coming with lots of friends... there are discussions around "what are you having for dinner" all the time :)

Mongolie Grill (Broadway) in Vancouver

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The reversal of roles in parenthood

I am just back from taking my Mom to the Vancouver airport, and I have to say that I feel quite nostalgic. We had a really good visit (as we always do) which was even better because two of my brothers came to visit as well. Therefore I got to see at least 3 members of my family. We always have great times when we are together.

As I was seeing my Mom off to the gates, it occurred to me that I was experiencing a reversal of roles. As a child, I am sure my mother was always worried that I would get into trouble, or that I would hurt myself (I did a lot of tree-climbing in my younger years). She had to see me and my brothers off to different countries many a time and I am sure that, in the back of her mind, she was always worried.

However, now that I'm grown up, I worry about her (naturally). You should have seen me, I was right at the gate before security clearance waiting to see if she had made it safe and sound through security. This is not a really challenging task, and she has traveled the world, so she is quite comfortable taking planes, making connections, reading departure and arrival computer screens, having her stuff searched while going through security, etc. Yet I was worried.

How funny that as children our parents worry about us and as adults, we worry about them. And the funniest part is that they'll never stop worrying about us. However, we seem to have a heightened sense of worry because now we realize that there is a world out there and that nobody is invulnerable. Moreover, if we have children, we now worry as parents for our children, and as children for our parents. So the chain never stops... who said that parenthood was easy?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

It's all about the equipment - installment 3

I'm not sure if this is actually the third installment in the series of blog posts where I've talked about the need to have the right equipment for whatever activities I undertake. Yesterday, I bought two non-stick teflon frying pans (I'm not going to tell the make so that I don't get into trouble). At any rate, these were the two best purchases I've done recently, because now I can do scrambled eggs for breakfast and not have to work for an hour cleaning them.

Another piece of equipment I recently found very useful was a pair of sunglasses (excellent sunglasses, by the way). Given Vancouver's recent hot weather and sunny skies, I have really given them excellent use. Particularly because I use contact lenses, so I really need to use sunglasses when hanging out outdoors.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Really quick update :)

As you may imagine, there's something else that has had me occupied for the past couple of weeks. I've had family visiting me and therefore I have been basically occupied and unable to blog. Moreover, while out with my family, I've eaten out in some repeat restaurants, so I won't review them again. I'll be back with more restaurant reviews, random thoughts, music and movies after a short break. Stay tuned :)

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Restaurant review - Moxie's

The more I have dinner at this type of restaurants, the more I realize the broad variety of food we have in this city. Vancouver is unique in that regard. Unfortunately (or luckily) for me, I have started to become a repeat customer of many restaurants, so I am running out of restaurants to review!

One of those restaurants that I've become very used to is Moxie's. The one location that always comes to mind is the one on Georgia and I think Hamilton or Seymour (more likely Seymour). But recently I've discovered one on Broadway and almost Burrard and of course, Davie between Thurlow and Bute (in the West End). This is the one I've been to most recently.

Touting itself as "casual dining", Moxie's service is top-notch. I was very pleased that the chef and the waitress were very accomodating with my summer feature: tandoori wild salmon. The food is not that terribly expensive, with entrees hovering around the $20 dollar mark, and it's filling and tasty. I really liked the tandoori salmon but next time I think I'll stick with pasta.

As I was writing earlier reviews of Cactus Club, Milestone's, Earl's and others, I would think that Moxie's is the same type of restaurant: reliable, good food, excellent service and atmosphere.

UPDATE - I included both gadgets from Urban Spoon because I have been to both locations, the Broadway one and the Robson one.

Moxie's Classic Grill in Vancouver
Moxie's Classic Grill in Vancouver

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Oh Canada! Happy Birthday :)

O Canada! These are the first two words of Canada's national anthem. I have to say that every time I have heard these words I get goosebumps. Particularly when I am traveling in other countries. [Note to self- check before posting - I was missing a few sentences in this paragraph!]

Having lived here for over a decade now, I would say that I live a pretty Canadian life. Many people would ask "what is a Canadian life". The way I have defined it is perhaps not very scientific and maybe a bit biased. But that is how I see my life now. Most of my closest friends are Canadian (either born, raised or educated in Canada). I owe to this country many things, amongst them education, good friends, fairly good health care (at least eye care), an open and friendly environment to live in. The list could go on.

Other friends of mine have blogged about the values of Canada (such as a universal health system, an immigration-friendly atmosphere, multiculturalism), so I won't really go into that. I have also read some analysts speaking about the country as though they know it inside-out (which really bothers me because they don't live here and know very little about the realities of day-to-day life in Canada). But this is not the place to criticize their work.

I think that, out of the things that I am grateful to Canada for, one of the most important is the friends I have made here. Notwithstanding my deep love for my friends who are not Canada-based, I have made a life for myself here and been welcome with open arms by many Canadians. Even some non-Canadian life-long friends, I've met them here! Thus, it is just appropriate that I say I'm quite thankful.

So, happy birthday Canada, eh? :)

It's all about the equipment again...

Tonight I went to the Coastal Jazz Festival (TD Canada Trust Vancouver International Jazz Festival) with H and my Mom. Funny how things go, I did not foresee many things but I shall be prepared next time...

a). It was really hot and sunny. I wore a black t-shirt. Bad idea.
b). The concert was held outdoors was outdoors and no seating (chairs) was available. Note to self - bring along a mat or a towel.
c). The weather was really hot and sunny (again). Note to self - bring running shorts, t-shirt, sunscreen, cold water or other drink.

So in conclusion, next time I do an outdoor concert, I'll come prepared. After a really cool rumba performance by Rumba Calzada (they played Guajira and a few other tunes that I've danced to before with my salsa partners). It was a really great experience.

We stayed for about an hour then dinner at La Bodega, which was unbelievably awesome. True to my Spanish roots I went for the typical patatas bravas, chorizo, albondigas, montaditos de cerdo... Ah, good times were had by all!