Wednesday, October 31, 2007

What I learned about myself from salsa dancing

In a former life, I used to be a well-trained salsa dancer. Even to the point where I taught the stuff. Four years ago, my heart was broken and I completely quit salsa. I have danced again on and off with a few friends, but never to the level that I used to. Thus my reluctance to go salsa dancing. I don't enjoy dancing when I know my level is not where I want it to be. The same used to happen with volleyball, although I've been playing fairly competitive in the last couple of months.

My good friend S re-ignited the spark by offering me a free ticket to Atlantis Night Club (on Richards and Drake). I didn't even want to go, but she was so kind and thoughtful that it was almost a sin for me to say no. Thus I went just for a short while. I have learned a few things about myself through this short foray into salsa.

a). I still hate cliques. The salsa 'scene' in Vancouver is filled with cliques. I admit that it may have appeared as though I belonged to one when I danced competitively, but truthfully I was never active part of any. Nevertheless, I could recognize many faces (and I am sure they recognized me as well). It was sort of strange. I bumped into people that I knew from before, some of them were friends (very few), some were former dance partners (eek) and a few others were simply members of the cliques I mentioned whom I saw at dance practices. Awkward.

b). I still got *it*. My skills are by and large nowhere where they used to be, and I am not as good a dancer anymore, but I could see flashes of my former self throughout the night. Granted, it was very helpful that I bumped into my friend Carolina. She is a very good dancer, and I really enjoyed the chance to talk to her and share a few tunes. I am sure that if I were to get back into dancing, I would be able to dance competitively again. I don't have the time right now, nor the energy (nor the money -- dancing does require investment!) but I figure that in the future I'll be able to do it.

c). I am still passionate about dancing and about salsa. I could not tell you how many times I have asked myself whether it is worth it for me to get back into dancing salsa. My professional life is leading me down a completely different road, and thus I am not sure that I can invest the time, money and energy to get up to speed. But the passion is still there.

d). I am very lucky with regards to my friendships. Carolina and I had only talked through our respective blogs, yet the minute we met on the dance floor, we immediately connected. It was like we knew each other for decades. And she's a really good salsa dancer, so we had a really good time. I hope we can hang out more in the very near future.

Volleyball is my passion. So is dancing. Sometimes, I have sacrificed my passions for the sake of my professional development. However, I really look forward to a future where I can pursue these passions freely. It won't be long before that :)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Upcoming event - 2 Degrees of Fire and Desire: A Theatrical Inquiry into Climate Change

As a former actor (I say former since I haven't really done much acting in Canada in the past few years), I am always looking forward to events that showcase local theatrical talent. This is one of those opportunities, and it combines many of my personal interests.

Are you worried about climate change? Do you want to learn more and educate yourself about the challenges Canada and British Columbia are facing? What better way to learn than through non-orthodox methods? Going to see a play seems like a very non-orthodox way to learn about the climate change debate.

2o of Fear and Desire: A Theatrical Inquiry into Climate Change is being put on by Headlines Theatre, hosted by Rhizome Cafe and hopefully will be well attended. It will take place on November 8th, 9th and 10th at 7 pm. Admission is by donation.

From Headlines Theatre's website we can read a description of the performance:
The play will tell a story in which characters are struggling with the complex issues emerging from climate change. [Headlines Theatre]
I am always amazed by great, innovative and non-orthodox ideas. I will be going to the play and probably will write a review, but you should seriously consider attending. The more I read about the kind of work that Headlines Theatre is doing, the more impressed I am. This is clearly well thought out and intends to have an impact on people's lives.

One of the things I found more exciting about this project is that they have done a variety of other work, including examining the issue of crystal meth addiction, immigration, racism, bullying, etc. Had I known a few years ago about Headlines Theatre, I probably would have gotten involved myself. Not that it's too late though!
UPDATE - I just remembered that I have volleyball on Thursday November 8th, so the only day I can attend is November 9th, so with no further ado, if you want to join me, you'll have to show up on the 9th... :)

Monday, October 29, 2007

Sushi in Vancouver - One witty review

I love sushi, despite the negative memories I have of some Tokyo-based freelance writer [Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named]. I speak the language (very little at the moment, but it can come back any time), and I have lovely Japanese friends. Therefore, I always jump with joy at the opportunity to try new sushi restaurants.

This is not a post on "where you can find sushi in Vancouver" (I don't have the time to create this type of blog post, though I'd encourage you to go and check my restaurant reviews - some fairly good sushi places include Kaide, Kishu Mountain, Tanpopo, to name a few). No, this post is actually intended to rave about another witty review post, published a couple of months ago in The Georgia Straight.

Written by Amanda Growe and Craig Takeuchi, this is probably one of the wittiest restaurant reviews I have read in a long time. Enjoy!


One of the biggest truths in life is that we've all been involved in strange, complicated, convoluted, dysfunctional and weird relationships. Many people call them different ways, but a friend told me about this word and I found it so funny I had to share it with the blogosphere: situationship.

The Urban Dictionary does have a definition of situationship. Can't help but laugh every time I think about the many situationships I've ever been in. I wonder - how many of my readers have been in situationships? How many of them are in one right now? Do situationships ever get resolved?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Where does good content go?

I've been struggling these past couple of days to think about good, valuable, interesting stuff to blog about. I didn't attend the Parade of Lost Souls, nor any Halloween party, so I can't claim that I had a weekend worth commenting about (it was rather low key, with my volleyball and a chance to hang out with great friends of mine on Thursday night - dinner at Burgoo and Friday night - dinner at Water Street Cafe) and tonight (dinner at The Dunbar, formerly Soda's -- I will write the restaurant review later). Great friends and awesome company, but not a whole lot to comment about.

So I wonder how do people come about ideas on blogging content. And, do you prefer content early in the morning (e.g. your morning feed of blogs) or would you rather wait until the content is more useful/valuable/interesting? I am trying to decide whether to blog when I have a good idea (or upcoming event, or restaurant review) or just to throw some half-baked ideas out there. Feedback would be useful :-) Thanks!

Self-sabotaging in the battle against weight gain

I might have blogged a few days back about how I ended up eating a whole can of sweet condensed milk by the spoonful (in a day, so don't worry, it wasn't like I just binged). However, lately I've noticed a continuous weight gain. It isn't apparent because volleyball keeps me running and fairly fit, but I can see how my weight gain is sabotaging my own skill improvement.

Since I am a power hitter, I need to jump fairly high. My knees aren't in the best shape possible at the moment, but someone reminded me that jumping was basically a skill that required strong abs. If I binge-eat and don't do crunches or abs, I am pretty much self-sabotaging. Therefore, my spiking won't get better if I don't jump, and I won't jump if my tummy keeps growing and my abs keep debilitating.

It was important for me to blog about this, because I am very strong willed and usually have no problems forcing myself to do something. But with the winter, heavy rain, dark clouds, I have resorted to food for comfort. And that's not going to take me anywhere if I want to improve my volleyball and get back to the competitiveness level I used to have. Time to stop those mid-night cravings!

Technical skills

So much for taking time off blogging. I actually enjoy doing it while trying to do some of my 'daytime job', so I figured "heck, why not". This past couple of days I've been playing some serious competitive volleyball. However, I've noticed that my volleying skills (and hence my setting) has seriously improved. In my late teens/early twenties, I used to be a setter. However, as time has gone by, I've moved into a power-hitter position, really enjoyable.

The funny thing is, in the transition process, I lost confidence in my setting skills, so I'd bump the ball instead of volleying it (thereby losing control and location). However, this past Saturday I started to feel so confident about my setting that I actually played the setter position more than one time. It's all about risking it and doing it.

On that same note, it's clear to me that if I make a mistake, my game goes down (I don't know why, really). For example, today my serve was totally off. Some of my spikes were off too, and thus I completely lost any confidence in my game (sort of a vicious circle). I think that the only way to shake this is to keep hitting balls, so I've decided that next time that happens to me, I'll just try to forget about it.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Time off blogging

Blogging for me is fun, it's exciting (I particularly enjoy when friends, bloggers and people in general leave comments) but it does consume time. Since my day job is not at all related to the blogosphere, I've decided to take some time off. This doesn't mean that my blog is closed indefinitely. Just need to focus on my job and the task at hand. I will save restaurant, bar, and coffee shop reviews in handwritten form and post them at a later date. Will be back soon :)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Comfort food for the soul

This weather has brought me down so much that I finally decided to spoil myself with some comfort food. My definition of 'comfort food' might be different to that of other people, because I don't think the choices I've made have substantial caloric content. For me, Jell-O is comfort food. Boiled eggs with lemon and garlic salt. Curry chicken with basmati rice. Cinnamon buns... the list is long.

These food items are intimately associated with sweet memories of my past, and often with loved ones who may even have left this planet already. My late aunt used to make the best Jell-O in the world. She would make large containers of gelatin for us to have in the morning with our breakfast.

Ever since I was a child, I remember how much I liked to eat boiled eggs with lemon and garlic salt. These two are items that I associate with my happy childhood, and with my grandparents and my aunt. I used to have these for breakfast all the time at their house, and those were some amazing times.

Cinnamon buns remind me of the first time I moved to Vancouver, and how much I enjoyed exploring this city, the surprises ... Curry chicken and basmati rice are not only tasty but also a continuous reminder that life and happiness is not about money or great things... it's about the small little details that can cheer us up every day.

I promised myself that I would be amazed at something every day, that I would never lose my inner-child spirit. I have been lucky that I've done very well on this promise for the past 20 years. And the one thing that amazed me today is how much better I feel after having eaten some comfort food.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Caving and getting on to Facebook/Crackbook/Hatebook?

Before you all start saying "YES! I TOLD YOU THAT YOU WERE GOING TO CAVE AT SOME POINT"... no, I haven't caved and thus have not joined Facebook. That being said, I am somewhat addicted to having a conversation about the pros and cons of Facebook and why I don't want to join (and everyone - yes, you heard right - EVERYONE who is on FB has told me "don't join! it's more addictive than crack!"... hence the running joke on Crackbook(.

Well, it seems (as it usually happens) that someone already thought of that. I present to you... The Crackbook!. Oh my God, did I ever laugh! It's a great spoof of FB. And even if you actually are on FB, I am sure you will appreciate it. To check the website at leisure you need to click on the red links (the blue links don't really work). I guarantee you'll have a great laugh!

And I am not alone on the enterprise to fight the urge to join FB... Amanda fought courageously but (and she caved!). And thanks to Beth's blog (who covered the issue about Crackbook as well), I now know about Hatebook! Want to laugh even more? Read some witty phrases (from Ian in Hamburg) you can use on your next FB wall posts :)

Strange how a sunny day can make me do things like this (want to post more than one essay and write some meaningless stuff). I have a couple of bakery, restaurant and coffee shop reviews but I really should be doing some more work (even though I have put in the hours today, thanks to some awesome weather).

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Beautiful day in Vancouver

As usual, the Powers That Be are playing games with our hearts and cleared the rain today for A FULL DAY, so the skies were beautifully blue and without almost any clouds, it was bright, shiny, sunny and warm (15 oC). After complaining about the bad weather and how it has affected my mood, I couldn't help but think about recent events and their linkages with climate change.

I (half-jokingly, half-seriously) suggested on Keira-Anne's blog (see her post for Tuesday October 23rd) that Mexico and Vancouver trade a couple of months of rain for sunshine (see my comments on her post). Another commenter said that the weather in California had been so dry that it smelled like smoke everywhere. Well, with the fires in the California region, I can't help but wonder - what can be done to avoid catastrophes like these? How can we decrease our vulnerability to such climatic extreme events?

Post on the comments and discuss [and in the mean-time, my thoughts go to the families that have been evacuated in California].

Weather blues, seasonal affective disorder and the blogosphere

The concept of "weather blues" (associated with the Seasonal Affective Disorder -- as indicated by the Canadian Mental Health Association's website, the mild form of SAD is known as winter blues) has hit home more in this past year than it had ever before. It has affected many people within my personal circle (myself included).

People keep asking me how come I haven't adapted to Vancouver's awful winter weather (sorry, can't say I love snow and heavy rainfall). The whole idea that "this is Vancouver, live with it" is unfathomable.

I have come to recognize that I might be having a light version of SAD given the diagnostics of the CMHA .
Generally, symptoms that recur for at least 2 consecutive winters, without any other explanation for the changes in mood and behaviour, indicate the presence of SAD. They may include:
  • change in appetite, in particular a craving for sweet or starchy foods
  • weight gain
  • decreased energy
  • fatigue
  • tendency to oversleep
  • difficulty concentrating
  • irritability
  • avoidance of social situations
  • feelings of anxiety and despair [CMHA website]
I am slightly wary of calling what I have as SAD, since (a) I haven't consulted a professional and (b) my understanding of clinical depression is that it is a very severe and debilitating condition. Whenever I tell my friends "I feel somewhat depressed" they answer back "in English, the word depression is extremely severe and relates to a clinical condition". But the truth is, I can recognize some of these signs.

For example, this week I ate a full can of sweetened condensed milk in an afternoon. Thank you, there goes my diet and my 20 pounds lost. Irritable? Yeah, for sure. Decreased energy, yeah. But then again, other symptoms are not there. I have socialized with my friends, still played my six volleyball games on Saturday and Sunday and I don't feel particularly anxious or desperate (despite my heavy workload and busy schedule). That's also why if you feel some of these symptoms you should consult with a physician and/or counselor.

There are many ways to fight this off. From the BC Partners for Mental Health and Addictions website, you can read lots of useful tidbits that can help you deal with SAD. The UBC Hospital Mood Disorders Centre has been home to research on SAD (by Dr. Raymond Lam). A paper he wrote on the topic can be found here. [I found it interesting that some pages have not been updated recently, not sure why]

Other methods include light therapy with a light lamp ['Litebook(R)']. Most websites I've read suggest to consult with a health specialist before using light therapy. This would probably be a good idea. Interestingly enough, even though I found the Province of British Columbia's Depression Strategy (document circa 2002) I couldn't find anywhere on the MSP website that suggested that treatment for SAD would be covered. I would have a question for MSP - do we need to shell the bucks out of our own pocket to cover light devices? [Anybody out there want to research this question? Thank you. Please post answer in the comments section. Credits given to you, of course!]

Now, you may ask yourselves - what does this have to do with the blogosphere? Well, for starters, I haven't had any will to blog for a few days. Luckily, Debra stepped in and offered a guest post (and I'm more than happy to invite anyone else to contribute guest posts!). But I had basically no will to write. And second, yeah - there are blogs out there that talk about SAD. I found Circadiana through a Google search, and the discussion on SAD is quite interesting. Actually, technorati found 22 websites that talk about SAD.

So what now? Well, for starters - good news. First, my laptop is back (this post was created in it!). The battery seems to have returned to its normal 2 hour cycle. Second, I can see sunlight outside. Therefore, I will drag myself out and work from a coffee shop. And third, the temperature is unbelievably high (15 oC). So I'm a happy camper.

And my hope is that this post will help people out there deal with SAD. At the very least, doing the research to find links to websites and reading about SAD has helped me already. A big thank you is due though, to my friends. These guys have forced me to get out of my house and do social activities despite the cold rain and clouds, for which I am very grateful. As my good friend Nomade Moderne says, "once I am out, I'm out". So once I get out of the house and go to the office or undertake social activities, I really don't mind the rain.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Guest post: The King is Dead

My friend Debra McNaught emailed me recently, indicating
"I was compelled to write this about the 1000 year old cedar that fell over last week in Stanley Park. i remember it, I loved it, and now it's ... well, dead"

I invited her to be a guest contributor, so the following essay offers her reflections.

Living in Vancouver’s West End is – for those enamoured of Big City Living – as close to paradise as you can get without leaving this mortal coil; one of the reasons, in my estimation, is Stanley Park. Vancouverites are justifiable in their love for Stanley Park, and when I lived in the West End I swear I was on a first name basis with every tree, every squirrel. Cue Far Side cartoon, one squirrel remarking to another, of a squatting spinster and her harlequin eyeglasses: They’re so cute when they sit like that.

So the news last week that “the 1000 year cedar” had fallen made me just a bit sad; I immediately pictured its’ oddly lopped top, remembered walking around the staggeringly enormous circumference and kind of smacking it with delight that it was just so freaking huge. I dug through boxes of unsorted photos in hopes I had thought to take one. No such luck.

Often taking the trail near Third Beach that passed it by, I remember thinking it was not long for this world, and that it had probably looked this ragged-ass at least since the first white Vancouverites “discovered” it in the late nineteenth century. For some, its glory might have been diminished by the missing upper third (half?) due, doubtless, to some cataclysmic meteorological event, but I chose to see it as evidence of ultimate survival. And considering it made me realize us rustic colonials, despite our status as the Least Important Outpost of the British Empire and long snubbed for our lack of historical legitimacy, had a heritage uniquely our own: nobody grew trees like we do here in British Columbia.

The towers now crowding the downtown peninsula are only pallid reconstructions of the original occupants; early Vancouver histories cite Douglas firs toppled from Georgia and Granville as averaging 350’, and reports of giants in the neighbourhood of 400’ are not uncommon. Before we started questioning the environmental cost of clear-cutting any tree that cast a shadow, the logging industry had made friendly with the governments of the day and stripped Crown Land of what is termed “old growth.” Easy in hindsight to point out the obvious, that re-seeding the now denuded landscape would a) ensure the renewal of a natural resource for the benefit of future generations, or even, b) provide for further profits fifty years hence. Them politics however, are bigger than this entry, but let’s call me a cynic: most of the logging companies of yore, having removed all easily accessible trees in BC, have abandoned logging for any port the Free Trade Agreement now rationalizes as sacrosanct in pursuit of corporate profit.

But back to the fallen monolith.

What kills me, in many of the media reports, is the fact that people are calling it “the National Geographic tree”; hey, maybe it’s just a Canadian Thing you have to be a Canadian to understand, but I kinda take offence at the implied ownership. OK, OK – it’s maybe excusable as a quick reference, as shorthand for “you know that tree that the Nat Geo featured in an article way back in the seventies before I was born” … so sue me: I’m Sensitive to Another Example of American Appropriation. But it’s not the Nat Geo tree – it’s not even rightfully the Stanley Park tree since the park has only been around since 1888 and the tree, it’s estimated, was a tender cone way back in the 11th century or maybe even at the time of the first millennia. It doesn’t belong to anybody, and our arrogant assumption that we consider what to “do” with the remains just boggles my mind.

Let it rot.

Maintenance superintendent Eric Meagher, who first noticed it ominously missing from the skyline, made the observation in the vid shot for the that all trees die eventually. This might seem obvious, yet those left wondering “what should be done” with the remains just strike me as people uncomfortable with the idea of something dead forcing them to detour around something unpleasant whether literally or no. Meagher’s assertion that not only will the tree “be left where it fell and allowed to rot away naturally”, the idea that park management is “considering having a small interpretive centre near the tree to explain what happens in a forest" absolutely warms my heart.

The big trees have to die so the little trees can grow; the act of being alive makes the corollary of death inevitable. Left to lie, the tree will become a “nurse tree,” supporting lots of descendant offspring that will one day exist because it died. And if we manage to somehow avoid catastrophic climate change, one day a tree just as grand may grow there.

The King is Dead – Long Live the King.

Friday, October 19, 2007

So what are YOU doing with your weekend?

Been trying hard for the past day or so to think of what can I blog about that won't bore my readers to death and am still having writer's block (both for my work and in regards to blogging). So here's the challenge for you dear readers: Tell me what you are doing with your weekend. Volunteering? Dancing? Dining out? Spill the beans, you know you want to!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Now-closed restaurants in Vancouver?

A group of close friends and I used to go for brunch ALL the time. Now I go out for dinner and brunch very frequently and thus I have a pretty good idea of the food scene in Vancouver (see my dining out posts and restaurant reviews here and my brunch reviews here). But I'm increasingly alarmed that some of those former hangouts of mine are now closed. That's sad!

So without any specific order, here are some of the now-closed restaurants I miss in Vancouver :(
  • The Crime Lab: The best martinis in town and also the place where I got to ask the toughest questions. Apparently closed to give way to a new high-rise. And clearly, not everybody loved it. Coal Harbour area.
  • The Ordinary Cafe. Located in Kitsilano too, this place was anything but ordinary. Great brunch.
  • The Living Room. Near Milestone's on 4th Avenue, in Kitsilano too, this place was very cozy. Great brunch but even better and more romantic dinner.
I am willing to compile a list of those places that used to be special and now are no more... but it's sad! Hopefully my current favorite restaurants (Rhizome, Crave, Cascade Room, Joe's Grill to name a few) don't go out of business any time soon!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Restaurant review - Cravings Bistro (Marpole)

The first time I came across the name of Cravings Bistro, I seriously thought that the address was wrong. A restaurant at 72nd Avenue and Osler? I couldn't see how a restaurant could be located in a residential neighborhood, particularly since it is literally the only restaurant within half a mile (well, one of two if you count White Spot which is in the hotel right almost next door).

Anyhow, Cravings is an anomaly in that it is indeed located in a small sort of corner mall (I think they call them strip malls here). The restaurant is pretty and the owners definitely know how to kick up the PR. They have fliers, menus, business cards, the whole nine yards.

So J and I went there for dinner very recently, and we both had our hearts sets on burgers. We ordered a French onion soup (in my case, without cheese) and a burger. For a burger this size, I should have probably starved myself for a whole day and then have dinner. The portions are generous and the prices are not that bad ($7 for a burger and $ 2.50 for a soup).

I would definitely like to try Cravings Bistro for a more formal dinner. Their fixed price menus look good and I would say this would be a place where you can bring a date or a good friend.

I can see how people can come to Cravings before dropping off someone or after picking up someone at the Airport. Or on their way to (or back from) Richmond and/or Seattle. I'll definitely be back at Cravings soon!

Cravings Cafe in Vancouver

Restaurant review - Chill Winston (Gastown)

Living in Vancouver and not participating in the Gastown dining and dancing scene is akin to eating ice cream without a cone. Walking around Water Street at night with good friends pretty much ranks high up there with being curled on the couch watching a movie and drinking hot chocolate: pure bliss.

We hadn't had a chance to spend time together as a group, so B, H, C and myself decided to go out for dinner, and we settled (at B's suggestion) on the general Gastown area. I hadn't spent substantial amounts in this area in recent years because this was the general area where my ex and I used to hang out all the time. Thus... you can imagine, bad memories!

So my friends decided that it was time to exorcise those demons, and we settled for a restaurant in Gastown that both H and I had been wanting to go to (and B had already beeen to): Chill Winston.

From the outset, Chill Winston looks sort of, kind of hipster-ish. Located at the very end of Gastown, on Alexander Street, it boasts a great patio. However, once you are inside, you can discover that the place has a great ambiance. The lighting, the tables, the overall decor and distribution of furniture and bar, everything looks in place. The food is excellent as far as taste goes.

Now, the critical part comes here. I am not fond of restaurants where the service is sub-par, and Chill Winston's restaurant practices are so wrong on so many levels it's not even funny. The portions are very small and overpriced (for what they are, I think they're charging too much). We ordered anchovies and some carpaccio in the way of appetizers, and then I ordered salmon ($15 for two micro-slices) and potatoes (which I'll have to admit were really good). H and I shared a dessert (the seven varieties of chocolate) which was also rather small ($ 8). B had been here for lunch and she had mentioned it had been good, which I can believe. She ordered the turkey dish, which I found extremely tasty. The dessert (while small) was also to-die-for. I found the salmon quite bland, though.

Now, I am sorry but if you are going to charge between $15 and $30 per entree, I am expecting you to at least provide me with substantial portions, good flavor and great service. And I expect the bread and butter to be free (we got charged for two orders of bread and butter, can you believe it?). While my friends think that this level of poor service is pretty much normal for Vancouver's dining scene, I was very disappointed (particularly having just recently had dinner at places like The Cascade Room, La Bodega and The Water Street Cafe, where the service is superb).

The waitress didn't offer to bring a glass of water to everyone on the table, we had to ask for it. Paper napkins? You have got to be kidding me. I could not believe it... No, no, no! Oh, and you want to hear the kicker? The waitress asked us if we were done with dessert. We said "no, we're still working on it". Five or ten minutes later, the manager (apparently she was the manager, not sure if she was but she looked like it) came and asked us "are you still working on your dessert?". I can take a hint, thank you very much. The charging for bread and butter, the paper napkins and the not-so-subtle "can you please get out of here now?" were definitely deal-sealers and I am not coming back here for dinner.

Honestly speaking, the food is great, the ambiance is excellent but I wouldn't call Chill Winston a place to dine out. This is a place to go and have one or two drinks with friends (a lounge). I found the place overpriced and lacking in service. And those are two factors that will always drive me away from any restaurant.

Anyhow, I have to agree with H when he says that when I started my blog, I thought of my restaurant reviews as just accounts of what had transpired that evening with my friends, and now I have a more of a food-critic eye. I think that's true and I can't help it. I eat out a lot, and I compare restaurants on the basis of service, food, and pricing.

One thing I can't deny is that I had a really good time. But that was just because I had the pleasure of spending time with H, C, and B. This was the saving grace of the evening, having some of my closest friends spend a night out on the town with me. Only next time, if we are going to Chill Winston, it will have to be only for a drink or two.

I have to admit, though, that the owners of Chill Winston really know their business, because The Vancouverite gave them a very rough second review (the first time apparently the service was good) and they responded on the comments section with a very classy and elegant response (read below on the comments section). It does show commitment to the customer. Hopefully next time I go to Chill Winston (if I do) their service will have improved by then.

Chill Winston in Vancouver

Upcoming event - Homelessness Action Week 2007

The connections between urban sprawl, sustainability, extreme poverty, homelessness and unaffordability of housing are undeniable. The residential housing market in Vancouver has grwon stronger in the past few years. However, it is also undeniable that social housing is a need in the Metro Vancouver area. The Greater Vancouver Regional Steering Committee on Homelessness has designated October 15th to 21st, 2007 as Homelessness Action Week.

While there are many being organized around Metro Vancouver, you can check the Vancouver events here. There are two specific ones to which I would like to call your attention (from their website):

Friday October 19: Sandwich and Blanket Handout to Street Homeless
When: 4–6 p.m.
Where: Broadway Youth Resource Centre, 691 E. Broadway

Saturday, October 20: Under One Umbrella
A community service fair for people who are homeless, street-involved, or living in poverty in Grandview Woodlands and surrounding areas. In addition to services, there will be food and entertainment. For more information, please contact the Grandview Woodlands Drug and Alcohol Coalition at:
When: 10:00 AM - 3:00 PM
Where: Aboriginal Friendship Centre, 1607 E. Hastings St, Vancouver

I strongly believe that sustainability and social responsibility starts at home. Thus, I would like to invite you dear readers to partake in one or more of these events. Because everybody has a right to a life with dignity and a home.

Carbon taxes in British Columbia - Make your voice heard!

The Kitsilano-based organization Voters Taking Action on Climate Change is encouraging citizens of Vancouver (and British Columbia in general) to provide feedback to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services in the form of a suggested carbon tax. For the online submission click on the previous link. Questions can be directed to VTACC (here is their Contact Us page).

Monday, October 15, 2007

Sustainable restaurants - myth or reality?

Associating food with environment usually takes one of three avenues:
  • Local production and consumption. - The notion underlying the 100 Mile Diet and other similar ideas is that when we consume food that is locally produced we also reduce our ecological footprint by minimizing transportation effects (e.g. carbon emissions from air freight) and other externalities.
  • Food security.- Closely associated with the previous item, the idea of food security is also associated to the availability of land (or lack thereof) and the varied uses this land can have. Ensuring that we protect enough land and designate it as are able to grow crops for human consumption is part of the food security debate.
  • Greening restaurants.- This idea arises from an understanding that food production does have environmental impacts, and that we can minimize those impacts through rational decision-making. The idea of 'sustainable restaurants' may sound counter-intuitive, but it is not that strange. The remainder of this post will describe a couple of ideas I discussed with Jason Antony from Green Table, a Vancouver-based group dedicated to greening restaurants.
Jason and I had a nice chat where we discussed the two basic pathways that Green Table is championing. The first is "greening restaurants" - that is, reducing the environmental impact your current food operation has. The second is "sustainable restaurants" - this idea is related to being the leaders of sustainability in the restaurant business. For example, if you are a small Indian food kind of hole-in-the-wall, maybe you'll want to switch from styrofoam containers to recyclable ones. Or maybe you'll increase the post-consumer recycled content (paper, plastic containers, etc.) of your operations.

Now, if you want to be at the forefront of sustainable restaurants, you may want to engage in a full-fledged green marketing campaign, and include a full in-depth analysis of your operations so that you can find ways in which your restaurant can meet high standards of sustainability.

Green Table also promotes an eco-labelling system (for participating members of the network). Their philosophy can be found here. I think this is an excellent idea and I look forward to knowing more about this!

Kick-off post to Blog Action Day

Don't know how I managed to not appear on the Blog Action Day list given that I had previously registered and blogged about it (see my post here) so I re-registered. Had mixed feelings regarding whether I should post anything during the early hours of the morning, given that I wanted to give my analysis of the roles of Al Gore and the IPCC in bringing climate change to the forefront of global discussions a little bit of visibility. But... since I've already committed to Blog Action Day, I will be ok if my little post doesn't get that much exposure.

So on the menu today (if I manage to get all my work done)...
  • Green restaurants - Had a nice chat with Jason Antony of Green Table, so I'll discuss some stuff that we talked about.
  • The linkages between poverty, urban sprawl and sustainability.
  • Numbers, numbers and more numbers (or how people can fool you with statistics).
  • Research that is being undertaken in Vancouver.
  • Upcoming events on sustainability.
And for now, I have to get back to my 'day job' so I hope you all are enjoying Blog Action Day. Go to their website to see who else is participating. And if you're a Vancouver blogger and are participating, let me know and I'll link to your website.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Al Gore, the IPCC and the Nobel Prize 2007

After hearing the announcement that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and environmental activist/politician Al Gore were co-recipients of the 2007 Nobel Prize for Peace, I couldn’t help but recall Marshall McLuhan’s famous phrase "the medium is the message". While, in the eyes of the world, the bestowing of a Nobel undeniably ramps up the legitimacy factor, McLuhan’s axiom that the medium used to convey a message becomes more important than the content of the message itself deserves a refresher.

Many detractors (primarily but not necessarily all of them right-wingers) have consistently focused on Al Gore as the Harbinger of Doom by portraying his apocalyptic "we're going to hell in a hand basket" message as unnecessarily alarming. Positioning Gore as the Chicken Little of the environmental movement allowed the naysayers to deflect attention from the issue at hand – that global warming is not only coming, it’s here – and instead critique Gore for his approach, ergo, the media of McLuhan’s axiom. I think we might be in for a sea-change (rather apt metaphor, don’t you think?) in the acknowledgment of global warming/climate change as a threat we better start dealing with, for the Nobel just might be enough to shift the focus, much to the dismay of the naysayers and their privately-funded scientists, from media to message, and the new reality is that if the media – meaning Gore and the IPCC – has been officially blessed by the Nobel Foundation, then the message is one we had better start taking seriously.

Although Gore and the IPCC have two different missions, their underlying objective is identical: to raise awareness of the climate change debate by bringing it to the forefront of global discussion. As an intergovernmental institution, the IPCC coordinates the findings and research of hundreds of scientists worldwide in an effort to increase our understanding of the patterns of climatic change, and their Summary for Policy Makers, a document that translates their findings into terminology the rest of us can understand, has been their media of choice. After An Inconvenient Truth rightfully raised Gore’s profile, he further spread the message of his documentary not only by relentlessly making the rounds of the lecture circuit, but by forming a coalition of groups and individuals dedicated to further disseminating his Power Point presentations.

Yet if I had to hazard a guess, I’d say Gore's message has had more reach than the IPCC’s Summary. He’s a face, he’s got a powerful, Oscar winning documentary, and – let’s face it – aside from anomalies like Steven Hawking and Einstein, scientists and their statistics tend to lack for great PR. In recent years, naysayers and resource-extraction pals have consistently clung to the tactic of painting Gore and the IPCC as the proverbial messengers whose news are so inconceivable the messengers are obviously making this stuff up; denial and derision have become the default options. Ergo, as a resolution to unpleasant realities, shooting the messenger not only eliminates threats to the status quo, the media can be positioned as tragically misinformed. Bombs away!

Which sort of brings me back to McLuhan. Could the IPCC, in view of a profile now permanently affixed to a Big Cool Friend courtesy of a shared Nobel, attain the same level of Gore's reach? I think so. But I see their roles as complementary, and perhaps that's one of the reasons why the Nobel Prize Adjudication committee thought they should both share the 2007 Nobel Prize: because in their separate but convergent ways, both Gore and the IPCC are sending the same message: climatic change is here. That munitions maker Alfred Nobel’s legacy might yet provide the ultimate bullet-proof shield that allows Gore, the IPCC and countless others to focus on getting the message out instead of dodging fire is an irony that leaves me undeniably optimistic.

And if the message benefits, as I hope it does, from the renewed focus only a Nobel can bestow, we just might witness an irony I suspect even McLuhan might appreciate because, if ever there was a time when the message deserved to transcend the media, this is it.

Disclaimer.- Thanks to my good friend Debra Mc for editing this entry. The ideas, initial writing and analysis are mine, but her superb editing job made this post so much better!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Some of my best recipes

As a single, hard-working, young(ish), extroverted, social and gregarious male, I often like to invite my friends over for dinner. Since my place is extremely small (see my post on the layout of my apartment, though that has since changed because I just got rid of a tv, an entertainment center and my stereo), often I am only able to have one or maximum two people over for dinner. Nevertheless, I am proud of what I could achieve with my very limited budget.

Anyhow, on to the substance of my apparently fluffy post (and yes I know that Gore and the IPCC won the Nobel Prize 2007, I have a post in the works to discuss that, and it's a serious one, so please hold off until I have finished baking said post). I have managed to create a series of 'trademark Raul dishes' that I can prepare and basically wow everyone who comes over for dinner. So I thought I'd share some of the recent meals I have prepared. Now, you will notice that I haven't actually posted MY recipes, but I haven't managed to type my recipes, so that's why.

Anyhow, here they are:

Option # 1 - Dinner for AF - This was a fairly recent one, and I followed my Mom's style:
  • Starter: Chicken broth with green onion
  • Main course: Mole con Pollo (chicken mole), arroz rojo (red rice)
  • Dessert: Marshmallow cheesecake
For this dinner, my Mom pre-made the mole paste and packaged it and brought it with her when she came to visit me this past summer. My Mole con Pollo is pretty good but pales in comparison to hers. My Mom is a really good cook. The marshmallow cheesecake recipe I obtained from CB but have modified it throughout the years.

Option # 2 - Dinner for SF - This was earlier in the year, and I am glad I invited her over for dinner before she moved to Montreal.
  • Starter: Green salad (lettuce, tomatoes and a balsamic vinaigrette)
  • Main course: Chicken breast marinated in herbs and garlic, wild rice as a side dish
  • Dessert: Macedonia de frutas (fruit cocktail) - I have never understood why they call this dessert Macedonia, but it's basically fruit cocktail.
Option # 3 - Dinner for ML - This was over the summer, and it's basically my most acclaimed dish. ML is usually my 'test human' - she tries my recipes and if I don't suck, then it's all good.
  • Starter: Green salad
  • Main course: Chicken curry (red) with potatoes and mushrooms and onions with basmati rice - The idea of adding potatoes and mushrooms is originally mine.
  • Dessert: Banana bread pudding (banana bread heated up and then ice cream on top) - I learned how to do this dessert from Burgoo (the restaurant up in Point Grey)
I make a really good pasta 'a la Puttanesca' that I have made for several of my friends, but I have still yet to create a menu for that. This is what I think would work (idea borrowed from my birthday dinner at Water Street Cafe) and would be Option # 4:
  • Starter: French onion soup - Quite obviously I don't do cheese, so I'll have to modify the recipe.
  • Main course: Capellini a la Puttanesca - Some people do other types of pasta, and quite frankly I do more rottini than capellini but oh well.
  • Dessert: Chocolate/marble pie -- No clue how I'm going to do this.
So, the idea of my post is to ask you dear readers for options/suggestions for meals that are:
  • Not very time consuming
  • Easy to prepare
  • Can be cooked in large or small portions
  • Are fairly inexpensive but showy
  • And, most importantly - the kind of meal you can prepare for a good friend.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Upcoming event - National Coming Out Day (Vancouver)

Coming out of the closet (in the sexual orientation kind of way) means opening up a whole can of worms when it comes to acceptance by mainstream society, job security and the existence of glass ceilings, conforming to societal norms and dealing with potential rejection. The reason behind National Coming Out Day seems (in my interpretation) a celebration of that moment in a person's life when it becomes important to embrace a whole identity, not just portions of it.

I had heard about National Coming Out Day but I hadn't seen any ads for celebrations. However, it appears as though Xtra West Vancouver does have some information about an upcoming event. From their website:
The Centre presents an evening of storytelling to celebrate National Coming Out Day. Includes improv comedy with Tops & Bottoms and guest speakers Kevin McKeown, Nicky Phillips and others. Light refreshments. Free admission. Coast Plaza Hotel, 1763 Comox Street, 7-9 pm. 604.684.5307.
The Centre, for those of you who don't know it, is a community resource run by volunteers mostly that provides services and support to the Vancouver queer community (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and two-spirited). From their website:
The Centre is a community resource providing support, health and social services, and public education for the well being of lesbians, gay men, transgendered and bisexual people and their allies in Vancouver throughout B.C.

The Centre is committed to building pride and acceptance of diversity and to mitigating the impact of homophobia, heterosexism, transphobia and biphobia.

The Centre welcomes and values all people regardless of race, religion, sex, national or ethnic origin, marital status, family status, colour, age, disability, pardoned conviction, sexual orientation, gender identity, and source of income.
The event organized by The Centre at the Coast Plaza should be a lot of fun. And to read an advertisement by KPMG celebrating National Coming Out Day on the Xtra West, this is really outstanding. I am not that surprised since I thought that KPMG has always been a very progressive firm (not that I know them all too well, but if you think about the fact that they have a Director of Diversity and that he gave a talk at an OutRights conference, it speaks volumes!).

I quote from KPMG's ad (I don't have the website, otherwise I'd link to it):
KPMG is committed to building a workplace that fosters diversity and inclusiveness. We salute our colleagues who have chosen to live their lives openly with pride, and support those who continue to struggle. You are not alone.
Other firms that have shown commitment to equality, diversity and supporting queer causes include VanCity and TD Canada Trust (from those that I have seen, I might have missed a few other companies). I had previously read about VanCity's and TD Canada Trust's commitment to diversity here (Nathaniel Christopher's website). Kudos to these firms!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

This is why I feel creeped by MySpace and Facebook

With all due respect to both MySpace and Facebook, I am a bit creeped out by these news. One of the best friends (Keira-Anne) of a local Vancouver blogger (Rebecca) found a MySpace created by someone who used her (Keira-Anne's) photos to pose as her, in a different country (USA) and city (Austin, TX). Both Rebecca and Keira-Anne have discussed the issue at length, so I will suggest that you mosey over to their blogs (here and here) to read the whole story.

I am sorry that this happened to Keira-Anne, and I think that this is incredibly creepy! But this is perhaps one of the many reasons why I like staying away from MySpace and Facebook (at least in my real life!). That's why people call it sometimes 'Facebook-stalking"!

I think that there is value to social networking sites. There is so much value that there are people like Fred Stutzman and danah boyd studying them (these are just two of the main students of the MySpace/Facebook sites, but I am sure other people out there are researching these topics).

The risk that I think we face with this type of SNS is that our privacy is undermined. Heck, even blogging can be non-private. I was just chatting with a friend a few days ago about the fact that anybody who wanted to find out who I am could easily do so with a few smart Google search strategies.

Some bloggers have managed to transform their blogging activities into profitable ventures. Some others use their blog as a platform to help them network with potential clientes. More and more, academics are writing blogs and finding ways to reach out to different audiences. The truth is that the Internet can be a very valuable resource. But it can also be a very creepy place.

I have thought about this over and over, and that's why I sometimes have devoted countless hours to read and think about SNS. But coming across these news that local blogger Keira-Anne's identity had been supplanted (even if only online, and probably spurred out of some bizarre adoration), I am thoroughly creeped out.

Now, will this event stop me from blogging or even - heaven forbid - cave in finally and create my online profile on these sites? Hardly. I think that there is value to blogging, there is value to Facebook and MySpace and there is value to using these tools to reach out to broader audiences. Now, if my blog could just get a few thousand hits! (I am saying this tongue-in-cheek, as I recently read an entry by Darren Barefoot where he was sort of -jokingly- complaining that only 760 readers had been redirected from the NY Times site) - as I told Darren in my comment, I am lucky if I get 30 readers a day, let alone 760! -- although to be quite honest, I am sure danah boyd gets thousands of them. Perhaps it's time to Digg or de.licious my entries, hehehe ;)

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Upcoming Event - Blog Action Day - Oct 15, 2007

So a few months ago, I came across Blog Action Day. I think it was through Darren Barefoot's blog. At any rate, this is the 411 on Blog Action Day, from their own website:
Blog Action Day -- On October 15th, bloggers around the web will unite to put a single important issue on everyone’s mind. In 2007 the issue is the environment. Every blogger will post about the environment in their own way and relating to their own topic. Our aim is to get everyone talking towards a better future.
The whole idea behind Blog Action Day is pretty neat. And since my specialty is environmental issues (and the title of my blog is 'Random Thoughts of a Student of the Environment'), it's kind of intuitive that I'll be blogging about the environment. I plan to write about issues that I haven't talked about in previous posts (such as energy, e-waste, green weddings, etc.) and hopefully will come up with other ideas.

It will not be exactly like Blogathon 2007, where I had to post every 30 minutes for 24 hours. Both Rebecca @ Miss604 and yours truly did Blogathon this past July, and I am not about to repeat the experience. It was painful! But it was lots of fun and many people donated to my cause. Nevertheless, this is a one-in-a-lifetime kind of blogathon ;)

However, this next October 15th, every post I will write will be dedicated to environmental issues. If everything goes according to plan and I manage to get all my work done, I'll be blogging about once an hour for about 12 hours, but can't promise I'll have the energy to do so. At any rate, if you are a blogger, I encourage you to sign on. And if you're a reader, I encourage you to leave a comment on this (or any of my future posts) with ideas for blog posts, commentary, whatever.

One small caveat though - all comments in my blog are moderated, so if you post and it doesn't appear, then it's probably awaiting moderation!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving

My good friends Nomade Moderne and his girlfriend CS invited me and a bunch of other friends over for Thanksgiving Dinner at their place. It was an amazing dinner with LOTS of turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing (I had never tried couscous stuffing) and lots of different desserts, including apple crumble and my trademark marshmallow cheesecake (the 'light' version - non-fat cream cheese and low-sugar marshmallows).

I don't think Canadians place as much relevance on their Thanksgiving as Americans do (and the celebrations are apart about a month or so). This year, the Canadian version was way too early and people didn't even seem to have time to plan for it. In my case, it was an opportunity to see friends for whom I care deeply and eat lots of good food.

By the way - notes to self (lessons learned):
  • Liquor stores are closed on Sundays. Always. Plan to buy your liquor beforehand.
  • Non-alcoholic wine and ciders can be bought at Safeway.
  • Marshmallow cheesecake should be prepared in the morning of when you're planning to serve it (or at least early afternoon).
I was scrambling because I was day-dreaming for most of the day, until I realized I didn't have enough time to make the cheesecake and let it sit outside the fridge. So I prepared the mix (batter) and then poured it into the shell and then proceeded to put it in the fridge for 20 mins and freezer for 20. Worked like a wonder! I then carried it to HZ and CS's apartment. And it was quite tasty.

Overall, it was a really nice evening and I enjoyed it enormously. And now I am really sleepy (apparently the result of tryptophan in the turkey).

Sunday, October 07, 2007

The Main Street (South Main - Mount Pleasant) night scene

So K and I were having drinks (belated birthday celebration) at The Cascade Room and we were discussing how some people who live west of Main Street are somewhat reluctant to come to the East Side of Vancouver, despite how 'up and coming' the area may be. I agree that this might be the case at night, sometimes, but it all depends on what you are looking for. So I thought I'd do a summary of the places where I think people can spend some time when out on the town. In no particular order, here are my suggestions for things to do at night...

The Cascade Room - I have reviewed this restaurant before, and I am still as impressed as I was on the first day. The service this time was excellent as I expected, the drinks were right on and we had the chance to chat with Wendy (one of the co-owners) for a bit. The Cascade Room is a place to hang out, have dinner, drinks, spend time, you know... no pressure. The food menu is comforting, it's not something that has to be sophisticated. The decor is excellent, and the music level is just right. Main and 10th Avenue.

The Main - I have only tried The Main at brunch and on a week night for beers. The place is awesome and I've been told they have live music, so I would strongly recommend it. Main and 27th-ish.

The Reef - I've been to The Reef for dinner and drinks (though not sure if I've written a restaurant review yet). The food is Jamaican-Caribbean-oriented and the drinks are to-die-for. Main and King Edward-ish.

Public Lounge & Eatery - This is a small place, but with a nice patio - I've been to Public for a drink with Nomade Moderne, though we didn't stay for long. Came back for another drink on my own. Pleasant atmosphere, though I am always tempted to go back for (strangely enough) dessert. Main and 17th-ish. [I approve of their website - Public Lounge - I am not sure the 'Eatery' should be included in the name, but since I'm not the owner, I have no say]

The Whip Restaurant Gallery - Oh yeah. The Whip has a generous patio, awesome decor (local artists) and great drinks. The food menu is a bit upscale, as my review indicates. Hipster hangout. Main and 6th Avenue (on 6th, actually). [As with Public, I'd be happier if it was only named 'The Whip' - since I'm not the owner nor management, I have no say]

Rhizome - You might be surprised since they have a brunch menu that has items that are beyond your wildest dreams, but Rhizome also hosts events in the evening. This relaxed, chill hangout place has created a wonderful and welcoming atmosphere for queer and queer-friendly folks in East Vancouver. Often have Queer Board Games and speed-dating parties. Broadway and Scotia-ish [almost kitty-corner from Kingsgate Mall]. My review only includes brunch.

The Anza Club - For sure, anyone who prides him/herself in knowing the Mount Pleasant area should know that the Anza Club is one heck of a place to go partying. Lounge and Main areas, and they host another queer-friendly event (Bent) on (I think) the third Thursday of the month. I might be wrong with the dates. Excellent website with a bit of history.

SoMa - We all cried foul when SoMa closed (the Flickr PhotoStream of Caterina shows you what it looked like inside before moving from Main St. near Broadway to 8th Avenue near Main St.) -- well, I discovered that they are now licensed, open late at night, and the place is comfy and has a nice atmosphere. I'll have to check it out.

NOTE - I didn't include coffee shops (obviously one type of place where people can hang out) because I wanted to highlight those places that may serve liquor, SoMa being the only exception I know (a coffee shop or former coffee shop that now serves - if I am not mistaken - alcohol).
And apparently I wasn't mistaken.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Restaurant review - Kaide Sushi (Yaletown)

Generally speaking, I avoid going to Yaletown simply because I am not able to afford the rental prices and it pains me to see the beautiful buildings where I can't really live (just kidding, hehehe - truth is, I am an East Van boy at heart). So anyway, M called me tonight and asked me whether I'd want to go out for sushi. Not one to refuse an invitation for Japanese food, I said "for sure". So off we went.

M had praised Kaide for their sushi but I hadn't really had a chance to go there. So off we went, in the rain and cold. But our bravery was well rewarded. Kaide's sushi is, by and large, one of the best I've had in years. And it's not really all that expensive, despite its Yaletown location.

We had edamame, a few dynamite rolls, spicy tuna and kaide rolls (both vegetarian and non-vegetarian). The food here is simply amazing. And the service was very nice too. M had been here before, but I hadn't and I am glad she invited me. The spicy tuna is enough for two people and can make you become addicted to this dish.

Kaide Sushi Bar in Vancouver

Funny how it goes, I was going to write a blog post commenting on M's sense of loyalty, so I warned her before "don't be mad at me if I say sappy things on my blog". But it's true. There are many qualities to her, but M's sense of loyalty is uncanny. Every time we hang out, I am reminded of the time when she had to deliver a report and stayed up for over 36 hours. She wasn't being paid all that time, but she did it because she felt the responsibility. She is fiercely protective of her friends and has a lovely and sarcastic sense of humor. Which is quite alright by me :-)

One time, she felt so ill and sick she couldn't really drive me home from Commercial Drive, and she was like "you're my friend, I should be able to drive you". But she was really sick that time and I said "no, drop me off here and go home NOW". When I first moved back to Vancouver, she basically drove me around to pick up furniture, see places for rental, etc. And again, I think that's one of the things I admire most of her: how loyal she can be with her friends, family, work. For this and many more things, thank you :)

Is this fall, winter or what?

This weather makes me almost kind of depressed. Some people attribute that to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) [no pun intended]. However, it does bring some sad memories. Although yesterday was sunny and cold, and I was always on the go (meeting at 2.30pm, hair appointment at 5pm, writing a letter, submitting a package), I still feel somewhat nostalgic.

It's probably the fact that this weather reminds me of the first few months when I moved to Vancouver. I wasn't ready for this kind of climate, and I felt lonely and cold. I am not alone at all, so that would be unfair to say, but I do still dislike cold temperatures. And as I have said, this year I am better prepared than I've ever been before (I have rain gear, scarves, gloves, the whole nine yards).

L and I were making a commentary that some memories seem to be engraved in our souls, and they never go away. It was around this time (a few years ago) when I learned that my ex had cheated on me, so I guess I don't forget that either. At any rate, the best revenge is to live well, and I have the life I have always wanted, I really live a very good life. For that, I am very grateful.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Do Vancouverites have amnesia?

I have lived in this city for over a decade (actually 11 years come to think about it). During this period (specifically in 2001), I had to endure (and survive) a bus drivers' strike that completely screwed my personal, academic and professional life. I spent hundreds of dollars in cab rides, my social life was reduced to nil and my school suffered, all because of the inability of transit authorities and bus drivers' unions to settle on time. It seems to me as though everybody has forgotten about this strike, hence the title of my post.

During the bus drivers' strike, I repeatedly asked everyone who wanted to listen "why hasn't the government settled this strike?" -- I had very little idea of how strikes were supposed to settle (yeah, both parties agree on a common goal and then proceed to write a deal and the strike ends -- at least, this is in theory).

Many businesses and people suffered. Jobs were lost, revenues were not earned, wages not collected and a lot of people suffered irreparable damages to their personal, professional and academic lives, just as I have. The exact same year, while the bus strike lasted over 123 days, the health professionals (specifically, nurses) went on strike. Their strike was not long, though. Less than four weeks into the strike, the B.C. government legislated the nurses back to work.

Now, I am by no means suggesting that the B.C. government should legislate the civic striking workers back to work. I repeat - I am not in favor of the B.C. government implementing back-to-work legislation. There is one thing I am puzzled by, though - why was it that nurses were deemed an essential service and thus legislated back to work, while transportation services were not? And again, I am not saying that this is the best way to go. But someone needs to be providing essential public services (the government) and this is not happening. Right now, trash is piling everywhere (and I continue to read stupid lame reports that 'there are no health risks' - what are these people thinking?) and nobody is doing anything.

The thing that bothers me is that somehow these strikes continue to happen, and that affected people are somehow adapting and coping and either refuse or avoid taking action. Or is it that this is our way of taking action? Just shut up and not do anything? Honestly, what have we done to end this strike? What can be done, realistically?

Once the 2001 transit strike was over, we were given three days -- yes you heard right -- three full days!!! of free bus rides, I am assuming to somehow compensate for having to endure this stupidly lengthy strike. I wonder what the City of Vancouver, or the union, or both, are going to offer in compensation for having to put up with piling garbage.

If citizens' votes are the currency of governments at every level (municipal, provincial and federal), wouldn't shifts in electoral voting be a powerful punishment for having done a lousy job at providing public services and governing? Citizens have a voice, and that voice goes beyond a vote in an election. But electoral votes are powerful still.

Something should be done, and this civic strike should not be forgotten. There must be a lesson here for future governments about what not to do. And, hopefully, when voting and choosing governments, Vancouverites, British Columbians and Canadians will not have a severe case of amnesia.

PS - I don't like the empty promises such as "we hope to end the strike by Labor Day weekend" or "we hope to end the strike as soon as the Thanksgiving weekend". I mean, what do you think, that we are thinking positive thoughts and associating them to the specific statutory holiday "oh geez, we're going to have garbage collection again after Thanksgiving - yay!". No, we are not. We are upset that things have gotten this far. Three months without garbage collection. Wow, unbelievable for a city that ranks so high in the 'livability' scores. What does this strike say to the world in regards to our ability to be civil and negotiate and settle labour agreements? Yes, you are right: it says very bad things.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Congratulations Bif Naked and Ian Walker

I have always liked Bif Naked's music, and since my blog tends to be Vancouver-centric, it's just fitting that I write about her wedding (which happened just recently). Her Wikipedia entry indicates that although she was born in New Delhi, she was raised in Vancouver. She married The Vancouver Sun's Ian Walker (a sports reporter according to the Sun's website) on September 29th, 2007.

Now, I saw the photo gallery on the Sun website, and I don't know what you guys think but her facial expression is somewhat shy and even a tad self-conscious. She looks overjoyed and happy (quite obviously) but I wonder if she was a bit self-conscious of all the attention (had I remembered when she was getting married, I probably would've just showed up -- judging by the pictures the wedding must have been beautiful).

One of the songs I like the most of Bif Naked is "My Whole Life". I have not been able to find the song either on iTunes (I must not be looking the right way) or a full video on YouTube, so this will have to do. And again, even though I've never met her in person, congratulations to her and her husband!

Miscellaneous and quick post

I will itemize this post because I don't want to waste my reader's time :) so without further ado:
  • I will be doing a lot of Spoonbacks (that means, I am linking my restaurant reviews to Urban Spoon) in the next few days. I still haven't found out how to include the gadget unless I edit each post individually. I find that Urban Spoon is a useful resource to concentrate information on local restaurants, bars and coffee shops. However, my continuous update of my blog posts may screw your RSS feed, though, since when I update on Blogspot, sometimes a few RSS readers will pick it up as though it is a recent post when it is an old post. Sorry about the inconvenience.
  • I haven't seen any of the movies of the Vancouver International Film Festival. However, Jark at Beyond Robson has a whole series of reviews, so mosey over there if you want to learn more about these movies. I may show up to one and possibly two movies, but don't think this will happen before next week.
  • I have been trying to do an interview on sustainable restaurants, I just haven't gotten around to it because I've been swamped with work.
  • I hate this weather. I simply hate it. And this year I am the best prepared I have ever been in a decade in Vancouver. I have enough rain gear, boots, jackets, everything. I have even ran in the rain (and didn't freak out). But I just hate the cold and the weather.
Ok, so that is that. I will be back soon.

Monday, October 01, 2007

The reasons why my Mom is super cool

Whenever I read some Vancouver-based blogs, I am often reminded of family (see my post below on Brothers and Sisters). My Mom reads my blog very rarely (mainly because I write in English and she hates to have to read some of my stuff in English - ask her to read in Spanish and she's a voracious reader). When she does, she likes my writing, apparently (she loved her Mother's Day post). But in general, she won't read my blog unless I ask her to. However, I often read Miss604's mom commenting on Rebecca's blog (under the cool pseudonym Mom604). Her Mom-in-law does that too. I find this immensely cool.

Now, the thing is - there are numerous other reasons why I think my Mom is super cool.
  • Mom is a political scientist and a professor. This, in and of itself, makes her cool to me. I can discuss world affairs with her and she always has a very unique view of the world. Her insights are always very valuable.
  • Mom is an amazing cook. Her Mole con Pollo is by and large the best I've ever had. She taught me how to cook meatloaf this year (and she loves my curry chicken with basmati rice, so I must have learned something).
  • Mom is fearless. And by this, I mean she is never afraid to take on challenges. She raised her kids and then decided she wanted a PhD in political science. So she packed her bags, left her beautiful house and she moved to a foreign country all by her lonesome for a few years. And she succeeded! How cool is that?
  • Mom is never afraid to speak the truth and to be forthright. Her and I are excellent friends. We always speak directly, no-holds barred. We had a heart-to-heart a few nights ago which left me thinking about all the things I need to improve.
  • Mom is the most loving and caring individual I have ever met. She sacrificed her career and her well-being many times to take us where we are right now. I wouldn't be who I am if it wasn't for her.
Today is definitely not Mother's Day, but whenever I read blogs where cool Moms write comments I am always reminded of my own uber-cool Mom. Gracias por todo, Mom.

The best service I've gotten in Vancouver

So I've just recently been perusing Darren's blog (Timing and Delivery). Funny how it goes, I was about to write a blog post about the great service I've received in this city. So I'm going to send you over to his blog (it's quite entertaining and well-written) and then come back to mine for a quick list of the best service I've received in Vancouver (food-wise). In no particular order. Some of the servers' names I have tried to anonymize because I am not sure if they'd be happy to be mentioned by name.

* K at The Cascade Room - she was unbelievable. Prompt, friendly, super fast. At one point she said "my only concern is that you guys have a great time". Ten stars out of ten. Nine stars to the hostess who was so friendly and sweet.
* All the servers at Sodas' Diner - You know exactly how I like my bacon and cheese burger without cheddar but with mushrooms. Yeah, you rock my world. Ten stars out of ten.
* The servers at The Cat's Meow - Admittedly, I fell out of love for this restaurant, but the service was always top-notch. Can you believe one of the waitresses said to me "oh your scrambled eggs got cold - I'll just have the kitchen whip up new ones for you". Amazing! Nine stars out of ten.
* The staff at Cafe Barney on Granville Street - Everyone here is so friendly, and they spoil me rotten every time I show up for dinner. Eight stars out of ten.
* The cook, servers and host of Crave on Main - The best brunch in town hands down. Although we sometimes need to wait a bit in line, we always get the best value and service. Eight stars out of ten.
* Lisa, Vinetta and the staff at Rhizome - They have created one of the friendliest atmospheres in the Main Street - East Vancouver - Mount Pleasant area, and their chilaquiles are to-die-for. Nine stars out of ten.
* The Gwyneth-Paltrow look-alike at The Whip on Main and 6th - She is gorgeous, she is friendly and she is always on-the-ball. She made my visit to The Whip twice as pleasant (I was there with S and A, which was awesome in the first place)
* The owners of the Red Sea Cafe - I am a loyal customer of this Fraser and Broadway restaurant, and one time I was SO pressed for time, J and I just showed up and said "we need food, we need it fast and we need the bill ASAP". We got in, ate amazing yedoro wot and ocra and proceeded to head out to the movies. It took less than 45 minutes altogether. Their food is amazing and they're super sweet. Ten stars out of ten.
* The cook and waitresses at Cafe Luxy - Eat lots of good pasta and amazing desserts. Be provided with amazing service. Repeat as often as needed. Eight stars out of ten.
* The owner, cook and staff of Water Street Cafe - My favorite Italian food restaurant. Owner speaks Italian (in addition to English). I get spoiled rotten (came here on the day of my birthday and was an amazing experience. Ten stars out of ten.
* Vicki and Theo at Alexis Restaurant in Kitsilano (Broadway and Vine) - I just love their food and their personalities. They're awesome. Ten stars out of ten.
* The owners and staff of Enigma (on Trimble and Tenth Avenue) - Brunch here any day of the week or weekend. Bliss. Ten stars out of ten.

Music Review - Pictures of You by The Last Goodnight

Before the season premiere of Brothers and Sisters, I had never listened to The Last Goodnight, a great band that has produced a great song as the backdrop for this show's first episode of the season. I find the music an interesting combination between rock and ballad. Soft rock if you might. Here is the video, judge by yourselves.

TV Show Review - Brothers and Sisters

I had to admit to my friends C and H that yeah, I do on occasion watch TV. This particular show, Brothers and Sisters, is one of the very few that has me hooked. The story of matriarch Nora and their dysfunctional children Sarah, Kitty, Kevin, Tommy and Justin is one that everyone can relate to. They fight, they bicker, they create conflicts amongst each other but more than anything, they love each other and they are always there when things get rough, and when they are needed.

I couldn't say whether my own family is or not dysfunctional (it all depends on the definition), but as always, there are times when we bicker at each other, when we complain about each other. But more than anything, and that's one thing that this show reminds me of, we stick by each other. We love each other very, very much. My brothers and my parents, my nieces and nephews, my sisters in law and extended family, all of these people make my life much happier. My family IS indeed my cornerstone, my foundational piece, the people to whom I run back when I feel the need for unconditional love. For having a family like the one I have, I am very, very grateful.

Linking back to UrbanSpoon

Thanks to Rebecca @, I found out about UrbanSpoon. It's sort of like, but with a different (more geographically-oriented and visual) interface. At any rate, I added their code to a couple of my restaurant reviews. I think I've reviewed about 70 different restaurants for dinner, 17 for brunch and a number of coffee shops, so I am not sure I want to link each one of my posts to UrbanSpoon on my own. Rebecca suggested a method to link back my restaurant reviews, but I have an insane amount of them on my blog, so I'll let you know how fast UrbanSpoon picks up my reviews :)