Friday, November 30, 2007

Dining out responsibly in Vancouver

Two of Vancouver's excellent brunch places (Rhizome and The Elbow Room) are featured on The Globe and Mail this week. The piece is actually quite well written, I really liked Elianna Lev's style. This article reminded me a bit of the concept of green restaurants, but in this case, I think the keywords would be "socially responsible" restaurants.

The idea of Corporate Social Responsibility is very often associated with sustainability because caring for the environment is just one of many ways in which corporations can be responsible with society, taking into account their needs and wants [the Wikipedia entry on CSR is currently nominated to be discussed for neutrality, but overall, I think it's ok].

I think Rhizome is at the forefront of socially responsible restaurants. Beyond the idea of the lentils where you "pay what you feel", one of the key elements that Rhizome brings not only to the East Vancouver/Mount Pleasant community but to the larger Vancouver society is that this is a place where social justice is one of the main themes. In an growingly corporate world, Rhizome is a breath of fresh air.

As for The Elbow Room, I used to be a steady customer for many years, but since it's downtown and I am now an East Vancouver boy, I rarely have brunch there anymore. However, this is definitely a responsible restaurant. For decades now, The Elbow Room owners have collected donations for A Loving Spoonful (a charitable organization for which I have Blogathoned in the past).

I believe that there is an increasing trend towards corporate social responsibility in the service industry. For example, some coffee shops like Lugz will only serve ethically-produced coffee. Other restaurants will serve fish that is certified with OceanWise. Green Table is an organization that helps restaurants become more green. There is a myriad of additional examples out there (I just don't know them all).

I would be interested in hearing more stories of socially-responsible restaurants in the Metro Vancouver area, if you have any.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Restaurant review - Toshi's (Main Street)

We had heard lots, and lots, and lots of people raving about the sushi that Toshi's offers. The line-up outside the little establishment (30 seats, 6 waitresses) on 16th Avenue between Quebec and Main Streets can extend at times to the end of the block. We had driven by, a good 60 times (and I am not kidding) and we had never been able to make it there on time to avoid the line-ups.

Thus, we wanted to celebrate M's birthday there and therefore I ended up standing outside since 4:30pm. M and I had agreed she'd show up at 5:30pm (bad idea since I could have gotten us a table at 5:00pm sharp, since the line was short). By the way, thank you to the guy who loaned me his cell phone to call M's office (another reason why I need a new cell phone!).

Anyhow, we got to seat at around 5:45 pm and ordered edamame, go mae, a few rolls and some tofu. And I am going to say that I found the sushi not as good as Kaide's, and certainly not as good as Kishu Mountain. So I'm quite disappointed. For all the hype (and having to stand out in the cold for a good half hour), neither M nor I were impressed.

Would I go back to Toshi's? No. Definitely not. Maybe they were having an off day, but with two great choices for sushi where I don't need to stand out in the cold. It was good to know first-hand about Toshi's though. The guy who loaned me his cell phone was raving about Toshi's (and funny how it goes, we had already bumped into each other before, but I doubt he remembers) and I was quite underwhelmed. No more Toshi's for me, please.

What I will and won't miss while I'm away from Vancouver

I was thinking about the things I will (and will not) miss while I am away from this beautiful city. Some things are associated with Vancouver in general, while some are specific to my life here. So without any specific order, here are my thoughts.

I won't miss...
  1. The screaming kid that lives upstairs from me and his running around, stomping on my ceiling (his floor) on purpose. I will most certainly not miss his inability to shut up even when his parents yell at him.
  2. The gross weather we have been having. Excuse me, cold and slushie rain? No, thanks. I'm all for warm and dry climates. For a while, anyways.
  3. The lengthy commutes to and from my office, nor having to commute everywhere by bus (ah, the beauties of a small city).
  4. Some incredibly expensive food items ($ 1.00 for three limes? wow, for that money I buy three kilograms where I'm headed!
I will miss...
  1. My friends in the Metro Vancouver area. Each one of them is unique and I value their friendship in and of itself. I am very privileged to have the friends I do, and I will miss them dearly. If it weren't because I have to go, I would most likely stay for Christmas and the New Year. I am that confident that I would have a great time with them.
  2. My tiny apartment. Even though it is indeed tiny, and my neighbours upstairs are incredibly noisy, this is my own personal space and I am very happy with what I have. It's a small place, but it's cozy and more important, it's my own (I gave up on roomies a long, long, long time ago).
  3. The natural beauty of British Columbia. Especially Vancouver and the North Shore. I often go to Deep Cove, West Vancouver, Lonsdale Quay, Porteau Cove and Stanley Park for relaxation and to gather my thoughts. Some of my fondest memories are associated with these places. I will miss this.
  4. Playing volleyball on Saturdays and Sundays. Both my teams are lovely people and I have a ton of fun with them. And (even though I thought that an old dog couldn't learn new tricks), my game has improved a lot.
  5. The sense of self I feel while living in Vancouver. Since I live on my own here, I feel extremely independent. More than anything, I feel myself. When I go and visit my parents, I feel in many ways, constrained. I don't think I'm often the Raul I know.
  6. The opportunity to mend and salvage a couple of friendships. Given that I will be away from the city for a fairly lengthy visit, I won't have the opportunity to try and mend a number of relationships that, for one reason or another, have cooled off. Since statistically, we are bound to bump into each other, I'd like to make amends with these people -- but that will have to wait until the New Year.
  7. Talking to my brother every day. Since we live only a province away (thank you long distance phone plans), my brother and I talk over the phone quite regularly. I will definitely miss hearing his voice and having both profound conversations and totally silly chats. But well, this one can be fixed since we can talk on the phone while I am there.
When you travel over the holidays, or when you are away from Vancouver (or from wherever you happen to be from), what do you miss the most? What is it that you do not miss at all?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Upcoming event - Christmas on Cambie

For some reason, I always seem to be behind every other bloggers on the news front, so I am a bit afraid to bring something up to people's attention just because I think it has been covered in more depth and better by other bloggers (see just for a few examples, Rebecca on the Vancouver mascots, Paul on the non-usability of iMove and John on the challenges faced by Cambie merchants).

However, I think this time I may have some very fresh news for you loyal Vancouver and non-Vancouver readers. From the owners of Trixi's, one of the most fabulous crepe places this side of Paris, I got the following email:
Dear Trixi's Customers,

It's been a while that you have heard from us. We have some great news. As of Sunday, December the 2nd, the trench will be paved over and cross streets from 16th to 19th will be open again. In order to celebrate the progress of the Canadaline construction in the Village the Cambie Village Business Association together with Canadaline are inviting friends and neighbours to "Christmas on Cambie" on Sunday, December 9th from 12 pm to 5 pm.

For more info see

We are very excited about this and hope you will come out to visit sometime soon.

We look forward to seeing many of our customers again and serving you one (or two) of our delicious crepes.

Ernst and Beatrix
I love going to Trixi's and have been a loyal customer for almost two years now. And I am also a strong supporter of businesses on Cambie, both promoting events and being a customer of Cambie businesses (even if it means having to navigate and negotiate street intersections, etc.) So I would strongly encourage you all to go on December 9th. Furthermore, since I will not be in Canada by then, would readers please go back to this post and leave a comment with your experience at the event? Thank you.

[Note] The link for Trixi's is actually a Canada Line link, but they are promoting Trixi's, for which I didn't find a website. But you can look at the Cambie Village Business Association website for more info.

Being a good cook may signify over-eating :)

I am (luckily or unfortunately) a fairly good cook, and one of my specialty dishes is Pasta a la Puttanesca. The only problem is that once I'm hungry and enjoying one particular flavor (or set of flavors), it's really hard to stop eating. I switched to rice and thus I ended up making some sort of mixture of Jambalaya and burgoo.

I really love this type of food (gumbos, burgoos, etc), and since my good friend LM suggested that I try less wheat, I have enjoyed cooking these dishes. The only problem is I can't stop myself! I bought a type of sausage called "garlic tube" and I have eaten it in scrambled eggs and sandwiches like there's no tomorrow. That's the only problem with me. Once I enjoy a specific flavor, it's hard for me to say no to it.

Getting sweet SWAG from Ark Clothing (Main Street)

Also known as "the Stuff We All Get", swag is sort of a made-up word that I hadn't heard until I started reading blogs. The Urban Dictionary defines swag as:
Promotional merchandise for a band, record label, or other entity in the music business, usually distributed at concerts. May include t-shirts, stickers, promo CDs, posters, etc. Often free, but not necessarily.[Urban Dictionary]
I picked up some swag from The Ark Store, on Main Street and the corner of 10th Avenue. I love this store. They have some ridiculously amazing things. I saw a beautiful set of two necklaces that have pieces of a puzzle (two pieces that fit perfectly and have the words ME and YOU) engraved in brass. These necklaces almost made me melt.

My friend L purchased a set of awesome tights, and in general I'd say the store is awesome. You should check it out.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Stage 2 of pre-travel clean-up

As any normal Virgo, I am going through all my old receipts, my drawers, my piles of books and articles, etc., in order to make sure that I bring everything I need to my parents' place. You see, I am sort of a workaholic. I am supposed to be on holiday for the whole month of December, yet I don't see myself being able to do that. So I have to bring some work with me.

I am also printing out travel itineraries, location of hotels where I am going to be staying at while away, etc. Kind of funny, actually. And again I am not sure why the exhaustion. It's only past midnight and I am unable to function (and still waking up at 6 am darn it).

Raving about printers

Even though the Bollwitts (Rebecca and John) are testing now a super suave color Brother printer, I don't think I should refrain from raving about my humble HP Laserjet 1020. I have started to find it more and more useful and easier to use (well, almost six to nine months after purchase!). Anyhow, I really like the speed and how quiet it is.

I also really like the fact that it can do double-sided (not automatically as other Laserjets used to be able to do, but still it does allow me to save paper AND it's not as complicated as you may think). I have been able to print full articles (2 in 1 pages) and envelopes. Pretty near, I tell you.

I know that Darren Barefoot did extend an invitation to other local bloggers and I should've taken him up on the offer, but honestly I am not printing a lot of beautiful color pages. Although come to think about it, I'm now thinking what I want to print... hehe maybe I'll just have to ask (nicely) Rebecca or Tanya to print some stuff for me.

Ooops... don't you hate it when a good idea comes to you like, weeks after you should've implemented it? I now think I recall what I needed to print in color and I can't as I don't have a color printer. Darn it!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Stage 1 of pre-travel clean-up

So I am heading south of the border for the Christmas holidays, and thus I am starting with pre-travel preparations. I should have (and I am hoping to be able to create) a to-do list with everything that I need to do before I travel. But you know, sometimes it's easier just to find a web page, copy and paste and then print it out and check items as you go along.

As for stage 1 of my travel preparations, I cleaned up the fridge, sent a couple of letters on the mail, wrote a page of commentaries I needed to submit, copied and pasted a few slides to prepare for a presentation I am giving next week. So I did get a lot accomplished within a very short period of time. Nevertheless, I'm pretty stressed and don't want to forget anything. It's like I want to make sure my trip is seamless.

Suggestions for preparation before a long trip?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

I am back !!!

For a few weeks now (maybe even months), I noticed that I had lost (to a certain degree) some confidence in myself. I was mentally tired, exhausted, even sometimes grumpy. I did keep a very busy social life but I started to think that I was depressed and spent a substantial amount of time re-examining what was going on in my life.

However, this week (and particularly the past couple of days), I have been feeling very much like myself again. I have listened to "Bye Bye Brasil" by Bossacucanova on my iPod non-stop, and I have had a chance to socialize a lot with my close friends like old times (e.g. not worried sick that I wouldn't have enough time to finish my projects). I did American Thanksgiving with a group of friends, did dinner with another group of friends and have scheduled dinners with K and M (independently, as M's birthday was last week and I owe her a celebration; and K really wants to try Ethiopian food). Furthermore, HZ and CS had me, BS and JH for dinner the other night (chicken fajitas), and we had an amazing time. Clearly, this couple (HZ and CS) are made for each other. They complement each other so well it's amazing. My friends BS and JH also hit it off, and I am really very lucky that they may hang out too. I am very lucky, really, because I have the group of friends that I do.

I spent some quality time with J as well, and we had great conversations (as we usually do). But one thing I noticed when I was talking to him and it really stuck with me was that, even though my knee hurts, my serve is totally nowhere to be found, and I didn't hit as hard as I usually do, I feel very happy with my volleyball. I feel happy with my work and at peace with myself. More than that, I feel myself again.

I know I can do things, I know I am talented and I know I am very gifted, not only in terms of my capabilities and my own work, but also in the social and family realms. I have friends who care for me and love me very much. I have a family, I have a great life and I am successful. I feel like I am myself again. I feel like I am the Raul I used to know.

It did take me a while to realize this to its full extent, and to feel like a star again. So, to my loved ones (friends and family), my loyal blog readers, my former students, everyone who has a place in my heart and in my life, I can summarize how I feel in just one sentence:

I AM BACK!!!!!!!!

Movie review - Because I Said So

I won't do a long review because honestly speaking, "Because I Said So" was the worst use of my time and 1 hour and 45 minutes of my life that I will never get back since I attended a public lecture by a renowned urban sociologist (which was as well another 1.75 hrs I'll never get back). This movie sucks so bad it's not even funny. I am sad that Gabriel Macht, Lauren Graham, Tom Everett Scott and Piper Perabo (actors that I had some degree of respect for) chose to do this movie. The only good thing is that I discovered that Mandy Moore sings, indeed. She has a powerful and strong voice. But the movie is terrible. See for yourselves if you want.

I need a cell phone, PRONTO!

I lost my cell phone a few weeks back. A few days ago I was making a list of the reasons why I needed it. And I've come to realize that I need it because
  • I do have a social life.
  • Said social life is quite busy.
  • I need to be available to friends and family.
  • I sometimes need to phone people and there are no pay phones near by.
  • I need to be able to text-message my friends.
  • I need an alarm clock (I don't own one because my cell used to be my watch).
  • I need a watch (I don't own one because my cell used to be my watch)
Simply put, I can't live without a cell phone in this age and day. Although I know a couple of friends who don't own one, I luckily have quite the social life and can't be incommunicado.

So, I am surveying phone plans and stuff. Suggestions gratefully accepted.
  • I don't want a long-term plan, so either it is a plan that I can get out of quite easily and/or it is pay-as-you-go.
  • I do need unlimited incoming calls because people call me quite often.
  • I want to spend as little money as I can.
  • I don't need data capabilities but I need voice-mail and text messaging. Caller ID would be nice.
  • I want the most basic phone (e.g. I don't want a super sophisticated handset).
Would love to hear your thoughts.

Music Review - Bye, Bye Brasil by Bossacucanova

My good friend Nomade Moderne introduced me to Bossacucanova earlier this year, and to be quite frank, I was a bit shocked about how similar some of our musical tastes were. Mixing bossa nova with electronica and a bit of jazz here and there, Bossacucanova brings you amazing music. This is my very favorite song (although unfortunately I haven't been able to find the YouTube clip for the version I have on my iPod (from the album Brasilidade). The first clip I found is the actual song but it's not the Bossacucanova version. The second clip is a snippet of one of Bossacucanova's concerts (Samba de minha terra).

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Restaurant review - Las Margaritas (Kitsilano)

I regret having recommended Las Margaritas to John and Rebecca. Honestly, it used to be much better. But the place has gone downhill. I went there with L, W, K and R for brunch a few weeks back, and the first thing I noticed is that their brunch menu is totally non-existent.

The prices have gone up, and for a simple mango salad, I wouldn't pay $8 bucks (anywhere). The service was absolutely terrible. I was going to order the Huevos Rancheros (which in the standard format are over-easy). But I don't like over-easy eggs, so I told the waitress that I'd like to see if they could do my eggs scrambled and without cheese. She bluntly and rudely said "we won't change our menu for you". I was totally stunned.

Then she basically dumped my glass of Coca-Cola on the table, and continued showing a really rude attitude. Of course, when I paid my part, I gave her a very minimal tip (I would have not left any tip but I was with my friends, who did tip, so I felt somewhat obligated).

With Las Margaritas, it won't be "debut y despedida" but absolute farewell. I am NOT coming back here, and I will not recommend it ever again. At least not until the restaurant owners have fired this woman, revamped their brunch menu and instilled some sense of customer service on their staff.

Restaurant review - The Sour Pickle Cafe (Victoria, BC)

Truth be told, I should've written this restaurant review earlier this week, but I've been so busy socializing that I have completely left it to the last minute. Since I am trying to check a few items off of my list (including restaurant reviews I had overdue, and stuff) I decided to write it now (before I head off to yet another dinner with friends).

While J and I were visiting Victoria, we basically had time to chat over breakfast and dinner, given his work schedule. So our last breakfast together was at The Sour Pickle Cafe. We found this little place while doing a walk around the Victoria core, and I figured it had breakfast so we headed over there.

We had a really great time. Their breakfast special is so inexpensive I almost fainted ($ 4.00 for full breakfast... hello? not even at Bon's you get that!)... and the service was top-notch. This must be an owner-operated place, otherwise I can't figure out how they manage to provide such good breakfast. I was also pleasantly surprised that it was so inexpensive (with my budgetary constraints, this was a welcome surprise!).

Restaurant review - Denny's (Birch and Broadway)

LF and I were talking about how some people disagree that a food critic is serious when he/she eats HP Sauce and ketchup (a complaint I heard from someone who criticized one of my restaurant reviews). Truth is, I believe that these sauces are important for brunch items. At any rate, I love brunch with friends and I know that some people may hate Denny's, but truthfully it wasn't bad. It was actually really good.

C, B and KW had asked me if I wanted to do brunch with them on Thanksgiving Day, so I agreed and when they picked me up, they suggested Denny's. We had done brunch there before so I had no complaints. This time I tried the meatloaf and it was really good. My friend B got a bit of debris on her sandwich, but I think that was an accident. So, overall, I'd say Denny's is good food for the value.

I couldn't find UrbanSpoon's site for Denny's, so I can't link there. But here is the link to the website. And the best part, as I've often emphasized, that I got to hang out with C, B and KW. I really appreciate their support throughout thick and thin. They've really stood up for me whenever I've needed. They've consoled me, fed me, encouraged me and made me laugh. I am very lucky with my group of friends.

Music review - My Need by Janet Jackson

There are a number of songs that make me want to dance and this is perhaps one of my top 10. Janet Jackson has been criticized for a number of reasons (particularly the Super Bowl debacle) but her music is always amazing. This is one of the best tunes she has, IMHO.

Restaurant review - Mosaic at Burrard

Having brunch with close friends is always awesome, particularly after having had a somewhat sad Friday. My great friend LF suggested that we try Mosaic at Burrard, which is the hotel restaurant for the Hyatt Regency Vancouver. I'd never been and neither had she, so we settled for brunch/lunch here.

Naturally, the prices are higher than at a normal restaurant, but bear in mind that this is a top-notch hotel and thus you pay a premium. That being said, this is definitely top notch breakfast. I ordered a frittata and LF requested a chicken sandwich (I couldn't find the menu online, so I can't really offer you that).

There were several things that made it outstanding. The waiter was looking after our very need (although coffee refills weren't as fast as I expected them, but the service was phenomenal nonetheless). We started off with coffee and orange juice (freshly squeezed) and we received a complimentary smoothie, which was kind of funny considering that my mental association looks something like this:

(Smoothie)=(Only Possibly Tolerable Food Item after Horrible Hungover)

And since I had a smoothie last time I had been hungover before meeting LF, this brought good and bad memories (bad because of the hangover). Anyhow, on to the restaurant review. The frittata was great, although I was a bit taken aback by the salad on top of the frittata. However, the bread, the potatoes and the frittata itself were amazing. LF seemed to enjoy her sandwich. She praised the dressing, which luckily was served on the side.

Would I recommend Mosaic to potential customers? Absolutely. This is a great experience if you come with someone you really like or it is a business brunch. I know that they have brunch buffet but I doubt I could eat that much food in one sitting. One word of warning: it is fairly expensive, but definitely worth the money, particularly if it is (as it was the case) a pre-Christmas dinner.

Since I am leaving Vancouver way too early this year, we had to meet for brunch much earlier than we expected. Nevertheless, it was great fun, and luckily a great place to eat with a very good friends. LF and I have been excellent friends since over a decade, so it's fun to really talk very openly and about everything with her. Good times indeed :)

Mosaic in Vancouver

Friday, November 23, 2007

TV Show Review - CSI (Miami, NY and Las Vegas)

There is a gazillion of reasons why I enjoy CSI (Crime Scene Investigation) in all its three locations (Miami, Las Vegas and New York). In a former life (well, when I was a child), I wanted to be a criminologist. Being the child of lawyers, I had grown up seeing my parents bring bad people to justice. And I wanted to be helpful for them in their enterprise, so I figured "why not criminalistics and/or criminology".

My parents, awesome and liberal as they were, suggested that I should take courses in the police academy, learn from books and/or talk to forensic specialists to see if I'd really enjoy doing this for a living. Now, bear in mind that I did a lot of things when I was a child, just because I thought they were fun. I didn't actually think they would be my career. As I had previously posted, sometimes I just learned a new thing in order to teach it or share it with my friends.

I figured that learning criminalistics (also known as forensic science) would be a fun activity. I even wrote manuals and handbooks (promise not to laugh if I tell you that I wrote manuals on how to decorate a room, how to be a detective, how to set up a library... I was a nerd!).

When I see the reality of crime and crime labs, the realization that I chose the right career (and not one in forensic science) was all much more clear. But that doesn't mean that I don't love the CSI shows. One of the great elements that makes C.S.I. a phenomenal show is that it intertwines personal elements within the forensics team (e.g. they have fights, they have romantic relationships, etc.)

Take care of yourselves

I attended a celebration of life today for Dr. Richard Ericson, a well-renowned scholar of criminology. During the program, his wife, Diana Ericson, gave a beautiful speech where she talked (as she was finishing her eulogy of her late husband) about the need for academics and scholars to take care of themselves.

Academia, as many other professions, can really take a toll on individuals. Professors are expected to do research, teach, write, participate in academic life, train and mentor graduate students, write grants to fund their research, sometimes even manage the funds for those research projects, and volunteer their time in many ways, shapes and forms.

Burnout in academia takes many shapes and forms. Often times, doctoral candidates and tenure-track assistant professors take on so much work that their stress overpowers them. One strategy to cope with academic burnout, I would argue, is to cultivate friendships and relationships. Another one is to enjoy humour, like PhDComics.

It was thus very fitting to hear Diana emphasize that young scholars (and also seasoned professors) should be careful and have a balanced life. Often times academic fatigue leads promising researchers and teachers in a downward spiral. That's true for many other professions, but I seriously believe that academia is greatly undervalued. Thus, I would like to pass Diana's wise words (not her exact words though) on to you: take care of yourselves.

Much to say, too little time

So you'll have to apologize my point-form post...
  • M's birthday was on Monday, and I was so crazy busy trying to finish a major piece of work that I completely forgot. It wasn't until Thursday that she reminded me and I feel SO guilty about having forgotten her birthday like you have no idea. Given M's sense of loyalty and dedication to her friends, family and work, I feel twice as guilty. Admittedly, I was super stressed. But I should have made sure to send her a birthday email. Luckily I do have her birthday gift already and I'll take her out for dinner to make up for my forgetfulness.
  • Had a wonderful American Thanksgiving dinner thanks to the hospitality of M and K. Good friends of mine C and H were also there, as well as three other friends of the hosts. Lots of laugh, good food, and great times. And yeah, I'm still a light-weight. Two and a half glasses of wine made my evening quite the experience, he he he.
  • One of my best friends, who is now living a split life between Madrid and Mexico City, called me this morning. It was so nice to hear his voice again. We met in Vancouver around a decade ago, and we have maintained a very strong bond despite the physical distance. This friend of mine (CB) is very successful and it was nice to catch up as though no time had passed.
  • My best friend from high school's birthday (LEAD) was yesterday, November 22nd. I really did intent to call him but I've been running around so much it was pretty much impossible. Oh, well, I'll have to make it up when I visit.
  • My great friends C and B managed to sneak a visit with KW, since she's visiting them for American Thanksgiving. Since C and B will have a ton of friends over for these holidays, I know that it'll be a complete madhouse at their place. But we managed to do lunch together (at Denny's of all places, and it was quite good) and then we did coffee on Granville Island. Spending time with C and B and KW is always really fun, and I got to meet JN's mom and brother too. Very nice people. I still can't believe I've done so much socializing in the past day!
On a funny note, while walking around, KW noticed a really cute guy and when I turned left to see who she was talking about, guess who it was? One of the Ashmore twins! I am not sure if it was Aaron Ashmore or Shawn Ashmore (I would probably guess it was Aaron since the Screenwriters Guild of America is on strike, and perhaps Smallville is on hiatus -- thus giving him some time to walk around Granville Island's Market, but I'm not totally sure). He is strikingly handsome in person (I have met other actors in person and they are usually not as good looking in real life as they look on TV). And the funny thing is (oh beautiful laid-back Vancouver) that nobody really seemed to care that he was a TV star. Everyone let him do his thing (he was hanging out with friends of him, apparently). Ah, to live in the West Coast...

The next few days will be crazy so don't expect content to be posted very frequently. But I'll keep you on the loop, I promise.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Not that I'm complaining, but...

Admittedly, I prefer sunny skies with freezing weather to cold rain and clouds. But would The-Powers-That-Be mind increasing the temperature, say, to 7 oC? Thank you. On completely inane news, my place is a complete mess. I managed to transform my clean and neat place into a total pigsty. Also, I'm definitely a poultrarian.

Music Review - You Really Got Me (Van Halen, The Kinks and Boyband)

The best way to destroy a great song is to make a cover out of it. The original song by The Kinks is great, the Van Halen cover is ok, but OMG look at the Boyband remake and you'll have to agree with me that it absolutely sucks.

I am a creature of the night... or am I?

During my recent trip to Victoria, I had to wake up at the ungodly hours of 5.30 am, 6.30am and one day, 6.00am. Thus, I am somewhat not surprised that I woke up today at 7.30 am (even though technically, I went to bed after midnight). And I didn't even complain about the noise upstairs. It was a natural wake-up call.

I know for a fact that my brain requires between 5 and 7 solid hours of sleep or otherwise, I won't be functioning. However, it was funny to discover that I had grown used to an early rise. As a matter of fact, yesterday I was so tired by 11.30am that I started wondering what was wrong with me. Well, nothing is wrong, but if you think about the fact that I had been already up for 5 hours, I shouldn't be all that surprised.

Can people really switch sleeping patterns and habits that they have had for many, many years? I tried to do this switch in 2002, and then again in 2004. However, it really didn't work very well. There were times when I was sleeping 3 to 4 hours, because I was teaching first thing in the morning (6 am) then came home, had breakfast and went to work. Furthermore, I needed to prepare my lectures in the evening, so often I would go to bed at 2 am.

J and I were talking about our former capacities to work all day and night to finish projects, and how through time, we seem to have lost that amazing capacity to work. But the truth is, I think that as people grow older, their physiques are unable to take as much pounding as we used to impart on them. Now we need more sleep, and more regular hours of sleep.

All in all I am not that upset about this apparent behavioral switch. I'll see how long it lasts.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Sidney by the Sea (British Columbia)

I had bad memories from Victoria, Vancouver Island in general and Sidney (also known as Sidney by the Sea) thanks to my ex (who hails from North Saanich). However, I had the chance to spend a few days on the island with my close friend J, so I decided to re-create my memories and build new (and happier) ones.

So we started off our visit with Sidney. We arrived late during the day so we had to basically do a walk around and then eat lunch. The place where we had lunch (Cafe Med) is very cute and the service was really nice. Brunch wasn't really expensive at all. I personally love everything about Sidney. Even though it appears as though it's almost a retirement community (lots of seniors), the shoreline has changed and there are new buildings right across from the Cannery.

I was reading that Sidney used to be a farming community, but I can't really see how. Renowned for whale-watching and its mineral museum, Sidney is the quintessential small town in Canada. You can walk it in less than an hour. I could work there given that within the first two minutes of walking around, I found an environmental services firm. I also found a nice mix of residential and commercial land uses. And being there just brought good memories to me, as well as allowed me to re-create new beautiful ones.

We walked around the Fisherman's Wharf, and had a nice stroll on the Sidney dock. We didn't get to have dinner at Bistro Suisse, which would've been really nice, but I guess that'll have to wait until next time we visit. The advantage is that it's very near to the Victoria Airport.

And for all of us, urban planners/environmental folks, this is so cool! It's a complete socio-economic and demographic analysis of Sidney. I will save the PDF file for my future reference should I decide to move there.

I need my numbers up :-)

So I have some idea of how people get to my blog. Quick summary:

a). Google, and generally for my restaurant reviews.
b). Urban Spoon, and generally for my restaurant reviews too.
c). Some Googling of environmental issues.
d). Local (Vancouver and surrounding areas) bloggers (the usual suspects).
e). Bloggers in other parts of the world who know me.
f). Friends of mine in different countries (US, Mexico, Netherlands, etc.)
g). Colleagues and friends with whom I've shared my blog address.
h). People who like tennis matches such as the one Monica Seles vs. Steffi Graf (final of the Australian Open 1992, a phenomenal match).

And I want my numbers up. Not that I'm just wanting you to come visit my blog just 'cause. I just appreciate the love :) [and clearly, I'm so brain-dead after my recent effort to publish something that I'm not writing anything substantial - sorry for wasting three minutes of your life :-(]

Restaurant review - Rosie's Diner (Victoria BC)

Since Sodas Diner has transformed itself into The Dunbar, J and I have lost our 50s diner where we have always headed to get burgers and fries. The food at The Dunbar is still good, but the decor is not 50's anymore. Thus, I wasn't that surprised that J looked for a 50s diner while we visited Victoria.

And he found one... Rosie's Diner. Located in the beautiful Cook Street Village, Rosie's Diner is simply outstanding. The food is very Canadian, I would say. I had a turkey dinner (turkey meat with mashed potatoes, gravy and cranberry sauce) and J had a Montecristo sandwich. Really inexpensive, and their home-made strawberry cheesecake was to-die-for.

I doubt that we'll be coming to Victoria *just* for the experience of having dinner at a 50's style diner, but I would definitely bring friends or loved ones to Rosie's Diner just because it's a great experience. You can see a photo here.

Beautiful Victoria, British Columbia

So I have spent the last three days in Victoria, one of the prettiest cities I've been to. The weather has been rather cold (zero degrees right now) but it's been sunny. At night, the scenic view of the inner harbour is amazing. The Parliament buildings are well lit at night (with energy-saving light bulbs) and the skies have been so clear it's been a great experience. Plus hanging out with a close friend is always nice.

I had a chance to walk around the city, particularly near Market Square and the Village. Actually the Village looks like it's been frozen in time. We had dinner at a cute little 50s diner called Rosie's Diner (on Cook), and then had a coffee at the Moka Cafe near by. If I could, I'd probably move to this area of town. It does have everything you could possibly need.

I also noticed that the prices for dinner, breakfast and lunch are much cheaper than in Vancouver. This leads me to believe that I would probably be much happier here as it would be cheaper to dine out (which I do quite often). However, I probably would exhaust the places for dinner/brunch quite soon :) considering how often I go out!

All in all, I love Victoria.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Coffee shop review - Esquires Coffee

Located at the corner of 16th Avenue and Oak, Esquires is a cute coffee shop that also has wireless internet. I have had some good coffees here, particularly with close friends. There's also a nice pastry/coffee/deli shop right across the street (Max's), but I definitely enjoy Esquires as I can work on my laptop there.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Realizing a deep truth while washing dishes

And no, I am not kidding you. I realized this while doing my dishes this evening. I love teaching people new things. The more I think about it, I realize that I kept learning and doing interesting stuff to teach and/or share with my friends or loved ones. This may sound ridiculous, but it's true. I recall very clearly my conversations with one of my former best friends (we aren't friends anymore, but that's another story) and I always wanted to share the new things I had learned.

I've done modeling (catwalk and catalogue), bar-tending, competitive volleyball, acting in theatre, contemporary dancing, volunteer with literacy groups teaching how to write and read (in Spanish), and a bunch of other stuff. And the primary driver was to be able to share exciting stuff with people. And teaching is only one of my passions, but clearly it is one I have had since childhood.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


And no, the post title does not refer to the novel Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. In this case, this would be my post # 451. I was going to make a big fuss about my 300th post, and then I wrote a series of posts and before I realized it, I was posting # 303. Then I thought "I'll wait until I'm in the 400s" and same thing happened. So I decided to just mark this one as an important post (I passed the 450 mark with the previous one already).

Several noteworthy points that would warrant fuller discussions but that I don't have the time to delve into.
  • Best recipe of the past couple of weeks: Ma Po Chicken (the actual recipe is for Ma Po Tofu, but I ended up changing tofu cubes for chicken breast cubes). This is tonight's dinner. I made rice (strangely, basmati rice) to go with the Ma Po Chicken. Thanks to B for the recipe and the ma po sauce!
  • Question of the week: Why didn't anybody think of calling an interpreter to help Robert Dziekanski? He was Polish, why would people assume that he spoke Russian (but of course, you would have to have some degree of cultural training and language skills). Getting an interpreter would have been my first reaction. I had talked to my good friend Sara, who is a professional interpreter (English-Spanish), and she mentioned she asked herself the same question.
  • Strike of the week: We just emerged from a civic worker strike recently and now the Screen Guild Writers of America are on strike. If you watch Vancouver-shot shows, such like Bionic Woman, Smallville, Supernatural... you may be in for lots of re-runs.
There are important issues that should be discussed at length, but I don't have the time at the moment, as I have an important deadline for Monday. But I hope you're having a good weekend!

Restaurant review - Arms Reach Bistro (Deep Cove, North Shore)

There are few things in life nicer than having brunch with a close friend at Arms Reach Bistro in Deep Cove (North Vancouver). For me, Deep Cove is the epitome of calm, beautiful, peaceful. It's a small community within the North Shore that has very pretty panoramic views of mountains, Burrard Inlet and Indian Arm.

There are many things that you can do in Deep Cove, but two of the activities I have enjoyed the most and that bring me some of the most beautiful memories are, respectively, having brunch near the water and walking around Deep Cove and the community of Panorama.

We arrived to Arms Reach Bistro thinking that we wouldn't be able to do brunch. However, they d have brunch and the food is amazing. They also have one of the best martinis in town. The staff were extremely friendly, particularly a beautiful young waitress who was born and raised in Deep Cove. She gave us the full 411 on the community... "Deep Cove in a nutshell".

Arms Reach Bistro is the type of place you would take someone you care very much for, or an out-of-town visitor, for brunch/lunch or dinner and then a nice walk around the shores. I absolutely love Deep Cove, had a wonderful time at Arms Reach Bistro and would gladly come back any time. It is even accessible via transit. The map is located here.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Upcoming events on sustainability in Vancouver

This is a multi-event post, so please read carefully.

Community Meetings to Discuss Regional Growth Challenges (Organizer: Metro Vancouver) (Vancouver and Electoral Area A)
When: Nov 19th, 7-9pm,
Where: Vancouver Public Library

In November and December 2007, we will be hosting meetings to talk about regional growth challenges. How can growth be accommodated on a limited land base? How will we provide the housing that will be needed for a growing and aging population? How will we keep Metro Vancouver prosperous and competitive in the global economy? How will people and goods get around in the region? How can we develop in ways that reduce our greenhouse gas emissions?

A Discussion Guide is being prepared to provide a starting point for the consultation process. The guide contains an overview of the issues and outlines the goals, strategies and a number of implementation options.[Metro Vancouver website:]"

Green Drinks:
When: Wednesday November 21st, 5:45pm onwards
Where: Steamworks in Gastown (Skytrain: Waterfront Station)

A monthly gathering of anyone interested in 'green'. Green Drinkers are from all ages, backgrounds and groups - non-profit organizations, academia, government, small business, big business, self-employed, volunteers, students, concerned citizens...and everything in between.

Average attendance is 60, with new people stopping in every time.

Interested in meeting a group of friendly people having lively conversations about all things green? Then join us for drinks!

There's no agenda or other formality - it's just a chance to meet regularly to chat, debate, socialize and connect with others in Vancouver who are passionate about environmental and sustainability issues. Whether you're keen on green building & design, sustainable energy, organic gardening, or something else entirely, you'll find like-minded people. Please feel free to bring your business cards, brochures, info sheets, magazines and newsletters to put on a table for people to take away with them. Do make sure to take whatever you left on the table with you when you leave. [Green Drinks Vancouver]:]

Music Review - Know Who You Are At Every Age by Cocteau Twins

I was first introduced to Cocteau Twins through my ex. While we are no longer dating, I took a liking to the wonderful voice of Elizabeth Fraser and the Cocteau Twins. This is one of the songs I like the most. As you may know, sometimes her words become gibberish. But that's irrelevant. Their music is great. Although I wouldn't recommend their music to people who are feeling blue.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Christmas decorations

Well, so everyone on the Vancouver blogosphere seems to have pulled out the Christmas decorations, so I figured it was time to pull mine. This year I'm starting a bit early because I am not going to be in Vancouver for the whole month of December, so I kinda wanted to show that I had some degree of Christmas spirit in my Vancouver apartment.

Besides, I spend Christmas with my parents and while I decorate my Mom's house to my liking (and hers, quite obviously), it's not the same than decorating my own apartment. I haven't taken pictures of my newly decorated place just yet because I've been super busy. Besides, I need to decide whether it's worth it to put up a few more decorations. I am usually reluctant to clutter my place as it is really tiny. But I guess some stuff in the walls would do the trick.

Suggestions for Christmas decorations that don't occupy lots of space are most welcome.

Music Review - Vogue by Madonna

November is a month of birthdays. Many of my good friends, my niece, my male best friend from my undergraduate and my late auntie's birthday are all in November. My best friend in undergrad (LE) has always been very close to me even though we are separated by thousands of miles. He pushed me to try harder, to be better, even if sometimes he was a slacker at school.

Through our friendship, he learned to be sweeter and I learned to be more pragmatical. One of the best ways to remember him is through the song Vogue. I am (as you might have read before) a trained dancer, and I have choreographed many songs before. I put this one together (Vogue) for our undergraduate graduation. LE was the lead (in drag as Madonna), and he did a fabulous job. So I toast to good memories, to his (upcoming) birthday and to our friendship. Gracias amigo :) Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you... Vogue (courtesy of YouTube).

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Depression vs. feeling down vs. S.A.D.

So I am still trying to understand the whole concept of depression, and how stigmatized the idea is. I had been feeling down for the past four or five days, and I seriously thought I was depressed. However, when I read online resources on depression (e.g., I don't recognize many of the symptoms in my behavioral patterns. I mean, I still socialize as usual, I do some work (maybe not as much as I'd like to, but definitely I do work)... so, really maybe I'm not depressed but just having a bit of S.A.D. and feelings of not being productive.

I tend to feel rather unproductive and blue when the weather is awful (which, in Vancouver, has been pretty much ALL THE TIME). However, when it's sunny, I have absolutely no problems whatsoever doing work. And this morning, funny how it goes, I simply snapped out of it. I woke up at 7:00am, and started working like usual. Had a few meetings in between (some with former students, some with close friends) and a volleyball game. And I feel pretty good.

The thing is, depression is still stigmatized. The sole mention of the word seems to warrant worry and weariness. But I would argue that when you are depressed, you are at in a prime position to recognize who are your true friends. When my friends heard that I was thinking I was depressed, everyone rallied to give me 'pick me up's. I still think that people (myself included) need to be educated about what it means to be depressed. And for those of you who may be afflicted by depression, let me tell you this much: YOU ARE NOT ALONE. There are lots of people out there who suffer from it, and I am pretty sure you can find help if you look for it.

Are environmental issues a fad?

This year has witnessed the publication of an environment-focus full edition of The Vancouver Sun, the bestowing of a Nobel Prize to Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and more recently, the publication of a West Ender with the theme: Green. I am sure I am missing on other environmentally-focused publications and events, but just wanted to provide a small sample.

Despite the fact that I do not live in the West End, I religiously read The West Ender because it has lots of interesting articles. Furthermore, I don't think that there is a Mount-Pleasant-focused newspaper just yet (although admittedly, The Republic of East Vancouver does have some degree of overlap).

Now, the question that lingers in my mind is... are we witnessing a fad or are people really starting to care more for their environment? In a previous post, I indicated that there had been a steady increase in public opinion support for environmental causes and a growing interest in green issues (at some point, environmental issues overtook health as the top concern of Canadians in 2006, if I recall correctly).

So the question is - are we only witnessing a fad or is really environment our top priority? The jury is still out.

It's all those little details...

In the past few weeks, I've been paying more and more attention to small details that just brighten my day. One of the best ways to give myself a "pick me up" is to remember how lucky I am to have the supporting group of friends that I have. A few examples:
  • L and W took me to brunch at The Nice Cafe. They also brought me flowers for my apartment. On a rainy day, these little details made me feel so much better. It's also nice to know that my friends can accommodate my quirks (I don't eat cheese and I enjoy greasy spoon places for brunch).
  • As we often do, C, B, J, L and I went for dinner at Kishu Mountain. The sushi was excellent, the company was superb and I was witness to a small little detail that just made my evening. L brought B a page of Canada stickers (as she had just recently written her citizenship test). This is a demonstration that she cares.
  • I have felt the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder (a mild version) since I first moved to Vancouver, but these past couple of years it has affected me much more. J got me a LiteBook(R) to help me cope with this challenge. Isn't that sweet?
  • A few days back, when I was feeling somewhat blue, A took me for crepes to La Bretagne Creperie near Robson. She knows very well how much I enjoy crepes and she took the initiative to bring me there. We shared, as we often do, our crepes, and it was such a great time!
  • B organized a Diwali party recently and she invited me and insisted that I participated. That helped me a lot because it made me socialize again (this weekend I've been quite anti-social, despite the fact that I've been playing a lot of volleyball). I know she cares deeply for me, and I really appreciate it.
The list could go on for pages and pages, but this is just a small reminder to myself that I've been lucky to be a witness to my friends' lives. By the same token, I am proud to have them be witnesses to my own life. As someone once said, "count your blessings".

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Theatre review - 2o of Fear and Desire

You might have read my earlier post on the upcoming event of 2o of Fear and Desire. I have composed this theatre review previous to the last performance, so I didn't want to publish it until the three plays were over.

I went to the second day (November 8th) with a close friend of mine (J), with the excuse of his upcoming birthday. I love Rhizome and embrace all of what it is. Therefore, I always jump at the opportunity to participate in events that are hosted at this cafe.

My experience with the play was good, but there are several reasons for that.
  • I went to the play with one of my closest friends. Hard to beat a chance to spend time with good friends.
  • I am a specialist in environmental issues. I know the issues at stake and I am well read and well informed.
  • I am a former stage actor, and I've done experiential theatre before.
  • I am very analytical in my personality. I am used to over-analyzing issues and deconstructing my thoughts.
It is an interesting experiment and I would encourage people to go to the main performance, 2 Degrees of Adaptation. Right now these are explorations through the language of theatre, so they're not exactly the final product.

People are asked to share a story and then de-construct the inner motivations behind the interactions amongst characters. As I am a trained actor, I knew what the director wanted from me and from every participant. However, hardly anyone in the audience knew what was expected of them, and thus it took a long time to build the rapport and create the atmosphere that the director wanted.

All this being said, I really enjoyed it because it provided a very different perspective on how to examine the thorny issue of climate change and how to change our own behavioral patterns. These explorations as the director called them are the foundation for a larger ensemble piece called "2 Degrees of Adaptation". I would sincerely support this project and hopefully they will be able to find the funding that will enable them to bring it to fruition.

Ghosts from the past

November is usually a hard month for me, since (as I have mentioned before), I ended my longest and (at the time) most profound romantic relationship ever at the beginning of a November (not this year but a few years back). This relationship was ended on a very sour note, as my ex cheated on me. It was at the end of this relationship that I first got to use the phrase "If I never see you again, it will be too soon" .

It's always hard to find a way to just put all that behind me. Some days I feel as though I'll never think back again about the time when we were together, and some other days I feel as though these ghosts come back to haunt me. How can we be assured that these ghosts are gone for good?

Friday, November 09, 2007

Considering Facebook

Everyone and their mother (or well, their brother) are on Facebook now. And I'll admit that I'm happy to sit down with friends who have Facebook and browse through their list of friends with them, and see pictures and all that (out of respect, I wouldn't really use my friends' account even if they have allowed me to). But sitting with them and looking at pretty pictures is fun.

After volleyball, two of my team-mates and myself proceeded to hop on the 99 B-line as we live fairly close from each other. At first we were just discussing the reasons why we didn't want to join Facebook ... and then two other young men joined the conversation, and it became really animated. Of course, by the end of it, seven people (us three plus 4 complete strangers) were debating on the value of joining Facebook. And maybe that's one of the benefits of Facebook. I probably could have asked them "hey can I add you as my friend?"

So the thing is, I am considering the possibility of breaking down and joining Facebook. I am just afraid of its addictive nature (see my post on the Crackbook). I think if I can stay clear until January 2008, I'll be able to avoid caving to the pressure. So... spill the beans... what are YOUR thoughts on Facebook?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Blogging under the influence

I am sure all of you remember my post on intexticating or Texting Under the Influence (TUI). Well, I'm not the only blogger who has Blogged Under the Influence (BUI). Apparently, this situation arises more often than people would like to believe. Other bloggers have done it even if they think it's a bad idea.

In my case, my good friend LB was kind enough to invite me over for dinner (pasta with mushrooms) and drinks (vanilla martinis). After 3 martinis, I thought "I should make myself scarce", so I B-Line'd it home (or at least, I thought so). What would be my surprise when I was abruptly woken up at Rupert Skytrain station "Sir, you are at the Rupert terminus... where are you going?". I was SO embarrassed that I simply took off.

Skytrained it to Commercial Drive, had two slices of pizza (from different locales) and then walked home. I am still embarrassed about it. Please help me get over this embarrassing feeling. Spill the beans about some time when you got horribly drunk.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Being geeky and good food

I wouldn't call myself by any stretch a computer geek or even an internet geek. As I've indicated before, I started blogging because a very close friend of mine did it to keep me up to date with her comings and goings during the time I wasn't in Vancouver. Through time, I've gained a fondness for both blogging and reading other bloggers' stuff.

I've recently read a nasty comment in regards to my restaurant reviews (those comments do not appear because, hehe, I have enabled comment moderation and really, who wants to read a comment from someone who wants to put you down?). I suppose that comes with the territory. I am by no stretch of the imagination a food critic, but I do eat out a lot and enjoy good food. If a reader disagrees with my review (or a restaurant owner anyhow), they have a space to contact me (respectfully, of course. I'm pretty good at dealing with nasty commenters).

And on the idea of being geeky and liking good food, I found that there is such a thing as the Wiki Cookbook. I love cooking Jambalaya, and I found a recipe for it! Oh the wonders of the Internet.

Upcoming event - November Vancouver Blogger Meetup

Back in September (holy smokes how time flies!) I contacted Rebecca and asked her about the Vancouver Blogger Meet-up (VBM). I first read John's and Rebecca's blogs about one or two years ago (not sure) when I read a review of the VBM (written by Rebecca) held at The Whip (on Main and 6th). I'd been really looking forward to attending one of these, particularly since the September one was going to be fairly close to where I live (one short bus ride).

However, this month's VBM is scheduled on November 8th at 7pm at the Chateau Granville Lounge, and sadly, I can't attend YET AGAIN! I have volleyball games and there is no chance in hell I can teleport myself to my games on time. Those Star Trek geeks really should get on it and do something about teleporting!

This is getting ridiculous, since I correspond with lots of local bloggers via email and commentary and I haven't met up with any of them in person (with the exception of Carolina whom I danced with recently at Atlantis and Jark from Beyond Robson, with whom I've had a chat and a coffee at Lugz).

And if there's a VBM in December, I'm going to miss it since I'm going out of the country for over a month. Dang it! On other news, Darren Barefoot is asking local bloggers to test drive a Brother printer. Rebecca and John are test-driving this beautiful printer, and I'd be tempted to join.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Anything for love?

Any good romantic will tell you that they'd do "anything for love". The way I understand it, it means "I'll be there for you because I love you, and I'll do everything in my power to sustain our relationship". The song "I'd Do Anything for Love" by Meat Loaf is sappy and perhaps not my favorite, but it tends to be the first thing that comes to mind when I hear the phrase "anything for love".

My question is - do we really do anything for love? The reason why I have been thinking about love (and perhaps also feeling blue) is that around this time of the year (but a couple of years ago) my heart was broken. And then the phrase "anything for love" became empty and meaningless. So much for all that 'love'.

Not one to be jaded, I've poured myself into strong friendships and relationships, both with my family and with other people. So, the question is - do we really do anything for love? Or are there limits? What are yours?

Monday, November 05, 2007

The forces of nature and a tragedy in Tabasco

If you've following the news, the state of Tabasco (in Southern Mexico) has been devastated by continuous rain and hundreds of thousands of people are now homeless. Lots of help is needed, although I really don't know who to send it to (some bank accounts have been set up in Mexico and I think the US, but I haven't read anything about the possibility that Canada might send some aid). I'll inquire in the Mexican Consulate in Vancouver. Or maybe somebody in the Latino community is organizing something.

I would just encourage you to consider the possibility of donating if there's a way. I really feel very helpless for not being able to do anything for the people in Tabasco. The worst part is the looting. I can't believe someone would take advantage of their peers' suffering and disgrace. It irks me to see reports of people taking stuff from abandoned stores and houses. Unbelievable. I despise them so much that I think these people should not be worthy of being called humans.

The following video is footage from people who are actually living in the area, just so that you witness the amount of desolation. I hope we can do something to help them.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Hummingbirds, speeds, concentration and focus...

Recently (and by that I mean the past few weeks if not months) I have spent a lot of time reflecting on the paradoxes of being a hummingbird. I am capable of doing numerous things in a very short period of time. I speed-read, touch-type at an amazing speed, have photographic memory and seem to have mastered the art of multi-tasking.

However, I have also noticed recently that some of my former strengths, for some reason, have abandoned me (or I've just shelved them somewhere). You'll see, I used to be really good at doing "to-do" lists. I had everything organized and tackled my projects one by one. More recently (and I'd say this is maybe in the past few months) I have tended to use the "firefighter" technique, in many ways, just trying to get things done but not with a well laid-out plan.

I realized that in doing this (abandoning strategies that made me successful in the past) was pretty much self-sabotaging. So I've decided to go back to my roots, to being my usually-organized, intense, hard-working, strategic self. Not to say I haven't been working hard, but instead of working harder, I think I could work smarter.


  • Write down everything in a handbook. An old Chinese proverb reads that the faintest ink was more effective than the best memory. Sure, I do have photographic memory. But I also happen to memorize lots of stuff that probably need reallocation within my brain. So, having a notebook helps you organize your thoughts. It can also serve as a daily planner (I have to do this on Monday, this on Tuesday, this on Wednesday).
  • Book all your regular appointments on your calendar. I use Google Calendar, but for years I used Outlook Schedule to manage my day-to-day activities. I have volleyball (Saturday and Sunday), church, meetings with friends, everything on my online day planner. And because it's web-based, I can access it from anywhere.
  • One paper one time only. I read this strategy somewhere, and I can't recall where. I try to do this particularly with mail and other personal stuff (like banking, health insurance, etc.) I open an envelope, check its content, and then process immediately. If, for some reason, I can't process immediately I try to make a note about what I need to do with said piece of mail.
  • One e-mail, one process. This is something I have needed to work on, again and again. Since I am environmentally-minded, I try not to print e-mails (unless it is absolutely necessary) and instead, write in my handbook whatever I have to do with those e-mails. Other times (when printing out the email) I use both sides, and make notes about the process I need to follow on the actual printout. But I really try hard not to process the same email twice. Once read, I just engage in whatever process needs to be done or make my note and then mark the e-mail as read. This is sometimes a bit of a problem with GMail since it doesn't hide the e-mails that you've read (as our good friend Outlook Express does).
  • Always keep pen and paper handy. And by handy, I mean carry it with you EVERYWHERE. Even from one room to another. My apartment is tiny (really tiny) and sometimes, in walking from my bedroom to my living room, I get an idea or remember an errand I had to do and forget about it in the back-and-forth between room. That's not a smart strategy. With the gazillion things I think about every second of my life, I forget some stuff simply because I didn't write them down in time. So now I carry paper and pen everywhere with me. Jot down even simple short buzzwords. 'Safeway bread' may mean "do some grocery shopping at Safeway". One of my favorite shortcuts is "cc pay" (credit card payment). You can always make extended notes later.
  • Keep your intensity levels up. This may mean having a cup of tea or coffee right besides you and maintain your focus. I have noticed that if I simply don't leave my desk until I have my list of things to do sorted out, written down everything I require and then start working on stuff, then I get a lot more accomplished. It's easy to feel tired, woozy and sleepy, and to cave to the temptation of 'I'll just have a short nap' and then WOW, you end up sleeping in for two hours or more. What I have used to keep my energy levels up is to continuously drink tea and have a good meal before doing my to-do list. That means that I have enough sugar in my blood stream to work for a long period of time without having to get up and eat some munchies to keep your sugar levels up.
  • Exercise. This is the hardest part for me at the moment. With the rainy weather, and impossibly cold temperatures outside (remember, I'm not very good in the cold), I can't run outside. So what I am trying to do (not very successful at the moment) is to go to the gym in the morning.
  • Create a routine for work. Lately, my routine is as follows:
  • Sunday night
    • work on my to-do list for the week, answer e-mails, try to get some work done (easy tasks that I can just cross off my list) so that when I wake up, at least I have finished some small projects.
  • Monday morning
    • Print out my weekly and monthly calendars. Try to review if I've missed anything on my to-do list and insert where appropriate. The rest of the week proceeds as follows:
  • During the week:
    • First thing in the morning:
      • Open email (all four of them), check if any of those emails are high priority - if they are, answer immediately. If they are not, post-pone (flag or mark as unread).
      • Read blogs and news. Post comments on blogs.
      • Off to shower.
      • Breakfast (big breakfast, I don't do well with small breakfast - coffee and a muffin? Please! I am a firm believer that breakfast is the most important meal of the day).
      • Head into the office (or when I am working from home, dive into work).
      • Check to-do list and proceed with tasks.
    • Around mid-afternoon:
      • Check e-mail again to see if something has come up.
      • If nothing comes up, head for lunch. With my diet, I used to eat six times a day. Right now I can't do that, so I am working on the following: big breakfast, big lunch, very light dinner.
    • Early evening
      • I am really bad right after lunch (in regards to ability to think/write), so if I can, I schedule meetings with colleagues/friends/former students.
      • When I feel unproductive, I just read or blog.
      • Dinner is usually around 7. And lately I try to eat light. My commute is long so I try to get a nap on the bus.
    • Late night
      • This is actually my best writing and working time, so if I can, I put in a few hours of work at night, even if that delays my breakfast until say 10 am. I can do lots of work late at night (as I am doing now).
What I generally tend to do on the weekends is play sports and hang out with friends, but I also try to put in a few hours of work. Although sometimes it's important to just take a night off or a day off. My hope is that in the future, I'll be able to just do a 9-5 kind of work-life. I am not sure that'll happen, but I'll try.

Restaurant review - Swagat Tandoori Restaurant

You are probably wondering how can I have the nerve to write a restaurant review after my recent post on the execrable crime against a TransLink bus driver on Halloween night. However, it is my belief that even when negative things happen, we ought to focus on the good and the positive. And I did find one positive thing about this weekend. I found a place for GREAT Indian food, both for take-out and in-restaurant dining.

Swagat Tandoori Restaurant is located pretty much in beautiful English Bay, around the corner from Denman and Davie. I had been trying to come here as their lunch and dinner buffet special seems totally worth it and inexpensive ($10.95 for all-you-can-eat Indian for dinner - sweet deal!) Anyhow, J and I were walking by and we thought "oh well, since you want to try it, why not buy some take-out".

Let me tell you, two people ate and I still took food home! The place is neat, the owner is sweet and the food is OMG to-die-for. Very good food, I had the butter chicken with rice and vegetables and I swear I can't stop eating this food until I am completely full. The portions are generous and I look forward to a continued consumption of food from Swagat Tandoori.

They do delivery within the West End (if I recall correctly) and dinner for two is totally a sweet deal at $ 24+tax.

Swagat Tandoori in Vancouver

Citizen journalism? Do something about this!

So I was perusing the Metro Vancouver newspaper (I have been working from home so I hadn't read the Friday edition) and I found out about this short story: a female bus driver got attacked on Commercial and Napier (by no means the most dangerous area of the city, in my humble opinion) by two people (apparently in costume). These people then proceeded to torch the bus. I have a bit of an extended description from the CTV website.

This event (and similar occurrences) have me extremely upset and enraged. Who do these kids think they are? And are they going to escape justice? What are we doing to ensure the safety in our streets? What the heck is happening in this world-class, "Most Livable City"? Yeah, right... world-class - NOT.

So, I'm going to try and test my theory about collective action and viral internet behavior. I want to ask if somebody saw something on that night. There must be more witnesses, or someone who knows the perpetrators of this attacks. In a way, I am trying to see if by using the Internet and blogging, I can do something to help bring these people to justice. Didn't anybody take a photograph of these women while the driver was being attacked? I mean, for crying out loud, everyone and their mother have a cell phone with camera now (except me, of course, since I don't even have a cell phone at the moment!).

A couple of months ago or so, a photograph of someone who took pictures of himself with a stolen camera surfaced on the Internet and soon thereafter, the story took a life of its own, and (I am hoping) helped in a way get closer to solving the theft. I want to see if my blog post inspires other bloggers to ask for help in identifying the attackers of this bus driver, and to see what we can do to ensure that they are punished.

Think about it - according to the story, the female bus driver was trying to offer Halloween candy and in return, she gets attacked?! And to worry you even more, the Vancouver Sun offers a list of all the incidents of that night. If you feel safe around your neighbourhood, I'd recommend that you read this. Stealing iPods on 36th and Wallace? (the Southlands, Dunbar area - posh and allegedly safe). All of a sudden I feel so safe in this city... NOT.

So if you have any information, please contact the Vancouver Police and/or TransLink. I am in no way associated with either, but I can't tolerate more events like these happening in our supposed-to-be-safe city. Citizens need to do something about this. At least, this is my contribution. I am outraged and I want to help in any way I can.

More on Google Transit and Vancouverisms

Very thoughtful discussions by Nomade Moderne, Paul Hillsdon and Rebecca Bollwitt have analyzed Google Transit. As I am running off to volleyball and (in the process) started tinkering with Google Transit, I have noticed one thing: it doesn't provide 'best routes'. I think the algorithm needs to be improved, because to get me to Jericho Gym, the bus sent me first to downtown Vancouver and then had me take the 4 UBC going west. I have discovered a much faster way to get there: 99 B-Line to Sasamat and 10th and then walk down.

It's funny - we've created verbs out of things that have become a routine in our lives. For example, I often hear myself and other friends say "oh don't worry, I'll just BLine it to your place". The implication of course is "oh don't worry, I'll just take the 99 B-Line to your place". I also have heard people indicate "I'll skytrain it to Main Street and will see you there". This mains of course, that the person will take the Skytrain from wherever he/she is to Main Street/Science world. These expressions, I call Vancouverisms.

I am curious to know if you've heard another Vancouverism. There must be other phrases that are typical of our beautiful, rainy city.

Equipment, rain and charity

This year I feel so much more prepared for the rainy and cold season. Thanks to J, I have a LiteBook in case I'm depressed (seasonal affective disorder). I have several caps, rain jacket, gloves, toques, scarves, and winter jackets. I think this is important for everyone. However, I wonder - what can we do to help those in need during this winter season? Suggestions appreciated.

A responsibility to blog?

A few weeks back, I wasn't "feeling it". It was almost painful to try and come up with content. Recently, I've regained an interest in blogging and I feel free to post whatever comes to my mind instead of trying to come up with something that will be interesting and relevant (though I admit that I very much like some of my own posts).

Do fellow bloggers feel a responsibility to post content? Sometimes I'd rather not write instead of being inane, but then again, I guess it all comes down to what we want our blog to accomplish. In my case, it's a repository of restaurant/bar/coffee/music reviews, a place to remind me of upcoming events and also an opportunity to share my thoughts with the world and see if some of those words have an impact.

So, I do feel somewhat compelled and responsible of posting interesting content. But I'll still forgive myself if I am not all that coherent sometimes :)

Saturday, November 03, 2007

The voice of my blog and some quick thoughts

This weekend is crazy. Even though I've been feeling under the weather, I've already managed to do dinner with C, B, J and another friend of them, JM. It was really nice, B gave me her recipe for a ma po chicken that was amazing. C and B really spoil me rotten, I admit it. And J has started to open up more, so we can actually joke around each other.

Had the chance to do brunch with JH who is an adorable young woman. During our conversations we reflected on how much do people know someone and how much people think they know us. I think I'm pretty transparent, so whomever thinks he/she knows me, chances are he or she does indeed know me. However, I am not sure that's the case with everyone. We discussed the possibility that some people may think they know you better than they indeed really know you. What do you dear readers think?

On another quick thought, Paul, Keith and Erija have kindly commented that my blog already has a voice. It's an interesting thought... I am not sure what the voice is, really... but I like the idea :)

Third quick thought - an interesting trend I've noticed in some seasoned bloggers is a tendency to post three essays in a row. I don't generally do that, sometimes I do blog a lot sometimes I can't write for the life of me. But I'm curious to hear what you think about my blog's voice.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Google Transit - Vancouver - link love

I've seen many of my fellow blogger friends write about Google Transit, and they do a better job at discussing it than I do, so I what I'll do is just do some link love to their blogs: Miss604 at her Metroblog site, Paul Hillsdon, and Nomade Moderne. I did play around with Google Transit and it actually designed a better route than the normal Translink system for my commute to work.

Safari, Internet Explorer and Firefox

I know for a fact some of you use Safari to read my blog. I recently found out that it doesn't look as pretty on IE as it does on Firefox. Since I don't have Safari, I would like to ask how my blog looks... ok, not ok?

TV Show Review - Smallville

I know lots of people will probably hate me for mentioning Smallville, but not only am I a superhero fan, but also I live in the Greater Vancouver Regional District (now Metro Vancouver), where the TV show is filmed. Filled with lots of Canadian actors (Calgary/Vancouver's Erica Durance, Richmond's Aaron Ashmore and his twin brother Shawn Ashmore guest starred a couple of times, Sarah Carter to name a few, obviously Lana Lang - our own Vancouver Kristin Kreuk and now Supergirl - Toronto's Laura Vandervoort), I've become hooked on this show.

I actually find it quite positive and encouraging that the role of Supergirl (Kara Zor-El) went to a Canadian actress. Moreover, if you really think about it, most of the large roles are going to Canadians (think Jimmy Olsen, Lana Lang, Lois Lane, Kara Zor-El). Therefore, I would argue that Canadians should be happy that this show is being filmed up in Hollywood North.

Several times I've witnessed the filming of Smallville, particularly locations that are now "Kansas State University" (aka The University of British Columbia). The show has gained quite a following, and now I find that the plot is becoming more and more interesting with the addition of Supergirl.

Any self-respecting superhero fan will agree that Supergirl is one element of the Superman saga that should NOT be eliminated. Kudos to the producers for bringing Perry White and our good friends from the Justice League (including Green Arrow, Cyborg -- who really was a Teen Titan, but we will overlook that small detail, Aquaman and Flash).

Clearly, the Superman/Clark Kent saga has been re-invented (Mama Kent is almost nowhere to be found and Supergirl came into Superman's life when he was an adult -- there was no Chloe Sullivan and obviously Lana never married Lex) but I have to say that I enjoy this re-invention. There are a couple of issues I don't like though. First, Kara adopted the identity of Linda Lee/Linda Danvers (in the comic books). Here, she's Kara Kent. Hmmmm... And she doesn't have a brown wig either. Furthermore, what's with the Wonder Woman 'Super bracelet'? At any rate, I am glad that the producers introduced her into the main plot.

Here's a short clip of a forthcoming episode I found on YouTube. Lana will absorb Clark's powers and try to get rid of Lex Luthor for good. Yet another Supergirl ;) ?