You Think That's Close?

My broth­er sent me a link to Microsoft’s that does the close-up ari­al from MIT one bet­ter, and it even does it from an angle, so you can see the height of the build­ings. Not only that, but you can actu­al­ly see 1) the satel­lite dish on our roof and 2) our old car. I’m not sure I like this, although at least it’s not live (that car, like us, no longer lives there and the satel­lite dish was lat­er moved to a high­er place on the roof because the trees were grow­ing too high and we were los­ing trans­mis­sion in the sum­mer months). I make it to be about 3 or 4 years old.
Click each of these to see them at full mag­ni­fi­ca­tion:
Even Closer Even Closer2

I have to say that I’m sur­prised that the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty isn’t start­ing to get worked up about these map­ping sys­tems (Maybe they are and we just don’t know about it, a com­mon sit­u­a­tion these days.) Add in GPS locaters (as you can do with the Google sys­tem) and you’ve got some­thing of an Urban Tac­ti­cal Map­ping sys­tem on a shoe­string. There’s an elec­tri­cal sub­sta­tion near the top left of one of the maps, and tak­ing it out would be a lot eas­i­er if you could see all of the side-streets, where the police would be most like­ly to come from, as well as your escape route(s). With the pow­er out all out for the neigh­bor­hood, rob­bing the busi­ness­es in the area would be a lot eas­i­er, bat­tery back­ups aside.

I hate to be look­ing at just the bad (crim­i­nal or ter­ror­ist) side of this. After all, sys­tems like this could also insure that fleets of ambu­lances and taxi­cabs reach their des­ti­na­tions faster and with less fuel spent idling in traf­fic jams and less exhaust spewed into the air. Tech­nol­o­gy is always neu­tral.

A Little Peek at Where We Used to Live from 2,400 feet

I was read­ing on Boing­bo­ing about the fact that Sir Tim Bern­ers-Lee, the Inven­tor of the World-Wide Web has just start­ed writ­ing a blog (fan­cy that!). As these things lead to oth­er explo­rations, I hap­pened to even­tu­al­ly link to MIT’s new(ish) Cam­pus Map. There I found an eeri­ly close Ari­al shot of where we used to live. The Dante Alighieri Cen­ter is the orange-red poly­gon at the bot­tom cen­ter, and I’ve drawn an arrow to where our lit­tle town­house used to be, sep­a­rat­ed only by a thin brown wood fence from the park­ing lot. Google does have ari­al views, but noth­ing this close. The doc­u­men­ta­tion says:

The pho­tog­ra­phy was cap­tured on April 17th, 2003 at a fly­ing alti­tude of approx­i­mate­ly 2,400 feet, pro­vid­ing an orig­i­nal pho­to scale of 1 inch = 400 feet (to sup­port 40 scale map­ping). These images were “cor­rect­ed” with a dig­i­tal ter­rain mod­el (DTM) that mod­eled both ter­rain undu­la­tions and the heights of build­ings.

So here it is: (click image for full-size ver­sion)

Arial View Of 22 Lilac Court

Strange to see it this way, for the first time.

You Say Sunday, I Say Sund-eh?

Sun­rise, 8:03 AM, Sun­set 4:14 PM and count­ing (only 3 days until the Win­ter Sol­stice).

I need­ed a breather today. Did our week­ly video­con­fer­ence with my par­ents (although the Inter­net was a lit­tle flakey and we lost the con­nec­tion a few times), a vis­it to Granville Island Mar­ket. Pork loin stew tonight. Sun­ny again today, but the fore­cast is for snow and rain all week long to come.

Some Odds and Ends
I’ve become aware that Cana­di­ans (or at least British Columbians) abbre­vi­ate words that we’re not used to: felts for felt-tipped mark­ers, homo for homog­e­nized milk (Matt not­ed this one a long time ago), a parkade for a park­ing garage, a gar­bu­ra­tor for a garbage dis­pos­al, stats means statu­to­ry hol­i­day and appy’s which are short for appe­tiz­ers. That last one l thought was fun, espe­cial­ly when I saw a club on Granville Street the oth­er day with a sign that read ‘Appy Hour’.

Anoth­er dif­fer­ence: Bank Hours and Mail Deliv­ery days: Banks are open late, till about 7 PM at most branch­es. Mail deliv­ery (which here is called ‘Postal Deliv­ery;) does not take place on the week­end. No Sat­ur­day or Sun­day, so get those cards and let­ters off by pick­up on Fri­day or be pre­pared to wait.

The Cana­di­an ver­sion of the US’s Social Secu­ri­ty pro­gram is called Social Insur­ance pro­gram. I’m cur­rent­ly wait­ing for my first SIN card (Social Insur­ance Num­ber — I had a real­ly easy-to-remem­ber Social Secu­ri­ty Num­ber, so I hope this new num­ber is a good one). I was pleased by this dif­fer­ence because the Cana­di­an gov­ern­ment would have a much hard­er time bam­boo­zling the elec­torate the way Bush and his hench­man have tried with call­ing Social Secu­ri­ty an ‘Invest­ment Pro­gram’, and try­ing to have every cit­i­zen put mon­ey into a pri­vate invest­ment account that would then serve as Social Secu­ri­ty in their retire­ment years (and of course, if the Stock mar­ket goes down or even stays the same, your so-called ‘Social Secu­ri­ty Account’ is poten­tial­ly worth less than you con­tributed to it or worse, deplet­ed). The way FDR intend­ed it is the more explic­it Cana­di­an des­ig­na­tion; Social Secu­ri­ty was an Insur­ance Pol­i­cy that every­one pays into. Your mon­ey right now pays for your par­ents and grand­par­ents. Your chil­dren and grandchildren’s gen­er­a­tion will pay for you. It’s not ‘every pri­vate investor for him­self’. We all ben­e­fit from the social safe­ty net which is born out of the con­cept of the Com­mon Good. Call me crazy, call me a Lib­er­al, or in this case, call me a Cana­di­an.

Final­ly, Pam and I both noticed that at this time of year, around here peo­ple tend to say ‘Mer­ry Christ­mas’ or ask ‘Are you all ready for Christ­mas?’ far more often. Appar­ent­ly the now famous ‘War on Christ­mas’ in the US (which is just anoth­er one of those Reli­gious Con­ser­v­a­tive mil­i­tant ral­ly­ing cries) nev­er took place here. Unlike Mr. Bill O’ Reil­ly, I am not enraged if some­one says a phrase to me that assumes (or more to the point, does not assume) a reli­gious affil­i­a­tion. So, Hap­py Hol­i­days, Mer­ry Christ­mas, Hap­py Chanukah, Matun­da Ya Kwan­zaa’ and final­ly, may the nood­ley appendage of the Fly­ing Spaghet­ti Mon­ster touch you and yours this hol­i­day sea­son.

A Sunny Saturday and Chilly Evening

Sun­rise, 8:02 AM, Sun­set 4:15 PM and count­ing (only 4 days until the Win­ter Sol­stice, the short­est day of the year).

I was a lit­tle tired from the week, which showed just how out of shape I am when it comes to work­ing. Only 4 of the 5 days and here I am wait­ing for the first week­end! Thank good­ness, when the week­end count­ed, the sun came out. And boy, was a it a beau­ti­ful day today. More about that in a bit. First, about last night: My com­pa­ny had a Christ­mas par­ty. I only found out about it the morn­ing before, and for­tu­nate­ly was dressed well enough to go there direct­ly from work. I didn’t know that spous­es were allowed or I would have had Pam come as well, but only found out too late. I hope there will be a next time, and I’ll have a bit more notice (like a cou­ple months rather than hours!)

In Cana­da, work­ers (and boss­es) take their hol­i­day par­ties much more seri­ous­ly than they do in the US. In the States, I remem­ber some half-heart­ed attempts at a lit­tle par­ty, often for employ­ees only or a pot-luck for employ­ees, spous­es and chil­dren. This is after the cut­backs from the dot-com crash of the 90’s, and I think we just got used to that lev­el of aus­ter­i­ty. In Cana­da, I think it’s seen as an impor­tant perk of employ­ment. Even for the tiny com­pa­ny I’ve just joined, there was a huge spread at a local hotel, with prime rib, York­shire pud­ding, salmon, door prizes, games, and wine or beer (cash bar for oth­er drinks). I actu­al­ly won one of the (sev­er­al) draw­ings, and the prize was a gift cer­tifi­cate at the excel­lent Cana­di­an hi-tech chain, Futureshop. I was very impressed (and per­haps a lit­tle embar­rassed. After all, I had only been with the com­pa­ny for 3 days!)

Any­way, that brings us to today. This morn­ing, to be exact. Pam and I took a short trip to Main Street, which is indeed one of the main streets into Van­cou­ver, although it’s a good 2 kilo­me­ters or so from us (we took a Broad­way bus there to make the trip a bit faster).

Among our stops along Main, we went to the KEA food store, a very ‘crunchy’ organ­ic gro­cery, which has real­ly good raw peanuts in the shells (we roast them in the oven and the house smells won­der­ful from the peanut-y aro­ma). We also vis­it­ed Urban Source, a fan­tas­tic resource for the cre­ative per­son hope­ful­ly lurk­ing in all of us. Urban Source is a sort of scav­enger of indus­tri­al waste — not the scary, poi­so­nous kind, but the more banal, and poten­tial­ly use­ful junk that comes from light man­u­fac­tur­ing and the like. Look­ing for some small dolls heads, card­board cones and cylin­ders, sil­ver mylar, glit­ter, foam­core scraps? This is the place for you! You don’t have to be even that handy or skilled. Some­times projects can be found-art from the com­bi­na­tions of the above items. On high shelves above much of the stuff (and there’s real­ly no bet­ter word to describe what they sell), are toy robots, the skele­ton of a wick­er bas­ket out­fit­ted so that it looks like an enor­mous house­fly, and oth­er assem­blages that look down like in a dare to all below: ‘See how cool I am? Bet you can’t make some­thing this neat!’ That may be true, but the oth­er cus­tomers (and there are tons of them) and I accept the chal­lenge. Pam did, too. Noth­ing involv­ing pow­er tools or weld­ing. A cou­ple of clay tiles and sil­ver mylar will do just fine, thank you.

After that we met Oana and Matt for a walk and even­tu­al­ly din­ner at the very unusu­al and fun restau­rant the Liliget Feast House, on Davie Street (not too far from the hotel where Pam and I had stayed a few times before mov­ing into our cur­rent place). We hadn’t planned going there, but both Matt and Pam had heard about this restau­rant that spe­cial­izes in First Nation cui­sine and had want­ed to try it out (and I was cer­tain­ly inter­est­ed as well). I had a very tasty Alder-Grilled Veni­son Chops mar­i­nat­ed in Maple Syrup and Vine­gar and served with Mashed Rus­set Pota­toes, Sea­son­al Veg­eta­bles, and Wild Blue­ber­ry Sauce (as the menu describes it). Pam had their Veg­e­tar­i­an Meal, which includ­ed Toast­ed Sea­weed (Kelp) on a Wild Rice Med­ley, Sweet Pota­to Pie, Spinach Quiche Pie, and the same veg­eta­bles. She liked it a lot, and I sam­pled some of those pies, which were real­ly charm­ing sin­gle-serv­ing size tarts. Oana and Matt went for the Lileget Feast Plat­ter for two, which includ­ed Alder Grilled Wild Salmon, Hal­ibut, Mus­sels, Veni­son Strips, Buf­fa­lo Smoky, Duck Breast, Sweet Pota­toes with Hazel­nuts, Liliget Wild Rice Med­ley, Veg­eta­bles and Wild Blue­ber­ry & Dill Sauces. It arrived in a very impres­sive ‘boat’ with First Nation dec­o­ra­tions at each end. I’m very intrigued by this kind of cook­ing and hope to get some recipes for these dish­es or ones sim­i­lar to them. In some ways, it was very much like the kind of cui­sine I used to love in Ver­mont, where you could real­ly enjoy and appre­ci­ate the spe­cial­ness of the local pro­duce. I’m not a mac­ro­bi­ot­ic zealot, but I can cer­tain­ly see the advan­tage in mak­ing the most of your local game, fish, fruits and veg­eta­bles, espe­cial­ly if there are lots of them year-round, as they are here in the BC area.

I should add that desert was par­tic­u­lar­ly mem­o­rable. It was a sort of syl­labub (whipped cream, no wine or sher­ry though) made with Sopalali berries. What do they taste like? Actu­al­ly quite bit­ter, like Angos­tu­ra Bit­ters, or tamarind. It was a sur­pris­ing­ly com­plex tast­ing fin­ish, and def­i­nite­ly not some­thing for the kids.

After din­ner we all took a chilly walk by the north shore of False Creek toward the Bur­rard Bridge. By chilly, I mean right at about freez­ing. The night was lit by a huge tree by the beach with Christ­mas lights all over it, as well as the the lights of the city and ships off­shore. I think Matt got some good night pho­tos.

Update: Matt’s pic­tures came out pret­ty well, espe­cial­ly of the food at the restau­rant.

Also, a very dra­mat­ic, if sub­tle pict of 3 of us in front of that tree:

Checking in. Whew!

It’s about 11:30 and I’ve had 2 crazy days, both with work fol­lowed by events in the evening (Game­lan rehearsal last night, Hol­i­day Par­ty for our Con­do tonight). Hence the lack of time to update this blog.

So, as to the long and short of it, work is OK. Rel­a­tive­ly easy to get to, a very small com­pa­ny (real­ly only about 2 dozen peo­ple), and this is a very strange (make that qui­et) time of year. Still, there are things for me to do. Imme­di­ate goals are to improve the com­pa­ny web site, as part of a major mar­ket­ing push. If I am to have a future with them, they will need to have lots of work com­ing in. To do that, they will need to mar­ket to deci­sion mak­ers, and point them to a web site that they are not embar­rassed about. The cur­rent one has been argued about for about 2–3 years. If I can do any imme­di­ate good, it will be to have my team (3 peo­ple, includ­ing yours tru­ly) get an improved site up by Christ­mas. That gives us less than 2 weeks, but I believe we’ll make it. My cur­rent tasks main­ly are to write copy for the site, as well as write up case stud­ies of all the projects they’ve done so far. This will require inter­views, as well as screen­shots of most of those prod­ucts

The only down­side to this new job is that the boss came out with his true feel­ings regard­ing the Mac. Not only am I for­bid­den to use one in the office (despite the fact that there is an eMac sit­ting as the sec­ond com­put­er to a pro­gram­mer there who nev­er turns it on), but he real­ly hates them and would like to see even that one dis­pensed with. Appar­ent­ly once in a great while they have to sup­port a Mac for a project. Most of the time, he’d pre­fer to just write them off. I wish I could change his atti­tude, but I fear that may be a lost cause for a long time. For now, work equip­ment is an awful old Dell and a com­bo printer/fax/scanner on the office LAN that prints faint black and white prints, con­trast­ed with what I have at home, which is far bet­ter (iron­ic, isn’t it?). Oh well, on the bright side, this will insure the sep­a­ra­tion of work and home life. Not very much of a chance of tak­ing graph­ics-relat­ed work home, espe­cial­ly if there are Visio files (and I don’t have the Pro­fes­sion­al ver­sion of Omn­i­graf­fle to edit those) for flow charts and the like. I was remind­ed today how much I hate Visio. It is still the worst piece of crap for soft­ware I’ve ever seen. Some­one should tell Microsoft that the Align com­mand stopped being a dia­log box about 10 years ago! At least you can use arrow keys to nudge a graph­ic up, down or side to side. It only took them 5 years to put that in…

I’ll put more in about work as the days go by, but the first impres­sions are not bad. It’s a small, small place, and a lit­tle scary for that rea­son (bet­ter get along with the peo­ple in those 1 1/2 rooms, because there’s no one else!) I’ll also describe the build­ing in more detail as well, as it is a char­ac­ter in the dra­ma as well. Fun­ny, I remem­ber say­ing that about the town of Bed­ford Falls in It’s a Won­der­ful Life, which was on the oth­er day (of course).