I know, I know, I shouldn’t even be surprised, but once again, Google tells Canada to wait. Just like they did with the Street-level view in maps and Google Voice (which still isn’t here). The Kindle is now available in Canada, but without the key feature (for me, at least) of a built-in browser. The TiVo is dying because the CRTC is blocking adoption of CableCard. Pandora, Hulu, and Mint aren’t here either. So, Google’s new phone joins the growing list of technologies that are starting to pile up due to a combination of the CRTC and other roadblocks, keeping Canadians back in the previous decade. I hope the Apple Tablet makes it up here, but now I’m beginning to wonder. I had to hack my 1st gen. iPhone just to get it working up here.
All the same, it looked pretty sad when I saw, the first day it was released, this screen:
Is it just me, or does that phone bear a resemblance here to a middle finger?
The Olympic Streetcar During Testing
While walking back from grocery shopping at Granville Island today, we saw the new Olympic Streetcar, which they are testing on the tracks nearby. I did get a fuzzy picture of it a couple of weeks ago. It’s simply beautiful. We went a little closer and thanks to a friendly Bombardier employee, we got a look inside. I wish I had my camera in hand, and I inadvertently left my iPhone in its cradle back at home. That also wouldn’t capture the fact that the train smells new inside. It’s a 5-car model with 2 articulations, which are the ‘hinges’ between cars (if you ride the B-Line Bus, you know well what I’m talking about), according to the engineer. It’s operated manually, and to open the doors, you press a button on either the inside or outside while stopped (the door stays open for about 20 seconds after that). There are info screens at various points on the ceiling, and the engineer said that they are linked back to the communications system back in Bruges, Belgium, where this train was built.
The streetcar, which is really much more like a train, will begin operation on January 21, and will then run back and forth between Granville Island and the Olympic Village at Cambie street for 60 days, where it will be free. We were surprised to find out that it won’t continue past the Olympic Village and connect up with Main Street/Science World, which would have created a perfect circle around 1/2 of the downtown area plus False Creek (See map below. Annotation and dashed line for the continuation of the route are mine. Click to see a larger version):
The Translink Olympic Transit Map (from a PDF on their site).
While I was a big fan of this new addition to our transit system, if it only goes from Granville Island to Cambie, it’s not as big a deal as if it had gone to Science World. If it had gone that far (as we had always assumed — since the original tracks that are originally there go that far) it would have provided a really easy way to get to Chinatown and other parts of downtown from our neighborhood. Transit lines always open up new neighborhoods to explore, but getting to Cambie and 6th from our area is already reachable by a pretty fast bus. Still, I’m looking forward to riding this new tram. What is perplexing, is that in addition to the abbreviated route, is why it isn’t a permanent addition to downtown Mass transit.
While the past year has been good, I must admit that I’m in complete agreement with those like Time Magazine, who dubbed the first 10 years of 2000 as The Decade from Hell. It was a decade that belonged to Bush, whose ascendancy to the White House I have often said was the worst single event in US History. It was for us, a great leap into the unknown, leaving the city of Boston and the country of our births. It was definitely scary in the beginning, but we’ve slowly climbed back, at least in terms of our finances, to where we were when we left, more or less. We dodged much of the housing bubble, and although Pam and I both saw time out of the work force, I suspect that would have been just as bad (or worse) if we had stayed.
After the election of Obama, many people have asked us if we were considering returning to the US. After all, we were ‘Bush Dodgers’, according to some. Well, the ridiculous debate on Health Care reform had us constantly shaking our heads in bewilderment. The fact that the US still fails to acknowledge health care as a human right (like the ones of religion and guns that they extoll so often), is something we’ll never understand. The lack of acknowledgement that the proliferation of guns is causing more and more violence and death throughout America is also baffling to us. Whenever we see people being interviewed on the US evening news constantly refer to God, their belief in religion and other magical thinking also seems further and further from us. Nope, we’re not going back to all of that.
Good-bye to 2009, Then
Looking back on just this year, I do have some events that I’ll remember fondly. Here’s a brief list:
- The Concert of works for and by Dutch composer Louis Andriessen for his 70th birthday. Back in April, I got to see and hear him (and one of his works), as he reminisced about performances by airport runways and mused that the bass line in Bach Chorale Preludes is “like a cow mooing, interrupting chirping birds”.
- Riding the brand spanking new CanadaLine all day on my Birthday, and playing Foursquare (and ‘tourist in my own town’) as I went all the way from the south of Richmond to North Vancouver without burning any gasoline (not counting the fuel on the Seabus).
- Actually not one but several fun and stimulating Meetups for bloggers, graphic designers and Social Media folks. Several were at Caeli’s Pub, which has become one of the most popular social watering-holes in town.
- An after-hours tour of the newly-renovated Arctic Ocean exhibit of the Vancouver Aquarium as part of the local chapter of the Interaction Design Association (IXDA)
- Excellent meals at Provence at Marinaside, a tea (thanks to Tiny Bites) at the Fish House in Stanley Park and this past week, a warming Hot Pot (Shabu Shabu) at a new Korean Restaurant, Dae Bak Bön Ga, on 4th Avenue in Kitsilano.
- The Inauguration of Barack Obama (of course)
- BarCampVancouver, which was a blast this year at Discovery Parks.
- Helping to run and participate in UXCampVancouver, the first User Experience ‘unconference’ in the Vancouver area. Many thanks to Karen Parker for providing the leadership and guidance. Next year, it will be even bigger and better. This was, perhaps, the big highlight of the year for me.
And a few sad losses:
- The loss of Workspace, a marvelous public/private space that hosted many great techie get-togethers. It was the closest thing to a ‘parlor’ that the Geek Scene in Vancouver had. I’m hoping that another will come, but sometimes these things take time to replace.
- The closing of a bunch of restaurants: Chow (which I reviewed in this blog), O Thai (which was replaced by another Thai restaurant in the same spot that is decidedly poorer), The Fish Café (on 4th Avenue in Kitsilano), and a few others that I forget at the moment (maybe for that reason, they should have closed).
When I look back on 2009, I know that I will sadly have to note that it was the year that Becca Hammann died (see previous entry), and it will be some time before I am used to that fact.
I also note the birth of many babies by friends and relatives, and once again, our orchid is blooming.
My next post, will be about next year. Oh look: the clock says that it’s here already. Well, come in, 2010. Make yourself at home.