25 Short Things About Me

I’ve been tagged on Face­book with the 25 Things About You meme by my friend, Rebec­ca Salous­tros. I guess there’s only one thing to do:

Here are the Rules from this blog meme: Once you’ve been tagged, you are sup­posed to write a note with 25 ran­dom things, facts, habits, or goals about you. Then, at the end, choose 25 peo­ple to be tagged. You have to tag the per­son who tagged you. I was tagged, I’ve been told,  because they want to know more about me, and to those who I will tag, I’ll have tagged you because I want to know more about you.

As I said, this start­ed on Face­book, but I am mov­ing it to my blog, so I am doing a post instead of a Face­book note. Noth­ing in the rules said any­thing about it hav­ing to be on Face­book. So in a sense, this virus has ‘jumped’ species. Ooh, scary.

After I am done, I will prob­a­bly not tag 25 peo­ple. I like to keep the num­ber of peo­ple I annoy to a min­i­mum, just like Rebec­ca.

  1. Let’s start with the easy stuff first: My favourite colour is Beige. Yes, wheat, light brown, call it what you will. I like the feel of it on my eyes, and like to wear cloth­ing that col­or, espe­cial­ly if it is soft, because it is sooth­ing in both the visu­al and tac­tile sense. Besides, every­body’s favourite colour is blue and they make fun of beige, or speak ill of it, as if it were bland or weak. (I even remem­ber an Apple Ad that said that Beige was­n’t even a colour.) Nah, it’s just sub­tle.
  2. My first mem­o­ry was when my par­ents took me to the Coun­ty Fair in West Vir­ginia and we hap­pened to be walk­ing by the pen when they took out the piglet for the ‘greased pig’ con­test (where con­tes­tants try to catch the quick, young pig cov­ered with grease). The piglet let out a high-pitched squeal. I’m told that when I was star­tled by it, I cried for hours.
  3. I have a scar on my left eye­brow, from stitch­es put in when I was 3 or 4 year’s old and attend­ing the birth­day par­ty for a neigh­bor­hood boy named Frankie (I learned lat­er that it was real­ly Rus­sell) Cyz­ick.  The stitch­es were from watch­ing a Mar­ble race game, try­ing to fol­low the mar­bles too quick­ly, cut­ting a gash above my eye. Rus­sell Cysick grew up to be one of the Marines who died when the bar­racks in Beirut, Lebanon were bombed on Octo­ber 23, 1983. Some­times I think of that scar when I hear about that inci­dent in his­to­ry.
  4. I wrote 2 books about per­son­al com­put­er soft­ware. One was called ‘Cool Mac Stacks’, which was about Hyper­card, a ‘soft­ware erec­tor set’ from Apple in the late 80’s that per­haps antic­i­pat­ed Visu­al Basic (and, I sup­pose in turn, .Net script­ing, the Web, Apple­script and Javascript). It had (get this:) a flop­py disk in the back of it.  The oth­er was co-writ­ten with Michael Murie, and is called ‘Quick­Time Hand­book’. I’ve con­tem­plat­ed writ­ing a med­ical action thriller (Think 28 Days Lat­er meets a hard-boiled Detec­tive Dra­ma) and a cou­ple of recipe books, includ­ing one for Maple Syrup (with atmos­pher­ic pho­tog­ra­phy) or more recent­ly, an updat­ed cook­book for the Granville Island Pub­lic Mar­ket.
  5. I’m not a big fan of cars, but I’ve always liked Corvettes, espe­cial­ly the ones from the 70’s. It’s the design.
  6. The only veg­etable I don’t like is beets, and I pre­fer mush­rooms cooked. The only fruits I’m not crazy about are Pineap­ple and raw apples (they are fine cooked, though). Man­gos seem too much trou­ble, with that big pit.
  7. My favourite painter is the sur­re­al­ist Yves Tan­guy, who paint­ed metic­u­lous but vast land­scapes pop­u­lat­ed by strange, mul­ti-coloured, vague­ly bio­log­i­cal shapes, cast­ing long after­noon shad­ows on plains with the hori­zon far in the dis­tance. Seri­ous­ly, it’s amaz­ing­ly trip­py stuff.
  8. I some­times have a freak­ish­ly accu­rate mem­o­ry, but at oth­er times, seem to draw a blank. I fear that my accu­rate mem­o­ries are begin­ning to wane with age.
  9. I also have a freak­ish­ly good sense of smell. This is actu­al­ly as good as is has ever been, and I now know that if I had known it was that much bet­ter than every­body elses, I could have got­ten a job as a ‘Nose’ in a per­fume fac­to­ry, or per­haps a whiskey blender in a Scotch dis­tillery.
  10. There are sev­er­al places in the world that I want to vis­it. Hope­ful­ly, in 2010, we will go to Viet­nam, Thai­land and Hong Kong.  I’d also love to tour Den­mark, Ice­land and Swe­den, as well as Prague, Budapest and Tallinn (Esto­nia). That last one because one of my favourite unknown com­posers, Eduard Tubin, is from there. (Tubin wrote 9 Sym­phonies and 2 Piano Sonatas, and much of his music is so good, I can’t believe it’s unknown. The Fourth Sym­pho­ny should be a sta­ple of the lit­er­a­ture, and the Piano Con­certi­no is real­ly fine.)
  11. Some day I’d like to be able to get real­ly good at mak­ing short pas­try crust from scratch. I always  pan­ic when a recipe calls for this (i.e., any pie, pasty or tart).
  12. I like cats. I appre­ci­ate that they decide to like you on your mer­its, rather than start out help­less­ly depen­dent on you, just because you’re the per­son who shows up at the door.  I think that cats can sense this about me, per­haps through my body lan­guage, or the way I approach them or smell;  Fre­quent­ly, cats that hiss and run away from oth­ers will cozy up to me. This is not to say that I dis­like dogs, but I have to admit that I real­ly do dis­like that many dogs leave an odor on your hands after you pet them (or at least one that those with a freak­ish­ly good sense of smell — see above — can detect).
  13. OK. About halfway there. Speak­ing of 13, unlike a lot of peo­ple from North Amer­i­ca and Europe, I have no fear of the num­ber 13. It’s a fam­i­ly thing; My broth­er and I were both born on the 13th of the month, exact­ly 3 years apart. My par­ents were mar­ried on the 26th of the month (twice 13). 13 keeps crop­ping up my life, but it nev­er both­ers me as it would some.
  14. I’m a fan of sin­gle malts, Port and small-batch bour­bon (Book­ers, Mak­er’s Mark, and Knob Creek). I rarely if ever drink gin, vod­ka or rye whiskey and I’m not real­ly fond of Mar­ti­nis (Spe­cial­ty or Clas­sic). I do like a good Daiquiri, Dark and Stormy (Rum and Gin­ger Beer) or Moji­to in the sum­mer.
  15. I’m an unre­pen­tant Mac Fan­boy. Prob­a­bly not as vehe­ment as some, but on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being a Microsoft Fanat­ic and 10 being a rav­ing Apple acolyte, I’m prob­a­bly a 8.75. Pam says it’s clos­er to 9.25. Let’s just say that hav­ing to use a PC run­ning Vista halves my pro­duc­tiv­i­ty and makes me grumpy. XP, not so much.
  16. I’ve got a bit of fear of heights. For some strange rea­son, it appears to be get­ting worse as I get old­er, and I have no clue as to why.
  17. I’m hop­ing that the next car we own will be one that runs entire­ly on elec­tric pow­er (or at the very least, is a plug-in hybrid).
  18. I nev­er wear the colour blue (except for blue den­im jeans), and espe­cial­ly not Navy. I once had a Navy-blue blaz­er, and it made me look like a corpse. I’ve come to the con­clu­sion that hazel eyes and grey/brown hair just don’t go with blue, espe­cial­ly with pasty-white skin. As I’ve often said: I don’t tan; I just try to get rid of the blue.
  19. I only once vot­ed for a Repub­li­can. It was for William Weld, the gov­er­nor of Mass­a­chu­setts (in 1990). He was run­ning against a lunatic who nev­er should have been the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nom­i­nee,  John Sil­ber.  Weld was lat­er black­balled and kept from being ambas­sador to Mex­i­co by Jesse Helms (the racist and homo­pho­bic Sen­a­tor of North Car­oli­na who died last year), and went on to prac­tice law in New York and write nov­els. He endorsed Oba­ma over McCain after hav­ing backed and sup­port­ed Mitt Rom­ney, a lat­er gov­er­nor of Mass­a­chu­setts. I stood next to Weld on the T (the Boston Sub­way) once. We did­n’t speak.
  20. Speak­ing of famous peo­ple I’ve met, as I men­tioned in an ear­li­er post­ing, that includes for­mer Gov­er­nor and Pres­i­den­tial Can­di­date Howard Dean, who I had a mar­velous chat with while rid­ing BART to the San Fran­cis­co Air­port last year, for­mer Gov­er­nor and Pres­i­den­tial Can­di­date Michael Dukakis (also on the sub­way — nice to see politi­cians rid­ding mass tran­sit, eh?) as well as com­posers Vir­gil Thom­son, Ned Rorem, Aaron Cop­land, Leonard Bern­stein, Elliott Carter, Toru Takemit­su, Olivi­er Mes­si­aen, Steve Reich, John Williams and a bunch of oth­er less famous names (some of them teach­ers). I met con­duc­tors Michael Tilson Thomas, Andre Previn and Sei­ji Oza­wa and had a friend­ship (through fam­i­ly) with Sergiu Com­mi­siona, the Prin­ci­pal con­duc­tor of both the Bal­ti­more and Van­cou­ver Sym­pho­ny Orches­tras at one time or anoth­er (sad­ly, he died before I moved here). I have a ton of auto­graphs, some of the peo­ple men­tioned here.
  21. I strong­ly dis­like South­ern Amer­i­can accents. Sor­ry, I know I should­n’t pre­judge, but a thick Car­olin­ian or Alaba­man drawl grates on my ears like fin­gers on a black­board. If it’s any con­so­la­tion, I also cringe when I hear the accent from Rochester, New York, with it’s flat vow­els and tight-jawed pro­nun­ci­a­tion of the city’s name itself (which comes out sound­ing like ‘Rach­ster’)
  22. The most unpleas­ant place I’ve ever lived was Rochester, New York, which arguably has the least amount of year­ly sun­shine of the low­er forty-eight US states due to the ‘Lake Effect’, which is the huge, dark canopy of clouds formed for about 9 months out of the year by mass­es of cold­er Cana­di­an air meet­ing mass­es of warmer Amer­i­can air over Lake Ontario. There were sev­er­al weeks when I looked out the win­dow, that I could­n’t tell whether it was 4 AM or 4 PM.  Not that it mat­tered; there was about as much to do in that city at either hour.
  23. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but instead, often crave crunchy, salty things.  Melt­ed cheese on top of or inside a crunchy corn, rice or bread thing is my undo­ing.
  24. I require a real­ly odd shoe size: 11 1/2 triple‑A. That’s the nar­row­est size there is. It means that I can nev­er get cheap shoes that fit, and for a while when we lived in Boston, I took the plunge and had cus­tom lasts (those are pieces of wood that are the same shape and size as your feet) made by John­ston Mur­phy so I could get shoes that fit with­out hav­ing to try on 10–15 pairs each time. They no longer do make cus­tom shoes, so I’m out of luck when the shoes I got back then wear out. You’ll nev­er see me in san­dals because they sim­ply can’t stay on a foot with a heel as nar­row as mine.
  25. If the rest of these minu­ti­ae don’t pro­vide a good enough over­all image of me, when I took the Myers Brig­gs per­son­al­i­ty test years ago, it pegged me as an ENTP, or Extravert­ed iNtu­itive Think­ing Per­ceiv­ing, or ‘The Vision­ary’ (I like the sound of that). Accord­ing to one descrip­tion of ENTPs:

    …the ENT­P’s pri­ma­ry inter­est in life is under­stand­ing the world that they live in. They are con­stant­ly absorb­ing ideas and images about the sit­u­a­tions they are pre­sent­ed in their lives. Using their intu­ition to process this infor­ma­tion, they are usu­al­ly extreme­ly quick and accu­rate in their abil­i­ty to size up a sit­u­a­tion.

    With the excep­tion of their ENFP cousin, the ENTP has a deep­er under­stand­ing of their envi­ron­ment than any of the oth­er types. This abil­i­ty to intu­itive­ly under­stand peo­ple and sit­u­a­tions puts the ENTP at a dis­tinct advan­tage in their lives. They gen­er­al­ly under­stand things quick­ly and with great depth. Accord­ing­ly, they are quite flex­i­ble and adapt well to a wide range of tasks. They are good at most any­thing that inter­ests them.

    As they grow and fur­ther devel­op their intu­itive abil­i­ties and insights, they become very aware of pos­si­bil­i­ties, and this makes them quite resource­ful when solv­ing prob­lems.

    ENTPs are idea peo­ple. Their per­cep­tive abil­i­ties cause them to see pos­si­bil­i­ties every­where. They get excit­ed and enthu­si­as­tic about their ideas, and are able to spread their enthu­si­asm to oth­ers. In this way, they get the sup­port that they need to ful­fill their visions.”

    I guess that sounds good to me .

OK, tag’ees’, here I come!

Happy New Year! What if 2008 was a Hoax?

I’m going to start the new year with some thoughts about 2009, which I like more than last year for one triv­ial rea­son already: it’s far eas­i­er to type. But before that, one final reflec­tion on 2008: On the evening news, a reporter asked some peo­ple on the street this ques­tion: If you had to describe 2008 in a word, what would that word be? Most (but not all) gave words with neg­a­tive con­no­ta­tions. I remem­ber some respons­es, includ­ing ‘chal­leng­ing’, ‘dif­fi­cult’, and ‘unfor­tu­nate’. I’m not sure what my answer would have been. On the one hand, lots of bad stuff hap­pened last year, but on the oth­er, the US elect­ed the first African-Amer­i­can Pres­i­dent and it was not all bad for me, per­son­al­ly. Matt Hard­ing, the guy who was behind the Inter­net viral video Where in the Hell is Matt claims that his beau­ti­ful danc­ing trip and Inter­net video was actu­al­ly an elab­o­rate hoax. I’d like to join with him, and actu­al­ly sug­gest that all of last year was just a hoax, too.

All except for the bit about Oba­ma get­ting elect­ed and a bunch of oth­er things, that is.

A View with a Room

Photo By Derek Miller

Pho­to By Derek Miller

Last week’s Best of 604 Awards, a cel­e­bra­tion and awards cer­e­mo­ny that brought out many of the local blog­ging com­mu­ni­ty, con­firmed my the­o­ry that Van­cou­ver is becom­ing a key cen­ter of what’s being now gen­er­al­ly called ‘Social Media’*. I’m going to write a much longer and more com­plete post­ing on why I think this is the case, why the con­di­tions here are so favor­able for this move­ment and activ­i­ties and how well they mesh with our lives, but one clear rea­son for the social media com­mu­ni­ty being so close-knit and active in Van­cou­ver is some very strong and charis­mat­ic lead­ers like Miss 604, who planned and host­ed the event. Many thanks to her and those who helped and spon­sored the affair. Pam and I real­ly enjoyed our­selves, and I was thrilled to see so many peo­ple who I knew (and read) be rec­og­nized for their efforts by their peers and read­ers. Like many suc­cess­ful fêtes in this town (like the Fringe Fes­ti­val, Film Fes­ti­val, Bar­Camp, the Fire­works Com­pe­ti­tion, etc.), it will sure­ly become an annu­al event.

Another Business Using Social Media

It has­n’t tak­en very long for com­pa­nies (both large and small) to pick up on the mar­ket­ing poten­tial of social media, and many of my friends and fel­low blog­gers now make their liv­ing help­ing to bring their clients up to speed on the rapid­ly chang­ing and grow­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for mak­ing use of blog­ging and oth­er online ‘con­duits’. Some of them clear­ly ‘get it’. In fact, one of the cat­e­gories of the Best of 604 awards was the cat­e­go­ry of ‘Best Com­pa­ny Blog’, and this past fal­l’s Mol­son Brew 2.0 event showed that even large cor­po­ra­tions can indeed be very savvy regard­ing this new medi­um. Case in point:

The Opus Hotel in Yale­town

High Tech Com­pa­nies, Mar­ket­ing Shops, and Large Brew­eries aren’t the only com­pa­nies blog­ging.  Van­cou­ver has some great hotels, and one of them, the Opus Hotel, has a blog.  How did I know about that? The Opus Hotel is also on Twit­ter, the microblog­ging plat­form. What’s more, they post­ed a ‘tweet’ of their blog post about one of their guest’s reac­tions to stay­ing in their rooms. The ‘review’ (whether it is the real thing or not) is not only laugh-out-loud hys­ter­i­cal, but I also think it’s a bril­liant piece of mar­ket­ing and won­der­ful use of a blog to talk about their busi­ness with cus­tomers.  While I’ve not stayed at the Opus Hotel and haven’t even been to their well-known bar or equal­ly well-known restau­rant Elixir, I have to say that this piqued my curi­ousi­ty.

*For those who aren’t familiar with the term, Social Media include blogs, micro-blogs like Twitter, social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace, and even web sites made up of contributions by their members like YouTube and Flickr. The Wikipedia article sums up Social Media well, and I particularly liked this sentence: “Social media depend on interactions between people as the discussion and integration of words to build shared-meaning, using technology as a conduit.”

Restaurant Review: Chow on South Granville

Chow Restaurant Logo

If restau­rant names go through fads like the food eat­en in them, I think that in Van­cou­ver, we are in the ‘sin­gle word (or even syl­la­ble) and clever’ fad. Just to name a few, there’s West, Fuel, C, Crave, Nu, Rare, Grub, Brix, Reef, Karv, Pound and Posh. Add a few syl­la­bles and you get Lumière, Water­mark, Lick­er­ish, Cham­bar, Metro, Nuba, Stone­grill, Whineo’s, Un-Wined, Incen­dio, Aria and Elixir. (Don’t even get me start­ed on the cute names for cof­fee places.)

So then, with a name like Chow, what do you expect? A hearty retro tav­ern that serves plates of no-non­sense chili, roast chick­en and meat­loaf, per­haps?  An Asian-fusion place that does 5‑spice pork dumplings, green papaya sal­ad and gin­ger-maple glazed salmon?  A lit­tle cheeky Ital­ian bistro?  Wrong on all counts.

Chow, which is about as far south you can go on Granville Street (#3121) before it becomes a res­i­den­tial thor­ough­fare, is a small (about 35-seat) bistro style restau­rant, that like Fuel in near­by Kit­si­lano (and to a degree, the award-win­ning West, which is just down the street), spe­cial­izes in a sea­son­al menu of pre­dom­i­nant­ly organ­ic ingre­di­ents, with an almost obses­sive atten­tion to the sourc­ing of food. At the back of the menu is a list of their sup­pli­ers, includ­ing a few that I knew already (Les Amis du Fro­mage, Joie Wines and Pold­er­side Farm), and a state­ment that the restau­rant “sup­ports local farms that prac­tice envi­ron­men­tal­ly sound agri­cul­ture and sus­tain­able farm­ing.” In fact, a few of the dish­es have their ven­dor’s name on the name of the dish, such as ‘Pold­er­side Farm’ duck pâté and ‘Slop­ing Hills Farm’ organ­ic pork. The pho­tos I’ve includ­ed here are not dish­es that we had, but a good exam­ple of the look of the food at Chow. You can see oth­ers at their site (which they link to).

Photo by Chris Mason Stearns

Pho­to by Chris Mason Stearns

Since we were there on Fri­day night for Pam’s birth­day, we decid­ed to leave room for dessert (she is a huge fan of apple desserts, but more of that lat­er). We opt­ed out of some of the ‘snacks’ (appe­tiz­ers, I assume), includ­ing pommes frites (bistro style french fries) with har­risa may­on­naise, mar­i­nat­ed olives, or pulled pork cro­quettes (although that one sound­ed inter­est­ing). Pam opt­ed for the grilled Van­cou­ver Island scal­lops, with an inter­est­ing accom­pa­ni­ment of braised veal cheeks (a melt-in-your mouth minia­ture pot-roast serv­ing) a snow-white cele­ri­ac purée, romaine let­tuce, radish and cel­ery sal­ad. Her scal­lops were beau­ti­ful­ly seared, with pret­ty grill marks, and she said that they were moist, but had a pleas­ant but not over­pow­er­ing taste of the grill, and the veg­eta­bles were crunchy and refresh­ing.

Photo by Tracey Kusiewich

Pho­to by Tracey Kusiewich

I decid­ed to go with a Beef Carpac­cio, which are sala­mi-sized thin slices of raw beef, topped with a few white anchovies, fin­ger­ling pota­toes, sal­sa verde, shreds of parme­san, frisee (that super-curly leafy green) and crispy fried shal­lots.  It’s light dish, occu­py­ing a place some­where between an appe­tiz­er, sal­ad and main course (if it had been a half-por­tion, it would have made a per­fect appe­tiz­er). You eat it by peel­ing the slices of beef off the plate with your fork. While the sal­sa verde was strong with herbal flavours, I did­n’t find it over­whelm­ing and I pol­ished off the long, rec­tan­gu­lar plate of half‑a dozen or so open-face raw beef and curly sal­ad sand­wich­es in short order.

As I men­tioned we decid­ed as part of the birth­day cel­e­bra­tion to have some desserts, and Pam ordered the Apple Crisp, which includ­ed apple com­pote, oat­meal crisp, caramel sauce and crème fraîche ice cream. The ice cream real­ly did taste like crème fraîche, the rich, but­tery rel­a­tive of sour cream, and the caramel sauce had a great bit­ter­sweet taste, the kind you get from the burnt sug­ar on crème brûlée.

I decid­ed to have the cheese plate (I often pre­fer cheese for dessert), and the three local cheeses includ­ed a salty but deli­cious feta/Ricotta sala­ta style cheese called ‘White Grace’, a smooth Tiger Bleu cheese and one of my all-time favourite cheeses we’ve dis­cov­ered here, ‘Juli­ette’ cheese, from Salt Spring Island. I’d describe Juli­ette as the daugh­ter of a hap­py mar­riage between a brie and a chèvre, with all the best qual­i­ties of both. It’s smooth and creamy with a brie-style rind, but with just a hint of the goat‑y tang of a chèvre. They came on a bam­boo board with dried fruit, nuts, and the slight­ly but­tery, super-crispy toast­ed bread that is almost every­where these days (Leslie Stowe’s Rain­coast Crisps come to mind).

Chow offers a spe­cial, prix fixe menu at 5–6 PM, part­ly aimed at the­atre­go­ers attend­ing shows at the Stan­ley The­atre, which is across the street and down a few blocks. It’s a quite rea­son­able $38 per per­son, and that apple crisp is one of the dessert choic­es on that menu (and well worth hav­ing). I’d describe it as a chic, ‘100-mile diet’ epi­cure­an urban bistro, or you could think of it as Fuel’s lit­tle broth­er. Despite their small size and tough com­pe­ti­tion, I think they’ll do well, despite the mis­lead­ing mono­syl­lab­ic name.

Chow on Urbanspoon

Happy Birthday, WordPress

I learned from the news feeds on the Dash­board for this soft­ware, that today is Word­Press’s ‘offi­cial’ fifth Birth­day (it was actu­al­ly 5 years ago back in the begin­ning of the year). While that’s pret­ty young, in soft­ware years it’s prob­a­bly all the way into some­where in the ear­ly teens. The five year mark places the soft­ware’s birth in 2003 at some of the dark­est times of the post-Inter­net bub­ble burst­ing. That such impres­sive and pow­er­ful soft­ware could come out of those times is com­fort­ing, in a way. No mat­ter how poor the eco­nom­ic cli­mate, new soft­ware can sur­vive, and actu­al­ly begin to grow in com­plex­i­ty (and user base).

At the most recent North­ern Voice, the Annu­al blog­ging con­fer­ence held here in Van­cou­ver, the keynote speak­er was Matt Mul­len­weg, the founder of Word­Press. I locat­ed his keynote (Thanks to At Large Media, who record­ed it and post­ed it), and thought that on this occa­sion, it might be nice to include it here, so here it is:

Photo of Matt Mullenweg, taken by Kris Krugg

[audio:Mullenweg_Keynote_at_Northern_Voice_08.mp3]

So, I imag­ine that at the moment, the cham­pagne corks are pop­ping in New York City (there is a par­ty planned for 9PM in San Fran­cis­co, so we can raise a glass here to them then, as well). Hap­py Birth­day, Word­Press, and con­grat­u­la­tions to Matt Mul­len­weg all of the oth­er folks who worked on it.