Good-bye to the Oughts

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:

  1. 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”.
  2. 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).
  3. 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.
  4. 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)
  5. 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.
  6. The Inau­gu­ra­tion of Barack Oba­ma (of course)
  7. Bar­Cam­p­Van­cou­ver, which was a blast this year at Dis­cov­ery Parks.
  8. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

In Memoriam

I’ve been think­ing about this post for a long time, and it’s prob­a­bly the hard­est one I’ve ever had to write. The world lost some­one last week. She wasn’t famous, but she was impor­tant. Her name was Rebec­ca Ham­mann.

Rebec­ca, or Bec­ca, as she pre­ferred to be called, will be missed by many peo­ple; I’m clear­ly not alone. There has been an offi­cial obit­u­ary, and there will be memo­r­i­al ser­vices, although I doubt I can attend them. I can’t even begin to sum up a per­son who I haven’t been in touch with on a reg­u­lar basis for a cou­ple of decades; I didn’t know her as an adult as well as I did when she and I were young. I can say that know­ing that we will not meet again seems just as painful as it would have been if we had seen each oth­er reg­u­lar­ly.

We met, back in the late 1970s, at a sum­mer pro­gram called The Walden School, a 5-week pro­gram for kids 9–18 who were inter­est­ed in music, and in par­tic­u­lar, music com­po­si­tion. The Walden School, as it’s web site says, was and is ‘an artist colony for young musi­cians’. The name of the place is from Hen­ry David Thoreau’s Walden, which sug­gest­ed an affin­i­ty with the New Eng­land Tran­scen­den­tal­ists, as well as the idea of retreat to art with­in nature. More recent­ly, when I served on the Board of Direc­tors for the School, we wres­tled with a phrase that sum­ma­rized their approach, which was that at Walden, one could study music as if it were a lan­guage. You learned to under­stand it, as well as ‘speak’ it. As part of their train­ing, all of the stu­dents com­pose, and just about every­thing that they write is per­formed by a com­bi­na­tion of oth­er stu­dents, fac­ul­ty, and pro­fes­sion­al per­form­ers in res­i­dence. When Bec­ca and I were stu­dents, the pro­gram was held in Ver­mont, but since then it has moved to New Hamp­shire. I recent­ly learned with pride, that dur­ing a pre­sen­ta­tion in New York where a cur­rent Walden stu­dent was receiv­ing an award, it was referred to as ‘the renowned Walden School’.

Here’s what the obit­u­ary won’t tell you: Becky (as she was called back then) was no aver­age stu­dent. She had an extra­or­di­nary mind. She was a fine per­former, but not as excep­tion­al as she was a com­pos­er. At the time, we were both study­ing the opus 11 piano works of Arnold Schoen­berg. In par­tic­u­lar, the first of those three pieces, we real­ized, was the musi­cal equiv­a­lent of a Hirschfeld car­i­ca­ture, where instead of pick­ing out ‘Ninas’, one could find tens, per­haps hun­dreds of instances of a 3-note cell: b,g-sharp,g-natural — a falling minor third fol­lowed by a half step. In fact, Schoenberg’s piece of ear­ly atonal­i­ty is not so much hid­ing these cells, but like a body, it is almost entire­ly com­posed of them. Some of the stu­dents wrote a few pieces based on this method of tight con­struc­tion. As an assign­ment, Becky wrote a con­cen­trat­ed gem of a piano piece that I can still play back in my mind. It also was based on a three-note cell, but her’s was c,b-natural,f-sharp, a ris­ing major sev­enth fol­lowed by a falling fourth. The dra­ma of that ini­tial leap, fol­lowed by the small­er leap down, was fol­lowed by a bril­liant inver­sion of the first 3 notes: a,b-flat,e — a falling major sev­enth fol­lowed by a ris­ing aug­ment­ed fourth. Those first 6 notes dis­played her unique sense of musi­cal dra­ma and bal­ance, and along with the fine­ly craft­ed and dra­mat­ic pas­sages that fol­lowed them, won her a BMI (Broad­cast Music Incor­po­rat­ed) prize at the age of 15. The usu­al age for win­ning a prize like that is per­haps mid-twen­ties. Sev­er­al of my teach­ers, Pulitzer prize win­ners and now-famous com­posers won a BMI prize when they were old­er than she was, and many of them didn’t win one at all. I hope to be able to post or point to an online record­ing of the piece. The cas­sette record­ing I had of it is long lost.

Bec­ca and I stayed in touch, main­ly via spo­radic let­ters, on and off until I went away to col­lege. I know that she pur­sued a life in teach­ing, beat back breast can­cer, and adopt­ed an adorable child in Chi­na who is named Lucy. Those items one can find in her obit­u­ary. What it does not tell you is that she remained extra­or­di­nary — How could she not be? She had her seizure while teach­ing Sci­ence class. Despite the fact that she could no longer teach, she insist­ed in com­ing back in to see her class. She brought with her the images from her MRIs that indi­cat­ed the tumor. I believe that she also met with each of her for­mer stu­dents to talk about what death was, how it was a part of liv­ing, etc. In essence, she turned her ill­ness and prog­no­sis into a vehi­cle for learn­ing. Frankly, I’m in awe of such courage and clear-head­ed­ness.

The obit­u­ary also men­tions that when she learned of her diag­no­sis, she imme­di­ate­ly wrote Pres­i­dent-Elect Barack Oba­ma. In fact, her seizure struck just 2 days after the elec­tion. Here is an excerpt from her online diary:

TUESDAY, JANUARY 13, 2009 5:15 PM, CST

When I first found out about the return of my can­cer and that it was ter­mi­nal, one of my first thoughts was to write a let­ter to Oba­ma. Remem­ber, all this began the day after the elec­tion. So I did write one, telling him to use his lead­er­ship to get us to make hard deci­sions. “Your task is daunt­ing. It is not some­thing you can do alone. You will need to con­vince the peo­ple of this coun­try and in this world that they need to and can change. If any­one can do this, it is you. In a cul­ture of lies and con­ve­nience and ease, you have the abil­i­ty to say the truth clear­ly and, I hope, the peo­ple of this coun­try have the will­ing­ness to hear your words.”

I want­ed VERY bad­ly for him to read the let­ter, but every­one knows how hard it is to get a let­ter to the Pres­i­dent him­self. My sis­ter and her hus­band gave it to some­one who gave it to some­one who gave it to his per­son­al sec­re­tary, the per­son who decides what papers go across his desk. Pret­ty darned close.

Then today, I got a let­ter from Oba­ma. It was beau­ti­ful. It feels incred­i­bly good to know he heard me.

Rather than link to her let­ter and his reply (which are online else­where), I’d like to pro­vide them here:

Dear Pres­i­dent-Elect Oba­ma,

For the last year or so I have felt as if the world was falling apart. Our sys­tem is based on buy­ing more than we need, more cheap­ly than the true costs. We believe that we deserve com­fort and ease and mate­r­i­al things that our Earth can not afford to give us. That is why I hoped so much that you would be elect­ed. You bring hope and true lead­er­ship to this coun­try and this world. There is a chance, now, for my two-year-old daugh­ter to live in a world of beau­ty and love instead of the chaos and greed I had begun to imag­ine for her.

She is a glo­ri­ous child, full of life and love and humor and she alone is worth chang­ing the world for. You must not fal­ter. I know in my head that there are mil­lions of chil­dren to pro­tect; even adults who have cre­at­ed this mess are wor­thy. But I must ask you for her in par­tic ular. The day after your elec­tion I learned that I do not have much time. A sev­en-year-old can­cer has spread to my lungs and brain and will pre­vent me from tak­ing part in the changes that must occur. So I am beg­ging you to lead this world with all your heart and mind, to not take the easy path and to nev­er let the rest of us take it either. This is a lot to ask of you, I know. Our entire par­a­digm must shift. Our deci­sions have been based on mate­r­i­al pos­ses­sions and com­forts. Even mine. I just decid­ed a few weeks ago to try to live with­out my own car. I real­ized that I must be part of the solu­tion now before it is too late. But my tiny real­iza­tion must be mag­ni­fied a mil­lion times if it is to save our beau­ti­ful Earth. Our lives must change. We sim­ply can not sus­tain what we are cur­rent­ly doing.

My hope is that you are hon­est and coura­geous enough to lead us in the direc­tion we must go. You have two beau­ti­ful daugh­ters your­self. You know there isn’t a moment to lose.
But your task is daunt­ing. It is not some thing you can do alone. You will need to con­vince the peo­ple of this coun­try and in this world that they need to and can change. If any one can do this, it is you. In a cul­ture of lies and con­ve­nience and ease, you have the abil­i­ty to say the truth clear­ly and, I hope, the peo­ple of this coun­try have the will­ing­ness to hear your words. The changes we must make will require almost over­whelm­ing amounts of courage and hope — and that is what you inspire in us.

My dar­ling Lucy can do with­out most of what we have grown accus­tomed to — the mate­r­i­al pos­ses­sions and the com­forts. But she needs a healthy Earth and a thought­ful self-sac­ri­fic­ing humankind will­ing to act for our future gen­er­a­tions no mat­ter how dif­fi­cult.

Please, from the bot­tom of my heart, don’t give up this fight. If you could meet my daugh­ter Lucy, you would know why you can not. And there are mil­lions of Lucys in this world.

Sin­cere­ly,
Rebec­ca Ham­mann

Obama’s reply:

Dear Rebec­ca,

Thank you for the let ter that you wrote to me on behalf of your daugh­ter. I was moved by your sense of hope and pur­pose.

You described what makes Lucy unique and glo­ri­ous, and then end­ed by say­ing that “there are mil­lions of Lucys in this world.” I was struck by the seem­ing con­tra­dic­tion, but of course it’s true — we all know that there are hun­dreds of mil­lions of chil­dren, and yet each is unique.

Just like you, I try every day to build a bet­ter world for my daugh­ters, and to make sure they are ready to enjoy it — that their per­son­al­i­ties are shaped by love, knowl­edge, com­pas­sion, a sense of hon­or, and the free spir­it that my moth­er always nur­tured in me. While I can’t imag­ine the anguish you feel know­ing that Lucy will grow up with out you, I am pro­found­ly hon­ored to be part of the hope that buoys you today.

You are right to be hope­ful, because our chil­dren face a future of lim­it­less pos­si­bil­i­ty. We know that a sus­tain­able way of life is essen­tial to our chil­dren and grand chil­dren. But beyond that, the quest for sus­tain­abil­i­ty that you described with such elo­quence and pas­sion is inte­gral as well, because it is a pow­er­ful uni­fi­er, moti­vat­ing peo­ples and nations to act in con­cert so that all may ben­e­fit.
I have every con­fi­dence that your daugh­ter will grow up to be a part of this, liv­ing out the prin­ci­ples that have moti­vat­ed you and which will live on with­in her. My heart tells me Lucy will play a part in cre­at­ing the change you and I seek. My faith tells me that you will be smil­ing down on us the whole time.

Sin­cere­ly,
Barack Oba­ma

With Becca’s death last week, two phras­es come to my mind. The first is Shake­speare, from King Lear, when he mourns Cordelia: “Thou’lt come no more, / Nev­er, nev­er, nev­er, nev­er, nev­er.” I will nev­er again hear her unmis­tak­able voice, nev­er again take in those gray-blue eyes, nev­er again kiss her (we kissed once; I thought there would be more but that one was the first and last), she’ll nev­er see the sketch­es I made of a Sym­pho­ny that includ­ed her name (or at least the let­ters E-B-E-C-C-A) worked into it in sev­er­al sec­tions. We’ll nev­er have a reunion where we laugh over my youth­ful crush on her (and how one day she final­ly wrote me a let­ter telling me to light­en up, that I was becom­ing a bit of a pain).

The oth­er is a phrase from one of the Eng­lish trans­la­tions I read of the Tao Te Ching: “The Tao is the mys­te­ri­ous female.” Like many young girls, Bec­ca talked soft­ly and mum­bled. Rather than ask her to say a phrase again, the awk­ward, pim­ply ado­les­cent that I was, I would just guess at what she had said. This, plus the com­plex work­ings of her mind, made her a great mys­tery to me, and one can’t but help but love a mys­te­ri­ous female.

Final­ly, as a last word, I want­ed to include one oth­er entry in Becca’s online diary, which also dis­plays, for lack of a bet­ter word, just how extra­or­di­nary she was, to the end:

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 24, 2008 1:25 PM, CST

This whole expe­ri­ence is pro­found­ly dif­fer­ent than I would have ever expect­ed. I feel over­whelm­ing­ly lucky. There is so much good­ness around me. I have to say I’ve been kind of down on humans as a species for a while. When we just go about their busi­ness, we take too much from our Earth and each oth­er. We are so often self­ish and cru­el. But when faced with chal­lenge, human beings are a glo­ri­ous thing. We are full of love and strength. Any­thing is pos­si­ble. The thoughts and love com­ing from all of you just proves this. Thank you for shar­ing your thoughts and feel­ings with me!

And it seems clear that this whole expe­ri­ence isn’t real­ly about me. It is about the chal­lenge. The thing that makes us rise up and be what we ought to be. I see those around me do this every­day and it fills my heart with hope. Not for the amount of time I may or may not have, but for all of us.

Bec­ca

Summer in the City

It’s been a while since I’ve writ­ten any­thing, main­ly because I always feel the need to take a lit­tle time off in the sum­mer, par­tic­u­lar­ly since this sum­mer weath­er has been so spec­tac­u­lar­ly good. True, it has been a lit­tle warm, and even on some days, down­right hot. Still, that hasn’t kept us from get­ting out and enjoy­ing the city, vis­it­ing with friends, tak­ing long walks along False Creek, and even a few out­ings with the car.

An Intimate Evening with Hummingbird604 and Some Exotic Potent Potables

It was one of those hot nights in Down­town Van­cou­ver when we went out one of the evenings a cou­ple of weeks ago. Rather than try and escape the heat (as any sane per­son would do), we embraced it. We climbed the stair­case to the third floor of The Net­work Hub, one of the shared office space and social incu­ba­tors in town on West Hast­ings and Richards, a cou­ple of blocks away from Water­front Sta­tion. Hummingbird604 (AKA Raul to those who know him), host­ed a small group of friends and blog­gers to try out some inter­est­ing new bev­er­ages from Chi­na. When we arrived, we were greet­ed by Christy Nguyen and Min­na Van of Urban­bel­la Mar­ket­ing Group. To go with the liq­uids, they had already begun to put out some Chi­nese food (which was help­ful to see how the liq­uids might go with dif­fer­ent dish­es).

The 15 or so of us dug in and chat­ted as we were try­ing to keep cool. I was hap­py to see plen­ty of friends, includ­ing Gus (and Russ), Tanya (with her new fiancé, Bar­ry), Degan, Eri­ca and John.

So what were we try­ing? There were three dif­fer­ent items. First, there was a red wine, a saki (or rice wine) and a whiskey, which we could try straight up as well as a mix­er in a sort of lemon­ade (which was per­fect for a hot night). I opt­ed imme­di­ate­ly for the most unusu­al (at least for me) thing to try first: the whiskey, straight up from a shot glass. This is not because I want­ed to get drunk fast, but because I tend to be a bit of a purist when it comes to liquor, and love Sin­gle-malt Scotch. I was also intrigued, because this whiskey , called Chu Yeh Ching Chiew, was, as an accom­pa­ny­ing infor­ma­tion card put it:

…a spe­cial ancient liquor made from tra­di­tion­al Chi­nese herbal recipe. It has (a) trans­par­ent gold­en and slight­ly green colour, and intense flo­ral herbal aro­mas of dried apri­cot. It’s off dry with a hint of anise and packs a lengthy fin­ish.

What this infor­ma­tion does not include (and which the name and pic­tures on the bot­tle do), is that this is alco­hol fer­ment­ed from bam­boo shoots. I tried it and was impressed. To me, it had the strength of an Irish Whiskey, but the fin­ish was exot­ic; with a bit of gin­seng, and per­haps anoth­er spice. Here’s what the bot­tle looked like:

 Bamboo Whiskey from China. Photo courtesy of Hummingbird604

Bam­boo Whiskey from Chi­na. Pho­to cour­tesy of Hummingbird604

Here’s my own pho­to of the bot­tle:

My own photo of the same bottle

My own pho­to of the same bot­tle

The com­pa­ny who pro­vid­ed it is Hi-Bridge Con­sult­ing, although as I men­tioned, Urban Bel­la was the Pub­lic Rela­tions firm who arranged for the tast­ing. I have to say that this prod­uct, with some repack­ag­ing, and per­haps a new, Eng­lish name, could do extreme­ly well. They also offered it in a lemon­ade mix­er, which wasn’t as inter­est­ing (but did prove that it could be a fine mix­er), but I have to say that straight up, it is a very impres­sive drink. I pro­pose that they call it, Bam­boo Mist, and put it in a dis­tinc­tive, frost­ed bot­tle with bam­boo brush style let­ter­ing on the label (and keep the bam­boo leaf art as well). Mar­ket it to upscale liquor stores and put it in the sec­tion that has oth­er drinks strong­ly asso­ci­at­ed with a coun­try (like Jame­son Whiskey, Aqua­vit, Midori or per­haps Sabra). I real­ize that some of those are liqueurs, but hope­ful­ly you can see where I’m going with this. In addi­tion, there’s the whole sus­tain­abil­i­ty angle, since bam­boo is one of the world’s most sus­tain­able nat­ur­al resources (it grows in a vari­ety of places like a weed). Many peo­ple in North Amer­i­ca have floors and fur­ni­ture made of bam­boo. It makes excel­lent cut­ting boards. If you don’t use a lot of nasty chem­i­cals, it also can pro­duce won­der­ful, earth-friend­ly and silky fab­ric. One of my all-time-favourite T-shirts is a long-sleeved green­ish cocoa one that feels an awful lot like silk. It is also wash­able and wicks per­spi­ra­tion well. To have a whisky from the same mate­r­i­al seems a nat­ur­al for a mar­ket­ing cam­paign that not only plays off the exot­ic sound of liquor from ancient Chi­nese bam­boo groves, but also of a whisky that ecol­o­gy-mind­ed folks can love as well. Are you lis­ten­ing, Hi-Bridge?

There was also a less impres­sive Sake (Sake from Chi­na? Well, OK) which did have a strange, thick, almost choco­late taste and con­sis­ten­cy, and an extreme­ly undis­tin­guished Caber­net Sauvi­gnon (sor­ry), but the Chu Yeh Ching Chiew (although the name doesn’t exact­ly trip off the tongue for those who don’t speak Chi­nese) made the evening, which in addi­tion to friends, imbib­ing and talk, also includ­ed some appro­pri­ate Chi­nese food to nib­ble on.

We All got together for a group shot near the end of the evening. Photo courtesy of Hummingbird604

We all got togeth­er for a group shot near the end of the evening. Pho­to cour­tesy of Hummingbird604
Another Evening

As I men­tioned, Pam and I have been tak­ing lots of walks after din­ner (main­ly to walk off the meal — we have been eat­ing so well late­ly!) One time we actu­al­ly drove some­where, how­ev­er, was a trip down to Rich­mond for the famous Night Mar­ket. It’s an open air mar­ket in an indus­tri­al park, far from every­where, but you feel as if you’ve gone fur­ther. Besides the booths of every­thing from socks from Korea and iPod/iPhone acces­sories from Chi­na, there are the food booths. Oh. My. I real­ly do love street food, and this was no excep­tion. In addi­tion to some fan­tas­tic squid, cooked up on the flames right in front of us:

Squid! Yum!

Squid! Yum!

I also got a ridicu­lous­ly fun (and sil­ly) spi­ral of a fried pota­to, driz­zled with a hot and sweet chili sauce. Tru­ly a won­der­ful blend of ‘carny’ food and Thai-style spices. As you can see, I was grin­ning like a kid. I think I’m real­ly get­ting psy­ched for our trip to South­east Asia that we’re just start­ing to plan for next year:

Me at the Night Market

Me at the Night Mar­ket

A Summer Full of People

Up until recent­ly, many of the pho­tos I’ve been tak­ing this past cou­ple of months have been of nature; flow­ers, birds, the for­est, etc.

Then, Van­cou­ver went all gre­gar­i­ous on us. The fact is, when the days are as beau­ti­ful and com­fort­able as they have been, you just have to get out, and every­body else has the same idea. So this month has been a series of fes­ti­vals, mee­tups, twee­t­ups (think impromp­tu get-togeth­er flash-mob via web mes­sag­ing), BBQs and gen­er­al get-togeth­ers.

A cou­ple of weeks ago was Car-Free Van­cou­ver day, in which sev­er­al sec­tions of the city blocked off areas to auto­mo­bile traf­fic and ven­dors (and oth­ers) set up booths. Pam and I went up and down a large sec­tion of Main Street, but didn’t get to the oth­er streets that were par­tic­i­pat­ing, includ­ing Com­mer­cial Dri­ve (where the move­ment start­ed) and a large swath of Den­man. We saw every­thing from Tai Chi:

Tai Chi - 1

to crowds and bal­loons near­ly as far as the eye could see:

Crowds as far as the Horizon

Then, this past week­end, it was the Greek fes­ti­val, which took over a stretch of Broad­way to the east of us. It was an enor­mous crowd, and Pam and I chowed down on Sou­vla­ki…

Cooking the Souvlaki

…and Bakla­va (Pam opt­ed for a lemon pound-cake with almonds called Samali, after a Ugan­dan friend she has of the same name). I learned that my name in Greek is NTABINT (although pho­net­i­cal­ly it’s spelled ∆ABI∆ ). We also real­ized that this sec­tion of the city was full of great lit­tle Greek restau­rants and delis, so now we know where to get the best pita and treats like Koura­bi­ethes (sug­ar cook­ies), Kataifi (Bakla­va with shred­ded dough) and the near­ly unpro­nounce­able but deli­cious Galak­to­boureko Rol­la (Phyl­lo stuffed with cus­tard).

Last night was the Meet­up of all Mee­tups at the Ceilis Irish Pub down­town. A com­bi­na­tion of the Third Tues­day Meet­up, The Van­cou­ver Sales Per­for­mance Meet­up, Van­cou­ver Blogger’s Meet­up, Real Estate Tech­nol­o­gy Meet­up, Young Pro­fes­sion­als Meet­up, Word­Press Meet­up and the Van­cou­ver Entre­pre­neur Meet­up Group all made for a huge crowd on the rooftop:

It was a very, very big Meetup

I was glad to see a lot of friends and fel­low Van­cou­ver blog­gers there, includ­ing Raul, Tanya, Mon­i­ca and Shane:

Raul, ?,Tanya, Monica and Shane

One fun part of this meet­up was that there were door prizes, and by pure luck, I won one! Dig­i­tal Smart Homes pro­vid­ed a Kan­to Zed iPod Speak­er sys­tem, and I’m hav­ing fun unbox­ing it today! Thanks, guys!

See, it wasn’t just a month of flow­ers, birds and trees…

A Musical Mystery

There are a cou­ple of iPhone apps called Shaz­am and Lis­ten that iden­ti­fy music by hold­ing up the phone to take in the sound as it’s being played or repro­duced, but they’re pret­ty much lim­it­ed to songs on the radio. Some ren­di­tions of music don’t lend them­selves to that method of iden­ti­fi­ca­tion. For exam­ple, a friend of Pam recent­ly got a music box. It had been in their fam­i­ly for a long time, and it played a tune that she didn’t rec­og­nize. Her back­ground is Scot­tish, and although we didn’t rec­og­nize the tune, it has a vague­ly folk-song sound to it, and at one part, I even detect­ed a ‘Scot­tish Snap’, which is the dis­tinc­tive rhyth­mic pat­tern of a short note fol­lowed by a longer one (after sev­er­al of the usu­al long-short, long-short pat­terns). Here’s what the music box sounds like. I let it play the tune twice:

      gabriel­li

Any idea what this melody is? I’m guess­ing it’s a Scot­tish folk song, but it might pos­si­bly be a pop­u­lar tune from years ago.