Turning the Ignition Key

I’m going to just start typ­ing, and bear with me, because it feels a bit like start­ing up a car that’s been sit­ting in a garage for sev­er­al weeks. Not rusty, but a lit­tle creaky and not quite ready for the open road for a few min­utes, at least until it starts to warm up…

Speak­ing of tem­per­a­ture, today was chilly, and for the first time, it tru­ly felt like fall was in the air. Nev­er mind that sum­mer has offi­cial­ly been over for 3 weeks. Van­cou­ver does­n’t get the spec­tac­u­lar dis­play of autumn leaves that we used to see in New Eng­land, and it was part­ly what made it my favourite sea­son. Now, I’m not quite as fond of it as I used to be, but I still do like the sea­son­al dish­es and pro­duce: Rata­touille, roast­ed squash, pears and cran­ber­ries, and I also like the fact that it’s typ­i­cal­ly the time of year when I feel as if every­thing’s start­ing up, that the year is real­ly begin­ning. Jan­u­ary 1st may be the offi­cial kick-off of the cal­en­dar year, but as the son of two teach­ers and now some­times one myself, the aca­d­e­m­ic cal­en­dar always seems more appropriate.

Back to class­es here also means the return of the Fringe Fes­ti­val, and I’m a fan. That’s over and done with now, but I did make it to a few shows. It was grat­i­fy­ing to see that the annu­al fes­ti­val of inti­mate the­atre that takes place near­by us on Granville Island as well as through­out the city was more pop­u­lar this year than ever. I’m afraid that I did­n’t get to the Inter­na­tion­al Film Fes­ti­val, which usu­al­ly comes on the heels of the Fringe, but it also looked to be well attended.

So what’s com­ing up? I’m look­ing for­ward to Bar­Camp, the year­ly uncon­fer­ence where every­body gets to be an expert in some­thing. I think I have a sub­ject to talk about this year, and I’ll be putting some of that up before­hand, main­ly to tease those who might be inter­est­ed in it. I’m also antic­i­pat­ing the Cas­soulet fes­ti­val that Oya­ma Sausage Com­pa­ny cel­e­brates. I’ve writ­ten about it before, and per­haps I will again. After all, it’s not ever day that you get to eat what’s prob­a­bly the most sub­lime dish ever made with beans, herbs and meats.

I’m not look­ing for­ward to the elec­tion back in the US. Pol­i­tics and gov­ern­ment in the US has reached the point of com­plete and utter absur­di­ty. The Amer­i­can elec­torate is now by and large so irra­tional and dri­ven by Pub­lic Rela­tions manip­u­la­tion that I don’t expect any sane out­come in Novem­ber. I’ve been lis­ten­ing to the audio ver­sion of the book The Age of Amer­i­can Unrea­son by Susan Jaco­by, and I’m becom­ing con­vinced that she is right on tar­get. Polit­i­cal cul­ture in the US is a reflec­tion of gen­er­al cul­ture, which has become less and less informed, knowl­edgable and rea­soned. Amer­i­cans have stopped talk­ing about any­thing impor­tant, except the lat­est scan­dal, goofy YouTube moment, or gaffe. Instead of call­ing the Tea Par­ty out on their igno­rance of what the Con­sti­tu­tion says (like for instance, the sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers which makes it clear that a Pres­i­dent can’t send in sol­diers to anoth­er coun­try with­out the approval of Con­gress, which is exact­ly what George W. Bush did in Iraq), the TV net­works focus on enter­tain­ing peo­ple with sound-bites. Amer­i­cans don’t read news­pa­pers any more, much less books. With enter­tain­ment trump­ing real infor­ma­tion, it’s clear to me that the most pow­er­ful voice in US pol­i­tics is not any of the politi­cians, but Fox News. Dur­ing my US trip, at cer­tain motels, Fox News was the only cable news chan­nel avail­able on the tele­vi­sion. That would be like Prav­da being the only news­pa­per avail­able at a news stand (for those who aren’t famil­iar with the name ‘Pravi­da’, it was Russ­ian for ‘Truth’, and was the offi­cial news source of the USSR). With Fox the most wide­spread and pop­u­lar source of info-pablum, the US is now effec­tive­ly being led by Rupert Mur­doch’s News Corporation.

There, it looks like my motor is run­ning again.

Did She Just Say That?

Hap­py July 4th to all of my friends and rel­a­tives back in the US. Pam and I tuned in this morn­ing to the news and polit­i­cal talk shows, expect­ing a pret­ty unevent­ful roundup of pre-Fire­works chat­ter, and were sur­prised to see some news­wor­thy items. One was a final reac­tion by pun­dits to the Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee’s head, Michael Steele. For the past cou­ple of years, Steele has been ‘the gift that keeps on giv­ing’ to Lib­er­als like myself, and it was always hys­ter­i­cal when he came out with one of his either undig­ni­fied or ridicu­lous state­ments. The lat­est one, how­ev­er, seemed to go over the line. At a fundrais­er in Noank, Con­necti­cut, some­one caught Steele in the fol­low­ing video that became one of those gaffes heard round the world:

Tran­script:
“The [Gen­er­al] McChrys­tal inci­dent, to me, was very com­i­cal. I think it’s a reflec­tion of the frus­tra­tion that a lot of our mil­i­tary lead­ers has with this Admin­is­tra­tion and their pros­e­cu­tion of the war in Afghanistan. Keep in mind again, fed­er­al can­di­dates, this was a war of Obama’s choos­ing. This was not some­thing that the Unit­ed States had active­ly pros­e­cut­ed or want­ed to engage in. It was one of those areas of the total board of for­eign pol­i­cy [that was at least?] that we would be in the back­ground sort of shap­ing the changes that were nec­es­sary in Afghanistan as opposed to direct­ly engag­ing troops. But it was the Pres­i­dent who was try­ing to be cute by half by flip­ping a script demo­niz­ing Iraq, while say­ing the bat­tle real­ly should in Afghanistan. Well, if he is such a stu­dent of his­to­ry, has he not under­stood that you know that’s the one thing you don’t do, is engage in a land war in Afghanistan? Alright, because every­one who has tried over a thou­sand years of his­to­ry has failed, and there are rea­sons for that. There are oth­er ways to engage in Afghanistan…”

Now I won’t go too much into how wrong that is on so many lev­els (not the least of which is that it’s his­tor­i­cal­ly inac­cu­rate — there was no ‘choice’ involved and the US, led by George W. Bush, attacked Afghanistan after the ter­ror­ist attack on the World Trade Cen­ter and the Pen­ta­gon on Sep­tem­ber 11, 2001), but the con­dem­na­tion from Democ­rats and Repub­li­cans has been pret­ty severe, with the excep­tion of the always-sur­pris­ing Ron Paul, who said that Steele, “has it right and Repub­li­cans should stick by him.”
At any rate, we did a dou­ble-take when we heard this from Cyn­thia Tuck­er, the Pulitzer prize win­ning reporter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Wow! It’s not often you hear some­one deliv­er as blis­ter­ing a cri­tique as that. In fact, I dare say if any­one else had said what she said, (par­tic­u­lar­ly some­one who was­n’t also black) they might have been accused of being racist.

It’s pret­ty clear that Steele is toast. As I hint­ed ear­li­er, that’s a shame for Democ­rats (Al Hunt a few moments before this clip sug­gest­ed that Steele was actu­al­ly a Demo­c­ra­t­ic Mole). How­ev­er, he (and Ms. Tuck­er) did pro­vide some ear­ly fire­works for this July 4 morning.

Tomorrow

July 5 is also a big date, at least for Pam and me. On this date, 5 years ago, we left Cam­bridge, MA and began our jour­ney to Cana­da. While I’m always a lit­tle pen­sive on the 4th, remem­ber­ing those long after­noons on the bank of the Charles riv­er get­ting ready for the fire­works and singing patri­ot­ic songs, I also remem­ber how excit­ed we were to be start­ing a new chap­ter in our lives. These days, I don’t intro­duce myself as a ‘new Van­cou­verite’ any more. I now con­sid­er the low­er Main­land my home, and despite more than a few glances back at the US, we have no plans to return to liv­ing there. The July 4 of 2005 will prob­a­bly be the last one we spent as US residents.

Happy Canada Day 2010!

It’s that day of the  year again, when we all wear red and white T‑shirts with Cana­da on them, head down to Granville Island to get tem­po­rary maple leaf tat­toos and cel­e­brate Cana­da Day (or as it was orig­i­nal­ly called, Domin­ion Day).

Thanks to Heather for some pho­tos of us in our regalia (well, the T‑shirts any­way). The island was jammed, despite less-than-per­fect weath­er. It sprin­kled on and off all day, but that did­n’t damp­en the spir­its (and appetite) of peo­ple, who chowed down on all sorts of good­ies: we got some oh-so-tra­di­tion­al bar­be­cued squid and tofu and bub­ble tea; oth­ers had Chow Mein noo­dles and Pork Dumplings, Viet­namese cof­fee, hot dogs, shaved ice and But­ter Chick­en. I’m always thrilled at how so many peo­ple born in Cana­da and  immi­grants like us cel­e­brate and share in the good fel­low­ship of ‘Our Home and (near­ly) Native Land.’
Pam and I show off our Canada Day Tattoos

Pam and I show off our Cana­da Day Tattoos

Canada Day on Granville Island

Cana­da Day on Granville Island

The Seal pokes up his head

The Seal pokes up his head

Canada Day Cookies

Saw these cook­ies cool­ing off a few days before

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 Bon 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.

Happy Thanksgiving to the US

While here in Cana­da we cel­e­brat­ed our Thanks­giv­ing back on Octo­ber 12th, this one is ‘the big one’ that we hear about from the South. With that in mind, I thought I’d send a lit­tle bit of Beethoven­ian Good Will (by way of the Mup­pets) your way, my Amer­i­can friends and family:

(Thanks to Bren­da Cad­man of Octo­ber 17 Media for find­ing this. )

I haven’t been blog­ging much this month (maybe it’s the rain — 22 days of it this month!, maybe it’s the time of year — very busy). I will make a seri­ous effort to get some­thing more sub­stan­tial here this com­ing week. In the meantime…

Seid umschlun­gen, Millionen!
Diesen Kuß der ganzen Welt!

Be embraced, you millions!
This kiss for the whole world!