Summer Days, Trips and Food

I haven’t been blogging much lately, partially because I am still somewhat busy with work, and also because those times when I’m not busy, I’m usually taking it easy. The weather has been so warm and sunny, and this time of year the sun sets so late (usually around 9:20 PM) that we are taking some walks after dinner, partly for weight control, partly because it’s just too good to miss the sunsets and light on the water.

With the good weather have come some trips that were a photographer’s holiday, notably one where we met my brother and his family at the tail end of Skagit Tulip Festival:

Skagit Tulips - 30

Skagit Tulips - 50

Skagit Tulips - 58

We also had a nice walk through the Rieger Bird Sanctuary on Westham Island (where we intend to go to pick berries in a couple of weeks):

Feeding a Chickadee

Duck Swimming in Dappled Sunshine

Finally, we took a couple of walks through Stanley Park and Pacific Spirit Park:

Near the Pavilion

Beaver Pond - 5

Beaver Pond Lilies - 6

Pam on Spirit Park Trail

Mushrooms in Spirit Park

As you might expect, with the laid-back weather and walks have come the summer fruits and vegetables. It’s been a great year for asparagus, and we heard that the strawberry harvest, due to the dry, warm spell, is excellent. The apricots (both orange and purple), sweet Donut Peaches (sorry, Mom and Dad, this time they were perfect – not like the ones you had), and Dinosaur egg plums are all appearing in the market, and today we saw the first of what we hope will be bushels of blueberries. Tonight, we decided to follow the cue of Edible Vancouver magazine and make this superb appetizer, Stuffed Apricots:

Stuffed Apricots

10 small, perfectly ripe apricots
2 oz.(55g) blue brie or other mild blue cheese
4 oz. (115g) cream cheese
10 small leaves fresh basil
20-40 pine nuts, toasted

Halve apricots and remove pits. Mix cheeses together until well blended. Fill each apricot half with cheese and garnish with one basil leaf and one or two pine nuts.

Here’s what it ends up looking like:

Stuffed Apricots

Thanks again, Dad, for the camera.

Coming Up for Air and Tired Old Phrases

I’ve had to neglect blogging for much of this month, because I’ve been working very hard. It’s hopefully going to work out in the end, but this is one of those times where I have to keep intoning that mantra “It’s Only Temporary.” So, while today was one of those picture-perfect days we in Vancouver get in the spring and summer, I must confess that I only saw it via the occasional peek at a the KatKam webcam from my windowless office. I might as well have been underground, instead out in the place that has once again been named by Mercer Consulting, Number 4 of the ‘Top 5 quality of living ranking for cities worldwide‘. While I am proud of the fact that my home is once again up there with Vienna, Zurich, Geneva and Auckland as one of the best places to live, I have to admit that for us personally, for a variety of reasons,  it’s been a very tough past couple months. However, I’m looking forward to beautiful sunny days with cool breezes, local strawberries and asparagus, walks along the False Creek seawall and the return of the Farmer’s Markets on the weekends. The fountain in the park across the street is flowing again, and the tulips are out in full force. I just have to be sure to get out and enjoy all of those things. After all, they are all only temporary as well.

Heard Often. Way Too Often

To keep an eye on our former country, Pam and I have tried to catch one of the network news channels from the US each evening over dinner, so we keep switching between TiVO recordings of Brian (Williams), Katie (Couric) and Charlie (pronounced the way Sarah Palin did in the puff-piece interviews he did her, as the sharp, twangy CHAR-ly, Gibson). I’ve been noticing an annoying tendency by both the reporters as well as the public (and politicians) for using the same phrases over and over again. Here are a few that I’ve just about had enough of:

Come Together
What does that phrase mean? Aside from the sexual double-entendre, as far as I can tell, it means to have a public meeting where  problems like gang violence, racial strife and poverty are all magically overcome by an aura of good fellowship. Sorry, I’m not buying it. It’s an empty phrase uttered over and over again in front of TV cameras by people who have no idea what they are saying.

Until recently ‘bipartisan’ used to mean something. I think it meant that both of the big, iconic US political parties support something, as opposed to its more common opposite, ‘partisan’ (which now that I think of it, could have been Monopartisan). Now,’ bipartisan’ is uttered by politicians meaning (depending on which side they are on)  ‘Something I wanted but never got’ or ‘Something we should all look like we are trying for even though we really don’t want it anyway’.  Like Lite and Fat-Free or Sustainable, it’s an now a meaningless word held aloft like a flag of victory or rag of defeat.

Wall Street always followed by Main Street
It used to be that you could say ‘Wall Street’ and everybody knew that it referred to the New York Stock Exchange, as well as the other business and organizations in that general geographic area of Manhattan. Now, like Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum or Flotsam and Jetsam, it has become a stupid shorthand for the hostility between the rich and connected in the Financial Services Sector vs. Middle America. Like two squabbling children, we are supposed to make sure both are taken care of, but not to let the other get jealous or sulky. I hope they break up the idiom before it becomes another ‘prim and proper’ or ‘tooth and nail’.

‘Bailout’ originally meant ‘an act of loaning or giving capital to a failing company in order to save it from bankruptcy, insolvency, or total liquidation and ruin’. (Wikipedia). Now it’s almost become a joke phrase, meaning  Free Money.  Enough, already. It’s never funny.

…and the word or phrase that I’ve found the both the most ubiquitous and annoyingly imprecise on the news these past months:

I’ve heard this word used so many times, I’ve started doing the old Pee-Wee’s Playhouse shtick (well, not screaming real loud, but saying ‘ding!’) every time it is uttered.  I think it was to suggest that like a glass house, the operations and decisions of an organization (such as the Federal Government) were to be easily apprehended by the public, typically by using a Web Site or some other publicly accessible medium. Wasn’t that what C-SPAN was supposed to do? (except of course, nobody but the wonks and fanatics bothered to watch it). Again, like ‘Come Together’, Transparent is another word or phrase overused to the point of meaninglessness.

There are others, but these are the ones that come to mind today. I’m sure that in a few weeks I’ll be sick of ‘Torture Memo’ and ‘Pandemic’, because they’ll have been made just as meaningless through repetition by that time.

Vancouver’s New Convention Centre

Vancouver Convention Centre

Vancouver Convention Centre

Pam and I had a little free time this weekend, so on Saturday, we headed over to the waterfront, and were among the first couple of thousand people who walked around the new Convention Centre. The project, which has been underway as long as we can remember (and probably was officially started before we even arrived here in 2005), has come in horribly over budget, and I do remember stories of some of the metal used in the building being stolen. However it is done, and in time for the Olympics, as well as a few year’s worth of convention bookings in the space from 2010 onward.

Pam and I both liked the architecture of the building, especially the impressive wood walls and green roof. It’s definitely as much an ecological statement as it is a building; there are even resident beehives and a beekeeper for maintaining them. I understand that this wasn’t the first time that some of the general public had seen the inside, as friend and blogger Tiny Bites covered the 2009 BC Restaurant Hall of Fame gala at the same venue a few days ago.

The space is large, but several places get the great view of the Burrard Inlet and the mountains. For this opening day, they had several acrobats and other performers on hand, and I got some video of them. Here’s a tour, including a performance from a group who’s dressing room said ‘Cirque’. I’ve looked and not found anything that said it was Cirque du Soleil, but I’m thinking it certainly looked like them:

Here are some other stills, if you are not keen on watching video of some of the same:
Vancouver Convention Centre: East Side

Vancouver Convention Centre: East Side

Interior with Globe

Interior with Globe

Looking out to the West

Looking out to the West

Want more? Here’s a slideshow on Flickr that has these plus a few more:
Slideshow: Opening Day at the Vancouver Convention Centre

The Massive Technology Show, Fourth Time Around

The Massive Tech Show Logo

As I’ve written in earlier postings, I have soft spot in my heart for the annual Massive Tech Expo. I remember learning about it first in Boston, before I moved to Vancouver, and then deciding to have our first exploratory visit to the city coincide with it, back in 2005. Readers of this blog know that it was through this show that I eventually got my first job here, and also met the owner of the condo that we ended up buying. That first Massive was good to us.

This year, I have the somewhat less urgent needs in terms of employment (am working now, even if it is a little sporadic to begin with), and housing (we are still in the same place we got via that first show). The first time I attended it, the conference and show floor occupied the Telus Science World ‘golf ball’ (geodesic dome) at eastern end of False Creek. In the years after that, it grew to take up part of one of the show halls in Canada Place (the big building with white ‘sails’ on the the roof, looking out on the Burrard Inlet), the show’s largest footprint. This year, ‘Massive’ was noticeably less massive, and housed in less fancy digs (partly due to ongoing construction), the UBC Robson Centre, an underground downtown campus that sits smack in the middle of the city, across from the Vancouver Art Gallery, which I’d say is the city’s heart, as well as its living room, pillow-fight/flash mob site, party room and Olympic Count-down clock mantel. Has it shrunk because of the current economy? I’d say that’s a good bet.

I was pleased to run into some friends there: Jonathan Narvey, who covered it well for TechVibes, as well as Jenn Lowther, Kris Krug and Tris Hussey. I also chatted with Chris Breikss at the 6S Marketing booth, and had a photo taken of me with my face turning crimson (I wish I didn’t blush so easily) as I held up my free T-Shirt (for tweeting the fact that I was visiting the 6S Marketing Booth, of course) flanked by 2 pretty girls, with the slogan ‘Show us your tweets!’ on it.

The afternoon (I had to do a work thing in the morning, and hence, didn’t get to the show until around 2), was mainly spent chatting with vendors, exploring the possibilities of some referral programs and potential business opportunities for my company, but it was actually pretty low-key and friendly.  The most stressful moments were when I was interviewed live on the Internet (streaming video) by the folks at Media2o, a video/multimedia production company (the company Tris works for, who produce the local tech TV show “ConnectedLife“). I don’t think I blushed for that, but I can’t be sure, as I didn’t see the feed.

If my usual good luck that involves the Massive show applies, I’ll bet that one of the people I met or talked to or deals I explored will result in something good down the road. It’s only a matter of time.

Too Much of a Good Thing

Snow In the Mountains In Vancouver

Snow In the Mountains In Vancouver

You can have too much of anything, be it snow, holiday days off, or time spent indoors by the fire sipping hot chocolate. All of these things are good things, until you have too much of them.  The snow has definitely outstayed its welcome in Vancouver in 2008/09. It is certainly the most I’ve ever seen in the relatively short time I’ve lived here. It’s not only the depth, but the duration and repetition that has us going more than a little stir-crazy. It’s been 22 days of the white stuff on and off, but never melting away, since the first of it fell on December 13. (I learned from Frances Bula’s blog about the city that the record for Vancouver is 33 days in 1964/65.) Pam and I have despaired that each time we discuss venturing out with the car, to make a trek down to meet my brother, or even just fill the tank, sure enough, the flakes start to fall some more and we shelve our plans yet again. We’ve been out, trudging down to Granville Market and back with provisions more than a couple of times, but our lack of snow tires and the treacherous roads have kept the car underground and unusable.

Things that I have learned from this Snowmegadon, as others have referred to it:

  1. The city of Vancouver has 47 snow ploughs. Yes, in Canada it’s spelled ‘plough’, not ‘plow’ as it is in the States. They are getting 5 more snow ploughs before the 2010 Olympics, which will bring the number up to 52. That’s for the whole city.
  2. Roofs here were not made for this kind of snow accumulation. There have been many collapses, although most of the serious ones I’ve heard of involve northern Washington state, rather than BC, but I’m sure that there have been several.
  3. YVR (the Vancouver Airport), despite being voted Best Airport in North America in 2006 and 2007 is also not made for this kind of weather. It has periodically had to shut down. There have been many stories of people spending days (and sleeping there at night) during some of those shut-downs. Luggage has piled up. Who wants to bet it won’t get that high a standing in next year’s vote?
  4. Rats don’t take a snow day holiday. Pam and I saw one in the snow:Ratty in the Snow
    Ratty in the Snow

I’m sure that I’m putting on weight from all the cooking I’ve been doing. Tonight it was Thai-Style yellow Curry. Last night it was Swedish Meatballs (if we were going to have Scandinavian style weather, then by golly, we were going to eat that way too).  Late December and early January has seen Pot Roast, Roasted Lemon-Herb Chicken, Pizza (all from from scratch) Souvlaki-style Pork (from Costco),  Kasha Varnishkes (Buckwheat Groats and Farfalle for those who aren’t familiar) French Toast, Buckwheat Pancakes, and other assorted homemade culinary projects like applesauce and sweet pickles.

We’ve also gotten to bed later and later and slept in later and later, until I finally said the night before last that we had to adjust back to PST, rather than the roughly Hawaiian time zone that we seemed to be living in.

Now, with the holidays officially over, I’m hoping that we can escape our condo and get out and about. Besides, blogging about the weather is almost as boring as being cooped up for the past 22 days.