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.