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.

Bipar­ti­san
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
’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:

Trans­par­ent
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.