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Preview: Random thoughts of a student of the environment

Random thoughts of a student of the environment

The place where my random thoughts are stored. Commentaries on environmental issues, movies, music, dining out and life in Vancouver. The content of this blog tends to be Vancouver-centric but world issues are also discussed. By it's very nature, it's ver

Updated: 2017-11-08T07:50:58.621-08:00


Now check my own domain!


It's been WAY too long since I posted on Blogger. Admittedly, some people still end up here (I'm hoping Google will soon realize the errs of its way). Anyhow, just as I told you that my next posts would be hosted on, now may I present to you the new and improved Random Thoughts of a Student of the Environment (if you click on this link you'll reach, my new domain). How cool is that? Please update your bookmarks and your RSS feeds. Thanks!

New posts will be hosted on WordPress


Dear all,

I've noticed that some of you have not changed your RSS feeds, changed your bookmarks and updated your blogrolls. I just wanted to say that in the future my posts will be hosted at:

I have imported all of my posts from Blogger on to WordPress, so even if you liked an old post of mine, you will still be able to find it on my WordPress site. So, please make sure to check that one.

Thanks so much for your continued support and readership!

Please update your bookmarks and blogrolls - I've moved


Well, I figured the time would come eventually for me to move platforms. Blogger, it's been a great time. I created 632 posts on Blogger and I progressed from basically nothing to now having more confidence in my writing and my minimal Geek Factor. But since a number of awesome Vancouver bloggers have offered to have my back if I need help with WordPress (you know who you are!), I've decided not to wait any longer.

So, despite the annoying 'by hummingbird604' little thing over there at WP, I've decided to migrate. It may take a while to adjust, but hey whatever. I am just hoping my loyal readers will have no problems switching their RSS feeds, Google Readers, bookmarks and blogrolls.

So, welcome to my WordPress blog!

Please be patient. I'll be adding bloggers to my blogroll and playing with the themes until I find a nice one.

Review of "Two decades of failed climate change policy" by Mark Jaccard


First, I want to apologize because while I heard the second half of the lecture, I couldn't take notes as my battery died half way through (actually, exactly half way through). So, the notes you're going to read are pretty much only from the first half. Since Mark is an academic (and so am I), I think I would be making him a disservice if I wrote what I recall. The rest of my notes are pretty verbatim (I type really really fast) so I think I captured what he said.Second, my overall assessment. I think Mark's lecture was excellent. I know that a lot of people are going to complain about certain points that he made, or about his particular viewpoints on a number of issues (for example, on why he opposes Gateway). And quite honestly, I do disagree with some of his points as well (particularly in regards to carbon offsets). But the truth is, he really made it easy for a general audience to understand the rather conceptually complex theory behind environmental policy instruments. I think that there is a place for academics like Mark who are able to connect to general audiences and explain these concepts to them in an easy and accessible way. I know three other experts in the field of climate change in Canada who have the same ability, although they are based at UBC (not SFU).He first started by explaining four broad categories of environmental policy tools to reduce GHG emissions from fossil fuels, based on four methods of reduction:Energy efficiencySwitch to renewable energy sources or nuclear energyPollution control (carbon sequestration)Catch-allIn Mark's words, politicians don't do the above. Consumers, households and industry do it. So, governments only have policy tools to lead us to change actions. The four categories of policies he suggested are:Information programsSubsidiesRegulationFinancial chargesMark made a point that I found interesting - he is NOT an advocate of a carbon tax, as often portrayed in the media, but he said he was an advocate of compulsory policy because research has shown him that's the way to do it. That's not surprising to hear (that his research is often misinterpreted and portrayed in the wrong way on the media - that's happened to a number of other researchers - just ask Robert Putnam and his latest research on social capital, diverse communities and 'hunkering')Mark also made a point that all previous policies that had been implemented in Canada had failed to meet the target. According to Jaccard, energy efficiency is more costly than we think (what he called the second inconvenient truth), but that doesn't mean that we ought not to do it, we still should do it.While I have a smattering of other notes, I think that the best I can do is to just give you what were his main points. He suggests that non-compulsory policies (like subsidies, information programs, etc.) are NOT a substitute for compulsory policies.I was a little surprised (and taken aback) that he apparently doesn't advocate or even like the idea of offsets (as noted below)With apologies to people who have worked very hard to establish offsets emissions. It can give us a sense that “we don’t need to put in the compulsory policy”. An offset is a subsidy from an individual to another individual. Still has the same problems with subsidy – we have to try to make sure that the money will indeed make people behave differently – how can you be sure of that?I do like the idea of offsets because (a) at least they're at least a first step in reducing emissions and (b) there are systems that can be third-party audited. But then again, each one of us is entitled to our own opinion.Overall, I liked his delivery style, and it was an interesting lecture. I think that what VTACC is doing is rather important (educating people on climate change issues). I also think that they can't stop with three lectures and they need to keep this going. You'd be surprised. I got to the Canadian Memorial Church to see a room pretty much full with people who wanted to learn[...]

Sometimes, you just gotta do what you gotta do


While I admit that I'm somewhat of a clean freak (my apartment is about 450-500 sq ft so it's tiny and thus needs to always be clean and impeccable), I also know myself. Once I'm tired, the only thing I want to do is read, read and read. I hate doing dishes and having to clean up. However, last night (if we consider this Wednesday morning) I felt extremely frustrated by the state of affairs.

Let me explain. I hadn't rented a movie in a long while. When I do, I usually rent either at Happy Bats Cinema or a very tiny local store. On Tuesdays, said store has the 2x1 special. I have almost never been able to make use of it as I almost never make it to the store on time to pick up a movie on a Tuesday.

However, last night I went home straight after Mark Jaccard's lecture (which I will discuss on my blog probably later today or tomorrow) and while tired, I felt still really full from having eaten curry chicken in the afternoon and a very late dinner. So I thought "well, instead of reading, tonight it's time to rent 2 movies". So for the first time in a long while, I have two movies to watch.

I've seen the first one (Sydney White - yes, I know - it's definitely a brainless movie) and I am waiting until later today (tomorrow) to watch the second one (Smokin' Aces with a number of good actors but the one I want to see is Ryan Reynolds in a completely different role to all the ones I've seen him in).

The title of the post relates to the fact that I am still awake after having responded to my cleanliness frustration and urges despite being so tired. While I wanted to just curl on my couch and watch the movie, seeing my apartment as messy as it was before I had this urge to clean up just made me not enjoy the movie. So I decided to do a full clean-up. The floors still need some moping, but I think the rest of the apartment looks ok. Hence the title of the post - sometimes, you just gotta do what you gotta do. I needed to feel as though my place was tidy, clean and livable. Now, if I could just get back to sleep... :)

The Green Living Show recap


My good friend HZ and I were talking about the fact that we already lived 'green' and he pondered "how much greener can I live?" I think that while generally I live a fairly environmentally-aware life (that's what I do for a living, so it would be kind of ironic if I didn't). But the Green Living Show did give me an opportunity to see a number of other opportunities for improvement.For example, transportation choices. Yes, electric cars can be an option, I think. Since I am not a transportation expert, I can refer you to the blogs of Stephen Rees and Paul Hillsdon if you want to talk about those issues. But definitely, walking or biking or taking the bus are the only options we have.Another area (rather important to me given my busy social life) was beer consumption. I am not kidding! Organic beer is good :) I will send you to check Rebecca's, Keira's and Phaedra's blogs for very good recaps of the Green Living Show that include the topic of organic beer. Furthermore, a visitor to my blog informed me that the Canadian Wildlife Federation's magazine (Checkerspot) was liveblogging, so check them out too. Here I would like to just make some broader comments about GLC.First, I really think that BC Place was a very good choice, but I wonder if Canada Place would have been better (just simply in terms of transportation access to the show). Although come to think about it, maybe it was just the fact that I didn't remember how to get to BC Place by transit. I attended the Green Living Show on Saturday morning with Phaedra, and we walked from Our Town Cafe on Broadway and Kingsway all the way down to BC Place. It was a very beautiful walk. But if it had been raining, we probably would have had to take the Skytrain. I really had forgotten that Stadium Skytrain station is very close to BC Place.Second, the overall theme and design of the show was fantastic. I didn't feel that the show was crowded at all. And they really brought some high-powered speakers (Stephen Lewis, Sheila Watt-Cloutier, Adrienne Carr). Really, that was a very very good idea.Third, the only thing I was a bit surprised was that Green Table wasn't there. Almost every aspect of every day life was showcased. To give a few examples, soy-based candles, organic beer, water-saving and energy-saving appliances, sustainable and sweatshop-free clothing, organic snacks. But the question in my head remains - why wasn't our very own Sustainable Restaurants Association there? Of course, I can always email and ask :)Going there with Phaedra was really a highlight of the weekend, because she is really awesome. We have had the chance to e-mail and comment on each other's blogs, but it was very very nice to really hang out outside the blogosphere. It's always awesome to get to know the person behind the blog.One of the things that really hit home with me was that the organizers realized that the show would have environmental impacts, and looked for ways to reduce them. You'd be surprised how many organizers of environmentally-themed events don't really look INSIDE their event! But this wasn't the case with Green Living Show. If you click here, you can read all the ways in which they reduced environmental impacts.All in all, I really enjoyed the show, and will definitely do my best to attend next year's. Kudos to the organizers! Now, on the critical side of things - the statistical profile they provide of a typical Green Living Show attendee would suggest (and thus, even possibly confirm) that to be more sustainable you need to make enough money to pay the environmental premium price (just read this fact - 37% of last year's attendees make more than $ 100,000. Wow!).I am not sure that I like reading this fact, to be quite frank. Saving money is one of the selling points of going greener in this city (given the exorbitant prices of housing and gas). Thus, if you tell me that I need to first make more money and THEN go green, it becomes a hard se[...]

Small oooooops...


So I was very proud that I had remembered to write a post to celebrate International Women's Day, and raved about the women in my life, etc. But the small detail I forgot is that I am about four days early! Sorry about that. Since I'm attending a seminar today on the experiences of women researchers investigating gender issues, I seriously thought it was today. But it's not. Ooooops!

So, I fully deserve to have experienced the frustration I felt last night. I was a bit annoyed that, since I wanted to highlight IWD, I basically had to leave all my other ideas in draft form until the day was over (or half-way over) to start posting again. I usually follow this guideline because not everybody is subscribed in a RSS reader, so sometimes they check blogs in the morning, and thus this would be the first post at the top of the page.

But I had a few other ideas on the making (like reviewing the bar Library Square, the restaurant India Bistro) and I didn't write anything because I thought "well, if I do post something AFTER having posted the IWD thingy, the focus on IWD will be lost, so better not to post anything until mid-day". But reading today's Morning Brew I realized... it's March 4th, not 8th. So thus the title of the post... OOOOOOOPS.


Upcoming events - International Women's Day


Mark your calendars! March 8th is International Women's Day. It is a date to celebrate the contributions of women to society in all realms (social, political, economics, natural sciences, etc.). For me, it is slightly bizarre to have such a day (and before I get bombarded with negative feedback, let me explain why).

Let me start with the most important woman in my life, my Mom. My mother is highly educated, undertook her PhD in political science when she already had grown kids, has lived abroad, maintains a leadership position in her school and has many amazing qualities. The thing is, to me, that has always been completely normal. We (my brothers and I) were raised in such a way that gender really didn't matter. All that mattered was that she was(and is) amazing, period.

Then, let me continue with my friends. As some of you may know, my first degree is in chemical engineering. Traditionally, there has been a distinct absence of women engineers (I have observed this trend particularly in three fields: chemical engineering, mechanical engineering and civil engineering). But the funny thing is (and to my male peers' surprise) that the top six students in my class were the only five women in the class and yours truly. So much for "male superiority in the engineering field"!

As a matter of fact, the person who made me fall in love with chemical engineering itself is a woman (the most beautiful professor of Separation Processes, and Process Control ever). Fashionable, trendy, and extremely bright. To this day, AMVG and I remain really close friends (we became friends after I finished my undergraduate). She was by and large my favorite instructor in undergraduate.

The vast majority of my girlfriends are experts in their fields, some of them in non-'traditionally female' areas. They are urban planners and epidemiologists, geographers, computer geeks and nurses, project managers and strategy consultants, specialists in environmental issues and policy analysts. I have them in all flavors and sizes (and all of them astoundingly beautiful, but that's just a bonus) and they're all leaders in their fields. And some of my best former students are women!

Of course, I am not about to suggest that there haven't been historically gender disparities. I was quickly scanning a report online mentioning that women engineers were earning 70 cents per dollar earned by their male counterparts (sorry that I don't provide the link, I was just quickly browsing and didn't save the source). Income disparity is an unfortunate but real fact of life.

So please join me in celebrating the achievements of women and their contributions to humanity. And to all my girlfriends, sisters-in-law, nieces, fellow bloggers, former students, female colleagues, and former professors: Happy International Women's Day!

Tired from the weekend


Weekends are supposed to be fun and relaxing, right? Well, yeah I did have some R&R and had friends over for dinner, but the weekend was also stressful. Had to deal with a lot of stuff, missed volleyball due to a migraine and literally dozed off on the couch while watching Superman II. Thus, I missed this morning's lecture on climate change and I'm exhausted from a very busy weekend. I need a vacation from my weekends :) (j/k)

Content will be published intermittently. I am preparing a guest post for Rebecca on the history of Mount Pleasant. Have a couple others in draft form.

UPDATE - I forgot to mention that I had a couple of days of tranquility away from my unbearable neighbours. But apparently they're going on holiday next week and then the following weekend (Easter Weekend) I'm house sitting so maybe March will be the month I won't hear screaming kids.

Testing the waters I: From Blogger to WordPress


It's kind of ironic. Now that I've gained a more-or-less steady readership, and I'm on a few blogrolls (thank you guys for adding me!), I'm in the process of switching from Blogger to WordPress. A couple of days ago I imported my posts (it seems that even though WordPress says that only 500 out of my 622 blog posts were imported, I kind of can't see which ones weren't). And I can see most of the comments even though the converter says none of the comments were transferred.

So, go check my WordPress blog (it's pretty much the same content as here) and if you could, leave a comment or a trackback. I'm trying to see how it works. For the time being, most likely I'll be cross-posting (e.g. posting here AND there) to avoid potential surprises -- please don't change your blogrolls just yet, give me a few days to adjust. .

So, Matt Mullenweg and WordPress, here I come :)

Upcoming climate-change and environmental events in Vancouver


Well, hello sunshine! Today was a beautiful day and thus I had a chance to enjoy the sun for a bit. Worked from home for most of the day, although felt really sleepy at times. Anyhow, for those of you enviro-folks in town, here are some events you can hit.
  • Via one of my close friends, here is a link to a lecture that will be given tomorrow by Sheila Watt-Cloutier, sponsored by the Terry Project at UBC, on The Right to be Cold: The Global Significance of Arctic Climate Change. This will be at the(Life Science Institute, West Atrium, Friday Feb 29th, 12noon. If you don't know who Ms. Watt-Cloutier is, she was one of the top nominees for the 2007 Nobel Prize (which ultimately went to Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).
  • Via Keira-Anne's blog, I found out about the Green Living Show (February 29th to March 2nd, 2008). She is going to head there on Friday with Rebecca (aka Miss604) so if you want to check the show AND hang out with two beautiful women, I'd suggest you head there on Friday. I plan to go on Saturday morning as I have a pretty packed social weekend, and most likely I'll go with Phaedra and probably my friend HZ. I wish I could go on Friday but I'm totally booked (so blog updates unlikely until Saturday afternoon).
  • Via VTACC (Vancouver's Taxpayers Against Climate Change), I found out about a lecture by Dr. Marc Jaccard on "Lessons for the Future from Canada's Climate Policy Failures", Tuesday March 4th, at 7pm at the Canadian Memorial Church (15th and Burrard). From VTACC website, here's the abstract:

Decades of climate policy under different governments have failed to reduce or substantially slow the growth in greenhouse gas emissions in this country. How has this happened? How can we get out of this muddle so that Canada can do its share in the fight against global warming?
Go here for more information

  • And, from a colleague of mine, here are the details for a special lecture at SFU Harbour Centre by Professor Michael Grubb: Cutting carbon in Europe to 2020: competitiveness, emissions trading and beyond’, Room 2200 (RBC Dominion Securities Executive Meeting Room), Monday March 3rd, 2008 - 9:00am to 10:30am (yes this is a morning seminar).
I am probably going to attend all four. Hope you can make it to at least one of them!

Music review - Trouble by Pink


Sometimes I feel guilty about writing 'Music Reviews' as I rarely have 'new' songs on this blog, but mostly these are songs whose rhythm and/or lyrics and/or vocals I enjoy (or hate, like in the case of a remake of 'You Really Got Me Now"). This song, Trouble (by Pink) is particularly enjoyable.

While the video is themed as a 'Western' movie, the song itself is kind of rock-ish. But the video is hilarious. Pink basically starts a brawl (something I've always dreamed of doing -- yes I know, it does sound crazy). But mostly, this song is the first one that comes to my mind whenever any of my closest friends smirks and tells me "oh, Raul... you *are* trouble" ... and yeah, I got to admit, sometimes I can be a little bit of trouble :-)

Video from YouTube.

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Upcoming events - BC Anti-bullying Day


Given that the Government of the Province of British Columbia has proclaimed February 27th, 2008 as BC Anti-Bullying Day, and a number of organizations (like CUPE) and public figures (including Christy Clark) are encouraging the public to wear pink (by the way, great website from the CKNW), I figured that, in celebration of BC Anti-Bullying Day, I'm should share with the blogosphere an intimate look at a part of my life I wish I had never had to endure, and how I dealt with it.When I was in primary school, I used to be as tiny as a midget. For some bizarre reason, I started growing when I was 17. I am not kidding you. Nowadays, at a my 5'11" (6' on a good day) and 170 pds, it's kind of hard to mess around with me (well, my height/weight and my martial arts and street fighting training kind of help). Unless, of course, you're 6'7 and super strong... but I digress.So back then, when I was short and wore glasses, I was bullied by taller, stronger young men. After all, "I was in an all-boys school and had to learn to fight" (their words, not mine). Many, many times, my brothers (particularly my eldest brother) had to intervene and calm some of these bullies. But I couldn't have my older brothers always protect me. I had to learn to do it myself.I have always been privileged in that my parents have always been my best friends, so I needed to tell them what was going on at school. After careful deliberation we (my parents and I) decided that I needed to take martial arts training. Not because I enjoyed kicking people's butts, but because I wanted to be able to defend myself should I ever need to do so. As a young kid (and to this day), I always tended to be extremely sensitive, emotional and sweet. These were not traits that aggressive bullies would take in a positive light. But I didn't want to be a victim or a target. I wanted to empower myself and be able to break through to these bullies.One day (several months after I had started my martial arts training), a guy who had bullied me for a long while started picking a fight with me (Gustavo was his name), right before school was over. I was faced with the choice I never wanted to face - "do I fight or do I run?" I decided it was time to fight back. I grabbed Gustavo's arm and applied a judo move on him. I threw him over the top of my shoulder and, strategically, forced him to land with his back towards a trash can. I did this purposefully as I knew that would immobilize him completely. He started crying on the spot and ran away from me as fast as he could.My classmates were astonished. "How could Raul, the tiny little midget, defend himself now? What happened to him?" From that moment onwards, I never looked back, and never had to face another bully. The word was out: Raul was never going to let anyone else pick on him ever, ever again.So, in celebration of British Columbia's Anti-Bullying Day, I am going to wear a pink t-shirt to the office tomorrow (Wednesday February 27th, 2008). I encourage you to do so, too. Because bullying is simply wrong, and because once upon a time, I had to fight back too. And if you know someone who is being bullied, there are resources out there that can help him/her deal with it.[...]

Music review - Somebody Help Me by Full Blown Rose


This is one of my favorite songs, and used to be the theme for a TV show with Eliza Dushku, "Tru Calling" - which by the way was filmed in Vancouver). I am sure that if you hear this song, you'll love it too.

It has rock sounds, nice vocals, and lyrics that make me cringe because I don't really think I need help right now (well, unless you wanted to give me the job opportunity of my life, but that's not the point right now). Apparently, Full Blown Rose is now defunct. Seems like people didn't heed the call for help on time (sorry, had to make this joke!)

Video from YouTube.
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The politics of award-winning


Well, the Oscars have come and gone. I missed a large part of the ceremony because I had other social commitments, but when I heard that Julie Christie hadn't won Best Actress and that it had gone to Marion Cotillard, my heart broke into small pieces. I had been hoping they would give it to Julie Christie for her heart-wrenching performance in Away from Her, but the Academy didn't. Not to say that Cotillard's performance wasn't good, because that'd be a lie. But I really believe Christie's work was much more worthy. This event made me reflect on the politics of award-winning, both in glamorous Hollywood and in my own professional life. I'm a competitor, have always been. Ever since I was a little kid, my parents groomed me and my brothers to succeed. Don't be confused though. Mom and Dad never demanded me to be a straight 'A' student; the only thing they ever demanded was that I gave my very best, that I tried as hard as I could. If my best effort won me a "B+", then so be it, but at least I gave it my all. That has been my philosophy always, to live to the fullest and to try as hard as I can. Of course, in the trials, you have to face other people and you have to try and win. That's why I said I had always been a competitor. I've been faced with lots of competition, academically, in sports, in art, and in everything I have done. I don't hate losing in and of itself, I hate losing AND knowing I could have tried harder. But when I try hard and I'm competent enough in an area, success has frequently translated into winning awards and trophies.One of the areas where I have always been frustrated with the politics of award-winning is teaching. A few years back, I was teaching at a high-end, upper-class high school and (as I usually do) I gave my students my very best. I tried so hard to help them in and outside of the classroom, not because I wanted a 'Best Professor' award, but because I felt that I should give my best. Soon enough, a competition for 'Best Professor' ensued and, while I was nominated, I didn't win. The shock for me wasn't that I hadn't won, but that the professor who won was 'the sweetest one'. I thought "What the heck?!?!? Am I not sweet enough? Am I not dedicated enough?". I was devastated.The Monday following the awards ceremony, three quarters of my classroom's seats were empty. My beloved students, the ones who totally swore for me, the ones who thought I was 'simply the greatest ever', were absent. Why was that? I wondered if they felt that they couldn't face me after having voted for someone else and not for me. I couldn't let this go for a long while, so one day I actually attended a lecture given by the winner. I was quite unimpressed, but I could now clearly see why I hadn't won: I was too demanding. Yeah, I was sweet and always available to my students, but I pushed them hard. But this professor was so laid-back and care-free that his students liked him a lot. So much they wanted him to win. So he didn't win for being the most competent teacher nor the most skillful. He won because he was popular. In more recent years, my teaching experience has been actually quite the opposite from previous stints. My students have loved me not only because I care for them but because I have pushed them hard. I have cared for their personal growth and their development, but I haven't made it easy on them. And I have been handsomely rewarded. My former students (the very recent ones) often write to me to ask for advice, ask for a letter of reference, let me know what they've been up to, or just inquire how I am doing and what I'm up to. Knowing that my former students respect me and understand that I pushed them to be better because I s[...]

Embracing destiny


While I was not able to sleep well from Friday to Saturday, I had a great night of sleep from Saturday to Sunday - although it was hard to get to sleep because I had tinga poblana and flan at AF's place (and while I love tinga and she is an amazing cook, it was heavy on my stomach - so I ended up feeling totally full until past midnight, even though we had dinner at 7).

It was quite an enjoyable evening, as SF was there too, and we joked, ate great food and enjoyed each other's company until about 9.30. They stayed to watch a movie, but I just wanted to go home and sleep. Was really exhausted. Brunch was also really fun, at The Nice Cafe, with C, B, J and L.

What I was meaning about embracing destiny on my post is that we should just go with the flow and not fight destiny. Let me explain. My upstairs neighbours, with their usual lack of regard for our sleep (my and my next door neighbour's), woke up at 7 am and started doing their usual rounds (stomping on their floor - my roof - and making noises). So instead of fighting it, I went along with it, and turned on my TV (as loud as I could possibly have it without being annoyed myself) and made breakfast. That has allowed me to be prepared for volleyball just in time. And I've had a chance to watch the news (which is rare for me, as I'm always super busy).

This evening I'm sure we are going to be watching the Oscars. I've got my bets on Julie Christie for best actress (despite how much I do like Ellen Page). Most people think Daniel Day-Lewis will win best actor. What do YOU think?

Ah the paradoxes


I'm usually a night owl. Love staying up late and work my way through stuff. Only problem - I love waking up late too. But I've been awake on and off since 3.45 am. ARGH! Why, on the only day that I can sleep in (I can't on Sundays as I have volleyball), why can't I just sleep my way through the night? Frustrated.

Vancouver Blogger Meetup - February 2008


This month's Vancouver Blogger Meetup was sponsored by Voxant and the folks of Smarter Than Your Average Blog. Had very nice conversations with Matt, Jan, Isabella and a few other folks. And of course, got to meet Rebecca's husband in person (though I've commented on his blog quite frequently) and Duane Storey. We had a very good time (photos on my Flickr stream).

Pondered for a while there about whether I wanted to post my own photos publicly on Flickr, you know, with the privacy thing, the anonymity, etc. So I decided to post some that I think can be public (the rest only my Flickr friends - which include some good blogger friends - can see them).

Normally I would embed my photographs here, but I haven't figured out how to do it without having Flickr have a hissy fit on me, so I'll just send you to my Flickr photostream. I left VBM unusually early (around 7 pm) because I was exhausted, and also because I have another social commitment. Hope you guys are having a great weekend!

Band review - Delhi2Dublin


Great friends usually means great perks. And having a close friend who is a die-hard fan of talented local bands usually means getting dragged along (very willingly I might add) to impromptu gigs. So HZ brought JH and myself along with him to see a live, in-studio performance of Delhi2Dublin. His review of the evening is here.

I don't think I can add much more to his review. You have to listen to D2D to really understand the uniqueness of their music. They simply rock (and no, they don’t actually do rock – it’s a fusion of Irish, Indian with some overtones of African I’d say).

It had been a long time since I saw a live performance (admittedly I am a fan of the Backstage Lounge, which is one of the venues where you'd see local bands perform). But, back to the D2D review. I was absolutely transported, and thoroughly enjoyed the evening. One of the things that I would have personally enjoyed would have been to hang out with them after the performance (maybe have a drink or something). I've done that with other bands and the insight you get into their music and style is much better.

In this case, we ended up doing dinner (where our good friend BS joined us) and then a drink at 1181. More in-depth review forthcoming. But here is a picture of the performance last night. I am SO sorry that it's such poor quality, but I don't have the equipment. JH and HZ, on the other hand, are much better photographers and own better tools for their hobby. So, I am sure that at next D2D's gig you'll get better pictures. For now, you'll have to do with mine.

Northern Voice and Vancouver Blogger Meetup


Unfortunately, I'm going to miss most of Northern Voice 2008 because I forgot to register well in advance. But you can get the scoop on many local bloggers' sites: Rebecca, John, Duane, to mention just a few... I am sure just about every Vancouver blogger is posting about Northern Voice (myself included and I'm not even there). Best bet to read EVERY Vancouver blogger's account of Northern Voice? Simply Google "Northern Voice 2008". Easy as that.

I'm going to be at the Vancouver Bloggers Meetup though, and afterwards will head to meet my good friend AF for some flan and tea and much-needed catch-up. Of course, I am not sure how coherent I will be given that VBM is post-Friday drinks in my office. Oooops :) But I really want to meet some of Vancouver's bloggers (and my Team Blogger teammates!). Slowly but surely I'm getting to know in person some of these brilliant folks.

On Wednesday I met Rebecca in person for the first time, after having communicated via e-mail, GChat and on our respective blogs. Were you wondering if she's as pretty and sweet in person as she is in her blog and pictures? Yeah, she is. Totally. And moreover, she makes such a cute couple with John... makes me hopeful that I'll find true love some day!

Coffee shop review - Our Town Cafe (Kingsway and Broadway)


Well, while we are on the topic of coffee shops, I have to say that one of the cutest (and most relaxing ones) I’ve ever been at is Our Town Café. Located at the corner of Kingsway and Broadway, Our Town Café is the epitome of relaxation. I wouldn’t recommend you to come to OTC if you really like to have an ebullient atmosphere.

OTC is the ideal coffee shop to come and read a book, relax, take the day easy. The food is nice (they’ve got some organic items there too) and the coffee is good too (although I wouldn’t actually say it’s Artigiano’s coffee). The most important element: the relaxing atmosphere you get here. Best place to have a nice coffee or tea and read a book. Even when it’s raining.

Coffee shop review - Cafe Artigiano


There are few things I love more than coffee. Real coffee. The stuff that makes you smile when you wake up in the morning to the smell of a dark, freshly brewed concoction. Unfortunately, my tummy has begun to be slightly sensitive (please replace that with VERY sensitive) to irritants, and therefore coffee is now more or less off grounds.The problem with this is that my daily routine does involve coffee. Even if I work from home for about one or two hours before heading to the office, that’s the first thing I do: I wake up, barely conscious, stagger until I reach my coffee maker and turn it on. However, I’ve recently had several episodes of stomach ache that are associated with dairy consumption (cheese, of all things!) and caffeine consumption.Therefore, what I did today (as an innovation) was to make a pot of English breakfast tea, and start working. The kick wasn’t enough, I got to tell you. So, when KP said that she wanted to meet for coffee downtown, I jumped at the possibility. Particularly since we haven’t seen each other (and I totally missed her birthday!) and so she suggested Café Artigiano.Now, to the uninitiated, this could be just any other coffee shop. But no, don’t be fooled. This is Café Artigiano. The one and only. This is gourmet coffee, even the Americano is amazing. The atmosphere is extremely warm. And the staff… not only are they beautiful (physically speaking), they are so incredibly sweet. *swoons*I have been to Café Artigiano many a time, but had never actually had the time to sit down and write a coffee shop review, so now that I’m waiting for KP to show up, it’s the perfect occasion.As I write this review, I’m looking at the baristas (both male and female) and they keep smiling. How do they do that, particularly after a really long day at work? I don’t know, but those smiles are beautiful and I feel so welcome at this place, it’s going to be kind of hard to leave. Of course, the incentive to get out of here is that I’m heading down to CBC Studios to see a live performance of Delhi2Dublin. I’ll tell you all about it afterwards.Small inconvenients of Café Artigiano:If you’re a blogger or need a wireless connection, you are pretty much SOL. This place doesn’t provide wifi. But on the plus side, if you actually want to work on a paper or read stuff, you can do it without the added distraction of having an internet connection.The people coming here (and working here) are pretty damn hot. That may be a bit of a distraction if you’re trying to concentrate on a project. I have a very, very short attention span and can easily be swayed away from an assignment with a beautiful smile [ that being said, I’ve also been blamed for charming people away from their work by using my eye-lash batting powers and my mega-watt smile… ooops :o) ]Not enough power outlets to connect your laptop. So, make sure you got a nice battery before heading down here to do work. I managed to sweet-talk my neighbours into letting me connect to the power outlet and run my cord undernearth their legs, but it’s slightly embarrassing. The atmosphere is quite animated, so if you’re trying to concentrate on something that requires attention, you may be SOL. I am wearing my headphones and listening to Miguel Migs on my iPod and still can hear my neighbour’s conversations.Overall, I still would come to CA (Hornby and almost Robson, near the Vancouver Art Gallery). Just accompanied with a nice book though ;)[...]

Putting this beautiful day to good use


Normally, I work from home on Fridays (I used to do this to avoid being dragged out for a pint, but then I caved in and it has become a nice tradition). Anyhow, I'm working from home today as my building is not going to be well-heated and thus I preferred to be here. While I can't complain (I'm getting lots of natural sun light through my windows), I think it's a waste of a beautiful day to work at home. So I'm going to take my laptop and go somewhere to do work (and take this opportunity to take some nice photographs).

Suggestions for good locations to work? All I need is wifi :) Was thinking of hitting the Lonsdale Quay (I know of a fairly secluded spot where I read lots of research papers related to work). But other suggestions accepted. I'll have online access so I'll know what you suggest :)

Movie review - Shoot' Em Up


I was kind of expecting my good friend Nomade Moderne to do a review of "Shoot 'Em Up" (he has a great sense of humor and would probably have written a very witty description of the movie) but I know for a fact he's up to his eyeballs in work, so you'll have to do with my review.

If you have seen anything with Clive Owen, Monica Belucci or Paul Giamatti in it, you know that they're pretty serious actors. So when you see a movie where a British hit-man, all-around assassin becomes the unlikely nanny to a cute baby (whose destiny is to become a bone-marrow donor for an ailing politician), you know that you're in for a laugh.

Said British nanny (played by Owen) is trying to save the baby from Giamatti's thugs, and in the process, making extensive and very creative use of carrots (you have to see the movie). Since he is incapable of feeding the baby by himself, he seeks a working woman to help him out (Belucci). The rest of the movie is so over the top that we couldn't stop laughing.

Why would these actors choose to do this movie? I don't know. But I can tell you that the Wikipedia summary doesn't do it justice. You *have* to watch it to really get it.

And while we are at it, you should really check the most recent post of Nomade Moderne, where he published some of his photography (he recently purchased a Digital SLR, so he's making good use of it).

And here is the YouTube trailer for the movie:

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On randomness


Very quick pre-sleepy time post, just to answer a question that was raised at today's Green Drinks, and at last night's Third Tuesday. The question was - what do you blog about? And my long winded answer is always "well, I'm interested in environmental issues, so it started like that, but now I blog about very random things".

The general response I got was (with the exception of a few individuals particularly at Third Tuesday) ... "so, say you wake up thinking about something, you just blog about that?". That got me thinking about a shorter way to respond. I blog about what peaks my interests, what I have on my mind or what I want to articulate for future reflection. That may be a very complex issue, or just a song that I want to find and keep here.

So, for example, I got very light-hearted and non-reflective pieces like the 'music reviews', but I also have some fairly complex analyses of Vancouver-related or environmentally-related issues. For example, I think one of my best pieces is the discussion around Al Gore/IPCC winning the Nobel Prize. Another one that I liked was my comparison of Vancouver's and Mexico City's transportation systems. Ah, and lest we forget... my discussion about the meaning of 'forever' in relationships.

So, in short - my blog is titled "Random thoughts of a student of the environment" for that reason: because I want it to reflect whatever random thoughts cross my mind. I am still interested in environmental issues, and I can write reflective and analytical essays. However, that's not the end of it all. I am here to have fun, and hopefully, so are you.