Saturday, 30 November 2013

Coffee, PLEASE ! (Vietnamese coffee @ Pho Japolo)

I just realized that I've been going to the Vietnamese restaurant around my corner for over a year now, and never had a coffee there.
For those not familiar with this bit of Vietnamese history:  Vietnam was part of French Indochina until 1954. Some time later, until 1975 (!), the Americans thought they were better soldiers than the French.
Anyhu, the reason why I mention the French in Vietnam is that the French left something behind.  One reason why Vietnamese sandwiches are so fabulous is the bread they are made with.
Not my sandwich (nor  my picture)
Baguette. Vietnamese coffee & croissants are also well known and loved.
Today is the day when I finally have a coffee here.

The first thing I have to do is ask for instructions (just look at the contraption ;-).

The thing on the left is a thermos  bottle with hot water, which one pours into the metal filter thingy sitting on top of the glass on the right.  My filter was dripping VERY SLOWLY, and the coffee in the glass was very tasty but needed sugar.  Next time I will follow popular wisdom and get the coffee with sweetened condensed milk, which was also on the menu.  Live & Learn !

Proudly Canadian (Dame Edna, K D Lang & Ivana Trump)

A friend of mine is a K D Lang fan but I did not think had heard of YouTube. So I sent her a few links and watched one out of curiosity and now have difficulties to stop laughing.
Dame Edna

here is the link (about 10 minutes long):              LINKLINKLINK

While Dame Edna and K D were exchanging innuendos, Ivana managed never to let go of her knee or her composure.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Time to leave again (Someone should not have died today)

Vancouver car drivers are honking as if there was an official competition for a Guinness-book entry for the world's most obnoxious city to commute in.   And this being Vancouver, EVERYONE roots and honks for the home team.
How long until there will be the first road-rage shootings or until drivers will run down a cyclist on purpose?

Just last week I witnessed a twenty-something taxi driver roll down his window and voice nasty unpleasantries to a seventy or eighty something woman dressed not expensively but tastefully, and only because she was still on the street when the pedestrian light already showed the little red man.
How long until someone will beat-up an old woman because she can't cross the street fast enough?

This morning I thought I heard drumming from the First Nations Reserve that is located across the street from the motel.  When I crossed Lions Gate Bridge on my bicycle to head downtown, I was stopped dead in my tracks by the following view.


What can everyone do today to make this city more livable?

The South-African Navy (conducting maneuvers on Trout Lake)

Apparently my pseudo-nephew Mika's Dad promised him a remote controlled aircraft carrier.  And Conrad delivered.  Today I was invited to another test run of the behemoth on Trout Lake in East Vancouver.

Admiral Mika laying out the battle plan

The battle ground: Trout Lake

Admiral Mika communing with his scout ducks

The hull arrives

After some assembly work...

it is time for another sea trial

An attack by unfriendly ducks left the behemoth rudderless adrift

Search and Rescue mission

Another concert in another November (Matthew Good)

I better start with the confession:
At first I read a Wikipedia article that stated that Matthew Good is from Vancouver.  Then someone seemed to have re-written the entire Wikipedia post, changing the tune to Matthew being from South Africa.  I really only realized that Dave Matthews and Matthew Good are two different people until after I bought the concert tickets ;-)  Good thing I like both their musics (Is there a plural of music?).

Anyhu, if you want to know why I bought the tickets, watch these two videos on YouTube:
Strange Days  (careful, this is pure unfiltered Vancouver and may not be for the faint of heart)

The tickets at the Orpheum were $40 including a TicketMaster charge of $12 (outrageous), which was CHEAP for a concert!  Given that it has been a few years since the heydays of the Matthew Good Band; given that Matthew Good battled mental illness, given that he gained a few pounds and lost a few hairs (haven't we all?), I must admit that I did not expect too much.  And was I ever wrong.

Good has lost nothing: the sound was great and his dervish-like whirling over the stage under a first-class light show kept me grinning and the audience on their feet through most of the show.

 The Orpheum as a venue for a 'rock' concert is quite an experience ;-)

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Do new brooms sweep better ? (snippets from Francis I)

I don't usually meddle in religion.  For the simple reason that it is not a matter of reasoning, but a matter of belief, and consequently people tend to pull each other's hair.
But this morning I read something in Der Spiegel that caused me to change that.  Being of German origin myself, I am slightly ashamed that the 'German Pope' might soon only be known for raiding the Vatican's clothing archives so that he could wear fancy hats.

 This new one seems to be VERY different. And not only with respect to his hats.

He published something he wrote (I have no idea what they call a papal 'address to the nation').
Here is the link to the Evangelii Gaudium in English:   LINK

As a complete and heretical aside, I could see him as a third in this picture:

Here are four snippets that might (or not) tempt you to read the papal publication:

[... economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?]

[I do exhort all the communities to an “ever watchful scrutiny of the signs of the times”.This is in fact a grave responsibility, since certain present realities, unless effectively dealt with, are capable of setting off processes of dehumanization which would then be hard to reverse.]

[my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving]

[Today’s economic mechanisms promote inordinate consumption, yet it is evident that unbridled consumerism combined with inequality proves doubly damaging to the social fabric]

Try to remember that last one during this 'holiday season' ;-)

Monday, 25 November 2013

A message from where the sun don't shine

It's that time of the year again. The days are still getting shorter, even though an average person working in an office building in Vancouver probably only sees the sun out of window or during lunch break. And this year we are actually lucky.  In 27 years of living in Vancouver I have never witnessed a November with as many non-raining days as this past November.
But it's that time of year when one wants to be as close as possible to the nasty thermonuclear mess at the centre of our solar system and one's pupils are yearning for an extended duration of sunshine that forces them to constrict. But they're not likely to get it in Vancouver.

 There is this nice website called You type in a date and your location and it will tell you how many daylight hours you have, including all sun set/rise times etc etc.

Here are some daylight hours for Dec. 1, 2013

Vancouver   :  8h 29 m between sunrise and sunset
Tokyo:            9h 55m
Los Angeles:  10h 02m
Havana        : 10h 48m
Hong Kong  : 10h 52 m
Honolulu      : 10h 55m
Tegucigalpa  :11h 21m
Santiago de Chile : 14h 13m
Buenos Aires:        14h 18m
Melbourne :           14h 34m

When I turn 48, I say "This is all nonsense!"

I can no longer claim to be 'in my MID 40s'.  At the age of 47 that is still allowed by common rounding practices.  As of today, if I want to apply rounding honestly, I am 'in my LATE 40s'.
One thing that takes a bit of bitterness out of the above:  This blog hopefully testifies to that I used the last 10 months reasonably well ;-)

This is probably also a suitable spot to 'hide' an update on 'butting out'.
On Saturday, Nov. 23rd, the second day of being an owner of a ENDS (electronic nicotine delivery system), I wake up without any cigarettes in my room.  Now usually this would have been a reason to shower very quickly and to run to the gas station to buy more smokes (or go unwashed in cases of more overwhelming nic-fit ;-).

Which one is the Stinker?

Yes, I did go to the gas station to buy smokes ;-(  3 hours after waking up ;-).  And only because my brain kept telling me that somehow I was missing something.  So I finally gave in to Brain and got some 'real' cigarettes.  And I failed the Nicotine Taste Test !  What I had been missing wasn't the taste or the nicotine.  It was the facial expression during inhaling that I have perfected in 30 years as a smoker.  It was also the 'worldly' way of holding the cigarette between two fingers, perfected during the same time.  The taste or nicotine experience of a real cigarette wasn't really any better.  Yes, I was surprised too!  But even DURING the first cigarette, I was very aware that all of a sudden the air in my room became STINKY !
Who are we really feeling sorry for? Ourselves, for having to live in Jobs-less world?  SAD !

Now, to all you readers who read this far:  Was this interesting, or are you bored stiff? Did you think this was an efficient use of 'paper' and time spent or did the whole experience leave you with a bad taste in your mouth? Are the musings of an overfed 1st world expat in the midst of a midlife crisis on whether to smoke real cigarettes or fake ones really important?

1.5 million children die of hunger every year. Assuming it took you 3 minutes to read this post up to here,  9 CHILDREN somewhere in the world starved to death in the same time period.

So, get out your credit card and click on the following link:  CANADIAN RED CROSS (If you have a better choice, do your thing there).
(Note: If you don't want them to trade your name and address, just pay by PayPal and give them a phony name and address. It works ;-)

Imagine if these self-pitying donors had put this money in the right spot !

Friday, 22 November 2013

An encounter with SONY product care (updated as it 'appens)

Once upon a time there was a German in Saint Malo, who dropped his cheap Sony Cybershot onto a beach.  The same German then cycled halfway through the city to a French Futureshop, called DARTY. There the German bought a new camera. The German chose another Sony, because he was used to the button layout on SONYs and was wary of steep learning curves. But even though the German had just arrived in the country one day earlier, he already had gathered that he was in prime photography country, so he spent a little more money and got  a slightly better model. All the pictures between end of June to the end of September were taken with that new camera, showing what a wise decision that was.  Then it died. I guess it didn't like London either ;-)

On Thursday, 21st of November I booked an under-warranty repair with Sony Canada. I have to deliver it to a Sony Store and there is one in Pacific Centre.  They want me to pack the camera into its original box!  I guess people keep all the packaging material for anything they ever buy. Moi, I recycled the stuff in Saint Malo the same day that I bought the camera.
Pacific Centre Mall

Friday, Nov. 22nd, 7pm. I just returned from a bike ride to the Sony Store in Pacific Centre Mall.  The Mall was an eye-opener. Who buys all that STUFF?  Where do they get all that MOOLAH from?  Should I go shopping more?  What would I do with all the stuff? Where would I store it? Maybe I should go to NCA meetings (Non-consumers Anonymous)?
Anyhu, I located the SONY store.  The staff (Thank you, Max!) was exceedingly helpful, didn't expect me to bring my own box, and even remembered to take the memory chip out of the camera. Apparently I will be able to follow the process of the shipping/repair/shipping by internet and they'll even send me e-mails.

Wednesday, Nov. 27th 11:45 am. I just received an e-mail from SONY customer service.  They informed me that there was an issue with parts supply and whether it would be OK to exchange my BLACK camera for an identical BLUE one.  "Pas de probleme", I replied.

Thursday, Nov. 28th. Another e-mail informs me that the camera has been repaired and is being shipped back.

Friday, Nov. 29th. I received a package in the mail today.  A fancy new-looking (very new looking ;-) Sony camera.  It is the exact model that I wore out, but it is metallic blue.


Butting out (sort of ...)

Yesterday I went to a movie theatre.  I had never seen Out of Africa on the big screen and it happens to be Grandma's favourite movie.
Big screen material !
I had not watched this movie in at least 10 years and I'm glad I saw it again.  Some things one just doesn't see when one is younger. Some of the lines coming out of Robert Redford's mouth could be published in this blog without changing a single word ;-)

Anyhu, when I was smoking a cigarette after the movie and was proceeding to the car, only interrupted by coughing fits, I noticed a very similar cough from another person walking over the parking lot.  With a bit of self-deluded hope, I instantly checked the man's hands to see whether I could be suffering from the same type of 'cold' as he was.   And yes, the glowing end of a cigarette was quite visible in the dark parking lot.

Anyhu II, a dear friend of mine almost kicked the bucket last year around this time, when she caught a bad cold with cough (the real kind) and added her 40 cigarettes a day on top of that.  Seems not enough oxygen was reaching her brain and she had to be brought to hospital where she spent several days in intensive care.
She told me that she had quit smoking after that incident, which on some level I found hard to believe, since since my teenage years I've had this image of her sitting across a table from me with a cigarette in her hand. When I visited her last summer, I realized that my gut feeling is rather well calibrated.  There she was sitting across the table from me wearing out the batteries of her new electronic cigarettes ;-)  (I kid you not: The look on her face when the battery indicator light had the wrong colour and more and more panicky inhalations did not deliver any nicotine was priceless ;-)

As of 11:30 am today I am the proud owner of a Joyetech Electronic Nicotine Delivery System ;-)

So far the results are surprising.  Whenever I would have lit a whole cigarette in the past, I just vape one drag from the new device (an update will follow after a yummy lunch with a glass of wine, to see how those affect the cravings).

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Storm coming (or Cycling in a cyclone)

Another sunny day, another day to ride the bike, I thought foolishly.  While not a cyclone as the title might suggest ( Way too many people have experienced a real cyclone recently), it was quite windy for Vancouver.

By the time I got halfway over Lions Gate Bridge my bicycle had to lean at quite an angle into the wind, which was blasting from the West.  The right side of my face had stopped sending signals to my brain a few minutes earlier and the only news from the left side was that my nose was dripping profusely.
Wind-chill factor at its finest ;-)

Where there are white-caps, there is WIND
Anyone who ever photographed a flag can tell how windy it is 

Surfer birds


Even with the bike leaning against a signb, the wind tilted the bike over the kickstand  and lifted the rear wheel

When I came around on of the bends at English Bay, I ran into this scene.  i'm not sure where the boat came from, but since i assume that no-one was crazy enough to go sailing in this weather, it might be from any mooring point West of English Bay. jericho sailing club maybe?

The people taking pictures all had a frantic look when they RAN away from the scene of their picture taking.  But I'm pretty sure they weren't afraid of me but were trying to be the first to send pictures to The Province, etc etc, as I decided when I saw a picture of the boat on the Global News website only an hour later.

Further along the ride, I noticed a sculpture that had eluded my attention before.  The individual panels rotate about the horizontal axes while the entire contraption rotates about the vertical axis.  A science sculpture !  LIKE ;-)  Coincidentally, it also harmonizes very well with the WIND theme ;-)

Between here and Commercial & Broadway I barely had to pedal, since the wind was pushing me along just fine ;-)

An updated on the stranded ships:
The day after: At least two ships have not been salvaged or moved:

Four days after:
Two stranded ships in one shot in this view from Kitsilano: