The pains of (not) owning a car in Vancouver

The true reason why I’m making this post is to make a guest appearance on Duane’s blog for Blogathon 2008. In fact, he tells me that the only way he’ll give me a ride home so I can go to bed is to make said post. But in a moment of “behold the power of blogging”, it made me recall a thought I had today about owning a car in general.

Rainy morning on Georgia St. Plain and simple, Rebecca and I don’t own a car. Part of it is by choice, the other is the simplicity of keeping cost of living down. We haven’t had a vehicle to be called our own for a few years now, relying heavily on transit. That means getting from point A to B is sometimes good and sometimes spotty. It really depends on the day, but for the most party, I can’t complain.

However, today I had the extreme pleasure of being able to borrow my mother-in-law’s car for the day in anticipation of Beck returning from an unexpected trip.

So, I decided to take it to work, and you would think that this is the point where I start complaining about traffic. This is not the case. It was the parking that was the most stressful thing.

Where I work, the underground parking is all reserved, and the other, optional lot is as well. That means you are subjected to the song and dance of finding various parking spots around the building, most of them being only good for one hour. Then you park here or there, stay for maybe two or three hours, and hope that this is the day that is not that once a month occurrence when they go around to pass out $40 parking tickets.

It was so stressful. All day I felt like I was constantly forgetting something when actually I couldn’t stop thinking about the car getting a ticket or having a tow truck pull it away.

We’ve been talking about getting a car for the better part of the year now, and the decision is just a matter of when. We have a good idea of what we want, but I now know, completely and fully, that this car will not be commuting me to and from work. It’s not that far to go, and that stress of finding parking is something I can certainly live without.

Give me the bus and ear buds shoved into my ears. I’ll take that over running outside everything hour and a half to move the car in a half-block to two block radius or work. It’s just not worth it.

Mark the date for BarCampVancouver 2008: September 27th

As we head into the late stages of summer and fall is still a little ways under the horizon, that only means one thing. BarCampVancouver 2008!

Session: "identity 2.0"

Planning is still going on, but one thing has been set for this unconference. September 27th is date for this year’s BarCampVancouver, and I’m sure the events, gatherings, and other mischief will extend from that.

BarCamp is an ad-hoc un-conference born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment. It is an intense event with discussions, demos and interaction from attendees.

All attendees are encouraged to give a demo, a session, a presentation, or help with one. All attendees are expected to be participants. All presentations are scheduled the day they happen. Prepare in advance, but come early to get a slot on the wall.

Presenters are responsible for making sure that notes/slides/audio/video of their presentations are published on the web for the benefit of all and those who can’t be present.

Anyone with something to contribute or with the desire to learn is welcome and invited to join. [barcampvancouver]

I had to miss last year’s BarCamp due to my hectic day job at the time, but things are slightly different now so I should be able to attend without too much concern. I have even thrown my hat into the ring in terms of helping organize the event, so it’ll be a lot of fun seeing how this comes together behind the scenes.

Another thing I will say about BarCampVancouver is that the one I attended in 2006 was one of the best things I have probably ever done. I met so many people that have become great friends, and there were a lot of things that I learned as well.

In fact, when I think back to it, it’s amazing to see where the “Techcouver” community was then and where it is now. One might say that it’s changed quite a bit, but it’s an amazing community nonetheless. Of course, the technology has made some leaps as well, but that goes without saying.

So, mark the date! September 27th is the day for BarCampVancouver!

Playing photographer at the Vancouver Dragon Boat Festival 2008

Entrance to the Vancouver Dragonboat Festival 2008

About a week and a half ago, I had the extreme pleasure of joining Rebecca on a really cool experience of covering the Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat Festival for the festivities of 2008.

Cycling teams through

People come from all over to compete in this event, not to mention watch and enjoy the festivities.

The Festival was created to show off Vancouver’s growing cultural diversity and to promote racial harmony among Canadians – new and old. Vancouverites were invited to the festival to experience spectacular food, entertainment, arts and children’s programming reflecting Vancouver’s cultural diversity. At the same time, interest in paddling was taking off and more and more teams formed and registered each year.

Twenty years later the Festival still fulfills its mandate to promote cultural harmony among Canadians. It has developed into one of Vancouver’s most anticipated summer family events. [dragonboatbc]

Throw ring, win tinfoil!

This was just a little bit more than the run of the mill walking around, shooting pictures, and seeing the sights. Thanks to Anita, we had media passes to the event.

Pretending to be in the boat

Rogers team stretches before racing

Probably the best thing about the media access for this event was being able to ride in the media boat and follow the racers as they went from start to finish, paddling along until their bodies couldn’t give anymore.

Warming up

Smile

Keeping guard

Good game

With my trusty camera, I decided to try something a little different and shoot some video with it of an actual heat or two.

The Dragon Boat Festival is a real passion for some of these racers. There’s a community that comes from the numerous teams, and the action is just as intense. This is something that you don’t really get a sense of until you get away from all of the tents and vendors on dry land. When you get down to the water level, it’s a whole other experience that I’m really glad I had the opportunity to see.

So long, Trevor Linden

Picture time line of Trevor Linden I’ve already made mention of this before, but today it’s official. Trevor Linden[wiki] is leaving the game of hockey.

No matter how little of time I have been an avid Canucks fan, there is no way to easily say how incredible of a person Linden is. Even though the career is over, it’s not about being sad. He never won a Stanley Cup, never blew away the masses with his talent on the ice, nor did he really set any notable records that will live forever in the history of the NHL.

When it comes down to it, he’s just another guy.

That’s easier said than what he actually means to the city of Vancouver and to the legions of Canucks fans around the world. He is who he is, and if you don’t know him already, then you don’t know an amazing person.

Calling the shots The day job took me very close to the events as they unfolded today. Running around to help out at the press conference to having him pop in at the home base for interview with the media #131, there is something that strikes you about the guy. Deep down, he’s still the same 18 year old kid that was drafted into the NHL twenty years ago, to this exact day.

And every time I was in the same room as him, he was nothing but smiles.

It gives you some comfort to know that people like him are out there in the big dollar business of professional sports. Even though he could walk into nearly any place in Vancouver and be treated like a king, he’d still give you the time of day and directions to the nearest Tim Horton’s. Hell, today it felt like he’d even give you a lift there in his car, he’s just that awesome.

Goal number two

July 11th is the day for the iPhone 3G in Canada

The day has finally been set, so we can finally stop all the complaining about how the neighbors closest to the country who originated the iPhone can finally get the same ability to use and abuse Apple’s latest got-to-have-it. We can also stop our whining and pining for an Apple Store of our own in Vancouver so we can be sure that we don’t have to go all the way to Toronto to buy it from one of the three locations there.

Alright, so I’m still complaining, but at least I can say that it’s about time.

For those not in the know, the 2008 Apple World Wide Developers Conference kicked off today with the traditional keynote address. In all actuality, this is more like a sold out rock show that all the cool kids wanna be at. Difference is that all these “cool kids” are major tech heads that get some major kicks out of seeing what Apple has hiding up their sleeve, and you know that I’m a sucker just like the rest of them.

Before any talk of the new iPhone, I thought it was interesting that the next version of the Mac OS, 10.6, is being previewed at this conference. That’s basically all we really know, other than the rumors that the next release will be less cosmetic and more of a back end strengthening of the OS. More details in time, I’m sure.

So the iPhone 3G, on the other hand, is the huge news. So what makes it better than the original iPhone? Lots, and John Biehler has a lot more details on today’s events, even taking in the coverage as it happened at the Vancouver Apple Store.

This new iPhone is wicked, but why does the “3G” tag on the end mean anything? No, it’s not a throw back to the G3, G4, or G5 processor mumbo-jumbo of Mac days past[wiki]. This is 3G in terms of mobile phone standards[wiki]. It just means faster methods of data transfer beyond simple voice send and receive of a normal phone call.

But that’s not all. At my day job, I get a Blackberry. It’s… ok, but there are so many things about it that frustrate me. However, it’s tied to an Exchange Server, so I get all company email to it as well as contacts, appointments, tasks, etc. The new version of the iPhone operating system, “2.0”, promises to work with Exchange Servers. Combine that with a 3G network in terms of speed and the ease of use of the iPhone interface, because the limited experience I have with Rebecca’s, would make me happy not only as a consumer, but as a network administrator as well.

Of course, out of the gate, there are going to be serious elements to look at before any enterprise use is widespread, but that’s the nature of the beast. Even if Apple hits it on the head, you still have to convince the skeptics at the top of the I.T. food chain. That can be challenging, to say the least.

But there’s still more. The iPhone App Store is going to open up a whole new world in terms of what you can actually do with your iPhone 3G. Applications that you can buy to monitor network traffic, get baseball updates, or the Plum Record app that caught my eye, which is software to record audio on your iPhone. Who needs adapters when the hardware is there to record the audio and someone just needs to write the app for it to work? Potentially very cool for the podcast recording needs.

There is going to be more over the coming month to see how this all pans out. First thing to figure out is how Rogers and Fido will price the data plans for these suckers in Canada. After that, it’s just a matter of how you want to position yourself in line. Elbows out on July 11th or wait till Christmas?

Comparing nearly six months progress of the Vancouver Olympic Village

I have a mild obsession with the Olympics. The fascination has been with me for as long as I can remember, so it’s no surprise that I watch all the construction with anticipation, all political arguments aside. I just love the games. Period.

So almost six months ago, I took this photo on my way into work in the morning.

Daily pass of the Olympic Village

This afternoon, I took this photo on my walk home.

Overall shot from Cambie Bridge

The progress of this small city is astounding. We watch it everyday at work, and I battle the lines at the various places to eat near work on a constant basis. No matter when or where, there is always at least one construction guy or gal either buying coffee or having a bite to eat. The day I don’t have to cross the street without the fear of impending doom from a cement truck barreling down the street will be a strange day, especially with that Canada Line going in just a few blocks away.

Here’s another neat comparison of a photo that I took back in January, looking towards Science World from the Cambie Bridge.

Very Vancouver

And then, today, looking from about the same point, slightly more zoomed in.

Can't see Science World anymore

I’d say that’s progress, but here’s a couple more photos for fun.

Crews at work

Looking down the streets

You can see more here.

Vegan food with Sean Bonner of Metroblogging

Sean Bonner On a bit of a whim, we were invited to have dinner with Sean Bonner and Jeffery Simpson at The Naam in Vancouver last week or so. Sean was in town on a whirlwind tour of the greater northwest, stopping in Seattle, Vancouver, and Portland to check in on the Metroblogging meetups for each of those cities. Reason being, Sean Bonner is the guy behind Metroblogging, starting the first site in L.A. and now up to 50 cities around the world.

We were able to meet up with Sean and some of the other Metroblogging Vancouver crew, of which Rebecca is a member of, the next evening. Still, it was a neat chance to find out more about the man and his methods of madness in terms of how the network operates on top of what he has gone through to grow the blogging site to what it is today.

What is Metroblogging?

Metroblogging started off as a more locally focused alternative news source in Los Angeles and has turned into the largest and fastest growing network of city-specific blogs on the Web. We got sick of reading local news that was syndicated from the other side of the country, or was just repurposed national chit chat that had nothing to do with our city. We created our first blog as a throw back to the days when a local news paper focused on local issues, and you could walk down to the corner coffee shop and chat up the reporters whose column you read earlier that day. This idea didn’t stay in one city for long and before we knew it there were Metblogs in Chicago, Portland, Karachi, and Vienna. Today there are over 50 Metblogs in countries all over the world. Local politics, event reviews, lunch recommendations and ways to avoid that big traffic jam downtown. If it’s happening in our cities, we’re on it.

We are bloggers first and foremost, and we love our cities. Even the parts we hate. [metblogs]

The project that Sean now heads is daunting, to say the least. It was interesting to learn about the trials and tribulations of the original structure of Metroblogging and the recent migration to WordPress to run the back end for all their city sites. That kind of a roll out has got to be a challenge, and there has been a lot of elements to work through for them.

Now with the hard parts are out of the way, Sean gave hints as to things they are working on because finally, with a WordPress engine running the site, they have the ability to start doing things they’ve been wanting to do for a really long time. I’m just not going to tell you what they are because you’ll have to check out the nearest Metroblogging city to you.

Side note, The Naam[googlemaps] on 4th Street in Vancouver is amazing. Vegan food that even non-vegans would love. I could have been fine with the sesame fries and fried tofu, but the chilaquiles were pretty awesome.

Welcome to Vancouver, Apple Store

In less than twelve hours, the first Apple Store in Vancouver will be open.

Apple Store Pacific Centre - Under Construction
Photo credit: gregeh on Flickr

In the wee hours of tomorrow morning, the crowds will descend, a line shall form, and madness will ensue. In fact, people are most likely camped outside of Pacific Centre on Georgia Street at this moment. I would love to be there for an Apple Store opening and have heard nothing but cool things about it.

Sometimes they even hand out super fun free stuff, crazy discounts, or the odd gift certificate. Still, not enough to really want to make me suffer in line on a day off from work. Plus I’m holding out on replacing my Powerbook G4 with something more of a MacBook flavor, so that’s more of a priority in the near future.

There also won’t be any iPhones to speak of, but that will be changing in the very near future. John Biehler has more on that with some good points.

Unfortunately no details other than it’s coming ‘before the end of the year’.

The big questions to me are:

1. How much for the phone itself in Canada?
2. what does the data and voice plans look like? They better resemble the US pricing
3. How long do we have to lock in? Rogers seems to like 3 year terms
4. Will it be the rumoured new 3G model or as Rogers tends to be behind in releasing phones, will it be last year’s model [johnbiehler]

So an Apple Store within easy walking distance plus the iPhone on the horizon. Things are finally starting to happen for B.C. About freaking time, Apple.

Cranking out the podcasts for happyfrog.ca at EPIC 2008

smart car EPIC

What seems like ages ago, I was invited to be apart of the “Frogsquad” at EPIC 2008 and happyfrog.ca’s official media coverage of the weekend festivities. Rebecca joined in with her blogging expertise, and I did my fair share of producing podcasts while DaveO ran amok inside the convention. I have never published so many episodes of a podcast as I did in three days. Lots of audio goodness there.

happyfrog To give a little a little more background on the event, EPIC is the annual, sustainability living expo that happens in downtown Vancouver. This was my first time attending, but I’ve heard about the event previously. People gather to discuss and discover ways to live a more green lifestyle and find alternative resources to satisfy everyday needs. And mark your calendar for next year’s expo, May 8-10, 2009.

While we’re at it, I should mention that if you are looking to find more information like this in the lower mainland of British Columbia, then that’s where happyfrog.ca comes in. They are a community and directory of all things green in B.C., and you can find a wealth of information there as well as contribute to the growing site. Every time I hear from DaveO about it, there’s more and more in the pipes, so keep checking back.

Interviewing the folks from Vespa

DaveO got a lot of great interviews, and the Vespa folks were one of my favorites. They are introducing a three wheeled version of their scooter which makes me want one. It’s a scooter by law, but you basically need a motorcycle license to drive it. Oh yeah, and there’s no kick stand.

Adria Vasil talking to Raul

Even Raul got into the mix, taking the microphone and talking to a well respected expert in the field of eco-living, Adria Vasil.

IMG_2073

Certainly the highlight to my experience at EPIC 2008 was an appearance by Mike Holmes and his talk on how we can build greener homes, and how to do it cheaper, better, and right. I’ve come to really enjoy his show on HGTV, but it will end after this next season. According to what he mentioned on stage, he will be starting a new show called “Making It Right“. He’ll be “going to New Orleans, and we’ll make things right there. After that, we’ll be going to Africa, selecting areas and families that need good homes and show how we can make things right there.”

I’m not sure what comes after Africa, but that’s pretty amazing.

IMG_2042

Of course, you can’t forget all the clothes you could buy at EPIC. And honestly, there was a lot of really cool stuff. I think most people have hemp come to mind as being the main source of material at an event like this, but there are all sorts of ways that people are creating great clothing. More so, the happyfrog.ca t-shirt I got is made out of bamboo, and it’s fantastic! It’s so soft that I want bed sheets made from bamboo now.

I have lots more pictures of the event on Flickr, but there are a lot more reports of the event on the frogblog. After all, this is official media coverage, most of it created live from the event floor, and I’m lucky to have been apart of it.

Drupal Camp Vancouver this weekend

It’s harsh to mention this now, but Drupal Camp Vancouver is this weekend. If you haven’t signed up to attend, then you’re out of luck. It’s been sold out for the last few weeks, but that does ensure that this gathering and sharing of knowledge all related to good things Drupal should be a good one.

Drupal Camp Vancouver

I am fortunate enough to be able to attend as well as helping out with the behind the scenes of getting things lined up with some of the sponsors for the event. Working with DaveO, we were able to make sure that they and we were all good to go for a spectacular weekend of talking Drupal.

Unfortunately, my day job prevents me from making Friday’s events until late afternoon, but I’ll be getting into what I can on Saturday. I’m not sure what my coverage of the event will be like this weekend, but be sure to check in on Rebecca to get some insight to the action from her recap from here and there.