Our Best Friends – Our Pets

There are stories in Metrovancouver of people not being able to keep pets depending on their landlord. Despite these rules, some decide that they still want a pet and will go through extreme lengths to hide them, at the risk of eviction.

So, how far would you go for your furry or scaly friend? Would you try to find a new place just for you and them? Have you brought them into class to ensure they will not be lonely in the house? Do you bring them treats or new toys on their birthday or just any day you feel they need something new? Why do we go to extreme lengths for them? And why does over 50% of Canada own a pet?

While they might not understand every concept we throw at them and sometimes they can do things that we would not approve of, such as a dog deciding to sneak some warm samosas from the table when you’re not looking, they’re still some of the best friends we have. They comfort us, listen, and are generally happy to see us when we get home after a hard day of work. And depending on who you keep as a friend, they ensure we stay fit as they take us for a walk in their favorite places.

dog

(Courtesy of Jeff Ro)

Having a pet is beneficial for us to the point where we have therapy pets are thing for those who need them. Our smaller friends ensure we are never alone and that someone still cares about us, even in our darkest times.

Pets, might be a major responsibility and they can sometimes restrict us in certain ways -the dog needs to go outside and the hamster cage does need cleaning- but they are always around when you need them.

What Kind of Gamer Are You?

If you did not hear, Super Mario Maker 2 was recently set to be released in June. The question, however, is does the game peak your interest? Do you even care? When you play a video game, is it mainly because your friends what you to join them for some couch co-op in Mario or do you play by yourself in a dark room, keeping others awake up night trying to grind out a new skin or weapon for Battlefield?

From flashy shooters of Rage, to spectacular fighters, and grim RPGs, we have a ton of variety to choose from and even the most unlikely gamers might something that they would find something that suits their taste – even if it’s only for an hour or so.

And the reason we play games can differ greatly from each other. Some people might like a challenge, other people might be looking for escapism, some play games to entertain others on stream, while others just use it to burn time until their next shift. There are just so many reason to play video games that it cannot just be condensed under a single umbrella.

Having played many video games, I have often used them to escape from the crunch of real-life, yet they also provide a fun area where to can challenge others that might be just one trying to raise their self-esteem. Winning does feel good, generally.

And that is what I think makes video games so great, like movies. You can have a wide variety of games to suit a certain niche audience and age groups.

There is something for everyone.

More than Just a Display

If you live in Vancouver, you have probably stopped by Stanley Park at least once in your lifetime as a kid. If you have been to Stanley Park, then you have probably also noticed the Vancouver Aquarium that resides there.

Inside its walls, and outside, are a large number of galleries where you can see a thousands of unique water-faring creatures on display. From playful sea-otters to bright clown and tiny sea horses, there is a lot to see. But did you know that the aquarium is more than just a tourist attraction? Have you ever wondered what else is going on that you cannot see?

This cute pre-mature pup arrived at the Vancouver Aquarium to recover after being left alone.

Since opening on June 15, 1956 after being formed by the Vancouver Public Aquarium Association in 1951, the Aquarium has served as a research facility. From rearing species to learn how they develop, understanding our ocean to help maintain them, to animal rehabilitation and release, there is more than just displays for us to see behind-the-scenes. Not only that, but the Aquarium is part of Ocean Wise, a global conservation program.

So keep all of that in mind next time you stop on in. The facility is not just for your entertainment, but is helping our fellow animals and trying to ensure we still have healthy oceans for when you bring either your kids or nephews or friends there.

Our Greatest Addiction?

Have you ever felt your hand digging into your pockets or purse to slowly pull out your smartphone in public places or even at home at the dinner table? You are so tempted by the sweet lull of your phone buzzing or the anticipation for an update to appear on one of your social media feeds. Next thing you know, you’ve faded into a different world as other events are going on around you.

There is no denying that the smartphone has become integral to our lives. From keeping up-to-date with our friends or favorite artists, to snapping quick photos of the delicious, warm food we eat, to sending messages and writing e-mails to everyone we know.

But it does raise the question, are we becoming too attached to our phones?

iPhone

(Image courtesy of Borsidublin)

Ever since I got the Discord App on my phone, I find it hard to put the phone away if an interesting conversation comes up and I feel an urge to respond, hoping that conversation does not die because of inactivity. It allows me to keep up with my online friends and fellow gamers and I can say, it has not done me good with attention spans running shorter and shorter every month. And worse, I have browsed at my phone at the dinner table rather than talking with friends or family who are across from me.

I am not sure how big of a problem things will be in the future, but I do believe we need to find ways to pry ourselves away from the glowing screens. We already have TVs, computers, and tablets so we should find a way to not open our screens, especially when there are people across from us who we can talk to.

Parking Is Up. Sort Of.

If you traveled into Burnaby by car, you’ve probably passed by Metrotown. Containing hundreds of stores that include grocery, a wide-variety of restaurants and food stalls along with a Cineplex hosting the latest releases, you are enticed to take a glance on what is going on in BC’s largest shopping mall. And if that does not interest you, there are plenty of other places right beside Metrotown that makes it an excellent stopping point to reach places like Crystal Mall or the various stores along Kingsway.

And if you decided to park at Metrotown, you have found a way to use that four-hour time limit. Whether it’s just exploring the nearby area, watching three hour Marvel movies, or sneaking away using the Skytrain and then returning at the last moment to avoid the ticket, you have a lot of time for your vehicle to stay parked at the mall.

If you need to stay for awhile, you might want to check where you are.

What you might not have known is the time limit being cut back by two hours in certain spots at the mall since May 1st of this year. These locations along Kingsway between Sussex and Nelson are having their free parking reduced to two hours. Thankfully, you can still take your car underground and be met with a four hour parking limit. In the worst case scenario where you really need to keep your car on the surface, you can pay for two more hours.

It is unlikely that this will affect most of us and even then, Metrotown has enough parking spaces for one to drive their car to a new spot once those two hours are up. Still, it is something to keep in mind if you got to leave your car behind for a movie or two.

I Am Canadian

Have you ever taken the time to notice the skin-colour of your friend? Did you even care that they were a different shade from your own? Or did you simply hang out with them because they were a great person that you knew you could count on.

With Vancouver in particular, we have colleagues from many different cultures and countries and yet we are all able to work and live together.

Even with differences in colour, you still have people of different origins talking about things that link us together. Often, hockey and sports is one thing that is brought up before we take a seat at the Tim Hortons to keep the conversation going. At the same time, you likely still have traditions in your household that have been brought over and tells of your family’s ethnic history in some way.

Drapeau canadien - Canadian flag

Canada is a wonderful place where we can maintain aspects of our own culture, but we can still be labeled as Canadian and share in that diversity. I might be of Chinese-descent and still maintain certain aspects of that culture, but I have always considered myself as Canadian first and I am sure others have as well.

Given that many of us are here in Canada due to one member of our family immigrating into the country at some point in history, embracing the diversity that we have is what makes us strong. If we as Canadians are looking to define ourselves, it should be our ability to work together with a diverse group of people.

For those of us who will stay in this country, we are all Canadians. And we do not need to lose all aspects of our previous culture to share experiences with those around us.

Legitimizing Games?

Video games are part of daily-life and they surround us wherever we go. Whether it be someone playing a mobile game on their phone on the bus next to you or the clashes that pit you against friends in Mario Kart. However, what would you do if games started to go up on the big-screen in a sport-like environment with teams competing against each other that is viewed by crowds of enthusiasts who cheer for their favorite team or player?

Now a crowd of 250 people does not sound like a lot for The Gaming Stadium which has set-up its temporary facilities in Richmond, but it’s definitely a start. They’re creating a centre where people can meet and compete in games with the permanent structure set to be completed in the summer of 2021, it will be the first of its kind in Canada to be custom-built for the so-called E-sports.

Official logo of The Gaming Stadium

But will E-Sports ingrain itself in MetroVancouver and cause a swell in both professional gamers and gamers in general? E-Sports itself is growing with the 2010 total prize pool from E-sports tournaments going from over $5 million to $45 million in 2015 with 89 million viewers across the globe in 2014.

This is much different from small online tournaments created by volunteers for games such as Company of Heroes 2 with not even a fraction of that prize pool. Rather than hanging out in your room, a dedicated space to compete will appear. At the same time, E-sports is not something discussed outside dedicated group or on casual display unless you look for it. When was the last time your friends talked about a Counter-Strike team pulling off a clutch bomb defuse?

Still, with dedicated venue being established, it further legitimizes games being viewed for our entertainment and played in a professional manner. And it makes playing video games seem more natural and normal as you now have it entering this strange area of professional play that is able to generate money and views.

While I do not think it will cause E-sport team flags to be posted beside Canuck banners, there will be more Vancouverites watching and playing games, especially as the younger generation is exposed to more video games that many of us have spent countless hours on. And there will be more talk on video games.

Hockey Sticks, Winters, and Tim Hortons

If it is not a Starbucks, then it’s probably a Tim Hortons. That’s one common thing you will find in many Canadian cities, and even on our own BCIT campus as everyone flocks to the Timmies for either a coffee, sandwich and/or donut. If you are a Canadian have probably been to one, and if not, someone has likely have brought in a pack of timbits to a gathering or meeting.

First established in 1964 by Miles G. “Tim” Horton -who also happened to be an NHL player- and quickly expanded across Canada under Ron Joyce after Horton’s death in a traffic crash, we Canadians have a connection to the restaurant chain. Whether it’s because we enjoy our tiny bite-size donuts that come in a pack of 20 to 50 or because it’s something we can pick-up on the way to work, all Canadians know what a Tim Hortons is.

But did you know that Tim Hortons is expanding? Have you seen a Tim Hortons outside Canada? I have yet to find one, but if you looked at their website, they have links to locations such as the Philippines, China, UK, and Mexico. It is interesting how one of our cultural icons is going abroad.

If you’re Canadian, you’ve probably seen this.

Will this create a new image of Canadians and be one of the other things we are known for in the world? What will other countries see of us as the franchise slowly begins to enter new markets that extend overseas and into other countries? Will we go from the stereotype of hockey sticks and cold winters to hockey sticks, cold winters and timbits? Will timbits replace poutine?

Keep an eye out the next time your abroad. If you see a Tim Hortons in a place outside Canada, maybe ask around to see what people think of Canadians or if they know that the franchise is Canadian-based to begin with. Maybe we’ll have a new stereotype placed on us that includes our favorite little treats.

The Old, but Majestic Parliament Building

With summer almost upon us, we might fancy travelling to new places as we prepare our bags to go on a much needed vacation. Whether it be warm tropical locations across the seas to remaining on the continent and seeing family, summer gives us the best opportunity to see parts of the world in excellent weather.

One place that you might find interesting and within your budget range if you don’t want to travel far or stay in the country is Victoria. There, you can take a picture of yourself at the BC Parliament buildings located downtown and still tell your friends you went somewhere interesting.

Parliament Building

(Image courtesy of David Stanley)

This majestic building was first opened on February 10, 1898 and was designed by English immigrant Francis Rattenbury, a 25-year old showing we don’t need to be old and grizzled to get it right. Not only is it the heart of BC’s government, but it and structures such as the Empress stand as a contrast to our modern world. As we use more glass and steel, these venerable structures still stand to show off older build techniques and a style that is no longer in use in our modern age. There is also a lot of history that has passed through its halls when you think about how long the building has been active. And it is one of those buildings that at least gives a sense that our country has aged and gotten older over its lifespan.

Now, the new and old can exist side-by-side, which we see in Victoria as you have a mix of old buildings sitting beside glass offices, but the question is what would you prefer to have a picture taken off? The Parliament Building or one of the new high-rises going up in Vancouver? Probably the former as it stands out and that style of building is no longer being produced. And let’s face it, it’s unique and fancier thanks to the stone used to put it together.

Being only a few hours away from Vancouver, it isn’t hard to visit BC’s capital to grab a photo of the Parliament and yourself. Not only do you grab a great photo, but also a little bit of history that will be around for generations to come.

What is Canadian Cuisine?

When you walk down a street such as Kingsway or Davie Street in Vancouver, you’re barraged with an assortment of restaurants. Everywhere you go, there are plethora of different foods that are available. From the bright spicy Szechuan, to beautiful and bold Indian curries and the colourful platters served in Greek restaurants, we have the benefit of having an amazing variety of choices to choose from.

You could go to a new restaurant every day and never scratch the surface of what is being offered. To make sampling harder, new places constantly going up that offer new curiosities for the growling stomach. There are just too many places and too many items for one to go through.

Yet, despite living my entire life in Canada, I have never seen a restaurant labelled “Canadian Cuisine”. Have you found one in your time in Canada?

Poutine

When people talk about Canadian cuisine, you generally end up with the poutine and Nanaimo Bars. And while a number of items have their origins in Canada, they are often attributed as “North American” or “Westernized” rather than “Canadian”.

This likely comes from the fact our country is relatively new in comparison to European and Asian countries which have centuries of culinary cultivation and development that can be placed under a single umbrella or generalization, but I wonder if the future holds restaurants that will be labelled “Canadian”. Our diversity has its strengths, but identifying what foods are truly ours is not one of them.

Maybe we will see restaurants with a unique blend of items that encompass Canadian cuisine as the new generations of chefs to make new styles of food and establish new restaurants that leads to new stereotypes about our food. Until then, however, if someone asks me what Canadian Cuisine, I really can only give one response: poutine.

The Not So-Cold Canadian Winter

Have you ever heard of the joking stereotype that Canadians live in a winter wonderland and igloos are common place? It’s one that tend to pop up every so often when discussing with Americans.

Interestingly, like all stereotypes, there is some minor backing to this as we are further north than are neighbours to the south and places such as Prince George have snow for almost half the year. Yet, whenever Vancouver starts to get a little bit of snow, the entire city goes into a sort of panic as most are not accustomed to driving in semi-frigid conditions. I’m sure if the snow rose up to one’s ankles there would be concern for most city-goers.

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Yet, coming from the North, I always found the panic amusing as I was accustomed to spending at least an hour outside shoveling the driveway and make mounds that were over a metre high. And if you needed to drive anywhere, you just took it a little slower and made sure you swapped out to your snow tires before November hit.

It’s interesting how Vancouver and the Lower Mainland stands out from the prairies, the north and the east where our weather rarely goes below freezing with heavy snowfall that forces us to bring out the shovels. Instead, we are met with heavy rains and dark brooding clouds that hover overhead until spring decides to pop its head around. A very stark contrast to the snowstorms that hit places like Prince George before the sun shines overhead and forces everyone to wear sunglasses in the cold.

Vancouver is blessed with being an oddity compared to the rest of Canada that gets large amounts of snow during winter. Though, when people say us Canadians are accustomed to the cold, I can imagine many Vancouverites going against that view as they lack the big heavy winter jackets, snow pants, thick gloves and winter hats that pop up in the rest of Canada.

So remember, when it starts to get cold in Vancouver, know that there is always worse and you are lucky to be in the strange little bubble that differs from the rest of Canada.

I Don’t Take Part, But I Know It- Hockey

Hockey has always been held up as the great Canadian tradition, a sport that all Canadians can relate to, yet, funnily enough, I never got involved with the sport. I ended up playing basketball and soccer, running around on grassy fields and gym courts, rather than skating on ice with a hockey stick in hand.

It’s interesting how the sport is part of Canadian identity. While I did grow up in Northern BC in the city of Prince George, other winter activities took my interest such as skiing and running the crazy carpet down steep hills during recess. Yet, it is hockey that constantly that keeps coming in conversations when the topic is brought up dinner tables when I go out with friends. And the sports centers in Prince George were primarily used as hockey rinks when they are not being used for other events.

(You probably know who these guys are)

Things related to Canadian hockey teams such tends to appear more than baseball and it’s often held up high in the news in comparison to other sports such as American football, and soccer. I do not know too many sports teams, but the Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Montreal Canadiens are team names that I know because they are brought up so often by other Canadians.

So, even if hockey is not ingrained in everyone’s mind, it’s something that is constantly promoted throughout Canada. And when it becomes so commonplace that even those who are not familiar can understand it, it is not difficult to see why the stereotypes about Canada being a hockey nation pop up.

From Past to Present – The Rio Theatre

If you’ve been going out, looking to watch movie, you have probably gone to a Cineplex such as the one at Metrotown or Marine Drive. The latest releases tend to draw a crowd to the movie theatre franchise. But one independent theatre in Vancouver stands out: the Rio Theatre.

Known for hosting variety of films and live entertainment, the theatre has kept going since its creation in 1938, serving as Vancouver’s few remaining independent operators. Upgraded for the modern era, the Rio has survived the changes in technology and has adapted to changing times, yet was almost lost in recent years.

(From the Rio Theatre’s Facebook page)

With Vancouver quickly changing that establishes new high-rises, multi-story glass buildings, and constant development throughout the city, the theatre’s property went up for sale which led into a massive effort to save the theatre. Its owner, Corinne Lea, went to social media to raise awareness and donations to purchase the property. With people such as Kevin Smith and Ryan Reynolds supporting the Rio, the issue drew a lot of attention and since then, the Rio has kept going on its own thanks to the support of so many people.

This just goes to show that Vancouver’s historical buildings and venues can be preserved. If people put their minds to it, such places can be saved and be available for future generations which hold history dating back decades ago.

So be sure to remember how much has gone in to keep one of Vancouver’s most treasured history.

With live shows such as La Maison Lust which re-imagines A Little Mermaid Tale that is set to take place this week, along with classic films such as Mamma Mia and Perfect Blue and more modern films that includes John Wick, the Rio has something for everyone. And it might come with the odd glass of alcohol if you’re looking for it.

Viewing the Future of Art

Vancouver has a vibrant art scene. From the Vancouver Art Gallery which contains countless exhibits within its walls to the First Nation galleries showing traditional hand-carved pieces found in the downtown core. And there is always more if you’re looking for less known works or maybe an oddity, craft markets spring up from time to time. All in all, Vancouver has no lack of creativity when it comes to the arts.

But what about those upcoming artists who spend countless hours honing their craft for all to see? Where do their works go? Where can people see their work before they enter the industry?

For those who are graduating from Emily Carr University, they will have a chance to show their stuff within the halls of their schools. From the art pieces, photographs, and custom furniture pieces to film, videos and animation in both 3D and 2D, the arts will be king.

Happening from May 4th to the 19th, The Show is being held at Emily Carr that is open from 10am to 8pm on weekdays while exhibits are still open during the weekend from 10am to 8pm. So if you happen to be at Granville Island picking up donuts, you might want to stop by to view creative works of the future. The students and their work could be in the next film or gallery you’re at. Just be sure to leave a RVSP so they know that you’re coming.

Without a price tag to go along with the event, people from all over Vancouver and beyond have a chance to view what the city’s upcoming talent has to offer and see how Vancouver’s art scene might evolve as the next generation of artists and designers coming into the fold.

A Tour on Foot – BMO Vancouver Marathon

While I did not manage to participate in this year’s BMO Vancouver Marathon, I could see its effects as main routes were closed off as early as 6:30am, two hours before the main event took place. Conveniently, the last traffic pylon between West 12th and Cambie was placed just when I arrived. The sudden detour, forced me to loop around the aged backsides of various buildings and concrete as I tried to get to Kitsilano for work.

But for those who participated in the BMO Vancouver Marathon held this Sunday, the runners got a true breathtaking view of Vancouver that mixed urban and nature together along the route’s course. Participants in the full marathon made their way through Queen Elizabeth Park before crossing the edge of West Vancouver and UBC. From there, their route took them from the West End and towards Stanley Park before reaching the finish line in downtown Vancouver at Pender Street.

That does not mean the race needed to be taken by the most dedicated of marathon enthusiasts as not all legs can carry people for over 42 kilometers. Thankfully, for those who wanted to participate casually, there was a half-marathon, an 8 kilometer run, and even a kid’s run that took them around Lost Lagoon. There was something for everyone at this year’s annual event with Vancouver’s Stanley Park being the one constant for all routes.

With a record-breaking number of 18,000 people participating in this year’s run, celebrities such as Daniel and Henrik Sedin came out to get involved. Yet, it would be Yuki Kawauchi of Japan coming in the lead as the marathon included participants from 65 different countries. A true international event that allowed Vancouver to show its best to people from all over the world.

As the name implies, the run was sponsored by the Bank of Montreal which created the marathon in 1972, but it was thanks to the volunteers at the non-for-profit Vancouver International Society RUNVAN® who made the event possible. With 4000 volunteers, the organization has raised over $15 million for charity from events such as this.

Hopefully it will be next year I will encounter this run, but as a runner, rather than a bystander who gets stopped by the final traffic pylon being placed.