October 2, 2020

Growing a community, one garden at a time

Plants with Neighbours for the Bees sign
One of the micro street corner gardens with “Neighbours for the Bees” sign

Back in 2008, when I was living in Surrey, BC, I stumbled upon a grassy, vacant lot and an age-old idea: a community garden where the area’s townhouse residents could grow their own veggies and compost their food scraps. It never materialized beyond a blog post, “Community solutions for food security and urban health“, and today — I did some Street View sleuthing — there’s another cookie-cutter house on the lot. So be it.

Fast forward to 2020. We’re currently 6 months into a pandemic, there are issues with food security (still), and seed sales are through the roof. We need each other more than ever, but we have to stay apart. That doesn’t mean we can’t come together on solutions.

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May 4, 2014

Ever wonder what you’re missing while you’re looking at a screen?

This relevant, eye-opening video poetry touches on something I think about every so often when I’m walking through the city. I see people staring at their phones as they pass by and wonder what potential relationships they just missed starting because they weren’t paying attention. While our attentions are so focused on not missing a beat on the internet, life is playing on without us, around us. Stop and look up. Be attentive to the world and its detail. What do you see, smell, hear and feel?

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going for a walk to the grocery store and leaving my phone behind my front door.

April 5, 2011

Old buildings, new buds in England


I arrived in England on Friday morning. The British woman who had sat next to me on the plane lamented as we exited that it was cloudy. No problem, I said. “Nothing could be worse than the Vancouver weather the other day.” Anyway, I find the clouds settled over the hills kind of intriguing.

It’s greener here than Vancouver right now, but the hills in the country are still brown from a distance between the patches of grass and pasture. I’m trying to imagine what it looks like when it’s all lush. The place is covered in daffodils, some tulips have sprung, magnolias and the odd cherry bloom, and the birds are gloriously loud. On a forest walk, I spotted salmonberry bushes in early bloom, and learned one can suck on the nectar for a treat, which will be sweet if the petals are easy plucked.

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February 10, 2011

Work in progress: Great things people are doing (together) for the planet

Above video via GOOD: Brooklyn’s Habana Outpost is a Mecca of Food and Sustainability

You’re probably familiar with 350.org‘s global citizen engagement on climate change at the local, grassroots level. I love hearing about these social and environmental change actions and, similarly, what self-propelled groups are doing in their own communities to improve their urban spaces, make cycling safer and save beached whales. The power we have as individuals is even greater when combined into collaborative forces. I highlight here some efforts in making our world better that may have been initiated by one person but thrive best with at least one other. I can remember in particular a community garden in Vancouver started by two women that not only resulted in local food, but better relationships between neighbours.

Continue reading Work in progress: Great things people are doing (together) for the planet »

August 30, 2010

Why bikes are good for Vancouver

Bikes in Vancouver

Cyclists on Robson St. Photo by cabbit via Flickr.

As Vancouver’s City Hall proposes another separated bike lane, this time on Hornby Street which currently has just a regular bike lane, the usual bike vs. car debate fires up again. I don’t see it as a choice of one over the other; we all have to get along. But as a cycling advocate and addict (and the daughter of another — I like to joke that my father was practically born on two wheels), I’d like to share some ways in which bikes make our city a better place, without getting too much into the anti-car realm here. Certainly thinking of these benefits makes me even more resistant to ever using my driver’s license for its primary purpose. The last time I used it was to hand it over so I could test ride a bike!

1. Bikes are the ultimate zero-emission vehicle.

I think we all understand that clean air is vital. Cycling contributes to cleaner air by taking pollution-emitting vehicles off the road. Having fewer cars on the road results in less traffic congestion, which should in turn reduce pollution further. Because bikes require no fossil fuels to operate (let’s not get into a debate over what fuels the human because everyone eats regardless of their mode), there is reduced strain on our non-renewable resources. We all know oil extraction has catastrophic environmental impacts even without oil spills.

Bikes are extremely efficient and use less materials. On the other hand, “These 1,300-kilogram metal boxes carry on average one-and-a-half people, approximately 130 kilos — a mere 10 per cent of the vehicle’s weight” (Yves Engler, The Mark) and require 1,860 calories per mile, compared to 35 for a bicycle, according to the WorldWatch Institute.

2. Bikes take up less space.

Whether they’re parked in an apartment or on the street, riding on the road or a trail, bikes require less physical space than cars. And when you have more space available, this makes room for more useful and pleasant aspects of a city: restaurant patios, parks, street food, community gardens, street performers, art installations, and so on. A parking space is private space, not public, when a car is on it.

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January 22, 2010

Duthie Books closing after 53 years

Bookstore in red by Szymon SurmaPhoto by Szymon Surma via Flickr.

The colour-themed window display changed from blue to a startling black. This was no longer the time for a cheery yellow, or a come hither violet which announced itself in beautifully intricate illustrations. No, it was a display that suggested mourning: Kitsilano’s Duthie Books is closing at the end of February.

It is my daily dose of design inspiration on my way to work. The highlight of my short walk after a long bus ride. The surprise, the freshness — what will they think up next? or ooh, they are incredibly clever/thoughtful/creative! and gosh, that must be fun! (Perhaps I’ll take a page from their book — no pun intended — and rearrange my own every so often. But I will need more first.) I have enjoyed it day after day for over a year. I have even sometimes wondered if others watch me staring at the covers intently and ask themselves what could be so fascinating. And, as if they knew who was walking by twice a day, the staff put up design books one week and I felt giddy. I cannot think of anywhere else that has helped me discover so many interesting book covers — and potential reads. Design love aside, however, the rotating display is a highlight for many of my colleagues who are as heartbroken as I am to see it go.

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June 16, 2008

Car-Free Vancouver Day

Car-Free Vancouver Day on Main Street

Photo by Rob_ on Flickr

Yesterday I joined my sister and my little nieces to one of several Car-Free Vancouver festivals. It was almost surreal to see a chunk of Main St. filled with people, “dancing in the stree-eet,” with absolutely no cars. The warm air was filled with various music, voices, children’s laughter, and sometimes the crashing and bumping noises of skateboarders on the half-pipe. We enjoyed a live performance from a guitarist/singer + DJ/violinist duo that would probably be called lounge jazz pop? The kids had some fun dancing to it. While the next band set up some dancers moved to, I think it was flamenco music, with various dance props (ribbons, etc.) The girls had their faces painted — a butterfly and a lovebug (ladybug on one cheek, heart on the other) — and posed for some adorable photos!

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February 23, 2008

Another indication there’s something wrong with us

Posted today to CBC.ca: “Michigan restaurateur makes 61-kilogram burger and hopes for world record”

The “Absolutely Ridiculous Burger,” made with beef, bacon and cheese, was delivered on a 23-kilogram bun, The Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press reported. It sells for $350, and orders require 24 hours’ notice.

How much water, corn/other feed, cow’s meat, cow’s milk, gasoline, energy and waste products went into making that? How much of it was meat? Moreover, how many third world people would it feed? How many of them would be shocked that humans consume crap like that?


“Where’s the Beef?” Signals Design Group / Coast Paper at Canstruction 2005.

Meanwhile, in our corner of the continent, Canstruction® Vancouver starts showing tomorrow. I wonder if we beat any records for numbers of cans this year? All cans/food packages go toward nourishing the people who rely on the Greater Vancouver Food Bank. There, they appreciate the value of food!

December 22, 2007

This merry time of year

Wet snow on a berry-laden tree

The holidays are upon us and to ring it in, Mother Nature sprinkled some snow over our humble city this morning! I never saw it falling and woke up to rain, but I got outside to photograph it a bit. Nothing too special to share this time as per the snow but I thought the above image was quite festive. It’s very, very wet out there but gorgeous especially when the sun peeks out. So, a White pre-Christmas… good enough for me right now! And yesterday was the Winter Solstice, which means days will now be getting longer. For the shortest day of the year, it was a pretty good one!

It was a year ago today when I posted my first holiday message complete with a photo of a grumpy little fish. This year, Jake gets some furry white cotton on his stocking that I pulled off an old elf-doll I made as a kid. Jake is, of course, just as pissed off to have his view blocked by something bright red. (It’s plain on the back side.)


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November 5, 2007

“How to tell if a web page sucks”

Via We’re Not Wired Right is this map of questions so funny you’ll laugh even the second time you read it. » How to tell if a web page sucks

And if you don’t find that funny, look up Russell Peters on YouTube. He was voted #1 on the Just For Laughs 25th Anniversary Special’s Top 25 standup comedians, which aired last night on CBC.