Coming home from seeing the Olympic torch this morning, the first thing I hear from my dad is “Did you know Alexander McQueen is dead?”  I was completely speechless.  I couldn’t believe it.  But there it was, on the front page of the Scottish paper.

I remember the first time I saw McQueen, it was the chessboard show, with the models as life sized chess pieces.  I was completely floored.  This was a far cry from the typical straight-up-and-down runway even the most unique of designers adhered to.  I thought “this is what fashion has been waiting for”.  This man was like nothing we’d ever seen before.

The fashion world has lost a great talent today.  But more than anything, the world lost an artist.  An innovator.  Someone who pushed the boundaries and didn’t believe in the word “ordinary”.  Someone so young and with so much talent shouldn’t have left so early, and especially in the way that it happened.

I truly hope that the McQueen line stays alive and continues to stun the world for years to come.

EDIT: The fate of the line is now under question.  According to an article from The Cut, Gucci Group is unsure if the line will be continued as it may not be financially viable for them without Lee at the helm.  There is question of who could possibly be similar enough in terms of visionary in order to replace the “l’enfant terrible” of the fashion industry.

However, I heard something very interesting from someone at the Alexander McQueen store in Las Vegas (I called to place an order for a scarf as Holt Renfrew in Vancouver is apparently sold out according to my Twitter contacts).  He said that there is someone who could take over for McQueen.  Lee’s assistant (I believe he said her name is Sarah) has been with him ever since college and, while Lee himself designs all of the couture-wear, most of the ready to wear are her own designs.  She is well versed enough in his archives and his style to confidently continue the line.  The question is-will the McQueen family allow her (or anyone) to continue on the line using his namesake?  Or will Gucci Group decide to scrap the line regardless?  I truly hope that they consider this woman to take over the line.  It is tragic enough to lose such an iconic designer, but what a loss it would be if the line he built up over the past couple of decades will come to such an untimely end as well.  For his sake, I really hope this isn’t the end of McQueen.

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The task ahead

It’s the last week before classes are off for the Spring Gongshow (aka Winter Olympics), which means I am both frantically trying to get assignments done and exams written, as well as going on coffee-fueled grading binges (if you didn’t read my earlier post, I still work as a TA at UBC).

I was out on campus today to meet with my prof so we could go through some of the marking-it’s quite straightforward but the sheer AMOUNT may just kill me.  I had a project and accounting midterm this past week, so I only just got to it now…and she’s hoping to get to them Friday.  Good thing I have a ton of Starbucks VIA sitting around.

Being back out at UBC again today made me feel so nostalgic towards my alma mater (although it probably helped that it was a gorgeous sunny day out!).  Even though I never really made myself much of the community there, I can’t help but feel a strong connection to the place who brought me so many amazing friends and memories, as well as some of the most tumultuous and excruciating moments of my life.  But isn’t that the way it is-everything seems so much better looking back, doesn’t it?

Marbellous cookie from Blue Chip-my pre marking treat (and sugar boost)

I haven’t had too much Olympic spirit (I’m more indifferent than anything) but today driving out to UBC and seeing the Olympic village and all the big tour buses and the flags hanging down from the balconies…I started to get excited!  I can’t wait to cheer on Canada and show off the fantastic city I live in.


Woodwards

03Feb10

80.  See the new Woodwards development

Alright!  I managed to cross something off my list from last weekend.  I went to the home of one of the boy’s lovely coworkers, who just moved in to Woodwards.  My god, the place is spectacular.  Her view stretches from Canada Place and the water, to Victory Square, to City Hall up on 12th ave.  It was spectacular all lit up at night.  Apparently the gym is on the top floor overlooking the city-I definitely have to tag along for a workout one of these days!

Woodwards W

Seeing the view made me realize just how central this development is in downtown Vancouver-you can literally see everything from it.  I have to admit though, I still don’t think I’d be happy walking around there at night by myself.  While Robson is busy (well, busy enough) even in the middle of the night, walking along Water Street felt eerie-the place was practically deserted (okay, it was a Thursday night, but still).  I really do hope this development helps to bring some much-needed change to the area (for ALL residents, including those who don’t really have a place of their own to call “home”).

View of Canada Place

I feel REALLY bad for her neighbours though.  She’s on the 22nd floor, and the W is only visible when you go out on the balcony and look out to the left.  But the people next door…it is literally right in front of their window.  I wonder how they sleep at night?

Speaking of condos, the boy just bought a place in Coal Harbour!  I’m really excited about it.  The place needs a lot of work-I’m hoping we can do the work ourselves but it’s going to be a huge effort.  But, most importantly, I get to make the ultimate IKEA trip.  It’ll be nice to spend as much of the summer downtown as I can (or at least as much as he’ll let me mooch off him before he starts looking for a share of the food bill!).


Last night two of my Twitter friends brought up this news story about a development firm that will be converting an old SRO hotel into micro-lofts for lower (ie NOT low) income individuals.  These “micro-lofts” will be more than $200/mo cheaper than most studio apartments and will be 270 square feet-but will hold a bathroom, kitchen, bedroom, and desk to work at.

CBC.ca

An SRO hotel just after it was bought by the City of Vancouver

At first, the idea enraged me.  The building (the old Burns Block at 18 W Hastings), was an low-income hotel until it was closed for fire code regulations back in 2006.  I recently did research on SRO (Single Room Occupancy) hotels in the Downtown Eastside and was shocked at how quickly they’re being shut down….with very few being converted into proper housing for low-income individuals.  These micro-lofts, at $675-750 a month, will be out of reach for most of those living on income assistance.  So who is punished for the fact the building’s owner didn’t bother to keep it up to code?  The residents too poor to move anywhere else.  Although SRO hotels are far from being the best housing option, at least they give housing to a lot of people who would otherwise be on the street.  With so many buildings being shut down and converted, where are people supposed to go?

Closures of SRO hotels in Vancouver

But then I remembered hearing on the radio yesterday that Vancouver has become THE most unaffordable real estate in the world (Vancouver Sun).  There are few developments catering to those who are not on income assistance, but still can’t afford most apartments in downtown Vancouver.  I doubt couples could live in these units and keep their sanity (despite what the developer says) but I think they could definitely be a great housing option for people who are currently commuting from the boonies because that’s the only place they can afford to live.

So maybe Vancouver just needs to focus on making affordable housing for ALL income groups.  If the city wants to push eco-density and more people living in smaller spaces, they need to start making it more affordable.  Maybe developments like this and Woodwards (which combine social and market housing) will usher in a new wave of development that helps make Vancouver more affordable for everyone.  But, at the same time, how do we ensure the needs of the original residents are not ignored to make way for progress?


101 in 1001

19Jan10

After the advice of my dear friend Khea, I’ve decided to jump on the “101 tasks in 1001 days” bandwagon.  I have a lot of free time (as mentioned previously) in the next few months, and I want to use this time to make a lot of changes now that I’ve no longer got “I’m too busy” as an excuse.  Plus maybe writing it all out will get me motivated to reach my goals for once 😛

Ironically, my finishing date is my 24th birthday.  It’ll also be just over a year after finishing all my formal schooling (assuming I get into the HR program, after all) so fingers crossed I don’t feel like a complete failure on my birthday!

This blog isn’t going to just become a checklist of my progress.  I’m just going to be adding a little extra for those (very, very few) of you who read this.

Oh, and I encourage all of you to do the same!


Kindle review

14Jan10

I was fortunate to get my hands on a Kindle through the boy (who received it as a corporate Christmas gift-not bad eh?) and was really excited to try it out on vacation (especially when I received my holiday reading in the mail from Chapters and realized my choice was gigantic).

The Kindle with case from Seaside Sew

Basics
The Kindle sells for $259USD and is shipped from the US, meaning you’ll be footing heavy customs fees that Amazon assumes will put the cost around $330CAD at delivery.  Not cheap.  Books can either be bought online at Amazon or downloaded directly off the Kindle using the on-device bookstore.  The cost is deducted from whatever credit card you have linked to your Amazon account.  Books cost, at most, $11.99CAD.  Cheaper than the cost of most books in Canada.  Battery life (especially with wi-fi off) is excellent, with more than enough juice to satisfy your literary purges.  I read 2 books and am only at half battery life.

Screen
The screen, using e-ink technology, is surprisingly crisp and easy to read.  It really is like reading a regular book (including the need for adequate lighting).  I’m prone to eye strain, and I found I could read text off the Kindle for an extended period of time (like my long flight to the UK) without any problems.  The text can be adjusted by pressing the “Aa” button beside the space bar on the Kindle keyboard (you can also change the screen orientation using this button).

Design
The Kindle is light and easy to hold-and the previous/next page buttons are well placed.  The only problem occurs if, like me, you enjoy lying on your side in bed reading.  The Kindle is awkward to hold one-handed at that angle, it’s really better for reading when sitting upright.  The keyboard looks teeny, but the buttons are raised enough that typing is fairly easy.  Really, you’re not using the keyboard much anyways.

The Kindle is a bit fragile-the screen is “soft” and lacks and protection from other items that may be in your purse/bag.  The Canadian Amazon shop only has really limited (and really ugly) cases available-I ended up ordering mine off of Etsy from Seaside Sew, who allow you to customize your case with various types of fabric and closure and were really pleasant and quick to deal with! (Note:  The Kindle cover is custom, you have to email to enquire).

Features
Some nifty features included are the abilities to look up words (just use the toggle to move the cursor to the beginning of the word), highlight, make notes, and bookmark pages.  You can then view a list of these for each book.  It’s a great way to keep track of interesting quotes and passages-although for English students it really doesn’t substitute scribbling and dog-earing a book to death.

The current version of the Kindle can also read PDFs natively, which is where I came across a few issues.  It might have had something to do with attempting to put image based (versus text based) PDFs on the device, but I could NOT read the teeny and slightly blurry text from the documents I downloaded.  You can’t change the text size as you can with regular Kindle files either, which made the PDF compatibility basically pointless for me.

You can use MobiPocket Creator (there’s an excellent how-to video here) to convert PDFs to Kindle files-this worked much better for me (though image based PDFs don’t work with the creator).

Kindle Store
Ok, this is where I had A LOT of issues.  The US Kindle store boasts a library of 360,000 books, while the Canadian store has around 300,000 titles.  Clearly, Canadian publishers are not on board with ebooks (more specifically, the Kindle).  If you’re interested in purchasing the Kindle, be sure to search the store first to see if the books you want are actually there.  The 4 authors I searched for (Haruki Murakami, Douglas Coupland, Chuck Palahniuk, and Margaret Atwood) yielded 1 result in total (for Coupland’s JPod), while the US store contains many more titles (though still not an impressive amount) by the same authors.  This lead me having to search for *ahem* “alternative” modes of obtaining the novels I wanted (and making use of Mobipocket).  Only Freakonomics was available in the store out of my vast novel list.  As well, the Kindle, unlike competitors such as the Sony eReader, doesn’t allow you to purchase books from other ebook retailers-the Kindle uses a special file type so you really are limited (legally) to the Amazon shop.  Also, unlike the Barnes and Noble “Nook”, you can’t “lend” books to others to read-meaning if your friend wants to read the same book, they have to buy it themselves.  Some libraries in the US allow people to “check out” books using their ebook device-and I would LOVE to see an option like this in Vancouver in the near future.

Overall
I’d probably give the Kindle a 3/5.  It was great to have along while I was travelling and was definitely much better than carrying 2-3 books around with me.  However, I definitely wouldn’t dish out $300 for this (although it’s a fabulous gift to receive!) especially considering the limited selection of books available to Canadians.  It is a pretty new technology though, and I’m certain that in a couple of years prices will go down and more publishers will be on board.  If this is the future of reading, I’ll definitely welcome it in.


I can’t remember the last time I had so much free time on my hands. I don’t deal well with stress, but I’m also a really restless person, and the idea of having nothing to do makes me feel pretty uncomfortable actually.

I signed on to TA again this term, but the workload isn’t what I expected. I have 3 weeks of marking to do between now and April. Sure, part of me is shouting “Hell yeah! I’m getting paid to do nothing for 3/4 of my contract!” but then, it hit me, What the hell am I going to do with myself?

There’s a bit of a fine line I have yet to figure out-I’m in night school 3 days a week and except for 3 weeks this term, I’m basically unemployed.  But I don’t know how heavy things are going to get if I could/should look for a 2nd job or just try to make the most of free time.

The boy and I have both been discussing our lack of hobbies and the need to take time to do things to fuel the “other” side of ourselves (the side that isn’t obsessed with getting grades or making money).  But….where to start?  I’ve never had time for hobbies before, and I find myself zoning out on the couch instead of getting up and doing something I enjoy. How do you motivate yourself to do something that is supposed to be self-fulfilling and, thus, self-motivating?