Vancouver Day 2: Northern Voice Moosecamp

Early Friday morning, the four of us walked to the nearby Forest Sciences Centre for the “unconference” portion of Northern Voice called “Moosecamp.”

The facility is new, and as with all things sparkly, becomes an object of envy to those who know what it’s like with the Silverfish in CAB or the bunkers in the basement of Tory Lecture. The atrium in particular was breathtaking. Still, with the number of skylights in the common area, I was hoping for windows in the actual classrooms where the sessions took place.

Forest Sciences Centre atrium

The best thing about UBC – Starbucks right on campus!

Moosecamp by nature is ad hoc – topics are driven by attendee interest as garnered from the wiki on the website. When we arrived that day, organizers were putting the finishing touches on the day’s schedule. Although each presenter was given 30 seconds to pitch their session to the group, it was barely audible above the rustle and bustle of opening day excitement. So without a laptop, I had to select sessions blindly, as the descriptions were available only on the wiki, and some with limited detail. Perhaps I’m more traditional that way, but it was too last minute and chaotic for my taste.

Moosecamp schedule

At times, I felt like part of a cattle herd (or a moose herd?). The schedule only had one scheduled break besides the brief 45 minute lunch period, making it virtually impossible to digest the information discussed, get a coffee, or congregate. It made the day drag, and without a constant supply of caffeine, really uncomfortable.

At times, I did feel out of place. Nothing was deliberately exclusive (besides my inability to get online), but between acronym city, a fluency in the proliferation of Web 2.0 companies and services, code, and the incestuous network of attendees and presenters, it was a little overwhelming to say the least.

There were a few bright spots in the day, including two sessions I sat in on in the morning. The first was easily the most accessible to me, and focused on social media’s effects on cultural diaspora. The majority of the time was taken up by personal stories of roots, ethnic identities, community belonging, and increased engagement due to social networking. It reminded me of my English 363 class with this discourse on post-modern lines of thought regarding the fluid nature of identity.

Looking engaged (photo by Kris Krug)

The second session pulled some themes from the previous one, but instead of cultural groups, centred on online communities, in particular, how “communities” are defined (e.g. is active participation necessary? Consensus? Discussion?). Dickson didn’t enjoy this as much as I did, and though I agree that the topic was never fully dissected, and mainly talked around, I still marveled at the fact that everyone was so willing to contribute their thoughts on the matter. And really, the keyword record on the blackboard was pretty cool:


An observation from Moosecamp: multitasking, or multidistracting, which is rude in any other context is not only accepted, but encouraged. People were simultaneously blogging, e-mailing, IM-ing, uploading, and performing other computer-related activities during the presentation. Not doing so, or engaging only in active listening seems to become a sign of disrespect in some way.

By the end of the day, after yes, a session called “Mac Programming for Mortals,” and a “Geowalk” hour minus the “walking” part, I was ready to ship out. Megan felt the pain as well.

Not impressed

Thankfully, it was time for food. The Village (about a 5 minute walk from Triumf), had several non-chain restaurants we ended up sampling over the next few days. A Chinese eatery, University Village Restaurant (5778 University Boulevard), was the first.

We ordered the combination dinner for 3-4, and as you’ll see below, involved quite a bit of food. The meal was nothing exceptional, but because the pictures turned out well, that alone makes them worth posting:

BBQ Pork Fried Rice

Beef Chop Suey

Pineapple Sweet & Sour Pork
Almond Chicken

“Look Mom, I can use chopsticks!”

Next up: Northern Voice proper.

Vancouver Day 1: Getting Settled

As most of my faithful readers know, I went to Vancouver with a few friends this weekend, primarily to attend a blogging conference. Fortunately, we also had spare time to wander around and appease the perpetual tourist in me.

Mack, Dickson and I left Edmonton early Thursday morning, and with the time change, arrived in Vancouver before 11am. We then headed to the Trimf House on the UBC campus to check in. Although they didn’t have hairdryers available as claimed on the website, the accommodations were comfortable enough, with an expansive communal kitchen, coffee machine, and of course, wireless internet access. One inconvenience, however, was the fact that reception staff were only on hand Monday to Friday, so bookings and payments had to be made in advance. Moreover, it turns out they had a policy of not cleaning “occupied rooms” on weekends.

Guest room

Lounge area

Kitchen

After dropping our bags off, we took the bus to downtown Vancouver to have lunch. We ended up in the food court of Pacific Centre.

Enjoying my Pad Thai from Thai Express (where Mandarin seems to be the language of choice)

“Who are you looking at?”

While the boys took care of something, I wandered around Robson Street. Surprisingly enough, I didn’t end up buying anything (that day or any day). But I more than took care of a lack of material purchases in culinary expenses. For example, I finally indulged in something I didn’t get to do in Toronto – buying a hot dog from a street vendor. I must say, the vendor parked on the southeast corner of Burrard and Robson was exceptionally friendly, so much so that he must garner repeat business from regulars (or even tourists – Dickson ended up at the stand two days later). And yes, the ‘dog was worth all $3.50.

Assorted condiments

Later that night, we met up with Mack’s sister Kimmi and two of her friends for dinner. Swayed by a man in a toga offering a free appetizer, we chose to eat at Kalypso Restaurant & Ouzeria (200, 1025 Robson Street). I ordered the Lamb Souvlaki, and was pleasantly surprised that the meat had already been removed off of the stick (it may be less authentic, but perfect for those who don’t like to eat with their hands). While the lamb was tender, and grilled to medium rare as requested, the pieces also contained a lot of fat. Also, the “free appetizer” was misleading, as to eat the Hummus and/or Tzatziki, a few paid orders of bread were needed.

Dining room

Lamb Souvlaki (with rice pilaf, potatoes, and tzatziki)

Dickson, Mack & I

Before heading back to Triumf, Kimmi brought us to the controversial 2010 Olympic Countdown clock located near the Vancouver Art Gallery. To protect the timepiece from damage, the city has arranged for 24-hour security. Indeed, there was a yellow-jacketed guard next to the clock during our visit.

1085 days to go…

We returned to Triumf and waited for Megan to arrive. She ended up waiting at the Edmonton International for several hours, without apology from WestJet for the delayed takeoff. Thankfully, she arrived in one piece, and we tried to get some sleep in preparation for the headache called “Moosecamp.”