Wednesday, June 27, 2007

parks and trees

Hey, Neighbours,
so a couple of weeks ago, on 7th ave. just a block or so to the west of the park at Fraser between 8th and 9th, a great big old old cedar tree was taken down. its roots were digging into the foundation of the house, and the owners of the house got a city permit to take it down. A few people gathered to watch and say good bye. Some Aboriginal folks brought drums and sang while the arborists did their work. the arborists were gentle with this big old Cedar, and cut it into slabs and hunks so people could take it and use it for something useful. I think quite a lot of the wood went to the Squamish Nation on the north shore, and some of my friends got some good size slabs which they'll use to make tables or stools out of. So, a beautiful long-time home to lots of birds and wee critters left the neighbourhood, but the remains are now in use in the homes of many more people .
it was a rainy cool Friday, and i was working at home. I took the dog out for a walk, and we went by to see who was all gathered to send the old tree on its way. then we went to China Creek park and Seamus ran about with an energetic younger dog for a bit. more about the park on another day, there are softball or soccer games nearly every night now. fun.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Anne Feeney at the Rhizome Cafe

Anne Feeney played the Rhizome Cafe (317 E. Broadway - across from Kingsgate Mall) on June 23. It was the second time I've seen her there. The crowd was smaller than it had been in January - I guess more competition from other events, but she is a great singer and performer, especially of labour songs and feminist songs. She makes you pat your feet and sing along like crazy. Here's a link to listen to some clips of her newest CD "If I Can't Dance."

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Activity at Great Northern Way Campus

Four major schools in this area have a joint interest in a little campus a few blocks to the west of the VCC-Clark Sky Train Station. For a couple of years, not much has been happening at this location, which is jointly operated by UBC, SFU, BCIT, and Emily Carr. There was a scene shop for the UBC Theatre department there for a while, there's been a small green roofs experiment going on, there were some space rentals to movie companies, and a few temporary research-project offices. Last summer there was a festival there during the United Nations World Urban Forum. A 2005 article in The Tyee talks about plans to build a fancy glass Interactive Centre for Sustainability there, and how those plans had been postponed. The revised "early 2007" completion target also went by the by. The permit sign is still up and ground hasn't been broken.

Now, a librarian I met this week told me that an existing building that has just been painted black is to be the new home of the very first entering class of the Masters of Digital Media Program - a joint project of all the schools. According to her, after taking their core courses the students will each receive $50,000 to pursue a project, with the money coming from the school and from private industry. The private industry donors will receive the benefits of the students' research projects.

I found a press release online dated May 2, 2007, saying that the project is intended to "create a launch pad for the next generation of interactive entertainment leaders." It also said that Electronic Arts Inc. (Nasdaq: ERTS) was making a grant of $1 million to the campus.

The Electronic Arts Inc. website shows they are an interactive gaming company doing "Fantasy, Sports, and Strategy Videogames." The front page of the website shows a nasty-looking car crash and a list of 30 countries on 5 continents where you can get a game account -- oops, make that 31 countries as USA/Canada is listed as one. The games on the USA/Canada page include "Command & Conquer," "Boom Boom Rocket," and games about NHL, football, and Harry Potter.

On the other end of the gender taste spectrum, check out the Netwoman Blog. On this blog, a woman named Tracy Kennedy, who is a sociology doctoral student in Toronto, reports she is conducting a second life online as Tracy Trailblazer, a virtual Research Assistant for the Great Northern Way Campus, thus "creating a presence" for the campus in the online game Second Life. It is unclear from her blog whether she gets paid for real.

The web site for the Great Northern Way Campus is It asserts that "The GNWC has joined the local community to help define this urban landscape as they create and deliver new professionally-oriented, educational and cultural programs."

If anyone knows how this campus interfaces with the local community, please post a response.

Monday, June 11, 2007

QLT not on the QT

A couple of weeks ago I was in North China Park and heard a sound like a car alarm and a lot of shouting. The noise went on and on. When I walked to the top of the hill and looked down to the north, I saw a demonstration going on, just across Great Northern Way. There were four young men with black balaclavas covering their faces, walking with signs. One of them had a hand-held electric bullhorn that made the alarm sounds, and he was also shouting through it. The amplified and distorted sound bounced off the walls of the buildings, so it was impossible to understand what he was saying. Another man was standing on the hill with me watching, but neither of us had binoculars, so we couldn't read the signs. There were four police cars parked around the four demonstrators. Two uniformed police stood on the sidewalk watching. After a while, a fifth demonstrator walked over, carrying a sign.

Finally one of the chants was clear enough that we realized it was a demonstration against animal testing. The building they were standing in front of was QLT Inc. I looked them up on the web, and found this listing:

QLT Inc.
A global pharmaceutical company specializing in the discovery, development and commercialization of innovative therapies to treat cancer, eye diseases and niche areas. Combining expertise in ophthalmology, oncology and photodynamic therapy, QLT has commercialized two products to date, including Visudyne™ therapy.
Address: 887 Great Northern Way Vancouver BC, V5T 4T5
Tel: 604-707-7000
Fax: 604-707-7001

Visudyne™ is a drug for treating age-related macular degeneration, and QLT manufactures it. There's a web page here that describes how Visudyne™ works.

Back in 1997, QLT acquired from Germany and then got approval for what was reportedly the first "photodynamic" drug, Photofrin™, used for treating lung cancer and esophageal cancer. Too bad it wasn't around before 1993 when my dad died of esophageal cancer.

In December 2006, the former CEO and President who got Visudyne™ through the drug approval process, Dr. Julia Levy, retired from QLT's board. Dr. Levy participated in developing photodynamic drugs in general, and Visudyne™, in particular, while she was a professor at UBC. She went private to form Quadra Logic Technologies in 1981. There's an admiring bio of her on the site Inventive Women,
and a quote from Dr. Levy appears on the blog Brilliant Idiot:
I think the financial success one has at the early stage of a company like that is being able to tell a story and sell a dream.

- Dr. Julia Levy
Co-founder, QLT Inc.

QLT is listed on the stock exchanges in two countries. In the US on NASDAQ (QLTI) and on the Toronto Stock Exchange - TSX - it's (QLT). According to QLT, their sales of Visudyne™ dropped 46% in the first quarter of 2007. As of June 1, they announced they were buying back shares of their stock from the public "for cancellation."
According to The Motley Fool, a website that makes stock recommendations, QLT has been buying back shares for a year. It says they can afford to buy back the shares with current profits, but their sales are dropping because another drug company patented a rival macular degeneration treatment. QLT also had to pay to settle a patent-infringement lawsuit over Eligard™, a hormone treatment for prostate cancer acquired when they bought another company.

When a company buys back its shares, that's supposed to signal to investors that they think their stock will do well in the future, despite current problems. But on the other hand, it could be a fake-out.

QLT's slogan might seem excessively arrogant to some:

"Our business is science. Our Product is life."

Mural at Broadway & Prince Albert

There is a mural going up on the side of the little grocery store on the northeast corner of Prince Albert and Broadway (across the street from KFC). The first day I saw anyone working on it, there were several little girls with long-handled rollers putting on the coat of white paint, under supervision of a woman on a wheelchair or electric scooter. Since then, I never see anyone working on it, but little by little it is changing. I asked the woman who runs the store about it. She said that it was organized out of the Mt. Pleasant Neighbourhood House across the street, and that they approached the landlord and got permission to put the mural on the wall. Nobody asked the tenant.

New buses energy inefficient

When I was riding home on the bus last Friday, the driver told someone that the reason there aren't very many new trolley buses on some of the lines is that the new buses use more power than the old buses. He said they drain the lines of power, so TransLink can't run too many of them too close together or none of the buses can go. Another person on the bus said "they should have thought of that before they built them."

If anybody knows any more about this story, please post in Comments section.

Last Thursday of the Month

The last Thursday of each month is Seniors Day at the Shoppers Drug at Kingsgate Mall. Here's what they say on their website about it:

"*Discounts apply to our regular prices on all merchandise purchased by seniors and their accompanying family members. Excludes sale items, prescriptions, milk, products with codeine, tobacco (where applicable), stamps, lottery tickets, Electronic Gift Cards and prepaid phone cards. Discounts may not exceed $50."

You have to show your Shoppers Optimum Card, and you have to be 60 or older.

It doesn't say on their website how much the discount is. I made it there once on Seniors Day and was pleased to receive a 10% discount on ice cream. This month, I'm planning to go and buy Super Floss. Then I don't have to wait for it to go on sale again.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Garway R.I.P.

Garway grocery, across Broadway from Kingsgate mall, closed about a month ago. At their closing-out sale, they had things I had never tasted, so I bought a few things. Another customer gave me a recommendation to try dried bean curd strips; she said you have to soak them in water and then you can use them in stir fry. I also got Halo Halo, which is made out of beans and other things, all in sugar syrup - very good on ice cream.

When I first saw Garway a few years ago, they had vegetables and fruits for sale on wooden frames outside and around the parking lot, which made it very inviting. You could see what they were featuring without even having to stop and go inside. They stopped doing that after a while and said the city made them stop. Then there were only a few wooden frames in the front, and the rest inside.

Garway had reasonably priced coffee and vegetables in about half the store; and mostly imported products in cans, cellophane packages, boxes and a freezer in the rest of the store. The woman at the cash register was efficient and nice. That day, I asked if the rent was going up and that was why they were closing. She said yes.

Tax assessments have gone up in this neighbourhood. Tax increases affect people's ability to stay in their neighbourhood, and they can have a chain reaction effect on rents as well. If landlords are trying to maintain a percentage of profit instead of an absolute amount of income, then the rent will go up more than just the amount of the tax increase.

Since Garway closed, the city has announced it is shifting some of the "tax burden" for Vancouver away from business taxes and on to residential taxes. Too late for Garway. Of course taxes are only a fraction of what affects rents.

Does anybody know more about this story?

MtPleaseAunt - purpose of blog

This blog is to collect observations of people who live in the Mt. Pleasant area of Vancouver BC Canada. The neighbourhood is changing especially fast now. We can put together a picture of how things are going around here, that will help the aunties sitting on the front porches (or wherever they sit) know what to pass along.