Bionic Hollow Tree for Stanley Park

March 27th, 2008 @ 12:00pm (PT) by Rebecca Bollwitt

The Hollow Tree in Stanley Park is a tourist favourite. On the West side of Stanley Park Drive, it’s a frequent stopping zone and photo op. During the storms of 2006, the tree was weakened beyond already being hollow at the base, and the Parks Board would now like to spend $200,000 to restore it.

The Vancouver parks board will vote next week on a staff recommendation to slice off the remains of the red cedar, believed to be about 1,000 years old, and lay the trunk’s halves out so that tourists can walk between them an appreciate the tree’s size…

… A staff report says more recent wind damage means the the only option to keep the cedar safely upright would be an awkward webbing of external braces. The $200,000 cage would ruin photos taken at the opening in the trunk and could not guarantee the tree wouldn’t fail further. [The Province]

This is not the first time a prominent tree has been given a little bit of a boost from cables and supports. On one of my weekend trips to Vassar when I lived in New England I was told about the London Plane tree on Library Lawn. It boasted the longest unsupported tree limb, and was even in the Guinness Book of Records. When the branch became unstable and the tree could no longer sustain its weight, cables were attached to keep the record-setting limb from budging.

The Vassar Library & the London Plane Tree – Photo Credit: Joseph A on Flickr

On the radio this morning Jeff O’Neil was saying that if tourists coming to Vancouver are most concerned about a hollow tree, then there’s something seriously wrong with that picture. Sure, I like the Hollow Tree, but I also like all of the other 404 hectares of the park. When our favourite big tree (that we called “Sam”) was toppled was there a rush to get him propped back up? No. Mainly because he was returned to nature, but part of me thinks it was due to the fact that he was located down a less traveled path, and not within handy-cam shooting distance from the roadway.

A lot is being done in the park in the name of tourism (ie. man-made clearcuts for expanded parking lots) meanwhile the true treasures and beauties of the park lie far from any parking spaces.

What would be best for the tree and public safety at this point? I’ll open it up for another Miss604 Poll:

(Poll Closed)

Should the Parks Board spend almost a quarter of a million dollars to support and create a bionic Hollow Tree? Or should nature simply take its course, and we’ll lose a familiar natural landmark?

Vancouver History: Mount Pleasant

March 27th, 2008 @ 10:00am (PT) by Guest Author

The following was researched, contributed and written by Raul

Given what I research on my day job, it is also ironic (or coincidental, perhaps) that I now live in an area that used to be industrial and is now being transformed into a residential zone (while attempting to preserve the historical industrial heritage).

With the upcoming 2010 Winter Olympic Games, part of the Mount Pleasant area (known as South East False Creek) is increasingly densifying and will be host to the Olympic Village.

Southeast False Creek, one of Vancouver’s last waterfront industrial sites, is being redeveloped as a model for urban sustainability. A district heating system and energy efficient buildings are two of the measures that will reduce energy use on the site by more than 50%. Water use will be reduced by over 50%, and car share vehicles will be required in the larger buildings. Both affordable (low income) and middle income rental housing is being developed along with market housing.

The central part of the Southeast False Creek neighbourhood will be the Olympic Village for the 2010 Winter Games, and construction will be completed in November 2009. After 2010, part of the village will be converted to a new state-of-the-art community centre. [City of Vancouver Olympics Website]

When I first moved to Vancouver, I lived in Point Grey. I then moved around. I’ve taken residence up in Kitsilano, Fairview Slopes, South Granville and finally, I officially became an East Vancouver boy when I moved to the South Main area. While there is some discussion on whether I live in Riley Park or Mount Pleasant, I like to say that I’m a Mount Pleasant resident.

I know that some purists may say that Mount Pleasant isn’t exactly South East False Creek, but if you read the historical accounts of this region (and the maps), you will notice that both areas have a substantial degree of overlap.

In writing this post, I wondered what could I dig up that would excite/surprise/shock the readers. I had previously written some stuff about the history of Mount Pleasant, and a lot has been written about this neighbourhood, so I didn’t want to be repetitive. I managed to find something that may shock some readers: real estate price outrageous increases in Vancouver aren’t just a recent trend. Don’t believe my word if you don’t want to, just look at Wynn’s findings:

“In the eyes of many early Vancouverites, real estate promotion and development were alluring wheels of fortune. Land was, undoubtedly, the most important commodity in the city. Visitors and locals alike marveled at Vancouver’s frenetic real estate market. Newspaper afforded enthusiastic publicity to examples of spectacular gains from property speculation.”
[Wynn 1992, p. 92. In Wynn and Oke, (Eds) (1992) Vancouver and Its Region, Vancouver, UBC Press]

So there you have it. Skyrocketing real estate prices in Vancouver aren’t really a collateral result of the 2010 Winter Olympics. Even at the turn of the 19th century, folks were already catching up to the fact that land is a valuable commodity. How much of a commodity? Here are some numbers (also obtained from the Wynn and Oke edited volume)

“Two-hundred acre lots in Mount Pleasant, bought for $ 16.20 at a tax sale in 1895, were on sale for $ 275 in 1899″. [Wynn 1992, p. 92. In Wynn and Oke, (Eds) (1992) Vancouver and Its Region, Vancouver, UBC Press]

Unbelievable, eh? Four years and you could expect to increase your investment by more than fifteen-fold.

Once I was on a roll reading Vancouver history books, I came across the book “Vancouver Walks” (one of several books authored by John Atkin, I was a bit taken aback that Akin didn’t offer more insight into the area bound by Kingsway, Main Street, 16th Avenue, Fraser and Broadway (which is still part of Mount Pleasant).

Sometimes I fear that people have ghettoized the above-mentioned area. Admittedly, there seems to have been a lot of crime (including drug trading and prostitution) around this area (with an apparently targeted shooting taking place at a late-night restaurant in August of 2007). However, I’d argue that this is the case in any neighbourhood in Vancouver or any other big city.

Besides, this area is vastly and quickly improving. I can attest to the high quality of some of the local restaurants near the Broadway and Fraser area, including Sebs Market Cafe (great for brunch), The Red Sea Cafe and Fassil (amazing Ethiopian food), Mogadishu Cafe (Somalian food) and of course, the always amazing Rhizome near Broadway and Scotia. So, there you have it… there is a lot to be discovered and numerous positive elements around this area. I for one know that there are several restaurants I haven’t tried in the stretch between Kingsway and Fraser, on Broadway.

I would like to conclude this post by saying that Mount Pleasant has a lot to offer, both in terms of architecture and historic heritage buildings and in terms of nightlife (or day life, if you are into going out for brunch or just walking around the neighbourhood). Come visit!

Researched, contributed and written by Raul for

Smoking Ban in BC Update

March 26th, 2008 @ 3:00pm (PT) by Rebecca Bollwitt

The tougher laws and regulations from last summer are all culminating on March 31st, 2008 when new reforms get put into place throughout the Province.

Photo Credit: Viewership on Flickr

Under new laws, smokers will not be allowed to light up in public places and workspaces, or within three metres of public doorways.

The new tobacco regulations, which fall under the Tobacco Control Act, will ban:

*Smoking in all indoor public spaces and work places, with exemptions made for the ceremonial use of tobacco by Aboriginal Peoples.

*Smoking within three metres of public and workplace doorways, open windows or air intakes.

*Tobacco sales in public buildings, including hospitals and health facilities, universities and colleges, athletic and recreational facilities, and provincial government buildings.

*Display of tobacco products in all places where tobacco is sold that are accessible to youth under 19.

*Tobacco ads that hang from the ceiling, countertop tobacco displays, self-serve tobacco displays and outdoor tobacco signs.
[From the CBC]

Under the tighter laws, you can no longer get smokes in libraries or hospitals (I didn’t know you could in the first place anyway) however smoking is not banned on patios in BC for the time being. Most of all you’ll notice the new lack of advertising for cartons of cigarettes as retail stores where minors are permitted will no longer be able to promote the sale of tobacco goods. More info can be found on the Tobacco Free government website.

Signs were put up at home in our elevators last week to remind everyone that it is prohibited to smoke in common areas. Although I don’t think I’ve ever spotted someone lighting up in the laundry room, I hope this means our pool is now a clean-air zone. Nothing was worse than swimming laps last summer and surfacing with a gasp only to have my lungs filled with polluted air from a sunbathing tenant’s cigarette.

Social Media for Change: Tulips for Tomorrow Update

March 26th, 2008 @ 10:11am (PT) by Rebecca Bollwitt

Last October I wrote a post about the Surrey Memorial Hospital expansion, and followed up by contacting the Fraser Health Authority about a campaign I had read about. As a result, I was able to help them connect with other bloggers and get their message out using social media, augmenting the distribution and exposure of their news releases regarding important initiatives such as the Tulips for Tomorrow campaign, which ran from October 2007 – December 2007.

100,000 Princess Irene tulips are growing in dozens of locations across Surrey. It’s the result of Surrey Memorial Hospital Foundation’s first ever Tulips for Tomorrow Campaign, which was launched last fall. The Princess Irene’s red and orange petals are reminiscent of the Foundation’s logo.

The campaign has two goals – raise money for a new, state-of-the-art Emergency Centre and beautify Surrey. [SMH Foundation]

Close to $420,000 has been donated throughout this campaign for BC’s busiest Emergency Room, and Surreyites will be able to experience some beautiful floral displays this spring as a bonus.

More than ever Surrey Memorial Hospital is an important facility for my family as (save for my parents who weren’t born in Canada) all of us have come into this world at SMH, including my new baby nephew.

Vancouver Blogger Profile: Mostly Lisa Bettany

March 26th, 2008 @ 8:22am (PT) by Rebecca Bollwitt

Every few months I do a slough of Vancouver Blogger Profiles. Admittedly, some of the profiles are not for those in or from our fair city, but they’re important and entertaining all the same. I should have a few mini and formulaic interviews lined up for this week so here’s the first on this season’s series, featuring Mostly Lisa.

Photo Credit: Red Pilot Media on Flickr

Who are you? I am Lisa Bettany aka Mostly Lisa.

What is your blog? I blog at I’m currently looking at doing some guest spots on a few mac geeky sites, but right now I find it challenging enough just keeping my own blog up to date.

Are you originally from Vancouver? I’m a Prairie girl by birth. Saskatoon specifically, but I spent most of my childhood in Victoria, BC. As soon as I was finished high school, I trekked all over Canada to pursue my ice dance dreams. Male figure skating partners are hard to come by, and the ones you do find rarely have an amicable personality or a personality that didn’t clash with mine, so I had to move around a lot in search of a new partner almost every year. After I was badly injured (dropped by partner from lift onto back… ouch, I returned home to finish off my Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree in Linguistics at the University of Victoria.

When I graduated, I moved to a gorgeous, but tiny and overpriced apartment in Coal Harbour. After 6 months of trying and failing to find a job in my field, I decided to throw in my academic towel and do something creative. I put more effort into my acting and modeling careers, started a blog, wrote some music, learned photography, video editing, and started a multimedia company. Just like that: one, two, three: Easy peasy…. Mostly.

What’s your favourite thing to write about? Anything I can be sarcastic about, which is pretty much anything.

In your eyes, what is the BEST part of blogging… or if you prefer, the worst? Best part is the connections you make with amazing people, and getting to peak into the happening of their life. The feedback is also lovely. Sometimes it’s just nice to know other people are going through the same things you are.

The worst part is the 404s that literally crop up everyday. I am a perfectionist to a fault, and I edit and re-edit my posts, even after I’ve posted them. It’s never ending. Sometimes I find a typo on an old post, or just some bad grammar and I literally turn bright red.

Do you write for yourself, your readers, for Google, for a living? Tricky question. I’ve always had a passion for writing. I was in a journalism program in university, before I switched to linguistics. I started my blog as an anti-blog of “diary-style” bloggers who write about every mundane, inappropriate, and sexually explicit thing in their daily lives. So from the very beginning, I wrote for the sheer joy of expressing myself.

Lately, I’ve found myself posting a lot for my readers by keeping my blog dynamic and constantly changing. If I talk about tech stuff for a few days, I’ll flip it and do a photo post, or a silly video.

But, I would be lying if I said that I never consider the google, digg, technorati bot in what I write. I think every blogger is pushing for a bigger readership, respect, and recognition. There is a point where blogging becomes more than a hobby and starts infringing on the amount of time you can spend actually earning money. So at that point, you have to push your blog to next level and go after sponsors and ads.

Would you ever censor yourself/Do you feel the need to censor yourself? I don’t swear. Ever. Unless, like my mother, you consider “bollocks” a swear. I don’t talk about politics or religion or really controversial issues. I want people to come to Mostly Lisa be entertained, not get angry. I’m not interested in angry debates. Sunshine, lollipops, and iPods!

Photo Credit: Red Pilot Media on Flickr

PC, Mac or Speak n’ Spell: I am quite partial to my Speak & Spell as it is sharp as a whip and without it I might not be able to spell very gud. But my Mac is my everything. I literally hold it in my arms and feel all my dreams coming true. Well, until an app crashes. Then I curse all things Steve Jobs.

Blogs you read or would recommend: I subscribe to about 100 blogs and sites that I check frequently. First, how could I not read Miss604? I would not know a single happening in Vancouver without it.

I also check my good friend, Christina Warren’s blog , who writes for TUAW. She has some serious sass and tech know-how.

For Photography inspiration, I hit up Strobist.

For design inspiration I’ll go to Best Web Gallery, or Web Designer Wall.

For productivity advice, I love Merlin Mann’s 43 Folders and the sweet illustrations & advice at Put things off.

& to find out the latest, greatest 2.0 trends, I go to iJustine’s jam packed media smorgasbord. I also love Gavin Strange’s weekly super long posts of his life as a skateboarding designer extraordinaire. And Jake and Amir is always good for a laugh.

Social Media for Change: UGM Update

March 25th, 2008 @ 8:46pm (PT) by Rebecca Bollwitt

Just a quick update on the UGM website and blog that was recently launched.

As the official blog of Union Gospel Mission in Vancouver, BC, The Street aims to share stories of hope from our daily work with people in need here in the Lower Mainland

UGMI met local web monetization guru John Chow when we were given a preview and tour of the social media tools the Union Gospel Mission in Metro Vancouver is using to connect with their donors, workers, and those in the community. That day John pledged on his blog that he would match donations made by his users, up to $1,000 a piece. The grand total from John and his blog readers came to an amazing $7,517.91 for the UGM.

As a side story, Kevan was telling me about the naming of the mannequin, Gertrude, at the UGM Thrift Store and I suggested they use the power of their Flickr account to show her off and get some exposure for some of the fashions available at the store.

Photo Credit and © UGM on Flickr

You can now view the Gertrude set on their Flickr and you can see her in person at the store located at Heatley and E Hastings.

Vancouver NetTuesdays – An Evening of Green Web 2.0

March 25th, 2008 @ 4:29pm (PT) by Rebecca Bollwitt

I think this just might be my 20th live blog. I’m heading over to Workspace in a bit to take in An Evening of “Green” Web 2.0:

Social change makers and web innovators come together at NetTuesdays to mix, swap stories, and collaborate on new ideas. Whether you’re working in the nonprofit/social change sector or in Vancouver ‘s technology hub (or somewhere in between!) – you’re invited to join us for great conversations, networking, and community building! [Upcoming]

This is a part of the NetTuesday / NetSquared group of events and is sponsored by Communicopia, Workspace, and Write Image. More to come from Workspace in about an hour then I’ll have some quick writeups from the speakers’ talks.

Update – 17:38: I just took the elevator up to Workspace with Darren Barefoot and Nancy and walked into my first NetTuesday event. I talked a little shop with Nancy before finally meeting Cinci and her colleague Phoebe, and had a brief chat with Narvey who is sponsoring this evening’s snacks. I’ve also just been handed my first bit of swag (ChalkWork stickers) from James.

Update – 18:03: Raul just popped on by toting a cup made of corn, a paper plate, and I’m sure if what he was eating warranted it, he’d have one of those utensils made of potato as well. Chilling out with Karen Parker, and Colleen Coplick, it looks like things will be getting underway shortly with an intro first by Joe.

Update – 18:08: First up is Owen who is speaking on behalf of Earth Hour, an event I was invited to attend on Facebook a few months ago but was unsure of the premise until today. The idea is to “unplug” for an hour and disconnect all non-essential lights. This will be taking place at 8:00pm on March 29, 2008 and reminds me of “Turn it Off” that I blogged about last year, it was quite the sight to see a very dark Lions Gate Bridge.

Owen’s company will also be helping companies and organizations (like UBC) reduce their energy emissions and green house gases.

Update – 18:14: “Locally based sustainability projects are the most important,” states Ron who is the founder and mastermind behind happyfrog. Ron speaks to communities, cities, countries etc. and their footprints on the earth. With happyfrog Ron wanted to step forward with an independent media project that could harness web 2.0 and social media tools to accelerate and nurture green, local, and alternative resources within a single database. “Think of happyfrog as the economic 100 mile diet.”

Ron from

Lastly, Ron promotes the EPIC expo (April 18-21) where happyfrog will have their own media team blogging and pondcasting.

PS – Nancy is live-twittering and Raul is liveblogging.

Update – 18:25: Rex from is up next, “sharing your stories about the environment,” since 1996. It’s aimed to be more than a ‘yellow pages’ of environmentally conscious listings, it’s to share your stories, news and events as well. Rex’s presentation focuses a lot on the story of the website, even since its creation with Netscape Communicator back in the day. It’s taken a lot of maintenance, administration, live chat moderation etc. but with today’s web tools the site’s management has become a breeze – at least I hope as this guy’s paid his dues, even by creating his own CMS in 2001.

Rex from

Note, Rex is using a travel mug for his beverage.

He’s gone from cataloging a hundred links, to several thousand, even inspiring Environment Canada to update their systems using his directories as templates. Rex added book reviews, commenting capabilities and creating user accounts for contributors, realizing that the way to go was with blogging and blogging tools.

Update – 18:51: Darren is speaking on behalf of his company, Capulet Communications who developed DeSmogBlog. He’s got a nicely laminated piece of cardboard that features a tag cloud. The audience gets to pick the tag of their choice so he’ll speak to “widgets” first. “DeSmogBlog said hey why don’t we create a counter widget that counts up based on humans’ environmental footprint on the planet,” Darren pauses, “I thought my, how incredibly depressing.” Along with DeSmogBlog, they were able to create the first climate change website widget (per Apple’s widget database).


Moving on to another tag in the cloud, Darren explains how they are using digg to “clear the PR smog,” by appealing to its users that who controversy and climate change. This also ties into the blogger outreach cloud, which uses community (link love and shared digg traffic) to get messages out. As for YouTube videos, they’re not always the best way to go when you compare the amount of work involved, compared to views and links back to your website. FYI, Facebook ad click-throughs are pretty close to horrible. However, creating a flash web game that sorted celebrities based on their “green-ness” proved to be an interactive way to engage a broad audience and people could even embed it on their website.

David Drucker just asked a question, remind me to go say hi to him after this.

Darren speaks to measuring the success rates of these applications, widgets and campaigns by simply using Google Analytics and Technorati although, “it kind of sucks now and there’s not really a better replacement yet.”

The objective this evening was to find ways to use the tools of the internet to get an environmentally sound message out to the widest audience possible. Whether you’re an activist, a green-thumb, a PR professional or a website developer, these are some of the mediums you can use that all encompass different aspects of social media. Why is social media important? It’s a cheap, often free way to branch out to millions of users around the globe, informing and encouraging participation in these movements.

With that, we’re done for the evening. Some folks are heading to Steamworks to catch the rest of the Canucks game but I have a man at home who is hopefully keeping a spot warm for me on the couch.

Miss604 Poll: The Travel Mug Issue

March 25th, 2008 @ 8:09am (PT) by Rebecca Bollwitt

Aside from Raul, who is finishing up his doctorate in environmental studies, and DaveO who works for happyfrog and was there at Clayoquot, I’d have to say Keira’s one of my most eco-conscious friends.


A few weeks ago she wrote a blog post inspired by words printed on the side of a Starbucks cup. As a result, she was asked why she gets the paper cups in the first place, and was told she should be using a travel mug. Her explanation to me was that her coffees just don’t taste the same coming out of a travel mug.

Talking with John yesterday, he said he’s the only person in his department at work that actually recycles his paper coffee cups. He said he’d try a travel mug if it didn’t insulate so well – as in, it still allowed for a slow cooling of the coffee so it becomes a drinkable heat by the time you get it back to your desk.

As for me? I try travel mugs but I always end up forgetting them at work. I need to make sure nothing will spill out the top on my way in, and then remember to wash them out when I’m done. If I don’t wash it out I won’t put it in my purse to cart home for the next morning cause it’ll be dirty and drippy. It soon becomes a part of the dish washing machine at work that I perpetually forget to recover.

I suppose save for my general laziness when it comes to the travel mugs, I could spare some lovely trees from a venti-sized doom if I simply found an ideal cup. Let’s put it to a Miss604 poll (since coffee and Miss604 polls seem to be a trend [1][2]) although unfortunately is the only one now in existence since the others got nuked when I upgraded my WP and changed hosts.

[Poll Closed]

If you don’t use either or have a reusable cup of choice, leave a comment below. Also, Salt Spring Organic Coffee…. is amazingly tasty.