Natural Fireworks Tomorrow Night

August 11th, 2007 @ 10:40am (PT) by Rebecca Bollwitt

Tomorrow night perhaps Vancouverites will be able to catch an anticipated meteor shower. My husband‘s always been fascinated by astronomy and me, well I just think the little I know about it all is still pretty neat.

Photo credit: jon rawlinson on Flickr

It’s surprising how many more stars you see in the sky once you leave the city. Last weekend during our midnight run to Osoyoos we caught dozens of shooting stars in the twilight above. I know it’s one thing to live in the city and still be able to appreciate nature while out in a park or down by the beach, but it’s also another to be able to look up into the sky and be reminded of everything else there is in this world (and outside of it).

…Chunks of burning debris from the Swift-Tuttle comet will start hitting our atmosphere with the majority of space junk to arrive Sunday night.

The best viewing is after midnight as the Earth’s rotation turns into the comet left-overs. You don’t need to wear special protective gear to view the space shower. Look to the north-east for the best view of the meteors rocketing into Earth’s atmosphere. The shower gets its name because the meteors appear to be coming out of the constellation Perseus. [News 1130]

John was recently able to discuss his old passion in depth when our friend Henry was in town, he being slightly more of a pro in that field. I hope we’ll be able to catch some of the natural fireworks tomorrow night… if the weather cooperates and if the lights of the city don’t drown out the show.

My favourite place on earth to stargaze has got to be over on the Sunshine Coast, on a beach near Robert’s Creek. I’ve seen a meteor shower there before and have had plenty warm summer nights listening to the waves crash on the shore while watching the night sky. You don’t have to go that far out of the city to be able to look up and appreciate it all.

The RIO Experience

August 10th, 2007 @ 9:25am (PT) by Rebecca Bollwitt

Photo credit: Keira on Flickr

After finding a neat cafe into which none of us had ventured, I’m pretty sure we would have all been content calling it a night without even hitting the movie theatre. Nevertheless, we arrived at our destination a little early so the attendant in the box office booth was a little frazzled by our presence, “who are you?”, “who told you that you had passes?”. Expecting the worst, I didn’t know if we’d even get inside at that point.

I was told I had some movie passes to a premiere last night for 3 friends and no one seemed to know what was going on. We weren’t in a terrible hurry or rush, as I said we already had a nice coffee/tea/chat around the corner. About 10 minutes later I was called over to the box office again, “who are you? What are your names?”. Since I rounded up the ladies, Corinna & Keira, for this midnight escapade I was hoping things would work out so we again stood patiently off to the side until the theatre doors opened and Mike came out.

Mike’s owned the RIO for a few years now and invested almost 1 of those years in re-making and renovating the place back into its original state, well back into its glory of a one-theatre house complete with 21st century touches.

He invited us inside for a private tour and we got the history and run down of the establishment, built in 1938 and was coined “the showplace of Vancouver”. Over the last decade it faded into the shadows until he took over ownership – the entire place looks shiney and new again. Their inaugural event was showing the World Cup games on the big screen last year, with participating countries’ flags remaining on the walls of the theatre.

Photo credit: Keira on Flickr

There are touches of the ‘old days’ and a photo of the RIO back in its heyday hangs in the lobby. A big bright red curtain covers the screen at the front, and there’s even a balcony. The seats are upgraded (close to Strawberry Hill standards… which if you don’t know in my books beats Silvercity any day) complete with arm rests that raise up and down. Mike was a very gracious host and I know my experience at the RIO was very positive. The movie was entertaining, however it’s the best that can be expected from the third movie in a series with Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker.

I’ll be recommending this to John as another one of Mike’s ‘upgrades’ was to start playing first run films (Rush Hour 3 is running for the next week, until the 16th). The RIO is $3 less than other movie establishments, at $8 for adults and they have cheapie Tuesdays and weekend matinees which are only $5. Best part is, since it’s not a googoplex corporate theatre house, there are no commercials before the movie at any point, just sweet sweet previews.

Robson Street Safeway is Closing

August 9th, 2007 @ 6:22pm (PT) by Rebecca Bollwitt

According to the checkout clerk this evening, it’s been 15 years in the making: the Safeway on Robson at Denman is closing its doors this Saturday.

Robson Safeway is ClosingI remember when the liquor store across the parking lot shut down, that was when the old building was slated to be demolished and a new super-Safeway was to be rebuilt on the same corner. The clerk today said that about half of the employees will head over to the Davie Street location but those who commute in, from as far as South Surrey, will probably be looking elsewhere for work. After years of disputes and red tape, the West End is losing one of its main grocery hubs. Where will we get our food stuffs now?

Let’s look at the options downtown (handy Google map of all locations is also available)

  • Extra Foods in Denman Place: Not a shabby alternative.
  • Davie Safeway: It’s still a Safeway.
  • Super Value: Not a shabby alternative, a bit of a walk for us though.
  • Capers: Organic, lil pricey, no junk foods (and we can’t have that, can we)
  • T&T @ International Village: Great selection but a little too far from home, and exotic for our everyday shopping needs
  • IGA Marketplace: Wicked expensive.
  • Urban Fare: Tasty foods but pricey.
  • Costco: No membership, boo.
  • Robson Market: Awesome alternative. Fresh meats, produce, spices, nuts, and mini food court upstairs.
  • Robson Safeway is Closing

    It’ll be a while until the new fancy Safeway on Robson and Denman is in place, but hopefully it’s worth the wait. I’m sure we’re all pretty tired of the cracked floors, ancient shelving units, and produce that’s been sitting there since the store was originally going to shut down in the early 90s.

    If you have any more grocery shopping suggestions to add to my list, please leave a comment. I need to find a new place close by to get old fashioned chunky peanut butter since I don’t think they have any at the market.

    Update: August 16, 2007 – Its features will include wood floors, acres of glass, and an in-store Starbucks kiosk. Although the new building will be two storeys, Safeway will occupy only the top floor, while the ground level will house smaller retailers, including a government liquor store to replace the one that was closed in January 2003. [Westender]

    West End Summer Block Party

    August 9th, 2007 @ 4:35pm (PT) by Rebecca Bollwitt

    I advertised this event last year although we didn’t end up going… someone also criticized it for being “only 3 hours long” but if it’s 3 hours of fun times in the neighbourhood, I’m game.

    Gordon Neighbourhood House is holding its 9th annual West End Summer Block Party and 65th Birthday Celebration on Saturday August 11th, 2007, from 11 am until 2 pm on the 1000 block of Broughton Street. This is a free event with live street entertainment featuring Eve Smith, Taiko Drummers, a clown, and much more!!! There will also be a huge children’s carnival with games and prizes, face painting and tatoo booths, 25 cent hot dogs, senior’s tea and tarts, and a youth center! [Upcoming]

    I was totally in until the word “clown” but perhaps I can try to avoid it. 25 cent hot dogs? Yeah, I’ll try my best to swing by this year to check it out – here’s a google map for anyone else that’s interested.

    Photo credit: roland on Flickr

    While you’re in the West End on a Saturday, also check out the Farmers Market, which runs from June 16 to October 6, every Saturday from 9:00am to 2:00pm. Visit the West End Business Improvement Association‘s site for more details and happenings around the ‘hood. Also be sure to stop by when Midnight Kitchen is there and pick up some of their to-die-for cookies.

    Sparta Back in Vancouver this September

    August 9th, 2007 @ 4:00am (PT) by Rebecca Bollwitt

    Did you know Sparta was coming to town again for the 3rd time in a year? That’s pretty sweet news for John and I who have been lucky enough to interview Jim and Keeley on the previous 2 occasions.

    Sparta @ The Commodore

    Want to know what makes this even better? They’ll be opening for Alice in Chains. Yes, Alice in Chains.

    Jerry Cantrell, Mike Inez and Sean Kinney will be joined by William Duvall, who will handle lead vocals for the group’s five U.S. club shows and overseas festival performances in Europe and Southeast Asia. [Alice in Chains]

    Doors: 6:30pm / Show: 7:30pm / Tickets (reserved seating) on sale now for $75, $55 AND $39.50 + service fees.

    Unfortunately they’ll BOTH be opening for Velvet Revolver, against whom I have no qualms but I wouldn’t normally jump at the chance to see them live. A look at the first two bands on the bill however, makes me change my tune and as John puts it, it wouldn’t be bad to see Slash play. Now if only we can muster up the $100 + it will take for us both to attend, or maybe my husband’s fancy new job will be able to pull some strings – here’s hoping.

    And now, some more from Sparta…

    If there is such a thing as an epic music video, this would be one. Based on the autobiographical events that shaped the life of Sparta’s drummer, Tony Hajjar, “Eme Nakia” tells his deeply personal story of how the Hajjar family fled Lebanon during a brutal civil war, and the lasting scars it inflicted upon his kin. [Atom Films]

    Trailer for Eme Nakia, the short film mentioned above.

    Tools to get the job done: Screencasting

    August 8th, 2007 @ 10:36pm (PT) by Rebecca Bollwitt

    I’ve discovered some tools, apps and tricks that have made a part of my ‘real life’ job a lot easier lately. Basically I wanted to start screencasting – providing an online demo video of our new web-based application. After searching and putting the word out to the wonderful Vancity Tech Swarm folks I found the following tools (for Macs) that make this process a breeze.

  • Capturing: I use SnapZPro X.

    Pros: It works on a Mac, it’s cheap, easy to use, very basic, captures anything happening in a pre-set area of your screen along with audio.

    Cons: It doesn’t include an editor, which I can live without and it doesn’t feature neat effects like zooming – but there are ways to work around that. Does not capture for flash format, so I’ve been encoding to .MOV (Quicktime). (See what others would like to see from this as well)

  • Editing: Quicktime Pro for anything basic.

    Pros: As simple as choosing your “in” and “out” points then clicking “delete” or copying/pasting in the same manner to append multiple files.

    Cons: That’s about the extent of its capabilities.

    Final Cut Pro for anything heavy duty or effects – but that’s a whole other ball of wax, I’ll try to keep these tips for this post rather elementary.

  • Converting: I wanted to convert my .MOV into .FLV since using a flash player on the website helps with load times, file sizes and preserves quality, to do this I use ffmpegX.

    Pros: Very simple to use, can convert from dozens or formats into various other dozens of formats rather quickly.

    Cons: It can be a little quirky but it the job done.

  • Once my screencaptured video is converted from .MOV to .FLV how do I get it on my site? I browsed WP codex and forums for a while until I stumbled across this player, which also came recommended by peers.

  • MOV to FLV: Definitely try JW FLV Player.

    Pros: So easy to install on your WordPress site, it even comes with a wizard to help you setup your player, generating code for you to embed your file on your site. It’s much cleaner than using other options such as Anarchy Media Player because it doesn’t force a still image of the player’s name onto your page.

  • So there we have it, how to use a Mac to screen capture and publish custom flash video on a WordPress site. Snapz Pro to an editor and/or converting program, then getting a kick butt flash player to embed your video.

    This works so far and everything is fairly inexpensive and simple to use (except for Final Cut Pro if you want to get fancy with fades, text, zooms, compression etc.). If this helps anyone else, great! If this seems like way too many steps, please let me know if you have any recommendations.

    Rushing the RIO on Broadway

    August 8th, 2007 @ 11:30am (PT) by Rebecca Bollwitt

    We don’t nearly spend as much time on Commercial Drive as we should. I can probably only name two occasions in the past year when we ventured over that way and each time we say we should return, and for longer [1]. Taking in a movie at the RIO would be the perfect excuse. Aside from being several dollars cheaper than seeing a show at the Googoplex downtown or in the ‘burbs, it’s got a whole lot of character.

    First opened in 1938, the RIO theatre returns as a landmark theatre in the heart of Vancouver’s Commercial Drive. The RIO is a single-screen theatre with 20 speaker Dolby surround sound and the most comfortable seats in Vancouver [RIO]

    We’ll be heading there tomorrow (if I can get some ladies to go with me) for some Rush Hour 3 action, and although the movie isn’t one I would normally want to pay money to see, it’s all part of an experience I’m hoping will be very worthwhile.

    The RIO is located at 1660 East Broadway, near Broadway & Commercial. Catch the Simpsons Movie there now for only $8 for adults.

    Vancouver to Osoyoos

    August 7th, 2007 @ 8:02pm (PT) by Rebecca Bollwitt

    Friday night after being totally Duff’ed out, I met up with John at home (after he had a busy day up in Whistler). We packed up the car and hit the road, heading deep into those dark mountain passes. John was by my side the whole way, telling me stories about work and playing some awesome tracks on the ipod via the transmitter in the car to keep me awake. We rolled into Osoyoos by 4:00am, just as the sun was rising and the last shooting star sailed across the sky for the night.

    The following 3 days were wonderful. We had no plan, no agenda, we both just knew we wanted sun, sand and good times.

    More Good Eats
    John cooking up the good eats on the grill.

    Penticton Lookout
    From Osoyoos we took a mini road trip up to Penticton on Sunday

    Wine Country
    Oliver is the Wine Capital of Canada.

    Wine Views
    Wine country views

    My first taste of Rickard's White
    John introduces me to Rickard’s White. It was yummy.

    All photos taken with the Nokia 6682, almost time for a new camera phone but this one’s served us well over the last year. I have so much blogging to catch up on, hence the photo-heavy post. It was awesome to disconnect for so long and to spend time with the person I love, I’m actually not too happy to be home but here’s hoping we can get the heck outta here again some time soon.