Category Archives: All about Vancouver

Interesting things to try, or what it feels like to live in the beautiful city of Vancouver.

Suriving the Vancouver Weather

You open your eyes and fool yourself that the only reason it’s dark in your room is because of your curtains. You toss and turn for a while, then finally decide that taking a shower will wake you up and help you start your day. You freshen up, walk outside, and find the usual overcast sky with no room for blue in the sky. Everyone in the hallway makes squeaky noises as they walk down the hallways to their office/lab/class, but no one is really energetically talking. You navigate through the low energy hallway lounging/walking people scattered throughout your journey to your office. You sit down in front of your office computer, tackle your inbox, fool around on Facebook or the like, and finally tell yourself that it’s time for you to get some real work done. Then you realize that as soon as you attempt to start anything productive, you’re dozing off. That’s even when you got your share of 8 hours of sleep last night and even took a nap yesterday on top of it — i.e., more than plenty of sleep to keep you going.

The forever darkness of the Vancouver sky have created the perfect cool temperature for your skin, depressing silence among your labmates, and lack of sunshine for your eyes, such that your visual, haptic, and auditory sensory requirements to fall asleep are satisfied more hours during the day than you’d like.

It’s rainy. It’s gloomy. It’s always overcast and gray everyday.

It’s Vancouver in its true colour.

When I first moved to Vancouver, my focus in surviving the Vancouver weather had more to do with staying dry than anything else.I kept forgetting to carry an umbrella with me when I walk out the door, or forgetting to wear boots to keep my feet dry for the day.

Now that I’ve been in Vancouver for a while, staying dry is no longer an issue. I seem to be always equipped with high heel boots or high heel something to keep my feet dry even when I walk through puddles of water or perpetually wet and muddy grassy area. I have an umbrella at my office, in my purse, and at home, so I am never short of an umbrella when I need one.

Even if I happen to forget my umbrella and end up getting rained on, I no longer care too much, say ‘meh~’, and continue walking.

I no longer check the weather forecast the night before, or the morning of. It almost seems as though my daily assumption for the weather forecast as ‘overcast, high chance of precipitation, chilly enough for you to be wearing a coat and a scarf’ is just as good as output of highly sophisticated weather forecast algorithms from the weather stations.

Yes, Vancouver is one of the top handful of best cities to live in. And yes, Vancouver summers are great. But when it comes to the rainy season, which makes up more than half of the year in my opinion, Vancouver can require you to have quite a unique impact on you. And that includes some super powerful impact weather can have on your mental state of things. Some people told me that more people in Vancouver are taking antidepressants than any other major cities in Canada or something along the lines (I don’t have stats, but I am sure I can look it up). And apparently there is something called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) that can be characterized by the type of daily life I’ve described in the first paragraph of this post: you want to sleep all the time, you’re tired all the time, and you feel irritable, depressed, or sad everyday.

So, I’ve noticed that this year’s rain is really hitting me hard than it really used to. Mind you, I love the rain, and I am the kind of person who would sing ‘Singing in the Rain’ when walking down the street stepping on puddles and such. I’ve been having a hard time waking up, and I’ve been napping much more than I have been before (I don’t usually take naps). My productivity have been suffering because of my lack of energy I think.

I am an early morning kind of person and used to really enjoy waking up at 5:30 or 6:00am in the morning during the summer to read the newspaper before starting my day. Hence, the fact that I struggle in the morning has really been affecting my morning productivity as well as my energy level in general. Totally unsatisfied by my daily output, I think it’s time that I do something about it, and beat this unfortunate cycle of overcast weather and overcast daily fatigues/dissatisfaction.

I think the first thing I am going to do is install some super bright lights in my residence and fool my brain to think it’s beautifully sunny outside. I’ve been totally wanting to get a commercial wake-up light that turns on the light gradually starting half an hour before you are supposed to wake up, so that it’s kinda like the sun is coming up when it’s time for you to wake up. But being a poor grad student, I don’t think I can afford to get the commercial solution. So I think I am going to equip myself with an arduino, a lamp from the Craig’s list or something, and make a wake-up light for myself. And I’m trying out a new morning routine to include indoor exercise as soon as I wake up at 6am, such that I counterbalance my stress level in the morning.

We’ll see what happens. But I am determined to beat this tragic phenomenon, and use this as an excuse to decorate/revamp my residence.

Has anyone found a good ‘fight Vancouver gloominess’ solution? If so, please do share. Meanwhile, I am going to try very hard not to fall asleep after I post this… yawn~~!!

Engineering Tuition Fees in Canada + Newspaper Subscriptions

So I won’t write too much today, because I am struggling to shake of my post-lunch food coma and should continue to do so in order to get some much needed work done.

But I did want to point you to a figure from a popular article that has been floating around my social network for at least a couple of days. It’s a National Post article commenting on the Quebec student protest against tuition increase. I am not going to comment on the article itself – to be honest, I am too sleepy to understand it – but will comment on what the figure tells me.

If you look at the top left corner of the figure (thanks to National Post for their epic graphic design work), that’s where you’ll find the average tuition costs for the province of British Columbia. And if you look to the far right near the middle of the figure, you can find the average tuition costs for engineering in Ontario. Bah~! I JUST came to the realization that I got my engineering education from one of the more expensive parts of Canada (I am guessing these numbers reflect undergrad tuition). Thinking back, if I hadn’t received a scholarship that covered it, I would’ve been in a very different financial situation now. Hmmp..!

So in that sense, getting an engineering degree in BC is on the cheaper side. It’s the third cheapest in the country it seems. Given that the first two are Quebec and Newfoundland, and BC is called the “beautiful BC” for a reason, I’d say UBC engineering is a bargain deal. But then again, it comes with all the living expenses and stuff that you don’t quite see in the figure…

Anyways, I just wanted to share that while waiting for my coffee to get ready.

Oh, and on a side note… I hope I will have more things to share with you from the news throughout the summer now that I will be receiving Globe and Mail delivered to my door starting in June. I came across a coupon to subscribe to a gardening magazine recently and, somehow, instead of subscribing to the magazine, I ended up finding out that Globe and Mail has a section on gardening. So I decided to get them delivered to my door and make newspaper reading a part of my morning routine.

They offer student pricing for newspaper subscriptions by the way. It looks like it’ll cost me $24.11 per month to get newspaper delivered from Monday to Saturday, and $8.88 per month if I just want Saturday delivery only. It may be surprising to you, but this is the first time I’m subscribing to a paper-based newspaper – a long story in itself, hence I won’t ponder on it for too long – and I am quite excited about it. So I’ve signed up for the full Monday – Saturday delivery. It’ll be interesting to see whether they can actually find my residence and manage to deliver it to my door. 🙂


2012 is Here!

Arriving at the YVR airport, a strange feeling came over me.

I hadn’t stayed at my parents’ place for such an extended period of time (exactly a month) ever since I started my masters. Coming down the escalator and going through the now-all-too-familiar automated customs booth, I felt a sense of reality sink in. Even just a few hours ago, I had this illusion that I could do everything I wanted to do. For example, I was sure that I could carry back two suitcases, my ski, and ski boots, and my carry-on bag all by myself. When I got to the Toronto Pearson airport though, I had to leave my ski and ski boots behind because of the realization that carrying five heavy and bulky things with my two hands is not going to be easy. I no longer have access to a car, my family conveniently sharing the load with me, and other things from home that make me feel as though I am invincible in some way. I contemplated taking the skytrain and bus 99 back to campus with the three bags full of stuff, but decided against it. There was no guarantee that I would find a seat in the busy bus.

I let out a sigh.

After a taxi driver dropped me off at the residence, I fumbled for a moment before opening the door, and entered the house that is now quite obviously lacking human presence.

I was glad to find the house tidy though. I don’t know about you, but cleaning the house before leaving for a trip is my number one rule. Because I find that coming back to a messy house after a tiresome journey is one of the most disheartening experiences — the reality just screams out at you, saying that you made the mess, you are the only one to blame, and are the only one who gets to clean it up, on top of unpacking and cooking and feeding yourself from the fridge that is certainly empty of useful ingredients.

Anyway, my friend Jee understands this feeling of ‘coming back’ very well and takes a good care of me whenever I come back from a trip. She and I ended up going for groceries and having dinner together that day, making the ‘coming back to an empty house’ type feeling a little less obvious.

There was no time to remain droopy though. Over the winter break, I had written a gigantic journal paper that needed a lot of work before the late January deadline. After quickly unpacking and washing up, I headed to the lab.

My footsteps on the fresh snow outside my rez! Yay snow!

Tagging my fob by the lab door and hearing the familiar beeping sound, I felt another sense of reality sink in. Just steps away from the door were my labmates busily typing away on their keyboards, chatting away about something funny they found on the Internet, and putting on a serious face by a robot that sat speechless and immobile. Soon enough, I found myself happily chatting with them about my winter break, my trip to New York, and my upcoming deadlines, and the events from their winter break. The reality that sank within me was that, despite being away from home, this is a great place to be.

Since my coming back to Vancouver, not everything remained the way I had left it back in December of 2011.

I have decided to change my routine and to not consider deadlines, papers, and projects as occasional things that suddenly take over all other items of priority in my life. I mean, if I am to go on and successfully finish my PhD, then I should consider my research life as a marathon rather than a 100km race. This is my long winded way of saying that my new year’s resolution for 2012 is to learn to pace myself.

I am going to try and wake up consistently on time everyday. Rather than going to bed super late and waking up late just to feel the guilt of having wasted a half a day sleeping, I am going to wake up by seven at the latest. AND I am going to try and exercise a little more often. Crazy, eh? These two things are going to make me feel so much healthier! 😀

Man, these things sound like something that other people take for granted.

Waking up to find snow outside my window was just epic. JUST what I was missing in the unusually warm Ontario this winter.

Well, whatever. It’s hard enough for me to wake up at seven every morning, so give me some credit here.

Anyway, I am taking small steps to keep up with my new year’s resolutions and really looking forward to seeing what the rest of the year at UBC has in store for me. And I am really looking forward to spending another year with the MEGA members (although I am no longer part of the execs), CARIS lab members, and my Vancouver friends. It will also be exciting to meet new members to our Department in September. Oh, oh, and did I tell you about the new summer course being offered from our Department? It’s a course on Roboethics (MECH 550R) — crazy awesome is what it is! It’s going to be an epic year. I know it!

I hope you all have had a chance to think about your plans for 2012 and are also excited about what’s to come (despite the rumours of the world ending this February or something). 😀

For those of you who weren’t here for a couple of weeks in January, I took a couple of pictures of the beautiful snow that coloured the campus in white. I was absolutely delighted to wake up to snow, although those of you commuting may have had some difficulty getting in.

With best wishes for the new year,