Intellectual Curiosity

Playlist: The Black Keys – El Camino, Attack & Release, Brothers; The Head and the Heart

Sam Harris and me!

“The beginning of knowledge is the discovery of something we do not understand.”

-Frank Herbert (1920-1986)


FOR THOSE OF YOU whose thirst for knowledge is not quite satisfied with the classes you’re already enrolled in, allow me to introduce to you some more opportunities to learn (right here at UBC!).

Exhibit A:

Last week, I attended my first UBC Philosophy Students’ Association meeting. While I am not an intended philosophy major (and neither were the majority of the other students at the meeting), I very much enjoy reading about and discussing various philosophical topics (ie. epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, free will, existentialism, etc.). We talked about chapter two of Daniel C. Dennett’s book, Freedom Evolves, last meeting – which was really interesting, despite not having had the chance to read the chapter prior to the meeting.

If you’re interested at all in philosophy, drop in on a meeting! Upcoming ones include:

-Tues. 10/30 from 5-7pm in the Henry Angus building (AKA Sauder School of Business), room 235

-Thurs. 11/01 from 4-7pm in Buchanan D229

You can join their mailing list here and be up-to-date on when & where the meetings will take place.

Exhibit B:

This past Friday night – the weekend before Halloween, while many of my floor mates were getting ready to go to a frat party – I headed to Irving K. Barber to attend a lecture on the psychology of good and evil by Dr. Rajiv Jhangiani (who is actually a prof. at UBC!). A few of the beautiful things about this lecture were that:

                 1. The lecture was totally optional, so the people who were there wanted to be there. This made for a more interested and engaged audience – which worked out super well because Dr. Jhangiani created a very comfortable environment free of time constraints and embracing of question-asking and answering throughout the lecture (as well as during a designated Q&A period at the end).

                2. I am a total BRAIN DORK who basically oozes with excitement over psych. lectures – especially those that overlap with elements of philosophy (in this case morality). I took extensive notes, of course. (:

                3. The event was put on by the Vancouver Centre for Inquiry (CFI), which hosts lectures like this one every month!! “Like” their facebook page and stay updated.

                4. It was by donation!! So I contributed $2 – the equivalent of a cup of tea at Blenz – to participate in this extraordinary event!

Exhibit C:

Just yesterday, I had planned on going to another lecture I’d reserved a seat for online. I went to work out at the Birdcoop (our on-campus gym, for those of you who are not familiar with it) and finished with just enough time to arrive at Sauder and step into the elevator just as the door began to close. Once I did, I turned around and realized that Sam Harristhe person giving the lecture – was standing right beside me! I introduced myself to him and the woman I believed to be his publicist and expressed to them both my excitement to attend his talk. This guy has given a legit TED talk before, so he must be good – right?

Anyway, I walked to the main entrance of the lecture hall as Mr. Harris and his publicist (?) walked through a separate entrance – only to find that my seat had been given up since I’d arrived later than five minutes prior to the start of the lecture. Not only that, but a manager of the event had decided to cap off the attendance and wouldn’t let me, or the other elevator passengers, in.

What was I to do?!! I thought quickly and told someone I’d met on the elevator to come with me…[I had an idea]. We went down the hallway that Mr. Harris and his publicist (?) had gone down – and we saw her! I told her the situation we were in and she helped us sneak into the auditorium!! The lecture was incredibly interesting, and I was SO glad I’d had the opportunity to go! Needless to say, I took plenty of notes. (:

Afterward, I ran into them again and was able to snap a photo with Sam Harris! (See photo above). And later I e-mailed back and forth with him regarding an analogy I’d made for something he’d brought up in the lecture – it was SO COOL.

Oh! As for the content of the lecture, Harris is a neuroscientist, modern philosopher and author who talked about his belief that free will is merely an illusion. Interesting, huh??

Alsoooo….It was FREE. And he supposedly normally charges hundreds of dollars per ticket to attend his lectures!

THOSE ARE JUST a few examples of the thought-provoking events I attended and participated in – in the past WEEK. If you have a passion or topic you’d like to delve further into, check to see if there is a club or upcoming lecture at UBC that covers or relates to it! If not, start your own club or find a way to organize an event. It’s possible! This is an institution of higher learning, after all.




How I feel today:

Playlist: Asa – Jailer

The sun is out, the sky is blue — and I’m going to Nitobe Memorial Garden! It’s one of those days where regardless of how much school work you have, I promise you it’ll be worth it to take a study break and GO OUTSIDE! Bask in the beautiful, warm(-ish) sunshine and recharge before you go back to work.



PS. A more substantial post is coming soon, I promise… (:



The Little Things

No playlist today — just appreciating silence. (:


Today has been surprisingly peaceful. Ran a bunch of errands, but still found the time to befriend a really nice Japanese woman on the bus who invited me to have a cup of tea at the tea bar that she manages, help an elderly woman carry her heavy grocery bags to her apartment, treat myself to an ice cream cone, go for a swim and workout, meditate, attend a “relaxation room” event in my residence and skype with my family. Time well spent.

Turn everything into an adventure and life will be SO much more awesome! What I had planned to be a day for returning my borrowed wheelchair to the Canadian Red Cross (no more broken foot!!) and getting my sim card cut so it would fit into my new phone — ooh, errands! how…exciting? — ended up including all these fun little stops along the way. (:

No matter how busy you are, be sure to prioritize and make time to do the things you love. Life is short and, depending on what you believe in, you only live once (and no, that was not a #YOLO reference — unless you want to use it in its proper context, in which I guess that was a reference..). Anyway, the point is, don’t just work, work, work so you can play, play, play. Establish a balance between working hard and reaping rewards along the way (ie. taking the time to sit down for a cup of tea or enjoy an ice cream cone or a pleasant conversation with a friend — or a stranger-soon-to-be-new-friend (; ).

Speaking of busy schedules, I should probably get back to studying…but I hope you enjoyed my little insight of the day!



PS. In case you’re interested, the tea bar is called O5 Tea (http://www.o5tea.com/) .


Happy (Canadian) Thanksgiving!

Playlist: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – The Heist; Lana Del Rey – Born to Die

Being from the States, Thanksgiving doesn’t happen for me until the end of November, but I thought I’d celebrate this country’s day of thanks by blogging about some of my favorite food on and around campus (as we all know a big part of this holiday is the food!).

As a student with a pretty busy schedule, sometimes I need a sandwich I can grab-and-go. Bernoulli’s Bagels’ garden bagel on whole-wheat pesto or spinach is THE BEST bagel sandwich I’ve ever had. Ever. Aaaand, stuffed with roasted vegetables with a dash of Dijon mustard, it’s my favorite answer to this on-the-go dilemma. I discovered Bernoulli’s — located on the main floor of the SUB (Student Union Building) — shortly after school started and haven’t looked back since. PLUS: They are incredibly vegan-friendly, especially for a popular bagel joint. Yuuuuumm!

Another awesome grab-and-go place that doesn’t involve sandwiches is Honour Roll, also located in the sub. Fave dishes: yam tempura roll and avocado roll. TIP: Just around the corner from this place is Honour Roll Express, which has both of these dishes and other common, non-specialty dishes – and a MUCH shorter line than the regular Honour Roll during prime hours!

When I want to meet a friend for lunch after or in-between classes, Triple O’s veggie burger and Manchu Wok’s noodles with vegetables are two solid options. The veggie burger is surprisingly good – I get mine without mayo and with mustard, by the way — and the noodles and vegetables are quite tasty as well!

For a weekend girls’ night out or to bring out-of-town friends for a taste of the Kitsilano area (W. 4th in specific), The Naam is hands-down my favorite restaurant. The first four times I went there, I ordered the same Tempeh Reuben Platter – which seems limiting, considering their super expansive and entirely vegetarian (and vegan-friendly) menu, but trust me: with the tempeh steak burger slathered in (vegan) cheese and covered in veggies, plus home-cut sesame steak fries, the best dipping sauce you’ll ever try and a dee-lish house salad, it’s DIVINE. I did change it up last time I went there, ordering the Gold Dragon Bowl with vegan cheese. I must say I’m glad I finally tried something new – which was also SUPER YUMMY! Live entertainment in the evenings is a definite plus, as well. Beware, though: the curry specials can be spicyyyy!

I’ve only been there once, but from what I can remember, East is East has some of the best wraps I’ve ever had. I ordered the Gandhi’s Breakfast and Spice Caravan wraps, which were SO GOOD! (The former filled with spinach and mushrooms and the latter with chickpeas, cauliflower and Afghan rice.) I went there with my dad when he dropped me off at school at the beginning of the year, and I’ve been itching to go back ever since! The laid-back environment and culture-filled decorations makes this is a really great place to take friends/a date who are/is into Indian/other Eastern food. The wrap is vegan, as is their delectable chocolate pudding. The menu is vegan- and vegetarian-friendly – yesss!

Lastly, I am a total sucker for an afternoon (non-alcoholic) drink, and my favorite place to grab one is Pearl Fever in the U-Village, where I can get my usual Taro Slush with tapioca and soymilk, instead of the usual milk that all other bubble tea places on and around campus use. I also love getting a cold Yerba Mate (sort of like an iced tea) from Sprouts – which, by the way, offers free/by-donation lunch every Friday!! – when they have it. Sometimes, I resort to Starbucks in the SUB and get my favorite Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappuccino with soymilk. All options serve as a refreshing pick-me-up when I don’t have the chance to go back to my dorm room and make a smoothie there.

Those are some of my current favorite dishes/drinks – I’ll write about more once I discover more!

Love, Nirel

PS. This past weekend, I went to Seattle to spend time with my family and had so much fun hanging out with them and my friend, Emily, who came along. 😀 What did you do for (Canadian) Thanksgiving this year?