An Exclusive Interview with Doretta Lau, Nancy Lee, Kevin Chong, and Tom Cho

Originally published in Ricepaper Magazine

True or False:

1) Doretta Lau used to volunteer with Ricepaper Magazine.

2) Nancy Lee spent four months in France as a writer-in-residence.

3) Kevin Chong has a great attention span.

4) Tom Cho’s favourite movie is Dirty Dancing. 

Curious to know the answers? Find out in the latest interview with those four first-class authors.

 

On May 30, 2014, Doretta Lau, Nancy Lee, Kevin Chong, and Tom Cho gathered in front of a packed room at Pulpfiction Books (2422 Main Street, Vancouver) to read from their latest publication. From tax complications to threats of a nuclear apocalypse, the stories showcased the range of artistry and the calibre of writing from four of Ricepaper’s dearest friends.

 

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Farm At Hand is the Modern, Technological Solution to Traditional, Antiquated Farm Organization

There is a common misconception about farmers that Farm At Hand cofounder Kim Keller wants to wipe out.

“[Farmers] are just people like everyone else,” said Keller, who grew up on a 12,000-acre farm in Saskatchewan and continues to farm to this day. “They use their phones for banking, news, Facebook and Twitter. They are on all of that everyday, because they obviously have lives outside of farming.”

Farm At Hand sprouted from the idea that farmers needed a new solution for managing their inventory, field activities, calendar, deliveries, contracts, equipment and storage. But the problem was that there wasn’t anything out there. So the farmers resulted to the primitive solution: pen and paper.

“On the farm each piece of equipment will have a notebook where the person operating it will have to write everything down,” Keller explains the complications that farmers deal with. “Chances are they didn’t write it down, or if they did write it down it doesn’t make any sense to the person who actually has to read it. Notebooks get lost, get covered in water, coffee, whatever. It’s a matter of not having information for record keeping and it ends up costing a lot of money in mistakes.”

The goal for Farm At Hand is to streamline the management process by creating a single point of data entry for the famers and a single point of access for agriculture businesses. Whether the farmers are tracking the growth of a potato or the pesticide spray in an acre of crop, the optimal results can only be reached when the work is communicated and tracked effectively.

“We have a lot of record keeping and data that comes into the program,” said Himanshu Singh, co-founder of Farm At Hand, “but actually turning it around and supplying summary of the data, providing summarized report of the end of seeding and things like that is what makes the application valuable.”

“When farming operations gets large with so many different people around, farmers need to make sure that task are completed,” added Singh. “[Farm At Hand] is just a better way of visualizing that information.”

Farming jobs change depending on the seasons and so does the way farmers use Farm At Hand features. During the growing season, the field planting and spraying features are used predominantly. Then as farmers approach the harvest season in the fall, they begin to use the storage features. In the winter, the equipment, contracts and sales features are used. Farm At Hand is built with farmer’s various workloads in mind, understanding that at any given time of the year certain jobs will shift and so must the usage of the application.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations by 2050 farmers are required to produce twice as much food to feed a growing population. It might seem like a long time from now, but the day is fast approaching. While more farmlands and farmers may seem like a plausible answer in the next 35 years, Farm At Hand believes that the real solution is in managing and organizing the system we already have for increased efficiency.

“I’m not sure if things are changing quickly,” said Keller, “or if people realize how important their food source is now, but agriculture is earning a lot of interest and farmers know they need something better.”

Unhaggle | 8 Fundamental Questions to Answer Before Driving Abroad

Researched and ghostwritten by Elliot Chan for Unhaggle.com | April 30, 2014 |

international-driving-permit

When travelling in another country, driving offers a lot of freedom; you are not tied down to the unusual transit system and you don’t have to worry about haggling with the local cab drivers. You can just simply get into your heavily insured Volkswagen Passat and head off to the next part of your adventure.

Still, before you get too excited about exploring the parts unknown, make sure you address a few important aspects of driving abroad. While some countries follow the same codes as we do in North America, many other places operate by the theory of natural selection: survival of the fittest. Different terrains, different laws and different styles of driving can often stress newcomers, so ask yourself some key questions before you step behind the wheel.

Do you need an international driving permit?

Depending on the country you are visiting you might need to apply for an international driving permit before you depart. As a Canadian driver, you may find that many countries will honour your licence, but be aware that language barriers, amongst other legal reasons, may cause it to be invalid. An international driving permit is available in 10 different languages and it should accompany your native licence in addition to your passport when you rent a car abroad. Should an accident occur or if a local officer pulls you over, having an international driving permit may save you from a lot of trouble. You can learn more about this here.

Is the car a right-hand or a left-hand drive?

The classic problem that arises for globetrotting drivers is the reversal of the road pattern and the driver seat. In North America our steering wheels are on the left-hand side of the car and we drive on the right-hand side of the road. But if you are visiting Britain, Thailand, Australia or 71 other nations, you must adjust to their mirrored standard. The common mistake for drivers new to those countries occurs when they are making left-hand and right-hand turns. Because a right turn will result in the car being in the left lane and left turn in the right, many accidents happen in that moment of misremembering and relying on old habits.

Are there any dangerous road conditions to be aware about?

High mountain ranges, recent flooding and lack of maintenance may lead a lot of dangerous stretches of roads. If you are choosing to drive in Africa, the Middle East or Latin America, be cautious not only of narrow mountain passes, large pot holes, but also of bandits and local criminals impersonating law enforcements. Night-time driving through rural areas should be avoided, simply due to the nature of being in a developing country where medical response is limited and vulnerability to illegal activity is much higher than at home. Simply maintain a safe speed so you can see possible obstructions and avoid hazardous scenarios due to the lack of safety features.

Are there any tolls?

Toll roads are very common abroad; it’s a necessary means of sustaining the integrity of the road and reducing congestion. There isn’t much to them, expect that you should always be prepared to pay. Some countries have automatic tolling technology, but many still require the old-fashioned method. Don’t hesitate to ask ahead about tolling charges when you head onto a highway – being prepared will buy you some time.

Will you be driving through a restricted area?

In Europe, restricted driving areas are quite common and driving through them may result in a fine. The reason for this is often to reduce traffic and pollution. But other restrictions may also be unfamiliar to foreigners as well, including no honking zones, no driving lanes and also unmarked private properties. To avoid ending up where you don’t want to, plan out your trip and the route you intend to take beforehand.

Do the locals have bad habits?

We might criticize those bad drivers at home for signaling too early or not at all, but in other countries the lawlessness and bad habits of the local drivers is the cause of utter pandemonium. When it’s a free-for-all on the road, driving becomes quite different—and if you are brave enough to operate a vehicle on some of those dangerous roads, then you should definitely be conscious of the cultural driving habits. You can learn which countries have the worst drivers in this article.

Should you be aware of suicidal wildlife?

Jaywalking animals are a danger that many drivers should be aware of regardless of the country. When crossing national parks, nature reserves or simply far-from-urban places keep an eye out for animals that may jump out at you without warning. Hitting an animal may damage your vehicle, cause severe injuries and it may even be illegal, depending on the animal.

Are you driving across a border?

Every border is unique, but the experience is usually always unnerving. Be sure to do some research into the border in which you intend to cross. Understanding the norm will help you avoid time-consuming measures and the risk of being charged unnecessary fees. There are multiple variabilities when crossing an unfamiliar border, so it should not be something done haphazardly. Consider travel visas, materials in your possessions and the purpose of your travel. The penalty for breaking any rules upon approaching a border can be rejection of entry or imprisonment.

The Impact of Smartphones and Social Media on Our Ability to Make and Keep Plans

Initial planning or planning ahead means nothing anymore. Scheduling events and then adjusting them as the date approaches have always been common, but it has become so convenient that all the communication leading up to the big date does not even really matter. With a click of a button—without an excuse or a doctor’s note—we can bail thanks to the flexibility liberated by technology and the flakiness of the new generation.

My expectations, when I make plans, have changed significantly since I started using Facebook. I was a latecomer to the social networking platform; I was going through this phase where I didn’t want to “conform” with those simply interested in a new fad. Who knew at the time that Facebook would become such a significant part of my life?

What finally got me to sign up was the fact that I felt forgotten. People weren’t inviting me to events because I wasn’t on Facebook. I was left feeling rejected because it was such an inconvenience for others to pick up the phone and tell me the time and place of the event. My friends would be out having fun, while I would be alone, doing whatever I did before Facebook. It was high school all over again.

I gave in. I got Facebook and rejoice. I got invites again.

Flash forward seven years later, now I’m bombarded with invites monthly: My musician friends inviting me to their shows, my semi-close friends inviting me to their birthday parties and even Facebook itself is suggesting events for me to attend. The thrill of receiving an invitation is lost—it feels a bit like spam—and technology began to foster the flakiness of the new generation.

We now live in a world where “Yes” means “Maybe,” “Maybe” means “No” and “No” means “The Hell With You! I’m Way Too Important!” So how can we over come this problem? How do we get people out to our events without sounding like a party-Nazi?

 

Make Plans For Yourself First, Then Invite People

Just because other people are flaky doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time doing what you want.

Example: You really want to see a band. Well, buy your ticket to the concert first and then let your friends know. Odds are, seeing your commitment will convince them that the event is worth going to and therefore they will purchase their own ticket and meet you there. If not, well, this might just be a great opportunity to meet new people that share the same interest or you can sell your ticket for a fair price.

 

Flexibility Won’t Please Everybody, So Be Firm

No matter how many times you adjust the schedule, there will always be problems. You cannot please everybody and you’ll be doomed if you try. Give a few options that work for you, and if a few people are left stranded—so be it—there will be other events in the future.

The more you reschedule the more you’ll test people’s already limited patience and the less likely anybody will show up at all. Be firm!

 

Assign Responsibility So Attendees Feel Needed

Whether it’s with friends, families or colleagues, getting together for an event should be teamwork. You can instantly weed out the flakers from those who are reliable by assigning certain tasks to people.

Generally speaking, people like lending a hand, and they’re more likely to show up when they are feeling needed and their presence really matters.

 

Avoid Breaking Plans You’ve Made Yourself

Events are something people look forward to, so if you need to cancel for whatever reason, do so as soon as possible. The least you can do is allow your friends to salvage their day. But know that every time you cancel or bail on a plan you made yourself, you become less credible in the eyes of your guests.

They will see your flakiness and mirror it, and that might be the root of all the problems.

Adopt-A-Pylon

Pylon and traffic cone overpopulation yields new campaign

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor

Formerly published in The Other Press. June 3, 2014

Since the 2010 Winter Olympics, Vancouver’s pylon and traffic cone population has quadrupled. This sudden boom has caused concerns for many, as these “safety” markers have literally overcrowded our urban streets, highways, and pedestrian walkways.

Such escalation in pylon population has urged many to act. The crisis paved the way specifically for Adopt-A-Pylon, a company with the philosophy that pylons deserve a home, they deserve care, and, most importantly, they deserve to be treated like giant megaphones for children and drunken passersby—that is what they are really meant for. Fun!

Homeless pylons and traffic cones have caught the attention of Devon Détourer, founder of Adopt-A-Pylon. “Seeing all those innocent cones treated in such a way is disgusting,” he said in an exclusive interview with the Other Press. “We should feel ashamed. We drive by and we look at them with distain and pretend like there aren’t a thousand of them just living in the streets, cold and wet… and most of all forgotten. Pylons are a reflection of our society. And Russia is laughing at us right now.”

Détourer is urging British Columbians to band together and open their homes and wallets to traffic cones. “Each night—on your drive home—just grab a pylon from the street and take it back. Give it some love; after all, we all deserve love. If each person does this, there won’t be anything stopping us from getting to where we want to go, and we all want to go towards a happy future.”

Recent Adopt-A-Pylon supporter, Beatrice Oliver said, “We ignore it, plain and simple. We think that pylons and traffic cones are there to make our lives terrible, like garbage cans or fire hydrants. We get angry because the government spends taxpayer dollars buying more and replacing the old ones. Is that how we treat stuff? As soon as they break we buy a new one? Ask your grandma how she feels about that logic, ask your pet goldfish, or ask your stepson. Adopt-A-Pylon’s initiative is easy to grasp, just like pylons. You take one home, you change its life forever, you give it a reason to be. Pylons are not obstructions, they are life changers.”

The trend has made its way through Commercial Drive and all the way to Kitsilano, but has yet to gain traction in less pylon-liberal areas such as Burnaby and the Tri-Cities, where heavy highway construction and urban growth has bred more pylons.

Port Moody resident Fitso Chung spends many hours working as a labourer alongside pylons, traffic cones, and even some wet floor signs. He understands that there is a problem.

“They’re the hardest workers on the team and the lowest paid,” said Chung. “While I’m on break, they’re there. While I’m in the porta-potty, they’re there. I don’t know if Adopt-A-Pylon will change the social stigma. I think what they need is a union. Pylons are not second-class citizens. I believe adopting them is a step forward, but the road is long and we have a long way to go.”

The pylon population is projected to increase by another 28 per cent by the end of 2016, but the support for Vancouver’s forth-largest majority (behind hipsters, yuppies, deadbeats, and tech entrepreneurs) will undoubtedly increase as well. Which offers hope to people like Détourer and those participating in Adopt-A-Pylon.

“We’ll find a way,” said Détourier, “and pylons will help us. I understand that not everyone is a born pylon-lover, but give it a chance. Sign up today or do it anonymously and see where it takes you—maybe to Maple Ridge, maybe to North Delta.”

South American teams shine in Brazil, but will they overshadow the host?

WorldCupDraw

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor

Originally published by the Other Press. Jun 3, 2014
See Sports Editor, Eric Wilkins’ picks here.

The overwhelming support and pressure for and on Brazil will ultimately lead to a national disappointment for the host team in 2014. Enough has been written about the Brazilian team to convince anyone—including myself—that they are the rightful champion, but in a tournament such as the World Cup, nothing is awarded for achievements on paper; the competition is won with actual merit and a lot of luck.

Ecuador: My dark horse pick is based around a resilient team emerging from the wakes of a tragedy. Christian Benitez, a 27-year-old striker died in July 2013 from a heart attack playing for his club team, Qatar. Pitted against the other five South American teams, Ecuador may seem like the most inexperienced. Antonio Valencia of Manchester United will have to be the electrifying player he is and score some goals, while the midfield will need to support each other in order to get through Group E, which includes the Swiss, the French, and the Hondurans.

Belgium: A team with nothing to lose, but everything to prove is a dangerous team, and I think Belgium epitomizes that statement the best in this year’s World Cup. Placed with Algeria, Russia, and the Korean Republic in Group H, Belgium is the young up-and-coming team that can give the likes of Brazil, Argentina, Germany, and Spain a run for their money. No team will take Belgium lightly, but if Romelu Lukaku and their youthful stars can come up big with some timely goals, there is an exceptional chance that the country known for its chocolate can finally be famous for football as well.

Netherlands: Spain versus Netherlands on day two will truly kick off the tournament—no disrespect to Croatia and Brazil of course. They’ve pulled consistently good numbers in the last several World Cup tournaments, and I don’t see any reason they can’t make a legitimate run again this year. Superstars Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben, Rafael van der Vaart, and Wesley Sneijder will play significant roles on the team, and if they are able to reach their elite level in the month-long tournament they will have great success. The Netherlands has the talent and momentum is on their side.

Colombia: If Monaco’s striker, Radamel Falcao can return in time from his ruptured cruciate ligament, then Colombia’s chances may be amped up even more. But the national squad has played without him and is very capable of winning games on their own. Colombia often lurks in the shadow of Brazil and Argentina—even Uruguay and Chile—but the future looks bright for the Colombians and their no.5 FIFA ranking.

Argentina: I’m a strong believer in legacies; I think great players on great teams must perform at key times in order to earn the title of legendary. Lionel Messi is, of course, en route to earning that honour, at least in my books. All he needs is to win the World Cup in 2014. No big deal. Yet recent historical records have not favoured the Argentineans; after all, they have not won since 1986. But the hopes are high, the conditions are familiar in Brazil, and their offence is as capable as the other favourites. Argentina will come up big when it counts and prove many critics wrong in this year’s World Cup, thus earning Messi the recognition on the world stage he deserves.

Adult Entertainment Showscases Wit with ‘Titcoins’ Parody, Raises Questions About Society [NSFW]

If you haven’t seen it yet, Titcoins is a parody of digital currency initiatives that ultimately fell through due to its instability, i.e. Bitcoin and Dogecoin. The video includes familiar tech startup cartoon characters and a soft-spoken narrator, explaining the imaginative functionality, which enables women to pay for various goods and services with a faceless photo of their—you guessed it—tits.

The video was created in association with Pornhub, the world’s leading adult entertainment website—or something like that—in an effort to find the next Creative Director for the company. Whatever the goal was, it definitely got people interested, with its realistic replication of modern introduction videos and its titillating proposal.

Since Wednesday the video had accumulated over one million views, going viral (perhaps even being the most watched video affiliated with Pornhub that week—or not). Yet such a phenomenon left me thinking: Is this a “brilliant” marketing campaign or an actual call for concern?

 

(Probably NSFW.)

 

Generally speaking, I would not involve myself in this type of matter. I should just watch it, chuckle and move on like I do with most cats or cute-babies-falling-down videos. By discussing it, I can either sound like a prune or a smut-lover, and I’m definitely not a prune! Gross!

Like most fathers (I’m not a father), I worried about the well-being of the next generation of women. We are currently living in a place where the terms “revenge porn” and “slut shaming” are floating around. I hate those terms. But the hate did not surface initially, I laughed at first, the same way I laughed at the Titcoins video. It’s one of those ideas that is so disturbing it’s funny; there is nothing you can do but laugh. Like a disease, it’s not a problem, until it’s your problem… and when it’s your problem, it stops being funny. Obviously, those two terms are no longer laughing matters.

By nature, we’re pretty impulsive creatures. And technological advances have made it even easier to be impulsive. Over 60% of mobile device owners have made a purchase on their smartphones or tablet in the previous month. Retail businesses know that mobile-optimized websites are essential to shoppers, because it’s convenient, and once they try it, they’ll likely do it again and again. Like drugs, we become addicted.

Our devices are now an extension of who we are. Habit-forming apps have become a part of our lifestyle. Bitcoin—if done right—could have been a part of our lifestyle as well and it would have been great.

Titcoins may not be a real thing, but it’s honest. It’s reality masked in with humour and creativity. It’s effective because we can all close our eyes and imagine it being practical. Yet at the heart of it, it’s manipulation, but it works.

“You don’t have money? That’s fine, show me your boobs.” That’s the first level of entry, not a big deal. Boobs whatever. Then again, what is the second level? The third? The forth? What happens after we react to an impulse and acknowledge the ease and benefit, and ignore the consequence? We’ll do it again of course. It is this slippery slope that concerns me.

The Titcoins video is a reminder of what technology and a simple idea can do. It reminds us that the social norm is evolving—fast. The fact that we can get so many people to agree that pornography is a reasonable solution is simultaneously impressive and scary. As innovators and thought-leaders we need to ask ourselves some key questions concerning our technology. What will happen when smartphones get smarter? What will happen when wearables become commercialized? What will happen to our try-something-once (YOLO) mentality?

Then again… supply and demand, right?

Unhaggle | 18 Personal Road Blocks That Stop You from Achieving Your Goals

Ghostwritten and Researched by Elliot Chan for Unhaggle.com | April 23, 2014 |
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On this long windy road we call life, we encounter adversity, obstacles and road blocks that keep us from achieving our goals. What might seem like a brick wall, stopping our Civic from becoming a Lexus— might in fact only be a detour or a speed bump. So, don’t cancel the trips yet.

Of course, I’m just speaking in an analogy for our own personal behaviours and mannerisms. These negativities of body and mind hold us back, compromise our confidence and drain our potential. If we are to become better hagglers or just better at everything there is, we need to know what holds us back. Se, here are 18 common road blocks that might just be hitting us harder than the road:

1. Not speaking up or asking for help

Maybe you’ll figure it out yourself—but chances are, if you speak up and ask for help, you’ll find the solution to your problem much faster. Whether you are asking for direction at a gas station or telling the driver that you need to go to the bathroom on a long road trip, don’t be afraid to speak up!

2. Bad body language

Actions speak louder than words. Crossing your arms and staring at the floor in social events might be causing you more harm than you know. Displeasure and antagonism is often associated with bad body language. You can learn more about your body language here.

3. No introductions

Some people need no introductions, but you do. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to people you haven’t met before. There won’t always be someone to welcome you, so you should always welcome you.

4. No courage to explore

Experiences are created by breaking from the norm. If you fail to find new experiences and explore, you aren’t going to have those interesting stories to tell. I’m not saying you are a boring person if you don’t try new things, but would you rather be a plain slice of bread or a rich tasting sandwich?

5. Holding a grudge

Revenge might sound sweet sometimes, but if you hold a grudge you are probably just poisoning yourself. Wasting your time seeking retribution and resenting others holds you back from accomplishing your goals. The best revenge is living a healthy, happy life, and the ability to forgive is the first step to finding peace. Read more about ditching grudge in this piece.

6. Lack of confidence in your gut feeling

You don’t always have time to ask for permission or to perform an intensive research procedure—sometimes you just have to go on your gut feelings. Impulsive choices are not unhealthy acts. If done moderately, it can lead to many new opportunities that are invisible to those who aren’t ballsy enough to do something different.

7. Being constantly influenced by others

Having role models and inspirations are good, but if someone wants to change you instead of helping you improve, they are probably not trying to assist you. They are trying to alter your values. Being influenced by others and seeking their acceptance might make you feel “cool” for a little bit, but lying to yourself in the progress is more harmful than beneficial.

8. Prophesying your own failure

Actors, athletes and other high-pressure professionals know that having the ability to visualize success is instrumental to achieving it. Expecting failure drains morale and sucks energy from the performance, whatever it is. If you want good things to happen, expect them to happen.

9. Envy

Don’t be jealous, be inspired. There is always a more skilful and proficient person out there regardless of what you do. Therefore, trying to be better than them will ultimately lead to disappointments. But if you seek to improve yourself and be better than the person you were yesterday, than you can always achieve your goal and gradually raise your own bar.

10. Lack of motivation

Laziness pays off right now, productivity pays off tomorrow. That is a slacker mantra, but it shouldn’t be yours. Good motivation takes time to develop. The more you do something, the more likely you are to repeat it over time. If you floss today, you are more likely to floss tomorrow and the day after. If you tell yourself you are going to clean your office for five minutes, you might end up doing to for 30 minutes. Ease yourself into good habits.

11. Self-destruction and sabotage

Don’t set yourself up for failure. Putting yourself in situations where you are doomed to fail due to various reasons is a recipe for anything but success. If you want to learn to drive, don’t start on a freeway—start at an empty lot with no obstacles. Same goes with everything else. If you dive into the deep end, you might need to be rescued.

12. Reliance on the validation of others

If you need validation for everything you do, you aren’t going to do much. Sure a “thank you” or a “good job” is nice, but you should do something because you are the person to do it—it’s probably your job. Validation is not mandatory, it’s just a nice gesture; you are not entitled to it, so don’t take it so personally.

13. Notion that rejections equal defeat

Yes, in a way, rejections are defeats, but what is success without failures? Embrace rejections. It has happened, move on to the next target. The more rejections you have, the stronger your fortitude becomes, thus building your foundation to success.

14. Being governed by external perception

We all have shortcomings and flaws. Learn what they are and allow them to become a part of who you are. Showcase them and don’t feel ashamed.

15. Heavy focus on superficial attributes

Physical appearance is the first thing anybody notices. Nobody appreciates your personality right away. But that doesn’t mean you should be consumed by your appearance. Dress to impress if you want to, but be comfortable. Self-consciousness will make you unappealing regardless of how fashionable you are.

16. Fear of saying “no”

Whether it’s a date or an extra work assignment, sometimes we just need to learn to say no. Saying yes may seem easier, because rejecting others is sometimes as hurtful as being rejected, but it’ll save a lot of trouble in the long run if you know what you can’t do and voice it.

17. Being too selfless and accommodating

You are a valuable person, so don’t let anyone take you for granted. Because selfishness is selflessness, we should all help each other and therefore help ourselves. You deserve payment, it does not have to be money—but your kind deed should not be ignored.

18. Hesitancy to make any key decisions

If you can’t make the big decisions in your life, nobody will. Plain and simple. Take the wheel and head in the direction you want to go. The key to finding success is to be a pilot, not a passenger.

The disenchantment of working outside

Why some jobs are best kept indoors

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor

Originally published in The Other Press. Jun 3, 2014

For as long as I can remember I’ve had this romantic image of my work and myself outside, on a beach or in a park perhaps. I would lean up against a tree and gaze at the beautiful horizon and feel overwhelmingly inspired. Then I would turn to my work and hammer away, doing the best job possible. Many times I have tried to execute this ideal way of being productive, but my expectations never meet my reality.

I’m a writer, so my job consists of me sitting in front of my computer for long periods of time. But I have mobility. I can pick up my laptop and go to a coffee shop, the Other Press office, or I can even go to the park and do all my assignments there.

Prior to becoming a writer, I worked as a canvasser for World Vision, patrol for the PNE, and a sandwich board advertiser for a bed and breakfast off of Oak Street. Those jobs got me outside, rain or shine.

Now, I merely work from home, which is great, but I often feel like I’m missing so much. I remember seeing different neighbourhoods as a canvasser; I remember meeting different people as a patrol; and I remember being shouted at by drivers as a sandwich board guy. None of that happens anymore. Moreover, on a nice summers day, there is nothing better than being outside—but that little perk did not keep me on those career paths for long.

Often I’ll be convinced that perhaps my tedious written/research work can be done in the picturesque exterior. I’d schlep my computer, my books, my pens, my notebooks, and my coffee out with me on an adventure in productivity. What ends up happening is that I waste a couple of hours preparing and commuting to an obscure location. I’ll survey the area for a suitable place to work, perhaps a park bench, see all the bird poop on it, and quickly move on to another.

Finally, I’ll settle at a spot and hunker down. I unravel everything the way I like it and have a gust of wind blow it all away. Disheveled, but undaunted I’ll persist—that is, until a wasp, a mosquito, or a dog off leash decides to attack me. Repeatedly my focus will be broken, and ultimately, my work remains incomplete.

Feeling a sudden cold chill of Vancouver, I’ll return home to pick up the pieces of my day’s work and to see how little progress I have made in my four-to-five-hour excursion.

I try not to think of my day as wasted when I do make those attempts to work outside in our beautiful city. After all, I did get a chance to enjoy a splendid day outdoors. Not many people get a chance to do that. Some are stuck in a kitchen, some in a factory, while others are attending to clients in an office cubicle. I’m lucky enough to have a five-hour break with no major consequences except for the fact that I will have to work extra in the afternoon/evening.

Working outside is a luxury, especially in a job that is not considered blue collar. I try to take advantage of it whenever I’m motivated to, but after so many failed attempts, I know that I’m better off working a little harder and faster indoors and taking a legitimate break outside later, when I’ve accomplished my tasks and am free from my worries.

25 Innovative Technology Companies Showcase Talent and Celebrate Community At NextBC

On May 15, the top 25 tech companies in BC gathered together on the second-floor concourse of The Telus World of Science to showcase their latest innovative breakthrough and to celebrate the influencers and visionaries of the future.

NextBC, presented by DigiBC, the Digital Media and Wireless Association of BC, invited out a diverse collection of game/life-changing companies, from experienced money managing tools [Payfirma] to digital health advances [Conquer Mobile] to HD cameras in the exosphere, shooting perfect images of the Earth [Urthecast].

“At DigiBC we recognize that technology is changing our lives in so many ways,” said Howard Donaldson, President of DigiBC. “Our objective is to promote innovation and that is really what inspired this event.”

NextBC was designed not only as a conference with keynote speakers and panelists, but also as an award show, highlighting the company that has excelled and continues to show great potential.

The top 25 companies, at the end of the night, were chiseled down to five. From there a panel of judges were selected to ask important questions that focuses on four factors that include; breakthrough or rapidly advancing technology, the potential for broad impact, the potential for significant economical impact, and disruptive impact that transform how people work and live. The five companies chosen were: General Fusion, D-Wave Systems, Avigilon, Urthecast and CapTherm Systems.

 

How many years from commercialization do you think you are?

“Eight years,” responded General Fusion’s representative. “We want to build a power plant; that is not something you can whisk up in an afternoon.”

“Hopefully in the next few years we’ll demonstrate the physics that the power plant is based on, which when we compress this very hot gas, we can make fusion energy,” he continued. “Demonstrating that will take around two years, but this will not be a power plant, this will be a test that can show that it can be done. After that we need to build a piece of hardware, which will take some years and a lot of money, and just raising the money will be difficult to build a power plant like that.”

 

What is disruptive about your business model?

“We have the ability to stream data from space in utterly new and innovative ways, disrupting how it was done for everyone else,” said Urthecast’s representative. “We can democratize the view of Earth for free for anyone with Internet connection. That free platform that we put out to everyone in the world allows us to generate huge numbers of eyeballs. And those eyeballs can in turn be monetized much like the classic model of Internet companies.”

“I’m happy to say that we are very profitable,” said Avigilon’s representative, “and we are the fastest growing software company in North America. We go to market through certified Avigilon dealers. We directly sell to them and they sell to stadiums, transportations, etc. That’s pretty disruptive because a lot of our competitors mass produce to market distributors, and they dilute their product and their pricing model.”

 

Why are you here in Vancouver?

“From a national level, the support for research and development in Canada is second to none,” said CapTherm’s representative. “We feel really fortunate for the support we received from national research councils and scientific research and experimental development. We do utilize the ETC tax credits, we got a substantial portion off the pie last year and overall I couldn’t find a better place to run the company out of.”

“As you might imagine quantum mechanics take some pretty smart people to do what we are doing,” said D-Wave System’s representative. “So when we started the company here, we were able to attract some of the world’s best physicists to work on the dream that we had. People have come from all around the world: a lot of European countries, all over the States and across Canada. They always had this dream and that’s why they are here.”

When it was all said and done, the tension had built and the drum roll had fizzled out, General Fusion was awarded the Gold honours, D-Wave System with the Silver and Avigilon with the Bronze—and Fusion Pipe Software Solutions took the People’s Choice Award.