Last year I had created a restaurant tool for myself for Dine Out Vancouver, an annual food festival in Metro Vancouver. I was frustrated in choosing a restaurant to go to with my friends for the last few days of the event. I just wanted to see which restaurants were near the area where we were meeting and which were the top-rated restaurants to try. I was frustrated so much so, that I just went ahead and made my own search tools.

So what I did was place all the restaurants on a map so the information could be browsed spatially, allowing one to pick a restaurant near them or a destination that they will be in. With over 250 restaurants, I also wanted to know which ones were good. So I cross referenced the restaurants with their Yelp scores and placed all the data in a dynamically sortable table, so people can sort the restaurants by the best score, most reviews, or other categories like neighbourhood and city.

This year, I checked to see if the official site was any better, but to my disappointment it was exactly the same. So I just reused the same code from last year and recompiled the data with the new restaurants and updated Yelp information. That just took me an evening, which was mostly spent fixing erroneous Yelp or maps data.

Last year's site saw about 500 views, I had only created it with 4 days left in the festival and sent it to just friends. This year, in the first 2 days of the festival it had 160 views. Over the course of the whole festival, the site received over 5300 views!

DOV 2.0 was also picked up by the Vancouver Sun, which ran an article on it!

I have received nothing but positive feedback from those who have seen it, and they really like it. They find it much easier to use than the official DOV site.

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In Vancouver, we have an annual festival called Dine Out Vancouver. It's a foodie festival of a few hundred participating restaurants, offering special menus just for the festival. It's a great opportunity to try out new restaurants or go to some restaurants you would otherwise have not gone to.

The official DOV site does has some useful features for choosing a restaurant - such as choosing by cuisine, price range, vegetarian or gluten free options. However it is missing some key features that that would make it really useful. In fact, in choosing restaurants to try myself, I became quite annoyed by the official site. I wanted to be able to browse a map to find a restaurant near me. As well I wanted to know which were the top restaurants to try. So my frustration led me to create DINE OUT VANCOUVER 2.0.

DOV2.0 has all the participating restaurants on a single map for easy location based decision making. As well, it has an interactive grid of all the restaurants mashed-up with Yelp ratings and reviews. All of them linking to the DOV menus.

It was more or less created for my own purposes, but others have found it quite useful. In the few days I have had DOV2.0 up, I've had 500 views from 340 visitors.

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On observing a senior use a Compass Card on one of the bus readers. She couldn't tell or did not notice if the tap worked. She held it up to the reader, slid it around a bit, waiting for something. She then assumed that it must be fine and just continued onto the bus.

One reason she couldn't tell might be because her card can end up covering part of the screen. But the main reason I believe, is that the default start screen, which prompts you to "Tap card", shouldn't be green and then still be green after a (successful) tap. (It does change red, if the card was misread). In the half a second it takes to tap a card and board a bus, while other people are waiting behind you, with an old immigrant lady, with limited English and a different generational tech experience - you want an interaction with the interface to be as understandable as possible and not prone to "user error".

The Default screen should be of contrast to green (I would suggest white or light blue to go with the Compass branding) and then change the screen to green on tap (as the color green is synonymous with good, go, or complete). As well, the beep on tap from the bus readers needs to be MUCH louder, as it is barely audible (should be loud enough and at a more noticeable frequency to be used on a noisy bus or station).

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It is unclear if we have to tap in then out again on a bus, or if one tap is enough. What difference does it make if I only tap in? If I were on a pay as you go credit on the card rather than a monthly pass, could I possibly be charged more for tapping twice vs once? These are questions I would expect from many bus riders.
There should be clear labelling and instructions on what the protocol is for tapping in/out busses and it should not affect how much I am charged.

Compass card readers seem to easily interfere with other RFID cards in wallet.

The card reader beep, is an unsatisfying lower pitched, 1.5 second beep. It should be unique, like our skytrain tone. Just like the design of that tone, it should be uplifting and cheerful.
I would suggest three quick beeps, three notes increasing in pitch, similar to the skytrain sounds. I would also suggest starting in a higher pitch, as the current beep is barely audible in a noisy bus or station.
Also, the beep on the bus card readers are way too quiet.

Slightly slow, laggy response on the gates and the card readers. Its about a few tenths of a second slower than it should be. I was recently in Hong Kong and London and their reader response was instantaneous.
This was especially true, when using a monthly pass beyond it's 1 zone, and an add-fare needs to be charged, the system seemed to lag more.

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So this summer I had the pleasure of helping organize for a friend, an amazing Canadian artist, her first solo art show, showcasing 18 years of artwork!

Sze Yun Lo's body of work experiments with a variety of mediums, from the traditional watercolors of the Lingnan style, to more western mediums of acrylics, and even designed products.

She specializes in a style known as Lingnan - she is the youngest in Vancouver and one of the last of our generation that we know of still practicing the Lingnan style. She has been practicing art for 18 years and apprenticed under four local Chinese art masters. She was the last apprentice of Letty Shea (Lingnan School), and also apprenticed under art masters Mah Zi Ping (Lingnan School), Huang Su Ya (portraiture), and Kai Chuen Kam (Chinese calligraphy). Being a contemporary artist, she has experimented and mixed western mediums and styles, to push her art in unique directions. Unique as an artist in Vancouver - SzeYun brings a dying traditional Chinese art form, into a 21st century fusion. But just like Vancouver, her work is a mashing of East to West. The exhibition was on July 13th, at the Orpheum Annex. Designated pieces of art were also being auctioned to raise funds for selected charities.

If you are interested in any of her work,
please check out her Online Catalogue here!

For any inquiries: syl.arts[@] / 778-994-4683


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Over the past two weeks I had a great time working on a music video for upcoming Canadian singer, Shalini.
Working with first time director Vik Prasad, I was consulted on most aspects of the production as well as being behind the camera.

The video has a strong anti-bullying message, released just in time for Pink Shirt Day. Please share this great video:

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If they are serious (and at all smart) about alternative funding sources for transit (if people can get their heads out of taxes as the only funding source), then the Metro's cities and TransLink should start buying up some property and developing currently held property.

We need to start adopting the the Hong Kong funding model for transit: property development and holdings. The MTR acts as a real estate developer and business company, in addition to a transit operator. MTR actually MADE almost $15 billion HKD in profit in 2011.

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Charlie Chaplin's "The Great Dictator":


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Looks like we are moving out of the Era of Movie Sequels and moving into the Era of Ridiculousness! I present my evidence:


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In Japan "Private railways run variety of other businesses such as dept stores & real estate" (Wikipedia). I witnessed this everywhere in my time spent in Japan. Most train stations were well connected to shops, businesses, entertainment, and residences. Everything was highly accessible and very liveable. I would constantly compare back to the stark bareness back home and wonder why haven't we done this. I called them Transit-Hub Centric Communities. an organization builds a transit corridor - the stations, with attached multi-use developments, with retail, amenities, and residential. The organization retains ownership of the property and is now able to profit from the demand it created for itself with increased foot traffic. The profit will be from leasing real estate and increased property values. Local government gets increased revenue from more property tax, sales tax, etc... which can be used to pay for the initial investment.

Another example is the following from Hong Kong:
How Transit Systems Can Make Money

Recently Jay Walder, former head of New York’s subway system, the MTA, left his job to take over Hong Kong’s transit system, the MTR. For Walder the move means a lot more than one different letter on his business card: it means a salary raise from $350,000 to about a million bucks.

The reason Hong Kong’s metro system can afford to pay its chief so much more than New York’s is that, unlike the MTA, which faces a $10 billion shortfall, the MTR actually makes money. Lots of money. Like 8.7 billion Hong Kong dollars lots, according to Bloomberg, which is more than a billion U.S. dollars a year.

So what accounts for the enormous difference in financial success between the two systems? Cue Alex Marshall of the Regional Plan Association:

The answer is that Hong Kong’s MTR doesn’t let private developers be the only ones that perch next to its stations. It builds its homes, offices and stores. In short, MTR acts as a real estate developer and business company, as well as a train operator. It owns, among other things, 12 shopping malls built around its stations. These properties and businesses produce substantial cash, which keep the transit agency as a whole in the black.

Whereas New York City sells the real estate near its subway lines, Hong Kong develops it — creating what Cap’n Transit calls “an integrated product” of property and access. In other words, MTR not only runs Hong Kong’s trains but it also owns a lot of the properties these trains serve. This side business generates a huge amount of revenue that can be recycled back into the system itself.

Marshall seems to think American cities in general — and New York in particular — can get in on the action. Still such a course would require a “huge change in our thinking,” Marshall recently told WNYC, since Americans typically cringe at the idea of government owning potentially private property. Then again, they also cringe at fare hikes and service cuts.

By Eric Jaffe

This is an EXCELLENT opportunity for Translink, the Metro Vancouver transit authority to get a positive revenue stream and self finance future transit projects, instead of relying so heavily on taxpayers' dollars.

Current opportunities include property that Translink already owns, such as the many Park-and-Ride lots in Metro Vancouver. A prime example for current development, with a transit-hub already there, would be Scott Road station and its attached Park-and-Ride. King-George station also has an attached Park and ride, that can build off the current Infinity developments there. The Bridgeport station is also another opportunity.

A local example of this model is the current development happening at New Westminster Station. Plaza 88, being called an urban transit village, is a great starting point if Translink can get in on the game. The development integrates condos, shopping, restaurants, and other amenities with direct access to a transit-hub. It's a Transit-Hub Centric Community.

"It's very un-mall like. We tried to treat it as a station, as opposed to a shopping mall. We believe that this adds to the inclusiveness within New Westminster ..."

Please ignore the bad rendering and overly clipped music in the following video:

And more here from Skyscraperpage forums

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So recently Translink has been asking for input on where funding will come from for future transportation infrastructure for Metro Vancouver. It seems like the only options they are giving is getting more money from property taxes. Their "options" are just to increase taxes and fees or increase them more.

Perhaps its time for them and us all to consider other possibilities in generating revenue for the future of transit infrastructure. Why not allow corporate sponsorship naming rights to transit stations and hubs? I'm serious. This has been done before in other parts of the world, such as Las Vegas (it was huge in getting their monorail built). This could generate Millions of dollars that would go a very long way in improving Metro Vancouver's transit. Com'mon, the "Bell Patterson Station" doesn't sound so bad does it?

Further, Translink should maximize its advertising revenue. Edmonds Station is a prime example. The bus loop there has a shelter with several poster light boxes for ads. All of which have been pretty much blank since the 90s! I remember a year or two ago seeing one old poster advertisement up. It was for BC Clean Air Day 1994!

Also, be smarter with money! maximize our transit options - The 'Skytrain' option is a luxury item that costs more but gives less. There are other smarter mass transit options such as Full Bus Rapid Transit and light rail, that give more service for the buck!

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When watching videos of TED Talks or other great lectures/talks, have a notepad handy and take notes of the ideas that intrigue you.

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The 'loop city' proposal builds on the famous '1947 finger plan', which focused on connecting the suburb to the center. BIG proposes to continue to connect the area around the øresund strait in a sustainable spine of public transport, energy exchange and electric car infrastructure. the resulting development model circumscribes around the base of the 'hand', much like a bracelet, to combine new programs with the metro stations, providing an urban outlet throughout the suburbs.


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