Vanco-Uber

Is Uber dehumanizing? I’ve been thinking a lot about the ride sharing apps lately. I’ve never taken one, but from what I understand people ‘take an uber’ like they’d ‘take a cab’ and, maybe I’m crazy, but it seems weird to me.

Maybe it isn’t, I’m probably overthinking it.

It’s just that with a cab there’s a certain fairness to linking the driver with the car, it’s his profession (or her, though I don’t think I’ve ever been in a cab where it wasn’t a guy driving), it’s bright yellow, it’s a whole thing. With an Uber it’s a regular person, it’s generally not their full-time job (I think), and it’s their own car. But what else would you say besides ‘take an uber’? I don’t know.

My beef with the company (and Lyft too, I guess?) is that it feels like a new form of subjugation. I like ride sharing, and I think that allowing anyone to give rides and be compensated for it is a great idea, but I don’t like the idea of an American company just making money hand over fist on the backs of local drivers, while at the same time threatening the livelihoods of all the cab drivers.

Is our taxi-system shitty? Yeah, I’d say. It’s too expensive, there was that issue where cabs were refusing to go to North Van from downtown for a while (maybe still?), whenever you need one it feels like there aren’t enough, and I imagine that’s just the beginning. Honestly, the whole taxi industry has done a great job of making itself incredibly unlikable, and without government protection they’d be really hurting right now.

There must be a solution in the middle, something to phase out taxi drivers, compensating them for the amount they may have invested in their licenses, and installing a ride sharing system that benefits everyone. Taxis are the only ones equipped to take wheelchairs, for example. Some guy’s 2015 civic probably doesn’t have a lift. We’ll still need a service that caters to people with mobility issues. Also taxi drivers, though it may not seem like it, are more accountable. There’s more than just a rating system and a powerpoint presentation behind their jobs.

All the companies do is link drivers with people who need rides. They don’t support the drivers at all, and while people seem to like it as a part time thing, it doesn’t work out full time (from some articles I’ve read, hardly a reasonable sample size). Uber takes 20% of the fare, and your driver pays for gas, repairs, and other incidentals (like cleaning). I guess my question would be, is 20% a reasonable amount for them to take? If other apps joined the market and started undercutting Uber and Lyft would that help? Or would the money just come from the drivers at the end of the day?

Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that I think we can be a little quick to embrace new technologies like Uber without thinking of the real costs. Letting ride sharing entrench itself in Vancouver without seriously considering the ramifications (the 20% of every ride heading straight to Silicon-freaking-Valley or wherever Uber is headquartered for instance) would be irresponsible. It’s clear we need a better system than the taxi-reliant one we have, but I don’t think it’s as easy as opening the gates to an American app. It’s just zeroes and ones!

Done With Sweet Potato

I think I’ve figured out the formula for getting into a new band. People always recommend great music to me and I’ll listen to a few songs, decide it isn’t for me, and then I’ll hear a banger from the artist later (maybe months later) and all of a sudden I’m stealing whole discographies off the internet.

Right now I’m on a big Portugal. The Man kick. A friend of mine showed me some of his music ages ago, like circa 2016, but I didn’t really like it. The other day I heard Feel it Still, from his yet to be released album Woodstock. Now I’m listening to all of his stuff, and it’s a bonus that his music videos are weird.

I had another friend recommend Chicano Batman not too long ago and it was Black Lipstick that got me into them. They’re sick, and the album Cycles of Existential Rhyme is good. It’s groovy. It’s existential. I should be getting paid for these plugs!

Another banger I’ve had on replay lately is L’Appuntamento by Ornella Vanoni. I think it’s Italian. It’s one of the songs on the soundtrack to Ocean’s 12 (I think, I love all three of those movies so much it’s possible it’s from a different one, but I’m pretty sure it’s from 12 because that’s the one where they’re in Europe. Makes sense, right?). I haven’t explored much of the Vanoni back catalogue yet, but L’Appuntamento is a delightful track. I’ll have to find out what she’s saying.

I finished the stupid sweet potato that I bought last week or the week before. It’s been a nightmare every morning. I’m used to delicious red potatoes from PEI or wherever, and for reasons I can only attribute to ignorance, food-trends, malevolent interference from the spiritual plane, or something else, I bought some freaking sweet potatoes and have had to eat them.

It got so bad that I’ve had oatmeal three times this week because I couldn’t bring myself to take the thing out of the fridge. Part of me believed that if I pretended it wasn’t there, it would disappear.

2017 is a year for bold statements, and I’m coming out hard against sweet potatoes, yams, and all derivatives. Yam fries are a waste of menu space. 0/10.

I’m just realizing that since I normally write these while I’m making/eating breakfast I talk about it a lot. I wonder what these would sound like if I only did them in the evening.

I have a pretty regular morning routine, I play Duolingo for a bit (it says I’m 25% fluent in Spanish but that can’t be right), make breakfast, and write a blog post. On the weekends sometimes I let the blogging slip a little because I work.

It would be cool if the Russian lessons on Duolingo had a fluency metre as well, but it would probably say 0% fluent no matter how much of the course you’d done. The sentence structure in Russian is completely different, and it’s a case language, so depending on how a word is used (subject, object, location, etc…) the ending changes. And there are so many exceptions. It’s tough.

Русский- сложный язык.

Best,

Mark

For the Benefit of

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the minimum income idea lately. The idea, at its most basic, is that everyone should be guaranteed a certain income which allows for a reasonable life. Or something like that. There are tons of different ways of getting to it, but I want to talk about me not ideas.

I am particularly in love with the minimum income because I don’t like working and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want to spend every one of my days doing whatever I want. (This is the point where I realize that if anyone looking to employ me one day reads this they might find it a MASSIVE turn-off). 

Honestly, I think my attitude is the big argument against a minimum income. It seems that people feel like everyone should be forced to work, that it’s a requirement for life until you can earn yourself out of it. It’s part of the American dream, that we’ve internalized here in Canada as well, that if you work hard at a job you’ll be happy or fulfilled or something. The job doesn’t matter.

And I don’t even dislike my job. I’m very happy with what I do. I’m reasonably compensated, I have some of the best coworkers I’ve ever had in my life, and they don’t seem upset that I want to work part time.

Quick sidebar: Master of None, Aziz Ansari’s Netflix show, is back for season two. I think it’s one of the greatest shows ever, and I tried to quit TV earlier this week, but I didn’t know this was coming back!

Anyway, in the beginning of episode three in a flashback, Dev (Ansari’s character) is eating bacon at a friend’s house. His parents are muslim and he’s never had it! Anyway, watching a young kid eat bacon while Tupac’s Only God Can Judge Me plays is the greatest thing ever.

I was trying so hard to quit TV too. But I did get a little sick earlier in the week and watch like six hours of How I Met Your Mother. So I wasn’t really being good about it. I guess it’s better than smoking.

Anyway, back to the minimum income. I think we need to get away from the idea that people are inherently lazy and need to be held in a state of poverty to encourage them to provide their labour at low wages in shitty jobs.

I mean, that’s a little reductive I guess, but I think the important points are there. What would a world look like if no one had to work to live?

But, it’s a stupid dream, isn’t it? Because I can take risks and work hard and try to fit myself into the system as it is, but I can’t force the system to conform to my ideas, right?

Anyway, as a quick summary, I’d like to not work and just write BS on my blog, maybe learn how to make mugs and play Duolingo a little. That’s the dream right?

Best,

Mark

11.05.17

Tuesdays seem to go so slow
Like ad breaks on the
Radio

Two eggs, coffee, fried
Potato

Steel-toed boots in the
Heavy Snow

(I used to love writing stupid poetry like this on the last blog, unfortunately and mostly due to my own ignorance I lost all of it, but this is a rewrite of my favourite).

The Mushrooms Betrayed Me

After yesterday’s disaster of a breakfast, today I decided I’d just get a couple muffins and a cup of coffee from a cafe by my place. I guess by 11:30 all the muffins were sold out? I ended up with a couple cookies, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Yesterday the mushrooms betrayed me. I mean, it was either that or I got food poisoning at Pacific Poke, and I had the veggie bowl, so I find it hard to believe that I got sick from that. The mushrooms, on the other hand, were incredibly questionable. Or maybe it was too much nutritional yeast. I don’t know the culprit, but I still feel a little off.

But seriously, how can the cafe be out of muffins already? It wasn’t even noon. Do they not have muffins at all on Thursdays? I was psyched, their muffins are huge and I was going to get a chocolate one and a blueberry one.

Now I’m still hungry.

We’ve had a little issue with our kitchen sink leaking and yesterday the landlord came by to take a look at it. She was here for around fifteen minutes before she turns to me and says, ‘What’s your name?’

I’ve lived here for almost two years, so I say, ‘What do you mean?’

And she looks at me like I’m an idiot. ‘WHAT DO I CALL YOU?’

Now, she’s pretty old (I think she’s mid-seventies) so I figured she was just starting to lose her mind a little bit, so I say, ‘I’m Mark.’ And finally she smiles, points to herself and says, ‘Anna.’

‘ANNA! I know your name. I’ve lived here for almost two years! I’m Mark!’ I say. And she doesn’t believe me!

To be fair, I did grow a pretty long beard and I used to be a little larger, but I had to convince her that I was the same person. She put her arms out by her sides and waddled a bit, like an impression of a fat guy, and she kept shaking her head going, ‘Noooooo.’ Kind of felt like a compliment, because I have lost a bit of weight, but she did the impression for a long time. I had to just keep nodding and saying, ‘Yeah, Anna, that’s me. Same person.’

Then she said, ‘But you’re handsome.’ Like I wasn’t a hot piece of ass before as well.

There’s a bit of a language barrier, because Anna’s English is rudimentary, and my Cantonese is non-existent (though I think I can count in Mandarin), but it’s always fun talking to her because she’s so lively and when she doesn’t understand what I’m saying she just laughs and nods. She’s also incredibly considerate, always giving us food and unnecessary furniture–except for the drying rack which is infinitely better than the dollar-store garbage that we had before.

Long story short, I’m pretty lucky to live where I am.

Now it’s pouring rain outside and I’m trying to decide if it’s worth the $2.1 to take the train downtown and read in a cafe and then probably get some Thai Express. Little known fact, Thai Express does the best tofu of all food-court-style asian noodle places. I’ve done somewhat extensive research.

I miss my uPass.

Best,

Mark

Democratic Hangover

I stayed up late watching the votes come in last night, and as the talking heads on Global pointed out over and over again, it was the closest race we’ve had for a long time. The last time BC was ruled by a minority government was in the 1950s and, barring any swings in some of the closer ridings, we could be in for a short term for the Liberals this time around.

The BC Greens didn’t win my riding, unfortunately. It was a fairly safe Liberal seat, and has been for some time. They tripled their seats though, leaving the Liberals with the most seats (43), the NDP next (41), and the Greens holding the balance (3) which should give them some significant concessions from the Liberals (fingers crossed).

Voter turnout was abysmal. Less than 60% of eligible voters cast a ballot.

I don’t want to get too into it, but I wanted to give a little recap from my perspective.

I made the worst omelette this morning. It had mushrooms, green pepper and spinach, and then I added nutritional yeast. But I didn’t just add an appropriate amount of yeast, I dumped far too much into one small part of the omelette and couldn’t spread it out. I just finished it and I think I might cry it was so awful.

I haven’t managed to find a good use for nutritional yeast yet. I’ve only tried a couple recipes so far, but none of them tasted better than okay. I think part of the problem is I’ve been using recipes that call for yeast as a substitute for cheese. You can’t replace cheese! It’s irreplaceable.

I think one of the important things to realize if you’re a vegetarian is that you have to change the things you eat. You can’t just use meat substitutes and expect life to go on.

Meat substitutes suck.

I mean, they have their place. Like, I’ll be the first one to scarf down a baker’s dozen of tofu dogs but it’s because I respect the medium. The hot dog format is one that I love, and I’m not going to let my personal choices get in the way from enjoying culinary perfection. And veggie dogs aren’t that bad.

Most of the meat-substitutes seem to be soy based as well, and I don’t know the science, but I don’t think it’s good to be eating too much soy. I love tofu, but I don’t get all my protein from it.

Oh, have you tried veggie ground though? It’s like vegan ground beef. That’s a good substitute for meat. I bought a small pack of it yesterday for $3.5 and I think it’s around 320g. Hopefully those numbers make sense, I’m going off the top of my head.

It feels like the mushrooms are punishing me right now for what I said earlier. My stomach is making some weird noises and it feels like there’s some plotting going on. I didn’t mean it mushrooms!

Overall, I’m a pretty bad vegetarian. I ate a lot of meat when I was in Asia, and I have had some questionable miso soups since I got back (is it fake crab that they put in it? don’t tell me, I don’t want to know). I’m working on it though.

Best,

Mark

Election Day 2017

I can’t imagine a lot will change for me if we see a new government elected this evening. My job won’t change, my rent won’t change, my cost of living probably won’t change. I don’t envy people who watch these elections knowing that the difference in leadership may seriously affect their livelihoods.

The BC Greens are the best option, in my opinion. I haven’t combed through the platforms and I’ve tried to avoid reading articles about any of the parties (because I think it’s all bullshit), but I watched the debate and was really impressed with Andrew Weaver. It worked almost as a process of elimination, I can’t vote BC Liberal, and I don’t like the NDP this time around. John Horgan seems like an asshole and I don’t trust his connections to some big unions (and I really like unions).

Ultimately, none of the parties come anywhere near promising the BC that I want to see. I don’t want LNG, Site C, any oil extraction or pipelines, and I feel like all natural resource extraction should be nationalized. To me it seems crazy to give up the province’s rich resources to private companies for a royalty. Especially when we (the people) are left with the cleanup when the projects are over or when the projects leak. Also, could we please start considering Indigenous communities in these decisions. The government pays them lip service every time they want to appropriate some land and it’s just a joke.

If I was in charge, all resource extraction would be done by crown corporations. We don’t need to incentivize these industries when we can do it ourselves. At the same time we should encourage businesses that rely on people to set up shop. Things like film and tech can benefit from the wealth of talent in BC. They’re the international companies we want.

Also, we should embrace ride sharing, but I don’t see why we can’t do that ourselves too. I can’t imagine it’s that hard to create an app, and if it was run through the province we could pay the drivers more and the profit the app generated could help buy back the taxi tickets (or whatever is making it so hard to move taxi drivers into the 21st century). Then once that was sorted you have a nice little revenue stream that could be used to fund public transport for people with mobility issues, or whatever.

I don’t think private schools should get public funding. If they want to run a business, they should run a business. Education is one of the most important things the government does, it’s not good enough to let the free market handle it. Because the free market is bullshit and if people want to send their kids to private schools, that’s great, but while our public infrastructure is suffering these companies shouldn’t be subsidized.

The province should start looking into a basic minimum income too. We have too much poverty for such a rich province. For all the focus that politicians put on the economy, it doesn’t seem to be helping average people all that much. I’d love to see a government committed to ending poverty. I think a good place to start would be increasing access to mental health and addiction treatment. Decentralizing treatment away from the DTES could help soften the burden on that part of the city too.

I’d probably run the province a lot differently than Weaver, Horgan or Clark but, keep in mind, I don’t know what I’m talking about.

Best,

Mark

Transportation and Urban Development

One of my favourite things about where I live is that if I leave the windows open I can hear the skytrain going past. My place is really close to Joyce-Collingwood Station and I’ve lived here for almost two years now. I’m a big fan of East Van, and though I’m not in one of the cooler parts of it, I’m pretty happy around here.

There’s a pizza place called Super Great Pizza across from the station. I think it’s been here forever and I love it. The name is enough. All the places around Joyce are interesting, like the Bamboo Cafe. I’ve never eaten there, but they have a deal on Pabst cans if you’re into that, and the coffee’s pretty good. I’m also a big fan of their big muffins.

I’ve always loved trains. There’s something romantic about rail-travel, maybe I get that from old movies. Compared to flying, such a utilitarian way of getting around, something to be endured, train-travel has a certain something to it. I’m trying to put my finger on it.

Recently I took my first 24-hour train from Beijing to Pyongyang (and then again in reverse). We had sleeper bunks, and I don’t think I could’ve done the trip otherwise. China (and the DPRK more so) felt like such an alien place. The words on buildings are different, the houses are built differently, the landscape is different. There’s more of everything. It was really cool to see a chunk of it from the train.

North Korea was the same. (I’m realizing now that I haven’t done a write-up about that trip, I wanted to have a chance to digest what I saw, but I think I’ve had enough time by now). It’s very brown in May. They seem to cultivate every bit of land, so while we were coming in on the train it seemed like it was just endless farm land. There are also billboards up with the notorious leaders of the country, Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, and slogans encouraging people to work (I think). When we were in the city and I had the guides translate something for me, it was almost always a motivating phrase.

It’s a shame that throughout the 20th century the USA did such a thorough job of quashing left-wing people’s movements all over the world. And it’s a shame that the communist experiment in the Soviet Union failed so magnificently. It really works to delegitimize people’s movements elsewhere. Anyway.

I didn’t get the chance to take a good picture, but the image above is the train station in Pyongyang. You can sort of see the pictures of Kim Il Sung and Kim John Il on the building. We were in a perpetual rush on the trip, and even when we were leaving we had to hurry into the station and onto the train. The weather was beautiful until the day we left.

(As a sidenote, they seem to be really into volleyball in North Korea. They had a court set up on the train platform at one end, and we saw a few games going on from the bus or train window).

I’ll do a bigger write up of my experience in the near future, maybe tomorrow.

Best,

Mark

Yam Hashbrowns

I almost burnt the yam hashbrowns this morning. I had the element way too hot and the room filled with smoke. So embarrassing.

I normally use red potatoes, but I’m branching out today. Maybe I’ll do up a little review. (The yams were a little burnt, but the overall breakfast experience left me satisfied. 3.5/5, I’d come back).

I’ve been eating two eggs, a tomato (sometimes an avocado too) and around three small red potatoes for breakfast every day for a while now. I really like breakfast and I was worried before I stopped eating meat that I’d miss bacon. And I do, but only a little bit. The smell is amazing though. I’ll sometimes wake up on the weekend and the place still smells like bacon from my roommate cooking breakfast early.

Yams don’t fry as nicely. And we’re out of coffee filters. I knew that, I should’ve bought some yesterday! 

I’ve been thinking about picking up a little french press, because I figure it’ll make me drink less coffee and it’ll taste better. Then I’d need to get a grinder, and start buying whole beans. It’s a whole process.

I read about coffee culture in one of my classes last term. There’s a lot behind it, and people get so absorbed in the search for the perfect cup that they spend thousands on equipment. There are online communities dedicated to brewing espresso. It’s wild. Though I suppose it isn’t any more crazy then people who make their own beer.

I’m getting back into The X Files which, if you haven’t seen it, is probably the greatest police procedural ever. It’s like any other cop show, except the characters are awesome and the criminals are supernatural. Also, when they aren’t investigating odd crimes in small towns in the USA they’re unveiling the global conspiracy to hide alien existence. It’s a deep show.

You can see Vancouver all over the first few seasons. Even the SFU Burnaby campus makes a couple appearances.

I was a big David Duchovny fan from Californication, (another great show, except at the end), where he plays a washed up writer who (kind of) tries to get back with his ex-wife/girlfriend(?) and reunite with his daughter, but only halfheartedly. Years ago, when I was watching the show, I really idolized that character.

The actor that plays Duchovny’s agent’s wife is Pamela Adlon (I just googled her) and it turns out she is also famous for doing the voice of Bobby Hill from King of the Hill. Crazy.

I love the old nineties-era Vancouver that you see in The X Files. It has the old skytrain (just in a couple), nineties cars on the roads, a less condo’d city, and the style! It’s also neat that the city can be basically any US state the writer’s want it to be. What a versatile place.

I’m in season 6 now, and my biggest question is whether or not Scully and Mulder will get together by the end. I mean, they’d be so good together.

Best,
Mark

Life As We Know It

It would be incredibly arrogant of me to suggest that through this blog–this non-marketed, constantly down and unreliable blog–I have some sort of influence. I know that with things like my post Christy Clark is a Lizard Person I make bold endorsements and act as if people read it and care what I think. I’ve always found the role of influence interesting, and I want to talk about it a little here.

Pushing the arrogant notion that what I say matters aside, what responsibility does someone in my position have? I write whatever I want and publish it on the internet. Since we live in an era with an unprecedented amount of nonsense, of fake news and alternative facts, what’s my role in all of it?

I don’t write fake news, except for sometimes when I write things that I feel are obviously sarcastic. I don’t like to joke too close to the truth because I feel like that can be misleading. But I also don’t write news!

I don’t know.

What I’m trying to say here is that I think about what I write, as much as it may not seem so. I know that I don’t have authority, or even a sense of credibility. But I don’t need it yet. My dream for the blog is to one day talk about real things in a real way, and we’re slowing pushing towards that reality. At that point it’ll be important for these words to have weight. Anyone who read the first iterations of the blog, way back when I was writing as Esmeraldo and Mac Shekoda, can probably see that the tone has shifted significantly already. There’s still a ways to go.

For now, I’m going to continue to call out politicians for being lizard people. And I think I’ll keep writing about the things I struggle with on a day to day basis as well.

This probably reads as a sort of conversation with myself. Here’s the summary:

Responsibility, authority and credibility. And what do I owe you, the person reading these words?

For the future, there are a lot of things I want to bring into the blog. I’ll try to keep posting every day (I know I missed yesterday, and I’ll keep missing days here and there, that’s just the way things are) and I want to talk more. I’d like to talk about mental health, keeping in mind that I’m not an expert. Along that line, I’ll talk about addiction as well.

I’m a white guy, but I’d like to talk about racism and discrimination. I’d also like to talk about feminism.

I want to talk about work! Not my job, but work in general. Unions, exploitation, economics, and that kind of thing.

I’ll talk about movies, television, books, magazines.

I might talk about renting a place in Vancouver.

I’d like to travel, and if I manage to get out of the city I’ll talk about that.

Like right now, for instance, it sounds like my landlord (who lives upstairs) is building something. She’s quiet old, but she’s making a lot of noise. It sounds kind of like she’s hammering something. I won’t speculate.

The point is, we’re kicking it into gear. I think.

Best,

Mark