Monday, November 28, 2011

UN - 2012 International Year of Cooperatives

The UN has proclaimed 2012 as the International Year of Cooperatives.

This is a huge subject encompassing so many aspects of housing, political, social, sustainability, ecological and economic existence that to try and cover it all in one blog entry is well nigh impossible. All cooperatives are democratic, owner-operator ventures.

But ... the cooperative movement is hardly a new phenomenon. One of the most successful business models for a cooperative is Mondragon located in the Basque region of Spain. Internationally, farmers co-ops, business co-ops, website co-ops, medical & health co-ops, banking & insurance co-ops are proving to be models for sustainable, long-term social and economic success. Food co-ops buy in bulk, sell to co-op members and distribute excess to those members in various ways, from a cheque in the mail to deeper discounts the following year. The Co-operators is Canadian insurance co-op that is one of the most successful businesses in Canada.

Co-ops also support other co-ops in the form of charitable work and are deeply involved in international development projects.

In Canada, not-for-profit housing cooperatives provide housing for a tremendously diverse population:
"Across Canada, over 2,100 non-profit housing co-ops are home to about a quarter of a million people in over 90,000 households. there are housing co-operatives in every province and territory"  CHF Canada
I live in a co-op in Vancouver. I own one share in the co-op. This entitles me to live here, have a democratic say in how the co-op operates, spends it's money - BUT the most important factor for me is that I don't just live here, I live in a village in the middle of a large city. I know my neighbours. We volunteer our time and whatever expertise we have to help run our organization and help make it one of the most successful co-ops in the country. None of us receive financial compensation but the benefits are huge in social interplay and security. 

Co-op members come from all walks of life - some are high income earners, some middling and some on fixed income from pensions or other government sources. We are governed by various government acts and we develop our own internal rules and policies. Our co-op is large enough that we hire a management company to handle day to day financial matters. The final decisions are made by the members.

We do not own our units so we pay a percentage of our total income as a monthly housing fee. And considering the larger global financial situation, home ownership is not all it's cut out to be! The rate is fixed annually after we work on our budget needs for the following year and then vote for it. Currently, our housing fee rate is a little over 30 per cent of our total earnings. There is a cap on fees based on market rent for this area of the city - and a minimum as well.

Many housing co-ops assist lower income earners in the form of partial subsidy. As most Canadian co-ops will have paid off their mortgages by 2020, the small percentage of subsidy provided by the Canadian government will end. By continuing to carefully balance our resource, co-op members will continue to live here and contribute financially to the physical, social and economic well-being of the co-op as a whole.

I will blog more about cooperative choices. And in the meantime please spend a few minutes checking out the links provided. It just might change your life - for the better.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Pictorial - MEXICO

Here are a few of the sites and sights to see in Mexico. While I'm attempting to transfer pics from one PC to the other I thought you might enjoy just a taste.







Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Waiting for My New PC

Hi everyone!

I will be purchasing a new PC and should have it set up within a few days. I'm really looking forward to this because my poor old Presario needs to be retired. Almost no RAM and if I open more than two windows it freezes up on me.  That's okay - she's 10 years old.

Anyway, once the new one is up and running, I will be able to redesign this Blogspot. I have about 4,500 pics to go through and will offer some of my favourites so please check back often and click on the pictorial pages in the right side column. I have a long list of topics to share with you, too. And I have pics on my cellphone of the Judas Priest concert and other things. Once I have figured out how to get them from the phone to the memory card - one at a time apparently *sigh* - I'll post them as well.

I enjoy taking pics of my West End neighbourhood, the trees and flowers in the parks, architectural and weather shots, scenery from around Vancouver, a few from the Okanagan area of British Columbia and I will also share pics of my trip to Mexico. So there will be some of the city, some from the Museum of Anthropology, florals, some archeological sites and some from the bird sanctuary in Yucatan. Oh, and I think there are already some Mexico pics in here that I posted a few years ago.

Stay tuned. That's it for now.

And Happy Thanksgiving to all my American readers.

Friday, November 04, 2011

FLOWCHART: Navigating NPR's Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Books

For anyone who loves reading Science Fiction, Science Fantasy, Fantasy, Speculative Fiction, have a look at this printable chart. It was gratifying to look through and see many old favourites here.

FLOWCHART: Navigating NPR's Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Books

Two Sushi Places to Avoid

(Quick update: Osaka has updated their menu, changed their servers and food is - well, it's better. A great thing in their favour is that they have TVs so you can watch the game while you chat with friends and eat your teriyaki and sushi. And very reasonably priced local beer, too.I have not been back to Daikichi yet but will let you know when I have done so).

Anyone who lives here, or indeed has just wandered about as a tourist for a day or two knows Vancouver is jammed with little sushi joints. They are cheap, the food is quick to prepare and serve, and the ingredients are fresh - well, mostly fresh. Visits to two places on Burrard just north of Pacific and directly across the street from each other - Osaka Sushi & Daikichi Sushi proved to be exceptions. One's food was a little too fresh, the other's very very old.

Now, I've frequented both over the years they've been in the neighbourhood and although not greatly impressive (how hard can it be to roll up short grained sticky rice and chopped fish in a sheet of nori) the proximity is a great incentive on a rainy night.

Here's what happened at Osaka about 2 months ago. New management. Late summer. Balmy. Sunset. A friend wanted some teriyaki. I just wanted edamame and a beer (at $2.49, a great price!). The place was not busy, maybe two other tables had diners. They were open for another hour. We sat outside. The menus were dropped on the table. Less than a minute later the server rushed out again. "What you order?" She was obviously pushing us to order and move on - quickly. So we ordered. Food was produced, and served in the same manner as the menus. We were not made to feel welcome - in fact the attitude seemed to be one of resentment that she actually had to work. So we ate. As the plates were emptied they were scooped away and the bill produced while she cleared the last bits from the table. We paid and left. We did not feel the least bit guilty at leaving no tip.

I did make one more attempt about a week later. I love smoked eel so ordered some on rice. I've eaten eel before and know how it should be served - cooked! Uncooked it is a slimy, gross mess. Give 'em credit though. Each 1inch x 4 inch paper thin slice was grilled perfectly - but only the first 2 inches of each slice! The rest was raw slimy mess. I set it aside intending to tell the server; and ate the rice. What the heck, I'm willing to give the benefit of a doubt and I was hungry. At the end of the meal the server, a different one from the previous week, came to take away the bowl. I showed her the raw eel. Told her it wasn't cooked. She suggested to me that perhaps I didn't know about food. I told her that I had eaten eel many times at Osaka, and this is not cooked. A this point I'm insulted and getting indignant. She goes to the cook. She brings me the bill. No apology, which would have sufficed, no 'how can we fix this for you?', no offer of a discount or a free coffee, just the bill. I paid and left. No tip. No ever going back either.

So what to do when I get a sushi craving? Go across the street to Daikichi. Slightly better food plus you get a flavourful miso with most orders. The folks there have always been friendly and to tell the truth, the food was always better than Osaka's. Well damn! New faces, new management. Had a decently so-so meal. Left a tip. When my brother visited, I took him there. Another decently so-so meal. Left a tip. Went back a few days later. The cook is hovering over a little guy who is studiously stirring a pot of something. Cook is berating little guy. Server is watching anxiously from the safety of the dining area. We order. Bro asks for chicken teriyaki on rice. I ask for salmon teriyaki on rice. Food comes. Bro eats just about anything. But he is also a cook by profession. I look at my salmon, expecting something pink, grilled, flaky. I get burnt, breaded, dried-out, hard, yellowish stuff. Not salmon and with a distinct after taste of unpleasantness. Bro tastes it. Nope, definitely burnt, breaded, unpleasant, not-salmon. I eat the rice. Server clears the bowl, sees I've left the not-salmon. I tell the server this is burnt. It's not salmon. "Oh yes. It is salmon. I tell cook." She tells cook. She comes back with the bill. No apology. No "how can we fix this for you?", no offer of a discount, no offer of a free coffee. At that point my bro hands her $20. She says "This not enough". He says, "She's not paying for burnt food. She ordered salmon. This is not salmon." We left. No tip. Bro confesses later that he spent the next few hours on the toilet getting rid of his chicken teriyaki.

I love my brother.

There is also another sushi place, a pho shop that serves great vietnamese coffee, a few more cafes, and a lovely coffee bar - all in the same block. And a few Thai places, award-winning sushi places, award-winning Greek places, etc. just a few blocks away on Davie Street. 

Wonder if they serve smoked eel or salmon? Sure they do. :)

ps I tried to use google maps but it's just plain wrong. Sorry.