Red Racer IPA

This beer is expensive – it comes in cans, yet costs over 12$ for a six pack. This, and the fact it’s brewed in Vancouver, and that it won something called the “Craft Beer Vancouver” competition were the main reasons I picked it out. The competition win purported it to be the “best brew in Vancouver” – which considering the level of independent brewing in Vancouver is no small complement. Turns out, the beer is that good – very that good. Makes you want to divide it up and mail beers to friends around the Country good. This beer, like good IPA, like a good curry is extremely spicy (hoppy) and alcoholic (ok, maybe that isn’t the same as a curry) – but in addition to this, it is very fruity as well. Like a spicy curry combined with a sweet aromatic chutney, this beer manages to become even more Indian with the addition of British ingenuity.

Redracer ale

Canada Line Review

I have now ridden the RAV (Canada) line twice – from Bridgeport to Broadway, and from Broadway to Waterfront. While it is nice to have a subway running through south Vancouver, I can’t say riding the “new” train felt like a revolution in Vancouver transport. To really understand how the RAV line sits in Vancouver’s transit system, it really must be compared to the “old” skytrain.

First off, the RAV line uses older technology than the Expo and Millenium line Skytrains. It is propelled by conventional AC motors rather than Linear Induction. To be technical, this makes the RAV line less technologically advanced than the ICTS demonstration line, currently the Science World expo line station and adjacent track, which was completed in 1983. However, this is a good thing – linear induction motor technology is overpriced for the benefit in reduced wear and maintenance costs. Still, it doesn’t exactly inspire awe that the new RAV line has more in common with the old BC Electric streetcar line that ran to Richmond on West Boulevard and to Marine Drive along Oak, Ontario and Fraser until 1958 (not 1910 as our current Premiere believes, despite having been Mayor of Vancouver in the 1980s when he protested freeway expansion projects in the city).

Second the RAV line is slow. While it has an top speed of 80km/h this is both formally lower than the mark 2 skytrain cars top speed of 90km/h, and also marks a bit of an embarrasement – since a major advantage of using conventional AC motors is that linear induction propulsion has theoretical limits which prevent speeds much over 90km/h from being achieved. But perhaps more important, it hardly even reached its operating speed since the track is so festooned with bends. Riding the Expo line after getting off the RAV line at Waterfront Station felt like getting onto a freeway after getting off a city street – on that line you feel like you are being wooshed along, but on the RAV line you feel like the train is constantly slowing down for bends.

Thirdly, the remote operation is inferior to the existing remote operation technology on the Expo and Millenium line. The breaks are deployed far more often (silly, since convention AC motors can perform regenerative breaking exactly as easy as a linear induction motor can), and they are deployed a seemingly silly times – like at the bottom of an incline, or in the middle of a bend.

Fourth, whereas the long fast bends on the Expo and Millenium line are curved such that the train leans into the corner to permit high speeds with lower sideways forces on the wheels – this does not seem to have been done on the RAV line. My only guess here is that the corners are so tight and sudden that such engineering was simply not feasible. However, trundling through curvy tunnels at low speed with passangers being pushed from side to side rather than down into their seats makes the RAV line feel more like a glorified undergound streetcar than a subway.

However, all of these criticisms are really not so important because the ride only takes 25 minutes end to end. Still, having ridden it, I can’t help but think they could have shaved 5 minutes off the trip if it had been an NDP led cost-overun project run by engineers rather than accountants.

Bouncing Around B.C.

In the last short while I’ve been to Victoria, Chemainus and Vancouver sleeping on couches all the way. Here were some of the highlights:

Driving furniture from North Vancouver to Victoria and nearly missing the last ferry.

Couch surfing in Victoria at Erin and Andrew’s flat when 3 other people had the same idea.

Visiting my grandmother in Chemainus, visiting Oak Bay, and catching the Dayliner back to Victoria.

Dancing and Swans – honestly, this might be the best bar in B.C.

Going to question period and being even more dissapointed than I expected I’d be.

Being on top at the front of the double decker bus from Victoria to the Ferry. Especially when the driver nodded off and nearly plowed into the divider in the centre of the freeway at 90km/h.

Walking from Airport Station to Bridgeport station out of spite because I refuse to take the 98 B line now that it is defunct.

Continually getting confused and thinking it was prom at Pat’s going-away “Prom” themed party.

Booking my ticket back to Ontario weeks after telling people I had booked it.

Playing and listening to Jazz with Alex, while waiting for Maria to text me from the AC/DC concert.

Going to bed, happily knowing I’ve seen and spent time with at least most of my Vancouver friends before heading back to Ontario.

Point Roberts – International Boundary Vacation Zone

Last weekend I had the good fortune to be invited to a friend’s beachhouse in Point Roberts, just across the border from Twassen, British Columbia. The border, viewed from Google Maps is quite a distinctive sight – full modern development on the north side gives way to 50’s beach houses and forest cover just south of the border. This distinctive difference is felt much more intensly in person. Crossing the border is always a magical experience – both sides are already halfway to the other, a kind of in-between space where everyone is on the way to somewhere else. But Point Roberts doesn’t even conform to this odd norm – once you cross the border you are already at your destination. Sort of an American Canada – you purchase fuel in US dollars, but in units of liters rather than gallons. The residents have no choice to submit to a sort of perpetual invasion – the clerk may have an opinion on some visitors’ poor understanding of English – but it seems futile, like a shopkeeper in occupied France complaining about the German soldiers’ poor grasp of French.

The border itself is guarded but not fortified. At the beach, we sat and floated in the water literaly less than 100 feet from the Candian border. The borer is not marked with a fence or even an angry sign – just a concrete lighthouse like structure emblazened with a “C”. If one didn’t know this was an international border, there would be no reason to assume that the “C” stood for the name of a country or that it was anything but a navigational marker.

The point is home mostly to summer cottages. I thought initially that this was pointless – why have a cottage in what is effectively suburban Vancouver? Boy was I wrong – the international border makes certain not only that development on the south side of the line is more New England than Suburban Vancouver, but also that a strange force isolates you from the rest of the lower mainland. While you may be able to see the Alex Fraser bridge, it is disconnected from your reality – like East from West Berlin standing next to each other, no wall, but the same mysterious groundless arbitrary yet perfect and unchanging borderline.

Summer Ponderings, Existential Crisis, Meaning and Purpose

“Back in touch”

This summer I have not spent much time reading and writing. In other words, I have not done much philosophy. I’ve found myself wondering, “What is the point of philosophy?”, “What is philosophy for?”. Of course, easy and bad answers to these questions exist. The usual solution is to posit some principle which you accept as unconditionally valuable and true and them demonstrating some sort of philosophy as a means to it. For instance, if you think politics or global warming or math or physics is really important, I could probably show you why we need philosophy. But this isn’t, and can’t be a serious way of responding to the initial question, “What is the point of philosophy?” because philosophy has in it the notion that all values and beliefs must be put into question. Therefore, attempting to justify philosophy externally requires either an infinite regress, or a suspension of philosophy. In other words, if philosophy is putting everything, even one’s most deeply held beliefs into question, what can the purpose or value of philosophy be? The answer is not difficult – philosophy is valueable in itself and without it, nothing has value. This truth is preserved in worn out catchphrases like Socrates’ “The unexamined life is not worth living”, and Kant’s “Know thyself”.

But the value of philosophy cannot be discovered through catchphrases anymore than the safe operation of complex machinery. In each case what is in question is a practice much more complex than the simple labels we use to refer it. And if the value of philosophy is knowable only through the practice of philosophy, we should not expect to be able to express it adequately in writing. We should not be able to refer to it, but only engage in it.

And yet, this summer has been a summer of abandonment. Perhaps philosophy is only important and fulfilling as long as one continuously engages in it. But in that case, is it just a cult?

It is not as if I’ve stopped doing philosophy because I’ve found some more worthwhile practice to engage in. Or even to consider engaging in. When people ask me, “What would you do if you weren’t going to grad school?”, I haven’t the slightest idea. Very few professions seem worthwhile enough to engage in today. I can’t help but ask myself – sure, being a railway engineer or an architect or an environmental planner are important, but what serious difference would be made in the world if I took up any of those professions? And – to examine the unjustified assumption therein – what is the point of making a difference in the world? To make it better? Who’s “better”? Is that a desire or an obligation?

The answer I come to in these lines of questioning is that without a transcendent Purpose held above all others the value of which is not put into question, whether that be called God or the universal salvation of humanity or continued progress and the end of poverty or freedom or democracy or preventing global warming, then no purposes or values retain the kind of solidity we unjustifiably want when we try to give our life meaning. Meaning does not actually reside in ends but in ongoing activity, our day to day practices, our vacations, our social, intellectual, emotive life.

It is worthwhile to ask what we mean when we say “X gives life meaning”? Do we mean life means X? It seems rather it means life with the addition of X, life gains the quality of “worthwhileness”. But what is worthwhileness? Is it only the absence of existential crisis!?

In Being and Time, Heidegger argues that we fill our life up with occupations, everyday busyness and tasks, and thereby come to ignore that it is us with reference to which these are meaningful. The ignorance of the self as the locus of value is associated with inauthenticity and avoiding existential angst. So, according to that, worthwhileness looks very much like the stuff we fill life up with in order to avoid the fundamental mood of man’s existence.

So, the opportune question arises – is philosophy merely another means of busyness by which to avoid the unpleasant angst which collects man whenever he cannot preoccupy himself? Is it merely the most enlightened way for those that know of God’s death to wait for their own?

A response that has quite a bit of popularity is a sort of back-to-the-land movement in philosophy: “Theory must be grounded in reality!”. This is stupid for two reasons – first because reality is through and through theoretical, and secondly because traditional philosophy wanted nothing other than to know the really real (i.e. for Plato the most real thing is the forms, and the purpose of philosophy is to become acquainted with the forms). (Contemporary physics is incidentally fully Platonic – they are only interested in the forms matter takes on – its shapes, its properties – what is measurable in essence. The idea that the ideal or the formal is disconnected from the real and “abstract”, spoken from contemporary materialism, is nothing but ideological hypocrisy).

My summer has largely been characterized with trying to get “back to the land” in its own ways – traveling across the country by van (and soon by rail), visiting friends in Vancouver and Victoria, spending time at the cabin. Taking the road less traveled has been the watchword – trying to notice the quality of where I am. Trying to find where we are in history, what is history? What is the past? Where is it for us? Where is the future? Always, always trying to find the future. Doing philosophy by doing, in other words is, perhaps, what I’ve been doing. What have I learned? Not nothing. To start I’ve learned that our time is obsessed with its history, usually only insofar as it can remain mysterious and not understood. Perhaps for us history is characterized by wonder. Perhaps wonder at the non-eternity of the present – even the lingering of the past in the present, the non-ability of the present to cover over everything, demonstrates the contingency of the present and hints at the future.

My summer has been a summer of content. Doing things, seeing people. Although, since I haven’t been working very hard I sometimes find that I have less to talk about. Since the “less” I have to talk about is philosophy, this probably makes me more likable.

As I’m writing this entry, the Dayliner is about to arrive in Victoria station. Summing up then – have I come to any conclusions? The purpose of philosophy can’t be anywhere outside philosophy, but philosophy is over. The obvious solution is to become some sort of teacher of philosophy (they teach dead languages after all), although this solution is nothing like “correct” since it requires positing values like “awareness” and “sharing” which themselves can be interrogated and lack stability. A summer of content leads to less content (cries of “get a job!”).

But then, the solution appears immediate and obvious – the purpose is flourishing. This cannot be argued (although many try). Community’s of reciprocal capability – this is the point of a department/office/social network. The key is, without the recognition that the subject is the value-er, the origin of value, one remains in a continuous search for transcendental justification (philosophy). But since all transcendental signifiers – purposes which cannot themselves be put into question (i.e. God or the salvation of mankind) make the basic mistake of pushing the origin of meaning outside the subject they remain engaged in curiosity, occupying oneself to cover up the angst which is man’s basic emotive attitude towards his own location in the nexus of meaning as value-er.

The main objection to solution as “flourishing” – for the Greeks eudaimonia is not “flourishing” because it applies immediately to the eternal and only derivatively to being-in-activity inasmuch as being engaged in an activity can be thought analogously to be aeonic (eternal time, time of ages) as opposed to chronic (clock time). Counter objection: eternity and the chronic are both contingent modalities of temporality. No reason “being well” must be thought primarily in any particular temporal modality. Today, “well” replaced by value, by normativity. Today eternity replaced by future as primary authentic modality. Today, flourishing must be futuristic – but what is the future today? The past recapitulated? The radical new? (Here – more space for thinking).

The Ol’ Swimmin Hole

Last night Emily, Dave and I went up to the little inlet on Allouette lake for some swimmin’ and some jumpin’. It’s a good little place, the kind of place you can overcome your fear of heights or cold water. Pretty popular as well – we saw several other groups of young people up for some wholesome fun. Since I’ve already posted the google map coordinates of this place I won’t tell you where it is again, but I do encourage any lower mainlanders to check it out if they are reading this.

Dave poses in midair
Dave poses in midair

Summer Photos

Earlier this summer I drove across Canada with my brother, posting pictures along the way. I didn’t get around to posting the 3rd set of photos online, but I have now. It includes photos from hipsterriffice Saskatoon, the West Edmonton Mall, Jasper, and the famous Mount Robson.

I also posted some photos from up at the cabin, including an album of some back road exploring Simon and I did with the Previa up at the cabin, and a old shack up at the north end of East Barriere lake. There are also some shots from visiting Sara’s cabin on Saturna, and some hiking my father and I did up the Coquihalla highway.

A swimming hole at Allouette Lake

This evening my mother and I took advantage of the new Golden Ears bridge to visit Allouette lake. While the day use area at the south end of the lake is not terribly interesting, we found a wonderful spot near the north beach campground:

This protected inlet is a wonderful little swimming hole, with clear deep water and some short cliffs of which you can jump (I couldn’t resist). The water is luminescent green colour, due either to glacier run off, or perhaps reflected light from the trees.