an idea

Just to show you and persuade myself that I’ve not been thinking exclusively about immediate matters, and matters of immediate survival.

A DIGRESSION: THE ALIEN WITHIN

Those other things that I’ve been thinking about or with which my mind’s been occupied (as these two thing aren’t necessarily identical; there’s some intersection, though): what between teaching-work, FREN102-coordination work, and the looming shadows of what the blinking heck I will be doing as of the end of June this year, and if our Permanent Residency applications will be approved, and if so when. There have been more-than-valid reasons for all sorts of things and for the absence of all sorts of other things: and I do mean reasons, not excuses. Or, in the words of a colleague who organised a research-celebrating exercise (quibbling here re. the phrase “valid excuse”), which turned out to be worth my missing lunch (again! on which more below!!) as it was based on some rather unexpected ideas about research activity, and further to which there was some interesting conversation…:

Adding a tangent and cautionary tale here:

  • January 2010: completed paperwork submitted to the UBC HR office that deals with such matters as soon as we were permitted to do so—6 months after entry to this fair land—c/o Provincial Nominee programme.
  • (some glitches and hiccoughs happened along the way: papers sent to wrong address [one at which we’d never lived], names mispelled, dates and places of birth, etc. all of which delayed matters)
  • further paperwork for obtaining criminal record checks from everywhere we’d lived for 6 months or more since the age of 18
  • January 2011: receipt of complete application acknowledged by the pertinent CIC office
  • (tempted to break open the champagne, we bravely hold off…)
  • early October 2011: the last box ticked, medical exams
  • February 2012: we try to ascertain the state and status of our applications, but despite using the online search with assorted combinations and permutations of numbers and other data (The Beloved’s name mispelled, first name/surname order reversed, etc.) there is no trace of our file/case number.
  • Panic.
  • Call the number attached to the website.
  • The number leads us to a recorded message, instructing us to go to the website.
  • Panic.
  • The Beloved emails. An answer arrives: we and our files do still exist, and are being processed.
  • Current processing time: around 13-15 months. So fingers crossed, we’ll find out by April/May or thereabouts. Meanwhile, the current mental state of the applicants varies:
    • panic and what my mother refers to as “a tizzy” (thoughts go around in dizzying circles, in a downward spiralling movement)
    • fear and trepidation
    • the unknown, deep uncertainty, and troubled-ness: no news is good news? no news is bad news? no news is no news and we don’t exist any more, we’re non-persons? eeeps and accompanying existential crises???
    • over-analysis: no news, etc., as above + it’s part of a test
    • descent into superstition: talking about it to exorcise demons / keep them at bay; not talking so as not to influence them or draw attention to us
    • keeping thoughts at bay, avoiding, pretending they’re not there. Out of sight, out of mind.
    • I’m dreaming or hallucinating: we didn’t submit it, it got lost, we’re not here, we’re plugged into a wall in the Matrix, etc…
    • calm: we have done all we can, we are good people who haven’t done anything bad and who are contributing constructively to this fair and pleasant land, and have potential aplenty to make more contributions
    • calm and quietude: it is out of our hands, there is nothing we can do
  • Please do cross your virtual fingers for us, prayers also gratefully accepted: whatever my own beliefs or lack thereof, the state of panic that this sort of situation causes means that your finger-crossing and praying are at least as likely to influence events as anything we have actually, actively, constructively done.

All very Medieval: questing, crises, Trials and Tribulations, the testing of faith and fortitude, pleas for mercy and clemency and for the prayers of the well-intentioned.

Also, that’s now two years since we first put in the paperwork. We started working on the paperwork in our first few months here. It’s been hanging over us for our entire life in this country. If you’re in the same situation, please: do yourselves a favour and start your paperwork now!!!

TRANSCENDING DIGRESSION: ABOVE AND BEYOND

There may be some connection bringing the following things together:

  • official acknowledgement of the actual real existence of our application
  • the UFO session: I promised I’d say, then had to think about and say, Some Words. Turned out to be about two bits of work in progress. One of them the book. Both it and the other thing involving UFOs in the dictionary-definition sense (once a philologist, always a philologist) and that section of my theoretical research that deals with speculative/science-fiction. Brain got kick-started into working more on how the assorted parts of theoretical research (plus their practical/applied aspects) come together. It may be an interesting new theory, we’ll see; I can’t promise how Medieval or Medievalist it can count as being, but I can say for sure that it’s shaping up, pulling together, and definitely meta-meta-medieval
  • huzzah yippee yay news about Uitti Festschift 2.0 and its imminent publication. As with permanent residency, I had sort of started to think that I’d imagined it all (and maybe even imagined being at Princeton and working with him) and was maybe going a teeny weeny bit bonkers. These things do happen. Or, better—and showing the joys of translation, as even a simple direct one can change loading, connotation, implications—ça arrive (plus Gallic shrug)
  • the clocks went forward today to Spring Time, and it’s been a spring-like day

Resulting in updates to this site today: general tidying-up and spring cleaning, reorganization and maintenance and construction, and the writing of some new content.

Ah yes, there was an idea.

That idea, now.

Here we go.

THE FOOD PROBLEM

UBC has a food crisis. There aren’t enough places to eat on campus, and there’s too many people trying to eat there. Many of the places are crap. Some are badly run, too. Meanwhile, in common with many faculty, I have a very short window of opportunity for the obtaining of food. I don’t want to bring in sandwiches and have them go soggy in the fridge, and I don’t have time to go home for lunch.

My New Year’s Resolution was to try to have lunch every day, and to do so more or less at lunchtime as much as possible/feasible. It’s not been entirely successful so far. Which probably isn’t helping the whole brain-situation.

UBC is of course aware of the problem. Here’s some old corrrespondence (names have been changed to protect third parties):

Date: July 21, 2011 8:41:37 AM PDT
To: […]
Subject: UBC Broadcast E-mail: Closure of Vancouver Campus White Spot

To: Members of the University Community

Please be advised that the existing White Spot restaurant will be closed after
service on Friday July 29th.  Unfortunately, operational challenges associated
with this full service location have led us to implement a change for the
upcoming fall term.

The campus community has been incredibly supportive of the White Spot brand and
has embraced the tradition and history of this legendary BC icon.  With that in
mind, we will be transitioning this location to a Triple O’s concept, still
under the White Spot brand family.  This will provide faster and more efficient
service times, allowing for more guests to enjoy the legendary flavours of this
brand.

For guests who desire a full service dining experience, please visit our other
campus restaurants at:

Sage Bistro
University Centre
6331 Crescent Road
Hours: 11:30 am – 2:00 pm
Monday to Friday

Point Grill
Marine Drive Residence Bldg 4
2205 Lower Mall
Hours: 9:30 am – 10:00 pm
Monday to Friday

We thank everyone for their continued support and look forward to launching
this new operation in time for the return of the students for the fall term.

If you have any questions, comments or concerns, please feel free to contact me
at […]

Sincerely,

[…]

Dear […],

Thank you for the information. It’s sad that White Spot is closing, and even sadder that a decision has been taken to replace it with Triple O.

I regret that shall not be patronizing it for the following reasons:
1. it offers only one option for vegetarians;
2. it offers nothing that isn’t already offered by the AMS-run burger place in the SUB. I would rather give my business to them, to support my University community.

It would be great if maybe whoever is in charge of such decision-making in the future might consider the following options:
1. a wider range of foods and cuisines;
2. not replicating what’s already on offer elsewhere on campus, and entering directly into competition with them (after all, a burger joint is a burger joint and smells as sweet…);
3. offering some, shall we say, more grown-up choices for grown-ups, and at a range of prices that are in line with the cost of eating out elsewhere in Vancouver?
Sage is fairly nice, not very exciting, but the same price as or more expensive than better, more creative, seriously gastronomic places off-campus (ex. CRU, Raincity Grill–even Cactus Club Café!!).
Point Grill is only a fraction of a cut above the standard of Mahoney’s Pub;
4. improving service; calling this a “full service dining experience” is a joke. Having said that, on a positive note: a visiting colleague who is a part-time stand-up comedian has indeed incorporated some of his Sage “experience” into his routine.
5. improving hours: if this is a “dining experience,” it should include normal civilized human dining hours. This was true of White Spot, is true of Point Grill, but is not true of Sage.

In the meantime, I’m afraid that I shall be doing most of eating out, and especially dining–including wining and dining visitors–elsewhere.

Yours sincerely,

Juliet O’Brien

Dear Juliet,

Thank you for your comments and your perspective.  It is difficult to find the most appropriate fit for the entire campus community and I would not argue that there is duplication of services within the campus.  In terms of a wider range of foods and cuisines, I would defend what is offered within our operations as being quite diverse.

In terms of supporting the University community, UBC Food Service outlets are part of the University community, are staffed by CUPE 116 employees and AAPS members, provide social and informal learning opportunities throughout the campus and provide a dividend back to the University to support the core academic mission.  I am not sure if there is a perception that these are run by an outside company or not, but thought I would share that perspective with you.

We are also aware of the pricing of our competitors, on and off campus and do try to maintain it as much as possible, even given the fact that our wage rates are much higher than those operating in non-union environments.

Thanks again for your comments.  We will take them into consideration with future developments.

Sincerely,

[…]

Dear […],

Many thanks for your prompt and courteous reply. I am of course glad that you’re still employing CUPE & AAPS people–I’d heard about this from colleagues, re. past history from before the advent of White Spot.

I do not see how a burger-chain fits in with “a wider range of foods and cuisines [that is] quite diverse,” given the cultural diversity of Vancouver (let alone the world). If there is to be reduplication of a cuisine already covered in the SUB, why burgers? Why not (the 101 varieties of) Chinese, Japanese? Not covered on campus: Thai, Vietnamese, proper decent Italian (not Chicago-style pizza…), Spanish, Mexican (except for several dishes at the Pendulum), Argentinian, Caribbean, good Indian (let alone, again, the 101 regional varieties thereof), Pakistani, Bangladeshi,…

For a different idea of what diverse cuisine means, which might perhaps be useful for future reference, I would suggest having a look at what one of my previous employers are doing. I was exposed to the full range of food available, as faculty and as a graduate student, and had also eaten the undergraduate food (c/o volunteering–French conversation-table):
http://www.princeton.edu/facilities/info/dining/
http://www.princeton.edu/facilities/info/dining/retail/frist/
http://www.princeton.edu/facilities/info/audiences/faculty_and_staff/campus_eateries/
And that’s in a far less ethnically and culturally diverse part of the world than Vancouver…

Of these: Prospect House is somewhat like Sage; but its Tap Room
http://www.princeton.edu/prospecthouse/taproom.html
has no equivalent at UBC. This is the sort of place that would be a very welcome addition and fill a niche that’s currently unoccupied. Being faculty- and staff-only would also mean that those of us who have narrow lunch-schedule windows due to teaching and other commitments would actually stand a chance of being able to eat at lunchtime; when I have a gap between 12 noon and 1 p.m., that’s not long enough  either for eating at Sage (what with its “full service”), or for the line-ups at the SUB.

I hope that’s useful. My own best lunchtime option remains University Village sushi: nothing as good as Vancouver sushi, even the basic stuff, anywhere I’ve lived and worked before!

Best wishes,

Juliet

Hi!
Wow – I love constructive dialogue!!  Thank you for sharing those links and references – I will be sure to check them out.  Given the time of year that this announcement has gone out, I am receiving some feedback from a number of faculty members and am picking up a definite theme of a need for a better defined faculty space.  With the constantly changing landscape of the campus, we are always looking at ways to improve services and will keep this in mind for future developments.
Thanks again!
[…]

Hi […]–
Glad to be of service! I’m also glad you’re getting plenty constructive feedback; after all, it ‘s no good to anyboey just to complain; or indeed to gripe to colleagues. A lack of response or non-useful ones must be frustrating for you. For which you have all my sympathy!
All the best,
Juliet

I miss Princeton so badly… and that’s not even before we get on to Bent Spoon (swoon), Olive’s, Small World Coffee, Tiger Noodles (and their home-style noodles, General Tso’s Tofu, and wondrous noodle soups), Old World Pizza (some of the best I’ve had outside Italy FFS), and the Little Chef (not the UK motorway chain, but a Paris-trained pâtissier).

THE FOOD SOLUTION

In two words.

FOOD CARTS.

They’re chic. Trendy. There’s a whole programme on assorted food TV stations, devoted exclusively to them. And they’re plentiful in Vancouver. Hot hot hot in all ways. Beauties like Korean/Mexican hybrids (kimchi in burritos: delish).

It’s the way forward. Just one thing that can be taken from Cambridge, something that contributes to its being one of the top universities in the world (usually #1, to be fair): The Death Van and The Van Of Life. The other factors? Again, UBC, look and learn:

  • bookshops are called “bookshops” or “booksellers”; people who sell tourist tat and brand-y stuff reside in the market, or it’s a sideline for outfitters, tailors, and other sellers of clothing; and of corner-shops etc.
  • the university library has a café / restaurant / tea-room
  • there is a proliferation of pubs, plus college bars
  • and an independent arts cinema (OK, no longer fully indie: part of an indie chain)
  • intellectual life goes on outside the hours writ down on your timetable: including for faculty, not just a 9-5 job then extracurricular = commuting + home. There’s places for that hybrid activity of intellectualizing (intellectual socializing) to be conducted
  • amongst which: pub quizzes
  • in essence: intellectual life and culture.

All this is possible here in Van. People, cafés, café culture, book culture, literacy, literate life… including of course local world-class richness in games & gaming, speculative fiction, and poetry. It’s a far nicer place and climate than Cambridge. The food’s infinitely superior (apart from not having a 24/7 presence in what’s supposed to be a thriving intellectual hive).

The Beloved and I have talked about this idea a fair amount. We also have a bit of a habit of bending others’ ears about it… so consider this post as an official apology from me if I’ve been waxing too earnestly zealous-missionary about food carts as salvation and redemption.

Bringing back in the digression at the beginning of this post: if you see me selling veggie hotdogs outside Buchanan Tower this time next year: consider that an elegantly circular postscript…

5 comments

    1. And you’ll be delighted to know that my criminal records are impeccable, i.e. non existent, everywhere I’ve lived! I was delighted with the Belgian one: my casier judiciaire comes up with the following mention:
      NÉANT
      being I do believe the main other use of the term outside existentialist thought!!!
      O, the happiness: when art is reflected in life, as well as the usual and more expected relation going in the opposite direction.

  1. Is there a business school, a nutrition section and a food college nearby? Can they run a series of 3-month pop-up restaurants? Clearly there are a lot of hungry students and faculty desperate for some wholesome, tasty lunches, and somewhere out there are some budding cooks/catering managers keen to share their food/love with you all and who would gain a lot of experience from this …

    Or there is the option of forming a rota collective with your colleagues, and bringing in your own baked goods to share on a Tuesday … or could you arrange a takeaway delivery rota?

    Or better still, could you + Sig Other take a sabbatical and run a nut-burger van, quietly blasting out a northern soul/smooth sax solo soundtrack, surrounded by weather-proof beanbags, heatlamps and daisies? If you did that I would consider moving continent to be close to the Soul Source (c) ™.

    (And no, i never again want to have to boil eggs for 40+ people, peel over 20kg of spuds at a time, face the quivering nightmare of a 10kg tub of Hellman’s mayo or face the towering tin mountain at Costco).

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