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AF-S VRI Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8G IF-ED

I’ve been slacking off when it comes to updating. When I’ve said time and time again, I’d be updating my blogs on a regular basis; it’s really a tall order. I hope that in buying a $2000 lens is not an excuse for an update.

After acquiring a low-end Nikkor glass in the form of 70-210mm f/4-5.6, I knew I wouldn’t be using this lens for very long. I had got that lens (in exchange for my 28mm prime and 24-50/3.3-4.5 mid-zoom and cash) in early August, days after Nikon had announced the revamped pro 70-200/2.8 VR. It was a stop-gap while I saved up for said new lens.

Thing was, the new glass is going to cost nearing $3000CAD. and from mid-August even up to days before my eventual purchase, I constantly flip-flopped on which 2.8 version to get. Ultimately, I came to a conclusion, in opting for the significantly inexpensive VRI version, any possible funds which would’ve originally gone towards the VRII version, now goes to upgrading to a shiny new FX body sometime in the Q1 of 2010.

A full-time telephoto is still getting used to. For almost the entire year, I’ve been using focal lengths from the 20 to the 85mm range, so framing shots at 100-200mm is still a bit new. The first thing that’s clearly obvious is its size. 8cm longer than the 24-70/2.8 (recessed to 50mm focal length) and 1.25lbs heavier this is a beast! I had to change the way I wear my camera from neck to “messenger-bag style”. and that’s getting used to as well.

I have yet to put it through the ringer, but rest assured it’ll likely outlast me! I hope to check back later on in the coming weeks for a bit more detailed impression.

Comm'l Bdway *shakes head*

I’ve constantly voiced my displeasure about this particular issue on my Twitter account (@kurichan_), on how such a company can make such shortcuts to something so simple. Upon hearing about the station name change in late August (merging Millennium Line’s Commercial Drive and Expo Line’s Broadway Stations to the hub now known as Commercial-Broadway), it’s sad to say that the first thing that came to my mind that it was expected the destination signage of routes #9 and the #99 B-line would be shortened much like it’s name before it (previously read on buses [for B-Line express buses] as “BWAY STN”).

Sure enough, I was right, and I was furious upon seeing it for the first time (after receiving a tweet from my brother about it). This is 2009. Storefront LEDs have more capabilities (namely scrolling, among others) than the junk affixed to buses right now. Not only that, most of the new buses (trolleys, natural gas buses and articulate buses (both diesel and hybrid) TransLink has received have ranged from a few months to at most from 3 years ago (dating back to the pilot #2101 trolley).

So recently the Commercial-Broadway hub needed a makeover, replacing signs, renovating the Expo Line side. And to correspond to signage on buses, the SkyTrain stations will now need to change their signage again. (see photo above)

This isn’t the first time a faux pas like this has happened. Buses bound for West Coast Express station and exchange, Coquitlam Station have the dubious distinction of the unthinkable “COQ STN”.


Photo: BusShots (via flickr)

However compared to other station names with a similar number of letters (8 or 9) thankfully haven’t gotten the “txt-like” signage (eg, Brentwood, Metrotown, Lougheed, to name a couple). So why do the 2 stations in question have incoherent babble displayed when it can easily be displayed in full. Many have joked that TransLink had hired a savvy 15-yr old to type up the signage. Plus I wouldn’t be surprised if it had something to do with costs.

I must’ve lost my fanboyism to transit in Vancouver upon returning home from Japan in May, because now I see that flaws in this system (and there are many) stick out like a sore thumb.

The significance of such a minor issue like the misspelling of a station name is great because this shows if one cannot properly correct a simple thing like this, I’d hate to see how they deal with the bigger problems. Oh wait.

I can’t believe it’s been more than a month since I last bought a figurine, but it seems I overlooked adding Kagami figma, which I bought in late August) to the blog. Here is her gallery:

Hiiragi Kagami (柊かがみ)

Continued from post below:
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The in-train announcements come off way too short, and timing is just off. First off, for accessibility purposes, the announcements do miss a key component. For those who are visually impaired, tourists or practically anyone not familiar to the area, the lack of, “the doors on the right/left side will open” are missed; not only that, commuters standing near said doors will know which door does open at a certain station and therefore may be less annoyed to see a herd of people wanting to get off. The announcement of “This train is for Richmond-Brighouse/YVR-Airport/Waterfront” should be played back when the train is stopped at the stations, not seconds after the train departs from said stations. However, in the case of the latter, some additional information should be added to that announcement from the more major stations (Waterfront, Vancouver City Centre, Broadway City Hall, Marine Drive, Bridgeport for example), such as other stations of note that the train is bound for. So something like this (from Waterfront):
“This is the Canada Line train, bound for Broadway-City Hall, Oakridge-41st, Marine Drive, Richmond-Brighouse. The next station is [Vancouver City Centre]”
and when nearing the station itself:
“We will be arriving at [Vancouver City Centre] shortly, the doors on the left side will open.”

I joked if TransLink had paid the voice of SkyTrain Laureen Regan by the word as the reasoning behind why the announcements were so bare-bones.

Other known announcements would include notifications where the priority seats are for the elderly, handicapped, expecting mothers, and passengers accompanying small children. It may seem like a mouthful, but to attain competence as a company, you need to cover your bases. And yes, this does extend to the Expo and Millennium lines too.

Now to an issue pertaining to the rush hour crunch (again). Regardless of station, the time unloading/reloading of passengers is at a blazing 8-10 seconds. Not good. As you’d be expecting crowds, big or small, waiting at stations, it’ll take the allotted time just for the unload, then a few more seconds for the reload. As an automated system, this is a big problem, because what happens, passengers will just hold the door open anyway to allow most, if not all passengers to get on board–delaying the train anyway. And since it being an automated system, there wouldn’t be a chance for full-time attendants to let the conductor know that all passengers are safely on board. Of course that goes back to train selection, automated or otherwise.

Jumping back up to the station concourses, there should be the next train LED board up on the concourse, adjacent to fare machines and eventual faregates. A small addition but needed.

Back down to the platform once more is positioning labels on the platform noting passengers where to stand whenever the train arrives. Since they only use one kind of train, it’s easier to implement. Or if you want to one up that, install automatic platform gates. This enables passengers where to board and possible jumpers. This covers a whole area of future problems.

This pretty much covers what I thought would’ve been a short post but expanded to a two-parter. If I have more beefs (which I’m sure I will), an additional inset post will be added in the near future.

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While as not to get too in deep here, as Metro Vancouver’s newest rapid transit line, the Canada Line is now over a month into revenue service, certain things are being put through the microscope. What is missing, what can be improved, and what may or will happen in the not too distant future will be put into question. This is clearly through my perspective, and some may not agree though.

Now at first glance when you first step into one of the 16 stations along the Canada Line, euphoria sets in. You can’t help but gaze in awe of what $2 billion does. The trains are, for the most part, clean, and quiet. While you down your Jugo Juice heading to the city centre you think to yourself, “My God, why didn’t we get this sooner?!”. Step back to reality.

There is an immediate problem here, and we shall start in the process of entering a station.
All but 5 stations (Waterfront, Vancouver City Centre*, Bridgeport, Sea Island Way and YVR-Airport) have only 1 entrance. And since most are situated adjacent to a street corner, it would make sense to have added a second entrance on the opposite corner– convenient for bus stops close to the stations. It doesn’t have to be extravagant as the main entrance, even just a small ubiquitous glass-housed sheltered stairwell heading underground (if applicable). Since the line itself wasn’t built in the ground lower than it is (only about 25m burrowed if I’m not mistaken), It wouldn’t work and thus unlikely for a re-fit later on.
*During business hours, entrances from Vancouver Centre and Pacific Centre are open.

Faregates. There was an issue on why it wasn’t installed on launch day (either time constraints or money, likely the latter). TransLink plans to have them installed on Canada Line stations in 2010, and existing Expo and Millennium Line stations in the near future. All this talk about fare evasion, this would’ve been a chance to do something about it. In regards to this, for the entire revenue day (around 4.30am – 1.30am) there should be at least 1 attendant either near the future faregates, or somewhere in the vicinity. Most often a Transit attendant present is sparse. Of course, the implementation of faregates, would mean a new fare system (as apposed to the 90-minute tickets), but that’s for another topic.

No growth for retail opportunities in the station itself. Sure, you have Jugo Juice in pretty much every station, but this would have been prime opportunity to have a multitude of businesses operating, occupying an otherwise empty, cold and, let’s face it, bland interior the Canada Line provides. This is especially true to high occupancy stations such as Broadway City Hall and Vancouver City Centre Station (save for adjacent shopping centres).

*This is more of an irk I see when approaching the platform, as for station signage, it doesn’t mention the previous or next station anywhere (and I don’t mean those red signs on the far ends). So let’s take a page from Japan’s JR system; picture it: you’re on Shibuya Station on the Yamanote Line. Assuming you’re going clockwise, the next station would be Harajuku, while the station inbound was Ebisu (noted in a faded text). As a tourist, for example, it would serve a benefit for what it’s worth.

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Now to the platform itself. At a mere 40 metres in length, the platform itself spans just about the entire length of the 2-car Hyundai Rotem train. Now, TransLink can expand it to 50 metres in the future but really, it won’t make a significant difference from the original 40m. This comes from the original planning, and the choice of trains (over, say Bombardier, maker of the Expo and Millennium Line trains). As the platforms for the Expo and Millennium Lines being expanded to cover either a 6 car MK II or 8 car MK I, this is the end o’ the line in terms of the platforms for the Canada Line. Minimal expansion + Population Growth – Discontinued Bus Routes + Olympics = Busy. The tunnels themselves have a lifespan of 100 years. In a fraction of that, population in Metro Vancouver will most certainly rise significantly

Speaking of the discontinued (or rerouted) bus routes, *cough*98, 311, 351, 352, 354, 424, 488, 490, 491, 492, 496, 601, 602, 603, 604*cough*, It creates a massive bottleneck at Bridgeport Station. With only the #480 UBC/Richmond – Brighouse Sta the only bus route connecting Richmond & Vancouver. Suppose a major incident or track malfunction occurs at practically any of the stations, this creates a complete shutdown. And guaranteed, the happenings will be a common sight.

The trains themselves are Hyundai-Rotem, as opposed to using Bombardier. And much like the station interiors, the train’s interiors are just as bland, cold, plain, and sterile (well, not anymore). While the train is noticeably wider than the MK I and MK II SkyTrain, the seating arrangements and bar placements are off the mark. Bench seating across the entire train, and bars overhead with swinging drop handles allow for more standees, Instead the majority are front facing seats. While there are LED destination signs inside the train, there are no sign of LCDs for digital ads, station maps, station info, etc. What replaces it is a slide in sheet of a rudimentary map of Metro Vancouver.

Part 2 coming soon.

Otaku stop #2: Beans Toys

The ongoing search for otakudom continues, entering Aberdeen Centre in Richmond, BC to a small shop called Beans Toys. While the selection isn’t as grand as JHobby, it does have one selling factor: Blythes! Yes, Beans sells, albeit a small range of Blythes, from the 1/6 scale dolls, to the familiar petite variety. I snagged my first one, the Night Flower version. It has a nice red coat, underneath is a lovely black dress with a cute bow around the waist and white lace trim on the top and bottom of the dress.

Also there is a 1/4 scale Suzumiya Haruhi figure in full bunny girl costume which I’ve been pining for since spotting it while I was in Japan. it’s about the same price as a 1/6 scale Blythe. decisions, decisions…

But speaking of Blythes, the gallery for my aforementioned Night Flower Blythe is now available on Flickr:
Night Flower (ナイトフラワー)

If you are in the Metro Vancouver area, and wish to check the store out, find them on the 3rd floor of Aberdeen Centre in Richmond (Canada Line — Aberdeen Station) and do check their website for any additional info:
Beans Toys

Otaku stop #1: JHobby

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From time to time, I’ll blog about happening places to further otaku your life

Stop #1 in a Vancouverite’s quest of Otaku-ness is JHobby. Off the path past Canada Line’s Aberdeen Station is a smaller shopping complex in Richmond called Union Square you’ll find JHobby. They have an array of figures straight from Japan, ranging from manga/anime series like “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya”, “Gundam Wing”, “Lupin” series among many others.

The majority of my figure shopping is done here. There is also a section of monthly specials where prices are slashed up to 50%. Bring a bib, you’ll need it.

Their website for any additional information:
http://jhobby.com/

Incidentally, the figma of Takara Miyuki was bought from JHobby and here’s the gallery:

Miyuki Takara 高良みゆき (Uploaded 25 Aug)
Takara Miyuki (高良みゆき)

Next up will be a couple shops inside Aberdeen Centre. じゃまた