twayne's blog

I Won a Prize

The email telling me I won a $50 gift card for Esso was not a scam. It looks like the kind folks at Canadian Web Hosting have rewarded me for filling out a survey.

Socialism Plus Electricity Plus Temperance Equals a Canadian Utopia


From In the new capital, or, The city of Ottawa in 1999

Socialism plus electricity plus temperance equals a Canadian Utopia.

This book published in 1897 imagines Canada in 1999 where alcohol and private property have been abolished and hydro-electricity has enabled a near utopia.

Skip ahead to the waking up in 1999 which begins on page 104 (pg. 95 of the text).

Highlights include:

Well, Baron, how is it that so many people have horseless carriages, and such pretty homes, yet they don't seem to labor much, and have so many holidays?" "That is easily explained. The great gift of electricity to us by nature assists in shortening our hours of labor, and is free to all now, but in the past it was legislated as a benefit to a few by the patent laws, and these patentees were protected by a law compelling the users to pay them their stated price, and only the rich could do it. As no monopolies or patent laws exist everybody is free to use any invention or apply it to his use. We respect foreign laws in patents, not to traffic in their patents, but may use them for private benefit, and as we have plenty of spare time we take a great pleasure of putting it in our homes and making a great study of it.
"In the past, money, which was spent in drinking habits and vice, is now spent in decorating the homes with statues, paintings, music and all results of modern arts.

pg. 118  (pg 127)

It is good to know bagpipes survive socialism.

“This is a wonderful age, but I would have thought that the great music by electricity would have super-seded the music of the bagpipes. Baron," said I.
Oh, no; you can't measure the Scotchman's love for the bag-pipes, or his ancient customs, yet he is very democratic in his ideas.

pg. 121



Great Moments in Open Data

I have been using the City of Ottawa eMap application a lot lately. It contains a lot of useful data including locations of city services, ward mappings and zoning maps. The problem is that the application itself is difficult to use and has a lousy user interface. In general one of the great things about geographic information is that it is easy to use and reuse.

Take a look at Google Maps or Google Earth and you can see all sorts of creative uses of geographic data. Not in Ottawa. The eMap web application makes it impossible (to me at least) to extract data. Even if it was possible to reuse the data, which is publicly paid for, you need to agree to a very prohibitive terms of use before getting access to the eMap application. I have copied a selection from the terms of use below.

City of Ottawa eMap Website Terms of Use

You may not copy, modify, distribute, transmit, display, reproduce, publish, license, create derivative works from, link to or frame in another website, use on any other website, transfer or sell the Site Products in whole or in part either voluntarily or by operation of law.  The foregoing prohibition expressly includes, but is not limited to, the practice of screen scraping, database scraping or any such practice or activity; the purpose of which is to obtain data or portions thereof, portions of databases from the Site, in any manner or any quantities not expressly authorized hereunder.

Makes me wonder whose data this is in the first place.

Google Maps + History

Current map of Ottawa with 1901 ward boundaries.

I assumed that the current O-Train tracks followed the previous CPR tracks.

My plan is for this to be the first map in a series of historical 'snapshots'. Here is my draft map of current Ottawa neighbourhoods. The plan is to create a high-level map and then to add sub-neighbourhods as time and resources permit. Feedback is welcome.

Downtown Ottawa Trains

With trains (potentially) making a return to Ottawa I was reminded of an image I bookmarked a few years ago. This is an image from the CN Rail Archives hosted at the Museum of Science and Technology in Ottawa.


Passenger train leaving Ottawa Union Station beside Rideau Canal

The photo caption reads:

Passenger train leaving Ottawa Union Station beside Rideau Canal
Image No.: CN000562


Notre Dame Mash-up

Update: Just in case it the origin of these two images is not clear. The current image is taken from Google Street Views and the older image is from the 1884 book Views of Ottawa which has been scanned and saved online at the Internet Archive.
Mash-up of Views of Ottawa and Google Street Views. I have a an idea for a little more creative mash-up for when I have more time.
Also I will need to improve my photo manipulation skills.


Time Travel Mash-up

Inspired by the mash-ups seen at The Torontoist and linked to by Andy I have tried to merge an image from my phone with an image from 1910 (these images can be seen at and

More coming as time permits.

One clear lesson from this is the my image manipulation skills are poor.


What's Cooking?

Here is a great cook book from 1881. I found it in the Canadian Libraries collection on the Internet Archive.


Many recipes call for a lot of boiling and vague (to me) instructions. How hot is "near the fire"? Included is everything from how to prepare pigs cheeks (pg. 111) to curing smallpox with cream of tartar (pg. 548).

I would like to know how to "brown with a salamander".


SCARLET BEEF. (pg. 95)

Old Cookery Book.


Take a piece of a breast of very fat beef ; blanch it

twenty-four hours in cold water; then drain the water

away from it, and dry it well with a cloth, rub it well

with brown sugar, salt, and saltpetre, turn it every day

for a fortnight, and then boil it, it eats very well hot with

greens, and when sliced down, makes a very pretty cold


And quite a few recipes for souse, a dish of pickled pigs parts I had never heard of before.

SOUSE (pg. 124)

Miss Beecher.


Cleanse pig's ears and feet, and soak them a week in salt

and water, changing the water every other day. Boil

eight or ten hours till tender. When cold put on salt and

hot spiced vinegar. Fry them in lard.

It begins with a discussion of coffee that contains this excellent prose.

IT is allowed that coffee promotes digestion, and ex-
hilarates the animal spirits ; besides which various
other qualities are ascribed to it, such as dispelling flatu-
lency, removing dizziness of the head, attenuating viscid
humours, increasing the circulation of the blood, and con-
sequently perspiration ; but if drank too strong, it affects
the nerves, occasions watchfulness, and tremor of the
hands ; though in some phlegmatic constitutions it is apt
to produce sleep..

To view the text you will need to magnify (use the + button on the top left). I have embedded the Internet Archive text using the Iframe Drupal module.

Using New Technology to Look at Old Buildings

While the time machine is still waiting to be invented, I have been having fun with a few bits of new technology to look at some old and new sites.

First, I have been spending some time looking at the holdings of the Internet Archive. This is a fantastic organization that is dedicated to offering permanent access to many collections of digital/digitized content. I have previously used the site's Way Back Machine to look at older versions of web sites and sometimes to find old versions of software. I had not spent too much time looking at the other holdings. As well as the Way Back Machine, the Internet Archive hosts extensive collections of moving images, texts, software and audio.

For someone as curious and distractible as I am, this has become a bottomless pit of interesting archived material. My current list of bookmarked pages can be found at The finding aids are poor when compared to a reference desk at an archive, but good enough for my purposes. In the texts collection most items are accessible online (using good page turning software) and can be downloaded in multiple formats.

While browsing a booklet ( I recognized old views of familiar Toronto buildings and street scenes. Curious as to how these scenes currently look, I browsed maps of the same places with Google Street View. Google Street View is flexible enough that I was able to recreate many of the views from the archived texts. My first attempt at matching an old image to a current street view (and still one of my favourites) was the corner of Huron and Bloor, near where I grew up. Finding the right Street View image to match the old photos is pretty fun (for me). The only picture I actually took was for a view of the canal in Ottawa that Street View didn't have. I used this photo from my phone instead.

The idea of using Google Street Views and the Internet Archive, two sites that are using excellent new technologies, to get a new perspective on old images appeals to me. I also liked the fact that looking at these images online got me to walk around to see if I could find them today. I have a bunch of old/new matches bookmarked ready for when I have a few extra minutes to entertain myself. This is of course a game anyone can play. In fact, I have a few old images that I can't identify, perhaps I'll ask for help the Internet way if I remain stumped.

Take a look at the previous few entries on this site to see how it's done.


Patterson Creek Then and Now

The historic image from


And from Street Views


Ottawa ON patterson creek - Google Maps_1260382658567



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