My Lucky Handshake

On Friday I did something I almost never do. I approached an artist I liked and told them that I was a fan.

I saw James Hill going into the bakery near my office. I shook his hand and said I was a fan and have really been enjoying his (and Anne Davison) latest album. He said he was in town for the Folk Music Awards. I wished him "good luck" and went on my way.

The next day they won!

While clearly I can't take all the credit....

 

Green Bin Charges?

City Council does it again. In a move that appears to defy all logic the Planning and Environment Committee approved an extra $68 fee for the new green bin program.

Although the program benefits the entire city the cost will be paid by green bin users. So I get to spend more time sorting garbage AND I get to pay for this priviledge. Peter Hume (chair of the committee) says

"We have the second lowest diversion rate in the province of Ontario, and for a city like Ottawa, leading from the back of the pack is not where we should be." (from http://www.cbc.ca/canada/ottawa/story/2009/11/10/ottawa-green-bin-fees-p...).

I have a feeling that making it more onerous to divert waste from land-fill is not going to help matters. The committee also approved a $41 recycling fee. How the city can launch a program without a plan to pay for it is mind boggling. I am happy to pay the costs associated with being a more environmentally friendly city, but that is why we pay taxes. A rational person might think that there will be a corresponding decrease in garbage collection charges since there will be much less garbage to collect and process.

There are lots of city services I don't use that I pay for. If recycling and composting are a collective good, it should be paid by the city as a whole.

 

Bad Process Bad Design

To continue with the 'I only write on one topic theme', some additional thoughts on the Lansdowne Park process.

I have heard many different visions of what Lansdowne Park could be. Some reasonable and some pretty far fetched. In 2007, before the OSEG group put forward their proposal I participated in a evening of Lansdowne Park planning at the Glebe Community Centre. There was real enthusiasm for many of the site's potential uses. There was an acknowledgment of the historic uses of the site and of the heritage nature of some of the buildings. There was a discussion of what other cities had done, both good and bad, with this kind of space.

Almost anyone I talk to about Lansdowne Park has an idea of what it should be or at least what it could be. So why are we in the current situation where one vision and one vision only is being talked about? Defenders of the Lansdowne Live plan generally say:

  1. Its better than whats is there now
  2. No one else has come forward with a plan
  3. The developers are local civic minded guys that we can trust. Look at what they have done for the community.

These are all true but are clearly irrelevent. The only differences between the OSEG developers and anyone else with good ideas for the site are money and connections. These people know people. I would prefer to live in a city where ideas are evaluated on their merit, not by connections or money.

More Lansdowne Park

The Lansdowne Park ever changing approach to consultations with open houses / town hall meetings / information sessions are now over. Currently easiest way to contribute to the conversation about this development is to use the online consultation tool. This is a flawed tool that is somewhat difficult to use. The site is organized into topics. It is possible to comment on each topic and to reply to existing comments.

It is unclear from the site how the comments and replies will be compiled into a report. I could not find the methodology for evaluating the comments or for summarizing free flowing comment threads. The conversation found at http://lansdowne.econsultation.ca/topics-sujets/show-montrer/38?root=93# is a good example. This is an interesting back and forth about a fundamental aspect of the City's plan. How will this be evaluated.

Some commenters have added many comments, some just one. Will all comments be counted equally?

It is possible to rate each comment anonymously. Will higher ranked comments count for more?

I have posed these questions by e-mail to Nik Nanos the moderator. If I hear anything substantive back I will post it here.

Using this terrible process we have been given should not be read as an endorsement. Seeing as how a better evaluation process does not exist we should use this one to the best of our abilities. If you haven't made you opinions known do so. Add your comments. Rate other people's comments. Comment on comments.

We don't know how the online comments, the written comments and the feedback from the question and answer sessions will be integrated. We don't know if the raw data from each of these sources will be made available for independent assessment.

Lansdowne "Park" "Consultations"

After attending Monday evening's consultation session at Lansdowne Park I made a few notes about my impressions of the project and of the process. Since then I also went to Wednesday evening session which included a two and a half hour question and answer period. I have more notes on that session and will edit them a little and hopefully publish a post tomorrow.

These notes reflect the fact that the session raised more questions than answers. Since Monday the City has decided to add more question and answer opportunities at more venues. This is surely a sign that somebody within City Hall is getting the message that just because the Mayor and a group of developers think this is a done deal many citizens don't agree.

  • The City staff that planned the 'consultations' are more interested in doing a sales job than in feedback
  • City staff were not prepared to listen to anyone's opinions. Nobody was taking notes.
  • Sole feedback mechanism was survey forms dropped in a box. Many people asking what is going to happen to the forms. I heard different answers to this question from different City representatives.
  • There is a high level of frustration with the lack of input. This was of course demonstated by a guy with a megaphone standing on a chair to make his opinion known.
  • The farmers market will not survive this plan. Representatives of the market were at the session. They can't see how the space being made for them could possibly support the market. The lack of parking and the two years (minimum) of construction time means the end of the farmer's market.
  • Arguing with a sports radio host is not productive.
  • There seems to be only two real ways to stop this proposal 1) legal action against OSEG and/or the city 2) suburban councillors changing their minds.
  • City and OSEG roles are blurred. Who is selling this vision and who is listening to feedback. The display boards have the City's mark on them, but look like they were created by OSEG for the purpose of selling their proposal.
  • The OSEG proposal clearly breaks the guidelines handed down by council to the City's negotiators in April (Motion 65/12 I believe). and that is just the proposal. Once development starts holding OSEG to a specific plan is going to get even harder.

This summarized my impressions after Monday's session. It is hard to describe how surprised and frustrated people (more than 1000 people attended) were to find that their opportunity for questions and feedback consisted of standing around looking at posters while City staff defended OSEG's proposal. While the senior staff there were clearly defending a vision they support, other staff had as many questions as the citizens around them. Almost every staff person I talked to told me that "we are doing what council directed". 

It is clear that any substantive discussion from now on must include as many City Councilors as possible.

What's New

I was once an early adopter. Sort of. I used to know when new books or movies or music was released. I would generally buy a new Dylan album or a new Tony Hillerman novel when it was released. Sometimes I would wait for the paperback, but often I couldn't wait. Lining up for movies the day or weekend they were released was a regular thing.

When I saw the new Margaret Atwood on the Coming Soon rss feed of the Ottawa library I immediately placed a request. It came in and is now sitting on my to read pile. I am so far behind on reading / listening / watching that it really doesn't matter when something is released, I'm not going to get to it anytime soon.

I took a similar approach to updating my technology. When I could afford to I upgraded my operating system, software versions, etc... Even if I couldn't get the latest technology I surely coveted it. Lately I've realized the advantage of waiting to adopt new technology. Sometimes I even let software versions pass me by. Let other people debug. That being so, it is inevitable that as soon as I get around to updating my Drupal installation a new version will be released.

I'm trying to think of an artist or author or movie that I would need to get right away and I can't think of anything. I'm more likely to go along with one of the kid's enthusiasms (Star Trek on opening weekend) then my own.

All this being said, I now have an iPhone.

Drupal + Twitter

I have added my Twitter feed to this site's homepage. Doing so was not without some challenges. All became clearer afer relearning a little about Drupal views. It turns out that using a tool once every few months is not often enough to remember important details. This little project also gave me a good reminder to find AND read as much documentation as you can.

I can also send notification of updates to this site to my Twitter feed. In theory these updates will then show up on the site. Alas, the temporal relationship between updating Twitter and the sidebar being updated is unknown and maybe unknowable.

The whole thing would have taken me 2 minutes on Facebook and perhaps a minute more on Blogger. In Wordpress I could have downloaded and installed the plugin and probably configured it in the time it took me to create the proper Drupal view. And yet Drupal offers a level of self satisfaction missing elsewhere. Like starting a fire without matches. Sure you could use a lighter, but what would be the fun in that.

I will announce the creation of this post on Twitter, I'll see if the sidebar gets updated.

True

"Taking on a single-minded, driven, hyper-competitive billionaire in a battle that revolves around cash, lawyers and resolve was perhaps unwise."

Stephen Brunt in today's Globe

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/hockey/bettman-meets-his-match/article1281504/

Family Canoe Trip

 

Brief Update: We all had lots of fun. Due to the size of the group and the comfort of the campground there was less canoeing and more beach / card playing / novel reading / hanging out. We did the entire planned trip the final day paddling from the campground to Mattawa only stopping for snacks, lunch and more snacks. The weather was great, sunny days and cool nights. We would defintely do this again.

Original text: Many months ago many Waynes started planning a multi generational family canoe trip. This is the weekend! We are starting here http://www.ontarioparks.com/english/samu.html  and finishing a few metres downstream in Mattawa. This is one step from car camping, but hopefully a start of a nice tradition of future camping trips.

 

 

Some number of books meme

"Rules: Don't take too long to think about it. Select fifteen books you've read that will always stick with you. Choose the first fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes." It took a little longer than 15 minutes. Its amazing how many of these I read ten years ago or longer. Now if the challenge had been "New Yorker articles I read and have a vague recollection of" the list would be much fresher I bet.

  1. Count of Monte Cristo
  2. Watership Down
  3. Maus
  4. Man in the High Castle
  5. The Incompleat Folksinger
  6. Princess Bride
  7. Heart of Darkness
  8. Oscar and Lucinda
  9. Alligator Pie
  10. Fifth Child
  11. Facing History and Ourselves
  12. Demon Box
  13. Lark in the Clear Air
  14. Devil on the Cross
  15. Cambodia: A Book for People Who Find Television Too Slow

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