Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Lansdowne Live: City Hall Open House

[After attending tonight's lengthy Open House and Q&A meeting on Lansdowne Park, I accumulated a lot of handouts and took a lot of notes. I'll try to post as much of the more useful information as I have time tonight, split into separate posts.]

So here's some of what happened at the Open House on Lansdowne Park. I don't have the time or the energy to go through all 200 minutes of audio recording, nor even the twelve pages of handwritten notes from the Question & Answer session (I will post a summary of that session after this post).

Here's a view of Jean Pigott Place at Ottawa City Hall. The many billboards with logos of the City of Ottawa and "Lansdowne: The Transformation of Lansdowne Park / La transformation du parc Lansdowne" were spread around the room:

Friends of Lansdowne Park had their own handouts, and their members were on hand, wearing green "Ask Me!" t-shirts and collecting petition signatures. Copies of their handouts and others were left on the tables, including the Glebe BIA's "Stop The Lansdowne Mall" brochure. Meanwhile, the City of Ottawa had many copies on hand of the various materials (including comment forms) for people to pore through.

Those with alternative proposals were stuffed into a corner. John Martin found a spot under a staircase to make his case to passersby heading to the official City of Ottawa consultation (according to this Citizen story, he was issued a trespassing notice. Any wonder pro-Lansdowne Live councillors say they haven't heard alternate proposals come forward?):

I learned some interesting things talking to the various consultants and attendees. The following photo (click to enlarge, as always) shows a display panel on "The Retail & Commerce Approach". Pasted onto it is a smaller plaque that reads "The Glebe Business Improvement Area (BIA) has commissioned, with the assistance of City of Ottawa funding, a retail market study conducted by Ottawa based Market Research Corporation. The results of this study will be available at"

During the Q&A session, City Manager Kent Kirkpatrick said that an assessment by the Glebe BIA (presumably the one referenced in the panel appendix above) found the market capacity to be much less than that conducted on behalf of OSEG (Lansdowne Live proponents).

I spoke with Mike Foley, of Trinity Development Group (who specializes in retail), about this panel. Specifically, it suggests 16,000 square feet of space allocated in the Horticultural building to the Ottawa Farmer's Market. I asked him how many stalls this would accommodate, and he said he didn't know, but he'd ask the Farmer's Market people next time he comes across them how big their stalls are. He says that the feedback he's gotten from the Farmer's Market people is that they're excited that they're part of the plan, yet they also are also asking him if they are part of the plan, and if they'll have enough room.

Eyeballing it based on how much room the farmer's market takes now, it looks like they're getting a cut in space, despite constantly growing.

Then someone else came up and asked Mr. Foley some questions, including whether they had planned bike parking areas at Lansdowne Live, and Foley admitted they hadn't.

I moved on to this panel regarding transportation:

I was curious that "Aggressive Transportation Demand Management (TDM) initiatives" would be taken for events with over 15,000 people, but even more would be done for larger scale events. Unfortunately, no consultants were standing anywhere near this panel, so it took me a while to ask them what size of event would trigger this, if it had to be greater than "greater than 15,000."

I asked the question at another Transportation panel, which had some better information about the size of different events and what measures they would take. Evidently, they're counting on being able to use the NCC-controlled Queen Elizabeth Drive for large-scale events. We'll see.

This panel also made the discussion with Mike Foley more interesting (the one where he said they hadn't even considered a bike parking area), as it suggests that 10% of people attending medium-to-large events would bike or walk, representing 1000 people at a minor event, 2000 people at a CFL game or large concert, or 6000 people at a very large event. Strange that they'd suggest so many people would bike there, yet no place would be provided for them to lock their bikes.

Ron Jack of Delcan did some smooth talking on the traffic impacts of the site, essentially saying that day-to-day traffic along Bank wouldn't increase more than ten per cent, and that we've already had large events where we've closed parking along Bank (or close Bank itself) so everything will be fine.

I then listened to David Jeanes' various commentary on transportation issues. He pointed out that the Carling O-Train station was not considered as a place to shuttle patrons to Lansdowne Park, even though it's closer than the downtown, Carleton U and Billings Bridge rapid transit stations, and there's a nearly direct route along Queen Elizabeth Drive. If rail rapid transit is built along Carling, it will serve as an excellent node for passengers coming in on rapid transit from the West. Currently they have to come from Carleton or Billings Bridge, neither of which is convenient for west-end residents.

David also pointed out that new retail development to be built on top of the large metal struts on the Civic Centre will partially block the view of the Aberdeen Pavillion from Bank Street, even though the new retail development on the North side of this vista was carefully designed to protect the view to the Cattle Castle.

We all wondered where the bus loop was for buses dropping off passengers. Pat Scrimgeour of OC Transpo explained that they'd lay up along Bank Street, where parking would be prohibited for large events, and they'd also use Queen Elizabeth if required and permitted. A safe pedestrian crossing will be needed for passengers coming from the North.

It's very frustrating that while the City is trying to invest its transit funds in a rail rapid transit network, we're seeing a proposal here that is heavily dependent on significant levels of bus service. This will invariably cost us a lot of money on having buses available and drivers working odd shifts, which will eat into the savings we're supposed to be getting from a rail-based system that is less expensive to operate.

Next up: a summary of the Q&A session.

- RG>

Lansdowne Live: Monette the environmentalist

[After attending tonight's lengthy Open House and Q&A meeting on Lansdowne Park, I accumulated a lot of handouts and took a lot of notes. I'll try to post as much of the more useful information as I have time tonight, split into separate posts.]

If you've been following the Lansdowne Live issue, you'll know that one of the big controversies is the environmental impact.

Luckily, as Councillor Bob Monette puts it in this recent letter to the Citizen, "This plan has elements for everyone, from the environmentalist to the football fan."

I waited patiently during the open house for Councillor Monette to finish speaking with someone tonight in order to ask him to elaborate on what the Plan has for "the environmentalist", especially since the plan would inevitably attract huge amounts of automobile traffic to access a site that is kilometres away from the nearest rapid transit route. Unfortunately, Monette managed to finish his conversation with the gentleman and escaped at the precise moment I looked away. I literally had to run after him, and at that point figured he just didn't want to talk with me.

I later saw him in a media scrum, expounding the virtues of Lansdowne Live to Radio-Canada:

Perhaps the central environmental issue is how much greenspace does the Lansdowne Live proposal provide? Much of the greenspace is on NCC property. Of the green elements on the Lansdowne site itself, at the centre of the issue is whether the "front lawn," which comprises a good chunk of the site, counts. As you can read in this Citizen article, it is to be a lawn area for most of the time, but on "rare occasions" it will be used for parking, and an expensive substructure will allow it to be able to support cars parked on it. They're no longer proposing Turfstone, but something called "Grass Pave2."

So what is this new Grass Paver?

Councillor Monette was busy, so he couldn't answer the question, but luckily details were provided on the many copies of this high-quality glossy handout, which bears a City of Ottawa/Lansdowne logo. Here's a scanned copy of the full handout:

You can see that it is presented in a format that Monette can understand: they left out any text that might confuse an environmentalist, and they went to extra trouble to colour it in in advance, lest members of the public run out of crayons partway through the consultation session.

(As for Monette, he stormed out of the Q&A session... juicy details to follow.)

- RG>

Lansdowne Live: Watson's Letter to Doucet

After attending tonight's lengthy Open House and Q&A meeting on Lansdowne Park, I accumulated a lot of handouts and took a lot of notes. I'll try to post as much of the more useful information as I have time tonight, split into separate posts.

On September 22, Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs Jim Watson sent a letter to Councillor Clive Doucet (cc: other members of Council) stating the Province's position that it will not provide funding for Lansdowne Live's implementation if the City comes to the province asking for financial help. Doucet was passing out copies of the letter at the consultations. Here's a scan: (click to enlarge)

- RG>

Saturday, September 26, 2009

RIP Marco

Un bon ami du famille activiste d'Ottawa est décédé 3 le 5 septembre 2009.

Marco Chénard, connaît aussi come « Marco Québec, » fréquentait le café Bridgehead sur le rue Elgin et aussi plusières événements activistes à Ottawa. Voici la nécrologie (PDF)

J'ai seulement une photo de Marco, qu'il à aimé quand je lui ai montré:

Il défendait toujours la langue français, mais il était toujours polit en le faire. Je n'était jamais peur de lui parler en français : quand je faisait une erreur, il a répété ce que je voulais dire.

Un service a eu lieu ce mercredi passé, que j'ai manqué:

Il y aura un autre ce soir au parc Minto sur le rue Elgin à 19h30:

Merci pour tous, Marco!

- RG>

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Getting over e-mail

The last few days, I've managed to accomplish a lot of personal projects. I've cleaned a bunch of my house, made and found homes for "new" things, prepared some meals for lunches, repaired broken gadgets, blogged, and even purged some old electronics that have been broken beyond repair for years (all of which had their full original packaging). For as long as I can remember, I've so busy doing things for groups I'm involved with (or indulging in entertainment to recover form all that work) that domestic affairs have fallen by the wayside. I mean, why do something that benefits only myself when I could do something that benefits many?

I'm not sure why I'm so productive all of a sudden, but I've got a few theories.

Maybe I'm just high from overexposure to social situations (curse you, friends and local bloggers!), or maybe my brain is trying to cope with my cash flow problems by occupying me with free work. I've also re-discovered the addictive computer game Jardinains, which has the side benefit of mindless fun.

Normally, I'm most productive when I'm overrun with things to do and I develop a new scheme for tracking them. I tend to change schemes every six months or so. But very few of the items I've completed recently are the type of project that would ever make it onto any to-do list. Maybe the absence of a tracking scheme is the new tracking scheme, and I'm just getting through the things on that non-list.

Then there's the fact that none of these tasks were particularly important. Usually I don't get things done because there's some important deadline looming for a big project and I spend all my time procrastinating and agonizing over the fact that I'm not doing it. I might procrastinate by accomplishing a less important task, but doing so comes with the guilt that I'm spending productive energy by not doing the top item. I don't have any major time-sensitive projects coming due soon, so my current productivity burst isn't from that kind of pressure. Though things have been crazy busy at work...

I've also been really tired during the day this week. Really, really tired, like how you get when you barely slept the previous night. But I've been getting solid nights of sleep. Maybe this fatigue means there's something else happening, like a hormonal or vitamin imbalance that is a common cause for the fatigue and the productivity.

But I really think it has to do with my breakup with e-mail. There would be nights when I'd come home from work, check my e-mail, and by the time I've finished, it's too late to eat dinner and sometimes even too late to get a full night of sleep. A couple nights like that in a row can leave me very undernourished, which causes all sorts of troubles.

Lately, I've approached my e-mail inbox with a very light touch. Last week I had pushed aside a few long e-mails (e.g. links to reports) to read on the weekend, and on the weekend I barely checked my e-mail at all. I'll ignore group discussions for a couple days, then read up on the entire subject all at once. Most of the time, problems have already been resolved, and anything I'd have said was already said by somebody else. If I do have to contribute, it's minimal--a couple suggestions to add to the discussion, or an acknowledgement. All that's left is to categorize the thread and archive it. Once I get my inbox back to a certain number of unread messages (currently at 650 660), I don't feel bad about closing the Gmail window and doing something else.

Why is this so important? Because I'm a packrat, and an information-hoarder. My Gmail account is my memory; it documents everything I need to do, and everything I've done. It is a reference library of schedules, meeting agendas and minutes, correspondence, committee work, arguments, contact information, et cetera. If I'm trying to remember what happened on a certain date, my first stop is Gmail. If I vaguely recall talking with somebody about something, I search my Gmail for that discussion to recall it. If someone phones me up to ask me to do something, I tell them to e-mail me a reminder, or else I'll probably forget. Most message threads have a half dozen or so different labels on them, so that I can filter them accordingly. My Gmail archive (currently at 35% capacity) goes back to 2005 when I got my Gmail account, and even earlier now that I've uploaded via imap all the messages from my previous inbox.

So for me to say I've become apathetic about e-mail is kinda like the Bishop saying he's no longer into the whole God thing (or whatever it is Bishops do..moving diagonally?): it's a radical paradigm shift. For me to be spontaneously productive (and paradoxically tired at the same time) is even stranger.

I guess I could waste my time trying to figure it out. Or maybe it'll pass. In the meantime, if it works, why bother asking why?

- RG>

Monday, September 21, 2009

Walking with Woodsy

A while back, Woodsy posted We Love Zoom, or The Canadian Culture, Eh! Game on the Elgin Street Irregulars blog. My thorough comprehension of Canadiana won me a door prize (as documented in the comments): the next time we got together, Woodsy would buy me a treat from a bakery.

I redeemed my prize last Wednesday. We met up on Elgin street (which we do regularly), and walked to the ByWard Market. I was reminded that I don't go there often, especially during daytime.

As we passed by the National Arts Centre, we came up behind a tall man dressed up in cowboy getup. Woodsy, having forgotten her camera, whispered anxiously at me to take a photo. Instead of sneakily shooting the cowboy from behind, I just asked him as we passed, "Excuse me, my friend really wants to have her photo taken with you." He obliged. The two chatted, while I photographed. Then he turned to leave, without posing for the camera. I was worried about how I'd post the photo without revealing Woodsy's secret identity.

He explained photos look better in a natural setting. I cursed myself for claiming Woodsy wanted a photo of him with her. Nevertheless, I had a plan.

So here is a photo of the cowboy (played by himself) talking with Woodsy (played here by Elizabeth Garvie):

Woodsy says the following about the cowboy:
He is from Wyoming, he has been a fireman for over 35 years, he was here for the memorial, he's 63, and he has a good firm handshake - Woodsy likes that in a man.
We continued into the market, sat down for a sandwich and remarked at the sanitation habits of the deli staff, and continued on to this great little antique store, Roy's Rubble:

It was quite serendipitous that we went there, as the first thing I laid eyes on were some door brackets, which another friend of mine was searching for. There was lots of other interesting kitsch in there, none of which I was particularly interested in. Woodsy bought some things and we began our return trip. We stopped at the "Obama" bakery along the way and Woodsy (as promised) bought me a pastry (it was very tasty--thanks Woodsy!)

We noticed scattered throughout the Market a bunch of these sets of four yellow spots on the sidewalks, such as this one outside Irving Rivers:

Noting the recent chatter about the City wanting to regulate buskers in the Market, we speculated that these must be Free Speech zones. They really need to be labeled more clearly...

We headed back under the Terry Fox underpass, lamented the fence, and returned to Elgin.

'Twas a fun time!

- RG>

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Weekly treasure

Every Sunday, downtown residents perform a sacred ritual: they throw shit out. Not only is waste discarded, but useful items are also left out for passers-by to take. It's like a garage sale without prices for people who are too cheap to haul their stuff out to a free market.

Apparently there's a by-law against this. In the suburbs, people need permission to take stuff from the curb. Downtown, if the police try to enforce this law, it's front page news:

I even phoned the City about this, back in Spring of 2006, and the person who called me back said that as long as they don't make a mess, trash-pickers are diverting waste from the landfill and therefore not a problem.

(Incidentally, in the incident that made the article above, Gerard--who every now and then goes into Bridgehead to sort the newspapers by section and tidy up the bulletin spaces--wasn't even taking anything from the garbage. Gerard was simply sorting the non-recyclables--styrofoam, plastic bags, etc.--out of the recycling bins. The same officer gave Gerard a ticket for cycling on the sidewalk later this summer.)

My own relationship with the garbage gods started in summer of 2005. My window in a Sandy Hill walk-up looked out over the apartment building's dumpsters. Every morning, I'd wake up and look out the window to see what interesting things had been discarded overnight. Once, shortly after my laptop's screen died, the gods left me a 17" monitor that someone had been unable to sell at a garage sale. Another time, someone threw out a futon frame, which I dismantled and reassembled into this homely spice cabinet:

Shortly after I moved into my current place, which has no dumpster, my new upstairs neighbour said she was looking for a foot-operated garbage bin. I told her that Sunday nights, between 6pm and 10pm, you'll find anything you need. She was skeptical. Sure enough, that very Sunday, I wasn't even looking and I found a foot-operated garbage can. It's in perfect working order, its former owner told me, just they were moving and didn't want to bring it with them. My neighbour lost out--I decided I wanted one, too, and I kept it for myself. Since then, I've found four or five more foot-operated garbage cans and found them new homes.

While Sundays are great for garbage-picking, the first of the month (and the Sundays nearest it) has the sweetest fruit. Especially May and September, which is when many leases come due (especially those of students).

Case in point, this past September first, I was late meeting some houseguests because I had came home along McLeod, and ran into house after house of interesting stuff. One place had a big pile of treasure on their front lawn, which I had spent some time going through. Of it, I picked out the following (the rug is a previous find):

One item was this wonderful chrome-plated juicer. I repaired the grip and cleaned it up, and it looks marvelous:

Of course, I don't make my own juice. If I want fresh-squeezed orange juice, I'll get some from Boushey's, who juice oranges and bottle it on-site. Rather, I love the industrial rack-on-pinion action going on with the plunger:

When I was a kid, I used to love visiting my grandparents' place and making stuff from the random bits of wood and jars of miscellaneous fasteners in my grandfather's workshop.

My place is now full of things I've recovered from the trash, or received from people who downsized. I have an entire drawer in my own workshop filled with knobs, hinges and handles from discarded furniture for eventual projects. My kitchen is filled with more utensils, dishes, and serving containers than I have cupboards for. You can imagine why my apartment is such a mess. But some day, I'll have a project where I'll need this juicer's little mechanism, and when I do, I'll be glad I picked this up! In the meantime, it will look nice on a shelf with all the other kitsch.

- RG>

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Raw Fun at Raw Sugar

On Friday night, local bloggers gathered at the Raw Sugar café in the Dalhousie neighbourhood. Zoom also blogged the night, with links to various attendees' blogs.

The event was ostensibly to celebrate the opening of Milan's photo show at the Café. Hella Stella also performed a couple of songs in anticipation of the upcoming broadcast of her performance on Vinyl Café.

Here is Hella Stella getting her banjo ready, as Milan ghosts into frame:

But the highlight of the night was certainly the performance
by local the brain-tickling troupe, Astronaut Love Triangle.

I had heard about them before, and wasn't sure if I would be terrified or delighted. Well, they are terribly delightful.

I made a point of not taking too many photos, because typically at the end of the night you end up with a bunch of photos that all look the same. This is not a wise tactic with Astronaut Love Triangle (though most of the time I was too busy enjoying myself--gasp!--to think to take a photo).

Many of the other bloggers' shots were taken with flash. But Mr. Gordon is not technically a member of ALT, and those photos seem to sanitize the warm atmosphere of the performance. Here is my photo with no flash:

ALT's songs are feasts for the imagination. At times abstract and experimental-artsy, but not the least bit pretentious, and always down-to-earth.

With all the things going on in Side Effects, the piano is only occasionally noticeable. This is a good thing; it serves as a resting place to gather your thoughts before shooting your ears back between the three vocalists. Definitely one of the better list songs I've heard, and until Friday night, the best list song I hadn't.

Ponzi brings with it a great metaphor for ALT: the implied references to pyramid schemes describe a figure that is triangular, yet has four sides (plus base), just as ALT is a triangle with four members. A brilliant act of subtle self-reference.

Blogger meet-ups are the best form of brain candy, because of the inevitable mental acrobatics required to navigate the multiple persona of the various attendees. Tragically, it's hard to understand this if you aren't there, because most of what goes on isn't documented out of fear of revealing a secret identity!

- RG>