Saturday, May 31, 2008

I thought he campaigned on a Culture of Excellence through technology

At the moment, the site is down.

For those not old enough to remember the way domain names used to be doled out in Canada, you can still access the City's website by replacing "" with "".

- RG>

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Rare kudos to the "fucking" Citizen

While I rarely praise the Ottawa Citizen (its fawning over the city's latest Mess Transit plan leaves much to be desired), I must admit that I was impressed when I saw Glen McGregor's article "Aide okay with her dismissal", discussing the dismissal of a Conservative MP's aide after she purchased tickets in the name of the MP's office for a Canadian indie film "Young People Fucking".

The praise goes to the Citizen for not censoring the F-word, as the CBC sheepishly did in their article, "Tory MP's assistant fired over controversial movie tickets".

Furthermore, CBC's article, "Aboriginal protesters freed from jail by Ontario court ruling", abbreviates one of the First Nation's names to "KI" (made further ambiguous by their choice of sans-serif font), where the Citizen (which also prints on paper) has the courtesy to print out "Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug" before referring to the abbreviated form in "Sharbot Lake protesters released from jail".

This of course, is merely a comparison of terminology. I appreciate the CBC's commenting feature, despite the racist, ignorant, egocentric hicks it attracts. If only my browser were compatible with its login feature, I'd show that bluenoser_85 a piece of my--more logical--mind. Where he suggests "if you break the law you should be punished. Plain and simple", I would recommend a law that makes commenting on the CBC website by users named "bluenoser_85" a crime punishable by a 6 month sentence. It's easy for me to obey that law, but if he breaks it he should be punished. "Plain and simple."

Sigh. Ignorami.

- RG>

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

New Swap Box on Gladstone

I was walking out the corner store tonight when I saw two people across the street with the distinctive look on their faces of seeing a swap box for the first time.

I went over to check it out for myself. El Maks has done yet another fine job.

The pink exterior and the white bubble text on the red background reminds me of Matt Groening's handwriting on the Simpsons.

Inside, there's more to enjoy. I took advantage of the "City of Ottawa OFFICIAL Ice-Breaker" coupon on the inside of the door and chatted with the young couple about swap boxes, telling them about el maks' previous installations.

I put in a buy-ten-get-one-free card for the teriyaki place on Elgin that I had just filled up today, and 'swapped' it for some advertisements for commercial products/services that someone had stuck in there.

I picked up a small box with some neat jewelry a couple of Sundays ago, so maybe I'll keep some of that in my pocket for the next time I encounter a swap box.

Keep up the good work, el maks!

Edit: see Part II of the life of this swap box.

- RG>

Monday, May 26, 2008

City's nifty online map system

A few weeks ago, I attended the first lesson of a Planning Primer mini-course that is offered by the City of Ottawa to help citizens become more aware of some of the inner workings of City Hall. While I am a City Hall junkie, I tend to pay more attention to transportation issues than planning and zoning ones, so I had almost no understanding of such matters. I found the course was quite informative and gave a good overview of a lot of topics.

But perhaps the most interesting thing they showed us was merely an aside. It's a new online mapping tool that you can use to compare a variety of municipal overlays. (If the expression "comparing municipal overlays" doesn't get your geek on, you might want to stop reading now.)

To get to the map, go to and click on "Maps" on the left, which takes you here. Then click on "eMap". It will take you through a bunch of screens and possibly install a program on your computer, but eventually you'll be brought to the eMap screen. You'll be welcomed by the logo for Autodesk MapGuide, so you'll know whom to curse if the eMap software crashes your browser, as it did for me a couple times.

(click on images for larger screenshots)

So we're brought to a page with a toolbar at the top, a search bar at the left, a layer-selecting feature to its right, and a map of the City of Ottawa on the right side of the screen:

As we zoom in, we get more detail on the roads...

When we zoom in further and click on the "2008 Draft Comprehensive Zoning By-Law" layer, it brings up a bunch of new information. Individual properties are outlined. Bold red lines outline areas with the same zoning. In this particular zoom, heritage areas are shaded in, and not shown are greenbelt and flood plain areas.

The mess of black text is the zoning. Downtown, zoning areas are pretty small, but out in the 'burbs, you can get hectares of the same zoning. In this shot, my cursor is hovering over a property with zoning "R4T[479]". According to my notes from the Planning Primer seminar, the "R" means "Residential" (okay, that one's easy), the 4 means it's the 4th level of density, and the "T" refers to specific zoning provisions (starting at "A", then "B", etc.). The "[479]" refers to specific site exemptions, and according to this page, exemption 479 means it's a multiple use dwelling unit, with provisions for a "rooming house and rooming house, converted limited to 50% of gross floor area of building."

At this point, I tried adding the cycling routes overlay without taking off the zoning overlay, and my browser crashed. But our intrepid blogger sprunges on.

We can zoom in even closer and get to individual properties. This one had an interesting enough shape. You can select the arrow button in the toolbar and click on the site number (alternately, click elsewhere in the zone to select the whole zone to, I assume, get information about that area's zoning).

When you right-click and select "Property Report", it should bring up a PDF with information on that property, including square footage, frontage, depth, ward number, councillor, and even garbage collection date.

Unfortunately, this functionality does not appear to work with my browser.

Other overlays include aerial photos from 2002 and 2005. When we select that overlay, we can see that we're looking at a townhouse development. That explains the odd lot shape.

Turning off the aerial view and turning on the "Topographic Map" overlay, it brings up a bunch more information. In addition to topographic maps, it also shows the outlines of the individual buildings on each site. In retrospect, I should have gotten a similar screenshot of the suburbs and compared the ratio of building-size-to-lot-size to the downtown lots shown below.

Of course, I'm a cyclist, so I naturally wanted to see how it handles the cycling routes. It's a bit dry, but that's Ottawa's cycling network for you. One neat feature is that if you hover over the lines, it indicates what type of cycling facility is designated. Perhaps when the Ottawa Cycling Plan is passed this summer they can add future cycling routes to this overlay as well, such as Albert Street.

Note that NCC-owned pathways and City-owned pathways are designated by different colours (blue and green, respectively). This distinction, lovably brought to you by the City of Ottawa, combines my three favourite pastimes: cycling, politics, and bureaucracy.

(Which reminds me, my copy of Disciplined Minds arrived in the mail today! I should get off the computer and start reading!)

- RG>

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Come to Mexico, pour your heart out!

I don't know if you've noticed the airplane that's been flying around Ottawa lately, trailing a colourful "México" banner behind it.

I first noticed it last weekend while riding by the Tulip Festival with my friends. But the Tulip Festival wasn't the first audience that came to mind when I saw the banner.

Immediately, I thought that this was an attempt to whitewash Mexico's reputation after the drawn-out Brenda Martin controversy. Quite a tacky attempt at that.

Reading the news again today, they'll have to pull out the ol' plane again, as a Canadian has been gunned down in Mexico. While at least this incident wasn't the fault of the Mexican authorities, there seems to be neither interest nor ability to track down this person's murderer(s).

"Mexico: Come for the sun, stay for the ... well, we just won't let you leave!"

- RG>

Friday, May 02, 2008

The Andrew Nellis file gets interesting...

As I wrote earlier today, Andrew Nellis has been arrested on what are, as far as I've been able to find out, unspecified charges, and that he won't be out until his hearing on Monday morning.

In that blog entry, I wrote "If it were someone else arrested and Andrew had been at the protest, he would have pointed out that his arrest was intended to preclude his ability to participate and organize in today's planned demonstration." Sure enough, I was right.

At the grand re-opening and one-year celebration of Exile Infoshop (which, interestingly, is located at the same interection as this previously-blogged abuse of police powers), there was a copy of the 24 Hours newspaper, and on the back page was an article by Adrienne Ascah called "May Day set to take city by storm."

The article includes an itinerary for the May Day celebrations, including (quote):
  • Noon-1 p.m. Mayor Larry O'Brien's Impeachment Tea Party at City Hall.

  • 1 p.m. Take Back The Streets rally, beginning at the Human Rights Monument.

  • Noon-8 p.m. Opening of the anarchist Exile Infoshop's new location 256 Bank Street.
Ascah talks about and with Nellis for the second half of the article. He talks about why he works with the Ottawa Panhandlers Union: "The city and the businesses use the police to enforce their will. The police will come out and harass panhandlers even though panhandling is not illegal."

This was certainly the case at Exile tonight. Someone came up the stairs and yelled "someone is getting a ticket for spitting on the sidewalk!" A bunch of people went down to check it out, and two officers were accosting a guy. One of the onlookers tried to take a photo of one of the officers with his cameraphone, and an officer tried to whack it out of his hand (following Larry O'Brien's lead, perhaps?).

The officers left without giving the guy a ticket, but came back a few minutes later and did give a ticket to a guy for allegedly riding a bicycle on the sidewalk. On the other side of the street were four other cops—two City cops and two bylaw enforcement officers—looking on. I crossed the street and stood there with them, trying to see if the view really was as good as they made it out to be from the bleachers. A girl walked by and asked these officers what was going on, and the tallest one said, "we're not quite sure ourselves!"

It's really somewhat ironic, because in the 24 Hours article, Nellis talks about how the Ticket Defense Program. This program has managed to stop nearly all tickets given out under the Safe Streets Act, but the police merely upped the ante.

In the article, as I anticipated him to say in my blog earlier today, Ascah writes: "[P]olice find other charges, even if they don't stick, Nellis said."

Nellis is then quoted:
"The entire point is to get them in front of a judge who will slap them with conditions, which are usually 'stay out of the downtown core' and 'don't panhandle,'"
Interestingly also, the article ends by saying that the Ottawa Panhandlers Union filed suit yesterday against the City of Ottawa for installing the fence beneath the Terry Fox bridge between the Rideau Centre and the old Union station (and amusingly, across from 700 Sussex, the condo building where Ottawa's mayor Larry O'Brien lives).

The timing makes it clear that the police are trying to muzzle Nellis. He was arrested by City of Ottawa police on the same day he filed suit against the City, and on the day before a rally he is organizing (or at least participating in).

They want him to accept the bail conditions so they can get him on breach of bail and toss him in jail for a long time. As I learned at Exile, Nellis was not willing to accept the stringent bail conditions, which is why he will remain in jail until his hearing on Monday morning.

Nellis knows what he's doing (he encounters cops regularly, but I believe this is the first time he's actually been arrested), and I would not be surprised if he uses his arrest as an opportunity to challenge the whole bail-and-bait tactic.

In the meantime, check out Exile's spacious and inviting new location. They're open Wednesday to Sunday, 12pm to 8pm.

- RG>

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Police try to neutralize May Day rally with pre-emptive arrest

(This post typed at 14:30 and hastily posted at 17:45 before I head out for a meeting)
(Edit added afterward to replace hypothetical Andrew Nellis quote with real one)

Walking out for lunch today, I saw El Maks' latest art installation, "The Annoying Protester Kit" on Elgin. I thought that this and his recent "Graffiti Station" would make for a good blog post, but as I continued toward the teriyaki place (which, by the way, is under new management. I don't like the new flavour), I noticed a gathering at the front entrance to the provincial courthouse.

I walked a bit further, to Nepean Street, and noticed that they weren't making much noise. There were also lots of police out.

I knew that today was May Day, and that there were to have been a rally and a Tea Party to impeach Larry O'Brien (personally, I would not be satisfied unless he resigned on his own honour), but this was indicative of something having gone down.

I was curious.

I approached three motorcycle cops parked across the street from the courthouse who were chatting. I asked them what was happening. They looked back at me like I had asked if I could sleep with their mothers. I had to sheepishly add "I'm just curious", and they said "A demonstration," and went back to ignoring me.

To censor and protect.

Since the police didn't want to give me a reasonable overview of what was going on, I went over to the protest to find out for myself. A lot of the regulars were there, and there was a wall of brightly-coloured cops guarding the front entrance. One cop was behind them with a video camera.

According to what I could gather from talking to a couple of people, Andrew Nellis had been arrested yesterday for postering, and was being held on unspecified charges. He will have a hearing on Monday morning, again with unspecified charges. Andrew Nellis, whose philosophies I've discussed before on this blog, is an organizer with the Panhandler's Union, and he also organizes a neighbourhood-watch type group called "copwatch", to protect panhandlers from overzealous misapplication of the law. He was also pictured in a recent edition of the Centretown News clearing the ice at Jack Purcell park.

If it were someone else arrested and Andrew had been at the protest, he would have pointed out that his arrest was intended to preclude his ability to participate and organize in today's planned demonstration. Even though the charges against him are likely to be eventually dropped, he is still likely to get bail conditions to restrict his movement from places like Rideau street, the Market, and Elgin street. This will make it very hard for him to get on with his regular community activities.

Edit: Coincidentally, in Thursday's 24 Hours commuter paper (not available online), there actually is a quote by Andrew talking about this sort of thing. He is quoted: "The entire point is to get them in front of a judge who will slap them with conditions, which are usually 'stay away from the downtown core' and 'don't panhandle.'" I will write a new post about this.

Shortly after I got there, the protest broke up and went back to the Human Rights monument, and I went back to get my lunch and head back to my office. After passing a couple of motorcycle cops on Lisgar at Elgin, I decided it would be useful to show some civil disobedience and jay-walk to the restaurant (not a very risky move, since I am almost always jay-walking when I cross Elgin).

Exile Infoshop is moving to a larger space in the same building today, and they are launching a fundraising drive for the move. It is unfortunate that the celebration of their new expansion is mired with this needless arrest. Or as Andrew would have called it,


- RG>