Sunday, February 28, 2010

Cross country

Friday afternoon, a few of us went out to enjoy the new southern Ontario snow, and tried cross country skiing for the first time. We headed up to Albion Hills, only about 45 minutes north of the city. But first, a little breakfast/lunch.

Chris not only cooked up some omelettes, but being the only one who's actually cross country skied before, also offered up some pointers.

It turned out to be a perfect day out...

While getting the ski pattern down wasn't too difficult, staying balanced on those thin skis was.

But, we all eventually got the hang of it!

Justyna, looking more like the other Justyna...

Costs ran about $23 per person after all rentals, park fees and taxes.

An awesome experience, and I would definitely like to go back there again this winter; maybe this time for a full day instead of just the afternoon. We were a bit pressured for time as we got up there a bit late, but with light flurries and no wind, the afternoon was pretty perfect.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The old Eels.

They're new album is absolutely fantastic, but, for some background...

Mr. E covers Prince.


Mr. E's father provided the gift of the parallel worlds theory, btw...

Ron Hawkins? Billy Bragg? Ron Sexsmith? Raw. Mr. Everett.

Below is my favourite Eels song. The video doesn't fit. Listen once, if I could recommend, with your eyes closed. And then listen and watch. It's not the video.

Umm, cut that. I'll go with a live version. For some reason(?!) it fits better. Performed 12 years ago.

And really, below, this is the perfect song. I really don't care who sings it. Even this aloof in love guy.


It's too easy to keep on going....

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Song of the Day: Weezer - Butterfly

I listened to Pinkerton twice yesterday. Then I started thinking about songs with the a river analogy... so many! Then I started thinking of songs with the word sorry. This is the ridiculous shit that happens when I try to clean a house.

Posted by:
Tuning: Standard

Riff 1:






Verse 1:

F# Ebm B
Yesterday I went outside
C# F#
With my momma's mason jar
Ebm B RIFF 1 (Or play C#)
Caught a lovely Butterfly
F# Ebm B
When I woke up today
C# F#
Looked in on my fairy pet
Ebm B RIFF 2(then back to B for a moment before going to C)
She had withered all away
No more sighing in her breast

I'm sorry for what I did
Ebm B
I did what my body told me to
C# F#
I didn't mean to do you harm
F#7 B RIFF 3 C#
Everytime I pin down what I think I want
F# Ebm B
It slips away - the ghost slips aw- aaay

Verse 2 (same chords as verse 1):

I smell you on my hand for days
I can't wash away your scent
If I'm a dog then you're a bitch
I guess you're as real as me
Maybe I can live with that
Maybe I need fantasies
A life of chasing butterfly

I'm sorry for what I did
Ebm B
I did what my body told me to
C# F#
I didn't mean to do you harm
F#7 B C#
Everytime I pin down what I think I want
F# Ebm B
It slips away - the ghost slips aw-aaay

(Stay on B)

Verse 3 (pretty much the same but slower):

F# Ebm B
I told you I would return
C# F#
When the robin makes his nest
Ebm B RIFF 1 (Or play C#)
But I ain't never coming back


I'm sorry
I'm sorry
B F#
I'm sorry

Waste my days (and get a job).

There are few better sounds. The drumstick against the trap. Feedback. I once tried to catalogue a chromatic feedback list. Starting with feedback in the sound of A minor.

Bike Police

Poland, apparently. They tried to talk him down.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Toronto's streetlights

I posted an article this morning on google reader from the Toronto Star about how Toronto is to pay $420 million in rental fees for streetlights they just sold for $60 million. After I commented with distaste, Chris pointed out that maintenance fees weren't included in those numbers and weren't mentioned in the article at all. Basically, the numbers may just look a lot worse than they actually are. I did think about that initially, but a hot head reaction and post was later brought in by Chris' comment. SO, can we get closer to the real numbers here?

For the life of me, I can't find how much Toronto spends/spent on streetlight maintenance each year prior to their sale. I'm not surprised, but, that is going to be a problem. So, I'll try to work around that a bit. Below is a very rough numbers calculation based on old facts and unreliable figures.

Hamilton, who debated roughly the same topic in 2003, actually posted their discussions online without any attempted lawyer cover-up (how about that!), had about 35,000 streetlights in 2003 (link is a pdf).

By Toronto Hydro numbers, Toronto currently has about 150,000 streetlights.

So, roughly 5 times the population, and roughly 5 times the number of streetlights (by the numbers I saw.. ). Makes sense, downtown density aside.

Hamilton, in 2003 spent just under $500,000 for streetlight maintenance (in that pdf above). So, let's say there's an increased of about 20% from those numbers to 2010, and I'll concede an additional $100,000, just guesstimating. (For comparison, Toronto Hydro is just adjusting their 30 year fee with inflation.) That means that if I had to guess, Hamilton is spending about $600,000 a year on streetlight sustenance. Converting these numbers to Toronto (x5), streetlight upkeep should currently cost us about 3 million dollars a year.

That means that over the 30 year rental agreement with Toronto Hydro (estimated at about $14 million a year), we're in the hole about $11 million a year. For 30 years that's $330 million which we could have saved. Subtract from that the initial $60 million received, and we're in the hole $270 million over the length of the contract, give or take. Or, to put it another way, what would be costing us $90-100 million, is now costing us $420 million.

Now, maintenance doesn't include administration (turning lights on/off/handling complaints, etc...). I have no idea what the costs are, and I assume it's fairly automated, but seeing as it's Toronto, let's say another $2 million a year? That saves us another $60 million.

So, you're right; the hole isn't as bad as it was made out to be. And my numbers are really just coming from anywhere 15 minutes will allow. But, it does still seem ridiculous, significant, and inexcusable. Moreover, ownership does have its privileges, and incentives.

Given that Toronto is still paying for the hydro it uses for these streetlamps (I assume that's not in the deal - otherwise it would be pretty sweet), there is little incentive for Toronto Hydro to replace bulbs with high efficiency ones. Further, I doubt Toronto Hydro will put forth the initiative to proactively replace street lamps with something that Toronto citizens may want 10 years down the road. What I'm (poorly) trying to say is that it's just another example where Toronto is selling off its public assets and image for short term gain, and those numbers aren't yet included in the sell-off monetary shortfall.

As an aside, here's a slideshow of what San Francisco may be considering in their streetlight efforts (pdf again).


As another aside, didn't Toronto Hydro have some massive wi-fi plan it was supposed to implement on these streelamps? Is that what One Zone is? Well, that seems to have worked out pretty well for them...

Brother's Grimm in theatre

in association with



Factory Studio Theatre
125 Bathurst Street

"In days gone by there was a land where the nights were always dark...
for there the moon never rose, and no star shone in the obscurity.”
- The Brother’s Grimm

Co-creators Michele Smith and Dean Gilmour,
along with actors Adam Paolozza, Dan Watson and Pragna Desai,
take audiences through a stormy world where lessons are learned the hard way.

Runs to March 21
Tuesday – Saturday 8:00 PM
Sundays 2:30 PM

Tuesday – Thursday $20
Friday $25
Saturday $28
Sundays $10 advance or PWYC at door
$5 Student/Senior discount on all tickets
Previews $12

I'm thinking of going this Sunday. Anyone else in?

(via BlogTO and here.)

No pattern seen in pedestrian deaths?

A rash of pedestrian deaths in Toronto over a two-week period in January was not caused by anything specific, police have told a citizen group.

The victims were from every age group over 25, the collisions occurred at all times of day, all over the city and during varying weather conditions.

"That's why you cannot put a lot of weight into that two-week period," Sgt. Tim Burrows told the Toronto Pedestrian Committee on Tuesday.

He went on to say:

"In this case (seniors), it was only 20 per cent," he said. "It was against the norms for everything, which basically says it was a spike."

Similar blips are seen every few years, he said.


Soooo, there is some sort of pattern then, right? It's just maybe not the one you're looking for? Could this be a systematic issue that comes up at certain times of the year due to 'perfect storm' scenarios? And if so, what are the contributing factors to such a scenario? Do these 'blips' always happen in January? Do they always during snowless winters when more people are walking unexpectedly?

I don't know, but I'd sure love to get my hands on the statistics. Required with these statistics would be population density, traffic (pedestrian and motor), infrastructure, rules and enforcement at strike areas, types of collisions, etc. I'm pretty sure this analytical study wouldn't take more than 2-3 weeks for someone with the information and motivation. Such a study could also significantly impact the way we think about analyzing and organizing our city. Pattern recognition is something the brain does best. Sure, stats can lie, but only if you want them to.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Who's up for a road trip?

The New Yorker Festival dates have been announced.

We’re pleased to announce that the eleventh annual New Yorker Festival will take place on October 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, in New York City.

Check back here in the coming months to find out more about the 2010 Festival, or sign up for Festival Wire to receive e-mail updates.

For more information, and to watch events from previous years, visit

And below, watch a recap of last year’s New Yorker Festival.

Album of the day: The Hidden Cameras - The Smell of Our Own

And this album doesn't only rock because of lyrics like, "That there is splendor in the harshness of bum".

It isn't available on the torrents, so I'm gonna host it here for a bit. If you haven't listened to it, you are in for a real treat. It's a classic, and you'll have a new found band in The Hidden Cameras, who play their home town Toronto quite often. Highlights include tracks 1, 2, 6, and 7, but all 10 are pretty great. I'm pretty sure most of you have heard this album, but as it has snuck into my top ten recently, I thought I'd reshare.

Download here. (ok, link down for now.. apparently there has been a hack attack!)

Ban Marriage, live and AWESOME.

"Acoustic" version of Ban Marriage.

Golden Streams, plus interview, on Q

This one sent shivers down my spine.

With Owen Pallett and Mike Olsen (Arcade Fire) I think.

It's an older album, but fundamental. Hopefully the above convinces you to download and listen.

Cheese of the Day: Dofino Jalapeno Havarti

I don't know about you, but I'm always on the look out for some good, everyday, cheap cheese. Something I can always have around the house and use on basically everything, from spaghetti to cereal. I think I've found one of those multi-purpose cheeses.

At No Frills an 800g brick will set you back $11, and it's good.

Movie of the day: Gigantic

Just watched this movie, and I gotta say, it was pretty good! Reviewers seem to either hate it for it being 'too indie' and cookie cutter (which it isn't) or like it for its constant and layered metaphors. I liked it; the characters were developed and great, story was above average, and there is a lot going on unsaid.

Anyway, cheap rental, or download it here (how to download a torrent). Here's the Times review.

Happy audio/visual day, apparently!

Song of the Day: Liz Phair - Mesmerizing

Great Liz Phair song off the Exile in Guyville record.

I remember walking in Tokyo listening to this song. My friend Eric had to work during the day, and by the time he got off I was walking down around the Ginza area. Anyway, we were on opposite sides of the area, it turned out, and texted to meet in the middle for dinner and then to head to the Tokyo tower. As I was walking this song came on, and I remember consciously thinking that not only was it a great song, but I wanna associate this moment with this song. So, walking toward the agreed vending machine hot pot spot I kept this song on repeat. Apparently we were a bit further away from eachother than I anticipated, and I must have listened to it eight or nine times straight. I finally ran into him, and will probably never forget everything in me and around me then.

Speaking of/about time, Mr. Eric, when are we doing our Skype 'n' beer night?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Time to step up.

Copied and pasted straight from This calls for some action.

Toronto's Bixi may be in jeopardy

Bixi, Montreal's successful bikesharing system, is catching on like wildfire and will be expanding to Minneapolis, Melbourne, Boston and even London, UK, this year. But Toronto seems unconvinced, and it appears as if city bureaucrats are close to derailing it.

City Manager bureaucrats seem not to understand the point of bikesharing and, from what I've heard from sources, that they don't see how it would work. An acquaintance has heard from City Manager number crunchers that they don't see Bixi as viable and thought it was waste of money (I'm paraphrasing here). The City Manager's office at City Hall is key to organizing city services and has the ear of council. According to the website, it "guides the Corporation of the City of Toronto and advises Council in the management of all its fiscal, organizational and service challenges. The City Manager is accountable to Council for the policy direction and program delivery of divisions."

This same acquaintance, who is also an avid cyclist, attempted to show how, in fact, Bixi has worked elsewhere and thought it would work here. My other source shows that this attempt may not have been all that successful. The City Manager's office might not be getting behind bikesharing. If they manage to derail it this year, it may take some time for the bureaucracy to get around to doing it again.

So, how is it that so many cities around the world can operate bikesharing programs, but Toronto bureaucrats can't understand if it would work or not? Toronto city leaders are asleep at the wheel, opines Joe Berridge at the Toronto Star. "Paris introduced the Velolibre [sic] free bicycle system, now being copied in some form in almost every big city. But not Toronto."

City staff have kept tight lips on the details so I'm not really sure why Bixi is in jeopardy. In theory the deal was supposed to be at no cost to the city.

It would have been nice if they could have involved the community a lot more in the planning. In the days of CBN's Bikeshare there's was broad support by businesses and organizations, both small and large. Perhaps they could have avoided some of this pain. It's not too late.

Send letters in support of Bixi

I Bike T.O. and The Urban Country encourage you to send letters to your councillors and city staff to encourage them to keep going with Bixi. Here is a draft letter:

Dear Mayor Miller,

It has come to my attention that the City of Toronto is considering putting a halt on its deal with the Public Bike System Company (BIXI) to bring a public bicycle sharing program to Toronto later this year.

This would be an extremely disappointing and unfortunate outcome. Traffic congestion, pollution and obesity are major issues that we need to deal with right now as the City of Toronto’s population is expected to increase by 3 million people by 2031.

Bicycle sharing is important in our city to provide a alternative means of transportation for short trips while helping people stay healthy. A bike sharing system would compliment public transit very well and I had every intention on using this system on a regular basis.

Please do everything in your power to ensure the city makes the right choice for its citizens and proceeds with signing a deal to bring BIXI to Toronto in 2010.


Please send it to the list below plus your local councillor (get the email from this list).

City Hall Contacts:

From The Urban Country:

BIXI installed at no cost to the City

It would be unfortunate to pass on such a great opportunity for this city since BIXI requires very little investment from the city and the taxpayers. The Public Bike System Company would foot the bill to install the bike rental stations and provide the bicycles, so it seems odd that the city would axe these plans for fiscal reasons alone.

I was told the city would only be responsible for identifying the preferred locations of the mobile bike sharing stations, and - unlike Montreal -Toronto wasn’t planning on removing parking spaces to make room for the bike stations. Rather, they would be installed on existing sidewalks and other public spaces.

Is it possible that the city struggled to find space for the BIXI stations? Would parking spaces need to be removed? Was there turmoil between the city’s parking authority and City Hall? Does BIXI require an investment from the City that they weren’t willing to put up?

.. I'll post more as it comes around. This is starting to get ridiculous and a few things need to change.

Here were the original plans. However, these are totally unconfirmed, from what I understand. Walrus blog article on the Toronto riding and Bixi.

There Probably is no God

The launch, held (January 6th) near the Albert memorial, featured speeches by Dawkins, author of The God Delusion; Ariane Sherine, creator of the Atheist Bus Campaign; and Hanne Stinson, from the British Humanist Association. (Guardian UK)

Short video interview here:

...a new campaign in Britain to get atheists to "come out."

Around £6,000 was needed to run adverts in London but within two days, individuals and organisations had pledged more than £87,000. More than £135,000 has been pledged so far.

Despite receiving more than 300 complaints,The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) concluded that the campaign did not contravene the code and it would therefore not launch an investigation.

The authority said it had received 326 complaints about the campaign, some claiming it was offensive to people of faith and others challenging whether the advertisement was misleading.

...complaints from Christians, some of whom claimed it breached ASA codes on substantiation and truthfulness. The slogan should read There Probably Is A God, they claimed.

Carolyn's blog

The Southwest, part 3

Tuesday January 26th. Because we had only a short trip to Las Cruces planned for later that day we were able to spend most of the morning walking around the Santa Fe Plaza, along with some breakfast at Tia Sophia's, which was pretty good. I think we came in with high expectations for our first real taste of authentic Mexican, and it came highly recommended. I must admit I was a bit disappointed when I asked for hot sauce and they brought me a bottle of Tabasco.

Anyway, off in the morning to explore... maybe we should have eaten at "Ze French Bistro" adjacent to our hotel...

Ah, the Loretto Chapel, home of the "Miraculous Staircase". The short story goes that these nuns built a Chapel for themselves back God knows when, but never really connected the first and second floors (huh?). So, instead of using a ladder, or building a staircase, they prayed for 9 days and nights until finally some dude, let's call him Joseph, came by with his carpentry tools and built them a staircase in a few days. The staircase was made even more special because it appeared not to have an inner, central support. Moreover, no nails or screws!

This doesn't seem at all believable. In fact, it kinda sounds like a scam, no?

From good old, trustworthy Wikipedia: More recent studies show that there is very little that is "miraculous" about the staircase. It is arguably unsafe since its helix shape makes it oscillate just like a very large spring. The railing, too, was a subsequent addition (Phillip August Hesch). As to its apparent ability to stand without a central support, this argument proceeds on a faulty premise that all spiral staircases need a central support. In fact, they do not, and lateral or outer supports work just as well. However, this staircase does have a concealed central support, an inner wood stringer of a very small radius that, because of its small size, functions effectively as a central pole. This technique is well known. The staircase also has an additional outer support to one of the columns that support the loft. The staircase is made of spruce, but insufficient sampling makes it impossible to conclusively affirm (or deny) the source of this wood.

Anyway, it cost $3 to see this thing, so, deciding to skip it and the "Inn and Spa at Loretto" next door, on we go!

Walking around the Plaza, some fine Polish folk art (??) was available. Miraculous.

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. Built in 1610, replaced in 1630, destroyed in 1680, rebuilt in 1714, rebuilt again in 1887, straightened in 1967, elevated to a Basilica by Pope Benedict XVI in 2005. There is a lot of history here. The only part of the original church still existing is the small adobe chapel dedicated to Our Lady La Conquistadora. Brought from Spain in 1625, the statue is the oldest representation of the Virgin Mary in the United States.

The original was not on display.

Moving on, we explored the Plaza a bit more, and Adam bought a gift or two from some of the local vendors. Well, maybe not that local; apparently this dude came in from about 2 hours away.

More park benches.

Americans and their bumper stickers!

So, back on the road.

From Santa Fe to Las Cruces it's a scant 458 km, or about 4.5 hours.

We decided to stop on the way in "Truth or Consequences"; with a population of around 8000, it's essentially a hippie town looking for tourists.

Originally named Hot Springs, the city changed its name to Truth or Consequences, the title of a popular NBC radio program. In 1950, Ralph Edwards, the host of the radio quiz show Truth or Consequences announced that he would air the program from the first town that renamed itself after the show. Hot Springs, NM won the honor. Ralph Edwards came to the town during the first weekend of May for the next fifty years. This event was called "Fiesta" and included a beauty contest, a parade, and a stage show. The city still celebrates Fiesta each year on the first Saturday of May. The parade generally features area celebrities such as the Hatch Chile Queen. Fiesta also features a dance in Ralph Edwards Park.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Truth or Consequences City Hall:

Wait, this is it:

Back on the road, skeletons in the sky.

So, we made it into Las Cruces, and went through their "downtown area".

View Larger Map
Yeah. Not much there. At all. No one walking, and with restaurants and hotels all spaced just far enough to need to drive to we had our first mini-panic moment of the trip.

After doing a bit searching (apparently the local University hangout is a coffee shop called Spirit Winds, which is, of course, driving distance from the University), we started to do a bit of internet / Lonely Planet reading, we decided to try Mesilla, which is apparently a stones throw away.

View Larger Map

And we lucked out! Mesilla is pretty awesome! For now you'll have to trust me, as morning exploration pictures are on the next update...

So, before booking our hotel room for the night in and around Mesilla, we decided to go to dinner. Chope's, which was good, and better than Tia Sophia's. About 25 miles south on highway 28 in the town of La Mesa (drag down Hwy 28 above, if you like.. ), it was a fantastic meal, although again, it could have been spicier. Jays hat sighting in there as well.

There was a bar just across the way from the restaurant, but seeing as we didn't have a hotel room, and we had our car, we booted it back up to Mesilla, and the local Days Inn.

So, it must have been somewhere around 11pm at this point. Maybe later. We go to the front desk and asked to get a cab to the Old Mesilla Plaza. The dude at the desk hands me two cabbie cards. I call the first guy, and he reports that he scored a long trip to Albuquerque and wouldn't be available for the rest of the night. He gives me a number to call for another cab, which, curiously, turns out to be the same number on the second cab card given to us by our fine concierge. Giving this second dude a call, he tells us he'll be around in about 20 minutes and he'll call to our room when he gets there. We go back to our room, and yeah... the phone doesn't work in there. So, after splitting a tall boy of Coors Light, we hang out in the lobby for a bit.

After about 15 minutes he comes by and apologizes for the delay. See, apparently there are only two cab drivers IN ALL OF LAS CRUCES. This is a town of almost 100,000 people, serviced only by two cabbies. Everyone drives down here it seems... pretty much no matter the circumstances...

So, instead of Chope's bar, we hit up this bar:

El Patio. One year it apparently made Men's Journal top 50 bars in America. Or, the owner just put up this picture. I don't really feel like fact checking.

As described over at,

"El Patio, Old Mesilla Plaza, _The_ Bar in town. Live Music. Unique smell. "

Whateves. Again, it's not always the places you go, but it's the people you meet. We happened to crash a birthday party there, and had a great time. And no, the bar didn't smell at all; highly recommended when in Mesilla/Las Cruces.

Here are some pics taken by our Las Cruces friend Cindy!:

And one with the birthday girl!

So, about 1:30am I call up our cabbie friend figuring it'll take at least a 1/2 hour for him to come by. JUST after 2am, after the bar keep threatens the entire bar with a taser, we're on the sidewalk - yes. Our pals, seeing as the cabbie was probably not coming, graciously offered us a ride back to the Days Inn.

Mesilla, you rock. Tomorrow we'd be getting up a bit earlier than usual as it would be our longest driving day, accentuated by a very out of the way detour. However, we would see us some white sand desert, a "take pictures only in that direction" missle range, drive up to almost 9000 feet, eat some bbq, drive along the Mexican border, and make it through most of Texas at night without a license plate.

See part 2 here.

See part 1 here.