A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Archive for July 2016

[PHOTO] To Hanlan’s Point, 30 July 2016

On Saturday, I went to Hanlan’s Point Beach with a friend. It was the first time I’d gone there this year, but the beach was as beautiful as ever.

One thing: In the morning, there are plenty of seabirds and insects around. The seagulls I liked, the insects less so.

Another thing: Remember sunscreen. I forgot, and believe me, this is visible.

Boarding #Toronto #Torontoislands #ferry

Looking back #Toronto #Torontoislands #jacklaytonferryterminal #westinharbourcastle

Ferry arrival #Toronto #Torontoislands #jacklaytonferryterminal #ferry

The Ned Hanlan #toronto #torontoislands #skyline #hanlanspoint #boats #nedhanlan

Liberty Village beyond Billy Bishop #toronto #torontoislands #skyline #hanlanspoint #libertyvillage #billybishopairport

Statue of Ned Hanlan #toronto #torontoislands #skyline #hanlanspoint #nedhanlan #statue

"Please walk on the grass" #Toronto #Torontoislands #parksandrec

The skyline beyond #toronto #torontoislands #skyline #hanlanspoint #skyline

Boardwalk to the beach #toronto #torontoislands #skyline #hanlanspoint #beach #boardwalk

Local star, G2V #toronto #torontoislands #earth #sun #yellowdwarf #mainsequence

Feet-first in Lake Ontario #Toronto #Torontoislands #hanlanspoint #lakeontario

Seagull against the surf #toronto #torontoislands #skyline #hanlanspoint #beach #seagull #birds #waves

Grey seagull #toronto #torontoislands #skyline #hanlanspoint #grey #seagull #birds #waves

Looking towards Ontario Place #toronto #torontoislands #skyline #hanlanspoint #beach #ontarioplace

Red and grey sand, 2 #toronto #torontoislands #skyline #hanlanspoint #beach #sand #red #grey

Southern end of the beach #toronto #torontoislands #skyline #hanlanspoint #beach

By the lagoon #toronto #torontoislands #skyline #hanlanspoint

Pre-boarding #toronto #torontoislands #skyline #hanlanspoint

Written by Randy McDonald

July 31, 2016 at 11:46 pm

[CAT] Shakespeare, in the early morning

Shakespeare, in the early morning #Toronto #Shakespeare #cats #catsofinstagram #caturday

Written by Randy McDonald

July 30, 2016 at 8:38 am

Posted in Photo, Toronto

Tagged with , ,

[ISL] “Muskrat Falls has become a millstone around Newfoundland’s neck”

The Globe and Mail‘s Konrad Yakabuski writes about the huge unanticipated costs of a hydroelectric project weighing down on a depressed Newfoundland.

By his own admission, former Newfoundland and Labrador premier Danny Williams entered politics in 2001 to turn his proverbially have-not province into the master of its own destiny.

For too long, Newfoundland had sat angrily by while its fishery resources were dilapidated by the federal government and the benefits of its vast hydroelectric potential, including the massive Upper Churchill generating station, accrued almost entirely to Quebec.

“After years of watching in frustration as opportunities for growth were missed, lost or mismanaged, I had enough,” Mr. Williams said in a speech this April. “From the fishery to the Upper Churchill, I was determined to change our path in the history books.”

It seemed to work out for a while. An oil boom and a deal with Ottawa on the province’s offshore resources enabled Newfoundland to move off the equalization rolls for the first time in 2007. And Mr. Williams capped off his premiership in 2010 by launching a $6.2-billion hydro project on the Lower Churchill River, free of what he called “the geographic stranglehold of Quebec.”

Newfoundlanders, it seemed, were indeed becoming masters in their own house.

Well, the oil boom has gone bust, driving the province’s public finances to the bottom of the Canadian heap, and the projected cost of the 824-megawatt Muskrat Falls hydro project now under construction on the Lower Churchill has been revised skyward to a staggering $11.4-billion. Muskrat Falls has become a millstone around the neck of an already down province.

Written by Randy McDonald

July 29, 2016 at 3:31 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Berlin’s Startup Hub Wants to Prove It’s More Than Just a Scene”

Adam Satariano and Stefan Nicola wrote for Bloomberg BusinessWeek about Berlin’s emergence as a startup hub. This is not mentioned in the article, but I wonder how Brexit will help or hinder this.

The Factory would feel pretty much like any big Silicon Valley headquarters, if you couldn’t see the death strip. In the 19th century, this 130,000-square-foot Berlin warehouse held a brewery. In the 20th, it was an air raid shelter, then rested in the shadow of the Berlin Wall. East German watchtower guards gunned down people trying to scramble across the border. (Hence the term “death strip.”) Today the retrofitted space is home to dozens of tech companies, including Uber and Twitter, and is the headquarters of the music streaming service SoundCloud.

Inside, the Factory is packed with all the perks of a Silicon Valley campus: nap rooms, scooters, 3D printing stations. Headphone-wearing millennials hunch over MacBooks or mill around a lounge where guitars hang from the wall near books with titles such as The Lean Startup and The Startup Game. Conference rooms are named for the regulars at Andy Warhol’s Factory. There are 700 people here; in addition to the full-time employees, a lot of individual tech workers pay €50 ($55) a month for access to a common work area.

“It’s a social club for startups,” says Factory co-founder Lukas Kampfmann, 30, wearing a T-shirt bearing the names Steve (as in Jobs), Elon (Musk), Bill (Gates), and Mark (Zuckerberg), printed in the font Helvetica like the familiar Beatles shirt. On the roof of the warehouse, with a clear view of the former death strip, Kampfmann says his community’s emulation of Silicon Valley isn’t an accident. “We admire American movies, culture, fashion, music,” he says, and this is the logical next step.

Across Berlin, young tech workers from throughout Europe are flooding into cafes and rehabbed Soviet-era buildings, drawn to the German capital by the promise of foosball-casual work environments, cheap rent, and an uninhibited party culture. It’s a package deal that can be tough to match elsewhere in Europe. A decade ago there were a few dozen tech startups in Berlin. Now there are 2,500, and the Investitionsbank Berlin, the government’s regional economic development agency, says there are 70 percent more digital jobs there than there were in 2008.

Although a handful of old-school conglomerates such as Siemens and SAP remain Germany’s most visible technology companies, they’re no longer the country’s main draw for aspiring hardware or software developers, says Martin Hellwagner, a 27-year-old coder who moved to Berlin from Austria in early 2014. “I really wanted to work for a startup,” says Hellwagner, who spends 60 hours a week working on Uberchord, a guitar-lessons app. “You have more responsibilities. It’s not just a 9-to-5. You actually change something, and your opinion matters.”

Written by Randy McDonald

July 29, 2016 at 3:16 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Why Did Busloads Of Asian Tourists Suddenly Arrive In This English Village?”

Writing for NPR’s Parallels, Lauren Frayer reports on the apparently mysterious mass visit of Asian tourists to the English village of Kidlington. Perhaps they just wanted to see an English village?

Fran Beesley was still in her bathrobe early one morning in June when she emerged from her home to find a Japanese family taking photos of her flowerbeds.

She lives in a 1970s-style one-story bungalow in the rural village of Kidlington, about a 90-minute drive northwest of London. It’s a quiet place. Doesn’t get many visitors. Beesley is retired and cares for her invalid husband. They’re both in their 70s.

It was what Brits call “wheelie bin day” — garbage collection day. Beesley walked down her driveway to retrieve her empty trash cans.

“And I saw this gentleman putting his camera away. Well, as you can see, it’s just my vegetables and geraniums!” she says, taking NPR on a tour of the flower beds. She says the Asian tourists politely put away their cameras. Their tour bus idled out front.

Beesley tried to offer tea to her unexpected guests, but they didn’t speak English. She managed a few words with their Polish bus driver, but he didn’t say much.

Written by Randy McDonald

July 29, 2016 at 3:01 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “514 Cherry: Analysis of Early Days’ Operation June 2016”

Steve Munro at his blog does a sterling job crunching data on the new 514 Cherry streetcar route, noting the young route’s irregularity.

The Cherry branch is intended to serve the developing eastern part of the Distillery District which is just becoming occupied after its use as the Athletes’ Village for the Pan Am Games. Substantial additional development is planned here over the coming years, and eventually the route could be extended south to link with a reconfigured Queens Quay East and the Port Lands redevelopment.

The scheduled service is every 8-9 minutes peak, every 12 minutes Saturday afternoons, and every 14-15 minutes at all other times. Any irregularity in headways can lead to long waits defeating the attractiveness of this service.

Service at Mill Street northbound (just leaving Distillery Loop) shows a wide variation in headways, and the standard deviation of the headways for weekday service is regularly at or above 6 minutes. This means that a substantial share of the headways lie in a range at least 12 minutes wide. This is vastly beyond the TTC’s goal for service reliability at terminals. The situation on Saturday is slightly better with SDs in the 2-6 minute range, but the Sunday stats are the worst of all. Note that these numbers include only one Saturday and two Sundays with an infrequent service. Therefore the number of observations per hour is small.

At Dufferin Loop (measured at Springhurst, the street immediately north of the loop), the situation is slightly better, but not by much.

Quite evident in the charts is that cars running on very close headways, under five minutes, are not uncommon. For a route with a wider scheduled headway, this means that would-be riders will often see two 514 cars followed by a long gap. If they are simply travelling along the central part of King, this does not matter, but if they actually want to use the stops on Cherry or Dufferin because they live or work nearby, they face an uncertain fate.

More, including his data, is at his website.

[URBAN NOTE] “Subjectivity around space complicates TTC debates over transit crowding”

The Globe and Mail‘s Oliver Moore reports on the infuriatingly complex role of subjectivity in gauging transit crowding.

There’s crowded and then there’s crowded.

Take a Toronto subway train during the morning rush, put it on one of London’s busiest routes and they’ll get 20-per-cent more people onto it. Put the train in Tokyo and the passengers per square metre will jump to half again as many as Toronto.

These are comparisons that undermine the regular refrain that Toronto’s system is bursting at the seams. But they also reflect the highly subjective question of what it means to be crowded.

“We’re used to people touching us on all sides. You just go into a zone where your normal boundaries about personal space get changed,” said Lianna Etkind, with the British advocacy group Campaign for Better Transport. “When you’re squeezed in on all sides … it’s unpleasant. But it’s seen as normal. That’s a normal part of peak-time commuting.”

The amount of space people feel they need varies from country to country and city to city. It evolves with changing human behaviours – a vehicle can hold fewer passengers if they’re looking at their phones – and attitudes.

Even within a transit system, passengers will have different ideas of what is too crowded. During the busiest period one recent morning at Bloor-Yonge station, about half of the people waiting on the platform got on each train. But who got on was often the result of individual judgment. Some people would look at a heavily laden train and decide to take their chances on the next one. Others were determined to squeeze their way on, regardless how tight the fit.

Written by Randy McDonald

July 29, 2016 at 2:31 pm