electricland: (books too many)
Walking Home: The Life and Lessons of a City BuilderWalking Home: The Life and Lessons of a City Builder by Ken Greenberg

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you like Jane Jacobs you'll probably like Ken Greenberg, the implementation to Jacobs' theory. While this book is particularly resonant if you live in Toronto, where Greenberg has lived and worked for decades, it's full of fascinating anecdotes of city building (failed and successful) all over the world. Very inspiring to those of us who love cities and want them to keep working.

Via Spacing: http://spacingtoronto.ca/2011/05/24/ken-...

View all my reviews
electricland: (This Is Wonderland)
Via comments on Steve Munro's site: The Rollerboat. I had never heard of this before!

I tend to forget how much of the waterfront is actually landfill. Maybe the Rollerboat is hanging out with that boat in Consolation.


Aug. 28th, 2008 02:05 pm
electricland: (This Is Wonderland)
So I want to go over and check out the new pedestrian scramble at Yonge and Dundas, which is 3 blocks from where I sit. (And 17 floors down, yes. Don't trouble me with technicalities.)

I'm quite excited about this actually. Aside from anything else, it may one day save me from being crushed to death at the northwest corner, where there is next to no room to stand anyway. The CityNews story has obligatory driver whining:
It's that kind of pronouncement that angers drivers, who will now be forced to wait a lot longer at the lights, increasing their already simmering impatience and their feeling that City Hall is at war with the car.

"You've got to keep traffic moving somehow, and to hold up traffic just so a few pedestrians can cross wherever they want doesn't make sense," moans motorist Bryan Lawrence about the four way stop.
Because if it weren't for those darn pedestrians, traffic at Yonge and Dundas would just move like lightning! I decided some time ago that trying to drive in this area = Doing It Wrong. It's a recipe for rage and disaster. I don't think one changed pedestrian crossing more or less is going to make a difference.

This "war on cars" meme that's appeared lately irks me. Sorry, motorists, but yes, trying to change the transportation mix away from cars and towards cycling and public transit is going to involve some inconvenience for drivers. And personally I'm OK with that.

(I suspect that a lot of drivers are fine with everyone else taking the bus or their bike. Hey, more room on the roads!)
electricland: (This Is Wonderland)
You know what always puts me in a wonderful friendly mood, ready and eager to welcome visitors to my hometown and show off its good points?

If you guessed "Chiding from the tourist board", you are so right!

OK, no, actually, I lied. This is pissing me off.
A campaign launched under the slogan "We've been expecting you" is meant to make sure tourists feel wanted and loved from the minute they arrive at the airport, train station or hotel.

It will encourage average folks to do things like stop on the street to help a visitor fumbling with a map, or go out of their way to explain how the subway system works.

"It goes beyond customer service. It's the sense of welcome. It's the things you would do if someone were coming to your house – spruce up the house, get the candles out, put the kids in the backyard," said David Whitaker, president and CEO of Tourism Toronto.
OK, knee-jerk reactions first:
1. The word "folks" always makes me grind my teeth.
2. This "coming to your house" metaphor is both (a) condescending and (b) clueless:
(a) Nothing against tourists. I like tourists fine. I often stop to help people fumbling with maps, or point them towards the subway. (I work a block away from the bus station, so I get a lot of opportunity.) But the difference between tourists and people coming to my house is that tourists are perfect strangers who have chosen to spend time in my city, and people who come to my house are friends I have invited there.
(b) Toronto's a big city. Where do you propose that I put the candles?
3. Excuse me, customer service? WTF? Do I get a salary for that? Sorry if this comes as a shock to you, Mr. Whitaker, but Toronto is not a product I am selling on your behalf. Toronto is where I live. It is my home.
4. Exactly how is talking down to your citizenry the way to make us all shiny happy friendly welcoming, er, average folks?
...surveys show today's tourists go home a lot less satisfied with their visits here than they did 10 years ago.
Fair enough, I can see why this would give the tourist board pause. Tourism is important to the economy, and word of mouth is important to tourism. Seriously, though, does the proposed remedy smack of desperate neediness to anyone else? Is this Toronto's "world-class city" obsession for the new millennium?
Still in the planning stages, the "We've been expecting you" campaign could include welcome buttons or signs, and extra training for hospitality staff. It could also mean a city-wide campaign on bus shelters, in subway stations and even bumper stickers on government cars.

Residents could be educated on the importance of tourism to the economy and the role they can play to make the city much more welcoming.
Royson James is rightly critical of the hand-wringing, but makes some good points about the real problems:
So, why are industry officials nervous, edgy, saying things like, "We must take it to the next level. It's just not good enough?"

Because competitor cities are constantly upgrading and improving. Because fewer Americans are coming, worried or put off as they are by passport requirements and less buying power with the Yankee dollar.
Not that he's quite managed to avoid chiding us either:
Because local attractions are viewed as tired and visitors say, increasingly, they are not getting as much as they expected from their visits. Because more and more view our service as below expectations.

Because few outside the well-connected know that Toronto is a gem of a location. And those who do aren't telling enough about it.

Because Torontonians are at once too modest and too self-satisfied – not prone to brag about Toronto's achievements, unmotivated to compete for first place.
Unfortunately, his solution boils down to "better advertising." It might get us somewhere, but I don't think it's the whole story.

Here's my suggestion. Rather than haranguing the people who live here and fretting over what we can do to make random strangers from faraway places like us better, how about starting at home? Sell the city to Torontonians. Encourage us to explore a neighbourhood in another part of town. Play up the many different attractions we have. Explain how to get there using public transit. Publicize the routes of walking tours. Make it easier to get around by bike. Slap up some plaques to show more pride in local history. Charge less than bloody $20 to get into the ROM (ostensibly a public institution). Take down the 15-ft advertising sorry, information pillar in front of City Hall, which makes me want to spit every time I pass it (twice a working day, at minimum). Fix the TTC.

You want us to show pride in our city and make visitors feel welcome? Give us something to be proud of, tell us about it, trust us to be our typical friendly helpful selves, and get off our backs.
electricland: (This Is Wonderland)
Dear fellow TTC patrons:

Please exit by the rear doors, or I will be forced to smite you.



Dear Toronto drivers:

Please do not park at bus stops. No, not even if you're just going in for a minute. No, not even if you have your hazard lights on. No, that isn't really a universal parking indicator -- we made that up.



Dear TTC:

See you tonight. And you better have an explanation for sending along no 501 cars in the 20 minutes I was standing at Queen and Kingston Road last night, watching streetcars head up Kingston.

(OK, not really. A useful conversation would be good, though.)


electricland: (This Is Wonderland)
dammit, we lost another one: Bluma Appel
electricland: (Default)

We don't have enough like him.
electricland: (This Is Wonderland)
or, why you can't buy a sandwich from a vending cart: All your questions answered. (via [livejournal.com profile] spacing)
electricland: (This Is Wonderland)
God, Case Ootes annoys me. My attention to municipal politics is intermittent at best, but every time I read anything about him, he's proposing something asinine. (Glenn De Baeremaker is only asinine about 70% of the time, for contrast.)

Just wanted to get that off my chest. Go about your day.

(Edited to fix the link, as I took it from the Spacing story without checking it and it doesn't at all point to the right thing.)
electricland: (This Is Wonderland)
Went to the Kensington Market Festival of Lights last night with [livejournal.com profile] crankygrrl and [livejournal.com profile] pretentiousgit. Fabulous. Welcomed the sun back in style.
electricland: (This Is Wonderland)
Via [livejournal.com profile] spacing, an interesting article on Toronto's street food -- why it's basically limited to hot dogs, and how that might change.
electricland: (don't panic)
Not doing so well on the assignment (hey, I have 2 more days! no problem!) or on picking my candidate for City Council (22 hours, I think) but I now have 11 partridges and 11 pears. (Jen helped with the last pears. She says they're much nicer than tax.) Partridges still need beaks. But I am actually on track here, so yay.

Also done this weekend:

- Ushed at my mother's choir's concert.
- Saw [livejournal.com profile] moonlightjoy and other friends I don't see enough of.
- Finished building new chest of drawers. Set it up. Put in divider box thingies. My underwear has never been so organized.
- MEC. Lee Valley.
- Some work on course assignment.
- Laundry.

To Do This Week:

- Take overdue library books back already.
- Vote.
- Finish and hand in individual assignment for course. Ditto for group assignment, also present it.
- Get caught up at work. (Welcome new person, write at least 2 articles, finish ADHD script, follow up on puzzling survey results, project plan for Big Scary Project, slides explaining What We've Done So Far.)
- Finish & mail ornaments.
- Choir practice.
- Prepare for party. (Attempt to bring order to my half of the house. Sweep. Clean bathroom. Buy food and drink.)
- Attempt to watch all Doctor Who episodes at my disposal in order to write review due in 2 weeks.
- Get flu shot. Pick up prescriptions.

I think I may need to clone myself.

At least I have clean clothes.
electricland: (This Is Wonderland)
So, Toronto friends: you should really try and get to Planet in Focus this week (November 1-5). Environmental films from all over the world, at entirely reasonable prices. (Here's Spacing's plug for the Toronto in the Moving Image series.) I'm really looking forward to it.

As an added bonus, if you come at the right time, you can see me! I'll be volunteering at the Innis College site: in the box office Friday evening (5:30 p.m. until, oooh, late) and front of house Sunday afternoon/evening (3:15 on). But even if that's not an inducement, do come out. It's going to be great.


Aug. 2nd, 2006 01:51 pm
electricland: (This Is Wonderland)
As it says, very timely idea: Recycling waste energy

Sounds like a very smart idea too.
electricland: (Scotland)
News flash: Still hot and muggy.

Sat out on the deck reading and eating tomato and avocado slices this evening, and was joined -- well, not so much "joined" as "avoided" -- by a raccoon. My parents' garden is 12 1/2 feet wide (the width of the lot) by about 25 deep maybe, so we weren't all that far apart. S/he snuck out of the little passage by the basement stairs about five feet away from me, gave me an indignant look when I said "hi," and ducked back out of sight. Mostly out of sight; I could still see his/her tail. S/he (can't keep this up, I'll just pick a gender) thought for a bit, and then came out again. I think she was quite young -- she looked small for an adult, and not as roly-poly as raccoons get sometimes. She was obviously trying to keep as far away from me as possible, which meant climbing onto the bench/shed instead of coming around it towards me. She thought for a bit, planning her move, and then started to climb up onto a Rubbermaid box that was lying on its side between her and the shed. It was obviously smoother than she'd thought, because she got as far as the classic "swimmer trying to get out of a pool where the water level's kind of low" pose and then slid back to the deck with a thump.

But she managed it on the second try, quite neatly, and walked along the roof of the shed. This is about six feet long, and runs along the vine-covered fence that separates us from our neighbours. The fence in turn stands alone for another few feet and then meets the neighbours' garage/study, which is a separate building at the back of their garden. (We don't have such a thing; another part of the fence closes off the back of our garden from the parking area and the lane. Quite tree-covered at the back, and vines all the way.) Anyway, back to the raccoon. At the end of the shed she had a choice: down five feet or so to the ground, or up two to the top of the fence. She chose up, and walked along the fence to the garage wall -- the vines are so thick that I actually lost sight of her from time to time, except for the mad waving of the stray vine bits.

Bigger climb up to the garage roof, and I was quite worried because there are wires that come in there and I kept remembering that the monkeys in Kenya used to electrocute themselves by holding two wires at once. (I'm sure if raccoons did such things here I'd have heard about it by now, but logic can only do so much.) She mostly disappeared at this point except for her ears (pale grey on the backs and edges, quite noticeable), but it took her ages to get up to the roof and because there were bigger branches there was more scope for rustle, rustle, wave, wave -- very funny to watch.

At this point the neighbour on the other side came out to get Clara and Lily, who were being very quiet in her garden. They're Cairn terriers and normally very noisy, so I had assumed they hadn't seen the raccoon, but Susan said they were riveted. I dare say they were just waiting for the raccoon to make her way over into their territory, and then they would Pounce. The raccoon was larger than either of them but probably smaller than both together, so I'm just as glad they went in -- could have got ugly if they'd actually met.

By this time the raccoon had decided it was time to leave the roof, except she decided to come further down, and the last few feet she fell thump! to the ground again. I pretended not to notice. She spent the next half hour scratching and snuffling around in the garden, and for all I know she carried on after I went in. They're terrible nuisances, but they are adorable. I hadn't realized that they have this halo of longer dark hairs all through their coats, or that their jaws are so delicate-looking -- most photos of them seem to be taken full-face or three-quarters, to show off the mask.
electricland: (This Is Wonderland)
Rumours of another wildcat TTC strike tomorrow. Oh please no.

If it comes to that, I guess I'll manage as long as it isn't boiling hot and smoggy like last week. But GUH.
electricland: (This Is Wonderland)
(One, single car, going west on Queen.)

That is all.

(ETA: it's not, of course; about half an hour ago I got a call from [livejournal.com profile] crankygrrl, which began "What do you MEAN the TTC's on strike?" I do sympathize. You leave town for three days and all hell breaks loose.)


electricland: (Default)

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