How Refreshing

Here's something refreshing: a new pitch to city council requesting use of one of their under utilized facilities. Let's see how this pitch stacks up!
  • The facility in question is owned by the city -- check!
  • The facility has inadequate parking to fill the facility with people -- check!
  • The facility is practically unserved by public transit -- check!
  • The owners are proposing to attempt to run a sporting franchise of a type which has failed multiple times already in this facility -- check!
Oh wait, it's just as stupid as the other ones have been. The only difference is this is Baseball at the Jim Durrel White Elephant as opposed to football at what's left of Landsdown Park.

If these guys want taxpayer support, I say no. If they want to put their own money up, then giddy up.


Inadvertent Disincentive

Hyundai is offering an additional $1000 rebate if you trade in a 1995 or older car at purchase time.

This made me curious as to how likely are they to be getting any Hyundai cars in trade.

While we can't know for sure, we can guess. I went to AutoTrader.ca and hit their advanced search. If you search on Hyundai cars alone, you get almost 1350 hits. If you search on Hyundai cars that are 1995 or older... you get none.

Honda, by comparison, gives you more than 3700 hits for all years, and 147 for cars 1995 or older. A low percentage, to be sure, but still infinitely more than Hyundai.

Think about that. You are trading in a car that's done almost fifteen years, in exchange for a car that isn't likely to do the same.

I have to admit that when we bought the Yaris last year, we test drove a Hyundai Accent 4-door. The price was right, and the offer on my Subaru was six times what we got for it from Toyota -- in total, we would have saved around $3000 on the price of the Yaris all told. And yet, on the test drive I already knew that we were not going to buy it before we made the right turn out of the parking lot. It was a case of sit down, put the car in gear... and right away, the decision "no" was floating in my head.

I'm not trying to bash Hyundai here... I was just curious about the apparent longevity of their cars.


Who's Agenda Is This?

West End Action asks if Smart Growth is really Smart (empahsis mine):
The article in the blog talks about how the leading political classes have larger duck houses - paid for by taxpayers - than citizens have regular houses. Typically, the proponents of more dense cities and smaller housing want it for others, but not themselves.
This is something I've often felt, but never actually saw in print (virtual or otherwise) until now.


Building for the ages

Tom Limoncelli finds a quote he likes at the Sears Tower, and idly offers it for use by sysadmins:
"Therefore when we build let us think that we build forever. Let it not be for present delight nor for present use alone. Let it be such Work as our descendants will thank us for and let us think as we lay Stone on Stone that a time is to come when those stones will be held sacred because our hands have touched them and that men will say as they look upon the labor and the wrought substance of them, 'See this our fathers did for us.' " --John Ruskin
It would be nice to think that what we build is meant to last forever, or even merely for years. But in this business, it doesn't.

Recently I've been called back to a previous employer's site, and it warms me a bit to see that systems I set up ten years ago are still doing today more or less exactly what I left them doing. But when I compare those systems to the computers of today, it is amazing that they are still around at all. In many circumstances, continuing to operate such a set of systems could even be considered irresponsible. (Not in this case -- the computers are original development and verification environments for a product which is still being supported.)

Ten years is a long time in this business, and to find something still running after that long is a rarity. This business operates on waves of change, and that change is only likely to continue into the future.


My God, Larry, We've Missed You

Mayor Larry O'Brien says this morning:
After a press conference for the Ottawa Chinatown Gateway project Tuesday morning, O'Brien said the city was "operating at the maximum capacity fixing some of the major problems we have," and would not be seeking additional funding to improve sewer infrastructure in flood-affected neighbourhoods. “In a couple of years, absolutely, we’ll be going back to our federal and our provincial partners and looking for more significant funding,” he said.
Updated this afternoon:
"It's not the position of the city to wait two years for that," said Brent Colbert, O'Brien's chief of staff. "We're going to find out what needs to be done and then we're going to put in our applications to begin that work as soon as we have a sense of where that is."
How the city managed to run while Mayor Larry was off obtaining his "ringing endorsement" is totally beyond me.


Hello RSS Reader!

(Non-RSS reading readers can ignore this.)

I've hacked around so that my planet RSS feed comes through the same location as the old Wordpress one used to. There's at least one person with the old wordpress RSS feed in their reader, and he's going to get a whole lot of noise.

If this is you, and you want to cherry pick what you get rather than the whole flood, I suggest you start by looking at the home page at http://www.xdroop.com/404.html and picking the one(s) you think might be interesting.

Happy Reading!

Evergreen 747 Water Bomber conversion:

Saw a reference to this while flipping through a Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine this weekend:

What gets me is the way the 747 visibly starts to lift from the shooting aircraft as all the water leaves the bomber.

See also this longer video.

Claimed capacity: 90,000 litres. By comparison, the CL-415 capacity is just over 6,000 litres. The Martin Mars conversions operating on Canada's west coast have a operational capacity of around 27,000 litres.

Wikipedia suggests the Evergreen is not oprational, due to the US Forestry Service wanting bombers to deliver fire-retarding foam instead of water; the retardant is denser than water, and this means a full load in the Evergreen would be heavy enough to cause concerns about the aircraft's service life.


Parks and Parking

One odd coincidence which popped into my RSS reader on Friday was a discussion about how free parking really isn't and how parks for parks' sake may not be the best thing.

There is a problem with land use for parking, to be sure. My favorite example of awkward parking design is the Centrum Mall out in Kanata. When we first moved out to Kanata in '99, the mall was rightly derided as a pedestrian-hostile parking lot partially ringed by widely spaced mall emplacements. Well ten years of development later the mall is much less of a pedestrian-hostile parking lot, but only because the developers have continued to build stores in what was previously parking space -- the AMC alone has lost more than half of its parking spaces just to store construction, and has to share what's left with those new stores.

I suspect that the problem now is that there isn't enough parking for the prospective customers of these stores to get to them with any reliability. I know that when I go on the weekend, I'm frequently forced to orbit, looking for a place to park so that I can go somewhere and spend my money. It would be ironic if the mall development basically ended up strangling their own properties because the customers couldn't get there.

And even though there is a "bus station" at one end of the mall, public transit is so laughably bad in the rest of Kanata that local residents for the most part won't even contemplate it.

One link I saw this week (can't find it in my reader right now) advocated removing parking from in front of stores along one particular area so that more stores could be constructed, presumably to encourage more commerce. The problem with this logic is the same: those prospective customers have no access to the area where the stores are, and are therefore unable to boost your commercial activity.

As for the parks, the above link talks about Landsdown Park:
The Friends of Lansdowne Park want to see professional sports completely removed from the park, and have it reserved for small-scale events only, such as the Farmer’s Market, citing a desire to create a Lansdowne Park for all Ottawans to enjoy.
The thing is, such a plan would ultimately benefit only the immediate locals in that this "park for all Ottawans to enjoy" would be practically inaccessible to 95% of the population due to a lack of usable public transit and practical local parking. To say nothing of the fact that by removing all commerce and sports you'd remove the motivation for 99% of Ottawans to even contemplate visiting. It would probably turn into a venue used most prominently for Winterlude, and largely ignored by everyone except the homeless the rest of the year.

What's the point of all this? I dunno, besides the fact that urban planning is hard?

I think most of the pundits look back with some imagined fondness for an allegedly simpler time where you could walk everywhere. They ignore the fact that a small-town feel can't scale.

You want a walkable city that had a large population? How does London in the 1890's grab you?

The "wealthy" have always had the luxury of living closer to nature, and away from where they conduct business, more or less. The invention of the automobile democratized transportation in a huge way, leading to the invention of the subdivision, where the more middle class could live in a less urban environment.

And I think that's one of the things that many of these pundits forget. If people didn't want to live out in the suburbs, nobody would. But the fact that developers can't (or are prevented from, NIMBY-style) build attractive, dense urban housing shows that the problem isn't the builders. It's the population.

I don't want to live in an apartment block, and let's face it -- anything less really doesn't scale to the population densities required by modern cities. My wife wants her own four walls, with separation from the neighbours. Sure, it's only four feet of separation where we live, but it's separate.

If there were no suburbs, where would I be living? Tokyo-style, in a tiny apartment, that would cost me as much as my suburban home did? Or more, considering I wouldn't have any place to put the things I conspicuously consumed, and would therefore have more available money. Sure, maybe the environment would be appreciative of such a sacrifice, but I don't see how my standard of living would be any better. Or, indeed, the SAME.

And that's how these discussions have to be had. Not on how intensification would make life better for those already there. But how it would make life better for those of us who currently make different choices.


Another Milestone

Another technology slowly fades away.

Yesterday I dropped my membership in three of the five email lists I am subscribed to. I did so for a couple of reasons. First, I'm not reading them very often any more. This is due to the fact that I don't watch my personal email like a hawk any more -- sometimes it can be several days before I get back to it. There is also a volume issue. The CentOS list in particular is very noisy, and it is difficult to stay on top of it, even if all you are doing is deleting threads you don't care about. And frankly, I'm not sure I'm interested in the CentOS list in particular any more; too many questions are bumped as "not CentOS-specific", whatever that means, and there are too many flamewars over nothing.

The second reason is that for computer help and information, I now have two new homes: ServerFault.com and SuperUser.com. Part of the attraction is that both sites use a "reputation" value to show how the rest of the community rates you as a participant. Reputation has to be given by other users. Of course since it's measureable, everyone is jumping in and trying to game the system; however the side effect is that there's quite a strong community already which has a wide knowledgebase. Frequently you can get good (or at least usable) answers to your questions within a couple of hours at most.

This action leaves me with three mailing lists. A low-volume Autism list (oh, and I just remembered, an even lower-volume Autism list), a RedHat Kickstart list that I forgot about yesterday, and a svn-related list I've tried many times to get dropped from. The RedHat list will probably get dropped today, but I'll keep the Autism ones. If I have to, I'll just black-hole the svn-related list in the hopes that its list software is smart enough to drop me when I start bouncing everything back to it.

So goodbye mailing lists.

Between this, dropping my home server, moving my 'blogging and email to Google, and dropping my web hosting, I've sure made a lot of technology changes in the last year.


The Hat: Replacement Quest Part III

Thanks to a comment on the RIP Tilley Hat post, I now know what to do.

I've become a facebook 'fan' of Tilley Endurables, and one of the discussions lists precisely what to do:
For Canadian and International customers, please mail to:
Returns Department: Tilley Endurables
900 Don Mills Road
Toronto ON Canada
M3C 1V6

Score. So now I have to box up and mail The Hat.

They've offered to send back the hat if I want to keep it. On the one hand, it has been with me practically every day for 9 years. On the other hand, it's done.

I'll have to think about this a bit.

The Hat: Replacement Quest Part II

Website feedback sent to Tilley Endurables, with regard to my deceased headgear:

I purchased a hat back in September of 2000 while visiting Skagway Alaska as part of my honeymoon cruise. Since that time the hat has become a key part of my daily wardrobe, whatever the weather; and as Ottawa, Canada is my place of residence, weather indeed the hat has seen. I estimate that there have been fewer than 60 days in the following 8 years 10 months that I have not worn the hat; so while I can hardly claim to have not gotten my money's worth out of it, I feel I must take you up on your guarantee.

Indeed, my hat has sadly reached the end of its life at the hands of a washing machine. Please see http://shove-monkey.blogspot.com/2009/07/rip-tilley-hat.html for the sad evidence of a hat come to the end of its career.

In the interests of obtaining a replacement, I visited a local store, as instructed by the owner's manual for the hat -- right in my sock drawer, where I recall you said it would be -- but sadly they directed me to contact you to make arrangements for an exchange.

I have made a brief perusal of your website but have obviously missed the section where I might find instructions for beginning this process. If you would be so good as to forward me a link or a set of instructions, I would be most appreciative.

Thank you for your time and attention.


The Hat: Replacement Quest Part I

Today I made my first attempt to get the hat replaced.

We looked on the Tilley Endurables website and noted that the CAA membership office near us happened to be listed as a vendor. The Owners Manual promises that if the hat wears out, one might only present it at a vendor and one would obtain a replacement.

This is actually the second time we've tried this. The first attempt was made on Sunday, but apparently the CAA still respects Sunday as a day of rest for their employees, since the office was closed. Real Life being what it is, today was the next available time to make such a trip.

However when we got there, the staff informed us that they don't do the replacements and advised us to contact Tilley directly. They were not particularly clear on the reason, although when perusing their inventory we noted that my particular style of hat was not available at the time. They admired the build of the hat as much thicker than some of the modern offerings, and appreciated its history.

And Nathan was a popular hit in the office, too. He's such a flirt.

Still, this expedition was ultimately a failure. So the next step will be to contact Tilley directly.


Customerizing Criminals

...or maybe the other way around?

Aparrently Scotiabank has a fool-proof program to detect criminals at the door to their branches. It involves a red, octogon-shaped sign stuck prominently to one of the inside front doors:

In Effect

For the safety of
our customers and staff
please remove your
hat, hood, and dark glasses
before entering this building

Your cooperation
is appreciated

That's right, citizens! Scotiabank can now tell if you are a criminal by WHAT YOU WEAR. Feel safe, since criminals would never enter such a facility without such subtle signals displayed, and we all know that peaceful, law-abiding citizens such as yourselves would never choose to dress yourself in such a shameful, shameful manner.

As a customer who's personal style is emphasized by a (now deceased) hat and who's eyes require protection in bright light, I can only assume that this means I am well on my way to a life of crime.

I've seen this in two branches in west Ottawa: the one on March Road north, and the one in Bells Corners.

(...and yes, if you look closely, you can see that I was wearing both my hat and my dark glasses when I took this picture. I can only presume that since I was not also wearing a hood, my intentions were recognizes as non-criminal in nature and I was permitted to conduct my business. After I took the pictures (it took a couple tries before I got a relatively non-blurry example) I half expected to be chased across the parking lot by the rental cops diligent branch protection staff, but alas, I escaped.)

Uh... what?

Today while filling up the car at the gas station, I noticed this curious little icon:

The second picture shows the context of the icon.

It looks like a radar gun of some kind. Or maybe a bar drinks dispenser or a faucet. Or a camera. The circle is red, not green, so whatever it is isn't permitted; but there's no diagonal red slash, so whatever it is isn't prohibited, either.

I wonder what they are trying to tell me.

Stop Treating RSS Subscribers As Second Class

Know what I hate? Today I hate bloggers who don't blog very nicely for their RSS subscribers.

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. It is a specially formatted http link on many web pages that lists some or all of the recent content generated at that website. The idea is that a RSS Reader can poll that link on a regular basis, and then inform the user of that RSS reader that there is new content. This means that the user can get on with the reading without having to manually visit each site.

For people who have a lot of websites that they want to see content from, it is a huge timesaver. I have 187 subscriptions in my Google Reader right now, and it would be prohibitively time-intensive to manually check that many sites. My old method of checking, which was to separate all links by topics and then open each topic into separate tabs once per day and then go through them during the day, would not scale with this many links.

Authors need to realize: RSS subscribers WANT their content.

However. Periodically I get an article in my Google Reader that is clearly incomplete. I'm going to pick on Star Stryder today simply because he's the straw who broke the camel's back. Star Stryder's latest offering ends, in my Reader:
But…. well… Let the pictures tell the story. (Not all mine.)
[IMAGES COMING - I'm on a connection that doesn't let me get images uploaded]
Wait, what?

If the images are part of the post, and the images are not attached to the post, then DON'T PUBLISH THE POST YET.


Because once your article is read, I'm probably not going to see it again if it gets updated because of the way that Google Reader works. I'm not going to keep a history of your posts active in my reader because I have 187 feeds, and keeping that kind of history for 187 feeds becomes unmanageable.

So your article, which is intended to impart some information to me, comes across as a tease: I'm going to have something really cool here but you won't get to see it sucker.

I've seen this maybe half a dozen times this long weekend, and this particular one just tweaked me off.

Please. Don't post until you are ready. Some of your readers won't come back to see what you've done, and if you keep doing it, your readers are going to drop you.