Showing posts with label Toronto. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Toronto. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

What if construction workers weren't even allowed on construction sites during quiet hours?

The most frustrating thing about all the construction near me is the frequency with which they wake me up by starting work early. City of Toronto noise bylaws state that construction can't start before 7 a.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. on Saturdays, but all too often they're out there making noise before that.

The thing is, I think that most of the time when they're making noise too early, they think they're not working yet.  I think they think they're just getting ready to work.

The noise that wakes me up is stuff like gates opening, trucks being backed up, the external elevator operating, and equipment being moved into position (note to construction sites: moving dumpsters around is the single loudest thing you do!).

Then, at 7 on the dot, the noise picks up - big loud whirring machines spring into action, millions of people start hitting things with millions of hammers, etc.  As though they were waiting until 7 to start all this stuff, as though they thought the stuff they were doing before 7 didn't count.

But, nevertheless, the stuff they were doing before 7 still woke me up.

Idea: what if construction workers weren't even allowed on the construction sites before 7? That way they couldn't possibly make noise to wake people up, regardless of whether they think they're working or not.

It would also be easier for by-law officers to enforce (if we ever get by-law officers working outside of business hours - and I'm strongly confident that such an initiative would pay for itself in fines collected if they patrolled the Yonge and Eglinton area between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m.) because if there is any activity or worker presence whatsoever before 7 a.m., that's a violation.  Gate open? Trucks present? Violation.  No debating whether work is being done or not, instead it's a hard and fast "yes or no" question.

On top of that, it would make life easier for workers by disincentivizing the employer from requiring them to report to work obscenely early.  The earliest I was ever woken up by construction was 5:36 a.m. - and this was in the middle of winter!  Imagine how early they had to wake up on a cold winter's morning to get to the construction site in time to wake me up that early!  But if the construction company got fined for workers being on the site early, the employer wouldn't make them come so early, and would in fact order them to "sleep in" another hour and a half so they aren't there before 7.

Sunday, January 07, 2018


There are several places in my neighbourhood where developers have bought houses or lowrise buildings and boarded them up, waiting for approval to tear them down and redevelop.

And meanwhile we're having a brutal cold snap and the City of Toronto doesn't have enough shelter spaces.

Something has to be done with this.  Perfectly functional buildings are sitting empty for the convenience of developers, and people can't find shelter in lethal weather.

My first thought was some kind of fine for leaving buildings unused, but I'm worried that that would incentivize developers to tear down buildings faster. Then I had the idea that developers have to fund shelter/housing for as many people as the old building would house until such time as the new building is actually under construction.  But I'm not sure how that would go over, because the approval process takes time and is outside of the developer's control.

I can't figure it out.  But someone has to do something! There are empty buildings, there are people who need shelter, and the weather is lethal.  This needs to be fixed!

I do have a very early, provisional, inadequate idea that could be implemented immediately with very little effort:

Rule 1: if a building is empty and the owner's stated intent is demolition, the owner is prohibited from locking the building or preventing entrance to the building.
Rule 2: squatting in an unoccupied building that is slated for demolition is henceforth legal.
Rule 3: owners of empty buildings slated for demolition are not liable for any harm that comes to people squatting in them as a result of the building not being maintained.

This is obviously not good enough.  Abandoned buildings don't have heat or electricity or water. They might be structurally unsound. These rules might create a loophole where a malicious owner of an empty building could set up booby traps to harm squatters with impunity. There's no mechanism to connect people in need of shelter with abandoned buildings.  Basic human decency requires sheltering people in functional buildings under safe conditions.

But doing it would be better than not doing it.  Enabling people to shelter in buildings that happen to be empty is better than the buildings sitting empty and the people needing shelter.

 Survival issues are really something where we need a "Yes, but..." vote. We need to be able to take "better than nothing" measures while continuing to work towards adequate measures and perfect measures.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Shoes, Star Trek, and the glories of adult life

I recently got a new pair of Fluevogs, and, in addition to my usual pleasure in having a beautiful, funky pair of boots to wear, I also felt a renewed frisson of delight that I get to be a person who has a favourite shoe designer (acquired organically, not through a deliberate attempt to wear cool brands!) and a life (and paycheque) that accommodates wearing awesome shoes.

This didn't even occur to me as a possibility when I was a kid.  I wasn't into fashion not because I didn't like fashion, but because it didn't even occur to me that a person like me was allowed to even think about being into fashion. Fashion was for pretty people and cool people, which I most decidedly was not.

One thing I was into as a kid was Star Trek. And that got me bullied. The pretty people and the cool people would make my life a living hell for not being pretty and for not being cool and for being into Star Trek.

Star Trek: Discovery is the first Star Trek I've gotten to enjoy "live" - watching each episode as it comes out rather than watching the whole thing in syndicated reruns - in over 25 years. (And thank you, by the way, to Space Channel for showing Discovery on actual TV, so Canadians can enjoy our Star Trek in its traditional medium - and my preferred medium - without having to deal with streaming!)

So this has me thinking about 25 years ago, and appreciating everything that has changed in 25 years. I got to become the kind of person who has awesome shoes! I can be pretty whenever I feel inclined to make the effort. I'm not cool (although I've successfully tricked one or two people into thinking I am), but I'm in a place where my lack of coolness is irrelevant and I can love the things I love without worrying about coolness. I can watch Star Trek whenever I want without anyone giving me a hard time, and I can also tell everyone that I'm watching Star Trek and they still don't give me a hard time!

Plus, through the magic of 21st-century technology (i.e. Twitter) I can discuss Star Trek with like-minded people even if there aren't any in the room or in my social circle. I can talk to Star Trek cast members and Klingon translators (and have done so - and gotten likes replies - repeatedly!), and discuss serious themes like economics and colonialism interspersed with jokes and fannish speculation.

And I do all this from my very own condo in Toronto, which is significant because all those pretty people and cool people who bullied me aspired to leaving our small town and moving to Toronto, and, even though it didn't even occur to me at the time that a person like me was allowed to aspire to such things, I seem to have achieved it anyway.

My adolescent self would be mindblown!

I wonder if, 25 years from now, there will be elements of my life that currently don't seem like things I am even allowed to aspire to?

Saturday, June 10, 2017

City Shoe Repair in Eglinton station has moved to 2200 Yonge St., 2nd floor

Looking for the awesome shoe repair place that, until very recently, was in Eglinton station?

They've moved to the 2nd floor of the Canada Square building at 2200 Yonge St.

If you're standing in front of their old location, go up the stairs to the southwest corner of Yonge and Eglinton, then up the next set of stairs (or the escalator) into Canada Square.

Then keep walking south through the building (parallel to Yonge, away from Eglinton). Go past the little stairs that go down to the lobby, past the elevators, and keep going. It's, on the left side (closest to Yonge St.) about three storefronts past the point where you start thinking "Did I miss it?" You can see the big red boot through the store windows. If you reach TPH The Printing House, you've gone too far.

The nice people at City Shoe Repair have saved my ass and my shoes multiple times, including when my shoes literally fell apart while I was walking down the street and when my boot wouldn't unzip leaving me stuck inside it.  So hopefully I can use my googleability to help people find them now that their new location has less foot traffic.

Monday, February 20, 2017

I would never think of borrowing a cup of sugar from a neighbour. Here's why that's a good thing.

A while back, a politician said that she moved out of Toronto because she felt it lacked community, citing as an example “I would never go next door and ask my neighbour for a cup of sugar. It just wouldn’t happen.

This led to a brief flurry of journalists attempting to borrow sugar and documenting the results, but I didn't give it much thought, until it bubbled up in my mind in the shower today and it occurred to me:

I would never, ever even consider knocking on my neighbour's door to borrow a cup of sugar, literally or metaphorically. It just wouldn't happen.

And the reason for that has absolutely nothing to do with my neighbours. And absolutely everything to do with my neighbourhood.

I chose my neighbourhood because it's easy and convenient. And part of being easy and convenient is having stores that sell and services that provide nearly everything I might ever need all within the immediate neighbourhood.  I can get a boxspring, a biopsy and a bridesmaid dress all within easy walking distance.  And, more importantly, I can get sugar - or any other foodstuff I might need - within a two-minute walk, 24/7/365.

Many urban neighbourhoods - especially high-density neighbourhoods - are like this.  There's no need to bother your neighbours because the neighbourhood infrastructure and amenities meet your needs.

That's a sign of a successful, functioning community, where people can get what they need through the normal mechanisms and infrastructure, without having to even consider imposing upon the kindness of - or being at the mercy of - those who happen to be in the vicinity.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Things I did invent!

For years and years, I've been telling the universe to invent things for me. This week I shut up and invented the things for myself!

1. Since I discovered the Toronto Fire Active Incidents page years ago, I've gotten in the habit of checking it whenever I hear a siren, just to see what's going on. However, not all sirens are the fire department.  So I was going to write a Things They Should Invent that someone should merge the Toronto Fire Calls map and the Toronto Police Calls map (as well as ambulance data, if it is available) into a single "What's that siren?" map.

Making a map isn't in my immediate skill set, but people who are smarter than I am have already turned these data streams into twitter feeds. So I made my very first twitter list, which shows all police and fire calls in near-real time (there's about a 5 minute delay). So now when I hear a siren, I just pull up my list and within moments the answer to my question will appear.

(Although if anyone is feeling ambitious or creative, I still think a map would be a better interface).

2. There was some visible sediment in the reservoir of my coffee maker.  Neither running vinegar through the machine nor rinsing it out would budge it, so I figured it needed to be scrubbed. Unfortunately, since it's only a 4-cup coffee maker, the reservoir is small enough that I can just barely get my hand in and couldn't move it around in the way I needed to to scrub the sediment. A bottle brush wasn't soft enough, and that sponge-on-a-stick thing that's like a bottle brush but with a sponge was too bulky. I thought a q-tip would be about the right size and texture, but I couldn't get my hand in properly to manipulate it the way it needed to be manipulated.

I was going to write a Things They Should Invent of extra-long q-tips for these kinds of cleaning challenges, but then I had an inspiration:

I took a cotton ball (the kind you use to remove makeup or nail polish), stuck it on the end of a fork like it's a meatball, and used that to scrub the inside of the coffee maker reservoir.  The cotton was the right texture, the fork gives it the kind of stiff support you need for scrubbing, and the fork was long enough that I could manipulate the movements of the cotton fully because my hand could be outside the reservoir. The whole thing was perfectly clean in about 20 seconds!

I've never before been able to actually make one of my Things They Should Invent, and this week I made two in one week!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Things They Should Invent: different heating/air-conditioning by-laws for different kinds of buildings

My apartment retains heat.  It holds onto the heat generated by appliances and electronics and me, and heats up as the morning sun shines through the windows.  In the summer, temperature gets warm enough for the thermostat to turn on the air conditioning turns every single day when there's morning sun (and many days when there isn't).

However, because it retains heat so well, in the winter the temperature gets cool enough for the thermostat to turn on the heating an average of one day per year.  Last year it was zero days.  And it only gets that cool if we have the confluence of two sunless mornings plus strong easterly wind plus I don't use the stove during those days.

Because of this, I feel quite strongly that air conditioning is far more important than heating, and would like residential tenancy by-laws to be rewritten so that they don't prioritize heat over air conditioning.

However, not everyone feels this way.  Quite often when I mention it on the internet, someone complains most vehemently that heating is clearly far more important than air conditioning! People would freeze to death if they had to be in a building with no heat, they argue.  I've never been in such a building myself, but they must exist to lead people to feel that way.  If everyone was warm, it wouldn't occur to them that could could be a problem

I previously blogged that they should study whether heat or cold is a problem for more buildings.  But now that I think about it some more, that's actually a red herring.

What they should really do is give buildings a rating for how likely it is to get too warm vs. too cold, and have different by-laws for buildings with different ratings.  Ratings would be determined by an inspection of the building in the summer and in the winter, or some other similarly reliable method. Repeat inspections may be required every X years if buildings evolve or deteriorate enough to justify this.

It could be a simple system with only two ratings ("air conditioning priority building" vs. "heat priority building"), or three ratings ("air conditioning priority building" vs. "heat priority building" vs. "neutral building"), or there could be a more nuanced scale where buildings are given a rating between 1-5 or 1-100 or whatever makes sense.

Using an extremely simple example, suppose buildings are rated "air conditioning priority" or "heat priority", and suppose they continue to use the current calendar-based by-law system rather than switching to a temperature-based system as some recommend.  Heat priority buildings would continue with the current system where the landlord is required to provide heat between September 15 and June 1.  But in air conditioning priority buildings, the landlord would only be required to provide heat between, say, November 1 and April 1.  Or, perhaps, the landlord would be explicitly required to provide air conditioning between May 1 and September 15 (with no explicit requirement of heat, as an analogue to the current lack of explicit requirement of air conditioning).

Basically, the by-laws should be flexible enough to take into account the fact that different buildings of different construction may require different courses of action to provide a comfortable home for tenants.  A one size fits all rule won't work in a city that ranges from Victorian detached houses to glass highrises.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Unnecessary TTC announcements

I was riding a subway northbound on the Yonge line. As we travelled from Davisville to Eglinton, the driver made an announcement: "Attention all passengers: we are currently bypassing Spadina station in both directions on both lines due to a police investigation."

Problem: We were heading north from Davisville to Eglinton, which is directly away from Spadina station.  To be affected by delays at Spadina station, a passenger on our train would have to get out, board a train heading in the opposite direction, and travel quite a few stations.  It's highly unlikely that anyone would do this!

Back in my commuting days, I've been on trains where this happened quite a few times - the driver announces a delay that's behind us, or heading in the opposite direction, and therefore is not going to affect our train at all and isn't going to affect any of the passengers unless they get out and switch to a train heading in the opposite direction.  These aren't system-wide loudspeaker announcements, like you hear made by a pre-recorded voice when waiting on the platform.  These are announcements made specifically by the driver of our one train.

I don't think they should make these announcements. 

One thing I've noticed since I started following @TTCNotices on Twitter is that the vast majority of delays are cleared very quickly, often within just a couple of minutes. I also learned, back in my commuting days, that even delays for which shuttle buses are called are often cleared so quickly that it's better to wait them out than to get on a shuttle bus.

So I think having drivers make a specific effort to announce delays that don't apply to the train will just make passengers unnecessarily worry and stress and think the system is unreliable.  This is exacerbated by the fact that the audio quality of driver announcements is not as good as that of recorded announcements, so it produces some unnecessary "Wait, what did he say?" moments.

If any passengers are going to be affected by the delay in the opposite direction or behind us, they'll have plenty of time to find out when they're waiting on the platform for their opposite-direction trip, or when they look at one of the video screens on the platforms, or when they check Twitter.

But I think nothing is gained by having drivers make an announcement just within their train when the announcement definitely does not apply to that train.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The mystery of the Yonge Eglinton haters

The "density creeps" who have been in the news lately remind me of one of the mysteries of Yonge & Eglinton: people who deliberately move here and then complain that the neighbourhood has characteristics that it has had since long before they moved here.

In the density creeps story, that characteristic is density.  from the proposed development site are highrise buildings, which are part of the highrise cluster that was built in the 1970s, 20 years before the density creeps moved here.  There are also four 4-storey apartment buildings that appear architecturally to date back to the 1950s on that one block alone.

In short, the kind of density they decry, along with the attendant impact on property values and population demographics, were well-established in the neighbourhood long before they even arrived.

(Which makes me want to flag a lot of the commentary on this story with #JournalismWanted - many commentators seem to be taking the density creeps at their word that this new development is somehow significantly denser or significantly cheaper than the established neighbourhood, when this allegation could be disproven with a simple google, or by going to the site (conveniently located just 4 blocks north of Eglinton subway station!) and taking a quick look around.)

But the density creeps aren't the only ones I've seen doing this.  Far more frequently than you'd expect, mostly on the internet but sometimes just walking down the street, I hear people who live here and, based on demographics, appear to have moved here recently and to have had a choice in the matter (i.e. they're old enough and employed enough to live independently of their parents, but young enough that they definitely didn't move here before the 21st century) complain about things like density or highrises or chain stores or yuppies - things that have all been here since before the 21st century, and things whose presence you can easily detect by walking down the street.  If you don't like those things, you can see that the neighbourhood isn't for you the moment you emerge from the subway.

The other thing is, this isn't the cheapest neighbourhood.  If you want lower density or lowrises or fewer chain stores or fewer yuppies, there are other neighbourhoods that meet those characteristics and are cheaper to live in. So what are they doing here?

Despite the criticism from some quarters, this isn't the worst neighbourhood in Toronto.  We're generally closer to the top than to the bottom for indicators such as amenities, services, accessibility, quality of schools, quality of housing stock, infrastructure, lower crime rates, etc. 

I wonder if people in neighbourhoods that are worse in all these areas complain as much as the residents of Yonge & Eg, who, by all appearances, could totally choose to live elsewhere?

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Things They Should Study: do more apartments get too hot or too cold in shoulder seasons?

I was very happy to hear that the City of Toronto is consulting the public about indoor temperature bylaws for rental housing.  I'm miserable for a week or two every May and September because the weather is hot but my landlord is legally required to provide heat (and, therefore, can't have the building's air conditioning turned on.)  So I was all set to write a submission advocating for air conditioning to have precedence over heating during shoulder seasons with warm daytime highs and cool overnight lows.

Whenever air conditioning is available, I set my thermostat to 25 degrees, which is the highest it will go. And the air conditioning switches on nearly every single day.

In cool weather,  I set my thermostat to 20 degrees, which is the lowest it will go. And the heating switches on an average of once per year.  Some years it's one time, some years it's two times, some years it's zero times.  Last winter, it was zero times.

Therefore, I strongly advocate for air conditioning taking precedence over heating in the shoulder seasons.  Even if it gets cold in your apartment overnight, you can just snuggle up under an extra blanket.  Certainly a fair price to pay for being comfortable during the day!

But as I was writing this, occurred to me that this could be studied comprehensively for a wide variety of housing types.  Get residents of buildings of a wide variety of sizes, ages and constructions, with the sample including apartments with exposure in each direction (and corner units).  Have the study participants agree not to use heating or air conditioning during the study period, and to using optimal temperature management practices otherwise (e.g. blinds open to let the sun in if it's cold out, blinds closed to keep the sun out if it's hot out, windows open if you want the indoor temperature to move in the direction of the outdoor temperature, windows closed if you don't, minimize use of electronics and appliances if it's hot, etc.)  Then track the temperature inside the apartments, and have residents record their comfort level.

Perhaps they could come to a definitive, evidence-based conclusion about whether heating or air conditioning should be prioritized.  Perhaps they could come to a definitive, evidence-based conclusion about whether more people and homes get too hot or too cold in the shoulder seasons in the absence of appropriate indoor climate control.  Maybe there are patterns based on type or age of building, and bylaws that take that into account would be more appropriate. 

We already know the current bylaw does not reflect the needs of our current climate and housing stock.  We should take this opportunity to do research and identify what exactly our needs are, and write a bylaw that reflects that.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

A Ford family writing prompt

There's an interesting, non-politics-related, factoid about the family of Toronto mayor Rob Ford.

Rob Ford is one of four children of Doug and Diane Ford.

The names of the four children, in birth order, are: Kathy, Randy, Doug, and Rob.

Rob's brother Doug, as I'm sure you've concluded, is named after his father Doug.

But Doug Jr. is the second-born son.  The first-born son is Randy, who isn't named after his father.

This is really interesting to me, because there's a story behind that!  We don't know the story because it obviously isn't applicable to anything that's in the public interest, but there is a story.  Either there was something so important about the name Randy that they had to name a child Randy before even naming a child after the father, or something changed between the birth of Randy and the birth of Doug that made them feel the need to name a child after the father.

I think this would make a good writing prompt. The firstborn son is not named after the father. The second son is. What's the backstory? How does this affect sibling relations?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Things They Should Invent: tournament-style mayoral debates

In this past election, Toronto had a ridiculous number of mayoral candidates and a ridiculous number of mayoral debates.

But, for the vast majority of debates, only the handful of candidates deemed "mainstream" by the media are invited, with the dozens and dozens of others being completely ignored.

This is a waste of perfectly good scheduled debate time!  What's the point of having such a ridiculous number of debates if you aren't going to host all the candidates?

Therefore, I propose tournament style mayoral debates.  During the first few months, candidates debate each other in a round robin sort of format, so as many people as possible debate as many people as possible.  Then the people who have won the most debates move on to debate the other people who have won the most debates, until the top debates in the city are facing each other towards the end of the election period.

I'm picturing a sort of World Cup format for this, but it wouldn't be exactly the same because debates most often have more than 2 people.  And a true round robin might not be possible, depending on the math.  But, in any case, they should do whatever most convenient mathematically and scheduling-wise to get as many people as possible to debate as many people as possible.

So how do we determine who won a particular debate and gets to move on in the debate-offs?  My first thought is an audience vote - perhaps just in person, perhaps both in person and online.  But I don't know if that could be over-influenced by candidates stacking the audience. 

Another idea is a panel of judges.   But would they assess the candidates objectively, or would they favour the big names?  Although, the existing system already favours the big names, so could it be any worse?

What if audience members are assigned tickets to a debate, but they don't know who's going to be debating at the time they sign up for tickets (which would make it impossible to stack the audience).  But would enough people actually go to debates where they don't know who's debating?

Another alternative would be not to vote on winners of individual debates.  Candidates round-robin, the videos are posted online, and online viewers can vote for which candidates they'd like to see debate some more.  But, again, how could we prevent candidates from stacking the votes?

I haven't fully worked this out.  But the fact remains: if we must have dozens of candidates and dozens of debates, all candidates should get to debate.

Monday, October 27, 2014


A non-descript fall day for a very descript municipal election.

As I've blogged about before, I have a superstition that I need to pet a dog on the way to vote in order to get a good election outcome.  I had a couple of errands to do on my lunch hour, so I tucked my voting card into my purse just in case I met any auspicious doggies.  But, to my surprise, I only even saw one dog, and it wasn't in a place where I could pet it!

Worried by this uncharacteristic shortage of dogs (I usually see 2 or 3 dogs at any time of the day or night), I started planning the route I'd take to the polling station after work, to maximize the chance of encountering a pettable doggie.  The polling station is extremely close to my home - just a couple of buildings down the street, and then through a pedestrian pathway to the other side of the block.  But surely walking down the actual street rather than along the pedestrian pathway is a perfectly reasonable act, right?  Even if it increases the distance I had to walk by 50%?  And when I worked in the office I'd always do my after-work errands before voting, so it's perfectly justified to do that today, right? And so on and so on until I'd justified walking at least three times the distance, possibly meandering through some side streets, in the hope that I'd encounter a pettable dog.

I needn't have worried. Directly en route to the polling station, I saw an adorable little dog who stopped walking and sat down on the sidewalk.  "Awww, you don't want to go any more?" I squeed at him, and full-fledged petting ensued, with the doggie's enthusastic consent and the owner smiling.  So then, my mission accomplished, I walked straight to the polling station, only to discover there was another doggie tied up outside the polling station! When I said "Hi doggie!" he thumped his tail and smiled at me, so I gave him a pet too.

Two perfectly organic dog pets, not contrived at all, would totally have happened if I'd been walking the same route without a superstitious reason to pet dogs.  I hope that bodes well.


One actual election-related note: there are these security folders that we put the ballots in before they feed them into the ballot counting machine.  Problem: the ballot is longer than the folder, so if you voted for one of the bottom few people on the ballot, your vote will be visible despite the security folder!

The strange thing is the ballot is so long in the first place because there are so many mayoral candidates.  The mayoral candidates are divided into two columns, but there isn't an even number in each column - there's way more in the first column!  If they'd made the two columns even, the ballots would have fit in the folder.

Alternatively, if there was some compelling technical reason why they couldn't have adjusted the format of the ballot, why couldn't they get longer folders?


Despite my attempts to find my councillor candidates,  no platforms for any of the challengers ever emerged.  I got like a hundred hits a day on that post - far more than the rest of my blog combined - so I'm certainly not the only one looking for them. Their target audience is ready and waiting, but they still won't show themselves.  And so the question remains: why did they bother? 


Edit, since I always record the campaigning that reaches me:

Signs seen: 1, for the incumbent councillor, plus one bus shelter ad (unfortunately negative) for mayoral candidate Oliva Chow
Robocalls: 2, for mayoral candidate (and eventual victor) John Tory. I disapprove of robocalls
Flyer: 1 in my mailbox for mayoral candidate Doug Ford, 2 under my door for the challenger trustee candidate, 2 under my door for the incumbent councillor, one of which was accmpanied by a knock on the door (which I didn't answer, because I don't answer the door to strangers, which is yet another reason why people should announce themselves as they knock on the door)

Saturday, October 25, 2014

All Toronto municipal candidates should publicly post their Vote Compass results

I was pleased to see that there's a Vote Compass for the Toronto mayoral election, but I was disappointed that it only compared your position with that of the three candidates that the media is treating as "mainstream".  There are 65 candidates for the position of mayor alone, to say nothing of all the councillor candidates whose platforms could also be charted on the same compass.

I suspect the Vote Compass people limited themselves to the top three simply for logistical purposes.  They have to analyze platforms, break them down into issues, place them on the scale, validate them with the candidates and the would probably be impossible to do it for 65 candidates, even with our ridiculously protracted municipal elections.

So as an interim measure until someone can design a vote by issue that can accommodate dozens of candidates, I propose that all candidates should take the Vote Compass quiz and post their results publicly. Then voters whose positions on the various issues don't coincide with any of the top three candidates can see which of the many other candidates actually meet their needs.

It would be extra awesome if someone could compile all the candidates' answers in one place.  It's a bit late for this election, but maybe next election the Vote Compass people could do this!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Toronto Ward 22 Councillor candidates Sarfraz Khan, Bob Murphy and James O'Shaughnessy

Attention Sarfraz Khan, Bob Murphy, and James O'Shaughnessy:

I am a Ward 22 voter, and I don't feel I can vote for the position of councillor unless I know about more than one candidate's platform.

I haven't been able to find any of your platforms. They aren't listed on the City of Toronto Elections website, googleable, or findable on social media.

So please post your platform somewhere online, and inform the City of Toronto Elections people of its location so they can add it to their website.  If you create a twitter profile with a link to your platform, and put #topoli and #Ward 22 in the description, your electorate will find you. (Also, if you post it in the comments here, it will become googleable within a couple of days.)

By doing so, you'll be giving the people of Ward 22 an alternative to simply voting for the loudest person by default.

Friday, October 03, 2014

My municipal election voting dilemma

There are currently 4 candidates for city councillor in my ward: the incumbent and 3 challengers.

The incumbent has the expected online presence. But I can't find any trace of any of the 3 challengers.  I've googled with multiple combinations of keywords, I've searched social media, I've looked up possible matches on LinkedIn (multiple possibilities for each name, none of whom say they are running for city councillor).  Even the City of Toronto elections website that lists all the candidates for each ward doesn't have any contact information for them - not even an office phone number, just their name and ward number. None of the organizations and media outlets that send questionnaires to each candidate have gotten responses from any of the challengers (if they were in fact able to get in touch with the challengers).  None of the organizations that endorse candidates have endorsed in my ward.  I not only find no evidence of any of the challengers running a campaign, I find no evidence that anyone else has been able to get in touch with the challengers in their capacity as candidates.

If this situation persists, I'm left with a dilemma: should I vote for the incumbent, or for no one?

The incumbent's record is decent enough that I don't see a reason to try to unseat him, but it's quite plausible that there could be another candidate who aligns more closely with my views.  (There was in the last election.)  It's also quite plausible that none of the other candidates would align as closely with my views.  It all depends on what the other candidates' platforms are.

I don't think that simply showing up should be enough to win my vote.  Earlier in the race, the incumbent was the only council candidate for the ward.  I googled around the question of whether we'd still vote for councillor if there's only one candidate (wasn't able to find out conclusively), and decided during this process that I wouldn't vote for a candidate running unopposed.  I'd be okay with them winning, of course, but I wouldn't give them a vote just for being the only one there.

So, on one hand, I feel like I similarly shouldn't give a candidate my vote just for being the only one visible. But, on the other hand, they've clearly run the best campaign.  But, on the other other hand, what if they're not actually the best candidate?  But, on the other other other hand, how would I ever know?

Things They Should Study: why do people get themselves put on the ballot but not run a campaign?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Why was Rob Ford able to kill Transit City unilaterally?

On his first day as mayor, Rob Ford came into work early and killed Transit City.

With all the other things that happened since then, I've forgotten how this happened and why it was possible.  I was under the impression that it needed to be voted on by Council, and googling around the idea I see lots of people saying that he shouldn't have been able to do it unilaterally and it should have been voted on by Council.

But he did it and, at the very least, set transit back a year until Council was able to reinstate it a year later.  Why was he able to do that?  Why did it take Council a year fix it?

I feel like I should understand this before I vote for the next mayor. Will the next mayor be able to do similar things unilaterally?

Monday, June 23, 2014

How the library can improve its automatic return system

I should be happy about my library's automatic return system, since it's yet another example of one of my inventions materializing in real life, but I'm seeing some problems that can make it very inconvenient from time to time.  Here's how I'd improve it:

1. Let it accept more than one item at once. The self checkout and scan multiple items at once (my personal record is six large hardcover books), but the return slot can only handle one at a time.  This is irritating when the person in front of you is returning a lot of things at once.  The other day I was behind a lady with two small children who were returning a total of 20 items.  This is a reasonable number of children's picture books to check out for two children over a 3-week loan period, but it takes for-fricking-ever to scan them all in one at a time. A massive line formed behind this family, and there was nothing that could be done to expedite the process.

2. Continue to have a manual return slot. I've seen manual return slots at other libraries that have automatic returns, but mine doesn't have one.  So if there's a line for the automatic return or the automatic return is malfunctioning, there doesn't appear to be any alternative.  (I recently learned that you can also hand the book to the person at the circulation desk, but there's no signage or anything to that effect. And if the automatic return is malfunctioning, the circulation desk person is probably in the back room trying to fix it.)  If we could just pop books into a manual slot, we wouldn't be getting stressed and frustrated when the automatic return malfunctions or the person in front of us has 20 items.  (Or maybe they wouldn't even be in front of us because they'd just pop their 20 items into the  manual slot and be out of there in 30 seconds.)  I think most people would continue to use the automatic returns because they verify that your item has in fact been checked in - plus, they're fun! - but simply making them optional would vastly reduce frustration.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

My farmer's market dilemma

There is a farmer's market in my neighbourhood.  I'm glad there is, because it's only a very recent development.  For most of the time I've lived here, we haven't had a farmer's market.

However, most of the booths aren't really farmers.  They're selling baguettes or macrons or local organic vegan lunch.  I prefer the few booths that are farmers - I want to be able to buy fresh produce from someone who can have an informed conversation about the quality of the produce and the realities of growing it.

The problem: the quality of produce available from the actual farmers at the farmer's market isn't as good as the quality of produce available from small neighbourhood stores like Summer's Best, or sometimes even the quality of produce available from the local Metro supermarket.

The asparagus at the market is wimpy and skinny, whereas Summer's Best and its peers have nice fat asparagus. The varieties of apples at the market are non-yummy, whereas the greengrocers and the supermarkets at least have McIntosh.  And the farmer's market is never cheaper, and is often more expensive.

I'm torn.  I want to support the farmer's market so there will continue to be a farmer's market right in my neighbourhood.  I want to support the farmers selling fresh produce so farmers will continue to sell fresh produce at a farmer's market right in my neighbourhood.  But I also want the better produce.  I want to buy the better produce in order to create demand for the better produce and incentivize produce sellers to sell the stuff that I like right in my neighbourhood. Plus, of course, I want to eat the yummiest possible food.

I do get that the farmer's market might need some time and TLC to take off, and I want to give it the opportunity it needs.  But where's the threshold?

Monday, May 05, 2014

Summer's Best (a.k.a. where to get Cortland apples in Toronto right now)

Summer's Best is a small store selling produce, flowers, and an assortment of other foodstuffs.

I feel moved to blog about them because they not only have Cortland apples (yes, now!), but these apples are decent-sized and smell like apples (yes, now!)

(Apples often lose their smell in the off-season, probably as a result of however they store them, so when fall rolls around and the first apples of the new fall harvest appear in the farmer's market the first thing I notice is that the apples smell like apples again.)

Neither Metro nor Loblaws nor any of the other small produce stores I've passed by have Cortlands, but Summer's Best does.

So if you're in the Yonge Eglinton neighbourhood and looking for Ontario produce that's still available and yummy even though it isn't in season, try Summer's Best.  It's at 2563 Yonge St., just north of Sherwood.

Update:  As of May 8, they seem to be out of Cortlands :(  I still recommend the store though.