Friday, August 31, 2007

Last 3 Months in One Day: Journée Éco-Communo'Terre

If anyone is wondering what has been happening with the Chronicles of the 12th Floor blog for the last couple months, you should come to Pierce Street this Saturday, September the 1st. The street facing the Faubourg will be closed off between 11am and 5pm for an event that i have been organising. The Eco-street fair will host music, eco-vendors, and community organisations and a chock full of activities like Kung-Fu and East Coast Swing lessons, as well as a live mural painting by Jeannette Langmead.

This week's (or month's?) Concordia newspaper, The Link, has an article examining the lack of a community centre in the Peter-McGill district of downtown and how this weekend's event is an attempt to create a sense of community despite this lack. This week's Mirror has also gave it a mention.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Waste-free is the new recycle

Recycling has been a major part of the ecological movement for almost as long as there has been an ecological movement. It's popularity began with public awareness of the amount of waste going into landfills, and the popularity of the environmental movement as a whole (Rachel Carson's Silent Spring having much to do with it). Today, recycling programmes are popular not only because i this sense of ecological stewardship, but because of the market. Petroleum and woodpulp prices are high enough that using recycled materials is just as costly or more economical.


In all the efforts ecologists have been pushing (especially where i work, at the Éco-Quartier), i feel there is not enough of a push towards waste-free living. It's very simple for people to simply recycle all their waste and think that they are doing something good for the environment. Because in way recycling is not good for the environment, it is just slightly better than throwing something into a landfill. It still takes energy to transport those recyclable goods (whether they be packaging surrounding a consumer good, or a consumer good in itself) to you, and then to the recycling facility in it's after-life. Though it it less energy than producing from raw-materials, recycled good still require energy to be recycled.


It seems time that recycling should be considered common place, standard, if you will. Too often people feel it to be exceptional, as if it instantly makes them an ecologist, when in fact it is only the lesser of the two evils (evils being waste).


Given all this, it's encouraging to see that there are some steps being taken to reduce waste. The popularity of reusable bags is one thing. Three years ago, a grocery store clerk would give you a look of confusion when you would say you brought your own bag. Now it is not uncommon to see people carrying their groceries in reusable bags that are sold at any given grocery store, big chains and small. Today (as soon as i finish this blog post...), the Éco-Quartier is starting a bag-reduction campaign. This will involve making the cashier more aware of the excessive waste the use of plastic bags is creating, and to simply ask the customer if they need a bag instead of instinctively shoving it into a plastic bag. Hopefully, if this campaign works out, every store in downtown will have a sign urging the consumer to consider the environment in a small way.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

New York City Vegetarian

I went to New York for Canada Day weekend, and didn't really take many photos. I'm not sure why, but now i wish i remembered some more of the trip. Looking at the photos now, i can't even remember taking half of them! I guess their drinks really are stronger over there (note: i experienced the worst hang-over of my life Saturday morning). Other than drinking heavily, Rob and i ate very delicious food, sometimes a little too expensive for my budget but nonetheless worth it.

New York seems to have a strong high-income vegetarian population. I suspect this is because it has become a trendy fad in New York, whereas in Montreal it is more of a grassroots type of thing (think Aux Vivres), but this is not too say that New York doesn't have any Granola-Type vegetarians (with all of their accompanied pretension). I just don't think Montreal has the trendy-type yet who would be willing to fork over 23$ for Grilled Cabernet Seitan on a bed of seasonal vegetables, french lentils and garnished with grilled peach salsa (which was absolutely delicious).

I will be sure to visit all these expensive restaurants again, as i dutifully scribed them into my Moleskine City Notebook. This genius invention is basically a city guidebook that comes completely empty (save for a city map) that you fill in yourself. Anyways here are the photos.

Foreground:
Pan-seared seitan & Pomery mustard sauce, with potato purée, haricots verts & glazed pearl onions.

Background:
Phyllo pastry stuffed with saffron-basmati rice, pinenuts & almond-orange blossom butter, with mint-cucumber crème fraîche.

And two sangrias. At Counter

New York has planted some plants in their carrés d'arbres as well (in Chelsea, at least). These perennials are much nicer than the cheap-looking annuals the city of Montreal distributes.

Gingko Biloba seems to be the tree of choice in Chelsea. The Asian-Native is super-resistant to pollution, and this city is pollution-central!

The view of Lower Manhatten from the end of Montague Street in Brooklyn

This was on almost every corner on the busier Avenues.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Swarm on Sainte-Catherine

I was sitting at my desk yesterday (ok.it's more of a table) and heard something that sounded like a swarm of locusts. Well, i can only assume it sounded like a locust invasion, as i have never experienced one but have watched enough movies to have a vague idea (as if the filmmakers knew anyway). Wondering (and somewhat eager) whether the divine-being (whoever the fuck it is) was finally obliterating the human race, i poked my head out of the office and saw a swarm of skateboarders and a sprinkling of cyclists speed down Sainte-Catherine. I ran down to the corner as the tail end passed, and there were a couple cop cars with their sirens on dodging traffic to chase the group. Does anyone know what that was?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Garden (again)

As if Blork and i are competing in a garden post-athon, here are some more photos of my garden. Whereas Blork's have an artistic quality to them, mine are simply amateur photos trying to capture the very short life of the blooms after my impatient pacing (for weeks, really). Perhaps this is a friendly challenge, but i see this as a learning experience. I really do need to learn how to use my digital camera (i have had it for several years now).

oh, and i have another excuse: my roommate Jasmine is out west for the summer, and this is a way of relaying the images to her.






Thursday, June 7, 2007

Underground Parks

Montreal's sister city Shanghai has announced the development of an underground park that will be part of the city's large underground network. A fibre-optic network would 'wire' light underground, solving the issue of it being underground.

I am not familiar with the way the underground city in Shanghai is organised, but in Montreal the underground city (except for certain passageways) are private spaces. It would be very interesting to see the insertion of a lavish public space in an area that is normally the domain of private development.

It is no secret that Montreal's downtown is seriously lacking some public space. Save for Dorchester Square and the adjacent Place du Canada, the downtown has no public parks. An underground park, if considered by the city, would not only help create a much needed park but help balance the private-space dominance of Montreal's underground and allow some warmth-deprived Montrealers some greenery in the dead of winter.

Write to your local representatives!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Sustainable Option #1: Grapeseed Oil

Sustainability has become a sort of buzz word, companies and organisations (and even governments) throw the word around in hopes of capturing consumers' attention. People are attempting to seek a more sustainable lifestyle even if they are a little unsure of what it means. In what i hope will become many more posts, i will recommend several alternatives to everyday consumer items. They won't necessarily make much difference, but it will make you feel a hell of a lot better about consuming.

The first 'sustainable option' is grapeseed oil as an alternative to olive oil. Because the olives used in olive oil are grown uniquely for the oil, the footprint in olive oil production is quite large. According to
this document [pdf] commissioned by the European Union, most olive oil is now produced using intensified production methods that require a lot of energy input in terms of chemical fertilisers. As well, there are problems of soil erosion and water shortages as a result of these plantations. Even the low-input, more traditional olive groves have been increasingly reliant of these fertilisers.

Though i am sure that grape production has a considerable footprint, they are grown for wine
, oil and leaves. This efficiency makes the impact of grapeseed oil considerably less than that of olive oil which is grown uniquely for oil. Grapeseed oil also has a lighter taste and a higher smoking point, which makes it better for cooking.

Of course one needs to consider transportation in making a choice. Why would we want olive or grapeseed oil if we can have canola oil grown right here in Canada? Well... that's your call i guess. Fields and fields of canola (aka rapeseed) are grown in Western Canada for oil production, and about 80% of all canola seed is genetically modified. Unless you buy your canola oil organic (which is expensive), there is no way to know if it is GM or not.

The best option, i believe, is to have a bottle of grapeseed oil and organic canola oil on hand. So, ditch the inefficient olive tree for the versatile grape, and use organic canola oil whenever you really feel you need it (and you won't be wasting precious money).

Grapeseed oil can be found in many grocery stores. It can be found at Segal's on Saint-Laurent.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Fourth Citizen Summit of Montreal

Today is the start of the Fourth Citizen Summit of Montreal, the theme being 'Planning the City, economic development and participatory democracy: The Right to the City'. The Urban Ecology Centre is hosting the 40 or so workshops that will be simultaneously translated in English and French. Most of the programming is in French, but they have 12 roundtables and workshops that will be in English. One that sounds particularly interesting is titled 'the role of citizens' actions and economic development: Milton-Parc, Benny Farm, Point St-Charles,' starting tomorrow at 10:30. Check out the programme for all the details.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Garden

This is the first full summer where i have my own backyard. I've done the whole balcony container garden thing, and i've done the whole community garden thing. Nothing compares to having your very own fresh earth to break right outside your kitchen's back door.

When i'd moved in, the backyard had not been taken care of by the previous tenants for many many years. Vines that had been planted had not been led up the walls properly and the Day Lilies were left uncontrolled. I've managed to do a tonne of work, thanks also to my father who came to help pull out those damn pervasive Day Lilies and alter the borders. Intermingled with the new plants and shrubs i've planted cucumbers, kale, nasturtiums, tomatoes, peppers, beets, spinach, sage, oregano, basil, thyme, parsley and rosemary. Here are some photos i took of some flowers that have begun to flower. Long-live the digital macro zoom! Hopefully as my garden progesses, so will my photography skills.




Note: I will be starting a new full-time job which will be occupying much of my time. So, you may expect these posts to slow down a little.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Ontario and Smart Growth

Here's an interesting article from the Toronto Star, by way of Spacing, on Ontario's adoption of a Smart Growth policy. I know that they have been commissioning reports from the Neptis Foundation right left and centre for several years, but it appears that the province is going to officially adopt such a policy. The most important facet of Smart Growth is that it involves planning growth on a wider scale, rather than the ad-hoc nature of most suburban development. Carefully planning out safe and walkable neighbourhoods to complement and feed public transit corridors. And of course the words 'sustainable' and 'sustainability' are rampant in the Smart Growth reports.

The article mentions that this adoption will not only affect municipalities (having to conform to the provincial legislation), but will permeate through all provincial departments. Using the article's example, the government liquor stores will no longer be able to locate in strip malls surrounded by parking. This shouldn't be only accomplished through tough legislation, though. Federal and Provincial governments should implement policies of 'consistency' (for lack of a better word) to avoid such obvious hypocrisy.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Heirloom Vegetable Seedlings at Maison Verte

The Coop La Maison Verte (5785 Sherbrooke West) has received their annual shipment of heirloom vegetables seedlings. Tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, and other organic vegetables and herbs are available. Here is a list of what they have received, you can no longer order them, but have to go in and choose from their selection. There are some interesting varieties of tomato plants like the Pineapple Tomato (red and yellow stripes), as well as purple, black, green, yellow and orange varieties.

They're a little pricey, but well worth it!

A Billion Trees

The UN has managed to garner pledges to plant a billion trees, thanks to Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai. Maathai (the first African women of her status) started the programme to combat climate change and fight poverty. The article mentions that deforestation in Africa has led to conflict over the now scarce resource, and planting trees will help calm the fire. Maathai successfully influenced the planting of 30 million trees in Africa, which sounds more like a reforestation programme or a restructuring of African forestry (which i assume is sustenance harvesting).

Hopefully this programme doesn't merely plant trees without each participant country laying out laws and guidelines on forestry practices. The forest is usually cut down for a reason, and that need for energy (which is the most common end-use for wood in the developing world) will just shift to other areas.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Why Tramways over More Buses?

So this is the debate. Montreal has decided that its priority is to develop a tram network, starting with about 20 km that will eventually expand. I took a course a couple of years ago in Urban Transportation and one main focus was on the differences between bus service and tramways in the way they shape a transit system and travel behaviour (as well as the city landscape). I have to first point out that i am not a tram enthusiast. I just truly believe that the a tram system is needed in Montreal.

Because there is a large initial capital cost in a tram system, it's more relevant to compare costs of the two services over a long period of time. With any sort of transit service the level of service (the type of service as well as frequency and quality of service) needs to be relevant in it's context. The bottom line all depends on ridership. Luckily, the proposed lines along Park and Côte-des-Neiges would replace the bus lines with the highest ridership. Apparently the Park bus line actually carries more people than the blue line (according to some big hotshot McGill researcher who gave a lecture in the course). So here is why, in Montreal's case, a tram network is advantageous :

-Fast. A tramway with a Dedicated Right of Way (that is, separated from normal traffic), is faster because it does not get stuck in traffic like buses do. Even the dedicated bus lanes have snarls when cars are turning. And a tram would have its own right of way even outside peak hours.

-Permanent. Tram stops have a more permanent place in the minds of transit users, like a metro station does. Same thing with tram lines. This is important in attracting investment and users. Bus routes and stops are not very prominent in the streetscape and (in the minds of transit users) can be moved or removed at whim. This also means trams routes aren't as flexible as bus routes.

-Clean and Quiet. Trams have no emissions and are quiet. Air and noise pollution is almost non-existent when compared with buses. This has a tremendous effect on quality of life of an area.

-Comfort. Trams don't change lanes or swoop into stops like buses do, so it is a much more comfortable ride.

-Ridership. Other cities have experienced an increase in ridership when tramlines are introduced.

-Maintenance. Tram cars have an average operating life of 25 years versus 17 years for buses. They also cost less in ordinary maintenance.

This is not to say that a tram system in the order of Projet Montreal's proposal is needed. Tram lines could only really be efficient on those lines with demand. As a intermediate mode between bus and metro, the capacity needs to be there. A line along Park is especially necessary to help alleviate the congestion on the orange line between Henri-Bourassa (or Montmorency) and Berri. That line is already fully saturated and can't handle any growth.

Update: i re-enabled comments, i must have accidentally clicked on 'don't allow'. Sorry about that!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Montreal Tramway

A new tram system in Montreal has been the talk of the town for the last month if not the last year. I somehow fell upon this document [pdf 240 kb] put out by Projet Montreal, complete with maps of every borough, and their proposed tram lines. If you haven't forgotten the last municipal election, Projet Montreal is the very new municipal party that surprising won a seat. They are the ones who have been putting the pressure to introduce a tram system.

Their proposal is a very bold one at that, seemingly drawn up by randomly connecting lines using a blue felt pen. This is the type of ambitious project, however, needed to stop the automobile's pervasiveness. Implementing the key routes like Park Ave, Old Port, Henri-Bourassa and Notre-Dame would be a great beginning.

Update: (Thanks to the Montreal City Weblog) The city will unveil a transit plan today that will apparently address the need for sustainable transit on the island. Bridge tolls and streetcars are in order. It seems a lot of people (including Kate from the Mtl city weblog) do not think there are advantages of trams over buses... maybe an upcoming post?
Update #2: For those with a lot of free time (like myself) the 155 page pdf document released by the city is available here.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Bois Franc Development

My parents have decided to move back to Montreal from Suburban American Hell. I had taken the responsibility of real-estate agent in showing them several properties as 'ideas'. Of course it has been incredibly stressful for me, and i have now resigned. It's clear they have acquired a taste for suburban living that can hardly be changed. Even in light of global warming ( i mean it's even on the American news that my mother watches so religiously!), and the fact that her son has chosen the environmental challenge as a career path, they cannot see the reality.

I am already disturbed and upset just writing this bit about it, so i will move on to the point of this post: the Bois Franc Development in Ville Saint-Laurent, Montreal. If they are going to pick the suburban lifestyle, i figured they may as well pick the 'better' option. Bois-Franc has been developed on the principles of New Urbanism. In a nutshell, here is a short summary of (what i believe are) the most important principles of New Urbanism:

-The pedestrian is encouraged.
-The density is higher than traditional suburbs.
-High-quality of the architecture and design.
-A mixed-use centre is within walking distance.
-A mixture of housing types


I have visited Bois-Franc twice now, and i am actually pretty impressed with the development. The first most-striking thing upon arriving is that people are actually present. Like a scene from their promotional video, there are people, couples and families walking and biking around. This is something i have almost never seen in traditional suburbs. While i am impressed with the development, there are some things i am still concerned about:

1. The housing is quite expensive, and there are no affordable housing projects or low to medium-income rentals.
2. This is still a suburb, and most residents still depend on their cars to reach areas outside the development.
3. The central commercial square has a lot of parking around it, and are single-use buildings without any residential development on top (i.e. no vertical mixed use).

They had an observatory at the centre, where i took most of the pictures:

The centre has a lot of different services: movie rentals, café, restaurant, bakery, depanneur, etc.
The housing development around the centre
Notice the bus that runs through the development. Both times i was here, the bus had mostly young people riding them.
High density development
Many of the more prestigious developments are placed around these squares (notice the playground)
These townhouses are facing each other with a common landscaped walkway in the Garden City style.
Mixed housing types: retirement condos in the large building with lower rise duplex-style condos behind.
The higher density is achieved through small land parcels and narrow buildings with 4 floors of liveable space (finished basement to loft-attic)
Phase 3 of the project will start soon, which will cover all of the adjacent golf-course.


Sunday, May 13, 2007

Montreal Restaurants

I've been visiting a new bar every two weeks with a group of friends in order to acquaint myself not only with new places but also new friends (we each invite new people to come out with us). I bought the book Montréal Resto À Go-Go by Sarah Musgrave a while ago, and have used it as a guide for our new bars. The core members of the group have decided that we should visit a new restaurant once a month as well. I realised that it is not very often that i try a new restaurant. It's very rare that i do eat out, so when i do i tend not to want to take my chances with a new restaurant.

This new group will definitely help expand the repertoire of restaurants. Using Sarah Musgrave's book and some suggestions by friends, here are some that i have chosen so far (please comment on the one's you may have been to):

La Maison Hantée (The Haunted House), 1037 Bleury: How could you not want to eat at a dinner theatre, a haunted one at that! They have some burlesque shows going on, the next one being on June 29th. Eat and watch burlesque? I'll take seconds! The menu is fixed per show, but they say that if you notify them of an approaching vegetarian within 10 days they can accommodate them.

La Couscoussière d'Ali Baba, 1460 Amherst: A Tunisian restaurant that not only has tonnes of couscous, but belly dancers on the weekends and shisha. The food is apparently not that great, but again - belly dancers and shisha.

Abiata, 3435 St. Denis: I've only heard good things about Ethiopian food, and this is apparently the place to go. The food is eaten with a sort of spongy bread called injera, no utensils.

Chez Gatsé, 317 Ontario East: This was the first Tibetan restaurant in Montreal. There is a limited choice of vegetarian fare ( a couple of dishes or so), which is strange because i always though Tibetan food was largely vegetarian.


If anyone has any other suggestions... by all means, let me know. And if you'd like to join us, we're always up for meeting new people.

Friday, May 11, 2007

A New Green City

The Inhabitat blog has posted an interesting piece on a new city in Abu Dhabi to be completely green. Designed by firm Foster + Partners, this 6 million square metre walled city (called Masdar) will be completely car-free, waste-free and self-sustaining. I wonder if it will consider the other 2 pillars of sustainability, social and economic. Hopefully this city will be a centre of innovation in Eco-City design, especially with the planned university within its walls.


When reading about this city, many other failed projects come to mind. We shouldn't forget that there was not one successful city that had been founded will the goal of Utopia that is still functioning on those principles. New Harmony, Indiana and even Radburn New Jersey come to mind. Radburn had gone bankrupt before the city could be completed (a very watered-down version of a Garden City), and New Harmony erupted in chaos.

Apparently the creators of this new green city have not down any research into the (un)success of creating new towns that are structured on completely new ideas. I just say why not focus on improving the cities and towns that exist today, before creating entirely new ones?

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

City Stars: A Comic

I would encourage everyone to check out the City Stars comic, by illustrator Grant Collins. This was part of the Logocities Symposium that just wrapped up a couple of days ago. The comic illustrates the tales of someone who, triggered by the pope's death and the resultant 'purple cross illumination', searches for meaning in the logos that dot Montreal's skyline.

The signs and logos of the city are as large a part of Montreal's symbolic landscape as Mount Royal or the distinctive architecture of (let's say) the Golden Square Mile. If it were not for the price of attending, i would have definitely been there.

n.b. to read the text in the comic, make sure to double-click to zoom in.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

City as Developper

Thanks to the Montreal City Weblog for linking to this article about a giant area the city is planning to develop. The giant area located in Montreal east is bound by Sherbrooke to the south, The metropolitan autoroute in the north, the Lafarge Quarry to the east and west until about Pierre-Bernard street.

This project seems to be on the right start by incorporating a mix of affordable housing, social housing and condos for both retired folk and low-to-medium-income households . A total of 60% of the new housing will be affordable housing and social housing (39% affordable and 21% social). Other than a small band of commercial area to the south ( most probably along Sherbrooke), there is no news whether this project will adopt principles of sustainable development or at least New Urbanism.

Hopefully the commercial zone will be mixed use, with housing and offices above. I don't think Sherbrooke east needs any more strip malls or restos floating in a lake of parking. Hopefully all the housing will be somewhat mixed as well. The condos, social and affordable housing unsegregated. I will be keeping an eye on this project.

The city has partnered many times before in large development projects (often call PUDs, Planned Unit Developments). This seems to be the first the city has gone pretty much solo. For some info check out the Angus Shops Development, considered a successful sustainable community.

May 9th Update: The area to be developed is in fact not in Montreal East as the article mentioned, but in Mercier-East, which is part of a different borough.


Thursday, May 3, 2007

Energy Tree


A post on Treehugger profiles a new concept called the Energy Tree. A real tree is connected to your homes electrical system and watered according to the homes energy consumption. If you blow dry your hair - boom - no water for the tree. Well, it's probably not so direct but the more power you consume the less fertiliser and water your tree receives. A simple concept, really. The more efficient your household, the more your tree is likely to flourish.

This device seems to be banking on the human capacity for guilt. It's a inventive concept, but those likely to feel guilty about not watering a tree probably are already feeling guilty for leaving the light over the stove on overnight.

I propose something different. We apply these devices to childhood development. Every newborn child will be fitted with a device at the back of the neck. It can control eating as well as perform other functions. It will be wirelessly connected to your home and car. If you idle your car - boom- no dinner for your son. Forget to turn off the tap while brushing your teeth - boom- your daughter gets electroshock currents buzzing through her body. Parents around the world will be sitting in darkness afraid their consumption will retard their children's growth. And the children, they will be the future saviours of our planet! They will be at the forefront of developing the most energy-efficient devices!

I say screw the Energy Tree, long live the Energy Child.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

The UnSustainables

I fell upon this animated series called The Unsustainables. The online episodes feature a 'mixed' family struggling to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle. I've watched 3 or 4, but i'm confused as to the objective of such a series. There is almost no useful information on how to successfully adopt a sustainable lifestyle.

The episodes are created by SustainLane, an online resource that helps find green businesses and products. It seems mainly to be US-based listings. For local Montreal green businesses and products check out Ethiquette.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Flesh vs Aluminium: at War with the Automobile #2

I don't know if this is because i've quit smoking (a year now), but i feel like pollution is getting much worse. Walking along Sherbrooke, i sometimes find it really difficult to breathe. Inhaling exhaust, my throat's reflex is to close the esophagus. What i don't understand is how it's legal to have exhaust pipes point toward the sidewalk, which many diesel trucks seem to have.

How is it that this person who is sitting in their car, directly affecting my health, is allowed to do this? Many people choose to walk, and yet they are the ones suffering. I try to avoid breathing while passing through the clouds of dark blankets, but why should i? I say:

Shouldn't clean air be a right?

As these words resonate in my mind, i realise they sound awefully like anti-smoking rhetoric. You know, the old "why should non-smokers be exposed to second-hand smoke?" It only seems logical that the recent smoking ban lead to pollution as the next health rights issue. Hopefully this does indeed happen (I'm still waiting for it to be legal to marry a llama since gay marriage was legalised).

I've only asked someone to turn off their idling engine once in my life (minus all the times i got paid to do it for a summer job). It felt great, after i felt safe that the big burly truck driver wouldn't beat the shit out of me. The drivers may not be inhaling carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide and volatile organic compounds but we obstaining from automobilism sure are...

Of course, maybe i'm just being as asshole, as someone has commented. But maybe we should start thinking of the polluters as the assholes.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Squirrels

I haven't had internet or cable for the last 4 days or so (I've just become a Bell customer, and i'm already teeming mad), so i have been doing many other things to occupy my time. This involves feeding, taping and talking to squirrels in my backyard, and then trying to use the video-editing software i bought many years ago but never used. Here's a very amateur video of the events. Enjoy.


Monday, April 23, 2007

New York City Congestion


New York City is thinking about introducing congestion pricing, similar to what is done in London's downtown. This would be the area of Manhattan below 86th Street. For those unfamiliar with the concept, it involves charging drivers and cars to enter a certain area (like a downtown). It is considered a success in London, but i hear there are still kinks that need to be figured out.

I'm not sure how effective this would actually be since cabs would have a special status in such a system and most of those driving through Manhattan are those that can absorb the 8$ a day fee. It may just further segregate the poor and rich.

The article mentions the booming population growth in the city, but i question how fast it really is growing. I haven't heard of any North American city truly growing in the last decade...

Friday, April 20, 2007

Daryl Hannah is My Friend...

Since i quit reading The Gazette, my news is usually acquired piecemeal throughout the day. What does this leave me to do in the morning? With my café latte in hand i read other people's blogs, my e-mail, and most importantly surf wikipedia. And don't pretend like you have no idea what that is.

Don't ask what chain of information led to Daryl Hannah, but it turns out she has quite an intriguing life. The star of the 1980's Splash, and my favourite character from the Kill Bill series lives off-grid in the middle of the Rockies and drives a car fuelled by used cooking oil. I guess it gets a little boring up there, so she regularly updates her blog, which is mostly videos about green technology and such. She descends back into civilisation (or rather cruises down with a trail of french-fry scented dust in her wake) to interview people in the environmental industry.

I haven't had time to watch her videos extensively, but it is worth watching for the opening sequence. This has her strolling through nature around (what i assume is) her eco-lodge, and rolling around in the grass.

Amazing what guilt Los Angeles' hedonistic self-indulging lifestyle can conjure.

Friday, April 13, 2007

This is Enough!

Global warming has been linked to many phenomena, and we are told that there are many more events that are likely to occur and are largely unknown. Now it's coffee. Yes people, go and hug your coffee machine, because it will have to go.

Cafés will be hard hit, as less and less people will be able to afford this black gold. No longer will you be able to serve yourself to roasted coffee beans in bulk. As a result of too many people filling up their bags and dashing without payment, coffee roasters and grocery stores will have to serve you from behind the counter, much like cigarettes and Tylenol 222's. You'll have to order your coffee from the man or woman behind the bullet-proof glass.

For me, i have already sprouted my coffee plant seedling. I'm waiting until Montréal's climate becomes warm enough that i can have my own backyard plantation. I urge you all to prepare yourselves for this grim future... a grumpy, sleepy and cranky one.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

An Urban Planner's Wet Dream


I woke up this morning, and discovered thanks to the Montreal City Weblog, that the reintroduction of tramways and the 'boulevardisation' of the Bonaventure Autoroute is closer to becoming a reality. The entire 12th floor of Concordia University (save for the Poli-Sci kids who occupy the smaller section of the floor) just has a spontaneous orgasm.. i could hear it. Okay, maybe i'm the only one in that respect, but this is the type of stuff we urban planning students dream of.

The first proposed tramway is to begin at Dorchester Square and loop around to Berri-Uqam metro. All the while passing the Cité Multimedia, Griffintown, The old port, and the new CHUM mega-hospital. It's a great first step for the city, but this line would seem quite short and not that beneficial to Montrealers, catering mostly to tourists. The benefits of tramways is that they have large capacities and are extremely cheap per-passenger when compared to metros. The city should take advantage of this and have the first proposed line strive for something a little more extraordinary.

One again, thank-you to the Montreal City Weblog, you've helped make my day!

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Trees

Thanks to Hugg for referring the article.
It would appear that forest-fires no longer contribute to global warming, using the logic of Canadian government scientists. Afraid that the occurrence of forest fires from now until 2012 will prevent us from reaching our goals (versus, let's say actual policies), they have decided to completely omit the role of forests in our CO2 levels. Oh- except for the harvesting and replanting of trees because that actually helps reduce CO2 levels.

Now i am hopeful that we can actually meet our Kyoto goals. A simple re-tooling of the calculations seems more effective than policy that would destroy our economy. Why should we then count the emissions of the Alberta oil fields, i mean, we export most of it the U.S! We should also omit emissions from essential automobile trips like school, doctors appointments and Ikea.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Holts


I pass by Holt Renfrew almost everyday on my to school, and cannot help but look inside their window displays. They always have something interesting that makes me think of things i know were not intended. Here are the pictures of their last display, which they just recently replaced. I'm not sure what their intentions are, but there is definitely a message. I really don't know what to call it (maybe just post-modern, or post-post-modern) when advertisements critique the pervasiveness of advertising... Which is what i see in this display on the left. I mean, you open the door only to be greeted by a giant ad? I like it though. I think Holts' displays are creative, and begs to question where art ends and marketing begins...



I guess i'm trying to create some sort of discussion on this. Is it corporate art? Is is art? Or is it just ad space? What do you think of it?

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Could Montreal Learn?


Paris has decided to develop an extensive network of bike stations, where it would be almost free for someone to rent a bike. The plan calls for a bike station about every 250 yards. There are similar systems set up in Lyon as the article mentions, and i'm pretty sure Copenhagen has one as well (which works on a refundable deposit). Considering it is being done in Paris, where the terrain is not always flat (think Montmartre), could this be done in Montreal? The Montreal mayor last year was revelling at how modern Paris' new tramway was, and quickly claimed he would do the same in Montreal. Is this bike-lending network likely to be the next 'victim who never had a chance'?

Of course in our city, avoiding hills is not exactly the easiest. Kristian at Coolopolis has suggested that Montreal can benefit from a Trampe. A bike lift that can transport lazy bikers up hills. I would suggest that anybody who doesn't want to bike up a hill shouldn't be on a bike, but it this device could surely help bring biking into the mainstream.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Flesh vs Aluminium: at War with the Automobile #1

Every tuesday and thursday this semester i walk to school and back, about 25-30 minutes each way. I do this not only because it's good exercise, but also to assert my rights as a pedestrian. Also because the 24 bus is fucking packed in the morning, as is the metro.

I think a lot of Montrealers can agree that drivers are pretty aggressive in this city, and i think it's time for pedestrians to be just as aggressive. I don't know how many times i've been cut off by a car and always thought after the fact that i should have hit the car. The most i've ever done it sarcastically put out my arm to let the car pass while i give a very cruel face. But, this all changed the other day. Walking along Park with my friend Brad, i lunged toward a car and hit it as it cut us off. I know i know. If i had lunged, then maybe it wasn't really that closely cutting me off... and yes, i was a little too eager to hit it. That's besides the point.

I love walking slowing through intersections when i can see (through the corner of my eye) that a car is trying to turn left from a lane over. I love even more when a car turns left, not realising there is a pedestrian (me) and has to wait for them (me) to pass. OHHH, i take my time. It makes me smile when the oncoming traffic backs up and people start honking at him/her for blocking traffic.

'fuck you asshole, maybe you should check for pedestrians before you turn!!' I want to say with my extended middle finger. But i don't, I innocently keep walking slowly acting oblivious. Passive Aggressive Pedestrian Activism, i'll call it! Or PAPA for short.

And i ask all of you to join in!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Green News Galore

There seems to be a lot of 'green news' today...

It turns out that Quebecers are the greenest of them all. Polls show that we are the most environmentally conscious.

Somewhat linked to the fact that Toronto has received more autonomy, the city has unveiled a long-term plan to lower greenhouse gas emissions. This is an actual plan that targets all sectors involved in the city, in contrast to Montreal's plan which only involves the cities operations.

And this is old news (okay, 5 days old), but the conservative budget that came out last week not only created a rebate programme for efficient cars, but also a 'green tax' on gas-guzzlers. By the way, according this article i read last week, the opposite of a gas-guzzler is a 'gas sipper.'

In a complete reversal, Stephan Harper apparently plans to invest in climate change initiatives overseas. I don't think there was anything in the recent budget for it, but i guess it could count in foreign aid spending.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Are You Carbon Neutral?

The Globe and Mail has an interesting article on the growing trend of being carbon neutral. The article profiles a handful of companies that are providing this 'service.' It's interesting to note that Green My Flight is the only such programme that is certified by Environment Canada's Environmental Choice Programme.

I bought some 'credits' for Jeannette for her last birthday, having just found out about it a week before. She would often drive up from Massachusetts to visit me, and i often felt a little guilty. I still sort of see this whole trend as just a way to assuage guilt, but i have to admit it's pretty effective! Even though i read through every bit of the website, it still didn't make very much sense. All i knew was that i was somehow funding a wind energy project.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Art Review #2




As with the first 'Art Review' this pièce d'oeuvre is displayed in Guy-Concordia metro. It is unquestionably about how the internet has negatively affected society post-September 11th. This type of post-structuralist (though undeniably pre-neoplatonist) social commentary has become popular as of late, attaining popularity than can only be compared to the ranks of tucking one's jeans into one's boots.

This piece effectively translates the visual dialogue between neo-technological anti-humanism and pre-technological artisanism. For those not familiar with these terms, it basically shows the way in which spellcheck and word processing has degraded handwriting. This degrading of handwriting is evident in the illegible 'scribbles' that not only lack readable orthography, but are often not following the western convention of writing from left to right. Human 's have just forgotten how to write by hand.


Friday, March 16, 2007

CSA Season

It's that season again. The season where it's not considered unreasonable to fantasize about summer. If you want to think about your organic food needs, you'll need to soon sign up for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) programme. Equiterre has just updated their database for the 2007 season (you can get to the directory directly here). For two years, Andre Samson was my farmer. After taking a year off and delving into community gardening (a disaster i wish never to speak of) i think i will change this year to Les Jardins du Petit Tremble. Andre was into squash and herbs a little too much, and i ended up accumulating to many unidentified dried herbs and squashes that i ended up giving away (luckily i found someone who loved them).
Here's an interesting tidbit: according to Equiterre, its CSA is the most popular in the world. I can't seem to find the page where i read that, so i can't link to it.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

UFOs and Climate Change: Who Would've Thunk?

I'm not sure if this is old news, as i've been out of the loop for a couple days, but a former Defence Minister says that UFOs could hold the answer to stopping climate change. I wonder if he also supports the legalisation of recreational drugs. God i love Canadian politics, although this is just as loopy as many things coming out of American politics (just more fun and less fear).

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Farewell Montreal Gazette

I've done it. I've cancelled my subscription to The Gazette. For the last 4 years i have done nothing else after waking up but reading the latest edition of the Gazette with a cup of coffee. This habit has not been completely static:
In 2005 I switched to the digital edition. This allowed The Gazette to penetrate anywhere there is an internet connection, even my vacations (Toronto, Vancouver, Moncton, Paris, Amsterdam, etc.).
In 2006 cigarettes no longer were part of the equation (i only lit up the first cigarette once i had sat down in front of the paper).
In 2007 I got a cappuccino machine, and filtered coffee was ancient history.

Though the nature of the ritual has changed over the years, The Gazette has remained there. My boyfriend (If it were a gender it would definitely be a middle-aged man from Beaconsfield), if you will, who i would wake up to.

I don't know what I'm going to do now. I feel a little lost. This is almost worse than quitting smoking, and i just cancelled the membership an hour ago. The Globe and Mail is just too nationally-focused and expensive (35$/month does not justify reading news mostly about the ROC, Rest Of Canada). I've already gone through the 2-week trial of Lapresse in order to have a smooth transition, but i found out that reading French in the morning is equivalent to eating a poutine for breakfast.

Why, one may ask, am i doing this? Well, many would agree that The Gazette mostly consists of a club of West-Islanders. I've felt for a long time that it is a bit too conservative, but it's hard to give up on habits. Especially when it involves someone (me) who many (Jeannette) believe may be a little (or very much) OCD.
All i ask is for your patience in dealing with this. And if you have suggestions of where else i can get some local news, please let me know.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Québec Votes



It's strange how this commercial encouraging people to vote has a 'green' image to it. Considering this is supposed to be from the non-partisan Directeur Général des Élections du Québec. You know the Charest administration had nothing to do with it considering they are not 'green' (although they love to think so).
I can't imagine the farmer (i'm assuming he is part of that 3%) voting for Charest unless he wanted highway 30 cutting through his land.

It just makes me want to vote green.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Nuit Blanche 2007: Fait Accompli

So the Nuit Blanche was a success... Though i only lasted until about 3 am. The Chai tea, though incredibly delicious, was less effective than i thought. Here are some photos.

brooms brushes and such. unfortunately they had already given out the 1000 brooms

this goes out to Liz



these last photos remind me of nightmares i used to have as a little kid


they were in tiny little boxes with windows


a modern day sweatshop?

i love the little Kraft peanut butter jar

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

South Shore LRT


Henry Aubin wrote an interesting editorial in The Gazette on Tuesday. Yes, Tuesday is the day i have a midterm... and yes, i know i should be studying instead....
In the editorial, he criticises the AMT's report on creating a Light Rail Train line between downtown Montréal and Brossard. Aside from the fact that he HATES the idea, i have beef with his evaluation of the costs. He merely divides the total cost by the number of new public transit users that are expected by the LRT (4 150 by 1 Billion$) and claims it will cost 240 000$ per new public transit passenger..... Yet, how about all the potential users (the people who use the buses now)? Then think about all those people who get to ride free thanks to those 'new' passengers who paid 4 thousand each!!
I mean come on. What a shoddy way to present something.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Fallen Pryde


My brother has just been featured on the FIDM (Fashion Institute of Design and Marketing) website. His clothing line, Fallen Pryde, has started picking up. He lives in LA right now, but he just told me that he's decided to move his business to Montréal this summer, and will be opening up a store somewhere in the Plateau. The government offers quite a bit of money to young entrepreneurs, as well as those involved in the clothing industry... so why not?

Friday, February 23, 2007

Paris 2005

Back in 2005, Jeannette and i went to Paris. This was our first big trip together. I had just gotten the digital camera, and i may have had a little bit of digicam fever.

this was the view from the hotel we stayed at the first night. it was in the 9th arrondissement (i think) on Rue de la Magenta. i don't know how i remember that

a view of the Sacré-Coeur from the centre Pompidou

i got mugged in front of this. But i returned the next day to face it, this time without any money on me

Rue Lamarck

a nice view from our first day

Sunday, February 18, 2007

La Nuit Blanche 2007

This year will be the 4th instalment of the Montréal All-Nighter, part of the Montréal Highlights Festival. The only problem i have with this, is that there are waaaaaaay too many things to do. And all in just one night. I went to 2004's event, and ended up watching french barbie porn at the NFB's cinémarobothèque. Thank god for government subsidised films!

I'm trying to convince Jeannette and Liz to come and visit that weekend. And
i've gone through most of the programme to make an itinerary. There doesn't need to be a sequence to this, but it would be nice to start from the Old Port and work our way back home:

1. Quai Jacques-Cartier (Free)
8:00 - Fireworks

2. Notre-Dame-de-bon-secours Chapel (
Free) 400 Saint Paul East
8:00, 9:00, 10:00, 11:00 - Gospel Music in Montreal's oldest stone chapel

3. Hôtel W (Free) 901 Square Victoria
7:00pm - 3:00am - Cléa Haugo explores the manufactured image of modern woman.

4. Darling Foundry (Free) 745 Ottawa
8:00pm - 3:00am - Art Matters exhibitions and performances surrounding the theme of 'humanism'

5. Montréal History Centre (Free) 335 Place d'Youville
8:00pm - 5:00am - African Rhythms. Percussion and dance performances.

6. Pointe-à-Callière Archaeology and History Museum (Free) 350 Place Royale
7:00pm - 3:00am - Two exhibits will be open all night long: 'St. Lawrence Iroquoians, People of the corn' and ' Where Montréal was born.' Plus there's some sort of Native-inspired musical celebration.

7. Canadian Centre for Architecture (Free) 1920 Baile
8:00pm - 3:00am - The exhibition 'Environment: approaches for tomorrow' is open all night, as well as tasting and experiments involving the environment. And there's a DJ and movies showing.

8. Camellia Masala (Free) 351 Emery
10:00pm - 7:00am - This place will be serving traditional Indian Chai until 7AM!

9. Belgo Building (Free) 372 Ste. Catherine West
8:00pm - 5:00am - Tonnes of stuff is going down in this building. It's full of art studios.

10. Hydro-Quebec (Free) 75 René-Lévesque West
6:00pm- 5:00pm - Check out Jean-Paul Mousseau's giant illuminated mural.

11. Contemporary Art Museum (Free) 185 Ste Catherine West
6:00pm - 5:00am - Tonnes of stuff... Their main exhibit will be open as well.

12. Métro Place-des-Arts (Free) 175 Ste Catherine West.
1:00am - 5:00am - Breakdance and hip-hop competition with DJs.

13. Piano Nobile @ Place des Arts (Free) 175 Ste Catherine West
from 11:30pm - 5:00am - Salle Wilfrid Pelletier is turned into a cabaret with various Quebec artists performing.

14. Hall des Pas Perdus @ Place des Arts (Free) 175 Ste Catherine West
11:00pm - 5:00am - Karine Giboulo's installation/Social Commentary

15. Centre de Design de l'UQAM (Free) 1440 Sanguinet
6:00pm - 5:00am - An exhibition of brushes. Some 2 000 brushes are going to be displayed, and you can take one home with you. Whatever, it's art!

16. ITHQ - Institut de Tourisme et d'hôtellerie du Québec (Free) 3535 Saint-Denis
6:00pm- 6:00am - the 10-storey building will put on a light show. It seems to be put on by 'LSD Design'.... Hmm, must be good then.

17. Graff Gallery (Free) 963 Rachel East
8:00pm - 2:00am - There is a 'greenhouse' exhibit, and a silk-screening demonstration.