Grandma & Grandpa's Farm

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Walking in a Winter Wonderland - II

...still trying to.

I still like the snow and am sad to hear that it will likely not be with us here in Metro Vancouver in a week or so at most. But... you were waiting for the "but" weren't you? ...I am getting more disgusted at how pedestrians are being treated out here every day.

Understandably for out here, we have had a lot of snow in a short time that has lasted a long time... as contradictory as that might sound. What I mean is that we had a number of snowstorms in rapid succession -- in a short time -- and that the snow has lasted longer than it often does. People out here are used to getting 6 in - 15cm of snow and the rain washing it away after a day or two. Rather we have had 60-80cm - 24-30in of snow in a week or so without any appreciable thaw and now with the raising of temperatures to freezing and a bit above, the rain is being absorbed by the snow -- much like a sponge absorbing water -- rather than the snow being washed away. That is leading to the snow just becoming heavier and more prone to collapsing roofs, capsizing houseboats, and impeding traffic. It also is blocking catch basins turning streets and highways into impromptu lakes and streams.

Still what has got my goat is that very little provision is being made for pedestrians!

(Image to right from Image*After)

I was lucky enough to have been given a ride to my Parents for Christmas by my Sister and her Husband or I probably would not have been able to get out for Christmas. The sidewalks are piled high with snow, not just from the snowfall, but also from that ploughed from the streets and people clearing their driveways. Truely there are some souls who have shovelled their sidewalks and there are some folk who have shovelled their walks, but have no sidewalks along the roadway to keep clear other than to attempt to shovel away what the highway and city have ploughed to the side of the road.

People are forced to walk in the narrowed street or through snow deeper than their knees, and very often that is the brownish grey sort of snow that is scraped up off of the streets.

Even if a person were to make it to the bus stop -- if the are taking public transit -- they are faced with that same mountain of snow to hurdle in order to climb onto the bus from the curb.

While it is true that this has happened during the holiday season with less dependence on commuting by transit to work, I can only imagine what people are doing presently to get onto the buses. I do know that anyone with a mobility impairment is likely simply stuck at home unless they have some access to a car, whether a friend or relative to drive them or cash enough for cab.

I am very disappointed that the City and Chamber of Commerce are dropping the ball on this issue... but perhaps they all have their nice SUV with snow tires to travel with...

~ Darrell


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Saturday, December 27, 2008

On writing blog entries -- to a friend

I need help starting.
suggestions are so welcome - Windy5Weather on

Hello Windy!

I think first, look for something you are feeling passionate about -- perhaps a long time passion, but perhaps the passion of the moment -- and it can be positive or negative; Earth shattering, local, or personal. It can be something trivial or humorous even. Then write about it. Try to keep it short and concise. You can always write another blog entry to fill in details or leave your audience to post a comment asking questions. Write what you know or be prepared to look the information up. Also be prepared to back up what you say and try to make sure you have reputable sources. Be willing to laugh at your own mistakes and admit to them, but also be willing to stick to your guns when you are confident... of course when you do, you still might find that you have been mistaken.

I sometimes give tours at a museum and there are times I find I am giving tours to folk who actually know much more about the subject being covered than I know. For instance: The museum is housed in a 1908 Railroad Station and a part of the exhibit are renovated parts of the station to make it look like it might have been before the station had electricity when it had just been completed and part immediately after... Anyway, I found I was giving a tour to the last station keeper of the station before it was taken out of service and he knew things about the station I never knew about... I learned a lot about the station that day. Mind you I did check up on those facts even so. I found giving tours I learned a lot.

Now right there was a blog entry about something I am passionate of.. That previous paragraph might stand up on its own as a blog entry might it not?

~ Darrell Wade.

I posted this comment to windy5weather on I figured I might just post it here as well.

~ Darrell


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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

...or trying to.

I rather like walking in the snow. I think snow is beautiful although it seems many of my friends do not care for it. I know they have their reasons and perhaps I might change my mind in time... or maybe I just have too many good memories of it.

(image to right from Image*After)

Unfortunately -- though when young I used to shovel our walks within 24 hours of every snowfall back when I lived in a city where snow actually came every winter -- here folk don't seem to care much about whether their walks are cleared of snow and ice regardless of municipal bylaw or the convenience of passersby. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that here it snows only for a week or three a year and that the snow most often disappears on its own a day or three after the fall. Sometimes the snow lingers and even when it doesn't it can be a very large problem for some folk.

There are folk who are quite fine travelling on foot on good dry pavement and sidewalks that find ice and snow to be an effective barrier for them even on journeys of a block. Some might have nearly invisible mobility issues like balance problems or coordination problems that you'd never note. They might never even use a cane. Others might use walkers or scooters which are stymied by nearly any level of snow or ice. Some scooters are better at handling it than others in case you are recalling seeing folk using scooters on snowy sidewalks.

(image to left from Image*After)

I know of some people who have artificial legs who can not walk on ice and snow and whose wheelchairs can not navigate it either. They go from independence to requiring special transit either by "Handidart" or specially equipped taxi.

You can't blame all the folk who don't clear their walks...

I often come across a nasty situation where the city and highways departments plough the roads and the icy half melted snow is left on the sidewalks and shoulders of the roads creating near glacial coverage as the dumped ice and snow hardens. It is almost like concrete and probably nearly impossible to shovel without a small tractor. It is also very hard to walk on because of its rough nature and tendency to have hard crust over softer under-layers -- difficult to walk on for able bodied folk, impossible for less able bodied, nearly impossible for a home owner to remove.

(Image to right from Image*After)

I can't really think of a solution for it all. For those places where the city or highways department ploughs the road, perhaps they should be less exuberant and take care not to cover the sidewalks or to provide a service to use municipal or highways equipment to clear the sidewalks. For other sidewalks... well there should be some way to get folk to actually clear their walks. Perhaps if someone actually followed through with one of those small city tractors and cleared the uncleared walks for a special price which would be outlined in a bylaw?

I really don't think people should be trapped in their homes because of inconsideration.

~ Darrell


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Friday, December 19, 2008

Time to Celebrate?

Can One Celebrate When So Much Is Wrong?

On a mailing list I belong to -- which I will leave in anonymity -- someone made a posting about their year being good and hopes that the next would even be better. They wished the same for everyone else. They also made a statement though about celebrating the season which I thought I might share, and I must admit that it is because I disagree with it. Here is the statement:

You know, for me everyday is important and not different from other ones. I do not believe in these sentimental days as long as there are wars and people starving!

I can understand where the person is coming from and in some ways agree with it. I am a firm believer that the sentiments of this holiday season be carried through the year. But I don't think that we shouldn't observe "these sentimental days" because of the bad things that are going on in the world around us.

I think that if we were to wait until all wars and famine were gone before we celebrated, there would never be any celebration and all there would be would be the negative and suffering. I think that we have to highlight what is good in the world and that we need boosts to the spirit to help carry us through the dark sometimes.

But in partial agreement, I do believe that we should try to carry the sentiments of the season with us throughout the year regardless of what holiday you might observe.

Just as with Thanksgiving Day or similar
holidays, it is important to be thankful for what we have all year
round and not just that one day or meal, we should keep the positive
spiritual feelings with us and the spirit of giving all year through.

So Season's Greetings and may the Joy of the Season stay with you all year long.

~ Darrell


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Saturday, December 13, 2008

To Be Merry or not To Be Merry...

Happy Holidays!

Would you be offended if I wished you a "Merry Christmas"?

I know that many institutions worry that you might be -- or that it might lead to messy discussions about religion and perhaps politics.

To me holiday greetings like "Merry Christmas" are not attempts at evangelizing, but simply ways to share the joy I might be feeling at the time of an important holiday for me. I'm trying to share my joy. I don't mind if others share holiday greetings for other holidays that I might not celebrate. I don't celebrate Ramadan but would not be offended if someone were to wish me an enlightened one or if someone wished me Solstice Greetings.

I'm really not sure what an appropriate Ramadan greeting might be or if there is such a thing and I hope I do not offend in my not knowing. I'd like to know.

I think it is a good thing to be able to share our positive feelings with each other and perhaps a bit of our heritage and culture and especially to be able to hold onto our cultures. Celebrating Christmas just happens to be a part of my culture as blended as it might be..

~ Darrell


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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Getting There

Almost There

Hi! Well I am getting there! I actually have a place to move to and am organizing movers and am in the throws of packing up my worldly goods. I hope once I have settled -- at all -- I will be able to return to my regular pattern of daily articles. I will have a number of observations I want to add to my column here about my move and all it entails and how it relates to todays realities. It reinforces some of my views on homelessness and how close so many people are to being out on the streets, or at least to becoming of "No Fixed Address".

~ Darrell


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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

For Remembrance Day -- 11 11 2008


Uniform Memory

When I was young,
I wore a uniform
Not a soldier proud
Going off to war
For King
For Country
Probably for
To get off of the Farm
Or out of the Factory Plant
Or Dark Coal Mine.

But before it was over
Seeing friends new
Friends old
Strangers once
Become Brothers
Blown to bits
Shot to meat
Once vital
Now dead.

When I was young,
The uniform I wore
Was not of a soldier
For I was lucky
Luckier than most
For my years of youth
Mine were spent in peace
Peace perhaps relative
Peace perhaps born
On the shoulders of others.

But others
They paid horrible price
Not even truly knowing why
Just knowing it was needed
Not asking why
Just doing
Just dying
Just or unjust.

When I was young,
Yes, I was only a Cub
But somehow I could feel
Somehow I felt a connection
Somehow I could feel the loss
The loss of the missing
Perhaps the loss of others
Of others' fathers
Of others' grandfathers
Husbands, brothers, sons

But though not directly touched
Somehow I knew
Somehow I felt
A minute of silence
That echoed in my heart
As strongly as if
The war was only yesterday
Not decades before

Now they are young,
Fresh faces wondering
At the few old wrinkled faces
The berets
The ribbons
The medals
The statues
The wreathes
The poppies
A tear
A moment of silence,,

But do they connect
Do they feel the loss
Does it make sense
Do they remember
Do they find it only
One more oddly named
Long weekend
In the so long school year
Is it  so sad

Now is it so sad
That these young
Are not so close
To the wars once remembered
Are these not those
That were fought for
That truly they would not
Need to know war  as the others before?

But it is sad.
For war has not left
More children must learn
More people must leave
To fight
For freedom
For feuds
For feudalism
For fuel

Now as it was it is in the end
They fight in the end
They fight for their life
They fight and see a friend
Blown up
Shot up
Burned up
Burned out
They fight bravely and for cause
They fight without question
For that the brave sometimes must do
They do it for themselves
But they also do it for you.

But it is sad
Another generation must morn
Lost soldiers
Not just Father,
Brother, Son
But now also Mother
Sister, Daughter
Aunt, and Friend
Though truth be told
It has always been so
Just not always so much
In uniform

One day perhaps
It will only be
War remembered in memory
Fading, but not forgotten
Perhaps a scar but not a wound
And the children
Might wonder,

At the few old wrinkled faces
The berets
The ribbons
The medals
The statues
The wreathes
The poppies
A tear
A moment of silence,,

Darrell Wade Penner November 4th 2003

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Apology for delay in fresh content

Fresh Content Will Return After A Hopefully Short Delay

Due to some setbacks I have been unable to write any articles for a while. I hope to be able to continue with some even while things are up in the air. In the meantime things will be a bit hit and miss until December. October was a hard month and November will be as well. All will be well in December however. Thank you for your patience.

~ Darrell


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Sunday, October 12, 2008


A Hairy Issue - I thought we were beyond this.

I thought this sort of thing was out of the dark ages of modern western civilization. A 5-year-old kindergarten student was apparently punished for his family's religious beliefs¹. In Needville Texas the Needville Independent School District (NISD) have forced an American Indian kindergarten student into "isolated In-School Suspension"¹. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas is saying it is for the student practising his family's religious beliefs and heritage -- and indeed it is -- but it centres around the school dress code and the young boy wanting to keep the long hair that is a part of his American Indian Heritage.

(image to right from American Civil Liberties Union of Texas)

The boy's -- AA² -- Father is of American Indian heritage and follows American Indian religious beliefs and he and his son belive that one's hair should only be cut for "life-changing-occasions, such as the death of a loved one."¹ believing that hair is a sacred symbol of their own lives. The boy's hair has never been cut.

The School District has a dress code which requires boys to have short hair and their response to a successful appeal that the NISD can not force the boy to cut his hair is that he keep it in a single tight braid tucked out of sight down the back of his shirt at all times. He must also re-prove his religious sincerity to NISD officials every school year.

The parents requested exemption from that area of the dress code over 8 months before school and it wasn't until a week before school that it was granted after appealing the initial denial.

I gather that "Independant School District" does not mean the school is a private one or religious one but the normal public school for the area. I might understand that a school that is a religious institution might have some restrictions, but this seems out of place in our day-and-age.

Perhaps it is because I come from a generation when hair length was at the heart of things. When I was in kindergarten many of the boys had brush cuts and others had different short styles. But it was also the time when the Beatles became popular and long hair was made famous or infamous by the "Hippies". Gradually long hair became more and more acceptable and by the time I reached Grade 7 and Junior High School they had changed dress codes to allow for much that wasn't allowed the year before. But this was 1971. That was the first year that jeans were allowed in our school -- of course not any jeans with "rivets". Girls still were not allowed to wear pants in school which was awkward in -30º - -40ºF weather with girls changing in the halls.

But boys by the time I reached grade 12 sometimes had hair that was a foot or more long! That was in 1975-76 when I graduated. I guess there weren't the problems with gangs and such... I have heard that they are trying to combat hairstyle as a distraction in the school system.

(image to left of 6-year-old with Mohawk from

Distraction at least is what they are claiming in the case of a boy in Parma, Ohio shown here. The Principal of the school, "Linda Geyer" says that the boy's hairdo was "disrupting the educational program."³There is a school uniform at that school and the boy wears it, but they have given him a third infraction of the school dress code and suspended him from his kindergarten class.

In this case it is a matter of freedom of expression rather than religious freedom, but for some I think they would be very similar. In USATODAY,com there is an article pointing out yet anothr case of a 7-year-old sporting a "Mohawk" -- "a 3-inch spike of hair running down the middle of his scalp."

In another article -- again from -- where they describe coveralls for students breaking the dress code to wear, they have a link to the Dress Code for "Gonzales Independent School District".

Tuesday, 15 July 2008
The District’s dress code is established to teach grooming and hygiene, prevent disruption, and minimize safety hazards. The district prohibits pictures, emblems, or writings on clothing that are lewd, offensive, vulgar, obscene, that advertise tobacco products, alcoholic beverages of any kind, drugs, or any other substance prohibited under school policy. It prohibits any dress or grooming that, in the principal’s judgment, may reasonably be expected to interfere with normal school operations. The dress code applies anytime a student is on campus during a normal school day and anytime a student is involved in an event or extra-curricular activity that represents Gonzales ISD. Co-Curricular and extra-curricular uniforms will be specified by the sponsors of organizations and approved to meet GISD Standard of Excellency by the campus Principal. Violations of the dress code; see student code of conduct for consequences. Students and parents may determine a student’s personal dress and grooming standards, provided that they comply with the following:
1. No student on school property or at any school activity shall wear, possess, use, distribute, display or sell any clothing, jewelry, emblem, badge, symbols, sign or other things, which are evidence of membership or affiliation in any gang.
2. Hair must be neat and clean. Boys’ hair must not extend below the bottom of the collar of a dress shirt, below the bottom of the ear, or over the eyes.
3. Any hairstyle, which by its appearance causes a disruption of any kind, as determined by a school administrator, is unacceptable.
4. Males must be clean-shaven if facial hair is noticeable. Sideburns cannot extend below the bottom of the ear.
5. Shorts, skorts, dresses, and skirts should be to the knee and appropriate for the school setting. Decency when sitting shall be a prime factor in determining appropriateness for the school setting.
6. Miniskirts, leggins, tight shorts, tights, cut-offs, wind shorts and biker shorts may not be worn; including jean shorts that are tight and rolled up.
7. All shirts will have a collar and sleeves. All shirts will be free of words and/or pictures and may have a logo of not larger than a 2 inch square. NO t-shirts are allowed except for Gonzales Apache spirit shirts which may be worn any day of the week. All shirts worn by males must be tucked in. Shirts worn by females must be tucked in if they are longer than the bottom of the hip.
8. All clothing that shows undergarments is unacceptable, including clothing with conspicuously low necklines and/or low backs.
9. Sagging pants (pants worn below the waist) will not be allowed. Belts will be worn in grades 5-12 for all male students. Pants must be hemmed and not frayed. Nylon, athletic, or wind pants are not acceptable. Boxer or spandex shorts are not acceptable as outer wear and must not be visible.
10. Oversized clothing or coats may not be worn. Sweaters, sweat shirts, and jackets must not fall below the back pockets.
11. Clothing such as undergarments, muscle shirts, halter-tops, cropped shirts, tank tops, spaghetti straps, and clothing that shows a bare midriff or cleavage are not acceptable.
12. Students shall not be permitted to wear hats, caps, sunglasses, sweatbands, or other disrupting apparel in any building on campus during school hours.
13. Garments that have spikes (bracelets, necklaces, belts, etc.) are not permitted.
14. Males may not wear earrings. Females may wear earrings. No other body piercing jewelry of any kind will be accepted.
15. Bare feet and metal taps are not acceptable.
16. Cleats may not be worn in any school building. Shoes with built-in skates or wheels (Healies) are not permitted in any building unless the wheels have been removed.
17. Clothing that displays violence, obscenity, tobacco products, alcoholic beverages, drugs, or any other substance prohibited under policy FNCF (L), is prohibited.
18. Any other attire that disrupts the educational process as determined by a school administrator is prohibited.
19. The school, advisor, or sponsor of any specific activity or function may impose additional guidelines.
20. Additional dress code guidelines are required by S.A.F.E. They may be obtained from the campus principal.
21. Inappropriate tattoos will be covered at all times as determined by school administrator.
22. House shoes, distracting, or unsafe shower shoes (beach type) will not be allowed.
23. No cargo pants allowed.

Perhaps much is understandable and most would agree is reasonable -- though of course coming from a T-shirt and jeans generation... some seems excessive. I would have problems with my own personal T-shirts and cargo pants that I wear and probably the track pants I wear normally while I am losing weight and my waist is changing so much. I have a few pair of pants with belt loops...

I can only imagine what they would do with groups such as the devout Sikh or people of other religious groups who have set religious rules about dress and hair that do not fit this set of rules. I guess they would feel these people belong in separate schools? Perhaps even in their own separate parts of the city or town so as not to disrupt things?

I don't know... I look at the picture of the boy's Mohawk, and I did have a better picture of the boy with the braided Native American hair, and if this is disruptive to the educational program... those must be very poor programs. There had better not be anything controversial in any newspaper the children might read or newscast they might see.

~ Darrell


¹ "ACLU Sues School District For Punishing Kindergarten Student Because of Family's Religious Beliefs" Posted Oct 2, 2008 (updated Oct 9, 2008) American Civil Liberties Union of Texas.

² AA will be used to identify the boy in this article.

³ "School suspends kindergarten student over Mohawk haircut" Posted by Mike Carney, (Photo by Peggy Turbett, The Plain Dealer via AP) February 27, 2008; ON DEADLINE --

"FLA. school boots little boy over Mohawk haircut" Posted by Mike Carney April 24, 2008; ON DEADLINE -- USA

"School district will force dress-code violators to wear blue jumpsuits" Posted by Mike Carney July 30, 2008; ON DEADLINE --

"Gonzales Independent School District -- Dress Code 2008-2009" 15 July 2008; Gonsales Independent School District.

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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Running Bear in the Subway!

Bear Learns Fast Food is Deadly

I didn't want to get too humorous in my titles here because the reason I am writing it was that it made me very sad.

(image to left from Kitimat Sentinel

A "Subway®" restaurant -- sandwich shop-deli -- worker, Rebecca Branton¹, was surprised last Monday morning, Sept 15,2008, at 6:15 am² by a black bear in the restaurant. There is a video of the whole incident hosted by CBC which took place in Kitimat, BC.

The CBC News report of the incident is on YouTube.

The employee was in back when the bear entered the restaurant and she spotted movement on the security camera.³

CBC News:¹

"I was just back there making soup ...but I saw the door open and it was a bear,"

(image to right from CBC News

Branton had the frame of mind to hurry to the washroom with her cellphone and lock herself in and phone for help, calling her parents. She had thought the bear might have used the handicap button to enter -- she had heard the buzzer for the door go off, but saw nothing in the morning dark.

Northern Sentinel:²

“I kept watching the door and then all of a sudden a bear came in and I was like ‘oh my god’.”

She explained, “It stood up on its hind legs and pulled the door open like a person and got down on all fours and the door closed behind it as it walked in.”

(Image to left from CBC news

Branton called her mom first not being sure what to do, but called the police afterwards.² The police arrived quickly and her parents also came down. The 10 minutes or so were terrifying and she felt isolated in the washroom as she heard the bear moving about in the shop. The bear sniffed around and at one point hopped on the counter.

It didn't apparently eat anything before jumping back down and eventually made its way out of the Subway® restaurant. Conservation Officers also arrived and set up a watch at the Dairy Queen® lot -- where the bear had come through to get to the Subway®

(image to right from The Guardian)

Sadly this curious young bear -- approximately two-years-old -- was later put down by Conservation officers in the downtown area of Kitmat. They felt there was a danger that this bear would continue to return to the area and coming back being a danger to the public. Some might wonder why they didn't tranquilize the bear. I wondered it, but then considered... in the area around Kitimat, with all the wilderness, black bears might not be considered that special -- sadly.

(image on left from Subway® Restaurants International)

I feel sad for this intelligent creature who was so curious and intelligent. In the video he reminds me somewhat of a curious house cat or dog looking around where he might be caught doing something naughty. There was something to the curiosity and intelligence which struck a chord with me when I heard the handsome creature was destroyed. It often ends poorly for the animal when wildlife and humans interact.

~ Darrell


¹ "B.C. black bear pops in for fast food" CBC News, Oct 1, 2008;

² "Hairy start to Subway worker's day" Kitimat Sentinel, Published Sept 24, 2008 (Web Page dated: Oct 1, 2008);

³ CBC News reports the incident happening last Thursday (Sept 25) while the video shows "2008 09 15". The Northern Sentinel article reports it being "Monday" and considering the article was published September 24 puts credence to the Monday September 15 date for the incident.

"Black bear checks out sandwich shop" Oct 1, 2008 Charolottetown, The Guardian

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Going the Extra Mile - Accessible Often Means Roundabout

The Long Way Around

While sometimes a person might complain when there are no accessible facilities available, it can seem like you are looking a gift horse in the mouth with you complain about the facilities that exist. It can be rough to miss a connection on a bus because you were taking the extra fifty or even hundred metres required to reach an elevator or ramp.

True, a person might say "you should have started out earlier" which might have some truth to it --  but when connecting from one service to the next, you only have a certain amount of time to travel from one mode to another whether it be from bus to train or train to bus or even bus to bus or train to train. When service is every 3-5 minutes it is not so bad, but when service is less frequent than every 15 minutes it can make a large difference.

When you can't run for a bus it can be very frustrating for one to leave when you are so very close at hand -- travelling from one place to another within the station or terminal.

Some places just aren't designed well for people who aren't travelling well on foot. It is like the designers don't actually have a clue what it is to use these facilities if you need the accessible facilities. Perhaps this is just the case. Perhaps they really do need people who use the facilities to be a part of the design and not just part of town hall meetings and open houses on getting building permits approved.

(image to right from Wikipedia)

I know that there is the issue of keeping wheelchair friendly ramps at a slope that is safe and without too long straight lengths and such forth. But sometimes thing should be planned out better. I hope that things are getting better. I also hope that there is planning included for (in no particular order and not inclusive) people with babies in strollers and carriages; people with other impairments such as visual; people with luggage; people with small children; and so many other situations other than a business person on the way to work with a brief case and maybe an umbrella... for that matter... rainy days can sure be a problem with people not having a thing they can do with a wet umbrella.

An example of bad design is a "Skytrain" station built in the late 80's or early 90's which straddles a major highway interchange and bridge entrance ramp system. The station does have escalators and an elevator to take people up to the elevated track level -- but -- the elevator is on the side of the highway interchange the "Park & Ride" is on while the Transit Loop for catching buses is on the far side. The work-around is to call for a "Handi-dart" bus to come and transfer you from one side of the interchange to the other. Handi-dart is the part of the local transit system that picks up disabled people who are typically unable to ride normal public transit.

The station should have had an elevator designed into both sides. It is not a matter of there not being room. It might have meant a couple fewer parking stalls in the design of the "Park & Ride". I guess nobody on the design team considered that a person who would require the elevator might be taking the bus to continue their journey? It is good that the stations can be built elevated so that they can be above roads and thus make a smaller footprint on the urban groundspace -- But the disabled are often the folk on the low incomes that use the transit system most... perhaps not in a wheelchair, but sometimes a person who gets around with a cane or walking stick has problems with stairs and escalators?

We need more than work-arounds!

~ Darrell


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Friday, September 26, 2008

Electronic Coveralls

Why I Want a Cellphone

I have told many of my friends and my relatives in the past that I really do not need a cellphone. I still really do not need one, but I think I want one and I have my reasons. It isn't really to chatter with to friends, relatives, business contacts, or even enemies. I want one to reduce clutter. Just the way a pair of coveralls will cover and protect both your pants and shirt with one garment instead of a work smock and work pants, I want a cellphone to cover a few bases.

You see with my writing I like to have a camera at hand. I also want to have a source of radio-music and other audio at hand including a voice recorder. I use an mp3 player for voice recording, FM radio access, and for listening to audio books and music as well as for using as a USB flash drive. It would also be nice to carry a digital phone book, date book, and calculator. I could carry a digital camera, mp3 player, and some sort of PDA. But considering I would probably be content to be carrying around a digital camera that was 1 or 2 Megapixels, a halfway decent cellphone might cluster all those functions into one device.

I really don't want to make many calls... even a low minute regular plan is a bit extravagant to me so I am looking at pay-as-you-go or "no contract" cellphone plans. I don't need to web surf, though it would be nice to make the odd emergency call and to be able to text message the transit info for the schedule of the next 6 buses to come through at the stop I am standing at. I think it also would be neat to be able to read eBooks on.

I know I'll probably pay between $100 and $200 for the phone instead of getting it "free" on a 3 year plan, but I'll also probably only be paying $10-$15 per month if that... Hmm... now how soon 'til it balances out?

~ Darrell


Unattributed images are from Image*After.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Tunnel Vision - Even Blinder

In a Hoodie -- Tunnel Vision -- Hiding in a Mobile Cave

You see them all over, mostly worn by young people, though often too by people who are acting young or at least acting like they have little responsibility. The hooded sweatshirt is a very functional garment which can keep you cozy on a coolish evening or dampish day. The hood could be worn up or down and could be worn over other clothes or under them for a very functional layered outfit.

Working you can peel off a layer at a time while you get hot through strenuous work and then don again when you stop and start to cool down. I think they are great to wear under rain gear and I see many workers with the hoods up under their hardhats. The Hoodie¹ can be practical. (image to right - image from Wikipedia

But... I see so many young people on warm clear days wearing them with the hoods up. I am fairly sure it isn't to protect from the UV light from the Sun for they wear the hoods indoors in malls as well... I wonder if they wear the hoods up in class too?

Perhaps the hoods might be keeping the wearer warm, but I gather for a large part it is a matter of being at least slightly incognito.

Perhaps not all who wear hoodies are hoods looking for trouble, but a lot of people looking for trouble like the hoodie and baseball cap combination to hide their identity from security cameras and witnesses if they are doing not so legal things -- like: shop lifting, "tagging", trespassing, loitering, lighting illegal fireworks, and many other things.

Three and a half years ago a shopping centre in Kent in the UK "outlawed" "hooded tops" along with baseball caps and swearing at  Bluewater shopping centre.² They had a zero-tolerance approach. The ban was not appreciated of course by some and applauded by others such as Tony Blair and John Prescott.

(image of young people in hooded sweatshirts with baseball caps from BBC News

I'm not sure about the banning of apparel like that. For the most part kids are just following their roll models. When I went from Elementary School to Junior High School (from grade 6 into grade 7 -- 12-years-old to 13-years-old) there was something new... a dress code. In public school in Alberta we don't have uniforms, but there were some regulations in Jr High. One of the things I remember was that there was a ban on jeans! Well actually the year I started Jr High they relaxed things and they allowed jeans as long as they didn't have rivets. That was a relief because almost all my pants were actually work pants that were jeans. They were green, but they were jeans.

Now they said the issue was with the rivets hurting the desks, but I didn't quite buy that. Another rule was that girls were not allowed to wear pants (slacks) in school. That didn't directly effect me except I found it a bit embarrassing in winter. That was because nearly all the girls would be switching out of the pants they had worn through the snow and  subzero temperature on the way to school in the hallways in front of the lockers. Thirteen-year-old boys could be easily embarrassed. The rules seem very silly now...

Now the rules tend to be more towards modesty and keeping the clothes modestly decent.

I think that I could understand rules about wearing hoods and hats in school... but I am old school and when I was young it was considered improper for men to wear hats indoors so it still feels odd for me to wear a hat indoors.

Still... I look at the people wearing the hoods and it seems a bit like those glasses that are so popular that I wrote about recently in "The Gnomestead Stump: Blinders - To See or Not to See"³. The hoods like those glasses with the wide temples cut down the peripheral vision so that a person can mostly only see what is straight forward. (image to right - image from iOffer)

Like I said there -- perhaps some people just need a way to focus on the world in front of them, like the "...sidewalk ahead with fewer distractions. just like the draft horses of the past..."³

~ Darrell


¹ "Hoodie" Wikipedia

² "Mall bans shoppers' hooded tops" May 14, 2005 BBC News - South East news: Week in review

³ "Blinders - To See or Not to See" Darrell Wade Penner Sept 6, 2008 The Gnomestead Stump.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Thunder in the Distance - It wasn't Zeus on Mt Olympus

Freedoms of Expressions Clash at Official Start of Olympic Spirit Train

It was mostly cloud Sunday afternoon -- September 21st, 2008 -- and though the Sun only showed occasionally, it wasn't rainy and it was very pleasantly warm for the assemblage who turned out for the launch of the "Olympic Spirit Train"¹. (image to left of 2010 Winter Olympic Locomotive -- image from Canadian Pacific) I didn't go to the event at the Port Moody West Coast Express Station, but I sure ended up experiencing it²

I was a bit buried in some work -- I have other projects on the go -- and hadn't realized that the Olympic Spirit Train was launching from just blocks away from The Gnomestead.³ I began to hear the sound of "tom toms" in the distance and at first thought the Air Cadet band had come to practise at the local schoolyard. The music continued and got louder and I realized that it must be coming from some sort of celebration which I figured was at the local Rocky Point Park -- they have an outdoor stage there. The music started to expand to include other cultures than Aboriginal American and was okay in the background and I sort of enjoyed the ethnic diversity we have here. But then I heard a different sort of chant and drum. That chanting and ranting that we have begun to hear again and again with all sorts of gathering where protesters have gathered -- whatever the protest or statement being made.

(Spirit Train Landscape -- Image from Canadian Pacific)

I must admit that the forms the chants take became boring to me years ago regardless of the words they put to them, but I recognize that the pattern and chanting helps to unify the protesters into a cohesive group. That is something important -- especially if you expect opposition of some sort.

I couldn't make out the words, but with the music sounding like there was some sort of "cultural mosaic" celebration I could only guess that the celebration was being protested by "Right-To-Life" people or perhaps it was a group protesting for or against gay rights. They seem to use the same sounding chants.

The chants being loud enough for me to hear from blocks away -- between 3 and 6 depending on where the event was -- became very annoying. Isn't it interesting how sound can be more annoying depending on content? Music you like at one volume in the distance is okay but music or chanting you don't like is annoying. The volume of the music began to increase too. It started to actually be louder than the music I had playing at the Gnomestead so I had to shut my windows for the remainder of the afternoon.

(Protest banners blocking CP Spirit Train Stage - image to right from

I found out later, on the 5-o'clock news, that it was the Olympic 'Spirit Train' send off celebration and that there was a fracas there with Anti 2010 Olympic protesters trying to interrupt the proceedings.

The protesters were protesting the Olympic Games' impact on the environment, the homeless, and on aboriginal rights.² There were around 3 dozen protesters.² Police arrested two people in connection with the protest. PM Police Sgt Phil Reid said he experted the protesters would be charged with assault. From the reports they say that the protesters where shouting "Homes, not Games!" and shouting down the scheduled entertainment for more than an hour. The performers turned up the volume but were unable to proceed.

According to one of the protester's shouts:

The Province

"I think the idea is to make some f---in' noise here," shouted Garth Mullins, a fixture at anti-Olympic protests. "They're trying to drown us out, so let's drown them out."

(image to left taken by Dawn Paley of protesters from The Dominion)

The protesters positioned two large banners so it was difficult for the audience to see the show and tempers flared when spectators tried to see the entertainment despite the banners and protesters. Colin Hansen, BC minister responsible for the Olympics; federal minister James Moore and four other guest speakers cancelled their speeches. One of the acts which was interfered with that was performing on stage was an aboriginal band. Cree musician Dallas Arcand sang and beat on a drum while his music was drowned out by screaming and banging on pots by the protesters.

The protest did move from in front of the stage to the Canadian Pacific corporate tent next to a table where families were collecting autographed postcards. Eventually the protesters moved on to the Port Moody police station where the arrested protesters had been taken. The Globe and Mail reported 40 protesters were present.  The Dominion's Dawn Paley puts the number of protesters at 50 while the website places the number at up to 75 protesters. With the Canadian Press estimate of around 36 and from what it looked like on TV I would personally say that the number was between 36 and 50.

(image to right taken by Dawn Paley of protesters being arrested from The Dominion)

There are a number of different sides to the whole episode. There is the side of the Olympic promoters and the people who were putting on the whole send off for the Olympic Spirit Train. There is the side of the Protesters who very much want their message to be heard on the injustices they see being done to the homeless or those who might become homeless and the aboriginal people, and the damage that they see being done to the environment. There is the side of the politician who does not want to see discord in the community. There is the side of the police who are there to keep the peace and the law... hopefully the two coincide. There is the side of the public who have come to be entertained at a family event and celebration open to the public. There is the side of the entertainers who are their to express themselves in their art. There is the side of the people in the neighbourhood who expect to live in a peaceful community and the businesses in the neighbourhood who expect the same.

It is not peaceful to sit at my desk in my room and listen to this protest war. The argument with the volume control over who can be loudest is not confined to those for or against the Olympics. While the protesters were heard to say that the protests did not bother or scare their children that they brought -- their children were brought to the event expecting to be taking part in their parent's protest. The children at the event were there with their parents expecting to be entertained at a show and they were -- from what I saw on camera and what parents and reporters said -- scared, afraid, or at least bothered by what was going on.

(No 2010 banner from

Perhaps the protesters nearly outnumbered the spectators? (Gord hill speaking on behalf of the "Olympics Resistance Network") Perhaps the police presence was too much with three separate police contingents? Regardless, there was too much something.

The event was attended by uniformed and undercover officers from: the Canadian Pacific Police Service, the Port Moody Police Department, and the Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority Police Service. The Dominion Paper also reported a large group of private security guards from Vancouver 2010 Integrated Security. While I am not sure of numbers, I do note that the train is on CP property and their train and thus responsibility of their CP Police Service; the venue for the event being the Port Moody West Coast Express Station Park and Ride lot means that Translink is also responsible and thus the Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority Police Service; and the whole station is in the City of Port Moody so it is fairly obvious that the Port Moody Police Department be there.

(image to left, Spirit Train - image from Canadian Pacific)

I am sure that a quiet protest at the entrance to the event with the banners and placards would have announced to everyone the issue without problem. But I am also sure that there was a desire for confrontation that would be enough to make news headlines and national television news coverage on the part of protesters. It was pointed out that a number of the faces among the protesters are regulars at many different sorts of protests and seem to be keys in organizing them. I recognize the faces without them being pointed out.

I do believe in freedom of expression -- which I believe is a part of freedom of speech -- but I think that there is a problem where what people are considering a "freedom of expression" is instead infringing on other's freedom of expression, and on other's rights to peacefully appreciate that freedom of expression.

People do have a right to peacefully protest and make their voice heard -- but stretching things just a slight bit farther to illustrate a point -- would they have the right to disrupt a movie in a theatre or a show on stage to make their point?

(image to right of Vancouver 2010 Mascot Wallpaper from Vancouver 2010)

I agree with some of the points of the protesters, but not the protest. I agree that there are also many benefits that come with hosting the Olympics as well. I do think that we could be getting greater benefit from the games and we could be creating fewer problems with them as well. But I don't think the protesters are helping with the way they are protesting.

I think that the protesters of the games lost much credibility before with some of their protests -- I think they may have lost a lot of support with their "demonstration" on the 21st.

~ Darrell


¹ "Vancouver 2010 Mascots Sumi, Quatchi and Miga join the CP Spirit Train Experience" Breanne Geigel Sept 8, 2008; Canada Pacific

² "Departure of Olympic 'Spirit Train' met with protesters in B.C." Sep 21, 2008; The Canadian Press

³ If you hadn't gathered, "The Gnomestead" is the location from which I write and live.

"Protest mars Olympics fun" Ian Austin Sept 22, 2008; The Province

"Spirit Train spreads Games excitement" Allison Cross Sept 21, 2008; The Vancouver Sun

"Olympic spirit train makes debut in B.C." In Brief Sept 22, 2008; The Globe and Mail

"Banners Blocking CP Spirit Train Stage" No 2010 Olympics on Stolen Native Land -- Resist The 2010 Corporate Circus

"Protesters Disrupt "Spirit Train" Sendoff" Dawn Paley Sept 21, 2008; The Dominion Paper.

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