Grandma & Grandpa's Farm

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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Friday, September 19, 2008

Grumpy Old Man -- Bush Administration: Sometimes they are more than just Shrubbery.

What does it mean when 40-year-old rhododendrons are butchered?

I am sure that many people will read a floral word like rhododendron and think "flower" and "decoration" but perhaps others will realize that they can grow to a large size and ripe old age. Rhododendrons¹ are broad leafed evergreen plants which bloom once a year in the Spring and can be simply covered with colour at that time. They are every bit as beautiful as blossoming cherry trees or apple trees. I think that many might think of them as the small shrubs they have in their flowerbeds and gardens, but they can grow to large sizes when they mature.

(image to left from Image*After)

I am not botanist nor horticulturist and my knowledge of plants -- whether flowering plants or trees -- is not vast, but I know a little and I appreciate heritage and beauty and the world that I live in. I also understand necessity -- but it doesn't stop my heart from breaking when I see something destroyed that might never be replaced and which provided beauty to a neighbourhood.

There were four mature rhododendrons thriving in front of our apartment building two days ago -- now there are none.

Yesterday I looked out my window and saw a small excavator working behind the building and wondered what was up. Were they going to replace some part of the retaining wall for the parking basement? Was there some landscaping need or were they going to improve the stairs leading from the back exit to the parking? Perhaps provide a walk from the front of the building to the back between our property and the house next door so people wouldn't be hopping fences and crossing between the buildings anyway.

(image to right from Image*After)

I became a bit concerned when they started putting up the modular construction fencing along the lane behind our building... this was serious. This was especially so when I noted they were going to put the fencing across the parking entrance to our building. That entrance is also the access to our building for anyone in a wheelchair or mobility scooter.² I went down and spoke to the fellows from the fence rental and they referred me to the contractor who I spoke with.

I found out from the contractor that they were going to be repairing or replacing the storm water drainage piping around the building and would have to be fencing off areas because they would have to be digging around the whole foundation and across the driveway. There is a narrow opportunity -- apparently -- because it has to be done after Summer and before the Fall and Winter rains.

Fair enough... some things have to be done and there are sometimes inconveniences that go along with them. I realized that likely there would be more excavators and even jackhammers and probably afterwards there would be the smells of paving for a while in the parking area that our balcony and windows overlook.

I nearly cried when I watched them carrying away the ruins of one of  the rhododendrons though.

(image to left of Rhododendron macrophylium from Wikipedia)

I am fairly certain they were a part of the building's original landscaping. This building, in its early days -- I believe in the early 1970's -- won awards for its landscaping and appearance. The rhododendrons stood 4.5 - 6 metres tall (15 - 16 feet) and must have been nearly 30 centimetres (1 foot) in diameter at the base of their trunks. There were two red flowering ones and two white flowering ones. The 4 bushes... trees? ...were wide enough that they spanned the width of the end of the building to either side of the entrance, framing it and helping to define the image of the building. Now the building looks naked.

(image to right from BelleWood-Gardens³)

I think with the rhodos the building looked as nice as any newer building, but without, it is just a box. The building was designed to have the landscaping -- it is plain to see -- as the stucco and siding only reach to within 10 feet of the ground leaving a broad band of bare concrete visible.

I have this sad feeling that the landscaping won't be replaced. Perhaps grass will be seeded rather than just letting the weeds move in and mowing them. But... the building just isn't being kept up by the current owners. It is no small wonder that they have problems finding good tenants for the building. But that is being cynical...

(image to left from BelleWood-Gardens³)

How does one replace 40-year-old rhododendrons? They bloomed on this street corner for over 35 years. They provided a visual accent to the building that made a big difference and the building really is one of the gateways to the residential district between the busy main street and the nature preserve on the hillside.

Losing them made my heart break even as necessary as it might have been to replace the building drainage... If it were my building, my investment, I would have seen about transplanting the trees somehow to be replaced back where they belong, or perhaps sell them and replace them with something equivalent. I know that the appearance of a building encourages pride in tenants and also draws decent ones when you need to find new ones.

How does one replace 40-year-old rhododendrons?

~ Darrell


¹ Read about Rhododendrons at "Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden"

² I'll write about the accessibility aspects of all this in a later article.

³ "BelleWood-Gardens"  Garden Diary - May 2007;

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Tub Needs a Plug!

Ships in Harbour a Source of Air Pollution -- To be Plugged... In.

Commerce and tourism are two important parts of the economy of many communities and MetroVancouver¹ is one of those places where it plays a very important role. With that importance comes a price and there are prices in polution to be paid to do with the port.

Something many people might not consider -- when looking at the powerful freighters moored in the harbour or docked at the term; or watching the graceful cruise ship sailing under Lions Gate Bridge (image to left -- image from Dubman Tours) to dock at the passenger terminals --  is that those ship while parked keep engines running the whole time in order to run generators for electral works and other systems on the ship the whole time in port. Undoubtedly they aren't running their main engines and producing the same amount of exhaust as they would at sea, but they do produce a substantial ammount. I was surprised recently reading how substantial it is and on a percentage basis how much it might become.

The Vancouver Sun²:

Collectively, ship exhaust emissions comprise one of the biggest sources of air pollution in the Metro-Fraser Valley region - port electrification would allow marine vessels to switch off their engines
and plug into the grid instead.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer³:

But the image also has a less obvious, troubling aspect. For every day it's in the harbor, the ship's smokestacks may be spewing as much nitrogen oxide into the city's air as 12,500 cars, as much as an oil refinery.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer³:

A 2003 British Columbia study said marine vessels have produced more than a million tons of pollutants in a year, more than half the total there. The Greater Vancouver Regional District, which put together the study, predicts the marine industry will produce a growing percentage of key pollutants in that region as ship traffic grows and auto pollution is reduced.

A partial solution is to provide some sort of method for ships to connect to the electrical grid of the port that they are docked at. Metro Vancouver is towards implementing that. Port Metro Vancouver wants to see cruise ships plugged in for the 2009 summer cruise season. One of the large issues is a lack of federal money. There is a need for $4 million needed to add to contributions from Metro Vancouver port authority, the region, the marine industry, and the province.²

The system of providing shore power to cruise ships is something that was first implemented on the West Coast at Juno Alaska in 2002 and since then Seattle has provided shore power plugs to tow of their three berths. In  Long Beach, San Pedro, San Francisco and San Diego there are plans to do so as well.

In addition to ports providing the infrastructure to allow ships to plug in to shore power there must also be provision for the ships to be able to take advantage of this as well. Holland America and Princess Cruise ships are able to plug-in in Seattle.

Power provided by the shore electrical grid costs about the same as that generated by diesel on the ship if you discount the investment for a transformer on the ship required to plug-in to the grid.

The cruise ship industry has been a first step because it is in the public eye seem to be more willing to comply with requests. Two container terminals in the inner harbour -- I am assuming that is referring to Coal Harbour or elsewhere on Burrard Inlet between First and Second Narrows -- have the infrastructure in place for wiring to go to the dockside. The new third berth at Deltaport on Robert's Bank will have that infrastructure when it is completed.

There are some hurdles to do with BC Hydro and the BC Utilities Commision in order to develop pricing schems for these customers. The port authority has formally applied to BC Hydro for the interconnecting service.

(image to left, 2005 registration of merchant ships - image from Wikipedia)

There are greater difficulties in dealing with pollution issues in the shipping industry as most of the oceangoing ships are "foreign-flagged" so reducing emissions takes significant amounts of time.³ This action would help with emission issues for when the ships are travelling in and out of harbour -- and of course at sea -- as well as if they have to be running engines for power at anchor. But acting on merchant shipping is something that has to be initiated on an international level -- the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a United Nations agency.³ When regulations are put into effect by the IMO they would be enforced by individual nations and ports. The IMO was looking at revising their 1997 regulations in 2006.⁷

(image to right from Wikipedia)

Plugging into shore power will solve problems of idling ships which are docked, but for ones at anchor in the harbour... Personally I wonder what solutions might there be other than improved air-pollution standards internationally. Somehow I think that providing docking stations in the harbour at anchorages so that ships could plug in would be prohibitive in cost. Perhaps tenders or barges with huge hydrogen fuel cells might provide these plug-ins? They'd be refuelled and moved where needed. Perhaps in future ships might have hydrogen fuel cells or solar panels for in port and other needs on their own? Perhaps a power barge might have fuel cells, solar panels, wind turbines, and wave power generators all in one? (I can really be a dreamer.)

Perhaps someday there might be solutions for ships at sea, but for now while we think globally we have to act locally and work on the pollution on more local selfish levels like the increase to pollution burdens in our cities.

~ Darrell


¹Metro Vancouver is the name of what was once known as the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD) or colloquially as Greater Vancouver and which Statistics Canada defines as "Vancouver CMA" (Census Metropolitan Area) "having perfectly coterminal boundaries with Metro Vancover" -- Metro Vancouver - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

² "Plug-in power a key to cleaner air" Scott Simpson, Sept 4, 2008; Vancouver Sun.

³  "Air pollution from cargo ships stirs growing concern" Larry Lange, January 20, 2004; Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

John Hansen, President of the NorthWest CruiseShip Association - Vancouver Sun "Plug-in power a key to cleaner air" Sept 4, 2008

Darryl Desjardins,  Environmental programs director for Port Metro Vancouver - Vancouver Sun "Plug-in power a key to cleaner air" Sept 4, 2008

"Ship transport" Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 "Plan May Ease Air Pollution at Ports" Dan Weikel, July 6, 2006; Los Angeles Times

Unattributed images from Image*After.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

May I Have This Post?

Is Your Post Card Filled?

Value and Romance on a Small Bit of Paper

You see them around all over the place, now mostly in tourist travelled trading places, guest shops, souvenir shops, and landmarks and you might have heard people telling you to send in a card with your name, address and current phone number to various places. (image to right -- image from Image*After¹) Of course you have seen the business reply cards in magazines and as warranty registration cards. Of course I am talking about postcards -- something that has been with us for over a century now. They officially came into being in 1861 -- developed by John P. Charlton from Philadelphia who transferred his copyright to H.L. Lipman -- "Lipman's Postal Card, Patent Applied For". Governments took over, including exclusive right to call them "Postcards" in 1893.

What is the value of a postcard? They are a very simple way to send a message by post for one thing and often they can be sent at a lower price than a regular letter. Today the cost to mail one is not too much different from a letter and of course anyone can read what is written on them. My Mom used to say that the person on vacation sending you a postcard -- or post card -- most often already had returned home by the time it reaches its recipient because each person in the post office who handles it take a moment to read it.

(images above from A Brief History of Post Cards²)

I imagine there are no secrets in a post card... unless you put it into an envelope or parcel or deliver it by hand.

But postcards have something special to them, mailed or not. In picking out a postcard to send someone, you are in a foreign location perhaps, maybe on vacation, maybe on business, but taking a few moments out of your day to think of others. I am getting away from the business sorts, like business reply mail and warranty cards here. They also are something from that place although it is possible to order postcards of exotic locations from the comfort of your home. A person might take their own photographs and write something on the back of them as mementos to send or keep, but still there is an interesting feeling with postcards.

Postcards historically are of values in that they capture a bit of a time and place and sometimes sentiment and feeling of that time. They trace the progress of a community with their snapshots of buildings and roads. Even showing one thing they often show others. A shot of a building might also show cars and people in it and give a glimpse at how they lived. If you look at a postcard from two different periods you might see how telegraph wires were added to be replaced by telephone wires to be replaced by underground wiring.

Postcards could be "wishes" of places a person wanted to visit or things they wanted to purchase or they might be telling of where they finally got or what they got. Businesses have often created PR with postcards and often very artistic ones.

You can find Canada's official Postcard Barrel at the Port Moody Station Museum. Deposit or pick up unstamped postcards during Museum open hours for hand delivery around the world.

Some subjects of postcards: Distant places, Architecture, Vacation Destinations, Advertisements, Street Scenes, Artwork, Landmarks, Cities, Towns, Wars, Heroes, Events,  Politics, Celebrities, and probably other subjects.

Our museum -- The Port Moody Station Museum³ (image to right) -- has a "Postcard Barrel" which is Canada's Official Postcard Barrel! I know there is one on the Galapagos Islands as well. They are an odd sort of thing, you drop a post card into it that you want sent somewhere in the world and people visiting have a look through and pick out ones close to where they are going and hand-deliver them. (see inset left)

You can always send an email, or take a picture to share, or buy postcards to take with you and give to friends -- but to mail it from afar, where it takes on a postal cancellation stamp, and perhaps a local stamp as well, and travel through the postal system until it reaches a friend's home and hand -- that ads something special and romantic to the whole thing. It is a bit more than a photo or a letter. It is a special souvenir not only of a place, but a time and a person.

~ Darrell


¹ Image*After Unattributed images from Image*After.

² "A Brief History of Postcard Types" Stefano Neis - Yahoo! GeoCities/Heartland/Meadows.

³ "The Port Moody Station Museum" 2734 Murray Street, Port Moody, BC

"Why Use A Postcard" Anders Eriksson - Post Cards

"History of Postcards" Emotions Greeting Cards.

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Mile i Pod

Watching What You Want to Watch Where You Want to When You Want to

Alright here is something perhaps new for you... Where do your rights start when it comes to where you can watch or surf something on the privacy of your own PED (Personal Electronic Device -- Notebook or Laptop computer; iPod; Portable DVD player; mp4 player; personal video player...)?

American Airlines has an in-flight Wi-Fi service now for passengers which started on some flights August 20th¹ and there are concerns voiced by flight attendants and passengers about people using the service to access porn sites while on flights. An article on mentions that there were "a lot of complaints"¹and that the Association of Professional Flight Attendants has brought up the issue with management  They recommend that American filter its Wi-Fi service -- blocking black-listed sites -- in order to block offensive content² as I believe there are plans to screen VoIP service as well³. VoIP is Voice over Internet Protocol which basically is the primary way of making telephone calls by way of your Internet connection. (image to left* from Image*After)

There are a number of issues involved. There are the worries that passengers will complain that their neighbouring passengers are watching objectionable material on their PED. Of course there are also worries that passengers might be disturbed that their ability to access any site they could from home would be blocked in a form of censorship. More seem to be accepting of this in the case of the VoIP¹. Perhaps they can see that is in direct competition with the telephone service the airlines already charge for on flights?

Flight Attendants in addition to not wanting to get an eyeful of something they'd rather not see on someone's PED also do not want to become "moral policemen"¹ and have one more area where they might have to lay down the law. They have their hands full with other aspects of the job and likely don't want to have to settle disputes between passengers -- which might be either "they've got something objectionable on their screen" or "the person behind me keeps looking over my shoulder". Another aspect is people doing lewd things while watching explicit content.

(image to right from Image*After)

This is not something that came up just with the introduction of WiFi and Internet connectivity on airliners. This issue also comes up with whether an airline can prohibit what sorts of DVD or other content a passenger is viewing on their PED. A person can have a DVD with nearly any sort of content imaginable and pop it into a player -- whether computer or not -- and play it with no Internet involved at all. Likewise for video podcasts or even audio ones -- remember the "faked orgasm scene" from "When Harry Met Sally".

Of course these things did not appear with digital electronics. The same problems can be said about explicit magazines. Anyone could flip open the magazine of their choice on the airplane and start "reading the articles". Things like this have been a part of life for quite a while and are not really new.

Anyone who is offering the service of an Internet hookup probably has the right to say what they want to provide or block -- perhaps other than the actual providers? If  coffee shop provides WiFi connection to its customers, they probably can block access to some sites with blocking programs. I know when I go to places that provide such services the first thing I get when I try to access the Web is a screen asking if I accept the limits and risks imposed on me and that I might be exposed to by connecting to the Internet there. I can just imagine someone suing a coffee shop for a virus they picked up on their computer when the were downloading pirated game software.

(Image to left from Image*After)

I am not sure if it is a "non-problem" really. I don't know that it has been a problem with people sitting in coffee shops drinking Latte and watching XXX. For the most part regular people behave themselves in public. The times they don't seem to tend to be the times when they are getting intoxicated or high... and that is an issue on its own whether on land, "see" or airline. Control the booze and you likely won't have to worry  about controlling the people.

(image to right from Notebook Review¹¹)

Of course if you control porn sites, then you'll want to control pirate software sites too. You'll want to screen out any site that would have illegal activity on it. But what about violent video games? with violent lyrics? ...content that might be deemed offensive for racial, religious, or other sexual reasons? What if someone is watching news content from an enemy country? ...or news from a country that has opposing views to your own country? What if one person is offended that the person next to them is watching religious programming?

I think that often the answer given by peace officers is "then don't look" -- though sometimes it is hard when it is presented nearly on your own lap. Luckily nearly everyone has the decency to use headphones or earphones. I think that rather than blocking things, it perhaps should all be taken care of on a case by case basis.

I was remembering back when I was in university and calculators were a novel thing still, but becoming commonplace. There were worries about people cheating by seeing the numbers on someone else's calculator. I think that manufacturers foresaw this because it wasn't very long before calculators -- at least scientific and engineering calculators -- had recessed numbers so that you could only read the display from where you were using it. If you were to the side at all you couldn't read the numbers.

Anti-glare shields that came out for early computer monitors (image to left - image from Ergo in Demand) also had this function and it was considered to be a feature for offices where you wouldn't want confidential information seen by people nearby. With some older laptops it was difficult to see the screen unless you were in front of them. But because many people want to share what they show on their laptop screen, many consider it a bonus to have the screen viewable from a broad range of angles -- otherwise there would be less problem with neighbours seeing what you see.

But there are purposes for such a product for notebooks especially and perhaps there are such products out already... Yup There is a 3M PF14.1 - notebook privacy filter! (image to right - image from CDW Canada)

Perhaps though there might be a market for disposable/resusable "blinders" for computers? Perhaps the airlines might offer them for safe viewing? They could also double as glare shields from the cabin lighting.

Protection provided for your viewing pleasure.

~ Darrell


¹ "American Air Attendants Urge Fiters to Bar Web Porn (Update3)" Mary Schlangenstein, Sept. 10, 2008; News.

² "Porn on a plane: Flight attendants fret over inappropriate Web surfing" David Carnoy, Sept. 12, 2008; Crave, the gadget bog -- CNET,

³ "Airlines planning to filter, censor in-flight 'Net access" Jacqui Cheng, Dec. 24, 2007; From the News Desk -- ars technica.
"Porn on a plane! Concerns raised over naughty in-flight WiFi" Jacqui Cheng, Sept. 12 2008; From the News Desk -- ars technica.

¹¹ "Coffee Shop Laptop Zombies" Andrew, May 23, 2007; Notebook Forums and Laptop Discussion - Notebook Review

* Images of airliners not intended to represent American Airlines or specific airline

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