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My Bike Commute is 10.8 KM One Way, 8.5 the Other Way

You know how people exaggerate the olden days by saying they had to walk to school uphill both ways? Well my biking commute is almost like that: on the way to work it's downhill most of the way save for an uphill climb at Lakewood Drive, where on the way back it's uphill approaching Commercial, then downhill after Renfrew and then back uphill, then, saving the worst for last, a steep uphill climb at Boundary and Union in Burnaby. Like Roland, I drew my bike route on Google Maps, but I drew both my to and from work routes. (To work is in red, from work is in blue.) According to Google Calculator, my commute to work is 10.8 KM, and 8.5 KM back home. (I typed in "6.71 miles in kilometers" and "5.31 miles in kilometers" and rounded off the answers.) Because there are more hills on the shorter route, both directions take about the same time, from 45 minutes to an hour each. Two Google maps after the break.

View Larger Map

View Larger Map

As you can see, the route to work takes me next to Burrard Inlet and underneath the Second Narrows Bridge, technically over the train bridge and under the road bridge. It therefore takes me near boats and trains, and sometimes big ocean liners.

Those serious about biking should pick up the paper copy of the TransLink biking map. It's very detailed, with many types of bike routes—on street, off street, and alternate routes, with hills and caution areas noted.

Should

I'm playing around with Should Do This today, another offering from the Robot Co-op, makers of 43 Things, 43 Places, and 43 People (but not 43 Thongs). Common Craft is using this as their suggestion box, and I've added suggestion boxes for TransLink and KEXP. (I represent neither.) A few of them were originally blog posts, that is, my having gone through my blog searching for the word 'should' and adding it to Should Do This. People and organizations often do the right thing because it also solves a problem for them or they benefit from it directly, though, so it might be more useful for TransLink if I told them why they should hire a social media/community manager to blog and respond to others' blogs and include their trip planning data in Google Transit. You can find my 'shoulds' using the usual handle, which you can subscribe to via RSS.

Writers Fest in October

During most of the third week of October I'll be in Toronto, so I'll miss most of the Vancouver International Writers Festival from Tuesday Oct. 16th to Sunday the 21st. (Vancouver festivals seem to pick four-letter .org domains starting with v and ending with f for their websites, but somewhat surprisingly, viwf.org is available.) I will try to make the Saturday and Sunday events, though. I know some people who are going to some of it while I'm gone, and they have a tendency to document well the events they attend, either in words or with pictures. The festival's website is spunky, powered by Drupal no less.

Help Ruk with Python on his S60 phone

Any S60 Python developers out there can help Ruk out with a problem sending SMS messages with his Nokia N70? One of the reasons I got a S60 phone was to learn Python. (So much for that.) Ruk got sending text messages from his Mac computer through his phone via Bluetooth by asking the his readers (you have to visit the comments for the answer, since he didn't update the post with the question itself. I still have yet to get his instructions on getting Internet using my computer via Bluetooth on my N70 to work.

Stacy

I've finally checked out Darren Barefoot's Gnomedex talk about geeks doing good, where he invents a currency called the Stacy, named after a woman he helps feed sometimes in Vancouver, designed to track how much good you do. The talk has helped inspire some good deeds already, including delivering pizzas to Pigeon Park in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside (instead of participating in the BarCamp Vancouver thread where the idea first appeared, I decided to donate to the Greater Vancouver Food Bank). Since reading Social Acupuncture, I've dropped my objection to talking about the good deeds people have done as self-serving, since done right bragging about doing good can influence people others to do so as well. I'm not going to keep track of whatever good it is I do: I lie enough to people asking me for change that I'm sure it balances out in the end.

Quoted in The Globe and Mail about the OK Button

OK

In Friday's edition of The Globe and Mail, Canada's oldest national newspaper, I was interviewed and quoted about the OK Button, a social experiment in which wearers signal that it's okay to strike up a conversation with them. I'm reported to have said something like the following: "[I wear the button] to keep myself accountable when people do want to talk to me." After growing up in Courtenay, B.C., "I'm still used to giving people a signal on the street that acknowledges that they exist." The story appeared in the second last page of the entire paper (not just the front section), and can be read online, at least for the time being. Vancouver blogger Lesli has a copy of the article as well as some commentary about the OK button: “I don't think buttons or a capitalist scheme are necessarly the answer, but perhaps we've come to the part where neighbourliness and smiling require a viral marketing campaign?” I'm pretty sure I heard about the OK Button through Djun. The timestamp on his post is later than I remember, but the earliest I documented having a button was January 7th, 2007.

Two Late Podcast Pickups

I've stopped listening to none of the podcasts listed in earlier installment of my monthly podcast subscriptions list, but did add two early this month just in time for this month's rundown:

  • A Buddhist Podcast (podcast feed), but so far haven't listened to any of the episodes. If you know of any complimentary (or better) podcasts, please add a link to them in the comments. I'm looking for light fare, since all I've read on the subject is Buddhism Plain & Simple by Steve Hagen.
  • AP Radio (podcast feed) by The Aesthetic Poetic, a group blog written by Vancouverites Matthew Nelson, Douglas Haddow, Kristen Dyck, William Campbell, and Alex Munro. Favourite episode so far: hiphop butters, with, except for an out-of-place RJD2, very Pete Rock-esque productions throughout.

Edmonton's TransLink Trolley

Through a submission to the Vancouver Transit Flickr group, I found out that earlier this year TransLink lent Edmonton a New Flyer trolley. A photo of it in service has a bunch of comments, and in the first one, Stephen Rees exclaimed that Vancouver is short already (original comment). The Edmonton Transit group on Flickr isn't as vibrant as the one I started for the Lower Mainland (which I modeled after Toronto's), but the city has a small variety of transit modes: trolleys, buses and light rail, and at one time, like Vancouver, streetcars.

HDR

Rebecca points us to Duane Storey's photography site and his introductory blog post. Rebecca mentions that most of Duane's photos are HDR, or high dynamic range, which, if I understand it correctly, combines multiple photos of the identical scene (usually taken with a tripod or a very stable camera) taken at different exposures, some over-exposed and others under-exposed. Duane presented at BarCamp Vancouver on the subject, the projection on the wall didn't lend well to HDR. Does this blog post qualify me for a free print? And can I choose from Duane's set of HDR photos (mostly of Vancouver)?

Metro Vancouver Bemoans Low Search Engine Ranking

I saw this first at Miss604, Roland took a photo of the article from The Vancouver Courier and a photo of the Google search, but apparently officials at what was, until this month, formally known as the Greater Vancouver Regional District and now known as Metro Vancouver are upset that they're not at the top of results in the Google search engine. The screenshot that appears in The Courier shows, at the bottom, two links to Urban Vancouver, but the article doesn't mention us by name. Their "webmaster" has recommended adding META tags to the site's HTML, when others like myself might recommend making the site a little more dynamic with interesting content so that we will link to it, or provide an RSS feed so we (Urban Vancouver) can syndicate the content and automatically link directly back to their site every time they post a new story. The algorithm Google uses to determine ranking might be 'arcane', but it's thoroughly and continuously being reverse-engineered. Besides, don't we all know that Wikipedia entries tend to dominate these days anyway and this is likely to be the case for 'Metro Vancouver' as well?

Courier story about Metro Vancouver's Google Rank

Roland did the search this morning, and confirmed that "Metro Vancouver" shows Metro News as the #1 result, with Urban Vancouver in the top 10 before the official Metro Vancouver website, which redirects to gvrd.bc.ca. (If you change the brand, wouldn't you normally redirect from the old domain to the new one, not the new one to the old?) I created a fun poll about whether people liked the name Metro Vancouver, though it didn't make it higher than our special series on the new Vancouver news daily.

Search engine ranking matters because rank confers authority. Urban Vancouver gets a couple of phone calls a week from people who ask about this and that because we're in the top 10 for whatever they're looking for. I'm sure way more people search for "Vancouver" than "Metro Vancouver", and that will always be true. Besides, I still call the region "Vancouver" or "the Lower Mainland" and people from outside and inside the region get the idea.

Contextual to-do lists

One of the problems with GTD is that many who write about it love talking about the tools more than what they actually accomplish with the tools. Alex Payne has some ideas about where to put to-do lists, arguing that they should live in the context in which they are done. Development tasks in tickets, conversations in email, blog posts in the drafts folder/status, tabs or bookmarks for unread articles. Writing a list of topics to write about so far hasn't worked for me, so I'm going to stop doing that.

Vancouver Plus

A non-childhood dream of mine is to learn how to fly an airplane, but the money and time and effort involved are scaring me off. In the meantime I've been following Jon Patch's blog about Vancouver+, the better-than-the-default scenery for the Lower Mainland for Flight Simulator X. I have the the trial version on the Windows side of my MacBook, which limits me to 2 options: a free flight and an landing activity at Princess Juliana Airport (so far after about 5 hours of trying I've never been able to successfully complete it). Today Jon links to more detail about how he created the Vancouver+ scenery with more screenshots and information about how they came about technical details for airports, buildings and bridges. Also discussed: Pitt Meadows Airport, Langley Regional Airport, Hope, Lytton, Pemberton, and Whistler.

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