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.

Roland's back biking again

Roland has an awesome wrap-up of the Vancity Bike Share, complete with commute video he made from photos he took while riding his Vancity bike set to Creative Commons-licensed music. The photos pass by pretty quickly, possibly too quickly for the music he chose. He credits me with getting him back biking again, indirectly, but Vancity and Change Everything deserve the credit, as they got me biking again. I considered making a similar video but I don't feel confident (crazy?) enough yet to hold a camera and keep my balance at the same time. Vancity bikes are due back to Vancity on Friday September 7th, but I'm advised there's no celebration for those who participated. A hot-dog lunch thanking people who at one time or another had got a bike would have nicely complimented the pancake breakfast launch.

Robert Lepage

I'm working my way through the short clips about Canadian actor and director Robert Lepage at after having watched the documentary Tuned to a Different Frequency a couple of Sundays ago. The documentary, directed by Martin Fournier, attempted to demystify Lepage, but as usual, made him still seem mysterious. (If I was paying better attention at the time, I would have known about Lepage via Darren Barefoot's 2005 mention.) Jean-Sébastien Côté, composer and sound designer, who was the subject of an interview in French at La Scena Musicale created the documentary's theme (download the MP3), which drew me into watching the documentary on CBC TV. Like any good documentary directed by a Canadian and filmed in handheld DV (like Alan Zweig's I, Curmudgeon and Quentin Lee's 0506HK) I've stopped holding my breath for DVD copies.

Traffic hype

Vancouver's commute went smoothly, according to TransLink. At around 7:30 AM, CBC Radio had a journalist at Broadway Station breathlessly reporting on the lineups, and another recommended going to the back of the SkyTrain, which is apparently less crowded. (Really?) CBC TV last night didn't make any mention of biking as an alternative to driving or transit. If the media won't pat me on the back for biking in the rain this morning to avoid the crush, then I will.

Rap is still alive

Ta-Nehisi Coates sees a decline in rap music, but I'm not convinced. Jay Z's Kingdom Come's fast drop in the charts just follows the pattern of hiphop albums (huge sales in the first week, big drop-off the next week) and I'm still a suburban white guy who listens to it. Maybe we're just aging and diversifying our listening tastes?

Bikes on Portland's MAX and Vancouver's SkyTrain

Patrick O'Neill reports on increased clashes between bikers and non-bikers on Portland's light rail system, the MAX. This hasn't been a problem yet for SkyTrain, which bans bikes in certain directions during rush hour periods (towards downtown in the morning, away from downtown in the evening). It might increase, however, as there's nowhere to hang bikes like there is on the MAX: instead, most people (including myself) have kept them near the doors for quicker entry and exit.

Quoted in The Province

Last week I was quoted in The Province about the Vancity Bike Share program, saying something like the following:

It was great. After I gave my bike away, I ended up buying a new bike and I've been riding to work twice a week now. It was a program that got me back cycling.

The headline, while technically accurate, makes it seem like Vancity is worried, or that we, the reader, should be worried. Whether I said those exact words, I don't know: the reporter who called me didn't record the conversation, since he was transcribing what I said (at one point he asked me to repeat myself). Also, the article mis-reports me as being 23, when really I'm 29. Regardless, that's going in my paper scrapbook for quotes and mentions in 'mainstream' or 'traditional' (or, my preference, 'broadcast', as distinct from 'social') media, a digital log of which is available on my site. It's reverse-chronological for now, but over time it might evolve into something combining dynamic updating and static information.

Nova Bus Almost Loses Wheel

As some people know, I've been interested in the new fleet of Nova Buses purchased by TransLink, which have an unusual single seat behind the driver and seats in the back that face backwards. I like the wide entrance at the front, but most drivers seem to only open one of the doors, negating the advantage. I've read somewhere that drivers prefer how the Nova Bus handles compared to New Flyers (and I read in that same piece that it's especially true of icy conditions, but they've only recently come into service, and cold weather doesn't start for a few months). Today comes news that one of the wheels came loose and almost came off while near Broadway and Kensington in Burnaby. This was likely during the 134 route between Brentwood and Lougheed malls, as that's the only route that takes those streets. From the article: "Only one bolt remained on the wheel, he said. Had the bus been allowed to continue running, [Canadian Auto Workers Local 111 vice-president Jim] Houlihan added, the wheel would have certainly come off." Good work by the driver to stay alert and order his passengers off, and good work by Coast Mountain Bus company to inspect each of the new buses.

Speaking at the Online News Association Conference in Toronto on October 17th

The flight's booked, so now's as good a time as any to announce that I'll be in Toronto from October 16th to the 19th, on the 17th speaking at the Online News Association conference at the Sheraton Centre. In my capacity as managing editor of Urban Vancouver, I'll be speaking with Lisa Williams, with whom I worked on Placeblogger, at a talk titled "Filling the Gaps in Local Coverage". My current mindset on the topic is along the lines of the Ryan Sholin's question "what's missing from the news", the answer being "lots", the hard part being "how to we cover what's missing?" Individual blogging and local group blogs are part of the answer, and so is aggregation, but the questions I'd like to ask is "where are the editors of citizen journalism?" and "is there room for assignments and/or publishing schedules in the blogosphere?"

Always with the questions. I'm looking forward to visiting with the friends I made online and in person while visiting Toronto last year, and one I had already met without really realizing it at the time. (Long story.) I'm also looking forward to finally meeting Lisa, who runs a community site for Watertown, Massachusetts, one of Bryght's longest-running sites (more than 2 and a half years old) and someone I've known about 2 years before that.

On CBC News Tonight

This morning CBC TV contacted me though my contact form and then by my work's phone # (that's what I get for not publishing my personal phone #) and asked me to be interviewed for CBC News. I should be on sometime after 6 PM on Vancouver's CBC's evening news, talking about the Vancity Bike Share program. I don't do media interviews often, so it will show, but I enjoyed riding around on Roland's bike—of all the days I decide not to bike into work, I choose this one—and talking to the CBC reporter. They'll stream the story on the CBC website for 24 hours, which should give an enterprising someone the chance to 'archive' it.

Vancity Logo Bike

I have yet to write at more length about my new bike purchase of a couple weeks ago, which was directly as a result of participating in the bike share. So far so good: it's a one hour workout each way, 10.5 KM to work and 8.5 KM back (I take different routes. I'm already pretty serious about it, having bought rain pants, back and front lights, and even weather proofing for some of my existing clothing. Still, the true test is not a bright Summer evening but cold, wet, and dark rides both ways in the Fall.

The Same Old Excuses We All Use When We Dump a Technology

Ryan: “my friend quit Facebook and the rest of us sat dazed and confused musing about why her profile could have gone away. It was nerve wracking. We browsed around the site looking for answers, but Facebook didn't mention a thing. Apparently bad news is not worth telling anyone about. When the story unfolded it was something miraculously dull. The same old excuses we all use when we dump a technology: "it's getting boring, I want to do something else."”

Towards a Greasemonkey Script Which Would Automatically Click "Update Conversation" in Gmail

Most of my day I spend watching ticket updates via email. Google Mail (Gmail) has nice threading, so I can look at a conversation and expand/contract them, but if I send an email from the ticketing system, or someone in the conversation sends a reply, it adds a little link at the bottom that says "Update Conversation". Pretty handy, but there has never been time when I wanted to not update the conversation. This is a waste of time and a waste of a click: I should be able to have the conversation update in real time, much like Google Reader updates. Greasemonkey, a plugin for the Firefox web browser that transparently adds functionality to websites, should be able to do this.

I asked on Twitter if it was available, and Gabriel stepped up with an attempt, but it doesn't quite work. I'm pointing it out to get more eyeballs looking at this: I can't be the only one who wants something like this. Any Greasemonkey developers out there that can build upon Gabriel's work so we can get this working?

While we're on the subject, if you partake in the fine Greasemonkey and Gmail smokes, be sure to install the script which secures logging into Google's application. All it does is redirect http:// to https:// for requests to, which applies to all of us who use Google Mail for Domains as well.

West Coast Express Trip from Waterfront to Port Moody Stations

Last night, heading home, I decided but didn't commit to hopping on SkyTrain going in the wrong direction. That is, at Waterfront Station, many people go Westbound past the station to the switch, where the train "turns around" and heads Eastbound. People (smartly) do this to get a good seat before trains fill up with commuters, often by Stadium-Chinatown Station. As the SkyTrain pulled in, however, so did a West Coast Express train, taking people living in the Tri-Cities then on to Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge, and beyond, all the way to Mission. In all my 10+ years living here, I had never taken the train, mostly because my final destination is pretty much halfway between the longest stretch, from Waterfront Station to Port Moody Station. And I call myself a train aficionado.

West Coast Express Ticket

Last night I felt my shit was fairly together, so I paid my 6 bucks and boarded the train that wouldn't leave for another half an hour. Since the train was empty, I took some photos of the interior, and recorded 20 minutes of video from Waterfront to Port Moody (70 MB, BitTorrent link). The conversation in the background of the video was a group of teens discussing how awesome they were. I also took mundane video of the train leaving the station (BitTorrent link). People who do it day in and day out must think it's terribly boring by now, but the rail activity and mountain and water views, not to mention my first ever in-person viewing of an oil spill's aftermath made me almost forget I had a camera in my had documenting the trip. My impressions of the train ride were that inside it feels slower than it looks when a train goes by (as it does near my office in Gastown), and that the air conditioning gave me the same slight sickness that it does in airplanes.

Almost everybody on the train that got off at Port Moody Station either drove or took one of the many community shuttles, almost all of which were headed East. Myself, I walked back up to St. John St. and took the 160 home, not looking up from my book the whole trip back. I had taken that bus ride a thousand times while working for the library in Port Moody, so nothing new there. The train ride, however, made me feel like a kid again.