A couple of Sundays ago, I trekked out late in the afternoon to Columbia Station, entirely forgetting that my intended destination was 22nd Street Station in sunny New Westminster, British Columbia. The reason for the trip to Vancouver's suburb to the south: to explore the neighbourhood as I did for New Westminster Station portion of my SkyTrain Explorer heritage walks around the Greater Vancouver area. Limited at this time to Vancouver proper, Burnaby and New West, the book by John Atkin details the history of buildings and surroundings of SkyTrain stations in the Lower Mainland.
(SkyTrain is an elevated rapid transit system encircling the region. The book does not include walks around the stations located in Surrey, a shame since Surrey's history and current development is very interesting too!)
First up, Grimston Park. Mislabled in Google Maps "Grimstone Park", the sign on the park assures us otherwise. Sitting on the benches facing south gives you a good view of Surrey and the passing SkyTrains. Onwards from there we pass by storied houses, and Atkin leads us to the neighbourhood school and a church converted from a house. A fairly interesting, if overwhelmingly residential, neighbourhood. Of 22nd Street Station itself, the builders retained a small part of the Highland Park rail line beside it.
I've done 9 walks now—10 if you include the Metrotown Station walk, which consists of walking through the mall—and have 5 to go. The remaining walks happen in Vancouver, and I'd like to do a group walk at some point around Broadway Station, a station that serves as a hub for the system as it shares space with Commercial Drive Station. The 22nd Street Station walk (Flickr set with a semi-accurate map) wraps it up for the New Westminster portion of the SkyTrain Explorer tours. John Atkin does not, in this edition, have a tour for Columbia Station nor for any of the Surrey stations. I hope that in a subsequent edition he'll also include stations on the newer Millennium Line and possibly, for a third edition, walks around Canada Line stations.
For those who want John Atkin himself to lead the tour, it's not too late to sign up with the CIty of Burnaby. At this writing, he will guide you through the Royal Oak and Edmonds portions of the book, which I've already covered in my series.
Last night I had the opportunity to visit the Vancouver Museum (or, Museum of Vancouver) to attend a lecture featuring three presentations about bicycle parking. Titled "Park This! Inspirational and Effective Solutions for Bike Parking" short presentations first showed implementations worldwide, then the second more generally addressed bike parking as a public issue, and the third discussed Vancouver's experience specifically.
The Vancouver Public Space Network (VPSN) took photos of the event and the subsequent Velo-City museum tour. As I sarcastically predicted, bike parking was inadequate for the event (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6).
Park This! presentations
Richard Campbell presented first, showing and telling about other cities' ideas to make it easy for cyclists to leave their bikes behind while they go about their business. Considerations for good bike parking in cities are, he says: length of stay, cost, available space, demand, customers, and security.
Rough notes on the cities he covered, each of them, in the presentation, each illustrated by a photo:
- New York City: covered bicycle racks, with information on how to lock a bike
- Portland, Oregon: bike parking on the street, temporary curbing, prove it's successful
- Melbourne, Australia: Parkiteer at the rail stations, enter with a smart card, sign up for a particular station, take care of the station
- Boston, MA: Alewife Station, chain link fencing, security cameras, smart card which you can use for transit
- San Francisco: e-Lockers: smart card, 5 cents per hour, at transit stations and downtown areas
- Spain: Bigloo, which is a turntable tube, smart card
- Amsterdam - bike parking near train station
- Zutphen, Stationsplein, the Netherlands: stairs with ramps to roll bike down, repair shop, double level parking
- Spain: Biceberg: bicycle vending machine, smart card
- Japan: Eco Cycle, vending machine, holds
- Chicago: Millennium Park Bicycle Station, with showers, changerooms, segway rentals, bike tours
- Freiburg: Café Velo, bike tours
- Barcelona: My Beautiful Parking, verticle hanging (cheaper) or racks
Adrian Witte presented next, discussing the issues surrounding bike parking generally. 20,000 bike trips in 1994 increased to about 55,000 in 2006, which still only accounts for 3.5% trips of all modes in the city. Adrian asked if road builders think of parking, why can't bike path builders?
How can bike parking be used to increased cycling participation?
back to basics: good design
Valet parking checks all the boxes.
use of technology
- electronic locking systems
- advanced stacking: above or below grade
integrate with other modes
- make it competitive with automobile travel
- widen the circle: 5 minute walk vs. 5 minute cycle
- smart cards, bike lockers, bike stations, bike rentals, car share, transit
- car share: locate cars vehicles with convenient bike parking
public bike system
- removes parking need, transfers security from bike owner to rental provider
Summarizing, Adrian said that tried and true design principles, embracing technology, integrating with other modes, trying different angles to solve the problem help in establishing a bike parking system in a city.
Stephanie Doerksen of VIA Architecture (also of the VPSN) brought the to Vancouver specifically, observing that bike parking made for cycle-friendly streetscapes. In 1995, the parking bylaw amendment required bike parking to new developments. In 1999 the city created a comprehensive biking plan, making more bike parking available in commercial neighbourhoods. In 2009, there's still a shortage. She mentioned VPSN's visual audit of bicycle parking, and her photos showed bikes locked to objects other than those intended for bike parking.
Stephanie noted that the city is thinking of replacing parking meters with a different payment system, and that they have the opportunity to replace the physical parking meters with bike parking poles. It would be easy and efficient, not requiring a change to the streetscape. Other ideas include converting a parallel car stall to bike parking, such as on curbs in Portland and angle parking. 12 bike parking spaces, she says, for each car parking space.
At the panel discussion afterwards, the audience and the presenters discussed bike parking around Denman and Robson. A question arose about parking for bikes with trailers for groceries & kids. Another audience member remarked that bike parking not a sexy issue: bike stations have been successful, but take up space. Later, an audience member made the connection between bike racks and street furniture: they can lead to a sense of order to the street, but Vancouver does not seem to have uniformity like in Toronto.
- Notes on "Documentation: A Key to Openness" at the Free and Open Source Symposium
- Notes on "Documentation in the Open Source World" at the Free Software and Open Source Symposium
More than 5 years ago now, I sat down with Raincity Studios' Mark Yuasa to discuss the redesign of this blog, Just a Gwai Lo. It was springtime in Vancouver, and the cherry blossom trees around the lower mainland were blooming, so I suggested that as the visual theme for the blog. Then powered by WordPress, Mark delivered two designs in a few weeks and a few months after choosing the overwhelmingly pink comp, I switched to Drupal, bringing the theme along with me.
It's now time to release the theme to the general public. If you visit the Cherry Blossom theme project page on Drupal.org, you can install a Drupal 6-compatible version of the theme. I put up a demonstration site so that you can see the theme in action, as I've long moved onto another theme (currently the Deco theme). One known issue that I'd like help with is an alignment problem with Internet Explorer 6, after fixing I'll release a 1.1 version.
Browsing the second floor of the Chapters on Granville and Broadway one winter evening, trying out the SnapTell consumer product image recognition iPhone app, I happened upon Tragedy at Second Narrows: The Story of the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge by Eric Jamieson. Having seen it at another branch of the Canadian bookstore conglomerate, and not content to buy a hardcover, I reserved the book at the library then and there. A few weeks later, it arrived. Books borrowed from the local book repository must be more urgently read than those borrowed from friends, so I set about its 300 pages of Jamieson's history of the Burrard Inlet's second crossing.
The book details the political machinations to sell the idea of the bridge, fund it, select the company to build the bridge, its initial construction and what led to its collapse while only half-built. After explaining the engineering mistakes and subsequent errors that led to 18 deaths of ironworkers, painters, and later, a diver, Jamieson examines the royal commission to investigate the collapse and the ironworkers strike and legal wranglings resulting from that strike. Some details, he concedes, he can only leave to mystery, such as who made a crucial correction to one of the calculation sheets and when.
Books like these I can really dig into. It relates to a subject about which I know very little at the outset, in this case, bridge building, and the author takes the time to detail the context in which a singular event happened. The stories of all involved, from decision-makers to the planners to the engineers to the ironworkers to the rescue teams to the judges and lawyers and union officials, all serve to bundle the entire narrative of why Vancouver landmark fell down. Jamieson never condescends the non-engineers by explaining the physics involved thoroughly yet rewards those who have a technical background by teaching the lessons future generations can learn. Every chapter contains several photos of the bridge and participants in the story of its making and destruction and rebuilding. Especially compelling are the photos of the rescue and recovery operation, which show the massive scale of the destruction and the urgency to find survivors.
I can't recommend this book enough to fans of Vancouver and its history. The Ironworkers Memorial Second Narrows Bridge figures daily in the lives of hundreds of thousands of Lower Mainlanders who need to cross the Burrard Inlet in their travel mode of choice. Jamieson has done the city and the bridge's builders a great service in recounting a terrible day for British Columbia in its then-unprecedented period of construction growth.
- Delicious: bookmarks related to work, specifically Drupal-related links, with some diversion into computer-based productivity and promoting the company a bit. On the consumption side, I only look at my network's link.
- Flickr: mostly mobile photos to play around with the iPhones geotagging. Syndicated at justagwailo.com/flickr (to play around with Drupal's functionality, see also the map).
- Twitter: a few times a day, much less frequently than before now that I have a private account, to stay a part of the conversation. I use the account @sillygwailo to post manually, and @justagwailo as a pinging service (mostly Brightkite, see below, but also my blog and other services that post directly, i.e. not via RSS, to Twitter).
- Last.fm: which gets all of my iTunes-played songs and most of my iPhone-played tracks. I play songs too often for it to automatically appear somewhere else without annoyance.
- Flickr to post mostly photos taken from the iPhone. Favorites appear in the shared items feed.
- Brightkite;: where's Richard? I check into almost any physical location that I remain at for more than 5 minutes other than my residence. The iPhone native app is top-notch, simple with all necessary, including listing nearby friends, few of which actually use it. Checkins appear in the ephemera Twitter account. The people tracking mentions of my workplace on Twitter must be annoyed by now! Some photos go directly to Brightkite, then to Flickr, then to both this site and the emphera Twitter account.
- All Consuming: to keep track of movies watched and books read, and sometimes beer drunk. Boris is my only contact that still uses the site, part of the Robot Co-op network. Consumed and consuming items appear in my shared items feed.
- Google Reader: switched back to it for personal feeds from NetNewsWire (still used for work feeds, some of which require authentication). Shared items appear in, you guessed it, my shared items feed.
- updating Twitter about any social media is boring, so instead, I use Identi.ca, a relatively obscure place for me to rant about spending too much time at a computer.
- my Tumblr page serves as an experimental spot for me to 'reblog' things. If there were an RSS feed for the Dashboard and an RSS feed for "Likes", you'd see me using it a lot more.
- I keep FriendFeed up-to-date with the various social networking sites I use, and that pipes things in there, but I don't use it much for consumption or interaction. The rare FriendFeed "Like" will appear in my shared items feed.
- GetSatisfaction will get more use in 2009, largely for low-threshold +1s of ideas already submitted.
- LinkedIn is the work/professional connections equivalent of Facebook. I barely use Facebook.
Suw Charman, whom I met on IRC some years ago and later met at Northern Voice, tipped me off a few weeks ago that today is Ada Lovelace Day, celebrating both the woman heralded as the "first programmer" and women in technology generally. As part of my pledge, rather than list off those women in technology who inspire me and forget someone, I'll single out the obvious: my girlfriend Karen.
Although we had chatted for a few days before, she and I met at a conference her university class held at the time about Information and Communication Technologies, or ICTs. Her presentation focused on the ICT response during the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 and since then she has impressed me with her ability to laterally think about social media and organizational and social change and make connections between emerging ideas in the field. Her appreciation of open source technology equals mine, and her understanding and drive towards transparent collaboration outpaces mine. She wants a better, working world and understands that social media finally puts us on that path.
In 2009 we're still talking about "women in technology" and now we have a single day to highlight the achievements in the field. 2009! Why aren't we celebrating women and men in technology all the time? Why isn't it obvious that there are just as many female geeks as there are male geeks? Why isn't it normal that women roughly equal, in numbers, the employees of technical companies, in computing and otherwise? Why are women-in-technology conferences still necessary? Technology brought Karen and me together, and not a day goes by that she doesn't create another universe I hadn't thought of. Thank you, Suw, for making today a day to celebrate, but really, every day is Ada Lovelace Day. Why we only celebrate it on March 24th is beyond me.
On a trip to Toronto in 2006, during the Canadian Pacific Exhibition, two older Toronto streetcars passed by Karen and me while we were walking the mean streets of The Big Smoke. Some years later, these informative comments from a user called booledozer appeared on the Flickr versions of the photos.
“This is a "President Congress Car". This design was very widely used, sixty to seventy years ago. Boston and San Francisco also continued to use these cars until very recently.
Personally, I prefer the old maroon and yellow livery.
The TTC's remaining PCC verhicles are only used for private bookings, movie shoots, and ceremonial purposes.”
“The TTC calls this a "Peter de Witt" car.
It can be booked for private events, and you can have a traveling party.”
A quick Google search reveals there's no "de" in the name. I would never have known the name without the comment, however.
“The intersection in this picture is College and Spadina. The photographer would have been standing near the El Macombo, The Rolling Stones recorded a live album there.
There are several dozen computer stores within a block or two of this intersection.”
The photographer (me) used a cell phone camera to take those.
You've seen part 1 of my notes on Pete Quily's presentation on setting goals and following through. Part 2 takes us through Pete's coaching demonstration. He took a volunteer from the audience and demonstrated for 10 minutes (enforced by his $20 timer) how he would coach someone through setting a goal and following through on it. I've omitted the answers to the questions, but they illustrate that Pete would almost exclusively ask questions and rarely give advice, only offering suggestions along the way when the interviewee got stuck. Pete asked us to listen to the language and questions he used:
- what's the one specific goal you would like to work on today?
- do you know what you need to do?
- what do you need to do?
- what's stopping you from doing it? (interviewee identified two specific goals as part of his larger goal)
- which would you want to focus on?
- should you be the one doing? (interviewee indicated that possibly he wasn't the right person for the job)
- how much time do you think it'll take?
- do you know where you could go to find the person who can do it?
- (some digging down to the main problem)
- how could you get the money?
- Pete elaborates on the interviewee's answers, repeats them back to him
- let's the interviewee talking it out
- do you have any skills you can teach the person to do it?
- repeats out what could be done, suggested by the person wanting the goal
- what's easier among your options? can the students write the grant?
- empathizes with interviewee, who identifies that a student could do part of the work
- what do you need to do to get a student to say yes?
- gets the interviewee to suggest options, ideas
- are you clear on what to do?
- when are you going to do it? (interviewee indicates he could start in April)
- why April? presses on why that specific time, gently presses interviewee on getting confirmation about assumptions, nudged interviewee into a very small specific task that gets interviewee closer
- how are you going to remember when to do that? is paper or computer better for you? (interviewee indicates a calendar might work)
- when are you going to buy a calendar
- what's the reward you're going to give yourself after the micro-goal is done? let's schedule the reward in first
Pete mentioned the term "onemoreitis", that is, the idea that we can do "just one more" before getting out the door or moving on to what we need to do. The assembled group discussed clutter and hyper-organization—ADD people can leap over to the other extreme; physical clutter is mental clutter. Perfectionism can look different ways to different people. It will stop you from moving forward, as it's attached to an idealized outcome. "It has to look like this" will prevent it from even getting started. Pete suggested giving up on the idea that "someone else said I should do it like this and I'm wrong if I don't". Other notes:
- if you can't accept the way you are now, you can't change to where you want to be.
- from that point of acceptance you've drained a lot of negative energy
- from the audience: understand the mechanism of change
- strength and weakness of ADD is curiosity
- if things aren't going your way, get curious about why, what to do differently
- different goals may require different tactics
- that said, a strategy in one situation might work in another.
- what motivates you to action, what demotivates you to action
- systems should be as simple as possible
- break down the goals into component pieces
- Anthony Robbins - books are pretty interesting. when you schedule it, it's real.
- schedule the pieces, if not all of them then at least enough of them
- don't assume you'll remember
- system to identify resistance and friction to working on your goals, don't get judgmental on it. instead of "what's going wrong?", ask "what's going on?"
- different word for failure == feedback
- learn how your individual brain works
- feed your brain - take regular breaks
In Part 3 I will wrap things up and talk a little more about the books that influenced me on this subject, both directly and indirectly, and the changes I hope to make in the next few weeks.
Here are the notes I took of a self-debrief about my Northern Voice presentation last month about microblogging. I follow most of the advice Joe Clark gives about giving presentations and agree with all of it. Every presentation, including this one, I close anything that makes a unanticipated notification or unwanted sound, load up every website I intent to show in a tab well before the presentation. I don't do this often enough in a year to get smooth at it. Presumably Bruce Sharpe, who presented directly before me, will post video and/or audio of my presentation in the near future.
What Went Right
- definitely had enough material for half an hour. I went halfway through my slides. Perfect, since the presentation was front-loaded to the first half. The second half contained bonus material.
- I kept it conversational, let people interrupt, and with maybe one exception, felt that I answered questions relatively well
- people seemed to like the presentation
- the attendees laughed at the right places
What Went Wrong
- I needed a projector adapter dongle thing, leaving it at home. Luckily I borrowed the previous presenter's dongle. I try to have my own.
- I needed the remote, which I lost sometime before the presentation. Managing without it, it would have went far more smoothly allowing me to go beyond the reach of my laptop.
- I didn't get to use the Obligatory Obama Slide (though I was unprepared for it)
- felt underprepared, not having done a proper run-through. Nobody seemed to notice.
- had the wrong setting on the laptop's monitor, not being able to see my speaking notes (which weren't detailed) and a timer
- I wore a sweater. The conference documentarians used apel mikes. Next time I won't wear a sweater.
What I Noticed, for Ill or Good
- when I made an unsubstantiated claim that between 11 AM and 4 PM is the best time to post an update to Twitter, several people in the audience wrote it down. That makes me think of what other unsubstantiated thing I can say that people.- one person came up to talk to me about it afterwards
- one person came up to me after the presentation to talk about it more. I had no expectations either way.
- at least 15 people started following me on Twitter after I put up my first slide, which had only my Twitter username identifying me. Many have since unfollowed.
Inspired by the inventories Liz posts on Flickr, Karen and I decided to take a photo of everything we accumulated on our trip to Portland and then Seattle. We set physical we took from America on the floor and then stood on a chair to take the photo with our DSLR. Below is the photo plus a list of the items with some links, taken from the annotations Karen and I added to the Flickr photo.
- Overland Equipment Auburn bag.
- The Alexander Technique Manual by Richard Brennan
- Two maps of Powell's City of Books in Portland.
- Boost Your Brain Power Week by Week: 52 Techniques to Make You Smarter by Bill Lucas
- U.S. stamps for mailing postcards.
- Various TriMet maps, passes and info. From right to left: three maps, a comic in Spanish, and a bike rider's guide. The five passes are: one bus transfer, two weekly passes, and two "honored citizens" passes that I rescued from the trash.
- Seattle Sound Transit guide.
- Two free Portland bridges bookmarks. That beat paying $19 for the poster of the same bridges.
- Inclusive City book flyer.
- 4 Amtrak ticket stubs for the train trips we took from Portland to Seattle, then from Seattle to Vancouver.
- Artist postcard from gallery in the Pearl District.
- Pumpkin Butter with Port, from the "Made in Oregon" store.
- Spiced hazelnuts with cinnamon and pepper. I talked to the man who makes them at the People's Co-op Farmer's Market. It was chilly. (The weather at the market, not the man!)
- Dreaming Escape, a book of poems translated from Albanian.
- Greeting cards from Positively Green
- Seattle Art Museum tickets to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. We stumbled on it on our way to a concert, donated in the wrong box, plead our case, and got in as the result of the donation.
- Our little big purchase: the Flip MinoHD, with a custom design that I commissioned from @idleglory (flickr: rocketcandy).
- 2 rolls of film from the Fisheye camera, ISO 400 and ISO 200.
- Notebooks and a Jane Austen address book, also from Powell's.
- Apple Cider, obtained from the Farmer's Market.
- Bridges of Portland fridge magnet.
- Art gallery opening card from Moshi Moshi.
- The poster for Duncan Sheik's 2009 winter tour for Whisper House and Spring Awakening. We attended his shows in Portland and Seattle.
- Ticket stub from the Portland Duncan Sheik show.
- Artist postcard from gallery in the Pearl District.
- Skirt purchased from The Future Inc., which closed this past Saturday.
- An "Oregon Wilderness" postcard, the outlier of the 8 we sent in total to our American and Canadian friends on this trip.
- Apple Cinnamon Tea from Pike Place Public Market in Seattle. The entire kitchen smells like this tea now.
On my trip to Portland last week, while my girlfriend went to the People's Farmer's Market, I took a jaunt over to the airport from downtown. To travel from the airport from downtown, I had to get a zone upgrade, because the 7-day pass we bought (see below) afforded us 2 zones. (We mostly traveled from Zone 2 through Zone 1 to the Fareless Square.) The fine folks at the TriMet information office at Pioneer Courthouse Square advised me that to get the zone upgrade, I would have to step on a bus, get an upgrade, and immediately disembark and hop on the train. I wasn't interested in risking getting caught by a fare inspector, so I made the trip to Gateway/Northeast 99th Avenue TC, hopped off the train, and got a zone upgrade from the #19 bus driver there.
On the trip I took quite a bit of HD video using the Flip Mino HD camera we bought. Following is a Hillsboro-bound MAX train arriving at Gateway/Northeast 99th Avenue Transit Center (which I will refer to in conversation as "Gateway" after the SkyTrain station here in Greater Vancouver).
Having a 7-day pass may not have been worth it from a purely financial perspective: as mentioned, we spent 5 days there in total and the pass did not apply to the Aerial Tram up to OHSU. (We would have appreciated a ticket stub as a memento of that trip. I sent a note to TriMet directly with that suggestion.) We did very much appreciate the convenience of the two-zone fare and not only the convenience of not having to fish for change, but being able to select which consecutive 7 days we could use the pass. In <a href=http://www.ttc.ca/Fares_and_passes/Passes/Weekly_pass.jsp">Toronto, you can't select which days. At least they have one, though: we'd love to be able to have weekly passes in Vancouver!