“If dogs run free…”

October 17, 2008 at 11:06 pm | In politics | Comments Off on “If dogs run free…”

“…why not we?”

This message was approved by Jigger, my Live-Free-or-Die New Hampshire born and bred Cairn Terrier.  (Image from Obama Dogs Unite.)

Thanks, MetroDog!

On Creativity

October 14, 2008 at 9:34 pm | In cities, creativity, just_so | Comments Off on On Creativity

I have to reblog and repost the entry I just read on CEOs for Cities.  Called In Detroit for Creative Cities Summit, Carol Colletta has this to report on what she learned about creativity and economies (emphasis added by me):

“Creativity is the only inextinguishable resource we have.”

There are 3 principles of the creative ecology from John Howkins:

1.  Everyone is creative.
2.  Creativity needs freedom.
3.  Freedom needs markets.

Creativity does not equal the arts. Creativity is not the same as innovation.

Creativity needs freedom of expression, dialogue, collaboration, education and learning, cities and clusters, and acceptance by family and society.

Creativity is not deferential.  You don’t do it (creativity) because something thinks it’s a good idea.  Otherwise, it becomes the repetitive economy.  The creative economy thrives on novelty and meaning.

The creative economy is an economy of failure.  It we skirt that truth, we are back to repetitive economy.

The creative ecology is niche where diverse individuals express themselves in systematic and adaptive ways, using ideas to produce ideas and others support this even if they don’t understand it.

It’s easy to build a building.  It’s hard to fund creativity.

Diversity -> Change -> Learning -> Adaptation

Education is only important if it enables learning.

Cities must ask, “How big is our learning capacity?”

I know there are people who will poo-poo this, but for me it strikes a chord.  Maybe because I’m all about failure, or maybe because I’m all about doing stuff that isn’t deferential. For example, you want something like a DemoCamp?  You really want a DemoCamp?  Just friggin’ hold one then. (This goes for anything worth doing. Rinse and repeat: anything worth doing!)  And don’t worry about ownership.  Who cares?

There’s a great song by Abbey Lincoln, a vocalist, composer, recording artist I admire totally.  It’s called Throw It Away.  There are often days when Lincoln’s songs provide a palimpsest for what I feel most deeply.

Throw it away / Throw it away / Give your love, live your life / Each and every day // And keep your hand wide open / Let the sun shine through / ‘Cause you can never lose a thing / If it belongs to you   (Album source)

Maybe it’s weird to go from CEOs for Cities to Abbey Lincoln, but it makes sense to me.  Creativity is the blues, but what a great shade of blue it is.  As Colletta posted (above), “The creative ecology is niche where diverse individuals express themselves in systematic and adaptive ways, using ideas to produce ideas and others support this even if they don’t understand it.”

“…even if they don’t understand it.”  Trust, keep your hand wide open.

Power outage: No island is an appendix, entire of itself…

October 13, 2008 at 5:17 pm | In power_grid, vancouver_island | 4 Comments

Yesterday afternoon’s power outage on southern Vancouver Island reminded me of an entry of mine from June 2005: Wanted: small solutions.

Some of the links to a blog that Sea Breeze Power Corporation had at the time have rotted away, but I still have a relevant quote up (and therefore preserved!):

On another business front, also with positive implications for Vancouver Island, Sea Breeze Pacific Juan de Fuca Cable, LP (“Sea Breeze Pacific” – a 49.75 % owned subsidiary of Sea Breeze Power Corp.), is moving into the Vancouver Island public consultation phase for its Juan de Fuca Transmission Cable.

The cable, a submarine 40 kilometre, 540-megawatt “High Voltage Direct Current” (“HVDC Light™”) line between Victoria, British Columbia and Port Angeles, Washington State, is designed to deliver power from “south to north” as well as “north to south”, providing critical reliability for Vancouver Island and strengthening the grids on both sides of the border.

Technical studies for the Juan de Fuca Cable, being conducted by utilities on both sides of the border, are expected to be completed Fall, 2005. The line is scheduled to be operational by Fall, 2007. [More…]

Alas, it’s the “more” link at the end of the quote that has rotted away.

Wow, my entry was from June 2005 — and at the time, Sea Breeze projected a Fall 2007 completion date.  Instead, their latest update is from Oct.3/08, reporting that

Sea Breeze Power Corp. is pleased to announce that the United States Army Corps of Engineers has issued a Permit authorizing the installation of the Juan de Fuca Cable Project (“JdF Cable”) on United States soil and seabed. The Permit represents the conclusion of US Federal and State Permitting requirements for the JdF Cable and is a milestone achievement in the development of the 50 kilometer, 550 MW High Voltage Direct Current Light® (“HVDC Light”) international submarine transmission cable.

I’m glad the project is still underway, but how sad is it that red tape and who knows what else have tied things up to the point that we’re still waiting?  Right now, Vancouver Island is like an appendix.  There’s one line going in, nothing going out, no circle, no loop.  That has to change.

No man is an island, and no island should be a mere appendix.

(I think I may have found my defining slogan… )

The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

October 12, 2008 at 2:31 am | In links | Comments Off on The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

DemoCamp Victoria 02: it’s on!

October 10, 2008 at 9:29 pm | In DemoCampVictoria, victoria | 3 Comments

Mark Lise and I have talked about having another DemoCamp Victoria for months now, talking, talking.  But the other day, we realized we could talk about it forever more, or we could just do it.  Perhaps that’s a very un-Victorian thing to do?  Maybe just talking about things, or commissioning a lengthy governmental study, is the more usual m.o. around here.

And yet, …based on some feedback that one or two people would be willing to step up to demo, and based on feedback from my lunchtime chat at last month’s UDI with our DemoCamp 01 host David Chard, we announced a tentative-but-nearly-for-sure date, same location as the first one. Mark made sure the story immediately went live on the Barcamp site and on Facebook, and of course Twitter.

After that, all it took was a green light (which arrived literally within an hour of asking) from our host, and that’s how 02 was born.  Be there, October 30, 5pm (event starts at 6pm), 834 Johnson St., Victoria.

I’m psyched that we’re going to have another crack at this, and that we can again have such a splendid venue for the event, too!

Now, I have heard some vague backchannel noises that maybe there was some parallel visioning going on by others, who were also wondering when the next DemoCamp would take place.  And I have heard that some people maybe were surprised that DemoCamp appeared to spring out of nowhere so fast.  (To which I’d add: fast?  Come now, it has been months since the first one.  Do we need a committee to study this thing before we can move on it?  I think not.)

Since no one said anything about organizing another DemoCamp to Mark or to me (who was one of the organizers, nay: catalysts of the first one), it just wasn’t happening as far as we could tell.  Not as a grass-roots, bottom-up event that’s all about breaking down the silos and getting people together.  If you want to break down the silos, then get out there and talk openly to everyone. Connect people! (Add a comma if you like: Connect, people!)

And I will be connecting, because I’ll be talking to everyone I know about it.  For me, this is not about just the tech community in Victoria.  It’s about the arts, media, government, the business community …you name it.

The only people I don’t really know are golfers — although I did pass former hockey player and current golf course builder Len Barrie in the hallway at CFAX 1070 the other day.

Wonder if he’d be into demos? (Heh.)

So, people: mark your calendars!  October 30, 5pm, at 834 Johnson St., the Juliet Presentation Centre — DemoCamp Victoria 02!  It’ll be great!  See you there!

Twitter and local mainstream media

October 9, 2008 at 10:19 pm | In authenticity, local_not_global, times_colonist | 5 Comments

Victoria’s local paper, the Times-Colonist, which is part of the CanWest empire and therefore not a particularly local paper at all, recently began twittering.

Admittedly, I was really surprised to see @timescolonist show up on such a site.  Not only that, but its editor-in-chief, Lucinda Chodan, also tweets: @lchodan.

I had a conversation with someone about this; he claimed that CanWest will lose brand identity by letting its newspapers and editors and reporters twitter, and that it shows they’re out of touch, not least because there’s no revenue in it for them.  His argument around losing brand identity was based on his idea that by tweeting, the papers were becoming just like you or me — like anybody who can type.

But that’s so wrong!  It made me wonder whether he understands social media.  For example, tweets by @timescolonist have actually prompted me to click through to articles, since the tweets started to include URLs to the stories.  In other words, @timescolonist’s function is to drive traffic to articles.

Paradoxically, by tweeting stories that seem to have regional and local relevance, @timescolonist is actually able to restore some measure of local relevance.  And I can tweet back at them, as I did for example when last night @timescolonist live-tweeted a local town hall federal election candidates meeting, and I twittered my appreciation of this.  Today there’s a story in the paper about this meeting, but @timescolonist’s live-tweet last night (without URLs, as the story wasn’t yet online or in the paper) helped build a kind of loyalty to (and interest in) the paper with me, who has been a harsh critic of the paper in the past (and often still is).

The other thing is that newspapers might, just might, start to understand that it’s no longer just a broadcast market, but a niche market.

The niche was derided as small potatoes for too long, but in actuality (actualite – currently, current affairs), niche markets might well be the new gold mine.

By tweeting, @timescolonist (and even @lchodan, whose tweets are rare, but very interesting when they do come) can possibly change minds and potentially win allies.  By twittering, they’re almost humanizing themselves in my eyes.  If I were cynical, I’d say, What a snow job.  But I’m not that cynical, and so I’m intrigued.  There are real people behind this after all.

And every person is a niche.

That’s savvy marketing and it might just work.  Why?  Because it’s two-way.  It’s not a one-way operation, where they work on me,  Jane Customer.  They will be transformed, too, because they won’t hold my interest with a voice that’s just another suit.  Twitter (i.e., social media, real inter-action) might just make them interesting enough to pay attention to once more.

The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

October 5, 2008 at 2:30 am | In links | Comments Off on The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)
  • Portal page for two additional links, “10 Qualities of a Great Waterfront” and “The 9 most important steps in revitalizing a waterfront.” The main worry for the authors here (“A common challenge is how to revitalize places where the river, lake or sea has been cut off from the rest of town by wide roadways or hulking industrial facilities”) doesn’t apply to Victoria, whose waterfront is *not* cut off by road arterials or industrial areas. But in general terms, there are still some nuggets on the linked-to pages.

    tags: project_for_public_spaces, waterfront, urbanplanning, urban_design

  • Another article that underscores the need for (and uses of) “cross-use” (as defined by Jane Jacobs). The interesting difference/ twist here is that cross-use is created/ nourished through congestion-cutting strategies and transit infrastructure, as well as (get this!) broadband infrastructure (!).

    So, interesting pointer: congestion as another barrier to cross-use. Something to think about.

    And: think about taking broadband/ digital infrastructure into account when thinking about cross-use vs single-use. How to map the virtual onto the real/ actual? Hmmm….

    Note: CEOs for Cities entry has further links.

    tags: ceos_for_cities, urban_development, cross_use, cities, jjacobs

  • This is the Cisco site that CEOs for Cities blog post pointed to. It describes the Cisco-funded/ sponsored program, “Connected Urban Development” (CUD), now in several cities around the world.

    Question: how does a city get involved with this? From the webpage:
    By using network connectivity for communication, collaboration, urban planning, and other activities, CUD will help change the way in which cities do the following:

    * Deliver services to residents
    * Manage the flow of traffic
    * Operate public transportation
    * Use and manage real estate resources

    tags: cisco, urban_design, cross_use, connectedness, infrastructure, ceos_for_cities

Links to read 10/03/2008 (p.m.)

October 3, 2008 at 5:30 am | In links | Comments Off on Links to read 10/03/2008 (p.m.)
  • Andrew Blum’s article describes Cellophane House, a 5-storey prefab going up in Manhattan at the corner of 53rd and Sixth.

    tags: prefab, wired_magazine, andrew_blum, architecture, nyc

    • Cellophane House is five stories tall, with floor-to-ceiling windows, translucent polycarbonate steps embedded with LEDs, and exterior walls made of NextGen SmartWrap, an experimental plastic laminated with photovoltaic cells. Its aluminum frame was cut from off-the-shelf components in Europe, assembled in New Jersey, then snapped together in 16 days on a vacant lot next to the Museum of Modern Art — joining four other full-size houses onsite through October as part of the exhibit Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling. It looks as if a suburban cul-de-sac took a wrong turn at the Holland Tunnel.
    • Prefab is “modernism’s oldest dream,” curator Barry Bergdoll says. Since the industrial revolution, architects have been in thrall of the idea that houses could be built in factories, like any kind of widget. But reality hasn’t been extremely cooperative. Whether because of conservative public tastes, unachievable economies of scale, or designers’ less-than-stellar business acumen, their utopian visions have mostly remained fantasies.
    • But the strange subdivision next door to the museum suggests that prefab’s time has finally come. The difference now is bits, not bolts. “Digital fabrication has become one of the key flash points for architects thinking about the way things are made,” Bergdoll says as we tour the houses. On an upper floor of Cellophane, two riggers saw a crossbeam amid a flurry of sparks. (It was fabricated too long.) Nearby, a team of MIT students hammer at a cottage made of computer-cut plywood with grooves and joints ready to be fit together like puzzle pieces.
  • Critique of Harper’s Conservative party for being contemptuous of cities and for trying to start a “culture war” of sorts between the salt-of-the-earth rurals vs those decadent urbanites. Sigh.

    tags: thestar, toronto, canada, cities, election, stephen_harper, infrastructure_funding, municipal_funding

    • Cities must be an issue in the federal election and are being ignored to everybody’s detriment, a panel of urban experts said yesterday at the University of Toronto.
    • Canadians risk a damaging polarization between conservative rural voters and liberal urban voters similar to the divide between Republicans and Democrats in the U.S., argued Eric Miller, director of the university’s Cities Centre.
    • Richard Florida, director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at U of T’s Rotman School of Management, spoke about dismantling the divisions between urban and rural issues, local and national issues.

      “We need to move across the divide,” Florida said, bemoaning the state of U.S. affairs. He said cities shouldn’t be isolated from other concerns. “It has to be our obligation in urban areas to lead and help … to benefit everyone.”

    • During questions, one member of the audience raised the spectre of the Canadian Constitution, which delineates the provinces’ authority over municipalities.

      “The Constitution is an excuse not to do something,” Miller said later, pointing to overlap in areas such as immigration, which is a federal responsibility, yet is an issue for cities, where most immigrants settle.

    • Most of the panel, which included environmental philosopher Ingrid Stefanovic, argued that urban issues were inseparable from national issues – from climate change, transportation strategy and the country’s economic health, to immigration and concerns about urban sprawl and the environment.

      Stefanovic, who argued cities and the environment should be viewed as one issue, said: “I think all political parties have to recognize cities are going to be playing an important role – should be playing an important role – in this election.”

  • Page for WATT, Rotterdam’s Sustainable Dance Club. Includes a really cool video (one guy, quoting verbatim, talks about how we’re “leaving the tree hugger age” and moving into a whole new era that embraces innovation etc.). Found via Inhabitat (see http://www.inhabitat.com/2008/10/02/sust…), which includes more images.

    tags: dance_club, sustainability, innovation, rotterdam, environment

  • Portal page for “Creative Providence,” billed as “a cultural plan for the City” by Providence Mayor David N. Cicilline. Good looking site, friendly UI, easy to navigate. Could/ should be a model for other cities (wish we’d build something like this for Cultural Capital Victoria…).

    Note: somewhat mind-blowing – the City of Providence has its own Department of Art, Culture + Tourism… Wow, I guess they take this stuff seriously!

    tags: providence, creative_cities, reference

    • The cultural plan will explore the current strengths, weaknesses, challenges, and opportunities for the City’s arts, creative, and cultural sector. The focus will be on stimulating economic development, strengthening the creative economy, education, civic engagement, and enhancing the quality of life in the City of Providence. It will better position the City to realize its full potential as a creative center and to deliver on its promise of innovation and change.
    • Providence‘s cultural planning process and the creation of the plan will be a collaborative effort led by two consulting firms: Craig Dreeszen, a nationally recognized cultural planner, and the staff from Providence-based think tank, New Commons. Dr. Dreeszen will guide the steering committee and produce the formal cultural plan. Robert Leaver, of New Commons, will design and facilitate the public forums – including a conference, online website, and an operating network to guide the development of the plan.
    • These consultants will help steer the process but it will take significant community participation to produce a locally responsive cultural plan and create a sustainable and integrated creative community. The City of Providence’s Department of Art, Culture + Tourism wants to cultivate a collective creative community of artists and arts administrators who will lead the future development of our City.
  • UC Riverside scientists have a breakthrough that would allow genetic engineering to enable plants to become tolerant of aluminum toxicity. Apparently, much of the world’s potentially arable land has that aluminum toxicity, and therefore can’t be used for food production. Ths would circumvent that problem, and possibly signal a breakthrough into the second wave of a Green Revolution. (The first one has kind of reached its limits.)

    tags: wired_magazine, agriculture, bioneering, genetic_engineering, food, crops, paul_larsen

    • “Aluminum toxicity is a very limiting factor, especially in developing
      countries, in South America and Africa and Indonesia,” said biochemist Paul Larsen. “It’s not like these
      areas are devoid of plant life, but they’re not crop plants. Among
      agriculturally important plants, there aren’t mechanisms for aluminum
    • There’s no more room for farms in the developed world; demand for cropland is fueling deforestation in the rain forests of Latin America and Africa; and the limits of the Green Revolution, which increased global food production through the use of pesticides and industrial farming techniques, have been reached. Another revolution, say agronomists, is needed.
    • There’s no guarantee that the tweak will prove successful and safe — but if it does, it could provide food for millions.
    • “I don’t expect to make any money off it,” he said. “I’d like it to trickle down to the people who need it.

      He does worry that the technique could be used as an excuse to clear
      rain forests from currently aluminum-toxic soil. Instead of this, said
      Larsen, already-cut land could be made more productive.

      “If we can make use of the land that’s available now, maybe we can make
      it so we don’t have to cut forests down in the future,” he said.

LandFILL — or, I can’t stand it (warning: foul language)

October 2, 2008 at 10:06 pm | In Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Dave Winer pointed to a SoCal news video that another blogger has on their site. Twelve minutes of pain. Must see, click through. In response, I commented the following:

Just watched the “meltdown” news video you linked to, above. Oh my god. The waste, the waste of it all. Lives, land, stuff, potential. LAND! LandFILL.

Astonishing. (Like, literally. I’m a-stonied, rigid with gob-smackedness.)

“Inland Empire,” my pointy little ass. Highways, gasoline (cheap, then; not now), more subdivisions, super-duper square footage, more oil, more cars, on and on. And what’s left on those streets? People who themselves are on the financial edge, living (if you can call it that) in “communities” (fuck me – what a bunch of crap!) where almost every other house on the street is abandoned/ handed back to the lenders.

And some of those people thought that the bad ol’ city with its “crowding” (actually, density) was the enemy. Wow, were they wrong.

PS: can’t even walk to the grocery store in the “Inland Empire.” How sustainable was that to begin with?

Originally posted as a comment by Yule Heibel on Scripting News using Disqus.

After I wrote that, I wrote some more, but decided against cluttering up Scripting‘s comments board and instead took it to my own blog here.

Man, I haven’t cursed this much in text in ages

PS: My anger and sadness comes in part from feeling that these people who abandon their homes like this have no one to draw on, link to, connect with. No community, no nothing. There’s no one to draw close to — and how could there be, in *wastelands* such as “Inland Empire”? *Waste*-land.

It’s infuriating to see that atomizing people in this way, dis-encouraging them from some sort of organic relationship to place/ community, and telling them instead that *suburban isolation* and all this other bullshit of Stuff-hood (which lands in the dumpster) is the American Dream — that this has been sold as some kind of *goal*.

What the hell kind of community can you have in an Inland Empire? The “community” of new age religions or evangelical-isms? Same old, same old: no fucking history! And by the same token, actual neighbourhoods/ communities have been left in a trashed & destroyed state (see NOLA), so that political willpower and ability to move toward change also gets dis-focused and confused. Wipe out the history, wipe out the memory. Abandon ship, leave your crap, fill the landfill.

It’s enough to make one think there’s method to this madness.

Ok, I’ll leave your comments board now, enough ranting. But that video really riled me up. Usually don’t swear this much.

Pernicious. Inland Pernicious.

So, yeah — it’s a rant.  But you just have to watch this news clip to get it.

Ok, back to your regular programming.  Move along, nothing to see here.

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