Tough love from Lifehacker Gina Trapani

February 25, 2009 at 8:54 pm | In just_so | Comments Off on Tough love from Lifehacker Gina Trapani

I should get the following advice embedded as a microchip in my brain…

Choose three important tasks to complete each day. Write them down on a slip of paper and keep it visible on your desk. When you have a moment, instead of checking your email, look at the slip, and work on an item. Keep the list to just three, and see how many you can complete.

Turn off your email client. Shut down Outlook, turn off new email notifications on your BlackBerry, do whatever you have to do to muffle the interruption of email. When you decide to work on one of your important tasks, give yourself an hour at least of uninterrupted time to complete it. If the web is too much of a temptation, disconnect your computer from the Internet for that hour.

Set up a weekly 20-minute meeting with yourself. Put it on your calendar, and don’t book over it — treat it with the same respect you’d treat a meeting with your boss. If you don’t have an office door or you work in an open area that’s constantly busy, book a conference room for your meeting. Go there to be alone. Bring your project list, to-do list, and calendar, and spend the time reviewing what you finished that past week, and what you want to get done the following week. This is a great time to choose your daily three important tasks. Productivity author David Allen refers to this as the “weekly review,” and it’s one of the most effective ways to be mindful about how you’re spending your time.

Source: How to Mitigate the Urgent to Focus on the Important, by Gina Trapani.

Too many choices!

February 24, 2009 at 11:52 pm | In social_networking, victoria | Comments Off on Too many choices!

For some reason, Thursday February 26 offers a plenitude of events to choose from, but no matter which I choose, I’ll be wistfully wondering if I should be elsewhere since I can’t be at all three.

First, there’s VIAFest! February 26!, which includes a free museum tour of the Royal BC Museum’s Modern Galleries and should be a nice tech mixer. This event runs from 6-8:30pm.

But then there’s also a talk by Jennifer Kostiuk at the Vancouver Island School of Art (VISA). Kostiuk represents artists whose “works address the various ways in which the contemporary mindset has altered nature and our relationship to it. Notably are organic references to nature’s influence, impact or unconscious message its presence plays on the individual artist or collector, or society as a whole.” Damn, I really want to go to this, too. It starts at 7:30pm.

Finally, another event I’d really like to attend since I missed the previous ones, a #victoriatweetup at 5th Street Bar & Grill (conveniently close to VISA, true), which gets under way around 7pm that night.

What to do?

I suppose I could go to the ViaFest mixer, stay for one hour, then head over to VISA, and then possibly swing by the 5th Street Bar & Grill to see who’s still hanging out once the VISA event is over…

March FOCUS Magazine online

February 24, 2009 at 5:02 pm | In FOCUS_Magazine, victoria, writing | Comments Off on March FOCUS Magazine online

The current (March 2009) issue of FOCUS Magazine is now up. Click through to find a link for the full PDF of the complete March issue (or just click here).

My article, “Victoria’s Urban Forest,” is on p.32 – scroll through to find.

Which reminds me that I need to put this latest article as well as my February 2009 article (“Housing 2.0”) on, and get cracking on writing the April 2009 article.

Local emphasis

February 23, 2009 at 11:28 pm | In ideas, innovation, local_not_global, northernvoice | 2 Comments

At Northern Voice 2009 (which I still have to assimilate/ digest), I attended a session on hyper-local blogging and also heard people (myself included) lauding the value of “local.” On the ferry ride home, I had a chance to look through The Wall Street Journal. Peggy Noonan’s column, Remembering the Dawn of the Age of Abundance, was strangely wistful, but she ended on a note that really resonated with what we’re trying to do with MetroCascade:

I end with a hunch that is not an unhappy one. Dynamism has been leached from our system for now, but not from the human brain or heart. Just as our political regeneration will happen locally, in counties and states that learn how to control themselves and demonstrate how to govern effectively in a time of limits, so will our economic regeneration. That will begin in someone’s garage, somebody’s kitchen, as it did in the case of Messrs. Jobs and Wozniak. The comeback will be from the ground up and will start with innovation. No one trusts big anymore. In the future everything will be local. That’s where the magic will be. And no amount of pessimism will stop it once it starts.

You can see that her thoughts veer into several directions in this last paragraph, from garage- or kitchen-based innovation that churns through the world (globally – and big), to an affirmation of the not-so-big local focus. I got the impression that small and local isn’t yet her preferred comfort zone…?

But I think she’s really affirming that the heavy lifting is going to originate locally – and from the ground up, not from the top down.

Which also means it will have to be real, testable, confirmable, measurable, visible, and concrete – vs fantastic, uncontested (except by bullshitters), improbable, amorphous, mirrored, and abstract.

I can live with that.

The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

February 22, 2009 at 2:30 am | In links | Comments Off on The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Northern Voice 09 in Vancouver

February 20, 2009 at 9:36 pm | In northernvoice, vancouver | Comments Off on Northern Voice 09 in Vancouver

Really hate to do this, but here’s a plain-and-simple place-holder blog post: hey folks, I’m at Northern Voice 09 in Vancouver, and having a great time. Inundated with people and information, too, which is why I’m not blogging.

But – overall – having a great time.

Vancouver is marvelous – obviously a beneficiary of population growth. When I lived here in the eighties, there weren’t nearly as many people moving through here, keeping the place lubricated.

Having experienced Vancouver in the eighties makes me realize that the “build it and they will come” approach has to be a two-way street. You can’t build it if no one isn’t already there, but if you want people to be there, you have to build it, too.

Once you hit the right ratio, it’s like a perpetuum mobile.

Or a plant. Feed it right, give it water and light, and it does alright.

Quick note on Victoria politics and level playing fields

February 18, 2009 at 10:42 pm | In politics, scenes_victoria, victoria | 4 Comments

If I were perfect – and perfectly unencumbered by domestic and other obligations – I would write at length about two city of Victoria-related political events I attended in the last 24 hours.

Since I’m not perfectly unencumbered, however, that’ll have to wait.

But here’s foretaste (which serves also as a reminder to myself, in case I never get to the long version): the events were (A) a meeting called by the Victoria West Community Associaton and Victoria Member of Parliament Denise Savoie to gather public input regarding the proposed “mega yacht marina” project at the Songhees, 2/17; and (B) an Urban Development Institute luncheon featuring Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin who spoke to the assembled crowd about his – and his council’s – “vision” for Victoria’s development, 2/18.

Re. (A): I think this might be another case of putting all of one’s eggs into one basket – a large basket, but still a single, non-diversified basket. Not a good idea at the best of times, and since these are not the best of times, it’s even less of a good idea. I’m not worried about the alleged environmental impacts of dredging that section of the harbor (it’s even likely that dredging the harbor of its industrial and lumber gunk will restore seabed health), but I worry about the wisdom of asking multi-millionaires to fork over many thousands of dollars for the privilege of mooring their multi-multi-million dollar yachts at a marina where summer float plane traffic from the Harbour Airport proceeds to dump huge amounts of jet fuel residue and odor on patrons who are likely not to appreciate it. Bottom line: the Songhees condo dwellers already spend enough time kvetching about the working harbor (which includes a real airport with hundreds of flights from 7am to 10pm in the summer, not just a convenient water surface for occasional take-offs and landings), so what’s the benefit of adding a second constituency that will doubtlessly complain as loudly if not more so? Further, the condo dwellers are a captive audience and will continue to pay their property taxes to the city, while the second constituency is mobile (on luxury, aka “mega” yachts) and can just leave. Then what? A purpose-built facility built for just one purpose and for a very narrow niche market (admittedly lucrative) doesn’t seem like the best idea, given the scale of the project, the required investment, and the undeniable impact on the harbor and its current users …and the fact that the patrons can just sail away.

Can this one. Sorry. It’s clunky.

As for (B) – this one is trickier. Can’t sum it up in a few words, but let’s just say that I don’t buy Mayor Fortin’s talk of a “level playing field” for development. Let’s not forget who has the power to decide where the goalposts on this allegedly level field are (the current council). If you control the goalposts, then all talk of level playing fields is just BS.  One of the goalposts, for example, is called “skyline.” Here in Victoria that’s a loaded word, and code for a quite a few sore points. And here’s another thing that jumped out at me: Joe van Belleghem of Dockside Green introduced the Mayor in glowing terms, lauding him for his sense of direction and for being so accessible. Van Belleghem told us how he only managed to get to speak to the previous mayor once (that would be Alan Lowe, who was mayor for 3 terms – 9 years; Joe, you got to talk to Alan just once?, for real? hard to believe), but that he has been able to speak to Mayor Fortin 3 times already (since Nov. 08, i.e., in 3 1/2 months).

Yet here’s the contradiction: when Mayor Fortin spoke, he made a big point about how his new level playing field means that there’s no point in developers calling him to talk their projects over, that he and council work together and there’s no smoothing of paths by the mayor, and that all developers at any rate need to go see the Planning Department first and to get direction from Planning.

So who’s telling it straight, and whose level playing field are we on? Mayor Fortin named some names of people he favors and admires, including architect Franc d’Ambrosio (a personal friend of mine – at least I think he’s a friend, maybe he isn’t if he reads this?) – but Franc is known for preferring a low-rise skyline and as someone who believes that Victoria should emulate Paris with 6 to 7 storey buildings. Hmm. Level playing field, or just “these are my (our) conditions, take them or leave them”? Granted, there could be an advantage to that insofar as often enough one really couldn’t be sure which way the wind was blowing with the previous administration.

Incidentally, the overflow crowd at last night “mega yacht marina” meeting at City Hall had me sitting on the floor of the back corridor behind council chambers, which is normally off limits to the public. At one point Mayor Fortin left the meeting by the door I was crouching at, and he joked, “I see they’ve let the riff-raff in.” Very funny, Dean, and I know you were kidding, but I’m not just any riff-raff. I have a blog, I’m a citizen journalist, and I’m listening carefully.

Notes: spatial arrangements for cars and kids

February 17, 2009 at 3:57 pm | In notes, urbanism, victoria | Comments Off on Notes: spatial arrangements for cars and kids

Bear with me, gentle reader, as I try to describe in words a spatial relationship. Something about how the combination of roads and a school near my house affects pedestrian movement has been bugging me.

Around the corner from where I live are two east-west running arterials, Yates (one-way west-bound) and Fort (one-way east-bound), that merge just east of Fernwood Ave. (which runs north-south). After the merge Fort St. continues as a single two-way arterial.

The merge creates a triangular space, the very tip of which is occupied by a Shell gas station (map). From the tip of the triangle (where Yates and Fort merge) to the end of the gas station property is ~300ft. At the western edge of the gas station, the triangle is bisected by Fernwood Ave. Look to the west of Fernwood Ave., and you see Central Middle School (official address: 1280 Fort St.).

The school occupies the bulk of what follows in the triangle, with building and playing field stretching to Ormond St. in the west. (See this map for details.) Apartment buildings line Fort St. along the edge of the school’s playing field. The field is shielded from traffic, and the street in turn is shielded from the blank space of a school playing field that’s intermittently used.

So far so good, …except for pedestrian crossings. Fort St. is a busy one-way heading east (Yates heads west). Like Yates, Fort is a relatively densely built-up street with low-rise apartment blocks lining both sides. Fort St. now has a fairly decent (and new) bicycle lane as well, but, like Yates St., it’s clearly a hold-over from low-density automobile-oriented living, which explains why both arterials were streamlined into one-ways and why traffic generally speeds along both streets. Since both roads connect Oak Bay to downtown, the traffic isn’t insignificant, and both roads are used by the buses heading to and from the University of Victoria.

Let’s go back to the triangle’s apex where Fort and Yates merge. There you’ll find a crosswalk, but you won’t find one the additional 300 feet further west at Fernwood Ave., even though that’s a popular crossing point for people heading to catch buses to downtown on Yates, or for people crossing the street to walk up Joan Crescent to Craigdarroch Castle.

There is a crossing (with traffic lights!) another ~650 feet further west of the apex at Moss St., which is designed specifically to feed into the school’s property.

After that (heading west), there’s nothing for at least another ~900 feet at Linden St. In fact, it’s almost as if pedestrians are discouraged from attempting any crossing between Moss and Linden, even though there are two other cross streets abutting Fort (Pentrelew and Ormond), and there are a number of apartment buildings and services (veterinarian, church/ community center, dentist, several law offices) on either side of the road that make people want to cross.

So what gives?

It’s easy to blame car culture, but I don’t think it’s just that. I think the missing crossing opportunities are also a by-product of controlling children (middle schoolers), who are obliged to use the crossing-guard-manned “school crosswalk” at Moss Street during morning arrival and afternoon release. It’s to discourage their freedom – to cross the street at another unmanned crosswalk – that the rest of us are forced either to take our lives in hand by scurrying across the street (legally, by the way!) at intersections that have no crosswalk, or to go out of our way to cross the street where there are crosswalks.

Perhaps it’s a combination of controlling the kids and making room for cars. At any rate, we have two very wide arterials tearing through a relatively densely built up part of town, with too few options for pedestrians to cross, and it looks like it’ll stay that way unless we admit that even kids can cross an urban road without assistance.

We protect the children by giving fewer signals to drivers to stop for the rest of us at other points. Somehow that seems nuts.

The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

February 15, 2009 at 2:30 am | In links | Comments Off on The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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