Dear Bill: not the same old John anymore

June 22, 2008 at 10:20 pm | In housekeeping | 2 Comments

This week will continue in “blogging lite” mode as kids race to finish certain commitments that involve some help from me in the transportation department, while I take a stab at housekeeping on a couple of real and virtual fronts.

My brain is on fire with a wild idea, sparked by last week’s UDI luncheon where Alan Osborne from the Ministry of Community Services presented the Provincial Government’s reasoning behind Bill 27. (Green perspective here.) (A PDF describing Osborne’s recent presentation to a CRD panel here and a UVic presentation here.)

The big idea I’m having is that this Bill could provide a way (if the leadership were in place, if people with smarts were running things) for municipalities to assert real power, as opposed to letting the status quo languish under the guise of “municipalities in BC (and Canada) are but creatures of the Province(s), and therefore have no power to act.”

Incredibly, the Province of BC has handed municipalities a powerful, very very powerful tool with Bill 27: one that allows us (cities) to act with autonomy and strategy aforethought (vs being reactive and then blaming everyone else for our troubles).

I need to get this “brainstorm” into plus/minus 800-900 words by the end of this month, in time for my August FOCUS Magazine article. I’d like to get an additonal piece on Vibrant Victoria, too — it’ll be online and easily accessible there. So far, I haven’t seen much of anything remotely intelligent in the press on Bill 27. There’s the (NDP-friendly, fashionably lefty) Georgia Straight‘s somewhat partisan take, Bill 27: lowering B.C. housing prices or bankrupting municipalities?, but otherwise, not much. And sorry, guys at The Straight, but if you don’t see the power that this bill can give munis, you’re just blind. It will take real municipal leadership and clear thinking to seize the opportunity, however, so of course I’m not too optimistic….

Still here, take two

June 19, 2008 at 3:21 pm | In housekeeping | 2 Comments

Edit/update (see end of post)

It’s called “take two” because I started an earlier post with the “Still here” title. Somehow, that never made it past the “draft” phase…

This is just a quickie to let whoever still reads here know that I haven’t spontaneously combusted or anything.

It’s busy around me, which is a huge distraction.

My 17-year old is scrambling to finish two courses (one of which is quite grueling) by June 27, so that he is officially done with Grade 12 and can take up his studies at the University of Victoria in September (he was accepted into Year 1 of the B.Com program). Because of the number of tests and the number of hand-in assignments involved, there are constant deadlines.

There’s also a lot of paper flying around, books strewn all over the place, calculus scribbled all over the white board, and so on. And between you and me and the wall, I am going to be very glad when this is over and distance ed./ homeschooling is finished.

Yep, homeschooling and distance education will officially end sometime this summer, since my 14-year old has decided to finish her Gr.12 year at the high school I graduated from oh-so-many years ago.

And since that’s hardly enough, I’m also involved in starting a company. Can’t say much about that — all in production and stealth mode, as it were (actually, nothing to show yet), and my role, aside from muse, inspiration, and resident dragon-ette, is slight (since I couldn’t program my way out of a paper bag), but it’s energy/time-consuming all the same.

Aside from that, I spend my days in general busy-body-ness, sticking my nose into everything local. (Of course the start-up idea is infused by that proclivity, hence my pivotal role — in both worlds.)

Current mood: piqued. By what? Bill 27. I see it as a way for municipalities to assert independence and power, overcome their “creatures of the Province” po’h me attitude, and show some real leadership. All in the name of going green and reducing GHG.

More on that later.

Re. Edit/update: I should add that some of my need to post online what I write gets fulfilled via Twitter and Facebook, which lend themselves to microblogging in spurts (Twitter) and posting “oh wow” sort of links (Facebook).  I have a very small footprint on those sites, though, since I don’t attract a large following (sort of like this blog!), which keeps things easy to manage for me.

And speaking of easy to manage, to date I have not found my way to Jaiku or Pownce or Plurk or even FriendFeed.  Sometimes less is just a bit …less.  Stressful!

Articles page updated

February 12, 2008 at 12:16 pm | In FOCUS_Magazine, housekeeping | Comments Off on Articles page updated

It took a while, but I just uploaded my February 2008 FOCUS Magazine article, Ditch height restrictions; adopt “good design” prescriptions to my Articles published (etc.) page.

Might take a while to download, but it’s up.

(Update, 12/17/08: I changed the link for this article to direct readers to Scribd, which is where all my articles are uploaded to now.)

Housekeeping. Breadcrumbs.

February 11, 2008 at 7:21 pm | In housekeeping | Comments Off on Housekeeping. Breadcrumbs.

My February FOCUS Magazine article has been in print since the end of January, but I haven’t yet posted it as a PDF (above, see masthead). It’s just one of several “loops” I need to close — somehow that GTD thing doesn’t always work for me…

Another potential technical glitch is that my Harvard server hosts allow a limited amount of space for uploads. I’ve exhausted the majority of it with my articles so far, and might need to look for an alternative soon.

On another housekeeping note, I do leave comments from time to time on other blogs (example: this one) — and it didn’t occur to me until today that I should bookmark those posts (using Diigo), so that they appear in my “links”-tagged entries here. D’oh. In addition, I added the category “comments,” so that if a bunch of them eventually fill this blog, there’ll be a handy handle for finding them again. Breadcrumbs.

G. T. D.

G. T. D.

Repeat after me: getting things done. Not always easy.

Finally, I spent an hour or so looking for photos of shop windows designed by Naomi Yamamoto (for Shiseido). Couldn’t find any though, but did get lost on Flickr. Not enough breadcrumbs to find my way back… I did find this beautiful set called The Sublime Color of Northern Italy, by JMichaelSullivan. Beautiful.

I’m looking for brilliant shop window photos because I’m reading a spectacularly clever book by Mary Portas, Windows; The Art of Retail Display. Portas includes many photos of window displays by Yamamoto — I want to write a short article about this, perhaps for Vibrant Victoria‘s front page. We could really use some of Portas’s savvy insights in Victoria. A taste in closing:

Your TV show Mary, Queen of Shops is about you saving the high street, one shop at a time. Does it really need saving?

What it does need saving from is becoming the same high street, town after town after town. We have some of the best fashion high-street shopping in the world, and we have some of the worst, and my big concern is that we are becoming a nation that doesn’t know what really superb fashion shopping is about. The codes of supermarket retailing have come onto our fashion high street, as opposed to the codes of fashion retailing going into the supermarkets.

I like the idea of “the high street” as opposed to any other street, or all the same streets. Difference is good.

Poisoned fruit?

January 20, 2008 at 7:19 pm | In housekeeping | Comments Off on Poisoned fruit?

For anyone actually visiting / reading this blog, it must seem that my having gotten over a bout of December pneumonia, during the course of which I wrote much (laid up in bed with my laptop), also “cured” me of daily writing.

Not quite, as I’m still writing (but not necessarily publishing it here). It is the case, however, that I’m in the middle of a de-cluttering and re-arranging frenzy — which isn’t a brainstorm like that pneumonia-provoked one last month. But it is eating up a ton of time.

And (as always) there are family & domestic issues, which relentlessly whittle the free hours away. Not to mention that I could, as Marianne Faithfull says in that song, “clean the house for hours and rearrange the flowers” (or rather throw out at last the now-dead birthday bouquet), but at this point I couldn’t care less about dirt. Presently, dust bunnies procreate freely at my house, with hefty contributions of pet dander courtesy of my dog, who desperately needs a grooming.

Like master (or mistress), like chattel (or pet), I guess, but I have more important things to do.

I’m less embarrassed by my messy house than I am by the paucity of blog posts (excepting the Diigo links, which generate themselves every time I bookmark an article of interest).

At the same time, since I’m determined to keep the focus here on matters that relate to what I write about for the magazine, I’m loathe to write about other topics or about what’s going on in my personal life. So I’m not going to tell you about the scintillating council meetings I’ve attended, or my anxiety about another public speaking gig at yet another club here in Victoria (who knew these clubs existed?), or my involvement with local arts organizations, or the brilliant bits of ideas I’ve noted for future articles, or …or …or…

Not to worry, however: I’ll be back soon, and no, the fruit is not poisoned! (That being a reference to Montenegro, which uses Faithfull’s ballad to great effect. The film ends when the heroine murders her daffy family with poisoned fruit. I will let mine live.)

My FOCUS articles online (updated)

January 6, 2008 at 1:18 pm | In FOCUS_Magazine, housekeeping, writing | Comments Off on My FOCUS articles online (updated)

Slowly but surely, I’m getting there: scanning my FOCUS Magazine articles and converting them into PDFs, which I’m posting to my Articles published in FOCUS Magazine page, link visible at the top of this blog’s header.

So far, I have posted November 2006, December 2006, February 2007 through June 2007 (I didn’t have an article in the January 2007 issue), as well as the September 2007 and December 2007 articles.  Each title (clickable) is followed by a brief description as it appeared in the header of the published article (sometimes written by the magazine’s editor, sometimes written by me).

I still need to fix / eliminate a couple of “text only” PDFs, which I started with and which a couple of blog posts still link to.

A cautionary note: for some reason, the PDFs take eons to load. It’s not your connection, it’s not your computer. It’s the documents and the server. So just be patient if you actually do want to click through to read any of these pieces.

(Update, 12/17/08: I changed all the links for the Focus articles to direct readers to Scribd, which is where all my articles are uploaded to now.  The articles now load quickly, no hassle.)

Diigo Daily Public Links, update

December 23, 2007 at 1:22 pm | In housekeeping, links | Comments Off on Diigo Daily Public Links, update

Since that first, overly surfeited with information, Diigo Daily Public Links blog a couple of days ago, I altered the parameters — cleverly, I thought, to include only the links themselves, tagged “links” (so that the entry would be tagged “links” on my blog). Not a good idea, because what I inadvertently did was to set it so that only links I tagged “links” (vs. “urbanism,” cities,” or any of my other tags) would make it through the filter. Hence, nothing made it through, as I didn’t tag any of my bookmarks with “links.”

Ok, I went back to the Diigo site just now and fixed my mistake. Let’s see if it works now. Haven’t bookmarked anything in the last few hours, and don’t know if I will this afternoon, either. So it will probably be slim pickings for a while longer.

Stay tuned, I guess!

Update 2: It’s late afternoon, and my Daily Public Link just got posted.  It includes the link/ title of the article, and my main description, but as per my settings, none of what I underlined or any of my notes.

Oops, a surfeit of information

December 20, 2007 at 6:25 pm | In housekeeping | 1 Comment

The Daily Blog Post update worked (see the entry preceding this one), but I think I need to alter the parameters.  Talk about an avalanche of annotations!   I’ll change it to post only the links, and not all the stuff I underline or “backtalk” to…!

Links posting

December 19, 2007 at 5:41 pm | In housekeeping, links | Comments Off on Links posting

I use a really great service called Diigo, which has many features I’ve left unexplored. I’ll try to remedy that by installing the “Daily blog post” tool, which (as I understand it) uploads my public Diigo bookmarks once a day to this site (the vast majority of my bookmarks are private, but I’ll try to remember to keep some of them public…).

We’ll know soon if it works!

update: I might have to change my settings for this “Daily blog post” tool (if it even works for my blog, which has been known to have limitations — and not just the kind deriving from its author!).  Currently, the tool is set to blog not just the article link itself, but also all my underlining/ highlighting within the article, plus my commentary (the “stickies”).  As I sometimes get carried away with underlining and/ or adding comments, this could make for some damn long posts that could get tedious fast.  But I’ll wait and see, and decide once a bookmark actually get uploaded automatically.

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