Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Web 2.0 Wayback Machine:: CBC Presages Sprawl in an Automobile Age

This 1954 video from the CBC Archives goes across Canada to examine how various cities are dealing with affordable housing. The video tends to look to the suburbs as an ideal and often frames cities as problematic. The automobile is seen as a given. Some of the issues addressed::
  • Problem of substandard housing
  • Housing discrimination against couples with young kids
  • Regent Park {Toronto} public housing as well-built but impossible to get
  • Don Mills {Toronto} as a planned suburban community
  • Housing for elderly in Weston {Toronto}
  • Lower-cost suburban utopias near Ottawa, Montréal, and Vancouver
About 8 years ago, I was compiling data for a possible consulting project examining the consumption of place and space and working with community health data that had a housing component. Influencing my views was a book I read at UC-Berkeley, Housing As If People Mattered, but I started to realize how idealized patterns of living and land use, the housing bubble in California, and market pressures for profitable developments were leading to more and more sprawl. Seeing this video reminded me of these issues.

Twitterversion:: 1954 #CBCArchive Newsmagazine: Canadian affordable housing crisis.Presages sprawl in automobile age.#Web2_0WaybackMachine @Prof_K

Image:: Vidcap from CBC Newsmagazine, airdate 21 November 1954

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Too Much Anne of Green Gables Filter:: Charlottetown's One Trick Pony?

Maclean's loves its lists. Best Canadian universities. Smartest cities. Best-run cities. In a recent issue, Charlottetown was on the bottom of the list in Maclean's first annual best-run cities list, conducted by a Halifax think tank, AIMS. Another capital city was at the bottom of the list, Victoria, BC, which is another city in the periphery. While Charlottetown is deemed as a liveable city with solid governance and finance, the problems stem from the following::

  1. Hard to start businesses there
  2. Low numbers of immigrants per capita
  3. Shortage of outdoor space
  4. Over-reliance on seasonal tourism
  5. Relatively low business revenues
  6. Poor public transportation
One Charlottetown native was perturbed by the commercial onslaught known as the Anne of Green gables machine:: “It’s Anne chocolates, Anne shops, Anne everything." A friend of mine in college would complain about cinematography making quips like, "too much blue filter," when a scene was overly saturated with a colour and this turned into a meme for many years. I'm sure he would say upon visiting the capital of PEI, "too much Anne filter," and I might tend to agree, but oddly I wouldn't feel the same way about seeing commercialized Trailer Park Boys cash-grabs in Halifax/Dartmouth. Speaking of the TPB, Charlottetown is the birthplace of J-Roc. You can see him interviewing Sarah Polley on this blog post.

In terms of what I would call cultural capital {the basis for another Maclean's list on the smartness of cities}, Charlottetown is perfectly average {pdf of scorecard}.
What is interesting to me about these lists is how cultural capital is often linked to growth and financial capital, albeit with notable exceptions like Windsor, ON.

The city's defenders are right to claim that Charlottetown shouldn't be compared to cities like Toronto, Montréal, or Vancouver. It's a small city with a population of 32,000 and while the extent and usage of public transit might seem disappointing, the city core is fairly compact and walkable.

I'm thinking that Charlottetown is not one of the worst-run cities. It's economy is dominated by tourism, agriculture, fishing, and the public sector, which isn't surprising given that it's in the periphery. There is a small tech. sector there, which the government is investing R&D money in, but in order to be a vibrant and diversified economy, there will have to be strategic investments in local institutions and infrastructure, as the cultural capital indicators show. At the end of the day, residents of Charlottetown and PEI may not be interested in more business and growth.

Twitterversion:: Charlottetown,PEI @ bottom Maclean's Best-runCitiesList.AnneofGrnGables tourist mecca not biz friendly,whichMayBeSavingIt @Prof_K

Song:: Stuck For The Summer - Two Hours Traffic {Charlottetown, PE}

Monday, July 27, 2009

Québec & Canadian Federal Politics:: Does a Parliamentary Majority Depend on La Belle Province?

Alternative version on ASA's ThickCulture.

Late last week the CBC reported on an EKOS poll stating that the majority of Canadians wanted a majority government. Barely. The poll have the following options::
  1. Conservative (PC) majority 26%
  2. Liberal (LP) majority 25%
  3. Conservative (PC) minority 9%
  4. Liberal minority (LP) 15%
  5. None of the above 25%
In terms of Federal vote intention, here's how the numbers broke down::

Québec As a Path to a Majority?

An article a week and a half ago by the Montréal Gazette brings up a controversial argument::
"Quebecers more than others have it in their power to break this log-jam, by taking a more active hand in national governance instead of 'parking' their votes with an increasingly irrelevant Bloc Québécois. Had Quebecers voted for national parties in the same proportion as other Canadians in the last election, we would have a majority government. The instability of minority times makes the government of Canada weaker, which serves the sovereignists' interests but not the public interest."
No. Looking at Québec polls, while I've noticed the Bloc Québécois {BQ} numbers slipping since the 2008 election on the 308 blog, the Gazette's line of reasoning is unlikely to lure enough Québec voters to the Conservative or Liberal camps. In the EKOS full report {pdf}, 59% polled want a minority government or "none of the above," with respect to the major party scenarios. The Gazette said that in the Harris-Decima poll {pdf} that 63% of Quebecers want a majority, but the poll also reported that the desired election outcome in the province has under 50% wanting a majority government. According to the EKOS poll, the federal vote intention in the in Québec shows a plurality of support for the Bloc::

The 2008 federal results in Québec saw BQ making a strong showing with 49 seats of 75. The map below shows Bloc in light blue, Conservatives (PC) in dark blue, Liberals (LP) in Red, and New Democrats (NDP) in orange. The Bloc is strong throughout the province, while the Conservatives have support in a few rural areas, and the Liberals and NDP have appeal in or near the cities of Montréal and Ottawa.

The current polls compiled on threehundredeight show that the Bloc is still polling well and that overall Liberal support appears to be gaining at the expense of the Conservatives. I don't see a Liberal majority on the horizon in Canada, let alone Québec being a factor in a Liberal majority. So, given the polls, I don't see Québec as playing any role in moving Canada towards a majority or even a coalition. Unless the Conservatives and PM Stephen Harper do something soon, a Liberal minority government may well come to pass. While the instability may be unsettling and frustrating, I don't see a majority or a coalition forming in the near future. I do see opportunities for the Greens and possibly the NDP for gaining seats in the turbulent political environment.

Liberal Surge in Québec:: Cultural Politics
Last month, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff showed how hard it is to manage perceptions in Québec as the leader of a Canada-wide party. While promising restoring funding to the arts and appointment of Québecers to cabinet posts, he also said he has no plans to give Québec any special powers, if elected as Prime Minister. This opened the Liberals open to criticism in the province by rival parties.
"It's the same good old Liberal Party of Canada that wants to put Québec in its place."--Pierre Paquette, Bloc MP Joliette

"It shows that he's not only been out of Canada for 35 years, he's never known anything about Québec except what he learned at Upper Canada College and, frankly, I'm not afraid of him a bit."--Thomas Mulcair, NDP MP Outremont
The nuances of the issue of sovereignty and its manifestations is far too complex to go into here, so suffice it to say that concerns of Québec as a distinct society are far from settled. According to Andrew Cohen's The Unfinished Canadian, Québecers are more likely to be ambivalent towards the idea of a federal Canada, which isn't that surprising. Stephen Harper has done precious little to appeal to Québec, while Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, in my opinion, doesn't help things with statements like::
"The best possible Canada is a Canada where Québecers are in power...The Bloc Québécois is not a solution for a better Québec and Canada."--Michael Ignatieff, 3 June 2009 at a Montréal fundraiser
While Ignatieff may have had his reasons, the Bloc represents a set of meanings to many Québecers and I fail to see the upside of antagonizing the Bloc. The tories went after the Bloc earlier in the summer, accusing the party on being soft on pedophiles because they didn't support tougher legislation on minimum sentencing for child trafficking. The ads haven't affected polls and the Conservatices are still falling behind. Having appeal in Québec requires subtlety. As stated above, Harper hasn't done much to appeal to Quebecers, but Conservative writer Bob Plamondon in a Macleans article gets at the heart of the matter. Harper needs to understand culture in order to build social capital::
“I don’t think it was so much that those specific policies were abhorred by Quebecers...because in the scheme of government activities, they are relatively minor issues. But they spoke to larger issues—does Stephen Harper understand Quebec and can he be trusted? I think Quebecers drew the conclusion that he’s disconnected from them. They couldn’t identify among Harper’s team a particularly strong lieutenant who had near-veto power over what went on in Ottawa with respect to those matters that are of particular concern to Quebecers."
I don't see that happening, but I can see him using fiscal controls on Ottawa as an appeal to Québec and fiscal conservatives in other provinces. In any case, the Bloc and the Liberals are likely to go head-to-head in several swing ridings. In the 2008 election, there were 8 federal ridings that where the outcome was within 5%, with the Bloc in 5 close races with the grits, 2 close races with the tories, and 1 three-way race with the grits and dippers in Gatineau. The following is a list of the 8 closest ridings with the winning party the percent margin and the next closest party::
  1. Brossard-La Prairie [near Montréal] (LP) +.1% over BQ
  2. Ahuntsic (BQ) [Montréal] + .9% over LP
  3. Haute-Gaspésie/La Mitis/Matane/Matapédia [Gaspé] (BQ) +1.9% over LP
  4. Brome-Missisquoi [Eastern Townships/Cantons de l'Est] (BQ) +2.4 over LP
  5. Jeanne-Le Ber [Montréal] (BQ) +2.6 over LP
  6. Gatineau (BQ) [Ottawa] +3.1 over NDP, +3.9 over LP
  7. Roberval/Lac St. Jean [rural Sanguenay] (PC) +3.8 over PC
  8. Beauport-Limoilou [Québec City] (PC) +4.2% over BQ
The Web 2.0 Gap
Given the Liberal surge, it will be interesting how the Bloc responds. In the francophone Québec blogosphere, the following catchy Bloc video went somewhat viral in 2004 in the pre-YouTube era, as part of the "un parti propre au Québec/a party proper to Québec" campaign.

Given how 41% of younger voters under 25 support the Bloc {see above table on federal vote intention in Québec} and how Bloc support skews younger, I expect to see more Bloc use of Web 2.0 in the future, i.e., more use of YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, although there's clearly work to be done. Michael Geist noted how Canadian politics was stuck in Web 1.0 last election::
"Each party had the requisite websites, yet their most innovative initiatives - the Conservatives' and the Liberals' to name two - were quickly dismissed as juvenile sites that did more harm than good...With months of advance preparation, why did the parties perform so poorly? Part of the reason may stem from the Canadian approach to political campaigns, which emphasizes advance planning with each day fully scripted. Far from the decentralized model that thrives online, Canadian political parties have embraced the exact opposite - a model of top-down, hierarchical messaging with even local candidates constrained and required to follow a common playbook."
With the Conservatives struggling for relevance and all of the remaining parties needing cost-effective ways to build community and foster civic engagement, it's about time.

Twitterversion:: Canadians supposedly want a majority government & Montréal Gazette thinks Québec can play a role in delivering it. Unlikely given polls&cultural politics. @Prof_K

Song:: Tricot Machine -L'Ours {Montréal, QC}

newmusicmonday #2:: Lindi Ortega

Lindi Ortega is on Feist's label, Cherry Tree Records and CBC Radio 3 has featured her "Dying of Another Broken Heart." A video of a live performance is here. A Toronto area native raised in a town near a nuclear power plant {Pickering? Darlington?}, Lindi is currently on tour with Kevin Costner. Last week on her MySpace blog, she was quite relieved to find out that Kevin's allowing his film and musical spheres to overlap::

"So I did a little bit of youtubing today, and I saw some videos of Kevin Costner playing The Opry! I was happy to see that he fondly references his movie career and won’t be going all Billy Bob Thorton on my ass if I should happen to say something about how much I loved him in ‘Dances with Wolves’. I must admit though.. I got a really good chuckle out of the Billy Bob Thorton interview."

I've only heard a few of Lindi's tracks, which I would categorize as "blue state folksy pop." A tad evocative of Jolie Holland, I'm looking forward to hearing more of her stuff in the future. Eyeweekly gave a positive review of her EP, "The Drifter", albeit sparse on details. A forthcoming album is due this fall. I've always been a sucker for a few Buddy Holly songs and liked her cover of "Everyday," as there's nothing like a good 1-2 minute pop or punk song in my book.

Twitterversion:: #TorontoIndie artist Lindi Ortega est.niche in bluestatefolk genre. Strong vox, engagng arrngmnts,&dk lyrics. #musicmonday @Prof_K
Image:: YenC on Flickr
Song:: Everyday - Buddy Holly

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Flavoura Boréalis

My last post on Ontario craftbrews made me think of Boréale beer, which I haven't been able to procure in Toronto. I've only tried the blanche and the rousse, but the cuivrée and noire really caught my eye. Founded in 1987, the brewers of Boréale, Les Brasseurs du Nord, were part of the microbrew renaissance in Québec, challenging the dominance of the mass-market brewers, Molson and Labatt. BeerAdvocate reviewers are less impressed that I was, so I'm curious what my take will be when I visit Montréal next month.

Speaking of Québec breweries, I came across the 2007 branding story of microbrewer McAuslan battling Labatt, as the former accused the latter of marketing its St. Urbain in ways that were aimed at destroying the St. Ambroise brand. This David vs. Goliath story reminded me of the Scotch Whiskey Association trying to disallow a Canadian single-malt scotch distiller in Nova Scotia from using the term "glen" in their trademark "Glen Breton." The Canadian Federal Court of Appeals allowed Glenora distillery to use the Glen Breton trademark, citing that "glen" was not in widespread enough use to be equated with whiskeys distilled in Scotland. McAuslan countered with a "beware of false saints" campaign, while Labatt contended they were merely giving consumers more choice with their positioning of St. Urbain. Fussy drinkers on the BeerAdvocate weren't impressed with St. Urbain and the discussion is adacemic, as Labatt discontinued the brand.

My French is rusty, so I'm not getting all of the humour in these commercials, but here are a few from Boréale. I wasn't able to track down the ad agency.

Twitterversion:: Any fans of Boréale beer from Québec? No luck getting it here in #Toronto. #Montréal @Prof_K

Whose Data Is It Anyway?:: Gov2.0 in the US & Canada

Crossposted on ThickCulture.

Most people don't know who Carl Malamud is and probably don't care, but he's the guy who wants the US Patent & Trademark Office and the National Archives and Records Administration to offer up its bulk data for free. The idea is by allowing open access, non-profits and third-parties will use new technologies like Web 2.0 to create wikis and applications, allowing for better transparency and value-creation.

Web 2.0 & the Free

Yesterday, I blogged about intellectual property {IP} in a global context with pricing pressures towards the free. In an era of piracy and difficult enforcement of IP rights, what's an IP producer to do? The "work" must be a part of a model that generates value. Today, in my inbox I received an announcement from the God Help the Girl project, a "story set to music" envisioned by Glasweigian Stuart Murdoch of Belle & Sebastian fame. There was an announcement about a BBC4 documentary on the band airing in the UK and a mention of how fans can "subscribe" to the music on their website::
God Help the Girl subscription

Those familiar with B&S know of Stuart Murdoch's entrepreneurial roots. The band starting off as a college course project and going viral in 1996-97 is a story that DIY indie rock legends are made of. So, it should come as no surprise that Murdoch is on top of the Web 2.0 concept of the "free." Sure, you can hear the track "Funny Little Frog" on the site and see videos on YouTube for free, but the die hard fan can experience God Help the Girl directly in their mailboxes and inboxes for $47US in North America or £40.50 in the UK. The idea here is to go beyond the song as a digital commodity, but the creation of value and meaning to people that gets them to subscribe. The "free" stuff is the hook. The danger is offending fans with a seemingly-blatant cashgrab, territory in which The Pixies have ventured in.

Gov 2.0

While some corners of indie music are catching on to Web 2.0, what about government? Will the government see that they would serve the public good by creating value through the availability of free access to Federal databases? The Obama administration has promised openness and transparency, but what are the current realities? Unfortunately, the US agencies in question that Malamud is fighting aren't always interested in free. There are prohibitive paywalls for annual subscriptions to the federal regulations and patent databases to the tune of $17,000US and $39,000US, respectively. The US government isn't making a lot of money off of this, which begs the question why the high prices? It makes one suspect that the corporate interests have a vested interest in maintaining an information oligarchy with the government's support. While this may be a case of negligent gatekeepers, I've heard anecdotal tales of US Department of Labor data being suppressed for political reasons and have seen access granted to "restricted" data based on social ties.

Opening up these databases will likely see a flurry of usage, usage of data that's public. If Malamud gets his way, in the future if you need government data on such-and-such, there'd be an app for that. Ideally.

Canadian Example

Up here in Canada, I came across a data barrier with respect to Federal electoral ridings {districts} and postal codes. So, if a non-profit is interested in doing an advocacy campaign where voters e-mail Federal candidates for Parliament, there's a pricetag on that public data. The cost from Statistics Canada is $3,000 CAN, which doesn't seem like a lot, but it's sufficient enough to be a barrier for many nonprofits and smaller colleges. A UK company, Advocacy Online, is utilized by some organizations needing this data, turning the cost barrier into a revenue stream for them. Should this data be free? Wouldn't that serve the public good, as we would see more and more usage and possibly more civic engagement?

The handwriting is on the wall regarding the power of data access in Canada. In the last Canadian federal election, VoteforEnvironment created a mashup of election data, riding data, postal code data, and Google maps. This allowed users to make better, data-driven choices about strategic voting, where voters make their choices on the basis of how their vote affects Parliamentary makeup, not on the basis of party. The implications according to CBC are compelling::
"If every green voter followed the website's suggestions (as of Saturday), it says that instead of electing a Conservative minority of 141 MPs to 73 Liberals, 57 Bloc, 35 NDP, and no Greens, the electoral result would shift to a Liberal minority with 109 MPs to 97 Conservatives, 53 Bloc, 46 NDP, and one Green."

Here in Toronto Centre, when you punch in the postal code on the VfE, voters get a summary and their anti-Tory recommendation. Ex-Dipper Bob Rae has a safe seat as a Liberal candidate, so the recommendation is to vote your conscience.

Toronto Centre federal riding

Tim O'Reilly has a few interesting ideas on Gov 2.0. It's a time for fewer barriers, including those of cost. If any data should be free, shouldn't it be public data?

Images:: God Help the Girl subscription page & Toronto Centre federal riding information from

Twitterversion:: Will free access to Federal data enable #Gov2.0, increase transparency, & civic engagement?Implications for US & #Canpoli @Prof_K

Song:: Funny Little Frog - God Help The Girl

The Web 2.0 Wayback Machine:: Do You Know Who This Is?

Leftist activist who had a few teeth knocked out during a clash with police at a protest at Queen's Park. She was appointed to David Miller's transition team in 2003. Native of the GTA. Has turned down and quit TV & film projects based on principles.

Who is this & which show is this clip from? It's from late 1996.

If you haven't gotten it by now, here's a hint in the form of a film quote from a project she was in::
"As you see her, two years later, I wonder if you realize something. I wonder if you understand that all of us - Dolores, me, the children who survived, the children who didn't - that we're all citizens of a different town now. A place with its own special rules and its own special laws. A town of people living in the sweet hereafter."
Click on the image {above} to play clip. From the CBC Archives. CBC show clip is from.

Twitterversion:: Web2.0 wayback machine w/clip from #CBCArchives. Who is this & which show is this from? #Rhizomicomm #Toronto #Canada @Prof_K

Song:: Young Galaxy- "Come & See" {Montréal, QC}

Whose IP Is It Anyway?:: Work in the Age of Infinite Reproduction

Innovation map from
Image:: Innovation map from
Crossposted on ThickCulture

I'm currently working on an ethnographic paper examining innovation in a global context. The above map is a depiction of innovation clusters throughout the world, on the dimensions of patent growth and firm diversity. As it turns out, the area I'm looking at is off the chart with very high growth and few firms. The area is also one where western notions of property rights are out the window. The main question we are addressing is how should firms innovate globally when their intellectual property {IP} rights are tenuous or uncertain? The economic argument for granting exclusive property rights is to ensure an entrepreneurial entity has the incentives to commercialize an idea. So, an innovator is allowed a monopolist position for a period of time, allowing for a path to cash and attracting investors, in order to ensure there is grist for the innovative mill. In our research, exclusive property rights may exist, but aren't enforced. This begs the question, why is there growth? Why would anyone invest in such a chaotic environment? There must be some value in doing so. Finally, I think it would be interesting to re-examine the above map with cultural dimensions, not in terms of sweeping generalizations, but nuanced, regional differences like the ones AnnaLee Saxenian found between Silicon Valley and Route 128 in Massachusetts.

Macleans had two articles on the buzz generated by Chris Anderson's {Wired editor and proponent of the long tail} new book, Free: The Future at a Radical Price, which Russell has referred to. The first article talked Anderson's ideas of "freeconomics," where costs of storage and distribution are approaching zero and consumer behavior can go viral when the price is free. It goes on to describe how critics were lambasting Anderson for his notions, including Malcolm Gladwell's savaging of the book in the New Yorker. The other article invokes Frankfurt School critical theorist Walter Benjamin to highlight a trend where what is valued is what cannot be readily reproduced and digitized...the return of aura of the experience.

How does this relate to global IP concerns?

Let's assume that we're in an economic reality where intellectual "work" can often be readily digitized and reproduced infinitely. We're talking creative content, educational resources, biotechnology/genetic information, etc., so it would seem that the producers of music, film, news journalism, the university lecture, and the sequenced genome all have a dog in this fight. Producers of valuable things want to profit from their efforts. Their investors demand it. Here comes Chris Anderson saying that the new economic model is to offer things for free.

Enter Malcolm Gladwell and other naysayers. Gladwell asserts that Anderson is wrong on several counts. The YouTube business model has failed to make money for Google, hence the "free" business model is untenable. The logic of "free" is flawed, as capital-intensive infrastructures, costly complementary goods and services, and downstream costs often mean that goods simply cannot be free. One can nitpick the flaws in Gladwell's arguments. He cites that the costs of clinical trials is what drives up pharmaceutical prices, which is true today, but the objective with biotech. is to use genomics to better target the use of molecules for specific therapies geared towards specific diseases and specific people, based on genetic profiling. To use an "Obamaism," the idea is to bend the innovation curve.

When IP faces rampant piracy or when property rights are not or cannot be enforced, globally, the potential of infinite reproduction puts pricing pressures towards the free, whether the producer likes it or not. This is what's happening to the firms in our research. The successful global firms we studied are the ones that are embracing cultural particulars and negotiating as best they can their claims to IP revenue streams.

Interestingly, Chris Anderson has been accused of cribbing IP from sources like Wikipedia, acting like a veritable Web 2.0 Jack Sparrow. The question I have is does this or should this diminish the value of his book by readers? Is this a violation of some "authorly" ethics or is this just the new IP where everything is up for grabs and the key is deliver value. Anderson even stated that one could get the information in Free by compiling blog posts and articles, but that the book adds value by synthesizing it. He also practices what he preaches. One can read Free for free, but just because it's free, doesn't mean it will be easy. The free versions of the book text are limited by format or are DRM-protected. Some consumers are complaining because of different expectations of what "free" means, but this approach is consistent to Anderson's core ideas. Being in Canada, I'll have to jump through more hoops to read this for free, due to publishing restrictions, but I'll figure it out and I'm actually looking forward to reading it.

Is this commerce or is this anarchy? The lessons being learned are similar to those in the second Macleans article. The focus needs to be on the delivery of value, rather than the protection of rights. Globalization is achieving what a thousand socialist mandates could not. The erosion of property rights is forcing firms to figure out how to deliver value when an innovation is free. Web 2.o has offered firms the ability to do what I have called "stagesetting" in several research projects and a case on Pixar. Stagesetting is where a firm has a sequential approach to its ultimate strategic objectives. We see firms trying to leverage network effects to create value for users through sites and technologies using social media. Flickr has no value with hundreds of users, but has tremendous value with millions. One can talk about MySpace, Twitter, and Facebook revenues in terms of advertising, but the holy grail is the data mining and finding what the exact value proposition is to generate revenues from business and institutional clients. The "freemium" model of the basics for free, but added features are extra, is based upon stagesetting, where value is created. What Anderson offers is a glimpse into a global economic reality and gives firms the incentives to rethink the nature of value...or they can try their luck in the courts, like the RIAA did with prosecutions of a Minnesota mom and college kids.

Twitterversion:: Will IP matter in global contxt?ChrisAnderson=Web2.0 JackSparrow decentrng IP auth,making value-creation salient. @chr1sa @Prof_K

Song:: O.P.P - Naughty By Nature - lyrics

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Toronto Wayback Machine:: Can You Guess Where This Is?

Warning:: Clicking on links of doing searches based on signage in the photos may cause you to find the answer.
This bit of Toronto real estate in the first photo no longer exists, but the Royal Bank of Canada {RBC} branch is still at that corner. The photo is circa 1960s. I'll try to get a firm date on it.

The second photo might give some clues to where this is. The tower in the background went up in the early/mid-1970s.

Mr. Zum's was a hamburger chain and I've read it had the same corporate owners as the Harvey's chain. If you search for Mr. Zum, you'll stumble on the answer to where this is.

The final photo is from 1926. You can see the architecture of the RBC
building in the background. Near the intersection was the home of Senator William McMaster and Moulton College, the latter eventually becoming McMaster University. The intersection is currently mired in controversy, although not the corner where the RBC building was.

Can you guess the exact corner where the RBC was?

The answer is here.

Twitterversion:: Web2.0 wayback machine w/ 3 old photos of a #Toronto intersection. Do you know where this is? #Rhizomicomm #Urbanism @Prof_K

"So the map says ‘you are here’/Waltzing in a garbage pile/Sweating like a weather’s vein/Coughing thunder, sneezing rain
I will never see the sun/Spadina, St. George, Bay, and Yonge/One for nothing, all for one/Spadina, St. George, Bay and Yonge"

newmusicmonday #1:: Monday Rebel

A tad late for a Monday, but here we go. Sifting through the CBC Radio 3 new music playlists, Orléans, Ontario's Monday Rebel's "What If" caught my ear. You can hear the track on CBC, along with 8 other tracks. Glenn Smith's guitarwork reminds me a little of Lloyd Cole's solo stuff circa 1990, but he describes the band's sound as "Pretenders meets Dire Straits." Smith's a Stones fan who got to tour with Mick Taylor, ex-guitarist of the Stones, in 2003. Vocalist Lisa Thompson is a great complement to the arrangements, which are steeped in classic rock roots.

My favourite tracks of theirs on CBC Radio 3 are the ones with more of a pop feel, which is pretty much by bag. "What If," "I'll Be Fine," and "Phoenix." Their new album is War Stories and the track "Awake in Me" is 14th. on last week's's indie chart. I'm checking to see if Soundscapes in Toronto is carrying the album, which is available at CDBaby.

newmusicmonday was spawned of the hashtag #musicmonday on Twitter.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Crafty Brews from Ontario

A while back, after seeing a pre-release screening of (500) Days of Summer {walk, don't run}, I felt the need for a beer or 6. In the local LCBO, I spied the Ontario Discovery Pack v2 by the Ontario Craft Brewers. I've been meaning to try more local brews, which I've really haven't done since I've lived in the Pacific Northwest {Eugene, OR}. The six selections are {L to R}:: Confederation Ale—The Robert Simpson Brewing Company, Nut Brown Ale—Black Oak Brewing Company, Elora Irish Ale—Trafalgar Ales and Meads, Tankhouse Ale—Mill Street Brewery, Auburn Ale—Cameron's Brewing Company, and Nickel Brook Apple Pilsner—Better Bitters Brewing Company.

On the box were tasting notes, which also listed the type of beer {all ales and 1 pilsner} and alcohol content. When I was a "homebrewer" back when I was a "gradual student," I developed a taste for stouts, which would make me rather stout if I quaffed now what I did then. A friend of mine {David Rankin} and I would brew 5 gallon batches of stout that eventually was good enough to make us turn up our noses at Guinness. The best part was having brewing parties, where we would show people the process and somehow drinking too much ouzo became part of the ritual. I think we were mesmerized by the louche effect created when we put the liqueur on the rocks. I also became quite good at creating a half-and-half, with our stout layered over a Smithwick's or a Harp. I later learned that you can also do this with certain hard ciders and have been known to do this on my own here, one of my favourite places in California.

I'm looking forward to my Discovery Pack. The last time I went out of my way to sample local beers was in 2006. After the Sociology meetings in Montréal, I sought out local Québec microbrews, lugging quite a few down to appreciative beer drinkers in NYC. While having flavours that took some getting used to, my favourite was Boréale's blanche. {I'll have to pick up some Boréale products when I'm in Montréal next month, as they're not stocked by the LCBO or The Beer Store.} I wish there was more geographic representation of the breweries within the province {all are in the Golden Horseshoe}, but I'm sure the Ontario Craftbrewers had to make tough choices, given the sales requirements to be carried by the LCBO, which is the topic for another blog. I'm just hoping it helps me to break out of my rut. I've been reluctant to get too adventurous with the long list on the wall at The Beer Store, with the default being Upper Canada.

I'll post on any standouts.

Twitterversion:: New version of #Ontario Craftbewers Discovery Pack is out at the #LCBO. All ales and 1 lager. #beer #Rhizomicomm #Canada @Prof_K

Song:: She's Crafty - The Beastie Boys

Video:: Beer Store in Strange Brew

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Twittersays:: AT&T Fail!

In California, I had AT&T for land-line service, which was a whole lot of OK. Way back in 1997 I had PacBellWireless as my carrier, which was one of the guppies that was swallowed up by what was to become the current incarnation AT&T. I seem to recall a 10 minute plan for $20 between 1997 & 2000 using a clunky Motorola {StarTAC?}. Now, a friend of mine, who is a heavy mobile user, in fact, he's a "media mover," thinks they suit him just fine in the LA area. No dropped calls and OK data access, albeit at a relatively high price. My T-Mobile service with spotty reception in some areas of California {LA & San Francisco} would have been unacceptable to him, but I'm not a heavy mobile user, I'm a "digital collaborator." Here in Toronto, a 10 minute plan would work just fine for me, as my tendency is to use the cellphone in the car and I rarely drive now.

So, AT&T can't seem to buy a break this year. At the beginning of they year, the ACSI's customer satisfaction index numbers saw them drop and now they're under the industry average {See below}.

AT&T was second in market share, while slipping to 67 on a 100 point customer satisfaction index. While the graph to the left depicts a cubic function relationship between market share and customer satisfaction, there are not enough data points to establish this and the smaller carriers are lumped into the "other" category, which aggregates that data and reduces information. BTW, don't get me started on the problems with market share as a metric.

Then, a few days ago, a financial analyst noted that AT&T's future looked dim if Verizon landed the Apple iPhone agreement. It gets worse. So, on Saturday night/Sunday morning, one of Twitter's trending topics was "AT&T is a big." The basis of this was the viral retweeting of a MG Siegler TechCrunch blog post titled "AT&T Is a Big, Steaming Heap of Failure." The blog details a customers frustrations::
"When Om Malik of GigaOM said he was breaking up with his iPhone 5 months ago because of the failures of AT&T, I must admit, I thought he was overreacting. I was wrong.
Since I switched to AT&T from Verizon just over 2 years ago to get the iPhone (which, of course, AT&T has exclusively in the U.S.), there have been no shortage of shortcomings by AT&T. But as of late, I’ve been noticing things getting much, much worse. And I’m hardly the only one. And so it’s time to call out AT&T on those failures. And plead with Apple not to renew its exclusive contract with AT&T when it expires next year."
The blog had 310 comments and counting, while on Twitter, "AT&T is a big" was a trending topic much of late Saturday night, competing with "#IndonesiaUnite," "Michael Jackson," "James Brond," and "#KeepPaula."

Like Amazon fail and United breaking guitars, here's another example of consumers using social media to critique or bash a company.

I did a Twitter search for AT&T accounts and found several, along with an anti-AT&T account, ATandTHatesYou. The profile image is the AT&T logo as the the Empire's "Death Star" {left} made me chuckle. An official AT&T news Twitter account was silent, with no Tweets since Friday, so Lisa and Lindsey had the weekend off. I wonder if they say anything on Monday. Last year, when the AT&T network went down in Hawai'i, users Tweeted @ATTNews and finally did get a response and Twitter users were the first to know about a one day service credit available upon request. I quickly scanned the AT&T social media links and saw nothing on this PR nightmare, in terms of posts or responses. This shouldn't be surprising to AT&T, since Twitter has been a hotbed of complaining. It will be interesting to see how AT&T handles this, if at all, or if the mainstream media pick up on this.

Twitterversion:: Just not AT&T's year w/bad news. Now, TwitteRage swells as "AT&T Is a Big" blogpost goes viral. #ATTFail #Rhizomicomm @Prof_K

Song {Probably one of the best Pavement songs}:: AT&T - Pavement

Friday, July 17, 2009

How Do You Spell Relief, Toronto?:: Saga of Subway Lines South of Bloor/Danforth

Last Friday, I blogged about Toronto as a walkable city on here and at ThickCulture. I'm enjoying Mary Soderstrom's book, Walkable City, and plan on making trips out to Don Mills {Toronto} and Mount Royal {Montréal} soon.

This week, I was alerted to the possibility of Toronto's Downtown Relief Line being fastracked by a Toronto councillor. {HT:: LQ} The Downtown Relief Line has been talked about for a century, was studied heavily in the 1980s, and fell through the political cracks. According to this interesting post on Transit Toronto, the Conservatives typically were in favour of funding TTC projects, while the Liberals in the 1980s were wary the $5B pricetag for Network 2011 {a comprehensive transit plan} after finally coming to power in Ontario after 42 years. Current talk of a Downtown Relief Line is building a subway from Pape station on the Bloor/Danforth south to Leslieville. The route would follow Eastern, the Gardiner, and Front Street over to Spadina. Extensions would take the line westward to Queen West and back up to the Bloor/Danforth line at Dundas West. This is close to this fantasy map featured on the Torontoist, with a line along the DVP/Broadview rather than Pape.

This made me think about both density and how mass transit could shape development and increase property values along subway corridors. Currently, I don't have GIS capabilities and I'm an ArcView novice in any case, so I created a map in Photoshop by brute force. I took a map on SpacingToronto that had a current TTC route map along with the city's high rise apartments. I stripped out the white background, making it transparent, and saved it as a png file. I then took a 2006 density map from UrbanToronto, which became the main layer in my Photoshop file {.psd}. I rotated and resized the TTC route map until I saw it roughly corresponded with the density map and inserted it as a layer into the Photoshop file. I didn't have time to change the colour of the TTC route map that would have increased legibility, but I tried to help identify the subway lines by labeling them. If anyone wants the .psd file, e-mail me or leave a comment & I'll get it to you.

Looking at this map {click to see magnifiable image on Picasa}, where do you think the downtown relief line should go? Other than the proposed University line extension to York University, where do you think subways should go?

Image:: Ad for Network 2011 proposal placed by TTC in the Toronto Star, ca. 1985. TransitToronto I dig the kid's Safeway cap.

Twitterversion:: #Toronto Dwntwn Relief Subwy Line may have new life.I created a density map w/curr.#TTC routes.Where should new lines go? @Prof_K


Dont Sleep In The Subway - Marie-France Arcilla & Ensemble

Thursday, July 16, 2009

What's This Cap-and-Trade Business?:: In the US, It's All About Business

On ThickCulture, I blogged about the BC carbon tax, which was implemented by the Gordon Campbell's BC-Liberal {centre-right} government. The BC carbon tax was revenue neutral, where the taxes were collected at the point of consumption, but reallocated on the basis of income. The NDP {centre-left} used the unpopular carbon tax as a wedge issue in the May 2009 election and were hammered by environmentalists. Historically, the carbon tax has one success story:: Denmark. Monica Prasad at Northwestern claims that Denmark was able to do it through subsidizing private sector innovations and heavy investing in alternatives. I don't think these strategies are limited to the carbon tax and can also be applied to cap-and-trade. The NDP in BC and at the federal level support a cap-and-trade system, which is also favoured by the Obama administration. Jack Layton, NDP leader, last fall criticized the carbon tax, stating the NDP position of::
  1. targets the big polluters
  2. creates incentives to radically reduce carbon production
  3. consumer protection against energy price gouging
This was in contrast to the pro-carbon tax stances of Stephane Dion and do nothing approach of Stephen Harper. Meanwhile, in the US, a legislative bill {HR 2454}, the Waxman-Markey climate change bill was introduced, which would create a cap-and-trade system. In essence, this would create a new financial market, a market that likely will have two features::
  1. Price volatility {quantity of pollution is set, so price fluctuates, often wildly}
  2. Encourages financial speculation {wild fluctuations create incentives for financial, not environmental, innovations to hedge risk given price volatility}
In essence, this opens the door for a new market system to be created that mirrors that of the subprime mortgages. This brings up the issue of regulation and fraud, in terms of both environmental and financial practices. The following video {} explains how cap-and-trade creates a primary market for carbon, but a secondary market {derivatives} for carbon futures, given price volatility::

As economic sociology would predict, the system is being shaped by those with vested interests in carbon heavy energy production. While economist Paul Krugman in the NYTimes talks about cap-and-trade as an innovation incentive, he's talking theoretically. Part of Waxman-Markey is the allowance of $2B US in carbon offsets, which allows for a greater level of carbon pollution if a firm has a future innovative project that is projected to reduce carbons. Why would Waxman do this? Simply put, he needed the votes. The reality is that these future projects aren't always new or innovative, which, in effect, allows for more carbon pollution without creating new innovative technologies. The system can be rigged to allow for workarounds that preserve to a certain extent the carbon status quo. This video {via} explains the carbon offset problem and how offsets can allow coal {accounting for 50% of US electricity generation} to be utilized in the US for the foreseeable future::

I'm not against market-based solutions, but I'm concerned when policies are implemented without adequately addressing market structure and expected behaviors. I also think that there are limitations to what the market can do, particularly in terms of spurring the development of new technologies. I tend to agree with the Brookings Institute's analysis of Waxman-Markey. I feel that more needs to be done to actively create alternatives to carbon-heavy energy production.
"pricing and regulatory responses won’t by themselves get America where its needs to go when it comes to decarbonizing the world economy. In addition, America and the world need to catalyze—with large government research interventions—radical scientific and technological breakthroughs and their commercialization."
What about Canada? Canada is slipping in it's environmental scorecard. An Ecofys report listed Canada as last in the G8 on climate change action, thanks to increases in greenhouse gas and per-capita emissions. It's likely that future Canadian emissions policies will be cap-and-trade based, as it's been shown to be palatable to the business community, particularly due to offsets. That doesn't mean that Canada should follow the path of the US and perhaps should be looking towards approaches by other countries, particularly with respect to innovation policies. Stephen Harper is paying lip-service to this in terms of green energy and green technology, but at the end of the day, his focus is on Canadian resource endowments and market-based mechanisms. Ignatieff promises a cap-and-trade policy by the end of the year. Elizabeth May and the Greens supported a carbon tax approach last year, while Bloc Québecois was in favour of cap-and-trade. Jack Layton's NDP is still advocating a cap and trade system. Politically, I agree with greenpolicyprof that future Canadian policy should coalesce around a cap-and-trade framework, but one that factors in Layton's concerns, focuses on innovation, is appropriately regulated, and doesn't bend to political pressures, hamstringing the policy from the start.

Twitterversion:: What's This Cap-and-Trade Business?US going one way, but can Canada learn from this? Implications for #Canada & #Canpoli. @Prof_K