Fast & Curious: Short Takes on Random Things

New Liberry

I went to that Open House session on the new central library last night and I will have more to say next week but I just had to note that I heard no good explanation for why the public library has been stuffed, like a pimento, in the olive of Harbour Royale Development Ltd’s private waterfront development plan.

For the record, Jim Wooder of HRDL defended the odd arrangement by saying Ekistics (the Dartmouth-based consulting firm that created a Sydney waterfront revitalization plan in 2014) said it was okay.

Of course, even if Ekistics — a consulting firm — did say it was okay that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s okay. But as it happens, Ekistics said no such thing. Here’s the relevant passage from their waterfront “vision” document:

Development within the Framework Plan has been directed towards lands that are already owned by stakeholders with an interest in development. The exception to this is the placement of a new library and cultural centre at the site of Mercer Fuels. There was continued interest in the idea of a Library being located on the Harbourfront. The Framework Plan proposes a mixed use complex in the hopes of obtaining more significant funding for the public venture.

So, the plan does acknowledge interest in placing a library on the waterfront, but it certainly doesn’t instruct that it be incorporated into a private development. It’s pretty clear the Ekistics plan was referencing the library/NSCC Marconi Campus option, which also turned up in the 2016 library feasibility study. (And for god’s sake, we paid Ekistics to dream up a plan for the waterfront, is it surprising they’d think the new library should go there?)

I need more time to digest the information I received last night, but in terms of actual “progress,” as far as I can see all that’s happened is that architect Spyro Trifos (who told me he is doing the work on a volunteer basis) has completed a few more drawings. They show the library surrounded by all the other construction HRDL hopes to cram into that space along the waterfront, although Wooder admitted the library is the part of the development that is most “advanced.”

Here’s one of my favorite views of our “iconic” new central library:

Yes, that’s the library peeking out from behind the office tower on the left (a “cousin” to the Commerce Tower across the street) and the residential tower on the right (which is now going to be nine storeys tall and instead of containing 47 units, will contain 70 units within “approximately” the same “envelope” because developers are MAGIC!)

I have to stop now. I have much more to say but it will keep until next Wednesday.

Bookmark this site.


Makerspace Update

"Kinetic Origami," makerspace Berlin, 2016. (Photo by By re:publica from Germany, CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

“Kinetic Origami,” makerspace Berlin, 2016. (Photo by By re:publica from Germany, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

That heading is totally inaccurate.

I was going to have an update on the Makerspace in the New Dawn Centre for Innovation and Art and Culture and Arc-Welding and Freestyle Woodworking but listen to this:

I was literally zipping up my jacket getting ready to go over for the safety session (because although I am NOT their target demographic — the space is apparently for “entrepreneurs” wishing to make “prototypes” — I am intent upon somehow getting in there and learning how to make a few things) when I heard the sound of running water coming from my basement.

As there was no good reason for water to be running in my basement, I hurried down and discovered my oil-fired water heater spewing hot water all over the floor. It was like having a basement bayou.

I shut off the water supply to the tank and turned the furnace off (which I later discovered I didn’t have to do but when in doubt, I always turn the furnace off) and called a plumbing/heating technician who arrived in about 20 minutes, diagnosed a faulty relief valve, drained the water heater, replaced the valve, refilled the heater and was off to “watch the sunset with his girlfriend” before you could say, “I missed my safety session at the Makerspace.”

But I watched him work and I now know how to replace a faulty relief valve and if I ever get into the Makerspace, I’m thinking I could MAKE MY OWN REPLACEMENT VALVE, so things are clearly still on track.

Everything happens for a purpose.


Non-Google Maps

I love reference material, so imagine my joy when I discovered that, if you are willing to pay the rather high shipping costs, you can get physical maps from GeoNOVA, the government agency whose stated goal is “access to geographic information.”

Never mind that if you are familiar with map technology you can access the same map online, apparently free of charge. How do you hang that on your wall? How would that let people know that you are the kind of person who consults elevation maps? Let me answer those questions for you: you don’t and it wouldn’t.

My new elevation map.

My new elevation map.

It’s just like how, for better or worse, no one is ever likely to take your eReader and judge you on its contents the way they can judge you by the books on your shelves. By which I mean, the way I judge people by the books on their shelves. (I’m not proud of it but I’m owning it.)

I’m not entirely sure how to read my lovely new elevation map of the North End of Sydney but I will learn and then, I promise you, I will be as annoying as only a autodidact geographer can be.



Vintage telephoneA reader let me know about a robocall she received a couple of weeks ago, asking her questions about political issues. She summarized the content this way:

If there were an election called, which party would you vote for?
Are you optimistic about the economy? About your personal financial situation?
Does Canada need a change in government?

Federal issues:

Is the alt-right one of the most serious threats facing Canada now?
Should the government be doing all it can to fight and prevent terrorism?
Are illegal immigrants a serious threat?
Are Muslims more likely to (I forget the wording here, but something like be radicalized and pose a threat)?

Foreign policy:
Should Canada maintain a foreign policy that is independent of that of the US?
Should Canada take measures to protect itself from Russian influence?
(Ditto China)

Which party would you vote for in a provincial election in NS?

That’s all I remember, but I was shocked by the emphasis on terrorism/security questions, and absolute lack of mention of any other policy issues.

Now, I can’t say for sure, but that sounds like the work of Nova Scotia Proud i.e. three guys with connections to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, two of whom don’t even come from Nova Scotia. (I wrote about them in a previous Fast & Curious.)

When the CBC’s Michael Gorman first wrote about them, they were making robocalls about healthcare.

Although the group is supposedly non-partisan, two of the three founders have links to the Conservatives. Gorman suggested the group hoped to emulate the success of Ontario Proud, a supposedly “grass roots” organization that was actually linked to the Conservatives and is credited with helping Doug Ford become premier. (The group has recently popped up on the federal scene too.)

I can see healthcare sparking some response from Nova Scotians, but I choose to believe (until forced to believe otherwise) that the flames of anti-Muslim/anti-immigrant sentiment here are not worth fanning.



Saltwire Network has dumped the Canadian Press in favor of a pungent combination of Postmedia and Reuters because MONEY.

Postmedia and Reuters combined are apparently cheaper than Canadian Press alone but when it comes to wire copy, sometimes you get what you pay for and what we’re now paying for — those of us who still subscribe to Saltwire papers like the Post — is Christie Flipping Blatchford.

Google her name and you’ll soon find “I Hate Christie Blatchford,” a website created by David Brooks, a fine arts specialist with a focus on the works of Van Gogh and a strong distaste for Blatchford’s purple prose which, at the time he launched the site, was gracing the pages of the Globe & Mail. (The critique stopped once Blatchford left G&M for the National Post).

In a section entitled, “The Blatchford Bad Writing Hall of Shame,” Brooks collects some stunning samples of Blatchfordiana, like this quote from a story about the grieving mother of a dead Canadian soldier:

But for once, in the back of that plane, picturing the lanky drink of water who was her young son on his last flight in another Herc, she couldn’t suck it up or push back the tide of emotions.

Brooks divides Blatchford’s oeuvre into five main categories and I’m putting them out there because they could come in handy for those of us who have successfully avoided her for years but may now be tempted to read her in the same way we just can’t resist looking at a wreck on the highway:

You’re welcome.


Hell, yeah

On the other end of the columnist spectrum, I always enjoy CBU prof Tom Urbaniak’s analysis of all things municipal and his latest effort in the Cape Breton Post was no exception.

Tom Urbaniak. (Photo by Rob Beintema)

Tom Urbaniak. (Photo by Rob Beintema)

Under the headline, “Gerry Butts misrepresented Cape Bretoners,” Urbaniak challenged the notion that Cape Bretoners understand that rules must sometimes be bent for the economic well-being of the community.

Here’s my favorite bit:

For too long, some of our elites have hinted that we ought to accept awkward political interference, patronage and a trickle-down theory of economic development in the name of jobs. We’ve been asked to put up with behaviours and practices that would not be acceptable to other Canadians.

This approach has not brought us prosperity.

When the federal Enterprise Cape Breton Corp. was created in 1987, it was exempted from the Public Service Employment Act. The doors were opened to patronage by governments of different stripes.

ECBC loved big consultants and big schemes, many of which were wasteful failures. For example, it deemed affordable housing not to be part of its broad mandate, but Cape Bretoners were supposed to be grateful when the Crown corporation started building a high-end yacht club with public money and a luxury housing subdivision for the affluent.

The subdivision turned into a dud.

I like this because a) I learned two things I didn’t know before — that ECBC was exempt from the Public Service Employment Act and that affordable housing was explicitly not part of its mandate; and b) it puts my concerns about the library project into context.

To be clear: Urbaniak did not bring up the library, but it seems to me that CBRM residents are being asked to accept awkward private sector interference that would not be acceptable to other Canadians — hell, to other Nova Scotians. Can you imagine if Halifax had announced its “iconic” new library would be folded into a developer’s scheme for the downtown?

We ARE an island — and sometimes, that’s not a good thing.