Sunday, May 20, 2007

Riding the rails

Since today seems like a day of posting, I might as well get right to it. Read Bob Macdonald's Quirks and Quarks blog post on gridlock and streetcars. I think he highlights a few interesting points without rubbing people's faces into it. (Segue: zealotry doesn't really help anything - I appreciate when people attempt influence my opinion with reasoned arguments, not threats, blackmail and Armageddon. This post was an example and plea for something better). I work in London, Ontario and it is a place that has seen the steady increase in traffic volume over the years. Although the roads are not as efficient nor as full as they are in Toronto, I now notice distinct "rush hour" traffic times. The threat of gridlock is greater (mainly from people that don't know how to stay out of an intersection when the lights change), road closures are not as dramatic simply because they are so frequent. But let's move on to the interesting part of the article - streetcars and rail transit.

I can't point to myself as a paragon of environmental living (let's get that out of the way). I live about 25 km away from my workplace, in a small town. That's cardinal sin number one, but then I commute, alone, in my car there and back. I really have no choice, given where I choose my home. However, the railway is something I can comment on.

My parents moved to this same small town, there was a passenger train stop. That was quickly removed, but wouldn't it be nice if there was some sort of simple local service that allowed local residents to use the train to get to work? The city where I work is a central hub for the railway and several lines that pass through the smaller villages nearby. If there was a morning and evening shuttle (a la Go Transit), many people could travel to and from work without cars - despite living in a rural or bedroom community.

Such trains would be extremely local and would not be the fastest way of getting to work, but that's not the point really. The various levels of government could setup a "green commute" tax rebate, similar to what the federal government has proposed for bus passes, such a program may be very attractive. Personally, our family has two vehicles, as we have two small children. If such a program was available, I could envision myself running only one vehicle, a major personal savings and a small reduction in emissions.

Mr. Macdonald also comments on all the cars waiting and idling during the traffic snarls. I guess this is one of the times when hybrid vehicles are beneficial - they stop the gas engine when the vehicle stops. In London there are too many level crossings which leads to the occasional tie up with a train passing. Personally, I turn my car off (leaving the radio on) and wait until the train has passed. Given that this time is usually measured in minutes, I don't understand why more people don't do it as well. Cars start reliably - I can start my car and get it moving in about 10 seconds, so it isn't any more of a delay than I experience at most traffic lights. I guess people don't realize that by turning off the engine, they won't be burning fuel.

Utilizing our rail infrastructure more fully makes good environmental sense. First off, the rails are there. Secondly, it is easier to make a large system (i.e. a train) more efficient than a smaller one (i.e. a car). These arguments are well worn in city context where buses take the place of trains. Let's hope we can find ways to use things we already have more fully.

The Future

The future - specifically someone else's future, is what I'd like to put out there. Readers of this space will note the frequent references to Kimota94 and his (copious) output of interesting posts. Having just read a Saturday post, I was struck. Illuminated. Inspired. Caffeinated. I'm not positive which, but it isn't that important. This is a post for him:

You've mentioned here before about contemplations of what to do after work. After you stop going to work. And staying home. This post has illuminated your One True Calling:

Comic Editor.

I think you have the skills - you can call a spade a spade and manure, well, manure. You seem to have some sort of accumulated reference library that can help judge the tone for any particular story line. You like to give your opinion about comics. Seems like a slam dunk.

The only stumbling block would be obtaining such a position. A hard-working traditionalist would offer "apply as mailboy and work way up" as a plan, but I think that you can skip some of that. Applications to DC may work, but if that does not pan out, the next step in my monumental plan (for you, of course) would be:

Found your own comic publishing business!

It's a big step, yes, but there are many great industrial printers right here in our town (I have worked with a good one) and you've got the moxy to pull it off. Obviously you have what it takes to be an editor. You know what a good comic looks like. You know what a bad comic looks like. You can tell one thing from another. Hey, it may even make money - okay I'm dreaming about that part, but it would still be quite the thing to do, as things go.

In conclusion, I think you really have no choice at this point. Found Kimota Komics and be put the tension of not know what to do behind you. You owe it to discerning comic readers everywhere - to those that keep their comics in bags instead of lucite - read them instead of frame them. Think of them. Think of the difference you could make to them. And their children. Think of the children. Plus you'd get a chance to read good comics before anyone else - that has to be worth it's weight in gold!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Whoa, postage!

First off, it 'twas a good game. Mainly because the Canadian based team won. I do appreciate the commentators pointing out that Ontario could support another team easily as there were 6000 people in the parking lot in Buffalo to watch the game outside. And who would want to watch such a game. Tied by Buffalo in the last 7 seconds. Nice goal but ridiculous timing! Sheesh! Ottawa won with a nice faceoff play early in the 2nd OT. Definitely there is something to be said about certain hockey traditions, like sudden death overtime. I like the idea that games during the regular season have a bounded time, as playing every few days for 82 games is tiring on its own. But sudden death OT is one thing I like about the time when things matter, i.e. the playoffs.

Andrew Potter's column in this weeks Maclean's was another example. Mr. Potter wrote of the honour in hockey - letting honourable people resolve their differences without outside interference. The entire episode seems absurd - things get said in the heat of competition. If something occurred on the ice, the officials on the ice should have dealt with it. Otherwise, let it go and move on. If attention is brought to bear in this manner, it does nothing to solve the problem, if it so exists. The participants should agree to a framework that defines unacceptable behaviour, discourages such behaviour and then move on. That is, if something is "bad", make a rule, enforce the penalties and leave it at that. Funny how in part of being "sporting" is to ignore and move past tenuous and even blatant rule violations. The definition I like is that all participants agree to avoid infractions and don't sweat the occasional hiccup. I guess that is the aspect of "political correctness" that has always grated on me - the incessant flogging of an infraction. I agree that there are ways to engage in discussion that do not denigrate anyone, which would be the main thrust and purpose of "political correctness" as I see it. The ability to move on has been suppressed and parliament interfering in sport because of a (possible) frustrated utterance is absurd.

Guess I've been holding off a little too long on that one... Nothing brings out the big words like pregnant debate... Or lack of debate? Now I'm not sure as it is getting to far past my bed time. Still, it was a good game. Buffalo owned the first, Ottawa played better in the second and third. I'm still amazed that they were able to push the one-goal lead for almost 10 minutes at the end of the third. They were able to keep the puck in Buffalo's end for most of that time. Buffalo's drive and skill got them that tying goal, but still - good hockey.