Archive for July, 2010

Bixi Bikes Hit Toronto

I love biking and as such I love the idea of Bixi bikes. For those of you who don’t know what Bixi bikes are, they are a way to rent bikes without having to go to a store. Similar to Zipcar but with bikes instead of cars. All you have to do is walk up and insert your membership card grab a bike and you’re set. Just return it to the nearest Bixi bike rack when you’re done.

Sounds great right? Well just like everything else it has its flaws. The new Toronto Bixi “network” is limited to the extreme downtown core (spadina to jarvis, south of bloor) and there is a time limit of 30 minutes. After 30 minutes you will have to pay a late fee. Oh, did I mention it costs $95 for a full year. Well it says a full year. You can’t really ride a bike all year can you (I know some of you are saying “I can try”). You might as well buy a cheap bike and lock (and helmet) for slightly more and you can ride whenever you want for however long you want.

I’m hoping Bixi Bikes will expand to the rest of Toronto and then, with some luck, get cheaper. We can dream can’t we.


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Some schools take it too far

After reading this I think you will agree that some schools are taking over protective of their students. If you can call it protective.

A webcam scandal at a suburban Philadelphia school district expanded Tuesday to include a second student alleging his school-issued laptop secretly snapped images of him.

The brouhaha commenced in February, when a student of Lower Merion School District was called into an administrator’s office. Sophomore Blake Robbins was shown a picture of himself that officials suggested was him popping pills. The family claimed it was candy.

An invasion-of-privacy lawsuit followed, alleging the district had snapped thousands of pictures of its students using webcams affixed to the 2,300 Apple laptops the district issued. Some of the images included pictures of youths at home, in bed or even “partially dressed,” according to a filing in the case. Students’ online chats were also captured, as well as a record of the websites they visited.

The latest allegations Tuesday, brought by an 18-year-old former student who had just graduated from Lower Merion High, came to light in the discovery phase of Robbins’ suit.

Student Jalil Hasan reported his laptop lost December 18, and it was returned to him three days later, according to the suit.

But the LanRev Theft Track program, which the district activated when the computer was reported missing, was never turned off after the computer was given back to Hasan, according to the lawsuit.

The tracking software on Hasan’s computer wasn’t turned off until February 18, when Robbins filed suit, the suit alleges, claiming that at least 469 photographs and 543 screenshots were taken by Hasan’s computer without his knowledge.

Hasan’s suit said the images “were taken without Jalil’s knowledge, without his authorization and to his utter shock, dismay, panic, embarrassment and disgust.”

A federal judge presiding over the matter, who is weighing whether to allow a class-action lawsuit against the district, has blocked administrators from activating the LanRev program again. The district said the cameras were activated only when a laptop was reported stolen or missing — assertions lawyers suing the district dispute.

Two school district employees who controlled the LanRev activation process have been placed on paid, administrative leave.

The district declined comment. Federal prosecutors have also been given evidence generated from Robbins’ suit.

I think schools should just trust their students a little. After all most of them are almost adults. All these “protective measures” are there to keep students out of trouble but these just stop them from adapting to the real world so when they graduate and are “set free” they just get into more trouble because they don’t have the experience.

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After Gentrification

Gentrification: The Game took place today (this afternoon if you want me to be specific). This is the second time I have played and this time was that much bette. The first time was a bit unorganized (it was the beta version after all) but this time was much more organized and efficiently run. Here are some pictures from the event. (click the image for full image)

This gentleman obviously gave this team luck. they won.

The Pedestrian Sunday organizer wasn’t happy with us.

Giving out flowers gave one team bonus points

Street art was another bonus

Making a speech to stop “the developers”

The “art critic” and “local billionaire” judged the art and speeches
The game was a lot of fun. To find out more visit or follow them on twitter (@atmospherei). or you can read my other posts on previous games and other stuff (just look, they’re around somewhere)
UPDATE: Spacing Radio has released a Summer Short about Gentrification

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All These Mistakes Are Good For Everyone Else

Incase you’ve been living under a rock there is a big oil spill in the gulf of mexico. this has been caused by a leaking oil well owned by British Petroleum (BP). It’s taken months to cover it so it stops leaking and then they can clean it up. Its a big deal.

This has to be a good opportunity for other oil companies to make a small mistake. Maybe there is an oil rig somewhere that has a tiny leak that really should be looked at. It would be great if it burst and that company could start their emergency procedures and quickly clean it up. Then people would say “wow they really know what they are doing. They sure are better than BP”. There was an oil tanker that recently ran aground (in the St. Laurence I think) because of rough weather. It was cleaned up quickly and no one has even really heard of it. When i heard of it all i could think of was that they HAD done a better job then BP.

So all you oil companies out there, go have a spill in the ocean. As long as you can clean it up quicker than BP you will be fine.

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More blogging to come

Sorry I haven’t been bloging much. Lots been going on. But now there hopefully will be more blogging from me because I have a MacBook and a new itouch both with good wordpress accessability (awesome). Hopefully this will start today or Monday.

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I Helped!

Remember this from back in March?

Yesterday, Atmosphere industries held a game in Kensington Market (in Toronto) called “Gentrification”. It is a game similar to Monopoly where players have to get properties and gain money. To find out more about Atmosphere Industries click here. Here are a few pictures i took during the game.

Well this article was in the Toronto Star yesterday (july 11th)

Welcome to gentrification, the game

In the past 10 years, the mechanics of gentrification have become so predictable and codified that the once-messy process of urban renewal is now as tidy and rule-based as a game of Risk or Mouse Trap.

Which helps explain why the Toronto-based artist collective Atmosphere Industries ( debuted Gentrification: The Game! at the Come Out & Play Festival in Brooklyn, N.Y., last month.

The game, created by Internet researcher Kate Raynes-Goldie, game enthusiast David Fono, architect Alex Raynes-Goldie and educational technologist Luke Walker, pits teams of “developers” against “locals” in a competition designed to contrast corporate and community-based approaches to urban development.

Fono describes the game as a mixture of live-action Monopoly and performance art, with Kate Raynes-Goldie amending that tagline to include “random acts of kindness plus public space hacking.”

But Fono has an even simpler explanation: “We’re interested in hipsters. That’s it in a nutshell.”

“Specifically how they think,” adds Walker, laughing.

During the game, participating hipsters “purchase” properties by photographing them. These businesses are then “improved” through various tactics including “Slightly Creepy But Wise Neighbourhood Guy Gives Impassioned, Poetic Speech” (that would be a “locals” trick) or “Hired Goons” (that would be a “developer” trick).

Anyone wandering through Park Slope on the afternoon of June 5 would have seen 30 Brooklynites scrambling to hand out flowers and organize spontaneous parades (with banners that read “Happy Neighbour Day!”)

Gentrification is part of a larger trend in location-based entertainment that has been variously described as interactive theatre, transmedia and alternate reality/locative/pervasive gaming. But whatever label Gentrification is given, it’s a winner, receiving Best Use of Technology and Best in Fest at the recent Come Out & Play Festival. These accolades helped convince the Hide and Seek Festival to invite Atmosphere Industries to replay the game in London’s South Bank neighbourhood today.

That the game has been successfully exported to other countries is proof not only of the universal nature of gentrification, but the fact that Gentrification’s gameplay can be absorbed quickly and is geographically flexible. And it turns out that the most nerve-racking aspect of organizing the game is not finding participants but trying to cross the U.S. border with a bag full of bells, noisemakers and party hats, along with a dozen protest signs with slogans like “Down With Frowns.”

Now the four are hoping that Toronto will serve as the next successful location for Gentrification, which will take place on July 25 as part of Pedestrian Sundays in Kensington Market.

While the group beta-tested Gentrification in Kensington Market in April of this year, the July event will mark its official Canadian debut. And just to be clear, Atmosphere Industries is not trying to scrub Kensington clean of its gritty, ramshackle charm. “We like it the way it is,” says Kate Raynes-Goldie. “We don’t want there to be a Starbucks there.”

But Fono acknowledges that the future of Kensington is precarious, since “gentrification is always a looming spectre.” That said, the group admits that Gentrification is designed to be fun, not preachy. “We didn’t really take a stance on whether gentrification is good or bad,” says Alex Raynes-Goldie. “We were pretty snarky toward both sides.”

The four are also realistic enough to acknowledge that a single game isn’t going to change the world. But convincing the public to make better use of their public spaces, and pushing people out of their comfort zones through games like Gentrification, can be good for both the city and the soul.

Or, as Fono puts it, “The larger philosophy behind these sorts of games is turning the everyday world into a playground and an adventure.”

I guess that makes me a beta-tester of this game. Sort of makes me feel like I’ve helped make something big.

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The Next Governor General

Despite the calls from the Canadian public to have William Shatner as the next governor general of Canada, this guy has been appointed (article from the globe and mail).

David Johnston, an academic of lengthy credentials who is president of the University of Waterloo, will succeed Michaëlle Jean as governor-general.

Mr. Johnston will speak to reporters Thursday morning, the first time he has made a public statement since he became the odds-on favourite for the vice-regal position several weeks ago.

His appointment Thursday came at the end of a lengthy search process, officials said.

Mr. Johnston’s installation, which will take place on Oct. 1, marks a change in direction for the post of governor-general which has, through the term of Ms. Jean and her predecessor Adrienne Clarkson, been served by captivating female former journalists, both of whom were immigrants.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is said to have wanted a man in the role this time, but insisted the candidate be fluent in both official languages, which ruled out several prominent aboriginal contenders.

Mr. Johnston has been a law professor for a number of Canadian universities. He is the author of two-dozen books, holds honourary doctorates from over a dozen universities and has been awarded the Order of Canada.

While at Harvard, he was twice elected to the All-American Hockey Team and is a member of Harvard’s Athletic Hall of Fame.

The 69-year-old was chosen by a special committee appointed by Mr. Harper and led by Kevin MacLeod, the Canadian Secretary to the Queen and Usher of the Black Rod for the Senate – considered to be Parliament’s top protocol posting.

Mr. Johnston was likely chosen for his constitutional knowledge and level-headedness, observers say. The committee reportedly nixed candidates from the sports, entertainment and art worlds, preferring someone who is well versed in the inner workings of federal government.

The Sudbury, Ont., native became a highly respected legal expert after studying at Harvard, Cambridge and Queen’s University. He captained the hockey team at Harvard, nabbing a spot as a minor character in a novel his dorm mate was writing at the time. Erich Segal’s Love Storybecame a pop-culture icon in the early 1970s.

Before becoming president of the University of Waterloo, Mr. Johnston spent 15 years as the principal and vice-chancellor of McGill University.

His legal work dipped into the political realms, and he was lauded for being non-partisan, having worked for both Liberal and Conservative governments.

He has worked with the Conservative government most recently, when Mr. Harper asked to help write the terms of reference for the Oliphant inquiry, which probed the business transactions between former prime minister Brian Mulroney and German-Canadian businessman Karlheinz Schreiber.

Mr. Johnston is married to Sharon Johnston who has a PhD from McGill University in rehabilitation science. She is currently enrolled in a creative writing program at Humber College in Toronto and is writing a historical fiction novel. They have five daughters.

Yet again someone that not many people have heard of becomes governor general. Would it hurt to listen to the public? And people wonder why the public isn’t too fond of the governor general.

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