Sunday, March 29, 2009

Who needs a bait shop?

I grew up in a small town in central Ontario, but we never had live bait vending machines in my hometown. I guess this kind of thing is what makes Orillia special.

I remember being surprised when I was an ESL teacher in Japan that they had these beer vending machines all over the place. As far as I could tell, there was nothing that would prevent a five year old with some coins from getting a beer out of one of these things.

The other good vending machine in Japan were these ones that sold coffee in cans. In summer the unit was set to "cool" so the coffee came out cold, and in the winter the unit was set to "warm" so they came out warm. They were great.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Orillia millennium trail

In Orillia we have the Millenium Trail which runs for about 10km along the shore of Lake Couchiching.

One annoying quirk of the trail is that right about where the 3 is in the above map, the trail is dissected by a boat launch. In the photo below, which is looking west to east towards the lake, the launch is just out of sight behind the clump of trees on the right, and behind the little monkeybars / playarea that you can kind of see behind the trees.


The photo below shows.. on the right side... Centennial Drive, which is the road that runs north/south along part of the lake... currently the Millennium Trail is further to the right of Centennial Drive, along the lake. There is now a proposal to move the bike trail in this area away from the lake and put it (i.e with a marked bike lane) right on Centennial Drive... getting cyclists away from the boat launch.


What you're also seeing in the picture above - the wide dirt strip in the center/left - is the railbed for the trainlines that used to go through the area. Now it is used for nothing except parking for all the fishermen who leave their pickup trucks and boat trailers here when they're out on the lake with their boats. There is also a proposal to take over this railbed for the use of a "fast track" bike trail, to get cyclists through this problem area quickly.


And this last photo is the Millennium Trail as it leaves the lake and starts cutting north through town. Still too much snow for your road bike.

Friday, March 27, 2009

declare the pennies on your eyes

The provincial Ontario government just released the provincial budget for the coming fiscal year. The main change is the inroduction of a harmonized gas tax. Previously we'd been paying two separate taxes - an 8% provincial tax, and a 5% federal tax. Now, they're lumping them together and we'll be paying a 13% harmonized tax.

Image above is from Marc Engblom's Comic Coverage blog. The post covers an issue of Superman where the Taxman tries to get Supes to pay billions of dollars in backtaxes.

So the harmonized tax sounds simple - but there is a catch (which I like). The provincial tax was primarily on goods not services, and so many things were exempt from the 8% PST. Now they won't be. Apparently this includes gasoline, which I don't really understand, because my understanding was that the provincial government collected tax on gas, and then gave a cut of it to municipalities in order to supplement public transit funding.

In the Globe and Mail, New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath states that the new harmonized tax that would boost daily costs for consumers.

"Make no mistake, behind the veil of so-called rebates and credits, families will be paying more. They're going to be paying more for home essentials, like home heating and gas for the car, not to mention that morning coffee and doughnut," she said.

Buyers don't pay PST on gasoline now. Ms. Horwath estimated the new harmonized tax on gas would cost families $150 per year per vehicle.

I've written before that I find gasoline taxes & prices in N. America to be ridiculously low.

With gas so cheap here, no one has any incentive to change their driving habits, and the car companies have had little reason to produce really fuel-efficient cars (which is obviously changing these days). Anyway - thank God gas is going to be costing more. I think that is long overdue, and I just hope that the province gives a hefty chunk of the gas tax revenue to munipalities to allow them to actually run a public transit service which is so good that your neighbour with three vehicles actually decides to ride transit once in a while.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

the republic of active transportation

Me Likey!!!

So many bikes, so little time. I have no business owning another bicycle, but these Republic Bikes out of Florida look awesome - especially after a long snowy winter in central Ontario.

Although a small-town newspaper story about a city council meeting isn't usually the most interesting news in the world, it is this time.

City Staff are urging Council to officially hire a consultant to devise and write an Active Transportation Plan for the City of Orillia.

From the article:

Recognizing a provincial shift toward encouraging and creating active transportation in municipalities and following up on a deputation from Orillia's Trails for Life Committee, city staff are recommending council look at creating an Active Transportation Plan.

The recommendation that council committee will discuss tonight is for staff to prepare a capital budget request for the 2010 budget process to hire a consultant to develop a standalone active transportation plan for the city.

Active transportation includes initiatives like creating pedestrian linkages and establishing bike lanes, making it easy for residents who choose to use other modes of transportation than vehicles to move across the city.

The three departments involved in preparing the report -- planning and development, parks and recreation and public works -- identified a number of logistical questions for councillors to consider before moving ahead with one of two options. Those options were continuing to address active transportation on an ad-hoc basis, as the city does now or preparing and implementing an active transportation plan that would guide all future decisions on developments and projects.

"An Active Transportation Plan would provide the city with a unified vision with respect to the creation of a multi-modal and safe transportation system," states the report. "Preparation of a plan would also likely involve a concerted review of the city's design standards."

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Battlestar is over

Battlestar Galactica is all done.

In an article called The Way We Were - Newsweek magazine called it the best TV show to represent arts and culture over the last 8 years.

Battlestar Galactica
By Joshua Alston

An orchestrated terrorist attack. An inexorable march to war. An enemy capable of disappearing among its targets, armed with an indifference to its own mortality. It sounds like a PBS special on Al Qaeda. In fact, it's a synopsis of the Sci Fi Channel series "Battlestar Galactica," which—for anyone who manages to get past the goofy name—captures better than any other TV drama of the past eight years the fear, uncertainty and moral ambiguity of the post-9/11 world. Yes, even better than "24," with its neocon fantasies of terrorists who get chatty if Jack Bauer pokes the right pressure point. Of the two shows, "Battlestar" has been more honest about the psychological toll of the war on terror. It confronts the thorny issues that crop up in a society's battle to preserve its way of life: the efficacy of torture, the curtailing of personal rights, the meaning of patriotism in a nation under siege. It also doesn't flinch from one question that "24" wouldn't dare raise: is our way of life even worth saving?

"Battlestar Galactica" always finds ways to challenge the audience's beliefs—it is no more an ode to pacifism than "24" is to "bring 'em on" warmongering. In the pilot, humanity is nearly eradicated by the Cylons, a race of robots that revolt against their human creators. The only survivors are stationed on a spacecraft called Battlestar Galactica; they're spared because the ship's commander, William Adama (Edward James Olmos), had refused to relax any wartime restrictions. Adama is a hard-liner, willing to sacrifice personal freedoms in order to provide safety from an abstract threat. And he was right: the moment the human race let its guard down, the Cylons attacked. As the show unfolds, though, the survivors must constantly reflect on the price of keeping their enemies at bay, and whether it's worth paying. The show's futuristic setting—hushed and grimy, not the metallic cool of stereotypical sci-fi—helps ground the writers' ruminations in a nail-biting drama series. "Battlestar Galactica" achieves the ultimate in sci-fi: it presents a world that looks nothing like our own, and yet evokes it with chilling accuracy.