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All In Hand

Here you'll find the sum total of Miss Vicky's Remarks thus far.

Lookout!!!! Them books is EVIL!

The Webgeek Tue May 31, 2005

The Webgeek here -- filling in for Miss Vicky as she travels back to London Ontario once more. Here, for your edification, are The 10 most harmful books of the 19th and 20th century, as selected by Human Events - The National Conservative Weekly. It includes such subversive titles as The Kinsey Report (because sex is so very, very shameful) Democracy and Education (which they claim "helped nurture the Clinton generation" -- whatever that is), and General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money (a book that said governments should be "borrowing and spending money to spur economic activity. FDR adopted the idea as U.S. policy, and the U.S. government now has a $2.6-trillion annual budget and an $8-trillion dollar debt." -- hmmm... I thought Dubya's massive defense budget had something to with that there national debt going up? I Guess it must have been FDR all along. Well that and the Clinton generation, I'm sure. Also found in the "honorable mention" pile is Ralph Nader's Unsafe at Any Speed because cars *should* be death traps damnit!

Strike! The musical??? Only in Winnipeg...

Miss Vicky Mon May 30, 2005

I admit it. I was a choir geek in high school. Well, we never thought we were geeks per se... we did have one of the best choirs in the country and being a part of it and the annual musical theatre production helped me develop friendships that were not only important to me in my black-wearing angst-ridden adolescence but have lasted through my adult life as well.

So I'm more than a little intrigued by the lastest theatrical offering in the city which was my home during these formative years, Strike!. Yep. A musical about the Winnipeg General Strike.

The production is locally-conceived, financed, cast and produced, the brainchild of "underdog impresario" Daniel Shur (at least, that's what the reviewers are calling him). From what I can gather, it's hardly a ponderous, didactic portrait of one of Canada's more important moments in labour and social history. It might even be - gasp! - entertaining. And this is a good thing. Because too few people know about the Winnipeg General Strike, or other struggles our predecessors undertook that gave us the quality of life we enjoy today. And it's timely too, as so many of the things they fought for have been compromised by the neoliberal cult of the free market that has so enamored governments in recent decades.

Here are a few reviews. I'd love to hear more if any of my faithful legion happen to see it....

Cold? What Cold?

Miss Vicky Sun May 29, 2005

Maybe it was the action movies we watched last night.... I decided to drop-kick my cold and spent most of the day outside, working in the garden.

Well, it started with a weekend ritual - taking Winston to Bruce Pit for a good romp. Bruce Pit is a favourite destination for the Ottawa canine set: a big open space where they can run off leash, hang with the rest of the pack, chase spherical objects and basically let loose. There are too few spaces like that in this city - and unfortunately this one is only accessible by car (Hunt Club and the 416). On weekend mornings you'll see a steady stream of vehicles, each with a dog going bonkers in the back seat as they approach the parking lot. Winston knows where we're going as soon as we exit from the highway, and it does make for interesting driving sometimes. But it is great to see dogs romp around out there - their unabashed joy is pretty infective.

Yesterday CTV reported that Toronto and Vancouver ranked among North America's Top 10 dog-friendly cities. Ottawa does not rate, although there is a list of hotels that welcome canine companions. I do find Ottawa a bit hostile to dogs - especially the public green spaces. In our area, there are few places where a dog can run off leash (the dog park on Fairmont is one exception, although dogs are only allowed in one corner of the park). In fact, if you check the Kitchissippi listings on the city's website, you'll see how few of our local parks allow dogs. Dogs are not allowed on public transit (they are in Toronto), and a lot of NCC spaces are off limits as well.

And don't even get me started about the city's waste disposal policies....

The Kitchissippi Times had a great article this month about dog-friendly shops and restaurants on the Wellington West/Richmond strip. One of my favourites is Cafe Mio, on the corner of Western and Wellington. They have a great patio, you can bring your own wine, and they put out a bowls fresh water and dog boscuits for passers-by every day. Oh, and the elderly fellow who we assume is the owner is an incredibly snappy dresser. We haven't tried the food yet (we walk by at 7:30 am and keep saying "we have to eat here). Soon...soon....

I returned from Bruce Pit all full of energy, and decided to tackle the front yard, where I've been meaning to dig a path from the steps to the driveway for quite some time. Well, not only did we manage to dig up all the grass, but we picked up two pallets of flagstones... and voila! New flagstone path!

I really have Webgeek to thank for it. He did the bulk of the stone work. As much as I scoff at his obsession with old school gaming, those years of Tetris do come in handy. I just let him do his thing while I weeded the heck out of the rest of the yard. My long term goal - no grass, no pesticides, a jumble of flowers (with the odd vegetable thrown in for good measure). This year, I can really see it starting to materialise.


Light at the end of this muddy tunnel

Miss Vicky Fri May 27, 2005

I'm not sure if it's allergies or the prospect of a weekend of rain or the burden of having to fly back and forth to London, Ontario a couple of times in the next week, but my head feels like it's full of cotton balls. Neither my body nor my mind are their usual perky selves. Thank goodness Winston leads the way on our morning river walks - I'm not sure I would have made it were it not for his enthusiastic leash-pulling.

So, my apologies to my faithful legion for the lack of stimulating blog content today. Perhaps last week's election readiness rollercoster did me in. I promise I'll jolt myself out of this lethargic fog soon!

At least there are some interesting community events to look forward to....

June 4: Hintonburg Community Day - starting at 10am, visit the Community Centre (1064 Wellington) for baked goods, garage sale, BBQ and other activities BBQ, sidewalk sale, books

then take a stroll up Wellington for the West Wellington Sidewalk Sale. This will be a great opportunity to check out what our main street has to offer. This is an initiative of the fledgling business improvement association, I believe. I also heard a little rumour that there are efforts to build a West Wellington community association as well - am looking forward to hearing more about that...

Stop by the Parkdale Market enroute - the plants are looking great this year!

June 6: Police Services Board meeting at the Tom Brown Arena

June 10 and 11: WESTfest! Webgeek and I are planning to volunteer... it seemed like a good way to meet some new folks, enjoy the festival and contribute to this cool event.

Big Box Boogie

Miss Vicky Thu May 26, 2005

City Council wil be discussing a proposal to allow big-box stores to establish themselves in what city zoning-speak calls "general urban areas", instead of the current practice of allowing them to set up in the city's industrial hinterland.

City staff claim that it's possible to incorporate the big box vision of retail on the cheap with the city's urban landscape. The current Official Plan imposes restrictions on where they could set up - new mixed-use spaces (like the Lebreton Flats development), attached to indoor shopping centres, and so on. It's consistent with the Plan's approach to improve walkability, sustainability and other principles of good urban planning.

The proposal, which would lifts those restrictions, is the result of a "compromise" deal reached with developers and is an attempt to fend off a costly appeal of Ottawa's Official plan to the Ontario Municipal Board.

What's most offensive (well, aside from the fact that big box stores exist in the first place) is the implied threat from both staff and developers in yesterday's Citizen article, where they suggest that any changes councillors decide to make in the proposal could derail the compromise and result in an OMB appeal anyway.

Today's Citizen editorial seems to suggest that the proposal could fly if councillors are willing to defend design standards and neighbourhood plans on a case-by-case basis, and force multinational companies to adhere to certain architectural and parking restrictions if they want to set up in urban spaces. Sure, 'cause they did such a good job with the Westboro Loblaws ("oops, weren't we supposed to cut down those trees? Our bad"). And we know how accommodating Wal-Mart is, right?

I suppose if folks actually took seriously Alex Cullen's proposal to eliminate corporate (that is, development) donations from municipal campaigns, the Citizen might have a point. But that doesn't seem to be flying, despite his best efforts. So the suggestion is that council give in to developer's threats now so they can stand up to them later. Um, yeah.

Forgive me if my confidence in council's ability to actually implement the vision of the Official Plan is not rock solid.


Adventures in Public Transportation

The Webgeek Thu May 26, 2005

Take a ride on the No. 2
For a huge chunk of my professional career, I've worked in or around the downtown core. Because of this, I've always tried to use OC Transpo for my work-week commuting needs. While living in Kanata, this meant taking one of the many peak-hour express buses. Now that I'm in the Hintonburg area with Miss Vicky, however, I've started taking the number 2. This is the one of the most widely used non-transitway routes in the city, and for good reason. It's a long milk run of a route that starts (or ends) at the eastern edge of suburbia, travels through almost every single low-to-mixed income neighbourhood in Ottawa, then finishes up (or begins) its trek at the western edge of suburbia. As such, it really accentuates the "public" aspect in public transportation.

You get a lot of interesting characters on the 2. During the morning and evening commutes especially, theres a real mix of interesting folks. And, if you have a voyeuristic streak (like me), you can eavesdrop on some interesting conversations too. Yesterday, I did just that. I really couldn't help it, it was happening directly behind me. Besides, the two conversationalists were speaking loud enough to let the entire bus hear them. It was one of those chance, spring-time, encounters between a man and a woman briefly meeting for the first time while off on respective errands; and as such, it involved the guy doing most of the talking.

It started innocently enough. She offered up the seat next to her, which he politely refused. "I don't sit on buses when they're packed" he said. "I like leaving the seats for people who really need them." Gallant of him, really. They exchanged small talk on bus etiquette until he noticed a Cadillac next to the bus on Rideau Street. "Wow. You don't usually see one of them down here often. Its usually those tricked out little crap thing." he mused, as he pointed out a Honda Civic. "Oh, yaa" she agreed, "they're the worst". They then talked about the cars they hated most. The Honda Element topped their respective list.

This is when our Romeo decided to start laying it on thick. He started proclaiming his driving prowess. How he'd often borrow his "girl's truck" and race it round corners at high speed, just for kicks. Yes, he actually mentioned his girlfriend to a woman he was trying to pick up; several times in fact. Now, girlfriend aside, the woman he was talking to seemed impressed, as she liked cruising a high speeds as well; so the conversation went on to his other manly pursuits -- like fighting. Yep. That's right. Fighting. As it turned out, he was a master of the martial arts; having trained in "Shao-lin Judo", some equally bogus 'form' of ju-jitsu and "military hand to hand combat". He regaled the young lady on the finer points of winning a brawl. The "double fist punch", and "knee to the face" were his particular favourites. He even admitted to letting a girl kick him in the nuts once -- and not flinching. This little tidbit caused several women on the bus to look back in incredulous horror/disbelief.

He even threw in a bit of philosophy.

"Its like I tell my girl. You ask any guy -- any real guy-- what's important, and they'll all say the same three things; Beer; a kick-ass car; and a good woman, so you can treat her well."

It was like listening to a really bad "sexual tension" action movie scene. The kind you just fast-forward through until you see more 'splosions. I mean Stephen Segal bad. No -- worse than that. Jean-Claude Van-Damme bad. George Lucas love scene dialogue delivered by Van-Damme bad. It had it all. Machismo, bravado, showing respect for "your girl", and machismo. Now, the interesting thing here is, she was actually into it all. She not only liked the "talk about fighting" pick-up technique, but had a few of her own scrapping stories to share. She liked the "he wanted a woman to treat well" thing too. It showed that he was a man, not a boy. He knew the difference between "a lady, and a 'ho". He was selling it something feirce, but she was definately buying it.

By this time, the bus was getting really packed, and her stop was coming up, so he descided to make his move. He figured he'd take that seat beside her. "Yaa, maybe I will park it." he said as he slid down beside her. And as he sat, with a casual sideways glance, and a dead-pan, confident delivery, he dropped the ultimate piece of Van-Damme inspired pick-up dialogue...

"Oh, the name's 'Viper', by the way..."

And, just like that. We'd reached her stop.

You gotta love the 2.

Spreading the organic rebellion

Miss Vicky Tue May 24, 2005

(Grocery) Store Wars
I shall refrain from comment. Just visit the link!

Flora and Fauna

Miss Vicky Tue May 24, 2005

I'm sure you were all on pins and needles, so I'll put your worries to rest. The cottage opening was a success. The Pest Chasers we purchased in the fall seem to have done the trick - not entirely, but there was far less stuff to clean up than other years. We also saved ourselves a lot of hassle by putting dishes and other stuff in rodent-proof containers when we closed up for the winter.

Saw a lot of wildlife this weekend, mostly on our trip to and from Parry Sound. The highlights: porcupine standing at the ready by the side of Highway 60, staring down traffic; limping fox at the East Gate of Algonquin Park; assorted birds, including heron and turkey vulture; the requisite Algonquin Park moose spotting (with the usual lineup of gawking tourists); my uncle's chipmunk buddy (Uncle Harold keeps a bucket of peanuts inside his door - the chipmunk comes in when invited, grabs a couple of nuts, stuffs them into his cheeks and takes off again). Oh, and blackflies. Lots and lots of blackflies.

The trilliums were out in full force - we went for a hike in the woods (Winston, Webgeek and our blackfly swarm) to see if we could find some red ones (Webgeek didn't believe they existed). We weren't disappointed - the forest floor was carpeted with trilliums of various colours, from the usual white to different shades of pink and purple. And quite a few red, which is always a treat. Also some some interesting columbine and other flowers. Hiking was hard work, and it was nice enough, so I took my traditional spring dip in the lake when we returned. It was brisk, that's for sure!


Hug a cop

Miss Vicky Fri May 20, 2005

I knew I meant to blog about something today. *sigh* And it was last night's meet the police event at the Hintonburg Community Centre. It was OK. Mostly consisted of reports from the Security Committee, a call for volunteers for neighbourhood watch, and update from the police on their work in this community. There were almost equal numbers of police and residents in the room.

It was kind of nice to see the police out of their cars, for a change, even if they were still dressed in the full detail - vests and so on. It is a bit intimidating, I must admit, sitting in between two rather burly officers sporting the whole get-up. Maybe that's why I felt a bit ill-at-ease at the meeting, I don't know.

There were two key messages to take away from last night's event: 1) thank the police for their hard work (I have no problem with that) and 2) if you have something to report, report it. It's the second one that puts me off. I suppose it depends. If I saw someone breaking in to a neighbour's home, for example, I'd call the police. But I can't imagine taking down license plates of cars visiting a neighbour, say, if I smelled those funny cigarettes wafting across the fence. Because these things can get carried too far - like the herbalist whose plants were razed by city staff last summer after someone reported her "weeds" to the bylaw officer.

It is a difficult question, and there are some problems in the community, that's for sure.

There are some interesting initiatives on the go right now - a task force on problem properties and another community safety task force. There's some potential there. So far only HCA folks, police and city staff seem to be involved, but perhaps the initiative could be widened to include social service agencies, tenants' rights groups and other service providers, so the discussion can go beyond enforcement approaches to discuss some positive, community-building strategies to address the root causes of some of our community's challenges. Unfortunately our councillor was not in attendance last night, so I couldn't ask him about that.

Votes and Valves

Miss Vicky Fri May 20, 2005

Must be a long weekend coming up, because so many things are going through my head.... so if this seems like a bit of a muddled blog entry, well... it will just have to do.

I'd wax poetic about avoiding a June election, but I'm just so damned tired of talking about that. I'll just say: Whew! I can actually have a garden this year!

While many of you are enjoying the Tulipfest, I'll be spending this weekend cleaning up mouse poop at the family cottage. Not the most exhilirating activity, but a nice escape in its own way. Hopefully it weathered the winter well. You never really know. I'll never forget the first year I opened the cottage by myself (well, not by myself - with 2 dear friends of mine). We drove to Parry Sound armed with instructions and a naive sense of confidence. It was Canada Day. It was raining. We didn't care. We knew we had some work on our hands, but it would be worth it.

We opened up the front door and I found my way to the breaker panel to turn on the electricity. Nothing. No power. And no phone (we don't have one). I went to my grandmother's place to use her phone, spent way too much time figuring out what number to call for Hydro, but was thwarted by the holiday - no answer.

We decided to make do and try Hydro in the morning. We had plenty of candles and firewood. Of course, no power means no water, so we hauled water up from the lake so we could do an initial cleanup. We made chili on the woodstove - it was quite an adventure. We had a few drinks by lamplight and hit the hay.

Of course, it was a relief when the hydro folks showed up the next day. By that time, we had a good portion of the opening tasks done. But we needed to get the pump going. I started off by checking the end of the line, as per my father's instructions. Sure enough, it had been washed up on to shore, and the foot valve had completely disappeared. I consulted my aunt Angie (who once ran a marina at Moon Rover and is extremely handy), and she told me what to get at Canadian Tire and how to go about replacing it. So, off we went, and when I got the new valve on the end of the pipe I felt incredible. I could conquer anything! I could get that pump primed and running, no problem!

So we hauled up more water to prime the pump. And more. And more. After several buckets' worth, we weren't even close to the necessary pressure. We sent Pookie underneath the cottage to see whether we'd left a tap open. He still won't let me forget the porcupine excrement he had to crawl through.... and the faceful of water when he discovered that the taps were closed, but the pipes had split.

That's when I lost it.

Aunt Angie came to the rescue again, and made the right phone calls. Kelly from Morrow's Plumbing has been opening our cottage ever since.

So. Shouldn't have to deal with water issues this year, but you never know what you'll find when you open the door for the first time. So wish me luck!

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