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All In Hand

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

Gulu Walk this Sunday

Miss Vicky Fri Jul 29, 2005

For the last month, two Toronto residents have walked every night from their suburban home to the city's downtown, where they sleep in Nathan Phillips Square. They are trying to draw public attention to the plight of children in Uganda, who commute downtown every night from their homes on the outskirts of cities in order to sleep. They do this to avoid abduction by rebel armies. Every morning they return to their homes (some as many as 12 km away) to work or go to school.

I only heard of this phenomenon last Sunday, when I caught part of CBC Sunday edition radio interview on the subject. It's a compelling and heartbreaking story, to think of these kids (thousands and thousands of them) travelling every night, struggling to maintain some degree of normalcy by doing their homework by streetlamp, making sure they get to school the next day, taking care of smaller siblings, and so on. Many of these children have already lost parents and live a difficult existence in camps for internally displaced person. Things are even worse for those who are captured and forced to become combatants or sex slaves. Uganda's rebel armies are largely made up of child soldiers - kids who have been abducted and often forced to kill members of their family or commit other atrocities.

Now here's a humanitarian crisis we just haven't heard enough about, one that has stripped away childhood from a whole generation of young people. NGOs have set up shelters and some supports for the kids once they arrive in the cities each night, but that's really just a bandaid solution. This conflict has been going on for 19 years, and seems to be getting worse. According to Oxfam's UK site, half a million people have been killed and over 2 million displaced.

More walks are being organized on July 31, in cities across Canada. Ottawa's walk will begin at 7pm at Westboro transitway station (Scott near Churchill) and will end at Parliament Hill. They're not going to do the full sleepover, but the event should help raise awareness and show solidarity for the night commuters in Uganda. It's unfortunate that this takes place on the long weekend, when Miss Vicky will be out of town. But if you're staying here for the weekend, you should definitely take the time to join the effort. And perhaps the organizers can be encouraged to make it a regular occurrence.

You can email the Ottawa organizers at guluwalk @ gmail.com


Ad Pollution

Miss Vicky Thu Jul 28, 2005

A reader writes:

As I trudge up and down Bank street each morning and evening I often have the displeasure of seeing those silly advertising trucks. The ones that carry no goods, do no cartage and deliver nothing but pollution. Have you seen them?

Their only meaningful contribution is to congestion (in my lungs and on our streets) and serve no real productive purpose.

Since our enlightened City Council is trying encourage people to reduce unnecessary car trips, and use public or alternate transit I keep asking myself if there might be some interest there in finding a way to curb these unsightly traffic forming beasts.

But then this morning I saw the answer to my wondering : an advertising truck covered from tip to tail in City of Ottawa advertising.

To make matters worse it was shouting out ABBA tunes to me from four externally mounted speakers.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy ABBA, but like a nice single malt, ABBA should only be consumed after 11am. (unless of course you're still awake from the night before, where both ABBA and whisky are acceptable in the morning).

So, dear Miss Vicky, is there anything to be done?

Mamma Mia! Miss Vicky doesn't work downtown, and those billboard vehicles have not sullied our lovely Kitchissippi Main Street strip along Wellington and Richmond. I feel all the more fortunate now that I know they contribute to noise pollution as well!

I have seen them, though, and yep, they are plenty ugly and serve no useful purpose. What's amazing to me is the sheer audacity of companies that think that bombarding us with advertising using increasingly invasive and annoying devices is actually a good way to promote a product or service. Few things turn me off more. I mean, do I really have to be faced with advertising when I sit down in a public washroom stall? Or lock up my bike?

And the lack of respect advertisers have for public space is astounding. The ads get bigger, uglier and more plentiful with each year. And apparently now they come with a soundtrack. I have my ABBA moments like anyone else; I don't mind hearing it blaring down Bank Street during, say, the Pride Parade. But these advertising trucks have got to go.

Perhaps a complaint to the bylaw officers about the noise might be in order.... and City Council should be confronted as well. I'm not sure the use of this "service" is really in line with the Smart Growth philosophy...


Hoard no more!

Miss Vicky Wed Jul 27, 2005

Just got some news from the Ottawa District Labour Council:

Tentative agreement in LCBO talks

TORONTO-- After 40 hours of round-the-clock bargaining, the union representing LCBO employees has reached a tentative agreement with the employer.

“Our bargaining team is pleased to have a deal we can recommend to our members,” said John Coones, chair of the Liquor Board Employees Division of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union.

“This deal puts in writing the government’s commitment to LCBO staff and the people of Ontario to keep the LCBO public,” Coones said.

Now I'll be able to pick up that case of Bin 555 I promised myself after yesterday's thread!


Memed again!

Miss Vicky Tue Jul 26, 2005

Dr. Dawg has tagged me with another meme... damn that pooch!

It's hard for me to write about my favourite movies. I've seen a ton of 'em, and it what I watch really depends on my mood. For a long time in my life I was a cinema snob, would only see rep theatre flicks. Now I'm looking for escape and frustrate the Webgeek to no end with my compulsive desire for action thrillers.

My favourite move of all time? Impossible to say.

First movie I ever saw: Dumbo

Favourite childhood flicks: The Jungle Book (the disney animated version), It's A Wonderful Life

Teenager: Repo Man.

University days/young adult: Wings of Desire, A Room with a View, Brazil, Delicatessen, the Princess Bride, Withnail and I, After Hours...

Last 10 years or so: I've grown to appreciate some older movies: The Apartment, The Philadephia Story, Harvey, Some like it Hot and Charade(to name a few).... It's been a while since I was really blown away by a film, though, the way I was by, say, Wings of Desire. I did enjoy Buena Vista Social Club, Finding Neverland, Memento... oh, and Bulworth, if you can believe it.

I'm sure I'm forgetting a ton.... but it's been a long and tiring day.

Tagging: Lana at Place & Thyme, Mike over at Rational Reasons, and Miss Twiss

Stiff upper lip

Miss Vicky Mon Jul 25, 2005

pinklitva writes:

We seem to be having rather a lot of bombs and terrorist attacks in the UK. Does Miss Vicky have any good advice on how to survive terrorist attacks? We are currently subscribing to lots of cuppas and stiff upper lip. However, is this enough?

It's a pickle, to be sure. You might consider slipping a slug of brandy into one of those cuppas.

Quite frankly, though, I'd be more worried about what this is doing to British society as a whole, as the powers-that-be respond to the threat of terrorism by curtailing everyone's civil liberties in the name of enhanced security. I would find it difficult to maintain a stiff upper lip while a trusted (and usually unarmed) police force guns down an innocent immigrant because he happened to approach a tube station. What a betrayal of trust. And what a victory for terrorism.


Defending Dolly's

Miss Vicky Sun Jul 24, 2005

The Citizen has dissed one of my favourite restaurants. We're not just talking bad review here, we're talking several column inches of pure spite.

Once again, the piece is not available online. But here's the jist: Anne DesBrisay, food reviewer, tried out the new Stoneface Dolly's location on Preston (at Beech, by the way, across from the Prescott Tavern), and found it wanting. At least, according to her standards.

Many of you may be familiar with the original location on Bronson near Gladstone - a small, neighbourhood restaurant well known for its fantastic brunches and eclectic supper menu. I've been eating there for several years now - I've waited in the rain for a table for brunch (weekend brunch is always packed; the restaurant has a dedicated following); I've tried the owner's entree and wine recommendations and I've always enjoyed my meals there.

Today the Webgeek and I decided to try brunch at the new location, which is just a hop, skip and jump from our place. It looks fantastic - nice patio outside, and simple, inviting design inside. Plenty of space. Great vibe. Of course, brunch was busy, so we sat in a cosy table near the bar. We placed our order (Eggs Natasha for the Webgeek, Scrambled Feta Eggs for me, plus two of their amazing freshly squeezed juice combinations), got our coffee and were approached by Bob Russell, the owner, who was clutching a folded copy of the Citizen's weekend entertainment section. We told him we had been looking forward to trying the new location.

"Well, you must not have read the review", he said, looking stricken, and handed over the paper so we could have a gander. Wow. The reviewer seemed pretty intent to not like the place. Even her compliments (the mussels, for example, were "fat, fresh, cooked right") are tempered with negatives (the mussels were "bathed in a passable red curry sauce"). And then it gets downright mean:

"But, often quantity exceeds quality. The goat cheese is "potato crusted," which sounds lovely, but isn't. The "crust" is more a leaden lump of home fries on a disk of supermarket -quality goat cheese. The wilted salad with "caramelized onions and peppers" is floundering in a warm pool of dressing, its onions and peppers softened, but hardly caramelized."

Ouch. You get the drift. The article continues on in that vein. She even critizes the cheesecake for having too much sugar! It's DESSERT, for goodness' sake! Somehow she even turns the fact that the portions are generous into a bad thing.

Everyone knows that Stoneface Dolly's is not a traditional restaurant. One of the reasons I like to go there is that it offers combinations of tastes you don't find anywhere else. If I wanted a traditional pasta, I'd hit a traditional Italian restaurant. If I wanted traditional jambalaya or cajun dishes, I'd go somewhere else. Yet she criticizes the menu for its unique offerings, calling the choices "odd". She doesn't comment at all about the wine list, a point of pride for its South African expat owner. She barely touches on the service, which is always excellent and, in my opinion, can make or break a meal.

While we were brunching today we noticed the chef from Luxe, one of the city's best restaurants, enjoying Eggs Natasha at the bar. Bob pointed out a few other industry people in the room. Surely people who work in the restaurant industry are choosy about where they eat, and know a good thing when they taste it.

Our brunch, by the way, was excellent. My eggs were light and fluffy, scrambled with plenty of feta, green onion and other veggies, and served with a simple green salad, hash browns (which are soooooo good) and two thick slices of their amazing homemade brown bread. Webgeek enjoyed his Eggs Natasha (poached eggs with smoked salmon and spinach on an english muffin, smothered in a delicate Lemon Diablo sauce) immensely. The juice was fresh - mine was a combination of blueberry, banana and orange and it was delightful. The portions were generous and the prices are always reasonable. Which is the other appeal of Stoneface Dolly's. It offers interesting, yummy food, and you leave full and happy without breaking the bank.

It has always seemed to me that Bob Russell is the kind of restaurant owner that truly loves his work. He is friendly, community-minded, and wants to create a welcoming, cosy atmosphere. Kind of like you've been invited into his home and he's pulling out all the stops to give you something special. The guy has a calling, really. Which makes the review seem even more nasty, like a punch aimed right at the solar plexus, designed to knock the wind right out of you.

I haven't taken much notice of this person's reviews before. Now I know I can ignore them.

Just a quick note on site functionality.

The Webgeek Sat Jul 23, 2005

Hey all,
Just to let you know, email functionality has been fixed on this site. More than a few of you have let me know that it was more than just a little annoying. Well, fret no more. It's all good. If you want to email Miss Vicky or I, simply click on the "Contact Us" link at the bottom of every page and select the person you want to send an email to.

To send an email to another of our faithful legion, make sure you're logged in and then a little mail icon () will appear next each commentor's screen name. NOTE: if you do, or do not want emails from other members, simply edit your account and check/uncheck the "Allow other users to email me" clicky box thing.

Also, to those who wanted to know if you could see other people's profiles: Yes. You have to be logged in to do so, but then you should see one of these: next to each commenter's name (well, the ones who want you to see their profiles). As with email, you can edit your profile and block/allow other members from viewing you profile if you want.

The Webgeek.

Reading between Brian McGarry's fuzzy lines

Miss Vicky Fri Jul 22, 2005

Former mayoral candidate and funeral director Brian McGarry wrote a really odd opinion piece in The Citizen yesterday. Readers may recall that he dropped out of the race back in June, having determined that his chances of winning are slim with right-wing Terry Kilrea also in the field.

His column (which is only available on-line to subscribers) begins with an argument that right-wing extremism spoils the chances of the "centre or centre-right" winning a government in Canada (which makes me wonder what he thinks Paul Martin represents....but I digress).

McGarry's prose is... well... a little odd. I get the impression that you need a secret decoder ring just to read between the lines of his column. He refers to "a leading French Canadian in our city" leaving a recent meeting hosted by Kilrea "disheartened and disappointed". Who? Why? And why should we care? And then there are lines like "Following a tradition of municipal inclusiveness, lately we have experienced misunderstanding at best, and at worst, a time of misrepresentation." But no specifics to help point us to his...um... point.

I don't think his point is really intended for the general public anyway. He's writing for a specific audience. He gets to it a little later on:

"Who has sufficient community involvement and political capital to win the mayor's post? Is it people of experience such as Larry O'Brien, Shirley Westeinde, Merle Nicholds or Robert Merkley?

Is it someone on council? Maybe. Or could it be the return of a tempered former councillor, Alex Munter? Yes. Could it be me, without a 10- to 15-per-cent siphoned-off vote from the extreme right? Yes. "

Ah. So basically, he's letting us know that unless Terry Kilrea drops out, he'll support Alex Munter if he decides to run for mayor, and suggests that Alex would turn to him for advice on fiscal issues (he also suggests that, if the reverse were the case and he was running, he would turn to Alex for advice on social issues).

"We need mayoral candidates of at least some experience and more importantly people of transparency and integrity.

Mr. Munter is such a person and I would like to think my years in business and community life have made me one as well. For those who want change with a moral compass that is focused on citizens' needs, would a Munter-McGarry position be a solution that could transcend today's split in Canadian politics? Perhaps. "

So. Who is his audience? Is he writing this for Alex, who has not declared an intention to enter the mayoral race? Perhaps to try and encourage him to let us know whether he's in or out? Is it for Kilrea - watch out, Terry, if you run you 'll be sure to elect someone even more left than Chiarelli? It is for the Mayor - a "your time is up" message (not that running against him in the first place wasn't a big enough clue)? It just seems a little strange to me that he's writing this a month after he announced his decision to drop out, and the lack of clarity in the piece is a tad disturbing, particularly for someone who wants to be in public office. I'd like to think it's not just his prose style - his "years in business and community life" should have made him a better communicator (if it is his style, well, I'd say he overestimates his chances at becoming mayor. I would have given this a C+ in my first year class, back in the day).

I agree we do need a mayoral candidate with transparency and integrity, with roots in the community and experience in municipal government. I also want someone who understands cities, believes in sustainability, public services, public spaces and creating healthy, vibrant communities. I want someone creative, who understands the importance of balancing fiscal health with social and environmental health. I also want someone who knows when to be a strong advocate for a cause and when and how to build consensus. I want someone who listens and responds to the needs of our most marginalized. I want someone who values public enagement - the real kind, not the faux consultations we get treated to these days.

Am I asking for too much? I guess we'll have to see when we know who is running. And that won't be for a while.


Guerilla Gardening

Miss Vicky Thu Jul 21, 2005

Don't get me wrong. I enjoy the Ottawa XPress and read it faithfully. They do great work getting the word out about local events and issues. But it's a pretty small operation when compared to other cities' alternative news sources.

Every once in a while I like to check out Toronto's Now Magazine. I really like Now's coverage of local and provinical politics, in particular. Sure it has that Toronto centre-of-the-universe vibe that turns folks off sometimes, but those folks are committed to a vision of their city that pretty much corresponds with my own approach to urban living. Plus they're unabashedly progressive, and that helps as well, although that doesn't stop them from going after lefty councillors and holding them to account when necessary.

Anyway, I was browsing through last week's paper and found this great article on Guerilla Gardening. I've always been fascinated by the notion of taking over unused and ugly spaces and greening them up. Even better that it's done under the radar, gardens just popping up where they're least expected.

According to Now, some cities are actually embracing and encouraging this activity - Vancouver's Green Streets program helps residents take over neglected spaces in traffic circles and boulevards.

I kind of like the under-cover-of-darkness aspect of guerilla gardening, though. And I particularly love when I stumble across a space that someone has planted. Take the corner of Fairmont and Young, on the north side of the Queensway overpass. A couple of weeks ago I was walking by and noticed that someone had taken over a space on the Queensway side of the corner and had planted a lovely garden there. Made me smile. Made me want to repopulate some of my echinacea, somewhere.

Here's another good Now piece on smog.

Public Health in Kitchissippi

Miss Vicky Wed Jul 20, 2005

How healthy are we? The city's public health department has produced profiles of each ward. It's a pretty comprehensive portrait of the state of our neighbourhoods. They evaluate things like Food Safety, obesity and physical activity, pre-term birth, road safety and the number of respiratory outbreaks at facilities in the community. The information is used by the department and (hopefully) by councillors to inform policy and program decisions.

Here's what I learned about our ward:

Food Safety: "More than a third (112) of Kitchissippi Ward's food premises (302) prepare higher risk foods, which could, if not well monitored, lead to food borne illnesses. Legally, these premises should be inspected at least three times per year. Just over a half of these premises were inspected according to this schedule in 2003."

This is worrisome. It seems we don't have enough inspectors to comply with the Health Protection and Promotion Act, so restaurants, etc aren't getting inspected as often as they are supposed to, putting us at a higher risk for some of those nastier illnesses.

Obesity: More than half of Kitchissippi Ward adults are overweight or obese.

This does not seem to be much different from most of the other wards - except Capital, which doesn't cite obesity as a major health issue (all those jogging Glebe types, I guess). We're not as bad off as Goulbourn, where 2/3 of residents are overweight or obese.

Respiratory Outbreaks: In the 2003/2004 influenza season, there were three respiratory outbreaks in seniors' residences and long-term care facilities in the Kitchissippi Ward

Seems that where there's 'flu and seniors' or long-term care facilities, there's going to be an outbreak of some sort.

Road Safety: Just over 5 per cent of all collisions occurring in the City of Ottawa (2003) were in Kitchissippi Ward, 809 collisions

This seems pretty much in line with the other city wards. Somerset, next door, has the highest rate of collisions (9%). Rural wards have higher collision rates and account for most of the fatalities.

Other stats and info:

We have an above-average concentration of seniors((14.5%) and low-income households (17.6%) in Kitchissippi.

The Ottawa Public Health Information Line received 1,116 calls from Kitchissippi Ward residents in 2003

Public Health Nurses and family visitors responded to 252 referrals for home visiting support to families in Kitchissippi Ward with young children in the first 6 months of 2004. This program offers some services in nine different languages.

Westboro Beach was inspected 72 times during the 2003 beach season, and was closed 22 times due to poor water quality.

The city is piloting a pedometer-lending program. I've never heard of this before. Apparently you can get them at libraries and some workplaces. Who knew?

One disappointment: there is no mention of addiction or drug use in the profile. It's a pretty serious public health issue, but maybe difficult to quantify.


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