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All In Hand

Cultural exchange

Miss Vicky Tue Jul 19, 2005

Now this looks like a fun event!

Bluesfest highs and lows

Miss Vicky Mon Jul 18, 2005

So I haven't been the most prolific blogger this past week, mostly because the Webgeek and I have been spending our evenings and most of the weekend at Bluesfest, getting our money's worth for our passes... We sure saw some great shows, though. Highlights for me were Spearhead (the show that was rescheduled after the skies opened on us on Wednesday night), Rufus Wainwright, pretty much everything at the Cuban Stage (last night's closing concert was amazing), John Prine and the Cornerstone gospel choir. More about the choir in a second....

As for the lows, well, Miss Vicky did experience the tiniest bit of Blues Rage during the Rufus Wainwright concert. Still flying from the Spearhead buzz, I was really enjoying Rufus' performance. Except for the two young women nearby who were so intent on their conversation they must have forgotten they were at a concert. God forbid the music you paid money to see should get in the way of your hilarious tale about the boyfriend you've just dumped, or the story your hairdresser told you on your last visit. Several people around them were giving them long, rebuking stares, but they were oblivious. I muttered a few complaints to the Webgeek, and the guy in front of me said "If you don't say something, I will". Of course he promptly moved out of earshot. Coward. Anyway, the last "So, like, i was at my hairdresser's..." finally got to me, and I became THAT PERSON. You know, the one who feels compelled to enforce decorum at public events, crushing everyone else's fun in the process? Yep, that was me. I was ever so polite as I suggested they take their conversation somewhere else. Really.

The rest of the concert was great, though.

Webgeek, on the other hand, got to play the Hero during the K-OS concert. It was a hot and steamy night, and the place was packed. We were about halfway back, where there was a bit more room to breathe (Miss Vicky gets a mite claustrophobic at times). About three quarters of the way through the concert, a woman came staggering out of the crowd toward us, looking a little dazed, and promptly fell into the Webgeek's arms. He stood there for a second, then gently brought her to the ground. Not to suggest that the Webgeek doesn't have that effect on women most of the time... but she was clearly suffering from heat exhaustion (after WestFest, I know the signs). Chefgeek was dispatched to get the ski patrol and folks around us brought water and ice from coolers.

Anyway, turns out she's a reporter for the Citizen. She wrote about her experience on the Opinion Page today, to caution people to take it easy during these hot, muggy days. Wise counsel. And we're glad she's feeling better.

(I'd link to the story but I'm afraid it's Subscriber-only)

Now, back to Cornerstone and the choir.

Hintonburg folks are familiar with the Cornerstone House of Refuge Apostolic Church. It's an old movie theatre on Wellington near Parkdale that now serves as a (pentecostal?) church. The building is fabulous, but tired. I've always been a little curious about the congregation - you can tell the church attracts people from all over. On Sundays that corner is filled with snappily-dressed families (some amazing hats on the ladies, let me tell you) and the old cinema billboard advertises gospel music, along with various messages relating to the promise of salvation.

Turns out, the choir there is amazing. Young and incredibly energetic, their voices are powerful and their music infectious. The Bluesfest crowd was really getting down, even in the downpour that started in the middle of their performance yesterday. The minister and director didn't miss a beat; he integrated the rain into his gospel message. It was pretty inspiring, even for a jaded agnostic like me. It was just great to see people doing something they love, spreading a positive vibe with pure joy. I loved it.

Today's Shuffle

Miss Vicky Sun Jul 17, 2005

We hadn't done the Wellington Shuffle in quite a while... and we needed some brunch, so the Webgeek and I wandered up Wellington today, stopping in at various spots on the strip.

I hadn't been in The Weekend Reader before. What a great store! They're only open on weekends, they carry a huge range of new and used books, including some pretty interesting first editions. There's also a nice kids' section with kid-sized chairs and activities to occupy the small ones while parents browse.

The store is organized by section - history, local history, religion, cooking, fiction, etc, but not alphabetically, so you really have to spend some time and check out everything. The perfect way to spend a rainy weekend afternoon.

The Webgeek and I picked up the new Harry Potter (I know, I know), a gift for my brother-in-law, a Tim O'Brien novel and a hardcover Patrick McCabe, an interesting book of imponderables called Do Penguins have knees? (those 3 we got for $20), and a nifty volume of Songs of Work and Protest to grace the piano at the Finishing School.

Definitely stop by!

Geeky and socially conscious to boot

The Webgeek Sat Jul 16, 2005

I happened upon treehugger.com while perusing Slashdot a few days ago. It's a website devoted to finding and showcasing technological and social solutions to environmental issues. Far from being preachy, they offer a very hands on approach.

Among the cooler things I found on their site was a guy in Michegan who's blogging about his newly installed solar roof shingles, Sprout a Couch lawn furniture that's made out of actual lawn, super sturdy Rubber Sidewalks made from old tires, and some kick-ass recycled paper wall tiles that may just find their way into the finishing school's soon-to-be renovated basement.

Go, stroll through their site. visit the many sub-sections. But be forewarned. if your planning any renovations, or just like cool solutions to tough problems, you'll be there for quite a while. Like I said, I found this a few days ago, and just found the tiome to blog about it now.

Council Confetti Gazpacho

Miss Vicky Thu Jul 14, 2005

It's colourful. It's refreshing. And it packs a bite. Just what you need to accompany a 12-hour marathon city council meeting....

I abandoned my watchdog post yesterday to make my first batch of gazpacho this summer. It seemed like the right thing to do. And it seems only fair to share the recipe with you fine folks.

Now, Miss Vicky's approach to gazpacho is not unlike her approach to salad. Or pasta. Or pretty much anything, really. There are certain fundamental elements; what you do with them is up to you.

Here's what I did yesterday:

Step one: wander to local market. Pick out fresh, local veggies.

Step two: loosely chop 1 red pepper, 1 yellow pepper, 1 cucumber (peeled and seeded). Add to food processor and have at it. You don't want to reduce it to a puree - finely chopped, liquidy bits are good. Remove to bowl (Miss Vicky prefers her large Gripstand for this purpose). You can pretty much use any more-or-less-watery veggies in this step. Pepper of some variety and cucumbers are a must. Miss Vicky has also added celery, and that seems to work well. She likes a colourful gazpacho, so different colours of pepper do the trick.

Step two. loosely chop one onion. Add to food processor with 1/3 cup fresh herbs. Most recipes call for parsley, but Miss Vicky likes a combination of whatever is in her garden - today's mix included parsley, oregano, thyme, chives and tarragon. Finely chop in food processor and add to pepper/cucumber mixture.

Step three: Peel and seed 6 or so tomatoes (you can peel tomatoes by cutting an x in the bottom, adding to boiling water for 15 seconds and then cooling in a bowl of ice water. The skin should peel easily after this). Smush 'em up to a not-quite puree in the food processor and add to the bowl.

Step four: add garlic. Two or three cloves will do. Also add: 1/2-1 cup tomato juice, 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, a few tablespoons of olive oil, 1 chopped jalapeno or a few drops of hot sauce. Miss Vicky used her St. Lucian scotch bonnet sauce yesterday.

Chill and serve with crusty bread or tortilla chips.

This soup keeps a while and is a great addition to a cooler for beach/picnic/camping/music festival adventures. And it will keep you going through any marathon meeting!


Council's Heavy agenda - in action

Miss Vicky Wed Jul 13, 2005

I had contemplated wandering down to City Hall today to attend some of the council meeting. I know, I know, it's a geeky thing to do with one's day off....what can I say? I find some of the issues they're dealing with right now pretty interesting.

Anyway, I don't need to leave the comfort of my home to keep an eye on our councillors - you can watch the proceedings live via the city's website.

Looks like the Alta Vista transportation corridor is the hot item right now. Actually, it's a proposal to lease some land on Smyth to the hospital, but it's perceived by some councillors as an attempt to scuttle the corridor. The mayor's trying to make a point right now that the corridor - if we do go ahead with it - is a couple of decades away anyway, so leasing the land to the hospital for 15 years (for parking). A valiant attempt to direct debate away from the corridor, but it's not going to work.... council is divided on the issue, and passionately committed to their positions. Clive Doucet's giving a barn-burner about climate change and roads.... I'm sure others will argue the opposing view later.

Hm. It's going to be a long meeting.

Council's heavy agenda - Part 1

Miss Vicky Tue Jul 12, 2005

Once again I am experiencing that lethargy that tends to envelop me during hot, humid spells. And I'm afraid it's having an effect on my blogging capacity. I didn't want to bore you all with my adventures at the Blues Fest, nor am I ready to reflect upon the recent arrival of my mother and her new hubby, who've moved to their new Ottawa digs. And while the impending Kitchen Reno has tremendous potential, I'm holding back on that for now.

And there's only so much I can say about the pumpkin vine now taking over the front garden of the Finishing School.

So today I went looking for inspiration on the City of Ottawa web site. Looks like the heat isn't slowing down our councillors. There's a lot going on, and it all seems to be hitting the fan at tomorrow's council meeting.

Take the proposed changes to the City of Ottawa Act.

The document makes for interesting reading - a kind of primer on the legislative status of municipalities and the impact of the provincial downloading of services on municipalities' role, function and finances. The background section describes some of the challenges the city faces in meeting obligations to provide health and social services, address infrastructure needs, and so on, as well as the limitations placed on the city by the current legislative framework, which offers only limited opportunities for financing, thus placing a too-high burden on property taxes to pay for the things that federal and provincial governments have off-loaded to cities in favour of tax cuts.

I guess the short way of explaining it is that this is the beginning of putting the so-called New Deal for Cities into a more tangible form. Some of the proposed changes are housekeeping (adjustments from amalgamation, for example). Others seem designed to reflect the desire of council to implement theprinciples of Ottawa 20/20 and meet some of the challenges the city has identified in its long-range financial planning. In order to implement any changes to the legislation for the next council term (that's 2006-2009), the city has to submit its proposals in the fall of 2005.

Which I guess explains why this seems to be coming out of nowhere, rapidly introduced at committee and brought to a council meeting in the dead of summer, when folks are distracted by heat waves and blues festivals and other summer activities.

I've only skimmed the proposed amendments. Some of them seem innocuous, some would have clear benefits, some seem thrown in there for political purposes, and some could be perceived as a cash-grab.

Not that I'm opposed to some of the more cash-grabby proposals. Like Amendment #26: Authority to levy a visiting players’ tax with respect to professional sports., or the proposed hotel tax. Oh, and I particularly like #28: 28. Authority to assign a recycling levy (i.e.bottle returns, regulating use of paper/plastic bags, etc.).. That would be a levy on the producers of recyclable items to reflect the high cost of collecting and recycling them.

A lot of the proposed changes are connected to specific municipal services or infrastructure - like making developers who don't provide the requried percentage of affordable housing units pay cash-in-lieu, much like the current cash-in-lieu of parking system. Or the proposed land transfer tax levy, which would also be dedicated to affordable housing (I'm not wild about that one. Closing costs are hefty enough, and you're still chargning the same folks who are burdened with property taxes).

Some of the proposed amendments are more process-oriented, aimed at increasing the transparency of local government. They want to, for example, indicate what proportion of the property tax bill is dedicated to particular services (for example, the Police Services, which seems to be a particular target of this document).

Anyway, there's lots to take in, so I recommend having a look. And we'll all have to see how tomorrow's debate goes down.

Feeling Festive?

Miss Vicky Fri Jul 8, 2005

Lots of Fests happening in Ottawa this weekend. Of course, that's kind of the norm for Ottawa every summer, isn't it? You could spend your whole summer festival-hopping and still manage to miss a ton of events.

On Miss Vicky's agenda for the next 10 days or so: Bluesfest. The Webgeek and I are particularly keen to see K-OS, Daniel Lanois, Alison Kraus, Michael Franti... and of course, ZZ Top (for the camp factor, of course).

But also happening this weekend is a new event, Bankfest. It seems to be largely the initiative of the Bank St. BIA and some of the folks from Ottawa's Pride community, so the street party happening on Sunday will probably look a lot like the street parties we've enjoyed the last couple of Ottawa Pride Days. Without the parade, of course - that takes place later this summer, on August 28. They've got some good acts lined up, so if you're looking for a free alternative to the Bluesfest, head on down to Bank Street, between Cooper and Lewis, on Sunday between 11am and 9pm. There's also an intriguing dance party at the Drill Hall on Saturday night. We may have to head over after Daniel Lanois and shake our groove thangs...


Subsidized Ottawa: the contest continues!

Miss Vicky Thu Jul 7, 2005

I thought I would offer the following city services/facilities for your inspiration.... suggestions have been hilarious so far, so let's keep this contest going! Anyway, I need the distraction.

Select appropriate corporate sponsors for:

City Hall (and/or Council Chambers)
Ottawa Police Services HQ
Landsdowne Park
the Greenbelt
Westboro Beach
the upcoming Ottawa Rural Summit
Ottawa's Landfill site
Water filtration facilities
Any Transitway stop
the proposed new Island Park roundabout
the proposed Alta-Vista Transportation Corridor
Municipal Parking Lots
Public Library
Any arena or community centre
Blue Box
Grey Box
Seniors Centres
the Robert O. Picard Environmental Centre
Child Care Centres
Pet Licensing program
Ottawa Paramedic Service
job training programs
community housing
long term care facilities
tree-planting program

I could go on...you get the idea....

Sis: Call Home!

Miss Vicky Thu Jul 7, 2005

OK, desperate times call for desperate measures. My sis and her family are vacationing in London and we haven't got the foggiest idea where we are. We're a family of worry-warts, so needless to say we're a little anxious to get in touch after today's events in London's transit system. So Julie and Jim, if you happen to check in while you're across the pond: can you call us, please, and let us know you're OK? Thanks ever so.

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