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All In Hand

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

Spring Cleaning, anyone?

Miss Vicky Thu Mar 30, 2006

The city's annual spring cleaning drive runs from April 14 to May 14. Folks are encouraged to pick a public space, collect their friends and neighbours, and get rid of the various winter litter and residue that is being revealed by the quickly-receding snow.

Miss Vicky has been toying with the idea of sponsoring an event, and is looking for suggestions. Some initial thoughts:

Parkdale Park (by the Market)
McCormick Park
Tom Brown Arena
Scott Street pathway between Bayview and Island Park
Byron Ave pathway
Fisher Park
Reid Park
Fairmont Park
Champlain Park
Hampton Park
Iona Park
Somerset Square and around the Hintonburg Community Centre
Laroche Park
Riverside Terrace Park
Westboro Kiwanis Park
McKellar Park
There is also Westboro Beach and the whole river parkway. And I'm sure I'm missing a couple further west in the Ward. I'm open to your suggestions (and of course, your volunteer time!). I promise we'll make it short and fun for folks of all ages!


Wellington West to lose green space?

Miss Vicky Wed Mar 29, 2006

Yesterday Council's Planning and Environment Committee approved a zoning amendment for a small lot on the corner of Grange and Scott, to permit a single dwelling to be constructed. Seems reasonable, yes? A single residential building in a neighbourhood largely of single residential buildings.... makes sense. The only problem is, the lot used to be a city-managed parkette, the only one available to that neighbourhood. You can still see the remains of a fountain and flower beds, but the property has lain dormant for some time. Which is unfortunate, because it would be a fabulous space for a community garden of some sort.

Apparently the city declared the property "surplus to its needs" in 1996, and decided to put it up for sale. There has been no interest until recently, and the sale of the land is contingent upon the zoning amendment required to be able to develop it. According to the West Wellington Community Association, whose response is attached to the committee documentation, “For years our community association (West Wellington Community Association) has lobbied to keep this plot of land (Grange Park) as a community run park, and much needed greenspace for our community. Grange Avenue homeowners have participated in a survey to best determine the long-term use of this area. The recommendations presented to Sean Little suggested a community garden to be maintained by local residents. This park is the only one of its kind in Ottawa and has a long history among the residents of our area.

Unfortunately, our elected City Councillor, Sean Little reported to City Council that there was no interest in keeping this land for its current use. This is in fact false, as he did not read documentation supplied by the community supported by 95% of Grange Avenue residents in agreement. Sean Little has failed to read the community’s wishes and implemented framework to rezone this unique plot of land.”

The recommendation still has to go to council. I understand there was some debate yesterday about loss of greenspace to the neighbourhood. And well there should be. The space has potential.... say, for something like the High Park Children's Garden in Toronto. There are so many families and some fabulous gardens in the area. But is there energy to do something? Any thoughts from West Wellington folk?

Signs of Spring in Kitchissippi

Miss Vicky Tue Mar 28, 2006

Brant geese along the river
Shirtless guy sunning himself by pick-up
Royal Oak patio open
UPS guy in shorts
Senior couple cruising along Richmond on snazzy new bikes
Garden centre open in Canadian Tire, not to mention the camping gear (machete, anyone?)
Darrell takes his post outside his house on Sherbrooke Ave, so he can keep an eye on the 'hood.
Middle-aged dudes driving 'vettes and motorcycles
Flower stall opens at the Parkdale Market (should be any day now)
Starlings move in under our roof

Riverwalk with me

The Webgeek Tue Mar 28, 2006

So today marked our first big river stroll with WInston since the snow started flying. I must say, the pooch was delighted. There are still areas where ice and snow cover the pathway, but it isn't the soupy, flooded, springtime mess it has been in years past. I'm partially loathe to report that Canada geese are already setting up home along the banks. We counted at least a half dozen mating pairs. Also spotted were a pair of mallards, fresh beaver gnaw marks, several red-winged blackbirds, and -- most suprising of all -- a pair of Brant Geese. Suprising not only because they are normally a coastal bird, but because this is now the second season we've seen them on the Ottawa river. We had spotted the them late in the fall last year. Curiosity and the magic of Google helped discover what they where. After reading their traditional migratory pattern -- strictly along the Atlanic coast -- we considered ourselves lucky to see these obviously misplaced fowl. But with their return, I can only assume they've imprinted themselves onto their larger cousins, the Canada Geese, and are following them instead of instinct.

So if you've got any amateur bird-watching pals, send them down to the Ottawa river to view this "rare treat". It'll be intersting to see if they continue to return.

Off-ramp rage

Miss Vicky Sun Mar 26, 2006

A reader kindly forwarded a letter he's written to Shawn little regarding traffic showdowns at the 417 and Carling. Here it is:

Hello Shawn,

About 15 minutes ago I got into a serious altercation with another driver about the yield situation at the end of the westbound 417 offramp to carling. It is the second time in a year the pedestrian crosswalk at the end of the ramp has created a danger situation for myself, my passengers, and the pedestrians looking to cross.

There are not one, but TWO yield signs posted at the end of this ramp. One is clearly relating to the ramp merge onto Carling, and the other for the crosswalk. They are not side by side across the offramp from each other, as is sometimes the case. Nor would it matter if they were.

An old man on a walker (I am serious) was waiting to cross, I stopped, and a textbook road rage altercation ensued with the approaching driver behind me, who left his vehicle and threatened me because we were "on the Queensway".

In a previous episode, another driver was failing to pay attention, swerved on the wet road and came close to rear-ending us and hitting a man and his daughter as they crossed. Thankfully, the father was wise to the danger and no harm was done. Once again, my friend (who was driving at the time) was incredibly informed -- in heated terms -- that the yield sign meant that CARS had the right of way.

The law is clear on the matter, but apparently many drivers are not. In the end analysis, the crosswalk situation is too ambiguous for many people to grasp, and following the law creates unacceptable danger.

Of all the places in the ward that require some kind of signage and traffic control attention, surely this has to top the list. Since the crosswalk is not going anywhere, a flashing yellow light, stickman and YIELD FOR PEDESTRIANS, BE PREPARED TO STOP sign further up the ramp, in my view, is the minimum action. It doesn't fully resolve any danger, but at least it might educate.

I urge you to consider the matter.

These are excellent points. I'm sure that anyone who's taken that offramp can come up with examples of equally harrowing incidents. I've never experienced road rage at that point, but have definitely had some tense moments trying to merge from Carling to turn right at Kirkwood, while negotiating with cars leaving the Queensway. I don't walk up there too much (you'll find me nearby on Byron or Hampton Park instead, tethered to a large German Shepherd dog) but I can only imagine how tense it can be for pedestrians!

Right now the provincial government is about to begin improvements to the ramps and bridges on the 417, including the one at Carling. Perhaps some pressure can be put on the government to add some increased safety measures to that offramp. TIme to call the MPP's office, I think!

There certainly is precedent for increased signage and flashing lights - the Parkdale exit is full of 'em, as it's so short and you are almost immediately on a resididential street with a stop light at the end of it.

Aside from the traffic engineering aspects of this is the issue of driver behaviour in Ottawa. We hear about and witness these incidents on an all-too-regular basis - not to mention the number of accidents involving pedestrians (including far too many fatal ones). So much could be prevented by drivers taking a deep breath, slowing down and keeping a close eye on what is happening around them.

Caffe Mio Blog!

Miss Vicky Fri Mar 24, 2006

Here's something I just discovered - Caffe Mio, a great little cafe/bistro on Wellington at Western, has a blog. It's particularly interesting right now because the place has been closed for some time while they complete some major renovations. You can check out the progress from demo to demi-tasse on the site, hear about what the owner and staff have been up to, and get your Mio fix before they open again. I noticed the "we're hiring" sign a couple of weeks ago, so it looks like they are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I've had some great pasta there, and although I have yet to experience the desserts I am told they are pretty tasty. It's also a fine local hangout with a very approachable and quirky-fun style. Winston also appreciates the ice water and dog biscuit bowls they put outside their patio for our four-legged companions.

more on water

Miss Vicky Wed Mar 22, 2006

More on water.....

Apparently Canada ranks 28th out of 29 OECD nations on per capita water consumption - 1600 cubic metres per person, or 65% above the OECD average. Yikes! Perhaps we take our natural resources for granted. Maybe we just don't think enough about what we consume. But there are small things we can do to reduce the amount of water we use. We use most of our water in the bathroom, so that's the first place to start, with shorter showers, more efficient equipment, repairing leaky faucets. Then there's that whole lawn-watering issue. Here at the Finishing School we've been gradually replacing the front lawn with flowers, and Winston has done a pretty good job at tearing up the back (we call him our little canine rototiller). When I do water, I try to do it in the early morning.

It may seem like there's a lot of water to go around, but it is a precious resource and it won't last forever.

Reflections on World Water Day

Miss Vicky Wed Mar 22, 2006

Today is world water day. So I'm taking the opportunity to reflect upon what water means to me. Aside from the usual survival aspects - my doctor-recommended 8 glasses a day, the stuff I use for bathing, toothbrushing, and so on. It's also a huge part of my physical and emotional health. Water - whether running, or standing - has always been an important part of my life.... perhaps as close to a source of spirituality as Miss Vicky gets.

I blame my parents, really, for introducing me to lake swimming at a very young age. There are pictures of me in relatives' arms at our Mill Lake retreat outside Parry Sound, and I've been in love with the place ever since. There is nothing better than watching the early morning sun play on a mirror-smooth lake surface, drinking in the mist and the quiet with my morning coffee while I sit on the huge slab of granit that serves as our launching-point. When the coffee is gone, I strip down to my bathing suit and before I think too much about it, plunge in fingertips-first for my early swim across the lake. That first burst of wet is just so invigorating... I don't care if it's endorphins or just plain nuttiness, but that summer ritual gives me a great deal of joy.

So the simple act of swimming laps in a pool, although for different reasons. Ny focusing on the minute aspects of my stroke, the regular in-out of my breathing and the pulsing beat of the kick, I can push away the day's stresses and head somewhere else for a while. Plus it's darned good for me. Getting back to Master's swimming after a 20-year hiatus from a regular regime was the best thing I ever did for myself.

Life just feels better when there's a body of water nearby. I'm not sure if it's the sound of waves, or the excitement of watching the flora and fauna that rely on it, but I seek water out whenever I can. I'm not one of those folks who requires a vast expanse of ocean (actually, I prefer fresh water), but I can kind of get where they're coming from. Right now I feel lucky to live so close to the Ottawa River, and I'm really looking forward to renewing our morning tradition of our giant Bridgehead/River walk with Winston.

One source of disappointment to me is the spotty water quality of the beaches along the river - Westboro Beach, for example, is so convenient and accessible, but it more often that not closed because of bacteria. I think we could really benefit from a closer look at the origins of this problem, to see if there are ways we can address it.

Wedding Etiquette: Flying Solo

Miss Vicky Mon Mar 20, 2006

de-plussed in Ottawa writes:

This is a bit long, but I'm a bit miffed.

Recently, I received a wedding invitation addressed to just me, not me "and guest" or me "plus one". It came from a couple relatively new in my life whom I have come to know through my music activities. As such, they really know very little about my personal life; topics of that nature don't really come up.

Sure, if I was someone's wife or in a Serious Relationship, people would probably know about it "my partner always tells me I'm ...", "yesterday, me and my husband went to ..." blah blah blah. It stuns me, though, that people 40 or under in this day and age could assume that unmarried means un-anything. I found it brazen to send me a solo invite without knowing anything about me. Are there not are a myriad of relationships, however unorthodox, I could be involved in? Should that preclude me from attending events escorted?

Anyways, so when I mentioned that I'd be coming to their event from another wedding (where I was invited to bring "guest") and would it be alright if I bring the person who will be with me, there was lotsa 'omigod of course you can' and 'we didn't realize you have a ... err ... an ... um, well, of course you can' and 'omigod what's his name?!'. Thing is, the guy I'm bringing is someone with whom I have no distinct label, at least, I imagine, none that these new friends would be comfortable with. And now I think they think he is some kind of main squeeze in my life and that they're stumbling out of a faux pas. But I'm thinking, it never was your business - nor should it be now - as to whether there is someone in my life with a tidy title like boyfriend, partner, or fiance. And why assume that unless I name someone, there's no one?

So, Miss Vicky, I ask you 3 things:
1. After all the assumption-assry, in order to avoid people asking about our coupleness when in fact we are an altogether unusual version of 'together' which we should not have to explain because it is nobody's business, should I just not take him?
2. Do you think I should say something to them about how weird this whole mess has been, when it didn't have to be? and that they may want to get themselves a more contemporary notion of what 'single' might mean?
3. If I'm inviting someone to my wedding whom I know not to be married, who is new to my life (and therefore wouldn't know many people at the event), I would never dream of telling her to come alone. Would you?

Oh my. Weddings have such a potential for pushing everyone's buttons, don't they? And not in a good way.

Miss Vicky has endured many, many weddings as a single gal. Most of them dateless, since they've often been family weddings requiring travel, making it difficult to bring along a friend, date, whatever. The more formal/traditional the wedding is, the more perils are involved for the singleton, especially as we move past the traditional first marriage age and into the... ahem... second round? Relatives either press you for details about your love life, or lack thereof, or worse yet, ignore you because they're embarrassed to ask or don't want to make you feel "uncomfortable". Groan. There are the desperate attempts to hook you up with whatever available man remotely close to your age is in the room (and sometimes they can be pretty scarce), and the insistence that you join the nubile twentysomethings for the mortifying bouquet toss. The inevitable compulsion to escape in the temporarily-comforting arms of the open bar and the equally inevitable disastrous outcome of overindulgence. It's just messy.

Making this more difficult is the giddy preoccupation of the happy couple, who are probably going through a myriad of complicated issues, juggling familial obligations and idiosynchrocies, in-laws running amok, logistical and organizational challenges, and more worries and anxieties than you can shake a stick at. Again, with formal/traditional weddings, these complications are magnified considerably. This could be the source of the tendency to assume, since assumptions allow stressed folks to gloss over some complications while they wrestle with others. The good thing is, they'll be even more preoccupied the day of, so I wouldn't worry too much about awkwardness at the event in question. I'd just go and have fun and not worry about what people think or assume - who cares, anyway? If they ask, you can just shrug and call him your friend or your date and leave it at that.

Since the couple in question is stressed and preoccupied, I would suggest that it is not the time to educate them about the range of possible interpersonal entanglements that exist in our complicated 21st century world.... and it's probably not worth it. Some folks just done get the quirky alone thing, no matter how fab it can be. Especially people in love and about to get married. They think EVERYONE should enjoy the bliss they are experiencing and can't imagine any other way of living. The best way to let them know the range of fabulous existences available to single folks is to show them. And that means having a whale of a time and their wedding no matter what the heck folks think. No explanations required.

As for your third question, if Miss Vicky were to get married, she would let her single ir unmarried or alternatively entangled friends decide for themselves whether they want to come alone, accompanied, or whatever. She wouldn't decide for them. That's just the kind of gal she is.

Anagram transit fun

Miss Vicky Mon Mar 20, 2006

Transit boosters have started a new trend, and it's spreading faster than suburbia across the blogosphere. It started, I believe, with a remix of London's Tube map, followed up swiftly a clever fan of Toronto's Transit Commission by Robot Johnny. Both efforts were rewarded with threats of legal action by transit authorities, which I find most bizarre. Here transit users are finding creative ways of celebrating their commute, generating hits and discussion and spin-offs across the globe - the transit authorities should be celebrating and encouraging this (heck, even converting it for t-shirts and other commercial opportunities), not stifling it. Now we have a version for OC Transpo.... they could use all the promotion they can get, so I'm hoping their response will be different than that of their colleagues in other cities.

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