Sunday, February 18, 2007

New website tracks illegal signs in Toronto

Illegalsigns.ca is an excellent new advocacy site which I spotted on a Spacing post. It chronicles the presence of illegal commercial signs - usually "third party", not directly associated with the business it is erected on.

The signs can be overlarge, obscuring windows, too close to another large sign and so on. Crucially it points out how some companies re-erect such signs after being told to remove them by Toronto Municipal Licencing and Standards (MLS). The activists have obtained copies of the inspector work records and chronicle the failings of the advertises and those meant to regulate them.

I think there are some horrific signs in Toronto, especially the rooftop signs erected on unsightly steel gantries. The numbers of signs already identified as illegal (Google mashup) is pretty eye watering, especially near City Hall. Unlike the harder-line members of groups like the Toronto Public Space Committee, I am not against commercial advertising per se, especially when it supports City services, but there are rules to keep things reasonable and they seem to be flouted by various firms.

"Blue"gstravanganza

Thanks to Bob Tarantino for arranging the Blogstravaganza get together here in town last night, although given the political leanings of most of the assembled bloggers it was virtually a Blogging Tories meeting. The advertised Toronto Paranormal Society meeting for the second floor room was a bust though - only two lonely (and corporeal) souls came calling.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Turning back desertification doesn't have to cost the earth

The New York Times (free rego) has an interesting article on a local change in farming practices in Niger which valued tree saplings and nurtured them rather than removing them as an obstacle to crop-farming. The result that while the rest of the region suffered from famine during a drought, the trees helped to hold down topsoil and provided additional income from tree products such as branches and seeds. It doesn't cost the earth and it doesn't fix all the local problems but it gives hope that we don't have to have all the answers to solve some of the questions.

No Croke Park glory - and Ryle Nugent please shut up or make way!

We lost 20-17 but in truth the way France opened this game deserved a victory. Errors in the second half combined with Skrela's skittishness from penalties were not enough to justify feeling cheesed off with their win. There were some refereeing issues too but Eddie O'Sullivan refuses, rightly to blame him.

Instead the finger could be pointed at such issues as the Plan A tactic, stuck to religiously, of long kicks which almost never found touch and instead found the mobile French back line who usually returned with interest. Short kicks to land behind the forwards for Hickie to gallop after should have been Plan B. Some of the passing was dreadful, possibly brought on by fear of the flat, some might say frequently offside, French defence.

Most relieved? Possibly the GAA traditionalists. Bad enough that the game was played at all in their eyes, but if Ireland rang up a 100% record some might have questioned the need for rugby to return to Lansdowne Road at all!

Finally, a rugby match of this kind brings two things - the roars of 81,000 partisans and the ability to hear the referee's interactions with the players via Steve Walsh's mike. All too often all we could hear was Ryle fecking Nugent witter on in his annoying way - a way all too familiar in North American sport where they pay by the word - the use of the pause used to be a tool of British and Irish commentators - now the commentators are just tools - there seems to be no replacing Bill McLaren and company. The verbal-diarrhoea and general guff merchant is placed by Twenty Major in the same category as burglers who beat up their elderly victims - hard but fair.

Friday, February 09, 2007

CBC to show Blue Jays games?

The CBC's sports department is a rapidly shrinking animal given the loss of the Olympics, curling and CFL football so it is interesting that the Blue Jays are in talks with CBC to either have them replace TSN as secondary carrier of Jay games or to do so in addition to TSN, the current contract holder. Due to the mutual parentage of the Jays and Sportsnet under the Rogers corporate tent, the primary contract is not up for grabs.

In NBA news - when Toronto got its 27th win last year it was April 15 and they had lost 55 games. This year they have lost 23 and are 9-1 in the last ten after their defeat of Kobe Bryant and the rest of the Lakers.

As for the Leafs - after last night Nashville is still the only NHL team never to lose to Toronto, albeit over the short history of the franchise.

This is a big sporting weekend for me, tomorrow morning will be spent watching United and Sunday morning (10am EST) the historic first international rugby game at Croke Park against France - and we'll have to do it without two big-game players.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Forget the partisanry, this is just stupid on every level

Apparently a tax break has been introduced by the Tories and outside of one company in Immigration Minister Diane Finlay's riding nobody can find an eligible recipient. But irrespective of the sneaking in of a tax break for a single Tory MP - WHAT THE HELL IS THE GOVERNMENT OF CANADA DOING GIVING TAX REDUCTIONS FOR PRODUCTION OF TOBACCO?!

Worse still - it appears this tax break is in part to assist the MP in avoiding the fallout from the Caledonia debacle - so now federal as well as provincial taxpayers are shelling out for that particular fiasco.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

TTC plans for new streetcars - good news

The previous plan to refurbish the existing streetcars seems to be out of favour in favour of low-floor streetcars which will be low-mobility-accessible, unlike the existing models. This alone should have been reason to go for them, along with a modern design (with airconditioning designed in rather than taken out and now being put back) and hopefully quieter operation, especially when stopped. The reintroduction of streetcars in Dublin showed people who would not ride buses would ride the LUAS and it's good to see TTC not yield to the siren song of more buses and one hopes the Budget Advisory Committee will see the sense in this.

The important thing to know is that the existing streetcar fleet is 196 strong so 200 cars is a 1:1 replacement. That sounds fine until you realise the new streetcar lines in the waterfront and Scarborough and extensions of St. Clair to Jane and Bathurst up the hill to St. Clair (if it can be done) will result in fewer streetcars running less frequently to cover the extra route length, albeit larger ones on average with the smaller 18m streetcars replaced by a car more like the length of the larger 28m car. If the Dublin experience is anything to go by, a modular design is critical, given that all of their 30m Citadis cars are to be upgraded to 40m due to heavy demand.

That said, without a serious reining in of Toronto's Roads and Works Departments and the urgent introduction of system wide traffic signal control and next streetcar displays the new cars will suffer the same congestion and customer dissatisfaction as the existing ones. If this plan is confirmed and tenders issued, Steve Munro's blog will be worth watching even more than usual. Now if only TTC would have the bottle to face down the province about the subway to "nowhere and Highway 7"...

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Time to get a seat on that bandwagon?

I have been been unkind to Toronto's NBA team in the past but the city's newspapers are perking up to the recent run of form which culminated with last night's win over Atlanta, giving Sam Mitchell and Company 24 wins and 23 losses (0.511). After November's controversy over the Atlanta scoreboard operator in one of two losses to the Hawks, the location of win 24 must have been satisfying.

This result gives them a thin but growing lead of two games over Vince Carter's Nets at the top of the Northeast Division. It's been five seasons since they had a winning record at this point in the season. It was also extremely unlikely back in November when Sam Mitchell's position must have been somewhat shaky. December began the turnaround with the blog "Pink Slip Sam" dormant since the 10th of that month.

It's difficult to get too enthusiastic - still only two games up and their record would be only enough for third at best in any of the other five divisions, and fifth in the Central. The reality is that with the Jays trapped with the Yankees and Red Sox, the lack of popular draw for the Argos and the Rock and the unproven lure of Toronto FC (as opposed to the lure of David Beckham), even a single Raptor playoff run would be a big deal to downtown businesses, and that's enough reason to hope. If that bandwagon does roll beyond round 1, I have a Bosh shirt picked up from when I biked for tykes - that said, Nicole is doubtful that I cut a Nash or a Bird figure so much as the one that 99% of skinny white guys do in a basketball shirt.

UPDATE: Torontoist's Ken Hunt points out the role Stephen Colbert had in the turnaround since that defeat by Maccabi Tel Aviv.