Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Good Corp

Airbus has announced the creation of a recycling facility for aircraft, the first of its kind in the world. The facility is targeted to achieve an 85-95% recycling rate for aircraft components and will even accept aircraft from rival aircraft manufacturers.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Bad Corp

Royal-Dutch Shell appeals a $1.5 billion fine imposed by a Nigerian court for polluting the Niger river delta. In 2005 Shell posted a profit of $22.9 billion, the highest full-year profit in British history.

Smiling Buddha

On Saturday I visited the Smiling Buddha Bar at 961 College St (@ Dovercourt).

A lot of small bars downtown are long and narrow, making it hard to see the stage, and this one is no exception. But the service was friendly and we squeezed into a booth eventually.

They are an unpretentious neighborhood pub - a welcome contrast to the glitzy boom-boom of bars on College St further east. Buddha Bar's calendar is online at Local Calendar and they evidently host a full roster of live music.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Awad for the masses

Michael Awad's exhibit at the AGO is an intriguing look at the city and its inhabitants. With his custom 60 mm camera equipment and specialized dollies he creates long images that reflect space and time. Familiar objects such as cars are compressed and stretched by the motion of the lens. But the distortion is mild; the environment and the subjects remain familiar and clear: people on an escalator; grocery items on a shelf.

The Henry Moore Sculpture Centre, Art Gallery of Ontario is a linearized image of a three-dimensional sculpture gallery of the same name. This representation of the gallery makes the space look larger and more impressive; it has an otherworldly quality in the photo.

Queen Street, North Side is a new view of a familiar subject. This work is a panoramic image of Queen St., roughly the entire length of Queen Street East and West, from the bridge over the Don River, all the way past St Joseph's Health Sciences Centre in the west. That is to say, this work is effectively a 6km wide panorama shot at a range of less than 100m!

This exhibit is what contemporary art should be. Accessible but layered. Artsy but not too clever.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Insulation Upgrade 2

This weekend I installed Rocksul fiberglass insulation underneath our flat roof. The vapor barrier was tricky; this is my first time installing a VB. Next time I will install larger pieces of VB to avoid seams, and also I will get the correct size of bats. The insulation comes in 24'' and 16'' bats and if you get the wrong size, you have to chop the bats up into smaller pieces and jam them together between the beams. Posted by Picasa


Mr. Nobody is a cartoon character created by local artist Tanya Read. Nobody shows his friendly face now and then at local galleries. Read is the co-owner of the Fly Gallery at 1172 Queen St. West.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Ezekiel 4:9

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I picked up a box of Ezekiel 4:9 cereal (almond flavor) yesterday. The cereal from Food For Life bills itself as the "staff of life." Ezekiel 4:9 was inspired by the verse of the same name: "Take also unto thee Wheat and Barley and Beans and Lentils and Millet and Spelt and put them in one vessel and make bread of it."

Comparing the nutrion facts to Kellogg's Muslix, it has a higher amount of protein per serving, and less calories. Cereal is one of my favorite foods. This one tastes rather Old Testamenty: harsh, crunchy, and uncompromising. Believe me, you are going to need some extra sugar on your Ezekiel 4:9.

Ezekiel is well known as the prophet who filled the Gospel with bizarre and vicious rants. Be glad there's no cereal based on Ezekiel 4:15: "Lo, I have given thee cow's dung for man's dung, and thou shalt prepare thy bread therewith." or Ezekiel 5:10: "Therefore the fathers shall eat the sons in the midst of thee, and the sons shall eat their fathers."

Queen St. West, 14:48

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Two dogs greet passers-by on a cold sunny day.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Day 519

Today is Day 519 of the Attic to Loft Conversion. That's sobering. And to think that we thought it would take 2-4 months. Yes, it's been a year and a half since we packed up our living room and signed the first cheque to a contractor. Some of the highlights

  • Removed plaster ceiling in living room
  • Installed LVL's to reinforce the new floor
  • Installed plywood subfloor
  • Replaced plaster common wall with double 5/8'' drywall and insulation
  • Straightened roof and opened up false dormer and dormer window
  • Reroofed half the roof
  • Installed new posts all the way to the basement
  • New roof windows in loft
  • New stairs to loft


  • Replaced furnace and routed ducts to every room on second and third floor
  • New heating duct in 1st floor room
  • New A/C unit in loft room


  • Rewired second floor hallway
  • New pot lights in LR
  • New circuits and lighting in loft


  • General drywall and taping
  • Installation of specialized trim in loft and on stairs
  • Recycled hardwood floor and finishing in loft

Insulation Upgrade

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On Sunday I ripped into my bedroom ceiling with a knife and crowbar. Old plaster is unstable and you can't just pry it loose. The technique I used was: score the plaster with a mallet and utility knife and then pry chunks loose with the crowbar.

It wasn't long before I got a nasty surprise. Halfway through the job, I pulled a large dead rat (all rats look large when they are in your hand) out of the ceiling. It was flat and leathery, sort of a rat shoe. If another one turns up I will have to make some slippers!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Energy Efficient Stove

I noticed my spanking new Fridgidaire stove has a high Energuide rating.

Well, I was interested - so what makes it an energy efficient stove?

The rating is based on a comparative analysis of appliances in different categories. In my case there are only three ranges in the class (24 inch smooth top, electrical range), so it turns out the high rating is not especially relevant.

The National Research Council has an excellent site where you can compare appliances based on their expected power consumption. The site has a lot of interesting data about stoves
  • Between 1984 and 2002 the average consumption of stoves decreased by about 6%
  • During the same time period the avereage consumption of refrigerators decreased by about 119%
I suppose there is not too much you can do to increase a stove's efficiency. My new oven has some cool looking insulation.
This must be where the 6% improvement comes from
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So this year my company is saving money by closing their Toronto office. All Toronto employees are now required to work from home. This is not so great. Frankly, being stuck in my house all the time sounds like a nightmare.

But there's no arguing about it; I will have to make the best of it for now. Free high speed Internet, a nice T2200 which allows me to write off certain costs related to the house as business expenses. Thank God the renovation is almost over.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Direct Marketing

Well, the Spouse and I are registered to not be contacted. The Canadian Direct Marketing Association offers a service for registering on their Do Not Call, Do Not Fax, and Do Not Send lists for three years. We'll see how effective this service is. Telemarketers are mildly annoying, but it's the junk mail that really irritates me. All that wasted paper.

We'll still get the flyers though. It's especially irritating when the dumbass that delivers the flyers is too lazy to put them in the mail box, and just tosses them on the porch or shoves them in the railing.

Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility also has an article on how to avoid unwanted mailings. It seems that warranty registration cards are an important source of mailing lists for direct marketing companies.

The dangerous fantasy of decadent power needs

John Barber has a great column in today's Globe and Mail on the $500 million Portlands Energy Centre proposed for the Toronto waterfront. Barber skewers the sky-is-falling claim by the McGuinty government that opposition to the plant is dangerous. In fact, there is a broad consensus that a plant needs to be built in the Portlands, but a number of people would like the province to build a smaller plant and use conservation measures to make up the difference
Far from being dream-world stuff, such strategies have proven effective in many
U.S. jurisdictions with hotter climates than ours. Using similar approaches,
Toronto Hydro "delivered" 134 megawatts of conservation savings last year. The
utility recently introduced a program that automatically slows down air
conditioners in peak periods, which is expected to save at least another 100
megawatts by 2008. Careful use of existing standby generators could be
worth another 300 megawatts, according to Toronto Hydro vice-president Blair
Peberdy. (p. A12)

I always look for Barber's grumpy little picture in the Globe. It's the best part of the paper.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Coal Troubles

The Globe's Saturday editorial is way off base:
To avoid putting the system at risk the government should stop talking of deadlines and ensure an indefinite lease on life for the two plants the IESO wants available as insurance: Nanticoke and the Lambton operation near Sarnia. [...] The coal plans are a crucial cushion and the government can keep them in a state of readiness by remembering that one simple phrase: Be prudent. (p. A22, Feb 4 2006)

There's nothing prudent about damaged lungs. Massive smog, which is killing over a thousand people a year in Toronto, is not an acceptable backup plan. Ontario needs a deadline; three years to close the biggest point source of pollution is more than enough warning. It's enough time to focus on conservation measures during peak times.

Nanticoke does not need a new lease on life; it needs a 'Closed for Business' sign and a team of bulldozers.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Spinning Sarah

Sarah Slean played at the Spin Gallery tonight. It's a treat to hear live music that is unmediated by recording equipment and time - the little asides, the keyboard flourishes connect you powerfully to the artist. Her voice is bold and lovely, and I shall be checking out her work. Sounds like a good idea for a Valentine's present

Sarah finished off with Edelweiss, the German folk song and some people sang along, including me. (This drew some warning stares from the spouse) Spin is showcasing her artwork as well, which is unfortunately not as interesting.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Day in Court

The Spouse and I were in court today, testifying against the man who tried to break into our house. As a result, while waiting to be called as a witness, I spent the day in the company of several of Toronto's finest. Not a bad way to spend your day; I got an earful of interesting stories, some of which are far too libellous to print here.


1. Cops don't like firefighters ("hose monkeys"). The joke is that the police graduate with a gun and a badge, and the firefighters graduate with a pillow and a spatula.

2. Old cops are bitter. They really don't like lawyers and judges.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Motorist Rage

Nasty confrontation between a motorist and cyclist yesterday
1. Man throws garbage out of van onto street
2. Cyclist throws garbage back in van
3. In a fit of rage, man attacks cyclist and bike and anyone in flailing distance

Full set of photos on CityNoise who have reportedly garnered 100,000 hits for the article in the last few days.

RL Clark

Toronto depends on Lake Ontario for its drinking water and these four filtration plants are the essential inputs to the entire local water system. This description of the filtration process is almost poetic:
As water from the lake filters into the plant's intake mouth, located 1,615 m from shore under 18 m of water, screens remove the larger particles of debris, allowing the water to flow through with relative ease. Four large pumps lift the water into mixing chambers, after which the forces of gravity propel it through the rest of the plant.

The water is pre-chlorinated and Alum is added. Alum helps the settling process by forming a jelly-like material that joins to form large particles (known as Floc), which ultimately fall to the bottom and drag most impurities with them. Next, 24 sets
of paddles and three mixers gently stir the water to encourage the formation of
Floc. As the water passes slowly trough three settling basins, the Floc settles
to the bottom, carrying impurities with it.

The cleaner water at the top passes through 18 sand filters which remove most of the remaining impurities as well as some bacteria. Chlorine is added to remove the last of any renegade bacteria, and then fluoride is added. It is ammoniated to ensure the water remains pure as it makes its way through the distribution system.

(excerpted from the Long Branch Village BIA website)

Mmm, I can really taste the Alum in that tap water.

The RL Clark filtration plant is being upgraded so that the residue from the filtration process is not simply dumped back in the lake. A new residue management facility will treat the solid waste from the filtering process and hopefully improve the water quality at local beaches.