Sci-Fi Author Convicted For Questioning Authority

Yesterday, Canadian sci-fi author, Peter Watts, was convicted in a US court of “failure to comply with a lawful command” from a federal officer. This is a felony and could send him to prison for upwards of three years.

What did his crime entail? After being beaten by American border guards, when they told him to hit the ground, he apparently asked them what the problem was. For that he was pepper sprayed and thrown in jail. (We blogged about this back in December.)

Meanwhile, the border guards who — and the jury seems to agree on this point — completely overreacted and used excessive force in beating, pepper spraying and jailing Watts, seem to have escaped any kind of justice.

You can read the Globe’s coverage here but it rehashes the story that he assaulted one of the border guards which, as it turns out, didn’t happen. Better to read Watts’ own blog post about his conviction. Have to say I’m amazed by how polite and understanding he seems to be of this whole absurd affair.

Frankly, as far as I’m concerned, this is yet more evidence that the US should be avoided at all costs. These days, it’s less a civilized country and more like a blind, diseased animal, it’s extremities flailing about in agony, clawing to death anything that comes within reach.

City Budget Launched

Funny thing happened to me this morning while attending the launch of the proposed 2010 Regina Budget. Once the mayor had finished taking questions and left the room, there were press scrums with reps from the business community so we could hear their reactions to the budget. It was while John Hopkins, CEO of the Regina Chamber of Commerce, was speaking to us press-types that someone leaned over my shoulder — I won’t say who — and in a voice thick with irony whispered, “Remember Paul, this is the de facto mayor of Regina.”

Ow, snap!

For those who don’t get the joke, that would be a shot at the dog over the Conway column we ran in the last issue. And fair enough. We earned that ribbing. Still, I do wish I’d been able to come up with a witty riposte but my brain’s pretty sluggish at the best of times.

Anyway, Hopkins sure wasn’t talking like some kind of shadow mayor today. Neither was Marilyn Braun-Pollon of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. They were there to hector city hall from the sidelines over the decision to boost the mill rate.

That’s right, kids, the proposed budget is recommending a 4.5 per cent mill rate increase. For the average household that will mean an additional $4.97 per month — or $59.61 per year — in property taxes. But as the mayor pointed out, this is just a proposed budget. Council will be taking input from the public between now and April 27 when the final version comes forward.

Continue reading “City Budget Launched”

Waste Plan Update

Heard from Councillor Fred Clipsham tonight (at the Cathedral Area Community Association annual general meeting) that the Public Works Committee approved the recommendations in the Waste Plan Regina final report. (Read more about what the committee was considering in this post.) That means curbside recycling is one step closer and only needs approval from council at their Monday meeting for the ball to start rolling on that.

Interestingly, the Public Works Committee voted to add to the staff recommendations that the Waste Plan’s Comprehensive Option be made an aspirational goal for our waste management system with an eye to achieve it by 2020. So, that means we’ll be getting the Enhanced Option (characterized primarily by curbside recycling) in the near term but we could see an even more impressive waste management system — one that includes bi-weekly collection of compostable kitchen waste, for instance — established 10 years from now.

UPDATE: Martin G over at Regina Urban Ecology has a very detailed breakdown of how the Public Works Committee came to the decision it did. Plus, he reports on comments made at the meeting by John Hopkins of the Chamber of Commerce. Apparently, the CoC wants a user-pay model for waste collection and not higher taxes. Wow. Who saw that coming?

Anyway, it’s a very educational read.

Six in the Morning: The Blooming Loonie, City Budget and The Curse of Kirby’s Ghost

6 in the Morning1 TWO MORE CENTS AND I’M GOING BERSERK ON AMAZON: The Canadian dollar has jumped above 98 cents today on the backs of a climbing stock and oil prices. (Oil is up? But wait, I thought the oil companies were hurting so bad we had to keep royalty rates down.) Good news if you want to shop online. Bad if you’re tired of listening to industry bellyache about how nobody wants to buy their now-more-expensive stuff anymore. (Globe and Mail)

2 PUNK ROCK NDP PLOT TO MAKE COPYRIGHT LAW LESS WRONG: Charlie Angus, NDP MP for Timmins James Bay and former punk rocker, is introducing two private members bills to make Canada’s copyright legislation a little fairer for the users of media. The first would extend the rules that allow us to make copies of cds we own to include personal music devices like the iPod. The second would turn the list of current fair dealing categories into an illustrative rather than exhaustive list so that courts could make judgments about future technologies based on the rules rather than assuming anything new or unfamiliar is prohibited. (Boing Boing)

3 REGINA BUDGET COMING FRIDAY: Oh, budget season is starting down at city hall as Mayor Fiacco will be presenting the 2010 budget this week. Any guesses about what we’ll see in it? Will city hall opt to not raise property taxes once again? Will the fact that it’s not an election year have any impact, I wonder? (Leader Post)

4 AMERICAN SPIES TRIED TO PLUG WIKILEAKS: According to an Army Counterintelligence Center report on the Wikileaks site, American spies tried to throttle the flow info to Wikileaks by intimidating sources to the site. (Boing Boing)

5 AUSSIE NEWS IS MOSTLY SPIN: Austrailian alternative news source, Crikey, reports that more than half of all stories in that country’s media are planted by PR sources. Just because it’s happening downunder doesn’t mean its happening here, though. Right? (Crikey, via Boing Boing)

6 KIRBY ESTATE BATTLES MARVEL: The estate of late comics legend, Jack Kirby, is filing suit to revoke Marvel’s copyright control over many of comicdoms best known (and most lucrative) superheroes. This could put in jeopardy many of Marvel’s upcoming movie plans, such the Hulk’s appearance in an Avengers flick or more chapters in the X-Men and Fantastic Four franchises. At the same time, Kirby was one of those artists who was really grotesquely exploited during the golden age of comics. It’d be nice to see his family reap some of the benefits of his genius if not the man himself. (Cinematical)

Detroit Crop City

I had no idea things were this bad.

I mean, I’d heard that Flint, Michigan was in the process of disconnecting the municipal infrastructure in its abandoned suburbs — it was just too expensive to maintain roads, sewer and electricity out to areas that will likely never be resettled. But that’s Flint. It’s been in the crapper since before the internet.

But here I am last night listening to As It Happens and their interview with historian, Mark Dowie, about the Mayor of Detroit’s plans to raze entire neighbourhoods of his city and reclaim them as agricultural land. Yeesh. That’s some pretty big frickin’ news, I’m thinking.

Okay, granted, Detroit’s population has dropped from over two million to under 900,000. These are grim times for Motor City. Something needs to be done. But this project means deconstructing great swaths of a major American city. They’ll be tearing down and returning to scrub one of the great icons of the auto age. I’m not saying that’s a bad idea. I’m saying: Holy. Crap. That’s got to be unprecedented.

Continue reading “Detroit Crop City”

This Week At City Hall: Recycling Recommendations

Monday, March 15
MUNICIPAL HERITAGE ADVISORY COMMITTEE (12:15 pm): Receiving a communication from Heritage Saskatchewan about four working groups it has set up to address heritage issues in the province.

Tuesday, March 16
PUBLIC WORKS COMMITTEE (4 pm): First up, administration will respond to a request to see if traffic calming is needed on Woodhams Drive — a road that feeds into the new Greens on Gardner suburb. Turns out, no, it won’t.

After that, the committee will look at a Waste Plan Regina report in which city staff make their much-anticipated recommendations about how to improve Regina’s waste management system.

Will Regina finally join the rest of the country by implementing a citywide curbside recycling program? Or will the cheapskates and tax-averse planet haters reign with their “Don’t raise the mill rate!” stylings? Well, you’re just going to have to click to read more if you want to find out….
Continue reading “This Week At City Hall: Recycling Recommendations”

Nerd Gospel Music For Pi Day

Today is Pi Day! Hope you took some time to sit in a circle with your friends and family and enjoy a nice slice of pie. Last year, I posted this 2001 video by Hard ‘n’ Phirm of their song “Pi”.

It is awesome.

So awesome, in fact, that this year I’m going to post the same song only this time it’s a live version. Notice how when these guys are singing the digits of Pi they aren’t just making up random numbers. They can’t be. They’re singing the numbers in tandem. These two comedians have Pi memorized to like a hundred digits or more.

Hope to see you all tomorrow at the Pi Day celebrations at the UofR (1 pm, CW 113). There will be free pie, free Pi cookies, a screening of the movie Pi, three 14 minute lectures and a debate to resolve the question of which transcendental number is better, Pi or e? Karen Meagher (yep, that’s my wife) will be defending Pi’s honour against FNUniv math prof, Ed Doolittle.

Should be fun. And by fun, I mean nerdy.

City Council Wrap Up: Sewer Bugs and Infrastructure Woes

Infrastructure was the big topic of discussion at last night’s council meeting. Not only was the Water and Sewer Utility budget considered and passed, but Mayor Fiacco gave a summary of discussions that took place at the recent Big City Mayors Caucus meeting in Moncton which were focused on Canada’s growing infrastructure deficit.

According to Fiacco, Canadian cities are labouring under a $123 billion infrastructure deficit. The potholes everyone was complaining about during the election are just one symptom of the problem. Sewers, water pipes, streetlights, sidewalks and roads: it’s all in bad repair. And as Fiacco pointed out, that $123 billion only represents how much municipalities are falling behind. The federal and provincial governments also have their own infrastructure deficits to deal with.

To begin the process of working out a solution to the impending doom by imploding sewer pipes that most cities are facing, Fiacco is spearheading an Infrastructure Summit to be held in Regina from January 26 to 28 in 2011. His idea was unanimously approved by the Big City Mayors and several municipalities have offered to help out. And at last night’s meeting, Regina’s council confirmed the dates.

Continue reading “City Council Wrap Up: Sewer Bugs and Infrastructure Woes”

Six In The Morning: Jobless Future, War On Science, Palin

1. JOBS NOT PART OF CANADIAN RECOVERY: Thanks in part to Stockwell Day’s slash and burn approach to employee relations, last year’s lone source of new jobs — the public sector — just dried up. If the economy recovers at all in 2010, it’ll do so without boosting employment. Thanks for the help during tough times, Stock. I thought your government’s goal was to get people back to work? (Globe and Mail)

2. BOOKSELLERS BRACE FOR AMAZON INVASION: Canadian booksellers are calling on the Heritage Minister to halt Amazon’s plans to open a distribution hub here. (Globe and Mail)

3. SORRY KID, YOUR SCHOLARSHIP’S BEEN FNUC’ED: Looks like the FNUniv administration was dipping into scholarship funds when their general coffers were low. Advanced education minister, Rob Norris, is asking the Ministry of Justice to look into $400,000 missing in scholarship funds. (Leader Post)

4. HAPPY INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY, WOMEN… LOVE, BRAD WALL: Whitworth is telling me that on CBC radio this morning they reported that today, the day after International Women’s Day, the Sask Party government canceled a domestic violence program in Saskatoon. Nothing’s up on their website yet. Oh lookit, the Star Phoenix has it covered. (Star Phoenix)

5. CREATIONISTS AND GLOBAL WARMING DENIERS COMING TOGETHER AT LAST: This is from last week but worth reading. Creationists in the States are using the public’s growing doubts about climate change to help shoe horn their batshit crazy ideas about people living with dinosaurs in the garden of eden into science classrooms. That creationists find the arguments of climate deniers compelling really should be the final nail in the denier’s coffin. Think it’ll work out that way? Yeah, me neither. (New York Times)

6. WE’LL SWAP YOU ONE DANNY WILLIAMS FOR YOUR SARAH PALIN: She probably just wanted to be liked, you know, when she admitted before a crowd in Calgary that when she was younger her family would scoot across the border to get treatment from the Canadian healthcare system she now vilifies. Liberal bloggers and pundits in the States are tearing her apart for it. Poor kid. Isn’t it cute how she’s pretending to run for president.This Hour Has 22 Minutes can do the rest of the heavy lifting on this story. Go get her, Marge!

This Week At City Hall

Proposed Rose St Condo Tower“What no pic of city hall?” Not this week. Thought I’d change it up and if you’re wondering what’s with that rendering of a condo tower you’ll have to hang on until the RPC blurb.

Monday, March 8
CITY COUNCIL (5:30 pm): A representative from In-Pipe Technology will be making a presentation to council this week in an attempt to encourage the city to get on board with their sewage treatment system. In-Pipe is promising to reduce our carbon footprint and lower the costs of sewage processing. Yay. I think. I’d like to tell you what In-Pipe’s technology is that they’re so proud of but based on their submission, I’m none the wiser about it. This could get the award for the worst written, most vague submission to council that I’ve ever read. Looks like In-Pipe has a history with council so maybe if you’ve been following things for years you’d know what’s going on. Still, until I hear more, I’m staying skeptical of this technology.

Also up for consideration this week, the Water and Sewer Utility Budget will be presented for review and council will finally be deciding if it will keeping $42.4 million it borrowed for the Global Transportation Hub (and didn’t need) and reallocating those funds for capital projects.

Council will also receive a report from the mayor about the goings on at the Big City Mayor’s Caucus.

Wednesday, March 10
REGINA PLANNING COMMISSION (4:00 pm): The committee will be looking at a request to build the high-rise apartment building that’s in that picture at the top of the post. It’s slated to go up at 2055 Rose Street and if built it’ll replace a swath of surface parking. (Good riddance, I say.) The building looks pretty nifty — not really my cup of tea architecture-wise but I’ve seen worse — and according to the report it’s been built to conform (for the most part) to the Downtown Neighbourhood Plan even though that has yet to be incorporated into the Official Community Plan.

Looks like it’ll be condo units which isn’t a bad thing. But rental and especially affordable rental is what the city is really desperate for right now. Regardless, I’m glad to see some more residential slated for downtown — makes the place more lively — and I’ll be glad to see some surface parking disappear.

Natch, one of the concerns expressed to the Planning Department was over what this new tower would do to on-street parking in the neighbourhood because, of course, we must have copious amounts of parking or the world stops turning, but the building will have more than two stalls per unit built right into (ie, not splayed out over city blocks) the development, so that shouldn’t be a problem.

Anyway, looks like the Downtown Neighbourhood Plan is doing its job by encouraging developers to build better buildings. So, at present, I’m hopeful this is a good sign of things to come. What do you think? Am I crackers? Naive? Tell me, tell me.

As usual, you can download agendas and schedules on the city’s website.

Walmart, Stephen Fry And Uglification

Walmart Bakery

The image above is a stitched-together series of photos taken just inside the entrance to that new Walmart. I took them during my epic journey out to Harbour Landing for the last issue.

Doesn’t it just go to show how a quantity of festive blue and white balloons can make you forget you’re inside a dingy, gray warehouse?

It puts me in mind of a quote from that Stephen Fry interview from the Sunday Edition where he talks about how so much North American architecture feels slapdash, temporary and unfinished — as if we’re still living on the frontier, throwing up shacks wherever there’s a buck to be earned, leaving ghost towns in our wake. Carle mentioned it in her architecture of the dome post. Here’s Fry:

“If you look out of the window in the continental United States and in North America generally, everything is stunningly beautiful that nature has done, and that’s true in the world, whatever it is, in nature, it seems to us incontestably and unconditionally lovely. We find it simply beautiful. And the only things we ever see that are ugly when we look out are things we have made. And if generations of children grow up believing that they belong to a species that can only uglify, that has no role in making things beautiful, that cannot with its own hands and its own ingenuity make things that are lovely, only things that are at best serviceable and at worst hideous and an imposition and a blot and an insult to the nature into which we were born, then there’s a guilt, there’s a self oppressing guilt that the entire species feels, that we all feel because we feel that we are a worthless race. We don’t beautify. We uglify. And there is no excuse for that.”

Well said.

And that puts me in mind of when, back around the time our famous library issue came out, someone asked me why I thought buildings needed to be beautiful. I think the point of the question was to say, “Shouldn’t the inside be all we care about? The outside, that’s just extravagance.”

If only I’d heard the Stephen Fry interview before I’d been asked that question, I might have had a coherent response at the ready.

Anyway, seeing as contemporary architecture — and how it rots — is on my mind, I should mention that over on the Regina Urban Ecology blog, they have a couple posts on the Grenfell Apartments and what replaced them. It’s a little depressing but worth a look.

Infinite Horizons: Some Thoughts From Away

It’s been a few weeks since the city launched its new brand, Infinite Horizons, and I’m sure it’s drifted from everyone’s mind by now. But, back when we were working up our coverage of it, I had some correspondence with the only Regina graphic designers I know (actual prairie dog employees excluded), Lee Henderson and Seema Goel. Neither of them live in Regina at present but they’re both from here and are now reduced to just looking in, enviously, at all our city’s awesome potential.

Now, personally, I mostly fall on the “in favour” side of the new brand debate. Lee and Seema? Not so much. So I thought it might be fun to post some thoughts on the new brand from some Regina expats.

And as this will be a rather long post, I also thought this would be a perfect opportunity to try out the Read More tag this fancy new blog sports. So, read some Lee and Seema after the jump….

Continue reading “Infinite Horizons: Some Thoughts From Away”

Four in the Afternoon: Dome Stadium, Closeting Gays and Mediocre TV

Whoops. Was supposed to do a Six in the AM this AM and completely forgot. So, after receiving a chastising e-mail from Whitworth, here I am with my first Four in the Afternoon on the new blog.

1. THE “FEASIBLE” DOME: The consultants announced yesterday that a new covered stadium would be feasible for downtown Regina. And while reps from the city, provincial and federal governments were in attendance, no one would commit any money to the project at this time. In fact, figuring out how to pay for the initial construction has yet to be worked out. Which makes me wonder how they can say it’s “feasible” if they haven’t even worked out if they can pay for it. What did they spend that million bucks working out exactly? Oh yeah, how much it’ll cost. Which, as it turns out is not the $350 million we were all initially told. If we get the non-retractable dome version, the price comes in at $386 million, the retractable dome version is $431 million. And you know what, projects like this never come in under budget. Never. Never. Never. So we’re looking at at least half a billion dollars spent on a sports stadium. And, realistically, much more than that. Do you know how much we could accomplish if the three levels of government and private industry threw that kind of cash into our libraries? Our downtown? Our civic infrastructure? The mind boggles.

Oh, also, some of the ways they’re considering paying for this seems to be using cash from the casinos or from some new lottery. Meanwhile, on CBC this morning, they were talking about how post-secondary students are increasingly suffering from gambling addictions. Great. So we’re going to get a stadium by making students pay for it. Not to mention all the other poor saps who blow their pay cheques in the casinos and on scratch tickets. (Leader Post)

2. “PSST, THEY’RE NEW HERE. DON’T MENTION THE GAYS.” Our Immigration Minister, Jason Kenney, pulled any mention of gay rights from the study guide given out to new immigrants to Canada. Now why would he do that, I wonder? Kenney, by the way, fought hard against gay marriage back in the day. But I’m sure his personal feelings had nothing to do with it. (Globe and Mail)

3. POLLEY TAKES NAME OFF FLICK: When she discovered a short-film she’d made for the Heart and Stroke Foundation to promote women’s heart-health would also be used to promote Becel Margarine, Sarah Polley, the activist/actor/director, announced she’d rather not be associated with it. (Globe and Mail)

4. MORE REPUBLIC OF DOYLE: The CBC is announcing that the makers of CBC series, Republic of Doyle, are cheered to learn their series has been renewed. Good for them. Still, on a lark, I watched an episode of this show last night (on my computer). Wow, did that ever take me back. It reminds me of all those 70s and 80s PI shows like Spencer for Hire or Rockford Files. And I’m not sure if I needed or wanted reminding. My wife thought the show had to be a parody because, she reasoned, the writers couldn’t possibly believe that what they’d made was a high quality program. My wife hasn’t watched nearly as much television as I have. (CBC)

This Week at City Hall

Regina City Hall Feb 22, 2010Tuesday, March 2
FINANCE AND ADMINISTRATION COMMITTEE (12:15 pm): Looking at 2010’s Property Tax Exemptions. The total amount the city is foregoing through these exemptions is $2,257,000. The committee will also be considering a recommendation to sell some city-owned land to the Regina Qu’appelle Health Region without going through a public process. Reason for this is the hospital had to give up some staff parking for the new Dewdney Avenue Fire Hall. This land sale will replace the parking they lost.

Wednesday, March 3
EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE (11:45 am): There is nothing on the public agenda for this committee.

Thursday, March 4
ENVIRONMENT ADVISORY COMMITTEE (5 pm): Considering the possibility of holding a “Natural Step” workshop, which seems to be some kind of educational opportunity for organizations hoping to build their sustainable practices. Also looking at request from the Canadian Cancer Society to address the committee about pesticides and a recommendation to move forward on “compare and contrast exercise” covering bylaws relating to water. The committee will also be discussing the Waste Plan and preparing their response to it for when it goes before Public Works Committee on March 16.

As always, you can download reports and agendas on the city website.