Urban Edmonton – A Reflection

I’ve traveled around the city a bit over the past two days, and like many large cities in cold climates, lends itself to urban living. There is a beautiful river valley with bike paths and walking trails to enjoy throughout the year, and this is close to downtown. Most of the shops you’d ever need are right downtown, I’m sitting in the office tower/mall complex sipping a maple latte at Second Cup while pondering what to buy from The Bay as a present for my daughters.

People here live mostly indoors in the winter, at the moment, mid October, its nudging zero degrees Celsius with occasional snow showers.  Would it be hard to live here in the winter, probably; as an urban dweller, there are restaurants, movie theaters, art galleries, a huge library and lots of shops to keep you sane. It’s busy, but pretty easy going, Calgary is a faster city, but Edmonton is still quite a city. Not many suits in Edmonton, not many ties, lots of jeans, are these people working?

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Newcastle Art Gallery Revitalisation

Newcastle City is facing an identity crisis. Parts of town are great; cafés, live music, bars, restaurants, the harbour, the beaches.  Other parts are drab and even derelict.  Somewhere in between are two buildings that we regularly frequent, the Newcastle Library and the Art Gallery.  These two public buildings stand side by side at the slow end of Newcastle’s busy café culture on Darby Street, off on a beautiful tree lined side road.  A public park is across the road and the Baptist Tabernacle stands next door. Needless to say, indirect pedestrian traffic is rare, these two buildings are tucked away, a hidden treasure for parents of Newcastle children.

However, this weekend, the Newcastle Herald published an article about the proposed $35 million dollar redevelopment of the Art Gallery Site, aiming to rejuvenate the civic precinct.  The gallery houses an impressive collection of artwork, much of it not visible to the public, stored in earthquake, weather and temperature resistant vaults.  The proposed construction would use the existing gallery as a framework around which a new building would be created, housing reference rooms, restaurants, educational facilities, and most impressively, retail space fronting the ever popular Darby Street face.

All well and good, but what about the rest of Newcastle, will it suffer to pay for this extravagance?

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How to Run a Mobile Office for under $1500

I am a Bedouin, a Nomad deep down inside, I long to be freed from the constraints of the office, of the cubical, of the bondage of a desk and swivelling chair.  As a consultant and an Engineer, there are plenty of times that I do need to be in the office, but when it comes to crunch time and I need to get work done, there is nothing better than weighing anchor and saying farewell to cubeville. I’ve written about these desires deep within me before, but today I thought I’d offer a how-to on this.

Bedouin WorkshopBut, to do this you have to be prepared, these are my tips to keeping productivity high while out of the office.

The Tools:
A widescreen wireless laptop, with all the software needed to stay productive.   I usually pack a mouse and spare mousepad depending on the surface I’ll be working on.  If I’m going to be out for longer than my battery will last, I’ll either pack a spare, or a power cord.  I also pack a headset for VOIP with Wengo.
In my case my software list includes;

  • OpenOffice – opensource MS office equivalent, free,

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Working With Your Hands

As a boy, I loved to watch my Pop working in his shed, he was a carpenter by trade, and a good one at that. The skilled handling of timber and tools to create usable or functional items, or homes for people to live in was a skill I was in awe of. The smell of the sawdust, the feel of the ear muffs, the whir of the table saw, it was a joy to watch this strong man use his hands to create. I loved the fat pencils used with a square to line up cut marks, and the fact that he would let me into his working world. I would travel to worksites, sitting in the old Kingswood stationwagon, ham sandwich in a bag along with my Pop’s, packed by his loving wife. He was great with his workers, everyone respected him. I never aspired to be a carpenter, but I respected his ability, and the skills of the trade. His skill was far superior to the labourer on modern day subdivision housing sites, which barely represents carpentry as an art, rather more like painting by numbers.

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Sit in a PARKing spot

Some cities have very little green space. The guys over a Rebar, a group of designers and activist in San Fransisco have started a day of action that you can read about here…


One of the more critical issues facing outdoor urban human habitat is the increasing paucity of space for humans to rest, relax, or just do nothing. For example, more than 70% of San Francisco’s downtown outdoor space is dedicated to the private vehicle, while only a fraction of that space is allocated to the public realm.

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Massive NSW water recycling plant opens

Today the NSW premier opened an effluent recycling facility south of Sydney which will provide up to seven billion litres of water a year to a local steel processing plant. That’s the equivalent of over 30,000 houses worth of potable water that is being preserved for alternate use.

But the story isn’t without a bit of drama, (it wouldn’t have made the news otherwise!)…

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Rainfall Misses Sydney’s Catchment… Again

I can vouch for this one, and for the storms that followed on Friday night and Saturday, Warragamba’s catchment missed all the action.

A strategy to to hold water | Science & nature | The Australian:

IN the small hours of Thursday morning an intense band of rain cloud scythed its way up the NSW coastline, dumping 107mm of water on Sydney. The Bureau of Meteorology radar screen danced red, yellow and green as the torrent carved a 123-year September record.

Nearby, Sydney’s biggest catchment, which feeds the Warragamba Dam, sat on the storm’s edge like a shy child at a birthday party. It got a bit wet (15mm) but again missed out on most of the fun.

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Green Roofs and Walls

Here are some recent developments in the “green roof” industry. Out of all the solutions presented for environmental improvements in the urban area, I think green roofs are one of the best from a technical results perspective, right through to how they look. The first development here is actually a green wall rather than a roof, you can read the press release here, it has all the technical and company details.

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Also recently in the news is the Toyota green roof product, even the Discovery Channel had a feature on it…

Summer may be coming to an end, but there may still be time for home renovations – starting with a little bit of grass on your roof
Researchers from Toyota Roof Garden in Japan are now taking orders for grass tiles, called the TM9 turf mats, to help reduce urban heat island effects and cool down metropolitan areas.

Has Toyota realised that people want to buy from a company that supports environmental objectives, or do they realise that the age of the petrol driven car is coming to an end? Either way, the diversification is a good thing.


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