If you’re taking down holiday decorations and thinking about ways to get rid of your Christmas tree, the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) has a suggestion. Instead of sending your tree to the landfill or getting it chipped up, the not-for-profit private land conservation group says there are benefits to putting it in your own backyard.
Dan Kraus, NCC’s senior conservation biologist, says leaving it in your backyard over the winter can help provide a home for bird populations trying to survive the tough weather. The tree will enrich your backyard ecosystems right away and it can also improve soil.
The first step in letting nature help you recycle your Christmas tree is to put it anywhere in the backyard, which often happens anyhow when we miss the municipal tree recycling pickup.
I was curious about the fate of the Christmas trees that are picked up by The City of Windsor and whether they were land-filled and contributing to the production of methane. So I asked the City’s 311 Service. They replied:
I decided not to press the matter and did not ask approximately what percentage of the collected trees end up as compost and how much as chips. I also didn’t immediately follow up with asking what exactly happens to the wood chips after they have been made since I assumed that they would be used by the City, for their trails, perhaps.
Instead, I decided to follow the advice of the NCC and The New York Times, and put our used Christmas Tree in our backyard. We don’t have much of a backyard so we are very much considering this an experiment.
Some years ago – I think it was 2015 – a friend of mine kindly gifted me the game Mini-Metro on Steam because he guessed that I would love it. He was right.
Mini Metro is a strategy simulation game about designing a subway map for a growing city. Draw lines between stations and start your trains running. As new stations open, redraw your lines to keep them efficient. Decide where to use your limited resources. How long can you keep the city moving
I love the clean and elegant design of the game. The game brilliantly uses the form of the London Underground Map as the vehicle for an abstract puzzle strategy game and so the game feels meaningful, even through the game-play is primarily connecting lines to nodes. But despite my affection for Mini-Metro I don’t play it very much largely because I’m not particularly good at this game.
Easily the best book I’ve read related to transportation. Human Transit doesn’t just describe transit systems – it puts you in the position of a planner and makes you think about the inherent tradeoffs to different designs. It’s rich with good examples from around the world and has an incredible focus – Walker wastes little time on extended biographies or anecdotes.
The balance between different modes of transit is accomplished extremely well, and it also doesn’t focus solely on super-dense cities, but takes into account varying density, suburbs, and how much density is necessary to build great transit, if at all.
I really enjoyed this read, and would recommend it to anyone interested in transportation…
I haven’t finished it yet but I share Tom’s enthusiasm for the book. It is one of the best examples that I know of an expert who can walk a layperson through a series of understandable concepts without ever sounding preachy or condescending. By the way, students and staff of the University of Windsor have access to Human Transit as an ebook.
At the moment, I’m on Chapter 4 which is titled, “Lines, Loops, and Longing” and I’m learning so much. For example, I had never realized that “For car traffic, chokepoints are a problem, but for transit, they are opportunities”:
I also learned that the reason why my strategy for Mini-Metro was not good: I was falling into the natural tendency to create loops to connect my ‘stations’.
When someone wants all parts of an area to be connected, and tries to express this in the language of transit, they often talk about loops. The loop is an appealing image because it’s a thing that transit can do that seems to encompass an entire two-dimensional area with a feeling of completeness and closure. I have lost count of how many times people have explained their mobility needs to me by saying, “We need some kind of loop.”
But there’s a problem with loops, and it’s so obvious that it’s easy to forget: very few people want to travel in circles. Most people experience their travel desires as “I am here and I need to be there.” The desire for transportation is a feeling about two points of space, “here”and “there.” In the geometry of cities, the shape of that desire is a straight line connecting those points.
Walker J. (2012) Lines, Loops, and Longing. In: Human Transit. Island Press, Washington, DC
And this was the passage that made me want to play Mini-Metro again, but this time armed with transport knowledge:
Loops have other problems. An I-shaped line can easily be extended on either end without affecting the existing riders, but loops can’t be extended; a city that outgrows its loop has to break it apart, disrupting existing trips. So if an urban area is growing or changing, loops may limit the options for growth in the future.
Finally, of course, loops run with a driver raise the problem of driver breaks. An I-shaped or U-shaped line has an endpoint where the vehicle is empty, so the driver can take a break without disrupting any passenger’s trip. These breaks also serve a second purpose: when a service runs late, the break is shortened so that the vehicle can get back on time. Providing these breaks is a great logistical challenge on busy loops, like the circular rail lines in Berlin, Moscow, and Tokyo. In 2009, the London Underground broke apart its Circle Line, which used to run as a continuous loop, partly to eliminate these problems.
Walker J. (2012) Lines, Loops, and Longing. In: Human Transit. Island Press, Washington, DC
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the More than Transit survey from Transit Windsor is ending on January 9, 2019. If you would like to learn more about the possibilities of significant expansion for Transit Windsor in the near future, I’d recommend a listen to this episode of Rose City Politics. And of course, I highly recommend a read of Human Transit. I will end this post with a quotation from the Introduction of Walker’s book – with a couple of links that I have added for related reading:
When someone asks me what I do, and I say I’m a transit planner, their next question is almost always about technology. They ask my opinion about a rail transit proposal that’s currently in the news, or ask me what I think about light rail, or monorails, or jitneys. They assume, like many journalists, that the choice of technology is the most important transit planning decision.
What’s more, the most basic features that determine whether transit can serve us well are not technology distinctions. Speed and reliability, for example, are mostly about what can get in the way of a transit service. Both buses and rail vehicles can be fast and reliable if they have an exclusive lane or track. Both can also be slow and unreliable if you put them in a congested lane with other traffic. Technology choice, by itself, rarely guarantees a successful service, and many of the most crucial choices are not about technology at all.
Walker J. (2012) Introduction. In: Human Transit. Island Press, Washington, DC
Imagine that you love a particular podcast that comes out every couple of weeks – although depending on circumstance, sometimes its published a little earlier and sometimes a little later. But in this particular alternative universe, instead of being notified by your phone that it has just downloaded a new episode, it’s up to you to visit the podcast’s website every couple weeks to check if the episode is ready to be downloaded.
As labour goes, regularly visiting a website isn’t the most arduous task in the world but if you are like me, you might subscribe to a couple dozen podcasts with some released weekly, others fortnightly, and others on no particular schedule. Without the ability to subscribe to a podcast it is easy to see how episodes could be missed and entire shows, forgotten about.
The technology that makes subscribing to podcasts possible is called RSS, and as technologies go, it’s a very good one. For one, RSS allows you to download podcasts without identifying who you are to the publishers or to the world at large. While you do need special software to handle podcasts (I use BeyondPod), you don’t need to be on a particular social media platform or worry that you use (or don’t use) an Apple iOS product.
RSS is also the technology that made subscribing to web pages possible. Using Feedly, I have the most recent stories from CBC Windsor, The Windsor Star. The Windsorite and many, many blogs delivered to me as they are published.
One of my favourite TED Talks is from Dave Meslin and I’ve embedded it below. Dave Meslin argues that our governments use design to discourage engagement. The good news? We can re-design improvement. Or in this case, we can ask for RSS.
Even though City Council meetings have been recorded and made available online since June of this year, I have yet to see any media or city resident make use of the clipping or bookmarking service that the platforms provides. So I thought I would try it out and share what the technology is capable of.
So let’s pretend I’m writing a blog post that I want to add a clip from Windsor City Council for information and context.
At this point, I’m going to drop this pretense of writing and now bring your attention to the act of trying to include the video from Windsor City Council into a blog post.
First, we have to flip through the calendar view (or hack the datestamp of the URL) of the archived videos to find November 19th. The video is marked up with time stamps that match up the agenda but unfortunately the discussion of the Ford City CIP falls under the blanket category of REGULAR BUSINESS ITEMS (Non-consent items)
If you notice in the bottom right of the screen, there is a option to Share.
The resulting shared item is a link. In the example above, the link goes to:
I have some options to share the video clip in a variety of social media platforms…
But unfortunately, I’m unable to embed the video in WordPress.
Now I know why I’ve haven’t seen video clips from Council from local newspapers and news outlets. There is no way to embed the video into a web page that provides context for that video. I can share the link but the only way I can add any context to the video is to use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Reddit or Google+.
It looks like the product that the City of Windsor uses for their video service is Montreal-based Sliq Media Technologies. It is unfortunate that a company that builds and maintains video streaming services for specifically for governments has made it difficult for journalists and residents to make use of the resulting work. I’ve asked the company if there is any known workaround for this problem:
As we wait for an answer, let us consider the notion of fairness and equity. One of my favourite definitions of politics is from political scientist Harold Lasswell who defined it as “who gets what, when, and how.”