Category: Design

Eastport Maine v. Cape Breton’s serendipitous superport

[See correction and clarification at end.] Two months ago, Atlantic journalists James and Deborah Fallows began traveling around the United States in a small plane, visiting relatively obscure cities in a quest to find out what makes some thrive while others struggle.

They spent much of last week in Eastport, Maine, hard up against the New Brunswick border. Jim’s initial blog posts bespeak a community well on the way to recovery, populated by leaders determined to go the distance. Since Eastport shares much in common with struggling Atlantic port communities, Maritimers might want to perk up their ears.

In a post last week, and again on the weekend, Jim focused on two factors residents believe will play a role in Eastport’s potential for economic prosperity: the depth of its harbour, and its proximity to Europe.

As you’ll hear, a group of ambitious people in the city are trying to use the port’s unique capacity — and its proximity to Europe, and its potential proximity to Asia as northwest passages through a warming Canadian arctic become more frequent (they are already happening) — as one foundation of its hoped-for economic revival.

and

As mentioned yesterday — and as cited non-stop by local port authorities — Eastport has the deepest natural harbor in the continental United States, at 60+ feet. Its siting, “remote” from the rest of America’s perspective, is also a potential strategic plus.

To buttress the point, he offered three maps, created by the nifty online Great Circle Mapper, showing how much closer to Europe Eastport is than Boston, New York, or Miami. And not just from Europe, but from the African ports of Casablanca and Dakar. Here’s the London map:

FallowsMap1

Compared to Boston, Eastport has the potential to save vessels more than 500 miles* in a round trip to London; 900 miles when compared to New York. All that means time, fuel, and money saved. Similar maps made the same point with the two African ports.

All this rang a bell with David Ryan, a Long Island, filmmaker, boat builder, and yachtsman, who happens to be a mutual friend of Jim’s and mine. In an email to both of us, he wrote:

I heard the same thing when we were in Port Hastings [on the Strait of Canso in Cape Breton Island], Nova Scotia, back around 2003. There was no reason a local should have been telling me in particular that they had 60 feet of water, were ice-free year round, and right on one of Canada’s main train arteries, yet I was; so I take it this is something that all Post Hastings boosters tell anyone and everyone who visits.

One curious feature of the superport formed by the eastern half of the Strait of Canso is that it was accidental. Construction of the 4,544 ft, rock-filled causeway connecting Cape Breton Island to the mainland in 1955 had the unanticipated result of creating an ice-free, deepwater harbour. This image from Google Earth shows how the causeway traps the seasonal ice flowing down from the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway, keeping the deep waterway east of the causeway free from ice. Voilà! A superport.

Canso Causeway Blocks Ice

For a time, the superport turned the nearby community of Port Hawkesbury into something of a boom town, albeit one that never quite lived up to its potential. An oil refinery, a gypsum plant, and a heavy water plant all eventually failed—the heavy water plant spectacularly so**—but the paper mill still operates at reduced capacity, as does a tank farm, a bulk coal facility, and a massive rock quarry. Together they make Port Hawkesbury Canada’s second largest port by tonnage, after Vancouver. A biomass electrical generating station officially opens in Port Hawkesbury this Wednesday, but hopes for a container terminal remain elusive (though not as elusive as Sydney’s parallel pipe dream).

Thinking about all this history led me back to the Great Circle Mapper, where I reconstructed Jim’s images of the Great Eastport Advantage — this time including Port Hawkesbury. As I expected, the Nova Scotia port has as much of an advantage over Eastport as Eastport has over Boston.

map1

Here is the map showing distances to Casablanca:

Map2

And here is Dakar.

Map3

The Canso Superport wins all three.

Whether this makes it any more likely than Eastport to foster lasting economic growth, and what other factors might affect the two communities’ prospects, is a much tougher question, and a topic for another day. We may get some hint, however, from an apocryphal Presbyterian prayer one hears quoted from time to time in Cape Breton:

And more especially do we thank Thee, O Lord, for the Gut of Canso, Thine own body of water, which separates us from the wickedness that lieth on the other side thereof.

* [Clarification] In response to a question from Robert G. McNeil, the units are nautical miles.

** [Correction] Thanks to Stanley Beaton for reminding me it wasn’t the heavy water plant at Port Hawkesbury that proved a disaster. It was AECL’s sister facility at Glace Bay.

 

Out of sight, out of mind: 175 dead children

Drones

Pitch Interactive, a data visualization shop in Berkeley, California, has produced an interactive infographic illustrating the results of US drone attacks in Pakistan. I can’t embed it, but clicking on the link will take you to a 90-seconds chronological overview.

Clicking on the ATTACKS, VICTIMS, NEWS, and INFO links in the upper left corner of the infographic adds background information and sources.

Less than 2% of the victims are high-profile targets.
The rest are civilians, children and alleged combatants.
This is the story of every known drone strike and victim in Pakistan.

Since 2004, the US has been practicing in a new kind of clandestine military operation. The justification for using drones to take out enemy targets is appealing because it removes the risk of losing American military, it’s much cheaper than deploying soldiers, it’s politically much easier to maneuver (i.e. flying a drone within Pakistan vs. sending troops) and it keeps the world in the dark about what is actually happening. It takes the conflict out of sight, out of mind. The success rate is extremely low and the cost on civilian lives and the general well-being of the population is very high. This project helps to bring light on the topic of drones. Not to speak for or against, but to inform and to allow you to see for yourself whether you can support drone usage or not.

H/T: Himalaya

It’s all content. It’s just story.

Perhaps you have seen this speech Kevin Spacey gave at the Edinburgh Television Festival last month. It’s been making the rounds on tech and entertainment sites, and has more than a million views. But if not, please take four minutes for the pithiest explanation I’ve heard of the disruption that has upended the television and motion picture industries. [Video link]

A few excerpts:

The success of the Netflix model—releasing the entire season of House of Cards at once—proves one thing: The audience wants the control. They want the freedom….

Through this new form of distribution we have demonstrated that we have learned the lesson that the music industry didn’t learn: Give people what they want, when they want it, in the form they want it in, at a reasonable price, and they’ll more likely pay for it rather than steal it….

If you watch a TV show on your iPad is it no longer a TV show? The device and length are irrelevant … For kids growing up now there’s no difference watching Avatar on an iPad or watching YouTube on a TV and watching Game Of Thrones on their computer. It’s all content. It’s all story….

The audience has spoken They want stories. They’re dying for them.

It’s not just drama. Major League Baseball figured out six years ago that people wanted access to their games on many more platforms than the traditional TV screen or radio receiver. They created MLB.com, which allows radio and TV broadcasts of every major league game from spring training to the World Series to be played on any computer, tablet, or smartphone, and fans were delighted to pay a reasonable fee for that flexibility.

If Spacey is right, and I think he is, then the Canadian companies that buy the rights to US content, and then insist that US websites carrying that content block Canadian viewers, will pay a big price for robbing viewers of control.

H/T: Leo Laporte and Christine Crawford

Move along, Nova Scotia, nothing to see here

Our friend the curmudgeon has been quiet for a while, but the spectre of Detroit’s decayed grandeur propelled him to the keyboard:

Move along, Nova Scotians. There’s nothing for you to see in the grotesque collapse of the city of Detroit. Keep your focus on rural development.

Don’t worry about Halifax. It’s wealthy beyond imagination. There’s nothing wrong with its downtown that arresting a few panhandlers won’t fix. Avoid tall buildings; spread out instead. Never mind that only seven of 16 HRM electoral districts are genuinely urban. You can count on the other nine councillors to keep the urban centre healthy and attractive to outsiders from around the world.

It’s far better to resist the global migration to cities, with their greater opportunity and environmental sustainability. Every effort should be made to help country folk maintain their invaluable lifestyles. God forbid their children should leave home to seek their fortunes, knowing they’ll be welcomed back only if they can be judged as failures.

For the genteel squire, let not the scourge of renewable energy destroy their sight-lines, and nay, let not the gypsum for their summer houses come from local mines. Let them fertilize their hobby fields of elephant garlic with wholesome raw animal feces. May they stand firm against the loathsome tide of treated excrement from city dwellers.

Oh, and beware come-from-aways trying to turn derelict buildings into businesses. They know nothing about local ways.

Ahem.

Address your comments to comment[at]contrarian.ca.

 

Charting the rise in natural catastrophes

The number of “significant” natural catastrophes in North America causing more than $1 billion in losses of more than 50 deaths, 1950-2012:

Screen Shot 2013-07-10 at 7.39.19 PM

Number of natural catastrophes in North America, 1980-2011:

Screen Shot 2013-07-10 at 6.53.24 PM

For the climate change skeptics in the audience, these charts come not the Ecology Action Centre, the Natural Resources Defence Council, or the Pembina Institute, but from Munich Re, a $265-billion company that is one of the world’s leading reinsurance brokers. (A reinsurer is an outfit that re-sells insurance liabilities when the risk becomes too great for a single retail firm, so it is on the front lines when catastrophic events loom.)

Bear in mind, this is what has already happened, when the sea level rise and ocean warming forecast by climate scientists has barely begun.

Both charts originated in Severe weather in North America: Perils · Risks · Insurance, a 260-page report Munich Re produced on the rise in major natural events. Perhaps because our coastlines are so built up, the rise is occurring faster in North American than in other parts of the world. The top chart is reproduced in a 44-page report of a forum hosted by the Washington DC-baseed Urban Land Institute: Risk & Resilience in Coastal Regions: A ULI Global Policy and Practice Forum Report [PDF]. The bottom chart appears in a 12-page executive summary [PDF] Munich Re’s report, the full version of which is available from the company for $100.

Take a walk along the shoreline of any city in Atlantic Canada. The Gabarus Sea Wall ain’t the only thing we need to be worried about.

H/T: Richard Stephenson

Real world vs. Facebook’s world vs. Google’s world — Updated

Black Island Kempt Head

Facebook continually pesters me to entrer the “city” where I live, but rejects Kempt Head, Ross Ferry, Boularderie, and Cape Breton all of which are more-or-less accurate. It will allow me to enter Halifax, Sydney, or Baddeck, none of which is accurate.

Contrast this with Google, which embraces locations with admirable granularity. Google effortlessly adopts islands, villages, hamlets—even micro-locations like Frankie’s Pond and Parker’s Beach—as long as it sees real people using them.

This may seem a small thing, but it strikes me as a profound difference in the cultures of the two organizations. One constantly cajoles you into ill-fitting pigeonholes. The other looks at what you and those around you are actually doing, and continually updates and adjusts to this new information.

(Photos: Above: Black Island (in Gaelic, Island Dhu), Kempt Head, in the real world. Below: Black Island, Kempt Head, on Google Maps.)

Black Island

[UPDATE]

Marla Cranston points out the Purcell’s Cove dies not exist in Facebook World.

If Calvert, NL, native Jenn Power were so inclined, she could list Ferryland as her home town, but this would be like asking her to accept Big 8 in place of Diet Coke. Far worse, actually.

Newly minted Margaree Centre resident Stephen Mills cannot list that village as his current residence, but Facebook World does allow “Margaree,” a community that, as Mills points out, does not actually exist.

There is no plain “Margaree” —— just the directional or topographic variations: North East Margaree, Margaree Valley, etc.

Interestingly, Mills contends that

[A]ll the Margarees were a bureucratic decision at some point. Names like Frizzelton and Fordview described the locations at one point.

This morning’s waterfront view

Here’s the view this morning from the second storey of the Nova Scotia Power building on Lower Water Street.

QE2A

Photo: David Rodenhiser. Click image for full sized version.

Of course, you can’t see the NS Power building from this photograph, but I will take this opportunity to note that it is the most under-appreciated architectural marvel in Nova Scotia—a magnificent structure with many interesting features that combine to make it an exceptionally beautiful and functional workplace. The ground floor of the defunct coal-fired generating station is accessible to the public from the boardwalk side. If you are in the neighbourhood during business hours, you really should take a peek inside. The architects, WZMH of Toronto, have a good slide show of the interior and exterior.

Does your MLA serve citizens in wheelchairs?

accessmap-clean-625

The James McGregor Stewart Society, a small voluntary group with a single summer intern, has managed to pull off in a month what the Disabled Persons Commission of NS (annual budget: $600,000) and the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission ($2.1 million) have not achieved in the decades of their existence.

It has surveyed the accessibility of MLAs offices throughout the province. The results will not be a source of pride for Nova Scotia or its legislators.

ScoringThe survey rated MLAs’ constituency offices based on parking facilities, power door buttons, entrance accessibility, washroom accessibility, and proximity to accessible bus routes. Since accessible bus routes are mostly beyond an MLA’s control (many ridings have none), that category was not included in the final ratings.

Only four MLAs (Lenore Zann, Eddie Orrell, Kelly Regan, and Graham Steele) got a perfect score: paved parking with designated accesible spaces; level entrance, satisfactory ramp, or elevator; power door button; accessible bathroom with grab bars and wheel-under sink).

One MLA, Chris D’Entremont, who represents Argyle and sits on the Management Commission that will decide whether accessibility will be a condition for reimbursement of office expenses, scored a perfect zero. His office has no paved parking, no designated parking spaces, no level entrance, and no accessible washroom.

Although 43 MLAs claim an accessible doorway, only eight have a power door button, which means a constituent in a wheelchair can get in only if someone assists them. Once inside, wheelchair-using constituents will find only eight offices with fully accessible washrooms. How confidently could you attend a meeting knowing you would would have no chance to pee until you got home? You certainly couldn’t hold a job in such an office.

Another 30 MLAs claim some level of washroom accessibility, but lack grab bars, a wheel-under sink, or a high toilet. This translates as: Use at your own risk of accident or humiliation.

The survey turned up fewer regional variations than you might expect. The average MLA scored 3.1 points. Urban MLAs averaged 3.3, while rural MLAs averaged 2.9.

Metro MLAs averaged 3.2; Cape Breton MLAs just 2.4.

Liberal MLAs had the best score: an average of 3.5 points. PCs averaged 3.0, and the NDP trailed the pack with an average 2.9 points.

Two MLAs, Percy Paris and Geoff MacLellan, have not yet completed the survey. Cape Breton South is vacant.

Perhaps the most telling statistic is this: The eight MLAs who sit on the House of Assembly Management Commission, the body currently deciding whether to require accessibility as a condition of expense reimbursement, have an average score of just 2.3 — the lowest of any group I checked.

Map KeySpeaker Gordie Gosse, who chairs the committee, has a double distinction: His constituency office and his office in the legislature are both inaccessible to people in wheelchairs.

Clicking on the image at the top of this post will bring up an interactive map of Nova Scotia with a colored marker for each constituency office. Clicking on a marker will bring up accessibility details for that office.

Please note that the map and the data underlying it are works in progress. Some MLAs continue to provide new information, and the society’s intern, the redoubtable Kelly McKenna, is updating it continually. The information in this post is up to date to the best of my knowledge, but it’s a lot of information, and there could be minor errors.

A wiener dog at Fuzzy’s

Hold the ketchup, if you please.

Wiener Dog At Fuzzies 550

Too good.

The iconic wheelchair rolls forward

accessibility icon copyThe Chronicle of Higher Education reports that New York City has become the first major municipality to adopt the new active symbol of accessibility, which Contrarian first wrote about in September, 2011.

The result of a collaboration between Sara Hendren, graduate student at the Harvard School of Design, and Brian Glenney, philosophy professor at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts, the revised icon recasts the passive, static International Symbol of Accessibility (demeaningly known as the “handicapped sign”), investing it with vigor and a sense of motion. The Chronicle reports:

New York, in a move that could spark similar updates worldwide, has now agreed to use a Gordon-inspired logo that shows the stick figure with active arms, leaning forward, a participant rather than a dependent.

“It’s such a forward-moving thing,” said Victor Calise, commissioner of the New York mayor’s Office for People With Disabilities, who plans this summer to begin putting the new logo all over the nation’s largest city.

Memo to Mayors Cecil Clarke and Mike Savage:  Which of your cities will seize the honor of becoming the first Canadian municipality to adopt the active symbol for its wheelchair-using citizens?

From the Accessible Icon Project blog, a fuller explanation of how the revised icon reflects the reality of wheelchairs and the people who use them:

accessibility icon - annotated copy

1.  Head Position:  Head is forward to indicate the forward motion of the person through space. Here the person is the “driver” or decision maker about her mobility.

2.  Arm Angle:  Arm is pointing backward to suggest the dynamic mobility of a chair user, regardless of whether or not she uses her arms. Depicting the body in motion represents the symbolically active status of navigating the world.

3.  Wheel Cutouts:  By including white angled knockouts the symbol presents the wheel as being in motion. These knockouts also work for creating stencils used in spray paint application of the icon. Having just one version of the logo keeps things more consistent and allows viewers to more clearly understand intended message.

4.  Limb Rendition:  The human depiction in this icon is consistent with other body representations found in the ISO 7001 – DOT Pictograms. Using a different portrayal of the human body would clash with these established and widely used icons and could lead to confusion.

5.  Leg Position:  The leg has been moved forward to allow for more space between it and the wheel which allows for better readability and cleaner application of icon as a stencil.

H/T:  The James MacGregor Stewart Society.

More information about the Accessibility Icon project on Facebook, on Twitter, on the project’s blog, and Sara Hendren’s Ablersite blog.

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