Tuesday 27 August 2013

Should Fermor Avenue be renamed?

My last post was about an idea to rename the Perimeter Highway after Winnipeg-born national hero Terry Fox. You can read more about it here and sign the petition here.

Response to renaming the Perimeter Highway has been lukewarm, both in the comments of my blog and in various web-polls. Perhaps the choice of thoroughfare needs to be tweaked. In the Free Press poll, 46% of respondents liked the idea in principle but thought a different road should be chosen.

If we were to choose a different road, what road would that be?

I nominate Fermor Avenue.

  1.  Fermor Avenue is part of the Trans-Canada Highway. The Trans-Canada Highway is (obviously) the route that Terry Fox was taking on the vast majority of his Marathon of Hope across Canada, and it was the highway he was running on when his journey ended.
  2. Of the two Trans-Canada routes past Winnipeg -- around the Perimeter or through the city via Fermor, St.Anne's, St. Mary's, Main, Broadway and Portage -- it is almost certain that Terry would have run through the city, not around it. Running through the city would have brought out more supporters, more media attention and by extension more money for cancer research. It is also a shorter route than the Perimeter
  3. Of the roads within Winnipeg that comprise the Trans-Canada Highway, Fermor is the least hassle to rename. There are NO business or residential addresses along Trans-Canada portion of Fermor, so NO businesses or homes would be affected.
 To clarify that last point, there are indeed businesses and homes with Fermor addresses, but those are west of St.Anne's Rd, so they are not part of the Trans-Canada Highway.

click to enlarge

You might be thinking 'hold on thar Baba Looey .. aren't there a whole bunch of businesses along Fermor in Southdale?' Yes there are, but they all have Vermillion addresses, not Fermor.

If Fermor was to be renamed in it's entirety, then there are 34 residential addresses that would need to change, as well as addresses for the YMCA, St.Vital Library and a minor Manitoba Hydro substation. On the other hand, if only the Trans-Canada portion of Fermor were to be renamed, then that would break up the naming continuity of the street creating yet another multi-name thoroughfare in Winnipeg.

Fermor west of St.Anne's Rd

One other concern: who was Fermor? Renaming a street in honour of somebody risks dishonouring the person for whom the street was originally named. I don't even know where to start when it comes to researching this sort of thing, but the street listings from the Manitoba Historical Society do not list anything for Fermor Avenue, so I'll assume this Fermor character was not anybody important. Possibly a small-time blogger or something.

The current proposal to rename the Perimeter Highway would involve dealing with the Province, whereas renaming Fermor is within the City's jurisdiction. Winnipeg's current mayor Sam Katz has not been shy about renaming streets in the past, and a photo-op with a member of Terry Fox's family would provide a nice distraction from auditors reports and the other tribulations of the embattled mayor.

Few plans are perfect, and renaming a significant street is always going to involve compromises or sacrifices. However, if we're going to rename a street after Terry Fox it ought to be a significant street, not some back lane. I happen to think that Fermor Avenue makes a lot of sense.


Fun fact: did you know that there was a notable Winnipeg Historian named Harry Shave? Now that's someone we should name a street after.

Wednesday 21 August 2013

Should the Perimeter Highway be renamed?

How do you feel about the name "Perimeter Highway"? Is it too obvious? Is it getting a little stale? Maybe time for a change?

One blogger is calling for the highway to be renamed in honour of Terry Fox.

As most Manitobans know by now, the national hero was born here in Winnipeg, yet there is very little to signify that. A few years ago there was a movement to rename Wayoata school in Transcona in honour of Terry Fox, but in spite of the word "wayoata" not having any real meaning in any language that anyone was familiar with, the motion was denied.

More recently, a bust of Terry was installed in the Citizens Hall of Fame around the formal gardens in Assiniboine Park. It's easy to miss, but it's something .. I guess.

Some people think that an inconspicuous bust in a corner of a park is not enough -- that a native son as notable as Terry deserves greater recognition. One such fellow who writes under the pseudonym "Purple Rod" at the blog The Purple Rod (you probably could have guessed that) has started a petition to rename the Perimeter Highway after Fox.

Let's name a highway after a Winnipeg-born hero, and the recipient of the Order of Canada: Terry Fox. Despite suffering from Cancer, Terry Fox had a dream to raise money for cancer research, by running a marathon across Canada. He gave his life to help others. The annual Terry Fox Run, first held in 1981, has grown to involve millions of participants in over 60 countries and is now the world's largest one-day fundraiser for cancer research; over $500 million has been raised in his name.
Terry Fox never made it to Winnipeg on his Marathon of Hope cross-country run. Had he made it this far, he would not have run on the Perimeter Highway. He would have crossed the Perimeter and run straight through the city to take advantage of maximized fundraising exposure, not to mention the shorter distance. However we can't very well rename Portage Avenue. That would be a hellishly expensive nightmare. The Perimeter highway, by contrast, has few businesses that call it home and therefore few addresses that need to change.

Does it make sense to honour a man who, while being an iconic national hero, spent the majority of his life elsewhere?

Is renaming a road a good way to do that?

Is the Perimeter Highway a good road to rename?

If you answered "yes" to these questions, then you should sign the petition:

Sunday 18 August 2013

MAKE Coffee + Hipster Names

After dinner on Corydon Avenue last weekend I headed in the direction of Starbucks for an early evening coffee. On the way there I stumbled upon MAKE / Coffee + Stuff.

could use a plant or something
I had never heard of the place, but MAKE, it turns out, is part of the growing trend of gourmet coffee shops in Winnipeg.

To my knowledge this trend began with Parlour Coffee, opened up by Nils Vik (the younger brother, coincidentally, of a dude I went to school with) a couple years ago. Parlour opened with a splash, both because it was boldly located on a neglected block of Main Street, but also because it was a new concept for Winnipeg.

Nils and his coffee shop have since been profiled in numerous magazines, web sites and newspaper articles. The buzz is likely to continue as Nils is soon to open a second location in Osborne Village called Little Sister Coffee Maker. I believe it will do very well there. The demographics work, and the departure of Fuel several years ago left a gaping hole in the coffee landscape of The Village.

Following in Parlour Coffee's footsteps are Café Postal on Provencher in St. Boniface and Thom Bargen on Sherbrook in the Wolseley area of Winnipeg ... and of course MAKE on Corydon.

MAKE did not arrive with the splash of some of the others. In fact, it has been open over half a year and I had no idea it was there. The interior of the narrow space is sparse and raw, but clean in appearance. The coffee is the focus here. The owner, Jay, is happy to explain everything to you. The beans are roasted on demand in Victoria and couriered out to Winnipeg, where Jay grinds them as needed for his brewed, drip and espresso-based beverages.

The proprietor making a coffee
An architect by trade, Jay combines his interests in this little shop with a series of displays along the wall featuring unique buildings designed by Winnipeg architects. It gives you something to look at as you wait for your coffee to be crafted, which can take a few minutes depending on which type you choose.
Architecture storyboards and models
He also hosts fashion shows and other events from time to time. What MAKE lacks in furniture and decor it makes up for in diversity.

I am glad to see this trend of high-end independent coffee shops springing up in the city.

On my one trip to Europe I drank americanos because you can't find brewed coffee in the places I went. I began to really enjoy this beverage, and returned to Winnipeg with fond memories of relaxing with an excellent cup of coffee in the cafés and pâtisseries of dense European cities.

When I returned to Winnipeg, I wanted to recapture some of that European café experience, so I ordered an americano at Starbucks. The gave it to me in a 12 oz cup. It tasted nothing like what I had remembered.

I still get my donut shop coffees and my Starbucks coffees, but until recently I have been avoiding americanos unless I was in a restaurant or lounge where I suspected they might know what they're doing. Now these new coffee shops give me another choice, and choice is good.

It's also nice to see small independent places with a good product succeed in a market dominated by giant corporations with their cheaper offerings. These kinds of places add to the character of a neighbourhood.

But as one positive trend continues, another nefarious one is emerging: math in store names.

When I first came across Deer + Almond I thought to myself "there is no bloody way I'm eating in a place with a pretentious bloody name like that." Of course I did end up eating there, and it was very good ... but I still don't like the name. What does it even mean? What does deer + almond equal? Jackalope?

I didn't concern myself with it too much as it's only one restaurant in a quirky part of town. But now ... I might be getting worried.

MAKE / Coffee + Stuff has not only picked up on the concept of adding math to a store name, but they've taken it one step further by including a division symbol as well as an addition symbol. This is getting waaaaay to complicated.

Understand, I'm not afraid of math. I have a Masters degree in Economics, as some of you know, and I can tell you that from 3rd year on economics is almost pure math. My problem here is that math has a place, and that place is not in the name of your store.

But it may be too late. As Derek Sivers explains in the TED talk How to start a movement, it is the first follower who turns a lone nut into a leader and ultimately starts a movement. Now that we have our first follower in this math nuttiness, I am afraid a movement may be starting.

What I'm saying is, a few months from now, don't be surprised if you're walking down Sherbrook and you see a store selling plaid shirts and beard trimmers with a name like ..

Sunday 11 August 2013

Hydro Riel Station Project not going so well.

On the list of proposed and current Manitoba Hydro capital projects, the Riel Reliability Improvement Initiative Project is one of the lesser known. It is not as big or contentious as Bipole III or Conawapa, but it is still a significant project by most standards.

The $700 million dollar project to "sectionalize" Hydro's southern electricity distribution is intended to improve reliability and facilitate importing power from the US in a circumstance where our power supply suffers a catastrophic failure. You can read more about it on the Hydro web site if you want, but what you should know is that this investment is being made. What you should also know is that, like most of Hydro's recent projects, it is going to be behind schedule and over budget.

Now I don't know that for a fact, but signs are pointing in that direction. The Riel Converter Station was anticipated to be operational by 2014. That gives them 4.5 months to get this thing up and running, and the things that I'm hearing suggest that it is nowhere close.

One problem: one of the lead contractors, Comstock Canada, has declared bankruptcy. Because of its financial woes it failed to pay subcontractors working on the Riel project, and some of those subcontractors understandably stopped working. Comstock owes creditors almost $76 million dollars, ranging from $200 for Windsor Plywood to $3.7 million for Crown Utilities Ltd (which itself has been involved in probably unrelated lawsuits with Manitoba Hydro as recently as 2010.)

With the subcontractors off the job, aspects of the Riel project ground to a halt until eventually Hydro agreed to pay the subcontractors directly. Of course, when one part of a very complex project falls behind schedule, it normally impacts everything else because of overlapping dependencies between the various workstreams. In short, this whole Comstock issue has been very unhelpful.

By the way, Comstock has other troubles too -- it is embroiled in a $50 million lawsuit with Potash Corp and AMEC Americas over a failed project in New Brunswick. Potash Corp terminated their contract because they didn't get their work completed on time or on budget, or to the satisfaction of Potash Corp and AMEC.

Comstock meanwhile claims that Potash Corp and AMEC made life difficult for them by changing requirements all the time. Comstock therefore had no choice but to "perform its work out of sequence, in an 'inefficient' and 'unproductive manner'".

Perhaps it's no coincidence that work on the Riel Station is being performed in an inefficient and unproductive manner.

It is apparently commonplace on that project for work to be repeated or changed on the fly because of poor planning and coordination. For example, concrete will be poured, then it will be torn up because cabling needs to be installed underneath the concrete. Mistakes will happen on a large project, but that sort of thing is happening a lot more than it should on this Riel project.

I can't say if one particular entity is responsible for the poor work flow and mistakes that are made in the construction of this station, I just know that it's not going well, and ultimately it's Manitoba Hydro's responsibility to ensure its projects are properly managed.

I wonder what the new target date and projected cost is for this project...

Monday 5 August 2013

The City of Winnipeg: Can't it do anything right?

There is this thing called Water Wednesdays. I'm not sure how it started or exactly what it is, but I've see people tweeting about #WaterWednesday on Twitter for the past several weeks. From the 2 minutes and 40 seconds of research that I did, I have deduced that it involves weekly gatherings over the summer in Memorial Park aimed at promoting water stewardship.

Well, I am happy to proclaim that I am doing my part. At least I am trying to...

I have a small vegetable garden in my yard.

Proof: Beans from my garden

My intention has been to water it, not with a garden hose, but with rain water collected in my rain barrel.

The rain barrel I got from one of those mad one-day sales that the City of Winnipeg holds every spring. In an effort to encourage sustainable living practices, the city sells rain collection barrels and compost bins at a discount, but only for one day a year and at a few locations around the city. This results in massive lines as people wait, hoping the barrels and bins don't run out before they get their chance to buy one. If you miss your chance to get one that morning, you have to wait another whole year for the next sale (or go to a store and buy one for regular price, but honestly, who would do that?)

I was fortunately able to score a rain barrel in one of these sales, but here's the thing: it's a piece of shit.

A few days after a good solid rain this spring I went to draw water from the barrel, but there was none to be drawn. It was empty. How can that be, I thought. Then after the next rain I tried again, and again it was empty.

The problem: a big crack in the base of the barrel.

I was able to find time on a weekend some weeks later to wash out the barrel and fix the crack using some "fix-all" type of glue that I have.

That problem was resolved and the rain barrel once again filled up with water. And then one morning about a week later as I was walking to the garage, I saw this:

The weeds next to my rain barrel are doing very well this year.

If you can't make out the image, it is water gushing out of the side of my rain barrel.

I could fix this leak too, but the barrel is only 2 years old. How many more leaks will there be in year 3, 4 or 5? In addition, the lid to the barrel is cracking from UV damage and the overflow hose is getting brittle and cracking as well.

At first I blamed myself. Maybe I mistreated it somehow. Maybe I was supposed to rub lotion on it every morning to protect it from the sun or something. I was full of regret for having neglected this barrel in some way, until I found out that somebody else I know with the same City of Winnipeg rain barrel had the same sort of cracks appear in theirs as well.

From this, I can only conclude that the rain barrels are pieces of crap.

The city's heart might be in the right place when they hold their annual barrel and bin sale, but their execution is flawed, firstly by making it such a pain in the ass to get one, and secondly by selling faulty barrels.

This Wednesday, as you pause to reflect on our sustainable use of water, ponder this: the rain barrels that the city is selling us to conserve water and preserve the environment are all going to end up in a landfill as big plastic pieces of junk that never did their job.

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