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I Came Second Place In Helping People Out for the 504 Streetcar

Just a Gwai Lo - Sat, 12/01/2018 - 17:36

The Transit app's GO feature is a "game" where you help with their real-time data.

Published by Richard on December 1st, 2018

Three Years In My Downtown Toronto Apartment

Just a Gwai Lo - Sat, 12/01/2018 - 14:47

Life in my tiny apartment has been good.

Published by Richard on December 1st, 2018

Thoughts on on the King St. Pilot after One Year

Just a Gwai Lo - Mon, 11/26/2018 - 22:08

The King St. Transit Pilot marks one year in existence, and I think it was a success at the outset.

Published by Richard on November 26th, 2018

I’ve seen the Edward Burtynsky and Jennifer Baichwal trilogy

Just a Gwai Lo - Thu, 11/22/2018 - 22:27

In quick succession, I watched Manufactured Landscapes, Watermark, and Anthropocene.

Published by Richard on November 22nd, 2018

Remembrance Day at Fort York

Richards Raspberry Pi Adventures - Sun, 11/11/2018 - 17:43

Spurred by a tweet from the best-shod man in Toronto, Shawn Micallef, instead of taking in Remembrance Day at Old City Hall like I have in past years here in Toronto, I took in the ceremony at Fort York. Little did I know that the historical military fortification would be open to the public before and afterwards.

I caught the parade of World War I recreationists as they made their way to the ceremony on the other side of the parking lot from the fort itself:

Fort York Remembrance Day 2018

There were few people on the site main site before, so I got some snapshots of how it looked devoid of humanity:

Fort York Remembrance Day 2018

The back door of the fort was open, so I wandered out to see what it looked like:

Fort York door

A WWI recreationist and his gas mask (in the pack on his chest):

WWI soldier

The CN Tower was the backdrop for the ceremony held on the other side of the Fort York grounds:

Remembrance Day ceremony at Fort York

A canon is pointed towards the Gardiner Expressway:

Fort York Remembrance Day 2018

Published by Richard on November 11th, 2018

Remembrance Day at Fort York

Just a Gwai Lo - Sun, 11/11/2018 - 17:43

Some snapshots of a beautiful and vivid ceremony on the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI.

Published by Richard on November 11th, 2018

Three Years in Toronto

Richards Raspberry Pi Adventures - Wed, 10/31/2018 - 19:50

I remember knocking on a former co-worker's door, on Hallowe’en of 2015, wondering if he'd ask me to greet trick-or-treaters as part of my responsibilities as a short-term renter of his basement suite. I would be spared those duties, and thankfully so, since I had just moved over 3000 km, away from my family and my then-girlfriend, to start at a new life in Toronto. I don't remember much else about that night, except that it was a Saturday, which would give me another day in Toronto to figure out how to get to the office. On the Sunday I did a test run of taking two subways, less to see what the crowding would be like and more to be familiar with which station to switch at the next day.

The previous month I had travelled to Europe, a whirlwind tour of 3 countries (Iceland, Germany and Italy) for a wedding. On the last day, I was passenger in a one-car accident, and the day after that took 4 flights and finally, 48 hours after the event, finally sought medical attention. I didn't suffer anything more serious than muscle strain, but my final destination after Europe wasn't Vancouver, where I had lived for 16 years, but Toronto, to get my bearings a little bit and, hopefully, find a place to live. Through the miracle of stumbling around on Craigslist, I would end up with a real estate agent, and though the brief days in September didn't lead to my finding a place, she would help me find my current apartment, the one I've been living in since December of 2015.

The months and years that followed would lead to the disintegration of my relationship with Karen, though we have remained friendly to this day. I would end up in Gravenhurst due to a hilarious mixup, host my mother on her many visits to Canada's biggest and therefore best city, and now the baseball trip that my dad, brother and nephew go on is one that comes here to watch the Blue Jays at the SkyDome, which is a 20-minute walk from my place. I've become a board member of a small club celebrating Nordic culture in Toronto, something I wouldn't have considered doing in Vancouver, and I stay connected to my local area through my neighbourhood association. In January, I celebrate my 3rd year of cooking for myself, another thing that wouldn't have occurred to me at all while in B.C. Vancouver has nothing on the amount of events and seemingly endless streets and number of festivals and weather intensity that Toronto has.

Reflecting on these past three years, I realized that if someone were to say "Get a life!" I'd be able to respond with all of the above! 2015 marked the first time I've lived alone since 2008, though writing that out now makes me understand that those years were the anomaly, and not the other way around. A month from now would mark the 3-year point of my residency in my tiny apartment, and despite efforts to make it feel like a home, it still doesn't feel like home.

A friend noted that it took him 5 years to really get settled into Toronto, and maybe it'll take another couple of years for the social network here to really develop. I know my way around the city, at least, and despite not feeling like an Ontarian, I feel closer to being a Torontonian. My phone number is still a Vancouver number, and the time zone of my blog is still set to Pacific time, and the mountains are a sight for sore eyes every time I visit the West Coast. With the job I still love being here and my gradually increasing local involvement, my immediate future plans involve me right where I am, since, to mix a metaphor, while still a transplant, I'm putting down a few roots.

Published by Richard on October 31st, 2018

Three Years in Toronto

Just a Gwai Lo - Wed, 10/31/2018 - 19:50

Some reflections on the time spent alone in Canada's biggest and therefore best city.

Published by Richard on October 31st, 2018

I'm an Opening Day Member of Toronto's Museum of Contemporary Art

Richards Raspberry Pi Adventures - Tue, 10/23/2018 - 16:49

Toronto, Canada's largest and therefore best city, deserves something like the Museum of Vancouver, somewhere to gather and reflect on the rich history of the local region without having to pay an arm and a leg, and which schoolchildren will be required to visit. The GTA has hard-to-pronounce Myseum of Toronto, with interesting events, for free or cheap, but no permanent location. The closest Toronto has to an inexpensive museum that can claim to be a fresh breath of air, has a general audience, though with a subject area not tied to the surrounding area is the Museum of Contemporary Art. Like the MOV it's situated in an awkward area, though at least it's walking distance from two subway stations (Lansdowne and Dundas West).

On the opening weekend, I went for a visit and signed up for the $50/yearly membership right away. They encouraged museum-goers to contribute to some of the exhibits, opened up some of the small artist spaces to the public (they should do this yearly, at a minimum, to help demystify the making of art and for people to get to meet the artists with studios on the premises). As Murray Whyte's review of the opening exhibitions attest, the museum offers much food for thought on its 4 floors (all above the bottom floor) of the Tower Automotive Building.

My membership card for MOCA arrived recently. I'll visit once a quarter, since it is a little out of my way to get to. It will do until Toronto gets its downtown museum dedicated to the city, which I also hope to be a member of on its opening day.

Published by Richard on October 23rd, 2018

I'm an Opening Day Member of Toronto's Museum of Contemporary Art

Just a Gwai Lo - Tue, 10/23/2018 - 16:49

Toronto's Museum of Contemporary Art is an affordable breath of fresh air for a general audience (until we get the Museum of Toronto).

Published by Richard on October 23rd, 2018

Listening to Albums

Richards Raspberry Pi Adventures - Tue, 10/16/2018 - 22:38

It has been easy to forget about albums, the collection of songs that would encompass an entire CD, and vinyl and cassettes before that, with the fractured attention in the online era. It has also been easy to forget about record stores, since they have largely disappeared outside of the occasional vinyl record shop these days. Every now and then, an artist will promote their album, asking us to buy it on such and such a date, when I have, for a few years now, been a subscriber to Apple Music, giving me unlimited access to whatever they happen to have on file. Up until about early 2017, I hadn't made much use of it, though it had come in handy when someone had discussed something they thought I'd be interested in. Discovery of new music has become somewhat more difficult after music blogs stopped really being a thing, and it's impossible to rely on Facebook and Twitter for anything involving focus.

I've been a longtime reader of Pitchfork, and I still take their reviews seriously. The end of year is my favourite time, since anything I would have missed over the course of 11 months had a chance to come back on my radar. I have often committed to listening to the top 100 tracks of the year, with the top albums being a bit daunting. Their album list trends towards the mainstream, and I was craving something a little more daring. In late 2016 or early 2017, a friend pointed out The Quietus's top 100 list, and it satisfied the criteria of being just a little outside of what I would find on Pitchfork. Not content to listen to the albums in order, though, once the top 100 list comes out, I shuffle the list and make an effort to listen to each of them.

About 90% of the albums can be found on Apple Music, with the rest being streamable from Bandcamp. It has been the rare album that I can listen straight through in one go, since it's rare that I have an hour or so at a time to focus on any one thing. That said, since early 2017, I've listened to over 150 unique albums, ranging in genre from rap to electronic to experimental to bluegrass to metal. While metal is the music I have most difficulty with, a commitment is a commitment. I've been able t hook up my Last.fm profile with my iPhone, which has required installing a separate app called QuietScrob and ensuring that albums are in "my library" before playing. For any new-to-me artist that I like, I check Songkick to see if they're playing in whatever city I happen to be in, and I declare my plains both on Songkick and on Facebook if either is possible. Songkick has been good for getting notified of old faves rolling through town, too.

Published by Richard on October 16th, 2018

Listening to Albums

Just a Gwai Lo - Tue, 10/16/2018 - 22:38

It has been easy to forget about albums, the collection of songs that would encompass an entire CD, and vinyl and cassettes before that, with the fractured attention in the online era. It has also been easy to forget about record stores, since they have largely disappeared outside of the occasional vinyl record shop these days. Every now and then, an artist will promote their album, asking us to buy it on such and such a date, when I have, for a few years now, been a subscriber to Apple Music, giving me unlimited access to whatever they happen to have on file.

Published by Richard on October 16th, 2018

I've Read From A Book for 6 Months Straight

Richards Raspberry Pi Adventures - Tue, 10/16/2018 - 01:30

Apparently one way to form a habit is to do that thing once a day and make a streak. Apps like Snapchat encourage streaks of sending someone in particular a message or photo, and Timehop keeps track of how many days in a row you check in on your past social media activities. It had recently occurred to me that I had stopped doing something I used to love, which is to read books.

I have recently come to regret not so much the polarized nature of Twitter but rather its effect of fracturing my attention. A tweet about one topic is followed by another, with links out to articles that I would feel hurried to read because there was another tweet waiting for me to react to. To stretch out my attention span, I wanted to get back into reading books though it had felt like there wasn't a satisfying reward mechanism to get me hooked again. That was until the Bookly iPhone app crossed my radar. I had used a few apps in the past to track the amount of time spent reading, which would give me an idea of how long it took me to read an entire book, and at what pace I read. The Bookly app added to that the concept of a reading streak, and that was exactly what I needed.

A new job in a new city made it difficult to find time to read books in the last couple of years. Recently, I set out to read a book (dead trees editions) for about 15 minutes a day for 30 days straight. On May 19th of this year, I hit that goal. I have since read from a book, either dead trees or electronic edition (mostly the latter) for 180 days in a row. I still post my progress to Goodreads, and by the end of the year I hope to have read a modest 20 books. I'm in awe of those who read 100 or more books, which is doable with planning and persistence. Reading before work and not before bed is definitely a great tip, though for me, my commute is fairly short, and time seems to go by a lot faster in the morning than it does in the evening. I've so far been able to carve out time every day, and hope to be able to do it every day for the, weeks, months and years to come.

Published by Richard on October 15th, 2018

I've Read From A Book for 6 Months Straight

Just a Gwai Lo - Tue, 10/16/2018 - 01:30

A new job in a new city made it difficult to find time to read books in the last couple of years. I set out to read from a book every day from now on.

Published by Richard on October 15th, 2018

Fantasy Pools

Richards Raspberry Pi Adventures - Sun, 10/14/2018 - 21:47

Have I told you that I’m part of a baseball fantasy pool? While growing up, I played and watched baseball, and being one of the taller players, naturally I was assigned first base. I distinctly remember the time I sat on the family home’s deck and told my parents I wanted to focus on basketball instead, which was the right decision. I would cheer for the Blue Jays, and now that I think about it, the 1994 strike coupled with graduating high school and focusing on my floundering at university (which I would recover from), I lost interest. Fast-forward to 2007, with only 3 channels on my TV, the CBC started showing Blue Jays games again. I bought an HD over-the-air receiver, and fell in love with a young utility player named José Bautista.

Years of fandom since then did not lead to an interest in joining a fantasy baseball team, though. I didn’t the appeal of following a list of players, or being an armchair GM for ballplayers across several teams.

At least not until saying yes last year. I got my chance to be creative with my team name (Batter’s Eye, after the background to what the hitter sees behind the pitcher so that he can see the ball betterf), and happily overpaid for Josh Donaldson following his MVP season. I haven’t made the playoffs yet, but it has been enjoyable to look at who’s trending for picking up on waivers and making trades that will hopefully benefit all parties.

I’ve since joined a basketball fantasy pool in order to feel better connected to the game, especially the NBA players. Being a big guy myself, I have mixed feelings about the trend towards three pointers. On the one hand, I get that you have to go with what works, but on the other hand, the big men are so athletic and fun to watch when they post up.

I named my team Paper Towels after the time that Trump “shot” paper towels to people waiting for provisions in Puerto Rico, with my icon being the paper towels as they leave the President’s hands. It symbolized a moment where he thought he was helping, was enjoying the moment, but seems to have misread the seriousness of the situation. Or maybe he didn’t care. It’s an iconic moment in my mind, so I wanted to memorialize it.

I don’t intend to win at all costs, but I also don’t intend to be a doormat. I dress active players as often as I can, and make trades when they seem good. I reject my fair of trades if it doesn’t work for me, though I don’t propose any, not really knowing what I need. It has been a fun way to keep track of individual players without cheering for a single team, that being an emotionally draining enterprise. At least with a fantasy pool, I have some measure of impact on the outcome.

Published by Richard on October 14th, 2018

Fantasy Pools

Just a Gwai Lo - Sun, 10/14/2018 - 21:47

Have I told you that I’m part of a baseball fantasy pool? While growing up, I played and watched baseball, and being one of the taller players, naturally I was assigned first base. I distinctly remember the time I sat on the family home’s deck and told my parents I wanted to focus on basketball instead, which was the right decision. I would cheer for the Blue Jays, and now that I think about it, the 1994 strike coupled with graduating high school and focusing on my floundering at university (which I would recover from), I lost interest.

Published by Richard on October 14th, 2018

Three Plants

Richards Raspberry Pi Adventures - Sat, 10/13/2018 - 21:53

The other life form in my apartment (until I started bringing in flowers) was a aloe vera plant. I had no strong desire to extract the aloe vera itself, and living alone, I wanted something to care for that wasn't just me. I have on my Sunday routine to water the plant, and so far so good. Except for the first year or so, I had watered it too much. After giving it to a friend in Toronto to care for it for 3 weeks while I was out of town, she and her partner gave it a name (Lady Jane, after Lady Jane Grey but mainly because they like the sound of it), and, noticing it was unhealthy, even drew up plans for its rehabilitation:

On its arrival back at my apartment, I propped it up with some chopsticks and twist ties:

It's doing well, now, though still with its supports. Today, that same friend has given me 2 more plants to take care of:

They don't yet have names, so I will take suggestions. I'm also looking forward to potentially taking in a 4th plant once I get my second bookshelf, one that will drape down the side of it, potentially.

(I regret to inform you that after I took the photo of all 3 plants, Lady Jane lost an arm.)

Published by Richard on October 13th, 2018

Three Plants

Just a Gwai Lo - Sat, 10/13/2018 - 21:53

The three other life forms in my apartment.

Published by Richard on October 13th, 2018

UNO Synth Day 2

Richards Raspberry Pi Adventures - Fri, 10/12/2018 - 21:45

The real magic from the UNO Synth will come not from being a standalone synthesizer but rather an instrument in an orchestra. After playing around with modifying the preset sounds and playing the demo patterns at lunchtime today, I figured out how to use the sequencer without the aid of the manual, and the video tutorial is very good. I have watched the tutorial on the sequencer, and the possibilities are exciting.

Since I have the connectors to do it, I hooked up my Teenage Engineering Rhythm and tried to get it to sync. I was so far successful only in manually syncing a pattern on the Rhythm and the UNO, only out of sheer luck, and on the first try. After watching a video on syncing a PO-12 with a Korg Volca, it didn't make obvious how to do the same with the UNO, and any videos on how to sync an the UNO with a Pocket Operator have so far not yet been made.

So far it's fun to sit on the couch and listen in using my headphones and rely on batteries for power, meaning I can work with it untethered from an electrical outlet. Conceivably I could use it on my commute, if my transit commute were long enough. With 17 minutes on a streetcar being my typical travel time, I'll barely get it out of my bag before I arrive at my stop.

Published by Richard on October 12th, 2018

UNO Synth Day 2

Just a Gwai Lo - Fri, 10/12/2018 - 21:45

The real magic from the UNO Synth will come not from being a standalone synthesizer but rather an instrument in an orchestra. After playing around with modifying the preset sounds and playing the demo patterns at lunchtime today, I figured out how to use the sequencer without the aid of the manual, and the video tutorial is very good. I have watched the tutorial on the sequencer, and the possibilities are exciting.

Published by Richard on October 12th, 2018

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