Star Grazer

July 26, 2014

Star Grazer

This image is for my wonderful daughter who, just last week, touched her first star fish.

This Sporting Life #9

July 26, 2014

With the completion of today’s Individual Time Trial, and with the exception of the almost-celebratory run into Paris tomorrow, this year’s Tour de France is now complete; and it has been a quite marvelous race.

There was a clear expectation by most observers that this year’s Tour would be a closely fought battle between Alberto Contador and Chris Froome.  However, with both of them being forced to withdraw during the first week, the “lesser lights” who normally would have been supporting their leaders were given a lot more freedom to go for stage wins and high rankings in the overall classification. This opened up the race and made for some spectacular days.

NibaliVincenzo Nibali (nearly always my second choice after Contador) has been the leader almost from the beginning and will win tomorrow by more than seven minutes; a victory thoroughly deserved.  He has looked cool and prepared on every single stage, winning a major mountaintop finish, handled the difficult cobble stage, and competing effectively in the time trial.  In hindsight, I suspect that he might well have won this year even had Froome and Contador stayed in.

Peter Sagan is such a consistently good performer that he has swamped everyone else in the green jersey (sprinters) competition without winning a single stage (though he has a chance still tomorrow morning).  In the King of the Mountains polka dot race, the young Pole Rafal Majka wins after an exciting contest. Majka reminds me that this Tour has thrown up a new crop of your riders, raiders we will be seeing at the top of the lists throughout the next decade.

Just as important, this year has been the best in a full generation for the French with their riders taking 2nd, 3rd and 6th place.  In addition, with the collapse of the Sky team this year, French team AG2R Las Mondiale will win the team competition by a wide margin.

It has been a great race — a true Grand Tour — and now we look forward to the Vuelta d’Espana later this summer which may well have the finest group of riders for many years with Contador and Froome trying to make up for their TdeF failures.  I will probably be supporting the young Colombian Nairo Quintano.


Previous This Sporting Life episodes.

Abandon the Citizens’ Assembly

July 25, 2014

We are now in the final week for those who want to participate in the Grandview-Woodland so-called Citizens’ Assembly to send in their ballots to be entered in the “lottery” for a seat.  We understand that very few residents have so far agreed to join in this mis-adventure which is not surprising.

Philip Hill is one of the many intelligent and articulate residents of our neighbourhood who have called consistently over the last year or more for an open and fully democratic process in our Community Plan exercise; the sort of process that the current Citizens’ Assembly denies us.  He has written to the appointed Chair of the Assembly explaining his refusal to take part and he has kindly given me permission to reprint his astute comments:

Thank you for the opportunity to participate in the Citizen’s Assembly.  I must decline my ballot, as I cannot forfeit ten Saturdays (80 hours) of personal time to participate in this capacity.  I expect that in addition to this formal requirement another 80 hours will be required to fulfil the obligations of a Citizen’s Assembly member with tasks such as preparation, information review, report writing, and presentation preparation.

Such a commitment would be worthwhile if the recommendations of the Citizen’s Assembly were binding on the decision of City Council.  However, it would appear that Council has already made their decision regarding the fate of the Grandview-Woodland Community plan.  The Director of Planning’s top priority for 2015 is to complete the Grandview-Woodland Official Community Plan in the spring.  The necessary zoning changes are to be ushered through Council within the following three months.

Developers and real estate brokers gleefully tell me of the outstanding opportunity the new community plan brings.  There are potential profits or “Developer Cream” to be had in the range of 15 to 30%.  Apparently, under the direction of Council, the Planning Director and senior planners, have met with developers at various forums such as the Vancouver Board of Trade.  The purpose of these meetings was to discover how to best incorporate Council’s aspirational goals to suit developer’s needs.  The result of this effort culminated in the Emerging Directions document that caused such outrage in our community.  I suspect that once the Citizen’s Assembly process is complete the Emerging Directions document will be adopted as the official community plan without significant change.  This was the case for both Marpole and the West End.

Therefore I conclude that the Citizen’s Assembly is nothing more than an engagement exercise designed to play out active members of the Grandview-Woodland community while providing the illusion of public consultation.

The Emerging Directions concept will do the opposite to what it purports.  It will decrease affordable rents, divide neighbourhoods, kill small businesses on Commercial Drive, increase the ratio of persons per park space, and bring bland homogeneity to our community rather than vibrant diversity we presently enjoy and share with the city and region at large.

The Citizen’s Assembly is badly flawed.  It should be abandoned for a participatory community based approach such as those proposed by grass roots groups like, Our Community Our Plan and GWAC under the former direction of Jak King.  Planning staff should then generate a proposed community plan that is reflective of the wishes of the community and endorsed by the community.  The endorsed plan should bind the decision of Council.  To do less is both reprehensible and shameful.

I urge everyone in the neighbourhood to take heed of Philip’s insightful analysis and not be drawn into this faux consultation.  I urge everyone to keep in close touch with the Our Community, Our Plan group who are actively seeking a healthier and more respectful alternative.  Finally, I urge everyone to write to Mayor and Council distancing yourself from this attempt to push the developers’ vision onto our wonderful and highly successful community.

Serial Detectives

July 24, 2014

When I was a very little boy I had an uncle who was essentially bed-ridden for many years for reasons that I am still unclear about. There was no TV in those days for working class families and so my uncle used to pass the time reading.  He had an enormous collection of detective novels.  My parents used to visit him and my aunt one evening every week to play cards.  While they did that, I took my pick of his library of cheap paperbacks.  Thus it was that, before I was nine or ten, I had read everything that Agatha Christie had written.

HardBoiledDetectiveStill using my uncle’s collection, I worked my way through all of Chesterton’s Father Brown mysteries, Simenon’s Maigret, Ellery Queen and who knows what else by the time I was in my early teens. This early background set me up on two reading habits: enjoying detective stories and reading the entire oeuvre of an author.

As time went on, I read my way through all the American “hard boiled” detective novels of Hammett, Chandler, and the odd world of Damon Runyon.  This led me to many American magazines with fabulous stories. Later, I discovered the queen of detective writers, P.D. James, and swallowed everything whole.  Since then, I have devoured the entire body of work by Vancouver’s own Laurence Gough, and the impeccable Aurelio Zen series by the late Michael Dibdin, and who knows how many more.

I have also, of course, watched endless detective series on TV, including the Jack Frost and Rebus series.  Which is the catalyst for this post, really.

One of the advantages of spending time in hospital is the opportunity to just lay back and read. On this occasion, I had a few books by Ian Rankin to get through.  Rankin is the author of the Inspector Rebus series about an unconventional police detective in Edinburgh.  I had seen all of the TV episodes featuring the cop but had not read any of the novels.

I enjoyed the books though I wouldn’t put them up there with the best.  What was interesting to me was that throughout the two novels (and a collection of short stories), I kept seeing the English Inspector Jack Frost acting out the character rather than the very Scottish Rebus.  Once again, I haven’t read any of R.D. Wingfield’s Frost novels but I have seen all 42 TV episodes, often more than once.  I am not in any way suggesting anything untoward in Rankin’s writing (copying Wingfield, for instance) but that the characters are just so similar.

I’m not sure I’ll complete the entire Rankin series, at least not yet.


Fog At Sunset

July 22, 2014

Fog at Sunset_web

Fun and Games With Nukes

July 22, 2014

Deliberately breathing in a radioactive mist and then looking at the pretty pictures the airflow makes in one’s lungs sounds like something libertines might try at some fin-de-siecle drunken bash.  But that is just one of the tests I undertook during my recent stay in hospital. Then, to add to the jollity, they inject more radioactive material into your veins and watch the blood flow.  On each occasion you have to lie in an awkward position for 15 minutes while the scanning machine moves slowly around your chest.

Modern medicine is a marvelous but sometimes scary business.

Not Quite Dead Yet

July 21, 2014

It has been eight days since I last posted.  I was taken to hospital for an emergency on July 14th and have returned just a few minutes ago.

All of these days I have been without internet, email, radio, most TV and newspapers: I am therefore very behind and will take some time to catch up; catching up with 1,323 emails for example and a few dozen Twitter DMs and notes to my posts will take a day or two, so please bear with me if you are looking for a response.

I am out of hospital, but not yet available for weddings and bar mitzvahs — hopefully soon!