Changes Delay

December 1, 2021

Good morning. For those regular readers who would be expecting to find a new edition of the Changes on the Drive series here today, it will be available later on Thursday. The torrential downpours of the last few days have kept me indoors. I believe tomorrow will be dry, so I’ll do my survey walk in the morning.

What Better City?

November 30, 2021


I just received a mailing from Ken Sim for Mayor: A Better City. I suspect this went to every household as his well-heeled 1% backers can afford to spread their money around.

It is a full page letter in both English and Chinese, and in that full page there is not one word — not even a passing reference — to any policy statement. Nothing about housing and homelessness, nothing about development, nothing about the opioid crisis, nothing about transportation or economic development or public safety, nothing about schools or parks or indeed anything else.

Why would anyone want to donate to a candidate for Mayor who is only interested in talking about himself?

Our city is far too valuable to be put in the hands of someone who just wants to play personality politics.

Christmas In Grandview Park

November 26, 2021

Fidel Castro. A Hero For Our Times

November 26, 2021


Fidel Castro has been dead for 5 years today, and the world is so much emptier for that fact.

I didn’t support Castro’s politics (though much of it tended to be better than most — look at Cuba’s health care system, for example, a success against every barrier the US could throw against it), but I supported the bravery of standing up for fifty years to an imperialist Superpower that had missiles and a huge army less than a 100 miles away.

More than the military threat, the US for two whole generations attempted to destroy the Cuban economy and people by sheer economic terrorism. Luckily, the world would not stand for that, and even Canada never flinched from business and tourism with Cuba.

Whenever self-righteous Americans point to the wreckage of Cuba’s economy and the poverty of the people (compared, say, to most parts of the US), remind them that this was caused directly and deliberately by American leaders.

How We Got Frozen Food

November 24, 2021


Business Insider often has short little historical pieces about industries or processes. I enjoyed this one about how Capt. Birdseye put frozen foods into every freezer in North America.

On The Origin of Origins

November 24, 2021


On the Origin of Species - Wikipedia

First published on this day, 24th November 1859. Rarely has any book had such an effect on human knowledge and understanding.

Happy Fibonacci Day!

November 23, 2021

1123 — the first numbers in the Fibonacci sequence — allows us to celebrate November 23rd as Fibonacci Day. This is in honour of Italian Leonardo Bonacci of Pisa who discussed the sequence in 1202.

The Fibonacci sequence goes as follows: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144 and on to infinity. Each number is the sum of the previous two. They were known in India well before Fibonacci and were called Virahanka numbers.

It might seem just like a simple mathematician’s trick, but the Fibonacci sequence is found throughout nature. For example, the petals on flowers follow the sequence — most flowers have three (like lilies and irises), five (parnassia, rose hips) or eight (cosmea), 13 (some daisies), 21 (chicory), 34, 55 or 89 (asteraceae). Spirals, such as in pine cones or conch shells, are also built up in Fibonacci sequences.

One could spend an entire Fibonacci Day finding more examples, from spiral galaxies to DNA sequences to fractal diagrams.

The Five Sandwiches that Made America

November 21, 2021


I always find the Conversation has an eclectic mix of essays, many of which will pique my interest. A recent case in point: the history of five sandwiches — tuna salad, the chow mein sandwich, club, peanut butter & jelly, Scotch woodcock — and what they say about American social history.

The histories of these foods run through the 1890s for the club sandwich — perfectly described as “a blend of elegance and blandness” — through the early years of the 20th century for tuna, pb & J, and the woodcock, and much more recently for the chow mein sandwich of the 1970s.

Image: Alena Haurylick

“As food historian Bee Wilson argues in her history of the sandwich, American sandwiches distinguished themselves from their British counterparts by the scale of their ambition. Imitating the rising skylines of American cities, many were towering affairs that celebrated abundance.

Well worth the read.

What Gives You Satisfaction?

November 20, 2021


The Pew Research group’s latest findings are on what gives life meaning, or at least 17 nationality’s views on that subject. While “family” was almost invariably considered the most important, the range of other sources of satisfaction was quite diverse.

Outside of the United States, religion was barely mentioned.

I was rather surprised at how few people mentioned spouses (or similar):

I was less surprised to find that the Brits were keen on hobbies:

The urge for personal freedom and independence was quite low, even in Trump’s America:

An all-together interesting study.

The Broadway Plan: Wow!

November 19, 2021


As time goes by we get better and more detailed analyses of the Broadway Plan. It sounded bad — a developer’s wet dream — from the very beginning, and ever-closer inspection reveals the horror show that could be inflicted on our city if it continues on its present path. With rumours afoot that the dreamed-up SkyTrain extension to UBC is getting pushed further and further back into the infrastructure priority queue, the entire Broadway Plan along with its attendant subway — the $3 billion hole to nowhere — seems more like development profit driving transit building rather than the other way round.

The always-diligent CityHallWatch have been digging into the bones of the so-called “shoulder areas” along Broadway which, they show, will soon “look like the downtown core.” And these are not insignificant little patches:

They further note that “most details” are still missing, and that Planners give no rationale for the identification of so much land as “shoulder areas.”

Their article goes into great detail about the problems inherent in this Plan and rather than try to summarize their excellent work I urge everyone interested in the future of Vancouver to give it a read.

Blood Moon Eclipse

November 18, 2021


Image: VancouverIsAwesome

Tonight, overnight, we can witness the longest lunar eclipse for almost 600 years.

The eclipse will begin at about 10:47pm Vancouver time tonight, will peak at around 2:00am, and be finished at 3:30am.

Frieda Smashes Records

November 16, 2021


The last time Frieda Kahlo’s self portrait Diego y yo was auctioned in 1990, it sold for $1.4 million, making her the first South American artist to break one million dollars. This week at Sotheby’s it sold again, this time for $34.9 million — the highest price by far ever achieved by a South American artist.

Larry Beasley Talks to TEAM

November 15, 2021


TEAM for a Livable Vancouver, the new civic political party led by Clr. Colleen Hardwick, held a policy conference a couple of weekends ago during which the party’s key policy directions were being finalised.

It was a great meeting for policy wonks to thrash out details, but it also allowed the party to make a statement about where it stands in terms of values. And this was most forcefully addressed in the speech given by the keynote speaker, former Vancouver City Planner Larry Beasley:

Sandy James Planner at Viewpoint Vancouver has written a good article about Larry Beasley and in particular about this speech, which I recommend.

The Safeway Site: A Bad Revision

November 14, 2021


Revised Safeway Megatower Plan a Failure

The folks at No Megatowers at Safeway have looked at the proposed new revision for the major development at Commercial & Broadway, and they find it sadly lacking.

For example, one of the selling points of the new revision is a so-called “[r]eduction of building height by one-storey on each of the residential towers,” which makes it seem that the towers will be less tall. However, the reduction in residential space is made up for with changes to the retail/commercial plinth and associated architecture, and two of the towers will actually be taller than previously proposed. To quote their analysis:

“For example, in Tower A, the height from ground to the top previously was 105.6meters (346 feet). It now rises to 113.3meters – a height of 371.7 feet … The retail “plinth” for Tower A previously was 28.1 meters; it now is  29.6 meters. The “plinth” contains two mezzanine levels. It is the equivalent of about 8 commercial storeys, and of 10.8 standard residential storeys. On the roof of Tower A there is 11 meters (36 feet)  of height above the roofline –  previously there was only 2.5 meters.  This all matters in terms of shadowing and mountain views.

The “public plaza” also remains an issue:

“It still runs along the edge of the skytrain line, in its shadow, the trains loudly thundering by. It is not a “sunny, welcoming, delightful and people-friendly civic plaza” as required by the Grandview Woodland Community Plan. Nor is it centrally located in the development … This plaza was so key to the Grandview Woodland Community Plan because it is instead of a park – this neighbourhood has few parks.”

Another very important change in the Revision is elimination of the promise to provide childcare spaces. This not only goes against all previous iterations of developers’ promises but ignores the Grandview-Woodland Community Plan’s specific call for an increase in such childcare spaces as a primary neighbourhood need.

There is still time for you to register your thoughts on this proposal. Go to Shape Your City.

Imagination as the Soul of Humanity

November 12, 2021



The Purpose of Free will and Imagination: Philosophy of Coexistence - Anand  Damani

“A collection of neuroscientists, philosophers and linguists is converging on the notion that imagination, far from a kind of mental superfluity, sits at the heart of human cognition. It might be the very attribute at which our minds have evolved to excel, and which gives us such powerfully effective cognitive fluidity for navigating our world.”

That quote effectively introduces a fascinating essay at which discusses the evolutionary value of imagination, noting that

“it enables you to suppose, picture and describe not only things you won’t ever have experienced, but also things you never could experience, because they violate the laws that govern the world. You can probably imagine being the size of an ant, or walking on air, or living on the Moon. “

The author goes on to note that imagination seems to have little use as a tool for survival when compared, say, to tool use or walking upright. But,

“[t]he more we understand about the minds of other animals, and the more we try (and fail) to build machines that can ‘think’ like us, the clearer it becomes that imagination is a candidate for our most valuable and most distinctive attribute … evolutionary psychologists might suppose that there’s some reason behind our ability to imagine the impossible. Since the laws of physics weren’t known to our species when our brains were evolving, should it surprise us that imagination wilfully breaks them? A mind that can conceive of possibilities beyond its own experience can prepare for the unexpected; better to overanticipate than to be surprised.

Imagination gives us an extraordinary freedom:

“In our mind’s eye, we can project ourselves ‘anywhere in imaginary spacetime’ – into medieval France, or Middle Earth, or The Matrix. In that inner theatre, any performance can take place. As Theseus said: ‘Lovers and madmen have such seething brains, / Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend / More than cool reason ever comprehends.’”

There is a great deal more in this fascinating article and I recommend it.

Changes at Commercial & Adanac

November 11, 2021


One of the items on Vancouver City Council’s agenda next Tuesday 16th November is the design approval for the redevelopment of the southwest corner of Commercial & Adanac.

This will soon enough become this:

The zoning went through a while ago, so this is really just for information at this point. However, it is right next door to the Alma Blackwell housing project, the managers of which are also pushing for a similar height through redevelopment.

This looks like it is becoming a standard, not a one-off.

TransEurasian Language Family Origins

November 11, 2021


The origin of languages is a key part of how we became the species that we are today. And knowledge of the history of each language group allows us to track the migration patterns of humans millenia ago.

I have written before about ur-symbols, the origins of Indo-European, and other linguistic ideas. Now, we have exciting new research on the origin and dispersal of TransEurasian languages such as Japanese, Korean, Mongolian, and Turkish.

“This language family’s beginnings were traced to Neolithic millet farmers in the Liao River valley, an area encompassing parts of the Chinese provinces of Liaoning and Jilin and the region of Inner Mongolia. As these farmers moved across north-eastern Asia over thousands of years, the descendant languages spread north and west into Siberia and the steppes and east into the Korean peninsula and over the sea to the Japanese archipelago … The findings illustrate how humankind’s embrace of agriculture after the ice age powered the dispersal of some of the world’s major language families. Millet was an important early crop as hunter-gatherers transitioned to an agricultural lifestyle.”

Renters and the Broadway Plan

November 11, 2021


The Broadway Plan — otherwise known as the gold-plated pension plan for developers and city staff — is deep in the midst of its “consultative phase” and this month it is the renters (the majority) who get the treatment. We are offered a free 90-minute Round Table which:

“will focus on rental housing in relation to the Broadway Plan. This session will consider the entire Broadway Plan area and will include topics like the creation of new rental housing, protecting existing secure rental housing, renter protections, and mitigating displacement impacts.”

You can register to join at

I would strongly urge everyone to read the excellent analysis of the rental implications put together by CityHallWatch. One of their important takeaways:

“Staff purportedly seek the “careful renewal of the aging rental stock” in the apartment zones (RM and FM) between 1st and 16th Avenue and Vine Street and Clark Drive. This is perhaps another way of saying that the City is looking to enable the replacement of affordable rental stock with expensive new rentals. Current renters in those areas should sit up, take notice, and get involved in the consultations.”

Patterns of Inflation

November 10, 2021


There has been much talk lately of rampant inflation and the potential repercussions. These graphs from the Economist show how different today’s inflation is when compared to the last occurrences in 1969 and 1984 when eggs and car insurance were primary components..

Graph: Economist

Safeway Site Open House

November 9, 2021


The story so far is here.

Now, the developers are offering two open houses to discuss their latest revision of the development plan. They will take place on Friday 19th November at the Cultch. There will be two brief sessions organized by the developer’s PR company at 9:00am and 10:00am.

There is a VERY limited number of registrations allowed for each session. They claim this is a covid requirement but it also acts to lower the possibility of large numbers of those residents opposed to the development. causing a fuss. Vaccine passports will be required.

If you are interested, please register at as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.