I was on the road for most of last week. I kept meaning to write something on here, but was (a) too busy and (b) offline for most of the time. Here are some thoughts collected along the way.
I was in Calgary on Tuesday, and had to buy a few things in an electronics store while I was there. I picked up a brochure about Alberta's new electronics recycling program. There is an environmental fee of $5-45 that is charged when people buy new TVs or computers. The money is used to recycle old equipment and the province has set up 75 municipal collection sites.
While this might not be at the same level as the sort of things that they are doing in Europe, it does sound like a fairly good program. It makes me wonder why something like this has been able to move forward in Ralph Klein's Alberta, but nothing is happening in landfill-scarce Ontario?
We had a day off work, so we went to Gimli, Manitoba, famous for Air Canada's most embarrassing day. It was actually a very nice place and I really enjoyed the view of the beach and still-frozen Lake Winnipeg under sunny blue skies. If I was planning a cross-country road trip, I would certainly add Gimli to the itinerary.
Anyway, while we were in Gimli we went to the local museum and learned about the history of the area. It seems that in the late 19th century, Canada created a zone called New Iceland that had special legal rights. It was a plan to attract immigrants, and New Iceland governed itself under a combination of Icelandic and Canadian laws. The region was reserved for Icelanders until the community voted to open their area up to others before the turn of the century. I guess Canadian multiculturalism isn't such a recent idea. And Gimli never turned into an Icelandic ghetto, either.
Nothing blog-worthy to report this time in Winnipeg. The first time I went there, the skies were grey and I felt like I had finally found a place in Canada that I didn't like so much. But the last three or four times I have been there it has been sunny (despite the temperature), and as a result I've liked Winnipeg, too. It was incredibly cold when I was there in January, but that doesn't bother me as much as overcast skies and rain.
This was my first time to New York in three years. I was struck by the nearly complete absence of homeless people, panhandlers or street disturbances. This is particularly in comparison to 5-10 years ago. All I saw or heard from in New York were friendly, polite people.
While I was there I rode the subway a lot. I still prefer the brightness and openness of Toronto's trains and stations to those in New York. The difference is significant. However, what New York illustrates versus Toronto is the superiority of the four track system with express trains over our simple two track lines. What if the Yonge-University-Spadina line had four tracks, and you could catch a train at Finch that only stops at Sheppard, Eglinton, Bloor, Queen, King, Union, St Andrew, Osgoode, St. George, Eglinton West and Downsview? Four-track systems also allow for lines that branch out... so the trains coming from the Sheppard line, for example, could merge onto Yonge and become express trains heading downtown.
New York is only about 4 times larger than Toronto, but it always feels about 400 times bigger. On Sunday I had to go up to the Bronx. I got off the subway at Kingsbridge Road, and it was amazing to think I was about 15 miles from the tip of Manhattan, and all that distance was so densely-populated with development that was mostly there 50 years ago or more.
I don't have past Bronx experiences to compare, but I felt reasonably safe there. The Bronx DA's website shows that crime has declined at remarkable rates over the past decade and a half. For example, murders are down from 653 in 1990 to 125 in 2004 (lowest since 1966). I find this all interesting because there must be reasons behind these changes. They could be demographic changes, or economic improvement, or cultural adaptation to the problems caused by certain drugs that became popular in the past, or it could be the policies undertaken by government, including these mentioned by the local district attorney.
On my return I discovered that news in Canada has continued to be strange. If the Conservatives have flip-flopped on Kyoto, then I think it is safe to say that any strange event could possibly come to pass.