Archive for October, 2009

Rites of autumn

October 31, 2009

Years ago, we lived smack in the middle of what turned out to be THE neighbourhood for van loads of trick or treaters to be dropped.  They piled up to the doors on the street like locusts in their seventh year:  “tramps” and princesses and baseball players and baby mice.  We’d go through piles of candy and would have stocked piles but would always find we had to get close fisted toward the end of the evening just to eke out some for everyone.

We moved from there to a busy street toward the trick and treat parade ended.  Here the street would be busy if there were a street and last year, when there was, it was, and there were no trick and treaters.  This year however, we are being visited by a parade that, to my mind, is wholly Canadian in disposition: the nonperishable food collectors.  Every feasting holiday brings them out: well fed folks collecting goods for the local food pantry (here, Feed Nova Scotia).

Football, that other autumnal activity, doesn’t have the profile it does in the US.  in fact, the very local (two blocks west) St Mary’s Huskies are playing 12 games this season–including repeats with virtually every team they play once. (Dalhousie doesn’t have a football team).  Poor Bob has to feed his collegiate football jones by way of the internet and cope with the variations in time zones.

Moving beyond such social whirls as Halloween and kickoffs, there’s that construct that autumn also brings on both sides of the border: the reversion to “standard” time.  This year, we are running “daylight savings” later than ever, apparently jsut for the Saturday night trick and treaters, although our food for the hungry collectors come in the afternoon.

And there’s the wholly natural rite, the gorgeous one: the turning leaves:




What’s the big dig about anyway?

October 30, 2009

Marg, a librarian on the West Coast who reads this blog with a fair degree of faith, it appears, and whom I ahve never met, points up that my scrupulous reports on the heck the street work is causing has overwhelmed any explanation of what plan was behind the mess in the first place.  So ehre’s a quick recap:

Back in the 18th century, the British used the south mouth of a clear stream they named Fresh Water Brook to restock their ships with potable water when in port.  Fresh Water Brook (which in the Western US would pass for a river and in the Eastern US would be a deep creek) flows roughly southeast across the Halifax Peninsula.

At some point in the mid-19th century, sewer lines were laid on the Peninsula and were set to roughly trace the route of the brook (perhaps because it had cut through the rock?). Then a grid pattern of streets was laid over it–the grid running due east-west/north-south while the brook and sewer line ran southeast.  Buildings were placed on top of the brook/sewer line….

A hundred sixty years later, no surprise, the sewer pipes had had their day and needed replacement.  And some wise person decided to straighten ’em out to follow the streets (makes sense) and straighten the now undergrounded brook, too….

A couple problems with this scenario:  “underground” here means 30 feet or so, not six; and “rock means like solid not stoney…..

Thus the big dig-explosion-crater began.

And that, Marg, is your scary pre-Halloween story.

The unmanageable project meets the librarian

October 29, 2009

Bob has had a day to end all days.  Even if he hadn’t told me this, I would know it, based on the size of the excavation and lifting equipment that greeted me when I opened the front door at 6:45 am, the fact that he was going to have to run interference for the delivery of a new oil tank and hot water heater installation under conditions that have led to no street or driveway access, and the size of the culverts sitting at our door upon my return to the house at 7:30 pm.

But he survived.  And there is now a hot water heater.  And perhaps a functioning oil tank (it hasn’t pumped through to the point that the heat is in effect yet).


at my front door, 7:30 this evening

at my front door, 7:30 this evening



Just add cabling and get rid of a pedestrian zone

October 28, 2009

My journey the whole two blocks to the pharmacy and back turned out to be studded with construction obstacles such as I hadn’t yet seen. Fenwick is now a pit at the South Park End and unpaved gravel over which equipment spins and growls–along with pedestrians trying to get in and out of the medical arts building because the sidewalk there is either closed (at the side) or parked upon by construction workers’ trucks (at the front).  Nice.  Works really well with wheelchairs.

I managed to climb, skate and otherwise dodge pipes, vehicles and sliding slag until I got almost to my front door–which was locked by two guys in hard hats hauling very heavy cable along the walk.  They piled it in the parking lot driveway on one side of the house and announced cheerfully that they hope no one tries to access the parking lot until they return tomorrow.  Then they repositioned cones curbside–along the 25 feet of open curb–to designate that as a no parking zone, got in their trucks and drove off for the night.


Mysteries continue on the street

October 28, 2009

At 5:15 this morning, the street crew began arriving, revving machinery engines so that the fuel truck, rumbling up across the gravel, could refill tanks.  The “work day” isn’t supposed to begin, by bylaw, until 7 am, but this apparently doesn’t count as “work”.  There’s no blasting involved and the the dump trucks don’t arrive, honking and hooting their backup signals (and yes, I believe these auditory backup warnings are good and right), until way past 6 am.

Although there’s now a clear patch from the corner of South Street down three houselots, which has it reaching past our house, the digging has continued to the south of that “safe zone” and has commenced with new vigor north of South Street’s intersection, at a point no work plan map we ever saw showed it going.

The dishwasher that appeared upside down in the street, about a month ago, has remained both untouched and solitary.  Its nearest neighbour, within the construction fence as it is, appears to be just as singular of type:  one bale of hay, the only one to appear on the work site even unto the Fenwick leg of the whole.

Meanwhile, the elm trees have turned golden in autumn and other trees are becoming close to bare.  The Provincial government has declared that no road construction vehicles may be doing road construction of a “summer” type after November 1; at that point they must be converted to identities as snow removal equipment, in order to react against last November’s Cobequid Pass debacle.

That remains the biggest mystery to me: how all these holes, pits and unpaved areas can possibly be healed within the next four days.  Unlikely, my dear Watson.

Flu south

October 25, 2009

H1N1 seems to have a different profile and reception here than back in Canada, and different, too, from what it was when I was last in the Midwest just two weeks ago. O’Hare Airport has sprouted Purell dispensers on virtually every open wall space (including, curiously, several outside every Men’s Wash Room in Terminal 2).  Folks who didn’t make it to the ALA Exec meeting due to having contracted the flu all seem to be way sicker than what I’ve heard so far back in Halifax–hospitalized, long recovery processes, etc.

Yesterday’s BBC news noted that the President has declared a state of emergency and today’s headlines (again in the O’Hare boxes so not pursued further by me, at least yet) all scream in going-to-war font that vaccine supplies are low.

Meanwhile flu shots, which were happening for $15 a pop here at O’Hare at the beginning of October, are now $35.

Back in Nova Scotia, as I was booeying out the door, the protocol for vaccination was just undergoing a quick change from “wait until January” to “next week”. I am guessing it will change two or three more times before anything actually enters the distribution stream.

In the meantime, anyone with a cough or sneeze, on either side of the border, is treated either as a 15th century leper or as though they were merely breathing–depending on the audience, not the patient.

The world’s largest…

October 23, 2009

Chicago has been socked in by a giant pouring rain cloud since I arrived yesterday afternoon.  But the location of both my hotel and the meetings is such that I can walk about dry and amused:  the hotel is on the 15th floor of the Merchandise Mart, across a second floor pedestrian bridge from the world’s largest LEED Gold building…and that houses showrooms for furnishing designers.  It’s so wow!



On the first floor of the hotel building is the Illinois (as opposed to Chicago) Art Institute, along with a mural that can’t be fully captured due to the narrowness of the corridor along which it is gigantically painted.  So, here are just some details:

IMG_3004 IMG_3007

And then there’s the biggest mailbox ever….


The obsession continues…as does the coffee shop’s good humour

October 22, 2009

As I got ready to leave for an ALA meeting in Chicago this morning, I first fought my way across a street choked with dump trucks wherever the pit isn’t.  Full on digging continues….and continues…and continues…

South Park, at 8:15 this morning

South Park, at 8:15 this morning


On the bright side, the most local coffee shop, Uncommon Grounds, has decided to incorporate the scene into their daily quiz.  The quiz generally works like this: at the counter, a handwritten question–environmental science, geography, famous people, etc.–is taped, with four tip coffee cups beneath it, each cup offering a different answer.  You tip in the cup of your selection of right answer and the next day the true correct answer is posted on another hand written note next to the muffins.  Usually the questions are university level and pretty interesting but today they have outdone themselves:

“When will the construction on South Park be completed?”

And all four cups sport the same possible answer: “Never.”

The physics of Tim Horton’s

October 21, 2009

I stand in perpetual amazement at the Tim Horton’s culture that includes a belief that some materials can be packaged and parsed in ways I never learned in my physics course in high school.  First, there’s the whole litre-of-milk-in-a-plastic-bag thing.  Who came up with this concept and why doesn’t it burst on the shelf?  What kind of scissors cleaning has to happen to keep the milk that has to get clipped when the bag’s corner gets snipped from souring into a stinky mess o’ germs?

The whole cant of “triple triple” and “double triple” makes little sense becasue the dairy and sugar portions references aren’t measured or prepackaged.  Is your single my double (thanks, I drink it black, anyway!)? But then when I ehar folks ask for “half a cream” I ahve to wonder if half of a glug is a gl- or -ug?

But I’m the only one in line wondering.  Except I’m not in line because there’s that other thing they do at Tim Horton’s: they see around corners and have your correctlymeasured mixture (my case, non-mixture) just getting lidded as you slide up to hand over the money.

So, precision of vision, approximation of pour.  It’s a different physical world north of the border at coffe break time.

Keeping the library in perspective, here and now

October 20, 2009

Yesterday’s announcement by a powerhouse team of Federal, Provincial and Municipal politicians that funding for the 22-year-anticipated central library for Halifax included an on-site press conference and news reports on radio and television. A day later, the CBC site carries the full story, along with about 20 comments by readers of the site, which have accumulated across the past 30 hours.

Meanwhile, a story on H1N1 facts and myths, published today, has garnered three tiems that many comments already.

Does this mean that folks have become jaded about the central library while continuing to be obsessed by their chances of contracting flu? Does it mean that publishing a list of myths is more inviting of response than a press release and report of a well planned and executed government announcement?

Whatever else it means, it is a reminder that infrastructure–even the fabled and lauded halls of a public library–isn’t as demanding of immediate civic engagement as we library folk would continue to wish. But perspective is good for us and helps stave off hubris.  We need to build a library that does engage–and we need to keep our hands washed in order to stay healthy.