Saskatoon Shiners #exploresk

Saskatoon is a beautiful city, so don’t let these photos fool you. Every city has a few shiners here and there. “There”, in this case, is downtown.
Holiday Inn Supermax Prison
This is the Holiday Inn Supermax Prison. Don’t worry, it only looks like a prison from the outside. You can leave, unlike the more picturesque Hotel California.

Here’s one of the more beautiful parkades with a cell phone tower behind it.

It’s January, and the snow has retreated into puddles due to the unseasonal temperatures, but the gang activity hasn’t retreated.

The people of Saskatoon are friendly, and will accommodate you whether you’re addicted to tobacco or real estate.

The Sturdy Stone isn’t going to see you, so you should go see it.

The HMCS Unicorn will be grinning at you when you walk by.

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Bus-Taker’s Guide To The Galaxy

I helped invent and host a city bus tour to a movie theatre from the Riddell Centre on Tuesday evening. It went very well, even though our bus was 20 minutes late when first leaving. The weather was astoundingly perfect, and the ten people who went all seemed to enjoy the evening very much. I think UR Sustainability Club will organize another tour like this one, later this semester.

Half of the group saw “Elysium” [7/10] a futuristic movie about a man dying to get to a satellite habitat where magical medical technology can heal nearly anything. The other went to the World’s End, or something like that. They seemed shocked by what they saw. The movie I saw was alright, but probably won’t watch it again.

Groceries Gone

Lakeshore Sobeys map
The people in the green circle are entering a Food Desert in September, as Sobeys is opting to close the Lakeshore store on 23rd Ave. There will be no grocery store within walking distance for thousands of people. Bus service, limited as it is, is highlighted for the region.

I’ve heard that a developer involved in creating a large down town tower recently now wants to develop the Lakeshore site, and my hunch is a grocery store on the lot doesn’t fit into their plans so they priced a willing Sobeys out of it. Sobeys wants big stores, not small old IGA sites, I’m certain. I’d like to see a tower go up, but the main floor should be a grocery store. I was in such a mall in waterfront Toronto not too many years ago. It was probably a Loblaws, but I can’t remember. Somewhere near Queens Quay if I recall.

If a grocery store isn’t opened quickly on campus, or on the existing site, it will be a disaster for the Hillsdale neighbourhood people who need to walk or bike to get their food. Many may be comfortable with the change because they are driving right now, but what happens to them if they are no longer able to afford to drive? Walking down Hillsdale St. got even harder as bus service was removed for most of it, and one side lacks a sidewalk as it’s a pedestrian wasteland of solid fences on both sides of the street for half a kilometer. Neighbourhoods on either side are walled in by houses and fences.

Regina Transit Petition

Regina Transit is planning to rearrange existing service to provide a few efficiencies. I see that more investment is needed to make significant improvements that transit riders have been requesting for well over a decade already. As Regina is growing, we’re reaching the limit our streets and parking lots can take, and it’s showing up in the frustrating rush hours that Reginans were not subjected to until a few years ago. Both drivers and transit riders alike stand to benefit greatly from additional money spent on adding buses to the fleet. It’s one of those all-win scenarios that City Council can leap upon and raise the city esteem.

Please get the petition, print it, sign it, and get your voting age friends and family in Regina to sign it too.

Solar Tour

3rd Solar Tour

On the weekend I had a fantastic tour of the Regina area, along with my parents, seeing the sights highlighted by conversions to solar energy. Solar PV, and active and passive solar heating were demonstrated in locations adjacent to the General Hospital, Shannon Road in south Regina (part of where I’m running to be a city Councillor), and as far away as Craven and Katepwa were explored too.
3rd Solar Tour 3rd Solar Tour 3rd Solar Tour 3rd Solar Tour
-Solar oven and solar cooker
A garter snake enjoying a pond aerated by a direct solar pump.
3rd Solar Tour

3rd Solar Tour
-A sponsor who has installed some of the systems seen on the tour.

Wind systems were on display sometimes too. This one was at Jim Harding’s place.
Wind power

3rd Solar Tour
3rd Solar Tour

I missed them all posing, but this is an interesting shot, with so many angles in it.
3rd Solar Tour
James is facing the camera, Greg is profile, and I’m not sure who is facing away.

3rd Solar Tour
-A ‘simple’ battery charge controller, used with one panel on Shannon Rd.

Take a look at inverter statistics from a Net Metered, ground mounted, 15 PV panel array installed in southern Saskatchewan for over a year. It’s using Enlighten micro-inverters.

Tonight, on the Rick Mercer Report, he installs solar panels with Mike Holmes.

Here’s a featured Enphase array.

Transit Is For Suckers

If there’s one lesson Canadians can learn from the latest Stats Can study into public transit, it’s that losers take the bus. A whopping 82% of commuters know that the fastest way to get to work is by private automobile, preferably an SUV, and 12% of Canadians don’t agree. This makes the “12 percenter” Canadians uneducated and behind the times.

Dr. Bob Ford of the Canadian Independent Research Society (pronounced “curse”) has found that people who don’t follow the majority are less intelligent than their conforming neighbours. “Taking transit is like swimming with the sharks, sooner or later you’re going to get bit,” explained Dr. Ford. Intelligent people don’t want to be bitten by traffic sharks, so they remain in their cars for the duration of their trip from home to work, work to the dry cleaners, the dry cleaners to the bar, and the bar to their home. This simple equation has come into question with the recent rise in public transit use due to high gas prices and image problems in the oil business.


Dr. Ford is hopeful that a cure for 12 percenters will be available soon. Clinical trials are underway in the Alberta Tar Sands where cheap, ethical oil is being made available to refineries in Texas. “The cheaper, ethical oil from Canada’s Oil Sands being formulated in Texas is going to make it easier for our less intelligent bus riders to get their own cars. In early trials, drivers burn gasoline more completely if they think they are doing something ethical by driving to work by themselves.” The barrier many bus riders face in adopting the single-payer vehicle model is that their time spent on buses has ruined them. “The multi-payer commuting system has made 12 percenters ill suited to paying attention while driving a car. When they introduce a cell phone or obligatory horns and middle fingers to their daily commute, they’re completely unprepared to cope with the road rage they must summon to survive.” Ethical oil has special rage inducing qualities that should help make Canada a more uniformly commuted country totally committed to the car.

“We know the car isn’t going anywhere, it’s been the vehicle of choice for almost a hundred years, and that’s a really, really long time,” Sam Brownbridge of Reliable Automobiles points out. Mr. Brownbridge’s company has noticed an upswing in auto sales since last month, and attributes this trend to the buzz around ethical oil. “I hate buses so much, I can’t wait to see the last one scrapped so I have more truck sales. It’s not fair that the city competes with me for losers’ dollars.”

Regina Transit Website Needs Improving

Regina Transit recently implemented a new RFID payment system. It works somewhat well, with some major drawbacks and minor annoyances. Their new website is potentially fantastic, but fails the testing I’ve given it the past few weeks.

Here’s the feedback I gave at the website, hopefully to reach suitable eyes soon that are connected to the brain of someone willing to fix the websites.

I have trouble with the vast number of links to search on the left pane of the website, when usually I’m looking for Regina Transit, not (Transit Services).
The transit map should be a higher resolution, it is not legible on my iPad screen, rendering it useless. It works, barely, on my computer screen.

The TransitLive site, and I hope you can fix it, is frustrating to use. It looks brilliant at first glance, but when put to the test it’s complicated or impossible to find the most important information which is “When is the next bus at this stop?”

Someone should be able to enter the stop number, and instead of first showing a slow-to-load google map, it would display the times and buses that stop there next.

At TransitLive I’ve completed their survey.
Using static maps, I can’t zoom in on the image on my iPod Touch, and it almost works by clicking, but then it switches to a google map just before it gets useful enough to see the direction and numbers of the buses I need.

When I “Go to Stop on Live Map: it loads the whole city, and eventually shows a couple buses and a home blot to guess where the website viewer is located. Instead, the Stop Number entry box should bring up the crucial information of what buses stop there next. This is how Ottawa’s bus system stop numbers responded when you called their automated system in 2002. The graphical map of where the bus actually is, is nice, but doesn’t tell someone what time they can expect the bus which is what they really want to know.

TransitLive has a very simple task to perform, but it complicates things. Enter a stop number, press Go, and it should show every bus that comes next, for the next hour. Then you should be able to do other things with the stop number or intersection entered.

To Edmonton and Back

April and I went to Edmonton on Monday afternoon. We posted some ads online looking to give a ride to someone else going that direction, but there was no response. On our way out of the city, there was a guy holding a sign that said “Saskatoon”, so I insisted we pick him up. He crammed himself into the back seat of our truck, and we learned he was hoping to get to Calgary! We politely informed him that he was taking an odd route, and he agreed, saying he’d tried all day the day before on Highway 1 West, and no one picked him up! Since we were going to Edmonton which is much closer to Calgary than Saskatoon is, we invited him to join us for the entire trip and he happily accepted our offer.

His, Lyle’s, journey had begun in Ottawa about a week earlier, where he was visiting his brother there. He’d had some kind of falling out with his brother, and decided to leave early before Christmas and head back to Calgary on the bus. He’d showed up to the bus depot about 2 hours early, bought his ticket, and went to the washroom. He’d hung his backpack on the door, put his duffle bag on the floor at his feet, and sat down. Not long later, his duffle bag whooshed away from his feet, while he was literally caught with his pants down and the thief made a getaway.

So Lyle was left with no money, no books, no wallet, no bus ticket, no cigarettes and no THC too. Apparently his fight with his brother was serious enough he didn’t return to ask for a new bus ticket or stay until he could get access to his money in a bank account. So he started hitching rides, going to North Bay, Sudbury, Sault St. Marie, Terrace Bay, Thunder Bay (on Christmas), Winnipeg, Brandon and finally Regina. And standing out on Highway 1 for a day in -15 was not fun I’m sure. He had learned not to walk far out of the city though, because when the sun goes down it’s colder and less likely you’ll get picked up too.

We filled up in Saskatoon, Lloydminster, and then made it to Edmonton. Before we left we filled up at 107.9 cents/L, and learned our oil was terribly low, so we added 1.5L at a cost of more than $12. There was a head wind, so we got terrible mileage driving north west, in the range of 15L/100km. On the way home it was about 12.5L/100km, but the fills cost 91.9 cents/L in Edmonton and Lloydminster, but 105.9 in Saskatoon.

In West Edmonton Mall, where we spent most of Tuesday, I bought some socks, and April got a shirt and sweater, and bought me an ice cream cone.

On Wednesday we went to the Alberta legislature building, where it was really cold outside. Fortunately the tour made use of a long tunnel from the interpretive centre to the legislature building. We heard a ghost story on the second floor. We saw the chamber under construction, with the light bulbs being changed. And we skipped the RAMuseum because it was $10 for an adult, and $7 for a student, and we got the legislature tour for free. Museums are much too expensive in Alberta for some reason.