Friday, April 30, 2010

The Shoprider - the cool scooter

I had the same surprised reaction to the Shoprider enclosed cabin scooter that I had to the Smart car on seeing one on a street in Nice, France. I gasped at its incredibe small size and it just looked so cool. Then, I took pictures.

Shoprider 889XLSBN
It may look like a small car, a very small car, but it is the Shoprider 889XLSN --- a simple covered scooter for folk unable to walk long distances. It is powered by the usual, large scooter battery. Note the serial number of the uncovered Shoprider. The two scooters are brothers under the skin.

I wondered what it would be like to be cooped up inside one on a hot day. Unpleasant? Then I learned that the doors can be removed. The Shoprider really is cool.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Jets over London, Ontario

Once I read somewhere how many jets fly over London, Ontario, every day, but I haven't been able to find that information to add to this post. Maybe tomorrow I'll call the airport.

I believe, and again this is from memory, that London is on a Great Circle Route from here to there for a lot of cities. I believe the number of planes that pass over London, streaking the sky with their jet engine vapour trails, may number in the hundreds.

Whatever, it makes for a neat picture.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Placemaking in suburbia

This lady lives near me and like so many who live in Byron she enjoys walking about our suburban neighbourhood. I spotted her with a friend in front of my home; They had stopped while she, clearly a serious photographer judging by her camera, grabbed some careful images of the crabapple tree in bloom.

Our street is lined with crabapple trees and in the spring it is beautiful. I must tell you that my wife disagrees. Oh, it looks nice, she'll grant me that. But the bees that are attracted to the blooms --- big, loud-buzzing bumblebees --- in the hundreds!

Maybe tomorrow I'll try and grab a picture of one or more of the stinging little devils. It's best I take an antihistamine before the shoot.


Bear shot in London, Ontario

London police looking for the bear sighted in the Southwestern Ontario city.
Yes, you read that headline correctly. A rather large black bear was shot yesterday in the southwest end of London, Ontario, just a short walk from where I live. The chief of police said he has never come up against such a problem in all his years with the force. This was his first bear encounter. The local office of the Ministry of Natural Resources reportedly deals with so few bear complaints that they were also rather unprepared. So, no giant live-traps for the humane capture of large black bears were available, no one had, nor knew how to use, a tranquilizing gun, and beating drums to drive the now frightened bear away did not seem to be an option as there are a number of daycare centres and schools in the immediate area.

If you are still curious, more of the story is posted to the Digital Journal. To see the bear itself, check out this link to The London Free Press, our local paper. (I do wish the Free Press image didn't seem to depict the police officer almost as a big game hunter. But, maybe that's just my take on the image.)


Monday, April 26, 2010

Back from the ashes, like the Phoenix

This older Victorian home, sitting on a corner facing Victoria Park in the core of London, Ontario, burned a few years ago. But it was not demolished after the fire. The owner had the building re-roofed, but with shingles and not slate, and took the fire as an opportunity to modernize all the windows and other features of the aging structure. The result is not technically a restoration but it is smart: Smart to have considered, smart to have done and the result looks smart, too.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Cookie cutter homes of the core

One criticism I have often encountered when someone is busy knocking suburbia is a reference to the cookie cutter look of the homes in the new developments. There is a smugness to this talk that is not earned. Older neighbourhoods are filled with cookie cutter areas. It is not uncommon to find two similar homes sitting side by side in older neighbourhoods. And finding a row of three or more similar homes is not as rare as you might think.

The big difference is that in the newer neighbourhoods, all the homes tend to be homes. Many of the homes in the older neighbourhoods now contain businesses.

Urban critics must learn to get out more. See the world. See suburbia. At the least, open their eyes and see the older, urban neighbourhoods that they profess so loudly to loving.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The real city planners are the residents

I like London. It is a fine place to live. But I don't find that if I like this, then I must dislike that. There are London-boosters who feel that to boost London they must cheer for the downtown core while heaping scorn upon suburbia. These folk are silly. In truth, one can root for both. I know, 'cause I do.

Today's picture is another one from my walk around my neighbourhood in a sprawling southwest suburb of London. This is a home that disproves the myth that if the garage is in the front, the house must be ugly. An position which is very popular with new urbanists. The urban theorists are fellow-travellers with the silly folk in the first paragraph.

My picture captures what I see, what I focus on, when I look at this home. I figure anyone who sees the large, black vehicle off to the side of the lot, parked in front of the garage is not person who easily sees the beauty in the world. It is they who have the problem and not the home owner.

If you're into such stuff as new urbanism, please read my blog on the new urbanist development in Oakville, Ontario. It got rave reviews in the local paper but not from me. Check out my take and my pictures.

And if you are still looking for something, I also blogged on the "placemaking" silliness. To my way of thinking it is the property owners in a city, like the owners of the home featured today, who are doing the real placemaking and not the fancy talking city planners. I, like many, love going for a stroll through my neighbourhood. It is quiet, safe and the many of the folk living here keep their homes so beautiful that it make a neighbourhood walk a mission of discovery.


Friday, April 23, 2010

More Suburbia

As I have mentioned in the past, there's a group of folk in London who think that suburbia is a place of ugly cookie cutter homes, wide curved streets that are more maze than neighbourhood. These people are of course right --- there are places like that --- mostly outside London, well outside London. Many London suburbs are quite pleasant. The home featured today is a suburban home in southwest London about nine kilometres from the city core. More on Suburbia tomorrow.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day

It may be called Earth Day but the real beneficiaries are our children, or in my case my granddaughter. Fiona may wear pink, but she's definitely green. She eats only organic foods and she loves her soft, organic cottons.

For the whole blog, click the link to Digital Journal.

Propane cylinder used for target practice!

Police chief Martin Brody blew away the shark in Jaws by shooting an air tank wedged in the monster's gaping mouth. Many questioned if it was possible to explode a tank of compressed gas by simply shooting it. Two Ontario men have supplied the world with the answer. Yes! But, don't do it!
James Bond could do it. Smart money says police chief Martin Brody of Jaws could do it. But Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage of Mythbusters had to resort to an M134 before they succeeded. Folks of questionable intelligence have posted the stunt to YouTube. Now two chaps in Southwestern Ontario have joined the ranks of those who have exploded a propane tank by simply shooting it.

Of course shooting at a propane tank is frowned on, and even if not successful will earn an Oh-Oh-This-Was-Stupid exclamation. It will also attract the interest of the police, who are continuing their investigation of the incident.

A little more on this extreme silliness is post on Digital Journal.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Dashes of spring colour

I just have to get out and get a shot of one of the homes in my neighbourhood. Right now, many are surrounded by bright, blooming flowers. The picture won't be my home. I just have dashes of spring colour.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Only .01 percent of earth's water available for drinking

Bob McDonald of CBC Radio's Quirks and Quarks was the keynote speaker Monday at the Water Environment Association of Ontario annual conference being held in London, Ontario. For the whole story on his address, check out my story in the Digital Journal.

Not to worry; Dad's a lifeguard.

Well little Fiona and an old Timex watch now have something in common --- they both took a lickin' and kept on tickin'. Years ago there was a Timex commercial in which the famous watch was dunked in water. When it was removed from the water and dried, it was still keeping time.

With Fiona she may be more marking time than keeping it. I'd watch out dad. When Fiona is twenty-five, you'll be nearing retirement. She might, just might, like to test the mammalian diving reflex on an old geezer.

We know she can hold her breath. The question now is: Can she also hold a grudge?

For an artist's look at the reflex, check out the embedded YouTube video. It is a little slow going at first but it picks up and is quite a wonderful look at parenting, kids and water. To see an early post on the swimming class, click here.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

What's old is new again.

Yesterday I ran two new images, but they were accompanied by information from last year. I don't get that many hits and I thought I'd like to tell some new readers about the Southwestern Ontario Carolinian Forest.

Then I learned that The London Free Press recently ran some of my Easter Egg Hunt pictures. I haven't worked at the paper for more than a year.

Oh well, I felt no guilt running interesting but previously run information. Relying on what is called "fair use" in the United States, I am sharing my discovery with you. I'm in good company when I run old stuff.

I think the paper chose good pictures. Thanks LFP.

(Top) KEN WIGHTMAN The London Free Press     Michael Nicholds, 6, has his Easter Bunny ears askew after taking part in the Ryerson Public School Easter Egg Hunt. 7000 candies in 1000 bags were scattered about the playground and every one was picked up in moments. If only kids picked up their toys the same way.

(Right) KEN WIGHTMAN The London Free Press     Victoria Goldsack, 4, of London, was one of about 400 children at the Byron Optimist Club Easter Egg Hunt at Boler Mountain. 6000 hollow plastic eggs, stuffed with chocolates, ju jubes, and jelly beans, were scattered about three sites at the Byron facility. Close to a hundred eggs also contained tickets to be redeemed for a prize. Some of the money raised is donated to the Easter Seal Society.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Five bloomin' weeks early

 I shot these last year --- on May 25th! This year picture captures them in full bloom and it is only April 16th!

With herbicides banned, the grass has blossoms.
Are these trees native to southwestern Ontario? Quite possibly. Observing that hardwood forests in southwestern Ontario shared many characteristics with forests as far south as the Carolinas, botanists named this area Ontario’s Carolinian Zone.

The area's Carolinian forests were originally enriched by tulip, sassafras, Kentucky coffee, cucumber magnolia, black gum, and papaw. Sadly, more than 40 per cent of the national list of endangered and threatened species are found here. In some parts of southwestern Ontario, agricultural and residential pressures have destroyed more than 90 per cent of the original Carolinian forest.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

. . . to ashes

Shortly after London Daily Photo ran some pictures of this abandoned home, it was torched by a firebug.
A home on Wonderland near Exeter burned Wednesday morning; fire officials are suspicious. The daily paper reports that it was the second home in the area to go up in flames in a week. The first home was a kilometre away on Exeter.

The fire destroyed home as it looked prior to being torched.
"Boarded-up houses don't go up on their own," said London Police Detective Greg Blumson.

According to the local paper, "A rash of fires in abandoned buildings spread through London last year." The firebugs look to be active again.

Both homes had been boarded up and abandoned.
As police and fire officials have made very clear, building fires can be dangerous. Folks can be killed by the blaze, even when the home is abandoned.

When the home is torched, at that moment, it is not empty; The firebug is there. They may not realize it, but they are putting themselves in danger as well as the firefighters responding to the fire.

Here's a link to the first appearance of this home on London Daily Photo with a shot of the living room and adjacent dining room area.

Placemaking in action

It is cool in London, Ontario, among those in certain groups to detest suburbia. Cookie cutter homes they say on streets that are far too wide. And those garages at the fronts are simply ugly, they say. I say, "Fuddle duddle!"

I'm not an expert on architecture and if I am way off I am sure I will hear about it. But, I think this suburban home, more than two decades old --- maybe closer to three --- is built in a style reminiscent of Colonial Revival which of course borrowed heavily from the Georgian.

It's funny. A home like this in north London, built possibly in the 1920s, is cool. But find one built 60 years later in a southwestern suburb and you may hear criticism.

There's a buzzword that city planners like to throw around: Placemaking. For me my neighbourhood with its streets lined with well maintained homes is a place that I and others like to walk. We find it a very pleasant part of the city. We believe our suburb a fine example of successful placemaking in action.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Fujifilm HS10 hits the stores in London

Shot with lens zoomed to a setting comparable to 720mm on a 35 DSLR.
It's here. The Fujifilm FinePix HS10 is in London stores. I don't want this to be an ad but it sure may seem like one. After more than four decades shooting pictures for a daily newspaper and carrying two camera bodies and up to five lenses, I have replaced everything with two point and shoot cameras: a Canon PowerShot S90 and a Fujifilm FinePix HS10.

With all those years of professional shooting, this may come as a surprise but I don't believe in anything but automatic when it comes to cameras --- not completely true but close enough to be true. Auto can fail big time, but generally you're pretty safe sticking with the automatic settings. If you're shooting for fun, that decides it --- shoot automatic.

A few weeks ago, I purchased a Canon S90; Yesterday, I picked up a Fujifilm HS10.

Today's shot, the chipmunk, is the just the third image shot with my new Fuji. It has a 30-times zoom and it is working at its max here. The camera was hand-held but braced against my kitchen door frame.

Years ago one of Canada's top newspaper shooters told me he always kept his cameras on automatic in order to be ready to shoot in an instant. Oh, he might use manual when shooting something that allowed time for finagling and fine tuning --- a fashion shoot for instance --- but for a sudden moment it was auto for this prize-winning shooter.

I think the image of my chipmunk, shot on automatic right from the box, says he was right.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Hey, greyhounds aren't always grey!

If you go to Springbank Park on the second Saturday of the month in the early afternoon, you might view a mess of greyhounds. They meet in the parking lot at the roadway leading down to the Thames River and the Springbank dam. I was there late this past weekend. Maybe I'll be on time next month.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Peter McGregor Inn, Tavern and Apartment Building

The apartment building in the centre is The Peter McGregor Building named after the first official resident and business owner in London, Ontario. Almost two hundred years ago he opened his log cabin inn and tavern very close to the where the McGregor building is today at the forks of the Thames in the city core.
The first permanent settler in London, Ontario, was Peter McGregor, a tavern and hotel owner who had pulled up stakes from down river to settle in a more lucrative location. His first tavern at the corner of Ridout and King Streets consisted of a stump outside a small log house, with a tin cup and a jug of whisky. His inn was but a rough log cabin.

Thus McGregor established the first business and residence in London. In January of 1827 when the court opened, he acted as jailer and frequently brought the prisoners over to his tavern for dinner.

Taken from Thames Topics, Booklet 2.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

How ducks got their colours

A Lakota Legend

Brush and PaletteA young warrior, who from childhood had been very fond of bright colours, walked far from camp. He loved the beautiful colours of Indian summer. Now and then he would stop and take from his pouch some clay and oil to paint the colours he saw. As the shadows grew long, he knew that it would soon be time for the night fire, so he made his way to a nearby lake where he built a small lodge.

As he sat looking at the red sun, which was about to go down under the coloured sky, he heard the talk of waterfowl coming toward him. He saw large and small ducks, gray geese, and loons diving and playing. They were all his friends and he was glad to see them. He cupped his hands about his mouth and called to them. They were startled at first, but when they recognized him they paddled to shore.

Silly DuckingThe young man invited them all to his lodge. There they visited and took turns telling what they had done that day. When the young warrior told then that he had been studying and mixing colours, a gray duck became interested.

"You are our friend," said the duck. "Would you be so kind as to paint us with some of your beautiful colours?"

Mallard DuckThe large gray duck decided that he wished a pretty green head with a white stripe around his neck, a brown breast, and yellow legs. When he was painted, the duck flapped his wings. Ducks with these colours are now called mallard ducks.

"I hope you will not paint my mate with the same colours I have," he said. So she was painted mostly brown.

Harlequin DuckThen the teal had himself and his family painted as he desired.

By this time the paints were almost gone, so there were no bright colours left for the goose and the loon.

From Canku Ota (Many Paths) - an online newsletter celebrating Native America

Friday, April 9, 2010

These cars say, "Slow down!"

Isn't this impersonating a policeperson, or at least police car? Isn't this technically illegal? If it is, the police are looking the other way for these two police car look-alikes are parked in front of Mattress Depot and Discount Furniture on Exeter Road in the city's southern end.

No matter how many times my wife and I drive by the Mattress Depot we always slow down the moment we spot these two parked cars. Heck, we slow down and we aren't even speeding!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The growing, expanding city devours nearby farms.

This old farm house, its barn, in fact the entire farm on which these buildings sit, all are on the way out. But it is clear from the look of the farm house that this place has been fading into oblivion for some time. It always amazes me to see the work people expend in destroying a building.

I'm old, really old. Not as old as this home but within a decade or two. I can almost remember when asphalt rolled siding was new. Let me assure you, covering a home with this imitation-stone-patterned stuff was never cool. Never. It was always cheap and tacky.

I wonder what this home looked like when new. I bet it was rather nice. Inside, it had wide, solid wood trim. It has solid wooden doors, not the hollow core one's installed today --- which often have more in common with treated paper than wood. It had a fireplace in the living room with two matching windows on each side. It had some fancy beveled glass interior doors as visual accents.

When new it might have housed a happy family that would never have imagined how their beloved home would be allowed to decay with the passing decades.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Geek get-together

Geeks are good at multi-tasking.
JL had designs on the blonde.
Food, friends and phones
The first Wednesday of every month the geeks of London rise up from their computers and migrate downtown to enjoy a good dinner, some draft beer and lots of conversation.

This month there was a new guest at the Geek Dinner, the new Apple iPad.

Next month there are two geek events: The monthly Geek Dinner and another PodCamp. If interested, click the link.


Addendum: When I worked at the paper I used to hear the term 'social networking'. I thought it was nothing more than another buzzword, full of whatever and signifying nothing. I'm an ag'iner and not believing in stuff comes easy and often my doubts are justified. Not here. Social networking is real. I was wrong.

By 8 a.m. I had about 60 hits. Now, it is not quite 2 p.m. and I'm at about 140 hits. It is clear from the locations from which these hits are coming and from what is being hit that the action is all be driven by this one post. You couldn't look for better evidence of social networking.

I'm uncomfortable with the term geek. Oh I know it is being used somewhat tongue in cheek here, but many of these folk are beyond geekdom, and I mean that in a good way. They all have lives outside of the computer world. If you could take away their cell phones and their notebooks (I wouldn't try.), you would still have a group of interesting people.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Primula blooms
The first blooms of spring are beginning to brighten the land. I noticed these primula blooms hiding in the post winter wreckage of my wife flower garden. She doesn't read my blog so I'm safe.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Seven homes collapsed. Why?

A row of five unfinished homes collapsed in northeast London Saturday around dinner hour. Another two, several kilometres away, were also taken down by what were reportedly light winds. Why did these homes collapse?
Yes, seven homes were dropped to their knees by winds gusting to 67 km/h as measured at London International Airport. All were only partially built and thus were quite vulnerable, but vulnerable to what? All were two storey homes but after they collapsed it was mighty hard to tell.

One onlooker said, "It wasn't even that windy."

For the complete story and the answer to this puzzle, I have posted more information plus more pictures on Digital Journal.

Rabbits and chipmunks frequent my yard

Rabbits and chipmunks are common in my London, Ontario, subdivision.
If you have followed this blog at all, you know that rabbits, chipmunks, foxes, raccoons, skunks, groundhogs and other small animals frequent my yard. One winter there were deer tracks in the snow behind my home and one summer an armadillo was spotted. You might think that I live in the country, or almost, and you'd be right --- at least, for a few more short years. New subdivisions are going up and the day is coming when I will be deep in the urban landscape.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Winter is Over!

Warm weather brought thousands out to enjoy London's parks.
Warm enough to carry water

With the temperature climbing into the seventies on Good Friday in London, Ontario, Londoners in the thousands hit the parks: Some to walk, others to jog, or bike, or skateboard, but all to enjoy. Winter is over and these Canadians have come out to celebrate the spring.

London wasn't alone. People across the province, plus Quebec and Atlantic Canada, were all enjoying unseasonably warm temperatures. Forecasters were expecting warm weather records to fall in many places.

In London it's possible to walk from the north end of town, above the university, all the way to the southwest end of the city past Springbank Park using mainly walking paths along the Thames River. No one need battle traffic and congestion, unless you count other walkers, jogger, bikers and skateboarders.

Historic London

You'd never know from this picture but in London, Ontario, it is often down with the old and up with the new. In this picture, the castle-like building on the left is the former courthouse designed in 1827. On the right is the former jail which was added in 1842. The last hanging in London occurred on the grounds of the old jail.

Towering over both is a recently completed apartment tower. The bird sculpture featured recently hangs just above street level in one corner of this building.

It is believed that the courthouse was partially modelled after the ancestral home of Thomas Talbot's Malahide Castle, near Dublin, Ireland. In future London Daily Photo posts we will revisit these buildings and spend more time examining the old courthouse and jail. Both are worth a more extensive look.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Art Gallery

Museum London is now skinned with simple grey plates. Note chimney-like vent.

Officially it's Museum London but locally it's simply The Art Gallery. Located at The Forks of the Thames in downtown London, Ontario, the building itself is rather interesting, both to look at and to write about. First, the story which ran as an investigative news story when the local paper claimed the design is a rip-off of Louis Kahn’s Kimbell Art museum in Fort Worth, Texas. I don't think so. The Kahn building is an inspiration for the London's building. And, as any student of art can tell you, inspiration of this nature has a long and very proud history in the world of art. This is a non-issue.

Louis Kahn’s Kimbell Art museum is in Fort Worth, Texas.
Designed by Canadian architect Raymond Moriyama and built in 1980, Museum London was originally a deep rich blue, a colour almost demanded because of the gallery's location at the forks of the Thames. The original blue plates had a dynamic fan design filling each arch.

Unfortunately the metal plates rusted badly and a few years ago the blue skin disappeared to be replaced by the present grey panels. The dynamic fan shapes were replaced with rectangles. Some say this was done to save money. Supposedly, the fancy shapes came with a fancy price.

Inside, the lower level shallow pool has been removed. Rumour has it that a lady tumbled into the pool during the opening night celebration. Deemed a safety hazard, the pool was removed. Others say the pool was causing humidity problems in the gallery but I recall a similar pool in a large hall just past the entrance to the Detroit Institute of Art. It apparently caused no grief.

Note the original blue colour and fan shapes under arches.
And the unpainted, grey concrete walls are no longer unpainted and grey. Many have been sloppily painted white. Personally, I liked the unpainted walls but then I liked the original blue colour and the fan shapes at the top of the arches.

The vast majority of readers who have responded to this post, favoured the original Moriyama design over either the Fort Worth building or the modified London gallery.

Moriyama had it right.