Saturday, April 23, 2011

Green growth from still water

The rather still pool of spring fed water sheltered plants beneath its tranquil surface all winter. Now, with spring in the air, lush, green leaves are sprouting above the water. Maybe, in a few weeks, there will be some lily pads making an appearance.

Friday, April 15, 2011

An older style of housing

There is something very pleasant about these well maintained, older homes found in a small town just outside London. Two of the three homes have fairly large porches and all sit very close to the sidewalk. There is a warmth and simplicity to this neighbourhood that new urbanist planners try to emulate but rarely as achieve.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Of art and bike racks

The large, red sculpture nestled into the small courtyard behind the Bell building and government offices and the courthouse in downtown London, Ontario, shares its visual space quite comfortably with the nearby bike racks.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

We're a young country but our flag is still younger.

I can remember when Canada didn't have the bright red maple leaf as the national flag. It was February 15th, 1965, when the Maple Leaf was first raised above Parliament Hill.

In the beginning, it was tough going for the little flag. A lot of folk were quite happy with Canada's de facto national flags. That's right, flags plural.

One flag often flown was the Canadian Red Ensign. This was a British Red Ensign with a Canadian shield in the fly (the right-hand half).

As a child, I can recall waving a stiff-fabric red ensign when Queen Elizabeth visited Brantford, Ontario. Many Canadians had memories attached to that flag. For those folk, it was tough saying good-bye.

The other flag that served as Canada's official national flag was the British Union Jack. The Union Jack often flew over government buildings as well as government-related facilities such as RCMP camps and military forts.

When the Maple Leaf was first flown, I know of one one high school teacher who told his students that the new Maple Leaf design was better suited to decorating beer bottles. He went on to argue that there were parts of Canada that didn't have maple trees. He was disgusted and wore his disgust with wounded pride.

But Prime Minister Lester Pearson bravely broke with the past and gave Canada a fresh, new flag. It was a gutsy move. Today, I believe, you'd have a difficult time finding many who'd want either the Union Jack or the Canadian Red Ensign in place of our beloved Maple Leaf.

If you'd like to know more about the history of Canada's flag, please check out The Canadian Maple Leaf Flag site.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Solar home a forgotten dream?

The solar panels are broken and it is doubtful that today they are even working.
In 1978 it was the exciting, oh-so-state-of-the-art, Sifton solar home on Viscount Street in the growing Westmount subdivision. I can recall taking pictures of the place for the paper to illustrate the glowing stories in not just the Homes section but the news pages. The roof was scientifically angled and the house situated on the lot just so; Everything designed to maximize the trapping of the sun's energy. In the basement there was a large, insulated tank to hold the water heated by the sun.

Note the tree sprouting.
I tried googling "solar home London Ontario Sifton" and I got next to nothing. There was a mention of the place in an advertising insert in the local paper but no real information. I guess interest has waned in what was said at the time to be an historic structure.

Today two of the lower panels are broken and a tree is sprouting from the steel framing. I doubt that the solar panels are still working and I wonder if the insulated water tank has been broken up and removed.

There were a number of solar installations around London in the late '70s and early '80s. Interest was high in solar energy back then, but interest soon peaked. I know of one large installation on the roof of an apartment co-op in northeast London that fell into disuse and was removed some years later.

I was surprised when the keeners running the co-op failed to make their solar installation a success. If all the volunteer effort blended with the solar energy couldn't make a rooftop solar installation succeed, one was left to wonder just who could.

I wonder if the world will be dotted in a few decades with forgotten windmills built with dreams of generating electricity from the wind.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Spring rain

Ah, the wonders of a long lens and shallow depth of field. Simple drops of rainwater hanging from winter-bare branches make a picture. It won't be long until this bush is green with spring foliage. Hey, another picture!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Saturday Morning Walks

I showed my confidence in my new ICD by joining the Thames Valley Trail folk for their Saturday morning walk. I was surprised that the group took the walk from Gibbons Park along the river to the bridge to the University of Western Ontario main campus. Although most of the walk was dry, there were a few muddy spots and a few gently flooded areas.

Almost all the snow is now gone from London. What little there is left will be gone withing a day or two at most. Spring is in the air, green sprouts are everywhere, and soon there will flowers in bloom.

If you are interested the next walks will be:

April 16 at Meadowlily Woods. Walkers are asked to meet at the sports field on the north side of Commissioners Road, east of Highbury.

April 23 at Springbank Park West. Walkers are asked to meet at the west end parking lot, off Commissioners Road.

April 30 at Sifton Bog. Walkers are asked to meet at the north west corner Super Store car park on Oxford St. West.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Iron fence

Common a hundred years ago, iron fences like this one sighted in Mount Brydges west of London are now rather rare. I recall a high school history teacher claiming many of these fences were melted down for the iron content and recast as weapons used in fighting the First World War.

This fence may actually be a reproduction. It is just in such excellent condition.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Should wooden ties just fade away?

New wooden railway ties await installation.
These tracks, running through a little town just east of London, disappear in the early morning fog. The staggered piles of lumber beside the track are replacement railway ties. Some of the old ties have rotted almost completely away and a good number of the railway spikes are lifting.

Note the spike lift, lower left, and rotted tie, right.
I wondered if this track was safe. I did some research on the Internet. I learned that the spike pictured is suffering from "spike lift." Whenever there is a derailment, spike lift is one of the things that investigators look for. With the rotted ties and the spike lift, this track appears to be suffering. New ties are needed.

I have a retaining wall behind my home that was made from railway ties. The wall is rotting and in need of replacement. From my personal experience with railway ties, I figure these big chunks of creosote-saturated lumber do not last all that long. My years of working for a newspaper tell me that trains occasionally jump the track. Derailments are far from unknown. This is 2011, not 1911, isn't there a better way of anchoring track?

Well it turns out there well might be. For more than 30 years, Europe and Japan have been using concrete slab track instead of traditional ties and ballast. This type of track works well for high-speed passenger trains, but the challenge has been to design and construct a track system providing the required ride quality for high-speed passenger trains with the strength to withstand 39-ton axle loads at freight train speeds.

The Portland Cement Association is leading research into the problem and slab track installations are being tested in the United States.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Deer in the Woodland Cemetery

A large number of white-tailed deer now call London Ontario's Woodland Cemetery home. The usually timid animals are easily sighted from the busy four lane street bordering the south side of the cemetery grounds. Reportedly, at least two bucks have been seen as well as a good number of does.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The littlest couch potato

The littlest couch potato
Fiona is not quite 19-months but she's learning to like her DVDs. After a day of hide 'n' go seek, wolf at the door and doing battle with various puzzles, there's nothin' beats relaxing with some friends and a good movie. Fiona likes The Search for Santa Paws and Despicable Me. Paws, thanks to all the dogs, is well in the lead.