Posted inMorning File

Fire and ice: Morning File, Wednesday, March 11, 2015

On campus
In the harbour


1. Fire

No matter how sound the argument, it is politically impossible to close fire stations, evidently. Yesterday, Halifax council declined to support fire chief Doug Trussler’s suggested redeployment of fire resources.

This issue deserves more attention than I can give it in Morning File. I’ll write a longer piece later today.

2. Dalhousie Budget

Dalhousie’s Budget Advisory Committee is recommending cuts to academic programs and increases in tuition in order to balance its budget. Halifax Examiner education reporter Moira Donovan gives us the particulars, and tells us what it all means.

This article is behind the Examiner’s pay wall and so available only to paid subscribers. To purchase a subscription, click here.

3. Ice

“The eighth annual St. Patrick’s Day parade in Halifax has been cancelled because organizers say downtown streets remain choked with too much ice and snow,” reports the Canadian Press.

Following up on its interview with Alana York Monday, CBC’s Mainstreet has published a map showing which streets have been “intensively cleared of snow and ice by city crews as of Monday afternoon.” The black lines are the streets that have been cleared:

Map compiled by CBC's Mainstreet.
Map compiled by CBC’s Mainstreet.

I took this picture on Maynard Street yesterday at 4pm:

Photo: HalifaxExaminer
Photo: HalifaxExaminer

4. It never ends

YouTube video


1. War

The Welsford-Parker monument in the Old Burial Ground. Photo: Peter Ziobrowski
The Welsford-Parker monument in the Old Burial Ground. Photo: Peter Ziobrowski

I enjoy Peter Ziobrowski’s BuiltHalifax blog, in which he gives the history of the stuff around us that I normally blithely pass by and hardly ever think, huh, wonder where that came from.

Most recently he discussed the Welsford-Parker Monument in the Old Burial Ground, “the second oldest war monument in Canada and the only monument to the Crimean War in North America.”

The Crimean War. I bet not one in a hundred readers can say exactly what that was about. My own knowledge of the conflict consists entirely of having in university read Cecil Woodham-Smith’s The Reason Why, a groundbreaking historical work published in 1953 that explored the ill-fated Charge of the Light Brigade. But while I vaguely recall, well, the reason why the British Army was so ill-prepared for the conflict, I have no idea why British society and its government decided to embark on the adventure in the first place. I’m guessing it had something to do with queen and country, and honour.

In every age, there are the “serious people” who are deemed serious because they see value in human carnage, and then there are those who are ridiculed as effeminate appeasers to evil, condemned for their lack of patriotism, and sometimes thrown in jail as traitors because they dare question the value of organized mass murder. But in retrospect, given time, nearly all wars turn out looking stupid. That was about what?

Over in the Public Gardens there is a ridiculously ornate memorial to Canadians who fought in the Boer War. I’m sure at the time there were serious people making the excellent case for war, and no doubt there were geopolitical goals and economic concerns and business aims and the conversion of heathens to the faith, but from this vantage point a century and so out, all that matters is that the war led to the establishment of the Apartheid state and all the horrors and injustices that that entailed. Sometimes I eat lunch next to the memorial and think about the proud fathers and mothers, the sweethearts left behind, and the brass bands celebrating the courage of kids being sent to the killing fields, too ignorant of the world and their own humanity to understand anything at all. It could be the Crimean War, the Boer War, the present adventure in Iraq—it’s the same story, over and over and over again.

2. Cranky letter of the day

To the Chronicle Herald:

Reading Bob Bancroft and Ralph Surette’s powerful March 9 articles (“Challenge of the mainland moose as numbers fall, habitat shrinks,” and “Split DNR, put its agenda through the wood chipper”), as well as Eleanor Trombley’s letter in the same edition, an observation came to mind that Winston Churchill made during a visit to Canada in 1929 on the harvesting of quality trees, of which few remain, as is sadly evident in our own province: “Fancy cutting down those beautiful trees we saw this afternoon to make pulp for those bloody newspapers, and calling it civilization.”

David Blackwell, Eastern Passage



City council (10am, City Hall)—council will look at the capital budget, and the proposed list of large capital projects.

Bicyclists and orchestra members will have a tightly orchestrated gang fight on University Avenue today.
Bicyclists and orchestra members will have a tightly orchestrated gang fight on University Avenue today.

University Avenue Bike Lane (4pm, or maybe 7pm, LeMarchant Place, Dalhousie University, 1246 Lemarchant Street)—confusingly, the city’s municipal calendar says this open house to get public opinion about the proposed bike lane starts at 4pm and runs to 8pm, but the link to the actual event page says it starts at 7pm and runs to 11pm. The Halifax Cycle Chat people say it’s 4-8pm, so I guess they know what they’re talking about.

Either way, orchestra members and bicyclists will have a rumble out in the street, tire pumps and violas flying this way and that, and the Dawgfather will sell snacks along the adjoining sidewalk. It will be a big time.

Regional Watersheds Advisory Board (5pm, Helen Creighton Room, Alderney Public Library)—board members seem miffed they weren’t consulted about the proposed daylighting of Sawmill River, so councillor Jennifer Watts, who chairs the Environment and Sustainability Committee, wrote them a letter explaining why they weren’t consulted, and saying she’ll show up at tonight’s meeting to answer questions. The daylighting issue, meanwhile, has been kicked up to the Harbour East Community Council, which I think is actually now called the Harbour East–Marine Drive Community Council, where it will begin its march to a slow death, I’m guessing.


Standing Committee on Human Resources (11am, Room 233A, Johnston Building)—the committee will look at proposed appointments to agencies, boards and commissions.

On this date in 1832, Province House caught on fire, as soot falling down the chimney started a fire in the library. Damage was reported at between £30 and £40.

On campus



Thesis defence, English (Wednesday, 8:30am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building)—PhD candidate Brad Congdon will defend his thesis, “‘How to be a Man, American Masculinities’, 1960-1989.”

Thesis defence, Computer Science (Wednesday, 9am, Room 403, Goldberg Computer Science Building)—PhD candidate Naureen Nizam will defend her thesis, “Using Social Media Data to Improve Navigation within Websites.”

Modelling with Pyomo and Gurobi Cloud (Wednesday, noon, Morroy Building – MA021)—”Several modelling languages exist, but their main drawback is their sensitivity to syntax (Gusek…) and difficulty to read the model once written. Modelling in python reduces the modeler’s time required given its intuitive nature as well as provides flexibility unavailable in other modeling languages. Also automation of the solving can be easily done, all the way from data extraction to data output. Pyomo supports several solvers (CoinOR, Gurobi, GLPK, etc.) and can quickly switch between them. Gurobi Cloud provides a low-cost option to solving large problems that are typically unsolvable using free solvers. A brief demonstration of the Gurobi Cloud using Amazon Web Services and the automation that can be done in conjunction with Pyomo will be shown.”

Sub-seafloor geologic sequestration (Wednesday, noon, Riley Room, Oceanography, Life Sciences Centre)—PhD candidate Sonja Bhatia will talk on “A fiber optic dissolved carbon dioxide sensor for monitoring of sub-seafloor carbon dioxide geologic sequestration sites.” Here’s a rather understated explanation of, well, of the end of the world:

Sub-seafloor geologic sequestration of CO2 is becoming more prevalent because of its potential to mitigate the effects of anthropogenic CO2 on climate. Leakage can occur within a five kilometer radius of the initial injection site, and can be harmful to the surrounding environment.

Greece (Wednesday, 12:30pm, Lord Dalhousie Room, Henry Hicks Building)—Emmanuel Sigalas, a Visiting Professor at Carleton University, will speak on “Parliamentarism in Crisis: The impact of the Eurozone crisis on the legitimacy and autonomy of the Greek Parliament.”

Electron Cryomicroscopy of Rotary ATPases (Wednesday, 4pm, Theatre A, Sir Charles Tupper Medical Building Link)—John Rubinstein, from The Hospital for Sick Children Research Institute, will speak.


Thesis defence, Physics and Atmospheric Science (Thursday, 9am, Room 2L7, Sir Charles Tupper Medical Building)—PhD candidate Patrick Shea will defend his thesis, “Stochastic Model for surface Diffusion of Organic Molecules.”

Thesis defence, Biology (Thursday, 10am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building)—PhD candidate Aurélie Cosandey-Godin will defend her thesis, “Elasmobranch Bycatch In The Canadian Northwest Atlantic And Arctic Adjacent Seas: Composition, Biogeography, And Mitigation.”

Semantic web (Thursday, 11:30am, Slonim Conference Room, Goldberg Computer Science Building)—Robert Warren, a research scientist at the Big Data Institute, will speak on “The Semantic Web: application to Maritime and Ocean Data Management.” The abstract:

It’s been 10 years since the semantic web has been proposed and foundational standards published. The promise of common data formats, the sharing of data application, enterprise, and community boundaries has not quite been realized since then. In this talk I will review the state of the art in the semantic web and highlight how it can be applied to the technical and administrative challenges that the management of maritime and ocean research data poses.

Polymer Translocation (Thursday, 2:30pm, Room 302, Dunn Building)—Gary Slater, from the University of Ottawa, will speak on “Polymer Translocation: A ‘Simple’ Physics Problem Full of Surprises.”

Marine birds (Thursday, 3:30pm, 5th floor Biology Lounge, Life Sciences Centre)—Beth Gardner, from North Carolina State University, will speak on “Modeling abundance and distribution of marine birds in the Western North Atlantic.”

Hysterectomy Complications (Thursday, 3:30pm, Colloquium room, Chase Building, Room 319)—Gordon Flowerdew will talk about “Estimating the Hysterectomy Complication Rate: More complicated than I thought.”

Naheed Nenshi
Naheed Nenshi

Naheed Nenshi (Thursday, 6pm, Westin Nova Scotian Hotel)—The Calgary mayor will deliver the annual Carmichael Lecture.

Saint Mary’s


James Raffan (Wednesday, 5:30pm, Scotiabank Theatre)—”A Celebration in Support of Digital Earth.” More information on the poster.


Living Connections: From Ecology to Economy (Thursday, 3p, Library 135)—Tony Charles will speak on “Fish and Fishing Forever”; Jeremy Lundholm will speak on “An Ecological Approach to Green Infrastructure”; and Linda Campbell will speak on “Mercury Rising: What is Happening in Nova Scotia Lakes?”


Judging by this mailer sent to constituents of Winnipeg-area MP Lawrence Toet, the Conservatives are aiming for the “stupid” demographic.

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 8.33.01 AM

It might just work.

In the harbour

The seas around Nova Scotia, 8am Wednesday. Map:
The seas around Nova Scotia, 8am Wednesday. Map:

Reykjavikia to Pier 42, then sails to sea
APL Belgium, container ship, Colombo, Sri Lanka to Fairview Cove West
Seoul Express, container ship, New York to Fairview Cove East  FVCE


I’ll be on the Sheldon MacLeod Show today, 4pm on News 95.7.

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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  1. Snow/ice clearing: yesterday observed a bobcat being driven along all the sidewalks in our neighbourhood. Nothing could be removed (we have the now standard thick layer of bumpy ice) so the bucket was slightly up. Half an hour later when I went out I looked to see if I was right that there had been no application of sand or salt. No there was none in evidence. What was that all about? Are people being paid to drive around pointlessly in bobcats when there are still dangerously high snowbanks at the corner of nearly every intersection in my area?

    1. It’s safer to drive the bobcat to the store for a carton of milk than to walk there.

    2. Today there’s a bobcat doing the same thing on the multipurpose trail along Beaufort Ave. The sidewalk on the other side of the street is still treacherous too.

  2. Many of the south end streets that have been widened are accommodating day parking … FREE parking … by students at SMU and Dal. If the streets aren’t widened they are impassable because the city allows parking on two sides of the street, regardless of how wide the remaining roadway is. Most snow days a plow couldn’t navigate these streets at all. The garbage trucks and couriers also have trouble getting around. I wish the city would review its daytime parking policy while it is addressing the snow-clearing problem. But none of these streets were as bad as some of those north of the Common and in the Hydrostone. They should have taken priority.

  3. “…celebrating the courage of kids being sent to the killing fields, too ignorant of the world and their own humanity to understand anything at all. It could be the Crimean War, the Boer War, the present adventure in Iraq—it’s the same story, over and over and over again.”

    I quit the military for this and other reasons. I can understand the value of having a military but it wasn’t in my nature (or maybe it was and then after enough time it wasn’t) to continue justifying death.

    It became especially difficult when the PMO’s hand in military affairs turned too heavy. As a specific example, the disaster assistance mission we sent to Haiti in 2010 was directly hampered by the PMO asking us to wait (sometimes hours, sometimes days) for reporters to arrive.

    Why do we do it? Someone once told me that 87% of our economy is driven by America and that’s why we go over there to die. We support their strategic aims to maintain military superiority abroad and security at home. Although that’s backfired hasn’t it? The Americans blocked Keystone because of something completely unrelated to war and we are at greater risk of being attacked at home than ever before.

    But even this threat is minute compared to, oh I don’t know, obesity or poverty both of which grow while our elites do their absolute best to sell us on balanced budgets and the importance of temporary relationships with international corporations and the financial sector while they distract us with enemies of the state that our own actions created.

    The military, in large part, is a political instrument used by self-serving politicians looking for votes. Always looking for votes.

    I would suggest our generals are as much to blame, however, as they’ve basically morphed into politicians themselves and are more interested in expanding a budget and mastering the bureaucracy than strategic initiative. That’s probably why we had our pants down when it came to Crimea.

    We have some really strong, really self-defeating cultural norms (across Canada and the rest of the industrialized world) that will only change over the course of decades. Here’s hoping we don’t implode under the weight of shoddy leadership before then.

  4. Christmas dinner must be fun at the Bousquet PMQ.


    I don’t know where CBC got that map data from. But I can assure you that neither Kline nor Beech have gotten any special attention. Except “waiting”. Now, I grant they are not as bad as Maynard, but it is a flat out lie to say that they have had any special attention since the freeze up.

    1. I think that the only difference between Beech/Kline and Maynard is that the former get a bit more direct sunlight during the course of the day. As a resident of Kline, whose neighbour broke a strut on his car late last week, I can assure you that Kline has received no special attention. Of greater relevance, why haven’t streets which support bus routes received ‘special’ attention? Why is there still only one lane on Oxford?

  5. I remain convinced that Frankie MacDonald doesn’t report on the weather, he controls it.

    Frankie, what have we done to deserve this!? What do you want from us??