On campus
In the harbour


1. SWATting

Photo: Halifax Examiner
Photo: Halifax Examiner

Yesterday at about 8am, police responded to a bomb threat made via a fax to Nova Scotia Community College’s north end Halifax campus, and the school was soon evacuated. At roughly the same time, fax-sent threats were made to NSCC’s Sydney and Annapolis Valley campuses, and those schools and Cape Breton University were evacuated. Later in the morning, all NSCC campuses were closed “as a precaution.”

Also, reported the Charlottetown Guardian yesterday:

A bomb threat on a fax in Ottawa led to the evacuation of all Prince Edward Island schools this morning.

UPEI is also closed for the day. 

CMP in Ottawa received a fax at 9 a.m. saying a bomb was placed in several P.E.I. schools. More than 19,000 students from more than 60 English and French schools were hustled from schools to safe locations and buses after RCMP alerted school officials of the threat.

“It would appear that one or more individuals is sending out these blanket messages to create havoc,” RCMP Sgt. Kevin Bailey told the CBC. “Similar in Nova Scotia and at least one school in the U.S.”

l happened to be in the neighbourhood, so I stopped by the north end campus yesterday afternoon as the sniffer dogs were checking the place out. I was told the dogs were delayed because they had been dispatched to sniff at a “suspicious package” in front of the old library on Spring Garden Road that turned out to be a bag of garbage. Outside the college, students were lounging around good-naturedly on lawns, although there was some annoyance that they couldn’t retrieve possessions left in the building.

The various school closures and police responses yesterday must have cost several million dollars.

I fear we’re getting to the point where a handful of bomb threats can shut down the entire city. What happens if there are five of them? 20? There are deranged people out there who get off on seeing huge police responses, and they can provoke those responses anonymously and at no cost. It’s SWATting on steroids.

I understand the response to evacuate in response to check out a threat, even though most such threats turn out to be nothing. But maybe we need to reevaluate that policy.

2. Forest information


Linda Pannozzo continues her series, “Biomass, Freedom of Information & the Silence of the DNR Company Men,” with “Part 3: What Happened When This Reporter Got Called Down to the Office,” in which she relates the latest in her battle for documentation of the health of the province’s forests:

But the point that is most relevant here is that for the good part of 50 years the DNR has been regularly reporting on the forest inventory to the public. So why not anymore?

I suspect it has something to do with the fact that the forests are in such a degraded state after years of liquidation that the DNR wants to exercise control, first over which data sets are used (GIS vs. PSP) to reflect forest condition, how forest condition is defined, and how the resulting information is spun.

This article is behind the Examiner’s paywall, and so available only to paid subscribers. Click here to purchase a subscription.

While this article is behind the paywall, we’ve taken Parts 1 and 2 of the series out from behind the paywall. You can find them here.

3. Ferries


The city this morning issued a tender offer for two new ferries, which will replace two of the ancient ferries now plying the harbour.

This is an amazingly complex tender, but I skipped right down to the passenger seating part: Passenger Areas

Heavy duty black powder coated steel frames and recycled plastic slats similar to Belson Outdoor PB-CON or similar shall be installed on both passenger decks of the ferry. These benches shall be grey white in colour and be of suitable size and material to last under heavy use. If the above seats are ordered the contractor will need to modify the steel frames to match the existing installation. The seat back needs to be adjusted so that the back is inclined 104 degrees from the horizontal. The contractor shall do this by heating the frames and bending them in a jig so that they are all identical. The frames will need to be repainted before reinstallation. Alternative seating needs to consider the required back angle.

I don’t get it. What’s wrong with the old plastic bucket seats? The benches that were installed on the Christopher Stannix were specifically designed to be as uncomfortable as possible. Since then, the city required that the contractor bend the benches on the Craig Blake and Viola Desmond to 104 degrees, a requirement that’s carried over to the next two boats as well, but I don’t know that that’s much better — I usually avoid them and instead pace around the ferry muttering about the damn benches. Bring back the bucket seats!

The Belson Outdoor PB-CON torture device.
The Belson Outdoor PB-CON torture device.

4. Pride battles

This year's Size Doesn't Matter contingent.
This year’s Size Doesn’t Matter contingent.

An internal Halifax Pride battle is spilling out on the group’s public Facebook Page.

At issue is the “Size Doesn’t Matter” booth that was part of this year’s Pride celebration. As SDM explains it:

[T]here was an essential message delivered time and again – that the SDM booth at Pride is not a “travel booth” — it is about highlighting the best of Israel, including the freedom for LGBT+ people, whether Jewish, Arab, Christian, Muslim, Israeli or others. It is the Jewish community of Canada/Halifax’s way of showing genuine support and caring for LGBT+ in Canada and in the world.

This year also marked the first time that the local community, led by the Consul General, marched in the Pride Parade together with members of the Halifax Jewish community.

But the Queer Arabs of Halifax have put forward a resolution that condemns SDM for “pinkwashing” human rights abuses perpetuated by Israel:


In response to the Queer Arabs-sponsored resolution, a counter “Freedom of Expression” resolution has been submitted:


The matter will be taken up at Pride Halifax’s annual general meeting, which takes place October 5.


1. Copenhagen

I woke up this morning wondering about dog houses. I mean, what’s the deal, the dog can’t come in the people house so he gets his own house out in the yard? If you think about it, that’s borderline cruel and borderline not-cruel at the same time. And I’ve never seen a dog house in Halifax; are they outlawed? Like maybe granny houses can’t be too big, but also not too small. Is there a bureaucrat in charge of regulating dog houses so the roof doesn’t leak on the pup and such? That’d be a great job.

After that, I wondered about Stephen Archibald. He hasn’t posted anything on his blog for a good while, and I got a bit worried about him. So I went to his Twitter account, but that meant remembering which cove he lives in — I first mistakenly knocked on the door of Cove #13, but Archibald lives a few coves down, at Cove #17. It turns out he’s in Copenhagen.

Attack of the pointy balconies. #Copenhagen Destination architecture.

— Stephen Archibald (@Cove17) September 17, 2016

2. Cranky letter of the day

To the Cape Breton Post:

I’m writing a letter to the editor because I feel I have no where else to turn to address the lack of trash cans in the CBRM — especially North Sydney area.

As someone who enjoys walking around town and enjoying all the little shops on the main street, I do notice the trash and lack of off garbage bins.

Thank gosh I bring extra bags on my walk to make a habit to pick up trash as I go. Also, we need to focus on the amount of graffiti in this town. We have plenty of amazing police staff, why is this still happening?

Krysta King, North Sydney



Transportation Standing Committee (1pm, City Hall) — the committee will receive Halifax Transit report on operations for the first quarter of 2016. Bus ridership is down, but there’s a small increase in ferry ridership:


Districts 7 & 8 Planning Advisory Committee – Public Meeting (7pm, Saint Mary’s University Courtside Lounge) — this is a public hearing on Halifax Grammar School’s proposal to close the Atlantic Street campus and move all the students over to Tower Road. To do that, the school has to consolidate four parcels.


Standing Committee on Resources (9am, One Government Place) — DNR Deputy Minister Frank Dunn will be asked about the Cape Breton Private Land Partnership.

On campus


Thesis Defence, Chemistry (2pm, Room 3652, Life Sciences Centre) — PhD candidate Paul Duchesne will defend his thesis, “Effects of Surface Structure on the Electrocatalytic Activity of Pt-based Nanoparticles: An X-Ray Absorption Spectroscopy Study.”

Ukraine (2:30pm, Lord Dalhousie Room, Henry Hicks Building) — Jaroslaw Janczak, from European University Viadrina in Frankfurt, Germany, will speak on “Ukraine Between the EU and Russia”

Lesbos (5pm, Room 1184, Marion McCain Arts and Social Sciences Building) — Hector Williams, from UBC, will speak on “Goddesses, Whores, Vampyres and Archaeologists.”

Patents (5:35pm, Room 1011, Kenneth C. Rowe Management Building) — Ryan Whalen will speak on “Complex Innovation [INNOVATION!!!!!] and the Patent System.” The abstract:

As the universe of available information becomes larger and innovation becomes more complex, the task of examining patent applications becomes increasingly difficult. This project demonstrates that the United States Patent Office has insufficiently responded to changes in the information universe and to innovation [INNOVATION!!!!!]  norms, leaving the Patent Office less able to adequately assess patent applications, and more likely to grant bad patents.

After first demonstrating how innovation [INNOVATION!!!!!]  has been responsive to contemporary innovation norms for hundreds of years, this project uses information and data science methods to empirically demonstrate how innovation has drastically changed in recent decades. After empirically demonstrating the changed innovation [INNOVATION!!!!!]  system and the inadequate response to these changes by the Patent Office, this presentation concludes with policy prescriptions aimed to help the Patent Office implement examination procedures adequate to assess 21st century innovation. These prescriptions include more granular crediting for the time spent by examiners assessing applications, an increased focus on teamwork at the Patent Office, improvements to the inter partes review process, and alterations to the analogous art doctrine.

Calgary and bikes (7pm, Ondaatje Hall) — Ryan Vanderputten, Calgary’s Director of Transportation Planning, will speak on “Cycling Cowboys: Calgary’s Shift Towards Becoming a More Bike-friendly City.”

Andromeda and the Autumn Sky (7:15pm, Halifax Planetarium) — Learn the basic constellations that can be seen at this time of year, and how to locate the Andromeda galaxy, the most distant object that can be seen with the naked eye. Reservations required; minimum age: eight years old. You will be carded.

Saint Mary’s


“Photography in the Future Subjunctive” (7pm, Saint Mary’s University Art Gallery) — Berlin-based artist Silke Helmerdig will talk about her book, “Fragments, Futures, Absence and the Past — A New Approach to Photography.” Someone at the university sent one of my people (I have people now) the above poster. I have no idea what it’s about.

In the harbour

The seas around Nova Scotia, 9:15am Thursday. Map:
The seas around Nova Scotia, 9:15am Thursday. Map:

3:30am: Atlantic Sail, ro-ro container, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
4:30pm: NYK Rigel, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
5am: NYK Daedalus, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York

Atlantic Cartier. Photo: Halifax Examiner
Atlantic Cartier. Photo: Halifax Examiner

6am: Atlantic Cartier, ro-ro container, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
6:30am: Europa 2, cruise ship, arrives at Pier 34 from Sydney with up to 500 passengers
6:40am: Rotterdam, cruise ship, arrives at Pier 31 from Sydney with up to 1,685 passengers
7am: Zuiderdam, cruise ship, arrives at Pier 20 from Sydney with up to 2,364 passengers
9:30am: Carnival Sunshine, cruise ship, arrives at Pier 22 with up to 3,000 passengers
11am: Metis Leader, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
11:30am:Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 36 to Autoport
3pm: CSL Tacoma, bulker, arrives at National Gypsum from Sydney
3:30pm: Rotterdam, cruise ship, sails from Pier 31 for Bar Harbor
3:30pm: Zuiderdam, cruise ship, sails from Pier 20 for Bar Harbor
4:30pm: Atlantic Cartier, ro-ro container, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
4:30pm: NYK Daedalus, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Vancouver
4:30pm: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Autoport to Pier 36
7pm: Carnival Sunshine, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for New York
Midnight:  Europa 2, cruise ship, sails from Pier 34 for Saint John

7am: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at HalTerm from Saint-Pierre
10:30am: Seaborne Quest, cruise ship, arrives at Pier 20 from Charlottetown with up to 540 passengers
6:30pm: Seaborne Quest, cruise ship, sails from Pier 20 for Bar Harbor


First day of Fall. Before you know it, it’ll be Christmas.

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  1. Re: Bomb threats

    Hackers have done this before, most network printers that are not behind a proper firewall will accept commands to print just about anything. I would imagine that fax machines are even more vulnerable because they are on the phone line.

  2. What with the uncomfortable benches on the new ferries, the loud rumbling noises from the engine, the Gestapo lights in the interior, and the lack of bike racks, what used to be a pleasant ride across the harbour has turned into just another chore to be gotten through. Way to go, HRM.

    1. The seats are fairly bad but the vibration is very unpleasant- if you relax your jaw in the slightest your teeth rattle. Why do the new boats vibrate so much?

  3. For the chairs, they have done numerous ergonomic studies on the subject. Here is a brief list of observed “optimal” conditions:

    Ergonomics is a weird field of study where you try to please everyone but usually produce a product that is not tailored to the average but rather the extremes. What may be uncomfortable for you, is the only way some people can sit. The usual rule I have used when investigating ergonomics is if a regular person would find it uncomfortable, it is likely ergonomic as they do not have regular people in mind, rather everyone else.

  4. The problem with the white plastic bucket seats is that it’s difficult to see at one glance if anything has been left underneath them. The crew does a security sweep when the ferry reaches the dock and the passengers have disembarked to look for anything left behind (purses, umbrellas, suspicious packages, etc). Because of the nature of the scheduling, there is usually only about 4 minutes at the dock to unload, sweep and load passengers, so this sweep needs to be done as quickly and efficiently as possible. The new seats make it easier to do this. Also their bench style design makes it easier to sweep rain and snow off of them, unlike the bucket style which captures water and snow.

    What I don’t understand is why they went with a new design instead of using the wire mesh style benches which are in front of and behind Alderney Landing. These are plenty comfortable for an 8 minute ride, have nothing to catch rain or snow and are completely open to facilitate security sweeps. I suspect it comes down to re-invent the wheel every time something new is constructed, which seems to be a Halifax thing. For whatever reason, our governors/managers are incapable of looking at another city and saying, “hey, that works great for them, let’s do that!”

    I’m pleased to see that they have learned from the previous ferries and gone with this in the seating section: “The General Arrangement Plan 16048-102 is similar to the existing new ferries however there may be a future need to increase space for mobility vehicles. As a result all of the seating in the aft stbd quarter on the main deck is to be installed with blind tapped flush sockets welded into
    the deck, Additional sockets shall be provided to fit perimeter seating around this area to provide space for stowage of vehicles and racking.”

    What I don’t understand is why they are insistent on providing only one rack for 6 bicycles. This is far too little storage space. We have 6 bicycles regularly in the winter, double or triple that for summer and then there is bike week which you might get 25-30 bikes per trip in rush hour.

    1. I could be mistaken, but I think they require solid chairs for the more practical purpose that they don’t want something accidentally tangling up in the mesh of the chair. At a park bench, it’s fine, but on a Ferry you could delay the ride times having to un-tie someone from a chair and, you know.. Ferries have a non-zero probability of sinking, unlike benches.

        1. I think the bucket part of the design is meant more to tackle the other issue with public transit seats, you need to be able to quickly clear and clean an area. You can have metal mesh bucket seats… which would be a super hazard!

  5. The dog can come in and the doghouse is supposed to be for when the dog is out enjoying the yard, sniffing around and barking at cats. The house is to keep the sun off when it wants a snooze. But I can probably count on one hand the number of times I remember seeing a dog actually inside a dog house. They will generally rest on the grass or on the porch.

    1. Got a large dog house and a dog. Didn’t buy it for the dog, dog prefers grass or being inside. Got it in the belief that large dog house indicates large and possibly unfriendly dog. Been meaning to get rid of it for years and the article today may actually inspire me to do it.

      Anyone want a dog house?