News
Views
Government
On campus
Noticed
In the harbour
Footnotes


News

1. Back to work

Pressroom workers at the Chronicle Herald have voted “to accept an agreement that takes away early retirement benefits, which many had based their futures on,” the Halifax Typographical Union said in a statement:

Martin O’Hanlon, president of CWA Canada, the HTU’s parent union, said it’s a tough deal for the workers to take, but they saw no other option.

It was a choice between that, a company demand for a $7-an-hour wage cut, or staying on the picket line for weeks or months.

“It’s a lousy deal with a patronizing and intransigent employer, and it certainly could have been settled without a lockout if the company had just been reasonable,” O’Hanlon said.

Can you imagine going into work each day for a boss who sees you as the enemy and works tirelessly to cut your pay and benefits? The Chronicle Herald must be a miserable, low-morale workplace nowadays.

2. Walk Halifax

Halifax is badly in need of a pedestrian advocacy group, and now we’re getting one. Bill Campbell, an information technology consultant, is starting Walk Halifax, reports Metro:

The vision: “Any route a pedestrian takes is safe, comfortable and interesting,” he explained.

There’s much work for the group to tackle, but to start off, I have three interrelated suggestions for policy positions the group could take up immediately:

• The legislature should reverse 2007’s Bill 7, which changed the motor vehicle code so as to effectively take the right-of-way away from pedestrians and give it to motorists at signalled crosswalks.

• The city should admit push button-activated walk signals were a huge mistake and remove all of them, then put the push buttons in a giant pile in Grand Parade and have a big celebration with bands and fireworks and a nice speech from the mayor as a steam roller smashes the push buttons to smithereens. Walk signals should come on automatically at all intersections.

• Beyond doing away with the push button-activated signals, the city should institute a Leading Pedestrian Interval at intersections:

A Leading Pedestrian Interval (LPI) typically gives pedestrians a 3–7 second head start when entering an intersection with a corresponding green signal in the same direction of travel.

LPIs enhance the visibility of pedestrians in the intersection and reinforce their right-of-way over turning vehicles, especially in locations with a history of conflict.

LPIs have been shown to reduce pedestrian-vehicle collisions as much as 60% at treated intersections.

I’ve seen the LPIs in action in Chicago, and was much impressed at how they changed driver behaviour. It’s counter-intuitive to old school traffic engineering mentalities, but putting the pedestrians out in the roadway before the traffic light turns green actually makes the intersection much safer for pedestrians.

Walk Halifax will have its first meeting Wednesday, but unfortunately Metro doesn’t tell us where or when. If someone can drop me a line with that info, I’ll pass it on to readers.

3. Examineradio

Episode #2:

There’s a steep learning curve on the podcasts. It wouldn’t be possible at all without producer Russell Gragg, and for that I’m eternally grateful. We’ve started the process to get the podcast listed with iTunes, and for an RSS feed. Probably later today I’ll have a better interface, and we won’t have that goofy photo on the podcast. And I should return the Thesaurus to its rightful owner.

4. Wild Kingdom

Photo: Kevin Ellis, via the Digby Courier

“A bobcat that has been prowling backyards in Barton in recent weeks was caught Friday in a live trap and transported to the organization, Hope For Wildlife, at Seaforth, outside of Halifax,” reports the Digby Courier. “A veterinarian has said the animal is not sick, just young and hungry, and Hope For Wildlife staff figured the bobcat was probably orphaned before it learned how to hunt. It will be rehabilitated and taught to hunt before it is released.”


Views

1. Ryan Millet

Stephen Kimber seems to think no one noticed that Dalhousie University hasn’t dealt with Ryan Millet, and in his best “get off my lawn” voice says:

[P]erhaps we’ve simply been distracted by the trending/trended/over-it colours of that blue-black/gold-white dress, or that now-you-see-it-now-we’re-sorry TSN tweet about which Toronto Maple Leaf was sleeping with …

Kimber must be on a different internet than me.

2. Forests

Ralph Surette puts the Port Hawkesbury biomass generator in the context of mismanagement of the province’s forests by the Department of Natural Resources:

As predicted, the Port Hawkesbury biomass generator, making 60 MW of electricity by burning wood, is a disaster — so much so that two high-end flooring mills in eastern Nova Scotia are shutting down mainly because the good hardwood they need is going into the biomass hopper, the latest version of the long-running arrangement wherein small operators are starved in favour of big ones. 

[…]

[W]here did the politicians get the airy-fairy notion that the plant would run on waste wood — whatever that is — whereas, as was obvious to anyone who can rub two sticks together, contractors who need to rumble in some 50 to 60 truckloads of wood a day for the boiler (nearly as much as for the pulp mill itself) have no time or incentive to mess around separating good logs from presumed and undefined “waste.” 

The culprit is the Department of Natural Resources….Wearily, let me say this for the umpteenth time. In practice, DNR is not a department of government but of the pulp and lumber industry. It’s been that way since the 1960s.


Government

City

Police commission (12:30pm, City Hall)—there’s nothing significant on the agenda, but the last time there was nothing significant on the agenda the commission took what to me looks like the illegal action of adding an item so it could appoint Linda Mosher chair without any notification to the public (or reporters) whatsoever. So I guess I should go and make sure they don’t do some other dastardly act.

Province

No public meetings.


On campus

Dalhousie

Monday

Thesis defence, Industrial Engineering (10:30am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building)—PhD candidate Navin Chari will defend his thesis, “Thematic Development of Recovery, Remanufacturing, and Support Models for Sustainable Supply Chains.”

Reocirus (12:30pm, Room 3-H, Tupper Building)—Maya Shmulevitz, from the Department of Medical Microbiology & Immunology at the University of Alberta, will talk on “Fine-tuning reocirus towards the unnatural oncolytic niche.”

Senate (4pm, University Hall, Macdonald Building)—here’s the agenda.

Tuesday

The Influence of Ocean Emissions on Arctic Aerosol (Tuesday, 11:30am, Room 5263, LSC – Psychology Wing)—Rachel Chang will speak.

Service-oriented architecture (Tuesday, 2pm, Goldberg Computer Science Building, room 430)—Kelly Lyons, from the University of Toronto, will speak. Her abstract:

Service science is the study of human, organizational, and technological systems called service systems which are defined as configurations of resources (people, information, organizations, and technology) adapting dynamically and connecting internally and externally to other service systems to bring about benefit or value. Many organizations and institutions can be viewed as service systems including universities, cities, hospitals, corporations, and libraries. The notion of the service system has become a central object in service science research and has been put forward as the most fundamental abstractionhal bruce of service science. In this presentation, I will define service science and service systems, present a framework for analyzing an organization as a service system, and describe results obtained from applying the framework to a library, several social enterprise organizations, and in disaster management.

Open Data and Open Governance in Canada (Tuesday, 4pm, Rowe 3089)—Jeffrey Roy will speak. His abstract:

As governments develop open data strategies, their efforts reflect the advent of the Internet, the digitization of government, and the emergence of meta-data as a wider socio-economic and societal transformational. This lecture will seek to both situate and examine the evolution and effectiveness of open data strategies in the public sector with a particular focus on municipal governments in Canada that have led this movement domestically. It will also delve more deeply into whether and how open data can facilitate more open and innovative forms of governance enjoining an outward-oriented public sector (across all government levels) with an empowered and participative society.

Rupture (Tuesday, 6pm, Room 1116, McCain Building)—Urs Heftrich, from the Slavic Institute at the University of Heidelberg, Germany, will talk on “Images of Rupture in Civilization Between East and West: The Perception of Auschwita and Hiroshima in Eastern European Arts and Media.”

Roméo Dallaire

Roméo Dallaire (Tuesday, 7pm, Spatz Theatre, Citadel High School)—Dallaire will speak on the use of child soldiers in war:

The abuse of youth as weapons of war is a reality that can’t be resolved on the day soldiers face them in the field, nor is it acceptable to wait till after the abuse has happened to try to address the harm.

On March 10th, LGen Dallaire (ret’d) will discuss his ultimate mission, to end the use and recruitment of child soldiers. General Dallaire is achieving his mission through the organization he founded, The Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative at Dalhousie University. The Dallaire Initiative has created the world’s first prevention-oriented, security sector focused approach to ending the use of child soldiers in conflicts.

Entrance is $15, $8 for students. Proceeds go to the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative and the Halifax-based organization, Sending Orphans of AIDS Relief.

James Raffan (Tuesday, 7:30pm,Archives & Special Collections Reading Room, Fifth Floor, Killam Library)—Raffan will read from his book, Circling the Midnight Sun: Culture and Change in the Invisible Arctic.


Noticed

“Officials with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the agency in charge of setting conservation policy and enforcing environmental laws in the state, issued directives in 2011 barring thousands of employees from using the phrases ‘climate change’ and ‘global warming,’ according to a bombshell report by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting (FCIR),” reports the Guardian.

Similarly, the state of North Carolina has banned the use of predicted rises in sea level from being used to influence coastal policies or flood insurance rates.

Lest we think this is simply American willful ignorance run amok, let’s not forget that the Harper government has stopped the environmental monitoring of lakes near the tar sands and has otherwise gutted environmental research that might give us a better understanding of the effects of climate change.


In the harbour

The seas around Nova Scotia, 8:15am Monday. Map: marinetraffic.com

Arrivals

Atlantic Companion, ro-ro container, arriving from Liverpool, England
BBC Vermont, general cargo, arriving from Houston
Green Cove, car carrier, Emden, Germany to Autoport

Departures

Kourion to Louisiana
CMA GCM Montreal to sea


Footnotes

We’re all going to be tired for the next six weeks. We should just have one international time zone and be done with it. People locally can sleep and go to work at whatever time they want, and clocks will move forward one second per second, forever, and none of this spring forward fall back nonsense. If you want more light at the end of the day, take off from work early.

Tim Bousquet

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

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  1. Push buttons can affect length of signal at some intersections. The intersection of Queen and South is an example. The green light is significantly shorter if the button is not pressed.

    I am very much in favour of removing clause six. It makes no sense for pedestrians to follow the motor vehicles act, or for someone on foot, without a driver’s license, to face MVA charges simply for crossing with the light but without a special signal.

    With respect to Parker Donham, one could just as easily say “Forcing every intersection to pause for cars during every cycle, whether cars are present or not, strikes me as a triumph of authoritarian ideology over common sense.” As a pedestrian, I am sometimes forced to wait through advance turn signals and long lights, even when the traffic does not justify it. And it is a lot more difficult to cross the streets at night when the lights are flashing red/yellow.

  2. I would like the walk signal to come on *before* I have to wait through an entire light cycle. I may be standing in the rain or the cold, whereas a driver is comfy, dry and warm in his/her metal shell. This way of doing things IS mean-spirited, and also encourages pedestrians to cross mid-block. Also we need to remember that we are ALL pedestrians, even if just for a few minutes, while walking from car to destination. Pedestrian-vehicle accidents would also be reduced if traffic were slowed down.

  3. There is an authoritarian style of managing public behaviour which favours enforcing rules or procedures even when the reason for the rule/procedure is absent. A much reviled Halifax example was the permanent parking ban, which brought hardship to homeowners and car owners for many years until public pressure forced arrogant bureaucrats to relent. It has been replaced by a sensible system that implements parking bans only when they are needed, with various ways to notify vehicle owners. It works beautifully.

    Stoplights are an example of such a system. Modern highway design prefers roundabouts, where possible. When stoplights are necessary, I’m happy that Halifax follows the practice of switching most to flashing red sometime after midnight. In CBRM, by contrast, the green-yellow-red sequence runs ’round the clock, even when traffic doesn’t justify it. This is annoying, wasteful, and damaging to the environment.

    Forcing every intersection to pause for pedestrians during every cycle, whether pedestrians are present or not, strikes me as a triumph of authoritarian ideology over common sense. By all means, tinker with the specifics of how quickly these buttons produce results, and be as pedestrian-friendly as possible in making those adjustments, but don’t make traffic wait uselessly through every cycle when no pedestrian is present. Tim despises cars and drivers, but that’s no excuse for mindlessly penalizing vehicles to no useful purpose. It’s just mean-spirited.

    1. “Tim despises cars and drivers” is a nice soundbite, but I both have a car and drive, and I can assure you that I don’t despise myself. Or most other drivers either.

  4. Tim, I would have thought you would be the president of the Pedestrian Advocacy Group!

  5. In the book Traffic, writer Tom Vanderbilt says those countdown lights lead to a lot of confusion, and simply expand what’s known as “the dilemma zone” – the space and time in which drivers try to determine whether they should stop for the light (will it be yellow or red when I get there?) or proceed.

    1. Yea, I’m not sure what their purpose is. If the light is green when they step off the curb, pedestrians ought be able to cross the entire intersection without running. And if drivers are able to stop when seeing a yellow, they should. The count-down lights just seem to get both pedestrians and drivers to speed up when they should be slowing down.

      1. I believe the move to push button activation for pedestrian crossings was a response to complaints about audible signals. You’ll notice that the buttons emit a sound so someone who is blind (like me) can find the button. If you hold the button in for four seconds then the audible signal will be activated for the next crossing. Very helpful at some crossings with advanced greens or lights that change based on traffic volumes. I agree that there is a need for an active pedestrian voice in the city.
        Charlie Macdonald

  6. As a driver I have something about crosswalks that needs fixing.

    At lights throughout the city there are “countdown” screens showing pedestrians how much longer they have to get across the road. As they hit “zero” some lights change to orange right away, others pause for another 5 seconds or longer before they go to orange. Since drivers also see those countdowns, and regulate their driving according to them, some consistency might be useful. As it is you see people “speed up” to “make the light” when they didn’t have to because there was a gap between the countdown ending and the light starting to change. Others start slowing down because they think they’re NOT going to make the light, when in actuality there’s a gap between the countdown and the light change and they would have had plenty of time. At ONE light you might see some cars speed up and others start slowing down because they don’t *know* what’s going to happen when the countdown hits zero. Would’t consistency make a lot more sense?

  7. I was recently at the intersection below the Macdonald bridge. As a test I purposefully did not press the pedestrian button and the green walk signal did not come on.

    Does that mean I can get charged if I’m struck in a crosswalk?

  8. Hey Tim,

    I’m going to have to disagree with you on the Spring Forward. I love it! Love it! It’s my favourite time of the year. Most of us can’t decide when to get off work: we’re instructed, and trust me–getting off work in the dark is DEPRESSING. So, I say Daylight Savings Time for everyone! 🙂 It probably saves the province money in health costs and stimulates the economy. I’m much more apt to go out to a pub and/or stay there and keep spending money after work while it’s still light out.

    Regarding the push buttons, I have a question: are all of the intersections in Halifax timed, or are they determined by a sensor? If they’re determined by a sensor, then pedestrians actually need some kind of button to push, so that the light will know to change for them. If the intersection is timed, then, yes, it should just be automatic.

      1. Okay, so from what I understand, these push buttons were installed, and when pushed, actually caused the light to take more time for the walker. How much time, I wonder, was added to the wait time for cars? I didn’t realize it added time. If you’ve ever crossed at South and Queen Street, it definitely doesn’t appear to take more time. That sucker changes from Walk to flashing Don’t Walk within seconds–seriously–seconds. I assume this is because of the retirement housing building, though.

        If the walk signs add only seconds to car wait times, then it’s silly–because you’re either potentially adding a few seconds of time to cars or adding up to a minute or more for pedestrians. I’ve arrived at an intersection when the button hasn’t been pushed. The light is green in my direction, but now I can’t cross, so I have to wait an entire cycle again. So, my question would be–how much actual wait time do these push buttons add to cars? Not sure if we can find the answer, as this will probably vary from intersection to intersection.

        1. No, no, the push-buttons don’t add or subtract any time from the lights. They merely *activate* the walk light. If you don’t push the button, the walk light doesn’t come on at all. If you push the button two nanoseconds after the traffic light turns green, you have to wait an entire light cycle for the walk light to come on.

          1. Okay, thanks. If they don’t add or subtract time–and if this really is true–then I cannot figure out why they were ever installed in the first place. It makes no sense to me at all. My husband and I were arguing over this because he said that they must have had a reason to do it–that these kinds of decisions aren’t made without some kind of logical reason behind it. He said that he and I were probably unaware of the reason they were initially installed. (And I told him he was an idiot, and we got into a big fist fight–j/k)

            So I’ve been wracking my brain—why, why, why spend the money and take the time and effort to install push buttons at timed lights when you can just have the pedestrian light always activate?

            Crazy.

            Thanks, Tim.

        2. Vancouver – well, North Vancouver, that’s where I was – has push-button lights that activate the ‘walk’ signal immediately, even in the middle of the green light cycle. I found this convenient, as i knew that I would be able to continue to walk, crossing safely, making the red hand turn into the walking man at my convenience.

  9. Move to Saskatchewan. They don’t change, and stick to standard time year round.