Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Book review: Anna Olson’s Baking Wisdom

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I was very pleased to get the message that my request to look at this book was granted. The description provided is entirely adequate and tells you everything you need to know about the book. What you get however is the PDF, which is impressive, but a bit awkward to negotiate, so that you end up moving around each page a you try to read sections of the text. It certainly whets my appetite and I would indeed like to add this volume to my collection. I frankly doubt that i would actually make many of these confections since I already have issues with my waist line - and type 2 diabetes. Sugar, it seems, it not something that can readily be substituted. 

What I actually bake most often these days is bread, known - very inaccurately - as "sourdough". None of these recipes use that technique - although one does refer to a "starter" it also calls for instant dried yeast. The popularity of sourdough rocketed when commercial yeasts became unavailable at the start of the pandemic. I am pretty sure that bread raised this way can be adapted to pizzas and other baking - but that is missing here.

Not only that but without the ease of use offered by a printed book I doubt that if someone doesn't make me a present of it I will probably find some other way.  It is well written, beautifully presented and well worth the asking price.  And, as long as you have a routine that burns off surplus calories, I am sure you will enjoy using it!

Published by Penguin Random House Canada March 2023 $50

Written by Stephen Rees

March 16, 2023 at 1:26 pm

Posted in Transportation

Broadway Subway Project will reduce transit time in British Columbia’s second largest business hub to only 11 minutes and reduce greenhouse gas emissions

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Photo provided by Sarens

I have this morning received a Press Release from a Belgian crane company that helped install the tunnel boring machines for the Broadway Subway in Vancouver. The reason I have decided to post on this bog about it is that it makes some quite remarkable assertions about the benefits of this project. My commentary appears after their quoted text below. Not all of the Press Release is included here.

This new project, scheduled to open in 2026, will cover a 5.7 km extension of the Millennium line between VCC-Clark Station and Broadway and Arbutus, and will create more than 130,000 direct and indirect construction jobs.

Sarens had a direct participation in this project, by contributing with its technical team and specialized machinery to the assembly of the tunnel boring machines (TBM) used for the construction of the subway section of the line.

This new line will represent an important environmental advance by exponentially reducing road traffic in the area, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by up to 9,800 tons of CO2 per year by 2030.

“Construction work on the new Broadway Subway Project is already underway on the tunneling phase prior to completing the six underground stations along its 5.7 km route. Once inaugurated, this line, which serves as an extension of the Millennium Line, will reduce the travel time between VCC-Clark and Arbutus to just 11 minutes, saving the average transit commuter almost 30 minutes a day.

“This new subway line will consist of a subway section of approximately 5 km, while the remaining 700 meters will be built above ground to connect to VCC-Clark Station. Sarens, world leader in heavy lifting, engineered transport and crane rental, has participated at the request of Broadway Subway Project Corporation, an Acciona-Ghella joint venture, in the assembly of the tunnel boring machines (TBM) used for the construction of the subway section.

“For this particular job, Sarens used one of its Liebherr LR 1400-2 cranes in SDB configuration. To facilitate the transfer of the TBM parts into the tunnel portal, the team used a 70 m main boom with a 135-ton counterweight and a 170-ton Superlift counterweight. In addition, support cranes such as the LTM 1095 or the Terex Explorer 5800 were used.

“As the operation is within the City of Vancouver, the crane operators had to deal with a heavily congested site and tight lifting schedules. In addition, due to the limited visibility available for the installation maneuver of the various parts of the TBM, the technical team had to work under close coordination established by radio.

“Broadway Subway Project is a project driven by the province of British Columbia, which will be operated by TransLink once it is commissioned in 2026. It will cover a total distance of 5.7 km between VCC-Clark and Arbutus, a corridor recognized as the second most important business center in British Columbia.

“This new subway line is expected to generate more than 130,000 direct and indirect jobs. In addition, thanks to the project’s adherence to the Community Benefits Agreement, a significant portion of these positions will employ women, indigenous people and traditionally underrepresented sectors, which will benefit the community economically and create a highly skilled technical workforce base.”

The claim that this project will “exponentially” reduce road traffic is not supported by any evidence, nor is it consistent with the plan of building a subway. The whole idea of burying the line is to protect the current capacity for road traffic. There are no plans to reduce the amount of road space dedicated to moving and parking vehicles. If there were, the preferred alternative would have been light rail running on the surface. But the whole purpose of SkyTrain has always been to keep out of the way of the cars. The only difference is while the rest of the region’s rapid transit system is on elevated guideways this one is all in tunnel; just like most of the Canada Line in Vancouver.

The only way to reduce traffic is to either reduce the amount of road space dedicated to moving vehicles – and that includes parking spaces too – or start charging a fee for using the road. Neither of those are popular with Vancouver voters – especially those who like driving large cars and trucks, mostly with just the driver most of the time. Just look at the fuss made when one exclusive bike lane was put in Stanley Park.

Traffic expands and contracts to fill the space available. Roads can carry many more people when they use sustainable transportation modes – buses, bikes and walking. If road users insist on bringing their SUVs for every trip, congestion is inevitable but tends to adapt over time. Gridlock, when it does occur, is due to rare events and people using their cars and trucks to block intersections. This blog has made these statements many times over the years and no-one has ever managed to solve traffic congestion by building more road space. Simple geometry means modes that carry more people per hour than SOVs, and given priority in their own lanes will greatly increase the utility and attractiveness of streets. People also like spaces where they can sit down and watch the passing scene. As long as they are not deafened by engines and tire noise and choked with exhaust fumes. Broadway in New York City being a great example. Times Square now sees far more activity than it ever did when filled with cars.

Most of the people who will use this new stretch of subway currently use transit. The 99 B-Line being one of the busiest bus routes. Since the subway line will only get as far as Arbutus Street many will continue westwards on what will be a shorter B-Line route. It could get Rapid Bus treatment, but I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for that.

I expect that the Broadway subway will attract new transit users, but even if there are a lot of people who stop driving and start riding transit all the time, don’t expect that to translate to fewer cars on the street absent a user fee or a reduction in road width dedicated to cars and trucks. When Toronto decided to replace the streetcars on Yonge Street with a subway, traffic in downtown increased – since there were no longer streetcars holding up the cars while people got on and off them.

When the Broadway subway opens do not expect any reduction in people driving. The people who do switch modes will quickly be replaced by others hoping for a quicker drive along Broadway with fewer buses competing for space. Within a very short period of time any available road will be occupied. Guaranteed.

A nice new B-Line bendy bus (hybrid diesel electric) on its way from UBC. Once the subway opens this service will terminate at Arbutus Street Station.

No decision on the extension of the Broadway Subway to UBC has yet been announced.

My photo CC license for non-commercial use

This post was revised on March 13, 2023 to correct the country of the crane company.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 10, 2023 at 10:36 am

Legal action on the horizon as Canadian banks fail to match their climate conduct to their commitments

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Press Release from Greenpeace

Toronto, March 2, 2023

Canadian banks may increase the risk of facing legal action because their weak climate action contradicts their vocal climate claims, a new report from Greenpeace Canada finds. The report, So Sue Me, outlines how the failures of banks globally to meet their promises is spurring litigation from governments and civil society, and finds Canadian banks likely to encounter the same repercussions as they continue lauding their climate goals while financing the fossil fuel industry. 

“Banks around the world are being taken to task legally for failing to honour their promises towards tackling the climate crisis,” said Priyanka Vittal, legal counsel for Greenpeace Canada’s new investigation team. “Canada’s Big Banks should take heed if they continue down their road of climate hypocrisy.”

The report spotlights the discrepancy between the climate pledges and policies of two major Canadian banks – RBC and Scotiabank – over the past six years as a symptom of a broader trend in the financial sector. Canada’s Big Five Banks (RBC, Scotiabank, TD, BMO, and CIBC) provided more than $100 billion USD towards the fossil fuel industry in 2016 and more than $130 billion USD in 2021.

Juxtaposed against numerous public statements and commitments towards combating climate change, this financing raises the question of greenwashing, Greenpeace Canada’s report finds. 

Abroad, the numerous examples coming from the USEU and UK show regulatory bodies are updating and enforcing consumer protection laws and advertising standards in response to industries engaging in false or misleading advertising – in this case regarding the climate. 

In Canada, the Competition Bureau provides avenues to legally challenge greenwashing practices. 

“Corporations like Volkswagen/Audi and Keurig have been held accountable under competition law for greenwashing, but this process can take years while the damage has already been done,” Vittal said. “Instead of risking being the next defendant in a greenwashing complaint, Canada’s banks should be the biggest players in our transition off of fossil fuels and our fight against climate change. They certainly have the ability.”

The full report is available here.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 2, 2023 at 10:13 am

Posted in Environment

Tagged with

Canada’s Boreal Forest is Being Wiped Out to Make Toilet Paper

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The rest of this blog post is from a Press Release from Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). But first I have to declare an interest. I am a shareholder in Procter and Gamble.

“America’s top toilet paper maker, Procter & Gamble (P&G), resolutely refuses to stop making Charmin with large volumes of pulp from the boreal, despite shareholder directives to address forest supply chain impacts, and rapidly growing consumer interest in purchasing toilet paper and tissue brands that are not complicit in clearcutting the last forests untouched by  industrial logging.”

Needless to say I am unhappy about P&G’s behaviour. So I have no problem at all turning over this blog post to NRDC

Canada, Boreal forest, Dryden, Ontario, clear cutting, logging, paper mill, replanting, new gen, trees

Photo credit: River Jordan for NRDC

WASHINGTON D.C.– The new Issue with Tissue report & sustainability scorecard (grading at-home toilet paper brands from “A” to “F”)  released today by NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), reveals that more companies are bringing sustainable tissue options to the market than ever before, offering consumers alternatives to products sourced from the climate-critical Canadian boreal forest.

Yet America’s top toilet paper maker, Procter & Gamble (P&G), resolutely refuses to stop making Charmin with large volumes of pulp from the boreal, despite shareholder directives to address forest supply chain impacts, and rapidly growing consumer interest in purchasing toilet paper and tissue brands that are not complicit in clearcutting the last forests untouched by  industrial logging.

“Industry laggards like P&G are fueling a tree-to-toilet pipeline that is flushing away some of the most environmentally important – and threatened – forests in the world,” said Jennifer Skene, NRDC’s Natural Climate Solutions Policy Manager. “The primary forests of the boreal – those areas that have never before been industrially disturbed – must be protected if we’re going to have a chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change. Turning them into toilet paper is a climate crime, especially when done by the very companies that most need to step up to protect our future,” Skene said.

Many major toilet paper brands – most notably, Procter & Gamble’s Charmin – are made almost exclusively from virgin pulp from climate-critical, centuries-old forests in the Canadian boreal. The boreal forest is essential in the fight against climate change, holding more than 300 billion tons of climate-altering carbon – twice as much carbon as the world’s oil reserves – in its soils, plants, and wetlands. The boreal also holds immense value for Indigenous Peoples and threatened species.

More than 1 million acres of the Canadian boreal forest are clear-cut each year – in part to make the ultimate disposable, single-use item: toilet paper. Toilet paper made with recycled content has one-third the carbon footprint of toilet paper made from trees.

For this year’s Issue with Tissue report and scorecard, NRDC evaluated the sustainability of 60 toilet paper brands. The top three major American tissue makers ­– Procter & Gamble (P&G), Kimberly-Clark, and Georgia-Pacific ­– earned “F” scores across each of their flagship brands like Charmin, Cottonelle, and Quilted Northern. 

However, for the first time ever, Georgia-Pacific secured a “B+” score in NRDC’s report, for  a 100 percent recycled content toilet paper brand now available online directly to consumers; Kimberly-Clark made this same move last year. These developments, although minimal and incremental, leave P&G last among the largest American tissue companies to still receive straight “F” scores across all of its tissue brands, including Charmin, Puffs, and Bounty.

“P&G’s Charmin brand has become a relic that’s completely misaligned with the urgency of the climate crisis we face,” said Ashley Jordan, NRDC’s Boreal Corporate Campaign Coordinator.  “Newer toilet paper companies are investing in products that provide healthy options for consumers and the planet. P&G, a $350 billion corporation, has the potential to show real leadership by making Charmin planet-safe. Our forests and our future depends on it,” said Jordan.

As part of its research, NRDC found that P&G was product testing a new toilet paper called Charmin Ultra Eco made with bamboo, now available to consumers online. P&G confirmed the testing, but did not commit to bringing the product to a wider market or commit to a long-term strategy to stop sourcing from climate-critical forests.

In 2020, a majority of P&G’s shareholders supported a resolution calling for the company to determine how it could eliminate deforestation and primary forest degradation from its supply chains. However, P&G has failed to make significant changes to its tissue sourcing, instead even more aggressively employing climate denial and greenwashing tactics to hide its harm to forests and communities.

Key Findings of the new Issue with Tissue report include:

  • NRDC scored 142 tissue products in three categories: toilet paper, paper towels, and facial tissue. Among the 142 products scored, 17 received an “A” grade and 17 received an “A+,” with brands that use post-consumer recycled content receiving the highest grades overall given their lower carbon footprint and reduced forest impact.
  • NRDC evaluated 60 toilet paper brands: 12 toilet papers made with recycled materials rolled in with an “A” or “A+” score in the new scorecard, with Trader Joe’s, 365 Everyday Value 100% Recycled, Natural Value, and Green Forest nabbing the top spots. Major brands like Charmin and Angel Soft brought up the rear with “F” scores.
  • For the first time, Georgia-Pacific scored a “B+” after making a 100 percent recycled content toilet paper option available online directly to consumers.
  • Grocery store chains like Kroger, H-E-B, and Ahold Delhaize (owner of Stop & Shop and Giant Food), broadened access to sustainable products through private label lines of 100 percent recycled content tissue products.
  • The number of bamboo brands increased this year, reflecting the growing market for toilet paper made from alternative fibers.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is expected by April to unveil new rules on climate-related disclosures. NRDC hopes that these rules will boost transparency by requiring companies to issue periodic reports on climate-related risks related to their business and manufacturing practices and their impacts on the environment (including greenhouse gas emissions).

This news is very timely, as NRDC filed a complaint with the SEC  on November 30th, asking the agency to evaluate whether Procter & Gamble’s (P&G) claim to prohibit forest degradation in its supply chain is misleading to its investors, under U.S. security laws.

(Forest degradation is defined as industrial activities that erode a forest’s value, such as industrial logging in primary forests that have never before been disturbed. Scientists agree those forests are irreplaceable and must remain standing to avoid climate catastrophe.) 

Procter & Gamble’s greenwashing risks leaving its investors unwittingly tethered to the unsustainable forestry practices that 67% of P&G’s shareholders urged the company to address two years ago. 

As NRDC’s Jennifer Skene and Shelley Vinyard detail in their recent blog post about the SEC filing, “[t]he integrity of P&G’s claim to prohibit forest degradation has significant reputational, marketplace, and regulatory implications for the company—and for its investors, which is why NRDC recommends the SEC examine these claims, require P&G to correct them, and consider potential enforcement action.”

Written by Stephen Rees

February 27, 2023 at 11:18 am

Posted in Environment

Tagged with

Charging in Vancouver

with 6 comments

Sunday and there appears to be no-one charging at Kits Beach this morning. If something is too good to be true then it probably isn’t. The Flo app maintains this idea and when we arrive all the spaces are empty. But when we plug in no electricity flows. So I hit the help button on the app. This turns out not be a Good Idea at all. The number it dials is different to that on the machine, and it adds an extension which answers in French. Then plays music. So I end that call and dial the number on the charger, which gives me a chance to pick English from the menu, and gets answered by a human straightaway. He tells me that all four chargers will need the attention of the City of Vancouver. That doesn’t explain why the Flo app shows non-functional chargers as available. But then we find that the two chargers on Beach at Broughton, also shown as available, are in a car park that is currently closed. The chargers on 7th Ave are not available on Sunday. We end up back at Kerrisdale paying for parking and power as by the time we get there we are literally out stored power.

I get the feeling that this post may be the start of something. For now here is a picture of the free charger at the free parking out at Pacific Spirit Park. Which shuts off charging after 2 hours, no matter what.

The charger story starts getting more interesting thanks to a comment thread on this post. It turns out that the new building on the other side of Yew Street does have EV charging options. These show up on the PlugShare app but not on the FLO app or ChargePoint.

This Hyundai is parked on a space marked CAR SHARE on the corner of building A that houses Safeway. This is the north west corner just off Yew Street. There is nothing on the vehicle to suggests it belongs to a car share.

Zut alors! That is a long period of charging but then the Hyundai is an EV, not a plug-in hybrid. Since it does not appear on their app, it must require a RFID card, like I use at Oakridge when I am having tests at LifeLabs. Those FLO charges are listed on the app but not their status. So it is a bit of a crap shoot if you can get one of the two chargers there. You can’t use the phone to start charging either so I imagine they are beyond cell phone data use or nearby wifi.

The street behind the Tesla has not been named as it is really just a lane access for trucks and so on. The charger on the other side of the post is not functional – and according to PlugShare hasn’t been for some time. I imagine the Tesla’s owner will use the other one once the Hyundai is fully charged.

PlugShare also now says that the underground parking provided for Safeway also has outlets for car charging along the wall. Since I usually walk to Safeway and take the trolley for heavy loads I haven’t been down there much, but there are “multiple wall plugs available” for “trickle charging” while shopping my transportation mode may change! Apparently both parking and charging are free while shopping.

Wednesday February 1, 2023

We went out to Pacific Spirit Park this afternoon, and plugged in but the app wasn’t working. All I got was a blank page on my phone. So I used the RFID card to get the thing started. From the information panel on the charger it looked like it had started even though no little blue lights came on. But they have also done that elsewhere but come on later, so I didn’t wait for them. We walked around the park using the “Lily of the Valley” trail which someone described to us as “the Art Gallery”. So a pleasant hour and some exercise, but no electricity actually passed to the car’s traction battery.

UPDATE I got an email from Flo that explained

The problem comes from the charger but not from your card. 

I can see a support ticket was opened yesterday and our techniciens intervened around 7pm. 

The station should work and provides energy now but do not hesitate to contact us again if the problems appears again.

So my conclusion is that the guy before me – who we saw leave – must have had a problem too, but chose not to warn us that the charge wasn’t working. I don’t know why I expected that there would be some kind of fellow feeling between EV drivers.

The charger in question is actually in the top picture at the empty parking space

We got going to try and get home before the school run started. My partner noticed that she could see the car being charged on the roadside charger behind Safeway from our bedroom window. Not only that she saw the guy come back to his car and drive away. So I went down to the basement, got my car and got to the charger before anyone else did. Again, the RFID card got used, since that charger isn’t on the FLO app, and this time one blue light on the dashboard started flashing. The PlugShare app says there is a $1 charge per visit and just 1 kWhr transfers. Given that 26 hour transfer pictured above I wondered if that was right – but I suppose it depends on the number on that RFID card. I got back after two hours to find the low battery was now up to 36% – not the full charge I get in two hours elsewhere. I also established by walking around the Safeway underground parking that many of the support columns have a two outlet 110v receptacle. So that is where people are getting “trickle charging” while shopping although there are no signs about EV charging – just generic warnings to all that there is a 2 hour limit for parking while shopping. I have yet to try that.

I noticed similar boxes near the EV parking at the park but with a more complex arrangement of the socket and an absence of the large central neutral pin.

Wednesday February 5

We got to Pacific Spirit Park around 1pm but both chargers were in use – and would be for a couple of hours. So we went to Kits Beach, although I had my doubts. Once again, the reason two chargers were available was that neither worked. I talked to the operator on the phone and got her to check. I had done everything I should have, the charger failed to start. And we tried to get the Modo charger started from her end with the same result. I was going to go to 7th Avenue, which the Flo app said was available, but their web page showed was in use, so then we went up to Kerrisdale. By now my “top up” idea had to change to a full two hour charge at the place with the most expensive electricity and parking fee.

I also found out today that I had qualified for the BC electric vehicle subsidy – as I got a request to complete a survey. What the dealership had done was add three years of biannual services to my purchase bill on the assumption that I would qualify for the subsidy (I had ordered the car and paid a deposit before the rules changed). The survey asked if I had applied for the subsidy for a Level 2 charger – but as the strata council opposes that idea it wasn’t exactly applicable.

Written by Stephen Rees

January 22, 2023 at 1:49 pm

Posted in electric cars

OR, WA, and BC Must Invest Beyond Gas

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MEDIA CONTACT: Emily Moore, Director, Climate and Energy Program, Sightline Institute,  

SEATTLE, WA – As public concern grows over the health dangers of gas appliances in homes and the impacts of climate-warming fuels on their economies, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia should look to a future energy system that is gas-free. To get there, leaders in the region should stop subsidizing the buildout of new gas pipe infrastructure and explore alternative energy systems like “GeoNetworks,” neighborhood-wide ground source heat pumps. That’s according to new analyses from the think tank Sightline Institute. 

“Gas utilities continue to perversely incentivize building new gas infrastructure that will pollute our homes and climate for decades, and gas customers are paying for it—likely without knowing,” says Emily Moore, Director of Sightline’s Climate and Energy program and author of the articles. “Regulators should eliminate these subsidies and hold the gas industry accountable to realistic climate strategies, not the faux solutions they are peddling today, like hydrogen for home heating.”

Read Moore’s full analyses, coauthored with Sightline fellow Laura Feinstein: 


Emily Moore, Director of Sightline Institute’s Climate and Energy program, leads Sightline’s work transitioning Cascadia away from fossil fuels and toward cleaner and greener energy sources. Emily holds her Master’s in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School and her Bachelor’s from Brown University. Find her latest research here, and follow her on Twitter at @_enmoore_

Sightline Institute is an independent, nonprofit think tank providing leading original analysis of housing, democracy, forests, and energy policy in the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, British Columbia, and beyond.  

Written by Stephen Rees

January 18, 2023 at 3:03 pm

Book Review: The Game Café

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Stories of New York City in Covid Time

by Eleanor Lerman

I got an advance reader copy in my mailbox. A collection of nine short stories of people who live in New York – or who are travelling there – in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

So this is a thin book, just under 160 pages. none of the stories actually feels complete. These are people, mostly single, all out of their regular occupations, but hanging on in a city that many have abandoned. Just as you are getting to know them the story ends and a new one begins. There are some common themes: women with long black hair and a taste for goth makeup. People suffering from severe back pain at a time when normal health services are no longer available. The author of the stories has black hair. Quite possibly she has a back ache too. She knows New York. People are attracted to the Village and Washington Square Park. But often find themselves in the less desirable outer limits of the subway service – but they are still in the City.

The epidemic is not over now. Not yet. But the mood has changed from when this book was written. People have stopped wearing masks – mostly. Travel has restarted but gets disrupted. Restaurants have reopened and people are using transit again, but in lower numbers. Management would like everyone to be back in the office but has to reluctantly accept that remote work is what a lot want to continue. Especially in places where the cost of living is high and rising. In the stories the idea that prices have dropped for desirable places pops up now and again but that is not what is happening now. These stories are of a rare time and a unique space. There is something special about New York City. And that magic – dead at the time of these stories – seems to be reviving now.

The pandemic is now far worse in China, which is where it started, and where lockdowns are still being enforced. Other places were not actually in formal lockdown, thought it might have felt like that. Cruise ships are sailing again. The planes are no longer just flying to reserve their spots at the terminals. But the chaos of lost baggage, delays and confusion are more to do with the impacts of climate – no longer “change” but “crisis”. Huge backlogs of cancellations and missed connections. A whole different set of stories, rather than the folks who managed to hang on in the City even if they no longer had their former well paid jobs, in the stories scraping by wondering what happens next while we readers are in what happens next, which is nowhere like “business as usual” no matter how much business wishes it was.

In terms of overloaded emergency rooms, and rising death rates, plus increasing numbers of people who have had multiple infections or who suffer from “long Covid” the pandemic is nearly as bad as it was at the earlier peaks, but now a high percentage have had multiple vaccinations which work – at least for a few months – but deteriorate rapidly afterwards. Public Health officials are still on the defensive. Simple ideas like hand washing and being kind don’t seem to have a lot of impact on an airborne virus that has the ability to produce a continuous series of variations, each being nastier and more virulent than the one before. We would like to think that we can learn to live with it, just as we have with the flu, the common cold and HIV – but that does seem to be an illusion. Nevertheless, there are indoor parties, the theatres and concert halls are open and the tourism industry seems to be back with bang. There is not a shred of this new reality in these short fictions, where time seems to have stopped. We do not mask very much. There are still many open schools that have no modern ventilation or even box fans surrounded by HEPA filters. Kids are getting sick – and not just with covid but all the other childhood diseases which have resurfaced thanks to a combination of political opportunism and vaccine “hesitancy”. Plus, of course, plenty of deliberate misinformation.

I am not sure that this reviewer can actually recommend this book. Some of the stories have already appeared in magazines and would have been timely then. Now? I am not so sure. Actually I wonder if there needs to be the sequels to some of these stories, so we know how these stories work out. If they did. Certainly good writing.

The following is extracted from the press materials that came with the book. I had not read this before I wrote the review above.

“For award-winning author and poet Eleanor Lerman, New York
City remains the most vibrant and important urban center in the
world. The idea that it would never recover from the pandemic was
an affront not only to New York but to cities everywhere struggling
to deal with the effects of coronavirus.
A lifelong New Yorker, Lerman was disturbed by pontifications that
the city was “dead,” that everyone was leaving, that it would never
regain its place of prominence in American life or be able to offer
the remarkable range of experiences that only a city with a diverse
population and a storied history of welcoming immigrants, artists,
workers, and dreamers, both gay and straight, could provide.
As writers do, she turned her feelings into inspiration.

The Game Café: Stories of New York

City in Covid Time by Eleanor Lerman

Mayapple Press

Paperback; December 2022

ISBN: 978-1-952781-13-1

$22.95; 6 x 9; 160 pages

Written by Stephen Rees

December 31, 2022 at 11:09 am

Posted in Fiction, Pandemic

Tagged with

Book Review: “All the Colour in the World”

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A Novel

by CS Richardson

This was a surprisingly quick read. It caught hold of me and wouldn’t let go. The style is unusual – and initially a bit irritating – but you get used to it. It seems like you are reading about a real person. They are certainly real paintings and I have seen some of them. I almost wished that instead of a novel it was some kind of picture book – or perhaps, since it is an ebook, there could be links to the pictures.

There was a real concern among ex-servicemen of my family and other acquaintances that there would be very little sharing of their experiences, once they got back home. They survived WWII, but knew so many who hadn’t. And then there was always Remembrance Sunday. I got the distinct impression that those who made the most performance at such events were not the ones that came back with PTSD. Who often self medicated, drank heavily and didn’t want to talk about it.

I think now that I will go back and read it again, more slowly this time, and actually look up the pictures.

Pub Date 17 Jan 2023 | Archive Date 31 Jan 2023
Penguin Random House Canada, Knopf Canada
General Fiction (Adult) Historical Fiction Literary Fiction

Written by Stephen Rees

December 29, 2022 at 2:07 pm

Posted in Fiction

Year End Donation for Tax Refund

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I am sitting looking at a long list of organizations that send me emails asking for money at this time of year. It starts off with publications. You can claim up to $500 for amounts you paid in 2022 for qualifying subscription expenses. You can find out more about the digital news subscription at that link. (At the time of writing they were still talking about the 2021 tax return on that first link.) I get The Tyee, The Maple, The Narwhal and the National Observer – so that $500 limit isn’t hard to reach.

There should also be some acknowledgment that Canadian not for profit activist organisations are NOT registered charities. One that failed to point this out until AFTER I had sent them money was Greenpeace Canada. So the following are those that while I support them in other ways, won’t give a usable tax receipt:, Open Media, Lead Now, Sum of Us, Dogwood, Evidence for Democracy, Democracy Watch. And in the US Next City, Oil Change, Inside Climate News, Climate Central, DeSmog,, Avaaz, Eco Literacy,

So now for the list of the lucky winners

Transport Action

BC Humanist Association

West Coast Environmental Law

Green Party of BC – which gets a different tax treatment as a political party than charities

Amnesty International

David Suzuki Foundation

Georgia Strait Alliance – which currently has issues with credit cards and PayPal but bank transfers still work


I have added URLs to each of the organisations’ home page – which is not necessarily a donation link.

Fair Voting BC just sent me an email which says

“A brief reminder that there are a couple of days left to make a donation and get a 2022 tax receipt for supporting the case. To donate, please click . “

Written by Stephen Rees

December 29, 2022 at 12:21 pm

Posted in Green Party, politics

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Fusion Power Breakthrough…Really?

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This is from a press release I got this morning. The message is too long to make it feasible for a Mastodon post (500 characters) but I will post a link there back to this post as I think this is important information. TL:DR version – we don’t need a fusion power source – we’ve already got one – the sun! By the time the technology gets up to scale and comparable cost to solar will be TOO LATE. We need lots more renewables now not in the distant future

Guest post from Garry Cinnamon, of Cinnamon Energy

Scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have announced a fusion breakthrough using lasers. The future of clean, limitless energy according to Forbes! A game-changer for climate according to PBS!

Using a laser and power plant system about the size of a sports stadium, the experiment generated a net power output of about one megajoule. This fusion power plant can blast the laser about 10 times a week. Sounds impressive.

Not to burst anyone’s bubble, but one megajoule is equivalent to 0.278 kwh — about the same amount of energy a single solar panel will generate in an hour from that fusion power plant 92 million miles away.

Press coverage somehow missed the fact that the energy output of this test is de minimis. They also missed the facts that fusion releases vast quantities of dangerous neutron radiation, that this radiation will contaminate surrounding equipment (just like fission reactors), that that we have not yet engineered a way to capture the heat from laser or tokamak fusion, and that there is no good source for all the tritium fuel necessary for fusion (other than more fusion reactors).

It takes at least 20 years to get a new nuclear fission plant permitted and constructed. At this point we don’t even have a working prototype laser fusion plant — that could take another 30 years. Realistically, we’re 50+ years away from getting commercial laser or tokamak fusion power plants working at scale. In the mean time, deploying billions of lowly solar panels is the safest, most reliable and least expensive way to generate the energy we need.

To learn more about the realities of a fusion power breakthrough, please listen to this week’s Energy Show.

Written by Stephen Rees

December 21, 2022 at 11:17 am

Posted in energy

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