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

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More about notebooks

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Since the beginning of the Covid-19 shutdown I have been keeping a journal. Not another blog but the old fashioned kind that you put on paper in a book with a pen.

The idea came from someone I knew from WordCamp or some similar blogging conference years ago. On Facebook she was encouraging people to write about their experiences, because she is an archivist and she is concerned about what will happen in the future. It is unlikely that the technology we now use to store blogs and pictures will be readable indefinitely. She suggested twenty years – but that seems a bit pessimistic to me. After all I know many people who still use film in their cameras and vinyl discs on their stereos and both are long superseded technologies. Even so I quite liked idea, since I have been writing in notebooks for a while. Most of my early blog posts started off as notes taken at meetings. I could scribble far faster than I could type, so I was able to make good contemporaneous notes – a skill I had developed at work back in the days before laptops or tablets. Before PalmPilots even, remember them?

So the first entries in what I called The Plague Diaries were written in a Moleskine notebook that I had lying around.

That is what now appears at the top of this document. In the original version a scan I had made with my phone using a Google app appeared here – with a complaint about Canon software. That has now been updated and I can once again use Image Capture to operate my scanner. But I am blowed if WP block editor will actually allow me to put the new scan into this space which is where I wanted it. So I have got rid of one problem just to find two more.


And it turns out that I was wrong. I could have bought a refill for the fountain pen I was using. It was just that the shop I went to did not know that.

The Moleskine I had was bought in 2005, when journalling was recommended by whoever it was I was sent to deal with depression. Well it didn’t help then but the Moleskine did get used for a variety of purposes, and I thought that it would last. It did not seem likely that I would need much more than a replacement pen. And anyway there are notebooks lying around unused. My partner seems to get one free whenever she does some professional development course or other. Trouble is they are nothing like as good as a Moleskine. Well, I did get something free myself from The Guardian, as thanks for my subscription. That became Volume 2 (14 March to 29 April) and Volume 3 is from an unknown source but the paper was highly absorbent, bled through (i.e. making it hard to be legible when written on both sides) and was actually falling apart and had to be repaired with duct tape.

There are some of the healthcare pro freebies but all have lined paper.

I went to Granville Island thinking that I could buy a new Moleskine – just like Volume 1 – at Paper~Ya. Somewhat to my surprise the sales lady said that I could do better for cheaper. After all, you are paying quite a lot for the brand name alone. Midori paper is much better than that used by Moleskine, and the notebook is considerably cheaper. The lack of a hard cover is not an issue since I won’t be carrying it around with me and it is anyway too large for my pockets at A5 (European standard).

Midori notebook made in Japan

It was also in  Paper-Ya that I found these pens – for very little money.

Japanese notebook and pens

This is the inside first page. The black pen is a Pentel Plastic Fountain Pen. Made in Japan. The nib is 24 carat plastic. Refillable! I wish I had known that sooner as I recently threw an empty one away! The blue one is a Platinum Preppy F 0.3 which comes without the cartridge being inserted for use, but loose inside the pen. Also Made in Japan.

I am now ending Volume 3 and will start on Volume 4 tomorrow, but I can say categorically that writing in the Midori is a great pleasure – even though I am still using the cheap Chinese pen I bought on line when the previous Pentel Plastic ran out. By the way, beware of online ads. The Jinhao X450 I bought from for nearly $20 is available elsewhere for $5! It has also had to be repaired twice (Gorilla Glue) as the pencap and its plastic liner kept parting company. It works well enough and you might even be able to find cartridges for it but I bought a bottle of Quink – something I haven’t done for many years.

The one thing I have not done is try to go back to italic writing something I taught myself to do from a book my brother bought. He had a very legible hand. Mine looked much worse – and was not really much better with a proper calligraphic pen. It was also far too slow for note taking – but pretty useful for slowing down creative writing since it needed more care and thought.

I have no intention of publishing The Plague Diaries.  Anymore than I have of turning this blog into a book. You will have to outlive me as my heirs will be instructed to delay any circulation of them until there is a general wave on interest into how ordinary people coped with the pandemic of 2020. Though I fear there will be more pandemics before then.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 31, 2020 at 2:58 pm

Posted in blogging, Pandemic

Tagged with , , , , ,

Why am I blogging?

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Yesterday I posted a blog about a movie – and at the very end of that movie is a neat infographic of all the things we as individuals could do that would help save the oceans. Only one of those things is voting.

This morning in my inbox is a study of how, if we all became vegans, we could reduce our carbon foot print.

And straight away I recalled a tweet I had seen

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Actually that was just the start of the thread

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I did retweet the first one – which means I can now recover the rest of the thread. And while in general tweets “disappear” quickly, everything on the internet is stored forever, somewhere.

I do not know Louisa, of course. I was just retweeting what someone I do know (OK – it was Roland Talango) retweeted. It just struck a chord. And it is quite possible she is repeating something she heard or read in another medium. Doesn’t matter. We recognise the validity of what she is saying.

Yesterday’s blog post has been read 14 times and gathered 5 “likes” so not a huge reach. But someone is reading this – you. And you have reached this far so you have the attention span to get beyond 280 characters.

The comments threads on this blog never get anything like as long as the discussions on facebook. Despite most people disliking Facebook’s business model and recent behaviour, the drop off among people I know and care about has not been noticeable.

There are lots of things that happen around us that we notice. Some cause us to comment – and for more than will admit we do not have to actually have someone within ear shot all the time, but talking to an empty room soon seems pointless.

By the way, we go to a beach quite often. Beaches in Vancouver – based on my recent experience – do not seem to be getting much plastic, or there are enough people picking it up that I have not been able to find three pieces every time I visit. There is, of course, plenty of litter elsewhere and I still do not feel its my job to pick up after all those who have less concern about the environment than I do. I did post a tweet to car2go about that very issue. It did not get any response.

There are things that I see where I really want to say something, but I don’t. And, every so often, not saying something seems to cause a kind of build up – and eventually I blurt out somethings better unsaid just to relieve the pressure. I suspect blogging might be something similar.

I am really glad there is a young woman who washes out the stomachs of fledgling seabirds and feeds them squished squid. I am really pleased a group of guys are cleaning up a beach in Western Australia fouled by ghost nets. It is encouraging that there are other people out there who are doing their very best – even though it is not enough, and can never be enough, by itself. So by reading this, you are reassuring me that I am not shouting at the clouds.

And we really must do more to stop people like Jason Kenney getting elected anywhere.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 8, 2018 at 10:51 am

How to Blog

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I am not going to claim any special wisdom here.

However, someone called Garret P Vreeland ran a blog for twelve years and summarised what he had learned in this blog post which one of my twitter contacts decided to post there.

I am not going to suggest that his experience is the same as mine. For one thing I am still a hunt and peck typist and my technical knowledge of things computery is patchy and self taught. I have never earned a living through that – but I have been sitting at a keyboard for many years now. But I think he hits more than a few nails on the head. Just as for instances:-

Read blogs and doubt, for God’s sake. We are largely editorialists without the pedigrees you find at the major news outlets. The news media considers us vultures picking meat from the bones of intrepid journalists who collect the information first-hand. It’s a cute metaphor, but it points up something vitally important. We’re making judgments second, third, fourth-hand from the actual originators. Read us, yes. Then go on and test our statements as hypotheses, not declarations of fact.

The last risk I’d like to mention is that of social isolation. I see both social media aficionados and new webloggers falling into this trap. Your most compelling experiences will happen away from the computer or smartphone. As Groucho said, “I love my cigar, but I put it down once in a while.” I call it my “Marxist rule”. The internet will always be there when you come back. Never, ever trade interacting via computer for having a great time away from the internet.

Monetization. Cha-ching, cha-ching. Not everything needs to be, or should be, monetized. Virtually all ‘blog’ related articles nowadays are focused on turning your weblog into a money generating device right from the get-go. None of the folks I know got into weblogging for the money – we did it because we loved the form, the community.

I hope that is enough to whet your appetite. One thing I disagree with is his determination of font size. Maybe that is because I use which takes care of how this thing looks on different screens. I also use the command and + keys together to make html formatted page types larger when I am reading them. This also works for a lot of the email I see too. There is also a gesture that can be made on the touchpad, which I seem to make involuntarily when trying to do something else. Chrome has a command in the View menu to correct that too.

Enough from me on this: go read him.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 18, 2018 at 8:05 am

Posted in blogging


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Thanks to a one day sale I have been persuaded to pay to remove advertising from this blog. You don’t have to thank me.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 20, 2018 at 5:50 pm

Posted in blogging

Resolute v GreenPeace: suit slapped down

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The following is simple cut and paste from a GreenPeace Press Release.



Federal Court Dismisses Racketeering Case Against Greenpeace

SAN FRANCISCO, October 16, 2017 — Today, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed all claims in the controversial case that major logging company Resolute Forest Products [2] filed against Greenpeace Inc., Greenpeace Fund, and Greenpeace International, and individual defendants, including claims under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) act.

The court’s decision sends a clear message to corporations that attacks on core democratic values like freedom of speech and legitimate advocacy on issues of public interest will not be tolerated. District Judge Jon S. Tigar wrote in his order dismissing the case that “the defendants’ speech constituted the expression of opinion, or different viewpoints that [are] a vital part of our democracy.” Noting that “Greenpeace’s publications at issue rely on scientific research or fact”, the judge added that “[t]he academy, and not the courthouse, is the appropriate place to resolve scientific disagreements of this kind.”

Resolute will be allowed to amend its filing as a formality, but Greenpeace is confident that any such attempt will meet a similar fate.

Greenpeace USA General Counsel Tom Wetterer said in response to the decision:

“We are pleased the court unequivocally threw out this attempt to abuse our legal system and silence legitimate criticism on matters of public concern. This is very positive news for all of us, for the values that we share, and for Canada’s boreal forest. Resolute’s claim that organizations and activists committed to the conservation of the forests were part of a criminal enterprise is absurd and a sad symptom of a wider assault on constitutional rights and democracy. The logging company’s allegations were a clear attempt to silence the voices that advocate for the environment. Recently, Energy Transfer Partners — the oil company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline — decided to follow a strikingly similar path [3] under the legal wing of none other than Trump’s go-to law firm. The similarities are apparent and this underhanded playbook targeting free speech should be a cause of real concern. We’re grateful that the court has shown today it is a losing playbook, but that doesn’t mean corporate bullies like ETP won’t stop trying to use it.

“Energy Transfer’s case repackages many of the spurious allegations and legal claims made against Greenpeace by the Kasowitz firm on behalf of Resolute. The decision on the Resolute suit should be a clear indication that Energy Transfer’s case has no future. Both are classic SLAPPs, or strategic lawsuits against public participation. These cases don’t seek justice. They intend to silence free speech through expensive, time-consuming litigation. This pattern of harassment by corporate bullies led by Trump’s go-to attorneys must be stopped in its tracks.”

Greenpeace USA Senior Forest Campaigner Daniel Brindis added:

“The judge’s decision to dismiss the case affirms that Resolute’s divisive and bullying tactics are a waste of time and resources. It is time for Resolute to finally work with environmental organizations including Greenpeace to address their destructive forestry operations and forge a collaborative and sustainable path forward. Instead of spending more valuable resources to amend this lawsuit, Greenpeace hopes Resolute will finally be ready to work together to find solutions. Thousands in Canada and around the world have called for the protection of the forest, it’s time for Resolute to listen to them too. The world needs a healthy boreal forest and together we can develop long term sustainable solutions that respect the rights of Indigenous Peoples, protect local communities and ensure the survival of species at risk like the Woodland Caribou. ”



[1] Click here to download a copy of the order.

[2] On May 31, 2016 Resolute Forest Products filed a CAD$300 million lawsuit under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) in the United States District Court for Southern Georgia, against Greenpeace International, Greenpeace, Inc., Greenpeace Fund, Inc., (formerly ForestEthics), and five individual staff members of these independent organizations. The case was transferred to Northern California on May 16, 2017 when Resolute failed to demonstrate that the case should be heard in Georgia.

This is Resolute’s second lawsuit against Greenpeace. In 2013, the company filed a CAD$7 million defamation case against Greenpeace Canada and two staff members in Ontario, which is still pending. Click here for more information about the existing legal cases between Resolute Forest Products and defendants, or copy this to your browser:

[3] On August 22, 2017 Energy Transfer Partners filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit under under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). Click here for more information about the existing legal cases between Resolute Forest Products and defendants, or copy this to your browser:

Written by Stephen Rees

October 16, 2017 at 1:25 pm

Posted in blogging, Environment, good news

Tagged with , ,

Merv Adey and Blogging

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There is a tribute to blogger Merv Adey on the Georgia Straight web page. Merv blogged at BCVeritas and was very active on twitter where he contributed a lot to the hashtag #bcpoli. He also followed me there, which I found a great compliment.

But when I read Charlie Smith’s piece I was most taken with his final paragraphs.

Merv chose another path in life. But I have no doubt that had he been given the breaks that I received, he would have reached a much larger audience than he ever did on his blog. Not that this ever bothered him.

I only tell this story as a reminder to mainstream media journalists out there to respect bloggers like Merv, Laila Yuile, and Norm Farrell, even when they’re scorching your work.

Just because someone has a comfy position in the press gallery or hosts a talk show or edits a newspaper or has a column doesn’t necessarily mean they’re more talented, have deeper insights, or they’re a better writer or superior researcher than a blogger like Merv.

It might only mean that they got lucky when they were young because someone offered them a job when these types of jobs were far more available.

Merv often demonstrated a great deal of humility in his writing. Let that stand as an example to the rest of us.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 22, 2017 at 10:01 am

Posted in blogging

Mea Culpa

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I have been doing something I shouldn’t have, feel bad about it and will now stop.

I recently read Jordan Bateman’s book about how he – almost singlehandedly – defeated the transit referendum. You cannot get it from the library or indeed most bookshops except as a print on demand. Amazon has it as an ebook for Kindle, but I am not recommending it. His technique was to stick to two simple statements and two figures. And, the key point, is that it did not matter that they were not true.

We have, of course, now become used to the idea of a post factual political landscape since both Brexit and Trump followed a similar strategy. And even though it might be effective it doesn’t make it right. The ends do not justify the means.

I have wanted to defeat the Kinder Morgan Transmountain Pipeline expansion proposal. Mostly because the expansion of the Alberta tar sands defeats Canada’s commitment  to the Paris Agreement to combat climate change. But I have noted that most people here do not  pay much attention to that. Mostly it is – as you would expect – concerns about spills. Or the noise disturbing the orcas.  Local environmental impacts score more immediately with people than distant more widespread issues. So I have been writing – and saying – “Dilbit Sinks”. Good pithy slogan. But unfortunately, if you read any of the material cited in the previous blog posts, not exactly the whole story. In fact we have had a dilbit spill from the existing KM line into the Burnaby terminal and it did get into the Burrard Inlet, and the recovery rate was very good. Which is much better news than the ongoing problems from another dilbit spill into the Kalamazoo River – which is not at all like the Salish Sea. The problem is that, as usual, the behaviour of dilbit when spilled is largely a matter of conjecture based on modelling and laboratory type simulations. So the data is both incomplete and inconsistent – a wonderfully complex and nuanced message no-one is actually going to be bothered to read about until they have to. We do know that the recent oil spills that got so much attention here – the Marathassa  and the Nathan E Stewart – are not actually a very good guide to what might happen here with dilbit since they involved Bunker C and diesel respectively. And both those products behave differently in seawater to dilbit. But they did have an impact on the Government of Canada, and the commitments to improving spill response.

Since no-one is going to spill dilbit into the sea in bad weather deliberately, just to see what happens, we will not know until disaster actually strikes. Now, if we actually had a government in Ottawa really committed to data driven policy making the precautionary principle would apply, and the pipeline would not have been approved. And it is still not too late to defeat it. Indeed we must continue the fight against it. But important though that fight is, I cannot in all conscience employ the tactics of Donald Trump, Jordan Bateman or Nigel Farage. Indeed I reserve the right to lambaste them for their lack of integrity – and cannot do that if I am guilty of the same sin of commission.

UPDATE Max Fawcett in the National Observer

But jamming up a single pipeline does nothing to achieve CO2 reduction. The concerns that I think are fair are the ones around, you know, certainly the whale population in the … the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the spill concern.

I think the spill concern is being overstated. The risks are pretty insignificant. But if it happens, it’s a disaster, no question.

And now DeSmogBlog weighs in: Review of 9,000 Studies Finds We Know Squat About Bitumen Spills in Ocean Environments

Written by Stephen Rees

December 8, 2016 at 12:39 pm

Posted in blogging, Environment

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New Blog Domain

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There was an opportunity recently to secure the newly released top level .blog address. Yes, this did cost money, but more than any other motive, I wanted to secure my name as I am only one of several bloggers with the same name. The older, longer URL still works, of course, but I will be printing a new set of business cards with the shorter, more easy to use one.

The process was pretty easy but there were some odd moments. As soon as I got the email from WordPress that told me I could reserve the name I did so. And then seemed to get reminders for exactly the same name several times over the next few weeks. And even when I was told that no-one else had bid on the name and it was now mine, I did not get the email telling me how – and when – to set it up. I started that process this week and found I also have to pay an annual fee to use it. Having done that I got a set of instructions telling me to reset DNS settings on the server. Which is, of course, WordPress. Oddly enough even though there was a list of instructions for all the other hosting services, there wasn’t any link to WordPress. So an email had to be sent to the “happiness engineers”. But I still have to refresh connections with Facebook and Google+.

What I have also noticed this week is the complications that seem to have set in with VanCity, which has installed new software – which required them to go off line for a few days – and still doesn’t seem to be working very well. I thought computers were supposed to make things easier!

Written by Stephen Rees

December 2, 2016 at 9:59 am

Posted in blogging

2014 in review

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The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 50,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 19 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Written by Stephen Rees

December 29, 2014 at 8:44 pm

Posted in blogging

Blogs as a tool for political change

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“I think a lot of times, elected officials are afraid of bloggers. A blogger combines an elected official’s two most scariest things which is a journalist and an engaged citizen.”

If only that were true!

I somehow doubt that Streetsblog was actually responsible for getting Times Square closed to traffic. But possibly it helped give Janette Sadik-Kahn some support for what was actually quite a controversial decision. It also helped that its method of implementation was readily reversible if it had not worked.


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Written by Stephen Rees

January 14, 2014 at 8:48 am