Sunday, October 31, 2010

Ein' Feste Burg

With this being the 31st of October, I thought I'd do a quick blog about the other aspect of this day. I know the first tends to be Halloween with the giving of candy and sweets to those who knock on our door. After all, any day in which people give you candy has got to be a good day.

This day is also Reformation Sunday. The day Martin Luther nailed on the door of the Wittenberg Church his 95 Theses. The full name of the document was: "95 Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences". He was protesting the prominence and theology behind the granting of indulgences. The purpose for an indulgence was to offer a way, through the giving of a gift to the Church for the purpose of shortening your personal stay in Purgatory, or to grant release from a loved one in Purgatory. What bothered Luther was the way it was being marketed and used, it was truly a fund-raiser. The Pope wanted to build himself a large church- St. Peter's in the Vatican area and needed the money for such a project. Here is the Wikipedia entry for indulgences:
The false doctrine and scandalous conduct of the "pardoners" were an immediate occasion of the Protestant Reformation.[4] In 1517, Pope Leo X offered indulgences for those who gave alms to rebuild St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. The aggressive marketing practices of Johann Tetzel in promoting this cause provoked Martin Luther to write his Ninety-Five Theses, condemning what he saw as the purchase and sale of salvation. In Thesis 28 Luther objected to a saying attributed to Tetzel: "As soon as a coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs".[40] The Ninety-Five Theses not only denounced such transactions as worldly but denied the Pope's right to grant pardons on God's behalf in the first place: the only thing indulgences guaranteed, Luther said, was an increase in profit and greed, because the pardon of the Church was in God's power alone.[41]

While Luther did not deny the Pope’s right to grant pardons for penance imposed by the Church, he made it clear that preachers who claimed indulgences absolved buyers from all punishments and granted them salvation were in error.

What began as an attempt to have believers intercede for each other became abused and so Martin Luther decided that enough was enough and called for an end to them, or perhaps an end to the abuses of them all. The full document can be found here. It is truly an amazing document. Here Luther takes on the very belief system of indulgences and calls for the church to have the right priority. Some of his thoughts were struck me are these:
Christians are to be taught that the pope does not intend the buying of pardons to be compared in any way to works of mercy.

43. Christians are to be taught that he who gives to the poor or lends to the needy does a better work than buying pardons;

44. Because love grows by works of love, and man becomes better; but by pardons man does not grow better, only more free from penalty.

45. Christians are to be taught that he who sees a man in need, and passes him by, and gives [his money] for pardons, purchases not the indulgences of the pope, but the indignation of God.

46. Christians are to be taught that unless they have more than they need, they are bound to keep back what is necessary for their own families, and by no means to squander it on pardons.

47. Christians are to be taught that the buying of pardons is a matter of free will, and not of commandment.

48. Christians are to be taught that the pope, in granting pardons, needs, and therefore desires, their devout prayer for him more than the money they bring.

49. Christians are to be taught that the pope’s pardons are useful, if they do not put their trust in them; but altogether harmful, if through them they lose their fear of God.

50. Christians are to be taught that if the pope knew the exactions of the pardon-preachers, he would rather that St. Peter’s church should go to ashes, than that it should be built up with the skin, flesh and bones of his sheep.

These articles became quickly known and quickly spread throughout Germany. They were spread by the printing press, so one of the first instances of technology being used to spread ideas. From the Wikipedia article, it states within 2 month the document was spreading through Europe. Obviously Luther had touched a nerve and had expressed the feeling shared by a lot of people.

From this commenced a spark which became the Reformation. Was this simply an attempt by Luther to bring about reform within the church. Doubtful he wanted to start his own movement, but when you're thrown out of an organization, you might as well start your own. Actually his thoughts and his later teaching on sola scriptura and sola fide brought about a wildfire that spread- preachers grabbed hold of his thoughts and began to preach the gospel that was not based upon Rome. The Reformation commenced.

Did he want to start a break-away from Rome? Again, probably not, but the lines were drawn for him and he responded.

So to conclude, I will quote the first verse of his great Hymn "A Mighty Fortress"
A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Twitter and the Municipal Election

I think one of the more interesting character on The Simpsons is Comic Book Guy. I know from reading that he was chose to be an exact stereotype of a comic book store owner. Wikipedia has this comment about Comic Book Guy:
Comic Book Guy was in fact partly inspired by a clerk at the Los Angeles Amok book shop who often "[sat] on the high stool, kind of lording over the store with that supercilious attitude and eating behind the counter a big Styrofoam container full of fried clams with a lot of tartar sauce.[1]" Groening noted:
“ I can't tell you how many times people have come up to me and said, 'I know who you based that comic book guy on. It's that comic-book guy right down the block.' And I have to tell them, 'No, it's every comic-bookstore guy in America.'

Besides his comment on everything being the "Worst. (fill in the blank). Ever." He has a tendency to look down on everybody who doesn't know what happen in Issue 24 of the Amazing Spiderman. It's an air of superiority that is irrelevent because when all is said and done, who cares?

I thought about Comic Book Guy as I read Amber MacArthur's recent article in The Globe and Mail. The title was "Could a social media plan have helped Smitherman?"

Now true confession time: I am a fan of Amber Mac, I watch her podcast CommandN and listen to her and Leo Laporte on Net@Nite. However I think the basic premise is wrong. Her heading says it all, if only George Smitherman had used Twitter more, he would be the mayor of Toronto not Rob Ford. There is only one slight problem, if you studied the tweets after Rob Ford was declared elected, the virtriol was effusive. I think one person on cp24 opined that the tweets with the hashtag #cp24votes were running 90% against Ford. It seems the twitterista were already in Smitherman's camp. How could he have motivated them through Twitter. I suppose by getting them out to vote. I could be wrong but I didn't see a whole lot of those names with tweets such as "I just cast my vote!". Perhaps they were so busy expressing their thoughts in 140 characters, they missed their chance. So now the bitterness, all of which demonstrates they are out of touch, not those who voted for Ford.

This goes back to Comic Book Guy, I keep hearing that Twitter only works if you understand it. There are those who get it and the rest, the mainstream, the Straights don't. They are the same group that left their VCR's flashing "12:00". They only time they got involved or interested with Twitter is when some celebrity got on, such as Oprah. So Twitter User Guy/Gal looks down on those who don't use Twitter. Can I make a suggestion? Perhaps the mainstream does understand Twitter and what they understand is that it can be a huge waste of time. Now I do use twitter. There are times it very helpful; when an earthquake hit Ontario and Quebec I went on Twitter to learn how far the effects were felt and then later on information about the quake. But usually what happens is tweets become variations of the theme "I'm in my bean bag chair, eating popcorn". It does have a place, for getting news out, and a good way to get your 'brand' before the public. However it fails as a means of two way communication. Try to reply to a message, see if you get a dialogue going.

Of course the other problem is that people who tweet can be total dorks, witness Innovation Minister Glen Murray, he decided to call all the people he doesn't like 'bigots', in a tweet. Of course he offered a couple of apologies, then after three days he got off the weasel apology and actually did apologize. For some reason I thought if you wrote something untrue its called 'slander'.

Perhaps the mainstream is not there, not because they don't get it, but because they do. It's like the flashing 12, it's not that people couldn't figure out how to set it, but after a few power outages, you get tired of setting it, and since you're only watching tapes, why have the clock set?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Municipal Election Postmortem

Well, it a couple of nights after the election. The signs are coming down and the campaign headquarters are emptying out, although I wonder if any of them were used much. Since I work downtown, I had opportunity to walk past Mark Littell's office and rarely did I see anyone in it. Yes there were people in on Saturday giving out balloons. Isabelle got one, she loved it.

I will say I did get out to vote and I actually voted for a candidate who won. I am so excited. It's wasn't the mayor. Not that I don't like the person who won, because talking to a number of people, they were very positive about him. I just decided to vote for another candidate because of he was honest about the South Side of Colborne and had a good plan for co-operation with the County and the Reserve.

I should also say something about the turn-out; 44%. I think we could have done a bit better now. I asked the question on Facebook, what else did people have to do besides voting. Was there socks that needed darning? Come on people, municipal politics and government affect us more then any other level. Remember, its the municipal government that picks up your garbage and shovels the snow on the roads. The Army will not come to Brantford to clear our streets, they are a bit busy right now. The Canadian Military is also going an incredible job in the roles they take. God Bless our men and women in uniform.

One of the interesting fact is the majority of the councillors are new to this Council. Six out of Ten are new, and of those six, three have never had elected office before. I think this could make Council very interesting because they will have nothing to do with the old Council. The local paper made mention that the veterans are ready to take leadership on the Council. Perhaps those four shouldn't be so quick to take the 'leadership' role, after all, a number of incumbents were down to defeat on Monday and so that tells me incumbency is not the best place to be, so be more concerned with being a Mentor, not a Leader in this next council. I suspect the electorate was in a very cranky mood on Monday and decided they wanted some fresh blood and fresh vision. The old council seemed to have become involved in a lot of things which were not in the best interest of the community, or it if was, the way it was done left a bad taste. For example, prior to the election it was pointed out that the South Side Colborne Task Force did not play by all the rules, plus many did feel that it attempted to steam roll through all the regulations and then demanded federal dollars. Of course it ignored all the conditions and now the citizens can have fun paying for it, well I suppose it will make things a lot easier now that they can see the river from the top of the slope. I'm sure it will be a pretty view one day, especially when we can watch all the erosion.

I do want to mention one candidate in particular, John Bradford. Let me say I do like John but I think he didn't run a good campaign. When he started to bring attention to the slander I wonder if some people didn't think it was an attempt to garner some sympathy. I'm not saying the anonymous letters didn't happen or the slanderous gossip, but so late into the campaign. I also wonder if it might have been better to quietly give the letters to the Police and let them deal with it, rather then bringing it forward. It is hard to say. Still I think his defeat was probably due to his early violation of the municipal code of conduct and his membership on the Task Force, which he was vice-chair that led to his demise.

Much could be said about the South Side of Colborne Street. I know some have wondered if they election had been held a year earlier if the buildings would still be standing? The problem is, although there is no concrete plan for the spot now, was there ever a concrete plan to revitalize the area? Yes they buildings were historic and if you look past the entire "Silent Hill" thing they were very attractive, but what was in place. Now of course, it's too late for the buildings. But it's not too late to put a plan in place that will revitalize the downtown. Now that's a word bandied about.

I notice Chris Friel said:
We've got a lot to do," he said. "We're going to make Brantford a 21st-century city... We are going to open up government in Brantford, we are going to be a grass-roots, populist organization."

He said people from outside the city are going to notice big changes and ask, "What's happening here? They are going to want to be us."

Good because it seems Brantford has been a 20th Century city long enough, so much of what you see, from the demolition of buildings as being part of Urban Renewal to the growth of a cookie cutter suburb, aka West Brant speak of an era that is now coming to an end. The downtown needs a good mix of residential, retail and commercial. It needs industries that are for today. I think the University and College are a good part of the mix but from them must come spin-offs. I recall about a year ago Mohawk wanted the campus, or part of it downtown for their urban studies program- it was going to be a program that actively involved itself in solve the problems of downtown Brantford. Does this program still exist? Perhaps if anything good can come out of what is happening downtown is that it is now a clean slate- whether we like it or not. It's a slate in which new ideas, progressive ideas, ideas that respect the past, the present and future can be worked out.

I think the first thing needed for city hall is a whole lot of white boards, because Council needs to start brainstorming and coming up with ideas that will make this city a 21st Century city.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Friends Vision Childrens Home

For all the problems that exist on this planet, and certainly there is a plethora of them. If we start making a list it would be long and getting longer. We keep hearing how people mess things up because of greed, indifference and a general malaise about doing anything good.

It's easy to get into that mould when you read that France is now on strike because the government wants to raise the minimum age of retirement from 60 to 62. I know 'gasp'. Yes there's also that thing about raising the age of collecting full pension from 65 to 67. Is there no end to the madness that is Nicolas Sarkozy?

At Rotary, I got to hear a presentation by Jenny Martinez. She is a 27 yr old who has a rather interesting life story. She was born in Nicaragua, emigrated to Canada when she was only 5, with her family. Since then she graduated from the University of Toronto. That by itself might be a feel good story, but it goes on; she decided to go and volunteer at an orphanage in Kenya, a few years back. There, she a few others were so moved they decided to form a sponsorship group. The early idea was to provide resources so that orphans could have their basic needs met, including the opportunity to go to school. After a while this group decided to develop their own orphanage.

This is how Friends Village Childrens Home commenced. It is still a work in progress but it is progressing. The people who make up the board are from all over the world, united with the thought of improving the life of children in Kenya.

Their goal:
* To provide food, shelter, clothing, education, safe drinking water, medical care and career opportunities to orphaned, deprived and destitute children
* Help cut down the number of street children in the Kenyan society
* Reduce HIV/AIDS related cases, through education and prevention
* Improve access to education for underprivileged children
* Help children who are not academically inclined to acquire technical skills, which will allow them to support themselves in the future
* Continue the close working relationship with Government Rescue Centres and Children’s Home in order to provide the local community with the fundamentals needed in their society.

Jenny was interviewed in the local paper regarding one of the fund-raising projects.

Just recently, the group of them climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, an effort that took 6 days to do and was a major motivator to get the project started.

Right now the project is:
FVCH has acquired 3 acres of land on the outskirts of the town of Naivasha, in the Great Rift Valley, Kenya. The land is lush and fertile, which will provide us with excellent conditions to make our home as self-sustainable as possible.

We plan to build up to 6 homes and a community centre on our land. Each house will act as an individual home, with up to 10 children (boys and girls) and a house mama. Each home will comprise of male and female bed and bathrooms, a bedroom for the house mama, living area, dining room, kitchen, store and laundry.

There will also be a two storey community centre with two training classroom, a library, computer room, TV/DVD room and a small medical clinic/store downstairs and an office and volunteer wing upstairs. Eventually we would like to run educational class not only for our children and staff, but for the surrounding community as well.

There will also be a large playing field, a small poultry farm and a communal shamba (farm) with crops such as maize, cabbage, spinach, potatoes, carrots, bananas, and avocado and mango trees. As time progress, we would like to manage and sell our crops and eggs to provide us with more funding.

All quotes are taken from the website. I invite you to visit for more information.

Here are people attempting to make a difference. They went to Africa in the hope of doing something. Now they are making a difference and will continue to do so.

Perhaps there's hope for this planet after all.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Laurier Brantford Grows!

I have to admit I was wrong. A few years ago I blogged about the big hole that was on 171 Dalhousie Street. It was the former home of Brantford Glass but had been bought by Laurier Brantford University and there was going to be a structure. If you remember there was an issue with funding and cost override and the project seem doomed to remain on somebody's drawing board.

I took a picture of the hole:

Obviously not a whole lot of faith on the matter. I figured I was going to walk past this hole for quite a few years.

How wrong I was.

Now the building is operational. It is being used for the purpose it was constructed. One of the two building is being used and occupied. Shortly, the bookstore will be taking up residence in the building.

From what I can tell, it is a very nice building:

No doubt it will be an important centre and hub to the University and to the City of Brantford. The continual hope is that with the University providing the base the downtown will grow and thrive. It may not return to past glories, but a renaissance of a different magnitude. If this is truly the information age, then higher learning is an important part of any communities plan to get into that age and make it their own.

There are concerns about the University, such as the impact it's having or not having on the downtown core. Perhaps we're still a few years away from see the full impact it will have. Should we develop a watch and see attitude that will take the development and growth in stride.

I'm sure I'll say a few more things on the subject.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Special Level of Hell

According to Shepherd Book, there is a special level of hell that is reserved for child molesters and people who talk at the theatre. While we can all agree that there should be such a place, I want to add a third catagory of people: those who invent malware.

Right now I'm working with great diligence to remove something called "Antimalware Doctor". It has all the typical signs, weird error message and the sort telling you of the fact you have all sorts of nasties and if you get this program you shall be cleared of it all.

Well, no you can't. It is worthless. It does nothing and if you sign up, you are giving the evil people information and money.

To be honest I don't know how I got it. Was it an email with a bizarre attachment. Something on twitter hidden in the code? I wish I knew then I could give warning.

To give you an idea how bad it is, if you google the phrase you get page after page of instructions for removal. I am still working on it.

If nothing works, I'm thinking of simply erasing the hard drive and doing a fresh install of windows. It might be the only way to defeat it.

I'll let you know.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Bringing Life to the Downtown

Now that the south side is gone the question remains, what to do with the rest of the downtown. It's been mentioned so many times about what people are hoping for the south side and how that development will bring about the Renaissance everybody wants. I do hope so, because Brantford could have a wonderful downtown.

One of the issues is how to bring people to the core. Perhaps this is the salient issue that needs to be discussed. Besides the redevelopment, a lot of people are pushing for the expansion of the University and bringing Mohawk College to the downtown core. Right now Mohawk is threatening to pull out of Brantford unless the city helps with financing the move to the downtown. When I read that I wondered if Mohawk is a College or a Professional Sports Franchise; "Build us a New Stadium or we'll move".

I don't think we can underestimate the positive effect the growth of the University has in the Downtown. There is still a ways to go to revitalize and the University has got it started. Like everything else, there is the danger of putting all the eggs in one baskets.

There is a couple of things to consider; the first is the fact the retail core has shifted south. If you look at the FreshCo plaza, this is growing into the retail heart of the downtown. There are video stores, restaurants, supermarket, dollar store and a number of other store to draw people to it. Of course as it develops and grows it can be an important stimulus to attracting people.

What the downtown needs is two things, first is housing. To bring people to the downtown the best way is to provide good housing. If you have people living downtown then it will bring the amenities for the people. They got to eat, so this means restaurants and store. They got to do things and this brings activities and cultural events. They got to feel safe, well this may be the hardest of them all.
When your downtown is chosen to be the desolate location for a movie based upon a horror video game, it's kind of hard to shake that image.

There is also the need for jobs. People got to earn the money to buy the things that stimulate the commercial/retail segment. A push is taking place for Brantford and area to be a Green Energy Hub. This is good but at the same time I am a bit sceptical, for one thing this will take a great deal of government funding to achieve. I mentioned the eggs in one basket, a problem I can see is everything that has to do with the future of Brantford has to do with government funding of projects. You may ask what is wrong with that, here's my thoughts, the rewarding of funds depends on what projects fit the philosophy of the governing party. You can have a great plan but if it doesn't fit, it isn't happening. So the ultimate decision does take place outside the community. Of course if you have hard working politicians, it may make it easy, but if the local MP or MPP is on the wrong side of the legislature, forget it. Or if the Premier would rather pretend the area doesn't exist, again, forget it.

Here is my own suggestion; we are now living in the Digital Age and our economies are shifting towards a Digital Economy. This is a good thing because the digital economy is geographically neutral. The economy of the factory was dependent upon location, location of resources, markets, transportation and workforce. It needed to be somewhere, which is why when it all shuts down, you have a lot of empty buildings and empty property. None of these apply to the digital economy. You do need the infrastructure, but now instead of highways and railway tracks, a broadband connection is required. While we may think of Silicon Valley, the good news is the new economy doesn't require just one place.

I'm thinking a partnership needs to be enacted, one that includes entrepreneurs in the mix. That seems to be missing in a lot of plans, everything, as I said depends upon the infusion of either federal or provincial money. How about a partnership, between movers and shakers, the university and the municipality- plus the senior levels as well.

You may wonder why I have at the top a photograph of the now empty Expositor Building. What if we made that the hub or at least the first building of the digital economy here in Brantford?

Could it work? Why not? It can't hurt and if it does work, then you will bring people to the downtown. As you bring people in, and offer reasonable housing, then other things begin to happen. Harmony Square is great but it suffers from the stigma that is part of the downtown. There are some great festivals happening, more people will make them bigger.

These are my thoughts for today.

Monday, October 04, 2010

The South Side Slope

The Brant News had as a heading to one article: "Demolition Enters Home Stretch". As anyone who has wandered around the downtown, it's true, the buildings are gone and now its simply a matter of removing the last of the wreckage. I decided to take a walk along Wharf Street this morning to check out what was left:

I don't know, in a way, it's kind of pretty in that 'bombed out city' kind of pretty.

As I look at my calendar, its now October. This is sort of important because we should expect more of the autumn rains to hit. I recall an article from early this year which quoted the Mayor of Brantford as discussing the time table:
It paid about $9.2 million for the properties. In total, it is expected to cost about $13.7 million to buy and raze the buildings. Hancock expects the buildings will be gone, the site graded and planted with grass by July. Shortly afterward Hancock expects the site will be redeveloped by the university, the Y and Mohawk College.
“I don't think there will be much of a delay, quite frankly,” Hancock said.

I realize reality of February and the reality of June are too different things. Yes the demolition is complete and right now there is talk and action regarding the stabilization of the slope. Another quote from the Brant News:
The focus of city staff is now turning to what follows completion of demolition and slope stabilization. Lawson said fencing, repaired sidewalks and street lighting are the absolute minimum fixes planned by staff.
“We’ve had a landscape architect come down and look at the project,” she said. “With the type of slope stability we are doing, we are hoping to tier it so we can put more vegetation and planting in there and maybe some lookouts.”
With no immediate plans for development, Lawson said the city want to make the south side a pleasing landscape.
“We don’t know how long it could be there,” she said. “It could be two years, it could be 10 years.”
Money for post-demolition work can be drawn from a south side fund council created in 2008. There is $780,000 left in the account after council took $220,000 to cover cost overruns for demolition work.

Again, let's compare the reality, before the thought was the partnerships would happen quickly and new construction could happen immediately. It almost sounded like as the bulldozers were tearing up one building, construction on replacement would be happening right beside it. Now the time frame is going to be reckoned by the decade.

What happens in the immediate is the question. Those rains are coming and as I recall, rain+no vegetation=erosion.

I'm not a landscape architect so I have no idea about things such as slope stabilization and the sort, however I do wonder is there sufficient time to lay sod and to plant some sort of shrubbery to bring about stabilization. I do know laying down the sod is easy but is there time to it to become established before the snow hits or will everything end up on IComm Drive come the spring thaw?

The repair to the sidewalk and adding the light fixtures are comparatively easy. It's just a matter of getting crews out there for the work, its the rest I am now concerned with.

I was going to write about my thoughts for the land, I'll save that for another blog.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Ten Years of Food Network

This year, Food Network Canada is celebrating Ten years on the Air. Ten years of celebrity chefs and important meals. Of different food and shows that has as their only purpose, to drown us in our own drool. In particular the latter can be represented by the show Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.

I'm not going to give 10 years of memories, but a thought for the network. Since this is a 10 year celebration, perhaps they should bring back some old favourites. In particular they should schedule a marathon of what must be the greatest cooking show of all time.

In a time when even the Reality Show concept is making its way into cooking, I mean seriously, how many competitions do we really need to decide what person is going to be the head chef of what restaurant. There is one show that epitomized both cooking and competition. It still exists but its interpretation is but a pale imitation of the real thing.

I'm talking about the One, the Only

Iron Chef:

The introduction says it all, a special stadium, four chefs who are the top of their style, competitors and a special ingredient. It was great, a lot of fast action and very cheesy dialogue.

If the concept wasn't enough, we got to enjoy the translators interpretation of what was said, and that was equally hilarious.

I'm sure you all know about Iron Chef. I remember many a Saturday night hanging onto the cooking, the competition, the judging and the final result. It was a great hour of television.

They should bring it back, only for this year, to help us remember what a great show it truly was.

I end my blog with how the show began:

Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.

Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin