Democratic Renewal with a Techno Backbeat

I went a little wild this afternoon taking the White Paper on Democratic Renewal, released in the Legislative Assembly today, and liberating it from its PDF prison into a variety of more open formats (like ePub, HTML and plain text). 

Once the text was out there in the open, I kept right on going, pasting the plain text into TextEdit in my Mac and using the OS X “Add to iTunes as Spoken Track” to convert the text into speech.  I then brought the resulting MP3 into GarageBand and added a techo backing track, and then uploaded the result to SoundCloud.

While the text-to-speech is clunky and awkward by times, it’s still remarkably good, and I’m surprised by how much more listenable it becomes with its techo backing.

Direct Action on Climate Change

I arrived at Charlottetown City Hall this morning on my bicycle only to find that the single bicycle rack in front of the building already had a bicycle attached to it, with the space for a second bicycle blocked by a concrete flower planter:

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I thought of various ways I could deal with this – angry letters to the Mayor, snarky tweets about “does the city really care about sustainability,” and so on.

Instead of any of those, I simply moved the concrete planter:

City Hall Bicycle Rack Not Blocked by Planter

Burning Pizza Boxes to Make Pizza

Remember how I mentioned that, here in Prince Edward Island, the ballot boxes from the Provincial General Election are burned in an incinerator that, in part, generates the heat for Province House where MLAs elected in those elections meet?

Well out at The Fifth Ingredient in Cape Traverse they take the pizza boxes they’ve just served you your pizza in and burn them in the oven. To make more pizza.

We Feed the Boxes to the Fire!

Renting a Fiat 500 for the Weekend

I was taking the bus by Enterprise car rental on University Avenue a few weeks ago when I spotted a Fiat 500 in the lot. When I got back downtown I called them up to see if it was available, but it was committed; they did, however, promise to give me a call when one became available, and a week later, this past Friday, they did, indeed, give me a call in the early afternoon.

I immediately hopped on the bus north and about 45 minutes later I was bopping around town.  I called up Catherine and arranged to head to the shore and soon thereafter we were motoring north toward Stanhope for an afternoon of trendy European fun.

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We’d rented the long station wagony version of the Fiat 500 last year for a trip to Maine, the Fiat 500 L, and it was a nice car. But the tiny original model is a completely different beast: it’s the smallest car I’ve ever drive (save for a test drive of a Smart Car), and yet inside it was roomy (at least for 2 people) and it drove like a nimble spitfire.

My favourite part of the car’s design is its centre console instrument cluster, which is wonder of compact design:

Fiat 500 Speedometer

Packed in there are the speedometer (outside ring), tachometer (inside ring), odometer, time, temperature, digital speedometer, fuel level and engine temperature, the gear the engine’s in (P for Park on this display) and – the “Time B” line – a line of text that can be toggled among things like the current trip’s time and the current track playing on the radio.

I much prefer this to the ubiquitous touchscreen displays mid-console that every rental car I’ve driven in the past few years has been afflicted with.

We had the car for the weekend, so after Catherine and I motored out to the beach and back on Friday, Oliver and I went up to Souris and back on Saturday: it proved a perfect car for a father, son & dog trip.

I drove 315 km in total, and put about $25 of gas into the car on the way back to Enterprise, meaning that the gas mileage was about 35 MPG or 6.67 litres/100 km.

Shore Market in Stanhope

It’s on my list of Things to See and Do on PEI, but it bears additional highlighting: the newly-opened Shore Market in Stanhope, next to Richard’s Seafood, is that kind of place you wish were just up the street from your cottage at the beach (assuming you have a cottage at the beach, which we don’t, but regardless).

They sell Receiver Coffee (both beans and to-go; the iced coffee is fantastic), milk, fruit and vegetables, breadworks bread, meat, beach supplies, band-aids, and the kinds of sundries1 that you need when you’re out of the city. And capers: big jars of good-looking capers, for $8.35.

They also sell beer and wine, through an anachronistic “you can buy beer and wine if you show a food receipt from Richard’s next door” scheme that’s not their fault (someday PEI will fully recover from temperance, won’t it?).

It’s all wrapped up in a tiny, perfect, whitewashed wharf-shack.

So you can get head out to the shore, have your lobster burger and fries at Richard’s, then grab and iced coffee next door before you head out for more adventures.

1. It’s taken me years to take the word “sundries” seriously: up the street from my grandmother’s house in Brantford, Ontario was a corner store that had it right on the sign – “Food, Milk, Cigarettes, Sundries,” or something to that effect. I read it as “Sundaes” and nothing my grandmother could do to explain that wasn’t it could convince me otherwise.  It’s a very useful word, of course; but that shroud of doubt took a long time to burn off.