Single family houses only? Not here - I mean, there

While we weren’t paying attention, Edmonton (motto: “Where Innovation (Almost Never) Happens”) made history by getting rid of areas where only detached single-family homes can be.

And yes, it’s a big deal. In a good way, I mean.

I’m not a big fan of zoning. At all. Obviously heavy industries plant themselves far away from the pretty neighbourhoods. Airports, too. It makes so much sense there’s not really any need to regulate that. If a business pollutes more than what is tolerable by humans, it needs to go somewhere other than near downtown. But zoning rules to regulate whether we can have a bakery in the middle of a residential development are inane in the utmost. Also stupid, counter-productive, unhealthy, environmentally unfriendly and just plain dumb.

What makes a residential area pleasant to live in is when you can do most of your living in that one space. Short or no commute to work, walk to the grocer, walk to the bakery, walk to school, bike to the dentist, etc. You go live in a small town in Europe you’ll get that. People only take their car to buy milk in North America, because we’re the only people stupid enough to make residential areas have nothing but houses (and sometimes schools; at least we stick the schools near-ish where the kids are).

Areas restricted to single-family houses are heaven only for cars and dependence on same. This never made anyone happier or healthier.

Human beings are meant to be close to one another, and they’re especially meant to be active. About the worst you can do for your health is be isolated in your own cocoon and drive everywhere, alone in a big cushy car. Which is what most people in the suburbs do on a regular basis. Then we wonder why we’re depressed.

So you go, Edmonton. And may Everwhere Else, Canada follow you soon.

Pas intéressée pantoute

Au risque d’avoir l’air d’une incorrigible snob, ce qui ne m’intéresse pas du tout est la vie intérieure des autres. Parce que la plupart des gens n’y consacrent que quelques miettes ici et là, et ne se soucient pas vraiment d’être cohérents or réfléchis. Leur vie intérieure est souvent un brouillon sans grand potentiel. Je n’ai pas assez de patience pour ça.

C’est moi la perdante, sans doute. Je manque sûrement quelque chose. Mais ça m’énarve, attendre.

Une de mes filles me demandait récemment si, ayant à choisir entre deux pouvoirs surnaturels, je choisirais la capacité de lire les pensées des gens ou la capacité de téléporter. Facile! La téléportation parce que figure-toi ma fille qu’à part quelques rares exceptions (dont elle fait partie), ce qu’il y a dans la tête des gens ne m’intéresse pas pantoute.

Elle, elle choisirait l’autre option. Elle est meilleure que moi.

The Cliffs of Moher

This wasn’t planned at all. We weren’t thinking of going to the west coast of Ireland on that trip. But jet-lag cleared up our heads (no, really) and we realized that if we rejigged a couple minor things we’d be able to swing around the Cliffs of Moher, and who wouldn’t want that. Well worth the drive.

Yes we have small potatoes

Not that I should be involved with any of this, with my Brown Thumb of Death that Kills Everything, but in principle I’m hugely in favour of small urban projects to farm, grow food, and keep animals. Looks like they’re big on this in Paris, too, so I’m in good company.

One of the reasons cities can be unpleasant is the lack of green space and nature, unless you count dog poop left by scofflaw owners. Or long weeds growing in the cracks between the bricks and the concrete that nobody has time - or budget - to trim. If instead of struggling to maintain public squares that are rarely used by humans because of their unpleasantness we turned small corners of them into, say, neighbourhood gardens where kids could learn how to tend kale or tomatoes, we’d accomplish a few elegant goals with one deft stroke. We’d make people use neglected public spaces more, we’d encourage human beings to talk to one another, we’d get food that people could eat (“The 100 Feet Diet!”), we’d allow people who are into this sort of thing to spend hours whistling with dirt under their fingernails, and for all I know we’d help the struggling bee populations recover some.

But to me the big one is to allow grazing animals (I am super partial to goats because they’re the cutest, but I’d be happy to defer to experts as to which species is the most suitable) on those patches of land where the grass grows easily and is hard to cut. Like, say, the spaces around highway on/off ramps. Why not stick some goats there to cut the grass for us? You see this everywhere in the UK; cows and sheep and whatnot grazing right by the side of the highway. Why not? There’s lots of grass and nobody walks there so who cares if there’s, er, fertilizer all over?

Wouldn’t that be a pretty sight? And better for the environment than those enormous tractors used to cut that unsightly grass?

I think so too.

How I found my inspiration

It found me. I was around 15 years old and for reasons I can’t recall we got an electric typewriter. A Smith Corona. With correcting tape, even. Beautiful thing. This was in the mid-1980s. Electric typewriters were cool back then, I swear.

I’d already gotten used to computers. I’d worked with Apple machines at school and I owned a Commodore 64. Best gadget ever, that. But computers in those days weren’t for writing. They were for programming and video game playing. Both activities I enjoyed. They were fun, but not a calling.

That electric typewriter touched me. It said my name. It sat on a desk and I knew it wanted me to write.

I didn’t know why. I still don’t. But it did. It took me more than 30 years to heed that call with all I’ve got, after trying to resist it but not very successfully. Nowadays I work on a Surface Pro 3, which corrects mistakes pretty well but isn’t as cool as my old Smith Corona. I like to think it would be proud of me if it could see me now.

Souvenir d'hôtel

J’avais mes trois filles avec moi. La plus jeune avait six ans, la plus vieille 10. On se préparait à sortir avec des amis.

“Maman, c’est quoi ça?” demande la plus jeune. Je me retourne et elle se tient bien droite avec dans la main, l’agrippant du bout des doigts, un condom usé qu’elle avait trouvé en jouant près du lit. Les deux autres me regardent remplies de curiosité. Ben oui mama, qu’est-ce que c’est?

Je bondis de mon siège. Bon d’abord met ça à la poubelle et lave tes mains correctement.

Ensuite assoyez-vous. On va être en retard…