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City of Vancouver hears my call for a new Fairview drinking fountain

A visualization of my dream drinking water fountain in front of the Fire Hall Library.

Gosh. I can almost taste the cold water on my tongue.

The official in charge of the City Vancouver’s Access to Water program has acknowledged my blog post of July 11 calling for a drinking water fountain in front of the Fairview neighbourhood’s Vancouver Public Library Firehall Branch at 1455 West 10th Avenue.

In that blog post of July 11, I pointed out just how few drinking fountains Fairview has compared to the adjacent east Vancouver neighbourhood of Mount Pleasant.

Specifically, I noted how, from Cambie Street on the “10th Avenue local street bikeway“, going east, there were generally fountains ahead, or off to the side, within a kilometre of each other, going all the way to the  eastern edge of the city. But, in contrast, traveling west from Cambie along 10th, the next closest fountain was two to three km away.

A drinking fountain at the Firehall Library, I argued, would be well-situated to benefit the greatest number of Fairview residents. It would also benefit cyclists traveling through the neighbourhood on the 10th Avenue bikeway, because it would cut the existing distance between outdoor drinking water fountains along the bikeway in half.

And I provided two graphs showing how Fairview and the other 21 neighbourhoods fared—drinking fountain-wise, relative to both population and area. Read more…

Chasing a trick of the light on Saturday night

Police car flashers seen in the distance, north from Spruce St. and 10th Ave.

Saturday (July 22), at about 10:30 p.m., I was sitting on my bike at the intersection of Spruce Street and 15th Avenue, doing nothing more that enjoying the quiet stillness of a summer’s evening in the Fairview neighbourhood.

Looking north down Spruce Street I could see, in the distance, the bright blue flashers of a stationary Vancouver Police cruiser; for a lark, I decided to try catching up with it.

Intersection-by-intersection—from 15th to 14th to 13th and so on—I approached the flashing blue lights; but the closer I came, the farther away they seemed, until, at 8th Avenue, they disappeared altogether.

I wasn’t surprised. The police car that I was chasing wasn’t anywhere in the Fairview neighbourhood; it was on the other side of False Creek, on the north end of the Granville Street Bridge in downtown Vancouver—nearly two kilometres away when I first spotted it up at 15th Avenue (“up” being the operative word here). Read more…

Was the Vera’s on West Broadway the weak link in the chain?

The Vera’s at 1455 West Broadway—gone and forgotten?

After toughing it out for maybe eight years, the Vera’s Burger Shack at 1455 West Broadway Avenue finally succumbed to the reality of not enough customers to cover the increasing cost of the location and closed its doors there for good, about a month and a half ago.

In a Direct Message on Twitter, a Vera’s spokesperson told me that landlord of 1455 West Broadway wanted to increase the already high rent another 30-plus percent.

Like Different Bikes, formerly at 1421 and the suntan parlour and rug store that were both forced to vacate 1495 at the end of August 2016, by a large increase in their lease, now Vera’s looks to be another business that has effectively been priced out of the 1400 block of West Broadway.

This is not to say that the rent was the only reason that Vera’s didn’t succeed at this location but the large increase was certainly the final straw.

Too much of a good thing or not enough?

The 1400 block West Broadway Vera’s opened for business sometime between 2009 and 2011 and was part of a B.C.-based chain. According to the Vera’s website, the company opened its first location in West Vancouver, back in 1977 and has since expanded to 17 locations in Metro Vancouver and one outpost in the nation’s capital (Ottawa, Ontario).

Over the years,  I only ate at this restaurant a handful of times and just twice to have the “famous” burgers, which I recall as being fresh, substantial and filling but also sloppily hard to eat and not worth the expense.

Over-stacked, hand-crafted, mouth-monster burgers are wasted on me (my measure of a good hamburger being the memory of my first-ever Teen Burger).

I appreciated the Vera’s in the 1400 block far more for it milkshakes made with hard ice cream than anything else on its menu.

Although I like to patronize the businesses in the neighbourhood that supports me in so many ways, this Vera’s was just too rich for my taste and my homeless person’s budget. And to be honest, I felt that it was a little too expensive for the area—especially as it was selling hamburgers.

The Fairview neigbourhood is certainly well-to-do but that is not the same as being wealthy and residents here have many calls on their income—they want value when they spend it.

And such serious wealth as may come from the nearby rich enclave of Shaughnessy and elsewhere to shop along South Granville does not spill over, so much, onto the 1400 block of West Broadway—or into burger shacks, I don’t suppose.

I would say that the majority of successful restaurants around the former location of Vera’s in the 1400 block of West Broadway (with a few glittering exceptions) cater to working stiffs who are on their coffee or lunch break, or otherwise looking to get reasonably and decently fed rather than make an expensive culinary statement.

So the added fact that there was always a good selection of flavourful, meaty food to be had for less money a door away, east or west, could not have helped this Vera’s attract a steady general clientele. Read more…

Rats! The restaurant wouldn’t serve him

Cleo the rat gazes back wistfully at the menu as she and her owner leave McDonald’s.

The rats in this town who wear business suits, drive nice cars and lives in fancy condos have no problems whatsoever getting service in restaurants. Cleo the rat however possesses nothing besides the love of her owner—is that why the McDonald’s in the 1400 block of West Broadway Avenue refused to serve her today (July 20)?

Whatever the reason, Cleo and her owner had to leave the restaurant empty-handed after being told they would not be served. Read more…

South Granville’s second mural of 2017 is for the birds


Pigeons appear to be flocking on the northwest side of James Knight’s mural-in-progress, seen on the evening of July 16th.

As I write, a painted mural is taking shape on the backside of 2705 Granville Street, which is located in the alley on the west side of South Granville Street, at the southwest intersection with 11th Avenue.

The mural, by James Knight, takes up the entire west side of the building and part of the south side as well. The subject appears to be those soiled doves of South Granville, the pigeons.

Birds of a feather…

The south side portion of James Knight’s mural seen on July 20th.

The long, west side of the unfinished mural depicts what looks like a sketchy implosion of  birds, surrounded by a loose flurry of similarly feathered friends. The smaller, south side portion shows part of a person sitting comfortably in a wooden Adirondack chair with a sack at their feet.

A panoramic view of the west side face of the mural-in-progress from July 20th.

All in all, I feel reasonably confident in saying that the subject of the mural is someone sitting and feeding pigeons.

With James Knight’s mural at 11th Avenue, the South Granville Business Improvement Association (SGBIA) has now commissioned and largely funded (out of its special BIA tax levy) a total four murals on buildings along the South Granville shopping strip—two last year and two this year.

This year’s other mural, by Ed Spence, was completed in June on the southeast corner of South Granville Street and 14th Avenue.

So far the South Granville murals all share some thematic connection to the shopping high street:

  • The 13th Avenue mural by Ola Volathe historic connection of its location with horses,
  • The 14th Avenue mural by Ed Spencethe fabrics sold in South Granville Stores.
  • The 7th Avenue mural by Milan Basicthe art of Kristofir Dean, to be found in the gallery that the mural is painted on.

That leaves the new 11th Avenue mural by James Knight.

Sitting on a bench and feeding the pigeons is very much a South Granville activity but I’m surprised that Knight is depicting it as being done from an Adirondack chair.

The SGBIA has, after all, gone to some lengths to have its own distinctive, black-enameled street benches—one or two every block, in fact.

It only makes sense then that a South Granville mural depicting the apparent feeding of South Granville pigeons should depict it being done from the comfort of one of the South Granville BIA’s fancy signature benches, rather than just any old chair.

After all, I don’t think these murals are just art for art’s sake. They’re being created for the glory of the South Granville shopping area, as much as anything else, aren’t they?

If so, Knight’s mural probably shouldn’t include anything that suggests staying at home in one’s back yard—that, as far as the South Granville Business Improvement Association is concerned, really would be for the birds. Click the images to enlarge them.

B.C. website map feature crippled by obsolete plug-in requirement

I was disappointed to find that between my wildfire post of July 5, 2015 and today (July 18), the B.C. Wildfire Service website has stopped providing current wildfire data in the form of downloadable KMZ placemark files. KMZ files can quickly and easily be opened in any version of Google Earth—a program freely available for Windows (back to XP), Mac OS X, Linux, Anfroid and iOS.

Fortunately, I have to say that since I emailed the main B.C. government website this afternoon, the options on the B.C. Wildfire Service’s website have changed and there is now an interactive html5 map of active fires, which works just fine.

This afternoon, however, the only option that the B.C. Wildfire Service was pointing me to was the unusable online mapping system called iMapBC.

The provincial government’s iMapBC is an important online portal to a wealth of open government data—much of it of great utility  to British Columbia’s resource sectors, such as mining and forestry—or, at least it should be.

The online iMapBC is available in two flavours: one for mobile devices and another for desktop computers. The mobile version is built on an html5 framework and does not launch in a desktop browser (at least not mine), while the desktop version requires a web browser running Microsoft’s obsolete and deprecated Silverlight plugin, of all things!

Unfortunately, some years ago, during a major upgrade of iMapBC, someone made the ill-conceived decision to bake in a dependency to this unsuccessful Microsoft multimedia framework, just as the everyone else (including Microsoft) was abandoning it.

No website in 2017 should require the Microsoft Silverlight plug-in because almost no web browsers can run it—not Google Chrome (since September 2015), or Mozilla Firefox (after 52.0.x), or Apple Safari (after 6.x), or Opera (after 35.x), or any version of Microsoft’s Edge!

At this point, the only current mainstream browser that still supports Silverlight is Internet Explorer 11, which ships with the Windows 10 operating system and commands a mere 13.26 percent browser share, according to the website Netmarketshare.

And according to the Microsoft Silverlight support roadmap, Windows 10 itself will only continue to support Silverlight for another four years, until October 12, 2021.

The end of an error, some would say

What has happened in the wider web world is that the 22-year-old practice of adding functions to web browsers using plug-in extensions—instigated by the Netscape browser’s 1995 introduction of the Netscape Plugin Application Programming Interface (NPAPI)—has finally, and happily, come to an end.

NPAPI is outdated and carries far too many performance and security liabilities. For that reason, every major web browser (with the exception of the legacy Internet Explorer 11) has dropped support for NPAPI plug-ins—with the one exception being Adobe’s Flash Player (the epitome of an unstable and insecure NPAPI plug-in, which is, nonetheless, still required by far too many websites).

The Internet never took a big shine to Silverlight

Silverlight is a software framework for the creation and playback of web-based multimedia (just like Adobe Flash) which was released by Microsoft in 2007, specifically to compete with Flash.

In its  first few years, Silverlight had a few big name adopters, including the U.S. television network NBC, Amazon and Netflix but it was never widely adopted and it never came close to challenging Flash.

By 2010, only three years after introducing Silverlight, Microsoft was already making public noises about switching to html5.

And at the end of 2012, Microsoft closed down the Silverlight website—the go-to resource for developers—a dead giveaway that the days of the proprietary multimedia framework were numbered.

The last full version of the framework—Silverlight 5—was released December 9, 2011, with only bug fix updates since then.

The official death of Silverlight occurred two years ago, when Microsoft announced on July 2, 2015, that its new Edge browser would not support either Internet Explorer’s ActiveX rich media playback modules or the Silverlight plug-in; opting instead for built-in multimedia support based on HTML5 standards—just like Google Chrome.

B.C. jumps on just as everyone else jumps off

Silverlight appears to have been introduced into iMapBC on on July 18, 2013, as part of a top-to-bottom overhaul dubbed “iMapBC 2.0”.

Remember that by July of 2013, the Silverlight website had been gone for seven months. NBC had also long since dumped Silverlight (following the 2008 Olympics) for lack of an installed end-user base and Netflix had announced its intention to ditch Silverlight for html5 three month earlier, on April 2013 (a year later, that transition was well in hand).

Even DataBC, the brains behind the iMapBC 2.0 upgrade, knew enough to roll out a pure html5 mobile version, as there never was Silverlight mobile support, as some users were quick to point out.

So the question has to be asked why Silverlight was added to iMapBC in the first place, when all the signs in 2013 (and earlier) pointed to the multimedia framework having been forsaken by websites, end-users and even Microsoft and pointed to html5 as the way the worldwide web was going.

And why, in 2017—two years after Google Chrome (the web browser with 0ver a 59 percent user share) dropped support for NPAPI plug-ins—and four years since Google announced the 2015 date—has the necessity for Silverlight not been expunged from iMapBC?

I would prefer that B.C. Wildfire Service still posted Google Earth KMZ placemark files for current wildfire data but the inline interactive map is sufficient.

However, it’s silly that, in the absence of the KMZ files, the interactive wildfire map had to be added just make up for the fact that the desktop version of iMapBC is unusable to the majority of desktop web browsers.

July 19, 2017, update: Chris Spicer of DataBC emailed me information that is not, so far as I can tell, presented on the iMapBC website (certainly not in the iMapBC FAQ)

Basically, the html5-based mobile version of iMapBC: iMapBC 4 Mobile is the replacement for the Silverlight-based desktop version. However, he adds, some users still want access to the Silverlight version. Spicer says that the Silverlight version will be retired later this year, once the user base is satisfied that all required tools have been ported to the HTML5 version.

My initial experience with the mobile version was that it would not load in my desktop browsers. However, it does…eventually.

Chris Spicer also provided a link to WMS protocol Google Earth KLM files in the B.C.Web Map Library. Click the image to enlarge it.