Archive: Posts about Victoria
September 18th, 2008, 3 Comments »
As you’re probably aware, New York’s Metropolitan Opera has been showing live broadcasts of their performances in cinemas around the world. The newish GM of The Met, Peter Gelb, launched this audacious program in 2006, and it’s been wildly successful. According to Wikipedia, by the end of the 2007 season, nearly a million people attended the screenings, generating $13.3 million from North America and $5 million from overseas. Apparently they plan to expand by another 30% for the 2008-2009 season.
I’m not a fan of opera, but the screenings are reportedly a joy to watch. From Peter Conrad in The Observer:
I remained sceptical until I saw the relay of The Barber of Seville in March. Bartlett Sher’s production of Rossini’s opera is a whirligig of sliding walls and speeding carts; characters scramble up ladders or vault on to sofas, juggle oranges and sashay through impromptu flamenco routines.
Watching it in the cinema was like having not just the best seat at the Met but all the best seats simultaneously. Thirteen cameras alternated between the stage, the orchestra pit, the wings and even the fly tower, so my eyes felt as if they were attached to irrepressible pogo sticks.
A while back, I watched an interview with Gelb in which he discusses The Met’s declining audience, and the new life his idea has brought to the company (and, I suspect, the genre as a whole).
Even in Victoria
I was reminded of The Met’s innovation yesterday when we visited our local multiplex. We saw “Burn After Reading”, which is a good, not great, Coen brothers film (and it features one of Brad Pitt’s worst performances).
On the way in, I noticed this sign advertising The Met’s simulcast season. The season runs through next May, and all but two shows are sold out:
Ironically, one of the two shows that’s not sold out is the one I’d be likeliest to see: Dr. Atomic. I heard an interview with composer John Adams, and it sounded kind of fascinating.
In any case, The Met’s idea seems like a win for everybody: the opera company, the movie theatres (another medium in decline) and opera fans who can’t afford to go to New York.
3 Comments »
September 17th, 2008, 7 Comments »
Victorians love their lawns and gardens. I mean, there’s even an annual flower count. Are all the local retirees so footloose and fancy-free that they’re resigned to counting the begonias in their front yard? I note that the count has come down in recent years, to a mere 2.4 billion.
As a result of this passion for all things flora, my neighbourhood seems overrun by landscapers. Not a day goes by that I pass at least one stenciled van or pickup truck (‘Lawneratti’, ‘Aboreal Morals’…ah, I’m making those up) parked outside a house, with somebody wailing away with a weed whacker in the front yard.
In my youth, it seems to me that all gardeners, lawn mowers and landscapers were men. It was a common summer job among my male peers in high school and university. These days, however, it seems like at least half of these employees are women. That’s a significant shift. Has anybody else observed this trend?
On a vaguely related note, a friend and I were talking over the weekend about how much less dog poo one sees when out and about. Hearkening again back to my childhood, I remember how the boulevard in front of my friend’s house was off limits because it was notoriously rife with doggy landmines. I guess the social pressure on dog owners has increased over the past two decades?
7 Comments »
August 26th, 2008, 4 Comments »
I happened to be using the old-school Victoria Yellow Pages to look something up today (house cleaners, if you’ve got a recommendation, email me). While browsing…er…paging to what I was seeking, I encountered page 222:
4 Comments »
August 12th, 2008, 9 Comments »
When you spend as much time as I do exploring the shiny and the brand new in the technology world, it’s easy to forget that the middle of the bell curve is receding into the distance. I sometimes get frustrated when Normal Humans, who (quite legitimately) don’t know any better, make poor decisions about their web presence.
Take, for example, the Victoria Fringe’s website. It’s nicely-designed, and accommodates almost all of my Fringe-going needs. There’s one glaring exception: the online schedule. They appear to have just converted the offline, hard copy schedule into HTML and dumped it on the site.
As you can see, it’s sorted by venue. There’s one page for each location where shows are running. That’s possibly a reasonable option for the printed schedule. On the other hand, it may be evidence of a classic information design mistake, where the designer chooses a structure that fits their needs instead of their users’. After all, the Fringe sorts its volunteers, technicians and shows by venue. You’d expect Fringe organizers to think of the schedule in those terms, too.
However, users may want to browse or search the show listings in different ways:
- They may only be in town for a couple of days, so they only want to see shows for a particular date range.
- They may only want to see comedies.
- They may only want to see shows from out of town. All things being equal, traveling performers tend to produce better shows.
- They may want to search for performers they’ve seen in previous years (either by the performer’s name or, for bonus points, by the titles of old shows).
Happily, this is a problem that the geeks have already solved. We can think of each show listing as ‘structured data’–each listing (or database record, if you like) has an expected series of values–show title, performers’ names, venue, dates, times and so forth. It’s really easy to host this information in a database and display it so that it’s easy to browse, sort and search.
I’m not sure about front-ends for these, but free database services like Google Base or Dabble DB would be a natural place to start. Even if the user interface was a little clunky in the first year, or a little messy to look at, I’m betting it would be an improvement on the current approach.
The problem, of course, is that this looks like a hard problem for a Normal Human. We need more Common Crafts, who are expert explainers of the new.
9 Comments »
August 12th, 2008, 2 Comments »
The one time I went into this Apple store on Yates Street, they gave me incorrect information about Bluetooth-enabling our old iMac. I was unimpressed, so I haven’t been back.
The clip art doesn’t even make any sense. The slogan says ‘Tune your Mac’ and they’re using an image of a (jauntily-leaning) doctor? Surely a mechanic (or, say, a piano tuner?) might have been a wiser option.
2 Comments »
August 8th, 2008, 8 Comments »
Did you get one of these? It’s a flyer, included with your phone bill explaining that, as of September 8, the rest of BC (and Alberta) is switching to ten digit dialing:
This was actually news to me–I thought the whole province had already made the move. Apparently not. That’s kind of amusing, actually, because I’ve been dialing ten digits in Victoria since I got there. I guess I could have enjoyed a final six months of seven digits. Think of the energy I could have saved.
In any case, I thought it was odd and a little wasteful that they send these to every phone bill recipient in the province. Surely the vast majority of people living in the Lower Mainland, already accustomed to the ten numbers, would:
- Out of habit, dial ten numbers, wherever they happened to be in the province.
- Learn about the change through other means. I imagine the (worryingly named) Telecommunications Alliance is saturating marketing channels with the news
There’s about 4.1 million people living in the province, and 2.5 million of them are already dialing ten digits. Did the aforementioned Alliance really need to send printed matter to the latter group? Assuming 2.3 people per household, and that most of them have phones and still received paper bills, that’s probably a million pieces of paper, isn’t it? That’s not to mention the resources required to assemble, print and distribute just that one piece of mail.
I guess I’m being rather whingy, but it seemed like a small (or not so small) example of needless waste.
8 Comments »
August 5th, 2008, 3 Comments »
Gillian writes about a website which enables you to track your running and cycling performance:
They are now eons beyond Gmaps because while Gmaps will show you the google satellites and topography maps, MapMyRide will show me googleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s new terrain maps which I much prefer! And they even show me the elevation of my intended (or already executed) ride, per feet and per miles! And you can change it to kilometers if you like. And itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s awesome. Did I mention that?
I like the concept. I’ve been logging a few of my recent, short, errand-filled rides around town. They also provide a way to search for recommended cycling routes. The site is clearly designed for more aspirational athletes, but I enjoy plotting my bike rides on the Google Maps-powered interface when I get home.
Speaking of interface, MapMyRide could use the attention of a serious interaction designer. The site is so crammed with menus, features and advertising–it’s a bit of a dog’s breakfast. I always have difficulty finding what I’m looking for. Which is too bad, because the underlying functionality seems robust.
3 Comments »
August 4th, 2008, 10 Comments »
Back in May, I wrote a blog post about a garbage amnesty in Coquitlam. In the comments for that post, Chris wrote:
Victoria could certainly use this. Since moving here, it seems like many people are putting large items on their curbs anyways with signÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s announcing Ã¢â‚¬Å“FREEÃ¢â‚¬Â. It always looks a little junky. At least if it was city-sanctioned, we could limit this behaviour to a single day of the year.
After living in Victoria for a few months, I know exactly what he’s talking about. There seems to be a common practice of discarding stuff on the sidewalk for other people to pick up. Every time I’m out walking or riding, I see at least one example. It’s like freecycling without the website. Here are three I discovered in the past three days in my neighbourhood:
For some reason, closet doors are often on offer.
Avoiding the Landfill
Chris is right, it does look kind of junky. But here’s the thing–apparently it works. The free stuff rarely lingers for more than a day or two. Either city workers come by and clean it up, or people take the free stuff. I’m pretty sure it’s the latter case, because I’ve seen people picking over discarded dishes and slightly-busted furniture. Given the alternative–that the stuff ends up in a landfill–I can’t complain.
I’ve wondered if it might be a symptom of my neighbourhood’s makeup. As far as I can tell, it’s this odd combination of older people, students and well-off professionals in their fourties and fifties (this is thanks to the combination of low-rise apartments, shared old houses and renovated heritage houses). That is, there’s enough affluent people to discard stuff, and enough less affluent people to collect it. Of course, I’d imagine that the exchange happens in the reverse order as well. The point is that there’s a lot of diversity in age, need and wealth in the neighbourhood, so maybe that encourages the flow of free stuff.
Of course, I haven’t lived in a Canadian residential neighbourhood (that is, one full of houses) for a decade or so. Maybe this is commonplace, and reflective of the greening of our culture.
Is there lots of free stuff around your neighbourhood?
10 Comments »