Don’t Ask, Don’t Get

Yesterday I wrote about the new Bread tome called Modernist Bread and asked if anyone had any pull at the public library.  (Well, or with Santa Claus too.)

I sent a similar question to my Backyard Bakery buddies and it turns out that one of the Bread Buddies does in fact work at the library and close to the circulation department no less!

So the RPL is ordering a set of books for their collection.  Yippee!

No doubt they’ll be reference material, for in library use only, but I’ll gladly spend a few afternoons checking them out.  And with their excellent province wide circulation system, my baking friends in Saskatoon will be able to use them too.

So the moral of the story is to actually ask for what you want, out loud.  Good things can happen.

And if you bake, make sure your librarians have access to your bread.

Now, if I could only do that with my podcast!

 

 

Remembrance Day

It’s the 99th anniversary of Armistice Day in World War I. Too long ago to have surviving veterans, but not too long to go without remembering their efforts.

 

Cindy and I went down to the Cenotaph for the wreath laying ceremony, like we do every year. And as in most years, there were several hundred people braving the snow and cold to pay respect to our veterans and hope for lasting peace.

 

Each year, I get a little more conflicted by the ceremony. Not conflicted by why I’m there, but conflicted by the ceremony itself.

 

As our society changes and gets more inclusive, following the pattern of a Christian church service seems more and more out of place. How do the Sikh’s (who fought and who laid a wreath) feel about all the Jesus references, for example.  Or the Muslims who’s ancestors also fought in the World Wars? Can I be an atheist or a Buddhist or a Hindu and still feel a core part of the ceremony?

 

Now, to their credit, the Legion ceremony has changed quite a bit over the years. But things seem to have been taken out andm not replaced. So the entire event seems shorter each year, which is a shame, even in the snow and cold.

 

It would be great if we could honour our war veterans on this day and also pledge to work for peace and understanding throughout the world. To invite all groups to lay a wreath, including First Nations, LGBT veterans, all religions and immigrant groups. So we can all say ‘Thank You’, ‘We Remember’ and ‘Never, Ever Again.’

 

The ceremony talks a lot about how our veterans defended freedom. I’m all for that. And to me, freedom means diversity. We need more of that too.

We Can Afford To Care For Each Other

The provincial budget was announced yesterday and it’s left me stunned and upset.  I can’t remember feeling gloomier about life in Saskatchewan since the droughts of the mid ’80s.

I mean, I literally used STC on Tuesday to send a birthday package to my niece in Prince Albert and now it’s gone.

Twenty years ago, my grandmother died so poor dad’s family got help with the funeral from social services. Now it seems that’s gone too.

The way I see it, everything we have in Saskatchewan we got by working together and working for each other. Have we forgotten that? Or is that a myth? I still remember in-school dental care and mobile libraries. When we were much poorer as a province it seems we all had so much more.

Nowadays our houses are bigger and our cars are shinier and our phones are magical, but public transport, public libraries and the like are things we aren’t supposed to want.

Is it selfish to want a service we all can use? Is it naive to want to contribute to services that help others, even if I don’t use it? Should we only care about the poor, the young, the sick, the elderly or the remote when times are good? I don’t think so.

But even I caught myself looking at the announcements through the lens of “how am I impacted.”  Look, aside from the tuition hikes, which impact my kids severely, the provincial budget doesn’t hurt me personally.  I’m a middle aged, healthy white man who owns his house and no longer works for a crown corporation.  I’m the ‘core’ and I’m not supposed to care about those who aren’t like me, I guess.

But I do care.  And it pains me when those who most need our help have to pay so the rest of us can maintain the status quo.  That’s not how this province was built.

The problem is the lack of a long term, cooperative vision for all the people of Saskatchewan.  It’s a classic dilemma: in boom times, we don’t need a vision because hey, things are great as is!  And in bust times, we can’t afford something as frivolous as cooperation.  We gotta take action and hey, poor people don’t really need funerals anymore do they? In good times sure, but even the poor need to get realistic here, right?

Let’s keep talking and working together. Talking about the kind of province we want to live in.  And working for each other, serving each other and building lasting institutions for all of us, even when times are tough.

A Tale of Two Bridges

Funky drawbridge, Rotterdam
Funky drawbridge, Rotterdam

During our recent cycling trip through Holland I was repeatedly struck by the beauty of what we would call the ‘infrastructure’ of the place. The street signs, the light posts, but especially the bridges.

In a country with as many canals as roads, you’re going to have a lot of bridges. I was surprised to see that many of them had unique and beautiful designs. They were functional works of art. And many of them had the builder or designer prominently displayed right on the bridge.

I can imagine the effort that went into designing these bridges. The design competition and the decision process to install this bridge here, and this different design three blocks over.  It would’ve added to the cost, but added something remarkable into the landscape.

Nameplate on a drawbridge, on the main road somewhere between Utrecht and Amsterdam

There’s a new footbridge near my home in Saskatchewan too. It connects the high school with a park and, beyond, a small library on the way to the city centre. The old bridge, no more than 60 years old but, alas, made of wood, must have been deemed unsafe in this modern age.

There is no art to my new bridge. It’s exactly the same as the other new footbridges that cross Wascana Creek. It’s made from galvanized steel (same as the recent grey/silver light posts) and pressure treated lumber. It may not be beautiful but it’s likely the cheapest way to cross the creek on foot. There’s no name on the bridge, or any of the other bridges crossing the creek, identifying the designer or the builder.

No doubt the decision to build the bridge in my town was based solely on cost. What design can give me the most bridges for the least money? Can we use existing ‘off the shelf’ components? Which installation crew is the cheapest? Then ask those questions in a blind bidding process and pick the cheapest option.

It won’t create anything lasting, or beautiful. It won’t make my heart sing every time I walk to the library. The galvanized steel handrail won’t feel good when I hold it. But hey, at least the builder was chosen through an objective and fair process. And Our Tax Dollars were used ‘responsibly.’

I find that sad.  And a missed opportunity.

There are a hundred opportunities every year to add art and beauty and good design to the world we live in. To choose the beautiful and interesting as well as the functional. To move people with our public spaces.

It’s time to add beauty to the conversation.

Buried Trolley Line on Albert Street

I took this photo while walking to work last week — it's a bit of urban archeology as a City work crew (who is re-paving Albert Street Bridge) uncovered the old trolley lines that used to run the length of Albert Street.  

Then they proceeded to cut them out and continue repaving.
Too bad in a way.  It made me think about what Regina would be like if it was still compact enough to support a trolley line.  Sort of like in this video:

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