Friday, March 31, 2006

Smart Growth Principles
Author: WebGoddessCathy
Audience: for those who are too lazy to read a website's "About" section and who think it is weak to place a link in their comments to a website that explains everything
Bibliography: (direct quotes used without attribution)

(For some history on this post, you might want to read about the war going on.)

Smart Growth is not about how suburbs are bad for cities, specifically. It is about why suburbs (or "sprawl" in general) are no longer in the long-term interest of our cities, existing suburbs, small towns, rural communities, or wilderness areas.

Smart Growth is part of the puzzle of building sustainable communities.

The prevalence of many of our current environmental challenges -- air and water pollution; global warming, habitat fragmentation and conversion -- is in part due to the way in which we have built our neighborhoods, communities and metropolitan areas during the past half-century -- dispersed, inaccessible, and automobile-oriented -- in a word, sprawling.

There are many characteristics of Smart Growth: having a range of housing options, using compact building design, high density living, locating goods, services and transportation within a safe, easy walking distance.

The prevalence of many of our current environmental challenges -- air and water pollution; global warming, habitat fragmentation and conversion -- is in part due to the way in which we have built our neighborhoods, communities and metropolitan areas during the past half-century -- dispersed, inaccessible, and automobile-oriented -- in a word, sprawling.

The farther we have to travel between home and work, work and play, the more likely it is that we will drive. As the distances between trip origins and destinations has increased so has the amount of driving we have done. The end result of all of this driving is that our air quality has suffered. Research has shown that compact, pedestrian and transit friendly communities have a positive impact on air quality by improving travel alternatives.

As we build, we replace our natural landscape -- forests, wetlands, grasslands with streets parking lots, rooftops, and other impervious surfaces which... OK, this is getting really long.

Toronto is not necessarily a Smart Community. However, at the moment, living here currently fulfills more Smart Growth principles than living in many of the suburbs I could live in, while still holding the position I enjoy. (Which, by the way, I feel really good about - I find it a worthwhile endeavor.) Also note that my belief in specific principles varies in intensity.

If your suburb is walkable - if you can walk (or if there are bike paths) safely and easily to the grocery store and a restaurant or whatever services you use frequently - then your suburb is using a Smart Growth principle.

If those places are located close to where you live, there's another Smart Growth principle that they're using!

If your suburb has apartment buildings, townhouses, semis and detached houses in close proximity to each other, then your suburb is using a Smart Growth principle.

If you are paying a lot for your utilities because you have low-density neighbourhoods, you can blame it on your choice to live in the sprawl. On a per-unit basis, it is cheaper to provide and maintain services like water, sewer, electricity, phone service and other utilities in more compact neighborhoods than in dispersed communities.

I believe that Smart Growth is a step in the right direction.

Perhaps you are not able to make the same choices as I am. I chose to rent an apartment and live very frugally in order to save money for a downpayment on an acceptable house.

To preclude the comments - YES, I'm sure you are very frugal too. I am cheap. Extremely cheap (you can ask Alex to corroborate that).

Now, I am going to list some of the ways in which my new house (should the house inspection go well) meets some of the principles I believe in. This does not mean I am trying to tell you how good I am. I simply want to pre-answer the accusation that I am a hypocrite.

  • My house is within easy, safe walking distance to the subway
  • My neighbourhood has mixed use - there are shops nearby (within walking distance)
  • There are a variety of housing options in the area
  • There are green spaces nearby (within walking distances)
  • There is quite a lot of community involvement in Greektown and a strong sense of community ownership

There are improvements that could be made. It's not perfect. But it's the best that I could do with the resources available.

And I really want to be happy with the choice that I've made instead of being accused of making unintelligent statements when I've only made statements that someone else doesn't agree with.

You are welcome to post comment. Please play nice and do not attack me. I don't deal well with it (as has been noted several times and I have confirmed whole-heartedly). Anonymous has the advantage of being, well, anonymous. I do not.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

OK, I had to freak out and celebrate last night and talk to the family first. Now, the details!

Let me tell you the story...

On our final visit to the place we put in an offer on, our agent took me on a drive-by of another barn-style house around the corner that was just coming on the market. Seemed OK, but thought nothing of it.

Lost the stupid house on Sammon. Good. Too expensive. It went for about $35,000 over asking. Pretty house, but totally not worth it. No parking, unfinished basement.

We get the listing for the "drive-by place" at 117 Marlow Ave (find it on google maps here). It's listed at more than the place we lost around the corner. And it's cute, so I'm thinking: no chance.

But Alex went to the open house on Saturday while I was out skiing. He loved it and wanted to put in an offer anyway, even though he knew we wouldn't get it. I thought it was a waste of time.

But I went to the open house on Sunday with my mom and thought: the house is OK, but it's totally NOT worth what people are going to over-pay for it. So I just forgot about it.

Well, on offer day, our real estate agent calls to let us know that there were NO offers on the house. Did we want to make an offer? Of course we did! So we offered what we actually could afford and wanted to pay for the place. Under asking.

Yesterday, they made a counter-offer that changed the closing date to June 23rd (90 days) instead of May and asked for an extra $2000 (which is still under asking). Alex and I talked about it and decided it was fair and so... voila! House!

The house purchase is totally conditional on financing (no prob) and a house inspection. To be honest, I'm really glad we've kept the inspection in our offer - many people routinely leave that out to make their offer more competitive. But I'm kind of wary of how easy this was. Why didn't any other offers come in?

There doesn't SEEM to be much wrong with the place, but that could be deceptive.

You used to be able to find out more about the place by searching MLS number E862653 in But it's no longer listed.

House inspection is on Saturday and I'm firming up my financing now.

Holy crap. Alex and I are so excited and amazed that we didn't compromise on what we wanted and got it so easily (of course, I'm ignoring all the hours spent looking at houses and postings).

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Again with the eery horoscope:

"It'll be that kind of week, Leo: a time when opportunities will come your way cloaked in seemingly absurd circumstances."

2 things have already happened:

  1. I discovered a fantastic seat sale by testing out a cool new technology
  2. We made an offer on a place that we had dismissed as 'beyond our reach' but that happened to have NO offers by their deadline

I sit here, waiting on pins and needles to find out what's going to happen.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

You know, probably the best thing you can do when you're about to put all of your money down on a house is to spend more on a vacation.

So following this ultra-logical line of thinking, I decided to book my ticket for my next vacation.

I figure that locating myself in Halifax during the move is actually a good way to get out of packing. I finally figured out how to make sure that someone else does it!

So, May Two-Four weekend (and the whole week beforehand), I'll be in Halifax visiting Raye.

OK, I confess, I didn't actually do it to get out of moving. I really did it because there was a ginormous seat sale and that was the best weekend for Raye and I figured that, if I didn't have a house already, then I probably wouldn't be moving that week.

Well, I guess I've just guaranteed we won't be moving that week now.

And if Halifax has bad weather that week? I'll just spend a lot of time eating buttery popcorn and horrible amounts of sweets and ice cream in front of her TV.
Remember when I posted about buying stocks in Ameritrade?

Remember the comment of scorn about buying said stock?

Well, today TD Ameritrade announced that they expect to exceed their earnings guidance, and that they're on track for a "record quarter." Click here to read the news.

My "wannabe musician boyfriend" has a gift and I'm thankful that he's using it for the greater good (of my portfolio).
Last night, I sat next to Jack Layton on the subway. It was weird to see him so close up.

I am happy to see him taking the TTC, actually. This is the kind of politician that I can get behind.

On top of that, he had a conversation with a couple of strange people who recognized him and he treated them very well, even though I'm sure he had about a hundred other things that he could think of that he'd rather be doing. He gave them his attention. Admirable.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Alright, I did it. I finally walked to work from Yonge and Eg. It was an hour, door to door, but it felt great!

I love looking in all the shop windows as I march along. I daydream and think - I didn't even need my MP3 player, although I had meant to bring it.

I like walking so much more than running or bike riding. I just wish it didn't take so long to get from place to place or I'd do it all the time!

There's also the added annoyance of having to wear the right footwear and have shoes at work.

I've thought of riding my bike to work, taking back streets so as not to stress myself out or get run over. But I find I get so sweaty when I bike ride. And there's even MORE of an issue of making sure you wear appropriate clothes or take clothes with you in your backpack.

However, I do want to do this more often. It's such a great way to get in my exercise and save TTC money and raise my spirits in the morning.
Dear People of Toronto:

Stop paying too much for bad-quality houses just because they're staged nicely or happen to be within a 15-minute walk to the subway.

Let's be honest: you have a car anyway - you'll be happier in the 'burbs.
You don't want that house - it may be nicely decorated, but it has a crappy basement and no backyard.

Stop paying $30,000 over asking for a paint job worth a couple hundred dollars.

Please. Because you're making it difficult for me to buy a house. And I'm tired of tripping over all of you every time I go to an open house.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Just found out that "my" place sold for way more than the asking price and WAY more than what we could afford to offer.

That kind of makes me feel better - it's totally not worth that much.

Onward and upward!
I know I said that I didn't expect to get the house, but I'm still sad.

Sure, I didn't think we'd get such a great house on our first try. OK. But it's more than that. Our real estate agent has been sending us the closing sale price on a couple of places that we saw. And the prices are astronomical.

I'm starting to worry that I'll never get a place that's in a relatively safe neighborhood, within a 10 minute walk to 24-hour TTC, in a condition that's livable without selling myself cash-dry for the next 10 years.

What is going on in Toronto? People have lost their minds.

And now Alex is being kicked out of his apartment in May and will have to live with me in my tiny apartment until we find a house that satisfies.

I hope that we don't make a bad choice just because we're afraid of sharing a Jr-1 bdrm. Although it is a legitimately fearful prospect.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Tonight I put my first offer on a house. And tonight I lost my first house.

It's a little disappointing, I guess, but I suppose that I suspected we wouldn't get it. It was VERY cute and the location was OK. It seemed within our price range. I couldn't believe our luck.

Of course, no on in Toronto is lucky like that.

We bid much more than the asking price. And it will likely go over that amount. We'll know more in the next day or two. But we do know that we didn't get it.

So, no house.
But, on the upside, I still loved coming home to my apartment tonight.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Until now, I have thought that Balzac's Coffee was the best in Toronto. I was all excited when I found out that Clafouti also served Balzac's because it was more accessible, being a few blocks from Alex's place.

OK, I also like Wagamama's coffee. I'd have put that in the #2 spot.

But bump that to #3 now because today I found it: the best.
The Coffee Roastery.

It's in Liberty Village and I was early for a meeting in that area and coincidentally hadn't had breakfast yet. OK, not so coincidentally. When I knew I was going to the area for a morning meeting, I actually went early so that I could go for a coffee.

Alex had tried to take me there before, but it's closed on the weekends. Boo! So this was my chance.

It did NOT disappoint! Rich and strong, my decaf latte didn't even taste like decaf. It had a very full flavour.

And the muffin I had was good too, but not as good as if I'd gone to Clafouti for one of their mouth watering croissants.

The Distillery's Balzac's location has the best style by far, but the Roastery is hip. Dogs hang out next to their owner's chair. I think the dog is a "regular" since everyone seems to stop and give him a pat even though he looks scary.

There's a guy on his laptop with his ear piece and microphone in place, making me feel decidedly low-tech with my pen and notebook.

The art on the wall was cool. The tech-biz-babble at the next table was hot. It kind of felt like the 90s bubble never burst. I didn't want to leave.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Hot two-bite brownies and ice cream: my nemesis.

After a long day of viewing real estate, it was calling to me. I tried to eat something else. It didn't work. It just made me eat something else FIRST and then eat the brownies and ice cream.

And my mouth knows there's more.

So I must distract myself.

I have much to occupy me: first-time home-buying sucks. I think at this point, Alex and I have decided to go for a house.

We've had enough of small expensive condos. $289,000 doesn't buy much in Toronto. Not, at least, within walking distance of the subway.

Now we've turned our sites to small semis in the Danforth area. We went to a bunch of open-houses today.

It's a little easier with houses: they're either really crappy or they're OK. Now, whether you can afford them or not is another story. You have to figure out what you'd need to reno and how much that would cost and whether it would all be worth it.

But at least it's not all the same dissatisfying crap over and over again.

Now it's DIFFERENT dissatisfying crap ;)

Friday, March 17, 2006

You know that I love the web. LOVE IT.

But sometimes I get a little bogged down and don't get to really enjoy it. I get busy and I use for some tasks, boring stuff.

Today, though, I had a conversation with a coworker that inspired me. It was about blogs, actually, and about creating a feed of industry-related blogs for our site. He was talking about one of his favourites which discusses the innovations that Yahoo is researching - all the "Web 2.0" stuff. (It's not important if you don't know what that is, the point is that I'm a Web person and I'm supposed to. You? Maybe not so important.)

I started looking up the blog. In my search for that particular blog, as well as the research I was doing for the blog I'm working on for MaRS, I embarked on an exciting journey.

First, I went to A List Apart which I hope all the web-type workers out there know as a sort of blog or column for people who make websites. I was going there to see how they handled a particular type of click or action (ie: not for pleasure but for research).

In using their site, I stumbled onto and started reading a very interesting article about ~ coincidence ~ Web 2.0. It was well written (like most of their articles) and helped me understand more history on the term and explained some other terms I didn't know.

And then they mentioned a couple of really interesting sites which I had to check out:

  • Ma.gnolia - a site that helps you bookmark. Well, it keeps your bookmarks saved on the Web so you have access to them everywhere. AND it helps you find sites by looking at other people's bookmarks.

  • Basecamp - a project management site, basically. It's like having your project management software on the Web and your entire team can access everything there (tasks, schedules, documents, etc).

I also found Technorati, a blog search. Very cool, but I didn't find the blog I wanted.

And my search for the Yahoo blog got me to which is apparently another social space to keep bookmarks and... stuff. And Yahoo 360° which looks to be a personal website tool for aggregating all of the other tools that Yahoo offers.

And I suddenly thought, oh my god, why don't I already KNOW about these things?

Why haven't I USED these things yet?

Thank god I already use and love Flikr or I would have to forfeit my domain name entirely.

I just find so many interesting things on the Web whenever I go on a browsing-spree. And I want to USE all of these things.

And yet I can't find time to redesign my OWN website, never mind trying out these cool tools.

Anyway, I was inspired by the wonderful, useful bits of software offered on the web these days. And the fact that I'm a part of this whole thing - I will be USING these tools to integrate with my site and the MaRS site, I suspect - made me feel a little cool by association.

I just need more time for R&D! (Some call it "play time".)

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Last night, Sarah, Sharon and I got together. I had roti for the first time while we watched an interesting movie at Sarah's house.

The Constant Gardener was really good. Although anyone with hearing problems should TURN IT UP. There are some seriously low-talkers in this one. Good thing, too, as there's a bit of intrigue going on here. But seriously, I have enough trouble with British accents without dealing with whispers.

Anyway, it was one of those movies I've been meaning to see for a long time. It's been talked about quite a bit in this awards season. But you know, it was nothing like what I thought it was going to be.

It's about the Evil Big Pharma and it made me SO glad that I am no longer doing their dirty work - convincing people that they're sick and need drugs. It was quite soul-destroying, to be honest.

It makes me so sad when I hear about what the big pharmas will do to make some bucks. I mean, I know about it first hand - they certainly had a lot to spend on "not marketing" to consumers (it is against the law in Canada to advertise prescription drugs to consumers). They are tricky and pushy and will do anything to increase the number of scripts docs write.

And in this movie, they even go so far as to fix their drug trials and expending the expendable. Now, this movie is a work of fiction, but we don't know that it's not happening. I hope that it's not because it hurts my heart that real people - even politicians and pharma execs are born, have a family and love them - could orchestrate such abominations; could have such little regard for human beings.

But there was one poignant thought that jumped out of the movie for me: no, you can't help EVERYONE, but you can help the person in front of you right now.

I am often paralyzed by how bad things can be for so many people. I feel overwhelmed by sadness and an inability to do anything about it. All my possible actions seems so futile.

But you can help that one person that needs you right now because you CAN. That one person is as important as the one person that you are.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

By the way, have I mentioned that I make the yummiest, easiest banana caramel cheesecake known to man?

Seriously, 10 minutes and you're on your way to Blissville.
There's this one horoscope site that always seems to say eerily appropriate things. I don't usually read my horoscope, but a friend of mine has been sending it to me and it seems to fit something that is actually happening in my life.

This week's is about how to defeat a dragon. I feel that I've been alternating my tactics, trying to find out what works: brute force, stealthfully avoiding it, finding some sort of protection.

I'm discovering that my happiness is best served by pacifying the dragon with my beguiling ways.

What dragon do you have to tame?

I usually read horoscopes and laugh. It seems ridiculous that some people live their lives by the slop that some hippie pens in the 10 minutes between them and deadline. But this one makes me think.

Does your horoscope offer insight to your life?
Today, I helped feed the hungry.

I helped buy 883 books for children to improve literacy, improved the health of 756 children, and I helped protect 497,849 square feet of endangered land.

What have you done today?

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Tonight I went to the last swing dancing class at AlleyCatz. Sadly, they're no longer doing Swing night there - not even the awesome band will be around the corner every Tuesday now.


But, happily, I got Alex to come out with me this time!

As predicted, he was pretty good. I was, well, not. I haven't been to a class in MONTHS, so I forgot everything. But it was so wonderful to be able to dance with my boyfriend and make my mistakes together with him so I didn't have to feel embarassed or stupid.

I'm so glad he came.

I also had a cultural night last night - I went to see a friend in The Government Inspector, a SoulPepper production. They have a gorgeous new theatre over in the Distillery District. And we got free tickets (mostly because I went with his girlfriend). What could be better?

Well, it was actually a pretty good play. If you know me, you know that I really do just like theatre in general. So I'm not being very hard on it. I'm not very snooty about theatre - it was funny and I enjoyed it.

I want to do stuff like that more often. When they're free tickets, you can, I guess.

Cheers to free tickets!

Monday, March 13, 2006

Holy Crap.

Did I even MENTION that Tree had her baby?

Well, she did. It's a girl. Named Ilana. (Which is a much nicer name than her sister-in-law's child which includes, among a variety of oddnesses, the name "Badgerling". Not kidding.)

I haven't yet seen the child, but I hear everyone's doing fine. I'm sure they're overwhelmed with well-wishers, but I've asked to be invited over as soon as they're ready for other company.

I actually saw another couple's newborn on Friday night - they brought it to the 30th birthday party. It hung out and slept amid the music and chatter - good baby! I want to be one of those people who still have a social life post-baby. I know, selfish. But the baby has to get used to other people anyway. And I want to make sure I continue to have friends who will to babysit for me from time to time.

Steph's baby is doing well, and soon Kat will be having her baby. I will be surrounded by babies!
Excellent news!

Something finally surpassed my cleavage photo as the top referrer to my site!

It's my boyfriend, Ewan with 13,899 referrers from that page to the rest of my site! Hurrah for pretty Ewan!

You're looking at the Number Two most popular referrer: my blog (which is also the most popular page on my site in general, aside from the stylesheet). Followed by anything on my site that has to do with sex. To be expected, I suppose.

Happily, there have been 1,410 referrers from my St. Maarten timeshare page. Oddly, that's after only 774 visits to the page. I'm thinking, perhaps that I should put the photos from my recent from my recent St. Maarten vacation on my site instead of on Flikr so that I can track the number of page views... As a professional, I know this to be a wise idea. As a person, I'm just a little wary (and weary) of the time required.

I love vacations. I love my website. I just wish my job was to go on jealousy-inspiring adventures and post travel journals and photos of the exotic locations. Then I would spend so much more time and loving energy on it. It would make us ALL happier, wouldn't it?

Note that my photos from Australia and New Zealand aren't even all up yet!

They're on my to-do list. Along with my offline Aussie scrapbook.

Jaap even chastised me this weekend for not having my scrapbook completed yet. I'm on month 3 of my trip.

But I have a plan.

My friend Karen, who just went to Australia last autumn, said she was going to put together a scrapbook for her trip. I told her to tell me when she's doing it so that we can make it a scrapbook-a-thon. There's nothing like having someone else to motivate you to get things done. Besides, then it becomes a social event on top of a creative endeavour on your to-do list.

And we all know how much I like social events.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Today, Jaap and I rolled out of our beds, hung over after my friend Brian's 30th birthday party last night. Good party. And not TOO hung over.

I made some bacon and eggs for breakfast and some coffee (decaf, of course) and we sat leisurely sipping and chatting the morning away.

We finally got off our butts and made our way over to Etienne Brule park, over near the Old Mill. Jaap had been there earlier in the week and thought I'd like to see it.

It was a gorgeous day - unseasonably warm and sunny - and I had always meant to go to the Old Mill. It looked so pretty from the subway. So, now I've done it! And it was great. What a beautiful spot! We walked along the Humber River until I had to go to the bathroom, then wandered down to Dundas West Station.

We had a craving for Burger King, which we satiated at College and Spadina. Oh the whoppers never tasted so good! Then we headed to St. Clair and Bathurst to go second-hand shopping. I was very close to buying about three purses. But I reasoned with myself that I really didn't NEED them even though they were cheap and cute.

We grocery shopped and headed home. Exhausted.
Jaap put his feet up while I made bread, washed the dishes and swept the floor.

And even though I wanted a nap at about noon already, here I am at midnight, just brushing my teeth.

I wish weekends would last forever.

Friday, March 10, 2006

I saw an interesting film last night, Ushpizin, a Jewish film about an orthodox jewish couple whose lives really sucked until they just, well, prayed hard enough. And then the miracles (and curses) started.

It made me think a lot about faith and how I wish I had some (aside from the small amount that I have in myself).

It also made me think about anger and having love inside. I find myself getting very angry quite a lot. And it actually physically hurts me by giving me headaches and an upset stomach.

I want to be someone who doesn't let things bother them. I want to be someone who seems a little outside of it all, musing quietly at the peripheral of fantastic events, knowing that all of this will pass, that this is a test of my character and strength, who is never shaken by criticism or a bad turn of events because I know that it will all work out.

They have an interesting way of looking at life and the world: it's all about God's will, not man's free will. No matter what happens, it's because God made it that way - it's all part of His plan.

It certainly wouldn't make much difference or sense to strive against the natural way of things, since you would know that this is exactly what was supposed to happen. It would mean less panic, less aggression, less stress. More passivity, more acceptance.

But it goes against my sense of life: how would you know that you could achieve all that you wanted to achieve? You would never strive for more, would you? There would be no value in it. It's all pre-determined: you'll end up as God wanted if you just follow what He lays before you.

Who is to know if that is the true way of Life?
There are no controlled studies that one can conduct.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Tired, so tired. Need nap. Characters swimming before my eyes.

Must switch off the post-lunch eyelid gravity machine.
Is it already three days that I've been home from my vacation?

Sigh. Yes.

The first day back was very difficult. I had a really good time and was sad to come home. I just wanted to keep skiing. I was really getting into it. Improving. Hitting vips and vaps (mini-jumps) and even tackling the moguls (not well, mind you, but everyone has to learn).

Thankfully, I finally got to see my boyfriend. But I was so cranky about being home that it wasn't as nice as it probably could have been. Still, it was nice to talk again.

I was trying to wait until I had some photos to upload to my blog before posting, but obviously that is going to take a long time since I didn't take any with my camera. Everyone else in my family hogged all the photo opportunities.

On the upside, I think I was IN most of the photos. Stay tuned for them, anyway. They'll be up in the next month... or two...