Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Posts Tagged ‘blogging

My wish for Cuba

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via Photo Challenge: Wish

Wish

The photo was taken last week in Old Havana, on the Paseo Marti at lunchtime. We had found a restaurant on the roof of the Asturias friendship association’s building: they have a barbecue up there. I had a whole grilled red snapper, my partner the largest pork brocheta I have ever seen. We felt very lucky to be away from the cold of Vancouver, in a beautiful old city. Then I looked across at the other side of the street.

There are many old buildings in Havana, which tourists love to photograph. They are highly picturesque and a few have been beautifully restored. Many more are in desperate need of repair. Look at the balcony of the window to the left of where this woman is standing. The old rusted rebar is still there, hanging loose. The concrete has fallen away. Yet there she stands – and where she is standing is going to go the same way one day.

Cuba has been subject to a lot of severe weather – many sites show the damage caused by hurricanes. These weather events are getting more severe and more frequent. Many countries are switching to renewable energy sources to try to limit the increase in the greenhouse gases that are the cause of the change in our climate. It is not just warming: it is sea level rise, storms and plagues.

In  its recent history Cuba suffered as a result of the US embargo. It had an ally in the former Soviet Union but that source of aid has gone. It used to rely heavily on Venezuela for its fuel but that country is now facing its own challenges. A Canadian company, Sherritt, has been helping in recent years to exploit the newly found oil and gas resources not too far from Havana in Matanzas, near Varadero – which is also a major area for all inclusive resorts where we also spent some time last week. We saw the huge chimney of the thermal power plant that now supplies Havana’s electricity – and it’s long plume of particulates. These add to the smoke from the open burning of sugar cane residues in the field after harvest. And the tailpipe emissions from old cars that never had catalytic converters or any emission controls and have now been mostly converted to diesel. I got through four packs of nasal tissues every day while in Havana.

What we did not see – despite the sunshine and strong winds – were any photovoltaic panels or turbines. Someone told us they were in the plan for the future but were currently considered “too expensive”. She also said that Raul Castro has announced his intention to retire next year. There is much uncertainty over what may follow.

My wish is that the people of Cuba will benefit from the long overdue improvement in relations with the United States as a result of President Obama’s decision to end the embargo. The main immediate effect of which was to end the opportunity of travel for Cubans to the US as refugees. Increasing uncertainty is unfortunately a major plank in the policy of the current occupant of the White House.

Cuba is a poor country with many people who are underemployed: well educated but unable to find a way to utilise their knowledge, skills and willingness to work hard. Every embassy and consulate I saw in Havana is heavily fortified, not because Cuba is unsafe but to deter those who might climb their fences to secure sanctuary.

My wish is for a better future for Cubans that is not dependent on the individual generosity of tourists, or the investment of more Canadian money in exploiting fossil fuels. A future which offers dignity for all. And safety in their homes. Not a precarious perch in a crumbling ruin. I wish I knew of a way of getting this message out to more people. I wish we could persuade our governments that waiting for chaos to break out – or even provoking it – and then offering shelter to a tiny percentage of the resulting refugees is not a tenable foreign policy option. That foreign aid is not just an easy target for spending cuts to allow tax breaks for the wealthy. That countries like Cuba are not simply a useful place to conduct torture that would be illegal at home – and is anyway ineffective.

My wish is that countries like Canada and the United States will do something to tackle the gross inequalities that now characterize our world. Symbolized by the wealthy old white guy enjoying his expensive lunch while a young woman looks out from her window a few feet away and wonders what she will do next.


Afterword

Much later in the same day I wrote this piece my partner found an article by Michael J Totten in World Affairs entitled “The Once Great City of Havana” 3 December 2013. It is a Long Read but very thought provoking.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 8, 2017 at 11:55 am

WPC: A Good Match

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via Photo Challenge: A Good Match

As soon as I saw the title of the photo challenge I knew what the photo would be

Us in the Musee Carnavalet

Taken in the garden of the Musee Carnavalet in Paris on May 21, 2012 by my sister Rosemary and hitherto only available to friends and family but made public for the first time.

A Good Match indeed. We have now been together for over seven years – and it just keeps getting better.

Written by Stephen Rees

February 22, 2017 at 10:31 am

Blogs as a tool for political change

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“I think a lot of times, elected officials are afraid of bloggers. A blogger combines an elected official’s two most scariest things which is a journalist and an engaged citizen.”

If only that were true!

I somehow doubt that Streetsblog was actually responsible for getting Times Square closed to traffic. But possibly it helped give Janette Sadik-Kahn some support for what was actually quite a controversial decision. It also helped that its method of implementation was readily reversible if it had not worked.

HAT TIP

“The Other Side of the Tracks” is a daily email summary of transit and related news:  links to news stories and blog posts about transit and TOD from around the country are collected daily by Jeff Wood, Reconnecting America‘s New Media Director and Chief Cartographer.

“The day may come when Men will fall, and Jeff Wood cannot read every transit article…. but that day is not this day” – Some Transit Lovin Dude

You can subscribe to it here

Written by Stephen Rees

January 14, 2014 at 8:48 am

The Airport Mall, The Globe and Spammers

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I wrote about the local opposition to the new outlet mall at the airport in July. More information  is now available from the Globe and Mail which explains more about the proposal. Dump trucks have been moving sand at the site at the junction of Gilbert Road and Russ Baker Way since that post appeared.

The Globe is going behind a paywall next week so the story may no longer be available. Apparently, links will still work if they come from Twitter – presumably from the Globe’s feed – so it will not be the end of stories from that source. But in the same way that I no longer scan the Sun for stories, I will now have to rely on secondary sources.

I have also noticed that I am using twitter – when I can produce a pithy response – facebook and even Google+ more when there is less need to write a length but something seems worth attention in the purview declared for this blog. I am also steadily resisting people who “pitch” me offers of “guest posts”. So far this has been really easy as the offers seem to be based on a new type of spamming to get around the Word Press akismet filter. But sometimes there does actually seem to be some real person making these offers (as opposed to a spambot). If that is the case then can I ask that you read some of the blog – or at least the bit on the right hand column which explains what this blog is about. It is headed “Who I am, and what this is”. If you haven’t read that and persist in sending me email you will get a shirty reply and then be consigned to the outer darkness of Akismet

Written by Stephen Rees

October 16, 2012 at 7:25 am

Posted in blogging

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Blogging about “blogging training”

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Someone wrote to me requesting permission to use my blog in “training video” that is being made. So far as I know it is not being made for WordPress’s maker Automattic – the person who contacted me would not say who was paying for it. But they expect to sell it and make a profit of course. They were not willing to pay for the video rights however. They expected bloggers to give that to them for free.

WordPress is Open Source. WordPress.com is free. I find the very thought of someone making money by selling completely unnecessary “training videos” offensive. I think anyone buying one is a sucker. For the system is easy to use and to learn, there is a lot of community support as well as really helpful free on line information. People like Miss604 give away advice (on video) on how to blog and how to do things with WordPress. There was a free WordPress camp yesterday evening – which even had free drinks afterwards for those who did not have to drive home.

Since you read this blog, you may want to consider starting your own. Trust me. It is easy. You can pick up how to do it as you go along. You do not need a training video and you certainly do not need to pay for one.

Tazzu WordPress Camp

Written by Stephen Rees

May 1, 2008 at 1:16 pm

Posted in blogging

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Northern Voice

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On Friday and Saturday I am at a conference for bloggers at UBC. Moderated comments may not appear until later – depending on how busy I get.

It is a high energy, fun place already – and there is to be another transit camp session and one on using blogs for social change. Interesting!

Northern Voice making a human graph

Lunchtime update

I got props from the CBC lady ( Lisa Johnson editor of Your Voice) – and from a real economist I think half the people here have ADD or as they probably like to think of “multi-tasking ability”. Their lap tops are open, but very few are blogging or making notes on what is going on. It is a bit like a party where people who are talking to you are also looking over your shoulder to see if there is someone more interesting just coming in. Though the people I have talked to have been all very polite and good company

Last time I looked there were over 1,000 photos of this event on flickr

Northern Voice standing around

Written by Stephen Rees

February 22, 2008 at 10:50 am

Posted in blog update

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