Thursday August 25, 2016
Japan’s shrinking population has weighed on the world’s third-biggest economy, alarmed government forecasters and turned some rural communities into veritable ghost towns.
Not so in Niseko, a ski resort community on the nation’s mountainous, northern island of Hokkaido that’s prospering in the face of all the demographic gloom.
The local government has embraced immigration in a way the national government hasn’t. The area’s booming economy has spurred investment in luxury hotels, restaurants, and shops--and attracted local and expat workers who’ve become full-time residents. Niseko’s population grew 2.9 percent last year to 4,952 compared with 2010 levels, the highest mark in four decades. Nationwide, the population slid 0.7 percent over the same period.
“There haven’t been any other towns that have been this successful before,” said Tatsuya Wakao, a consultant at Fujitsu Research Institute. "They did a good job in recognizing the need for foreign tourism."
True, not every rural community is blessed with the ski slopes and hot springs that Niseko enjoys. Should the town’s much larger neighbor Sapporo win its bid to host the Winter Olympics in 2026, Niseko would host the Alpine events for the games and enjoy an economic windfall.
That said, other Japanese ski resorts and tourism centers have fallen on hard times and Niseko offers broader lessons to all struggling rural towns about the power of savvy and sustained marketing as a rising middle class in Asia broadens the region’s tourism opportunities.
If you’re in academia, you probably have a very close relationship with coffee. For most Americans, coffee feels like a necessary part of our day, crucial to our higher-order cognitive functioning. Coffee has been a staple in American households and workplaces for over 100 years, and coffee as a commodity is one of the most widely traded and profitable items on the international market (Pendergrast 1999). In early 19th century, coffee served as a strong index for the elite classes of American society. It was expensive, often challenging to obtain, and was consumed primarily within prestigious social circles. However, the increasing reach of white European imperialism and the fine-tuning of the mechanisms of colonial trade and exploitation led to such resources becoming accessible to a wider range of consumers. In less than a century, the notion of coffee as a beverage consumed in the drawing rooms of the upper crust eroded. Coffee instead became a ubiquitous fixture of the American working class, tied to notions of cheery productivity and the booming prosperity of the American labor force (Jimenez 1995).
Despite the place of coffee as a common fixture in the American psyche, there is an accumulation of evidence to suggest that the social meaning of coffee is again shifting. Today, it seems that coffee is being enregistered (Agha 2003), or is coming to be seen as, a symbol of a “higher class” America. But instead of the narrowly defined American elite of the past, coffee, and specifically “specialty” or “craft” coffee, is becoming an increasingly important part of the “yuppie”, “hipster” experience. Craft coffee in the United States is an industry of skilled artisans, focused on delivering handmade products to their communities. This reorientation in the American coffee industry towards a more craft-focused ideal is closely tied to the emergence and growth of independent micro-roasters and coffee shops that offer a “local”, community-centered alternative to the mass market coffee franchises that have until recently dominated the landscape of American coffee consumption (Roseberry 1996).
But specialty coffee, like other craft industries in the United States, comes with a high price tag. While the $.99 cup of coffee still exists, the world of specialty coffee is limited to those who can economically participate in the industry by paying $5 or more for a cup of coffee. This conspicuous consumption indexes an investment in not just the coffee itself, but also in how the coffee is grown, harvested, roasted, and brewed. At the same time, consumption of specialty coffee reifies the divide between the $.99 cup of coffee and the $5 cup of coffee. This is one way in which forms of stratification tied to wider issues of race and class in the United States become concrete.
The physical spaces that specialty coffee shops and roasters occupy play an important role in the wider landscape of the industry. In many cases, specialty coffee storefronts are opening their doors in urban areas undergoing gentrification. The white yuppies and hipsters at the vanguard of these changes hold an economic status that makes a five dollar cup of coffee affordable, something that in many cases cannot be said for the historical residents of these areas.
The symbiosis between the consumption-based desires of this new upper-middle class and the services provided by the specialty coffee industry creates a situation in which craft industries feed off these larger urban development projects. Gentrification encourages new specialty establishments. At the same time, the existence and proliferation of specialty coffee, in these locations, further encourages gentrification through the availability of the commodities that the new upper-middle class feel they “need”.
This is the true story of Bonnie and Clyde.
No, not the infamous outlaws who went on an armed robbery spree during the Great Depression. This is about the two endearing but evasive capybaras who escaped from the High Park Zoo, prompting a media frenzy and month-long search and rescue mission.
Lost in the park’s 400 acres of forest, ponds and trails, the mischievous rodents evaded capture for 36 days and cost the city at least $15,000 in services and overtime for about 30 employees, according to emails from the city’s parks and recreation division obtained through access to information laws.
It all began the morning of May 24, when the capybaras, which had been purchased for a total of $700 from a Texas breeder, were dropped off at their pen in High Park Zoo.
Zookeepers had hoped to exchange the duo, who are capable of breeding, for lonely old Chewy, High Park’s OG capybara. But Bonnie and Clyde, as they were later nicknamed by city staff, had freedom in mind and went on the lam.
Toronto's west end has a new nuclear neighbour. General Electric Hitachi announced August 19 that it plans to sell its Canadian nuclear operations, including its uranium pellet plant on Lansdowne, to BWXT Canada Ltd., a subsidiary of Lynchburg, Virginia's BWX Technologies, which operates one of only two facilities in the U.S. licensed to process highly enriched uranium.
BWX Technologies is the prime contractor in charge of the U.S. Department of Energy's 13,000-hectare nuclear weapons testing laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico.
Among the "recent accomplishments" listed on the company's website: the manufacturing of the grapefruit-size plutonium cores used in the W88 thermonuclear warhead designed for the Trident II submarine-launched ballistic missiles.
If BWXT acquires the necessary licence and regulatory approval from the federal government, it will take over GE Hitachi's operations and 350 employees at three plants in Toronto, Peterborough and Arnprior. BWXT's Cambridge plant was recently awarded a $103 million contract to supply the first eight of 32 steam generators for the refurbishment of the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station in Tiverton.
The GE Hitachi plant at 1025 Lansdowne, north of Dupont, processes 53 per cent of all the nuclear fuel used in Canada's nuclear reactors. Drums of yellowcake uranium dioxide powder are trucked into Toronto and transformed into ceramic pellets for use in fuel rods at the Pickering and Darlington reactors.
I've blogged at length about my support for the plant. I see nothing in the article to justify a change of opinion.
Peter Dickinson was dying when he designed the Inn on the Park.
From a bed in Mount Sinai hospital, his body weakened from cancer, Dickinson listened to Four Seasons co-founder Isadore Sharp explain his idea for a new flagship location at Leslie and Eglinton.
Sharp’s sixteen acre site was directly opposite the west branch of the Don River, next to Sunnybrook and E. T. Seaton parks, and rose gently to a hill in the middle. It was outside the core, but Sharp hoped to lure guests to the picturesque location.
After securing the land, Sharp approached Dickinson, who had previously designed the company’s first motor lodge on Jarvis and Carlton streets.
The hotelier explained he could only afford to build a 200-room complex, but that the design should be able to accommodate expansion.
“He sketched on a pad the way the hotel looked when it opened,” Isadore Sharp told Globe and Mail architecture columnist, Adele Freedman. “This building, when it opened, was identical to the sketch.”
With many Huzzahs! the federal government announced the details of funding for many projects in Toronto and other parts of Ontario under its new Public Transit Infrastructure Fund. This first step concentrates on “state of good repair” (“SOGR”) projects, especially as they relate to the TTC whose capital budget has been constrained by Toronto Council’s willingness to raise new revenues for only a few pet projects.
Press reports, together with the usual tub-thumping from Mayor Tory, imply that we are about to see a huge leap in work on TTC infrastructure upgrades. This sounds good, but the truth is not quite so simple, or as photo-op worthy.
The TTC’s Capital Budget can be a forbidding document, even in the short version that is online. The full version, with detailed descriptions of every project, fills two large binders. A fundamental problem, as we have heard every year for some time now, is that the total value of the ten-year Capital Plan is not completely funded, and there is a shortfall over that period of close to $3 billion. This does not include projects with their own earmarked funding such as the Spadina Subway Extension (aka “TYSSE”) or the Scarborough Subway Extension (“SSE”).
The main issues facing the City of Toronto and the TTC are:
•Almost all ongoing funding for Capital spending has dried up at both the Provincial and Federal levels with only the Gas Tax flowing on an annual basis. This amounts to about $160 million from Ottawa and $70m from Queen’s Park (an additional $90m in Provincial funding goes to the Operating Budget).
•City borrowing is constrained by a debt ceiling target such that no more than 15% of the Property Tax income is required to service the City’s debt. Major projects added to the budget in recent years, notably the Gardiner Expressway, have pushed the City right to that line leaving no headroom to finance additional projects until the early 2020s.
•City Council has not been willing to raise additional revenues either through the property tax, or other mechanisms allowed by Queen’s Park, to service new debt beyond the 1.6% Scarborough Subway levy, and Mayor Tory’s proposed 0.5% levy to help fund some other capital needs.
•Queen’s Park announces a lot of transit funding, but this focuses on areas outside of Toronto. Even within Toronto, it flows mainly to Metrolinx, not to the City and TTC. All of the new funding is for Capital projects, not for day-to-day operations.
There is much, much more at his blog.
- News of Proxima Centauri b spread across the blogosphere yesterday, to Discover's D-Brief and Crux, to Joe. My. God., to the Planetary Society Blog, and to Centauri Dreams and The Dragon's Gaze.
- blogTO notes the impending opening of Toronto's first Uniqlo and suggests TTC buses may soon have a new colour scheme.
- The Dragon's Gaze discusses detecting exo-Titans and looks at the Kepler-539 system.
- Marginal Revolution notes Poland's pension obligations.
- The Map Room Blog looks at how empty maps are of use to colonialists.
- Steve Munro examines traffic on King Street.
- The NYR Daily looks at what an attic of ephemera reveals about early Islam.
- Otto Pohl announces his arrival in Kurdistan.
- The Russian Demographics Blog and Window on Eurasia note that more than half of Russia's medal-winners at the Olympics were not ethnically Russian, at least not wholly.
- Window on Eurasia looks at Ukraine's balance sheet 25 years after independence and considers if Belarus is on the way to becoming the next Ukraine.
Wednesday August 24, 2016
Wondering if it is better to fly into Lethbridge airport and taxi around or fly into Calgary and rent a car to drive to Lethbridge?
Is it hard to get around by car in Lethbridge. I like walking or public transit but not sure what that is like either.
Any input is appreciated....
A woman who's selling chocolate-covered-frozen-banana treats by tricycle is feeling too ticked to ride as she tries to navigate what she says is the city's confusing licensing structure.
The High Park resident spent about $25,000 to get her chocolate-covered-frozen-banana-on-a-stick-treat business, coco-bananaz, up and running. After jumping through what she called too many hoops at city hall, she plans to shut down the tricycle-based operation for the season.
In a strongly worded letter to Mayor John Tory’s office, Stanleigh expressed her disillusionment.
“Toronto appears to be against innovation, against any sort of change, ‘CLOSED for business,’” she told Tory. “Why does a small entrepreneur have so much difficulty gaining access to information, markets and opportunities in this city?”
[. . .]
“I’m totally flabbergasted," she said. “It’s a maze to try and get through, and it shouldn’t be this way. It should be clear, it should be easy, and they should give people who are trying to start small businesses access to the market.”
Ottawa will pump $500 million into the beleaguered TTC in 2016-17 for dozens of projects, ranging from subway and bus repairs to adding bike parking at 40 stations, the Star has learned.
The federal cash is flowing to the province and cities to spend on transit and water, to “make sure what we already have is in a state of good repair and optimizing our existing infrastructure,” Kate Monfette, spokeswoman for the Ministry of Infrastructure and Communities, said Monday.
It’s a substantial down-payment on the $840 million the federal government has earmarked for Toronto transit. “There are more projects to come,” Monfette said.
TTC chair Josh Colle acknowledged the funded projects are not glamorous but said the nuts-and-bolts transit work is needed to reduce breakdowns and delays.
“This kind of work just gets neglected constantly — it’s hard to ribbon-cut for a subway pump but people get angry when we close a line or a station to deal with repairs. With a (repair) backlog so big, we just need help from other levels of government. To have a federal government that gets that and steps up is really encouraging and almost unheard of.”
High-rise living and sky-high home prices aren't just for downtowners any more.
Toronto is still the hotbed of condo activity, with more than half of sales occurring in the city. But apartments are a hot commodity all over, with sales across the region rising 52 per cent in July compared to the same month last year.
Low-rise home sales declined 32 per cent last month, part of a 7 per cent drop this year to date. But high rises have risen 25 per cent year over year in 2016.
The average price of a new low-rise Toronto-area home — including detached houses, semis and townhomes — continued edging closer to the $1 million mark last month, hitting $906,508 — up 12 per cent over July 2015.
At the same time, the supply of ground-level new homes has plummeted, according to an Altus Group report for the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD) released Monday.
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