Posts made in September, 2013

The right to unplug

Posted by on Sep 11, 2013 in Published, Writing | Comments Off on The right to unplug

Originally published in The Fulcrum: August 29, 2013.

A debate over technology-free zones in parks

THE SUN IS rising, slowly burning up the morning mist while you stand at the edge of a clearing. This moment makes your early morning hike worthwhile. You can see a doe at the other edge of the clearing, enjoying the dew-wet grass. All you can hear is the sound of the birds singing their—

“No, I can’t do it right now! I’m in the middle of some godforsaken forest—the kids want to see something wild.”

The deer’s head snaps up and she flees, white tail flashing briefly before she is gone. The serene morning is broken, the birds now silent. Furious, you turn to see who has the audacity to ruin such a perfect moment, and there they are: the epitome of how far humanity has strayed from nature.

A man is on his smart phone talking loudly, while looking at something else on a tablet. His kids are close behind him, one so glued to his gaming device that he plows into his father when he stops. The other listens to music loud enough to hear from 15 metres away. They’ve ventured out to the park to see nature, and sure, they’re in the thick of it, but are they really experiencing it?

We live in a world that is increasingly invaded by technology; there are few spaces left where we are free of these distractions, and we can reconnect with something more simple, pure, and natural. Yet with the increase in portable technology, even these rare spaces are threatened. In response, a movement towards the concept of unplugging has begun. Recently, some Marriott hotels in the Caribbean sought to designate some outside spaces as “braincation” zones free of technological devices and their distractions. Should this designation also be brought to our national parks?

There is something truly wonderful about enjoying the rain instead of worrying about whether or not my assorted electronics will get ruined. I also feel a sense of freedom when I go exploring and see things through two original lenses—my eyes—instead of an Instagram filter.

I’m not denying the huge potential of technology to make nature more accessible. Being able to research species of flora and fauna and read about ecosystems while exploring them is a fantastic opportunity for teachers, parents, and students to expand their knowledge and appreciation of the natural world. I believe that an absolute ban on technology in national parks would be a disservice. The Marriott hotels are on to something: zones are the answer.

Technology-free zones and zones aiming to preserve the natural setting provide compromises to attract people on both sides of the debate. Utilizing technology–friendly zones would attract the plugged in crowd to use technology in a way that increases knowledge. We have the technology to share information electronically and this would expand our understanding of parks and wildlife.

In the United States, there have been discussions about adding expanded WiFi connection to their parks. Nature enthusiasts strongly opposed the idea. The park systems in both countries cannot deny the fact that technology constantly evolves and that people are becoming more attached to their technological devices. It is detrimental for the park systems if they do not adapt and embrace these changes. In order to thrive, they have to allow every person to experience and enjoy the beauty of the natural world, whether or not they rely on technology.

Studies show that the ability to disconnect and be free of these electronic tethers is important to our well-being and psyche. It is also the park systems’ responsibility to preserve areas where people can enjoy the outside world and have quiet conversations with fellow humans in real time, face to face. The balance of compromise—and the ability to preserve the rights of both the willingly plugged in and the unplugged—must be protected and maintained by the park services.

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Bixi now available on campus

Posted by on Sep 11, 2013 in Published, Writing | Comments Off on Bixi now available on campus

Originally published in The Fulcrum: August 29, 2013.

Two bike rental stations relocated to U of O

TWO BIXI BIKE stations have been installed on the University of Ottawa campus: one on Waller Street outside Hagen Hall and one outside of the Minto Sports Complex on King Edward Street.

The stations come at a moving cost paid by the university to have the stations relocated from their previous locations west of Centretown.

According to Daniel Spence, sustainable transportation manager at the U of O, the decision to have stations on campus was made in light of “the anticipated congestion and mobility issues related to Ottawa Light Rail Transit construction adjacent to our campus.”

The Bixi program is a way of providing staff and students with an alternative to driving.

There have been other changes to the Bixi system. Stations at the Somerset Street West and Arthur Street intersection and Preston Street and Carling Avenue intersection have been removed until the end of the season.

During the winter months, the National Capital Commission (NCC) will examine a number of factors to assess where stations should be located in 2014. According to NCC communications officer Emily Keogh, this process is undertaken every year to maximize efficiency and ensure proper management.

Keogh said the target audience for the two new U of O stations is students, staff, and visitors on campus, as well as tourists and nearby residents. Spence hopes students and staff living in communities close to the other 23 Bixi stations in Ottawa will see this as “a healthy, active option for getting to campus even if they don’t own a bike, or they left it at home when they moved to Ottawa.”

The Bixi system uses two options: memberships and access passes. Memberships are offered at both a 30-day ($30.25) and yearly ($80.50) rate. The first 45 minutes of a trip are included in the membership with cost increasing after that point.

Access passes are offered at either 24-hour ($7) or 72-hour ($15) rates, and include the first 30 minutes of each trip. Within any time period, users may rent a bike as many times as they want, and a new trip is started each time the bike is docked into a station.

“The Parking and Sustainable Transportation Division will continue to offer the free Bike-Share program as we consider the use-cases as very different,” Spence said in an email.

According to Spence, the Bixi program will cater to different users than the existing Bike-Share program offered by the Parking and Sustainable Transportation Division. The Bike-Share program is mostly used recreationally by students who live in residence or Sandy Hill, whereas the Bixi program accommodates tourists and commuters traveling from one end of the city to the other.

As a back-to-school special, Capital Bixi is offering $10 off a 30-day subscription until Oct. 15

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Nostalgic for Nostalgica

Posted by on Sep 11, 2013 in Published, Writing | Comments Off on Nostalgic for Nostalgica

Originally published in The Fulcrum: August 29th, 2013.

Café reopens with familiar food and new layout

Kaitlynne-Rae Landry | Fulcrum Contributor

CAFÉ NOSTALGICA REOPENED its doors Aug. 17, and even in its newness it was strangely familiar. After only two days of dry runs, the new staff was extremely excited for the patio party opening.

“The fries are the same, which is the best,” said Amalia Savva, former president of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa. “I really like that they’ve kept a lot of the old.”

The café is trying to find a balance between keeping the things that students loved and creating a unique new atmosphere.

“We are still moving into the new house, and like any move it will take some time to make the new space our own,” said Kate Gauvreau, the manager of Café Nostalgica.

The food was the star of the evening. For the initial opening, the restaurant offered a teaser menu that included student favourites: burgers and poutine. Other Nostalgica classics like the beloved nachos have returned now that the full menu is available.

“It’s good to have it back—that was the best burger I’ve had in months,” said Paul Tower, a third–year history student.

“I never got to experience the old Nostalgica, but this is yummy,” said Mike Burnside, a second–year commerce student.

“I’m also really happy I can use my meal plan and flex dollars here. It’s awesome they’ve implemented that right from the start.”

The move, facilitated by the Graduate Students’ Association (GSAED), provides yet another food and drink option forstudents.

The new layout includes a stage, which was immediately put to use as local musicians played to an enthusiastic crowd on opening night. The layout allows for excellent views of the stage from anywhere inside and from most of the patio.
The only hindrance with the new open design is the pillar in the middle of the stage. This earned a few jokes from the musicians, but the venue seemed well appreciated.

There were also some initial growing pains. Service was a little slow, some orders came with the sides switched, and the restaurant wound up with one overworked debit machine for the packed room.

“We could not have asked for a better crowd,” Gauvreau said. “Without the people, Nostalgica just wouldn’t be home.”

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