Angry Robot

Jarvis and the Bike Plan

A number of divisive transit issues have been in front of the council here in Toronto. The latest is the Jarvis redesign, in which the fifth lane is sacrificed in order to widen the sidewalks and install bike lanes. It passed after much controversy.

From my point of view, any new bike lanes are good, and I’ll take a walkable street ahead of a highway for Rosedale fatcats any day. However, I have some concerns here. There is already a bike lane the next major street east, on Sherbourne. That’s a big deal when you consider the downtown has only two(!) north-south bike lanes, Sherbourne and Beverly-St. George. (No, I’m not considering the Death By Cab shared lane on Bay a viable route.) The Jarvis lane doesn’t make much sense in the context of the city’s own bikeway network plan. We must then wonder if the Jarvis lane is an easy bone to throw to cyclists, in preparation for disappointments elsewhere. Indeed, word comes that the proposed Bloor-Danforth bike lane has been shunted off to an as-yet unspecified consultant, and “Mr. Heaps said … that if the study showed the lanes would hurt local businesses, he would not support them.”

The downtown portion of the bikeway network; dotted means not yet built. I’ve put in the Jarvis route in yellow.

That same article mentions a possible protected lane on University, which would be nice – but again, not part of the city’s own bikeway network plan. The bike plan is good, and it should be implemented. Lanes outside the network are great, but not if they take away political will to actually implement it, and especially not if they are in areas already reasonably well served by the network. I fear Jarvis may hit both these negatives.

Herzog's Bad Lieutenant Trailer

Holy shit. This just rocketed up to the top of my must see list.

I still remember seeing the original in the theatre. Awesome.

UPDATE: replaced YouTube embed with one that’s still there, I think.

Hey, it's Bike Month!

I rarely talk about biking here, for some reason. Well, that’s about to change!

Here’s an interesting interview in the Star with bizarro Clive Owen, a bike safety expert since being run over by a truck while in a bike lane. Notable (I quote):

Cyberdyne is Out There Working, Right Now

Couple things. One was a discussion about GPS automated direction-giving, in-car and, in my case, on-phone. We talked about how everyone pretty much agree that GPS will get you there, it will just send you there in weird ways. It’s worth double-checking the directions, in other words. However, we concluded that in 10 years, it might be a different story. The ability to navigate will have become an obsolete skill.

The other thing was hearing on This Week in Photography that photographers are feeling pressure from computer generated images. That is to say, product shots that used to be done by whole teams of humans are now being made in CGI. Presumably the next step will be for human model shoots to be replaced as well – think of the poor unemployed models!

It’s tempting to argue that some areas will never be taken over by the machines. For example, we’ll always need photography for the news, right? Well, I saw a CGI re-enactment on US news recently, in a story about the arrest of the suspects in the recent domestic terror incident. It was horribly done (and lampooned on the Daily Show), but nonetheless it was there – the prospect of news without the footage.

Everything seems normal, but in the background that exponential evolution keeps on tickin’.

Media Diary Day ?: PSP Reborn

The PSP is a confused platform. It launched to great acclaim and sales, but was soon outclassed by Nintendo’s DS, whose staggering popularity is hard to compete with. So despite the PSP’s respectable install base, releases slowed to a trickle.

There are two major reasons for this, I think. First, the PSP offers PS2-level graphics, so full 3D. It’s much more of a regular console experience than the DS, which means it’s more expensive to develop for, yet with a smaller install base. Developers can make money making PSP games, but not as much as they can on the DS.

Secondlly, the PSP was originally marketed as a multimedia machine (remember UMD discs?). It can play movies and music. It also has a browser. The hardware itself is admirable and full of potential. However, Sony’s software skills pale next to someone like Apple, and as a media player the PSP lags far, far behind the iPod. Many people may have originally bought their PSP for multimedia reasons, not games – so game sales never reflected the install base. And those people may have stopped using their PSPs altogether in favour of iPods.

I bought mine on a game trade-in promotion at EB Games, knowing there were a few games on the platform that I wanted to try (Final Fantasy Tactics, Jeanne D’Arc, the Syphon Filter games, Patapon, Echochrome). Try them I did, but it was a real struggle finding games in retail. Some were easy, but FF Tactics was hard as hell – I finally found it used for $45, which is way too much for a used portable game. You could download games from the Playstation Network, but originally this was PC only.

When Sony added PSN support to the PSP itself, everything changed. Suddenly there were a ton of back catalogue games available for reasonable prices ($25 is the highest price I’ve seen on the store). I quickly filled up my proprietary memory card format with awesome-ish games, such as

If the rumours of the PSP shedding the UMD drive altogether at E3 are true, the catalogue on the PSN should grow even more – which would be great news. I hope for good things for the PSP. It frequently outsells the DS in Japan, on the back of games like Dissidia and Monster Hunter, which goes to show that it’s games that move platforms – and allowing the games releases to shirnk to nothing is a surefire guarantee that your platform will wither and die. By embracing digital distribution, and opening the plentiful back catalogue to keep gamers busy, Sony keeps the PSP alive between the sparse new releases.*

Procedurally Generated City

Sometimes I wonder if life isn’t procedurally generated.