Portrait in Bubble

Portrait in Bubbles

I had a very nice day yesterday, as I went into Toronto to meander around while I waited to pick up my girls from the airport. I had lunch with my old high school pal Walter Stoddard, who is currently employed by the Ontario Science Centre, researching the science behind some of the new exhibits they’re putting up. After a lunch at a nearby Afghani restaurant (which served yummy kabobs), he took me on a tour of some of the new exhibits. The picture above is one example. It is actually a picture of my face, rendered in air bubbles rising up in tubes filled with baby oil.

The Science Centre is as neat as I remembered, but they’re not resting on their laurels. The new area has much to offer. And I have to say that, of all of my high school circle of friends, Walter has something probably the closest to a dream job. At least, that’s what I think, and I too think I have a dream job.

Speaking of, in all of the flurry of this weekend, I forgot to mention that my latest freelance article is up at Business Edge’s website. This article, on small scale power projects that can take homes off the electrical grid, ran on Friday in all markets; the first time I’d been able to do that.

After my visit to the Science Centre, I spent the rest of the day trying out VIVA, the new bus rapid transit network implemented by York Region north of Toronto. This network was introduced with much fanfare over a year ago, featuring luxury buses, high-tech shelters and LED displays showing in real time when the next bus is due to arrive. Yesterday, I rode on three separate buses and covered the bulk of the southeast quadrant of the service (through Markham), and mostly I was impressed. There were some details, however, that left me a bit unsatisfied.

The sign alerting me to the next bus was easily VIVA’s best feature, as it seemed to be providing me with real-time information as to the location of the buses. The buses arrived about when they said they’d be due, and moved quickly, but when I flipped open my laptop to try out the wi-fi service that I was told was available on each VIVA bus and was dealt my first disappointment. My computer was able to pick up the “default” network without any difficulty, and coverage remained constant, but when I loaded up Firefox and tried to browse the net, I couldn’t connect to anything, not even a login screen that most public wireless networks have and which most public wireless networks automatically forward you to. There was no information on the bus as to how to log into this wireless network, and I didn’t think I could ask the driver, as he was probably too busy driving the bus to care about questions about the wireless network.

Then, at Richmond Hill Centre, I encountered another problem when I tried to purchase a new ticket from one of the two ticket machines at the station. One wasn’t working, and while the other had an active touch screen, its ability to accept payment by credit card was disabled and, when I tried debit card, I found that its keypad (which is located so low, one has to squat down — very badly designed, in my opinion) had its OK button busted. There was no way I could do a debit transaction, and I did not have enough cash on me to buy a ticket. It was fortunate that I was able to walk over to the neighbouring movieplex and use their ATM, but it was still a long walk, through a cold and windy parking lot.

All in all, I was happy with my experience with VIVA. The buses were comfortable and frequent and the ride was fast. There were some surprising missteps, however, in the design of Richmond Hill Centre, the lack of advertised WiFi, and the breakdown of the fare vending machines. It could do with some improvement, but it should be a model to watch.

After spending some time writing in Richmond Hill’s Indigo, I headed back to my car and drove over to the Airport to pick up my girls. Their plane from Milwaukee was two hours late, and Midwest Express lost our carseat (they provided a temporary replacement), so it was midnight before we finally stumbled home. But my girls are back and sleeping, and I’m glad to have them back.

The Night Girl Scorecard
Total word count: 23307
New words written: 1295 words

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