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Urban Fun

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Satellite Imagery School, Can you Spot the Missiles in your neighbourhood?

Think you are an expert at looking at google earth. Can you spot your house? The center of town? How about a missile silo? I came across this site while looking at urban issues as they related to military actions and war zones. The site has an exercise in reading satellite imagery, being that its a military centered site the exercise is to identify assorted military assets. Its an interesting exercise, though I have to admit I only kept to the instructed height of 14km for a very short period of time.

Spot the Military Assets

Spot the Military Assets

Type “Peenemunde, Germany” into the search box of Google Earth. Adjust your “Eye Altitude” to about 14 kilometers. Keep this ‘full’ picture in mind as I will refer to it in one of my questions.

Peenemuende is the tip of the island to the right of center. Center your picture on the SE tip of the main runway in view. Adjust Eye Alt to 7 kilometers.

Within the picture you now have in front of you, you should be able to locate:

• One A-4 (V-2) rocket
• One Fi-103 (V-1) cruise missile
• The original launch track for the Fi-103 as used in WW2
• Pruefstand VII (Test Stand VII), the launch point for A-4 rockets
• Two East German naval vessels
• A variety of East German aircraft

Find the rest of the assignment and exercise at; ArmsControlWonk: Wonk School: Overhead Images

Club WATT: Power from the Party.

Club WATT has got to be one of the coolest sustainable initiatives out there. The Nightclub is partially powered by its patrons. The Club is home to a dance floor that turns the energy output of dancing clubbers into electricity for its own use. The dance floor uses the piezoelectric effect; there are certain materials that when squeezed become charged and produce energy. When a club patron decides to get out on the floor and bust a move, the up and down action that most dancing produces (from the floors point of view anyway) compresses cells containing piezoelectric material. The individual panels measure 65 X 65cm. The downward pressure powers tiny generators beneath the floor which then sent the electricity to a microchip that controls the LED lights on the surface of the panel. The floor has about one centimeter of give to it, when the cells are compressed, the panels create electricity. The floor measures about 30 square meters.


Club WATT is the product of an environmental research group made up of a group of local architects, academics and engineers convened by Döll Architects and Enviu. Eventually they created the  Sustainable Dance Club company.

Currently the dance floor at WATT is configured to power the light show in and around the dance floor. The floor could be used to power anything, but the owners of Club WATT wanted the patrons to be able to see the results of the energy that they create.

Club WATT also has a number of other sustainable features, such as waterless urinals, and a rainwater collection system which collects water to be used in the toilets. This is also illustrated as the water pipes are clear throughout the club so clubbers can see the rain water being pulled up from the tanks and to the toilets every time one gets flushed. There are also your standard innovations like solar panels and low-waste bars.


The club spent about $257,000 on the dance floor, an investment that the club’s owner is aware he will not recoup out of energy savings alone, it is afterall a first generation model and not all that efficient. However the floor also attracts attention and thats golden in the world of clubbing.

Club WATT has a number of different services(from the club website):

Stage: The stage will be trendsetting in Rotterdam and the Netherlands. With a healthy ambition to put Rotterdam back on the international scene. A fertile ground for new pop bands as well as established names. A wide range of music styles. It will be a low-threshold and top-class ‘platform’ for anything and everything qualifying as cultural/social, such as film, fashion, literature, art (exhibitions) and music. No obscure joint staging a small band and no inaccessible gallery showing priceless art. The ‘right’ blend of commerce and pure culture. Think of exhibitions, radio and television broadcasts, fashion shows and young persons’ debates.

Modern club: Staging of various club nights from Thurdays to Sundays inclusive. Mainly dance music, wide range.

Café: A bustling and accessible meeting place. Business appointments, a drink with some friends before the start of a concert, coffee with coconut pie with grandma. The menu offers authentic dishes for a get-together or a modest dinner. In the summer of 2009 WATT will have extended the café well outdoors, towards the park. Check here for the menu.

Theater: The name represents the atmosphere of the room. Theater stands for entertainment, culture and artistic productions. It is the perfect space for spontaneous, smaller performances or relaxed get-togethers. It can also be opened up towards the café, which makes having a cup of coffee a unique experience in itself.

Business to Business: WATT’s function rooms are especially suitable for facilitating your business meetings, product presentations as well as staff parties of 20 to 2000 people. Needless to say, WATT’s function rooms are a great profiling opportunity for companies aiming to contribute to a sustainable society.


WATT Rotterdam

Sustainable Danceclub company

The Magical Zoning Amulet

Zoning has been a much used, and lately debated aspect of city planning, ever since the Euclid decision. Euclidean zoning was norm for a long time which was also known as “building block” zoning. Different uses are segragated into specific geographic areas to keep the negative aspects of each area from impacting the other. There have since been a number of other variations such as Performance, Incentive, Form-Based, and the the oh so origionally named Euclidean II Zoning. If you want to know more check out the wikipedia page, however below we bring you another gem from The Onion, all I can say is that I would love one of these puppies!

City Councilman Unearths Magical Zoning Amulet

August 24, 2005 | Issue 41•34

ROCHESTER, NY—After years spent poring over mysterious and arcane plat sheets and deciphering long-forgotten building codes, city councilmember Mike LaMere unearthed the mysterious City Zoning Amulet Friday.

zoning-amulet“Behold!” LaMere said, holding aloft the solid-gold amulet, which is emblazoned with the Ever-Evaluating Eye of Surr-Vey, Lord Of Demarcation, He Who Measures And Assesses. “With this sigil, the power of zoning comes. Through me, the power of zoning flows! All will behold my power, and I shall bow to no man when designating matter-of-right developments for major retail and office spaces to a maximum lot occupancy of 75 percent for residential use!”

LaMere held the glowing amulet aloft and transmuted a neighborhood of low-income apartments into a semi-wooded, single-family, residential district with an adjoining riverside park.

Though the amulet had long been dismissed as urban legend, a mythical ideal of zoning perfection handed down from city planner to city planner, LaMere became convinced that not only was it real, but that it had been used to lay out the cities of Ur, Atlantis, and Inver Grove Heights, MN.

LaMere credited the amulet with the overnight renovation of the Monroe County Public Library, and the recent redesignation of a Southern Rochester area from “commercial” to “single-family residential use for detached and semi-detached structures.” Many Rochester citizens believe the amulet is responsible for the fully stocked ocean aquarium that materialized in the city center Sunday, and the gleaming new Friendly’s restaurant that rose serenely over the banks of the Genesee River late Monday afternoon.

Although the Rochester City Zoning Board controls all decisions related to city planning, sources at City Hall say that, as long as LaMere’s powerful zoning wizardry is performed for the good of the city, they “see no reason to deny him what seems to be his destiny.”

Continue Reading the article.

City Councilman Unearths Magical Zoning Amulet | The Onion – America’s Finest News Source

Revenge on the Street


While the title of this article may lead one to think that this was about some sort of violent retribution that took place on the mean streets of the city. This particular revenge took place in the municipal council chambers of North York Ontario. The council had been trying to block a townhouse development on a site that sits outside of the city’s designated North York Centre development area. However in Ontario there is a provincial body called the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) that developers can use to challenge rulings and in many cases see those rulings are over turned. In this case Hallstone Group’s challenge was supported by the OMB and the board ruled that the development should be allowed to go ahead even though it is at odds with the municipal council and the planning commission.

So the municipal council decided to thank the OMB by naming the new street an address that makes its feelings clear. ‘OMB Folly’. Councillor John Filion has been a thorn in the side of many a developer in North York was particularly incensed by the ruling;

“This one really stands out as the most ludicrous decision that I know of,” Filion said. “It takes the cake. I could cite a lot of terrible OMB decisions, but it’s the one that’s just obviously absurd and ridiculous.”

So he decided to get creative and came up with a suggestion for the new name. What he didn’t expect was the support for the new name he would get from council. It was 7-2 for the new name. One of the other councillors said that this may open the possiblity for the city to come up with some very creative names for developments that the OMB decides to allow without the support of the council or the planning department.

The OMB had no comment.

The developmer is less then impressed. He feels like council needs to ‘grow up!’ personally I love it, I mean really who needs another street named after a tree or a fantastical sounding woodland grove. Of course the new name isn’t a done deal yet.. council needs to make sure it doesn’t contravene the street-naming policy, a policy that says derogatory names should be avoided, but I hope it sticks.

You too could have a beautiful town home on OMB Folly Rd.

(Theoretical promotional material for the new development)

Check out these articles in the National Post and thestar.com



Author Add on, Check out the comments below one of our readers who has had a run in with the OMB has something to say and it turns out that our very own ‘themightyfin’ has experience working for the crazy cats at the OMB. Check out their stories below.

Strange Maps

While looking for information about Korea I discovered this website (which I then shamelessly ripped off). It’s called Strange Maps and I’ve wasted the better part of the morning clicking around.

The site has a million cool maps

The site has a million cool maps

A better way to wait


I came across an entry on a guerrilla art installation in London where Industrial Designer Bruno Taylor installed a Swing Set in a public bus shelter. Taylor believes that its time we reclaimed our streets and remembered our childhood. The Bus Stop Swing Set gives commuters the opportunity to get a little enjoyment out of the daily commute. Usually waiting at the bus stop is a dreary and relatively boring part of the morning commute that is hard to enjoy.

“71% of adults used to play on the streets when they were young. 21% of children do so now. Are we designing children and play out of the public realm?

This project is a study into different ways of bringing play back into public space. It focuses on ways of incorporating incidental play in the public realm by not so much as having separate play equipment that dictates the users but by using existing furniture and architectural elements that indicate playful behaviour for all.

It asks us to question the current framework for public space and whether it is sufficient while also giving permission for young people to play in public.

Play as you go…” Bruno Taylor.

bouncing-benchTaylor has recently finished a Masters in Industrial Design and his thesis exhibition is currently going on at Central Saint Martin and has a number of suggestions about how we can get some enjoyment out of our public spaces. Not only does he have the swing there is also a bouncing bench. He also asks what happened to us. When we were children the majority of us played out on our streets and in public spaces (sometimes spooky private spaces too,)  However these days most children are confined to their yards and homes. Taylor would like to bring play back into public spaces a first step is getting adults to remember how much fun it is. I would love to see a couple of these here in Montreal. Waiting for the Metro would be so much more fun if I could have a swing while waiting for it to pull into the station.

There are however likely to be some health and safty issues with installing the swing in particular next to high traffic areas, most bus stops are a little too close to the road for the arc of a good swing. However that isn’t to say that widened pedestrain sidewalks couldn’t take a few of these, and the bouncy bench, well that could go anywhere.

<object width=”480″ height=”385″><param name=”movie” value=”http://www.youtube.com/v/nDqbb0eHVXA&hl=en&fs=1&color1=0x402061&color2=0x9461ca”></param><param name=”allowFullScreen” value=”true”></param><param name=”allowscriptaccess” value=”always”></param><embed src=”http://www.youtube.com/v/nDqbb0eHVXA&hl=en&fs=1&color1=0x402061&color2=0x9461ca” type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” allowscriptaccess=”always” allowfullscreen=”true” width=”480″ height=”385″></embed></object>

The contact address attached to the video: bigbrudesign@gmail.com

Bobcats, not your usual neighbors

Just don't accept an invitation to dinner

Just don't accept an invitation to dinner

“They are great neighbors, and as long as they don’t want to baby-sit my kids, it’s not a problem.” s

In Lake Elsinore a family of bobcats took up residence in the back yard of a foreclosed house for a week or so. It seems that the felines decided to move themselves into the back yard of the house perhaps using it to keep an eye on their own offspring much like the other parents in the neighbourhood were doing upon learning of their arrival. Some neighbours are nervous, some are pretty happy with the sudden reduction of the rabbit population, but most didn’t feel too threatened by the cats who for the most part just lounged around on the top of a wall while people snapped photos of them. Though it appears that there is only this one photo lying around the Internet at the moment. If anyone from the neighbourhood reads this and would like to send us some more we would be eternally grateful.

While it is just as easy to come home and find a bobcat in your yard when you still live in your house, the residence of these cats in a foreclosed suburban home can make you think about just how quickly the animal kingdom would be willing to move in if we pesky humans aren’t around.

Satellite Surprises

parked Fighter JetGoogle Earth has been used by many to take virtual tours around the world and back.  You can see natural wonders, the house you grew up in, and fighter jets parked in residential areas.

PC World has a link to a great Google Earth tour that will show you a number of other oddities caught by roaming satellites.

Strangest Sights in Google Earth

Is that a mock Tudor Castle in your haystack or are you just happy to see me?

That is quite a Haystack you have there!

That is quite a Haystack you have there!

In Redhill Surry Robert fiddler created a massive pile of hay bales in his yard and his neighbours didn’t really think anything of it, he is a farmer after all. Then about six years later the bales came down and voila a Mock Tudor Castle. The fiddlers built the house in secret over the course of two years and then lived in it while it was hidden within the hay bales for four years in a bit to avoid needing to get planning permission for the structure. The town council wants it down but Robert fiddler is arguing that he followed the letter of the law. A law which states that if a structure has been built/erected for four years and there are no objections to it then planning permission is automatically granted.

The Banstead Council is arguing that the four year period is void because the fiddlers had the house hidden under a haystack and therefore no one could see it to object to it. I suppose that no one thought to wonder where all those bricks being delivered to the farm were going? (They are right there in the picture after all) The house was revealed in early January and the matter went before town council in February. While there are plenty of articles (much like this one) talking about the unveiling there are none that speak of what happened after it went to the council, or maybe he has hopefully taken the case to a higher court if they turned him down.

The Offending Castle

The Offending Castle

The question of Aesthetics aside I personally, while a fan of planning laws myself, think it is genius that this farmer found a loophole in the law and was able to use it. In terms of the legal aspect he did satisfy the terms of the law if not the spirit of the law. How often do we see people get off on technicalities in criminal cases? It is refreshing to see a farmer able do the same. Plus I have a feeling after my google map look at the property (which still shows the haystack) that this ‘castle’ is an improvement. I also find it funny that the biggest objection listed in the article is “Everyone else has to abide by planning laws, so why shouldn’t they?” That said the Banstead council and councils around the world would be smart to alter their regulations so that no one can use this loop hole in the future.

View Larger Map

The Farm is located in the bottom middle of the map on ‘Axes line’ between ‘picketts line’ and and ‘new house line’ to the left of the service road. Google Map “Honeycrock Farm, Salfords, Redhill, Surrey” to get the little red marker.
The Evening Standard Article.

Read More Here at Urban Neighbourhood with ‘The Fight for Fidler’s Castle Continues’

The Threat of Aristocratization

Aristocrats move into the neighbourhood

The Onion has this great little article that may help put gentrification into perspective for those of us ‘elites’ who don’t understand what all the fuss is about when people say that gentrification is a problem. Personally I think that gentrification isn’t as bad as people claim… BUT only if there is an concerted effort for the maintenance of affordable housing within the neighbourhood. The rise and fall of city districts has been going on for as long as there have been cities, and will continue to do so for as long as they exist.

WASHINGTON—According to a report released Tuesday by the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based think tank, the recent influx of exceedingly affluent powder-wigged aristocrats into the nation’s gentrified urban areas is pushing out young white professionals, some of whom have lived in these neighborhoods for as many as seven years.

Click here to continue reading this onion article.