Monday, October 31, 2011


Hike the Geek: Guerilla Gardens

A couple of weeks ago I lead a Hike the Geek event to tour some of the Guerilla Gardens that have been planted in Toronto over the last few years. I highly recommend checking out that GG link, it's a map and this post won't make much sense if you don't go see it! Obviously it's not possible to see anything like all of those gardens in a single day, let alone a single hike. We started the hike at, and proceeded around in a big circle, hitting the letters N F Q I H J on the map. As expected, many of the gardens couldn't be found. Here's my memory of each:

N: Bellevue and Oxford. There is a green patch at the corner, but it's not clear if it's the GG or not. More notably, whoever owns the house on that lot has a really awesome veggie garden just inside his fence!

F: Bathurst and College. I believe we found the remains of the GG under a tree on the south west corner. There is a dirt patch maybe 12 feet x 6 feet, with the tree in the middle, and there is evidence of some bulbs and stuff, but it's very sad. In my opinion this is an excellent site for a GG, and this spot should totally get a do-over at some point. It's highly visible, gets shade from the tree, and is a manageable size. Plus it's kind of sad right now!

Q: College and University. There is an enormous construction site on the south east corner, we suspect the GG was in there somewhere, since we couldn't find anything at all around this location.

I: 409 Yonge Street. The GG here has survived, it's in a kind of nook made by the buildings. Very shady spot, but the garden seems to be doing pretty well.

H: Dundas Street East & Parliament. This is by FAR the most glorious GG that we found, it's huge and quite unlike any garden that the city maintains. It clear that it's getting a lot of love from a lot of people, probably some neighbors. There are all manner of perennial plants, some shrubs, lots of pretty flowers, even some epic beans running up the power pole! Totally the highlight of the hike (photo of this garden pictured on this post)

J: Dundas Street East & George. There is a weed infested edge along side a fenced empty lot, but for the life of me I couldn't spot any gardening activity there. Whatever was done in 2009 has been drowned out completely. But it is a pretty decent spot for a GG, just HUGE is all - kind of reminds me of the downtown plot this year (what the map shows as A).

I also got a chance to go and see this years West End plant about a week ago, and it's actually doing quite well. There are three enormous weeds on the back side, but some of the flowers are still in bloom, and the garden is quite green in general.

You can see almost all of these on my Hike the Geek: Guerilla Gardens flickr page.

Monday, October 24, 2011


SOON CON 2011 & Nuit Blanche

I've been procrastinating about blogging recently, SOON CON actually happened the same weekend as the mushroom hike that I blogged about 2 weeks ago! It's the SOuthern ONtario hackerspaces CONference, and it moves around - this year it was put together by Site 3, and held at the Bell TIFF Lightbox in downtown Toronto, on the same day as Nuit Blanche, the annual art night here in Toronto.

I had a great time at SOON CON, including at the pre-party the night before, actually held at Site 3. There were lightning talks and a fire spinning show. For SOON CON itself I gave a 30 minute talk about Libraries and Makers, which is a real change up from my normal talk (about wearable electronic senses). I got into this topic myself when Fiacre invited me to give a talk at TEDxLibrariansTO, a locally-organized TED-style event for Librarians here in Toronto. And I've continued to think about that stuff ever since. It would be super cool to have more maker-type stuff happening at libraries, especially because many high-schools have completely eliminated all maker-type classes (no more shop class, no more mechanics class, no more hands-on anything, basically). So I gave my pitch to a bunch of makers, and started some interesting conversations, and that continues to move forward slowly.

I was very sad when Natalie's "Many Tamagotchi's Were Harmed in the Making of This Presentation" was cancelled (apparently she had some kind of issue that prevented her from coming to the conference at the last minute), that was going to be my favorite talk; her talk about Tamagotchi's last year was EPIC. I did really enjoy Kevin's "Introduction to Fireworks" talk, and Adam's keynote "Dropping out 101: The Entrepreneur's Guide to Abondoning a Career and Becoming a Fulltime Maker" was excellent. Lots of people learned how to solder on the interesting LOL-shield based badges. You can see the few photos I managed to take, mostly of the demo room: Flickr: SOON CON 2011.

Nuit Blanche was spectacular this year, it was still fairly cold, but not nearly as cold as last year, so I think the turn-out was much higher. I personally had a much better experience this year as well, mostly because I knew so many more makers and artists in the city. There were four installations where I knew the artist and I made sure to check out each of those: the Heart Machine, Shannon's Firefly's, Future Forward and Satellites of Love. I'm pretty happy with my photos from the night: Flickr: Nuit Blanche 2011. The image to the right here is actually a shot from a laser show in front of city hall - I can't believe this photo was even possible! The night ended for me with these HUGE dancing rocks, which was everything the artist promised ("mystification") and more. But the Heart Machine was the real winner of the night - large amounts of FIRE is just the awesomest thing :-)

Thursday, October 6, 2011


Mushroom Forey 2011

Long anticipated this year - I've been looking forward to it for months! I invited several of my friends along as well. And I wasn't the only new person - apparently a friend of my dad wrote an article about him and this hike, and it attracted quite a few new people, I believe the count this year was 23 people! It was a pretty good year for mushrooms, we found quite a lot of Honey Mushrooms, a fair number of edible toothed mushrooms, but interestingly enough no chantrelles or puffballs this year (other than two large ones well beyond their prime). The best find was totally the pictured mushroom, which *grows on other mushrooms*, exactly as pictured - that's just the way it is! Check out my complete flickr set: mushroom forey 2011. See also my friends photos: fungus, slimes, mushroom, the last dozen or so are from the hike. She even has them all properly labelled and stuff!

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