Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Dominion-Chalmers in 3D

There's no Peds on Weds post today, as my list of pedestrian topics is full with complaints and problems, and I'd like to identify some more positive ones to balance it out.

Instead, I'd like to share another 3D image. I've refined my skills from the previous 3D image, showing a scene from the Bronson Avenue reconstruction, by taking better source photos and being more careful when processing them into something that looks good with red-blue glasses. This one's of the Dominion-Chalmers United Church on O'Connor Street between Cooper and Lisgar:

As with the previous 3D image I'm sharing the source images too. If you don't have 3D glasses you can theoretically "wiggle" quickly between these two images to approximate a 3D effect, though they would need some cropping before that would work well.

Unlike the previous one, I've made it full colour by retaining the green channel in this image (the two views were taken too far apart in the previous view, and when I tried to add the green channel it makes your eyes hurt to try to see the 3D). Since most of the 3D images I've seen growing up were red-and-blue line drawings, I didn't even know you could do this until I saw the instructions I followed. The way this still works, I suspect, is that one eye sees the blue and green channels, which are bold enough to tell your brain that this is what the object looks like, and the other eye sees the red channel, which the brain uses to add dimension to what it sees in the other eye. The three colours mix together as they would if they were all identical, creating the full colour. Photos with lots of bright primary colours don't do well with this because there isn't enough information for the two eyes to compare what they see.

Since I'm taking photos with a single camera, it's a bit harder for me to get the second shot to match the first (with two identical cameras you can simply take the photos from two different angles at the same time to capture live images). What I've found works reasonably well is to pay attention to the nearest object in the image (for the church photo, this would be the nearest corner of the garden curb) and where it is in the frame. Then pay attention to reference points on the four edges of the frame (For example making sure the door on the right isn't cut off and that the camera sees the far corner of the curb along the roadside at Cooper). There aren't many up/down cues to work with, which is evident from the discrepancy between the two shots, but it's not really a problem because I can just crop out the parts that don't overlap.

Another trick I learned is to look through the glasses the 'wrong' way when creating the 3D photo. My eyes don't see 3D images too well, so sometimes I'm unsure if I've successfully created the 3D image. If you accidentally filter out the colours in the reverse order, your brain can't simply compensate, but when you flip the glasses the image pops right out and the cursor floats above it. Unfortunately, in the GIMP, once you filter out the colour channels, you can't add them back in, so you have to start over if you make this mistake.

I've got other 3D photos in production for future blog posts, and I'm also looking into where you can get some cheap red-blue 3D glasses locally. I also have a second camera, which I might start carrying with me...

[Look for more one-photo posts under the label Singles]

Monday, June 25, 2012

Bridgehead Roastery opens Tuesday!

Local fair-trade organice coffee chain Bridgehead's long-awaited new flagship roastery at Preston and Anderson will be opening tomorrow to the public. This will be the 15th shop Bridgehead has opened in 12 years. In addition to the on-site bean storage and offices, there is a coffeeshop, with all the familiar trimmings of Bridgehead stores, and more. Because I had bought a "Plant A Bean" card (a form of community-supported financing where my upfront payment is repaid in installments every six months on my Bridgehead card, with interest), I was invited to a special preview of the roastery yesterday morning.

The above panorama is a view from just inside the entrance, which is off of Anderson Street, only a few steps from Preston Street. You can see the coffeeshop in the foreground, the roasting equipment off to the left, and the second-floor offices at the back.

The building was constructed in 1921 as stables for the Bell telephone company. Its double-peaked roof with riveted steel trusses is unique in Ottawa.

More recently, it was the home of Preston & Lieff Glass. Here's a view from April 2011, looking from the corner of Preston and Anderson (two blocks south of Somerset, across from Plouffe Park):

Friday, June 22, 2012

Summer: time for fun

The playing field next to the former Ottawa Tech High School, at Albert Street and Bronson Avenue is perhaps best known for the legal graffiti wall opposite Albert Street. But it's also a place where dogs play, where people walk through to get to and from work, and, as in this instance, where people set up a badminton net and play:

The graffiti wall is underneath the ledge from which this photo was taken, on the far side of the "OMB" tag.

[Look for more one-photo posts under the label Singles]

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Peds on Weds: Don't crack me up

I get very irate by people parking on the sidewalks (and I have many photos of such transgressions, which I tag with "vanscaping"). A majority of the time, they are blocking off the entire sidewalk (or enough that a stroller or wheelchair couldn't get through), when if they had parked entirely on the road there would have still been plenty of space for cars to get past. A case in point is this van on Gilmour at O'Connor.

But another reason is that sidewalks are only reinforced where there is a curb depression--i.e. where it is expected that cars will drive over them (with some exceptions like sidewalks over a bridge). Otherwise, for the post part, they are straight-up poured concrete.

Back in the winter, Eric posted at West Side Action about cracked sidewalks on Preston, likely from trucks having driven and/or parked on the sidewalk. In the photo above, a contractor's van is parked on the sidewalk, and the van's right tires correspond rather conveniently with the cracks down the middle of the sidewalk.

Individually, people who park on the sidewalk think that they are doing no harm. But collectively, as many people vehicles are parked on the sidewalk over time, the sidewalk breaks down and needs expensive and time-consuming repair. In the meantime, they are harder to keep clear of snow, and water that seeps into the cracks worsens the problem during the annual freeze-thaw cycles.

[Look for more one-photo posts under the label Singles]

Monday, June 18, 2012

Courting behind the court

The Supreme Court of Canada is a spectacular building, with its iconic façade reproduced in photographs, paintings, and even LEGO.

But have you ever been behind it?

The Court sits on a castle-like stone wall that extends behind the building, out to the top of the cliff over the Ottawa River.

Rather than keeping visitors out, the area behind the courthouse is a spot where tourists can come to get a great vantage point of the Ottawa River, Gatineau, and the Parliament Buildings.

The semicircular wall surrounding this outcrop carries graffiti of visitors from years past. As in the castles of Europe, some of these etchings have become more bold with time. The most popular are couples' names, often circled with a heart. Here we see "Ken & Casey '74" and "Claudie G. Ginis, Greece Aug 27 '72". The capstones of the wall are covered with these names, with the highest concentration closest to the river.

Looking down from this wall, to the west, there is a secluded little park along the edge of the cliff.

This is accessed by a set of stairs across the driveway from the rear of the building. Continuing in the castle theme, the curving walls stone walls are built with narrow window openings to protect from intrusion. However, behind these walls is the Court's underground parking garage—a reminder that this building was built in the age of the automobile.

The view from this place is stunning. In the Winter, you can see the nighttime lights of Gatineau reflected in the ice sheet that covers the Ottawa River.

The Gatineau Tissue Mill, owned by Kruger products, is one of the last remaining facilities of this area, where a vast forest products industry used to extend across the Chaudiere and Victoria islands and through Lebreton Flats. According to an info sheet on the company's website, this plant produces some familiar paper products you see on supermarket shelves: Scotties®, White Swan® facial tissues, White Swan® Napkins and Cashmere® and White Swan® bathroom tissues.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Minto Park Sale 2012

Tomorrow is the annual Minto Park Sale, organized by Councillor Diane Holmes (disclaimer: I work in her office). This sale provides a chance to have a yard sale table for those who live in buildings without a yard. And it takes place in historic Minto Park, on Elgin Street.

This year, there will be over 70 tables, plus other events. Funds raised by table rentals will go to Women's Initiatives for Safer Environments (WISE). In addition, there will be a raffle for many prizes of gift certificates along Elgin Street.

As mentioned by CCCA president Jordan Charbonneau in his May 2012 message to CCCA members, the association will be holding its fourth annual barbecue in Minto Park during the event, raising funds for the CCCA and WISE. I will be returning in my role as grillmaster to serve up hotdogs and veggie dogs for two dollars apiece.

As usual, the CCCA's hard-working Trees and Greenspace Committee will be hosting its annual plant sale during the event, the proceeds of which go to the CCCA Tree Fund, dedicated to improving greenspace in Centretown.

New for this year is another CCCA fundraiser, an e-waste drop off site. Drop off your used electronics at the dumpster provided on Lewis Street next to the park for free, and the CCCA will receive funds from Ontario Environmental Stewardship according to the total weight of electronics collected. So haul out that old TV or computer monitor and clear out your closet of that old VCR and discman! A full list of accepted items is on the this event page.

There are also a number of other events, including a street sale on Waverley, the Elgin Street Book Sale, and a strawberry social at Knox Church:

None of this could happen without the contribution of volunteers. The CCCA will be needing volunteers to help with the electronics drop-off site and the BBQ, and also to help people fill out membership forms to join the CCCA (at a bargain price of $5/year!). Contact, or just show up.

Minto Park (named after the Governor General), is a great little heritage park with a fascinating history:
“Minto Park was created following a petition from residents of Lewis and Gilmour Street to
the City of Ottawa Board of Park Management. The City purchased the vacant land in 1898
from J.R. Booth and created Minto Square named after the newly arrived Governor General
Lord Minto. Minto Square was designed as an ornamental park with interlacing half circles,
trees and planting beds, to be enjoyed for its visual appeal rather than for active recreation.
The buildings facing Minto Park, constructed between 1892 and 1906, comprise a coherent
streetscape representing the changing architectural styles and building craftsmanship
popular in Ottawa at the turn of the century. Alexander Garvock, a builder, was one of the
first residents of Minto Park. He built two of the houses facing the park. The Church of Our
Father, now Eglise Unie St-Marc, at the southwest corner of the park, was designed in 1900
for the Unitarian church by the architectural firm of Arnoldi and Ewart. Minto Park’s
significant grouping of low scale residential buildings, exhibiting compatible stylistic
attributes and surrounding a planned square, form a special place in the historic
development of Ottawa” (from the City of Ottawa, quoted in this PDF)

So come celebrate the park, the neighbourhood, and the many activities and causes that make up this growing annual event.

See you on Saturday!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Peds on Weds: Zebra Stripes

Tonight is the next meeting of the new pedestrian advocacy group, Walk Ottawa, 7pm at City Hall (Honeywell Room). Rob Wilkinson, coordinator of the Safer Roads Ottawa program, will be there to talk about how his program will benefit pedestrians.

The May meeting was entirely consumed by a question-and-answer session about pedestrian crossing signals with two members of the City of Ottawa's traffic department. The level of detail of the questions went even beyond the epic blog post on how pedestrian push buttons operate I posted the day of the meeting: more than one person had stood at an intersection for many signal cycles and timed the duration of the signals in each direction.

Since that meeting, many of the road markings were repainted on Centretown's roads as part of the City's annual road maintenance. Among the lines repainted were the fat white lines demarcatingis pedestrian crossing at Gladstone and Elgin. The pattern is affectionately referred to as a "zebra crossing", for obvious reasons:

The theory behind zebra crossings is that they draw more attention to the crosswalk, highlighting for drivers that they are about to cross over a pedestrian space. This is important, because the crosswalk is where pedestrians and vehicles mingle most often, and it is also one of the least effective ways of protecting pedestrians.

Unlike the traffic engineers who came to the last meeting, Rob knows what he's getting himself into (he was also at last month's meeting). He's not an engineer; rather his background is in public health. That should bring a different perspective to road safety.

Come on out tonight and hear what he has to say!

[Look for more one-photo posts under the label Singles]

Monday, June 11, 2012

Bronson Avenue in 3D

During the ongoing Bronson Avenue reconstruction, sometimes the equipment is left out in the middle of the street over the weekend. It's neat to walk up to the excavator buckets and see just how big they really are. Unfortunately, whenever I've taken photos of them, their size just doesn't quite come through.

I realized a 3D image would be an effective way of doing it, and the wiggle stereoscopy technique would work. By making an animated GIF of two images taken side-by-side, I'd be able to convey it.

Once I had the images, I realized I could do even better: make a true red-blue anaglyph in GIMP, with the guidance of this YouTube video. Get out your red and blue 3D glasses, it works!

Ironically, that's easier for me to post on the blog than an animated "wiggle" image, because Blogger doesn't let you host animated GIFs.

Here are the component images anyway. You can download them (or open them in separate tabs) and switch back and forth between them to get a similar effect:

Now that I know how to do this, I'll be taking a lot more pairs of photos to make 3D images, along with the HDR images!

(PS: Please leave a comment if you know where to get 3D glasses in Centretown...)

[Look for more one-photo posts under the label Singles]

Monday, June 4, 2012

Taking care of Bronson business

Construction continues on the Bronson Avenue reconstruction project, and it has been complicated by the large amount of underground services crammed into a relatively narrow road allowance (the street itself is wide, but unlike most streets Bronson takes up nearly the entire right-of-way). Utilities are stacked on top of each other, and the different crews have to wait until the work on the utility above theirs is done before they can move in.

The road closure is also being felt by the local businesses. Although the construction crews are making a point of frequenting the local restaurants on their lunches, it doesn't make up for the potential customers that have avoided Brsonson for the closure. At 422 Bronson Avenue is Centretown Resto Bar, on the west side of Bronson, at Florence. Their specialty is Halifax donair. I went in there for the first time a couple weeks ago, and discovered they have excellent egg rolls, too!

The auto-oriented businesses are particularly hard hit. Going from 20,000 vehicles a day passing in front of their store to a few dozen takes away a lot of potential customers. Speedy Auto Body at 540 Bronson, shown here, and Midas up the street at 450, both fall into this category.

While some places on Bronson are destination businesses that attract customers specifically to their store, like Auntie Loo's, most offer goods and services that you can get pretty much anywhere. Number 527 Bronson at Arlington, guarded in the photo below by two Colautti Construction excavators, hosts the third location of Papa Joe's Pizzeria, adding to the two locations out in Ottawa's far South end. Hopefully the signalized crossing going in at Bronson and Arlington will bring enough customers to Papa Joe's to keep the store from closing, like so many businesses at that location even before construction.

Unlike many other main streets that have undergone construction in Somerset Ward—most recently Bank, Preston and Somerset—Bronson doesn't have a Business Improvement Association. When those streets went under construction, people called them "war zones". In contrast, Bronson is being described as a "ghost town".

The underlying reason for this is likely that pedestrians have been trained to avoid Bronson whenever possible because of the heavy traffic. Even with the traffic removed, this lesson remains.

We can hope that a similar principle applies to some of the commuting motorists who have been forced temporarily to avoid Bronson or stop driving altogether (in favour of transit, walking and cycling), but we should also hope that the landscaping, wider sidewalks and pedestrian-level decorative ligthing will help to make Bronson a more attractive walking route, and make both the Avenue and the businesses along it healthier.

Hull in Lebreton Flats

This retaining wall on Albert Street near City Centre Avenue is comprised of 6x6 wooden beams that haven't done a perfect job of holding back the weight of the infill behind them. Some metal posts anchored into the ground are now holding them back.

The resulting look from the angle of the stacked beams gives the appearance of the hull of a ship in dry dock.

[Look for more one-photo posts under the label Singles]

Friday, June 1, 2012

384 Frank Street

Frank Street is well known for its grand houses, many of which span the entire block to Gladstone Avenue. It's also very pretty in the Golden Triangle. West of O'Connor, it's mostly apartment buildings of various sizes, vintages, and condition. But bucking the trend just behind the old Higgerty's Shoes building is this little house with a flagstone exterior.

Its star-shaped weathervane is a little hard to see in front of the new Central condos (formerly the Metropolitan Bible Church). It's also right across from the parking lot next to Centretown's only (thankfully!) big box store, Staples. Between the two, 384 Frank Street is much more pleasant to look at as you walk by!

[Look for more one-photo posts under the label Singles]