the liquorice emoji

There is no liqourice (or licorice) emoji.  There is a chocolate bar emoji.

Creating a liquorice emoji may seem simple, but it immediately runs into cross-cultural challenges, specifically what is liquorice and what does it look like.

In Scandinavia and northern Europe, liquorice is salty.  This is called salmiak liquorice, you also often see the the term zout (salt) as in double (DZ) or triple salt liquorice.

See Wikipedia – Salty liquorice and the New York TimesThe Saltier the Licorice, the Happier the Country.  Just Look at Finland.

One typical form for this liquorice is a small black diamond. Finland actually did a set of joke Finland emoji (as a tourism promotion) with a “black gold” liquorice emoji
black_gold white background

Finnish sweet ‘salmiakki’ is liquorice spiced up with Ammonium chloride. It is something Finns can’t live without.

Unfortunately it doesn’t have great characteristics, which is to say if you didn’t already know what it is supposed to represent (a woman eating diamond liquorice) then you would have a hard time figuring it out.

The ideal representation would be a simple black diamond, which could be reused for other purposes as well.  Except the emoji set has no black diamond.  There’s a set of card suit emojis, so of course the emoji is a red diamond.  There are also, inexplicably, blue and orange diamonds in two sizes (I guess these must have some culture-specific meaning).  The only place you can get a black diamond emoji is from Mozilla, who have misread the ridiculously confusing specification.  The specification says that “black” means filled, not, you know, black.

When describing pre-emoji Unicode symbols, black in a character name refers to the symbol being solid/filled in.

So the emoji “black diamond suit” is actually a filled red diamond.  Except from Mozilla.  In the Mozilla emoji set on Emojipedia the diamond is black, and in the Mozilla emoji set on Github the large diamond is red but the smaller diamond on hover is black.
Mozilla black diamond suit
So for salty liquorice all that is needed is an actual black diamond emoji.

But that doesn’t represent liquorice globally.  In the US and Canada, probably the closest would be a black Twizzler, which isn’t even really liquorice.  Plus which particularly in the US, it tends actually to be a red Twizzler, which they call red vines (I only know this from Gilmore Girls).  This red candy is popular enough (or maybe recognizable on screen enough) to have appeared being enjoyed by characters in US TV shows, including The Flash and Agents of SHIELD.  Since “red” liquorice doesn’t actually exist, it’s not actually liquorice at all.

In the UK I don’t know, maybe a Pontefract cake? (Which is not actually a cake, it’s more like a coin-shaped candy.  I only know about these because of a BBC Radio 4 Extra cake series – episode Pontefract cake.)  And in France probably a Zan tablet (now Haribo Zan), which is yet another different liquorice experience.

Basically there’s a good case for the salty liquorice black diamond emoji, but I don’t think there’s an emoji that would recognizably represent liquorice globally.

As a sidebar, a much better emoji approach to shapes would mirror the one used for skin tones, which is to say, just have the hollow and filled shapes and then add markup for colour.  And maybe markup for size.  With four emoji codes already for blue and orange diamonds, it doesn’t make sense to keep adding two more codes for every new colour.

City of Ottawa’s transit budget planning projects one hundred percent funding from higher levels of government

The Executive Summary of City of Ottawa ACS2018-CSD-FIN-0003 Long Range Financial Plan Transit Update (PDF) contains an interesting change.

The key changes made to the revenue projections from the 2017 model are as follows:

  • Transit Taxes – increase in the assessment growth factor from 1.3% to 1.5%, to reflect recent trends, and increasing the transit tax to 3% from 2.5% to align the increase to the same rate as operating costs and capital costs.
  • Transit Fares – increase of 2.5% aligned with the increase in operating costs, consistent with the CUTA definition. Fare revenue projections were also decreased to reflect recent trends and the decrease in the average fare.
  • Grants from Senior Levels of Government – the revenue from senior levels of government is projected at two-thirds funding for future [Bus Rapid Transit]. For future [Light Rail Transit] this assumption was changed from two-thirds funding to 100 per cent funding.

The city is now assuming that Stage 3 LRT will be 100% funded by the provincial and federal governments.  (Stage 2 LRT will use the current 2/3 funding model.)

UPDATE: This is even clearer in slide 104 of the Stage 2 Light Rail Transit Project: Technical Briefing – February 22, 2019 (PDF) – section on changes since the 2017 Long Range Financial Plan (LRFP): “Assume 100% senior level government funding for Stage 3”

Stage 2 LRT presentation slide 104 Updates to the 2017 LRFP
above from slide 104 of Stage 2 Light Rail Transit Project: Technical Briefing – February 22, 2019 (PDF). Highlighting of line in blue mine.


The previous 1/3 federal, 1/3 provincial, 1/3 municipal funding model was manifestly unfair considering that municipalities collect 8 cents out of every tax dollar.  But it seems a bit unrealistic to me to expect provincial and federal governments to suddenly fund all of rail transit, particularly if those governments are right-leaning.

UPDATE 2018-02-27: Jonathan Willing has summarized the city’s approach in the Ottawa CitizenCity of Ottawa leaving it entirely up to other governments to fund future LRT projects.  END UPDATE

DISCLAIMER: I am definitely not an expert in the long term financial plan or in Canadian transit funding.

How to Train Your Dragon movie trilogy

How to Train Your Dragon 1 is a wonder.

Hiccup as an outsider, an inventor, compassionate.

Astrid as a strong independent woman.

Toothless as a sort-of cat with a lot of personality.

It has lots of humour and loads of heart.  Even the music is great.

(It’s particularly a wonder if you consider the source material; the movie takes some concepts from the book but basically is completely different in almost every way.  I found the book pretty much unreadable.  Definitely a case of Movie Better Than Book.)

How to Train Your Dragon 2 is good.

It still has most of the elements that make the first movie work.  Sequels are always hard.  I do think Stoic’s end should have been more heroic, but that’s really my only complaint.

Challenging Hiccup’s optimism and pacifism makes for an interesting change from the first movie.

How to Train Your Dragon 3 is… not good.  The 91% on RT gave me a lot of optimism, but I definitely wouldn’t rate it anywhere near that.  50% maybe.  The humour is off and the story is just another dragon-hating-enemy variant.  Gobber is underused, the secondary dragonrider characters are way overused.  The only good part is the ending.

Plus which, I have to say, the new star character, the Lightfury, is just… not good.  It doesn’t even look good.  The entire movie is full of beautifully rendered details down to glints off of dragonscale armour, but the Lightfury looks like it is made out of styrofoam.  Sparkly styrofoam.  And has the personality to match.  They should call her Blankness.  Instead of a strong female character the Lightfury is basically all damsel in distress.  It kind of coos incomprehensibly and has to be rescued from danger.

Every time I looked at it I was pulled out of the movie, into wondering why with all that computing power and animation expertise they made a partner for Toothless that has no detail or personality.  Just a sparkly white blue-eyed blandness.

I will watch the first movie many times, the second occasionally, but for the third I will skip the entire movie except the ending.

City of Ottawa updating Road Safety Action Plan

The City of Ottawa has a Safer Roads Ottawa program including a Road Safety Action Plan (2012-Beyond).

What the web page says is the right things

The City’s Safety Improvement Program (SIP) touches on all three Es of road safety: education, enforcement and engineering, with primary focus on engineering. The program selects locations to study, carries out in-depth studies of collision patterns and recommends countermeasures. Typically, the program studies locations with higher-than-average traffic collision rates.

There is however a big difference between saying the right things and actually budgeting and carrying through.

If you look at the Road Safety Action Plan e.g. Emphasis Area – Vulnerable Road Users, Focus: Pedestrians, pp. 7-10, what you see is

  • Awareness Campaign
  • Media Event
  • Education
  • Education
  • Safety Program
  • etc.

That doesn’t look to me like primary focus on engineering.

The city is updating the Road Safety Action Plan, there is an online survey running until Tuesday, March 19, 2019, 11:00 pm.

The survey is in my opinion super confusing.  You’re supposed to select road safety priorities, but it mixes causes of road safety problems with vulnerable users, e.g. Aggressive Driving is listed along with Pedestrians.

If I rate Aggressive Driving 5 – Highest priority and I rate Pedestrians 5 – Highest Priority, does that mean Pedestrians pose as great a road safety risk as Aggressive Driving?  By giving that priority am I saying Pedestrians cause road safety issues?

There is space for comments.

You might just want to email them at though if you want to be able to be completely clear about what you mean.

There is a general frustration I have with these kinds of consultations which is that we already have best practices.  How many times do we have to provide the same input: follow international best practices, redesign the roads, slow the cars, increase the budget.

I feel a bit like the Vision Zero Canada response to Hamilton’s proposed road safety action plan:

“If you’re going to spend money to try to save lives, spend it on actual concrete changes that we already know are effective”

There are already the right words in the 2013 Transportation Master Plan, there are for that matter already the right words on the Safer Roads Ottawa web page itself: primary focus on engineering (i.e. redesign the roads).

The UK government did a public consultation (call for evidence) on cycling and walking safety in the context of road safety just last year.  There’s a 48-page summary of responses (PDF) with some key references (note that UK “junction” is the same as Canada “intersection”):

  • British Cycling – Turning the Corner – “A simple amendment to the Highway Code and regulations to give priority [at intersections] to people walking, cycling or driving straight ahead could reduce motor traffic queue lengths by 43%”
  1. Establish consistent design standards to ensure cycle and pedestrian-friendliness is designed-in from the outset into all highway and traffic schemes, new developments and planned highway maintenance work.
  2. Make 20mph [30km/h] the default speed limit for most streets in built-up areas, with 30mph [approx. 50km/h] (or higher) limits being the exception that requires signing, not the other way round.
  3. Rebalance overall transport spending, making a far greater proportion available for cycling, walking and safer streets, including local road and path maintenance.
  • an alliance of the UK’s leading walking and cycling organisations – Moving the nation (PDF)

moving_the_nation_manifesto - make it happen - crop

You can read more about the UK consultation and results:

There’s no shortage of information from other sources, including e.g. The Conversation – Why US cities are becoming more dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians

Even today, motorists in many cities are able to turn onto streets at intersections where pedestrians are also crossing. Most pedestrians and bicyclists are killed or injured while they are obeying the law.

And you don’t have to speculate about Vision Zero, there’s a whole Vision Zero Academy from Trafikverket, the Swedish Transport Administration.

Anyway, I encourage you to respond to the consultation by the March 19, 2019 deadline.

Strawberries and cream: the UK branch rail lines

The branch lines in the UK in the 19th century brought some major changes.

One was a spring rush of early flowers and strawberries flowing from the countryside into the cities.

Another was a steady traffic of fresh milk from farm to city, usually at night so that the milk stayed cooler.  (Although it seems like this should be the origin of the term “milk run“, it appears this is not the case.)

Most of the branch lines were closed in the 1960s following Dr. Beeching’s report.

You can find out more in:

There are also books e.g.

podcasts I like – 2019 edition

Since 2015 the main changes in my podcast listening have been:

  • Since BBC Radio added ads to its podcasts outside the UK, I listen to all BBC Radio content directly on the website (which does not currently have advertisements)
  • I use Castro for podcasts on my iOS devices because 1) Apple Podcasts app now tracks every podcast you listen to and 2) Castro is a much better application for selecting specific episodes to listen to when you subscribe to a large number of podcasts

I should probably mention as a sidebar that I just stream podcasts, I don’t actually download them, as I am always on wifi or LTE.

Main Podcasts

I consistently listen to:

I also tried the Caesar’s Gallic War podcast but I found the level of detail overwhelming.

BBC Radio

I listen to a lot of BBC Radio, but on the website now rather than as podcasts.

I most consistently listen to In Our Time.

I also like the walking show Ramblings, as well as Open Country.

For science interviews I like The Life Scientific.

There is also a yearly series of lectures, The Reith Lectures.

I very much like BBC Radio London’s Robert Elms, in particular on Tuesdays when he has Maxwell Hutchinson about architecture and on Thursdays when he has Jason Solomons about movies.

I like BBC Radio 3 Essential Classics, but only when Suzy Klein is the host.  I also like Sunday Morning, with former Essential Classics host Sarah Walker.

More Podcasts

There are also lots of other podcasts that I pick specific episodes from:

And there are some podcasts I haven’t tried yet:

  • Les balades à Paris (Balades d’été à Paris) – France Bleu Paris
  • Paris insolite et secret – France Bleu Paris – « Chaque jour, Murielle Giordan vous invite à parcourir le Paris insolite et secret, côté coulisses pour faire le plein de curiosités et d’anecdotes. »

September 6, 2015  science podcasts
April 12, 2015  podcasts I like

Ottawa – Gatineau interprovincial rail

There used to be three interprovincial rail links.

Ottawa streetcar Line H went across the Chaudière Bridge to Eddy Park.

Hull Electric Railway streetcars went across the Alexandra Bridge to Ottawa Union Station.

CN Rail CP Rail crossed at Alexandra Bridge & Prince of Wales Bridge.

UPDATE 2018-02-14: The Internet tells me that both Alexandra and Prince of Wales were CP Rail bridges.  END UPDATE

Ottawa Electric Railway – Line H

Line H (Hull – St. Patrick) crossed the Chaudière Bridge to Eddy Park (the solid red line on the map below).

[Greber Plan Plate 14 Distribution of Street Cars 1948]
from Greber Plan Plate 14 Distribution of Street Cars and Buses 1948

Hull Electric Railway

Three rail lines crossed the Alexandra Bridge.  The outer two tracks were for the Hull Electric Railway streetcars (one line for each direction).  The centre track was for heavy rail, I believe CN rail.  The Internet tells me the heavy rail was CP Rail.

[Past Ottawa Alexandra Bridge approach circa 1915]
from Past Ottawa – Alexandra Bridge – Streetcars, Rails & Locks circa 1915 (image from Library & Archives Canada)

[Past Ottawa Alexandra Bridge from the Nepean Point Footbridge 1938]
from Past Ottawa – Alexandra Bridge from the Nepean Point Footbridge 1938 (image from Library & Archives Canada)

[Greber Plan - Approaches of Interprovincial Bridge, Ottawa Side]
from Greber Plan – Approaches of Interprovincial Bridge, Ottawa Side (circa 1948?)

You can sort-of see the rail lines heading up to the Alexandra Bridge (diagonally to the upper left) in this 1928 aerial image below from GeoOttawa, on which just for illustration purposes I have overlaid Confederation Line 1 underground rail and Rideau Station in yellow and red.

GeoOttawa Alexandra Bridge rail lines 1928 and Confederation Line 1

I was unable to find a map for the historical Gatineau streetcar (Hull Electric Railway) but there are photos available.

[Hull Electric Railway cars inbound and outbound near Alexandra Bridge]

Above is Hull Electric Railway (HER) car No. 50 in a clear view of HER cars both inbound and outbound on the tracks to and from Alexandra Bridge, from TrainWeb Hull Electric Company.

[Hull Electric Railway car inbound to Ottawa]

Above is a view looking south of a Hull Electric Railway car inbound to Ottawa, image CSTM/MAT04642 from Canada Science & Technology Museum Picturing the Past – A Train Journey through the Ottawa Valley Using the Mattingly Image Collection.

The above postcard with colour applied almost certainly originating from this image below posted on Lost Ottawa February 19, 2013.

Lost Ottawa Hull Electric Railway 20130219

The Hull Electric Railway closed in 1947. The terminal was underneath Confederation Square, across from Ottawa Union Station.

Interprovincial heavy rail

Heavy rail crossed the Alexandra Bridge to Gatineau on the centre track, and returned to Ottawa over the Prince of Wales Bridge.

There were numerous stations on both sides of the river.

Below is an image of heavy rail crossing the Alexandra Bridge, from Urbsite – Those Museum Trees, The Digester Tower, and a Smokestack.

[heavy rail crossing the Alexandra Bridge] Image captioned “The Pontiac and Pacific Junction Railway Alexandra Bridge is the national capital region’s mightiest engineering landmark.”

Even after the Hull Electric Railway lines were removed in 1947, the heavy rail continued until 1966 when Ottawa Union Station was closed.  You can see just the central rail tracks remaining in this cover image from Canadian Rail (Number 179, July-August 1966 Ottawa Union Station Closes).

Canadian Rail - Number 179 - July August 1966 cover
Photograph by Jim Sandilands.

The Greber Plan Plate 12 Réseau Ferroviaire Existant Ottawa – Hull and Environs 1948 below gives a view of industrial Ottawa, with a mix of passenger and freight rail lines criss-crossing the capital region.

Greber Plan plate 12 Réseau Ferroviaire Existant Ottawa - Hull and Environs 1948

You can see the loop of a train going Ottawa – Alexandra Bridge – Hull – Prince of Wales Bridge – Bayview Station in the video A train ride from Union Station Ottawa to Bayview via Hull 1966.  You can also see some photos of the various stations in Canada Science & Technology Museum Picturing the Past – A Train Journey through the Ottawa Valley Using the Mattingly Image Collection.

If you want to understand what the planners of 1949 thought about the trains, see this great video: A Capital Plan.  “Today, into the very heart of the city, come the trains to the Union Station, but with them comes smoke and grime and noise.”

Ottawa Union Station - A Capital Plan - 1949 (see above image in more detail on Flickr)

They succeeded in eliminating most of the train lines, and wrapped the region with highways (often running on former rail rights-of-way).  They imagined these highways as “capital arrivals, scenic entries and parkways”.  (They are in practice commuter highways.)

Capital Arrivals
Above was from draft Plan for Canada’s Capital 2017-2067 (PDF), page 103 “Capital Arrivals, Scenic Entries and Parkways” which in usual NCC fashion has disappeared from the web.

NCC Interprovincial Transit Strategy 2013

Since everything that goes around comes around, having eliminated all of the interprovincial rail, the NCC circa 2009-2013 tried to conjure up some ideas about bringing it back, as a light rail loop.

In usual NCC fashion, almost all of the documentation has vanished from the web, including the website

www interprovincial-transit-strategy ca

and the archive website

archives ncc-ccn ca/planning/transportation-strategies/interprovincial-transit-strategy

In fact the only thing remaining on the web is the summary hosted by Quebec’s STO – Connecting Communities: An Interprovincial Transit Strategy (PDF).

Some other sites have preserved the report: Action Sandy Hill has the full report in a Google Doc, and City Centre Coalition has all of the annexes/detailed reports as Google Docs.

I saved the presentation deck, and here is the key slide with their imaginary LRT loop.

NCC Interprovincial Transit - Infrastructure

There was no money and no plan so the whole thing is moot.

It would be great if OC Transpo and STO would at least integrate at the level of payment, but right now all you can do with your OC Transpo Presto card is take STO if you have an OC Transpo transfer or monthly pass.

Ottawa LRT Stage 3 and Gatineau West-End Rail

The only thing likely to happen in terms of interprovincial rail is a resurrection of the Prince of Wales rail link, since all of the infrastructure is still there.  This might happen in Ottawa LRT Stage 3 (which has a reasonable chance of being funded) or, rather less likely and also somehow including an Alexandra rail crossing, in the proposed but not funded Gatineau West-End Rail.