Shaping the future Ottawa: Open House Jan 29

If you’re interested in city and community planning, the City of Ottawa has an open house and presentation in the evening on Tuesday January 29 for its Building a Liveable Ottawa Plan. This is the start of their strategic review of planning, development, and transportation policies and priorities. Straight from their website, the city has identified 12 planning issues:

  1. Intensification: smart development
  2. Urban Land Issues: building in or building out
  3. Rural Components: protecting and preserving Ottawa’s countryside – most of the city of Ottawa is actual rural land use
  4. Urban Design: creating people-friendly environments
  5. Transit Oriented Development: living and working around transit stations
  6. Employment Land Review: protecting and diversifying the economy
  7. Infrastructure Needs: providing the services required for growth
  8. Public Transit: moving people when and where they need to go
  9. Complete Streets: making room for all transportation choices
  10. Active Transportation: promoting healthy lifestyles
  11. Sustainable Transportation: developing travel options to reduce car dependency
  12. Affordability: realizing development within our financial means

I like what I’m seeing so far, with a decreasing emphasis on cars and more thought being put to how to make it easier for people on foot, bikes, and public transportation to get from point A to B in an efficient, safe manner. So far, so good.

I’ve saved…now what?

I’m posting a few links to posts that I really enjoyed on The Simple Dollar. I think I’m pretty on top of my finances but I also love to read about what other people are doing or recommending. Hey, I never know when I can pick up a great tip to incorporate into my own life!

As I mentioned very briefly here, moving to a cash diet has made it THAT MUCH MORE obvious to me how easy it was to treat myself to something when I made most purchases on credit cards. It was really timely to read Living Below Your Means is a Challenge for Everyone; I think we’re at a point in our lives where we’re really trying to shift more towards living below our means so that we can both save up more (emergency funds, retirement savings, vacation funds, paying down the mortgage) and reprioritize aspects of our lives. You know, stop buying stuff, enjoy the stuff that we already have, maybe get rid of stuff (donate, recycle) that we don’t really need, and create more memories and enjoy more experiences together.

I’m not sure if this is actually plausible but I think I was born with a saving instinct; my mom tells me that she would give me a snack when I was a wee toddler and she would find me munching on something a few days later…yes…I had hid part of the snack away so that I could eat more of it later. It’s a bit gross when I think about it now but I swear, that was the beginning of the story of where I am today. I came out of university with no debt (yay good paying university jobs that also taught me solid life skills), have a solid emergency fund, don’t live out of my means, and feel pretty comfortable with my financial situation. I do, however, feel internally conflicted about where I should be channeling my financial attention. Should I focus on saving for retirement, which – if the conventional age for retirement is between 55 and 65 – is many years away but with inflation and longer expected lifespans, could cost a substantial amount? Should I spend more on travel, which I love to do? Should we pay down the mortgage as quickly as possible? Should we use more of it now or save more of it for later, hoping that we will live to see a ‘later’? Reading Investing with Indirect (or No) Financial Returns makes me think more about what our financial priorities should be for the moment. I want to be prepared for what may happen tomorrow or ten years from now but I also want to make the most of my life today since I have no idea what may or may not happen tomorrow. How do we reconcile those two thoughts?

Bike lane experimentation in Vancouver

This is a video on the segregated bike lane that was installed on Dunsmuir Street in downtown Vancouver. They’re trying a few different options for vehicle/bicycle barriers and they’ve also had to integrate the bus system/bus stops into the design.

Compare to Ottawa’s video on their new segregated bike lane on Laurier Avenue West in downtown, which opened in July 2011 as part of a two-year pilot project. Apparently this is the first set of segregated bike lanes in the province! How unbelievable is that!?

The bike lane in Ottawa has been somewhat controversial as everyone adjusts to the changes; importantly, the design has been tweaked over time to accommodate neighbourhood needs. Vancouver has done a great job with creating bike lanes all over the city (and to municipalities beyond), making cycling a more accessible mode of transportation. Ottawa has bike lanes that start and end out of nowhere but the infrastructure is slowly improving.

Why condone e-junk mail!?

Recently, I wrote about the need to remember all of the small things that I want to do instead of solely focussing on finding the big pursuits. When I sat down with pen and paper to determine what my small things would be, the first thing that came to mind and went onto that sheet of paper was to unsubscribe from unwanted emails that I receive. Usually on a daily basis.

Let me back up and contextualize. First thing when I wake up, after turning the alarm off on my cell phone, I check my email and the weather. I check the weather to help me decide how to dress myself that day and I check my email…well, I’m not really sure why but I bet I’m not alone. Anyways, amongst the twenty or so messages I receive overnight, I’d guess that about 75% are emails that I delete without even reading. I may or may not even read the subject line of the email!! Imagine that this also happens in the evening when I sit down to read the emails I received during the course of a day!! That’s a lot of unwanted messages and time wasted each day deleting emails!

Which must be why my subconscious threw out unsubscribe from unwanted emails right away when I was creating my small things list. For the past few days, I’ve consciously assessed every email that I receive using a few questions:

  • Is this email addressed directly to me?
  • Is there anything of value in this email?
  • Do I get anything out of receiving the email?
  • So far, I’d estimate that I’ve unsubscribed from around fifteen mailing lists that I’ve ended up on, one way or another. I feel a bit more free each time I do so. Electronic junk mail isn’t as obviously junky as the physical junk mail you receive at your door so sometimes it just may seem easier to delete delete delete without unsubscribing…it did for me until I’ve made a conscious effort to clean up my electronic inbox too.

    *junk mail would be anything that you consider to be superfluous, unnecessary, unwanted, a waste of time in your life. No value added, in essence.

    The small things

    Lately I’ve been feeling like there’s a little something missing from my life. Don’t get me wrong, I live a pretty great life as is. But there was still a nagging feeling…there’s something just not quite right.

    A friend was talking about the next thing she wants to try: learning to ride a motorcycle. She has a list of small things that she just wants to try whenever she has the opportunity and time. Last year she learned to drive manual. That reminded me that I used to have a list of smaller things that I wanted to try or learn. Somehow, somewhere, that list had fallen off my desk of life. Had gotten lost among the pile of papers lying beneath my desk.

    I realized at that moment that this was probably what I had been missing, and I was spot-on that it was a little something missing. More like a lot of little somethings. I too want to learn to drive manual, just for kicks. I also want to learn some Spanish, sew more tote bags, put up new closet rods and repaint the closet interiors, go to a Nordic spa, go on some waterslides, learn some HTML, understand how creative commons licenses work…. I realized that I can focus my life more effectively with a list of small things to try since it’s been challenging articulating the big things to do.