Getting into gear

I found this quote in Austin Kleon's newsletter — email I actually want to receive and that says a lot because I am drowning in email — sometimes I hit inbox zero and I'm like please no one ever try to contact me ever again so I can bask in the perfection of this glorious achievement.

It's about stuff, another thing I have just way too much of. I want things to be simple, and easy, but generally it feels like there's just a lot of stuff. Some of it I don't need — I am triaging some of my mugs before moving because apparently my new roommate also poses mugs and I don't want a box of them in my closet — but a lot of it I do. The light pad, the laptop stand, the camera, the lenses, the hard drives, the pens, the paper. I do too many things and they all come with stuff.

Having too much gear is one of the worst things in the world. The more gear you have, the less you do.
— Jim O’Rourke

I'm trying to get to that Goldilocks spot where I have everything I need and nothing more. One day.

I was on the Aquabus on my birthday because I've been missing the ferries in Scotland and thought it would help — it did. The boat operator noticed that I was taking a lot of pictures of the water and asked about my camera. He was a photographer too. I mentioned my wrist injury and he said that he has L Series lenses but they're really heavy so he never uses them, and likes the small and simple mirrorless way better. I couldn't agree more.

Unwelcome discoveries and setbacks

I thought I was making really good progress, that things were going much better than I could've hoped, that I'd be done soon.

Then I found a folder filled with folders filled with folders filled with folders.

Now I get to go back to where I was. Sorting files. Going through duplicates of duplicates of duplicates.

It'll take another week to get back to where I thought I was.

It's frustrating.

There are worse things in the world but that feeling where you thought you were making great progress only to discover that you missed something.


I hope to be done by the end of the month so I can move on to bigger and better things.

This has to get dealt with. The chaos and dysfunction. Not knowing where anything is.

I need order and a good system in order to get started on things.

Once this blog was in a place I liked I started using it.

When I'm not doing something I want to be doing I'll stop and think about why. What is stopping me? There's usually a reason.

I can't do my creative projects and a bunch of stuff I have in mind until my files are in something vaguely resembling order. So I just have to keep plugging away.

It took me years to get into this mess. I'm closer and closer to getting out of it.

Time goes by

Growing up I loved the movie Practical Magic. It might be the magic, the storytelling prowess of Alice Hoffman, having a sister. Maybe it's the soundtrack.

I've listened to that soundtrack over and over and over again. It fits perfectly with the movie and goes great on its own.

My favourite songs are the two Stevie Knicks songs. They are beautiful and real.

Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Knicks were a part of my childhood. I was not named after the song Rhiannon, though I do love people who know it because they are familiar with my name. It is less fun when they sing it to me. That mostly just feels awkward.

There's a particular lyric in particular a song off that soundtrack that I've been thinking about lately. If I ever did believe goes a little something like this:

And the days go by
Doing nothing about them

I am feeling better generally. Mostly. Not always. There can be new fun unexpected things but mostly things are getting better.

I am trying to get back to normal. To routines. To being productive.

And I am getting stuff done. It just often feels like I'm not. Or that the things I'm getting aren't worthwhile or useful. That the days just go by and I have no idea what happened to them.

It's great working from home but it also feels unstructured and unmoored. Like I am always working but also getting nothing done. Just a long endless swath of time that I need to find something to do with.

The world cup doesn't help but I've felt this way a lot these past couple of years. My general goal is to do something, anything that is useful or productive. It helps if it's something that I really need to or ought to be working on but I will settle for whatever pops into my head and seems like it demands to be done. Clean out the cooler. Vacuum. Transfer all your old blog posts to this new website. Organize and sift through all the digital clutter that is making your head explode. Watch an hour and a half talk that is super inspiring and relates to stuff I am really interested in.

It is doing something. Over time there are things to show for it. Just not in a 9–5 structured kind of way.

I need to both try to be more efficient and focused as well as to let go of the anxiety and guilt about not doing enough.

The time will go by either way.

With a little help from my friends

I love the Swiss Miss newsletter. I hate getting email but I always open this one. It brightens my day.

The latest edition included this quote:

It’s as simple and as complex as that. You’re the only you that’s ever been. Keep showing up despite the chaos. Be humble in the pursuit of your art and ruthless about finding the time to make it. Find friends with whom you can weather the tragic gaps. Give one another loving, honest feedback and teach each other how to make money in weird, sustaining ways. Collaborate and commiserate. Make relationships that are reciprocal, not transactional. Make lives that aren’t easy, but rife with good material. Make art that matters.
— Courtney Martin

I am a sucker for a good quote. And this is a good quote.

It's got the simple and complex thing. Because it really is that easy and that hard. You just have to do it. As best as you can. Even though you don't really know how.

The main thing I like about this is the find friends part. Because I have found some friends, a crew of sorts, of the kind I've been longing for since I finished undergrad and the easy friendships that come with close proximity and common existences.

I had no idea when I took that job at that bike store or got involved with the Bike Root what would happen, where it would take me. I had no idea that I was finding my people, a group of fantastic wonderful people. That it would lead me to friendships and love and community and belonging.

Having good friends isn't something you should take for granted. When I was an undergrad I did. I don't anymore. Instead, tonight I am grateful for the friends that I have found because they are pretty fantastic.


Wind on your face

Cherry blossoms like so many things in this world are fleeting. You can try and chase them, to time the day right. You can also just enjoy them while you have them.

I've had Hitching Rides With Buddha by Will Ferguson for a while. The pages, when I actually sat down to read them, were fleeting. They passed quickly. Now it's over. I've finished this book and since I rarely re-read books I doubt I'll be back round this way.

I did very much enjoy this book. It was as easy to read as it was to misplace. It did not sit safely on a shelf. It is much underlined.

It's the type of book that reminds me of why I wanted to be a writer in the first place and why I am working on a travel book of my own. I've always loved travel writing — basically since I first encountered it in junior high or high school. It was what I wanted to do when I grew up.

I've been making progress on things. Feeling a bit better while also trying to make peace with the fact that I might feel kind of crappy from now on. I have three big goals for the end of August and I am on my way to achieving each of them.

This book is another lesson on getting stuff done. I spend a lot more time thinking about the thing and not doing it than actually doing it.

Sure actually dealing with my poor file choices made over a decade is a lot of work. Sure editing a book is a lot of work. Mostly I just feel overwhelmed or tired and make excuses not to deal with it.

Yesterday I went to a cute cafe, now with easel because of back pain, and edited my book. It could be good. I come off as being really anxious. Really anxious. I guess I am a lot of the time. It also has some of my Rhi humour at moments.

I'm glad I'm doing it. In high school a book, like the one I just read, was to me the greatest thing a human could achieve. You get there by doing it. Bit by bit. By actually doing it. Making the time, instead of the excuses.

It's nice to have these crisp and fantastic sentences to remind me of why I'm doing this in the first place.

Home sweet home: Some thoughts on this here dominion of Canada

Today marks the union of the original provinces making up Canada. It's a day of crowded streets and fireworks. Often it's a day or not much going on.

Perhaps it's a day on which we should all reflect on this big vast land and its diverse people, its past and its future, its charms and its flaws.

I am lucky to be a Canadian. There is such enormous privilege that I gain by being born in this place. I have a high quality of life and am well-educated. I have a passport that lets me do just about anything I want. My nationality gains me respect and favour I've done nothing to deserve. It's easy to forget this.

Then there's the voice in my head that is disappointed with Canada, with our mediocrity, with our lack of action, with our endless willingness to tolerate dysfunction, with our better than the Americans slogan. I often find this place and its culture and its policies and its institutions to be enormously frustrating. We are often not a land of best practices, or one that even tries very hard to live up to its own ideals.

I mean we are the land of universal healthcare yet we fail to ensure many vital services including prescriptions, ambulance rides, vaccines, dental, optometry and physiotherapy. It's a bit crazy for a country that picked Tommy Douglas as its greatest Canadian.

We also have a horrible record on the environment and climate change. Too much money to be made to think of the future.

I lack faith in our institutions especially those that through an outdated electoral system give us one of two parties, neither of which represent me or reflect my values.

So what am I doing here? I thought about moving to Europe. To Denmark or Sweden or the Netherlands or Scotland but then I came home. Part of it was Brexit. Part of it was that being in Canada is a lot easier. This place has to take me. It has to give me healthcare. It has to let me do whatever work I feel like. That's not true anywhere else.

It's easy to be here. It makes sense. I share a culture and language and set of values with the people around me. I don't have to explain things. It just makes sense. As much as I struggle to feel like I belong much of anywhere in this world I do feel like it's easy to be in Canada. This place feels like home more than anywhere else I've tried thus far.

I complain a lot about Canada, about our flaws and imperfections, especially healthcare. I want us to strive more and to do better. To not just shrug through problems but to actually want to solve them, to hold ourselves to higher standards on some of these issues. I do it because I want this place to be as good as it can be and because I think it's worth fighting for.

If anything I like the ideal of Canada. A decent progressive polite place filled with beauty and nature. A place of Canadian English, a magical and amusing dialect of English that I adore. A place that I am from and am in now. A place that I am happy to fight to make better.

True or false creek

I wish I was a calmer person. I sometimes joke that my goal is to be lukewarm because I'm never going to be chill.

There is one thing that without fail makes me feel calm and at peace: going for a walk by the water. It's like magic.

There is something fantastic and irresistible about water.

After hanging out with some friends tonight I decided to stroll along False Creek from Olympic Village towards where I can catch my bus past Granville Island. It's a bit of a ways but it's nice and there are only going to be so many moments in my life when I have the chance to take it in. 

It's a beautiful walk.

Starting with the Olympic Village. The fact that I will never be able to live there aside the built form is nice and quite successful.

The Seawall is Vancouver at its best. Nature, water, landscape architecture, the False Creek Ferries, towers and podiums rises on the other side. A seal. A fresh stretch of pathway with separate spaces for cyclists and pedestrians with nice benches in between.

Flowers, trees. I stop to say hi to them and gawk at how pretty they are.

Always the water. Rippling and reflecting and serene.

It makes me feel small and peaceful in that way humans really need to feel small and peaceful. When all else fails the water makes me feel calm and like it will all work itself out. It's been a hard few months. A lot of things have gone wrong all at once. No matter what I know that the water is there if I need it. For a few moments I can stroll and connect to the beauty and wonder of this world. The same way I feel when I wander the forest near my house or when I strolled up the Salisbury Craigs in Edinburgh and my troubles melted away.

There are some Buddhists who believe that nature is a religious experience. That walking in the mountains or feeling the wind on your face is the manifestation of enlightenment. Walking by the water I completely agree.

Sound and the City

A few years ago, and by a few I mean a few, my sister sent me an audio postcard from London where she was living at the time. It had recordings of different spots around the city. I really loved the concept of it. Little snippets of these places and spaces. Capturing the experience of what it was like to be there.

I've always felt that need to capture experiences. To share them. To document them. That's part of why I spent a big chunk of the last 24 hours going through old blog posts and moving them here. It's tedious but I feel a need to do it. Because then it's all here. Every post. Every lousy post. And a couple of good ones.

That way I can look back at where I've been and in a way see a bit of how I got to here.

I can see the work, the evolution and think about who i was and what I was doing.

When I look back on my life and all the things I've done I have words and images to document them and to place me back into that moment. I think that's pretty cool.

After receiving the audio postcard I came up with the idea of doing my own audio postcards. I came up with a project called Sound and the City that never went anywhere. I did some audio recordings and a basic design but that was pre-podcast and I didn't do much with it.

Nowadays I spend most of my time listening to podcasts. They are my main form of entertainment, a way to feel connected, to learn, to be challenged. I am who I am and I'm doing what I'm doing in large part because of podcasts.

I think about starting a podcast. A lot.

It started with me being annoyed that a couple of my favourite podcasts don't interview landscape architects and urban designers. Who else would you want to interview? If I had a podcast it'd be all built environment all the time. Then I was like I guess I'm the person who should start that podcast.

It's a thought and if it sticks around long enough then maybe it'll go somewhere.

I'm looking for a producer and composer if anyone is interested.

I'm also trying to think of a name.

Wild Thing: Conversations about the built and natural environment comes to mind. I think it would confuse people and be too associated with other things. Usually the name comes and then there's a project.

Maybe when I think of a name and wrap up that book I'm editing and settle into school and have a better handle on my health problems and all 500 other ideas I have I'll do it.

And maybe if I do do it I'll include little snippets of sound from spots around this city, audio postcards of sorts.

I've been reading this book for years

I've been reading this book for years. Literally years.

Not that it's a bad book. It just keeps getting left behind or misplaced.

I leave it behind in a pile when I move to another country. It gets kicked deep underneath the bed and I don't retrieve it for six months.

It's taken a long time. I lack focus. i am easily distracted. I am reading too many books at once and not finishing any of them.

I am here, then there. Stuff gets lost and left behind.

Now it's almost over.

It feels wrong in a way for it to end like this. Me reading, easily coasting through the pages. Because he's good. So damn good. And it's the type of book I love.

It's a good book and I probably should've treated it better.

I'm tempted to read something else and save the last ten pages for tomorrow.

Tonight, lying in bed, unable to sleep as I have been so much lately doesn't seem right. It's not what I want to be doing and the book competes with all these other thoughts. Why can't I sleep? How can I function and be happy if I can't sleep? I'll be tired tomorrow, the kind of tiredness that permeates your soul. The kind of tiredness that I'd hoped to shed by now but that I am still carrying around saying it gets better, it'll go away. But when?

Maybe I should just finish the book. Do something useful with this extra time that I have.

You can get a lot done when you can't sleep.

It's satisfying to finish tasks, to check things off lists, to feel like you've accomplished something. These to-dos and things you've started but never finished hang over you like piles of books you started and really do intend to one day finish.

Turning over a leaf

Aw jeez this is super impressive. I turned these around in less than twelve hours. That's gotta be some kind of record.

I am getting back into editing photos and it's been nice. It can also be hard and tedious but that's what happens when you leave stuff for ages. I stopped dealing with photos at some point during my MSc dissertation and never got back to it.

I've been in bad financial/mental shape ever since then and haven't really been up for dealing with it. Doing a couple of weeks of photos is one thing. Going through thousands (and I do mean thousands) of photos is daunting.

There's a part of me that wants things to be complete and orderly. Everything dealt with, in it's place. It's not great for the I was clueless and did this wrong and I'm less clueless now but just doing the best I can, which is probably woefully inadequate of life. I need to let go of this idea of every photo, every file, every this. Bit by bit. Some today. Some later. It gets better bit by bit, not all at once.

Sometimes you just have to lean into that being where you are thing. I also have to make sure to say no to that completeness voice. I am here and this is where things are at. I need to enjoy it and make it work.

I got into macro photography mostly by mistake. I did some flower pics for one reason or another with a low aperture and really enjoyed the blur effect and how they looked. So I kept doing more. There are lots of flowers and little curbside gardens in my neighbourhood so I've been thinking about doing some macro shots of them. It's really hot and bright during the day so it's good for an evening wander.

I have been hunting for a new doctor, which is stressful in general but extra for me because doctors make me super anxious. I hope this one works out. I spent far too long trying to find somewhere I could go and then decided to go to the woods because I was feeling super edgy. As they say the trees will heal you.

The trees will heal you

It's nice being so close to Pacific Spirit Regional Park — though I wish I was a bit closer. It's a nice forest and good for wanders. There are some things I find unpleasant about this community like the single-family homes and the drab suburbanism but it can also be nice. The Dunbar high street is cosy — and could easily be extended all the way along the road via good zoning — and I decided to go for ice cream after my wanders. My days here are numbered so I really need to do my best to get what I can out of being in this neck of the woods.

Some thoughts on the future of 17th ave

One of the great things about current journalism and social media is that we get to have conversations and engage with ideas. The Sprawlhas started a fantastic conversation about the future of 17th ave and I have decided to weigh in with my $0.03. (This received positive feedback on Twitter.)

Over the years I have spent a lot of time on 17th. First as a teenager in junior high school when we strayed across the river from the north to this magical seeming place. 17thseemed so cool and big. The entire city did.

We mostly stuck with the bits between 4thst and where Steeling Home is today. We'd go to Blue Light Special, that cool store where The George apartments and the Best Buy are now. We'd go to the thrift store on the second floor at the building by Reid's. I don't know if it's there anymore. We'd go to Divine and look at the shoes and flip through shirts.

I was never good at pulling magical outfits off of thrift store racks but it was fun anyways. Mostly I bought t-shirts including an Expo 86 one with an astronaught on it and thought I was super cool. Really I was just an awkward tomboy who didn't know what they were doing — who knows how much that has changed.

Nowadays 17th doesn't seem so mysterious or magical. It's a place I am used to instead of somewhere I am discovering.

I love the Beltline. It's probably my favourite community in Calgary. I like urban and diverse places. I feel more at home amongst high rises and townhomes than in the suburb where I grew up or the suburb where I live now in Vancouver — I am visiting Calgary at the moment so I can add that credibility to my opinions. If I were to live anywhere in Calgary the Beltline would be at the top of my list. Bankview and Lower Mount Royal would be up there too.

There's something special about this place.

So here are some of the thoughts I have based on listening to the podcast episode and the coverage that's happened so far:


The redo is a huge missed opportunity. It's very car-centric and could be so much more.


I don't understand the Robson St comparison. What does that mean?

What qualities of Robson St are they referring to? What built form is this suggesting? Does this comparison include the pedestrianized block of Robson Square?


How gradual is this change going to be?

I worry that if too many buildings are redeveloped at once it could really disrupt what makes 17thspecial while resulting in homogenous construction. Jane Jacobs remarked in The Death and Life of Great American Citiesthat areas should evolve over time and have a diversity of ages of building stock. She also warned that if areas evolve too quickly and there is too much pressure for a popular area to redevelop that it can cancel out what made it good in the first place.

Will that be lost on 17th? Will what has made the area so successful result in it losing it's spark?

I'd recommend that the developer be careful to ensure that buildings look different and to partner with different architects to ensure diversity. It would be a huge shame for the street to look the same.

This is an opportunity to partner with various talented local and international architects to get creative and do great work on this street.


I bristled at Rollin Stanley's remarks about his comfort level riding in traffic. On both a personal level and as an aspiring built environment professional I take issue with much of what this statement says about the future of 17th and who it is for.

How we design our streets is very important. Built environment professionals decide how people live and how they die. If they get it wrong then it can cost people their lives. I may be a bit intense at times but I care a lot about this stuff and I do not take road design lightly. We have a responsibility to ensure that our streets are safe, equitable, inclusive and accessible.

We should not design our streets for the small minority of people who feel comfortable cycling in traffic. We don't build cycle tracks for middle-aged white men who will ride regardless of infrastructure design. We build cycle tracks for people like me.

I am an anxious and timid female cyclist. I would never ride on 17th. Ever.

I wish I was more comfortable and confident. I wish I wasn't freaked out by stuff as much as I am. I got into cycling activism in large part because I didn't feel safe riding on my city's streets but I wanted to.

The cycle tracks have opened up large parts of the city to people who have never had that chance before. I can now ride my bike to the Beltline.

We should design them for those with vulnerabilities and those who would otherwise be excluded from accessing them. This is about freedom and choice. It is about inclusive and accessible design. Everyone should be able to feel safe and comfortable on 17thnot just those with the most privilege.

The 8 to 80 approach to city building is one that I think should guide everything we do. It argues that if you design roads, spaces, cities, etc for an 8-year-old and an 80-year-old you will end up designing a road that does a good job of serving everyone.

If you design a road to serve the needs of middle-aged white dudes who feel safe riding in traffic you're going to design a space that doesn't meet a lot of people's needs. It certainly doesn't meet mine.

I also wonder about vision zero, the idea that no number of traffic deaths is acceptable. By designing 17th as a car-centric space we are saying that a certain number of pedestrian and cyclist fatalities and injuries will occur. Safety and well-being should be put above parking spaces. We should fully commit to vision zero and stop making excuses for anything less. 


Back to Jane Jacobs I think she'd love 17th. It's everything that crazy chaotic cities should be. It's what happens when you don't have rules forbidding most things and let a place evolve naturally.

The Beltline is diverse and dynamic. You can find so many different types of things all together and that's what works.

We should let the flexibility and randomness continue instead of forbidding it as so much planning does.


How many malls are struggling because the anchor tenant model is dying? Is this really the best idea for how to plan the future of 17th?


12–15 stories totally count as midrise. I've been told that 6 stories is basically a highrise and I'm like uh no. I will be referring to this the next time someone tells me modest midrise is a highrise.


Midrise offers a fantastic opportunity to transition between the highrise character of the Beltline and the lower heights in Cliff-Bungalow Mission and Lower Mount Royal. This is a great strategy and I am excited to see how it plays out.


If people aren't comfortable with fully pedestrianizing 17th there is potential for part-time closures. Calgary should consider a summer streets program where certain streets are closed on Saturdays or Sundays in summer. It would also be worth considering closing part of 17thto traffic on Friday and Saturday nights to allow nightlifers to meander between bars. I have suggested this for 10thave as well.

When I was in Edinburgh I lived near a street called the Cowgate. It was home to a high concentration of bars and was closed to traffic on Friday and Saturday nights.

This would be a good way of introducing folks who are a little bit timid about pedestrianization to seeing the street differently and to imagining what it would be like if it was more about 17thas a place than 17th as a way of moving cars.

Stephen Ave serves as the heart of Downtown. 17th is the heart of a handful of other communities. I think it would be a more vibrant and successful place if we gave more space on it to pedestrians and less to cars. This could include wider sidewalks or full pedestrianization.

Many cities around the world are making bold moves in giving road space over to pedestrians and cyclists. Will Calgary be joining them with a reimagined 17th?

Back to blogging

I keep telling myself I should write more, that I need to actually do blog posts. Something something daily goals.

I've had allergies that are kicking my ass and my knee hurts but honestly that feels like progress. Neither of those two things have anything to do with the injuries I've been recovering from. If I am more concerned by them then that feels like a good sign.

I am mostly back to normal, not at full working out again but mostly. So I aspire to blog. More. A lot more. I aspire to share stuff and to use this thing that I once really loved and think I still do.

I have stories to tell and I want to actually bother to tell them. I want to turn to-dos and ideas into things.

So I am going to blog more. I swear.

Hill walking

After various trials and tribulations — the book disappeared under my bed for a while and is suitably water damaged — I have finally finished Beyond Belfast by Will Ferguson. I read it because he's good at travel writing, which is something I'd like to be good at and enjoy reading, and because he's from Calgary and we all need some yyccon in our lives.

He's great at descriptions and does lots of things I need to work on. His adventures never feel like a laundry list. They just move. My manuscript doesn't always do that very well.

The last bit of the book brought me back to Scotland and why I'd been drawn there. It made me want to wander over hills and get lost in the rain. It reminded me of the endless draw of long-distance hiking, something I'd like to do but am not sure I am well-suited to — something something bad knees, ankles and back. I now feel like hoping on a plane and going to explore for a while, something that feels more natural to me than slogging through trying to find work even though I'm both underqualified or overqualified for basically every job I could do.

It ties into that what am I doing here? How am I going to pay rent? Where do I belong? Nowhere and everywhere voice.

I want to find my place. I thought it was here but it doesn't feel like it is. So then where? The hills, the trees, somewhere else.

Then there's the end. A bittersweet end as he searches for his origins, how his Irish grandfather came to Canada and he ended up here. The same sentiment led me to Scotland where I lived a couple of blocks from a street that bears the name of one of my family lines, a place where I felt very much at home, a place that I felt so very connected to. A story so many Canadians have.

Her or me

A while back I was hanging out at Parallel 49 on Main before heading to an event. I noticed a girl who was on Indeed and applying for basically the exact same social media gigs as me. It was weird looking over and wondering whether they'd hire her over me if our resumes ended up in the same pile.