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Parks are about promoting everyone’s public health – not just boosting homeowners’ property value

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Although the pandemic has clarified the beneficial role of parks in promoting health and well-being in urban communities, it has also highlighted inequities in accessing parks and green spaces, problems with a culture of enforcement and led to a series of policy responses that were heavily criticised.

Trinity Bellwoods Park in Toronto. (Photo by cool885/Shutterstock)

Recently, police in Halifax, in eastern Canada, clashed with protesters and violently evicted people staying at Peace and Friendship Park and Spring Garden Road Library. Earlier this summer, Toronto police forcibly evicted residents living in encampments at Lamport Stadium, Trinity Bellwoods Park and Alexandra Park. Under the guise of “park remediation” these violent evictions were described as reasonable, firm and compassionate by Mayor John Tory despite the clashes with protesters, use of pepper spray and numerous injuries and arrests.

These actions have been repeatedly justified as a means of protecting public safety, but activists, health experts and even city councillors have spoken out against the use of violence in these responses.

Although current events have created a buzz, they reflect a trend in public policy that has been developing for some time and changing the way we see, use and value parks in our cities. They also highlight some of the limitations in our thinking about how parks can serve as a health resource for our communities.

Multiple visions of urban parks

The idea of parks as a public health resource was central to the early vision of parks. In the Progressive Era (1896–1916), an interest in health and hygiene motivated the development of parks so there could be clean and sanitary spaces for outdoor play in the overcrowded conditions of growing industrial towns.

However, other visions and motivations have long driven urban park development. City boosters and beautification societies invested in parks as a way to create civic landmarks and spaces of esthetic and natural beauty for residents to enjoy as leisure. Middle-class social reformers saw parks as spaces for the social improvement of the working class through organised sport and physical education. Public parks have long been valued as spaces for urban amusement and entertainment.

Our vision of urban parks – particularly in large cities like Toronto – is also affected by broader economic conditions, local development agendas and gentrification.

Parks advocacy groups actively promoted the health benefits of parks as a strategy to promote park investment in cities during periods of chronic underfunding. For some advocates of urban development, parks tend to be positioned as a leisure resource for homeowners and a source of property value. This is reflective of broader social trends where private wealth is valued over public goods.

The logic of park policy

Park-related policy is generally established at the municipal level. Examining policy implementation and enforcement helps us understand the motivations that guide policy development.

The events that unfolded in Trinity Bellwoods Park during the pandemic illuminate some of the gaps between the rhetoric of parks as a health-promoting resource and the realities of park use.

We see these gaps in how the City of Toronto responded to concerns related to the spread of Covid-19 in parks. It did so by revising park by-laws to mandate physical distancing. These rules were broken when thousands of people congregated in Trinity Bellwoods in May 2020.

The city then expanded its efforts with additional enforcement and signage, including painting white circles on park grass. This response was designed to enable leisurely park use, despite widely acknowledged rule-breaking (like alcohol consumption and not physical distancing).

The pandemic also created a health crisis in the city’s shelter system where it became impossible to follow physical distancing rules. As a result, between 300 and 400 residents moved to city parks, with the aim of reducing their risk of becoming infected with the virus. The city responded to this health-promoting action with forced evictions.

These different responses illustrate the limited way in which we think about parks in relation to health. The responses show that we think of parks as health resources only when we define health promotion in terms of individual engagement in leisure-based health-promoting activities.

Private interest over public health

The World Health Organisation suggests health is created by caring for oneself and others, by being able to make decisions and have control over one’s life circumstances by ensuring that the society one lives in creates conditions that allow the attainment of health by all its members.

When we think about health in this way, we can see how parks might serve as a health resource.

Historically, Toronto engaged parks differently in times of crisis. Forest and open-air schools were created in parks for children diagnosed with tuberculosis in the early 1900s. These schools saw increased use again during the 1918 flu. At the time, people saw parks as more than just a place to exercise or socialise.

In order for parks to become health-promoting resources, cities must use a broader vision of health to guide park policymaking. This vision might consider parks not just as a place for healthy leisure-based activity, but also as a resource that can be put to use to address other significant health concerns, particularly for those most vulnerable. Future parks health policy must reimagine parks as more than a contributor to property value.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The post Parks are about promoting everyone’s public health – not just boosting homeowners’ property value appeared first on City Monitor.

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sillygwailo
6 days ago
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Toronto, ON
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OmniFocus 4 TestFlight Update

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Following our initial announcement of OmniFocus 4 and invitation to help test earlier this spring, we wanted to share an update on our progress with OmniFocus 4. We are also excited to announce that an open TestFlight signup is now available (thanks for everyone’s patience as we worked through our signup waitlist!).

OmniFocus 4 Progress Update

First off, a huge thank you to everyone who has contributed to the OmniFocus 4 TestFlight so far! The feedback we’ve received over the last several months has been invaluable to the OmniFocus 4 development team. We’re really happy with the refinements we’ve made so far as a result of this feedback, and look forward to implementing the additional changes we have planned for OmniFocus 4.

Since we began the OmniFocus 4 TestFlight, we’ve made substantial changes to app navigation on the iPhone, the task outline has gotten easier to work with on all devices, and layout improvements have been made throughout the application. We’ve introduced brand new functionality, like back and forward buttons for navigating between perspective, and re-introduced features that testers told us they missed, such as badge counts in the perspective list and flagged status communication in the status circle. If you’d like to see a running list of almost every change we’ve made since beginning the OmniFocus 4 TestFlight, you can review the full set of OmniFocus 4 release notes here!

OmniFocus 4 for iPhone TestFlight Screenshots

In upcoming TestFlight builds, we’re looking forward to introducing enhanced keyboard navigation support, improving VoiceOver support, and continuing to optimize OmniFocus 4 for efficient task creation and completion.

Open OmniFocus 4 TestFlight

If you haven’t already joined the OmniFocus 4 TestFlight, and you have access to a device running a beta version of iOS or iPadOS 15, you can sign up for the open OmniFocus 4 TestFlight here. Note, OmniFocus 4 TestFlight builds require iOS or iPadOS 15, and space in the TestFlight is limited - please do not sign up if you do not have access to a device you can install OmniFocus 4 on! If you are interested in installing a beta version of iOS or iPadOS 15 on your device, you can learn more about the Apple Beta Software Program on Apple’s website. Before installing beta software on a device you rely on, please make sure you are aware of the possible risks associated with installing pre-release software and ensure that all important data is backed up.

If you choose to join the OmniFocus 4 TestFlight, please bear in mind that TestFlight builds of OmniFocus 4 are largely untested beta builds of an application that is still in development. These builds are not intended to provide “trial” access to OmniFocus 4, and may not accurately reflect the finalized version of OmniFocus 4 that we hope to release on the App Store later this year.

Sharing Feedback about OmniFocus 4

If you’d like to discuss OmniFocus 4 with other members of the TestFlight and Omni community, the best place to do so is on the #omnifocus-4 channel in Omni’s Slack workspace. The OmniFocus team is trying our best to stay on top of the feedback that is reported in the Slack channel, and we’ve had many productive conversations in that channel with members of the OmniFocus 4 TestFlight as we iterate on OmniFocus 4’s design. However, the absolute best way to submit specific feedback and bug reports is by sending it to Omni directly - either via the TestFlight “Send Beta Feedback” option, or by emailing omnifocus4-testflight@omnigroup.com.

We’re very excited about OmniFocus 4 and grateful to all our testers who have given feedback to help make it great. Thank you and congratulations to everyone who’s helped us reach this exciting milestone!

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sillygwailo
27 days ago
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I had to stop using it because it was a complete redesign and I can't tell what the icons that have no text do. In the forums, OmniGroup is saying that it's not a beta quite yet, so it's subject to change, but I'm not sure what to make of what seems to be totally different software.
Toronto, ON
mkalus
43 days ago
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iPhone: 49.287476,-123.142136
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The Omni Show: How Colter Reed Uses OmniFocus

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How Colter Reed Uses OmniFocus



In this episode of The Omni Show, Andrew welcomes Colter Reed, a productivity enthusiast who’s day job is turning brilliant ideas into beautiful software.  Colter’s OmniFocus approach espouses the best of the online and offline worlds.  Combining the digital data-slicing horsepower of OmniFocus with the tangible aspects of committing tasks to paper, Colter’s found a productivity solution that’s tough to beat.

In the podcast, Colter and Andrew communicate the importance of clarity in our commitments, using automation to template tasks, how to use our time wisely, and the early warning signs of faulty system health.

To learn more about how Colter uses OmniFocus to stay productive—tune in to the Omni Show.

Achieve more of your goals when you download OmniFocus for Mac and iOS—and if you have any questions or feedback, email support@omnigroup.com. Our amazing Support Humans are standing by, ready to help.

Enjoy!

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sillygwailo
27 days ago
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Toronto, ON
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What Is Your Favorite Analog Movie?

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I’ve struggled a bit with the vocabulary here. “Analog” doesn’t quite capture it. But it’s close. A couple decades ago I might have used the word “meme”. But with the rise of the Internet that word has now taken on a very particular meaning which is distinct from what I’m talking about. For me, and I suspect for you, there are certain movies – perhaps also TV shows or novels – which contain certain iconic or resonant moments that not only stick with us but then provide analogs which shape our understanding of real life moments. They also allow us to communicate our perceptions of those moments to others through this visual or analogic shorthand.

There’s a lot going on in that sentence so let me provide an example. For me one of those movies is The Godfather (really the whole trilogy). There’s Michael telling Sen. Geary his offer is “nothing.” There’s Vito Corleone dressing down the undertaker Amerigo Bonasera and then accepting his offer of “friendship.” Particularly Godfather I and II have countless exchanges and plot twists like this. They are mostly about the economy of power and how it interacts with friendship and loyalty.

For people who have a relationship with those movies you’re frequently either thinking or telling others … well, this is like that scene or when that happened. In the old days we might have referenced a quote or brief description. But this referential communication has taken on a visible and visual life through social media with short gifs or video clips that people use as a shorthand to characterize some event.

If you’re a Star Trek fan you may remember an episode from the fifth season of Star Trek: The Next Generation called “Darmok.” Without going too deep into the plot the episode turns on a race of aliens (the Tamarians) who communicate only through analogs, something close to what I am describing here. In that story the referents come not from movies but what appears to be the species’ mythological stories or mythologized history. There’s “Shaka, when the walls fell” which means failure. Or “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra” which means cooperation.

But of course there’s more there than a simple meaning. When I reference Michael Corleone’s interchange with Senator Geary I’m referencing much more than what amounts to his “no” or “I won’t negotiate.” There’s a whole world of meaning about power, the fictive world of political power versus the real power that Michael wields. It communicates the predatory, carnivorous sort of power by domination Michael holds and the person he has become since we first met him in the first episode in the trilogy. There’s a similar depth of meaning in the mythological world the Tamarians reference.

The episode is one of the most remembered for fans of the series but it poses a number of really fascinating, complicated questions about speech, language and how we understand the world – ones that are only hinted at but not fully explored in the forty-odd minutes of the episode itself. Indeed, almost a quarter century after the episode debuted in 1991 The Atlantic was publishing this lengthy and challenging Ian Bogost article on the episode and the complexities of language and ideation it raises. Are these analogs or metaphors of allegories? Typologies? And what difference does it make to how we understand language which one it is?

Biblical religions have something quite similar to this in the way they use foundational events or moments in the biblical texts as pedagogical or rhetorical analogs through which to understand events we encounter in our lives. The hero Jacob cheating his brother Esau of his birthright. Nicodemus visiting Jesus under the cover of darkness. Islam is perhaps even more analogical in the way that the stories about Muhammad’s life are preserved as guides to the proper way to live life for observant Muslims.

I mentioned earlier that this kind of analogical thinking or communication by reference using movies has taken on an expanded life in the Internet and social media eras. Before the social media era I could describe a cinematic moment. Now I can show it to you effortlessly in a brief video clip. It’s not just supply but demand too. There is such a profusion of information, making attention such a scarce commodity, that there is a greater need, a deeper impulse to communicate through these touchstone analogs. If you and I know the same movie and I want to explain or characterize a particular current event through one of these iconic moments I can communicate almost a world of information, context, meaning not only in few words but perhaps in no words at all. I just share a gif or an image. In my own experience, direct and vicarious, this continues to become more common. It’s ubiquitous in social media contexts and this ubiquity has expanded beyond social media to colonize other realms of communication. I have witnessed and even participated in whole conversations that turn mostly on such analogical references.

For me, the movies that play this role are The Godfather trilogy, Spinal Tap and perhaps also Goodfellas. The Godfather movies seem to have an outsize role in this analogical world. Particularly for men.

In the 1998 romantic comedy You’ve Got Mail, the Meg Ryan character (Kathleen Kelly) asks Tom Hanks (Joe Fox)

What is it with men and The Godfather?

JOE (V.O.)
The Godfather is the I Ching. The
Godfather is the sum of all wisdom. The
Godfather is the answer to any question.
What should I pack for my summer
vacation? “Leave the gun, take the
cannoli.” What day of the week is it?
“Maunday, Tuesday, Thursday, Wednesday.”
And the answer to your question is “Go to
the mattresses.”
(continued)

CAMERA ON KATHLEEN – CONSIDERING WHAT HE SAYS

JOE (cont’d)
You’re at war. “It’s not personal, it’s
business. It’s not personal it’s
business.” Recite that to yourself every
time you feel you’re losing your nerve.
I know you worry about being brave, this
is your chance. Fight. Fight to the
death.

This isn’t quite the same as the analogical communication I’m describing. But it’s close. Indeed, what the Hanks character is describing is a way of communicating with oneself by way of grounding analogs that help us make decisions. It’s not that different.

What we can see is that one’s analogical touch points – what movies or other narrative art forms play this role for you – tell us things about you and place you within communities of representation and understanding. I have countless movies that play this role for me but choosing these three as references pretty clearly places me as an American man born sometime in the second half of the twentieth century. The focus on mafia dramas also likely ties to a life spent thinking about the power dynamics of political life.

Different demographic groups have different analogical touch points that define them and their thinking. It also shapes that thinking. But one of the most interesting – to me at least novel – features of contemporary digital life on social media is that many of these referents take on a life beyond their individual reception. People use these referents or analogs to describe or communicate ideas even when they’ve never seen the original movie or TV show or whatever it came from. Through repeated use certain referents become widely intelligible and understood. There’s a proto-language of memes and analogs cut free from knowledge of the individual referents or having seen the moving or read the books. We’re a few steps to being Tamarians, at least online.

With all that, what is your top analog movie?

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sillygwailo
51 days ago
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Toronto, ON
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A Visual History of Racing Games

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Today's beautifully rendered racing games, with their licensed cars and amazing attention to detail, are a continuation of one of gaming's oldest genres. Back in 1974, Taito's Speed Race featured black and white graphics of a blocky on a vertically scrolling road. Interest in the genre meant racing games were able to evolve with gaming since the very beginning, with breakthroughs coming with each console generation.

As was the case for most games, the best graphics could be found in the arcades. Sit-down multiplayer cabinets and gearshifts, steering wheels, and pedals added further to the realism. However, as the price of advanced hardware fell, so did interest in arcades. Eventually the home console experience would reach parity with the arcade experience. While capturing the "feel" of driving is something that was best done in an arcade cabinet designed to simulate a car seat, today's racing games easily match the graphical fidelity once only found in the most advanced and expensive arcade games.

Continue reading…



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sillygwailo
71 days ago
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Toronto, ON
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Will I Return to China?

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ChinaFile sent a short questionnaire to several hundred ChinaFile contributors to get a sense of their feelings about traveling to China once COVID-19 restrictions begin to ease. Media reports at the time had suggested, anecdotally, that foreigners with longstanding professional ties to China felt reluctant to visit, in part owing to the passage of Hong Kong’s National Security Law, fear of detention, the recent trials for espionage of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, as well as the harassment of BBC correspondent John Sudworth. We asked respondents how likely they were to travel to China once COVID restrictions were lifted. We provided five choices: “Definitely Will Visit,” “Probably Will Visit,” “Unsure,” “Probably Won’t Visit,” and “Definitely Won’t Visit” and asked them to choose one response and then to elaborate on their choice if they wished. We received 121 responses, and while they do not constitute a scientific survey, they nevertheless suggest a significant shift in attitudes among a group of prominent figures in the China field.
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sillygwailo
87 days ago
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Toronto, ON
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