Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sexual proclivities

Looking for a salacious post? Turn back now... it ain't coming. I wonder how many hits I'll get because of the title. Indulge me for a few moments while I go into a personal story.
I was appearing before a judge in Family Court. My lawyer did not reassure me that everything would be fine. I met with her in the hallway, we discussed a few things and then it was time to go into the room. I was the only male in there. The other 5 people were women. I was ready for my lynching.
Throughout the hearing, and the two that followed, I was permitted to speak fully, aside from one time where I was cautioned. In hindsight, I was perhaps skirting being out of line. At the final hearing, the judge set out the things we had agreed to, and things were "settled".
As I debriefed with my lawyer, she said, "You can be very glad that the judged really cared. Most don't."

There's no need for details regarding the reasons I was there, or the things the judge heard or ruled on, the mere fact that a lawyer who sees all sorts of goofy judges said that is really reason enough for me to recognize that I lucked out in drawing her.

That was a number of years ago, and I still remember how that judge listened, never showed any favouritism, and saw through bullshit from either side, and said so. Good judges are hard to find. A good lawyer will make a lot more than a bad judge, and a bad judge makes as much as a good judge. What good lawyer would accept an appointment to the bench? You can make a lot more coin being a lawyer.

You may have guessed the name of the judge. She's no longer actively hearing cases and from what I've read, it's through no fault of her own. Certain "inappropriate" photos of her are circulating on sites on the www. I've never had any inclination to view the photos. It's not that I'm not curious in a general sort of way, I just see no reason to. Which brings me to ask myself why newspapers in the city seem to think it's OK to mention them. There are ways of covering a story, (because it is a story), without sensationalizing it. There are ways of covering the details without uncovering things that don't really need to be exposed.

Let's be clear. I've never met Lori Douglas outside of the already noted context, and when the story first came out, I never even put two and two together. I just think that it's such a shame that one of the few good judges out there is taken off the active roster because of the things a few other goofs are doing, or did.

Do we as a society really believe that we are entitled to know about the sexual preferences of others? Sure, you could argue that the photos were bad judgment, but as they were taken before she was ever appointed to the bench... I mean there are all sorts of examples of bad judgment. Where would that sort of thing stop?
Like Greg Selinger never made any bad judgments? He played along with the NDP's corrupt accounting, where union members were listed as an "expense" and we had to reimburse the party these bogus campaign expenses. Who did more harm to the populous? Why would one be removed from a place where she is doing society (as a whole) good, while the other is seemingly coated with teflon?

This guy who keeps getting his 15 minutes of fame, ((what's his name again, chapped lips? No, that's not it. Chap stick? No, no, not chap stick. Chapman! Ya, ya... that's it! Chapman!) Paraphrased from a bugs Bunny episode "Hareless Wolf" )

How does this clown contribute? He files a law suit that is a likely to succeed as a federal NDP government being formed under Jack Layton, (thanks for the idiom ARA), and effectively removes one of the few decent sitting judges from the bench. Society is still paying Lori Douglas, since her predicament is really not of her own doing. Sure, we can point fingers at another certain lawyer, and can even consider the musings of Chap Stick when he asks if society would view a reversed situation as being sexual harassment, but it doesn't appear that Lori Douglas had any direct involvement, at least not knowingly.

For whatever reason, we seem to latch onto this belief that this is newsworthy, and given the general tenor of reporting in today's world, this relatively "easy" story is given a front page. Who actually decides what's news and what isn't? Who determines where that line is between a private matter, and the need for the public to know?

As I remember it, Robin Leech was the first guy to cross that line, reporting on Pierre and Margret Trudeau, and her indiscretions, which were fairly public. That seemed to have been the "watershed", where the private doings of people either in, or near the public light became an easy ticket to being a "reporter". Leech, (ya, ya... don't post that I spelled it wrong... I know it's Leach), made a living of covering things we don't really need to know about people who are in the public arena, so the final question is, who would go into the public arena?

I don't want people who have never made a mis step as a judge. I don't think we're well served by politicians who have never smoked a joint, or indulged in too much wine. I don't think we need squeaky clean people who pass a certain purity test to be public servants, in fact, I think we are continuing to cut the field of candidates for these positions ever smaller, until there is no one left to run or be appointed, who has any real merit, or can offer society a real service.

I don't know of too many people who could really say that they've never done or said something they've regretted doing later, and if "take backs" were possibly, that they change their actions or words. How do we change this, or do we even need to?  We'll either become oblivious to it, and accept the status quo, or recognize that our desire to know what goes on in peoples bedrooms, under the expectation of privacy, is eroding our reasonable expectations for excellence.

Mr Chap Stick, I feel that you've done Manitoban's a dis service. While I don't expect you to apologize, I think one is due, to your fellow citizens, as well as Ms. Douglas. My personal thought about you will remain as they should... personal. That's not for public consumption... and I guess that's where we start. Restraint.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Hydro Building... things we don't know

Hydro has enough problems on the go, so it's little wonder the only guy chasing the non story of the Hydro Tower's poor performance is Gordon Sinclair Jr.

I typically can't force myself to read most of his stuff. I usually stop at the headline, but today was different. He actually got me reading.

It was 2008, and my wife (who I was dating at the time, and trying to impress with my vast knowledge) were at a movie at the Globe Theater at Portage Place. As she came into the lobby, she caught me staring out the window, looking at the opening glazing on the building under construction. "What are you looking at?" she asked. "Technology that can't work", I said. "I don't see the pay back, or even the engineering working. My guess is that in the deep cold, people in there will be uncomfortable."

I didn't want to bore her, or come across as a know it all who never went to school for such things, and doesn't make anywhere near the money all the engineers, consultants, or Hydro brass make. I didn't want to sound too arrogant, knowing I really don't "know" these things, I just "feel" them.

I feel them by interpreting what I DON'T hear. I don't hear about how great MEC's geo thermal system works. I don't hear about all the awards still coming in for being energy efficient after actually running the building through a few winters, and in my books, not hearing about it makes it something that's being hushed up. If MEC was really shaving 60% off a regular similar buildings heating loads, I'd have charts on the walls trumpeting the success. So much of their spiel is "guilting" people into being "green", you'd think they'd try convincing us by trumpeting the great savings they have by spending all that money at the front end.

I was talking whit a geo-technical engineer who was associated with an organization that is quite well known in the "green" and "alternative" building circles. He had told me that he heard that the aquifer below MEC is moving too quickly, and they just can't extract enough heat out of it. Maybe that's just a myth... perhaps he was just gossipping... maybe he wasn't quite as informed as he said... or...?

A quick check for stories about the ongoing efficiency of that building turned up nothing. Maybe it's there, and I just didn't find it, but all I came across was the "rah-rah" speculation and "targets", nothing actually letting us know if the building ever met the targets. Why not?

They drilled a lot of very deep holes below the Hydro Building. I knew a guy working for PCL at the time of construction who suggested that they were well behind the projected construction schedule because they had to increase the amount of holes they needed to drill for the geo-thermal systems. Again... this isn't an "educated" comment, it's just from some guy who was working there, on site, who didn't need to keep anything quiet. The people in the know are educated, but I'm guessing they don't want to say. The problems were blamed on the "foundation".

I recall there was a story about a big wigs office being hot... apparently all that glazing lets in... heat. I couldn't find the story of the office being moved, but there was a comment in the FreeP by "taxpayer",  . While this doesn't count as a real "source", I'm not a real reporter. I remember reading about the plebs who had to stay behind needing to use electric fans to keep cool. It was blamed on the systems needing to be "tweaked". Something like today's story, where the official line is,

 Hydro spokesman Glenn Schneider confirmed there are still places in the building that need heating "adjustments."
He called it a "breaking-in period."
"It's just typical of any building you open up," Schneider said.

We just need to substitute "heating" with the words "air conditioning".  For those who don't understand the system, geothermal is supposed to do both. Cooling in the summer, and heating in the winter.

For a building that won countless awards, why aren't we hearing about the "real" evidence, now that it's up and running? Same reason as MEC I assume. None of the real results are as good as the "projections".

Geo thermal works on certain scales. Very large buildings, in the coldest major center of the world isn't one of them. Sure, we can heat arenas with the heat extracted from the ice making plants, but that's a very different system. I'm still thinking, "this technology doesn't work" in buildings like this, and I won't believe it until they start telling us what is really going on... and with the rash of half truths and other cover-ups the NDP controlled utility have going on, I don't anticipate hearing any of that anytime soon. At this time, I think all this "green" hooey is a bit like the first bus Ballard rolled out that was supposed to run on a fuel cell. It wouldn't run the morning of the press conference, but since it was downhill, they simply pushed it and let it roll to the display area. After all, fuel cell powered vehicles are silent.

Fooled 'em again!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Boyd Building fiasco

This is really unbelievable. This evening, in the FreeP online, the Boyd Building owners will appeal a ruling they received on January 11th, advising them that the illegal sign they had erected still needed to come down.
The "owners" front man is listed in the Freep as Ray Raybachuk. A quick check on the FreeP's own search bar yields some interesting stories.
The same name brings a hit regarding a parking lot development on Toronto Street next to a block owned by the same person, (unless there's two people in Winnipeg sporting the same name). Apparently, the new parking lot previously had a house on it. No problem, right? Tear it down, except that in Winnipeg, you can't just tear down a house to create a parking lot. Like it or not, those are the rules, but really... what are rules anyway? Why let something as little as an old house get in the way? Tear it down without a hearing, or a permit, who gets hurt? Except... he didn't own the lot OR the house. In June of 07, the FreeP says,

"Police allege it (the house) was stolen by a man who evicted the family, bulldozed the house and replaced it with a parking lot next to an apartment block. ...Ray Rybachuk faces charges of theft of property valued at more than $5,000 and mischief causing more than $5,000 in damage in relation to the house demolition."

Hmm... rules huh? I guess they are just for a select group... the rest of us. Parking lots. Parking lots. Why is it so hard to find a parking lot? (Paraphrased from a Bugs Bunny episode

Fast forward to Christmas Eve, 2008. The FreeP reported on how great it was that some "developers" had purchased to Boyd Building and were going to develop the lot next door. in a FreeP article they wrote,

"A group of Winnipeg investors has purchased the Boyd Medical Centre and two properties immediately west of it and are planning to build a new 12-storey parkade/commercial building on the two adjacent lots. ...
Lawyer Ken Carroll and real estate developers Russ Knight and Ray Rybachuk said they hope to begin building the new facility in the spring or early summer and expect to complete it by the end of 2009."

I drove by just to check... no parking garage, just a bare lot. I thought it had been a park. Stefano! Wasn't that a park? Didn't the Biz have a park there? and aren't parking lots supposed to be hard topped? (no gravel)... and what happened to the trees and the benches?

I couldn't find anything in the FreeP, but the Sun in November of 09 wrote ,

"Grande said the BIZ gladly cleaned out the space because it thought construction was to occur. Then, he said, at least three large trees were pulled out of the lot -- by whom, the BIZ isn't certain -- and simply tossed in a nearby back lane. The tree-dumping, Grande said, is as "mind-boggling" as the site's new use....
Carroll said the parking is a "temporary use" for the site, which he added is slated for a development of commercial space and a multi-level parkade. He added that the project -- possibly to include demolition of an adjacent building and cost up to $30 million -- is hoped to begin next spring.
As for the former park, Carroll said, "there will be some temporary measures to beautify it a little bit, in the meantime."
(Ken) Carroll said he knows nothing about the removal of the trees. "

Ya Ken... sure... you're a lawyer... if you say it's so... we believe you...musta been some vagrants ripping up trees. Lets consider the requirements of a parking lot shall we?

Oh my. Lot drainage plans, engineers, I'll bet a lawyer would have a tough time negotiating that mess... send Ray! He knows how!

As I recall, parking lots need to have bumper fences, greening a hard surface, drainage. These "developers" have none of that... and why should they? Remember the rules... for the REST of us?

There's no one left believing that the $30 million dollar parking garage that was rolled out to much fanfare is going to happen. It was a nice photo op, with Realtor Russ Knight  and his buddy, smiling on the cover of the FreeP as I recall. This guy is a piece. He'll sit at a table with you and  tell you whatever suits him best at the moment, and then disappear. Then the line gets repeated. You know the one. It's very similar to, "...he knows nothing about the removal of the trees"

Property, Planning & Development has people in their sights. Small people who can't fight back. If our "leaders" don't follow through and take down this sign, there's no rules. Why do all the upfront work only to be told "no" at some point in the process? Just do it! If something this big is allowed to just "happen", then it's open season. Build whatever you want, hook up as much power as you like, and shine lights as bright as you please. From now on, I'll no longer be a part of  "the rest of us". You all can have that law abiding, process oriented group that waits 6 weeks for a building permit and pays $1700 to have a zoning hearing to allow you to build a front deck on your own property while you're told to wait for a hearing for about three months... you can be a part of that group. Maybe I'll join the group that just "get's it done" as I want to do it.

It's easier to ask forgiveness, than to ask permission.

Just ask Ray.

We've become a bunch of Nancy's

(Apologies to anyone named Nancy who took offence to that)
Windchill. We never heard of such a thing as kids. I first remember windchill warnings as a young adult. (Let's say the 80's, just to throw a number out there) Explained as a value of watts per square inch or something that measures the time exposed skin can freeze or develop into frost bite.
As a local, I can't say I've ever had frost bite. Sure, I've been cold. I've been REALLY cold. I cut my teeth framing houses before air nailers. We'd hand nail everything. Every sheet of plywood, every stud, every floor joist. Ever try holding a hammer in your hand with a glove on? The grip is all wrong. Try playing tennis sometime wearing an oven mitt... How about holding a nail you've retrieved from a pouch with a mitt. Try it... just for kicks.
Don't misunderstand, I'm not whining (not yet, we haven't talked about how much said hands hurt now in life), simply that when you're properly dressed, this whole, morning radio spiel telling everyone how -30 feels like -45 and the school buses aren't running, I mean c'mon. I've lived here long enough to ask, "What are you going to do in February?" That's the beautiful thing about January in Winnipeg. The worst is yet to come.
Sure, the wind is brutal. It'll suck the life out of you inside of about 5 hours. You spend so much energy trying to stay warm, you're exhausted by afternoon coffee. The coldest job I ever did was just outside of St. Andrews Airport. The wind from the north... my goodness, it was cold, but the house had to be built. We built the north wall first, and we didn't cut the plywood out of the windows. A place to hide!
The point is, we seem to have become "afraid" of the cold. I know at my age, I don't spend a lot of extra time outside, but I'm still not afraid of it. Coveralls, a goose down parka, glacier boots by Sorel, a scarf, a toque, warm mitts, all covering up a sweater over a shirt and some lined pants... it's about dressing appropriately.
And by the way, what's with, "My car wouldn't start"? How old are you? How long have you been in the country? Did you plug it in? No !? What are you? Stoopid? OF COURSE IT DOESNT START! If it DOES start, be surprised. Sure, new fuel injected vehicles are WAY better than the normally aspirated stuff we used to have, but for goodness sake, that' NOT an excuse unless you're new in town.
The idea of stopping school buses... had they done that when I was a kid, I would have been waiting, and waiting, and waiting...
Dress properly, and if you've reached my age, complain bitterly about the cold (or not), but for goodness sake don't let a little bitter cold keep you indoors.
Snowmobile, snow shoe, cross country ski, go sledding, skate... it's really not that bad.
Can we PLEASE stop talking about how cold it "feels" and just deal with how cold it IS. When it's windy, I don't have any exposed skin.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Cell Phone Contracts

So the Honourable Mr. Gord Macintosh (Family Services) set up some consultation paper to elicit feedback regarding cell phone contracts.

I've had the same (2) phone number(s) for many years. Over the past few years, I've had this little problem with my billing that won't go away. It won't go away, because Telus keeps renewing my contract, but I guess they don't make enough money off me, so they have come up with a creative way of dinging me a little extra every month.

When I make a call, (anywhere in Winnipeg), it's a hit and miss to determine if I'm using a Telus tower, or some other service providers tower. Telus has decided to charge me extra airtime if I'm using some other providers tower. More frustrating, the phones "Home Only" setting doesn't work in this instance, (although this was the "fix" they suggested a few months ago).

Telus CLEARLY advertises their coverage are on maps showing all of Winnipeg... but I guess they... lie? . I can tolerate the other locations I use being poorly serviced, (like at the shore of Lake Manitoba... it's shown as a digital service area, but service is so bad, I don't pick up. No point paying long distance to do my impersonation of the Verizon guy, ("Can you hear me now?")) but RIGHT in Winnipeg? I mean all over, not just in a few locations, I get stuck with extra air time charges, and their "customer service department", (611), can't seem to do too much to "help" aside from suggest I "upgrade my plan".

I understand them wanting me to change plans. The original Talk Winnipeg plan was for unlimited airtime at all times. I guess they can't make money at that at $30 a month, so they "sneak" in a way to increase the bill.

Turns out there are few, (if any), places to formally "complain", "whine", or "bitch". Well Gord, thanks for asking,

Consumer Protection Office
Manitoba Family Services and Consumer Affairs
302-258 Portage Avenue
Winnipeg, Manitoba R3C 0B6

Re: Cell Phone Contracts

I read the discussion paper with interest, and felt that I would like to provide some feedback, specifically to

3) Should cell phone suppliers contact consumers and gain their consent before they are charged additional fees (for roaming, text messages or other services), especially if fees are higher than normal monthly charges?

I have been a Telus customer for many years. I purchased two "talk Winnipeg" plans which allowed unlimited talk, anytime for $30 monthly. Telus has provided me with various additions to the plan, always added as a "customer bonus". These items included unlimited texts, a five message mailbox, caller ID, etcetera. Certain fees are known to be added, such as the "911 fee", (which I can't for the life of me understand why I should have to pay), and a "system access fee", (same comment as previous). The greatest extra charges on my bills are "extra airtime" charges. While the plan is for unlimited talk, Telus has arbitrarily decided to charge extra for calls that are made on towers that are not "Telus" towers. If a call goes to a different service providers tower, there are extra charges incurred.

After numerous calls to Telus, a solution was provided by their technical services department. The solution was to set the handset to "Home only" mode. This had no effect, and after a few more calls to Telus, they informed me that this feature didn't really work.

The greatest frustration with the situation is that Telus advertises their "coverage area" on maps and brochures, when in fact, they have no such coverage area. Clearly if Telus is charging for any calls that are made in the vicinity of a non-Telus tower, they are advertising falsely, and have been since they came to Winnipeg. I've been told repeatedly that "you have an old plan, and the only way around that is to upgrade to a different cell phone package".

Clearly this type of extra billing and the inability to find a suitable solution coerces the client into capitulating, and changing plans to offer the client less air time, all the time under the guise of being "unable to help".

Clearly ALL Telus users are utilizing multiple service providers towers. If those clients are not being charged additional airtime while clearly within the service area they signed a contract for, then no clients, even those with existing plans, should have these extra charges levied against them.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide this feedback,



CC Telus contact us (e mail)
Canada's Office of Consumer Affairs (e mail)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Hate Crime? Part 2

Winnipeg Police Service                                                                January 6, 2011
P.O. Box 1680
Winnipeg, MB
R3C 2Z7

Re: Posters and graffiti targeting Christian places of worship, affiliated organizations/businesses

In today’s Winnipeg Sun, Cost. N. Aitken is quoted as saying,”…the force has not been asked to investigate” the matter mentioned above.

Please consider this a formal request to investigate the following.

On or about the 21st of December, 2010, and in the days following, posters depicting anti religious (Christian) messages and support for people detained at the G20 summit were placed on private buildings, places of worship, and businesses.  These locations include (list may not be complete),
·         The Ellice CafĂ© and Theater
·         Kateri Tekakwitha Aboriginal Parish
·         Youth for Christ building site
·         Tall Grass Prairie Bread
·         St. Margaret's Anglican Church
·         In the West Broadway area
·         Crossways Church
·         Higgins and Main bus shelter and transit bench
Further, I would like a formal investigation into the following matter. It would appear that on or about the 22nd of November, a call was placed to the City of Winnipeg Police non-emergency line. The called notified the operator that 2 people were putting up posters between 3:30 and 4:00. A detailed description was provided. A Police Cruiser car attended and, (in the words of the person who made the report), “…he simply slowed down on Higgins Ave right beside the suspects I had described, and simply took off. I couldn't believe it.”

The name of the person who made the telephone complaint will be with held at this time, however it can be provided if the Winnipeg police request.

A written confirmation, as well as a public statement regarding a formal investigation into this matter will be anticipated.



Gas Bar evolution (devolution?)

Things change. I don't mind this, (usually). We are more efficient when we improve on things, (or should be), and the only way to become more efficient is to stop doing things the way we have done them and alter our production and/or delivery.
Gas bars aren't one of those things.
At the risk of sounding "old"...
My first job was at a Turbo station on Provencher. I was 15, and when I quit it was at $3.10/hour. (That's only provided so you can estimate what year it was).
At 16 , I was eventually found reliable enough to work the close shift. One person alone from 7-11 pm. There were 3 pump heads with 2 nozzles each. You weren't allowed to shut them down, except the premium/regular pump a half hour before close to help you get things wrapped up.
Didn't matter how many cars came in, the boss insisted that every vehicle got the windshield washed. He also wanted us to offer us to check the oil, (to which we all hoped the customer would say, "No thank you").
People paid primarily with cash, but plastic was very common. As I recall, it was a 60/40 sorta split. We carried a "float" with which we made change, usually $100 in our pocket. If you were short cash at the end of the shift, it came outta your cheque.
We learned how to make change pretty quick.
What's the point of the history lesson?
Cars came in, were attended to, and left with as much fuel as was requested and a clean windshield.
Things are very different today.
We pull in and wait. We wait because people have to go in to pay at the till, redeem lotto tickets, buy smokes, get a slushie... all the while we are out there waiting for them to clear the pump. No one can make change at the pump, (and I understand why insofar as a personal safety standpoint goes), and if you want your windshield washed, you can ask.
There must be a better way. There simply HAS to be a more efficient way to put fuel in a vehicle, I mean we have these "pay at the pump" features and all. If I want a receipt, we have to go inside because the printer is broken... and no, that's not a "one time thing", it seems to happen a lot. Pay at the pump, press "print receipt" and see a message on the screen, "please see attendant".
If I wanted to chat with the staff, I wouldn't have pressed "pay at pump" would I?
The latest mess happened at a Flying J. I've had the good fortune of visiting many of these south of the 49th. They are typically clean, well run, and they cater to the professional driver... meaning they seem to care.
I went to fill up, selected my fuel, pressed "pay inside", pressed the "start" button, and waited. And waited. And waited.
Finally a crackled voice came through on the speaker that sounded like the teacher in the Peanuts cartoons. I went inside and was told I had to pre pay. Now in the US this is VERY common, and I've done this many times. I gave them my credit card, and they asked ,"How much?" "As much as it will hold". "Well give it your best guess" "$70."
So they authorized a purchase for $70 and I went back out. While there, the register on my pump said .04 and then went up to .05. I hadn't started pumping yet, and where did a nickle go? "Oh we'll refund that to you" was the response after going inside (again), and heard something like "restart" through my hat with ear flaps. (In hind sight, how can I know I'm not being shorted .05 on every litre?)
I went out to restart, and waited... and waited...
I went back in and asked what was up. "Oh, you cancelled the transaction when you restarted, we'll need to authorize your card again".
What? You already know my card is good for it. What could have happened between now and then?
I approached the till where no less than three people were standing around and asked for the authorization slip. I told them that I couldn't buy fuel from them today, as I wasn't experienced enough to make it through the process they had in place.
Things don't always change for the better. It shouldn't take that long to get no where.