Thursday, February 24, 2011

Random Stupid Things

Okay, this post has been percolating for a while. Dates are included.

December 9   Watching Barbara Walters. She's interviewing Justin Bieber. Barbara asks him, "Is there someone you aspire to be like?" Bieber answers, "Something between Prince and Michael Jackson".
I laughed, and laughed at his answer. Pick two of the most screwed up people in the world, and hope to be like them.

December 22  Driving by the corner of Portage and St. James, I wondered out loud about how much energy I could save by converting to CFL "bulbs" as opposed to MB Hydro just turning out the lights illuminating their building's propaganda.

December 23  NORAD helping Santa in Canadian aerospace. What do these guys do the rest of the year?

Sylvia Kuzyk. Is it time? Is there any other place in the world where a weather girl was given a job for life?

Annoyed with hearing the "catchy" "Recycle every- where" commercial again, I thought I'd google them. Blue bins to "help us" recycle away from home. Never seen one. Heard this guy on CJOB tell us giving back the 2 cents as a refund wouldn't help us as much as their plan does. Sounds like another government-arm program run by relatives of MGEU members.

January 12  Drive down St. Matthews between Empress and Strathcona with a coffe in anything other than a thermos and you'll be wearing it. Seems to me there was some construction going on here a few months ago. I guess the road is "depressed" now. Between the railway crossings and the now hollow road base, it's not long before someone is accused of "baby shaking" only to have them defend themselves by saying, "I was just driving down the street, and..."

January 31 Disralie south west bound just before Logan... I think I lost a tie rod, a sway bar bushing, and a filling. Wow... this is a freeway huh? I'd hate to see the condition of the ox cart trail.

Feb 7 Heard on CJOB, (paraphrased), "Norwood Community Center is almost ready to reopen after being vandalized in November. Police are still looking for the suspects". Ya... like the way they are still looking for the guys who broke into my house in 1994. Just because they never solved the case, doesn't make them "looking"... or even caring.

Feb 9 WRHA spends $38K on a patio... and defends itself.

"Heidi Graham, a spokeswoman for the WRHA, defended the patio, saying it is accessible to about 400 employees at both the headquarters and ACCESS facility, and can be used to host fundraising events and even double as a community garden whose produce will be donated to community groups."It's unfortunate that the CTF doesn't believe we should be investing in our workforce in this way, because they are our most valuable asset," Graham said.

Actually Heidi, I'm your greatest asset. I loose 6 months of my income to taxes. 4 months of that goes to pay you, your workforce, and your patio. Don't thank me...I don't have a choice.

Child soccer players are supposed to stop counting goals. I wonder if this is because a lot of kids now can't count? If they can count, I'll bet the still are, even if everyone else "isn't".

Feb 24 Watching TV and watch a commercial warning that immigration consultants can't promise you a successful application, a job, a visa, and want you to go to a web page for more information. Question is, why are we airing these IN Canada? Doesn't immigration start while the applicant is in a different country?

Why does Bell TV broadcast "The Aquarium Channel" and "La Chaine Aquarium"...I mean really... an English and a French channel broadcasting a virtual... aquarium? I never noticed if we also have a French and an English "Yule Log Channel".

Driving down Sargent Ave between Empress and Strathcona, crossing the railway tracks. Fully one half of the curb lane is gone, buried under snow. I guess CUPE would point to that as a failure of the contractors, neglecting to remember that CUPE members are the supervisors. Funny how City employees can't even supervise properly.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Winnipeg set for a strike!

If Winnipeg's employees go on strike, how much money will we save? I was curious, and looked for info to see just how much of the budget goes to salaries. I didn't find what I was looking for, but I did find this little gem.

Wow. Here's a list of everyone who makes more than $50K working for YOU. I wonder whose NOT on the list. I get to run into some of these folks... and I am a bit surprised... well, maybe that's not the right word.

I know a Fire Fighter. My age. $85K. No shit? Really?

Guys doing Plan Examination. CET qualifications (two years at RRCC), $70K and up.

Zoning officers and Housing Inspectors, $65K.  The head of Development and Inspections (P.Eng.) $128K

Policemen... Constable is the lowest rank best I can tell, so virtually everyone on the force is listed I suppose.

Sure, I know, $50K isn't that much money, but really, I'm about sick and tired of the people working for me making that much coin when very often, they do a shitty job. Consider the 311 operator making $62K. All that to punch in some info on a keyboard and then read the questions back to me, typically asking the things I just told them...

Civil servants seem to forget the hand that feeds them. We're told what a great job they do through their Union TV and Radio spots, making sure our water is safe, blah blah blah. I'm SO tired of hearing how over worked these people are. They do their 8-4, put in a sold 5 hours, and go home to forget about life back at the office. They are compensated better than the private sector, and have better benefits. I don't think there's a way to get fired unless you are a complete and total moron who drinks on the job, physically assaults their supervisor, and REFUSE to go to AFM with pay.

Go ahead... strike. I need the money. Any chance I could get a refund for the days you're off wearing those goofy "CUPE" signs?

Guess what? No one else is getting a raise this year, why should you? Are you indispensable? Doubt it. What qualifications do you need to be a 311 Customer Service Specialists II ? Fortunately, we can check out the City Web Site  that tells us what a sample job posting looks like for a level I. It reads as follows,


The incumbents possess: high school graduation or equivalent; recent experience providing excellent customer service; ability to communicate effectively in French and English is mandatory for bilingual positions; superior interpersonal skills; demonstrated ability to speak clearly, calmly, and professionally; excellent reading and comprehension skills; ability to learn quickly, and navigate various databases and applications in a multi-tasking environment. A clear Criminal Record Check is required of all incumbents, at their own expense

 Heck... that's ME! Or even one of my kids! They all graduated High School! Are you telling me the people who give me the run around make more than people doing IT work in the private sector? Or accounting, ar/pr work?

Just WHAT is going on here?  I'm so tired of this... cursing won't help, but... no, I won't. I've managed to avoid profanity in all my entries, but this one.... this is close, because I'm helpless. All I can do is continue to PAY and listen to how hard "they" work.

Building Inspectors whining about how many calls they have, "I can't get there for a few days". 6weeks to get a building permit. A Police service that doesn't even respond to written complaints.

I now know why Mom said, "Get a job with the City".

Winnipeg. One Great City. Especially if you work for them.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Valentine's Day

Now that I have your attention following a title that may be misleading...
Sure, yesterday was Valentine's Day, and I won't bore you with the story of St. Valentine, 'cause I don't know it, or care enough about it to even Google it. What I do know is that after Valentine's Day is another very special day.
I married a very special woman on this day, a year ago. We got hitched in Vegas in a ceremony that was only attended by the two of us, and an electrical contractor I know who just happened to have planned a week there at the same time. (So we had him as our witness).
It's bee a great year... so good, that I didn't get her a card. There's no possible way that some schmuck who wanted to be a journalist and is now stuck in some cubical writing Hallmark cards could possibly tell her how much she means to me... the joy and strength she gives me... how her smile makes me think (every time) about how blessed I am.
There's not a day that doesn't go by that I don't say, "Thank you God, for this woman who is such a blessing in my life". There's no one else to thank. I don't "deserve" her love... she chooses to give it to me every day. I've done nothing to "earn" it.
She supports me in my ideas, helps me stay focused (when I need it), respects my judgment, defends me when I need it, shares my joy and my frustrations. She is a partner, which is so much more than "a wife".
She is wonderful, and I am a better man because of her.
I never knew... I had no idea... I didn't understand how far reaching the implications of such support and the ensuing happiness was in life. To have people ask, "How are you?", and to instantly know the answer is "I'm great, thanks."
I had the opportunity to help a stranger yesterday. She was from Swan River, and had locked her keys in her van. She was a bit apprehensive about the 'hood she was in, (Portage and Simcoe), and asked if she could possibly trouble me for a ride to her hotel. I obliged, believing that the "pay it forward" (or pay it back) needs to have both deposits and withdrawals made from the "account".
She lamented her stupidity, and told me that if her husband were still alive this would have never happened. She lost him three years ago. After wishing me and those I love a "Happy Valentine's" from the the door of my vehicle that was idling in front of the  hotel she was staying at, she told me something.
"Cherish the one you love, because life is fragile. You never know when someone might not be there with you any longer."
Forgive me for not having got you some schmaltzy card Honey.
I love you. You are cherished.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Water and Waste, 311

So my wife said, "You should post something a little more positive."

That was over a month ago... I was waiting for something positive to happen. I had thought about a post about the three amigos, or cyclists wanting a meter clear to passing vehicles, or the "problem" intersections as reported in the papers, but instead, I had a good experience with...THE CITY!

I have a client(s) which are a major fast food chain. With over 10 locations in the city, I can at times keep pretty busy troubleshooting the various issues they have with the different locations. At one of them, we've been chasing a water pressure/volume issue for some time now. I've replaced flush valves, flushed the water lines, adjusted the wall flush valves, and the issues are constant. Very poor pressure if more than one fixture is used. That's a problem when there are 6 toilets, 2 urinals, 8 sinks... you get the idea.

I called 311's line and went through the "1" for English and then another "1" for water issues. I explained that I was looking for a number to call regarding the problem and was promised that someone would come out within the hour. I was given a reference number, which I scrawled on a wall. (It's ok... we'll paint over it... after we drywall it)


I've had other pretty good experiences with the guys coming out to help with frozen meters/services, replace/install meters, turn off the service to allow us to upgrade seized shut off valves, but almost never a non emergency call within the hour.

Bill and his helper came, we talked about the problem, and Bill was very knowledgeable. He explained where the main was, the length of the service, other things on the line, and while we both doubted the "fix" required was a meter replacement, he said he'd change it out to see if there was a problem. Within a half hour, the new meter was running, and while it didn't fix the problem, Bill did what he could, and that's all any reasonable person ever expects. Bill then got me a phone number to call about up sizing the meter after looking at the service diameter and the main trunk piping. He told me that if we'd call, he'd have a larger sized meter in his truck tomorrow so we could size the installation properly. While we talked, Bill mentioned that he had been busy today with a number of frozen service calls, so my idea about it being a slow day were dashed.

Armed with a list for copper piping and elbows, I left thinking, "There's a guy who knows his stuff. I'm glad Bill is around when you need him."

I don't often have a lot of good to say about the City, but today I can say that both 311 and the Water Service people did their jobs very well.

Thanks Bill. (and 311)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Of sump pits and backwater valves

Thanks to a follower for the suggestion for this one. He keeps asking me advice for his own sump pit installation, which I offer. He's saving a lot of money doing it himself. It's not "skilled work", but it's not simple either. It's mostly hard work, and really, who's up for that?
I've installed a lot of these things. There are, like anything else, Cadillac systems, and Chevettes. In the end, the thing to remember about Cadillacs and Chevettes, is that both are a vehicle that get you from A to B. Same goes for sump pits. They're all supposed to remove water from your foundation.
Recently, the City and Province have joined forces to "help" encourage people to install these things. While this isn't a bad idea, I'm not so sure it's a "good" idea either. To qualify, a property owner needs to have a permit for the installation. In the case of a backwater valve, this makes sense, as the City has the legal jurisdiction to enforce the Winnipeg Plumbing By-law, but what's with the sump pit/pump?
The pit should not be connected to any "waste water" system, as it's been illegal to connect the weeping tile system to a sump pit since about 1990, so let's do this little experiment.
Go into your basement, and take a sledge hammer (I'd use a quickie saw with a diamond blade and a water feed to keep the dust down, but this is not me doing this... it's you... in your basement) and pound a hole through the floor. Ideally, you'd have a 5 gallon bucket nearby, and you could  trace the outline of the pail on the floor before you start smashing. Make the hole slightly larger than the pail. Now start digging. For the first bit, you can use a spade, but eventually a clam shell digger will be handy. I'm going for a coffee... lemme know when you can fit the pail in the hole. By the way... use the pail to schlep the mud out of the basement. If it's clay, dump it in the neighbours garden.
Now look. The hole is filling with water! Where's it coming from?!  It's under the floor, in the soil. It seeps into the lowest point. What to do?! Drill the bucket full of holes about 3/16" round and put it into the hole you dug. While whistling, "There's a hole in the bucket", place your new pump from Princess Auto into the bucket, and snake the pipe out the back door. Plug it in, and you have a Chevette.
What part of this Chevette requires a permit... or an inspector... or as the FreeP reported,

The average range of costs for a complete retrofit of an in-line backwater valve and sump pit and pump system is $2,500 to $9,000

Wow. Methinks someone chargeth to much. The maximum assistance available is for 60% of a sump pit install up to $2K.  So that'd be.... umm.... high school math.... ummm... $3200 total bill? I'm guessing that the owner will be on the hook for the rest if it's more, and why wouldn't it be more? Don't get me wrong, I've never installed a Chevette as described, but a Cadillac is the same, just with a bigger pail that has a lid, a solid pipe out the wall instead of a hose out the door... you get the idea.

The City and their friends have single handedly, (well, double handedly I guess) raised the profit margins of basement contractors (as if they really needed any help with that), and plumbers. There simply aren't enough people around to do the work, let alone get three quotes as required to qualify for the assistance. The only things I see that require a permit is the 110 volt dedicated sump pit receptacle... and that's electrical. I didn't see any mention of an electrician on the City web page. Maybe I missed it

The back water valve is another issue, leaving people ripe for the picking. A simple fix is called a bayco valve.

It's a glorified ball that hangs in your catch basin. When the water rises, the ball closes off the opening, and water can't come up.  To install it, you need to know where your catch basin is, and own a screw driver. About $20 at your favourite store. This ONLY works if you have no basement plumbing aside from your catch basin, pretty common in Winnipeg. If you have ONLY a catch basin AND a washing machine, you can install an in line back water valve protecting the laundry arm of the drain.

About $25 at Home Despot. If you have a full basement bathroom, you need a back water valve... and a plumber.

Imagine I was one of those foundation repair salesmen, and you invited me to your home. What would I be selling you? And here we have the reason I'm blogging from my small modest home in the West End. I'd sell you the Bayco and the branch line protection if that's all you needed, and charge you about $300 to cover my time and for forcing me to listen to your incessant blather while I worked instead of selling you the full bore "whole house" back water valve that we need to bust out the concrete floor for, have a licensed plumber (or his 17 year old helper) hook up, and have a City Inspector come visit... if he had time to fit you in.

This is a cash cow for the guys able to do as many of these as they can squeeze in, and the reasons are simple. Bad planning.
If the City REALLY wanted to help, they'd have made their intentions known, and offer a limited license to people who can demonstrate they have a legitimate business, insurance, and be willing to post a small surety or bond for the first 10 inspected installations (or whatever). Now, with twice as many people able to provide estimates and actually do the work with a permit, everybody wins.
Given how old the average plumber is.... at $120 per hour... it seems that no one is really well served.