Friday, December 30, 2011

2011...Good Riddance (top 10 in no particular order)

This year will not be missed, at least not by me.

1. The man made flood took months of prime summer work time away, costed tens of thousands of dollars, and the NDP under their MWS department have collectively said, "We don't care". (Still no official answer to the claim filed in June)
There are times I understand people going "postal". I've resisted looking up their office location.
They dig a ditch from Lake St. Martin to a swamp HOPING it will lower Lake Manitoba over the winter months. The latest response to the Association of Lake Manitoba Stakeholders  concern that there has been no appreciable drop in the lakes level since opening the channel was rebuffed by a MWS engineer, full of reasons as to why the lake hasn't dropped, all because of "natural" reasons, (in probably the worst grammar I've ever read from any "official" response to anything from anyone)

2. Winnipeg's murder rate is now officially set at a new record... sure, mostly people who were "known to one another". I know a lot of that is about the company you keep, but our FINE police Chief needs to get a handle on how this REALLY affects people. Let's say there are people in your West End Neighbourhood who make more noise than you like... their dogs bark consistently and so on. You gonna say something? Then what?

3. Crime rates are NOT as our Chief would have you believe. Not only does the (very late) annual report tell us this City is NOT a nice place, and people will typically get away with property crimes, they skew the numbers. Forget trying to get a real estimate on all the unreported incidents, the reported ones show this cess pool is spiraling down the proverbial toilet. (insert a "it'll be all right" comment from our mayor here)

4. The NDP get's another 4 years to scuttle the leaking ship Manitoba. The election was a non-event given that the PC's promised to outspend even the drunken sailors currently at the rudder. (chanting of "4 more years" is heard from zombie-like NDP supporters at the Union Hall)

5. Tax hikes are inevitable for Winnipeg property owners as the City fell further behind, crying, "We need more money!" The trails we call roads are akin to those in the poorer areas of Mexico. In this City we struggle to improve even our traffic signals, installing new "smart lights" on "dumb streets". Even a smart light set up on Route 90 between Academy and Logan can't fix that, "increase speed to 70 km/h... slow down.. stop", ritual we are all so accustomed to that we hardly notice.

6. The MSM continues to be as useless as the Board of the CMHR. With kid glove interviews being the norm, reporters spew the press release they've been handed, ask soft ball questions that seem to have been formulated by a 12 year old, and offer "spin" for the politicians and millionaires. Add to that the cancellation of Winnipeg's ONLY radio show that offered some of the hard questions others are so lacking, and you have a vacuum.

7. The CMHR, long a thorn in my side, (since the INCEPTION of the idea, I've thought it stupid and a waste of prime real estate, but even building it in South Transcona on the swamp would be a waste of real estate), is so deep into the glue this will likely become an issue of a public inquiry at some point. Still the WFP cheer leads, CJOB coddles, and the Sun doesn't have the talent able to string the whole mess together in a comprehensive manner that won't come across in a right wing /anti semitic smear.

8. The Federal NDP is now the Official Opposition. Woe is me. One can only hope that this is a vote "against" everything else and not an embracing of the ideology of the left. Consider Manitoba's plight before voting for these clown federally... please.

9. Will and Kate get married in a lavish ceremony!

9. Winnipeg's real estate prices continue to climb. Long undervalued and stagnant, Winnipeg finally saw it's property values catch up to where they should have been and keep pace with inflation, or better. On the sad side, the price of "low end crap" has escalated at a higher pace than "decent housing" as can be witness by searching through listings below $200K inside the City. (This is the only "good news" item I hope continues into the remainder of the decade aside from the "low end crap" continuing to increase in value)

10. The global economy continues to have a cold that won't go away. While it keep interest rates low, the "jitters" keep lenders' purse strings tight. banks are glad to extend credit card credit, but are tougher on lending capital to anyone wanting to borrow bigger cash to expand a business, purchase real estate (investment property), or provide business loans. There's not enough money in it for them.

I'll be happy to have readers add an event. I'm looking forward to 2012 being a better year... this one was one to forget.

Happy New Year

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas... what's it all really about?

It's a story about faith. That's a topic that's out of bounds for many, because we have so little of it left. Our faith is eroded. Consider our collective faith in the Board of the CMHR, the NDP government of Mr. Selinger et al, our "business sense" Mayor..."Oh ye of little faith" likely never rang so true.
The story takes place in an occupied territory of the Roman Empire. Some nobody... a carpenter is the center of the story. Sure, I know... you figure it's the fair maiden. I don't agree.
This guy is pledged to be married to a (likely) much younger Mary. For a year they are engaged, and she turns up pregnant. The punishment for her would have been death by stoning, but Joe was a good man. He was prepared to simply let this become a quiet let down, having lost faith in his fiancee.
In a dream, he was told to take her as his wife because God had interfered with his humble plans. He obeyed, basically admitting to all around him that he couldn't keep it in his pants. The community around him would NOT have been amused, and many would have shunned him. He endured.
Told to travel to some hick town for a census with harsher consequences for not filling out the short form than Canadians are threatened with, he takes his pregnant wife and goes to a town that is your typical small town. People FLEE from them, but the rules were that you have to register in your HOME town. He had left here long ago, presumably had no family left, as they had to look for a Motel 6 or a Super 8. No rooms, so they humbled themselves and slept with the livestock.
The baby is born, and some shepherds show up. While we all have nice ideas about shepherds, these folks in their day were the lowest... there was only "up the ladder", except that once you put "sheep herder" on a resume, you got told to go away. Nice touch... the lowest people around come to see our son. What they did do was reinforce Joe's convictions and his desire to be obedient as a result of the "news" they heard. It helped him to be strong, and not second guess his choices.
A year or so later, in a house, some guys show up from "away". Far away. The journey took them about a year, following some celestial anomaly.  They check in with the "king" who was curious about their quest. He asked them to return to him with news after they found this "king" they sought, but sorry guys, he isn't here.
Herod you see was NOT a nice man, having killed off a few others who were ahead of him in line, so there may well have been some other descendant born somewhere who might be ahead of him in lineage.
These "wise men" bring some interesting stuff as baby gifts. my favourite was the embalming fluid. (myrrh)
The gold would become helpful soon enough.
The wise men don't return to report to King Herod, he's pissed and so he orders the murder of all infant boys with a bit of a "safety window" built in. Some tyrants will do whatever they have to to stay in power.
Joseph receives another dream. "Pack up all your stuff and move to Egypt...NOW". He does as he's told.
I'm amazed by that.
Who else picks up and moves what would have been a world away, a country where you don't speak the language, your client base gone, abandon your tools... fortunately they had the gold to help cushion the blow.

Herod dies and Joe has another dream. Personally I'd have stopped eating big meals before bed by this point. he's told to head back "home". He does as he's told.

If you believe the story, you must see that it would have never come together as it did without a relatively simple, honest man who was willing to be obedient, because he had faith. Had Joe decided differently... well he didn't, so there's no point in speculating. Regardless, one little boy was blessed with a "dad" who demonstrated great faith.

In a nutshell, that's what I think Christmas is about. Regardless of how you celebrate,

Merry Christmas

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Manitoba Water Stewardship celebrates Hanukkah?

For my Jewish friends, HAPPY HANUKKAH!

For my Goyim friends, you can play "Find the Yiddish words" in this post.

How is MWS celelbrating Hanukkah? Well, it would appear that they make decisions by spinning a dreidel. Some people get nisht while others get halb and a lucky few get gants. Everybody has to shtel arayn, since the NDP has made it a "deductible", as if we were insured and somehow have to pay our "share" for the water they shipped us.

There's little doubt this was a schwartz yor for many. The flood forecasting balmalocha who took over from the last guy did a bang up job missing all the snow west of Winnipeg, and as a result we were all left a little dismayed at how shlecht the whole department was at doing their jobs. Add to the terrible performance at predicting the actual flooding, they created disasters like the "Hoop and Hollar" cut which turned out to be total shandeh. These guys ran the Portage Diversion until it almost plotzed and they filled Lake Manitoba to to rim, then added some more.

I'd have thought that filling that lake beyond capacity ummeglich, but I apparently I was falsh. These leytsim sent out flood alerts, wind inundation maps and projected crests that changed daily, leaving us to wonder who the shmayser was who could be running this balagan. Some maps clearly showed water fore casted to move over a kilometer inland if the wind was sustained, at levels at least a foot above the prescribed elevation for buildings constructed near the lake. Many of us held our kopf  in our hands and lamented, "Oye vehys mir".

As regular followers/readers know, I chose to be proactive and lift my building above the fore casted flood levels. Mistake. After many forms and e-mail requests, after months of waiting, a MWS representative... inspector... some guy came out to view the place. He seemed like a mensch. He told me that they would have a decision shortly... about 6 weeks. That was in July. I STILL have no official word in writing, but I did finally follow up and had a nice woman tell me they decided nein, nischt for you.

The reason I was given is that I'm protected by a "dike"

Sure... a dike. A bunch of sand bags where in some areas it is backed up with clay. hay bales covered in geo textile, backed with clay, and in some places, just sand bags. Add to that, the dike wasn't really "completed" until the fall, MONTHS after I raised my building to a safe level.

I contacted the RM, and was advised that the dike is NOT permanent, and as such should not be considered as "flood protection", but since no one has bothered to send me a letter "shortly" as I was promised over a month ago, I can't appeal any decision made by these schmendriks, leaving me out a chunk of gelt I would have never spent if not for the bad intel I was given. In essence, In drerd mein gelt!

We've heard that others have been approved already, some to raise their buildings as little a one inch. An inch huh? Makes me wonder if the people approving that felt a little kurz in another area and were trying to make up for something they are lacking. These people are located behind the same sort of dike I am. One cottage, (outside of the dike), was actually raised during the flooding, albeit not high enough, again, a result of VERY poor forecasting.

Sorry, I don't farschtein. All I can really do at this point is lachen mit yash-tsherkes . The NDP talked a good talk about compensating people, but empty barrels make the most noise.

Manitoba Water Stewardship? Feh! Greg Selinger? Goniff  Christine Melnick? Nar meidl Steve Topping? Dumbkop Philip Mutulu? Schrecklich

When my government tells me they're going to be there to help, I'm not believing them. Du kannst nicht auf meinem rucken pishen unt mir sagen class es regen ist.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Movie Review: Mission Impossible

If you enjoy this genre of movie, this one is worth seeing on the big screen. The story line is intriguing enough to keep you interested in the plot, but that's not really why you came... you came for the action.

Tom Cruise seems to have taken a major role in production, and while often this is a death knell for a movie, he seems to have pulled it off.

Without being a spoiler, I can say that the location shoots are amazing... This has the locales and shots worthy of a Bond flick starting in Russia, moving to Dubai, and later India. There are others, but those are the major plot locations. Filmed in Imax, this is worthy of being seen on a BIG screen. We saw it at Polo, where they have premium "pleather" seats, but the sound and visuals of a large screen in a resolution that rivals being there are worth the extra few bucks they charge you to get into the place.

The nice thing is that this movie doesn't struggle for a reason to exist as so many "series" movies do. We've waited a number of years, (almost 6),  for another Mission Impossible movie, but it was worth the wait

Statler and Waldorf give this one two thumbs up  

Sunday, December 11, 2011

First appeal to the UN, second, accept help from the Red Cross

For readers needing help.... Attawapiskat.

This "remote northern" band has declared a state of crisis.emergency insofar as their housing crisis goes. Maybe they should call Mike Holmes?

I was listening to UMFM, the campus radio station that hosts "Internet Pundits", on a Tuesday I think, and listened to some well edumakated young woman spout off about how horrible this country is for allowing this tragedy to happen over the many prior years. "This isn't a new problem, this has been a problem for a long time" or something of that sort, punctuated with the typical "ya know", and "ahh" so prevalent amongst the opinionated youth who choose to get their opinions from CBC rather than spend their precious reading time actually looking for REAL information, not the spoon feeding of the media.

Leaving aside the millions of dollars the federal government has already provided this particular band for housing and other needs (to the tune of $90 million since 2006)... money they can't seem to find... this band is not really as "isolated" or as "poor" as people believe. 2000 people live there. That's about $18 million a year. $9000 a year per person.

DeBeers. Heard of them? They mine diamonds. You know... those shiny things in rings and ear rings... necklaces?
The Victor mine in the area is on "traditional" lands. That means MINERAL RIGHTS!

DeBeers, along with their almost impossible to replicate South African accents, brought $ 11 Billion Dollars to build their mine. Yup... $11 billion. That's an amount people like Bill Gates understand, not poor folk like me. Of course poor folk like me don't really understand millions either, which is what the Band was paid for goods and services. How many millions? $ 49 million, (53% of the total)

The mine is expected to infuse $49 million  in "aboriginal spending" in 2010 alone. The mine is 90 km from Attawapiskat. Can't find work? Last time I checked, mining paid pretty well. Sure, it's a young man's game, but even so, there's no crying about there being no economic opportunity. Another $2.9 million in community investment. That's JUST for 2010.  Want to know how much they get in mineral rights? Can't say... confidential. I suppose the root of the Chief's problem to have an audit. "You can't know where that money went, it's ours, and how we spend our money is none of your business".

What DeBeers CAN say is that they've awarded $325 million in contracts to "solely owned or joint ventures" run by the community since 2005. Hmmm. That's an average of just over $54 million a year, or another $27K a head per year. Now sure, I know not each person actually receives that,but you get the idea. What are we at now? About $40K a head? At one point, DeBeers invested $14 million in training and development. These were for positions that were "beyond general labour".

Yes, the community is isolated. If you have to fly in, or drive out only on a winter road, well that fits my personal definition of isolated, BUT that is no excuse for not looking after your own citizens.

Surely the amounts of cash thrown around there to this point are sufficient to provide a number of homes, and seeing tents and shantys is unbelievable, simply in that there is no shortage of  money to provide adequate housing. Unfortunately, where the money earmarked for housing actually went is still unclear.

What does a Chief do when people start pointing out the obvious? SMOKE SCREEN

Call the UN and bitch and complain. Ask them to get involved. ANYTHING to get the eyes off the band "leadership". I haven't heard what the UN is contemplating, and I suppose that since these people are "sovereign nations" they can appeal to the UN all they want, but now the Red Cross? Seriously? And they show up?

This is what I don't get. I mean I do in that the Red Cross doesn't judge why people are suffering, they just respond in a time of need. I just wonder if the Chief and her other leadership team really feel that this is a way to get the average Canadian "on their side".

I see that it worked on at least one young and impressionable person with a forum on a University Radio Show, but for those of us with a little more sense and a desire to dig a little deeper than the average tv news spot or radio clip provides, this just isn't working in their favour.

The more we learn, the less we think the Feds should be sending up any more cash any time soon. The agreement to provide modular homes, fine, but until the band cooperates with an audit, just stop sending them anymore cash.

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Home improvement shopping nightmare

I've said before that customer service is almost non existent here. Well let me say it again.
Last Saturday, we went to a large orange home improvement chain store on Empress St. OK, let's not pussy foot around it... Home Depot.
We were shopping for blinds. We selected a number of sizes "close" to the sizes we needed and were about to ask to have them cut when we noticed the sign. "Blind cutting machine not working". Lovely. We left and headed to McPhillips.
At the McPhillips store, they only had 3 of the 8 sizes we needed, so we had the three cut, and then headed to Kenaston. That store only had 1 of the remaining 5 sizes, so we had it cut and asked them to check stock at the other two stores. Fortunately the remaining 4 blinds were all the same sizes.
Apparently the computer said that St.Vital had 8 and Regent had 4 of the sizes we needed, so we headed to St.Vital. They had 3, not 8, so we bought them and did not have them cut since we had been told, "You can buy your blinds at any store and have them cut at a different store if you like.
Off to Regent where we discovered that they had none of the size we needed AND their blind cutter was not working. What bliss!
I asked to see the manager, who listened to my tale, but offered up that it was all out of her control... there was nothing she could do. They make you manager, and you're completely incapable of any sort of customer satisfaction? Methinks they need to expand their employee search a tad.
Back to Empress, where I bought the remaining blind, then off to McPhillips to have the last 4 cut.


The blind cutter doesn't work today. I'm beginning to get mad. The staff member offered up that the machines are provided by the manufacturer, and they have had all sorts of issues with the machines. "They are crap" she said. I went to Customer Service and had a manager paged. He listened to my sorry tale, and repeated the, "It's out of my control" line, but to his credit, he did ask how he could make it right.

I suggested that he likely couldn't compensate me for my time or fuel, but maybe all the stores could scrap their blind cutting machines and put up a sign telling people they are unable to offer any cutting. That way I won't get suckered into buying a few blinds here, and a few there, thinking that eventually I might get a whole house full of blinds... a rather small house... 8 blinds... none of them inordinately large. He listened, apologized, and I left, thanking him for allowing me to rant.

Off to Kenaston to have the last 4 cut.

The ordeal started Saturday and didn't end until Monday. Should it be this difficult?

I did fill out the online customer satisfaction survey, but the whole think is run by some third party marketing company in Boston. I did use all 1000 characters in the comment section. We'll see if I get a response. I didn't bother entering the "sweepstakes", since buying blinds at Home Depot was more of a "mistake" than a "sweepstake".

Next time I'll buy the cheapest blinds I can find at Zellers and cut them with my miter saw... Home Depot is officially OFF my list of places I'll go to "gather" supplies as a first stop, but really, this is an on going shit show.

Go to Rona for a 5" heating pipe. Nope... got none. No heavy gauge, no light gauge, no 3', no 5'... NO 5" pipe. This has happened numerous times with items that have a "Minimum quantity on hand" label on them. I asked if the fact that they had NONE on hand earned me a free coffee. Nope.

I don't know if these stores are run by zoo keepers who have no idea what the monkeys are doing, or if virtually all decisions are made by management located in an office in Toronto, but the ordering and inventory is typically terrible, and very inconvenient.

Back in the day, before I started driving for 2 hours and buy everything at Menard's, it was typical to have to visit at least 2 stores to buy enough doors for a house. After all, we get pretty picky with doors. We want the correct sizes, and the correct hand, (left or right). I think I'd spend as much time driving around town for 5 or 6 doors as I now do driving to the US and getting virtually everything I want, and saving upwards of 30%.

I think it's great that Home Depot is a corporate sponsor of the Jets, and that Rona supports the CFL, but until they can look after me as a customer, I'll be spending my money somewhere else, and they'll be the stop for "incidental expenses" and "sundry supplies".

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Mike Holmes has a fix for First Nations Housing

Mike Holmes is in the news again, supposedly with a "fix" for the housing "crisis" on reserves.
"Stop Building Junk on reserves" says the headline.

Ya huh. In a fashion only Mike Holmes seems to be able to get away with, no one steps out to call him on his pollyannaish way of thinking.  Back in July there was an announcement that he was going to start the big fix and they'd have an announcement in a month as to where he's going to begin this big transformation. I'm waiting to hear where they're going to start this revolution in building AND training.

Mike figures the quality of a wood framed house is the issue with bad housing. I'll just take the whole argument OFF reserve, so as not to make the issue a racist filled rant... or at least not provide the opportunity to call it that, even if it isn't. It seems we can't say things as they are when "reserve" is a part of the conversation.

Three homes are on my block, all evidently built by the same builder, the same plan, same build date. All are about a hundred years old now. One is beautiful on the exterior, one is ok, one is... well it doesn't look so good. That house needs a Mike Holmes makeover. What happened? A reasonable person would likely place the blame squarely on the owners of the homes, not the original builder or the specifications. I mean given Mike's belief that everything built on a reserve has been crap one would have to believe that all the houses on the reserve would be crap, but they're not. Like the three houses on my block, it's about the people who live in the homes, not the structure.

I've seen the specification for homes built on reserves, and it's no wonder they are so costly to erect. They are full of details that, at that time, far exceeded the sort of things we'd put into homes for sale here in the big city. Ventilation systems, crawlspace ventilation... specifications that CMHC came up with and builders were supposed to install. I didn't bid on any of these homes, but I did see that they tried to include everything possible to make these good quality, long lasting houses.

Neither CMHC, nor the builder can be there to ensure people utilize the ventilation systems. Electric baseboard heat does nothing to move air, and as such, mould will grow in the corners on the drywall and any wood. Furniture placed right against the corner of a wall will restrict air flow, and when you find the mould, what do you do? WASH IT OFF! If I lived in a house and knew mould was growing I'd mix bleach and water and kill that stuff, because breathing it isn't good for me, or my kids.

Did that sound like "personal responsibility"? I'm sorry if that sort of thinking is "out of bounds".

Mike has a nice gig. He's good, I'll be the first to admit it, but in all the shows I've watched, there are some things that never come up. Budget... payment... clients... all the REAL problems for a renovator/builder. I can do amazing things with unlimited amounts of cash, but I work in the "real" world, not in "Mike's world". I've opened up walls and wanted to "make it right", but couldn't because I don't work for free, and the client didn't have the cash to pay. How great it would be to come in as the hero, riding a fine Arab Charger, rescuing people from bad renovations at no cost to them. Hugs all around!
I don't get to inspect a home for a client with a hammer and look behind the drywall. I can speculate and tell the purchaser I'm speculating, but I can't start taking apart light switches or checking the framing details of the second floor under the ceiling. I can't be in there counting how many lights/plugs are on each circuit, or see if squirrels have chewed the wires in the attic.

Mike has carved out a position as being a "voice" in the renovation/building industry, but it's been earned in a vacuum. Mike's renos are great, but I don't get too many clients who don't tell me what their limit is in spending money, so spray foam, replacing the knob and tube on the second floor, and hammering out the basement because we wanted to do a proper job installing the kitchen sink drain just isn't in our time, or dollar budget.

Given that Mike has earned his reputation in a vacuum, I'm not sure he gets to speak to things like "how to fix the on reserve housing crisis" until he's had to deal with those realities. I really don't think his idea of using containers for housing has any more merit than when I suggested that as a solution to the homelessness issue a decade ago, and I was told that living in a shipping container isn't a "dignified" solution (as if being homeless is dignified).

Mike needs to enter into a deal with a band, as a guy who doesn't have access to the media. He needs to entertain the Chief coming to his home to ask for some money so he can go to Cub Regent. He needs to get a cheque for his work made out in his name, and the bands, and meet with the Chief again to pass on his cut so he signs it. When the buildings are done, he needs to come to the realization that the bands refusal to pay the balance comes with no recourse to him. He can't place a lien, he can't take his product back... he's screwed. Mike needs to come to the worksite after delivering lumber up the winter road, and ask, "Where did the lift of 14' 2x4's go?" ,only to learn that they were used as fire wood. "Where are the floor tiles"? The kids threw them into the bush like frisbees. "Where's the contact cement"? On a rag stupid.

The problems with on reserve housing have less to do with the houses than Mike thinks.

When the article says, "Renovator and Holmes on Homes host offers easy fixes for First Nations housing crisis", know that there are NO easy fixes to the housing issues on reserves, and Mike is full of a lot of good info, but on this issue, he's also full of a lot of other stuff too.