Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Lake St.. Martin First Nation says "fuhgeddaboudit"

A recent story in the FreeP told us about how the St. martin First Nation has seen many members reject the proposal for temporary housing to be located in Gypsumville. http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/arts-and-life/life/greenpage/flood-evacuees-wary-of-temporary-housing-hotel-stays-costing-about-4m-a-month-138124428.html Some folks don't understand.
There are those who leap to the idea that people LIKE to live in hotels away from home, that this is somehow fun.
Think about it. Just for a minute. Take your kids, pack a suitcase and go to a hotel for a year. Good times.
So why reject this offer? Eric Robinson thinks it's a good idea... and he wouldn't steer them wrong, would he?

Let's look at the track record.

The NDP Government through (then) Minister Melnick's office of Manitoba Water Stewardship decided to push more water into Lake Manitoba through the Portage Diversion because they have neglected maintaining the Assiniboine River and it's flood barriers for many years. That water ended up flowing into Lake St. Martin, flooding that community. The irony in all that is that MWS didn't open Fairford Control early enough to release water into the Fairford/Dauphin River during the winter when the lake level was rising (MWS denies the visible evidence of that with graphs and charts) to save the community, which was lost any way. All this after such dismal flood forecasting that one would think Philip Mutulu should be packed off and sent to Batagues, Mexico to ply his trade there (at least he can do no harm there).
Then we have the stellar efforts during the flood. remember the Hoop and Hollar? That big flood prevention effort that never really was? Clearly these people acted in a manner that demonstrated the had NO IDEA what they were doing.
Then the flood inundation maps started rolling out, wind set up warnings... these things showed water rushing kilometers inland which presumably would be "trapped" should such an event occur. Sure, it was all based on basic topography, but these maps put the fear into people. EMO representatives told farmers to move their equipment and livestock to high ground, write off the year insofar as crops go (don't even bother seeding). By that point MWS had so mishandled the situation that they had to appear to be doing something and taking matters seriously.
During the flood fighting phase people with properties were told that they weren't allowed to continue to build dikes, but that "professionals" were going to carry on the work. Residents and property owners would be permitted to work behind the scenes. This was a great idea until we found out these professionals were NOT from Holland where dike building is a bit of a perfected art form, rather they were any Provincial employee who "volunteered" to come out for the day (with pay) to toss some bags. Great plan. The second largest lake in Manitoba with MILES of shore needing protection and they're going to finish it all up with a few buses full of Provincial staffers who haven't worked since they had their last job in the private sector... or some of them, ever before. Another idea that crashed and burned, except that we lost about three weeks to this stupidity. All the sand bags loaded onto pallets, no one coming to build dikes... go back home... no you can't protect your own property, it's too dangerous. You can't make shit this stupid up.
Then we have the "ditch". $100 million  for a ditch dug in record time, capable of draining Lake St. Martin to a marsh in Lake Winnipeg. Great plan with huge flaws. The great plan was to again appear to be doing something. The masses figured that they had contributed their tax dollars to a solution and were able to forget about it all. After all, it's just like the flood way... right? Wrong.
The ditch is only capable of draining Lake St. Martin, and I openly questioned the ability for this ditch to have much of any effect on Lake Manitoba. Hydraulics just DON'T work that way. If you have stupid people talking about draining water, they compare it all to a bathtub. Pull the plug, and it all goes down the drain. Gravity! There is resistance to flow, especially at the outlet where it drains into a swamp. How much water "flows" through a swamp? how deep is a swamp... four feet? Five? Now freeze the top two feet. What's left? Three feet maximum? Now fill that three feet with reeds and growth and see how fast water "flows". It's natures FILTER. Filters don't work quickly.
Add to that the fact that Fairford control structure is STILL unable to drain all of the inflowing water from the Waterhen River. The bottle neck at Fairford wasn't, and likely won't be addressed. The ditch does little or nothing, and I wouldn't be surprised if the Feds tell them, "Sorry, but you wasted all that cash. We're not paying for it. Now had you actually DONE something useful..."
To make people think the NDP is going to help everyone out, they announced many programs and assistance (much of which is inaccessible). The department is so slow, three toed sloths are in for a run for their "slowest mammal" standing.
It took months of filling out on line forms, opening claims and phoning MWS to get an appointment to view properties. Now it takes more months to get any sort of official responses to those claims. Some have gone six months, and heard nothing. Phone calls are met with, "Letters are coming out shortly." When pressed with what "shortly" is, you're told, "A few weeks." That was three months ago.
The lake has dropped one foot since October. Yes... $100 million to drop one foot. Good job Greg.

Back to the First Nation.

They don't believe this "plan" is a good idea. I wonder why. Seeing how badly the entire situation has been handled by "Today's NDP", seeing that it's been almost a year to come up with a "temporary housing plan", seeing that at every turn the Government pin heads seem to manage to screw things up beyond belief and are incapable of fore seeing the eventual outcome of their single dimensioned thinking, is it any wonder the Band is reticent to believe anything they are told?

My first response throughout this entire ordeal has been the same as their. Skepticism and a disbelief in the Government's ability to manage anything well.

These people are right to refuse this "temporary solution" since Government employees have nothing but time to find a permanent solution. After all... they don't really have any measurable goals, so no one can hold them to account, and even if they did, no one ever holds anyone to account.

Proof? Consider how Philip Mutulu was never seen or heard from again in the media after his dismal work, and how the Minister praised the staff for their hard work.

What a load of BS.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Great sax in Vegas

I had to lure you in somehow. We'll get to the great sax in a minute.

For regular readers, looking for rants about Winnipeg, please excuse this deviation... you'd be surprised what sort of key words I get hits on, and some of the things I'd like to review from a trip to Vegas will reach some people, (even if it isn't you).

If you're here because you searched a key word, scroll through and look for the highlighted titles.

Howard Johnson Grand Forks Review

This place is dated, but clean. A stay during the week is fine, with a generally quiet setting, rooms that pass as OK, and a continental breakfast similar to an egg Mc Muffin and coffee, except that you can have OJ too. That said, on our return we had the room from Hades. It wouldn't be fair not to comment on the great airport shuttle service we were provided by the hotel via S&S Taxi. Clean, warm, friendly, the operator took our return info and was there to meet us as promised in a cab that was clean, warm and friendly. This guy was great. Back to our first room (return stay)...
Located on the main floor adjacent to the pool area, apparently on weekends people with kids check in in droves to enjoy the water park. Now it's not that we're against kids per sey, just screaming kids. I ENJOY happy kids, having fun, laughing, but those kids with parents who think screeching in a big room is acceptable... well we stayed away since we didn't feel the life gaurd needed to fish their bodies out of the pool. At 3 am the drunks from the bar head over to the area to congregate, chat, talk louder, laugh... eventually after calling the front desk they were escorted out. There is an exterior door that likely hasn't worked in some time given the amount of pnumatic oil that leaked through the seals of the self closing mechanism, and the screw that was obviously removed from a hinge that was inserted almost uselessly into the arm that controls the door. It slamed shut with such force the interior room door would shake in it's frame, meaning non existent day time rest (which we needed on our return). Our second room was located on the second floor, facing onto the back of the complex. This room had been updated at some point, and while the bathroom still had ceiling tiles that looked salvaged out of an old office building (as the first suite did) it was a nicer room, and we slept well.

Grand Forks Airport/Allegiant Air Review

We flew out of Grand Forks from their new terminal, and it's small. There are only two gates, but the obvious advantage aside from having a carrier that is 1/3 the price of WestJet, is that everything is FAST. Allegiant is a no frills airline that charges you for peanuts, checking a bag, reserved seats... your basic fair is one step above being strapped to the wing, and I like that. Considering it's a four hour flight, I can do without paying too much for drinks and snacks... I just bring my own. The flight was what it should be. Uneventful. We've never arrived during daylight hours, and the planes flight approach gave us a great view of the Hoover Dam and the new bridge. We had pre-purchased a shuttle to our hotel on the strip and discovered that purchasing that service upon arrival is actually a few bucks cheaper at the "Executive Transportation" kiosk just outside McCarren Airport.

Stratosphere Review

This was our second visit here, and it was gratis. The manager provided us with two free nights to make up for our last stay, which was less than impressive, and we let him know. He tried to make up for their failures by inviting us back again, so we obliged. Check in was uneventful.
The room was great. It was clean, spacious, and had a whirlpool tub, four foot square shower, twin sinks on a counter 10' long, two TV's (flat screens), our only expense was the internet at $12 a day. Ouch, but it is Vegas. When we signed up for the "Players Points Card" we were met by two rather freaky looking women, one of whom had so much botox that her lips didn't correlate with the sounds she was trying to enunciate, while the other twitched and stammered like a meth head who had been deprived of sleep for the past week. I was glad we didn't meet these two in some other setting, and that a counter separated us.

Transportation "The Deuce"

That's the name of the bus that provides (mostly) tourists transportation up and down the strip and downtown. A double deck unit, the best view is out the upper front window. At $5 for 2 hrs, $7 for 24 hrs, and $20 for 3 days, we bought our tickets at one of the street automated machines at about 7:30 pm after walking for a while. The time we purchased the passes correlates with our last planned dinner/show, so the pass would expire after we arrived and we'd cab back in the cool evening (yes, I might over think some things). The Deuce is probably the most cost/time effictive mode of transportation you'll find there, and is especially useful if you're located at the north end of the strip, (Stratosphere) or the far south end (Luxor). The strip is walkable, but there are large streaches of "nothing" you'll walk past. If you suffer from emphyseima you probably shouldn't attempt to walk the strip. At about 4 miles (7km), there are better things to do than walk.

Restaurant Review, Pampas Churrascaria

This place is great. Armed with a coupon we printed off at home, the restaurant is located in the Mircle Mile shops of Planet Hollywood. It's a Brazilian restaurant, similar to a review I did of a trip to Minneapolis. They serve meat grilled on spits and carve it off at your table. The food was fantastic, and fairly priced. We each had unlimited food that was exquisite and a pitcher of Sangria, which was not too sweet and almost broke a hundred dollars. Staff was attentive, very polite, and it was a great dining experience. We did not have room to enjoy dessert. All in all, very reccomended. Go famished, leave feeling like a glutton. It's OK... you're in Vegas!

Strip, Live Music

While walking, we stumbled upon a couple of guys playing some live music "The Love Brothers" who were clearly having a great time as a two man band. Playing a drum set and two guitars (at the same time) they have a sound I found unique and fun. I bought one of their home made CD's after dropping a couple of bucks into their "tips" jar. Great sound if you like mo-town style music. Check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vvPY1XWkm3E&feature=related

Stratosphere, the Buffet Review

DON'T DO IT!

We headed back to the hotel on our second night and decided to enjoy the Buffet. We received a 25% discount because we signed up for the "gambling points card" even though we didn't drop a dime into a single machine.
The buffet was fine... at first... but as we retired to our room, something had disagreed with me, and within the hour I recognized that not all was right. By 4 am we were calling the front desk requesting human bio-hazard bags and asking for a late check out (which was granted).
No one really seemed to care that we had eaten at the Buffet and I had become sick. I suppose that in Vegas, given that so many people are predisposed to "binge drinking" and blaming it on what they ate, it's not much of a surprise, but you could LIE to me and tell me how sorry you are. The next day was ruined and the after affects plagued me for a few days.

The Strip, Review

For those unfamiliar, the Stratosphere is a LONG way from anything. A few things have changed over the past couple of years. The Sahara is boarded up, ready for the wrecking ball I presume, and there are a number of projects that have been abandoned. The north end of the strip is starting to look a bit like some beach front areas of Mexico, where the foundation of a hotel has been started and simply left to have the re bar rust. Hotels that are started will be torn down, empty lots where hotels once stood are acres of barren nothing, and the areas in front of them are not really that plesant to walk, particularly in front of the Sahara where you are often in a darkened area well away from any sight line of the street.


The Imperial Car Museum, Review

We stopped in at The Imperial to visit the Car Museum, whch was fine, but you will be overloaded with Rolls Royces. There are simply far too many of them in there. The nice thing is being able to show my wife my "dream cars", specifically what I think is the quintisential sports car, a 1965 Jaguar E type, convertible. The colour scheme wasn't what I'd pick, but any E type is better than no E type at all. At under $20 for two, it's a good deal if you're into that sort of thing.


Day Three, we headed out at about noon before checking out and rode the Deuce to the Mirage, wandered around and had a yogurt smoothie for breakfast, and I had a quarter of a sandwich. Tired and weak, we headed back to our hotel for a "nap" which consisted of me lying on the bed and my lovely wife packing our stuff in anticipation of moving to the Fremont area, specifically The California.

Riding the Deuce again (yes, I like to get value for my money) we guessed at a place to get off that would limit our walk. Without having a map of the route, sometimes you have to go with your gut. After the second evenings events, my gut was something I wasn't that keen on following, but it worked. We checked into The California, a Boyd Group hotel... not that anyone cares, but the "family portraits" are hanging all over the casino so you can't help but feel like you're in the living room of old southern friends, kicking back and losing your shirt as their dog streaches out in front of the fire.

California Hotel, Review

The place is clean. What else is there to say? In old Vegas, things are... old. The room was nice, but the windows let in a lot of road noise from the freeway and railway tracks. Dollar for dollar, this place was nice, but nothing to "kvell" over. There are typically numerous hotels in Vegas available for $50 a night, unless there is a convention on the Strip (as there was when we were there) then prices more then triple.

Great Sax on Fremont, Review

Fremont is the "old Vegas" Strip. All the hotels banded together and covered the street with a covered barrel vaulted "roof" where lights will provide a "show" to music a few times a night. Although kinda neat, I probably wouldn't sit around and wait for them all. While there we heard a guy screaming on an alto sax. We stopped to listen, and this guy was Kenny G without the goofy hair do. Carl Ferris is quite good. We bought a few of his CD's but you have to be able to ignore the heavily synthesized back up music and just appreciate his saxaphone skills. If you can do it, you'll love this guy, blowing on a soprano, alto and a tenor horn.

Absinthe, Review

Going nto Vegas means attending at least one show while there. There was a dirth of really good value for money, and since wild horses couldn't drag me to Celine, we preused some reviews and decided on Absinthe.
The review we read said something like "This show is Circ on crack", which wasn't the type of thing that made me say, "I simply HAVE to see this".
I'm glad we went. This show was phenomenal!
The setting is inside a tent on the terrace infront of Cesar's Palace. Seating is limited to about 200 people, and it's on a flat floor, in a circular form surrounding the stage located in the center of it all.
That's what makes the show ... the stage. At about 9 feet in diameter, you'd hardly believe the performances this talented group of acrobats and performers are able to carry out. I'll bet a few of them looked at their producer and said, "You're kidding, right?"
Imagine a man, balancing himself ontop of 6 chairs, ontop of a table as if he were performing on a trammel horse, or two roller skaters spinning out of control, one of them holding the other out to fly into the crowd if he lost his grip. A tight rope act with three men, two of them supporting a third on a bar, him on a chair, seated at first but eventually standing on the chair, all on a single bar resting on the shoulders of the other two, all on a tight rope.
The strong men were my favs though. The sheer strength they displayed, the balance... everymove slow and deliberate. These men were amazing.
Mixed in was the swarmy "ring master", funny and vulgar along wiht his sidekick, equally funny and vulgar. If F bombs and sexually related humour are not your thing, go anyways and ignore it.
This show ROCKS and blows any multi million dollar Cirque show out of the water (that's a joke based on "O"). Leaving the show, we repeatedly commented on how great it was, how glad we were that we went to that one, and how impressed we were with the various performers.
There's no money in it for me to tell you that I've never left any show of any sort with my hands hurting because I've clapped so loudly, so often, and so long.
If you only see one show in Vegas, see this one.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Happy Harry's vs MLCC

On a trip to Grand Forks (to fly to Vegas on the cheap) my lovely wife and I stopped in at Happy Harry's to peruse the wine selection. No, this post isn't a rant about how cheap a bottle of Yellow Tail Pinot Grigio is compared to how we get gouged back home, but it could be.
No, this post is about my wife's reaction. "Oh my! This place is HUGE! They have EVERYTHING!"
Indeed, Harry's bottle shop is big, and their selection is so far removed from the MLCC's that our "liquor commission" is a joke in comparison.
Granted, there is no "well trained staff", at least none insofar as anyone I'd ask to recommend a "wine for dinner, we're having leg of lamb with Greek style potatoes", sort of way... but at a 60% price saving, I can buy a few bottles and dump the one I didn't like (not that I would ever do such a thing).
Not all prices are better. Perusing the scotch section, a bottle of Glenlivet 18 year old is $93.60 at our LC, and $99.00 at Harry's, but they do sell the Glenlivet Nadurra, which we CAN'T get at the LC. It's an amazing scotch. I bought one at the Duty Free shop in Heathrow a few years back and have been nursing that bottle very slowly... but there's little left.
Why can't I buy it at home?
MLCC keeps good track of what sells, and they only stock what moves, but this sort of dis service is an affront to consumers given their monopoly status. Recently the MLCC wanted to get into selling other items like mixes. I'm totally against such a move. They don't need to increase their profits, and if they want to claim to be "better serving our customers", then have at least ONE store as well appointed as Harry's bottle shop is. Why permit them to sell things that the grocery store does when the grocery store can't sell the items they can? Why permit an organization, with a license to generate money, to take potential sales from a market based business?
I don't understand the MLCC "sponsoring" events like Bomber Games, or even advertising either. There is NO need to advertise anything... I can't go anywhere else. Advertising is typically considered a method used to entice customers, yet we have "sin taxes", presumably designed to act as a disincentive to over consumption. Does this seem like they are at cross purposes? Not if the Government can gouge us it isn't.
I know that almost half of our alcohol pricing is a "sin tax", which in and of itself is an affront, but why can a private business offer a selection for their clients that a government mandated monopoly just won't bother providing.
Seeing the disparity, my wife and I discussed the fact that the MLCC simply doesn't have to provide any service they don't feel like providing given that they are a monopoly. She suggested that perhaps the MLCC could set up at least ONE store with a selection comparable to Harry's and leave the smaller stores with a smaller selection. I suggested that that is probably too complicated, and there's not enough of an upside financially. These are people who don't measure profit in hundreds or even in thousands of dollars... they just don't care.
What we're suggesting is a market solution, to a non market problem. The non market problem is simple... there is no competition, the staff are over paid when compared to the sort of staffing you'd really NEED to sell booze, unions and benefits far beyond what any private sector business would ever pay, yet all are defended in the socialist style government agency that runs the show.
My final comment to my wife was, "Imagine what we could have if we lived in a free country."
At least I know that I don't have to get my Nadurra in Vancouver or Calgary... I can just drive to Grand Forks.
Do I declare it, or try to sneak it in... that's the question. Imagine the duty on a $115 bottle of scotch. Oye. Add $11.066 (yes, the three digit decimal is NOT a typo) per litre, plus the GST and the PST... and the Manitoba rates... I'd have to change to ounces to figure it out. (check out the MLCC website, search for duty, over limit) Nice... MLCC still works in ounces. Clowns I tell you. What was it? 1972 we went metric? .40 cents an ounce is mandated by the MLCC for border collection. there are 33.8 ounces in a litre, so if we multiply that by .4 we get $13.52 additional fees. My $115 bottle has suddenly skyrocketed to about $154 +/- depending on when they add the PST and GST. Remember, these are people who charge GST on the North Dakota sales tax amount of an item purchased and imported. It doesn't matter to them that I can apply to the ND tax department to get a refund on the tax paid on exported items.
I love being a Canadian... could someone remove the "tax me" piece of paper someone stuck to the back of my shirt please?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Knob and tube wiring. What you need to know.

Knob and tube? Is he poking fun at Jenny Gerbasi and Harvey Smith for giving cash to people who sing outside of the remand center?

No... not yet anyway, but gimme a few paragraphs and I might loose myself in that direction.

Knob and tube is the original electrical wiring, common in most homes built before the war. Which war? The last big one. Notice I said BEFORE, not during, or after, but before, so if you know when the war was...
The methodology used was to run two separate wires around the floor joist area, and also in the attic area. (basically) Off of these two runs, branch lines served lights and a few plugs. By a few plugs i mean a FEW plugs. Think about it. What was there to plug in BEFORE the war? Stop at "radio", 'cause that about summed it up... there weren't too many more things aside from some torcherie lamps, or end table/reading lights.
So? What's 'da problem?

Inherently, nothing... as described. But every few years in a homes history, someone comes along and wants to "improve" things. As people have more things to plug into an electrical outlet, they thought it easiest to "tap into" the existing k & t. Bad idea. In it's original state, a very good argument can be made for k & t wiring being SAFER than today's loomex wiring systems.
"Illegal" splices to add an outlet
I've seen it all, (I think), from purpose made transition fittings designed to have the k & t change to "modern" loomex type wire to a mess of wire nuts, aka Marrettes, joined together with more electrical tape than should be permitted unless you're trying to stop a plumbing leak. I've worked in places where an entire second floor had been "upgraded" with new loomex two wire throughout, all fed from a single k & t circuit, spliced in a wall, invisible to anyone until they knocked out a wall.
Here is where the problems start.
First, it's an unsafe manner in connecting wiring of ANY sort, second, the wires were never intended to supply that many outlets and lights, third, there was no way to access the splice.
This is the type of thing that is fairly common in k & t systems wherever they're found. Totally inadequate for today's electrical needs, people have always found it cheaper to modify it and utilize it, because no one wants an electrician or renovation contractor to say, "Well, that'll be an extra $1500 because we need to remove that part of the system, and replace it."
There is still another problem with k & t. Insulation. You're likely asking yourself, "What insulation? the stuff around the wire, or the pink stuff?", to which I answer,"Yes".
"Yes?", yes, as in both. The old insulation is a type of "cloth" that has become brittle. This is no "big deal" until you start using the wires in your basement to hang cloths on, but the pink stuff is different. Remember how I told you that they would run this stuff in the attic? Prewar houses were not known for having a lot of insulation. typically sawdust was laid between the ceiling rafters, and that was the end of it. If the k & t got hot that heat could dissipate. If you add insulation... say R40, OVER the k & t, now you could potentially have a problem.

Solutions? Not many. The first one is not to buy anything where the renovations look like they were done by someone who installed the taping compound with a spatula, (thinking, "We can sand that off later.") Those type of places are more than likely to have wiring that looks similar to the quality of the taping. Joints in k & t, lost neutral wires remedied by attaching a ground clamp to a bathroom sink drain, things hidden in walls and under attic insulation are all very hard to find. By way of making confessions, I've joined k & t in certain situations, albeit correctly, and in a junction box. There are times a lighting circuit is inaccessible. Is there wisdom in tearing the k & t out? I don't think so. By reducing all the load on the branch wiring to just that one light, I don't think we're increasing the risk, rather we're decreasing the potential pitfalls of k & t to being no more "risky" than any other type of electrical.

In comes the insurance industry. now let's sum up our "foe". These folks lay in wait for YEARS looking for a reason to raise rates. Along comes 9/11 and they have their excuse as a whole, claiming "enormous losses". Ya... right. As if Wawanesa lost a lot of coin as a result of 9/11. Maybe their "reinsurance" rates went up... maybe. Now they are again hunting for a "bad guy", and are black listing anything with k & t, giving people 90 days to remedy the problems. Here we have the insurance industry telling us our homes are unsafe, so at face value, one has to wonder why the City of Winnipeg hasn't done something about this matter. Could it be it's not as unsafe as we are led to believe? How many wiring related fires do we have in a year? What's next ? Not insuring houses NEXT to houses with k & t?
This type of thinking cannot be fought, as it's a smoke screen. It's a risk, as all insurance policies are, and they are in the business of minimizing their risk. State that you have k & t, no insurance. State that "to the best of my knowledge, there is no k & t", and in case of a fire they'll deny you coverage after the fact, no insurance. Have an electrical contractor inspect the place and there is still some k & t you didn't find feeding something, no insurance, so sue the contractors errors and omission policy, (as if electrical contractors carry consulting insurance, or an e & o clause).

Step in the Manitoba Real Estate Association. They see the issue for what it is, (I think), and are criticizing the insurance industry for their heavy handed approach, asking the Government to broker a solution.  http://www.realestatemanitoba.com/news.htm

Really? THIS government? Before they study it to death, they'll start selling home owners insurance through MPIC, possibly not a bad solution except that you can't trust MPI not to fudge the accounts and shift money from vehicles to home insurance, and lump everything into different categories. Remember when your MPI cheque was made out to the "Minister of Finance"? It's an organization that simply has run it's course and now serves itself with well paying jobs for the staff.

Currently there is a disclosure statement required on real estate transactions... why not add a clause regarding electrical? Asbestos in already in it, along with foundation leakage, roof leakage, non conforming additions, non permitted/inspected work, but that only covers the LAST seller, not the most recent owner. What to do?

I don't have any magic answers, but "buyer beware" continues to be a good maxim to hold tight to, as well as making insurability a part of your offer to purchase.

I think that we'll be seeing an "electrical inspection" boom in the next while, with the "inspectors" advising people to re wire their homes, at a great cost to many where it really isn't necessary, nor will it add any real "safety".

On CJOB Lorne Weiss asked "How safe do we need to be?" Take a look at the NDP record on "safety" in the workplace legislation and you'll find your answer. The "safe workplace" has become an industry unto itself.
With those people passing the rules we'll likely have grants available for people to upgrade their homes wiring, loans from Manitoba Hydro... I see this getting stupid fast.