Wednesday, September 7, 2011

What the....??

Ok, it's no real secret that I'm not a big fan of the various Conservative political parties or their high-profile hangers-on. Let's set that aside for a moment. I have a question that I'm hoping someone (perhaps one of their lower-profile hangers-on?) might be able to answer for me.

What's the deal with Conservatives lately promising to balance the budget in a timeframe beyond the term of office for which the campaign would potentially grant them power?

For example... Rob Ford had a '5 year plan'... for a 4 year term.

Hudak is currently promising to balance the Ontario budget by 2017-2018 (if elected next month - October 2011, his seat will once again be at risk in October 2015).

Now, obviously they make these promises because research has suggested to them that the words "balance the budget" are likely to sway voters. But why are voters swayed by a promise with a timeline beyond the term of office for which the campaign will yield results? If I'm voting to put someone in office, I want to know that they can achieve whatever they're promising me within the term for which I am (theoretically) electing them. I dont' give a flying rat's ass that they have a 6 or 7 year plan if I'm going to be voting again in 4 years... I want to know what they can do for me IN that 4 years!

Alright candidates... there's your challenge. Tell me what you can/will accomplish for me within 4 years that should make me vote to give you that opportunity... and know that if you fail miserably, you've lost my vote 4 years from now.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Cruelty or lack of "thinking through"?

Last night D and I heard a news item that literally made our jaws drop. A motorcyclist was in hospital with serious injuries to his neck after running into what was then reported to be fishing line stretched across a major intersection.

More details have come to light since then: like that the 'fishing line' is, in fact, line of the sort used in "kite fighting"... high stress resistance cord; like that the rider in question is lucky he was slowing down for a red light or he might well have been decapitated; like that police have, as yet, been unable to question the rider for more details because since surgery he has been unable to speak (this might be due to temporary inflamation, or it might be a more long-term issue... that hasn't been reported yet); like the fact that similar cord has been found in large quantities in the area, strewn across fences, wrapped around posts, lying in tangles on the sidewalk... that hydro crews have reported often having to untangle similar cord from hydro poles & lines; like the 'witness' who reported stopping area 'kids' (read: aproximate age group 12-16) from tying the cord around poles in recent weeks.

So... was this just teenage boredom gone wrong? Was it a case of "I wonder what'd happen if I did this"? Was it a matter of "it looks so cool in the movies when some guy runs into a clothesline and get knocked off his bike... let's try it!" without thinking of how string can cut into skin... and the thinner and stronger the string, the more it can cut? Or was this a deliberate act designed to injure or kill?

I'm hoping it's boredom and ignorance... but I fear that may not be the case. *sigh*

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Cyclists - good for the environment, bad for my bloodpressure

Let me tell you a story about the woman who tried to get me to kill her last night on my way home.

There I was, driving across Dundas St. headed East. Just crossing the DVP. There's no marked bike-lane in that stretch. I was coming up on a string of cyclists, one of whom was slower than the rest.

Cyclist behind her looks under his arm, sees I'm a decent distance away still, pulls out and passes her. Next cyclist looks over his shoulder, sees I'm still far enough away for him to pass, and does so.

Next cyclist pulls out directly in front of me. She's doing about 20 km/h... I'm doing 60. I think this woman really wanted to die... no light or strobe on her bike (to allow her to be seen in less-than-optimal lighting conditions), no noise-making device on her bike (to alert people in cars she would have to pass that she was approaching and not to open their door), no helmet (to protect her melon when she inevitably did something stupid enough to get her airborne and/or hitting the road), an unbalanced load (a fairly loaded gym bag slung across her chest and variously on her hip, directly behind her, migrating to the other side, etc.), no shoulder check before swinging out into a live lane of rush-hour traffic, and an iPod.

And behaviours like this illustrate perfectly why so many drivers in Toronto hate cyclists and why an increasing number of people feel they should be either licenced or banned from the core of the city (or at least main arteries).

This morning I saw a guy cycle directly through a major intersection (Bay & Bloor) on a red light. Ok, so it was the tail end of a 'scramble crossing' phase... but he couldn't really have known that as he whipped along the line of stopped traffic. I regularly see cyclists blow through red lights or stop signs, drive the wrong way up one-way streets, cut in front of cars they think are turning, make left-hand turns from the right-hand lane, run up the passenger side of cars that have indicated their intention to turn right but are waiting for a break in pedestrian traffic (and end up nearly hitting or hitting the cyclist who is actually supposed to yeild to a car that has its indicator on that it will be turning in front of the cyclist), cyclists dodging back and forth from street to sidewalk and woe betide the pedestrian who gets in their way....

So I arrive at this conclusion... cyclists are good for the environment... as long as it's not MY environment ;) As a driver, I hate them with a firey passion. As a pedestrian, I hate them with a firey passion.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The missing year

Alrighty... that year that wasn't here... I'll be honest, my life is not that interesting, so there's not a lot to update. A couple of birthdays (a fun clock that meows), some awesome highs, some crushing lows, a few surprises (some good... some not to much.

And a new car.

What's that? A new car? Yes. Unplanned. Back in October, we did some research for D so he could replace his '01 Civic Si coupe (manual) with something a little more grown-up/passenger friendly with better suspension, no crash history, and lower mileage. So we did the research and narrowed down his list and went on some test drives. Got him a 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer SE, blue, with upgraded stereo, sattelite radio, manual transmission. Nice car... very pretty... he was very happy. (other than it taking them a week+ to arrange transport of the vehicle so he could get it)

In December I made my annual pilgrimage to the One of a Kind show. I go ever "Christmas"... D comes with me most years, but for various reasons, didn't this year. Anyway, I did a little shopping... picked up an ornament for my Secret Girlfriend (it's something one of my online forums does fairly regularly... you sign up and get a 'target' to whom you send small gifts every month... and you get small gifts from someone else)... bought myself a handbag more expensive than any I had ever purchased before... put my purchases in the passenger footwell and headed out to do some more of my Christmas shopping before the 'dress rehearsal' for our parish Christmas Concert.

Or that was the plan.

On the main highway across town, near home, in the space of 1km of highway, there are 3 on-ramps and one transfer from "collector" to "express" lanes. Invariably, someone getting on at one of the first 2 on-ramps is determined to take that trasfer, and other than perhaps at 4 a.m., there isn't enough space to safely manage it.

Anyway, there I was, tootling along doing about 110 km/h in Zippy, my '01 Ford Focus SE... my pride and joy... the first car I ever owned. Suddenly a silver import (and that's about as much as I saw in the split second... maybe an Acura, maybe a Honda) cut into my lane... about 2" too close to clear me. I swerved to avoid getting hit... in retrospect, perhaps I shouldn't have. Anyway, I swerved, then over-corrected and went into a skid. I was still in skid recovery when I hit the concrete wall head-on. I remember the noise of the skid... I remember seeing the wall coming at me (ok ok, it wasn't moving... details)... and then I remember sunlight shining down through a haze of smoke & black powder. The passenger airbag was on fire (small flame). My mouth was full of grit. The windsheild on the passenger side had been shattered by the airbag blowing. There was an airbag open in front of me. And I hurt.

As things slowly began to swim into focus and my brain started to process things, I turned off the windsheild wipers (I used to think that was silly on TV and in movies when they showed a crashed car and the wipers were going... not so much any more), turned off the engine (forgetting entirely about the concept of gears), and opened a window.

Suddenly I was surrounded by people. A woman was in front of the car on a cell phone and I remember thinking "she must be nuts, it's the 401!". A car full of Canadian Forces guys went into emergency mode... one opened the passenger door, another forced my door open, they started asking me questions to make sure I was alone in the car (apparently 5 calls went to 9-1-1 at least one reporting a carseat smashing on the road... I think it was just bits of my car), to make sure I was fairly coherant, to keep me calm. They asked me to get out, but I thought I'd better wait for EMS to arrive, so they got a light blanket from their car and covered me with it and made sure they knew where my asthma inhaler was.

My right hand was swelling and turning purple at the base of my index finger (we think it got blown off the wheel when the airbag blew and hit the roof, spraining it), and my right knee was hurting like mad. But thanks to the CF guys, I was fairly calm and able to tell the fire crew, EMS and the OPP what happened. The other driver, needless to say, was nowhere to be found... and unlikely to be found, driving the most common colour of car in the country and not having incurred any damage.

Anyway, I hobbled to the ambulance and got taken to the hospital. Made a call from the back to tell Dad I probably wouldn't make rehearsal, 'cuz I had crashed the car and was en route to the hospital, but I was ok, so no need to meet me there. I'd call when I was done.

Of course, Mom heard 'crash' and told him not to be ridiculous and came to the hospital anyway.

In keeping with tradition... no broken bones, by some miracle. My right hand was sprained. My right leg just below the knee was determined (after 2 sets of x-rays, ultra-sound, and an MRI) to be suffering from a bone bruise to the head of the tibia due to crushing impact with the dashboard. I was in physio for nearly 5 months, and using a cane 'til April, but managing to be mostly functional.

That was the 5th of December. On the 31st, I took delivery of my own new car... also a 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer SE (with slightly different features), having taken advantage of earlier research and test-driven 4 other cars as well. So now we have His and Hers cars. Eeesh.

I leave you with some pics of Zippy... she served me well and died honourably.

That's a bag from absorbant powder tucked up under the hood. They used about 5 bags of the stuff.

Note the lack of car in front of the front wheels.

Something important-ish that got forced down and back by the impact that completely rubbed all the paint off my front licence plate.

For obvious reasons, that kind of overshadows anything else that happened in the year I was missing from Blogger. ;)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Public Transit & Fare Hikes

So... the local public transit commission (the TTC) have been told they cannot hike fares to solve thier budget problems. Public transit supporters (well, some of the more vocal ones... or the more nutso ones, depending on your view point) are saying it's utter madness to disallow moderate, predictable increases when ridership is on an upswing, and that moderate fare increases are preferable to service cuts. Some folks are even saying that it should increase because "you've got to pay a reasonable fare to get good service".

Hmm... To that last group I say... so we've never paid a reasonable fare for the TTC? Because trust me, I've rarely had good service. Indeed there are some areas of the city woefully underserviced, yet any service increases go to routes and areas that don't need them.

Example: On my route from the end of the subway line to my home (about 20 minutes by car... or 30-45 by surface routes of public transit, if I'm lucky), we encounter a route... let's call it 116. Now, the busses of route 116 that we pass are rarely, if ever full... rarely even 'moderately crowded'... and yet, it's not unheard of for us to pass 5 of them in the space of 3 blocks. Seriously, folks. 5 busses on the same route in the space of 3 blocks. And they're the SAME route... not variations... not a 116, a couple of 116As, a 116E and a 116C... they're all just 116's. Madness. Especially when you consider that the route that runs behind my house generally runs one bus every 20 minutes... and another one nearby 1 every 30 minutes. Hmmm.

Here's my thinking for me, personally.

Right now, the TTC cash fare is $3. Using tokens drops it to $2.50... so $25 buys 10 tokens, or enough for 5 days worth of commuting. To purchase a monthly metropass costs either $111 (if you have a year-long subscription) or $121 per month... so more than 4 weeks' worth of tokens by about a week if you're looking at full-price. This, to me, makes no sense. Generally (using GO transit as an example) the more you purchase, the more you save... it encourages more people to purchase monthly, thereby guaranteeing a minimum revenue for the month. It encourages more people to use the system rather than driving. But not for the TTC.

So... it costs me $25 per week to commute, assuming I can get dropped at a subway station and don't need to pay for parking. Throw in parking for 5 days and you're now looking at $50 per week to commute by public transit.

On very rough calculations, it would cost me, personally, about $35 per week to drive to work every day (as I am lucky enough, in spite of working in the downtown core, to have parking provided to me free of charge at work). The time investment is pretty much identical, assuming no service delays on the transit system.

So, right now, with my current transit plan, most weeks it's cheaper for me to take public transit. Barely.

Throw a fare increase into the mix and suddenly it's cheaper for me to drive. Where I don't have to be concerned about the weather at any point in my travels. Where I can get a comfortable seat with nobody invading my personal space, insulting me, leering at me, or taking my picture without my permission. Ok, so I can't read in the car ('cuz, you know, reading and driving don't mix so well, in spite of what buddy I saw on the 401 last weekend thinks), but the other benefits kind of outweigh that. Why in the name of all things holy would I want to take public transit to work? And I highly doubt I'm alone, really.

On the other hand, if prohibiting a fare increase reduces service, then I'm now going to face longer waits (with bad knees), more crowds, more invasion of my personal space, more insults, assaults, creeps, etc. So why would I want to take public transit to work? And again, I highly doubt I'm alone.

They can't win.

But for the sake of the "working poor", I hope to hell they don't increase fares. Or cut services like the afterhours bus routes.

Hey Mr. Ford... you're looking for 'efficiencies'? Take a look at the 116! ;)

Thursday, August 18, 2011


Ok, ok... I know it's been a year-ish since I last posted. I'll do a 'catch-up' very soon, I swear! But in the meantime, a new rant/ramble...

An excerpt from an article on the Toronto Star's website today regarding Rob Ford, mayor of Toronto, and his recent (as in, yesterday) attempt to approach the Provincial Government for transit project funding includes these paragraphs:

Now, Ford’s Sheppard tunnel is stuck between a rock and a hard place that he negotiated himself into. The mayor ripped up the previous Transit City plan that put the province on the hook for a Sheppard LRT. The new deal gave Ford sole responsibility for a Sheppard subway extension built mostly with private money, in exchange for Queen’s Park tunnelling the Eglinton LRT.

City hall is worried it will lose promised federal funding of $330 million unless it gets seed money from Queen’s Park, and matching funds down the road. Ford asked McGuinty for $2.5 million to develop a business plan — not a large enough sum to fight over, though it’s worth asking why the mayor can’t find the money himself.

The bigger ask is a so-called “advance” on $650 million that Ford is counting on from Queen’s Park as a top-up on the Sheppard line. But under the new transit deal Ford made with McGuinty last March, the Sheppard top-up only flows if there is any leftover money from the Eglinton line that Queen’s Park is bankrolling. And until Eglinton is built, it’s hard to know if there will be money to spare.

So why doesn’t Ford simply ask Ottawa for a workaround under its Building Canada Fund? After all, the 2014 deadline that Ford claims must be met applies to an outdated deal for a Sheppard LRT that is itself dead.

Ford keeps trumpeting his alliances with the federal Tories. Why so reluctant to pressure them, publicly, into helping him out of a bind — rather than demanding that Queen’s Park twist itself into a pretzel to accommodate his own political contortions?

Now, those who know me well know that I'm no particular fan of our dear mayor. But even if I was, I would likely posit this response to the question posed in that last paragraph...

Mr. Ford may be UNABLE to tap his Conservative contacts (like his "fishing buddy" Mr. S. Harper) on this matter because he has received a LOT of bad press recently and the Federal Conservatives would like nothing better than to see Toronto flip from Red to Blue in the upcoming Provincial elections as well. Mr. Ford will not help that cause, methinks, and so there is a certain amount of 'distancing' going on.

Mr. Ford got himself elected, it seems, on a platform that started to crumble shortly after the election and has recently picked up speed in its collapse. He swore services would not be cut, but is proposing precisely that course of action. He championed privatized garbage collection theoretically to save money, ignoring that the one component area of Toronto that previous had privatized garbage collection actually paid far more for that collection due to charges for extra services not included in the base contract. Also ignoring that privatizing garbage collection will only avoid future garbage strikes if the company involved is not unionized (and I'm not sure anyone checked that info during the bidding process). And ignoring in public statements that the city of Toronto actually continues for 5 or 10 km East of Markham Rd. ;) He and his brother have put their proverbial feet in the proverbial - it numerous times over recent months. Tim Horton's and Margaret Atwood are, no doubt, both running jokes and ire-inducing terms in City Hall, depending on whose camp you fall into ;) Then there's the "misunderstanding" of flipping off a woman and her young daughter when they took him to task for using his cell-phone (hand held) while driving... which is technically illegal, unless it was specifically related to his role as a 'Peace Officer', and even if not illegal, poorly advised while driving in downtown Toronto, home of some of the more unpredictable traffic situations in North America (psycho cyclists, cabbies with a questionable understanding of the Highway Traffic Act, drivers who paid far too much for their vehicles and consequently believe they own the road beneath and around it as well...).

Poor Mr. Ford has become a bit of a liability for the conservative parties in the past few weeks. They can't afford to come riding to his rescue if they hope to win more seats in Toronto and the GTA at the beginning of October... and it would not surprise me in the least to hear that they've given the good ol' "don't call us, we'll call you" ;)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Watch this space

Ok... so yet again, as I have so often posted in the past 4 years with this blog host, I find myself posting.... "I suck at blogging/journalling". I swear (as I have so often before *sigh*) that I will improve. I will provide an update on the past however long it's been since my last rant and will make a concerted effort to update this blog on a more regular basis. Or at least try to :p