Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy New Year!

A little something to wish everyone a happy new year!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Which cartoon character are you?

From the e-mail file:

Everyone has a personality of a cartoon character. Have you ever asked yourself what cartoon character do you most resemble? A group of investigators got together and analyzed the personalities of well-known and modern cartoon characters. The information that was gathered was made into this test. Answer all the questions with what describes you best, add up all your points (which are next to the answer that you choose) at the end and look for your results. Put your character in the subject line and forward to your friends and back to the person that sent this to you. Very interesting to see "who" your friends are! Do not cheat by looking at the end of the e-mail before you are done.
1) Which one of the following describes the perfect date?
(a) Candlelight dinner (4 pts.)
(b) Fun/Theme park (2 pts.)
(c) Painting in the park (5 pts.)
(d) Rock concert (1 pt.)
(e) Going to the movies (3 pts.)

2) What is your favorite type of music?
(a) Rock 'n Roll (2 pts.)
(b) Alternative (1 pt.)
(c) Soft Rock (4 pts.)
(d) Country (5 pts.)
(e) Pop (3 pts.)

3) What type of movies do you prefer?
(a) Comedy (2 pts.)
(b) Horror (1 pt.)
(c) Musical (3 pts.)
(d) Romance (4 pts.)
(e) Documentary (5 pts.)

4) Which one of these occupations would you choose if you
only could choose one of these?
(a) Waiter (4 pts.)
(b) Professional Sports Player (5 pts.)
(c) Teacher (3 pts.)
(d) Police (2 pts.)
(e) Cashier (1 pt.)

5) What do you do with your spare time?
(a) Exercise (5 pts.)
(b) Read (4 pts.)
(c) Watch television (2 pts.)
(d) Listen to music (1 pt.)
(e) Sleep (3 pts.)

6) Which one of the following colors do you like best?
(a) Yellow (1 pt.)
(b) White (5 pts.)
(c) Sky Blue (3 pts.)
(d) Dark Blue (2 pts.)
(e) Red (4 pts.)

7) What do you prefer to eat right now?
(a) Snow (3 pts.)
(b) Pizza (2 pts)
(c) Sushi (1 pt.)
(d) Pasta (4 pts.)
(e) Salad (5 pts.)

8) What is your favorite holiday?
(a) Halloween (1 pt.)
(b) Christmas (3 pts.)
(c) New Year (2 pts.)
(d) Valentine's Day (4 pts)
(e) Thanksgiving (5 pts.)

9) If you could go to one of these places, which one would it be?
(a) Paris (4 pts.)
(b) Spain (5 pts.)
(c) Las Vegas (1 pt.)
(d) Hawaii (4 pts.)
(e) Hollywood (3 pts.)

10) With which of the following would you prefer to spend time with?
(a) Someone smart (5 pts.)
(b) Someone attractive (2 pts.)
(c) Someone who likes to party (1 pt.)
(d) Someone who always has fun (3 pts.)
(e) Someone very sentimental (4 pts.)

Now add up your points and find out the answer you have been waiting for!

(10-16 points)! You are Garfield: You are very comfortable,
easygoing, and you definitely know how to have fun, but sometimes you
take it to an extreme. You always know what you are doing and you are
always in control of your life. Others may not see things as you do,
but that doesn't mean that you always have to do what is right. Try to
remember your happy spirit may hurt you or others.

(18-22 points) You are Snoopy: You are fun, you are very
cool and popular. You always know what's in and you never are out of
style.You are good at knowing how to satisfy everyone else. You have
probably disappeared for a few days more than once, but you always
come home with the family values that you learned. Being married and
having children are important to you, but only after you have had
your share of fun times.

(22-28 points) You are Arnold: You have lots of friends
and you are also popular, always willing to give advice and help out a
person in need. You are very optimistic and you always see the bright side of
things. Some good advice: Try not to be too much of a dreamer. If
not, you will have many conflicts with life.

(29-34 points) You are Sponge Bob Square Pants: You are
the classic person that everyone loves. You are the best friend that
anyone could ever have and never want to lose. You never cause harm to
anyone and they would never not understand your feelings. Life is a
journey, it's funny and calm for the most part. Stay away from traitors and
jealous people, then you will be stress free.

(35-42 points) You are Charlie Brown: You are tender, you
fall in love quickly but you are also very serious about all
relationships. You are a family person. You call your Mom every day. You have many
friends and may occasionally forget a few birthdays. Don't let your
passion confuse you with reality.

(43-50 points) You are Dexter: You are smart and
definitely a thinker. Every situation is fronted with a plan. You have a brilliant
mind.You demonstrate very strong family principles. You maintain a
stable routine but never ignore a bad situation when it comes.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Simply Put: Snow removal

Simply Put: Snow removal

During my days at the University of Ottawa (which is in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada...who knew?) I always loved watching the snow removal equipment in process.

Some people don't believe me how fast the city removes the snow from the banks. Withing 24 hours of a major snowstorm, Downtown Ottawa is usually fully clear of snowbanks and all! Want to know how they do it? Check out this blog entry by Q to see how it works!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Very Busy couple of Weeks!

I nearly had to jump up on the televisions I was demoing for Philips on Friday morning as the doors opened at the Markham Costco. Those people are crazy! I did however end up surviving two long weeks of working straight for SPAR Canada as both an administrative assistant (my regular job with them) and as a product demonstrator for Philips at The Bay and Costco. I enjoyed my time learning about the products Spar merchandises for.

However, I am still unsure how the people who work regularly day in and day out in retail stay on their feet all day. They just don't stop!

I also provide a couple of random observations from these past two weeks:

1. Note to drivers: Not a good idea to cut off a fully packed 60 foot bus full of people so you don't get stuck behind it.

2. Let the bus back into traffic, it is the law! Besides the sixty of us on the bus might start driving instead of taking the bus which will only increase gridlock even worse. Think about what an investment holding less than ten seconds for the bus to pull out is!

3. Note to Police: Please start enforcing number 2 above. It is the law and there never is a cop to be seen!

4. If we start enforcing traffic laws like number three above, there might be an increase in ridership on buses. Why? Because some of the turkeys will be off the road as they finally have lost their licenses!

5. Know where you are going before taking the bus! Don't stand and debate with the driver while sixty of us wait to get home.

6. MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Random Thoughts & Musings #4

Another week of election fun here in Canada, and then there was the other news. Here, at this wonderful blog, we look at both.

1. Letting parents decide on which childcare their child should be in? Theres a novel idea! Stephen Harper unveiled, on Monday, a strategy where every child would be entitled to a thousand some odd dollars per year in tax incentives towards child care costs. The Liberals countered with promising to governmentally subsidize spaces. This debate sounds familiar, wait....I know, the Liberals promised a national day care plan in the last election! Seems this is just like the party that promised in 1993 to drop the GST...wait it was the Liberals again! Jack and the NDP promise a national daycare program as well, but how much will it cost?

2. Anybody know how much any single one of the NDP promises will cost the Canadian taxpayer if it is ever implemented? Anybody? Jack Layton, do you know? Thought not.

3. Last week Aurora had its first annual tree lighting ceremony out front of the local town hall. Looks like the event was fun for the families! Don't worry! The Mayor of Aurora assures us that the lights used are "LEDs." Want to see more? Click here.

4. Apparently the Governor General has set the Canadian federal election on January 23rd. January 23rd, believe it or not, is statistically the coldest and one of the snowiest days of the year across Canada. To give you an idea of what voters will be experiencing within the 12 hours on January 23rd the polls will be open:


Toronto will have only 9.5 hours of daylight on Jan. 23. "That's an issue. Some people will be voting in the dark," [Environment Canada's Senior Climatologist David] Phillips said.


Phillips is exactly right. The voters will be voting in the dark in many ways both because of the time of year (lack of sunlight) and in terms of not paying attention to what the politicians are saying!

The Liberals and Conservatives love to bash each other. The Liberals love to try and viliffy Steven Harper and the Conservatives (which amazingly worked last election) while not putting forth anything of real substance (or merely re-promising what they did years before...anybody seen the revitalization of Toronto's waterfront or a national childcare program yet?). The Conservatives, while I admire that they started rolling out a costed election program right after the election call, have started to snipe back at the Liberals. But perhaps that is because they are fighting back against the Liberals continued attacks on Steven Harper. On a footnote, how many times has Paul Martin said "Stephen Harper" on television and in the press? If Paul Martin keeps this up, I will know what the conservatives stand for, but what do the Liberals stand for? Besides not implementing the GST cut, not reducing gun crime with the implementation of the gun registry, pushing Quebec towards separation because of the Adscam, etc. So the Liberals don't do what the promise and do what they didn't promise. I got it now! No child care program will be in our future if a Liberal government is elected!

I was watching on CTV Newsnet today representatives from the Conservative, NDP and Liberal parties take part in a discussion. The Conservative and Liberal representatives talked over each other for most of the interview while the NDP representative sat quietly. Nothing of substance came out of the interview really because the Liberals bashed the Conservatives while the Conservatives bashed the Liberals. I really don't get why the media continue to have these all party representation debate style interviews anymore, it is just the same old tired bafflegab from the Liberals and the Conservatives. Anybody else tired of it yet?

5. I enjoyed a great children's musical production at church today. Well done Mark Ruhnke and the kids! Very well done and rehearsed.

6. This weekly feature will take some time off as I will be working almost straight right through to Christmas Eve!

Friday, December 02, 2005

Random Thoughts & Musings #3

This being the first week of the Canadian election I bring you a run down of blogs and other indescribable things that are covering the Canadian election both serious and humourous (sometimes it is hard to tell the difference).

1. We start off our merry adventure around the internet on the issue of a Canadian election with our tongues planted firmly, yes I do mean firmly, in our cheeks with the musings of both the Conservative & Liberal leaders courtesy of Rick Mercer.

2. On Tuesday, the first day of the election campaign, Stephen Harper was asked if he loved Canada by a reporter. Harper blathered on and on...

"Well, I said Canada is a great country. You know, all of us who get involved in public life spend a lot of time away from our families to go across the country, probably get in many ways the most rewarding experience you could have, you know. It's not tourist travel, you don't see all the hot spots and all the great sights but you get a real sense the kind old and the of traveling I've done, especially the last seven or eight months, you get a real sense of Canadians, where they live, who they are and what their challenges are. And I think the country has unlimited potential.That's why I think it would be so exciting to take over at this point in our history. But I think it's necessary to make a change if we're going to realize that potential."



Note to Steven: A simple yes would have done. In true political doublespeak Harper provides a classic example of why most Canadians can't stand politicians. They just don't get the point! Nuff said!

3. If things couldn't get any more crazy during the election, the Liberal Party has hired a former humourist of the National Post to ride on the big red festive campaign bus and write useless blog entries. As Paul Martin's speechwriter, I would have expected a daily explanation of what the hell Paul Martin is standing for instead of trying to explain what the Liberal's opposition stands for. Yet another problem of politicians, knowing what the other stands for, yet not telling you in succint terms what they stand for. Nope...the speechwriter just writes about UFOs and how Paul Martin doesn't want to be seen on the side of a bus with a swelled head. Well perhaps Martin and the rest of the leaders get their swelled heads down to size and release their full election platforms and start campaigning on what they believe in. That would be a change over the past couple of elections.

4. Former Toronto Sun humourist Gary Dunford covers the issues that matters to Canadians most during the election campaign, what the leaders and voters think during this election campaign and which leader shows us they love Canada the most. Message to Steven Harper, Dunf shows you how you might show you love Canada! Are you taking notes?

5. Privacy has reared its ugly head again. Sony has recently been hit hard because of its use of anti-piracy software that, even Sony music admits, can be hacked to harm computers running the software. Michael Geist, an internet law professor at the University of Ottawa, notes the latest on the issue and what New York and Texas State governments are doing to ensure Sony is held accountable in this case. Geist points out a very real problem "With thousands of Canadians likely affected (if you are one, I'd like to hear from you), Canadian authorities can no longer sit on the sidelines." So my question is, what does each party plan to do in order to ensure Sony and the other companies follow Canadian law in this case?

6. The local riding of Newmarket-Aurora is a very interesting one indeed. Former Conservative and now Liberal Cabinet Minister Belinda "I crossed the floor because I have principles" Stronach is going to face the heat. One question for her, as a cabinet minister responsible for "democratic renewal" (or whatever bureacratic bafflegab her role is), what have you done on this file to move? Also, if I were to vote for you in this election, will you remain a Liberal and in the federal Parliament as the Newmarket-Aurora representative until the end of the next term? I hope so, otherwise Stronach might become an NDPer then a Green Party candidate or even returning back to papi and hugging the tailpipe of a new car at MAGNA. Watch for more coverage on the Newmarket-Aurora Stronach controversy in the media.

7. Stephen Harper has at least taken the idea of releasing his platform in straight terms this week. Everything from how he would handle the same sex marriage issue (have a free vote in the House of Commons on the issue), taxes (cut the GST to 5% over five years and making transit passes tax deductable) and set standards on healthcare waiting times. The Liberals have nothing really in response to say. Sure they said the cut to the GST is bad policy, but then wasn't that bad policy in 1993 when the same Liberals proposed eliminating the same GST altogether? Talk about "calling the kettle black".

8. Rick Mercer's fun with the current election campaign continues....

9. To finish this posting on a festive note. Q notes on his blog two cases of politicans fighting over a Christmas trees. Yup, the old ugly argument over what to call the tree and if the tree should be real or not. How about we just ban everything this holiday season. Yup, everything from Christmas/Festivus trees, Menorahs, christmas lights, tinsel and the such? That way nobody would be offended. That would only ruin the ability of the challenge to federal party campaigns to decorate their election signs in a festive fashion. Anybody have pictures of federal election campaign signs decorated for the holiday season? Please post links to pictures in the comment section to this post.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Random Thoughts & Musings #2

Well I had so much fun with the last installment of "Random Thoughts & Musings" that I thought I might make it a weekly thing. For those new to this here feature (which even I admit I am considering that this is only the second edition of this type of column). Here is where I provide a wrap up of things that I have thought about (hence the title) both serious and humourous. So enough with the Jib Jab and on with the show!

1. In the column of why Canadian banks suck: Why do Canadian bank machines still give out $50.00 bills when no store will take them anymore?

2. What would happen if you mixed Photoshop with Jean Chretien? Canadian Comedian Rick Mercer found out.

3. Need good reasons to get rid of the federal Liberals? Read this James Travers' column to find out. On a side note, with an award winning columnist like this, who says the Toronto Star is a Liberal rag?

4. So I checked out the new VIVA transit game that provides game players with a chance to win free bus tickets and other prizes for merely playing their new online video game. The game isn't worth much to play as I got bored with it after one level and merely killed myself off at the begining of the second level. But I did win 10 free two zone tickets to ride on either VIVA or York Region Transit. If transit fares go up in the near future, paying for the both the game and its prizes might be just two reasons why!

5. One final thought on the new VIVA system, who designed the new shelters at Richmond Hill Centre and other stops along the way? These "shelters" allow the wind to whistle right through them because the glass doesn't go all the way up to the roof or down to the ground. Even funnier was at my local stop the dry area during a mild rain storm is aproximately only two feet squared. Finally, who wants to sit on a stainless steel bench in January? One question to the designer of these shelters: "Have you experienced a Canadian winter?"

6. From CHUM FM's Roger, Rick & Marilyn archives comes this hillarious piece of entertainment.

7. To my American friends, readers and enemies, Happy Thanksgiving you lucky people! Only you guys would be able to squeeze a four day weekend just before Christmas. Even better, Americans have figured out that Thanksgiving is a great weekend to provide sales for hungry shoppers eager to save a buck on their Christmas shopping. Canadians have it in the retailers hands: have the store sales the day after the big gift exchanges in order to two things: a) prevent the mass return of items that either didn't fit or create this question: "What were they thinking?" or b) clear out all the crap that didn't sell over the busiest retailing time all year.

8. Not looking forward to Thanksgiving because of PETA or because of boredom? This guy has the answers to all the commonThanksgiving questions!

8. Ever wondered if blog posts were really written by a dead person? This guy has, in a weird and creepy way.....

9. The Gemini's were on this week. Did anybody care? Apparently these commenters, who commented on Antonia "try and spell my last name" Zerbisias blog didn't watch:

---------------------------------------

The Geminis are so lame. They're no better than the Armpit Village Homebuilder of the Year Awards or the Bug Village Manitoba Carpet Cleaner of the Week Prize. Every industry in the world has a set of lame awards that it hands out to itself -- think of the Teddies from the Mary Tyler Moore Show or the SeeBees from Frasier. The National Newspaper Awards are the Canadian press's lame equivalent. Basically, if it's not a Pulitzer, Nobel or Booker it ain't worth jack and we shouldn't waste time talking about it.
Posted by:
November 21, 2005 at 08:30 PM

When you tune into a crappy Canadian station and see a promo saying "XYZ Network: Nominated for 587 Gemini Awards" that's when you realise how stupid and pointless the Geminis really are.
Posted by:
November 21, 2005 at 08:40 PM

See what I mean?
When a conversation about awards turns on references to popular American television programs that themselves are now seen only in syndication you know you're through the looking glass.
Posted by:
Dana November 22, 2005 at 10:02 AM

-----------------------------------------

Anybody gain count of how many nominations did the CBC's The National with Peter Mansbridge get? Anybody finished counting those nominations?

10. Finally, on a serious yet quirky note. I called the American bank I deal with to close my account for good in New York City. I had withdrawn all the funds over the past week, as instructed by the telephone banking representative I talked to last Saturday. She also noted there would not be any service charges on closing the account so I could have the entire balance.

I called this morning to close the account. I was put on hold in order to talk to an "account specialist". Um...lets stop there, wouldn't a telephone banking representative be an account specialist? Isn't that what bank representatives do? Just a thought. Anyway, on with the story....

I talked to the "account specialist" who wanted my day time phone number. I gave him my home phone and said I could be best contacted at night. He wouldn't have it. I was not about to give him my office phone number because this was supposed to be a simple process.

I told him the story what the telephone banking representative told me last week. I said there is no money in the account and was now wondering why there was a big fuss on closing an account with no money in it? He asked for my address in Canada, I said it is the same one you have been sending statements to for the past three months, then gave it to him again. He, the account specialist, said that there would be a letter sent to me in five to seven days. I said the letter had to say that the account had been closed. He said that he had put in the request for the account to be closed. I am now wondering why there is an "account specialist" if the specialist cannot close an account? Just wondering..... I am now starting to lose faith in Citibank's services on this issue.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Why do the slow ones always work on Sundays?

A wonderful adventure today to Upper Canada Mall in Newmarket. But first I had my birthday on Tuesday and received a gift card to Chapters in Newmarket. Along with that card I had a 20% off coupon valid only for November 20th. So I set off in the afternoon to go book shopping and then for a little lunch. I browsed the new book section and then the history section to see what was worth looking at.

I hesitated at first on one book, considering it was worth $40.00 Canadian. But in the end, after the 20% off and the gift card I ended up getting The Google Story. The book, after the discount and card value cost me only six dollars. Pretty sweet! Something to read on the bus on the way into work! A book review of this book may appear later on my website.

After Chapters, I walked north to Upper Canada Mall in hopes of having a Whopper Combo from Burger King. However, I gave up on that. I gave up on that considering there was one person working the front and one at the grill. It took the two of them forever to serve a simple combo to second person in front of me. The person in front of me paid by Interac (debit card to my American readers) and had to rip her own receipt and put it on the counter like Burger King usually does. The guy had to be reminded what she ordered. The person in front of me even had to bag her own order. At that point I rolled my eyes and left. I headed to the food court and New York Fries where there was some line, but they were properly staffed to move us along at a reasonable speed. By the way, how come there is no New York Fries in New York City? Kinda weird eh?

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Random Thoughts & Musings

This is a random thoughts entry (idea stolen from Jack) about things I have pondered over the past week that I have gathered either from personal observation or through reading various newspapers. I do have a long time to read newspapers as I take mass transit in Toronto (which can be quite painful sometimes as you will soon see). Now on with the random thoughts:

1. Why do drivers slow down in the rain? It took me an hour and half to take the bus from Downsview Subway station to York University and then onto Richmond Hill Centre. I ended up missing another bus and was forced to wait a half hour in northern Richmond Hill before I got home to my birthday dinner. ARGH!

2. Gary Dunford on his blog brings up a very big problem of a friend of his. Apparently, his friend was laid off a year ago due to downsizing at his former company. However, apparently the reason the company downsized was not for financial reasons as Dunf's friend is still receiving his regular pay cheque! Even better is the cheque is not electronically generated as there are two executives sign the cheque. Apparently even the executives don't knmow what is going on!

3. All is not well in the New York City Department of Education. (For regular readers of my blog, you already know that considering my recent past). There are actually two horrifying stories of the Department of Education screwing up that have been in the media (I am sure there are probably thousands more not seeing the light of day because there isn't a newspaper big enough or enough reporters to tell all the horror stories of mispent money and mistreatment of people at the Department of Education). However, this story caught my attention while I was wandering the internet this past week. The city pours a lot of money into the education system in the belief that things will improve, yet maintenance seems to be the bottom of the list. I have been in many New York City schools to see air conditioners not working, dust galore around the door frames, spit balls on the ceiling and much more.

Then a true "New York Irony." In other words, cruel irony, when this story appeared. Apparently, the New York City Department of Education didn't have the money to properly outfit their teachers up to health department standards and one teacher has possibly gotten infected on top of it. On top of that the Department of Education is now paying fines on a monthly basis because it is in contradiction of a health code. But, in true NYC Department of Education fashion, there is complete denial on the Department of Ed's fault in this case. In my experience, the Department of Education barely knows how to co-operate with its teachers (2 years without a contract between the Department and the teachers union would prove that), so how would it know what the health code is in this case? An even more in depth look at the problems of the New York City Department of Education teacher can also be found here. Perhaps an investigation by the State of New York Department of Education needs to be done on the City's Department of Education, because for too long has the City's education system smelled so badly from cronyism and corruption. And we Canadians thought the federal Liberals were bad enough!

4. On a lighter note, Antonia "I hope you spelled my last name right" Zerbisias provides us with an example of what Canadians are truly thinking during this time of ponderance over who we might vote for in a possible upcoming election. I believe this post can stand on its own with out any comment to be effective? Non?

5. From York University's newspaper, The Excalibur, the univerisities are complaining again about the MacLean's magazine yearly survey of univerisities. It seems that any time any university does well in the MacLean's rankings, the university administrations pat themsleves on their backs. However, when the university does poorly, the administrations and student unions blame the methodology of the survey. What the universities should be doing in response to each publication's survey is to look at the area of deficiencies noted and work to fix them. Each media outlet, just like the university's student body, looks at the insititution from various angles. It is the succesful universities that look good from various angles of analysis. Universities in Ontario seem to have forgotten that. Perhaps it is the "ivory tower" concept that some university administrations have fallen prey too.

6. To finish with a laugh....

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Elvis Stojko in Kung Fu?

Elvis Stojko showing off his Kung Fu
Photo: Courtesy of the Toronto Star
Apparently Elvis Stojko has picked up another sport quite easily. Stojko, former Olympic medal winner in Men's figure skating, has placed 2nd in a world Kung Fu event.
Who would have thunk it? Placing well in two sports? Anybody else besides Stojko and Deon Sanders ever do it? Deon was that great in baseball (never made the All-Star Team) if I can remember.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Deerly Beloved...My Life Flashed before my Eyes

I was travelling to work on VIVA this morning and got off at Richmond Hill Centre Station to transfer from VIVA Blue to VIVA Purple. A VIVA Purple bus was pulling out as I was getting off VIVA Blue. "Rats," I thought. I thought I would have to go wait to take another one. However, the driver pulled over after going around the island to pick us up from a different "bus slip". Things started to look up.

Then the VIVA Purple bus started up the on ramp from Yonge Street onto Highway 7 to go westbound. However, no cars would yield, as is the law in Ontario to any bus. So the bus ran out of lane and merged with the traffic. Well the "forced merge" caused the car in the right hand lane to swerve to the left into the middle lane and the car in the middle lane also swerved causing the two to possibly briefly collide with each other. However, I could not see if the cars in fact "touched" as there was a blind spot created by the wall behind the driver. The VIVA Purple bus was forced to wait for York Regional Police officers to show up.

While waiting for the police to arrive, another VIVA Purple bus pulled up, the driver of that bus talked to our driver and then pulled off without offloading our bus. Apparently Transit control had not given permission to offload us and we had to wait for clearance from the police. The police had to take the information down from the two drivers of the cars and then proceeded to the bus to take the liscence information from the driver. After this was all done our bus was at least ten minutes late and the second bus after hours had caught up to us near the end of the route. Apparently, I should have taken the second bus.

Not content on merely pointing fun at me, something or someone thought it would be funny to add a little irony to my life on this same VIVA Purple bus trip that the above mentioned occurred. Before I finish, lets back track to Tuesday of this week. That night on the way home from work there was a York Regional Police cruiser at the side of the road on Centre Street just past the bridge which Highway 407 uses to cross Centre Street. Next to the cruiser and the big burly police officer, was your typical white tailed deer in the ditch eating grass as if nothing happenned.

Fast forward to this morning and I think that same deer decided to run accross the road in front of the same VIVA Purple vehicle that almost got in an accident. Apparently I needed to be scared to death a couple of times.

Monday, November 07, 2005

VIVA la Review

I have now taken York Region's new VIVA service for slightly more than a week now. The service provides rapid transit services along designated corridors using buses that only stop at designated interesections. Overall, there are both benefits and some problems that York Region Transit (YRT) and its private consortium need to work on. The private consortium, working with the region on the VIVA system, includes such corporations as: AECOM, IBI, Delcan, Kiewit, and Ellis Don. The dream of VIVA is actually a pretty good one on paper and, eventually will be once fully implemented on the roads. You will find the complete plan here . Phase one, as mentioned in the article, is now almost fully launched. However, along with this dream, there are current problems that will can either be solved right away or in the future once all three phases of the VIVA plan have been implemented.

The first issue I had occurred on the VIVA Purple route while testing it out for my new job I was going to start on the following Monday. On Friday October 28th, the VIVA Purple bus arrived at Promenade Terminal to do a regular pick-up. However, another driver came over and said to the driver of the VIVA vehicle that it was time for her break. It took the driver, who was not expecting her break, a little while to collect her items and switch spots with the new driver. I still question this decision to switch drivers right in the middle of the Purple route instead of waiting until the bus reached its terminus (York University) where the bus normally waits five minutes or slightly longer before turning itself around and heading back in the other direction. These five minutes or more would have provided the perfect opportunity to change drivers. Besides, York University has both a food court, public washrooms and plenty of space to have lunch inside and outside.

Another issue is when VIVA drivers have to answer the call of nature. I have had two occasions where VIVA drivers have disrupted service in order to visit the washroom. The first was on VIVA Orange on Wednesday while returning home from work. I was on VIVA Orange heading northbound to York University when, just before making the normal right hand turn onto Keele Street, from St. Regis Crescent, the driver pulled over the vehicle. She then got out of the bus and headed to the Baker's Dozen location on the south-east corner. The vehicle waited five minutes with five people on board. This same situation apparently occurs quite frequently as a driver on Friday heading westbound to York University of VIVA Purple had to do the same thing at the Richmond Hill Centre Station while a full bus of passengers had to stop their lives on their way to work in the morning. Apparently VIVA/York Region Transit didn't think about the call of nature. This situation has to be fixed soon with apropriately timed breaks for drivers. Couldn't the supervisors, or whoever sits in the idling cars at York University and Richmond Hill Centre, take over the route for a while so these poor drivers can go to the washroom? Apparently not. I am stunned this situation continues to occur. I have asked several times to both VIVA supervisors and drivers themselves. Both the drivers and supervisors indicate there really is no alternative but to stop a full vehicle of passengers in order to answer the bathroom call. I beg to differ.

The off board fare machines have become a major problem in terms of fare inspectors. Here is an example that I thought might happen and actually did on Thursday morning at the Bernard Terminal heading southbound on VIVA Blue. The Bernard Terminal fare machine was not operational. In other words the touch screen was not operative. I pointed out the machine was not operational to the transit inspector on board the bus and he said he had already called it in. I wonder how can York Region Transit fare enforcement officers enforce the VIVA fare system properly if the fare machines are down so often? This past week I have also noticed that the Dufferin Stop at Centre Street Westbound (on VIVA Purple) touch screen was not operating and the ticket validator at the southbound Elgin Mills (on VIVA Blue) was down as well. I have seen, since starting to ride VIVA, that the Bernard Terminal seems to be down off and on ever since the VIVA service started. So, again, how are tickets supposed to be issued by YRT fare enforcement officers if fare collection is such a problem?

However, I do agree with the fare structure. York Region Transit has really thought this out by providing a substantial savings over what GO Transit used to rip us off with in Northern York Region. To compare, York Region Transit charges those of us in Aurora to travel to Finch Subway Station $3.25 cash fare while GO Transit charges $4.75. Add tickets and the savings is even more. No wonder GO Transit saw the Yonge Street corridor as a large moneymaker.

By looking at the operation of the electronic schedules at each stop, I wonder if YRT bought a bunch of lemons? I mean the electronic schedule (e.g. orange-York University 4 minutes) at the Northbound 16th-Carville Station (on Viva Blue) was down for maybe two weeks. Also, every trip I seem to take I spot at least one or two malfunctioning touchscreen fare purchasers or the electronic schedule shows "consult schedule" or something to that effect. If these off board fare vending machines are new now and malfunction, what will happen five years down the road?

York Region Transit seems to want to keep riders from actually making sure its riders arrive on time, or really wants its riders to ride its buses for long periods of time instead of getting their riders there as quickly as possible. This is because quite a few of its local routes (e.g. Route 98, etc.) seem to be frequently late. It is a wonder how these local routes make connections with others at all.

Also, the VIVA schedules, which were on the York Region Transit Website when the VIVA service was first launched, have since been removed. The schedules were replaced with very basic information saying that the services run every aproximately every 10 minutes during rush hour and every 15 minutes in non-peak periods. This causes an issue if you are travelling off peak as waiting 15 minutes for a bus seems a little questionable. Try riding figuring out a 8:00 P.M. trip from Bernard terminal to connect with Route 85 (Rutherford/16th Avenue route) in order to head westbound to Vaughan Mills. It is almost impossible and you must budget the 15 minutes extra because VIVA might have just left before you even arrive at Bernard. Sure GO does this on the Newmarket "B" route, but at least GO Transit provides a schedule to their service. Perhaps York Region Transit would provide schedules to their off peak service and leave the peak service as is arriving every ten minutes. This minor variation would keep riders informed of when the next bus is coming and allow for easier travel planning. Without this basic information, prospective customers are more likely to give up with the hastle of figuring out off peak scheduling and routing in off peak times in favour of the car. Besides, isn't getting cars off the road what VIVA was supposed to be all about? Therefore, figure out a better way to provide a basic schedule for your customers back up on your website!

Scheduling becomes an issue when you short turn some VIVA vehicles. This happenned to me while waiting for a southbound VIVA Orange to Downsview Station from York University. One bus which clearly said "VIVA Orange" then changed to "To Downsview Station" drove right past me. I was literally hugging the VIVA stop sign at York and still the vehicle kept moving. I caught up to the vehicle because it was caught in traffic. I asked the driver what was going on, she said she had been short turned in order to head back North-West back to Martin Grove. Therefore, why does the VIVA vehicle still say "To Downsview Station"? Nevermind, there was another VIVA Orange due in three minutes. But at least the short turning vehicles should be taken offline from the electronic schedules at the VIVA stops as well as changing the vehicles sign board before arriving at the last stop on the route. This will indicate to any prospective riders that the vehicle is either out of service or reversing its route.

Garbage and Recycling with York Region Transit and VIVA is a complete joke. At most VIVA stations there is either a waste and/or recycling receptacle available or nothing at all. The only thumbs up I give is to the York University station. But that is because the university provides the recycling (both paper and beverage containers) bins. Otherwise, VIVA and YRT need a lot of work in this area.

Bernard Terminal (on VIVA Blue) only has garbage receptacles and these are easily filled to overflowing due to the high traffic in and out of this terminal and the fact that there are several fast food locations (e.g McDonald's, Burger King, Swiss Chalet, Tim Hortons, etc.) in this area that passengers frequent before and after boarding YRT and VIVA services. There isn't even a recycling receptacle even though there are free newspapers (e.g. Metro, 24 Hours, etc.) being distributed on YRT vehicles.

Richmond Hill Centre Station (on VIVA Blue & Purple) has some promise. There are receptacles for both trash and recycling. However, the recycling receptacles aren't labeled for what items can be put in. For example in Toronto the curbside boxes indicate what goes into what slot of the bin (e.g. newspapers, cans, #1 & #2 plastics, etc.). The receptacles at Richmond Hill Centre just say "Recycle." Recycle what exactly? Orange peels, the McDonald's Big Mac Package, my YRT transfer, Coke can,....where does each one of thes go?

York Region gave the contract to Belgian based VanHool for the production of the VIVA vehicles. I admit, I have been politically incorrect to start, the VIVA vehicles are not "buses" they are "RTVs" according to VIVA. Besides that there are several questions in terms of operation of these vehicles. How will these vehicles deal with a Canadian winter? I ask this in terms of how can Van Hool have any experience with designing vehicles to handle poor road conditions that are sure to occur in York Region during the winter. I noted in the 1990s that sometimes the older OCTranspo articulated buses (Ottawa's transit agency) are forced off the road when a heavy snowstorm sets in. Is this going to happen on the "backbone" of the VIVA system when a snowstorm moves in on the mainly articulated bus dominated VIVA Blue route?

Another issue is the fact that all doors are opened on the VIVA vehicles when boarding. This obviously lets either all the heat out (winter) or all the air conditioned air out (summer). Does this mean passengers must either freeze their buts off or roast in the respective seasons in order to ride VIVA? That may drive more people to take to the comfort of their cars. Perhaps the use of the "door open" push buttons on the inside and outside the vehicles might be useful instead of having the driver automatically open the doors. This would solve this problem.

The vehicles themselves are currently in mixed traffic. This causes issues in some areas as VIVA operates through some of York Region's most heavily congested areas. VIVA Blue seems to struggle somedays to travel down Yonge Street south of Major Mackenzie Drive past Sixteenth/Carville down to the Highway 7/407 area. Why because of the severe traffic congestion caused by non-synchronized traffic lights. In 2003 I have taken a GO Bus through this area at six A.M. when there was very little traffic on the road and it still had to stop at at least two traffic lights. Add a few more cars and this area is chaos! Even worse is Highway 7 and Keele Street. VIVA purple, heading west and then south, makes a left turn at Highway 7 & Keele Street. In the morning peak period VIVA Purple waits two to three sets of lights in order to make the left turn onto Keele Street. Then this same route heads south to York University on Keele which is also heavily congested. It is no wonder that VIVA Purple is slow and often behind schedule according to some drivers.

Dedicated transit lanes are what is required here. I am not indicating merely adding another lane to existing traffic flow that car drivers can abuse. These lanes are currently not working in Toronto as these lanes are simply not enforced. A Transitway that mirrors Yonge Street is what is required. YRT and VIVA should investigate Ottawa's Transitway system that OCTranspo vehicles currently use. OCTranspo has seen significant increases in ridership and awards for. The OCTranspo rapid transit vehicles run on their own road system. In some cases it is faster to take OCTranspo vehicles than it is to drive. Quick and Convenient the Ottawa Transitway is to riders just like the dedicated streetcar lanes are on Spadina to the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC). If VIVA and YRT buses were to use these types of lanes, the problems of congestion on Yonge Street and Highway 7/Keele Street would not be an issue for YRT/VIVA customers. These lanes are set for stage 2 of VIVA after the current service is fully operational (see January 2006 and beyond).

The VIVA stop shelters are a little to be desired. Sure they look futuristically cool, but the open concept will not help when the Canadian winter winds start whistling. Will passengers be willing to deal with these stations or will they return to their cars?

VIVA services, once a few things are straightend out, has promise for the future. Some problems can be easily fixed by examining the issues I have highlighted above. Others will require some long term planning and construction costs which are already planned for. VIVA is on the right track, however, there are bumps that need to be ironed out (e.g. driver breaks, wast receptacles, etc.) that can be done right away at little to no cost. Yet, in some cases like the station shelters and VIVA door operation, there is a sense of "what were they thinking?" But, hopefully VIVA will be a success in the future. York Region Commuters can only hope and pray that VIVA does, otherwise the current congestion will only get worse.

Update:
Transit Toronto has posted an outline of VIVA service complete with pictures of one of the articulated vehicles.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Who Knew?


My blog is worth $1,129.08.
How much is your blog worth?

Great Week!

Sure it takes me a heck of a long time to get to work. But I am working with some great people at SPAR. I am currently providing administrative assistance to the account managers during the busy holiday season. Will this job last? I hope so as I enjoy the company of everyone who seems to be so friendly. I am willing to move closer to the job if I get it full time, but that will have to wait for now.

The funny thing of the week:

I had someone call in French. The only person who is bilingual in the office happenned to be on another line. So I put the person on hold and ran to the account managers. The account managers said to send him to voice mail of the, now I know, the only person who is bilingual. Apparently, though the caller didn't understand what I was trying to do as I came back to my desk he had hung up. Rookie mistake. But now I know!

Sunday, October 30, 2005

The Patio Job

This past week I have been employed working on reconstructing a patio and retaining wall. See the pictures of what we have done so far by clicking here.

The Property we were working on.


The manual labour of moving the old retaining wall bricks to the front yard and into the dumpsters, excavating old limestone and clay, moving in new gravel and limestone and moving in new designer bricks wore me out. In fact Tuesday night I went to bed at 7:00 P.M. and didn't wake up until 6:30 A.M. the next morning. This past week I gained the realization of mussels I never knew I had!

Friday, October 28, 2005

An Interesting Article on exactly who my Uncle really is...

Bob Young

Globetechnology: Bob Young realizes it's time to hang his hat on a bold, new venture

Had the paper copy of the article (linked above) put in my family's mailbox today. Since we don't subscribe to this said newspaper I didn't see it until today. The article provides a good deal of background on how my uncle made his money and what his interests are in today.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Major Announcement....

SPAR

I had been playing telephone tag for well over a week with someone I know. My mother had talked to her mother after church about a week a go. The friend's mother had said she was looking for people to work for her over this coming holiday season. So yesterday I finally got to talk to her expecting a job interview. Well, there was nothing of the sort. In fact, we agreed that I could start Monday at a pretty good pay rate that even competes with what I was making in New York. I also hear rumours that this might lead to future employment with the company.

Nonetheless, I am looking forward to Monday!

Word Verification

Due to the high number of spam comments on this blog, I have turned on the word verification form. I have also advised Google and Blogger of the spam comments and the attached blogs. Google/Blogger has been sweeping the blogs for spam like this and have been quite successful in doing so.

Please feel free to comment, but please refrain from advertising stuff that doesn't have anything to do with the topic you are commenting on. Thanks!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Work, Work, Work and a little Oskee Wee Wee

What a week!

I worked my but off all week and got in a little enjoyment on Friday night. But lets start at the beginning (which I hear is a good place to start!).

Last Saturday (not yesterday):

I helped retrieve about 30-40 air conditioners. I swear the manager of Coldex and I spent more time travelling between the customers homes then we did in the homes. Why? Because each of us knew exactly what to do and went in and ripped out the units and loaded them up and moved on. I was sore after that day from lifting, fetching and carrying.

Sunday (not today):

This day saw me running around like usual in my church as per usual. However, the paramedics and firefighters had to make an appearance as one of the participants in the nursery was having trouble. Word is nothing much is wrong after a CAT scan and blood tests. Apparently little guys going through toddlers see increases in temperatures which results in a high white blood count. But, to say the least, everyone involved in the Sunday school was a little concerned. Thank goodness there is a couple of nurses who are members of the church who responded. Many thanks to York Region Paramedics and Central York Fire Fighters.

Monday to Thursday:

I worked for Coldex sorting and sifting through their refrigerators to figure out what to throw out and what to keep. Also, I helped move out the refrigerators to a storage unit as Coldex is moving out of their current office by the end of the month.

Wednesday I got up to be out the door and on my way out of town with the manager from Coldex. We were off to Ottawa for the day to deliver fridges to the University of Ottawa and Carleton University. While we were there we met up with Bill Arends who recently had surgery and was out of commission for a little while. We had lunch at East Side Marios at the St. Laurent Mall. The food was good but the waiter was horrible. We had to wait for our main course for over an hour. Sure he brought out the salad and bread on time, however, the main course was a signficant wait after finishing the salad. He said he put the orders in seperatly. Um...so why then was Bill able to finish three coffees before seeing his food? No tip for you mister!

Thursday night I helped set up tables for the 21st annual Aurora United Church Fall Event. The event ended up raising over fifteen thousand dollars which goes towards the capital fund of the church (to keep the roof on, the place carpeted, etc.) in order that the church might house various community groups. This has been a quite successful fundraiser for some time.

Friday:
This was not a bad day. I finally caught up with Alan who used to work for Coldex as a contracted driver during the September rush to move the company's fridges out! He had called earlier to say that he had a landscaping project to lay brick. So Friday I met up with him and was part of a crew that took out a retaining wall that had gone wrong in north Aurora. The retaining wall, since the builder built the house fifteen years ago, had shifted about three inches. The wall had shifted for two reasons. The first was that some of the lower blocks were never glued and sealed properly when it was first installed. The second was two drain pipes from the gutters that come from the edge of the roof on the house and garage meet underground in a "T-Formation" then move on further. Well after the "T" meeting the drainage pipe starts going up hill a bit. So the water has frozen a bit and created small holes in the drainage pipe. This said drainage pipe is right behind the retaining wall. Brilliance! That leaking water then freezes and thaws causing the not properly sealed retaining wall to shift over time. Great landscaping brilliance courtesy of the builders that make the cookie cutter housing subdivisions! A couple of thousands later and this homeowner will have this problem fixed! I knew I wasn't a big fan of retaining walls for a reason.

I rushed home to have a shower and then hop in the car to head to Hamilton. The Ticats were in town to take on the Ottawa Renegades. I, being the nephew of the owner of the Ticats, got to sit in the owners box for the game. The owner also supplemented the attendance in the box with a couple of long time season ticket holders. Together we had a lot of fun and I left full of food. My brother, sister, myself and my brother's girlfriend couldn't find the box at first. In fact we happenned to walk in on the TSN set at Ivor Wynne Stadium. Also, we walked through the press box. Later in the game I checked out who was in the press box on the posted list and saw scouts for the San Diego Chargers and Buffalo Bills. Also in the press box was non-other than Ottawa Sun sports Columnist Chris Stevenson.

I even got to ask my uncle a simple question, "Do you have trouble getting into the stadium sometimes?" Bob agreed he did have trouble on the odd occasion. But usually he makes a little fuss and people around the security guard (who won't let him in) start laughing. Usually the security guard apologizes in embarassment and lets him pass. But my uncle usually congratulates the security guard for doing a good job at not letting people in without a ticket.

Another note about Ivor Wynne for the ladies. My uncle noted one of the big problems he heard about was that the womens' bathrooms were not receiving positive reviews. So he introduced flowers into the bathrooms in nice vases. My uncle noted he got the idea from a receptionist. The female season ticket holders in the box with us that night noted they felt appreciated because of this move by my uncle. The guys kinda felt left out. :)

A very busy week it was!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

York Region Transit Strikes Out Again!

York Region Transit

This is an open e-mail to York Region Transit:

The added comments in brackets are meant to add some insight into my thinking that day and were not included in the original e-mail sent to transitinfo@york.ca

Re: Route 98 Southbound scheduled for 7:54 A.M.

Dear Sir/Madam:

On Saturday, I had to travel to Yonge & Major MacKenzie area yesterday to meet up with the manager of Coldex in order to do some work on Saturday.

So I checked the YRT schedule (thinking, hey they only messed up once so far, thats not too bad). Route 98, on Saturday, was supposed to stop at Yonge & Allaura Blvd. at 7:54 A.M.

Here is what happenned.

So I went out, bought a newspaper from the local convenience store and waited at the YRT bus stop at 7:40 A.M. I was totally enthralled in the newspaper article until I heard a bus sound. I looked up and barely had a chance to move when the YRT bus went wizzing by. I know it was the bus since it had "98 Bernard Terminal" on the front with about two people on the bus. I had barely enough time to wave at it. But it did not stop. I double checked my watch noticing the time was only 7:46 A.M.

To say the least I was not pleased. But thank goodness GO Transit has yet to give up the Newmarket "B" Yonge Street route as YRT's VIVA service has yet to start up this far. I walked accross Henderson Dr. at Yonge to the GO Transit stop. The YRT and GO Bus stops are seperate as the VIVA stop on the Soutn west corner of Yonge at Allaura/Henderson Dr. has been fully constructed (except for the fare machines) and the sign has been unbagged indicating that YRT stops at that stop. The GO Transit stop was moved to the North-West side so it could remain in operation while the new VIVA/YRT stop was constructed. I paid 4.15 to the GO Bus driver and went off to Major Mackenzie & Yonge Street.

I called YRT at their phone number (1-866-MOVE-YRT) at 8:30 A.M. (when their call centre opens) and waited two to three minutes in order finally speak with an operator. Why did I have to wait for two to three minutes? So the automated system could tell me useless information that VIVA service was expanding, if I wanted information on this and that (including I believe what paint they use!....kiddding!).

The person on the phone picked up and I explained what happenned in a nice way. I even said I was considering submitting my GO Transit ticket to YRT in order to pay the difference
between GO's fare ($4.15) and YRTs ($3.10 with 10 Adult 2-zone tickets). I also said, to make figuring out which driver was at fault, that during that time between being passed by the YRT bus
(7:46 A.M.) and being picked up by the GO Bus (7:54 A.M.) that I saw bus number 9801 heading northbound on Yonge on Route 98 around 7:50 A.M.(which by jove is right on schedule!) I was put on hold for five minutes so she could contact the contractor.

The operator came back to say the contractor said the driver picked up three "timed" fares on that corner at 7:54 A.M without any incident. I questioned how they could be "timed" fares considering that the VIVA machine (which validates the tickets by printing the time on it) had yet to be installed and the only fare machines on the buses don't print the times on it. (When your a regular rider on transit, you tend to know these things). The operator was dumb founded. She was a little confused. I asked to double check whether she had the right intersection on the right route by indicating Route 98 southbound at Yonge and Allaura scheduled to arrive at 7:54 A.M.? She said yes.

She indicated that the bus I saw at 7:46 A.M. might have been an off duty bus.

Added to this morning's observations, which I didn't mention on the phone I saw route 32 go Westward Henderson as I walked Eastward to the corner of Yonge & Henderson. I also know this bus doesn't go south of Henderson on Yonge Street at anytime. I also note that the Industrial Parkway bus doesn't operate on weekends and that the only YRT route to operate
on that section of Yonge Street at that time was Route 98. I also believe that the yards for the Newmarket buses are in Newmarket, so the only bus that would go down there off duty, not being a GO Bus, would be Route 98. I know it wasn't a GO Bus since it was in your colour scheme and said "YRT" and "Moving York" on the side of the bus.

I then indicated, in a rather angry tone, that I was not interested in being lied to in order that YRT not admit to its mistake. She said that this was what the operator had told her. I indicated that this was the second incident in about three weeks of early buses costing me either time or money. I also suggested I might submit my complaint to the Mayor of Aurora (who is also Aurora's Regional Councillor) to handle because I was getting the run around by YRT. I then hung up the phone after spending almost ten minutes and getting no where.

I find this situation to be unacceptable. This is the second time a York Region Transit bus has caused me to either spend more money than I need to (the fare difference noted above) or time (see my original complaint below about another incident as submitted via your website).

I will be forwarding this e-mail to Aurora Mayor Tim Jones as this is the second time in three weeks I have had issues with buses arriving early. I will forward my complaint to Mayor Jones if this issue is not resolved to my satisfaction by Sunday, October 23rd.

I will no be thinking twice before utilizing YRT services in the future.

I hope this problem can be rectified as I encourage public transit use whenever possible. However, I find these incidents to be truly unacceptable.

Sincerely,

Michael Suddard

(see this posting for full story on my previous incident with York Region Transit referred to above)

Monday, October 10, 2005

York Region Transit Customer service

York Region Transit

On September 29th of this year I was working in the Jane and Langstaff area like I had been for the previous two weeks. The ride home was anything but enjoyable. The Route 20, northbound on Jane Street, came at 4:55 P.M. thus, I missed it. I saw it go by as I was finishing up work for the day and thought it was the previously scheduled bus operating really late. That was because the Route 20 northbound wasn't scheduled to arrive at Jane & Courtland until 5:05 P.M.

Apparently I was wrong. The 5:05 P.M. bus, which I was at Jane & Courtland for 5:00 P.M. for, never showed up and I was forced to take the 5:24 P.M. bus. Not only that but taking this later bus means I miss a connection to the Route 98 northbound bus further on in my route. In other words I take 4 YRT/VIVA buses in order to get home after work. So I was not impressed when I got home at 7:30 P.M.

I filled out the YRT online form for customer feedback that very night (September 29th) and waited all weekend for a response. I shouldn't have had to wait the weekend considering the website notes that: "If you request a response, we will be contacting you within 72 hours."

So here is the online form I forwarded to the YRT customer service online:

Sent: Thursday, September 29, 2005 8:43 PM
To: Transitinfo
Subject: YRT Web Site: Conventional Transit Compliment/Concern

Name: Michael Suddard
Travelling day: 9/29/05
Time of day: 5:00
Route number: 20
Bus number: Don' t know....
Travelling direction: Northbound on Jane
Closest major intersection: Jane Street & Courtland Avenue
Description of Incident/Event:
I was on Courtland near Jane Street and saw the YRT route 20 go wizzing
buy at 4:55 P.M..

I normally catch the bus Route 20 Northbound at Jane and Courtland
around 5:04 P.M. (usually the bus is on time lately or a few minutes late...thelatest I have
caught that bus is 5:15 P.M.). The 5:04 P.M. northbound Jane bus never showed
and I was force to take the 5:24 P.M.

The no show of the 5:04 P.M. meant that my normal transfer at Rutherford
(5:22 P.M.) didn't happen. Therefore I had to get on the 5:37 P.M. bus. The
missing of the 5:22 p.m. meant missing the the right connection, after VIVA, with
Route 98 from Bernard northward to Aurora I literraly missed the northbound
Route 98 by 1 minute as I saw it make a right onto Yonge from Bernard. I then was
forced to wait thirty minutes with three other people with similar stories.

I am now considering taking GO Transit as this is the second time in a
week this YRT bus has had problems. I am always sure to get to the bus stop at
Jane & Courtland by 5 P.M. which should provide more than enough leeway if the
bus is early. This corener is a YRT schedule point that the driver should be
using to guage his/her route timing. Therefore, he/she should be holding there
until the appropriate time on the schedule like the route 20 & 85 does at Vaughan
Mills terminal.

I have been hearing and experiencing around the issue of bad connection
times between bus routes lately. Thus, I allow a minimum of 10 minutes
between YRT schedule times to transfer to deal with lateness.


***********************************************************************
This e-mail was generated from the online feedback form
at http://www.yorkregiontransit.com/feedback.asp
on Thursday, September 29, 2005 at 8:43:27 PM
***********************************************************************

On Tuesday I received the following response:

"Transitinfo" on October 3, 2005 at 1:59 PM -0500 wrote:
Hi Michael,

Thank you for your e-mail regarding YRT Route 20.

Your concern has been entered into our tracking system to be
investigated by our Operations department. Your ticket number is 24908,
and you will be contacted with a resolution to this matter as soon as
possible.

Should you wish to inquire about the progress of your ticket, please
contact our call centre at 905-762-2100 or 1-866 MOVE YRT (668-3978) and
one of our Customer Service Representatives will be happy to assist you.
The call centre is open between 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Monday to Friday
and 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.

At YRT we strive to meet and improve upon on our customer service
standards. We appreciate you taking the time to let us know your
concern.

Regards,

Laura Fudor
Customer Service Coordinator
York Region Transit
www.york.ca

OUR MISSION:

To provide quality public transit services which support the economic
vitality, environment sustainability, and health of the Regional
community.
----------------------

All fine and dandy except that the original promise of the 72 hours as posted on the YRT website had been broken.

I called on Wednesday in the afternoon to their customer service on the phone. I received a response that the problem was still being investigated. I then went onto question the representative about the e-mail response and the 72 hour issue. She said that was 72 hours in business hours. I pointed out that the website didn't say that and it should be fixed. (The website you will notice is still showing 72 hours from the time of submission and makes no mention of "business hours").

I then pointed out another interesting thing about the "ticket agent locations" in Aurora listings needed to be updated. This was because with the introduction of new fare media at the beginning of September there was now a two zone system in effect. There, the webpage needed to be updated to show which location had which type of tickets. This being Wednesday October 8th, this page had been like this for over a month. So much for "updating this page" as the webpage indicates. Does it really take over a month to update a simple webpage with 4 locations on it? Wouldn't it only take about half an hour including the time to phone these locations to see which tickets and passes they have? Apparently it does take over a month.

Uppity Update: YRT has finally, after taking ions to fix the problem, updated its ticket agent locations to reflect the new 2 zone fares. If you are going to introduce a two-zone fare system, wouldn't it be easier for people to check to make sure they can get the required tickets instead of having to call you? Just a thought for the next time around....if your going to change something...have it easily explained!

I then sent an e-mail this past Saturday (October 8th) with some strong wording to show my displeasure over how long it was taking to get a simple problem solved. All I am looking for really is an explanation on why that bus was so early. I already indicated what time the bus missed and what I thought was the right bus going by at an earlier time. So I still wonder what is taking more than a week to resolve. So here is the e-mail I sent (I also included the above two messages):


I have yet to hear about anything regarding to the [above] message. I called on Wednesday October 5 and heard the issue had yet to be resolved. The issue is now more than a week in length and there is still no answer?

Please forward me your answer as soon as possible. More than a week to investigate this simple problem? Perhaps the investigation team needs to be investigated. Why because obviously YRT does not believe in the following: " We appreciate you taking the time to let us know yourconcern." If YRT did believe this, a proper response would have already been forwarded.

Michael

----------------------------------------

So in true bureaucractic form, York Region Transit, is taking forever in trying to investigate an easy situation. Why? Couldn't a simple inquiry into who was driving the bus in question and why was he/she there so early be an easy thing to do? I guess not, that would be too easy for a bureaucratic organization to do.

I await an answer, but don't really expect one!

Uppity Update: I received the following from the York Region Transit inspector who looked into my complaint:

Hello Michael,
I regret that you suffered this experience because of a schedule adherence problem on September 29th. We have contacted the contractor and they have reminded their operators to pay attention to their schedules and keep to the timing points as the public uses this as their guide to transportation.
Please look forward to improved service in the immediate future. Please do not hesitate to call me should the need arise.
Thank you,


Beverly Berry
Transit Inspector,
York Region Transit
Regional Municipality of York
50 High Tech Road
Richmond Hill, ON
L4B 4N7
--------------------------------------------------------------

Right, so this took little more than a week to figure out? Bureaucracy is alive and well at York Region Transit. Now about that webpage.....

Your Inner European

Something I didn't know....Thank goodness for the quiz!

Who's Your Inner European?
Your Inner European is French!





Smart and sophisticated.

You have the best of everything - at least, *you* think so.

I am Canadian

Nothing like being a Canadian like the following Joke will tell...

My name is Bob, and I am Canadian.

I am a minority in Vancouver, Banff, and every casino in this country.

I was born in 1972, yet I am responsible for some native's great, great grandfather who screwed himself out of his land in the 1800's.

I pay import tax on cars made in Ontario.

I am allowed to skydive and smoke, but not allowed to drive without a seat belt.

All the money I make up until mid July must go to paying taxes.

I live and work among people who believe Americans are ignorant.

These same people cannot name this country's new territory.

Although they are unpatriotic and constantly try to separate, Quebec still provides my nation's prime ministers.

95% of my nation's international conflicts are over fish.

I'm supposed to call black people African Canadians, although I'm sure none of them have ever been to Africa, or east of Halifax for that matter.

I believe that paying a 200% tax on alcohol is fair.

I believe that the same tax on gasoline is also fair.

Even if I have no idea what happened to that old rifle my grandfather gave me when I was 14, I will be considered a criminal if I don't register it.

I believe spending $15 billion dollars to promote the French language in the rest of Canada is fair, when the province of Quebec doesn't support or recognize the English language

I'm led to believe that some lazy ass unionized broom pusher who makes $30 an hour is underpaid and therefore must go on strike, but paying $10 an hour to someone who works 12 hour shifts at forty below on an oil rig is fair.

I believe that paying $30 million for 3 Stripes ("The Voice of Fire") by the National Art Gallery was a good purchase, even though 99% of this country didn't want it, or will ever see it.

When I look at my pay stub and realize that I take home a third of what I actually make, I say "Oh well, at least we have better health care than the Americans".

I must bail out farmers when their crops are too wet or too dry, because I control the rain.

My national anthem has versions in both official languages, and I don't know either of them.

Canada is the highest taxed nation in North America, the biggest military buffer for the United States, and the number one destination for fleeing terrorists

I am not an angry white male. I am an angry taxpayer who is broke.

My name is Bob, and I am Canadian

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Games Room!

Kick ass games!

Love the disk golf. Took a little while to get used to. But anybody with a mouse can play this... Just my level :)

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Thanksgiving

What am I thankful for?

The eternal question that always comes up this time of year in Canada (in November in the United States).

Traditions seem to live on from year to year. Thanksgiving is always stuffing yourself with turkey and asking "what are you thankful for?" Next is Halloween and watching the children and those wishing they were still younger than 10 run around looking for sugar, er....candy. Then comes Christmas and the usual trees with lights and prayers for snowfall by December 24th. Following christmas is everyone's favourite, getting drunk on champagne on New Years Eve. Every year, year in and year out.

So back to the present time...thanksgiving.

What am I thankful for?

My time in New York City last year. I had left looking to start my teaching career and dissapointedly had to return to Aurora after being screwed by the New York City Department of Education over. However, I am glad I went down there to check out another city. Seeing Harvey Fierstein & Andrea Martin on Broadway, Yankee Shea Stadiums during games. Also, visiting the beaches of both Rockaway, Coney Island/Brighton Beach and Jones are amongst the top highlights of my time in New York. I also have a larger appreciation for the public transit system of a large city.

I am also thankful for Aurora. I love returning to Aurora no matter what. I always feel comfortable here with the people I know. There is just something about this town that is welcoming no matter what condition you are in.

I am also thankful to Coldex and others who have welcomed me back with employment and moral support.

I also am thankful for the future possibilities that may arise, whatever they may be.

What more do I have thankful for? Everything!

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Quiz time!


Take the 100 Acre Personality Quiz!


Hmmm...apparently I am a bear. My mother always said I was like a bear, now I know the truth! Interesting!

Workin' on getting work

I've been looking around while temporarily working for Coldex and Spec Furniture.

I'm eyeing some other jobs in the education sector that are not in the classroom right now. Why? They are more office positions at tutoring companies that look pretty apetizing if they work out.

I am currently also working Sunday mornings at the church as the morning caretaker.

So slowly my life is coming back together. One step at a time. Other than that, nothing has really changed....get up early take 4 buses to work, work at Coldex/Spec then come home on the same 4 buses. It takes a while to go to and from work, but I find it enjoyable because a lot of it are the same people everyday and we have fun!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Wrappin up the week that was...

A pretty long week for me in many ways:

1. This was my first week back in Aurora after leaving New York City. I continue to look for permanent employment in whatever is of interest to me. I am keeping my options open.

2. I am being encouraged to by friends of mine to keep my passion of teaching alive and make sure that I keep on trying to get a teaching position over another job possibililty. I see what my friends observations and take them with great respect. However, all I want is to work with good people, enjoy what I am doing and be able to survive and put some money away in terms of a pay cheque. Besides, maybe there is something out there that will be a better fit for me besides teaching that I will enjoy much more? So in other words I have spent this long week with some good mental contemplation.

3. My parents went away this week for a short vacation up north. My mother warned me about putting out the garbage the night before. She said that if you put the garbage out the night before the pick-up day you will have to pick up the garbage from the street the day of pick-up. Well I went out the door the day of pick-up with about two minutes to spare in order to put out the garbage like had been suggested. I found the garbage strewn in the backyard from our large plastic garbage can that has for years kept the garbage safe. Well, I said forget it and went to work. After all it was just one bag of garbage thats it. I come back that night to find the garbage soaked from the days rain. I easily pick it up and put it in the bag. I come back on Friday to find the garbage pail rolled to the bottom of the hill in our back yard. But at least this time the rascally ones didn't get to open the lid! Apparently some industrious raccoons have moved into the neighbourhood since I had moved to New York City.

4. What is my goal in life? This has become a little fuzzier since I came back from New York City. But I do think one thing has not changed, to remain a hardworking person who tries hard to say "yes" to people in terms of being able to complete the job right! I also love to see childrens or adults eyes light up after learning a new skill or concept. I also enjoy seeing someone receive just what they were looking for in a retail environment or helping someone out when something went wrong with the product and making it work "right" for both the company and the customer. However, I hate working for someone I know or turns out to "screw" me in the end out of employment or lies to me.

5. York Region Transit (YRT) Viva program doesn't make much of difference in terms of relieving traffic congestion. YRT advertised the buses as being able to co-ordinate traffic lights to make the trip faster to get from point A to point B. However, this week I have sat in the perhaps one of the worst sections of traffic lights in York Region. Yup, Yonge Street between Major Mackenzie Drive & Carrville Road/16th Avenue The "VIVA Blue" route inched from traffic light to traffic light from Harding Blvd. to Weldrick and onward. This was morning rush hour which VIVA should be working in its prime. However, what happenned on Wednesday was I missed the connection with the 8:05 A.M. Route 85 Rutherford Bus and nearly was late to work for 9:00 A.M. at Jane & Courtland. The VIVA bus was also late on its schedule, if the new bus system investment included the ablility to change traffic lates so the buses get priority, why wasn't this happenning? What did the Region of York do with the money? Obviously it wasn't on traffic light controls that work. I have heard rumours from other passengers that these new traffic light controls only work if the VIVA route is 3 minutes or more behind. 3 minutes behind? Seems like a waste of money if these buses cannot have advanced priority over that single occupant driving his monster SUV. However I will give YRT kudos for providing the Route 98 bus from Aurora to Bernard Terminal in order to connect into VIVA blue for the handsome cash fare price of $3.25 for a two hour trip. That is much better compared to the one way trip of GO Transit to Finch Terminal for $4.75. That is not affordable considering that if you want to go downtown Toronto and back you will be paying close to $15.00!

6. I have my fingers crossed on a possible job at my church on Sunday mornings. I basically am the morning caretaker and it pays $50.00 a week. Sure it is extra money eventually when I get another job. But right now I am looking for anything I can get my hands on. There are two other people who have applied for the job, but considering I have already done the job once....hmmmm....fingers are crossed.

Well, that was the week that was.....

Monday, September 12, 2005

Back in Canada

I returned to Canada early Saturday morning from New York City.

I went to church on Sunday and met up with some of my friends from Aurora. They were all disgusted with the New York City Department of Education's treatment of me.

On the up side today (Monday) I talked to the owner of Coldex who will at least get me a week of work starting tommorrow (Tuesday). I am looking forward to meeting back up with him tommorrow. Who knows what will happen from here.

I am keeping my options open to both supply teaching, full time teaching, contract teaching and opportunities outside of teaching in both the public and private teaching. In other words I am keeping the doors open for whatever may come my way.

If any of you here about anything that I may be interested in in terms of employment, please let me know!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

That's It, I have had it...BACK TO CANADA!

I haven't posted all week because I have been preparing to carry out a very difficult decision for myself. I will now tell the story of what happenned.

For those of you not up on where I have been or what I have been doing for the past year the following posts will more or less put things together over the fun and tribulations I have been having. You will find them here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. Things have only gotten much worse from the ups and downs. I think New York City is nothing but a huge drama that brings you up and down.

On Monday August 29th, after a nice weekend of what I thought was my last days off before starting at a new school, things only went from not so bad to completely worse!

I walked into my school shortly before 9 A.M. and waited for the Principal to arrive in order for a group of teachers to head upstairs and start setting up our classrooms.

The Principal arrived and looked at me and said "What are you doing here?"

I replied, "I came to set up my classroom."

"There was a problem with your transfer, so I had to hire someone else for the job," the principal said. She suggested I should visit the Region 8 offices and talk to Leona Johnson who had sent the e-mail to the principal of my supposed new school that the transfer was late in going through from my previous region.

I was seething as I left the school and headed to the subway. I decided instead of going to Region 8 that I would go to the administrative head offices of recruitment because if I tried Region 8 I might kill somebody.

Why would I kill somebody? Because I have had some administrative fun with them as well. Lets take a time out from the story above to explain. I got the letter of nomination back at the end of Junish. I took it to the Region 8 offices to have myself placed into the position. With lots of experience from a recent transfer from a previous region only to be excessed because of low student enrollment, I knew how the transfer should work. However, I was told the letter of nomination was all that was needed and everything was fine.

A couple of days later I did an online search seeking to see if my application for the job had gone through or not via the Department of Education's website. The results showed there was a problem with my application. I printed off the results and took it in. They got me on the computer to do an RMS application (some sort of board computer stuff) only to find that that was already done. I then filled out a couple of other forms (which I had recognized from before because of my previous transfer). I was then told everything was decent about my application and there everything was fine and I could start at the end of August. I double checked with someone at Court Street who I had filed paperwork with, and she said everything was fine as well. I checked in a day later with the principal and she said it was fine as well because she had signed off on my transfer as well.

Now back to the story, apparently everything was not fine. Leona Johnson, of Region 8, used the excuse that the transfer had not gone through in time for me to get the job. This was according to the principal's e-mail that she received from Ms. Johnson. But apparently she did not have the kindness of calling myself to let me know. So here I was thinking I had a job in New York City for September when I did not.

I told this story to the wonderful people of the Recruitment office at the Department of Education's administrative offices. They quickly nipped this excuse in the bud by setting me up with a recruitment officer. Why did they have to set me up with a recruitment officer? Because Ms. Johnson never picks up her phone! However, the recruitment officer at Administrative Offices is persistant and talked to the receptionist at Region 8 and said to put her through to the nearest phone to Ms. Johnson.

The end deal was that Ms. Johnson would call the school and give me the Grade 7 English job that I was originally hired for. I received a note from the Recruitment officer. I was overjoyed!

However, things turned ugly again when I arrived at the school. Ms. Johnson never called the principal. I was forced to tell the principal what was going on. The principal tried calling Ms. Johnson, but again, Leona Johnson would not pick up her phone.

So back to the Administrative Offices I went. The Recruitment people managed to have the person excessed and sent me back to the school after the principal would not pick up her phone.

At the school the principal told me to wait in another room while she called the people at recruitment and the Region to figure out what was going on. After 15 minutes, the principal told me that I was no longer hired because I had an "unsatisfactory" rating from my previous school and that she could not have a teacher at her school with an unsatisfactory rating. I protested saying that wherever she got the "unsatisfactory" rating was untrue. But she said there was nothing she could do.

So I returned to recruitment who said that I had never told them of the "unsatisfactory" rating from my previous school. I protested saying that my evaluation had recommended a "discountinuance" of service from my previous school but a "continuance of probationary service." I had to bring this evaluation into the administrative offices in order to prove my point. In hindsight, I am wondering why copies of this evaluation was not at the administrative offices or the Regions offices.

So I went up the immigration lawyers office the next day (Tuesday) and picked up the evaluation form. By this time I had done some soul searching and decided that no matter what I was returning to Canada. I had been shafted and screwed by the New York City Department of Education one to many times. I had had enough. However, I was going to make sure that I did everything in my power to make my name in New York City the best it can be. So I waited two hours to have the "Unsatisfactory" changed to a "Discontinuance" which apparently allows me to still teach elsewhere if so needed.

Before leaving, I told the two people at Recruitment that I could not on my conscience recommend anybody coming down to New York City to teach for this Department of Education.

I then headed home to apartment dreading having to tell my roomate. We both cried after I told my parents what had happenned that day. It has been a tough past two weeks for me and my roomate. My roomate will be o.k. as we had achieved a lower rent on the current appartment (almost half the price of the one I was living at before).

Finally, I am looking forward to coming back to live with my parents for a short time while I take time to find full time employment. I look back at this past year in New York City as one of a bureaucratic nightmare. I talked to the immigration lawyer and he noted that at least 2o other Canadians alone from the international program had left in very similar disgust and that it had cost the New York City Department of Education dearly in lost money for processing the work visa applications alone and getting nothing in return. So to any of you considering New York City for a career, I would think again.

I'll be back in Aurora by Saturday to start again. I am looking forward to reconnecting with my friends and family again, see you around. To those in New York City who I was friends with, best of luck in the future and hopefully our paths will cross again. To the New York City Department of Education at the Administrative Recruitment Headquarters: Keep up the good work, I appreciated your energy and effort in trying to get me a new job after my first year didn't work out. To those of you at Region 8 offices of the New York City Department of Education: Get some gumption and call people if there is a problem with their jobs and not hand it off to someone else...Also learn how to do your jobs, I was basically telling you how to do a transfer in one day yet you wouldn't listen to me and I ended up doing the exact same process over two days....I do hope heads will role at Region 8 for this mess. Back to Aurora I GO!

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