Monday, May 29, 2006
With an unanounced transit strike in Toronto people were feeling the following towards the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC):
1. TTC = Take The Car
2. TTC "The Bitter Way" (instead of the usually advertised: "TTC, the Better Way.")
In other news, a smog alert was announced for Toronto today. People were encouraged to spare the air by taking transit....
Sunday, May 28, 2006
Other people have tried getting transfers from each and every one of the subway stations before. But taking pictures over one summer of each of the subway stations is something I have never heard of before.
Imagine trying to do either the photo feat in New York City's subway system of over 400 hundred stations. Has anyone tried to do this? Transfers in New York you question? Sorry, the New York City Subway system does not provide transfers like those of the Toronto Subway System.
I remember when I was in my childhood my entire family road the entire Toronto Subway System end to end in one day. We started at Yorkdale (on the University line) and headed north to Wilson (Downsview Station didn't exist back then) and then back south around Union Station and north to Finch (on the Yonge line). Next we headed south to the Bloor-Danforth line and then east to the Scarborough RT to have lunch at Scarborough Town Centre's food court. Then we worked our way westward to the Kipling Station. Somehow, along the way, we worked in the Lakeshore LRT line as well. It was a long day!
Saturday, May 27, 2006
Two mothers and four children exit the movie theatre into the parking lot area. The movie theatre is built into the lower level of a plaza built on the side of hill. So there is a sloping road that connects the main plaza (on the higher level) to the theatre level (lower level) around back. The kids chose to run up the hill leaving the two mothers at the bottom yelling at the four kids to walk, not run or roll down the hill.
The kids played at the top of the hill for a while. Meanwhile the mothers continued to demand their kids come down to the bottom of the hill walking while cars continue to go by on the busy access road at the bottom of the hill.
The kids eventually walked down the hill. However, they refused to hold both hands of the mothers in order to cross the street. One car just stopped on the road and waited for one mother to physically pick up one of the children and walk them across the street then come back and grab the other one by the hand and walk her across the street.
I was utterly shocked how undisciplined these kids were. If I ever refused to hold my mothers hand when I was four or five years old I would be in deep trouble! I cannot imagine what these kids will turn into.
I was waiting for when one of these kids to come running down the hill and be hit by a car. I really did think something was going to happen while the two mothers continued to yell and scream from the bottom of the hill for their children to come down so they could go home following the movie. I know my mother would have slowly come up the hill and picked me up around my waist and hauled me down the hill.
Seems times of changed......pitty.
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Why is it so hard for a company to employ someone to pick up the phone and help out customers who have a question?
If, after placing a call and hearing the line ring, I still have to press buttons: I don't consider myself a customer of your business!
York Region Transit makes you sit on the phone through eight longly listed options before you can get talk to an operator. Press "0" you say? No luck as this just starts the options back over again. These options include: fare information, have a schedule delivered to you, phone numbers for TTC & GO Transit, yadda yadda yadda. Perhaps, after you have listened to the long winded options and waited for an agent to answer the phone, you might:
a) forget what your calling about.
b) had to drop the pay phone receiver, because the next bus after the one that closed their doors in your face, has arrived.
c) fall asleep or get distracted by something more interesting than staying on the phone.
The only thing worse than the above is, after working your way through the phone system gauntlet, poor customer service agents who answer the phone!
Canada Post probably takes the cake. As an Office Manager I have quite the experience in inquiring as to why some packages are claimed to be delivered by Canada Post and yet I hear from the recipient they haven't seen the package that was delivered.
So I call Canada Post's 1-800 number only to be greated by an automated system asking if I am a commercial or residential customer. Once I select one or the other category (really its your choice...trust me..I've tried both!) you can no longer press "0" to reach an operator. I get the usual options to track a package, to change my address, etc. etc.
So I just press "0" and hear the voice that "For quality and training purposes this call may be recorded" as well as the usual "All our representatives are currently on the line with other customers, please stay on the line for priority sequence." or some other bafflegab while waiting sometimes over five minutes to talk to a person.
Not only that the people that pick-up the phone are dummer and dummer. They don't start investigations into where the package may be, that is the job of a "tracking officer" or some other poor schmuck that I am not allowed to talk to. The operator who picks up the phone can only "send a message" and give me a seven digit confirmation number. Whats even better is this story that actually happenned at Canada Post one day when I tried to figure out where a package ended up (i.e. the Canada Post website said it had been delivered but the recipient never received the package):
1st call I talked to a customer agent who took my information (e.g. recipient's address and phone number, my address and phone number, etc.) said I would hear back in 10 business days. (Lets stop here...10 business days to investigate where a package is? Isn't it more likely that a package would be found the sooner you get on it? Perhaps if the package was delivered to the wrong address the delivery person might actually remember where he/she left it and be more able to go back and find it? Fedex, once they hear a package has gone MIA gets the closest depot right on the problem so that perhaps the package can be found).
2nd call (after 10 business days have gone past hearing nothing about the package from Canada Post) after another 5 minute wait on hold to speak to a live operator and then another 5 minute wait after I request to talk to a Customer Service Manager, I finally get to retell my story from call number one. The Customer Service Manager said the original customer agent was wrong and the time delay is actually 15 days in order to hear the results of the investigation into lost packages. She does send a message to the investigation branch to please call me about my inquiries into where my package is.
3rd call (after 15 days) the operator can only send a message a message to the investigation branch.
The following day the investigation branch calls me and say they have no idea where the package is. They also inquire as to why the recipient hasn't returned their calls to see if the package was even delivered! Hmmmm...maybe because they have told me the package wasn't delivered! Why else would I be calling incessantly three times? hmmmm....for fun? This is Toronto not Alert, North West Territories, I have better things to do than to harass Canada Post employees.
Then, after another ten days, I might see a cheque in the mail with a refund for the postage. Never mind all the time and aggravation of having to keep meticulous notes on the dates, times, names and phone conversations I have had with Canada Post representatives that has cost the company I work for in cash (and psychiatry bills!) for its employees.
Canada Post, and those who use the phone systems that say my call is "a priority", get rid of the phone system and give me a human to talk to! If my call was a priority give me a live human being that knows what is going on!
Which is the best delivery company that I deal with? FEDEX! Purolator is very similar to Canada Post in customer service (e.g. missed pickups, wrongly delivered packages, taking forever to actually talk to a live operator, etc.). But Fedex, if I have a question, will have an operator on the phone within thirty seconds of my call. Also that operator can do everything including delivery hot coffee if I need it! Congratulations Fedex! I appreciate you!
As far as this website? Hmmmm....I am totally behind it. Down with automated phone systems. If I call your phone, obviously your website doesn't cut it.
Monday, May 22, 2006
I brought my camera, as I left early in the afternoon, to take pictures throughout my travels. The CN Tower provided several good picture taking opportunities as it ducked in and out of view amongst the buildings along King Street as I made my way westward along King Street.
Roy Thompson Hall, on my way north on Simcoe Street from Union Station towards King Street, also made an appearance. But perhaps, and to my great joy, is this picture which is my favourite of the day where things just happenned to fall into place:
I continued along King Street westward watching the stores, theatres and CN Tower flash by. I walked down King Street to Strachan Avenue. At Strachan, I headed south, over the railway tracks, to the waterfront and Lake Ontario. I was not very far from Ontario Place now. But the problem was it was only 5ish and I had dinner at Harvey's at Union Station already so wasting time by having dinner was simply not an option.
So I headed down the Martin Goodman Trail past Ontario Place in search of the wind turbine. I crossed Lakeshore Boulevard into the Canadian National Exhibition Grounds looking for the turbine (which is really not that hard to look for). I actually got to stand at the base of the big turbine.
It then started to rain and get even windier than normal. I headed over towards the Maple Leaf Sports Entertainment's construction of a new soccer stadium construction site. I took a few pictures here as well.
With the wind howling away and the rain starting to come down I shivered and thought that perhaps coming down to see the fireworks at Ontario Place was a mistake. I then hopped on a streetcar and returned to Union Station. I then returned home and curled up and watched some television until I dosed off.
Not a bad day after all, but the weather made it miserable to be out last night!
Saturday, May 20, 2006
Another edition saw Mike take to New York City in order to get rid of pigeon poo at a local building and gum on city streets.
I find watching and learning what others do for a employment. Thats why I used to find CBC Television's "It's a Living" until it was cancelled. This particular show still appears from time to time in reruns on CBC affiliated stations and networks. Too bad this show never made it. But then again it might have been a victim of CBC budget cutbacks over the years. Seems funny to me that Canada's public broadcaster can afford to show "Frasier" in reruns but can't afford to keep "It's a Living" going with new episodes. Apparently it is far easier to get Americna syndicated programming than it is to send a reporter out with a camera crew to follow someone around on their job. You would figure hiring a camera crew and reporter would be cheaper than purchasing reruns of a big name American comedy series. But go figure, this is the CBC!
But at least Mike Rowe of Discovery Television, keep up the good, er...dirty work!
Thursday, May 18, 2006
Universities require quite a lot of money in order to maintain operations. University costs include paying faculty, administrative support staff (e.g. secretaries, Teacher Assistants, etc.), cleaning staff, maintenance staff, technigal staff, electrical bills, landscaping bills, water bills and much more. Considering the universities house thousands of students throughout the year in classes and in residences.
Where does the money come from? Money to pay the bills comes from one of three sources including government grants, alumni donations, tuition and corporate sponsorships or donations.
Government grants are self explanatory. The provincial and federal governments budget money to for post secondary education which is money being transferred to the universities and colleges.
Alumni donations are also self explanatory. Former students of the universities donate money back to the university. Simple.
Tuition payments come from the amount of money the university's students must pay in order to attend classes and to eventually attain a degree from the university.
But more and more universities have found that the above three funding services still leave a budget gap between the revenue stream and the expenditure stream in a negative way. So universities have turned towards corporate sponsorships and donations for help.
Sponsorships including deals with corporations to supply products to the campus. For example at York University, Pepsi is the only soft drink company allowed to place vending machines on campus. The University of Ottawa has a similar deal with Coke. In return for this right the soft drink companies, respectively, pay the universities money. This money is used to offset operating costs.
Sponsorships also apply to the universities sports teams. These sports teams might have their shirts and shoes supplied by Reebok, sports drinks supplied by Gatorade and the field sponsored by the likes of Air Canada, Ottawa Citizen and others.
Finally, on a capital note universities have found the need to expand the facilities they offer to their students. New buildings for both sport and classes have been created. The University of Ottawa built a new sports complex through the donations of money by companies like Molson Breweries. This particular university has chosen to not accept corporate naming rights for this building as a whole.
York University built the Accolade Buildings. The Accolade Buildings are two (both east and west) that host classrooms and theatres for the theatre arts faculty and others. However, the West Accolade Building has recently been renamed the "Tribute Communites Building".
Student groups at York University have negatively crowed about this name change. For example the York Federation of Students' President, Corrie Sakulk said:
"Our position is the renaming of the building after a corporate entity advances the paradigm of a corporate university. [The building] is for academic and student purposes and the new name does not reflect that," said YFS president Corrie Sakaluk." - Quote Excerpted from here.
What the York Federation of Students fails to know is the budget gap between what the university receives in government funding for the new building and the actual final constructions costs. Where does that money come from? Does York University cut the money from the cost of constructing the building? No because that means students and teachers would have to put up with substandard facilities and equipment (e.g. televisions, computers, conferencing computers, etc.) used to learn. Or does the university accept a donation from Tribute Communities to help close the budget gap and ensure students and teachers benefit from new modern facilities. York University chose to accept the corporate money so that the university could balance the capital budget required to successfully build these two facilities.
The York Federation of Students would love to see the campus rid of "the corporatization" that the Federation claims York has undergone.
Lets take a look at the alternatives to the corporate money York University's administration would have to look at in order to maintain its operational and capital budgets:
1. The university could hope for an jucrease in alumni donations. But this is just not likely to happen.
2. Significant increase in government grants. A "significant increase" is also not likely to happen as governments are more attuned to making sure they do not fall back into a deficit budget. A govening party at either the provincial or federal levels that goes from a surplus into a deficit budget is not likely to last long in power following an election. But government grants are increasing, just not fast enough to replace the removal of the corporate money.
3. Tuition hikes. The student federation would not stand for this. Student federations have been protesting in Montreal and Toronto calling tuition hikes a "debt sentence." So universitities and government have been very careful in only raising tuitions bit by bit as a massive tuition hike wouldn't be palatable to voters at either the federal or provincial levels.
4. A combination of one to three above. Probably the university might be able to get away with this. But universities, as a whole, are unsure what they might receive from year to year from alumni and government. Students are unlikely to go for any tuition hikes and not see anything in return in terms of improved student services.
So the universities are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Meanwhile, student federations, like the York Federation of Students, continue to call for the end of the "corporatization of campus." So here is my question I would love for them to answer:
Considering the financial pressures noted above, how would the York Federation of Students end the corporatization of campus and still maintain a balanced budget?
Saturday, May 13, 2006
Should monthly pass holders on public transit receive deals at local stores and from the government? Well that is just starting to happen in Toronto and in Canada slowly but surely.
Today I just stumbled accross the Metropass Affinity Program. This website lists stores that are willing to give discounts to TTC Metropass (the TTC's version of a Monthly Pass) holders as well as the closest subway station or transit stop to the commercial enterprise offering the discount.
The problem is that the TTC doesn't even mention the discounts available on their website. You would think the TTC would encourage businesses within Toronto to offer discounts to Metropass holders. Perhaps that would encourage more people to purchase the Metropass and help towards gradually increasing public transit ridership in Toronto. Seems to me the TTC has missed out on a great no cost opportunity to market the monthly Metropass.
A while back in March and April, York Region Transit (YRT) and Ikea Vaughan offered a deal to monthly pass holders. YRT Monthly Pass Holders could receive 10% off all Ikea purchases over one hundred dollars. It also helped that York Region Transit serves that store fairly well with both a VIVA stop and local service relatively close to the store. Now if York Region Transit could only figure out how to get an Ikea bed from the store to a customer's home :)
Providing value for money is what most customers are looking for. That is what transit agencies should be looking to provide in order to encourage people to get out of their cars and take transit. Teaming up with local retailers to provide deals helps both the transit agency and the local retailer. The transit agency gets the paid fares and needed revenue, while the retailer receives the customers while not having to provide a parking spot to that customer if the client decides to take transit instead of driving.
Government would wish to provide the same deals to transit pass holders as well. The Canadian government in its recently unveiled budget promised to provide a tax credit to monthly public transit pass holders. With the introduction of this tax credit, transit riders across Canada can travel for free every one of twelve months.
Not all government officials were happy with that. TTC Chairman and Toronto Councillor Howard Moscoe called on the government to instead use the money to help local transit agencies reduce fares. What Mr. Moscoe fails to notice is that the Ontario Government has been sending "budget bailout" money to Toronto under the guise that it is meant for TTC system improvements. What has resulted, if you fall the creative accounting, is the Ontario Governments money is directed toward the TTC system while an equal amount of city money is withdrawn. What results is no improvements are made to expand the TTC system and fares keep rising.
So Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper came up with a different plan. Why not give monthly transit riders a tax credit for riding public transit. This way the people that benefit the most from a public transit system receive the most benefits instead of the governments extracting money from the transit system when another source of government funding comes in.
Hopefully ridership in Canadian public transit will increase. Especially in Toronto because of the actions of transit advocates like those at the Metropass Affinnity Program.
Friday, May 12, 2006
As a contributing editor, I posted the following at the Bill Arends' Art of the Rant.
TheStar.com - Guns came by mail ... and left by theft
Bureaucratic nepotism at its best. You gotta read it to believe it....
Did you know you can order guns by phone and Canada Post will deliver them?
And did you know that if you are not home, Canada Post may leave them on your doorstep?
Hmmm....but might guns dissappear?
Well, that's exactly what happened last month in Oshawa.
And guess what?
The guns are missing and presumed stolen, leaving Durham Region police scrambling to retrieve a Remington Super Mag Combo 12-gauge shotgun, a Ruger Deluxe .22-calibre rifle, and ammunition-assembling equipment.
hmmm....but doesn't that mean Canada Post is responsible for the stolen guns? Why was Canada Post stupid enough to leave the guns with someone who didn't sign for them? hmm....
Simply put, the transaction ran afoul of a strange catch-22 in the law: Canada Post is required to get a signature from the recipient when delivering weapons — but the shipper isn't required to inform Canada Post that there are guns in the parcel.
According to police, the guns were shipped from the Calgary store assembled and in the original manufacturers' boxes. They were wrapped in brown paper, then shipped as one package through the mail.
There was no label identifying the contents, nor is there a requirement to put one there unless the weapon is going across the border, according to the post office.
"We don't know what's in the package. There is no way for us to know what's in a package," said Francois Legault, a media relations officer for Canada Post.
Query? Wouldn't these guns qualify as "dangerous goods" under Canada Post's policies? But I guess guns don't qualify in some round about way.
Canada Post usually refers queries about mailing weapons to the Canadian Firearms Registry for clarification, Legault said.
So Canada Post doesn't know how weapons are shipped and needs another government body to tell them how to ship something. So what exactly is Canada Post's supposed specialty anyway? RIGHT! Shipping items accross Canada and around the world. So why would the Canadian Firearms Registry need to provide clarification on behalf of Canada Post?
Because....Canada Post doesn't know how to ship firearms (not to mention several other things like golf clubs from Halifax to Ottawa, paperwork from Toronto to Vancouver, paperwork fromToronto to Markham....all I have experienced lost items in the mail just like the guns).
The question is, was it the shipper or was it Canada Post?
Federal regulations say Canada Post can handle gun shipments "only if the firearm is posted using the most secure means of transmission by post that is offered by the Canada Post Corporation that includes the requirement to obtain a signature on delivery."
According to police, that wasn't done in this case.
Legault says Canada Post will sometimes leave a package on a doorstep — called a "safe drop" — if the receiver requests it. But he couldn't confirm whether that happened in this case.
Det. Const. Steve Rhoden said the store did send the guns with a notice requiring signature on delivery. But Canada Post didn't follow through, Rhoden said.
Stop there. The Detective Missed a very important item. From the Canada Post Website guidelines on shipping items:
"Items requiring a signature will not be safe dropped,..."
Case closed, I think you know who screwed this one up. And it wasn't the receiver or the sender.
Thursday, May 11, 2006
I was reading the paper today on the way home from work when I came accross an inspirational story about teaching.
Here is an excerpt from the article in the Toronto Star:
Recycling bins will be as much a part of Ontario classrooms as desks and blackboards if Georgetown students get their way.
"For some kids, recycling is not a big issue because it doesn't immediately pertain to them," said Dylan Hickson, in Grade 9 at Georgetown District Secondary School. " But if it's convenient to recycle, then they'll do it."
Its proposed legislation — requiring recycling bins for paper and blue box items, like aluminium cans and plastics, in every classroom — made history yesterday when it passed second reading in the Legislature.
Two other student-drafted bills, brought forward by MPPs as private members, also got unanimous support from all parties yesterday.
"Not only will this benefit our generation but it will benefit next generations by showing ... if you believe in something it can be done," said Kevin Robbie, also in Grade 9.
Liberal MPP Kathleen Wynne (Don Valley West) introduced the recycling bill.
New Democrat Andrea Horwath (Hamilton East), introduced a bill worked on by Cardinal Carter Secondary School students in Aurora, requiring employers to tell student workers their basic labour rights.
Tory MPP Frank Klees (Oak Ridges) introduced a bill drafted by Nupur Dogra, of Iroquois Ridge High School in Oakville, requiring schools to educate students about healthy food choices. This Making the Grade project was spearheaded by CBC television reporter Mike Wise, to engage students in politics. It's worked.
"It was amazing. Oh, wow, it's like, indescribable. I loved it," said Dogra, 15.
"A lot of students now see that they can get involved in the political process."
The inspiration comes from the time and effort not just one, but many teachers undertook so that these students could benefit from a truly educational experience. It is one thing to learn how legislation is works its way through the legislative process in order to become law in a textbook. But it is inspirational when politicians and their bureaucrats are willing to meet with students and draft effective legislation.
Not only that, the politicians have picked up the legislation and the bills have passed two readings in an actual duly elected legislative body (the Legislative Assembly of Ontario). The students were even invited to Queen's Park (the home of the Ontario Legislature) to meet with the Premier of Ontario and other MPPs as well as watch votes on the bills that the student's drafted.
Congratulations to these teachers for taking the time and energy to provide this enriching opportunity for their students. Also a big congratulations to the students for drafting and refining such great legislation that professional politicians are willing to put it forth in a duly elected legislative assembly.
Monday, May 08, 2006
Once the pasta was ready I drained it as I normally do in the calandar. I then dumped the spaghetti onto a dinner sized plate. Next, I turned off the stove burners and retrieved the simmering tomato sauce. The tomato sauce was added to the spaghetti.
I was hungry looking at this fine steaming concotion of spaghetti. I picked up the plate and piveted to my right and stopped. However, the spaghatti never did stop and ended up on the kitchen linoeum floor.
I learned three things really:
1. Spaghetti can be slippery.
2. Spaghetti is hard to pick up off the floor and put in a garbage bag.
3. Linoleum is hard to spell (not to mention say!).
The moral of the story: Sometimes it is just better to eat at Harvey's instead.
Sunday, May 07, 2006
The sun is shining, the weather is not to hot, not to cold, but just right!
Here I have my laundry nicely done and nothing much to do (except vacuum...which will wait another day). So here I am just strecteched out on my futon watching television enjoying a nice quiet afternoon.
What am I doing this evening?
I might take the Sunday Sun with me to a local park to quietly read. Or I might go out and see a local Sunday night baseball game in one of the local town parks as well. I haven't decided which I will do. I guess I could do both.
Saturday, May 06, 2006
The Canadian flags of the Aurora Shopping Centre in the morning sun.
The Canadian flags at the Aurora Shopping Centre, another look.
The Canadian flags at Aurora Shopping Centre with the wind finally picking up.
York Lanes Shopping Centre at York University in the morning sun.
Toronto in Bloom? :)
Thursday, May 04, 2006
I had a bright yellow envelope in my mailbox today. THE CENSUS HAS ARRIVED!
I was worried that because I was living in my new apartment that my existance might go uncounted. I was also worried that if I failed to receive a census and, thus, did not fill one out, I might end up IN THE SLAMMER!
It was nerve racking. I didn't want to screw it up because the form looked very similar to the income tax form. It is well known how that the taxman always forces those to be paid. So I wanted to make sure I was counted properly or I might face the wrath of the Census man who will make sure I am counted either the easy way or the hard way. I hate to imagine what the hard way is! It sends shivers down my spine.
But fear not, I filled out the form and mailed at the local post office right away. It is in the hands of Canada Post now. Wait, the way Canada Post has lost and/or missedplaced packages that my employer sends out I should be concerned that I might not be counted and may have to face the wrath of the census man. OH THE HORRORS!
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
She noted that she still had exams and was going to be in university until May tenth.
"What?" I asked.
She said, yuppers at her university the exams go into May.
I remember fondly my days at the University of Ottawa where the exams were over by the end of April and I could move home by May first at the very latest. Apparently that is no longer the case at university.
I thought about it a little more lately and noted that my sister is losing important employment time. She is basically losing ten days from her summer employment and the associated loss in wages. These wages usually go towards paying tuition, books and just plain living through the school year.
It seems her university doesn't understand that their students need to work four months during the summer in order to be able to afford to continue their studies.
Its a shame really because not everyone is rich enough to sit on the beach in Maui during the summer months while not attending university. Gee...maybe most students might like to actually have some money in their pockets instead of drumming up their student debt like drunken sailors. hmmmm...novel idea ya think?
Not helping matters is that my new apartment, which I moved into at the beginning of March, suffers from immense amounts of daytime heating. So when I get home from a long day of work I walk into a warm apartment. That is not an issue in March when you want a nice warm apartment in order to escape the freezer like conditions outside. But in the summer months I look forward to cool places, not hot places! So when I return home now it is a little too warm for my liking. I can only imagine in the middle of July when the temperature outside is thirty degrees. In my apartment it will probably be closer to a sizzling forty degrees celcius. Well at least I will be able cook my dinner without turning on the stove. So I guess there are pluses to having high amounts of daytime heating.
Monday, May 01, 2006
Useless fact of the day...the Empire State Building is 75 years old today and will shine white lights tonight. Why white light? The lights were shining white 75 years ago tonight on opening night on New York City's most popular tower.
The second useless fact of the day. Betty Lou Oliver, an elevator operator, survived a 75 floor plunge in her elevator after a plane crashed into Empire State Building. The elevator plunge holds the Guiness Book of World Records for the longest elevator plunge with someone on board actually surviving. More on this plunge here.
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