Dispatches from the Swamp – The ‘is it Easter yet?’ Edition

I hate this time of the year. There are no holidays to look forward to until Easter. I wonder how many people checked Google for the 2012 date.[1] I bet many office workers spent most of today trying to figure out how the hell they were going to get through the next 3 months without burning a lot of vacation time. Me? I chose to take it easy. I did some tasks I needed to get done and then I began to prepare for the year ahead. I archived files and generally cleaned up my electronic system. Tomorrow I will try to get rid of the stack of paper I still have on my desk from when things were crazy busy. I have a major report to finish in the next couple of weeks. Then I have another huge report and grant application due by April 1. All before Easter you will note.

I had 2 ‘great’ conversations with my mother tonight. Here it is:

Conversation #1

Mom: You and Deb really hurt our little feelings when you were here.[2]

Me: Oh, what did we do.

Mom: You didn’t say how nice the house looked. Your sister worked really hard on it.

Me: Mother, why are you inventing things to have hurt feelings over? I distinctly remember saying how nice the house looked.

Conversation #2

My mother was discussing my sister’s temper tantrum yesterday when she put away the Christmas decorations. The way my mother tells it, my sister was stomping around the house and throwing the decorations away. My mother was very upset and I could hear my sister yelling and screaming when I called yesterday.[3]

Mom: Your sister says that she put things away neatly.

Me: That is good.

Mom: I don’t believe it though. I heard her throwing stuff around. Some of it is really old and sentimental. She is lucky I didn’t have the strength to go down their and cuff her upside the head and tell her to be more careful.

Me: That was probably a good thing because she probably would have cuffed you back.

Mom: No she wouldn’t have. Well maybe she would…Anyways, I would have hit her back.

All of the dogs are good. The cat is continuing to improve. She has found her litter box and is using it! She has re-discovered the other side of the house. Deb has finally foiled in her attempt to get through the gate and take out the other cat upstairs. She is not acting as desperate as she was so we think her thyroid is more under control now. She still has cancer but things are much better!


[1] For the record, April 6 is Good Friday.

[2] She was using her little ‘child-like’ voice.

[3] Why the hell she spent time with mother after just losing her dog.

Ongoing plumbing saga

It has now been 2 weeks and the plumbing contractors are still not done. The driveway is a mess so we have to access the house by going across the lawn, which is a dangerous wet mess. Plus some of our trees are a bit out of control so it resembles bushwhacking in some places.

I am also getting increasingly frustrated, as the demands of the district seem outrageous. With the new system, everything flows into a holding tank. The tank has a pump so that it can move the sewage out as we have zero gravity here. The pump has to be on an alarm in case it dies. Today I find out that we also need a freaking generator for the pump in case the power goes out! Oh and don’t forget the fact that we had to have an engineer sign off on the whole project.

I sometimes wonder if city councils are in collusion with contractors to make things cost as much as much as possible so that everyone makes money. I just don’t understand why such a simple thing costs so much money. Le sigh.

The ‘Big’ News of the Day

As I toiled away in relative obscurity today on yet another repetitive grant application, I was regaled with the same news story over and over. It was about cell phones. No it was not the usual yourbrainisgoingtorotandyou’regoingtogetcancer story. As the day went on the story became more sensationalized. It was quite apparent why they chose today after all it was the launch of the iPhone 4s which meant the media had captive lines of smartphone wielding consumers with whom they could shock.

So what is this big revelation you ask? Some researchers in Britain swabbed some smartphones and found out there were reams of bacteria on them. Including, wait for it, fecal matter! Oh my god! We should all throw our smartphones in the nearest river lest we get infested with some rogue bacteria.

I have news for everyone. There are bacteria on EVERYTHING! The fecal matter is no big surprise either. I suspect that almost every smartphone user has been guilty of using their phone in the bathroom. And, of course, where there is fecal matter there must be e. coli. Just like the salmonellas[1], the e. colis are to be feared.

So what does all this mean? Nothing is the short answer. There are bacteria everywhere and surprisingly none of us are dead from the proliferation of the bacteria. In fact, bacteria are good for us. Exposure to germs, bacteria and viruses challenges our immune systems. There are more bacteria on your average office desk than on a toilet seat. The last time I checked no one has died from eating their lunch at their desk.

The researchers explained why smartphones were ideal surfaces for bacteria. Mostly because the phones became warm with use and we create moisture when we talk into them. The solution suggested by the researchers was for smartphone users to sanitize their phones with wipes on a regular basis. I have a better suggestion. Don’t worry about it. Seriously, it is not going to radically change your life unless you are in the habit of licking and sucking on your smartphone. </sarcasm>

[1] Oh no not the Salmonellas?!?

Great Day for Democracy

I am very pleased that BC voters have overturned the HST. The tax, which was implemented without any notice to BCers, was universally hated and had become a beacon of BC Liberal arrogance. In their paternalistic fashion they imposed the tax on us while telling us that it will create jobs and be a ‘revenue neutral’ tax. Most people in the province can do basic math and wondered if they were now paying 7% more for services how on earth could the tax be revenue neutral?

I heard Kevin Falcon on the radio and he was contrite about the results. He actually admitted that they made an error in how they implemented the tax and he felt that the results, in essence, were a slap on the wrist for the BC Liberal Party. He said that it will take 15 months to 2 years to revert back to the PST, GST situation. I am not clear why it would take that long maybe they are hoping to make up some of that 1.6 billion they now have to pay back to the feds.

One of the things that has bothered me throughout this whole campaign and now the results is that the government and the pro-HST business alliances[1] they seem to think voters are stupid. Repeatedly today I kept hearing that tax policy is too complicated for the average voter and that we should not be deciding tax policy by referendum. The BC Liberals showed complete contempt for the voters when they introduced it 3 months after an election. Regardless what the pro-HST forces said the tax was not good for BC. It hit largely services like restaurants and personal care services with an extra 7%. To say that it would not negatively impact families is bogus – almost everyone needs a haircut or wants to eat out now and then. They also never adequately explained how the HST created jobs. They just kept repeating it hoping that repetition is emphasis and we would all just believe it. I still do not know how the HST was supposed to neither create jobs nor, now, kill jobs. The public was not at all stupid – they understood the question.

Now we will have to contend with paying the feds back. Personally, I think the BC Liberal party should have to start fundraising for that but I know it will be us, the lowly taxpayer, who will repay it. The BC Liberals should have put that money aside and not spent it once the opposition to the HST began to heat up. They should have never underestimated Bill Vander Zalm; he has populism down to a science.

The terms of the referendum demand that the sales tax situation in BC be returned to what it was prior to July 1, 2010. I suspect the BC Liberals will introduce changes to increase the reach of the PST as soon as they think they can get away with it. Oh, and wait, what’s that sound? It is the sound of the air being let out of the tires of Christy Clarke’s surprise election call for the fall. She would likely lose.

Welcome to BC – Go big or stay home

I have lived in BC for more than 10 years now and I have noticed an interesting trend. It seems that whatever happens in BC is always bigger or worse or has a much larger than the rest of the country. Take for example the recent riots when Vancouver lost the Stanley Cup. In Toronto, they have a riot over globalization and the G-8 and here in BC it is over hockey. And it was a bad riot as riots go.

Now we have another example. All over the country, rivers are flowing at higher levels than normal. There has been rampant flooding in Quebec, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Flooding would have been boring so instead what do we get? We get transformer towers that are in the Fraser River[1] crashing down and causing power lines to come down across two of the busiest highways in the province!

One really has to wonder why anyone thought it would be a good idea to put power lines across a highway. But then again, those towers have stood for 55 years why would they come down now? Well, apparently, the high water flows over a longer period[2] caused the base of the tower to ‘scour.’[3] When one tower fell, it pulled the electrical lines taut over the whole section. Apparently, BC Hydro was able to ‘de-electrify’ the lines so that there was no danger.

In the middle of the night, all of the local officials gathered in the parking lot of Home Depot[4] in Coquitlam. Here they decided what they were going to do after the initial road closure. For the benefit of my non-Lower Mainland Readers, Highway 1 and the Lougheed[5] are the only routes into Vancouver. Metro Vancouver is a string of municipalities on either side of these roads. In the morning, everyone tries to get into Vancouver and the opposite at the end of the day.

The problem was that there were electrical cables[6] across the highways. So at some point around 7am the dream team at Homo Depot decided they should severe said wires so that the traffic could flow once again. By now, the local radio stations had done their bit to convince people to stay home, take transit, walk, bike or go by mule train. And never doubt the ability of the Vancouver media to stop the traffic from coming. They do it every time it might snow a flake or two.

When I finally left at around noon because I didn’t want to have to deal with this mess everything was fine. It was all reopened by 3 pm[7] and things were moving fine. The benefit of all this to me? There was no traffic to contend with on my way home. This made me a very happy camper!

[1] And have been since like 1956

[2] As it was explained by a geologist today on CBC.

[3] Whatever that means.

[4] Or Homo Depot as we like to call it. Ever been there on a Friday night?

[5] For you Albertans that is pronounced: lowheed not lawheed. It is a highway not a megalomaniac premier.

[6] De-electrified don’t forget.

[7] They had kept a part of United Boulevard closed.

Seriously Stupid

I fail to understand why people leave their dogs in the car in the summer. I mean seriously what the fuck are they thinking? It is not like bringing the dog with you is a passive act. In our house whenever someone goes to the door to leave there is a very loud parade. All the dogs rush the gate in a cacophony of expectation. Before we decide if we are taking someone with us we consider the outdoor temperature, the activities we have planned and make a decision about taking a dog. If we are going somewhere that will require the dog being alone for a long period of time then generally the dogs don’t go. The only time we take dogs in the heat is when two of us are going and one of us is staying in the vehicle with the dogs.  Once we have decided someone is coming with us, we have to leash him or her and then get them into the vehicle. You just don’t accidentally take a dog with you.

Apparently some idiot left his dog Harley in a vehicle in the Toronto area today while he went to visit his wife in the hospital. I saw a news report that showed that the temperature in the car went to over 40 degrees Celsius. Who does that?

In other stupidly related news, a baby was rescued from a locked car in Kelowna today. Like dogs, babies cannot regulate their temperatures. While babies have opposable thumbs, they lack the fine motor control to open the door or the window. Again, taking a baby with you is not done accidentally. The case in Kelowna is even more disturbing in that the two women who were in the car, one of whom was the baby’s mother, said they had only gone into Zellers for 10 minutes. Again, what the fuck? Who does these things?

Please, everyone, if you have a baby or a dog don’t leave it in your car in the heat unless you want a dead baby or dog.

Disgraceful Behaviour

The riot after last night’s Canucks came was predictable. All of the frenetic energy of the last several weeks of hockey playoffs had to go somewhere. You cannot combine over $100,000 people, many who had been drinking, with all that energy and not expect something bad could happen. There is something about Vancouver that is different from most other cities; Vancouver embraces its west coast anti-authoritarian attitude proudly. This evident in many ways and I think it has its roots in the ‘hippie’ culture that developed in Vancouver. From Wrecked beach to not buying dog licenses, many Vancouverites do not think they need to acquiesce to authority.

Vancouver has a history of rioting over losses at hockey games. To blame the beginning of these riots on anarchists is completely wrong. While they may have played a role, it was apparent that the largest group was young, white males. I saw one picture of a white male setting a police car on fire by putting cloth in the gas tank and lighting it on fire. As the live coverage continued yesterday evening, there were only a few people in masks. As the riot escalated into breaking windows of stores and then going in and looting, again the main participants were white, young men.

One thing I noticed about this Stanley Cup run was the over the top in hype. The fan zones set up downtown all of the publicity on radio plus the sports bars all helped to fuel the riot. Clearly someone was asleep at the switch in the mayor’s office. Given that there is a history of rioting over hockey games in Vancouver. It certainly occurred to me that this was a seriously bad idea.

The VPD claimed they had a plan. However, it was apparent that they did not. They are claiming the riot quickly got out of control. I was watching the live coverage shortly after the riot started and 2.5 hours later the reinforcements from other municipalities were just arriving. It seems strange to me that the VPD didn’t ring the alarm bells at the end of the second period when it was apparent that the Canucks were not going to win. Why did it take so long for reinforcements to arrive

The province played a role here too. Citing the increased policing costs of the Stanley Cup run and pointing out that a high number of the fans downtown for every game were not from Vancouver, they had asked the province for additional funds to pay for policing. Christy Clark was very quick to state that policing is a municipal responsibility and they would not get involved. Maybe it is time to revisit the idea of one police for Metro Vancouver rather than the mixture of RCMP detachments and municipal forces

Social media also played a role in this riot. The allure of getting one’s picture up on Facebook posing in front of a burning car was just too much to resist for these idiots. The fact that so many of them did nothing to hide their faces while committing crimes is bizarre. Social media though can be a double-edged sword. While it may have fuelled the riot in the beginning stages, all those pictures and videos will assist police in identifying and prosecuting the hooligans.

I am sure a report will be commissioned to look at all of the factors that contributed to the riot. Most likely, the VPD will do nothing with it. A report was done for the 1994 riot and most of the recommendations were not adopted. Now that there has been a second riot over hockey, I hope they will do things to make it safer for everyone.



It’s a Ranty Kind of Day – Smoking in Metro Vancouver Parks

There are so many things I could rant about today like my mother, work, illness, traffic, life in general. Sadly, I am not free to rant about what I really want to rant about unless I password protect it and I don’t really like to do that. So, I will rant about yet another CBC BC Almanac call in program. Generally, the quality of these programs is a little bit higher than you would normally hear on commercial radio. That statement was true until today. I really felt bad for Mark Forsythe today!

The topic of the second part of the show was Metro Vancouver considering a ban on smoking in all parks, beaches and campgrounds. (you can listen here) The guest Mark had on was Langely City Councillor Gayle Martin who chairs the parks committee. After Mark introduced her and her position, he asked her to comment on the issue. It went downhill from there… Her first response was that she was against it – plain and simple. She sees it as an imposition on the rights of people to do something that is legal. She actually used the following analogy: you wouldn’t tell a fat person to stay off the trails because they sweat and then they smell would you? I just about choked.

Then the calls started. Most callers did not agree with the ban and saw no reason for it. What really struck me was the complete lack of sophistication in the views being put forth. Martin kept saying things like: most smokers would not light up in front of a swing set in a kids’ park. When the issue of allergies was brought up she asked why should someone with health issues trump a smoker’s right to smoke? It was utterly bizarre. She could not seem to figure out that for some people, cigarette smoke is a serious hazard. Then there were the people who equated smoking with driving a car. If you drive a car, their argument goes then you have no right to criticize a smoker. Other callers suggested that tobacco companies be outlawed and tobacco made illegal if people were not going to be allowed to smoke wherever they want.

One of the things that was completely missed was the effect on children seeing people smoke. If I had children, there is no way I would want them to be anywhere someone was smoking. It just would not happen. I wouldn’t want them breathing in second-hand smoke, nor would I want them thinking that smoking was acceptable. I am an ex-smoker so I really do not buy into the idea that smokers can be considerate with their addiction. I was a smoker and I was never considerate to anyone. It was clear to me that if you were in my car or my house I was going to smoke and I didn’t really care if you objected.

I hope Metro Vancouver adopts a bylaw that bans smoking in parks, campgrounds and beaches. We do not need the next generation thinking that smoking is cool. People should be free to go to public areas, all supported by our mutual tax dollars, and not have to risk their health so that addicts can engage in their addiction.

The BC Liberals and the HST mess

The BC Liberals must be completely delusional. They seem to think that a majority of British Columbians can be hoodwinked into supporting a tax that no one wanted, imposed by a party who promised not to, simply by bribing (some[1]) taxpayers with their own money and the promise of a 2 percentage point reduction by 2014. Just because Christy Clark is now the premier does not mean that the leopard has changed its spots. We still have Kevin Falcon as the talking head finance minister making these promises. If we have not learned by now that we cannot trust him and his merry-band of conservative Liberals then we deserve what we get.

The whole scenario gets worse. We will only get the purported changes to this tax if we vote to keep it. If a majority votes against the tax, then, the BC Liberals point out, we would have to pay back $1.6 billion dollars.[2] Now, it seems to me that if the BC government spent that money then it is going to be up to them to figure out how to pay it back to the feds if that is indeed what has to happen. Threatening us with this consequence is meaningless, as we had nothing to do with bringing in the tax, accepting the payment or spending the money.

We also keep hearing how the HST is going to create jobs. I am not an economics expert but I fail to see how a regressive tax can create jobs? Every pro-HST expert seems to say: “The HST is great for business because it simplifies the paperwork businesses have to fill out. Oh and it creates jobs.” I have yet to hear anyone explain to me how reducing the purchasing power of the average consumer through increased and excessive taxation creates jobs. Maybe it creates jobs in the civil service counting all that extra money.

I get that the HST simplifies accounting paperwork for business and that is good. However, the real issue with the transfer to the HST was that it applied to everything the GST applied. While the PST was only on certain things, it was not on restaurant meals and books in particular. The restaurant industry has really suffered with an increase of 7% on meals. A tax on books is just ludicrous. We need to encourage people to buy books and to read.

I think the only way to make the HST palatable is to remove it from the items that did not have PST on them. Make restaurant meals, books and other items and services that were not subject to the PST tax-free. I think then people would see some benefit to them. The way it is now, the tax is both odious and onerous.

If the BC Liberals seriously want people to support the tax they need to make the changes, I have suggested and codify them in legislation regardless of the outcome of the referendum. To tell us that we will only get this minor change to the bitter pill we have all had to swallow if we are behaved and we agree to let them keep it is insulting. I only hope that all the people who have been betrayed by the BC Liberals send them a very loud message with this referendum.

[1] If you have kids or you are a senior earning less than $40,000, you will get a one-time bribe payment of $175.

[2] Adrian Dix, leader of the BC NDP says it is more like $1.2 billion. But what’s a few billion among friends?

It’s a Ranty Kind of Day

  • First up, John Baird is Minister of Foreign Affairs. This means that he will now be able to insult people all over the world. Yay! Hasn’t he done enough damage as Minister of Immigration oops! Jason Kenney was and I think remains as Minister of Immigration? My only hope is that his international counterparts will impress upon him our obligations to accept refugees.
  • What can we say about Dorothy Parvaz? She is the Al-Jeezera reporter who had the bright idea of trying to go into Syria with an expired Iranian passport. She sounds shocked about what she heard and saw in Syria – particularly hearing people being tortured. She complains about being handcuffed and blindfolded. What the fuck did she think would happen? What is further confounding is the media don’t seem to be saying how bad of an idea it was to go to Syria on an expired Iranian passport.
  • And what rant day here would be complete without a driving rant. I think about 10% of the people who drive have no idea what those funny lines on the road are for. At least 3 times a drive for the last several weeks, I have been contending with people in my lane. It is really annoying the hell out of me to say the least.