Thursday, February 26, 2009

Street Art Rescue #3 - Elgin Flower Box Rebuild

Swap box season seems to be upon us. Woodsy has posted a blog entry about a damaged swap box she found discarded, and there's a new swap box by the Bridgehead on Elgin.

For those not in the know, a Swap Box is a piece of participatory public guerrilla art where you can leave or take a trinket in its little container. They originate here in Ottawa by an artist known by the pseudonym El Maks, who has also recently started up a "Swap Box Project" blog. See also other posts on my blog with the label "swapbox".

But swap boxes aren't the only form of street art. Maks also makes other public displays, which often refer to current events and political figures. One example is this "A Very Bailout Christmas" diorama posted on Slater near Bank in late December '08 (Kudos to zoom! for the tip on this one)

And other people make street art, too, such as this beautiful flower box on Elgin that went up in late August. [Edit Aug 2009: It's a Super Mario reference] It was initially installed with a nice red rose:

By early October, the plants had been replaced, but didn't keep too well.

After the flowers died, I was actually surprised that it stayed up for as long as it did. I guess the dark colouring kept it out of sight for anyone who would do harm to it. At some point in the winter, I put a fake rose on a piece of coat hanger wire and tried to stick it in the soil but I forgot about the part where freezing cold temperatures makes soil very stiff, so I bent the coat hanger wire and loosely propped it in the box. It was gone very shortly after, and I never got a photo of this.

The box survived on the hydro pole until February 17th. I was walking up Elgin when I saw that the box had been broken off:

Luckily, the rest of it was lying on the ground, and all of the pieces were there. Unlike my previous swap box rescues on Elgin and on Gladstone, an on-the-spot repair wouldn't do the trick, so I put the pieces in a bag and brought it home to my workshop to repair.

As a frequent visitor to and, I made sure to take photos of the construction process.

Fixing the box would be easy. But replacing a broken empty box with a repaired empty box wouldn't be very interesting. I'm not patient enough to try to plant some seeds in there and wait for something to grow, so I made my own flowers.

The petals are made from the slats of some horizontal blinds that someone had thrown out a couple years ago which I had trimmed to fit my window. I made two completely different middle bits for the two flowers. One is from a Kinder Surprise egg with some slivers of black plastic shaved melted in for stamen (the plastic came from a spare bike accessory part that I was probably never going to need).

The other is a knob off a cupboard or dresser or something I would have picked up on garbage night. I have boxes of fixtures of all kinds--hinges, handles, knobs--that I remove from old dressers that people are discarding (and which are too far gone for anyone to want to take home).

With my soldering iron, I poked some holes in the black plastic knob, and little lips formed around the holes (which I sliced off... I suppose I could have left them there). The lips looked like miniature unused condoms, especially when you click on the photo to see it close up.

I then decided the holes weren't interesting enough, so I tried melting some metallic pink glass beads into the holes, but they didn't stay. I then tried filling the holes little globs of (lead-free) solder, and it worked quite well. Below you can see a freshly-added glob in the middle, which is still shiny. The globs quickly lost their sheen as they cooled.

I attached them to coat hanger wire (with hooked bottom ends to keep them firmly planted) and wrapped the wire with green painter's tape to bulk and pretty them up. I then coated the stems with glue for protection.

I repaired the box, which didn't involve much special. I used glue and new screws, simply because I had them around for miscellaneous projects like this, and because they'd be stronger than the nails that failed to keep it together the first time. (Also because using used screws would mean drilling different-size holes and using different bits to screw in the different heads.)

With the box back in one piece, next came decorating.

I had some little label holders from a box that was with my great-grandfather's lathe (which is looking for a good home with a rich collector, by the way!). I fashioned a label out of another metal blind slat, inscribed something on it with a nail (I settled on the word "LIVE". Tip: clamp the nail in some vice grips for better control), crimped the edges so the label wouldn't fall out, then attached it to the box.

I then attached a bow (made from a piece of ribbon I had lying around. I actually had tied the bow quite a while ago and kept it because I hadn't expected to make such a nice bow on the first try) with an industrial staple that was in my containers. I probably pulled out of an old box spring at some point. Actually no, wait--it was from an IKEA Läde. (I know, that's no way to treat a Läde!)

Next I planted the flowers. Not "planted"--I actually had to plant them, with potting soil (and glue, for good measure).

Anyway, short story long, here's the finished product:

Remembering how hard it had been to stick the rose in the frozen soil, I put the box in the freezer overnight to help the soil freeze and the glue set (also so that the soil wouldn't shake all around in my bag during delivery). This would help prevent tampering.

I signed the repaired box and returned it to its former home, good as new.


It's actually depressing that, even with the flowers, most people don't even notice it. Their loss, I suppose.

Oh, and here's a shot of El Maks' lovely new swap box on Elgin:

Help keep street art alive--support your local swap box!

- RG>

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Scotiabank's MoneySlave

I've got a couple things to blog about tonight. I'll schedule the other post to go up tomorrow, assuming I get to it. [Edit: which I won't.]

Anyhoo, I was checking my credit card balance online and noticed that they had credited my account with the annual moneyback payment. Which is unusual, since the annual credit is supposed to happen in July. 'Taint annual if it happens every seven months!

Now, Scotiabank (or more formally, the Bank of Nova Scotia) doesn't have the best reputation in many parts of the world, nor had it with my mother. But my dad did his banking with Scotiabank, and started me up with an account when I was ten years old.

Since then, I, like my father, have gotten credit cards, investments, and RSPs through Scotiabank. I've got a MoneyMaster "High Interest" savings account. Hell, I've even applied for a job with the company, unsuccessfully, my conscience is glad to report. I've considered changing banks, but most banks charge you an arm and a leg to take money out of other banks' machines, and Scotiabank has pretty darn good branch and bank machine coverage in downtown Ottawa.

So not having had abysmal treatment by Scotiabank, I've stayed with them.

And I haven't minded the Moneyback VISA card either. Not many frills (which, frankly, is how I like things), no annual fee (as far as I knew, though apparently it was $8), and it gives you "money back".

Now, the "free money" concept is, obviously, not free. Whenever you make a purchase at a store with your credit card, the credit card company takes a fixed per-purchase fee (like $0.50 to $1) plus a variable "discount fee" off the price of the item (like 1% to 3%). So by simply using a credit card, you are driving costs up for the businesses you frequent. For this reason, I try to use cash or debit when making smaller purchases at local stores. I don't try too hard, but I try.

Since the bank is taking a few percent from each purchase, it is to their benefit to get you to spend more money with your card, especially if you're the type of person who doesn't earn them much money otherwise, through annual fees and exorbitant interest charges. To encourage you, they often offer various incentives, either in the form of points programs (like for cards associated with stores like Canadian Tire, Sears, or Loblaws) or with "Moneyback" type deals.

These "Moneyback" deals are structured so that the more you spend, the more you'll get back (PDF warning). In the case of the Scotiabank Moneyback VISA, they'll give you a mere 0.25% "back" on the first $1500 you spend in a year, 0.50% on the second $1500, and 1% on anything above that.

Every July, they cash you out for however much money you spent in the last year, the counter resets to $0, and you go back to earning 0.25% until you spend enough money to kick up to the next bracket. So when I paid a decent price on a new bed this past Boxing week, even though I could afford to pay cash, it benefited me to use my Moneyback card, in order to maximize my cash back rewards.

(Incidentally, Sears tried to sign me up for a Sears card when I bought the bed. The benefits they offered me were $10 credit, free delivery, and I could pay for the bed in April with zero interest. Seeing as $10 is nothing on the cost of a bed, I had the money to pay for it now, and I had a great friend with a minivan, "zero interest" was also an accurate description of my reaction to this offer.)

But once you get up to 1%, it's a sweet spot to stay in. You don't want to, say, have your counter set back to zero. Which is why I was annoyed by the cashback getting cleaned out in February. Only eight months into the year, and four months until the next reset, I was getting seriously jipped of my rightfully-earned dozen or so dollars of upcoming reward.

So I called up the bank. Oh what fun that always is.

They politely explained to me that my card was being discontinued, and that since "most people" would be switching to the new "Momentum VISA" card (which isn't even listed on their list of all Scotiabank VISA cards), they were taking the liberty of switching everybody over to this card which they would be sending me in March.

How nice of them to tell me this.

So apparently there was something on my November statement. I didn't have my November statement with me when I was on the phone, and even then this wasn't sufficient notice in my opinion. I check my statements online, and I only receive the paper statements as a backup. I later discovered that this notice was on the third page of that statement, after the list of purchases was long finished. I don't see why I never got any notice of this in the online message centre when I signed on to my online account.

Nevertheless, switching me over without my explicit permission

So I asked them what was different about this Momentum card and why I was forced to change. Well, for one, the Moneyback card was being discontinued, she said. As for what was different, she started off by telling me that the interest rate went up from an insulting 18.59% to an obscene 19.99%, there was a $39 annual fee. Oh really?

The reward structure was also different. Instead of the ladder structure described earlier, the lady told me there would be "2% cash back on the first $25,000 if the vendor is in the VISA network" (I stopped her before she bothered telling me what happened after that threshold), otherwise 1%. I didn't get a decent explanation of what the hell the "VISA network" is. Not this.

"So a store that accepts VISA is in the VISA network, right?"

"No, they have to be registered..."

Yeah, right, whatever. So the rate is really 1% then.

One thing I discovered in this conversation was that whenever I didn't know how to respond with flustered indignation, I'd just remain silent and she would fill the silence by volunteering more information I wouldn't have even thought to ask about. Which is actually a tactic I learned about tonight (after the phone call) in this helpful YouTube video law lecture called Don't talk to cops.

I think this silent treatment was how I happened to learn that there's this thing called the "No-Fee Moneyback VISA" card. Like the Momentum VISA, the No-Fee Moneyback has the same higher interest rate (not a problem for me since I never spend what I don't have), it has the same insurance plan, and it has the same payback structure as the Moneyback card I currently have. It also--get this--doesn't have any fucking annual fee!

So I'm trying to figure out the logic of their decision. Here we have a card that is nearly identical to the one Scotiabank is discontinuing--it even is slightly better, in terms of fees--and one that costs more in annual fees, requires a new card to be issued and is called something different. And they decided that most people would choose the different one. And by "choose", they mean "the bank will tell you that they are doing this automatically, and they aren't going to tell you upfront about any alternative."

I even went through this very painstakingly with the CSR and followed it with "now you can see why I'm frustrated by this, right?" and she said yes, although I think that's just a habit for call centre people.

So I told her to sign me up for the no-fee card, and she let me in on the little secret that I could keep the card I already have. It's that similar. More flabbergastion flummoxed from my flanges.

It wasn't until after I hung up that I realized that the whole point I had called in the first place--being shortchanged by my Moneyback being cashed out too early--hadn't been dealt with at all! So I called back and spoke with a rep named Candice.

She wasn't nearly as helpful, nor, it seemed, as friendly. Without the backstory to help me out, I could tell I wouldn't have much luck.

It didn't help that she didn't seem to have a fuck of a clue of why I was upset about this, either. Apparently the new payout period ends in November, so I'll get about seven months, giving me two seven-month periods in a row, shortchanging me of five months of top-rate cash-backing. Are the banks really this desperate?

She said she couldn't do anything for me for money I hadn't "earned" yet, and to call back in November.

Thanks, Candice.

So now I'm at home and looking at my December 3 statement, and the notice saying how much fun I'll have with the Momentum VISA card.

And looking at the Momentum rates on paper, I thought it would actually be a better choice, and I created the table below [hand-coded, since Blogger doesn't seem to want to do tables... I have no idea what the table will look like when I hit "publish"] to prove it, only to realize that the old Moneyback card with the lower cashback rate on the first $3000 would still be better, due to the lower fees.

Amount spentCash back with
$8 Fee Moneyback
Cash back with
$0-$8 Annual Fee-$39 Annual Fee
$1500$3.75 @ 0.25%
-$4.25 total
$15 @ 1%
-$24 total
$2350$3.75 @ 0.25% +
$4.25 @ 0.50%
$0 total
$23.50 @ 1%
-$15.5 total
$3000$3.75 @ 0.25% +
$7.50 @ 0.50%
$3.25 total
$30 @ 1%
-$9 total
$3900$3.75 @ 0.25% +
$7.50 @ 0.50% +
$9 @ 1%
$11.25 total
$39 @ 1%
$0 total
Over $3900Above plus 1%Above plus 1%
Now, this doesn't include the fact that one apparently gets "A full 2% cash back on eligible Gas, Grocery, Recurring Payments and Drugstore purchases," since I have no clue what "eligible" is supposed to mean, nor did the first CSR, other than the fact that these companies have to be in the "VISA network". (See above link for "VISA network" for how helpful that information is)

It also doesn't include the fact that additional cards on the Momentum plan are an additional $15 each, nor does it include the fact that I am now on the No-Fee card, meaning that first column can increase by an $8 reward per year.

So in addition to forcing people into a higher interest rate, Scotiabank is conning its customers into accepting at least $19.25 ($11.25 + $8) in increased net annual charges--even more to those customers who spend under $3000 per year (or Moneyback period, which at this rate seems to be more like seven months).

And this kind of bullshit happens all the time. No matter how closely you look, there will always be finer print to overlook with the lovely bastards we call credit card companies.

- RG>

Friday, February 13, 2009

Deamalgamation, or politics as usual?

According to the Citizen, Capital ward Councillor Clive Doucet is calling for de-amalgamation. According to the article, this is "the first time an elected leader from inside the Greenbelt has publicly voiced such an opinion." Which I find odd, because I've shared this view with Doucet on many occasions.

As someone who lives and works in Centretown, I've always had difficulty trying to understand what I would have in common with someone from North Gower, Fitzroy Harbour, Manotick, Greely, Carp, Kars, Vars, or Mars. (Sorry, that last one isn't on the list.)

In his blog post titled A council that can't make up its mind, ostensibly on the transit strike, Citizen editor David Reevely writes: (my emphasis)
And once again, [Doucet is] getting right to the point:

“This is foolocracy, not democracy,” said Mr. Doucet. “The council is fundamentally divided. It’s not capable of having consensus. It’s unbelievable.”

He said the rancourous debate was a small taste of the bitter divisions on council during the in camera meetings that lasted entire days during the transit strike.

He said the divide is proof that the city is too big and that the interests of rural, suburban, and urban voters cannot be brought together.
My first instinct was to post a comment on Reevely's blog that this isn't really "getting to the point." I mean, it doesn't really help the discussion on transit strike recovery measures to open up a side discussion on governance structure.

But Reevely--like Doucet--is right.

At the recent public meeting on SCAN, the point was raised that you can't just create legislation to evict addicts (for example) without first addressing the root problems that cause the addiction. You evict addicts from one place, and they move to another one. Or they turn to a life of crime. Either way, it's going to be society's problem. But when the debate is framed in terms of eviction, this underlying problem never goes away.

Similarly, you can't really have a discussion on transit issues in this City, period. City Council has demonstrated this many times in recent memory. And I'm not just lamenting the cancellation of the North-South Light Rail Transit (N-S LRT) project, as Doucet often does. In fact, I don't lament its cancellation at all. The chaos led that project so far down the wrong track is the same chaos that is behind the governance void we see today. And that was with a Mayor who knew what he was doing.

But maybe some good will come from this Pyrrhic bus strike. The anger, tension, and polarization it has caused among councillors may be the catalyst that is needed to overhaul our municipal governance structure.

Now, I'm not sure if returning to Ottawa's pre-amalgamation structure would be a good idea, or even possible--a lot has changed since then. On the other hand, the borough system that Glen Brooks suggests in the article (albeit only for his ward!), which sounds like the proposal by Alex Munter in the 2006 election campaign, may not do enough to fix the problems that we are currently facing.

In the above-linked blog post, David Reevely makes another suggestion:
One mayor elected in a split race can represent too narrow a constituency, but if we took the top handful of vote-getters in a citywide election and added them to a council of ward representatives, we might find ourselves with a built-in bloc of centrists around whom productive coalitions could be built in the broad civic interest.
I'm doubtful that this would significantly smooth out the balance of power.

Frankly, the thing that's wrong in this city is that "solutions" spill out from all directions before the problem is ever adequately defined. We have to properly describe where amalgamation has gone wrong, and agree on that definition, before we look for solutions that address those problems. And it has to be done together, not yelled from opposite sides of the room.

This isn't something that can be done overnight with a single blog post; it's something that takes lots of time, energy, and input from all affected parties. It's something that wasn't done during the transit strike and hasn't been done (collectively) by those who want and oppose SCAN.

Under the big top, City Council has a tendency to take one solution and run with it--frequently flaunting its benefits and occasionally acknowledging its flaws. The City's solution is often rammed down our throats without resolving the concerns of those opposed, and is at other times scrapped and sent back to square one, leaving us with nothing.

Unfortunately for us, City Council will likely do the same thing when it comes to governance reform. They won't look at the problems that amalgamation has created for different citizens, and then find a consensus solution to bring to the province and the electorate. Instead, they will focus on Doucet's proposal, and Brooks' proposal, and Joe the Plumber's proposal, and they will bicker and infight, and one of these incomplete proposals will go to "public consultations" and will not improve for having done so, leaving us with no viable option to vote for in a 2010 referendum.

Or as Doucet calls it, "Politics as usual."

- RG>

Monday, February 09, 2009

Red Rocket, Red Rocket!

The cable for my rear brake broke yesterday, so I decided to take advantage of the free red-and-white door-to-door limo service afforded by OC Transpo following their little "disruption". The five-minute bus ride was shorter than my usual twelve-minute bike commute, but the bike commute includes indoors-to-indoors-to-indoors (the second door is the bakery), and doesn't involve waiting for a bus.

As with most other transit users, today's ride was "chaos-free," to use the term used by the Citizen in one article. The afternoon roads downtown didn't appear to be gridlocked as they had been for the last few weeks.

On the way home, I snapped a photo of the lovely little "free" sign on the dashboard!
And according to another Citizen article, transit service might remain free for the rest of February as well. Darn right.

But Council is still playing the PR game and trying to pull another one over on us. From the same article:

The report [on costs and savings of the strike], tabled by OC Transpo head Alain Mercier [at Monday's Transit Committee meeting], shows the city made about $6 million by not providing the service from Dec. 10 — the first day of the strike — until the end of the year. That money was used to pay down OC Transpo’s year-end 2008 deficit.
This is not being honest to transit riders and taxpayers. Six million dollars lost by OC Transpo during the year is OC Transpo's fault, and shouldn't be deducted from the amount the City saved during the strike. This is six million dollars that the City is not spending on "incentives" for transit. A lot of people suffered significant losses (financial and otherwise) as a result of the strike, and they deserve to be reimbursed--if not the full amount they lost, at least the full amount the City gained from the strike.

The gentleman I spoke with today while doing the bus-stop waltz (i.e. walking back and forth to keep warm while waiting for the bus) was one such person. He told me he'd spent over $700 during the strike just to get to his part-time job on the weekends. And he was lucky to have moved downtown in November after moving to Orleans from Toronto in the summer. He said that people in Ottawa have it lucky with a fairly short rush-hour, compared with 24-hour rush hour in Toronto. Even our transit service is pretty good: he said he kept arriving 45 minutes early after moving to Ottawa, due to his usual buffer for Toronto transit trips.

If they're looking for savings, I'd like to see how much money they'll save by not having to collect and count fares. No, I'm not kidding! Some cities don't bother with fares, or at least not within downtown areas, because the cost of implementing fares is about as much as they spend on fares. With fare-free transit, you don't have to worry about front-door-only boarding, or tickets, or the whole rest of the infrastructure required to count and collect it all.

Another thing to look out for is the new split routes #2/#12 and #3/#9. I'd be interested to hear how those are going, if people are having troubles with the new routes, and if the buses are more punctual with them.

I'll keep riding the bus until I fix my bike, and maybe a bit longer. After all, the price--for now--is right!

Edit: I'm reading the aforementioned report to Transit Committee and came across some interesting information. Aside from no rail until 2017 (boo-urns!), is this tidbit just before halfway through:
All buses are refurbished mid-way through their planned 18-year lives to keep them in safe and reliable condition. Buses in North America are manufactured to last for 12 years, the age at which the U.S. government funds replacement, but in Canada, the norm is to refurbish buses and retain them in service for 18 years. The actual date of refurbishment depends on the actual condition of each bus, and so the actual work to be carried out in 2009 will depend on assessments that are made individually for each bus.
Also, this PDF (tip: right-click and select "rotate clockwise" when necessary) contains details on what the City will spend on transit in 2009, including bus purchases (hybrid and/or double-decker), retirements (6118 will be retired due to "uneconomical repair"), many various studies, adding bus lanes to some streets, replacing the elevators at St. Laurent, nearly $1M worth of CCTV cameras (not including cameras on about 50 more buses), and $18M in increased debt (accelerating each year).

- RG>

Thursday, February 05, 2009

SCAN: Split Communities and Neighbourhoods?

Via Blogawa, I saw a post by A. on Please Pick-Up Your Socks that there would be a meeting about Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods ("SCAN") legislation, which is being proposed in Ontario by our local MPP, Yasir Naqvi. The meeting was held tonight (Thursday, February 5, 2009) at the Ottawa Public Library main branch.

The event was organized by a group called People Against SCAN (, and consisted of a panel of five speakers, including Naqvi, Cheri DiNovo (NDP MPP for Parkdale-High Park; Naqvi and DiNovo pictured below), Yutaka Dirks (Advocacy and Outreach Coordinator, Advocacy Centre for Tenants - Ontario), Anne Levesque (Lawyer, Clinique juridique francophone de l'est d'Ottawa), and Tara Lyons (Executive Director, Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy).

Kudos are in order for Mr. Naqvi coming out to an event organized by a group whose sole purpose is to oppose legislation he is sponsoring, and also for being willing to meet with many of the individuals and groups represented at the meeting who oppose his bill. But just showing up won't win my support.

Before the event, I had a chance to read over some information about the Orwellian-titled SCAN bill on the People Against SCAN's website, particularly This memo detailing areas of concern of the bill. Looking through that document was frightening. The mere fact that a tenant can be evicted without having a right to properly defend themselves (as is the case with SCAN legislation in other jurisdictions) is enough for me to oppose it outright. I don't care what your bill is designed to do, if it skirts due process, I oppose it--didn't we learn that already with Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Gonzales?

There were definitely a decent representation of people at the meeting in favour of the legislation. Most cited chronic crack houses as the problem they want this legislation to solve--houses where illegal activity takes place (even though the reach of the bill goes beyond criminal activity)--but I am not convinced, as they are, that this legislation will actually solve their problems. So you shut down a house filled with crack addicts. They're not all of a sudden going to get un-addicted because they were evicted.

Moreover, even if it were to solve the problems cited by its proponents in the audience, SCAN would impact others in the community in ways that don't seem to concern the proponents.

You can download a PDF of the bill here and see for yourself what it says.

One section that was raised as a concern was section 20. Section 20 starts out by saying that the municipally-appointed Director of Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods must make a "reasonable effort" to make sure that evicted residents have alternate accommodation. Now, I don't like ambiguous words like "reasonable" to begin with, but the section continues to say that it "does not apply to a resident who the Director reasonably believes caused or contributed to any of the activities in respect of which the order that requires the residents to leave was made."

So once the eviction takes place, the Director can let them go out in the cold so long as the Director "reasonably believes" that the people caused or contributed to activities which triggered the SCAN legislation--activities which don't have to be illegal, simply which "adversely affect" the neighbourhood--such as sniffing glue or gasoline in one's home (read the law--it actually mentions glue!).

The bill has passed second reading, but is in committee and will likely not survive there, which is a good thing in a way.

But in another way, it's a pity, because the community members who wanted SCAN wanted it because there were problems in their community and they're banking on it getting passed. But they asked for legislation that does far more than is reasonable, and as such it will get shot down and these community members will be back at square one with no resolution to their legitimate problems.

On my way home from the meeting, I came across a car whose alarm was going off. This was pretty late at night, and the streets were empty. As someone who is concerned about his neighbourhood, I felt compelled to do something about it. My cell phone's battery had run out (grr... stupid thing won't even last one full day and it's less than a year old...), so my initial reaction to phone Bylaw to make a noise complaint was not an option. But a dead cellphone battery wasn't going to stop me.

I started by leaving a note on the windshield wiper, which read "If you're not going to respond to your car alarm going off, then TURN IT THE FUCK OFF!!! (P.S. Your radio is still on)"

After leaving this note under the windshield wiper, I took down the plate number, time and location on my notepad so I could report it when I got home if I felt like it. But as I was writing it, a man walked up to the car. I established that he was the owner, and told him that the car alarm was going off, even if I just walk in front of the car.

And the guy was genuinely concerned. He was concerned about his car alarm being oversensitive, he was concerned about the disruption this caused, and he was concerned that there was probably something wrong with his car's electronics system causing this. He said he would take it in the next day and get a loaner while it is fixed, and I think he even said something about disconnecting the battery so it wouldn't bother any more people tonight.

I snatched my note off his windshield and crumpled it into my pocket, and instead wished him a good night, as he went into his car to troubleshoot the problem.

I felt good about that experience, because I dealt with the problem myself without relying on a government to intervene because of my anonymous (to the driver) complaint. In fact, I am probably more anonymous for having confronted him in person than by reporting it to Bylaw.

At the meeting about SCAN, a number of times opponents said to proponents that they should try to talk to the problem tenants. Frankly, I cringed when they said this, and some people said they already tried dealing directly with the people to no avail. If I had a biker gang next door dealing drugs and guns, I sure as hell won't knock on the door and--hell, I'd avoid drawing attention to myself as much as possible!

But the incident with the car alarm really brought it home that there are people out there who are willing to respond to your concerns in a civil manner. We live in a society where we want to respond to problems with anger and punishment, but sometimes all you have to do is ask politely.

- RG>