Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A lesson on bus selection for OC Transpo

I'm a bit of a transit geek, and while I'm nowhere near as hardcore as some people, I do know that OC Transpo has made some questionable decisions on bus selection. The old Ikarus articulated buses, for example, had to be cannibalized to maintain them, then couldn't even be given away once decommissioned (AFAIK they may still be sitting in a field somewhere). Then there's the buses they bought in the '90s, whose windows only opened at the top because the buses came with air conditioning, but the A/C had been irreversibly removed as a cost saving measure early in their lifetime, resulting in some very uncomfortable buses.

More recently, OC Transpo bought 365 of the hump-backed buses in the 4200 series starting in 2004, and is one of very few transit services to have bought the now-discontinued model, meaning parts will likely be in short supply when it comes time for their overhaul nine years after purchase. The three double-decker buses it recently purchased (with the possibility of buying more) require a whole new garage to be built to service them, because three axles fit in the 40-foot frame instead of the usual two, and thus three lifts are needed--not to mention an extra-tall garage door. It was recently reported that OC Transpo does not have a garage that is licensed to certify buses for their safety inspections that has doors tall enough to accommodate the double-deckers. The inspections will have to be outsourced.

Oh, and did you know that the articulated buses in OC Transpo's fleet have four-cylinder engines, instead of the more popular six-cylinder option? That'll also hurt your resale value (as will the windshields popping out only a couple of years into service).

All this leads me to believe that OC Transpo doesn't properly test buses before selecting them.

The following BBC video shows some thorough testing of different styles of buses available in the UK. The test takes into account passenger comfort, accessibility, and speed of service. The test was also conducted on a closed circuit, to avoid casualties to cyclists and pedestrians.

OC Transpo, I hope you're paying attention.

- RG>

Monday, December 28, 2009

I'm poor again. That was easy.

I have a friend who declared earlier this month that she wanted nothing to do with Christmas. Not only did the constant reminders of rampant consumerism and religious messages bother her, but she was also averse to the ideal alternative of spending the time with family for a great meal, because her partner's turkey-eating family can't come to terms with the couple's vegetarianism.

We brainstormed ways of avoiding Christmas, especially on a nearly absent budget. This would be difficult: stores are closed, and those that are open are blaring Merry Christmas messages all over. I think we settled on "dig a hole" and "walk to Kanata" as the best options, though a few days before Christmas she gave in to celebrating the damn holiday, in some form or another.

But still, it's an interesting question for future reference: how could my friend avoid Christmas (for little to no money?)

* * *

I suffer a similar Christmas dilemma myself, because as much as I bemoan it and downplay it (for example, I keep my standard greeting instead of using a "seasonal" one when saying goodbye, except for the occasional "Happy Humbug"), I do, technically, celebrate it. That is, I go to the annual family gathering and stay a few days, and it's become a tradition for me to stay at my aunt's place where I watch Cable TV marathons of sci fi films and TV shows.

I also exchange gifts, though in a very limited fashion. My dad was kind enough this year to throw politeness to the wind and flat out asked me what I wanted, and gave me a list of gift ideas for himself (very useful, as we're both hard to shop for). This generally involved links to various products on the MEC website. I can't tell if it's superficial or transparent, but whatever it is, it seems to work.

* * *

I am also lucky enough to receive money for Christmas, plus a meagre bonus at work. Last year, I had enough to buy a new bed, and this year I was hoping to be able to replace my laptop.

Unfortunately, my savings are still low, due to borrowing from them to buy a projector in June and a camera last month (and I haven't sold the old one yet). To buy a new laptop, I'd have to borrow even more from my savings. Since my job is not secure past March 31st, replenishing my savings is the most prudent course of action.

After doing so, and deducting the price of my gifts to others, I calculated I had a hundred or two to spend on my whims. This is remarkably difficult for someone who delights in useless free shit found in the trash. So I went to Staples yesterday to gratify my consumerist desires, and noticed a bin of those big red buttons that speak out "that was easy!" when you press them. I wondered, who the hell would actually buy one of those?!? (No, I didn't)

As I left the store, I considered the total price of the new toy plus a spare camera battery from Henry's. As I returned to my bike, I muttered to myself:

"I'm poor again. That was easy!"

- RG>

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Greatest Mayor: Update

Back in August, I wrote the post Larry O'Brien: Great Mayor, or Greatest Mayor? on the topic of our mayor's trial. A recent anonymous comment on the post (likely spam; I've been getting lots of innocuous junk comments) reminded me of it.

Reading it over, I found the following passage rather telling:

I'm also open-minded enough to realize that if [O'Brien] can beat these charges so ballsily, maybe--just maybe--he'd be able to get us out of the multimillion-dollar Siemens lawsuit he got us in. If he can't, at least it's something else to put in the "zero-means-go-fuck-yourself" pile that he'll eventually face.
Sure enough, Larry didn't get us out of the lawsuit, and it will cost taxpayers $37 million.

Meanwhile, the 2010 budget is forecast, so far, to increase by 3.9% (actually around 3.995%, either way it's much more than his campaign promise of "zero means zero"). At the going rate of roughly ten million dollars per percent, that comes to $39 million--just a couple million more than what Mayor Larry cost us with the Siemens lawsuit.

So I guess that's what zero means. A steaming pile of go fuck yourself.

- RG>

Thursday, December 17, 2009

On the prowl...

During Bluesfest, I discovered this pair of plastic cutlery in my cutlery drawer. They're big and they're sturdy (they're very stiff), so I drilled holes in the ends and attached them to a lanyard, so I didn't have to use and discard a set of plastic cutlery at each meal.

Unfortunately, I can't for the life of me remember where I got them--no doubt in a restaurant or fast-food place, but damned if I can remember which.

If you know a local place where I can find these (either individually from a restaurant or in bulk--around 100), that would be SOO COOL.

- RG>

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Scrimshaws discovered near Percy

David Scrimshaw posted today a photo of a street art installation he saw on Gladstone just West of Percy. It was a little rectangle of painted canvas tacked to a street post, sporting the words "Looking Good!"

He said he saw this back in October and had been meaning to post the photo of it. Which he did.

I also happened upon some similar works, likely by the same artist, in late November. And since David Scrimshaw was the first to discover and describe one of these things, I'm hereby defining a Scrimshaw to refer to "a guerrilla inspirational street art installation". And in keeping with my recent trend of ripping off blog ideas from David Scrimshaw's blog, I'd might as well post photos of the Scrimshaws I found.

This one is on Gladstone, just East of Percy--kitty-corner from the one David posted. It has a mirror on it (in which I've cleverly reflected a building that matches the background (hmm... the 'background' in this case is really closer than the image in the mirrors (hmm... lots of brackets here...))). The slogan on this one is "Today is potentially awesome!"Potentially, yes, but it wasn't particularly so for me.

This other one is also nearby, this time on Percy itself, but further down, at Powell in the Glebe. It also has mirrors and a positive message.

Being a grouch, I'm not a big fan of unnecessarily positive messages, but this one--"You're looking Sharp Today"--is a pun, which balances it out. The sharp shards of mirror also help.

Whoever the artist is, first I apologize for not bothering to so much as do a simple google search to see if you've identified yourself somewhere. And second, keep up the good work dressing up the neighbourhood, but please apply a tone of dressing down in your future works.

Another street artist (or conceivably the same one) put something up on Elgin Street this past weekend, but unfortunately by the time I got to see it, it had already been vandalized. It looks like it had been in the style of El Maks' Tell Me A Story journals (Maks, were you in town? Was this you?)

All this has reminded me that I've wanted to make a swap box for quite some time, though it isn't exactly a priority for me. Maybe I'll make a few Scrimshaws instead, as I hear there's a big market for them overseas.

- RG>

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

More stuff XUP can't have

In the post Weekly Treasure, I described some neat stuff I found being discarded in Centretown, and I mentioned that finding neat stuff is a regular event. True to form, the last couple weekends have been fruitful as well, what with the first of the month being near.

On Monday (which is garbage night for Centretown east of Kent Street) I happened upon a stash of goods that included these items I collected. Some packaging also being thrown out revealed that the mysterious KUN house on MacLaren is a manufacturer of violin shoulder rests, and not a fraternity or cult, as their ominous street presence had led me to fear. I guess that's reassuring. There were also some items that would make for good Swap Box swag.

These LERSTA reading/floor lamps from Ikea are another commonly discarded item. They're often thrown out not only still functional, but also with a lightbulb still inside. I guess people upgrade, or they dent the bell of the shade. Since it's only $14.99, it's early on the chopping block when it's time to cull. They're great because they're decently-made bendy lamps, and you can remove the bottom piece of pipe for a shorter height. (Conceivably, I guess you can add them too for a taller one.)

Anyway, twice in as many weeks, I've picked up one of these translucent globelike lamp covers. I transported it home on the back of my bike, with the open end pointing toward my tail light, which makes for a neat effect.

The upshot is that you can bend the LERSTA lamp so that its bell points straight up. Plop the globe on top and you get a pretty, neat effect. (Make sure to use CFL or LED bulbs to prevent overheating in the now-enclosed space). I think it has a Jetsons type look to it.

Last week, an oriental couple on Somerset West were throwing out a whack of stuff, and us sharks were going after it as they were still bringing it out. Among the swag were three of these ACCO 401 single hole punches (this page advertises them under the "Mutual" brand).

These were occupying space on my kitchen table over the last week, so finally I decided to 'put them away' on Saturday night. Not having a defined location for "single-hole punches" in my apartment, I figured they'd look nice mounted on the wall as an installation of found art. But I actually do have a use for these, so my mounting technique had to preserve their utility.

I used a piece of white-covered MDF as a backplate, covered by a piece of translucent red fiberglass (both also found and didn't require cutting). I attached the two with a can of spray glue left over from a project from a few years ago. To mount the punches to the board, I cut holes at the top just big enough to accept screw heads that stick out of the board, but not big enough for the chips to fall through. Regrettably, I didn't take photos along the way because I wasn't sure if any of this would work. Though it did, and I think it came out wonderfully:

I call it "Three Hole Punch".

- RG>