Thursday, December 30, 2010

War on the penny: take prisoners!

It's been a few years since I've actually bothered to take home the pennies I get in my change. Usually, I'll ask the clerk for no pennies, I'll leave them on the store counter, or I'll use the leave-a-penny tray. This is an informal version of the rounding that would take place on cash transactions if the penny were eliminated.

You see, I'm one of the 55% of Canadians who support eliminating the penny from circulation, and my response to receiving a penny in my change is downright civil compared to many.

Pennies drop on the ground and nobody picks them up anymore, that's how little value they have. The one-cent coins cost more to produce and distribute than their face value is worth.

But I think I've been doing it wrong. In order to help catalyze the elimination of the penny, I shouldn't be refusing them access to my pocket, I should be welcoming them.

More specifically, hoarding them.

The more pennies are removed from circulation, the more need to be produced to fill the gap. That will drive up the government's cost of keeping the penny, and in turn help along the case to eliminate it.

Seeing that I'm a natural hoarder, I can't believe I didn't think of it before. And once the penny is formally given the pink slip, they'll be a nostalgic collector's item to give to grandkids, like a $1 bill. Or I guess the $2 bills. Hm, maybe I should collect some fivers too, just to be sure.

- RG>

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Bad saxophone music hurts my head

So let's say I've got this "friend" who has a genuinely good point on a couple of issues, but she only really cares about those issues. And she's a true believer in them. She has a somewhat wide audience and makes a lot of noise about her pet issues. Admittedly, not too many people take her seriously, but she likes to think they do.

Every now and then, she makes dramatic, sweeping generalizations to support her causes, and cites her two--well, I can't decide if they're sacred cows or a pair of one-trick ponies.

Anyway, she makes sweeping generalizations that support her cause, but only ever uses her handful of causes to support those generalizations. And whenever somebody brings an example of a similar case that falls under that generalization, she uses her platform to totally shit on that similar case. I guess it's a way to not always talk about her couple of issues.

Occasionally, someone will point out a major flaw in her argument--either it's based on a false premise, or the generalization is so broad that it goes way beyond the scope--sometimes to the point that she labels innocent people as malicious villains. (As you might guess, I've been this 'someone' on more than one occasion)

When this happens, she'll sometimes issue a quiet apology, but then will erase all trace of the error--by censoring the criticism, erasing the apology, and sometimes even the original argument. A surprising feat, really, in the age of information.

Unfortunately, one of these one-trick ponies (I guess this is the third, though this one has been dead for a while--and not beaten recently. If a fourth comes up, it'll be the apocalypse) is when she goes on about how much she values honesty, integrity, and sticking to one's word. Which kind of goes against the whole 'not admitting mistakes (or not for long)', 'censoring criticism', and censoring oneself after the fact.

In my mind, he's a hypocrite and a fucking coward, but what can you do?

What can I do?

- RG>

5 Examples of Americans Thinking Foreign People Are Magic

There's a great article on from October called 5 Examples of Americans Thinking Foreign People Are Magic. Got the link from the depressing hanzi smatter blog (which I got to from a slashdot comment. It tells people what their stupid Chinese tattoo really means).

This is a pretty solid article, and it's only long from the snarkily-captioned images.

But bring the superstition from a foreign culture, and suddenly you are in business. You can apparently still convince a shockingly large portion of the population that you can see the future if you're doing it with Tarot cards. They come from the gypsies after all. Of course, these same people would slap you if you offered to tell their fortune from a standard card deck.

Despite being pretty stupid, feng shui got particularly hot in the 90's, with Donald Trump, Oprah, and firms like Salomon Smith Barney hiring feng shui consultants to maximize their chi. Of course, this is the equivalent of a Chinese Executive pinning 4-leaf clovers all over his office.
Unfortunately, our homegrown homeopathy (not mentioned in the article) breaks the trend: it was invented in a different culture--in time, not in geography--and people still flock to it.

Pity, that.

- RG>

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

City flip-flops on tunnel length

I'm not as hellbent against Ottawa's proposed transit tunnel as Ken Gray is, though many details and options were glossed over in the decision to go with the current transit strategy. This is a slight improvement over the previous plan, which was entirely mired in secrecy, to the point that Councillors had to sign a non-disclosure agreement just to see the contract they were approving.

Citizen blogger David Reevely has been reading the City's Interim geotechnical report (which I haven't read). Apparently, as reported in an article posted to the Citizen's website this afternoon, they want to shorted the length of the tunnel by almost one-third from the current 3.2 km.

That would bring it to about 2.5km. Which is what was originally proposed in 2008 for the tunnel. At some point since then, the length of the proposed tunnel was extended 0.7km to bring the end of the tunnel closer to Lees station. At the time, it was cited that this would make it logistically easier to extract the TBM, and would be less disruptive than if the tunnel had to make a steep climb up near Laurier. City staff said the cost difference wouldn't be significant.

Now we're hearing the reverse.

We've been told time and time again that the price tag on the rail project is a "very conservative estimate" that will come down as details are worked out, and that the project includes a $100M contingency to cover unexpected increases in cost. This was the party line repeated time and time again by then-Mayor Larry O'Brien and then-Transit Committee Chair Alex Cullen--neither of whom were re-elected.

Now we're hearing that the geotechnical parameters of the tunnel exceed those of the "very conservative estimate."

While it might be tempting to think this apparently new recommendation came about because we have more information, how new can that information be if the original proposal suggested the same thing?

- RG>

Lol, we all do this, don't we?

On the weekend, as I was preparing to leave the house for the day, I turned on a light to get something out of a cupboard.

Just before I stepped out the door, I had a sense that I had forgotten to pack something, so I went back into the house. There I found the light, still on, scorching a cushion that had fallen on it (and blocked its light).

I promptly turned off the light, and suppressed the urge to worry about what would have happened if I had left for the day if I hadn't.

- RG>

Saturday, December 11, 2010


My uncle gave me this desk, which was my childhood desk growing up. In a recent de-cluttering exercise I decided it no longer fit in my apartment, so I'm getting rid of it. I want it to go to a good home, because it's a nice desk. I'm also too lazy for stuff like Kijiji.

As you can see, it has a map of the world on it. As best I can tell from the countries, the map dates from around '63.

It's 40" wide by 20" deep by 30" tall. It has seven drawers, three on each side and one in the middle. I've got some looseleaf held together with a binder clip in one of the drawers for perspective.

It's a nice desk, but I've switched to a larger desk with a keyboard drawer and hanging files. Much as I'd like to keep this desk, it's really just acting as an oversized container for stationery and it's in the way.

Woodsy's got dibs on it, but if anyone else can give it a good home, let me know. I don't want it to go to the dump.

[Edit: it is safe and sound in a new home.]

- RG>

Thursday, December 09, 2010

And you already thought I was sick...

I didn't find my phone, and ended up spending the better part of two days switching over from Bell to one of the new carriers.

(The main hitch with the transition was that my address with Bell was a PO box, buit the new provider's form required a street number, so the records didn't match. After waiting on hold for half an hour, I got in touch with a upper-tier CSR who found a solution and waited while I called Bell to implement it. To Bell's credit, they were prompt and polite when I called to switch--and effectively cancel--my account)

I've gotten another BlackBerry after having experimented previously with alternatives, and because I'd be able to restore my backup from my previous phone (even though my most recent backup was a month old and so all of my current schedule had to be rebuilt from my emails and memory, which typically is the other way around)

Like previously, I don't have a data plan, but my new phone has wifi, which occasionally works (consistently at home and work--you know, where I usually have a computer on--but not at hotspots. My phone kept rebooting itself whenever I tried to use the Royal Oak's hotspot at lunch yesterday). The upshot is that I'm typing this in bed on my BlackBerry, which I guess is kinda cool, if tedious.

The reason I'm in bed is that for various reasons--including, I suspect, pushing myself too hard--I have been sick this week. I took the day off to try to get some rest, and some Bell workers outside have been performing a life rendition of a "soothing Nature sounds" cassette, rendered in backhoes and jackhammers.

Vengeance for switching providers, I guess.

Now to head off to work to catch up on my self-destruction.

- RG>

Sunday, December 05, 2010

City Council governance notes

There are a whole bunch of governance-related recommendations to City Council, including a number of additional reports linked at the bottom of that 66-page one. These are recommendations like establishing a Transit Commission and a Board of Health, and restructuring City Committees and how they run their meetings.

I'm still going through it all, but there are a couple of interesting, sometimes ironic, elements:

- The report says the clerk's office spoke with outgoing members of council for their feedback on what to fix in the upcoming term, but not all incoming members. However, many mentions are made of discussions with the incoming mayor, but none with the outgoing one. (Probably a good thing--he's 'fixed' enough already!)

- For all the talk about creating a Transit commission, the only thing that will effectively change is that instead of being a committee of 9 Councillors, it will be 8 councillors and 3 citizen appointees. For all the desire for OC Transpo to be "fixed", the report talks a heck of a lot about how much won't change.

- The governance report expounds the City's goals of public input, yet the recommendations are not being heard at any Committee (including Committee of the Whole) where members of the public will be able to speak to any of these recommendations.

- Interestingly, the Ottawa Community Housing Corporation wants to add an additional community-member seat to its board, in order to allow retiring Councillor Peggy Feltmate to continue her activities. If I read things right, this will put the representation of councillors to non-councillors on the board at 50/50.

- The feedback from Advisory Committees includes recommendations from something referred to as "EDAC", without any references to the full name of the committee. Ironically, this is the Equity and Diversity Advisory Committee, whose job it presumably would be to ensure that people can understand what's going on at City Hall.

- The Advisory Committee (AC) feedback document contains a lot of duplication, since each committee wrote them separately based on a joint meeting of AC chairs and vice-chairs. I'm pretty sure that these joint-AC initiatives were instigated by the Pedestrian and Transit Advisory Committee, yet there is no feedback from that committee listed here.

- There is a draft petition policy, meaning that petitions you may have submitted to Council in the past had no official standing. The new policy comes with some pretty stringent standards:

Petition Requirements
  • The petition must be addressed to the City of Ottawa/ Ottawa City Council and request a particular action within the authority of Council.
  • Petitions must be legible, typewritten or printed in ink (no pencil)
  • The text of the petition must be listed at the top of each page for multiple-page petitions. Pages should be numbered and total number of pages indicated.
  • The petition must be appropriate and respectful in tone, and must not contain any improper or offensive language or information.
  • Each petitioner must print and sign his or her own name. A paper petition must contain original signatures only, written directly on the petition.
  • Each petitioner must provide his or her full address.
  • For electronic petitions, petitioners must provide name, address and a valid e-mail address.
  • The petition must clearly disclose on each page that it will be considered a public document at the City of Ottawa and that information contained in it may be subject to the scrutiny of the City and other members of the general public.
Submission of Petitions
  • Petitions containing original signatures should be sent to the attention of the City Clerk by mail or delivered in person to Ottawa City Hall or and City of Ottawa Client Service Centre.
  • Petitions may also be submitted to the Mayor or any member of City Council.
  • Electronic Petitions may be submitted electronically the attention of the City Clerk at
  • All petitions that meet the above standards will be presented to Council at its next regular meeting, or the meeting at which the subject of the petition is to be discussed.
  • Standing Committees cannot formally accept petitions. Petitions received at Standing Committees will be forwarded to the Clerk and presented to full Council at its next regular meeting, or the meeting at which the subject of the petition is to be discussed
  • Council has the discretion to accept the petition, and Council’s decision is final.
It's nice that they're accepting electronic petitions (easier to manage on their end, too!), but I wonder what happens to all the petitions that were started before this policy comes into force? Will this mean that petitions that would have previously been received (albeit without formal protocol) will be outright refused and can't even be submitted informally?

The report is a thorough, if dry, review of the City's existing and proposed governance structure. While I'd recommend it for people who participate in municipal affairs, I don't think it's required reading, unless you work in City Hall yourself. It's more of a theoretical framework than a practical guide of how you can participate. Read the main recommendations (summarized in bold at the beginning of the governance review document) and skim over the document for items of interest, including the attachments.

There are some curiosities, like the ones listed above, but for the most part it's housekeeping. Yes, things will change, but that's a given with any new mayor and council.

- RG>

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Mayor Watson: Where are my Timbits?

City Council's swearing-in ceremony was on the evening of December 1, 2010, held at Shenkman Arts Centre in Orléans. Much ado was made about Jim Watson's decision not to have it catered, but instead to get Tim Horton's to provide free snacks.

Since it wasn't open to the public, I made sure to take lots of photos. Here are some highlights of the night:

My one time going to the suburbs and our car got into a fender bender. Remarkably, the car that hit us from behind in stop-and-go traffic had two occupants. A rare suburban non-SOV.

Shenkman isn't that bad a place, once you get there and inside.

As I took a seat, I thought I passed our not-to-be-named former mayor. Thankfully it was just a decoy.

Sally Robinson on the piano accompanying the warm-up choir.

Look, two guys with turbans! The crowd is really representative of Ottawa's vibrant multicultural fabric! Just kidding, it was mostly white guys.

Ever wondered what it would be like for a perky, hyper children's entertainer like Marie Soleil to MC an inauguration ceremony? Neither did I, but we all found out anyway.

Singing cop was hella loud. Kudos for holding that last note and all, but it hurt my ears.

Great speech by Algonquin chief. "Welcome to our territory. We'll talk."

The official mayor's robe.

Philistines in the audience laughed at the soldier's ceremonial stomping as he delivered the Mayor's chain of office. (Seen here stomping after the about-face to exit.)

Councillors sworn in all at once. Four oaths total instead of 48 (two in each language).

Egli is pronounced Keith Egg-lye (as the MC pronounced it), not Egg-lee as I'd have guessed. Didn't get a chance to ask Hubley if MC's "Hubely" was correct. [Edit: it was, as time and the commenter below confirm.]

Couldn't photograph Doug Thompson. Reflection of his white hair oversaturated every attempt.

Musical Interlude with French folk singers/dancers dragging out their set with three (albeit catchy) songs. Rick Chiarelli shows his only sign of interest the whole night; otherwise was pouty.

Jim Watson is crazy mad about Katie Holmes. No, wait. He's angry. No, I think it's just the long exposure.

New trick: Point & Shoot camera + Tripod + Binoculars = half-decent telephoto shots.

See what I mean? Pouty. And this was when everybody was supposed to be singing along to "this little light of mine." Diane and Keith have the spirit.

Jan Harder's shoes were the talk of the evening.

David Chernushenko, Maria McRae, Katherine Hobbs applauding. Peter Clark slouched the whole night, blocking any decent photos of Diane Holmes.

Congratulations, class of 2010. Katherine Hobbs salutes you. Or she's saluting the lighting techs. Ironically, of course.

The refreshment table, provided by Tim Horton's. Those flat discs, by the way, are NOT timbits. I am disappointed that Jim Watson didn't live up to this promise. Aside from coffee, everything else was sugar-based. Sorry, diabetics!

Shenkman centre has a nifty art exhibit of metal fish made of tuna can lids (and similar materials). Tempting to add the treasure label to this post.

To be honest, this actually worked better as a venue than City Hall would have. City Hall isn't big enough for this many people, and these folks will be spending enough time there. As for the catering cut, I'm not a wine-and-cheese guy, but this was pretty chintzy. Note to visiting heads-of-state: Canada's Capital is B.Y.O.B.

Fuck! I lost my phone!

I lost my phone today. I last saw it while I was at my office, or possibly when I was stopping over at home before a meeting at 1pm.

It's not in any of my pockets.

It's not in my panniers.

It's not at my office.

It's not a home.

It's not in a car, in a bar, on a train, or on a plane.

It might have fallen out of my pocket in a lane.

I guess this is my opportunity to switch from Bell, who are a bunch of fucks, though I'll stick with a Blackberry to avoid the poison apple.

My last backup was a month ago, though. Which is good that I backed up, but sucks that I've lost everything since then, as well as my unsaved voice notes (many!) and the microSD card in there.

I'm going to have a hell of a time retrieving my various scheduled events and reminders, because my phone is where I kept them. Also any contacts and memos-to-self that I added since the last backup.

And I'll have to do it quickly, because I've been invited to the swearing-in ceremony for Council, and I'm hungry for timbits.

- RG>

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

RG's Workshop: The 90-minute glove rack

(note: I have added the label "Workshop" to the previous posts about stuff I've built, in addition to the "Treasure" label for discarded stuff I've found)

Last night, I got creative again. Like the pieces that became the "Three Hole Punch" that I talked about last December, gloves have outgrown my little basket for them and are in overabundance on my kitchen table. They could use a proper nesting place. At 10pm, it was already a bit late for woodworking projects, but I figured I could manage a quickie.

I'd already worked out roughly how I wanted to arrange them, and like the Three Hole Punch, it would be vertically, on the wall. I didn't have any spare dowelling (or broomstick, the trusty dowel substitute) handy, but I did have a bunch of narrow pieces of wood, which would actually work better for gloves, since they'd hold the gloves in the right orientation.

The first step was seeing how much wood I'd need. To do this, mount various gloves onto a scrap piece of similarly-sized wood and mark how far in it goes. This leather one didn't go in very far, but a couple others went further down on it.

The wood I use is from a the slats of a popular IKEA bedframe called "Lade", which I presume is pronounced "Lay-deh". This Lade is a queen. You can find these Lade slats on the curb often enough because the frames that hold them break, or the owner upgrades their bed.

As shown in the diagram on the label above, and in the photo below, the slats come strung together on a ribbon. It's not very difficult to remove the ribbon if you have the right tools. You might want to do it gently and slowly, but I prefer a more rough and vigorous approach, because it's faster and more satisfying.

Once the ribbon is removed, you can put the Lade slats on a rack and arrange them nice and tidily. Lade slats come in a variety of sizes, though the slats are the same size within each set. This stack has slats from two different size Lade sets, and the one in the previous picture was a third size somewhere between these two.

Finally at 10:25pm I began cutting. I ended up being able to get six 5" handles out of each 30" Lade board. Fitting the wood snugly in a mitre box, I first cut it into three 10" pieces with a 90 degree cut, then cut each of those into two with a 22.5 degree cut so that they would stick up slightly.

I next gauged the screws I would be using, by lining up the backboard and the handles to see how I should arrange the pieces to safely penetrate the Lade bits.

I used the wider Lade for the backboard and mounted pieces from the smaller Lade on top. I started with two in order to test the angle and separation with gloves on, and got them on at 10:40. I pre-drilled the holes through the backboard to avoid splitting, but just pushed into the bare wood for the handles with brute force.

The wider Lade was long enough to allow eight glove mounts, each three inches apart. Since I could only get six mounts from the smaller Lade, I had to get a second one to finish the job. I got all the pieces ready for screwing at 11:00pm. The square ends needed to be sanded vigorously to ensure a smooth insertion into the glove.

Finally, at 11:23pm, I got all the pieces assembled. The angle in this photo makes some of the slats look a bit crooked. (Yes, the camera angle...) I intentionally used a warped piece of wood for the mounts because I knew with the gloves on, nobody would be able to see how warped it is.

I have yet to decide on a mounting mechanism to get this glove rack on the wall (hence one hand in this picture), but that's a job for another day. I also have to stain it, but I need to be careful not to use a cheap stain--that's no way to treat a Lade.

Anyway, here it is, with the gloves on. Wave hello!

This rack only carries four pairs of gloves/mitts. I have many more for various purposes. I also carry a couple spare pairs in my bike bags to prepare for changes in weather when I'm out on the road, and I have a couple of backup pairs of gloves (like the lobster winter cycling gloves) at home for when my primary pair is misplaced, dirty, or wet. And of course I keep different sets of gloves handy for different seasons. Considering how easy it was to build this one, I think I'll build a second rack for my off-season gloves, too.

- RG>

Monday, November 22, 2010

Green Bin Blues

The City announced this morning in a PSA that green bin pickup will be switching to bi-weekly. Starting immediately.

Unfortunately, this message came after the green bin pickup for my street. This morning, when I realized my almost-full green bin wasn't put out last night, I didn't rush out of the house to put it out, because I knew I would just be able to put it out next week. Other bins on my street were already picked up before I left for work this morning.

Yet this PSA was only posted on the City's website at noon today, hours after bins on our street had been picked up.

Residents using collection calendars B & D will not have Green Bin pickup during the week of November 29 to December 3.

Residents using collection calendars A & C will not have Green Bin pick up during the week of December 6 to 10.
Luckily I'm on calendar A, according to the Property Resport results when I search my address on emaps, so I'll be able to put it out after all. If I were on calendar B or D, my nearly-full bin would have had to accommodate two more weeks of material, on top of the stuff already in there after not putting it out this week.

For all the people the city's communications department hired in the last year, you'd think one of them would have a decent sense of timing.

- RG>

Santa Claus dances like a jerk

This life-size dancing Santa Claus doll was at pho tonight, and presumably will be there until that pagan whatchamacallit day. It sings songs in French and dances. And as we noticed, its left hand moves somewhat... suggestively. The clacking sound the hand makes as it hits the belt buckle will certainly leave a lasting impression.

I won't be going on his lap anytime soon.

- RG>

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Thought of the [undefined period of time] #11

The man who hides his words is as much a coward as the one who hides his name.

Previous undefined period of time: 5 months, 27 days, 7h24

- RG>

Friday, November 12, 2010

Who the fuck designed the Dexter DVDs?

So I'm watching the TV show Dexter, and being the good (and lazy) person that I am, I am doing so by renting the DVDs from my local video store, instead of downloading them illegally from the internet. I did the same thing for House, which was powerfully addictive. Once you get past the hokey acting, it's an interesting show that keeps you wanting to see what happens next.

I'm now at season 3 of Dexter, and there are some major issues with the way they designed the DVD.

First off, you get about thirty seconds of FBI warning and Showtime advertisement that you can't skip through.

Then you get some ad that thankfully you can skip through.

But then you have to sit through the animation/advertisement for the disc menu. In previous seasons, you could just click on the "disc menu" button and it would skip the animation. With season 3 (or at least disc 2), if you click the "disc menu" button in the middle of the animation, it takes you back to the beginning of the animation.

What a piece of garbage.

Then, when you finally get the episode started, it starts with a couple minutes of "previously, on Dexter" clips. Only I guess the producers don't realize I'm watching the fucking DVD. I know what happened previously and want to start seeing the next part of the story.

So I click the "next chapter" button. On the House DVDs, clicking "next chapter" at the beginning of the episode would take you to the start of the opening credits, and clicking a second time would take you to the end of the credits--the beginning of the episode. With season 3 of Dexter, if you click "next chapter" at the beginning of the episode, it skips the first few minutes of the actual episode.

What benefit do the producers think they gain by forcing me to first sit through adverisements for the show I just paid them to watch, and then not be able to conveniently access that content?

On top of this, the bonus features in the DVD suck monkey balls. There are promo episodes of miscellaneous TV shows that I can only assume sucked too badly to make it to air, then there are text biographies and photos of the cast with cludgy interfaces. LAaaaame.

I think for season 4 I'll just download the torrent. Lazy as I am, at least the DVD producers won't punish me anymore for acquiring their content legally.

- RG>

Thursday, November 11, 2010

RG's guide to pedophilia

Apparently somebody is selling a book on Amazon called "The Pedophile's Guide to Love and Pleasure: a Child-lover's Code of Conduct". It's making a lot of people angry.

No doubt it is. Quite the scam.

I've got my own Code of Conduct for people who want to have sex with children, which I'll share for free:

Step 1: Stay the fuck away from children
Step 2: Don't even think of it
I admit, it could use a bit of refinement. Maybe once a publisher accepts my guide, they can trim off the wordy bits, or maybe add a sequel: "repeat steps 1 and 2".

Until then, sorry, Amazon--you won't be making any money off this guide!

- RG>

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Take Notice: there's a new street artist in town

I saw these two "Take Notice" installations on street poles around Elgin and MacLaren yesterday:

Looks like Coyote has seen them, too. One is his picture of the day today.

Looks like Ottawa has a new street artist in the neighbourhood (or at least a new campaign by an old hand). I'm not sure if the images have a specific message, or if "take notice" is simply an instruction to the people who are so tuned out that they don't see these creative invaders as they walk or drive down the street.

Either way, I think it's a good message.

- RG>

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Rats! The NCC does it again!

The NCC took something out of Confederation Park.

No, it's not about the rat poison they took out, after putting it there to try to get rid of unwanted guests.

It's the shrubs they took out of the park in November 2008 to get rid of unwanted guests. Only there was no mention of rats at the time; they didn't like people sleeping in the park and leaving litter and clutter.

In that article, a man who used to sleep in the park said the park was kept clean by the homeless people who slept there. It sure makes sense--if you sleep someplace, you keep it clean. He says any litter was left by the people who pass through there.

Since the NCC didn't say anything about rats when they removed the bushes, I can only assume the rats arrived after they removed the shrubs--and the homeless residents. Maybe the homeless people were no longer there to keep it clean.

I can only wonder if the NCC brought about the rat infestation themselves by removing the shrubs that gave it housekeepers.

- RG>

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Front-page funnies

The Citizen has a feature article in the Saturday Observer section with a headline that made me laugh uncontrollably for a good couple of minutes this morning:

The fall and fall of Larry O'Brien

It's what it sounds like, a chronicle of Larry's political career, and the latest campaign. Which, like a Mr. Bean movie, is at times painrul and at times hilarious to watch (and sometimes both).

Here's a gem:

Five days before the election, O'Brien attended the book launch of Citizen columnist Randall Denley at the Heart and Crown on Preston Street. The place was crawling with journalists and politicians. He chatted for more than 20 minutes with Citizen reporter Gary Dimmock, whose stories led to O'Brien facing influence peddling trials. Why were they chatting? Because the mayor didn't recognize Dimmock.

"Didn't you use to have a moustache?" he said after discovering Dimmock's identity.
Pity he didn't succeed in giving the city swagger. I think swagger is a good thing, and one of these days I'll actually write out my thoughts on that.

On the bright side, thanks to this article, I don't think anybody will need to suffer through reading the book Larry promises to write.

- RG>

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

RG the master Lego architect

This is the Falkirk Wheel. I helped design it.

Photograph of the Falkirk Wheel, 2004, by Sean McClean, who likes to save photos in a license that requires me to write his name here

At least, according to the Wikipedia article on the Falkirk Wheel.

Of course, it doesn't say that directly, and I've never been to the UK (especially not as far back as 1994), but then again...

After the above image was featured on Wikipedia's main page a few years ago, I read up on the Falkirk Wheel, and scratched my head a bit while I figured out how the caissons (the water-filled containers that hold the boats) stay level.

I eventually figured it out, but discovered that I wasn't the only one. In January of 2007, I wrote up an explanation of how these gears work on my user talk page, from first principles, using Lego Technic gears. Someone then added a link to this explanation to the Falkirk Wheel article.

Photograph of a Lego model of the Falkirk Wheel, 2007, by RealGrouchy, an awesome guy who marks all the photos he uploads to Wikipedia with a Public Domain license so as not to have to bother himself or others with copyright issues (but who retains copyright on his other photos in order to reserve his right to be a prick to those who reproduce them without his permission).

Fast forward three years to February of 2007, when some wank at the BBC writes a fluff piece about Lego, writing erroneously (as newspeople often do) that the designer of the Falkirk Wheel used Lego in the design process. The offending bit has since been removed from the article, and apparently there was also a video (presumably the one on which the article is based, if the BBC works like the CBC) which either was removed or just isn't playing on my browser.

Anyway, that article was then referenced by this guy as a source when he added to the Wikipedia article the claim that "Lego was utilised in the design process to establish how to keep the caissons level whilst the wheel is turning."

Since, as Stephen Colbert tells us, reality is what the wiki says it is, the Falkirk Wheel was designed using Lego, and since I created the Lego model in question, therefore, I must have designed the Falkirk Wheel.

Nice work, if I say so myself.

- RG>

Monday, October 25, 2010

Election 2010: Score one for the white guys

With women comprising a whopping sixteen percent of the 130 candidates in Ottawa's municipal election, the old boys' club at City Hall was definitely in for a scare.

Luckily, of the retiring and ousted candidates (all white men themselves), all were replaced by white men, except Christine Leadman, who was replaced by Katherine Hobbs. This includes outgoing Kanata-South Councillor, Peggy Feltmate, whose seat was taken up by Allan Hubley. Not all of them have grey hair, but that will come with enough time at City Hall.

Outgoing council had 7 women; the incoming one will have 6, so I guess score one for the white guys.

- RG>

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Error: Friday not found

A childhood friend of mine, with whom I still get together regularly, only just figured out one of my tricks last week when he had me over for Vegan Lesbian Thanksgiving. "You're just putting together random words [that don't make sense], aren't you?" he asked, after something I said hurt his brain.

Well, close. It's actually a bit of an art--hacking the brain--to put together a combination of words whose meaning is truly ambiguous, and not simply silly or wrong. It's easy to take a common expression and toss a "not" in front of it, and people will understand what you're saying, find it doesn't flow well, think you unoriginal, then go right on disagreeing with you. If you instead create a puzzle whose pieces cannot fit, those who try to piece it together stumble because they can't.

As a case study, take the expression "Thank Goodness It's Friday". I never bought the claim that the "G" in "TGIF" meant anything but "God". As a stubborn Atheist, this is one of the reasons I don't use the expression in any form.

The easy way out is simply to rearrange the words to say something cheesy like "Good Thing It's Friday", which is at least unambiguous that the G doesn't stand for "God". But the people who do this are the same people who refer to Christmas as "Holiday"--it's a copout.

Really, in satire, you've got to really make a go for it--don't just use a cheap euphemism. If you're going to bastardize a well-known acronym, don't just try to say the same old thing while politely avoiding the parts you don't like; say something that doesn't make a damn bit of sense--but sounds like it should.

Therefore, I present to you the new slogan for Thursdays (sic):
GTIF: God Thinks It's Friday
Think about all the things this might mean, none of which stands out from the others: What does this mean? If you said this because you were offended by TGIF, surely you'd have taken the "God" out of it? Am I sure I heard you right--you didn't just say "Good Thing It's Friday," did you? And what do you mean that God thinks it's Friday--surely God knows damn well what day it is! Or are you just trying to tell me you won't be coming in to work tomorrow? Does it mean that God is optimistic? or just wrong? If you're trying to say "God is wrong", it sure is a roundabout way of getting your point across...

It's the logical equivalent of smoke bomb: use it to make your escape from an uncomfortable argument while your opponent's brain is occupied trying to figure it out. There's a certain type of person that is unable to move on until they've figured out this type of puzzle. If your adversary isn't this type of person, they'll act like they understood what you just said, or at least ignore it. In that case, it's usually safe to assume they won't notice you just walking away either.

For other logical brain-hacks, pore through the archives of (H/T Loth). Especially the ones where the last line is "What???" That's the response you're looking for.

- RG>

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Larry O'Brien is right

According to the Citizen, Mayor Larry O'Brien says the race isn't over yet.

He's right. He hasn't lost it yet. I wonder if he's looking forward to him losing as much as I am.

He's already admitted the first two years of his term were bad. Help remind him the last two years weren't very good either (remember 2009? Bus strike? His trial?).

If you haven't already voted, make sure to vote on October 25 for someone who's not Larry O'Brien. It'll mean that much to him.

- RG>

Friday, October 15, 2010

A RealSherlock in the making

Sitting at Bridgehead this evening, I noticed something a little...different.

Working on a hunch, I texted my friend:

RG: "Did Umi close or something?? There's all sorts of hippies in my coffeeshop today."

My friend, who lives near Umi Café, promptly confirmed that the worker collective-operated coffeeshop at Somerset and Percy had been "bought out" by the Korean restaurant next door. As of yet they haven't updated their website.

Be on the look out for drum circles as Umi's clientele disperses throughout the city. (That link courtesy of today being National Grouch Day)

In related news, Exile Infoshop also closed their permanent location recently, after a three-year run. They're still active, just without a physical space (which took a lot of their time, energy and money to keep open).

- RG>

National Grouch Day required reading: the Oatmeal

October 15 is National Grouch Day (as far as I'm concerned, at least), which I try to acknowledge on the blog.

I'm still quite fond of last year's National Grouch Day entry, 15 ways to celebrate National Grouch Day, so instead of trying to top it, I'll recommend you some other grouchy content.

If you haven't been before, head on over to The Oatmeal. Sticklers for clear, unobstructed communication will appreciate his cartoon-like rants. Like the recent entry, If you do this in an e-mail, I hate you, which displays caricatures of egregious e-mail faux-pas. Or another social error, misuse of the word literally in conversation.

The Oatmeal also has helpful tips about grammar. Helpful, that is, for those of us who are tired of always having to point out these errors. Some examples:The whole website is written, designed and coded by a fellow named Matthew Inman. Being a web designer, he has assembled a repertoire of tips and commentary about that field. For example, he has a list of 8 websites you need to stop building, he explains why printers were sent from hell, and provides sound advice on why it's better to pretend you don't know anything about computers.

While much of his work is bitching about various things, there are some other less hostile pieces that are nevertheless enjoyable. Things like Why Captain Higgins is [his] favourite parasitic ringworm, 10 reasons it would rule to date a unicorn, and 20 things worth knowing about beer.

So check it out, subscribe to his RSS or Twitter feed, and maybe buy some of his shit to keep him chained to his desk producing funny pictures for our enjoyment.

And in honour of National Grouch day, if you find his site to be an unentertaining waste of time, please fuck off. :)

- RG>

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Grammar Nazi's Beware

Jim Watson's prospects for mayor are slipping; I found this in the Centretown News:

I might just have to vote for Clive.

- RG>

Friday, September 24, 2010

Only for hip, urban, planners

I'd heard the term "forced road" used in City Hall transportation meetings before. Since it was in the context of "Goulbourn forced road"--i.e. someplace I didn't expect to find myself anywhere soon--I didn't pay the term too much attention.

Then the other day I heard a more recent--and local--reference to the term regarding Richmond Road. I looked it up, and didn't find it in any online dictionary.

I did a google search and had to dig around. Apparently it's primarily a Canadian/Ontario term.

I was quite pleased with myself when the definition I provided was accepted by Urban Dictionary.

I was even more amused by the mugs, t-shirts, coasters and other "forced road" souvenirs you can buy. They have an interesting software that displays the word and definition on the product as though it were a picture, with the text curving with the folds.

Not sure what a forced road actually is? Duh, look it up!

- RG>

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The next HUGE internet fad...

As regular followers of my blog know, I can sometimes write out rather long, drawn out posts. I sure as hell don't want to start twittering.

In a Slashdot conversation on the horrors of redirects and URL shorteners (like TinyURL and, someone posted a link to HugeURL.

This, I think, is just what this blog needs. No more having to remember a difficult address like "".

From now on, all you have to do to get to this blog is enter this link into your browser:
(all one word)

You're welcome.

- RG>

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Larry O'Brien signs on

Ottawa Sun columnist/blogger Sue Sherring notes a Larry O'Brien campaign sign on a lawn on Baseline Road, despite claiming to not use campaign signs this time around. (Protip: if riding/walking/driving on Baseline gets you down, try pronouncing it like "Vaseline")

I noticed this Larry O'Brien sign up on a balcony of the Bell Street apartments on in early August. They (or two very similar signs) were on the balcony of one of the houses across the street a few days prior.

Tough call. On the one hand, it gives him exposure. On the other hand, it associates him with a major downtown eyesore.

- RG>

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak is a road hazard

In this article, Ontario PC leader Tim Hudak says, of Premier Dalton McGuinty:
"He wanted to pull cellphones out of cars and now he wants to allow them in the classrooms. I just don't see any consistency in that thinking."
Guess what, Tim: you can't run someone over while sitting in a classroom. Maybe you didn't see that because you were too busy texting.

But then in politics, you don't have to make any sense, you just have to claim the other guy doesn't.

- RG>

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

It takes a douche to know one...

Did you hear the one about the porn store told to take down their sandwich board? Wilde's, on Bank at Gilmour, was paid a visit by a by-law officer because the sign out front of his store was apparently 'offensive'. Turns out seeing the sign reminds somebody of a bad childhood experience, and that somebody wants by-law officers to censor it.

So what's the sign a picture of? An older man eyeing a young boy? Some crazy BDSM nightmare fetish? A big white van (which would trouble him if he's an asthmatic like me, because it would remind him of the onset of rampant gas-guzzlers, prior to which air was fresh)?

Nope. No picture at all, just words. You can read them yourself, all you have to do is list the bristol board cover that says "This covered sign has been Censored by the City of Ottawa ANAL By-law #2004-239."

And lift it is what a number of people did when I was in the area recently. Young couples, middle-age couples, individuals. Universally, they read the sign and had a giggle:

"Put a smile in your ass with our anal douches :*)"

Of course, the by-law officers mindlessly followed this guy's complaint--you know, 'just doing their job to enforce by-laws'--and forced Wilde's owner, Robert Giacobbi, to cover the sign.

Of course, had they really been doing their job, they would have noticed the boobies on display across the street at Wicked Wanda's. (Then again, maybe they did notice, but aren't quite so hard on Wanda)

Quoted in Capital Xtra, the complainer, Richard Cormier, says that "children don't have to see that."

Also on the list of things children don't have to see is grown adults breaking shop windows to keep them from speaking freely. Which must be why Cormier smashed the window in the middle of night, while children are asleep.

Now if only we can get them to stop advertising those white vans...

- RG>

Sunday, August 08, 2010

I'm poor again (but not for long!)

I recently got a new job, which pays considerably more than my old one (I wanted to link to the comment I left on someone's blog sometime about all the things that were good about my previous job, but I can't find it). The main downside is that it's full-time, whereas the old one was flexible part-time.

The upshot is that by making more money, I'm no longer poor, at least until the term is up at the end of next July. I'll have lots of time to save up between now and then.

I'm not entirely sure exactly what the after-tax income will be, as I haven't yet had a complete pay period. I do know that It's a lot more than what I was making before, which was nearly enough to live comfortably. Being unable to budget for a new high-falutin' lifestyle, I've kept to my old, miserly ways.

Except for the laptop I just ordered online.

I figured it was time, since my laptop is breaking again (the sound is going and I don't feel like taking it apart and re-soldering it again, the replacement battery I bought isn't hold its charge as long as it used to, and the SD card reader remains broken). I had also wanted to buy a spare AC adapter, keyboard/mouse, and replace the battery again, and since I'd been planning on getting a new laptop soon anyway, now was as good a time as any. This one has served me well enough, and this way I can give it to a friend who has had to computer-surf (using other people's computers, as in couchsurfing) since her computer died.

The outgoing laptop's a Dell Vostro 1000 that I bought in September 2007. I chose once again to go with Dell--this time a Latitude E5500--because I like:
  • The many ways Dell lets you customize your machine (choose the "small business" option ALWAYS!)

  • I can still get it with Windows XP

  • I've been able to buy replacement parts for my old laptop at reasonable prices (this time I've gone for 3-year full hardware support since I can afford it upfront)

  • The online repair documentation is thorough

  • Many of Dell's business laptops have minimal amounts of crapware/bloatware (this was the advertised feature that first attracted me to the Vostro, is what turned me off this time to the XPS, and appears to still apply to the Latitude)

  • it comes with 4 USB slots, not two like so many other laptops (or only one, like the MacBook Air!), plus an SD card slot

  • the new laptop will come with a clit mouse. I haven't had one of those since my old IBM ThinkPad, three laptops ago.

Not all the after-market money I spent on the Vostro is lost, either: I had bought a 500GB hard drive to replace the 120GB one that came with it and filled with photos (did you know that computer stores can copy the drive's content to a new drive, so you don't have to reinstall Windows and all your programs? So convenient!). I can swap the 120GB drive back and use the 500GB in my new lappy.

Since I haven't been spending much more than I did before the new job, this purchase will delay my plans to pad up my savings. On the bright side, it also means no more impulse buys for at least a couple pay periods. Which means I'm poor again, but not for long!

- RG>

Monday, August 02, 2010

Robin, Robin, where are you?

Ottawa photoblogger extraordinaire Robin Kelsey has been having troubles with his blog recently. Yesterday he couldn't access it from home, and today I notice that it says "This Account Has Been Suspended" (Curious that it doesn't say who the account is with, and the URL gives no hints). The RSS feed still appears to work, as I can see that the entry "Skull" was added 16 hours ago.

Anyhoo, since you can't leave comments on a page that's down, so I thought I'd put up a message here at my place. Hope things get sorted out soon, Robin!

- RG>

Saturday, July 24, 2010

BBC Rail Safety applies to cyclists, too

BBC show Top Gear's host Jeremy Clarkson has an important safety message about level train crossings:

Of course, this life-saving lesson applies to cyclists and pedestrians, too. If you're going to ride the wrong way across a bus route or walk across a restricted-access freeway, always wear a helmet and high-visibility jacket.

- RG>

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Summer e-mail catch-up

I think the reason I was getting the doldrums last September was because normal people tend to take vacation over July and August, so e-mails slow down in general. The corollary to this is that they pick back up again in September.

I'm rather glad I wrote that post, if for nothing else than to know that at the time I had about 650-660 unread e-mails in my inbox, and ten months on I've whittled it down to 620, only a handful of which are less than a month old. My gmail space usage has also increased to over 50% of capacity (from 35% in September 2009), presumably from a larger number of attachments. (Curse Gmail for not letting you delete e-mail attachments!!!)

I could probably even get it down further if I looked at the older ones and archived or deleted the messages that are definitely no longer relevant, but at a glance, all the ones on the first page of 50 are things I'd still like to attend to (reading reports, filing files, reminding me to post stuff on websites, etc.)

The important thing is seeing that 620 number being lower than what it was before. It means progress.

- RG>

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Step 1: Make a list

1. Allison has a list for this weekend. She blogged about it.

2. XUP also had a post on lists a while back. It was long enough ago that I've decided I'm too lazy to look it up.

3. I use many lists of various kinds to organize myself. They are helpful to keep from forgetting things.

4. Seeing many items crossed off your to-do list can give you a great sense of accomplishment.; electronic to-do lists are bummers because you only see the items you haven't yet completed.

5. Reusable checklists are also useful, to track processes that you are likely to repeat...:
a) ...frequently, because you're more likely to use it
b) ...infrequently, because you're more likely to need it

6. If you have a lot of things to do in a short period, like things to get during lunch hour or places to go on Saturday, number the items in the order in which you plan to do them. Put your list on your handlebar-mounted clipboard to track your progress.

7. Be realistic. If you have too many things to do for the time available, put a section at the end of the list for things (both pleasurable and painful) to not do. At the end of the day, feel good for having not done the ALL things on your to-not-do list. (I just discovered this today and it works great!)

H. Sherman's Lagoon had a really funny Sunday strip a few years back about lists, which I can't find online anywhere. Probably 2004 or 2005ish. I cut it out and gave it to my dad, which I think is lost. Hawthorne (the crab) was telling Sherman (the shark) about how useful his list is.

8. Among the gems in the strip was the line (paraphrased from memory), "and if you do something that isn't on the list, you can put it on the list and strike it out!" And the punch line:
a) Sherman: "Wow. I need a list."
b) Hawthorne: "Here, take mine!"

[Edit: I found a copy:]

9. I lost my list once. It made me quite...distraught. (You thought I was going to say "listless", didn't you? That would have been too easy.)

10. Lists only work if you remember to consult them. This is what differentiates "list people" and non list people.

11. Lists are generally non-transferrable. Even for highly organized people, everyone uses and understands lists differently.

12. You can make a quasi-list from technologies not traditionally list based, for example:
a) Leaving messages unread or starred in your inbox;
b) Writing draft blog posts;
c) Stacking your unpaid bills;
d) Leaving tabs open in a browser

13. Similarly, when I remove my shirt at the end of the day (and it's still clean), I hang it in the closet to the left of all the other shirts. Over time, this creates a quasi-list of shirts I've worn, from most to least recently.

14. I like to use lists as insurance against forgetfulness. I think I might have said that already. See items 3 and 10.

15. Fifteen is about the most things you should have on any given list. Ten is popular, but fifteen is the maximum. Mmmmm... fifteeny

- RG>

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Vietnam Noodle House: the last supper

Tonight at our weekly dinner, the Human Powered Vehicle Operators of Ottawa (HPVOoO), the local gang of people who ride crazy, fun, kustom, and otherwise interesting bikes, were informed that the Vietnam Noodle House was closing after tonight.

We've been coming here since it opened in 2004, every Sunday, plus Mondays on long weekends, making it over 300 dinners there.

It's located at Humphrey Plaza (the name of which I only discovered last December), at Somerset and Arthur, in the lower level. For reference, that's the same block as the Yangtze.

One of the things we liked about it was it was spacious. We had previously alternated between Istanbouli shawarma place (on Richmond Road near Island Park Drive, which has since moved to Holland Avenue) and Pho Thu Do on Somerset, which was far too small, didn't have vegetarian options, and aside from that had very little variety. (Some say they preferred the pho there, though.)

Another thing I enjoy about the weekly HPVOoO dinners is that they're very anarchistic. Whoever shows up, shows up. Some people show up late, some early. Some weeks there are lots of people, some weeks there are only a handful. I've been there nearly every week, though I don't take photos every week. On this night in early June 2006, there were about two dozen people, including some leaving and others taking their spot. We could build various permutations of tables to suit the attendance.

There was also ample bike parking, both inside and outside.

More recently (and I have no idea if that is months or years), they'd turn the tables down the middle for us every Sunday, and we'd extend it as long as necessary. We regularly get 8-12 people. The guy with the blue collared shirt is one of the servers.

Grant and Mike Watson also come out. Mike built the bike I ride, and often brings new creations of his to showcase. Grant is... let's say he's taught me a few things about how to successfully annoy people (randomly telling someone "you don't know that!" in a conversation, for example). Our weekly dinners, and by extension the VNH, is also a prime distribution hub for Momentum magazine in Ottawa.

Tonight, this was the Last Supper. While they gave us free spring rolls and shakes, it was still a very sad and depressing end to an otherwise very fun weekend.

Goodbye, Vietnam Noodle House. We'll miss you!

The hunt is on for a new affordable, family-friendly, vegetarian-optional, spacious, central, bike-friendly weekly hangout.

- RG>