Captive audience indeed. Para Transpo hits bottom…hard.

It’s no secret that I’m rather less than a fan of the Para Transpo system run by the city of Ottawa. You might say if someone paid me to use the service, they’d still be paying and I’d still not be using. But even if I wouldn’t touch them for fear of catching something, I still expected them to do a halfway decent job of taking care of the people who didn’t have that option. Not so much.

A Para Transpo customer wants the city to provide more training to a bus operator who she says hurled insensitive statements at her and damaged her special mobility equipment. The incident began Aug. 1 at around 8 p.m., as Ruth Hurst waited for her scheduled Para Transpo ride home after her weekly handcycle class at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum. Hurst, a quadriplegic, has limited use of her legs and arms. She can walk short distances and stand briefly, however she still uses a wheelchair, which she had that evening along with her $13,000 handcycle. The ordeal began when the driver arrived, she said. “He came out of the bus and he said, ‘I don’t even want to deal with you,’ ” Hurst said. “And he snatches up the bike by the cables, and with that he shoved the bike at this other lady who was standing beside her van.” The manhandling of the tricycle-like vehicle damaged the front wheel’s fork and some cables, Hurst said. The driver subsequently refused to help her load the handcycle and strap it down in the bus, she said. It was ultimately another member of her handcycle club that volunteered to help her load the trike and her wheelchair onto the bus.

And this from a guy who’s supposed to be getting paid to do the things he’s insisting that someone else do for him instead. Now, if it were anyone else the solution would be simple enough–just don’t use Para Transpo. But this is one of those cases, and I wondered if this would happen, where she doesn’t have a whole lot of choice and the driver knows it. Ruth is exactly the type of customer Para Transpo should be working to take care of. Instead, she would almost have been better off going solo–and as it turned out, she pretty much was.

Once on-board and en route to her home in Kanata, Hurst said, the driver was relatively calm and quiet until he dropped off the only other passenger on board. “As soon as the bus driver dropped the man off, he started up again, saying, ‘You’re the worst person I’ve ever had to deal with. I hope I never have to pick you up again,’ ” Hurst said. “I’ve only seen him twice in my life and both times he was ranting and raving,” she added, referring to a brief experience she’d had with him a few weeks prior. “When we got to the house, he didn’t open the door to let me out. He just paced up and down, yelling for quite a while, which was disturbing,” Hurst said. “I told him to be quiet and to call his supervisor if there was an issue — clearly there was an issue — and he stomps to the front of the bus, snatches the phone off the cradle and he yells at the person, ‘She told me to shut up!’ ” The operator didn’t lower the bus or untie her handcycle and wheelchair from their safety straps, Hurst said. “He didn’t do his job, basically.” Eventually, he lowered the ramp but still refused to help unload Hurst’s equipment, she said. “I had to struggle to untie everything myself and to unload everything, and I got the wheelchair unloaded, came back, got the handcycle unloaded and the guy was sitting at the back of the bus doing crossword puzzles from the newspaper. And I thought, ‘This is just wrong.’ ”

So, let me just summarize here for the hell of it. She calls Para Transpo because she needs help getting her from A to B. Clearly she does, as she’s in a freaking wheelchair. Clearly, being in a wheelchair means she’s going to need help with the extra gear she’s come with. It’s not rocket science, here. Instead, the service who’s primary function is to help people who can’t be completely independent forces her to give being completely independent her best effort–and let’s just not give too much attention to that whole safety thing.

When your customers don’t have a choice, you pretty much have the room to do exactly what you please exactly when you please and exactly how you please. And this driver took full advantage of that and then some. For the and then some, we go straight back to the article.

After getting inside her home, Hurst said the operator remained parked outside for more than an hour, sitting in the driver’s seat and looking into her house. “That was disturbing.”

So, to recap, customer who can’t get from A to B independently calls the service who’s supposed to be there to help people who can’t get from A to B independently. Service figures she’s perfectly capable of getting herself from A to B independently. Service is not entirely receptive to hearing that, duh, she can’t get from A to B independently. Service doesn’t much feel up to giving a damn. And that’s what you get to do when your audience is captive. Maybe possibly next time, though, go a little easier on the crosswords. I hear they’re bad for you.

Para Transpo has found rock bottom. Here’s a pro tip, folks. You’re supposed to be making yourselves look like a something that the people you’re hoping to expand the service to include will actually want to use. I’m no expert on, you know, playing nice and junk–I fix computers and let other people fix the people who run them, but if I’m sitting where you are, I’m maybe taking a look at the too many levels of wrong this is. And then I’m running like hell in the opposite direction. Quickly. Could we maybe give that a try?

Why you could not pay me enough to use Ottawa’s Para Transpo.

Having at one time been responsible for helping someone who essentially depended on Para Transpo if conditions were severe enough that she couldn’t get around on her own, I had more than enough reason to become far too familiar with the system’s inner workings–which had the added benefit of being supported by information I’d obtained from other people with first or second hand experience before me. What it largely comes down to, then, is how in this or any other parallel universe are people expected to function with something that broken?

A little background, for the curious. Ottawa’s bus company, OC Transpo, does its best to make the majority of its mainline bus routes accessible. And more often than not, barring a driver who’s had the misfortune of being born dead from the neck up, they get it right. But even they can’t always help road/sidewalk conditions. So if it’s been a particularly nasty winter, which living in Ottawa we see an aweful lot of, people who are a lot less mobile than me have one of two choices. They can fight with Para Transpo, which OC Transpo also runs when they think of it, or they can stay home. And if you’re being paid not to stay home, your only real option then is that first one. Which makes stories like this one always the fun sort to read.

A disabled woman whose scheduled Para Transpo rides have been suspended for a week says the service should allow more flexibility for riders.

Ginette Bastien is a public servant who relies daily on the service to get to work. Para Transpo suspended her scheduled daily trips because, Bastien says, the service feels she cancelled her pickups at the last minute too many times.

During the suspension she must call each day to request a ride, and hope one is available. Unlike regularly scheduled trips, she will not be guaranteed a ride.

Now, in theory I can sort of see where Para Transpo’s coming from. In theory. However, also in theory, I can sort of see where communism’s coming from as well–and, well, we know how well that worked out. People get sick. It’s kind of a fact of life. And if you happen to be a disabled people, you’re probably going to be sick a little more often than most. That’s the way of life, sucky as it is. And sure, it would probably be absolutely wonderful if you could plan for such a thing in advance. But anyone who’s ever woken up in the morning and felt like something the dog dragged inn, chewed on for 5 minutes then left hanging knows better. Except, apparently, the folks at Para Transpo.

Now, I will say this much. On the occasions where the system works, the system works relatively well. However, to make the system work, you essentially have a minimal amount of room for actually having an honest to goodness something that vaguely resembles a life. From the article:

Scrimgeour added those suspended from regular bookings can book Para Transpo’s services a day before or use Para Transpo’s Taxi Coupon Program. Regular OC Transpo’s buses are also accessible to Para Transpo customers who can travel independently, he said.

Which is true, provided the stars align in such a way that:

  • you call early enough the day before, the definition of which changes depending on how many other people need to be doing exactly the same thing you’re doing,
  • they can find room in the next day’s on-demand schedule to slide you in in such a way that you can get where you’re going and back without being required to be out for 6 hours for a one-hour appointment,
  • the driver you get assigned to knows 1: where he’s picking you up from and 2: where he’s dropping you off (you’d be surprised how many drivers don’t actually know their way around the city),
  • and

  • you don’t mind your ride potentially getting you there late for your appointment and, assuming you’re not waiting 6 hours for your return trip, showing up early to pick you up–then potentially leaving because you weren’t ready.

Most of this I’ve either seen or experienced or, in some cases, had relayed to me. Plus fun things like dropping a person in a wheelchair at entirely the wrong building, while the attendant meeting said person is waiting at the correct one with no idea what’s up (this was before everyone and their cat had a cell phone). In short, you’re probably slightly less likely to develop a migraine if you schedule all your trips on a regular basis, usually several weeks in advance, and almost never have to cancel for any reason beyond things like weather. However, to do that, you’d pretty much have to give up on ever deciding to do something like, for instance, have any kind of actual social life outside of your job, or medical appointments, or what have you. Where someone can call up John Q. Person at half past after-hours and see about meeting him somewhere for coffee, unless Jane Q. Wheely’s having a day where she can actually do something on her own, that same conversation’s going to involve picking a hopefully not entirely too obscure time for the day after tomorrow, then hoping she’s on the phone early enough (they still haven’t figured out online booking) that the time she said she’d meet said friend for coffee isn’t already occupied by someone who forgot to schedule the doctor’s appointment he knew about for 6 months. I can’t imagine there are a lot of Para Transpo users who are overly enthusiastic about that system. Which is precisely why I need to resist the urge to snark on the occasions someone’s been surprised by the fact I both don’t and won’t use it.

In fairness, it’s entirely possible they’d accept someone like me if I bothered to apply. And a few years ago, not knowing then what I know now, I considered applying. But seeing how they work in practice and the criteria they base that practice on (PDF), I have a very strong suspicion that one of two things would happen. Either I wouldn’t be accepted on account of I’m what they’d consider too independent–which, for the record, would be the first time that’s ever worked against me–or they’d accept me, but I’d end up giving up on them because my daily routine–particularly when I can manage to afford to do more than sit at home–can’t be appropriately pigeon-holed into some kind of narrow scheduling margin they can work with. Very likely, however, it would be that first one.

“Persons with a disability would generally be considered eligible for Para Transpo if by
attempting to use OC Transpo’s regular fixed-route transit service, their health would be
severely endangered or the attempt would likely lead to bodily harm”.

While I may not always do things the supposedly safe way, I would probably rule myself out of this part of their criteria in approximately 10 seconds, provided they didn’t catch me on an off day wherein I’ve been drinking for a day and a half already. I’ve been told I can handle myself better in some ways than a fully able-bodied sighted person, though I’m not entirely sure how much stock I’d necessarily put in that. Still, it would be more than enough that they wouldn’t touch me. The second part of that criteria, however, is a maybe.

It goes on to say
“A person with a disability, who does not qualify for Para Transpo’s door-to-door service
in the summer months, may still be eligible for service during the winter”. An example
of a person who would be eligible for Para Transpo on a winter-only basis may be a
person who is visually impaired who can navigate the regular fixed-route service except
when there is ice and snow on the ground.

A case could probably be made, if I wanted to push it, that that would apply to me. I can do it, sure, and have done it pretty much effortlessly for as long as I’ve lived in Ottawa, but it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to get someone to see the possibility that blind geek plus Ottawa winter equals not necessarily the safest thing in the history of ever. But here’s why I don’t push that.

Winters up here in general, and this one in particular, can’t be planned for in advance. By the time there’s the potential for possibly unsafe weather, the service would do me absolutely no good. A situation where the service might possibly have been an option for me came up last month. In the span of a day, Ottawa was subjected to 50 CM of snow. By the time we had word it was coming, and quickly, it was well past the latest possible time I could realisticly expect to arrange a ride home and not have it take 6 years to happen. And at the end of the day, it wouldn’t have done me any more of a favour than what I ended up doing instead–I took one look outside when classes were over that day, then got hold of Uber for my lift home–and still beat the worst of it. It cost me $9, but I knew where my ride was, I knew when my ride would get here, and more importantly, I didn’t need to be able to predict the near future to obtain it.

In short, Uber filled the role Para Transpo thinks might be adequate for me better than Para Transpo has for probably anyone. And there are people who need Para Transpo to fill that role a whole lot more than I do. If Para Transpo can’t do it for them without provoking small migraines, and this is supposed to be their primary customer base, you could not pay me enough to use them. Not even if you somehow managed to collect the money Para Transpo’s saying they’re owed.

Is it spring yet…?

Ottawa winters can usually fall into two categories. “Six layers required” cold, or enough snow that the first step of getting out of your driveway is, well, finding your driveway. This winter, Ottawa has decided hey, let’s go for the best of both worlds. So, because it’s either holy crap cold or holy crap snowing and I’m not looking forward to stepping out into either, have a half-assed version of a not even close to official spring countdown entry. And because I’m still not quite awake, have it in a list format version of things I’m, well, pretty much done with until next year.

  • Before Christmas, my hockey team was… well… was. Not perfect, but not crap. I wasn’t on the “we’re going to the freaking cup” bandwagon, but hey, not being in last place is an accomplishment. I’d have accepted that. Yeah, about that. Go Leafs go, and all that.
    • Yes, we beat Edmonton last night. But a wet noodle could have beaten Edmonton last night. Talk to me in a week.
  • I mentioned we go one of two ways most winters–extreme cold or extreme snow. I’m staring at -28 degrees c. It’s been as cold as -35. And they don’t list “you’re fucking nuts if you think I’m walking outside in that” as a valid reason to skip class. Related: get on that, Algonquin.
  • Related partly to the point above: There has been snow removal equipment doing the rounds since last night. There is still snow equipment doing the rounds. Which pretty much means, well, if and when we decide to venture out in that mess, it’s probably going to suck a little. Not cool, winter. Not cool.
    • Oh look. It’s snowing again. That was not a challenge, dammit.
  • Anything wintery causes pretty much a citywide shutdown. People forget how to drive. Buses are delayed. And the place where I love to live gets just a little bit annoying. And that’s before some jerk decides he doesn’t want to be stuck behind a snowplow. A ten-minute trip by bus can very easily take closer to 45 minutes–unless you’re smart, at which point these guys will probably get you home in 15.
  • I absolutely love having the windows open pretty much any chance I get. And in this apartment, I can do that with some pretty nifty results. Just… not particularly, uh, right now (see also: -28 degrees c). I love fresh air. Just not quite, well, that much.
  • And probably the thing I’m most done with this winter: the Ottawa freaking Senators. Not kidding. Anywhere that happens to have a radio on (yes, surprisingly, there are still people who listen to the radio in 2015) is guaranteed to put up with a Sens advertisement in one form or another at least twice while I’m in earshot. Look, guys. I get the whole team spirit thing. Trust me, I do–I’m a Leafs fan. Our team spirit’s through the freaking roof (for better or worse). But see, here’s the thing. You’re in the tank. You know you’re in the tank. Well, okay, maybe you don’t–but the NHL does. Chill, already. You’re making Toronto look good.

So yeah. About that spring thing…

Why I will be a #Uber convert for as long as they’ll let me.

It’s a way too familiar story if you live pretty much anywhere. Your options for getting from A to B if you don’t feel like driving are limited to friends with cars, public transportation, or a handful of taxi companies who all charge very similar prices, take way too damn long to get to you, may or may not actually know where you are or where you’re going, and definitely don’t speak proper English. If you live in Ottawa, at least, you have the “advantage” of those same taxi companies working out of the same central office where the same half-awake souls may or may not properly take and pass along your request for a ride. And pretty much no one, without a significant amount of arm twisting, can or will tell you where the hell your ride is when it’s been an hour and a half after they told you 15 minutes. Uber takes all that headache and makes it run away.

My favourite Uber story to this day is still from the early days with the company. May and I were going out for an evening, just because–well, let’s be honest–we were due. Our first instinct was to call for a taxi. Uber was still new, and though we’d used them before we hadn’t entirely settled on them yet. So we called our cab, got the standard 5-15 minutes and it’ll be here. Awesome. Cool our heels for 15 minutes or so, we’ll be on our way. Out of curiosity, we popped up the Uber app. The app told us there was a driver sitting 4 minutes away from our house. Just for background, 4 minutes away could be just down the street for all we know–there’s a shopping mall that’d be maybe a 5 minute drive from our house if I feel like exaggerating.

Half an hour passes. No cab. We call to check. “Oh, it’ll be just another 5 minutes. He’s on the way.” Another 15 passes. Another phone call. Still on the way. In all, an hour and 15 minutes pass–no cab. That Uber driver’s still 4 minutes away. My next phone call to the taxi company is to cancel the ride. We went with Uber instead–both to where we were going, and back. And what I found was amazingly surprising.

Not only did the ride cost significantly less than a traditional taxi, but the app wasn’t kidding. When the thing says 4 minutes away, you’d best be putting your shoes on and grabbing your keys, because he’s out front in approximately 4 minutes. The driver knew exactly where he was going. There was proper freaking English. And the icing on the cake: I didn’t have to whip out my user manual for taxi drivers. We call that epic win in my book.

And this right here is exactly why I will stick to being a Uber convert for as long as it sticks around. If they don’t collapse, and if Ottawa doesn’t force them to implode, the local cab company is going to be hurting for my business–unless, of course, they can compete with Uber on at least price. However, since that’s not exactly happening…

Ottawa loses its mind. Again.

One of the things I miss when I’m behind on things is local braindeadness. Particularly local braindeadness to the tune of let’s screw with traffic more than normal because speeders. So I missed it when Ottawa’s council decided it would be a mighty fine idea to experiment last summer.

People don’t like to slow down in residential areas. This is a problem not just in Ottawa by any means. But Ottawa has decided to take it to new, interesting and quite probably moronic levels. Rather than posting signs warning of the speed limit on residential streets on, you know, the side of the road where–really, who knew–signs of any variety belong, they’ve decided they’d be more beneficial if they were right smack in the middle.

Now, I haven’t seen any major headlines of massive pile-ups on some of these streets where that was going on, but I’ll let you just rifle through any number of the several million possible scenarios wherein this proves to be an absolute dog of an idea. The signs were supposedly spring-loaded, so they could right themselves should a driver end up running them down, which tells me they’ve at least entertained the idea of one of those scenarios already. And yet, this is still a thing.

They say if the experiment goes well, they’ll make a return to doing exactly that starting this spring and on more streets. I love this city, don’t get me wrong, but christ jesus could we maybe talk about something that takes a tiny bit more thought? Like, let’s say, an actual police presence on problem streets? You know that expression there’s never a cop around when you need one? For validation of this expression, consult this brainstorm. Although I suppose if an accident is born out of some driver not expecting a sign to be straight in his path, that’d be one way of solving that problem, at least. But I kind of figured our government would be slightly better at not just replacing that problem with a higher priority one. That’ll learn me.

On OC Transpo’s public disservice announcements.

I’ve mentioned the automated bus stop announcements they’re now using up here for OC Transpo. They were a long time coming, and it’s actually nice to see they work really quite well–so long as the system’s been appropriately kicked into gear, but I expect that these days. On recent trips, though, I’ve noticed they’ve become somewhat less effective in actually keeping up with announcing stops. I’d like to say it’s the fault of the technology–either the GPS is off, the software needs a tweak here and there, whichever. But actually the problem has more to do with administration than the platform being administered.

I’m not exactly sure when it started–I want to say somewhere just before the official (finally!) rollout of their Presto system, but they made a change to their automated system such that every so often now, the same guy what announces the next stop will come on with a tip, or safety instructions, or something. I’ve heard him talk of how you can lend your Presto card to someone in your fare class if you’re not planning on using it–though he doesn’t actually explain what a fare class is. I’ve heard him more than once advise people, in both official languages, that the seats at the front of the bus are for people who have difficulty standing (related: I still don’t quite see how that translates to a guy that has difficulty seeing), and so they should move to the back of the bus when someone requires one. And just this morning I heard him remind people to “Let’s help keep each other safe.”, and to report any suspicious activity to your operator (interestingly, in french he says driver instead, but I’m knitpicking). All well and good. Common sense things that people maybe aughta know, but common sense not being so common these days, good on OC Transpo for including them. Except when they get in the way.

This morning’s trip, which is actually what reminded me, cut it close to getting in the way. There are a couple of pretty near back to back stops on my route home from the college. One such stop is, conveniently, the stop right after I get on the bus. So if someone who maybe isn’t as familiar with the route happens to be on the bus and needing to get off at, say, Baseline station, it’d be somewhat important if that person actually have a bit of warning before pulling into–and, on the off chance no one needs to get on or off there (it’s happened), pulling right back out of–the station. Some of these announcements, I’m not sure if it’s the timing or the fact the guy making them likes to–or is required to by some municipal regulation or another–take the long way around to get to his point, but by the time he gets there the system’s needing to play catch-up. So you’ll have it doing its PSA dance, then shift gears right into announcing the next stop–if you’re lucky, before you go flying past your next stop. This doesn’t happen insanely often, thank whichever divine creature’s got a hold on that, but when it does happen, it can potentially be problematic. As I said, this morning was a fine example. I’d just gotten on the bus leaving campus. We’re about halfway between stops, and his “keep each other safe” PSA comes on. Now, I’ve done this route often enough that I can recognise where we are by more subtle things, like turns in the road and things like that. So if I needed to get off at Baseline station for one reason or another, I myself wouldn’t be completely screwed–this time. The PSA does what it does, and when it’s done, we’re about ready to make the turn into Baseline station. It announces Baseline station as we make that turn.

Fortunately, I both know the route and don’t actually need to take advantage of that, and to my knowledge this particular trip didn’t have anyone who didn’t know exactly where they were going and when–or anyone who didn’t have the ability to actually look out for the stop they need, so this wasn’t as much of a problem on this trip. But if I’m taking a route for my first time ever–let’s say I need to figure out where I’m going because I’ve got a job starting in 2 weeks and, well, it involves places I haven’t had any reason to go prior to now and so didn’t bother to just get up and go out of sheer boredom, this poses a bit of a hang-up. If I’m a blind shmuck with no idea where I’m going and still need to get there in a reasonably not quite late fashion, I need to be able to somewhat accurately judge where my required stops are. If I’m doing this thing on a daily or even monthly basis, that’s less of a problem–once I get used to it. But if I’m just figuring out the workings of this new place I can’t very well look out the window to spot, I actually pay attention to what the automated system’s trying to tell me–as opposed to doing it just so I can scan the thing for issues that could be problematic to me or some other poor sop that might actually need to use it on some regular route of mine. When a public service announcement shows up the way these do, even if it doesn’t happen necessarily all that often, it throws off the automated system–which in turn throws off the people using it. That results in missed stops, which results in mobility complications–trying to find your way back to where you should be, either by walking back and hoping you don’t blow right by it, or locating the bus stop going the opposite way and hoping you don’t get to wait an age and a half for a bus you later learn doesn’t actually stop where you need it to. And that results in awkward phone calls on your first day of work wherein you get to explain to a guy who’s probably never heard of automated stop announcements that your bus made you late. Yeah. Career boosting move right there.

I’m not sure if they can improve the timing of these announcements or even just shorten them by a bit. I honestly don’t know how much if at all doing either one would help. But as it stands right now, OC Transpo’s public service announcements, which on the surface I support, are turning into public disservice announcements at the moment. And in so doing, they’re actually hurting the effectiveness of what I think is otherwise an awesome–and yes, much overdue–system. They’re useful, and a halfway decent substitute for a lack of common sense, but sooner or later, somebody’s going to miss their stop because it wasn’t announced on account of one of these PSAs. I’m not sure I’ll want to be anywhere near OC Transpo management when somebody makes that an issue.

How to confuse the automated bus stop announcement system: fall hopelessly behind schedule.

If you’ve spent any time in Ottawa at all, you’ve probably had reason to step foot on its public transit system. If you’ve done so at any point since somewhere around 2010, you’ve more than likely gotten to experience their automated stop announcements. Occasionally, as good as the system is, it’s been known to take a day or two off. At first, I just figured it was temporarily being unstable. Tap the driver on the shoulder, tell him/her it needs a swift kick, it eventually sorts itself out. Now, I’m thinking maybe a small part of the problems might be related to a tiny handful of confusion. Specificly, I sincerely wonder if maybe the system just hasn’t got the slightest idea where the driver is in relation to where he should be and eventually just says “Screw you, bud. You’re on your own.”. After tonight, if someone from OC Transpo were to hand me that kind of explanation, I’d probably buy it.

We were coming back home from grabbing a couple things. One of the buses we were supposed to catch was supposed to be to the stop we were at by a little after 6. We’d planned our trip home escentially with that in mind, figuring okay, a little over maybe 45 minutes later and we’d be home and have most of the crap we brought with us put away. Awesome. That still gave me time to catch the start of hockey–priorities, you know. The bus that was supposed to show up at we’ll call it 6:10 didn’t show up at 6:10. It did, however, show up at 6:30. Also known as about 9 minutes before the one we’d pretty much resigned ourselves to waiting for. Annoying, but you deal. We caught it, got comfortable, and crawled our way away from the stop at something a little bit more than a snail’s pace.

We’ve suffered slow drivers before. Not quite 20 minutes late slow drivers, but definitely the slow type. That’s nothing entirely too irritating on the surface. May and I noticed the stops weren’t actually being announced. Okay, a little more annoying, but the system’s been known to sort itself out after a while. Besides we were stopping so damn often we both had a fairly accurate read on where abouts we were to begin with. Still not entirely too concerning. About 3/4 the way to where we needed to get off, I got up and tapped the driver on the shoulder. Told him the system needed a swift kick.

If you’re a bus driver and you’re reading this, here’s a hint from a guy that sometimes relies on the automated stop announcements. When a guy that sometimes relies on the automated announcements taps you on the shoulder and lets you know the automated announcements aren’t actually announcing, the correct answer is not, in fact, “they’re coming through just fine.”. Yes, the guy we had behind the wheel here tried that. He got the snarky equivalent of no not really. I’m not entirely sure what if anything he actually did, except whatever he did made the announcement system repeat what it thought was the stop the bus was coming up to. Only one problem. The stop it announced was both very much behind us and at the very beginning of this bus’s route. And that was the only time we heard the system go off for the rest of the trip until we changed buses 20 minutes later (it should have taken 10).

Buses that were running the same route we were on were passing us like we were standing still. I can’t be entirely sure the driver ever actually managed to not be behind schedule even after we got off. I can be slightly more sure we just found an easy way to accidentally confuse the hell out of an automated system. And all it took was falling hopelessly behind schedule. Somebody somewhere really aughta file themselves a bug report…

Silly cyclist; bikes are for roads.

I can neither drive nor safely and independently bike from A to B, so for the longest time the cycling debate that shows up every so often here in Ottawa hasn’t caught my attention for the simple fact of it can’t and didn’t involve me. A couple folks on bikes wanted to change that yesterday, it would appear.

So I’m waiting for a bus to go get a couple things done before May took off out of the country last night, and a couple folks on bikes decided the road was much too busy for their tastes. So up on the sidewalk they went. The first one was at least moderately inteligent enough to put that stupid bell some of them have to some halfway decent use, so I was able to get across the sidewalk and out of his way. And yet, he still came within a couple inches of taking me out. The second was a while later, and I think at a different bus stop, but I can’t entirely be sure–after spending the majority of the day running around like a headless chicken, the minor details tend to sort of run together like a bad paint job. He didn’t give any actual warning, but I still managed to pick up on his arival and subsequently managed to just miss the thing’s handlebars coming from the opposite direction. Meanwhile there was maybe one or two cars on the road at the time, and they weren’t in much of a hurry to get anywhere–and were doing it on the opposite side of the road to boot.

So both these fools decided to sidewalk it because they could, and nearly got themselves clotheslined because they could. Because I’m the curious sort, on the way back we ended up being passed by a third cyclist. This one I at least knew he was coming before I had to duck and cover, but also interesting was this one actually stayed his ass on the road. It was in the same general area as one of the other bikes from the trip earlier, so that ruled out my admittedly not well tested theory that the road wasn’t suitable there for biking. Which left the only other option being the two that played chicken with me figured cycling laws were for chumps. No, my environmentally active friend, cycling laws are for cyclists. And bikes are for roads. Try and remember that the next time some guy standing at a bus stop considers clotheslining you for trying to make the pedestrian life much more interesting than it really needs to be. That is, after all, what we have OC Transpo for. Of course I suppose next time I could just clothesline me a sidewalk chicken. That might prove slightly more educational.

Shout Sister Ottawa goes big, before they go home.

Got a free evening with nothing to do tonight? Find yourself in or near the Ottawa area? The Shout Sister choir will solve that problem and then some. Their final show of the year happens tonight, and anyone in driving range is invited. If you can get to 2675 Draper Ave for an 8:00 show, tickets cost a whole $15 at the door. Why would you want to? This is a start. Mainstream and older music, with a twist–and a dancing dog. Screw going big or going home. These folks are doing both. Want some? You’ve got the address. Now what’s your excuse?

Side-effects of being a #Sens fan: Desperation leads to conspiracy.

That sucking sound you may or may not have just heard is what little of Ottawa’s sanity remains quickly finding and utilizing the nearest exit. While on the bus coming back from dealing with a few things, I was privy to the most interesting of sports related discussions. Interesting in that it almost had very little to do with sports and more to do with money. Fists full of money. We’ve all been fooled, if you’re the guys who were in this conversation.

The National Hockey League is now expecting the playoffs to go the full 7 games, not because it’s good competition and the teams might actually not fall over halfway through for a change, but because it means more money for the NHL and the teams in question. So, you take a Boston, for example, who’s apparently had Toronto’s number all season, and stick them in a playoff round versus Toronto. Then, you tell them, “Look. You guys flatten this team, okay? But that does nothing for us. Let them come back a time or few. Keep them interested. *Then* flatten them. Deal?”. And of course, because the teams get a pretty sizeable chunk of money during the playoffs anyway, both are fine with it.

Now, flash forward to the second round, and you’re a Senators hopeful. If you’re these Senators hopefuls, you’ve already got it figured out but good. Ottawa has the talent to take this thing pretty well all the way, you see. They could slam the door any old time and it’s all over. But that’s less money, and we all know how much the owners love their money. So instead you’ve got Ottawa holding back, while Pittsburgh goes up by 3. Most Sens fans would be a little worried by now. But oh no. These guys have it in the bag. Now, it’s Ottawa’s turn to do the owning–it’s supposed to go 7, after all. So Ottawa does their shtick tonight, then in the next, and eventually ties this thing up. Then, they can max out the money on both sides, give the fans their game 7, and Ottawa can take its much deserved place in the conference finals. Because money, and owners want some, and I honestly have absolutely no freaking clue.

I think, if nothing else, I’ve just unearthed a teeny tiny side-effect of being an Ottawa Senators fan. Having never actually won a cup (the Original Senators don’t count, as this is not the original Senators) leads a select few to unimaginal bouts of desperation. That desperation is quickly followed by a spin off into the land of alternate reality. There is a solution. And it isn’t even a painful solution. And it’s probably much more of a likely outcome than the theory. I just don’t think I’d wanna be anywhere near these guys when it happens.

Because Ottawa doesn’t have enough of that small town feeling.

One of the things that keeps me close to Ottawa is that it’s got all of the convenience of a major city, but the atmosphere of a small town. More often than not, that’s a thing that kind of comes out when you least expect it. Like on the first weekend of actual warm weather, when I’m sitting here working on I forget what, and out of the blue, completely from absolutely nowhere–or maybe just around the corner, comes a thing I haven’t heard since I was, we’ll say, 13.

Apparently, I’m not sure if it’s this part of the city or just this community, but somebody from somewhere drives an ice cream truck. And at about quarter past 8 on Saturday, the thing sat in front of my house for a good 20 minutes. Over top of the music, I swear there must have been a good dozen kids out there at any one time. I was halfway tempted to go nab something, if only because again, not since I was maybe 13. Sadly that required both money and the motivation to find something that would have been appropriate to wear even in my front yard, given what would have been my extremely close proximity to the afore mentioned dozen kids. And since I wasn’t sure I had the first and couldn’t be arsed to find the second, I contented myself with sitting here listening. Because really, that’s probably the second best sign of summer in existence–second only to the only solution to 35 above freezing being a vanilla milk shake at a temperature approximately 35 below freezing. That having been said, though, if it’s not a one-time thing I’m storing a stash of quarters in my sock drawer. Because signs of summer, dammit.

I spent 5 years, we’ll call it, in Ottawa altogether, not counting the year I spent in small-town exile. And until now, I had absolutely no clue such a creature even existed in the city–although I did find other small town style things to be mildly impressed at. It’s the kind of thing you don’t much hear about in the major cities, like your toronto, or your Vancouver, or places like that. It’s what Pembroke could potentially be, if it wanted to be. And it’s a thing that goes awesome well with baseball–provided the team what plays the baseball actually shows up (Sidenote: thanks for yesterday. More, please.). And the thing only took 5 years to find. Because huge small town city is huge, and it almost comes off like several smaller towns all slammed together under one moderately disfunctional city council.

Because I can’t hear a thing without sharing, and since this is pretty much what I got to hear for 20 minutes on Saturday, and because my ability to record what I heard was sharply hindered by my lack of decent recording equipment, combined with the above mentioned lack of motivation to find me something worth wearing in that close proximity to kids, have your very own ice cream truck. Because signs of summer, dammit. Yes, even if you’re one of the 7 people still shoveling your driveway this morning (PS: Better you than me.). Anyone have some spare quarters? My sock drawer’s looking a little empty.

In which Ottawa prepares to lose itself for about 4 games.

So. The Ottawa Senators made the playoffs. In a shortened season. One I’ve personally been avoiding since it became a shortened season. Awesome. This, roughly translated, means that for approximately the first round, the city will very likely shut down almost entirely at game time. Every sports bar, restaurant with a TV, and hell even some bus routes, will be Sens crazy. And me with my personally enforced lockout, and my not even bothering with the Sens when I wasn’t mid-lockout (although I did enjoy watching them get their asses kicked in 2007’s finals, and may or may not have rubbed it in just a little), with little to nowhere to run if I don’t feel like hiding from people or, really, getting much of anything done. Clearly someone hates me. Although, this does now give me my one opportunity to reconsider my personal lockout. Because really, as much as I have a problem with how things were handled this year, nothing is more satisfying than an Ottawa Senators playoff waxing. And if that waxing should come at the hands of my team of choice, I might feel slightly more justified in suspending it for a game or two. Because 2004. Damn you, NHL. You were not supposed to make things this bloody complicated. Or this bloody jammed up. Ah well. Back to memorizing playoff schedules. Sorry, May–we might be delaying an evening outing or two by a day. Blame the Senators. It’s good for you.

In which Ottawa would love it very much if you’d just call it Toronto.

I’ve always said toronto is not a place I’d like to live, but I’ll cheer for its sports teams–well, in baseball, anyway. Hockey as well, until this year’s lockout. Ottawa is the opposite. I love living here, but I’ll not be caught dead cheering for its hockey team–it still doesn’t have a baseball team. Now, though, it almost seems like Ottawa wouldn’t mind duplicating Toronto’s sports environment–complete with the fact playoff action’s a little sparse round these parts.

Take, again, the hockey situation. There’s the Senators, who’ve managed to make it to the Stanley Cup finals in 2008 and then, uh, not really a whole lot else since then. Compared to Toronto, who’s team–well, yeah, we’ll not go there. Just don’t. As far as baseball goes, Ottawa has never had an MLB team. The minor league team they did have packed up and moved around the same time the Montreal Expos stopped being the Montreal Expos. They want to bring another minor league team to Ottawa, but last I’d heard signs were still hazy–I was told to try again later. They still don’t have an MLB team and I’m not entirely sure this city could support one. They made two attempts at a football team–again, to compete in the same league as that in Toronto. They both imploded and they’re going for a third. And now, apparently, they want to give soccer and basketball a shot.

Ottawa is hardly a sports city. Even if at one point it could have been, I’m pretty sure after everything went bust at the start of the recession it probably can’t really aford to be now. But that doesn’t seem to be stopping the folks what have the money to burn from trying. Look, guys. You’re Ottawa, okay? You’re not Toronto. You can’t be Toronto–it just isn’t in you (see also: transit, efficiency of).

You just can’t do it. And that’s part of what makes the city two times awesome. Don’t you be going off and ruining it over some obsession with being the big city next door, okay? Take it from a guy who frequented there (not by choice). It’s not worth the screwed factor. Tell ya what, though. If you’re going to insist on being called the little toronto, give me a bit of time before you start taking on some of its other characteristics, okay? I’m gonna need to find me a place to move. I wonder if there’s space free in Victoria–who has absolutely no problem with not being Toronto. Now, talking it out of being Vancouver might be a small problem–but hey, there’s awesome in Vancouver. I can work with that.

More light rail talk. This time’s the real deal. They promise.

Ever since I started considering Ottawa home, somebody somewhere’s been nattering on about light rail transit (LRT). It was supposed to be up and running by now. Then it was still in the initial planning phase. Then it was cancelled. Then it was reborn with new management. then it was over budget. Now, a small age after it was first brought up, Ottawa says they’re ready to get underway. for sure, now. Promise. Step 1: redo the transitway. Wait–what?

If OC Transpo has its way, and they’re figuring they will, most if not all of the transitway from the downtown core to pretty much the east end of the city will be rail line. For folks what exist in Ottawa and do the bus thing, that means there’s about to be a whole lotta shaking going on as they shuffle every route that even dips onto the transitway for 5 seconds onto the 417–which they’re also hoping to have widened by the time that becomes an issue. That means, if we’re doing our theoretical trip from this place to a college campus in the east end (more on that in another entry), rather than walk up to the mall that isn’t far from here and catch a direct route, we’ll be theoretically hopping at least one bus, to what I’m assuming will be the nearest train station in this end of the city, jumping a train to the east end, then hopping a bus from there–unless they really surprise me–and getting off at the campus location. Or, walking up to the mall in this end, grabbing a bus and taking a very indirect route to the east end and getting dropped off where we’re supposed to be. either way, they take a system that works fairly well–when their drivers don’t decide to go on strike for 3 months–and make it overly complicated. And they still have absolutely no idea how most of the thing’s going to work, or how much more they’ll be charging folks, when it’s all said and done.

The transitway was designed so the major routes, particularly the ones stopping off at universities and the like, could get downtown from here without sifting through rush hour trafick to do so. The plan as it stands now will see those same routes, probably with several changes, heading downtown via the highway–and right along with rush hour trafick. Which, no big surprise, will take longer–not something OC Transpo needs when they’re trying to *increase* ridership.

All of this is supposed to happen in early 2013. This time, they mean it. Pinky swear, even. So they’ve got about until 2016 to make a few more adjustments–or at least clarify the ones already made. In theory, it’s a cost saver. But in theory, we have it already. In 2025, in theory, we’ll know what it looks like. Of course by 2018, no one not in city council will actually care.

Dear winter: Nice try. Do better.

I love Ottawa. Which probably has a little bit to do with the fact I’ve been here for college once and here for grown-up reasons twice. What I find amusing, though–I can’t quite decide if I love it or wish it dead–is it seems like weather paterns up here like to play with us. The entire first half of winter, it barely dropped below freezing. And, if we got any kind of snow at all, it was that really light dusting that was just barely enough to make things go crunch and that’s about it. Also it usually took a hike a day or two later. That threatened to change near the end of December, but I’m pretty sure that was just mother nature screwing with us a little more. Doing the false sense of security thing, you know how it goes. My proof? It built up to the white smackdown of Friday and parts of Saturday.

I’m not calling the dumping we got on Friday a white smackdown–I’ll leave describing it in terms of epic badness up to the media. Why? I’ve seen a white smackdown. Lived through it. Blogged it. Then called in sick to work the next day and slept in ’til about noon or so–because, goddammit, they were right. *That* was a white smackdown. Friday? Practice. Decent try, though, considering it’s still got the first half of winter to make up for. And it did give me wicked nifty opportunities to test my ability to navigate a neighbourhood I know next to nothing about while capturing a wayward dog and dragging her home–yes, this is how I occasionally spend my mornings, okay? But it could do better. I mean, hell–I honestly expected not to be able to open my back door. Well, not without aid of a shovel, anyway.

Winter actually had me somewhat concerned. Then it happened. I’m still waiting on the snow storm. Nice try, winter. Now, do better.

Ottawa goes for football team 3.0. Because… why?

A long long time ago, in an Ottawa far away, somebody somewhere thought Football in the capital would be a grand idea. It created the Ottawa Rough Riders. In theory, brilliant. In practice, they went bust. They came out with a sequel, and called them the Ottawa Renegades. They, also, went bust. That was 2005 or 2006. flash forward to now, and they’ve decided third time’s a charm. It’s not really a guarantee yet, but they’re pushing for it. And hard. So hard, in fact, that they’ve narrowed their choices for a team name down to 5, neverminding the fact it’s not even a sure fire thing there’ll be a team to name. and I have to wonder why there should be.

Here’s the thing from where I’m sitting. Ottawa’s hockey team’s doing, as much as it pains me to say it, relatively well. Sure, every game’s not necessarily sold out, but when the season starts, it’s Senators this, NHL that, and from day one it’s the countdown to the stanley cup–even if they have this nasty little habbit of puking about 5 miles from it. Ottawa has escentially 2 seasons. Winter, or hockey, and summer, or construction. We had a minor league baseball team here for a few years. Yet, unless you caught the sports segment of the local news station, you wouldn’t know it. They, too, packed up and moved elsewhere a couple years ago. And I don’t know very many people around here anymore who can say they’ve been to a game. Oh, and before Ottawa’s football teams decided to implode, you were hard pressed to find someone who followed them–well, unless you flipped to the sports segment of your local news. Somehow they can string together all kinds of people who’re all for even the least interesting team going. People just can’t get interested on mass in a football team. Not to the extent that one would actually be able to stay in the city. But they keep trying. Eventually, there has to come a point where they decide they’ve sunk enough money into a dead end project, yeah? So when do we get to announce we’ve reached that point? Because I hyonestly can’t help but think there’s a ton of money being thrown at redeveloping Lansdowne Park for not much. although, if football in Ottawa does collapse in on itself again, maybe they can convince the Ex to come back…

In which James is clearly not supposed to move anywhere, ever.

When I started this blog, I had no idea I’d end up moving to Ottawa. Meaning at all. And yet, I’ve officially been here twice–and every move has been quite the adventure. When I moved the first time, the hour and a half drive on a good day became the 4 hour drive in a snowstorm. Moving back to Petawawa, we were soked to the skin before half the truck was unpacked. Which made hauling boxes and the like into the apartment an exercise in timing. Moving back to Ottawa presented its own issues, most of those logistical. And, naturally, most of those could have been avoided if–no, nevermind, that train left ages ago. Moving in September presented yet more logistical–and logical–difficulties. Not to mention took way longer than ever it should have (for the record, the next person who tells me we can move sans Uhaull gets a UKick squarely in the UFace). Shockingly, moving in October, to the apartment we’re in now, was a breeze. Well, after trying desperately to work out the finer points of logistics on that end and having half of them fall apart on contact. The majority of the huge crap was moved in only a couple hours. And, well, after the help left, we handled the rest.

So fast forward to this month. I may have mentioned–at least in passing on Twitter–we had another move pending. The reasons are plenty, and they’ll make the blog when the smoke clears, but suffice it to say things went from awesome to suck in 5.2. So yesterday and today, we took off to poke around the new neighbourhood. Y’know, do the old fashioned let’s see where this goes, what this does, and exactly how painful getting from $home to $place will actually be. And today, it decided to be minus cold while we did it. I should probably point out it was fairly well above freezing this past weekend–and just barely at freezing yesterday. So today’s sudden dive was a particular act of cruelty. Or, as I’ve decided as of 5 minutes ago to declare it, mother nature’s little warning shot. Staring at temperatures right now makes me very glad we did our poking around earlier this morning–for folks familiar with the measurement, it’s -15 C.

We’re doing it again next week, largely because–hey, it gives us a chance to figure out how best to get ourselves lost when trying to get somewhere simple. And I’m trying my damnedest to not even think right now about exactly how far away from freezing–on the absolute wrong side of freezing–we’re supposed to get just in time for us to go about doing exactly that. And from this, I can draw only one conclusion. James is not allowed to move anywhere, at least in Ottawa, ever. It’s just not natural. And if, on whichever day we actually decide to start haulling things over to the new place, everything goes to hell, I’ll have my proof. And I’ll still be incredibly pissed with mother nature. Which, I’m fairly sure, is exactly how she likes it.

I’m dreaming of a wet Christmas?

Ottawa’s weather paterns are doing it to me again. there was actual, honest to goodness white stuff on the ground 3 days ago. There still is–in places. But largely, thanks to some nifty shifting in temperatures, the majority of that white stuff became very incredibly wet. to the point of there was a rather impressive river out in front of this building when walks were needing to be taken. Environment Canada’s recent forecast says the majority of Canada will have a very green Christmas this year. Apparently somebody somewhere is dreaming of a wet one. And that dream’s coming true. They’ll just have to move to Ottawa.

Question, #Ottawa. What the hell happened to our 1500 winter warnings?

So coming on the end of November, we were still dealing with temperatures mostly above freezing. I mean sure, okay–there was that one minor little snow scare that made me go “oh shit where’s my portable shovel” a couple weeks ago, but for the most part, it’s been actually, you know, pleasant. Just at, or above, freezing–hell, we got as high as 17 degrees c week before last. Or was that last week? Whenever. Then yesterday, I woke up to ice on the sidewalk by our building and the threat of a snowpile by later last night/this morning. If what I’m reading’s anywhere near accurate, it’s a little more than a threat now–and a little more than snow. And Ottawa folks, here’s the kicker–it didn’t take for bloody ever this time.

I’m used to Ottawa’s weather paterns. Or rather, I’m used to what they *should* be. You get about half a foot of snow, maybe a day or two of freezing rain, then by the weekend, about 80% of it goes melt and we sit above freezing for another week or so. This year? december came and so did the holy fuck it be a cold one. So who ran off with our 1500 warnings? Or better yet, who’s bloody idea was it to slap me in the face with snow on get things done day? Oh, and if that idea came from Texas, you’re fired.

Shout sister video. Or, guidedogs: not just for guiding anymore.

When I posted about the choir performance on Friday–you know, the one May was all over for about a week before, and will be for about a month after, I eluded to Noah having up and claimed a starring role. For those who don’t know, Noah would be May’s guidedog. Being the guidedog, he pretty much goes everywhere she goes–including, apparently, up on stage with her. So when they were getting ready to do their final song of the night, May gets an idea in her head. And that idea proves to be the concert’s absolute wickedest of awesome.

I posted an audio recording yesterday–again, sorry for the less than perfect quality–of one of their better songs. This, surprise puppy appearance notwithstanding, was perhaps their best. But it’s useless without the video–since about halfway through, the audience decides to help them out–again, May’s fault. And really. This? Best. Guidedog. Video. Ever. I might be somewhat biased. So you decide. And once again, if you happen to be in the Ottawa area, these guys really need a look. For serious.

Note: Readers of the email or RSS variety are going to have to flip on over to the sight to clicky clicky. Flash doesn’t like non-browser things. tho thorry thir.

OC Transpo would like to charge you too much for your on-the-way coffee.

On the face of it, city councillor Diane Deans’s idea to drop a few coffee shops at major transit stops in Ottawa is a good one. I have no idea how many times I’m trying to get to x place, that passes right through y transit station, and my only option for coffee is to duck off to the Timmies or Starbucks down the way and miss the bus I’m trying to catch. Or leave half an hour early and flip a coin if I catch the next one. But here’s a question I wish someone talking to her would ask about this. How in the hell is it she expects your local coffee chain, like a Timmies or a Starbucks, to set up shop at one of those major transit stations, split any money that shop makes with the city, and not jack up the price of coffee–at least at that particular shop–to make up for any shavings off that are heading to the city’s wallet?

She mentions Toronto as an example. And it’s a decent one–if only because the rumour is you can stop at a connection point for a coffee, albeit not a very good one. But toronto is also, still, trying to figure out how not to bleed money out its ear–including insofar as the TTC is concerned. And Ottawa isn’t exactly known for doing things to Toronto’s level, nevermind to the best of its admitedly questionable ability. But come on, now. It’s the private sector, we’re talking about. The city, province or country puts a heel on their finances, the company just shifts it to the folks buying the goods. And since OC Transpo, like the TTC, is having a hell of a time breaking even, you can only imagine the kind of sharing the city wants to engage in–and the kind of price increase we’d be seeing for the convenience.

So yeah, good idea, in theory. In theory, I’d vote for it. As a feel-good money-maker, it works. But from the perspective of the guy what buys the coffee? Yeah, not so fast. starbucks already costs too damn much for a coffee pretty much the same size I can buy at timmies–which borders on costing too damn much. Anything that goes to making it cost that much more? Go that way, please and thanks. Unless Diane Deans knows something I don’t–which, okay, is entirely possible. I mean, she’s a city councillor, so she must know of which she speaks. Oh who am I kidding?

Shout Sister awesomeness.

I mentioned yesterday that the thing to do in this apartment now is a local choir. I tossed this link out there if you were curious to check it out. They performed last night, and because it’s me, that meant I tagged along with recorder in hand. Good effin’ lord, they’re awesome. Keep an eye out, if you’re local to the Ottawa area. They do this often, and they’re worth it. rumour has it they have a huge show in June as well, so if you can find an excuse to be in Ottawa, see them you must. There are chapters elsewhere in Ontario as well–Kingston’s got one, as does the Pembroke area, but hey. I’m in Ottawa now. So it’s the Ottawa one I’m focused on. Sorry. Because they rule hard, and I don’t yet have video evidence to prove it, have the audio evidence I sort of stole while at the show. Oh, and speaking of stealing, somebody should probably tell May’s dog he’s not actually supposed to be the star. Context when videos exist. As for right now, have a listen. then keep an eye out in your area for a chapter of theirs. Or better yet, come to the Ottawa one–and say hello to both May and myself in the process. Sorry in advance if the quality isn’t what you expected. I’m blaming that guy over there.


So how much of Ottawa spent yesterday afternoon in the dark?

Something else I’m going to need to get used to. When there’s a power issue in Ottawa, this building usually isn’t part of it–well, unless management breaks something but that’s a whole other entry. So neither May nor I knew there was interesting times until we had stuff to do. That stuff to do took us to Algonquin College first, where I’m assuming the problems first showed up–only one of their buildings, conveniently enough the building we needed to go to, was without power. We were still able to do most of what needed doing, so whatever. We escaped the college, and on our way out, the rest of the campus pretty much went dark. Supposedly it was fixed fairly quickly, as when we went to grab supper on the way home, places in that area had power. It turns out Hydro Ottawa, yes *that* Hydro Ottawa of the almost semi-annual bill increase, broke their connection with Ontario’s power grid. And there went a good chunk of Ottawa’s hydro. If I was still living where I was at this time last year, I’d very likely be mocking the power outage from a different perspective. But now I’m curious. aside from the college and probably my old apartment building, how much of Ottawa was in the dark and for how long?

Also this proves something. May and I are not allowed to go anywhere together. Bad things happen. Although, it usually provides material for the site. Okay forget what I just said.

James’s take: Oh, my effin’ god. Exploding now.

Every so often, I’ll accidentally come across something local that kinda makes me go holy crap the awesome. that sort of accidentally happened last weekend. Well, actually, it happened earlier last week, more or less–after a trip to starbucks. One of the folks what works there told May and I about a restaurant not far from there. It apparently only opened a few months ago. They call it the Big Rig Brewery. They make their own beer, plus you know everything in that restaurant’s pretty well made to order. May will probably come up with her own take on the place, but here’s what you’ll find right when you walk in.

From start to finish, awesome slaps you in the face ten-fold. First, and this is an unusual thing for an Ottawa area restaurant, you’re strongly recommended to make a reservation before you go. At first I scratched my head about that one. then we showed up. Oh, my everloving god, the packed. The place is huge, and still I swear it was nearly to capacity. They had decent music, when you could hear it. Just about everything at one point or another ended up played. The service was absolutely amazing, right from when we walked in. Which, if you do the foursquare thing, is quite consistent with what folks who went there before us were saying–yes, for the anti-foursquare types among you, that’s a plus in foursquare’s column, not that I use it very often. Within 10 minutes of getting seated, we had drinks on the way. And because their menu’s online–that’s a plus in just about any restaurant’s column if you’re me, we pretty much knew exactly what we wanted and had it ordered inside of 15. Which edges me towards what we went there for.

Pretty much all of their food has something to do with the beer they brew right there. Usually, if it’s not used to cook with, it’s a recommended pearing if you’re in the mood for something alcoholic. May doesn’t do beer, and I wasn’t in the mood, but that didn’t make their dinner choices any less brainmelty. Or mouthmelty, if you’d prefer. Almost every sauce, seasoning, breaded thing, and pretty much everything else had, if not as the base then as a somewhat minor ingredient, one of their lines of beer. Oh, and let’s not forget–the beer they cooked with was usually the one they’d recommend pearing with. which if I went that way would have probably made it awesome squared, but I’m not sure I could have handled that much awesome.

I’m not usually big on onion rings, but what the hell. I’m there for the food. So I had the onion rings. And holy effin’ crapcracker. Natch, they were beer-breaded. They also, I do believe, may have just made me reconsider my opinion on onion rings. Maybe. But only if I’m there. And only if they go with the rum and coke I chased them with.

I had that, and pasta, which was also freakin’ awesome aside from the lack of garlic bread–really, who doesn’t serve garlic bread with their pasta? I think, though I’ll have to review it, their pasta was one of the very few dishes that didn’t actually use any of their beers as an ingredient. Still, it was wicked enough on its own. I very nearly required a forklift to get me out the door. So of course that meant I had to try dessert. For the record, apple pie goes just fine with rum and coke, thank you. It did nothing to help my requirement of a forklift, but you’ll have that.

Here’s the thing about that restaurant. Yes, we knew what we wanted, more or less. But here’s why it took us 15 minutes to actually get it ordered. Their menu is effin’ deadly. I mean that. It’ll run you over, then turn around to make sure you haven’t moved. We knew what we wanted, but there were about a dozen possibilities between the two of us. so figuring out exactly what we wanted on this particular visit was, well, kind of fun. In a “let’s split your brain in 6 different directions” kind of way. And if/when we go back there again, there’ll probably be twice the breakage. If only because I’m pretty sure we missed a page or two when browsing the menu the first time.

If you’re in the Ottawa area and looking to find somewhere to eat, drink and be merry, the Big Rig Brewery is on Iris street, just behind the Ikea–it’s the only Ikea in Ottawa, so if you can find that, you can find the place. Now here’s the thing. Yes, the food is absolutely awesome. The beer probably is too. But you get what you pay for. So you might want to make sure you’re not gonna run the risk of going broke if you decide to take an evening and go have a little something. But if you do decide to go, it’s well worth it. Oh, but if you’re a foursquare user and you glom on to the mayorship before May does, I’ll just leave the two of you alone for a few minutes. The winner can find me later–I’ll be at the bar, likely enjoying my third rum and coke.

Because everyone needs a shameless plug once in a while.

And since this is a thing that’s close to home, why the hell not? May has started getting back into the whole singing thing. And she’s doing it with a pretty decent local choir group. They have the occasional public performance deal going on–including one tonight, so the story goes. I’ve heard some of what they do, and they definitely stick in your head a little. If this is the kind of thing you’re in to, you need to be over here, and you can read May’s take on it on her own site. If you’re bored and happen to be in and around the Ottawa area on a performance night, check them out. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. And now, because it’s been way too long since I’ve thought about sleep, it’s high time I go catch an hour.

PS: If this works, new toy. I rave about that later. Maybe.