Piss poor planning prevents proper performance. Or, this is not how you reduce a deficit, Ontario.

Cuts hurt. This is not news. It wasn’t news when Ontario was a Liberal province, and it’s even less so now that it’s trying to be a Conservative one–though not trying too hard, given we elected a guy who wouldn’t know what the word Conservative actually meant if you handed him a dictionary. And when you have to turn around and give 80% of the money you cut right back the next year, cuts hurt like hell. Enter our premier.

In last year’s budget, he knocked $25000000 off the health policy and research budget. Yesterday, he gave $20000000 of it back so the fine folks who know what they’re doing can hopefully find a vaccine for the mess we’re in. Because that’s apparently how we role in 2020.

Now, the argument could be made that they’re still $5000000 short of where they should be, but that’s not the argument I’m making. Because it’s not an argument. Let’s assume just for kicks that Ford used his head for more than a hat rack. Say he left that money untouched last year. OR reallocated it to some other health initiative–like, maybe, say, an initiative to make more masks and respirators available in hospitals so we’re not, you know, reusing. Basically, anything other than what we ended up doing. How much of a difference would that have made today?

If reducing the deficit was actually the goal here, ignoring the fact for a second that we’re still spending more under this government than we were the last one, we missed. Of all the cuts, that one has to sting the most. Too bad confidence is low they’re smart enough to feel it. So much for Ontario’s Conservative government. If you’re not going to help, at least give us something to show for it. This… is not that.

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?

Toronto schools figure out kids can get hurt, move to ban it.

Ah, Toronto. That lovely little nowhere place where bad ideas go to get themselves one last kick at the can. That place that brought us joys like, you know, rob ford, and the idea of separating the city from the rest of Ontario–it never was actually explained, by the way, how one would go about separating a city from a province while said city resided rather firmly within the geological vicinity of that province, but as we learned from Quebec, such details are pithy little things that needn’t concern the gods who declare it so. And now, Toronto’s back with another brilliant brainchild.

You see, while the rest of us were busy living our lives and handling things that matter while avoiding the clumsy hand of good intentions, Toronto schools were coming to terms with the fact that kids will play at recess. And during that play, kids will undoubtedly end up hurt. And as it has become politically correct to do, one school has applied an opposite overreaction to what it believes to be a problematic action. Kids playing tag leads to kids getting hurt, you say? Then by all means, ban tag.

A Toronto Catholic elementary school is under fire for its decision to ban kids from playing tag.

The downtown school put a stop to the popular chase game — and any recess rough housing — after several several injuries. The Toronto Catholic District School Board defended St Luke’s decision, saying some injuries resulted in bleeding and this was no ordinary game of tag.

Yes. Kids will get just a little overenthusiastic. It happens. Kids will also get hurt when being a little overenthusiastic. Again, it happens. You know what also happens? They learn that maybe they might not oughta have done that. This is also, I thought, what they had staff assigned as recess monitors for–that and making sure little jimmy doesn’t turn around and pop someone in the nose for stealing his favourite swing, but that’s a whole other issue.

Look. I get the theory behind the idea. And as theories go, it’s about as good as any other I’ve come across. But unless we start mandating we put kids in bubble wrap until they turn 18, policies like this aren’t going to accomplish much. The kids who are going to do it will do it when they’re away from school–and hopefully where their parents can keep a closeish eye on them just in case. And the rest probably won’t care as long as it’s not aimed at them. In the meantime, Toronto needs to find a more creative way to deal with kids being kids. Like, maybe, explaining to them why maybe it might could not be the hottest idea in the world to run full-tilt into the kid you’re chasing. Unless of course that would take too much effort.

Marriage: Not just for people in love anymore.

Depending on who you ask, marriage hasn’t meant what it used to for years already. In Austrailia, if you’re one couple in particular, it means even less now.

You may or may not be aware that same-sex marriage is a thing. In Austrailia they’re becoming aware of that. And as a result, at least one “traditional” couple has decided if same-sex marriage becomes legal, they will become divorced. Because nothing quite defines your own marriage like someone else’s definition.

I’m hardly one to compare opinions on marriage of any kind–I’ve always seen it as just a piece of paper, really, entitling you to no more benefit than if you’d spent the rest of your lives living together without the whole deal–the difference between a legal marriage and not, in most cases, is the ability for one of you (usually the one who earns more) to claim the other on your taxes. I don’t need that piece of paper to prove I plan on sticking around a while any more than I expect that piece of paper to be a reason to stick around longer than I would otherwise. But if you’re going to go through the whole deal, it might not be the worst idea in the world if you meant it. I’m pretty sure whatever the traditional meaning of marriage–between either sex (or sexes) was, it did not include phrasing to the effect of “unless political expediency requires otherwise”.

I’m not saying marriage–of either kind–is wrong. I wouldn’t necessarily do it, but that’s either personal preference or a fantastic misunderstanding of the legal definition of marriage (I’m pointedly ignoring the religious one). But if you’re going to go through it, mean it. And if you’re going to mean it, keep it away from politics–especially *that* politics. Doing otherwise guarantees whatever value marriage–either the “traditional” or “modern” type–had is lost in the argument. As for this couple, whether or not the divorce actually happens, they’ve just proved the point to those of us who don’t see the idea of going through with it–it’s not just for people in love anymore. But then, perhaps legally, it never really was.

Your password or your freedom, Canadian version.

It’s pretty common knowledge. You cross the United States border with your laptop, mobile phone, whatever, and you run the risk of some customs person deciding that’s a nice piece of equipment you’ve got there and he’ll just be taking a closer look at it if you don’t mind. Courts have been okay with this for the most part–part of the reason I haven’t lost much sleep about returning to the US any time soon. And now, like so much other American culture, the practice is moving north.

I’ve traveled to many different countries in my life and the only time I’ve ever had any trouble at all at a border crossing was flying into Canada for a conference one time. I was pulled out of the line and sent to a special side room where I was quizzed about the real reasons I was coming to Canada. They couldn’t believe I was speaking at a conference, because I didn’t have a paper invite, and had to dig through my emails to show them it in email (thankfully, I stored my emails locally and didn’t need internet access). When I tell that story it shocks some people, as Canada has always had a reputation as a fairly easy border to cross — especially for Americans.

But apparently the Canadians are stepping up their crazy antagonism at the border. The latest story involve Alain Philippon, a Canadian citizen who was returning from a trip to the Dominican Republic. Upon landing in Halifax he was ordered to cough up the password to his smartphone, and upon refusing, was charged with obstructing border officials.

The charge has the potential to carry up to a year’s jail time–all for not turning over access to his phone to a guy with no reason to have it. Now, I’ve had my share of overly nosey border patrol folks. You know. Playing twenty questions just because you kind of don’t have much choice but to sit there and put up with it if you plan to actually get into the country–where are you coming from, where are you going, for how long, who are you meeting there, how much do you make a year (yes, I was asked that), etc. It’s become pretty standard operating procedure even before everyone got all security paranoid after 9/11. But seriously, if I wanted to sneak something across the border and didn’t want the US (or Canadian) agents there to find it, the last place I’d store the thing is locally on the laptop, phone, tablet, whichever. I’m trying *not* to get caught, remember. So odds are good I’ve stashed whatever I need on a remote server somewhere they don’t know exists and therefore couldn’t ask me for its password, deleted my local copy of that thing, and the only thing they’d see on a scroll through my phone are emails/text messages to my girlfriend on my way out, and quite probably a whole heap of sports notifications. Not exactly crossing a legal line, here, but at least partially crossing a privacy one. And for that, they’d need to do a lot more than ask me for my password. Or, you know, they could at least say please–it’s the Canadian way.

Trigger Warning: In which I worry about an assisted suicide ruling.

Warning: I have no idea how triggers work, particularly related to depression and contemplation of suicide. I am your typical, undereducated thug in that department. But if any of this entry serves to trigger something, please know it was not intended, I apologise, and you can inform me of it privately if you so choose so I can change it accordingly. I’m not here to traumatise.


I’m more often than not a fan of any time the Supreme court of Canada wants to take a swipe at our government. The way things tend to come down the pipe now and again, it’s probably deserved more often than it’s not. But on assisted suicide in particular, the supreme court has gone too far.

The court ruled very recently that a law banning doctor-assisted suicide was entirely unconstitutional–and that the right to life, more or less, should include the right to death. On its face a logical ruling, if you can tie anything remotely akin to logic around an issue of when it’s considered legal to kill someone. The ruling allows for the possibility of assisted suicide for any incurable physical–or mental–illness. So, for example, someone determined to be dying of cancer can opt to have it done and over with quickly, as opposed to living out the rest of their however long knowing the disease will eventually kill them. that’s good, in theory. But so can someone dealing with depression. that’s not so much.

Already this happens in certain European countries–Belgium permitted the assisted suicide of two deaf twin brothers who were going blind and couldn’t handle it, for example. And the same procedure for chronic depression is surprisingly not uncommon in jurisdictions that allow it. Unless a bunch of folks are reading the supreme court’s ruling entirely incorrectly, there is ample room for the trend in Canada to follow that path–as, quite aptly, has been explained to death already.

But that is not what the Court has in mind. First, it is clear from the ruling that the “enduring and intolerable suffering” that would confer the right to have someone kill you (with your consent, of course) is not limited to physical pain, but also psychological pain — which, besides being a murkier concept by far, raises the question of how competent the subject really is. Nor is suffering defined further: it is enough that it is intolerable “to the individual.”

Second, nothing in the words “grievous and irremediable medical condition,” the court’s other requirement for the exercise of this right, suggests that death is near, or even likely. It is enough that the condition be incurable; it need not be terminal.

So. You’re on medication for life. It’s keeping you functional, perhaps even something close to healthy, but it’s still there. As a friend told me once, it never goes away–you just get better at ignoring it. You could decide that’s plenty good enough–for all intents and purposes, you’re as cured as you’re going to get. But if you–or your doctor–decide that no, being on medication isn’t good enough–that it doesn’t actually cure you, but just treats the symptoms, assisted suicide could–again, based on this ruling–be an option. In states where it’s already legal, it is an option.

Patients themselves say that the primary motive is not to escape physical pain but psychological distress; the main drivers are depression, hopelessness and fear of loss of autonomy and control. Dutch researchers, for a report published in 2005, followed 138 terminally ill cancer patients and found that depressed patients were four times more likely to request euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide. Nearly half of those who requested euthanasia were depressed.

In this light, physician-assisted suicide looks less like a good death in the face of unremitting pain and more like plain old suicide. Typically, our response to suicidal feelings associated with depression and hopelessness is not to give people the means to end their lives but to offer them counseling and caring.

I know people who suffer from depression. Even completely treated, it’s still there. But because people have been there to offer help, they haven’t decided on their own it’d be better to call it quits. Some of those are friends, family, people I am or was close to. Some of them didn’t speak up about it until they had but two options: get help now, or get out–and they’d already tried that second one. It’s very possible some of them still haven’t spoken up about it–to people, at least, who could potentially have done something about it. I can only guess at exactly how many of those people I’d know now if this were a more widely accepted option. I’d rather not guess at how many people I know would consider taking this path if it becomes a more widely accepted option.

It’s been said to me on more than one occasion. Once a depressive, always a depressive. The best you can hope for is to cope. This is not coping. We can do better than this. The supreme court has it wrong, and I sincerely hope someone in this government or the next puts some effort into correcting it. Even if I will never fully appreciate it, the people who need it most will. That’s what we’re here for.

Attention all disabled people. You officially oppose net neutrality. Thank you, Verizon.

So stop me if you’ve heard this one before. You walk into a place, $guy you don’t really know proceeds to play twenty questions with you. Then, when it comes time for you to get yourself some service, $guy figures it’s his turn to speak up on your behalf. Now, if you’re like most people, the difference between the service you expect to receive and the service $guy thinks you’re after is approximately the difference between Sarah Palin and an honest to god university graduate. Problem is, $guy figures you won’t mind in the slightest–I mean after all, he’s just doing you a service, right? Meanwhile you get to spend the next while undoing his help, then actually making the arangements you were planning to make–entirely independently, and quite probably while $guy looks on like you’d just kicked his dog down two flights of stairs.

Now, take that scenario, stick the internet in front of it, and pretend $guy is a placeholder for someone like a Verizon. Then, pretend you’ve rolled out of bed and discovered that you’ve been positioned, thanks largely to Verizon speaking on your behalf, as being entirely against any kind of notion of the FCC being able to tell companies–ahem, like Verizon–not to break the damned internet. See, the difference here is we’re pretending. PRoblem: Verizon isn’t.

Three Hill sources tell Mother Jones that Verizon lobbyists have cited the needs of blind, deaf, and disabled people to try to convince congressional staffers and their bosses to get on board with the fast lane idea. But groups representing disabled Americans, including the National Association of the Deaf, the National Federation of the Blind, and the American Association of People with Disabilities are not advocating for this plan. Mark Perriello, the president and CEO of the AAPD, says that this is the “first time” he has heard “these specific talking points.”

Considering the NFB is usually the first in line to scream bloody murder if something’s not exactly on the level insofar as blind folks are concerned, you can probably figure out approximately how much actual input from blind, deaf and disabled people Verizon actually heard before crafting that memo. But like $guy in my example, Verizon figures you won’t mind–they’re just doing you a service. Now just pay no attention whatsoever to the fact that service may or may not boil down to their own interests, but you know…

And sometimes, law enforcement is an ass.

It’s been a while since I’ve done a one of these. So clearly, somebody somewhere’s due, right? Right. IT’s time to pick on a combination of the US education system and US law enforcement again.

Pennsylvania’s probably an awesome place to visit. Hell, it might even be a moderately decent place to live. But if you’re not the popular kid in school, one wonders how decent a place it is to grow up–particularly when your attempt at doing something about the local schoolyard bully ends with you being the one in possession of a criminal record thanks to wiretapping and disorderly conduct charges.

A Pennsylvania teen, who claimed to have been bullied constantly (and ignored by school administration), made an audio recording of his tormentors using a school-supplied iPad. He brought this to the school’s attention, which duly responded by calling the cops… to have him arrested for violating Pennsylvania’s wiretapping law.

From the source article:

[The student’s mother, Shea] Love says that upon fielding her complaint, Principal Scott Milburn called South Fayette Township police Lieutenant Robert Kurta to the school to interrogate her son in the presence of Associate Principal Aaron Skrbin and Dean of Students Joseph Silhanek. The defendant testified before Judge McGraw-Desmet that he was forced to play the audio for the group and then delete it. Love says by the time she arrived at the school, her son was surrounded by school officials and the police officer and was visibly distraught. She says Milburn defended the teacher’s response to the classroom disturbance.

So, for those of you keeping score at home. Kid’s getting picked on. Kid tells mom. Mom says “record it, bring it to the folks in charge”. Mom hands kid a recorder, then calls the school–because, hey, yall have a problem. School gets the cops involved, kid ends up arrested for–as it turns out, following the expected procedures.

“Normally, if there is — I certainly have a big problem with any kind of bullying at school. But normally, you know, I would expect a parent would let the school know about it, because it’s not tolerated. I know that, and that you guys [school administrators] would handle that, you know […] Because it’s not tolerated, but you need to go through — let the school handle it. And I know from experience with South Fayette School that, you know, it always is. And if there is a problem and it continues, then it is usually brought in front of me.”

Yep. And it was. Just one problem. They done brung you the wrong kid. Now who wants to tell me the system’s not broken? I’ll wait…

In which ODSP passively approves of sheltered work shops. Who’s surprised?

I have plenty more to say about the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) in the other direction (thank you, Toronto Sun), but this has been sitting here for a while and I figure now’s as good a time as any to get to it.

A few months ago, there was a human rights case underway in which a packaging company, now probably (hopefully) out of business, was paying its fully able-bodied employees minimum wage at least while its disabled employees received significantly less. The article, by Christie Blatchford, focuses on the sad fact that at the end of this legal mess, the company is out of business completely and at least one of its employees hasn’t managed to hold a steady job since then.

Garrie and her mother told the tribunal that while Garrie and other disabled workers were paid between $1 and $1.25 an hour, the able-bodied who worked beside them, including the mother and another of her daughters who was also able-bodied, earned minimum wage.

The mother said she and her husband were uncomfortable with the pay differential, but didn’t complain because their daughter so enjoyed her work, the socializing it provided, and besides, Szuch “treated her [Garrie] respectfully.”

Szuch, in her late response, elaborated on that, and said the disabled workers didn’t have to punch in, and were allowed to play cards and make crafts while ostensibly on the job.

Strike 1: People who clearly weren’t expected to actually perform the job they were supposedly being paid for, hence the permission to play cards and such while supposedly being paid for it, being allowed to work there in the first place. These are the types of people ODSP, in as much as ODSP does anything like it adequately in the first place, is supposed to be capable of supporting fully–explicitly because they’re not expected to do much insofar as employment goes. And instead, with a smile and a nod, they looked the other way while a company pretended to hire people for work. That’s mostly on the company, who probably should have known better, and the mother turned supervisor, who if she was half as uncomfortable as she said she was wasn’t doing her daughter any favours with this arrangement either. But the kick in the head, as almost per usual, comes from the ODSP itself.

But in her response, Szuch said the company never provided what’s called “supported employment” for disabled people, but rather offered “volunteer trainee” placements for them, with far fewer responsibilities, for which it paid them an honorarium.

And, the response said, all of this was done on the up and up — with the honorariums duly declared to Garrie’s worker and the other disabled trainees’ workers and to the ODSP.

Evidence of that was the fact that while the ODSP occasionally “clawed back” over-payments because of the honorarium, for the most part it was so modest that claw backs weren’t common.

As Bhattacharjee wrote, “I find that the respondent [Szuch], likely with the agreement of the parents of workers with developmental disabilities, intentionally set the honorarium level just under the threshold for claw back of ODSP payments in order to maintain the receipt of such payments from the government.”

ODSP knew, and had no problem taking back their own money if the company paid too much, but here’s a question that isn’t asked in the article at this point–or pretty much ever. The article points out that the ODSP provides income and employment support for disabled people, but where was the employment support part of that arrangement in this situation?

ODSP’s primary goal, aside from income support–which at least they largely got as close to right as they ever do, is supposed to be providing a way for people with the skills to work to get the hell off ODSP. Clearly, ODSP thought these folks had the skills to work, based on the fact they had no problem with these folks working–albeit for what amounts to coffee money. So find them adequate work for adequate pay, and get them the hell off ODSP properly. It may not mean they’re fully independent–at least in terms of, you know, being able to function on their own without parental intervension–but if they’re considered independent enough that they can be shuffled off to work in the morning, then they can damn well be considered independent enough to get paid as much as the person they’re sitting next to doing exactly the same work.

Blatchford writes:

But a closer read of the 33-page decision in fact shows that if the company discriminated against Garrie, it did so with the consent of her parents and likely the complicity of the government.

The company did discriminate against Garie, and the others she worked with. And they did so indeed with the approval of her parents and the government. Stacey Szuch, the former owner of that company, deserves to be ordered to personally pay off every cent she didn’t pay off when she had employees to rip off. Terri-Lynn’s parents ought be slapped with a clue for willingly and knowingly extremely undervaluing whatever work their daughter was obviously skilled enough to do. And I sincerely hope the ODSP case worker who oversaw the ripoff no longer has a job with the ODSP, though I also sincerely doubt it.

The ODSP passively approved of a sheltered work shop for disabled people. Even knowing said sheltered work shop was paying well below the minimum wage–and being aware of it enough to take back any money that was overpayd to workers as a result of it. And the people who should have known better went along with it for kicks. And folks wonder why it is I have difficulty drudging up enough respect for ODSP on a good day.

The day kindness stopped being politically correct. Or: What are you smoking, Calgary?

We’re heading for another winter that’s supposed to suck, according to folks, in a few ways. So it seems vaguely appropriate that this happened at the end of last winter, which also ended up sucking in a few ways. A Calgary school bus driver ended up running into a problem way too many vehicle owners get to deal with when it’s minus freezing outside. Specificly, her bus decided it’d quit with this whole starting business. Twice. The first day it happened, she shrugged it off and trusted the company she works for to send another bus. Didn’t happen, so kids were either late for school or, well, didn’t show up. So the second time it happened, she decided to show a little initiative.

Kendra Lindon, who drives for First Student Canada, said her bus wouldn’t start on Feb. 11, and dispatch told her someone else would be sent to drive the route. That never happened, and the kids were left stranded — they either missed school or were driven by parents.

When her bus failed again the next day, she was skeptical when dispatch again promised a replacement. Several other buses had also failed, and she was covering several routes, and she worried about the students waiting in the cold.

So Ms. Lindon asked another bus driver to pick up some of the students, and then took her 2005 Cadillac Escalade to pick up some others.

She picked up five kids, although she had only four seatbelts. Then she picked up another boy, one she’d known for a long time, on crutches with no hat, no gloves and just runners on in what Environment Canada confirms was -26 C wind chill. To make room for the injured boy, two of the other boys jumped into the back of her SUV, where there are no seatbelts.

Good on her, you’re probably thinking. Give the girl a raise, was roughly what I was thinking. What I wasn’t thinking, but clearly what folks over in Calgary were already heading for, was to hand that girl a good solid firing.

Look, I know there are rules for a reason. And for the most part, I agree with it. I mean I still think some of them are just plain meant to be broken, but I know the general logic behind it–not to mention, you know, a few that are just common sense. But for every rule, there has got to be at least one exception. Preferably more, because hey, rules that can’t bend are the very first to break. But here’s the thing. If I’m in her position, and I know the company didn’t actually send someone to cover my ass the last time it happened, I’m not going to be altogether inclined to just kick back and trust the company to cover my ass this time–particularly if the company already has me covering off for someone else. Okay, so they have a policy against using your personal vehicle for transportation on your regular bus route. Fine and dandy. But -26 degrees should *probably* be an exception to that rule, more or less.

After the new bus arrived, the kids thanked her profusely and Ms. Lindon drove back to her school bus, which a mechanic was just getting started. She then picked up her usual group of elementary school kids — including her son Cody — and went to her job at the school he attends, and where she works as an assistant.

While at the school, Ms. Lindon received a call from the school bus company and was told to come with her bus to the headquarters “as soon as possible,” where she was fired, because it was against company policy to pick up children in a personal vehicle. She said no one had ever told her that.

Not sure how far I’ll trust the idea that no one told her it was against policy, but hey, we can run with that for lack of anything else. Even if it was, and someone did tell her that, she’s hardly the first person to decide freezing ass cold is a valid exception to the rule against that. Hell, I’ve had bus drivers around here who’ve missed my stop completely by accident drop everyone else off where they needed to be, then drive me pretty much straight up to my front door because it was freezing freaking cold, and I’m pretty sure that’s against the rules as well. But in that case, the driver screwed up, and while I could have easily found my way back home from wherever, he decided it wasn’t worth freezing to do so. In Calgary, he very probably would have thought about that twice. But, you know, at least he didn’t use his personal vehicle. What are you smoking, Calgary?

2013’s most annoying words, still annoying in 2014.

So at the end of 2013, a school in Michigan produced a list of that year’s most annoying words. Not surprisingly, “selfie” and “twerk” topped the list. Equally not surprising, nearing the end of 2014, at least one of those words is still freaking hanging on. Specificly, if I ever hear the word “selfie” again, it’ll be way too damn soon. Now, I’m not necessarily saying there’s anything wrong with people who use it–I’m not that large of a language snob. But if you’ve just spent the better part of 5 years in university, where things like essay writing and the such are pretty much bred into you whether you like it or not, you clearly have the ability to do a little better than “selfie”. My few remaining brain cells will thank you profusely for trying. Extended vocabularies aren’t just for nerds anymore, as long as the definition of “extended” rules out the use of that damned not-a-word. Bonus points to pretty much anything we can use instead to replace it. I can’t afford enough vodka to make it tolerable otherwise…

Rogers: We’ll take your money, whether you owe us or not.

I’m not a fan of rogers. Well, okay, scratch that. I’m not a fan of companies who put the screws to you over minor technicalities and expect you to take it with a smile. So, yeah, basicly Rogers. I take their cable services, because the alternatives may or may not actually work here and trying to find sports without a cable subscription is several layers of unfun–unless it’s hockey, but you know. And every once in a while, the company gives me a reason or two to significantly reconsider even giving them that much money. today, they give me 3.

Rogers doesn’t play around when you owe them money. Or when they think you owe them money. Not even when you’ve told them several dozen times you’re not the guy what owes them money. whether you owe them or not, you owe them. Proof? Why, they’ve got all the proof they need right here–and it’s currently sitting on your credit rating if you’re looking for it. Don’t you try playing the “I’ve never had service with you bastards in my life” card. We know you.

Former customers don’t get away unscathed either. Cancelled in Rogersees apparently doesn’t actually mean what you think it means. to you or I, cancelled means stop freaking billing me I no longer want your service. To Rogers, cancelled means sure, go on ahead and run up a bill for me to the tune of $1200 for a service I don’t want to use. It doesn’t look as though they’ve got any problem understanding the phrase PR nightmare, though. Somebody up there found themselves a dictionary when the bill hit the media. the bill stopped existing. At least until the next one.

And because it’s not a Rogers entry without a mention of exactly why I will never, as in ever, be a Rogers internet subscriber whether I go back to cable or not, I bring you phase 3: giving it to your current customers none too gently. Rogers may, or may not–depending on who you ask, the phase of the moon, the time of day, etc–actually be counting internal data transfers against your bandwidth. Not necessarily transfers that occur solely on the rogers network, like if you’re taking advantage of one of their own video streaming services (they’re doing that already), but rather, actual data you’re sending back and forth along the network in your own home. Streaming a movie from your desktop so you can watch it on your TV? Probably counted. Which also means you don’t save yourself any money doing all your backing up on the local network rather than a remote service. Which, in turn, also means Rogers may or may not be getting to bill your face off for a thing they didn’t have any part in actually letting you do, aside from maybe possibly providing you the router you’re using to do it.

On the other hand, I think I may or may not have talked myself into reinvestigating one of the alternatives. But if not, Rogers still won’t be getting any more of my business than I can get away with without causing other issues. But if a smaller provider wants to step into the cable space, I can write you a handbook on how not to make an impression on your customers…

For the hundredth time, enough of toronto’s walking circus already.

So for those of you living under a rock, toronto has its very own walking circus. That self same walking circus has decided it’s not done dragging the city down the pipes from a PR perspective, so it’s off to the races in its second shot at being mayor. And yet, the media doesn’t even really wanna talk about its second shot at being mayor. So instead, we get treated to things like its attendance at a Leafs game. Or when it decides to show up at a football game wearing the team’s jersey. Or when it gets told it’s not allowed into a lounge area–presumedly where there happens to be alcohol service–at the aforementioned Leafs game.

Granted I don’t live in toronto, so wouldn’t have a dog in this fight regardless. But let’s draw some comparisons here, if we can. Quebec’s got themselves an election tomorrow. Ontario may or may not have itself an election between now and 2015. Canada’s got a federal election coming up in 2015, whether the government likes it or not. What we’re hearing from all of those corners, with maybe the exception of the federal one (more on that in another entry later), is the beginnings of actual election platforms–and, in Quebec, the plank by plank dismantling of the same. But in Toronto, the majority of the attention is focused on the circus–and not even because the circus is dangling a platform in front of our noses. Hell, even in situations where there’s a potential person to carry on the supposed politics started by the circus without the, you know, circus, we’re hearing less of a platform and more of a “This is what you *shouldn’t* be doing if you’re Toronto’s mayor.”. Which just about anyone with an ounce of common sense already knows, which is why this post refers to him as the circus and not, instead, as toronto’s current mayor.

Okay, we get it. It’s a walking, talking, political bombshell. Some might even go so far as to say a public relations disaster if not a financial one. So why is the media (note: by the media, I don’t just mean the toronto Star–although they should probably be entitled to their own special place among the media by now) still eating all of this up? If the circus is at a hockey game, the media should be following someone like, let’s say, Olivia Chow around instead–and maybe somehow managing to coax something that vaguely resembles how she intends to pay for yet another local transit brainstorm. Or see if John Tory can give something for the opinion pages aside from his code of conduct. Like, you know, an election platform. I’d even settle, grudgingly, for more about Sarah Thomson, if I must. Just please, for the love of anything and everything sane, enough about the circus already. The reruns are killing me.

Taking weight loss to entirely legal levels.

I’ll admit to having had a temporary fascination with shows like Biggest Loser. It used to be a thing I did on a weekly basis–have the local relatives over, we’d do the supper thing, and because I was the one with the cable, there’d be Biggest Loser on in the background. Largely because it was an occasional source for a meal or two the next time we met up, but admittedly also because evening TV otherwise sucked around that time. No one actually expects the folks who do these types of shows to cling tightly to whatever weight they’ve lost after they leave, mostly because hey, life happens–you’ve got work, or school, you’ve got kids, you’ve got obligations or whatever, and can’t actually put in the time they do for these shows on strictly working out and the like. That was a thought I had, anyway. A heartfelt thank you goes out to the folks what run shows like this for quickly disabusing me of that notion.

Apparently, they have it in the contracts you sign with them that you’re not actually allowed to gain pretty much any of the weight back that you’ve lost while on the show, whether you can actually help that or not. Well, okay, you can, but if you do, you’re officially in breach of your contract. Yes, even if you put in 40 hours then spend another 40 chasing around a bunch of kids during an average week. And, if you’re Tara Costa, who apparently actually won one of these here competitions, that lines you up for a pretty heavy lawsuit on exactly those grounds. Because, you know, having gained at least some of the weight back you thought you’d nailed down before isn’t annoying/frustrating/headaching enough.

Look. I get the cover your ass mentality these companies need to come off with. I mean they’ve provided you with suggestions, tips, the occasional kick in the ass, whatever so that you’ll lose the weight. So naturally they have a vested interest in making sure the weight stays lost. But, and I’m not saying this applies to her specificly–the article I linked to doesn’t exactly go out of its way to get her take on it, if most people go through the trouble to lose it just to have some of it come back, my guess is they’re already giving themselves a kick in their own ass. Kicking them in the wallet for breaking their agreement with you isn’t exactly going to motivate them to straighten up and fly right, now. And my guess is there’s probably a few folks who’s minds just changed on signing up for a thing like this. Stick with training programs at the gym if you must. At least they won’t sue you for backsliding. And hey, you can actually figure out how to pull off the same damn thing while dealing with life. Most folks wouldn’t need a contract for that.

Screwing up our kids, one school policy at a time.

Maybe this is what happens to folks like me who tend to keep somewhat of a hold on some of our parents’ opinions while very slowly developing more of our own. I mean that’s possible, right? So when my parents taught me things like I don’t have to put up with it when some other moron’s being a jackass, and I passed that on to people I’ve had a hand in helping out here and there, that’s normal, you’d think. Well, I’d think, anyway. But then along comes the apparent trend in schools to take being a kid–and not just being a kid who’s parents had the good sense to give a backbone to–away from the kids, and suddenly some of my opinions on the outside looking in seem a lot farther from the politically correct standard than they maybe should be. Well. There just went my parent of the year award, if I can ever get to qualifying.

When I was knee high to a grasshopper, it was perfectly normal to spend recess, or even 5 minutes before the teacher came into the room, playing stupid little war games with nothing more than my imagination and whatever vaguely useful objects happened to be in reach–well, when we weren’t chasing each other around the playground, tackling each other, throwing snowballs at each other and just generally doing what, you know, kids’ll do. I mean if you’re 6 years old and bored enough, a cardboard box can just as easily become an airplane as it can a fort, so it could happen that a couple kids decide to have themselves a shootout with nothing more than pencils for guns, and imagination for ammunition. People thought next to nothing about it 20 years ago. And why would they? No one ended up hurt, and when it was actually time to get down to the business of being bored to death for the day, things–eventually–calmed down and the teacher had the class’s mostly full attention. Today, pencilguns are every bit as illegal as their much more dangerous, much more real counterparts, and a kid with a pencil and an imagination is a kid with a suspension from school for such extremely imaginary violence. Because kids today don’t think in terms of cowboys and indians, or cops and robbers, you see.

That, in itself, would be news to me. But trends don’t get to be called trends for staying still and not gradually moving from the stupid to the braindead. So let’s take the imaginary shootout situation, and stick it in a back corner of your mind for 10 seconds. A kid shows up to school with a very much not imaginary knife. He takes to bullying another kid, ends up pulling the knife on him. There’s a third kid, we’ll call him Briar MacLean, with a front row seat to the happening. Now, Briar’s one of these kids who’s parents had the good sense to give a backbone–remember I mentioned that earlier? So rather than do the stupid thing and ignore what’s going on and go about his business, or the expected thing and run away to tap the teacher on the shoulder who was on the other side of the room doing something that was not, in fact, breaking up a situation and beating the crap out of a kid dumb enough to bring a knife to school in the first place, Briar steps in and gets between the two. And for his troubles, he gets himself a nice little slap on the wrist and a don’t do it again. Not, I’m assuming, that he’ll actually listen to the warning considering it wasn’t his first, but that they’ll try, repeatedly, to train kids out of doing things like that should probably be seen as slightly more of a problem than the folks making the decisions seem to want to pay attention to. Telling a kid that putting your foot down is highly inappropriate and that they should instead be running and hiding behind someone else, who’ll be more than happy to put their foot down on that kid’s behalf, ends up creating adults who would much rather tattle to someone else and have them speak up rather than handle a situation on their own. Which, in turn, comes with a whole host of its own issues that the folks behind these zero-tolerence policies don’t seem to have been made very much aware of. And yet, they’re still popular.

Also popular, but not nearly as much yet–they’re trying, I’m sure–is the zero-tolerence policy from the other direction. take, for instance, a school who’s kindergarten class is not allowed any physical contact of any shape or form, at all. Holding hands? Not allowed. Playing tag? Nope. But at least no one’s being threatened with suspension for breaking the policy. that, as it turns out, is left to other schools–who have no problem picking the ball up and carrying it along. Which, as you’d expect, results in a 6-year-old being suspended for kissing a girl on the hand, or a highschool kid being tossed for giving his teacher a hug. All things that come extremely naturally to *most* kids, if they haven’t been given a very good reason not to look for such things before they’ve gotten to school–see also: every kid who’s ever had physical contact used against them. And the school’s saying not unless you want a kick in the ass.

So now, you’ve got kids not allowed to use their imaginations, or stand up for themselves–or anyone, really–or generally do things that any normal human being, be they a kid or otherwise, would do and expect the people they’re around to do. And folks wonder why kids, teens, young adults and the like grow up with some of the issues they do? It’s human nature to touch, and be touched. And I’m not even talking sexually–a pat on the shoulder, a hug, whatever. That’s normal, I always figured. And now you’ve got people in positions of authority telling your kids, if you touch this person, even playing, or even in comfort, you potentially get to sit out the school year–or, at least, a couple days of it. And you have it stuck on your record, as hand-kisser did, that you’ve been called out for sexual harassment. So now, the kid who’s done the deed has it in his mind that it’s inappropriate, even if the other kid is perfectly fine with it. And you’ve got it in the other kid’s mind that it’s not appropriate to want such things to begin with.

And when these kids hit their teens, and start doing all the things teens do that everyone knows teens do and no one knows how to stop, these same people get concerned when little missy so and so decides screw you, he looks cute and I’m damn well gonna sleep with him. Or you’ve got someone putting a hand on someone else’s shoulder, like you do for support and all that, and the touchee turns around and screams sexual harassment (could happen). And this is somehow the fault of either the person doing the touching for expecting things to be just fine, or the person being touched, for flipping out–when in all likelyhood he/she has been taught to do exactly that.

Kids grow up with anxiety issues, social disorders, whatever. They grow up desensitised to things that any normal person would consider, well, normal. Natural, even. And they take it to either one extreme–it’s only sex, it’s not like I want a relationship with him/her–or the other–don’t touch me, don’t hug me, don’t come near me, don’t put yourself anywhere near my personal space–and the natural instinct for these people is to shame the first extreme or slap around the person who unintentionally happened to offend a person sitting on that second extreme. It’s not, say, to maybe take a look at where these ideas would come from, or how a kid could come to the realization that any amount of physical contact, be it intentional or otherwise, is somehow supposed to be offensive to the sensibilities. Instead, people create policies that enforce ideas like that, and then are shocked–shocked, I tell you–to learn that the kids who were most likely to run into that rule are probably now the adults most likely to develop at least a small handful of issues in at least a small handful of the areas those rules hit on. The idea of someone you’ve known for years hugging you is uncomfortable? Probably goes back to something you were trained out of as a child–unless that person happens to be a grade A creeper, but then you probably wouldn’t have known them for years. You have absolutely no idea what to do with a physical, slightly intimate but nowhere near sexual connection? Probably because you’ve had your hand slapped growing up for even daring to entertain such horrid thoughts.

Physical contact is normal. Perfectly so. Hell, they didn’t pull the thing about Italians giving even friends they haven’t seen in a while a kiss on both cheaks out of thin air, you know. People cuddle together for warmth and survival in emergencies, sure, but also because, hell, it’s more comforting than just wrapping yourself up in a blanket to stay warm if you just so happen to have the option. It’s human nature. And when there are no rules, when there are no expectations that people know how to turn that off, where there’s no one playing monitor to make sure all of that stays as far away from the situation as possible, those behaviours are going to show up. It makes no difference who disapproves, or how many school policies come to play and try to shut that off. All those policies do is screw up our kids. And when our kids grow up to be equally screwed up adults who wouldn’t know what to do with a significant connection to another person if you handed them an instruction manual, policies like that–in schools, in workplaces, in society in general–will more than likely be the reason. Not, as it turns out, that it will prevent people who figure they know better from pushing for more and thus proving my point.

We all screw up our kids in our own, unique ways. This is true. But I’ve yet to hear a parent giving their kid hell for hugging his/her sister, or friend, or cousin, whichever until they’ve stopped being upset. I’m actually surprised I’ve not seen anything yet about a school suspending a kid for doing the same–again, with their sister, or a friend, or whoever. But the way things are heading now, I wouldn’t expect it to take all that long for something like it to show up. And that, more than just about anything a parent can legally do, will screw the kids up but good. And all of that, in the name of political correctness. Score one for the good guys. the rest of us, however, will be over here picking up the pieces if you need us.

In Terrorland, quoting Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is a problem.

It’s been a while since I’ve gotten around to mocking the US’s nervous twitch when it comes to anything that has the slightest potential to come within a solar system of terrorism. Thank you so very much, Techdirt, for saving me from withdrawal and giving me this.

First, from the increasingly stupid United States of America, a story of how a teen’s life got flip-turned upside down. You see, he was just on the playground where he spent most of his days, minding his own business. You know, chilling out, maxing, relaxing all cool and sometimes with this friends he liked to be shooting some b-ball outside of the school.

WAIT. DID HE JUST SAY SHOOT AND SCHOOL IN THE SAME SENTENCE? ARREST HIM! Once you’re done laughing, know that that’s exactly what happened to 19-year old Travis Clawson because a doctor’s office called his voicemail to confirm an appointment, heard the above line, thought he was shooting people outside the school and called cops. Who arrested him first, then spent the 20 seconds it takes to realize it’s the theme song from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. No word on whether Carlton showed up to dance and everyone laughed at him.

Once you’ve had time to properly reorient your brain, I’ll let you consider this for a minute. Let’s assume, just for the sake of argument, the receptionist what made the phone call was… how can I put it… TV stupid. Let’s also assume, being that she’s TV stupid, she’s not once even by accident overheard that damn theme song. Can probably also assume she’s got a bit of a hearing issue, but I’ll let you decide to make that leap all by your lonesome. The Techdirt article takes the position that this could have probably been resolved by about a minute and a half of questioning. I’m going to take things slightly further–say, saving the cops the driving time. Receptionist has this guy’s phone number. gave the info to the cops, obviously. So, uh, rather than lock down an entire school district to find one innocent 19-year-old who *isn’t* TV stupid, why not just call the kid’s cell? You know, actually hear–and maybe record–the voicemail greeting for yourself. Then you, without having to leave the comfort of your own office, can decide he’s quoting TV theme song lyrics and that’ll just be that right quick. Of course this is probably also why I wouldn’t cut it in law enforcement, the blind guy thing notwithstanding.

Also: 3 hours to search a locker? Tell me it required congressional approval and to take the kid to a secure facility so he can hand out the combination code. Please?

An open letter to Justin Trudeau.

Good evening, Justin. Can I call you Justin? It didn’t take long for you to go all high and mighty so far as the senate kerfuffle’s concerned. And why wouldn’t you? I mean–if a word of what Mike Duffy–nevermind those other two–came up with this week is even remotely true, I’d probably be right there agreeing with you on Twitter. And why not? This is a soap opera of Stephen Harper’s making, so naturally, it falls to him to claim it as his own, right?

Why, of course he does. He made the bed, he might aughta think about getting nice and comfortable–and securing himself a halfway decent lawyer if this thing does, as I know you’re hoping, end up going to trial. You get no argument from me there either. But here’s a thing what interests me.

You’re up in arms about something Stephen Harper, a conservative, may or may not have had a direct hand in setting a blaze based on the word of Mike Duffy, another conservative. And, as I said, that in and of itself is fine. Meanwhile, 5 hours away from you, your provincial counterpart’s in a mess of her very own–one that she and Dalton Mcguinty each had a hand in making, albeit the latter’s finger prints were probably all over a lot more of it than hers. And let’s maybe not drudge up, again, the entire reason the liberal party’s a teeny tiny little bit of a mess federally, yeah?

So I’m just kind of wondering. Did Kathleen Wynne, just for a start, get something similar from you? Maybe in a private email? Since, you know, if she ends up finishing the tank job Mcguinty started on the liberal party in Ontario, you can’t honestly tell me that won’t come back and hurt the liberals federally.

And let’s talk about Mcguinty for a second, speaking of taking responsibility and showing leadership. Telling folks to escentially go screw themselves they were getting a gas plant, then cancelling that gas plant when it actually occured to him that hey, these people vote liberal. And doing it twice. Then ducking and running when it looked for 10 seconds like he might just be sunk. He didn’t tell the media what he knew and when he knew it either. He sat on documentation that could have and eventually did shoot his entire narative in both feet with a smile for as long as he possibly could. Then he prorogued the legislature–a no-no in your book, apparently–and resigned before anyone could nail him to the wall for it. He’s at harvard now, if you’re curious. Are you thinking maybe he might also aughta come on back and testify under oath to what he knew and when? Considering, I mean, there’s a lot more out in the open that points directly at him–and a Mike Duffy wasn’t really all that required, by the way.

Somehow I’m pretty sure that consideration hasn’t really entered your mind, either publicly or privately. Actually I’m pretty sure you are and were fairly immune to that consideration, if we’re being entirely honest. Which begs the question. Is there a different set of rules for members of your own party, or did these just kind of slip your mind on account of they have no direct baring on whether or not you eventually become prime minister–I mean outside the fact if the liberals are sunk in Ontario that’s probably an added complication you’d rather not actually have to deal with.

I get that most politicians are the sort with a rulebook for me and a rulebook for thee. That part doesn’t really surprise me. But you’re supposed to be the different one, here. Doing politics differently, you’ve said a few times. From where I’m sitting, this part’s looking pretty close to business as usual to me. Not all that great if actually trying to get folks my age out to vote’s a thing you’re aiming for, Justin. A little consistent honesty–hey look, another different kind of politics–wouldn’t hurt either. But I’m guessing you’re not quite ready for that yet. Damn shame, that.

I won’t be one of those folks who decide to go after you on account of the only thing on your resume’s the fact you were a drama teacher. that’s been done to absolute death, and really, we’ve all seen what happens when a true academic grabs hold of the wheel. Not pretty, kids. But you can’t sit there and call someone on the carpet for pulling a stunt or 5 you’d otherwise have no problem with if you and he sat on the same side of the house. You especially can’t be doing that if the whole aim of your leadership campaign and gearing up for 2015’s election is that things would be different under prime minister Justin Trudeau. Well, you can–but I’d not want to be in the same room with you while you tried pulling off the mental gymnastics that would give a thing like this a remote chance of sounding like something that maybe might make a little sense if you just let it sit long enough.

So, mr. politics done differently, can we have some different politics please? For a start, a little consistency–particularly with members of your own party who wind themselves up on camera having shoved their hands up to the wrist into the cookie jar? Failing that, could you perhaps restrain yourself from openly supporting people for federal office who most of your potential voters would rather see in jail–even if they fly the same banner you do? Could that be a thing? If you could give that a try, that might actually be something I could call kind of awesome. And hey, if it ends up being something you don’t need to lie about, that’d work too. I mean you still wouldn’t be someone I’d vote for, but it’d be an improvement. Maybe someone more in your circle can work with that and I don’t have to entirely dismiss the political class. I’d honestly love to be able to say I voted for a change. Right now, I can’t. Make me, and we’ll have something here. But until that happens, I’d settle for a raincheck on the hipocricy. Really, that’s not doing you any favours anyway.

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.

More ODSP slight of hand. So long, community startup benefit.

I actually had to go looking for this one, after a reader of this thing up and tipped me off. January’s cost cutting that saw the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) kill their medical transportation funding on no notice wasn’t their only attempt at trimming the budget at our expense–it was just the only one I took immediate notice to. As it turns out, they’ve been quite slash happy, our beloved provincial government.

A little background. As I’ve said before when discussing this topic, you can’t do much to find work and thus get off ODSP if you’re living in a teeny tiny town who’s bus system consists entirely of one bus going from a mall at one end of the town to a second mall at the other, picking up and dropping off along the way (yes, I lived there). Which is going to necessitate a trip, with permanent residency in mind, to yonder larger than life city (Ottawa, Toronto, Kitchener, pretty much anywhere that isn’t the middle of nowhere). Rent in most of these cities hits ya pretty hard on a good day, to the tune of you’re either getting a roommate, or paying way too much to share a corner of someone’s basement with a bunch of other folks who can probably only slightly better aford to pay too much for the same corner. On what ODSP gives you, even managing that can be a little tricky if you’d still like money left over for things like, you know, food. Or clothing. Or well, pretty much anything that isn’t putting a roof over your head. Coming up with first and last month’s rent so you can move in to the place that’ll suck up most of your money for the foreseeable future, until something vaguely resembling a break falls into your lap? Not happening without a serious amount of external help. That’s where the community startup benefit came in. Or did, until January of this year.

The way this particular system worked was actually fairly simple, if you paid attention. Every two years, you were eligible for up to $800 to be put towards things you actually needed to get your hands on. Like, say, go buy a few halfway decent outfits. Maybe get caught up on a few bills that have had to wait a month or two longer than you’d like on account of some fool jacked up your rent and you’ve had to rebalance things. Or, and this is the use I most often heard it being put towards, paying for at least most of your last month’s rent so you can manage to get yourself out of the less than helpful situation, and into a spot where you can stand a chance at finding work and getting the hell off ODSP. I used it for that last one myself–and that first one before that (I put my first ever benefit money towards clothes, because I was only a few weeks from employment and getting off ODSP myself, for what that turned out to be worth). It meant you could not only secure yourself a better living situation, but could still aford to actually get you and your belongings there, and still have something left over for all the fun things that come with postmove chaos–like discovering that pretty much everything has an activation fee, and the basics really are cheaper in a small town, even if you make up for it in gas to pick them up.

It was an extremely useful system, and one of the few things during a move I didn’t used to need to step on somebody for. Which matches the Ontario government’s criteria for things what get the axe. So, on January 1 of this year, it got the axe. The page that used to contain information related to that benefit has been removed, replaced instead with a statement confirming the removal.

9.2 – Community Start Up and Maintenance Benefit
Removed effective January 1, 2013.

And that’s all she wrote for that program. There are vague mutterings about that program being downloaded to the municipalities, or something else coming out to take its place, but at the moment they’re only vague rumours–the ODSP website’s got nothing, and by the looks of things, neither does anyone who might have an inside track and feel like sharing. So the Ontario government, who spent a good while explaining to me all the wonderful things they’re doing to help us folks on ODSP, has turned around and taken another chunk out of ODSP with nothing to replace it. And once again, the only documentation I can find on it is an obscure corner of their website–the corner linked above–which is more than can be said for their change of heart re: other cost cutting measures, for what that’s also worth.

Like I said before. I get we’ve got a budget situation to deal with. I’m not about to disagree with that. But here’s the thing. This government spent so much time criticising the conservatives for stripping anything and everything they thought they could from ODSP in the 90’s. They spent the majority of their first term and a good chunk of their second making like they were about to up and fix that–they didn’t, naturally, but they do get a B- for effort. Now that the money’s tight (a couple canceled gas plants’ll do that), and folks on ODSP are trying to stay ahead of the small implosion anyone with half a brain knows is coming, the government decides–hey, we don’t need all those extra dollars, so thanks much. Meanwhile the message coming out from all levels of government is the economy’s not back to where it should be yet, so save as much money as humanly possible. I’ll get right on that, government boys. Just as soon as I can properly time things to duck the axe. If you could keep your hands out of my pocket for a year or two, that’d be awesome too. Not happening? Well, I tried.

A 3-strikes blog post for global 3-strikes copyright systems.

It never ceases to amaze me exactly how tightly folks will cling to the very same logic that blows up in their collective faces within about 6 months of it being deployed. Perhaps not entirely without some degree of amusement, you see it most often in the two worlds who could use a wake-up call the most. The entertainment world, and the political world. Between the two of them, they’ve managed to piece together a mamoth bad idea on a global scale–and one that could have been predicted to implode before it even got off the ground–in the form of a 3-strikes copyright policy (6 if you’re in the US). In keeping with the entertainment and political worlds’ tradition in this arena, my own 3 strikes system–3 epic failures anyone who used their brain could have seen coming.

Strike 1: File who?

I’ve mentioned it in passing before, but it gets its very own special mention here because, uh, this suddenly isn’t exactly a unique situation. Person happens to be the account holder, but may not necessarily be the most technical case on the block. They likely have the internet for email, Facebook, school and if they’re into that kinda thing and have a brain cell to spare, maybe a little Twitter, but that’s the extent of their internet usage. Not so much, perhaps, for that person’s roommates, but the laws as they stand now don’t really go for that kinda thing–you own the internets, therefore you get the nail. It results in, rather irritatingly if you’re the do your homework check your email go to bed type, needing to have the basic idea of file sharing explained to you before the industry tries a nd fails to sue the everloving pants off you. Win or lose, the New Zealand industry got what they wanted–regardless who did the sharing from where and when, the account holder they went after turned around and cancelled the account–thus probably creating a brand new issue for herself in the process where her education and the like’s concerned. But, hey, there’s no more of that nasty file sharing coming from that address now is there?

Strike 2: Not our material? You’re still guilty!

I enjoy laughing my ass off at the DMCA. Not so much at the folks what get slapped by it–I myself was indirectly and falsely slapped by it not all that long ago–but at a majority of the folks doing the slapping. And with the onset of the US’s 6 strikes policy, all it takes is someone sending you–or rather, your ISP–a DMCA notice (whether it’s an accurate one or not) for you to start heading down the path towards a very rocky internetting experience. The system they’re using to track, identify, process and send those notices for this 6 strikes system? Well, that would be the same system that became highly confused and decided that a mod for Guild Wars, a computer game, was actually a copy of at least one NBC TV show, none of which remotely resemble computer games or mods thereof. No info on whether or not this is court bound, but were this actually to fall under their 6 strikes system (and there’s no reason to think it wouldn’t) the accusation may be all that’s necessary for the ISP to be required to start taking action. For TV shows that weren’t being shared and may not have even existed. Go copyright!

Strike 3: Serving your country is not a defense.

Back to New Zealand for strike 3, and perhaps the more ridiculous of the 3. Where at least the other 2 the argument, if shakey and pretty much unproveable, hadn’t completely entered the realm of being entirely out to lunch, this one left the ball park–and, arguably, the country. Again we have a multiple roommate situation–this one, they’re all in the millitary. The guy who’s name the account’s in, and thus the one who ended up fielding the accusation, was in Afghanistan during the time the industry’s precious copyrights were being violated. The others in the house were apparently deployed in various locations around New Zealand at any given time, so figuring out who did what and when was more than a little bit of an issue. But far be it for the industry to let a little detail like that get in the way. So when the account holder was back from Afghanistan, he had that to deal with. How did he deal with it? Well, see, the thing about serving in a permanent war zone–so I’m told–is you don’t really have a lot of time for stupid when you get back, what with getting used to the fact you’re no longer serving in a permanent war zone and all that junk. So rather than very likely have to drag it out in court, all for events that couldn’t be proved and couldn’t be connected to him by more than an IP address tied to him just based on lack of proximity alone, he paid up. And somewhere, in a press release yet to be written, he’s about to be added to the “file sharers we caught” list. And there just went getting shot at in defense of democracy as a legal defense against copyright.

I’d love to be a fly on the wall in some of the rooms where conversations like these happen, if only because I can’t even guess at the mental and verbal backflipping that goes on to make anything remotely like this sound like something that doesn’t smell entirely of overdone crap on an underdone cracker. Somebody somewhere has to have spoken up and pointed out to these folks that maybe, just maybe, there’s a better option out there other than trying to kill a mosquito with a bazooka and hitting their own feet instead. But, hey, what do I know? I’m just one of those online folks the industry doesn’t wanna hear nothing about or from. Then again, maybe that’s their problem…

Friends don’t let friends rent from Paramount Properties, part 2: this is not the apartment you’re looking for.

This is the second in a series of posts on why Paramount Properties in general, and Greenbank towers in particular, is bad for you. If you’re contemplating a move to Ottawa, or moving from somewhere within Ottawa, this company should be avoided at all costs. For more information, beyond what will be in these entries, just ask.

Moving into a new place is hardly ever fun. there’s the making sure you didn’t leave anything behind in the old place–I’ve done that about half a dozen times already, the making sure you’re not having to chase half your services all over the countryside and then some, the criss-crossing–and, subsequently, the uncrossing–of just about every scheduling wire known to exist, and all this before the first week of your move is over with. The last thing most people want to be adding to their laundry list of moving related foolery is the nailing down of your property manager so you can therefore nail down an equally lengthy list of problems with the new place that need to be addressed–especially when most of it was supposed to have been addressed, or scheduled to be addressed, already. That was us, at around the beginning of October.

the fun actually started before the official moving day, although most of that fun was–surprisingly–out of the property manager’s hands. Before we could move in to the new place, the guy what lived there needed to get his crap and get out. Problem: he had no bloody idea when he’d be doing exactly that. He’d give the manager one date, then change his mind a day or two later. So actually finalizing things was a bit of an exercise in migraine. Still, we knew there’d be problems with the apartment–mostly because we were warned the guy what lived there before us had absolutely no problem whatsoever with not, you know, looking after the place.

When we went in to see the place, to say it was a bit of a war zone was putting it nicely. The door to our storage room was off its frame, and leaning against the wall inside the storage room. Several–meaning most–of the light switches were missing outright their fixtures. there was a hole in the wall of one of the bedrooms. Closet doors were damaged. The screen to our patio was off. The place needed desperately to be painted (that part they told us before we moved in). The list goes on. We were told, before we even moved in, that either before we moved in or shortly after, the property manager would get someone in there to fix things up. Promised, even, that yes, manager lady knew it’d be a wicked hot mess, and it’d be taken care of pronto. It’s why we had no problem signing paperwork, and making arangements so that when, finally, the place was actually vacated, we could move our crap in.

Due to the nature of how things ended up happening, we didn’t get moved in until the day before someone else was scheduled to move in to the old place. So naturally, they didn’t have a whole heaping helping of time to go on a fixy fixy binge before we got our hands on the place. Not helped by anything was the fact when the guy what used to live there took off, he took the keys for the place with him–so priority numero uno became let’s make it so we can actually, you know, lock the place when we leave. That part, at least, we didn’t need to go chasing a fix for–swap out the locks, bring the lock from the old apartment down to the new one, replace the lock on the old unit, bing bam boom have a lock see ya later. It was the rest of it that we got to go fishing for.

The day after we moved everything in, I went to the rental office myself. Here’s the laundry list, in its finalized form. You said it was bad, you were right–this is how bad. They’d get someone in this week, manager lady told me. As soon as humanly possible, but we’ve had a lot of moves, she said, so you might need to wait a bit. We waited a bit. The week, if we’re being honest. No one came knocking. we still had a hole in the wall. We still had no storage room door. Oh–and we found a couple more surprises to add to the list, which was done when I went to ask manager lady why that list hadn’t been touched yet. I got much the same, complete with an I’m sorry I thought it was done already, and she’d have it taken care of this week, as soon as possible but definitely this week. Not holding my breath, and the thought starting to nibble at the outer edge of my mind that we’re kind of pushing the boundaries of legal territory (keep in mind, by this time we’d started speaking with a lawyer due to the last episode), we were prepared to have this drag out until we found somewhere else to move to–we’d started looking pretty much by this point as well, largely as a result of part 1. The money we paid into that place, and it looked almost like someone decided to throw a going away party, then went away before the cleanup crew got there to bill them.

A second week went by. No repair person. No phone call about a repair person. Supposedly the repair person was telling folks he’d been by, but the state of the apartment said no he damn well hadn’t. This time, manager lady was prodded in writing. We got the same general response back. Now, this *was* getting into legal territory. Legally, the landlord has about 2 weeks to address any concerns or issues with the apartment after a move. They were pushing three. And in writing, that was pointed out to them. Once again, repair person would be by this week, as soon as possible. No, that wasn’t going to work. Not unless there was going to be issues upon issues. Repair person was going to be by no later than the next day, or holy hell would there be issues upon issues.

Repair person indeed *was* by the next day. And, much to my shock and amazement, most of what was there actually did get fixed. Somewhat. We had a door to the storage room again. We had working closets. He had to replace the screen for the patio–but we had a screen for the patio. We still had a hole in the wall, but he did come back later on to fix that. Oh, and proper light switches for a change. Well, mostly. He ended up not fixing a few of them, as we’d find out later on, but by then we’d just given up on the whole idea. The place still hadn’t been repainted, which was the one thing they wanted to do shortly after we moved in–because, they told us, this is what they do with all their units in between tennants and if they had the time, it would be done already. And there were still a few things on that list that just generally went untouched, but again, we’d given up with chasing them for it. We were done with this hot mess, whether it was done with us or not. As it turns out, that was probably the smartest move we’d made since this entire soap opera started–we’d see proof of that shortly after we’d moved everything out of that unit.

Paramount Properties, and Greenbank Towers, talked up a good game. But where it came time to translate that into actually getting things done, they passed the buck, dragged their feet, and generally just put off what, at the end of the day, we were paying them for. If they even had documentation that said we were in there to have these things addressed, almost no one read it–confirmation came again after we moved everything out, and will be explored in another entry. They’ll tell you what you’re hoping to hear, show you a sample of the things you’re looking for. But after you sign the papers and everything’s settled, Paramount Properties is not the apartment you’re looking for. In a future entry, Paramount finally starts to show us what they’re all about, for real–and we get the feeling we’re not *really* as welcome as they tell you you are. But as for now, two very good reasons to maybe bump Paramount Properties down a knotch or 5 on your list of possible living arangements. You can, and should, do much better. I’ll even give suggestions, if asked. No one running a business this shot deserves your, or anyone else’s, money. Not even sweet-talking ones.

Friends don’t let friends rent from Paramount Properties, part 1: The Rent Kerfuffle.

This is the first in a series of posts on why Paramount Properties in general, and Greenbank towers in particular, is bad for you. If you’re contemplating a move to Ottawa, or moving from somewhere within Ottawa, this company should be avoided at all costs. For more information, beyond what will be in these entries, just ask.

I’ve been around the block a time or three when it comes to apartment shopping in Ottawa. Almost always, the top 5 includes at least one building from Paramount Properties. Everything about them from the outside looking in sets off at least a dozen awesome alarms. The places are usually fairly decent, the staff will usually let you play 20 questions, it’s kind of like you’re dropping in to say hello to a friend. Then you go and move in.

Due to situations with the former roommate, I had to go on a hunt for an apartment in July of last year. Due to some very interesting cock-ups by that self-same former roommate after becoming my former roommate, there suddenly became an opening. It was sharing an apartment in Greenbank towers, a property owned and maintained by Paramount. I moved over there, with May, at the end of August. We’d already made arangements to move at the end of September into a larger apartment (she had a one-bedroom at the time), and the folks over there seemed perfectly fine to go about the idea. About a week after I moved in, things got nifty.

Paramount Properties allows you, like most places do, to set up preauthorised debit for your rent–the better not to have to chase down your landlord with your hand out and beg them to find 2 minutes to take your money, my dear. For 3 months, that system worked as designed. From June, right through August (remember, May had this place before I moved over), there be no problem. Come time for September, there be problems. Rent is due on the first, and usually comes out by then. It being we were dealing with a weekend and labour day and the like, we expected to maybe see it come out a little later. So by about September 6, it still hadn’t come out. We go tap on the property manager–the second one in a year, but I’ll get to that in another entry. “Hey, manager lady? Take your rent, please.” “We’ll take it,” she tells us. “Holiday and whatnot. It’ll come out, promise.”

We give it until around the 10th or 11th. Tap tap tap. “Hey, manager lady? You still haven’t taken our rent.” “It’ll come out. Give it a bit.” “Look. We have it. It’s like right here. Paying you will take 45 seconds. Then it’s done.” “We’ll take it out. Just what with the holiday and all. Give it a bit longer.”

It’s the 15th of September, by this point. Legally, we’re now officially late with the rent. Not a good place to be, if you’re us and in the middle of a lease and not planning on packing up and moving right the bloody hell now and three quarters. We’re getting a little bit twitchy. We go back to the rental office. “Okay. Look. It’s been two weeks. We’re staring at the prospect of being branded late. Take. Our. Goddamn. Rent.” “Yall have automatic debit. It’ll happen. Put your bank card away–we’ll take it. I’m on the phone with the guys what handle that today.”

By this time, we have school things starting up, so our time, energy and money is about to be diverted to much more fun and interesting prospects. Of course, by this time, tuition money hasn’t come in just yet, so part of that diverting is to invent varying degrees of financial creativity so as not to end up needing to slap a deferral on top of everything else education. We gave up trying to prod the landlord at this point. They’d either take it, or they wouldn’t. And if they didn’t, it would become part of the diversion–they’d just have to wait their bloody turn, now. We had things to do, and just ran out of time to sit on a property manager. So we up and went about our business for the rest of the month. No word from Paramount. We paid what needed paying at the beginning of October. We paid the rent on the new place in the beginning of October–I’ll get to the issues with the new place in yet another entry. We didn’t set the new place up for automatic debit, given the issues we ran into in September–which hadn’t yet been resolved by then, so to avoid a double payment coming back to bite us later, just no thank you please. That was done. No mention of the rent for September, which we still didn’t see come out. We weren’t bringing it up again, and neither did they. So the rent money went temporarily to tuition.

First two weeks of October, we didn’t hear a word. We were getting things sorted out for school, and getting ready to head out of town for the Thanksgiving weekend. Chasing a landlord who we’d previously offered to pay was not exactly up there on our priority list. So we did what we did and would circle around to that hot mess later. Except they circled around to us first. And, on the 15th of October, they started making noises about rent we hadn’t paid. Not rent we’d offered to pay and they’d asked us to wait on–but rent we hadn’t paid. The back and forth went on over the phone initially, with Paramount deciding on the 15th that yes, we owed rent, and yes, we’d pay at least half of it right then and there. Being not made of money, being that the month was half over, and being that we had school to pay for, oh–and being that we’d already made several attempts to pay them, we didn’t have that money handy right then and there (see: schooling, paying for). And this is around when we learned our property manager had amnesia.

The conversation started out innocent enough. Just calling to let you know we don’t have your rent for September, all that lovely stuff. We asked what happened to Paramount taking it out of the account. They tried and couldn’t, says manager lady. Maybe we should get hold of our bank, just in case something went sideways on their end. Hey–it’s happened before, so I was willing to give Paramount the benefit of doubt. That, was a mistake. In the span of about 10 minutes, we learned 3 things. Thing the first: your bank logs *everything* under the sun–whether it’s a successful something under the sun or not, so if John Q. cheapy says he up and tried charging your face off, and he did actually up and try charging your face off, the bank can usually tell you he tried–and why he didn’t succeed. Thing the second: The folks over at Paramount aren’t very good liars–they didn’t do a damn thing, and it showed after the afore mentioned 10 minutes (to cover our asses, we called a second time with pretty identical results). Thing the third: It’s been an aweful goddamn long time since I’ve had to, but I can still call someone out left and right if and when I need to–especially if you’re gonna decide today’s an awesome day to screw with me.

So it’s back to Paramount we went. Hey, lady? Yeah. About that problem at the bank. Feed me another one. Then, it got interesting. She still insisted there was a problem taking rent out in September. I should probably point out none of the info changed since August–when they were perfectly capable of making money disappear. She still insisted that we pay at least half of it right then and there (see also: money, not made of), and wasn’t entirely all too excited about the prospect of backing down from that–or being told that she’d get rent money whenever we get tuition, since the former had to go to cover the latter and, since they weren’t altogether too concerned with taking the former when it was due, they could damn well wait now. But the really fun part’s what happened next. Like it was a thing she practiced in the mirror that morning, and completely with a straight face, she said we should have made alternate arangements to have rent paid in September. Now, I’m gonna let you stop right here and go read a couple paragraphs up. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

May and I both thought she might have been smoking something. We both explained to her, more than once, that we tried paying the thing directly–in bloody september. And, taking care that our poor manager may be suffering the early onset of amnesia or something, we reminded her that we approached her in september on a few occasions to pay the thing manually. We reminded her that she up and said no. repeatedly. We reminded her we persisted. And, we reminded her she still said no. She was highly uninterested in hearing any of it–going so far as to say we knew this needed to be paid, and this was our responsibility. Uh. Yeah? Whatcha think we were trying to do, here, chicken little? We certainly tried not to keep our money.

It got to the point where property manager wanted a sitdown with myself, May, her, and her manager. Both she and her manager were still under the mistaken impression they’d be getting money from us. Since now we were over a month late, and we weren’t overly large fans of what we were apparently heading into, before we did anything else we decided to go legal. Not full on legal, per say. But lawyers were contacted, advice was saught, and decisions were made. We put everything in writing, in an email to the folks at Paramount–specificly, to the property manager with a copy sent to her manager. We explained this is what we were told, this is what we responded with. We were told to wait, we offered to pay it manually, and we were still told to wait. Repeatedly. And it was explained to them that, on the advice of a lawyer, we wouldn’t be attending that there sitdown meet and greet. Oh, and by the way, you’d still be getting your rent money as soon as tuition funds come in and not a minute sooner, but thanks for trying.

They backed down almost immediately after getting that email–only mentioning the outstanding rent once, at the beginning of November, and being pointed right back to the email we sent them (see also: amnesia, suspected). And, when tuition funds came in later on in November, we gladly went back down to the rental office, and this time, manually paid the damn rent. But by then, they’d cluster fucked the situation so badly that we weren’t entirely sure they wouldn’t pull something similar in 6 months. Any trust, any professional level of respect, that might have been there beforehand was shot. They got crooked, and when they were called on it, they got greedy. And when they were called on that, they doubled down–there was no room whatsoever for the possibility they screwed this one. They flopped, then tried pinning the blame for the flop on us.

That wasn’t all that lead to us deciding not only to never rent from this company again, but to make as many people aware of this company’s business practices as humanly possible. But, it was a mighty fine start. And by the time anything else happened, we’d already decided we weren’t sticking around there any longer than we had to. In the next, hopefully not quite as lengthy entry, another significant contributing factor. How to ruin a professional relationship in 30 days–by not actually dooing your job.

Note to windsor: Chihuahuas are only dangerous if you’re prone to migraines.

I’m probably the exact opposite of a fan of chihuahuas. They’re annoying, they’re yappy, and if you’re not paying absolutely insane amounts of attention you can easily and quite by accident send one spinning across the room. As Jeff Dunham would say, anything I can drop kick over my back fence (Author’s note: hey–I actually have a back fence now!) is not a dog. But I’d hardly classify the things as dangerous. Well, unless you’re already at risk of developing a migraine–good lord but those barks can be lethal on the ears. But apparently, if you live in Windsor, Ontario and own one of these things, and if for whatever reason the thing somehow gets hold of someone (I’m not entirely sure exactly how something that tiny can get a decent hold on someone to begin with), it’s a dangerous dog. And, because it’s a dangerous dog, you’re expected to plaster warning signs on your property and muzzle the thing if it spends even 5 minutes outside–which poses a very interesting question: do they make muzzles in size microscopic?

The snicker-worthy thing about it is, the person in the article who was bitten (a mail carrier, naturally) wasn’t even aiming to have the thing labled.

The mail carrier was shocked to hear about the”dangerous dog” designation, according to Postmedia News. She said she is required to reports such incidents to her manager, who then told her to report it to police.

And presumedly, it was the police what up and decided teeny tiny microscopic thing that is not a dog is lethal. As in, pitbull lethal. Which begs the question: in what universe?

Like I said, I’m no fan of the things. I’ll never own one. I kind of feel sorry for the folks what do. But to put them on the same level as a dog that has a reputation–deserved or not–for going out of its way to attack and/or kill people and other dogs? Yeah, there’s a problem. That no one with the authority to actually solve that problem has had time yet to get around to the common sense chapter of the handbook that should come with having that authority is, well, not surprising, but a little disturbing. I’d be more worried about the damage either one of our dogs could do to a mail person were they inclined to get that idea in their heads–fortunately neither of them get the opportunity to consider proving me right. And yet these breeds in general, and these dogs in particular, would never be considered for being listed as dangerous–hell, one of them’s a guidedog. But they’ll list a miniature football?

The mail carrier, for her part, did what any decent person would do–she got herself to the doctor and got hold of some antibiotics, then went about her day. And the owners of the dog more than likely keep an eye out for her now–and keep the dog inside until they know she’s passed. Or maybe that’s just what I’d do, and have done. As for the city of windsor? I’m keeping eyes open for a chihuahua ban. Because–hey, why stop there when you’ve already jumped off the logic train?

ODSP cuts costs again, figures you’ll make it up out of pocket.

It’s been a long time since I got to do one of these, largely because while things haven’t really improved a whole lot, they’ve not done much in the opposite direction either. That apparently changed at some point in January. I needed to hit the hospital this past week to bring May home after a minor procedure that required she be overnight. No big thing, really–I could get me there. The hospital wasn’t entirely too far away, to the tune of about a $25 drop each way. I’ve handled worse.

Here’s the thing, though. The Ontario disability Support Program (ODSP) entitles the patient–note: not the one showing up at the hospital with the patient’s belongings–to a lift home from the hospital, or any other medical appointment, with the appropriate level of proof provided (usually confirmation from one of the medical staff that says you’ve been there, you’ve been seen, you need to get home). Because we’re not all Blindy McBlinderson with 24/7 access to a person with both a pair of working eyes and a driver’s license. Also I’m not sure I’d have wanted to wake mine up at 5:30 in the morning if I had that kind of 24/7 access–yes, they might be my sighted servant bitch, but I’m not that cruel.

As I’ve mentioned before, ODSP doesn’t exactly shower us with cash over here. So while it can be afordable getting patient’s things to them, then getting patient home, more often than not it’s afordable at the expense of something else–like I really was hoping I didn’t have to pay to have the prescriptions we were sent home with filled (I didn’t, thank Christ). So I was a teeny tiny bit surprised when, while trying to make arangements to get May and myself home with ODSP’s help, I was informed that as of January of this year, ODSP has stopped offering that service. This according to the folks at the city of Ottawa line that handles requests for such foolery. Again, fortunately for us I didn’t end up needing to pay for prescriptions, but the creative mental tap dancing on the way home would have been impressive were it not to do with figuring out which bill wasn’t getting paid for a couple weeks.

If you’ve been following the ODSP episodes since around 2010, or even if you’re yourself on ODSP, you’re probably very familiar with the extreme difference (note: 2010 figures used) between what folks on ODSP get versus what even folks making minimum wage get. That hasn’t changed much in 3 years–there’s still quite the gap between ODSP payments and minimum wage payments. But ODSP did, at least, have the supports for getting people home from the hospital who otherwise couldn’t get themselves home due to a lack of license, a lack of servant with license, and a lack of public transit service when the discharge order comes in at half past dawn going for it. As of January, they don’t anymore. And they figure it’s perfectly fine if you have to make up the difference out of pocket. Because really, you weren’t gonna buy groceries with that money anyway.

I’ve always said if I had half a choice, I’d leave ODSP in the dust and never look back. I’m still staring down the prospect of giving me half a choice. I get the province is about $25 billion short insofar as the budget goes. I get that they need to trim expenses. I get that they figure we’ll manage to cover it if and when. But I’d be interested in seeing the mental gymnastics that lead to the conclusion that we actually can. Oh, of course–that’s for us to work out. They’re hands off now. Government cost cutting at work. So. About that next election.

PS: You’d figure we’d have gotten a notice from ODSP insofar as they’ve made changes to the service we’re entitled to receive from them. So far as I’ve seen, not so much. Rumour has it that was caught in the cost cutting as well. Damn shame, that.

Edited to add: I originally wrote this entry by email. Apparently when I did that, a link up and broke itself and didn’t get caught by my usual checking and rechecking of things. Go figure. Have a fixed link. Just in time for me to find something else to post about.

Dear #EMI: I’m a pirate, and it’s all your fault.

Let me give you a bit of a refresher on how I work. I’m not one of these folks who’s first instinct is to find the nearest regulation and see in just how many pieces I can break it before it turns lunch time. Actually, where I can, I tend to do the exact opposite–then help folks who would like to do the same to be able to do so. But see, there’s a small problem at times with that logic. And you guys over at EMI just ran smack into it at full speed.

There’s a song by country singer Dierks Bentley that’s apparently been out since October of last year. I only just heard it last week. I wanted to see if I could find the music video for it. Partly, because I’ve yet to see it, and partly because short of lining myself up for one of those “pay us $4000000000000000 and we won’t sue you for $100000000000000000” letters, that’s the only way I’d be hearing the song without deciding to park myself in earshot of the radio or TV until it comes on–for the record, when you’ve got things to do, that just doesn’t happen. Sorry, EMI. So I did what any legal-minded person with 10 minutes free to do it would do. I hit the interwebs for the official video. And what’d I find?

This video contains content from EMI, who has blocked it in your country on copyright grounds.

Yep. A music video, that I was perfectly willing to listen to legally, I’m not actually legally (by EMI’s definition of legally, anyway) allowed to listen to. So I did what any legal-minded person who doesn’t have the time or the spare brainmatter to park himself in front of the TV until the thing decides to come up in the rotation would do. I went to a few of those *other* sources on the interwebs. Yeah, you know the ones. And if you’ve been reading this blog long enough, you know the rest. those *other* sources, in no uncertain terms, told me they had exactly what I was looking for, and I could have it in as long as it took for the thing to download. so, following my own logic, I thought about it for about 5 seconds, then tried a few more legal avenues. Got told in very diplomatic–appologetic, even–terms to please to be shoving off now, EMI doesn’t want me seeing it, and thanks kindly. So I went back to my other sources. And, hell, I hit download.

In that very instant, and not for the first time, I became a statistic–the kind of statistic that companies like EMI hold up and wave around while all the while screaming “More copyright! More enforcement! Because piracy!”. And, like so many times before, it won’t trouble my sleep any. Why not, some back office executive’s likely wondering–assuming back office executives even read stuff like this, which is probably more evidence I should be considerably more awake–or caffinated–than I am at the moment before writing this. Because, to put it simply, I followed the law, and the law tried to lead me off a cliff.

To be clear, I wasn’t even planning on downloading the bloody song. It’s good, but not so good that I just had to have it right the hell now. I’d of even, were I intent on grabbing the song for my own personal use, coughed up whatever the going rate for the thing is on iTunes–assuming 1: iTunes had it and 2: EMI let them sell it to me without the same brainless geographic restrictions (neither of which I checked, because again, wasn’t interested in *downloading* the song). I’d of listened once or twice, then poof, off to do whatever the hell else I was planning to do–like move nearly 1 TB of crap from one drive to the other so I can reuse the first one for fun things. EMI had other plans for me, clearly.

So, as of this morning, also not for the first time, I am James, the pirate. And it’s all EMI’s fault. I should probably be expecting one of those letters soon.