gordon.dewis.ca - Random musings from Gordon


Archive for January 2009

Google: 1, Bambi: 0

January 30, 2009 @ 12:55 By: gordon Category: Seen on the 'net

Have you heard of Google Street View? Basically, Google has cars with cameras mounted on them that provide a 360-degree view of wherever the Street View car is driving. With a GPS tracking its route, Google is able to integrate these pictures into Google Maps. The end result is that you can “drive” along the road while sitting in front of your computer. Pretty neat stuff!

Of course, when you drive along as many roads as the Street View cars have taking pictures, it’s inevitable that you’ll capture pictures of things like drug deals going down, and rednecks with guns and booze walking down 7th Street. There’s really no end of things you’ll find if you look hard enough, though depending on what it is Google may remove the photos when they find out.

Another consequence of driving as much as the Street View cars do is that sooner or later the Street View car is going to hit something and capture the incident for posterity, such as a Street View car running into Bambi. (Actually, to be fair it looks like the deer hit the car, which is what’s happened to me twice.)

Of course, Google has since removed the photos from their database, but not before someone made screen captures and posted them on the Internet.

Push came to shove

January 29, 2009 @ 20:32 By: gordon Category: Current affairs, Transit strike

O’Brien said when the federal government began to move forward with the legislation it was obvious that the strike was over. (CBC story)

So, it seems that with the very real threat of being legislated back to work, both the city and the ATU 279 decided to send the dispute to binding arbitration. Of course, the strike isn’t officially over until both sides ratify the agreement, but it’s probably not in the interest of either side to not accept it.

Assuming they do, an arbitrator will come up with a three-year contract that covers wages, benefits, sick leave and contracting out. CBC reports that the mayor said “the city and the union are still very far apart on scheduling, raises, bonuses and benefits.” Hopefully the arbitrator will recognize the principle that management has the right to manage and return control of the schedule to the city where it should be.

In any event, it’s probably going to take people a long time to get over the strike. Other transit strikes have resulted in significant drops in ridership levels that can take months or years to return to pre-strike levels. I wonder how long it’ll take for ridership levels to return to “normal” this time.

Hopefully, there won’t be any incidents of violence towards the drivers when the buses get back on the road.

The mayor asks a very good question

January 28, 2009 @ 20:32 By: gordon Category: Current affairs, Transit strike

antiatu279.pngLarry O’Brien has written a blog entry asking what is the ATU willing to compromise on. He talks about the negotiations over the last couple of months, including the recent negotiations. The city has changed their offer from 7.25% over three years to 9.25% over three years. (As a point of reference, federal employees are only getting 6.8% over four years.) They’re focusing on the safety aspects and consequently have removed the $2500 bonus drivers were going to receive in recognition of efficiencies that would have been achieved by the new contract.

9.25% is what the union was asking for (even though they’ve said it’s not about the money) and still they’re saying no.

For the union to say that the city’s offer is basically unchanged from the original offer is ludicrous. True, the city wants to regain control of the schedule and they’re not budging on this, but they’ve sweetened the pot in return by giving in on the salary demands. (Management has the right and responsibility to manage. Without control over the schedule, they cannot exercise this right nor fulfill their responsibilities.)

Compromise is a two-way street. The city has compromised on some things, so what is the union willing to compromise on to reach an agreement?


Now you can write your own story about the negotiations between the City and ATU 279

January 28, 2009 @ 12:31 By: gordon Category: Current affairs, Transit strike

Andre Cornellier certainly makes it easy for reporters to file their stories about the negotiations between the City and ATU 279, doesn’t he, because there’s really just a handful of phrases and quotes they need to use when writing their stories?

Now you can write your own story in five easy steps!

First, you need a headline:

  1. Talks break off again between the city and striking transit union
  2. Union negotiators walk away from the table
  3. ATU 279 still on strike
  4. No progress in negotiations between the city and transit union
  5. Day ___: Still no deal   (you’ll have to fill in the blank with the appropriate number)

Chose one of the following opening sentences:

  1. After returning to the bargaining table, talks between the City and Local 279 of the Amalgamated Transit Union have broken down once again.
  2. Once again, negotiators for Local 279 of the Amalgamated Transit Union walked away from the negotiating table.
  3. Bus riders are still stuck walking as the strike enters its _______th day in a row. (again, fill in the blank with the appropriate number)

Next, add a reason why the talks broke off:

  1. Union negotiators maintain that they have the right to determine their schedules.
  2. According to union officials the City’s latest offer is not substantially different from previous offers.
  3. City maintains it has the support of its citizens in pursuing its goals of reducing overtime and operating costs while improving safety.

Finally, you need some quotes. First, one from a random citizen of Ottawa:

  1. U. N. Owen, regular bus rider, said “I can’t believe they rejected this offer. It’s more than most people in this city are getting.”
  2. “Both sides are being spoiled rotten children,” said John upon hearing talks had broken down again. “They should be taken out to the woodshed and beaten with a switch.”
  3. “Looks like I’m going to be walking to work for a long time,” one rider was heard to comment.

And then one from the Union:

  1. “I’m just drooling,” Andre Cornellier told reporters.
  2. “It’s about maximum disruption and maximum inconvenience to the public,” reminded local president Andre Cornellier.

And voila! You’ve just written the next story about negotiations between the city and ATU 279!

If I’ve missed any options, please feel free to post suggestions below. 🙂

CSI: Stoney Swamp

January 26, 2009 @ 01:42 By: gordon Category: Geocaching

Keeper of Maps I headed out with my friends Patti and Yves for a couple of hours of snowshoeing and geocaching Sunday afternoon. After loading up our GPSs, we met up at P11 in Stoney Swap off Hunt Club near Moodie and set off to find the first of four traditional geocaches, GAG11 – Pale Rider (GC15VVF).

IMG_1665 Pale Rider turned out to be a medium-sized garbage pail that had been painted, which we found quite easily. We signed the logbook and I left one of my pathtags and off we went to find the next cache, Thomas Ahearn #4 (GC139P1).

IMG_1666 On our way in to Thomas Ahearn #4, we passed by the distinctive imprint of a large bird that had swooped down and snatched something for dinner.

This was the first omen of things to come.

Thomas Ahearn #4 is one of a series of geocaches dedicated to the memory of Thomas Ahearn, an inventor and business man who was born in Lebreton Flats in 1855. Set on the edge of the hydro right-of-way, we were “greeted” by several dogs from an adjacent farm who were not impressed with our presence. But they kept their distance and we moved on to the next cache as quickly as possible.

Yves came across a large tuft of deer fur snagged on a bush as we made our way to Toybuilders Parts (GCZN3Z).

This was the second omen of things to come.

Say "entrails"! Thirty metres along, we came across what the omens had been warning us of: the body. Fortunately, it wasn’t a human body (geocachers have found those on a couple of occasions). It was the remains of a deer that had been beset upon by wolves, coyotes or perhaps the dogs we saw earlier. The scene could have been taken from an episode of CSI, with blood trails, hair and so on. Kind of grusome, so of course we took pictures.

After looking at the “crime scene” for a while and speculating what exactly had savaged the deer, we continued on to GCZN3Z.

IMG_1682 Toybuilders Parts (GCZN3Z) was surrounded by a flock of chickadees, so we stopped to feed them bits of a granola bar and take pictures of them before grabbing the cache container and signing the log.

En route to the next cache, GAG11 – You Dang Dirty Pole CaTche (GC10DP2), we stopped to chat with a couple of cross-country skiers. One of them had heard of geocaching and both were interested to learn there were geocaches in the woods.

GC10DP2 ended up being a micro hidden in the woods. Not normally the type of geocache I’d search for, particularly in the winter, it ended up not being as evil as it could be. (Micro caches are typically the size of a 35mm film canister or smaller (this one was about half the size of a AA battery), so looking for one in the middle of a forest can be a daunting task.) The container was very cleverly hidden, so I won’t mention exactly where it was so as not to spoil the search for other people.

All in all, a good way to spend an afternoon! 🙂

Sunrise this morning

January 21, 2009 @ 08:27 By: gordon Category: Photography

My apartment faces roughly east-southeast, meaning I am often treated to some fairly spectacular sunrises (if I am awake). This morning’s was particularly impressive so I decided to take a few pictures.

The squarish building on the horizon is one of the buildings in the Experimental Farm, while the building with the smoke stack that looks like a factory is actually the Civic Hospital.

It’s amazing how much of a difference a couple of minutes can make. Most of the photos were taken a minute or two before the sun actually poked it’s head over the horizon, while the last two were taken after sunrise. The difference is like night and day (literally!).

Transit strike: Day R (where R is a ridiculously large number)

January 19, 2009 @ 12:33 By: gordon Category: Current affairs, Transit strike

It’s Monday and I’m blogging, so it’s probably about the transit strike. Of course, if you look back through my recent entries you can probably change the day of the week and that statement would hold true. And today is no exception. *sigh*

CBC has a story about the striking transit workers being “disappointed” because the city rejected their latest offer. The first thing that came to mind was “now you know how everyone in the city felt when your union voted to reject the very reasonable offer”. At least the city councillors didn’t hold a “victory party” and post a video of it on the Internet. (You can see it on YouTube if you want, but don’t bother unless you’re looking to get angry.)

But reading the full story, I found the following:

Sowden [a bus driver interviewed on a picket line] said bus drivers were aware since the beginning of last year that a strike “was pending” and hence are ready to stick out longer.

“Many have worked the overtime in summer and have saved up our pennies so that we can carry ourselves through.”

This just supports something I’ve been thinking since the strike started, namely that ATU union boss, Andre Cornellier, almost certainly had no intention of not striking when he sat down at the bargaining table seven days before he called for a strike. How can this be considered as a prelude to bargaining in good faith?

Oh right – it can’t.