Archive for ‘Uncategorized’

September 6, 2015

Election 2015–thoughts

I’m not politcal pundit or a political theorist. But i do have strong thoughts on this election.

First and foremost we must rid ourselves of the political rot that has accompanied the term of Steven Harper. His disgraceful policies and approach to the democratization of Canada has been amply documented elsewhere. It is not just his right wing policies (from Bill C51 to his destruction of the Canadian economy) but his intense work to further limit democracy in this country (from the silencing of scientists, prorogation of Parliament to the destruction of the Parliamentary committee system).

The large majority of Canadians know and understand these issues. Even in 2011 most Canadians opposed Steven Harper but he was able to garner a majority of seats with only 38% support. The anti-Harper sentiment is even stronger this time around.

But,as a complete indictment of the Canadian education system, most citizens have little understanding of government. As a result, even if Harper garners just a plurality of seats he may be able to continue governing by exploiting NDP-Liberal friction, prorogation of Parliament and other tricks that the opposition, at least in the past, has been willing to let his use. Canadians may or may not support an NDP-Liberal coalition as somehow illegitimate if it attempts to ‘bring down’ a government with a plurality of seats.

There isn’t much we can do about that except to make it clear to candidates who come to our doors that no matter the seat count, if there is a minority government we want the NDP and Liberals to work together to prevent Harper from becoming Prime Minister again.

I certainly hope voters in ridings where the Conservatives have seat consider voting strategically to prevent their re-election. In a riding where one of the NDP or the Liberal candidate is out of the race for all intents and switching their vote would prevent a Conservation from getting elected, I hope voters back whichever candidate might have a better chance of defeating the Conservative.

So just how hard is this to do? How hard do you have to plug your nose to vote Liberal (in my case)?

Well just a few months ago I felt that Trudeau had moved to the right and was unsupportable. But since the campaign has started the Liberals have moved more to the left.
Now, they aren’t flaming socialists but then either are the NDP.

And there is always the concern that they are just tacking left to get votes and wouldn’t govern from that position. But at some point one simply has to look at the policy placed before us and vote on that. And, further, a minority government, which is the most likely outcome, may help keep both the NDP and Liberals honest.

To me the most defining difference between the NDP and Liberals was the promise of a universal day care program form the NDP. I don’t like the Conservative’s approach of handing out money to people to buy their own services. This is the typical conservative approach to society: give people choices and let the market place decide.

When there are insufficient places available the marketplace doesn’t work. And, as in medicare and other social service delivery, there are economies of scale from a government sponsored plan.

The Liberals’ approach is similar to the CPC, only they change the mechanism a bit so that those in need are more likely to get more money. This is a more progressive approach than the CPC but still a choice option.

So, to me, the NDP policy speaks of a welcome and renewed interest in the role of government in social policy. And it has worked well in Quebec.

Score one for the NDP over the liberals.

But, wait a minute. The NDP say they will cost out all their programs but I see some problems here.

First, the universal day care is to be brought in over many years…beyond this current mandate. That is problematic if they are not re-elected.

Second, the program depends on the provinces paying 50% of the cost. Some provinces have already announced they cannot afford to enter the planned program.

And, with the NDP’s new (and bizarre) infatuation with balancing budgets there may not be the money to proceed with universal day care…at least for a long time. In the meantime, the NDP has committed to keeping the CPC’s current child care benefit, a very bad idea.

Don’t forget it was the NDP under Jack Layton who ruined the best chance at universal day care when Layton handed over government to Harper rather than back Paul Martin. He used bullshit arguments to support the CPC and ensure that Harper would become Prime Minister for the next 10 years.

So can we even trust the NDP to pursue universal day care or will it be found to be ‘unaffordable’ or won’t garner provincial buy-in while we continue to get the CPC’s hand outs?

Hopefully with a minority government we would at least get the ‘improved’ Liberal hand outs.

So let’s take that point away from the NDP since it’s looking like an empty promise right now.

As for the Senate, I think it is completely disingenuous for the NDP to claim they will abolish it when they do not have the power to do so and that too is politically impossible to achieve. What NDP nonsense policy.

The other major item for me is the economy. The Conservatives have so totally mismanaged the economy that I have no worries that either the NDP or Liberals could possibly do any worse. In fact historically conservative governments almost always worsen debt whenever they come to power by their relentless pursuit of lowering taxes in order to ‘shrink government’. In fact, under conservative governments bureaucracy invariably grows while capacity to pay decreases.

I don’t see many people in the NDP who would be capable of being finance minister in a new NDP government. I find it very interesting that they are touting Andrew Thomson, former Saskatchewan NDP Minister of Finance, as the prospective Minister if they win.

But they have placed him in a traditionally Liberal riding (that went Conservative last time) where the NDP got 20% of the vote in 2011 and the Liberals are currently running neck and neck with the Conservative at about 40% each. While defeating the current and inept Finance Minister, Joe Oliver, would be a lovely coup for the NDP, right now it looks rather like all they are likely to achieve is to ensure that the vote is split and Joe Oliver wins!

If Thomson is such a star candidate why did the NDP not find a winnable seat for him to run in in Toronto? Surely he would be a better candidate in University-Rosedale (instead of the charming but inexperiences Jennifer Hollett) or against Adam Vaughan instead of the tired and shop-worn Olivia Chow.

But the big picture on the economy is the infrastructure plan which the Liberals have the courage to admit will continue budget deficits in order to achieve. It seems like virtually every economist is saying that now is the time to allow some debt in order to finance public works projects. Only the CPC and the NDP oppose this.

I chuckle every time Harper speaks about the importance of balancing the budget since he inherited a surplus from the Liberals and was already in deficit even before the 2008 recession. He has never yet managed to balance a budget so what does he know about budgeting?

I know the NDP are trying to ease the minds of voters who may be scared about a ‘free spending’ NDP. But it turns out that Trudeau and the Liberals are offering more vision on this matter.

Of course there are many other issues in this election. But for me these two issues, day care and budgets/deficit, are what this election is all about.

Until the last Ontario provincial election I have always voted NDP. In that election the Liberals tacked to the left of the NDP. After I convinced myself that the local candidate was not repugnant, I voted Liberal as I saw that as a progressive statement.

This time around I am at this point voting NDP because I understand the ideological point behind universal day care as oppose to paying ‘consumers’ to purchase services.

But the NDPs continual harping about deficits and balanced budgets are making me re-consider.

Let me know what you think?

I want to add another comment and that is about candidates. I know politics has been moving for a little while now toward ‘professional’ candidates. People like Joe Cressy, Pierre Pollievre and Steven Haper…who have never really ‘worked’ anywhere outside of a sheltered environment. For Steven Harper that meant hyper partisanship in the National Citizens Coalition and work in Member’s offices before he ran.

For NDP candidates it can mean work in the Stephen Lewis Foundation or the Ed Broadbent Institute. While I am sure there is much to learn from these environments, I like my candidates to have had to work for a living for a while. To have some real life experience.

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June 26, 2015

Mean Streets

I know I’m getting older. And, as a result, I’m likely getting crankier. But some of my complaints are justified.

Let’s start with an example. Just as traffic in North America drives on the right side of the street, so too should pedestrian traffic walk to the right on sidewalks. Otherwise people would be bumping into each other all the time. Walk on the right and pass on the left.

Now, a lot of people do not seem to realize this rule of the sidewalks. Minor infractions are harmless. But the wandering text-er or the spread out group of friends can make navigating sidewalks in our ever busier city difficult at times.

Today I was walking west along Bloor just west of Bay (I was slumming). I was walking briskly and keeping to the right on the sidewalk. Two older women using canes were approaching and I saw an athletically built middle aged man carrying the ubiquitous coffee container coming towards me. He moved to his left to pass the women, thus putting himself directly in my path.

I had nowhere to go to my right as I was already on that side of the sidewalk. And I am tired of moving over for misbehaved persons. So I continued straight ahead and the man and I bumped into each other. Not a huge bump but both our shoulders hit.

I continued to walk on but heard him yell ‘hey’. I didn’t stop figuring to avoid a confrontation. He yelled it again. I stopped and turned around.

He said: ‘what the fuck are you doing’?

I replied: ‘i was already on my side of the walkway, where were you going?’

He: ‘There were two ladies with canes on the sidewalk and you nearly hit them’

Well, of course, I would not have come close to those two women. When he tried to squeeze around them as I was approaching he put himself on a collision course with them when he hit me.

I simply turned and walked away. Then he screamed ‘I should break both your legs right now’.

Oh, yes…it took every ounce of control I had to continue walking and not turn around to suggest that he try to do just that.

Morals of the story:

…please remember there are rules of the road even on the sidewalk

…if you are wrong and don’t have the guts to admit it, at least don’t blame someone else for your transgressions.

…why is is so hard to stay calm and avoid confrontation? I really did want to have it out with that jerk.

People like that come in all sizes and from all walks of life. He is a self righteous asshole (I write this just after the event and I’m still boiling) who likely has never seen anything he does as wrong.

Suggestions on how best to handle these people?

June 2, 2014

Do you still want to vote NDP?

The polls in Ontario are showing the Conservatives getting stronger. Hudak is approaching majority territory. It will be a very close election. So, if you are a progressive voter, what do you want to do with your vote?

You can give it to a member of the NDP but that will involve forgetting that when the Liberals raised the minimum wage Horwath sat on her hands. When the Liberals talked about expanding public transit Horwath said not if it meant taxing ‘the middle class’. When the Liberals brought down their budget Horwarth was seen standing outside with her moistened finger in the air.

It was revealed today in the Globe and Mail (Jun 2, 2014) that Hudak has been down to the U.S. consulting with leading right wing Replicans and members of the Tea Party group. He’s the same guy whose plan for 1,000,000 new jobs has just been demonstrated to be an arithmetical fantasy. But, as the Conservative spokesperson replied on CBC: ‘do you want to listen to a bunch of egghead economists or listen to what you know is right’.

That’s an interesting response because Andrea Horwath is now pushing the ‘common sense’ line in her TV ads.

One only has to remember what happened the last time the NDP felt they could pick up seats in an election to defeat the Liberals. That was when they brought down Paul Martin. And in one fell swoop we lost the Kelowna Accord (and who is now paying the huge price for that?) and a National Day Care program. Not to mention the enjoyable last eight years of Steven Harper’s government. Nope, not only is a vote for the NDP a vote to the right of the Liberals in this election but a vote for the NDP may indeed be a vote for Hudak. When all the seats are counted, the Lieutenant Governor will approach whichever party has the most seats in the Legislature to form a government.

That better be the Liberals. According to the polls it cannot be the NDP. And it better not be the PCs.

If you live in a riding where only the NDP could beat the Conservatives, please vote NDP. But if you live in a riding where a Liberal could beat an NDP (like my riding of Trinity Spadina) I am voting Liberal so that at the end of the day there can be one more Liberal standing than Conservatives.

Sorry NDP, you blew it.

June 2, 2014

Do you really want to vote NDP?

The polls are showing the Conservatives getting stronger. Hudak is approaching majority territory. It will be a very close election.

So, if you are a progressive voter, what do you want to do with your vote?

You can give it to a member of the NDP but that will involve forgetting that when the Liberals raised the minimum wage Horwath sat on her hands.

When the Liberals talked about expanding public transit Horwath said not if it meant taxing ‘the middle class’.

When the Liberals brought down their budget Horwarth was seen standing outside with her moistened finger in the air.

It was revealed today in the Globe and Mail (Jun 2, 2014) that Hudak has been down to the U.S. consulting with leading right wing Replicans and members of the Tea Party group. He’s the same guy whose plan for 1,000,000 new jobs has just been demonstrated to be an arithmetical fantasy. But, as the Conservative spokesperson replied on CBC: ‘do you want to listen to a bunch of egghead economists or listen to what you know is right’.

That’s an interesting response because Andrea Horwath is now pushing the ‘common sense’ line in her TV ads.

One only has to remember what happened the last time the NDP felt they could pick up seats in an election to defeat the Liberals. That was when they brought down Paul Martin. And in one fell swoop we lost the Kelowna Accord (and who is now paying the huge price for that?) and a National Day Care program. Not to mention the enjoyable last eight years of Steven Harper’s government.

Nope, not only is a vote for the NDP a vote to the right of the Liberals in this election but a vote for the NDP may indeed be a vote for Hudak. When all the seats are counted, the Lieutenant Governor will approach whichever party has the most seats in the Legistlature

May 23, 2014

Say no to Hudak

I continue to watch the polls like a hawk.

The Conservatives continue to lead. The polls seem to show that the Liberals could still get more seats with a lower percentage of the popular vote because of their vote distribution. Yet it is disturbing that the Conservatives are still ahead.

The polls are a bit volatile, however.

It appears that the Conservative vote is more likely to hold than the Libs or NDP with voters moving between the latter two in preference. That would suggest that the biggest battle at this point is among the more ‘progressive’ voters. Conservatives know what they want, the rest of us are unsure. And that’s where strategic voting is so important.

At the moment the NDP have no chance of forming a government. They know that. They are hoping that disgust with the Liberals (and fear of the Conservatives) will move voters enough in their direction that they have a significant jump in seats after this election. That would position them, they feel, for a legitimate run in the next election. They could care less if this strategy puts in power an extreme right wing government in Hudak.

This is the same strategy used by Layton to dump Martin. To some extent it seemed to have worked. Their seat total propelled them into Official Opposition. The fact that it has given us 8 years of Stephen Harper seems not to matter to NDPers.

If the Liberals are resurgent in the next federal elution and the NDP goes back to 3rd party status all their machinations will have failed. This currently looks like a real possibility. They will have had a temporary blip in popularity at the price of a country-wrenching Harper government.

And this is what we may see in Ontario. The NDP will hand the reigns of power to the Conservatives while realizing some temporary gains in seats.

Having had a look at the NDP platform just released can anyone really say it is worth the gamble so the NDP can gain seats?

I know Liberals are not to be trusted. I know their ‘progressive’ attitudes can be fleeting. But Horwath is hardly the clear headed and decisive leader to move this province forward. She took weeks at each of the last two budgets, while standing outside with her finger in the air, before deciding whether she could support the Liberals. She is an opportunist.

I’m not looking for an ideologue. I can live with the NDP deciding a move to the middle is where they want to be. But they haven’t moved to the middle so much as the muddle.

I’m voting strategically. And I’m voting Liberal. That is, unless a shock happens and the polls show the NDP passing the Liberals in likely seats. Then I will vote NDP.

As I’ve said before: when the votes are counted and the Lieutenant Governor approaches a party leader to form the next government, I want that person to be anyone but Hudak.

February 7, 2013

I hate Rogers!!!

Rogers wireless service people are terrible to deal with! I know this isn’t news to anyone who has the misfortune to be a customer of theirs but wow, what service.

I don’t have time to write more at this time because:

1. I’ve already spent two hours in the past 12 hours trying to sort out their mess

2. I’m too pissed to write sensibly.

The problem is that they see service as a game. If you’re willing to play, you can sometimes swing a good deal. But you have to watch your account like a hawk for unauthorized billings for services you thought were free. And when you speak to sales or service people and they say ‘don’t worry, I’ve made an entry of our conversation on your account’ don’t believe them. I had a long conversation with service last night. Then I phone this morning and their records show a conversation and ‘resolution’ of a problem that has little resemblance to the conversation I had with them. In fact, it is largely a fabrication.

So when I naively say to the service rep this morning ‘check your notes and you will see what I am complaining about’ the response is that the notes don’t substantiate anything I am saying to them! And there is no recourse.

Bell, of course, may be even worse. Is there no cell company with any integrity or sense of customer service?

September 28, 2012

Playing with my Volkswagen

Ok, so call me superficial. I decided to buy a new car two years ago. At this point in my life I decided to finally get that ‘fun’ car that I always wanted: the quintessential ‘hot hatch’. I bought a 2011 VW GTI.

Since it’s a hatch that comfortably seats 5 and had folding rear seats and handles very well in the winter, it is also a practical car. It even gets good gas mileage for the performance it puts out. I’ve gotten two foldable kayaks and all relevant gear in it and can easily get three good sized hockey bags in the back.

So that was my starting point.

For some reason (mid life crisis or simply leaving children and therefore I can indulge myself) I got into this car and its possible modifications in a way I have never done with a car before.

And, being progressive, it is of course politically incorrect to be into cars. That might have been one of its appeals.

First mod? A tune. A chip. A reflash. These are all the terms used for after market reprogramming of the ECU (electronic control module–the brains of the car) for more power. Most cars, and VWs are known for this, are over engineered. That is to say, they can safely (up to a point) deliver more power without negatively impacting durability of components than the factory tunes them for. That means if you take care of your car then you can safely squeeze out more performance.

There are several companies that do this for VWs and the VW turbo engine (2.0l TSI) is particularly adaptable. I decided to go with the most popular North American tuner, APR, based in Alabama U.S.A. There is a Canadian company, Unitronic, a European, Revo and GIAC (? country of origin). They all deliver similar results but APR seems to have a very good reputation for customer service as well as a good dealer here in Toronto. So I went with them.

By the way, tuning the car actually increases efficiency and so increases km/l a bit.

Because VW doesn’t approve of this, the tuner must bypass the ECU encryption by removing the ECU and bench flashing it. There is a slight risk involved in doing this and so you must choose your tuner carefully and make sure they re-seal the ECU when it is replaced under the hood. Failure to do so has resulted in destroyed ECUs at a cost of just under $2000.

I chipped mine 18 months ago and am quite happy so far.

Chipping it increases horsepower by about 10 to 15% but increases torque by about 20%. It is noticeable when you step on the gas. It’s all very controllable, though. You just have to know how to drive.

So now I have a more performance oriented engine which will do 0-100 in about 6 seconds. As important, however, is that the stock suspension on these cars is great and cornering and on-ramps are a hoot.

A word of warning: if something goes wrong with the engine and VW determines it was the fault of a chipped ECU, they can deny repairs under warranty.

Applying power is nothing without control. I know I should have dedicated summer and winter tires but I decided to change over the stock (and pretty crappy) tires to Continental Extreme DWS (size: 225/45/17). These tires have a bit of a soft sidewall so aggressive cornering can feel a bit squishy. Personally I find them just fine but others have complained.

What is amazing about these tires is their grip on dry put particularly in the wet and slush. These tires are truly great in the rain and I feel a real added safety factor in wet weather. They have also been very good in the past two winters. I know last winter had very little snow but I was pretty impressed by their performance.

The DWS stands for Dry, Wet, Snow. As the tires wear and lose tread depth the S, then the W on the tires are worn down and disappear. That’s how you know what to expect from them. Two years into them I think I still have about another year on the S. In other words I should be good through this winter.

Next year we will see but I would buy these tires again.

I should note that I kept the 17″ wheels (most GTIs I see have upgraded 18″ wheels). The 17 s have better road feel (more comfortable as compared to lower profile tires), are cheaper to replace the rubber on and, since they are lighter in weight by at least 5 pounds (less inertial mass) they perform better in the corners. They also have better winter traction. I don’t know why people insist on getting the 18″ wheels. Looks, I guess.

So now I have the power and the contact with the road. Next I got a short shifter. The Audi TT has a short throw shifter that is an OEM direct replacement for the one that comes stock on the GTI. It is under $100 to purchase and instal. The difference isn’t huge but it makes the manual transmission just that bit nicer.

By the way, the DSG automatic transmission on the GTI is very nice. I’m just a ‘row the boat’ kind of guy.

These three mods are my main performance changes. I’ve done a couple of cute cosmetic things. I bought some decals to go over the dummy buttons that all cars have. The eject button on my console is my favourite.

I changed all the light bulbs in the interior of the car to LEDs. They are much brighter and much whiter. For $25 I really like the ambience that much better. I went with SuperbrightLEDs superwhite 5000.

To enhance level cornering and stiffen the body a bit I installed a Unibrace UB body brace underneath the car. As well, to prevent wheel hop and tighten up shifting through the gears I installed a modified polyurethane lower engine mount (cost all of $10 and makes quite a difference). Shifting gears is now a tighter more precise experience.

I’ve done a couple of minor cosmetic stuff I won’t bother mentioning for now.

Last week I disconnected the Soundaktor–a device under the hood that responds to the ECU to essentially pipe noise into the passenger cabin. They have so well insulated the passenger cabin that people can’t hear the growl of the engine, thereby detracting from the performance experience of driving the car. A number of high end cars do this.

I decided to see what the car sounds like with it disconnected. It’s not hard to do. You have to remove a rubber gasket under the hood, lift up the rain tray and reach under the windshield and disconnect. I am pondering this one.

The car is definitely quieter. On the highway it’s very nice. Around the city I kind of miss the growl that makes me feel I’m sitting on a more powerful power plan than I actually am. I may reconnect it in the future but for now it will stay disconnected.

June 29, 2012

‘I’m one of a kind’

There’s a new commercial on TV for Dr Pepper. Guy is walking down the street drinking a Dr Pepper when he tears off his shirt to reveal a t-shirt underneath. The t-shirt reads ‘I’m one of a kind’. The camera then pans out to dozens and hundreds of others tearing off their shirts to reveal identical t-shirts.

You have got to love the concept of hundreds of people looking exactly the same doing exactly the same thing proclaiming their individuality!

What f**n chutzpah. Do not buy Dr Pepper (who would anyway).

If the whole thing weren’t so trivial I would organize a boycott just because they think we’re all so stupid.

June 12, 2012

Addendum: How my parents met: grandmothers ring

In view of a recent family event I feel compelled to add this comment.
When my father returned to his home town of Radom after the war he headed to his old family apartment.
His father had buried some of the family valuables in the court yard at the start of the war. My father began digging but soon discovered the items had already been plundered
He knocked on the door of their neighbour to ask if they knew who had dug the stuff up or what had happened.
The man responded that he had no idea what my father was asking about.
Then his wife appeared at the door. She was wearing my father’s mother’s engagement ring.
My father confronted her asking how she had obtained it. She screamed some anti-Semitic comment at him, threw the ring at him and slammed the door in his face.
My father scooped up the ring and left.
A couple of years ago my father gave me the ring to keep as the only heirloom remaining from his family.
Just last week my son told me, on return from a driving vacation with his girlfriend to Quebec City, that he had given it to her and that he was now engaged.
Full circle.

April 13, 2012

Leafs Nation to Tanenbaum: apology not accepted

Need I say more? Six years out of the playoffs. Finished worse than last year. Four years into the ‘new’ regime with absolutely nothing to show.

Burke insisting that he knows what to do, despite completely rebuilding the team with nothing to show for it. On what basis does Burke still insist that he has any idea what to do?

Burke likes big (although he admits he hasn’t gotten big). He likes Americans (like Kessel, need I say more?). He also really likes what he has done before (that’s why he brought in Giguere, Carlyle, Allaire).

At first I though Burke would be creative. He was looking at U.S. College players as a new source of talent. He brought in The Monster. I forgive him for the fact that taking a chance doesn’t always work.

But his real approach remains ‘whatever I did in Anaheim I will repeat here’. Doesn’t sound very creative to me. It sounds like he’s caught in a rut. And so are the Leafs.

Apology not accepted.

Do better.

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