Right tool for the job

All this for democracy!

It’s municipal election time around here (Toronto, Ward 44). Liz is working as the campaign CFO and I’m the webmaster for a candidate site – www.forward44.org. One of the benefits of working the political scene is that you get to do all sorts of tasks that you never expected to be part of the normal routine. One of those is that Liz voluntold me to undertake the mission-critical task of putting an election sign in place.

So, we have the sign, we have the stakes and all we need are the tools. Getting the hammer is no problem – I have lots!

The other critical item is a staple gun. Once upon a time I had a nice staple gun. I’d had it for years. And then I bought another staple gun (these are real ‘guy’ tools, along with assorted hammers, duct tape and a can of WD40), so putting up the sign was only going to be a moment’s work. ha ha!!

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A cautionary tale

Watch where you’re going

Apparently not everything happens to me or Mrs. B. Sometimes, it happens to one of the kids. Here’s a recent email:

Hello family,

This could happen to you

This could happen to you

I was riding my bike home on Wednesday night around 11pm and went through the alley where some power lines had fallen and caution tape had been used to mark it off. Thinking I had successfully dodged the entire thing through the parking lot at the side I rode back into the alley and straight into a (completely unseeable) caution tape line across the alley. I fell off my bike and got the handle bar straight in the ribs at a 90 degree angle, plus I banged my knees up a bit. Continue reading

Would you mind looking again

A teachable moment for the bank

Mrs. B occasionally runs across something on e-Bay that she wants to buy. Now nobody in their right mind actually gives out a credit card number on the Internet (do they?), so PayPal is her preferred choice for payment.

Every once in a while, a buyer doesn’t have a PayPal account and needs a good old money order. So, Mrs. B buys a money order from the Canadian Post Office and sends it off to the seller in America … and back comes an apologetic e-mail from the seller:

Hello Liz,
Our bank just returned the money order you sent to pay for the [edited out]. We didn’t notice is was a Canadian money order, but of course, our bank did and will charge us US$10 to collect the CAD$6.95.

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Traffic Jam – we can fix it

if we can find it!

Strictly speaking this isn’t a rainy day story – more like a rainy month story. The sort of thing that keeps me away from doing what I enjoy and trying to do ‘something’ to engender a sense of fiscal responsibility for local taxpayer money.

As a result of a Transportation Study done sixteen years ago, my community was recently presented with a number of alternatives to solve the “traffic problems” in the area, specifically on Port Union Road. After a series of Open House meetings, the preferred solution involved a $3,000,000 expenditure (of taxpayer’s money).

As a long-time area resident, I’ve driven on Port Union Road every day for 15+ years in the morning and evening ‘rush hour’. I’ve never been in a traffic jam, or anything close to a traffic jam. In fact, most of the time Port Union is pretty well wide open as far as you can see in both directions. And in the ‘rush hour’, sure there’s occasionally more traffic but the picture below shows you a fairly typical ‘rush hour’ view of Port Union Road.

This whole concept – a study of a non-problem with the preferred solution being to spend $3 million – bugged me so much that I created an entire website about it.

Final score
Time will tell. Whatever happens – will my taxes go down?

Watch where you park

Flying Celebrity attack – paparazzi unhurt

It’s a nice quiet afternoon at the office when the receptionist calls me “Andy, can you come down to reception?”. I’m thinking maybe it’s a strip-a-gram except it’s not my birthday. I go downstairs to find a slightly dishevelled guy standing there proferring his driving licence and proof of insurance! He says “It wasn’t my fault, but I hit your car in the parking lot.”

Well, he wasn’t kidding about hitting my car; judge for yourself whether it was his fault. Apparently he had pulled into a parking spot and his brakes had ‘failed’ and he’s worried he’ll lose his job for being late for his shift, and he doesn’t have any money to pay for repairs, and he owes student loans, and … and … “OK, I say. Let’s go and have a look.”

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Trolling for dollars

It’s the weekend in the non-winter. That means there must be an assortment of garage sales for Mrs. B to visit. This is a lady with an eye for a bargoon, but when she returned (triumphant even) with two plastic trolls among her trophies I was beginning to wonder … and, even more so when she explained that she had only paid CDN$3.25 for them.

Since it’s possible that persons of tender years could be reading this stuff (judging from my server logs, somebody is reading it), I won’t repeat some of the more creative comments made by my kids about the aesthetic quality of these plastic beauties. One big troll with two heads and stringy tangled hair, the other troll with only one head and stringy tangled hair.

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Travel broadens the mind …

… and other things.

It’s the weekend. That means – almost invariably – that some of my kids will decide they ought to visit, and they ought to bring assorted grandchildren. And of course, they need to be picked up at the subway station.

That’s all fair enough. Mundane, even. But today was quite a different story.

I drew the short straw and was elected to pick up my middle daughter and 5-year old grandson. I get to use my car as for some inexplicable reason the child seat and baby seat are still in it from last weekend. 20 minutes later, I arrive at the ‘kiss and ride’ exactly on time and am pleasantly surprised to see them both there are ready to get into my car. Door opens, grandson throws up in the back seat.

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Power of Babel

One of my kids brings me a form received from the Health Department of the Centre of the Universe (aka City of Toronto). Toronto is in Canada – officially a bilingual country (English and French in case you care). Said form is accompanied by a legal sized piece of yellow paper with the following note printed boldly across the top:

This is an important message.

Take this form to someone who can read English.

OK, fair enough – almost. Since Canada is bilingual, why isn’t the message to take the form to someone who can read English or French.

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Chain Reaction

A personal electrifying experience, with major economic impact.

‘Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, the third time it’s enemy action’ – Goldfinger to James Bond.

Once upon a time the electrical outlet in one corner of our kitchen worked fine. Then it ‘broke’, and I instantly fixed the problem (moved the microwave to another spot).

Many years later, Mrs B. decided it had to be fixed properly as she had ‘waited long enough’. She overcame my inertia by bringing in an electrician to fix it. He showed up, messed around – $60 later we have power in the kitchen corner. Microwave relocated and functional.

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Getting your own back

Voodoo economics – sticking a pin in it

Mrs B. and I live in Toronto – the fifth largest city in North America – with a population well in excess of 2,000,000. So it’s not exactly the outback here, but sometimes you wonder who’s running the show.

We get a letter from the City’s Supervisor of Accounting, Finance Services Division, that begins:

Dear Sir or Madam

There is a credit on your realty tax account relating to overpayments. In order to issue a refund cheque or to process a transfer of funds, we require proof of payment for the following payments:

blah blah blah

You may send in your proof of payment either by fax, etc. etc.

Now let’s think this through. Before they sent me the letter, surely they were certain that we had overpaid – or else why would they write this letter? So can I just say that the proof of payment is the fact that they sent me the letter. If they are satisfied I overpaid, I’m satisfied.

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