Sunday, July 24, 2011

Where Big Brother ISN'T watching you...

Contrary to what the fearmongers might try to make us think, Big Brother isn't watching us all the time, and sometimes that isn't a good thing. Personally I don't really have a problem with video surveillance, I figure that save but inside my house anyone could be watching me at any time, and if they are watching me, they could be taping me, not much I can do about it, so no sense worrying about my theoretic loss of privacy.
The Forks, Big Brother was a no show
 What worries me I think, is the places that people aren't watching me. A few weeks ago I was at The Forks (not the day I came up with my quasi-brilliant idea on how to increase transit usage), to have dinner with a friend and managed to grab the last parking spot in the little "close" lot. It was weird, because I generally have the gift of finding rock-star parking and this spot was less than stellar - the cars on either side of the spot were partially infringing on it and it was waaaaaay back by Sugar Mountain.  But I thought, hey, I have a small car, I'll fit. And I did. Fully between the lines. And this is what I came back to, and a door ding.

Now, hoping the karma really would be a bitch, I went straight to the security office at The Forks (actually, first I went to Sugar Mountain because I thought they would have the best footage if they had a camera) to get the license plate number of Ms. Silver Jeep  (if this was written by a man I am even further disturbed) from their video surveillance so that I could head to Autopac and report the hit and run.

*Now, before I go on, let me re-iterate, I was between the freaking lines! Yes, I did indeed pull into a spot that it was going to make it difficult for the driver/passengers of the vehicles on either side to get back in, but I was fully and completely between the lines, which in the world of parking lot etiquitte, is how it works. They paint lines on the ground and you park between them. I didn't invent the system, that's just how it is. No one forced them to park like idiots. If she hadn't left the note I might not have even noticed it, in the grand scheme of things it wouldn't have been a door ding worth reporting otherwise*

So, it turns out, I wasn't going to get to explain karma to Ms. Silver Jeep (and seriously, how could she not realize that my car is a girl car, I mean, honestly, I have a "Little Miss Sunshine" air freshener!) because, believe it or not, The Forks does not have video surveillance, or at least none covering the parking lots (although I was led to believe there was none at all).  Now, you are sitting there thinking, that can't possibly be true!?! I mean, the place that we are all directed to go to, by the tens of thousands, surely must have some sort of way of archiving things should anything go wrong. I mean, when the Jets make it to the Stanley Cup this year (I'm an optimist) and tens of thousands of Winnipeggers gather at The Forks and the handful of fans from the opposing, losing, team try to start up some sort of brouhaha, are we going to have to rely on the video captured solely on the phones of those in attendance?

Now, Winnipeg most certainly does have some video surveillance, I mean, who hasn't seen the infamous "Guy pooping in the flower pot at Portage and Main" video? Now, of course, that is not at all the point of video surveillance; the putting of it on the internet I mean - obviously the point is to be able to see who the culprit of things like that is. We also have some CCTV cameras, I wasn't able to get a clear understanding if they are monitored in real-time or not, I don't think someone watching live video is the way to go personally, but being able to have that footage stored digitally seems like an invaluable resource.

So, I ask this, in today's day and age, why aren't there cameras at The Forks?
"Critics who say surveillance cameras are an unwarranted invasion of privacy should have a look around. Cameras have become an ubiquitous aspect of daily life in big cities around the world and it is virtually impossible to travel very far without coming under the watchful eye of a security camera." (from the Free Press article linked above)
I think this is an important issue and one that other people besides me need to bring this up. Take the time, send an email to the MayorThe Forks, and what the heck, why not tell the Police that you don't feel protected while you're at Winnipeg's most popular public place.

Oh, and maybe they could put a camera up at my corner too - "The Wolseley Project" got a little trampled the other day and I'd like to confirm my suspicions about the culprit and getting the plate numbers of guys trawling for h00kers wouldn't be so bad either.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Don't ever put the word h00ker in a blog post

No really, don't. Not unless you want to be completely intrigued/grossed out by how many people are putting that into Google on a DAILY basis, and stumbling on my blog post. Yesterday there were SEVEN variations of that as a Google search. SEVEN.  First of all, who Googles where to find h00kers? Are these locals who are somehow out of the loop? Is there a tourism niche that needs to be filled - maybe at the information desk at the airport? Seriously though. Ew. My only consolation is that while they may be looking for gross anonymous sex, they are instead reading ramblings by me and maybe reconsidering strolling residential neighbourhoods for their next h00ker (note: in case you didn't pick up on it, please do not go to residential neighbourhoods looking for sex, it's not appreciated by the neighbours, well, except my one neighbour who all my other neighbours have just told me is a h00ker and brings her tricks in the back door, but that's a post for another time).

Now on to a more typical generic conversation topic - how about the weather?! I am female which means I'm cold about 95% of the time - but not the last few days let me tell ya! This weather is fantastic - loving it. This makes up for last summer and maybe even the summer before. The flowers in the Wolseley project are still going strong although I'm accepting volunteers to come and weed them for me...

That's it. Shortest blog post ever for this girl. Too hot to come up with brilliant ideas. Plus until I figure out that "World Peace" thing, I think my solving how to get more people to take the bus is going to be hard to top.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Solving the public transport issue

I've done it. I figured out how to increase bus ridership in Winnipeg. Nope, it's not the much hyped rapid transit. I don't really pay attention to that since I don't generally take the bus. Near as I can tell, all that's going to do is get people to the U of M faster, which I suppose is an okay concept, don't fully understand why anyone who isn't a university student would care, but whatever.  Moving on.

So, yestertime, I had me occasion to head to The Forks (I had one of my fancy Groupon things - two smoothies from The Smoothie Bar for $5) so I rounded up the roommate (as it would have been poor form to drink them both myself) and off we went - in the car.  Now, I don't live particulary far from The Forks, and being a nice summer evening, it would have made for a nice walk, but there were other things to be done that night so time was an issue. I could have taken a bus, I think from what little I do pay attention to buses that the 38 heads there from less than a block walk from my house.

Why didn't I take the bus then? Well, for the two of us it would have been $9.40 round trip, and I already have a perfectly good car (ok, a few) that is insured and paid for and parking is free - even if parking wasn't free, for what I would spend in gas to get there + parking would still be less than taking the bus. So what is my my wild and crazy idea?

Give the registered owners (with active insurance) of vehicles a bus pass. Now, of course there are still some people who will never ever use the pass, and would probably try to sell it, so we would use our newfangled drivers licenses and their unused magnetic stripe, as the bus pass. Ideally there would also be a way to work in some sort of "buddy pass" to this system, as in order to truly maximize bus ridership it's probable that cars are shared between spouses and the like. So maybe a highly discounted bus pass for the spouse, and if they were to travel as a family maybe up to 3 others could travel all at the same time, with the primary owner "swiping them in" when they got on the bus.

So why would they do this? Well, I'm guessing that there are a number of statistics regarding the population and the number of accidents in private vehicles vs. on buses, and that the savings realized by xx% increase in bus ridership blah blah blah so Autopac might be able to chip in.  There would be some loss of revenue to the government for less gasoline purchased, although I suppose if my master plan comes to fruition, then they might need a few more buses on the road, so at least a little of that revenue would be recouped.  There would likely also be some substantial savings to be had from less wear and tear on the roads.  And just think of what development might happen when all those ugly surface parking lots are no longer needed!

Ok, so my idea might be a little far-fetched in terms of just how well it might work, but I sincerely think that it might help to change how Winnipeggers feel about using public transport.  We mostly all have cars, and we aren't going to give them up anytime soon, so how can we change how people use their cars? Maybe a twist on this could instead be that when you swipe your drivers license to get on the bus, based on the amount you take the bus in a month you would receive a discount on your insurance - maybe it could cover the cost difference between all-purpose and pleasure insurance, since the vehicle would possibly not being used to go to/from work in this scenario.

Now keeping in mind that I am a think tank fueled by Slurpee's and not the best and brightest minds from across the country that would need to be paid millions to come up with this plan (given in its most bare bones format here), but what do we think? Would you take the bus more if it was "free"? I'll admit, I would be slow to take advantage of it in its fullest, but since I came up with it, I'm pretty sure I would, and I'm a pretty die-hard car girl.

*Pats self on the back* Next: World Peace

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Folk Fest this weekend!

Now, despite the exclamation point at the end of that title, I'm not actually that excited about Folk Fest, but so many people I know are it just seemed a shame to downplay it. In theory, I should be a Folk Fest person, but it must be the same missing hippie gene that has me loving cars that has me not to fussed about Folk Fest.

I suppose first and foremost, I find music to be an overwhelming experience.  I mean, there is SO much of it in the world, how do I find what I like best? I have discovered that I like a little bit of almost everything, save but perhaps death metal and rap music that refers to motherf*ckers and killing the police. I went to Folk Fest a few years ago, to see Scruj MacDuhk, a band I had always heard good things about but had not had the chance to hear.

I've discovered that although I don't hate it, I am not generally a fan of soulful acoustic type music or anything with a slow tempo - I want to dance in my head if nothing else. I know Folk Fest has both the soulful and the dancing types of music, but still generally just not my thing.

Next, Folk Fest seems to either be unseasonably cold or delightfully too hot. But Winnipeg Girl, I thought you loved the heat? Oh, I do. However, it is my understanding that the shower facilities at Folk Fest are lacking at best and since I've been told that camping in the "loud" campground is half of the experience I don't think I'd fit in if I went home every day for a nice hot soapy scrub.

Some things that I know (or have at least think I know) about Folk Fest that I love? Paying a deposit for your plate when you get food and then they wash it when you bring it back. I don't understand why every food court doesn't do this.  Think about it - a tiny little hole in the wall in the Polo Park food court where you bring your plate back and a giant dishwasher in the back where they all get washed instead of bags and bags of waste.  That was one thing I really liked about Denmark/Sweden - deposits for all the pop bottle, and in Copenhagen they have an entertainment park smack dab in the city centre and the cups you get drinks from int he park take a deposit - they have automated machines throughout the park where you can get your deposit back.

The legend of the "Castle Boys" and their remarkable campsite that they set up every year. I haven't heard yet what it will be for this year, but I'm sure it will be fantastic!
Some past creations

So what wild and exciting thing am I doing this weekend if not going to Folk Fest? Well, if all goes well, I'll be cleaning the eavestroughs, and shoveling dirt into my new flowerbeds. Here's crossing my fingers that the amazing weather will continue for the rest of the summer just in case I decided to take a beach day instead. If you are going to Folk Fest, have fun and drink lots of water!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Damn memory, RIP Souris Swinging Bridge

As is usually the case, I had some brilliant ideas for posts - when I was nowhere near a computer to even get them started. Thinking that they were so great how could I possibly forget them, I of course, promptly forgot them.

So instead, lest you think I've dropped out of the blogosphere, I will do a (rare) short little post. I was away from Winnipeg for the last week, and I'm always a little sad to be away for Canada Day, never mind all the fantastic weather that I missed. I'm a stereotypical freezing cold female - it's next to impossible for it to be too warm for me. That being said, I don't do manual labour for a living, so that's probably part of it... My travel blog will hopefully be updated soon - a little snippit of my visit to Sweden and Denmark.

While I was gone The Wolseley Project seems to have remained intact, although there are weeds amongst the flowers like crazy. I've checked the various news archives and it doesn't appear as though there were any major incidents (well, major enough to make any sort of news story) in and around my place so that's good; perhaps it was too warm for the criminals in my neighbourhood.

The cities I visited on my trip reminded me why unfortunately Winnipeg will never truly have a huge cycling network. Both Malmö and Copenhagen have dedicated bike lanes all over the city, with their own traffic lights and all.  Bike parking was plentiful and since apparently over half of the people in those cities commute by bicycle, car traffic was nothing like what you would expect for a large city. They also don't average getting colder than -2, which probably helps as well. I know there are die-hard cyclists who go all year long here in Winnipeg, but the majority of folks are unlikely to give up their command start to bike to work in -25.  Which means that in order to have a greener transportation plan we need rapid bus transit for winter, with heated bus shelters, or at the very least, more actual clean bus shelters and then a system for bikes in summer. Now, I know that diamond lanes are for buses and cyclists, but I don't imagine that cyclists like choking back on diesel fumes or trying to pass a bus by going into one of the busier lanes of traffic!

Image from Flickr
 On a completely unrelated note, I was sad to hear this morning that the Souris Swinging Bridge has been sacrificed in the flooding. I thankfully have visited it before so it's not something that I will miss out on but I sure hope they will rebuild it when the water levels come down.