Tuesday, December 18, 2012

This just in!

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

The North End  murder rate is down. This is no longer my gut feeling, I have real numbers.The CBC has been kind enough to post a map with all the murder stats from the last few years. Near as I can tell from CBC's slightly wonky interactive map* (and confirmed on this seemingly detailed website) so far there have been 29 murders in Winnipeg this year; number 29 which just happened over the weekend is not yet updated on either site. Of those 29 murders, guess how many happened in the notorious super scary North End??

Totally borrowed this image but I think they did too...


No matter how you write it, it's less than 15% of all the murders in this city this year. Even if you broaden the horizons of what is technically the North End, as the media tend to do (which you all know is my favourite) there were only 5 that the average suburbanite would consider the North End. Please note dodgy folk of the North End, this is not a challenge to up your game. For a little bit of context in 2011 there were 40 (although 41 according to Floyd Wiebe's website) and 15 of those which is 37.5%!

Also, the murder rate in Winnipeg seems on track to be less this year as well which is nice, and obviously I wish people would stop killing each other in general, but hey, if it's going to happen if it could be in a neighbourhood that isn't mine I'm a happy girl.

*If someone from CBC reads this, I had trouble when using the "table" function - it would let me me scroll down but then would bounce back up to the top instantly. Entirely possible of course that I am inept, however usually I can do stuff like that!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Dear Google Street View, THANK YOU!

Google Street View has been invaluable to me many times, but it's always irked me that the image was so outdated. Now, obviously there isn't really a big reason that it would need to be updated, but my house is come a long way in the years that I have owned it and that's the image I want to show the world.

Previously the Street view image showed my house in it's old crumbling stucco state, boring and white. The picture was also taken on a grey spring day with garbage still strewn everywhere. Overall, my whole street and neighbourhood looked like hell. I had a great idea for a post where I was going to screen capture all of the houses and then post the photos of what they look like now - there has been a lot of positive changes especially on my block. Well, apparently I missed my chance - the new Google Street View images are up!!

I'm so excited! I often sell things on kijiji and now people will probably be less afraid to come and pick things up from me in "the hood" because darned if it doesn't look purdy! Leaves on the trees, green grass and (almost) no litter.

What I do get a kick out of though, is the 3 distinctly different days/times that make up my little corner (all images captured from Google Street View) First we have just the yellow car out front, notice the turquoise house:

 Next we see the yellow car and the kick ass vintage VW Rabbit:

 Lastly, we can now see that the Wolseley project 2.0 has been planted, and the turquoise house is now yellow!

So darned if I'm not pleased as punch with this sunnier happier view of the North End! If you look close in the bottom photo you can see the big ol' pile o' dirt that no one came to help me shovel even after my pleas on twitter*

*Please read that statement in the as-yet-to-be-developed "guilt" font

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I predict a few others will blog about this too

So, it appears as though all of my random rants and rambles hard work has finally paid off. I got one of the coveted media invites to the pre-grand-opening shindig at the new IKEA; which, for the record my iphone still doesn't recognize as a "real" word. Apple, IKEA - you two should talk.

Now, being a Winnipegger and loving pretty much all things free and the invite specifically specified cocktails (one of my favourite free things ever) I was in. I also didn't know if I was going to make it to IKEA otherwise; I don't enjoy battling crowds and waiting in lines to be able to spend my dollars - this is also why I have never been a big fan of "the bar". To be fair, I also don't need anything really, if I was in the market for some furniture I would probably lean towards IKEA over any other retailer in terms of new furniture. The earth tones that dominate the furniture at the other big box stores kind of make me a little nauseous.

IKEA, unless you somehow have missed their general concept, offers mass produced furniture, often in quirky colours, frequently with sleek lines, that will supposedly hold up better than your average put-it-together-yourself type furniture. I even downloaded their free tool for designing your own kitchen a while back as I figured I was more of a high gloss cabinet sort of girl then shades of brown, beige and marble that you typically find at the big box places.

I have been to IKEA before, like many Manitobans I have been to the stores in Calgary, Edmonton and Minneapolis (and like probably few Manitobans, the one in Reykjavik, Iceland). Wandering the maze, and it is a maze (on purpose) of idyllic rooms I mostly just end up dreaming of highly organized spaces. Those Scandinavians have turned maximizing space into an artform.

Here are my thoughts on Winnipeg's IKEA store after last night (some are specific to Winnipeg, some just to the brand)
  • First and foremost: WARNING!! Unless you are in the restaurant don't expect to be able to use your mobile phone. Most of the building is a dead zone. I see this as problem in every way except IKEA needing to worry their staff are texting all day at work. How are you supposed to snap a pic and send it to someone asking if you should buy it or not?
  • A COCKTAIL reception should have COCKTAILS. I mean, thanks for the beer and wine, but I have the drink tastes of a 14 year old - where was the funky blue drink with pineapple (yellow) garnish?? But seriously, thanks for the invite, I had fun.
  • IKEA needs to sell the cord hiding strip that they use to hide their own cords on their displays. Dangling cords are unattractive and that cord hiding stuff is hard to find (Home Depot/Rona sells some but it's not as nice as the stuff they had at IKEA).
  • There needs to be more "all-in" pricing. The beauty of their products is also one of the drawbacks. There are seemingly endless combinations of products and it is common to see for example, two medicine cabinets set up next to each other (effectively looking like one) and then with add on lights and perhaps other bits and bobs. By the time you add it all up the $300 cabinet is actually $800. It's like car commercials that tell me that their car is only $13,995 - by the time you actually have a model that anyone wants it's more like twenty grand.

Perfectly organized now, but what is it going to look like on a Saturday?

I think it will be interesting to see how clean they are able to keep the store - all those slushy boots tracking through the store will be hard to keep up with. Also, making sure that things stay well stocked and organized down on the main floor will be really important; assuming the chaos that will surely ensue for the next few months they don't want to feel like a tacky Walmart with empty shelves like there was some sort of doorcrasher special.

A discount section before the store officially opens? Classic Winnipeg!

An interesting topic filled the local twitterverse last night regarding the potential conflict of interest in offering media types a preview that involved a swag bag and 15% discount. I think it seemed a little far reaching - no one was forcing the paid media types to purchase anything and they certainly could have turned down the goodie bag at the end if they felt that it might be misconstrued.  I don't recall hearing the same comments when media attended the VIP Cinemas on McGillivray last month, enjoying free food and drink. There was also no requirement attached to the invitation requiring anyone to mention the store one way or the other.

I'm really glad I got to go last night, I don't imagine I will go for quite some time now as seeing the crush of people desperate to buy buy buy will probably just stand to make me question and regret my own place in the heaving cycle of consumerism and I have enough guilt associated with my love of driving (factor in that I would have no choice but to drive to IKEA and I don't think I could keep my meatballs down!)

A Winnipeg exclusive - the Penis Bridge picture!

Oops... someone forgot to take the tag off of a prop!

For future reference, should anyone like to invite me to an event, ply me with food and drinks and give me a goodie bag at the end, I have no moral issues with that, but no promises about sunshine and roses if I blog about it. As for IKEA, don't worry Winnipeg, you'll like it, but don't forget to shop local too - in fact, Winnipeg has a number of furniture manufacturers that produce their stuff right here.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A quick note about...

...Office etiquette.

Don't worry, I shall return to bitching about garbage again soon.

For many many MANY years, I worked solely in restaurants, which have their own set of "office politics". I now do both office and restaurant work (because I am a glutton for punishment apparently).

Being a team player: The office I work in has about 15-20 staff members, organized over two floors. We have a receptionist who is often away from the front desk and it then becomes a battle of wills to see who will answer the bell at the front desk. I basically always lose this game. There are two reasons for this, firstly, I receive slightly more visitors than other employees and therefore feel a tinge of guilt that it might be for me; secondly, with as many years in the service industry as I have I can't be that rude. Clearly none of my coworkers care about our visitors.

Slacking: If you work in an office there is a good chance that you have access to the internet. There is also a chance you access the internet for non-work related things (like, y'know writing a blog post). Keep it to yourself people! None of us want to know what great video you just saw on youtube, what your friends are doing on facebook or have you read out "silly laws that are still on the books". We are all pretending to be working over at our desks. When you verbalize your misdeeds it is likely to eventually draw the attention of others, resulting in over-reaching silly policies being implemented. Don't be the one who ruins it for everyone.

Coffee: If you take the last cup, or even the almost-to-last cup of coffee, brew more. As a side note to this, after all those years working in a restaurant where many times I had discovered that a coworker had taken the last of the java without brewing more, thus screwing my service to my table over, I take great joy in NEVER brewing coffee at the office - I'm a tea drinker, so you know I didn't take the last cup!
Oh, and...
Wash out your damn coffee cup!

Bathroom use: If you take the last of the toilet paper, freaking change it. Leaving one square is the equivalent of leaving a sip of coffee in the pot. If you need to do some, uh, secondary business, while you're in there, that's okay, Everybody Poops. Please do not then spray half a can of air freshener in the bathroom and then close the door and leave the light on. We will all keep presuming that someone is in there, and man, I gotta pee!

Of course there are many other things that could go into an office etiquette guide, I quickly checked the Oatmeal but didn't find one to go with this post, but I'm sure something awesome exists somewhere.

*For the record, this was written on my lunch break. Mostly.

Monday, November 19, 2012

A few things...

A round up of some random things in my head:

1. Why is there no way to find out what the official rules are for The Amazing Race? I know this is a departure from my usual topics, but seriously, why? As an avid traveller I watch the show and spend a lot of time thinking that I could kick all of their butts if it weren't for the whole being physically fit and having no gag reflex thing. For example, at the start of a leg of the race they will open up their little envelope and say "oh wow, we have $xxx for this leg of the race". What the hell does that money go towards? I mean, we see them pay for cabs and such, but in countries where you have to negotiate the cab fare we never seem to see them do that, they just seem to throw money at the driver at the end of the ride (although I did see a terse exchange one time at the end of a ride). If they are only given $xxx for the leg, how does that affect them when they get a cabbie that takes them to the wrong place first? With the limited funds they wouldn't have enough to get to their final destination. What about food and water, is that provided? When are they allowed to ask strangers for help and when can't they? Obviously they ask people for help on the street for directions, but when they are doing a task for example the other day when they were trying to look things up in the library card catalog why couldn't they ask for help? So many questions! I have not been able to find this information online and it drives me a little crazy.

2. Why are we even talking about raising the speed limit on certain streets? As in, why is it even up for discussion? Two lanes in either direction separated by a boulevard should be 60km/hr, no brainer. Regarding the section of Pembina (figures 6.2 & 6.3) anyone who has ever driven it, and especially those who have gotten a ticket can tell you that it's bizarre that it's so slow. It's a total of 4 lanes, with fields on either side and a big old boulevard in the middle. If you have chosen to live on a major thoroughfare then you should expect that traffic will flow accordingly.

3. Gas prices in Churchill, MB - Yes, it sucks that gas is so expensive there. However as such a remote community it can't be entirely unexpected. In Churchill you can also get a special Remote Area registration, which I do believe costs substantially less (I couldn't seem to find actual costs on the MPI website) for residents of Churchill who will only be driving their vehicle in and around Churchill. If a resident doesn't have that type of plate, it would likely be because they take their vehicle on the train down to Thompson or wherever else it is that they need to go, and I imagine that just as those of us from "down south" do when we cross the border to the USA they fill their tank before they head back home.

4. LITE annual Wild Blueberry Pancake Breakfast. I love this event for so many reasons. Besides the chance to see people I might not see as often as I might like AND have a delicious breakfast, it is (or at least has been the past 3 years) an environmentally responsible event. There is a huge focus on recycling and composting, and all of the cups/plates/utensils are compostable. It is an excellent demonstration of leading by example. There is also an opportunity to purchase some great locally made crafts and foodstuffs. Hope to see you there! 45 Robinson St., Indian and Metis Family Centre (corner of Dufferin and Robinson, in between Main and Salter).

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hallowe'en (sour) Apples!

Tonight is Hallowe'en. You might be wondering why I have enough time to write a blog post when I should be answering the door for 100's of little ghosts and goblins. It's because I'm sitting in my room with the rest of the house lights turned off. Especially the porch light, which stays on the other 364 days of the year. Although I suppose to be technical, this year it's 365 other nights...

First, lets get a few things out of the way. Do kids today (good lord I'm old) realize how good they have it? It's above zero and there is no snow. There was not a costume I owned that didn't go over a full snowsuit and Sorels were the mandatory footwear for the FOOT OF SNOW we had to wade through. Oh, and there were no pillowcases and giant reusable bags for collecting candy in. No no no, we had these:

This meant that inevitably you had to return home several times (losing precious candy gathering time) to dump out your haul and start again.

Moving on. So, I was feeling a little guilty for not handing out candy yet again this year. This is my 7th Hallowe'en here in the North End. I missed my first one because I was working in Churchill, MB (where, as an interesting fact, they have volunteers circling town on snowmobiles keeping an eye out for any polar bears looking for a seasonal treat) but in 2007, look out world, I was prepared!

I laboured over my candy choices and when I finally felt I had the perfect variety I spent time putting together little perfect Hallowe'en themed ziploc bags full of candy. I was prepared.

What I was NOT prepared for was to be overwhelmingly disappointed.

Instead of adorable little kids (yes, me, I just referred to children as adorable. I'm unlikely to do that again so maybe mark this down) in costumes I got sullen teenagers in hoodies and masks from Dollarama holding open pillowcases. Generally not even a "Trick or treat!" or "Hallowe'en Apples!" just a doorbell ring. The small children who did (sort of) come to the door were usually under about a year old, fast asleep, being pushed in a stroller by their teenage mother who was not in a costume. Call it a hunch, but I don't think the candy was for the babies. The even cheekier ones would hold out a second bag "for the other kid, who's at home". Yeah. Right.

I seriously almost cried when it was all over, this was not the Hallowe'en I had dreamed of! Now, I am very aware that my neighbourhood has some economic constraints. A six year old in a mask from Dollarma (or no costume at all) will of course get candy. Hell, a 47 year old in a full costume will get candy - the trade off for spending my hard earned money on candy is getting to see the costumes; I have my own economic constraints too.

I decided to go and evaluate my block, perhaps I could be shamed back into giving out Hallowe'en candy for next year?

Not likely. For shits and giggles I counted how many houses on my block had the "I'm home vibe". FIVE. And one of those is borderline. I think maybe their sheets as drapes just didn't block out all of the light from their living room. 5/40. I suppose to be fair, one of those 40 is boarded, and another one is the abandoned one with the rear section of the house caving in, but that doesn't really make it much better.

So, while Hallowe'en only seems to get even more popular (how that's even possible I'm not sure) it seems as though at least my street has basically given up. This makes me feel less guilty but more sad.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A job (not) well done

As I've written before, it's nice to see the City finally (threaten to) start to hold Emterra accountable for not fulfilling their contract, all it took was rich folk not getting served properly. Please read that last sentence in the as-yet-to-be-developed "dripping with disdain" font.

The latest bee in my bonnet is the annual fall street cleaning. I have a corner lot and I spend an extraordinary amount of time keeping my curb clean throughout the summer, sweeping up the dirt and garbage, all for the sake of neighbourhood pride. Twice a year though, I don't have to do it. I look forward to the street cleaning in a way that normal people probably don't even think of. Not only will someone else haul away all the crap, but the street will actually be scrubbed down with water!

So imagine my disappointment when this is what I returned home to yesterday:

I was working from home yesterday so I know that there were no cars parked on the street, so what could the reason for this be? Laziness would be my guess. Now, I have emailed 311 to ask who does the street cleaning, the City or a subcontractor, but of course it could take up to 48 hours to have my email answered. There is also no guarantee that they will have an answer.

Could you get away with this level of completion at your job? "Yeah boss, I got it mostly done." This isn't a task that has different stages to it. There is no room for interpretation. Either the street is clean, or it isn't. And my street isn't.

Now, are they going to send someone back to complete the job properly? My guess would be no. Are they still going to pay whoever did this their full payment (particularly if this was a subcontractor)? My guess is probably. Will my complaint serve any purpose other than making someone in some City department think that there are bigger things in life to worry about it and would this stupid woman just shut up and go away?

I just think keeping the City accountable for all the little things will remind them that all of what they spend our tax dollars on is important. Over time, wasting dollars on things like this adds up to the things (like dodgy land swaps and over-budget buildings) that it is easy to catch them on.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

It's actually the commenters that I'm afraid of

The Winnipeg Sun ran a follow up piece today on the still unsolved triple shooting from two years ago here in the North End. I spoke to the reporter Joyanne yesterday for about 10 minutes, which turned into only this quote:
“In life you can’t be afraid of all the ‘what ifs?’ all the randoms,” said St. John’s resident Kali, who asked that her last name not be used. “There was a murder in River Heights the other day, is the rest of Lindsey Street supposed to be afraid? Or course, not.”
The reasons I asked that my last name not be used are many - after all, I am mostly anonymous on this blog too. The biggest reason that I asked that my last name not be used (and I specifically said this to the reporter as well) - well that would be the commenters trolls that flock to our local newspapers like I do to an estate sale.

I've generally stuck with my resolution to not read the comment section of newspapers, but every now and again I get sucked in. Today was such a day (probably because my name was out there for all the world to see). Imagine this, the first comment was from some guy who felt the need to criticize the picture a man was holding of his daughter WHO WAS SHOT.  Ah yes, because that's what this guy needs, yahoos commenting on his family because the picture he was showing of his daughter was the photo proof that the company provides. I think that this dumbass needs to realize that in a neighbourhood where temptation has led many of our youth astray, this gentleman has a daughter that has not only been shot, but has managed to keep her life on track and stay in school. This is a man whose family lives in public housing (or so I seem to recall that the girl lived in the Lord Selkirk Park housing developments at the time) perhaps he doesn't have the money to purchase overpriced prints. Heck, growing up in Charleswood my family often couldn't afford to buy the prints.

Also in the comments was of course someone judging me for leaving out my last name
Gee, Kali...if you're not afraid, why don't you use your last name in this media report? Could it be that you don't wnat the gangs and crackheads to kick your door in because they know where you live after your last name is published?
Nice double standard....
 Let me be clear, I didn't leave out my last name because of them, I left it out because of you and your kind sir. I can't imagine the gangs and crackheads coming after me because I don't think my neighbourhood is a horrible place to live and they want to change my opinion. I left it out because I don't want the newspaper commenters of this world who have nothing better to do with their time then troll the internet for people to bully.

The reason I was attracted to the idea of a blog in the first place was because I felt finally that I found some content that had substance on the internet. Of course there are many blogs that don't have any of that, but in the blogging world I feel like I find discussions by rational people or at least by crazy people who can generally spell and back up their arguments to some degree.

Now, back to the shooting.

This shooting is still unsolved. A triple shooting. My armchair policing initially presumed it was gang/drug related, as is most crime that happens here in the North End. That didn't worry me because I'm not tied in to that lifestyle. However, the fact that it is still unsolved makes me wonder a little bit more if it really was just a crazy gunman on a spree; I can't imagine some little gangbanger not bragging by now about his "accomplishments".  Those are the kind of randoms in life you can't predict. You can't not go to the movies in case someone decides to shoot up the theatre. You can't avoid the mall in case a gang decides to play out their gang war there. Life is filled with all sorts of horrible tragedies that if you try to avoid the idea of every bad thing that has ever happened you will be a prisoner with no life at all.

Of course, I'm not an idiot; I know that more crimes happen in my area than in other parts of town. Education, poverty, mental health and opportunity all play in to that. I do my best to make sure that I don't become a statistic, simple precautions, like perhaps not giving my full name for an article that is likely to have people I don't want knowing where I live exactly that - not all of the crazies live around here.

I wrote a blog post about this time last year, that to date is still one of my most read posts - it's how I was feeling this time last year when thinking about the shootings. Read it here.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

How to play the system

A title like that and this post isn't even about the North End or even Winnipeg!

I've mentioned before that I'm a bit of a fan of customer loyalty programs. I like to think that I am one of the small percentage that actually come out ahead. Although, if the rumoured changes come about that will allow merchants to tack on the cost of the Visa transaction to the consumer that might all change. They do that in Europe a lot but as far as I'm aware it is currently not allowed here in Canada. I have noticed though that discount airline Allegiant has started offering a discount for those that pay by debit rather than credit, so officially it's not an extra charge to pay by credit card, but it also won't allow you to get the rock bottom price.

Alright, so first to get some bragging out of the way and to lend some credibility to where I'm coming from. Over the years I have taken the following free* flights: First on Airmiles (the kind you get at Safeway and Shell): I have gotten 5 tickets to NYC, 4 to Las Vegas, and also gone to Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and Montreal. With Aeroplan (the Air Canada rewards program) I have gone to the UK, Nicaragua and business class to Argentina. I also still have enough Aeroplan points to take 8 flights within North America (or less flights to more far flung destinations, but I'm pretty sure I have enough to go anywhere in the world, twice).

Here are some very general tips and tricks that have served me the best (and later two awesome new promos that you should seriously consider). First, when it comes to Airmiles, the only way you'll ever get enough to leave your driveway is if you use the bonus offers that Safeway frequently has. Stock up on things you love. One of the best is the buy X boxes of cereal get XX bonus miles. Cereal keeps for ages and this promo also only happens when the cereal is on sale to begin with. Try to partner this with one of their "spend $100 get 100 (or sometimes even better, 250) bonus Airmiles events. Sometimes stores are having this as an unadvertised promotion. Let your fingers do the walking and call them first.

Also, with Airmiles, and this is a trick I haven't tried personally but have been told it works: when they have that coupon in the flyer chances are the "same" coupon got sent out in the weekly Safeway Club Card email. However, I'm told they tend to have different PLU numbers, so if you go the self checkout route you can self scan both coupons and get it twice. Worth a shot. The other big Airmiles trick is to know your zones. All of Ontario is considered one zone, so they presumably base their required amount of miles on a Toronto departure - as a Winnipegger, if you are wanting to redeem for a few people it is well worth the drive to depart from Thunder Bay instead. To put this in perspective, from Winnipeg to NYC in high season you would need 2950 Airmiles per person. From Thunder Bay? 1400. Less than half. The gas for the 8 hour drive pays for itself even with one person but definitely worth it for 2 or more. Have the BMO Airmiles Mastercard? You'll need even fewer.

Now, on to Aeroplan, my favourite program.

I pay the $120/yr for my Visa card. I know many people who say they would never pay for their credit card, but for me it's well worth it. Most premium credit cards, mine being the CIBC Infinite Aerogold Card, offer various bonus coverage - read the fine print to compare. I get up to 2 weeks at a time of travel health coverage, baggage insurance, purchase protection and others. The feature I use the most is probably the CDW (Collision Damage Waiver) insurance for rental cars. I once curbed a rental car and the rental place wanted to charge me $175 for the scuff on the rim; my card covered it for me. The other ones? Well, I haven't used them yet, but like any insurance, you hope to never need to. I print out their little brochures and take them with me when I travel so I have it handy for what I'm covered for. With some of the trip coverage if my flight ever gets delayed by XX hours (I don't remember exactly how many) they will even cover entertainment expenses!

I also pay my credit card off in full every month, the only reason I use it is just to get the points. And boy oh boy, am I obsessive about the points. About the only thing I don't put on the card are garage sale shopping and my Hydro bill (because stupid Hydro won't take Visa). So, every year, based on my spending, I earn at least one free* flight within North America. You could even argue it isn't free because I paid $120 for the card. Fine, I can fly to anywhere in the continental US/Canada for $120 plus the "*". What is the * you ask? Well, if you've ever redeemed for a "free" flight you'll know that you still get dinged for the taxes and fees, I find usually $100-200 for a North American flight. Pro tip on how to keep that number low? If you are flying to Europe, route yourself through the States, the taxes and fees are much less.

Okay, so other tips and tricks for Aeroplan. First, definitely if doing online shopping sign in to their eStore first (via the Aeroplan homepage). They often run promotions like 5 or 10x the Aeroplan purchases. If it's something you just want eventually and don't need it p.d.q. then wait and buy it during the promo. You could potentially earn 1000's of bonus miles. I once bought something off eBay during a 10x the point event and got 4,000 bonus points! Pro tip: they changed how you accumulate using eBay and you no longer get points for things in your "watch list", be sure to unwatch the item before you bid.

Second, using the CIBC Aerogold as an example, pre-pay for things you buy by buying gift cards at supermarkets. The CIBC Aerogold card gives you 1.5x the points at grocery stores. So, if I know I'm about to go drop a few hundred bucks at Home Depot, I stop at Safeway first and buy the gift cards there.

Here's my new thing: Visa and Safeway are having a promotion in November that every time you spend $200 in a single transaction you will get a $20 credit back on your Visa, up to 4 credits or $80. You just need to register your card. I've read the fine print and it doesn't seem to say that this isn't applicable on the purchase of gift cards; so if you're like me and you maybe buy $200 of groceries in the entire month, worry not, just stock up on gift cards either for yourself for future purchases or for unimaginative Christmas gifts! If I stockpile Home Depot cards it would be like getting $800 worth of stuff for $720 and I would get 1200 points instead of $800.

Second awesome promotion I came across the other day: Get a fancypants Amex. Yes, the yearly fee in mindblowing ($499!) but do the math. For $499 you get 50,000 Aeroplan points. That is enough for two round trip tickets within North America. Even by the time you pay the taxes and fees on your tickets you are still flying anywhere you want for less than about $350pp. On that flight the cardholder gets access to the Air Canada lounges, where being the good Winnipegger that they are, if they are flying with a friend they will go in and stock up on free food to their friend waiting in the regular part of the airport. Other options? Well, with this Amex you get one free short-haul (from Winnipeg this basically means to Toronto/Ottawa/Regina/Saskatoon/Minneapolis) companion ticket. So, you redeem 15,000 of your 50,000 points, you and a friend go to the center of the universe for a weekend getaway and you still have 35,000 points left - enough to go  anywhere in North America or, if you wait until you've got another 5,000 points ($4000 of spending if you don't get any bonuses) you can go to Mexico, the Caribbean or Central America. Cancel the card when it comes up for renewal next year.

You're welcome.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

If a tree falls in the forest...

...and that forest is in the North End, does it make a sound? Nope, but it sure does if it's in South Winnipeg.

And if that forest isn't a forest, but poor garbage service, it makes a sound within 10 days.
"The department made it clear there would be some kinks that would have to be worked out the first little while. It's not unreasonable to give them a reasonable amount of time to work out the kinks. After that, there are penalties that should be implemented on the contractor," Katz said  ... If problems such as missed collections persist, the city could take work away from the company, she added. - From the Winnipeg Free Press
Now, I wrote a post back in August, specifically about the NEW garbage service, for which I know some of my neighbours are still having trouble with theirs (well over the one month grace period). I have also been questioning, literally for years, asking someone to get back to me about the specifics of the contracts that the City has for garbage pickup. In fact, I am still waiting on a response from Councillor Eadie to an email I sent months ago.

What specifically have I been asking? I've asked what the penalties are for the contractor not fulfilling the contract. For example, when I, on many many MANY occasions have called in bulky waste to be picked up, only to have it continue to sit there and then follow up with 311 only to be told that that case has been marked as "closed" (or completed). I've questioned why we are paying a contractor who gets paid per piece* (or rather, ticket, which contains up to 6 bulky items) who fraudulently claims they have done the work. *To be fair, I've not actually been able to verify that this is how their contract is set up, however it has been expressed verbally to me that the system runs along those lines.

Can you imagine the uproar if you tried any of this cr@p at your job? "Oh hey boss, I know I'm supposed to have this report in today, I'll get to it within a few days, I'm just running behind" and a few days later "what do you mean all the pages of the report are blank? I totally completed it, file closed. What's that, do it again and you'll give me the same wage to do what I already got paid to do, but didn't?" Sign me up to work for the City please!

This type of garbage nonsense has been going on in our Neighbourhood for years, but hey, the rest of Winnipeg goes 10 days with poor service and the Mayor is calling for action. He must not be friends with the owner of Emterra.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

How to measure economic success and other wisdom

Well, my neighbourhood is officially on the upswing. I didn't get this from the latest census
data or some sort of poll that is correct within a certain percent blah blah blah. I used a very grassroots measurement that is basically irrefutable.

Yup. An empty can of Lucky (a full can wouldn't have enabled me to put into words just how prosperous a neighbourhood we had clearly become). How does this measure anything you ask? Well, that empty can of Lucky has sat there from when I left for work in the morning until I got home at about 11pm, in plain sight, on a corner lot. It was finally gone this morning. I debated picking it up yesterday morning as I generally don't appreciate litter on the boulevard, but I didn't have anywhere to put it. This was a problem even before we made the switch to the wheelie bins, however before I would have put it next to the auto bin because I knew it would be spotted - it took me years to train the guys roaming the lanes that my blue box did not contain empties of any other can besides Tahiti Treat and every imaginable form of diet cherry Coke/Mountain Dew/7-up/Fresca (to balance the whopping 200 calories per can in Tahitit Treat!). So now, with no bin to put it next to, and not wanting to put it in my recycling wheelie cart lest I start to find it strewn about the lane in future treasure hunts, I left it there. Like I said, I'm a corner lot, probably at least 100 people walk past my house daily and it was the only piece of litter in sight - it was noticeable. But there it sat, all day long. See, clearly on the upswing.

Another sign my neighbourhood is on the upswing? Well, we just passed the one-year-murder-free mark. 368 days to be exact. I think in the 6 years I've lived here we've managed a two year stretch - fingers crossed we break that record next year.

I'm also extremely disappointed in some of the reporting done at CJOB last week. I woke up listening to the news to learn two things, one of which is correct. First, there had been a stabbing (presumably this is correct) second, that the 1300 block of Manitoba Avenue where it happened, is in the North End (this is not correct). The 1300 block of Manitoba is several blocks west of McPhillips St., the western boundary of the North End. So, I tweeted CJOB to alert them of their error, and also called them since in their next news update they still hadn't corrected themselves. Now, I don't know if eventually they stopped adding the "North End" part to the news updates, but I know that they never changed the blurb on their website. On that note, I've actually noticed that the Free Press in particular seems to have changed the format in how they report many things and now most stories seem to say the AAAA-block of Any St. and skip mentioning the neighbourhood altogether. I think this is the way to go, interested parties can look up a more precise location and neighbourhood, and the general public can (very slowly) learn to stop being afraid of entire areas of their city.

Friday, September 7, 2012

One big popularity contest

Well, first off, I apparently caused quite a stir with my Dear Cyclist post that ended up as blog of the week over in the FreeP Sunday edition. I wish I had been told I was going to be the featured blog so that I could have jumped in to the comments earlier, as it was, by the time I commented it was old news. So, since I was "involved" I actually read the comments, going against my not-going-so-well resolution of not reading them to stave off murderous rampages towards the many ignorant folk who seem to live in Winnipeg.

Amazingly, the comments were slightly better than usual, and, gasp, it almost appeared as though some people had read my story the whole way through before commenting! And, according to perpetual commenter Woofers, one of the comments may have even set some sort of record with the number of "thumbs down" it received. All of that attention on my little post! Based on all of that, I don't know if I'm happy or sad that the link to my blog in the online story didn't work - I currently like that right now most of the people who comment on my blog seem to be of higher intelligence than the average FreeP hyper-commenter. I did see a ton of traffic to the blog who had googled how to find it so I hope I found a few new loyal readers.

But enough about me.

I stumbled upon one of those internet popularity contest things today that is for a local youth organization. The West Broadway Youth Outreach program is part of the Scotiabank Gamechangers competition to win $100,000 for their programming. Now, if my reading of the rules and regulations is correct, since they have already won as Regional Game Changers, I don't know for sure if votes between now and when they start the voting for the overall winner (October 29th) really make a difference, but it certainly can't hurt to get in the habit of voting every day so that you are super dedicated to the cause when it matters! Vote here. We sadly hear all to often about how funding is cut for youth organizations, well here is a chance to help make up for that and it won't even cost you any of your tax dollars. As a rule, the concept of this type of popular vote contest isn't my favourite, as many worthwhile causes that just don't know how to rally the troops as well are often left out. However, I can't change that, so I might as well suck it up and give my daily click.

This weekend has so much going on, I don't even know where to start! It is of course, Giveaway weekend, which means that Winnipeg Girl will be trolling the streets looking for discarded arborite tables and other goodies. I think one of the best scores I ever got is the office chair I currently sit on - one of those no-back kneely deals. It was basically new, I'm guessing they didn't stick with it long enough to learn to love it. Now, as there is more competition than I can handle on this weekend for treasures, I usually think of it as an excuse to drive around some of my favourite Winnipeg neighbourhoods and drool over the architecture. Fort Garry by the river/Wildwood Park, watch out, here I come!

This weekend also has the last big car show of the year, held at Garden City on Sunday. This is ALWAYS a great day and brings out many of the best cars from around the Winnipeg area. Now that the mall opens before noon (or, at least I presume it does?) if cars aren't the thing for everyone in your group there is a few extra hours of "entertainment" for them inside.

I'm more than a little sad that the weather has turned so cold, in winter I don't have my cheery flowers to greet me every time I come home. Speaking of, since clearly there will be no progressive stories on my Wolseley Project 2.0, I will do a wrap-up post complete with pictures hopefully next week. Hint: (unless this jinxes it for the the weekend) it is a good news post.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Well, it's 50% solved

So you'll recall this time last week I was a little choked because of the lacklustre garbage and recycling services being provided around my neighbourhood.

You'll be thrilled to know, that after many many phone calls and emails to 311 by myself and neighbours (at least 3 neighbours that I spoke to reported the same garbage all over the boulevard from where the bin used to be) this morning it was FINALLY being picked up. Of course, that was as I left the house, it remains to be seen how good of a job they will do. I say that because, while I'm thrilled that someone was finally dispatched, it seems as though it was a man with a giant claw machine - not sure if he's going to manually pick up the festering dirty diapers that the claw doesn't quite manage to snag.

Please pretend I have awesome graphic design skills and was able to create some sort of crazy graphic merging the claw of garbage into the claw toy machine. Ideally the end result would depict the falling garbage morphing into the toys left in the machine to have full dramatic effect.

So, I suppose for now, we will call that a win. However, the fact that my recycling was not picked up AGAIN last Friday is a big tick in the losing column. It also was not picked up on Saturday. Or Monday. So based on my call with 311 a few weeks ago, I guess today is my last hope, other than waiting for my next scheduled day, Friday. At which point my bin will almost be overflowing.

I was also told that the contractor would provide reasons for missed pick-ups but that it could take up to 24 hours for that comment to be entered into the system. I requested that reason to be emailed to me, and it still hasn't been (and that's for the August 10th pick-up).

I know it may seem petty to be quite so obsessed with the garbage and recycling pick-up (not the bulky waste pickup, as I don't think anyone thinks that is unjustified) but it's a very steep, slippery, slope. Imagine if you will, in my slightly more crime infested neighbourhood that you need to put a easily meltable bin full of combustibles out for pick-up. Now, sure, you could get up at the crack of dawn so that it was out for the 7am start of collection, or, you could be like most people, and put it out the night before - and then toss and turn with every siren that drives by hoping that its not your bin (and then your fence/garage/house) on fire. Now imagine that it doesn't get picked up and you have to repeat that the next night. Imagine, that since some genius decided that the North End would have Friday pick up, this means that it might need to sit out on a Friday night to be picked up on Saturday instead because of a missed pick-up. Picture Friday night. Yup, way more bored, wandering youth who might decide to burn it (to be fair, that could probably be said for most neighbourhoods as I remember getting up to my fair share of trouble in Charleswood back in the day). I don't know about you, but I EXTRA don't want to get up at the crack of dawn on the weekend to put out my bins because some contractor was not doing his job the day before. I have emailed my City Councillor asking for details about the contract that they City has regarding these pick-ups, however, it has been a week and I still haven't gotten a reply (not even a "I'm looking into that for you"). Must be awesome to have a contract with no accountability.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Dear cyclist...

Dear lady cyclist on Osborne yesterday at about 415,
You or your child are going to get killed if you keep riding like that. Why you would choose to bike down construction filled Osborne during rush hour, towing a child-trailer behind you is beyond me, but I suppose your choice to make. I mean, I don't like kids at the best of times, but even I wouldn't tow a kid (anyone's kid, let alone my own if I had one) behind me in bumper to bumper traffic where said child-trailer was effectively my bumper, but I guess that's just me. Never mind the fact either that Osborne in the village area is barely wide enough for the two lanes of traffic that it almost holds sans construction, biking down it solo seems scary even then. Add a two wheeled, wide trailer into the mix and it just seems suicidal, but again, your choice.

My beef with you trendy legging with skirt wearing hipster mama, is that, after assessing that you seemed to have a death wish for you or your child - ok, to be fair I didn't actually SEE your kid in the trailer thing, but since that is what is was designed for, and you were of child bearing age and not a scrap metal collector (the other common use for those trailers, at least here in the North End) - I treated you as I believed I should and I changed lanes to pass you. I did this because it was not safe for us to try and "share the lane" in this narrow, construction laden zone.

Then, much to my horror, after I respected you and your child and I had passed you safely, you seemed to want to try and edge up next to me and pass me as we came to a stop for a light. So, this is a letter from the woman you probably thought was a "mean, aggressive typical Winnipeg driver" who pulled herself even closer to the curb so you could not pass. May I suggest, that perhaps next time, you get off your bike, and walk you and your baby safely down the sidewalk in this stretch of road, because, if you don't, you will be but a mere tragic story lining a birdcage.

The Winnipeg Girl who tried to respect you.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

How much of a stink do I make about it?

Pun intended.

Well, we've switched to the fancy new garbage carts on my street. I completely forgot to use it the first week that we could (August 3rd) because the autobins were still around and I was still using it. My recycling? Well, I just plain forgot to put that out, but that's nothing new - at least now the big cart holds two weeks worth.

So, enter week 2 (August 10). I put my carts out Thursday night and when I came home Friday after work, the garbage had been picked up, but not the recycling. I called 311, waited on hold for ages to talk to a real person, only to be told that the contractor had until 6pm to pick it up. It was 530. So, when of course it wasn't picked up at 6, I called back to lodge a complaint.

I was told that there were any number of reasons why the truck may have missed the pick up, however it could take up to 24 hours for the reason to be input into the system. I asked when I could expect it to be picked up. I was told to put it out on the next business day (Monday) and if it wasn't picked up on Monday it probably would be on Tuesday, but that if it wasn't picked up on Tuesday to just put it out on my next regular day (Friday). I would like to give that policy an official WTF?? So you're telling me, that if my garbage/recycling is missed, I have to wait TWO DAYS before it might be collected? Whose genius idea was it to have the North End have Friday as its pick up day? The part of town where stinky plastic bins are most likely to be set alight should wait an additional two days? If our pick up day was Monday, then in theory missed collections would be rectified on Tuesday.

Now, thankfully, my instinct told me to put the cart out again Saturday as I know from looking at the yearly schedule that they do indeed sometimes work Saturdays. It was picked up - but had I followed the advice of the 311 operator I would have been dragging it out Monday and Tuesday only to have it ignored. Now, I am an able bodied person so dragging the cart back in forth in summer is no big deal - what about my 95 year old neighbour? What about in winter when even for me it's not going to be easy, what with the giant snow rows that are created by the plows?

As well, with the removal of the autobins, there are spots all over the North End where it's very easy to see where they once were by the rubbish that surrounds the area. Before one of the bins near me was removed I called in a complaint about the bulky waste, being sure to be very specific about the type and quantity that was there. I called it in on a Thursday night and I was informed that since it hadn't been called in 48 hours before our new regularly scheduled bulky waste pick up day (also every Friday) it would be picked up the following week. It wasn't.

So not only is it completely ridiculous that I have to call it in, so that they can then send a City employee out to verify that it is what was called in (yes, that's right, there is a paid position that drives around to simply verify called in complaints. This person does not report any waste themselves, just drives right on by anything not on their list) but then they don't even pick it up???

Can you imagine if a regular person ran their business this way? They would go bankrupt in no time because of ridiculous business practices. "Hi there, I'd like to hire your to move my things to my new house" *patiently wait on the scheduled day of move, no one shows up, call movers* "Hi there, you were supposed to move me today?" "What? You will come maybe tomorrow or the next day, you don't really know?" "You expect me to still hire you and pay full price?" Yet, seemingly this is the way the contracts that the City has work. Cool. Remind me to bid on the next one as seemingly it doesn't really matter if I follow my contract.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The post you have been waiting for!

I found it!! I know, I know, you've been on the edge of your seat waiting, and wait no more, it's here!
The ladies urinal at The Bay Downtown, Winnipeg
There it is folks, the famed photo of the urinal in the ladies room on the second floor of The Bay Downtown, circa 2002. That floor is also pretty freaking fantastic. I kind of regret not ever taking a piddle in it - I guess I just thought it would always be there (although, I bet it is still there, hiding behind the wall....)

Well, I've probably just lost half of my loyal blog followers now that the mystery photo has finally been found, but at least you can leave at peace with the world. Well, when I start a day like this, it can only go downhill from here, might as well go back to bed...

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Free Birthday stuff, updated

It's my birthday - what can I get for free? 

(This is a mildly updated post to my previous free birthday stuff post - I kept the rant in as it's still relevant sadly). Variations of "free birthday dinner Winnipeg" has become one of the biggest drivers of traffic to my blog ever since I took the word "h00ker" out of previous posts.

This post will serve as both a mini-rant and a genuine post. Being a Winnipegger, I of course love free things. However, as someone who has spent years working in the service industry, I hate people who just want free stuff because it's their birthday. I mean, really, it should be your mom that gets something free - she's the one who had a tough day xx years ago. As a server, there is almost nothing that you dread more than a squeal coming from the table and someone saying "like, omg, it's his birthday, do you guys like do anything for birthdays???!!" Assuming it's someone middle aged, the omg and like can be omitted, but the vibe is the same. The more the table expects you to do for them is directly related to what they are likely to tip. For example, the table that wants you to dress up and play some silly character that's part of a running joke (this really happened to me, and yes, I went along because in theory it should have paid off well for me) and sing/dance/give free everything will tip 7-10% if you're lucky. The table that quietly celebrates a birthday complete with cards/presents etc. but never specifically tells the server that it's someones birthday - probably more in the range of 15-20%. Yes Winnipeg, 15-20%. Get over it. That is what it's supposed to be. Not 10%. However the longer version of this rant is for another post. Update: last night I served a table that when I offered dessert specifically said: "It's her birthday, does she get free dessert?" When I said no, no one ordered dessert. They tipped $12 on $175. Proof that my theory above is still going strong.

So, the reason you're really here, where to find some free birthday goodies. Of course most of the chain restaurants will do something - Montana's might make you wear the cootie infested moose horns, sing and give some sort of dessert if memory serves (they used to offer your friends the chance to pie you in the face with whipped cream, glad that's over), CRApplebee's used to make their poor servers sing and then bring free dessert, Old Spaghetti Factory same deal (bonus points if you get the guy with the crazy fun booming voice as part of your serenade) Tony Roma's is slightly more clever, they give you a card to come back for a free appetizer on your NEXT visit, and The Keg, my general exception to my "I hate chain restaurants" rule, will give a slice of their fantastic Billy Miner Pie. If I was in North Dakota I could visit every Manitobans favourite quasi-Mexican restaurant, Paradiso. Paradiso gets points from a server standpoint for only providing free dinner on the actual day of your birthday, ID required - I don't know if you've noticed, but on Friday/Saturday night at a chain restaurants it's EVERYONE'S birthday.... coincidence? Not likely.

One of my absolute favourite places in the city to nosh, fude, also does a free birthday dinner, but I keep putting off joining their VIP club thing (which you need to do) because my friends are all to cheap frugal practical cheap to ever want to eat there on a regular basis, so I always figure I won't get to take advantage of it. I seem to recall a few years ago that a car wash somewhere in the South End would give you a free car wash on your birthday, and I think Dutch Maid did free ice cream.

Update: I've recently discovered that Boon Burger on Sherbrook (not sure if the new East Exchange location is open yet?)  will give you a free burger, even the biggest meat eaters will love Boon, a vegan burger place. Boon is also smart enough to say that ID may be required. I also believe that Johnny G's does a free birthday dinner, but if I recall there are a bunch of conditions besides having ID - I think maybe you need to have at least 4 people having dinner at the table to get it?

It seems to me that years ago there were a lot more places that offered something free on your birthday, maybe I'm wrong, please comment if you know of one that I have missed, or a favourite from days gone by.
So what is the moral of this post? Well, basically if there is free stuff out there because it's your birthday, obviously take advantage of it, after all, it would almost be wrong as a Winnipegger not to; however, don't be obnoxious about it, take your free stuff with no singing and dancing (the staff will appreciate it, you're not 7 years old after all) and tip appropriately and we can all get along :)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

School Zone speeds

I am mostly needing to rant and a 140 character tweet just wasn't going to cut it.

Just this morning a motion was put forward to reduce the speeds in school zones to 40km/hr; and then another motion to reduce ALL residential streets to 40km/hr. None of this is news as such, discussions have been ongoing in the papers for a little while about this concept. There have been some good responses to this that I have seen, however I don't remember where, so sorry, no links - if I paraphrase what you wrote somewhere else, please forgive me.

So, first of all, does this seriously mean that they are wanting to lower stretches of major arteries like Grant, Pembina and Henderson to 40 near schools? Grant is already ridiculous enough being set at 50 - it's two lanes with a boulevard in the middle - why on earth is it 50 in the first place, it should be 60.

While I'm ranting, why on earth is the freaking number one HIGHWAY 70km/hr when the residential strip of Roblin in the same section (roughly the perimeter to Headingley) 80km/hr??

So, my proposition is this: since, as someone else already put it (somewhere) - perhaps 40 on residential streets wouldn't be the worst thing in the world due to the condition of our roads, lets say that any street that has two lanes in either direction must be at least 50 (school zone or not) and if those two lanes have a boulevard in the middle? Well, then it would be a 60km/hr zone.

I don't know how many children are injured near schools every year, but I do know that children are freaking everywhere not just near schools. Never mind the fact that the two options would then make the speed enforceable only during "school hours" (sorry kids with after school activities, no safety for you!) which would involve a lot of confusing signage, OR enforceable ALL the time, which would mean cash grabs galore as photo radar would be set up nabbing speed demons clocking 51km/hr on a Saturday night.

How about we teach kids about street safety instead? When I was growing up it was impressed upon me to look out for cars, that they couldn't stop on a dime. To this day, even after I push the crosswalk button (or especially at crosswalks without the lights) I wait until I make eye contact with the drivers of the oncoming cars, or at least confirm that they're slowing down for me, before I head out into the street. I constantly see people push the button and blindly walk out into the street; yes, technically people are allowed to do that, as drivers we are supposed to be scanning ahead for that sort of thing. Of course, if you end up dead, being right doesn't do you much good.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

(Mostly) Free Money!!

Oh how time flies! It seems like it was just the other day I was writing about how certain members of City Council were trying to take money from one program to put in to the Home Renovation Tax Assistance (HRTA) program instead. Well, the HRTA program is still around (and still is a great program if you ask me) and is only just finally going to council for approval tomorrow. The report that is being submitted can be found here. In previous years the HRTA funding status has been passed and put into play by the end of May at the latest.

Assuming I am reading the report correctly, it seems as though they haven't been using all of the funds (good thing Russ Wyatt wanted to put more in it).
"The transfer of $339,964 of prior years’ unspent HRTA program budgets to the Planning, Property and Development Department’s (PP&D) 2013 operating budget will allow for up to 1,319 approved applicants. The $339,964 represents one-third of the available unallocated Program credits of $1,019,981 currently credited to the Housing Rehabilitation Investment Reserve (i.e. $829,389 as at December 31, 2011 plus
$190,502 in unused credits from the 2012 budget year).
Again, I think this is a great program that "...reduces the perception that property owners are penalized by tax increases for improving their properties and it encourages property owners to take out building permits thereby promoting the quality of construction in meeting applicable building, electrical and plumbing codes. ...also encourages energy efficient renovations by providing additional tax credits through harmonization with the technical requirements of the Manitoba Hydro Power Smart Program" and I think that three major factors are keeping people from using it.

First, and I'm sure there are a few of you out there who can chime in with personal stories attesting to this; the length of time it often takes to get a permit. If you want people to do things in a certain way, it's probably best to make it easy for them.

Second, does anyone even know about this program? Perhaps when they mail out property tax bills they should notify all of the eligible homeowners - it should be simple enough to tell the computer who gets that message printed on their bill (assuming it passes, that would be anyone who has a house built before January 1, 1987 and valued at less than $218,000).

Third, although the credits can be received retroactively, they need to have their ducks in a row long before July 11th. Especially in a year like this where the outdoor construction season got such an early start. It also doesn't do anyone much good if they are completing projects that qualify for the program that don't normally need permits (to get the credit you still go through the motions of getting one). Why, especially if I didn't know about this program, would I go down to the permit office and get a "permit" for replacing my roof or windows? As well, I happen to know that it can be applied for retroactively, however I don't see that information anywhere on the HRTA part of the City site.

A quick synopsis of how to get your free money from the City of Winnipeg (it is being asked that the same guidelines below be used for 2012). Receive up to $2250, at a maximum of $750 per year off your property tax, based on this criteria:

Eligible Renovations
The 2011 Home Renovation Tax Assistance Program has two categories of eligible renovations:
  • Standard Renovations – Generally, the following standard renovations are eligible for a 5% tax credit:
    • Renovating kitchens, bathrooms and unfinished basements.
    • Building an addition to a home that will be utilized as a year-round living space.
    • Installing, repairing or upgrading a plumbing system or electrical system or a ventilation system, but not including an air conditioner.
    • Reinforcing or repairing a foundation or basement, including weeping tile, excavation and related landscaping.
    • Home security alarms
    • Installing or repairing exterior sheathing, roofing, shingling, soffits, fascia, eavestroughing, doors or windows (excluding skylight windows).
    • Installing or repairing a water or sewer system, including excavation and related landscaping.
    • Purchasing and installing a low flush toilet.
    • Modifying a home to accommodate a disabled person or renovating for reasons of safety or occupant health.
    • Repairing a home to ensure or maintain compliance with the Maintenance and Occupancy By-Law.
    • Constructing or repairing a deck, verandah or garage.
  • Energy Efficiency Renovations – Generally, the following energy efficiency renovations that meet or exceed Manitoba Hydro Power Smart guidelines are eligible for a 8.33% tax credit:
    • Renovating an unfinished basement with insulation to the walls and floors.
    • Upgrading a primary heating system.
    • Upgrading an electrical system.
    • Upgrading a ventilation system.
    • Insulating walls and an attic.
    • Upgrading and insulating doors and windows.
For further information, visit the Manitoba Hydro website at www.hydro.mb.ca.
Ineligible Renovations
Generally, the following renovations are ineligible:
  • Building or repairing a fence, driveway, patio or sidewalk unless necessary to maintain the structural integrity of the home or for safety or occupant health reasons.
  • Installing or repairing a play structure or swimming pool.
  • Landscaping, unless related to excavation work.
  • Interior decorating such as installing wallpaper, blinds or drapes.
  • Interior and exterior painting and installing or repairing floor covering unless related to eligible renovations, necessary to maintain the structural integrity of the home or for safety or occupant health reasons.
  • Installing or repairing a household appliance, skylight windows, fireplace, hot tub or jacuzzi, secondary heating system, heat pump unless it is the primary heating source, air conditioner, back-up generator,  air purification system, radio or television antenna or satellite dish, lawn sprinkler system, awnings or any improvements that are not permanently affixed to a home.
  • Modification to a home to allow a non-residential use or multi-family use.
  • Constructing or repairing an accessory building such as a greenhouse, gazebo or sunroom.
So, there you have it. Spread the word, tell your friends and neighbours! And while you're at it, ask you local counicllor why you didn't know about this sooner and why it's only being passed in July.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Have you hugged a street worker lately?

I have.

Not going to lie, the whole situation was really sad. The other day, while I was puttering about in the yard, as that's how I seem to spend ALL of my "free" time, I  noticed a girl spending a lot of time trying to catch the attention of passing vehicles. I had first seen her about an hour or so earlier, she had said hello as she walked by - and she seemed to be a bit out of sorts at that time as well. So, when I was making a trip to the dumpster I went over to chat with her.

She was young, I don't think kid young, but probably around 17-20. I told her that she probably shouldn't be doing what she was trying to do in her current state, but that I would be happy to drive her to a safe place. She didn't think she had a safe place to go. I suggested some of the places that I thought might work, but she wasn't interested, and besides, as she pointed out "she had no shoes on".

It was heartbreaking. I am so thankful that in my life whenever I have felt sad or desperate that I have never been in the state this girl was. The things she must have gone through in life to end up talking to me on that street corner are not even on my radar. I hope I managed to come across how I was hoping to; non-judgemental mixed with concerned. She didn't make the most sense, and she obviously is more familiar with "the systems" then I will ever be - she was concerned that seeking help would result in her children being taken away again. She also implied that if she went home she would just be sent out again. I kept expressing to her that she needed to be careful and that because she was drunk she would be more of a target; her response was to ask ME if I was okay out on the street - she was concerned that I would attract the wrong kind of attention being out there at that time of night. She kept hugging me, not quite my usual stranger on the street conversation.

After realizing there wasn't much that she knew of that I could do for her, I headed home to see if I could find out where she could be brought that would be a safe place for her until she sobered up. Besides the suggestions I had already offered her and she had refused there didn't seem to be anywhere I could bring her. I went back to bring her a pair of flip flops, it was the least I could do - but she was gone.

It was a really emotional experience for me; I hated that I couldn't help. I tried to tell her to make sure she realized that if and when she's ready that there are programs out there that will help her. I'm sure she already knows that, but I can just hope that one time when she hears it she will be ready.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Here I go again...

In a post that ties in with my last one about boundaries and how they relate to the perceptions of crime in this city, I have another example of how the media often gives a negative bias to the North End. In this article from the Free Press on Saturday, there were 6 fire incidents reported (well, 8, but two were 2-for-1 deals). The two fires that were OUTSIDE of the North End simply had their approximate address given, no neighbourhood. 3 were listed giving both the xxx-block of xxx AND pointed out that was in the North End, and one was listed as being in Shaugnessy Park (so, they do get points for not calling it the North End, since, y'know, it wasn't).

I've taken the liberty of tweaking this article for the Free Press.
THERE were two house fires and six garage fires in the city overnight Friday.
The first fire broke out in the 400 block of Boyd Avenue in the North End St. John's in a garage late Thursday, causing $8,000 in damage. This was followed by a fire at a home in the 1300 block of Raleigh Street in Munroe West at around 12:40 a.m. There was a total of $20,000 in damage to the home and contents.
Hours later, police were called to a garage and shed fires on Magnus Avenue in the Shaughnessy Park area at around 2 a.m.
An hour later, another fire broke out in a home in the 600 block of Selkirk Avenue in the North End William Whyte* (*could have been Dufferin, depends what side of the street it was), causing $80,000 in damage. Soon after, at around 3:30 a.m., there was another garage fire in the 100 block of Enfield Crescent in Norwood, causing a total of $35,000 in damage.
At around 6 a.m., firefighters were called to another two garage fires in the 200 block of Pritchard Avenue in the North End William Whyte. The total damage from the first fire was $10,000, while there was no damage estimate available for the second.
No one was injured.
Of course, it also could have been written in a more simple way that would force those hell bent on coming up with a negative attitude towards a particular area to do some research:

THERE were two house fires and six garage fires in the city overnight Friday.
The first fire broke out in the 400 block of Boyd Avenue in the North End in a garage late Thursday, causing $8,000 in damage. This was followed by a fire at a home in the 1300 block of Raleigh Street at around 12:40 a.m. There was a total of $20,000 in damage to the home and contents.
Hours later, police were called to a garage and shed fires on  in the XXX block(s) of Magnus Avenue in the Shaughnessy Park area at around 2 a.m.
An hour later, another fire broke out in a home in the 600 block of Selkirk Avenue in the North End, causing $80,000 in damage. Soon after, at around 3:30 a.m., there was another garage fire in the 100 block of Enfield Crescent, causing a total of $35,000 in damage.
At around 6 a.m., firefighters were called to another two garage fires in the 200 block of Pritchard Avenue in the North End. The total damage from the first fire was $10,000, while there was no damage estimate available for the second.
No one was injured.
 See how easy that was to stop shouting NORTH END?  I am no dummy, I know there is crime here, and I'm not against it being reported; the crimes are a fact, facts should be reported. All I ask is that in a city already so biased against a particular part of town is that the media don't fuel the fire. As you just read, we have enough of them here already.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Sigh. Well, looks like the North End is to blame again, even when it isn't. By now you've all heard about the story about the puppy found in a dumpster, but what I bet you didn't know is that Jefferson Ave. is in the North End. That's because it isn't. Although according to the Free Press story it is.
A little Rayne never hurt anyone, so why would someone toss the cute little puppy into a city Dumpster?
That's what staff at Winnipeg's Animal Services Agency -- and a whole bunch of Free Press online commenters -- are asking after the eight-week-old shepherd-collie mix was found wet and cold in a North End Dumpster last week.
Rayne was given medical care and vitamins, and "(has) been eating a lot while she's been here," said Gordon, noting the puppy has gained a pound in the few days since she was found in a dumpster on Jefferson Avenue.
Now, admittedly, I'm more sensitive to these sorts of things and although it would be hypocritical of me not to complain if this was a positive news story that was being pegged as the North End if it happened on Jefferson, I don't think that kind of mix-up generally happens the other way around. I don't know where exactly on Jefferson Rayne was found, but it was likely somewhere in West Kildonan or The Maples, NOT the North End.

However, I do have a North End quick story for ya. So last night, after finally falling asleep (I've somehow injured my rotator cuff I think, and boy, does it make everything uncomfortable, especially sleeping!) I was jolted back to life by a hard and fast pounding on the front door. My roommate was first to answer it, but it appears the police had been led to believe that someone at my residence was being stabbed. No idea where they got this thought, but they seemed content with my roommate's simple, "um, no" and went on their way, waking neighbours up across the street, trying to find a stabbing in progress. 5 police cars later, they all left, not having been able to figure out who was being stabbed. My roommate wondered as to where our "regular" cops were - the ones who have come to take statements on more than one occasion.  Must've been their night off.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Milking this post for all it's worth

So, last night I was about to make dinner when my plans were thwarted as I needed milk to complete the recipe. What culinary delight was I making you ask? Cereal. Fruit Loops to be exact. Don't judge. Besides, if "breakfast is the most important meal of the day" and cereal is good enough for breakfast, simple logic would dictate that it is also good enough for every other meal too. Besides, when the hunger pangs strike I can be eating a mere 30 seconds later (well, if I have milk) - take that "real food"!

Off I headed, on foot no less, as although I love my cars, even I would have to hate myself for driving such a short distance. I was headed to Shell because if memory served correctly, the two little corner shops (about a block away in either direction) leave a little to be desired when it comes to milk and other perishable items. However, my imminent hunger and my desire to support the little guy caused me to stop in my neighbor had me stop at the little shop that was on my way. I was in luck! There was 1% milk ready and waiting for me! I had brought a toonie with me, as many years of buying milk at Sev while I pick up a Slurpee has taught me that milk being more expensive at convience stores is a myth, due to "maximum milk prices". That said, the maximum milk price applies only to the 1 litre size, so at Sev and the like if I need 2 litres I just buy two of the 1 litre size as it saves about $0.75.

So imagine my surprise when the gentleman told me it was $2.19! Since it had been keyed in manually rather than scanned, I pointed out that it was only a 1 litre, surely he was mistaken. Nope. He wanted $2.19 for it. So off I headed to Shell after all. Where it was $1.53. Curious, when I got home, I asked Google to confirm for me what I believed to be true about milk prices, and, sure enough, $1.53 is the maximum for a 1 litre of 1% milk.

(Section 4)
Maximum retail prices for the following types of Class 1 milk in a 1 litre container:
Homogenized Milk $1.66
2% Milk $1.59
1% Milk $1.53
Skim Milk $1.49

(in case you were wondering what the maximums for all sizes were)

So, this morning I made a formal complaint about the little store. Part of me feels bad, as I know that it can be harder for the little guy to compete, however another part of me thinks that their big mark-ups should be on things like candy, chips, chocolate bars and pop - not milk. Even if they had a smaller mark-up, say $0.25 instead of the whopping $0.66 - I might not have even noticed, but in a community with so many food security issues in the first place, it just seems a bit too cheeky. Of course, I suppose I am thankful that we don't suffer the same fate at Nunavut, which recently has been in the news due to their extremely high food prices. Although, I didn't check the cost of a 4 litre at that same store, if I was to buy it in 1 litre containers, it would cost a whopping $8.76! That's $2.64 more than 150m up the road at Shell - almost enough for two more litres.

On another note, I got this extremely weird search that led people to my blog today: 
eat legal basement apartment how do I get the pants addicted in Winnipeg
I don't even think I can try to figure out what that means.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Just how hot IS the Winnipeg real estate market?

No, this isn't about how there were four or five listings that sold last month for over a million, although if everyone employed the following method, I can understand why.

Remember back in June 2011 (yes, that's right A YEAR AGO) when I wrote about the former bicycle shop on Selkirk Ave that was for sale? Well, at that time, it was $149,000. It is now a year later, an entire year that that property has sat there, unsold and now they want $169,000. Yup, $20,000 more.

Now, one could argue that real estate values in Winnipeg have gone up xx% in the last year and that the price increase makes sense blah blah blah. Sure, it makes sense if someone had've been willing to pony up the $149k last year. However since Winnipeggers are irrationally afraid of the North End known to be ridiculously cheap a touch frugal, do we really think that all of a sudden they will realize decide that this gem is worth $20k more simply because a year has passed?

Bonkers I say. So, to you prudent potential property purchaser of  prime North End real estate, let the record show that 354 Selkirk Ave will should probably take an offer of $149,000. Logic would dictate that at that price point last year it was over priced or it would have sold, so therefore whatever perceived increase in value there has been over the past year could perhaps reflect a purchase price of $149k to NOW be accurate.

It also appears as though 1070 McIvor has been sold - I am waiting for my invites to the final and first parties - clearly my blog was the catalyst for the sale.

Monday, June 4, 2012

It's finally here... sort of; Roof still caving in

A month or so ago I attended a meeting to talk about the new garbage collection system that will be going city-wide, but more specifically about here in the North End as they replace the aging autobins. I live tweeted the event, mostly because I couldn't just stand up an yell and shout like I wanted to (although that didn't stop one crazy dude who kept getting off track) and partly because I don't normally attend things that people might be interested in hearing updates from.

One of the pieces of information that I was most excited to hear about was the new "App" that the City was going to have for/about waste collection. One of the things I find most difficult with reporting bulky waste to 311 is the inane questions that I get back from the operators before they will submit my complaint "ok, so you say there is an abandoned sofa behind the address in question (because god forbid you don't give them a specific address), how many inches is it away from the alley? (because if they deem it to be on private property, you know, not FULLY in the lane even though it's clearly abandoned then they send a different department, who will issue an order, and then the resident of the house will move it the few inches into the lane, and then you have to call it in again to have it picked up...) Does the sofa have a floral print or is a solid colour? (ok, I may have made this one up, but I'm sure I'll be asked it one day) So, it was my belief based on what we were told at the meeting, that an App was on the way that would allow us to report these things direct from our phone, including sending photos!

Well, the App is here, but, disappointingly does not offer what I was hoping for. The majority of the links seem to direct you to contact 311, have no automatic link to have your phone dial it, and the email function is also not at all what I find user friendly. It will let you send an email only from your email address set up on your phone (which I don't have as I have had difficulty setting up my Hotmail/Gmail and having them sync with things in real time) which does not offer the option of attaching a photo even if I could manage to use it. What it really needs is a built in contact sheet, similar to what their website offers for contacting 311 that does not require you to send it from your email directly but just from that page. (I'm sure there is a technical term for that but I have no idea what it is.)

Notice there is not even a email link on this page, nor mention of abandoned wast
The App also does not make mention of what to do in the case of illegally abandoned waste and how someone might go about reporting that. To be fair, the City doesn't seem to have been the ones to develop this App, but they need to be sure they're getting their moneys worth from this "My Waste" company and have them help to tailor it to our community.

This whole thing brings me to an excellent example of how I would use this App, if it worked in the way I wanted to. Following up on the work of A Day in the Hood, it seems as though the house that has been collapsing upon itself since at least September 15th 2010 (MY first email to the City about this problem) still isn't fixed. Sure, the house has gotten some attention, it looks a lot better from the front street now, but why the heck is the back addition still in this condition?

The roof keeps falling down further, and further...

This house is not occupied and the person who owns the property owns numerous properties in the community - if the cost of dealing with the problem is too great, perhaps they can sell off a property or two to help with that. If this property was actually occupied (as a primary/only residence) I could see the City extending leniency to allow the owner to raise the funds needed to fix the problem however I see no reasonable reason for this problem to continue.