Monday 29 June 2009

We're all good now, right?

So Mr. Spletzer, I know we stomped all over your plans to build an apartment building on an old parking lot across from the Forks, but hey, here's this other vacant piece of land that you can use instead. So ... um ... we're cool now, right? We're all good?

Some people will look at this as a win-win: Rubin Spletzer and Crystal Developers get their apartment building, and the Friends of Upper Fort Garry get their world class interpretive centre. I'm not quite ready to call it even though, and not just because I'm desperate for things to rant about. I have real reasons!

First, the people of Winnipeg are still saddled with this money-pit of a mockery of 1/4 of a fort, and adjacent shrine to Louis Riel instead of a vibrant gathering space, market and park.

Secondly, there is the thing that we in economics call opportunity cost: yes, we're getting a much-needed apartment building downtown, but we're foregoing the possibility of getting two. If Crystal were allowed to build on the corner of Assiniboine and Fort, then this surplus land would still be available for another developer.

There is also opportunity cost in not being able to put this land up for sale. Sure, they say that Crystal will buy the land for "full market value", but this is the same kind of "market value" that David Asper is paying for the old stadium site. You know: the kind where the market is not allowed to determine the value. I don't know what went on behind closed doors that caused Sam Katz to cave in like a snow fort in July, or Rubin Spletzer and Crystal Developers to walk away from a lawsuit that was a guaranteed win, but I'm thinking that somewhere in there was a wink wink about getting dibs on an alternate piece of land for "market value".

Crystal may be satisfied with this arrangement, but the people of Winnipeg should not be. It's your tax dollars that are being wasted and it's your downtown that is not going to realize its full potential because of the games that are being by the cogniac-sipping elites in this town.

-- update 06/30 --

Predictably, Gord Sinclair is calling it a win-win and smugly reminding us that he suggested this last year. It's right after his hard-hitting commentary about how somebody lost a wallet and got it back. I would link to his column, but I don't have a shower near by to get the ick off me.

Sunday 28 June 2009

God hates me

I had a camping weekend planned with some friends for this past weekend. Everything was booked well in advance. With the weather finally getting nice and summer-like last weekend and a warm sunny week, things were looking good ... until the "chance of rain" forecasts turned into "100% probability of heavy rain".

The moment I stepped out of the office Friday afternoon, the rain started. Of course we were camping in part of the province where the weather would be the absolute worst. Tee times Saturday morning: forget about it. Course was flooded out and closed for the weekend. Beach: definitely not recommended. Fortunately we managed to get a fire lit in the rain, which allowed us to stay somewhat warm as we watched the 100 km/hr gusts of wind topple trees and tents all around us.

But ultimately God let us live, and some fun was actually had amidst the relentless wind and pissing from skies. I guess if God really hated me my campsite would have looked more like this one, a few spots over:

related: free press

Sunday 21 June 2009

This weekend

This weekend I sat outside and had a Gin and Tonic. In the evening. On a patio. In a short sleeve shirt. And I was not cold.

This weekend I went golfing, and wore shorts. And I was not cold. In fact, I was very warm.

This weekend I BBQ'd smokies. I put cheese, mustard, onions, ketchup and relish on the smokie, and I saw that it was good. Then I ate it and I confirmed that it was good. Then I ate another one.

This weekend I saw a spider eating a canker worm. Good spider. We need more like you around here.

This weekend I watched less than one hour of TV.

This weekend I got a little dirt under my fingernails, and I realized that I need to trim my finger nails. Especially the ones on my right hand.

This weekend I stole a Tag Heuer watch from a jewlery store.

I lied about that last one.

This weekend I turned on the AC during the day, and left the windows open at night. And I was not cold. In fact, I was quite comfortable.

I hope next weekend is something like this weekend.

Wednesday 17 June 2009

Bombers and growth spurts and hydro lines


Does Mike Kelly actually know what he's doing? I didn't go to the Bomber preseason game today, but caught some of it on 'OB and things went pretty well. Stefan LeFors impressed the announcers, some other new guys played well, general execution was good and play calling was not as predictable as it usually is in Bomberville. All good stuff, but remember that the Goldeyes were winless in the preseason but are tearing up the regular season. Let's not get too excited about this win.

Bryan Randall also played well, going 4 for 7 , and was called a "bright young fellow" by one of the announcers. This caught my ear because the rumour on the street is that Randall is dumber than a bag of potato chips with a concussion. However he gave an articulate post game interview and played smart football, so I'm willing to disregard those rumours (as I continue to spread them on my blog).

Can I pick none of the above?

Hydro consulting Manitobans on routes for new power line

This is kind of like deciding which eye to poke out. One eye may be better than the other, but the best option by far is to poke out neither. Still, neither Gary Doer nor Manitoba Hydro has provided a compelling reason for not putting the route down the far cheaper and more environmentally friendly East side. All reasons provided so far are farcical. They're afraid the Americans won't by our green power? Riiiiiiiiiiiight ....

Patrick McGarry, Hydro's senior environmental assessment officer, says "Our approach to route selection is avoid, avoid, avoid". Well if that's the case, then I really suggest you get your nose to the grindstone and take a serious look at how to put that hydro line through the bottom of Lake Winnipeg.

Surge in population includes a smiley blogger

I see that our blog-buddy Laurel has a cameo in the new Bartley Kives column "City in a growth spurt". Are population forecasts any more accurate than long-term weather forecasts? I don't know, but it's good to see growth. Now where to put all these new migrants ... Getting rid of the rent controls might spur some apartment development for starters. I would rather see more density through condo/apartment infill developing than urban sprawl. I can say that because I have my own little slice of wormy suburbian utopia locked up already.

By the way, if you want to know what I look like I'll meet you at the Lo pub for a beer. Otherwise forget it.

Tuesday 16 June 2009

Gail Asper and the Temple of Gloom: drilling holes

I was wondering about this ... The site of the future Canadian Museum for Human Rights was sitting idle for years, and then one day they moved in cranes and started drilling big holes in the ground. "Gee, that seems like an odd way to do an archaeological exploration of a site" I thought to myself. Everybody was so concerned about what might be in the ground under the proposed apartment building near the Upper Fort Garry site, yet here at the Forks we're just punching holes in the ground like a kid in a sandbox with a stick in his hand.

Apparently I wasn't the only one wondering why they're not bothering to do a proper archaeological assessment of the site. According to the Free Press story today, some archaeologists are asking similar questions. Maybe the museum folks are rushing to get construction past the point of no return before the whole project falls apart because of cost overruns. Or maybe the tedious process of digging up artifacts is simply too time consuming.

I also wondered why First Nations leaders were not up in arms about giant holes being punched in a site that may very well contain important Indian artifacts or even remains of their ancestors. Perhaps they are just very anxious to have their woeful story of abuses and neglect told in the museum for all to see. I suspect that story will not include anything about the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs giving $1,000,000 to one of the richest families in Canada rather than fixing the dilapidated houses and infrastructure in their communities.

update: I wrote that the site "was sitting idle" but that's not quite accurate. There was in fact a dig last year that found a few things. Still I wonder how much was really know about what's laying in the ground under this site with that limited study. If this were a privately-funded development instead of the museum, I suspect there would be more concern about it.

Friday 12 June 2009

Productivity Killer

Have you checked out the new shot tracker feature on the web site? It's pretty cool. And if I say something's cool ... well ... you might want to get a second opinion. If you're a golf geek I'm sure you'll agree, at least.

There are different views that you can go to, including a visual representation of the leaderboard:

But my fave is the Group Close Up:

Anyhow, between this and the Falcon Cam, etc.. my computer workspace is starting to get a little cluttered:

I think I need a bigger monitor. How do I explain this to my boss?

Wednesday 10 June 2009

Lying through her pyjamas

I was reading a two month old copy of Maclean's today, and found a little story about a "pyjama party" hosted by Lisa Raitt. She had invited female staffers over for a martini and mentoring get-together at her house. No word on if they all took off their clothes and had a big pillow fight. However we do know that Mrs. Raitt had some words of advice for the staffers which, in addition to "know your files" and "wear high heals", included "Do not trash other women—it reflects poorly on you, not them."

This is the same Lisa Raitt who we now know, three months earlier, was trashing fellow female MP Leona Aglukkaq to fellow pyjama-partyee Jasmine MacDonnell. Just thought I should share this little ironic discovery.

By the way, the pyjama party has turned into a martini party on the Maclean's home page.

Sunday 7 June 2009

WikiProject: Manitoba Music update

Yoyoyo. Wasssup.

Some of you may recall that I planned to update the lame Music of Manitoba Wikipedia page. Let's just say this hasn't been my top priority. However, after giving myself a quick primer on wiki editing, I have made a few updates, but only in the rock/pop genres. I have a lot more to do with folk, country, traditional, blues, jazz, etc.. along with working in references to some of the venues and festivals.

Anyhoo .. check it out and, as always, your suggestions are welcome. Or, feel free to update it your self like The Great Wiki, God of Information, intended.

The old page looked like this (click to enlarge):

For your watching and listening enjoyment:

Wednesday 3 June 2009

Development O' My City

Hmm. I wonder if the good people at Winnipeg O' My Heart will do a story on the ridiculousness that is development in the city of Winnipeg? With the constant battles between developers, NIMBYs, heritage advocates, millionaires with their tax-supported projects, and plain ol' concerned citizens, I have to wonder: is any city as neurotic as Winnipeg?

Monday 1 June 2009

What is the value of 142 Main?

More on this Upper Fort Garry debacle:

The provincial government has purchased the Petro-Canada station for $1 million and will assume possession Sept. 15, Premier Gary Doer said. Petro-Canada will then donate $1.35 million to the heritage park, the premier added.
First of all, my understanding is that they're not donating $1.35 million, but $1.35 million in land value, on top of the $1 million that the province is paying Petro Canada for the spot at the corner of Main and Broadway. This puts the value of the land at $2.35 million.

Maybe somebody can make sense of this, or maybe I'm doing something wrong, but when I look up the value of the land in the Property assessment tool, it's only $814,000. That's the new assessment. Last year it was valued at $523k.

So what gives? Is the city over-paying for the land? Is this $1.35 million donation completely fictional? I hope to God that they didn't include this in the $10 million that the friends supposedly raised (but nobody can confirm because they won't make the numbers public. Hmmm... I wonder why they won't show us the numbers... )

update: Is Gordon Sinclair calling me a loser? Well excuse me for wanting a more vibrant downtown...

What to do with the Lieu?

That's a terrible blog title. I know. I apologize. Sometimes I can't help myself. It's an illness, really.

The subject matter of this particular post is the job known as Lieutenant Governor. The ceremonial head of state of our province, if you will. Cutter of ribbons and rubber-stamper of bills. One of 11 representatives of the Crown in Canada. This seems excessive to me. Are there really that many ribbons to cut?

Bruce Owen points out in Saturday's Free Press that this position is due to turn over this summer. Now is a good time to review alternatives. The Manitoba L.G. costs Canadians about a half-mil each year: $105k salary, $332k staff, benefits and other expenses, $25k for upkeep of the residence, and probably a bunch of other stuff like travel, etc.. Plus I would guess that a healthy pension comes with the job. We're probably looking at over $5 million in cost for all 10 L.G.s in Canada each year.

So here's what we do: Screw the L.G. Don't appoint anybody else. Instead, pay some ambitious brainiac University student $1000/month to rubber stamp the bills from the Legislature. The Leg only sits for, like, 20 days a year anyhow. That's a pretty good gig for a student. Take an oath to the Queen, spend 30 minutes a week signing bills, attend the odd function, get some decent dough and a unique job on your resume. Knock out the summer months when nothing happens, and we have our L.G. for $8000 a year. In the unlikely event of a provincial governmental crisis, the Governor General could be summoned to help.

Now, what to do with the mansion that is the official residence of the L.G.? It sits on the ground of the Legislative building so you can't just rent it out to some guy. How about knocking it down and building a sweet condo complex? haha. Just kidding. Easy , there, heritage nuts. We're not going to knock it down. Really about all it can be used for is a museum of some kind. But what better place for a museum about the history of Manitoba government than at the Leg? You can tell the story about the building of the Legislative building, and the beginnings of the province including the rebellion and all that. In other words, you can take 80% of the crap that would be going into the new 'Interpretive Centre' at Upper Fort Garry and put it here instead. UFG can instead have a more modest interpretive centre incorporated into the one of the buildings in the faux fort.

So there you go: I just saved us millions of dollars and freed up some valuable real estate right in front of your eyes. Of course, I'm just dreaming here. There is no way this is going to happen. I have also come to the realization that I need much more interesting dreams. Ones with dinosaurs and naked girls. Maybe I'm eating the wrong things before I go to bed...

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