Sunday 29 January 2012

Seine: the forgotten river II

Two years ago I wrote Seine: the forgotten river -- a short photo tour of a winter bike ride down the under-appreciated Seine River, south of Bishop Grandin Blvd. This weekend I took a short bike ride up the river north of Fermor Ave., past the Windsor Park and St.Boniface golf courses and took a couple of photos along the way. (click to enlarge)

broken pump house near Windsor Park golf course

This winter has been almost perfect for bike riding on the river because of the lack of snow. People walk up and down the river all the time, packing down a trail that is very easy to ride on. In years with lots of snow the trail might not get packed down, and it will be much more like pedaling through sand. I said "almost" perfect because there are some areas along the river that are still not quite frozen over, including one area in particular where warmer water is diverted into the river from the east.

This guy has a wicked setup: a cozy patio with fire pit
sheltered by pine trees with a decent-sized
skating rink cleared on the river.

People often ask me if I have special tires on my bike. I do own studded tires, but I don't always use them and did not have them on this past weekend. They're not really necessary unless you expect to be riding over icy surfaces. There are several spots along the river where people have cleared skating rinks, but you can usually either ride around them or glide over them. The key to biking over ice is to ride in as straight a line as possible.

At one point along the river there is a cleared skating trail that must run for several hundred meters. Sure it's a little more modest than the river trail at the Forks, but it's quieter and it was also open earlier in the season.

Damn beavers

The trail takes a diversion up onto land just north of the St.Boniface Golf Course where a beaver dam, made partially from wooden pallets, makes the trail unsuitable for walking .. for people at least. I can tell from the foot prints that dogs can't resist the trickle of cool tasty water.

Anyhow, I hope this inspires one of you to think outside the Active Transportation Path and explore a river instead.. If the nice weather holds up I might add a part III in the series before the snow melts.

Friday 27 January 2012

A Terrible Beer Review

I promise that I will not make any more bad puns with the name of the beer. I can't believe I already did it in the post title. I hate it when newspapers and TV news shows do that stuff. (Well, the Forks has really "gone to the dogs" today, Maralee...). It's just ... so HARD not to do it. I don't know what it is. It's like a mental disorder or something.

The beer, if you haven't figured it out by now, is called "Terrible" and it's brewed by Quebec's Unibroue. Like most Unibroue concoctions, Terrible is beefier than your average beer. This sucker comes in a 750 ml bottle and clocks in at 10.5% alcohol, giving this one beer 5.8 times the alcohol of a single bottle of Bud Light with Lime. (I only had one drink, Ociffer. ONE! [hold up finger for emphasis]) Fortunately it also has 5.8 times the taste.

It is listed on the Unibroue web site under their Specialty beers. You can tell it's a specialty beer because it's plugged with a cork instead of capped. Pulling the cork out with your teeth and pouring the pungent black liquid into your goblet will transport you back to the days of pirate infested waters, and spontaneous brawling in dingy pubs with straw covered floors to win the affections of drunken unshaven women. Unfortunately the cork broke when I tried to pull it out, and my medieval fantasy came screeching to a halt as I searched for a wine opener in my cutlery drawer. In retrospect, I should have bitten the top off the bottle.

It pours with a thick but airy head, with big bubbles and the colour of very lightly toasted marshmallows. After the head dies down this drink is a dead-ringer for Coca-Cola, which could come in handy some time. Store that one away in the memory bank for future reference. Unibroue calls this an "Abbey-style" ale on the web site, and the bottle says it's a "Dark Ale on Lees", whatever the fuck that means. It is tasty though. Imagine a stout and an ale having a baby. Kind of like that. You've got your malty coffee tastes, with dates and brown sugar. The taste fades away after swallowing leaving an light aftertaste not unlike the original thing.

I like this one, but it's more a special occasion beer on account of it being 6 times stronger than Bud Light with Lime. In other words, if it's your day to bring beer to hockey, this is not your drink. I do recommend you try it though. Maybe to share with a friend or to keep to yourself on a slow Friday evening in January. It goes well with leftover beef noodle Hamburger Helper. Probably other things as well, but I can only vouch for the Hamburger Helper. What I'm trying to say is, this beer is not terrible bad.

For other reviews, visit Beer Advocate or check out Cody's review over at The Cranky Beer Blogger.

Sunday 22 January 2012

Put a steak in the Kane rumours

I first heard the rumour about three weeks ago. The story goes: Evander Kane was at Hy's Steakhouse with a group of people and tried to leave without paying the bill. When challenged by the waitress, he said something to the effect that he shouldn't have to pay because his presence there was a benefit to the restaurant.

I never mentioned this story before on social media because I had my doubts that it was true, and there was really no point in spreading a negative rumour anyhow. But then this happened:

Which led to this being written.

It's not out of the realm of possibility that the flashy-dressing young Kane did what the story says he did, but there are many other possibilities as well. Maybe there was a misunderstanding among the group about who was going to pay, and maybe Kane has a deadpan sense of humour and made a joke about not paying, even though he fully intended to. Maybe a waitress was just pissed about the tip she got, or maybe nothing happened at all and somebody with a bone to pick concocted the rumour out of thin air. Maybe he stopped at Co-op for a fill, and by word of mouth that turned into "stiffed a waitress on a bill."

You can't really blame Winnipeggers for believing that there's fire when they smell smoke. The rumours about the Jets coming back were obviously true, as were the rumours about IKEA coming and Tim being gay. (Inside joke. Please disregard if you don't know Tim.) However, whether it's true or not, we need to drop this whole thing ... as soon as I'm done writing this post.

If he didn't do it, then obviously it is wrong to imply that he might have. If he did do it, I am pretty sure he learned a lesson here and will not do it again.

Word gets around quickly in a small city like Winnipeg, and you just can't get away with that shit. Besides, he should get a second chance. He has a ton of potential, not just as a player but as an ambassador of the sport, and he's still very young. It is counter-productive in every way to anchor him to this story. It would also be unfortunate if the lesson that he took away from all this was that Winnipeggers are nasty and unforgiving.

That is all.

Yes, I am aware that this post may seem somewhat hypocritical.

By the way, if you haven't checked out my Oduya comic strip yet, click here.

Monday 16 January 2012

The Adventures of Johnny Oduya: Episode 1

Uh oh, somebody got into the crayons again...

Here's a doodle I've been picking away. Hope you enjoy.

Click HERE to view full size or click on the picture.


Tuesday 10 January 2012

CMHR Part 2: Fund Raising (Where to find $10m)

There has been a lot written about the cost overruns and fundraising woes of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. So much so that I'm beginning to think there's a problem. For example:

the museum's new interim chairman and its president also posted a letter on its website, confirming the construction budget had climbed to $351 million, a jump of $45 million, and they are looking to the private sector to make up the difference.
Looking to the private sector for money in an economy that's disproportionately public sector might be a tough proposition. There is not an abundance of ultra-wealthy execs and entrepreneurs in Winnipeg. As an indicator: we only have six CEOs of publicly traded companies in "the 7-figure club". We have only two people or families on Canada's Rich 100 list -- at positions 14 and 98.

We are lucky to have some rich and very generous individuals in this city, but we are asking an awful lot from them. I can't speak for all them rich folk, I'll let their personal speakers do that, but if I were a multi-millionaire business owner in this city I would feel a bit like a tourist in Tijuana.

Certainly I want the Canadian Museum for Human Rights to succeed, I really do, but there are so many other worthy causes as well like hospitals, universities, and zoos and whatever else. If I were a Hartley Richardson or Paul Giesbrecht, would the CMHR make my list?

There is also no way that average peeps like you and I will make up the shortfall. I can give a few hundred bucks to a place like Siloam Mission and make a real difference, whereas that money would only be a drop in an ever-growing bucket if I gave it to CMHR, so guess where I'm going to put my money? There are literally hundreds of causes I could give to where I'd feel like I'm making a real difference.

What this comes down to is donor fatigue. There are too places for a benefactor or donor to put their money, and there simply is not enough money to go around. Especially for a project where the 'ask' is in the tens of millions of dollars, and rising. So, although you may scoff at my next suggestion, I think we need to give it serious consideration....

How to instantly raise $10 million for the CMHR

There is a pool of pre-donated and unused money right now, as we speak, sitting somewhere in Winnipeg. $10.3 million dollars. The money was raised for the Upper Fort Garry Heritage Park and Interpretive Centre.

Right now you're thinking there he goes again -- whining about Upper Fort Garry, but let's think about this:

> The Upper Fort Garry park and heritage site is still nothing more than a website and diorama. There is no sunk cost. Construction has not started. If you go there and look at it you will see absolutely nothing but a flat surface of concrete and rubble.
> The project still requires another $10 million to build ... and that's a pre-construction cost estimate. If, like with CMHR, costs escalate after shovels hit ground, it could be more. (In fact there was already a reference to $12 million in the paper but I lost the link.)

Where is that $10 million+ going to come from? Who on earth is going to have that kind of change kicking around to contribute to a giant traffic-accident-causing holographic fort and Louis Riel shrine after all the relentless fundraising and arm twisting to bail out the CMHR? Even if you like what the Friends of Upper Fort Garry have put together, it's hard to imagine them meeting their fund raising goals on the generosity of the private sector.

So I say, let's focus on the big project. The one that has the biggest impact, the most potential, and is already half complete. Divert the money there and scrap the UFG plan. Go back to plan "A": reserve the foot print of the fort for a more modest park/gathering space/market and open up the SW corner of the lot for development. Use the tax income from the development to fund the park.

There are some hitches with this plan, including:
- not all of the $10.3 million may be real. For example, $1.35 million of that might be based on fictional property value.
- Some of the donors may not want their money going to the museum instead of the park

That last one is not likely to be a problem, except perhaps the $1 million donated by the MMF. If I recall, much of the money was donated by crown corporations, although we don't really know how much because that info isn't public.

But ultimately that's how this all will have to end: the government will end up bailing out the CMHR, and if we go ahead with UFG, then that too. My guess is that provincial crown corporations like MPI, Manitoba Hydro and MLCC are going to pony up most of the cash so that it can be called a "donation" in the press releases, but one way or another it's coming from your pockets. I personally feel this is a bit too much, and would love to see the government be realistic about this and retract it's support and funding of UFG and direct that money to the CMHR. That's the key project in this city right now, and if we can help it out while developing an empty lot on Main Street, that's what I call a win-win.

Sunday 8 January 2012

CMHR Part 1: Project Management

I'm not a project manager by trade, but I have worked on projects and taken project management training and I am confident in saying this: if you want your project to come in on time and on budget it needs to be properly managed. Especially if it's a large project like, oh I don't know ... just pulling something out of the air here ... the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

It may come as a surprise to you then, that the project management contract was only just awarded, over three years after the ground breaking ceremony. The RFP (you can still view the notice here) closed on October 24 and approximately two months later the lucky (?) winner was picked. It was supposed to be announced at the end of October but you know how things go ...

When I say “the project management contract”, I mean the task of overall management of the project. The scope of the RFP includes:

- Oversight over the parallel sub-projects that go into the construction of the museum and everything inside the museum, leading up to opening day.
- Coordination, risk management, reporting and resource allocation
- Tracking the status of all major components of construction, including budgets.
- Guidance and recommendations to the CMHR executive.

Why is this only happening now? Maybe they (I don't know who “they” are exactly, but CMHR board, etc.) thought they could handle it on their own? Maybe they realized early on that costs would be tight and decided this would be a good place to cut back? If you bump into Gail Asper at the car wash this week, maybe ask her if you think of it. I would be interested to know. It could just be that the CMHR staff are running around with their heads cut off and didn't find the time to arrange for it.

You can even get a hint of the disorganization within the CMHR project from the RFP. One of the additional tasks that the new PM will have to take care of is creating the Master Project Plan. That's right: there is no Master Project Plan or Schedule. One was not created when the project started, I suppose because there was no Project Manager. They attempted to put one together leading up to this RFP, but were not able to complete it. It's anyone's guess how complete the master plan was when they gave up working on it, but the chosen firm would still have to review and sign the contract before they start working on anything so it's a safe bet that as of right now there is still no completed Master Project Schedule in place. Again, let me remind you: we are three years in to this thing.

The CMHR strikes me as being an organization that has got in a little over their heads. Will the project managers be able to get things back on track? Will they at least be able to keep it from going further off the rails? Will construction grind to a halt when it runs out of money? Questions I can't answer, but the chances of this ending well can't get any worse by putting an actual project plan in place.

Monday 2 January 2012

New Winnipeg Forum / Photo Radar Photo Op

Get in the Zoom

A new Winnipeg discussion forum has sprung up, not to be confused with the New Winnipeg discussion forum. This new forum called Winnipeg Zoom was started by former New Winnipegger Munchkinguy (Gabriel Hurley) to fill the void left by the defunct NW forum.

How big that void is remains to be seen. There is lots of competition in the internet time-wasting market, not the least of which is the ever-growing and ADD-enhancing Twitter. In fact, as I typed that 3 more tweets hit my feed, and now I have to go check it again. Hang on a sec ...

.. Okay I'm back. Oh that Rav Gill is such a card. I wish he was mayor. Where was I .. Oh right: do check out Winnipeg Zoom. It is brand new and still building momentum (or "mo" if you're as cool as I am), but hopefully it gets to that critical mass needed to sustain interesting and dynamic discussions like New Winnipeg once did. I do like the layout, I'll say that.

Get in the photo

Wise-Up Winnipeg is organizing a photo op Saturday morning at the sight of the controversial Grant and Nathaniel speed trap where they say inaccurate radar tickets are being issued. That's what they say. I say it's just a hot spot for minivan drag races.

Anyhow, if you want to support the cause, contact Todd Dube at
to let him know you'll be there and then show up 11:00 am Saturday to get your free sign that looks something like this:

That sign doesn't do much for me but I'll show up if you can give me a sign that looks something like this:

Sunday 1 January 2012

2011 blog in review

Although my number of blog posts dropped this year, party as a result of a career change and certain lifestyle adjustments, it has been a pretty good year for the Peanut.

Some of the highlights

This blog had a couple pieces published in the Winnipeg Free Press Sunday Xtra's regular Blog of the Week feature (and got one other mention courtesy of The Cold Cold Ground.)

I joined Twitter.

Campus radio talk show Winnipeg Internet Pundits continued to build momentum under the guidance of "Top 30 Under 30" starlet Tessa Vanderhart. Yours truly was invited on a couple of times to assault the air waves. That was fun. For me at least.

I have heard rumours and stories about bloggers getting free stuff, but sadly I was always left out of the party ... until this year. Finally all of my hard work paid off with a small amount of schwag, including some movie passes which I was able to share with readers through our first ever caption contest.

I did another interview, this time with Green Party leader James Beddome. I get very positive feedback on my interviews, but damn .. they're more work than you might think. I'll look to do one or two more in 2012, but with no major elections coming up I'll have to think of another excuse.

Best new blogs

Not only has my post count dwindled, but so has my available time to read blogs. That said, here are some new Winnipeg-area blogs that caught my eye in 2011:

The aforementioned Cold Cold Ground is a great new urban-issues blog.

Winnipeg Girl started Love Me, Love My Winnipeg bright and early in 2011, and since posted some excellent thoughts about life in the North End and Winnipeg in General.

The Winnipeg Rag Review has picked up momentum to the point of writing 25 posts in December!

Westerner doesn't post a lot at The Land of Ice and Grain, but when he does post it is usually well thought out and worth reading.

Little Grey Bird is a nice blog written by an ex-pat Nova Scotian, and I admire the clean aesthetically-pleasing look also.

The Manitoba provincial election inspired a new set of 'coloured rods' to spring up in the bloggosphere. Many were short lived, but The Purple Rod and Rod Rouge have stuck around. Congratulations, guys! (Girls?)

Top blog posts

A recent poll showed that most people consider the return of the Jets to be the biggest story of the year. My hit counts corroborate that, as my top 2 posts were both Jets-related:

Winnipeg's new NHL team unveiled: this was my world-wide exclusive unveiling of a prototype jersey for Winnipeg's new NHL team:

New Jets logo, tweaked: I critique the actual Jets logo and suggest a slightly different version.

Thoughts on Hydro CEO Brennan: this was a bit of a surprise, as it was a pretty unremarkable post in my opinion. Some people obviously found it interesting.

2011 Manitoba provincial election platform: here I unveiled my hypothetical election platform. I'm glad this one drew some eyeballs because I actually put a little bit of effort into it. In fact, I strongly recommend that potential Liberal and PC leadership candidates give this post another look as your respective parties attempt to regain relevancy. What you're doing is not working. You need new ideas.

Winnipeg radio: FM station correlation: this is my analysis of the overlap amongst Winnipeg's lame mainstream FM radio stations. Traffic was aided by a link from a music industry blog.

Those were my top new posts. There are some old ones that still get decent traffic. Top of the list is How to get to Vimy Ridge from 2008 which still draws hundreds of hits throughout the year. I think this is pretty cool, as any Canadian who is in that area of Europe ought to make the trip if they have time, and if I can help a little bit then awesome.

Top search terms
(not including obvious ones like "anybody want a peanut" or "cherenkov")

leah hextall - I'll save you the trouble: I do not have nude pictures of Leah.
cool helicopters
find your fetish - in retrospect it was probably a mistake for me to publish the fetish post. That was a time when this blog was still trying to find itself.
phil sheegl - I'll save you the trouble: I do not have nude pictures of Phil.
how to get to vimy ridge

Honourable mention:
sam owns an acre of land on red river. the government dams the river. a lake forms behind the dam, covering sam's land. does the government owe sam anything? - I got 31 hits from this. Apparently this is a practice exam question for Applied Law in the U.S. I can just imagine the frustrated law students stumbling upon my blog. Sam Katz? Riverside Park Management? What is this? Sorry guys .. this is for the advanced course: How To Bilk Taxpayers Out Of Thousands Of Dollars.

Oddest search terms

The moment you have all been waiting for! A selection of this 2011's odd-ball search terms that somehow led to this blog.

boobs touch in bus - I'm listening ... tell me more.
buzz lightyear mulroney - Ha. Ya, they do kind of look the same, don't they?
did hugh mcfadyen rape girls - What??
hihiihhi - Hi!
jack motherfucking layton - Now now, don't Google angry.
safeway can burn in hell - My, what an angry readership I have. Do they even allow grocery stores in hell?
stephen hawking thingy - Oh, you mean gravitational singularities in space-time within the framework of general relativity? That thingy?
thank you universe anybody want a peanut? - Aw, shucks ...
why is winnipeg so poorly planned - insert your own quip here: __________

Other year end wrap-ups:
Slurpees and Murder - Alphabet Poem
One Man Committee - Looking back
The View from Seven - A few thoughts
Progressive Winnipeg's - Google searches.
Winnipeg .. One Great City - Good riddance
West End Dumplings Top Posts and Disappointing story of the year.

Thanks to all my visitors, and all the best in 2012!

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