Tuesday 30 October 2012

A Halloween Story

"Nice shot."

"Thanks Sandy. Probably the longest putt I sank all day. Oh hey ... I've been meaning to tell you ... thanks for hooking me up with that ranch in Glendale. We're staying there this weekend. It's exactly what we were looking for."

"Anytime buddy. It's the least I could do. Hey you've got something on your neck there..."

"Do I? Where .. OUCH! SHIT! What the hell was that?"

"I don't know. It looked like a shiny red beetle of some kind. Never seen anything like it before."

"Ya, well the damn thing bit me. Hurt like hell."


"Yes Carla?"

"Mr. Sheegl is here to see you Sir."

"Oh right. Yes, let him in."

"Sammmy! How have you been?"

"Fine, Sheegs. Well you know, this crap isn't going away. I can't believe this fire hall shit has so much traction. Maybe if I keep giving out keys to the city people will get distracted and forget about this mess before the next election."

"I can take the fall for you Sam. You know .. GAAAAAK. KAACK. Uhmm. Ah, sorry about that. Ya, anyhow, I was saying ... Sandy just hooked me up with a sweet ranch in Phoenix. I should be spending more time down there anyhow. You know, maybe it's time .. GAAAAAK."

"Don't even think about it, Sheegs. I got a sneak peak at the report. Douglas will take 90% of the hit, or at least we can spin it that way. You're fine buddy. I can't do this without you. You know that."

"When does the report come out?"

"It goes to the PCS and then council in two weeks."

"Alright well keep me posted. GAAAAAAAAAAK. GAAAAK. Uhh.

"Christ, dude. That's a nasty cough."

"Ya, I think I'm getting pneumonia or something. This climate up here doesn't agree with me. I'm telling ya Sammy, I need to move to the ranch. GAAAK.


"Hi, I'm Maralee Caruso and the top story tonight continues to be the as yet unidentified illness that is sweeping across the nation. Experts from the GAAAAK. Excuse me. Experts from the Canadian Centre for Disease Control are focusing on Winnipeg as the epicenter of the outbreak, where the disease has killed dozens of people including CAO for the City of Winnipeg, Phil Sheegl. It gets worse for city hall: CTV has now learned that the mayor Sam Katz and every councillor except Harvey Smith has been hospitalized with the illness, leaving Smith in charge of the day to day administration of the city.

People are being advised to stay at home if at all possible, and avoid air travel. Health agencies in Europe and Asia are on high alert and have issued travel warnings for all parts of Canada; and South Korea has once again banned beef exports from Canada."


As Harvey Smith sat and pondered the turn of fate that left him as the last person alive on earth, the emotions ran through him like prune juice: guilt, grief, anger, frustration. Why did it spare him, of all people? Why did it happen at all? The silence of the city around him drove daggers into his heart.

It was a beautiful early-summer day by appearances, as a pungent breeze tussled the curtains of Harvey's apartment, conducting an elaborate dance of sunshine across the hardwood floors. A shiny red beetle flew in with the breeze and landed on his side table.

"Odd looking bug." He thought to himself, before killing it with his cane.

Tune into 101.5 FM Wednesday October 31 at 5:30 pm for a spooktacular Winnipeg Internet Pundits.

Sunday 21 October 2012

Leaves. Damned leaves.

There is this giant maple tree behind my yard that always loses it's leaves after all the others. It's quite annoying. Some years it drops all it's leaves after it snows so I never do get a chance to rake them up, and I end up with a big mess in the spring including henna-like imprints of maple leaves on the patio for months afterwards.

That big maple is only a fraction of my lawn care woes. There is also a smaller maple, three ornamental maples, an apple tree and a birch tree, all either in my yard or directly adjacent to it.

There are plenty of leaves to rake up, but few bags to put them in. This is because we can't use plastic bags anymore with Winnipeg's new yard waste program, the Leaf It With Us depots are closed, and stores are largely sold out of the paper leaf bags because retailers were caught off guard by the new system. The city kindly provided free bags to home owners, but only two. That big maple -- my share of it -- would probably fill three times that many on its own. People around the city were left with piles of leaves and nowhere to put them. Some cleverly blew them onto the road with leaf blowers. There. Problem solved.

Fortunately for me I installed a new compost bin. Compost bins are awesome. You can pack the equivalent of THIS MANY bags into a composter. Throw all those leaves in, pack 'em down, throw more in, and more, and pack it down and throw more in. Just when you think you can't put more in, grab a shovel or snow pick and jab those suckers down and suddenly you can pack in another three bag's worth of leaves. The end result for me is that I was able to get by with only my two free paper leaf bags this fall, and I still have room in my bin for whatever leaves that big maple still has to drop.

It wasn't until I was live on the air last Wednesday on Winnipeg Internet Pundits that I came up with this belated idea: why didn't the city have a sale of compost bins prior to the fall? Every spring the city has a sale on compost bins and water barrels, but its only for one day and only in a handful of locations around the city. Accordingly it's a painful experience with excruciating line-ups. I've never understood these one day events. If you want people to have these things, why don't you make them available all the time so that people don't have to rearrange their schedules and waste hours of their time?

The folks at city hall knew well in advance that this new yard waste program was coming and that the old leaf depots were closing. Why not encourage people to buy compost bins? They could have provided subsidies for retailers or a rebate of some kind, or they could have set up special bin sales like the do in the spring, but for 4 or 5 weekends in a row. They don't have to be fancy-ass bins either. They could be something simple like this one.

It's too late now of course, but what do you want from me? Proactive solutions? Pfft. Much funner to criticize after the fact.

************* IMPORTANT MESSAGE *************

UMFM is raising money to keep the station on the air so that they can continue to provide unique radio shows, alternative music programs, and of course Winnipeg Internet Pundits. There are incentives for different levels of donations. See the UMFM Pledge-O-Rama page for more info, and call 204-474-6610 to donate.

Tuesday 16 October 2012

Around this town - October 2012

 The Big Man Bob Cox has put figurative pen to paper in a recent blog post on the Free Press web site. He doesn't write half bad (aside from the one sentence per paragraph thing -- did somebody draw a period on the enter key of his key board?) Maybe he can pick up some of the slack from the laid off journalists and put out some concert reviews and web content.

Half a million Winnipeggers read newspapers

Half a million people read newspapers regularly in Winnipeg.Two out of every three Winnipeggers read the Winnipeg Free Press at least once a week.
The real numbers, complete with full-colour graphs, are in a survey made public this week by the National Audience Databank better known as NADbank. When you consider all newspapers, four out of five Canadians read a newspaper at least once a week either in print or online. In Winnipeg, 78 per cent read a printed paper weekly, making us the most prolific newspaper readers in the country.
"Dang .. if only we had known that before we laid off all those people. Oh well ... what's done is done..."

So what's up? Is the Free Press okay or not? Go to the quarterly report and scroll down to page 5 and look at the revenues. Add up 2010 and 2011. Revenues actually increased year over year! But .. look at the first two quarters of 2012 -- not so rosy. What's changed? The Metro. That's my bet. The humble little free daily paper has put a big bite in the Free Press ad revenue.

So what does this have to do with the"alt weekly" Uptown magazine getting axed and replaced by an existing paper insert? That, I'm not entirely sure. However, say goodbye to local content and hello to CD reviews from the Associated Press and entertainment pieces yanked from Slate.com.


Prior to the last provincial election I followed most of the major candidates on Twitter and regretted it immediately. If it wasn't required for my lucrative career as a blogger I would have instantly unfollowed them.

"Great day of campaigning in St.Boniface. #GoJetsGo"
"I'm in the front row of the Ukrainian pavilion at Folklorama! Mmmmm perogies!"
"I'm at the fall supper in Glenboro. Boy are the perogies ever good!"

Oh God, shoot me before I read any more of this drivel.

Remarkably I neglected to unfollow them after the election, probably because most of them stopped tweeting. However I need to give a shout out to Hugh McFadyen who, now that he's no longer a politician, re-emerged in the Twitterverse in August with a photo of Ron Swanson as his avatar and some actual substance in his tweets..
He's since ditched the Swanson picture, but might be worth a follow if you don't already.

Here's the thing though: why not actually share your thoughts on social media when you're a politician??  Yes, there is some risk, but I would argue that the bigger risk is leaving voters detached and bored. Put it out there. Give people a reason to relate to you or at least see that you're human!

Just watch the swearing...


We have a few returning Winnipeg-related blogs and/or bloggers.

David Jacks has revived what used to be the Banana Peel as the new Jacks of Diamonds. He's only a couple posts into the new project so we'll keep on eye on this one and see how it goes.

Arthur Mira (@H0PP on the twitter) has returned with the WpgNewsReview, minimalist in design but not in length of post. If I have a word of advice for Arthur it's to cut those posts down a wee bit. Trust me. A picture or two helps also.

Shaun Wheeler has recently returned from a three month self-imposed exile from the internet and produced a five-part blog super-post for blog action day (start with part 1 here). This seems to me a little like trying to bench press 200 lbs after not going to the gym all summer, but good on him for doing it.

I just couldn't get into blog action day this year. Theme: "The Power of We." What the hell? "We"??? We WHAT? Great, ya, we can get more stuff done if we work together, but I need more of a framework in my subject matter. Something with a little less holistic nebulosity. Something like: Blog Action Day: how to make a good omelette.

Finally, there is a new upstart Winnipeg internet forum out there: the uniquely name Winnipeg Forums.com. With only 8 total members they have a ways to go, but everybody has to start somewhere, right? Winnipeg Zoom is doing well as it approaches it's 1 year anniversary (and the Sandbox ... well ... it's still out there too.)


Ah heck, one last thing: Binders Full Of Women.

Oh Mitt ...

Monday 15 October 2012

The countdown to Sammy o'clock

I'm surprised how little I've written about the trials and tribulations of Winnipeg's embattled mayor Sam Katz up to this point. I've been negligent in my duties.

I feel we've reached a tipping point in Mayor Sam's tenure. It used to be that little controversies would spring up, then fade away, and Sam's mayorship would continue no worse for wear. For example:

  • There was this thing about a tax break on a parking lot used by his baseball team, but that didn't seem important enough at the time to waste neurotransmitters on. 
  • There was a scandal about his baseball club not paying back shareholders of the Crocus investment fund after it went belly up because his wildly successful baseball club had apparently never made a profit. That seemed like a much more significant controversy, but was perhaps too complicated to capture the public's attention. 
  • There was a sale of a downtown parkade that seemed a little crooked, but not quite crooked enough to make a big deal out of.
  • There was a thing about Sam spending city money at his own restaurant. Terrible optics, but again not really big enough potatoes to make a scandal out of. 
There were little things here or there, but Sam with his Teflon sport coat managed to slip away from any major fallout each time.

Those days are over. The past month or so for Sam Katz has officially become a gong show.

The fire hall scandal that by now everybody in Winnipeg is familiar with has done nothing but gain steam, and with an external review of the whole deal yet to be conducted, we can be guaranteed to hear a lot more about it, some of which is likely to reflect very poorly on the mayor. Now, like any entertaining show, a spin off has developed. It seems that one of the new fire halls has gone way over budget as a result of a change order that nobody can explain.

Let's talk about that for a second. The original 10,500 square foot fire hall was expanded by 3,500 square feet at a cost of $2.3 million apparently to house a firefighting museum. This fire hall, in case you're not aware, is in a bit of green space encircled by a cloverleaf for the Route 90/Portage Avenue intersection. If somebody were to visit this museum, they would have to jay-walk across an off-ramp from one of the busiest streets in the city to another of the busiest streets in the city. (Best field trip evar!) Who came up with this idea? We don't even know! Somebody somewhere in City Hall (or maybe the fire chief for all we know) thought this was such a great idea that they signed off on the change order and said MAKE IT HAPPEN!

Now that the museum has proven to be a dumb idea, they're desperately looking for other things to stick in there to justify the expense. Haz mat unit? Decontamination unit? How about a wave pool? We can sell vouchers for the pool at $10 a person to make back some of the $2.3 million we wasted, except that we should give free vouchers to low income people to use, but not on weekends or holidays because those are high volume days for paying customers, plus we should build an overhead walkway to allow people to get to the wave pool safely, but that might cost another $1 million, or possibly $1.5 million if we put in a change order after the fact to add a heated and sheltered gallery of firetruck-related art work along the walkway.

So anyhow, as all this fire hall drama is happening, we find out that Sam bought a corporation from the CAO for the City of Winnipeg, raising a few more eyebrows, and then we find out that he bought a $1.5 million house in Arizona off the sister of a Shindico exec for TEN DOLLARS ... plus "other valuable consideration". If you're thinking that "other valuable consideration" entails millions of dollars in real estate business being funneled to Shindico, then you and I are on the same wavelength.

To make matters worse, old controversies are springing to life: The restaurant owner who was suing Sam for spending city money at his own restaurant is chirping again, Crocus fund stakeholders are smelling blood and starting to raise their voices against the weakened mayor, and previous real estate transactions will go under the microscope in the wake of this fire hall clusterfuck.

I don't see this blowing over. I am prepared to go on record and say that Sam Katz will not be mayor of Winnipeg in two years. Even the Jewish Post and News is calling for Katz to resign because he is an "embarrassment to us, as Jews".

He's back-pedaling as fast as he can, and will probably throw Sheegl and others under the bus to save himself, but it won't work. Last election people had a notion that Sam wasn't completely above board, but now people are certain that he's not. There is no bloody knife or smoking gun, but the circumstantial evidence is mounting. The only way he can survive this in my opinion is if the fire hall audit exonerates him, if murder rate drops dramatically next year and if a major head office moves to Winnipeg.

If you ask me, the mayor's luck has run out.

Tuesday 9 October 2012

Boomtown Reston

Whaddya know .. CTV had a story about Reston Manitoba on the news today, about selling plots of land for $10. As chance would have it, I happened to be in that very same hamlet this past weekend.

CTV is certainly correct that Reston is experiencing a boom. A "boom" in Reston terms involves two duplexes being built as we speak, in addition to several other houses that were recently constructed or moved in as pre-fab units. This may not sound like much, but in relative terms, Reston's recent growth would be equivalent to 45,000 people moving into Winnipeg in one year.

With growth comes opportunity.

$10 in Reston might not get you as much as it does in Maricopa County Arizona, but it's still a pretty good deal. There may be potential for some big real estate gains there for an enterprising real estate speculator if the oil keeps flowing in that corner of the province. Be sure to read the fine print before pulling the trigger. You will need to actually build a house, and you might even have to live in it too.

If building a new house doesn't appeal to you, there are some other potential opportunities:

The Panda: Reston's requisite Chinese food restaurant The Panda is up for sale. If you want a captive market and don't mind a little cooking, this is for you. Your only competition is the Dennis County restaurant up the street. By the way, if you eat at Dennis County I recommend the hamburger steak. Avoid the chicken filet.

Beverage Room: Reston did have a bar, much like every other small town bar, but it burned down. The owner has not yet begun to rebuild due to an insurance dispute, and this leaves a wide opening for YOU. Oil workers pulling in 200 Gs need places to drink too, and right now Reston is not providing that. If you blow into town and build a new bar, you can capture some of that small town binge down magic.

Hotel: Since you're building a bar, you might as well build a decent place to stay while you're at it. There were a few rooms at what used to be the bar, but even if they're technically still open (and I'm not sure they are), you probably don't want to actually sleep there unless the spot under the bridge on the golf course is already occupied. Neighboring Pipestone doesn't have a hotel anymore. For visitors to the area, there's not much choice but to stay in Virden half an hour away.

Tim Hortons: Reston lies on highway 2 at that magical three hour mark from Winnipeg -- the point at which everybody in the car needs to take a whiz and refuel on coffee -- yet there is no coffee to be had along the highway. In fact from the Perimeter highway to the Saskatchewan border and beyond, you will not find a Timmy's anywhere. True, this highway is nowhere near as busy as the TransCanada, but there is also nowhere near as many places to stop. Thanks to a new card lock Co-op gas station, many more truckers are pulling off the highway at Reston than ever before. This, combined with passenger cars filled with under-caffeinated people filled pee, combined with locals who want a change of scenery, spells success!

****** UPDATE ******

The message is spreading. Yahoo! is now covering the story, so you had better hurry! I should also warn you that I'm getting quite a few google hits about this story.

See also Slurpees and Murder.

Thursday 4 October 2012

Kabul Orphanage Fundraiser

On Saturday, October 20, there is a Winnipeg fundraiser for Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan. 

The Kabul Orphanage Fundraiser hopes to raise awareness about human rights, the plight of Afghan women and children, and funds to support an orphanage. 100% of of the proceeds will support the cause.

 Anybody Want A Peanut has been proud to support Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan with their previous fundraising efforts, including the 1st and 2nd annual film festivals. This year they're going in a slightly different direction with an Afghan buffet, followed by a short play by Talia Pura, and only one film. This is probably a good change. While some of the movies or documentaries in the past have been very enjoyable or enlightening, a few were depressing and it made for a somewhat long evening. This year's event should be a little more like a Folklorama event.

Here is their web site and Facebook page. Tickets are available at McNally Robinson in Grant Park Mall. See you there?

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