Category Archives: driving

The TransLink Plebiscite for Vancouver

Greater Vancouver, transit plebiscite, rapid transit

We all want better SkyTrain service where it doesn’t break down, people aren’t mugged and it runs as late as the clubs, but at what price. From the http://mayorscouncil.ca/vancouver/ site.

Greater Vancouver is undergoing a plebiscite or referendum (it’s being called both) about whether to increase our provincial sales tax by .5% to cover upgrades to transit infrastructure. It’s becoming quite a fight because TransLink, the arms length governing body (so you can point fingers directly at the provincial government), has had an extremely bad history of providing good and competent governance and spending.

TransLink talked about the Evergreen line (rapid transit trains), scheduled to go east toCoquitlam and environs for twenty-some years. It’s been nicknamed the Nevergreen line. There were plans and then there weren’t plans. They had no money, they did have money. The reasoning changed back and forth. There have been other indications of incompetence which arrived with the firing of the CEO this year and appointing a new one. But now instead of paying for one, they’re keeping the old one on shuffling papers because I’m sure he received an overpriced severance package. How much is the new one working for: $35,000 per month.

The fight for the increase has the “yes” side saying it’s not about TransLink, it’s about making our tansportation better. And while this is correct, TransLInk is still at the help. Let me put it to you like this: If you gave me $100,000 to build you a house and I did but it was a year late, had shoddy workmanship, the windows kept falling out and the sidewalk I promised was still in the works, would you agree to increase the money to me because I promised that the next house would be better?

traffic, transit, TransLink, tansportation

Yes or no for the increases provincial sales tax. From @Doug88888 flickr

You can guess by this that I’m voting an adamant no for the referendum. Here are just some of the points to consider:

  • What does Prince George, or Penticton or Victoria get for an increased tax besides paying more for Greater Vancouver? Do they even get to vote? I doubt it. Or are we talking about a higher provincial sales tax for only some of the people? That sets a precedent for all sorts of regional taxes.
  • Once a tax, always a tax. No indication of how long this would last. We already have a 7% tax.
  • The Compass debacle-a year past the implementation date and the system is still not functional. There seems to be no end date in sight for it coming online.
  • Everyone who parks in a parkade or at a parking meter in BC pays a nearly 22% tax on parking. They call it the PST but it doesn’t stand for provincial sales tax. They sneaked in the change as parking sales tax without announcing it–where is this money going?
  • “Better roads, more buses, and more transit options will reduce commute times, lower pollution, and boost our economy – all for less than 35 cents a day.” Since it’s going on a sales tax, how is this figure even derived?
  • Past history shows that TransLink promised merchants on the Cambie corridor that they wouldn’t be inconvenienced
    TransLink, transit referendum, sales tax, increased PST, skytrain

    This fat cat makes more than the prime minister of Canada. From the notranslinktax.ca site.

    for long, definitely not more than a year. Merchants lost business over three years and some ceased to exist or moved.

  • Overpriced CEOs. New one gets $420K a year. (More than our prime minister)
  • Vancouver pays the highest prices for gasoline in the country with 48% tax. Where is this money going?

Here is a short history of BC provincial tax rates (from http://www.daveobee.com/victoria/20080224.htm)

July 1 1948 — 3%
April 1 1954 — 5%
March 27 1976 — 7%
April 11 1978 — 5%
April 3 1979 — 4%
March 10 1981 — 6%
July 8 1983 — 7%
March 20 1987 — 6%
March 31 1993 — 7%
February 20 2002 — 7.5%
October 21 2004 — 7%

I’m finding it hard to agree to a tax increase when TransLink is already reaping certain benefits. Another clincher for me is that I looked up fare rates for other large cities and compared them to Vancouver’s. In fact, I believe, geographically Calgary and Toronto are bigger. So if TransLink charges more for transit fares, and we have the highest gas tax, and there’s an exorbitant parking tax, where is all this money going? Click on fares to seem my comparison chart.

And for you to make your own informed decision you can check out the NO side and the YES side. I’m not against improved transit: I am against wasting my money and asking me for more.

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News in the Summer

collection, speculative fiction, Colleen Anderson, dark fiction, horror, fantasy, science fiction, SF

A collection of previously published speculative fiction, available through Smashwords and soon through Amazon.

Okay, it’s been a very busy couple of weeks. I was working hard to get my book up on Smashwords, and Embers Amongst the Fallen is available now there. It turns out that Smashwords, while they say they put it up on Amazon, doesn’t really because Amazon won’t accept from Smashwords. So I next have that to do.

I also put up two previously published erotic stories, under my pen name, T.C. Calligari. Those are all available now but will soon be up on Amazon. I’m still hoping to have my end of the month goal of the print edition of Embers.  I have other writing news, some that I can reveal and some that is in the works.

erotic, spanking, fetish, erotic fiction, T.C. Calligari, writing, short stories

Obvious what this one is about.

Imaginarium: the best Canadian speculative writing has come out through ChiZine Publications and is edited by Sandra Kasturi and Halli Vallegas. Any one who has had published speculative pieces for 2012 can submit to the next one, as long as you’re Canadian, living in Canada or expat Canadian. None of my pieces placed in it but I did received two honorable mentions fro poems:

  • Anderson, Colleen. “Darkside,” ChiZine.com, April 2011
  • Anderson, Colleen. “Shadow Realms,” Witches & Pagans #23

I did sell another poem to Polu Texni.It’s a villanelle titled “Mermaid” and I don’t know yet when it will be up on the site. As well, just before I left for holidays (hence the big lag in posts) I found out I had sold my flash fiction piece “Lady of the Bleeding Heart” to Fantastic Frontiers for their second issue. Their first issue will be coming soon.

anthology, speculative fiction, Bibliotheca Fantastica, Dagan Books, writing, dark fiction

Through Dagan Books, available soon.

I’m still waiting for another poem to go up at Bull Spec. Better ask them again as it’s been a year. And I think Bibliotheca Fantastica is coming out soon with my story “The Book with No End.” I’m negotiating a contract for a story right now and if we can agree on that contract I will be able to announce that information soon. As well, I will be editing an anthology and I’m just waiting for the moment to announce that, when the publisher gives the go. More details by September. So, yes, it’s been very busy in the writing front, and I’m certainly not done. Rewriting a story, working on several others and of course trying to get more works up on Smashwords in the near future.

The posts were on hold for the last two weeks because I drove from Vancouver to Calgary to visit family, friends and to go to the When Words Collide writing convention. The Aurora Awards were also being presented and I was a nominee in the poetry category. I did not win but Helen Marshall did for Skeleton Leaves and it was well deserved. If you can, go get a copy of this lovely book that is a poem that is a story.

When Words Collide was great fun. Held at the Best Western in NW Calgary, it wasn’t all about speculative literature but there was definitely a large portion that favored this area. The Romance Writers were also present. Panels abounded and numerous authors from across Canada were there to read, be on panels and hobnob. Jack Whyte was guest of honor but had to leave early due to a family emergency. But not before he showed up at a room party wearing a dapper shirt, singing in his deep voice, chatting amiably with his lovely thick accent and flirting with the crowd. I’m not sure he was responsible for all the scotch but he was definitely a major contributor. Perhaps it was the power of his dark sorcery that left a few people looking a little green in the morning.

There were book launches and parties by ChiZine Publications, Bundoran Press, the Steampunk group, Edge Publications and others. I got to meet many new people and put faces to some names. I bought a few books and am currently reading Nancy Kilpatrick’s collection Vampyric Variations.

The weather was hot, the hailstones, when they fell, the size of golfballs & then peas, and the company great. In between all that I made a trip to Edmonton to visit more family. It’s been a long time since I did the long drive out to Alberta. I broke it up by staying with friends in Penticton. Overall the trip was really good and that’s because I saw lots of people and visited with some great friends including Andy Tarrant, the talented artist of Trespasser Ceramics. If you’re looking for a gift, check out his site.

One thing I forgot on my drive, was how beautiful the mountains really are. Rogers pass was filled with blues; azure, indigo, phthalo, navy, and greens: emerald, kelly, peridot, lime, forest and more. The scenery is truly amazing and the weather was perfect. Of course I didn’t stop, thinking I would do this on the way back and then I couldn’t find my camera. I thought I had left it in Calgary until I got to Revelstoke and realized it was in a bag with books. Of course it was too late then. I love the scenery around Merritt as well where it turns into rolling hills spilling out of the Coquihalla, with ponds tucked in between. So lovely. Too bad the drive is so long and a bit hard for me. Next time I might see if I can snag someone to share.

I had limited internet and decided to just enjoy the break. I’m right back in the swing of things now, and on to the new writing projects. I expect to be quite busy this fall, and hope to even get a few readings going where my book will be available for sale. More on the writing front as it happens.

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Filed under art, Culture, driving, entertainment, erotica, fantasy, horror, people, poetry, Publishing, science fiction, travel, Writing

Movie Review: Bass Ackwards

movies, entertainment, film, bass ackwards, Linas Phillips, road trip

Bass Ackwards is about a road trip to find oneself.

This is a low-budget, independent film from 2010, written, produced and starring Linas Phillips. It was shown at the Sundance Film Festival.

This was on a disk I borrowed from a neighbor and would never have asked for it. Because of this I almost didn’t watch it. It starts out slow and seems a depressing tale of a guy who is lost, drifting, doesn’t know what to do with his life, lives on people’s couches and generally is failing at trying to have a relationship with a woman who is married. From what I can tell he never gets farther than chatting with her and playing cards. Up until this point I was pretty bored with the meandering, going nowhere life. Then the woman’s husband/boyfriend follows her and tries to beat up Linas. It’s ineffectual, involving two guys who aren’t very physical or macho, rolling about and batting at each other. Linas doesn’t even know why the guy is after him.

After he goes to work on a farm, where he finds some old VW bus that’s been shortened. Without money or purpose he decides to travel east and maybe see his parents. He still entertains a dream that the woman will join him, but the viewer knows that won’t happen. Thus begins another road trip movie.

I found this started slow, depressing, dreary. The cinematography is pretty straight forward, the colors a little subdued. Once Linas gets going on his road trip the tale picks up. The true gems are the people he finds along the way. The small cast, Paul Lazar, Jim Fletcher and Davie-Blue, are also co-writers, along with Sean Porter.

Linas avoids getting beaten, barely, by a yokel who’s woman he was hitting on. Then he meets some guy who just kind of coerces Linas to let him sleep in the van. At first you think he might be a drug addict or nuts and maybe he is a bit. He meets a mechanic who first yanks his chain, then opens up to him. Through these encounters and a few others, Linas begins to find himself. The people come across as real, and have more depth than you think they would at first.

These encounters are the true heart of the movie and make it worth watching. So while the pace is as meandering as the road trip itself, and there is flatness to the beginning, the film builds on its humanity. This is no startling revelation, nor sudden change of fortune. It’s a tale of what life is often like; it continues on, like a gentle curve in the road, sometimes revealing vistas, sometimes potholes, and slowly you see Linas climbing out of stasis and finding a path.  I’ll give this 6.5 gallons of gas out of 10.

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Apocalypse Diet Summary: Days 38-40

zombies, brains, food, dieting, apocalypse diet, party, end of the world

Do zombies and parties mix? Creative Commons: www/plants-vs-zombies-party

Here’s my dilemma coming up. I forgot I was doing this diet and decided to have a party this coming Saturday. How do you have  a party with no nibblies at all? Alcohol’s not a problem. I’m probably going to have to make this a bubble like the restaurant meals with friends. If there are leftovers I’m either going to have to give them away or mark them (if I buy a container of something) so that I don’t use them until the diet is declared dead. On top of that, a longtime friend is coming to visit for the same weekend. She’s probably not going to be thrilled with eating very little so I might have to bubble the whole weekend. Stay tuned to see what happens.

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 38 (Feb. 7):

I have to finish writing what I ate last night. I found veggie dumplings (gyoza) in the freezer so I boiled up five of those with the last of the broccoli, tossed a spot of soy and fish sauce and ate it up. Unfortunately, boiling made the gyozas too mushy. Next time will be steamed or fried.

Lunch was a tin of tuna, with dill, celery, capers, Worcestershire sauce, spices and… and. There was no mayo! Oh doom! Then I remembered I have little packets of soy sauce from takeout and yes, there was one packet of mayo and some Nando’s hot sauce. Saved. That tuna went with a garlic pesto flour tortilla of which I still have quite a few.

I had a snack of a couple of artichoke hearts in vinegar and oil, with a few crackers. For dinner, I used the last of the potatoes (about 5 med. small ones) and a bag of roasted garlic that a friend gave me and made garlic potato soup with turkey stock. I tossed in some onion because I believe this will be the last vegetable in my fridge. It was pretty tasty. I will have enough to freeze several containers. Did I mention I found a bit more chocolate in my place? Chocoholics unite!

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 39 (Feb. 8):

Today’s breakfast was nil. I ran out of time but that’s not unusual for me. Lunch was quinoa and pollo en mole. For dinner I had some of the leftover roast garlic and potato soup, and a few crackers. I believe I’ll run out of the green veggies sometime next week, and probably all veggies in about two weeks or by the end of Feb.

BTW, I did see a zombie today. I was driving on the highway and needed to get over into the right lane to exit. I signaled and signaled and signaled. The car beside kept pace with me so that I had to slow down, nearly stop to get into the lane and then exit. When I pulled up beside this car the woman was staring straight ahead, no expression on her face. There was a large dog moving in the back but she never acknowledged it. Eventually I ended up in front of her and when I looked back she was staring straight ahead, eyes rimmed in darkness, never acknowledging the dog. Maybe it was dinner. If a zombie had been tearing out brains in the next lane, she would never have noticed. Zombies that drive are somewhat dangerous on the road because they aren’t aware of their surroundings, unless it’s brains of course.

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 40 (Feb. 9):

leftovers, apocalypse diet, food, eating, cooking, end of the world

Not a bad looking lunch for Day 40: shrimp, gai lan, quinoa, garlic & sundried tomato.

So, breakfast consisted of two chocolates. Lunch was quinoa with sundried tomatoes in oil, garlic, shrimp and the last of the gai lain. That is indeed the last of the leafy green vegetables though there are still a couple of stalks of limp celery and some Brussels sprouts.

For the party (the bubble food) I bought some cheese, a bag of trail mix, crackers and some chocolate eggs. However, those are stored separately and I’m not allowed to eat them (besides at the party). I think anything left afterwards (if in a container) will be marked with a Sharpy indicating that I can’t eat it until the experiment has ended. That’s temptation though, so how well can I resist the food that is not food?

I have found there is a slightly soft turnip in my fridge so tonight it will be neeps–carrots and turnip with garlic and herbs. Tomorrow begins the weekend of party and visiting friend. Can I make it past Day 40?

To recap after my first month on the Apocalypse Diet, I’m pretending that an apocalypse takes place (maybe it’s a supervirus, massive alien abductions or an evil plot), which stops the supply lines (but for the sake of staying healthy and clean, the hydro-electric power and water are still working). Since the Mayan calendar actually shows the ending of one age and the beginning of another, maybe it’s now the Zombie Age (we’ve already had the consumer age).

I am documenting how long I can live on the food in my place, without shopping. Here are my rules:

  1. I cannot buy any food at all.
  2. If going out for dinner, it’s a bubble outside of the experiment. I can take home the leftovers but this isn’t a stop-gap so no ordering pizza.
  3. When I start to run out of proper nutritionally balanced foods I will take vitamins.
  4. When I become bored or am on to only condiments and alcohol, I will end my experiment.
  5. Someone can give me food, for in the post-apocalyptic world we might want to trade or eat together in safety once in a while.

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Filed under Culture, driving, food, humor

How to End Your Life

pedestrians, car accidents, walking safely, traffic, safety

Creative Commons: by Shuets Udono, Flickr

I’m sure I could write an unending series of stupid things people do that could or have cut their lives short. But perhaps the most common that all of us might do is the act of being a pedestrian. Walking isn’t really an art since we’ve done it from the time we gave up crawling (except for those who get too drunk). Walking is however something that takes attention.

If you walk unconsciously, you’re bound to run into trouble. I know someone who was walking and talking with friends, looking sideways, and ran into a pole and smashed her nose. Then we have the infamous jaywalker. In North America, in most places, this is illegal and for a good reason too. It’s not just that you’re taking a chance with your life because you’re too lazy to walk to a corner, but you also disrupt the flow of traffic and could cause a car accident with another car or with you. Is it really worth shaving a few seconds off of your trip? Not to mention, the more walking, the better you keep in shape.

I am both a driver and a walker. I walk where I can and don’t take my car if I’m going ten or twenty blocks (on most days). When I’m a driver, I respect pedestrian rights. When I’m a pedestrian I respect car driver rights. Too many people feel entitled, but last I looked  no one owns the world. Although pedestrians have the right of way in British Columbia (and many other places) this does not mean they have the right of way in the middle of the street or against lights. At intersections and corners, yes they do but there are still rules. You can’t step right in front of a car and expect them to stop. You would become road pizza.

However, in Vancouver I’ve noticed that if you are standing at a corner, most cars will never ever stop for you. I step off of the curb but not in front of the car, and make eye contact. I kinda like my life. When I start walking I have the right of way but even when I hit the lane going in the other direction, I stop first and look, making sure cars are slowing down and stopping. I’ve had people try to run me over halfway through a crosswalk.

The best way to end your life is to cross against a light, or run across the street because you just have to catch that bus or get that coffee. In the dark or in Vancouver’s notorious rains, people aren’t always that visible. All cars have blind spots and if you run out suddenly, even at a corner, the driver who is turning might not see you. This happened to me once, in the rain, in the dark. All I  saw was a flash of legs and it was so sudden. A few seconds different and that person would have been severely injured.

BC has intersections with blinking green (or yellow) lights on the main street, and stop signs for the side streets. The blinking light means they’re pedestrian controlled and it takes a person pressing the button to have the light turn red. When the light changes, the cars on the side street can get through. When the light turns red the pedestrian is supposed to stop and let the cars go. Red always means stop, even for pedestrians, yet you’ll find people sauntering across without even looking. And crossing anywhere, whether with the light or if you have the right of way, without  looking is a good way to make yourself a smear on the road. Bicyclists and skateboarders (and rollerbladers) who feel that the rules don’t apply to them and think they should go down the middle of the road could find themselves statistics.

Yes, pedestrians often have the right of way, but we’re soft flesh and cars are giant metal monsters with exoskeletons. So if you want to end your life sooner than later, walk against the traffic rules or step out in front of a car without looking, because you want to make them  brake suddenly. The best thing to remember is respect. Riders, drivers and pedestrians have to respect each other and not feel that they’re the entitled ones where the rules don’t apply. Go talk to the bodies in the morgue and see if disobeying those rules helped them.

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I Don’t Hate Bicyclists!

bikes, cars, commuting, traffic, no cars, bicyclists, bike lanes

Creative Commons

Okay, I have to revisit this topic, as my bicycling friends think I’m out to get them. Let me reiterate. Bikes are a good thing. Bicyclists are a good thing. Bike lanes are a good thing. But… there are major transportation issues in Vancouver and I firmly believe the way they’re being handled is not the best answer and is causing antagonism.

Listening to my biking, driving and walking friends, there are several factors at play. Vancouver wants to cut down on people driving to the downtown core. Not a bad thing but as the mayor of Calgary, Naheed Nenshi, said, he believes in the dangling-the-carrot approach. Right now, it feels as if Vancouver is punishing anyone who drives. First, we have the highest gas prices in the country. This is partly because of the province’s supposedly green policy, which again punishes drivers, doesn’t tax gas companies and doesn’t offer a cheap and efficient alternative.

Coupled with a downtown core that you can only reach from North and West Vancouver by two bridges (Lions Gate and Iron Workers Memorial), or from the south side of Vancouver by three bridges (Burrard, Cambie, Granville), this adds to a crush for people commuting to work.  From the east  there are several roads and only one pseudo bridge, the Georgia Viaduct. It looks like a bridge and acts like a bridge but other major streets going into Vancouver are Powell, E. Cordova, Hastings and Expo Blvd. via Prior St. (which is also the street that leads to the viaduct).

bike lanes, bicyclists, biking, traffic, commuting, Vancouver, no bikes

Wiki Commons

Now I believe bicyclists have a lane over the Lions Gate Bridge and there is one over the Burrard St. Bridge. These are fine, and Burrard used to have a shared pedestrian/bicyclist sidewalk. I used to walk it and learned that this was the safest thing because bicyclists on the road were very much in danger of being smunched and on the sidewalk they smunched pedestrians. It wasn’t the best solution so making a lane was the better choice and when you have bridges you have to choose one of them. Lions Gate Bridge is closer to downtown and Cambie and Granville have too many feeder routes. There is no “from the west side” to get to downtown Vancouver unless you take a boat. But from the east, the most popular car routes are the viaduct and probably Hastings. Hastings is two way but the viaduct feeds onto a one-way street downtown or a one-way street out of downtown. Unfortunately in this case, the city chose the worst possible street that conflicts greatly with drivers coming in and limiting ways to turn. One or two of the other streets would have worked better.

You can no longer turn right for blocks and blocks. As well, no one knows for sure who has the right of way. There are some signs. Cars yield to bikes coming up on their right side. Big barricades limit delivery vehicles from offloading supplies. If a bicyclist wants to turn left from the right side bike lane, how do they do that, especially with concrete barricades limiting them? I should also say, that the city says 1800 people a day use the bike lanes but the one that goes along the Georgia Viaduct onto Dunsmuir St. doesn’t look that busy. My walking friend who works downtown says he’s never seen more than four people on it at once, nor have I until the other night, out of rush hour, when I saw five. But either way, they could have put this bike lane on a different street where it wouldn’t have inconvenienced drivers and still given bicyclists a free lane.

Now, how do you keep bike lanes and not punish drivers because, yes, there are many drivers as well and many reasons why a person can’t just bike into the city. Let’s not even mention winter weather. Try this. Don’t punish people for living farther out and having to commute into work. Charge the same price, make the bus/train really cheap and more people will take it. Don’t stop the SkyTrain at 12:30 am when clubs are open till 3 am. Don’t blame drivers for all the faults. Do encourage people with better education for cyclists and motorists. Don’t do things like critical mass, which only raises the antagonism level. Do think about the structure of a city ringed by estuaries, rivers and the ocean. Make taking the bus in the downtown core completely free, as Calgary does. Think about dangling the carrot.

I’ll end with that we do need a better solution and if I could afford an electric/hybrid car I would have changed long ago. I also stay as far away from downtown as I possibly can, except when I go to my doctor. I don’t go for drinks, dinner or movies downtown because parking is expensive, roads are blocked and I feel like I’m bad just because I have a car. I’m an environmental advocate but I also can’t afford to buy an $800 bike and I can’t sell my car. So before we blame another group the best solution is to work together, which means listening reasonably to all sides, not believing one way is the only and right way.

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The Grinch is Gassed Up and Ready to Go

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

We all know about how the Grinch stole Christmas, but he eventually had a change of heart, or perhaps even got a heart. But maybe we don’t really know who the Grinch is. Consider that the Grinch had to get around Whoville to steal Christmas and to do so he needed a vehicle. I think the Grinch never advertised it but he began by stealing gas.

And when the Grinch, like Scrooge, turned compassionate and happy, well there was still the essence of Scrooge and the Grinch permeating the atmosphere. They are now called the gas or oil companies. Whether it is Exxon, Chevron, Texaco, Shell, Mohawk, Arco, or a host of others through the US, there is one thing in common: they milk us on gas prices.

Gas prices have risen a lot in the past five-ten years. But every time they spike, we’re told, oh there was a hurricane in Venezuela, or an earthquake in Saudi Arabia, or a broken fingernail in the US. Considering some of our gas comes from the US and Canada and much more from other places, and that it’s stockpiled, it’s interesting how the price will change instantly with any climatic issue, whether it’s expected or not.

Creative Commons

But I’d like to know what climatic catastrophe causes gas prices to go up during Christmas and summer break, on the weekends and during rush hour. I think in the new year I will plot out the shifting prices as the gas companies continue to scrooge us for every penny, every day in every way. An example of the Grinch Gas is prevalent this week as prices went even higher, a week before Christmas. Sunday it was $1.19 a liter. I’m rounding these numbers and for you US people it’s about 3.8 liters to the US gallon (the imperial gallon is slightly bigger) so if you multiply it by four you’ll get an idea of what we’re paying a gallon.

Monday morning, gas actually dropped to $1.17 and by the time I drove home it was $1.19. This morning it is $1.22. I’m sure we’ll see it $1.25 by Christmas so thanks, Mr. Grinch. You’re definitely a mean one. What’s so interesting is that every once in a while some back-bencher speaks up and says, hey, this should be investigated, and then you never hear anything again. And the prices go up and the reasoning never actually makes sense, unless you just believe that it’s the Grinch and he’s nickeling and diming us, giving cheap excuses for sucking us dry, liter by liter.

We could possibly change this if we wrote our government representatives, en masse, but people are complacently willing to shovel money into the big gas, oil and car corporations (ask why it took so long to get electric cars into the world and who owns those prototypes). Of course even if we all rose up as one Whoville entity to make the Grinch back down, you could bet that those boys in Saudi Arabia and the other gas producing countries have the Grinch by the short curlies. So really, when you look at it, there are quite a few Grinches out there and every time a Whoville is saved another Whoville is put under the gas company thumb of profit profit profit.

Here’s to the Grinch maybe some day getting a heart, but you’ll never see the gift of cheap gas on Hanukkah, Christmas or any other festival about charity.

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Vancouver’s Misquided Transportation Woes

Vancouver seems to have its head up the exhaust pipe when it comes to transportation. World class city, right? World class transportation? Not yet. Okay, they tried with the new Canada line from downtown to the airport and that’s great for the long distance traveler and it does service a couple of campuses so that’s a plus. Of course they’ve been putting off the line going east that would run to Maple Ridge, Burnaby and Coquitlam where a majority of commuters come from.

When we look at the cost of riding public transportation the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD) works under the belief of punishing people for distance. The farther out you live the more you pay. Of course the farther out you live the more beneficial it would be for you to take public transit. On a cost to the consumer basis Greater Vancouver runs on three zones. I don’t take public transit if I can help it for the following reasons: it’s more expensive than putting gas in my car, which of course makes driving my car more convenient as I don’t have to get up as early, struggle to find space or wait, should I miss the bus/ or it be too full. I also don’t have to worry about sitting beside drunks, perverts or thugs (and I have had experiences with two of those on public transit in the past), and I don’t have to worry about getting mugged at a station.

Places like Mexico City, with a population over 20 million, make their transit fairly cheap because they don’t want even 10 million cars driving into the center (the pollution alone is enough to take people down). But not all cities are that big. Still, places like Calgary and other large cities have either free transit in the downtown core or one price for all areas. The cheaper you make it, the more people will use it. The more expensive it is guarantees that people will stick to their cars. But Vancouver doesn’t seem to see that. Sure there is a cost to running these services but I think lower rates and increased users would work better and still cover the same budget if not increase the revenues.

The other major stupidity in transportation planning as far as SkyTrain goes is that they cut service to it at 12:30 on all evenings. If I wanted to go downtown and not  drive, I would be left with the very sporadic bus service or expensive taxis. People coming from farther out of town are less likely to take transit to go drinking. It would be the safest thing if Translink ran the SkyTrain through the night, maybe on the hour and the half hour. Then, no matter what time you leave a club you know you can get home quickly. Somehow the great minds of Translink have never figured this out.

Now Vancouver has also gone on a green kick, which is not a bad thing. However being green or “eco” has become a catch phrase for popularity and sometimes the thinking behind it is lacking. Vancouver decided to put in bike lanes, not a small lane,  with a painted line that runs beside the car lanes, but a full car lane, girded with concrete blocks for the masses of bicyclists to ride through in relative safety. This isn’t a bad thing in and of itself. After all, it’s a pretty scary prospect to bike through commuter traffic every day.

The problem stems partly from the fact that downtown Vancouver is accessible mostly by bridges: Burrard St., Cambie St., and the Georgia viaduct ramps. There are a couple of other ways into downtown but those three are the major routes. Two of the bike lanes use two of these routes, though one is more after the ramp.  The Burrard St. bike lane doesn’t seem to have affected much but the one that runs along Hornby St. closed off accessibility to certain business, such as the Railway Club, making it difficult for deliveries, or musicians setting up. And now you cannot turn right to go to the BCIT campus but must do a loop de loop around. Why they didn’t pick one of the other streets that are less traffic laden, I don’t know. They want to encourage people to use bikes but there are numerous people who must use cars whether for health or the vagaries of their jobs and making driving more inconvenient isn’t the way to go.

The other odd thing about all these proactive bike lanes is that there are very few cyclists using them. I’ve been downtown in the morning and afternoon rush hours and times in between and I’ve never seen more than three cyclists in the lane. Now I don’t work downtown regularly so maybe every time I’ve been down it’s been an exception. However, a friend who does work downtown says they are empty most of the time. These lanes are the size of a car lane and they seem to be very spacious for a so few cyclists. So why is Vancouver, burdened with a $20 million dollar debt, thinking of building yet another one? Do we really need it? It’s eco-friendly, it’s cyclist friendly but is it really going to make a difference or just making commuting more difficult?

I’ve already outlined the issues with people coming in from the eastern cities and the reluctance with the cost of public transit. Those same people have to deal with empty bike lanes on major arteries helping to clog the city’s heart. It’s not the way to make it work. Put up large transit lots in a few areas outside the downtown core where people can park and take free transit or nominally priced transit into the city core, or even rent a bike. Make transit cheaper for those farther out. That would help, but going backwards and charging people more and more the farther they must commute will never get people on the side of commuting with public transit. Vancouver has to learn how to dangle a carrot and make public transit and commuting a pleasant experience.

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Faerieworlds: A Realm in Review

A week ago I took a break from the daily toil and went to Faerieworlds in Eugene, Oregon. What is it? It’s a three-day camping event involving many bands and fairies, of course. Why do this? Because I can. I can dress up, have fun, camp, sleep in, dance, party without worrying about anything more than where to eat and when to shower.

The drive was long with an accident on the other side of the highway which had the looky-loos slowing down. We went 10 miles in an hour. And it seems that regular summer volume on the I-5 also slows down to a crawl. After many hours we arrived in Eugene at Buford Park where Faerieworlds took place. This event has been going eight years according to the website and there are a few things that could have been better laid out, such as where to park when registering, or picking up registration. There was one table with a guy yakking to two people and instead of one of them serving us they continued to listen to him so I went to the vendor registration instead. We received a wristband (not to be taken off) and a laminated tag, and it was unclear if both had to be worn. I never wore the tag. There was no list of events so knowing when a band was on could only be gleaned from catching the emcee, and things like the costume contest, well, I never knew about it at all. There was an event guide but it seems the $110 membership fee didn’t cover even a photocopy of the scheduled events.

The site is a big field, like a pasture, with trees only at the perimeter, and a mixture of grass, hay and blackberry brambles mowed down and removed, but there were still scratchy snags and very uneven ground. You wouldn’t want to go barefoot. Faerieworlds (or the park people) wouldn’t let us drive onto this field with our camping gear, which seemed odd because the ground was hard and there wasn’t any nice foliage to protect. In fact, they did let us drive on to pack up so it makes no sense. Luckily for us, we were near the road and didn’t have far to cart things. Another bizarre Faerieworlds rule was no glass or campfires of any kind, including camping stoves, yet I saw one fire that people had started up for something and obviously all the food vendors used stoves of varying types. Plus the taverns had glass bottles (though they served in plastic). It’s one thing to control fires but I’ve been to some very large camping events where campstoves are never a problem and people have never tipped one over and started a fire. So this rule was just dumb and inconvenient. A friend who went last year with her two kids didn’t have a good time because she had to go elsewhere to cook and didn’t find people friendly at all. Luckily we got by on cold food.

We camped in inner circle camping, which is noisier and nearer all the vendors and stages (there was the main stage and a smaller more intimate stage in the food area). Portapotties were banked out on the road and another set on one side of the camping. Adequate number for the bodies there but they only flushed them in the morning which meant by evening there was no water or paper towels in the cleaning stations and the toilets were becoming disgustingly full and devoid of toilet paper. In the dark that’s scary. A shower trailer was also on site and though they had odd hours of operation (7-11 am and 9 pm-1am) there seemed to be little in the way of  lineups.

At least six bands played on the main stage. Faun, a German band, highlighted Saturday night with Delhi to Dublin from Canadaplaying beforehand. Other bands included Stellamara, Woodland, Gypsy Nomads, Telesma, and smaller groups on the more intimate stage called Neverworlds. What was extremely nice about the setup was that we could be at our camp and still hear the music clearly. Or we could go around the vendor area, dance anywhere or be up in front of the stage. The music was great and well worth the money. However, many people did not enjoy being woken up to the Faerieworlds alarm Saturday morning which consisted of very loud German techno. I’m not sure why they thought they needed to wake fairies up at 8:30 anyways. I just wonder why the bands ended at midnight on Saturday when it was the main day of the event. Having music go later (everything seemed to close too early that night) would have been better.

There must have been about 100 vendors and the quality was verygood. Not a lot of original jewellery but enough, as well as some supremely amazing masks out of leather or formed plastics with feathers or fibers. As well there were several vendors selling wings of course, either one of a kind, handmade or mass produced. There were two taverns. There was clothing from silk fairy tatters to steampunk, accessories, and little magical things to go along with wings. Next year I think I’ll save up to buy one of the masks. They weren’t cheap but they were beautiful pieces of art. The vendor area also included some games, courtesy of a local Renaissance faire and was a maze of colorful items. Unfortunately some vendors only took cash and the official table selling the bands’ music only took cash because they divvy the money up to the bands. Still, I could have worked out a system for having credit cards and paying out each band.

What was probably the most fun besides the music, were the costumes and spontaneous performance art. There were numerous styles of wings and costumes that people had made. There were trolls and goblins in a tug of war, satyrs and wizards, dryads and Na’vi, steampunks and purple fairies, and all sorts of people just doing their thing. Some did spontaneous performance art, like the caterpillar and the dryad pictured here and I loved that. It’s inspired me to go back and listen to more music next year and maybe try a few more outfits for fun.

http://www.faerieworlds.com/

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Traveling in India: Transportation Travails

I think there are many great tales that often take place around transportation: planes, cars, trains, buses, elephants, camels, bikes, rickshaws, etc. Especially if you’re traveling (obviously) there are more tales than the everyday commute, but even living in one’s own city will afford you adventures.

India was probably the most diverse in terms of transportation and terror. I already wrote about flying in “Frightful Flights” but the rest was its own adventure. I never did ride an elephant and though I saw one being ridden it was definitely not the most common form of transportation in India. That would be feet, as most people are too poor to afford more.

I took a few buses from town to town. Many of these were Greyhound size buses and usually without incident But a few trips were driven by kamikaze drivers on winding hills through treacherous roadways. These buses tended to be more like school buses with a picture of one or several Hindu deities up from as well as bright color trims or other decoration. The bus could be one where everyone had a seat and was a mixture of tourists and locals, or one that was a reservation only, air-conditioned, elite tourist only bus. Reservations certainly didn’t guarantee the type of bus or a seat.

On one supposedly reserved bus it was jam-packed full of locals with live chickens and other produce. We knew that we’d paid extra for the privilege of riding locally. It was a bumpy, dusty and long ride and we were packed close enough to examine the weave of each other’s clothes. After someone managed to puke on the bus, the answer being to put paper over the acrid mess and continue onward, several of us opted to ride on the roof of the bus. The tourist luggage was up there anyways and this was a good way to keep an eye on our goods and get some fresh nonvomit-ridden air. Of course this is illegal and had we been stopped some baksheesh would have changed hands, probably from tourist hands to police hands.

As it was, it was a fun way to see the country, and not experience the claustrophobia of the overcrowded bus. I had a couple of bus rides in Nepal too but they were calmer and cleaner. Busing to the next town wasn’t that far but the seats were narrow and metal. Metal is fine in a warm climate but at 5’4″ I was nearly too tall to sit in the seats. I would have stood but I was hit so badly with dysentery I nearly fainted and had to sit, thanks to the Nepalese who noticed my state and motioned for me to sit. Three of them can fit on a bench but I could barely jam my knees down and they were pressed against the seat in front of me. I also took up the room of 1.5 Nepalis. And anyone taller than me had to stand because they just wouldn’t fit. Imagine a 6’2″ man standing next to a tiny Nepalese woman.

Perhaps the most terrifying ride of my life took place in a jeep. The Himalayan hill tribes in the state of Meghalaya tended to drive mostly jeeps, which makes a lot of sense when you see the winding, curving roads with nothing but the foothills of the Himalayas framing them (those foothills equal some of our mountain ranges). One day we went out to Cherapunjee with Hanocia’s brother driving us in the jeep. I had tried to the drive the jeeps there but with the handling of a jeep which is somehow different and tippier, and the right-hand steering, left-hand gear shifting, I just couldn’t get it to work. (Oddly in Ireland with the same type of driving but a car instead, I had no problem.)

So we drove up and took the day looking around. We were there in Oct./Nov. and the days get shorter sooner. We ended up driving back in full darkness. There is no light pollution from distant cities in the foothills of Meghalaya. And the roads are narrow hairpins. As we found common and strange in India, cars would drive with their lights off and only turn them on when they encountered another vehicle. Imagine how terrifying this is as we wind through a hairpin, get to the outside curve and then there is a truck barreling at us, and they both turn their lights on to blind each other.

Hanocia’s brother swore he had to do this to save his lights and that the battery was going. Usually driving regenerates the battery but needless to say we were nearly breathless with fright. After a few encounters with oncoming trucks on the narrow roads we insisted he turn the lights on or we were going to get out and walk. We were miles and miles from Shillong but a long walk in the dark was preferable to dying in the dark.

Since this post has gone long enough I’ll leave off the train rides for a another time, but I can say this: after all these years I still vividly remember the transportation and the tales attached with traveling in India.

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