Monday, July 26, 2010

Ontario Driving Laws

I'm from Nova Scotia. I learned to drive in Nova Scotia. Then I moved to Ontario where I have lived in Sault Ste. Marie, Toronto, and Ottawa. I have noticed there are a few different laws in Ontario that you may need to be aware of if you plan on driving in this province. I will outline them here for your convenience.
The eighth-of-a-second rule.
In most places this is known as the Two-Second Rule. Here's the way it works.
Watch the car in front of you.  When that car passes a pole or mark on the road, start counting "one one-thousand, two one-thousand."  If you pass by the mark before you finish counting to two, you're following too close. In Ontario, it's an eighth of a second. Not two seconds. Two seconds is too long. How can you expect everyone to fit on the roads if they all follow the two-second rule?

Also note that in most places the number of seconds increases with the size of the following vehicle. If you're driving a school bus, you should probably be counting to 4 because your brakes will take longer to stop your bus than the Honda Civic you're following. In Ontario, it's the opposite. The bigger and heavier your vehicle, the closer you must follow.
Anyone caught using their signal lights to show intention of changing lanes, or turning onto another street, driveway, etc. shall be sentenced to life in a maximum security prison with no chance of parole. Ever. - Ontario Highway Traffic Act.

They've attached the hefty penalty because they're so serious about this. They do not want people showing intention of turning by use of signal lights. 98% of Ontarian drivers obey this law without fail.

However, signaling you're going to turn, then not turning - even though you're in the turning lane - is quite fine. Leaving your signal light on while driving down the highway while never changing lanes is also fine.
Pullling Out Into Traffic:
It is advisable to look both ways before pulling out into traffic from a perpendicular street or driveway, but please ignore how fast any oncoming vehicles are going.
When two lanes become one, and traffic must merge, all cars must do as much as possible to prevent the merging to look like a giant zipper from the sky. If you're in the lane that's ending, you must drive as fast as you can to force your way into the furthest forward, however inconvenient to other drivers, giving up as many open spaces as possible. You were probably taught in school never to cut in line. That applies to the cafeteria; not roads.
The following rules apply specifically to Ottawa:
Red Lights
In most places red traffic lights mean stop! In Ottawa, they're just suggesting you might want to stop. If you feel like it. Otherwise, just go right through the intersection at any speed you feel is appropriate - as long as it's at least 90 km/h.  Besides, the Yellow Lights are mere flashes in Ottawa.
Lane Choice on the Queensway
Most highways operate in the following manner: The far right lane is the slowest. The far left lane is the fastest. Traffic moves faster as the lane moves farther left. If the posted speed limit is 100 km/h, people in the far right lane might go 100 km/h on an ideal day.  If people want to go faster, they use the left lane(s) to pass.

This is how the Queensway operates: The posted speed limit is - oh never mind. It doesn't matter. Feel free to do anything between 50 and 180 km/h. Don't worry about being in the wrong lane for your speed. There is no wrong lane. However, if you find another vehicle going the same speed as you, it is an offence punishable by death to occupy the same lane. You have to adjust your speed until you're right beside the other vehicle, then resume your original speed. This prevents anyone from passing you.

Also, you are required by law to change your speed by at least 20 km/h at every exit. It doesn't matter if you speed up or slow down - as long as you're within the 50 -180 km/h buffer.

Also, don't let the weather interfere with your driving habits. If you want to go 180 km/h on a bright sunny day in July, then you must also go 180 km/h during an ice storm in January. It's the law. By the same token, if you'd do 50 km/h during an ice storm, then you must also do 50 km/h on a clear and sunny day.
The following pertain to Embrun:
Posted Speed Limits:
The posted speed limits around Embrun are in French. While the numbers look the same as English numbers, their meanings are quite different.

Between the 417 and the town of Embrun, the posted speed limit looks like 80 km/h to an anglophone like myself. But, as I have found out, when you do the conversion to English numbers, it's actually 120 km/h. If you do 80 km/h, you will be passed as though you're standing still.

But once you get into Embrun, it works the other way. The posted speed limit is 50 km/h. Or at least that's what it looks like in English. But once you translate it into the native French, it's actually more like 30 km/h.  You can try to do 50 km/h, but you will be promptly slowed down to 30 km/h by the car in front of you.
Hey. I don't make the rules.  I just break 'em.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I'm An Artist Too (128)

The Big Guy In The U.S.A. Jacket

This is a character in the Mr. Falcon universe; The Big Guy In The U.S.A. Jacket (TBGITUSAJ).  He's a top goon in the Nordburg Mafia.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Mind Your Manners...and English

I find it interesting that some people are anal about English grammar and spelling.   See, English, unlike other languages like French or Korean, doesn't have a governing body defining what is right and what is wrong. Correct English is defined as being whatever is in popular usage. If you want to change an English spelling or rule, just get the masses to do it your way instead of the "right" way.

Some people say Dictionaries define what is correct. This isn't true. Dictionaries are in a constant game of catch-up.

I once blogged about how the meanings of words change.

A few case-in-points:
  1. The Merriam-Webster Word of the Year for 2007 was "w00t". (That's right. Those are zeros in there.)
  2. Americans spell it "honor", "labor", "favorite". Canadians spell it "honour", "labour", and "favourite". Who's to say what's right? Awww heck, Americans call it "Zee" and Canadians call it "Zed". Again, who says what's right? The only way to say they're both right is to admit that there can be more than one right way to spell something. If that's the case, why kan't I invent mai own ways to spel things? I'm just creating my own version of proper Inglish.
  3. How to you spell it? Shakespear? Shakespere? Shakespeer? Other? In fact, in his day, people took pride in spelling their names in as many different ways as possible.
  4. @#$@&! is considered a swear word today by some (but not all). If you get a really old dictionary, it's in there as an actual word. Who decided it was a swear word? What authority do they have? And who gave that authority to them?
Consider this paradox. If someone uses English that's considered to be improper today, they would be considered to have improper English. They would be wrong. But, if their "mistake" catches on, then they will retroactively become right.  They will be seen as a pioneer.  Shakespere invented many words, and prolly broke some rules too.

This does raise some interesting questions, like:
  1. A lot of people use the word "literally" when they mean "figuratively." For example: "We were so late for our connecting flight, we literally flew through the airport terminal." They would have had to be superman. They mean "...we figuratively flew through the airport terminal" or "...we literally ran as fast as we could....". Nearly everyone makes this mistake. The question is "How long do words have to be confused with each other before they 'officially' take on the meaning of other word?"  In other words, when will "figuratively" literally mean "literally"?
  2. A lot of people don't know when to use "me" and "I" "properly". Here's the "rule": "I" is subjective, and "me" is objective. I think the way most people think of it is that "I" comes at the beginning of the sentence, or the end of a list of people. Otherwise, use "me." The question is: When will using "I" in the objective be considered "proper"?  Consider the phrase "It is I!"  It's considered proper, but how?

There is one other similar arena: manners. The primary reason behind manners is making people around you not feel uncomfortable. Passing smelly gas makes me feel less comfortable. Whether you stick your pinky finger out whilst drinking tea or not does nothing for my comfort level.

I had a landlord that taught me all sorts of manners, like tilting a bowl of soup away from you when you're getting towards the last bit of soup. He wanted to impress on me how my table manners would be the sole factor in how people thought of me. No matter how many orphanages I built and ran, no matter how many homeless people I fed, or illiterates I taught to read, if I picked up my peas with the top side of my fork, I'd always be seen as a little kid in an adult's body.

Like English rules, I find something odd about my attitude towards manners: If I see someone breaking a rule I know about, I think "What an oaf! Don't they know?!" But when I hear a rule that's new to me, I think "What?! You've got to be kidding! That's a rule?! Who came up with that, and on whose authority?  That's arbitrary!"

My favourite case-in-point is proper spaghetti-eating procedure. Do you use use a spoon or not? Here are some resources that say you don't use a spoon:
And here are some that say you do:
  • Yahoo Answers
  • My dad.
  • That old Italian man I saw eating spaghetti in an Italian restaurant in Sault Ste. Marie.
And this Life in Italy forum has references to both.

So, who's right? Or, like the English language, is "right" a moving target?  Who cares?  Mostly the people who know the rules.  I think that most people who don't know the rules, or even that the rules exist, tend not to care very much....until they know the rules.  Then some care.

If you feel compelled to leave a comment to set me straight on something in this post, feel free, but please state on who's or what authority you speak, and where they got their authority.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Decisions Decisions

My upcoming move represents more than a change of address. It's a change in lifestyle. I haven't lived alone since I was working at MNR and going to university whilst in Sault Ste. Marie. My position at work was by no means permanent, so for financial purposes I had to live like a student. Living like a student means living inexpensively. It means taking furniture because it's cheap or free, not because it looks nice or matches.

This time I have a government job which is a little more long-term. This means I can get furniture based on my tastes. When I move into my new apartment I want to set it up the way I want to set it up. What I'm finding out now is that this means a whole bunch of decisions to be made over the next little while.

How To Move
I could rent a truck or van from a regular car rental place, a big truck from a bigger truck rental place (like Penske), I could get a U-Haul truck, get a friend with a truck, use PODS, or use a moving company.
Cable/Satellite/Rabbit Ears
This one is easy. For a while I've wanted to know if I could go for a whole year without TV. This year I'll find out. When I tell people about this, they usually say "Oh of course, you can download everything from the Internet anyway. I guess you don't really need TV." That's not the point. The point is that I 'm convinced there's a life to be lived that doesn't involve TV. I want to experience more of life! I want to get out and do things!  I don't know what things. I'll think of that later. I want to be a better musician. I want to learn French. Maybe work on another Mr. Falcon game.

There are some caveats with this goal. This goal won't prevent me from watching the occasional YouTube clip, DVD, movie (especially at the theatre), TV at other people's homes, etc. The point is to not become addicted to TV.  It's a question of habit.

I may re-neg on this goal under a few circumstances. If I suffer a health issue that forces me to have to lie down for long periods, then I might just order a TV, and digital cable. I also might re-neg if I'm wrong and there is no life to be lived out there. Feel free to ask me how this goal is going throughout the year.
Internet and home-phone
This one is getting me dizzy right now. My first inclination was to go cable. The building has a deal with Rogers for cable, Internet, and home-phone. But, after dealing with them for a short time, I didn't like how they do business, so I explained my reasons and told them I was going with Bell.

Other high-speed ISPs are: National Capital Freenet (NCF), Primus, Teksavvy, and Bell.  Teksavvy claims they don't offer service in my area, which is false.  But I had visions of having to go through a whole hassle every time I called them for something.

Me: "I need help with my bill."
Teksavvy: "I'm sorry. I see your address, and we don't seem to support that area."
Me: "Yes you do.  I've been using your Internet, and paying you for months now."
Teksavvy: "That's impossible.  Please hold while I check with my supervisor."

No thank you.  So I consider the remaining three.  When contemplating these, I go in the following circle: I think I should go with the Freenet because it's cheap. Except, they'll charge me extra for not having a home-phone. They don't have tech support staff sitting around to take my call, should I ever need it. For just a few more dollars I can get home-phone and Internet with Bell. I save with Bell because it's a bundle, and I already have my cell phone with them. But, I hate Bell's system when you call them. I hear good things about Primus' customer service. And they have a good Internet + home-phone deal. By this point in my cycle I'm already at $30/month more than I would be if I had just gone with the Freenet. So I should go back to the Freenet. But if I go Freenet, I should go Bell. If I go Bell, I should go Primus.
No. I should go with the Freenet. But if I go Freenet, I should go Bell. If I go Bell, I should go Primus.
No. I should go with the Freenet. But if I go Freenet, I should go Bell. If I go Bell, I should go Primus.
No. I should go with the Freenet. But if I go Freenet, I should go Bell. If I go Bell, I should go Primus.
No. I should go with the Freenet. But if I go Freenet, I should go Bell. If I go Bell, I should go Primus.
Ad nausium, ad infinitum. I don't know what I should do!
Furniture, dishes, cookware, etc.
I was all excited about getting stuff that suits my tastes until I realized I have no taste. That's not to say I have bad taste. I have no taste. I have no opinion. When I look at furniture right now, I'm not thinking about style and comfort.  I'm thinking about how easy it will be to get to my apartment, then move if I move out in a year or two.

The last time I had to get dishes I got them from Canadian Tire.  I was happy with them.

I also happened to get a 10 piece set of Cuisinart cookware for half price at Canadian Tire at that time.

I'm going to hold off on these decisions until I'm in the apartment.  My philosophy is "never pay full price for cookware."  Cookware is always on a huge sale somewhere.  30% off is a small sale.  50% off is common.
Cell Phone
My cell phone is starting to die. People complain I sound really far away and quiet, that is, if they can hear me at all. I could just go out and get a new phone. If I sign a three year contract, I could probably get the phone for free. But, my plan doesn't include any data plan. So I'm wondering if it's time to get with the times and get a smart phone with a data plan. That decision became a little easier today. I read that Apple was going to release the iPhone unlocked in Canada. I had been leaning towards the iPhone, but was also contemplating an Android based phone. That announcement clinched it. If I get a smart phone it will be an iPhone.

My main question about the iPhone is convenience of carrying it. My current phone is pretty small. It fits nicely into my pocket. The iPhone looks a little big to fit nicely in my pocket. I'd also be paranoid about it being stolen or broken. If I don't get a smart phone then I'll likely get a regular cell phone and an iPod Touch. Since I can get an unlocked iPhone I could get it, and not even use it as a phone. If it turns out I don't mind carrying it around all the time, I can take it to Bell and start using it as a phone.

What does this decision have to do with moving out? My cost of living is about to increase in mostly unpredictable ways. I don't know if I'll be able to afford a data plan. Only time will tell. It's going to take a little whole for the financial dust to settle. So I'm hoping my phone holds out for a while yet.
UPDATE: Here is what I've decided so far:
How To Move
I rented a cargo van from Enterprise. With the help of Pastor Jack, I loaded the van up at home. Then at night, the Jack, Wendy, and Robin, and two other friends helped me move into the apartment. The unloading of the van took 40 minutes.
Cable/Satellite/Rabbit Ears
So far, so good. I don't have cable. I don't have rabbit ears. Before I left the McQueen's house, I recorded some shows on my computer. I have finally watched them.
Internet and home-phone
I ended up going with National Capital Freenet for Internet. I don't have a home phone.
Furniture, dishes, cookware, etc.
I bought some Paderno cookware on sale. So far, so good.

I bought one set of dishes only to open the box to find out the plates were missing. So I returned them, got another set from the same company. These ones came with extra bowls.

The only furniture I bought was a bed. So far so good. I went to Sleep Country Canada. They had me try a few different mattresses too see which one I felt most comfortable on. He said, by the mattress I picked, I was a native back-sleeper. I thought I was a side-sleeper.
Cell Phone
I'm waiting to decide further on this. My current phone still works.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

I'm An Artist Too (127)

Today's Coffee Cup Art is a picture of me, after I move out of the McQueen's into my own place with sky high rent, parking, and utilities costs.  I plan on having no money left over to spend wildly on things like food, and bus passes.  I also found out today my insurance is going up.  Twice!  Once for moving into the city, and again because everyone's insurance is going up.

Yes.  Those are moths flying out of my pockets.

Monday, July 05, 2010

My Car, My Hassles (Part 6)

Long time blog readers will remember just over three years ago I bought a new car; a Saturn Ion. The car has served me well over that time. Very low maintenance. Just some brake work. Until this week.

This week, Ottawa saw some record highs. It went up to 34 degrees on Tuesday, and 35 on Wednesday. While I usually take the bus to work, I drive to work for extreme temperatures. If it's supposed to go above 30 degrees, I drive in. I'd rather have 1 hour in an air conditioned car, than 2 hours in a full, stuffy, stinky, sticky bus.

Everything was fine on Tuesday. Then, on Wednesday I drove to work. I didn't need the air conditioning in the morning. In the afternoon, the temperature at Gatineau Airport was 35 degrees Celsius. I was looking forward to my nice, cool car. I got in the car and started it. I turned on the air conditioning. I put my hand up to the vent. Only warm air was blowing through it. I didn't think too much of this. It usually takes a minute or two for the air conditioning to kick in.

After an hour, when I got home, the air blowing through the vent was still warm. I thought that because it was so hot out, the air conditioning system was constantly fighting the warmth outside, and since the car was sitting in a hot parking lot all day, that maybe the whole car was so warm, that by the time the air conditioned air came out of the vents, it had warmed up. I took the car out again in the evening, after it had been sitting in the shade for a while.

Still no cool air.

I opened up the hood to see if there was anything obvious like a big "On/Off" switch stuck in the "Off" position. No such luck. Nothing obvious. So I closed the hood. Except it wouldn't close completely. There are two latches that keep the hood closed. The first one keeps it all the way down. The second one prevents the hood from flying up if the first one fails. The first latch was broken.

This is not good. I was willing to live with out air conditioning for a while, but I need my hood to close. On Thursday I called a local GM dealership to see if I could bring my car in for a servicing. My car is just past the basic warranty plan. I was hoping my extended warranty would cover these repairs too. Air conditioner fixes are not cheap!

When I bought it in, I told the guy I bought the extended warranty. He said the repairs should be covered, minus the deductible. "The deductible will be about $100 or $200. You could have gotten a $0 deductible, but those are usually really expensive, like over $3000."

I said "Yeah, I probably got the $100 deductible. I'm too cheap the pay an extra couple of thousand to save one hundred."

So I left my car there and went to work. He said he'd call me when he knew what was wrong, and what needed to be done to fix it. I got that call in the early afternoon. "Well, the good news is the hood latch just needed to be lubricated, so that was quick and easy. The bad news is we need to replace your air conditioner clutch compressor coil. Now, if you had gotten the extended warranty, it would just cost you the $100 deductible. As it is, it's going to cost you over a grand."

I had a mini heart attack. "I thought I did get the extended warranty."

"Are you sure? Here, let me check the GM system.......Oh yeah! I'm sorry! My mistake! You did get it. You have a $100 deductible."


"Do you need wheels tonight? We're going to need to keep the car over night. We'll get you a rental for the night - covered by your warranty."

"Yes, please. I need the car to get home."

When I got home, I took out my folder with all my car purchase information. I took out the paper detailing my warranty - called Schedule A. It said I had a $0 deductible. What?! That guy said I had a $100 deductible! I'm being scammed!

Then I took out my "GM Warranty Service Plan," which is something GM sent me after the purchase of my car. It said I had a $100 deductible. Okay. What's going on?

I called GM.  I told the customer service representative that Schedule A had different information than the Service Plan.  She told me that Schedule A would be correct because that's what I bought at the dealership, and they probably made a mistake when they entered the info into the computer.  She told me to fax her Schedule A and she would fix it in the computer.  Then I could have the dealership call GM for confirmation if they wanted.  I faxed her my Schedule A and waited.

The local dealership that had my car called me to tell me about the repairs. I told them about the $0 deductible, which I had just told GM about, and that they should could call GM to confirm. She checked the computer and said she still saw that it was still a $100 deductible. She told me to get GM to call them.

So I called GM to ask if the change had been entered into the system, and if they could call the dealership to notify them of the changes. The guy at GM told me "Oh yeah, I don't know if the girl who got your Schedule A put it in the system, and she's on break now so I can't ask her. And if she did, it takes 3 business days for the update to go through."

While I wanted to tell him they have these new things called "computers" and "the Internet" that allows information to be updated and disseminated in seconds instead of days, I decided to ask him to call the dealership.

"We don't call the dealerships. If you could get them to call us, we'll happily confirm."

I'm getting dizzy from going around in circles.

"Or you could try to get them to not submit the warranty claim until Tuesday. Or, better yet, you could just pay the $100 + tax deductible now, and on Tuesday call us, and we'll cut you a cheque."

Fat chance. I don't trust companies to do that. Getting money out of companies, even large prosperous companies like GM, to give you money can be harder than plugging an oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico. "Look," I explained, "the dealership told me to get you to call them to explain this to them."

"Okay, what dealership did you take it to?" I told him. He put me on hold for a few minutes. He came back and said "Okay, I just spoke to the dealership, and they have the updated information, so you won't charged for anything the warranty covers."

"Thank you very much."

I have to say I thought I was going to have a hassle when I got to the dealership to pay for the car, but I didn't. I got my car back, and drove home with the air conditioning on! Oh it felt so good!