Is that a Mountain Lion in my Bedroom?

So my last blog entry had me trying to convince myself not to buy a new computer. I needed strong convincing.

Then I thought about it. By waiting, sure I could set aside the money… Sure I could get by with my poor, falling-apart Dell. By waiting, however, I’m inching closer to a newer shiner iMac (expected anytime between tomorrow and never). I’m suffering for no real reason. Why not get an iMac now, start transferring over my life. Start all the projects I’l get to “when I get a new computer”?

In short, I bought my Mac. It’s like a 15-year dream finally come true.

iMac on the bus

Who says iMacs aren't portable?

Let me tell you, few things are as joyous as the moment when I plugged it in and that screen lit up. It was magic, enhanced by all 27 inches of screen.

I’ve lugged all kinds of stuff on a bus before. Faux Christmas trees, giant pencils. Mannequins. Other computers. Bringing a new iMac box on the bus turns heads. It starts conversations. It could seat two, if two people had to sit on the box.

So what have I done with this new bad boy? Well, mostly I have been configuring settings and installing updates. I’ll be upgrading to Mountain Lion the moment I get my download code. I’ve also started trying to iron out all the annoyances with my iTunes library. That’s going slowly.

So big, I can't fit it all in one picture

So big, I can't fit it all in one picture

A few things I’ve noticed:

  • This screen looks far bigger in my room than it does at the store
  • I’m far more productive (at least so far) on a desktop than a laptop
  • Everything runs smoothly – I had indeed been suffering
  • I’ve barely touched my poor iPad in the last 24 hours

095 – A Tale of Two Buses

There’s this one space near my house where I can hear if a bus is coming, but I can’t see it. And when I hear a bus, I better be running, because to make it to the bus stop, I need to cross a fairly busy road.

Yesterday, I was in just that predicament. And I ran. World record running. I could have bested a Jamaican sprinter. Granted, that sprinter is probably 73, had one too many rum and cokes, and is missing a toe due to an unfortunate fishing incident… but still, pretty fast. And the bus stopped! Good thing there is someone getting on at that stop, embarking on an adventure that very well might have changed his life.

I zip across one side of the northbound lanes, which thanks to a light that just changed a couple hundred metres away, has zero traffic. As I reach the island, the southbound traffic in both lanes actually stop for me just so that I can make it to the bus. If Ottawa drivers get a bad rap, certainly the rap-givers never saw that sight!

Just as I run right behind the bus and start to head for the door, I hear that all familiar engine churn. “he can’t be serious!” Slowly, but just fast enough, he takes off. Those cars that stopped for me star honking to no avail. Seconds later, the bus, now in the far turning lane, stops at the red light – the one that allowed me to cross the street in the first place, where he waits over a minute before he can turn.

Waiting 4 seconds for me to board would have made no difference. Especially when he was already three minutes early.

If that wasn’t enough, the bus I used to get home from work was eight minutes late arriving at the stop, the one just after the start of a route. Usually at night, the driver will leave a few minutes late just because there are few stops made, but not eight minutes.

OC Transpo claims that their “on time” percentage, the number of buses that are not early, but no more than five minutes late, is a whopping 58%. Their goal is to have 90% on time service. I’m not sure about the frequent buses I used to get between school and work, but certainly I would consider today to be a poor day for bus service. They really need to start using time points use synchronized onbaord clocks, set up more time points, and watch mirrors for people who are running! Especially if that same mysterious “they” want to justify the second (and a whopping one at that) fare increase in a year, both off the heels of the cold, cold winter ’09 bus strike. Yep, I’m still displeased about that one.

Of course, I’ve had wonderful experiences. There are some remarkable drivers out there that go out of their way to just be nice to us poor public traniters… some even on those routes that I use all the time. I just didn’t get them yesterday. Those are the drivers that should be coaching everyone else.

And on a completely unrelated note, here’s why you don’t give kids markers when they ask for them in your store (that doesn’t sell markers). Especially not permanent ones:

201003_08_01 - Why not to give markers to kids

No, I didn’t give the marker.

060 – Ottawa should just get a Monorail, like that other place.

The O-Train is running today. People protested the mayor at the Greenboro stop, where he was PRing it up. In one week, I’ll be able to take buses home, but will still need rides to work and be walking to school. Should be exciting.

OH AND I’M GOING TO DISNEYWORLD!

FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER.

Just thought I would throw that out there. Because I’m excited ^_^

059 – Day 51

The bus strike is over. Fifty-One days. To that, add a week to get bare-bonced service back, and between 4 and 12 weeks before full service is restored… That means that I’ll still need to find rides to work in the early mornings and walking to school.

The one thing thats come from this strike is that I now like walking to school. It’s probably the quiet time where I actually get to listen to music that appeals to me the most. It’s almost a shame that it took me 40 days to realise that I should use this strike as an opportunity to eat less junk and become more fit, if only so that I can walk to school all that much faster – not that I would trade an opportunity to do so for another 50 days sans bus. I’ll keep walking to school (at least once a week) as part of my routine, not that I have much of a choice until local service is restored during rush hour.

I mean really? No local service during rush hour? It’s kinda useless, no?

Funny thing is the whole affair could have been avoided if both sides just agreed to arbitration over their differences – which is exactly what happened.

Also, should I watch Mary Poppins? I don’t ever remember seeing it.

057 – Day 38

There was a Friday in November that I considered to be among the worst days of my life. I had bought $100 worth of presents for Christmas, and brought food to work in my Ratatouille bowl. That night, Prashanta picked me up from work, and we went downtown to eat and then meet up with some friends. While at the restaurant, somehow, someone had broken into the car and stolen the gifts and my backpack, and even the spare change ubiquitous to any car. At the time, I thought I had 6 DS games and my mp3 player in by backpack. All I could think about was how rare The World Ends with You is and that I wouldn’t want to restart it from scratch. Or how many crosswords I had completed in Crosswords DS, or how I was going to give my mp3 player away whenever I break down and boy an iPod touch.

Fortunately, I found my mp3 player while cleaning my room! Suddenly, that day didn’t seem so bad. And the other day, I was cleaning out my locker at work where low and behold I found my DS games, complete in the game case Vivi brought back for me from Japan. I was so excited at that moment, you could have compared it to a kid getting what he or she really wanted for Christmas. Except for maybe the Nintendo64 kid.

But I was still out a $50 bag. And gifts that I had to re-buy. I guess it all worked out, mostly.

Seemingly out of nowhere, the Transit Union wants to end the strike. If all goes according to (whoever’s) plan (this is), buses could be back as early as the end of next week. I’m excited at the prospect of progress, this being the first possibility of such in a month, but I can’t help but wonder why now. Why not on day 1 of the strike? Why not before the strike? Why not 2 weeks from now? Are the picket lines getting a bit chilly these days? Are union members starting to suffer from not working for 6 weeks? This comes just as withdrawl dates from classes are here. I know people who are dropping courses just because they aren’t able to get to class. Plus, the city is just now lowering downtown parking rates to help out.

The city better use this oppotunity to do what they can to get buses back on the roads. And then both sides will have to work hard at earning everyone else’s trust – and even respect. I’d say it’s pretty likely that we’ll get some ads like this favourite of mine:

056 – Day 36

200901_11_01 - Bucattini DS

200901_14_01 - Cold Trek

200901_14_03 - Bus Stop

200901_14_04 - There's a Path Here, Somewhere

It’s been cold walking to school, today in particular. Lauren Stone of Live 885 warned me at 6:45 this morning that it was -39C with the Windchill. Skin can freeze with 10 minutes of exposure at that temperature. As I snuggled the warmth of my bed, I wondered if it was really worth it to walk to school, a trek that could freeze my skin five times over. “Damned bus strike.” Reluctantly, I pulled myself out of bed and spent the next half hour deciding exactly how to dress. Before stepping out the door, I had the following:

I learned this morning that I have as much experience wearing scarves effectively as I do tying a Windsor knot, possibly because I never wear the darned things (both ties and scarves). Despite this, the scarf was instrumental in keeping me warm for my 50-minute journey.

All that preparation made me late leaving the house, effectively making me late for class. I was also slowed down by my inability to think ahead. Wind usually blows snow around, even though it wasn’t snowing, the path that I described in an earlier post was partially snowed-in in some places. The one time I don’t bring my snowshoes…

In other news, I’m really starting to like Clive Doucet. He’s a city councillor for the Capital ward, central Ottawa. He speaks his mind, and usually his mind is on the people whom he represents. He thinks the 15ish million saved from the bus strike so far, and what they’ll continue to save, should be funnelled back into making OC Transpo free for as long as possible once service resumes. This is probably the most brilliant thing the city can do to gain as many riders as possible. I’d also like to have $40 put in my pocket for the unused December pass I have at home (they cost just over $60 for students… a reasonable request considering I was only able to use it for a third of a month), but I’d settle for $20 February passes. $30 even. At least, this strike better not last beyond the confines of January!

I recently bought Nintendo’s Personal Trainer: Cooking game – and I use the word “game” loosely. It’s more of an interactive cookbook. I finally used it to make bucatini with tomato and pancetta, even though I substituted bucatini with linguine, pancetta with a mix of bacon and pepperoni, and romano cheese with medium cheddar. The result was actually pretty good. Many gamers complain about DLC (downloadable content) and how it can increase the overall cost of a game if you aren’t too careful. I bought Cooking for $20, and spent another $20 gathering the necessary ingredients! And that was for one recipe. How’s that for hidden game costs?! I use the word “hidden” loosely as well, even though there’s no label on the front of the box saying you have to buy food to get the best use out of the software.

I bet I could sue Nintendo for that one. I’ll keep my receipts!

054 – Day 26

Thursday. Thursday is the day we find out how much longer this transit strike of ours will last. There’s a small part of me that is crossing his even littler fingers in hopes that the wonderful drivers, maintenance staff, and others will vote (thanks to some federal intervention), to have their say on the city’s most recent offer, in favour of the offer. this means buses, after multiple inspections and revving up, will be back within one and a half weeks from now. The bigger part of me, ever sceptical, knows that the vote will ruin any chances of getting back to travel normalcy and that buses won’t be back on the streets until the better part of January – at the earliest. A little Transit Union-run website has this lovely message for its members:

BREAKING NEWS – January 4th, 2009
Forced Second Vote On City’s Latest Offer Details Known

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The vote ordered by Minister of Labour Rona Ambrose and conducted by Canada Industrial Relations Board will be held on:

Thursday, January 8th, 2009
6:00 AM to 8:00 PM
Civic Centre – Lansdowne Park on Bank Street
FREE PARKING AT LANSDOWNE PARK

Please be sure to bring photo identification with you as well as OC Transpo identification on the vote as the Board officers may require it.

Please be sure to vote to reject this offer and show the City our solidarity.

Your future, your families future and your Union’s future depends on this vote.

Please, vote NO.

I have to wonder why this whole process is being drawn out, not unlike a kid looking to hear stories, tell stories, get water, and inspect for monster activity every nook and cranny to avoid going to bed. Any decent person would expect that both sides of any work stoppage, especially one that cripples a city, would work long and hard to resolve their differences. Instead of picturing a bunch of balding, middle-aged men sitting at an uncomfortable table in a windowless, cigarette smoke-filled room into all hours of the morning, I see text messages bouncing back and forth from one blackberry to another:

MaireLaire613: wanna go bak 2 werk?
ACorn279: R U GONNA WIN UR NEXT ELECTION?
MaireLaire613: i’ll txt u after my ski trip.
ACorn279: CAN I COME? I JUST WAXED MY SKIS!
MaireLaure613: r u gonna win ur next election? lolz
OCMercy: burn!

Winter break is over and classes are starting. I imagine many students have worked hard at making exams when the strike started, then relegated their time to becoming hermits, just staying at home whenever possible (or a friend with a fancy car comes along). The weather for my walk to school tomorrow morning: cloudy with sunny breaks, and a high of ohmygosh I still need to walk a hour to get to school! And I shouldn’t even be complaining all that much, because at least I can get to my classes in a reasonable amount of time with a reasonable amount of effort. All the walking I’ll be doing this week will render my Wii Fit useless.

And it’s -3C, for the record, feeling like -9C. Where’s my scarf?