Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Barber whine

The Globe's official NDP rep John Barber repeats his whining about Ontario's Current Value Assessment system.

A provincial ombudsman has just pilloried the bureaucracy responsible for calculating the assessments for among other things, demonstraing 'obduracy in its ways' Gasp - a bureaucracy being obdurate! What's next, we find an ocean that has water?

Of course Barber's complaint about the system is personal. He lives in the Annex - a tawny, centrally-located neighbourhood that is comfortable walking distance from a good deal of downtown. It's also straddled by two subway lines. It's hardly surprising that property values in his area have risen. A grade three math dropout could calculate the value of a house in the Annex - and it will still have risen faster than that of a house in less-central, transportation-starved areas of the city.

Barber's contention is that the poor people in the low-rent districts should bear more of the ever increasing property tax burden - while the lucky few in the Annex, Forest Hill etc. are protected.

If Barber really wanted to curtail his property tax increase, he wouldn't be deifying David Miller all the time.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

More on the GTTA

er well - not much more.

The Ontario Fiberals unveiled their latest budget this pas week. We were expecting details on how a GTA transit authority - to be established as the Greater Toronto Transit Authority - would work. All we have so far is the McGuinty and Co plan to introduce:

legislation in 2006 to establish the Greater Toronto Transportation Authority (GTTA). The proposed GTTA would help achieve the objectives of the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe and the Greenbelt Plan by leading the delivery of an integrated and more convenient transportation system to meet the growing needs of the GTA and Hamilton. The GTTA would plan, coordinate and set priorities for public transit investments and major regional roads;

In the same budget, they set about planning and prioritizng transit without such a body:

- The Spadina subway will be extended well into York Region (assuming Toronto, York Region and the Feds come up with matching contributions)
- Mississauga and Brampton will get funding to bus rapid transit initiatives,
- Toronto get's another bailout (not really ay all disguised as funding for subway operations)
- meanwhile, Durham Region is out of luck.

So why do we need a GTTA when the Province seems able to make such decisions on its own?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

And now for something completely different

If the reports are correct, tomorrow's Ontario budget will announce the creation of a GTA-wide 'body' of some type that will play a role in transit in the region. The probable name for this organization will be the Greater Toronto Transit Authority or GTTA. The big $$$ question is whether this will be a true authority will decision making capabilities - or a rehash of the old Greater Toronto Services Board (GTSB). No doubt the Fiberals will try to come up with a compromise. This won't work. In reality, a management board either has true authority, or it doesn't. But I'll write about this another time.

In recent days, Prime Minister Harper has stirred controversy by using the phrase 'God bless Canada'. This shouldn't be all that controversional - seeing that our near-and-dear Charter of Rights and Freedoms invokes the 'supremacy of God'. This has made me consider whether there is indeed a God?

Last night, I was browsing through Brian Greene's The Elegant Universe. In one of the later chapters he discusses the formation of the universe. There is now a clear concensus that the universe as we know it came about in a singular creation event - The Big Bang. Greene discusses how the universe may have unfolded after the bang (or ATB). Cosmologists are hard at work understanding the chronology of and physics behind how the universe expanded in the first infinitessimal fractions of a second.

Even with a degree in applied physics from Cornell, I struggle somewhat with the underlying science. String theories were only a rumour back when I was on campus. However, two things are clear to me:

1. There was a creation event
2. The mechanics of the creation event are perfectly hidden.

Let me explain the second assertion. Physicists have measured the level of background radiation from the Big Bang. This level (basically a temperature) is uniform in all directions. This finding caused earlier models of the universe's expansion to have to be set aside - as they would not have allowed the temperature to come to an equilibrium. Instead, the current thinking is that the universe inflated very rapidly during the first 10 E-35 seconds or so - growing by 10 e+30 in size.

However, this is conjecture only. Why - because the uniformity of measured temperature. It's as if someone came along and smoothed out all the footprints on the beach, cleaned up all of the fingerprints on the glasses. The direct evidence of our creation has been hidden.

It seems to be that an all-powerful entity - should he (she or it) decide to create a universe - would arrange to perfectly hide the evidence from sentient beings within his new creation. This doesn't prove that God exists - but it shows that the universe's creation fits with such a theory.

Monday, March 13, 2006

More 'coon fun

Well actually, the racoon didn't end up having any fun. In fact, this unfortunate creature has 'gone west' or wherever these critters go on that final garbage raid - er voyage.

I guess one could say that this racoon's died as a result of the heavy winds we sustained a few weeks ago - very early Friday. The quiet of the early morning darkness was rudely interrupted by a thunderous riping sound. One a few strands of light made their appearance, I dressed and looked about for the source of the commotion. There was nothing untowards - other than the plastic garbage bin lying on its side.

It wasn't until I returned home from work that the source of the early morning disturbance became clear - a large portion of the flat part of my roof had blown off. To be more precise, the sheeting had ripped from its mooring and was curled up - partially draped over the chimney.

I spend an hour or so trying to contact my insurance company. Due to a the effects of the storm - most notably a multi-car pileup in Eastern Ontario - this was to no avail. I had more luck in the morning. Twenty minutes after contacting the insurance company, an adjuster and contractor were on premises. By 3:30, the roof was patched temporarily.

The only loser - the unfortunate creature that somehow made its way into the crawl-space during the short time the roof was damaged. I didn't notice anything until the Sunday night - when I heard a animal on the roof - or so I thought. After a couple of nights, I decided to go up on the roof to shew the creature away - no sight. I then tried crushed mothballs - no effect.

When I arrived home the next Friday, I could hear the scratching. This convinced me that the creature was trapped in the roof. I phoned the adjuster and contractor. I could not convince them to send the roofers back to let the creature our. The contractor insisted that there was no way that a racoon could have got in - as only the membrane had ripped (there were boards underneath.)

I was not convinced - yet I couldn't think of what else to do. The scratching did go away. The following Friday, the roofers reappeared. Before wrapping up for the day, the chief roofer rang the bell - wondering if I had any problem with work proceding the next day. He also mentioned that they had evicted a sqatter - albeit a dead one - a rather large racoon.

Now I have a new flat roof - for the very manageble deductible. I feel a bit guiltly about the racoon. Perhaps I should have insisted on having the creature freed from his dark prison. However, I'm not losing any sleep over it.