Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Strain Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan

I finished another book recently. It was The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan. It was a pretty good book. For a co-authored I couldn't tell which part was written by whom, so it was good for that.

It's a story about vampires. Interestingly it takes place in New York. The plague starts with a plane from Berlin that goes black after landing at JFK airport. It turns out one of the lead vampires known as The Master was on board. He was brought to America by a wealthy man with a selfish and sinister agenda.

These vampires are deadly and scary. There's no beautiful people a la twilight. As the plague starts evil is opposed by Dr. Ephriam from the CDC, his partner / love-interest Nora, and an interesting former professor and Nazi survivor from Europe Dr. Setrakian. The pawn shop owner Setrakian is there to explain to Eph what's going on. He also handily has an array of useful weapons to kill vampires. The most effective is still sunshine.

The book reads a bit like a screenplay. Like many modern novels I believe it was written in a way that would be friendly to adaptation to a major motion picture. I believe one of the authors is associated with Hollywood.

The story builds momentum throughout as the vampire outbreak worsens and it was a pretty good finish. The descriptions of The Master are very well done and quite scary.

I guess this is another multi part series. So I'll probably look for book two some time.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Halifax bus strike

So the Halifax bus strike drags on. I doubt many people understand what the strike is about. Some technical dispute over the insider term "rostering", whatever that is.

There is actually a bus that goes near my place that arrives right at my work which I used a couple of times and would be usable overall if necessary. But I'm in the first group. No bus, shrug, hop in the car and drive to the office. I feel bad for the people put out by this as I was a rider for many years. The 1998 strike was disruptive. At least then it was nicer out and I was able to bike to work.

In a way it's a strange strike in the sense that the employer makes money by the workers being away. So the city may not have a lot of incentive to settle this as they make money every day of the strike. Alas transit customers from the middle class commuters have made other arrangements. and the students, the working poor and the poor have little influence in the media or political sway.

It's a bit like the 1990 federal civil service strike. Every day they were out saved the taxpayer $30 million. So they could stay out indefinitely as far as most people were concerned as it made no difference in our lives whether they went to work or not. It only became relevant when they started blocking traffic. I noticed transit is now using the same tactics, sacrificing the public safety by blocking snowplows from leaving the depot.

It's a risky tactic making yourselves as hated and unpopular as possible in the general public to create public pressure to then pressure the employer to settle the strike. By causing public disruption any goodwill they may have had in the public will swiftly vanish. And they may not have had a lot to begin with.

In recent years there has been an emerging meta issue around the unions and strikes. In 1990 the civil service strike was crumbling after a couple of weeks and thousands of government strikers were crossing the lines and returning to the office each day. If Mulroney had just sat tight for another 1-2 weeks the strike would have failed completely. Instead he gave the union a face saving deal around bumping which they were going to get anyway with the original 0-3-3 scheme. So in a sense it was deemed important for the union to go on and not be defeated.

Forward to the aliant strike sometime around 2007. Management was able to keep dial tone on as the strike dragged on for months. Then in late summer human interest stories started appearing in the paper that people had to pull their kids out of hockey because of the lost pay from the strike. Aliant was subtly pressured by the government to allow the union an honourable settlement to the strike so they could return to work. Again the union was in trouble but not smashed when the employer made a face saving deal.

One thing though. Two weeks in, once they missed their first paycheques the transit union was demanding to go to arbitration. HRM has wisely refused this. After the arbitration fiasco last year when the nurses were bizarrely awarded 5.1%. The arbitration system in Nova Scotia has a major credibility problem as biased toward the unions. To the employers and much of the general public the perception is that going to arbitration may as well just let the union dictate the terms of their settlement. So skip that. Let the union and employer come to some negotiated deal between them.

cyclers be careful!

Well the signs of spring are appearing. Motorcycles, birds chirping, skateboarders, corvettes, runners, cyclers. About the cyclers. Last week during a short trip there were two instances where cyclers did dangerous moves which could have resulted in them being injured.

The first time I was going up Radcliffe a rider took the left and didn't really have enough time to get through. I saw him in plenty of time and went off the gas pedal to let him through. He had a nice bike and the full riding gear and really should have known better.

So then I get to Lacewood and I'm taking the right during the daytime. This street is busy and you have to watch for your opening to get in. So after a little bit it clears some and I go to proceed and what appears right in front of me out of nowhere? A woman in her 20s on a bike! Yikes. Luckily for her I double checked before proceeding and hit the brakes in time for her.

She was in a winter coat and jeans, no helmet. What a dunce. Riding on a sidewalk on the wrong side of the road. Then she comes up to the busy intersection and proceeds to ride right into the drivers blind spot when she knows for certain the driver is looking to the left for an opening. She also absolutely knows that openings are fleeting and when there's a chance the driver will swiftly proceed. Still she drives right into that hazard. She also know it was about the first cycling day of the year and most drivers aren't expecting to be on the lookout for cyclists. Certainly not adult cyclers in the blind spot on the sidewalk on the wrong side of the road! She took 0% responsibility or effort for her own safety and left it entirely on a multitasking driver.

Luckily the driver by chance saw her in time to stop. I heard from a coworker there were a couple of bumps in the south end with cyclers and cars. After what I saw that day it is unsurprising. Riders be careful and use common sense. If an accident happens with a car you are going to take the worst of it.


I went to the optometrist last week. I hadn't been there since late 2008. I was putting it off because I'd been getting killed on spending by the dentist the last couple years with the wisdom teeth and that periodontal thing. So I didn't want to spend much more.

But it was time for a check up. The visit went pretty well. It was at Family Vision in Clayton Park. Nice office. I was in and out in around an hour. Every time I go there I get a different optometrist. The Dr. said my prescription now is very slightly stronger than my glasses. But not different enough to make it worth buying new. So that's good I don't need new glasses.

The visit was $93. I think benefits will cover some of that, not sure. If not then no biggie it's good to have it done for 2 more years or so for less than a hundred.

Friday, March 02, 2012

safety inspection

I did my safety inspection this week down at Grey's Auto. It went quite well. In and out in half an hour, no problems, only $33. Pretty good for a 7 yr old vehicle with 160,000 km. At this stage safety inspection can be pretty sketchy you don't know what will need to be fixed. But I'm good for two more years. I wonder if I'll still have the Civic then. All things considered I hope it's still around then.