Sunday, September 26, 2010


I’m not exactly a morning person. In a March 2009 post, I wrote that generally I wake slowly – preferably without an alarm clock. I’d rather my body - and more importantly my mind be wakened gradually than by the sound of an alarm clock or a clock radio. There are of course other ways I’d like to be woken but that is another post!!

My body isn’t overly coordinated in the first place but seems to be a bit more unruly first thing in the morning. I suspect that is at least partially due to my vision loss. My eyes always seem to need a bit of extra time to adjust to light and any amount of focusing.

That being said, I actually love this time of year for getting up in the morning. Most mornings, I tend to be up around seven – give or take a half hour. It really varies depending on what I have planned for the day.

Here in the ‘Peg, the sun rises quite early in the summer – around 5AM or so. It can start getting light by 4:30 or so during the longest days of summer. I don’t tend to see the sunrises that much in summer unless of course the birds are chirping loud enough to wake me or Mother Nature alerts me to a different call!

Sometimes, I’m actually coherent enough to grab the camera and take a few shots of the skyline outside my apartment window. My windows actually face north, but if there are a few clouds in the sky and the light is just right the sunrise can be absolutely stunning!

There was at least one of those rare mornings back in the spring – May 4 - that I was awake to view the predawn light that gave an interesting pinkish glow to the clouds. This shot was taken at 5:01 central.

Sixteen minutes later at 5:17AM, the sky looked completely different. A little more gloomy to the north but still quite lovely.
This shot was taken on September 6 at 6:54AM. Yet another beautiful skyline to wake up to!
In mid August, the sun is rising just before 6:30, so I tend to be at least semi conscious on a few mornings.

One of the best mornings, was back on August 12. I was up by a little after 6 and doing my stretches when I happened to look towards the bedroom window. It had rained overnight and it was still partly cloudy but the sun was just rising and there was a hint of gold on nearby buildings. I sat there for a moment just looking then realized that I should grab the camera and capture the view before it disappeared.

There wasn’t enough time to dress and head outside so I grabbed my robe, glasses and the camera and went to the living room window.

This pic was taken at 6:29, looking towards the northeast.

However, my favourite sunrise shot so far was taken that same morning just 1 minute earlier at 6:28 looking to the northwest. The golden glow of the rising sun reflecting on the buildings and the rainbow in the distance was amazing! I have used this photo as my desktop pic for the last few weeks.
Now I know, I’m not the greatest photographer by any stretch of the imagination and my camera isn’t really top quality so my pictures aren’t always clear. But, even the slight blur of these pics can’t take away the beauty that I captured through my window on those mornings.

Not half bad for being taken through a window by a semi conscious legally blind woman!!

Last Wednesday, September 22 - which also happened to be the first day of fall - I woke about 5:15. I hadn’t set the alarm and I really didn’t want to get out of my nice warm comfy bed. It was still dark, but I knew I had a busy day ahead. I needed groceries and I had several errands and an appointment to keep. By 5:30, I finally convinced myself that if I got it all done that day, then I could sleep in on Thursday.

I did my stretches, had breakfast, got dressed and headed out about 6:50 to catch a bus to the grocery store. I was wearing a warm hooded sweater with my denim jacket but it was nippier than I thought at only 6C. As I walked to the bus stop, I was a little on the cold side, but the sky was at that beautiful stage of predawn that can make you forget the autumn chill in the air. Light to the east and a graduating palate of colours from the horizon up into the sky. There were a few of those long narrow puffy clouds partway up the skyline and they seemed to have absorbed the brilliance of the autumn colours from the rising sun. It was beautiful. I watched the sky lighten and do it’s magical colour changes as the sun came up while I rode the southbound bus to the grocery store. I wished I had my camera with me.

By the time I came out of the grocery store thirty minutes later the sun was completely up and at that awkward point of being right in my eyes as I walked to the corner to cross the street and catch my bus back home.

My love affair with the sunrise was over for yet another day!

I slept in on Thursday morning.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Let The Cancellations Begin!!

The new season of TV is upon us and it’s time for the cancelations to begin! What the networks were thinking in requesting 13 or more episodes of most of these shows is beyond me. Most of the reviews I read were pretty bad and even most of the ones that got decent reviews didn’t sound like winners to me. I’m only going to highlight a few shows.

Two of the most hyped shows of the season are on CBS.

Hawaii Five-0 (CBS/Global) - Premieres: Monday, Sept. 20 at 10/9c
This show has gotten so much hype that I highly doubt it can live up to the buzz. The original "Hawaii Five-O" (1968-1980) is such an iconic and beloved show that it will always overshadow this wannabe. In the updated version only the theme music and a few of the character names remain the same. Steve McGarrett (now played by Alex O'Loughlin) returns to Hawaii to investigate the murder of his father and ends up being approached by the governor to head up an elite crime fighting team. Two of the other members of the team are conveniently named Danno and Chin. Remaking a classic didn’t work for Dragnet and it probably won’t work for this one either – I hope!

S#*! My Dad Says (CBS/CTV) - Premieres: Thursday, Sept. 23 at 8:30/7:30c
Ed (William Shatner), a politically incorrect curmudgeon, harangues his youngest son, Henry in this Twitter feed-turned-sitcom.

This show has gotten more buzz than pretty much any other new show this season – if only for the fact that you can’t actually say the “S” word on primetime network TV. William Shatner may well be a TV icon to many as he starred in "Star Trek" eons ago and more recently in "Boston Legal". I remember him as “The Giant Head” on “3rd Rock From The Sun”. Frankly I can’t stand the actor and the whole premise sounds a bit similar to the much loved bigot Archie Bunker – yet another character I couldn’t stand. I’ll pass on this show.

So much for the pans! Here is my picks for possible hits:

The Defenders (CBS/CTV) - Premieres: Wednesday, Sept. 22, 10/9c
Jim Belushi and Jerry O'Connell stars as colourful Las Vegas defence attorneys in this dramedy. Might be worth checking out but not holding my breath since this seems somewhat similar to "Boston Legal" which I was not a fan of. I wasn’t impressed with the promo’s but it could surprise us and actually be decent.

Body of Proof (ABC) - Premieres: TBD, Fridays at 9/8C
Dr. Megan Hunt (Desperate Housewives' Dana Delany) plays a feisty neurosurgeon whose career ends after a car accident. She takes a job as a medical examiner in Philadelphia, where she helps cops solve murders by "reading the body."

Dana Delany is a great actress so if the show is as good as the hype this could be another hit! On the down side, ABC has scheduled it for Friday nights which isn’t a big TV night so this could disappear before fans catch on. Hopefully the network will give it a real shot and a better night!

Better with You (ABC) - Premieres: Wednesday, Sept. 22, 8:30/7:30c
Sisters Maddie (Jennifer Finnigan), a high-strung attorney, and Mia (Privileged's JoAnna Garcia), a free-spirited "inventor," are fundamentally different. Maddie lives with, but has not married, Ben (Josh Cooke), her boyfriend of nine years. "It's a valid life choice," she repeats throughout the pilot. Mia, on the other hand, has just agreed to marry Casey (Jake Lacy), her boyfriend of seven-and-a-half weeks. Kurt Fuller and Debra Jo Rupp play the girls' quirky parents.

Canadian actress Jennifer Finnigan who played Bridget on “The Bold And The Beautiful” (2000-2004) and starred in “Close To Home” (2005-2007) headlines this cast with Debra Jo Rupp – Kitty from “That 70’s Show” playing her mother. This is the only comedy I’m looking forward to checking out!

So much for the new shows!

As for returning shows – well there seems to be less for me to watch each year as the shows I tend to like never stick around long. There are a few exceptions though!

Survivor Nicaragua (CBS/Global) premiered Wednesday, September 15
Here we go again with yet another group of castaways vying for the million dollar prize. The show has moved to Wednesday night and this time the teams are divided by age – the under 30 and the over 40. I know what team I’m rooting for!

Amazing Race (CBS/CTV) premiers Sunday September 26
I’ve loved this show from the start and can’t wait to see what teams I loathe or love!

Criminal Minds (CBS/CTV) premiers Wednesday September 22
We last saw the BAU head to LA to track an unsub who likes to kill in the dark. The city is in the midst of a heat wave and going through rolling blackouts to protect the power grid from complete failure. The unsub has also come back to the city to taunt the only survivor of his previous murder spree – a young hot shot detective who, as a child, watched his own mother die at the killers hands over 20 years ago and now has a daughter of his own. I love this show! The complexity of the main characters and how they manage to figure out the killers behaviour and ultimately bring them to justice is always an interesting view!

Desperate Housewives (ABC/CTV) premiers Sunday September 26
Paul Young returns to the neighbourhood and there is also a new housewife in town. She just happens to be a former college friend of Lynette’s. When we last saw the ladies of Wisteria Lane, Bree was about to tell Gabby about the hit and run that Andrew was in that landed Carlo’s mother in the hospital where she met her demise. We also learned that there had been a baby switch in a hospital involving the birth of a Wisteria Lane baby. The show is entering its seventh season but Mark Cherry is still keeping us guessing and entertained!!

How I Met Your Mother (CBS/Citytv) – premiers Monday, September 20
Will we finally get to meet the mother this year? Will Lily and Marshall get pregnant? What’s new with Barney and Robin? Apparently Ted does meet someone special this season but whether or not it will be “THE” mother is debatable.

The Good Wife (CBS/Global) premiers Tuesday September 28
The second season finds Alicia having to prove herself once again as the firm merges with another law firm. Even her detective pal Kalinda will have to prove herself against the other firms detective.


In The Wings -

Criminal Minds: Suspect Behaviour (CBS/CTV)
A spinoff of the original show. This version stars Forest Whitaker as Sam Cooper who heads up an elite team of profilers who work as far outside the FBI bureaucracy as possible. Word has it that Kirsten Vangsness from the original Criminal Minds) will be moving her wonderfully quirky character Penelope Garcia into this series. A loss for the original show but a big plus for the spinoff! Looking forward to this one!

Happy Endings ABC
The effects of a couple’s breakup on their friends. The show has been getting positive buzz. Some are wondering why it isn’t on the fall schedule. From what I read, it could be quite good, but ABC hasn’t got a great record of promoting good shows – I still haven’t forgiven the alphabet network for their lack of support for “Men In Trees” a few seasons ago! So this potential hit may get lost in the midseason shuffle.

Harry’s Law NBC Kathy Bates stars as a lawyer who along with several other lawyers wants a fresh start so they open a practice – in a rundown shoe store. Not a new concept (Ed ran a law firm out of his bowling alley a few years back) but a unique mix of cast so it may just turn out to be a winning case!

Mr. Sunshine ABC
Mathew Perry stars as a manager of a sports arena re-evaluating his life on his 40th birthday. Can he pull off a believable character after playing Chandler Bing on Friends for so many years? Maybe, but at least this show has the brilliant Allison Janney (C.J. on The West Wing) as a supporting actor in this series so I’ll check it out!

Well, that’s it! A so-so season at best. Most new shows will be gone by Christmas – if not before. If you want to check out the full TV schedule you can go to TV Guide Canada or TV Guide. You can also go to each of the networks to check out the shows synopsis, stars and previews.

USA major networks: ABC CBS NBC FOX
Canadian major networks: CBC CTV Global Citytv

Happy Viewing!


Sunday, September 12, 2010

New Transit Site Misses The Bus!

The city is trying to improve the entire transit system – with varying degrees of success. Low-rise buses have been a great improvement. The stop announcements are very helpful. Even Telebus has improved!

Before getting a PC, I relied on the print schedules and Telebus - both with limited success.

The print schedules are helpful, but the city made an error in choosing to print them with blue type on sharp white background - not a user friendly combo for many with low vision.

Telebus is an automated system that has been improved over the years, but you have to know the 5 digit stop number to use it. The voice recognition for the system is a bit iffy – especially if your enunciation is not clear or you hesitate too long between responses. The 5 digit codes are printed in small print at the beginning of the Winnipeg Yellow Pages. In the past, I suggested on more than one occasion, that transit make available a print version of those numbers in a self contained book form that could be tucked in a purse, backpack or pocket with a simple black font such as Arial (minimum 10 point) on an off-white background. it would be far more accessible for people - especially seniors or those who find the Yellow Pages a little too heavy and awkward to use. How many people even use their Yellow Pages anymore? A nominal fee could be charged to offset the cost, but I suspect the cost could be at least partially made up in increased ridership.

Many transit stops have print schedules attached to the sign post – albeit in small print – and some of the stops now have a clock system with real time bus route arrivals scrolling down. There are two main problems with these new real time arrival schedules:
1) It is orange on black type which is hard to read in daylight and
2) The sign is so high up you can’t read it unless you have great vision!

However, Transit has really missed the mark on providing reasonable ease of access for the average rider with this new Beta system on the web. The site is crammed with new bells and whistles to supposedly make using transit easier but it comes across as trying too hard to be all things to all people.

Riders need a simple reliable way to obtain route info without needing a PHD in website navigation and the patience of Buddha to figure out how to get to where they are going.

The new transit site is NOT in the least bit user friendly!! The promotional "Video Help" is not helpful, nor is the written info in the "Help/FAQ". I found both to be vague and overly simplified to be of any use.

I am legally blind. I do not use JAWS or other speech programs as I prefer a larger font to use the internet. So given that, you’d think I’d have had a relatively easy time navigating the site. No such luck!! I spent well over an hour trying to figure out a half dozen routes a few weeks ago. I use at least 15-20 stops at various times of morning and afternoon in any given month. I have been attempting to use this new system for about a month now, but it still takes me at least three or four times longer to find my information now as it did on the old site - even by saving my timetables!

I've never been a fan of Navigo as it always seemed to suggest some rather ridiculous routes to get from A to B. The most obvious connections/transfer points were rarely listed as the first, second or even third option. The suggestions would have easily gotten me lost!

Even the bus drivers don't recommend using Navigo! One of the worst cases I've heard from a driver was someone who was transferring to an 18 on Graham. They were actually headed to Henderson Hwy. but Navigo sent them via an 18, 77 and then on to an 11!! That's a sightseeing trip - not efficient planning. If that person had missed even one connection, their trip could have lasted at least 30-40 minutes longer and left them stranded in an unfamiliar area!

I prefer to do my own planning! Better yet, I’ll ask a bus driver. I sure wouldn’t waste my time calling 311 as they seem to know even less than I do about how transit timetables and routes work!

With the old site, I could select "schedules and maps" then "stop schedules" then day and then select the letter of the alphabet for the street I wanted. That gave me options of which direction I was headed and then listed all the possible stops. From there I pick my stop and routes. Easy! It could all be done with a few mouse clicks.

I don't always use the same stops or times, nor do I always remember the name of a cross street for a stop I use only once or twice a month. Seeing the list of possible stops always reminds me of which one I wanted and I can make note of the stops before mine so that I can be listening more closely to the automatic announcements on the buses.

Stop announcements on the buses have been a great addition, but every bus seems to have the volume at different levels, and depending on noise levels in and/or around the bus, the stops aren't always audible. Drivers don't always remember to call a stop even when you ask them to!

Assuming that you know the name of the street you want and what direction that may be – not an easy feat in this burg given how much streets twist and turn - you still may have trouble spelling some of the names! Seeing an alphabetical list is a lot easier to recognize a name rather than a drop down box that lists dozens of variations of what you are attempting to type.

Then, if you happen to find the right street, heaven forbid that you click on the wrong stop or ever try to go back a page! If you do have to go back the odds are that you will get an error page saying that the page cannot be found! Great, now you have to start all over!! I found the same error page problem when trying to click on any five digit route number in a timetable.

Despite my visual limitations, I am reasonably adept at using a PC and can manoeuvre around most websites fairly easily but this new system is going to be a real challenge for anyone with only moderate PC skills. The confusion and frustration levels of trying to sort it all out, will drive most people away.

As I said earlier, I use at least 15-20 stops at various times of morning and afternoon in any given month. The only way I will ever be able to use this site with ANY amount of ease will be to save every one of the routes that I may use in any given month. Frankly, that is not the least bit efficient or an effective use of technology. I should not have to customize and save EVERY one of those into my timetables!

I know transit is trying to make the system better and there have been improvements, but this new Beta system is not going to work for a lot of people due to limited PC skills or accessibility issues (sight, spelling etc). I have spoken with friends who are sighted, friends who are visually impaired and several passengers over the last few weeks and have yet to find someone who found the site even remotely user friendly.

The new beta system may work better for young tech savvy people, but frankly I would strongly recommend that the old version be kept as a more suitable alternative for the rest of us.

The old system is scheduled to disappear as of September 30, 2010.

If the city doesn’t make some major changes to the new site and make suitable accessibility options for all citizens, they will continue to lose ridership.

I submitted feedback to the website, but have had no response as yet. We tell the city what we need and want in services but they just keep managing to miss the bus, Yet the city continues to wonder why people aren't using buses more! Really makes you wonder!


Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Freezer – Part Two

It was a tense week. The freezer was on life support. I checked it once/day to make sure things were still frozen. Defrosting and the newspaper lining seemed to have helped as everything – even along the sides - was solid. The weather was also cooperating as it wasn’t as hot as it had been – even a bit below normal for a few days. I also checked the motor every day. It was still too hot to touch. As far as I could tell, the motor was running pretty much nonstop. I was a bit scared of it causing a fire but was afraid that if I unplugged it every once in awhile to cool down that it may not start again.

The freezer sits in a corner of my living room, so Friday night I moved my dining table and coffee table so that it would be easy to access the freezer for moving. About 8:00 Saturday morning, I unplugged it long enough to pull it out and clean the floor underneath then moved it back and plugged it in again. The new freezer would arrive sometime between 8:30 and 1:30.

The delivery men called about 10:30 to say they were almost here. They buzzed my apartment 10 minutes later and had it in place and running by 10:50. Had there been a suitably cold place for me to keep the contents of the old freezer while the new one cooled down, I could have sent the old one with the delivery guys for proper disposal. Unfortunately, I had no extra space and it was too warm that day to leave things out for more than an hour even if I covered them with blankets.

The disposal would be my responsibility. Oh, goody!

The new freezer is a bit different than the old one. The old one was 31 ½” L x 24” D x 34 ¾” H. This one is 35 ¼” L x 23 ¾” D x 34” H. Minor adjustments in positioning but doable. The old one had a half shelf above the motor cavity on the right side but this one has a shelf the full width of the freezer on the left side. I would have to organize things in a different manner. Annoying for someone who is as organized as I am but I’ll manage!
The other major difference was the basket. The old one had a big, plastic coated wire basket and the new one had a smaller, plastic basket that looked like something from the dollar store! Actually, I had two baskets for the old one. I had ordered an additional one when I got it so that I could organize things better. At first attempt, the old baskets would not fit as they were just a smidgen too big - but because they were wire under the plastic, I was able to bend the frame just enough so that they fit on the sliding track along the top! YES!

I had everything transferred by about 12:30 or so. Luckily nothing else had to be thrown out! PHEW!!
Now, what was I going to do with the old one? I couldn’t just take it out back of the building as there are bylaws regarding disposal of appliances and bulky items. I knew that I couldn’t do anything till at least Monday so it sat in my living room where my coffee table normally sat.

I decided to wait until Tuesday morning when the building manager would be in the office. He said I would have to call the city’s 311 non emergency line to arrange for a pickup. I sat on hold for about 7 minutes only to be told that because it was a freezer there would be a $20 fee to deal with the Freon! I explained that I didn’t have money to pay for that as I’d thrown out $20 worth of meat and spent $400 on a new one including $60 delivery and taxes! The operator said that I’d either have to pay the fee or find someone to take it to the Brady Landfill for me. I explained that I was legally blind and didn’t even know anyone with a truck here in the city. The only other suggestion she had was to find a company that would pick it up for free. I asked if she knew of any and she said I should check the yellow pages then hung up on me. Gee thanks!

I went down to talk to the manager again and asked if he knew of any companies that could pick it up. He didn’t, but pulled out the yellow pages and started looking for me. He made a couple of calls and found a scrap metal place that would pick it up for free. He left a message on the driver’s cell for him to call me and arrange pickup. The driver called that afternoon and said he could pick it up on Wednesday afternoon.

Wednesday morning, I borrowed a large dolly from the caretaker and managed to manoeuvre the old freezer onto it. I had also taken a black felt pen and in several places written “DOES NOT WORK” and “DOES NOT FREEZE SOLID” on both the outside and inside of the freezer. I didn’t want someone to take it thinking that they had found a free freezer only to find out the hard way that it didn’t work or even worse that the motor caused a fire. The freezer was out by the dumpsters by about 9:15. I left a message for the driver and he picked it up that afternoon. I checked with a friend who is on that side of the building directly above the dumpsters and she had seen the truck from the company I called pick it up.

I’m going to miss that old freezer. It worked really well until a year or so ago and served my needs well. The new one is going to take a little getting used to but I’m sure I will adjust. I just hope it lasts as long as the old one.

How would I ever live without a freezer? I really don’t know and I never want to come that close again to finding out!