Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Oh, I'm going there

What a great title for a post. I could be talking about weighing in on the neverending discussion regarding Winnipeg getting an NHL team - will the big announcement about the Atlanta Thrashers coming to Winnipeg be tomorrow? Maybe the next day? Was it all just rumour after all?

It could be about the fact that I'm going to freaking Copenhagen, Denmark for a mere $475 roundtrip. Yeah, seriously. How could I not for that price? It's with Iceland Express, and yes, they had their issues last summer and screwed over some folks, but even if they cancel service halfway through the summer again, I'll be safe because I'm going in June (*knocks on wood). However that is more a post for my other admittedly less frequently updated blog Small World, Big Travels.

So what is this mighty issue that I'm going to force my opinion on you on? Socials. Yup, the great Manitoba (and pockets of NW Ontario and Saskatchewan) tradition. For some of my random far flung readers (I'm looking at you Qatar) who may not be Manitoba expatriates, a social is an event that many young couples put on as a fundraiser for either their wedding itself or for starting their new life together; it is also sometimes held as a fundraiser for things like sports teams. It is generally held in a community club or banquet hall and tickets are sold *only* in advance (due to Manitoba liquor laws) or secretly out the side door (technically that's before they get in).

Tickets are usually $10 and for that price include a DJ that usually kind of sucks but plays just enough modern music and oldies to keep every age group from rioting. It also includes a selection of meat, mustard and rye bread at about 11pm. Watch out for the meat shoulder. More modern food selections (I'm pretty sure the whole food thing is something to do with the liquor laws too) sometimes include perogies or pizza, but even though I'm not a fan of socials I'm a fan of tradition, so if you have perogies you'd better have the meat and bread too.  Your choices of beverages generally include rum/rye and coke, gin and tonic, vodka and clamato juice (poormans caesar) or beer. Notice I did not say Bailey's.

Even drunk it's easy to tell if you won

You also generally can't pay for your drinks right at the bar. Oh no, you need tickets. Conveniently*, you can also buy tickets for silent auction prizes at the same time! *mental note, develop sarcasm font*  If you live in Winnipeg, as I do, this inevitably means a gift certificate from Discreet Boutique or Fabutan as part of one of the auction prizes. Nothing says good times like vibrators and tans. There are also usually one or two bigger prizes, like TV's and BBQ's and those silent auction tickets of course cost more. Back in the "olden days" most if not all of the social prizes were donated and it was a task of the wedding party to help round them up from local merchants. Now couples typically buy a lot of their prizes (or parts of them) with the hopes of recouping the spend in their ticket sales.

So what's my beef with socials? Well, there are a couple of things. First, they almost never have anything that I actually enjoy drinking and I refuse to drink just for the sake of it. Second, I'm pretty sure that socials used to be mostly a country thing and that I'm still pretty much okay with. In the country it's a chance for a small town to have a lively night with dancing as even a crappy DJ is better than none at all, and chances are, in the country you actually know the people getting married.  Here in the city socials have become so expensive to put on that people are desperate to sell tickets and it becomes a guilt thing rather than a supporting thing. No, I don't want to go to your sisters co-workers brothers social.

Why do people even need to raise money for their wedding anymore? Back in those "olden days" couples were probably only moving in together after they got married and quite possibly moving straight from their parents place into their first place together as a couple. Nowadays the couple has either already been living together already or at the very least have likely been living on their own for a while which means that they don't need to register for pots and pans and toasters and towels for their actual wedding, they have all of those things. No, most weddings I've attended over the last few years have just wanted the presentation envelope; and everyone should be presenting at least enough to cover the cost of their own attendance at the wedding, everything else is just gravy. Weddings are about love and other mushy crap, they are not supposed to be about turning a buck.

Socials are just a way to raise money so people can spend more money and in the city I can think of a bunch of other things I'd rather do on a Friday or Saturday night. Socials also used to be only in the winter - winter was social season, summer was wedding season. Now, they go all year round! At least in winter I may not have the argument that I have something better to do.

So to sum up my position on socials, if you live in the country, give 'er, you really may not have anything better to do. If you live in the city, skip the social and just have the wedding, unless you are both still living at home and actually need to get a toaster as a wedding gift (thus not being able to use your presentation to pay for the wedding). The exception to this rule is if you're Filipino. Filipino wedding socials are generally superior in my opinion; the food is out all night, I don't usually know what any of it is, but it's darn good and plentiful (and they'll send you home with leftovers if you're lucky!) - I think my stupid $10 ticket as dinner.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

MPI - no, not a post about the cheques

Okay, a wee shout out about the cheques to get the ball rolling... yes, get over it, we were overcharged on our insurance. However, unlike if we were all using private insurance, we got a refund. If a private insurer took in too much in premiums I'm pretty sure it would just go to the shareholders as profit. I also put the details for one of my cars into an online multi-carrier insurance calculator for Alberta and the rates had a range of about $300 between the companies, and my MPI rate fell in there (to the lower end if they also have something similar to the registration charge that gets tacked on to ours - more to the middle if they don't).  Plus, for all the people that say they would rather have had the money in 2009/10 and just not paid too much in premiums, blah blah blah, would any of those people actually noticed the difference? Especially if you pay monthly? I would not have appreciated the paying $35.50 less every month, probably never would have noticed; I totally appreciate a nice big cheque for $426. Most people can't save money worth a damn, just thank MPI for helping you learn to save.

But like I said, this post isn't about the cheques. I don't know if what I'm going to talk about is a North End issue or a city-wide one, but I notice it one heck of a lot here on my side of the tracks, probably about twice a day.  Temporary insurance permits. Have you ever been out and about and seen a car with no plates and wondered what the heck was going on? Well, hopefully they had their temporary insurance papers taped in the front window on the passenger side, and hopefully they were still in date.

Now, there is a very legitimate use for the temporary insurance, I needed to use it myself last year. I purchased a car out of Province and I needed to be able to take it to get safetied, and obviously couldn't put regular insurance on it until I had received my safety certificate. So I got temporary insurance for a couple of days and was able to take it to the inspection station.

My beef is this: there are any number of cars running around the city, and it seems in particular in my neck of the woods, that are able to speed through red-light cameras (no back plate) and in general are missing the most vital piece of identification. It seems as though temporary insurance permits are like the Money Mart of insuring your car - it generally costs way more than it would if you renewed your regular policy, but if you don't have the cash to pay for the whole month/year the usual way, you can at least get your car on the road for a few days. Now, you are probably thinking I'm just being cynical, but I have actually heard numerous discussions by people that that is exactly why they get their insurance that way. You also get out of needing that pesky safety inspection on your car.

Now I called MPI to get a little more information on this whole concept and see where the loopholes might be. Apparently they claim that a person cannot get this maximum 30 day permit "more than a couple times" on a certain car per year, but there doesn't seem to be a finite amount, just that they would start questioning further should a person try it more than that. The car cannot have failed a safety inspection previously, however methinks that since these folks are not using it to go and get a safety on the car anyway, there is no risk of that. It seems as though it would be quite easy to just keep passing a car around between friends and family members and therefore being able to drive a potentially unsafe car around town.

As for the Money Mart comparison, it is $36 for a 5 day permit and a whopping $174 for the full 30 days, and that's with a $500 deductible! If you want the more reasonable $200 deductible you're looking at $48 to $236! Now I don't know what you pay for insurance, but I can insure almost my whole "fleet" (Winnipeg Girl has an addiction to cars) for that much! But hey, if all you have is fifty bucks it'll get you a few days, and many of the cars I see on this system are barely worth the $500 deductible.

Ok, so what's my point? Well, first of all, I'd like to see these cars be required to have a rear plate within 24 hours of entering Manitoba (people can get this insurance via fax, which is useful for purchasing a car out of Province - a legitimate use). People should also have to pay at least a $100 deposit to get that plate - this should keep people from using it instead of regular insurance and would provide a means of identifying the car.

Okay, now off to spend my MPI windfall!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Spring has sprung

For better or worse (mostly better) I think it is safe to say that spring has arrived!  It looks like 3 of the 4 mini lilacs that I planted last year survived the winter, the fourth may still pull through, so that is nice. The trees have wee little buds on them and although not really a huge fan of rain on the weekends, the snow/rain of the first weekend in May and then the rain of this past one seem to be doing wonders for greening things up.

A big heartfelt thanks to the folks who came out on Saturday for the St. John's Clean-up; two of the people I coerced into coming out won prizes (besides the obvious prize of my charming company) for their valiant efforts. I was also able to make sure my street probably got the most thorough cleaning, although that being said, it took 5 people two hours to clean just the front of about 6 blocks - the back lanes didn't even have a chance to get touched.

Spring is a great season because there is so much hope in the air; you see folks who you never normally see out in their yards cleaning up, wanting a fresh start and you can't help but feel like this is the year it's all going to be different. Sadly, in a few weeks, once the grass starts to grow much of the hope gets abandoned and too many people just give up again. With absolutely no scientific evidence behind this statement I think spring is the best time to suss out the absolute rottenest apples in the neighbourhood - if they can't be bothered in spring, if they don't have that initial burst of pride in their surroundings then there is basically no hope.

The house I was having a bit of a dilemma with has sprouted two broken windows since my last post, which can only lead to trouble. That being said, if only arsonists took requests.... It's one in a cluster of no so great houses, but there is hope on the horizon - I hear through the neighbourhood grapevine that the owner is thinking of tearing it down to build a nice shiny new house. Combine that with the other houses that are hopefully going to get some fix-up orders from the City and Voila! all should be good with one little section of the North End again.

Spring also means flowers. Oh how I love flowers! If you need flowers, please skip the Home Depot's and Wal-marts of the world and pick them up at a little family owned garden centre - I suggest the Jolly Green Thumb at 6905 Roblin Blvd - it's only about 100m outside the Perimeter, but there are dozens of them all around the city. Since Mother's Day came about as early as it can and spring has come about as late as it can come this year I didn't have my flowers out in time to have them stolen re-gifted to someone's mother. I know flowers get stolen in all part of town, if I had better googling skills you'd have links to the articles that have made the papers, so this isn't just another plague of the North End, but let me tell ya, it sucks when it happens.

Spring also means the neighbourhood gets a little rowdier. I'm at an awkward age - I'm very much an adult but not so old that I don't still almost remember what it's like to be a teenager. Being a homeowner makes the fist shaking "kids these days..." old person come out a lot but I try to remember that some of the stuff the kids are up to here is no worse than what we got up to in the suburbs. It doesn't make the petty vandalism or theft feel any better but I know that most of the kids I grew up with turned into mostly functioning members of society regardless of if they stole a garden gnome or two when they were young. 

Firecrackers were going off with abundance this weekend, which I hate mostly because they always turn into tales of "gunshots all the time" by "a neighbour who didn't want to be named" in the paper later on when they are reporting on some other crime. We used to do that in the suburbs a lot too, it was a big thing in the late 80's/early 90's to bring a bucketload of firecrackers back from the States (was it legal then? I'm so confused, because EVERYONE seemed to have them but now you can't bring them back, what gives?) and we'd shoot them off. So I mostly hate them not because life has come full circle and I am now the cranky adult but because every time I hear one I see a quote.

I am also excited for spring as it means outdoor projects can get underway for the year. Last year I painted the house (still hoping Google street view will come back for a new shot of the place!) and this year I am putting in a new sidewalk. One of the best things about living in the North End is that I got double the house at half the price so I get do way more projects than if I had bought elsewhere. Even with how property values have skyrocketed the North End is one of your best bets for value for money and a chance to be able to afford to personalize.

So now that spring is here, bring on summer!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Meet Winnipeg Girl this weekend!! (and other interesting things)

I know, I know, it's finally here - try to contain your excitement. This Saturday is the big cleanup in my neighbourhood! I know you all already have it in your calendars from when I first told you about it in procrastination post, but in case you *forgot* here are the details again: Meet at Ralph Brown Community Centre, 460 Andrews St. (but better directions would be at the corner of Machray and McGregor, it faces McGregor) at 10am this Saturday. There you can opt to pick a street/back lane to help clean or randomly be assigned one. Winnipeg Girl would love it very much if you would pick Boyd or College Ave. Hint hint.

After spending a mere two hours cleaning up, bags/gloves etc., provided, head on back to Ralph Brown at noon for a free BBQ and a chance to win some great prizes! Tips for how to make cleanups fun:

- Note the places where the most garbage comes from (McD's, Timmies, Dollarama, etc.) and mention it to their manager next time you visit the establishment. Or even better, write their corporate office
- Spot the by-law violation! Careful, this one is easy to get distracted by.
- Name that gang! This is a fun one for graffiti in back lanes - that being said we've cleaned a lot of it up. FYI, if you do ever find yourself with new "artwork" on your garage/fence, just pop on down to any police station and request a voucher for a free gallon of paint to paint it over. Unless you have biceps like tree trunks do not take the graffiti removal wipes. They require more elbow grease than you have. Trust me.
- Meeting new people - the cleanups really are a great way to meet some of your neighbours (or my neighbours if I'm dragging you in from elsewhere!)

Now, if garbage isn't really your thing I haven't been able to guilt convince you into coming out for the cleanup then maybe you're more up for a Jane's Walk. Although the timing and locations work out very nicely if you come to the cleanup and then head to one of the afternoon walks with a belly full of free food. Just sayin'....

Now next weekend also holds some exciting things, like the Giveaway Weekend, three cheers for free stuff! I mostly use it as an excuse to drive around my favourite neighbourhoods looking at the houses but free cool stuff is an added bonus. In fact the chair that my butt is currently plunked down on, and my knees for that matter (it's one of those fancy kneely chairs) is from the giveaway weekend last fall.

See you all on Saturday morning!!

Monday, May 2, 2011

An unusual dilemma

Those that know me (or read me) know that I'm usually pretty quick to report by-law violations, especially in rental properties. There is a property close to me, I've affectionately dubbed it the "drive by shooting house" due to an incident from a few years ago, that violates at least a few by-laws including missing eavestroughs, a questionable fence and through the neighbourhood gossip line I'm told that the basement is caving in on itself, among others.  Now, I've actually reported all of these violations before, in an Al Capone sort of way of dealing with problem tenants (getting the landlord to pay attention to his property and therefore being aware of his problem tenants because he's getting nasty notices from the City).

Now the dilemma ensues... the most recent batch of problem tenants have disappeared into the night. I'm pretty sure it was a midnight move and no idea what prompted it but it certainly wasn't at a "traditional" moving time of the 1st or the 15th. They've been gone for a while now and it's kind of nice - no garbage being thrown in the yard, no poor dog tied up and barking for hours at a time, no sketchy van coming and going 17 times in an afternoon (I run that many errands every day, don't you?). Oh, and I certainly miss the home visits by the Street Connections Van to that place - can't keep your yard clean, but hey, you're using clean needles - I suppose it's a start *eye roll*

So my dilemma is this: If I push the by-law issues, as I am currently not sure where they are at, I can likely have the house repaired. However, I have no idea where the landlord's head is at and if he even realizes yet that he has no tenants, and if he is suddenly (finally) forced to fix up the house he is probably going to want to have tenants living in the house to help pay for the repairs. In the past 5+ years there has yet to be one set of "good" (quiet, tidy) tenants in the place, I'm thinking that the next batch won't be great just because they have fancy new eavestroughs on the house...

I think I'm going to leave it for a while and push the issue again when there is bad tenants in there. The house may be unsightly but in theory it won't get worse quickly all on its own, however if a new batch of people move in there might be more problems than there are right now. This particular time I'm not going to chase down the by-law folks to make sure they are enforcing.