Monthly Archives: December 2008

The 515 bus can be saved

Spacing Montreal has a post about the “inevitable failure” of the STM’s 515 bus to Old Montreal. It discusses many of the problems I first brought up in June when it first started.

While I agree that the line is wrought with problems (most of them predictable), I still think there should be a bus serving Old Montreal (there’s an argument that Old Montreal is served by two metro stations, but the walk is pretty far, especially for kids – 600m from the Jacques Cartier pier to Champ-de-Mars and over a kilometre from the bottom of McGill St. to Square-Victoria).

Besides, the Spacing article (and the Journal story it’s based on) cite ridership numbers in the summer and fall, which is when people are more likely to walk than take a bus. When the temperature is 30 below and the roads are slippery with ice, bus use is likely to increase in this area.

So I’d like to offer some suggestions to the STM on ways to improve service on this so-far unpopular route:

  • Dump the yellow signs. They’re confusing and unnecessary. They give Montreal transit users (not to mention tourists) the idea that they’re temporary or special in some unknown way.
  • Drop the route between Berri and Peel. It’s the most underused part of this underused line, and it’s completely unnecessary. This would also have the advantage of simplifying the line, which could then use the usual East/West directions instead of its confusing current circular system.
  • Increase service intervals slightly. Putting a bus every 10 minutes does make it more metro-like in that people will just go to a stop and wait for the next bus, but the ridership (even if improved) simply doesn’t warrant it. A 20-minute predictable interval would make more sense.
  • Put detailed information at every Old Montreal stop. Schedule, fares, places of interest along the route, points of transfer, etc. should be at every stop for the benefit of tourists. If they can learn about the system as they wait for the bus, they’re more likely to take it.
  • Improve traffic flow. Certain parts of the route (like near St. Laurent and Notre Dame) are always clogged, slowing service to a crawl. New ways should be considered to improve traffic in the area, including banning all car traffic on De la Commune during the summer if necessary.

Did I miss anything? Should the route be saved?

Fagstein’s Guide to Holiday Transit

Last year’s guide seems to have been well received, so I’m doing it again.

Here’s what to expect from the Montreal-area transit authorities for service this holiday season, including special holiday service schedules and free service days.

Once again, I ask that you have some sympathy for the bus or metro driver who has to work during the holidays getting whiny vomiting drunk people from A to B in thick snow.

Continue reading

Ici on tue personne

The Office québécois de la langue française, always looking for fun ways to spend money making anglos feel unwelcome, has started a new campaign to get store owners to place stickers in their windows reassuring people that yes, they speak French. They even got comedian Louis-José Houde to lend his voice to radio ads (because some unfamiliar voice telling you your language is in jeopardy just isn’t good enough).

The campaign is focused mainly on Montreal, but also Gatineau and the Eastern Townships, which are the three places you’re most likely to find anglos in Quebec.

I don’t quite get the point.

By law, all Quebec merchants should serve customers in French. So this sticker would be at best redundant.

The supposed idea is that merchants who don’t show the sticker would not see any francophone customers (or at least no card-carrying members of the St. Jean Baptiste Society). But that would only work once a majority of businesses got the sticker, which won’t happen any time soon no matter how free they are. Indeed, anything that smells of the OQLF would probably be rejected by Montreal businesses who don’t want to rock the boat and make things political for no reason.

Not to mention that searching for stickers would also annoy hard-core francophones who think all businesses should serve people in French (which, again, they’re required by law to do).

Besides, it would be fairly simple to just lie, put up one of those stickers and then promptly ignore it. People do that with alarm system stickers all the time.

So this campaign, which encourages retailers to unnecessarily affirm that they follow the law, and which annoys francophones and anglophones alike, is good for what exactly beyond wasting a bunch of taxpayer money?

La Presse begins pre-emptive Journal scab watch

Catherine Handfield looks at which freelance columnists will bolt and which will stay on if there’s a labour dispute at the Journal de Montréal. Jacques Demers and Martin Brodeur (who obviously don’t need the money) would be out.

No word on Richard Martineau.

Steve Proulx places odds on those who haven’t declared, and discoveres Chroniques Blondes’ Geneviève Lefebvre also refuses to scab.

Quebecor, meanwhile, accuses the union of intimidating freelancers.

STM fare vulnerability is bigger than you think

La Presse on Wednesday had a story that discussed an apparent flaw in the new smart-card fare system being used by the STM and other transit agencies in Quebec. The story concluded (with Journal-de-Montréal-style undercover anecdotal investigation) that people could make use of this flaw to get free transit rides. The Gazette matched the story within hours.

Here’s how it works: Users take the paper/magnetic cards that are distributed as tickets, transfers and proof of payment on buses and in the metro, and bend them to make the magnetic strip unreadable. When the cards are placed into magnetic readers, it produces an error. The STM personnel are instructed to let the people through, even though no fare has been deducted from their card.

Of course, there’s nothing new here. We’ve known about how easily the magnetic strip can be rendered unreadable for months now, among all the other problems inherent in this card. And people have been attacking the fare payment system through its most vulnerable part – the employees – for a long time now. The computerized fare system just makes this easier.

What this story shows are the two major problems with the way the STM (and other transit networks) deal with fares. One is new, the other is old.

1. The new fare systems are not human-readable. The previous modes of fare payment all could be verified by a human employee simply looking at them. Even the punch-card transfers given out by bus drivers had a timestamp printed on them.

The new magnetic card has information printed on the back about how many fares have been deducted and how many are remaining, but there is no way for a driver to manually deduct a fare from them (this will become an issue if and when multiple-use disposable cards come back – The Gazette’s article says these cards will be phased out in June, but I think the writer is confusing them with the old system which is being phased out).

The Opus card is even worse. There is no way to tell without a card reader how many fares remain on the card. There is no way to manually deduct a fare. And a bus driver can’t simply throw away a bad Opus card and issue a new one.

2. No one forces you to pay your fare. This problem, which has existed since the beginning, really leads to all the others. Bus drivers are specifically instructed never to leave their seat while a bus is in service. If people get on and refuse to pay, they’re just let through. The alternative – a potentially physical confrontation between a bus driver and a hostile passenger – is to be avoided at all costs.

The metro is a bit better, with physical barriers in place, but jumping a turnstile is only going to get you in trouble if the cops are nearby.

Sure, there are fines of hundreds of dollars for people who refuse to pay their fares, but bus drivers and metro ticket-takers aren’t empowered to give them. Only when a security agent or police officer is present do these tickets get issued (and nobody’s stupid enough to refuse to pay a fare when a uniformed agent is around).

Some transit systems such as the AMT get around this with a proof-of-payment system. In these systems, fares are checked at random by officers with the power to issue tickets. You can take the train for free, but eventually you’ll get caught and face a hefty fine. The STM is moving to this system with the new cards, but won’t be able to implement it until June when the old system has finished being phased out. They’ve also promised to post agents on buses, but the ratio of agents to buses needed to seriously cut down on fraud is far higher than would be financially feasible.

Sure, the fare system is flawed, but it has nothing to do with bending a magnetic strip.

Regret the Error year in review

Regret the Error's typo of the year

Regret the Error's typo of the year

Montreal writer Craig Silverman, editor of news corrections website Regret the Error (and author of the book by the same name) has released his review of the best media errors and corrections from 2008.

Among the highlights:

  • David Gest did not get herpes from Liza Minnelli
  • Dance poles at the Condom Shack may, in fact, support the weight of a human
  • The Los Angeles Times getting conned into writing a feature story filled with false information about Tupac Shakur (which was later debunked by The Smoking Gun)
  • Headline turns Bon Jovi into “Bob Jovi” (though, frankly, I’ve made worse errors that have made it into much larger type)
  • “Democratic vice-presidential prick in 2000” Joe Lieberman
  • Bob Novak announcing “he has a brain”
  • At least one that-wasn’t-his-mistress-that-was-his-daughter story
  • The Calgary Sun correcting the record: GM does not support neo-Nazis
  • Bill O’Reilly is not a “right-wing pundit”
  • Recipe accidentally calls for poisonous ingredient
  • A copy editor’s joke about strangling a kitten accidentally makes it to print (and the editor gets fired)
  • Israel will hit, not eat, Iran
  • From the Ottawa Sun: David Hoe was never a sex worker
  • Amercan Family Association website automatic filter for AP stories turns “Tyson Gay” into “Tyson Homosexual”
  • Wall Street Journal gets Canada’s name wrong. Twice.

It also mentions the Paris Match province-vs-city mistake on Quebec’s 400th anniversary.

AMT (finally) releases 2009 fare table

The AMT today finally released its fare table for 2009 (PDF), after previously announcing that rates would go up about 3.5%. (You’ll notice their release last week put the increased service and parking in ALL CAPS, but left the fare increases in lowercase.)

The 3.5% figure had actually been leaked through La Presse’s Bruno Bisson in October (he had said in September the AMT was considering a 4.3% fare increase). While they kept to that 3.5% for most of the monthly passes, the cash fares have gone up much higher (if only to keep to round numbers).

The biggest change to the fare structure is that “intermediate” will mean not just students 18-21, but now 18-25, bringing it in line with the STM’s “Carte Privilège” and similar systems at other transit networks.

Zone 1 Zone 2 Zone 3 Zone 4 Zone 5 Zone 6 Zone 7 Zone 8
Areas in this zone Downtown Montreal North end, St. Laurent, eastern West Island, between Pie IX and Highway 25 Longueuil, Laval, eastern and western tips of the island La Prairie, Île Perrot Vaudreuil, Deux Montagnes, Terrebonne, Repentigny, Sainte Julie, St. Bruno, Chambly, Candiac, St. Constant, Kahnawake, Châteauguay and Mercier Saint Lazare, Hudson, Rigaud, Blainville, Mascouche, Verchères, Beloeil, Marieville, Beauharnois Les Cèdres, Oka, Mirabel, L’Assomption, St. Sulpice Valleyfield, Laurentides, St. Jerome, Sorel, St. Hyacinthe,
Train stations in this zone Central Station to Montpellier, Lucien L’Allier to Lachine, LaSalle and Chabanel Du Ruisseau to Roxboro, Dorval to Cedar Park, Bois de Boulogne Beaconsfield to Ste. Anne de Bellevue, Île Bigras, St. Lambert, St. Hubert, plus all stations in Laval Île Perrot, Pincourt Grand Moulin, Deux Montagnes, Dorion, Vaudreuil, Rosemère, Ste. Thérèse, St. Bruno, St. Basile le Grand, Ste. Catherine, St. Constant, Delson, Candiac Hudson*, Rigaud*, Blainville, McMasterville, St. Hilaire St. Jérôme None
TRAM (regular fare) $79.50 ($77 +3.2%) $93 ($90 +3.3%) $109 ($105 +3.8%) $119 ($115 +3.5%) $138 ($133 +3.8%) $165 ($159 +3.8%) $191 ($185 +3.2%) $218 ($211 +3.3%)
TRAM (intermediate fare) $63.50 ($61.50 +3.2%) $74.50 ($72 +3.5%) $87 ($84 +3.6%) $95 ($92 +3.3%) $110 ($106 +3.8%) $132 ($127 +3.9%) $153 ($148 +3.4%) $174 ($169 +3.0%)
TRAM (reduced fare) $47.50 ($46 +3.3%) $56 ($54 +3.7%) $65.50 ($63 +4.0%) $71.50 ($69 +3.6%) $83 ($80 +3.8%) $99 ($95.50 +3.7%) $115 ($111 +3.6%) $131 ($127 +3.1%)
TRAIN only (regular) N/A N/A N/A $109 ($105 +3.8%) $117 ($113 +3.5%) $140 ($135 +3.7%) $162 ($157 +3.2%) N/A
TRAIN only (intermediate) N/A N/A N/A $87 ($84 +3.6%) $93.50 ($90.50 +3.3%) $112 ($108 +3.7%) $130 ($126 +3.2%) N/A
TRAIN only (reduced) N/A N/A N/A $65.50 ($63 +4.0%) $70 ($68 +2.9%) $84 ($81 +3.7%) $97 ($94 +3.2%) N/A
Six tickets (regular) $16 ($15.50 +3.2%) $18.50 ($18 +2.8%) $22 ($21 +4.8%) $24 ($23 +4.3%) $27.50 ($26.50 +3.8%) $33 ($32 +3.1%) $38 ($37 +2.7%) N/A
Six tickets (reduced) $9.50 (no change) $11 (no change) $13 ($12.50 +4.0%) $14.50 ($14 +3.6%) $16.50 ($16 +3.1%) $20 ($19 +5.3%) $23 ($22 +4.5%) N/A
Single regular fare $4 ($3.75 +6.7%) $4.75 ($4.50 +5.6%) $5.50 ($5.25 +4.8%) $6 ($5.75 +4.3%) $7 ($6.75 +3.7%) $8.25 ($8 +3.1%) $9.50 ($9.25 +2.7%) N/A
Single reduced fare $2.50 ($2.25 +11.1%) $2.75 (no change) $3.25 (no change) $3.50 (no change) $4.25 ($4 +6.3%) $5 ($4.75 +5.3%) $5.75 ($5.50 +4.5%) N/A

*The “promotion” that allows Zone 5 passes at Hudson and Rigaud stations continues in the new year.

For those who missed them, the fare tables for STM, STL and RTL were released earlier.

Journal de Montréal lockout “imminent”, union says

Despite yesterday’s decision that said many of the people who stepped in at the Journal de Québec were scabs, the union representing workers at the Journal de Montréal held a news conference and issued a press release this morning saying that they expect to be locked out within days of their contract expiring on Dec. 31. They’re calling for a conciliator to step in and get negotiations started again.

UPDATE: The government has appointed Pierre-Marc Bédard as conciliator.

Patrick Lagacé has some comments, and Steve Proulx also has some thoughts, including the fact that the Quebecor-owned free daily 24 Heures has practically doubled its staff recently.

This comes as negotiations at The Gazette are set to resume in January, and an arbitration hearing about outsourcing of editorial work is set to be heard in February. The prospect of two of Montreal’s four major daily newspapers being crippled by labour disruption is very real.

Oh, and Sun Media (which owns the Journal) just announced they’re cutting 600 jobs.

Journalist unions win big in Journal de Québec decision

In a decision handed down Monday by the Commission des relations du travail, Quebecor Media and the Journal de Québec were found to have illegally used scab labour to replace locked-out and striking workers during the 15 months they were on the picket lines.

The decision is a huge victory not only for the Journal de Québec workers’ union, but for journalist and other unions in general. It sets a precedent for what qualifies as “workplace” in Quebec law, extending its definition beyond the physical building where offices are located.

For those unfamiliar with the story, editorial workers at the Journal were locked out in April 2007 after negotiations on a new contract were stalled over the issue of convergence (having journalists do multimedia jobs). Immediately, press workers went on strike, and the Journal was left with just over a dozen managers to put out a daily newspaper.

Shortly after the labour conflict began, we started hearing about news content providers that appeared out of nowhere: Keystone Press, a photography agency, and Agence Nomade, a wire service. In addition, reports that news conferences in Quebec City started seeing reporters from “Canoë”, which is Quebecor’s web portal and shares content with its newspapers.

The union complained that this was essentially scab work. The decision finally got resolved after the conflict ended, even though the issue had become moot by then (the Journal fought to get the issue dismissed after the labour conflict ended, but the union pushed to get a judgment).

The details

Among the findings in the judgment (50-page PDF) concerning the scab labour:

  • Keystone Press, dubbed a scab company by the union, tried unsuccessfully to pitch its freelance services to the newspaper until the day after the lockout, when it was contacted by the president of Sun Media. Up to that point, the photography company had no office in Quebec, but had three photographers in the region the next day, taking photos of news events. The Journal would ask Keystone to cover specific events, and would then have exclusivity over the photos for a 36-hour period. Keystone in turn signed agreements with its photographers (in English) which paid them a set rate per hour of work. The commission singled out Geneviève Larivière, Antoine Leclaire and Pierre Gauthier as scabs.
  • Ferron Communications, a PR company, was hired by the Journal to provide news articles. It hired two journalists, Bernard Plante and Dominic Salgado, to cover news for the Journal. This continued until about June when the Journal found this method of operation too expensive.
  • Canoë, Sun Media’s web portal, had no journalists in the Quebec City region before the labour conflict (for that matter, it didn’t have much of a news operation at all – it was an aggregator of Quebecor’s newspaper and TV content which it would throw online). A few weeks after the lockout began, they put out ads looking to hire journalists in the region on a temporary basis. The group of journalists inluded Plante and Salgado, as well as Geneviève Riel-Roberge, Hubert Lapointe, Marc-André Boivin, Reine May Crescence and Mélanie Tremblay.
  • In August 2007, all these journalists were told they were working not for Canoë, but for a company called Agence Nomade. This company, a wire service, was actually an idea by Quebecor CEO Pierre-Karl Péladeau. It was ostensibly setup by Sylvain Chamberland, one of PKP’s friends, to compete against Presse Canadienne (Canadian Press’s French equivalent). It offered its content exclusively to Quebecor Media (including TVA, 24 heures, Journal de Montréal, etc.). Because Nomade retained no rights to its content, Canoë and Quebecor could pretend it was theirs. Again, the Journal would “ask” that certain events be covered, and Nomade would “decide” what it would cover based on that. Journalists would file to Nomade, who would forward texts to Canoë and the Journal.
  • Despite these changes, the journalist scabs would always present themselves as being journalists for Canoë.
  • The journalists, who had to work exclusively for Nomade (and hence, Quebecor and hence, the Journal de Québec) as scabs on repeating short-term contracts got a salary equivalent to $40,000 a year for their troubles.

The issues

In the end, the judgment came down to three questions:

  1. Were these journalists working for the Journal? The commission ruled that no, they were not. They weren’t being paid by the Journal, and were not taking orders directly from the Journal.
  2. Was the Journal using the services of these workers to replace locked-out workers? The commission ruled that yes, the Journal was actively making use of these workers’ services to replace their own. They assigned stories and photos which were then filed directly to them for use in the newspaper. Though technically the scabs were working for Agence Nomade, which in turn worked for Quebecor Media, the work they were doing was mainly for the benefit of the Journal.
  3. Were the journalists at the workplace of locked-out workers? This one was where the commission broke new ground. The idea of workplace wasn’t an issue in the days of factories with big pieces of equipment. You couldn’t work as a scab unless you were on the premises. But journalists with the Journal did most of their work outside the building, and so the commission ruled that wherever they did their work, either at the courthouse or at news conferences or at the National Assembly, these scabs were at their workplace.

What this means

Two unions are going to be very happy with this news: the union representing journalists at the Journal de Montréal (who will hold a press conference Tuesday to discuss its own contract negotiations as its current one expires Dec. 31) and the union representing journalists at The Gazette (their contract expired June 1 and they’re back at the negotiating table in January).

Had Quebecor won this case, it would have been a manual for other companies on how to get around Quebec’s liberal anti-scab laws. Have the journalists be freelancers, working for a separate company, and filing mainly for the website. But the commission threw a wrench in that setup, and that puts the unions in a much better bargaining position.

There’s still some room to maneuvre if someone wants to try this again. A lot of the focus was over the fact that the Journal asked for specific news events to be covered. Not to mention the fact that all of this was setup after the labour disruption started. Had those things been different, the decision might have been a little more murky.

But it’ll be much harder for a media company to get around a labour disruption in Quebec by outsourcing work to a third party. And that creates a huge shift in the balance of power away from newspaper owners and toward newspaper unions.

In case you’re interested, there are press releases from the union and from Sun Media.

Coverage elsewhere

UPDATE (Jan. 7): The Journal is appealing. The union says it’s not surprised.

CBC’s Being Erica almost sounds good

The CBC, apparently excited by the fact that its show about a neurotic 30-something single white brunette consistently comes in dead last in the ratings with a pathetic 300,000 viewers (about a third of what Air Farce brought in on a regular basis), it’s developing a new show about a neurotic 30-something single white brunette called Being Erica (heavy Flash/automatic video play warning), which premieres Jan. 5.

The CBC’s description of the show is somewhat lacking, but it seems to have something to do with a woman being sent back in time by her therapist to fix all of the things she did wrong in high school and make her life better. Or something. It’s unclear if this is supposed to be really happening in some sci-fi way or if this is just in her mind. Whatever, I’m sure CBC will find some way to make it suck.

What piqued my interest though is this blog they’ve setup to drum up interest for the show (via TV, eh?). It features one-minute video blogs of Erica in her cubicle at work, ranting about this crazy coworker she has who leaves passive-agressive post-its everywhere. It’s like she works in The Office, only she actually has a pulse and doesn’t use awkward silences for conversation.

I actually like the videos. Enough that I almost wish the CBC would ditch the TV show entirely and focus their efforts on this instead. (Imagine if they started really thinking outside the 30-minute-sitcom box, the things they could accomplish.) I’m not sure if it’s just how well Erin Karpluk delivers the rants, or if it’s the writing behind them, but I’m entertained in a way I haven’t been by the CBC in quite a while.

The buzz (which can’t entirely be trusted, since it thinks Sophie was a hit) suggests that the show is very entertaining. More tellingly, it’s also been sold already to ABC’s Soapnet and BBC Worldwide.

That might be enough for me to try to remember where CBC is on my TV dial.

CRTC Roundup: Rogers gets its own CP24

The big news this month is that Rogers has been given permission to launch its own 24-hour all-news channel in the Toronto area called CityNews.

Now, you might think, doesn’t City already have a 24-hour all-news channel for the Toronto area?

No, silly. CP24, the existing all-Toronto, all-news station, was owned by CHUM, which also owned City. But CHUM was acquired by CTV, which was forced to dump City as a result to satisfy the CRTC. For some reason known only to the CRTC, that didn’t include CP24, even though it was heavily linked to CityTV. Rogers ended up buying City, and is now the one behind this new network.

Even under CTV, CP24 is very much a City network. It even airs City News three times daily. Now, not only does CTV have to figure out how CP24 and CTV Newsnet are going to coexist, it has to deal with this new channel from Rogers which is no doubt going to take all the City content for itself.

Oh, and how does the CRTC justify having two Toronto all-news stations like this? Well, they split hairs like I’ve never seen before (emphasis mine):

CITY News (Toronto) would provide a niche news service targeted to Greater Toronto. In contrast, CP24’s mandate is and has always been to serve the region of Southern Ontario.

Yes, that’s right. CITY is for Toronto, while CP24 is for Southern Ontario. Therefore they don’t compete directly with each other. Yeah.

I might have understood if the CRTC pointed to its recent decision to allow more competition for news and spoirts programming. Instead, it came up with the flimsiest excuse in the book to pretend like the obvious isn’t true.

The application was opposed by CTV (for obvious reasons) and by The Weather Network, because of City’s unhealthy obsession with providing information on the weather.

Elsewhere in the news/blogosphere:

CTV wants HD loophole

CTV is applying for special permission from the CRTC to distribute HD versions of its local stations (including CFCF Montreal) to cable and satellite networks, even though those stations do not have digital broadcast licenses (and the CRTC normally requires that before distributing HD feeds). CTV offers excuses for not getting those licenses, and says that they should be granted this loophole to keep Canadians from seeking the same programming on U.S. networks. Deadline for comments is Jan. 9.

TSN2 is OK

Following complaints about the launch of TSN2 by the CBC and The Score, the CRTC has concluded that, though TSN is essentially exploiting a loophole to create a new channel, it has every right to do so. TSN2 takes advantage of time shifting and a special allowance to replace up to 10% of its programming on split feeds (presumably to get around regional blackouts for live sporting events) in order to create a second channel which shows 90% identical programming (though time-shifted three hours from TSN) and 10% different live sporting events from TSN.

Two new French-language networks

The CRTC approved Category 2 digital licenses for two new French-language networks:

Category 2 networks, which most new specialty channels are approved as, has no protection from direct competition (though it can’t directly compete with existing analog channels). They also have no guaranteed carriage rights, which means they have to negotiate with cable and satellite providers for a spot on their grids (and then get subscribers to add them).

More HD!

The following networks have received approval to setup high-definition versions of themselves:

Fagstein’s Subscription Challenge

During all of 2007, I was technically unemployed. A mixture of EI, freelance work and tax rebates from the government (I never quite figured out how that all worked) kept me afloat.

In January, I got offered an eight-week contract at my favourite job, as a copy editor at The Gazette.

I’m still there.

Facing the continually impending unemployment that contract workers must always prepare for, I’ve been pretty responsible with my money, putting most of it away in the bank. It’s gotten to the point where I can start considering things like RRSPs for the first time.

Being a bleeding-heart liberal, I’m also overcome with guilt that I’m not giving the money away to help homeless people or something. So, I figured, why not just go ahead and do that?

Rather than just cut a cheque, though, I figured I’d have a little fun with it, and involve the dozen or so people who read my blog.

My challenge

So here’s the plan: One week from today (Saturday, Dec. 20), I will donate $1 for every subscriber to this blog’s feed through web services that report such information (Google Reader, Netvibes, NewsGator, Bloglines) to Dans La Rue, a Montreal charity that helps street youth, up to a maximum of $1,000 (you know, just in case this hits Fark or something and I have to contemplate taking out a mortgage on a home I don’t own just to keep my promise).

By my calculations, I have 383 subscribers through those four main feed readers already, which means I’m $383 in the can. Let’s see how high I can push that number up (I’ll be keeping a close eye on traffic and other indicators, so don’t think about artificially inflating those numbers through fake subscriptions).

If you don’t subscribe via RSS and don’t know how, check out What is RSS and the video RSS in Plain English to explain it to you. My feed’s address is

Your challenge

Now this second part is, of course, entirely optional, but while you’re getting me to donate a buck on your behalf, consider making a $10 donation on your own to a favourite charity. Don’t make me give out those “cup of coffee” metaphors to show you how insignificant $10 is.

If you want a charity idea, here are my suggestions:

Let’s work together to make Christmas merry for everyone. Especially my ego.

L’Audace d’espérer

Translated copies of Barack Obamas two books - Dreams of My Father and The Audacity of Hope - are on sale

Translated copies of Barack Obama's two books - Dreams of My Father and The Audacity of Hope - are on sale

I didn’t realize these books were even translated into French.

What amuses me most, though, is that someone felt it necessary to add messages to the books pointing out that Obama is “le nouveau président des états-unis”. Is there someone out there that doesn’t know he won? And if there is, why would this person be interested in reading these books?