Tag Archives: Irony

STM’s in my lane

I went to a press conference on Tuesday that the STM organized to announce a new reserved bus lane being installed on St. Joseph Blvd. There were a few dozen people there, though most seemed to be employees of the city or the STM, as evidenced by their clapping after speeches.

There were a few journalists present, though they seemed more interested in Plateau Mayor Luc Ferrandez’s attendance record at city council meetings than yet another reserved bus lane that will take away parking spaces. There were no questions after the presentation.

I can’t blame them. Even for someone like me who’s interested in public transit, there’s little new here that doesn’t also apply to every other reserved bus lane in the city.

A city of Montreal truck blocks a bus stop zone as it loads equipment used during a press conference to announce new bus lanes

I couldn’t help noticing during the press conference that there was a car parked in the bus stop zone next to the Laurier metro station. It had a rotating light on the dashboard and seems to have been from a private security agent. Later, after the press conference was over, a city of Montreal truck pulled up and parked in the middle of the bus stop zone to load up the podium and other equipment.

The truck ended up blocking the arrival of the No. 46 bus, forcing it to leave its passengers off from the centre lane of St. Joseph Blvd.

There’s some irony here.

Night bus overhaul coming

Meanwhile, I asked STM chair Michel Labrecque (supposedly the transit users’ representative on the STM’s board) about the upcoming revamping of the night bus service which is coming on June 27. Labrecque feigned ignorance, saying something about not being in the right mindset to discuss it (even though he and one of his aides had, in fact, been doing just that). I was told there would be a news conference on June 15 to explain everything, but that they couldn’t go into details.

A bit odd since bus stop signs with the new numbers have already started appearing. Through the rumour mill we see that the STM will introduce three new lines – the 353 on Lacordaire Blvd., the 354 from downtown to Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue and the 376 from downtown to Pierrefonds (via Highway 40). All three routes had previously existed and are being brought back in areas similar to where they were years ago. In addition to this, many existing routes will be modified, mainly to extend them so they serve the downtown core (reducing the number of people who have to take the 358 bus and then transfer). The 355 bus will be one of those adding service downtown. The 356 will also be modified so it heads up Sources Blvd. instead of going all the way to Ste. Anne.

I’ll get you more details on those changes after they’re announced, after the schedules are released or after I get details from sources, whichever comes first.

Ad placement is everything

Daily Mirror, June 13, 2008

Daily Mirror, June 13, 2008

This page from London’s Daily Mirror from last year is getting passed around online as of late. A fellow editor spotted it on LiveJournal. It’s also on Reddit, which pointed directly to an image on Joey deVilla’s blog. Here’s his blog post from June, where the image originates.

The layout of the article here looks funny to me, but that’s because I work for a broadsheet instead of a tabloid. It also shows the problem when editorial and advertising put together parts of a page without seeing what the other is doing until after edition.

Videotron: Peachy

On Dec. 30, Videotron removed a channel from its digital cable service. WPCH, formerly WTBS, is an Atlanta superstation that would broadcast a lot of comedy reruns, movies and Atlanta Braves baseball games. For the past year it’s been known as Peachtree TV.

On Jan. 15, more than two weeks after the signal on Channel 115 went dark, Videotron sent out a letter to customers who had it as a custom channel selection telling them it was no longer being offered:

Letter from Videotron

The gist of it is that WPCH demanded more money for carrying the channel, and Videotron balked.

Now, I could complain that the notice came out much too late, or that there was no mention of a refund to customers who had a dead channel for weeks, or that those forced to redo their channel selection are being charged more now because of new rates established for “new services”.

Instead, I’ll refer to the “attached directory”, a pamphlet of available channels, which apparently Videotron didn’t think to update:

Peachtree listing

I have no words to describe this level of incompetence.

Hurricanes suck

I admit, I get a perverse pleasure out of people who are the creators of their own misfortune. Tragedies in the classical sense. Not necessarily causing death, but at least causing inconvenience. Hurricane Gustav created two examples of this, and the victims are our favourite punching bags: politicians and the media.

The first comes out of the video above. A few weeks ago, Stuart Shepard of Focus on the Family posted a video online in which he half-jokingly suggests that Christian Conservatives pray for rain during Barack Obama’s acceptance speech at an open-air stadium. They say they never meant for it to be taken seriously, but it was, and the video was pulled (the one above is a copy).

Of course, there was no rain the night of Obama’s acceptance speech, and the Democratic convention went off without a hitch. But the day after, as John McCain was announcing his vice-presidential pick, we start hearing about this hurricane headed for the Gulf Coast. Toward New Orleans. Three years almost to the day that Katrina struck.

Oh the irony. It almost makes me believe in a god, as it did Michael Moore.

The second example comes from our good friends at CNN. When Barack Obama announced his VP pick, CNN filled the airwaves with news and analysis. Responding to a viewer comment via Facebook (oh how the media has changed, folks), anchor Rick Sanchez says this on air:

By the way, I have to share this with you. It is from Sam. He says, Rick — this is on Facebook — I’m counting on you to do the same kind of coverage when McCain announces his vice president as you’re doing tonight when Barack Obama has announced his vice president. Sam, we’ve already made that decision. I can guarantee you we will.

No caveats, no ifs or buts, just a bold guarantee. Of course, neither CNN nor the other news networks are coming close to meeting that guarantee for the convention. Half the news about Sarah Palin was surrounded (literally) by hurricane updates, and the convention coverage is being threatened by it. Even the convention itself is changing plans at the last minute to deal with people (like President George W. Bush, Vice-President Dick Cheney and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal) who can’t speak.

I actually feel a bit bad for the Republicans. It’s not their fault this hurricane hit with such horrible timing, nor is it their fault that Bristol Palin got pregnant. If they lose in November, it should be because of the issues, not because the campaign was derailed by … well, acts of God.

Nobody reads fine print (except ours, right?)

The Gazette has a Canwest-penned article in today’s paper (complete with adorable photo of Montreal-guy-who-visits-websites) about how people don’t read the fine print when visiting websites and entering into contracts with web companies. It cites their obscene length as a key factor:

In the case of online ticket purchases, if you actually click to read Ticketmaster’s fine print before buying concert tickets, the terms run nearly 6,200 words. It takes far longer to read than the three minutes and 15 seconds Ticketmaster gives you to make a decision to buy tickets.

It also points out that the terms can be abusive to the point of absurdity:

They’re often lengthy and complicated. Sometimes they can be changed unilaterally by the company, and they usually include a limited corporate liability clause.

Readers are encouraged to comment on this article. In order to do that, you have to agree to this 785-word license release, which also requires you to read and agree to this 10,509-word general website terms of service. Both contain an absolute liability waiver, and the latter contains a clause that allows the company to unilaterally change the terms without notice. It also contains gems like these:

  1. Except as provided herein, you agree not to reproduce, make derivative works of, retransmit, distribute, sell, publish, communicate, broadcast or otherwise make available any of the Content obtained through a canada.com Site or any of the Services, including without limitation, by caching, framing, deep-linking or similar means, without the prior written consent of the respective copyright owner of such Content.
  2. You shall not have any right to terminate the permissions granted herein, nor to seek, obtain, or enforce any injunctive or other equitable relief against canada.com, all of which such rights are hereby expressly and irrevocably waived by you in favour of canada.com.
  3. You acknowledge having obtained independent legal advice in connection with this license, release and waiver, failing which, you shall be deemed to have voluntarily waived the right to seek such independent legal advice.

Don’t let it be said my bosses don’t have a sense of humour.

(By submitting a comment to this blog post, you hereby agree that Fagstein is awesome.)

Bouchard-Taylor love wasting paper (literally)

So as I was taking a short break from doing my job yesterday, I downloaded this report that everyone’s talking about, in its original French. I expected a long report taking up far more paper than is necessary, and I wasn’t disappointed.

But I noticed something on one of the pages of the report:

I thought that was funny because the report had so many blank pages in it, to serve as bookends for the title pages. I did a quick count of the blank pages and mentioned to my boss that of the 310 pages in the report, 34 were entirely blank (not a single dot of ink).

She asked me to give her a couple of paragraphs saying that, and it turned into the shortest article I’ve ever written, in today’s paper. (It was a bit longer than that to begin with, but it was cut down for space, and also because it went on a bit too long, by a ruthless copy editor who ironically turned out to be myself).

Admittedly, both the environmental policies and the blank pages are common practice in government reports. The Johnson Commission report (PDF) has a similar notice (though it actually calculates how much of the planet you’re saving), and also has blank pages (though not as many).

Without the blank pages and title pages (including pages that repeat the title page or just include photos of the commission chairs, but not including the environmental/copyright notice above which is on an otherwise blank page), the Bouchard-Taylor report would have 60 fewer pages, for a 19% reduction in paper use.

Wouldn’t that have been better for the environment?

Worried about his kids

Last year, I wrote on my blog with some opinions about the proposed Cavendish extension to Henri-Bourassa Blvd. and Toupin Blvd., which would connect two neighbourhoods that would otherwise need a much longer detour to get between. I criticized complaints from residents in Cartierville as selfish NIMBYism from people who live in McMansions along the waterfront and drive their Hummer SUVs and BMWs to work every day through other people’s neighbourhoods.

One of the comments I got on that post was from one of those residents, who said he was worried about his kids having to cross a busy street to get to school every day.

I decided to interview the man for a Justify Your Existence piece. I figured I’d totally get him on that, but turns out I learned a thing or two (something I always enjoy doing as a journalist). Rather than drive to work every day, he takes a bike when he has to, and the rest of the time he works at home. His wife will use the family vehicle, in order to take the kids to school (they have three, ranging in age from about 3 to about 9, if I remember correctly). He’s very pro-environment and anti-car, despite living in a modest home in the suburbs.

Though still somewhat NIMBYish, the guy came off as a concerned father criticizing the creation of roads for the benefit of personal vehicles over public transportation.

Nice guy, nice wife, adorable kids. A fun way to spend an evening.

So why do I bring this up again?

The guy, 34-year-old Nicolas Stone, was arraigned in Longueuil today on charges he lured a 13-year-old girl into exposing herself online, and then had sex with her at least twice. I got a call from work to double-check it was the same guy.

The photo at right is stolen from his Facebook profile, since a scheduled photo shoot for that article fell through (had it happened, the paper would be running file art of the guy and his kids tomorrow).

All this to say, you can never tell just by looking at someone.

And this guy was worried about his kids crossing a busy street

UPDATE: Let’s be careful with wording (unlike 940 News who don’t think they have to qualify calling him a “predator”) since he hasn’t been convicted of anything yet. All of this is alleged by police. And you never know, there could be a completely innocent explanation for a 34-year-old father of three having sex with a 13-year-old girl.

UPDATE (May 28): He’s been denied bail.

UPDATE (Aug. 4, 2010): After pleading guilty, Stone has been sentenced to 10 years in prison, minus time served.

Media critic, criticize thyself

Yet another example of a photojournalist fudging the truth out of laziness and manufacturing an award-winning photo of an event that never occurred.

What amuses me is the blog this was posted on, of the Guardian’s Roy Greenslade:

Greenslade blog

You’ll notice two identical photos of him, which appear to be part of a template for article pages on the blog.

You’ll also notice that one of the photos is flipped horizontally. Last time I checked that was a journalistic no-no, even if one is under the delusion that human faces are symmetrical and it doesn’t matter.

I guess some photo manipulation is more acceptable than others.

STM’s service improvements are actually service reductions

18 Beaubien at Beaubien metro
You’ll actually be waiting more, not less, for the 18 bus outside of rush hour.

The STM is trumpeting huge, noticeable improvements to bus and metro service that finally came into effect on Monday. The additions come in two parts:

More metro trains, less wait time

The STM is adding 145 new departures every week to all but the yellow line. The goal is to reduce waiting times and get more people using the metro.

The change is most visible outside of rush hour. That means the very early morning, during the day, late evenings, at night and on the weekend. On weekdays outside of rush hour, the waiting times will all be reduced by at least a minute and a half – a rather noticeable change.

Going out today, I decided to time the intervals between metro trains. Sure enough, for orange line trains going through downtown at 6:45pm, the trains were just under six minutes apart on average, which the STM says is an improvement on the previous eight minutes.

Though the wait times during rush hour (when almost all trains are already in service) won’t come down much, this move might serve to eventually lighten that load a bit. An extended rush hour means that fewer travellers will organize their schedules around rush hour to take advantage of the short waits.

I can’t be the only one who prefers to travel during peak hours because of how much faster it is. Extending rush hour will spread this tendency out a bit and hopefully make it spike a bit less as the whistle blows at 5pm.

More bus service means less bus service?

The other part to this service improvement is the more interesting one: the STM has announced additional buses being added to three popular lines: 18 Beaubien, 24 Sherbrooke and 121 Sauvé/Côte-Vertu. It’s also making the 54 Charland/Chabanel a rush-hour-plus-between-rush-hours service, which is becoming more and more popular (but to me only seems frustrating because the service stops by 7pm).

Today I went to the Beaubien metro bus stop for the 18 bus and observed as buses passed to pick up passengers headed east for the evening rush hour. Most of the buses had their seats filled, but none were so packed that nobody else could get on. They were running on intervals of about 3-4 minutes during rush hour’s peak (5:30pm), and 6-7 minutes just after rush hour (6:30pm).

This, despite complaints from the employees’ union that there’s a bus shortage affecting service.

Here’s the problem: The schedule itself hasn’t improved. If anything, service is being reduced on these three lines.

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