For example: "Just another part of the master plan to drive the middle class out of the city."

Today Toronto Hydro announced that they’ll soon charge variable rates for electricity, depending on the time of day.

Toronto Hydro announced Thursday that it will begin charging its customers new higher rates to use electricity when demand peaks, such as summer afternoons, and lower rates in the middle of the night, in an effort to encourage conservation and avoid blackouts.

This isn’t groundbreaking. The policy has been around for ages in Europe. It’s a simple financial disincentive to curb behaviour that can lead to power problems like blackouts (something Torontonians should be more than a little familiar with) and generally reduce power consumption. Given what’s happened in recent summers here in the city, it seems reasonable to dissuade people of the notion that electricity is an unlimited commodity.

Alas, the comment section of the Globe’s website has predictably degenerated into the usual whining about this being 1) a tax, 2) a nefarious plot by David Miller to strip away the rights and freedoms of Canadians, or 3) hippie treehugger goofiness. Or all of the above. Some even blamed the Tamil protestors. Some of that noise will be the knee-jerk response from political cranks who type first & think later, but I wonder how much comes from people who just don’t understand the use of price incentives as a social lever.

I remember Scott Adams writing once that the world seemed to make a little more sense to him once he knew something about economics. Of course economics is massively complex so understanding a little doesn’t give you the whole picture, but it forces you to see see, or at least acknowledge, that money is an enormous system, and this change is just turning one dial to affect the system a tiny bit. Until that point you’d see everything — like a tax increase or variable rate electricity — through the lens of “why are they doing this to me?” and start accusing politicians of robbing you, as if they had you and your buddies in mind.

Economics: the cause of, and answer to, all of life’s problems.

Look at what Don Cherry hath wrought

Two nights ago I saw highlights of a disgusting play by Carolina forward Scott Walker. He punched Bruins defenceman Aaron Ward in the face, even though Ward hadn’t dropped his gloves and still had his hands by his sides. Here’s the video:

Almost as disgusting, though, was the NHL’s punishment. Walker wasn’t suspended, even for a game. He wasn’t even given the automatic 1-game suspension for taking an instigator penalty in the final five minutes of a game. That was rescinded. He was fined a token $2,500. The league’s explanation was that Ward could have defended himself but didn’t, and he could see the punch coming. Psychologists refer to this as blaming the victim.

Far be it from me to defend the Bruins — I hate them with a fiery passion, and want badly for Carolina to knock them out of the playoffs — but one thing they did masterfully well on their way to eliminating the Canadiens was not take penalties. The same discipline that should be an admirable trait for a team may have cost Aaron Ward his orbital bone.

I’ll never stop loving hockey, but with every incident like this my hatred for hockey’s so-called “fighting culture” grows. Nobody could look at this incident impartially and think it was anything but patently absurd.

Help me I am in hell

Dear Rogers & Bell: collectively, I wonder if you would be so kind as to please eat a dick.

Here is what I’ve had to deal with today, in ascending order of shittiness:

  • your websites: impenetrable, convoluted, error-ridden and (in Rogers’ case) excruciatingly slow
  • your customer service: uninformed, ill-equipped and speaking into what I can only assume were tin cans tied to strings, based on the sound quality of the call
  • your hold music: Michael Bolton? Really?

In closing, fuck all y’all. Happy Easter.

Hummertarded

I apologize for the poor quality of these images, but I just had to show you the ridiculousness that we walked past last night on the way home from Smokeless Joe.

You’ve probably all seen a stretch hummer limo before. They’re the preferred ride of gaggles of horny, be-tuxed teenagers and d-list actors trying to make a splash. We saw this one last night:

But take a look in front of it:

That behemoth was about two feet higher than the “regular” stretch hummer limo and longer. We had to get a closer look.

The engine hood of the truck looked bigger than anything my father uses to haul several tons of blueberries/bees/what have you. Sure enough, a little googling revealed that it was a Ford F-650. It also holds about 30 people and has an 1800 watt sound system. What. The. Christ. This was way more than a stretch hummer; what the hell is this monstrosity called?

Ah.

We saw this display on Adelaide Street, west of University. Not surprising; only in clubland would enough douchebags congregate to warrant the arrival of the almighty Mammoth. All hail.

Juno: daughter of Saturn, mother of Mars and goddess of horrible taste in music

The Junos are set to air tonight. I could not care less about this fact — the Junos have long since proved irrelevant to anyone with even a passing appreciation for music as an art — except that the disgust felt by music writers at the nominees is, well…delicious.

From Ben Rayner at the Toronto Star:

It’s Juno Awards season again, and we all know what that means: Nitpicking, kvetching, bitching, bellyaching, bemoaning and generally venting our displeasure in the direction of whomever the Canadian recording industry has singled out for celebration this year.

Still, we watch, don’t we? And while we groan and shake our heads and grumble “What a farce! How meaningless!” whenever someone hands Nickelback or Michael Bublé – or Bryan Adams’s designated representative in Canada – another one of those little glass statues, we also secretly long for F—ed Up to take home that “alternative album of the year” award because … well … because that would be freakin’ awesome. Especially if Anne Murray has to present the trophy.

And, thus, we are complicit in the whole, hated awards-ceremony process.

Robert Everett-Green of the Globe and Mail was a little less reflective:

“Thinking about this year’s Junos makes my head hurt. They’ve already elevated Nickelback above all other Canadian musicians. The rock louts from Hanna, Alta., have five nominations, more than anyone else. My first response was to close my eyes to the horror. Go ahead, Juno, give the awards to Don Cherry, for all I care.

Juno’s idiotic nomination rules give an automatic berth in key categories to acts that sell the most records, and have put Nickelback in contention for album and group of the year. To suggest this band’s receipts prove it’s the best Canada has to offer is like saying nobody in this country makes better sandwiches than Subway. Bear in mind that Neil Young’s Chrome Dreams II got no nominations at all. Neither did excellent albums by Shad, k.d. lang, the Sadies, We Are Wolves and Cadence Weapon.”

Poor Nickelback has been taking a beating in recent weeks over what is seeming more and more like canonization from the Junos — not surprising, since it’s the favor of the Canadian recording industry’s favor that decides the evening’s winners. But even the Edmonton Sun slammed them today:

“‘You don’t have a clur (sic) about music. How can you say a washed-up old man like Bob Dylan is better than Nickelback?’

I got that e-mail nearly eight years ago, and I’ve had it taped up near my desk ever since. Mainly because it’s hilarious on multiple levels — clur? But along with that, it neatly encapsulates the essential difference between music critics and Nickelback fans.

Which is, in a nutshell: We think Nickelback sucks. And they think Nickelback rules. And neither one is going to change the other’s mind.”

It’s too bad that the Junos haven’t seized on all the international critical attention on the honest-to-goodness great music coming out of Canada in recent years, instead rewarding the likes of Nickelback and all facsimilies thereof and throwing in token nominations to the likes of Fucked Up or The Stills (nominated for best new group…puzzling, as they released their first album in 2003, I think). But it’s nothing new. The Junos have always sucked; that’s why god invented the Polaris Music Prize.

Oh, and a final thought from Mr. Rayner, one which lifted me from my chair and led me to applaud:

“Great Big Sea: I live with a Newfie. I know dozens of Newfies. I lived in Glovertown for six years when my family first moved to Canada. The broad consensus, from what I gather, is: embarrassing.”

Hear hear.

How does a homeless junkie get a broadcast license anyway?

By now you’ve likely heard about the episode of the Fox News show Red Eye (if you haven’t seen it already, download the WMV) wherein late night panel show host Greg Gutfeld mocked the Canadian military. Predictably, this got the Canadian public, pundits and politicians all in a palaver. Today Gutfeld apologized…kind of. It was one of those “I’m sorry you got so offended by what I said” apologies. So Canadians are a little less pissed, but pissed still.

I’m not. Make no mistake, I would take great umbrage with anyone who questioned the dedication or sacrifice of our military, if I were inclined to respect their opinion in the first place. But this was five minutes on a 3AM panel show. On Fox News, which is a laughable network to begin with. Featuring four people no one’s ever heard of and a host who used to run Maxim magazine. Oh…my wounded pride.

Look, when the crazy guy on the sidewalk starts yelling at you as you pass him, do you get offended? No. He’s shown no signs of ever having been insightful, so you chalk it up to the fact that he’s batshit insane and you ignore him. Giving him attention will just make him act crazier.

So now a lot of people who were entirely unaware of either Greg Gutfeld or Red Eye before the weekend have heard of them, and know the time and channel they’re on TV. How sorry do you think Gutfeld and Fox News really are?

Let's get ready to rumble!

Welcome to this bout for the superheavyweight ridiculousness championship of the world.

In this corner we have the Canadian minister of state for science & technology, Gary Goodyear (who obviously missed his true calling: cartoon race car driver), who refuses to say whether he believes in evolution:

Jim Turk, executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, said he was flabbergasted that the minister would invoke his religion when asked about evolution.

“The traditions of science and the reliance on testable and provable knowledge has served us well for several hundred years and have been the basis for most of our advancement. It is inconceivable that a government would have a minister of science that rejects the basis of scientific discovery and traditions,” he said.

Mr. Goodyear’s evasive answers on evolution are unlikely to reassure the scientists who are skeptical about him, and they bolster the notion that there is a divide between the minister and the research community.

And in this corner, with a reach much greater than Mr. Goodyear’s, is Pope Benedict, who yesterday said that condoms won’t stop the spread of AIDS in Africa.

“You can’t resolve it with the distribution of condoms,” the Pope told reporters aboard his plane to Yaounde, Cameroon. “On the contrary, it increases the problem.”

While health workers — including some priests and nuns working with people with AIDS — advocate the use of condoms to curb the spread of disease during sex, the Catholic church promotes fidelity within marriage, chastity and abstinence.

More than 22 million people in sub-Saharan Africa have HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, according to estimates from the United Nations. Since the 1980s, roughly 25 million people have died from AIDS.

Come out, touch gloves. Let’s have a clean fight. Against reality.

I, for one, find the Harbor Hopper ads very offensive

Just when I really start to like Halifax again, it goes and does something goofy like reject the Atheist Bus ads. (Full disclosure: I donated to the Atheist Bus campaign in Canada.)

A ‘Without God’ ad has proven too controversial for Halifax transit.

Humanist Canada wanted to place ads on Metro Transit buses with the slogan, “You can be good without God.”

But officials with the transit authority deemed that too controversial.

“We’re a public transit system first, and then we sell advertising,” Lori Patterson, spokewoman for Metro Transit, told CBC News on Monday.

“So, if anytime we feel there’s a message that could be controversial and upsetting to people, we don’t necessarily sell the ads.”

First of all, that reasoning is absurd. Virtually every ad could be offensive to someone. If one gives Ms. Patterson the benefit of the doubt and assumes she means “upsetting to the majority of people,” it becomes hard to reconcile the fact that they’ve granted ad space to the anti-abortion organization Birthright, as reported on the Atheist Bus website.

Second, not only is the actual message less inflammatory than the “There’s probably no god…” ads to run in Toronto, it’s completely benign! How can you possibly argue with the statement “You can be good without God.”, let alone find it upsetting? Can, people, can. The ads don’t say you will be better without god, they just state the fact that people who don’t believe in gods are capable of being good.

I’m confident this response — which seems much more like a knee-jerk than a reasoned reaction — is so baseless and silly that, despite how conservative Nova Scotia can be sometimes, will ultimately be reversed. I’m also hopeful that Vancouver will avoid embarrassing themselves in this way.

So far the best response to the ads I’ve heard about is what the United Church of Canada is planning: ads that say “There probably is a God, so stop worrying and enjoy your life.” Hurrah! Instead of trying to silence a contrary argument, they made their own counter-ad, and with a sly wink as well. Well played, UCC. (More full disclosure: I was raised United, and while I’ve been an atheist for many years, my parents remain very active in their church.)

Also good bait: Us magazine

There are people who need some training on how to buy things. Here’s how to spot them:

When waiting in line to pay they will take up as much space on the counter (or belt, if it’s a grocery store) and not think to look behind them at anyone who might want to set their items down. They are oblivious to all that’s going on around them.

Upon reaching the cashier, dutifully watching all their items being rung through and put into bags, they will be surprised at being asked to produce some form of remuneration. Not that they’d argue about having to pay…it simply didn’t occur to them that, as with every other time they’ve contributed to their local economy, they would have to exchange money for goods. They spend the next minute or so digging through their purse or pocket for a cartoonishly overstuffed wallet.

Next comes the exquisite precision of ridding themselves of their pocket change. An elaborate dance between cashier and customer, it cannot — nay, must not — be rushed. Only a painstakingly long process of selecting the maximum possible number of coins needed to round off the change to a neat dollar can save the customer from the crushing weight of those two quarters and three pennies.

The final act in their ineptitude is to stay rooted to their spot in front of the cashier while they put away…everything. Cash (bills only, mind you) into wallet, wallet into purse, purse into larger bag. Then receipt into different part of bag, bag into bigger bag, and so on. Meanwhile the next person in line struggles to input their PIN or sign their name whilst reaching around the shopper-pylon.

If you encounter such an animal in the wild, it’s best to avoid them. Switch lineups, or if you must, leave the store altogether. You can try luring them away with an instant bingo ticket if you have one; their type savours the sweet mindlessness of scratch-n-win tickets. Beware, though: they may need to borrow a coin.