Archive | September 2012

Just Bitchin’ – Will Lawns Become Ancient History?

I look around my neighbourhood and see one or two velvet-green beautiful lawns.  The rest of us have either given up entirely, replacing the grass with stones, mulch, gardens or some combination of same – or we are struggling to repair the damage done by heat, lack of rain and most of all GRUBS AND CINCH BUG infestations.

Having just done the latter myself – thanks to the assistance of 2 strong young men – lots of raking and then 24 bags of soil mix and a large bag of grass seed, I wonder if it is all worthwhile.  Watering twice daily, watching for any sign of new life – and it may all be for naught if next summer is even remotely similar to the one just past.

Are lawns soon to be ancient history?  With appropriate chemicals now outlawed, our lawns don’t stand much chance against the various insects and crawly things (nematodes appear to be only 40% effective at best) that are becoming more and more invasive….not to mention the damage created by skunks, crows and raccoons digging to feed on the nasty little things.

But what are the options?  Garden cloth, riverstone or pea gravel with the odd shrub here and there for greenery is one option.  I find this looks “hot” and “dry” – and you still have to be ever watchful for weeds.  Replacing the lawn with gardens and mulch is another option – but the word garden suggests “work” to me with too much weeding, pruning, dividing, and transplanting, involved.  Should I spend the money on an irrigation system (and then on the resulting water bills) to help with the struggle to keep my lawns looking decent?  Is that really a guarantee?  Could it end up being money down the drain?

In my dreams, I would win a significant lottery and then I’d have some attractive landscaping done including the  installation of the highest grade available of SYNLAWN –  a synthetic grass made especially for residential lawns.  No more mowing, no more weeding, no more watering, no more fertilizing, no more de-thatching, no more aeration!  My front, back and side yard would always look PERFECT.  I’d be the talk of the neighbourhood.  Crowds would flock to gaze at this wondrous creation.  Well – maybe now I’m getting a little carried away but you get the idea.  The chances, however, of a lottery win to fund this pricey dream are pretty remote…..and even options 1 and 2 are not inexpensive!

What are you doing with your lawns?  Any suggestions?



Just Bitchin’ – Gambling to Support our Infrastructure

I whole heartedly agree with a couple of our City Councillors who are against the idea of using revenues from a new casino to cover the increasing need for funds to maintain our city infrastructure.  Jim Watson isn’t thinking with a clear head when he makes this sort of suggestion – and perhaps, this is an indication of just how desperate the situation really is.

I don’t care one way or the other if the City builds a new casino – or two – or three of them.  What I do care about is making the right budget decisions when it comes to the bare basics of running and maintaining the City.

I propose that our tax dollars are used for the absolute essentials:  police, fire, paramedics, roads, infrastructure – and 35% of the staffing costs (approximately what I think is truly needed in terms of FTE city jobs).  Whatever funds come from Rideau Carleton and any new gambling facility can be used for the “nice-to have” budget items and any staffing beyond 35% of the current level. I would even like to see the two accounts kept completely separate!!

Most of us manage our households this way – we cover the basics first (mortgage, property taxes, food, clothing, transportation, utilities).  If we have money left over, it is held in savings or we spend it on the “nice to haves” – vacations, large TVs, etc.  Some of us manage a second job to pay for the extras.

Take a risk on being able to manage the basics?  NEVER!

Just Bitchin’ – NHL Lockout

Just thinking about this – again.  My guess is most team owners purchase a hockey team as a tax write-off, never really intending to make much money from it.  I have no doubt that it is only the very wealthy who can think about owning an NHL team in the first place.

Given this – why would the owners care – even a little bit – about the teams actually playing games?  They are still the owners.  Some of them own the facilities as well so their tax write-off might even get larger if no games are played and no income rolls in!!

The older players – those who have amassed large fortunes playing the game – and/or those already planning to play hockey elsewhere for the season – why would they care?  Many of them no longer depend on playing hockey for a living – they own other businesses, have investments, etc.   It wouldn’t surprise me to discover that they even have insurance of some sort against a lockout! The young players entering their first or second year in the NHL are probably not very happy with the situation – but they aren’t in a position to influence anything or anyone.

So – I think I have just established that, for the most part, neither owners nor players give a damn.  The fans care – and the folk whose jobs depend on games being played care – but those with influence – or the ability to change things – obviously don’t care about fans or spin-off jobs.  Bettman still draws his $8M salary.  The Bettman Bobbleheads go about their many other business interests – and NHL hockey takes a direct hit.

I’m about to kiss the season good-bye and I wonder what on earth I will watch on TV all winter!!

Just Bitchin’ – Friends & Getaways

Had a lovely Gals’ Getaway a week or so ago with some longtime and very dear friends – the 15th annual, in fact.  I know it’s our 15th because I keep a list!  I remember very little without lists these days!

The Getaways started with an impromptu decision to celebrate somebody’s 50th birthday.  We went to Kingston and discovered that it was Regatta weekend – not a hotel room to be found.  We ended up in a very BASIC motel on the outskirts of town – orange plastic tub chairs on the concrete pads in front of each door  – but we did have a lovely dinner on Wolf Island and decided we should do this every year.

As the years moved on, we became more discerning about accommodation requirements – we must each have our own bed, there must be a dining room (who wants to cook on vacation?), there must be a fridge for wine and munchies and a coffeemaker, there must be a sitting room with  seating for 4 for our happy hours and chat sessions – and a view would be nice not to mention some things of interest to do or see in the area.

Every year is a challenge and an adventure.  We have found 5-star restaurants in the middle of nowhere, fantastic family-owned wineries – we have returned 3 times to one of our “finds” at Glen House near Gananoque – and we have only had one disaster – at Wigamog Inn in the Haliburtons.  In that case the resort had just changed hands,  the cottage was under construction (we were given no warning), there was 1 loveseat with springs showing through to sit on, the stairs up to the cottage veranda were temporary and had no railing (like climbing a ladder) – and we went out for a boat-ride and got stranded out in the lake when the motor got tangled in a whole pile of rope (somebody from the resort was driving, not us).

Most of the cottage resorts we have found to date have been nice but we haven’t yet found the perfect place that will be “our place” for the next 15 years or more.    One of our foursome moved from Newmarket to Wasaga Beach a few years ago so Glen House is now a long drive for her and we do try to find someplace that is as close to equi-distant for all of us as we can.

Maybe somebody will read this and will have a suggestion!!

How lucky I am to have such friends and to enjoy the fun of getting away from the usual drill every year.  While on our getaways, we have met other ladies (it’s always women) doing the same thing – a group of 8 nurses who have been doing getaways for 20+ years and this year we met a group of teachers who have been at it even longer.

I think it’s a very special thing, don’t you?

Just Bitchin’ – More “What the Heck?”

Unions tell teachers they must NOT  volunteer outside of regular hours in order to allow after-school activities to continue.  Students picket the teachers!  What is wrong with this picture?  In this case, they are angry at the wrong people – or at the very least, the students should give equal attention to the union offices!

Our City Council approves huge infrastructure projects like Lansdowne Park or Hi-Speed Transit and it seems they had NO idea how far in the red the city already is just trying to keep up the maintenance on the existing infrastructure.  Today’s Ottawa Sun looks at the books and the city needs to double the already millions of dollars needed to maintain existing roads, sewers and facilities.  How and Why do they make these large-dollar decisions without having what, to me, seems like very basic information???  Can you imagine this type of bookkeeping and decision-making in private industry?  Fix what we have.  Build new once we can actually afford it!!

Jason Spezza playing for the Swiss team?  Rats are abandonning a sinking ship in fast order!

Nobody comments on my blogs anymore!  Is anyone reading them?  Does nobody have an opinion out there?




Just Bitchin’ – What the Heck?

As I read today’s newspaper, I found myself wondering what on earth is going on these days!!!  Here are just a few examples:

Teachers are refusing to carry out their usual volunteer duties to enable after school programs.  From what I read, this is not something the teachers want.  Is the tail (the union) wagging the dog (again)??  This one isn’t funny.  Among other things, it will have an effect on student’s eligibility for scholarships.  How can a union suggest what a teacher can and can’t do on his or her own time?  This one makes my blood boil!

NHL Team owners and NHL players don’t seem to understand what negotiating means.  If relationships discussed differences by not talking to one another, our divorce rates would be sky-high.  Seems to me the team owners are just a bunch of Bettman Bobbleheads and the players must be a tad too comfortable .  Could you afford to take a year off work?  I wish fans in all NHL cities would flock to the arenas and cancel their season tickets – show that fans really care about what is being done to them – not to mention to the many people who’s livelihood is affected.

City Council is buying thousands of dollars worth of trees to “beautify” a local neighbourhood  – or worse, spending money on a piece of art made up of woollen crutches – while our infrastructre is falling apart, swallowing cars, flooding basements, sending sewage into the Ottawa River.  Now….I have nothing against trees and nothing against art – but I do believe there should be some sense of priorities when it comes to spending my money.  I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again.  For the councillors (most of them), it is easy to handle the little issues, approve a thousand here and a few thousand there – what is difficult is to tackle the real issues – the big ones…….so guess what takes up the most time around council table?  You guessed it!

PSAC – a public sector union – actually spends part of the money collected in union dues on political activities.  Are they speaking on behalf of their members?  Do they know what the members’ political issues are?  Of course not!  Another case of the tail wagging the dog.  What surprised me even more was that they collect $76M in union dues and spend $43.7M on salaries and benefits to union staff.  Who are they really looking after?

And I’m only on page 6!!!

Just Bitchin’ – Letter to City Hall

They have asked for input from the public with regard to the upcoming 2013 municipal budget exercise – so I provided mine.  On re-reading my rambling rant – I probably should have waited until cooler heads prevailed – it does go on and on……but, such as it is, I do earn my right to whine!


Let me start by saying I am not the least bit happy with a 2.5% annual budget increase.  That number has been talked about to such an extent, it is almost now considered the de facto starting point and IT SHOULD NOT BE SO!!
I spent 30+ years in the private sector and have a pension with zero cost of living increase – ZERO, not 2.5% – and a much smaller pension than a public sector one at that.  I’m not complaining about my pension – I’m darned lucky to have one.  I am concerned  that everything EXCEPT my pension continues to go up and up and up, resulting in my disposable income going down and down and down.  After working hard, saving hard, buying a home, paying for a home, worrying about finances is not how I saw myself spending my retirement years.  Property taxes are a significant chunk out of my monthly income!!
I feel concern when I see my municipality involved in things I believe to be outside of a “municipal mandate” – such things as long-term care facilities, social housing, buying strange works of art,  while our roads and infrastructure are falling apart.  These things should be left to the provincial folk.
I want my City to treat tax dollars the way most households treat their income.  You must prioritize!  You start with the “must haves”.  If there is budget money left over, you move to the next priority group. We seem to spend a lot of money on “nice to haves”.  WE CAN NO LONGER AFFORD THESE.   I have never felt a sense of accountability at the municipal level.  Mr. O’Brien had great ideas but found himself all alone in a sea of people who prefer not to rock the boat.  WHERE ARE THE REAL LEADERS?  Is re-election really so important?  Or – given the union strongholds, can anyone ever really lead???
I want you to start the budget exercise with a goal of decreasing the overall budget by 10%.  If this is set as a REAL goal, maybe the bright minds that are being paid the big bucks at city Hall will actually think of some good ways to  reduce expenditures!!  Do you think the unions would allow this???????….and therein may lie the real problem.  More and more, the unions seem to be running the show – in public sector at all levels.  There is something very wrong with this picture.  I don’t believe that there is a place for unions in public sector, funded by us, the public and I am appalled at how strong they have become.
I want SOMEBODY to take on the unions.  More, More, More, simply cannot continue.  With the exception of firefighters, policemen and paramedics, staffing at the municipal level is probably 30% higher than it needs to be.  Nobody HAS to think of better and more cost-effective ways of doing things… fact, anyone who does is considered anti-union.  Eegads!!  What has happened to basic work ethic?
I have lost faith. I have lost faith at the municipal level, the provincial level and the federal level. I now fully expect to see a minimum of 2.5% increase in the city budget.   I don’t think we can afford to be as GREEN as we would like to be.  I don’t think we can afford to run programs that run negative balances (e.g. green bin) – lovely ideas – but NOT AFFORDABLE.  I want a return to common sense!!!  Remember that?
Lastly – you will not see me attending one of your town hall type or open forum/discussion meetings.  Special interest groups take them over, standing at the microphone with tomes of paper and droning on and on about stuff that is of no interest to the average person.  Set aside special meetings for special interest groups and I will start to attend the real people meetings once more.
Lovely idea to ask for input – it may give many others besides myself an avenue through which to vent.  My expectations are, unfortunately, abysmally low.

Just Bitchin’ – Back to Unions

Did you ever stop to think how much influence labour unions have on our lives?  It seems to me they have a significant say in so many things:

  • education
  • healthcare
  • transportation (buses, air travel, train travel, freight and transportation in general)
  • manufacturing
  • federal government
  • provincial government
  • municipal government
  • construction
  • trades of all kinds

In fact, it is difficult to think of a single area that affects the way we live (and what it costs to do so) that doesn’t have union involvement of some kind.

EEGADS!  Unions are in charge of the country!!  Is this what happened in Greece?