Howto

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How to solve Fredericton’s bad driver problem

Posted by on 15 Nov 2010 | Tagged as: Fredericton, Howto, Jokes

It’s already been well established that Fredericton has a problem with bad drivers. City Hall is unable to find a solution, so I am providing my own. Nothing spreads faster than a scary chain e-mail, so copy & paste this and send it to everyone you know, especially minivan and SUV owners:

Warning from the Fredericton Police Dept:

It has come to our attention that a gang from Halifax is initiating new members in the Fredericton area. Part of their initiation is to shoot at random vehicles that are doing the following:

  • Stopping in merge lanes
  • Stopping in the middle of roundabouts
  • Blocking traffic while waiting to get into Tim Horton’s
  • Blocking intersections during rush hour
  • Not stopping for pedestrians

The Fredericton Police would like to reassure the public that they are safe as long as they don’t do any of the things listed above. We would also like to remind you that the gang that steals kidneys from people who bike on the sidewalks is still active.

Thank you.

Quick traffic light “hack”

Posted by on 04 May 2009 | Tagged as: Howto

There’s a small bug that seems to be present in many traffic light controllers that allows you to deny an advance left turn to oncoming traffic.  I’ve seen a few other drivers doing this (including a transit bus) so I don’t think this is anything new.

If you see an oncoming car in the left turn lane, don’t pull up to the stop light, pull up 1.5 car lengths behind it.  You may be able to see where the sensor loop is if it hasn’t been paved over.  Once the cross-traffic clears, both sides will just get a regular green light and you won’t have to wait for the turning traffic.

lefty

This only works when:

  • That specific light is triggered by a sensor loop.  If it’s timer based, this won’t work at all.
  • The cars turning left from the cross-street didn’t cut the corner to tightly and run over the sensor.
  • There isn’t anybody in the left turn lane on your side

A word of caution however: the turning car may be expecting the advance and may not notice that they don’t have it. Try not to drive into their side as they cut you off.

Small airports and stops

Posted by on 23 Feb 2009 | Tagged as: Fredericton, Howto

Sussex International Airport - artist's rendition (photo: killerbees, Lic:CC) The Fredericton Airport (YFC) only has 1 permanent tenant, Air Canada. The city is considered to be too small for other airlines to service.  In fact, both the Saint John (YSJ) and Moncton (YQM) airports have the same problem. Some have proposed closing the three airports and building a larger one in Sussex. There is another solution that won’t involve closing and rebuilding anything:

Stops.

There is no reason that a plane can’t stop in Fredericton on the way to Moncton or Saint John. The reason they don’t is that in larger markets there is a consumer preference for non-stop flights. Over here, that doesn’t matter as much because most consumers would prefer to have a stop than no service at all.  In fact, stops could allow for bigger and better aircraft. Why scrunch yourself up in the seat of a Dash-8 when you could fly in a much more comfortable 737? (with an in-flight entertainment system)

It’s time for the local airports to stop competing against each other and to start working with each other.

A Quick Guide to Finanical Freedom

Posted by on 02 Feb 2009 | Tagged as: Howto

By financial freedom, I just mean not being caught under a mound of debt.

The key to it is one line:

If you don’t really need it, don’t buy it!

It’s that simple.

You can’t do it without major lifestyle changes, there’s no way around that.  It’s just like losing weight.  I can’t tell you what to do, you’ll have to figure out everything for yourself, but here are a few tips:

  • Know how much is coming in and going out each month.  You need to gather all receipts and make a monthly spreadsheet, do this for a few months and average things out.  If you are spending more than you are bringing in then you are really screwed and you need a good kick in the head to change your lifestyle.  If you can’t make the minimum payments without  paying them with other sources of credit, then you’re still screwed, but there’s some hope.  A professional credit counselor can probably help you better than some list of tips you read on the Internet.
  • Don’t be penny-wise-but-pound-foolish.  Getting a medium coffee instead of a large might save you 15 cents, but you could save another $1.25 by not having a coffee at all.
  • Take a long hard look at whether you really need certain things.  Do you need to have that big-screen TV, or will your existing one work?  Do you need to buy movies on DVD when you’re only going to watch it once then put it away on the shelf?
  • You only need 3 things: shelter, food and clothing.  Nothing else matters. Remember this.
  • Control your spouse, you need to be in this together. Beware of impulse purchases that the other one makes. I don’t want to sound sexist, but many stores are designed so women will make impulse purchases of unnecessary things. Drug stores are a typical example of this, how many bath products do you really need? Most items can be returned so send them back to return the unnecessary items.  You’ll appear harsh and mean if you do this, but financial stability really does strengthen a relationship.
  • Avoid Craigslist/kijiji/eBay. Yes, you’re getting a great deal on that lamp for the spare bedroom, but do you really need it? Quite often the excitement of the deal overshadows the fact that you don’t really need the item.
  • Don’t get sucked into MLM (multi-level marketing) schemes. Your friend will tell you that your money problems can be solved with a small investment, but the reality is, you’ll lose money. All products that are sold via MLM are either available cheaper at WalMart or they are crap.  Anything like vitamins, magic South American berry juice, or energy products are just quackery.  You might find a small bit of success at the beginning, but you’ll eventually run out of friends to annoy.
  • Watch out for unnecessary spending traps (babies, weddings, home outfitting). Have a baby on the way? Congratulations! Now, your wallet is going to be a lot lighter. Diapers and formula are expensive enough, but beware of “nesting syndrome”. This makes expectant mothers spend like crazy on things “for the baby”. Now, about 95% of things “for the baby” aren’t actually for the baby, they’re for the mother.  The baby needs a crib, but doesn’t need a $100 bed set with matching sheets and bumper pads (bumper pads actually kill babies too). Will your baby really care how they’re dressed? Designer clothes for babies are a waste of money, they won’t know the difference.
  • Do you really need 2 cars? If you’re just commuting back and forth to work every day at the same time, why not save a lot of coin and take the bus? Just the insurance alone will make up for the bus tickets. Doing this will save you thousands each year. Yeah, you’ll have to stand out in the cold and rain, but just the thought of your heavier wallet will warm you back up.
  • Say no to charities. Not all of them, of course, but you can’t give money to every one who asks. Instead of donating money, donate time instead.
  • Set goals and reward yourself with something small for meeting them. Just make sure your rewards don’t end up adding to your debt.
  • Find alternatives to expensive things. I really don’t want to advocate piracy, but why pay $5.99 for a movie rental when you can download it?
  • Selling possessions is not a true solution as you’ll eventually run out of stuff to sell and then you’ll just end up buying something else to replace it. Once you’ve cured yourself of the “spendies”, it’s a great way to clear up some space, but try not to fill it again.

So, in conclusion: don’t expect change without great sacrifice.  I was able to use the above techniques and clear out a fair amount of debt in 2 years.

The next step is to have a savings account and use that to spend on things you want. And of course, don’t buy the item unless you have the cash in your savings or else you’ll just end up back to where you started again.

How to Fix Fredericton Transit

Posted by on 05 Jan 2009 | Tagged as: fail, Fredericton, Howto, transit

ft-textmismatched

Someone decides to spend $50,000 on a report to see what’s wrong with the transit system.  Many people are questioning the value of that report.

Along with stating the obvious, they did seem to miss a few things.

  • The biggest thing that they missed was any mention of Saint John’s very successful transit system. It has a much higher ridership and it even serves the outlying communities. Moncton, on the other hand has a terrible transit service with even worse ridership than Fredericton’s, yet it got included. I guess they don’t want to be embarrassed by our neighbours to the south.
  • Ridership will be low when you don’t advertise. The majority of the $3,000 marketing budget goes to printing the schedules. Saint John has always spent a lot on advertising, they even have a jingle (which you can listen to on their web site).
  • They also seem to forget that the transit service does have competition: Taxis and carpools. When making decisions regarding the transit service they need to take these into account. For instance, taxis are air conditioned, buses are not (unless they start buying buses with air conditioning). Taxis don’t make you cross the river twice while you go to 2 points on the North side.

There seems to be a general attitude problem. They believe that public transit is only for the downtrodden. In fact, it seems that nobody at the transit system cares about their job (some of the drivers are an exception to this). Let’s look at some examples:

  • The destination signs are inconsistent. Some show what direction the bus is going in, others don’t. 11S still says “K-Mart Plaza” even though the K-Mart has been long gone for over 10 years.
  • This destination sign below is broken. I actually took this picture over a year ago (I’ve been meaning to blog about it since then, but never got around to it). The sign still hasn’t been fixed. Really, how much does a new sign cost?
  • ft-signfail
  • One of the buses has the destination sign on the side that is stuck on “Special”.
  • Many buses don’t have signs on the side at all.
  • Here we see an example of seat repair, stuffing garbage bags to fill the space where the foam should be. They didn’t even bother to use duct tape:
  • ft-seatrepair
  • Here, we see 2 different fonts. It’s obvious that they repaired the door at some point. Nobody bothered to tell the painter which font to use.
  • ft-reardoor

Their biggest failure is their inability to listen to what people actually want. Recently, transit users have been asking for the 3 following things:

  • Service to Two Nations Crossing
  • Sunday service (and better hours during the week)
  • A bus that stays on the North side of the river.

Those would be the most obvious things to implement, yet only 1 of the 3 was ever under consideration. The report claims that the survey of existing transit users showed low interest in the Sunday service or the North side run. It looks like they didn’t factor in the fact that the people who want these things aren’t able to take the bus, therefore they did not participate in the survey. Please, can we order some common sense with the next report?

So here’s 2 easy ways on how to fix the transit system:

  1. Listen to what people are asking for
  2. Copy Saint John Transit as much as possible.

Update: Here’s an update to some of what was posted here.

How to fix Fredericton’s broken parking system

Posted by on 22 Nov 2008 | Tagged as: fail, Fredericton, Howto, Reviews

One of the reasons people love going to parking garages (instead of using meters) is that they can leave their car in there and not have to worry about running back to it when the time runs out.  That is, until city “officials” go to Montreal and see this high-tech parking garage and figure that since everything is better in Montreal, they must copy it.

Of course, the new system is great for the city as it increases revenue as people will pay for more than they use.  It also saves the cost of having to pay for the person who sits in the booth.  Well, the system isn’t great for one group of people, the poor saps who have to park there.  It often makes me wonder if the city actually wants people to go downtown.

The downtown business don’t like it either as their customers will always be in a rush to get out of there so they won’t be browsing in their stores.  Hopefully it won’t drive too many people away from the downtown area.

For the people who do park there, they leave with the feeling that they got ripped off, especially if they had some time left on the ticket. You get all the bad parts of on-street parking without the convenience of being able to park handy to where you want to be. Of course, there are many other problems with the system:

  • The screen is really small, this is bad for older people, and bad for the lineup of people who are stuck behind the old person who can’t read the screen.
  • You can’t tell it that you want to be there until a certain time, you have to calculate the number of hours needed in your head.  This is also bad for the people who are waiting behind you as you calculate.
  • The machines don’t take $20 bills.
  • You could easily get caught in a long lineup (like at Motor Vehicles or the Passport Office) and have your time run out with no way of getting out of the line (that gets you a ticket).
  • You could be expecting a really long lineup, but instead you’re only there for 15 minutes so you paid for 4 hours worth of parking you won’t use.
  • You can get a ticket between the time you leave your car and pay for the parking.

Although many people are demanding they rip these machines out and go back to the old way, that isn’t entirely necessary as the system could work with a few minor changes:

  • Make the fonts bigger on the screens.
  • Use voice prompts.
  • Allow the machine to accept $20 bills.
  • Allow the machines to give refunds of unused time (this will solve most of the problems).
  • Don’t put the new system in the new garage that’s being built behind the convention centre, the city should have at least one user-friendly garage.

Hopefully “they” will review the situation and turn an abject failure into a minor success.  Maybe Fredericton should start acting smart instead of just talking about smart.  Many of the software  changes should be paid for by the people that made the system (Digital Payment Technologies) as they are getting $17,000/year for their support contract.

How not to renovate an “historic” building

Posted by on 04 Aug 2008 | Tagged as: fail, Fredericton, Howto, Reviews

So you have this building that’s fairly cruddy and you want to fix it up a bit, but don’t have a lot of money?  It can be easier than you think.  First, you’ll have to replace some bricks, but since money’s an object, just replace the first floor’s bricks:

Next, you’ll want to make sure that everybody knows your building is historic.  So make sure you put a date on the sign:

Don’t forget to replace the bricks down the side, too.  And if you happen to need to replace some bricks on the upper floors, make sure they don’t match anything already there.  Also, you’ll have to let everyone know that your office space is PRIME, so make sure you get a nice big sign near the front:

Now, you’ll want to have some nice big windows overlooking the beginning of the alley.  Just go ahead and hack some of them in making sure they don’t match any of the other windows on the building:

Now that you’ve got this great building, you’ll have to protect the parking lot to keep the poachers out of it.  So you’ll need a nice big sign on the back:

Of course, you’ll need to make sure that people get the message.  Yosemite Sam is an excellent choice to keep those poachers out:

If they still don’t get the message, make sure you add a Clint Eastwood quote.  Just not a western movie quote, but a Dirty Harry quote:

So how does one get away with this?  Having the same last name as a former mayor helps.

They’re building a convention centre next door so hopefully there will be an “accident” and this “prime” building will get knocked over by a crane.

Update Aug 29th 2008: It’s been torn down!

Howto: Fix WordPress 2.6 broken permalinks

Posted by on 28 Jul 2008 | Tagged as: Howto, tech, Wordpress

So you run your own server and have your blog on it.  The wp-admin dashboard told you to upgrade to wordpress 2.6 and since you did that, none of your permalinks work because they looked like:

http://lamespotting.com/index.php/2008/06/18/back-again/

Of course, that makes you mad as that breaks all your google indexes and facebook imported notes.

Fear not! The fix is simple.  Just go to the wp-admin page, choose “settings” (top right of the screen), then “Permalinks” and choose “Day and Name”, hit save and it should look like:

Dont worry if you cant see this, it isnt all that important

So if it looks like the above, test it out and you should be good.

If it says “You should update your .htaccess now” then you need to do this:

(Assuming you have shell access on your server)

  • cd into the directory that houses your wordpress
  • touch .htaccess
  • chmod 666 .htaccess
  • Go back to the admin page and save the changes (it should now say “Permalink structure updated”)
  • chmod 644 .htaccess

Now, go and test one of the permalinks from the main page of your blog.  It should work now, if you get a 404, you need to edit your apache config.  You’ll need to edit your httpd.conf (or /etc/apache2/sites-available/ file if you’re on Debian or Ubuntu) and add the lines in bold below

<VirtualHost *:80>
ServerAdmin webmaster@dummy-host.example.com
DocumentRoot /var/www/html/lamespotting.com
ServerName lamespotting.com
ServerAlias www.lamespotting.com
Options FollowSymLinks
<Directory />
AllowOverride FileInfo
</Directory>

ErrorLog logs/lamespotting-error_log
CustomLog logs/lamespotting-access_log combined
</VirtualHost>

You should now be in business.  If you can’t access your httpd.conf, then the problem may be with the .htaccess file.  Check with your web host provider (if it isn’t your server) about being able to edit the .htaccess file, which should look like:

# BEGIN WordPress
<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>
RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d
RewriteRule . /index.php [L]
</IfModule>
# END WordPress