You Can’t Spell Christkindl Without Christ

It’s not every day I agree with church people on something, but it’s hard to argue with them here.

A controversy has surfaced from Kitchener’s Christkindl Market after a group of performers say they were silenced for talking about Jesus.
Pastor Jacob Reaume had to shout his message at the opening night of the market after his microphone was turned off by city staff.
“I thought it was probably an accident, some type of technical difficulty but then I looked around and realized, no this is intentional,” Reaume says.

Hey continued to say the microphone was cut off three times. Once during a German bible reading and twice when he was reading the story of Christ.
The city of Kitchener says the church group did not indicate it was going to be reading from scripture or be providing a sermon during their performance.

And they should have to indicate this because why, exactly? Especially if what they say is true and they gave the same performance last year. Not to mention that they’re representing a church, so what else could anyone have possibly been expecting them to do?

I get that we maybe don’t want to bombard people with nothing but super preachy religion when they just came to skate, drink hot chocolate and generally engage in the less church-laden version of Christmas, but no matter your belief system, I don’t think anyone has the right to expect that they can celebrate Christmas in public without smacking into just a little bit of Jesus along the way. He’s a bit of an important figure, you know.

CKWR Gets To Live And A Better Plan For Christmas Music

We had to pick a new morning radio station today. Our usual stop, CKWR, has made the flip to all Christmas for its daily hosted music blocks and automation as of December 1st. The specialty shows are free to do their own thing, but that doesn’t do us much good when it’s six A.M. and we need something listenable to get us going. We went with the Kitchener version of CBC Radio One or “the useful CBC” as we like to call it, in case you’re interested. We call it that because it’s filled with news and information with a bit of music thrown in, as opposed to Radio Two which is also enjoyable but basically the opposite.

As for CKWR, we’ll see them in January, I guess. And yes, we will get to see them in January. Their broadcasting license has been spared, for now. They’re good until August 31st, 2020. I hope they can keep their shit together, because it would be a shame to lose one of the few independent media voices we have left, even if they’re overdoing it with the damn Christmas music.

At least unlike some folks they had the decency to wait until December began. It’s still way too much, but starting up in November or even late October like some stations do is far worse. I know it’s done because it’s supposedly good for ratings, but I’ll never be convinced that the bump isn’t attributable to people being held hostage by offices and retail stores. Even if you like Christmas music, do you like it that much? I like beer and cotton candy, but that doesn’t mean I want nothing but those two things for breakfast, lunch, dinner and at all points in between for 60 to 90 consecutive days.

I’m not one of those people who hates any and all Christmas music. In fact, a couple days a year I’m good with it and will even seek it out. But once we get beyond that point I range anywhere from a little testy to ready and willing to strangle someone with a wreath. For me, Christmas on the radio is done best when you start sprinkling it into the rotation at the start of December but hold off on going all Christmas until Christmas Eve. You can keep it up on Christmas Day obviously and I’ll even give you Boxing Day because it might as well be Christmas. But after that, it’s time to start slowing it down again and phasing it out entirely by January 2nd. That’s much more reasonable than literally driving people mental with it in the name of a few extra dollars.

Radio Waterloo, A Documentary About The Creation Of Community Radio Here And In Canada

I haven’t had a chance to watch this yet, but since I’ve seen it recommended in a couple of places that are generally pretty good about recommending these sorts of things and because let’s be honest, odds are it was going up anyway, enjoy this documentary on the history and struggles of community radio in Waterloo Region.

Radio Waterloo is the story about the advent of community radio in Canada as told by the people who struggled to create it. The story follows Radio Waterloo (later known as CKMS) and CKWR through the development stages in the 1960’s, until now, 2017. You will hear from DJs from the early days of Radio Waterloo provide details about how Radio Waterloo was established, others provide insights from the University of Waterloo referendum which left CKMS without funding, and then current DJs share how these events have led to the current format and state of the station. Join us as we re-live the painful dedication of local DJs who fought to keep the community voice heard on FM radio.

This documentary also includes performances by local indie and established bands who have been featured on CKMS, and proudly boasts an original soundtrack created by Canadian musicians specifically for this project. Some of the collaborators include:

Steve Bays (Hot Hot Heat, The Mounties), Brad Merritt (54-40), Ian Somers (Limblifter), Brad Weber (Caribou, Pick a Piper), and many more.

I’ve only ever listened to CKMS a handful of times because it’s damn near impossible to pull in anywhere I’ve ever lived so has unfortunately mostly been off my radar, but CKWR, with its significantly better reach, is a station I’ve listened to somewhat regularly since I was a kid thanks to the wide variety of programming it offers. Hopefully they’ll both be around for many years to come, even though the struggles continue. Real, honest to god local radio has always been important, but in this era of everything being consolidated, homogenized and voice-tracked to hell, we can’t afford to have our already limited choices limited even more.

Best! Inaccessible! Voting! Experience! Ever!

I want to take a second to thank the folks working the polls at the Activa Sportsplex in Kitchener last night for one of the better voting experiences I’ve ever had.

None of you were outwardly freaked out by the sight of unaccompanied blind people roaming loose in the wild.

None of you tried to pawn us off on somebody else who very clearly wanted even less to do with us than you did.

None of you tried to force us to sign our independent voting rights over to a random stranger.

None of you tried to aggressively explain to the man and woman who have been blind for nearly forty years each that this metal thing with a couple of numbers written on it is a Braille ballot so we’re good now.

No. all that every one of you did was help.

From the person who greeted us at the front of the line to the ladies who helped us make sure all of our choices were marked correctly to the nice woman at the tabulation station who made sure I knew my ballot went into the box and even went so far as to tell me which voter I was sequentially that day, you were all awesome.

Rarely have I had an easier, more pleasant or more efficient day at the polls, and that includes polls that had the accessible voting technology operating.

Don’t get me wrong, I still absolutely, 100 percent believe that every polling station on every day of every election at every level of government should have this technology available regardless of logistics or cost because it’s the right thing to do, but fair is fair, and everyone we dealt with last night did a fantastic job and should be commended for that. It’s just too bad that you all are the exception and not the rule.

I don’t have a whole lot to say about the results of the election (partly because I just don’t and partly because we still don’t know who won everything), but good on the cities that voted to give ranked ballots a try. It’s going to be an interesting experiment. Maybe it won’t ultimately work out better than first-past-the-post, but it’s certainly worth a try. My only concern is that it’s going to put more demand on a public that already can’t be arsed to vote more than half the time to be even more informed and I fear that even more may not bother. I envision turnout initially going up some because of the novelty of a new system, but hopefully the end result isn’t people finding it too cumbersome.

Ranked ballots, by the way, are a very good argument for assistive voting machines assuming anyone still needs a good argument for those. Nobody should have to sit there with me while I mull over whether Frank is the second or third best choice for a job or whether I should say screw it and go with Bob in first when initially I was voting for Jane all the way and Bob wasn’t even making the cut. Part of the right to vote is the right to change one’s mind up until the last possible second, and that, just like the rest of the process, needs to be as simple as possible for everyone.

Who Are You And What Am I Voting For

Although I obviously care very much about what happens in Kitchener seeing as I live here and whatnot, I’ll freely admit to not always being as up on local politics as I’d like to be. That said, I still intend on voting in the municipal election this month, because not voting in elections is one of those things I don’t really care for.

Also on the list of things I don’t really care for is voting in elections while not knowing shit from shinola, so in that spirit, I shall offer up a few handy pages to hopefully help all of us along when it comes to making informed decisions.

First up, the Kitchener Post asked everyone running for Mayor and city Council a single question: Why should the public vote for you? Though it’s only one question, it’s helpful. It’s helped me make one decision and has me questioning the other. The page is broken down by ward, so you won’t have to waste a bunch of time sifting through a pile of responses that don’t apply to you if that’s not your thing. And don’t worry. If you’re sitting there right now all like “What’s a ward?”, there’s a map for that.

Moving on from the city to the region, the CBC sent a five question survey to the four candidates running for Regional Chair. Their responses are here. They too are helpful.

I haven’t yet been able to find things similar to these for Regional Council or school board representatives, but if I do I’ll add them here. In the meantime, you can also check out for all sorts of election info for Kitchener and beyond.

See you on October 22nd, if not sooner.

Wroute Will Drive You Between Kitchener And Guelph In A Tesla For Cheap And On A Pretty Sweet Schedule

This is certainly interesting.

A new service called Wroute, which you’re supposed to say like “Root” because it’s the law that every startup must have a nonsensical name, is going to start offering frequent, daily Tesla rides between Fairview Mall and Guelph Central Station for $20.

Each shared Wroute trip can carry up to six passengers and two bicycles. The all-electric Teslas run emissions-free.
Wroute (pronounced “root”) is launching with an ambitious schedule that will see its vehicles departing the two stations every 15 minutes, seven days a week. The service will begin at 5 a.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. on weekends, winding down at 11 p.m. from Sunday to Thursday, and at 2 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.

“The idea there is that instead of building your day around how you’re getting to Guelph, you just fit us into your day,” Hammond said.
Each one-way trip will cost $20 including tax; a reduced price for daily users may be introduced as the service grows. Reservations and payment will be made online in advance, and no tipping is required as the drivers are salaried.

Other routes could be introduced in the future. Hammond said he doesn’t intend for Wroute to compete with existing transit options. Rather, he believes Wroute will enhance those options, especially for commuters and students. “It sort of sits in the middle in terms of cost and convenience.”
Taxis or Ubers cost more but take you door-to-door, Hammond said. Buses or trains are cheaper but don’t run as often. “By filling in the gaps with this high-frequency service, we want to build up the marketplace.”

I like the idea. I just hope it ends up being sustainable. They’re making a ton of trips which is exactly what this sort of service should be doing to make itself attractive, but is there that much actual demand there? I hate asking that because there are times in our lives when both Carin and I would have used the bejesus out of something like this and they’re in a tight spot between overdoing it and not doing enough, but my gut says the schedule might be a touch ambitious, at least starting out. Obviously the fuel costs will be lower, but even with that working in your favour there’s only so long you can pay people full-time wages to drive themselves back and forth.

I wish them well though and look forward to trying it out sometime. I’ll bet Carin does too, especially if they’re not going to be dinks about her guide dog like the Uber folks so often are.

I wasn’t able to find it on Friday for some reason, but I’ve since found the company website. There looks to be quite a bit of information there, but you’ll want to pay particular attention to this things to know page before you take your first trip. It even has a service dogs are good and please don’t pet them section, which sounds promising and which I have no doubt Carin will totally be holding them to.

We love our pets, and we’re sure we’d love yours, too. However, our passengers may have allergies that mean they can’t enjoy the journey if others bring animals along for the ride. So, we only board service animals. Remember that they are working to keep their humans safe, so resist the urge to spoil them with all the affection they totally deserve.

I Am Not ImPresto

A couple of weeks ago, I saw a tweet that said that as of August 16, people could no longer buy Go Transit tickets at the ticket booth at the bus terminal. Now, you had to pay the driver in cash or Presto card. I thought that maybe the most sensible thing to do would be to get a Presto card. That way, I could check its balance online and top it up and when I would take a Go bus to see my brother, I could just go “boop” and pay for the ticket and that would be that. There’s nothing worse than fumbling with change on a bus while other people are trying to get on, at least for me. Also, I’ve occasionally taken the Go train to Toronto, and that might make those trips easier. Based on what I have read and learned since, I thought wrong, at least for folks living in a city where Presto isn’t the system used by local transit.

Here is my main problem with Presto. According to the Presto FAQ, when you add money to your Presto card via the site, either manually or by using their supposedly convenient auto-load service, it’s not just instantly available. In order for that money to become available, you have to tap your card on some Presto machine. Worse yet, if you don’t tap your card on a Presto machine within 30 days, the funds are returned to your account, at which point you have to phone Go Transit and ask them to put them back in the limbo box until you can get to a Presto machine. Judging from the massive sigh given by the fellow at Go that I spoke to, this happens a lot.

I wondered where there were Presto machines in Kitchener, since our city buses aren’t on Presto and I don’t use Go daily. According to the fellow on the phone at Go, there is only one place in all of Kitchener where you can just tap a balance-checker and activate your money, and that’s at the Kitchener train station. Sure, there are Presto machines on go buses, but at that point, you would actually have to be wanting to take the go bus. It’s as if they have assumed that \Presto machines are everywhere and so convenient that tapping your money into service is something you would be able to do without a second thought. No, Presto, you’re not there yet.

That’s my biggest problem, but I have a little side problem. Go Transit doesn’t let one person pay for two tickets. So I couldn’t do one boop and buy my ticket, and then boop it again for Steve’s to save two people fumbling for cards. Other bus services are fine with this, but not Go.

Also, since I haven’t used it yet, I have no idea how easy it will be to “tap on” and “tap off” and have confirmation that it happened since I’m blind and can’t just read the screen. Yes, I know I have Aira, but what if I have connection troubles or they have trouble reading the screen quickly enough, so it times out? I would assume this tapping business has to happen quickly, especially the tapping off bit. I know when my friend was doing the tapping, there were lots of boops and songs and more boops, so it didn’t feel like one quick tap and you’re done. Most importantly, if you don’t tap when you’re getting off, you end up paying for a trip down the whole line, so I need to know it worked. I have hope that it’s accessible, since there is a braille P on the upper right corner of the card, so they at least kinda sorta thought of us, but companies love putting braille on bank machines and then forgetting that the screen is the most important part, so a single p on a card is no guarantee.

So I got a Presto card in an attempt to make things more convenient for me, and it may be the most inconvenient piece of plastic I own. Way to go, me.

Oh, and here’s an aside to the GRT ticket agent who sold it to me. When I asked what the number was on the card so I would know how to fill it online, “There isn’t one” isn’t the correct answer. In fact, there are 20 of them, a 17-digit card number and a 3-digit security code. Thank god for Aira getting me out of that jam.

Hopefully, if we ever get our Ion Light Rail system going, they’ll use Presto and that will solve the whole problem, but it seems nobody knows what the payment system will be, and nobody knows when we’ll have a light rail system. So until then, I’m going to be visiting the Kitchener Via/Go station once a month for no reason. That is not my vision of “Presto!”

Public Transit By Uber Seems To Be Going Alright

Last year, the town of Innisfil decided to partner with Uber instead of spending piles of money to build its own transit system from scratch. I said then that it was an interesting idea and that I was pulling for it to work out.

So how is it working out? Pretty well, it appears.

Innisfil, Ont., estimates an experimental transit partnership with Uber is saving the town more than $8 million a year compared to using an equivalent door-to-door bus service.

“This worked for us, and we’re thrilled,” Deputy Mayor Lynn Dollin told guest host David Common on CBC’s Metro Morning on Thursday.

“If we were to try to offer the service that we offer now — so 24 hours a day, to any resident in the municipality — it would cost $8 million, so there’s absolutely no way we could have done that.”
The town and company say 3,400 users have completed more than 26,700 trips in the first eight months of the program.

I don’t know that the more rural parts of Waterloo Region will ever try out something like this at least in part because the taxi lobby would flip its lid, but it’s certainly something worth thinking about. It would be much more efficient and convenient than trying to connect them through bus routes that only run a few times a day.

I, For One, Cannot Wait To Get The Day Started! Oh, And Where In The World Is Dave Hannah?

I don’t know what’s going on down at CKWR this morning, but it sounds like somebody might not have had the best weekend. In the span of an hour or so, I heard both this

and this.

Don’t you just want to jump right out of bed and take on the world?

And while we’re talking about radio, what in the heck happened with Dave Hannah on CJOY? When he disappeared suddenly a few weeks ago, I didn’t think much of it. I thought maybe he was sick like everybody else around here. Carin and I haven’t been able to speak for more than a few minutes without coughing for like two weeks now, and when you’re doing radio that’s just not going to work. But then last week they aired this announcement, which they’ve also posted online.

1460 CJOY wants to thank Dave Hannah for his service to the community and for his many valuable years of being "that…

Posted by 1460 CJOY on Tuesday, March 6, 2018

1460 CJOY wants to thank Dave Hannah for his service to the community and for his many valuable years of being “that voice” you’ve been used to hearing on radio first thing in the morning. Unfortunately Dave is no longer the CJOY morning man or a member of the Corus/Guelph team. We want to wish Dave the very best in the future.

And then…nothing. No local news coverage, nothing so far in any of the various radio industry news places, not even any rumours. I know broadcasting can be a pretty garbage business about letting people say goodbye, but there’s been a trend, especially with long-serving employees, of giving them a sendoff. CJOY and the papers gave Neill Clemens one just last year. But now it’s this year, and Dave has simply disappeared. Hopefully everyone is ok and nobody’s in any trouble.

I Was On The News Talking About Fake Service Dogs

I didn’t realize it when I woke up yesterday, but I was going to be on the news by the end of the day. Don’t worry, it wasn’t for something scary or stupid. I guess an old friend from school ended up talking to a reporter about the problem of disservice dogs and how businesses don’t know what to do. When the reporter asked him for a local person with a service dog, he thought of me, and so it went.

It all came together pretty quickly, from “Would you be ok talking to a reporter about this?” to “Where do you work? I’ll meet you in an hour!” I was a very nervous human being, super afraid I was going to be misquoted, or say something that could be taken out of context.

Here is the resulting report. I babbled and rambled at her a while, so I’m glad she got at least a good line. I apparently looked fit to be on camera too, which is reassuring, since the wind blew my hair all crazy when I first arrived outside.

I feel like they threw this together quickly, and for the time they gave it, they did the best they could. I almost wish they could turn this into a series because this report barely scratched the surface of the issue, but they won’t. I also know this came together quickly because the reporter doesn’t know a heck of a lot about service dogs. The first thing she did was try to greet Tansy. She respected me when I said no, but the fact is she greeted her, which is a short leap from trying to pet her.

I wish I had been more articulate in my rambles because I have so much to say but it won’t come out in a controlled manner. There are so many parts to this. Fake service dogs have the potential to cause damage to legitimate service dogs either indirectly or directly. They can cause harm by making business owners worried about having dogs in their establishments because one of the fakes behaved badly or peed or crapped on the floor. Or, a fake service dog that isn’t well-socialized might attack a real service dog simply because they are sharing the same space. These fakes are being stressed out by being put in this situation, and their owners have no idea what harm they’re causing.

Also, I’m afraid that the pendulum of acceptance of service animals might swing in the opposite direction. After the initial fight to prove that service dogs can be in public spaces, people became very accepting of them, and if they made a mistake or did something mildly inappropriate like sniff someone in a moment of weakness, most people didn’t say much because most often, the dog’s behaviour was excellent. Now, I’m afraid that if my dog commits an infraction at all, we may reach a point where her legitimacy may be questioned. I’m not saying that I let her get away with murder because I can and those days will be gone, but I’m saying that because of the fakes, we will be under a microscope even more than we already are.

I wish they had offered some actual pointers to business owners instead of the message of “there are fakes, what are ya gonna do about it?” I guess they mentioned that actual service dogs don’t bark and run around unleashed and such, but there wasn’t anything beyond that. After I tweeted out the news report, a friend asked what would be a polite question to ask. The ones I thought of resembled the ones recommended by the ADA in the states. Is the dog a service dog? What tasks has the dog been trained to do to help with a disability? To be brief, you could ask the person what the dog does for them. Then the person can talk about the dog’s job instead of having to talk about their disability and medical condition. Hopefully this would also work for people with invisible disabilities so they don’t get the embarrassing comments like “You don’t look disabled, why do you have a service dog?” I think anyone who has a canine walking along beside them should have a response to the question of what their dog does that preserves their dignity at the ready because there are going to be questions. It is inevitable. It is something service dog handlers have to accept as soon as we decide to become service dog handlers. Also, the answer can’t be “He makes me feel good.” I know there are actual tasks that some dogs do to help with anxiety, but the handler should say what the dog actively does to help ease stress, such as watching out for people coming around corners or helping the person find an exit from a crowded room if they get overwhelmed. If business owners learn how to differentiate the good answers from the crap, and only ask when they’re not so sure, I think this might help. Finally, business owners need to know that, whether the service dog is legitimate or not, if it’s behaving badly, dog and handler can be given the boot. I always joke that even if I’m allowed to shop anywhere I choose, as soon as I start punching people and defiling or stealing property, I would be escorted out post haste.

It would also prevent a situation that happened to me at Walmart last summer. I walked into the store, and was immediately told that there was a pit bull in the store and that I should go wait at the courtesy desk or they should get my items for me. I asked if it seemed like the pit bull-like dog was a service dog, who knows if it was actually a pit bull, and they said no. I asked if they allow pets in the store, because if they don’t, pit bull and owner should be asked to leave. Their response was they don’t feel like they can ask anyone to leave. I was ushered to courtesy and asked what I came for, but I had a rather complicated list. I eventually persuaded someone to go with me and keep an eye out for the dog. I knew I was taking a big risk, but I felt I shouldn’t be treated like a second-class citizen while this person, who they couldn’t even locate, was wandering through the store. Who knows how long I would have been standing in the courtesy area? We got through the store just fine, but the point is that staff at Walmart had no idea how to handle the situation, except to put hands over ears and go “La la la la, everything will be fine if we just put our heads in the sand and hope for the best.”

I didn’t like the final line about how people are going to develop a licensing standard and people have to prove they need a service dog. Hmmm. That sounds a lot like this proposed service dog standards garbage that won’t do anybody any favours. It also sounds a lot like a pendulum swinging the other way. Once again, legitimate service dog handlers will be the ones that will have to jump through more hoops than they already do.

I’m glad a story was done on this topic, and I’m glad I was part of it. I have had people I barely know say they saw it on the news, so it grabbed some attention for sure. I wish she had pronounced my name correctly though, especially since she had me say and spell it. Oh well, lots of people get my name wrong. I could think of way worse things to screw up. I hope it starts some kind of dialog with the right people so no group of handlers gets screwed by the outcome, and business owners don’t feel so powerless.