Without Metrobus, how will we know when it’s officially a snow day?

    Posted on: Thursday, January 13th, 2011

Like many of you, I’m at work today wondering if and when I’ll get to go home early. It’s an all consuming thought, so much so that there’s almost no point in my being here as a result.

So naturally, to pass the time I’m texting back and forth with my girlfriend, who just dropped this chilling philosophical chestnut on me:

Now that the buses don’t run, what’s the snow day barometer?

Snow days are almost always the result of a trickle down effect emanating from Metrobus taking their fleet off the road. With bus service halted, MUN justifiably cancels classes for the day, which in turn inspires everyone else to call it quitsies and go home. But not before making a pit stop at the valiantly still-open liquor store, who are typically always the last to close. Bless them.

It’s a beautiful, intricate system, the St. John’s snow day. But it depends on Metrobus to kick start the chain reaction.

So with Metrobus on strike, are we all doomed to work through the entire day?

If not, who will be so bold as to make the first move?

Come party on George Orwell Street

    Posted on: Monday, January 10th, 2011

Remember the good ole’ days, when going downtown for a night of shenanigans with your pals didn’t include having your ear bitten off by some punk on George?

Ah, the memories.

Now, thanks to incidents like that, and countless other breaks in rational human thinking, we’re about to become another city actively monitored by big brother. The hope, I imagine, is that with added monitoring and the fear of an “eye in the sky”, we’ll all be scared back to sanity. Presumably, too scared to bite ears and do blow.

Wait till they figure out that all they need do to avoid any sort of facial recognition is wear shadow casting hooded sweaters and game over. Now what? Thanks to the hoodies, you’ve got black dots where faces should be.

Right

You know it, I know it, even the RNC know it: the unfortunate part is that the cameras will not make a lick of difference. What they will do is capture the crime that does happen, when it’s in view of the cameras — which isn’t going to be much as I’ve heard they’re planning for just 8 cameras. What it won’t do is assist in any great way to capturing criminals or preventing them in the first place, which should be the whole point, right? The CCTV only pushes the crime away from the zone they’re covering and deeper into the seedy underbelly which is George Orwell Street.

So why is it that these cameras don’t prevent crime?

For one, people don’t care. I don’t know about you, but when I’m drunk I tend to not give a damn. Mind you, I don’t go around pulling a Mike Tyson on every bartender at arms reach, but I like to have a good time and having a camera around doesn’t deter that. It only takes one glance at any random Facebook profile to realize I’m not alone in this “live life in front of the camera” lifestyle, publishing every picture online for the world to see.

For two, the camera’s simply don’t work. As a photographer I can’t emphasize enough just how hard it is to capture usable material in very dim, poorly lit environments. The CCTV market isn’t exactly bursting with space-age technology either. Even the best equipment available is limited in its focal range, dynamic range and the amount of discernible information it can capture, which wouldn’t be much in locations such as George Street after dark.

Speaking from the point of view of someone who has installed CCTV systems on a professional level, you’re going to have a hard time figuring out just who is who. For example, you’re going to see a fight or two on those cameras, but exactly who is was in the fight, based off the footage alone, will be next to impossible to determine. Just look at all the poor footage we see coming from every corner store and hotel after they get jacked. Not good, is it? Despite the availability of newer megapixel IP cameras, even the best leave something to be desired and that’s in retail conditions with more clean light over head thann the shadowy street in question will ever have.

No wait until the would-be thugs figure out that all they need do to avoid any sort of facial recognition is wear shadow casting hooded sweaters and game over. Now what? Thanks to the hoodies, you’ve got black dots where faces should be, because your cameras can’t see in the dark, no matter how many infrared blasters you stick up there.

So how do they help, if at all? Well they’ll assist — odds show that at some point in time they’ll have to — in directing officers on the street where to go when there is a disturbance and… that’s about it. They’re not going to magically stop someone from fighting, selling drugs or partaking in other illegal acts. So instead of needlessly spending money and sacrificing our privacy, how about putting more police on the street? That’s more of a deterrent then a few cameras will ever be.

Video of Pharmachoice armed robbery: clerks doused in gasoline, threatened with lighter

    Posted on: Sunday, January 9th, 2011

At around 9:30pm Saturday night, a male and female entered the Pharmachoice on Topsail Road, doused the two female clerks with gasoline and threatened to ignite them with a lighter. The female suspect was also armed with a crowbar while the male had a knife. They got away with approximately 1500 prescription narcotics, including Ritalin, Demerol and Percocets.

The following surveillance videos have been released by the RNC.

From the RNC:

The male suspect is described as being in his 30’s, approximately 5’6″ tall, with short dark hair, a receding hairline and a reddish goatee or beard. At the time of the armed robbery, he was wearing white sneakers, dark sunglasses and dark clothing. The female suspect had her face concealed during the commission of the offence and was also wearing dark clothing and dark sunglasses.

The RNC is continuing to investigate this serious offence and are seeking the assistance of the general public. Investigators are looking for information on a vehicle of interest that was in the immediate area and is described as a full size grey pick-up truck. Anyone that can identify the persons responsible or anyone that may have any information in relation to this crime is asked to contact the RNC at 729-8000 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477). You can now provide information on the NL Crime Stoppers Website at www.nlcrimestoppers.com.

Thanks. Again.

    Posted on: Friday, January 7th, 2011

We’re honoured once again to extend our thanks and appreciation for being named Best Local Blog in The Scope’s Best of St. John’s Readers’ Survey.

St. John’s, and the province of Newfoundland and Labrador on the whole, has a bourgeoning blogging scene that we’re proud to be a part of. Product of Newfoundland, Dot Dot Dot, The Owlery Chronicles, A Wicked Scoff, CornerBrooker, GregPike.ca, are but a few of the countless local blogs offering up a fascinating and free blend of utter awesomeness for your interneting pleasure.

If you haven’t already, we highly encourage you to explore your local blogosphere and see just how much it has to offer. And by all means stick with us as we continue to keep the blog fires burning. A blog is nothing without its readers, and we feel privileged to count you as one of ours.

Of course, a blog also depends heavily on its contributors, and we’ve got a great mix of people here lending their voice to the chorus that is Signal.

If you’ve got an interest in blogging about this city you love/hate/strive to tolerate, by all means drop us a line and let us know. It could be the start of a blogiful relationship.

Public transit is not a private matter

    Posted on: Friday, January 7th, 2011

The dispute between Metrobus drivers and management has been going on for a long time. Based on public reports that the union representing the drivers is refusing to accept a cost increase in health benefits for new employees, it’s difficult to see how this situation might be resolved.

Metrobus is important to our city. It not only sustains our local economy by connecting people with their livelihood, it has the potential to reduce the number of cars on the street and increase the number of parking spaces near shops and special events downtown.

Our transit system has been struggling in recent years, and there is mounting pressure from those who use it and those who would like to use it.  For years, Metrobus management have engaged in numerous reviews and enacted many of the suggestions received from experts and riders alike.

But like all services and functions, our transit system requires people to enact and sustain them. That includes drivers who are satisfied to come to work each day, management and other employees that run daily operations smoothly and consistently, and of course riders who rely on the service to get to their destinations.

Official “talks” or negotiations have been scarce in this dispute. Drivers have set up a strike line and have attended Council meetings, management have posted newspaper and radio ads explaining their position, and riders have held demonstrations.

When the parties do come together, it’s difficult to “back down” from their position, and it’s possible that priorities become skewed or misinterpreted. That’s why there are some key points that all involved might want to consider going in to these latest round of negotiations:

1. Define Your Shared Priorities

Certainly providing equitable working conditions is important, but are there other shared priorities that can be included in your agreement? For example, expanding service with the objective of getting cars off the road is a common request from riders and non-riders alike.

2. Increase Transparency and Public Dialogue

Secrecy in negotiations is often seen as important to protecting interests, but in a dispute this long and important to the public, sharing information and strategies with the media can go a long way.

Many people in the city feel that negotiations are completely stalled at times, and assume that neither side wants to find a solution. Many involved in the situation insist that is not that case, but it’s difficult for riders to believe that when little is revealed to them.

Transparency is a democratic tool to find solutions and build public support. Public engagement can help riders to feel less disenfranchised and give them a feeling of contributing to a solution.

3. Keep Talking

The more you engage with each other, the more likely you are to understand each others’ requirements and come up with a suitable compromise. Silence just allows frustration to fester.

We will not lose our transit system – it is a vital service that the City will likely continue to support at whatever the cost.  But we may reach a crisis point if we’re not careful.

We owe it to ourselves to look to our common goals of improving our services and make those the basis of our negotiations and agreements.