Presto Woes Continue …

As this article today from the Ottawa Citizen,

In my particular case, the "best selling feature" of the card doesn’t work. I got migrated from EcoPass to a Pre-Loaded Monthly Presto Card in mid october. After October 18, I set up the card to autoload every month out of my credit card the value of the pass. Later, the first auto load debited two times ($98 x 2). I called customer care on Oct. 30, who gave me a ticket number and promised "to send a fax to the back desk". To no communiction, I called back on Nov. 15, they checked the case, and stated that the backcdesk is backlogged, but someone will take care. Basically, they have kept my money for a month, without any solution, neither crediting back one of the transactions, or extending my pass to Dec. 31. It’s simply not functional. I also concede, that the web site is confuding between, Reload, Auto-Reload, Auto Renew Managment
Simply horrible.


A Andrés no se puede ir en minifalda …

Esa fue la declaración de Andrés Jaramillo, dueño de “Andrés Carne de Res”; exitoso restaruante y bar al norte de Bogotá, luego de que ocurriera la noche anterior, una violación de una joven en el parqueadero, dentro de un vehículo.

La historia mas o menos en que el pasado Domingo, esta mujer de 19 años, aparentemente estudiante de la Universidad de Los Andes, llegó al restaurante, y despues de rumba y tragos, sale con dos hombres, ella aparentemente en estado de embriaguez, al parqueadero.

Posteriormente ella acusa a uno de ellos de violación en el interior de un vehículo

La declaración de Andres Jaramillo es desafortunada, y solo refleja la mentalidad machista típica de Colombia, hasta ahí no hay sorpresas, la mentalidad de que la violación es culpa de la chica por llevar una minifalda. Horror.

Pero haciendo de abogado del diablo, es noticia, porque la chica en cuestión es de Los Andes? O porque el hecho occurrió en el parqueadero de Andrés Carne de Res?

Hasta donde es la responsabilidad de un restaurante por algo que ocurre en un vehiculo en el parqueadero?

Estoy seguro que hay un gran letrero en el parqueadero que dice “El Establecimiento no se hace responsable de robo o daño a los vehiculos” … ahi ya quedaron curados en salud. Ellos no se hacen responsables de lo que ocurre en el parqueadero.

Si el restaurante no se hace responsable por un robo, un espejo o un carro, mucho menos por una violacíon.

Mi problema con este asunto es que no es noticia por la violación de la chica en si, es noticia porque ocurre en un local “de la gente bien” de Bogotá.

De acuerdo, la chica puede estar encuerada bailando sobre una mesa, eso no le da permiso a nadie de violarla. Pero cuantas violaciones ocurren en una ciudad como Bogotá, y solamente esta salta a los medios?

Ese es el verdadero problema, en Bogotá se equipara estrato con moralidad, nada mas lejos de la razón.

Tal vez me genera suspicacia el hecho de que si ocurre una violación en Bosa, Usme, etc, y demas zonas marginales de Bogotá, no es noticia, es normal, el consiente colectivo dicta que es de esperarse que eso ocurra en esas zonas de la ciudad, pero si ocurre en Chia, Andres Carne de Res, restaurante caro para estrato 6, donde la gente linda de Bogotá va a rumbear, todo el mundo se sorprende, y buscan la declaración de Andres Jaramillo y todo el rollo.

Tal vez estando fuera del pais, me he vuelto mas sensible al asunto, aqui se reporta cualquier violación en la ciudad, y cualquier homicidio; no solamente los que ocurren en ciertas zonas de la ciudad.

Pero claro, entiendo que vivo en otro planeta, donde en Ottawa hay solamente 10 homicidos al año, mientras que en Bogota, eso se hace en un fin de semana.

Pero al final, una violación no tiene estrato social.


The suicide pill?

The latest political scandal in Ottawa.

Senator Mike Duffy, former news anchor and journalist, (let’s say) forgets or doesn’t understand completely the rules about housing expenses, claiming more than CAD$90,000 in subsidies.

After an audit and a Senate clarification, he is forced to pay back the money.

Since apparently he doesn’t have it (he has a yearly salary base of CAD$137,000), a “friend” (Nigel Wright, Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff), makes him a personal check for CAD$90,000.

Mike Duffy pays back the money, and all its solved.

So my theory goes like this, there are other Senators involved in this scandal (Patrick Brazeau and Marc Harb), Brazeau conservative, was let fall in the scandal, after a home violence incident. Marc Harb is a Liberal. So apparently only Mike has friends within PMO.

The PM Harper Government is famous for their Micro-Management and tight communications control.

By making the scandal very obvious and public, the Harper Government is pushing for Senate Abolition, both in the news, and in the public opinion, and making the situation indefensible for the Senate, and unavoidable for the House of Commons.

Duffy has just taken the suicide pill.

Van Gogh: Up Close

Today we spent the day at the National Art Gallery in Ottawa, where there was the special exhibition Van Gogh: Up Close; a well curated selection of 40 artworks by the Dutch Master, covering his stay in the north and south shores of France. Also as part of the exhibit there are two small side exhibitions of early 19 century photographs, and Japanese wood prints, which Van Gogh himself collected, and drawings.

Also, with the entrance to the exhibit it’s included the entrance to the standard general collection, one in the contemporary art section, a 24 hr. movie called The Clock, which extracts sequences from movies where clocks are depicted, synchronized with the real -life time of day. This movie is a joint purchase from the National Gallery of Canada and the Boston Museum for the Arts. I am wondering if you could purchase a copy somewhere.


And Presto is out, Ready or not …

After repeating ad-nausea that the new and revolutionary Presto payment system is ready,  that the distribution of 200,000 cards would start on Sunday, and that the system would be operational by July 1st. hail or high water; today “Teflon and always ambiguous” councilor and head of the public transit committee Diane Deans admitted that there are glitches in the system being piloted with just 1000 cards (0.5% of the original deployment), and that the launch would be postponed for a month.

Yes we know that any new system, where Ottawa is the Guinea Pig for the second generation of Presto Technology, has glitches and that’s what pilots are for, but only to admit it after media pressure for a week, is something else. Also it’s costing us 25 million in a deal imposed by the province to the city, and now the city has to save face.

In any new system, a pilot with just 0.5% of the intended deployment is too small, and it should be named a Proof of Concept, a real pilot is with 10% and growing in predictable increments.  A complex system with a pilot covering such small base, is an invitation to disaster. Fortunately the brakes were on time.

But unless the glitches are completely fixed with the Proof of Concept, and  then deploying in 15% or 20% increments over a period of time, I highly doubt the system will be ready in August. Time will tell.

And also I say that hackers have to wait, because I have imagined this scenario. In order to control if a Presto card has been tapped, it has to store in the card the time / date / and bus number.  Also, the system has to keep which card has been tapped on the scanner on board of the bus, in order to generate usage data. All this information would be kept in a database. If I can make a link between a credit card payment, user information and a presto card, now I have the ability to learn where is any user of the system at any time.  Also, let’s remember that the RFID technology used in the Presto card can be read as 6 cm. apart, so it is easy to read all the information on a card (trip log) just by being near to it.

Would I like this kind of information in the open, maybe not.  And so far no one has given any warranties on the security of this information, or the encryption mechanism used in the card, but my guess is that is not encrypted.

Happy commuting .. the Presto way .. 🙂

P.S: After a public relations nightmare, the launch scheduled for July 1st,  was initially delayed 10 days, then a month until August 1st., and now definitely postponed until February 1st, 2013. They have now 7 months to figure out how the system works. Another development, is that no one really knew how or why the project began, or how Presto was chosen.  After some digging, it was revealed that the Presto Contract was tied to the Province funding for the LRT, nice, two very controversial projects, both big failures, tied under one bill. Nice, really nice.

P.S.2: Well, now we know that Presto won’t roll out on February 2003. The city council and the transportaion committee are not fixing any dates, saying only that if by April the system is not proven (and I don’t think it will be) then they want their money back. Maybe Summer 2013. Eventhough, if you keep asking, the city of Ottawa remains committed to the Presto system, as failed and obtuse as this can be.

P.S.3: October 2013, I have been finally migrated from my employers EcoPass to a Presto Card. I register it on the web site without any issues. The card came pre-loaded for the month of October and after the 18th, I could purchase the november monthly pass, and set up the auto re-load. I did that no problem on the webiste, until a couple of days later I notice that my credit card was charged two times with the value of the monthly pass. I went to the website, filled up the contact form and sent it. No answer for a week. I called the call center and after a wait, my call was logged. The best was what the customer service representative told me “I am going to fill up the form, print it, and fax it to the back desk, who will solve your issue … ” … hmm … still waiting.


Today I visited Diefenbunker. Creepy cool and very interesting. All the clichés from Nuclear Disaster movies of the 80s become real.

As part of the exhibit, there were a couple of big maps of Ottawa depicting the radius of nuclear explosions and listing calculations of casualties and damages.  One was (obviously) centered on Parliament Hill, and in such scenario, my house around the airport in the south, would have survived the initial blast from a 1 KT bomb. There was other one centering the explosion at CFB Leitrim, a crypto-radar installation, and it’s less than a couple of kilometers from my house, which would have been instantly turned to ashes.

It was fun to see how a mini government would have been protected here. Diefenbunker was the site assigned to protect the Prime Minister, Secretariat Office (PMO?), since it was a military base until decommissioned in 1994 top brass from National Defense would also be there, and there are offices for the major ministries, Foreign Affairs, and Public Works, but it was surprising to see an office for the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, what for? Also, there were no provisions for the Members of Parliament, at least not in Diefenbunker. I guess there were also alternate arrangements for the Governor General. There was a network of around 60 of these sites in Canada, Diefenbunker being the last one of them preserved as a National Monument and a museum.

“One nuclear bomb could ruin your day.” (Quote from  a t-shirt on the store)