Thursday, July 28, 2011

Alberta Party - City Center Airport

With a Provincial election looming, any where from within the next few months to a year, some of the old topics are once again coming up for discussion.  The other day, Danielle Smith from the Wild Rose Alliance posted this video on youtube from High Level, pointing out some reasons on why the CCA is so important.

On June 27th, I wrote a blog post (you can read it here)which contains a link to the report created by the Health Quality Council of Alberta which clearly shows that nothing can beat the greatness from having medivac services provided by the downtown airport.

For some time, I've been gently asking the Alberta Party, of which I am a member, to publicly take a stance on this issue. I know this was raised with the candidates during the recent run for the leadership of the party, and I even had a good chat with Glenn Taylor over this issue the night before the leadership vote was done.

Yet... the Alberta Party as an entity, has failed to respond. However a tweet I posted using the #abparty hash tag on July 27th at 9:49:
I hope the #abparty takes the same stand as the #wra does on #ecca. #yegcc #ableg
did provoke a response from Chris LaBossiere, the current Alberta Party president.

I don't know if this is Chris's personal views, or if they represent the party's view.  He stated:
Gary, I am afraid that you won't see any #abparty on #ecca. It's an issue for #yegcc and the citizens of #yeg to navigate. 
followed by another tweet saying:
Until #ahs ensures safe passage and medivac amenity at @flyeia, medivac stays at #ecca. That's certainly a priority.
 I responded with:
 If medivac is a priority, and it belongs under #AHS, then that makes #ecca a provincial issue. Not #abparty issue? I'm sad.
 and Chris responded back with:
AHS and Medivac is a priority. A DT airport, 1 of 5 in the region, is less so. But alas... we will always disagree on this.
Let me state... I like Chris, he is a decent person. We have never really seen eye-to-eye on this issue, but I like to think there is still a good personal respect for each others views.  After all, the Alberta Party is a party where members can disagree on things without losing respect for the persons involved, and I like that.

SO much has already been said on this issue, repeating the bulk of the logic would be nauseating... Yes, there are alternatives. No matter how you cut it, there is simply nothing else available that will serve the needs of the medivac services or the EPS copters quite like the City Center Airport does.

Any other alternative will result in longer, and potentially dangerous, patient safety and transfer times... with increased costs not only for medical but for the EPS as well.

We are willing to give all of that up... just to make a few extra dollars WAY down the road by getting more taxes from residents who want to live in some form of Taj Mahal?

I'm no financial wizard for sure, but I would suspect that by the time you add up all of the costs of building some inferior service at the EIA, staffing City of Edmonton "employees" outside the city limits, along with the costs of re-developing CCA, and increased costs of Edmonton staff and Edmonton equipment, there will be no magical tax savings for probably a good 20 years or more.

There is also no question, the longer times and "alternate landing zones" will cost lives. It already has... The medical community knows it has and Edmonton City Council knows it has.

I wonder how making some potential money decades down the road is better than saving lives. Don't we owe it to the citizens of this province, and those we serve not only in BC but the NWT ... to examine this issue with some truth, instead of the bull shit City Council used?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Phone Lines - 101

After some twitter conversations, I decided to share some basic phone line information to help people understand exactly how "twisted pair copper" phone lines work. And when folks like Telus say "there is no hum on your line" or "that long distance call came from your number and you are responsible to pay it" or other such things you can smack them upside the head and tell them you know better.  It will also help you understand why services like ADSL (asymmetric digital subscriber line) works the way it does.

With that said, the best way to show this is by a series of pictures... please, don't smack me... a graphics artist I am NOT, as the following series of images will clearly prove. :P  Remember, this applies only to 'twisted pair copper lines', and not the newer forms of fiber optic lines that some areas have been converted to. The best way to start, is at the beginning, yes?

The Beginning

When a telephone exchange is designed, the phone company will calculate out how many customers it will need to service, and then they will install several sets of feeder lines to various "groups" of locations, and then split the master feeder into chunks of smaller feeders. For example, a master feeder might be a 500 pair circuit and sub-feeders might be 100 pair lines, which could further branch out into 25 or 50 pair circuit sections.

THE most important thing to remember is that each sub feed and smaller feeds, or any 'drops' made along the way in the system, are all called "taps". And each 'tap' is a "parallel" connection. Think of it as a set of Christmas tree lights, when the light in the middle goes out but all of the other lights remain on.

It starts like this:
500 pair lines are run from the phone exchange out to several drop points within the designated service area. From there, the master feeds could be split up into several smaller ones (for residential distribution) or feed directly into an office of corporate area to serve a large business group. Naturally, 'life rules' will generally be all of the above potentially being a mixture of the two main classes of users.

The middle break down would look something like this. Simple concepts being what they are, yes?
This is the point where it gets more interesting. Picture this in your mind if you will, where you are driving down a street or a rural road, and you see all of the telephone polls with phone lines (and power and cable) running from pole to pole, and then as a pole gets close to a house, a phone line cable comes out of a junction box and runs into the house. The theory for underground service is exactly the same, the only difference is you can't see it. :) Replace what ever mixture of homes and business complexes as you wish, it doesn't really matter. When you deal in the "drops" to houses, quite often you will find a line coming in that can handle 2 phone lines... or... 4 wires... or 2 twisted pairs. Lets say the phone folks want a 20% safety ratio, to cover when lines go bad and for some people who require more than 2 phone lines. They will put in a 100 pair cable which will service 40 homes with 2 lines each, and have 20 lines left over for "spares". In order to insure that all of the phone lines are available to all people in the drop area, each connector block (usually located on the pole in the back alley) at each house must TAP into each of those 100 connections, so the service at the start of the area drop is the same as the service at the end of the area drop. And of course at the connector block, would be the wire that runs into the house. No silly, all 100 pairs don't run INTO your house, just the two pairs for you...

The "end"... of the beginning. Sorry to say it's not the end end. You will see why shortly.

If you are stuck with the Xmas tree light concept, then use an extension cord with one of those 3 plug ends on it, and on each end, plug another cord (you now have 1 cord feeding 3) and... repeat... often. A most stupid thing to do in real life, but the point is no matter where you plug your drill into, the same power at the start of the cord is available at the end cord.

Multiple End Points

At this point, you need to know there are some rather technical things involved. Phone lines are low power devices, that operate on a DC voltage versus your AC type house power. You can usually hold both of the phone wires in your hands and not get zapped. (Oh yeah, compulsory YOU ARE STUPID warning here. Don't do that with any part of a wet body... and *pray* the phone doesn't ring while you are holding the wires... because you will get zapped!) With the line being low voltage, the distance it can travel is limited. The more copper you put in place, the more resistance the distance of wire adds up to, the less "power" there is at the end of the run.

End point #1. So now you understand that the farther you are away from the exchange, the lower the quality of service might be. Normal voice phone usage isn't generally affected by this BUT services like ADSL and TV over the phone line ARE affected.

Remember, this is just a simple explanation.. Another critical technical matter is called "capacitance". This comes from having 2 (or more) items running close to each other. In this case, the items are wires. Now capacitors can do several things. Depending on the value of the capacitance, and the frequency of the transmission on the wire (voice band, Internet band, TV station band) it IS possible for any capacitance value in the lines to leak or bleed or maybe even short out one type of signal. Needless to say this is a HUGE problem for the phone companies, since the normal twisted pair copper wire system was NEVER designed to handle more than just the normal voice band. And each "leg" of the wire run, no matter if the other end of the wire is connected to anything or not... will change the capacitance value of the line. Where do you get more "legs" attached? Ah yes... those nasty drops that people have added into their homes (running a small business in their house, maybe need 5 phone lines) or a new strip mall that might need 50 lines.

You see, if you need say 5 lines well, the phone company won't run in 3 separate lines of 2 pairs each, they will probably run in a 25 pair cable. And in this case, when they run the new cable into "the house", all 25 pairs WILL be hooked up at the connector block. And in the real world, this happens over, and over, and over again.

So in order to deal with a capacitance issue, the phone company MUST send someone out, and check every junction point. IF "your" phone line happens to be 'tapped' into something else then they have to remove that tap. Kinda like unplugging that extension cord. Once it's no longer plugged in, there is no power at the end, and nothing to pick up or cause any electrical interference.

The above paragraph also describes End Point # 2, which is *exactly* how someone can potentially access your phone line. Because in the 25 pair case above, one of the "non used" sets could have been attached to the same connection your line is on. All someone in the house has to do is stick a phone on each of the other pairs, and see if they get a dial tone.

With all of this known, we are left with End Point # 3, which deals with static, hum, cross talk, line buzz or other similar situations. The copper wires are small, with a thin plastic surrounding the wire. The cables are strung on poles outside subject to weather. When it gets really windy, the cable can stretch, and cause lines to break. The plastic rubs on things and can get worn out to the point where it causes a short making the line dead. The cables are protected with ground shield lines, which can cause ground faults and ground loops (aka hum on the line). The last person servicing the line may not have sealed the connector box properly allowing moisture to get in, which causes hum and capacitance issues. Really, the list is endless.

So depending on your problem, your distance from the exchange, how many tap points there are involved... the phone company might be trying to pull the wool over your eyes. Or maybe they just don't want to put in the effort and expense.

Always remember when you deal with anything other than VOICE over your phone line, the distance to the exchange will control your quality. You may find that surfing the net slows down when the phone rings or is being used. Maybe your television channels go a little flaky under the same conditions.

This is of course, all just food for thought... a *very* simple explanation. Real life says there are a lot more taps and drops than this picture paints.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Downtown Arena - Slanted Numbers

I have to start off by allowing a few kudos to the folks running the City of Edmonton twitter account. They get various forms of "abuse" while trying to give Edmonton's twitter population information. And "information" is a good thing but only providing it's accurate and truthful. This is where the problem comes in however because there are times what you get, is only a biased truth. And as a taxpayer, I admit I am getting sick and tired of being legally lied to.

The City has been trying to shove their biased "truth" down my throat and I am seriously insulted. The line of "I am madder than hell and I'm not going to take it anymore" has been crossed. If it's a war you want then by all means it's a war you are going to get. This post will provide truthful information, most of which is provided BY the City. If all you ever hear is just the bottom line... the totals... and you accept that as truth, then you are really being blindsided. Take a moment... and look at what those totals actually mean.

For example, the City will tell you that according to the calls placed to 311, there are a total of 2,501 calls for the arena and 1,769 calls against. So clearly the citizens of Edmonton are demanding this arena so come hell or high water we just have to build it.

BUT... out of those 2,501 calls for the arena, 2,435 came in during a two week period (March 27 to April 9) when the Oilers were doing their promotional "call 311" during the last few home games. And wow, that's a lot of numbers, right? BUT... lets say those two home games had 16,500 people each, for a total of 33,000 supportive Oilers fans.

This works out to just under 7.5% of the people attending the games who called in. That also means that just over 92.5% of the supportive fan base did NOT call in saying "hell ya".

It should be noted that the 311 survey tracks a 19 week period between February 1 and July 5, 2011. So for out of 19 weeks ONLY 2 weeks had ANY form of support. That's about 10% of the time there was support and 90% of the time there was not support.

Let's look at some other information, because we can't just base something on this alone. A City document (link opens in a new window) about the Arena Telephone Survey (page 3) describes how 24% say public transportation is important followed by 17% who think "The Arena Project" is important. Subsequent pages show how 96% of the people are aware of a project, 82% can perceive benefits, etc etc. One a single question by biased question basis, one can only conclude yet once again, that this project should proceed. If you participated in this phone survey, you could not question the question, you could not sub divide it... your only option was to select a single choice mostly based on a single question. Questions designed by the City to enforce a positive outcome to proceed.

I mean after all, we do love our Oilers, we want them to stay. So when given single question choices we like to give positive answers for things we like. For example on page 7 of the above report, we can generically say we don't mind contributing to this. But when did "Having a mix of private and public funds to build the new arena" question turn into "Oh, did we forget to tell you that MIX would be about 80% taxpayer money?". Page 8 talks about having plans and we agree we need to have them. Yet we never agreed to have BAD plans as an end result. Page 9 talks about 'doing it' as long as taxes don't take a hit or infrastructure funds are used to pay for it. Yet we know that the CRL will increase the tax load for every resident in Edmonton because the services those taxes pay for that get sent to the CRL instead of general revenues, will have to be made up. For 30 years or more. And page 13? I mean really! Again pointing to a mixture of private/public funding, which was NEVER to be assumed we were giving away all of the profits as well.

Now that you know more about the above report, and clearly how biased it is, here is more proof for the pudding. The City's own report on community consultation on page 9 it clearly states that "At the time of public consultations, a funding model to support the Katz Group proposal had not been proposed to City Council." This means the City wanted to do all of these surveys and get a positive outcome to proceed, without the people knowing what the full deal would be. Very cool slight of hand, I must admit.

If you want some really interesting survey information, check out the Speak Up Edmonton site which provides link information on a 2009, 2010 and 2011 Ipsos Reid polls, which clearly show a more balanced truth where 70 plus percent of people just don't like what's going on.

I really want to know when Council will actually start to represent the truth rather than trying to conjure up some rubbish to support giving away all of the profits yet paying all of the costs.

As a note, there is the i880 news report that has a link to Ed Gibbons questions and that PDF document seems to have disappeared from the City's site. In that document it described a list of things that had formed the basis of the agreement. I seem to recall it was perhaps item F where it stated that all forms of revenue would be in place before this project is proceeded with. I remind those on City Council that both the Provincial and Federal governments have stated "no funds". You've all read the stories. And since it takes an average of 2 years to get CRL approval, and you can't proceed until those funds are IN PLACE as per the agreement... I have to ask what other slight of hand you are going to come up with now. But then, it's also kinda cute how all of the stories say Katz will put in $100 million, but now we hear it will only be 80 or so, and additional funds will be "down the road".


EDIT: July 20... the missing report re: i880news is located here

EDIT: July 23... the missing report above, has gone missing yet again. One simply has to love how the truth keeps getting lost and hidden and shuffled around by the City.  

EDIT: July 25... and the missing shuffled report is now located here. The City says it's never been moved but look at the links, see for yourself...