Of mice and traps

December 19, 2011 bc, economics, systems No comments

Two or three summers ago, we had problems with mice in our house. We have a live trap, sometimes it works. When there are not too many mice, it is quite all right.

I usually get the task to empty it, which is not much of a big deal. I take it to a sports field that is half a block away. After opening the trap, the mouse jumps out. The first two times, crows snatched up the mouse pretty quickly. So now I usually stay around for a while, and the mouse manages to disappear in the grass.

This time, while I was waiting, a man came by, walking his dog. He asked, so I explained, yes, it’s a mouse trap.

He became really angry. i was shocked, because to me it was all really harmless. He asked whether I knew that dogs use the field. He asked if he should call the police. I said yes, since he was pretty intimidating in his anger. Of course, he didn’t. I didn’t know what he was so angry about, I was just glad when he finally left.

Funny thing, and I did notice something odd during this confrontation, when I returned home with the trap, I thought to check it, and actually, yes, the mouse had returned to the trap.

I took it back right away (Mr. Angry wasn’t around anymore).

Later, thinking this over, the only explanation I came up with was that I never mentioned to him that it was a live trap; he may have thought it is a glue trap, or some kind of poison trap. I guess, in his mind, he would not like his dog to sniffle into one of those. So, at the time, using one of those was quite outside of my horizon. At the same time I think a live trap was completely outside of his horizon. Hence the dispute.


The live trap didn’t work well enough. After a few months we got an exterminator to help.

He was a nice man, and we had a friendly conversation about mice and this and that, so at the end I thought I’d ask him a question that I had been wondering about, especially with the saying in mind, “building a better mouse trap”: What would he think a mouse trap designed by Steve Jobs would look like?

He said, “Oh, the guy who does Microsoft?”

Well, no, that’s not who I meant. I think that would be quite a horrible trap. Spreading viruses comes to mind.


Quite a while later, I told an acquaintance about the exterminator and the Steve Jobs disconnect. She was super excited about the idea of a mouse trap designed by Steve Jobs himself. She said, it would be so nice and elegant, you would want to put one in every room of your home.

The One-Two-Three Man

December 19, 2011 bc No comments

A few years ago, returning from a bar (quite a while after midnight) and smoking a last cigarette on the porch of our home, I noticed a man walking in the middle of the street. Wearing a reflective west, and carrying a hockey stick, he kept saying “One, two, three, four, five, six , seven, eight, nine, ten, Push!” One word per step. This is in the dark, nothing else really going on in the neighbourhood.

I call him the One-Two-Three man. No-one else I asked knew about him, and I never saw him anywhere else.

But one day we were selling something through craigslist. I forgot what it was; it wasn’t anything special. The One-Two-Three man came to buy it!

I asked him about his “walks”. I think he said he couldn’t sleep, or wanted to lose weight.

Saw him yesterday again. (Except, this time there was no bar involved)

the police: competence and responsibility

January 2, 2010 bc No comments

Today there was news about Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard being attacked in his home. I don’t want to talk about the details which you can find covered at

In short, a man broke into his home, Kurt Westergaard hid in a special “panic room”, and called police. The police came and managed to arrest the invader.

What I want to highlight is that

  • the attacker threw an axe at one of the police officers,
  • but, the police officers did not kill the attacker.

They managed to arrest the man after shooting him in the arm and leg.

It’s hard to tell whether the police were simply lucky with this successful outcome or not.

For now, they’re actions look much more competent and responsible than the police officers on this continent, who use tasers on young and old, pregnant women, people with mental problems, and for example, killed Robert Dziekański. The explanation or excuse for using the Taser in Robert Dziekański’s case was that he was “armed” with a stapler – compare that to a flying axe.

an email about the HandyDart strike

December 26, 2009 bc No comments

I just sent an email to Martin Lay, director in charge of accessibility at TransLink. HandyDart is an accessible door-to-door transit service in in all of the British Columbia’s larger centres, as well as in many smaller communities. It uses vans and small buses to transport disabled or elderly passengers who cannot use the normal transit system.

I was not aware, but the service has actually been provided by independent contractors. Tim Louis takes credit for founding the system, and its previous operator, the Pacific Transit Cooperative. As far as I can make out, it went bankrupt because it was paying high wages (but you know that that is always just one side of the story). Translink then went out to find a new contractor, and awarded the contract to MVT Canadian Bus in late 2008.

Some useful background links

I’m writing this from the perspective of a Vancouver citizen; I find it difficult to get a good picture beyond that.

The text of my email

(Dated: December 26, 2009)

Dear Mr. Lay,

I just learned that the operator of the HandyDart, MVT Canadian Bus, is not providing the service they were contracted for. As I understand, they were awarded the contract and took over operations at the beginning of 2009. After ten months a labor dispute lead to a strike which has been ongoing since October 26.

I understand that the HandyDart drivers are paid less than “ordinary bus drivers”. Due to the nature of the service, I would have expected them to be paid more! There is more responsibility, and the job is more demanding and requires more skill. Furthermore the users of the service are more dependent on it.

While the HandyDart drivers have a right to strike, I feel that Translink is obliged to provide the service. This is simply an issue of whether Canada is a civilized nation or not. If they have made a poor choice by sub-contracting to MVT Canadian Bus company, that means that Translink needs to urgently work on a more reliable operation. Urgent as in there needs to be a solution tomorrow.

For the time being, the blurb on Translink’s website, “A truly great transit system opens its doors for everyone,” is empty and shallow.

Yours sincerely,

Stephan Wehner

Updates (December 31)

(Not part of the email). Three updates:

  1. From CBC News: “Five hundred striking Metro Vancouver HandyDART workers will start returning to work on Monday after more than two months of picketing. […] The union began taking down its picket lines on Thursday morning after the union and employer MVT Canadian Bus agreed to binding arbitration.” — good news for those who depend on HandyDart.
  2. I received a lengthy reply from Martin Lay, two days after sending my email.
  3. I have heared in the meantime that the Pacific Transit Co-op still exists (I had written it is bankrupt). A comment to that effect was made on Facebook – but the comment is now gone (Facebook not being reliable for communication).

the newspaper deliveryman and the policeman

July 29, 2009 bc No comments

Here’s a clever comment from Rex Mundi on the story of a newspaper deliveryman being viciously attacked by a number of drunk policemen. The policemen were charged, and one of them “has been given a conditional sentence without jail time after pleading guilty” today. (The others’ trials are not complete yet)

His comment is:

So does this mean that off-duty newspaper deliverymen may anticipate no jail time if they get drunk and assault an off-duty police officer?

See http://www.cbc.ca/canada/british-columbia/story/2009/07/29/bc-west-vancouver-policeman-gillan-assault-sentence.html