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Blackout 2003

[ HOME ]   |   Previous Story   |   Next Story   |   Issue 48 September 1st to 15th, 2003  

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Blackout Wipes Out Tens of Thousands of Solitaire Games on Government Computers

The cause of the blackout?
The massive blackout that affected most of Ontario and the Northeastern United States recently was a crippling blow to avid Government of Canada solitaire players, both amateur and professional. Several thousand solitaire games, representing millions of dollars in lost productivity, may have been lost.

Government spokesperson Lynne Yvette confirmed that the blackout that hit at approximately 4:10 PM Eastern on Thursday, August 14, was "devastating" to those public servants still at work playing computer solitaire at government work stations.

"We understand that there were upwards of tens of thousands of solitaire games affected by the sudden power outage," said Yvette, who added that both essential and non-essential government information technology workers have been called in to work around the clock to rectify the solitaire problem and salvage whatever games possible.

"I knew I shouldn't have been working so late."
-Blackout solitaire victim Sharlene Ersten.

Sharlene Ersten, a flipper-entry clerk at the federal Department of Trout, was one of those civil servants afflicted by the blackout. "I was playing solitaire, like I do most afternoons, and, well…mornings, when poof, the screen went black," explained a teary-eyed Ersten, who has been off work on stress leave since the incident. "It really hurts, because I was in the zone. I had a personal best going."

Added the aspiring computer card shark: "This is really going to be a big setback for my training for this year's Public Service solitaire tournament."

However, champion computer solitaire player Wally Whisselt, whose prowess with the computer mouse has earned him the nickname of the 'fastest index finger in Canada,' was better prepared. "Just to be safe, I always back up all of my matches to a map drive immediately after completing every game," said the analyst at the mackerel branch of the Ottawa Headquarters of the Federal Pike Commission.

A look at solitaire champion Wally 'Superclick' Whisselt's computer demonstrates his foolproof system to save each of his games.

Whisselt, who devotes his weekends to competing in high stakes computer solitaire tournaments around North America, has all of his games saved, but injury may keep him from defending his national title this year.

"I'm much more concerned about my strained clicking finger-my doctor thinks I might need surgery…and right when the solitaire season's about to begin," grumbled the champion athlete.

Grief councilors have been brought in to deal with those afflicted.


Government of Ontario Launches New Power On/Off Notification System

MUST-SEE TV: The Government of Ontario's 'The Power Is On' Television Network was unveiled yesterday in Toronto.
Stung by criticisms that his government was slow to act initially during the blackout, Ontario Premier Ernie Eves announced that a new high-technology power notification system is to be put in place for the province.

"This unique new multimedia system will let all Ontarians know when the power will be on," said Ontario Premier Eves, in a prepared statement from his Orangeville riding office. "Ontarians deserve this. Ontarians deserve me."

With an estimated price tag of $575 million dollars, the ambitious initiative will provide all residents of the province with the ability to find out if the power in fact is still on.

The program includes a dedicated Power Is On. Or Is It? web site, radio and newspaper ads, and a province-wide screaming system, where designated community members will be tasked with setting up phone trees to let neighbours know when the power is still on. Volunteers will then scream that the power is on over high-powered loud speakers and abandoned air raid sirens, every 10-minutes, according to the Premier.

The provincial government announced also that it has obtained a broadcast licence for a dedicated digital television network that will be free to all cable subscribers in Ontario. THE POWER IS ON network will be broadcasting on digital channel 799 as of September 1.

Former Ontario cabinet minister Chris Stockwell, who has been named director of programming for the new station, said that the broadcast format for the station is simple: "Basically, it just says "THE POWER IS ON" on the screen 24/7," said Stockwell. "Pretty sweet gig, eh? And you should see my expense account!"

Listen to the Power is On. or is it HOTLINE

But what if the power goes off?

"We'll look into changing the text on the screen," responded Ontario's former Energy Minister. "I need to discuss this with my colleagues. In Paris. And Hawaii."

Critics, such as Ontario NDP leader Howard Hampton, have suggested that updating the province's power grid might be a more appropriate usage of public monies.

"Our province doesn't need all of this electioneering. What Ontario's power grid needs is a new coat of paint. Or pretty pink bows on top of our hydro towers," said Hampton.

Dalton McGuinty, leader of the Ontario Liberals, who enjoy a healthy lead in most Ontario opinion polls heading into an impending provincial election, had hockey tape over his mouth. "He's not saying anything until the election is over," said a McGuinty aide. "Cruise control."

Premier Eves scoffed at the criticisms from these bad, evil critic guys. Said the Premier: "It really is a shame that Dalton and what's his name are trying to politicize this tragedy. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of Ontarians were unable to see my governnment's taxpayer-subsidized political advertisements on television for 24 hours or more. If that's not a tragedy, I don't know what is.

"Besides, it's not like it's costing us anything to rent a studio for the TV network, we've already got a studio for giving budgets," the Premier pointed out.

"See how efficient we are?"

Public Servants Object to Nonessential Label

This public servant's "essentially" was unknown as of press time.
The Public Service Alliance of Canada, (PSAC), issued a formal request today to the Treasury Board of Canada, urging the use of the phrase 'non-emergency' in place of nonessential in describing the functions performed by its 40,000 members who were asked to say home for three days last week in a bid to conserve electrical power.

"We feel that by labeling public servants nonessential, the government is suggesting that these dedicated professionals perform a less-than-necessary function in serving the Canadian public," explained Gil Collective-Bargaining, PSAC Senior Associate Executive Deputy Vice-president of Public Affairs and Rotating Walkouts.

Collective-Bargaining also took aim at media outlets that have criticized the stay-home order.

"What these naysayers fail to recognize is that the amount of power required to provide 40,000 public servants with the ability to discuss hockey or get recipes on the internet is not insignificant."

Asked to respond to PSAC's request, Cynthia Procedure, assistant junior under-spokesperson for the Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Board, replied that "the Government of Canada maintains that those nonessential personnel who do not conduct an essentially essential function should be essentially considered nonessential, inasmuch as their presence is not essential for the essential delivery of essential government services. Such as mine."

Immediately following PSAC's press conference, conducted a poll of 1000 public servants in the National Capital Region to gauge support for the titular change.

According to the results of the survey, 999 of the 1000 public servants contacted do not answer their telephone or respond to e-mail.

The remaining public servant, Donald Bland, a compliance manager with the Federal Institute of Short Game and Groundstrokes, expressed surprise when informed of the blackout.

"See, I'm waiting for information services to install my Y2K upgrade, so the computer hasn't been turned on since 1999," he explained, adding that he would not object to use of the phrase 'non-emergency', but that the word 'titular' makes him feel funny, "in a good sort of way."

Asked to account for the poor response rate of PSAC members to the fake media survey, Collective-Bargaining later issued a written statement, indicating that "PSAC considers that the outstanding core competencies of its professional public servants in their dynamic role as multifunctional front-line public program and service delivery units rendered these personnel e-mail incapable and telephone non-responsive . . .or they were on a smoke break."

The results of the survey are considered accurate within seventy percentage points, 19 times out of six and a half.