A Lovely Short Trip to Venice

It was early afternoon and the Romanian Professor and I had a lovely lunch on the veranda of this restaurant on the east side of Venice. My Canadian colleague just called me on my cell to tell me that he is ready to join us, we were close to Calle Varisco and Calle Stella and our friend was coming from Palazo Ducale where he was visiting all morning with other conference participants. Not far away, but in Venice? You travel by boat, nothing is moving fast… This place makes you a believer in fairy tales. Cars are banned, so the only way to move around the 1,500 year old city is by foot or on the water.

We were on our 4th day of this ‘time off’, for the 1st 3 days we were in a Conference in Bologna named ‘The Future of Global Automotive Engineering’ invited by the organizers from the Canadian Automotive Institute, it was the beginning of December, there were 11 Canadians invited in this Conference of approximate 380 people from all over the world. Pretty big! It was organized by a consortium of Automobile Manufacturers and it was mostly theoretical meaning that we were presented with theories and opinions of the Engineers representing the Organizers. It was pretty cool nevertheless, we saw some remarkable presentations about our profession.

Much to my surprise that I was invited to this Conference, I am a Tooling Designer owning my Engineering Company in Southern Ontario and a member of several Automotive Associations and… I am glad that I am close to retirement because our Industry in North America is decimated by the competition, mostly Chinese, Asian, South American. Not that they are better than us, they’ve never been and I don’t think they will ever be better, just that they are working for something like 10 to 20% of the prices we charge in North America. This is one of the reasons this Conference was organized for, to look for ways to stay competitive… God help us! Oh, but enough of our troubles, let’s get to the purpose of this short article.

Some of us decided to use this chance of being in Italy and go visit some cities around for few days after the Conference. Today was Thursday, we were three guys coming to Venice in a rented car on Highway A13, this was our first day in Venice.

These days a lot of places claim to be “the Venice of…” For example, cities claiming to be “the Venice of the north” include Amsterdam, St. Petersburg, Russia and there are others. But there is only one Venice. And it is beautiful.
Founded in the 5th century and spread over 118 small islands, Venice became a major maritime power in the 10th century. The whole city is an extraordinary architectural masterpiece in which even the smallest building contains works by some of the world’s greatest artists such as Giorgione, Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese and others. The physical remnants of the time when Venice was at the heart of a great trading empire are everywhere. There are grand palaces designed to impress visiting dignitaries and magnificent paintings of daily life in the galleries. Cobbled alleys lead to stone bridges over canals so narrow there is barely room for one of the brightly painted gondolas to pass through. The network of islands feels like one big, creaky, aging, ambitious trading ship, tethered to port, but still ready to conquer the world. La Serenissima, (the most serene one), is filled with palaces and art, fine shopping and excellent food. Relax in Piazza San Marco, at Palazo Ducale, visit the basilicas, drink a bellini at Harry’s Bar and wander the alleyways and bridges.

Consider an off-season trip to have more of the city to yourself. Now this is important, if you appreciate art you should visit in the winter or early spring or late fall like we did. In the summer time everywhere in Italy there are just too many tourists around, you wait in line for most things.

The Professor had worked in Venice for a while and knew the hidden gardens and galleries. And so we wandered. And admired. The physical surroundings at least.

It must not be easy to live in Venice. It is like trying to live in an amusement park. Your corner cafĂ© is clogged with transient tourists and poorly trained tour guides stand outside your window shouting historical nonsense to bored couples who just want it to be over with so they can go buy some Murano glass. This will describe the American tourist pretty well, won’t it…?!

That’s the only reason I can think of for why the Venetians can be so, err, unhelpful. I watched as tourists were seemingly deliberately given wrong directions and a limping man with a cane was left standing on the rocking commuter boat, with no one willing to give him a seat. The tourists were no more considerate, treating the town like a hotel room someone will clean up later.

Yes, the city of Venice was one of the most beautiful I’d ever seen, but the stress of the human interactions quickly got to me. After yet another unhappy encounter the Professor and I had given up and were trying to find a boat back to the train when we met with two of my Canadian colleagues. We all wonder a little further and the Professor finds a local restaurant that he knew about, a little out of the tourist path, very charming, we all eat and argue politics.
We covered everything from climate change’s effect on Venice, to the most delicious local cakes. Given enough time (the two colleagues had some engagements) I’m sure we could have solved the world’s problems. Or at least, with the Professor’s help, predicted them. It was one of those perfect moments, when travel not only makes sense, it seems like the only thing worth doing.
This trip to Venice showed me, yet again, that the most beautiful city doesn’t leave as much of an impression as the warmest hearth. It was close to mid December now and the Christmas preparations were in full swing. And the music of Christmas…! Truly believe to be the most beautiful moments of creation of the human race. Why the humanity put so much feeling in a religious holiday. It is truly wonderful!
We all went back to our families with the promise to come back to this ancient and historic city.

Car Insurance is Not an Option For Drivers in Canada

No matter where you are driving in Canada, the law requires that every driver has car insurance. This is mandatory in all provinces and territories. Your vehicle must be covered under an insurance policy with a minimum set coverage, If you are caught driving without it you can be fined, have your driver’s license suspended, and even have your vehicle towed and impounded. Fines can range from $5000 to $50, 000.

If you are in an accident while driving without insurance, you could face a number of consequences that include:

o If another person is injured or there is a loss of life and you are at fault, you could be liable for all vehicle damages, medical costs, and other losses
o You will not be entitled to receive compensation for your own injuries and damage to your vehicle, as well as other losses such as income.
o You may be prohibited from filing a claim against another driver if they are at fault.

If convicted of driving without insurance, your insurer company could label you as a “high risk” driver and increase your premiums. They could also cancel your policy.

There are a number of factors that determine the amount you will pay for it. They include:

New Driver: New drivers do not have a driving history so companies normally rate them as “high risk.” Premiums will likely be expensive until you have established a good driving record.

Driving Record: Your driving record will affect your insurance premium. Insurance companies look at how long you have been driving and the number of convictions you have acquired. Convictions can include speeding tickets, car accidents, and traffic violations such as running a red light. If you have a clean driving record, your premiums should be low.

Type of Car: The type of car you drive will affect your premium. Vehicles are rated according to the make (truck, SUV, expensive sports car). Companies look at the risk of theft, vehicle collision history, and injuries associated with the type of car. The age of the car and mileage is also a factor when determining rates

Common insurance discounts include: age discount, multi-vehicle discount, multi-line discount (insuring your home and auto with the same insurer) anti-theft device discount, low mileage discount, and auto club membership discount.

There are a number of features that can be included in an insurance policy. The two most important forms of coverage are:

Collision Coverage: This coverage compensates for damage to your vehicle as a result of a collision with another vehicle or object.

Third-Party Liability: This insurance covers you if you are held legally liable when your vehicle injures someone or damages their property. Liability is mandatory in all provinces and territories in Canada.

In some provinces there are limitations on how much compensation you can receive. For instance, in Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick, the maximum amount one can claim for pain and suffering is $2,500. This capped amount is separate from what you receive in insurance benefits. Pain and suffering claims are separate from claims of property damage, medical expenses, or loss of employment income.

There are a number of places where you can purchase auto insurance. You can buy it from an insurance broker, insurance agent, or direct writer. Insurance brokers sell policies for a variety of insurance companies. Insurance agents represent only one insurance company. Direct writers are insurance companies that sell their own insurance directly to the customer. The insurance company is responsible for providing the coverage that is noted on a driver’s Certificate of Automobile Insurance. You are only covered for what is listed on the certificate. Prices vary among companies so make sure you shop around.

Because car insurance is mandatory in Canada, you should always have insurance before you drive. The costs getting caught without it are much greater than the actual cost of acquiring insurance.

Car Thieves at Dealerships

It seems the effects of these trying economic times know no bounds. People are resorting to even more illegal activities and theft is on the rise. In particular, car theft seems to be the most attractive for the desperate because of its street value.

Most car thieves used the old fashion techniques like jimmying the lock or using a crowbar. Lately, many car dealerships are dealing with car theft right under their own noses. It seems many of these thefts are inside jobs. Vast majorities of other car dealerships with less than adequate security are becoming more hip to the times and have beefed up security measures to protect against theft form the outside.

It was reported that a western Nebraska, Scottsbluff to be exact, the Legacy Ford Lincoln Mercury Toyota car dealership lost dozens of new cars in early March of this year. The cars were later found at auto auctions in Utah and Arizona. The culprits? Well it wasn’t the usual suspects. It was the executives working inside the car dealership – the dealership owner Allen Patch, the general manager Rick Covello and the controller Rachel Fait. They cleared out their offices and left town with 81 Ford and Toyota vehicles!

This was not your ordinary heist. These vehicles were vanishing by the truckload! It rather reminds you of the Fast and the Furious movie with Vin Diesel and his crew high jacking fast cars while driving in even faster cars on the highway at high speed. Of course, that’s Hollywood and the guilty here were more low – keyed and under the radar and arranged it from behind an office desk. This was a true insider operation and a car theft story with TV or movie potential. How about that ol’ Nicholas Cage auto theft film – Gone in Sixty Seconds? The total cost of the merchandise stolen was over $2 million! It’s no wonder the car dealer executives disappeared all of a sudden after the heist occurred.

Though many of these cars were sold, they were eventually caught in Utah at an auto auction. When you’re trusted with very expensive inventory, and desperation takes over, stories such as this become the reality. This car dealership was obviously going through some financial troubles just like most businesses in the country.

Just a couple of weeks ago, there was a car theft at a successful cash for car business in Long Island, NY. The car thief was daring and managed to steal car keys to a Mercedes on the car lot. The thief managed to sneak in and out with the key and drive off the lot with the Mercedes.

Thanks to sophisticated video surveillance placed strategically in key areas, the key theft was caught on tape! The dealership immediately had the video aired on the Channel 12 News that evening as well as the following morning. They received an anonymous phone call from an individual stating the exact same car was parked in the nearby area. Seeing himself on the Channel 12 News must’ve made him think twice about keeping it.

Suffice to say, the dealership was able to recover the stolen vehicle back to their lot. The owner immediately added more upgrades to the dealership’s security to the point where it is more airtight than ever before. Considering the shape the economy is in, they’re doing rather well in these times and the owner obviously intends to keep it that way.