Quebec distracted driving law 2018: what it means

I spent some time to figure out what’s in the new Quebec distracted driving law. Basically, I wanted to know if my current setup is allowed. My smartphone is in a holder on the air vent. I run Waze and listen to podcasts. I usually never have to press any buttons, unless I want to play a new podcast.

Here’s what I discovered

First, let’s start with a summary on the Transport Quebec website. It is a long sentence with a few commas. See if you can figure it out.

It is prohibited for any driver of a road vehicle, cyclist, or user of a motorized mobility aid to use a cell phone or any other portable device designed to transmit or receive information or to be used for entertainment purposes, or to use a display screen. Some exceptions are allowed.

II est interdit à tout conducteur d’un véhicule routier, à tout cycliste et à tout utilisateur d’une aide à la mobilité motorisée qui circule sur la chaussée de faire usage d’un téléphone cellulaire ou de tout autre appareil portatif conçu pour transmettre ou recevoir des informations ou pour être utilisé à des fins de divertissement, ou de faire usage d’un écran d’affichage. Certaines exceptions sont prévues.


If I was re-writing it and cutting out all the extra words, I would write: “A driver cannot use a cell phone or use a display screen.”
I understand what a cell phone is. But what is a “display screen”? Do they mean a tablet? I assume so. They don’t want people watching movies while driving. But do they also mean the car’s built-in screen, that allows you to pick a radio station on some cars? It’s not clear. I reviewed Bill 165 and “display screen” is not defined.
What about the “some exceptions are allowed” phrase. I had to check the law to see what these exceptions are. Below is the relevant article of the law. All bolding below is mine.
“443.1. Every driver of a road vehicle and every cyclist are prohibited from using a portable electronic device or a display screen, except in the following cases:

I’m not sure if “portable” applies only to “electronic device” or to “display screen” also. This is an important point. Some cars have built-in display screens to pick a radio station or even turn on the air conditioning. I assume built-in display screens are not affected by the law if for no other reason that they are generally boring and how could the government make it illegal to turn on the radio while driving.

Let’s continue. Here is the first exception to the prohibition:
    • (1) the driver of the road vehicle sends or receives telephone calls using a hands-free device;

So far so good. Obviously if you say “Okay Google, Call Mary” then you aren’t interacting with a screen. Makes sense. The next exception has four parts to it (a to d) and you must comply with all four parts to benefit from the exception.

    • (2) the driver of the road vehicle or the cyclist consults the information displayed on a display screen, including that of a portable electronic device, or activates a screen function if the screen
      • (a) displays only such information as is relevant to driving or riding the vehicle or related to the operation of its usual equipment;
      • (b) is integrated into the vehicle or mounted on a bracket, whether detachable or not, attached to the vehicle;

Part “a” seems to be the Waze exception. You are allowed to “consult” (ie, look at) your GPS navigation from time to time or “activate” (ie, press the app button) a screen function.

Part “b” is the phone holder exception. You can use your smartphone if the phone is in a phone holder. If you don’t have one, you should really get one. There’s no more excuse. A $1.50 phone holder from Dollarama will save you hundreds of dollars in tickets.
      • (c) is placed so as not to obstruct the driver’s or cyclist’s view, interfere with driving or riding, or prevent the operation of equipment or reduce its efficiency and in a manner that does not present a risk of injury in an accident; and
      • (d) is positioned and designed in such a way that the driver of the road vehicle or cyclist can operate and consult it easily.

Part “c” says don’t put the cell phone somewhere that is blocking your view of the road. Duh.

Part “d” says don’t put your cell phone in that little space near the cigarette lighter where you won’t be able to easily see your GPS navigation. Parts “a” to “d” are inclusive. Meaning you need to follow all of them.

What does this all mean?

Based on my understanding of the text, here is what the law is trying to get everyone who uses a cell phone to do:
  1. Put your iPhone/smartphone in a phone holder on the vent, so that it is easy to glance at and doesn’t block your view of the road.
  2. Do not hold the phone in your hand while driving.
  3. You can press buttons to “activate” an app, such as Waze, Google Maps, or your music app, for instance.
  4. Do not text while driving. You cannot text with your hands under any circumstances — even if the phone is in a cradle. Period. If you want to send a message, you’d better figure out how to use voice commands like “Okay, Google… Send a message to Mary.”
This is my interpretation of article 443.1 of Bill 165. Please comment below if you disagree or have any experience with this.
phone holder
A better return-on-investment that most stocks.

STTNG predicts Pokémon Go

Remember that time everyone aboard The Enterprise starts playing that addictive game that Commander Riker picked up on Risa (along with, I’m certain, any number of STDs)? Synopsis of s06e05 here.

It was a Trojan Horse designed to mind-control the crew and it damn near succeeds, except for the fact that Wesley Crusher is skeptical refuses to play. This gives him enough time to fix Lt. Data who was scuttled by a saboteur. Wesley is eventually held down and forced to play the game. But then Lt. Data arrives, strobes some light around the ship, and saves the day.

Now I’m not saying Pokémon Go is a Ktarian scheme to take over the world. But I’m not saying it isn’t, yet.

STTNG Pokenmon Go.jpg

Top 12 podcasts (March 2016)

Top 12 podcasts (March 2016)

A year ago, I listed my favourite podcasts. In that time, I’ve found others and re-assessed my favourites. My main criteria is this: when I see it my feed, do I want to play it before everything else?

RadioLab#1 – Radio Lab: I used to view it like This American Life. But it’s quite different. I like that informal-sounding banter as the producer walks Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich through the story. It’s edited to make it feel like all the interviews are cued up and played live for Jad and Robert on the fly.

#2 Reply AllThe guys at Radio Lab put me on to this one. It has a similar storytelling style as Radio Lab (someone reports, others comment) but the stories all have a loose Internet connection. PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman have an even more conversation tone than the super conversational tone on Radio Lab. Love this podcast.

#3 – This American Life: This is one of the most popular podcasts. It’s also on public radio, so you may have heard it. It is a series of stories organized by a theme. These are extremely well-crafted but the conversational tone makes it feel unlike anything you normally hear on the TV news magazine shows or the evening news. But be warned: Ira Glass’ manner of speaking will slowly creep into your own if you are not careful.

#4 – The Memory Palace: I love listening to these historical stories that Nate DiMeo puts together with the perfect music and delivery. People have compared it to Paul Harvey old radio program The Rest of the Story. But this one is much better, in the way that The Sopranos was better than, say, Dallas.

#4 – Serial: Season 2 of Serial is less addictive than Season 1. But it is a well told story. I’m excited when it appears on my podcast feed.

#5 – Freakonomics Radio: Unlike the first three on the list, Stephen Dubner does the reporting, narrating himself. Although it lacks some of the emotional appear of the first three, you feel smarter after listening that with almost any other podcast.

#6 – Invisibilia: This one has been on for a while. Keeping it on this list because it was good in that way Radio Lab and This American Life is good. Stay tuned.

#7 – The Moth PodcastReal stories by regular people (although a lot tend to be writers). Some are funny. Some are sad. Many are amazing. I don’t always immediately rush to listen because some of the episodes/stories are hit and miss. But when they hit, it’s a 9th inning game-winning grand slam to win the World Series.


#8 – The TED Radio Hour: If you like TED talks, you will like this. It combines clips from the talks with interviews with the speakers. Guy Raz went to the Ira Glass School of Announcing, so you’ll note similarities in his style.

#9 – Planet Money: This was one of the first podcasts I started listening to and it led me to many others, for which I am grateful. It’s also a relatively short podcast that hammers home one or two basic ideas. So you really do understand by the end.

#10 – Pop Culture Happy Hour:
Four people talking about your favourite TV, movies and occasionally music and less occasionally books. It’s a smart way to hear about good movies and shows that your friends aren’t posting on their Facebook wall. They can put me things that I’m happy I know about.

#11: 99% Invisible: This podcast tells stories about design in society, like the phone booth in the middle of the Mojave dessert that some dude heard about, called relentlessly until someone eventually picked up. Or the real-life woman who was the model for much of the bronze statues around New York.

#12 – The Gist: Mike Pesca is one of the best interviewers you’ve not heard of. His style is so informal and he’s funny and smart. He knows sports and politics. Because it’s a daily podcast, I tend to listen less frequently that if it was a weekly one.



How I learned to stop worrying and love the Shopkins (and why you should too)

My thinking has evolved on Shopkins — those miniature toys in the shapes of household items and food that are the hot toy right now. At first I thought, oh great, my daughters are being sucked into the world of collecting things. While that’s still true, here’s what’s also true:

1. My street turns into a Shopkins trading market at least twice a week, which is teaching my kids about making deals.

2. Shopkins inventory is counted out loud several times a day, which is teaching my kids that counting has a real purpose beyond showing off that you can make it to 100.

3. The Shopkins inventory sheet is read again and again, which demonstrates that you can read to learn, not just learn to read.

4. New words have been added to my kids’ vocabulary, including duplicates, common, rare, ultra-rare, limited edition, special edition, and blind basket.

You win, Shopkins. My kids are addicted to your profit-making toy. But I’m going to have the last laugh.

Why Inside Out made you cry

First things first.

I know your eyes got wet watching Inside Out with your kids at the movie theatre. The story gets you halfway there with the themes of growing up and losing the memories of early childhood, like invisible friends and are carefree joy. The animation pushes you to the edge with incredible emotional range of its virtual actors.


But it’s the music that knocks your feet from under you. What music, you ask? There was music?

While watching Inside Out, I was conscious of the subtle piano notes that signalled a sad scene. They reminded me of the musical notes from Lost. They did their job every time. You can listen below.

You can buy the Inside Out original soundtrack at or wherever you get the stuff.

Go see Inside Out with your kids. Bring tissue and casually wipe your eyes in the dark theatre. Then give your kids a giant hug.

How to become shopping-cart neutral

How to become shopping cart neutral

Becoming carbon neutral means that if you want to pollute a little, you have to clean the air a little too in the same proportion. Drive car? Then plant a tree.

I propose a less grand, but more easily attainable initiative that everyone can do immediately. Become shopping-cart neutral.

Here’s my idea: if you plan on bringing your full shopping cart to the parking lot and leaving it in those parking lot huts, no problem. Just bring in someone else’s shopping cart from the parking lot before you start shopping.

When you do this, you have not added to the net shopping carts in the parking lot. You just removed one and later added one. You are are now shopping-cart neutral. You will feel like a good person, and people who see you do it will believe you are a good person.

Note: the author worked at a supermarket for many years and was that guy who had to bring in all those carts. He wishes someone else had floated this idea back then.

About Magic Max’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Cereal

We bought Manischewitz-brand Magic Max’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Cereal lasy week because the photo on the box made it look so darn good with chocolate sprinkles galore. It even looks better than Cookie Crisp cereal.

Magic Max's Chocolate Chip Cookie Cereal
A promising beginning

The first disappointment was the inner-bag size. I should have been prepared for this. It’s not my first year eating Passover cereal. And the box does clearly state 156g. (Fool me twice, etc.)

Magic Max uses his powers to shrink the inside bag.
Magic Max uses his powers to shrink the inside bag.

The second disappointment was the look of the actual cereal. It was not exactly as pictured on the box. And there were also a few Sunny O’s in there. Something else looks like a chocolate version of the Chocolate Chip Cookie Cereal. Maybe it’s another cereal from Manischewitz or the regular cereal got caught in the cocoa powder too long.

Did Magic Max make the sprinkles disappear?
Did Magic Max make the sprinkles disappear?

The final disappointment was the smell. My wife thinks it went bad. I’m not sure. It might just be the regular smell. The best before date is August 20, 2015. We bought it at the IGA on Salaberry near the Marché de l’ouest. I’ve contacted the people at Manischewitz to ask about whether the expiry date indicates it was from last year’s stock or this year’s. I’ll update this when I get the answer.

Bottom line: enjoy your matzoh and jam and forget these cereals.

Autoplay videos on Montreal Gazette website are a terrible idea

I was minding my own business, reading quietly. It was a Montreal Gazette​ article about a dynamic market for street parking. I had listened to a Freakonomics podcast about this in San Francisco and was interested to see the Montreal angle.

I made the mistake maintaining interest in the article and reading well into the middle of the piece. That’s when I was blasted by the loud electric guitar sounds of a car commercial embedded in the article.

Autoplay videos are a very bad idea for online newspapers. It turns out, everyone else feels the same way. Here’s a PC World article showing how to change browser settings to stop it.