Sunday, November 26, 2006

Santa is here!

Saturday night, after doing some extra in store demonstration work on behalf of my employer, I attended the Aurora Santa Claus Parade. The Aurora parade is a little different from most others, it occurs at night. For over ten years Aurora has held their parade at night.

Santa at the end of the Aurora Santa Claus Parade.



Check out further pictures of this here.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Happy U.S. Thanksgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving

The company I'm currently working for released a little something fun for the upcoming U.S. Thanksgiving that I thought I would share.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my U.S. readers.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Happy Birthday!

Last week I celebrated my birthday. I received a new digital camera that, finally, I have been able to download pictures from. An example of a picture that I have finally been able to download is below. The bear was made by my former roomate from Brooklyn when I was living in the United States. She hand knit all by herself. I'm proud of her. The card is also from her.

The camera is awesome! I thank my Aunt, Uncle and cousins for buying it for me. No longer will be I be seen fumbling with batteries for my old camera...NO SIREE!

Today is my sister's birthday....HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTINE! Thanks for the purple tie that I have to match my purple shirt!

Thanks to everyone who helped celebrate my birthday.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Sign, Sign...Everywhere a Sign...


Over at Torontoist blog, they take a look at the different aspects of effective election signage. The blog takes a close look at what makes a sign eye catching and what makes a sign "ho hum" boring. Of course the blog, Torontoist, uses Toronto city Council candidates as examples.

In the province of Ontario right now municipalities (i.e. towns and cities) are currently holding elections for their respective local councils.

 As everyone knows elections usually brings forth a plethora of signs (as the above picture of Aurora council and mayoral candidates will show). At least the towns making up York Region all are able to recycle the plastic and paper signs in the recycling programs. So the chances of the above signs entering landfill in Michigan is far less likely. What does Aurora & Toronto have to do with garbage in Michigan? That's where these two places send their trash!

 True some council candidates try and go without using election signs claiming it damages the environment. I applaud these council candidates for trying to reduce the amount of paper and plastic being produced. But on the downside, the candidate's names are not widely known because their names aren't on signs that are seen repeatedly by prospective voters.

From past Aurora municipal elections I have found council candidates who do use signs and use them effectively tend to get elected. With the Torontoist blog taking a look a deep look at election sign design, lets take a look here at sign location.

As I have traveled around Aurora I have noticed two different places and two different times election signs are used:

The places:

1. Most council candidates first place the signs on the lawns or in windows where supporters reside or have their business. In Toronto, due to fact election signs are hard to pound into cement, businesses put election signs in their front windows. At residences these signs are easily placed on the lawns. The lawn and business signage is quite effective in the eyes of the candidate. This is because people going by will see their neighbour is supporting a certain candidate, so why not vote for them too? This type of thinking can be a voter loser in some cases if the homeowner is thought to be a nuisance or "local renegade". Then perhaps the neighbours might dismiss the candidate's name and vote for one of the competitors. Otherwise, they are usually pretty safe because these same signs are seen by everyone on the street at least once a day as neighbours walk or drive by one residence.

2. On public lawns like parks or boulevards. Today I noticed along one major road in Aurora that the signs look worse than dandelions in spring! There were signs near the trees, signs giving the curb of the road a challenge to stay in on place and a plethora of signs competing for space (even worse than the above photo). These can be effective if used in a repetitive fashion. I have found that the signs located on public lawns tend to multiply like rabbits the weekend before voters go to the polls. This is because candidates believe if they can just get their name stuck in the head of the voter just before they go to the poll then perhaps they may gain some additional votes. In Aurora this is especially so considering that each voter can elect up to ten positions (1 mayor, 8 councilors and 1 school trustee). So in Aurora's case, keeping ten names straight can be hard to do for some voters. With this large number of candidates to vote for, in Aurora's case, some voters might forget one council candidate's name they originally intended to vote for. Instead, the voter might choose another candidate's name because it was on a sign just before they got to the polls. Basically the signs planted on public lawns are meant to re-enforce the name of the candidate on the mind of the voter.

Timing:

1. Usually election signs start sprouting as election day draws to within one or two months. The signs located on residential lawns are the first to be placed. These lawns are usually the ones the candidate knows pretty well. In other words most of the first election signs are placed on family and friends lawns. Next the ones on public lawns in prime locations are placed. This is to stake out prime real estate like on corners at intersections of major roads. This ply for public lawn locations is because the candidate who gets the spot first, gets to leave their sign their for the entire campaign. Also throughout the campaign candidates are knocking on doors and finding supporters. These supporters may request a lawn sign. The candidate, not wanting to upset a prospective voter, will usually oblige as it usually secures the vote of the property owner as well as helps to promote the candidate's name in the neighbourhood (this is discussed above).

2. The weekend before the election day the signs start to grow even faster. This is because the final push is on in order to get the candidate's name known. So public lawns usually start seeing signs multiply on them and challenge each other for space. Today in Aurora I walked along a major road for just over one kilometer and estimate I saw more than fifty to sixty signs. Most of the signs were for two mayoral candidates. I definitely have her name on my mind. She claims to be for the environment but the over doing of the election signs on this particular street tells me differently!

Signs are generally seen as being a positive for candidates to get their names out there. However, what some candidates don't see, that I have illustrated above, the signs can have negative effects. But nonetheless, it seems, signs are required to win an election. That is because for the most part those candidates that refuse to put up election signs don't seem to be successfully elected.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Chapter 10: Union Station

In case you are wonderin' what is going on with this post....click here.

In chapter 10, Joe Fiorito investigates what different cultures do best. Fiorito investigates the a Lebanese family restaurant during a breakfast on a Sunday, an Italian family pork shop, a Polish Met Market and others.

I find these "ethnic food places" have some of the best food to be found in any town. Perhaps this is because the owners of these fine eating establishments take great care in preparing their food. T.C.'s Fish & Chips in Aurora, located conveniently right next to my church on Yonge Street in Aurora, a Greek family makes fabulous burgers, fries, salads and of course fish! My favourite at this fine establishment is the cheeseburger combo. After ordering your choice of drink, medium fries and burger you can listen to the jokes and tomfoolery of the staff. Usually Chris, the owner, is at the grill with either Glen or one of his compatriots. Talk from the grill ranges from women, to life in general to how much the Toronto Maple Leafs rule or stink. The food, while the banter is going on between Chris, his assistant and yourself goes on, your burger is put on fresh and flame kissed and your fries are being fried. The burger? Top it just the way you want it. Its like Harvey's but even better because the food and staff are exceptional instead of some pimply teenager who you may never see again slopping stuff on your burger. Once the food is done your mouth is just salivating to dig into it! Portions are quite generous as your paper plate overfloes with a burger and fries. On the tables there is ketchup galore to cover your fries. You never go home hungry after visiting T.C.'s. In fact, some people request smaller portions so no food is wasted. I still wonder why people would go to McDonald's when a place like this exists in Aurora.

What are different ethnicities known for making?:

Italians - Pizza, Pasta & Pork Products.

Polish - Pork products.

Chinese - Chinese food of course!

Canadians - Bacon, Beer and Donuts.

Have I missed any? Probably, please let me know in the comment section.

Santa Claus and Christmas at the Northpole

Santa Claus and Christmas at the Northpole

When does the official shopping season for Christmas begin?

This year it seems to be as soon as the pumpkins, the ghouls and the gobblins of Halloween have been laid to rest for the year. I was in Canadian Tire store here in Aurora last weekend when I passed by the seasonal area. Already in eisle were the LED Christmas lights, the garland and other Christmas bric a brac were being put on the shelves.

Heck, Friday the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center in New York City was being erected. When I was in New York City, I loved the tree and the festive skaters of Rockefeller Center, but in November? This seems to be a little much.

The question is who is driving the season of Christmas earlier and earlier? Commercial establishments, like Canadian Tire & Sears, would be the main culprits. My question to these multi million dollar corporations is why do you have your Christmas Commercials on now?

Canada Post has even gotten in on the rush to get Christmas going by sending out a flyer that says when the last day Christmas packages can be sent via mail. Is this really necessary before December 1st? Sure Christmas presents headed overseas must leave before December 1st in order to be gaurenteed prime real estate under someone's Christmas tree.

As for me, well I bought some LED Christmas lights this morning from Canadian Tire. Am I a hypocrite? No, I'm just prepping my window that faces Yonge Street for next weekend's Santa Claus Parade in Aurora. Aurora has "Santa under the Stars" parade which means the Santa Claus Parade occurs at night. Want to see the parade in Aurora? Check out the local cable company, ACI, website because apparently the cable company will be taping the parade and broadcasting it on their website. As for the lights, I'm hoping to be apart of the celebration that evening of fine Aurora community spirit.

The only dissapointment I have about the lights, and I only noticed this when I opened the box, is that the LED lights I bought, when they burn out their done! Yes, no replacement bulbs are available for this string. I find that a little environmentally irresponsible of the people at NOMA. NOMA, the company that made the lights, should have all their strands of Christmas lights have the ability to have their bulbs replaced instead of being forced to throw out the entire strand and buy a new one once some of the lights have burnt out. It just doesn't seem right.

As I'm in the marketing business with my job, however, I don't mind Christmas hitting the stores earlier. This season secures my employement as this is the biggest season for merchandising and associated product placement industries in large stores like Loblaws and Canadian Tire.

But, I do find it weird to be looking at Christmas crap in November. Christmas should not start until December 1st. Otherwise you might get tired of Christmas by the time Christmas Day actually arrives. But I guess that is why people usually take the week of Christmas off....because people have grown weary of the Christmas season. Its a pity really.

What ever happened to Christmas starting on December 1st? What ever happened?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Is the Commute the Best Part of your Day?

Re: Kopun, Francine. "Commuters say they enjoy the ride; Even StatsCan analyst surprised Liking your job helps, survey finds." Toronto Star. 8 November 2006: Page A3.

When I read this article I nearly fell of my chair laughing. It turns out that people consider commuting to be not bad. My question to these pollsters is:

Did you talk to anyone in Ontario?

 Most Ontarioans, I would bet, think their commute stinks! Stuck in gridlocked traffic, being cut off by some @%! hole driving a BMW who believes he is much more important than thou.

I did agree with the finding that those who took mass transit find their commute the worst. Over stuffed Subways, buses that leave you at the curb because there is no room (and your lucky if they even arrive on time!) and unpolite people jamming their bags into you and/or talking on their cell phones are just some reasons. In York Region, it seems the mass transit system needs a lot of work, even with the advent of the VIVA system. Why does it take an hour to just over two hours to go from central York Region (Aurora) to Downsview Station? This is because connections between buses are obnoxious (i.e. one bus just misses the other by a minute forcing passengers needing to transfer to wait ten to fifteen minutes or even more). When you call VIVA customer service they give you lame excuses like: "the system operates just like the subway" and "there is traffic causing delays." Well news flash, the Toronto subway, unlike VIVA, doesn't operate every 10 minutes or 15 minutes apart. Also, there is constant traffic, so if you promise a bus will arrive every ten minutes or less or fifteen minutes or less then perhaps you should be running them less than ten minutes apart or less than fifteen minutes apart. No wonder this commute take so long!

Considering that the average commute in the Greater Toronto Area (Toronto and its surrounding suburbs) is 79 minutes and growing, how can these commuters be enjoying their commutes?

I know when I was in Ottawa as a student, I noted similar traffic conditions to those of Toronto. Bumper to bumper and overpacked OC Transpo bus system into the downtown core is also the rule in Ottawa. So how can people claim this a good commute. I'm not sure how people enjoy sitting in a car or bus that isn't going anywhere.

People enjoy their commute in smaller centers? Perhaps, I will concede this. But I would imagine that most jobs are in big cities like the Greater Toronto area, Vancouver, Montreal, Ottawa and others where the traffic arteries are clogged worse than an obese person chugging down mountains of McDonald's french fries. Transit? The transit systems are choking on their own success with overflowing buses and subway systems. I'm still wondering how could this be possible that people enjoy their commute?

Perhaps the pollsters called quite a few rural farmers whose commute involves hopping in the pick-up truck and driving down the half kilometer driveway to barn. These country bumpkins only have to worry about a non moooooooving cow instead of an idiot whose car broke down in the middle lane of Highway 401 at Yonge Street in Toronto. No wonder these people would say they have a possible commute, their work is only max one kilometre away! This would offset the percentages of those in urban centers who hate their commutes and the related daily grind of work.

Perhaps Statscan should try this study again. Perhaps Statscan take can exclude the rural folk who don't commute into an urban centre on a regular basis to work. Then perhaps Statscan would have a more true commute to work responses that look like this:

Have you ever tried to navigate through Toronto during rush hour? Do you think Statscan really knows what it's like to try to drive downtown - can't turn left, can't turn right, construction, etc.? -- Calvin Lam, Toronto

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Election Issues

Elections are all about the issues for both the candidates and voters. In local election politics these issues can range from how to increase the rate of recycling, what roads need to be repaved or how much taxes will increase. These are usually the issues that tend to get the attention of the politicians, the media and the voters.

However, other election issues do arise. Take my case when I received a letter from the Deputy Clerk of the Town of Aurora stating they could not confirm my Canadian Citizenship and thus am not on the voters list. Then the Town of Aurora sends me a voter registration card which basically says I'm on the voters list and please vote at this poll. I'm still confused about how I could be on the voters list since I have not followed up on the letter from the Deputy Clerk and confirmed my Canadian citizenship. (For the full story on my situation click here)

Perhaps even worse is a story I read today in the Toronto Sun. A gentleman has received a voter registration card for the upcoming municipal election in the city of Toronto. This particular voter registration card was issued to the name of his wife who is dead. To make matters worse, his wife has been dead for thirteen years and yet he continues to receive voter registration cards for elections at the federal, provincial and municipal levels of government. Perhaps voters lists could be updated a little more thoroughly using the written applications for death certificates. But of course this would be too simple.

Another issue that doesn't get much media attention is the problem of election signs. Oh sure there are pictures of politicians banging in election signs on some nicely manicured lawns of your typical single family suburban home. But what about the people who live in apartment buildings? How do they publicly show support for a candidate? The Torontoist blog takes a look at this very issue in terms of the upcoming Toronto municipal election in this post. Apparently there are so many legalities around if and when an election sign is put up on both public and private property it would make your head spin. So how do candidates figure these rules? How do private citizens figure out these rules?

For that matter, who even knows all the rules? Friends of mine have lived together in Aurora for about two or three years in an apartment together. These friends have not received their voter registration cards yet. Even worse was a letter to the editor in the local newspaper I read recently. The author of the letter stated after living in the same house for over twenty five years, she did not receive a voters registration card for the upcoming municipal election in Aurora. These two instances just make you want to go "Hmmmm..."

Election issues are fun to read about and investigate. Sometimes they make you laugh and think "How can they be so stupid?" While others make you go "Hmmmmmm". So if you live in Ontario, please remember to vote on November 13th. And for my sake, please ensure your over the age of eighteen, a resident or tenant of the municipality you are voting in, because, trust me, the powers that be sure won't.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair

Today I headed down to the Exhibition Grounds in Toronto to check out the 84th Annual Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. I love seeing farm animals and vegetables at their best. Below is a sampling of what I saw:


Can you pick your nose with your tongue?
How many pies can one make from a 950 pound pumpkin?
"Please tell me my tail is nicely braided. Please tell me."
"Phew...thank goodness, my tail is nicely braided.."

More pictures of the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair can be found here

York's Best Graduate

Re: Millar, Sarah. "Massive Fines." The Excalibur. 1 November 2006. Online. Internet. 1 November 2006: http://www.excal.on.ca/?option=com_content&task=view&id=2341&Itemid=49

From the York University Excalibur:

Hamed Taghatti owed the university $10,775, which included a $15 administration fee, to cover 287 parking incidents that he had incurred over his years as a student at York. 

As per York's policy, his convocation privileges were withheld until he paid the balance in full. 

Taghatti said he paid off the balance the day before convocation a few weeks ago, but he did not elaborate on how he paid it off.

He considered pursuing legal action against the university due to the occurrences but decided not to because it would drag things out for too long, and he needed his transcripts in order to get a job.

Despite that, he felt frustrated that York did not give him any notice as to the fact that he owed so much in fines before graduation. 

"There's no way they shouldn't let you know after the first infraction. There's no reason why they wouldn't stop all your activities or something on the first month - that you've done such an infraction rather than do it five years later. 

"This is just for profit because they know if they don't give out these notices or if they make students think this is not serious stuff, they'll just keep doing it and doing it and doing it, and then, in the end, they're the ones who win," Taghatti said. --The Excalibur Article

Should Taghatti even been allowed to:

A. Be allowed to hold a driver's licence

and

B. Graduate?

Since Taghatti has received over 200 parking infractions at York University alone, why should he even be allowed to drive a car? His eye sight must be way out of wack because the parking restrictions at York University are well signed including the fines. Park in the VIVA bus cutout near York Lanes $200 fine. There are even no standing signs around the fire hydrants.

I would expect the average driver to probably have one or two tickets over their educational career at York University. These two tickets might accumulate through mistakenly not displaying the parking pass in the window or stopping in a No Standing zone. But 287 tickets? That seems more than excessive.

 I would love to know how many parking tickets Taghatti has in the rest of Toronto. Considering the York University campus size compared to the size of the overall city of Toronto, I would say over 1000 parking tickets. Where does this guy get the money to pay off these fines? He must work at McDonald's nightly alone in order to pay off the parking tickets.

But what does 287 parking tickets at York University say about the legal officials? This guy should be pulled off the road as Taghatti cannot obviously legally park a motor vehicle let alone drive it. Further, Taghatti wanted notification that he owed so much in fines before graduating. MEMO: The parking ticket nicely tucked under your windshield wiper is the notice you owe chaching, buckos, sheckles, etc. Need more notice than the tickets? Then don't drive because perhaps you might miss the STOP sign and kill a pedestrian. There are no second notices for STOP signs.

The Administration at York University need to get at a life here. I feel my teaching degree from York University has been cheapened by letting Taghatti graduate. Someone stupid enough to accumulate 287 parking tickets at your campus alone should be sent back to start university all over again and not graduate. Why should I, a graduate of York University, hold the same educational certification level as a guy who cannot simply park a car, as 287 parking tickets would prove, and then demands notice of the amount due from the university? It doesn't seem right, not right at all.

Even worse, Taghatti believes York University is winning in handing out 287 tickets and that fact that believes that he owes a lot of money. How else to explain this quote from Taghatti: "This is just for profit because they know if they don't give out these notices or if they make students think this is not serious stuff, they'll just keep doing it and doing it and doing it, and then, in the end, they're the ones who win." Taghatti is wrong, the University is the ultimate loser in this situation. If they graduate a person this stupid, what does it say about the rest of the graduates and current students? That our certificates are mainly paid for parking tickets and do not show anything about our education. If this previous line isn't true, then why did York University graduate Taghatti?

WARNING TO YORK STUDENTS: Stay off the sidewalks, your fellow York Students may be at the wheel trying to park!

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