Monday, December 31, 2007

Cross Country Skiing at Wye Marsh

On Saturday my family and my girlfriend headed to Wye Marsh in Midland, Ontario to go cross country skiing and feed a few chickadees as well.

Feel free to check out last years and this years photos here.

Following the skiing, we headed out to visit the Trumpeter Swans that the Wye Marsh is breeding. The marsh is home to about one third of the endangered Trumpeter Swan population in Ontario. Below is Youtube video of the swans in action:

The Wye Marsh Cross Country Skiing for two is about fifty dollars which includes general admission and cross country ski rentals. Not bad for a nice day out with a picnic lunch packed.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Snowstorm of 2007

This morning I woke up expecting a winter wonderland of snow outside my window. Man was I sadly mistaken. All I saw was about two centemetres of snow outside and a few flakes falling.

I headed out to investigate the snowstorm during my work at Aurora United Church this morning. I did a lot of shovelling this morning of the Church's sidewalks and walkways. Later on it got much worse. Here is what downtown Aurora looked like between 10:00 A.M. and 12 Noon:

Yonge Street looking south from the corner of Mosely Street

Yonge Street looking north from the corner of Mosely Street

Yonge Street looking south from Church Street

Yonge Street looking north from the corner of Church Street

There was, of course, lots of idiots on the road. The real question for these drivers was "why are you on the road in the worst snowstorm in recent memory?"

There was, as you can see from the pictures, reduced visibility and even whiteouts on Yonge Street in downtown Aurora. The commute on the way into work tomorrow morning will be interesting.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Just a nice dinner at Jonathan's

Last night, my girlfriend and I headed out to dinner to Jonathan's Fine Food in Aurora.

When we entered the restaurant the two of us were seated quickly. We read over the menu and our waitress came within five minutes to inquire about our drink order. Another three minutes passed and our food order was taken. Ten minutes after our order was taken our food arrived and our server double checked to see if there was anything else she could get for us. Great and timely service is what I've come to expect from Jonathan's.

The food was good to. Everything was neatly prepared in a decent sized portions. I left the restaurant feeling quite content and not hungry or wondering what I got for money.

The Souvlaki dinner was well prepared and is one of the better ones we have had in the Aurora. The Chicken club was interesting considering it was served on a keyser bun instead of using bread. This was a pleaseant surprise as I was expecting the sandwich to be made out of either white or whole wheat. The sandwhich came with a bottle of ketchup and mainaise so the patron can add as much or as little of these two condiments as they wanted. Nonetheless the club sandwhich with fries was well prepared and presented.

The bill came to just over $23.00 and was delivered relatively shortly after our server came to clear our plates off after our dinner.

We most definately will be returning as both of us know we can rely on Jonathan's for good food and service.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Useful Idea

Ever wonder how to keep your bag of half eaten potato chips from going stale? Most people use what they call a bag clip that keeps the top of the bag from unravelling. Too cheap or environmentally friendly to even consider using a bag clip?

Kudos to this guy!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Karlheinz Schreiber is making Canadian history

Karlheinz Schreiber has made a name for himself in Canadian history in several calculated moves. Here is just a snippet of history Schreiber has made:

1. Not since the 1910′s has a Speaker’s Warrant been issued by the House of Commons Speaker. Schreiber was compelled to come to Ottawa in order to appear before the House of Commons’ Ethics Committee.

2. Caused a possible political scandal to erupt over money. The last Conservative government to have problems with money was probably Sir John A. Macdonald and the Pacific Scandal. The Liberals, however, recently had a money scandal with known as the “Sponsorship Scandal” or “Adscam”. But at least in Canada political money scandals involving Prime Ministers are few and far between.

3. A man facing charges of tax evasion, bribery and other charges in a foreign country (Germany) is at the centre of a Canadian public inquiry and scandal. I have no recollection in Canadian, or for that matter world history, of a man so deep in financial law trouble holding hostage a major political institution like Schreiber currently has the Canadian Parliamentary and Judicial system.

Schreiber is quite a manipulative gentleman who has managed to stave off extradition to Germany to face the German judicial system since 1999. He has appealed his way all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada so far in the judicial system. Realizing he is almost out of options, Schreiber has now turned to the political system. Hence, he is now trying to work the Canadian political system by placing allegations on one of Canada’s former Prime Ministers. This has caused the Canadian political system to come to a crawl as all eyes are on shifty felon’s next calculated moves.

Schreiber knows he is in trouble over the charges in Germany and in Canada. Schreiber also figures that since he will someday have to face the music in Germany over the allegations over shady financial dealings, he might as well have some fun in the meantime. What more fun can a guy have than tie up the Canadian judicial system by using one of Canada’s top lawyers, Edward Greenspan (the same lawyer who defended Conrad Black in Chicago) and then compel a public inquiry to be called. Even more fun is saying that you are willing to talk in order to bring forth the complete story then, when warranted by the Speaker of the House of Commons, Peter Milliken, to appear before the House of Commons Ethics Committee, to clam up and refuse to talk without his papers. How convenient is Schreiber saying that he is more than willing to talk and then, when allowed to do so before a Parliamentary Committee, he refuses to do saying he has to review some of the over thirty thousand documents he has in his possession.

So House of Commons Speaker Peter Milliken arranges that Schreiber may retreive the documents from Schreiber’s townhouse in order to be read in custody at the Ottawa detention centre. However, Schreiber’s lawyer Edward Greenspan says this is unacceptable as the documents could be stolen by other inmates while Schreiber is in the detention centre. Greenspan wants Schreiber under house arrest in order to review the documents. Mr. Greenspan should be asked how the documents could be stolen if Mr. Schreiber is escorted to and from the detention centre by now less than two police escorts (not to mention a media entourage that any Hollywood star would be proud of) and has his own private jail cell that normally holds two inmantes.

Karlheinz Schreiber will be called before the House of Commons Ethics Committee again this coming Tuesday. More questions will be asked by MPs from all political parties. Schreiber will take his sweet time in order to manipulate his way through the committee hearings. Schreiber will continue to string along the committee by providing juicy details at times and refusing to elaborate at other times in order to keep the MPs hung on his every word. This will probably frustrate many MPs on the Ethics Committee who wanted Schreiber to talk. Schreiber, however, wants to string this out as long as possible because he wants to remain in Canada in order to avoid the stress of having to face the German court system. Besides, what better way to have fun than to bring a major democratic country’s political institution to a halt as well as appear in major newspapers and on television stations accross the country. Since November 30th to today (December 1st) there have been over two thousand articles and television pieces written on Schreiber according a Google News search. Hows that for media exposure?

A felon has brought the Canadian political system to a halt and has successfully tied up the Canadian judicial system since 1999. Who else in Canadian History has done that? If mobster Al Capone were alive today he surely would be smiling at Karlheinz Schreiber’s judicial and political gamesmanships. Capone would be impressed that Schreiber has avoided being deported for what will soon be almost ten years when it is all over, been as politically wiley as many great politicians like William Lyon Mackenzie King in dealing with the Canadian Parliament, and all the while making a name for oneself in both the media and the history books. Schreiber is making history indeed, now the main question is how long will he be able to make history before being deported to Germany? That is the most interesting question that only time, which will eventually become history, will tell.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Time for a little Swashbuckling

"SABRE!" - Peter Suddard
On Saturday my family headed to Newmarket High School for my sister's fencing tournament.
Like last time, I took my digital camera with me and recorded almost all of my sister's matches:

Match #1

Match #2

Match #3

Match #4

Match #5

Quarter Final Match Part 1

Quarter Final Match Part 2

Thanks to Jocelyn, Mike, and others for coming out to support my sister's swashbucking efforts!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Lovin' Bein' Shoeless

On Friday night my girlfriend and I headed up to King Henry's Arms for a bite to eat. I had looked at to see where might be a good place to go to eat besides my regular places in town. King Henry's Arms was well rated and I had never been there before. My girlfriend and I arrived around 7:00 P.M. to find there was an hour wait!

We decided to head across the street to Shoeless Joe's at Orchard Heights & Yonge Street in Aurora. We were seated right away. This is a relatively small restaurant compared to others in town (i.e. East Side Marios) and have always had decent service here. Jaclyn, our server, took our drink order right away. The drinks came pretty quickly and she gave us additional time for my girlfriend to decide on an order.

My girlfriend had the classic burger with fries and I had the triple play burger with fries. The food came quick and was decently cooked. We took our time and Jaclyn checked in once to see if we needed anything else after she delivered the food. We both enjoyed our meal.

Following our meal Jaclyn inquired if we would like dessert or anything else. We politely got the bill. We tipped her fairly well and left. Jaclyn was a great server in that she kept things moving a decent pace and we never had to wait long for service when required. The food was well prepared as well.

Hopefully, one day we will get to King Henry's Arms, but since it seems like it is the most popular place in town, we don't mind having old standbys like Sholess Joe's where good service and decent food are normal.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

6 Year Old Vandal? New York has gone to chalk

A six year old girl was out on her front stoop in the Park Slope area of Brooklyn within New York City doing what any other six year would do, help her mom redecorate the boring concrete with run of the mill sidewalk chalk.

The six year old girl is disrupted by some idiot working for New York City's departmant of sanitation who hands her mom a letter stating that unless she removes her daughter's artwork, that enforcement action will be undertaken against the mother by the city.

Apparently the City of New York has nothing better to do than harass a six year old passing some quality time on her front stoop and nearby sidwalk with some sidewalk chalk. Horrors! This kid isn't hanging out at the store asking for spare change or raising a ruckus on the New York City Subway.

The buffoon from the city said enforcement would be undertaken under a New York City law that was passed in 2005 saying:

"any letter, word, name, number, symbol, slogan, message, drawing, picture, writing … that is drawn, painted, chiseled, scratched, or etched on a commercial building or residential building.”

Further on in the bureaucratise of this law it states:

"...not consented to by the owner of the commercial building or residential building."

The daughter was being nailed on the first part of this law while the city idiot, nonetheless employed by the city itself, failed to even look at the second part of the law. This is obvious because if the mother, who owns the property, had of been asked if she consented to the chalk drawings obviously would have said "yes I do. " The "yes I approve" from the mother would have easily cleared this young suspect of the crime under the section requiring lack of consent. But obviously that would be too easy.

The city of New York instead wishes to waste their taxpayer's money on chasing a young six year old holding a piece of chalk. Whats next? Enforcement money being asked for by the city for preventing Staples from selling your basic sidewalk chalk?

Doesn't the city have anything better to do like cleaning the subway stations of the gum marks, sticky floors, the graffitti, etc.? How about educating students about manners and the importance of a good education. Or how about encouraging school aged children to get active in physical education lessons considering the increase in obesity in the United States is at epidemic proportions. These are only a couple of suggestions that would improve the city rather than checking up on the activities of a law abiding six year old.

Apparently the city has nothing better to do than harass a six year old and her mother over a bunch of harmless chalk drawings that will dissappear during the next rainstorm. What's next? The city hunting down six year olds for not having a vendor's permit to hold a lemonade sale or a building permit for that snow man?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

What a Barrel of Pickles

Last night my girlfriend and I headed out to dinner at the Pickle Barrel restaurant at Promenade Mall. We had hoped to have a nice dinner out before heading home for the evening. I had been to a nother Pickle Barrel restaurant before with my fellow coworkers and thought the food and service was excellent. The Promenade Mall location was on our way home so we decided to try this other location out.

What a disaster it turned out to be!

We arrived and were seated at 6:00 P.M. The hostess had a long line up and several reservations to deal with. There didn't seem to be any help for her, but she did keep plugging away and was very courteous about it.

My girlfriend and I pondered over our menus for about five minutes before putting them down. We waited until 6:10 P.M. to even know who our server was! Mitchell, our server, then took our drink order. Now normally in my restaurenting experience drink orders are normally taken at most five minutes after the people sit down. This got my ears perked up that something was wrong.

Perhaps another inclination that we were not in for at least decent service was Mitchell, even before approaching our table for the drink order, was seen playing around with a three year old a table behind us.

Next when Mitchell brought us our drinks he explained there were no large cups left and that he would have to keep refilling our small cups. He even switched our drinks around so my girlfriend and I had each other's drinks instead of our own. We quickly rectified that problem after Mitchell left our table.

At 6:25 P.M. Mitchell refillled my 7 Up. However, instead of getting a 7 up, I recieved a large glass of water! Nice, after paying the usual outrageous restaurant price of $1.99 for watered down pop with free refills, they forget to get you the same thing to refill!

After a few dirty looks to Mitchell, I flagged him down and asked why I received water. He quickly got a new 7 Up in a large glass.

The food came about 6:35 P.M. which was adequate timing between ordering and receiving of the food. However, I was a little dissapointed with what I ordered:

Original deli burger topped with Canadian cheddar.Served with French fries & coleslaw.
Add bacon...1.00

The above is what the menu said I ordered. The burger was decent and I added the bacon for an extra dollar. However, there number of fries was dissapointing. My girlfriend ordered:

Original deli burger topped with Swiss cheese, grilled onion and mushrooms, served with French fries & coleslaw.

And got way more fries than I did! Basically both orders of burgers were the same except hers had added mushrooms, swiss cheese (instead of chedder), grilled onoin and mushrooms. So why does she get twice as many fries as I did? I didn't question it verbally with the waiter, but my mind was now not leaning towards ever returning to this restaurant again.

Finally, after we finished our meal, we asked for a refill on our water and 7 Up. It took Mitchell another five minutes to complete this task and then get our bill.

Our bill was screwed up. On the bill for my order to add the bacon the price was $1.99 instead of the $1.00 listed in the menu. I got up immediately to speak with the manager. The manager gave us a discount of $1.00 off the price we paid (including taxes).

My girlfriend and I gathered up our cash for the bill. I approached Mitchell to pay for the bill. I asked for change, he searched and said he didn't have any below a five. A waiter not having any change below a five? HELLO! Something is wrong! Usually wait staff have gobs of coin as that is what tips are usually done out in. I grabbed the cash and receipt and asked him to bring the change to our seat. My girlfriend and I refigured out the cash and got it to within ten cents and left.

To say the least we both hope Mitchell enjoys his ten cent tip. Do we care? No not really as we will never be back to this location again.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A walk in woods on a fine Autumn Day

Last Sunday my girlfriend and I headed for Case Woodlot in Aurora to check out the fall colours. Here is what we saw:

More photos of our hike in the woods can be found in the Aurora area of the Scrapbook section of my website.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Happy Customer Appreciation Day! Have a muffin and a fare Increase

This past Thursday was customer appreciation day on YRT and VIVA. While I waited to transfer buses at Richmond Hill Centre, I was approached by one of YRT's marketing gurus and offered a muffin. I thought this was nice YRT and VIVA were honouring their customers.

Little did I know that later that night in confines of the York Region Council Chambers in Newmarket that some skulduggery was occurring (according to the local newspaper):

"York Region council made it official Thursday by voting for the increase and paving the way for the single-ride cash fare to rise by 25 cents to $3. The introduction of the $3 cash fare will give YRT and Viva the most expensive single-ride cash fare in the GTA." - York Region Media Group.

Apparently YRT & VIVA believe that a great way to show appreciation to their customers. YRT and VIVA never made a mention that they were proposing a fare increase. Some would question if it was York Region Council calling for a fare increase. Not so as it was YRT's Finance Manager who proposed the increases and many York Regional Councillors who fought the hikes against students and seniors. As I read the newspaper article, I didn't feel appreciated as a YRT/VIVA customer, I felt slapped in the face.

YRT management contend that ridership needs to bear more of the burden then the ridership currently has. Fine, then add more riders to the existing routes. Ridership has been on the rise as YRT and VIVA's ridership figures show which means more money coming in per trip. In order to continue ridership increases fares should be held at the same levels as at least the previous year and not raised. For if fares are raised, as YRT management agrees, then ridership does decline a bit. A decline in ridership will mean more cars on the road. Lets remember one of the reasons for the creation of transit in York Region was to remove cars on the road instead of adding more. So in that case the fares should be held the same.

If costs need to be clipped in order to avoid a fare increase, here are a few suggestions:

1. Cut the VIVA advertising banners that seem to be replaced three times a year due to the weather. These are mainly found in Aurora on Yonge Street, Bathurst Street near Highway 7 and Highway 7 near Yonge Street. If you provide a decent service on these routes, people will flock to them. VIVA doesn't need flashy banners to promote this. Just slap a sticker on the back the back of the existing bus fleet and forget the banners!

2. Cut the number of supervisors. VIVA and YRT have two seperate supervisory teams to oversee the buses. Can't one set of supervisors oversee both the rapid transit and conventional bus services? It seems a little outrageous.

3. Increase fare enforcement on VIVA. VIVA fares are paid on the honour system. Some people have figured out where fare enforcement is and where they are not. Fare enforcement can mainly be found on the VIVA Blue routes, hit and miss on the VIVA Purple (especially around Promenade Terminal and Richmond Hill Centre areas), and hardly ever on the VIVA Orange routes (I've only once ever seen fare enforcement in my two years of commuting daily to work on the Orange). Tickets for not paying your fare is $150 per infraction.

4. Increase enforcement of the other infractions listed and York Region's No Smoking By-Law. For to long I've seen passengers, and even drivers, smoking at the bus stops. Yet I have yet to see one fine issued. Would YRT and VIVA like to explain how the cigarette butts are found when smoking is prohibited here? Where is the enforcement at this major terminal. At $150 fine for each infraction like smoking, there would be some serious cash generated.

5. Space the buses out more. Some days on Yonge Street at Richmond Hill Centre on the VIVA Blue route I see a Newmarket Terminal bound bus pull in followed immediately by a Bernard Termainal bus. Both buses are heading in the same direction on the same route (the Bernard bus short turns on the route). The Newmarket bus will be packed to the nines while the Bernard bus be less than half full. These buses are supposed to be at most five minutes apart. It doesn't serve the customers to well if they have to be packed onto the bus and the next one is mostly empty. Run the buses on time!

6. Provide accuratly scheduled service and more people will ride with less frustration. YRT and VIVA currently don't provide resonably scheduled service. As an example, according to YRT & VIVA's online Trip Planner my trip home from work, my trip should take 81 minutes. Instead, I normally arrive home anywhere between 89 and 119 minutes. What is the main problem? My trip on the VIVA Orange from Downsview to York University is not thirteen minutes in duration. On a good day, without gridlocked traffic, it normally takes fifteen minutes. The connection, according to the trip planner should take place in one minute. The same connection time occurs at Richmond Hill Centre. To this day I have never made the two connections (@ York Unversity and @ Richmond Hill Centre). I have barely made the York University connection once. With this in mind, YRT and VIVA needs to relook at what is reasonable timing for their vehicles to get from point "A" to point "B". Failure to do so only results in frustrated passengers. Simple math would tell you: frequently frustrated passengers = loss in ridership.

7. Cut the customer appreciation day mumbojumbo. Customers of transit would feel appreciated if their fares weren't increased year after year. I don't need some overpackaged miniature muffin offered to me in order to feel appreciated. Also, I don't need a marketing student decked out in brand new kaki pants and blue YRT / VIVA sweatshirt offering me promotional items. It's even more ironic that the same day as customer appreciation day, Regional Council approves a fare increase for passengers. Way to make us feel appreciated!

8. Cut the newsletters on the buses. My Transit is a complete waste of money. The only thing YRT/VIVA needs to do to update passengers of route changes is to post it on their website, laminated posters at the affected bus stops and posters at the major terminals (e.g. Newmarket Terminal, Richmond Hill Centre, Finch Terminal, Promenade Terminal, etc.). If people are truly looking for more information (e.g. trip planning, fare information, etc.) they can either visit the website, call customer service, inquire with ticket agents, ask the bus driver or YRT/VIVA Enforcement officers. My Transit is a complete waste of money as it is printed in colour and is really only used for littering the buses and the VIVA & YRT stops. Significant savings could be had by cutting the coloured printing for this newsletter alone.

9. Provide better customer service. By cutting the number of marketing positions, increase the number of customer service representatives available on the phone to answer questions. When customers have questions or concerns they don't want to listen to prerecorded information or wait lengthy amount of times to talk to a human person. During the week at 5:00 P.M. it is not unusual to have to wait more than five minutes to speak to a live operator. If customers cannot ask their questions they are more likely to not be customers much longer.

VIVA and YRT have much to work on in order to appease customers. Making the small cuts above may not save much, but it will make it appear the YRT/VIVA operations are working to keep costs down. If customers see an efficently run system, they are more likely to swallow a fare increase. However, the way YRT/VIVA pushed through this fare increase, considering the above nine items, it seems they don't care about their customers one bit. Further proof of this is that the fare increase was approved the very same day that YRT/VIVA claimed they were trying to appreciate their customers, on Customer Appreciation Day. Yes YRT/VIVA, you really do appreciate your customers, with an overpackaged muffin and a FARE INCREASE! Yup, I feel appreciated.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Death of a Blog

No, Michael's Blog isn't going to the grave....this posting is not about this blog.

With that out of the way.....

Blogs seem to die for several reasons.

1. The Blogger has finished with the Blog's concept. Steven has done this with Toward Jerusalem blog. Steven though has continued on with contributions, like myself, with The Art of the Rant and his other main blog Outside the Box. Steven was just finished debating his own ideas in Christianity in modernity on a continous basis. However, on his own blog postings on this issue appear once in a while.

2. The Blogger simply doesn't have the time or abilility to blog anymore. This can head into two directoins. The first example is Snaars who was forced to put his blog on hold due to personal issues and Huricane Katrina in 2006. But once Snaars was able move and resettle into a new job the Blog back up and running again.

Another way a Blogger simply doesn't have time to blog anymore can be found at Glenn Garnett's Inside the Sun. For a short time Glenn Garnett was the Editor-In-Chief of the Toronto Sun newspaper. In his blog he gave the inside scoop of what it was like to put together a major Canadian newspaper. However, Garnett was recently promoted within the Sun Media chain of newspapers to the position of Executive Editor in Chief of the chain's English language dailies. Obviously, with Garnett's new position, he will no longer have the time in his daily workday or the ability to blog from the position as Editor-In-Chief of the Toronto Sun. This is basically because his new job will take up more time. As well, Garnett is simply not the Editor-In-Chief of the Toronto Sun anymore. So, it seems, the blogs days are over. For that reason, I will be removing this blog from the "Blogs of Interest" catergory from the sidebar of my blog.

There are probably more ways that blogs "bite the big one". If you can add to the two above examples, please do by commenting on this post.

Sometimes it is sad to see a blog "kick the bucket". Some of the blogs I read become part of my daily routine while others I check once in a while. I will miss Garnett's daily insights into the Toronto Sun. I used to read this blog infrequently throughout the week to see what the Sun editors were up to and why they made that decision. I will most definately miss the blog after the blog's death.

Blogs are also like maturing people like Steven's old blog, I read it occasionally, but I don't miss it as much because he has continued on in his other blog. In that case I just think his blogging matured and he had to transition into a new blog. Like a human, Stephen had finished one phase in his life and moved in.

Snaars is also like a human, Snaars needed time to take a break in order to re-evaluate life and then get back into it and begin blogging again.

Blogs die for different reasons, but hopefully the blogs that do die, they will rest in peace forever on the internet in order to be reminisced and refound again by former readers in the future.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Air Farce Live!

Last night after work my girlfriend and I headed down to the CBC Building in Downtown Toronto for a live taping of CBC's Royal Canadian Air Farce. The show, for those that aren't familiar, is basically a satirical weekly look at world events and daily living from a Canadian perspective. An example of their sketches:

For the show, doors open an hour before the show. So Yvonne and I claimed our free tickets, which we previously requested by following the instructions on the website, and went on up to Studio 42. We were sat front row facing the left hand side of the sets.

For each of the scenes in Air Farce, there are different backgrounds. So for the show we saw there were about six to eight diferent sets set up alongside each other. Each set is maximum the size of your living room. There are four main cameras for the show. Each scene utilizes two cameras at a time. That way there are always two cameras shooting and the other two cameras are busy setting up for the next scene of the show. This can be a little tricky for the audience to see as there is the floor manager, other cast members and two cameras in the way of the scenes. This is perhaps the only downfall. However, it is really interesting to see how this show was put together.

After the show is finished and the closing credits have rolled, the cast comes out to try a couple of items for upcoming shows in order to see how the audience takes it. Ours was a scene the cast had filmed earlier that Air Farce needed to test out as well as song that they were still working on filming aspects. It was interesting to be able to have an affect on what the cast would be utilizing for future shows.

The real question of the night was "was the show really live for this Air Farce's Fifteenth season?" The answer is yes and no.

The first tip off for the show is that the show starts at 7 P.M. Eastern Standard Time (Toronto time) yet the show is not actually broadcast in Toronto until 8 P.M. Why the difference in time if the show is claimed to be "LIVE". Well in Atlantic Canada the show is live as it is 8 P.M. Atlantic Standard Time (Halifax time) when the show in Toronto is performed. Then accross the country from 7-11 P.M. the show is shown either live (in Atlantic Canada only) or taped (Quebec westward to British Columbia). The taped show, Roger Abbott one of the cast and producer of the show, assured the audience all the bloopers are seen no matter where in the country you are. This is because, Abbott noted, no editing is done.

This coming Monday, the Season Premier of Royal Canadian Air Farce is being repeated. So watch for me in the front row of the audience as sometimes the camera does pan the audience for audience shots.

Who to Vote For?

With the election coming this Wednesday in Ontario (October 10th) I’m a little confused as to who to vote for. In past elections, both federal and provincial, I usually had my mind made up the week before the election on whose name I would put my “X” next to. As of this morning I’m left in doubt.

The last two federal elections in my riding the factor of Belinda Stronach was there. The first time she ran as a Conservative I supported her and the second time I didn’t vote for her. The second election I felt stabbed in the back that as a constituent she never consulted us about the switch from the Conservatives to the Liberals.

Provincially I thought the province was going downhill by running up deficits and the provincial debt. So I voted according to my beliefs economically that the province needed to right the financial ship in order to avoid bankruptcy.

So this election what have I thought about when deciding on possibilities of where to place my vote?

The possiblities of electing a local candidate in Aurora to a Cabinet seat to seem to be slim to none. In my hometown of Aurora for the past couple of elections seems to have lucked out with electing two cabinet ministers under two different administrations, Al Paladini (Conservative’s Transportation Minister) and Greg Sorbara (Liberal’s Finance Minister). This time will most likely be different as the Conservatives are not likely to win the election due to their faith based school platform fiasco, thus Frank Klees is unlikely to attain Cabinet. The Liberals? Christina Bisanz is not likely to make cabinet as she would be a rookie politician if elected. The NDP? Mike Seaward doesn’t have a hope in winning this riding even on his third attempt especially since in the last election he only garnered little more than 7% of the vote. So there is little hope in electing a cabinet minister in my riding with the way things stand so I cannot stratigically place my vote that way.

Perhaps I should investigate the party platforms in Ontario. Should I vote Liberal to elect Christina Bisanz in order to at least have an MPP on the government side of the benches? Not likely since Dalton McGuinty has lost a lot of my trust with such issues as raising taxes after he promised not to in the last election; handing out taxpayers money to groups that have some links to the Liberal party and without very little paperwork to explain why the money was handed out; the problems with Bob Edmonds and the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation and the fact the provincial Minister responsible for this organization refused to ask any questions of what was going on; Liberal Cabininet Minister Harinder Takhar being the first politician admonished by the provincial Integrity Commissioner; and on and on it goes. So this election I definately won’t vote Liberal.

The Conservatives I had potentially thought of voting because I didn’t like the Liberals recent political history in Ontario. However, the whole flip-flop on faith based schools by Conservative Leader John Tory. Tory calls it real leadership by allowing a free vote in the Ontario Legislature. I beg to differ as he came out originally that all faith based schools should receive funding. I believe only true public schools should receive funding. The Catholic school system? A Constitutional Amendment for Ontario should be undertaken to remove the right to fund the Catholic school system. The main basis for my argument is that the Catholic school system in Ontario discriminates. One example is even I’m a certified teacher in Ontario, under the Ontario College of Teachers, I’m not allowed to teach in a Catholic school because I’m not a follower of the Catholic faith. As a publicly funded system receiving provincial tax dollars via the educational funding formula does that seem right to you? And John Tory makes no mention that if, under his faith based schools plan, whether or not these old private schools/new publicly funded schools will be able to exclude people based on gender, race, religion, etc. This would seem to contravene the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms under the Canadian Constitution. This is only just one issue that I totally dissagree with.

The NDP are way to left leaning for my vote. The NDP in the early 1990s almost bankrupted this province under Premier Bob Rae’s leadership. Howard Hampton, the current Ontario NDP leader was Bob Rae’s Finance Minister. So would Howie bankrupt the province again with all his funding promises? Probably. Howard has also wanted to bring in more taxes against the rich and corporations that provide jobs in this province which would probably further drive job creating corporations out of the province. With large corporations like General Motors already starting close down and leave the province, whill a union backed NDP government help anything? Probably not, just look at the mess the city of Toronto is in financially with NDP card carrier Mayor David Miller at the helm. Toronto refuses to contract out work and insists, when it does contract out, that union level wages be paid by the contractors. This causes problems because these wages are ten to twenty percent more than what it would be for wages to be done right next door in the city of Mississauga. So under a provincial government lead by Howard Hampton and the NDP, provincial wages are more likely to up meaning more taxes would have to be paid by taxpayers or more debt in order to fund these wage hikes. My vote will definately not go to the NDP.

The Green Party? I only know of the Green Party by the name of “Frank De Jong”. I have barely heard of their platform even though I read the Toronto Star and the Toronto Sun on a daily basis. My local candidate for the Green Party? I have no clue who he or she is. If your not going to make yourself known when trying to get elected with either pamphlets, signs or media appearances then why would I bother voting for you. I know there will be some who say the media seem to shut out the Greens, but really in this day and age, where are the Greens with their pamphlets and signs made of recycled paper or plastic then to make their platform known?

So I cannot base my vote on the party platforms as I have severe disagreements with most of them.

Who to vote for in Ontario? I’m not really sure, I may have to go down to Wal-Mart to pick-up a dart board in order to figure out who to vote for. Or even better why not try at least one of these methods in Aurora that the Toronto Star did in Toronto: visit here, here, here and here. Ah that’s the ticket on who to vote for! Problem solved!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

What's going on at Finch Station?

Finch Station closed due to Police Investigation
On Saturday my girlfriend and I planned head down to High Park for a day out. We hopped on VIVA and headed south to the Finch Subway Station in order to take the Subway the rest of the way. However, once the VIVA Blue bus pulled into Finch Subway and we got off, we saw the scene pictured left (courtesy of CITY News).

I inquired with the grey haired YRT/VIVA Enforcement Officer as to what was going on. He replied there was a police investigation going on and the station was closed. However, there were shuttle buses being provided accross the street.

My girlfriend and I thought it over and thought we would walk down to the Sheppard Subway Station where the trains were ending their trip. We walked by the YRT/VIVA Enforcement officer again and inquired as to why the VIVA Blue bus driver never made an announcement that the subway was shut down. The Enforcement officer replied that perhaps this was the driver's first trip down that day. Now under normal circumstances this would be a satisfactory answer. But with VIVA it wasn't that simple.

VIVA buses have GPS units that also have messaging feature that transit control utilizes on a regular basis. Instead of calling each driver one by one and telling them the same message, VIVA Transit Control can send text messages to the drivers. So if an incident were to occur, like the Finch Subway Station being closed for a police investigation, the message can get out to the drivers in a timely fashion. In this case the driver could then announce to the passengers that the station is closed and that there are shuttle buses available to take passengers down to Sheppard Station or to take the VIVA Purple to connect with the VIVA Orange route in order to connect into the TTC Subway at Downsview Station instead.

I pointed out to the YRT/VIVA Enforcement Officer that the GPS units are utilized all the time to send messages to the drivers. So what prevented this? I also retorted that if YRT/VIVA was going to raise fares again they should improve communications.

My girlfriend and I were a little ticked about spending 45 minutes on the bus just to see our way blocked by yellow police tape. Why wasn't an announcement made? Chaos rained at Finch Station for YRT/VIVA riders because nobody had said anything. Also, two YRT/VIVA enforcement vehicles were in the spots where VIVA buses normally load passengers. Apparently YRT/VIVA Enforcement Officers figured it was more important to have good parking spaces instead of parking their cars a little further away in the unused bus parking area. So the VIVA Blue customers were let off at one platform and then picked-up at a different one instead of unloading and loading at the single platform if there was one bus in the station. YRT/VIVA didn't look to good in this situation.

At least the TTC was a little better. Kudos to them for a great job. While my girlfriend and I were making our decision of whether to head back to Aurora and forget our trip to Toronto, the TTC Enforcement officers let everyone know at the station entrance that the trains would be running soon. They just needed to get the collector and other employees back into the station at their posts first. The Toronto Police took down the yellow tape and within ten minutes everything was back to normal.

But I'm still dissapointed in the actions of YRT/VIVA communications. Why wasn't there an announcement made on the VIVA Blue route headed to Finch Station that the TTC subway wasn't operating north of Sheppard Station? Why weren't arrangements made to extend the VIVA Blue route temporarily down to Sheppard Station in order to provide service to the station and help out the TTC with shuttling? This would have been a great service to the customers of YRT/VIVA in a time of transit disruption. I would love answers to these two questions as well as this one: with such bad service from YRT/VIVA in situation like this why would they have the audicity to attempt to raise the fares to the highest in the GTA?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Should Church Events have Free Admission?

Last year my church put on a good evening of music and entertainment. Church members performed, the audience participated and special guests were brought in to play the pipe organ and play instruments. The reviews were positive from those that attended. A "free will offering" was collected following the show. Basically, offering plates were put out and people could drop off a donation if they so wished. The plates, following the show, overflowed with donations from those that attended.

Coming this October the church is presenting another concert featuring music from several past Broadway musicals. However, this year instead of a "freewill offering" there is a ten dollar admission charge.

To some ten dollars for admission to a show is pretty cheap. Considering that Theatre Aurora, the local volunteer community theatre, is presenting a play with an admission charge of fifteen dollars, ten dollars is not too bad for an evening of entertainment.

However, what about those that are unable to afford the ten dollar admission charge? Should these people be left out of a night of enjoyment? Churches usually runs on support of the community and, in turn, return the support to the community as much as it can. Part of supporting the community in this case is opening the doors of the church to the wider community in order to share the talents and hard work of the church members. That is what happenned at last years show. Audience members were not forced to pay an admission charge in order to see the show. Audience members at last years show were not forced to put anything in the donation plate as they left the show.

In contrast, this years show requires audience members to purchase tickets before even attending the show. Perhaps the admission charge is to ensure the music and special guest performers are properly looked after financially. However, this didn't seem to be a problem following last years show being paid for through "freewill offering" methods. In fact after last years shows expenses were paid there was money left over that was put back into the arts program at the church. So why the admission charge this year?

Will I be attending this years show? At this point I'm not sure. I support the terrific arts program at my church. But, it seems, based on the admission cost, the show is meant for the middle to higher income people who can afford a ten dollar admission charge So I'm thinking of not attending in sympathy of those who could not afford the admission price as well as the belief that churchs shouldn't be charging a set rate that all could not afford. However, I do believe if approached, the organizers do have the hearts of giving tickets to those who could not afford them. But there is the principle of churchs allowing those to bring forth what they can.

The idea of some people not being able to afford the admission charge brings me back to the ideals of the Christmas season. Perhaps the best example is this example from the Christmas Carol of "The Little Drummer Boy":

I am a poor boy too, pa rum pum pum pum
I have no gift to bring, pa rum pum pum pum
That's fit to give the King, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

In other words the Little Drummer Boy didn't have anything to offer what would newborn who would one day become the 'King of Chrstianity.' However, he did bring forth his ability to play his drum.

In the case of the show, perhaps someone would like to see and here the music of Broadway, however they are not able to afford the tickets to this show. Shouldn't the church, out of the spirit of charitable Christanity offer these people the tickets for free or at a rate they could afford? Perhaps this is the case, however, the postering that admission is ten dollars would seem ominous to those who might not be able to afford it and who don't want to go through the prospects of pleading for tickets.

How could this whole situation be solved? Either offer the show for free to community or bring back the idea of freewill offering after the performance. Then perhaps those that could least afford it would feel welcome to attend. Sure they might not drop a nickel in the plate but perhaps they would be able to help pickup the leftover programs and clean up after the Sanctuary after the show. This would match the spirit that the Christmas carol so personifies, those offering what they can for the betterment of the Jesus or in this case the Community. Now isn't that what churchs are all about in first place?

The church should not be charging admission prices but taking up freewill offering afterwards. This would allow everyone in the community to attend the show. Churchs are built on the support of the communities. Thus, I believe churches should give back to the communities whenever possible. This includes opening the church doors to support groups, sales and even entertaining shows whenever possible. However, running a church does cost money and some money needs to be raised. But the raising of funds shouldn't shut out those who can least afford to give as they are part of the community support as well. Hence the placement of a plate for those to freely drop a donation in is great especially for a show. This is because following the show positive reviews usually result in plenty of money coming in from those that enjoyed themselves. Also, if the show this year is anything like last years, the money flow will definately not be an issue and those that cannot afford to pay may also feel part of the both the church and the community. And if churches are able to make a everyone feel part of it and the community, positive reviews are more likely to occur.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Something Weird is going on

Since the beginning of September some weird things have been going on.

On the Friday evening ride home on the bus I felt very tired and my joints were sore. I thought nothing of it as I chalked it all up to long day at work. Saturday morning I thought my sinueses were going to explode. However that was the only thing wrong, sinus pressure. So I took an Asperin, went out and grabbed a Saturday Toronto Star and did some reading.

By Saturday night my sinuses were still bothering me and I was so tired I ended up in bed at 8:00 P.M. I thought going to bed early would solve the problem.

Not so, I woke up Sunday still with my sinuses. So I took two Dristan Sinus Cold pills in the hopes this would do the trick. It did not. By the time I got home from church around lunch time I had gone through the drowsy period that the pills caused and my sinuses still hadn't cleared out. So I visited the walk in clinic that afternoon.

Since I had never visited the walk in clinic the receptionist had me fill out a one page health questionaire. I then was in and out of the doctor's office in less than five minutes. The doctor looked in my ears, nose and throat. He said I had a sinus infection and prescribed me Flonase. As for the sore joints and mussels, I had done a lot of data entry at work that week for one of our major clients. So I had spent long hours at the keyboard causing some carpel tunnel like feelings.

Next, I headed over the pharmacy to get the prescription for the Flonase filled (over forty dollars) and then proceeded back to my apartment. I read over the box and the instructions on the Flonase. At first I couldn't get the thing to work. However, after shooting a stream of Flonase across the room I figured it out! I took the Flonaise by discharging it into my nose. After about fifteen minutes my sinusese cleared out. This lasted for about an hour or two before my sinuses began filling up again.

That night I took another dose of Flonase before heading to bed. Good thing for the holiday Monday as there was only a slight improvement with my health. I took the Flonase again that morning. This time my sinuses cleared out for most of the day. I had some nausea, which is apparently a side effect of the medication in the afternoon. That night I took the Flonase again.

Tuesday, before work I took the Flonase again. I felt great Tuesday at work and haven't had the symptoms re-occur since. Too bad that the Flonase cost over forty dollars! ARGH!

Fast forward to last week. I woke up Monday with a moderate sore throat. Nothing else was wrong with me. No stuffed up nose or aches and pains, nothing. Just one sore throat. I tried the usual increasing the amount of fluids including orange juice, milk and water. This didn't work. It sure cleaned out my digestive system though!

I broke down on Saturday and headed back to the walk-in clinic. I waited about half an hour to see the doctor. She looked at my throat and took a throat swab for testing. The doctor gave me a prescription for penicillin. She said I could use the penicillin now or later. I could use the prescription later after the results of the throat swab came back or use it now to see if it solved the problem. I chose the latter, I wanted rid of this sore throat for good. The penecillian was only just over ten dollars. I took one pill and two hours later I was cured. My sore throat was gone. So apparently I had Strep throat or something like it.

Now for the rest of the week I have to take the pills three times a day. There are restrictions though, I can only take the pill on an empty stomach which means I have to take the pill either one hour before eating or two hours after. This caused trouble Saturday night. My girlfriend and I had dinner and later wanted pie. So two hours after dinner I took the pill, then an hour later we had pie. Not too bad for a Saturday. But during the week there is no evening snacking whatsoever due to the pill timing of two ours after dinner then pill then another hour and snacking. But by the time snacking comes around it would be eleven at night. At that hour I'm usually in bed asleep after a long day at work. ARGH!

How is getting sick twice in three weeks of September abnormal for me? Most would chalk this up to allergies setting in for one last time before winter. However, I never get sick like this normally. Usually when I get sick it is a full fledged stuffed up nose, sore throat and cough or sore stomach. I never seem to get just a sore throat or just sinus pressure by itself. WEIRD! Then to have both a single symptom in three weeks is even weirder for me. Getting ill at least twice in September is very weird for me. Usually I can sail right through to December to February before getting sick with the cold or flu.

Finally, the last weird issue has nothing to do with me. Reid's Dairy in Aurora closed last weekend for good. This is weird considering this store is normally lined up for ice cream, excellently priced milk, bread and other goods. Last weekend, when the Sale signs went up saying the store was closing, I enquired with the people behind the counter. They replied that the rent was being increased, so the store was closing. Again I thought this was weird considering there are a couple of empty stores in other plazas nearby like the Aurora Shopping Centre. My girlfriend and I will miss this store for excellent milk and bread prices that even beat the No Frills grocery store across the street. To top it off, the store put a sign in their window saying the nearest location was in south Richmond Hill which is a half hour drive away! ARGH.

I miss Reid's I have to go to Dairy Queen for overpriced soft serve ice cream. McDonald's you say? McDonald's soft serve isn't true soft serve. McDonald's ice cream is just a weird soft texture that is more mushy than true soft serve like you would find at Dairy Queen or Reid's Dairy. McDonald's and ice cream? That is just plain WEIRD!

I can't wait for September to end in order to make all this weirdness stop.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Sorry for the delay....

Haven't been blogging to much lately.....

Two reasons...

The first is I'm working on big project right now to be posted later.

The second, Labour day weekend I ended up with a sinus infection. Its like having a head cold without the snot (I know...too much information). The sinus infection basically knocked me out of commission for all of Labour Day weekend. It was a great long weekend.

So here, in order to get a post done and keep you guys interested....

Something from the humour file...

Two little boys, ages 8 and 10, were excessively mischievous. They were always getting into trouble and their parents knew all about it. If any mischief occurred in their town, the two boys were probably involved.

The boys' mother heard that a preacher in town had been successful in disciplining children so she asked if he would speak with her boys.

The preacher agreed, but he asked to see them individually. So the mother sent the 8 year old first, in the morning, with the older boy to see the preacher in the afternoon.

The preacher, a huge man with a booming voice, sat the younger boy down and asked him sternly, "Do you know where God is, son?"

The boy's mouth dropped open, but he made no response, sitting there wide-eyed with his mouth hanging open.

So the preacher repeated the question in an even sterner tone, "Where is God?"

Again, the boy made no attempt to answer. The preacher raised his voice even more and shook his finger in the boy's face and bellowed, "Where is God?"

The boy screamed and bolted from the room, ran directly home and dove into his closet, slamming the door behind him.

When his older brother found him in the closet, he asked, "What happened?

The younger brother, gasping for breath, replied, "We are in BIG trouble this time," "God is missing and they think we did it!"

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Visions For The GTTA

Visions For The GTTA

What do you want your city to look like in the future?

Voters have been asked that at almost every election at the municipal, provincial and federal levels for many years. Do you want your community to be urban with mass transit throughout or rural where you can hug a cow at will? These are the decisions that your politicians make on a day to day, month to month and year to year basis.

The blog GTA Visions takes a look at what the blogger wants to the Toronto area to look like in terms of transit. However, the blog also takes brief looks at planning, budgeting and much more of both the city of Toronto as well as the outer areas like Guelph and York Region. Andrae Griffith should be applauded for bringing forth his transit and other ideas into the public realm as hopefully, like Steve Munro's transit blog, it will stir spirited debate of how transit should look in the Toronto area.

The Toronto area has been grappling for some time with whether to use subways, rapid transit (e.g. streetcars, buses, etc.) or surface trains along various routes. There is debate over whether to discontinue the use of streetcars by using articulated buses or even whether the subway system should be extended. Planning issue like these in Toronto and surrounding areas are exactly what needs to be brought forth, debated and then approved in order to move Toronto forth into the future. These decisions, however, will change the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) for quite some time into the future. This is why spirited debate and successful planning need to be undertaken. The GTTA visions blog and website, works as these sites bring forth the ideas that could be debated or add further debate to ideas already being put forth by others.

I always take great interest in my community and areas in terms of planning and implementation of these plans. Thus, I plan to become an avid reader of the GTTA Blog for quite some time!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Doors Open Aurora

Yesterday, my roomate and I headed off to "Door Open Aurora" to check out the behind the seens sights, sounds and history of many of Aurora's buildings.

First we headed over to Sheppard's Bush Conservation area where the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority had opened the old Charles Sheppard homestead and Pefferlaw Log Cabin. This was the first time I had been in Sheppard house and had high hopes. I was sadly dissappointed as the house was empty and many of the rooms were overdo for repair.

Next we headed to the Farmer's Market to join the historical walking tour lead by Dr. W. John McIntyre of the downtown Aurora area. The hour and a half walking tour was very informatative. Dr. McIntyre provided great detail along with dates about various businesses, buildings, homes and dates for each all off the top of his head. He even ensured, when stopping to discuss the buildings around the group, that the group stopped in well shaded areas. This walking tour should be repeated again in the near future as it was well attended by over forty people. One of the most remarkable places I saw was the old Methodist Parsonage where the church ministers for my church used to reside. This was former home of Rev. Edwin Pearson and his family including, Lester B. Pearson who recalled this home as being the location where he remembers his first Christmas.

The Old Methodist Parsonage on Catherine Avenue

The tour ended at Hillary House where Dr. Hillary had his medical practice for the longest time. Now it is a totally restored house that shows the history of medicine in Aurora. This is an absolutely beautiful house to visit and take pictures on the grounds especially during weddings.

Following this tour we headed to TC's Fish & Burgers for Lunch. TC's has always had generous portion sizes of hamburgers and fries. This is perhaps one of my favourite burger places because it gives good value for money.

Next we headed over to Caruso & Company to take a look at Aurora's oldest continuing business. This home decor and flower shop used to be a fruit and vegetable store until it was converted to its current operations in the early 2000s. The original wood floors and 1930s tin ceilings have been totally restored in this store. The owners of the businesses are third generation Carusos who have done a maginficent job at not only creating a home decor business but also restoring this historical Aurora landmark to what it is today.

Following Caruso's we headed north on Yonge Street to The Odd Fellows Hall. I had always wondered what the Odd Fellows did. Now I know and they even tried to recruit me as a member. I politely declined as I currently have enough on my plate between my website, working, my involvement with the church and so on. But now I know the Odd Fellows are an organization that helps out local people who are in trouble after a fire (e.g. paying for hotel rooms, raising money to rebuild, etc.), helping those with children through their camp fund, sponsoring local soccer and hockey teams and much more.

After that we headed down to Aurora United Church to view the historical display in the narthex of the church.

Aurora United Church's Narthex

Following the visit to the church, we visted at Bluetiful Living at the Grimshaw House. This is yet another home decor store in Aurora. The entire Grimshaw House, both the main floor and the upstairs bedrooms, have been redesigned with different home decor fashions. A very well redone historical house repainted into today's home decor fashions.

Next we headed up to the Barnes' Garden to see the different agricultural gardens the former teachers have developed. There must have been seven different types of tomatoes growing in the garden. A problem, one of the owners of the garden was telling me, was that the squirrels would dig up the garlic cloves and bury them somewhere else for safe keeping during the summers. But squirrels being squirrels seem to forget quite a few places where the garlic cloves were buried. So the cloves would sprout next summer across the garden from where they were dug up from the next summer. It gets quite frustrating when your picking tomatoes to find a couple of cloves of garlic right next to them and you have no idea what kind they are. But at least the gardeners took this with good humour.

After visiting all the above, we were quite tired. After visiting the church for a couple of glasses of water because we were thirsty from walking around town all day in the hot sun. It was a good day to get out and find out what goes on in town and to also learn about the local history of Aurora.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Swiss Chalet is Sometimes Good

Another night out with my girlfriend for some fine dining. My girlfriend has never been to Swiss Chalet in her life. So I thought I would treat her to a nice classic Swiss Chalet quarter chicken dinner.

Upon entering the Aurora Swiss Chalet Restaurant (1 Henderson Drive, Aurora, Ontario) we were told by the hostess, after waiting at the front for two minutes, that we had to wait to be seated because she had to clean off a table.

We waited another three minutes before she seated us at the freshly cleaned table. This was a little disturbing because I counted roughly five other tables that were already cleaned and ready to go. So why didn't we get seated at one of those?

Anita, our server, easily made up for the lacking service from our hostess. Anita stopped by within five minutes of us being seated to take our drink order. She also took our food order at this time as well as we were ready to order. Throughout the meal she checked in twice, once shortly after we received our meal and near the end of the meal to ensure everything was fine. The food came quickly as well within five minutes of ordering. My girlfriend was a little disappointed in the variety of mixed vegetables though. Other than that food was good.

We had "dark meat" for chicken instead of white. This is because all Swiss Chalet's now charge about a dollar for the white meat.

The bill came quickly after being requested at the end of our meal. Our meal was pretty good with the exception of the beginning with the hostess not recognizing what a "clean table" was looking like.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

East of Terrible

Went to old reliable East Side Mario's in Newmarket (17175 Yonge Street, Newmarket, Ontario) with my girlfriend. It used to be it was expected good food, good service and good times. Things have changed!

Food was decent. However, the tap water my girlfriend ordered had to be sent back as it had what looked like a bread crumb in it plus pieces of paper. The next glass of tap water came back with greasy fingerprints on it.

Then once we were finished eating, it took ten minutes to find the server, ask for the bill and receive it. Then it took another five minutes to receive my change from a twenty. I had to ask the hostess and the manager where the server was with my change! The lame excuse we received back from the server was everyone had given him twenties that night. But our server never explained as to why it took so long to get change. doesn't the bar have change for a twenty?

To add to the above, there were three house flies in the window next to our table that every now and then we had to swat at.

Definatetly will be avoiding this location of East Side Mario's for a while. What happenned Mario? Where have things gone so bad?

Sunday, August 05, 2007


MyBikeLane - Toronto

Sometimes I find the oddest blogs by reading other blogs. In this case I found MyBikelane by reading Sometimes these blogs get me thinking like: "Hmmm interesting idea.." or "What were they thinking..." The MyBikelane blog leaves me thinking the former rather than the latter.

As a person who cannot stand those that obviously break the law and, in turn, make things unbearable for others, I laud this idea for the blog. Bike lanes in Toronto and other cities are meant to separate bike riders from regular traffic. The concept of a bike lane is to make life easier for both bike riders and car drivers. However, sometimes drivers break the law and, sometimes, get away with it. With this aggravation in mind, MyBikeLane blog was born.

Sometimes, you just have to take the law into your own hands....Congrats to MyBiklane blog for doing that!

AGO = Ripoff Central

Yesterday my new roommate and I headed down to the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). I hadn't been to the AGO in years. We rode the subway down from Finch Subway Station to Yonge and Dundas and then walked over to the AGO at Dundas and McCaul Streets.

We entered the Art Gallery and walked up a long ramp to the pay the admission. Since I am member of the Ontario College of Teachers (OCT) I have free admission. My roommate paid fifteen dollars.

Before the we paid admission though, we were warned that most of the permanent collection, with the exception of about three paintings, was not available to be seen as the gallery was undergoing extensive renovations. I, at the time, thought no problem because the gallery seemed to be charging regular admission prices anyway.

We were in and out of the Art Gallery of Ontario in less than forty five minutes! WHAT A RIPOFF! There were perhaps five galleries of art brought into the gallery and three paintings from the permanent gallery shown. The three paintings from the permanent gallery were only displayed in the second floor hallway area and not even in a gallery unto themselves.

Add to this that really only the second floor of the gallery was worth viewing. Even then some of the space on the second floor was needlessly taken up by one of the two gift shops. Why are there two gift shops when more than three quarters of your building is closed for renovations?

The Art Gallery of Ontario has three floors. The basement was totally inaccessible due to renovations. The main floor had a small children's art gallery area, a large gift shop, architectural displays of the new Art Gallery of Ontario building, and a self portrait display where people from around the world submitted self drawn self portraits. The second floor had five galleries of works brought into the gallery from other galleries from around the world.

This hardly seems to be worth the fifteen dollars for the price of admission. For twenty American one can go to the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art or the Guggenheim and see Picasso and Renoir. The AGO? Not one Canadian Group of Seven picture could be seen because these paintings were buried someplace due to renovations.

If a gallery is going to undergo renovations, admission must be adjusted in order to match what can be seen. If most of your permanent collection is not there, please lower your price of admission. If the AGO did this and the admission for one adult at this time was fifteen dollars, I'd hate to see what the real price of admission is when the whole permanent collection is. This idea of modifying the price of admission during renovations only makes sense as customers will at least appreciate not leaving feeling ripped off and, thus, are more likely to return in the future once the renovations are completed. As of now, I doubt whether I will be returning to the AGO for quite some time as this visit left a poor taste in my mouth. I was left apologizing for the high admission price and poor quality of a Toronto Art Institution. It really seemed that the only thing the AGO was interested in was getting our money so they could finish the overpriced Frank Gehry designed renovation of their beloved building. Why else would there be a need for two relatively large gift shops and a high admission price in comparison of what gallery space there was? Bottom line, if I wanted to be ripped off, I would have done it by buying designer coffee from Starbucks.

Meanwhile, the Toronto tourist industry is wondering why the number tourists is dwindling. Perhaps part of the problem is not only Toronto's continuing woes in the crime, litter and municipal taxation, but also with attractions. If attractions like the AGO leave a poor impression on tourists, then why would tourists return? Lets also note that the ROM, which has been undergoing renovations for the Michael Lee Chin Crystal expansion, is still not fully completed yet. Sure the ROM's physical building is finished, but the inerts of galleries and other amenities won't be finished until well into 2009. This is despite the renovations to the ROM beginning in 2004. So apparenlty it takes five years to start, complete construction and move all the collections in. No wonder tourists are not coming to Toronto as much, two of our major museums that people flock to are under renovation and one, the AGO, rips people off in terms of value for money. Add to the fact that some members of the tourist industry are calling Toronto boring and lacking pizzazz in major newspapers like the Toronto Star, it is no wonder that tourism is suffering.

More festivals, restoring the reputation of "Toronto the clean", and other such cosmetic changes won't help if the major backbones or draws of tourism appear uninviting. This is proven with one question: "Why would I want to come to visit your city if I'm going to leave feeling ripped off and underappreciated?" I would like to ask the very similar question to the AGO after yesterday's visit: "Why should I come back if I'm leaving here feeling ripped off and underappreciated?"

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Toronto Star: "National a Garage"

The Toronto Star is notoriously a Liberal paper in its reporting and editorializing. So it is not surprising to find the Star’s Peter Goddard lambasting the federal Conservatives over the National Portrait Gallery not being funded for completion in his column in today’s paper.

In the column, Goddard tells the tail of woe of the National Portrait Gallery having to be hosted in a garage located off a back alley in downtown Toronto. Goddard, in the column calls this fact the gallery is hosted in such awful conditions a travesty which is true.

Goddard only mentions, in passing, the idea of former Liberal Heritage Minister Sheila Copps idea of a opening the portrait gallery in the old US Embassy building being launched in 2001. Then, for some reason, he lays the entire issue at the feet of today’s Conservative government. Goddard is right to blame the Stephen Harper government for cutting the $44 million in order to launch the national portrait gallery. But he believes this to be “more Tory political payback”. But really, is it all Conservative party problem?

Sheila Copps launched the idea for a National Portrait gallery in 2001 and nothing happened except the old US flag came down and a new Canadian flag went up. Since then nothing much has happened to the building. So why didn’t the Liberals get the museum up and running? Was it because of lack of money? Not likely since Paul Martin stressed it was the Liberals who slayed the deficit and now were running significant surpluses. Surely some of the money from the surpluses could have been invested in the museum to get it up and running. But perhaps with the problems the health care system was seeing, funding a new museum was not politically palatable at the time. So hence the Liberals kept putting it off and putting it off.

Fast forward to today, and it seems, according to Goddard, the Conservatives are to blame for not funding this new museum. Goddard unfairly believes the entire problem is with the Conservatives. But why shouldn’t the Liberals, who were in power the majority of the time between 2001 and today (2007) also share the blame?

Goddard also mentions a further tidbit of information, $44 million. It takes forty four million dollars to get this museum up and running? Lets figure out what the forty-four million might be used for:

1. Purchasing land and a building? Nope, the Canadian government already became owner of the former US embassy in 2001.

2. Renovations of the building? I would suggest the building already meets fire code for an office building. Perhaps only some minor renovations would be required for space and accessibility purposes but that should cost more than two million dollars tops. Two million is also probably on the very high side.

3. Purchasing portraits and art work? The Montrose Portrait Gallery of Canada, on their website, notes “The National Portrait Gallery of Canada has thousands of lovely portraits and millions of lovely photos” already. So why spend more money to acquire even more portraits if thousands of portraits and millions of these photos are currently collecting dust?

4. All portraits need picture frame hooks. So perhaps a good portion of the forty-four million dollars is to go towards the picture frame hooks and the hammers needed to mount them on the wall. No doubt there will be highly paid union jobs needed to put these portraits up on the wall. The portraits placings, of course being a government operation, would require hours of special committee meetings and bureaucrats to fuss over. This doesn’t even include the time to discuss what paint colours to use for the walls itself!

So in order to save everyone time and money, I hereby volunteer to do my part for the National Portrait Gallery of Canada and volunteer my time and my hammer in order to get these portraits on the wall of the old US Embassy. I figure a team of 5 to 10 of us could each take a room and hang the probably already framed portraits on the walls of the old embassy building.

But of course the Portrait Gallery of Canada being a Liberal idea and a government operation, my suggestion will never see the light of day. But of course the spending of forty four million dollars down the toilet will never be the fault of the Liberals. The Liberals will only blame the Conservatives of course, once the Conservatives come to power that is. Otherwise, just like Goddard and the Toronto Star, while the Liberals form government, its all HUSH! HUSH!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Vacation over

As per my promise in this posting, I'm reviewing the idea having a 'spontaneous vacation'. A spontaneous vacation is where one takes a weeks vacation from work and then doesn't preplan to go anywhere. Then, on the first and each subsequent day of the vacation, as you roll out of bed you plan your day. It might be visiting the ROM or taking in a festival like the Beaches Jazz Festival (which I did last night) or just hanging out at home enjoying the fact you don't have to go to work.

Did I like this type of vacation?

I did for this week as I got to slow the pace life down a bit. It was nice not having to get up early in the morning for my commute to work. It was also nice to enjoy coming and going all day as I pleased.

Would I do this type of vacation again?

Yes I would. But not on my next vacation time as it is nice to plan to leave town for a week or two as well to some other locale.

All in all, it was quite a relaxing week.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Museum in a Crystal

Yesterday I headed down to the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) to check out the new Michael Lee-Chin Crystal and the main collections at the museum.

It took about two hours to roam around the museum. Basically this is because when I visit a museum, like the ROM, I don't read every description or piece of historical writing in the museum. But I did look at quite a few of the historical artifacts. However, the historical artifacts that I wanted to know more about I then read the description. So, in other words, I read less than one percent of the descriptions.

With that said here is some of what I saw with the main focus being on the Crystal itself (click on the photo for a full description from the scrapbook section of my website):

For more photos from the ROM check out the Toronto section of the scrapbook section of my website.

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