Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Chapter 17: Union Station

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

In this chapter Joe Fiorito takes a look at the most influential people in an area of town. In this chapter Fiorito highlights how citizens of Kensington Market are going to honour the memory of the King of Kensington, Al Waxman. A statue in a park resulted.

The question, that came to my mind while reading this chapter, is there a citizen of my town who is revered or admired like Al Waxman is in Kensington?

In Aurora there is perhaps Lester B. Pearson who grew up in Aurora. His school, Church Street School, is now being transformed into the local heritage centre. His father, Edwin Pearson, was the Minister at the Aurora Methodist Church (now Aurora United Church). We all know how great Lester would become in world history in terms of eventually being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Are there others within Aurora? Perhaps, but not as big as Lester Pearson. Notable mentions could be Olympic downhill skier Brian Stemmle, CTV's Tom Clark, and others.

Take a look at your own community, who would be "The King" of your community?

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Chapter 16: Union Station

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

In Chapter 16 Joe Fiorito investigates the stories of transit. In other words the stories of the people and/or the events that happen while on pulblic of transit.

One of the books I picked up during my time in New York City was Subwayland by Randy Kennedy. The book takes a look at the stories that can be found within the New York City subway system. I learned some very interesting things about the New York City subway system like:

-Need a seat on any train line going through 14th Street-Union Square? Stand in front of someone with a backback, they will most likely be NYU students and will be leaving the train at this stop.

-Pigeons ride the subway out in the Rockaways. The pigeons board the subway cars looking for food while the trains wait to head in the opposite direction at the end of the line. Once the train is ready to start again, the doors close and the pigeons are still on the train!

-the broken sea shells seen on the bridge from the mainland to the Rockaways on the "A" line are from sea gulls and other sea faring birds scooping sea shelled creatures and then smashing them on the concrete bridge abutments in search of food.

Of course, some people blog about the subway like SUBWAYblogger and Steve Munro. These writers take a look at both what is going on the subway from their point of view as well as the politics that involve the governing transit agencies.

Others do blog about the subway as well. I just Googled the word "subway" and came up with 675,495 results in just a blog section only. Everything from transit delays to meeting someone on the subway came up.

Of course I have my own stories of public transit. Just search "York Region Transit" or "YRT" in the blog search above to see what terror I've been put through as well as my views of the current system of public transit in York Region.

Do I have funny stories and observations? Sure! Here are a few tidbits:

- You can buy almost anything on the New York City Subway system. Just don't expect any warranties!

- I've moved apartments accross Brooklyn on the subway during my time in New York.

- The subway is a great place to see what people are reading. People read everything from the Bible, the newspaper, maps, a wide variety of literature, etc. on the subway. Looking for a good book? Check out the interesting titles on the subway.

Sure these aren't that interesting stories, but there are several sources on the web (i.e. Google subway in the blog search section) and in print that provide good reading. Fiorito, sadly on provides one decent chapter.

Update!: The New York Sun takes a look at what people are posting about the New York City Subway system by way of popular Subway Blogs. Read the article here.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

TTC Diversion Gives Riders Chance To See Station Hidden For 40 Years

TTC Diversion Gives Riders Chance To See Station Hidden For 40 Years

The TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) has rerouted its Bloor-Danforth Subway line in order to complete subway tunnel construction.

However, the detour takes the trains through a rarely seen piece of Toronto transit history, the lower Bay Station. For a full history click here and read and view the CityTv story.

For a video look at the lower Bay Station click here and here for Youtube videos from passing subway trains.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

2007 International Car Show

The International Car Show came to Toronto's Rogers Centre and the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. I visited the show today and here is what me and my camera came across:

1902 Studabaker, the first gas powered Studabaker in the world!

2007 Corvette

2008 Camaro Model Car!

Another look at the 2008 Camaro model.


Toyota Model Car of the future?

Another look at the Toyota car of the future.

2007 Porcshe

University of Toronto's solar powered car

A car show is never complete without a bug, in this case the 2007 VW Beetle!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Chapter 15: Union Station

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

Fiorito takes a look at the stories of crime in a big city, most specifically Toronto. Fiorito tells us the stories of one courtroom as prisoners are sentenced one after another. He then tells us about three young girls who are murdered in Toronto.

This chapter got me thinking about what is a common denominator in the criminal's lives? There must be one thing that makes all criminals the same.

Well, there is no such common denominator (with the exception of the desire to commit a crime of course). But there are two common characteristics of most criminals that I've noticed over time: 1. Come from families who have a single parent and/or 2. were a victim of violence in their youth.

#2 is self explanatory (i.e. troubled youth who suffered a tramatic childhood just continues on down the wrong road).

In terms of #1, usually stories about young criminals have the single mother or father, who is struggling to make it life with their families, yelling that their son/daughter is headed to the slammer. Some of these parents blame society for letting them down. Society then turns around and casts their eyes down on these single parents and blame the parent for not raising their child properly resulting a crime being committed.

Who is correct in this situation? The parent or society?

I mainly blame the parent. Last time I checked it takes two to have a child, or at least in the conception of a child. The question is where did the second participant in the conception of the child go over time? Both participants in the conception, i.e. parents, should be involved in the raising of a child.

Without the second parent, their is only one person left to raise a child. This results in the leftover parent to work longer hours in order to raise the child all by themselves. The situation is worse if there is more than one child involved and/or if the parent has a low income job. This leaves the child all by themselves to their own devices. This could result in the child getting into criminal activity without the single parent even knowing it. Before long the child is arrested and thrown in jail and the parent blames society for not helping them raise the child.

The big question from in this situation is: "Did you have a relationship with the person you decided to have child with before you 'did the deed?'" Usually the answer is, "No". Case closed, if you don't invest in a relationship before considering children, problems may result down the road....

Footnote: Not all single parent families result in leading to crime. The above is just an observations over time of the backgrounds of those charged or convicted of crimes from various newspaper articles from Toronto, Ottawa and New York City. The above is not viewed from successful single parent families, which there are many, but at possibilities of how criminals might have found a life of crime.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Caught Red Handed!

The York University student newspaper The Excalibur broke the story in this weeks newspaper that at least two student union presidents sucessfully attended a press conference by posing as journalists.

Chris Bently, the Minister for Training, Colleges & Universities, was holding a press conference about financial aid and scholarships for university and college students. But before he approached the podium to begin his speech, he was interupted by student government members from accross the province. Bently was forced to cancel the press conference.

The student union president York University, Corrie Sakaluk, and the University of Toronto's Vice-President External, Emily Shelton were allowed into the press conference because they claimed they were journalists from either the University of Toronto's The Varsity and York University's The Excalibur.

However, neither of these student politicians were even affiliated with the newspapers. In Sakaluk's case, she is not allowed to be a journalist for The Excalibur because under the newspapers' constitution this would create a conflict of interest between the newspaper and the student union in terms of press coverage.

Of course the optics of this look very bad on these student leaders. But what is worse is Corrie Sakalak refuses to admit she did anything wrong by telling The Excalibur:

"...I don't feel like I did anything wrong. I think that I made a strategic decision, and I think that it was an important way of ensuring that the voice that the students I represent come to the people and receive the media coverage that they deserve to receive..."-- found in this article.

Sakuluk apparently has no problem committing fraud by passing herself off as something she is obviously not, a journalist. Even worse she was caught by the organization who she claimed to be a member of, The Excalibur. The question in this case is: will Excalibur take Sakaluk to court over this?

An even bigger question is what is Sakaluk, as president of York's student union, is: can she be trusted with the spending of the thousands of dollars in student union money? Obviously if she cannot express regret in lying to a provincial official, Chris Bently, then why should the students of York trust her with one red cent of their money?

Further, if Sakaluk is going to get into politics in the future at either the municipal, provincial, federal or international level, how can she be trusted? Sakaluk has been caught red handed in this case and should immediately resign her position as President of the York Federation of Students. Failure of her resignation to occur, the council of the Federation of Students should remover her in office (which it can legally due under section 5.5 of the York Federation of Students' Bylaws). It would be a great disservice to both the interest of democracy and the students of York University if either of these options of removing Sakaluk doesn't occur.

What is even more disturbing is that Corrie Sakaluk isn't the only one caught red handed in the case of this press conference. This is disturbing because if the student leaders are going onto run in future elections in government, how are the voters supposed to trust these guys with their hard earned taxpayer's dollar? If this is the future of Canadian politics, Canada is in deep trouble.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Chapter 14: Union Station

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

In Chapter 14 Joe Fiorito takes a look at what brought him to "The Big Smoke," "Hogtown," "T Dot" or, in other words, "Toronto". Joe came looking for employment and a brighter future.

Joe's reasoning was just like why I was headed to New York City. I headed to New York City after trying to get my teaching in Ontario. Ontario simply had too many English and History teachers for High School and too few students needing teachers. This was because the year I finished teacher's college, the provincial government eliminated OAC (grade 13) which meant a whole set of teachers across Ontario were thrown out of work. The increasing growth in the number of students didn't offset the loss of a full grade of students.

I put in applications with Toronto, Durham, York and Peel region school boards, and had a few nibbles (read: interviews) from York, but didn't get a job offer. So I took a job as a part time church caretaker for a year. Then came my job interview with New York City and off I went to the big city of New York to hopefully have a brighter future. But this didn't happen as this post will show.

Now I'm working for a growing merchandising company back in Toronto. I wouldn't never give this job up because I feel like I'm part of a team that is pulling for each other through no matter what! It's nice to be part of a team!

So just like Fiorito, I left Toronto and came back (read this chapter to see what I mean) for a good career.

Chapter 13: Union Station

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

In this chapter Joe Fiorito tells the story of a mysterious book he found in an old bookstore. Fiorito had picked up a mysterious Chinese handwritten cook book. Fiorito does some astounding research to find out the origins of the book. However, I won't go into detail here and spoil this chapter for'll have to grab Fiorito's book!

There is something about walking into any bookstore and just letting your mind and your body wander. Chapters is one of my favourite places to cruise for interesting titles.

What am I looking for when I'm going? Am I looking for a specific book? No not really. I could care less what Oprah is currently reading or even what has won awards. I'm basically looking for a title, cover and/or author to catch my eye.

For example, I was wandering around a Chapters in Toronto and found Alan Alda's book, Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: And Other Things I've Learned, and bought it. Was I going into this store to specically pick up this book? No, I never even know Alda had writen this book.

The same thing happenned with Joe Fiorito's book interestingly enough.

But there are times I go into a book store and leave with nothing at all. Am I disspaointed I couldn't find anything to purchase in this case? No not really. I might find something that might pique my interest in the future that just happens not to be too exciting right now. My reading interests do change. I have moved from traditional fiction to more non-ficition books like Alan Alda's book and others like the Google Story.

You never know what you'll find in a book store!

Chapter 12: Union Station

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

Chapter 12 of Joe Fiorito's book takes a look at the life of an immigrant to Canada. Perhaps the most disturbing sentence in this chapter, and possibly the entire book, is this one:

"The city cliche: The cabbies in this town are engineers, doctors, physicists." - Page 173.

Why are people who could be engineers, doctors, physicists and others driving taxis in this fair city? Sure driving a cab is a noble job and necessary for tourists and others to get around town. But the people who could be doctors are needed to ease the waiting times in the health care system.

During the previous federal election the Conservatives came to power on promises on five priorities. One of those priorities, the only one left to be accomplished by the Conservative government, is the guarenteed wait times for health care patients. Currently, talks are ongoing between the federal health care minister and his provincial counterparts. But that is what has been happening for years! More money has been gobbled up year after year as the federal government has been continously giving the provinces money designated for health care. Yet, times seem to be getting longer. Also, doctor and nursing shortages are either being felt now or on the horizon accross the country.

Is there a way to help solve the problem of wait times? Sure, there needs to be adequate number of health professionals and equipment. Governments have suggested in the past opening up a larger number of places in medical school to help solve the problem. Well, according to Joe Fiorito's book and other media reports, there are plenty of doctors driving cabs. One would think this would be a good area to find medical doctors to a least stem the loss of medical professionals in Canada due to retirement and other factors.

Now the question is why are these doctors driving cabs? Most of these doctors are foreign trained and, once they arrived in Canada, found their medical degrees are not recognized in Canada. This is a major problem in many fields of study in Canada as Joe Fiorito notes above in terms of physcists, doctors and others driving cabs or just facing a tough time. So perhaps the federal and provincial governments might want to make it easier for these foreign trained professionals to have their credentials tested and brought up to Canadian standards. This would probably be a lot cheaper than providing more spaces in medical schools for new doctors as these foreign trained doctors might only need six months to a year to be educated and properly tested before being deployed to a Canadian hospital or medical clinic.

This idea would also cost the federal and provincial governments less in the long run instead of opening up more spaces in medical school. Medical school students would be required to do at least four years of school and many of these students are starting with very little experience in the field of medicine. Contrast this to the cab driver who may have had a practice overseas and has full medical training in another country. These individuals would only require a quick probing to see what they know and what they still need to learn. These individuals could then be slotted into medical school classes that fit their needs and put into the workforce in a much shorter time period due to their previous training and experience. Even better these doctors come with some previous medical experience that would be needed in the Canadian medical field as the older experienced Canadian doctors begin to retire.

This is just one way to solve a Canadian problem by placing Canadian taxpayers money smartly and helping out those who want to work hard in Canada in their chosen field. Many, like the doctors and physcists driving a taxi, just need a chance to clear away the red tape holding them back and get into their fields.

We know they believe in Canada and are 'sold' on living in Canada, we just need to show them that 'Canada is sold on them.'

Sunday, February 04, 2007

WinterCityDissapointment 2007

WinterCity 2007

Last night I decided to head out to Nathan Philips Square to take in the "Wintercity Festival". I figured there was ice sculptures, hot chocolate, a concert and much more.

I was sadly dissapointed. Sure there was ice sculptures, but these sculptures you had to line up to see and march through a tent one at a time. Then there were a bunch of commercial operations like Buckly's cough syrup looking for the best "this stuff tastes like puke" faces, the Phantom of the Opera taking pictures and other things like this. Of course each one of these commercial operations had their own tents set up so people could enter and stay warm. Heck, even the concert stage had a large tent in front of it to keep people warm.

If the organizers of Ottawa's Winterlude saw this they would either fall over laughing or have a heart attack at this attempt at a winter festival. Apparently in Toronto we can't have people bundle up for an afternoon or evening of snow fun. No way siree! We have to stick people into tents to keep them warm even when visitors are looking at frozen ice sculptures.

Contrast this to Ottawa where most of the events are outside in local parks or on the Rideau Canal skateway. In Ottawa there is hardly a tent to get into with the exception of the washrooms and skate rental facilities on the Rideau Canal Skateway.

Even worse really the only festival there was in a city of over two million was located in Nathan Philips Square. There is lots of real estate that could be used to widen this festival including Dundas Square and High Park to put on events over two or three weekends. Lets consider that a city of under one million (Ottawa) can put on a large winter carnival over several weekends that many people want to return to year after year. Somehow, the Toronto winter festival just doesn't seem worth returning to.

Even the Winterlicious portion of this winter festival seemed to be a sham. This portion of Toronto's winter festival sees upscale restaurants providing deals to try and bring people in. But appartently there was a hitch at some restaurants according to a Toronto Sun columnist.

The only thing that was a plus for this event was the fact that booklets were handed out that had coupons that provided deals on admission to local attractions like the Hockey Hall of Fame, the Bata Shoe Museum and others. But those coupons could have been easily done via a website in order to provide a wider reach to prospetive Toronto visitors.

I'm sorry, but jamming people into a village of tents in the concrete jungle of Nathan Philips Square just doesn't cut it. Will someone kidnap some of Ottawa's Winterlude organizers to show Toronto how to put on a real winter festival?

Saturday, February 03, 2007

From Worst to First in Wind Generation

Energy Minister Dwight Duncan – opinion – From worst to first in wind generation

For current governments in both Ottawa and Toronto it has been very easy to blame the previous administrations for today’s problems.

Stephen Harper continuously points out that the Liberals under Paul Martin and Jean Chretien signed the Kyoto accord but never actually did anything about having Canada trying to reach Kyoto’s targets in reducing air pollution.

In Ontario the Liberals under Dalton McGuinty are doing the same by pointing out the previous Conservative administration’s failings. An example of this can be found in today’s Toronto Star in the Letters to the Editor where Energy Minister Dwight Duncan writes about the increasing move toward wind generation in Ontario.

Duncan claims, by way of a report written by a third party organization, that there was “mismanagement and poor planning by the former Conservative government between 1995 and 2002″ in terms of the investment of green power. But of course Duncan points out that the current McGuinty government is far superior in terms of green power.

Now to see how Duncan proves his point that the McGuinty government is superior in terms of green energy than the previous Conservative government:

1. “That government did not invest in clean, green power. Instead, it belched out more power from dirty coal plants. Under their watch, emissions rose by more than 125 per cent. …In three years, we have reduced Ontario’s reliance on coal plants by more than 32 per cent.”

This claim by Duncan is true in terms of statistics. However, sometimes statistics don’t tell the whole story. Between 1995 and 2002 the Conservative government was forced to shut down quite a few nuclear reactors at the Pickering, Darlington & Bruce power plants following a damning energy report into the workings of the former Ontario Hydro. Since the demand for electricity didn't meet the reduction in electrical generation, because of the shutting down of the reactors, something had to be done to keep the lights on in Ontario. The coal fired electrical generating plants were fired up to try and replace the lost generation of the nuclear reactors. Thus, air pollution from the coal plants increased because of the necessity to keep these plants running for longer periods of time.

Once the nuclear reactors were refurbished and brought back online, the coal fired plants could slowly be shut down again. Of course it took a long time to refurbish the nuclear reactors. By the time enough nuclear reactors had been brought back online, a change in administration had occurred and the Conservatives were voted out of office the Liberals took power. The Liberals were able to reduce the amount of pollution generated by the coal fired plants because the nuclear reactors could were back up and generating.

Duncan seems to conveniently to miss this piece of history in energy generation within Ontario in his letter. But of course if Duncan did include this fact, he wouldn't be able to blame the Conservatives for “mismanagement and poor planning.”

2. “We’ve gone from worst to first when it comes to wind generation.”

Congratulations from going from worst to first in terms of wind generation! Now perhaps the current government can start to shut down even more coal fired plants by 2007 through the use of wind power.

During the last provincial election of course, the Liberals promised to phase out coal power by 2007. Dwight Duncan was the energy minister who was forced to break this promise and delay it to 2009 and then until 2014. So the main question is, if Ontario is the leader in terms of wind generation, then how come the promise to close all the coal fired power plants has been pushed back on at least two occasions? Also, the current Liberal government have released an energy plan that calls for the continued and even an increased reliance on the nuclear power instead of putting a reliance on wind and solar power. The move towards wind and solar would probably provide an even more reliable source of electricity than nuclear. As the Conservative government found out nuclear cannot be totally reliable as the reactors will need to be shut down for long periods of refurbishment. But then again that wouldn’t be convenient at this period in time for the Liberals to point out.

3. “While so many other jurisdictions are expanding their reliance on coal, we’re reducing ours. Ontario stands as the only jurisdiction in the world not building more coal-fire generation, but phasing it out. We’ll eliminate coal as quickly as we can, balanced with the need to ensure a continued, reliable supply of electricity.”

The current government should be applauded for trying to reduce the reliance coal power as well as trying to balance the need for a supply of electricity. If the current government had of made good on its pledge to totally shut down the coal fired plants, the province would be in an energy crisis year round instead of during certain times in the summer.

Did the previous Conservative government consider a reliable supply of electricity during their time in government? Sure they did. That is why following the damning report on hydro that forced Ontario Hydro to close down quite a number of nuclear reactors, they fired up the coal powered plants even more. If the Conservatives had of not fired up the coal fired plants, an energy crisis would have ensued and Ontarians probably would have been in the dark for quite some time. But of course, again, Mr. Duncan conveniently forgets this.

After four years in power the Liberals should stop blaming the previous administration. Instead they should be concentrating on how to keep the promises they made during the previous provincial election. Conveniently, the Ontario Conservative party has been keeping track of the top fifty broken promises that the McGuinty government have done. So perhaps the Ontario Liberals should quit slagging the previous administration and concentrate on fixing their own shortcomings.

Are the federal Conservatives free of blame in terms of slagging the previous Liberal administartion? No they are not. If the federal Conservatives were any good at properly point out that “we are better than they were” in terms of reducing greenhouse gases, the would have come up with a better “made in Canada plan” for reducing greenhouse gases than the toothless plan that was introduced in 2006 to Parliament.

Thus, sometimes slagging the previous administration can seem to be politically expedient, but also can come back to bite you if you fail to either mention the reasons behind the statistics or come up with a better plan to improve upon the current situation.

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