Saturday, May 26, 2007

'Shoefiti' Star? - News - 'Shoefiti' leaving footprint on telephone, hydro lines

So apparently a local newspaper reporter visited my blog entry on "Shoefiti" and then writes an article based on my blog entry.

Here's where the hillarity starts:

1. I read an article in the Toronto Star about Shoefiti and start making connections between the article and my life in New York City and Aurora. I provide some random thoughts and presto I get quoted by a local newspaper reporter.

2. The newspaper reporter, trying to get an interview with me, calls my parent's house looking for an interview. I don't return the call because I can't believe that the reporter, Joan Ransberry, hasn't noticed all I'm doing is making connections between the Toronto Star article and Aurora. It's really not the far fetched. In fact, it must have been a slow newsday for her just to quote my article as evidence shoefiti is alive and well in Aurora.

3.Now here's the fun part. The Toronto Star is owned by Torstar. Torstar owns Metroland which prints local community newspapers. Metroland publishes the Era-Banner and other newspapers appearing at What a small world.

For now I will take the compliment that someone in the field of journalism actually thinks I'm an expert on this subject. This is despite that all I know on the culture of shoefiti I learned about by reading the Toronto Star article and speculating a bit via a few random thoughts that I came up with while writing the blog entry.

Perhaps this might lead to a disclaimer having to be posted on the blog..."Mike is not an expert in anything but random thoughts..."

UPDATE!: Further coverage of my original blog entry is quoted at and the post can be found here. I wonder if this is how Joan Ransberry of the Era-Banner found my blog entry? Apparently I'm a Shoefiti star after all even though I was providing only random thoughts? Go figure....

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The lowly Plastic Shopping Bag

The lowly plastic bag has come under fire in the province of Ontario. The Ontario government recently has come up with options of phasing out the plastic shopping bags. Ideas that have been brought up include:

1. Ban bags outright.

2. Provide discounts or incentives for people that either re-use current plastic bags or use cloth bags.

3. Force all customers to bring their own methods of taking things home from stores.

While all three of these options have merits, the Ontario government refuses to choose the first option in an attempt to remove the plastic bags outright. But the Ontario government does want to reduce the use of plastic shopping bags in half by 2012 according to a Toronto Star article , so a combination of the last two options are being looked at.

Lets keep in mind that, according to the Ontario government, one plastic bag takes about one thousand years to breakdown. So that shopping bag you get from the local grocery store to bring home your groceries will be troubling to your great grandchildren and beyond. As new homes and infrastructure are built, future generations will be wondering what our generation was thinking when creating these things. So the real question should be how to eliminate the lowly plastic bag all together. But banning bags is probably not the best option considering how much we have come to rely on plastic bags from everything from shopping to garbage purposes.

The Ontario government is quite correct, we cannot just quit using plastic bags all at once. This is because we use plastic bags for all sorts of things including picking up our dog's "business," bringing groceries and other purchases home from the store, and taking lunch to work. So with this in mind how do we start to wean ourselves off using the bags?

The first place is the grocery store. Grocery stores should be providing incentives for customers who either reduce the use of plastic bags or do not use plastic bags all together. These could include a two cent a bag off your grocery bill for every bag you don't use. This particular incentive was used at the Loblaws I used to shop at Rideau & Nelson Streets in Ottawa. I used to take my backpack and a pair of shopping bags with me every time I went grocery shopping. I saved on average six cents per trip by using this method. Sure on one visit it doesn't add up to much. But over a year with one grocery store visit per time this would save $3.12. Perhaps if the incentive was a little higher in monetary value it might work a little better.

Other grocery stores apparently offer free air miles and similar incentives. An incentive package needs to be invented at grocery stores that provide free bags.

No Frills grocery stores do not provide grocery bags for free. Instead customers are forced to spend five cents per bag if they wish them. No Frills also offers free cardboard boxes whenever they are available. These cardboard boxes were previously used to bring in the food products in the store (e.g. boxes of cracker packages, cardboard trays to bring in fruit, etc.). So basically No Frills is trying to reduce the use of plastic bags by reusing cardboard boxes and hoping their customers will eventually recycle them via their own blue boxes. No Frills also used to sell laundry baskets that people could easily stack and unstack for shopping purposes. My mother uses this method and finds three of these black laundry baskets fit into the average No Frills shopping cart quite easily. No Frills, it seems, is at the head of reducing the use plastic bags and perhaps other stores should pay attention to them.

Plastic garbage bags provide another problem. People use the plastic bags to throw out stinky and wet items including "doggy do." So how to do we combat this particularly nasty problem. There needs to be a biodegradable bag that when used will hold the messy refuse, but will break down over five or ten years in a landfill or, even better, be totally compostable.

By 2012 will Ontarioans be using aproximately fifty percent less plastic bags? It will depend on the how well the public buy into it. But the Ontario government isn't exactly helping the matter either. Earlier in 2007 the Ontario government at their LCBO stores launched a deposit return system for all wine bottles sold in Ontario. The major problem with the admirable program of returning glass bottles for recylcing purposes was adding the plastic bag component. The "Bag it Back" program encouraging Ontarians to return their liquor bottles now seems a little regressive. On one side the government is encouraging people to return their liquor bottles while on the other hand the government is producing extra thick plastic bags for this program. Couldn't the government provide a canvas bag instead of a heavy duty plastic bag? With the "Bag it Back" program in mind, how can the government encourage the grocery and other industries to reduce the production of plastic gabs when the government itself is only increasing the use of plastic bags at their own grocery stores? Apparently there was very little thought towards the optics of producing even more plastic bags by the current Ontario Liberal government.

Reducing and reusing the current amount of plastic bags around the world is a noble cause. However, governments must lead by example and not be hypocritical in leading this environmental challenge. The public must also be provided incentives as well to join in on this environmental challenge. Incentives might include financial or points towards future purchases or trips would be in order. Only once the public, industry and government has come together can the environmental challenge of the plastic bag can be overcome.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Canadian Mint pulls one over the U.S. - News - U.S. feared poppy quarter

It is hard to believe that American intelligence was all up and arms over a measily Canadian quarter. But that is what happenned in 2004 and onward as American contractors reported to the U.S. Defence Department after visiting Canada. The contractors were reporting that the quarters were showing up on their pockets and appeared to have radio frequency transmitters.

Aparently the U.S. Defence Department needs to find some brighter contractors. This is because the question of "how did these mysterious coins get there?" is easy to solve. Might these contractors have stopped off at a Tim Horton's for a coffee and received change back? Probably. Since the Canadian quarter is one of the most used coins in Canada and coins tend to end up in pockets, PRESTO! a Canadian quarter ended up in the contractor's pockets. But if the Defence Department actually hired smart contractors, the problem of the coins mysteriously appearing in pockets may have never arisen. And Canadians wouldn't have been able to laugh at the crazy Americans.

It has been said before Canada has funny money, but in this instance a mere twenty cents just proves it!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Shoefiti? - News - Down at the heel, flying high

Ever wonder why a pair of running shoes strung over a power line might mean?

That is what the Toronto Star set out to figure out. Apparently an interesting culture has grown up around explaining why shoes are found strung around power lines. In fact the art of stringing shoes over power lines is called "Shoefiti".

The only constant about the culture of Shoefiti is that nobody can know who strung the shoes up in the first place. In other words, shoes must be strung over power lines in the cover of darkness in order to maintain the mysteriousness of the culture.

In Aurora there is the odd pair of shoes strung over power lines. Observances of Shoefiti in Aurora continues to be here and there. When it was pointed out that possibly the shoes symbolized the possibility of drug dealers marking their territory it got me worried. Was Aurora going to pot in the last ten years around the intersection of Yonge Street & Murray Drive? Not likely, but the dangling of shoes in that area under this premise got me worried.

In New York City, the shoes hanging from the heavens seem to abound. Again, the thought of the drug culture got me thinking about my safety. However, like most people, I brushed it off as being one of the weird things of New York. But the thought about drugs lingered in my mind.

In the Toronto Star article the Toronto Police Service laugh off the idea of Shoefiti having anything to do with drug culture. I tend to agree. Why would drug pushers run around hucking shoes so precisely so that they land just perfectly over the power lines? It makes no sense. The druggies would make more money by spending there time on cultivating better drugs and more clientele instead of wasting their time and money on buying and stringing shoes over power lines. However, as the article mentions, this did not stop the Los Angeles Police Department from having an anti-Shoefiti campaign in late 2002.

Even more thought provoking is the question of "who came up with shoefiti?" Was it some kid who was picking on his younger brother by tossing his shoes in the air that just happened to land on a power line? Could the parents not figure out how to retrieve the shoes and thus the shoes were left there? Did others, out and about doing their daily routines, wonder how the shoes got there in first place? Is this how shoefiti started? We will never know.

But shoefiti has quite the following. There are several blog entries, websites and You Tube vidoes dealing with the culture of Shoefiti. Perhaps the most interesting one is This website investigates the different art forms of Shoefiti and how features how some shoes are artistically hung. Pictures of shoes abound on from cities from around the world. This awe inspiring website is worth the visit.

Did Shoefiti explode with the advent of the digital camera? Did people take pictures and blogging about the mysterious shoes help to advertise the growing Shoefiti culture? Or did the picture taking of Shoefiti become a recent thing and the culture was already well developed and the picture taking only help to further fuel the shoe dangling culture?

The culture of Shoefiti brings forth a lot of questions and only a few possible answers. But really only one question that nobody can convincingly answer: What on earth does it mean?

Saturday, May 05, 2007

The Lord and the Biker

From the Humour File....

A biker was riding along a California beach when suddenly the sky clouded above his head and, in a booming voice, the Lord said, "Because you have tried to be faithful to me in all ways, I will grant you one wish"

The biker pulled over and said, "Build a bridge to Hawaii so I can ride over anytime I want."

The Lord said, "Your request is materialistic, think of the enormous challenges for that kind of undertaking. The supports required to reach the bottom of the Pacific! The concrete and steel it would take! It will nearly exhaust several natural resources. I can do it, but it is hard for me to justify your desire for worldly things. Take a little more time and think of something that would honor and glorify me."

The biker thought about it for a long time. Finally he said,"Lord, I wish that I could understand my wife. I want to know how she feels inside, what she's thinking when she gives me the silent treatment, why she cries, what she means when she says nothing's wrong, and how I can make a woman truly happy."

The Lord replied, "You want two lanes or four on that bridge?"

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Dirty Jobs Blog from the New York Subway » Blog Archive » Would you work on the tracks?

Over at they were discussing the dirtiest job in New York City Transit, that of the track worker:


Think about what a typical shift must be like. First of, it’s gross. Then factor in that you’re surrounded by rats. Hell, the rats are probably hiding in the shadows planning a revolt.
Think about how hot
it must be to work down there in the summer! Even at night, it must be 100+ degrees, and you’re expected to haul concrete? Fugetabowdit.
Think of all the crap you must be breathing in, too. All that soot and brake dust. Lord knows what other carcinogens are loose down there. I’d think lead and asbestos are probably the least of your worries.
As if all that weren’t enough, you’ve got to keep your ass from being run over by trains


This got me thinking, what is the dirtiest job in the entire world?

Here is what I've come up with so far (ranked in order from worst and downwards):

1. New York City Transit Track Worker (see above) with living next to the electrified third rail adding to the threat of death along with the small dog size of rats and the vast amounts of rat poison used.

2. New York City Sewer worker. The vast amounts of raw sewage, rumours of alligators living down below ground, the large rats (did I mention they might be the size of small dogs?) and the weird steam that seems to emanate from most sewer grates cannot be healthy.

3. By-Law Enforcement Officer (Meter Maid). Death defying handing out parking tickets throughout the town. Take your own life into your own hands as you run up and down city streets fining people for parking more than a minute over the time limit. Hazards include being spat on, punched, kicked or even worse beaten half to death over a fifty dollar parking ticket!

4. Rent-a-Cop (aka security guard). Ok....not really but you are made fun of pretty much all the time for failing law school. Other hazards, besides being heckled, is to be hit by little old lady's kanes after offering the same little old lady assistance in crossing the street, teased by youths about your job and/or uniform, etc.

Got any more dirty jobs that are not listed here?

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