Sunday, June 29, 2008

Show us your Canada, Canada

The Toronto Star, on it's website, requested Canadians to send in pictures of their Canada. So I thought I would share, from my scrapbook the pictures I have taken that scream "Canada"

The Canadian flag at Coronation Park in Toronto.

The Stanley Cup

Aurora's "Oh Canada!" mural at the corner of Yonge & Wellington Streets in Aurora.

Seasonal nature scenes like springtime in Ontario with Trilliums.

The grand architecture of Parliament Hill.

Finally, believing Canada has a postive influence on the world.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

It twas a great year in 1434

Gavin Menzies' book 1434 takes a look at how advanced Chinese society was in terms of exploration and technological inventions. Menzies explores the various items of how the Chinese devised living including how to navigate a boat by the stars from no matter where the boat was in the world to where and when the Chinese could have been during this time pariod.

The best part of the book is that the author tells the story while not drowning the reader in historical or academic jargon. However, if jargon is used, Menzies quickly provides a definition. For example Menzies uses the word "eunichs" and then quickley defines it as "brave sailors who were intensely loyal to the empreror, permantently insecure, and ready to sacrifice all." (Menzies 3). By doing this the author is able to quickly add a word to the reader's vocabulary and be able to use the word simply later in the book without having to redefine the word again. This keeps the story moving while also painting a clear picture of what is going on in this type of time period.

Each chapter of 1434 takes a look at a different aspect of Chinese society during this time period. Some of the more interesting chapters include chapter 4 on how the Chinese calculated longitude and latitude and chapter 10 on how the Chinese influenced Magellan and Columbus' world maps. Each chapter has something new and interesting about Chinese society. Whats even better, if the reader is uninterested in a particular subject, they can simply skip to the next chapter without worrying about missing an item. But this is hardly a concern considering how interesting and well written each chapter is.

Menzies' book is a well written from beginning to end. This is mainly because the author draws upon scholarship from others who have deeply researched some aspects while Menzies maintains the overall narration of the global look of Chinese society in the book. Overall the book is worth a read for anyone interested in Asian history during this time period.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Early Morning Excitement in Aurora

This morning I was awoken by the sound of breaking glass. I looked out the window to see the old, and long since vacant, used car sales centre for Aurora Toyota fully engulfed in flames with narry a fire truck in sight. It was 5:50 A.M. when I dialed 911 to report the fire.

However, as I was connecting to the 911 dispatcher, a Central York Fire Services pumper truck responded. The crew made short work of the old closed gate to keep people from stealing cars from the parking lot when it was a Toyota Dealership. Quickly the crew got out their saws and within two minutes got through the rented temporary chain link fence. The pumper pulled onto the site.

York Regional Police quickly moved in and shutdown Yonge Street between Brookland Avenue and Murray Drive to traffic.

I ventured over later after the ruckus died down and everyone left:

The main issue with this property is since the Aurora Toyota dealership moved out, this piece of property has sat vacant for quite some time. While sitting vacant the two buildings on the site have been vandalized by teenagers off and on both day and night.

The vandals are further assisted within the last week with access to this piece of property when the temporary rented fence was fully removed. Rumour has it in the neighbourhood the property owners failed to pay the bill for the fence rental. So for about a week the property sat vacant with no fence and with several smashed windows on the rear, north and south sides. Then later in the week a temporary fence was reinstalled along the front of the property only. This didn't do much considering both the north and south sides of the property were not fenced off to keep anyone out.
Further, this property, according to Town of Aurora development records (see section 41 of the link) due for rezoning in order "to allow ground floor retail and 44 residential units within 4 storey building." This seems like a great redevelopment plan for instensifying developmeny along the Yonge Street corridor in Aurora in terms encouraging sustainable development along routes well serviced by transit. However, the applicant, i.e. the property owner has put the development application on hold for the time being. So it seems the neighbours of 14785 Yonge Street will have to live endure the blight this property has become for a while longer.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Abuse has to be Reported.

Again this week a disturbing educational issue hit the news. In Friday's Toronto Star, it was reported that a Newmarket Grade 1 student visiting the washroom was wipped by belts by two grade 8 students. The principal, upon hearing of the incident failed to inform either the parents and the police. The only action the York Region Catholic District School Board Principal undertook was to suspend the two offending students. The Grade 1 student's older sister ventured home and told her parents of the attack on her younger sibling. The parents, of course, contacted the police who laid charges against the two Grade 8 students. The parents also contacted the local MPP, Frank Klees, about the issue who brought the problem to floor of the Ontario Legislature.

This problem seems to have repeated itself considering that in October 2006 a similar issue occurred involving the gang rape of a female muslim student in a school washroom at C.W. Jeffrey's Secondary school in the Toronto District School Board. This incident on came to light when a panel was investigating the shooting death of Jordan Manners at the school. This resulted in charges being laid against the principal and two vice-principals of the school at the time for failure to report the incident to police. However, in a despicable ruling by the court, the charges were dismissed because, as the Toronto Star reported:

Justice of the Peace Gabriel John said the charges against Charis Newton-Thompson, former principal at the Toronto school, and former vice-principals Stan Gordon and Silvio Tallevi were sworn last December – well after the six-month time limit in the Provincial Offences Act.

The province's Attorney General will most likely appeal this case. But it does send a disturbing message to Ontario parents about those in positions of authority in Ontario schools and the courts.

The main message in the above two instances is that principals do not want to involve the police believing this is a school issue. However, in both instances these are crimes under the criminal code and failure to report a crime, again under the criminal code, is a crime unto itself. But the criminal code, as noted in second case, seems to be slightly in conflict with protecting students considering a judge has ruled that after six monthes, if a crime is not reported, nobody can be charged. So the school boards seems to know this and, in the above two cases, would have said absolutely nothing in hopes that the whole issue would blow over or never be heard about.

What's even worse is the York Region Catholic School Board refuses to disclose which of the schools in Newmarket the assault occurred between the two Grade 8 students and the Grade 1 victim as reported in today's edition of The Era-Banner. The Era-Banner reporter narrowed down the possible schools the attack occurred at from six to three by investigating which schools had female principals. As reported in the newspaper, at one of these schools the attack occurred with contact information included:

St. John Chrysostom Catholic School on Joe Persechini Drive (905-895-7411), St. Nicholas on Keith Avenue (905-895-3777) and St. Paul on William Roe Boulevard (905-895-4122.)

It seems the "culture of secrecy" in terms of reporting crimes to the authorities and parents as reported in the Falconer Report on the death of Jordan Manners also extends to the York Region Catholic District School Board at least in the case as well. Not only does the principal at the school not call the police in on this issue, but also doesn't tell the parents of victim what happenned and what the consequences were of the incident until parent's own child arrives home from school and reports what occurred. Also, in order to keep all York Region Catholic School parents in the dark, the Board refuses to disclose at which school the assault took place. The Board should be telling parents which school this incident occurred as it is every parent's, along with the school's, responsibility to keep their child safe. Parents have every right to know if the staff at their school is following the criminal code as well as board policy in terms of keeping their own children safe. The board has failed to live up to their responsibility in this case in providing open and accountable practices in this particular case.

Frank Klees, the MPP for Newmarket-Aurora, has brought forth a bill to recommend that all assaults between students in schools should be reported to the police. Klees is quite right in ensuring this is enacted in legislation. Students can only learn right from wrong if the consequences are presented and, if needed, enforced under the criminal code. The Ontario Legislature should ensure that not only do assaults in schools, no matter who they are between, be reported to police in a timely manner. If these assaults are not reported there should be dire consequences for the administration of the schools including dismissal, jail time and a fine. Also, there should be no legal loop hole allowed in the criminal code of finding that an assault has failed to be reported to the proper authorities. This would close the legal loop hole that prevented the conviction of the principal and two vice-principals in the Toronto District School Board incident as well as prevent the situation from occurring again.

Children in Ontario, and accross Canada, should have every right to expect to attend schools that are safe and secure. If for any reason an incident of assault occurs, there should proper penalties both at the school level and, if warrented under the criminal code (or Young Offenders Act) and not at the whim of some principal, charges should be laid. Also, school boards must be forced to release details of incidents at schools when called upon by either the media or concerned parents in the name of providing parents with the full disclosure so as to ensure their children's safety is accounted for. Anything less only promotes a culture a silence and possible more violence in our schools and that is totally unacceptable to anyone, including students, parents, teachers, principals, superintendents, trustees and the general public.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Greening Canada a tough task

The Liberals and Conservatives have been battling over who has the best plan to make Canada greener in terms of air pollution. The Conservatives have come up with the idea of reducing ïntensity per unit of production. In other words for every widget a company makes, there needs to be less pollution emmitted. This works except for the downfall that if the a company is more successful, the more pollution they will emit because they are producing more widgets. This doesn't really help in reducing the overall amount of air pollution at all. But at least the economy isn't hindered in the short term in order to bring about environmental change. Although, long term the Conservative Plan is rather suspect.

The Liberals, on the other hand, have started to release their idea for a "carbon tax system". Liberal MP for Willowdale (Toronto, Ontario) Martha Hall Findlay explains it in a Letter to the Editor in June 1st's Toronto Sun explains the Liberal plan as:

"It is quite simple: We reduce the tax on the things we like and which we want more of -- income, innovation, investment in green technologies; and we shift those taxes onto the things we want less of -- pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, smog and waste...But this shift would be revenue neutral -- no more tax than we have now. "

The Liberals must be fooling themselves with this plan. The promise of taxing things like pollution and green house gas emissions while reducing income taxes works really well. However, the promise of the Liberal plan being revenue neutral seems a little suspect. When in Canadian history has there been a government either federal, provincial or municipal ever had a revenue neutral plan of reducing one set of taxes while increasing another set and had it succeed? The city of Toronto would beg to differ on the "revenue neutral" plan launched by the last Ontario provincial Conservative government where the province took over education and downloaded ambulance and social services to the municipal level. The whole idea a government can have a "revenue neutral" idea is proposterous as usually through some design flaw, one side gets more money than the either. In the Liberals case it would probably be the federal government with more chaching than the taxpayer. If the Liberals actually pulled off this revenue neutral idea it would be the first time any government had a revenue neutral plan that actually succeeded. That would be magical! But alas, Martha Hall Findlay again: "there is nothing magical about our plan for the environment and the economy." Then she goes onto say, that the Liberal plan will also lift many out of poverty as well! If this isn't pie in the sky magical, I don't know what is! Sounds like taxpayers will be hosed again on this revenue neutral poverty reducing save the environment plan.

The Canadian government needs to formulate a plan where the Canadian economy is sustained in terms of economic strength while helping the environment. This is a tough task. The Conservative and the Liberal plans leave a lot of doubts as to how their plans will affect the environment or the Canadian economy. The Canadian governments of the future, whether they be Conservative or Liberal, must investigate the attempts of other countries and economic unions around the world to see which ones work in terms of affecting the economy and environment. Then the Canadian government can borrow bits and pieces of each one to cobble together a plan that is right for Canadians. Currently at this time neither the Conservatives or the Liberals seem to have any workable solution to this issue.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Please excuse the mess while we renovate this blog to serve you better....

This afternoon I discovered a cool new function on Blogger called "Blog List". This new function means Blogger will keep track of the latest postings on the blogs I bookmark on my blog because I find them interesting.

This also has allowed me to renovate the list of interesting blogs by removing ones I've discovered to be either no longer of interest to me or have quit posting anything for a while.

The new function also provides cool new content for this blog that can be visited each day. I will be cruising by to see "what is new at the blogs Michael finds interesting?" So come on back and enjoy this new feature in action in the sidebar to the right where "Blogs of Interest"used to called "Blogroll".

Sunday, June 01, 2008

2008 Aurora Street Sale

Today brought the annual Aurora Street Sale, also known as "the World's Longest Street Sale on the World's Longest Street." Again the event was a success as thousands crowded Yonge Street in Aurora from Murray Drive to Wellington Street.

One of the things I learned, from the Powerstream booth, was how to calculate how much it will cost you to operate something on your hydro bill. An example of this would be:

1. Multiply the watts displayed on your appliance by the number of hours it operates per year to get watt-hours.

2. Divide by 1,000 to get kilowatt-hours (kWh)

3. Multiply by $0.10 to get the estimated cost in dollars.

So for example, a sixty watt lightbulb operating eight hours a day everyday would cost $17.52 a year to keep lit. This is especially important when calculating how much a thirteen watt bulb CFL equivalent would do if it replaced the sixty watt lightbulb ($3.80).

The only downfall to this years street sale was the overcast skies which are quite evident in this year's pictures:

Looking South from Wellington Street

Looking North in Aurora's Downtown
Delayne Drive rockin'in front of Aurora United Church
Looking South from Tyler Street

Looking North from near Church Street
Looking North from Murray Drive

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