Monday, December 28, 2009

Airport Style Security

Recently a plane from Amsterdam bound for Detroit was almost blown up by a male passenger. This lead me to review the security measures I've come accross in the past five years as an airline passenger. The main question is "would the security measures at the airports attended have prevented a situation like the one faced by the passengers on the plane bound for Detroit?" During the past five years I've been through security at four airports in two countries:

1. John F. Kennedy (New York, New York, USA)

2. Buffalo International Airport (Buffalo, New York, USA)

3. Lester B. Pearson Airport (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

4. McCarran International Airport (Las Vegas, Nevada, USA)

5. Liberty Internatioal Airport (Newark, New Jersey, USA)

Out of the five airports only one would have successfully found the explosives.

Buffalo International, which I have been through twice on my way to New York City, has passengers go through an explosives detecting machine. The machine is an archway with doors on one side. Passengers walk up to the footprints, stand there and the machine gives a quick burst (puff) of air. The puff of air is just enough to lift long hair in interesting patterns that can be funny for people waiting in line. The burst of air is then analyzed for any traces of certain materials that go in to explosives. This machine would have easily detected the material and stopped the suspect before he even boarded the airplane.

The only problem at Buffalo International is that only half of those in line go through the explosive detection machine. There is only one line for passengers departing from Buffalo International. However, the line is split into two with one set going off to the traditional metal detectors and the explosive detection machine while the other only goes to the metal detectors. Thus it is easy to avoid the machine by simply ordering yourself so that you go through in the line with the metal detector only. Hopefully in the near future at Buffalo International Airport this issue will be solved with another explosive detection machine being installed.

The other airports, both Canadian and American do not have the explosive detection machine. These airports include two New York area airports (Newark and John. F. Kennedy) who are located within 100 KM of where the World Trade Centre was levelled in September 2001. Thus it is surprising the lack of security measures at these two airports in terms of explosives.

With all of the above in mind, how does a law abiding passenger get through airport style security quickly, thoughtfully (for both yourself and the security agent) and legally? Try these tips:

1. Check any liquid in your checked baggage. Liquids include shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste and bottled water. Side note: After going through airport security I find it humourous that one of the first items available for sale from concession stands is bottled water and soda pop.

2. While in line at security, take out all pocket change, your watch and anything else metallic on you. Put these items into your carry on luggage bag. By putting all of these items in your carry on bag you can quickly and easily get through the metal detector and pick up your carry on bag from scanning without fumbling for things in the bottom of the plastic container. Tip: For pocket change and your watch bring a ziploc bag with you to hold all of these items. The ziploc bag can easily be pulled out of your carry on bag and items put back in your pocket. Airport screeners loved my idea of the ziploc bag for making their metal detection sweep of me easy and for scanning purposes on their end.

3. Plan to be in airport security lines for at least two hours before your flight. So check in early and get in line early with a good book (The book should fit in your carry on bag for scanning purposes!).

4. Have your passport and boarding pass ready. Use your boarding pass to bookmark your the page with your photo on it in your passport. This makes identifying yourself to airport security and, eventually, airplane boarding easy.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Is there room for a donkey?

Apparently in modern day hotels have no room for Mary, Joseph and their as the Toronto Star found out.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Ontario Certified Teacher

Recently the Ontario College of Teachers has come out with a new professional designation for Teachers. The letters "OCT" will mean that anyone who is an active member of the Ontario College of Teachers will be a certified teacher in Ontario.
Some argue that the designation is nothing more than bureaucratic doublespeak and wasted dollars spent creating work for bureaucrats at the Ontario College of Teachers.

Others, like in the video above filmed by the College of Teachers, argue it provides a recognized designation for teachers in Ontario like those in the fields of Engineering (P.Eng), Nursing (RN) and others.
How do I feel on this issue? I see both sides of the issue that:

A) Teachers are Professionals and, like other professional organizations, should have an designation.

B) That money could have been better spent on getting more resources into the classroom to teach the children teachers care so much about.

Thus I sit on the fence. My only problem with the current designation is unlike other professional designations (i.e. RN) the OCT desigination only refers to Ontario and is not National in nature. In other words a Manitoba Teacher (MCT???) cannot label themselves "OCT" without being accredited by the Ontario College of Teachers. Why can there not be a national designation for teachers like a "CCT" or something equivalent?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Vancouver 2010 Olympic Torch Dream

This past Friday saw the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Torch Run come through Aurora. The following in random order are the thoughts I had as the Olympic Torch moved through the area:

1. I thought this was a torch "run" not a torch "drive", so why is it necessary for the Olympic Torch to be driven from the Ontario Science Centre to Bayview Avenue & Wellington Street in Aurora? Is there not some more central road to Toronto and Aurora areas that would have been better? Hmmm...perhaps YONGE STREET would have been perfect from Downtown Toronto north to Aurora and Newmarket? Couldn't this entire route have been run?

2. Why would you have a day celebration of the torch in a suberb like Aurora and Nemarket? Couldn't the Olympic Torch have started in Downtown Toronto, after the city's previous nightime celebration, and run up to Aurora or Newmarket for an evening shared celebration at Fairy Lake or Aurora's Machell Park (Note: Machell Park held Aurora's evening celebration when the Olympic Flame went through Aurora leading up to the Calgary 1988 Olympics).
This would have provided an opportunity for those of us who work (and mostly come from the suburbs) to attend an event that most people only see once in a lifetime.

3. A big thumbs up to the CTV techno geeks for rigging a web cam onto the media vehicle to provide those of us who work for a living (read: Work from 9 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. Monday through Friday) to observe the Torch go through the area after some moron beleived everyone could take a day off of work to visit the torch in the suburbs of Toronto with a 9:53 start from Bayview & Wellington in Aurora. The CTV Olympic Torch website has a Google Map with a the current torch location on it, an amusing Facebook comment feed (Read: Who really cares if you are going to see the Olympic Torch in Arm Pitt, Alberta, Canada) and best of all a web cam of the torch runners or torch convoy as it moves from city to city. Find the page here.

4. Finally, today I clicked on the CTV Olympic Torch page to find feisty 88 year old Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion carrying the torch. She is probably one of the oldest torch bearers if not the oldest then most defeniately the oldest torch bearer still employed!

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Casting about at Casey's

My wife and I headed to Newmarket in search of Italian Food at Mama Mia's Tratoria. But we found that the restaurant wasn't open at 4:30 P.M. but opened at 5:00. So we headed elsewhere to a restauarant that had a kitchen already open and was more than willing to serve us....or so we thought.

We headed to Casey's Bar & Grill at the Upper Canada Mall (17600 Yonge Street, Newmarket)We arrived around 5:00 P.M. and were sat immediately at our table. Our waitress came by and introduced herself and put the coasters down. By 5:05 we had our drinks served to us but instead of using the coasters she had placed, she put them on the table. Thus, I still wonder what the purpose of putting the coasters down were.

We placed our order right after she put the drinks down.

Order: 2 Piece Fish N' Chips, 1 Stacked Sandwich with Sweet Potato Fries with water and coke.

The food came in less than 10 minutes.

The Fish of the Fish n' Chips was decently done. The fries were excellent (not too oily but still warm) and looked like they came right out of the fryer not to long ago.

The Stacked sandwhich dissappeared quite quickly it was so well done. The Sweet Potato Fries were another matter. They didn't taste warm that much nor did they have any potato tast to them. In fact they were just short of tasting like cardboard.

Once we finished our meal (around 5:30 P.M.) our waitress cleared our plates and offered the usual tea or coffee. We politely declined and requested the bill.

We watched our waitress first take the drink orders of a new large group (8 or so people) seated near us. Then come back with their drink order and return to take the order. A brief stare from myself as she was taking orders brought an apology that our bill was coming. The waitress dissapeared soon after taking the order.

Just before I was about to get up and speak to the Host about the bill situation another waitress came over and dropped the bill off and dissappeared without a word. No tip was left as the restauarant doesn't appear to want to make up for this situation. So no tip was left for the waitress as obviously she simply doesn't care to even receive one from a table for two.

Just before writing this review, I filled out the Casey's Customer Survey. The survey had the audacity of asking if I wanted someone to contact me about our visit. I replied "no" as if Casey's wanted to resolve the problem, the waitress would have come over and offered us something like a free drink on this visit or the next visit.

So, sadly to say, I highly doubt I will be returning for a long time!

Friday, December 04, 2009

Muppets on the

Can't forget the tomfoolery of the Muppets. As a kid growing up I can remember both Sesame Street (now in it's fortieth season) and the Muppets.

I currently own the first three seasons of The Muppet Show on DVD. I'm eagerly awaiting the fourth season to come out on DVD. Until then I've seen the odd sketch on Youtube. Then my wife stumbled onto "Bohemian Rhapsody" by the Muppets which my friend Bill also posted.

Today I did some further searching on Youtube and found The Muppets have their own channel!
Of the Muppet video posted perhaps my favourite, other than the Bohemian Rhapsody is Beeker singing "Ode de Joy".

Gotta love The Muppets!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Wait "a Whopper" of a Time at BK for "a Whopper"

Today on my way home from work I stopped of at Burger King (10909 Yonge Street, Richmond Hill) for an old fashioned Whopper Combo (Whopper Sandwich with medium fries and a coke). I arrived at 5:50 P.M. and didn't place my order until 5:56 P.M. There was one person working the cash and serving food forever. Only when my order was ready to be served did the lady from Drive through wander over to assist. I finally got my Whopper Combo and left the counter at 6:02 P.M.

I ventured onto the soft drink fountain and found the Coke fountain drink to be spurting air like it needed to be changed.

I sat down and opened my Whopper. It looked like it had been thrown together like a 10 year old in a hurry to do his homework.

The fries were at least warm. However, I could have sworm the last time I ate a Burger King there were more fries in a medium Whopper Combo.

To make this visit even worse, as I was leaving I notice three people working the instore counter. Where were they when I was in line? Hiding in the back office?

All in all not a great visit to Burger King. It seems when Burger King closed down the two Newmarket locations (Upper Canada Mall and a location on Yonge Street just south of Davis Drive) and one Aurora Location (where the Rogers Plus Store is now) they moved all the brilliance to this Richmond Hill location. It's a pitty really, this BK used to be so good.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Santa Claus is Coming to

Tonight Santa is here! Santa is going to parade down Yonge Street in Aurora!

But the worst part is for the first time that I've been Aurora, my family will not be here to wave to the big jolly red fat man who hates cookies (no I'm not kidding, click the link for Santa at the Toronto parade).

Ever year since I was a kid, short of my studying in Ottawa and teaching in New York City, my parents and siblings could be found on Yonge Street eagerly awaiting the wail of the Aurora's shiny red fire engines and York Region's police cars at the front of the parade.

But this year, my sister has a birthday party, my brother is in Toronto and my parents are unavailable. So it is just me and my wife at home alone watching the parade. Not that I don't like watching the parade with my wife, it just seems different that this year there will be no usual "Suddard tomfoolery" as we wait for the parade to start.

This is all sad but true......sad but very true.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

YRT "UNFARE" Harassment

Normally I purchase my York Region Transit Monthly Pass for the next month around the 20th day of the month. This is usually not a problem and I'm able to easily get one at one of the local stores near me.

Since November 20th, I've attempted to purchase my York Region Transit Monthly Pass and have come up empty handed. Last night I tried calling three locations that York Region Transit lists on their website as having their fare media available:

1. Metro - 1 Henderson Drive, Aurora, Ontario

2. Metro - 16640 Yonge Street, Newmarket, Ontario

3 Regency Variety & Gift - 14800 Yonge Street, Aurora, Ontario

I came up empty on all three.

Imagine that, with less than one week to go until December 1st, and York Region Transit has no Monthly Passes available at three of it's listed retailers.

To make matters worse, I called YRT Customer Service that evening (shortly before 7:00 P.M.) and spoke with "Kristin". After explaining my problem she said this was the first she and anyone at YRT Customer Service had heard of it and asked me to call back the next day (i.e. this morning) after 8:30 A.M. when someone at the YRT Fares office would be available. So not only did I come up empty at the three retailers but YRT Customer Service was caught unaware on the issue of lack of fare media at certain locations. Further, nowhere on York Region Transit's website was their a customer notice stating that their were issues in printing and/or distributing the passes for December and when the issue would be rectified.

This morning shortly after 8:30 A.M. I called back to YRT Customer Service to inquire again. I spent two minutes on hold before talking to "Elsie". She tried searching the YRT Website where I could purchase TTC Metropasses! I inquired why we should be searching on the website when I was looking for a YRT Monthly Pass for December and had tried this same thing last night and called three retailers and came up empty. I also noted I talked to "Kristin".

"Elsie" then connected me with Erin Strachan of Fare Media. Erin explained that the passes were being distributed late this month as retailers only wanted half their orders for December. She then explained that her delivery driver would be in Newmarket this morning and Aurora this afternoon doing deliveries of the passes. I inquired if the Metro stores would receive them and she said "Yes" but sometimes their accounting departments hold onto them for a day so I should call first.

Fast forward to tonight, I called and they (GOOD GOD!) had them! I nearly skipped the entire way to the store to purchase them. I felt like I had won the lottery!

But in hindsight, a YRT Customer shouldn't have to 'win the lottery' in order to purchase a simple item like a YRT Monthly Transit pass. The YRT Customer shouldn't have to call YRT Customer Service Agents who know zip on why YRT Monthly Passes are unavailable at 3 (!!!!) retailers. YRT Customers shouldn't have to look through the YRT Website for notices why the Transit Passes are not availble. Customers shouldn't have to put up with any of this "UNFARE" Harrassment.

Simply, the York Region Transit passes should be available at the retailers posted no questions asked. But again that would be too simple for YRT, they apprently sometimes like to make things difficult.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

PART 2: My Submission to "What's ahead for the next 5 years?" at YRT

This past Tuesday on my commute I ran into two issues that were relevant to my submission to YRT/VIVA for their future Service plans. I thought I would provided YRT/VIVA with concrete examples of how service could be improved over the next five years if details were paid attention to.

The following are the two points (in grey) that made in my previous entry with the examples of YRT/VIVA issues that I ran accross that could easily be resolved:

Schedule Adherence: YRT schedule adherance on some routes is pathetic. The words "schedule adherence" basically answers the question: "Can the bus arrive by the scheduled time or, at most 2 minutes late?" The answer should be "Yes" or "No." With YRT Customer Service I've received replies that as long as a bus reaches a point within ten minutes of the scheduled time then the bus is considered "on time."

Example from this past Tuesday: On Tuesday November 17, 2009 @ 5:16 P.M. the Eastbound Route 86 left Rutherdford GO Station early by 3 minutes (posted time on for departure is 5:19 P.M.) to begin his route. There is absolutely no reason for this bus to leave early as this Route 86 Bus wasn't in the middle of the route (i.e. arriving at his stop three minutes early) but starting his route from a point of origin (i.e. first stop on trip). A Miller Supervisor was present, sitting in Miller car # 52105, was said he recorded this poor schedule adherence occurance and the fact the bus left one passenger (myself) behind. Please see YRT Customer Service CARES Ticket # T55364 YRT's investigation on this. In this case I did have another option, Route 85 that arrived a minute later to take home, but had this been another route the results would have been different.

VIVA Bus Maintainence: VIVA Van Hool busses, that are no more than 5 years old, continue to have mechanical difficulties. Usually in the summer I find one or two buses a week on Yonge Street alone off to the side of the road waiting for a tow or a mechanic. As a taxpayer I find this especially disheartening that these buses worth over three quarters of a million dollars are on the side of the road stranding passengers who pay, in 2009, the highest transit fares of any local transit agency in the Greater Toronto Area.

From the buses I've ridden and hear back from YRT Customer Service the main issues seem to be one of two things: 1. The "turbo chargers" (at least twice ) and 2. The breaks ceasing up (once in the middle lane of Yonge Street just south of Industrial Parkway South).

The recent addition in 2007 and 2008 VIVA buses will probably start showing these same mechanical issues will soon appear if nothing is done in terms of better maintenance practices and supervision by YRT over their private contractor Veolia on this issue.

Example from this past Tuesday: On Tuesday November 17 @ 5:50 P.M. I arrived at Bernard Terminal on a Northbound "VIVA Blue Bernard Terminal" bus and walked up to Yonge Street Bernard Avenue VIVA station to find the next bus was 18 minutes away. I called YRT Customer Service on my cell phone and waited until 6:00 P.M. (10 minute sitting in the que for customer service agent). The YRT Customer Service agent relayed the following information to me about a service advisory for the Northbound VIVA Blue to Newmarket (i.e. the bus I would take to Aurora from Bernard). 1. Bus #8206 at 5:30 P.M. failed to leave as none of the exterior lights (the lights on the outside of the bus) would illuminate. A replacement or the actual bus didn't leave until 23 minutes later. I confirmed with the YRT Customer Service Agent that if a bus was over 20 minutes late for VIVA a fine under the contract with Violia would be levied by the Region of York. The Customer Service Agent confirmed this. I also told the agent as a regional taxpayer it makes my blood boil that the Region of York would have a bus around one year old worth $750,000 with such poor maintenance. This is recorded under YRT Customer Service CARES Ticket Number T55367. Finally, after I disembarked Route 98 at Golf Links Drive & Yonge Street two VIVA Blue to Newmarket Terminal bound buses pulled in less than 2 minutes apart.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

How to Beautify your Bovine Courtesy of the Cows at the Royal Winter Fair

How does one beautify a cow in preparation for judging at an agricultural fair? This question doesn't normally cross my mind but it did this weekend on my adventures with my little sister.

Now for an explanation of how one goes about doing this using my own footage from Canada's premier agricultural fair, the 2009 Royal Winter Agricultural Fair that ended today at Toronto's CNE Grounds.

The first step in beautifying your bovine is locate said bovine (preferably one you actually own):

Second, give your bovine a good washing down at the local bovine shower stall.

Third, don't forget to blow dry your bovine. Also, and most of important of all, moose, trim and comb your bovine to perfection.

Fourth, lead your newly perfected bovine to competition.

While in competition darn well make sure your bovine's "utter seams" are perfectly straight! That is how a judge can apparently determine the difference between a second and third place finish.
Fifth, after competition, make sure your Bovine feels appreciated with a little cuddling time

Finally, don't forget to milk the bovine for all it's worth after long days work.
For more photos of the Royal Winter Fair visit the Toronto section of my scrapbook.

My Submission to "What's ahead for the next 5 years?" at YRT

YRT & VIVA is looking for resident input into their next five years of planning (i.e. until 2015). As a regular weekday and sometimes weekend rider commuting from Aurora to points southward I feel I'm quite able to provide some feedback based on my extensive experience on YRT & VIVA Services in York Region. On a dayly basis I ride at least 3 routes including one VIVA route, one YRT Route and a shared YRT & TTC Route to get to work. In other words I rely on transit to get me to and from work and sometimes on weekends to where I need to be. Below are some suggestions and my experiences on the YRT & VIVA systems to support my recommendations.

Connections (Transfers): Connections between transit routes need to be at least five minutes in length. For example, VIVA Blue arrives at Yonge Street & Carrville Road at 8:00 A.M., a passenger dissembarks and crosses the street to catch the Westbound YRT Route 85 at 8:05 A.M. would be a successful connection. Today the connections are much tighter than this which results in a passenger dissembarking one bus only to see the bus their hoping to connect to leave without them. This only frustrates the passenger. Also, if a route is running a couple of minutes late this allows the passenger a possible chance to get across the street in time to hopefully reach the connecting bus. Trip Planner: Remove the Trip Planner as it is currently useless on weekdays during peak periods. Otherwise, update the schedules (See Schedule Adherence) the Trip Planner uses to provide better information. If I cannot get from "Point A" to "Point B" with the information shown 90% of the time, then what use is the Trip Planner? Hopefully a significant improvement in updating YRT/VIVA schedules will fix the poor performance of the Trip Planner that I've experienced.

Further on the Trip planner, there currently is a "Tip" at the bottom of the results page that reads: "We recommend using trip plans with at least 5 minutes between transfers. This will allow for any unexpected delays and will provide you with sufficient time to reach your transfer stop." Then perhaps the Trip Planner should account for this instead of recommending connections with less than 5 minutes most of the time in it's results. As it stands now, the Trip Planner shows connections that have less than 5 minutes and doesn't show the next connecting bus if the connection is missed leaving the passenger stuck at the stop wondering when the next bus will come or the passenger is forced to search around for better scheduling of the connecting bus. Instead YRT/VIVA should be supplying accurate information that follows YRT/VIVA's own "5 minute" recommendation that would allow prospective riders to get all the information they need for their trip from accurate Trip Planner which was one of the initial ideas for the "Trip Planner" in the first place when YRT launched it. With the "5 minute connection" Trip Planner implemented, the trip planned route rider would feel lucky if they actually made the earlier connection and be, in theory, ahead of schedule. As a regular transit rider it feels good to be either ahead or right on scheduled time instead of behind schedule.

Schedule Adherence: YRT schedule adherance on some routes is pathetic. The words "schedule adherence" basically answers the question: "Can the bus arrive by the scheduled time or, at most 2 minutes late?" The answer should be "Yes" or "No." With YRT Customer Service I've received replies that as long as a bus reaches a point within ten minutes of the scheduled time then the bus is considered "on time."

The above situation occurred when I complained to YRT that the TTC 107B Route (operating within York Region) scheduled to arrive at Rutherford GO Station by 5:18 P.M. and failing to do so consistantly between May 2009 and October 2009. I made complaints to YRT Customer Service via both phone and e-mail. In fact, between at least July 2009 and October 2009 the 107B made the time schedule less than 10% of the time. But apparently this is fine with YRT Customer Service.

In actuality what needs to happen is the YRT/VIVA routes need to be properly audited over periods of time. Periods being audited should include both peak (i.e. morning and afternoon rush hour) and off peak routing (i.e. other times of the day). If the audit shows that the majority of the time the bus fails to reach a location (i.e. Rutherford GO Station) at the scheduled time consistantly then the schedule for the route should be relooked at, edited by transit planning staff and implemented. This process of editing the schedules would only improve what YRT currently has in place where some buses at time periods, like the TTC 107B, never seem to make the YRT posted route schedule.

Further, if schedule adherance improved, via revisions to the existing schedules, then the Trip Planner would be more useful to transit riders. Transit riders would then have confidence that the Trip Planner would be providing accurate information. This is unlike today where the Trip Planner currently has several issues noted in the above section labelled " Trip Planner".

Cleanliness of Bus Stops and Stations: Currently VIVA Stations and major bus stations do not look like they are properly cared for. An example, the Golf Links Southbound VIVA Station located here on an average day is littered with Tim Horton's coffee cups with the garbage bins overflowing. Thus, cleanliness of the stops could signficantly be improved in garbage pick up was increased.

The garbage bins at the stops look like they haven't seen a proper power washing for quite some time. Also, when the garbage bins are cleared by the contractor I've witnessed the three bags (1 garbage bag and 2 recycling bags) be thrown on the same trailer and not seperated into compartments similar to a regular municipal recycling truck. Since the bags are all the same black bags mixed up together in the same compartment on the trailer there is obvious no way for the contractor to later sort the bags properly into YRT's three streams (1 Garbage, 1 Paper for recycling and 1 for beverage containers for Recylcing). Thus all three streams from my point of view end up in landfill. This means YRT's claim to recycling efforts seems to rather suspect.

2 Zone Fare: I've yet to figure out the rational for the Two Zone YRT fare. YRT claims that fewer people live in the northern service region of Aurora or Newmarket. However, the towns of Newmarket and Aurora are growing quite rapidly and between them have a population way over 100,000 in a less square kilometre area than the City of Vaughan (Population 240,000) I would even venture to guess that there are more people per square kilometre than the City of Vaughan as well living in these two communities (Aurora alone has a density of 960 per square Km to Newmarket's 1951 and Vaughan's 873 per square KM according to Statistics Canada) Yet, Aurora and Newmarket Residents pay a 2 zone fare while the population density, which is supposed to improve transit ridership, would indicate that this fare suppliment is not required.

If YRT contends then that distance should be required for a two zone fare lets look at two cases using Google Maps to calculate the distance: One traveller venturing from Vaughan Mills Mall to Markham Stouffville hospital would travel, according to Google Maps, 34 KMs. A traveller going from the Newmarket GO Terminal to the Finch Subway Station would travel 32.3 Km, or approximately 3 KMs less than the Vaughan Mills Rider. Yet the Newmarket Traveller is nailed for an extra dollar due to YRT/VIVA's "Two Zone Fare". The Two Zone Fare kicks in as soon as a transit rider crosses both the Bloomington Road and King Roads.

Then YRT makes the two zone fare even more complicated. To keep the southerners happy that their children won't daily have to pay the two zone fare, YRT allows students travelling to Seneca College King Campus to not pay the 2 Two Zone fare. This is despite the Seneca College King Campus Students do cross both King Road and Bloomington Roads on their way to class. However, if YRT bases the 2 zone fare on population, then Seneca College King Campus, located in King Township on Dufferin Street north of Bloomington Road, then students there should be paying the 2 zone fare. This is because the surrounding population itself of King Township is 18,000 to Aurora's 52,000 (never mind adding in Newmarket's over 75,000 population to the mix). If the reason for the lack of two zone fare into Seneca King College Campus is distance, than why should someone travelling from Wellington & Yonge Streets in Aurora to Bernard Terminal (located at Bernard Avenue & Yonge Street in Richmond Hill) to grab a Whopper at the Burger King there have to pay the two zone fare? This exemption to the Seneca Students only causes further inequalities to Aurora and Newmarket Residents.

Thus with distance and population figured in, YRT's Two Zone Fare policy is nothing but a cash grab discrimination towards the transit riding population of Aurora and Newmarket.

VIVA Bus Maintainence: VIVA Van Hool busses, that are no more than 5 years old, continue to have mechanical difficulties. Usually in the summer I find one or two busses a week on Yonge Street alone off to the side of the road waiting for a tow or a mechanic. As a taxpayer I find this especially disheartening that these busses worth over three quarters of a million dollars are on the side of the road stranding passengers who pay, in 2009, the highest transit fares of any local transit agency in the Greater Toronto Area.

From the busses I've ridden and hear back from YRT Customer Service the main issues seem to be one of two things: 1. The "turbo chargers" (at least twice ) and 2. The breaks ceasing up (once in the middle lane of Yonge Street just south of Industrial Parkway South).

The recent addition in 2007 and 2008 VIVA busses will probably start showing these same mechanical issues will soon appear if nothing is done in terms of better maintenance practices and supervision by YRT over their private contractor Veoilia on this issue.

I hope to see significant improvements on the issues above in the next five years. If these issues are addressed, plus increased transit improvements promised by VIVAnext, the YRT/VIVA system will thrive with increased ridership.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Steak out your Spot at the Keg

We arrived at the Keg Steakhouse (18195 Yonge Street, East Gwillimbury) 6:10 P.M. and were told the wait was 25-35 minutes. We were seated in just over 20 minutes which was pretty good considering most places sometimes push you beyond the promised wait time.

Our waiter, came by fairly quickly and took our drink order and brought it back. Then two minutes later came back to take our dinner order.

The Order: New York Classic Steak and Terayaki Classic Steak with Pepsi and glass of water.

Within five minutes of ordering he swung back to to drop off the ceasar salads and freshly baked bread. The bread was delicious, the only complaint was one of the salads only had one cruton whereas the other had six. The other issue was someone forgot to drop off cutlery. Our waiter was quick to rectify the cutlery issue when we brough it to his attention.

The steaks both came served with potatoes and grilled vegetables and tasted excellent. I had the baked potato with sour cream and bacon bits and my wife the mashed with bacon bits. Both potato dishes were well done.

Overall the Keg is a great place to eat when looking for good steak.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

A Good Time at Wild Wing

We arrived and were seated immediately at Wild Wing (the location at 340 Eagle Street West, Newmarket)

Soon our waitress came and took our drink order (Pepsi and a glass of water). She also explained how the "Wild Wing" worked in terms of the table being set up (i.e. your caddy has everything you need!) to how many wings are in a pound typically. It was very helpful for us as we don't normally eat chicken wings.

We decided to split a pound each of BBQ wings and "Honey Buns Wings" and an order of Sweet Potato fries.

Within ten minutes of us ordering we had th wings and fries as well as refill on my Pepsi.

The BBQ wings were the traditional in taste to other bars. However, the Honey Bun wings were diferent with their ownly downfall being they have way too much sauce on them.

My wife and I would probably come back to this restaurant again in the future as the food was good and the service was quick. We may even try another of these restaurants in this franchise.

Common Sense in the Public Sector?

Two news items this morning have left me shaking my head in my confidence in public officials to do the right thing:

1. In Toronto several area hospital Board of Director's, who see nothing of the day to day operations of sick people coming in the front door, received H1N1 shots. H1N1 shots in Ontario are currently and have always been limited to "priority groups" (e.g. pregnant women, children under five, etc.) as set out by the provincial government. Their was no indication that the members on the Hospital Boards have underlying health conditions or anything. The worst part of all, the man that should've known not to give these members the H1N1 vaccine, Donald Low gave the authorization. Now he's apologizing left right and centre. But in actualy Dr. Low knows that nobody can replace him as chief Microbiologist at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto. He has been the face of fighting the SARS pandemic and the current knowledagable 'talking head' for the H1N1 for the media. So it seems he agreed to take the fall on this as Mount Sinai hospital knows the province is highly unlikely to fire him over this issue as the media would then have a field day over this issue.

At the provincial legislature, Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is calling on making a list of anyone who received a shot not in the priority groups public. This would hopefully shame those who received the shot who are perfectly healthy before lets say a five year old with asthma or a pregnant woman. This just leaves me shaking my head as anyone in the public sector could easily skip this criteria by classifying themselves as "healthcare worker" (i.e. the board members of hospitals) or somehow in a "priority group" somehow thus not having to have their shot accounted for.

Whats even worse right now the provincial government, despite several calls for this information from Opposition members, can't even release how many people have been vaccinated. But all this accounting for the H1N1 program would mean public officials would be held accountable and we can't have that now can we? No sir... but we can have more of the public shaking their heads.

2. Finally this one from small town politics from a town (village? Small inhabited local?) in story in today's Toronto Star found here:

If promises are sometimes forgotten in politics, one ought to remember that George Patterson is not a politician. His brother James is.

And so when George, owner of the only gas station in the picturesque village of Sainte-Madeleine-de-la-Rivière-Madeleine, warned residents that if they didn't re-elect his brother as mayor, he'd turn off his pumps – he kept his word.

"I said I'd close them," George declared matter-of-factly. "It's no more serious than that."

Asked whether he was punishing residents, he replied, "It's not so much a punishment (as) a protest. I'm against the new mayor."

Again, I'm left shaking my head as the next set of gas pumps is 30 to 40 kilometres out of town. Talk about selfishness of the highest regard just because someone didn't get their way in politics. I wonder of George and his brother got their flu shots? I would hazard a guess, but then again that would mean someone would have to be held accountable and we can't have that now can we.

I've learned my lesson, politics will just leave the average person shaking their heads at the lack of common sense.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

A Decent time at old reliable Swiss Chalet

My wife and I have been to the Richmond Hill Swiss Chalet (9350 Yonge Street, Richmond Hill, Ontario) before with mixed results. Either it was a long wait to be seated, took a while to get service or everything went well.

This time we seated quickly (no one lined up) with our menus. Five minutes later our food and drink order was taken.

The Order: Quarter Chicken Dark Meat, White Roll with Fries and Pepsi and Chicken on Kaiser with fries and glass of water

The dinner was average Swiss Chalet quality (decent chicken with good fries and sauce not too hot but not too cold either). The same with chicken sandwich.

The only complaint was the waitress came over a couple of times to see how we were doing to which we always replied "everything is fine." However at no time did she offer to refill my Pepsi even though there were, according to the menu "free refills."

Other than that, this place is your standard run of the mill Swiss Chalet franchise restaurant.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

A Bland Pho not in Saigon at Pho Saigon

My wife had decided to look up a few good vietenamese restaurants in the Aurora / Newmarket area. She chose Pho Saigon (located at 16925 Yonge Street, Newmarket).

My wife and I arrived around 5:15 P.M. and were immediatly seated and handed menues. So far so good.

Then things started heading down there from there. There was one waitress who took orders, served drinks, gave out the bills and took the money for the ENTIRE place! This wasn't too bad when we go there as there were only 4 tables being served. But later some larger groups came in which meant we had to start to compete for attention.

When ordering my meal I was told there was no rice left. The thought came to mind: "What Asian place doesn't have rice?" and "Isn't rice a main component of most Asian dishes?" The waitress, after I dumbfoundedly looked at her over the rice issue, suggested I try noodles. So I did.

I was sadly disspointed at the result. It turned out to be a chopped chicken pieces with lettuce and noodles on the bottom. It tasted quite bland, and once the noodles got colder it only got worse from there.

My wife had the large pho. The broth was quite bland but at least the noodles were satisfactory.

To say the least we probably won't return as we've had better vietnamese elsewhere.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Who needs Cable Anyway?

Recently Bill Arends wrote an entry over at his blog about how the Cable Companies and Television Networks are at war over a pay per subscriber fee to go towards local cable companies.

Bill, in his blog entry, debates a couple of options consumers could take if faced with higher cable fees. I on the other hand saw Bill's take as a chance to reflect on my coming up on four months without cable.

I posted a comment Bill's post and thought it adequatly reflected on what there is to do besides sitting my large bottom down to watch television:

I've actually given up on cable and actually don't have it. There was one reson why, Aurora's (where I live) local cable provider sold out to Rogers. Rogers put out letters asking subscribers in the area to call a special number and transition over. After several phone calls to Rogers nobody could tell me what "Basic Cable" channels were included. I alos couldn't talk to a manager there as they were never available for every reason under the sun. I even attempted leaving my cell phone number but the lady couldn't record that information even after I repeated it 5 times.

I blogged about it under this lable on my blog here:

What do I do without cable?

1. Read books - Currently reading Brian Mulroney's biography a thousand page behoemouth well worth the read if you are into Canadian Politics.

2. Read newspapers and do crosswords - Metro is a free newspaper in many Canadian cities and my wife and I have become good crossword fanatics. I even polish off the word search in the weekend Toronto Star or Toronto Sun.

3. Nintendo Wii - hours of fun, nuff said.

4. Clean the apartment - doesn't it need doing?

5. Excercise - Take a walk together outdoors - hark! Actually see the neighbours!

6. Blog - I'm working on blogging more.

7. Save a wack of dough - NO Cable bill = $35.00 plus in savings per month on basic cable. Also means I don't have to worry about Rogers screwing up my cable bill. My Internet bill on the otherhand...

8. Surf the internet - Local news programming from accross Canada is available on the CTV and CBC stations websites. I imagine Canwest (Global) is similar. also has the National and other news programs loaded on a daily basis.

Lots to do, so who really needs cable anyway?

After writing the above, I've further reflected on how I can now sit back and watch the cable companies and networks go after each other on whose going to pay for this new "TV Tax" either the cable companies or the cable subscriber. If consumers are nailed with increased cable fees after this squabble has been settled there will be more consumers like myself who will just drop cable television. Besides the increased rates will only be worse in Ontario once the HST will only incresae the bills even further. Once this happens fewer subcribers will mean fewer viewers which will mean lower advertising revenues for the networks which is exactly the problem the networks ran into in the first place. So let these big Television Networks and Cable companies go at it because again, who really needs cable anyway?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

YRT's Hypocrisy: The Wait is over but Not Over Yet

The image to the left is currently on the York Region Transit (YRT) website's front page on the bottom left hand corner.

The image refers to YRT's promise in it's fall My Transit Newsletter, on page 2, that real time transit information would be available on YRT's website. Basically the promise boils down to a rider, just before starting their trip, being able to log onto and checking to see what time the bus will arrive as opposed to the usual YRT's "I pray it is right" schedule. Hopefully this will answer a transit rider's question "is there a bus coming?....soon?". I won't go into how I feel about YRT launching this (GREAT! But you guys have a history of screwing this can a VIVA Bus be at a stop yet on your digital VIVA board show it is 2 minutes away? HUH). No now...not this post at least.

The image posted on their website, above, is hillariously hypocritically badly done that a high school student would fail if this was a web or english project.

First: The first line: "The wait is over" screams to the visitor that 'YRT is launching something' and the reader can use this new feature right away. Now before you get too excited keep reading....

Second: The Second line says "Real-time info is coming soon." Which tells the reader that in the near future the Real Time information, as I described above, should be launching soon. But doesn't this contradict the first line where YRT promises that "the wait is over"?

Third: "Stay tuned for updates" reads the third line. If "the wait is over" and "Real-Time info is coming soon" why the need for updates? Shouldn't the Real Time information on website be launched already (according to the first line of the graphic) or within the next month be launching (as the second line would indicate as "coming soon")? So, again why the need for updates?

The whole graphic smells of typical YRT hypocrisy (i.e. do this, no do that, no do this) that YRT is becoming known for. It seems YRT has no idea when this thing will be launched (today, tomorrow or sometime in the distant future that we'll update you on).

Now for the other shoe to drop: YRT doesn't have its stuff together on this "Real-Time" and will not launch this feature on as it's GPS system, which tracks the location of the buses, currently isn't working on all of it's vehicles. As a case in point, I rode YRT Route 85 on the way home and from Rutherford GO Station to Yonge Street the bus showed "85 to MS Hospital" and didn't show the next stop like it usually does if the GPS System is up and running. Another failure of this system is that the TTC buses, that YRT contracts to provide service in the southern part of York Region, will not be included as YRT isn't even allowed to track these buses for customer service complaints and scheduling issues.

With YRT posting a confusing graphic in a promenint spot on their website, it makes riders wonder if the wait for the "Real-Time Transit Info" will be worth the wait.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Who needs Harvey's when you have T.C.'s

I've always been a fan of T.C's Fish & Burgers growing up. I've spent a lot of time there enjoying the burgers and fries through my teen years and now enjoy it married. There's just something about going to T.C.'s at 15198 Yonge Street, Aurora, Ontario for a little lunch.

This past Saturday afternoon my wife and I stopped by for burgers and fries for lunch.
Chris (the "C" in TC's) took the order.

The Order: Cheeseburger Combo (4 Oz cheeseburger with Fries and Dr. Pepper) & Chicken Burger Combo (Chickenburger with Fries and water)

The Review: Within ten minutes of laughing at marriage jokes with Chris and his wife Stella as they prepared the food my wife and I were chowing down on a good flame cooked burgers. This was despite two other groups of four people were waiting for their orders.

My cheeseburger combo is perhaps the best burger combo in Aurora hands down. The burger paddy is delicious and TC's tops it just the way you want it. Then they add mounds of fries to your plate. Add to this the excellent service provided by a family who cares about their restaurant instead of the teens at Harvey's who are only interested in the pay cheque and when quiten time is.

My wife consumed a chicken burger. I didn't get a chance to taste it myself, but if it is anything like T.C.'s burgers, it must be excellent. I did have the chance to eat about half her fries though, there are just too many for her to eat all by herself.

All in all T.C.'s Fish & Burgers is an excellent family owned and family oriented food establishment with great food in generous portions.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Taxpayer Supported SPAM

Spam is the abuse of electronic messaging systems (including most broadcast media, digital delivery systems) to send unsolicited bulk messages indiscriminately. While the most widely recognized form of spam is e-mail spam, the term is applied to similar abuses in other media: instant messaging spam,Usenet newsgroup spam, Web search engine spam, spam in blogs, wiki spam, online classified ads spam, mobile phone messaging spam, Internet forum spam, junk fax transmissions, social networking spam, and file sharing network spam. - Wikipedia.

Spam in blogs (also called simply blog spam or comment spam) is a form of spamdexing. It is done by automatically posting random comments or promoting commercial services to, wikis, guestbooks, or other publicly accessible online discussion boards. Any web application that accepts and displays hyperlinks submitted by visitors may be a target.
Adding links that point to the spammer's web site artificially increases the site's search engine ranking. An increased ranking often results in the spammer's commercial site being listed ahead of other sites for certain searches, increasing the number of potential visitors and paying customers.- Wikipedia

On October 23rd I visited my blog to find a new comment to the most recent post I made. As a blogger I love when people comment. Fellow blogger Jack put it best in a recent post "It would be great to get a lot of comments on every post....I like comments, but I don't blog for is not my central focus." I enjoy blogging but don't aim for comments myself either. I blog what is on my mind and sometimes to let off a little steam (like when I run into incompentance of various natures).

So I clicked on the "comment link" to the post and eagerly awaited Rogers Internet to deliver to deliver my comment content. Sadly I was dissapointed, to find a SPAM entry. Now I don't get many SPAM entries (in fact I can barely remember the last one) but sadly a SPAM entry has to be one of the most frustratrating things that a blogger can run accross in his/her comment section.

But this time it was even worse. I quickly read the comment from "Jordan" who started off noting that his comment was directly toward the post about my dining experience at Fran's in Toronto. He then goest to ramble on about VIVAnext for the rest of his comment and mentioning the VIVAnext website and VIVAnext's current contest for an ipod Nano. Not only was I being SPAMmed but I was being SPAMmed by a taxpayer payed employee of the Region of York whose job is to market the yet to put a shovel in the ground VIVAnext program.

Apparently part of Jordan's job during a workday is to runaround the blogosphere and post unsolicited SPAM comments about VIVAnext's blog and website address. This is proven considering that this blog post points out that Jordan has posted comments to that blog's post and another blog's posting. Perhaps this is done so VIVAnext will have more links to it's website for search engine purposes (currently listed 1st for the website and 2nd for the blog on Google) or just to attract more visitors.

I wonder what will happen if I were to visit the VIVAnext blog and post a comment beginning with "while this isn’t a comment directly related to the recent blog posting.." and then advertise my blog or my company's services whether it would get through the moderators there. I happen to think that, hypocritically (which VIVA is well known for), they would probably delete my SPAM post and yet "Jordan" and others would continue on with their SPAMing ways. The worst part of all this, you and I the Region of York Taxpayers and/or VIVA Transit riders are paying for all this. And for this YRT/VIVA will no doubt raise transit fares again just like they have for the past three consecutive years.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Little Dinner at Fran's tastes mediocre

My wife and I were looking for a place to eat for dinner in downtown Toronto and stopped by Fran's Restaurant (20 College Street, Toronto). My wife wanted an all day breakfast and I was satisifed with a burger and fries so we sauntered in noticing several other tables were occupied.

The waiter took our drink Orders (Pepsi and a glass of water). He returned with two glasses of water. I waited for the Pepsi thinking the waiter was being polite and bringing water out for the table and the Pepsi would be coming.

We placed our orders of a "Premium Fran Breakfast" and a Classic Franburger with Fries".
The food came about 10 minutes later. The waiter ensured there was ketchup, relish and mustard on the table and was about to leave. I inquired if the Pepsi I ordered was available yet at this time?It quickly appeared after only the SECOND REQUEST!

The fries were dry for my liking but the burger was good. The Homefries in the breakfast were perfect. However the sausages, cut in half length wise were a little dry as well.

If we are in the area again perhaps we'll return. However, this isn't exactly the best "greasy spoon" restaurant in town.

Retail Incompentence Astounds me

Yesterday Yvonne and myself headed to Downtown Toronto for a little lunch with my sister, a tour of Yorkville (Yvonne had never been) and to purchase a new winter jacket at Mountain Equipment Co-Op (MEC).

Lunch was decent at Made in China on Yonge Street just south of Gerrard. We did a quick walking tour of Yorkville and visited Indigo so my sister could purchase a book. Following this we headed to Valu mart where my sister did a little grocery shopping. So far so good.

Yvonne and I headed down to King Street to MEC to investigate men's winter jackets for me. We looked through the two or three racks of jackets until I settled on the "Frostbreaker Parka". I wanted one in black and sorted through the rack twice by myself and at least once by Yvonne. This was to no avail. I tried on a brown one in my size and it fit perfectly. However, the brown I wasn't keen on.

So we tried asking one of the associates. The female associate was talking to another one right near the rack I was so I enquired about the size I wanted. She quickley went over and looked it up on the computer and we saw there was seven in stock. She dissapeared to the backroom for three minutes and returned empty handed saying they didn't have any.

I dejectly thanked her for her time and effort and slowly walked away with Yvonne. Yvonne wouldn't have any of it. She said we should ask someone else. Yvonne wouldn't take no for an answer from me and we wandered around the top of the store once more. Eventually I gave into her persistance and we approached a male associate at the back of the store. We told him what we wanted and again looked it up and saw seven were in stock. He dissappeared into the back again for three minutes and came back out WITH A JACKET!

I tried on the jacket and it fit perfectly. We walked downstairs and browsed the bag section for Yvonne before heading the cash.

One of my all time pet peeves in the retail environment is the poor back room organization and stocking practices. Working in the retail sector I know back rooms can be messy with a lot of stock coming in at one time. However, during down times the stock room should be organized to so that stock can be quickly found and moved onto the floor when required.

In my case MEC failed to have an organized backroom as the first associate couldn't find the jacket I was looking for even though there were seven of them. The other theory is the first retail associate I ran into simply "didn't care".

I prefer the original idea that their backroom is not organized. When I saw the male associate enter the backroom they had clothing up hanging from on high on racks and below also on racks. I presume these racks ensure the clothing is hung and is ready for the sales floor. However, I'm not quite sure in the brief glimpse how one tells what type of clothing is on the top rack or how it is retrieved from the top rack at all. So this may been a problem for the female associate who failed to find my jacket as she was looking on the racks and not for the boxes.

However, the male associate brought one out in a plastic bag with the jacket folded in it. This would suggest that the jacket came from a box of these and hadn't been hung up on the racks in the back ready to be moved to the sales floor. But then again, the fact the store didn't have any of my size on the floor in that colour and the next size down shows the store hasn't stocked the racks on the sales floor for quite some time. Perhaps if the staff on the sales floor weren't talking to one another and instead took greater interest in stocking the racks this problem wouldn't occur and more sales would be made.

This leads us back to stocking the racks in the first place (the first issue of my visit for my jacket). The backroom in theory should be where the items are brought into the store off the trucks and prepared (e.g. hung, price tagged, etc.) for the sales floor. Once this is complete the coats and other items should be brought out and put on display. If there is not enough room on the salesfloor, the existing stock on the salesfloor should be checked for sizes so that all sizes are on the sales floor and others held on the racks in the backroom waiting to go out as stocks were depleted. Obviously in my case my new jacked skipped the backroom prepping (first mistake) and never made it to the salesfloor when my size no longer had any there (second mistake). Follow this up with the female sales associate who couldn't find any despite there supposedly being seven in the store's inventory (third mistake).

What does all this amount too? A possible lost sale of over $100 for Mountain Equipment Co-op if not for the persistance of a wife of mine.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Little Petey got Married!

This past weekend my little (or not so little) brother Peter got Married to Alice Xu at the McMichael Art Gallery in Kleinburg, Ontario.

It was a wonderful wedding at an interesting place. The wedding took place after the McMichael Art Gallery closed for the day. The ceremony itself took place in the lobby of the art gallery and following the ceremony cocktails were service and attendees were allowed to wonder the art gallery at will. Following that dinner and dancing occurred.

The only downfall is the lighting in the lobby and in the gallery's multi purpose rooms is not that great for pictures. So I only have a few found here.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

A new day at Aurora United Church

This morning Aurora United Church opened it's new Sanctuary. There still is some work to be done, but it was ready for it's first Sunday Service. Since May, a great transformation has occurred which was documented by Bob Kyriakides here.

Fast forward to today and the only things left are to finish adding a few lights here and there, hook up a few speakers and microphones, install the pews in the balcony, a sliding glass door and a few touch ups and it will all be done.

Below are the pictures I took today of the the outcome of the renovations:

The Chancel Area

The Congregation in the new Sanctuary
A look from the balcony of the new Sanctuary.
A look from the chancel area to the rear of the new Sanctuary.
A look at the cross over the chancel area.
I can't wait until Aurora United Church's Sanctuary is fully completed. To see how the Sanctuary looked before the renovations check out Bob's website or my Aurora Photos.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Sometimes they just refuse to answer the question...until the Second Time!

Earlier this past week I read a blog post at the VIVAnext blog about how great level boarding would be for VIVA buses in the next phase of the VIVA process to bring rapid transit to York Region would be. (For more on the next phase for VIVA, visit the VIVAnext website).

I was a little puzzled about this new "level boarding" concept as I thought the current VIVA stops and buses were designed for "level boarding". I would later find out I was incorrect that the current set up is basically the same as a low floor bus pulling up to a regular sidewalk next a curb. Thus this is not level boarding. Apparently when YRT and York Region built the current stops they didn't measure the height of the new VIVA vehicles to what they were building. That was probably way to much forthought and engineering work.

But back to my puzzlement. I originally thought that the current VIVA stations provided "level boarding" already as much as possible. Thus I posted this Comment as a question at the VIVAnext blog post:

Quick question: How will the level boarding at the new VIVA Stations differ from what is currently in place at the current VIVA stations in place?

I thought it was a simple enough question that the blog poster, "Dale A" could provide a simple answer or update the original blog post of how the proposed new VIVA Stations would differ on the concept of "level boarding."

But apparently that was to easy and "Dale A" chose the "I'll give the answer in a bureaucratic runaround by not actually answering the question" type style:

DaleA: Thanks for the comments above and sharing your concerns! We’re looking into various options with the possibility of new fare machines being in place on the vivastations when the rapidways are complete. We’re still exploring the options, but I can tell you that every new vivastation will have a new fare machine with many more options for paying, including Presto and credit/debit cards. Adding solar panels to stations has been something that we have also been discussing and we hope that new technology with the panels in the future will allow us to add some that form to the top of the canopy. We’re looking forward to level boarding because it makes it easier and faster for people to get on and off Viva. People with buggies, strollers, canes, wheelchairs and so forth can simply enter or exit the vehicle without delay or extra effort.

So I was obiously perplexed that "Dale A" couldn't answer the question. Didn't he ride the current VIVA system? If you are marketing improving something shouldn't you know what the current system in place works? So just for my own amusement, and others blog readers, posted the following:

How about answering my question about level boarding as the bove doesn’t really work. I wasn’t asking about fare machines and solar panels. I asked a simple question:

“How will the level boarding at the new VIVA Stations differ from what is currently in place at the current VIVA stations in place?”

Please answer the question of how the new VIVA Stations LEVEL BOARDING will be different from the current VIVA Stations. The answer to my original question just doesn’t answer it.

And finally, "Dale A" actually comes through with an answer to my original question asked!:

DaleA: Currently, when a Viva vehicle pulls up to a stop, the floor of the bus is higher than the sidewalk/platform you’re standing on. Therefore, riders must step up to get on the vehicle. This not only increases the time to board and get off, but it is even more time consuming for riders with buggies, strollers, canes and wheelchairs. Level boarding will be significantly different from what is currently in place because the platform will be raised to be at the same level as the floor of the bus. Riders will then be able to walk straight across to board or exit the vehicle – even with buggies, strollers, wheelchairs and so forth. Hope that clarifies it.

Now I, and others, have a better understanding of what the VIVAnext team are aiming at. However what is most noticeable is it took two attempts for the marketing team to answer a a very straightforward question without avoiding the issue. It seems to me either politicians are starting to have an influence on the VIVAnext team (read: avoid answering the question at all costs) or the VIVAnext team has been learning customer service methods from Rogers or Bell (read: totally dumbfound or impress the customer with all sorts of non relevant stuff brick a brack that they will leave satisfied and forget the original question). All in all not a great day for the team at VIVA and VIVAnext.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

So I haven't written in a while

So I haven't blogged in while or posted more photos to my pictures gallery of the Las Vegas Honeymoon or of the Wedding. No I haven't fallen off of the face of earth...

I've just got Tendonitis in my right wrist and am resting it at night and on weekends. A full week after visiting the doctor it is somewhat better but is sore at times. As of today (Sunday) it feels better with the odd stiffness here and there.

So I will rest it one more day and then resume posting pictures.... Stay tuned!

Sunday, August 02, 2009

What happens in Vegas... sometimes videod!

On our Honeymoon after the Wedding, I did some videotaping of the interesting sights and sounds that I came accross and uploaded them to YouTube.

So without further ado here we go (for a full description of the video, click on the video and read from the Youtube page):

For photos of our Honeymoon in Las Vegas, Nevada please visit here.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

What has happenned to T.K.'s Food?

On Friday night my Wife and I headed over to T.K.'s Restuarant and Pub (located at 265 Edward Street, Aurora, ON) for dinner.

Order: Pad Thai and Italian Sausage Penny with Sprite and Water to drink

Review: My wife and I have been to T.K.'s before and knew the service wasn't that good but at least the food was good.

On this visit the service was up to expecations of before (Read: poor!). We ate on the "bar side" of the restaurant in a booth. The bartender came down to the booth (we were the only ones in the booth area at the time with only four other people at the bar) and we ordered our drinks. When she returned with our drinks and we were about to order our food she said "your waitress will be with you in a moment".

In about 8 minutes (15 minutes since we sat down at the restaurant) the same person returned to take our food order! At this point if we had waited another 2 minutes my wife and I would have left $2.00 on the table for and left for another restaurant. But I digress... So we ordered.
The food took the usual twenty minutes to come.My Italian Sausage Penny was T.K's usual goodness with decent sauce, good sausage and noodles while decently but not steaming burn your mouth off hot in temperature.

My wife's Pad Thai was a different manner. Another reviewer put it perfectly:

"The Pad Thai is an over-spiced mess on Italian pasta" - Worst restuarant food ever post on

But at least we had a coupon from the Auroran newspaper for a buy one entree for over $10.00 and a drink and get the second one free.

The bartender had the nerve when we didn't even come close to eating the Pad Thai if we "wanted it rapped up." Obviously we said "NO THANKS!"

We're sorry to say we left a tip. But only because we didn't have the correct change to pay the bill to the penny and leave. We didn't want to hang around the usual 10 minutes for the service to scrape together the change. But believe me the food and the service weren't worth tipping for.

Return again?: Maybe in six months to a year to see if this place has improved.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Wedding Day Memories

A few wedding day memories will be with me forever. Still, just over two weeks later, there are some that stand out.

I woke up the Wedding Day, Saturday July 11th, and flipped on the television in my old bedroom at my parents place in Aurora. I stopped at Rogers Sportsnet to catch the latest scores and to kill some time before getting out of bed.

The station was showing recaps from baseball at first. The San Francisco Giants were playing the San Diego Padres. The San Francisco Pitcher had been started in place of a hurting Randy Johnson (a major league All-Star pitcher) who was on the disabled list. The father of the starting of the pitcher had a made a long distance treck to visit his son for the first time at a Major League Baseball Park. The father had complained the trip was too expensive but the son insisted his Dad visit. So his father did.

Not only did the son replace an almost unreplaceble pitchers that day, the son through a no-hitter along with his Dad's first Major League Baseball game with his son pitching.

On my wedding day, this seemed pretty incredible and brought back memories of me saying to my own father "watch me Dad!" growing up. In this case, after the game was done, I think the pitcher must have been saying "Look at what I've done Dad!"

A few clips later the CFL recap from the Friday July 10th was on. The Hamilton Ticats were visiting the BC Lions. The Hamilton Ticats won the game over the BC Lions becoming the first team from the Eastern Time Zone (e.g. Toronto Argonauts, Montreal Alouettes and Hamilton Ticats) in three years to defeat the BC Lions in Vancouver. A forward to my wedding day: My Uncle owns the Hamilton Ticat football team and my Bride's family is from the Vancouver area. Did I plan the wedding for this? No, I didn't even know the Hamilton Ticats were even playing the Friday before.

So eventually I rolled out bed, showered, got dressed and assisted with helping set up my parent's backyard for an after wedding party. It was an overcast day and then a song erupted in my head as it started to pour....

"Isn't it Ironic...don't you think. It's like rain on your wedding day." - Alanis Morissette's Ironic.

Just like thirty some odd years ago on my parents' wedding day, it was raining on mine. But I didn't really worry for long that my wedding day would be a wash out. No sir!

Around 11 A.M. the clouds started to clear and bright sunshine greated us. But at least I could say it rained on my wedding day....

Further on as I walked down the aisle shortly after 1 PM with my Bride at my side, I happenned to notice that my Cousin's 3 year old daughter Abigail was waving at me. I thought about waving back at the innocence of a three year old but thought better of it. I giggled later on that night over that simple innocent wave.

While sigining the Bridal Registry I felt a little weird. Not in a "finally I'm Married" type of way. But I realized that a ring was on my finger and I had never wrote (Newsflash! I'm left handed writer) with a ring on before. So to say the least my first signature wasn't the best I've done.

I noted the bright sunshine for the pictures that afternoon. It was like the best lighting artist in a movie was working the outdoor lighting for my wedding day. The skies were magnificent with bright blue skies and white puffy clouds. Such perfection.

That night I was one of the first to receive Strawberry Wedding cake that evening.

Again Abigail made an appearance wondering if she could have some cake too. I did some quick thinking as the youngster's Mom grabbed her hand to lead her away. Instead, I offered to put Abigail in my lap and to share my first slice of strawberry shortcake with her alternating feeding a forkful to her and a forkful to myself.

Wedding memories, there were a lot. But there were even more Honeymoon memories in Las Vegas as well. But that is a subject for a totally different blog entry. Some of the pictures are starting to go up here though....

Sunday, July 12, 2009

So I'm Married...

Yesterday I was married to the love of my life, Yvonne. It was the happiest day of my life. We'd been looking forward to the big day for quite sometime and prepared for quite sometime.

Our parents also helped out immensly with flowers and redecorating our apartment so the newly minted Mr. & Mrs. Suddard could start a new life together and continue on where we left off from before.

Also we'd like to thank our families, extended families and friends who attended the wedding ceremony and sent best wishes from afar. It was really touching to walk down the aisle with someone I love so much in my life.

I sit here staring at the ring that she put on my finger and realize how lucky I am to have someone who cares for me so much. It is really touching to know that whether we are together or apart we will always share a special bond.

Today I will marry my friend...
The one who shares my hopes and dreams
This is my beloved, and this is my friend.
- Song of Solomon 5:16

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