Archive for January, 2008
Thursday, January 31st, 2008
Here’s a neat little natural weather phenomenon discovered along the lakefront in Ajax, Ontario last week:
Notice the snowballs, and no footprints around them! Some even are donut-shaped … only in Canada.
Essentially, I don’t know what the phenomenon is called, but have heard it explained before.
Conditions must be just perfect … specifically:
the temperature must be right around freezing, so that the snow is sticky and easily packable
there must be really strong gusts of wind and open areas
there must be imperfections in the snow for the wind to catch the snow and roll it
The result … these naturally rolled snowballs. When the wind is strong or fast enough, it will even create the donuts you see in the pictures.
Wednesday, January 30th, 2008
Mayor Miller is delighted with himself. He is taking great pride in Toronto’s balanced budget. But, Toronto’s homeowners aren’t smiling. They are facing a 3.75% increase in property tax as well as the new Land Transfer Tax. Why isn’t anyone reminding Mayor Miller that one of his campaign promises was to keep property taxes at the rate of inflation? Maybe someone forgot to tell him that the rate of inflation according to Statistics Canada is 2.4%.
The prevailing wind is that Mayor Miller should have cleaned his own house before breaking his promise. Why isn’t the budget committee looking for more ways to cut costs? Why should they? The Provincial Government is kicking in 188 million dollars. Queen’s Park is contributing 149 million dollars for transit and in addition they are taking on 39 million dollars in social service costs that had previously been the responsibility of the City of Toronto. Mayor Miller’s detractors say that the only reason that he was able to announce a balanced budget is that the provincial government gave him the money upfront this time instead of having to bail him out down the road.
The City of Toronto actually has 2 budgets - an operating budget and capital budget. The operating budget – 8.2 billion dollars to be reviewed by the budget committee next week - pays for:
• Waste collection
• Parks and Recreation
• Child care
The City of Toronto capital budget – 1.610 billion dollars, which was approved by Toronto City Council last December - pays for:
• Construction and maintenance of roads
• Maintenance and construction of city assets and infrastructure
• Transit vehicles
• Major equipment
• Major facilities
Does the balanced budget sound very balanced to you? And how is Mayor Miller portraying himself as a hero when all that he has done is to break yet another promise?
Wednesday, January 30th, 2008
||If this wasn’t so absurd it would be laughable. The Miss Toronto Tourism Pageant is scheduled to take place on February 2nd. Stephanie Conover was invited to be a judge at the pageant by virtue of her win at the Miss Canada Plus Pageant last year. By all accounts Ms Conover was delighted with the honour and accepted the invitation. As part of the process Ms Conover submitted a biography which included among other things, her hobbies – songwriting, knitting, painting, yoga, reiki, and tarot cards.
According to the Mirriam-Webster Online Dictionary:
• Reiki is a system of touching with the hands based on the belief that such touching by an experienced practitioner produces beneficial effects by strengthening and normalizing certain vital energy fields held to exist within the body.
• Tarot cards are any of a set of usually 78 playing cards including 22 pictorial cards used for fortune-telling.
These hobbies set off alarm bells with the Miss Toronto Tourism Pageant director, who managed to categorize Ms Conover as someone involved in the dark side or the occult. Ms Conover was rejected because “Our board of directors has eliminated her as a judge as tarot card reading and reiki are the occult and is not acceptable by God, Jews, Muslims or Christians. Tarot card reading is witchcraft and is used by witches, spiritists and mediums to consult the dark world.” The letter went on to express hope that Ms Conover would repent.
Shades of Salem! Should we start following everyone who buys tarot cards in any book store or makes a reiki appointment and call in an exorcist to save them or have them burned at the stake if they won’t repent? How many of you “normal” mainstream folks out there own a deck of tarot cards? Have had a tarot card reading? Have had reiki therapy? Beware! You could be labeled as someone who is into the dark side or the occult. Too bad this story didn’t break around Halloween.
Wednesday, January 30th, 2008
||When did we stop embracing Toronto’s diverse cultural identity? How could we possibly believe that segregation was the answer to anything? Why in the year 2008 are we taking a giant step backward in racial equality? Last night the Toronto District School Board set back any hopes of racial equality at least 40 years by voting 11 – 9 in favour of opening a publicly funded alternative Africentric school in 2009.
The start-up costs are estimated at $350,000 and the total price should come in around $820,000. The location is yet to be determined. Call it what you want, but “Africentric” means black. And no matter how you try to spin this in a positive light, a black school means segregation.
The mother of murdered teenager Jordan Manners saw the plan for what it was and was dead against it. She spoke impassionedly against the proposal. “Martin Luther King and how many of our fathers fought to come together so blacks and whites could come together, for us to sit in the front of the bus together. I don’t think that we should have a black school. It’s not right,” she said. “Let us all come together and be as one.”
This plan is supposed to do something about the alarming drop out rate among black teens, which is now estimated at 40%. With all of our fine educational minds at work, is segregation the only plan that has a hope of success?
Now that we have opened Pandora’s Box, what next? Would Chinese students fare better in publicly funded Chinese schools? And, what about Greek students in Greek schools? Let us not forget that John Tory committed political suicide by supporting a plan for publicly funded faith based schools. If we are now publicly funding an “Africentric” school, why aren’t we funding Muslim schools and Jewish schools? Where does it all end? But, better yet, why did it begin at all?
Monday, January 28th, 2008
||If I told you that post-traumatic stress was a by-product of being a police officer or a fire fighter, you wouldn’t think twice. In fact, you’d probably expect it. But somehow the thought of TTC operators suffering from the disorder does make you shake your head in disbelief, doesn’t it? However, the reality is that the rate of post-traumatic stress disorder is among Toronto transit drivers is approximately 4 times that of Toronto police officers.
Currently it is estimated that 200 TTC operators are suffering with the disorder. Before you just dismiss this, perhaps you are not aware of the abuse that is directed at TTC drivers on a daily basis. They are:
• Shot with air rifles
• Spit at
• Cussed at
The public is deeply divided on how they feel about the issue. Many radio talk shows have been devoted to the subject and it seems that the majority of callers are not believers. In their opinions the Toronto transit drivers are manipulative union employees who have found a way to take advantage of the system. Is this really the way that the public feels or are the people with the most negative opinions the ones that are calling in the most frequently?
Whether or not you believe that Toronto transit subway, bus, and streetcar drivers are legitimately suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome, the accepted claims are resulting in significant absenteeism. Below are the statistics from 2000 – 2005.
• 181 TTC drivers claimed that they suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome
• On the average they missed 49 days of work
• The total number of workdays lost due to post-traumatic stress syndrome was 9,000!
There is no denying that the public is becoming increasingly frustrated and hostile toward the Toronto transit system. Overcrowding, increased prices, frequent route changes, and unreliable schedules are the major complaints. Unfortunately the drivers are the front line and they bear the brunt from the disgruntled public. However, the question is whether this can account for such a high number of employees suffering from this debilitating syndrome. If the answer is yes, then why isn’t the TTC stepping up to the plate and doing something about it?
Monday, January 28th, 2008
Many Torontonians are embracing the spirit of recycling gently used clothing, furniture, and household goods. But do you donate your used shoes or just throw them out? Would you donate your old shoes if you knew where to bring them? Nike used to have a program for recycling old sneakers that disappeared about a year ago. If you have been looking for a place to donate your old shoes in Toronto, your search is over.
Ron White, of Ron White Shoes wants you to donate the shoes that you would have otherwise tossed away with the trash. Many years ago he noticed a homeless man with his feet hanging out of his shoes. Instead of turning away and pretending that he didn’t see, Mr. White decided to take action. He began by asking his customers to donate the old shoes that were going to throw away. In the last 11 years Mr. White has collected and distributed over 14,000 pairs of shoes. All of the shoes and boots that are donated are cleaned, sorted, packaged and sent to charities so that they can be appropriately distributed. Your simple act of kindness can make a huge difference in the life of someone in need. Bravo Mr. Ron White! Let this be a call to action to all of the other shoe retailers in Toronto. And for all of you shoppers, the next time that you are buying a pair of shoes or boots, ask the store manager if they have a similar program. If they say no, ask why not.
The 12th Annual Shoe Drive for the Homeless is now taking place at all Ron White shoe stores. Mr. White’s goal is to collect 2,000 pairs of shoes this year. Let’s make sure that he meets or exceeds his goal this year.
Follow the link below for the location of all Ron White stores.
Ron White Stores
Monday, January 28th, 2008
If there was ever a reason to encourage the public to only buy pets from registered breeders or from your local Humane Society, this is surely it. It is believed that as many as 60 people came in contact with a rabid dog recently. The dog died on January 14th and an autopsy performed on January 17th showed that the dog was infected with rabies. This disaster all began with the purchase of an infected puppy from a flea market booth marked “Pets R Us”.
Unfortunately the infected puppy was in contact with 10 – 12 other dogs and health official believe that all of the dogs have been infected with the rabies virus. To date only 6 of the dogs have been located. Two of these dogs have already died. The remaining 4 have been placed in quarantine and will remain there for 6 months. Still at large are 3 border collies, one Yorkie cross, a Maltese, and another of an unknown breed. The search is on. This situation h-as the potential for dire consequences as evidenced by the information below.
Some facts about rabies:
• Rabies is fatal if untreated
• If treated early enough, the rabies vaccine is extremely effective
• Rabies can lie dormant in an infected animal for up to six months
• Humans can become infected by their pets even while the animals are asymptomatic
• Rabies is found in the saliva of animals and can be passed through a bite, cut, or scratch
• Rabies is highly contagious and a person could catch the rabies virus simply by playing with an infected animal
• Humans can not pass rabies to other humans
• The first signs of rabies in humans can present like the flu
Until the other dogs have been found, we are still at risk. The good news is that to date there have been no reported cases of rabies in humans. If you or anyone that you know came into contact with any puppy at Booth # 1513 at Dr. Flea’s flea market located at Highway 27 and Albion Road on January 13th please call you local health officials immediately at the phone numbers below.
Toronto Public Health: 416-338-7600
York Region Public Health: 1-800-361-5653
Peel Region Public Health: 905-799-7700
Monday, January 21st, 2008
||It’s time for Toronto foodies to get out their calendars and start penciling in lunch and dinner dates.
Winterlicious is back from January 25 – February 7 and promises to be the best ever. Since it began in 2003, Torontonians have embraced the 10-day long food extravaganza in force. Although Torontonians are extremely clever, we did not dream up Winterlicious on our own. We nipped the idea from our neighbours to the south in New York City and made it our own. New York’s brain child came in 2002 as a way to encourage tourism and get people out and about enjoying the city again after the World Trade Center attacks.
This year over 130 of Toronto’s top restaurants are participating in Winterlicious. It’s a great way to try some restaurants that you’ve never been to before and you don’t have to break the bank to do it. All menus, lunch and dinner, are “prix fixe” which means that the menus are one all inclusive price, regardless of your selection, and include an appetizer, main course, and dessert. Prix fixe lunches are in 2 categories - $15.00 or $20.00. Prix fixe dinners are also available in 2 categories - $25.00 or $35.00. All prices are per person and do not include taxes or gratuities. Beverages are extra. If you are on a budget but would like to try one of the restaurants in the more expensive category, take advantage of the considerably lower prices for lunch. In many cases the menus are very similar.
Reservations are pretty much a necessity and should be made directly with the restaurant. Once you have a reservation, if for any reason you can’t make it, don’t forget to call the restaurant and cancel or you may be charged. Most restaurants take a credit card number when you make your reservation. For a list of participating restaurants follow the link below.
Monday, January 21st, 2008
I don’t know about you, but I find it scary that pieces of our buildings are falling down. And, no nefarious forces are at work. The Toronto weather is being blamed. It is no comfort at all to know that the sign on the CIBC building passed the City of Toronto building standards when it was installed in 2002. In spite of the fact that the acrylic plastic sign received a passing grade, a 2-foot part of it fell 58 stories to the ground. The truly astonishing thing in all of this is that no one was injured. It seems that the worst effect was the gross inconvenience of having 3 major intersections and 2 stretches of road closed by the police for 12 hours while emergency technicians made sure the rest of the sign was secure.
Tests are now being conducted on the structural stability of the signs to determine whether or not they are safe. Why wasn’t this done prior to their installation? Everyone seems willing to blame this near disaster on the Toronto weather conditions. The extremely high winds were clocked as high as 107 kilometres per hour at Pearson International Airport. They could have been even stronger at the top of a tall building downtown. What no one is talking about is the degree of force that the building code allows for. And how many signs are there on other buildings that could be affected in similar conditions? We seem to be in a rush to reach the sky. But are we paying enough attention to safety issues when we build these skyscrapers?
Monday, January 21st, 2008
||The swimming program in 84 Toronto District School Board (TDSB) schools will be all “washed up” by the end of February.
The cost for running the pools is 16 million dollars. The City of Toronto had been funding 41 of the pools, but as we all know the city is broke and the funding has “dried up”.
The province had not been contributing to the operation of the pools. In June of 2007 the TDSB passed a motion that if the province didn’t come to the table with the necessary funding by February 1, 2008 that the pools would be shut down. There is no indication that the 16 million dollars is forth coming so the plans for draining and closing the pools is going ahead.
What ever happened to a “healthy mind and a healthy body”? Over the years we have continued to eliminate after school sports and activities and now this. It spells disaster for the health of our young people. In less than one generation, obesity in children has tripled. Obesity is now an epidemic. Let’s not even discuss the havoc that this will cause with our health care system. In case this sounds like alarmist talk, have a look at these statistics. According to Health Canada:
• Over ½ of Canadian kids aged 5 to 17 are not physically active enough for optimal growth and development
• Obese children have a very good chance of becoming obese adults
• There is a rise in Type 2 diabetes in children
• There is a rise in hypertension in children
• There is a rise in hyperlipidemia in children
• The percentage of overweight children is growing exponentially
Shouldn’t we be doing everything in our power to ensure that are children are kept active and healthy? Instead of shutting down “active programs” we should be creating new ones. Aren’t we being penny-wise and pound-foolish? The money that we are saving now is going to be eaten up down the road in health care costs.