Archive for March, 2008

The Power of Metal

IIIIt was reassuring that Toronto hit it’s Earth Hour targets last night but Toronto has no shortage of power.  I was lucky enough to catch CURSED on Friday night as they ventured from Toronto into the Hamilton.  They are definitely back with a  vengeance.

CURSED have recently released Architects of Troubled Sleep (on Goodfellow Records).  The album features the amazing artwork of John Dyer Baizle  and adds to their already impressive catalog.  I got word today, for anyone under 19 that missed Friday’s show or the CD release at Lee’s Palace, they’re playing at Sonic Boom records (Bathurst & Bloor, Toronto) at 5pm. The show is free but it’s a benefit for the Friends For Life bike rally for people in Toronto living with AIDS.   A worthy cause, an amazing band. 

Earth Hour T.O. Style

Lights at St Patricks'Tomorrow, Saturday, March 29, at 8:00 pm ET, the lights will be going out in Toronto, and hopefully the computers and radios and TVs too, but not the fridges or freezers. That might be going a bit too far. This time city goes black, it will not be because of an unforeseen power disruption, but because Torontonians, including City Hall, will be deliberately turning off the lights as a gesture of solidarity against climate change.

I’m not sure how one can be against climate change — it’s happening — but more accurately to protest the lack of change to protect our climate and thus ourselves.

Earth Hour runs from 8:00 pm to 9:00 pm, and to get in the mood, City Hall is hosting an acoustic concert, starting at 6:45 pm, with Nelly Furtado, the Philosopher Kings, and Fefe Dobson, which will end at lights back on: 9:00 pm. How does one hold a concert sans power, even an acoustic one where sound cannot project far in an open area? The answer is Bullfrog of course. They will be the power behind the musicians.

The TTC and Metblogs Missing Visual Editor

I heard on the radio today that, starting in June, subway service will end 1.5 hours earlier — at 12:30 am instead of 2:00 am — because the maintenance staff cannot maintain the system in only 3 hours per night when the system is shut down. Poor dears. I wonder how the tough maintenance guys in New York manage to keep that system safe when it never shuts down? But seriously, how come over 40 years after the system opened, and over a decade after the major accident, do the maintenance guys suddenly decide they can’t hack it? Is management hoping to cut back on staff, or are the staff becoming so slow and lazy now, they’re less productive than ever?

So much for improving TTC service.

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On a totally unrelated note, what happened to the nice Visual Editor for Metblogs? I absolutely HATE writing with code cluttering up all my text. I bet it’s the fault of those people who insist on using Safari, a browser that seems to hate WordPress. Booo. Hissss.

[Update: I suddenly had the brilliant idea of strolling through the admin options and lo and behold, they’ve added a new one — “use Visual Editor” — but the default is NO. Fixed it. I’m happy now.]

Arrow Anniversary This Week – Has Much Changed?

arrow_dview1.jpgThe Toronto Star had an interesting article regarding one of Canada’s engineering achievements, the AVRO ARROW.  A product of the Cold War it was designed to be Canada’s answer to protecting America from Northern threats as a supersonic all weather interceptor/bomber.   Ahead of its time (the Arrow could fly at twice the speed of sound – faster than our current fleet of CF-18s) the plane was even a potential export to our Allies (though the US or the UK weren’t interested in purchasing foriegn produced aircraft).  In any case it was a world class plane.

It was all for nothing in the end.  John Diefenbaker, the Conservative PM from the west, decided that despite AVRO being the the third largest corporation in Canada, employing some 41,000 people, that the Arrow project should be cancelled.  Many conspiracy theories exist as to why Canada’s National Defence and soveriegnty were trumped in this case.  (RL Whitcomb has an opinion as do many others)  Was it PM Diefenbaker’s way of improving American relations after to committing to NORAD?  Was the project costing Canadian taxpayers too much for what was delivered?  We may never know.

It will be interesting to see if MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd, MDA,  is sold off in the coming days or weeks.  So far opponents have delayed the sale. Considering that the US and now Russia are limiting foreign ownership of key industries why can’t we do the same?  Have concerns about sovereignty and protecting the North really changed?  If the Conservatives allow the maker of the Canadarm and the recently launched Radarsat-2 satellite to be sold off they may be following the footsteps of Diefenbaker’s Conservatives.  After all renting (or have a contract to use) our locally developed technology is not the same as owning it.

Tory Rant

It’s amazing what getting creamed in an election and having an entire riding pissed at you for your high-handed ways will do to a party’s attitude to the big city.

“”Dalton McGuinty likes to blame others for his problems,” Flaherty told a somewhat bewildered business audience expecting a preview of the federal budget.” (Toronto Star, 10-03-08)

The former finance minister for Ontario under the Mike Harris Tories, the same party that never got rid of the province’s deficit, I might add, Jim Flaherty attacks the Premier, the man who beat his provincial party in the polls — do I detect a hint of sour grapes? — for financial incompetence. It’s rather strange that Prime Minister Stephen Harper let him speak as it was, but to let him go on and on about the business taxes in Ontario — which would not have to be so high if the other nine provinces, three territories, and Ottawa didn’t keep sucking the Ontario tax teat dry — and how it’s all the Liberals fault Ontario is tanking, never mind that Flaherty participated in the cancelling of the infrastructure and city-building projects when the Harris Tories came into power, is just unprecedented. After all, the PM is known for putting duct tape on the mouths of all federal Tories two years ago when they came into power.
So obviously Harper agrees with him.

Then suddenly we had the odd spectacle of Flaherty enthusiastically giving Toronto — that evil city, the blight of Canada — over $300 million for, gasp, transit! Yes, they’d promised some money over a year ago. But after all the belly aching about Toronto, and now Ontario, one hardly expected them to be serious and for Flaherty to be in the photo op. And to announce that the money is going towards hybrid buses is even more surprising. They really have been converted on the road to a hotter Damascus.

But have they?

I doubt it. Flaherty said a couple of days ago on television that the federal Conservatives needed to build in the 416. Whoa! I thought the Harper Tories figured they could win a majority sans Toronto. Isn’t that why they’ve watched as our city has sunk more and more into the mire of poverty? Isn’t that why they’ve blamed us and our politicians for our woes and troubles? Isn’t that why they haven’t followed the lead of their US mentors by funding transit and rebuilding infrastructure and giving us back some of the billions in taxes they suck out of us?

Apparently, that by-election they put off and put off and angered one riding by getting rid of the Tory candidate who’d been campaigning like a dog for months and then lengthened before finally getting it done, taught them a few things. They need cities. They need Toronto. And now they’re sucking up to us and kissing our asses. Former Conservative PM Brian Mulroney won several seats in Toronto. Some of elected became important members of his cabinet. That’s how he kept his political lock on the country. Whether the rest of the country likes it or not, Ontario is the engine of Canada — as Harper belatedly acknowledged yesterday on television, standing in front of kids’ drawings — and Toronto is the engine of Ontario. We are the biggest city in the country, we are its financial centre, we are the city the world knows best, and we support the country with billions of our bucks. We go down, you go down. I don’t believe that Harper and Flaherty get that yet. I believe that all this sudden new conciliatory attitude to my city, my province, is all to get votes in the election they’re trying to get going if only the Liberals would vote against them in one of those upteen bogus confidence motions they keep throwing out. Once they have their majority, they’ll ignore us again and go back to creating greater division between us and the rest of Canada. The best thing for Toronto is to keep them on a tight leash. Minority governments all the way because the Liberals ignore us too, just not in such a mean fashion.

To Have a Life Back… Priceless

Glad I can now return to some sense what is “normal”.  Sickness, work and exams have tied me down for weeks.  I missed great shows at CMW not to mention a few parties along the way.  Oh well.  Earning and living and learning to insure I can continue to do so are worth the sacrifice.  At least I could experience my first lazy Sunday today.  A family adventure to the Ontario Science Centre and the last day of the Titanic exhibit in Toronto were a great choices.  Glad I ventured out there.  I hadn’t been to the Science Centre since grade school and even with some kids bouncing off the walls (as most would during the tail end of March Break) it was still a great time.  The Titanic exhibit I had intended to see soooo long ago and it was worth every penny. I’ll have to book a time back at the Science Centre again for a Jazz concert or an IMAX some flick.  Good to see that an institution like the Ontario Science Centre can survive and improve over the years.

Many Little Fires on the TTC

Jack Lakey of the Toronto Star continues his week’s worth of columns on the shabby TTC. Today he went to pigeons’ paradise aka Kipling and Islington stations, called a war zone by one reader and, like a falling-down house, sported numerous buckets to catch the drips from the roof. The janitors are nothing if not ingenious when trying to do the work of twice their number:

“To deal with the water leaking above a staircase, a large sign was placed in a janitor’s garbage cart and ingeniously angled to funnel the water into the cart.”

IMHO the TTC ought to have one janitor per station, and I suspect that they used to because back in the shining TTC days, I remember seeing janitors far more often than now. And if there have always been only one for roughly every two stations, then they used to be far more efficient than today. Of course, it does help to have garbage cans, oh sorry, litter receptacles in the stations at platform level. Torontonians have a real aversion to carrying garbage for more than a centimeter. I saw a screwed-up napkin and empty pop bottle on a subway seat the other day. Ewwww. Is it really that difficult to carry such light items through a door, along the platform, up the steps, and to the “receptacle”? Obviously.

But who knew that the real problem of removing the garbage cans from subway platforms is fires? The cans were removed due to terrorist threat post 9/11 and because all subway systems were doing it.

But “the litter problem on platforms and the subway tracks has the TTC rethinking that policy. A transit employee told us several small fires are ignited each week when trash comes into contact with the electrified third rail.”

jPod Cancelled

This is not strictly Toronto news, especially as jPod is set in Vancouver, but I received a comment on my blog from “Kam Fong” that jPod is being cancelled, which I wanted to share with you all here. I have to say I’m really surprised at this news. I had found the show rather addictive and thought it was coming into its own.

With the dearth of Canadian programming, and with CBC launching an all-out assault in January to grab Canadian eyes for Canadian shows that employ Canadians, I would have thought they would at least give all the shows a decent time to build an audience. After all, don’t they say Seinfeld was so-so in the ratings the entire first year of its run?

Read what the actor has to say and if you want jPod back, give that phone number a ring or shoot off an e-mail to CBC. We really need an alternative to all that reality dreck and the drowning of our airwaves in foreign shows, that is, American programming.

Mr Fixit at The Star Tackles the Lazy, Filthy TTC. Good Luck!

TheStar.com | GTA | Sick transit: TTC dirty, leaky, decaying

“Dingy, decaying, depressing, and definitely not The Better Way.”

No kidding! It’s not just sick, it’s comatose and on life support, heading to the morgue. I knew that the day I saw a rat bold as you please sniffing the subway platform, way above its usual haunt of the subway tracks.

“Councillor Adam Giambrone, who chairs the TTC, says the people who’ve complained about deteriorating conditions are wrong.”

Giambrone as usual has his inexperienced head up his ass. A dirty system is still a dirty system; whether or not it’s as garbage- and filth-strewn as it was two years ago, it’s still filthier now than it was decades ago.

“There’s a lot more to cleaning a subway station than it might seem, said [Gary] Shortt. For example, the black grime coating so many surfaces is a fine dust created when the brakes on trains are applied as they slow while pulling into stations.”

He goes into detail about how this grime can’t simply be washed off and requires maintenance staff to do it, instead of janitorial, which of course explains only a few walls, those not near a platform, and not the rest of the walls and floors. Plus how on earth did the staff manage to keep stations shining 20, 30 years ago? Were they just better workers back then? Judging by how much more surface drivers had to do back then and how much better they were at ensuring people knew where to get off, I’d hazard a yes to that.

Jack Lakey, The Fixer at The Toronto Star, is certainly taking on quite the task this week, challenging the TTC to fix up their system. The TTC whiners have one thing right — subway riders have become incredibly disgusting in their habits. OTOH, maybe they always were, but TTC janitors used to be adept at cleaning up after them and so we just never knew what inconsiderate and filthy hogs Torontonians were and are. And isn’t that what’s wrong with the city today — of which the TTC is in microcosm? That we no longer reflect our best Sunday suit to ourselves and the world. Instead, we’ve degenerated and now show the unwashed Sunday lie-in side, to such an extent that when I told some new Torontonians that the city used to have a continent-wide reputation for being really clean, they laughed and laughed. They thought I was kidding. No folks, I’m not. We used to be so clean, Hollywood had to truck in garbage to make our streets look believable for the big screen. I don’t think they do now. They probably have to haul out the power washer and litter picker-uppers. How sad. How very, very sad.

Man-Made Nature


Birding Place

Photo by Points North

It’s hard to believe that this large geographical feature in the east end of Toronto was built by a long line of trucks dumping clean rubble from various construction sites around the city. Since it was just a pile of fill, nature has slowly but tenaciously taken over and created a green space at the bottom of our city.

It has become a favourite place for birders, and remarkably, one can find exotic plant life there as well, plants such as cacti. In the cold days of winter, it seems hard to believe that this bleak place harbours so much life. But even when the wind blows snow across this headland, colloquially called the “Leslie Street Spit,” birds gather to sing and feed. And birders and photographers gather to watch and shoot.

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