Thursday, December 28, 2006

Toronto Bird Observatory

The Toronto Bird Observatory has a great site with lots of cute bird pictures, birds that are visible right here in the city if you know where to look. Their birding news feed on the right hand side of the blog is depressing. Items like "Global warming could wipe out most birds". That is fucking scary.


Last week we travelled to London on VIA rail for an overnight visit. The cost was about $180 for two persons which at first glance is substantially higher than the cost of gas for the same trip (say $60). However, the $60 does not take into account vehicle maintenance, insurance, etc. for two people, which is comparable to the 50c/km mileage reimbursement I would get for driving the same distance. That is to say, the cost is approximately what a corporate accountant believes is the cost of driving the same distance, when all factors are taken into account.

More importantly, the VIA trip supports a public rail infrastructure which our country badly needs. The service was efficient, though not as good as European rail service. On all the European trains I've taken, you can simply walk on the train without lining up and getting herded like cattle onto the train.

London has a very attractive train station; if only it was used to greater capacity. I hope our governments invest more in rail service and a little less in free highways for car drivers.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Waterfront Airport

The Toronto City Centre Airport on a blustery December day. The island airport remains controversial following an aborted attempt to construct a bridge across the 100 metre span between the island and the mainland. After a fierce election campaign on the issue, city council voted in 2003 to withdraw its support for the bridge. However, the airline, Porter Airlines was launched anyway, and the federal government awarded the Toronto Port Authority a $35 million legal settlement, some of which was funnelled into the new airline.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Grizzly Man

I highly recommend the 2005 documentary, Grizzly Man which chronicles the life and death of filmmaker and environmentalist Timothy Treadwell. makes use of Treadwell's amazing footage of grizzlies and foxes, taken during his thirteen summers camping among the grizzlies. Treadwell believed that he had figured out how to live among these dangerous animals without harm, and was tragically proven wrong. The film is touching and chilling at times, as Werner Herzog methodically documents Timothy's spiral into delusions and anthromorphism.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


Dempsters landed themselves in hot water with a lot of unwanted media attention this month when Morwenna White received an excessively packaged bagel and started an online petition to reduce packaging. Check out the comments section of this particular blog; it looks like Dempsters responded to the blogger.


Crazed Monkey has built a clickable TTC map on top of Google Maps technology. The lengths some TTC fans will go to is mind blowing.

Drake Hotel

Bicycle frames line the ceiling of the cafe at the Drake Hotel. Drake lattes are smooth and strong.

uTOpia volume 2

I'm slowly chewing my way through uTOpia volume 2. It includes essays from Christopher Hume, architecture critic for the Toronto Star and Adam Vaughan, formerly of CITY-TV and newly-elected councillor for a downtown ward.

Damian Rogers has an enjoyable article on fashion in Toronto. She starts by describing the vintage shops of Kensington Market, such as Courage My Love. From there In the more upscale Queen West district, shops like Peach Berserk, Comrags, and Fashion Crimes showcase local Toronto talent.

In the online world, local writer Russell Smith has his own website,, which gives fashion advice to men. If you can sift through the pile of ads, the site has some engaging columns. (Also, just to geek out for a minute, Smith needs to work out the bugs in his content-management software; some of the articles are full of little 
 symbols which indicate unprintable characters.)

I'm surprised Rogers neglects to mention the Fresh Collective, a designer run collective started in 2003 by Laura-Jean "The Knitting Queen." Every two weeks a different designer takes over the front window and you can literally see the jewelry and clothing being made in the back of the shop.

But you know, he made the trains run on time.

The National Post and cronies displayed their fondness for authoritarianism this week, in the aftermath of Augusto Pinochet's death.

Pinochet seized power with the help of the CIA on September 11, 1973 and overthrew the elected president Salvador Allende. What followed was a 17-year orgy of violence which resulted in 3,000 deaths, and 30,000 people tortured and murdered for their political beliefs. He died on December 10 under indictment for his crimes.

In an editorial titled "Pinochet's mixed legacy", the Post credits him for "deregulating and privatizing much of the Chilean economy, thereby allowing the nation to become one of South America’s rare economic success stories."

Said David Frum, failed Bush speechwriter, and ex-National Post columnist in his National Review diary (Dec 11):

"Pinochet and his generals unleashed a spasm of cruelty and violence
unprecedented in the country's history. As it happened, they also instituted
some sensible economic policies. For that reason, many conservatives hesitate
today to criticize Pinochet personally or the Pinochet regime."

How nice. What's next, an article on Pol Pot: Brutal Dictator, but he made excellent brownies.

This love-in is not limited to Canadian conservatives, though. In 1999 while Pinochet was under arrest in Britain and facing extradition to Spain, Margaret Thatcher visited her old friend and thanked him for "bringing democracy to Chile".

Sunday, December 10, 2006

holiday madness

We're trying to keep the holiday madness under control. Our plan is:
1. No tree. Instead we have a christmas twig
2. One present per spouse
3. No shopping for other grownups.
4. avoiding the christmas parties
I'd much rather sleep in on my December weekends then brave the malls.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Dick Cheney's Google Searches

Vanity Fair has posted a history of Dick Cheney's Google searches

Here's a sample
birdshot pellet removal
quail hunting "involuntary manslaughter"
hunting accident manslaughter
hunting accident manslaughter pleas
firearms disposal

Friday, December 08, 2006

The apple harvest

The harvest is plentiful (at the supermarket anyhow). Ontario's apple growing region produces fine russet apples. Russets have been popular since Victorian times, when they were called 'leathercoats'. In the Shakespeare play Henry IV, part 2, Davy says to Bardolph, "there's a dish of leathercoats for you"

We've been drinking Bennet's apple cider (944 Garner Rd E Ancaster, ON) this fall. The Straight Dope has an opinionated article on the difference between cider and juice. There is no difference legally speaking between the two; but marketers have seized on cider as a more marketable term.

There's nothing quite like a rich mug of Ontario cider on a cold winter night.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Westin Harbour Castle

The Westin Harbour Castle rises 38 stories above Lake Ontario on prime harbourfront real estate. With its concrete, glass, concrete, and stained concrete, this building is typical of the late 20th Century architecture (I guess that would be the popular Screw You school of design?). It boasts 70,000 square feet of meeting space and a heckuva view.

The Next Prime Minister of Canada

Stephane Dion surged from fourth place to become leader of the Liberal Party of Canada yesterday in a stunning win. Dion listed environmental sustainability as the most important issue facing Canada. And as former environment minister he is familiar with the climate crisis. Stephane is a highly intelligent leader. Will he make a difference?

Realistically, Jack Layton will not become PM. And anybody has to be better than the current government which is led by nutbar oil patchers who believe climate change is a leftist plot to steal Alberta's oil wealth. Harper's government has blatantly reneged on Canada's Kyoto commitments and slashed funding for Kyoto programs. and now promises to do something about climate change ... by the year 2050.

The rise of climate change as a campaign-defining issue is encouraging. Sites such as show that Liberals get the message that Canadians are very concerned about the climate crisis. Unfortunately there is an elephant in the room. A big nasty, CO2 farting elephant. Liberals did not make a significant dent in the problem during their three consecutive majority governments. So it begs the question: Is the new-found enthusiasm for sustainability merely another Liberal ploy for votes, or a sign that they are taking the issue seriously?

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Words to Live by

Found on an overpass on the Martin Goodman Trail, near the Palais Royale.

From the No-Big-Surprise-There-Dept.

Christopher Lohse, a MSW student at Connecticut State University, published a study showing a direct correlation between psychosis and support for President Bush. Lohse interviewed psychiatric outpatients during the 2004 election. The more psychotic the patient, the higher the support for Bush.

Monday, November 27, 2006


Sunday was Coach House Books' launch of their new book State of the Arts: Living with Culture in Toronto.

I attended the Unofficial Culture panel discussion. oof. Panel discussions can be heavy stuff; even with the great moderator the material can be a bit dry. Luckily I liquored up a little bit at the Gladstone's fabulous new bar at the corner of Gladstone and Queen.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Waterfront in November

It was a beautiful crisp autumn day in Toronto. The western waterfront was our backdrop for a bike ride today.

Liberty Grand, CNE. This Beaux-Arts building was constructed in 1926 as the Government of Ontario building. The Liberty Grand is an events hall now. Beaux-Arts is a style of architecture derived from Imperial Roman styles, involving elements such as heavy use of sculptural elements, symmetry, and grand entrances.

Windshare ExPlace Turbine. The ExPlace Turbine is the first urban-sited wind turbine in North America and generates 1,000 MWh of power per year.

New landscaping along western waterfront

Humber Bay Arch Bridge. The bridge is an abstracted rendition of a Thunderbird, designed by Montgomery Sisam Architects.

Humber Bay Butterfly Habitat

Spirit Ravens at HBBH

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Domestic Affair

Jae Steele has an article explaining the reasoning behind eating whole grains. A whole grain food has its bran, germ, and endosperm intact. (white flour includes only the endosperm). Most of the fibre and vitamins are contained in the germ and bran layers of the grain.

Steele is a registereded holistic nutritionist and writer of vegetarian cookzines. Her weblog can be found at

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Blame Canada

Canada's Conservative government continued its tradition of environmental disgrace and incompetence by opposing a ban on high-seas bottom trawling. Bottom-trawling is the so-called 'clear cutting of the oceans' method of fishing that is devastating the world's oceans. The UN proposal would ban bottom trawling in currently unregulated international waters.

Greenpeace has put together a South Park themed-video urging people to Blame Canada.

Last Days of the Garden

As the days get shorter the garden wilts. The bulbs go into the ground for next year: garlic, daffodils, and snowdrops.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Stones II

Finally we got the last stones into our front yard and completed the retaining wall.

It was important to us to get a regional material, and the color of stone fits well with the surroundings. The stone is Georgian Bay limestone from Beaver Valley Stone.

Landscaping is a tricky business. In order to prevent frost heaving, the stones are surrounded by gravel wrapped in filter fabric. The gravel allows water to seep away from the stone and the filter fabric keeps dirt particles from mixing with the gravel. In between the gravel and the stones is a layer of limestone fines for precise levelling.

Our friend the stone mason gave us a hand with two stones that required cutting. His diamond-tipped chainsaws cut through limestone like butter

The levelling went well but the stones are not quite in a straight line. They run flush with the sidewalk edge which is not straight. Next time I will follow the string line more closely. But we are very happy with the results; our motto is: perfection is not an option

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Income Trust Anger

Income trust investors expressed disappointment after Jim Flaherty lowered the boom on income trusts by announcing new tax measures. The income trust boom started to get out of control in the past few years, as corporations exploited an obscure loophole to avoid paying corporate tax.

A number of 45-year olds with million dollar portfolios will now have to work for a living instead of retiring at 50. One alternative to income trusts is known as a 'job'. It pays distributions every two weeks.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Stone placing

Saturday was stone day for us. At 8:30am the flat bed truck arrived, complete with hydraulic legs and a crane with a ten-foot boom. The crane easily handled the two tonnes of limestone that we ordered, and dropped it in our front yard

We dug a deep trench, taking care not to sever the gas main and cause a blinding explosion. In order to provide proper drainage, it is necessary to line the site with gravel wrapped in filter fabric. The gravel is topped with limestone powder which is used to adjust the level of the stone.

Drop 400 pound rock into place. Measure. Pull 400 pound rock out. Add limestone. Repeat

Slurp. ahhh. Coffee helps the job go smoother.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Silver Creek

If you drive several miles up highway 31 out past the sprawl you come to 27th side road in the Town of Halton Hills. There, by the fields and forests is one of the most spectacular sections of the Bruce Trail, the Silver Creek Conservation Area.

My lovely spouse organized a trip with some friends to that section of the Bruce Trail. Spent the whole day walking fields and forests. Then we had a beer and some soup at a pub called the Copper Kettle in Glen Williams where the surly service did not ruin what was an otherwise great day.

Monday, October 23, 2006


Variant(s): also flâ·neur /flä-'n&r/
Function: noun
Etymology: French flâneur: an idle man-about-town

funkaoshi's pictography of his idle afternoon in the west end of toronto.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Scorched Earth

At long last, on Saturday I destroyed our front lawn. I have secretly despised our lawn since moving in with my girlfriend in 2003. Over the years, I have patiently worn her down with hints, suggestions, sexual favors even. Until finally I obtained permission to put my plan into action.

The turf based lawn uses a plant that evolved in humid climates of Northern Europe. The stately lawn was a symbol of wealth and prestige in England - a person with a manicured lawn was demonstrating that he had the staff to maintain the lawn and didn't have to use his land for crops. In the New World, this romantic notion of the stately English manor house has led to an obsession with this plant. Americans are so obsessed with the turf lawn that an estimated 44,000 square miles are covered with the stuff, an area the size of Pennsylvania. Basically the reasons why lawns suck are

1. They require vast amounts of water to keep looking green, unless you live in a humid rainy climate similar to England's. In the summer, people pour vast amounts of water to keep the grass from turning brown.
2. Generally people apply herbicides and fertilizer to have the lawn look clean and neat. These chemicals run off the lawn into aquifiers and lakes, damaging the localecosystem.
3. Lawn mowers contribute to pollution. Due to poor efficiency standards and the realities of two-stroke engines, a gas powered lawn mower spews as much pollution as 40 idling automobiles.

Replacing the lawn will be a multi step process. For now we will put down mulch to cover the soil over the winter. My lovely wife has been engaged to help plan out the trees, shrubs, and natural grasses that will replace it.

The Land Stewardship Letter has a good outline on the hows and whys of lawn replacement.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Burdock day

Saturday was the Friends of Trinity Bellwoods Park's second Park Day. This event is a popular way to meet your neighbors, have a snack, plant some plants together. We ate hot dogs and biennial thistles.

The ravine slopes of the park are being invaded by an invasive plant called Burdock. The Friends of Dufferin Grove Park assisted with this problem. They pulled a bunch of Burdock out of the ground and cooked them up on a campfire and served them with bread. Cool, huh? A wild plant cook out in the middle of the city.

I took some invasive plant home to make a stir fry, which my wife will not touch. Luckily there are a number of recipes on how to cook this plant on the Internet. Thanks 'Wild Man', for your help. 'Wild Man' has written a book called Shoots and Greens of Early Spring in Eastern North America.

Joe Pantalone, local councillor, gave up part of his Sunday to give a tour of the park. Trinity Bellwoods used to be the site of Trinity College, and the old gates of the college now sit at the park entrance, where they are under restoration.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Your Secrets Should Stay with You

Last weekend at Type, I picked up a copy of Darren O'Donnel's new book Your Secrets Sleep With Me. Ugh. I got to page 33 before terminating the read with extreme prejudice. I'm just not into surrealist postmodern fiction.

This is the page that got me:

"The centre, Kaliope knows, extracts blood from the periphery to make up for the lost knowledge traded for the gained privilege.

Kaliope pukes again, the pit of her stomach squeezing her pubic bone out of her mouth. Ruth hops up and down, the need to pee unbearable. The rain buffets the house and a flash of lightning leaves behind an explosion that feels like it happene4d exactly between Kaliope and Ruth, two girls who generally walk around with a sense of impending doom, different for each, but similarly hollowing - if you listen carefully at their chests you can sometimes hear strands snapping like the pulled innards of a pumpkin."

What. The. Heck. Is. That. Supposed. To. Mean. Sigh. Norr am I going to spend two more hours finishing the book to find out. Life is too short for critically-acclaimed but opaque CanLit.

Nuit Blanche

Wow, I wish I had been at Toronto's first Nuit Blanche. This arts festival took place on Sept 30 from 7pm to 7am, and featured 130 night-time-themed art installations and performances in the downtown area. Trinity Recreation Centre had a night swim with underwater lights and a DJ. Over 400,000 people attended the inaugural Nuit Blanche

The city government has figured out that arts and cultural events are more interesting, more natural, and ultimately a more successful way to attract tourists and residents. Imagine if we could have the billions back that were poured into the SkyDome years ago by the Ontario government, and we could put that into successful cultural events like Nuit Blanche

Overheard at Nuit Blanche (from Torontoist)

"It was kinda like being in the trenches in World War 1"
-Mud-covered folk in line for poutine after walking through Fujiko Nakaya's disorienting fog sculpture on Philospher's Walk

"'Let me be your teddy bear', let me touch your Punani--can we go now?"
-Hipster girl at Chris Curreri's Neon text installation on Baldwin St.

"Stay close. Form a human wall. Nothing can touch us then."
-Adam Brodie, Adam's The Real Totally Toronto Special Guided Tours (Note: This was the superior tour despite what Mr. Kumar says).

"Excuse me ma'am, the pool is at capacity, you can't come in. Ma'am, we can't let any more people in you'll have to get out. You have to get out. Thank you." (Woman walks down to the other end of the pool and gets in) "Ma'am, I just said...Okay, everybody out. This pool is now closed."
Lifeguard (to very stoned woman in underwear), Caldarium at Trinity Bellwoods Pool.

"I wish I was drunker."
Drunk guy in Trinity Bellwoods park, 3am

"Well, that's the end of art."
Sober guy walking behind him

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


As I was hurling into a paper bag last night and I decided that air travel is not my favorite way to get around. The puddle jumper commuter plane aborted its wind sheared landing at the last minute to circle round for another try

There must be a better way to get around. Like trains for example. Nice European trains with fast efficient service.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

competitiveness and climate change

The latest Global Competitiveness report from the World Economic Forum shows that you can sign the Kyoto accord, make progress towards greenhouse gas emissions reductions and still remain economically competitive.

Out of the top 10 only the U.S. is not a Kyoto member. The U.S. signed it and later reneged on their committment under the Bush administration. The other countries in the top ten are: Switzerland, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Japan, Germany, the Netherlands, Singapore, and the United Kingdom; all Kyoto signatories

"The top rankings of Switzerland and the Nordic countries show that good institutions and competent macroeconomic management, coupled with world-class educational attainment and a focus on technology and innovation, are a successful strategy for boosting competitiveness in an increasingly complex global economy."Augusto Lopez-Claros, Chief Economist; Director, Global Competitiveness Network

Saturday, September 30, 2006

C.J. Strikes again

Calamity Jane is scrabbling at straws again. Thin straws. This week, Jane appointed herself "Defender of the Gardiner Expressway" This will prove to be a big wasted effort on her part, sadly. Aside from the idiocy of making your campaign hinge on being the defender of a big ugly elevated expressway, there are no credible plans in motion to tear it up. It would cost billions, and if the money were found tomorrow, it would still take probably ten years with all the planning and environmental assessments that are necessary with a project that size. So it's a non issue.

And let's add in the fact that 90% of people in Toronto don't depend on the Gardiner. Anyone north of Bloor Street is unlikely to depend on the expressway, and anyone close to it would presumably be happy for the large jump in property values that accompanies destruction of ugly elevated expressways.

Did nobody mention to C.J. that the thousands of people who would have their driving time increased (roughly four minutes from the studies that have been done) are mostly suburbanites? So yes, Jane, this may be a polarizing election issue where a large number of people feel strongly for your point of view. However, the issue is primarily a wedge issue between people in Toronto and people who aren't voting in the Toronto election.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


On the to-do list: re-use these historic bricks from our roof ina tasteful landscape feature. They are too old to use in any critical structure, but perhaps a nice garden wall would do. There's something warm and comforting about a nice brick structure. A connection to the land perhaps. Across the city another project on a much larger scale is reviving interest in Toronto's brick building heritage.

Toronto's Brickworks are under redevelopment. From 1889 to 1984 the The Don Valley Pressed Brick Works Company in the Don Valley producd bricks for a growing city. The Toronto and Region Conservation Authority are the stewards of the upcoming redevelopment which will include a farmer's market, offices, a park, and artist spaces.

With all the nasty environmental issues happening these days it's easy to fall into the trap of bashing our industrial heritage; the companies that built this city. However there is much to celebrate in our past. The Brickworks is one of those sites.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Calamity Jane

Calamity Jane Pitfield illustrated again why she doesn't deserve to be mayor. On Tuesday the bumbling councillor from Leaside inadvertently voted for the Miller trash disposal solution which she vigorously opposes. Oops.

"I regret it, but it was human error," said Ms. Pitfield, who confessed to being distracted during the vote.

Hmm. The garbage disposal issue is pretty much the biggest issue of the campaign. If Toronto doesn't figure out how to divert and dispose of its trash, pronto, we will be drowning in the stuff. So Jane can't vote correctly on yes-no question on a critical municipal issue. But she wants to be mayor. What's wrong with this picture>?