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.