Sunday, September 30, 2012

Haliburton in the Fall

Looking east from the Dorset Tower

View from the "Scenic Lookout" in Minden
Sarah's birthday is fast approaching—the middle of next month, actually—and she asked that an early "present" be a drive up north to see the fall colours, something we hadn't done—not really—in nearly seven years, since shortly after we moved into our current apartment. We set our sights on this weekend a while back; as it drew closer, though, the weather forecast began to look more and more contrary and we worried that we would not really get that far out of town after all. When this morning dawned bright and fresh, however, we decided to throw caution to the wind, 70% P.O.P. be damned, and let Babar whisk us away to the spectacular autumn carpet of the Haliburton Highlands. We made arrangements with our wonderful neighbour, Sophia, to come in and give Addie her dinner so we didn't need to rush back; then it was time for the obligatory fuel-ups—us at Tim Horton's, Babar at the Esso near the Parkway—and away we went. Every heartless directional aide we consulted—Google Maps, Nokia Maps, even our car's GPS—wanted us to travel west, up the 400, and come into Dorset (our main destination) from that direction; however, we were not to be swayed. We knew the purpose of our drive wasn't simply to get to the colours but rather to pass through them. We decided that the best way to do this was to drive east first and then head up Highway 35, which would take us through Minden and the Kawarthas before tiptoeing along the border of Muskoka and Haliburton counties. This is a beautiful drive on any day of the year; once the colours have begun to change it is positively breathtaking. We were not disappointed in our decision; in fact, had we gone the other way we would have missed the "Scenic Lookout" in Minden altogether. As you can see from these pictures, the colours were pretty impressive in this region, although we knew they were only going to get more spectacular as we approached Algonquin Park.

Sarah and Grumpy P take turns...
...posing in front of the fence by the bluffs
And then we completely ignored the fence...
...and took much better photos!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Where were you in '72?

Cournoyer has it on that's a shot! Henderson made a wild stab for it and's another shot, right in front - they score!! Henderson...has scored for Canada! Henderson, right in front of the net. And the players on the team are going wild! Henderson, right in front, has scored the goal with 34 seconds left in the game....

Forty years ago today, Paul Henderson scored the biggest goal in the history of our nation. Do you remember where you were?

The "enemy" - in cartoon form, no less
It started nearly four weeks earlier. On the Saturday night of Labour Day weekend in Canada, the puck was dropped at the incomparable Montreal Forum to open a series of eight games between a team of professional hockey players from Canada (as long as they played for the NHL and not that upstart WHA) and the national team from the Soviet Union. The Cold War was in full bloom and much of our country billed this as the ultimate "Us against Them" showdown; capitalism vs. communism; our way of life vs. theirs; the good guys with the freedom to play the game bare-headed vs. the indoctrinated "robots" who all wore the same helmets. We had stopped sending a team to the Winter Olympics because we felt the ice was "tilted" there: the USSR showed up in 1956 with a roster full of players who were paid to play hockey in a backhanded way because they did it for the Red Army; meanwhile, the Olympics refused to let "professional" players compete for the medals, which meant that the Soviets were sending their very best players while the greatest Canadian hockey men were toiling away in the NHL and, therefore, disqualified from the Olympics. Fed up with losing to the Soviets at "Our Game" every four years, we took our pucks and went home. This led, more or less, to the creation of the 1972 Summit Series, whereby the best players from Canada would compete against the best players from the International Hockey powerhouse, the Soviet Union, in an eight-game series to decide, once and for all, which truly was the greatest hockey nation on earth. It was such a big deal that even the legendary Foster Hewitt was lured out of retirement to call all eight games (on both the CBC and CTV). It was assumed, I imagine, that he would lend some substance to what many people thought might be a very one-sided series. It turned out to be a decision with mixed results: the aged broadcasting pioneer struggled mightily and, often, comically, with the names of the Soviet players. He even had trouble with some of the Canadian players, most memorably Yvan Cournoyer, but he diligently kept at it and, at the end, we were all the richer for it. The proceeds of this series were supposed to benefit the NHL Pension Fund, but that didn't quite work out the way they expected it to.

But that's a story for another day.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Dumb and Dumbererer

When you have a fire in an aircraft, there’s no place to go, exactly, there’s no — and you can’t find any oxygen from outside the aircraft to get in the aircraft, because the windows don’t open. I don’t know why they don’t do that. It’s a real problem. So it’s very dangerous. - Mitt Romney, Republican nominee for President, speaking at a Beverly Hills fundraiser which nevertheless brought in $6 million.

Left: "regular" Mitt. Right: Mitt speaking in "bronzeface"
at a Univision Town Hall meeting on Hispanic issues
So it's come to this. I knew that Mitt Romney was not the kind of man I would ever want to meet. I knew his distorted views of the world were pretty much anathema to my own. I knew he was the "best" of a hilariously bad crop of candidates who were vying for the Republican Presidential nomination this year. But I had no idea that he was so pathologically, nearly debilitatingly stupid. I know our own mayor, Rob Ford, is that stupid, but he has no real power and never will get the chance to have a profound impact on the lives of millions. But this is a far more serious situation: Mitt Romney has a chance -- albeit one that is, fortunately, slipping away almost by the hour -- of being President of the United States. And he is every bit as stupid as Rob Ford. If you don't believe me, go back and read that quote again while imagining it was RoFo who issued that staggeringly ignorant comment. It's not a very difficult thing to imagine, is it? It's not enough that Mittens cannot seem to grasp why being able to open a window on a vehicle moving at near sonic speeds is not a very good thing; he's not even capable of understanding how fire itself works. Here's a hint: it thrives on oxygen.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Spacing's Map Contest

The current cover of Spacing
A few months ago, Sarah discovered that there was a contest being run by Spacing Magazine, a publication out of Toronto that focuses on urban design and public space usage; a contest which was right up her alley. They were soliciting entries to their "Creative Mapping Contest" and, even though it was very close to the deadline, Sarah bore down and worked furiously to be sure she submitted a design for their consideration. It was fantastic and she did get it in on time, but I didn't hear any more about it whatsoever.

Until last week, that is.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Ford Follies: International Edition

Good grief. The guy just will not go away.

Even when he actually does "go away"....he still won't go away. Not really.

Rob Ford, part-time mayor, part-time football coach, full-time buffoon, is in Chicago right now on a "Trade Mission". He has boasted, on the record, that this trip is not costing the taxpayers of Toronto "one dime". But, of course, he is lying because there are two senior staffers with him whose costs are being covered by the city. There will almost certainly be more costs, but there's already enough information to rebut his ridiculous claim.

RoFo and the Bean: A Modern Ballet
credit: Don Peat/Toronto Sun
Yesterday, while Ford was in the Windy City dancing under the "Cloud Gate" sculpture (nicknamed the "Mirror Bean" by locals and which Ford thinks should be replicated in Toronto, only in the form of a giant football, of course), one of his special assistants, Chris Fickel, attended the Don Bosco football practice, arriving at the facility in a car registered to the City of Toronto. When Dave Rider, a Star reporter covering the Chicago shenanigans, asked Ford about it he was told, "Do your homework. I paid for it last year." Paid for what, exactly, nobody is too clear on and since RoFo wouldn't comment further, choosing instead to tell Rider to, "go home, go where you came from," there's a chance we may never find out. And the exchange got a lot weirder and creepier than that. At one point, Ford asked Rider, "are you going to be sleeping with me tonight?" I can't do the incident justice here; have a look for yourself at the transcript in the Toronto Star.

But the hilarity doesn't stop there.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Lost in Translation

Escobar and the offending stickers
Yunel Escobar, the Cuban-born shortstop of the Toronto Blue Jays, played a Major League game last Saturday with a phrase written under his eyes in Spanish. In case you can't make it out in the picture at right, it says "TU ERE MARICON" which, when literally translated into English, is a slur against gay people -- specifically gay men. Quite predictably -- and somewhat understandably -- this has led to a firestorm of anger on Twitter and other social media outlets over the past couple of days. "Get rid of him!" is a common tweet. "Suspend him for a year!" and "Throw him out of baseball!" also popped up pretty regularly. Because nothing really better illustrates how Twitter operates than a bunch of overreactions from unaffected people.

This afternoon, the Blue Jays held a press conference in New York (where the team is preparing to take on the Yankees) before which they announced that Escobar had been suspended for three games (which I think is about four games too light), with the approval of Major League Baseball. Furthermore, the salary he is forfeiting will be split between the You Can Play Project and the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and Escobar will also "participate in an outreach program on sexual orientation and a sensitivity training program in accordance with the Toronto Blue Jays and Major League Baseball". Attending the press conference were Escobar, GM Alex Anthopolous, manager John Farrell, coach Luis Rivera (to translate questions to Escobar, who speaks little to no English) and another man who went unidentified, who translated Escobar's words to the rest of us. During this conference, Escobar repeatedly stated that he meant "no offense" by the words and that he has "many gay friends" including, somewhat hilariously, his hairdresser and the "man who decorated my house". The young shortstop tried his best to show that he was embarrassed, but mainly -- to my eyes -- he just looked confused as to why this had caused such a big storm of outrage.

Monday, September 17, 2012

What the Hockey Lockout Means to Me


Thanks for dropping by.

All right, all right. Since you went to the trouble of coming here, I guess I can muster up some reasoning.

I'm sick of the NHL. I have loved the sport of hockey since I was a very small boy. I've played it since I was six years old. I've coached kids in the game for ten of the past twelve years. My dad used to put a rink in our backyard and some of my fondest childhood memories are of the myriad Sunday afternoons he and I spent at Maple Leaf Gardens, watching the Toronto Marlies (Junior A team) from the Greens, because they were "high enough up in the stands so you can really get a feel for the game".

But the NHL doesn't share my enthusiasm for the sport. The NHL doesn't care about the fans, the players or even the integrity of the game itself and it hasn't for many, many years.

Friday, September 7, 2012

RoFo: The Trial Concludes

Keep laughing, Chuckles

Today's blog post will be a lot shorter than yesterday's because, while Rob Ford's Conflict of Interest trial concluded yesterday, Ford himself didn't say anything inordinately stupid in the courtroom. But there's a good reason for that: Ford did not take the stand yesterday.

Instead, we were treated to closing arguements from the two lawyers, Alan Lenczner, who represents Ford, and Clayton Ruby, who represents the private citizen who brought this case to court, Paul Magder. This still took an entire day in court, but I'd wager it felt a lot shorter than the previous day to everyone in attendance.

Again today I followed as much as I could through the live blogs such as the one by the Torontoist, and Twitter feeds such as by the indefatigable Don Peat, filling in the gaps by following the discussion hash tag #FordCourt, also on Twitter. Ruby went first because Lenczner needed time to review some "new case law and facta" given to him by Ruby that morning. The next few hours, until 3 p.m. with a break for lunch and a couple of recesses, Ruby and Nader Hasan, a partner in his firm, held the floor and spent much of that time reiterating just how muddled and confusing Ford's testimony from the day before truly was. Some of the more "on-point" quotes from the prosecutors:
“He has never explained the basis for his peculiar view of the law. My submission is that it is not a believable assertion because it is made by someone who has a 12 year tenure on city council.”

“That is not someone who has made an error. That is someone who is doing deliberately what he believes is right. It is not an error of judgment to be reckless identifying conflicts… it is not a good faith error. He is deliberately not doing what any reasonable person would do.”

“It is reckless to proceed in ignorance all of his 12 years on council. If you swear to uphold an Act and you don’t even read it, you are simply ensuring that you will breach it.”

“Ignorance of the law is not an error in judgment.”

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Rob Ford: Super Genius

The Ford Bros. "running" from the courtroom
credit: Dave Abel, Toronto Sun

[Rob] Ford was elected as councillor three times before being elected mayor. He received council handbook each time but says "I don't remember ever getting a handbook." [Clayton Ruby asks:]"You have no memory of ever getting it, studying it or reading it?" "No" - David Rider, Toronto Star Live Blog
Unless you've been living under a rock the past year and a half you probably know that the mayor of the City of Toronto is a world-class buffoon. News of his embarrassing "exploits" has traveled around the globe, so you don't have to actually live in or near Toronto to be aware of just how poorly qualified this man is to be in his current position. Hell, he's probably poorly qualified to get himself dressed in the morning. He's driven at high speeds while reading a speech, because he's a "busy" man. He's repeatedly demonstrated his homophobia by refusing to attend even the most innocuous of Pride events in the city he "leads". He mugged a journalist and stole his cell phone, he may or may not have driven past the open doors of a streetcar, he swore at a 911 operator after calling about a comedy sketch gone awry, he gave a mom and her six-year-old daughter the finger after they admonished him for texting while driving. And don't even get me started on his hilarious antics while he was a city councillor. Good times, good times. Well, RoFo has taken his act to a whole other level this week. He is either perjuring himself on the stand under cross-examination or he is the single dumbest person ever to hold the office of mayor in Toronto -- and that list includes Mel Lastman and June Rowlands.
Also notable: a few minutes ago, Ford said that he didn’t attend council orientation sessions when he was first elected in 2000, because his dad was an MPP and he felt he knew how government worked. - Steve Kupferman, The Torontoist Live Blog

Monday, September 3, 2012

A Day at the Ex

The Penguins at the Ex
Sarah had a real bee in her bonnet to go to the Ex this year, for whatever reason. We tried to find a time last week to get to the fair, because the admission was only $5 after five p.m. on weeknights, but the only day we could have gone was Monday and it poured that night. So we put it off until the long weekend and when we saw how amazing the weather was going to be yesterday the decision became rather easy. At that point it just became a matter of working out how best to get there. A couple of years ago we drove down to an inexpensive garage we found near Union Station and took the Harbourfront streetcar. That was a truly awful experience, though, as the lineup to get anywhere near the streetcar at Union was very, very long. We rejected that idea this time. We thought about going down early and parking close to the grounds, but two things worked against that idea: 1) in the past when I have parked "at" the CNE, invariably I have decided I am tired enough to go home when I am about as far a walk from the car as is possible; and 2) we got up a lot later than we had hoped to. Ok, I got up a lot later than Sarah had hoped. Same thing. Well, close enough. Moving on...

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