Archive for June, 2010

Oh June, you certainly were quite a month.  You brought us blazing heat, bone-chilling cold and pouring rain.  You hosted the arrival of the Queen, an earthquake that shook everything from Toronto to Montreal and who could forget the G8/G20?  And now, on your last day here, we’re left to reflect on all that you’ve given us and what your good friend July will bring in your wake.

Will we remember you more fondly when we have to pay more taxes tomorrow than we do today?  Will we harken for your heady days of just one tax on many of the goods that we loved to buy under your watchful gaze?  No doubt.  However, most of us will just ease into it, I’m sure.  We’ll be lulled by a long weekend filled with BBQs, beer and tiny Canadian flags; our first purchases (mostly headache medication and greasy breakfasts) under the new tax regime made through bleary and bloodshot eyes.

Many of us (not me included in this one) will miss you because you were the month that our highly-lauded World Cup teams were unceremoniously outed from the Tournament (looking at you, England, France, Italy and Portugal).  Many neighbourhoods in the city will think of you fondly as a time when they were full of hope, their car horns now silent as their cars sit parked rather than roaming the city in huge convoys of annoyingness and once-every-four-years nationalism.

The kids won’t miss you one bit.  They’re already out of school and cursing that you ever existed, but some day they’ll grow up into adults who will be glad of your last week when transit is empty of the spectacle of children and teens doing what they do best; very little.

Like a few other months, you were short-changed a day from birth, but you pack a lot into a mere 30 days.  That’s what helps you stand out from September, April and November (February hardly counts, that 28-day long loafer of a month).  Sure, you got stuck with Father’s Day, the least of all holidays, but you are also the month of patios, first sunburns and suntans and cottaging.

For giving so much and asking so little in return, I raise a glass in your honour and wish you Godspeed as you disappear for another 11 months.  Huzzah.

Oh, and while you’re gone… tell that lazy ass February not to bother showing up for work this year.

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This post is a little late coming as I wrap up my notes and follow-up from a busy day yesterday giving demos to prospective clients and partners. Also, last night I was part of a marketing and communications community panel to talk about how the TTC can work better for the people of Toronto.

Aside from sharing some of what big time design is doing with TTCFail, we also talked a lot generally about how the TTC can better communicate service disruptions with its riders, as well as all other types of communications.  Another point we spent quite a bit of time talking about was how unclean stations and vehicles can get and what the TTC can do about it.

Personally, I think of the TTC as a true public transit service and that means that its core mandate is getting the people of Toronto from point A to point B, and that’s tough enough as it is without having to worry about everything else.  Why is it that we Torontonians can’t take more responsibility in keeping our system clean?  When possible (and when it’s not disgusting), I pick up garbage on vehicles and drop it in the garbage cans that are easily accessible at nearly every stop.

Going one step further, something that I do and would like to see everyone else start doing is shaming people who openly litter on vehicles and stations.  I usually try to start by being polite when I see someone drop their trash.  I try to sound helpful by pointing out “Excuse me, you dropped something” and smiling broadly.  That way they can pick up their trash without feeling too badly, aside from being caught.  If they don’t pick it up, I point out that littering is illegal and I don’t like walking through an ankle deep pile of garbage on transit vehicles.

A few times, I’ve had someone respond by saying that all vehicles are cleaned by TTC staff and sneer at me.  I look around and say “Do you see anyone cleaning up after you right now?  Your mom isn’t here, so pick up after yourself”.  If we all did stuff like this, our system would be much cleaner.

That attitude can spread to everything.  Grumpy driver?  Kill him or her with kindness and over time you’ll get kindness in return.  If you get an especially friendly, courteous or otherwise kind driver, call the TTC and have them note it.  They take every single complaint and compliment and discuss it with the driver and add it to their record. Become part of the solution in making our system better by rewarding the people who make it great.

If you have any ideas or recommendations you’d like me to pass along, just let me know in the comments and I’ll make sure they’re added to the list we put forward to the TTC. Better yet, contact the TTC Customer Service Advisory Panel directly and cut out the middle man.

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In spite of pouring rain and downtown Toronto turning into a warzone, we hosted our housewarming on Saturday night and had a great time with the folks who were able to make it out.  Road closures didn’t make it easy, so we’re really grateful to everyone who came out and for all the gracious gifts they brought for us.

We’re hoping to have a follow-up party later this summer when the weather is nicer and we can be sure to show off our backyard with a BBQ and some nice, cold beverages.

Last night’s rain was unlike anything I’ve seen in a long time.  It was the kind of downpour that is so severe it only lasts about 10 minutes, but it went on for hours. I was starting to get nervous when I noticed our neighbour was building something that looked like an ark.  It turns out it was just a deck.

Enjoy your first day of the week and may it be filled with sunshine and not filled with protests.

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Well, the weekend of all weekends has finally arrived here in Ontario.  All the bigwigs are up in Huntsville today (with a very mild reception from a very small group of protesters, from what I hear) and a locked down Toronto will see more leaders starting tomorrow.  In a few days we’ll know if all the security lockdowns were effective or meaningless, but all we can do know is wait.

Like most people, I’m completely flabberghasted that Toronto, Canada’s largest city, was chosen as the site for the summit, and I’m horrified to see a huge fence erected in our downtown core.  Still, it’s not like the Berlin Wall or anything; it’s coming down in a few days.  Scarier still are the sweeping powers of search and detention being granted to police.  I understand the need for security, but I just don’t feel comfortable with the ordinary rules of law and the personal rights of individuals that exist for all Canadians being ratcheted back in a militarized zone in the centre of my city.

Is it all worthwhile if no leaders are threatened?  Maybe.  From what we’re learning of the arrests so far, it doesn’t seem like the police have discovered any credible threats, so it’s hard to tell.

I’m just going to keep an eye on the news and stay as far away from the downtown core as I can.  Hopefully everything goes off without a hitch and the leaders are free to talk about things that won’t make our lives any better (while living on our dime) and no one gets hurt.  That’s probably the best bang for our billion bucks.

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Toronto is quickly becoming the craziest place on earth.  Our downtown core is on lockdown with huge security fences, thousands of police and military and protesters of every type.  On top of that, we have crazy thunderstorms pouring rain down by the bucketful and lines of World Cup fans’ cars clogging up main roads.

So was anyone surprised that the entire city shook for a few minutes yesterday?  Not at all.  Sure, the earthquake happened closer to Ottawa and it wasn’t really a “Toronto” event, but it was still pretty jarring.  I was sitting in the basement watching some soccer and the couch started shaking.  The dog was asleep beside me and he sat up like when someone comes to the door and then started whining.  He wasn’t too happy about it.

Is this a sign that our city is pushing its luck?  Is God angry that we’re building our own lakes indoors?   Do we work far too long and hard?  I think I can safely say ‘yes’.  It’s time for us to atone for our sins.  We need to get out on the shores of real outdoor lakes and relax.  Only then will the skies stop weeping and the ground stop shaking.

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One of the not-so-great things about buying a house is finding out all the little corners that previous owners cut, and ours cut more than a few.  From stripping the paint off the front porch a few years ago, intending to paint it right away and not doing it so the boards rotted out, to a super low budget basement reno with sloppy framing, no insulation and beadboard instead of drywall.  We knew about most of this stuff coming in, but there were a few surprises.

For example, we’ve had small weeds growing in our gutters on the back of the house, so I knew that they badly needed cleaning.  I finally got to it last night and expected leaves and the usual gunk, but I was in for a very heavy surprise.

When the previous owners had the back half of the roof reshingled, they must have hired the lowest budget roofers on earth.  Our gutters were full TO THE BRIM with roofing crap.  Shingle chunks, shingle gravel and roofing nails by the hundreds.  Perched delicately on my ladder, I removed an entire black garbage bag’s worth of roofing crap from my extremely overloaded gutters.  It’s a wonder they didn’t just fall off the house.

When I went to put the garbage bag into my garbage can, I nearly threw out my shoulder lifting it.  It was that heavy.  On the plus side, I now know that I’ve averted some serious future troubles by fixing that little drainage issue.  Phew.  Here’s hoping that I can find all the other little surprises before they turn into expensive fix-ups.

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Yesterday, a ragtag mix of protesters with various ideologies and aims marched through downtown Toronto ahead of the G20 summit.  Though they barked slogans and made lots of noise, there was no discernible goal or aim aside from just protesting and maybe being the first to do so, which is kind of lame.  You can read all about their march and their 10 minute flash mob in a gas station convenience store on CBC.ca here.

To be perfectly honest, when I first heard about it, I assumed it was organized by the police to test their ability to deal with protesters and show off how ‘in control’ they are, but then I started hearing some of the big names in the world of discontent and figured that couldn’t be the case.

So why protest before anyone is even here, and if you’re going to go to the trouble, why not have a clear and articulated goal?  Maybe having a protest where all the groups agree that the spending on this summit is out of control and could’ve been better spent just about anywhere would have perked up some ears and gotten some agreement.  That’s a manifesto that nearly every Canadian (and certainly every Torontonian) can get behind.

I hope this isn’t a sign of the ridiculousness to come, but based on previous G8/20 summits (especially those here in Canada) I’m pretty sure this is just the beginning and all the security spending will be justified by the people who are protesting it in the first place.

Since I’m not a big fan of crowds, or being tased, water cannoned or tear-gassed, I’ll just rant and rave in here where I won’t disrupt your traffic or hassle some poor convenience store worker who is just trying to get by.  If I really feel the urge to break a window or start a fire in a garbage can, I have plenty of both handy on my own property.  Maybe I’ll do it and post it on YouTube.  That’d show them.  That’d show them all.  I bet I could do it all for less than a few billion dollars too.

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Thanks to the borderline drought conditions this spring up at the cottage, I think I only saw about 5 mosquitoes all weekend.  That’s the silver lining to a dark cloud that were swarms of deer and black flies that made us and the dog miserable whenever we were outside.  Mind you, the gorgeous weather made even that sufferable.

We spent a surprising amount of time outside given that we could pick up World Cup on CBC with our meagre aerial on the TV.  Fortunately, between the bugs, the games and the short amount of time we were there, I had plenty of excuses not to do any work around the house, so that’ll have to wait until our vacation later in July.

Another highlight of the weekend was celebrating my dad’s 65th birthday and Father’s Day with awesome steaks, corn on the cob and birthday cake.  You don’t need much more to have a great weekend.

And now, I need to settle in for a busy, busy week.

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