Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Earth Hour 2010 Toronto

I dropped by Dundas Square on Saturday night to see the Earth Hour celebrations in Toronto. They had a few performers there. I missed the first performer Justin Nozuka, but I arrived in time to catch part of Jarvis Church's act. He's a Jamaican born Canadian R&B singer. His band played until about 8:15 p.m.

Co-hosts Kevin Frankish and Dina Pugliese from Citytv's Breakfast Television took up the slack after that. With 15 minutes to kill before the "dimming of the lights" they called upon Toronto mayor, David Miller, and WWF Canada president, Gerald Butts, to say a few words. They only managed to speak a few minutes each. So being sort of desperate they appealed to a group of performers who were at the back of the crowd of 10,000 to make their way up to the stage to perform. They didn't quite make it through. Instead a fellow dressed in clown garb went up and pulled one of those long, skinny balloons through his right nostril and out his mouth. That seemed to both thrill and gross the audience out at the same time and took us to 8:30 where mayor Miller pulled the switch and somewhat plunged Dundas Square into darkness.

Unfortunately not everyone in the area got the Earth Hour memo. They had to leave a few street lights on for safety purposes the organizers explained. But, a few buildings surrounding the square failed to turn their lights off for the one hour period. Now we all know the amount of electricity being saved is marginal. But, it's the spirit of Earth Hour that we want to honour.

Canadian songstress Chantal Kreviazuk performed next with a couple of her bandmates. She's a pretty funny girl. She explained how she was quite happy that evening due to the fact that her husband, Raine Maida, from Our Lady Peace was returning home after being on the road with his band for a month. She couldn't wait to see him for obvious reasons. Please, Chantal... there are young children in the audience ;-)

All in all Torontonians saved 10% in power usage. That was down from 15% last year. The 5% increase in energy usage could have been due to the fact it was much colder this year than last. Or, perhaps, people are more blasé about Earth Hour and energy conservation now. Let's hope not. We still have a long way to go towards reducing our carbon footprint and restoring our planet to its former glory.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Flavor of the Week - Final Installment

A weekly look at the styles of everyday people as seen through the eyes of, me, your intrepid man on the street.

Name: Toby K.
Occupation: Artist/Design Student
Clothing details: Shirt and Bag-Stitches, Pants-UFOs from Numb, Necklace-was a gift
What she was doing when I met her: Walking around taking photos with her friends. She was in a bit of a hurry. That's why I didn't get too many clothing details from her.

This is it... the last Flavor of the Week post. These are all the photos I've taken of various, uniquely attired folk around downtown. I hope you've enjoyed the show. It was a lot of work. Too much for me I'm afraid. I met some really cool people along the way. I'd like to thank them all for allowing me to pester them and take a few minutes of their time snapping their photos and gathering all pertinent information. The majority of people I asked were very accommodating.

Until next time...

Friday, March 26, 2010

Wheel Trans Information Session

(not my photo)

In January I submitted an application to both work as a driver for the TTC and Wheel Trans. For those of you who don't know Wheel Trans is the city of Toronto bus service for persons with the greatest need for accessible transportation. People who are in wheelchairs or use canes or walkers for instance. They can call for door-to-door service to and from wherever they're going.

Two weeks ago I got a letter in the mail informing me that I had been one of the persons chosen to attended an information session on getting to know more about their operation. There were three things we were supposed to bring. Our driver's license, the letter we received in the mail and a driver's abstract from the Ministry of Transportation (of Ontario) showing our driving record for the past 3-years. I applied on-line to receive that in the mail. Those were some of the most nerve wracking days that I've been through. I only had 12 days from the day I submitted the request until I had to attend the meeting. The information on the Ministry website said it would take 10-15 days to be delivered. So, understandably, I was nervous. I'm happy to report I received my driver's abstract with one day to spare. I knew I'd be cutting it close. Too close for comfort.

The meeting was at the Days Inn on Wilson west of Jane. Registration at 7:30 a.m. Meeting starts at 8:00. Oddly enough it was in the same conference room that our infamous Trader corporate changeover meeting was held. The ones where our new bosses told us our jobs would be safe. Well, that wasn't quite true now was it? Anyway, when I first arrived I was surprised to see so many other applicants. I didn't expect there to be that many. There were mostly men. A varied mix of ethnicities. The age range looked to be on the older side. Perhaps in the mid-40's to mid-50's. I was a little surprised at that.

We were told that there were two sessions - morning and afternoon. So, another similarly sized group would come in after us. In total there probably would be about 250 or so people attending. Though we were chosen from a group of 3,000 applicants. That was supposed to make us feel better. I believe they were considering hiring 40-50 new employees. That's not too bad. Your odds of getting a job were about 1 in 5.

After a short introduction by Michelle, the safety and training coordinator, we were shown a presentation about what working at Wheel Trans involves. It was pretty interesting. The majority of riders (76%) are over 65-years-old. The split between ambulatory (able to walk, albeit with assistance such as a cane or walker) passengers and non-ambulatory passengers (in wheelchairs for example) is almost even with the former coming in at 48% and latter 52%. Most of the trips are made for medical purposes at 56%. Shopping and social trips come next with 15% each. Work/school and visits to group homes bring up the rear with 8% and 6% respectively.

We were given a brief description of the job next. When your day might possibly start or end - as early as 5:00 a.m. and as late as 3:00 a.m. on special days. The different lengths of shifts you might run - 5X 8 hours, 4X 10 hours or 3X 13:20 hours. We were told about the training schedule (should we make it that far) and wages and benefits. Then we were given two tests.

The first test was a short 12 minute one (if I remember correctly). I think it was just to test your read comprehension and written skills. There were three questions. The second was about how you would deal with a customer who was upset because you arrived late to pick them up. the third asked about what the most difficult part of the job would be. The first had something to do with listing the three most important qualities you thought a driver should have or something like that. The second test was longer. It was 40 minutes. It was a city knowledge test. It asked where certain landmarks like hospitals or malls were. There were some questions about what you thought the best route would be to get from one location to another. The last section was probably the best way to score points. It listed various intersections around the GTA. You had to say which direction they were from Yonge and Eglinton (coincidentally where I live). So, for instance, if they wrote "Don Mills and Steeles", you would write NE because that intersection is north of Eglinton and east of Yonge.

I believe I did pretty well on that test. I didn't answer all the questions, but I made it through to the end. From the chatter from the other attendees, not everyone was so pleased. I know it's not nice to take pleasure from the misfortunes of others. But, in this case we're all gunning for the same jobs. So I hope I did better than most. We'll find out pretty soon. If we pass this phase we'll be called for a face-to-face interview, possibly with the safety and training coordinator, Michelle, and an HR person. There are a few more hurdles to cross. I'm hoping I have the legs to clear them.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Flavor of the Week

A weekly look at the styles of everyday people as seen through the eyes of, me, your intrepid man on the street.

Name: Jason F.
Occupation: Didn't say
Clothing details: Shirt-GoodBoyClothing.com, Jacket-Browns, Jeans-Levis, Tie-Banana Republic, Shoes-Converse, Sunglasses-Tom Ford
What he was doing when I met him: Waiting at the street corner for a friend.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Loneliest Animals

A few days ago I happened to catch an episode of Nature - The Loneliest Animals on PBS (public television broadcasting). It was a fascinating show about the most endangered animals on the planet. Many of them are already extinct in the wild with captive breeding being the slimmest of slim hopes of their survival. One giant tortoise named Lonesome George is thought to be the last living creature of his particular species. When he dies they will be no more. How sad is that?Another couple, one male and one female, of Rafetus soft shelled turtles, are the last two of their kind. Once abundant in the rivers of China they were over-fished to the very brink of extinction. As well, pollution of their river habitat contributed to their decline. Their last hope is trying to restart their species from just these two. An extreme long shot at best. But, as one interviewee said, you have to try no matter how slim the chances are. And the chances of their survival is overwhelmingly slim.

Captive breeding can work in some instances. They have brought some animal species back from the perilous edge to just a "dangerously low" number. But, to really have a chance at success we have to stop destroying their habitat. In some cases humans clear cut massive swaths of forest for timber. In other cases it might be mining or clearing land for farms. In the case of the Rafetus turtles (above) we have to curb our pollution of the once pristine rivers that were so common less than a century ago. Even if we manage to successfully breed animals in captivity, but have no place to release them the project is doomed to failure in the end.

Wiping out species has a wide ranging, ripple effect. Not only are the particular animals lost, but the eco-system they were living in changes as a whole. Say, you lose a top predator in a certain eco-system. Then you may have an overabundance of prey animal such as deer that strip surrounding vegetation. That, in turn, may reduce the nesting habitat for birds, which will effectively increase the population of insects they consume, etc., etc.. There's a natural balance that has to be kept so that everything, humans included, can live a thriving, abundant life. We can be so shortsighted that way.

Stop over-fishing, over-hunting, over-trapping... for food, medicine, pets, ivory or whatever. Respect the earth we live on. Stop stripping it of it's natural resources at a rate that it can't recover quickly enough from.

I'll end with a fitting quote from Agent Smith to Morpheus from The Matrix film:

Agent Smith: I'd like to share a revelation that I've had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species. I realized that you're not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment, but you humans do not. You move to an area, and you multiply, and multiply, until every natural resource is consumed. The only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet, you are a plague...

I'd suggest watching the program if you can. You can click on the link here.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Flavor of the Week

A weekly look at the styles of everyday people as seen through the eyes of, me, your intrepid man on the street.

Name: Sarah R.
Occupation: Student
Clothing details: Shirt and Pants-Urban Behavior, Sweater-Stitches, Shoes-Ardene, Sunglasses-Old Navy, Hat-Aldo
What she was doing when I met her: Walking with her friend Ruta.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sunday Lunch at Rol Jui

Every Sunday after church I head over to Chinatown for lunch. Normally it's with one or two of my other church friends depending on who shows up. We've been going to the same restaurant without fail for quite a few years now. It's called Rol Jui. Their food is decent as far as I'm concerned and since we're regulars they give us the weekday lunch special discount. You can get a plate of rice, chow mien or rice noodles with various toppings for $4.25. Plus they'll throw in a bowl of soup and the usual pot of green tea. With tax and tip it works out quite reasonably.

As well as the lovely lunch we've made friends with the waitstaff and other regular patrons. In this photo are Reggie, his sister Renu and their friend Derek. Reggie and Renu go to another nearby church. I used to see them come in and have lunch every Sunday just like our gang. Finally I went over and introduced myself. It's nice making new friends in places you never thought you would. Another benefit of being a regular at a particular eating establishment for sure.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Flavor of the Week

A weekly look at the styles of everyday people as seen through the eyes of, me, your intrepid man on the street.

Names: Jaemie W. and Eva P.
Occupations: Works in TV/Retail
Clothing details: Jaemie - Top-Walmart, Jeans-Diesel, Boots-Aldo, Hat-Blair Ford; Eva - Top and Pants-Aritzia, Boots-B2, Sunglasses-Sigfoy
What they were doing when I met them: Wallking east on Queen West.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Icing on the Cake

The 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada just finished today. I have to say I throughly enjoyed the two week affair. There were highs such as Canada's record setting 14 gold medals (a Winter games record) and lows such as the tragic death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili.

There were also tales of unimaginable courage from Slovenian cross-country skier Petra Majdic who skied to a bronze medal in the women's sprint classic despite breaking five ribs and suffering a collapsed lung in a warm-up accident; and Canadian women's figure skater Joannie Rochette who went on to win a bronze medal after losing her mother to a heart attack just days before she was to compete. They embody the true strength and spirit of these world class athletes.

If you were a Canadian hockey fan the games ended truly on the highest of high notes. With the weight of a nation resting on it's rugged shoulders the men's hockey team took to the ice and won gold in a nail biter over the young, aggressive Americans, 3-2 in overtime. Led by the stellar net minding of goaltender Ryan Miller the U.S team almost pulled off the upset of decade. After going down 2-0 the Americans tied the game in the dying seconds of the third period. If not for the heroics of Sid, the Kid, Crosby, Canadians could have ended up crying in their beer instead of celebrating in the streets. It definitely was the icing on the cake to these amazing games that all Canadians had been yearning for.

A salute to all the athletes for a wonderful Winter Olympics. See you in Sochi, Russia in 2014!

To see a slideshow of all my photos on Flickr.com click here. Click on the photo for the captions.

Flavor of the Week

A weekly look at the styles of everyday people as seen through the eyes of, me, your intrepid man on the street.

Name: Amish M.
Occupation: Editor-Cmagazine.com
Clothing details: Hoodie-Nice Collective (store) in the Distillery District, Pants-H&M, Hat-store on Queen West, Glasses-from Spectacle on Queen West, Shoes-from Holt Renfrew, Bag-from girlfriend from Paris
What he was doing when I met him: Eating a hot dog from a street vendor. Don't worry... I let him finish it before we shot.