Sunday, July 31, 2011

Congratulations, Cadel Evans

Tour de France runner up Andy Schleck, winner Cadel Evans, and third place finisher Frank Schelck

The 2011 Tour de France finished last Sunday (July 24th) after three grueling weeks of riding. 34-year-old, Australian, Cadel Evans emerged the winner. I believe he's the second oldest winner since the Tour first started in 1903.

It turned out to be a very exciting race. There were a few main contenders for the GC (General Classification). Along with Cadel Evans, runner up in 2007 and 2008, there was three-time winner (2007, 2009, 2010) Spaniard, Alberto Contador, and two-time runner up (2009, 2010) Andy Schelck from Luxembourg.

In the Lance Armstrong era things had gotten a bit stale. He was so dominant that no one else was given a chance. But, after he retired things changed.

This year it was pretty much wide open. From day to day one ride would perform well, whilst another would falter. Andy Schleck seemed to have seized control of the race on the last day riding in the Alps taking a 57 second lead over Evans.

It all came down to the individual time trial on the penultimate day of the race. A 42.5 kilometre circuit around Grenoble, France. No teammates to rely on. Just you against the clock.

The bar was set high by Brit Tony Martin. He finished with a time of 55:33. No one challenged until the third last rider of the day, Cadel Evans. He went out guns a blazing. When the dust settled he had nearly bested Martin's ride finishing only 7 seconds in arrears.

That was far too quick for final rider of the day and yellow jersey wearer, Andy Schleck, to overcome. He finished in 17th place 2:38 behind Martin and, more importantly, 2:31 behind Evans. That wiped out his 57 second advantage of the day before and his dream of wearing yellow in Paris.

The Maillot Jaune wasn't the only jersey that was up for grabs in the final few days of the Tour. The Green (Points) jersey (for the best sprinter) was decided on the last day in Paris too. Brit, Mark Cavendish, nicknamed the Manx Missle because he hails from the Isle of Man and that's the language they speak there, took the honours.

Over the course of the race there were many different flat stage winners. But, Mark Cavendish, was the most dominant winning five. With 334 points total he bested Spanish rider, Jose Joaquin Rojas (272 points) and Belgium champ, Philippe Gilbert with 236.

A shout out goes to the 2008 Olympic road race champ, Samuel Sanchez, from Spain who won the Polka Dot jersey for best climber, and Pierre Rolland from France who won the White jersey for best young rider (under age 26).

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Hypnotist Keith Barry

I was flipping through the channels other day when I passed a show on the Discovery Channel called, Deception with Keith Barry. He's a hypnotist.

Now I have to say, I'm a really skeptical person. I don't believe anything I haven't seen for myself. In fact, in the case of hypnotists, sometimes I don't believe they're real even after seeing them.

The first time I saw one was back when I was in college at George Brown. The school brought in a hypnotist to perform one day in the atrium. It was quite entertaining and he made the participants do funny, but harmless things like cluck like chickens and things like that.

Even seeing it live didn't convince me it was real. I thought the participants could have been in cahoots with the hypnotist. They could have been working together and it wasn't real.

But, having seen this new program on a channel that I trust has swayed my opinion. To me, Keith Barry, legitimately hypnotized total strangers in a variety of scenarios that left both them and me absolutely flabbergasted.

Mr. Barry hypnotized one fellow on a busy downtown street into begging for change. The participant had no recollection of doing it and was shocked after seeing the video evidence of himself doing it.

He did the same thing to 85% of an audience in a movie theatre who thought they were there to watch a film. Instead he hypnotized most of them into thinking they saw it. The other 15% weren't able to be hypnotized, but watched in awe as the rest of them were.

To finish off, Mr. Barry, hypnotized one fellow and turned him into a "sleeper agent" to see if he could get him to "drug" an assassin and "steal" photos from his briefcase at a café. The assassin and all the people in the café were actors. But, the subject did exactly as he was instructed under hypnosis and did get the files for Mr. Barry.

Afterwards Keith Barry asked him about it and the participant thought he dreamed the whole thing. When he was shown the videotape of himself actually doing it he just about flipped out. It was incredible.

I have to say it's piqued my interest in hypnotism. It would be neat to see if it's something that's easily learned.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Lunch at Fabbrica

My cousin Donna and her kids came to visit this past week. Since Summerlicious was on my sister wanted to go and try one restaurant, Fabbrica, at the Shops at Don Mills. It's a Mark McEwan restaurant. He's also the owner of North 44 on Yonge north of Eglinton.

This is their description of the restaurant from their website: The Fabbrica mission is to create the most authentic Italian cuisine we can from the finest possible ingredients – many of them sourced from Italy, like Roma tomatoes ripened in the San Marzano valley for our sauces, and flour hand-milled in Naples for our pasta and pizza dough.
The style of cuisine is uniformly rustic and intended for the casual enjoyment in which it was originally conceived. Our 150-seat dining room is assertively contemporary, but seasoned with accents of iconic Italian style. The room is anchored at the front with a long 15 seat bar, and at the rear, by our wood-burning brick pizza oven from Naples, in which our pizzas are rendered from raw to crisp as they should be, in fewer than 90 seconds. The atmosphere is casual and convivial. Fabbrica, the new restaurant from Mark McEwan.

The lunch menu was supposed to be as follows. But, in actuality, the appetizers were different:

$20 Lunch (plus taxes and gratuity)


Stracciatella alla romana
Chicken broth egg and reggiano
Seasonal lettuces, fennel, celery, herbs and house dressing
Mixed marinated olives, oregano, fennel and chili


Lamb Bolognese with minted ricotta
Pannini Milano
Spiced chick pea, grilled eggplant, olive salsa and arugula
Insalata pollo
Wood oven roasted chicken breast, mixed lettuce, toasted foccacia, tomato, pancetta, chopped egg and sweet marsala dressing


Terrina di chocolate

The food was fine. I had the beet root appetizer and Panini Milano entrée with Terrina di chocolate for dessert. It's good to try new things every now and then. It's a nice looking restaurant too. I'm not sure I'd pay full price to go. But, Summer and Winterlicious gives regular Joes like us a chance to go and see what all the fuss is about.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

CPC's Miracle Parking Lot?

I think our church has a parking lot that performs miracles, I really do. But, let me explain from the beginning.

A few weekends ago we went to Bracebridge to go cottaging and zip-lining. I drove a fellow named Daryl up. He lives near Jan and Amy off Major Mackenzie Drive, just east of Highway 404.

Well, when it came time to leave two days later my car idled roughly after I started it. Not long after the Check Engine light came on and the light signifying the Cruise Control was active started flashing. That got me worried to say the least.

Daryl suggested turning the ignition off and restarting the car. That didn't work.

Next I thought I might drive 15-20 minutes into town and see if I could find a garage that was open. I was encouraged when I saw a Canadian Tire as we drove into the city centre. But, that soon turned to disappointment when I saw it was closed because it was Sunday. It figures... the one day of the week that it's not open is the day that I'm there.

I stopped a fellow in a car with his son (or grandson) who was driving by and asked him if he knew of a garage that was open. He told me he lived there in Bracebridge, but couldn't think of one that was. Not good.

At that point I didn't think there was much else I could do, but gingerly drive the 200 kilometres back to Toronto. To tell you the truth... my car sounded pretty much normal after it warmed up a bit. The only thing was that the cruise control was still out of commission.

A couple of hours later I pulled into Daryl's driveway. The drive down had gone without incident.

After dropping him off I headed across the street to the Canadian Tire there. This one was, thankfully, open. I went in and spoke with the service advisor. He told me there would be a minimum charge of $100 to do the computer diagnostics on my car. I had no choice, but to accept it. So he went to see one of the service technicians to find out if they actually had the software for the computer to check my particular vehicle out. Of course, with my luck, you knew they wouldn't (and they didn't). He apologized for that and I left to find another place to help me out.

I thought I'd try Car Wings Auto Service next. It's a Chinese run place on Green Lane which runs off Bayview, half way between Steeles and Highway 407. It was closed on Sunday. Of course.

Next I decided to go to the dealership where I bought my car, Roy Foss. They're located off Yonge a few blocks north of Steeles. They were closed too. So I just drove home. I would try again the next day (Monday).

Next day (Monday morning) I called Car Wings Auto and spoke with the lady there. I told her the problems I had with my car and she said she would ask the mechanic there if they could service it. When she came back she had bad news. They didn't have the required software for the engine computer either. So I was left with no choice but to use my dealership (at a higher cost I was guessing).

I called them next and they said to bring my car in. It took me about 30-40 minutes to drive through the heavy traffic on Yonge. Even in the middle of the day it's quite busy in between the 401 and Sheppard. Pretty annoying.

When I got to the dealership the service advisor that I met with had some bad news for me. He said they didn't have the software to check my engine either. He said the lady who booked the appointment for me didn't know that. So I wasted my time going up there too. He said that Saab on the Queensway was the only dealership that could help me. So I asked for their number and gave them a call. Unfortunately for me they didn't have any spots open today, only from Tuesday on. So I booked one for Wednesday (since I had to work on Tuesday).

After that I went over to my sister's place to cut the lawn and do some yard work. Later in the evening I drove downtown to help with a Sandwich Run. Instead of parking around Knox (Presbyterian Church) where we start out of, I parked in my church (CPC) parking lot. The trip back to the car after the run would be shorter that way.

Long story short... when I came back after we finished the run and started my car up the check engine light was off. And the cruise control light was no longer blinking. I tested it the next day on the 404 and it worked fine.

I don't know exactly what happened, but I was happy nonetheless. My bad luck turned to good. After the many disappointments of either garages or dealerships being closed and/or not being able to check my car out it worked out in my favor. If one of them had been able to look at my car I would have had to fork out at least $100 (and probably a lot more) needlessly. Whew.

Friday, July 15, 2011

2011 Honda Indy, Part II

My photo of Dario Franchitti winning driver of 2011 Honda Indy Toronto (practice round).

After visiting the Support Series Paddock at the Direct Energy Centre I went outside. The Indy cars were doing their practice laps. All the stands were open so I headed over to the Gold section by pit lane and found myself a seat.

There were multiple sets of protective fences just about everywhere. It made it tough to get a decent shot. Another problem I had was that the cars were just too darned fast. The first few attempts I tried ended in failure. Either I'd cut the front half of the car off or the back. I had to pull back a little to give myself a better chance at success. After awhile I got the hang of it.

The practice was alright. After that I wandered around a bit more to see what else they had there. I got a few samples of Dr. Pepper and some Schick razors. There were some booths set up for various other promotional things and to sell food too.

I found an area set up for an autograph session for 12 of the Indy drivers. I wasn't interested so much in getting autographs as photos. So I skipped the long line up and just stood in front of the table waiting for the drivers to come out. I have to say I hardly know any of the drivers. One of the few names I knew was Danica Patrick. So I stood in front of her spot.

When she came out and sat down I took a few shots of her and Marco Andretti who sat to her right. She didn't smile at all. And she had dark sunglasses on. Oh well. I made my way around the table. The friendliest guys seemed to be French driver, Sebasitien Bourdais, and Japanese driver, Takuma Sato.

After the autograph session I thought I'd try to look for wherever they kept the Indy cars. I asked one of the volunteers there and he told me where the Indy Car Paddock was. It was a bit west of where they were signing autographs.

It was pretty cool to be able to get that close to the Indy cars. I got a few decent shots of them I think. As well, after the 12 drivers finished signing autographs, they came back to their trailers in the paddocks. By chance I managed to get a few shots of some of them there.

I even got an autographed shot of Sebastien Bourdais in front of the area where they kept his car. They had a few extra ones that he didn't give away. One of his team managers put them in a stand there, so I didn't have to wait an hour or two to get one like everyone else. Nice.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

2011 Honda Indy, Part I

I dropped by the Honda Indy this past weekend. It's the 25th Anniversary of the race in Toronto. I have to say I'm not much of a car racing fan, but it was free on Friday so I thought I'd head down to the CNE for a look. It was my first time ever attending the Indy. I had no idea what to expect.

I took the subway down to Union Station and hopped on the 509 streetcar which dropped me of at the CNE grounds. From there I walked with the rest of the crowds to the Direct Energy Centre just inside the Princes' Gates.

My first stop was to the bathroom. After that I walked into Hall B (I believe). Inside was the Support Series Paddock which included the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series, Ferrari Challenge and Canadian Touring Car race cars.

It was interesting. You could pretty much walk up to any of the cars and touch them if you wanted. Of course you might get the "evil eye" from one of the crew members who were working on the vehicles at the time. But, that's how much access people had. For the most part people just wandered around taking photos (like myself).

After checking out the NASCAR Series cars I headed west into Hall A. There I saw the Ferrari race cars. I had no idea they raced them. They were pretty cool to look at. If I bought a Ferrari I certainly wouldn't be racing it around though. Quite a few of them had dings and scratches from dust ups around the various circuits they raced around.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

2011 Toronto Pride Parade

I went to the 2011 Pride Parade this year. It's the third parade I've attended over the years. I like going. It's always a lively, colourful event. As long as it doesn't conflict with my boarding home visit then I'll try to make it.

I went with my friend Kerry this year. We met for lunch at Rol Jui after church. I was worried about not getting a good spot if I stopped for lunch, but we still got there on time. I was only behind one row of spectators. But, since I'm fairly tall I managed to shoot over them (or between them).

It was a hot, sunny day. You had to make sure you kept hydrated or you could get into trouble. I have to say I didn't drink any water, so I was getting pretty baked. That's the sacrifice I was willing to make not to lose my spot so I could get some good photos. My friend Kerry stood in the shade of a building further back. So he was a bit more comfortable than me.

As usual, the parade was long, but upbeat. I heard there were over 1 million people who either participated or lined the parade route. One notable exception was the mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford. It was the first time the sitting mayor has missed the parade in many years. Supposedly he was at a family retreat north of the city.

Nevertheless, I think it's his duty to support an event this big. Pride week is a huge event here in Toronto. It brings in visitors from all over the world and a lot of money for local businesses. To snub it is to marginalize the LGBT community. Even the former mayor, David Miller, was there, not to mention federal NDP leader, Jack Layton, and his wife Olivia Chow and Green Party leader Elizabeth May.

So, even though I'm a Rob Ford supporter in general, boo to you for missing the boat on this one Mr. Mayor.

Check out my shots here.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Ziplining at Eaglecrest Aerial Park

Here are a couple of shots of us at Eaglecrest Aerial Park. It's actually part of the Santa's Village park in Bracebridge, Ontario. We bought discounted passes from one of those online coupon groups to go here.

I think a few people in our group were a bit disappointed with what we ended up doing. We only had two rides on the Big Zip, a 350-foot zip line there. The rest of the time we climbed up ladders and along wires strung between trees at the park. I think most people thought we'd be ziplining for most if not all of the day. In fact, we were only supposed to go on the Big Zip once. But, we didn't realize that and went twice. Oh well.

A few members of our group are afraid of heights. And some of them weren't prepared for the physical demands of climbing either. So they weren't that pleased when they found out that's what we'd be doing for most of the day. For me, it's all but second nature since I've rock climbed quite a bit in the past.

So I enjoyed myself. I thought it was fun. But, would I pay full price ($56.00) to do it? Not a chance. I know most of the guys wouldn't have done it for free if they knew this is what they'd be doing.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Cottaging in Bracebridge, ON

This past Friday and Saturday we went up to Bracebridge, Ontario. It's in the Muskokas a couple of hours north of Toronto. Cottage country.

We went up there because we were going to go Zip-lining at Eaglecrest Aerial Park in Bracebridge. Instead of just driving up there and back the same day, we decided to make a weekend out of it.

Thanks go out to Florianne who booked the cottage at Forest Rock Camp and Resort and Tom who prepared all the food. In general, I think everyone had a decent time out there. The weather wasn't great. It was cool and overcast for the most part. But, at least the rains stayed away. We also had to deal with the mosquitos. It could have been far worse. Everyone got a few bites, but that was about it.

On Saturday after the visit to the Aerial Park Virginia, Donny, Florianne and myself rented a couple of canoes for an hour to go canoeing on Three Mile Lake where the "resort" was located. It was fun. I like canoeing. Donny and Virginia had a bit of trouble making their way back from the half way point though. We had the wind on our backs on the way out. So, on the way back we had to, of course, go against it. Well, Donny had a bit of trouble with that. Their canoe kept getting pushed back to the far shoreline by the wind. After about 10 minutes of this repeatedly happening they finally got the boat pointed in the right direction and we eventually got back. I was a bit concerned we might be stuck out there all afternoon.

In the evenings after dinner we sat around the fire and chilled out. That was nice too.