Tuesday, October 30, 2012

My Trip to Chicago - Day 1

My friend Sid and his wife, Pauline, were going to Chicago for a trade show and asked me if I would like to go along. I believe I mentioned a few times in the past that I wanted to go, so he knew I had some interest. Even though it was late in the year (so the weather was cold and it got dark early), I figured I couldn't pass up the opportunity. We went on Thursday, October 27th after work.

Sid did the driving. I thought he might want a break part way through, but he drove the whole way down (and the whole way back). Since we left fairly late in the day we decided to stop at the Best Western Hotel in Battle Creek, Michigan. We would continue on to Chicago the following morning.

We left the hotel at around 8:30 the next morning. The remaining drive to Chicago would take about three hours. The plan was to drop me off in the city while Sid and Pauline attended the show at McCormick Place convention centre. We would meet up later...Well things didn't quite work out that way...

When we got to the convention center it was surprisingly empty. The only people there were a couple of security guards. Sid pulled up and asked them about the trade show. The one fellow said it started on Sunday. Oops... Sid got the dates wrong.

Our original plan was for them to attend the show on Friday and maybe Saturday while I would wander the city on my own. We would leave Chicago on Sunday morning, stop at an outlet mall in Michigan to do some shopping on the way back and arrive with plenty of time to spare. That would be thrown out the window. Instead they dropped me off in the city and drove off. They didn't know exactly what they were going to do yet. We just agreed to meet later for dinner.

My first stop was at Marina City. It's a mixed us residential/commercial complex on State Street just north of Wacker Drive (just north of the Chicago River leading out to Lake Michigan. Designed by architect Bertrand Goldberg the complex was completed in 1964. I think they look like two giant corn cobs. Very unique.

I wandered along the river between State Street and Michigan Avenue for awhile. Not far from Marina City was the Trump International Hotel and Tower (hotel and condos), the Wrigley Building and the Tribune Tower (Chicago Tribune newspaper). All beautiful landmarks.

Next I wandered down State Street a bit. I took some shots of the Chicago Theatre there (just south of Lake Street). I also tried to get a few shots of the El (elevated subway) trains as they passed by.

After a bathroom break at the Macy's (on State Street) between Randolph and Washington Streets, I headed due east to Millennium Park where I took shots of Anish Kapoor's Cloud Gate (aka The Bean) and the Jay Priztker Pavilion designed by famed Canadian architect Frank Gehry.

Next I headed south to Grant Park to take photos of Buckingham Fountain (as seen in the opening credits of 90's TV show Married With Children). It was empty. I guess that's what you get for coming in late October.

Since it was sunny out I decided I'd better continue my tour of the Chicago outdoors (instead of following my original plan of going to a bunch of buildings in the downtown area). I headed to Navy Pier next.

When I arrived at Navy Pier the first thing I saw was a temporary children's petting farm with camel for rides. It was set up outside the grounds. Cute animals.

I didn't really know what to expect at Navy Pier. I thought it would be more of an amusement park with a bunch of rides. They only had about three rides there - a ferris wheel, a merry-go-round and "Wave Swinger". There was also an 18-hole mini putt course. I believe there are also restaurants and theatres there. Not anything that really caught my attention though.

I headed back into the Loop (downtown) area after. It was already 5:00 p.m. and getting dark.

Eventually I wandered back to Millennium Park, took a bunch of evening shots then BBM'd (Blackberry Messenger) Sid (with Pauline's Blackberry which she lent me) to arrange a pick up at our arranged time of 6:30 p.m.

We had Chicago-style deep dish pizza for dinner at the Giordano's (pizzeria) near our hotel (another Best Western) close to Midway Airport, about 1/2 hour outside downtown Chicago. It was pretty good.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Toronto Zombie Walk

I attended my first Toronto Zombie Walk this past Saturday. This year it was held at Nathan Philips Square at Toronto City Hall.

I had seen pictures from it posted on some of my Flickr.com friends' pages and thought it looked really cool. But, like my first attempt or two at trying to catch the cherry blossoms in the spring at High Park, I kept missing it.

The day had started off pretty gloomy. Spotty showers were predicted throughout the day. I was pretty sleepy from the night before. We had started Friday night hockey a few weeks earlier. I left home later than I had planned.

The event was slated to start at 12:00 noon with the walk to begin at 3:00 p.m. I arrived down at Nathan Philips Square by around 2:30 p.m.

There were a lot of Zombies still lurking around at that time. And there were a great number of photographers stalking them with their cameras as well. Most of them just snuck up and shot pictures of them, but I thought I would ask them to take their pictures. I could get them to pose nicely that way too.

I was down there for over an hour, but didn't stick around for the walk. I'm not exactly sure where they went. Though from checking out a Flickr.com friend's shots it looked like they made their way up University Avenue.

By the time I got home it was raining pretty steadily. Poor Zombies. I hope they're not allergic to water.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Trader Reunion

Last Saturday we had an Old Timers Trader reunion at the Monarch Tavern off College Street in Little Italy. Andrea started the ball rolling and Jenn and Mike P. kept it going.

Andrea arrived first followed by Helen and Jenn. I came next then, surprise!, Dave Ablard. He was the old plant/press manager when we were at 23 Apex. I don't think any one of the organizers thought about contacting him. One of the former front office ladies, Janice, had the forethought to look up his phone number and call him. It was great seeing him again. I think it's been at least 6-7 years since I've seen him.

As for Andrea, Helen and Jennifer, I don't believe I've seen those guys in 10-15 years. Jenn said she left in the mid-90's. Helen said she left in '99 (I think) and I forgot when Andrea left. It was a long time ago though.

I don't remember the exact order of who came next, but I'll list the rest of the people who showed up - Steve L., Jorgen L., Lisa R., Dave W., Janice L.B., Jeff W. and Rosa, Reay J., Don M. and Soma.

Dave and Steve are the real old timers. I believe they started around the inception of the company. I'm guessing Janice had been around a long time too. Jorgen started not long after me (I started in June of 1989). Andrea came around that time as well. Jeff and Helen were probably next. The newer ones are Don, Soma, Rosa and Lisa. I'm guessing they started between 10-15 years ago.

Anyway, it was really good to see everyone again. I have to say one of the people I was most looking forward to seeing was Jorgen. I think he's one of the guys I hadn't seen in the longest time.

Andrea and I were e-mailing beforehand about other folks we wanted to see (or were wondering about their whereabouts). People like John Kovar, Greg Smart, the guys in the stripping room (Sudan, Derek, Jeya, Jenny and Ian), Alison Fiddler, Renée Adams, Sid P. ... I'm sure there were more. If you guys are out there give us a shout.

I'm happy to say I'm in contact with a few of the others on Facebook. Friends like Jerry L., Rob B., Doug M., Lawrence L. and Viola. Or I have their phone numbers still, like Rob L.

We'll have to do this again another time. This time with a larger turnout (hopefully).

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Mono Cliffs Autumn Hike

I went for a fall hike on the Friday before Thanksgiving with one of my friends. The colours of the leaves were just about at their peak at that time.

We went to Mono Falls. It's up Highway 10 about 20 kilometres north of Orangeville. I found out about it from doing an online search. There was an article at TheStar.com about it.

I checked a provincial park website about the park. There were a few interesting trails I thought I might like to see - the Cliff-Top Side Trail and the South Outlier Trail to name a couple.

My friend and I got to the park a bit late. Somewhere around 2:30 p.m. The lot wasn't very full. At one end there was a pay parking machine. We selected the 4-hour option for $5.

The trails I selected were between 3 and 4 kilometres long. Though I'm not sure if the 3 kilometre one was one way or round trip. As well we had to take the Carriage Trail (1 kilometre long) in to get to the other ones.

I thought we would start with the Cliff-Top Side Trail (3 kms). Then if we had time we could do the South Outlier Trail (4 kms).

The Carriage Trail (1 km) that we took in from the parking lot met the Cliff-Top Side Trail in the middle. We decided to do the north side first.

Part way along that trail is a lookout where you can see over the valley. The view was spectacular (see above). It was absolutely amazing with the bright yellows, blazing oranges and fiery reds. While we were there we met an older couple who told us about another lookout we should see.

It was off the McCarston's Lake Trail. There's a Lookout Trail that goes off of it. Without a trail map it could have been complicated, but the lady gave us good directions and we found our way there (as well as our way back).

We never got to do the South Outlier Trail. It was getting late and the light was fading. Perhaps next time.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Nuit Blanche 2012

Scotia Bank Nuit Blanche was a couple of Saturdays ago (September 29th). Normally it's the first Saturday in October. This was the first year it was in September. One noticeable difference from moving the date up was the temperature. It was much warmer this year which was great.

I started the evening at 7:30 p.m. This year I decided to drive down to my church and park and go from there. One reason I did this was because I had to visit the boarding home the following afternoon and I knew there were going to be road closures around the church for a 5 km fundraising run the next morning.

I had planned my evening out a week ahead of time. It took quite a bit of time. This year I decided to concentrate on covering the downtown core (Dundas Street to the north, Front Street to the south, Spadina to the west and Yonge to the east). In previous years I stretched it out too far (from The Distillery District in the east to Liberty Village in the west) and was quite tired afterwards. Too much walking.

My first stop was the AGO. It was the installation closest to my church. I have to say most of the installations were alright. I don't know if I can say I really liked one installation over another. For me it's the night as a whole that I count as my experience. Just wandering the city from one area to another as the hours pass taking lots and lots of pictures. Fun.

In total I saw about 30 installations. I'm counting all the ones in the underground parking lot at Toronto City Hall as one (even though, officially, I believe there were five or six there).

I stayed out for eleven hours returning to my car at 6:30 a.m. Most things were shut down by then. I tried to get some sleep, but the sun was coming up.

Lillian ,who was working in the church office that morning, came and woke me up a bit before 9:00. I was parked in the wrong spot. So I moved to the Steel Workers Union lot. But, the folks from the Russian church who use the outside lot started coming in for their early morning service so I didn't get much rest there either. Oh well.

You can check out my photos here. Enjoy.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Every Day A Friday

I just read (most of) Every Day A Friday - How to be Happier 7 Days a Week, by Joel Osteen. It's an advice book on how to be happier from a Christian Minister's perspective. While he does give some good advice, most of the book seems to rely on the goodness of God to turn sad days into glad.

First the good advice.

Sometimes it all comes down to perspective. In his book Joel writes, don't say, I have to go to work today. Instead say, I get to go to work today. Look on the positive side. There are many people who are unemployed currently. They would do anything to find a job. You? You're lucky. You have one.

Or, you might say, Oh... goodness, I've got to drive in traffic again. Joel turns it around and says, you get to drive in traffic again. You're blessed with a car. Unlike many people who have to walk or take public transit you're that much more well off.

Focus on what's important.

Joel says you should make your family and those you love a priority in your life. I agree with that. He says, too often we're so occupied with trying to stay on top of things in our lives we don't take the time to actually live our lives.

He says he'd rather make less money and enjoy his life and enjoy his family rather than be so overworked that he never has any extra energy. I believe that's the right attitude.

He tells the story of renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright and his uncle. One day they're walking through a snow covered field. As they were walking, young Frank would veer off stopping at a barn to look at the animals or by a pond to look at the water.

When he finally caught up with his uncle his uncle said, Now, Frank, I want to teach you a lesson. Look back at our footsteps in the snow. Mine came straight here while yours zigzagged all over the place. You wasted so much time stopping along the way. I never ventured off and came here much quicker than you.

Frank Lloyd Wright said that was one of the best lessons he had ever learned. But, in the opposite manner in which his uncle had intended. His philosophy was, I still arrived at the same destination, but I enjoyed all the sights along the way. Good advice.

Be thankful for what you have.

Keep the right point of view. If you're having trouble sleeping at night, think of all the homeless people without beds. If you are stuck in traffic, think about all the people who can't afford cars. If you have a bad day at the office, think about all those who are unemployed. If you have to walk three blocks to church, thank God you are healthy enough to walk (yeah... I noticed that too... Joel does get repetitive in his book).

Joel tells the story of a young man he knew, Matt. Matt had always been strong and healthy. But, one day his eyes started to bother him and he went to see the doctor. The doctor checked him out and told him that he had cancer of the eye and there was a good chance he would lose his vision. Of course Matt was distraught at this news.

Well, when the day of the surgery came the doctor started to operate. At that time he discovered that Matt did not have cancer but an eye fungus that could they could remove simply to restore his vision.

When Matt awoke from surgery he was the happiest man alive. Because he had nearly lost his vision being able to see normally took on new meaning for him. He would never again take his eyesight for granted. That's the attitude we should take with all things in our lives.

Live a No Excuses Life.

There was a boy named Mordecai Brown, tells Joel. His dream was to pitch in the major leagues. Young Mordecai had a natural talent. He was so good that professional scouts regularly came to see his games.

One day while working on the farm he had an accident and lost his whole forefinger and most of his middle finger on his throwing hand. Being the determined person he was he didn't let this setback affect his drive. In fact the loss of those two fingers put such an irregular spin on his pitches that they were even harder to hit.

Mordecai "Three Fingers" Brown went on to become one of the most dominant pitchers in the history of early Major League Baseball.

The Bad Advice...

God is in control of your destiny... He allows bad things to happen to people to strengthen them. Trust in Him and He will turn things around. Just wait and see. Baloney.

Joel tells of the time he was in a plane and they hit some very serious turbulence. Items were tossed around and people shaken up. This lasted a good ten minutes. But, in the end, they all landed safely. He compares that to rough patches in our lives. God shakes things up to make us stronger and to depend on him. But, in the end, He comes through.

Well, He didn't come through for the 43 players and coaches who died in the KHL (Russian hockey league) plane crash in September of 2011. Their moments of turbulence ended in their deaths. What lesson does God have for them? Sorry... your life was inconsequential? Too bad, so sad?

Joel says, When things are difficult, smile by faith. If you develop a habit of smiling, God will reward you with His favor. You'll not only feel better, you'll also earn better breaks. You will see increase and promotion. People will be drawn to you, and I believe and declare you'll live that life of victory God has in store for you.

That's a load of malarkey if I've ever heard any. I believe he's giving false hope to those who are already vulnerable. If things don't improve like he says they will these people will fall into even deeper despair. That's not right at all.

In the end I think this book relies too much on "Keep smiling, God is in control. He'll make things better. Trust me." While it gives little new advice on how to be happy.

Instead of spending your hard earned money on it go out and have a steak dinner. As far as I'm concerned that's something that will truly make you happy (unless you're a vegetarian... in that case go on suffering in life).

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Lisa Cheong and Ratanak International

Lisa Cheong spoke at our church this past Sunday. She's a former member here. Currently she's serving in Svay Pak, Cambodia with Ratanak International. Their aim is to help better the lives of the citizens there. Lisa's main focus is to combat child sex trafficking and to help rehabilitate the girls who are fortunate enough to be rescued.

Child sex trafficking is a huge problem in Cambodia. Young girls are often sold by their parents to brothels where they are expected to service 8-10 adult males per night and 50-60 over the course of a weekend. If quotas aren't met beatings or electrocution is meted out. To enhance performance many of the girls are given methamphetamines which leads to their addiction. Girls old enough to get pregnant are subject to frequent "back alley abortions". The number of assaults endured by these girls often numbers in the thousands.

Along with the authorities there Ratanak International has managed to shut down some brothels. They've even converted some of them to rescue centres which help the girls reintegrate into society. They even minister to pimps and the people who run the brothels for they know they need to change their attitudes too.

Lisa's organization is doing tremendous work there. They're affecting positive change in many young girls lives. It's amazing. You can find out more about Ratanak International here - http://www.ratanak.org/ While you're there please consider giving a donation. I can't think of a more worthy cause than this. Really.

And to follow what Lisa's up to in Cambodia you can follow her blog here - http://ratanakmissions.blogspot.ca/

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Memorial Service

I attended a memorial service this past Friday for our neighbour Mr. Reeve (Kevan John Reeve). He was father to Richard and Lynn, and husband to Joan. They lived in the house next door to my parents where my sister and I grew up. He had been ill for some time and passed away last October 14th, 2011.

The service was held at the Church of the Ascension on Overland Drive on the opposite side of The Donway from where we lived. I attended with my parents and sister.

Richard gave a tribute to his father telling us of his life, how he met his wife, what he liked to do and how he raised his family. That got me thinking; if I were in his position, what would I say?

My father has always been a quiet guy. Probably a bit like me growing up, shy. He never took the spotlight preferring to stay in the background. More like the supporting cast while my mother was the star in raising our family.

I don't remember doing a lot of things with my dad growing up. I do remember playing baseball with him at the local schoolyard when I was young.

I believe it was my mother who brought me out to most of my activities like skating or swimming lessons. Either that or I walked there on my own. We were pretty self sufficient in that respect. We never worried about child predators or anything like that when I was growing up. It was a different era.

My dad was the breadwinner of the family while my mother was the stay at home mom who doted on her children. So while I don't remember doing many things with my father, I know both he and my mother always supported my sister and I.

Among other things, my parents helped me buy my first home. I know if I ever needed any help financially speaking they'd be there. And, of course, if they needed any help in the same way they know they could count on me.

So that's how I would portray my father... as someone who played an integral part in raising his family, but who never took the limelight. Preferring, instead, to stay in the background a proud supporter.