Friday, October 30, 2015

I Don't Like Unions

I was listening to CBC Radio1 this afternoon and there was a documentary about the 22-month long strike by workers at Crown Metal Packaging LP (ending summer, 2015). They were upset because the company wanted to introduce a two-tier wage scale among other things. New hires would only make $16.00 per hour. Not enough, they said. How can anyone survive on such low wages? So they went on strike. For 22 months!

A month later the company resumed production using management and scab workers. They’re taking my job, one worker complained. It’s not your job, lady. You’re out on the sidewalk holding picket signs while someone is hard at work getting paid the amount you weren't willing to take. It’s now their job and I’m sure they’re plenty happy to have it.

I’m tired of all these whiners who think they’re entitled to this, that and the other thing. There are people who would kill for your job and all you can think is, It’s not enough. Give me more.

In each successive round of bargaining the company offered the workers less and less and less. Finally, when most of them were nearly broke, they caved and accepted. Too bad, so sad. You got what you deserved.

You’re lucky to have a job. In this global economy many jobs are shipped overseas to more competitive markets. Bottom line is, your company isn’t going to going to do business here if they can’t make money. And they’re not going to make money if they have to pay you four or five times as much as someone else is willing to take. That's reality, like it or not.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Hockley Valley Fall Hike

Gabe and I went hiking at Hockey Valley last Saturday. The parking lot is located just north of Orangeville on Hockley Road by 2nd Line East (close to Hockley Valley Resort). It's about an hour northwest of Toronto.

Our plan for the day was to get some fresh air and see the fall colours. Unfortunately I think we were about a week past peak for the region we were in. What can you do?

The previous weekend was perfect for hiking. Besides the colours being great, the weather was amazing. It was 20+ C with clear, blue skies.

This Saturday wasn't so hot (both literally and figuratively speaking). The predicted high was 5C with scattered snow flurries. Not great. Not great at all.

The skies weren't too bad when we started driving towards the park. But as we neared it the clouds filled in. Things didn't look promising.

When we actually arrived and got out of Gabe's new Mazda 3 the snow was coming down quite a bit. Undeterred we headed up the trail determined to get a decent hike in.

Even though it was annoying to walk through, the accumulating snow that dusted the ground coupled with the orange leaves that still lingered on the trees made for unique shots.

We were out for a bit over 4 hours covering around 10 kilometres. Throughout that time the weather changed a fair amount. From grey, overcast, flurry-producing clouds to bright, blue almost completely clear skies and everything in between.

Overall the hike was good. The scenery and rolling hills were really nice. The only problem I had was with me. The previous night was our first night at hockey. My already sore back was made much worse. That added to my bum right knee really slowed me down. Especially on the last third of our outing. Old age. Sigh.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Last Ride

Our friend, Eric, is heading to Calgary for work. To send him off we thought we'd take him out to eat. He had other ideas. Instead he wanted to round up the old gang and head up to Hardwood Hills for one last ride like we used to do back in the early 2000s.

When we were younger we used to go somewhere to mountain bike nearly every weekend in the summer. Hardwood Hills (just north of Barrie) was one of our favourite places to go. It's a bit out of the way, but they have a lot of great trails there.

Not everyone was available to ride that day. I went up with Jim, while Eric took his son and picked up Kathleen along the way. Peter took his niece and nephew out.

I have to say this was my first ride of the year. It's a bit embarrassing I know, but age has started to catch up with me. Over the past few years my right knee has been giving me problems if I overdo it. So I really have to be careful.

The drive up the 400 was slow, slow, slow. We headed up on Saturday of the Thanksgiving Day long weekend. The same time most cottagers were leaving town for possibly the last outing of the year.

It wasn't overly busy when we arrived at Hardwood. The parking lot was less than half full. We got a group rate from the girl selling the day passes (normally around $13 per person) and soon were off.

We rode the 8-km Fun Trail first. It was relatively easy. A good way to warm up.

Next was the 11-km Serious Trail. It was enjoyable. Though, by the end, most of the guys were drained. I don't think any of us had done much riding this year. I was most concerned about my butt. Normally if you haven't ridden much that's the part of the body that hurts the most after your first ride.

My rear end actually didn't cause me any problems but, once again, it was my right knee. I was beginning to feel it near the end of our second run. Still I felt fairly fresh and after taking a short breather decided to go out again.

Everyone else was too tired to ride except for Eric. He decided to join me on the 8-km Crank'd Trail while the others rested.

I have to say, when we first started up the gradual incline at the beginning neither of us had as much energy as we thought we did. It was a slow ascent. Still we rode through the trails until I noticed my Cannondale HeadShok fade to nothing. Fearing I might damage my frame we stopped riding the trail and took the gradual hill back to the start/finish area. That was that.

In the evening we met the others for dinner at Frankie Tomatto's (on Woodbine north of Steeles) to pack on all the calories we had ridden off during the day. Marilyn, Jan, Rob and Lester joined us there. And Dennis made a surprise appearance with his girlfriend having already made plans beforehand.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

House of Gourmet, Chinatown

After the Jays game Gabe and I walked up to Chinatown to grab a bite. We decided to go to House of Gourmet on Dundas, just east of Spadina. It's been a fixture in the area for many years.

Before my last venture in, I hadn't been there in quite a long time. They actually fixed it up quite nicely. You might not call it upscale, but it's a step up from most other restaurants nearby.

They have most of the traditional Cantonese dishes there. From seafood chow mein to BBQ duck on rice. On this particular evening Gabe had a hankering for roast pork on rice and I ordered my usual standby beef and tomato on rice.

As well, we order a small plate of BBQ Pork Cheung Foon (rice roll) which I thought was a bit bland. Normally I get the beef cheung foon, but Gabe suggested the other kind, which I now regret.

Still, like most of the food in Chinatown, the bill ended up being quite reasonable. We ended up paying around $20.00 plus tax and tip. That's the great thing about Chinese food. It's tasty, filling and priced right.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Nuit Blanche 2015 - My Night

After shooting Xi and Jun's wedding at church I had a bit of time to kill before Nuit Blanche started. I walked over to the Eaton Centre and loitered at the Indigo until starting time.

The first project I saw (106) was right outside in Trinity Square. It was called Where am I from? There was a tent set up that you could write where you were from on with a marker. Since I was the second or third person there only two of us had written on the tent. Not much to see there at all.

After that I walked across the street to Nathan Philips Square. The first project I came across was: 114 - There Is No Away. The artist placed huge bales of actual garbage and recyclables along the east part of City Hall to illustrate how much waste we generate as a society. I'm glad I wasn't a volunteer there. It was pretty, pretty stinky.

As well, a mysterious artist who goes by the moniker, JR, had a number of projects set up at City Hall as well as other places around the city. His main project, 13 - Inside Out, was having posters made of people who could paste them in a huge circle in the middle of Nathan Philips Square.

Other projects I saw at City Hall were in the Council Chambers: 15 - Nuit Talks: Putting the extra-in-ordinary and; 20 - Park Here in the underground parking lot. In all I spent about two hours in the City Hall area.

Next I headed towards Bay Street. There were a number of projects set up going south until the lake front. At Queen and Bay there was a group of older gentlemen doing some sort of traditional European dancing on the street. I don't know who they were because they weren't a stationary project so I couldn't look them up on the event map.

I have to mention, this was the first year I didn't actually look up any of the projects on-line ahead of time. I guess I was a bit lazy. All I did was take a look at the map and plot a course around the city depending on the grouping of where the most projects were.

My route would start behind the Eaton Centre, head over to City Hall, go south on Bay to King then continue on to Union Station. From there I'd continue south to the Harbourfront before heading up Lower Simcoe to David Pecaut Square and TIFF Bell Lightbox and up to Queen and McCaul to OCAD and AGO.

The trip down Bay Street was below par I thought. There wasn't too much going on and what was there was below average. At Adelaide and York Streets I saw: 83 - The Face of Toronto (a video collage of exhibit attendees) and: 39 - Light Cave (a colourful inflated sculpture you could walk through/under).

Union Station was about the same. One project: 111 - Pattern Study was just stuff hanging from the ceiling near the entrance to the trains and the other: 117 - Domestic Motion had a line I deemed too long, so I skipped it.

Next was Queens Quay and the Harbourfront. Again it was extremely windy down there and the lines to go in to see things were 30-40 minutes long. I wasn't about to wait that long to see anything so I continued on.

The project: 68 - Tri-Monic - Shape, Sound, Sight at David Pecaut Square was a bit silly. Just some instruments set up and a microphone that you could play/sing into that made funny sounds.

I spent a bit more time at Bell TIFF Lightbox. They had a number of projects there. Some of them had long lines, others weren't too bad. I caught: 38 - Light Upon Light! (boring light sculpture hanging from the ceiling) and: 103 - Spacebro Justice Rocket which was a fun life sized video game.

I was in the home stretch now heading towards OCAD and the AGO. On my way up John Street I passed by the Much Music building on Queen. They had their own unofficial Nuit Blanche set up: On Tilt- 30 Air Dancers In A Parking Lot where they had a bunch of "air dancers" (like you see in used car parking lots) going with dance music/videos blasting in the background. It was actually pretty cool.

Even at 2:00 a.m. the line up to get into OCAD was too long for me. Pass. I headed over to the Art Gallery and waited two minutes to get in there. They had a couple of projects in there. As well they opened up part of the gallery for people to go through. I spent about 45 minutes there and by ten minutes to 3:00 was done for the night.

Au revoir, Nuit Blanche.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Toronto Blue Jays - Game 1 - ALDS

For the first time in 22 years the Toronto Blue Jays made it to the post-season winning the American League East pennant. The local fans were ecstatic. To say playoff tickets were in huge demand would be a grand understatement.

Many people tried in vain to get their hands on them. First dibs went to season ticket holders. The remaining few were up for up grabs. Many people tried in vain to buy them first thing when they went on sale on the Jays' website, but left disappointed. A few people I know tried without luck.

On Wednesday my friend, Gabe, contacted me. One of his friends had bought a number of tickets during the regular season and was offered a chance to buy post-season tickets. He jumped at the chance before he knew what day and time the games would be held.

As it turned out he was unable to make the first and second games here in Toronto (on Thursday, October 8th and Friday, October 9th), so he offered the tickets up to his friends. Gabe quickly snapped up a pair and asked me if I'd like to join him. Of course I said, yes.

Game 1 on Thursday started at a very unusual time - 3:37 p.m. (first pitch). Major League Baseball was catering to the U.S. market and gave us the crummiest time slot they could find. No matter. I asked Sid if I could have the day off. He suggested we split my Thursday route so I could leave early to see the game. So that's what we did.

Jays ace and hired gun, David Price, would be pitching. Since arriving in Toronto just before the trade deadline he has pitched unbelievably well. Though his previous playoff record with Tampa Bay Rays was less than stellar at 0-5. I was sure the results would be different this time. After all, the Jays had one of most potent offences in all of Major League Baseball.

Gabe joined me after finishing early at work. He suggested we meet at the Rogers Centre at Gate 13. There was no line there because, as it turns out, that gate was reserved for suite attendees or something like that. We had to go to Gate 14 with the rest of the heathens and wait to get in.

The tickets he got from his friend were pretty good. We were in Section 239L, Row 1, Seats 105-106 (right along the railing on the 200 level along the 3rd base line).

After the unfurling of the Jays' 2015 American League East Champions banner and the singing of the national anthem, Jays' World Series winning manager, Cito Gaston, was invited to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

Game on!

David Price was a bit shaky at the beginning of the game letting a couple of base runners on in the first. Texas starter, Yovani Gallardo, was a bit more steady retiring the first nine Blue Jays in order.

In the top of the 3rd inning Texas struck first scoring two runs with RBIs by Delino DeShields and Adrian Beltre. We scratched back a run in the bottom of the 4th when Ben Revere scored on a soft single by Edwin Encarnacion.

The Rangers returned fire in the top of the 5th scoring two more after Price hit #8 batter, Rougned Odor, for the second time in the game. This proved costly because catcher and #9 hitter, Robinson Chirinos, followed with a home run.

Jose Bautista knocked one out of the park in the bottom of the 6th. But Texas, once again, countered with a line drive home run by Rougned Odor in the top of the 7th. Normally a two run deficit would be nothing for the 2015 Jays to overcome, but the Texas closers shut us down in the 8th and 9th. Sadly we lost 5-3.

Still it was nice to attend the first playoff game in 22 years. With Texas winning the second game in the best of 5 series the next day (Friday). It may be the last post-season game the fans here get to see until next year at the earliest.

And, unfortunately for Gabe's friend, he may not get to use his Game 5 playoff tickets if the Jays don't sweep two games down in Texas. How sad for him.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Nuit Blanche 2015 - Introduction to My Night

This was the 10th anniversary of Nuit Blanche here in Toronto. And it very well may be the last. I've gone every year since the beginning and, in recent years, it's gotten smaller and smaller.

As well, after the event, it was reported that Scotiabank is pulling their title sponsorship saying, "the event no longer lines up with its priorities."

I have to say I've enjoyed going over the years. In its heyday it was a really fun experience. It took over the whole city with hundreds of thousands of people coming out to enjoy the spectacle.

Stretches of Yonge Street, Queen Street, Spadina or others were closed off to traffic. Open spaces such as Liberty Village, the Distillery District, Fort York, Ryerson University and Yonge-Dundas Square were used.

This time I believe the only large space holdouts from previous years that were utilized were Nathan Philips Square, OCAD/AGO and Queen West. They added a number of projects in a new area along the Harbourfront though.

I have to say, thanks, to Mother Nature as well. In all the years I've gone it's been relatively dry. I think the first year had a bit of rain and I'm sure some others in between did too. But not enough to make me want to stay home and miss it.

This year when I checked the forecast a day ahead of the event there was a 30%-40% probability of precipitation up until 10:00 p.m. After that it went up to 70% for most of the overnight. Not good.

When I checked the day of it was reduced to 30%-40% chance of rain through the whole night. But when I actually walked around it was dry for the most part, thank goodness.

One thing that was really annoying was the wind though. It was incredibly windy. At certain times it was hard to stay on your feet. It really made it difficult to get decent shots at slower shutter speeds.

I finished this year a bit earlier than some in the past. For a few years in the middle I managed to stay out the whole night (around 12 hours). This time I packed it in around 3:00 a.m. Eight hours out was enough for me. I'm not as young as I used to be.

If this is the last year for Nuit Blanche I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. A big thanks goes out to Scotiabank for sponsoring it and the City of Toronto for allowing it to happen.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

California Roll on Bayview

Lawrence and I went to California Roll AYCE sushi on Bayview last Friday. If you know me, you know I really like sushi. Especially All-You-Can-Eat. It's one of my favourites. So much so it was actually the second time I went in a week. The previous Friday I was at Gallery Sushi at Village by the Grange with Gabe before we saw Black Mass at TIFF.

Before going to California Roll I had checked a few places on-line. There were two things that I considered in choosing a place - the price and proximity to my place.

Echo Sushi was the closest at only 10 minutes south on Yonge. I thought they were a little pricey at $22.99 for dinner plus a $2.00 surcharge Friday through Sunday and holidays, but they turned out to be the same as the other two places I looked up.

I found Yonge Sushi on-line. It's prices seemed all right at $22.99 and their menu selection was okay. But they were a bit further up Yonge north of Lawrence for a 40-minute walk.

California Rolls on Bayview south of Eglinton was supposed to be the same price as the others. It's menu selection seemed a bit better than Yonge Sushi and it was only 25 minutes away. So I suggested that one.

Lawrence called them and made reservations for us at 8:00 p.m. Of course I arrived at 8:00. And, of course, he ran late blaming traffic. No biggie. I ordered a plate of sushi ahead of time just for myself.

When the menu came I noticed they raised the price to $23.50 (plus $2.00 weekend surcharge). What can you do? I ordered a number of my favourites - Rainbow Roll, Eel and Avocado Roll and a variety of nigiri and sashimi. I have to say the White Tuna sushi was amazing. So fresh and tasty.

I had just about demolished the whole plate when Lawrence arrived. He was hungry so I reluctantly allowed him to eat the last piece of sushi on the plate. Of course we ordered more. A lot more.

I tried a few more rolls - the Spider Roll (soft shell crab) and Volcano Roll (avocado, cucumber, tobiko, chopped grilled scallop and "crab" meat). Lawrence ordered some sashimi (surf clam, red snapper, mackerel and white tuna).

For the next round I ordered more nigiri and I tried a couple more rolls - the Crystal Roll (white tuna, avocado, crab meat and "crispy") and the Salmon Dragon Roll (shrimp tempura, tobiko, cucumber with salmon on top).

I finished off dinner with a scoop of red bean ice cream and their deep fried ice cream (mango flavour). I didn't think it was that good. Still, overall, the food was quite good as was the service.

The price was a bit more than expected. Plus, on the bill, I noticed we were charged an extra $1.00 each for green tea. Who charges for tea? So, instead of a total of $30.00 each, it ended up being about $35.00 each after tax and tip. For that price I might just go back to Echo Sushi.