Sunday, January 24, 2016

Another One Bites the Dust

It's happened again. Though I have to say, these days, it doesn't seem so unusual. Another restaurant near me has folded. This time it was the Spring Rolls right across the street from me.

I walked past last night and noticed a "For Lease" sign in the darkened window. When I asked my roommate's roommate, he said it closed three weeks ago at the beginning of the year. I really haven't been paying attention.

I must admit I rarely ate there. Perhaps two or three times. Before that, when it was a Hooters, I only went in once (when my friend, Viola, called me to rescue her. But that's another story).

That particular location has seen many restaurants come and go. One of it's previous incarnations was a Lime Rickey's. We used to go there every now and then when we were younger.

The restaurant business is tough. Especially over the past year or so with our stalled economy. People are more careful with their money. Restaurants are dropping like flies. It's a vicious circle.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Bad Week for Celebrity Deaths

This, the third week of January, has been a particularly bad week for celebrity deaths. On Monday we learned, with great shock and sadness, of the death of music icon, David Bowie. Unbeknownst to all but his closest family members, he had been battling cancer for 18 months. He died two days after his 69th birthday which was also the same day he chose to release his final album, Blackstar.

Three days later, on January 14th, respected British actor, Alan Rickman, passed away of pancreatic cancer. He was also 69. He burst onto the scene with his role as Hans Gruber, contemptible adversary of Bruce Willis in the original Die Hard movie. Younger generations would remember him as Professor Snape in the Harry Potter series of films.

Also, on January 14th, we lost René Angélil, husband and manager to Canadian singing sensation, Celine Dion. He died at age 74, two days short of his 75th birthday. Again cancer was the culprit. This time it was of the throat. His funeral will be held at Notre Dame Basilica in Montreal. The same place he was married over two decades ago.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Toronto Police Services 2016 Operating Budget Over $1B

Late last year it was reported that the Toronto Police Services budget (2016) surpassed the $1-billion mark for the first time ever. Originally the board had asked for a 3.69% increase from the previous year, but that was rejected by the civilian oversight board.

Mayor John Tory, who sits on the police board, asked all city agencies and divisions to find at least two per cent in savings. A 2.76% increase was later agreed upon by the Toronto Police Services Board.

Here's a cost-saving idea from me. Instead of paying officers to ambush drivers on quiet city streets on Sunday mornings and issuing them traffic tickets, why not direct those resources to actually policing the streets and fighting crime? Real crime.

Of course, I'm speaking of an experience that happened to me where I was issued a ticket for not coming to a complete stop at a stop sign. A stop sign located at an intersection that was all but deserted early one Sunday morning last year.

It was a 3-way stop at a T-intersection where one street ends at another. I was heading westbound. There was a car in front of me who came to a stop. I "stopped" behind him and looked ahead and to my left. There were no cars (or anyone else around for that matter), so I proceeded.

I have to ask, what was the actual purpose of issuing this ticket? Was it really for reasons of safety? At that time of the day no one was virtually no one around (save the car in front of me). So, for all intents and purposes, I have a hard time believing that.

So when Police Services Board complains their budget isn't large enough (at over $1B) and that the safety of the public will be at risk if they don't get their requested funding I have to laugh. Get your priorities in order and you'll find you have more than enough money to go around.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Leafs Game

I went to my first ever regular season Toronto Maple Leafs game last Tuesday (December 29th). I had never been to one before. Not even at the old Maple Leaf Gardens.

But, let's start from the beginning... Where did I get the tickets? I won them from RBC Dominion Securities. My financial advisors, Tyler and Andrew, invited me and a guest to one of their talks at the Estates of Sunnybrook. I asked Daphne if she'd like to go along.

The talk was good. I don't remember an awful lot right now because we were never given any notes or anything. At the end they had a draw for a number of prizes. They gave away at least ten by the time they came to the last draw for the grand prize. By this time I had pretty much given up hope of winning anything, but what do you know? They called my number and I was given the tickets.

After the seminar I went to my car only to discover I had locked my keys inside. Luckily the Estates of Sunnybrook is less than 10 minutes from my parents' place where I keep my spare set of keys. So Daphne drove me over to pick them up.

Fast forward two months. It's game day. I rush to make all my deliveries so I can make it to the game on time. It's a bit after 5:00 and I'm read to leave work to go to my sister's place so we can drive downtown. But where are my car keys? They're nowhere to be found. I'm guessing they fell out of my coat pocket sometime while I was making deliveries during the day. Really? Really? I call my sister to pick me up so we can go to the game.

After parking at the Green P parking lot at The Esplanade and Church Street ($6 after 6:00 p.m.) we walked less than 10 minutes to the Air Canada Centre. We arrived early enough to watch the warm up which was fun. Jonathan Bernier was in net, but James Reimer was also out warming up too.

The Leafs game is one slick production. Music is blaring all the time (even in between stoppages in play) and they have an live announcer who goes around interviewing people and giving out prizes and stuff. It's all broadcast on the jumbotron high above centre ice.

On this night the Leafs were playing the New York Islanders (who now play in Brooklyn). We had just played there two nights ago in a game the Leafs had won 3-1. Now the Islanders were in our house ready for a challenge. Well, we didn't put up much of a fight.

Only two minutes in the Islanders, Brock Nelson, opened the scoring beating Leafs' goalie, Jonathan Bernier, on a softy. But, less than a minute later, Leafs' forward Brad Boyes tied the score with his third goal of the season, 1-1. Disaster averted. Not so fast... By the end of the period the Islanders had potted two more goals to lead 3-1. Booo!

11 minutes into the second we opened the scoring to cut the lead to one, 3-2. But, less than 30 seconds later, the Islanders regained their two goal cushion on a terrible misplay by Bernier behind the Leafs' net. Are you kidding me? Augh!

The onslaught didn't end there. By the time the period had ended Bernier had let in 6 goals on only 15 shots. One of his worst performances ever I'm guessing. And it had to be in the only Leafs game I've ever attended (not including one pre-season game I went to a number of years ago).

James Reimer replaced Bernier in net for the third. He faced six shots stopping them all. The Leafs scored once to make the final, 6-3, saving themselves a sliver of dignity.

As it happened Reimer was supposed to start the following day against the Penguins, but couldn't because of an ongoing groin injury. Bernier stepped in and played a stellar game leading the Leafs to a 3-2 shootout victory. Why couldn't he have played like that the day we went? Sigh.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis

After learning Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis had won the 2015 Scotiabank Giller Prize for excellence in Canadian fiction I reserved the book from the library. I did the same three years ago after learning Will Ferguson had won for his book 419.

Of course all award winning books are popular. So the holds list was quite long. For me, my copy finally came in a couple of weeks ago.

I have to say, the book is pretty gripping. I shouldn't have started reading it late at night because once I got into it, it was hard to put it down.

The story is about fifteen dogs who have been given human intelligence by the gods, Apollo and Hermes. Apollo bets a year's servitude that the animals, with their newfound gift, will be more unhappy than without it. To clarify things the gods wager that "at the time of their death" if even one dog dies happy then Apollo wins.

And so it begins...

Now, right off the bat, three of the dogs die shortly after gaining their freedom from the veterinary clinic they were kept at. They stay at the back door while the others leave. One elderly dog is put down (because that's what her master left her there for).

The other two were treated for their particular ailments and returned to their masters who treated them as the dogs they once were. But, with their new found insight and intelligence they now rue the way they're treated with so little dignity and respect.

Set in Toronto, the rest of the pack makes their way to nearby High Park where they set up a den for themselves. The rest of the book tells of their interaction with humans, each other and other "normal" dogs. There is tension, betrayal, friendship and love. A worthy award winner for sure.