Wednesday, March 30, 2016

White Running Shoe

I was making a delivery to a dental office at Bramalea City Centre Mall this afternoon. On my way out I passed a small store near the entrance/exit. Inside I noticed a 40-something-year-old gentleman in a motorized wheelchair. His left shoe had just fallen off.

I saw he was able to reach down and pick it up off the floor. But, instead of putting it back on, he left it on his lap. It was obvious to me that he was unable to perform this task on his own. And no one around seemed to want to offer him any assistance either. What to do?

To me, the answer was obvious. I could have gone on my merry way leaving him to go shoeless the rest of the day. Or I could go over and help him put his shoe back on. Of course, that's what I decided to do. But, first, I wanted to drop my things off at the truck (which was only seconds away).

Upon my return I found he had exited the store. I was a bit surprised because I had been gone less than 30 seconds. I looked up and down the aisle, but didn't see him. Luckily, when I turned around, I noticed him by the pay phones at the exit. So I walked over and asked him if I could help.

It only took a few moments to unfasten the velcro straps on his shoe and slip it back onto his foot. But the warm feeling of being able to lend a hand lasted much longer. It's the simple acts of kindness that, when performed, can make someone's day a little brighter. I think that's something we should definitely try hard not to forget.

Friday, March 25, 2016

The Lowest of the Low

It's amazing the depths of depravity man can sink to. And to what end? Greed? A lust for power?

I just finished watching a three part, Australian-produced documentary called, Go Back to Where You Came From. It's about the Australian government's inhumane policy of sending back boatloads of refugees from their shores to who-knows-where. These refugees who risked death on the high seas in a desperate attempt to flee for their lives were being turned away, good-bye. Good on you, Australia.

This documentary followed six ordinary Australians with different points of view on the policy as they experienced the very journey many of these refugees took as they fled their countries of origin because of war and/or persecution. The horrors they witnessed were staggering.

My rant is not only about the Australian government or some of the participants who shared their views, but the so-called "people" that caused these refugees to flee in the first place. They are the real animals here. They are the ones I refer to as being less than human in their treatment of others. The Australian government and a few of the people experiencing the refugees' plight can be characterized as selfish and less than empathetic in the kindest terms.

If you thought racism was bad in America, try Burma. The majority buddhists living there are systematically attacking and displacing the Muslim minority, Rohingya. The Rohingya are believed to be amongst the most persecuted groups in the world. They've been beaten and killed. Their homes and villages have been torched. Others have been relegated to living in tent cities that pretty much amount to vast open-air penitentiaries. One reporter wrote, "These aren’t refugee camps, they’re concentration camps."

This is one group of refugees the documentary had been focussing on. The other was a stateless Palestinian family fleeing persecution in Iraq. For some people, even if they're born in a certain country they have no rights to citizenship there. Even worse, they're under threat of beatings and kidnappings or worse. Like the Rohingya, they have no rights, cannot attend school or work.

It's unconscionable the sorts of things one human can do to another. That's the thing I don't understand. It's a vicious circle. It can start with a misunderstanding. One group feels slighted and retaliates and things escalate. Soon it's all out war with one ethnic group or one so-called religious group against another. People are lost in anger and all common sense is abandoned. It's absolutely insane.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Ripley's Aquarium

I went to Ripley's Aquarium last Saturday. On February 29th they had a Leap Year promotion where you could get 29% off a regular priced ticket ($29.98 down to $21.29 plus tax and $3.00 service charge). So, of course, I took advantage of the deal. The catch was, you had to use the tickets within two weeks of purchase.

I got there mid-afternoon after walking down. It took me a bit longer than planned because I stopped to take a few pictures of the melting ice rink at Nathan Philips Square along the way. Originally I wanted to go on a Friday to avoid the crowds, but my friend wasn't available then.

As expected it was busy. It was the first day of March Break after all. Luckily, you could skip the line to get in if you pre-purchased your ticket.

When you go in the first area you see is the Discovery Centre below on the lower level. The first gallery you actually visit is Canadian Waters. They have all sorts of fish there. From fresh water fish to East Coast crustaceans to fish from the Pacific Kelp forest.

Next is Rainbow Reef. It's a relatively small gallery with, as the name implies, colourful saltwater fish. Closely following is the most impressive gallery - Dangerous Lagoon. There you get to stand on a slow, moving-sidewalk (the longest of its kind in North America) that takes you through an underwater tunnel where you see rays, turtles and sharks all in a 2.5 million litre tank. That was pretty cool.

After that is the Discovery Centre, Planet Jellies, The Gallery, Ray Bay and Shoreline Gallery. The Discovery Centre is mostly for kids. There's a playground area and people could touch Horseshoe Crabs if they wanted. There's also a café where you can grab a bite to eat.

The Gallery had some neat fish like the poisonous Lionfish and a Seadragon. Planet Jellies had neat-looking jellyfish in neon-lit tanks. Great for pictures. Ray Bay offered you the chance to see stingrays being fed by divers at timed shows. And the Shoreline Gallery gave people the opportunity to touch small stingrays.

Some tips - In the aquarium you're not supposed to use the flash on your camera as not to disturb the sealife. Besides, it wouldn't work properly as all the fish are behind glass. Just set your camera at a relatively high ISO. As well, if you so desire, you can make your way through the aquarium a second time as long as you don't exit through the gift shop at the end (there's no re-entry if you leave).

Friday, March 11, 2016

It's all about Me

"It's all about me." - That's how I used to think. In the past. When I was young. And foolish.

I used to be selfish. I voted for Rob Ford because he promised low taxes and less waste. But the savings seemed to be on the backs of others (which I once was okay with). I used to think, let others fend for themselves. It's my money, I earned it.

Well, now, I think differently. I've come to realize how lucky I am. To have what I have and to live where I live. And, astonishingly enough, it had absolutely nothing to do with me. I just had the good fortune to be born here out of all the places in the world. A beautiful country with no internal strife, with universal healthcare... with basic equal rights and human rights.

I don't have to worry about bombs going off when I walk down the street. Or, if I get sick, I don't have to worry about ending up broke because of mounting hospital bills. Everyone gets basic education, not just boys. Men and women don't end up in jail because of who they love.

Many others around the world don't enjoy these freedoms. I can't say, close the borders to them, just because I am selfish. I'm glad our federal government is welcoming in thousands of Syrian refugees. I'm proud of Justin Trudeau and his Liberal government.

I'm proud of Kathleen Wynne and her provincial government. They're making college and university tuition free to low income families (who earn less than $50,000). I don't care if it costs me more in taxes. It's all about equality and fairness. It's time to break the cycle of poverty.

If I have to pay 4¢ more per litre in provincial carbon taxes for gasoline, so be it. It's not all about me any longer. It's about us. It's about our children and our children's children. It's about the future of the country and the planet we live in. Giving a little more to help everyone is not going to kill me (or, for that matter, you either).

Monday, March 7, 2016

Badminton and Vegetarian Dinner

My friends and I went to play badminton up in Richmond Hill a few weeks ago. It was at a place on 16th, west of the 404. We booked the court for an hour and played doubles. I have to say, I haven't played in awhile. But it was fun. I do enjoy it.

Afterwards we went to grab dinner at a vegetarian restaurant on Highway 7 and West Beaver Creek. My friend, Gabe, invited his co-worker, Yatin, out. He's vegetarian. So that's why we decided to give this restaurant a try (unfortunately I can't remember the name of it).

I'm not sure what I was expecting out of this particular place, but it wasn't this. I thought they'd just have a lot of vegetable dishes like Chinese broccoli on rice or something.

Instead they had various dishes with tofu shaped like different kinds of meat. There was tofu that looked like beef, tofu that looked like chicken, tofu that looked like pork... you get the idea.

Now, even though the tofu resembled meat, it didn't taste anything like it. I really didn't understand why they even tried. The concept was completely foreign to me. Is this something vegetarians actually like?

Anyway, I can't see myself coming back for a return visit. It's just a little too strange for me.