Wednesday, December 31, 2008

You know your getting old when...

Today I visited the optometrist for an eye checkup. I admit not going to the optometrist for quite awhile. I also knew my eyesight wasn't the best either and wanted the traditional assurances that my eyesight was still good.

But in the end, I was prescribed eyeglasses to where. I'm to pick them up next week. But the fun part was choosing the frames for the glasses. I had no idea which ones to choose! The receptionist and myself looked at about 25 different pairs before I started choosing one that won out over the others.

The main problem I found with all the pairs of glasses I tried on is my head is a little larger than others which means the arms of the glasses rub against the side of my face. This will really be enjoyable as I get even older.

I've talked to my parents and friends today who are saying they can tell I'm getting older as my eyesight is starting to go!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Great Deal on Olay!

Yesterday in the mail my Fiancee received coupons from save.ca for $10.00 off when you purchase any three Olay products.

So we headed off to our local No Frills store to dive into some savings. No Frills had Olay bodywash on sale for $2.99 each. So we scooped up three different kinds of body wash bottles and headed for the check-out.

Following the check-out we paid a grand total of $0.30 including taxes for the three 374ml bottles of body wash. In other words we pretty well got brand name body wash almost for free!

Friday, December 26, 2008

How Canada Post ruined Christmas

Back on November 22nd at the Aurora Santa Claus Parade I dropped off a letter to Santa Claus with the Canada Post letter carriers at the beginning of the parade. I had done this in years past as a youngster with hopes that Santa would provide a reply.

As a youngster within a week or two of the Aurora Santa Claus Parade I would receive a reply from the jolly old elf himself, or at least one of his elves from the Canada Post Letters to Santa program. As a little person it was quite an honour to receive mail and I always looked forward to receiving a reply.

This year I sent a letter to Santa with a reason. This year Yvonne and I were putting together some stockings for my parents for Christmas. Every year Santa provided stockings for my sister, brother and myself but never for my parents. So this time Yvonne and I were going to change this little Santa oversight.

I wrote a letter to Santa, on behalf of my father, posing as a youngster looking for a new tool set for Christmas. I was hoping Santa or one of his elves would provide a response that I could tuck in the pocket, labelled "Letter from Santa," on my Dad's stocking. I thought an actual letter from Santa in an official North Pole issued envelope and letterhead would be splendid.

But my dreams of a simple letter from Santa have been doused. As of today, the day after Christmas and a full month after the parade, there is still no letter response from the jolly old man himself or one of his elves.

Now I know Santa is a busy man this time of year for obvious reasons. But Canada Post on their website claim that:

More than 11,000 current and retired Canada Post employees, affectionately called Postal Elves, help Santa to ensure that every child's letter gets an answer in the language in which the letter was written, including Braille (emails are answered in English or French).

Now one would think a simple form letter back in English from one of Santa's posties would work for my letter. But apparently not. The Posties would rather be grinches than bring true a simple Christmas wish.

To Canada Post on this Christmas season...MERRY CHRISTMAS and a BAHUMBUG to you to!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

So apparently I can take pictures

Earlier today I ventured over to this blog realizing I haven't posted in a while. I scroll down to find that someone has commented on this post. Since I love reading comments on my own blog I could barely wait for comment page to load on the post. To save you the time and anxiety of loading the comment, here it is:

Hi Michael,This is completely unrelated to your blog. I just had no other way of contacting you.

I work for the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority, and I'm putting together a brochure/trail map for Sheppard's Bush Conservation Area. I came across some great pictures you took of Sheppard's Bush that you posted on Picasa. Can I have your permission to use them in the brochure/trail map? Please email me to discuss.

Thanks,

Jonathan MacMull
Community Marketing Specialist
Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority

I, of course, e-mailed back saying that I would be fine with him using my photos.

I had pondered the glorious amounts of money I could make off the royalties for this project. But of course, this being local municipal government, I was just honoured to be able to see my photos in print on the local trail guide. Also, if I demanded the money I was thinking of, I would probably bankrupt the Conservation authority, force the Town of Aurora to raise taxes or, more likely, they just would've skipped my photos altogether.

So if you live in the Aurora area, watch out for a trail guide for Sheppard's Bush in the near future. More specifically watch out for some of the photos at this photo album to make an appearance.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Need to Prorogue the Canadian Parliament

Recently the Governor General of Canada has prorogued the Canadian Parliament. The House of Commons, leading up to the end of November, was in chaos. The opposition parties, the Liberals, NDP and the Bloc Quebecois, were threatening to pass a vote of non-confidence against the minority government, the Conservatives. The Opposition parties brought forth a plan where, following the defeat of the government, a governing coalition made up of all the oppisition parties under a signed off on contract.

The Governor General, Michaƫlle Jean, had a couple of options to choose from when Prime Minister Steven Harper came knocking on the Friday before the Monday non-confidance vote. The Prime Minister wanted the Governor General to either prorogue Parliament (i.e. end the current Parliamentry session) and start a new session at the end of January or, if the Governor General refused, to call a National General Election at the earliest convenience. Of course, the opposition parties requested a meeting with the Governor General as well, this meeting was rejected by her excellency.

The Govenor General choose the option to prorogue Parliament. The need to prorogue Parliament was obvious, the House of Commons had decended into chaos and wouldn't last longer than a week before a change in government would be required. This could either be done through inviting the Liberals to form a coalition government or calling another general election.

The coalition government option didn't sit well as the liklihood of a coalition government lasting one to two years appear slim. This was because that considering after the October 2008 general election all parties promised to work together coperatively, but less than a month later, political chaos erupted. So the Governor General probably believed that the coalition parties might split over some issue and poltical crisis would ensue yet again.

The general election option was panned by the Governor General as well for the simple fact that less than two months earlier a National General Election had been held with the election of the minority Conservative government. To make matters worst the 2008 General election had one of the worst percentages of voter turnout in Canadian history.

This left Michaƫlle Jean with only one option and a needed plan of further options of the first option failed. The plan was to prorogue Parliament until the end of January. This would allow the opposition parties and the government time to put their differences aside and hopefully negotiate a federal budget and a set of priorities for 2009.

So far this option hasn't been going so well. The Liberals have dumped Stephan Dion and, since everyone including the church mouse has dropped out, acclaimed Michael Ignatieff as party leader. Ignatieff has been doggedly stayed partisan while arguing that the Conservatives are no good dirty devils. The Conservatives, meanwhile, have invited the opposition parties to bring forth ideas for a federal budget for the end of January. The Liberals, on the other hand, claim that it is up to the Conservatives to bring forth possible ideas for the budget and that "the ball is in their court." Meanwhile, the Bloc Quebecois and the NDP have been pretty quiet since the House of Commons has been prorogued. Hopefully in the coming weeks all Parlimentarians will catch the holiday spirit and remember their promise after the fall 2008 election to work together. Then, hopefully, the Members of Parliament will agree negotiate a federal budget and other priorities in the new year. However, even on the slim chance negotiations will work, there probably will be disagreement and partisan bickering erupting sooner rather than later. But at least the Governor General can be seen as attempting to give Parliamentarians a chance to come together to reconcile the existing Parliament.

If things don't go well after the prorogation period or if after a negotiated settlement has been achieved, a vote of non-confidence is likely. This would then allow the coalition of the Liberals, NDP and Bloc Quebecois a chance to form the government. The time period caused by the above would also allow the coalition to show the Governor General that the coalition has been able to stay together for a decent time period, make plans for a new parliamentry session and form a cohesive governing group. However, as recent Canadian political history will note, the Liberals, NDP and the Conservatives can never seem to agree for any long periods of time. If the coalition falls a part the last option is only possible.

Finally, after the Conservative government and the coalition government have failed, there is only a general election possible. The Governor General will be seen to have excercised every available option to her. Also, this will show Canadians that their local member of parliament failed to live up to their promise of working together with other members of parliament to make Canadian parliament work for all Canadians. If Members of Parliament have failed to come together after the above has been undertaken, then they have proven that they cannot even govern a banana republic nevermind been a member of a democratically elected government.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Beggars for Money come knocking...

This past couple of weeks saw the three CEO's of GM, Chrysler and Ford coming before the United States' Congress begging for money in order to keep their respective automotive companies operational. However, the CEO's left Washington for Detroit with empty coffee cups still outstretched hoping someone somewhere would drop at least a penny in there. The meetings with Congress didn't go well at all. But really it was the CEO's own fault that things really didn't go well.

The main issue, brought forward by at least two congressional committee members, was the bad optics the automotive company CEO's were displaying towards government, their own workers and the beleaguered American taxpayer in even travelling from Detroit to Washington for the Congressional meetings. California Congressman Brad Sherman (Democrat) showed it best with his simple line of questioning and the responses he received as reported by the Toronto Star:

Brad Sherman of California, asked the three for a show of hands to indicate who flew here on a commercial airlines.

"Let the record show, no hands went up," Sherman said.

Then he asked for a show of hands to count how many would sell their jets immediately and fly back commercial.

"Let the record show, no hands went up,'' Sherman repeated.

The company CEO's had the audacity to charter 3 private planes (1 for each of them) at approximately twenty grand apiece and fly from Detroit to Washington D.C. and back all the while saying some of their companies may run out of money before the presidential inauguration in January 2009. Meanwhile, on US Airways one economy class seat retails at $225 US before taxes.

Even more galling then their private jet setting, the CEOs didn't come with future plans. In fact, Congress sent them back to Detroit to come up with a plan on how they would save each one of their companies. The main question that should be asked on behalf of all American, and soon Canadian, taxpayers is why didn't any of the these three overpriced CEOs have the gonads to present to Congress a contingency plan on how they were going to get their company out of economic trouble and back into the drivers seat and competing again? Of course it doesn't take making two million dollars a year to figure that out. But apparently not one of them thought of this as the Congressional committee asked the CEOs to return with said plans.

Memo to overpriced executives everywhere....if you're going to ask for taxpayers money to bail out your company, please at the very least have a plan on how you plan to move your company forward using the taxpayers money before you head to the Nation's, State's or Provincial capital.

At least the Big 3 CEO's have started planning for their second round trip to Washington and back. The first on the list was to agree to carpool down to Washington instead of using three separate private jet planes. This move should save them probably close fifty eight thousand dollars round trip. Second, as per Congress' instructions, each of the CEOs is coming up with a plan on how to move their company forward if they were to receive an American taxpayer funded bailout.

The CEOs of the big three car companies wasted a trip to Congress. They failed had the audacity of travelling separately at twenty grand a piece from Detroit to Washington as well as not presenting anything that would convince the Congressional committee that the car companies had sound financial planning beyond the possible bailout. Basically this last trip was a complete waste of time and money. The sad part is the trio will return to Washington again asking for more. But who knows what kind of plans this triumvirate will present.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Lunchin in Boston over Pizza

Boston Pizza on UrbanspoonThis afternoon Yvonne and I headed northward on rainy day for lunch out at Boston Pizza at the East Gwillimbury location. We had been to this location before on a Saturday evening last summer for an attempt at dinner, but with a forty five minute wait, we decided to vacate and try our luck for dinner out at another location.

This time I figured why not try for lunch. We were seated right away, probably because the place was less than half full. Apparently lunch out and a matinee movie at the nearby movie theatre is not to appetizing for whatever reason.

Our server, Heather R, brought our drinks and food quickly after ordering. We didn't have to wait over ten minutes to begin eating.

I ordered a Meateor pizza with your average Pepsi to wash it down. Yvonne ordered the Pollo Pomodoro Linguini and washed it down with her trademark "Glass of Water."

The pizza was perfectly cooked with lots of meat (e.g. smoked ham, pepporoni, lean ground beef, etc.) and Yvonne said her dish was "OK". (If you know Yvonne, OK means it was satisfactory).

All in all, Boston Pizza is decent Saturday afternoon for lunch out. But watch out for Saturday's as usually this location is lined up out the door.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Ottawa kills portrait gallery

TheStar.com Canada Ottawa kills portrait gallery

The Toronto Star reports today that the Conservative government has ended the project for a National Portrait gallery that had been launched by the then Liberal government in 2001. Since 2001 the National Portrait gallery has been suffering from bureaucratic ineptitude and cost overuns (as pointed out in an earlier post of mine on "The Art of Rant" here).

The death of the National Portrait gallery is not surprising since all that has come about after last year's federal request for private developers to tender ideas for the gallery was silence. Basically the idea was for private developers propose how a city like Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, and others would host the National Portrait gallery with the federal government choosing the best idea and funding it from there. This was despite the former United States embassy, sitting directly across Wellington Street from Parliament Hill, sitting empty and originally slated to host the gallery.

Before the Conservative govenment floated that idea, the Portrait gallery had been slaighted for the old US embassy which the Americans vacated in 2001 to their new digs on Sussex Drive in the Byward Market of Ottawa. The gallery, as announced by the Liberal government at that time was supposed to be open in 2005 in the embassy, but nothing ever came of it except the old American flag being lowered and a Canadian flag going up and some overpriced paintwork on the walls.

In the end, it seems all the idea of a National Portrait gallery turned out to be was a waste of a couple million of taxpayers dollars and valiant dreams that went nowhere.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Retail Frustration at it's best

On Saturday Yvonne and I headed to Real Canadian Superstore in East Gwillimbury. I needed to pick up a few things and she wanted to check out the Joe Fresh department. Another bonus was I had a coupon for 5,000 free PC Points if we spent over $50. This coupon would assist in putting my PC Point balance over the coveted 20,000 points which means $20 in free groceries. CHACHING!

But sadly it wasn't to be. The Superstore visit turned out to be the first stop in retail hell. I went into the Superstore to look for two products:

1. Scrubbing Bubbles refill container for the Scrubbing Bubbles Automatic Shower cleaner.


2. Replacement brush heads for my Philips Sonicare Toothbrush.



The Real Canadian Superstore was sold out of the Scrubbing Bubbles Shower refill containers. However, they had lots of starter kits. In fact they had so many starter kits, there were cases of them on top of the shelving units ready to be pulled down in order to stock the shelves at least 2 times over. But the main question is, wouldn't you need to refill these shower kits eventually?

As for the Philips Sonicare brush heads? Nope...Real Canadian Superstore doesn't even carry the toothbrush.

Yvonne didn't find anything at Joe Fresh she liked. So we left the store.

We walked south on Yonge Street to Wal-Mart. They were also out of Scrubbing Bubbles and out of my replacement toothbrush heads. The store, of course being a Saturday, was crawling with idiots who were love to wedge themselves into an aisle with their little Wal-Mart shopping carts and excommunicating themselves to their own little world of shopping. This just gets me aggravated as to how people have become so unpolite towards other shoppers who are just trying to get in, grab a few things and get out. So getting out of Wal-Mart with idiots blocking the aisles slowed us down a bit.

We continued our trek south, skipping Canadian Tire, and headed to Zellers without much hope of finding what we had set out for. The Zellers store at Upper Canada Mall. Over the past year this store had been under extensive renovations in order to expand the store and modernize the look. The store's improvements have paid off! I quickly found the toothbrush heads and, skipping over a couple of aisles, I had two choices of scents to choose from in the automatic shower cleaner refills.

To say the least I was really dissapointed with the Real Canadian Superstore and Wal-Mart stock people. They can't seem to keep proper amounts of product on the shelves. This is an absolute Pet Peeve of mine. Companies that sell products that require refills, like the automatic shower cleaner, and then fail to work with the retailers to ensure enough product is on the shelves for their customers. The automatic shower cleaner refill bottles I couldn't find at the Aurora No Frills, East Gwillumbury Real Canadian Superstore and the Newmarket Wal-Mart. If your going to market the product as refillable or have replacement parts, then sell the refills or parts! Otherwise sell the product as "DISPOSABLE!" because if you can't refill it/replace the part what good is it?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Wordle of the Day

Every now and then I stumble accross something interesting on the internet. Sometimes I find it by accident and sometimes I find things cool on someone else's blog. So here is the coolest thing I found so far....A WORDLE!




What is a wordle? A Wordle is a program that searches a webpage or website for the msot common words and uses these words to make a piece of art (i.e. the above). I used wordle.net to create above.

The best part of all about wordle is you just simply enter your blog or website address, and click the "Submit" button. Within seconds of clicking "Submit" a "Wordle" of that page will appear! With the results feel free to click on the "Random" button which will cause the Wordle program to change the colours, orientation and font of your Wordle creation. Finally, once the final creation is obtained, it can be archived in wordle.net's gallery and linked to in blogs and websites quite easily by copying and pasting the html code.

For my "Wordle" I used this blog's web address (www.michaelsuddard.blogspot.com). Next I used the "Random" buttom until I found just the right colour combination, font size, and other items that seemed "just right" for my tastes. My Wordle I felt should be a simple black and white creation that would provide some synergy to the blue surroundings found on my blog.

Overall, Wordle.net is quite the nifty item!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Two Nights of Restaurant Hilarity

On Thursday and Friday Yvonne and I ate out at Harvey's and Swiss Chalet in Aurora.

Thursday, Yvonne printed a coupon for a free Harvey's Original Hamburger with the purchase of a burger topped with Canadian backbacon. It was a darn good filling deal of two burgers, fries and Pepsi for less than ten dollars. That was until we got home, flipped on the computer, opened the web browser and thestar.com (Toronto Star's website) had this headline: "Linked to Harvey's, E.coli cases spread." Well doesn't that make a delicious meal deal into a stomach turning life flashing before your eyes experience. Of course we clicked on the link to read the story. We quickly scanned the article and were relieved to find out it was only the Harvey's location in North Bay that was affected. At this point, however, I wanted to know the name and whereabouts of the Toronto Star's online headline writer whose name would be changed to "mud" for giving me a coronary.

Side note: I go back into my Internet web browser's history to find the link and the fabulous crew at thestar.com have changed the headline and updated the story.

Fast forward to Friday night. Yvonne and I headed to Swiss Chalet. We brought our previous visit's receipt along with our verification code that we received after completing the restaurant's online customer feedback form. With the receipt and the verification code, we were entitled to a free appetizer of soup, salad or perogies.

We had a good meal even with mess ups. Apparently at this location on that night, the restaurant's attention to detail seemed to be lacking. The worst part it wasn't just one thing it was two! But nonetheless the meal was good.

We ordered:

1 Quarter chicken dinner dark meat with side salad and a MULTI GRAIN ROLL. A glass of water.

1 Quarter chicken dinner DARK MEAT with fries and a white roll. A PEPSI.

We received from the kitchen:

1 Quarter chicken dinner dark meat with side salad and a WHITE ROLL. A glass of water.

1 Quarter chicken dinner WHITE MEAT with a white roll. A PEPSI

We were billed by the waitress:

1 Quarter chicken diner dark meat with side salad and a multi grain roll.

1 Quarter chicken dinner dark meat with a white roll.

1 Perogies, free.

But funny enough, I wasn't billed for my Pepsi despite the waitress bringing it quickly after I ordered and, halfway through the meal, refilling it!

You would think Swiss Chalet would have mastered the art of figuring out chicken orders as they've been roasting chicken for over thirty years. The attention to detail on this visit was absolutely hillarious. But at least the meal was still enjoyable and slightly discounted (i.e. FREE PEPSI!) despite the gaffes.

Thanks Harvey's & Swiss Chalet for a good two nights of entertaining eating.

Monday, October 13, 2008

VIVA Strike: A Rider's Perspective

On Thursday September 25th VIVA drivers hit the picket lines after rejecting their latest offer from Veolia Transportation (the private company contracted to operate VIVA Rapid Transit Services in York Region). Throughout the newspapers there were stories about the driver's perspective of the contract dispute and how Veolia, the company, was unsure of why the driver's rejected the company's offer and went on strike. But somehow in all of this the rider's perspective got lost.

That is until now. Below is a timeline of the strike from my perspective in attempting to figure out what was going on as well as an attempt to contact York Region Transit (YRT) in order to get a refund for my September and October monthly passes as well as my fiance's GTA Weekly Pass.

September 15th - Possible VIVA Strike on September 22nd announced by the Region of York. Region advises riders to make alternative arrangements for the Monday commute. I way my options, the GO Train at this point is looking very appetizing.

September 21st - VIVA Strike has been averted as the company and the union have reached a deal. The union's executive, lead by Union President Bob Kinnear, unanimously recommend the deal to the drivers. Yvonne and I head into Twins Convenience at Bernard Terminal to purchase her GTA Weekly pass and, after reaching Aurora, I pick up my YRT Monthly pass for October. We believed, as did YRT and the Region of York, the strike had been averted. In fact, VIVA was scrolling the fact the strike had been averted on the screen at Bernard Terminal as well as the VIVA driver announcing the fact on the VIVA Blue Northbound bus.

September 24th- VIVA drivers voted 61% against the company's offer. The Region of York in a press release and YRT management interviews with the media encourage riders to make alternative arrangments due the strike. Yvonne and I come consult our GO Train schedules for the commute to work, her to Union station in Toronto , myself to Keele & Rutherford in Vaughan.

September 25th - VIVA Drivers on Strike no VIVA Service! Yvonne and I enjoy a train ride into work. That night I consult the YRT website for instructions on how to get a refund for my YRT Monthly passes and Yvonne's GTA Weekly pass. I called YRT Customer service and a friendly gentleman customer service agent picked up. He said there would be prorated values for YRT Monthly passes but didn't know anything about the GTA Weekly pass problem I had. He suggested I e-mail transitinfo@yrt.ca for the GTA Weekly pass problem. Also, if I had any other questions about the strike that I could consult the YRT website strike information section.

Before sending my e-mail about the GTA weekly pass, I consulted the website to see if there was anything on the GTA weekly pass. I came accross the Q & A section on the website and under question 6 it asked "6. Can I exchange or get a refund for my September YRT/Viva monthly pass or GTA Weekly Pass?" The website answered the question and said there was a mail in option available for YRT Monthly passes for a prorated refund. But nothing was mentioned about the GTA Weekly Pass despite this being included in the question. What is even more frustrating was YRT asked the question themselves and then refused to answer it! I called YRT customer service again and talked to the same gentlemen I talked to earlier pointing out this problem. He said he would pass along the information to see if it could be fixed.

I then sent the following e-mail to transitinfo@yrt.ca:

Based on the current VIVA stike, I notice at this web address on YRT's website: http://www.yrt.ca/news/strike.asp There is information on receiving a refund by cheque for a monthly pass.

However, I notice that on question #6 on that page it says "6. Can I exchange or get a refund for my September YRT/Viva monthly pass or GTA Weekly Pass?". But it doesn't give any details on if or when the GTA Weekly Pass was refundable. I called Customer Service and the agent that picked up wasn't sure if there was a refund available.

If someone could contact me with a full explanation if this refund is available or, if not, a FULL explanation of why YRT refused to provide service. This is especially so considering VIVA advertised on the Bernard Terminal message board that the VIVA strike had been adverted and had the GTA weekly pass on sale without any warning of a possible strike on Thursday if the ratification vote didn't go through. Thanks in advance. Michael

September 26th - That afternoon, after not hearing back via e-mail from YRT, I thought I would try contacting YRT Customer Service again in order to see if they had come up with an answer to provide to their Customer Service agents.

When I called a friendly female agent answered and said a prorated refund for the GTA Weekly passes would be provided.

September 30th - I received a reply from my e-mail to YRT sent on the September 25th:

Dear Mr. Suddard,

Thank you for your email.

Refunds will not be provided on the GTA Weekly pass as customers may still use YRT, Brampton, Mississauga and TTC services. While the Viva strike is ongoing, YRT will continue to operate all other services.

Sincere Regards,

Rhonda DeBaeremaeker

Customer Service Coordinator
York Region Transit (YRT)
50 High Tech, 5th Floor
Richmond Hill, Ontario L4B 4N7
Tel: (905) 762-2100
Toll Free: 1-866-668-3978
Fax: (905) 762-2113
www.yrt.ca

OUR MISSION:To provide quality public transit services which support the economic vitality,environmental sustainability, and health of the Regional community.

At this point I'm ready to explode! Don Gordon, YRT's General Manager, on Rogers Television's First Local asked people to consider alternative means of transportation as did YRT and the Region of York in the Press Releases posted on their websites! Then I get an e-mail response from Rhonda saying a GTA Weekly Pass is non refund despite what her higher up, Don Gordon says.

At this point I start writing an e-mail to Aurora Mayor and Regional Councillor Phyllis Morris about how YRT/VIVA is a total fraud during the strike towards customers. But after writing the first paragraph I decide to pick up the phone and call YRT Customer Service in order to see if I can speak to someone in the fares area about the problem.

I call and a male customer service agent picks up and I ask to speak to the fares department. He asks to see if he can help. I quickly tell him how I'm getting mixed messages from YRT Customer Service on whether we can get back money for the GTA Weekly pass. He puts me through to Erin Straughn.

Erin picks up the call and says she hears I want to appeal the GTA Weekly Pass decision. I replied to be fair to her that I start from the beggining and run through the way I see things. I quickly run through my story.

Erin, after hearing my story, says she is willing to provide a refund on the GTA Weekly Pass on a prorated basis. I congratulate her on being one of the best YRT employees I've come accross in my dealings with YRT. I also said that if she had of said no to a refund that I would have written to my Regional Councillor on this issue.

October 1st - I check the YRT website for any updates on the stike. I notice the strike's Q & A page has been updated. I notice the mail in option has been removed for receiving a refund from YRT/VIVA for the YRT Monthly passes. I also note the only option to receive a refund is at YRT headquarters. I call again to YRT Customer Service and explain the problem. I point out to the YRT Customer Agent who received the call the change to the website from the September 25th version of the website (via the Google cache function on the search results) to the current website for October 1st. This leaves him scratching his head. Back to Erin I'm sent.

I point out the problem and ask her: "Is YRT making things up along the way during the strike?"

Erin replied that YRT has never had a strike so they are muddling their way through the problem. She also pointed out her side that many people are mailing in photocopies of the passes instead of the original pass despite the instructions on the September 25th version of the website. She continued that I should mail in the September and October Monthly passes with the GTA Weekly pass soon so I could get my full money back with the October Monthly pass.

I quickly write a letter, photocopy the GTA Weekly Pass and the YRT Monthly passes and drop them in an a Canada Post Express Post Envelope. I then drop them in the mail box.

October 3rd - Erin calls Yvonne at home and says she has receives our passes and will have them into be processed.

October 8th - The Toronto Star publishes an article pointing out how the VIVA Strike has gone unnoticed by most passengers. As I ride the GO Train from Aurora to Rutherford GO Stations I nod in agreement. As a perfect example of this article of how the VIVA Strike is not inconveniencing passengers is on VIVA's busiest line, the VIVA Blue. VIVA Blue operates along Yonge Street from Newmarket GO Terminal to Finch Subway station. This route is easily replaced, depending on where one is coming from and going to (in the below cases, Aurora to wherever):

1. To Finch Subway Station: A. Take YRT Route 98 and transfer to YRT Route 99 which has beefed up service during the transit strike to run more frequent. B. Take GO Transit's Route 62 "Newmarket "B" Service from Aurora to Finch Subway Station.

2. Using Yonge Street to connect to points westward of Yonge along Keele Street? Use Aurora GO Train Station on the Barrie GO Train line that includes a convenient stop for York University students at York University! As I work at Rutherford & Keele Street, this is my choice.

3. VIVA LE CAR! a.ka. when the TTC goes on strike...Take The Car!

October 9th - Veolia, up until this time, has held steadfast on it's offer made to the VIVA Driver's union on September 24th that got voted down. Veolia threatens to withdraw this offer from the table and put forth something less. They push the union to hold an immediate revote on the offer by the drivers. Coincidentelly, there have been some rumblings on the picket lines from the drivers who want to revote on the contract offer. This is mainly because the public uproar the drivers expected never materialized. Instead a the drivers are being villified for the strike by the ridership. Comments on local media websites, including the Toronto Star's website, throughout the strike point out that the drivers are better paid than a lot of other jobs out there.

October 10th - VIVA drivers vote 65% in favour of ratifying the original deal that they originally rejected on September 24th.

October 11th - VIVA Service returns, but with low ridership.

October 14th - The refund for Yvonne and my transit passes come in. At least YRT did come through with the refund. I did have my doubts considering what I went through in order to get them though.

The Future - The immediate future will see an uneasy tension between riders and VIVA drivers as a great distrust between the two has been built up. Ridership will probably be reduced due this distrust as some riders will have migrated over to GO Transit service or have decided not to put up with the hassles of riding VIVA in the future and have returned to their cars.
YRT has attempted to make amense by handing out free hot beverages on October 14th to 16th. This is a band aid solution for what really ails YRT, poor customer service from it's customer service centre employees. YRT General Manager Don Gordon has to clean up the major stench of hypocrasy and fraud towards ridership following the VIVA Strike. This stench of hypocrasy and fraud comes from the Region of York's Press releases (referenced above) and in Gordon's own media interviews. In the interviews Gordon requested riders to find alternative means of travel besides YRT if possible during the strike. Then Gordon's own YRT Customer Service Department turns around and refuses to hand out refunds for GTA Weekly Pass holders who are following Gordon's instructions to find alternative means of travel. This is despite these GTA Weekly Pass Holders going to the added expense of paying for the alternative means of travel (e.g. GO Transit, car pooling, etc.). Instead of handing out free hot beverages, those responsible should provide a decent explanation to riders, and by extension, the taxpayers, why they screwed the message to riders about VIVA Strike refunds so badly.

Fare hikes are probably coming in January 2009. This is evident when considering that in January 2007 and January 2008 YRT implemented fare increases. Perhaps if YRT/VIVA actually gave up handing out hot beverages, cheap banner advertisements, etc. and instead concentrated on provided buses that actually showed up on time along with proper customer service to back up a good transit service, ridership would at least go up. Obviously a fare hike wouldn't help matters considering what the ridership has gone through with this strike in terms of poor customer service and lack of buses on the road. But then YRT never seems to acknowledge the ridership's perspective. Then again, I can only hope management of YRT might actually be reading this and other posts this rider has made.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Aurora United Church Celebrates 190 Years!

Today Aurora United Church held it's 190th Anniversary Celebration worship service. The celebrations included those young and old as well as a trip down memory lane via the Church's extensive archives. Here is a sampling of the photos of the event:

The Front Sign of the Church
 
Aurora United Church on the day of the 190th Anniversary Celebration.
 
The banner accross the front highlighting the 190th Anniversary Celebrations.
 
The "Memory Wall" of contributions of memories from members of Aurora United Church.
 
A historical photo dating from 1900 of Aurora United Church.
 
The Church Sanctuary during the 190th Anniversary Worship Service.
 
Mitchell Arnold playing his bagpipes at the conclusion of the worship service.

Monday, September 22, 2008

"We went to the Zoo..." and Yvonne came too!

As part of the of the Toronto Zoo's offer of free admission to members of the Ontario College of Teachers' Members, I headed with my fiance Yvonne to the Zoo for the afternoon yesterday. The animals, especially the Lions and Tigers, seemed to be sleepy. The only other dissapointment was the polar bear and penguin exhibits were under contstruction, thus, these animals were not viewable

But nonetheless, the other animals didn't dissapoint as you can see from this sampling (more photos may be seen in the Toronto section of my scrapbook on my website):

A Tiger eying me for lunch?
 
All the piggies in a row. The Red River Hogs were in the mood for an afternoon siesta.
 
Of course! Who can forget the ELEPHANTS!
 
And best of all, A female moose cooperated for a little movie time:

Sunday, September 14, 2008

If you want to vote NDP in Newmarket-Aurora..

If you want to vote for the NDP in the riding of Newmarket-Aurora your out of luck. That is because as of this moment, the NDP do not have a confirmed candidate in the riding of Newmarket Aurora. I first noticed this when reading the local media and noted there wasn't any mention of an NDP candidate in this area or had seen any signs go up in the first week of the election campaign. So I started to look online in a couple of places.

The first spot I looked was the local newspaper's website for information as they had been advertising in their paper to have extensive coverage of the ridings within York Region. I clicked on the "Newmarket-Aurora" section of their website only to find four candidates running, none of which included an NDP candidate. Yet, I noted, the slightly less popular Green Party had a candidate in this riding. So I gave up my search there.

I wondered if perhaps the NDP in Newmarket-Aurora had been caught without a candidate in this area or any type of campaign organizing function to get the word out. But surely the first place to ensure NDP candidate would make themselves known is with Elections Canada. But apparently the list of candidates is not firmed up until September 25th at the latest and there were no official registered candidates in the Newmarket-Aurora riding as of this blog entry. But I have a feeling Elections Canada is a little behind in registering candidates as I imagine there would be a slew of pending applications coming in from accross Canadathat need to be processed.

Also this past week, I had noted the last provincial election's NDP candidate for Newmarket-Aurora, Mike Seaward, was around more than a little normal. I had seen him on the bus and in the local plaza. However, there seemed to be no campaign material (e.g. buttons, t-shirt, etc.) around him. So I guess he wasn't running. The last federal election's NDP candidate for Newmarket-Aurora, Ed Chudak, hasn't been heard from as of yet, so I doubt he is running either.

I also checked with the NDP's website and it only lists the local NDP riding president's contact information. I did note other ridings in Ontario did have candidates listed but there were quite a few ridings that amazingly enough still didn't have candidates selected. One would think the fact Newmarket-Aurora and several other ridings having not selected candidates after a full week of campaigning would be alarming for the NDP Party leadership.

I guess the NDP has given up on the Newmarket-Aurora area. This is mainly true because all the other parties in the riding have candidates already campaigning in the riding for a week already whereas the NDP campaign hasn't even gotten going in this riding as of yet. This the NDP is now handicapped by a week compared to the other campaigns who already have one week of campaigning in hand. Besides, the NDP may have given up on the riding considering the NDP has never won the riding of Newmarket-Aurora or its predessors that either the towns of Aurora or Newmarket have been part of. So even if the NDP tried to start a campaign, the party doesn't have a hope of winning in this riding. But the mystery of where the NDP is in the riding of Newmarket-Aurora is at least intriguing!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Coming Federal Election? You betcha!

There is a distinct smell in Canada of a possible federal election coming up. The clues are out there and they sure point to an election call coming soon. Last week and this week saw Prime Minister Steven Harper meet with the three opposition leaders at his residence at 24 Sussex Drive in Ottawa. In a nutshell, all the meetings were less than an hour in length and results of these meetings were far from positive. Then this week suddenly there are major announcements of funding for items to resolve issues of crime, health and job losses. A federal election does seem imminent especially when these clues are investigated a little further.

Steven Harper's meeting with Liberal Leader Stephane Dion on Labour Day Monday, lasted less than 30 minutes and, as the Toronto Star reports, produced nothing. EvenLiberal Leader Stephan Dion is convinced there is an election when, as the Toronto Star reported: "Asked if an election was inevitable, Dion replied, 'Yes, we all know that.'" Yet the Conservatives continue to deny an election is coming.

If there wasn't an election in the forefront, then Stephen Harper would be requesting the meetings with Opposition Leaders to possibly come to some compromise on some issues. In these meetings Harper would probably have a list of priorities that he would like to see if the opposition leaders might be able to negotiate on. From these and possible future negotiations there would be leglislation created and passed in the House of Commons and the current minority parliament would continue. But this doesn't seem to be happening as Dion's and the other party leader's meetings were less than an hour and all the Opposition Leaders left 24 Sussex with very little impression that the current minority Parliament would continue. This is the first clue a federal election is more than likely this fall.

This week the federal Conservatives have started making major funding announcements. These funding announcements include (click the links to read more on the announcements):

1. Peter McKay was in Calgary announcing each of 30 soldiers who participated in Cold War weapons testing would receive $28,000 in compensation.

2. Steven Harper promising a probe into the Maple Leaf tainted meet fiasco. The Toronto Star believes this probe is being done so as to not cause problems for the Conservatives on the upcoming election trail.

3. Steven Harper in Windsor announcing $80 million dollars to reopen a car plant.

4. Stockwell Day was in Toronto promising $4.9 million towards a three and half year pilot project to prevent youth in vulnerable neighbhouroods from joining gangs.

Promises of this magnitude coming in rapid succession by a government, in the past, usually occurred when the Governor General was about to be asked to disolve Parliament and start a federal general election.

Finally, if there was ever any doubt, campaign election ads by the Conservatives have been launched. These adds seem to run about three times per half hour on major Canadian networks (e.g. CTV, CBC, etc.). The real question is not if an election is coming, but when? Who knows, but the media seems to be doing a lot of speculating. So stay tuned! This fall could be fun!

Monday, September 01, 2008

Aurora Citizens SHARE YOUR OPINIONS!

Recently I came accross a new blog aimed at sharing one's opinions about the town I live in, Aurora. Seems that someone got so enthused about Aurora politics and community happenings that they required their own soap box.

Problem is, there is no identity to this person except the nickname "Aurora Citizen." The blogger even went as far as registering www.auroracitizen.ca" for their e-mail addresses. However, if you look at the registrar's file on this internet address registration, there is no name and address provided. How convenient. I don't suppose there is a way to dig even deeper on who is behind this blog (if so, please comment and I would gladly help out in digging further into who is behind this blog). I could speculate here about who might be behind the blog's postings and such, but no matter, it still makes for a great read.

A great read? The blog contains rants about the current occupant of the Mayor's chair, doings of local council that leaves quite a few people scratching their heads and now has added a section about community feedback. Postings from this blog have already ended up in the local newspaper, The Auroran, and probably will be featured well into the future as well.

Stay tuned to this blog if your interested in local Aurora politics and community happenings. Please note I've added it to my blogroll as well, so feel free to watch for the latest on that blog's postings right here. I hope this blog will stick around well into the next municipal election as it could make things interesting!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

My FIVE Buddies.....

People constantly question what the meaning of life is on a constant basis. Author Mitch Albom has attempted to answer this by trying to investigate this question not from earth, but the other side. Albom's book, The Five People you Meet in Heaven, has one central character named Eddie who meets five people who were affected by him. Within this book there are a couple of types of people Eddie meets along with a few interesting lessons that a reader can draw from each type of person.

The first type Eddie comes accross is someone who Eddie didn't even know he affected the life of. An example of this is Blue Man who Eddie killed. Eddie, in his younger years, was chasing after the ball that had drifted into the road. Blue Man, who was driving his car, slammed ont he breaks barely missing Eddie. Eventually Blue Man dies of a heart attack due to being stressed over nearly hitting Eddie with his car. Eddie, of course, never knows about Blue Man's death until after he dies himself. The main lesson for this type of person is to remember each person you run into on a daily basis, no matter how long of contact, has an effect on them either positive or negative.

The second type of person Eddie meets is a person Eddie wishes to express regret to, but refuses to do so for so long that he never gets to. Eddie's father was an abusive parent. Eventually the Eddie and his father are no longer on speaking terms. This occurs right up to after Eddie's father dies. Eddie really only gets to apologize to his fater for his actions when me meets his father in the afterlife. The main lesson in this type of person is never hold off on apologizing to another because if you refuse to do so or believe you will eventually get around to it sometime, it may never happen.

Overall Albom loves to write books that make the reader think deeply about their own lives. Throughout this book I found myself thinking about both how Eddie tragically died, how Eddie comes to reflect on his own life by meeting five others in the afterlife and how my own life compares with each of Eddie's own reflections on his life. This book is easy to do that because the author vividly describes the settings and characters while advancing the plot in a fairly consistant fashion without dragging. By the end of the book, I'm not only glad I've learnedthe answer to Eddie's question of "did I save that little girl's life?", but am also reflecting on who my five buddies I will meet once I head to heaven.

Monday, August 11, 2008

VIVA Transit Improvements for York Region

Recently I received a flyer in the mail from the York Consortium explaining there is an upcoming open house for transit on Monday August 11th at the Newmarket Municipal Offices. The open house is to unveil the future transit initiatives for York Region's VIVA Rapid Transit service.

Currently, VIVA runs buses along the Yonge Street and Highway 7 corridors that stop at major intersections only approximately every one kilometre or so. These buses opperate in "mixed traffic" (i.e. along with the average joe's cars and trucks) with some signal priority.

The current signal priority is if the bus is late by three minutes or more from it's schedule, the light will hold green for up to an extra ten seconds. But this is only the case if the particular intersection's light hasn't been affected by the same process within the last five or so minutes. What this "signal priority" actually means in practicality for VIVA transit riders is the VIVA buses travel. This is in contrast to the VIVA's initial claim in their initial video advertising campaign: "what do you call traffic signals that change green just for you?" As any current VIVA rider or driver will note..."Not VIVA".

There are many other issues with the current VIVA service that were initially promised in that video which any regular VIVA rider or driver can contend are complete fabrications: "what do you say about a ride every five minutes?" (If your lucky they arrive every 15 minutes and barely on time). "what do you say about never being late for work?" (I've been late for work once...but that was because I give VIVA an extra 30 minutes to screw up) and "a bit of fun on your lunch break?" (I used to work at Downsview Station...I wouldn't trust VIVA to get me to and from York University in a fifteen minute trip due to issues with the VIVA Orange even running on time!) and, my all time favourite: "what do you say to making it home in time for dinner every day?" (Not VIVA: Leaving Downsview Station at 5:00 P.M. on VIVA Orange to York University, transfer to VIVA Purple to Richmond Hill Centre at 5:25 P.M. after a MISSED connection with the VIVA Purple at 5:15 P.M. and north to Aurora on VIVA Blue to arrive at 7:00 P.M. means I've missed dinner...right and I report the missed connection to VIVA Customer service multiple times and nothing changes while VIVA claims they have resolved the problem...yet problem still persists...).

Now there is a look at the future which, if VIVA for once delivers on ALL it's promises, will significantly improve transit in York Region to where it should already be today. VIVA promises to cut existing travel time down by 40% with the implementation of VIVA only transit lanes up the middle of Yonge Street and other routes. These lanes would be similar to the dedicated streetcar tracks on Spadina Avenue in Downtown Toronto but with VIVA bus vehicles.

These lanes, as promised in the literature and website, will greatly improve the reliability of the VIVA transit service. However, this will only happen if the VIVA plans and executes these lanes correctly. Thus, don't get two excited if things don't turn out as advertised as VIVA has promised the world before and, like the above examples, have failed to deliver.

But hopefully, the above examples will dissappear as these lanes are introduced. In order for these lanes to successful the following aspects MUST be concentrated on:

1. VIVA vehicles in the transit lanes must have signal priority over all other traffic except emergency vehicles. This means no matter where in the sequence the traffic control system is at, if a VIVA vehicle approaches an intersection, it needs to have the green light to pull through. Failure to do this will mean VIVA vehicles will their own transit lanes but very little other advantages.

2. VIVA fare machines need to be either brought onboard vehicles or drivers need to keep moving. Quite often drivers wait for people to purchase tickets or get off the vehicle to assist in purchasing a ticket for a passenger. This costs valuable time that could be spent getting the fifty other people on the bus to their destination. Helping people get tickets also means the VIVA vehicle is unable to make connections due to lost time required playing around to get one person a ticket. It seems VIVA is only interested in getting the fares paid instead of getting people there on time. These priorities need to be reversed as fast and frequent transit service will only attract more fare paying riders.

3. On all VIVA routes the first concentration from now to until after the lanes are implented should be getting the frequency of the buses corrected. Quite often VIVA promises buses every fifteen minutes in off peak team and deliver a bus 20 to 25 minutes. The same goes in rush hour when VIVA promises a bus at least every 10 minutes and delivers one in fifteen to twenty if your lucky. Failure to deliver a bus on time in the frequency promised means VIVA's overall on time performance is suffering. A passenger trying to call Customer Service to report the frequency based on the schedule posted on their website is told VIVA doesn't operate on a schedule. This situation must change in order to provide the frequent and reliable service the VIVA concept has promised since it's launch.

4. Clean stations. Currently some of the stations look like they haven't seen a power washing or broom in a while. I will admit the glass on the shelters is cleaned regularly. However, at Golf Links southbound station in Aurora on the VIVA Blue line there has been garbage and vomit inside the shelter that still has to be removed even two weeks after I first noticed it. Stations need to be cleaned and garbage removed on a regular basis. One of the cleanest stations, that VIVA needs to model their services after, is York University. This station sees a large number of people coming and going on the VIVA Orange and Purple lines yet looks pretty good. This is because York University sanitation looks after the cleaning of this station.

Fast, frequent, reliable and clean transit is what VIVA needs to aspire to. The introduction of the VIVA only lanes will only increase the propsects of VIVA delivering on these words. If VIVA is able to deliver these concepts, VIVA will finally be able to deliver what was advertised since day one.

Monday, July 28, 2008

So you want to sell me a cell phone

Recently the Canadian government ended an auction where prospective cellular phone companies bid on bandwith for their operations. Within the next year new cellphone companies owned by Sasktel, Quebecor and others. The companies will require that time in order to arrange the infrastructure, plans and advertising campaigns to launch their new cell phone operations.

In order to be fair to everyone wishing for yet another cell phone subscriber, here is what I'm looking for in a cell phone (idea ironically stolen from high priced lawyer Edward Greenspan in his column in today's Toronto Sun and also published in the Edmonton Sun):

1. Do not charge me a "system access fee." A cell phone plan that pays per month should already have access to your company's system without any additional charge. If the cell phone doesn't, I will be forced to create my own system with two tin cans and a piece of string. If you can't give me access to your system, then what's the use of the cell phone? To use as an expensive paperweight?

2. No small print a the bottom of the adds. Just give me the price I'm expected to pay on a monthly basis and how long the contract is for. Give me the straight goods, straight up without any funny business requiring a magnifying glass and a dictionary to understand. If I wanted small print and big words, I would head to the nearest university library's medical section. Also, quite frankly, I don't care about the: system access fee, text fee, 911 emergency access fee, Frank's cut of my bill, etc. Just give me the final price AND MAKE IT AFFORDABLE!

3. Comparable products and prices to other countries. Recently Rogers released in Canada, after more than a year of availability in the United States, the IPHONE! However, Rogers got lambasted over it's rate plans online because the rate plants were substantially higher than what AT&T provided it's customers in the United States.

4. Customer Service! Rogers and Bell have pitiful records of customer service especially in terms of their base services (i.e. what their company was founded upon). Ellen Roseman, the Toronto Star's Consumer Affairs Columnist has raised these issues on Bell (phone service) and Rogers (cable service) and so have the readers on her blog. If I have a problem with my cell phone service (e.g. billing, reception, electronic problems, etc.) I want answers not apologies further issues that only get me frustrated.

5. SERVICE! I do not want to be wandering along Yonge Street anywhere from Bradford to the Toronto Star building and have a "dropped call". The same with anywhere on Highway 401 in Ontario. If you cannot guarentee service along these two routes at a bare minimum, then don't even apply. If your asking why? Then please cease your operation now as your truly not in the cell phone "service" industry.

So if your a Canadian cell phone company or are a prospective cell phone company, please review the above, and feel free to post your plans, if they adhere to the plans above, in the comment section.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Zune comes to an end

Today I received an end of Zune campaign e-mail from chatthreads. They were looking for feedback on the word of mouth campaign. Too bad I barely had the Zune for two weeks, otherwise I would have gladly blogged about it more and provided more feedback.

There is at least one piece of information of product feedback that's needed to be said:

This past week I didn't use my Zune on Wednesday and Thursday. I had taken it out of my "going to work bag". I picked it up Friday morning and headed to work. Halfway to work I tried turning on the Zune. It didn't have any power. This despite the Zune being powered down after use and the "lock" put on each day so even if the buttons were touched, nothing would activate. Apparently the Zune, even when turned off, sucks power from the battery. This is kind of dissapointing as I couldn't use my Zune on that Friday.

But at least, on the bright side of this fiasco, the Zune powers up in less than two hours to full power again.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

I'm Engaged!

Yesterday, the day before my girlfriend's birthday, we headed down to the Toronto Islands. I had a birthday package that I wrapped myself and put a nice pink little card on it. This package stayed on my bureau for the entire week. The entire time my girlfriend stared at it threatening to open it. She doesn't like surprises at all!

We grabbed lunch at St. Lawrence Market then took the fairy to the Toronto Islands.
The first stop was the Olympic Island where we found a nice picnic table next to the shoreline. I took a couple of pictures with my digital camera. Then a couple of waves came and splashed us. Not a good spot for gift giving. So we retreated back a little further from the water to another picnic table.

At the second picnic table I got out the present. Yvonne opened the card and the present. After unrapping the paper there was a Mouse box from my computer mouse. In the box was a smaller white box. In the white box there was a ring box. I proposed to her there.
She of course ACCEPTED! :)

There is no picture yet of the ring as my Fiance wanted to pick out the engagement ring herself. So this week we are going to jewelry stores to see if we can find one she likes.

But at least....I'M ENGAGED!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Powering up to Zune

Last night I had to power up my Zune after two days of use. Instead of connecting it to the computer to charge like you would an Ipod, I decided to try out the AC adapter normally sold separately from the Zune.

After opening the AC adapter packaging, I quickly read the instructions and I was on my way to powering up my Zune in less than the two hours advertised. However, I got a little concerned about the brains behind the Zune on the following items:

1. The packaging for the AC adapter, after removing the recyclable cardboard outer case, is totally questionable if it can be recycled plastic. A cardboard try, like what the actual Zune unit comes in, would be a better option.

2. To use the AC adapter, the user has to use the connection cord between the computer and the Zune. I normally prefer to leave these cords attached to my computer for easy connection and disconnection. The AC adapter is marketed as a quicker option for powering up your Zune when on the go, however this requires remembering the connection cord which is probably still connected to your computer. A suggestion would be to provide an additional connection cord with the AC adapter package.

3. The connection cord on the Zune end I`m afraid I might break. This is because the connection end you must push the two small buttons in order to remove the cord from the Zune. Why couldn`t they make it with a simple USB style connection, like the computer connection end, that can be easily just pulled out. This would reduce the fear of damaging either the Zune unit`s connection port or the having to replace the USB cord for connecting the Computer (or AC adapter) with the Zune.

Did you read this post? Click on the below to due a quick survey of about word of mouth advertising on.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Zune Day One

Yesterday I received my free 8 GB Zune from Matchstick.ca along with an AC adapter and Premium Headphones. I eagerly took it home after work and went to work reading the set-up instructions for the Zune. This only took two seconds considering that there are only three steps to...PRESTO!...your synching your Zune with your computer.

What's even better about the Zune is it only takes two hours to fully charge the battery for use. Which is terrific for people eager to get their new electronic gizmo up and running in a hurry.

Today I tested out the basic package (i.e. zune with the headphones it comes with). I started the day with a full battery and, after about three hours of usage I'm only down to 75% battery power at most. This was while I used both the radio and MP3 player format.

The radio and MP3 had great sound quality on the regular Zune ear buds which are similar to the Ipod ear buds except they are not obnoxious white, but black. The radio had great quality in tuning with very little static in comparison to a regular portable radio player. Also, an added feature if the FM station you're listening to supports the technology, the Zune will display not only the FM tuning number (i.e. 98.1), the station name, the song title and the artist name currently playing. Also, the radio function allows you to input a bunch of presets so the user can cycle through their favourite radio stations looking for good tunes while skipping the channels you have no interest in.

As for the MP3 player function while it is playing it has album art, the title of the song and the artist`s name. The MP3 player allows the user to scroll through the normal menu of songs on the Zune if one is looking for a particular song or the usual ``shuffle the songs and play them randomly.`` Also, there are other ways to search for songs include sorting the music by: artist, album, genres and user created playlists. Bottom line, if your looking for a specific song or type of music any way you want it.

Coming up I will be trying out the other features of the Zune including pictures, video, the Premium head phones and powering up with the AC adapter so ``Stay Zuned!``

Did you read this post? Click on the below to due a quick survey of about word of mouth advertising on.


Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Aurora's Canada Day Parade

This morning I hitched up our camping chairs and headed off down the road to check out the Aurora Canada Day Parade. This parade returned after hiatus year in 2007 to somewhat of a success, here is just a glimpse of what people saw:


The Town Crier starting off the parade.


The Central York Fire Department parade entries.


The Old Aurora Fire Truck from 1928.


The parading of the Aurora "Canada's Birthday Town" flag.


The Aurora Seniors Center's float


How Downtown Aurora looked a long time ago from the Aurora Rotary Club float.


The York Lions' Steel Drum Band.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Show us your Canada, Canada

The Toronto Star, on it's website, requested Canadians to send in pictures of their Canada. So I thought I would share, from my scrapbook the pictures I have taken that scream "Canada"


The Canadian flag at Coronation Park in Toronto.

The Stanley Cup


Aurora's "Oh Canada!" mural at the corner of Yonge & Wellington Streets in Aurora.

Seasonal nature scenes like springtime in Ontario with Trilliums.


The grand architecture of Parliament Hill.


Finally, believing Canada has a postive influence on the world.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

It twas a great year in 1434

Gavin Menzies' book 1434 takes a look at how advanced Chinese society was in terms of exploration and technological inventions. Menzies explores the various items of how the Chinese devised living including how to navigate a boat by the stars from no matter where the boat was in the world to where and when the Chinese could have been during this time pariod.

The best part of the book is that the author tells the story while not drowning the reader in historical or academic jargon. However, if jargon is used, Menzies quickly provides a definition. For example Menzies uses the word "eunichs" and then quickley defines it as "brave sailors who were intensely loyal to the empreror, permantently insecure, and ready to sacrifice all." (Menzies 3). By doing this the author is able to quickly add a word to the reader's vocabulary and be able to use the word simply later in the book without having to redefine the word again. This keeps the story moving while also painting a clear picture of what is going on in this type of time period.

Each chapter of 1434 takes a look at a different aspect of Chinese society during this time period. Some of the more interesting chapters include chapter 4 on how the Chinese calculated longitude and latitude and chapter 10 on how the Chinese influenced Magellan and Columbus' world maps. Each chapter has something new and interesting about Chinese society. Whats even better, if the reader is uninterested in a particular subject, they can simply skip to the next chapter without worrying about missing an item. But this is hardly a concern considering how interesting and well written each chapter is.

Menzies' book is a well written from beginning to end. This is mainly because the author draws upon scholarship from others who have deeply researched some aspects while Menzies maintains the overall narration of the global look of Chinese society in the book. Overall the book is worth a read for anyone interested in Asian history during this time period.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Early Morning Excitement in Aurora

This morning I was awoken by the sound of breaking glass. I looked out the window to see the old, and long since vacant, used car sales centre for Aurora Toyota fully engulfed in flames with narry a fire truck in sight. It was 5:50 A.M. when I dialed 911 to report the fire.

However, as I was connecting to the 911 dispatcher, a Central York Fire Services pumper truck responded. The crew made short work of the old closed gate to keep people from stealing cars from the parking lot when it was a Toyota Dealership. Quickly the crew got out their saws and within two minutes got through the rented temporary chain link fence. The pumper pulled onto the site.



York Regional Police quickly moved in and shutdown Yonge Street between Brookland Avenue and Murray Drive to traffic.

I ventured over later after the ruckus died down and everyone left:

The main issue with this property is since the Aurora Toyota dealership moved out, this piece of property has sat vacant for quite some time. While sitting vacant the two buildings on the site have been vandalized by teenagers off and on both day and night.

The vandals are further assisted within the last week with access to this piece of property when the temporary rented fence was fully removed. Rumour has it in the neighbourhood the property owners failed to pay the bill for the fence rental. So for about a week the property sat vacant with no fence and with several smashed windows on the rear, north and south sides. Then later in the week a temporary fence was reinstalled along the front of the property only. This didn't do much considering both the north and south sides of the property were not fenced off to keep anyone out.
Further, this property, according to Town of Aurora development records (see section 41 of the link) due for rezoning in order "to allow ground floor retail and 44 residential units within 4 storey building." This seems like a great redevelopment plan for instensifying developmeny along the Yonge Street corridor in Aurora in terms encouraging sustainable development along routes well serviced by transit. However, the applicant, i.e. the property owner has put the development application on hold for the time being. So it seems the neighbours of 14785 Yonge Street will have to live endure the blight this property has become for a while longer.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Abuse has to be Reported.

Again this week a disturbing educational issue hit the news. In Friday's Toronto Star, it was reported that a Newmarket Grade 1 student visiting the washroom was wipped by belts by two grade 8 students. The principal, upon hearing of the incident failed to inform either the parents and the police. The only action the York Region Catholic District School Board Principal undertook was to suspend the two offending students. The Grade 1 student's older sister ventured home and told her parents of the attack on her younger sibling. The parents, of course, contacted the police who laid charges against the two Grade 8 students. The parents also contacted the local MPP, Frank Klees, about the issue who brought the problem to floor of the Ontario Legislature.

This problem seems to have repeated itself considering that in October 2006 a similar issue occurred involving the gang rape of a female muslim student in a school washroom at C.W. Jeffrey's Secondary school in the Toronto District School Board. This incident on came to light when a panel was investigating the shooting death of Jordan Manners at the school. This resulted in charges being laid against the principal and two vice-principals of the school at the time for failure to report the incident to police. However, in a despicable ruling by the court, the charges were dismissed because, as the Toronto Star reported:

Justice of the Peace Gabriel John said the charges against Charis Newton-Thompson, former principal at the Toronto school, and former vice-principals Stan Gordon and Silvio Tallevi were sworn last December – well after the six-month time limit in the Provincial Offences Act.

The province's Attorney General will most likely appeal this case. But it does send a disturbing message to Ontario parents about those in positions of authority in Ontario schools and the courts.

The main message in the above two instances is that principals do not want to involve the police believing this is a school issue. However, in both instances these are crimes under the criminal code and failure to report a crime, again under the criminal code, is a crime unto itself. But the criminal code, as noted in second case, seems to be slightly in conflict with protecting students considering a judge has ruled that after six monthes, if a crime is not reported, nobody can be charged. So the school boards seems to know this and, in the above two cases, would have said absolutely nothing in hopes that the whole issue would blow over or never be heard about.

What's even worse is the York Region Catholic School Board refuses to disclose which of the schools in Newmarket the assault occurred between the two Grade 8 students and the Grade 1 victim as reported in today's edition of The Era-Banner. The Era-Banner reporter narrowed down the possible schools the attack occurred at from six to three by investigating which schools had female principals. As reported in the newspaper, at one of these schools the attack occurred with contact information included:

St. John Chrysostom Catholic School on Joe Persechini Drive (905-895-7411), St. Nicholas on Keith Avenue (905-895-3777) and St. Paul on William Roe Boulevard (905-895-4122.)

It seems the "culture of secrecy" in terms of reporting crimes to the authorities and parents as reported in the Falconer Report on the death of Jordan Manners also extends to the York Region Catholic District School Board at least in the case as well. Not only does the principal at the school not call the police in on this issue, but also doesn't tell the parents of victim what happenned and what the consequences were of the incident until parent's own child arrives home from school and reports what occurred. Also, in order to keep all York Region Catholic School parents in the dark, the Board refuses to disclose at which school the assault took place. The Board should be telling parents which school this incident occurred as it is every parent's, along with the school's, responsibility to keep their child safe. Parents have every right to know if the staff at their school is following the criminal code as well as board policy in terms of keeping their own children safe. The board has failed to live up to their responsibility in this case in providing open and accountable practices in this particular case.

Frank Klees, the MPP for Newmarket-Aurora, has brought forth a bill to recommend that all assaults between students in schools should be reported to the police. Klees is quite right in ensuring this is enacted in legislation. Students can only learn right from wrong if the consequences are presented and, if needed, enforced under the criminal code. The Ontario Legislature should ensure that not only do assaults in schools, no matter who they are between, be reported to police in a timely manner. If these assaults are not reported there should be dire consequences for the administration of the schools including dismissal, jail time and a fine. Also, there should be no legal loop hole allowed in the criminal code of finding that an assault has failed to be reported to the proper authorities. This would close the legal loop hole that prevented the conviction of the principal and two vice-principals in the Toronto District School Board incident as well as prevent the situation from occurring again.

Children in Ontario, and accross Canada, should have every right to expect to attend schools that are safe and secure. If for any reason an incident of assault occurs, there should proper penalties both at the school level and, if warrented under the criminal code (or Young Offenders Act) and not at the whim of some principal, charges should be laid. Also, school boards must be forced to release details of incidents at schools when called upon by either the media or concerned parents in the name of providing parents with the full disclosure so as to ensure their children's safety is accounted for. Anything less only promotes a culture a silence and possible more violence in our schools and that is totally unacceptable to anyone, including students, parents, teachers, principals, superintendents, trustees and the general public.

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