Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Toronto and Another Cold Weather Alert



The radio nudged me awake today at 7:30. Most often, the guys on CBC Radio help me to start my day. "It is minus 21, minus 30 with windchill this morning. The City has declared another cold weather alert, the  5th so far this winter",  Gill Dempsey's cheerful voice proclaimed.   As I opened my eyes I wondered if I would see a winter wonderland scene outside - last night they had predicted some snow this morning.  The south wall of my condo is all glass - I am still debating window coverings -  and so provides an exquisite view of the Lake right from my bed. Not only the lake, but the island airport, the CNE grounds, Ontario Place and for good measure, the Gardiner Express Way, Lakeshore Go Trains and the 509 Trolley route.  Boats, planes, cars and trains all in motion. No, not snow, I could see beyond my balcony and the hint of sunrise.  There was something more magical at play - today my eyes lingered over the lake as the dance of the wisps was underway.




The sun was peaking through the low cloud to the south-east.  Wispy tendrils coming off the water, in the distance leaping up into the sky as if they were transfusing the clouds above providing Buffalo with it's lake effect snowfall.  This is becoming a familiar sight -  the air being so very cold over the lake that clouds seemingly formed directly from the water and rose up into the sky right before your very eyes.  Yes, another cold day.

We haven't yet heard the words "Polar Vortex" being bandied about by the weather man this year as yet - last year it seemed the 2014 neologism .  So far this year, the Weather Forecasters just refer to it as an arctic air mass (meaning just cold weather) and tell us it is descending upon us yet again.  I am hoping we are not in for any Polar Vortex weather this winter.  Anyway, the weather this last week or two has been damn cold that is all. 


The view to the west was not quite as spectacular as to the east, but it was great to see blue skies all around.   I can cozy up and enjoy the sun and the view and dream of warmer days and make travel plans. Abby was no more anxious to rush out for her morning stroll than I was, so I wandered over to the kitchen to make coffee and settle in for an easy do it morning.





 I had been hoping for a much milder winter this year.  I guess we can all blame global warming for this.
According to the City of Toronto Statistics, we have had 1 less cold weather alert in the city than last year at this time - but last winter we had 36 cold weather alerts -  4 times the number for the previous winter (2012/2013)!  The highest number by far in the last decade!  With the 2 recent deaths of homeless men in our streets, I am glad that the City has seemed more open to calling an alert rather than not.  I looked for stats to see how many homeless died last winter, but apparently that is not a question that the search engines can answer. Here is to hoping that we don't have any more deaths due to the homeless dying of exposure this winter.




For the geeks out there - I found a You Tube video which explains the Polar Vortex and last year concluded that these cold weather events would continue and increase in the face of global warning.  According to a Science Digest published study: "... thermal and wind driven ECWAs  (Extreme Cold Weather Alerts) will continue for Toronto under climate change scenarios, although with gradual decreasing frequency."  The weather models the researchers used projected out to 2050 - but of course I will be long gone by then so I guess I'd better get used to bundling up.   And as for the homeless?  I think I will pick up a bunch of warm socks and start handing them out instead of change.  Seems we are in this for the long haul.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Nature Beauty and Gratitude - Unwinding after a Wicked Week

We get so wrapped up in our busy selves we forget ... to stop ... and look at the beauty that surrounds us ... to listen to the words of a spendid poem  ... to admire the sights we pass by each day ... to savour each bite of our meal.. to enjoy the people we meet and talk with ... to hear the music and  to slow down and live in the moment.

If these words resonate you might want to check out The Quiet Place Project. I have the iPhone app on my phone. If you need to slow down some time and be quiet with your world you might want to visit The Quiet Place.


This is going to be the shortest post of original words that I have ever posted, I think.  My mind is not really on Toronto today.   I had  a hectic week and after I complete one more item from my job jar I will be  heading up north soon for some time with friends.  As spring approaches and so does the anniversary of the start of my epic journeys of last year, thoughts of some of the beautiful places I saw wander in and out of memory.  Such memories as the one represented by the picture above when I spent 4 days in the French Alps at Chamonix.  I could have stayed there a lifetime.

Since it is poetry month, I need to slip a poem in here and there is one which I think fits my theme, since music is my choice way to de-stress. I have written before of the musician Luciana Sousa and how she has set some of Neruda's poetry to music in one of her albums.  Here is another from her album  "The Poems of Elizabeth Bishop and Other Songs". Luciana Souza put these lyrics to music in a Carole King type arrangement and its folksy and  yearning style is a perfect match for the words.  I couldn't find it on You Tube so I  had to create one myself.



Sunday, March 31, 2013

One More Cup of Coffee for the sake of Science!



I had the great treat of heading out to Kitchener/Waterloo on Friday to visit with my son Eric and his sweetie Charlotte.  The day's highlight was a tour of the Perimeter Institute, where Charlotte works as a Scientific Programs Assistant. The architecture of the building is very impressive in both creature comforts as well as aesthetics - nice to see that the world's top researchers in physics are well looked after and are surrounded with things to support creativity and foster brain power.  There are lots of spaces (aside from the offices) with casual, comfy lounges for fireside theoretical math discussions and recreational facilities like fooseball and squash courts when they need to get away from the heavy thinking.  Apparently this work also requires lots of coffee - expresso, of course, and there is a machine at the ready 24/7!

According to Wiki:
The building design was awarded a Governor General's Medal for Architecture for the design in May 2006. The building next to PI, housing the Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery, won the same award for its architects in 1997. Perimeter Institutes's building features an open glass facade along the north and west sides, contrasting with the slate-black metal walls of much of the rest of the building. Each researcher's office, as well as various lounge areas, features a full-wall blackboard for those huge equations which is a necessary work tool for solo or group work theorizing. The 55,000 square feet expansion, The Stephen Hawking Centre at Perimeter, opened in 2011. 

From the Perimeter Institute website:
Perimeter Institute is a leading centre for scientific research, training and educational outreach in foundational theoretical physics. Founded in 1999 in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, its mission is to advance our understanding of the universe at the most fundamental level, stimulating the breakthroughs that could transform our future. Perimeter also trains the next generation of physicists through innovative programs, and shares the excitement and wonder of science with students, teachers and the general public.
The Perimeter Institute is funded through a combination of public and private donors and is a world class facility supporting an International team of researchers.  Mike Lazaridis (co-founder of BlackBerry/RIM) is the Perimeter Founder and Board Chair.  A long time supporter of scientific research for such places as the Institute for Quantum Computing at the University of Waterloo and the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, he announced this week that he is leaving Blackberry to focus his efforts on Quantum Valley Investments, a $100-million fund he launched with Doug Fregin, a co-founder of Research In Motion/BlackBerry.

All this is pretty exciting stuff - if you go to their website you can read more about the sorts of research being done here - to save you a click here is the introductory paragraph.

Perimeter Institute is a major centre for theoretical physics research, attracting a diverse community of resident and visiting scientists from around the world. They cluster in a highly collaborative and interdisciplinary environment to forge new, mind-bending ideas about the ultimate nature of our universe, from space and time to matter and information. Over 150 resident researchers and 1,000 visiting scientists a year work to unlock nature’s most profound secrets hidden deep inside the atom and far across the universe

If you look at the listing of who's who for Perimeter Institute you will see Stephen Hawking is "Distinguished Visiting Research Chair" and he has not only the most recent expansion of the building named after him but also works there during part of the year.   


For my blog sphere friends from afar, "Kitchener-Waterloo" (K-W), 100 KM to the NW of Toronto,  is  Canada's 10th largest metropolitan area. Made up of the Cities of Kitchener and Waterloo (also known as "The Twin Cities but you can't tell where one starts and the other ends so I think they must be conjoined twins LOL).  Waterloo is a hot bed of high tech companies and has 2 Universities so it is a place of top drawer brain concentration.    The City of Cambridge is also in the K-W Metropolitan area, but for some reason it doesn't merit an initial in the K-W moniker.  I guess KWC sounds too much like a radio station.




I scored a great blackboard coffee mug.  I guess theoretical physicists always need to be near a blackboard, not only was there a mini blackboard on the coffee mug (and chalk was provided!) but there were blackboard surfaces everywhere - many with bits of math on them - which I was warned not to photograph!

It just so happened that Eric was hosting his monthly Rock Band Game night at the Rum Runner pub and so I went along and helped schlep the equipment and after a tasty pub dinner, enjoyed the musical stylings of the various K-W Rock Band enthusiasts.  I think everyone in the room was harmonizing at the top of their voices when Bohemian Rhapsody was the chosen song.  A good time was had by all!  It seems that more than a few of  K-W's scientists like to rock it out on a Friday night.  I just might go back again after I practice a few tunes!

The coffee mug sits proudly on my shelf in my  office and that prompted me to look for a good "Coffee Song" to include in this blogI found a Dylan song which has been covered by quite a few really great voices, but my preference was for this version by a little known band from the Netherlands by the name of Heger Walter Band.


 

One More Cup Of Coffee

by Bob Dylan


Your breath is sweet
Your eyes are like two jewels in the sky
Your back is straight your hair is smooth
On the pillow where you lie
But I don't sense affection
No gratitude or love
Your loyalty is not to me
But to the stars above

One more cup of coffee for the road
One more cup of coffee 'fore I go.
To the valley below.

Your daddy he's an outlaw
And a wanderer by trade
He'll teach you how to pick and choose
And how to throw the blade
He oversees his kingdom
So no stranger does intrude
His voice it trembles as he calls out
For another plate of food.

One more cup of coffee for the road
One more cup of coffee 'fore I go.
To the valley below.

Your sister sees the future
Like your mama and yourself
You've never learned to read or write
There's no books upon your shelf
And your pleasure knows no limits
Your voice is like a meadowlark
But your heart is like an ocean
Mysterious and dark.

One more cup of coffee for the road
One more cup of coffee 'fore I go.
To the valley below.

The Original by Bob Dylan

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Homes Sweet Homes

My last post to this blog was nearly 4 months ago. Since then I have been in Cuba for 5 weeks, home 1 week and then in Europe for 3 months. In that time I have been pretty consistently sharing my travel experiences in my other blog Peggy's Bucket LIst Adventures. I have a bit of catching up to do on that blog for reasons explained in my last blog on that site, but in the meantime, I am going to restart this blog and catch up on things here.

I arrived home last week and had a happy reunion with my family and set about catching up with a pile of "to do's" which were waiting for me to come home. I am sad to say that my adventures are probably going to be cut short a bit. I had wanted to travel to the east coast of Canada and tour Newfoundland, but I think my funds are running a bit low. I had counted on having my Collingwood Shangri-La rented until September but my tenants turned delinquent and I am having to evict them with rent owing. So I will be losing a few months rent and (I will find out this week when they vacate), I understand that there are damages to be repaired. I won't go into details, but suffice to say that I will come away with several thousand fewer dollars than I had expected on the "inflow" side of the budget

Not to say that it is all bad. I love my Collingwood retreat, and am looking forward to getting it back on the 22nd of July. It will be wonderful to spend the rest of the summer up on Georgian Bay, if I can't go out east.

I had rented both my homes out while I was away and over the next 2 weeks I will get each of them back again. It will take a bit of effort to get all my personal stuff back in place, but it is the start to getting back in to a normal routine. Kind of hard this week, since I don't have possession of either of my homes and still feel a bit like a gypsy. In the meantime I will see how empty the coffers are and when I will need to get back to the 9 to 5 world. It will take a bit of adjustment for sure.

The other bit of news is that I have not wasted any time since I have been back and now have a new puppy to look after. Her name is Abby and she is part Yorkie and part Lhasa Apso. She was born May 6th, which makes her nearly 10 weeks old. I had forgotten how much work new puppies are. So instead of going out east I will be training my new puppy. I am hoping to have a month or so before I hve to leave her each day for work.

Abby lounging in her basket. Isn't she small?

She will be big for a Yorkie as her parents were 11 and 15 pounds. I expect that she will remain on the lower side of this range, maybe even less, since apparently she is 3/4 Yorkie.

The Dog Song

I love this song by Nellie McKay. It is peppy and it is jazzy and it is exactly what I will be singing when Abby gets her 2nd booster shots and can come out of doggie quarantine when her immune system is full of those doggie vaccinations.

 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas to Friends Past, Present and Future....

I haven't had any time to blog for longer than I can remember.  There are the usual excuses - too much to do with the hours I have and there is little time left to even get a half decent night's sleep.

I especially wanted to make time today to wish all my friends in the Blogsphere the very best of the holiday season.  I hope you have a great time with friends and family over the holidays and your wishes for wonderful things next year all come true.  Special thoughts of love to my dear friends who I won't be able to see this Christmas. Though you might be far away know that I still carry thoughts of you in my heart.





I have planned a new blog for the New Year. I am going to call it "Bucket List Adventures" as it will contain my travel blogs. I have not done justice as yet to my Iceland trip of the summer and I have just about completed plans for my 6 month sabbatical which will start on Feb 15th. I will keep this blog on the back burner for next July when I return from Europe and settle back into my Toronto routine.

Watch in the coming days for the first blog in my new site. I have spent a great deal of time planning my Cuba, Spain, France and Italy itineraries. It takes a lot of time to check out lodgings, points of interest and to researching equipment to take on a 1,000 KM trek not to mention the training program I have started in earnest. Lots to do.

I have discovered that the University of Havana intakes new Spanish Languages students each month.  So after a couple of weeks of R & R treking Cuba, during the month of March I will be taking a 4 week language course in Havana. 

For my Europe leg of my holiday 6 weeks will be spent in Spain walking the Camino - The Pilgrim's Trail via the Via de la Plata route. After that it is France and Italy for the remaining 6 weeks. One can only remain in the EU for 90 days in each 180 days and long term visas seem impossible to get. So I will return to Canada with enough time to maybe have a bit of a trip to the East Coast before I am back to work in September.

I will put a link to my travel blog on this site when I get the inaugural post finished.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

No Mega-Quarry -- Foodstock Protest

OK, so I have got to start blogging again - even though I have less than no time.  I miss spending time writing and trading comments with my friends in the blogsphere.  Going to try to get back at it again.  The plan this time is to ease back into this habit once again.  Lets hope that I can keep these blogs coming with some regularity.

Today I attended Foodstock.  Lots of protests going on these days and this is one that I can get behind whole heartedly.
Prime Class 1 Farmland in Melancthon Township - the location of Foodstock

Ontario has some prime farmland in the area I drive through on my way to Collingwood, just north of Shelburne .   Highway 124, which runs north from Shelburne all the way to Georgian Bay in the centre of Collingwood cuts through the middle this wonderful potato growing land.  Maybe soon to be x-wonderful potato growing land for 8,000 acres which have been proposed to become Canada`s largest aggregate quarry.  There are two things which threaten the countryside in these parts, in the eyes of the locals and some not so locals.  One thing generating a lot of protests are the windmills which are slowly marching north (Go to the Town of Shelburne website if you want to see) - but explaining that is another blog.  The other item which is more certainly threatening the countryside and is not debated by anyone who lives near or travels up and down highway 124 is the proposed Mega-quarry. 

Quoting from a Reuters news release:
The project, which would supply crushed limestone for Toronto's booming construction industry, has counted value investor Seth Klarman's Baupost Group as one of its investors.
Highlands Cos, the company behind the quarry, plans to carve out the huge pit on thousands of acres of potato fields it has bought up about 100 kilometers (62 miles) north of Toronto.

 I might add that I am not sure the above news release is entirely correct.  According to some of my research the limestone to be quarried may actually be destined for distant countries as the supply is way more than Toronto would absorb.


As I am told, many of the local farmers sold their land to Highlands Cos. after being told that the land would be maintained as farmland.  They are sick that the land will end up as a giant hole in the ground (see below) , and an eyesore for the folks in the area.  More importantly, it would ruining the water table for the farmers around who did not sell out.  Being at the highpoint in the southern Ontario landscape, headwaters of 5 rivers supplying water to a large rural area, it could threaten the water supply for a lot of folks.

I have put together this little bit of a photo-diary to tell you about the event, which was a fundraiser for the "No Mega-Quarry" cause.  If any of this has struck a chord and you weren`t able to get out and leave the suggested $10 donation in exchange for the food and music - go to No Mega-quarry and leave your donation now.

Go here if you want a full news report of the event. 

Photo taken from the David Suzuki Foundation web site explaining the environmental impact of the mega-quarry.
 
Go here to the David Suzuki Foundation to find out why the Mega-quarry is a bad thing for the area.

Support for the No Mega-quarry group comes from all quarters.

Paths criss-crossed through the woods with a foodie tent every 5 yards or so.

Long lineups  but for some pretty scrumptious food.  We entertained while waiting by telling jokes. Did you hear the one about  (oops - can`t say that one in mixed company!)

Not only were there 100 of Toronto's top Chefs represented but also many local top drawer eateries.  This one is on our list to visit when next in Thornbury.

It was pretty cold and rainy, but the sun broke out a couple of times.

Not only were there roving musicians, but also there must have been a poet leaving his/her thoughts hanging about. 

Chef Michael Stadtländer got my vote for the best dish (a spectacularly tasty cabbage soup garnished with squash) but also for speedy service and rustic ambience.

Chef Stadtländer serving up his soup from a massive pumpkin! 
The fields were rather muddy, it being a cold and drizzly day, but we all had our wellies on! Lots of room for the 28,000 in attendance to stand and listen to the local Ontario music.

We got finished our tour of the food tents to catch a bit of Cuff the Duke. 

Hayden was next on stage after a talk by a speaker from the David Suzuki Foundation, who explained the implications of the Mega-quarry to the local water table and environment. To follow were Ron Sexsmith & Colleen Hixenbaugh and Members of the Barenaked Ladies.  The finale featured Jim Cuddy and Cuff The Duke.


Music to Dance Around the Kitchen With 

I have been listening to a lot of Chris Issak these days. Here is one that I was rockin' around my kitchen to earlier tonight as I cooked up a storm. I am on a diet - the Dukan diet to be exact. This diet (similar to the Atkin`s diet but a bit more sensible) requires that I eat copious quantities of meat and fish and dairy. So Sunday night's ritual is to get out my George Foreman Grill and cook up 3 or 4 types of heavy duty protein foodstuffs and pack them up in lunch size containers so I can continue ridding myself of my muffin top. Yes, I know - need to join a gym also - I am working up to that. Anyway, the song following has found it's way into my brain and is on continual loop.




I want you to want me
I'd love you to love me
I'm beggin you to beg me
I need you to need me

I want you to want me
I'd love you to love me
I'm beggin you to beg me
Put on old brown shoes, put on a brand-new shirt
Get home early from work if you say that you love me

Baby, didn't I, didn't I, didn't I see you cryin?
Didn't I, didn't I, didn't I see you cryin?
Feelin all alone without a friend, you know you feel like dyin.
Baby, didn't I, didn't I, didn't I see you cryin?

I want you to want me
I'd love you to love me
I'm beggin you to beg me
I need you to need me
Kick on old brown shoes, put on a brand-new shirt.
Get home early from work if you say that you love me.

Oh, didn't I, didn't I, didn't I see you cryin?
Didn't I, didn't I, didn't I see you cryin?
Feelin all alone without a friend, you know you feel like dyin.
Baby, didn't I, didn't I, didn't I see you cryin?

Feelin all alone without a friend, you know you feel like dyin.
Baby, didn't I, didn't I, didn't I see you cryin?

I want you to want me
I'd love you to love me
I'm beggin you to beg me
Oh I need you to need me
I want you to want me
I want you to want me
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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sad September Day and Hope

Today is a day of sad remembrance and a day of reflection.  Ten years since the Twin Towers fell and the word terrorism took on a new significance.

Ten years ago today, I was in class at Sheridan College, having quit work and back at school to retool and go back into the IT field. I recall classes becoming deserted as whispers of a terrible accident surfaced and many of us wandered over to the student union building, where live coverage was being telecast on a huge TV screen. It was here that I saw the 2nd tower being hit - pretty much the same picture as I have included above - and then over the next two hours, the two towers each collapsing. As the brain absorbed the event I viewed the footage being replayed over and over again and tried to make sense of what was happening. Many of us sat spellbound in front of TVs for most of the next 4 or 5 days as we came to terms with what we saw.

I don't think much learning went on at school that week. We were in shock and in disbelief of the magnitude and horror of the attack. That was 10 years ago. The world has changed so much since then in response to this event. Today as we we reflect upon it,  I am not sure if we are any more hopeful about our future and our "War on Terror", despite the fact that Osama Bin Ladin has been caught and killed.  We are for sure more careful and I am happy when I see the extent of security when I get on a flight.  I am hopeful that with the increased vigilance of the authorities, we can be spared of any more horrors as the world witnessed on 9/11.



This week has been a pretty sad one for me, so my mood is in keeping with this day of remembrance. My dear little dog Bella is no longer with me. She developed a health issue which put her in a great deal of pain and for which there were few options and no certainty of recovery and a life without pain.

Bella was a fabulous dog and a great friend and companion. I put together a small photo gallery as a tribute to her life and would invite my friends to visit it and celebrate her life with me. When Bella arrived in July of 2005 she was a tiny puppy and she could not even climb the stairs. She grew to be a very well behaved and wonderfully loving dog.

Each day, when I opened the door she was there to welcome me home and ready for our routine of play time. We would roll around on the floor until finally she would go fetch her treats and sit down to have a chew while went about my "get home from work" routine. Each morning before I left I would give her a few dog buiscuits. She always saved at least one to eat after I got home.

Bella saw me through more than one failed romance during her life. As relationships ended and new loves came afterwards, she was there to console when I pined loves lost and there to make friends as a new suitor arrived.

She and I were a team and we loved one another dearly. I have to thank all my dear friends for their concern and condolences and their understanding of what it means to lose a dog. I am so glad for the love of such wonderful friends. Friends make difficult times easier.

So this week has been a sad one, but moreover it has been a week for me to mark a time of change. While thinking of the changes in my life in the last 10 years, I am also thinking with great anticipation at the changes to take place in the next decade. As you know, this fall I am in full planning mode for my getaway, not only reviewing travel literature and drafting itineraries as I make decisions about where to visit and how long to stay. I will have a lot to occupy my thoughts and keep me busy. When I return from my travels it will be time enough to think about the possibility of a new dog.

As I was sorting through memories and thinking about changes in my life over these last 10 years and the love I have lost with the passing of Bella, and other people who played a role in my life during this last decade and who no longer do, it struck me that we have great capacity to love and to love again. We don't know what is around the next corner.  Two weeks ago I would could not have imagined that Bella would be gone.  Maybe what happens next will be bad, like the loss of a dog, but maybe it will be good like the arrival of a grandchild. (I am thinking of my friend Barb here who is expecting her first grandchild at the end of the year).  Once a new love arrives, we don't forget our old loves, but the new love helps us to move on.

 
I wanted to end this blog with something uplifting.  Music always lifts my spirit and I thought of a song which always makes me feel good when I listen to it.  The song also expresses the hope and the cure for all our woes.  The simple message in this song is wonderful and so apt.   I am sure will make everyone reading this blog smile and feel just a little bit better.
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