Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Why I prefer driving standard

I'm certainly not the first to explain why I prefer owning and driving a car with a standard transmission. In fact I've read some write-ups on line. There are some humorous ones - and some on the more practical end.

I've been driving for 28 years. All of my cars have been 5-speed standard transmissions. Except for a regrettable span of owning a Mazda, all of these have been Honda or Acura products. So here is why I stick with this.

1.  Commitment to driving well

My philosophy on driving is to strive to concentrate fully on driving when I'm behind the wheel. Now I do change radio stations, and can toggle through the CDs in the CD changer. I don't eat or drink in the car - even at rest. I keep my use of the hands-free/bluetooth to short calls.

Even so, there are distractions when driving - mainly mental distractions - about work, about dinner, about weekend plans, about life.

When driving a stick, one must drive. Not only does the driver need to physically shift gears, he must anticipate and plan the shift. After 28 years, this is second nature to a degree - but it does require more attention that lolly-gagging along in an automatic. This helps keep the driver - if he is committed to driving well, sharp.

2. Fuel economy

Standard transmissions give better gas mileage than automatic.

3. Cost

An automatic transmission will add about $2,000 to the price of a new car. If you buy 8 new cars over your driving lifetime, that's $16,000 - a lot of money.

4. Winter driving

After you've driven standard for a while, and feeling how the car is reacting to the road becomes second nature, you know you to use the gears and clutch to ease the car out of a slippery spot. You can shift an automatic to a specific gear - but it's not quite the same. (And most people who drive automatics have no idea how to do it!)

5. Acceleration

Manual transmissions have better acceleration. Not only that, you have better control of the acceleration - because you the driver decide when to shift into the next gear. This is pretty important when getting on the 401, 400 or Highway 11 - or accelerating when going up a noticeable grade. (This is when you really enjoy ….er benefit from the Honda/Acura VTEC engine!)

Sure you can get great acceleration with an automatic - but your'e paying for a larger engine, and the gas mileage that goes along with that.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

re: G&M Bureaucrat demoted for alleged role in records purge

The criminals currently running Queen's Park have now tried to ever their tracks by demoting the civil servant who may have been responsible for Wipegate - the erasing of hard disks in the premier's office:

Globe and Mail article - April 2 2014

I'm guessing that this guy will get a secret raise or bonus from the McGwynnety government.

Now the Globe and Mail has suppressed comments for legal reasons. Does that mean that we will never again be able to comment on stories involving Wynne or McGuinty?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Another simple theory behind the loss of MH370

OK - maybe it's not that simple - but there are precedents: could the plane have been brought down by a bomb planted before takeoff?

In the First World, we are accustomed to the high level of scrutiny placed on checked baggage. Our bags are x-rayed, sniffed and, in most cases these days, opened.

However, it's obvious from watching the investigation play out that Malaysia isn't a first world country. Further to that, the political situation in that nation appears quite rancourous.

So here's the theory:

- operatives of the Malay government planted a bomb on board while it was docked at the airport - with the objective of getting rid of one or more persons who were deemed to be a threat. Perhaps the pilot was one of these.
- specific passengers (friendlies of the regime) were whisked off the flight at the last minute - remember there were 5 'no shows' - so to be out of harm's way
- the plane blew up shortly after last contact
- the Malay military dispatched small vessels to quickly retrieve the black boxes and make sure any debris in that spot was sunk
- the Malay military had another plane - flying with no transponder -  in the air to cross the path and divert attention from the original location where contact was lost. This plane had cloned the ping of the MH370 ACARs system - leading searchers further astray.

Yes - this is a conspiracy theory. It demands that many people stay quiet. People can be kept quiet with money or threats, or by being killed.

I'm not proposing this is what happened. I'm surprised that this is not among the theories being hashed out on the WWW. It seems that there are potential precedents. I vaguely recollect an African leader being killed in a suspicious air crash.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The lost and the completely lost MH370 and Kathleen Wynne

The disappearance of flight MH370 is disturbing for us all. It's especially disturbing for the families of the passengers and crew. The aircraft is lost and may never be found.

What's as disturbing is the situation in Ontario.  Here we have a premier who is utterly lost - and there is no hope she and her government will ever find reality.

The damage here in Ontario is profound and widely spread. Pray for us as you pray for those on MH370.



Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Kauai by Helicopter

The second type of 'bird' you'll notice with frequency on Kauai is a mechanical one - the helicopter.

The island is spectacular - but rugged. For most visitors, the only way to get a view of it all is from the air - hence the prevalence of helicopter tours. There are a number of companies who offer tours. The itinerary for most will take you clockwise around the island. We were based in Lihue - and many tours are available from the airport. There are also tours from Princeville.

The prices for the one-hour tour range from about $220 to $250 depending on options. We got our price down to $185 or so thanks to an AAA discount - which is available to CAA members.

This might sound expensive, but it's really a pretty good deal compared to helicopter tours in other locals.

Here is our 'bird'. The company we booked with is Sunshine Helicopters - who were super all around. They sent a shuttle to pick us up from the hotel. The ground crew very organized. The pilot was a consummate professional.

Here is a photo I took looking up (North) along the Napili Coast. We had clear skies all around - and even got to fly through the main crater. (The main crater on Kauai is the rainiest place on Earth - but  we enjoyed a clear day.)  We flew up and had a close look at the waterfall featured in the movie Jurassic Park. 

I recommend taking this tour. For most visitors, visiting Kauai is a once in a lifetime treat. This was worth the slight splurge. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The pineapple

Jumping ahead to our stay on Oahu. We enjoyed a week plus at Disney's Aulani Resort - which is really first class accommodation.

On this trip, we eschewed central Honolulu and Waikiki. We did make a trip over to the north shore -and stopped for the famous tour of the Dole pineapple plantation.

This is worth a stop on the way. It wont take more than a couple of hours - and it has a good restaurant for a reasonable priced lunch.

However, the pineapple is the star! You would have to try hard to avoid enjoying this fruit in some shape or form during a visit.

if you pay attention on the train ride around the plantation, you'll learn that the pineapple is a bromeliad. You might also learn that the fruit contains bromelain. This enzyme helps digest protein.

Now - why do I mention that. In the weeks before our trip, I was suffering from heartburn and acid reflux many nights. During my time in Hawaii, i did not.

I've been including pineapple in my diet almost everyday since getting back to our cold climate - and for the most, I have not suffered a relapse. As it turns out, pineapple and papaya are recommended as part of a diet to help GERD sufferers. All I can say is thank God that it's a tasty fruit that reasonably economical.

(I know I won't find a pineapple for $1 - as I did in the Safeway at Kaanapali.)

Monday, February 10, 2014

Kauai - Waimea Canyon

The next day we took our rental car in the other direction - along the south coats and then into the interior, specifically to drive up and into Waimea Canyon.

By this point, we had noticed that there are feral chickens EVERYWHERE on Kauai - well everywhere except inside the hotel grounds. We finally became curious enough to Google as to why all the chickens.

There are chickens on many tropical islands. On Kauai, however, there are no predators. You'll see mongooses scampering about on Oahu and Maui - but not on Kauai. In addition, the chickens are protected. (That aside, the birds - now a mix of guinea fowl and escaped domestics - are renowned to be tough to eat. (Look up the joke about the recipe for Kauai chicken.)

Below is a hen tending to her chicks. This is at the lodge/restaurant area in Kokee State Park - reached at the head of the Canyon.

Here is a typical view from the scenic drive overlooking the Canyon itself.

A short drive beyond the restaurant and museum is the Kalalau Lookout - providing a fabulous view of the Napili Coast. If you watch the intro to the Hawaii Life TV show, you'll see a photo taken from this lookout.

Something we were not expecting was to see another island off Kauai. Amidst the haze you'll see the island of Ni'ihau. This is known as the 'forbidden island'. This is a privately owned island - although there are tours allowed on a limited basis.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Reflections on Hawaii - Kauai - Part I

We are just back from three and a half weeks in Hawaii. Our timing was wonderful - given the the harsh winter weather that we left behind. I felt a little sorry for those back in Toronto and Muskoka - or just about everywhere. However, we all need vacations - this one worked out well.

We visited three island: Kauai, Oahu, and Maui.

Kauai - The Garden Island:

This was my first visit to Kauai. We arrived at Lihue airport late on New Years Day. Our hotel, the Kauai Marriott, was a short shuttle ride from the airport. The hotel is attractive - despite the less than appealing entrance way.

I found this island a little more laid back than the others - so a great way to start a vacation. Work, Christmas and the ice-storm related damage to my house had left me in a severely over-stressed state. Kauai is the perfect cure for stress. Here is a view from the hotel:


We spent a day or two - can't exactly remember - enjoying the hotel pool and beach, playing Scrabble, and checking out the shops reachable on foot. With this R&R under our belts we were ready to explore - by car.

Our first trip took us north from Lihue and all the way to Hanlei Bay and as far as the road would reach. You would have seen view of Hanlei Bay in the movie "The Descendants'.  The weather was 'cool' - meaning the locals feel chilly while tourists are happy wearing shorts and soaking in the sun.  It was ideal for taking in the sights. The road and various vista points gives great view of the coast, and the mountain backdrop.

Here is a view looking south from near Hanlei Bay:

This is one of the many beaches:

This - I believe show a view over the bay:

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Plus ça change - in the Beach(es)

Having now lived in the Beach(es) for over a decade, I've begun to take an informal inventory of what has changed - and what has not. I begin by considering the retailers and restaurants on Queen St.

The turnover is remarkably high. To some extent, this has been a good thing. Some retailers didn't deserve to stay in business. I remember 'Metro Kitchen' - in a location now used by The Source. Metro was full of little signs and reminders that the customer was a barely welcome guest - and devoid of customer service. The only staff was a surly, uninterested teenager 'manning' the cash. I'd surmised that he was the son of the absent proprietor - who had obviously lost interest in running the place.

On the other hand, there have been businesses that have closed despite excellent customer service. Studio 786 offered good quality men's and women's clothing at reasonable prices . Service was excellent. In the final analysis, the owner told me that there was too much competition, too little traffic and too high rent. There are other men's clothiers on Queen - but more at the high end. Well - now we have a Mark Work Warehouse down as Leslie and Lakeshore; no way on par with 786 on fashion - but at least we can buy underwear.

Then there are establishments that have been constants on the retail strip. If I had to list five businesses that have anchored the Queen St retail and dining experience, I'd include the following:

- The Beacher Cafe,
- Licks,
- The Running Room,
- Ends,
- Book City

Newcomers to which I accord honourable mentions include:

- Binz
- Sauvignon

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Two down - one to go

Some time back, after living in The Beach for a number years, I came to the conclusion that there were four elements to Beach life whose riddance would really improve the area.

One of these is the raccoon population. There is no way rid us of these gargantuan, clever, cheeky beasts. We can at best control them by trying to limit the supply of food.

We have now successfully dispensed with two local politicians. We sent long-self-serving city councillor Sandra Bussin packing last November. Bussin will be remembered for her sycophantic praise for David Miller, spending our money on bunny suits and self-promotion through the funding of sports teams, and phoning in in cognito to a local radio talk show to take potshots at John Tory.

This Monday, we parted ways with Liberal MP Maria Minna. Parting was no sweet sorrow - ir was no sorrow whatsoever. Minna will be remembered for forgetting where she lived and voting in the wrong ward. We now have an NDP MP. However, based on her mailings over the years, Minna was at the left end of the NDP on the socialist scale. Someone once wrote that Minna was as dumb as a flower pot. I didn't think that was fair to flowerpots.

Bussin and Minna were our Tweedledum and Tweedledee - as good an evidence as you can have that many people vote as automatons. Their dismissals prove the people sometimes wake up and pay attention.

The next thing we need to rid our wonderful neighbourhood of is in the photograph.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Bye Bye Joe Mihevc

It seems that Joe Mihevc will not be on the TTC; that is he will not be appointed as a commissioner by Mayor Rob Ford.

TheStar Ford ‘loyalists’ on new TTC commission

This is hardly a surprise. After all, the following was included in an email he sent out during the election campaign:

"From my point of view, it is absolutely imperative that I/we do everything possible to stop Rob Ford from becoming mayor."

I've had some experience communicating with Mr. Mihevc. In the final analysis, he was more interested in streetcar projects - pushing for the wretched St. Clair project. Even Joe Pantalone ended up concluding St. Clair was a mistake. Mihevc seemed to see transit as just streetcars.

Time for new thinking. I don't think Mihevc could contribute constructively if the agenda wasn't slavishly transfixed on streetcars.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Christopher Hume - The Oracle of Ignorance

Someone get the rabies vaccine out - Christopher Hume is on the loose.

I don't think I've ever read such ignorant trip in a newspaper - at least since Michele Landsberg stopped writing in The Star.

TheStar Hume: Ford to Transit City: Drop dead

Hume decides that Toronto will become like Buffalo if it doesn't get LRT. Guess what Chris - Buffalo has LRT. LRT hasn't helped Buffalo - and it would not help Toronto.

Hume doesn't eben bother to check basic facts. He asserts that the boring machines for the Eglinton tunnels aren't big enough for subway. On the contrary, LRT tunnels are larger than needed for subway. This is even documented in .. The Toronto Star:

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Transit City: It’s too late to switch tracks -

The usual shallow, thoughtlessness from The Star this morning. Here is the link to its editorial. My letter in response is below.

Transit City: It’s too late to switch tracks -

Your editorial is off the rails on many points. There would certainly be some sunk costs absorbed in switching away from the "Transit City" plan. However, there is ample opportunity to recover most of the money.

The cost of the Sheppard LRT study would be sunk. However, there is already a completely approved environmental assessment and plan to complete the Sheppard Subway.

The tunnel boring machines could just as well tunnel for a subway as for an 'LRT'. In fact, the original vision for the Eglinton LRT was to convert to full subway at a later time.

As Bombardier is the supplier for subway and LRT vehicles, it would be in its interest to agree to switch the order over. Enforcing penalties could well lose the supplier its long-term cosy relationship with the TTC and Ontario.

The Transit City plan came to light only after the 2006 election. In the 2010 election, neither of its main proponents (David Miller and Adam Giambrone) deigned to run and defend the plan.

In 2012, the Spadina LRT - put in service in 1998 - will be out of commission as large sections and major intersections need rebuilding. If LRT were the right idea for Toronto, would lines need to be rebuilt in less than 15 years? Toronto voters have said no.

Monday, March 08, 2010

The new me

No this is not a spoof on the a Who song.

Since the start of February, I've been following a conditioning program. Through my employer - for a modest fee - I am enrolled in structured fitness program. While I've been a gym goer - off and on - in the back of my head I've known that my haphazard, informal approach wasn't particularly effective.

My structured program consists of a combination of exercises for improving my cardiovascular, strength and flexibility.

For cardio, I have a choice of four programs. I am to complete there of these in a week. While I have the choice of outdoor activities - e.g. cross country skiing and skating - the indoor exercises at the gym have worked better with my schedule. I have been alternating between the stationary bicycle and the stair machine. Either of these seem to provide a more strenuous workout than the elliptical machines that I generally favoured before starting the program.

The step machine reports the most use of calories. I'm not certain how accurate the numbers are - as I feel that the stationary bike is as intense, or even slightly more.

The strength exercises lean to simple, low-tech. For example, the first few weeks required a number of sets of sit-ups. Sit-ups have always been a weak point for me. Before starting this conditioning program, I would use the "ab-roller" bench and some leg lifts. In retrospect, these provided little benefit. Forcing myself to get through the sit-ups was the toughest task.

Of course, now that I'm comfortable with them, the program has switched me to the bicycle crunches. I'm just getting the hang of these. I'll be keeping the sit-ups in the program as well.

Last but not least is the stretching. I am dutifully performing a set of stretching at the end of the workout. I don't expect that I'll become particularly flexible as a result. However, if I can improve at all I'll be happy.

The structured program is one step short of hiring a personal trainer. For now, I'm happy with it. It helps to have been involved in sports back in school - as much from a confidence perspective as anything.

In six weeks, I'll be back for the follow-up metrics. In the meantime, I email the kinesiologist my workout log each week. Having someone 'watching' is certainly helpful in sticking with the program.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Pan Am games needs volunteers to succeed, summit told -

Most Canadians have enjoyed the Olympics. I enjoyed them a great deal more than I expected.

I'm sincerely proud of our athletes - and the support we gave them. Whether we 'owned the podium' or not, we set a goal to stretch ourselves. Perhaps this event is the 21st century's Vimy Ridge. Obviously, there is a big difference between a massive battle where tens of thousands perished, and a sporting event. We don't need or want to be involved in large scale slaughters. Hence, thankfully, in this century, a sporting event can serve as a national reawakening.

The Olympics have helped wash away the memory of the idiocy at Copenhagen. I hesitate to bring it up. There we had Canada self-haters - David Miller among them - needlessly and unfairly trying to drag our name down.

Now we begin to look ahead to the Pan American games:

Pan Am games needs volunteers to succeed, summit told -

What will it take to make them a success? As the article points out, we will need volunteers. However, the games are more a regional event than just a Toronto event. We will need cooperation between the towns, cities and municipalities.

Well, it's a good thing Miller is going. We need, and not just for the sake of the games, a mayor who will work will leaders from around the region. Miller couldn't have done it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Adam Giambrone's exit

The speed of Adam Giambrone's fall from grace is surprising. In retrospect, it is not a shock. Many have commented on the councillor's arrogance and ego. Arrogant politicians often think they can get away with cheating and lying. In some cases, they can.

Giambrone's undoing may well have been the comments about his 'partner' being window dressing for his political career. Such a comment reveals a young man whose external polish belies his complete lack of class. Shakespeare's line "All that glisters is not gold" is particularly fitting.

Even before the events that have unfolded over the last 36 hours, there have been calls for Giambrone to step down as TTC Chairman. Today, Steve Munro - one of Giambrone's biggest cheerleaders - is calling for him to step down as chair.

There are many reasons for Giambrone to step down.

First, his record at the TTC is terrible. It's perhaps no worse that his predecessor - but it's still awful.

- Costs are exploding. We hear that the TTC is planning for a 7% increase in operating costs each year for the foreseeable future - just to maintain the current level of service!

- the St. Clair West streetcar ROW project has been a mess

- the increasingly evident service and moral problems

- 'Transit City' has been foisted on us by the light rail lobby. Giambrone's plan has now doubled in cost since its original announcement - approaching $13 billion for marginal increases in speed and capacity on the planned network.

The Bombardier affair from the last election - where the transit equipment maker promoted a Giambrone fundraiser - should have sounded as a louder alarm. The media should have pushed on that one harder.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The pedestrian carnage

This year has started off taking an awful toll on pedestrians in the GTA. As of this evening, 14 pedestrian have died as a result of being struck by motor vehicles. The vehicles include cars, streetcars, buses and trucks.

Last week, The Toronto Star included a guest column:

which focused on the perils to pedestrians in crossing broader arterials in the suburbs.

As ill-luck would have it, the rash of fatalities has continued apace since the column appeared - and the deaths have all been on the non-suburban streets of Toronto.

The very morning the column appeared (Jan 20th) , a woman was struck and killed on Dufferin - just south of Eglinton. The woman was in the roadway south of the intersection - and obscured from oncoming traffic by the rise in the roadway.

On Friday, a man was killed at Broadview and Danforth by a turning dump truck.

Yesterday, a Woodbridge man was struck and killed by a TTC streetcar on Queen Street East.

Most recently, a woman was killed by a turning vehicle while crossing Davenport Road at Symington.

There is plenty of fault to around - and this blog is not going to ascribe any. However, let's look at why Toronto's urban - and supposedly pedestrian friendly streets - are the scene of so many deaths.

Darkness: One of the first things I noticed after moving to Toronto - now over a decade ago - is that the street-lighting is poor. On a residential street - such as where I live - even a single burned out bulb can make walking tricky. It's little better on main streets - where there is nothing to illuminate crosswalks anymore than other parts of the roadway.

Obstructions: Toronto seems to love to obscure the views of motorists and pedestrians at intersections. Garbage cans, transit shelters, and newspaper boxes often impede lines of sight.

Blase attitude: Yes, traffic is generally moving more slowly on the narrower streets. However, even at the slower speeds, a collision with a vehicle is often going to be deadly - especially if it's with a larger vehicle. It's harder to be blasé when crossing a busy arterial than say, Queen St.

The weather: It's been milder and less snowy than normal this time of year. This means more pedestrians. However, it's a dark time of year. Today, I left home in darkness, and returned in darkness.

My own pedestrian experience is mainly in the urban area. Here's what I do to stay safe:

1. When waiting to cross, I remain a few yards back from the street.

2. I'm very careful about turning traffic. If there is any doubt about a car's velocity or intentions, I stop and wait.

3. I'm careful to establish eye contact with drivers.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Dreamliner at last

The delays that Boeing has suffered in getting its Dreamliner program up and running have been a disappointment. However, today I'm happy to congratulate Boeing and especially its engineers for the successful first test flight of the 787.

I deliver computer software systems for a living. These are complex. Our project suffer delays and must deal with risk. However, these pale in comparison to a project to design, build, test and sell a new airliner. Moreover, in the case of the Dreamliner, the company took significant risks in going with new materials.

It was fantastic to see the plane take flight, to see dreams in the process of being realised, and to see progress that will actually help people. This is pleasantly refreshing considering the idiocy unfolding in Copenhagen. The bane of humanity - scientific charlatans, Greenpeace, Mugabe, David Miller, and the Yes Men are gathered to destroy dreams.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The TTC - disaster management 101

I haven't written about the TTC for a while. With the Commission's recent approval of a large fare increase for next year - the airwaves, blogwaves etc are pulsing with outrage.

However, the fare increase should have caught no-one by surprise. The TTC - as with many city operations - has suffered from a long term history of mismanagement on all levels.

Some would say it's just the way it is - but there is real life proof from Montreal that it's possible to manage a transit system properly over the long term. Montreal proves further that the recipe for successful transit is not mindless operational spending, or streetcars - but sinply a focus on making good decisions to systematically manage costs for the general benefit.

This is all-too-clear from a simple analysis of the cost trends for the TTC and STM (Montreal's transit system) over the lasst 15 years:

This is 100% the TTC and unions fault - the costs are bloated.

In 1994, the TTC average cost per rider was $1.73
In 1994, Montreal's average cost per rider was $1.63

In 2009 (budget, the numbers are:
TTC: $2.68
Montreal $2.14

So in 15 years:
TTC costs have grow 55%
Montreal costs have grown only 31.5%

Had the TTC been properly mananged, it's cost this year would be $194 million lower.

The reason we have a system that is stalled on service and has higher fares is 100% mismanagement and unions.

$194 million A YEAR would keep fares down and finance the needed subway extensions and DRL.

The trouble is - it's only going to get worse. The costs will be going up 7% a year without service improvements.

Things are so bad that even the likes of Steve Munro - who generally dismisses anyone who talks about "value for money" without a fleeting thought - is bemoaning the prospects.

As I wrote the The Star back in 2002:

"We can have a better system - but only if the TTC management is forced to change its approach. However, if the subsidy spigots are reopened, this won't happen."

Instead, the subsidy spigots did re-open. Every last $ of extra subsidy has been flushed into higher than necessary operating costs - be they in the form of excess wages, excess staff, poor equipment and mode decisions or what have you.

Montreal has proved that this in not the inevitable co-product of running a large transit system.

Monday, October 05, 2009

A look as some Niagara wines

I've been making a habit of stopping at Niagara wineries to taste wines for almost a decade now. When I relocated to Toronto in late 1998, becoming a wine aficionado was nowhere my list of expectations. However, I didn't expect to be writing a blog either.

I first became interested in Niagara wine after reading an article about Crown Bench Estates. Crown Bench sits near the rim of the Escarpment at the top of Aberdeen. It's worth a trip for the view and for the wine as well. I haven't been by there in a few years - perhaps I will when the 2007 reds start to arrive.

So what have I learned about Niagara wines in the past decade?

1. We have as good a variety of wines and styles to taste - and taste quality - as one will find anywhere.

I've tasted in the Napa, Sonoma and Andersen Valley AVAs in California, and a little in Australia. In Australia, there is more of a regional focus - Shiraz and Semillon in hotter regions as an example. If you go to a tasting in the Hunter Valley, only a few of the wines will be local. In California, even all the way from Carneros to Anderson Valley, you'd be hard-pressed to find the same variety of varietals. Obviously, you will not find ice wine in either Australia or California.

2. Year to year variation is more pronounced here

The trade-off for variety is that our climate is not always kind to all varietals. Not only that, frost can damage vines beyond recovery.

For example, 2003 was a poor year. More than a few wineries did not bottle their usual range of offerings. Some were allowed to bend VQA rules on a temporary basis.

It's good to be aware of the vintages. 2007 is looking very promising. The LCBO's vintage chart list 2007 and the first 9-rated vintage since 1995. I have already picked up some excellent 2007's from Fielding Estate and Malivoire. Keep in mind the relatively wet summers the this year (2009) and last (2008).

3. Niagara has variety - but it is better for some varietals than others

In my experience, the wines to pay attention to are (with my favourite producers in parentheses):

- Gamay Noir (Malivoire, Feathersone, 13th Street Sandstone)
- Cabernet Franc (Laileys, Daniel Lenko, Featherstone)
- Pinor Noir (very year dependent)

- Riesling (Fielding, Cave Springs, Flat Rock)
- Chardonnay (Lenko, Crown Bench, Malivoire)

That's not to say you will not find excellent examples of Cabernt Sauvignon, Gewrurztramer - and let's not forget the hybrids Baco Noir (Henry of Pelham, Hernder Estates) and Marechal Foch (De Souza).

No Coyotes in Hamilton

I had given RIM billionaire Jim Balsillie a fighting chance to move the Phoenix Coyotes to Hamilton. In the end - right or wrong - the NHL deck was stacked against him.

Many people will blame NHL chief Gary Bettman. This is unfair. Bettman is just doing his job - which is working for the owners. The owners didn't want a Balsillie owner-team in Hamilton.

The Canadian press hates Bettman because he's an American lawyer. The dumb thing about this - Bettman is a Cornell grad. There are few fan-bases more enraptured about hockey that Cornellians.

The dumb thing about the owners is that Toronto could easily support three teams.

Consider English soccer. London - population of about 8 million - sports four of the traditional powers and contenders of English soccer. These are:

West Ham

The combined market Vallie of these clubs is around $2 billion - and they have carted home a good share of titles over the past forty years.

Now the Toronto Maple Leafs. They haven't one a title in over forty years - and are valued at a mere $312 million or so - despite a captive fan base of about 6 million.

We could easily have three teams. Following London's example, there would be more value - and some actual success on the ice.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Miller and Sunrise

David Miller recently surprised most Torontonians, and many other observers, by announcing that he will not run for a third term as mayor in next years municipal elections.

Many people are thrilled. I'm happy to see Miller depart. However, there's a huge mess left behind.

Now speaking of messes, the explosion at the Sunrise Propane facility - now a little over a year ago - made a big one. You may remember that Miller was away on vacation at the time - and decided not to come back to support Torontonians at that time.

Now what's really interesting. Stung by the criticism, Miller seems to have pushed the city into taking over the clean-up of the site. If you believe Miller, this was because Sunrise wasn't doing the clean-up. However, the company stated that they had not been allowed on site. The fire marshall would not allow access during the investigation.

Regardless, it seems that the city's rules for emergency procurement were not followed. Certain city managers can authorise emergency expenditures - without going through the normal tendering process.

However, they must report the emergency procurement to council (or the appropriate committee) at the very next meeting.

This constituent can find no record of a city manager making such a report. If so, this expenditure was not authorized.

The rush to push Sunrise out of the cleanup - and make it look like Miller was riding to the rescue - may cost the taxpayers big time when this gets to court.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Miller gives up

I must admit, I didn't see it coming. I though David Miller had a little more fight in him - and would have made a campaign out of things in the next municipal election.

However, in the end, a mayoralty that began with deception is coming to a close with one. Of course, there has been much lying in between.

The lie that started it all was the motivation behind stopping the bridge to the Toronto City Center Airport. Miller definitely had his eyes on getting the feds to cough up the land to the city for free - despite his claim that he wanted the airport to remain sleepy and little.

In reality, Miller tried to choke the airport from getting paying traffic, or funds from Ottawa. Recall Globe columnist John Barber's caterwauling over Ottawa subsidies to the airport. (We can all be grateful that Barber is off the city beat - and for the most seems to have disappeared altogether.) It's not as if Ottawa doesn't subsidize transportation agencies!

In the mean time, the city was trying to stiff the airport with a massive tax bill.

Why can't the Millerites be honest? Miller could have easily sat down with the feds and worked out a price for the airport land. His strategy was built on an obvious lie - and the feds figured out his game pretty quick. There aren't too many willing dupes around.

Now Miller begins a long mayoral swan song. I'd like to give Miller the benefit of the doubt and believe that his decision was family related. However, this strains credulity. If Miller were enjoying public adulation and the polls that would go along with it, he'd be running for re-election in a heartbeat.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Iggy visits RIM - and just doesnt get it

Michael Ignatieff - now leader of the Liberal Party of Canada for three-quarters of a year or so - is beginning to show it.

Show what you might ask? Well the early onset dementia that has struck the likes of Ken Dryden and John McCallum.

Iggy toured Research in Motion (RIM) earlier this week.

RIM is the maker of the Blackberry line of smartphones. The company was initially funded by private venture capital - before offering shares to the public.

So what does Iggy have to offer after the visit - the old ideas of big government and intervention. As reported by Terence Corcoran in the Financial Post (see enclosure link)

"On Tuesday, after a visit to the Waterloo headquarters of Research In Motion (RIM), he explicitly revived the old slogans of Canadian economic nationalism, berating the Harper Tories for failing to rescue Nortel and allowing vital Nortel technology to be sold to foreigners."

How can an intelligent man tour what has been billed as the "world's fasted growing company" - one that has succeeded independent of government, and on the merits of it's people and products - and yet come up with nothing more than the worst of his party's failed old ideas.

Governments have never succeeded at information technology. Iggy should read George Gilder's account of the founding of Micron Technology. Trouble is, being in the LPC saps the old axons. I'm not sure Iggy could comprehend anymore.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Streetcar kills cyclist

Will all the hullabaloo about Michael Bryant, the fact that another Toronto cyclist has died - at the 'hands' (er I guess - at the wheels) of a TTC streetcar - has not attracted much attention. The Star didn't bother to cover this - at least there is nothing showing on its website. However, it did make the reputable news sources - such as 680 News and The National Post.

The cyclist died on Spadina. He apparently turned into the path of the streetcar that was coming through on its own phase. The implementation of the 'LRT' on Spadina is a proven disaster. It has a further drawback of being confusing for other users of the road. No doubt, the 66 year old man just didn't understand the signal system.

So - guess what. The TTC is setting up the same thing on St. Clair West - and in the proposed 'Transit City' lines. There are going to be more deaths - needless deaths. The streetcars really aren't to blame. Let's hold the LRT dogmatists to account.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Innies and Outies

If you watched the German film The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen) from 2006, you'll have an inkling of of the cruel way a socialist state divides society between the 'ins' and the 'outs'.

Now this is happening in own our socialist state: The City of Toronto. In the aftermath of the civic strike earlier summer, known communist John Cartwright and his so-called Toronto and York Region Labour Council, left mayor David Miller off the invitation list for reviewing this year's labour day parade. In addition, he dis-invited a number of councillors who voted against the negotiated agreement.

This is the way of the world under socialism. Being right or wrong, be talented or untalented, voting your conscience make no difference. Everything is driven by who you know and haven't pissed off.

Mayor Miller crashed the event. In some ways, he is due credit for standing up to these bullies. On the other hand, a better idea would be to revoke the parade permit next year and put on something that is more inclusive.