Thursday, May 31, 2007

Death of a Student

The Globe's Margaret Wente has beaten me to the punch on this.

A number of teachers with recent experience at C.W. Jeffreys Collegiate have now attested to servere discipline problems at the school. This was also covered in the Toronto Star on Wednesday.

The statements and letters to the newpapers have document not only that 'teachers were threatened and assaulted regularly by students' and that 'intruders had easy access the the school and were clogging halls during class time. Worse yet, TDSB trustee Stephnie Payne not only claims to have been unaware of the problems - she actually sided with a lawsuit against a vice-principal for daring to report some students to police.

The hidden agenda - of course there's a hidden agenda - was to downplay the need and utility of the Safe Schools Act. Now that the act has been emasculated in terms of the tools available to teachers and principles to bring order to the schools, we see the folly of backing away from it.

While people like Stephnie Payne may not have killed the student - liberal dogma seem to leaps out as a root cause.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Top Ten - Toronto Traffic Nighmares

OK - I might not get to 10 - but I've had to drive way more than I like in the last year due to where work has taken me.

1. Keele & St. Clair

This intersection is always backed up for about 10 minutes as there is a severe bottleneck in the railway underpass just to the East. I've had to come this way from the far end of Mississauga when visiting my sister on the way home. There's quite a bit of commercial traffic + many contractors toing and froing between Home Depot and work sites in the St. Clair W neighbourhoods.

G+d only knows how much worse this will be when the streetcar right-of-way is complete.

2. Victoria Park and the 401

I come down here on the way home from one of my York Region clients if the DVP is reported in bad shape. Although this wasn't so bad earlier this week, I've seen the whole area gridlocked in the evening. This is probably true of number of intersections with the 401.

Teh highway is too big for the exit/entrance infrastructure. It would have been better to have two expressways instead of the monster that's grown up. This would have allowed for more manageable traffic flow.

3. Gardiner/427/QEW

Over the last year I made many trips out to Hamilton for work. The ride home always hit a big slow down (i.e. E-bound) just where the 427 merges in. Despite the extra ramp that was built a few years ago from the 427 collectors, this gets backed up by about 5:00 pm. This is one ramp that could benefit from metering.

4. Gardiner East curves

There are two curves on the E-bound gardiner where the maniacial speeding hot heads in the left lane always end up rear-ending slower moving traffic. Once is just around the Humber - and the other is at Dufferin. At least once a week some jackass would have got himself in a fender bender (or worse) and ruined the journey home for thousands of commuters.

OK - I've got up to four. If you think I'm going to write about my top ten shortcuts - keep dreamin'.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Top Tens

And now for something completely different - to borrow a Pythonism.

I recently wrote about Tafelmusik's fantastic performance of Solomon. In terms of live music, most everything I experience these days is from the Classical or Baroque periods. It may surprise you that I enjoy other types of music. Some days I'll listen to Q107 as a break from Classical 96.3. In terms of seeing an actual live rock concert - my ears really rule it out. However, I do enjoy live rock recordings.

Here are some of the top live tracks - not in any particular order:

Cream - Crossroads
The Yardbirds - Train Kept a'rollin (Stroll-on)
Led Zeppelin - The Rain Song
Led Zeppelin - Since I've Been Loving You
The Who - Young Man Blues
The Allman Brothers - Whippin' Post
Santana - Soul Sacrifice

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Concert Review - Tafelmusik - Handel's Solomon

Tafelmusik's performance of Handel's opera Solomon was the last installment in my subscription to ten concerts this year. This one was well worth the wait!

Of course, being a long performance, the concert started at 7:30 pm. I arrived at 7:45 - and was lucky to get to see any of the first part. Thankfully, the staff allowed latecomers to sit in the foyer. The rear doors were open in order to mitigate the heat in the church. On this evening, I was glad for the extra money I shelled out to be on the floor. I can only imagine how warm it must have been in the balcony.

I found the performance energetic and brilliant. Other than The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba (which I think everyone would recognize), I did not recognize any of the work. This is no way detracted from the evening. I was especially swept up by some of the choruses.

Friday, May 11, 2007

"Transit City" plan just streetcars - top official

hmm - some uncharacteristically candid remarks from a top city official on the 'Transit City' plan being shopped around by the city:

Rod McPhail (I think he's a city official rather than a TTC wonk) is quoted in a local newspaper:

“Really, we’ll just be looking at buses and streetcars,” he said. “The only real difference between LRT and streetcar services is that the stations are a little further apart.”

This is much as I'm reading into the plan. Other than tunnelled sections such as would run under Eglinton, the proposals don't seem to offer much beyond streetcar type service. I'm estimated service speed at just above 20 km / hour - or practically the same as suburban bus services. The operations would generally not qualify under the emergent definition of rapid transit.

Don't forget, the TTC sold the St. Clair mess as LRT. Let's not forget the propaganda documents such as 'The Streetcar Renaissance' that were floated about during the process.

It's funny, I picked this up from reading Steve Munro's blog today. Mr. Munro defends streetcars at length. Writes Munro:

I will be charitable and assume that Rob McPhail has been quoted out of context, but there’s a clear problem with his statement. LRT is most definitely not just streetcars with the stops further apart.

hmm - it seems to me that Munro himself uses the terms interchangeably. For example, in this post, the St. Clair West project is called "LRT".

Sunday, May 06, 2007

The usual hokum about "Jane"

That's Jane Jacobs in case you were wondering.

This is the woman that the reactionary left in this city have virtually canonized - almost deified. Jacobs was very involved - some would say instrumental - in stopping the building of the Spadina Expressway. Her legacy in this is mixed.

Old neighbourhoods remain unscathed and undistrubed. However, rather that escaping polution and congestion, the neighbourhoods are home to some of the most severe traffic congestion in the central area of the city. Eglinton Ave West is often a parking lot. When I was in the process of moving to Toronto - now almost nine years ago - the real estate agent showing me around resorting to hopping through laneways. Streets such as Davenport, Dupont and Bathurst are also choked.

The ironic thing is that in a the tawny Forest Hill neighbourhood many of the side streets don't have sidewalks. If ever there were a sign of urbanity, it would be sidewalks.

In my mind, Jacobs was an enclavist rather than an urbanist. In latter years she clearly went off the deep-end. In one of her last battles she raged against a local school's plan to build an addition. She used apocalyptic terms. I guess cities are for people, not cars - but they aren't for sidewalks or schools either.

Toronto needs to move on from the ideas of this diletant. Surely we can look ahead and behind at the same time.