Friday, 30 August 2013

SWEET AS



I used to be annoyed at the food offerings in USA. Everything is big and bland and sweet. Fruit and vegetables are force-grown and artificially coloured and, while looking attractive are generally flavourless. It is almost impossible to purchase anything that doesn't have sugar added and the extremely high percentage of processed food on offer is disturbing.

In Toronto I've been pleasantly surprised at the variety and quality of fruit and vegetables. As in New Zealand, it is best to avoid buying these from supermarkets and for freshness to use the numerous local fruit and veg shops. Generally the prices are extremely good with 'luxury' items like berries, speciality produce and exotic fruits much cheaper than in NZ.

Packaged and processed items though are a disappointment. Like in neighbouring USA just about anything you buy has sugar, corn syrup, maple syrup, honey and all kinds of sweeteners added. This is OK if it's jam or a dessert but here you find over sweetened breakfast cereals, sweet meats and bacon, sweet bread (even the wholemeal varieties), cheeses, milk products and all sorts of things that you don't expect to be sweet.

There's nothing for it, we'll have to seek out an English speciality store.

SHHHH...

Remember the recent post by odd old Richard of RBB? The one where he admitted to hanging around ladies lingerie departments? Well, today when I was exploring a very large shopping complex I thought of his post. The reason? Well it was discovering this large speciality shop.



I wandered in (as you do when you have time on your hands) and was surprised at how large the store was. The surprise soon turned to alarm when I realised that I had wandered off line and couldn't see the entrance anymore. Trying to effect a nonchalant air I casually sauntered and looked about for the exit.

In my mind I was being suave and sophisticated kind of like this:




I suspect though that the staff viewed me like this: 

Sunday, 25 August 2013

MASS MEDIA

Second Fiddle has decided that he is better off living in "where the honeybees fly to the well" or whatever the translation of his suburb into English is.
That's all very well (pun intended) but has he done his research I wonder?

In Toronto, hidden amongst the hundreds of channels of crap television there is 'The Daily Mass'.

This would be right up his street (or aisle) I think.






TIDDLYWINKS IN CANADA


That old bastard bassist Richard (of RBB) has it in his head that Canada only has ice hockey and tiddlywinks as national sports. Silly old f....fellow. Canada as we all (should know) has produced many excellent athletes like Ben Johnson .... well OK they were drug assisted but there were um..., er..., Look get off my back OK. Sure we will go to see ice hockey soon (daily temperatures are between 25 deg and 30 deg at present so no ice).

Last week we went to a football game (American football) . It was OK but we left after 2 hours. The games go for at least 3 hours. Weird really. Each 'play' lasts between 5 and 10 seconds (10 seconds is almost extended play). Then everything stops, umpires run about waving flags and the entire side of one of the teams run off the field and get replaced.  Yes, you read correctly - the entire side of one of the teams gets replaced. Depending on the position on the field and whether they are attacking or defending an attacking or defending team is chosen. What a laugh. The ball changes hands if the attacking team doesn't make 10 yards in 4 moves. Compared to rugby (union or league) it looks a bit wussy but some of the blokes on e field are over 20 stone.
Even though they try to create excitement and spectacle (brass bands, cheerleaders, lights and music) the fact is the endless (very) short bursts of play get a bit tedious after a while.
The stadium was pretty good though and dominated by the CN tower.





Next week we are going to a baseball game with Toronto's Blue Jays playing (big game). Once again this will go on too long but should be good for a while. The Old Girl's work have corporate tickets with good seats for these games so I guess football, basketball, baseball and hockey will be regular events. I just hope that we can see some rugby.

Where we live there is a sports field below (see pic) the building. There are often soccer games being played but I'm hoping to see lacrosse soon.


Maybe tiddlywinks as well.



Saturday, 24 August 2013

TTC (ctd)




As mentioned in the earlier Post TTC is great here in Toronto. What's not great is trying to find the bloody stations sometimes. Other cities have readily identifiable signs that stand out.







But in Toronto they have this:



This image is kinder than the depiction actually deserves as the signs are generally lower, smaller and are a muddy cream colour that blend into the background.

Ironically two signs that treally stand out and are not train stations are these:

Toronto supermarket chain




FRIGHTENING THE MAIDS

In this apartment we are in until the end of the month there is a weekly clean where a couple of Hispanic maids come in each Friday morning for an hour or so.

This morning after I'd been to the gym and had a shower I was wandering around in my underpants when there was a knock on the door. Forgetting about the cleaners and as the underpants were the boxer variety which are like shorts I answered the door.





"Oh"! One of them said. I'm not sure if this was a good thing or not. I told them to come back in half an hour and finished dressing before heading out to the markets.

DISCLAIMER: Images above may not be entirely accurate.


















Friday, 23 August 2013

TTC

No, not The Toronto Curmudgeon, TTC over here stands for Toronto Transit Commission.

The Commission  runs the trains, trams and buses in Toronto and manages to link most of the city really well.

As a visitor to the city I've found the subway to be a great way to get around and to explore each area.
Whilst not covering the entire area, the subway gets to most main intersections from where the trains and buses take over.


This is not as extensive as London Undergound, Paris Metro or New York Subway but is streets (literally) ahead of Auckland and Wellington train services.


Auckland train system goes to railway stations in some suburbs which are kilometres away from shopping and commercial services

Wellington train stations drop travellers off at stations that are far from shops and services.

 What Toronto (and Paris, London, New York and many other major cities) provides is a train system, mainly underground that has stations at each major intersection in the city. A traveller, emerging from the subway station is right in the middle of the shops, businesses and service providers at that particular area. It would be like a traveller emerging from the train station at Courtenay Place, Taranaki Street, Willis Street, Lambton Quay (several stops), John Street, Adelaide Road, Kilbirnie, Nuova Lazio North, South, East and West, Petone East, Petone West, Petone Central etc. in the Wellington area and similarly for Auckland linking all major suburbs with a great number of stations.

In Toronto a trip costs $3 using pre-purchased tokens. Depending on the number bought there are discounts bringing the cost of tokens down to between $2.50 and $3. Weekly and monthly passes can also be purchased with greater savings and extra flexibility. When using a token you enter a station and travel to the desired destination which could be one station away or 20 stations away - same price. When exiting the station you can take a transfer ticket from a dispensing machine which gets you a bus or tram ride (no extra money needed ) to a desired destination.
On re-entering a subway station however you have to use another token.
A monthly, daily or weekly pass (obtainable from a vending machine) allows multiple trips (as many as you like) for the duration of the pass. You can enter and exit as many stations, get on and off as many buses and trams as you like.










What this transport system does is open up the city for easy access. Potentially isolated communities are linked and there is an easy flow of people, commuters and visitors, coming and going.
Basically it revitalises. Imagine in New Zealand if we had subways and linked transit systems with cheap travel costs. Big format retailers like The Warehouse, Noel Leemings, Briscoes etc wouldn't dominate as they currently do if there was an easier method of access to smaller shopping areas in all of the suburbs. Smaller retailers would have a chance. The little shopping strips would come to life again and not just exist with $2 shops and video stores and more people visiting would create commercial opportunities, employment and wealth. Well, that's the idea. The effect on reducing motor vehicle traffic would also be of tremendous advantage.



Thursday, 22 August 2013

OBSERVATIONS FROM TORONTO - SOME NEW STUFF


Here are some new things that I've discovered. Some are good, some new to me and some that really piss me off - but, after all, I am a curmudgeon.


Lawyers When I studied Law in the early '70's the country was moving from a Tort based system of claim for damages to the revolutionary Accident Compensation Commission funded from employer and employee contributions. This was ground-breaking at the time and was very good for stable growth. I know that recently the Commission has been under fire due to poor decision-making, inequities and accusations of unfairness but, on balance, it is a good scheme. Certainly the alternative is not palatable for a small country like New Zealand. In Canada, like USA there is no ACC system. It is all done by law suits when something happens. the 'something' might be a car accident or a building collapse but can also be something simple like slipping on a washed floor or eating a cashew nut that was in a bag of peanuts. Mad. In Canada (like USA) some of the biggest advertisers on TV, radio, printed media and billboards are lawyers. They tout for business unashamedly, promising to turn a mishap into money. I noticed here that days after the deaths of toddlers in child-care centres the parents were suing for millions. The lawyers would have been on to them, in their moments of grief inducing them to take action. The lawyer of course gets 40 or 50% of the settlement. Greedy bastards.



Tipping

OK, I've complained about this before but as a Kiwi it pisses me off that there is an expectation of a tip at certain service places (restaurants, taxis etc). If you buy groceries you don't tip so why the hell should you just because someone takes your order and brings a (probably crappy and overpriced) meal to you? We went to an Italian place the other day. The meet and greet guy passed us to the head waiter (pompous ass) who grandiosely talked about the food and tried to bullshit us about the wine (the wine Guy was with us so he had no chance of palming off any crap on us). He then passed us to a waiter who took our order. A different person brought the meal to the table and lastly yet another one took the plates away afterwards. I detected a pecking order and felt like asking if we could be introduced to the guy who empties the bins out back.
Tipping used to be 10% but then went uo to 12.5% because of higher standards of living etc. Well hello, the cost of the meal or services went up too so a 10% percentage of a higher amount is ..... a higher tip! The 12.5% soon became 15% and nowadays 15% is viewed as "mean". 18.5% has become the new recommended tip. Fuck! This is ridiculous. In a country that adds taxes after the price of things (see previous Post) this tip on top of services and tax mdeans that the $100 meal you thought you were getting is now $136.28!



Television

Recently I've complained about the declining standards of New Zealand television programming. They have declined with overuse of cheap reality programmes, formulaic 'news' and far too many repeats.
Well. Compared to Canadian and USA tv the New Zealand offerings are generous and inspired.
Here there are 133 channels of basically crap. Nearly all are re-runs or cheap, pathetic rubbish.




Politics.

Second Fiddle asked about the politics of Toronto. To start with the mayor was caught on video smoking crack (P) and last weekend at a street festival got pissed with the locals. The senate is under investigation as senators are caught rorting expenses and there have been several police shootings with one officer charged with murder. He shot  a young guy (armed with a knife) 9 times before tasering him.




Accent

Remember Flight of the Conchords? Brett and Jermaine (in New York) always had trouble being understood. Well, now I know what it's like for some Glaswegian friends of ours in New Zealand. Everyone asks you to repeat what you say at least twice. Very frustrating.

Weird headlines I have seen

"Thieves steal guns and ammo from Boy Scouts"

"Man tweets to dealers asking for marijuana to be delivered to his work place. Police are waiting and he loses his job"

Friday, 16 August 2013

MR APOLLO

The apartment building I'm living in has an excellent gym so I'm using it daily. It's been a few years since I was a gym member so it's great getting back into it. This morning while 'working out' and building up muscles I was thinking of the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band and their song Mr Apollo see :

 Mr Apollo

Now all I need are:

1. Sand
2. Bullies
3. Fast Running shoes

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

OBSERVATIONS FROM TORONTO - Get over it.

In 1985 New Zealand introduced GST (at that time 10%) and everyone complained about it forgetting that at the same time import duties and tariffs were drastically reduced.
Retailers at the time played silly games, advertising and listing the prices of their goods without GST and adding it on purchases. This got to be such a problem that government had to legislate to make it compulsory to advertise and list the final price the consumer must pay inclusive of all duties, tariffs and taxes. This made a lot of sense and is very comforting to customers.

In USA and, I've noticed, in Canada retailers advertise and list products and services exclusive of State tax and GST (about 15% combined). This means that when you buy a $199 product it really costs you about $229. Bastards! The tax is real. It is there and isn't going to go away. Get over it.


Tuesday, 13 August 2013

THE HOLY TRINITY

Second Fiddle likened The Wine Guy and The Curmudgeon to The Holy Trinity without The Holy Ghost.
Well that's about as tenuous as the whole idea of a Holy Trinity anyway. In the 4th century the Council of Nicaea consolidated the thinking (it was never in the Scriptures) into the trifecta form. This council was sort of like modern day conferences where delegates go to far off places purportedly to discuss issues and share information but generally it is an excuse for a big piss-up, consumption of illegal substances and the only sharing going on is generally of bodily fluids. I guess in Nicaea things got a bit funky and this was the result:

Some halucinogens probably helped to create this doctrine
 For Second Fiddle then here is my 'Holy' Trinity:



The Father




The Son



The 'Holy' Ghost (who walks)

Friday, 9 August 2013

OBSERVATIONS FROM TORONTO ... SIZE MATTERS

The Americans (and I include Toronto in this as being one of the closest cities to the USA they have adopted many American traits) think that everything has to be big to be better.

Walking around a semi-industrial suburb yesterday I was gob-smacked by the ridiculous size of pick-up trucks and SUV's. These high jacked-up and big-wheeled behemoths are manned (or womanned) by all sorts of people from burly tradesmen to young women. In the case of the tradesmen the big deck of the pick-up truck invariably has a few tools in it that could easily fit in the more sensibly sized utes I'm used to back in NZ.



Super-size is seen in rubbish trucks, delivery vehicles and even motorbikes. I guess that this is a reflection of cheaper petrol costs in North America. Maybe it will change one day soon.



When out and about in shopping areas the super sizing is seen in the buckets of beer and soft-drinks and the stacked sandwiches, cakes and burgers that are consumed - with the inevitable outcome of super-sized people.



Wednesday, 7 August 2013

OBSERVATIONS FROM TORONTO - Why did the chicken cross the road?

I don't know but obviously it went nowhere near McDonald's.



I'm up early this morning having caught the train with The Old Girl. I got off a stop before her to search for the IKEA store.
I found it but it doesn't open until 10AM. How ridiculous is that? As it was only 7.20AM I went searching for a breakfast place.
I'm out in the sticks here, sort of an industrial area so no nice delis or coffee bars.
I found a McDonald's and ordered a latte (crap) and an egg bagel. This egg bagel should be investigated by DSIR. It is amazing how they can create a 'meal' with purportedly several different foodstuffs but manage to have no flavour whatsoever.
The bun is bland and with the texture of foam rubber. It looks as if it will never age - perhaps it is foam rubber.
There is tomato in it. The tomato is floury and has no flavour. None.
There is lettuce or at least some green stuff. It is limp and again has zero flavour. WTF?
The piece de resistance ( a bit of dual language there) is the signature ingredient, the egg. This is a slab of yellow stuff. It looks like carpet underlay and, if I ever eat carpet underlay I bet that it tastes the same. No chicken ever contributed to this stuff.


A funny thing I saw when crossing a 4 lane road to get to this 'restaurant'. Two huge Canadian geese were slowly crossing and cars all stopped to let them cross. Nice.

At least there's WiFi at this McDonalds.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

I HAVE ARRIVED/JE SUIS ARRIVE

I left NZ on Friday 2nd August and arrived in canada on Friday 2nd August thanks to international date lines. Canada Eastern time is 16 hours behind NZ or 8 hours ahead yesterday. What?


I'm staying in an apartment building on the 18th floor which affords some pretty good views across Toronto.



This is in a serviced apartment paid for by the old girl's employers for two months - she's been here a month already. It is a pretty good apartment (about 800 square foot) with one bedroom and a den (study).

We have leased another apartment for a year and take this over in September. It's almost identical which is no great surprise as it is in the building right next to this one. They were built at the same time by the same developers. The new apartment (condominium) is also about 800 square foot but with a smaller lounge and bigger den (ideal for visitors to use as a bedroom) and comes with a parking space in the garage which we will sub-let if we don't buy a car.

The last couple of days have whizzed by with sleeping, walking about, sleeping, dining out and drinking bloody good Californian Chardonnay. The French in the heading is because dual language is used everywhere. This in fact surprised me as I thought that only Quebec did this but I sippose that Ontario is so close to Quebec that there is crossover. It'll be good for brushing up on my French (once good but now rusty).


Friday, 2 August 2013

SELF IMAGE

I was browsing a Renaissance art book in the library today admiring the wonderful paintings by Raphael, Piero, Michaelangelo, Leonardo etc. and looking at all of the depictions of the Christian God in his/its many forms I wondered why, if God existed he/she/it would want to appear as has so commonly been depicted.

God the Son for example always appears as a gay man.


God the Holy Ghost (what's that about?) is usually depicted as a bird




and sometimes as a bit of a cloud for some reason. Is The Holy Ghost a euphemism for sperm?





God The Father is always depicted as a very old man





Two out of three's not bad





You'd think that God, as the vibrant creator of the universe and a deity that is everlasting and ageless wouldn't want to look like an old fart.


Maybe he's just taking the piss like here where he 'moons' all the believers.


"WE'RE A TOILET"

I like John Oliver. His retakes of the news are insightful and very funny. Have a look via the link below at his latest review of Facebook...