Friday Two Cents: A New Experience In Niagara


Christmas week for many people is a busy week.  Meeting with family and friends, preparing special meals and of course eating too much.  As a supply teacher this week is a welcome respite from the daily grind of working with students.  Not only teachers enjoy the time off, but also I have observed that students as young as kindergarten age needing this break in their routines. 

On that note I decided to get out of Toronto for a couple of days to help centre myself.  One of my favourite places to go to simply “get away from it all” is the Niagara region. They have many different diversions yet my favourite of them is visiting the local wineries.  I have been to a great many and this year I discovered a new winery that recently opened last year.  

At Wayne Gretzky Estates Winery and Distillery

Opened in June 2017, Wayne Gretzky Estates Winery and Distillery is in the Niagara-on-the-Lake region.  When you arrive you can see a modern building based on the design of a regional barn.  Inside though is a modern layout wonderfully decorated with photos of Wayne Gretzky’s hockey career.  Yet what impressed me was the skating rink just outside and behind the building. Beside the rink is a patio with a bar and a place to rent skates for both adults and children.  It was amazing to see parents and children skating around the rink while others sat at the outdoor patio bar with a hot chocolate. 
This is where the tour began and we were treated to home-made hot chocolate but with a special shot of cream whiskey that they make on the premises. It was delicious and a wonderful way to start the tour.  Nothing screams Canada more than hot chocolate outside in winter, beside a skating rink.  I know a lot about the wine making process, yet the tour was informative about how they make whisky and I learned a great deal. 
I asked the question, “Why do we spell whisky with a ‘y’ and others spell it with an ‘ey’?”  His answer was countries without and ‘e’ in their name use ‘y’ and those with use ‘ey’. Examples include Canada & Scotland ‘whisky’; United States & Ireland ‘whiskey’.  Yet another also mentioned that it might have something to do with immigration. This by the way is my theory when I asked the question.  Many Scottish people migrated to Canada and thereby we use whisky like them. Alternately a lot of Irish migrated to the USA who uses whiskey. 
Whatever the reason you cannot deny the results.  I am more of a wine and scotch drinker but I do enjoy a good Canadian whisky, which Wayne Gretzky’s whisky is up there with the best of them. If you are ever in the Niagara region I recommend a visit and of course, ‘a wee dram’, you know for the vitamins.  Enjoy!!

 

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Friday Two Cents: Don’t Stress: Laugh And Have Fun


 

‘A day without laughter is a day wasted.’Charlie Chaplin

 

  Well this week I was able to put up the Christmas tree, string the outdoor lights and put out my nativity scene for the upcoming Christmas season. Yet one thing that always makes the season more enjoyable is the music of this wonderful holiday.  We in Toronto are quit fortunate to have a radio station (CHFI 98.1 FM) that plays Christmas music all day long.  They started last weekend at the beginning of the Santa Claus parade and will continue until December 26, Boxing Day. 

  Christmas music has always been a big part of Christmas for me.  I think because I use to play in several bands and we were always playing the songs for about a month and half before Christmas to help us prepare for our concerts.  However, about 10 years ago I discovered some alternate Christmas songs that I have to listen to that makes my Christmas complete.

Stressed Out Christmas

  They are a collection of songs preformed by Bob Rivers and once I heard them, Christmas hasn’t been the same. For some reason these songs connected with me. Perhaps it’s because I find that with everyone is running around trying to get things done, buy stuff and it places a lot of stress on people when there shouldn’t be.  I think people need to not take things too seriously. Everywhere people are worried about getting the perfect gift, have the perfect dinner and the perfect tree. These songs help me to see that there is some fun and laughter in this season.  We do not need to take things too seriously; relax, enjoy life, laugh and have fun.   Those are some of the important parts of Christmas.
  Therefore in the spirit of bringing some laughter and fun back into Christmas, I have attached a YouTube video/song of my favourite alternate Christmas song by Bob Rivers.  The tone is from the song “Winter Wonderland” but the lyrics have been changed into a new song entitled, “Walkin’ ‘Round In Women’s Underwear”. 
I hope you enjoy it as much as I do and remember to have a little laugh every once in a while. 

Friday Two Cents: The Joy In Helping Others


‘It is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed.’ Napoleon Hill

The week before the start of school is a very interesting time for a supply teacher such as myself. I do not have a classroom to prepare, class lists to look through and lesson plans to create. For all intensive prepossess I can simply continue with my summer vacation and that was exactly what I was planning to do.

However something inside me said I should be getting ready for the upcoming year with the students. Therefore I decided to enrol in a teacher event at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). They host many events for teachers to spread the word about the different activities and exhibits happening at the AGO. This particular event was the reopening of the J.S. McLean Centre for Indigenous and Canadian Art. They had many wonderful works of art created by indigenous and non-indigenous artists from Canada. Yet this was also an opportunity for the AGO to inform the teachers about the programs they offer, both for the students and the teachers as professional development.
The exhibit was wonderful but I found myself thinking about what programs/lessons that would be good for the students. I was collecting information on different things for other colleagues and in doing so it made me feel good.
Not only was I collecting information this week but also I went in to help a colleague set up their room. I knew she needed some help but more than this I wanted to be in a classroom helping someone. I went in a couple of days to help move furniture around, prepare activities and even some computer work. She thanked me and many other people said that it was nice of me to help. But I didn’t do it to be acknowledged or thanked. It simply felt good to help someone.
Reflecting back on this week I only spent a couple of days helping someone with their room but I also was able to pass on the information I got from the AGO to another colleague. I discovered that in the process of trying to help others I ended up helping myself. For even though I thought of others needs and what I can do for them, I ended up meeting my own needs; the need to help others, which in the end brought more joy to me than doing something for myself.

Helping Others

Friday Two Cents: A Tradition In The Heart Of The City


This week I was able to break away from my routine and go enjoy something that I have been going to since I was a child, the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE). This year is the CNE’s 140th anniversary. Every year I enjoy going to see the art, craft and hobbies exhibits, the shows and of course sampling the different types of foods they have to offer. I even have a tradition of getting a corn dog once I enter the grounds. I know that it is not a healthy choice but once you enter the grounds healthy choices are thrown out the window. Besides, it is the only time during the year when I eat a corn dog.

This year I was able to see two amazing shows; the aerial acrobatic and ice-skating show Quatro and the Legends Of The Silk Road Come To Life. Quatro is a poetic display of dazzling ice-skating and aerial acrobatics performed by a former Cirque du Soleil artist. This wonderful show is not too far from the Legends Of The Silk Road Come To Life. A spectacular indoor lantern festival where 17 spectacular illuminated sculptures make up an incredible display of lights and colour. The theme is centred on the legends and myths associated with the ancient Silk Road. These astounding shows are only two of the numerous displays and activities you can do at the CNE.
The CNE is in the heart of Toronto and is amazing every year. Unfortunately it is only available in the city for a limited time and as of the 1st day of school approaches it will be gone for another year. That’s why I always have mixed feelings about the CNE. I love going but I know that once I leave the grounds it means summer is over and school will start soon. Oh well I guess I have to just wait and look forward to next year, but at least I have some great experiences and memories to keep me going until new years edition.

Friday Two Cents: The Truth Is Usually In The Middle


‘All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.’ Galileo Galilei

 

If you are in Toronto, you are aware that the provincial government is planning to table legislation to lower the number of city councillors in Toronto from a proposed increase of 47 to 25. From what I have seen in the “media”, the message I am getting is that this is all bad. I have seen the Leader of the Opposition (LOTO) in the Ontario Legislature speak against it and many councillors too. On the other hand the Ontario government thinks it’s a good thing. Yet is it really that bad? You see these individuals all have an agenda.

The LOTO is supposed to be against the government and the councillors, well many would lose their jobs or would have to really fight/ campaign for a city councillors’ job, therefore I find their opinions biased. Also the government is biased with its own agenda. As well the “media” is only interested in one thing. No not reporting the news, but creating revenue for their parent company in the form of advertisement. Hence making the biggest splash or the most noise to attract viewership is their number one goal. So if it makes better ratings to show the side making the most noise than they’ll do it. So what is better? Big or small government?
I thought it best to look for myself and the best way is to ask the question … “Is bigger government better?” I thought I’d do a Pro and Cons list.

               Pros …

  • Government is designed to help people. They fund programs and organise the city systems, e.g. trash removal, police, fire department etc. More councillors mean more people thinking of ideas to help the people.
  • More voices on the council. More people representing the people, more voices speaking out. More councillors for the people to go to, to have their own voice heard.
  • Better representation. More councillors means fewer people that the councillor represents. (E.g. 1 city councillor for 65,000 people instead of 1 for every 100,000.)

                Cons …

  • It costs more. More councillors mean more costs to pay them. High costs mean an increase in taxes, thereby increasing the tax burden on the people.
  • Too many voices on the council means too many opinions. Every person has an opinion on what is best. Fewer people on the council means quicker consensus. (If you ever heard them constantly debate the subway issue you’d know what I mean). 
  • Bigger government hurts economic growth. A study entitled Measuring the Size of Government in the 21st Century, published by the Fraser Institute, indicates that larger governments can hurt economic growth (Matteo, 2018).
After looking at these pros and cons, and other research I looked into, I see that the biggest losers are the councillors themselves. Besides the research paper about economic growth I also read an article about municipal councillors, that state that once you are in, you basically have a job for life. They call it the Incumbent’s advantage. Statics prove that once you are in you have a 90% chance of being re-elected (Porter, 2014).  As well, if you look at London, England their city council has 25 councillors for a city of 9 million and it works.
All this aside, what is the true story? Where is the truth in all this? As a friend once said to me, everyone has a side in the story and the truth is usually in the middle. Yes there are benefits for and against a large and smaller council. The job and responsibility of the electorate is to be well-informed and then make the best decision with the available data. That is where it should come down to, us, the voters. My grandfather once said something and it makes perfect sense for all this noise in the media. ‘Listen by force, but do what is best for you.’ Grandpa was always right.

Grandpa was always right.

Porter, C (2014, Sept) City councillor, a well-paid job for life? The Toronto Star. https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2014/09/17/city_councillor_a_wellpaid_job_for_life.html
Matteo, L. Di. (originally published January 14, 2014,updated May 11, 2018) Bigger government isn’t always better government. The Globe and Mail. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/economy/economy-lab/bigger-government-isnt-always-better-government/article16314426/

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Friday Two Cents: What A Piece Of Work Is A Man


 

This past week I have been enjoying my vacation time by indulging in some of my favourite pasts. Bike rides and walks along the lakeshore, reading, writing, drawing and painting. During these long periods of activity, my mind has been free to wander and think of endless possibilities and things that are right in front of me.

The best way to make any sense of what I have been thinking can be best said from a quote in Shakespeare’s Hamlet …

Hamlet
What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how
infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and
admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like
a god!

Hamlet Act 2, scene 2.

 

Hamlet said this little speech in irony. Perhaps Hamlet intended to fend off the questions or nosy inquiries from the kings’ spies, yet he finds nothing too impressive about man (humanity). Yet what Hamlet says in irony I take as my conviction.
During my activities I have had time to reflect on what we (humans) have done with our time on this planet. For I have seen the evils of what man can and have done to their fellow-man, yet I have seen many examples that man has the capacity to do good as well. Art has given me the means to look into the soul of humanity and try to understand what makes us tick. Engaging in my own art projects helps me to understand the soul of humanity and our desire to understand the world around us. What other creature on this planet can create something as breathtaking as the Mona Lisa or apiece of street art I see in downtown Toronto. All of this is an expression of us trying to understand why we are here. Art has developed and grown as our civilization has grown. Humanity’s journey of self-discovery and understanding can be reflected in its many forms of artwork. In many ways our art is a window into our very soul.
My own exploration and experiences in art has given me some insights, yet I am far from finding the answers to these questions; but I know the journey is worth it. Lao Tzu once said …

 

‘The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.’ Lao Tzu

I would add to this …
“Sometimes the journey is as important as the destination.” Paul Gauchi
  

Here’s to the journey into the soul of humanity and my own.

Friday Two Cents: Keeping A Routine And Keeping Healthy


With the summer upon us and I am, like the children, off for the summer enjoying a well-deserved rest. A time to recharge my batteries and get things done that I put-off during the year. I have a list of things I need to get done around the house yet I decided to make sure I looked after my own health at the same time.

Working as a teacher is no an easy job. It is a mental and physical job that many people think is easy to do. ‘You’re playing with kids. How hard is that?’ Trust me it’s not easy. Put aside the fact that teachers must program the daily lessons, write reports and supervise the students, it is also very physical. Everyday I would look at my step counter and on average I would do between 14 000 and 15 000 steps daily. That level of activity is taxing and does take its toll after a time. Yet I must admit once you get use to it you miss it after a while.
During the summer months I have taken it upon myself to keep healthy and physically fit. I big part is maintaining my diet. I have a routine that did not change over this past three weeks of the summer and it has helped.  I try to keep to the same routine but I also know that I am not perfect and I allow myself to occasional indulgence but in moderation.
Eating is only part of it; I also go to bed and wake up at the same time. I exercise and keep physically fit but this week I have taken up something that I haven’t done for about 5 years; ride my bike. I have a stationary bike at home that I use often but going out seemed such an inconvenience. I use to ride almost everywhere when I was younger, yet when I got my licence I rode less and less. This year though I thought why not start again.
I got my bike ready and the day after I finished my Mathematics course I went down to the lakeshore and rode along the bike path. It was an exhilarating experience and it is true what they say, once you have ridden a bike you never forget. I rode along the same path I did years ago everything about riding came back. The breeze whipping across my face; the sensation of my legs as I pump them up and down and the sense of accomplishment after riding the set amount of kilometers I set for myself.
I know this is only the beginning and I am being realistic. I know not to push myself too much but I intend to continue for at least the summer. After that who knows. Trying to keep healthy is a lot of work but as I have discovered, its fun too.

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