Toronto’s CN Tower Lightning GIFs

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Things Toronto Taught Me: Part Deux….. or Trois…..

So today I re-started my blog which I had inadvertently abandoned in favour of starting a Twitter business, moving, and getting a new job.  Okay, so the “move” was a 30-minute walk away from my other place, which I stayed at for about one night a month, but still.  I moved.

I got an e-mail that people liked my last post, so I’m gonna post another.  Just like that, you get more reading material.  I can see this becoming cyclic….. and I’m okay with that.

One category I forgot about was my “Things Toronto Taught Me” segment, mostly providing an outlet for my frustrations of society in the biggest city/metropolis/megasuperexpansivethingy in Canada.  Yes, Spell Check, I realize that isn’t a word, but thanks for providing it some colour.  Gahh, I’m in Canada, Spell Check — colour is supposed to be spelled with a “u”!  I digress.

Today’s submission of factoids and junk I learned in the big T.O.:

  • Winter doesn’t really start until the snow sticks to the ground….. and that surprisingly won’t happen until the end of December (if then).  In Niagara where I grew up, we’d have snow right at the beginning, and a few weeks full of lake effect winter before Christmas arrived.
  • The sickest people in the city will always ride the TTC.
  • The ones hacking up a lung will always choose the seat next to you.
  • Some people are immune to winter.  This becomes especially evident on Friday and Saturday nights, particularly in front of clubs with long lineups.
  • This will always make me giggle to myself, and snuggle deeper into my sensible coat, double-mittens, and an awesomely fuzzy hat (if I can ever find one).
  • Uggs were not invented by Canadians.  At least I doubt it.  If they were, well I’m stumped.
  • Scarves better not go out of style.
  • What few animals there are in the city get dumber as it gets colder.  Today we almost ran over a squirrel who stopped in front of us and pretty much could have written the tunes for his own funeral by the time he realized he should turn back around.
  • It may not be winter, but it’s pretty flippin’ cold to me.
  • Swans must be pretty smug in the bird world at this time of year.  Okay Toronto didn’t teach me that, I just thought about it now.  But they’re probably all like, “I’m a swan, I’m white, nobody can see me, squawk squawk squaaaaaaaawk.”  Of course their honk is annoying as heck, so they’re probably just as much of a target as usual, just, you know, smug-er.

Um, so that’s all I have to say about that.

Stupid smug swans.

An Ideal Vacation: Prince Edward Island + a joke! (A cheesy one, but a joke nonetheless)

Hello folks!

Today’s Ideal Vacay is Prince Edward Island!

I have little knowledge about the province as I’ve never been, but really, how bad can a place be when they’re known for potatoes?  Since that’s about the extent of my knowledge (other than it’s home to the Anne of Green Gables series, and the Dragon’s Den presenter who started a business selling pieces of P.E.I. land as touristy gifts), instead I’ll offer one of my favourite jokes at the end of this post.

As always, if you’ve been to P.E.I. and love it, I want to hear what you saw and did that you really liked!  If I were to go there tomorrow, what would you recommend seeing and doing?

 

And now for my cheeeeezy joke:

 

There were once three thieves, running away from the police.  They were pretty dumb, and desperately needed a place to hide, so they took off down a dark alley.  There, they found three potato sacks, so they each climbed into one.  Shortly after, the police arrived.

The main cop kicked the first sack.

“Meowww…..”

“Must be a cat,” she said, and continued down the alley.

The cop kicked the second potato sack.

“Woof!  Woof!”

“Ahh, just a dog,” said the cop, so they kept on down the alley.

The cop kicked the third sack, and heard clear as day:

“Poooo-taaaaaa-tooooooo”

An Ideal Vacation: New Brunswick

Hello folks!

It’s been a while since I’ve updated my Ideal Vacation Series, so I thought I’d give the next province a shot.

New Brunswick: I’ve never been.  What do I know about it?  Well, I know of Moncton.  That’s where my boyfriend’s sister’s family lives.  I know they get a lot of snow.  I’m not sure how much in comparison with the rest of Canada, but it seems they’re always creating roads through banks of the stuff.  I’ve heard it’s very pretty.  It also has a Costco.

Have you been to New Brunswick?  Hit me up with suggestions on where to go and what to see and do!

Why Calgary (and Canada) Still Needs French in Schools

This is in response to the brief news flash I saw on CP24 yesterday, reported here.  (In searching for the article, I came across one from 2004, clearly showing the flip-flop of this province on the importance of language learning: here)

In my experience, learning languages has been a source of pleasure as well as an intellectual challenge.  Because of my courses in elementary school, high school, and university, I am able to read, write, speak, listen, in 3 different languages.  Sure, it’s great if I’d like to travel, or happen to meet someone whose native language is not English, but that’s not the only reason I’m glad to have had exposure to other languages.

Any good teacher/professor knows that to teach a language without introducing a culture is a serious mistake.  What good is teaching a student to conjugate a verb properly when they’re unknowingly using an insulting phrase?  Why teach someone a word without its full meaning as it relates to that culture?  Along with nouns, verbs, and all other parts of speech, a language course offers a view from another perspective — often from somewhere far away.  The beauty in this is not just a demonstration of what makes another culture special, but how similar we are.

Teaching a second language breaks down barriers of “they” and “them” and introduces “we.”  And once “we” has been introduced, it can never be taken away.

Two years ago, I worked on a project researching the perceptions of students in Grade 9 French as a Second Language classes in high schools.  As the study related specifically to an FSL computer program, I was mostly watching how they used their computer time.  I’ll admit, I saw many students simply not interested in what they were learning.  But I also saw the majority of another classroom fully engaged in the program, excited and enjoying their time learning French.  The difference?  A fully engaged teacher.

I have known so many people who look back upon their time at school and wistfully comment that they wish they’d tried harder to learn French.  I can’t imagine it was because they knew the verb conjugations would be helpful to them later on in life, but probably because they realized that once we finish school and get out into the working world there are a LOT more than just English speakers.  I sometimes wonder what Europeans (for example) think of us for only learning one other language in school.

Yes, I understand the need to cut costs in education (as if there’s enough there to begin with).  But as my project showed, the department already suffers from a lack in funding, and cutting it out of mandatory status just further pushes it down the funding line-up.  This is the first step to it becoming extinct.  If people don’t push to keep French around to be available to everyone, soon it will be available to NO ONE.  And that will be an embarrassing affront to all English as a Second Language citizens of Canada, if we can’t even educate ourselves in our official languages.

Besides, it’s French.  Apart from a teacher and a classroom, you only really need a few classic books, a few dictionaries (which don’t need updating for decades), and maybe a handful of verb conjugating books.  Hardly a big request when you consider other programs, and that, once purchased,  they doesn’t require continuous updating.

I also understand the complaint that students should have a right to choose most of their courses in high school.  However, I remember having difficulty cramming all the courses I needed into my schedule, let alone the courses I wanted.  Making French optional will result in students having to abandon it in favour of other courses that are required for their future, if they don’t plan on studying it further.  The timetables are set in order to meet the required courses in Grade 9, so if French is a requirement, it won’t be competing with other courses.  And frankly, I noticed that many of the teachers didn’t see the importance of French for students, so with that attitude, how can we expect Grade 9 students?  Besides, we need to remember that French is an asset for most jobs in Canada; meaning that most jobs could benefit from a multilingual employee.  You can’t say that about many other courses in high school.  Having experience in music will not necessarily be beneficial for most jobs outside of the field of music.  Having experience in gym won’t necessarily be beneficial for most jobs outside of physical education or health.  That’s not to say I don’t think we need those courses (we do!).  I’m just saying if the purpose of schools is trying to churn out employable students, in terms of benefit for future jobs, French is an automatic asset.

I think the Calgary board who decided this must be in dire straits.  Cutting out French is not a long-term solution, nor is it easily reversible.  If funding is the issue, get raising some money.  Make your voice heard in all languages.  This is not a Calgary problem; this is a Canadian problem.

Bird Identification Link

Hello all!

I recently was awoken by two little brown striped birds atop my boyfriend’s terrace wall, chirping and singing merrily while I wondered what the heck they were.  I thought they might be sparrows since they looked like a “regular bird” and didn’t really know many others that looked the same.  I became curious though, when their calls were all wacky and my rudimentary search online for even song sparrow calls were all repetitive and not at all the same as what I’d heard.

I posted my quest on Facebook to identify the calls, asking for any links people had.  My friend Laura L. sent me this link.  Well, it didn’t take very long before I discovered what I’d seen were Pine Siskins.  Here is a sample of what they sound like from that link.  Here is what they look like.  I don’t remember seeing any yellow though, so they might have been females or young males.  Still, they were very cute and happy-sounding!  I might see if we’re allowed to put up thistle bird feeders……   😉

An Ideal Vacation: Ontario: Niagara Falls!

Hi folks!

Today’s Ideal Vacation location is my own dear province: Ontario!  Since I have visited a few places around this province, I’ll start by introducing the one I know best:

Where to visit:

  • Niagara Falls

What to do:

  • Butterfly Conservatory (as long as you’re okay with butterflies maybe landing on you!):  It’s a lovely slice of enclosed rainforest with a vast selection of colourful butterflies to stalk.  It’s hard to go and not leave a happier person!
  • Journey Behind the Falls:  Here, you really get a sense of how powerful the Niagara Falls Horseshoe waterfall is, as well as the tremendous speed with which all that water falls every second.
  • Maid of the Mist:  Although locals tend to roll their eyes at this one for its “hokeyness”, you really get different perspective from a boat about these falls.  I lived near Niagara Falls all my life and only truly understood the immensity of them when I went on the Maid of the Mist when I was about 16.  You won’t believe the wind!
  • The “old casino” (Casino Niagara):  More unique and pretty than the new casino on Murray Hill, Casino Niagara at 5705 Falls Avenue still houses many slot machines (the only thing I’ve ever dared to play), as well as some tables for that other gambling stuff.  It also has an interesting and functional art display of different-sized flat screen TVs so you can keep up-to-date with your favourite sports teams.  Plus, it’s just a few steps away from…..
  • The Hershey Store:  While everything is expensive here, if you have a few extra bucks to splurge in the summer, try one of their chocolate-dipped strawberries (ask for it *freshly* dipped, trust me!) and/or a chocolate milkshake.  No matter your chocolate tolerance, you will get a sugar overload!  It’s an awesome place to take a date, hint hint.
  • Go up to the Observation Deck at the Skylon Tower:  Sure, it gives you an amazing view of Niagara Falls, but what people often forget is that the viewing deck is all around the tower, so you can see far into the distance in all directions and can admire all the local landscape.  This used to be the tallest building at Niagara Falls, and is starting to be dwarfed by the (kinda ridiculous, if you ask me) massive hotels….. so if you’re one to appreciate history and architecture, this is the place you want to support!  If you’re feeling like an unforgettable meal, make sure to go to the restaurant up top too; they have incredible food!
  • Margaritaville:  This restaurant is new as of last summer, but had my attention from the beginning.  One of the famous international chain of Caribbean-themed restaurants created by everyone’s favourite beach bum, Jimmy Buffett, has opened across the street from the new casino on Murray Hill.  Everything I have ever tried on this song-inspired menu has been sensational, and served in the most amusing atmosphere you can imagine.  Pirates on stilts making balloon animal hats?  Sure!  Giant tequila bottle pouring into a monster-sized blender?  Of course!  Every restaurant is themed uniquely for its location, so there’s even a shout out to Niagara Falls by way of enormous large screen waterfall projections.  I believe they have live music every night, and Jimmy himself has been known to show up and play a spontaneous set!  (Just don’t expect it — that’s only happened once so far!)

 

Well, I’ve got a list started anyway.  I do love playing Tour Guide for friends who’ve never been, so expect to see more updates to this list in the future.  Feel free to add your own as well!

As this was only about Niagara Falls, I will try to get to other cities in the coming days, but I’ll need your help too!  Tell me which cities in Ontario you love to visit and why!