Archive for February, 2010

Spiky metal shard restaurant

Posted on February 25th, 2010 6 Comments

Eighteen hours on. Two hours of sleep (well, I had four until I had to get up again, but it was hard to turn off), then another twelve. You may wonder if the management believes it’s that important. Well, much to their credit, they’re there before I get there and often well after I leave. So I think they do and I’m trying to help ‘em out. But coding is mostly undivided concentration. That’s tough on the ole noggin’

I really wasn’t planning on writing about work but that’s been my experience for almost two weeks now. That and dark haze and memories of an apartment and Oliver. Okay, I stretch a bit, but feel I’ve been making a pretty fucking honest effort and have been in that seat more than not. And the part I’m working on is somewhat big and complex – it’s a good chunk of the overall effort. I also stitched together everyone else’s pieces. And patched them up where they had holes or got unstitched somehow, or by someone. Oy vey!

But the end result will be pretty nice, I believe. Actually, it’s pretty close now. Down to the wire. I ended up re-writing the core engine at the last minute to make it play better (it’s a game), and I was actually enjoying testing it. Good sign.

Here’s a Haiku to sum it up:

I’m staying afloat.

It’s too bad I can’t segue.

For you, here’s a boat.

captain john's restaurant, 1 yonge street, toronto, city, life

This is Captain John’s, a ship-borne restaurant harboured at the absolute foot of Yonge Street. The M.S. Jadran is pretty much a sitting hulk. There is some doubt about whether or not she can be moved without something falling off. Passengers getting impaled on shards of spiky, twisted hull metal would be bad for business. They’d never pass the health inspection after that!

The selling price recently dropped from $1.5 million to $1.1. The Toronto Star took that to mean that John Letnik, the guy who’s trying to sell her, is getting more desperate. I don’t know if I believe that.

captain john's restaurant, 1 yonge street, toronto, city, life

Competition around town is certainly heating up. I can attest to the fact that literally from any street corner in downtown Toronto, you will see a large new building under construction when you look in the cardinal directions. There are parts of town where entire skylines are going up.

The resident boat-restaurant business is, I believe, somewhat of a niche market. Selling the Jadran will probably take some time and, I sincerely hope, result in a very public string of colourful characters who want to make the boat into everything from a three-ring circus to a performing art piece. It’ll take a hundred restaurants at the bases of nearby towers to realize what a great thing this ship could be, even with all her baggage. Plus, all those new buildings will house hungry mouths. And I had a gander at the lunch menu (a hand-folded photocopy) — $7.95 for most of their maritime delights.

What a catch!

Okay, and think you and I both know, dear reader, why this has to end for today. It’s gone too far.

captain john's restaurant, 1 yonge street, toronto, city, life

Filed under: B Sides, Pictures

The Projects Project, pt.2

Posted on February 23rd, 2010 10 Comments

…continued from previous part.

The “trial by fire”, as my manager put it, continues. This is the eighth straight day of 12-hours-per-day, no-breaks keyboard bashing and code-slinging. Sheer exhaustion set in about two days ago. The deadline looms, I get it — I just better get a few days off after this is all over!

In the meantime, however, the small pocket of wit I had stored at the back of my brain was used up about four days ago. I hope you bear with me through this challenging time, dear reader. It’s hard enough to just string a sentence together let alone something coherent. At least there are some photos to fill in the gibberish!

Plus, thankfully, Regent Park has a history that I can regurgitate to pretend like I’m saying something meaningful :) For example, after a little digging around I learned that Regent Park was considered a slum in the heart of Cabbagetown well before it was destined for the projects. In other words, I don’t think the buildings necessarily made it what it is. But I don’t think they helped.

There, didn’t that sound meaningful? Haha … I can’t even tell anymore!

Anystars, the northern part of Regent Park was built in the early fifties, the southern nearly a decade later. Apparently the guy who designed the southern towers won an award. From the air, I guess, they’re nicely arranged. On the ground though, they just don’t seem terribly people-friendly.

south regent park, shuter street, community public housing, apartments, flats, toronto, city, life

Oh don’t get me wrong, the place has “fascinating history” written all over it, even if that history isn’t necessarily all happy. Why the heck else would I go there? I already have enough crack at home.

There are some unusual aspects to the place that give it a little more fat around the jowl; you know — character. It is, after all, easy to dismiss it as that place you avoid at night, but that’s way too simplistic.

south regent park, community housing project, shuter street, toronto, city, life

The majority of Regent Park is composed of mostly poor Asian people who’ve been living there for decades, most of them with kids. The predominant ethnic group is Chinese. Which pretty much proves that the Chinese are troublemakers. But if you don’t buy that, it at least shows that the problems that Regent Park has aren’t necessarily caused by one group or another.

… Continue Reading

Filed under: B Sides, Pictures

The Projects Project, pt.1

Posted on February 19th, 2010 3 Comments

Wow, I sure am being put through the paces these days. Big client. Big deadlines. No weekend :( Gonna be pounding the keyboard hard, so I’ll keep it brief and choppy. But luckily, that’s probably the best style to adopt for what’s coming up.

Also, I luckily managed to string that U of T series along for a bit, and even more luckily, the this week’s stuff is considerably less soppy: Regent Park!

It all started with a great documentary called Invisible City that I saw on TVO last Sunday.

In it I learned all sorts of interesting things, like Regent Park is Canada’s original housing project. And much like many of it’s American cousins, this one went south. You know, the usual stuff; drugs, violence, poverty, all mushed together in a gooey mess. There’s a northern part, made up of short and brutish red brick buildings facing each other antagonistically, and a southern part consisting of a cluster of tall, low-privacy, high-density apartments ringed by run-down townhouses.

What struck me as sad about the documentary, though, is that the two kids are already feeling a bit nostalgic for the place, both because of the course of their lives and, I suspect, because the neighbourhood’s being torn down. The new buildings being put up contain starter condos — around $200 Gs. That’s a very reasonable price for a downtown location and is a much more affordable starter loan. As shocking as this may sound, I think the city actually did something right there – it seems to make sense.

Unfortunately, it also means that Regent Park may be disappearing. I mean, it’ll be a while yet, but the revitalization is slated for completion around 2015. And, once again, bizarre as this may seem, I believe that the project is mostly on schedule. Weird, right? Maybe it’s because this is my homegirl’s ward.

In any event, shortly after watching the documentary I decided I had to see it for myself. I only had to walk a few blocks. I know! All this time and I’ve never been!

Well, I went, and I got a little panorama-happy. At least at the beginning — kept me in a natural three-sixty motion. Smart! But I relaxed eventually, though the place continued to be unpleasant. In the middle of February, not a place to bring your valentine. Well, maybe the right one ;)

Anyhow, the buildings may look a bit warped, but at least you’ll have context. But, because of so much context, I humbly request your patience when you click on the pics -– they’re loading, they’re just big. Now’s the time to get that refreshment you’ve been thinking about. Go ahead, it’s alright, that photo won’t go nowhere :)

Also, I’d recommend turning on full-screen mode (usually under the “View” menu at the top – or try hitting the F11 key). Stick your schnoz into the monitor to complete the effect. Finally, because the photos will probably take up more than your whole window, you should probably know how to get back here :D You have a few options:

1) Hit the ESC key. Works for me, probably will for you :)
2) Use the scroll bars, or the arrow keys, to scroll to the lower-right corner of the photo (down and right). Just below that is the close button.
3) Use the scroll bars, or the arrow keys, to scroll above or below the photo. Then just click anywhere on the blog.

And please enjoy your visit!

sackville street, regent park, north, toronto, city, liferegent park, south, toronto, city, liferegent park, sackville street, north, toronto, city, liferegent park, sumach street, north, toronto, city, liferegent park, dundas street east, north, toronto, city, liferegent park, south, toronto, city, life

Continued in next part…

Filed under: B Sides, Pictures

“The Three Easy Steps to Ultimate Success” (abridged version), pt.6

Posted on February 18th, 2010 4 Comments

…continued from previous part.

I would like to thank you for hanging in there, dear reader. I know that you’ve sat through quite enough self-indulgent tripe in this series and, thankfully, we’ve come to the end of it. There’s not much more left to achieving Ultimate Success® except this last bit:

Step 7 – [INSERT TITLE HERE]

university of toronto, st. george campus, spadina avenue, toronto, city, life

As we finally leave the University of Toronto (I’m sure I mentioned it’s a big place), I’m reminded of my first impression of Canada. A little immigrant kid, no English, fresh off the plane at Pearson, stepping out into Toronto daylight for the first time. I’m not sure if I vocalized it, and I’m not certain if I used the word “shit”, but I recall gasping, “Holy shit! Look at the size of those cars! How big are these people?”

I won’t hesitate to call that wonder. Toronto was huge. And you know, I think it still is. If I recall correctly, by doing the speed limit on the 401 from the eastern border (“Welcome to the City of Toronto!”) to the western border (“Same to You, Jerkwad!”), you could drive across the city in about forty minutes. That’s about sixty-seven kilometers (forty-two miles). On the night of my high school graduation, drunk off my tits, I decided to walk home to Scarborough from Yonge and Bloor. I could be wrong, but I think it took me just a little over six hours. Possibly less if I hadn’t been wearing formal footwear.

university of toronto, st. george campus, spadina avenue, toronto, city, life

I would probably add another two to three hours of walking to get to the eastern city limit, where it touches cootie-ridden Durham county. And I believe the city extends just as far west of Yonge too.

… Continue Reading

Filed under: B Sides, Pictures

“The Three Easy Steps to Ultimate Success” (abridged version), pt.5

Posted on February 16th, 2010 4 Comments

…continued from previous part.

Sometimes fate provides the best illustrations of the topic at hand. Tonight, for example, as I was nearing my flat, I passed a regular panhandler seeking the usual “money for food, sir?” He probably could use food, truth be told; he’s skinny, has an unpleasant complexion, and wears early-eighties Bill Gates goggles replete with the chunkiest of lenses.

I have the “no” head-shake down so well now that I can even do it from behind. Which I did. Question stopped. Alas, it took Goggles less than half a second to shout to a compatriot across the street asking if he could get a “pipe for a dollar fifty?” I honestly have no idea if that’s in any way realistic. But that’s not the point.

What Goggles did was to demonstrate the importance of just doing something in order to kick-start the Ultimate Success® machine. The first attempt doesn’t have to be successful, as long as you’re focused on the near-term goal — research, planning, and organization will just flow naturally from there.

Goggles will get his pipe. You bet.

Step 6 – Do Stuff

university of toronto, st. george campus, stone carving, entrance, toronto, city, life

On the outskirts of Taichung City there were fields and fields of muddy, flooded rice paddies bordered by sloppily-paved embankments that farmers, and their vehicles, used to get around.

I’d lived in Taiwan for about two years before one day noticing that a car had just exited one of these paddy roads at the foothills near my house (the island is mostly mountains). That meant that there had to be something on the other side!

I should point out that these weren’t really roads – the driver of the car I’d noticed advanced very carefully. He had about half a foot separating him and a hilarious dip into the short-grain Chinese staple on either side. And, although a car could barely fit, farmers insisted on taking farm vehicles on these embankments. Okay, the tractors and trucks were smaller than North American ones, but still bigger than a car. Serious business atop tarred and dilapidated concrete slabs, let me tell you.

university of toronto, st. george campus, stone carving, entrance, toronto, city, life

I should mention that, although it’s probably since improved, traffic priority in the country was based on size and aggressiveness. On a motor scooter, you generally gave way to cars. Cars gave way to mini-trucks. Mini-trucks gave way to farm vehicles. So on. Red lights were a suggestion, sidewalks were simply another place to drive. Just about every cabby flashed a gloriously red Betel nut smile, usually while spitting joyfully red sludge on the sidewalk.

The floor-cleaner-tasting nut (of course I tried it!), created a short-lived intoxication not unlike alcohol. I believe a certain level of actual alcohol was considered to be a stimulant, but that could’ve been a y-guo myth (why-guo-ren: foreigner). Despite that story, the cabbies drove around at a very controlled level of intoxication, that much was certain, so I’m sure there was some acceptable limit. I’d often be offered Betel nut (with a courtesy spitting cup), and a can of beer when hitching a cab. Just requested to keep it low.

… Continue Reading

Filed under: B Sides, Pictures

Intermission

Posted on February 14th, 2010 Be the first to comment

Just wanted to break the monotony for a moment (no, really, this is gonna be nice and short), to share something I found over breakfast in Saturday’s Star:

toronto star, go transit fare hike, toronto, city, life

Note the little blurb about the GO Transit fare hike being proposed. Haha! Well, never let it be said that the Star doesn’t exercise editorial authority! When you compare the tizzy about the TTC fare hike (just Google TTC fare hike), against this, ya kinda get a sense that the paper’s asserting a little bias. But I’m pretty sure I’ve said something to this to someone or other — everything a paper produces is editorial, down to the order of sentences in an article.

The paragraph is next to the deaths announcements for Gods sake! It’s why I give equal measure to the Saturday funnies.

By the way, the Star’s free for the next two weeks (during the Olympics). If someone tries to charge you for one, jab them in the eye with something and call them something irretrievably horrible. Then run!

Filed under: Pictures, Why I'm Right

“The Three Easy Steps to Ultimate Success” (abridged version), pt.4

Posted on February 12th, 2010 3 Comments

…continued from previous part.

Thanks for hanging in there, dear reader. I know that this hasn’t been an easy journey; three parts and I haven’t even covered anything practical yet!

But don’t worry, we’re getting to that now that we’ve covered the prerequisites: inquisitiveness, hope and vision, but not too much — make a plan B!

But how, exactly, to go about doing that?

Glad you asked :)

Step 4 – The Road To Ultimate Success®

university of toronto, st.george campus, convocation hall, cn tower, skyline, toronto, city, life(big!)

First, survey the landscape before you. Look up, above the screen. What do you see?

Don’t cheat now!

Was that inspiring? Did you see something that makes you want to sit here and continue to look at that? If so, I just totally wasted your time. Carry on :) But if not, why not?

Because, you have to plan your escape, that’s why! Planning is so absolutely rudimentary to everything that I don’t really even feel a need to cover it. There are lots of books out there to help you organize your papers, your wallet, your love life, etc., but none of them lead to Ultimate Success®. That’s because Ultimate Success® hinges on a simple Point-A-to-Point-B system.

For this you need nothing more than a piece of paper and a pencil. Or pen. A drawing or writing instrument of any kind.

One one end of the paper, draw a circle. Do so now if you’re really participating here because the next sentence tells you what this is all about.

Okay, so that’s you.

If it’s a bit wobbly, you probably just need to stand up for yourself a little more.

university of toronto, st. george campus, main hall, quad, field, toronto, city, life

Next, draw another circle on the other side of the paper. Again, the next line is the give, so do so now if you’re playing along.

Right. And this is that thing that you determined in Step 1. Okay? You have you on one end, your goal on the other. How do you get there? Simply connect the dots – draw a line from you to your future. Straight and narrow. Go ahead.

Great. And now cross that line out and scribble crap all over it. Go on. Just destroy it. Because that is just not going to happen. You’ll have to improvise in the field, so just try to be as prepared as possible: a good flashlight, some nutritious seed/nut/fruit bars (snacking on one right now – incisory goodness!), some cash, good coat, you know … stuff like that.

… Continue Reading

Filed under: B Sides, Pictures

“The Three Easy Steps to Ultimate Success” (abridged version), pt.3

Posted on February 10th, 2010 9 Comments

…continued from previous part.

If I may be honest, dear reader, that last part kinda bummed me out. The beach is not a happy place on a late January night. I didn’t see a single person frolic. In fact, I saw only one guy and he walked by so briskly that I didn’t even get to see what he had under his arm. And then returning back from whence he came at exactly the same pace, minus the thing he had been carrying. Then a car left the parking lot.

At that point I decided it was starting to get late. Class dismissed.

Step 3 – Learning You Good!

howard ferguson hall, st. george campus, university of toronto, u of t, toronto, city, life

Okay, so this is where it starts to pick up a little. Note the sunshine, for starters. That building is the entranceway to Ultimate Success University™.

Haha! Just joshin’ ya, that’s actually one of the neato buildings at the University of Toronto’s St. George campus.

spadina street, st. george campus, university of toronto, u of t, toronto, city, life

U of T and Ryerson are both spread out over blocks, each a little sprawling mini-metropolis of their own. This is where people come to get edumacated.

Some of the university-educated folk I’ve had to interact with, oh, don’t get me started. Sorry your dreams are crushed, buddy, but my burger isn’t going to tray itself now, is it?

Haha! Well, I laugh like I have a University diploma or something. Only from the University of Xerox, if that institution is still relevant. Also, I went to Centennial College to study digital electronics for computers. That entire program was a 24/7 sausagefest. I recall a friend who had transferred classes telling me that he thought that, possibly, there were a couple of chicks in his class. But they sat w-a-y at the back. And looked like dudes.

I guess I’m lucky I didn’t get accepted to university in the end. I repeatedly hear about the crazy debt that university grads are saddled with right out the gate. Of course, I had my own, but Centennial led to a lot friendlier debt collectors.

… Continue Reading

Filed under: B Sides, Pictures

“The Three Easy Steps to Ultimate Success” (abridged version), pt.2

Posted on February 9th, 2010 8 Comments

…continued from previous part.

So have you discovered how your life would be like a living dream if only you could _____________? Excellent!

At this point, many success-seeking guides would jump right into planning. The silly bastards. Now is when one learns to rein in one’s expectations.

Step 2 – I Didn’t Realize It Would Suck This Much

shadow, silhouette, sand, woodbine beach, toronto, city, life

That’s me holding still for 15 seconds. I think it’s fair to say it was cold that night. But, I told myself I had to do it. No not the pose – well, yes, a little bit – but mostly I was there for the sand and surf. The most desolate time of the winter – the starkest of beaches. Way cool. I was extremely happy to be able to grab a warm streetcar back home afterward, don’t get me wrong, but I feel like I really earned these photos. I took every shot 3 times just for good measure.

Perseverance is a must. Plus, you pick up a lot of new things along the way that can end up being very useful later on. For example, I discovered that pure, concentrated pool-strength chlorine ooze can feel like jelly when you walk on it. Except it’s not! It’s the soles of your feet!

Haha! No, seriously, that was my first summer job. Totally unqualified lifeguard at a Czech community centre. I have no idea why they even had a pool; it was on the far end of a good stretch of land, over a steep and rocky climb up the main driveway, which was attached to a very gently trafficked stretch of road that meandered lazily through the valley. The community centre owned the property bordering that road – big enough for a generous public park. The entire summer, I believe we had two, possibly three customers.

I say we because halfway through my stint the management decided to wise up and hire an actual lifeguard. Unfortunately, the slight Asian kid seemed to be afraid of water, and definitely wanted nothing to do with chlorine. He tried to help me add it to the pool once but only managed to spill it on the deck and onto aforementioned feet. He squealed as he dropped it. I’ll never forget that squeal. It’s burned into my memory.

boardwalk, light pole, park bench, woodbine beach, toronto, city, life

But I should stress that, having witnessed previous similar performances, I kept my expectations of him low and kept near to the water’s edge just in case. Which turned out to be exactly the right thing to do. So back to the topic at hand, if you kind of expect that things might suck a little, that’ll cushion the blow if they actually do. And if they don’t … g r e a t !

I followed the pool job with a jab at slinging hot dogs at Exhibition Stadium. I wasn’t expecting miracles. Nope. Caribana ended up being a total bust. I ended up thirty bucks in the hole — we bought from the people who ran the concessions and sold at a markup to the crowd, if we could sell it. We got an hourly pay but since most events lasted only one to two hours, and after deductions, that was just enough to buy a beer on the way home. I don’t remember if I was old enough to drink yet. Regardless, it was mostly to keep the business legit, not how we got paid.

… Continue Reading

Filed under: B Sides, Pictures

“The Three Easy Steps to Ultimate Success” (abridged version), pt.1

Posted on February 8th, 2010 4 Comments

This week, dear reader, I’m afraid we’re going to have to trek rather briskly to get to our final destination. You see, despite some rather tacit posts around here lately, I haven’t spent all the time sitting on my ass. I once again ended up with a glut of photos that at first didn’t seem to want to go anywhere. Woodbine Beach on a chilly winter night (with a slight detour along Gerrard Street), a sunny afternoon at the University of Toronto campus, and an equally cheery stroll around Yorkville; what the hell am I supposed to do with that?

I mean, it was nice to get outside and do some walking around, but the connections were, unfortunately, not revealing themselves. It left me feeling constipated. Until I sat down to enjoy some quality time on my gleaming ceramic throne. C’mon, you know full well that you do your best thinking in there too, admit it! (Okay, shower is a valid option as well – close second, but still.)

Well, you know, at times like those (“ceramic visions”, I call them), I get to thinking about the circle of life. The distance — theologically, spiritually, physically, and metaphysically — that the meal has gone, for example.

Right.

But it suddenly struck me that these pictures kinda remind me of how I arrived at my own station in life, or, “The Three Easy Steps to Ultimate Success”

When this goes into print, the comments will go on the jacket and in the foreword. ;)
When it’s an abject failure, I can point fingers. ;)

Step 1 – Get All Deep And Introspective (or at least fake it)

gerrard street east, garages, alley, statue, toronto, city, life

It’s good to take stock of what one enjoys in life. I kinda stumbled into what I’m doing today but the roots run pretty cleanly back to the early nineties. Ah, the nineties, KRS One was boogieing down, my now-ex had completed planning the first diabolical stage in my downfall (I didn’t even know her yet!), and I was lugging a heavy backpack and being propositioned by unsavoury gentlemen in Morningside Park on my way to be with my beloved computers at West Hill C.I. (collegiate institute = high school – don’t ask, don’t know). And the other classes too, I guess. Oh, and I had a few friends – outcasts. I know, everyone says that. But I really think we were.

One of my friends showed up at my house freaking out that his dad was gonna kill him. Ended up, that didn’t happen :) I’m not sure exactly what it was, but I think the family was connected to bikers, and this was more-or-less a regular drunken ritual when dad rolled in. They sure looked like bikers. Definitely the other side of the tracks.

river street, don valley, electrical substation, taxi, road, toronto, city, life

My other friend threw a murder mystery game at his house. We all came dressed in costumes. I was a gender-neutral doctor (the invite didn’t specify!).

I don’t mean to imply he was gay. No, not that I know of, he was just somewhat eccentric in that Alfred Hitchcock or Orson Welles sort of way. If you get my meaning.

For some reason, I always imagined meeting K. at some time as an arch nemesis. It’s only fitting that we’d have been childhood friends; I could see him receding into the bitter shadows of the world and, after years of silent toil in the darkness, emerging and revealing some sort of terrifying new weapon with which to obliterate the masses. Unless his demands are met. Send in Agent Patrick.

As cool as that would be, I sincerely hope life’s treated him kindly.

… Continue Reading

Filed under: B Sides, Pictures