city life

Group buying power

One of the cooler things about living in Toronto is all of the deals you can get on a daily basis. I recently got into TeamBuy and WagJag, both websites which offer a deal on a daily basis (some last longer than one day), typically a meal, service or other entertainment in the range of 30-60% off the regular price. TeamBuy is where I got my gym membership from – 6 months for $150, which is an amazing deal.

I just stumbled across another one, too. It’s similar, but works slightly differently – you get coupons emailed to you daily. I’ve just signed up, and I’m looking forward to the deals they feature. Check it out at Groupon.

city life environment

the new morality

…we have a joint obligation to preserve [the commons]. That’s because future generations will need them to live, and live well, just as we do. And our generation has no right to say, “These gifts end here.” This shared responsibility introduces a moral factor that doesn’t apply to other economic assets: it requires us to manage these gifts with future generations in mind.”
– Peter Barnes, Capitalism 3.0

I find it fascinating to note a new set of moral values creeping into my daily life: those surrounding garbage disposal, energy and water use, and the type of food I buy; in essence – my consumption patterns. If I leave the tap running for a little too long, a pang of guilt hits me. If I slip a piece of garbage into the bin instead of properly splitting it up into the recyclables, I feel a small twist in my tummy. I get a little queasy when my Starbucks cup isn’t clean yet and I get a paper cup in the morning instead. There are small things, and the guilt doesn’t bother me enough to actually curb my habits (too much) just yet, but they exist where they didn’t before (not really, and not quite like this).

A couple of years ago I visited my parents in Bangkok, Thailand where they lived for three years. Despite it being an apartment in a well-to-do building in one of the most polluted cities in the world, there was no recycling program. My parents, avid and devoted recyclers for the 20+ years they’d lived back in Canada and the UK prior to their sojourn in Thailand, easily and guiltlessly dumped everything into the trash there (minus any aluminum cans, which they gave to their housekeeper Thip who made spare cash by taking them for recycling at some plant nearby).

While living there with them for six weeks, I also picked up this habit of depositing everything into the trash. I shamefully brought it back with me to Canada when I returned. I continued to recycle regularly while living in my house in the suburbs (an easy thing to do when there is space to store the recyclables before putting them out in their appropriate bins), but when I moved downtown and began living the tiny bachelor-apartment life… well, there just wasn’t space anymore to store anything other than a small bag of trash. And a trip down the elevator every time I wanted to put one little thing in the recycling… admit it, it’s just not convenient.

I really think the city of Toronto should force upgrades to all apartment buildings in the city that would see them fitted with convenient recycling disposal units. It’s ridiculous that there is so much emphasis on us separating out our recyclables from our garbage bins when there’s no practical way to do that in our condos. Even new buildings aren’t being built with this kind of consideration in mind – and why not? If we’re going to change the habits of our residents, let’s face it – the new ways must be convenient. That’s all it boils down to.
As you can see from this, there is a limitation to these new moral values, and it’s mainly this: they are appearing mainly within the realms of convenience. I’m buying environmentally-friendly clothes washing soap, but I’m still using the washing machine. I will soon be switching to the same sort of soap for my dishwasher, but again will continue to use that (not the super-hot wash though!). Hey, I’m only one person, and I only have so much time in my day, and the truth is I just can’t afford the time it would take to handwash all my clothes and dishes every day (or, more accurately, I choose not to in lieu of other personal-improvement activities).

I’ll use this as an opportunity to link you to No Impact Man (who also posted the link to Capitalism 3.0), a person who is doing all these things, but who, however, seems to have the novelty of time to actually spend on this kind of thing. Kudos to you, NIM – I look forward to reading your book full of tips, and to the day when our economy may change enough to allow me to live in a more practical and sustainable way.

city life

underappreciated busking

There was an article recently in the Washington Post about Joshua Bell, considered one of the world’s greatest violinists out there today, playing just outside a subway exit for 45 minutes and receiving barely any attention at all.

The article reflects to me my own reactions to busking: I appreciate the sounds and do listen intently as I walk hurriedly past, barely taking the time to acknowledge the busker with a glance. Yes, I enjoy the music. Yes, I’m usually busy. Yes, I feel guilty for not flicking a coin or two into the busker’s case.

A couple of weeks ago, I was casually walking around the Annex, enjoying a warmer sunny afternoon than we’ve had for a while. A small band of three twenty-something boys was clustered on a corner, busking away in the sun.

But there was something special this time – the drummer was really, really good. He was belting out a rhythm that had me captivated. I caught his eye. I hesitated. I could just tell that a crowd wanted to form, but the timid Torontonians around, myself included, just couldn’t bring ourselves to stop and listen for a few moments. All of us who noticed that group moved on.

I’ve never really shown that my enjoyment of the music I’ve heard on the streets. When I do look at the busker, I’m sure there’s some strange expression of the need for reservation and stoicness in my eyes that they must recognise in most passersby. I never remember where I was rushing to when I do recall a public performance such as this, though I usually recall the performances themselves. And it’s so damn difficult to stop, dig through my purse, open it and find appropriate change – if I even have any on me.
And so I move on… and it will likely remain that way. It truly is a matter, for me, of the music being out of context. Even though, as the years pass and the buskers remain on the street, “context” must eventually evolve to include “the street” as one other place one would expect to hear musicians – even great ones.

city life

the smoking ban

Living downtown, I’ve begun to notice something. While, on the rare occasions I do go out, the smoke has cleared in bars and clubs for the most part – people do still smoke in clubs especially; who’s to stop them when there’s a massive crowd protecting them from the view of whomever is meant to enforce the law? – I find that now, as a result of the further imposition that people aren’t even allowed to smoke outdoors on a patio (is that true? is it just a rumour? I’m confused now), everywhere I walk, I inhale much more concentrated trails of cigarette smoke. Everywhere. Constantly. Every other breath – sometimes every breath – is an inhalation of someone else’s smoke trail.

It smells disgusting. I hate it – it’s worse than the car fumes. It’s such a direct hit on your nose as well. It’s worse because they’re walking in front of you, the smoke is trailing behind them, and it’s going directly up into your face, into your nostrils. If I’m standing with a friend who’s smoking, it’s not nearly so bad, because I stand upwind; I have a choice of location then. When I’m just minding my own business walking down the sidewalk, and keep suddenly smelling other people’s cigarettes against my will – well it’s very frustrating constantly having to make beelines around people, or being forced to rush ahead or even, when it’s crowded, push past them to get ahead and breathe freely again.

I don’t know if turning everyone out into the streets to smoke was really such a good idea. I suppose it’s great for people who work in bars and clubs. And for people who go there all the time. But why the patio rule? It’s an even greater imposition on us, otherwise healthy, pedestrians who now get constant, concentrated cigarette smoke up our nostrils (and into our lungs) just because we choose to be healthier or save money and walk.

[Jan. 24, 2007 Edit: I’ve turned off commenting for now. I didn’t mean to incite a riot on my blog; I was simply expressing my opinion on this matter. Everyone is entitled to either like or dislike smoking, just as they are drinking alcohol, which has perhaps worse consequences because of people drinking and driving. So, not to cut anyone off, but debate is what your own blogs are for. Feel free to link to this post if you wish.]

city life

champion of the animals

Ever since I started working at my day job, people calling me have been attempting to reach the Toronto Humane Society (THS for the rest of the entry). I don’t normally get phone calls at work; my job is mostly email-based. So when I arrive in the morning and my phone blinks to inform me I have a message, I’m reasonably certain it’s one of the masses attempting to reach the THS and, more often than not, the message consists of a click. Sometimes there’s a sigh, sometimes a murmur, sometimes it’s a brief outburst of someone yelling at someone else before the inevitable click.

This morning it was an old woman, calling to give the THS a piece of her mind.

Her meak and cracking voice, hesitant at first, began by asking if she’d reached the right place. I can’t for the life of me imagine how so many people still leave message for the THS when I explicitly state in my message that they’ve reached Christina at such and such a company.

The old woman leaving her message soon launched into quite the spiel about the animals that get left at the THS on a regular basis. “I heard that you kill the animals. Now I want to know, why would you go and kill the poor animals?”… it went on. She began to sound more and more vexxed as her voice wobbled and her articulation degenerated.

I couldn’t listen to the whole message; I fast-forwarded and deleted it. The sound of such a pathetic voice championing for the lives of dejected animals was just too much. I honestly don’t know how workers at the THS do it on a daily basis; they are there to help the animals as much as they possibly, humanely, can and then they have to listen to the likes of that on top of it all? It must be quite the depressing job. Hats off to the Toronto Humane Society and all they do to as best as possible accomodate all the lonely dejected animals that inhabit our bit of this land.

city life

lettuce eatery

lettuce eateryI discovered a salad bar near my work a few months ago, and I’ve been addicted to their ceaser salads ever since.

The place is called lettuce eatery, and offers a wide variety of lettuces and other ingredients so you can make any salad you could possibly think of. They have a menu for “chef designed” salads and a menu for “custom crafted” salads as well.

I first had the shrimp ceaser grill salad with romaine lettuce, grilled shrimp, shaved parmesan, croutons and ceaser dressing, along with a slice of their free fresh bread at the cash, and a small bottle of Orangina. I was instantly in love with this particular combination of choices, and it’s the one that’s stuck. I’ve tried a couple of the other salads, such as the ceaser grill with chicken, the asian chicken salad and a modified mediterranean salad, but none came close to being as satisfying or interesting in its combination of flavours and textures as the shrimp ceaser grill. I love sweet flavours, and I think the ceaser salad at lettuce is particularly sweet, which I find helps as well.

In any case, it’s more-ish and I end up having at least two meals a week at that place these days. With the meal coming up to a total of $11.34 pretty much every time it’s an expensive, though primarily healthy (I’ll admit the dressing is maybe not the healthiest), option. If you’re in the market to expand your lunchtime fast food options, I’d recommend checking this place out. Check their website for a location near you.

city life

cityside equestrianism

Sunnybrook Stables logoA while back, I mentioned that I’m taking horseback riding lessons. I’ll elaborate now.

On Thursday nights I take an adult beginner’s horseback riding course over at Sunnybrook Stables.

Situated behind Sunnybrook Hospital, it’s a bit of a trek to get there from the closest bus stop. I take my inline skates with me, at least, though they don’t help me much when faced with a long, gradual decline that makes me pick up far too much speed for comfort.

Once I’m there, however, it’s all good.

We spend some time learning about the tack and the parts of the horses. Then we move on to the stables and gear up the horses for riding. The first two weeks we had two horses and each spent fifteen minutes on one. When we felt a little more comfortable the following week, we began to each spend half an hour on the horses. This is the first week we’ll spend an hour on the horse. This occasion actually falls on my birthday!

For having only ever ridden a horse once in my life, I’m finding the riding actually quite easy. It was a bit weird at first, getting comfortable with being on top of a large, powerful animal. But once past that stage, I have had little trouble with positioning myself properly and moving along with the horse. I had a bit of trouble with steering, as I’m afraid to hurt the horse. One just has to keep in mind that it is very powerful and therefore not too likely you’ll hurt it – you’ll probably just make it uncomfortable. My legs rarely hurt after riding – in fact, while doing two-point, I found the thing that hurt the most was my back, in the shoulder area.

The classes end at the end of October. The best follow-up to that is going to be horseback riding when I visit my parents in England for Christmas. I can’t wait!

city life toronto events

urban capture the flag


Originally uploaded by The_Rumour.

I’ve been up to a lot lately, causing my energy to be low during my downtime and thus my lack in motivation to update.

However, I went to a neat little (!) event last night and just had to post about it.

At about 9PM in the square at King & Bathurst around 900 people showed up to play urban capture the flag through the wicked newish group called newmindspace.
I estimate around 900 because there were 900 glow-necklaces handed out, and all were used up. However, some people got two necklaces – one of each colour – so they could infiltrate both teams. Others were left playing with no necklace and having to stick with a team of people with ones of the colour they chose.

We had purples (or reds as they were supposed to be) against blues, but from far away it ended up being difficult to decipher which colour was around a person’s neck.

It was fun. When it finally started around 9:30 PM, mass amounts of young people began running all over the financial district in the dark, causing chaos in the streets for all the poor drivers, and scaring security guards in many buildings in the surrounding area.

I was on the purple team, and the blue flag was caught twice (as far as I know). The first time, I saw a guy running with it and he nearly made it back to our side, until he was bombarded by an extremely large amount of blue teammates attempting to tag him. The flag was retrieved and placed back in its spot. The game continued.

I started off with a group of friends and we easily ended up in the blue zone. However, I was soon chased out and once that happened, I had a hell of a time getting back into it. The one flaw I could see in the game was that once you’re tagged, no one escorted you back to your zone. This meant you could pretend you’d never been tagged, once that person left the area. Of course, this is cheating, and I only did it for a while. Either way it’s boring – cheating is boring, and going back to your zone and never being able to make it back into the opponent’s is boring as well. Every time I tried, I got caught. Well-populated areas, darkly lit areas, alone or with a bunch of people – somehow it didn’t seem to matter. There were just too many on the other side lying in wait to tag everyone! And I think I’m a fairly fast runner, so it couldn’t possibly be that 😉

The cops were soon called, however, probably by the numerous scared security guards (le sigh). I saw a girl get booked for jaywalking right in front of a streetcar. She was talking on her cell phone – pedestrians! Do not talk and chat! It’s dangerous for your health! And your wallet, if there are any cops around 😛

They patrolled for a while, and the blue flag was captured one more time. I heard random talk that we’d gained a point, finally, and then that the game was over. The cops called it off. Too bad, really. We weren’t exactly causing civil unrest, and most of the kids playing were probably just under legal age – what else do they have to do on a Friday night? This kind of activity is fabulous for them – and for people of any age for other reasons.

I eventually found my friend I’d shown up with and we went off to a bar to have a drink and finish the night. All in all, a good time. I’m looking forward to the next one!

city life toronto events

tiff is going on? i hadn’t noticed…

More than halfway through the Toronto International Film Festival week, I am disappointed to report that the streets of Toronto do not crawl with celebrities during this time. In fact, it is so devoid of celebrities making public appearances that I have not seen a single one amongst all my regular daily travellings.

How boring. How banal. How utterly mundane.

Ah well. There are still a few days left. The more you get out, the more you see, right? Just I’m so busy with non-TIFF related activities. And what kind of celebrity takes the subway?


city life

360 restaurant at the cn tower

Chocolate Tower dessert from 360 RestaurantAn old friend from elementary school got in touch with me recently. She still lives in Ottawa where I went to school, but she came to visit and took me to 360 Restaurant at the CN Tower for a lovely catchup dinner.

We ordered from the Dinner Prix Fixe menu: I started with the 360 Caeser Salad, followed by the Pan Seared Fillet of Atlantic Salmon, and finished up with the deadly, but delicious, Dark Chocolate Tower with Summer Fruits (pictured above). It was so delicious, I couldn’t finish it. Overall, the meal was satisfying and just about the right portions (except perhaps the dessert).

The view was, of course, marvellous. I haven’t been up the CN tower in years, and to the restaurant for even longer. It was fun, and truly the perfect way to begin an evening of catching up and good times with old and new friends.
View from 360 Restaurant at the CN Tower