Though I bet sometimes you wonder, right?
Today was a Daddy-Daughter day, as I took daughter the elder out of school and into Toronto. This time, we visited the Ontario Science Centre, which is the perfect place for inquisitive kids to go running around and learn stuff. Just like the Iowa Science Museum, they know the value of just letting the children play, and the place is a lot larger. We ended up leaving without seeing all there was to see, but by that time daughter the elder was ready to head for home.
The school year is nearly at an end, which means the annual scramble to find things for the kids to do in the summer months. Sometimes the kids take care of that issue themselves, since we live in a very kid-friendly neighbourhood where it's safe enough to just let them go out the door and go to the neighbourhood park (there are a lot of eyes on the street to keep the kids safe). But that doesn't cover the whole summer, so I managed to put together special day camps for the kids for four of the nine weeks this summer.
Two of the weeks are art camps, which the kids are looking forward to, and two more are day camps out in the country. I wasn't sure if the kids would go for it, but as soon as I mentioned that they would be teaching archery, both kids said, "Yes! Sign us up, Daddy!"
Hmm... Should I warn the grandparents against buying the kids Nerf suction-cup archery kits for Christmas? Nah, I'll just make sure the kids bring them along when they visit...
So, I have been busy, but in spite of the lack of activity on the blog, I have been writing. Here's a selection:
- A column on daughter-the-elder's yellow belt in karate, appearing in the Kitchener Post.
- A revision and expansion of the Transit Toronto article on the history of the GO Train to Stouffville.
- A history of the TTC's bus fleet before 1959.
- A history of interurban service on Yonge Street.
- Pushing the Night Girl past 48,00 words.
In addition to all that, I've received more work from my real estate broker which will involve research and writing through the summer. So, there is a lot going on, just not on this blog. Still, I hope to have a few new posts later this month. Things are always happening, so hopefully I'll have good news to report.
But it looks it, doesn’t it?
What you are looking at is a McDonalds outlet on the southeast corner of Danforth Road and McCowan Avenue in southwestern Scarborough. And I think it illustrates the main problem of suburban-style development, and how far we still have to go to fix the urban landscape.
I came to the intersection yesterday because I wanted to snap some pictures for Transit Toronto. Specifically, I wanted to catch some shots of the Stouffville GO train. Knowing that I would be waiting for a while, I had scoped out the area on Google Maps and noted the McDonalds restaurant as a possible place to sit, write a little, and drink something cold.
McDonalds has attempted to rebrand itself as less of a fast food restaurant and more as an urban café, serving coffee-based frothy drinks along with Big Macs and Filet-o-Fishes. It’s fooling nobody, of course, but they do offer free wi-fi and the drinks are good enough in a pinch, so I thought it would be a good base.
(As an aside, did you know that some McDonalds no longer offer milkshakes? This one didn’t. Only smoothies were available. That said, the vanilla-chai smoothie was actually quite good).
But when I got to the corner, and stepped off the Cliffside bus, I was at the door of this McDonald’s. And my first thought was: is this place closed? There was trash strewn everywhere. There was no sign of life behind the blackened windows. The door looked locked.
That’s when I realized that I was looking at the back door, which just happened to open out onto the sidewalk. The place was part of a strip plaza, and the front end of the McDonalds was on the other side, facing the parking lot.
Once I figured this out, I walked around the other side, and encountered windows that weren’t blacked out, and a patio where people from the ethnically diverse neighbourhood were sitting. Early on a Thursday afternoon, this McDonalds was providing a vital service to its neighbours as a meeting place. But it speaks volumes that Midland Avenue and Danforth Road, two major streets around which this neighbourhood is centred, are not the focus of this restaurant’s attention. At all. In spite of the fact that most people coming out to this McDonalds early that afternoon were arriving on foot or on transit, in this part of Scarborough, the car is perceived to be the king, and the pedestrian its humble servant.
Which is a shame, because it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. This McDonalds has a streetfront which it has turned its back on. And the image it presents to the street, and the image it lends to the street, is one that isn’t welcoming. Or particularly safe, in my opinion.
I did get my picture, though. You can see it below.
After talking about the problems that Prime Minister Harper has had with his backbench MPs speaking out, I suggested that Conservative MPs who felt that their party was no longer serving their constituents' interest should put their money where their mouths were and leave the party caucus.
Last week, Edmonton-St. Albert MP Brent Rathgeber did just that. Citing concerns over how the Prime Minister's Office seemed to be watering down his private members' bill to publicize the salaries of federal civil servants, he quit the Conservative party and now sits as an independent.
In response to Rathgeber's resignation from the Conservative caucus, spokesman for the Prime Minister's Office Andrew MacDougall tweeted "The people of Edmonton-St. Albert elected a Conservative Member of Parliament. Mr. Rathgeber should resign and run in a by-election."
This forces me to ask one question: does the Prime Minister's Office think that we're idiots?
If MacDougall believes that all MPs who reject the party line and leave caucus should resign their seats and run in by-elections, where was he when newly elected Liberal MP David Emerson crossed the floor to join the Harper cabinet two weeks after the 2006 election?
This is blatant hypocrisy from a party that has accepted not one, but two opposition MPs into its caucus without requiring them to resign and face the voters in a by-election. Or does MacDougall forget Wajid Khan, Liberal MP for Mississauga-Streetsville who switched sides in 2007?
While, in my opinion, David Emerson abused the trust that voters placed in him in the 2006 election, I am not as upset at the idea of floor crossing as, say, the NDP is. In fairness to Khan, he tried to do a job advising the prime minister while serving as a Liberal MP and only switched when Liberal leader Stephane Dion asked him to pick a party.
I believe that, in an idealized Canadian democracy, we vote for individual representatives who will take our concerns to parliament rather than trained seals wearing party logos who'd squeal the party line. I don't criticize the Conservatives for accepting Khan or Emerson. My issue is with the Conservatives demanding that Rathgeber resign when they didn't require Emerson or Khan to receive the same treatment.
Then there's the fact that nobody asked John Nunziata to resign his seat after he broke ranks with the Liberal government in 1996 and voted against a budget that still contained the GST. But Nunziata didn't switch parties like Emerson or Khan did. He sat as an independent, and was rewarded by the voters in York South-Weston with re-election.
Until Rathgeber switches parties - which he has shown no indication of doing - this seems the most applicable example. When voters in Edmonton-St. Albert look at Rathgeber and see a man willing to risk his political future for something he believes in, it does not surprise me the to see the respect that Rathgeber has earned. When the same voters look at a Conservative party that will say anything in order to stay in power, it will not surprise me if Rathgeber runs in the 2015 election as an independent, and wins.
The question is, will other Conservatives with integrity will be joining him?
It’s been an active week this past week, as you may have guessed given the level of inactivity on the blog. As you read, we made full use of Vivian and Nora’s professional development day on Friday (well, after Erin got home from work and hauled us off the couch). Saturday was a flurry of stuff too, from breakfast with grandpa Eric, to a play date with other kids the daughters’ age, to our second ever paid babysitting test.
That went well. The kids loved John, and didn’t give him any trouble, and we were free to head out to see Iron Man 3. That was a good evening. It’s a really enjoyable movie that blows things up without insulting your intelligence — even if the villains’ plan was so complex, I wondered if they got dizzy walking straight lines. But Robert Downey Jr. really ate up the screen, in a good way, and Ben Kingsley was a joy to watch.
Sunday, by comparison, was quiet. We did manage to run a few errands and visit a bookstore to pick up the latest issue of The Quill and Quire. Erin’s Sorrow’s Knot was previewed in the issue, complete with a big photo of her and the phrase “the world of YA fantasy may well have a new master in its midst.” Well, I certainly agree.
As for my own work, I’ve landed more things to do for my real estate broker which should keep me good and employed through the summer. And The Night Girl is in a good place. While I’m still feeling out the plot, I am moving forward, writing around 500 words a day. The manuscript is now over 42,000 words. This is when writing is at its most exciting, because this is when discovery happens. Just as readers are shocked by a good plot turn, this is the point where said plot turns can shock writers, and that’s one of the most rewarding experiences of writing.
Finally, on Transit Toronto, I’ve added another two articles. One, written by myself, discusses the history of the TTC’s bus fleet before 1959, when the first model of the GM’s “New Looks” appeared and, some would argue, the modern bus fleet arrived. And, thanks to Pete Coulman, I now have a full history of the 34 EGLINTON EAST bus. Feel free to have a look!
- The Beaches of Burwell
- Hello, Jasper.
- Fire Dancers in New Dundee, Sea Glass in Neville Park
- Doctor... Who?
Doctor Who's The Name of the Doctor Reviewed
- So, This Appeared Over the Skies of Australia...
- What the Heck are Burpees?
- The Armchair Script Editor
Doctor Who's Crimson Horror and Nightmare in Silver Reviewed
- Basia Bulat Covers Bruce Springsteen
- You've Got to Play by the Rules
- The Best Thing. Ever. Full Stop.