Archive for ‘Toronto’

November 20, 2011

My Alma Mater- the University of Toronto – launches an ambitious campaign.

TORONTO, ON – The University of Toronto has unveiled Boundless, the largest fundraising campaign in Canadian university history. With a historic $2 billion goal, the Campaign for the University of Toronto will help expand U of T’s global leadership capacity across critical areas of knowledge and help develop the talent, ideas and solutions for the defining challenges of our time.

University of Toronto President David Naylor made the announcement at a ceremony in Convocation Hall at the downtown St. George campus. With this new campaign, U of T will explore the boundless possibilities of its community of alumni, students and faculty for global leadership and societal impact.

“Canada must have universities that can achieve two related goals: conduct the advanced research that will help solve the grand challenges humanity now faces, and offer the best and brightest students an exceptional education to help them build a better world. No university in Canada is better positioned to meet those objectives than the University of Toronto,” said President Naylor.

The Campaign’s goal is $2 billion in philanthropic support, of which nearly half—$966 million—has been secured.  The Campaign has two central pillars:

–          Preparing global citizens will foster international fluency and leadership skills among the University’s almost 80,000 undergraduate and graduate students – by raising funds to support student awards and build learning environments that nurture creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, disciplinary excellence, interdisciplinary inquiry and global perspectives.

–          Meeting global challenges will support path-breaking research and teaching that generates solutions for healthy, sustainable and successful societies, while also strengthening the essential foundation of basic research. Funds raised will support the University’s world-class minds, attract a new generation of “rising star” faculty and make critical enhancements to programs and infrastructure.

Notwithstanding recent investments in higher education in Ontario, U of T’s total revenue per full-time student is about 41 per cent lower than the average for publicly funded peer institutions in the U.S. “The fact that we are able to compete with—and in many cases outperform—our peers, both in Canada and around the world, speaks to the excellence of our students, faculty and staff,” said Naylor. Over the last decade, U of T has consistently ranked among the top 30 universities in the world—and consistently among the top three for scholarly output.

The University’s previous campaign, which closed in December 2003, raised $1 billion and remains the most successful campaign in Canadian history. The campaign played a vital role in vaulting the University of Toronto into the top ranks of universities worldwide. Now, nearly eight years later, the University is ready to build on this foundation, to advance groundbreaking research and teaching, seize on new opportunities and broaden our impact on the global issues that matter most to Canadians.

“This is an extraordinary milestone for the University,” said the Hon. David R. Peterson, Chancellor of U of T.  “With input from across our community, we have developed an eloquent, bold vision for a world-leading university in the 21st century. We will look to our global network of friends and alumni – who now number more than 500,000 across 174 countries – to join us in this exciting campaign. With their generosity and involvement, we will work together on fundamental questions that will shape the course of human knowledge and experience and prepare our students for leadership in an increasingly borderless world.”

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For more information, please contact:

University of Toronto Media Relations
416-978-0100

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April 3, 2011

Toronto’s Slut Walk

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All images by Paisley Rae @PaisleyRae on Twitter. Used with permission.

Slut Walk took over the streets of Toronto today as large numbers of people turned out to protest a remark made by a Toronto Police Officer which suggested that women could avoid rape by not dressing like “sluts“. That the statement was made during a safety briefing at York University is even more stunning.

The remark prompted activists to organize Slut Walk on April 3, 2011 to demand greater sensitivity from the Toronto Police. While I am a supporter of  the Toronto Police Service (my brother has been an officer in it for almost two decades and I even worked for them briefly) there is always room for improvement. Very proud that the people of Toronto always demand better.

From the Slut Walk site:

As the city’s major protective service, the Toronto Police have perpetuated the myth and stereotype of ‘the slut’, and in doing so have failed us. With sexual assault already a significantly under-reported crime, survivors have now been given even less of a reason to go to the Police, for fear that they could be blamed. Being assaulted isn’t about what you wear; it’s not even about sex; but using a pejorative term to rationalize inexcusable behaviour creates an environment in which it’s okay to blame the victim.

Historically, the term ‘slut’ has carried a predominantly negative connotation. Aimed at those who are sexually promiscuous, be it for work or pleasure, it has primarily been women who have suffered under the burden of this label. And whether dished out as a serious indictment of one’s character or merely as a flippant insult, the intent behind the word is always to wound, so we’re taking it back. “Slut” is being re-appropriated.

We are tired of being oppressed by slut-shaming; of being judged by our sexuality and feeling unsafe as a result. Being in charge of our sexual lives should not mean that we are opening ourselves to an expectation of violence, regardless if we participate in sex for pleasure or work. No one should equate enjoying sex with attracting sexual assault.

We are a movement demanding that our voices be heard. We are here to call foul on our Police Force and demand change. We want Toronto Police Services to take serious steps to regain our trust. We want to feel that we will be respected and protected should we ever need them, but more importantly be certain that those charged with our safety have a true understanding of what it is to be a survivor of sexual assault — slut or otherwise.

We are tired of speeches filled with lip service and the apologies that accompany them. What we want is meaningful dialogue and we are doing something about it: WE ARE COMING TOGETHER. As people from all gender expressions and orientations, all walks of life, levels of employment and education, all races, ages, abilities, and backgrounds, from all points of this city and elsewhere.

Visit the site here.

There is another picture gallery on Flickr here.

March 26, 2011

Parkdale, Toronto residents stand up for the mentally ill.

Parkdale is a neighborhood right next to my home base in Toronto ( Bloor West Village)  and I went to school there as a kid. It isn’t the most upscale of areas but it is something of a melting pot and is full of colorful characters. Recently a mentally ill man George Wass was attacked and died two days later. One of the residents, Paisley Rae was inspired to make a video. According to the Toronto Sun her decision was inspired by the always excellent Constable Scott Mills ( @TorontoPolice on Twitter) .

December 10, 2010

It Gets Better: Minister Glen Murray Toronto

This video is especially moving because it is clearly coming from his heart.Inspiring.Glen Murray, Ontario’s Minister of Research and Innovation learned, thanks to a dear friend, that it gets better when you live your life for the people you love and the things you hope – not for the people you’re afraid of and the things you fear. It’s a message he shares with all LGBT teens.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

May 21, 2008

Back to the future

I am the first to admit that when it comes to technology I am about as addicted as they come. When i am not plugged into my iPods I am tinkering with something and spending hours trying to get the most arcane little system preference just right. I am also typically human and I find that I sometimes get nostalgic for an old movie or, quite often, an older piece of technology. This explains my pleasure in getting Sybil ( the resuscitated dual processor Power Mac I am using to type this entry) to feel as loved and useful in the world of 2008 as she was in 2001 when she was born. She is running OS X Tiger at a speed that is not discernibly different to my G5 machine or my Powerbook ( both running Leopard) and though my benchmarks indicate she is lagging far behind both of them in a technical sense I cannot tell the difference in real world use. Having proven she can run PhotoShop and web surf like a trooper I felt that twinge of nostalgia that led me think back to my many happy days in the original Mac OS before the advent of pretty  UNIX pretending to be a bona fide Mac operating system.

Now I know that my handful of readers are most likely not computer ( much less Mac) inclined but I think there is a bigger picture here. Let me explain. Before the introduction of Apple’s current operating system ( the thing you see when you turn on your computer…not the desktop picture of your cat..the general thing with icons etc.) us Mac users were a blissfully happy lot plodding away on the old system called OS 9 in its last iteration. We did everything one would want to do on a computer, running all the usual programmes and wasting time on the internet, and we were quite fond of our unique machines which we touted ( as we still do) as the best computers on the planet. Sure we had some less than honest moments when we lied to our Windows friends that our systems never crashed – even though they froze more regularly than plumbing in Antarctica – but such  is the job of the evangelist. Then Moses ( aka Steve Jobs) came unto us and gave us OS X ( really OS 10 following on the heels of OS 9) which was based on UNIX which is a serious industrial operating system. It was prettied up ,had bouncy things,useful things like column view and even buttons that  Steve described as “lickable”. To most younger people and Mac owners after 2003 this new crash-proof and pretty thing is what constitutes a Mac.

I have stubbornly refused to get one of the brand new Macs with Intel chips in them precisely because to me a true Macintosh is one that has a different processor namely a RISC processor ( we shall avoid that explanation this time around)  but in the back of my mind I missed our old operating system with all its quirks knowing that it was that OS along with the different internals that truly made using a Mac a unique experience. Now that I have this older machine that can still startup in OS 9 ( as well as OS X) I have spent many an hour getting her to run it perfectly. For the past few days i have been reveling in the joy of using my old OS and I am still amazed by how perfect it was in many ways. It takes up hardly any drive space and uses hardly any memory to the point where I have been unable to get the computer to use even 20% of the available memory when running 10 programmes simultaneously. To be sure she has frozen once in the last two days and OS X has only frozen once on me in 5 years but i found myself sighing in nostalgic joy watching her freeze.  Other than that I have been able to write, surf the net, send instant messages, check email, run Photoshop 6, listen to music and even watch movies. In short, I have not noticed any major difference in my computing life using an operating system that was introduced in 1999 which is an eternity in the technology world. In fact, I can say with 100% certainty that many of the older programmes that were designed to run on machines with far slower specs than mine are faster than their equivalent OS X versions running on my newer machines.

In our endless quest to get the latest and greatest technology we sometimes forget that there was nothing wrong with the old technology we were using. Sure the newer one may be prettier and glossier and even better in some ways but does it make it more useful? I am left to wonder with my latest experience. Were it not for the  fact that I cannot use iWeb to write my blog on the older system and that the older internet browsers have not kept pace with the requirements of modern browsing I don’t think I would have a problem going back to using OS 9 at all.

Perhaps there is a life lesson in my experiment that we should not dismiss the effectiveness of the tried and true or perhaps the true lesson is that you never forget your first love.

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February 12, 2008

A necessary evil.

It was a good day today as I enjoyed a day off TV thanks to Vashtee being back in the newsroom after dealing with a family emergency in the States. I used the time to sleep in a little bit and then get to work on Fodor’s Curacao while listening to Amy Winehouse. I eventually had to run out to pay the light bill as I thought it was overdue only to realize as I paid it in the bank that it was actually current ( no pun intended). An interesting thing I noticed on heading to the bank was that I realized I had forgotten my mobile phone halfway out of Cascade and turned back to get it. Given the bank trip was only going to be a 45 minute adventure it seems odd that I would not just leave it home and continue on but such is the impact communication has in our lives.


As a media person and a writer I basically earn my living from communicating ideas to the public. In my view, though, my form of communication is just one aspect of the barrage of communications we are all exposed to in our daily lives. Long gone are the days when we waited for a newspaper to find out the latest now we just Google it. Heck, even we news people use the internet for some news gathering now. It used to be that once we left our house we could only stay in touch  by finding a pay phone and hoping the other party was either at work or at home otherwise you were totally out of luck. Not today. With the ubiquity of the cell phone it is now possible to stay in touch whenever you want. I am not sure that is a good thing in any way as other than in the case of an actual emergency why do we need to be yapping on the phone while driving or having the office be able to reach you when you are at the beach for a weekend?


Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a fan of talking on the phone at the best of times but my job requires that I be reachable by all and sundry. I never know if the call coming in is a news story, the CEO calling or, as frequently happens, a government official. I also get calls from friends ( which are blessedly brief) but they are the exception. I used to hate even having a mobile on my person until last year when I finally spent the money and bought my present phone.


It came after I had been working 3 months 7 days a week without a break and was at the point where I was getting nosebleeds from the strain. My mobile rang and I answered it only to have the wretched thing cut off and reboot for no reason. After fighting with the awful device for almost a year and being frustrated beyond belief sending texts messages on it ( it is sometimes more convenient in meetings to text and means i don’t have to speak to an actual human) I knew it was time for a change.  I walked into the cell store on the corner thinking I would spend maybe $500 and get a slightly more useful phone when my eyes fell on my current phone and it seemed to be calling my name. It is the Samsung D900 aka Black Carbon and it is a slider phone so it has that lovely satisfying opening and closing action. It was gorgeous ( I think it still is) and after plonking down about $3,000 she was mine. I love everything about the phone from its sexy looks to the menus and the whole interface works for me. It even has some nifty features for world travelers such as a screen picture that changes depending on what country or city you land in. It was quite a shock the first time I turned it on in Toronto and saw the Toronto skyline as my screen…it sort of makes you want to travel the world just to see the pictures. I also like the fact I don’t have to squint to see how many bars of reception I have as the changing tapestry of clouds in the sky on my desktop indicates my present reception. It also has a pretty amazing media player so I can watch entire movies on it which is handy on a plane.I love Apple but Samsung won me over with this phone.


Off to the gym tomorrow heaven help me. 100_4579.jpg

February 11, 2008

Back to Black

 

Well my mental pall has lifted quite a bit so this may result in a rather rambling and disjointed entry today..not that most of them aren’t…but this may be more so. There was no entry last night because I actually got enticed to go out and socialize by Binky/Jason/Vesh. He is probably the only person who can actually get me out of the house once I am settled in after work. As might have been predicted his “hang out for a hour” turned into frolic through Port of Spain into the wee hours. As it turns out Alvin was stuck at work so it was just me and Binks which was a lot of fun and I think I needed a bit of mindless fun.

Of course going out that late when I have to work on Sunday is never the wisest of ideas but sometimes it is good to throw caution to the wind for the sake of mental health. Nonetheless,  I was not a pretty sight this morning as I tried to get myself ready to head to the office. I was also faced with having the company jeep parked at my building with a shredded tyre that decided to suffer catastrophic failure as I pulled into the gates of my compound last night. Thankfully, the ever handy Steve came and took care of it for me. I may be good at some things but changing tyres is not one of them. At work it was one of those Atacama dry news days which leaves anyone compiling the newscast on the verge of tears and reaching for the valium bottle. Thanks to some creative work on Melissa William’s part, though, it came off quite well in the end despite the fact a bit of delayed video meant that her voice was in 3 back to back stories in the first section.

Now that I am coming out from under the depression a bit I am thinking a lot about various aspects of my life to see how I can improve them. I am content with my television and writing jobs so I can leave those alone for the while. I really should be taking better care of myself physically so I will try and start the gym and be a tad more conscious of my diet this week. We’ll see how long that lasts. My family, sigh, well let’s just say I can’t do anything about them. I love them all but it is best if I stay in a constant state of denial. My love life? Hmm..if I had any real semblance of one or even a poor semblance of one I might be able to work on it. Right now it is a bit like being put at ground zero on Sept 12, 2001 ,given a trowel and being told “put it back up”. My judgment in picking people is my ultimate failing as given a choice of 5 perfect choices and one completely ridiculous one I will always pick the ridiculous one. Do you know how whenever a hurricane is bearing down on an area and expected to arrive at any minute they always show some fools out surfing – when it comes to relationships I am one of those fools. Not sure how to address my colossal problems in that area but I guess I can try a few things. Other than that I have the best group of friends anyone could conceivably want. Best of all I don’t think anyone else has such an well rounded bunch in terms of ethnicity, gender, orientation and personality.

Had a nice relaxing evening watching the 50th annual Grammy Awards to see how my girl Amy Winehouse does. I think she is the most amazing talent to come along in a long time and inevitably that sort of creativity comes with personal turmoil. I hope she can pull through her difficulties but with that much talent she may end up imploding. I watch her and I see Janis Joplin redux. I truly hope she stays around for a long time though, if she is sounding like that and writing music like that at 24 who knows what wondrous moments lay ahead?

I have a day off tomorrow ( finally) and I plan to use it to finish off my Curacao chapter for Fodors so I can stop stressing Doug Stallings my editor and put in my invoice. Off to bed now..well as soon as Amy wins Album of the Year..which ..unless they are all deaf..she will. n501560998_313463_6705.jpg ( me and my bitches on the beach)

February 8, 2008

Journey through the vortex.

This is meant to be a short entry as i take a bit of a break from Fodor’s Aruba. It was a different day in this post Carnival period. I was really depressed today but I managed to not break into tears…so yaay for me. I took the bull by the horns and spoke to Tony about my mental state of late and I must say he was pretty incredible. I will not repeat his words but he was supportive and genuinely concerned.

News went very well and the reporters and editors got everything in early so the actual broadcast was stress free. I just wish I didn’t feel so awful lately because other than my brain telling my body to feel gripped in a knot of imminent disaster…things were great. I was really happy with our newscasts and I don’t care what anyone says to the contrary.

Other than that I foolishly decided in my depressed state to call Mom. I have since advised Binky, Grommit and Peter Police to stop me from doing anything so foolish in the future. If I was depressed before I was pretty close to wrist slashing after. Mum has her own battles to face but after a certain point I had to ask her if she thought that telling depressing things to a depressed person was the wisest thing to do. At which point she brought up some even more depressing incidents from my past. I finally told her what I said in my blog earlier…that it is better I pretend I have a perfect family in Toronto than deal with the reality of what I have. So now I have to hide any sharp objects in the vicinity.

Otherwise I have had some really supportive people around. I must say Peggy has been incredible because she understands the process ( and YAAAAAY for the launch of her amazing book yesterday), Binky has been a rock for me, Alvie has been his usual self but not bad. Despite Rob, Peter and Naz missing I did pretty well. For some reason I always miss Rob the most. He can’t handle emotions well, he is totally at sea…but he is still just an amazing person in his own weird way. Sorry this is such a boring post…but it is my life.

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January 25, 2008

Dark night of my soul.

It was not a good day today. I am not always the most chipper person on the planet and view exceptionally happy people with grave suspicion but I have not been plagued by too many bouts of depression recently. I am not talking about those occasional down moments we all have when things seem bleak or when Britney threatens to release another album – I  am speaking of the real thing the bottomless pit in the deepest hell of the mind. I awoke this morning feeling a little better from the flu but with a nagging sensation in the pit of my stomach that seemed to be radiating to the rest of my body. Coffee didn’t help and smoking made me feel even worse. I showered, got dressed and fixed my hair at which point i was feeling like crying for no reason whatsoever. I pulled myself together and got in the Mondeo and headed to work. By the time I got there the feeling was like a heavy weight on me and I was barely able to sit and keep myself together. The sense of loss, overwhelming sadness and despair got to the point it was just short of  pushing me over the edge. Eventually the required numbness set in saving me from having to hide any sharp objects. It was a terrible feeling and one I haven’t experienced in some time. I don’t think people who have never experienced severe depression can truly understand how horrible it is to be locked screaming in the dungeon of one’s own mind with no one able to hear or help. I know that clinical depression runs in both sides of my family so I assume there is a genetic component to the whole thing. When I was younger I had more frequent bouts of depression often triggered my something situational such as a bad relationship or family troubles. I have done the paxil/zoloft thing and even ended up in a medical institution as a result of too friendly an acquaintance  with a bottle of prescription pills…but those experiences were years ago. I thought my bouts of severe depression had been banished following my dealings with a psychologist years ago. It seems that is not the case. At least today’s experience was only a 6 hour ordeal. After the depression started to lift I tried to think about a cause since situations often trigger me and I am still working on it. I can rule out work because I know I love that and it probably saved me from testing my amperage tolerance today. I know my social/love/intellectual life is a mess lately in that I need to focus more on getting my life to where I want it. Right now I have taken rather a Forrest Gump approach to dealing with the non-work areas of my life.  I have been hanging out with different people lately but i know it is not really helping keep me on the track I want to be on as amusing as it may be. In terms of love I realize that my idea of love is apparently an anachronistic concept in this day an age and I fear I am in danger of giving up on the whole concept. I called Mum yesterday and that sounded like a disaster with Mum sounding frantic, my brother complaining about his divorce, kids screaming and my poor stepdad trying to sound calm in the middle of everything. Perhaps it is a good thing i don’t call too often and can spend the rest of the time pretending I have a stable and rock solid family somewhere.I think this should be the year to focus on getting my life in order and making it what i want it to be. Maybe it is too much to want a great job, wonderful and supportive friends and someone in my life who can enhance it and make me believe in a true bond that can weather any storm. I might even try stopping smoking…nahhhhh..let’s work on the other things first then maybe I may not even want to smoke.In the meantime I have people like Binky, Alvin and Robin to rely on for comfort..or in Alvin’s case constructive abuse. And i seem to have at least one other shining soul working their way into my life so I guess things are not so bad. Tomorrow is a new day and I hope the dark cloud dissipates and the silver lining remains.  vern4.jpg 

January 3, 2008

Working on it

I am having internet problems at home this evening which is preventing me from finishing off my Fodor’s work too so i am hoping i get a short connectivity window in which I can upload a short blog entry. Today was back to work day and I was immediately immersed in the normal run of things. It is funny but as much as I crave vacations I now think I prefer short getaways as I find myself longing for something productive to do. Maybe if I were in one of those romance novel relationships things might be different. It is not that i am work addicted it is just that I feel out of sorts just sitting around do basically nothing. I suppose If I were somewhere intensely interesting like Paris or Djibouti I might find it sufficiently distracting to keep me from wanting to pull my chin hairs out as a means of entertainment. I also find that work is also a family of sorts as we tend to work together in a peculiar choreography to get the job done. Tomorrow the interviews start and I can get back to doing what i really do best..talking. Going to upload now…I promise there will be more tomorrow.