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When Mayor John Tory’s office replied to my email asking him to stop the police practice of “carding”, I was pleased to learn that he will now be working to end the practice. I wrote back thanking him and commending him for being able to change his mind; a difficult thing for politicians to do.

Danica felt it worthwhile to tell me that it wasn’t my letter that had moved the mayor. Oh, darn.

Colombo Aphorisms go to print

Uncommonplaces: Aphorisms of John Robert Colombo has been available as a Kindle book for a while now, but the author has decided that it should exist on paper as well. That meant the book would need a back cover as well as a front.


If you would like a sample or three, I’m sure JRC will consider it “fair use” for me to illustrate with some I noted:


Anti-Semitism is defined as discrimination against the Jewish people, but the definition also extends to the Arab people because the Arabs like the Jews are a Semitic people.

(I wonder if Stephen Harper considers himself an anti-Semite when he frowns on wearers of the niqab.)


What the imp offers a man is a glimpse into the perverse side of his human nature.

(Anyone out there know why I picked this one?)

Purdy, Alfred W.

Large and ungainly, occasionally reflective and generous, he struck me as a man who was genuinely himself, no more, no less.

Many of Colombo’s “aphorisms” have people’s names as titles, followed by descriptive phrases, insightful praises or short assessments of the person’s work. Colombo has known personally a remarkable number of Canadian notables and many, many have visited the Colombo home. His listings and observations will be of value in the long run.)

Use FAST and TTC in the same sentence

If you think the only way to meet the challenge is by saying something like “TTC    service is never fast”, you haven’t thought about wi-fi speed. Our public transit system may be slow at moving people but where it offers wi-fi, the web pages fly!


Downtown subway stations deliver a pretty good  (for North America) internet connection while we wait for a train to board. Our bank branch now offers wi-fi to customers in queues, too, but so far the connection has been too flaky to get a speed reading.

City worker identifies process flaw

“Everything looking good back there?” I asked the uniformed man who was photographing the back of the litter bin.

“No sir, it’s not, but we’ll soon have it cleaned up,” he assured me.


You may wonder, as I did, why anyone would be concerned about some scribbling on the back of a pug-ugly litter bin. Who’s going to see it? Besides, the really bad looking part is the front. It looks like a grinning one-eyed toad to me, complete with warts.

Believe it or not, it’s a matter of pride. That’s right. The people who OK’d these things are proud of what they’ve done. So proud that they are only reluctantly (and slowly) replacing them with slightly, but not much, better bins.

How can this be? “They over-consulted,” the uniformed man said. They asked anyone who wanted to have a say. The step-on pedal, which many people miss seeing, is there because nobody wanted to touch garbage. These pedals break or jam when stuff gets wedged under them. The once-green, goofy lids are looking sad and sun-bleached. To put it kindly, they don’t age well. The bloated shape suggests a fermenting stew of half-digested garbage. But their parents love them.

They over-consulted

Ugly street furniture is just a symptom. The over-consulting disease has crept into all kinds of civic processes because we lack leaders who have the courage to lead … to make decisions for us. We pay them to know more about these things than we have time to learn. We delegate authority and they delegate it right back to us. Result? Sloooow, expen$$$ive processes delivering junk designed by consensus.

Solutions found for Gardiner and school budgets

Merging a pair of difficult problems delivers two solutions neatly. What to do with the Gardiner Expressway and how to bring education costs under control? 

This answer arrived as part of a set of photos circulating by email. The set was titled “Only in India” but we could do this, too.


Keewatin creep debate inspires a walk

s-o-sNews about neighbourhood resistance to rezoning has revealed strong feelings about change in the city, so I walked along Keewatin Avenue to form an impression.

The north side of the street is lined with nice, single family homes as expected, but there are also a number of lowrise multiple dwelling buildings along that side. That surprised me (A) because those are the kinds of buildings being objected to and (B) because they seemed to fit the street quite well and unobtrusively, tucked in behind the trees.


The northsiders look across the street at highrise apartment buildings that are quite nicely landscaped and fenced, so density isn’t unusual along here. Height restrictions are different on the south side. I wasn’t understanding why a zoning change for the north side would be so bad.

Paved front yard parking was one of the least attractive sights on the north side, and it fronted single family homes. Sensitivities are unpredictable.


Anyway, zoning rules are the issue and a new proposed townhouse development would require zoning changes. They would look something like this.


I left the street feeling some sympathy for those who will have to put up with construction, but also feeling that their protests would be in vain. The whole city is changing and many call increases in local population “urban intensification”, not “density creep”. Isn’t it better to keep people living close to work rather than pushing them away, creating more sprawl and more commuter congestion? Don’t we want a variety of accommodation types for people at different stages of life? Young families, empty-nesters and middling income earners?

It’s true that something is being lost on Keewatin … some of the peace and quiet of the good old days … but there are offsetting gains. Businesses and services along the local Yonge main street look much healthier, more varied and interesting. Greater density will support more of this. Property values will climb, too. That’s some compensation, even if not wanted.

I think Keewatin is a very pleasant street that will continue to be a very pleasant street for a long time to come. When the zoning-change resisters lose their struggle, I hope they will be relieved to find it so. And they will have met some of their neighbours at rallies for civic action. That’s not a bad thing.

Signs relieve my ignorance of Vietnamese

First up, a pronunciation lesson. Like many of us who have discovered that we like the Vietnamese noodle soup, I have pronounced “pho” as “foe”. This is wrong, I have been told. Pho sounds more like “fuh”. The sign provides a reminder that I am unlikely to forget.


The Pho King Fabulous restaurant is located on the east side of Yonge, just north of Eglinton.

Next up, this sign on a shelf inside Indigo Books (across the pho-king street) piqued my curiosity. What the heck was Thich Nhat Hanh and why was it in the back?


Turns out it’s a he; a famous Vietnamese zen monk that you probably know about but I didn’t. The sign was in the religion section and I had gone to check for books on Islam. There were a few … and out front, not “in the back”.

There was a special display table of books at the Indigo entrance under a sign saying “Jewish Interest”, so I wondered if the store might also carry books of “Muslim Interest”. Yes, it does. Other religions are represented as well, including Zen. Only Thich Nhat Hanh seems to be kept in the back. Why remains a mystery. I lacked the mindfulness to ask.