April 2009

Monthly Archive

I love Toronto, pt. 4835

Posted by on 28 Apr 2009 | Tagged as: Current Events, Toronto

I love this. After 48 hours of constant Tamil protests, in this TPS release we still have carefully neutral language, gentle concern for safety, “the co-operation of most of the protestors”, and a metaphorical shrugging of shoulders about the inevitable traffic tie-ups.

I didn’t check this morning to see if anyone was petting the horses, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it.

News Release
Toronto Police Service

Tuesday, April 28, 2009 – 9:25 AM

Public Information

The Toronto Police Service has taken further steps to ensure the safety of the public and those participating in the Tamil community vigil along University Avenue.

See previous release.

On Tuesday, April 28, 2009, at approximately 7 a.m., with the co-operation of most of the protestors, police moved the barricades, that were in place, to the east side of University Avenue. This was done to ensure a safe environment for the officers, protestors and the public.

The Toronto Police Service is committed to working with those who wish to express their views in a peaceful and safe manner. Protestors are urged to use the east side of University Avenue.

University Avenue will remain closed from Dundas Street West to Queen Street West until further notice.

Police suggest that the public consider alternate routes, in the affected area, until further notice.

Traffic congestion on the roadways and within the transit system is to be expected.

Constable Wendy Drummond, Public Information

There are no files attached to this release.


Locking them up, throwing away the key, and hoping no one notices

Posted by on 25 Apr 2009 | Tagged as: Current Events

I have to admit that I have not followed the coverage of the trial of the Jane Creba killers all that closely, so it came as a surprise to me to hear that JSR, the first person to be sentenced in connection with her death, was convicted of second-degree murder although all are agreed he didn’t actually kill anyone. From the Globe story:

The prosecution conceded that Mr. Simpson-Rowe did not fire the fatal bullet that tore into Ms. Creba’s back and exited through her throat, but rather shot and wounded two other people, including one of his co-accused.

The judge in the case claims not to be “unsympathetic” to the very sad and violent upbringing of JSR, but that doesn’t make any difference to the sentence. JSR, who — let’s remember — killed no one, has spent the last three years in custody, has now received a life sentence, and will be not be eligible for parole until 2013. What, exactly, is “not unsympathetic” about this sentence? An aggressive, misguided 17-year-old has been turned into a lifetime hardened criminal, and will likely emerge from prison with an entirely justified feeling of justice denied. I agree with Judge Nordheimer that we are entitled to walk the streets without having to worry about violent gunfights erupting in our midst. But does this sentence make you feel safer? Because I don’t see how it could.

Hell, meet handbasket

Posted by on 23 Apr 2009 | Tagged as: Business

While the recession has hit home for me of late, it’s still hard to tell how bad things are out there. It’s especially hard to read if, like many others, you are avoiding shopping quite as much as you usually do: this means you miss the note of desperation in the continued discounting, the sales that have lasted since well before Christmas. Even Holt Renfrew is now well into the game now, offering a gift card worth ten percent of spending over $250.

But recent data from the Bank of Canada is evidence that not only have the wheels have come off the Canadian economy, but the wheel-less vehicle that remains is tumbling into a ditch.

First, look beyond headlines about the bump in March retail sales in Canada. From a TD Economics note on the new numbers:

So far, peak to trough, retail sales have fallen three times as fast as the 2.1% decline during the 1990’s recession. Moreover, the stronger than expected retail sales were driven price effects. Stripping
out prices, sales were down 0.3%.

And forget about Canada — with its magic banks that will save us from everything — suffering a mild sideswipe while the rest of the world suffers. This kitten has some serious claws. The contraction in the first quarter is just astonishing:”

The economy shrank at an annual rate of 7.3 per cent in the first three months of 2009, a dramatic collapse that the central bank said will force it to adopt “unconventional” methods of monetary policy making if the freefall continues.

I have to repeat this again: Seven-point-three per cent. That’s approaching Russia territory.

And am I the only one who finds the phrase ‘”unconventional” methods of monetary policy making” profoundly disturbing?


Posted by on 19 Apr 2009 | Tagged as: Food and Wine

It didn’t take us very long to uncork that Aglianico I referred to in my last post — we shared it with one of J.’s classmates in a post-term informal celebratory pizza dinner on Friday evening. It’s the Bisceglia 2006 ‘Terra di Vulcano’ DOC Aglianico di Vulture, at $14.95 and 13.5%, in the Easter weekend Vintages release. Beppi Crosariol gave it high praise in a column that has now been “matured” from the Globe’s free current content section to its paid archives.

I first ran into Aglianico in the summer of 2005, somewhat by accident at the St. Clair Market mini-Vintages when I was looking for something to serve with (and in) a lamb braise. Our notes on that wine, a Cappellaccio Aglianico Reserva 2001 from the Castel del Monte DOC in Puglia ($17.95), are somewhat sketchy. But we remember finding its “organic” nose of olive, earth, and cherry unexpectedly fascinating. The grape is apparently an import into southern Italy from Greece (Aglianico being a corruption of “Ellinico”), with the potential — albeit infrequently realized — to make top quality wines.

Our more recent Aglianico doesn’t have the “organic” quality that caught our attention back when we first encountered the grape way back when. But nevertheless it is a very well made wine, with a nose of dark fresh cherries, light sandalwood, and an indefinable (to us) though not overwhelming spiciness. It’s an appealing wine with medium-plus-ish body, acid, and tannins nicely in balance. Crosariol made a point of warning his audience not to expect a New World fruit bombish kind of wine, but frankly the wine is more fruit-forward and less austere than that warning would have led us to expect. Probably not an ideal wine for our pizza though — I seem to recall that Crosariol mentioned something like an ideal accompaniment for smoked meat antipasti which does seem to be more its style.

Wines update

Posted by on 14 Apr 2009 | Tagged as: Food and Wine

Way back when we posted a brief note praising the 2005 Rothschild Vin de Pays d’Oc Cab Sauv as a very reasonable wine for about $10. I forget exactly what we liked about it — probably some reasonable sense of cab-sauvy-ness with decent fruit and tannins. Unfortunately 2007 has been unkind to Rothschild — or rather the Baron has been unkind to the 2007s — and we are now firmly into the cheap New World bubble-gummy style of red. I’m fond enough of red wines that I will drink it in any event as a weekday pasta wine, but if you were actually thinking of *buying* a weekday pasta wine the Citra Montepulciano is cheaper and a much better drinking experience.

Otherwise. As usual we seem to be having better experiences with under-20 whites than under-20 reds. We’re sometimes a bit ambivalent about Australia but we both really liked the d’Arenberg 2007 Olive Grove Chardonnay ($17.95) with a “resplendent medium straw” aspect and a very fresh, ripe nose including notes of melon, nutmeg, and baking spices — med+ acid and body with good balance and finish. Another good value d’Arenberg is the 2007 “The Stump Jump” ($14.95), a blend of Riesling (62%) and smaller proportions of Sauv Blanc, Marsanne, Viognier, and Chardonnay. Although we described the aspect as “whatever” (suggesting perhaps that we were too lazy to take notes), we thought the nose was “zesty” and “quite complex” with notes of minerality, gooseberry, citrus, dried apricot, and some kind of tropical fruit. Good fruit follow-through on the palate, and no weird spiciness in the way some of these blends have (see earlier complaints here and here). We said “better than Cave Spring in a bad year”, which I don’t think we *intended* to be damning with faint praise… Certainly it is much better than the Vineland Estates 2007 Semi-Dry Riesling ($13.95) which we thought was not bad but rather boring.

Lots of reliable Pinot Gris/Grigio lately too, including  a Borgo Magredo 2007 Pinot Grigio from Friuli and a Martin Steimer 2007 Pinot Gris from Alsace. I wasn’t as thrilled with the 2006 Pierre Sparr Pinot Gris Reserve as I was with the 2004, which seemed to be both drier and more interesting.

In the reds department, our best experience lately was a 2005 Pinot Noir from Coyote’s Run (around $25) which we’d bought at the winery in summer 2007 (with TL and AM). We thought it was a “reasonable value for a Pinot Noir,” with the characteristic gamey-mushroomy-earthy-cherry-preserved pork-rosewood nose and a reasonably good palate. Also very good value for alcohol at only 11.5%. We also invested in several reds at the more alcoholic end of the spectrum from the Vintages Midi/Provence release in late Feb/early March. We sampled the Chateau la Tour de L’Eveque 2004 ($19.95) which we thought was rather good for its age but likely better in a year or two. So we have bought another bottle to lay down and we will keep you posted. A BYOCellar experience.

Last but not least, the wine I almost want to recommend sight unseen (so to speak) is an Aglianico del Vulture ($14.95) in the current Vintages release, which caught my eye when the catalogue arrived and which Beppi Crosariol praised to the skies in last Saturday’s Globe & Mail. I have bought a bottle, and am waiting for the appropriate Pizza Gigi moment.

The Men Who Rule the World

Posted by on 14 Apr 2009 | Tagged as: Business

All right, it’s not every day I link to a blog promoting conspiracy theories, but this one has a Canadian angle — and some connection to reality.

There has been a plethora of articles in recent months about the close ties between Goldman Sachs and the past and current presidential administrations, AIG, etc. And it’s undoubtedly true that Goldman Sachs alumni are in positions of power all over the place –such as, for one, the Bank of Canada with its oddly clueless Governor Mark Carney.

Recently, Goldman Sachs has been accused of goosing the price of oil, leading to the surge in the price per barrel to US$147 July 2008.

So there are lots of stories about Goldman Sachs floating out there, and one blogger launched what amounts to an agglomeration of them on his blog, Goldman Sachs Info, Comments, Opinions and Facts. That was at the end of March; GS is already pursuing legal action. Now, I don’t share the author’s contention that GS is “evil” — just like I didn’t buy the premise of the documentary The Corporation, either, that corporations are psychopathic. But I do see value in bringing together the many threads of information on the power that Goldman Sachs wields, because it’s noteworthy in and of itself.

Beyond the single Pale

Posted by on 12 Apr 2009 | Tagged as: Current Events


I can only imagine what Richard Florida thinks single life consists of, given that the top two Canadian cities he considers best for us to live in are 1. Calgary and 2. — wait for it — Iqaluit. That’s right, Iqaluit, population 7,250. That’s not a city, that’s CityPlace.

I could barely make it through the Globe excerpt (not available online) from his foreword to the new Canadianized paperback version of Who’s Your City — my brain shuts off when “creativity”, “talent” and “entrepreneurship” are repeated too often in a newspaper column — so I won’t be buying the book, but if anyone has the book and could let me know what the criteria is for a city to be “best for singles,” I’m curious…