Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Living Room to Live Room:: The Most Famous Recording Studios in the World

Here is an infographic that music lovers and others are sure to enjoy.  It is filled with information, photos and sketches regarding the most famous recording studios in the world.  It provides the names of some artists who have recorded albums in the comfort of their own homes and gives you tips on how to create an at-home studio of your own.  I hope you have fun with this infographic and that you find it informative and useful.

- Joanne

Living Room To Live Room by Insulation Express.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Bobby Kennedy, America needs someone like you again

1968 was quite a shocking year in the United States.  Two major assassinations rocked the nation to its very core.  On April 4, 1968, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was killed while standing on a motel balcony in Memphis, Tennessee.  Senator Robert F. Kennedy, a strong supporter of Dr. King and the civil rights movement, tried to heal a grief-stricken country. He talked of his own grief when his older brother, President John F. Kennedy, was assassinated while riding in a motorcade through the streets of Dallas.  About two months later, Bobby himself would be killed by an assassin's bullet during his campaign for his Democratic nomination for president.

I have watched Bobby's victory speech in California many times.  I watched it again last Sunday night and it almost brought tears to my eyes.  He ended his speech with the words, "And it's on to Chicago and let's win there!"  Tragically, Bobby never made it to the Democratic Party's convention in the Windy City.  He was shot dead while walking through the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.  If that hadn't have happened, RFK would most likely have been elected president.  After his victory in the California primary, he had the momentum to defeat his Democratic rival, Eugene McCarthy for the Democratic nomination.  He probably would have gone on to defeat the Republican nominee for president, Richard M. Nixon.

Sadly, it didn't happen that way.  Nixon won the 1968 presidential election and was re-elected in 1972.  The Watergate Scandal ensued and Nixon resign from office in 1974.  The United States was deprived of the opportunity of having Bobby in the White House.  What a loss.  He would have been a great president.  No, Bobby wasn't perfect and he wasn't a saint.  He had a heart, though.  He was compassionate, not narcissistic.  He was concerned about poverty, not about tax breaks for billionaires.

50 years have passed since RFK was murdered.  If he were alive today, I am certain that he would oppose the polices of the current President of the United States vigorously.  In an interview just before his death, Bobby was asked by David Frost about how his obituary should read.  He replied, "Something about the fact that I made a contribution to either my country or those who are less well off.  I think back to the way Camus wrote about the fact that perhaps this world is a world in which children suffer, but we can lessen the number of suffering children, and if you do not do this, then who will do this?  I'd like to feel that I'd done something to lessen that suffering."  Can you imagine Donald Trump saying anything like that?  I don't think so.

You are missed, Bobby.  The United States and the world could use your kind of leadership.

- Joanne

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Are You Fluent in Monwy Slang?

Here's a quiz to test your knowledge of slang associated with different types of British and American currency.  Why not see how much you know.  Enjoy!


Thursday, May 31, 2018

UK Residents: Here's How to Boost Your Pension Pot By Insulating Your Home

Here's an infographic that is especially relevant to those who reside in the United Kingdom.  It illustrates how how much of an impact insulating your home would have on your pension savings if you live in the UK.  It also provides some important tips on how to conserve energy, which concerns everyone.   I hope you find it helpful and informative.

- Joanne

Boost Your Pension Pot By Insulating Your Home

Attribution: Insulation Express

Monday, May 28, 2018

No, Rudy Giuliani, truth is not relative

I can't let this go unchallenged.  Rudy Giuliani the former Mayor of New York City, in an interview with the Washington Post, made a statement that is very insidious, yet so indicative of the Trump team's mentality.  Giuliani, now attorney to President Donald Trump, discussed the subject of Trump's willingness to testify before Robert Mueller and his Special Counsel investigation.  He argued that it would be a perjury trap for his client because "Truth is relative."  Then he added, "They may have a different version of the truth than we do."

No, Rudy.  There is only ONE version of the truth.  The truth is not subjective.  The truth is objective.  Facts can be checked and proven right or wrong.  Two plus two equals four.  There is only one correct response to that, only one truth. In Trump World, perhaps two plus two equals five.  However, Trump World is an Alice in Wonderland place, somewhere down the rabbit hole.  The American president and his team seam to subscribe to the Humpty Dumpty Theory of Language.  Like Humpty Dumpty in Lewis Carroll's 1871 classic Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There, they seem to believe they can make words mean whatever they choose them to mean.

"I don't know what you mean by 'glory'," Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. "Of course you don't- till I tell you. I meant 'there's a nice knock-down argument for you!'"
"But 'glory' doesn't mean 'a nice knock-down argument'," Alice objected.
"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean- neither more nor less."
"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master-that's all."
Alice was too much puzzled to say anything; so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. "They've a temper some of them- particularly verbs: they're the proudest- adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs- however, I can manage the whole lot of them! Impenetrability! That's what I say!"

- From Looking Glass, Chapter VI

Robert S. Mueller III is a man of integrity.  He goal is not to trap Trump.  His goal is to find the truth, nothing more. If Trump and his associates are innocent of wrongdoing, why should the have anything to fear from a man like Mueller?  If the President of the United States is not guilty, why is he so afraid of the truth?

What is truth?  Over 2,000 years ago, Pontius Pilate who governed the Roman province of Judea, famously asked that question.  In the Gospel of John, Chapter 18, Verse 38, Pilate questions Jesus' claim that he is "witness to the truth."  A jesting Pilate replies, "Quid est veritas?" ("What is truth?") in Latin.

The Trumpsters will not stop muddying the waters. So, I will do my best to challenge them.  The Oxford English Dictionary defines "truth" or "the truth" as a noun meaning "That which is true or in accordance with fact or reality"  Facts can be proven true or false.  That is why the truth is crystal clear.  It is pure and unadulterated.

- Joanne

Monday, May 21, 2018

America has lost its moral compass

The United States has always presented itself as a beacon of hope, a place where immigrants could make a new and better life for themselves.  It has always thought of itself as a vibrant democracy.  Sadly, however, a terrible malaise has spread across the "land of the free and the home of the brave."  With the rise of the far right, aided and abetted by U.S. president Donald Trump, the Republican Party, the National Rifle Association (NRA), Fox News and billionaires such as the Koch brothers, a great nation has lost its moral compass.

What is happening to the United States of America? 

There is something wrong with a country when mass school shootings have become the norm, when they routinely occur.  On the morning of May 18, 2018, I woke up to the news of yet another school shooting, this time at a high school in Santa Fe, Texas.

"No other developed nation comes close to the rate of US gun violence. Americans own an estimated 265m guns, more than one gun for every adult.

Data from the Gun Violence Archive reveals there is a mass shooting – defined as four or more people shot in one incident, not including the shooter – nine out of every 10 days on average"
- The Guardian

What is happening to the United States of America? 

There is something wrong with a country when its president condones torture. The U.S. Senate has conformed Gina Haspel as the first female head of the C.I.A.  The trouble is that Haspel was in charge of a C.I.A. black site in Thailand in 2002 where detainees were subjected to interrogation tactics that critics have described as torture.  She also drafted the cable that was sent to destroy several .interrogation tapes in 2005.  Isn't it wonderful that woman who has been linked to waterboarding and the cover-up of torture?

Isn't it great that Donald Trump, the President of the United States has endorsed waterboarding, He told the BBC that it "absolutely works" and that he wants wants to "fight fire with fire."  The Merriam-Webster dictionary has defined waterboarding as "an interrogation technique in which water is forced into a detainee's mouth and nose so as to induce the sensation of "drowning" - in other words, a method of torture.  Let's not mince words.  Let's call it what it is.

What is happening to the United States of America? 

There is something wrong with a country whose president has called the media "the enemy of the people."  Sadly, too many Americans agree with his assessment. The United States is a country that has always cherished freedom of the press and freedom of speech, as enshrined in the First Amendment to its Constitution. In Trump's America, many people strongly defend the Second Amendment and the so-called right to bear arms.  Why don't as many voices speak up in support
of the media and the First Amendment?

The United States' ranking dropped from 43 to 45 out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders' (RSF) 2018 World Press Freedom Index, continuing its downward trend since Donald Trump assumed office..

What is happening to the United States of America? 

There is something wrong with a country when its right-wing evangelicals support a president whose polices and actions violate the basic tenets of Christianity. Yet, right-wing evangelical Christians form a large part of Trump's base.  Although well-versed in Scripture, these evangelicals, including Vice President Mike Pence, support a man whose words and values are contrary to the words and values of Jesus, who taught humility, charity and brotherly love as set out in the Sermon on the Mount and in parables such as The Good Samaritan.  Trump preaches.the polar opposite.  He denigrates immigrants, refugees, Muslims, Mexicans, Blacks, the poor and marginalized.

What is happening to the United States of America?  

There is something wrong with a country when so many people believe outright lies and are unable to distinguish between truth and falsehood.  Americans have been brought up on the legend of George Washington, the country's first president.  At an early age, children are told the story about how Washington admitted to chopping down a cherry tree because he could not tell a lie.  That's how much truth has always mattered to Americans.  It is said of the first American president that he could not tell a lie.  Meanwhile, the current president cannot tell the truth.  Fact checkers such as journalist Daniel Dale, the Toronto Star's correspondent in Washington, have relentlessly uncovered Trump's exaggerations, inaccuracies and outright lies.

What is happening to the United States of America?

There is something wrong with a country when many citizens, including a large number of females, cast their vote for a man who bragged on tape about groping women.  There was no misunderstanding Donald Trump's words.  His words were captured on videotape. His vulgar bragging was revealed prior to the 2016 election.  Yet, he still won the presidency due to the result of the electoral college vote.

What is happening to the United States of America?

There is something wrong with a country when the president's budget allows tax breaks for billionaires and crumbs for lower income Americans.  The amount of poverty in the United States is staggering.  The gap between the haves and have-nots is growing wider every day.  Here are the cold, hard facts, based on statistics provided b the United States Census Bureau:

Current estimates on poverty in the U.S. The official poverty rate is 12.7 percent, based on the U.S. Census Bureau's 2016 estimates. That year, an estimated 43.1 million Americans lived in poverty according to the official measure. According to supplemental poverty measure, the poverty rate was 14.0 percent.

There are more people living in poverty in the United Sates (over 43 million) than the entire population of my country, Canada (slightly less than 37 million, according to the latest estimate from Statistics Canada).  There are more Americans living in poverty than the entire population of the state of California (over 39.5 million, according to the latest estimate from the U.S. Census Bureau.

So, what does the Trump administration do?  It passes a budget that hits poor Americans the hardest, cutting out food stamps, formally known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.  It claims that it will make up the difference with a box of canned goods, a change that Office Manager and Budget director Mick Mulvaney describes as a "Blue Apron-type program."  However, according to The Washington Post, critics have charged the Trump administration of "drawing an unfair comparison between the food stamp program, which delivers an average of $1.37 per meal to American's poorest, and a high-end meal kit that runs $10 per serving."

The Trump administration has also implemented sweeping cuts to popular safety net programs such as federal housing subsidies and Medicaid.

What is happening to the United States of America?

There is something wrong with a country that is so out of step with the rest of the world.  The United States has pulled out of the Paris accord on climate change.  It is completely out of sync with the rest of the world on climate change.  French President Emmanuel Macron has urged Trump to allow the United States to rejoin the Paris accord, but he stubbornly refuses.  He prefers to remove environmental protections and he regards climate change as a hoax.

Instead of trying to improve the Iran nuclear deal, as Macron and other leaders have urged him to do, the U.S. president has reneged on the agreement.  It is an imperfect deal, but it has worked and could be improved.  Donald Trump will not listen to reason and he continues to isolate the United States from the rest of the world and its leaders, including allies such Macron, Angela Merkel of Germany and Canada's Justin Trudeau.

The world desperately needs the United States to get back on track, to find its moral compass.  That probably won't happen unless the Democrats take back at least one of the Houses of Congress in November.  Too many Republicans put part ahead of country.  For shame!

- Joanne

Friday, May 18, 2018

Open Letter to John Tory, Mayor of Toronto #2


This is the second of a series of open letters to Mayor John Tory regarding the serious issues facing the city of Toronto. until this fall's municipal election.  The election will be held on Monday, October 22, 2018.

Dear Mayor Tory,

In my fist letter to you, I expressed my concern that no high-profile candidate is poised to oppose your re-election to the office of Mayor of Toronto.  I stated that it would not be beneficial for both you and the City of Toronto if you had an easy ride to re-election.  I then listed the three most serious issues facing the city:

1. Homelessness, poverty and addiction
2. The environment, health and cleanliness
3. Transportation

In this second letter to you, I will elaborate on other issues and improvements that are needed.  Let's begin with the task of making Toronto greener and more beautiful.  Let's build a city that is pedestrian friendly.  Urban activist Jane Jacob firmly believed that cities are first and foremost for people.  In "Downtown is for People," her classic 1958 article for Fortune magazine, she wrote, "There is no logic that can be superimposed on the city; people make it, and it is to them, not buildings that we must fit our plans."

* Toronto could use more green spaces, more public squares and more outdoor seating.  One of the attractions of European cities is the abundance of large public squares.  Think of the beautiful piazzas in Italy or Trafalgar Square in London.  All we have is Yonge-Dundas Square, which leaves much to be desired.  Surely it can be improved and beautified.  It is much to stark and tawdry.  It needs more greenery, more seating and some attractive art.  Nobody expect to see statues by Michelangelo or fountains by Bernini in Yonge-Dundas Square, but the place can still be enhanced.  Let's start by giving it a better name.  "Yonge-Dundas" just doesn't have a good ring to it.  It doesn't sound classy.

* Mr. Mayor, I also think that our city needs more public washrooms, especially in subway stations.  The majority of TTC subway stations do not have them.

* For too long, developers have been aloud to run rampant and unchecked in this city.  I want to weep when I see how our view of Lake Ontario has been blocked by numerous highrise condominiums.  It's a pity!

It's also a shame that the venerable Humber Theatre, a historic landmark in Bloor West Village is going to be replaced by (what else?) a condo development.  Toronto is losing another majestic old movie theatres.  Soon there will only be sterile, cookiecutter Cineplexes.

* Toronto should have a planetarium for stargazers and astronomy lovers.  It is regrettable that the McLaughlin Planetarium was forced to close in 1995, due to budget cuts imposed by the newly elected provincial government of Mike Harris.

* Toronto's public libraries are precious.  Their social and educational value should not be underestimated.  They should always be properly funded and appreciated.

- Joanne

If you would like to read my fist letter to John Tory, click on the link below.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Photos of Cherry Blossoms in High Park, Toronto

On Saturday, May 12, I visited a very busy High Park here in Toronto.  It was filled with people of all ages and backgrounds.  They were just enjoying the cherry blossoms and snapping photos.  In the past few years, this has become quite a popular event in Toronto.  Here some more photos.

- Joanne

Monday, May 14, 2018

Spring of discontent for Toronto sports fans

For Toronto sports fans, this has been the spring of our discontent.  Everything looked so promising for the Maple Leafs and the Raptors as their 2018 seasons drew to a close.  The city was flushed with excitement and a sense of anticipation.  Even if the Leafs and Raptors failed to win their respective league championships, we had hopes that they would go deep into the playoffs.  Our optimism was not just fuelled by wishful thinking.  There was solid evidence that both teams were poised for some degree of playoff success.  After all, the Raptors won 59 games this year and finished first in the Eastern Conference of the NBA.  They set franchise records for most wins in a season.  As for the Leafs, they also had a fruitful season, finishing third in the NHL's Atlantic Division with 49 wins and 26 losses. They are loaded with young talent such as Auston Mattthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander.

So what went so horribly wrong?  Well, both teams failed to step up in the playoffs.  Their best players did not come through when it really counted.  They didn't pull together.  They weren't hungry enough.  There's no way to candy coat it.  In their first two games against the Boston Bruins, the Leafs looked overmatched and unprepared.  Boston played with confidence and poise. The Leafs, on the hand, didn't resemble the same team that won 49 games during the regular season.  Where were Auston Matthews and William Nylanders?  A team's top players are supposed to shine in the playoffs.   Boston's big line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak completely dominated the Blue and White.  In addition, Leaf goaltender Frederik Aandersen was far from outstanding.  Freddie was not so steady.  The red-headed Dane has certainly played better, but it was not all his fault.  The Leafs' defence was not exactly stellar and Jake Gardiner. had a painful Game 7.  Gardiner he took the loss hard, declaring that he "didn't show up" and that he "let a lot of people down."

Jake Gardiner
The Maple Leafs lacked leadership and discipline in their series against the Bruins.  They didn't have their eyes on the prize.  Otherwise, Nazem Kadri would have been able to control himself instead of incurring a needless three-game suspension.  Kadri's suspension cost the Leafs dearly.  The Boston series clearly exposed Toronto's weaknesses, especially their defensive flaws.  The Leafs just weren't ready.  At least they gained some playoff experience - the hard way.  Looking ahead to next season, they have chosen a 32-year-old whiz kid named Kyle Dubas as their new General Manager.  They should also has a team captain in plac by then.  We will see what happens.

As for the Toronto Raptors, I honestly expected much more from them than from the Leafs.  They played so impressively during the regular season and it seemed as if their time had finally come.  The first playoff round ended well for the Raps.  They defeated the Washington Wizards in six games.  However, for the third season in a row, they were spooked by the Cleveland Cavaliers and King LeBron James.  James completely unnerved the Raptors.  They didn't know how to deal with him..  He psyched them out.  He toyed with them.  He humiliated them.  It was difficult for Toronto fans to watch.

What happened to DeMar DeRozan?  Although healthy, he was benched for the final 14 minutes of the Raptors' 105-103 defeat in Game 3 against Cleveland.  DeRozan is an all-star.  He's no LeBron, but he's the Raptors' best player.  Something is terribly wrong when your best player is so ineffective that he isn't utilized in the closing minutes of a crucial playoff game.

Coach Dwane Casey paid the price for the Raptors' poor performance against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round of the playoffs.  He was fired soon after, despite the 59 wins and receiving the Coach of the Year Award from the NBA Coaches Association.  As sports fans know, it often happens that way.  The players can't all be fired, so the coach becomes the fall guy.  I'm not saying that Casey doesn't bear any responsibility for the Cleveland debacle.  No one player or coach should shoulder all the blame.  That fiasco was a team effort and Casey deserved better.

Dwane Casey
So, it's the middle of May and the Toronto Maple Leafs have gone another year without winning the Stanley Cup.  That's 51 years and counting.  The Las Vegas Golden Knights, in their first year of contention, are still alive in the playoffs.  If they defeat the Winnipeg Jets, they will earn a berth in the Stanley Cup Final.  It's hard to believe that Vegas has gotten so far in their initial season.  I admit that I am biased and that I would prefer Winnipeg to win.  However, I don't want to underestimate the Knights.  They have certainly exceeded expectations.  Yet, even if they weren't playing Winnipeg, I couldn't bring myself to cheer for them to win Lord Stanley's Jug.  It doesn't feel right.  It doesn't feel as if this new franchise has paid its dues yet.  The Golden Knights' success is  rather galling to Leaf fans who have waited patiently for so many years and to all the NHL teams who have never won the Cup.  Still, if they manage to win it, they will be the legitimate victors.

- Joanne

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The Business of E-Sports

Here is an infographic about the business of sports.  It contains facts and statistics about electronic sports or organized competitions between professional gamers.  It provides information about the growth of e-sport revenue growth, the highest earning esports gaming countries.  sports clubs with the most esport players and the top esport players and tournaments.  I hope this infographic entertaining and informative.

- Joanne

MonEy by Moneypod.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

After 51 years without winning the Stanley Cup, what's next for the Toronto Maple Leafs?

Today marks a rather significant anniversary for the Toronto Maple Leafs and their legion of fans.  In many ways, it is a dubious anniversary because it is a reminder of the franchise's many years of futility.  For it was on this day, May 2nd, back in 1967, that the Blue and White last hoisted the Stanley Cup.  That was 51 years ago - more than half a century.  Of course, there were only six teams then, so it wasn't as difficult to win Lord Stanley's Jug.  There wasn't a gruelling two month marathon of playoff hockey (the Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup on June 11th last season).  In 1967, the Leafs were an older team, so they wouldn't have survived the endurance test that the NHL's premier championship has become.  Their goaltender, the legendary Johnny Bower, was 42 years old.  Their other goalie, Terry Sawchuk, was 37.  Their captain, George Armstrong, was 36.

Technology has changed in leaps and bounds since the Leafs defeated the Montreal Canadiens in that long ago Stanley Cup Final, as have social mores and fashion.  Younger hockey fans may find it hard to fathom a world without cell phones and the Internet, but colour television was a novelty in 1967 and people watched the Stanley Cup finals on small black and white TVs.  There were no advertisements along the boards of the arena or on the ice.  Players didn't wear helmets, most goalies didn't wear masks and there were no bearded 6 foot, 5 inch behemoths.  The people in the crowd were not dressed in the home team's sweater.  Many were all dressed up in suits and dresses.

When the Maple Leafs last won the Stanley Cup, Canadians were celebrating Centennial Year. We were basking in the glow of Expo 67 in Montreal, which opened its gates on April 27, 1967, just days before days before the Leafs' Stanley won the Stanley Cup.  Pierre Elliott Trudeau was planning his run for the leadership of the Liberal Party and his eventual replacement of Lester Pearson as Prime Minister of Canada.  "Trudeaumania" was soon to sweep our land.

Flash forward 51 years.  The son of Pierre Trudeau is the current Prime Minister of Canada.  There are 31 teams in the National Hockey League, including such hockey hotbeds as Nashville, Tennessee and Phoenix Arizona.  The latest franchise to join the league is based in Las Vegas, Nevada.  As of this writing, no Canadian-based team has won the Stanley Cup for 25 years, since Montreal won it in 1993.

Toronto fans have been patient through the horrible years when Harold Ballard owned the team and through many mediocre and sub par seasons.  In 1993, with Doug Gilmore leading the way, the Leafs almost made it to the Stanley Cup final, only to be thwarted by Wayne Gretzky and the Los Angeles Kings.  The dream of a Toronto-Montreal match-up was put to rest. 

The Leafs haven't been as close to winning the Holy Grail of Hockey since then.  However, fate smiled upon them when they won first choice in the lottery draft and were able to sign the talented Auston Matthews.  Matthews is surrounded by some other skilled young players such as Mitch Marner and William Nylander.  I believe the team is headed in the right direction.  Unfortunately, this year,they just weren't ready.  Here's what they need:

1.  More playoff experience:  One of the reasons Boston defeated the Leafs in the first round of this year's playoffs is that they have much more playoff experience.  Compared to the Bruins, the Leafs lacked poise and confidence.

2.  A stronger defence:  Defence is the Leafs' weak spot. Jake Gardner certainly looked bad in the Game 7 loss to Boston, but he should not have to shoulder all the blame.  For example, Freddie Andersen didn't play his best in the seventh game either.  He didn't rise to the occasion.  The Leafs were awful in the first two games in Boston.  However, they did improve greatly in the rest of the series.  Still, their star young player, Auston Matthews and William Nylander did not shine at all.  Although Mattthews had 27 shots on goal in seven games, he finished the series with just one goal in Game 3 and one assist in Game 5.  As for Nylander, he only had four points (one goal and three assists).

3.  A team captain.  The leadership of a captain is very important.  The Maple Leafs were probably too hasty in making Dion Phaneuf their captain, but now they are overdue to choose a captain.  It's hard to imagine a team winning the Stanley Cup without a captain.  Many think it's a matter of time before Auston Matthews wears the "C" on his uniform.  Perhaps, he's the one, but I think all of the Leaf players should have a say in who has the honour of being captain.  They have a good idea of who has the right leadership qualities and whose right for the job.  It should be put to a vote among the players.

4.  More discipline.  A Stanley Cup-winning team is disciplined and focused.  The Leafs took too many unnecessary penalties in their series against Boston.  Nazim Kadri, in particular, must exercise control.  He was no help to his team while he was suspended for three games

Whom do I want to win the Stanley Cup this year?  The Winnipeg Jets, of course, and not just because they are a Canadian-based team.  A victory would mean a lot to the city of Winnipeg.  Yet, I wonder if the situation were reversed and the Toronto Maple Leafs were still in the running for the Cup,  how many fans in Winnipeg or other parts of Canada, could bring themselves to cheer for the Leafs?  Anyway, good look to the Jets. as long as they're not playing the Toronto Maple Leafs.  I hope to see some celebrating in the 'Peg this year and maybe a parade along Yonge Street in the near future.

- Joanne

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Solar Energy: A Global Overview of the Rise of Rooftop Energy Storage

The demand for renewable energy sources is increasing every year due to climate change.  The  Rooftop solar energy storage is available, affordable and on the rise.  The following infographic will provide charts and statistics tracing its growth around the world.  It highlights the trends in solar energy and how attitudes, how global attitudes are changing and which countries are leading the way.  I hope you find it informative and useful.  

- Joanne

The Rise of Rooftop Energy Storage by Roof Stores.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Reflections on Earth Day 2018

If I had to name the most serious threat to the survival of humanity, my answer would be climate change.  In second place, would be nuclear devastation.  Some people shrug and say they are sick and tired of hearing the preaching of "tree huggers."

Here is my reply:

There is no choice.  It is time to sound the alarms and they should be blaring!  We need to shout our message from the mountain tops!  Like ancient Rome, the Earth is burning and like Emperor Nero, too many our leaders are fiddling.  How can environmentalists let up when there is such a crisis?  Scientist the world over, especially Canada's Dr. David Suzuki, have been warning us of the dangers.  They are united in the same cause as religious leaders such as Pope Francis, who has pointed out clearly that climate change is a moral issue. (Who says that science and religion can't find common ground?).

At the moment, one of the most powerful leaders in the world refuses to to do anything about the environmental crisis.  The current American president and his Republican cohorts are more beholden to oil companies than to human beings.  They are  more interested in protecting the wealth of the fossil fuel industry than in protecting the health and welfare of ordinary Americans.  President Trump has pulled the United States out of the Paris climate change agreement and has encouraged the revival of dirty coal mines, despite the fact that these mines cause sickness, disease and pollution.  Of course, people need jobs.  They have to put food on the table.  However, there are alternatives to reviving a dead fossil fuel industry.  Why should American workers regress to a time when their livelihood threatened their health?

Anti-environmentalists would have youo believe that we have to make a choice between jobs and the environment.  However, it doesn't have to be an either/or proposition.  There are alternatives.  It is possible to create jobs while protecting the environment.  Employees can be retrained or work at "green jobs."  Not only than, but do we really want people to work in mines and destroy their health.

Thank goodness that Jerry Brown, the current Governor of California, recognizes the dangers of climate change and pollution and wants to do something about it.  He has leverage, too, because California boasts the world's sixth largest economy, Governor Brown wants to work with the Canadian province of Ontario, where I live.  Unfortunately, there is a clear and present problem on the horizon.  The people of Ontario are scheduled to go to the polls on June 7, 2018 and Doug Ford, leader of the Progressive (italics mine) Conservative Party of Ontario,  is poised to  become the next premier of the province.  Ford is a right-wing populist.  Like Trump, he is a climate change denier and he plans to repeal Ontario's cap-and-trade system, which imposes a limit (cap) on industrial emissions and permits companies to buy (trade) credits that allow them to exceed that limit.  By the way, this is not a tax because the price is not paid directly buy taxpayers.  If Ford's party wins the election, as expected, it will be a terrible blow to environmentalism in Canada's most populous province.

Unfortunately, right-wing populists have been making strides.  There could not be a worse time in history for the rise of right-wing climate change deniers.  We sol-called "tree huggers" must counter them before it is too late.

The Earth is what we all have in common.

Wendell Berry (1934- ), American poet and novelist.
From The Unsettling of America [1977]

Whatever our age, our gender, our race or ethnic background, our social and economic status, we all inhabit the same planet.  We all have a stake in the protection of the Earth.  As a farmer and environmental activist, Wndell Berry makes the case that we all have an interest in the future of our common home.

We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.

- Native American proverb

There was classic public service announcement (PSA) from years ago.  It showed an Indigenous man with a tear in his eye after seeing the environmental devastation caused by litter.  That PSA was poignant and extremely effective.  It should be shown again to an new generation.  If only non-natives respected the earth like the aboriginal people, we would would have clean air and clean water.  We would be healthier and happier.

Here are two things you can for the environment on Earth Day and every day.

* Don't use plastic water bottles.

*  Don't forget the three Rs - Recycle, Reuse and Reduce

Note to Smokers                                                 

Please don't throw your cigarette butts on the ground.  Cigarette butts remain on the ground for for years, leaking toxic chemicals into the environment. According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, cigarettes contain almost 4,000 chemicals,  About 50 of them are carcinogenic.  Here is a list of some of those chemicals: arsenic, acetone, ammonia, lead, formaldehyde etc.  Carelessly discarded cigarette butts contaminate our water supply.  They harm humans and animal life.

- Joanne

Friday, April 20, 2018

An Open Letter to John Tory, Mayor of Toronto


This is the first of a series of open letters to Mayor John Tory regarding the serious issues facing the city of Toronto. until this fall's municipal election,

Dear Sir,

You are widely expected to win re-election as Toronto's mayor in the municipal election scheduled for Monday, October 22, 2018.  At the moment, there are few obstacles on your path to re-election.  Doug Ford has left the race and is now the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, although I don't know what's "progressive" about the party under his leadership.

Registration of candidates for the office of mayor will officially open on Tuesday, May 1, 2018.  Unless a popular candidate with strong credentials decides to enter the race, you might as well be acclaimed for a second term.  This would not be a good situation for the city of Toronto and it would not be a good situation for you, Mr. Mayor.  For the sake of democracy, you need to be opposed by a capable opponent.  You need to really defend your record in order to be worthy of a second term.  This election should not be a cakewalk for you.

There are many issues in this city that ought to be addressed.  I fear that if you do not have a strong challenger, these issues will not come to the forefront.  If Torontonians are resigned to your re-election, they will be apathetic and voter turnout will be extremely low.  The fact is that turnout for municipal elections is already traditionally low and will be even lower if voters are not engaged in a competitive campaign.  "Tory is going to win anyway, so why should I bother voting." they will say. What a shame that would be!  As you well know, Mr Mayor, municipal issues are closest to home and they affect people the most in their everyday lives.

This 2018 election will decide Toronto's future for the next four years.  It will be sad if people regard it as such a snoozefest that they don't even consider the problems facing our city.  Mr. Tory, I realize that you have no control over who decides to become a candidate for the office of Mayor of the City of Toronto.  However, no matter who runs against you in the coming election, there are many pressing issues that will not magically disappear and must be dealt with carefully.

I have lived in Toronto my entire life and I am concerned about my city.  Here are the the three issues I consider of paramount importance.  There are countless other issues, but these need to be highlighted.because they require the most attention.

* Homelessness, poverty and addiction:  In my view, this is by far the most pressing problem facing Toronto.  On April 12, 2018, the Toronto Star published a piece about a report by the city's medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen De Villa.  Dr. De Villa stated that "Homelessness remains a significant issue in Toronto, affecting some of the city's most vulnerable residents."  She exhorted local hospital to join efforts to track homeless deaths.  De Villa's report revealed a shocking statistic: 100 homeless people died across the city in 2017.  How accurate is that number?  Well, it is based on the city's first year of collecting death data on the homeless.  Dr. De Villa said that although Toronto's continued effort to collect homeless data is among the most comprehensive in the country, hospital participation is needed for more accuracy.  Still, the number is reasonably accurate and it is alarming.

Beggars and homeless people are scattered all over this city.  They are ubiquitous.  They can be seen both downtown and in the suburbs.  They are ensconced on sidewalks and on the steps of subway stations. They are outdoors in the bitter cold, in the searing heat and in all kinds of inclement weather.  They can be found in food courts and in front of shops and theatres.  They remind us that all is not well in Toronto and that there is a lack of affordable housing and services for the mentally ill and the addicted.

The degree of homelessness and poverty in Toronto is unconscionable and unacceptable.  It is truly a disgrace for the largest city in a resource-rich country such as Canada to have so many people without shelter.

* The environment, health and cleanliness:  In 1987, English actor and writer Peter Ustinov described Toronto as "New York run by the Swiss."  By that, he meant that Toronto was a clean and efficient big city.  I regret to say that Ustinov description no longer applies.  This town could be so much cleaner.  I see food containers and toxic cigarette butts everywhere.  There is much too  much litter on our streets and inside and outside our subway stations.  You can bet tourists notice. Visitors are always impressed by a clean city.

* Transportation:  I believe in public transportation.  I travel by TTC almost every day.  Unfortunately, however, the system is deeply flawed.  It is not reliable and dependable.  There are far too many delays and service suspensions.  I realize that some delays are unavoidable, but TTC.  Commuters do not feel confident that they will arrive for their appointments on time.  In addition, almost every weekend, some portion of the subway is closed for repairs.  Why weren't improvements made years ago?  Why wasn't the York University subway built years ago?  Our leaders have been penny-wise and pound foolish.and it certainly takes along time to get anything done in this city.

The desperately needed downtown relief line is a case in point.  There is so much overcrowding at Bloor and Yonge and Bloor and St. George that someone may be crushed to death or seriously injured some day.  Do we need a tragedy to occur for some action to be taken?  The City of Toronto has proposed building such a line, in one form or another,since 1910 - that's 108 years ago!  The website displays a map that appeared in the Evening Telegram on November 25, 1911,  It outlines a streetcar subway along Queen Street and future connections along Pape Avenue.  There has been some progress recently.  For example, last month the TTC's board of directors awarded a contract for designing the tunnels of the Relief Line South.  Still, the project has been moving at a snail's pace.

Don't even get me started on the renovations to Union Station.  They keep taking longer and longer to complete and costs are escalating.

Then there is the debate over the controversial Scarborough subway extension.  Mr. Tory, I respectfully disagree with your stand on the Scarborough extension.  The proposed one-stop subway is not worth the expense to taxpayers.  Its cost may exceed a whopping $3.35 billion and I have little doubt that it will.  We don't know the updated cost yet, but as you confirmed to reporters, we may have the answer by September.  Does the anticipated ridership really warrant that kind of grandiose expenditure?  I think not.  The money can be put to better use for the residents of Scarborough.

Despite its problems, Toronto is a vibrant city with much to offer.  It is my home.  That's why I want it to be even better.

Yours sincerely,

Joanne Madden

Monday, April 9, 2018

Montreal Sculpture: The Illuminated Crowd


On March 27th of this year, I attended an exhibition game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the St. Louis Cardinals at Montreal's Olympic Stadium.  The next day, while strolling along McGill College Esplanade, I came across a sculpture that immediately intrigued me.  It is located in front of the 20-storey Banque Nationale de Paris (BNP) Paribus Canada office complex.

The name of the sculpture is The Illuminated Crowd and I was not surprised to learn that it is one of the most photographed sculptures in Montreal.  This thought-provoking and controversial work was created by Raymond Mason in 1985.  Mason was a native of Birmingham, England who immigrated to France in 1946,  He lived in Paris until his death in 2010.  In 1980, The Louis Dreyfus Property Group approached him with the idea of designing a sculpture for the future plaza at 1981 avenue McGill College.  The artist was already working on The Illuminated Crowd and he chose a revised version of the theme for the Montreal setting.

From September to November 1985, prior to being shipped to Canada,, the sculpture was exhibited at the National Museum of Modern Art at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris.  It depicts a crowd of 65 people of various ages and racial backgrounds.and it illustrates a rather dark side of humanity.  The crowd is gathered tightly together.  The figures in the first row look off into the distance.  Behind them, however, the mood worsens.  It gradually deteriorates as the people display a gamut of emotions including fear, hatred, lust, sadness and sheer terror.

The Illuminated Crowd is ochre in colour against the background of the blue BNP building.  It is a large sculpture - 8.6 metres long by 3.2 metres wide.  Its depiction of a mob of humanity is disturbing and provocative.  That is why it is such a fascinating work of art.

At the base of the sculpture, there is a plaque with the following words:

"A crowd has gathered, facing the light, an illumination brought about by fire, an event, an ideology - or an ideal.  The strong light casts shadows, and as the light moves toward the back and diminishes, the mood degenerates; rowdiness, disorder and violence occur, showing the fragile nature of man.  Illumination, hope, involvement, hilarity, irritation, fear, illness, violence,  murder and death - the flow of man's emotion through space."

- Joanne

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Photo of Laurel and Hardy dolls at Granite Brewery and Restaurant

Some family members and I recently had lunch at the Granite Brewery and Restaurant in Toronto (245 Eglinton Ave. East.)  It was a cold, drizzly March day and we enjoyed sitting near the restaurant's cozy fireplace.  We had to leave at a certain time and we appreciated the prompt service.

As we were leaving, something caught my eye.  I noticed a table with Laurel and Hardy dolls playing chess. I just had to take a photo and I would like to share it with you.    I hope you find it amusing, as I did.

- Joanne

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Easter: Marry Magdalene: Her image from the Bible and Renaissance art to Jesus Christ Superstar and The Da Vinci Code

Today is Easter Sunday and I would like to share some quotations with you.  This will be followed by a profile of Mary Magdalene.

Tomb, thou shall not hold Him longer;
Death is strong, but Life is stronger;
Stronger than the dark, the light;
Stronger than the wrong, the right . . .

- Phillips Brooks
From An Easter Carol

Awake, thou wintry earth -
Fling off thy sadness!
Fair vernal flowers, laugh forth
Your ancient gladness!

- Thomas Blackburn
From An Easter Hymn

IN SEARCH OF MARY MAGDALENE: Was she a fallen woman who became a devoted follower of Christ?


In many ways, Mary Magdalene is elusive and mysterious.  She is not clearly identified in Scripture and very little is known about her life other than what appears in the New Testament and later Gospels which are not included in the Bible.  One source of confusion is the number of women called "Mary" in the Gospels ("Mary" is derived from the Hebrew name "Miryam" or "Miriam").

It is usually assumed that "Mary Magdalene" means "Mary from Magdala."  Although no specific location of Mary's birthplace is mentioned in the Bible, many Christian academics believe she came from a place the Talmud calls Magdala Nunayya ("Magdala of the fishes"), on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.  She is thought to be of Jewish descent, and all four canonical Gospels present her as a follower of Jesus who travelled with him and his disciples.

According to the Gospels of Luke (8:1-3) and Mark (16:9), Jesus cleansed her of "seven demons."

Then followed a time in which he went on journeying from one city or village to another, preaching and spreading the good news of God's Kingdom.  With him were the twelve apostles and certain women, whom he had freed from evil spurts and from sicknesses, Mary, who is called Magdalen, who had seven devils cast our of her, and Joanna, the wife of Chusa, Harod's steward and Susanna, and many others, who ministered to him with the means they had.

Luke 8:1-3

But he had risen again, at dawn on the first day of the week, and showed himself first of all to Mary Magdalen, the woman out of whom he had cast out seven devils.  She went and gave the news to those who had been of his company, where they mourned and wept; and they, when they were told that he was alive and that she had seen him, could not believe it.

Mark 16:9-11 

Mary Magdalene has been characterized as a repentant sinner largely as the result of a homily delivered by Pope Gregory 1 in 591.  Gregory lauded Mary for her devotion to Christ, but referred to her as the unnamed female sinner with perfume in Luke's Gospel (7:36-50) and as Mary of Bethany, sister of Martha and Lazarus.  The pope also made reference to Jesus cleansing Mary of the "seven demons," which he associated with the seven deadly sins, which include not only lust but pride and greed as well.

Centuries later, Jacques Lefèvre d'Étaples, a French theologian and humanist, challenged this version of Mary Magdalene.  In Da Maria Magdalena et triduo Chriisti disceptatio (1517), Lefèvre argued against the conflation of Mary the sister of Lazarus, Mary Magdalene and the anonymous penitent sinner who anointed Christ's feet in Luke's gospel.  He contended that they were different people and received much condemnation from French theologians.  However, in 1969 the General Roman Calendar put an end to the dispute about the composite Mary when it identified different dates for Mary Magdalene, Mary of Bethany and the anonymous sinner.

Jacques Lefèvre d'Étaples

It is a myth that Mary Magdalene was a penitent prostitute, even though that image of her has persisted in Western tradition and theology.  Mary has long been portrayed as a fallen woman who repented,  Western medieval and Renaissance art pictured her in extravagant clothing or dressed immodestly in contrast to other women of the era.  Some paintings even depicted her nude, discreetly covered by long, blond hair, especially the works of Italian artist Titian (1488-1576).

This image of Mary has continued into more modern times. From the 18th century on, institutes that cared for prostitutes were called "Magdalenes."  In the 1970 rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar (music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by Tim Rice), there is a song entitled "I Don't Know How to Love Him.," sung by Mary Magdalene.  Here are the lyrics:

"He's a man. He's just a man.
"And I've had so many men before, in very many ways he's just one more."

It  has also been theorized that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married.  In Dan Brown's bestselling 2003 novel, The Da Vinci Code, it is discovered that "The Church, in order to defend itself against the Magdalene's power, perpetuated her image as a whore and buried Christ's marriage to her, thereby defusing any potential claims that Christ had a surviving bloodline and was a mortal prophet."

According to Dorothy Ann Lee, Professor of New Testament, Trinity College, University of Divinity in Australia, "nowhere in the Gospels is Mary Magdalene associated either overtly of covertly with sexuality."  Although she is described as having had seven demons in Luke's Gospel, this description does not mean she was a prostitute.  This description, argues Professor Lee, does not refer to "unfettered sexuality."

In her 2018 essay in The Conversation, Lee states that exorcisms are common in the first three Gospels.  "Those suffering from demonic possession,," she writes, "are never described as sinful but rather are victims of external evils."  Today we would refer to them as illnesses such as epilepsy or mental illness. In other words, Lee concludes, "Magdalene has been the victim of a serious illness and Jesus has healed her."

What we do know is that the canonical Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John clearly place Mary at the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Christ.  However, as Professor Lee points out, "the gospel references don't describe her personality, history or character."  There are very few direct quotes from her, nor any description of her temperament.

In the New Testament, there is no doubt as to Mary's devotion to Christ.  According to the Gospel of John (20:1), it was Mary Magdalene who came to the tomb of Jesus early Sunday morning and discovered that the stone was removed.  It was she to whom Jesus first appeared after his death.  Despite Mary's image in art and literature, there is no solid evidence in the Gospels (or anywhere else) that she was a prostitute or a repentant sinner.  We do know for certain that she was a dedicated and beloved disciple of Jesus.

- Joanne

Monday, March 26, 2018

Faces of Currency Quiz

Here is a pop quiz that tests your knowledge of world currencies.  I hope you find it entertaining and challenging.  It was created by Moneypod, a trading style of Noveau Finance Ltd.  So, put on your thinking caps and good luck.  Note:  The British term "notes" is used instead of "bills."

- Joanne

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The truth and 'fake news"

Peter Mansbridge

In this age of the Internet and "fake news," the truth is often unseen, unheard and unbelieved.  That's why I was so heartened by the words of Peter Mansbridge at the Canadian Screen Awards on March 11, 2018.  (For non-Canadians: Mansbridge is the retired chief correspondent for CBC News and anchor of The National, CBC's flagship nightly newscast.  He held that position from 1988 to 2017).  His stirring speech was inspiring.  He said things that needed to be said.  He was clear and unequivocal. 

In an era when the President of the United States has called the press the "enemy of the people," journalists need to be defended more than ever.  They are not perfect, but democracy cannot exist without a free press.

Those who support Donald Trump's views on the media should experience what it is like to live in a country where there is only state-controlled media and all news is censored.  They should live in a place where news reporters behave like robots and trained seals.  

Peter Mansbridge's words need to be read..  That's why I have posted them on by website.  See below.

- Joanne

Most of the challenges that we journalists face are not news - budget cuts, changing technologies, new platforms and the constant pressure of the 24-hour news cycle.  But journalism is under threat in a way that we haven't witnessed before  The very principle that we stand for is under attack.  Truth. Truth is under attack from those who've decided to label hard-working professional journalist who tell real stories as fake.  

Nothing is more sacred in our industry than the truth.  You cannot argue with the truth, no matter how hard you try.  So, finding it, speaking it, sharing it, is all that matters.  And we need to be prepared to risk everything to do that because power unchallenged too often becomes power abused.  So, we need to fight.  We need to fight injustice with facts and we need to battle bullies wit facts.  Not for ourselves.  We don't do this for ourselves.  We do this because we believe that when people are armed with the truth, they can make better decisions for themselves, for their communities and for the world.  The truth is what matters.  The truth is all that matters.

- Peter Mansbridge

Monday, March 12, 2018

The Problem with "LY" Adverbs

In essence, adverbs describe or modify verbs, adjectives or other adverbs.  There are several types of adverbs, which I have listed below.  A great many adverbs, especially "adverbs of manner," end in "ly."  These include words such as "quickly," "happily," and "shyly."  The trend in modern speech is to drop the "ly."  I will address this matter after the list of adverb types,


ADVERBS OF TIME describe when a particular event happened or for how long.

Examples (When)

We have heard this story before.
They haven't spoken to each other lately.
We always eat lunch together.

Example (How long)

I waited for you all day.

ADVERBS OF FREQUENCY show how often a particular event occurs.


You often forget to say thank you.
I have only met him once in my life.
They never visit their aunt.

ADVERBS OF PLACE describe where a particular event happened.


My sister is out.
He stood there for a while.
I looked up at the sky.

ADVERBS OF MANNER describe how or in what manner something happened.  Adverbs of manner consist of almost adverbs which are derived from adjectives and end in "ly."


The baby slept quietly.
He ate hungrily.
My father works hard.

ADVERBS OF DEGREE OR QUANTITY describe how much, in what degree or to what extent something happened.


It is very cold today.
She seems rather upset.
You are quite correct.

ADVERBS OF AFFIRMATION AND NEGATION show whether or not something is valid.


You are definitely wrong.
Surely you can do better than this.
We do not recognize him.

ADVERBS OF REASON show an indication of a reason or purpose for an occurrence.


He therefore was unable to go to work today.
Thus we had to cancel the dinner party.


Have you noticed how frequently English speakers are dropping the  "ly" in adverbs?.  You hear it all the time, "dress smart" instead of "dress smartly"  or "act natural" instead of "act naturally."


These are also"flat adverbs" or adverbs that assume the form of related adjectives.  "Flat adverbs do not end in "ly.'  Some examples of flat adverbs are "fast," and "high: and "hard."  One does not say "drove fastly." "jumped highly"or "worked hardly."

List of some flat adverbs


Sometimes "flat adverbs" are considered preferable as in "take it easy" and "sleep tight."  According to Merriam-Webster, flat adverbs used to be a lot more common than they are now.  In the 18th century, however, grammarians determined that adverbs should end in "ly."  Those grammarians are responsible, says Merriam-Webster, "for the sad lack of flat adverbs today."

So, you don't have to end all your adverbs in "ly."  That doesn't mean, however, that you should abandon the "ly" at leisure, even though that is becoming more and more prevalent among English speakers.

The Russian-American linguist Anatoly Liberman has described the adverb as "an endangered species in Modern English."  In an August 8, 2007 piece in his blog, "The Oxford Etymologist," Liberman writes that over the past millennium, English has discarded most of its "ancient endings."  The distinction between adverbs and adjectives , he says, is blurring and adjectives are replacing adverbs.  We often hear people say "she dances beautiful" rather than "she dances beautifully."  The adverb "easily" has become "easy" as in "he passed the test easy" rather than "he passed the test easily."

Anatoly Libman

One glaring example of this trend in speech is the preponderance of "real happy" rather than "really happy" or "real quiet" and "real quick" rather than "really quietly" or "really quickly."  It is not correct to say "She dresses real smartly" because the adverb "really" modifies the adverb "smartly."  The word "real" is an adjective.  It should modify a noun.

I must admit that I have a bias against dropping the "ly" on "really."  Phrases such as "real fast" and "real smart" grate on my ears.  They just don't sound good and they are grammatically incorrect.  I realize that language is fluid.  The way we speak is constantly evolving.  There isn't much I  can do about it.   However, that doesn't mean I have to like all of the changes.

- Joanne