Monday, May 28, 2012

The 2012 Canadian loonies and toonies: What a mess for vending machine users!

MONDAY, MAY 28, 2012

The Royal Canadian Mint is penny wise and pound foolish.  Oops, sorry!  The Canadian penny is on the way out.  That's another story, though.  The focus of this piece is the 2012 one dollar coin (commonly known as the "loonie") and the two dollar coin (commonly known as the "toonie").  With the intention of saving money, the Mint has produced lighter coins.  According to the Canadian government's official newspaper,the Canada Gazette, the new coins will save an estimated $16 million dollars a year. That's not chicken fodder.  It's a sizable sum, but it comes at a tremendous cost to the vending machine industry and a terrible inconvenience to the public.

The 2012 coins are lighter and cheaper to produce because they are composed of multi-ply plated steel.  The problem is that vending machines have to be adjusted to accept this difference in weight because they are sensitive to even the slightest change in a coin.  It will be extremely expensive to reprogram so many machines across the country.  The Canada Gazette estimated that there would be a one-time cost of $40 million to the vending industry. Remember that that is only an estimate.  The real cost could be much greater.  No wonder vending machine operators are so upset!  Welcome to their nightmare!

Expect many vending businesses to lobby the government for compensation.  Who knows how much that will cost taxpayers if the lobbyists are successful!  That's not the end of this mess either.  Contrary to what the Canada Gazette says, it's not really just a one-shot deal for the vending industry.  Vending machines will also have to be adjusted in November when the new $20 polymer bill is introduced and again when new $5 and $10 bills arrive in 2013.

The Canadian public is also paying the price for the government's decision to produce lighter coins,  Canadians were not given fair warning that this was going to happen.  It was just foisted upon them with very little publicity.  Many did not understand why the parking meter was not accepting their coins.  When I tried to purchase a newspaper from a newspaper box, I discovered that all my loonies were of the 2012 variety and could not be used.

Don't get me wrong.  The lightness of the new currency is most welcome.  A surfeit of heavy coinage in a purse or wallet is burdensome.  That was one of the reasons that I was not too pleased when the one dollar bill was replaced by a one dollar coin in 1987 (Yes, folks, it's been 25 years since the introduction of the loonie).

When the loonie made its debut, I argued that it would debase the value of a dollar.  Coins are thrown in drawers and left in pockets, I maintained, while bills, on the other hand, are tucked safely in wallets.  My other concern was that vending machine prices would increase.  Yet I realized that the introduction of a one dollar coin was inevitable because the government needed to save money and coins last longer than bank notes.

A quarter of a century later, my opinion on that matter has not changed.  I do admit, however, to a grudging affection for the loonie.  It's so purely Canadian.  What other country would nickname its one dollar currency a "loonie?"   The loon design, however, happened by accident.  The original design on the one dollar coin was intended to be the traditional Voyageur canoe.  Somehow, on the way to the Mint in Winnipeg, the dies were lost.  To avoid future counterfeiting, the Voyageur dies were discarded and replaced with a loon.

- Joanne

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Stress Relief

THURSDAY, MAY 17, 2012

Being in control of your life and having realistic expectations about day-to-day challenges are the keys to stress management, which is perhaps the most important ingredient to living a happy, healthy and rewarding life.

- Marilu Henner, (born April 6, 1952, American actress, producer and author)

I also think stress is related to control.  When you're in charge of your life, you tend not to care about losing  control of things that don't really matter like traffic jams.

- Marilu Henner

Are you overworked and dog tired?  Are you feeling stressed from the demands of your job or from family responsibilities and financial burdens?  Need to get out of the rat race - at least temporarily?  Here's a suggestion from Number 16,  It won't solve all your problems but it will provide you with some relief from stress.  It is absolutely free and it has no harmful side effects or undesirable consequences.  Just click the following link.  Then get ready to sit back and relax for two minutes.  Take your hands off your computer keyboard and mouse.  Calm yourself!

The Do Nothing For 2 minutes website was created by British entrepreneur Alex Tew and developer Ben Dowling.  Tew, who also created the Million Dollar Homepage, stated his reasons for creating the Do Nothing For 2 Minutes page:

I had been thinking how we spend every waking minute of the day with access to an unlimited supply of information.  I also read somewhere that there is evidence that our brains are being re-wired by the Internet because we get a little dopamine kick every time we check our e-mail or Twitter or Facebook and there's a new update.  So we're all developing a bit of ADD, which is probably not great in terms of being productive.

- Joanne

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Toronto Confidential: May 15, 2012


Issue No. 1
Welcome to Toronto Confidential, a new feature on Number 16 where there will be insights and comments on life in Toronto.   If you are looking  for news and trivia about T.O,, this is for you.  

I am a strong supporter of public transit and I use the TTC frequently.  Every month I purchase a Metropass.  That is why I become dismayed when I witness the TTC's shortcomings.  I bring them to the public's attention so that the TTC will rectify its problems and provide better service.

Last Tuesday, May 9th, there was a subway shutdown between the Islington and Jane stations due to a passenger injury. Subway patrons were told that there would be shuttle buses arriving to take us to our destination.  I heard this announcement at the Islington station and it occurred just after 5 p.m., at the peak of rush hour.  What ensued was pandemonium.

There were no signs instructing passengers where to get the shuttle buses.  There were no TTC employees directing people.  I finally asked a TTC employee where we should go to get a shuttle bus and he told us to go outside the station.  By this time, the crowd of confused subway riders had become larger.  The station was filling up rapidly.

We all went outside to the street to find a shuttle bus.  After waiting there for a short time, someone called out that the shuttle buses were arriving inside the station at a bus bay.  The crowd quickly headed back to the station.  The bus bay was so crowded that I could barely move. I felt really claustrophobic and I couldn't wait to get out of the station.

This is the second time I have experienced such disorganization at the Islington station.  I realize that accidents and delays happen, but why doesn't the TTC get employees to the scene immediately when people need direction, especially during rush hour?

* I really wish the TTC would stop referring to its patrons or passengers as "customers."  "Customers" is a misnomer because The Toronto Transit Commission is a public system.  The people of Toronto and Ontario pay taxes and taxes to operate it.  We are not customers.  How can we be customers when we ourselves own the system and support it?  This is not nitpicking,  Language matters!  Speaking of language, have you noticed that the automated voice on the TTC public address system, exhorts riders to "stand clear of doors?"  What ever happened to the definite article as in "the doors?"  

Attention art lovers!  The Art Gallery of Ontario is presenting a major exhibition of Picasso works until August 26, 2012.  It is called  Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musee National Picasso, Paris.  If you live in Toronto or if you plan to visit this summer, this is a great opportunity feast your eyes on the works of a great artist.

The exhibit consists of more than 150 highlights from the vast collection of the Musee National Picasso which is undergoing major renovations.  Toronto is the final stop and the only Canadian venue on a tour that has included Madrid, Abu  Dhabi, Tokyo, Helsinki, Moscow and St. Petersburg, Seattle, Richmond, San Francisco and Sydney.

Walk in High Park: What a great place to have a picnic or a pleasant walk.  Enjoy all four seasons there. Gaze at the geese and swans on Grenadier Pond.

Enjoy a baseball game at Christie Pits:  Pack a lunch and sit on the hill as you watch the Toronto Maple Leafs of the Intercounty Baseball League.  There is no admission charge.

Take the ferry to the Toronto Islands.  Ride your bike or just explore the islands.  Take a walk on the boardwalk or lie on the beach.

Christopher Plummer
Acclaimed actor Christopher Plummer was born in Toronto on December 13, 1929.  He was raised in the Montreal area (Senneville, Quebec) and is a great-grandson of Canadian Prime Minister Sir John Abbott through his mother, Isabella Mary Plummer (nee Abbott).  Known for his portrayal of Captain von Trapp in The Sound of Music, Plummer is also recognized for his magnificent theatre performances, particularly in Shakespearean roles.  He has also played John Barrymore in a one-man stage show on the life and times of the famed actor.

For his role in the film Beginnings, Plummer won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.  At the age of 82, he became the oldest actor ever to receive an Oscar.

Toronto's City Hall was once located in the current St. Lawrence Market building.  From 1845 until 1899, the seat of City Council Chamber was located on the second floor of the Market.  It is now the City's Market Gallery.  There are old historical photographs of Toronto there and you can view the old Mayor's chair.  If you are interested in the city's history, it is well worth seeing.

- Joanne

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Great Willie Mays

SUNDAY, MAY 6, 2012

Maybe I was born to play baseball.  Maybe I truly was.   
Willie Mays
The Say Hey Kid turns 81 years old today.  Born William Howard Mays, Jr. on May 6, 1931 in Westfield, Alabama, near Birmingham, Willie Mays was the son of a steelworker.  His father, Willie Sr.(known as "Cat" Mays because of his quickness), played centre field in the local semi-pro Birmingham industrial league.  His mother, Annie Satterwhite, had been a high school track star. With such an athletic background, young Willie took to baseball with ease.  By the time he was 13, he was playing on a semi-professional team called the Gray Sox.

Willie's professional career began in 1947 when he played briefly for the Chattanooga Choo-Choos in Tennessee while school was out for the summer.  He returned to Alabama and joined the Birmingham Black Barons, the local Negro League franchise.

In 1947, while Willie Mays was playing centre field for the Black Barons, Jackie Robinson succeeded in breaking baseball's colour barrier.  After Robinson's success, major league scouts attended Negro League games in search of gifted African-American players.  One such scout for the New York Giants noticed Willie at a Black Barons game.  He provided an enthusiastic report on Mays to the Giants organization.  As a result, the New York Giants signed Willie as an amateur free agent in 1950.  He was offered a $4,000 bonus and $250 a month salary to play for their minor league team, the Trenton Giants of Trenton, New Jersey.

Willie played his very first major league game on May 25, 1951.  The 20-year-old was  batting a sizzling .477 for the Giants' AAA affiliate, the Minneapolis Millers, when he was called up to the Big Show.  Giants manager Leo Durocher asked him if he could hit .250 for the team and the up-and-coming centre fielder told Durocher that he was capable of doing so.  Was he ever right!

Willie Mays more than exceeded expectations during his first season in the majors.  His batting average was  .274.  He slugged 20 home runs and knocked in 68 RBIs.  In addition, Willie was chosen the National League's Rookie of the Year in 1951 and the Giants appeared in the 1951 World Series.

Here is how Durocher described his talented young player:

He could do the five things you have to do to be a superstar: hit, hit with power, run, throw and field.  And he had that other ingredient that turns a superstar into a super superstar.  He lit up the room when he came in.  He was a joy to be around.

In 1952, with the United States involved in the Korean War, Willie Mays was drafted by the U.S. Army He missed most of the 1952 season and the entire 1953 season due to military service. When he returned to the Giants in 1954, Mays was on fire!  He led the league with a robust .345 batting average, hammered 41 home runs and was chosen as the National League Most Valuable Player.  The biggest impression he made, however, was in the 1954 World Series in which the New York Giants faced the Cleveland Indians.

In Game One of that '54 Series at the Polo Grounds in New York, Willie Mays made one of the the most memorable plays in major league baseball history. His  incredible feat of athleticism, immortalized as "The Catch," was an off-the-shoulder running catch of a Vince Wertz fly ball.  With his back turned away from the infield, Mays nabbed Wertz's long drive near the outfield wall..  It was the eighth inning and the game was tied 2-2 with Cleveland runners on first and second base..  Willie's catch preserved the 2-2  tie and the contest went into extra innings.  The Giants scored three runs in the tenth inning to win the game 5-2.  New York then defeated Cleveland in the next three games, sweeping the Series four games straight.

To watch a video of Willie's famous catch (September 29, 1954), click on the link below.

During the 1955, 1956 and 1957 seasons in New York, Willie Mays continued to perform well.  In 1956, he slammed 36 homers and stole 40 bases.  In 1957, he was awarded the first of his 12 consecutive Gold Gloves.  After the '57 season, the New York Giants moved west to San Francisco.and Mays began a new chapter of his career in California.  He spent over 14 years in the City by The Bay and became a fixture there.

Willie finished his first season in San Francisco with a career-high .357 batting average and he was named team captain before the start of the 1960 season.  With Mays leading the charge, the Giants captured the National League pennant in 1962.  They were defeated 4 games to 3 in the World Series, however, by the New York Yankees

The 1965 season was a memorable one for Willie Mays.  He won his second MVP award and hit a career-high 52 home runs.  On September 13, 1965, Willie hit his 500th major league home run.  Four years later, he reached another milestone in his career when he smashed his 600th homer off San Diego Padres pitcher Mike Corkins in September of 1969.

During his time with the San Francisco Giants, Willie became close friends with teammate Bobby Bonds.  He became the godfather of Bobby's son, Barry Bond, who was disgraced in a well-publicized steroids scandal.   Bobby died on August 23, 2003 at the age of 57 of complications from lung cancer and a brain tumor.

In May of 1972, 41-year-old Willie Mays was traded to the New York Mets for pitcher Charlie Williams and $50,000.  Mays played a season and a half  (133 games) for the Mets and finished his career in the Big Apple.  He retired after the 1973 campaign and the Mets hounoured him with a Willie Mays Night on September 25th, 1973- but it was not over yet!  The New York Mets, under manager Yogi Berra,  made it to the World Series that year.  Their American League opponents were the Oakland Athletics.

The 1973 October Classic was Willie's fourth as a major league player.  The others were 1951 and 1954 (with the New York Giants) and 1962 (with the San Francisco Giants).  The 42-year-old slugger recorded the final hit of his career in Game 2 of the '73 World Series but the Oakand A's went on to prevail over the Met in seven games.  Willie Mays made his final major league appearance in that Series.

As any baseball fan knows, baseball is a game of statistics and Willie Mays had some very impressive ones.  Willie ended his career with 660 home runs and a lifetime batting average of .302.  In 22 major league seasons, he collected 1,903 RBIs and 3,283 hits.  He hit more than 50 home runs in both the 1955 and 1965 seasons.

Mays was criticized for continuing to play when he was over the age of 40 and clearly past his prime.  In defending his decision to keep on playing, he said, "You know, a lot of people said when I was 40, I should quit, but I don't think so.  You should play as long as you can and as long as you enjoy the game.  In '73, I wasn't enjoying the game, so I quit in May.  I retired, and they wouldn't let me retire.  So I finished up in the World Series.  But I say to players: Play as long as you can, because you only have one chance."

Willie Mays is one of the greatest baseball players of all time.  He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1979, his first year of eligibility, with 95% of the votes cast.   During his career, he amassed 12 Gold Gloves, participated in four World Series and played in 24 All-Star games.  Boston Red Sox legend Ted Williams once said, "They invented the All-Star Game for Willie Mays."

Happy Birthday, Willie Mays!  You were born to play baseball.  You truly were.


* Willie Mays has been married twice.  He wed Margherite Chapman on February 14, 1956 and they adopted a son, Michael, born in 1959.  The couple divorced in the early 1960s and Willie married Mae Louise Allen on November 27, 1971.

* No one knows exactly how Willie acquired his nickname, the "Say Hey Kid."  "Say Hey" was apparently a phrase he used to attract the attention of someone whose name he did not know.  According to one story, sports journalist Jimmy Cannon came up with the nickname because when Mays first arrived in the big leagues, he was not familiar with everyone's name.  Willie was quoted as saying, "You see a guy, you say, 'Hey man.  Say hey, man.  Ted was the 'Splinter.'  Joe was 'Joltin' Joe.'  Stan was 'The Man.'  I guess I hit a few home runs, and they said there goes the "Say Hey Kid.'"  According to another story, Barney Kremenko of the New York Journal heard Willie call out, "'Say Who, 'Say What,' 'Say Where,' 'Say Hey.'" and dubbed him "The Say Hey Kid" in 1951.

* Willie Mays bats right and throws right.  Baseball lists his height at 5 '10'".

*  It's interesting to note that Willie Mays failed to hit a home run in any of the four World Series in which he played.  He won only one World Series ring (the 1954 Series against Cleveland).

*  Willie was in the on-deck circle when Bobby Thomson hit "the shot heard 'round the world" on October 3, 1951.  With Thomson's home run, the Giants defeated the Brooklyn Dodgers to win the National League pennant.  The Giants went on to the World Series but were defeated 4 games to 2 by the New York Yankees.  In Game One of the '51, Willie Mays was part of the first all-black outfield in major league baseball history.  That outfield was comprised of Willie, Hall of Famer Monte Irvin and Hank Thomspson.

* The San Francisco Giants retired Mays' number 24.  The address of their stadium, AT&T Park, is 24 Willie Mays Plaza.  A huge statue of the centre fielder stands in front of the main entrance of the ballpark.

* On February 10, 2010, Willie Mays appeared on "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart.

- Joanne

Friday, May 4, 2012

Joanne's Journal: May 4, 2012

FRIDAY, MAY 4, 2012

Edition No. 7

Quote of the Day

One would need to be already wise, in order to love wisdom.

- Friedrich von Schiller (1759-1805), German dramatist and poet
From On the Aesthetic of Man [1795]

The subject for today's musings is wisdom.  Wisdom is the cornerstone of philosophical thought and the word "philosophy" is derived from the Greek word "philosophos" meaning lover of wisdom. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the first known use of term "philosopher" occurred in the 14th century.

Since owls are associated with wisdom, it is only fitting that the link between owls and wisdom goes back at least to ancient Greece, the home of great ancient philosophers such as Socrates and Plato.  The theme of the helpful, prophetic and wise owl occurs in Aesop's Fables and in Greek mythology and folklore.  For example, Athena, the Goddess of Wisdom for whom the city of Athens was named, was so impressed with the owl's stately appearance that she honoured the nocturnal creature by making it her favourite bird.

For your enjoyment and edification, Number 16 presents some further quotes on wisdom.  Let's begin with this gem (pun intended) from the Hebrew Bible (Job 28:18).

No mention shall be made of coral, or of pearls: for the price of wisdom is above rubies. 

We shall return to ancient Greece with this astute observation from the playwright Euripides.  He points out that wisdom and cleverness are not exactly the same.  Wisdom, he reminds us, requires much more than a quick wit, intelligence and cunning.  One can be clever but unwise.  That's why some of the cleverest people make some poor choices.

Mere cleverness is not wisdom.

- Euripides (c.485-c. 406 B.C.), Greek dramatist
From Bacchae


TO: Margaret McCain, philanthropist and former Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick, for donating $10 million to Toronto's Centre  for Addiction and Mental Health.  McCain, the widow of New Brunswick food mogul Wallace McCain, stated that the money will be used to create the Margaret and Wallace McCain  Centre for Child, Youth and Family Mental Health.  Bravo!  I hope it inspires some other exceedingly wealthy citizens to make similar donations.

TO:  The Toronto Transit Commission for finally renovating and cleaning up its subway washrooms.  They were an absolute, filthy disgrace, especially the one at Yonge and Bloor.  It's about time that more attention is being paid to keeping them clean.  Why did it take the TTC so long, though?  We sure could use some more public washrooms on the subway lines too.

TO: Nicolas Sarkozy, President of France, for pandering to the extreme right-wing, anti-immigrant and xenophobic elements in his country. Sarkozy hope to gain their support in his bid for re-election.  His opportunistic bid to court the far-right, however, doesn't seem to be paying off.  In fact, it appears to have backfired on him. His chances of holding on to power in France's run-off election on Sunday, May 6 are fading.  Although Socialist Francois Holland's lead in the polls is narrowing, Sarkozy's actions have cost him the support of Centrist Framcois Bayrou who will vote for Hollande.  Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen also refuses to endorse Sarkozy and intends to cast a blank ballot.

TO: The Canadian government for giving such speedy approval to Conrad Black's application for a one-year temporary resident permit.  Although Prime Minister Stephen Harper denies that the former media baron was given special treatment, there is the  perception is that he was treated differently than others due to his wealth and his ties to Conservatives in high places. Although Conrad Black is not a violent criminal, he has been convicted of fraud and obstruction of justice.  The United States is deporting him now that he has completed his time in a Florida prison.  With much fanfare, he renounced his Canadian citizenship in 2001 in order to accept a British peerage.

The Montreal-born Black has made some highly derogatory comments about the country of his birth.  Now he is eager to return to Canada and talks of the possibility of regaining his Canadian passport.  He should be treated the same as anyone else who has renounced Canadian citizenship.  Conrad Black is the perfect example of a clever person who lacks wisdom.


How about those Baltimore Orioles?  It's still early in the season but the O's have really impressed under the stewardship of Buck Showalter who recently won his 1,000th game as manager.

When is Toronto Blue Jays manager John Farrell going to take Adam Lind out of  the fourth spot in the batting order?  Edwin Encarnacion is hitting like a house on fire.  He should be in that fourth spot right now. He is hitting .320 with 9 home runs.  Adam Lind, on the other hand, is hitting .193 with one home run.  It just does not make sense for Lind to remain in the cleanup spot.  He provides little protection for Jose Bautista and his record against left-handed pitchers is so bad that Farrell hasn't even been putting him in the lineup when the Blue Jays face a left-handed starting pitcher.  My intention is not to pick on Adam Lind.  He has worked hard to develop into a decent defensive first baseman and I respect him for that.  Yet he is a detriment to the team when he bats fourth.


I'm really not a big supporter of any of the teams remaining in the NHL playoffs.  Wouldn't it be strange, though,, if the Phoenix Coyotes should happen to win the Stanley Cup?.  NHL Commissioner for Life, Gary Bettman, would have to present hockey's Holy Grail to a team owned by the National Hockey League.  How long can the Coyotes remain in limbo when a beautiful new arena is being built for them in Quebec City?

- Joanne