Friday, April 21, 2017

Feds abolish tax credit on transit passes

In its 2017 budget, the federal government turned its back on frequent transit riders by doing away with a 15-per-cent tax credit on transit passes.  This is a serious error and it sends the wrong message to Canadians.  Our government should be be supporting transit use, not discouraging it.  What a bonehead decision!  Does this government really want to create more traffic congestion in Canada's largest urban centres?  Does it wish to increase air pollution levels in our major cities?  Does it intend to place more financial burden on middle income and lower income people?  This doesn't make sense. It's not logical and its not reasonable.
In Toronto, where I live, the cost of a TTC Metropass is currently $146.25 per month.  Residents of Canada's largest city must pay $1,755.00.for 12 monthly passes a year.  That's a hefty sum for low income earners.  It is simply not affordable for many.  The tax rebate, introduced in 1996 (ironically by a conservative government) has been of much benefit to frequent transit users.  It means a saving of $21,94 for one pass and a saving of $263.25 annually.  Why then. has a more progressive government decided to abolish it?

The fact is that fare increases discourage people from using public transit.  The removal of the tax credit will discourage them further.  So, what is the government trying to achieve with this unexpected and unwelcome measure?  Why is it penalizing transit users when it ought to be rewarding them?

The federal government must rethink and reverse this egregious measure.  Its budget allotted money for affordable housing and child care.  Yet, it dealt a blow to frequent transit riders, particularly in Canada's two most populous cities, Toronto and Montreal, whose combined metro populations account for over 10.4 million of Canada's 36 million people.

More than 6.4 people live in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).  Our federal government's decision will affect public transit agencies across the GTA, not just in the City of Toronto.  It's important to to remember that the large number of transit riders who reside in the region surrounding Toronto will also be ineligible for the tax rebate on the passes they purchase.

Along with the GTA, the population of Metropolitan Montreal is also expanding and has surpassed the four million mark. Monthly STM passes cost $82 dollars and weekly passes sell for $25.50, significantly less than Toronto's Metropass.  Public transit patrons in Ontario pay an inordinate amount of the cost of operating their transit services.  Now the government is taking away their much-needed tax credit.  Instead of abolishing the public transit tax rebate, it should be increasing it
to 20%.  

For low income Canadians, many of whom are job seekers, the cost of a public transit pass is already unaffordable.  The federal government is making it more difficult for middle class transit users by cancelling their transit tax break.

As a Toronto resident and a strong supporter of public transportation, I am extremely disappointed in the TTC.  Its standard of service is unacceptable.  It does not deliver on two of the most important criteria of a public transportation.  The TTC is not reliable and it is not affordable.  There are constant delays and service disruptions and fares are exorbitant.  In addition, there are not enough stations with washrooms.  I am a Metropass holder and use the system quite often.  I'd like to invite some Members of Parliament, especially cabinet ministers, to join me on a ride on the TTC, the Prime Minister too.  Hey Justin, want to ride the subway with me (incognito of course)?  Then you'd catch a glimpse of how ordinary Canadians live.  I'll even show you the homeless people in the subway stairwells.  You can wait for a shuttle bus with me when service is shut down at several stations.

- Joanne

Monday, April 17, 2017

Top Homes in Movies

Here is an infographic on some of the most prominent homes in films   The Tara Plantation from Gone With the Wind. is just one example of the iconic movie houses profiled in this graphic.  The homes are profiled according to their outstanding features, their worth and the success of the film. I hope you find this informative and entertaining.

- Joanne

Top Movie Houses by Cast Iron Radiators 4u
Top Movie Houses by Cast Iron Radiators 4u.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Some Easter musings and quotations

“We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.” (Romans 6:9)

Today is Easter Sunday, a much-needed day of joy and renewal.and hope. It is also a time of of joy and hope for those of the Jewish faith as they celebrate the feast of the Passover.  The divisions in the world today are of grave concern.  The rise of far-right movements that spread hate and bigotry is deeply troubling.  The very future of our planet is at stake. Climate change deniers must be challenged, as must politicians who build fences, not bridges.  These are serious moral issues not just for Christians, but for those of every religious persuasion, and for non-believers too.

Just as winter gives way to spring, death must give way to new life.  That is why Easter and Passover are spring feasts.

Easter is…
Joining in a birdsong,
Eying an early sunrise,
Smelling yellow daffodils,
Unbolting windows and doors,
Skipping through meadows,
Cuddling newborns,
Hoping, believing,
Reviving spent life,
Inhaling fresh air,
Sprinkling seeds along furrows,
Tracking in the mud.
Easter is the soul’s first taste of spring.

- Richelle E. Goodrich, American author
From Making Wishes: Quotes, Thoughts & a Little Poetry for Every Day of the Year

Spring is when you feel like whistling even with a shoe full of slush.

- Doug Larson (1926 - ), American journalist

Then came the healing time, hearts started to shine, soul felt so fine, oh what a freeing time it was.” 

- Aberjhani (1957 - ), American-born author. poet, novelist and historian 
From Songs from the Black Skylark zedPed Music Player

The joyful news that He is risen does not change the contemporary world.  Still before us lie work, discipline, sacrifice.  But the fact of Easter gives us the spiritual power to do the work, accept the discipline, and make the sacrifice.  

~Henry Knox Sherrill (1890-1980), American Episcopalian clergyman

If Easter says anything to us today, it says this: You can put truth in a grave, but it won't stay there.  You can nail it to a cross, wrap in winding sheets and shut it up in a tomb, but it will rise!

- Clarence W. Hall, Christian author

Every parting is a foretaste of death, a every reunion a foretaste of resurrection.

- Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), German philosopher

I think of the garden after the rain; 
And hope that my heart comes singing.  
"At morn the cherry-blossoms will be white,
And the Easter bells be ringing!"

- Edna Dean Proctor (died 1923), American poet
From the poem Easter Bells

Happy Easter from Number 16 and a Happy Passover to those of the Jewish faith.

- Joanne

Monday, April 10, 2017

Easter Quiz

How much do you know about people, things and events associated with the great feast of Easter. Test your knowledge by completing the 11-question quiz below.  Good luck.


1.  What date does Easter Sunday fall on in Western Christianity?

A.  Easter falls on the same day every year.

B.  Easter falls on the second Sunday of April.

C.  Easter falls three days after the Jewish Passover.

D.  Easter falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after March 21st, and no later than April 25th.

E.  Easter falls on even numbered dates between March 21st and April 25th; that is March 22, March 24, March 26th etc.  After April 24th, it reverts to March 21st.

2.  Where is Easter Island?

Easter Island

A.  New Zealand

B.  Mozambique in Southeast Africa

C.  Southeastern Pacific Ocean

D.  Gal├ípagos Islands, Ecuador, South America

E.  The Philippines

3.  According to the Gospel of Matthew, Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus for what price?

Judas Iscariot
A.  30 pieces of gold

B.  30 pieces of silver

C.  50 pieces of gold

D.  50 pieces of silver

E.  A gold ring and a piece of land

4.  What prisoner was released instead of Jesus?

A.  Bartholomew

B.   Matthias

C.   Barnabas

D.  Barabbas

E.   Malchus

5.  Who starred in the in the 1948 film Easter Parade?

A.  Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers

B.  Fred Astaire and Judy Garland

C.  Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland

D.  Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney

E.  Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds

6.  Who wrote the song Easter Parade?

A.  Irving Berlin

B.  Cole Porter

C.  George Gershwin

D.  George M. Cohon

E.  Richard Rodgers

7. According to the Gospels of the New Testament, which one of the twelve Apostles denied Jesus three times?

A.  Andrew

B. Judas

C.  John

D. Thomas

E.  Peter

8.  What was the name of the hill where Jesus was crucified?

A.  Golgotha

B.  Gethsemane

C.  Gideon

D.  Ararat

9. What is a hot cross bun?

A.   A special pastry roll that is traditionally eaten on Good Friday.  It has little crosses etched into it.

B.   A thick pretzel in the shape of a cross that is eaten during Lent.

C.  A spiced sweet bun, traditionally eaten on Good Friday.

D.  The term is used in a riddle.  The answer to the riddle is "an angry Easter bunny."

E.   None of the above

10.  What is the name of the Charlie Brown Easter television special?

A.  Happy Easter, Charlie Brown!

B.  It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown

C.  Charlie Brown's Great Easter Egg Hunt

D.  A Charlie Brown Easter

E.  Charlie Brown's Easter Parade

11.  Who wrote the Easter hymn "Christ the Lord is Risen Today."

A.  Martin Luther

B.  John Calvin

C.  Charles Wesley

D.  John Knox

E.  John Wesley


1.  D

Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox (March 21st.)  Easter is delayed by one week if the full moon is on Sunday, which lessens the chances of it falling on the same day as the Jewish Passover.  According to the Bible, Jesus’ death and resurrection occurred around the time of the Passover festival, which was celebrated on the first full moon following the vernal equinox.

The earliest date that Easter can occur is March 22nd and the latest is April 25th.  Easter last occurred on April 25th in 1943 and will next occur on April 25th in the year 2038.

2.  C

Easter Island is a remote island in the Southeastern Pacific Ocean.  It is a territory of Chile and is inhabited by a population of 5,800 (2012 Chilean Census), The 2016 projected population was 6,600).  It was named Easter Island by Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen.  Roggeveen landed there on Easter Sunday, April 5, 1722

The majority of Easter Island's inhabitants are descendants of the Aboriginal Rapa Nui.  The island is famous for its monumental statues, called moai. The statues were created by the early Rapa Nui people.  Easter Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

3.  B.

According to the Gospel of Matthew, Judas accepted a bribe of 30 pieces of silver.

Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, "What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?"  And they paid him 30 pieces of silver.  And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him. (Matthew 26: 14-16)

4.  D.

"Give us Barabbas!", from The Bible and its Story Taught by One Thousand Picture Lessons, 1910

Barabbas was freed rather than Jesus.  According to the New Testament gospels (Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, John 18), it was a Jewish custom to release a prisoner at Passover time.  Given the choice of freeing Barrabbas, a convicted criminal, or Jesus, the Jerusalem mob chose to release Barrabbas.  Mark writes that Barabbas "had been guilty of murder during the rebellion."  Luke says that "Barabbas was a man who had been thrown into prison for raising a revolt in the city."  John refers to Barabbas as "a robber."

5.  B.

Fred Astaire and Judy Garland starred in the 1948 MGM musical Easter Parade.  The highly successful film won the 1948 Academy Award for Best Original Music Score.

6.  A
Irving Berlin

The great Irving Berlin (1888-1989) composed the music for Easter Parade.  Berlin also composed God Bless America and White Christmas.

7.  E

Peter denied Jesus three times.  Jesus had predicted that Peter would betray him three times before the rooster crowed.

8.  A

According to the Bible, Jesus was crucified at a mount called Golgotha, just outside of Jerusalem's walls.  Golgotha is an Aramaic word meaning "the skull."  The Latin form of the word is Calvary.

9.  C.

A hot cross bun is a spiced sweet buns containing dried fruit such as raisins or currants. Hot cross buns are marked with a cross on top.  In many countries, they are traditionally eaten on Good Friday. The cross. of course, represents the crucifixion of Jesus.  The spices represent the spices used to embalm Christ.

10.  B

It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown is a Peanuts TV special that first aired on April 9, 1974 on the CBS Network.  In the story, Linus informs the Peanuts Gang that they do not have to get ready for Easter.  He claims that the Easter Beagle will take care of everything.

11.  C

Charles Wesley
Rev. Charles Wesley (1703-1791) was an English theologian and one of the leaders of the Methodist movement. Wesley was also a prolific hymn writer.  He wrote "Christ the Lord is Risen Today" in 1739, in celebration of the first service of London's first Wesleyan Chapel. This chapel was called the Foundry Meeting House,

- Joanne

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Judas Iscariot: Was the man who betrayed Christ a revolutionary?

"Up until that moment of betrayal, Judas seems no better or worse than any of the other disciples.
But he has been defined by the worst thing he did.  What Judas did is not OK, but I think he holds up a very important mirror to our own human condition."

- Rev. Kate Bottley, Church of England cleric

Judas Iscariot is notorious for his betrayal of Jesus Christ, but what else do we really know about the man and his motivations. Was he a greedy, mercenary human being who sold his soul for financial gain, or is there much more to the story?  This Easter season, I decided to delve into whatever is known about Judas and try to find some answers.    

According to the Christian Bible, Judas was one of the twelve original apostles of Christ and he was the son of Simon of Queroth.  His surname, "Iscariot," may mean "Man from  Queroth, " a town many scholars believe to have been in the territory of Judea, based on a reference in the Book of Joshua.  That would mean make Judas an outsider, the only one of the Twelve from Judea. All the others were from Galilee, as was Jesus.

Encyclopaedia Britannica states that Judas' surname may be a variation of the Latin sicariou ("murderer"), rather than an indication of his family origin, the implication being that Judas may have belonged to a highly radical group of Jewish assassins - the Sicarii.  The Sicarri were a splinter group of Jewish Zealots who strongly opposed the Roman occupation of Judea.  Their aim was to expel the Romans and their supporters from the area and they were known for concealing scae (small daggers) in their cloaks.  They drew out their daggers to attack Romans and Hebrew Roman sympathizers in public places, then blended into the crowd to evade detection.

Some contemporary historians, however, have rejected the theory that Judas was a Siccarri.  They point out that Josephus, a first-century Romano-Jewish scholar and historian, in The War of the Hebrews, mentions the appearance of Sicarri as a new occurrence during the tenure of Felix (the chief financial officer of the province of Judea from 52 to 60 A.D.).  This was well after Judas' death (circa 30 A.D.).

According to Dr. Sean Martin, a biblical scholar at the Aquinas Institute in St. Louis, Missouri, "Iscariot sounds like sicarius, but it's not the same word,"  He points out that the Sicarii didn't reach their peak until the years after Jesus was crucified, making it improbable that Judas was one of them.

In the canonical Gospels, information about Judas is sketchy.  He is always presented last on the list of Apostles.  He was their treasurer, and according to the Gospel of John, a dishonest one.  In John 12:6, Judas is introduced as a thief,  He uses his trusted position to embezzle the resources of the disciples.

". . . as he had the money box he used to take what was put into it."

According to the Gospel of John, at the Last Supper, Jesus predicted that Judas would be his betrayer. (John 13:26).

 "Jesus answered, 'It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.  Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon."

According to the Gospels of Matthew and Mark and Luke, Judas betrayed Jesus by identifying him with a public kiss.  In Mathew and Mark, the kiss occurs in a place identified as the Garden of Gethsemane. In Mark:14, Gethsemane is described as an olive grove.  Although Luke does not name the Garden of Gethsemane, he writes that Jesus went to the Mount of Olives, where the betrayal occurred.

John's Gospel, however, records that Jesus entered a garden near the Kidron Valley with his disciples. John does not name the garden, but says that Jesus and his disciples frequented the garden and that Judas knew it well.  In John's account, no kiss is mentioned, only that "Judas came, accompanied by the guard, and officers sent by the chief priests and Pharisees, with lanterns and torches and weapons."

Below is a photo of The Arrest of Christ (Kiss of Judas) (1304-06), a fresco by Giotto.  It is currently located in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, Italy.

According to the Gospel of Matthew, Judas bitterly regretted his betrayal of Christ for which he received thirty pieces of silver from the chief priests. Filled with remorse, he threw down the thirty pieces of silver in the temple and hanged himself.  Matthew relates that the chief priest retrieved the silver and purchased a Potter's Field.

And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself.  The chief priests took the pieces of silver and said, “It is not lawful to put them into the temple treasury, since it is the price of blood.”  And they conferred together and with the money bought the Potter’s Field as a burial place for strangers. (Matthew 25: 5-7).

Here is the account of Judas' death according to the Acts of the Apostles, written by St. Luke,

(Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)  (Acts: 1: 18-19).

Below is a photo of what is believed to be the "Field of Blood."  It is located in Jerusalem and its soil is composted of rich, red clay.  Until the 19th century, it was used as a burial place for non-Jews.

Some Biblical scholars argue that there is not contradiction between the two accounts of Judas' death. They contend that just because Luke writes that Judas fell headlong and burst open, doesn't mean that he died then.  He could have collapsed and split open after hanging himself.

Was Judas the traitor he has been made out to be?  Was he really a villain or was he misguided and misunderstood?  Some Church of England clerics have argued that he was misunderstood.  Reverend Kate Bentley, who has researched his life for a BBC documentary called In the Footsteps of Judas, was quoted in a March 16, 2016 article by Matt Payton in The Independent,  Rev. Bentley stated: "This is not to say ‘Oh Judas, he’s all right really’, what we are saying is perhaps there is something else to this character than that kiss and that betrayal.  I don’t think any of the other disciples were whiter than white - we just probably didn’t hear about it because they were all human and we are all a bit messed up."

The Right Reverend Nick Baines, Bishop of Leeds, views Judas as a staunch revolutionary whose goal was to help Jesus incite a popular uprising that would oppose Roman rule in Palestine.  In an interview with Radio Times, Bishop Baines admitted that "I feel a bit sorry for Judas."  "Judas had invested himself in the revolutionary leadership of Jesus of Nazareth … only to find himself let down, the bishop declared.  "Trying to force the hand of the Messiah didn’t work and, instead of provoking the ultimate uprising against Roman rule, the glorious leader simply let himself get nailed without resistance.  No wonder Judas got upset."

So, was Judas a radical who thought Jesus would assist him in liberating the Jewish people by ousting the Romans from Palestine?  Did he not realize until after Jesus' arrest and crucifixion that Jesus was not concerned with establishing a kingdom of this world?  Was he angry because Christ was not the Messiah he had counted on?  Was that the reason for his betrayal?

Some academics, such as Dr. Dennis Smith, who teaches New Testament at Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa, Oklahoma, dismiss this theory of Judas as a revolutionary.  Dr. Smith considers it a legitimate theory, but he still can't accept it.  However, other scholars, such as Dr. N.T. Wright, a leading British New Testament authority, don't discount it entirely.   According to Dr. Wright, "There's an outside chance it's true - 25 percent at the most."

There is a lack of proof to to support the claim that Judas Iscariot was a radical or that he belonged to a terrorist group.  He very likely resented the Roman presence in Judea and he may have been disappointed that Jesus was not interested in earthly politics.

Biblical evidence suggests that even before his betrayal of Jesus, Judas was no paragon of virtue. Still, it is almost impossible to know the complete mindset of a person who lived over two thousand years ago.  Judas may not have been a saint, but he was certainly human.  He was guilty of the same faults that many of us have, such as greed and dishonesty.

- Joanne