19 Oct

Ode to a Full Moon Loon

Outside the Tim Hortons in Chippawa was a character pacing up and down
He was acting so strangely he could have passed for a clown

No one paid much attention as he made weird gestures to and fro
At times it looked like he was trying to imitate Marcel Marceau

Scruffy and unkempt, this was clearly not a professional endeavor
I don’t think his clothes have been washed ever

It would not be a stretch to suggest he was on welfare
Yet he had the money for a cigarette, maybe even a pair

There was a Medic-Alert bracelet on his wrist
Tobacco smoke must not be among the allergies on his list

Not since I left the SPRM have I seen such a loon
It was no surprise when I looked skyward and saw a full moon

16 Oct

Outing to the Distillery District

Yesterday, I joined six others from the St. Catharines Photographic Club in an outing to the Center of the Universe’s Distillery District. I had been to C.U. a number of times before, but this would mark my first visit to this particular corner of the universe’s center.

As those who know me would expect, I got a number of good highway shots en route.

Entering C.U.

Passing the Ricoh Coliseum, home of the AHL’s Toronto Marlies. Nearby is BMO Field, home of the Toronto Argonauts. Rumor has it they were playing yesterday. Not that many would notice or care. I figured they were playing the Farmers’ Republic of Saskatchewan since I spotted a few people milling about the Distillery District decked out in Riders gear later in the evening.


Passing the Rogers Center, née SkyDome.


At left is the Air Canada Center, home to a team in one of hockey’s major leagues.

Following an enjoyable drive that went much quicker than expected, I began exploring the area.


A group on a Segway tour. Watching them roll through the cobblestone streets, I couldn’t help but think of the late Lindor Reynolds, a former columnist with Socialism Illustrated who once interviewed me for a piece back in 2007. Reynolds fell and broke her pelvis while on a Segway in Minneapolis, and she later blew off a lot of steam in a self-serving column in which she unfairly laid the blame for her mishap entirely on the devices themselves.

But I digress.


Here was a magician at work. He was so good, in fact, that he must have made himself disappear. I later did spot him back at work, so he obviously knew how to make himself reappear as well.


Some urban art. I think.


An old truck.


As a non-coffee-drinker, it doesn’t brew my mind.


This was a particularly popular spot for selfies. All told, I probably saw more selfies taken around the Distillery District than in a typical visit to Niagara Falls.


Uber-trendy shops were everywhere, yet I hardly spotted anyone with shopping bags. The many people out and about were patronizing the bars and restaurants, taking pictures or getting married. I lost count of the number of wedding parties I saw around there through the course of the day and early evening.


It’s a good thing they put this sign in upper case to SHOUT at those hard of hearing.


Hook up with a Segway tour here.


Whatever this is, it reminds me of the giant spider outside the national art gallery in Ottawa.


Warm sake keeps you warm. Duh. I didn’t think it keeps you cold.

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Plenty of space for outdoor seating for those so inclined.


Enjoy your “macarons.”


This piece of artwork with a Leafs motif caught my eye.


For $20, you too can have a lock put up on this selfie magnet. That includes engraving.


Just beyond the entrance was a block-long line of taxis coming and going. This is a popular destination.


With some extra time, I took a stroll around the neigborhood, covering the Canary District on my way to Corktown Common. This particular shot comes from George Brown College.

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Elsewhere in the Canary District.

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Shots around Corktown Common, a park bordering a bike trail.


Forget about the animals, stop voting Liberal. But again, I digress.


This Tim Hortons-branded bicycle caught my eye. If they are indeed branching out into bike sales, I hope that means they’ll soon by offering more bike racks at their restaurants.


This shot was taken for the benefit of one former colleague. Those of you who are friends of mine on Facebook may have already seen it.


Neither the dogs nor their owners seemed to be paying much attention to this sign.

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More scenes around the Distillery District.


Look up. Look way up. So says the Friendly Giant.


This “treasure box” will set you back $38. Plus KST. No wonder there weren’t many people with shopping bags.


Many of the shops like this one were making an effort to cater to their customers who had a dog with them. There were a lot of dogs around, but in sharp contrast to what I’ve experienced in the SPRM, all of them were on a leash.

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I’ve seem them before, but I got these shots of a TTC streetcar. It still amazes me that Winnipeg got rid of them once upon a time. Not that I’m bitter or anything.


We took a break and had supper at the Mill Street Brewpub. The dining options around there were horrible, but it was the best of a bad lot, so rather than make the two block trek to a Subway, I opted to stay with the group. The fish and chips I had were all right, though it did leave an aftertaste, and of course, I didn’t partake in any alcoholic beverages. The real problem there was that they stacked up their customers like cordwood. You really did have to step outside to change your mind.

Perhaps the funniest moment of the day came when we were ordering. Our club president asked the waitress if a particular offering was good. Did she expect the waitress to say it was lousy?


After eating, I took a stroll on the west side between Parliament and Lower Sherbourne Streets. This shot was taken at a basketball court in front of a housing co-op.


This dry cleaner offers “taperring.”

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More scenes from the area. I took the shot of the fire hall for the benefit of one reader who I know will appreciate it.


Just in case you need to vacuum yourself.


A nice shot after the sun went down. The others, with skills and equipment far superior to mine, enjoyed the opportunity for some night photography.


The CN Tower lit up at night.

All in all, it was a long, but productive and enjoyable day. Thanks go out to Vic for organizing the event and to Steve, who got us there and back safely.

09 Oct

Random Thoughts – Thanksgiving, Manitoba Taxpayers Stadium

1. Thanksgiving wasn’t terribly important to me until I had Thanksgiving dinner with Carli Ward at Grace Hospice in 2007. She enjoyed the occasion immensely. So now, it is important to me.

2. Continuing on the Thanksgiving theme, I remain very thankful for being here in St. Catharines.

3. I am equally thankful for the fact that I am no longer a resident of the SPRM.

3a. Were I still a resident of the SPRM, I would be bitterly disappointed in the newly elected government of Brian Pallister, a conservative in name only. “NDP Lite” would be a better name for the party he leads.

3b. I am keeping my fingers crossed hoping I will not be disappointed in Patrick Brown if he is elected premier of Ontario in a couple of years time. There are times I have wondered if I was right in voting for him when he was running for the leadership.

4. Former Jet Teemu Selanne posted a tweet about looking forward to coming to Friendly Manitoba. The urban legend of “Friendly Manitoba” evidently still has life.

5. Paul Wiecek posted an interesting piece in today’s edition of Socialism Illustrated about declining attendance for Bomber games at Manitoba Taxpayers Stadium. One of the major factors he cited was the drunks in the stands. I certainly get that argument, but drunken, rowdy “fans” have been a staple at Bomber games since Bud Grant was stalking the sidelines, and hardly is even worth mentioning anymore.

If you’re thinking that maybe Winnipeggers have finally smartened up, you’re barking up the wrong tree. After all, there are still thousands of people paying to line up for the privilege of buying Chipman season tickets.

What I found laughable was club president Wade Miller’s assertion that the Bombers enforce a zero-tolerance policy for unruly fans. Give an Academy Award to anyone connected with that organization who can say such a thing with a straight face.

5a. While continuing to laugh at Miller’s assertion regarding unruly fans, I read how he figures the new Rapid Transit stop is going to magically woo people back. For any aspiring comedian looking to warm up a crowd in Winnipeg, there’s only two words you need to know. Rapid. Transit.

5b. The most interesting things in Wiecek’s article were the complaints regarding the crowded washrooms and concourse. Hmmm, maybe they should build a new stadium. Oh right, they already did. For all the public money they poured into that place, you’d think they could get something right.

01 Oct

IceDogs Home Opener

Thoughts and observations from before and during the IceDogs’ home opener last night:

1. Passing by a CIBC branch on the way downtown, I noticed a sign in the window promoting the fact that they now offer free WiFi. Why? It’s a bank, not a coffee shop.

2. Yesterday marked the fifth straight day that I had been out in which I spotted a license plate from the Old Country. There’s bound to be some meaning behind it, but I’m not sure what it is. Yet.

3. Though he wasn’t in the lineup last night, congratulations to Graham Knott on his signing with a team in one of hockey’s major leagues.

4. The bars and restaurants on St. Paul Street were again hopping before the game. From what I saw on the way, so was the LCBO. People were even hauling liquor on their bikes.

5. After so many years in the Old Country, it still felt kind of strange going to an OHL game, yet this is my third home opener since defecting two years ago. How time flies when you’re having fun.

6. I was not expecting the glass at the Meridian Center to have undergone its historic first cleaning. I’m not happy to be right. (eyeroll)

7. Good to see Horizon Utilities advertising again this year. In the business world, brand recognition is so important and it helps you stay one step ahead of your competitors. Oh right, they don’t have any. (eyeroll)

8. Speaking of advertising, I spotted this ad for a “medical pharmacy.” As opposed to a non-medical pharmacy?

9. When looking to go into the seating area, I stumbled upon a ramp not guarded by an usher, so I pounced on it. A wonderful stroke of luck I can only dream of for future games.

10. The tunnel leading to the IceDogs dressing room was, as expected, lined with many young fans-in-training. To their credit, before, during and after the game, each of the players high-fived any kid who extended his hand. Class.

11. Defenseman Liam Ham is one of many new players this season. I’m guessing he’s not either Jewish or an Adventist.

12. A Kingston Frontenacs uniform would be perfect for anyone wanting to dress up as a bumblebee for Halloween.

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13. As part of the pregame festivities, following the player introductions, the Eastern Conference championship banner was unveiled. It was just too bad so few of the players who led the team all the way to the finals were there to see it. Seeing all the familiar numbers worn by unfamiliar faces during the warmup, it really hit home how many have moved on. Welcome to junior hockey.

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14. It was a classy gesture to bring Matt Gillard out for the ceremonial pregame faceoff. For those who may have forgotten, Gillard fell into the boards early last season and broke one of the vertebrae in his spine, ultimately ending his playing career.

15. One thought kept going through my head during the pregame ceremonies. Turn. On. The. Lights.

16. Much to the delight of the IceDogs and the city, beer was flowing freely around me last night. The guy to my right had polished off two before the five-minute mark of the first period and it was much the same with the guy to my left. I wonder if the good folks at the NRP have considered roadside check stops after IceDogs games?

17. Seated three rows in front of me was someone with an IceDogs jersey bearing the number 5 on the back. Those of you who know me will understand the significance.

18. Seated at the end of the aisle one row in front of me was none other than Mayor Walter Sendzik. He was obviously not dressed for a political function and he really needs a shave. Also spotted in the concourse was one of his Liberal comrades, Jim Bradley, who is still rumored to be our MPP.

19. Right across from me was this ad from our local BMW dealership, reminding me of a good friend back in the Old Country. I miss him, but I don’t miss the Old Country.

20. Apparently, an IceDogs game is not complete without two self-serving introductions from the P.A. announcer. I fondly remember an earlier era when we didn’t even know who the P.A. announcer was.

21. That annoying band was back once again, but luckily, they were just as dead as the crowd was. As I was following them out, I felt like yelling, “Don’t come back!”

22. Oh by the way, there was a game. A dud. The IceDogs didn’t even score a goal. Even the fight was a dud. But being the cynical ex-Winnipegger that I am, I always seem to get more fodder out of a dud and this night proved to be no exception. Not that I want the home team to lose, mind you.

23. I don’t think there was one player wearing red who distinguished himself. It was a particularly rough second period for new starting goaltender Stephen Dhillon, who looked awkward and clumsy, much like his teammates. He needs to play more. A lot more.

24. Two of the more prominent and passionate fans in the building spent the second intermission snapping selfies. Before the game, they were handing out hand-made welcome signs for each of the new players, and each one was finger-licking good. I had a passion like that once. That was before I contracted Battered Fan Syndrome. It’s a disease I don’t think I’ll ever be able to shake, but it has opened up a whole new world of opportunity.

25. I was mildly surprised there wasn’t a full house on hand. Official attendance was announced as 4,707 and it may have been a bit inflated. My guess was between 4,200 and 4,300.

26. Early in the third period, as Aaron Haydon and former IceDog Cody Caron nearly came to blows, three kids went running up to the boards, pounded on the glass and started yelling “Fight! Fight! Fight!” For a moment there, I thought I was at a Fighting Moose game.

21 Sep

Random Thoughts – A Special Anniversary, Disappointment in Mayor Sendzik, Donald Trump’s Football Team

1. It was three years ago this week that I made what I publicly termed a “business trip” to St. Catharines. As those of you who know me know by now, it was, in fact, a scouting trip for a potential relocation. Less than a year later, I made the move and it’s turned out so much better than I could ever have imaged. Winnipeg, I’m not missing you at all.

2. Recently, our mayor, Walter Sendzik, invoked Allah’s name in extending well-wishes to members of the Muslim community for one of their holy events. This is the same mayor who eschews “Merry Christmas” in favor of the more politically correct “Happy Holidays” at the end of December. Very, very disappointed in you, Mr. Mayor.

3. On a similar note, how quickly do you think the NFL would act if Colin Kaepernick and his growing legion of anthem protesters were making offensive gestures about gays or Muslims rather than taking a knee during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner”?

4. Not that I give a rip about what happens at the upcoming Chipman Heritage Classic back in the Old Country, but for those of you shelling out a small fortune for the privilege of seeing the oldtimers game, it would be nice if the NHL edition of the real Jets would at least try to beat Gretzky and the Oilers. Just once.

5. Last night, I attended the WriteTricks event at Cowork Niagara in downtown St. Catharines. Left by the front door were a pair of heavy, fur-lined winter boots.

It was +26 C when I left the house and I was dripping with sweat by the time I got there. But some princess saw to it that her little tootsies didn’t get cold. As a good friend from the Old Country once said, the farther south you go, the wimpier they get about snow and cold.

6. Speaking of the Old Country, I keep spotting plates from that part of the world. On Monday, I saw one in downtown Welland and yesterday, I saw another one on Niagara Street here in St. Catharines. That place keeps following me around.

7. I am hoping to have two more books released before the end of the year. The first is a detailed week-by-week history of the USFL’s New Jersey Generals, the team owned by presidential hopeful Donald Trump. I followed the USFL and the Generals with as much passion as I did the Jets during those years and I’m grateful for the opportunity to finally be able to chronicle the team’s history like this.

The second book, much shorter, is called The Contented Cows: Diary of a bad IT job. Officially a work of fiction, it details an astonishing two-and-a-half month stint inside the IT department of a major credit union, complete with a dramatic, yet quite plausible ending. It will be a must-read for those of you in the IT field or in the financial services industry.

15 Sep

Bike Trip to Crystal Beach

Today, I covered 49.1 miles on two wheels in a bus-bike trip to Crystal Beach. For the benefit of those not familiar with the region, it’s located on Niagara’s south coast about midway between Port Colborne and Fort Erie.

Bright and early, I left the house and made my way to the St. Catharines Bus Terminal to catch the 7:05 #70 regional transit bus to Welland to give me a head start.

Unfortunately, the bus was 10 minutes late, but it was of little consequence to me. I noted with interest, however, that the driver was apologetic and was saying “Sorry for being so late” to each passenger. Once again, it sure beats the F-U attitude more commonly displayed in the Old Country. But I digress.

After getting to the Welland Transit Terminal, I made my way south along the trail to Port Colborne, then crossed the canal on Main Street.

I could have hooked up with the Friendship Trail linking Port Colborne to Fort Erie directly in town, but as most readers would expect, it wouldn’t be a proper bike trip for me without getting some highway pictures. So instead, I took Killaly Street east to the junction of Highway 3 in Gasline.

I know one reader will appreciate the name of this hamlet, as it would be a perfect retirement destination for a former colleague with a connection to the U.S. Postal Service who liked to treat us to plenty of his own gas.

After getting some shots of Highway 3, I turned south on Cedar Bay Road and followed the Friendship Trail to Gorham Road. Farther north, it’s known as Sodom Road and to the south it’s known as Ridgeway Road. It also carries the moniker of regional road 116. Take your pick.

I first headed north to get some shots of the junction at Highway 3, then turned around and headed for Crystal Beach.

As it says, the south coast of Canada.

A shot of the beach. Across the lake is the great state of New York.

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Shots around the park.

As I sat and ate my lunch, I gazed at the Buffalo skyline and recognized places and buildings I visited in a trip there less than a month ago.

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More shots around the park.

This is a shot of Point Abino and the lighthouse by the shore. Unfortunately, it’s a private community and the public is not normally allowed out there.

Homes by the shore, part of a gated community. Yes, access to the lake is a little limited.

For the benefit of one reader, the fire hall across from the Tim Hortons where I stopped.

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Rested, hydrated and fed, I returned to the Friendship Trail and headed west back to Port Colborne. It was my second time on the trail and it was like an Interstate highway for cyclists. As someone who has spent the bulk of his life in a cesspool so hostile to cyclists (and everyone else), I don’t think people in this part of the world fully appreciate how lucky they are to have resources like this in their own backyard.

Near downtown Port Colborne, I stopped for this shot before heading north to Welland to hook up with the regional transit bus once again. Once I got to the Welland Transit Terminal, I noticed a Welland Transit bus waiting, but I ignored it and instead waited for the regional transit bus. Fortunately, the driver noticed me standing there and explained that the Welland Transit bus was indeed the regional transit bus I was looking for. Every other time I had taken regional transit, it has been labelled as such, so for prospective riders out there, take note that you could be getting a local bus rather than a regional one. As the driver said to me, read the route number instead.

With my bike on board, I made it back safely and without incident. It was yet another quality experience I’ve come to expect from living here.

23 Aug

Return to Buffalo

Yesterday, I set out bright and early for what would be my 27th two-wheeled visit to the great state of New York since defecting from the SPRM just over two years ago. This day’s destination was a return trip to Buffalo after first visiting the city in May of last year.

Rather than tackle virtually the entire distance on my own, as I did last year, I crossed the Rainbow Bridge and caught a #40 Metro bus that took me into the heart of downtown Buffalo. Normally, the bus stops at the first light past the customs plaza, but on account of the congestion around the bridge at this time of year, I had to catch it a couple of blocks to the south at the Niagara USA Visitor Center. There is a sign to this effect at the stop, but no mention of an alternate location to catch it, so I had to rely on a printed schedule I had picked up at the visitor center on a previous trip. You can also download a PDF of the schedule from NFTA’s website.

The bus soon arrived and I loaded my bike on the front rack. The racks are slightly different than the ones some readers might be familiar with on the GO buses. First of all, the handle you have to squeeze to bring down the rack is quite finicky. On my return trip, the driver advised me to jiggle it around before squeezing the handle. Secondly, when loading your bike, rather than twist a handle to bring around a fixed metal bar to lock in your front wheel, there’s a spring-loaded bar you have to pull out to secure it. For a video on the procedure, check NFTA’s website.

Also on their website, NFTA states that about two-thirds of their buses are equipped with bike racks, but throughout my extensive travels in WNY, I have yet to see a Metro bus without one.

I then purchased a day pass for $5, but if you’re just going one way, the regular fare is $2. Note that they only accept U.S. currency. Sorry, no Canadian dollarettes.

Note that even when standing and waiting at a bus stop, you need to be attentive. If you show the slightest bit of disinterest, the driver will pass you by. NFTA operators are not in the business of reading your mind.

After taking my seat, the driver sped south across Grand Island and through Tonawanda, and I was quickly in downtown Buffalo. I swear they must recruit from the ranks of retired race car drivers. This isn’t Winnipeg Transit, where they often dawdle along.

One of my first targets was the First Niagara Center, home of the Buffalo Sabres. Outside the arena was the Tops Alumni Plaza, where they honor Sabres greats from the past. The statue out front honors the French Connection line, but I was disappointed to see no mention of former Jets goaltender Joe Daley, who once played in Buffalo.

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Nearby, on the site of the former Buffalo Memorial Auditorium, more commonly referred to as “the Aud,” was a statue of Tim Horton. Though today, he is noted for the wildly successful chain of coffee and donut shops bearing his name, he was a former NHL defenseman who last played for the Sabres before his death in 1974 right here in St. Catharines. Drunk as a skunk, he died in a one-vehicle accident on the QEW near the Lake Street exit.

The Tim Hortons location just across the street from the statue.

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Shots around the Canalside park. This is site of the former Aud and the concrete jungle in the background is the Buffalo Skyway and the adjacent interchange with I-190.

Across Main Street. In the distance to the right is the building which houses the offices of The Buffalo News.

As you would expect, it wouldn’t be a bike trip for me without getting shots of some highways, so I went for a short ride around the downtown area. One of the spots I ended up at was Niagara Square, right in front of City Hall.

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I can still picture Scott Norwood, the former Birmingham Stallions kicker who also played for the Bills, who tearfully dedicated the entire 1991 season to the city of Buffalo at this very spot. Little could I have imagined that one day I would actually be standing here.

With still much ground to cover, I returned to the Erie Canal Harbor Station to catch a Metro train.

At the station, I noticed this bike-sharing service, similar to what they have in Minneapolis, Hamilton and Toronto. Of late, I have been reading about Winnipeg’s thriving bike-sharing service, where nowadays, even one lock isn’t enough to keep your bike from being involuntarily shared with a scumbag. No, I don’t miss Winnipeg, if there are any readers left who still possess a shred of doubt.

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I wheeled my bike aboard at the wheelchair platform and went to the back to one of the two spots in each car designated for wheelchairs. Unlike the trains in Minneapolis, there are no racks, and you do have to hold on to your bike as it speeds through the tunnel between downtown and the University station.

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Inside the train.

The fare is the same as it is on Metro buses and there are machines where you can purchase tickets. It is free to ride above ground, but a paid fare is required farther north when it goes underground. As is the case with GO and in Minneapolis, it is policed largely on the honor system, though NFTA officers can ask to see your proof of payment. I still laugh when I think of how such a system would fail so miserably in Winnipeg.

After a short ride, I took my bike into the spacious elevator and returned to street level. From there, I proceeded north along US 62 to NY 324/Sheridan Drive, stopping for many highway pictures en route. Following a brief break at the Walmart in Amherst, I continued west along Sheridan Drive towards the South Grand Island Bridge, where I planned to reconnect with the #40 bus.

I had to stop here for a shot of the Amigone Funeral Home in the Town of Tonawanda. Not to be confused with the City of Tonawanda. Or the City of North Tonawanda.

I suspect it’s an Italian family name pronounced something like “am-eh-go-nee,” but it can be interpreted very differently when preceding a funeral home. If you’re the guest of honor, you don’t need to ask. You’re gone.

These giraffes tower over Adventure Landing, an amusement center.

I stopped for another breather here outside the Town of Tonawanda Aquatic and Fitness Center. For the record, I really don’t care who the town supervisor is.

From there, I continued west and didn’t have long to wait before the #40 bus came and took me back to Niagara Falls. I got off near the Rainbow Bridge, paid my 50-cent toll and waited in a long line with all the other tourist traffic.

The hour-long delay allowed me to get this shot from the bridge.

After clearing customs, I made it back home without incident, having packed a long and intensive experience into a few hours.

10 Aug

Geek Humor from the Past

For starters, if you’re not a techie, you probably won’t find much in the way of entertainment in this post. You’re certainly welcome to read on, but you’re not likely to get it.

Many years ago, while sitting at my desk one day, a colleague came to me and asked for my help. For the sake of discussion, let’s just call her Maria.

I followed her to her desk, where she showed me her screen. Flustered and deeply distraught over something that had clearly been troubling her for some time, she insisted that “something was wrong with the operating system.” On her screen, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw user32.dll, a Windows system file, open in Notepad.

Instead of sarcastically asking her what she could possibly hope to accomplish by editing this binary file, assuming Windows would even let her do it, I calmly asked her to take me through what she was doing. She said it all started when she ran some module in a Microsoft Access database, so I asked her to run the code.

She seemed a little reluctant, as if she was scared of causing further damage to her apparently fouled-up Windows installation, but she acceded to my request. The code ran until the debugger stopped at a function, where it gave her an error message. Not being familiar with the specific function, I asked her if she checked the help manual for the function.

Little could I have imagined that the concept of online help was quite the revelation to poor Maria, whose eyes lit up like Christmas trees when I pressed F1. Imagine. Product help. Hey, you learn something new every day. Googling the function also hadn’t entered her mind at all either.

A 15-second investigation revealed that one of the parameters was wrong, so after a simple fix, the code miraculously began to work. The operating system wasn’t corrupt after all.

You don’t say.

Now you might be thinking that big, bad Curtis is just being too hard on poor Maria. She’s probably a recent graduate, and who among us hasn’t made a silly mistake or two at that point of our careers? Everyone has to start somewhere.

And you might be right.

Except that Maria wasn’t a recent graduate. She was actually older and more experienced than I was, and I had more than a decade under my belt at the time. A recent graduate probably wouldn’t even have had enough knowledge to head for the Windows directory and open up user32.dll.

I’ve seen a lot during my multi-decade career in IT. Few top this one. The thought process that led an experienced developer from a misbehaving Access function to editing user32.dll in Notepad is probably something I don’t ever want to know.

29 Jun

Thoughts on Niagara GO

Yesterday, I was among the handful of non-politicians present as our MPP, Jim Bradley, and Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca made the “historic” announcement that GO train service will be coming to Niagara.

That was the good news.

The bad news?

St. Catharines and Niagara Falls won’t be seeing the trains until 2023. That’s seven years from now.


Despite the massive letdown, in an understatement of epic proportions, that leaves plenty of time for our local elected officials to lay out the necessary groundwork to make this new service a win instead of a setback.

First, there must be vastly improved transit service to the St. Catharines train station from both St. Catharines Transit and Niagara Region Transit. As things stand, it would probably take me longer to get to the train station than it does for the GO bus to take me from Fairview Mall to Burlington.

In a recent chat with the Standard, I posed the question to Mayor Sendzik as to when we could expect such plans to be announced if the much-anticipated GO service came. All I got was a politician’s non-answer. This is the time when the planning needs to get done, not two years after the trains start rolling.

Secondly, a full Presto rollout throughout the region’s many transit systems should be considered a must, along with a discounted co-fare for those coming from or transferring to the GO service. This is commonplace throughout the GTHA and it should be no different here.

Finally, lift the restrictions on taking bicycles on the train during peak times. I know this is more of a personal issue, but cycling is a lot more popular in this part of the world than it was in the SPRM. It is not just a much more accepted mode of transportation with the locals, but people come from all over the world to explore the region on two wheels. They can bring their bikes on the bus today and it should be no less permissible when the train comes, regardless of the time of day or day of the week.

You want to play with the big boys? Act like it.

There’s lots of time to get this right.

No excuses.

13 Jun

Return to Tiger Town

For the second year in a row, I made the trek to Hamilton for the open house at the Tiger-Cats’ new stadium.

As soon as I boarded the Barton bus after getting off the GO, I knew I wasn’t going to be alone as it was filled with fans, young and old, decked out in Ticats gear. CFL football may not have that strong of a following in this part of the world, but those who do follow the league are mighty passionate about it.

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Outside, there was a table where they were clearing out some of last year’s merchandise at heavily discounted prices. Evidently, Hamiltonians like their bargains as much as Winnipeggers do, as there was a mad rush to get in line for first crack at the goodies. Having a strong aversion to crowds, as they say in Texas, El Paso.

As was the case last year, there was no charge to get in, but this time around, they forced attendees to register and show their ticket at the gate. The lines moved agonizingly slow, and I’ve made it through the pat-down security at NFL games in Minneapolis faster than it took me to get through the gate on Sunday. I don’t know what the hold-up was, but I hope they clear up the problems if they do this again.

Once I was eventually let in, I took some shots around the south end before going up to the club level.

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The “Champions Club” is an impressive restaurant/bar where VIPs can sit and watch the game while enjoying their food and drink.

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Outside, I spotted the flags representing the Ticats’ two retired numbers. At left is Bernie Faloney’s #10 and at right is Angelo Mosca’s #68. After a Google search, I learned that Mosca lives right here in St. Catharines.

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I was also pleased to see more recognition of their proud past with the names of those on the Wall of Honor displayed inside the Champions Club.

Nearby was a dedicated “No Alcohol” section, and I would later spot another such section at the opposite corner of the stadium. Having been treated to some horrid experiences at Winnipeg Stadium back in the 1980s, I would be curious to see if there was the same rowdy, out-of-control atmosphere here as there was in Winnipeg. Maybe one of these days, I’ll actually go to a game and find out.

I spotted this guy on the west side concourse. You think he’s a fan?

Later, once we were allowed on the field, he went to see quarterback Zach Collaros.

On the east side is the steam whistle they blow before every game.

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There’s undoubtedly some history behind it that I’ll have to look into one of these days.

At noon, they let us on the field and we were free to roam at will for the next hour.

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I wasn’t aware Brantford was in line for a CFL franchise.

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Many players were stationed along the sidelines and fans could line up for the chance to meet them. Not surprisingly, the line to see Collaros was the longest.

I continued on over towards the alumni table. I would have been quite interested in meeting some of the greats of years past were I a long-tenured fan of the franchise. But I’m not.

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Jeremiah Masoli, who eventually became the starting quarterback after the midseason injury to Collaros.

Chad Owens, who came over from C.U. during the off-season. “Argos Suck” was a familiar line I saw and heard during the day.

One of the mascots.

Luke Tasker, the son of Buffalo Bills’ great Steve Tasker.

Mike Filer, the team’s starting center, takes the stage for an interview.

Having covered the field several times, it was time to return home. I’m not sure I’ll go if they have an open house next year, but it was nice of the team to offer us the opportunity to look around and I was glad I made the trip.