Category Archives: Uncategorized

19 Feb

Return to Pearson Airport

Yesterday, I made another voyage to the universe’s center, this time making a return trip to Pearson Airport, the place I first touched down as a new Ontario resident following my momentous defection from the SPRM more than two and a half years ago.

Bright and early, as always, I boarded the #12 bus at Fairview Mall for the all too familiar trek to Burlington. It turned out to be a perfect time to go, since there were so few people on the bus and traffic was so light on the QEW. At least on the way there.


The dungeon leading to track 3.


It would go up to +15 on this day, yet they still apparently needed the proverbial ton of salt. You can never, it seems, put down enough salt in this part of the world. Sometimes I wonder why the salt trucks aren’t out in the middle of July.


As the Lakeshore West train was pulling up to the platform, I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw a 20-something woman shivering as if it was -45, like they had in the Old Country this winter. These people just don’t know how lucky they are not to have suffered through such bitter cold. And on two wheels, like I have.


Aboard the train was this highly offensive ad from CBC Radio. It wasn’t the ad specifically, but the fact that it came from one of the world’s leading purveyors of left-wing political propaganda. I certainly hope GO reconsiders and refuses to accept advertising from such revulsive sources.


From Union Station, following a short break, I made for the subway station.


The entrance to the subway station.

Union, like all the other stations in the system, now accepts PRESTO cards, but for those who don’t have one or haven’t heard of PRESTO, you can pay with cash at the booth.


Waiting for the subway.


Minutes later, the subway came, and I got off to change to the #2 line at the St. George station. For the benefit of those who haven’t taken the subway and need to transfer to a different line, there is always an announcement to that effect when approaching a connecting station.


From there, I proceeded down the escalator, where the #2 was waiting for me. Yes, there are multiple levels underground. I know of at least one reader who is bothered by that concept.


Aboard the #2 line, I made myself comfortable as it made its way westward toward the Kipling station, the western terminus of the line.


Back up at street level, there were platforms for many bus routes, including one for the 192 Airport Rocket, an express route to Terminal 1 at Pearson Airport. There was even a bus waiting, but first, I took off on foot to get some highway pictures of 427 a short distance away.

During my hour-long diversion, I managed to avoid getting accosted by some Jehovah’s Witnesses who were canvassing the area around Bloor Street and got some excellent shots, soon to appear on a website near you.

I then returned to the Kipling station and caught the Airport Rocket bus. All TTC buses now accept PRESTO and, like many OC Transpo buses in Ottawa, you can even board in the rear if you are paying with PRESTO. Being at the Kipling station, however, you can’t even get to the platform without paying, so it was all academic.

As the name of the route suggested, after putting on his seat belt, the driver then rocketed north on 427 before meandering around the airport until reaching ground level at Terminal 1.


While there, I toured around at got some pictures. When flying to and from the universe’s center in the past, I had only been in Terminal 3, so this part of the adventure was all new.


Of note in this shot was the booth for the Peel Regional Police. For those who are not aware, Pearson Airport is actually located in Mississauga, not Toronto.

Next, I followed the signs to the link train, a free service which takes passengers to and from Terminal 3 and the attached Sheraton Hotel.


There are two sets of tracks and seats inside each car for the short trip between terminals. As shown in the first shot, the arrival times are pegged to the second.


Inside Terminal 3, I toured around before stopping for a break, not coincidentally, by the Niagara Airbus check-in desk by Door C.


There, I could not help but think back to the 2013 trip when I came St. Catharines for the first time to investigate the possibility of relocating to the city. It was in front of this desk where I sat wondering lay in store and whether or not this dream would ever become reality. As loyal readers are well aware, less than a year later, it did.

Following the break, I returned to Terminal 1 via the link train, then took the much-heralded UP Express train back to Union. At $9 for PRESTO users, it is a little more pricey than the $3 subway fare, but it gets you back to Union in only 25 minutes, and without having to change subway lines.


Inside, there are special luggage storage areas, plugs and complimentary Wi-Fi. There are even pull-down trays, just like on an airplane. Regrettably, announcements are made in Canadian and Quebecese and, unlike the case on GO trains, staff come around to verify tickets. In the case of PRESTO users, they scan your card to check that you did indeed tap on before you boarded.


Leaving Terminal 1.


Once at Union, simply follow the signs to guide you through the maze. In addition to the walkway to catch a GO train, VIA train or TTC subway line, there is also a walkway to the Toronto Convention Center.

Before returning home, I needed to visit a couple of places, so I exited via Front Street, where I spotted a pair of homeless people sitting on the sidewalk holding a sign that read, “Homeless and hungry, any little bit helps.” They didn’t have money for food, but they did have money for cigarettes. But, as someone once said to me, I just don’t understand the real issues behind poverty.

Moving on, I returned to Union and caught what was a crowded Lakeshore West train back to Burlington in enough time to catch the 2:54 #12 bus back to St. Catharines.


As you can see, I was certainly not the only one waiting for the bus. Maybe one of these days, GO will increase the frequency of this route. Though our mayor seems convinced otherwise, I’m not sure the daily train service to Niagara will become reality any time soon.

Decompressing after a long day, what was probably the most humorous part of the trip began when a retired steelworker with a faint odor of alcohol on his breath got on at Stoney Creek and sat next to me. We began talking and when I told him I was originally from Winnipeg, he began talking about his relatives in Chilliwack, BC, almost as if I was supposed to know them. As I’ve observed more than once since moving here, “out West” is just some small place on the fringe of the Earth where everyone more or less knows each other. In many respects, people from Southern Ontario are like Americans, whose only knowledge of Canada consists of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, and assume every Canadian lives in or near one of those three cities.

It got even funnier when I was mentioning the bitter cold in Winnipeg, which he began to equate with the climate in Chilliwack. Of course Winnipeg and Chilliwack have the same climate. Didn’t you know that? I’ll take this opportunity to pause and allow you to finish laughing hysterically before proceeding.

As we got closer to St. Catharines, as part of his life story, he mentioned that his father has “Altheimer’s.” Well, whatever that is. I hope it’s nothing like Alzheimer’s.

That conversation certainly proved to be the perfect way to cap off what was an interesting little mini-holiday.

16 Feb

Random Thoughts – Winnipeg Transit, Our Mayor, Salt, The Leftist Elite

1. If you haven’t heard, a Winnipeg Transit driver was fatally stabbed at the end of his run at the U of M this week. As someone who frequently used public transit in that part of the world, it certainly hit home for me. For all I know, I may very well have had that driver on one or more trips.

Not to make light of someone’s passing, but I nearly laughed when I heard that police called this a “very rare event.” This just in. Winnipeg is the violent crime capital of Canada. It’s not safe off the bus. It’s not safe on the bus. I remember a bygone era when I waited for a bus in a bad neighborhood and was relieved when the bus finally showed up. Today, the real danger comes when you get on the bus.

I understand why this was a crime that shocked people in and out of Winnipeg, but thinking about it, the only surprise is that it hasn’t happened long before now.

1a. Don’t you wish the judges who kept letting the suspect, a thug with a record as long as his arm, back out on the street after repeated probation violations were held personally accountable?

2. Speaking of the Old Country, it looks like another season is circling the drain for the Mark Chipman Personal Hockey Club. As Chipman continues to lazily squander his customers’ passion and hard-earned money, not to mention taxpayers’ money, even after all this time, people in that part of the world still rush to defend him. To coin a phrase, you get the owner you deserve.

3. After delivering his sanctimonious lecture on hate and intolerance, I’m still waiting for Mayor Sendzik to hold a vigil for the young girls at the West Edmonton Mall who were sexually assaulted by a  Syrian migrant. But I won’t hold my breath. You see, according to the Liberal narrative, some victims are more equal than others. Case and point, M-103.

3a. I fondly remember a bygone era when our mayor spoke of jobs. Opportunity. Growth. He sure has changed, and not for the better.

4. Rumor has it some CBC radio host passed away recently. Again, I don’t mean to make light of anyone’s passing, but if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

5. There is so much salt on our streets and sidewalks right now that if we were to get hit with any significant snowfall between now and, say, December, they should not need to apply any more. Case and point, I spotted a city truck parked on the side of a busy street recently. No less than three guys were out there shoveling salt out of the back of the pickup onto someone’s sidewalk like it was going out of style. This truly is the Great Salt Republic.

6. Rumor has it the IceDogs have been getting sellouts for a few of their recent home games. I haven’t been at a game for a while, but judging from the pictures I’ve been seeing from the team’s official photographer, many of those “fans” have been coming dressed as empty seats. Or maybe Wile E. Coyote is standing by the Rankin Gateway tossing some of his unused invisible paint on unsuspecting passers-by on their way in. The puffing of attendance figures doesn’t appear to be as bad as it was during the Fighting Moose era, but as they say, something’s rotten in the state of Denmark.

6a. As tensions between the IceDogs and SMG percolate behind the scenes, count me as one of those who would not be sorry to see the latter get turfed for reasons I’ve already covered many times.

7. Dear leftist elites: The more you censor those you disagree with and cover up facts, the more suspicious we become of those you are desperately aiming to protect.

7a. I love what Donald Trump has done so far since assuming the presidency.

07 Jan

Random Thoughts – Our Mayor, Donald Trump, the Old Country Library and More

1. After hearing his remarks at the New Years Day Levee, I continue to grow disillusioned with Mayor Sendzik. He remains an outstanding booster for our city, but he’s seemingly trying too hard to curry favor with his fellow Liberals. The endless droning about First Nations, his tired vision of a “compassionate city” and the oft-repeated story about Frank, the homeless man, would have been better suited for a Liberal party meeting.

1a. If he had spent any length of time living in the SPRM as I have, I dare say Mayor Sendzik would not have mentioned the First Nations in his speech.

2. I think Mayor Sendzik is also growing increasingly disillusioned with the job. He appeared visibly frustrated at the first dual-duty councillor forum, and though he tries to hide it, the petty minutiae appear to be getting to him.

3. I will not be surprised if Mayor Sendzik seeks a federal or provincial seat under the Liberal banner within the next decade.

4. As the federal Conservative leadership race heats up, Lisa Raitt sent out a divisive email attacking her opponents who allegedly have divisive policies. Strike her off my list.

4a. As things stand now, my vote goes to either Maxime Bernier or Andrew Scheer.

5. As Donald Trump prepares to assume the awesome duties of the presidency, with his outspoken nature, I expect his time in office will be most noted for empowering the people to speak out and reclaim their country from the liberal elitists rather than for anything he does in the Oval Office.

6. During my countless hours at the downtown library back in the Old Country doing research for my Jets, Fighting Moose and Generals books, I saw many so many oddities there that people in this part of the world can’t possibly appreciate. None, however, topped what happened this week, when a would-be Geronimo tumbled four floors to his eventual death.

6a. More noteworthy is that the Winnipeg Police Service appeared to treat the man’s death as a reportable offense.

7. Former Jet Scott Campbell penned another article in Socialism Illustrated this week, highlighting how the improving Leafs could teach the Chipman franchise a few things. Not surprisingly, he conveniently failed to mention the underlying reason why the Leafs are doing better than the Chipman franchise. The Leafs are run by skilled and respected hockey men. The Chipman franchise is run by a used car salesman and a professional tax collector.

7a. I respect all that Campbell did as a player, but his naïveté is palpable.

8. Speaking of Socialism Illustrated, isn’t it interesting how they’re hammering Brian Pallister for being in Costa Rica, yet they remain silent as our adolescent prime minister/ex-drama teacher travels the world on our dime? But the media isn’t biased, right?

08 Dec

Random Thoughts – Snow in the Old Country, CPC Leadership and More

Some thoughts on recent events:

1. For the record, I wasn’t happy to hear of the massive snowstorm that ripped through my former neck of the woods this week. That said, seeing the pictures made me even more pleased to no longer be living there. If that’s possible.

2. Though I have a keen interest in the CPC leadership race, I haven’t watched any of the debates as yet. I’m waiting until the number of candidates dwindles to single digits.

2a. Maxime Bernier, Andrew Scheer, Lisa Raitt and Erin O’Toole are my early favorites, in that order. Subject to change. I am maintaining an open mind.

2b. If only I didn’t have other commitments on the day Bernier came to Niagara. I would have loved to have heard what he had to say.

2c. I like some of what Kellie Leitch has to say. I just wish someone else was saying it.

2d. Dear Michael Chong: There’s a Liberal Party membership card with your name on it. Please avail yourself of it.

2e. I love that the dismantling/declawing of the CBC is finally getting discussed among the candidates. Even under Harper’s government, the CBC seemed to be a sacred cow no one was willing to touch with a 10-foot pole.

3. My book chronicling the history of the USFL’s New Jersey Generals is proving surprisingly popular. Thank you to those who have bought it.

3a. Yes, the history of a team once owned by the soon-to-be President of the United States was written by a Canadian. Go figure.

4. Censorship and a heavy left-wing bias in the mainstream media and on social networks are still going strong. The leftists just don’t get it. Donald Trump did not win the U.S. presidential election because they didn’t do enough. It’s because they did too much. People are fed up and are finally fighting back. Maybe there’s some hope for us yet.

4a. For a bias-free alternative to Twitter, please check out gab.ai. You can follow me there at @CurtisWalker.

4b. It takes a special kind of chutzpah for the Winnipeg Free Press, the biggest private-sector purveyor of left-wing political propaganda west of Ontario, to call out others for spewing fake news and propaganda.

4c. I am growing increasingly intolerant of the intolerant. I am quite happy to show respect to others with a different viewpoint as long as it is returned in kind.

14 Nov

Random Thoughts – Bombers Collapse, Another Flag, Facebook Quirks

1. This crusty old ex-Manitoba taxpayer is still grinning from ear-to-ear over the Bombers’ collapse in B.C. yesterday. As I’ve said before, old grudges die hard.

1a. Based on the reactions coming out of the Old Country, you’d think it was the first time a Winnipeg-based sports team has let down the faithful. You know what they say about those who do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result.

2. Mayor Sendzik was at City Hall today raising another flag, this time for transgenders. As I’ve said before, everyone should be allowed to live their life as they see fit free of discrimination, but enough already.

2a. The rampant and uncontrolled growth of the disease known as political correctness is a significant factor why Donald Trump will become the 45th president of the United States. By pushing the envelope so far, liberals have become their own worst enemy.

2b. If you want to know the difference between liberals and conservatives, consider the number of riots after Trudeau was elected and the number after Trump was elected.

3. Despite my decades-old disdain for Trump in leading the USFL to its eventual downfall, count me in as one of his supporters. The free world will be much better off with him in charge than with Crooked Hillary back in the White House for a third term. Not that that’s saying much.

3a. Make America Great Again! I just wanted to say that.

4. For the Facebook users out there, previously unknown to me was a “filtered message requests” tab. It turns out a number of people over the past year and a half have found yet another obscure way to try and contact me. For the life of me, I cannot possibly understand why people look so hard to avoid the obvious.

4a. When you send a friend request to a perfect stranger who has nothing in common with you, do not be surprised when he/she does not accept it.

4b. When you send a friend request to a perfect stranger who has nothing in common with you, do not be mortally offended when he/she does not accept it.

5. I have another book coming out soon. This one is called The Contented Cows: A Bad IT Job Becomes a Financial Services Horror Story. It is officially a work of fiction, but largely based on a true story. It will be of particular interest to anyone in IT or in the financial services industry.

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.

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Entering C.U.

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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.

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Passing the Rogers Center, née SkyDome.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Some urban art. I think.

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An old truck.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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Hook up with a Segway tour here.

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

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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.

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Enjoy your “macarons.”

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

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

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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Just in case you need to vacuum yourself.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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.