Sunday, November 25, 2012

diversity in our street food

When you're at a ball game, nothing hits the hunger spot better than some good old fashioned street meat: a piping hot, hot dog from a street vendor. We all try to eat better and make better choices since adults do that in front of their kids, right? (isn't it difficult to be consistent with your messages?) But the question is more likely, why are there not any other choices available to us?

This is a totally loaded question. One that Toronto Food Trucks answers in their brief summary of what it means for a vendor who wants to vend food out of a truck, in the City of Toronto:
1. public property vending requires a permit which indicates a specific location but there is a moratorium on these permits for downtown Toronto
2. private property owners who are zoned for commercial activity can allow food trucks to sit on their locations but this is still limited
3. food trucks are considered restaurants so are allowed to serve whatever it is that they wish but for some reason, few have changed from hamburgers, hotdogs, french fries, poutine. food carts are different

A few years back, Toronto tried to launch the "a la carte" program only to be met with failure due to the red tape and strict (and expensive) requirements. I"m not sure of what's happened since but there is a lady who comes out when the weather is nice to the south-east corner of Bay and King to serve up her jerk chicken. YUM-O. It sells like hot cakes, I tell you. The times I've gone by, she's already out of roti and it's barely pase 1230pm. But I wonder if she's technically permitted to do so?

So, what's the point to all this? My question is, don't you want to eat something other than hotdogs, hamburgers and french fries? Our city is a vibrant buzzing cultural hub yet our street food diversity is limited to 4 items. Tourists must think the hot dog is our national food or something! If this is important to you, consider voicing your thoughts and opinions. If you want to see some variety in menus and to actually see food trucks roaming the cities, check out the two petitions/letters to
a) increase the diversity of street food
b) petition for food truck vendor permits

Why do I think this is a fantastic idea? Have you ever been to NYC and checked out their food vendor scene? Or in various Asian countries? What about South America? Toronto is utterly embarassing on this front so let's make a change!

Saturday, November 24, 2012


If you watch Vampire Diaries and have issues with being patient, you know that watching week to week is too much for the old ticker. This season, I decided to accumulate half a season's worth and sit down with Amber and just go through it all at once. I figure that if I OD on VD, I might be able to easily walk away from the show for a bit and not feel completely deprived.

Guess what? It's worked. I don't feel the slightest inclination to need to find out what's happened next. But between episodes on Saturday, we certainly were eager to jump to the next episode.

So, what's happened this time? Last season, we left off with Elena waking up... after drowning. Looks like this is going to be rather interesting. Without going into too much detail (because I'd otherwise cross into spoiler territory), I like the direction this season has done so far. There are some interesting liberites which they took but regardless of what's happened, they've been able to keep consistent with the characters and their individual growth.

Next VD OD? Some time in January 2013!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Lesson #6: Symphony of Dialogues

I love having something to look forward to, in the middle of the week. My riding lessons have become the inspiration to help me get through rough moments at work or school. It's as if the harder I work during the day (like the more often I feel like screaming or tearing out all my hair), the more I deserve to get out to the country to get back to basics and communicate with a simple minded (this is never bad in a day and age like we have now) creature: eat, sleep, eat some more and work up to 4 hours a day.

I've been watching videos and reading to get a better idea of horse behaviour. I've never worked with prey animals before so this is different. One of the temp girls at work is actually in school to become a veterinarian and she's specializing in large animals :) That made me happy today.

I still won't get used to the commute out that way... in the back of my mind, I am reminded of how much gas consumption I have when I do this. Anyways, I arrive with extra time to spare and see I'm riding Bonnie today! Bonnie and I have come a ways since we started working together but she's also become more challenging as of late. I admit, my heart sank a little (I was hoping for Indy) but, I took a deep breath, remembered some of the videos I've been watching and reminded myself about who's boss today as I grabbed a lead.

Bonnie is a big muddy piggy again. *sigh* Time to rub and brush off that stuff. This is going to be a long tack-up. I work diligently to get things done and put together as quickly as possible. I make good time and we're called into the ring.

So far, so good. We start with a posting trot with a focus on proper diagonals and changing directions while posting trotting. This has become a little more straight forward for me to get it. I still don't "feel it", but I'm at least able to identify when I'm on the correct diagonal +50% of the time! Hurrah for me! This is improvement from my regular incorrect guess. I continue to work on the seated trot which usually just makes me feel like I'm bopping around on Bonnie's back. I never quite feel balanced and it's challenging even though Sheri and others have told me that everything looks fine--I don't feel fine.

I've discovered that Bonnie is a bit of a follower and wants to be doing what everyone else is doing, where they're doing it. This is proving to be difficult. She's already challenging me right at the start of classes. The silent dialogue usually goes something like...
Me: let's go
Bonnie: go? go where?
Me: just move.
Bonnie: I don't feel like it. My buddies are over this way...
Me: stop it. I'm on your back so you'll do what I say.
Bonnie: as if. eat me.
Me: I'm boss!
Bonnie: ha!

After several times around the ring in both directions, Sheri talks about getting into a canter. I am excited we're moving along to try other things. The aids for initiating a canter are simultaneously: sweeping your outside leg past the cinch/girth and then squeezing with both legs while loosening up your hold and body to move with the horse's 3-beat gait. Add steering and you've got a mess on Bonnie: me. I got her to canter a few steps but she's so darned wobbly that I'm terrified I'll fall off. The other two girls are getting it just fine... give it time, I tell myself. It's my first time and I didn't do too badly since I got Bonnie to canter a few times for a bit. At least she ain't no Rock but no dice today.

My other problem has been being unable to keep my heels down and pressure in the balls of my feet so I keep proper contact with the stirrups. I find I'm gripping with my thighs and thus my feet are riding up to compensate. I'm supposed to both relax my lower body yet give pressure through the balls of my feet on the stirrup. Really, did I ever tell you I'm terrible at keeping up during an aerobics class? And yet, while riding, I'm being asked to do more than I would ever do, simultaneously, during an aerobics class!

Next, we move quickly to the 2-point position and jumping! I didn't think I'd get to jumping for a while. I wasn't prepared when Bonnie did jump that I lost balance. Good thing my fear of falling off keeps me glued on there ;) We do this several times and I'm finding jumping to be good fun. Now... if only I can figure out how to canter...

We finish class with some bareback riding during the cool down. It's interesting to sway side to side with Bonnie's walk. Aside from becoming one with your horse, balance is certainly being tested here! Both Bonnie and I are sweaty and we're relieved that we're done for the night. Time to wrap it up and head home to call it a night.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Yes! Harder!!!!

I went curling last weekend; for the first time. When I told my mom about it, she said she didn't get the game but that smart people must play since one of her very intelligent colleagues plays regularly. I didn't know what to expect but I kept thinking about a bunch of old people getting together to lunge a big round rock down a sheet of ice and then grabbing brooms to sweep... for fun. Didn't sound like that much fun, if you ask me.

The location was in Ajax at a Golf and Curling facility. It was my buddy Sam's birthday and he's curled while he was in school. Really, if you met Sam, I'm sure that curling would be on the bottom of your guessing list. He just doesn't strike one as such a person. Anyways, we get started and I learn about the "sheet"--which is the lane which we play in. Basically, the sheet has 2 ends that keep a graphic on the ground:

You start at the "hack" and lunge off with the rock in hand. You can aim your rock down the "centre line" with the aim to enter into the house--which is the big round target looking thing on the other end too. Imagine the image above, replicated and placed as a mirror image on the short side; that's a sheet. The objective is to get your team's rock(s) as close to the center of the target down the ice, as possible. The center is called the "house".

We play a few games and I'm really starting to enjoy it... my launches are too weak, too strong... I lose my balance during the launch. I sweep frantically on team member's turns and take a wipeout and keep warm by keeping busy. There's a good deal of strategy whereby your team will strategize the team member order, the rock placement objectives, calling the sweeping, angles, curl of the rock... phew! Lots to think about. I can see why my mom said that she thinks highly intelligent people enjoy the game... it requires lots of thinking and it isn't terribly (physically) demanding.

When our session ends, I am disappointed that we had to stop playing! I didn't expect to have much fun with it since I had the standard stereotype/bias in my head. Just goes to show, might as try anything once because I might just enjoy it!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Bad News Bears

I've been taking an undergraduate course this semester for personal interest... I can't believe I am starting to enjoy school. I never paid much attention when I was in school, but there is so much about economics that relates to real life (duhhh) and there is so much that's applicable!

The professor who's teaching is not one that I"m particularly fond of. He's entertaining to listen to but wow, I got a serious Bad News Bear this Tuesday; at the return of our mid-term marks.

It's particularly frustrating because I managed to learn macroeconomics (I'm taking micro this semester) on my own over a distance education course. How is it possible that I'm just not getting it this time and I got a super Bad News Bear?? I worked really hard to understand the notes and the concepts (he doesn't have a text book... SERIOUSLY!) and studied after work for week straight. Despite all this, the bear still made a visit...

I'm posting mostly because I felt so bad about the mark that I needed something to cheer me up. How can anyone be upset when they get a visit from a pair of bears that are so much fun!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Lesson #5: Not for Nothing

I arrived with good time and checked the board to see who I was riding tonight: I thought it was Rock, but things changed and I had Indy! Let me tell you, how excited was I? I wanted to ride Indy for a few weeks now. He is a silver thoroughbred x warmblood. And he's just awesome! Why? Because a horse with a full name of "Indiana Jones" can't possibly be un-awesome to ride.

I also changed lesson day--going from Thursday night to Wednesday evening. This meant I had a different instructor tonight: Sheri. She's more technical and more specific. For example, she was mentioning to me that my hands needed to be lower, about a foot apart and not jossling the horses mouth back and forth. I never paid attention to these items previously.

The class was not particularly exciting but I was really hoping that it wouldn't have been a big class because there's just too much going on for any instructor to really make an impact and pay attention to each and every student. I hope that the class size diminishes for next week or I'm going to move back.

We continued to work on our post trots and posting diagonals. I'm starting to find that posting on the correct diagonal is much more comfortable. I don't know how to explain it but there's just this rhythm that flows when you're doing it right. Not that you couldn't on the other diagonal, but it's just that little "bit" that makes it more comfortable. I still need much more practice though.

Over the weekend, I visited Glenwood and tonight, I measured the time it would take to get to Glenwood vs Greyden. Why am I thinking about this...? I'm finding the drive to Greyden to be taking way too long to be considered reasonable. I like the school and I enjoy the horses whom I've ridden so I am hesitant to leave but, I could potentially save upwards of 1 hour driving (and gasoline!) if I went to Glenwood. I'm not certain what I'm going to do but I am certain that it's something I need to really start thinking about.

The class had just enough work since I was finding myself getting lazy with the posting and inserting double bounces where I shouldn't. The one "ding!" moment I had today was realizing that my inner legs help me pivot through my hips for posting diagonals. This also explains why my breeches have the inside knee patches! Hurrah! mystery solved.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Horsey Talk #1

I promised in a previous post that I'd go over some equine jargon since it's practically a foreign language and since I blog about my experiences, it would be beneficial for my wonderful readers! I'm just learning so I'll probably be doing a few of these posts. And, many of these definitions will be based on what I learn... I"m sure there are formal definitions but if that were the case, then I could just send you all a bunch of links.

Tacking up: this means to prepare the horse for receiving their saddle (which includes the stirrups etc) and bridle--basically to be ready to be ridden. Usually includes the grooming, and cleaning of hooves.

Tack: term for all equipment which the horse will wear for riding

Bridle: the bridle is your main steering mechanism. This piece is fitted on the horse's head with a metal bit in their mouth. Some of these are "bit-less" and differ from the English to Western disciplines.

Footing: the stuff that covers the riding ring's floors (outdoor or indoor). It has been sand in the past but recently, there's been a move towards this synthetic recycled rubber stuff.

Gait: this is the way which the horse naturally moves their legs. I've recently learned that there are naturally gaited horses which move differently than what we're used to seeing.

Trot: is a diagonal 2 beat gait. In other words, when the front foot reaches forward, the opposite back foot moves simultaneously.

Posting or posting to the trot: the rising and lowering action which a rider performs while the horse is in his/her trot. This action is generally more comfortable for both horse and rider.

Saddle: this one should be pretty straight forward... the device that is placed on the horses back which becomes the seat for the rider. It's main purpose is to stabilize the rider.

Whithers: this is the top of their shoulders--a bump you'll see at the back of their neck, at the base

Sound: term used to describe a healthy horse.

Girth: the strap which secures the saddle to the horse. This term is used in english riding.

Hope that this helps those who lack a background in horsey talk!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Lesson #4: Dominance and Control, a lesson in life

I arrive at the stable right on time and now I'm stressed and frazzled. I wanted to get a chance to find a kitten which I'm trying to get adopted out. But, I don't have time because I have to tack up for lessons. I check the board and see I'm riding Bonnie tonight. Hurrah! We're going to become good friends at this rate. It's nice to have something I look forward to, during the week (other then Fridays).

Work has been challenging lately... I find myself upset with things and not keen on the way things are happening. I lament my thoughts and feelings to AW and he tells me, "you're not being very assertive. Stop being the sucker and stand-up for yourself and make it clear that your time is as precious as other people's--regardless of where they are, on the totem pole." I was taken aback because I thought I am generally clear about my intentions and that I'm a "take no crap from anyone" kind of person.

I mount Bonnie and we get the lesson started. Things are going alright... I am getting better at determining posting diagonals and I pick up on the correct diagonal and am able to post for a longer period of time. Lenka asks us to do some 20m circles around the ring while trotting. There's still a lot I'm doing wrong and I'm trying to focus on keeping all my stuff together... sit up straight, don't lean forward, don't lean to one side during a turn, keep your arms in... sheesh! And I think that Bonnie's picking up on my anxiety and "greenness" because now she's lowering her head and shaking it about. At one point, I thought she was going to pull me off! She's stopped listening to me when I want to go somewhere and while we're doing something, she'd stop or do something that she wanted to do. I've lost control.

Now I'm frustrated and slightly embarrassed. Lenka stops me and says, "she's testing you and you're letting her win. All these animals instinctively understand is dominance, punishment and reward. They're herd animals and you need to be that leader that they can follow." I'm flabbergasted. I thought I was assertive and enough of a leader most days. Bonnie is proving me otherwise tonight. Learning about how to deal with horses is a lot different than I thought it might be. But then again, maybe it is about learning a very core and basic mind-set to have and to translate that into life in general.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Life: 8 Seconds at a Time

Friday was a day just like any other... I got up and put my pants on, one leg at a time. I got into work and got right on doing the normal stuff I would be doing. Nothing new, nothing exciting. Until, I hear on the radio that today was the day that The Royal was having an admissions special for Friday only. It was like going to do some of my preliminary investigation on what I was interested in.

All this build up for today: the Ontario Toyota Dealers Rodeo. I didn't expect to go but I had all these big plans to get up at 7:30am to get on there early to watch the dairy goat milking and the Clydesdales at the Horse Palace. I figured that since the subway didn't start until just before 9am, I could hang tight and mosey on over in cowboy fashion.

I took the Bathurst streetcar down and as we are nearing the CNE Loop, a young girl sees two sandy-buff coloured cows being led on the roadway and she points and squeals "look!! PIGGY!!!" Yep, I was stunned speechless too. I didn't know what to say and although part of me wanted to giggle, I think I was in such shock that I didn't know what to do. But you know what? good on the parents for taking her here to get up close and personal with these animals: smells and all.

We had lunch at the Hitch Bar and Cafe in the Horse Palace and make our way to the rodeo at the Ricoh Colliseum. I've never been to a rodeo and last time I was in Calgary, I didn't go for the Stampede. Today's rodeo is co-hosted by CBC's own Heartland's Amber Marshall. I admit, I haven't watched this show before but she was a lot of fun and the theme was a East versus West rodeo: bareback broncos, pole bending, barrel racing, trick riding/vaulting, Canadian Cowgirls, saddle bronc and the best known of them all: bull riding.

At one end of the ring, there is a maze of metal gates and various animals and people. It reminded me of the bullpen of a baseball stadium. The players (the cowboys) of each team was sitting in their respective team areas and stretching and getting hyped up for their event. The animals were hanging out in small pens waiting before they were mounted and let out.

Some people think rodeos are barbaric and inhumane but I didn't see any animal get hurt or be mistreated. In fact, if anything, I saw more human beings being mistreated and injured by the animals themselves. The animals are not rilled up before getting to the bucking chute. They may be agitated but who wouldn't be if they were standing in confined spaces and being herded here or there (TTC riders must be familiar with this feeling)? I don't think it's a big deal. Compared to bull fighting in Spain, I would say that this is far more reasonable.

The first event is the bareback broncos. I've never watched a rodeo in person so I didn't know what to expect exactly. We have two cowboys who ride in the ring; their job is to get to the rider and then release the animals of the flank strap so that they can go back to their pens.

The introduction is done, all eyes focus; and the bucking chute gate swings open and BAM, the bronco is bucking viciously with the rider hanging on for their lives. The rules are: one hand on the animal and the other free hand anywhere but the animal. Watching it in person is much different than on television... the body of the rider is bring thrown around like a ragdoll and you really wonder who's brave crazy enough get on an animal who's moving like that and try to stick on there for 8 seconds.

Pole bending is a neat activity that I've seen the Superdogs do. The idea is the same, just with a modified set up for a larger animal. Barrel Racing has similar requirements for fast and tight turns as well as straightaways. The athletes aren't just the horses but the riders are in incredible shape to be able to stay on the horse and get them to move like that.

The Canadian Cowgirls have a show for the audience where their performance is kind of like synchronized swimming. If you've seen Cavalia, you'll know what I'm talking about. Here's a posted video of today's event:

And, I saved the best for last: bull riding. This is voted to be the most extreme sport on the planet. You've got guys skate boarding or BMX riding? These boys have got nothing on a cowboy who lowers himself onto a bucking bull. There are riders as young as 15 today. If that doesn't put hair on your chest, I"m not sure what else would.

To get a better appreciation for what this post is about, catch this video:

Hope you've had as much fun as I have... yeehaw and yippi-kayo!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Lesson #3: Riding Diagonals

After nearly 3 weeks away from the stables, I got back to it last night; and strangely, I felt it was a more challenging class this time around. I'm not sure why that was.

This is the first class I don all my new apparel. Real breeches, paddock boots and my helmet. It's nice not to be wearing the communal one. I skip the half chaps this time because I exchanged my suede ones last weekend due to peeling on the synthetic portion and the girl told me that they had some issues with that model so I moved up to the leather Mondega half chap. But, the idea of taking an hour to get myself suited up didn't appeal to me.

The drive out this time was smooth and I didn't feel like I was rushing or stressed out; but I spent most of time in the car with my inner child and thinking "are we there yet?". Which brings me to my major pet peeve: long commutes to get somewhere. It's the one thing that I'm willing to pay more, to avoid doing. It's 1 hour one way and on some nights, that's just not appealing.

I arrived in good time with at least 10 minutes to spare. The feral cat in the area had a litter and her babies are everywhere. I was squealing with delight at all the little kittens running around! They're such cutie pies. The little black one that comes bounding at me everytime I see him is just so cute. At one point, I'm grinning and holding 3 kittens simultaneously. What joy. Oh right, I came for lessons.

I check out the board and see I'm scheduled to ride Bonnie tonight. Yay Bonnie! Bonnie's nice and polite the first time you ride her but it seems that she starts testing your patience and skill level, the more you ride her.While Nicole's ridden a few different horses by now, Bonnie and I are partners in crime. I should change my name to Clyde. HAR HAR HAR! Okokok, groaner. Tonight, this wonderful horse has come to me covered in mud like a pig who rolled around in the muck. Which means... I have to clean her up before I can tack her. Hurrah. I'm getting an arm and back workout before the class starts!

In the ring, I'm still so green that I'm not sure if her undesired responses are due to my inexperience or if she's just messing with me. The lesson today is riding diagonals: identifying proper riding diagonal and then executing the diagonal while posting. A lot of equine jargon, I know. I'll spend some time with some riding jargon in another post. It seems that the harder I try, the more often I get it wrong. Right now, it's about 50/50 to get it right and even then, I don't know when I'm doing it right! In addition to working on the riding diagonals, Lenka (our instructor) has us working on strengthening our legs too... So we ride and post for a long while. This is really challenging for me because I can't keep a regular post and sometimes do a "double bounce" somewhere. I'm sure Bonnie is really not keen on my poor riding technique. It's not obvious to most people but the poorer the rider's skill set, the more uncomfortable it is for the horse. After dismounting, I leave with jelly legs and I notice I'm walking a bit like John Wayne.

Looks like I'll need to start working on the endurance needed to post continuously as well as getting myself together for the seated trot. There's a lot of work ahead of me...

Thursday, November 1, 2012


No, I'm not trying to wish you successful endeavours in the Klingon language.

Last Thursday, I attended the TSO with Amber and AW for the "What Makes it Great" series. The piece in question? Mozart's symphony Jupiter. Our conductor and host for the evening was Rob Kapilow. I love this series he does because he breaks down the entire piece into very easy to understand patterns. Though he indicates throughout the evening that Mozart's piece is all about random patterns that continually surprise the listener, he's able to highlight patterns of randomness!

The last evening this series was in town, Kapilow focused on Vivaldi's spring time. Rob Kapilow is able to take a piece that most people enjoy passively and break it down in such a manner that depiste your musical background, you're able to hear and thus see what makes each of these pieces so appealing to listeners. His style is informal and inviting as the audience is able to take part actively rather than just passively listening to the sounds coming from the orchestra.

The best part of the evening for me? After a crazy day at work, it's nice to watch a single person create something wonderful with a group of +30 people with each individual doing what is expected of them so that the end product is perfect.