Ontario Place: End of an Era

OK, I admit it…..  I paraphrased a Toronto Star headline for this post.

So, after a presumably long and debated analysis, the Government of Ontario (who own and operate Ontario Place) have decided to appoint John Tory to revitalize the site/location/venue/place/spot/area/hole/dump.  Thumbs up, great idea!!!

I have fond memories of Ontario Place growing up.  The Cinesphere where I saw my first IMAX film, countless 70mm Film Festival shows (including Star Wars, Indiana Jones, The Untouchables, among others), played on the AWESOME playground with ropes, ladders, tunnels and tubes, watched many Symphony of Fire fireworks competition displays, the Lego, Atari,  ColecoVision, and Nintendo exhibits in the ‘pods’, enjoyed countless concerts and events at the long retired and demolished Forum, exploring the historic HMS Haida docked alongside the parking lot, and was hooked for years on what were arguably Toronto’s best mini-golf courses.

Now, Ontario Place is a incoherent mishmash of ‘stuff’ – some good, some bad, and some just downright ugly.  The water-park which is top-notch and a great place for kids and families to hang out in the summer, the Wilderness Adventure Ride which, relative to Canada’s Wonderland is tame/lame but reasonable in it’s own right, the Cinesphere which has become second fiddle to every Multiplex in the GTA, the marina which is irrelevant to everyone who doesn’t arrive there by boat, and ABSOLUTELY TERRIBLE AND OVERPRICED food vendors.

So, everyone pretty much unanimously agrees that Ontario Place is ‘broken’ and needs help.  It has lost money consistently for an untold number of years, and attendance continue to drop year-over-year, even with ‘free admission’ promotions.  OK, great.  Let’s talk about the future, improvement, and what the site ‘could’ and ‘should’ be.  And, while we figure that out, let’s shut-down EVERYTHING that people REALLY care about (the water park, rides, and let’s demolish the Cinesphere while we’re at it), other than the concert venue (Molson Amphitheatre), parking (at $20+ per occurrence), and the Atlantis nightclub.

Ontario Place doesn’t need John Tory to ‘fix it’.  It needs a non-partisan board with a reasonable operating and improvement budget to develop long-term plans.  It’s a PROVINCIAL asset and, at least in the short-term, may be a money loser.  But, as long as Ontarians benefit from it’s existence a little Provincial financial support is warranted.

Keep the FAMILY-FRIENDLY attractions up-and-running as Ontario Place is re-invented.  And, ask the Ontario population what THEY want in THEIR Toronto Waterfront attraction.

Corporate sponsorship may be financially lucrative, but it shouldn’t be required for something as grand as Ontario Place should be.  It should be possible, excluding re-development and upgrading costs, to establish a financially self-sufficient destination on the shores of Lake Ontario.  Make it ACCESSIBLE, AFFORABLE, and INTERESTING, and people WILL come, just like they (we) did in years past.

Here’s how I would change Ontario Place if I was John Tory:

  • Eliminate ALL corporate sponsorships and rights agreements – bye-bye ‘Molson’ Amphitheatre.
  • Make parking costs REASONABLE.
  • Make grounds admission FREE.
  • Provide QUALITY and non big-name fast-food food vendors at reasonable prices.
  • Do NOT demolish the Cinesphere – it was the FIRST permanent IMAX theater in the world – a showcase for a revolutionary Canadian film technology.  Revitalize it and develop year-round movie ‘programs’ showing the best-of-the best IMAX and traditional movies on the awesome Cinesphere screen.
  • Bring back the Symphony Of Fire fireworks competition.
  • Keep existing public-loved rides and attractions (water park, Wilderness Adventure Ride) open to the public at reasonable costs.

A Casino is NOT THE RIGHT CHOICE for the Ontario Place grounds.  Casinos by definition are dark enclosed spaces to keep gamblers inside and absent of outside stimulus.  This can be achieved ANYWHERE – don’t give up prime waterfront location for this purpose.

In the 70’s and 80’s Ontario Place was a ‘destination’ for many families from Ontario and beyond.  Through mismanagement and poor planning Ontario Place has been left in the past.  It’s time to give it the attention it deserves, and return it to relevance, without ‘selling out’ in the process.

I have no doubt it can be done.  The question is, WILL it be done?  We can only hope….

Posted in Architecture, Arts & Entertainment, Law & Politics, Random Thoughts | Leave a comment

Principle over Profit

When it comes to web browsers and e-mail clients, I have been a proud user and support of Mozilla (Firefox and Thunderbird) products for a very long time.  So long, in fact, I can’t recall exactly when I adopted the Mozilla applications, but my browser of choice before Firefox was Netscape.

Setting e-mail aside for a moment, the web browser universe has become more and more fiercely competitive with everyone vying for “I’m the best” supremacy.  There’s obviously Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, Apple’s Safari, Google’s Chrome, Opera, and Mozilla‘s Firefox.

When people ask me what browser I use and why, I usually say Firefox because it’s fast, small, and has consistently kept up with the times.

There’s been a lot of discussion lately about Mozilla’s strategy to release regular ‘new versions’ many times per year.  This strategy is obviously a problem for larger-scale IT organizations, but what does it mean for the average home user?

My take is this….  Sure, the regular updates may make detailed compatibility IT evaluations difficult, but I think that big business customers will most likely stay with the bohemoth Internet Explorer from a standpoint of convenience.  But, for the less ‘directed’ user, which browser to choose?

This recent video release by Mozilla sums it up nicely….

  • Principle over Profit
  • We don’t have a Profit Margin
  • Independently Spirited, Fiercely Unconventional
  • We value, well, values
  • When a competitor considers making something proprietary, we strive to set it free
  • We answer to no-one, but you
  • secrecy is trumped by honesty
  • the web is more cared for, than owned

So, is all of this relevant?

I personally believe it is, and until such time that Mozilla can’t at least keep up with the big boys, they get my vote….  Until now, I think their offerings have been beyond competitive and closer to leading-edge than their competitors.

So, Mozilla, keep it up!  While the recent change to release schedules has concerned many (myself included), I’m still on board until such time as I’m given reason not to be.

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Disney on Ice: 100 Years of Magic

This afternoon, my wife and I took our two-year old daughter to Disney on Ice: 100 Years of Magic at the Roger’s Centre (Skydome) in Toronto.

I am not a big fan of Disney (but my daughter does like Mickey, Minnie, and Tinkerbell).

I am not a big fan of figure skating (in and form).

However, I completely enjoyed myself!

We made a point of not telling our daughter where we were going or why we were going there.  When the lights dimmed and the shows started with Mickey and Minnie skating to center ice, her face made my life as a father whole – it was a look of wonder and amazement, and that made my day!

The show was enjoyable throughout, whether a Disney or figure skating fan or not.  Overall, the production quality was impressive.  There was a LARGE cast, and they were obviously all very talended figure skaters.  Far better than I had expected.

This show is a Feld Entertainment production.  For those who don’t know, Feld is probably best known as the operator of the world famous Ringling Bros & Barnam & Bailey Circus franchise.  They’re also active in motorsports, most notably the Monster Jam Monster Truck competition series.

Would I recommend the show?  Absolutely!  With the caveat that you’re either a Disney fan or have children who are.  I assume and expect there are better examples of professional skating out there, so as impressed as I may have been, don’t take Disney on Ice: 100 Years of Magic as an opportunity to see world class figure skating.  Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, but I don’t know enough to say Yay or Nay on the subject.

My personal favourite part of the show?  Probably the Toy Story army men.

I can say, however, if you have a young Disney fan if your household, this is a great opportunity to make their day!  Ticket prices were reasonable, especially with a local discount offer we took advantage of.  I can’t speak for venues other than Roger’s Centre in Toronto, but the top dollar ‘floor’ seats seemed to me to be a waste of money.  Sitting absolute rinkside may get you VERY close to the show, but too close to appreciate the overall spectacle.  Stay a little further away – you’ll still get an AWESOME view, without the spray of skate-shaved ice in your face.

My only complaint (surprise, surprise) would be the concession costs…..  $4.50 for a 519mL bottle of water.  $8.00 for a relatively small box of popcorn or $12 for a larger commemorative plastic ‘tub’.  And $12 for a snow cone in a (cheap, made in China, plastic) Nemo or other (I don’t recall what) “commemorative” cup – ya, sure, whatever……  We stuck with the $10 big bag of popcorn.

Fortunately, at age two, my daughter wasn’t affected/influenced by the plethora of vendor stands into and out of the seating area….  Crappy dollar store quality ‘trinkets’ at memorabilia prices.  Disgusting, even if you can avoid it.

So, if you or someone you love is a Disney fan, I can wholeheartedly recommend Disney on Ice: 100 Years of Magic.  It’s a great show, just be aware of the concession sharks before you buy your tickets.

Posted in Arts & Entertainment | Leave a comment

In Memoriam: Jack Layton (1950 – 2011)

In May of this year, I commented on the Federal Election and made specific reference to Jack Layton.  My thoughts expressed then are no less relevant today than they were in May, now that Canada is led by a Conservative Majority with the NDP as the official opposition party.

I submitted my condolences on the NDP website and said:

“I didn’t agree with the NDP political platform.
I never met Jack.
But I feel like I’ve lost a friend”

Jack was what a politician should be – a true believer, and not afraid or ashamed to tell people.  His campaigns were always based on HIS beliefs, as opposed to the mud-slinging that has inundated the ‘other’ key parties.

Canada’s political landscape has lost a role model.  I only hope his recent success with the NDP lives on to encourage and motivate not only future but current Canadians involved in politics.

Rest in Peace, Jack.  You made a difference for the better and for that I Thank You.

Posted in Law & Politics, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Canada’s Federal Election (May 2, 2011)

Well, it’s the eve of another Federal Election in Canada, and I’m currently out of the country on business.  I only hope I make it home in time to mark my ballot for the 3rd time in seven years, as I will sorely regret missing my fundamental free right as a Canadian if I don’t make it home in time.

It has certainly been an interesting election – certainly one for the record books, and I suspect one for the history books as well.  I suspect the political landscape in Canada will be forever changed when we wake on Tuesday, May 3, 2011.

The Conservatives, led by leader Stephen Harper, deserve this election – their ‘we’re the boss, we’ll do whatever we want because we can’ attitude gave the preverbal finger to the democratic process Canadians hold dear, especially given their fragile minority government position.

That said, the campaign has surely been one of  (if not) the most interesting of my almost 40-years….

  • It likely marks the end of the Bloc Quebecois, or at least Gilles Duceppe as their leader (and I wonder if there’s any even remotely qualified successor).
  •  It marks the most significant success of the NDP on the federal stage ever… But, is it a matter of the NDP platform, or of Jack Layton as their leader?  I think/suspect the latter….  I don’t think Canadians as a whole endores NDP party philosophies, but they all relate to Jack and his apparent ‘honest buddy’ demeanour?  Who wouldn’t want to watch the Leafs miss the playoffs yet again over a beer with Jack?  IT eerily remind me of Bob Rae’s one-term success/failure in Ontario…..  Shiver…
  • The Green Party… In one sense it’s unfortunate Elizabeth May lost her fight for inclusion in the leaders debate – last time, she had the most cohesive and non-attack debate performace of the bunch.  It’s certainly unfortunate that her approach resulted in no house seats, disqualifying her from the leaders debate…. Unfortunate, indeed.
  • And that leaves the Liberal Party of Canada.  Oh, how they’ve fallen from grace. What must Trudeau be thinking of the legacy he left behind?  If any of his Prime Ministerial skills have translated into the afterlife with any clout, the recent (last decate) rash of Liberal leadership candidates and party leadership will undoubtedly end up in Hell for their grave incompetence.  Micheal Ignatieff may be a highly qualified candidate with plenty of relevant experience.  But, he has far too much baggage….  The average Canadian easily falls victim to the ‘he left Canada and only came back to be Prime Minister’ accusation, and I believe (having met him) that he is a true spin doctor – he’ll say whatever his target audience wants to hear.  Is he a bad leader?  Proabably not.  Would he make a bad Prime Minister?  Probably not.  Is he what Canadians want for Prime Minister?  Absolutely not.  I can only surmise that if Jack Layton were leading the Liberal Party, that we’d see a Liberal majority tomorrow night once all the results are in.

So, there we have it…..  Our third federal election in seven years, after the governing (Conservative) party was found in contempt….  Three parties (five if you count the Block and Green) vying for every Canadian’s X of support to establish the next House of Parliament.  How will it end up?  Who knows.  Like I said earlier, whatever the result, it’s bound to be politically relevant and historic for Canada.

On Monday, May 2nd, VOTE!

Posted in Law & Politics, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Omega C700/C760 Power Supply

I recently picked up a pretty fully outfitted darkroom including an Omega Super-Chromega C-700 Dichroic Lamphouse (fundamentally the same unit as the slightly newer C760).  As soon as I tried to power it up, the bulb appeared to be dead but visually looked OK.  This lamphouse uses a pretty standard 85W, 82V Quartz-Halogen bulb (ANSI ESJ).  According to the Instruction Manual (C700, C760), “The built-in solid state power supply eliminates the need for an external power supply” – sounds great, but a quick web search for a schematic diagram came up with nothing, so I decided to investigate a little further and look inside.  What I found was a very simple AC-DC “half-wave rectifier” power supply comprised of a power resistor and rectifier diode.  This essentially ‘cuts’ the bottom half of the AC sinewave, essentially resulting in 60V RMS DC.  This provides about 1.4xRMS peak voltage (1.4 x 60V = 84V), very close to the 85W ESJ bulb specification.

I figured replacing these two very inexpensive and readily available components couldn’t hurt, and would take one variable out of the testing the unit with new bulbs (which aren’t exactly cheap).

The original power resistor was a 5 Watt, 1Ω sandstone resistor.  Unfortunately, there were no markings on the diode to identify what it was but I decided a little ‘over-design’ wouldn’t hurt.

I purchased a generic 5W 1Ω resistor, and decided to go for a standard 1N5408 (3A, 1000V) rectifier diode – definite overkill, but will in no way affect performance.  Total cost was $1.65 at my local friendly electronics shop.


  1. Remove top of lamphouse by first removing thumbscrew – set lid and thumbscrew aside.

  2. Remove bulb cover by first removing two (2) thumbscrews – set cover and thumbscrews aside.  I recommend removing the bulb at this time, setting aside in a safe (and clean) place.  Be sure to only touch the edges of the bulb as touching the lens could lead to early burnout due to hot spots from skin oils.
  3. Remove left side of lamphouse by first removing four (4) Phillips head screws – set cover and screws aside.  NOTE: One of the screws is longer than the others – note the location (top left in this photo) of the longer screw.

  4. Remove the bulb and power supply unit from the lamphouse by first removing two (2) Philips head screws – set screws aside.
  5. Underneath the bulb is the power supply consisting of the Power Resister and Rectifier Diode.  Note the brown line on the diode – this identifies the Cathode side of the diode – be sure to install the new diode in the same orientation.
  6. New components – 5W 1Ω resistor, and 1N5408 (3A, 1000V) rectifier diode – $1.65 from my local electronics shop.
  7. Power supply with the new components installed – be careful when soldering!
  8. Reassemble the lamphouse by reversing these directions.

And voila!  Your lamphouse is better than new, with brand new upgraded power supply components!  This simple process should help ensure many years of trouble-free operation.

Posted in Photography | 2 Comments

Photographer’s Rights – Part 2

In my October 6th post entitled “Photography in Public Places – Your Rights as a Photographer” I made mention of a run-in I had with a security guard at one of Toronto’s landmark office towers on September 30th. I was on the public sidewalk, taking some upward view photos of the building when a security guard approached and told me to stop taking pictures immediately. Apparently, by his calculation, I was on private property and was no allowed to take photos from that location. Being on a public sidewalk, I was well within my rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to be taking photographs.

Scotia Plaza

In my October 6th article I chose not to mention the building in question, as I had attempted to contact them via e-mail to question my experience and their policies – I wanted to give them ample opportunity to review my complaint and respond accordingly. I directed my e-mail to the building’s General Manager, Senior Property Manager, and Security Operations Manager – definitely the right people to review and respond to my inquiry. I sent the e-mail on October 1st. Now, 25 days later, I have yet to receive any response. I think 25 days is more than ample time to review and respond to my inquiry, so I can only assume that Scotia Plaza has consciously chosen to ignore my inquiry.

Did Scotia Plaza have the right to attempt to stop me from taking photos? Absolutely not. I was standing on the Bay Street sidewalk just north of King Street where the altercation took place.

I have included below the e-mail I sent Scotia Plaza on October 1st that they have chosen to ignore. I can only assume that their choice to ignore my inquiry suggests that they condone (or promote) the actions of the security guard I encountered, and that they recognize that they cannot legally defend their position.

I challenge anyone in or visiting Toronto, if you’re near Scotia Plaza, to turn your cameras upward and exercise your rights by photographing Scotia Plaza. As long as you’re on public property (sidewalk, street, etc.) you are legally entitled to take photos, so don’t be shy!If you experience a similar encounter when photographing in public, let people know about it! Contact the people responsible for the property in question and let them know that they are violating your rights.Don’t be afraid to get out there and take the photos you are legally entitled to take! Happy shooting!October 1st e-mail to Scotia Plaza’s General Manager, Senior Property Manager, and Security Operations Manager:

“On Sunday, September 30th, I was taking photographs in Downtown Toronto. At approximately 6:00PM I was on the east sidewalk of Bay Street, between King Street and Adelaide Street taking various photographs, including of the Bank of Nova Scotia building. While there I was approached by one of your security guards.

The guard told me to stop taking pictures. I politely asked why, and he told me it was not allowed. I again asked why, and was told that I was on private property and that photography is not permitted. I commented that I was on a public sidewalk and that I have the right to photograph in public places. He again stated that I was on private property and directed me to cross the street. I asked why I had to cross the street, and he again claimed that I was on private property and was not welcome there. I told him that the Bay Street sidewalk is public property and that I would not cross the street. He told me that he was giving me a ‘first warning’, and that if I didn’t stop taking photos and leave the area immediately he would escalate the issue. By this point I was frustrated with the confrontation and decided to leave – not because of any wrongdoing, but simply because I didn’t want the altercation to escalate.

I have taken photographs throughout Downtown Toronto (including on the day in question) including at Commerce Court, Royal Bank Plaza, First Canadian Place, TD Centre, Royal York, and in-and-around Brookfield Place. Never before have I been approached and questioned by building security. In fact, Commerce Court security on Sunday said ‘Hello’ to me as I was photographing that complex.

The actions of your security guard were inappropriate, dishonest, illegal, and intimidating. The Bay Street sidewalk is public property, and there are no provisions in Canada’s Criminal Code (or any Provincial law) preventing photography in public spaces. I certainly hope the actions of the security guard who confronted me were entirely his own, and were not at the direction of Scotia Plaza.

I am a law-abiding citizen who enjoys photography. I have the right to take photographs in public places under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and I will continue to exercise that right. I may photograph Scotia Plaza again in the future and, should a similar confrontation with Scotia Plaza Security occur, I will personally escalate the issue to Toronto Police Services. I will not be intimidated, or accused of any wrongdoing, by your (or any) security personnel while partaking in completely legal activity.

I ask that you review the scope of my experience on Sunday relative to any policies you may have, and that you review the legal rights of photographers with your security personnel. I trust that Scotia Plaza has established ethical security policies and a code of conduct for its security personnel within the confines of Canadian (and Ontario) law, and that you are not intentionally trying to supplant an individuals’ rights or freedoms when at, in, or around Scotia Plaza.

I look forward to your review of my experience and your reply.

Yours truly,
David Wood”

Posted in Architecture, Law & Politics, Photography, Random Thoughts | Leave a comment

Home Heist

A good friend of mine was recently selected for a home makeover through HGTV (Canada’s) new show “Colin & Justin’s Home Heist“.

The show is hosted by British home improvement cornerstones Colin McAllister and Justin Ryan, famous for a variety of shows including the crazily popular “How Not to Decorate“.

The premise of Home Heist is homes where ‘crimes against design’ have been committed by their owners are ‘heisted’ by Colin & Justin to right the wrongs and teach the owners a thing or two along the way.

So, Malcolm, a single fashion designer from Mississauga, Ontario (Canada) was selected and had his townhouse made over. The makeover included total demolition and renovation of his living/dining room, kitchen, and two bedrooms. His makeover was chronicled in Episode 2, entitled “It Ain’t Easy Being Green” which premiered on HGTV Canada on Tuesday, October 9th at 9PM EDT.

How’d it turn out? The makeover was amazing. All four rooms are great, and Malcolm loves the result (even the white walls…. watch the episode to see what that’s all about). And, how about the episode itself – is that the real Malcolm? Pretty much… I think it was a fair and (mostly) flattering representation of who and what Malcolm is all about. And besides some great TV exposure and a cool home makeover, he had loads of fun in the process – I doubt Colin & Justin had dropped their pants on TV before meeting Malcolm!

Be sure to check out the show, especially “It Ain’t Easy Being Green“. It screens Tuesday’s at 9PM Eastern on HGTV (Canada) with replays on Saturday’s at 9PM and Sunday at 2PM. “It Ain’t Easy Being Green” will replay this Saturday (October 13th) at 9PM EST, and Sunday (October 14th) at 2PM EST. Be sure to check the most complete episode schedule.

Want to contact Malcolm? Post here (or e-mail me) and I’ll be sure the message gets to him. Otherwise, a little creative Facebook searching will track him down (hint – look for Colin & Justin, and Malcolm won’t be far).

Posted in Arts & Entertainment, Random Thoughts | Leave a comment

Kooza – Cirque du Soleil

Say what? Yes, you read it right, it’s Kooza, and it’s one of Cirque du Soleil’s traveling shows currently (through October 21, 2007) performing in Toronto at the Port Lands at the foot of Cherry Street under the Grand Chapiteau (yep, that’s Big Top), before moving on to San Francisco (November 16 – December 30, 2007), San Jose (January 31 – February 17, 2008), Hartford, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Boston.

I saw Kooza in Toronto last Thursday (October 4th). I am somewhat embarrassed to say that this was my first Cirque du Soleil show. So, what did I think?

Having heard so many people praise Cirque du Soleil and the grandiose nature of their shows, I had high expectations. My first impression was that the Grand Chapiteau was smaller than I expected – a good thing, as I don’t think there are really any ‘bad’ seats.

The show was about 2 hours in length, with a 30 minute intermission.

The show was comprised of a number of acts, with additional comedy, magic, and audience interaction thrown in between. This generated a good show pace, although I found some of the diversions between acts became a little repetitive. But, a show like Kooza isn’t about the filler material between the main acts – it’s all about the main acts themselves. And how were they? Excellent (as one would expect from Cirque du Soleil), but I wasn’t as ‘WOWED’ as I had expected. All of the acts (Chair Balancing, Charivari, Contortion, Highwire, Juggling, Solo Trapeze, Teeterboard, Unicycle Duo, and Wheel of Death), while executed with amazing skill, and presentation, were nothing new. All of the main acts were things I have seen before, albeit probably in less visually spectacular presentations.

So, was it worth it? While I didn’t leave the show totally mesmerized, breathless, and blown away, I did thoroughly enjoy the evening. I will definitely see other Cirque du Soleil shows in the future and am sure I will be entertained and awed. I am sure that the (for now) six permanent “resident” shows (Mystere at Treasure Island (Las Vegas), “O” at Bellagio (Las Vegas), La Nouba at Walt Disney World, Zumanity at New York-New York (Las Vegas), Ka at MGM Grand (Las Vegas), and Love at The Mirage (Las Vegas)) take presentation, sets, props, and grandeur to a totally different level – besides that being ‘expected’ in places like Las Vegas, not needing to be able to pick-up and hit the road with the entire show provides a lot of added flexibility.

Cirque Eloize – Last year, I had the pleasure of attending both the public and Black-Tie Gala openings at the new Rose Theatre in Brampton, Ontario. As part of both shows, Cirque Eloize (a smaller, lesser-known Montreal, Quebec based circus troupe) performed a short collection of their acts and they totally blew me away. If you like Cirque du Soleil type shows and have the opportunity to experience Cirque Eloize, be sure to do so – you won’t be disappointed.

Posted in Arts & Entertainment, Random Thoughts | Leave a comment

Happy Thanksgiving Weekend (Canada)

Simply put, for all you Canadians out there, have a Happy (and safe) Thanksgiving weekend!

Posted in Random Thoughts | Leave a comment