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June 2013

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Politics in Toronto: Not broken, maybe bent, but certainly cracked

Quite a few people in the Twitterverse and beyond were shocked today by the transit video we released.

It was created by our publisher (and tireless transit advocate) Sarah Thomson who took to Facebook last night to announce that Women’s Post had “the video” and it would be appearing on Women’s Post’s website today at noon.

Supporters of transit initiatives in Toronto and those who see Sarah tick by in their Facebook and Twitter feeds regularly were familiar with the video she was talking about – a video where she sings a cover of Pink’s Just Give Me a Reason with lyrics re-written to showcase Toronto’s issues with securing reliable transit for the city and asking Torontonians to do what they can to support the Big Move.

A little bit silly? Of course. A conversation we need to be having? Definitely.

The video opens with a smoke filled room and a character holding a pipe before a segue into shots of Toronto’s congested streets and regular people holding cards asking for help in relieving transit stresses and commuter problems in our fair city. The message is clear: we need to move past the haze of drug scandals that have Toronto politics in a vice grip and get back to reality. Our city and the people in it are stuck immobile by distraction after distraction and are suffering the consequences of inaction on a daily basis.

What happened next couldn’t have driven the point home any better. Overnight Toronto’s hashtags and feeds jumped to the collective conclusion that the video going up today was of Rob Ford smoking crack.

Their shock came when the video turned out to be a song about transit.

My shock came in the immediate aftermath of the video going live. The message left in our comments, on Twitter, and on YouTube was that this was a waste of time, we need to get back to “real” issues about Rob Ford’s reckless personal life.

My shock was that a scandal plagued mayor has so thoroughly damaged the civic and political landscape of Toronto to the point where the people of Toronto can’t even clearly see that the most pressing issue to us right now, to our children, and to our future as a viable world-class city isn’t what people at City Hall have in their pipes, it is what their circus of distraction is preventing us from becoming.

This week boring machines began working on the largest transit project Toronto has seen in half a century. Unfortunately, the number of people tuned into stories about the Eglinton LRT pales in comparison to the number of people tuning in daily to see an elected official deny, dodge, and destroy politics at City Hall.

My suggestion to my fellow Torontonians is to take a cue from Sarah’s video. Wave the smoke out of your face and move on. Focus on what is important, do everything you can to make City Hall, Queen’s Park, and Parliament Hill work for you by speaking out about transit, urban development, bike lanes, the Gardiner, and everything else that is currently being ignored by the Mayor’s office. While we can waste time arguing over what kind of dust coats the Mayor’s desk it is quite clear that it isn’t being used at all for the municipal issues that need to be addressed.

Taking a stand on the problems faced by Torontonians instead of the demons faced by Toronto’s mayor is the only way we can step forward into the future.

The politics of Toronto aren’t broken, perhaps bent, but certainly cracked. What we need to do now is fill that crack with our voices. Our next big move as a city shouldn’t be into the depths of crack houses, it should be into the communities that need accessible transit, stitching together the tapestry of our city with busses, light rail, subways, proper highways, and bike lanes.

Together we can make it work.

 

You can follow Travis on Twitter at @TravMyers.

Toronto’s not broken just bent

Amid the scandal and smoke that swirls around city hall it is good to know there are some people and organizations in Toronto who push forward to tackle the real issues holding back our city. Credit should be given to organizations like the Toronto Transit Alliance for the work they are doing to educate and inform Toronto area residents of the need to come together and build a great city.

 

Be sure to follow Women’s Post on Twitter at @WomensPost.

Running with allergies

For some runners it may be challenging enough running in perfect conditions, let alone having to cope with allergies, which can make breathing difficult and turn a routine run into a tortuous test of will.

There is good news, however, for allergy sufferers: their condition may now be controlled and prevented if necessary steps are taken. After suffering for long enough I decided to visit my doctor to learn which medications would be most suitable. I was diagnosed with Rhinitis (Hay fever) and was prescribed Flonase (nasal spray) and told to take an antihistamine before the workout, which certainly helped to make my running experience more enjoyable.

A recent survey commissioned by Johnson & Johnson suggests up to 10 million Canadians may suffer from allergy symptoms. The survey found that more than a quarter say they’ll limit their outdoor time to prevent the onset of symptoms. Allergy season may start early in spring but can last into fall as the combination of climate change and pollen counts leads to expanded sneezing, wheezing, and gasping.

The main culprits tend to be pollen, ragweed and grass. Sometimes not knowing we have allergies can affect our work and personal lives, as well as our best intentions of getting fit and staying healthy. Often mistaken for a common cold, it is treatable if one knows the symptoms, which may include nasal congestion, itchy and watery eyes.

Speaking with Dr. Jack Taunton, who was Chief Medical Officer for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, he mentions certain regions across North America are harsher than others when it comes to allergies. “Did you know,” he asks, “that Eugene, Oregon isn’t the best place to run for people with allergies?” Dr. Taunton also includes the west coast of British Columbia as a particularly troublesome place for allergy sufferers because of vast forested areas and voluminous species of plants and grasses.

Dr. Taunton suggests various foods, such as strawberries, some vegetables, dust and pet dander, may trigger an allergic reaction, adding, “Some triathletes are even allergic to certain types of chlorine in the pool,” also showing that for some unlucky people there is no escape. He suggests seeing an allergist when symptoms become difficult to manage.

To summarize, your allergies are caused by the environment or certain foods and the best we can do is try to manage the situation.

So what can you do to enjoy your workouts more? “Try breathing more through your mouth,” says Dr. Taunton. Try running when the pollen counts are lowest (check the weather report) and wear sunglasses to prevent itchy watery eyes. Avoid running in trails or parks at the most dangerous times (for your allergies). Before your workout, take an antihistamine. Allergy shots may be the answer and I’ve heard green tea may help provide relief. If unsure, pay a visit your doctor first to find out if you do suffer from an allergy condition.

 

LISTEN: We love the new Miley and so do you

We are in love with the new Miley Cyrus track We Can’t Stop. WE can’t stop — listening to this tune!

It sounds like Miley is borrowing a bit of Kanye a vibe from the backing synth, and the breakdown in the middle sounds like something taken directly from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. She had some amazing dance tracks on her last album, Can’t Be Tamed, and hopefully the trend continues in her latest effort with the synth-pop.

Wait, does she say she’s ‘trying to get a line in the bathroom’  at 1:53? Uh oh. Oh well, child stars gotta rebel sometime.

In the meantime it looks like we have at least one new song to add to our patio playlist this summer.

 

Follow Women’s Post on Twitter for all the latest in Miley Cyrus obsession @WomensPost.

INVESTMENT BUG: The pros and cons of purchasing an investment property

We’re nearing the end of the second quarter now, and the real estate market is holding steady! And with more and more people looking at ways to invest their money and get the most for their return, I’ve had a few calls from clients considering investing their money in investment properties. I know from personal experience that the return on this type of investment can be great, and is definitely a great way to diversify your investment portfolio with an investment that will likely increase over time and pay for itself in monthly rental income, but I also know firsthand that the process isn’t as glamorous as it may come across on all our favourite real estate reality TV shows.

Firstly, let me make the difference between flipping properties, which has been popularized in the last few years, and owning an investment property. “Flipping” a property refers to the common practice of purchasing a “fixer-upper” property below market value with the intention of fixing it up to raise the value and re-selling in a relatively short period of time for a profit.

Owning an investment property that you plan to hold on to long term can be anything from purchasing a condo, duplex, triplex, building, etc. with the intention of renting out the unit or units on an ongoing basis.

If you’re looking at purchasing an investment property for the first time, it may be worth noting that most lenders won’t approve financing for properties of more than four units. So purchasing a triplex to rent out may be a good start, but maybe save the three-story low rise until you’re a little more experienced. Most lenders will require a minimum of 20% down, and if you’re looking to avoid mortgage insurance premiums, it might be worth it to put down more. Throw in land transfer taxes and closing costs, and you’ll see why it becomes super important to know your numbers and be sure of what your upfront expenses are going to be.

When it comes to tenants, I have one golden rule for all of my clients: you need the RIGHT tenant, not a tenant RIGHT NOW. In Ontario, the laws are usually on the side of the tenant, so do your background and pay the $29.99 for a credit check to cover your bases. If you don’t have a thick skin, develop one, quick! Complaints will come and you’ll need to know your tenants’ rights and your rights as well.

Be prepared for maintenance costs and repairs. Be prepared to put in work. Get yourself an agent who has knowledge of the type of investment property you’re looking to get into and who knows the area enough to work with you through area rental rates and capitalization rates. If you arm yourself with the right team and proper guidance, it could be the best financial decision you ever make.

 

Follow Chellie on Twitter at @ChellieMejia and Women’s Post at @WomensPost

RELAX: The power of baths

Growing up, my family considered baths to be the best treatment for everything from sore muscles to broken hearts. A quick shower before work or school was common; however, it was far less appealing than evening baths. Following a rough day, a stressful exam or a long, uncomfortable bout of the flu, baths were the go-to cure. This power to heal both body and mind was instilled in me from a young age and has stuck with me into adulthood.

While undeniably relaxing, baths have a beneficial detoxifying effect as well. As you sweat in the warm water, built-up toxins are cleared from your system. Once your body has removed these toxins, it will then soak up and benefit from any minerals added to the water. Furthermore, detox baths have been known to lower blood pressure, help with circulation and ease muscle pain.

Here is a great detox bath recipe to get you started:

  • 2 cups Epsom salts (I prefer lavender scented ones for added relaxation)
  • 2 tablespoons of ground ginger (this opens pores and increases body temperature, causing more toxins to be released)
  • 1 cup of baking soda (the alkaline helps to pull toxins from the body)
  • optional: essential oils of your choice

Since you are losing hydration through sweating, it is important to drink plenty of water both during and after the bath. I like to do this about once a week, especially during the winter months. Typically I stay in the bath for around 40 minutes.

It is important to be cautious when in hot water, especially if you have any medical conditions related to blood pressure or if you are pregnant. Consult a doctor before starting a detox bath ritual.

 

Follow Women’s Post on Twitter for all the latest in bath time and de-stressing: @WomensPost

CRAIGSLIST: How to make sure you never get laid in three short sentences.

As you already know, we here at WP have a certain fondness for missed connections. There is something so romantic about the idea of that fleeting glimpse that could lead to more and the possibility of a relationship blossoming on the off chance of your predestined lover posting an ad for you. It harkens back to the fairy tale Prince Charming searching all across the kingdom for the beauty who left her slipper at the ball. Deep down we all really want to believe in love at first sight.

That being said, this next missed connection is probably the worst example of the form. Fellas, take note, this is How To Never Get Laid 101. Our souls (and probably Eglinton station) need a deep Purell cleanse.

We can tell you with certainty that this is not how you should think about strangers. Buddy, the reason she kept looking away is obviously because you are a slimeball and regular human beings, you know, the ones who want to be treated with a modicum of respect, want nothing to do with you.

Warning, this guy uses some naughty language.

Click to enlarge

 

Follow Women’s Post on Twitter for all the latest in awful missed connections. @WomensPost

Monday blues? Here’s a baby skunk to cheer you up

Mondays can be rough, but nothing is cheerier than seeing a baby pet skunk desperate for some love from his adopted mom.

The little guy, Jasper, can’t get enough of him mom’s toes as he whines to be picked up.

Jasper even has his own Facebook page, written in the first person of course, where he details his adventures as a house-skunk. Check out more videos of Jasper on S Decker‘s YouTube channel.

 

Follow Women’s Post on Twitter for all the latest news in adorable animals. @WomensPost

Understanding Toronto’s biggest bullies

Annual spring-clean up in our house means our boys each have to fill a large box with toys for charity — and it always brings back memories of my childhood. My twin brother and I didn’t have a lot of toys.  My parents put everything they had into buying our farm, and building our home.  Any money my father made went into buying shingles, wood or paint.  Our home was an eclectic place and reflected the values of my parents – my father built polished oak bookshelves, but our living room had plywood where the door to the garden should have been.  Our clothes were patched up hand-me-downs from our older siblings, but our house was filled with books.

In the late 70s most of the major banks wanted to get rid of what was they viewed as high-risk farm mortgages. They called in a lot of these mortgages and owners were expected to come up with the funds in 30 days. But once a bank called a mortgage, no other bank would touch it.  A lot of people lost their farms and our family was one of them. We lost almost everything when the bank foreclosed and sold our farm for the value of mortgage owed (not even 1/4 of its value), but we were allowed to keep our furniture … and our books.

We moved from our farm into run-down house in the city.   The house was in what was then the poor area of Burlington in the downtown core, filled with boarded-up old homes, low rent apartments, and community housing. At the age of 11 my brother and I found ourselves in a very different world; we went from building forts in the fields and forests, to exploring abandoned houses filled with drug addicts. At the farm school, most of the kids came from lower-income families and like us, they wore second-hand clothes, but there was more wealth in the city where the upper and middle-class kids came to school in designer jeans.

I was picked on, beaten up and bullied until I learned how to throw a punch, to stand up to the bullies and never back down.  It only took a few good punches before my reputation began to spread. I discovered that most bullies are cowards, and by standing up to them, and yelling just as loudly, I could destroy their status. By high school they avoided me completely.

Like many kids from my neighborhood, I landed my first job in grade nine and worked every day after school, this separated me from the middle-class and rich kids who enrolled in after school sports. But my job gave me confidence and my vision expanded quickly beyond the vast majority of high-school kids who were pre-occupied with a need to fit in.

Back then the middle-class dominated, and kids from wealthy families were as much a minority as the low-income kids.  The kids who focused on their studies were dubbed the school nerds (both low and high income). There was also a small group of wealthy kids who used their wealth to impress and insert themselves into every group.  Driven by their misguided belief in their own superiority, they needed to be popular and enjoyed their influence over the majority of middle-class kids. Bullies to the core they would pounce on anyone who threatened their position. Spoiled by wealth they never excelled at anything, their only goal to hold influence over every group – jumping between the jocks and the druggies – they fit into both groups by amplifying their basest and most common attributes. From the class clown, to cool jock, to drug dealer they needed popularity and would do whatever it took to get it. As they aged they fell behind their peers, never having to achieve, their adult lives are a constant attempt to mimic their high-school years.

Even now I can spot the older versions of those high-school bullies. They still don’t fit in, often with radical views and poor judgment. Inheriting their wealth with no need to work hard for anything, they have bravado but lack the confidence that comes from true success. This stunted development (often noticeable in their vocabulary) leads to addiction issues with alcohol and drugs giving them bursts of false confidence. Some are drawn to politics for the power and influence they so desperately need.

These political bullies claim to speak for the average person, pretending to be just like them, they hide their sense of superiority behind crass language and campaign slogans. They loathe minorities, outspoken women, and anything that challenges their status. They pretend to hate the press but need the attention and are drawn to the media, like a moth to a flame. Their lack of personal development puts them at odds with their peers and often embroils them in scandals that seem to be self-inflicted. They work to destroy anyone who stands up to them, deflecting scrutiny, and denying anything that might compromise their support.

Unfortunately they know how to appeal to those with below average intelligence. Using slogans and propaganda, they stir up negative emotions – jealousy, division and hate – to fuel their supporters.

Like any bully, the only way I know to stop them is to punch them back, expose their lies, and never back down. Eventually their supporters will see them for the privileged and spoiled charlatans they are and abandon them.