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January 2014

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LOOK: Toronto can learn a few things from the stunning design of Stockholm’s subway

Here is Toronto we are used to simple, utilitarian subway stations. Even our friends over in Montreal take a much more artistic approach to how their stations appear. Unfortunately the type of rock in which we are digging here in Toronto means that our stations are quite often as small as possible, but newer station designs like Museum show that a small space can still have a big visual impact.

All of that is nothing compared to Stockholm’s Metro system. Take a look at the images collected below by VisualNews that show the fantastic take the Swedes have in their subway stations.

1. Fantastic escalators through red stone.

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2. Looks like the escalator through Mordor.

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3. With a cool woodland scene on the walls.

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4. Even more epic escalators.

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5. Patterns, exposed stone, and sculpture all in one.

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6. Half buried pillars.

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7. This flower mosaic looks like a cross between Super Mario and Easter eggs.

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8. These awesome elevators look like Saul Bass designed a villain’s lair from a Bond movie.

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9. They’ve got ghosts in their tiles.

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10. Geometric shapes in an ice cavern design.

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11. Stunning view from the platform.

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12. View from inside of a train.

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13. Even the trains themselves look fantastic.

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14. Even more epic cavernous escalators.

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15. The simplest doors are designed to catch your eye.

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16. It is a wonder anyone makes it to work on time when these stations beg to be marveled at.

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17. Giant leaves overhead.

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18. Checkers and houndstooth overhead.

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19. a Cross between Alice in Wonderland and the Chamber of Secrets.

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20. These stations are so striking it wouldn’t surprise me if these statues came alive at night.

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21. Complete with ancient ruins to admire on your way to the train.

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LOOK: This photo essay of a man saving a sick and homeless dog might bring you to tears

Reddit user HeySupFrank posted up these shocking images of a neglected dog’s rescue and journey back to health.

Warning: the following images may be shocking at first, but seeing this dog’s healing process through and first experiences with the love and care of a human being is absolutely priceless.

1. Found in his makeshift shelter this dog is obviously living a rough life.

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2. His wound is severe.

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3. His rescue begins.

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4. He is friendly from the start.

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5. He can barely walk from the pain off his infected wound.

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6. He is carried to safety.

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7. He’s weak.

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8. The beginning of this dog’s new life.

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9. The beginning of this dog’s new life and his new family.

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10. They begin to clean the wound.

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11. Some care and a real bed for the first time in who knows how long.

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12. He loves treats just like every other dog out there.

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13. Everyone is happy to help.

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14. A new bed!

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15. Cleaning him as he snacks from his new food bowl.

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16. More friends are happy to help.

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17. Well on the way to recovery.

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18. On an IV drip.

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19. Poor guy.

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20. Almost all healed.

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21. Bones!

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22. New best friends for life.

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23. Best friends!

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24. Happy and healthy, he looks like a different dog than the one he found.

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25. A happy ending for these best buddies!

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WATCH: Can Toronto learn something from NYC’s new outlook on streets?

What a difference a few years and a determined attitude can make.

This video, put together by Clarence Eckerson at Streetfilms, shows the transformation of some of New York’s busiest roadways to best accommodate tourists, pedestrians, bicycles, cars, and public transit.

The metropolis’ reputation for mean streets may have to be reviewed with all of these scenes of smiling and happy people co-existing in the same space. The inclusion of separated bike lanes, public spaces, green spaces and more as part of the urban landscape seems to have all but supplanted the cliche of the gridlocked, honking, angry streets New York was once known for with a much more serene alternative.

Can Toronto learn something from New York’s street revitalization?

Weekend Away

We finally got our weekend away and it was just about everything I had hoped for. Mr. Unexpected and I drove up to Peterborough on Friday and spent the weekend eating, exploring, getting frisky in the in-room Jacuzzi and ignoring our cell phones.

Viamede Resort is the perfect place for a romantic getaway. Two hours away from the city and right on the lake, we felt like we were in a different world a place that was slower, calmer and more natural than the urban jungle we spend most of our lives in.

We were really disappointed to find out that the spa was closed while we were there but pleasantly surprised when we returned to our room on Saturday afternoon, after a long hike through the woods, to find two massage oil bars wrapped in pretty blue foil sitting beside the Jacuzzi. It was a sexier version of the classic chocolates on the pillows. That evening after a beautiful meal and a couple of glasses of red wine we took full advantage of the massage bars and created our own version of the spa; it was slightly more naked and definitely more fun than what would have been allowed by the Viamede spa staff.

The whole weekend felt like a movie; the private room with a stunning view of the lake, two people in love and food that could convince anyone to break their diet for a weekend.

One of my favourite parts of the weekend, aside from the food, was the drive up and the drive back. I liked having a couple of hours to just talk and be silly. We talked about summer road trips we wanted to take: Montreal, New York and, of course, back to Viamede. Yes, we’ve already planned our return. With the pool, jet skis and the incredible lake in mind we’re set on going back; Mr. Unexpected hasn’t ever been to a cottage and I’d love to rent one for the two of us so he can get the full cottage experience at a resort that we already know we love.

On the way home I Googled Reid’s Dairy, a Kingston girl staple, and found a small ice cream shop in Pickering that serves Reid’s Dairy milkshakes. We stopped for the triple thick milkshakes that were such a wonderful part of my childhood – I loved being able to share that with him.

I wanted this weekend to be the weekend when I said that complicated four-letter word, but it wasn’t. We were in a happy place and as much as I wanted to say it the scenery and the romance put a kind of pressure on it that wouldn’t feel natural to us. In all likelihood the first time I say “I love you” will probably be on the couch while marathoning something ridiculous on Netflix. It won’t be planned, it will fall out of my mouth entirely by accident.

Empowerment hits India’s streets

India’s women are magicians. They dot the countryside labouring in the fields, walking with heavy loads balanced on their heads, their colourful saris making them visible from miles away. Yet, within Indian society, they are invisible and often voiceless. How can women be so visible, yet invisible? There are two Indias if you are a woman. This is the perspective of someone just returning from close to a month in India, travelling in Delhi, Agra, Ahmedabad, Goa and Mumbai. This is the experience of someone who worked with a non-government organization dedicated solely to advancing India’s women. Given current global news coverage of violence against women in India, it seems like a good time to share a woman’s experience in the remarkable place called India.

Indian authorities have been struggling to combat gender-related crime for years. Violence against women is not new in India. Gang rape stories are not new in Delhi or other Indian cities. But this past December, male and female Indians hit the street to protest the heinous, cowardly and brutal crime of gang rape and murder against Jyoti Singh, a 23-year-old professional woman making her way home with a friend after a movie. The protests continue in streets that this woman observer had walked alone never sensing any risk of personal danger. What’s changed? India is being transformed; part medieval and part modern. The clash has social consequences.

Women are agents of significant change in India. Women’s work is no longer just the tedious work of factories, agriculture and domestic chores. Women entrepreneurship is having a huge impact by tackling some major social inequities, including illiteracy, systemic injustice and poverty, by providing an infrastructure of empowerment to uncounted women who toil in India’s informal sector. It’s part of the transformation magic. It is amazing to witness it.

There are many organizations working to improve the lives of India‘s women; one in particular, SEWA, the Self-Employed Women’s Association, is celebrating 40 years of success.

Understanding what SEWA is doing sheds light on why such extreme violence aimed at a female health care professional can ignite such outrage. There is a growing critical mass of enterprising women in India; their fathers and brothers and spouses are experiencing the power of their empowerment, and thanks to social media the world becomes a witness to the crime in real time. There is no escaping the hideous reality. No one can be bribed to say it didn’t happen.

Toronto man proposes to his boyfriend online

Prepare to get your cry on when you watch this beautiful viral video of Toronto couple Michael and Dave (with a little help from friends, family, and even pets) recounting their history together and plans for the future in the lead up to Dave proposing.

And, while we live in Canada where the issue has long been put to rest, this is a great example of the amazing love that two people can share regardless of their gender. To anyone who might argue that gay people don’t deserve to get married, take a look at this video and tell me that there isn’t a tear running down your eye right around the four minute mark. Yep. That’s love.

From Women’s Post and Gay Post here is wishing Michael and Dave nothing but the best and many years of happiness in their lives together.

Dinner with the parents

It’s official: tomorrow evening my mom will be in town with her husband and Mr. Unexpected and I are joining them for dinner. What else is official? I’m nervous.

My mom is a lovely lady, she’s fantastic and I’m so lucky to have her in my life, but the last time she met anyone it was the Big Ex and he left me a clichéd pile of tears and Ben & Jerry’s six months later. I’m not worried that Mr. Unexpected will leave me, we’re solid. What I worry about is that my mom still doesn’t trust my taste in men, I worry that she thinks I’m still the silly young girl running off to the most Northern parts of Ontario and I worry that she’ll put all that pressure on him.

Is it even normal to freak out about introducing a new man to your family? Do most people just think of it as a typical part of the dating process? I wonder about these things pretty much constantly. Never having been the commitment type, a lot of the standard dating behaviour feels foreign to me.

The funny thing about all this stress is that the thing that will keep me most calm is the exact same thing that is causing me stress. Mr. Unexpected knows how to calm me down in almost any situation, just having him beside me makes me feel less stressed out and more myself. He takes the edge off better than a shot of tequila.

I’m sure that mom will love him. In fact, she’ll probably start planning the wedding by dessert—not because she’s pushing me to get hitched any time soon but because she’s never seen me date a “nice boy.” According to my dear mom I have a bad habit of dating emotionally unavailable, damaged, broken and rebellious boys. Actually, I think whenever I tell her about a new boyfriend she pictures me on the back of a motorcycle in some kind of black leather get-up. Or maybe I’m exaggerating her strong dislike of everyone I’ve ever dated. But I’m probably not.

A friend of mine told me recently that I seem like a calmer, less high-strung version of myself lately and she attributed that to my relationship with Mr. Unexpected. While I’d love to take credit for the person I’ve become over the course of the past seven months I think she’s probably right. While I’m still the loud, slightly strange, sometimes crazy always moving lady that I’ve been since forever, I don’t let things get to me the way they used to. I don’t try as hard because I’ve found someone who likes me for my quirks rather than liking me in spite of them. According to him he’s learning to speak, “Wild Shannon.”

When tomorrow comes, after a glass of wine, I’m sure I’ll be fine because he’s not just another guy in my life, he’s not just another fling, he’s something real and the woman who knows me better than anyone will surely be able to see that. I hope.