Monday, April 30, 2007

Toronto FC and missing seats.

This past weekend was the inaugural home game for Toronto FC, Toronto's new MLS football team. Even though MLS soccer is nowhere near the level of what you see in Europe and elsewhere there is a lot of enthusiasm to get some decent games locally. With David Beckham joining the league later this summer it also adds a little bit of fun.

My colleague Dean went to the game on Saturday, he'd purchased expensive season tickets right along centre field with some of his friends when he arrived at the game and made his way to his seat he realized that his seat didn't exist! Apparently they sold season tickets to seats that were never built in the new BMO Field and he was forced to watch the game from an alternative (ie. really bad) seat. All turned out well however, as he was notified today that he'd be given alternate season tickets that were just as, if not, better than what he purchased. I wonder how many other "phantom" seats were sold?

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Bridge Building

The events of the past 3-4 days in Estonia have been difficult to watch from afar. Being in Canada I'm forced to rely upon news reports, blogs and forums to get my up to the minute news of what is going on in Tallinn. I even resorted so far as to check the Tallinn weather webcam once and awhile to see if there were crowds gathering in Vabaduse Valjak. :) Relying on this type of news makes the entire situation seem worse than it really is since you get multiple views of the same event and they stack up and multiply. Speaking with a number of people that are in Tallinn (or got out of town for a rest) the situation seems to be under control and level heads will prevail.

What I've learnt from this is to stay away from online forums and blogs when it comes to politics. There is simply too much ignorance, hate, confusion and sheer stupidity that it will drive you mad participating in these things.

Hopefully we can put most of this past us now and start working together to build bridges. Estonian community leaders need to meet with ethnic Russia community leaders and find out what can be done so that the events of last week do not repeat themselves in the future.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007


I hope everyone I know in Tallinn stays safe and level headed. Don't get goaded into anything and let's do it like it's 1989, peacefully.

Not good

Yikes, watching the footage of what is going on in Tallinn I have to say that things don't look good. Hopefully things don't get any more out of hand than they already are.

Watching drunken young men trash downtown Tallinn won't do much to convince moderate Estonians that moving the monument is a bad idea. Let's just hope this whole process moves quickly.

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Beginning of the end?

And so it begins...

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Confederate Flag vs. Pronkssõdur

Last night I was watching a 60 Minutes interview with presidential candidate John McCain, one question that came up was his view on the Confederate Flag which is flown at the state capital in South Carolina. In 2000 this issue came up and he said it was a state issue, many believe his stance on this played a part in him loosing the primary there and subsequently losing the Republican nomination.

In this week's interview he said that his initial statement wasn't what he truly believes and in his heart he knows that flying the flag is wrong, quote: "That it was a symbol to many of, a very offensive symbol to many, many Americans".

Similarities with Pronkssõdur?

Confederate Flag vs. Pronkssõdur

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Valli Baar

I just read that Valli Baar has been placed under heritage protection meaning that Millimallikas will continue to be served for generations to come. Awesome.

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Kaiser Chiefs in Concert

Last night I went to the Kaiser Chiefs concert, it's been awhile since I saw live music. I've always enjoyed going to shows but that past couple of years in Tallinn didn't yield a terribly large number of good concerts. Toronto on the other hand is a great music city, there are always live shows going on and bands big and small from all over the world include Toronto as a stop on their tours.

Last nights show was opened by The Walkman, a NYC band that I had never heard of. They had some decent tunes but I wasn't a big fan of the lead singer. They played a 40 minute set which overall was decent but nothing too great.

Kaiser Chiefs can on around 10:30pm and opened with a couple of songs off their first album "Employment". They tried to get the crowd to sing along with a bunch of the songs but unfortunately Toronto concert crowds are notoriously conservative and I don't think it went as well as they had wanted. Overall the Chiefs were very entertaining and put on a good show. I'm looking forward to a good summer concert season here in Toronto, coming up next is Arcade Fire at Massey Hall.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Ouch. A scary article in the Baltic Times today talking about the labor shortages in Estonia and the rest of the Baltics. Not enough workers to go around and nothing that can be done to incentivize workers to increase productivity. Of the people who are still unemployed “About 99 percent of those are unemployable. They are too drunk to fill out the paperwork”. Yikes!

Eesti is a tiny country that isn't growing population wise but has a rapidly growing economy, eventually something has to give. Will the government allow in more immigrants to work there? Probably not for reasons that are somewhat understandable.

One of the most interesting quotes was about the recent elections: "Some parties promised to ensure that workers will earn a monthly wage of 25,000 kroons". I think the use of wage increases as a political gimmick is disturbing, especially in a market economy where the government should have little role in setting wage levels. Sounds like something would have happened years ago with a "managed economy".

I know a number of people who own or run companies that are desperate for decent workers and have made it clear the labor shortage is the #1 problem currently. Maybe it's time for me to jump back across the pond, I think I'm sober enough to fill out paperwork. :)

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Let there be light!

The Ontario government has followed Australia's lead and banned incandescent light bulbs (starting in 2012). Compact fluorescent lights use 75% less energy and LEDs even less, it will be illegal for retailers to sell the bulbs but no fine for actually using them, I wonder if there will be a black market for incandescents. CFL's contain a bit of mercury so hopefully LED technology will improve quickly in the next couple of years but this is a good small step that I'm sure many jurisdictions will follow. It's about time we phased out these ancient technologies.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

This past weekend I purchased a new bike to get around with and I'm loving it. I hadn't biked a lot recently partly because of some health problems and partly out of shear laziness. Toronto is a pretty good city to bike around in, it's relatively flat although drivers can be pretty blind to cyclists it's nowhere near as bad as in Tallinn where I'm convinced drivers try and run down bikers on purpose. We could have better bike paths, I particularly like the way Stockholm has built bike lines separate from the road.

The biggest concern is theft. Last year there were an estimated 7000 bikes stolen in Toronto, real numbers aren't available because a lot of people don't report thefts. Unfortunately at home I don't really have a good place to keep the bike so I have to lock it up on the front porch, usually there is someone in the house so that should be a deterrent. At work I can park my bike in the parking garage where they have some bike racks next to the ticket booths so there is someone watching them 24/7. But all it takes is 5 minutes for someone to rip you off and no matter how good your lock is I don't think there's much you can do except not worry about it.

Can't wait for later this week to really enjoy the riding as weather is expected to hit the low 20's. :)

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007


The other day I signed up for Zipcar, a service that allows you to reserve cars that are located all over the city for an hour or two (up to a couple of days) if you need. Since I live downtown and rarely need a car I haven't ever considered buying one but once in awhile it would be useful to be able to hop in the the car and drive somewhere to run an errand (hello suburban Ikea's!). The rates are pretty good, about $10/hr which includes insurance and gas and there are various plans that you can sign up for depending on your driving needs. Most of the cars are located downtown and you simply go to their site to reserve one and drop it off at the same spot when you're done. A cool feature (which I'll rarely use but it's still cool) is that you can use the service in any of the cities that Zipcar services in the world, so next time I'm in London and need a car for a couple of hours problem solved.

I think this type of initiative is great, it allows people who don't have cars to get some occasional mobility and hopefully can convince some downtowners who do own cars that they could save a lot of money (and a bit of the environment) if they drove less. It's not the best solution if you need a car for longer time periods or trips but it suits most urban lifestyles quite well. I'll update at a later point about the experience once I've actually used the service.

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Flying high

I'm in the process of looking for flights from Toronto to Tallinn later this year. I'm pretty flexible as to time lines but as early as possible in August is preferred in order to take advantage of the long days in Eesti, I'm also flexible as to where I fly since I'd be happy to stop over in Stockholm for 1-3 days and spend time with Liisa there before going on. There are unfortunately only so many options from North America when it comes to flying to Estonia. There are no direct flights to Tallinn, the closest you can get is Helsinki as Finnair runs direct flights in the summer. Pricing all seems to be the same, from $1100 to $1500 for the cheapest flights unless you grab a really cheap charter to London and then get an Estonian Air/Easyjet flight to Tallinn. Will there ever be direct flights from Tallinn (or the Baltics in general) to North America? Will the new "open sky" rules help?

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Tragic Hip

I wanted to give some credit to Canada's much maligned health care system. I've had nagging hip pain for 3 years for which I've seen a lot of doctors and done physiotherapy but it still hasn't gone away so last week I had an appointment with a specialist who ordered a whole bunch of test. In the past week I've had an MRI, a EMG (electromyography) and some other test which name I don't know and can't pronounce. It looks like I'm close to a final diagnosis which is nice but what is amazing is the speed that everything got done, you hear horror stories about wait times in Canada for tests and medical care but my experience wasn't that bad. I know that a lot of people do have problems but I still feel compelled to give credit where credit is due.

Oh, and total cost to me for all these doctors and test was $80 which is covered by my work. Not bad. :)

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Keep on rocking.

I've been listening to Neil Young - Live at Massey Hall 1971 a lot recently. I'm a big Neil Young fan (aren't all Canadians?) and this is an excellent addition to his large list of good albums. What's most interesting to hear is that most of the songs that he sings are new and were being heard by the audience for the first time. Their reaction is often muted but these songs go on to be some of his biggest hits.


Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Kaliningrad vs. Tallinn

The Russian First Minister Ivanov is calling for Russians to stop buying Estonian products (but he's not calling for a boycott) and asking them to stop visiting Estonia and go to Kaliningrad instead? Where would you rather go?


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