Monday, May 29, 2006

Sleeping Pills Wake Vegetative Patients

The Guardian is reporting today that a certain sleeping pill has resulted in dramatic (but temporary) improvements in patients that have been in persistent vegetative states for years. For at least a few hours, they could talk with their families and watch tv after being given the drug.

This just shows is how little we know about comas and vegetative states. How a sleeping pill resulted in awakening these patients is beyond my medical knowledge, but clearly our knowledge is lacking, at best. I've often thought that people in these states may be having profound experiences that the rest of us in our supposedly preferable "conscious" state do not have access to. Maybe its something like an extremely deep meditation. I suspect that its a state that we can't even imagine (like explaining colour to a person who has never had sight) because it is too far from our experience.

TTC Strike: Steve Munro's Take

Local transit guru Steve Munro has made some very insightful comments about the strike here. I totally agree with him in that the way it was done was very amateurish, i.e.: the union president (Bob Kinnear, I believe) couldn't be found for comment for a good part of the day. If you're going to have a wildcat strike, at least be available for the positive and negative repercussions, and to keep the public up to date.

I took a subway ride on the Bloor-Danforth line at about 9:30 this evening, and it was sweet. Let's not take out transit (flawed though it may be) for granted.

TTC Strike and Cormorants

This pic was taken today at the lonely looking Ossington Station. Usually this shot would have been crowded with buses.

It looks like the short-lived TTC strike is over, so I'm sure that most stations are bustling once more by now. I was quite surprised to hear Mayor Miller strongly condemn the strike today, in his 3 pm press conference. He argues that the appropriate response from the TTC union in such a situation would have been to work with the TTC management to resolve the problem. I would agree that this is ideally the best route, but when is a situation ever ideal? The recent TTC announcement that TTC employees should exercise discretion with respect to fare collection, coupled with the even more recent announcement that many TTC cleaning and track maintenance staff would be switched to permanent night shifts (from their current day shifts), on top of the usual TTC mismanagement of staff has brought us to this. The TTC management is notoriously difficult to deal with, but the union always gets the blame. Ask any TTC employee: they will tell you that this has been brewing for some time. These recent events were just the catalyst. So, while I don't think that anyone wanted this strike to happen (especially considering that today is the hottest day of the year so far and the first heavy smog day) this is desperation in action. Unfortunately this strategy often backfires: instead of gaining public support for their cause, such strikes (especially ones with little warning like this one) result in increased animosity toward TTC employees. Perhaps tomorrow, when service has resumed as usual, people will take advantage of the "discretionary" fare collection, and act belligerently to the staff to make up for the inconveniences they had to suffer today.

Its a fact: some animals are more media savvy than others. When the public sees baby seals getting killed its a catastrophe, but other animals, such as cormorants, have little such support. A couple of years ago the province started a cormorant cull (a much nicer word than massacre isn't it?). But today, the Toronto Star is reporting that many cormorants are being left to die a painful and lingering death instead of being humanely killed. I strongly agree with Rob Laidlaw, who notes that if people saw deer (who the province also culls) left to die with their legs blown off, there would be an uproar.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Doors Open Toronto Finale - Former Massey Mansion

This building has gone from a mansion for one of Toronto's richest families (that's Massey as in Massey Hall) to a technological institute. It must surely be the most beautiful technological institute in Toronto: lots of large windows, beautiful murals and the same ornate detail as Gooderham House.

The careful observer will note that three of the buildings I visited are on Jarvis, close to Wellesley. Jarvis used to be home to the great (old-moneyed) families of Toronto in the pre-automobile days. However, with the advent of the private automobile, more lanes were added to Jarvis which meant that the beautiful old trees which lined both sides of the street had to go. No longer being the tranquil desirable address it once was, all the old money moved North. Hooray for events like Doors Open Toronto which allow this history to be remembered.

Doors Open Toronto - Gooderham House

This house was stunning. Gentlemen who are third and fourth generation Gooderham provided the tour - they wryly noted that the wealth had not trickled down to their generations. Although this house had an overall decadent beauty, the real treaures were in the small details: ornate ceilings, door hinges, radiators etc. stole the show. Bonus: restaurant on the ground floor with a large patio. Caution: expensive restaurant on the ground floor with a large patio.

Doors Open Toronto - Canada's National Ballet School

This building was amazing. There was so much light and open space that I felt like dancing myself!

Interesting fact about the beautiful floors: they are basically parquet floors, but with each piece of wood turned on its side instead of being laid flat. This creates a more interesting and intricate pattern, as well as making the floor more sturdy and flexible: form and function!

Interesting historical fact: the building housed the CBC for many years, until 1995. In its current incarnation, it provides space for dancers to practice, and there are residences as well for the dancers that do not live within commuting distance.

Interesting financial fact: almost half of the dancers receive substantial bursaries, so that no one is turned away as a result of financial need.

Interesting ballet education fact: there is a music room to provide a music education as well as dance. I guess it makes sense that you would have to be well versed in music in order to be a good dancer. The third shot is the outside of the building, in which choreographical notations (how choreographers write the steps) are etched in the glass. It is apparently very complicated....I believe it!

Doors Open Toronto - The Carlu

Today was spent viewing the glory that is old Toronto architecture as part of Doors Open Toronto. Definitely a day well spent. I visited four buildings: The Carlu, Canada's National Ballet School, Gooderham House and The York College of Industry and Technology (formerly the Massey Mansion). The intricacy of the workmanship and the attention to detail was truly breathtaking. These photos are from the Carlu. I will create a separate post for each building, so that you can concentrate on one building at a time.

The best word to describe this building is posh. From the thick carpets to the skylights to the old-fashioned "phone closets", this is definitely high class. You wouldn't think so from the rest of the building (yes you do know this building...its the one at Yonge and College/Carlton with the Winners and the Tim Hortons), but once you reach the 7th floor, its a different world. The lighting was what really caught my attention, as these photos indicate.