Tag Archives: Toronto

Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are currently the cutest thing on the Internet

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In case you haven’t noticed, a serious bromance has bloomed in the 6ix.

The state of the Raptors is pretty strong at the moment. Kyle Lowry was voted in as the starting point guard for the Eastern Conference All-Star team for the second year running. DeMar DeRozan should also end up on the squad as a reserve. The game is set to tip off in a few weeks at the Air Canada Centre, the first time Canada will host an NBA All-Star Game. And thanks to last night’s win over the Los Angeles Clippers, the Raps now sport an eight-game winning streak, their longest in 14 years.

But this post isn’t about stats, team records or All-Star votes. It’s about the fact that Kyle and DeMar are currently the cutest couple on the Internet. Let’s take a look at the evidence.

Exhibit A

You know you got a real pal when you start ribbing on each other. And that’s exactly what Kyle does in this video as he calls out DeMar for his suspect math skills. He even manages to throw in a USC dig, DeMar’s alma mater. When DeMar sheepishly says “I didn’t even go to college that long,” you kind of want to reach into the computer and give him a hug.

Exhibit B

At about the one-minute mark, you’ll see a mysterious water bottle enter the frame. This is Kyle messing with DeMar’s interview. At about the 1:30 mark, Kyle says DeMar gets his shot off “after 38 pump fakes,” leading to one of the most glorious laughs in the history of laughter. Pure joy.

Exhibit C

I’ll break this one down as best I can. It seems to me that DeMar tells Kyle he smells good and then Kyle (get this!) says thank you and says it’s the soap he bought him. I have so many questions about this!

  • Why is DeMar buying Kyle soap?
  • Can’t Kyle buy his own soap?
  • Was it a Christmas present?
  • What kind of soap was it?
  • What else does DeMar buy Kyle?
  • What does Kyle buy DeMar?

These are the questions that keep me up at night.

Exhibit D

In a video of outtakes, Kyle and DeMar can’t seem to nail down this read for the JUNO Awards. OK, maybe more so DeMar than Kyle.

Exhibit E

Kyle: Yo D, give me a piggyback.

DeMar: Aight bro but you do me next.

Kyle: Ya aight bro.

DeMar: Cool.

Exhibit F

I feel like this is a game that children play in grade school. But Kyle’s not afraid to bring it back! A theme is starting to develop here: Kyle seems to enjoy messing with DeMar’s interviews. Maybe we should expect DeMar’s revenge one of these days.

"We are the two best friends that anyone could have."

A post shared by Toronto Raptors (@raptors) on

Exhibit G

And the fun just keeps on coming. After this past Friday’s win over the Miami Heat, Lowry was at it again, producing the following exchange:

DeMar: Y’all have a great day.

Kyle: It’s night-time.

Listen, all of these exchanges are awesome. As The Starters have been saying, these two are the best comedy duo in the NBA right now. They’re providing a lot of laughs for a lot of fans. Hell, you don’t even have to like basketball to find this amusing.

But all kidding aside, this chemistry bodes well for the future, both immediate and long-term. As is the same with any profession, if you get along with your coworkers outside of work, you’re more likely to be productive at work. Also, if you genuinely like your coworkers, you’re more likely to stay put.

And in a game where chemistry is second only to talent in terms of predicting success, here’s hoping this bond leads them to make some noise in the playoffs this year. If your two best players get along like this, you have to think it’ll trickle down to the rest of the team.

We currently sit 2.5 games back of Cleveland for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. And with all the changes and uncertainty facing that squad, finishing tops in the East isn’t totally out of the question.

So let’s raise a glass to the best comedy due in the NBA. Here’s hoping I’ll have to do a part two of this post.

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Hey TTC, start charging all your customers already!

Notwithstanding some funky arrangements, businesses should always collect pre-determined amounts of money for whatever goods or services they provide. This tuna sandwich costs $6, that spatula costs $4, and one ride on the TTC costs $3, for example. This gives order to our universe. Payment, whether it be cash or plastic, is a necessary step towards self-preservation for any business.

That’s why I get annoyed when the TTC doesn’t collect what’s owed to them. Sometimes it feels like public transit in Toronto is one big pay-what-you-can operation. Here are three scenarios that play out on a daily basis across the TTC’s vast network of subways, streetcars and buses:

  • You enter a subway station. You drop $3 worth of change in the compartment before passing through the turnstile. But while you’re doing it, maybe the attendant is staring off into space. Or maybe you’re dropping your change onto a pile of other people’s change, making it impossible for anyone to determine how much you put in. I mean, Rain Man himself would struggle with the count. Hey TTC attendant, at least press the lever that empties the change compartment to give yourself a chance. Don’t wait until emptying it sounds like someone hit the jackpot at one of these casino games. I could have dropped a handful of nails in there and you probably wouldn’t have known the difference.
  • Not dissimilar to the example above, a bus rolls up to your stop. Personally, I’ve always dropped the correct fare into the box because I guess my mom raised an honest kid. But there’s really no way for the driver to know how much money gets thrown in. Unless TTC training involves listening to a bunch of change falling and determining the sum without looking, the driver has no clue.
  • You’re waiting for the streetcar. Logically, everybody is lined up where the front door will end up. The streetcar arrives, people start getting off from the back, and then BOOM!, half the crowd decides to enter the streetcar through the back door. The problem is there’s nowhere to pay back there. A few well-meaning souls wave a Metropass in the air, oblivious to the fact that nobody of importance is paying attention. In the meantime, the TTC loses out on a whole bunch of fares. That shit adds up, right!

I’ve lived in Toronto pretty much non-stop since 2002. This was an issue then and it’s an issue now. Is it really possible that the TTC has not improved their payment system in the past dozen years? At this point, I’d like to point out that I’m not a transit expert. I don’t closely follow the transit-related storylines coming out of City Hall. I’d also like to point out that I realize I’m not really offering up any solutions, just pointing out a problem.

So yes, I don’t know the ins and outs of the TTC but that doesn’t mean that I don’t know what I see pretty much every time I ride the Red Rocket. If the TTC wants to improve its services, it needs money. And for it earn money, it needs to charge its customers, the same way any self-respecting business would. And when I see dozens of commuters getting a free ride each and every day, it reminds me that the TTC has a long way to go, notwithstanding its new influx of fare enforcement officers.

I don’t walk into a Canadian Tire, leave with a pair of skates saying “Nah, sorry, I don’t really feel like paying for these today.” I don’t walk into a convenience store, grab a Twix bar off the shelf, casually stroll out and continue on with my day. No, these things don’t happen. But the equivalent is happening every day on the TTC network. And to be honest, it’s a little embarrassing for a world-class city.

The counterpoint to all this is that the TTC is far from perfect and maybe doesn’t deserve our full fares. I was recently waiting for the northbound Spadina streetcar at Bremner Boulevard. It was a Saturday night. SIX (yes, I counted) southbound cars passed before a northbound one came along. So yeah, it was hard to justify paying the three bucks but I still did.

Maybe the solution is simple: Go buy a bike. And unlike the TTC, expect to pay the amount marked on the price tag.

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Here’s some reasons to get excited about the Raptors season

The Toronto Raptors have wallowed in mediocrity for the better part of their 20-year existence. For the most part, the experience of watching the Raptors over the years has been trying at best and depressing at worst. They’ve qualified for the post-season six times and have won ONE measly playoff round all the way back in 2001. Throughout their history, they have a win-loss record of 630-882, just under 42%. To be fair, we haven’t been the only tortured fan base in the league, seeing as how only 17 teams have ever won the chip. But there have been times when every new Raptors season has felt like a foregone conclusion: complete and utter insignificance.

Ladies and gentlemen, here to bring some much-needed positive vibes to this whole debacle, I present to you the 2014-15 NBA season. At the time of writing, the Raptors have the best record in the East (13-3) and the highest average point differential (10.6) in the entire league. Our record sits just a smidge behind two Western Conference powerhouses  in the Memphis Grizzlies and the Golden State Warriors.

Tack on a super-successful #WeTheNorth (#WeTheFourth?) marketing campaign and this season has been a ball so far. It’s finally time to feel good about our team. We’re deep, we’re likable, we have all kinds of swag, we have Drake sitting courtside, and we’re finally having fun playing basketball. Here’s some top moments so far.

 All things Drake

I’m trying my best to resist posting a series of pics and gifs of Drake being Drake and just calling it a day, dropping the mic. Because when he’s sitting in his courtside seat (sometimes in awesomely lame outfits such as the one above) clapping, cheering and generally going nuts, it’s hard to not get down with that. Love him or hate him, he’s one of the best (some might say the best) at his craft right now and he’s a legitimate fan of this team, having grown up in The 6.

Probably my favourite Drake moment of the year came at the George Constanza glasses/grandpa sweater game, a rout of the Philadelphia 76ers. In the fourth quarter, with the Raptors easily handling the Sixers, James Johnson broke free for a breakaway dunk. Old man Drake had quite the reaction:

Drake’s official title is the Global Ambassador for the Raps. I’m not entirely sure what that entails but if it means more Drake-ey things from his courtside seat, I’m all in. And I’m pretty sure an official Drake Cam is the best idea I’ve ever had. Just throw it in the top-right corner of the screen and we good.

The travelling band of merry Raptors’ fans

So we all know we have one of the best fanbases in the league. We’re loud, we’re passionate and we can be a little crazy, over the top even. In one of the more satisfying wins of the season, the Raptors travelled to Cleveland and soundly beat LeBron’s new superteam. But one of the more interesting aspects was something that was happening in the stands. In one section of the arena, there were, according to the Toronto Star, “a few hundred” diehard Raptors fans cheering on their team. Decked out in Raps gear, they were chanting and screaming their heads off. They even sang the Canadian national anthem at one point. In a classic backfire, the arena staff decided to turn up the music to drown out the pro-Toronto chants. And what did they play, you ask? Yup, they played Drake. Yeah, I doubt that did much to dampen their collective spirit.

Oh, and they didn’t stop once the game was over. Don’t let anybody tell you Toronto doesn’t love basketball. The Toronto Maple who?

The blowouts

Sure, we could have a real debate about strength of schedule. Eleven of the Raps’ 16 games have been in the friendly and supportive confines of the Air Canada Centre. They have played zero road games against the much tougher Western Conference. And they’ve played Orlando twice and Philadelphia once, both relatively easy outs. But the Raptors didn’t make the schedule. They have to play the teams the NBA tells them to play. Sure, it’s been favourable but what I’ve really liked is the ease in which they’re dispatching opponents. They beat Philly by 32, Utah by 18, Milwaukee by 42 and took down LeBron and co. by 18 in their house, apparently with the whole city of Cleveland behind them. All of these wins results in the 10.6 average point differential mentioned above, tops in the league. So sure, it hasn’t been the most gruelling schedule but this is a deep league where nearly every team can beat any other team.

#forgivevince

It was about time, right? It’s been a full ten years since Vince Carter left Toronto for New Jersey. And he’s been loudly booed ever since. Sure, he was far from perfect on his way out of Toronto whether it was not giving 100% on the court or childishly refusing to dunk. But he brought excitement and credibility to the Raptors around the same time the other Canadian team was going belly up out west. It’s time we forgive him. And earlier this month, the fans took a step in the right direction. After a video tribute played on the jumbotron, the fans stood up and gave him a standing ovation. Vince even shed a few tears.

This was the right thing to do. Finally, some closure. Now let’s start focusing on our team. And so far, what a team it’s been.

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Let’s use our heads and make helmets mandatory

Here’s a question for all of you: How is it that a helmet is mandatory for an e-scooter but not for a regular bike? Am I missing something or is there a serious disconnect going on here?

The other weekend, we rented a two-person e-scooter for a few hours to zip around Toronto. Max speed? A (whopping!) 35 km/hr. Plus, given that we were two people, hitting 30 km/hr was a rarity that day.

I mean, this thing was pretty feeble. It struggled going up hills from a standstill. Fellow motorists (in their appropriately-powered vehicles, I might add) yelled “You’re too slow!” more than once. And to top it off, the thing made a rather obnoxious beeping sound when you clicked on the turn signal.

Eventually, we clued into the fact that this thing should basically be ridden like a bicycle: Stay to the right side of the right lane whenever possible without actually riding in any bike lanes, recently ruled a big no-no in Toronto.

We saw a lot of things that day but not once did we see somebody riding a scooter (electric or otherwise) without a helmet. Many cyclists eschew the helmet even though it’s not uncommon for them to hit 35 km/hr (the max speed of our scooter), especially coming down hills.

(From Wikipedia: Typical speeds for bicycles are 15 to 30 km/h (10 to 20 mph). On a fast racing bicycle, a reasonably fit rider can ride at 50 km/h (30 mph) on flat ground for short periods.)

In recent years, I’ve become a somewhat passionate proponent for cyclists wearing helmets. It just seems so obvious to me, such a no-brainer. We read about cyclists getting injured (sometimes fatally) on Toronto’s streets all the time and yet we go on thinking that we’re somehow invincible, that it could never happen to us.

I’ll often tell anybody who’ll listen that they should probably consider wearing a helmet in Toronto. And so far, I’ve yet to hear a valid argument for NOT wearing one. Here are some ways one may try to justify it:

“Wearing a helmet makes me less cool.”

Really? I would understand this argument a little more coming from a high school student, a place where superficiality reigns, where it determines one’s “popularity.” A place where having the latest generation iPhone or the newest pair of Jordans makes you cool.

But as we grow up and escape that bubble, shouldn’t we be maturing as well, getting more comfortable in our own skin, less susceptible to peer pressure? In my opinion, adults should not be worrying themselves with what’s cool or what’s not cool, especially when it comes to protecting their skull and brain. They should be cluing into the fact that self-preservation should be high up there on their list of priorities.

“It messes up my hair.”

Would you rather something else get messed up? Anyway, here’s the solution. Walk into the office (or cafe, bar, wherever) with your helmet in clear view. Carry it with pride. People will see it and understand. And probably respect you for it. I get that people’s hair is important to them but it can’t be more important than their life, can it?

“I like to feel the wind in my hair.”

Take a ferry ride to Toronto Island if you really want to feel the wind in your hair. Or go to Canada’s Wonderland. Or sprint down your street. Or stand in front of a fan. I get it, it’s a pleasant feeling. But it’s is still not a valid excuse.

“I’d still hurt myself if I was in an accident wearing a helmet.”

Ya, maybe. Unless you equip yourself with knee and shoulder pads, a fall will almost always result in a few cuts and bruises. Or maybe a broken bone if you’re really unlucky. But here’s the thing: Bones heal! Cuts and scrapes heal! Your brain? Sometimes, there’s no coming back from a brain injury. Sometimes, it’s permanent. This is why it should be your most prized possession and why you should treat it as such.

“I’m a good rider. Nothing will happen to me.”

Sure, you can control yourself. And on a quiet country road with little to no cars, you’d probably be okay. But you can’t control others. You can’t control drunk and/or reckless drivers. You never, ever know when a car will do something unpredictable. Good drivers still wear seatbelts, right? So no matter how good a rider you are, it doesn’t really matter because a lot of things can happen on a busy downtown street filled with cars, buses, streetcars, motorcycles and scooters.

_____________________________________________________

If it wasn’t already clear, I would be all-in on an expansive helmet law in Ontario. So would the Office of the Chief Coroner. If you’re zipping around the streets of Toronto, going in between cars, changing lanes, running stop signs, WITHOUT a helmet, I just don’t get that. Motorcyclists (and those who ride e-scooters) wear helmets. Motorists wear seatbelts. Cyclists should wear helmets.

Here are some highlights taken directly from the 2012 review, linked above:

  • There were 129 accidental cycling deaths between 2006 and 2010 in Ontario, two-thirds of which took place in an urban setting
  • 73 percent of the victims were not wearing helmets at the time
  • A strong majority of the deaths occurred during clear weather, on dry roads, with good visibility

Just so you know, it wasn’t easy for me to come to this decision. If there’s one thing that irks me about Ontario, it’s that it’s a bit of a nanny state, especially when it comes to alcohol and smoking laws. People should have the right to live their life as they wish. But a mandatory helmet law just makes sense to me. And in case you were wondering, four Canadian provinces (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, PEI and British Columbia), as well as Australia, require all cyclists to wear helmets so it’s not like this would be some out-of-left-field law. Ontario currently has mandatory helmet laws for those under the age of 18.

How many memorials will it take for us to re-examine our helmet laws?

Just from my own observations, it seems like helmet use has gone up in this city. And that’s encouraging. Maybe I haven’t convinced you. But ask yourself this: If you had a child, would you not make sure that he/she wears a helmet at all times? I know I would, whether he/she was a pre-teen or a young adult.

Need another reason? Check out this map. It details all the cycling fatalities on Toronto’s streets since 1986.

Here’s another question: What would it take to change your mind? God forbid, but what if a friend or relative suffered a serious head injury while riding his bike without a helmet? Or died? Would that be enough to convince you? How close would you have to be to a victim for it to hit close enough to home to change your behaviour?

People often read a news story as if it couldn’t happen to them. Not true. The fate of everybody on that Google map could be met by anybody else.

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Restaurants, the Internet age and why hype can be a dangerous thing

Khao San Road is a Thai restaurant in downtown Toronto. It has a four-star rating on Yelp (based on 352 reviews) and a 93 percent rating on Urbanspoon (based on 1,035 votes). Some impressive numbers, indeed. Plus, when you Google “Best restaurants in Toronto,” this Thai joint figures into the top-five (and sometimes top-three) of most people’s lists.

These are the reasons why they had a 45-60 minute wait at about 9:30 pm this past Saturday. These are the reasons why they can charge double what other Thai restaurants in the city charge. These are the reasons why we chose to eat there. And finally, these are the reasons why most people choose to eat where they do, no matter what city they live in.

But should they be?

We ended up getting take-out that night as their 10 pm closing time essentially guaranteed us that we weren’t getting a table. After waiting 30 minutes to get our food, it was time to pay. We spent more than $30 on two dishes: Pad Thai (pictured above) and green curry with rice. Not exactly exotic, right? These are standard Thai dishes that we could have found at any of the other countless Thai restaurants in the city. For half the price and a fraction of the wait! Frankly, I felt a little ripped off.

The food? It was fine but not worth the money nor the wait. In my mind, for $16, I better be getting one damn special Pad Thai.

Full disclaimer: I have eaten here in the past and the food was much better so maybe they simply had an off-night. Also, their sister restaurant Sukhothai is delicious.

I’m not hating on Khao San Road, But still, the evolution of a restaurant’s popularity is interesting to me. Why do people (ourselves included) choose to pay more and wait longer for a product that really isn’t much better than the cheaper and quicker alternatives? How much of all this is really about the food?

Obviously, a restaurant can’t survive without a quality product on their plates. But once a restaurant becomes trendy and hip, it takes on a strange momentum of its own. And it’s in this moment (what Malcolm Gladwell might call the tipping point) that the experience becomes less about the food and more about external factors. Once a restaurant becomes the “new place you just have to try,” people will pay whatever they have to pay and wait for ridiculous amounts of time just to get a table. They’ll pretty much do whatever it takes.

“I’ll sit in the corner table! I’ll sit at the bar! I’ll stand up and eat! I just really need to try your fish tacos!”

And yes, I acknowledge the irony that we chose Khao San Road on Saturday. I’m not denying that I’m part of the problem. But at least I’m aware that there is a problem. That is what I learned on Saturday.

So what are some of these external factors? First off, Torontonians love to discuss restaurants, as do most other inhabitants of large, urban areas. So nobody wants to be left out of the loop. Some people want to say that they’ve tried a certain restaurant because they think if they haven’t, it somehow hurts their credibility as a knowledgeable urbanite. Some people simply like to be seen in certain establishments. Or they like to be able to tell the story afterwards.

Notice that I didn’t use the word “food” once in the previous paragraph.

Look, I’m not against the idea of trendy, hip restaurants. It’s great for these establishments and to be fair, the food is usually pretty damn good. But what I am against is the idea of going to a restaurant for reasons other than the food, for something as abstract and hard-to-pin-down as hype.

On Saturday night, I didn’t give a hoot about being seen there. I just wanted some good food. And it was clear beyond the shadow of a doubt that the price and the wait were not worth the food. And I don’t think we’ll be sucked in again. Where’s the nearest Thai Express, anyway?

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Battle of the Toronto dailies

The Star

The Toronto Star and the Toronto Sun are two of the biggest Toronto daily newspapers.  For school (and possibly your enjoyment), I will now compare their websites.  Fun, huh?

In the interest of full disclosure, I hold a slight bias towards the Star as the Sun is widely thought of by many (including me) as one small notch above tabloid.  This is because, much like the New York Post, they often opt for the sensational story over the important one.  The daily inclusion of the Sunshine Girl, located on the bottom left of their site, also hurts their credibility.  As for the Star, I have been a loyal reader for years, notably their coverage of the Toronto Raptors, brought to you by the likes of Doug Smith and Dave Feschuk.

They even have a calendar

After having perused both sites, the Star is much easier on the eyes.  It looks far more professional than the Sun and has more of a “personality,” if you catch my drift.  The Sun looks like any old site.  It is boring.  In fact, rather than appearing like the site for a major daily newspaper, it feels more like that of a small community in Saskatchewan (no offence to Saskatchewan of course).  The Star’s site is recognizable and memorable, with an understated white and blue theme throughout, ala Facebook.  Quite frankly, the Sun’s site looks downright cheap.

OK.  Let’s talk specifics.  On the Sun’s site, the ads are too high up on the page, drawing the eye away from the news stories.  I am not and have never been a fan of the scrolling tabs on news websites.  I think a golden rule for web designers should be that nothing should change unless you click on it.  It is infuriating when you are trying to digest headlines and all of a sudden, you’re reading something else.  There is a pause button but still.

Stories from both papers don’t tend to be too long so you never have the problem of a story scrolling on forever.  But I will say two things about the format of the stories.  First, the default font size on the Sun site is too small.  In fact, the same can be said for the headlines and abstracts on the homepage, making the entire site feel cluttered. In terms of spacing and font size, the Star has this just right.  Second, I like my article text to start at the top left corner.  Normal, right?  Like reading a book.  The Star always does this, with the text starting on the top left with the picture on the top right.  The Sun does the opposite and it hurts my eyes.  Check out these examples.  The Sun is on the top with the Star on the bottom.




As most news websites do, both of these examples have boxes with the most popular stories of the day as well as a daily poll question.  These are staples as far as I’m concerned.  As far as content goes, it comes down to personal preference.  The Sun tends to be a little more conservative than the Star but that’s not something that I can really fault them on.  In terms of the quality of the writing, I’d give the Star the slight nod.  But both papers have loyal readerships so I don’t see either of them going anywhere anytime soon.

Oh, and pictures.  The Star’s site has more pictures than the Sun’s.  Pictures give the viewers’ eyes a break.  A welcome distraction.  I mean really, who is interested by a wall of text?  When you get lower down on either site, the different sections of the newspapers are laid out.  The difference is that the Star continues to have pictures while the Sun does not.

To summarize, the Sun site looks dull and cheap.  The Star site looks professional.  I think that the Sun site could be improved if they spaced it out more, added more pictures, and upped the font size.  It takes longer to scroll the entire Star site than the Sun site, and I think that’s a good thing.  And as I mentioned before, it needs more of a “personality.”  Another nifty thing about the Star site is their choice of views.  It is an aesthetic thing more than a functional one, but cool nonetheless.

My grades (categories provided by teacher)

Toronto Star

Organization: 18/20

Ease of use: 20/20

Aesthetics: 18/20

Content richness: 18/20

Content style: 18/20

TOTAL:  92/100

Toronto Sun

Organization: 17/20

Ease of use: 16/20

Aesthetics: 14/20

Content richness: 15/20

Content style: 17/20

TOTAL:  79/100

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