Monday, October 25, 2010

Is that fake falcon meant to scare me?

Pigeons are smart birds. If anyone doubts this, just watch them downtown Toronto.

Ryerson University has placed two fake falcons on the ledge of their building to keep the pigeons away. So far this has worked, but something tells me this is about to change.
Today I watched a small flock of pigeons looking for a place to land at Ryerson University. Most of them flew away when spotting the falcon and settled at a neighboring building, but one of them felt brave (or lucky). He spotted the two falcons, circled around one of them a few times, then gathered up all his courage and plonked himself next to one.

Then he sat there, looking at the fake falcon, not quite sure what this make of this motionless bird. He crept a little closer, gaining confidence but still not trusting the predator.
After traipsing back and forth a bit, with no reaction from the falcon, the pigeon lowered his head and cast a sideways glance.
He clearly didn’t understand the bird. As a predator he was supposed to show an interest, but not only did he tolerate a pigeon next to him but he ignored the easy pry’s entertainment.

My guess is, if this pigeon figured out that the falcon is fake then so will others and in that case Ryerson University’s security system against pigeons is blown. If word gets out about the fake falcons they’ll be the laughing stock of the bird world.

In Scarborough one of the pigeons went a step further.
In one of the yards of the houses next to the RT railway the residents have placed a pole with a fake falcon at the top. Instead of scaring the pigeons away, the falcon has become a resting place for the birds as I noticed a pigeon sitting on top of the fake falcon.

Fake falcons ... humans are so stupid thinking the pigeons are gonna fall for that one. Don't they know how smart pigeons are? They have eyes, they have a brain, they'll figure it out and then watch out humans ... their revenge will be sweet.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Lotto Winnings

Tonight was Lotto night and I won ... nothing.
I was close, I could have had four numbers right, but close isn’t good enough.

The Lotto corporation’s motto is ‘You have to be in it to win it’. Well, I have been in it. I have been in it for years, but I haven’t won yet.
What exactly do they mean by ‘You have to be in it to win it'? Win a free ticket? Win five or ten bucks? That’s all I’ve ever won.
No, wait, I’m lying.

We were only two or three weeks in Canada when I started playing Lotto. Back then I played Super 7 and when checking my ticket I noticed, with growing excitement, that I had not three or four but five numbers right.
Being new to the game I thought I had won several thousand dollars.
I mean, five out of seven numbers, that had to be a sizeable payout, right?
Wrong, I won exactly $132,23.

Since then I’ve won numerous free tickets for three correct numbers and the occasional $10 for four correct numbers, but other than that ... nothing worth mentioning.

Occasionally you hear or read of people who won the jackpot. Usually old folks or the disabled. And if you hear of someone winning it’s usually a lucky shot. According to their interview they usually never play, them buying a ticket was a fluke, a shot in the dark. Yet here they are, millionaires.

Don’t you find it strange that it’s always old folks, disabled or ‘new’ players that win? Maybe it looks better that way for the Lotto corporation. I mean, how would it sound if a 32 year accountant stated that he had been playing for years and years and never won anything more than $10? That wouldn’t exactly prompt people to buy a ticket, now would it?
They might think ... ‘If that guy had been playing for years without winning anything, then we might also have to wait for a long long time before this game pays off’.
On the other hand, if you hear someone stating that he was a first time ticket buyer, then others might think they might get lucky too.
Does it all come down to strategy?

So what happens to all the money that the Lotto corporation collects? Does it all go back to the players or does it find another purpose? I once heard that half of it goes to the players and half of it gets divided among charities.
So let’s say that the Lotto corporation collects forty million dollars in one week, does that mean that twenty million dollars get divided among charities? Surely not, if that were the case the charities would be swimming in money.
I personally support the Toronto Cat Rescue (TCR for short) and I’ve never heard of them receiving a cent from the Lotto corporation.
So where does the money go?

If I question the Lotto corporation as I do, why do I keep playing you might wonder. Simple, I have two sets of numbers I’ve been playing with for years and I know them by heart.
In the event that I forget to play, as I did yesterday, I don’t dare to look at the Lotto results for fear of seeing some or (God forbid) all ‘my’ numbers. Can you imagine, playing for years, not playing one week and exactly that week having the winning numbers! I would go bananas!

So I keep on playing and hoping. Maybe one day when I’m old and/or disabled I might actually win.

Monday, October 18, 2010

On the war path

I did it! I finally did it! I threw caution to the wind today and approached a man.

It happened during lunchtime. I had installed myself with my book and my cup of tea in one of the deep armchairs at Timothy’s coffee shop when suddenly ... I heard someone sniffing. A loud, truly disgusting sniff.
I looked around. Who was it?

Was it one of the Asian youngsters at the next table on my right? No, they were too busy talking. Then again, some people can talk and sniff at the same time.

Was it the tourist at the next table on my left? In his jeans and checkered shirt he looked like the type that couldn’t be bothered to blow his nose.

Was it the distinguishing looking gentleman two tables down? No, surely not. He was impeccable dressed, sporting an expensive looking watch and was reading a hardcover book on finance. Surely he could afford a handkerchief and wouldn’t be so rude as to pull up his nose.

Was it the lady by the counter? She had just ordered a cup of coffee and a muffin. With a handbag clutched under her right arm and both hands full she didn’t exactly have a hand to spare to blow her nose. Was she the sniffer?

As she passed me I heard the disgusting sniff again. Was it her? No, definitely not, the sniff had come from further away.
For the next few seconds I was on high alert, looking and listening at the same time. At the next sniff, a double sniff it was, I identified the sniffer ... the distinguished looking gentleman.

I couldn’t believe it. He looked so perfect, from his impeccable haircut, down to his beautifully tailored suit and his polished leather shoes. How could he be so ... so ... sloppy not to carry a handkerchief or at least some paper tissues!

I sat there, fuming, steam practically coming out of my ears. Was I gonna have to put up with this ear torture for the next hour? Was my hour of quiet reading gonna be ruined by this bozo? No, it was not. I was gonna say something. I was gonna do something. But what? I didn’t exactly want to cause a scene or embarrass him (and me in the process).

At the next sniff I threw caution to the wind, grabbed one of my travel pack tissues, got up and walked over to his table. My heart was hammering in my chest and my mouth was badly in need of a swig of tea. What if he said ‘I don’t need a tissue’ or ‘Who do you think you are approaching me?’ or anything to that effect.

Having arrived at his table I deposited the tissue next to his coffee and said “Perhaps you would like one of these”. I was perfectly polite, I didn’t look at him and I immediately walked away.

He didn’t say anything, but by the time I got back to my table he was blowing his nose. No more sniffing. Aaaah, peace and quiet at last.

Let’s hope that Mr. Distinguished learned his lesson and will carry some tissues from now on.
Me, I was ever so proud of myself, I had done it, I had finally done it. I had not put up with the sniffing and done something about it. Will I do it again? You bet, from now on if anyone in my vicinity starts sniffing they’re gonna get it ... a tissue that is.

It might be a good idea to buy stocks in Kleenex as there are a lot of sniffers in and around Toronto.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Are you an eagle or pigeon?

We came across an injured pigeon yesterday. He was dragging himself along the sidewalk with a broken wing. A sad sight it was. Until recently this bird had soared the skies, but was now reduced to something that resembled limping. If there had been a park or a wooded area around, I would have picked him up and carried him to safety, but being downtown there was nowhere I could take him. I wondered how he would survive, if he would survive.

Many people look down on pigeons, think of them as carriers of diseases. Yet, what makes them so different from other birds? All birds have a head, a body, paws and wings, yet while the eagle is admired and the hummingbird brings about a tender smile, the pigeon is despised by some.

I wonder if the same could apply to people. Imagine aliens visiting our planet. They might see royalty the way we see eagles ... beautiful in their fine ‘plumage’, flying high, looking down their noses, but in general of not much use.
Executives and other big money makers could be compared to hummingbirds. Beautifully attired, constantly on the go, always busy sucking up.
And then there would be the working class, the pigeons. Gathering in flocks, hanging around where there is food and water to be had and pushing each other out of the way when someone throws them a few crumbs.

In which of the categories do you belong?
As for diseases and germs ... are there bigger carriers of diseases and germs than humans?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Day is about giving thanks for all life's blessings. Expressing thanks for family and friends; expressing thanks for good health and good fortune; or giving thanks for whatever people think they ought to be thankful for.

Yet does anyone remember to give thanks to the golden brown, roasted turkey that sits in the middle of their festive decked table? Does anyone ever pause to thank him for giving his life?

As an animal lover I can't help but feel sorry for the masses of turkeys that are purposely raised and then slaughtered each year for this holiday. When I contemplated the numbers, something gruesome occurred to me. If a million turkey are killed and each turkey holds one liter of blood that equals a million liters of blood! Try to imagine how much blood that would be. It's not a pleasant thought, I know, but I'm mentally seeing a river of blood.

Don't think that I'm forgetting about all of the other animals that give their lives to feed us. I am not the only one, as PETA constantly struggles to create awareness about animal cruelty. PETA does more than fight the fur industry, they also fight for animal rights and for the humane raising and processing of animals.

Because we no longer kill animals ourselves, we often forget about their pain and suffering. We close our minds to the reality that the animals might have been raised in tiny cages, preventing any movement, so they can grow fatter and succulent more quickly and at a cheaper cost.

We don't like to think that animals have emotions or experience fear and pain. Fear when they are being grabbed and transported to a slaughterhouse; pain when their necks are snapped or throats are slit.

Happy Thanksgiving Canadians

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Boobs on display

I would like to challenge all you men out there (and to a certain extend women too). I wonder what would happen if a man would go up to a woman and ask her if he can see one of her breasts. Or if a woman sees another woman with nice breasts what would happen if she were to ask her if she could have a look at them.

My guess is that a man making such a request would get a slap around his ears and if a woman were to ask such a thing she would be told to take a hike or at the very least get a look telling her she’s weird.
Yet it seems to be perfectly acceptable for a woman to unbutton a shirt, whip out one of her boobs and start breastfeeding a baby.

I spotted this yesterday in a packed to capacity Timothy’s coffee shop during lunchtime. The woman, in her early twenties was feeding her kid with part of her rack exposed, facing the floor to ceiling windows on Dundas street where the sidewalk was crawling with office workers on lunch and Ryerson university students stretching their legs.

Anyone looking into the coffee shop would get an eyeful, not to mention the customers of the coffee shop who didn’t quite know where to look. Was it okay to look? Should they look away? Why would they look away if the woman so openly displayed the private milk shop?

“Breastfeeding is perfectly natural,” she told me. Yeah well, so is peeing and pooping, but you try doing that in public.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Halloween shopping

Nearly twelve years we’ve been in Canada and for the first time we’re gonna decorate for Halloween. Previous years we may have hung a spooky little something on the front door, or placed a little pumpkin on the coffee table, but that was pretty much it.

Being from Europe we don’t actually celebrate Halloween. In Belgium we observe All Saints on November first and All Souls on November second by way of a trip to the cemetery. No, not to scare the living daylights out of visiting mourners, to place flowers on loved one’s’ graves. A beautiful sight it is too, when the dull cemetery is transformed into a sea of flowers. Mostly white, yellow or purple chrysanthemums .

But not this year, this year we’re throwing our heart and soul into decorating. In preparation for the big day, or big night, we did a little shopping. Most stores were a bit of a disappointment though. Other than a few pumpkins, cauldrons and face masks they didn’t stock any Halloween decorations. So we went to the one store where I thought we might have more luck ... the dollar store.

They usually go all out with their Christmas and Easter decorations, so I figured they would stock an abundance of Halloween decorations too. And I was right, the dollar store held aisles and aisles of decorations: crows, rats, cats, bats, spiders, jack o lanterns, bloody severed limbs, gravestones, etc. etc. etc.
Short of the bloody limbs and the spiders, we got a bit of everything. We walked out of that store with two big bags to the value of $46, so you can imagine.

Part of the decorations will be for home and part will be for our work cubicles.  We can do more decorating at work than we can at home because at work we don’t have five cats roaming around, taking an interest in anything and everything. I mean, we could place some decorations on top of cabinets and tables at home, but how long would they remain standing? Not long, I can tell you that. Birds, rats and cats would be knocked off their socks; bats would take a flying leap; and as for graveyard stones and jack o lanterns ... let’s just say they wouldn’t live long.

So we’ll be doing some decorating tomorrow and the rest will be taken to work. It’s a safer environment for the scary bits there.