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Final Thoughts on the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games

During the first twenty minutes of episode 130 of my podcast, me and my friend Elvis discuss the 2015 Pan Am Games. Spoiler alert: we completely disagree. It all happens here if you've yet to listen.

As recently as early June, I was all set to hate these games. The term I used at the time was "underwhelmed". After all, the Pan Am Games aren't the Olympics, and at the time, I was stuck on that particular fact.

Then, I attended a torch relay. I had a great time, and when we were all cheering Natalie Spooner on as she ran in and lit the cauldron, I suddenly didn't care that these weren't the Olympics. I finally felt something beyond apathy, and it felt good.

I biked over to another torch relay the afternoon of the opening ceremony, and sat down with the family that night to watch Donovan Bailey base jump from the CN Tower onto the dome. By the time Steve Nash officially kicked things off, I was hooked.

It helped that my two older kids attended an early diving event at the new Aquatics Centre and Field House and raved about both the facility and the ambience. That's when I visited the schedule of events and made it a point to stream them live. That's right, I often had to stream, as many of my targeted events weren't televised live. That's another entry for another time, but streaming the events and Chromecasting them to my big screen was effortless and meant no ads, so I was happy.

Here's a taste of what I watched live:

I ended up watching much more than that, particularly in the athletics, but that was my "appointment viewing list". For the most part, it was thrilling, even with the disappointing disqualification in the 4x100m relay final.

Now that the Pan Am Games are over, I can sincerely admit that I'll miss them. It didn't matter to me that they weren't the Olympics. It was entertaining sport, the energy in this city was palpable, visits to Nathan Phillips Square and Pan Am Park were inspiring, and the thousands and thousands of volunteers filled me with pride.

What an amazing 16 days. Well done, Toronto.

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One Little Tweet Can Make a Big Difference

Last Sunday, while walking in the neighbourhood of New Toronto, I came across a sign. Flowers were stolen from a children's garden at Second Street Junior Middle School. I took this photo of the sign.

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I also sent out this tweet.

The next day, I heard from a reporter at CTV Toronto. He wanted more details and thought this would make a good news story. They sent over a camera crew and aired this story on the 6pm news on Monday.

Students in Etobicoke were angry to find that flowers from their school garden have been stolen.

As part of a “green project,” parents and students planned to maintain a garden of flowers, fruits and vegetables at Second Street Junior Middle School throughout the summer.

But when students went to water the plants, they were gone.

“I’m very, very upset. Give them back right now,” one young student said. The students raised $500 to create the garden.

According to parents, the most expensive flowers in the garden were targeted by the thieves. 

“I was really upset that someone would come steal from a children’s garden,” one parent said. 

A sign was put up after the theft, calling out the thieves and asking for the flowers to be returned. 

The fruits and vegetables that grow in the garden are destined for a nearby food bank.

I was then contacted by Robin Evans Clarke who saw my tweet and wanted to donate money to the flowers fund. I passed on the contact info I had for one of the parents helping out with this project. That's when she started an Indiegogo campaign.

In less than a day, with a little help from Reddit, she raised her target of $500.

It's awesome watching the community step up like this, turning lemons into lemonade. And to think it all started with a little tweet...

Update: July 18, 2015

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My Evolving Thoughts on the Pan Am Games

In early June, I wrote that I was still completely underwhelmed by the Pan Am Games. Now that they're finally here, it's time for an update.

I attended a couple of torch relay celebrations over the past week. Here's something I wrote about seeing Natalie Spooner light the cauldron in southwest Toronto. I'll admit it, attending the three hour party really warmed me to the spirit.

Then, on Friday, I rode to Queen's Quay and watched another torch relay. That night, I tuned into the opening ceremonies from the venue formerly known as Skydome and was thoroughly impressed. It closed with a spectacular fireworks display from the CN Tower.

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By this point, I was into the Pan Am Games. My kids saw diving at the new CIBC Pan Am / Parapan Am Aquatics Centre and Field House and loved it. I'm following the results, watching when I can, and feeling the spirit.

Torontonians love to complain about traffic and I've got friends hoping these Pan Am Games are a colossal failure. I've decided to join the party and embrace the event. It's more fun this way.

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Pan Am Games Torch Relay

I want to be snarky about the Pan Am Games Torch Relay I attended in Sam Smith Park this evening, but I'm going to have to leave my snark at the door. It was actually a lot of fun.

Pan Am Games Torch Relay

I got there early with my youngest and watched him run around the field, stare awkwardly at Pachi and dance to the band playing golden oldies. There was lots to do and see and Natalie Spooner ran in with the Pan Am Torch around 7pm. She lit the cauldron, we all sang O Canada and I completely forgot how little I care about the Pan Am Games. It was a party and I was more interested in joining in than standing on the sidelines pointing and laughing.

Pan Am Games Torch Relay

I still care very little about the athletics, but I am psyched about all the peripheral partying in my city. I'll be here all July, so if I can enjoy a torch relay and some free concerts, I'm down with it.

Pan Am Games Torch Relay

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Great Edutainment at Ontario Science Centre

Edutainment isn't just a 1990 album from Boogie Down Productions that made its way into my collection, it's also something I'm constantly on the lookout for my kids. I seek activities that make science fun, and the MythBusters exhibition currently at the Ontario Science Centre is precisely that.

We visited yesterday after taking in a Humpback Whales doc at the Omnimax theatre. There's plenty for the kids to do as they get to perform hands-on experiments, and there's even a live show. Michelle's favourite was trying to remove a table cloth without breaking the tableware while James dug the "what gets you wetter: running or walking in the rain" experiment.

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Queens Quay Revitalization Project Complete!

As you may know from reading this blog, I rediscovered my love of cycling a few years ago. A great deal of my riding is done on the Waterfront Trail, which runs along Lake Ontario. I know every nook and cranny of that trail.

On the days I decide to ride east, I would always hit the Queens Quay construction at Bathurst, forcing me off the path. This has been the case for three long years, but the Queens Quay revitalization project is finally complete.

Earlier today, I rode the Waterfront Trail, which includes the Martin Goodman Trail, from the west end of the city to The Beaches (or is it The Beach now?). There were no detours or closures, and it was everything I imagined it could be. It's truly wonderful public space and ideal for cyclists.

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I haven't yet explored the new space as a pedestrian, but from what I see it's going to be a fantastic place to take the kids and soak in the sun. Here's a pic I took during a recent ride there.

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Full marks to everyone behind this revitalization project. It was well worth the wait.

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8 Cities with Longer Championship Droughts than Toronto

Firstly, this entry is about NHL, NBA, NFL and MLB championships. I realize Toronto has had great success in lacrosse and has won Grey Cups recently, but with all due respect, I'm not counting them as major championships. For Toronto, I'm only counting the Maple Leafs, Blue Jays and Raptors.

That means Toronto hasn't won a championship since 1993. That's a 22 year drought. As bad as that sounds, many cities have it worse.

San Diego

Let's start with San Diego. The Chargers haven't won since 1963, the Padres have never won a World Series, and even their former NBA teams (Rockets and Clippers) didn't win a thing.
52 year drought


Cleveland

I'm rooting heavily for the Cavaliers in this year's NBA championship and they're currently tied 1-1 with the Warriors. The Cavs have never won a title, the Indians haven't won since 1948 and the Browns haven't won since 1964.
51 year drought


Buffalo

Buffalo only has the two teams, but that's enough to count. The Sabres have never won a Stanley Cup and the Bills haven't won since 1965.
50 year drought


Kansas City

Kansas City also only has two teams, but they did have a short-lived NHL and NBA franchise. Neither won a thing. The Chiefs haven't won the Super Bowl since 1970 and the Royals haven't won a World Series since 1985.
30 year drought


Oakland

The Golden State Warriors haven't won since 1975, the Oakland Raiders haven't won since 1983, and the A's haven't won since 1989.
26 year drought


Cincinnati

The Bengals have been consistently brutal throughout the years, never winning a title. Meanwhile, the Reds haven't won a World Series since 1990.
25 year drought


Minneapolis-St. Paul

The Vikings have never won a Super Bowl, the North Stars and Wild have never won a Stanley Cup, the Timberwolves have never won and the Twins haven't won a World Series since 1991.
24 year drought


Washington

The Bullets / Wizards haven't won since 1978, the Capitals have never won, the Nationals have never won and their NFL franchise hasn't won a Super Bowl since 1992.
23 year drought

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Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games: Still Underwhelmed

We're a little over a month away from the 2015 Pan American Games. Toronto's the host city and we'll be welcoming approximately 6,135 athletes from 41 nations who will participate in 36 sports.

The Pan Am Games are not the Olympics. The Olympics are the world's biggest stage for athletics, and I love following them closely, but the Pan Am Games fail to excite me. I keep thinking that the excitement will kick in at some point, because we're the host city, but I'm still completely underwhelmed.

I read recently that a million tickets remain unsold. That's out of 1.4 million tickets in total. That sounds about right.

Is anyone excited about the 2015 Pan Am Games?

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The Runnymede Theatre as a Shoppers Drug Mart

As a kid, I saw many films at the Runnymede Theatre. I saw a Star Trek there, the second Poltergeist movie, a Lethal Weapon, Beatlejuice, and a bunch of others. It was a great little theatre on Bloor near Runnymede.

Then, it became a Chapters. Chapters did a great job of paying tribute to the old theatre. We were all pleased.

Then, it became a Shoppers Drug Mart. Last Thursday afternoon, I popped my head in to see how it looked.

I'm pleased to report SDM did a fine job maintaining the old infrastructure. Here are some pics that show the Runnymede Theatre is alive and well, it's just selling cosmetics and ibuprofen now.

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The Final Days of Captain John’s

Captain John's, the floating restaurant in the water at Yonge and Queen's Quay, will be gone by May 26. It'll be tugged through the Welland Canal to Port Colborne where it will be dismantled for scrap. These are indeed the final days of Captain John's.

Captain John's Restaurant has been around all of my life. I've never been inside, but I've walked or biked by it hundreds and hundreds of time. I always found the idea of a restaurant in a boat rather charming. I agree it needs to go, but I can't say I won't miss it.

Anchor's aweigh, Captain John's.

Captain John's

On the side (pun intended), and relevant considering my previous entry, there's a glaring misspelling of the word "everyday" on the east side of the sign about brunch that always irks me. I've got to get a pic before it's too late.

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