Make the Best of Your Daily Commute by Bus, Subway or Congo Line

“I hate the bus” is something that you hear a lot in Toronto, which is usually backed up with years of bitter anecdotes of delays, weird smells, and poor service. Some of those people eventually break free of the shackles of public transport and opt to instead park themselves behind the wheel of a car. The car is liberating at first, but then it comes with a whole new set of grievances. How many times have you or someone you know said “damn traffic, stupid drivers, idiots, assholes” perhaps even using all four in a single breath. If it sounds like a vicious circle, that’s because it is. Would you feel better about taking public transportation if only the strangers that you encounter would tolerate taking creative liberties with the English language, allowing you to paint the colourful strokes of your emotions on the social canvas like a good ole fashion tar and feathering in the town square?

Probably not, so save your feathers and sanity and opt to instead make the best of the bus with the following tips.

1) Read a book - impossible to do from behind the wheel. Smartphones games are distracting, the memory of a good read will stay with you a long time and will connect to the conversations that you have with friends and family.

2) Learn a language - Download the free app duolingo for your iphone or access their online website if you’re an android/blackberry user. It’s like Rosetta Stone, only free, better and more mobile

3) Podcast - Music is fun for a while but if you’re spending one hour or more in transit, you could stand to learn something from a Ted Talk, Freakanomics Podcast or laugh along with a Comedy Podcast like Comedy Bang Bang or the Dean Blundell Show.

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4) Write - If you ride isn’t too bumpy you can finally get to work on that book idea that you’ve been thinking of.

The great thing about being stuck in transit is that you get more distraction-free time to do more time to learn what your learning, read what you’re reading or write what you’re writing. The only thing you get when you’re stuck in traffic is pent up frustrations which can translate into poor language and decisions.

Make the most of the bus, it’s your new classroom. If nothing else, start a Congo line. Strangers will love it.

The Day I Met the Mexican Fisherman

February 10, 2013 Leave a comment

It’s been awhile since I wrote last and while I wish that I could say that my absence was for the purpose of a self-imposed period of intense mediation and personal reflection for which I could then return from with the fiery wit and knowledge of a fully self-actualized man. Sadly, none of that happened and in fact I just mocked anyone that may have believed that I was capable of better. Apologies.

I have been busy though. My most recent journey took my to small town Mexico; a small fisherman’s village just next to Progresso by the name of Chicxulub. It the supposed crash spot of the meteorite (see impact visualization) that saw the extinction of those once dominate and cuddly reptiles we earthings call, the dinosaurs. Although there was no evidence of a crater or space rock, one thing was in great abundance; Canadian Snow Birds. For those of you unfamiliar with the term snowbird, it’s a term given for those clever Canadians that choose to escape the cold grip of Canadians winters for more favourable ambient conditions and Pina Coladas in the south. I myself missed a terrible cold snap, I think I can fit in here in Chicxulub.

The purpose of my journey was twofold, first; keep my dear grandmother company who had the remarkable courage to return to the condo where she lost her dear husband in their 50th year of marriage to a heart attack, the second; discovering what the glue is that kept my grandma and papa coming back to vacation 3 months at a time for 17 years. So it wasn’t a typical vacation, but that’s precisely the reason I had to go.

A few months back when I was considerably more active with my keyboard and pen, I re-posted a story that I found moving about the a businessman and a Mexican fisherman. Now, I’m proud to say that I met the Mexican fisherman and fully identify with the story and just because I like you so much, I’ll characterize him in a few pictures.

His name is Lupe (short for Cuando Lupe). He has a wife from the United States. Together they own a quaint restaurant that they routinely fill with Canadian snowbirds.

Cafe Pantaleon,Chicxulub

Cafe Pantaleon,Chicxulub

Cafe Patheleon

Cafe Patheleon

Lupe, giving us a tour of the Mayan Ruins and Sacrifice techniques for the Tempel De Sol

Lupe, giving us a tour of the Mayan Ruins and Sacrifice techniques for the Tempel De Sol

Lupe cooks, Natalie cooks (his wife), together it works. But that’s not all. Lupe gives tours, picks up less capable Canadian snowbirds from the Cancun airport (5 hour drive one-way) and points satellites so that Canadians can still enjoy programming from home. When the Canadians leave in March, he closes down his restaurant and fishes for the summer and manages a few building projects. Everyday is different, as is every week. Everything is cool, and there is never a moments stress and who can be when this is your view.

I miss you Papa, I can see why you loved it here. It’s been about a year since you left us, but you’re still with us in every step. I would have loved to walk the beach next to you as you did every morning.

Chicxulub

The PiFiZone Project: Roam Anywhere & Be More Connected

September 20, 2012 2 comments

I normally try to avoid blending the lines between my work life and personal blog but this is a cool project that I’m working on that I want to share with you. We will soon launch via IndieGoGo.com on Oct 1st and full details will soon be available at www.indiegogo.com/pifi-zone

I’d like to get your feedback on the video so that we can make some last minute tweaks before our formal launch. If you have any questions about crowdfunding or what the hell is PiFi and PiFiZone, please email me at curtis@pifizone.com or check out our website at www.pifizone.com.

The Parable of the Mexican Fisherman

September 4, 2012 2 comments

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I re-posted this parable for a good friend. I hope it causes you to think about doing what makes you happy.

A boat docked in a tiny Mexican village. An American tourist complimented the Mexican fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took him to catch them. “Not very long,” answered the Mexican.

“But then, why didn’t you stay out longer and catch more?” asked the American.

The Mexican explained that his small catch was sufficient to meet his needs and those of his family.

The American asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”

“I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, and take a siesta with my wife. In the evenings, I go into the village to see my friends, have a few drinks, play the guitar, and sing a few songs … I have a full life.”

The American interrupted, “I have an MBA from Harvard and I can help you! You should start by fishing longer every day. You can then sell the extra fish you catch. With the extra revenue, you can buy a bigger boat.

“And after that?” asked the Mexican.

With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you can buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have an entire fleet of trawlers. Instead of selling your fish to a middle man, you can then negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your own plant. You can then leave this little village and move to Mexico City, Los Angeles, or even New York City! From there you can direct your huge new enterprise.”

“How long would that take?” asked the Mexican.

“Twenty, perhaps 25 years,” replied the American.

“And after that?” the Mexican asked.

“Afterwards? That’s when it gets really interesting,” answered the American, laughing. “When your business gets really big, you can start selling stocks and make millions!”

“Millions? Really? And after that?”

“After that you’ll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, play with your children, catch a few fish, take a siesta with your wife and spend your evenings drinking and enjoying your friends.”

Small Town Royalty in Toronto’s Royal Places in Toronto

All but one of you may not necessarily be royalty (yes Queen Elizabeth does frequent this website) but I’m know for certain that the rest of you loyal subjects of her majesty have dreamt of living in a castle. I’m sure it would have been the blissful romantic paradise that you have always imagined, at least, on the outside, but it’s interior promises ample nooks and crannies for dust and unwanted guests. 

Though castle building and royalty may seem like such a European indulgence, Toronto’s got one too so I guess there’s no reason to travel. The timing couldn’t be more perfect. Right around the the time that everyone had stopped building them, destroying them or turning existing ones into museums, the trend caught on in Toronto. We’re a bit slow here in Canada.

Sir Henry Pellat of Toronto started building this castle in 1911 and is remembered as an early leader of the Hydro-Electric Commission in Ontario just when electricity was becoming fashionable and being knighted. He was able to earn enough to fashion this iconic building until sky rocketing income tax rates from $600 to $1000/mo during the ensuing post-WWI depression. The gained a cool new landmark for a cool $27,000 and Sir Henry Pellat had to auctioned off most of his possessions. Projects like his dream roman style bath were unfortunately abandoned and never completed by the city. However, the concrete looks like it was the result of a fine pour.

I don’t regret choosing to live in a 550 sq-ft 1 Bedroom apartment. Nor does visiting make it feel any smaller. I feel that my cozy arrangement is just the right size for the amount of dust bunnies and undesirable guests I need at this stage of my life.

Rediscovering the Canadian Outback

June 25, 2012 6 comments

Every once in awhile, you can get stuck thinking that you’ve explored every nook and every granny of where you live. While I do not doubt that you’ve discovered a great many nooks and at least several crannies, I’m willing to bet that in your adventurous eye has overlooked a few.

This weekend, I went with my family up to the Grotto which is located in the Bruce Peninsula National Park where I rediscovered the Canadian outback. Sorry Australia. Below is a picture of the scenic rock formations that take shape around some of the clearest water I’ve seen in Ontario. Aside from the evergreen trees, it reminded me very much of the rocky islands and clear waters during my Thailand experience.

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The water is colder than I like my drinks but still, many people braved these waters just off of this rocky beach as a way to cool down from the sweltering Canadian heat (I bet you never thought such a thing existed). If the cold water didn’t scare you then there is a hole (a cranny if I’ve ever seen one) in the rock formation where you can climb down to a rather peculiar cave. Below is a picture of my handsome father in front of that cave.

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In that cave is a bright light emanating from the bottom that beckons you to dive in and swim towards it much like a bug would fly to. Lucky for you, you can swim under and on the other side is the lake from which you can easily swim back to the rocky beach, that is, if the Loch Ness monster doesn’t come and getcha. As it turns out, Nessie vacations in Canada for 2 months out of the year until tourists tire of searching for her during the summer months in Scotland.

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Aside from just photo taking, I enjoyed sitting on the ledge of a 30 foot embankment while talking to my brother about what where we both expect to be in 5 years. I think that there must be something about a peaceful view and vast body of water that brings about these thoughts.

In the photo below I’m either in some quiet reflection about life or dealing with a mild case of insomnia. Either way, I’m at peace with my surroundings. So that basically concludes my latest bout of soul-searching. It looks like I’ll stay at home in Canada for awhile, so day-trips like this are essential.

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Austria vs Canada Cage Match Round 2: Mobile Service Off the Hook

June 11, 2012 12 comments

Just a month ago I was enjoying simple, uninterrupted cell phone service in Vienna, Austria. I walked into the grocery store and paid 10€ for a SIM card and like a miracle from the heavens, I placed the card into my phone (Handy as they call it) and voila, presto I had cell phone service with 100 minutes at my leisure. Following that I entered my bank information online for automatic payment and I was set up to pay 13€ ($17 CAD) for 1000 minutes inside a country where long distance doesn’t exist in the telco vernacular, 1000 messages and 1GB of data. Life was sweet.

Below is a picture of my life two weeks ago. I called Fido on Day 1 of my return just to add a plan to my existing phone without the standard 3-year contract. The service was going to cost $55 CAD/month along with a $35 CAD activation fee for 200 Minutes + free evenings & weekends and 500MB. Fido’s first order of business was to put me through a credit check. They said that there was a problem setting up the account so they lost the sale. Austria is up 1-0.

Day 2: I call up my rotten Ex -> Rogers. We get something going and I manage to get a similar plan and save the $35 activation. I’m lighting candles and preparing a warm bath to rekindle the relationship. Rogers gives me the credit check again which was fine this time, plus because we’ve been together in the past, I have an old Rogers specific SIM card plus a brand new one still in the plastic, for which I should just be able to provide the number for and I’m off to the races. Unfortunately, they need another avenue to extract money from me, neither one worked. 2-0 Austria.

My choice at this point was to either wait to receive a new Rogers specific SIM in the mail or go to the store to buy one. The home page at Rogers shows happy people using their wireless devices. Good thing for stock photography because they couldn’t possibly be photos of their customers. I know those people in the photos, they’re happy European folk whose wireless services are consumed as natural as breathing. No worrying about overage charges, long distance charges and about updating your MY10 to reduce your $120 phone bill because you’ve found a new girlfriend that you enjoy drunk dialing.

Finding a service provider that can give me what I want feels like a full time job. Is there a simple cell phone solution out there Canada?

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