Libraries now accepting returns.

Weston and Mount Dennis public libraries are now accepting book returns through their drop boxes. Books that are returned this way are kept in ‘quarantine’ for a few days so don’t expect them to be checked off your account right away. Regardless, if you hang on to your books until the branches open up again, you won’t be charged a fine.

Read the fine print here.

Extra credit for noticing what’s been Photoshopped out of this image of the Weston Library. Click to enlarge.

City facilities reopening

The city is re-opening many sports, recreation, and library facilities. In Weston and Mount Dennis, you should be able to

  • Use the dog parks
  • Golf at Scarlett Woods
  • Fish at the Humber and Topham Pond
  • Play tennis

For the time being, playgrounds, pools, and splash pads remain closed. The Weston Farmers’ Market will not open until mid-summer, at the soonest. The soccer field at Weston Lions Park, which had attracted players in violation of distancing rules, remains closed.

The Weston Public Library will reopen for curbside pickup of book holds on June 1. Borrowers will be able to return their loans through the drop box. The library is asking that you hold onto any large or fragile items.

 

 

Where are we going with all this?

It’s really hard to report on local news when there isn’t much of it happening. Instead, here’s some further idle speculation on our current situation.

Social Distancing:
Apparently it works. Even the most intellectually challenged are learning this important lesson.

Social (or physical) distancing keeps infections to a low level so that hospitals aren’t overwhelmed. When hospitals are swamped with patients, deaths increase considerably. We seem to be distancing quite well in our community (Lions Park soccer field excepted)

Most parts of the country also seem to be following the new rules. How effective are they? It depends on the degree of cooperation. According to the University of Sydney (Australia), 80% compliance seems to be the threshold at which new infections fall.

From Sydney Morning Herald (click to enlarge).

The shaded area represents a 91-day period of social distancing. According to the chart, infections will soar once the restrictions are lifted. Is there a better way to get through COVID-19 than by simply closing the country down?  Yes. Unlike Western countries, Taiwan leaned from the 2003 SARS epidemic and acted quickly once COVID-19 arrived. They started containment efforts in December 2019.

In this video, Taiwan’s approach is compared to that of Italy. Our own approach to the virus is more like Italy’s than Taiwan’s although our population may be younger and less family oriented.


Detecting, tracking and testing are important parts of Taiwan’s strategy.

Here in Toronto we’re still playing catch-up. On March 13th, as part of ongoing treatment I went to a large Toronto hospital. Visitors were allowed and there were no symptom checks or hand sanitizer at the entrance. When I returned on March 26th, visitors were banned and staff were stationed at the now limited entrances to ask patients about symptoms. They didn’t take my temperature. Masks were optional (I wore one).

It seems clear that containment measures are being introduced or tightened too slowly.

Another factor: we’re still in the early stages with stricter measures likely to come. We may end up with lockdown fatigue.  Compliance could then deteriorate until we go below the 80% threshold.

Then what?

If we adopt parts of the Taiwanese and South Korean approaches (it’s not too late), we can slow the spread indefinitely. It will require a level of enforcement and cooperation not seen here in a long time but the prize will be the saving of many more lives and the revival of our economy.

Here’s how South Korea flattened their curve.


Let’s hope our leaders can learn from other countries’ recent experience. Sadly we didn’t learn from our own back in 2003.

“The experience with SARS in Toronto indicates that this disease is entirely driven by exposure to infected individuals. Transmission occurred primarily within health care settings or in circumstances where close contacts occurred. The was spread by respiratory droplets in the great majority of cases, and some patients were more infectious than others. Ultimately, the strict adherence to precautions—and practice implementing them—was critical to the containment of SARS in Toronto and the restoration of safe conditions for hospital staff and patients.”

SARS: Lessons from Toronto Dr Donald E. Low. 2004

What does a good neighbourhood look like?

From City of Toronto.

Developers have returned to Weston and Mount Dennis for two reasons:

  1. There is an opportunity to make money.
  2. See reason #1

The opportunity has arrived thanks mainly to government infrastructure spending, mainly in the form of improved transit. Developers are not benevolent entities so that’s why we have planning departments and civic government to protect us from their excesses.

Why have developers come here? The city is expanding and transit links have improved. The UP Express makes a trip to the airport or downtown quick and easy. The much awaited Eglinton Crosstown line will be opening in 2021 2022 and with good transit comes increased property prices and investment opportunities. The city will gain from the increased property tax assessments that new buildings and increased density will provide.

Win Win.

Unless…

We have all witnessed first hand the results of bad development. In fact Weston could be called the poster child for corrupt and shoddy development imposed on the community in the 70s and 80s. In addition, community housing has been allowed to deteriorate through bad management and constrained budgets. When Progressive Conservative Premier Mike Harris dumped responsibility for social housing onto the city in 1998 he promised that the transfer would be revenue neutral. Last year Ottawa announced funding to help ease the $1.6 billion repair backlog.

Anne Hidalgo has been the Mayor of Paris since 2014. The city isn’t perfect and they are looking at an idea that is gaining traction. The idea is that nobody in Paris should be more than a fifteen-minute walk or bike ride to everything they need in order to live well.

Adapted from: Le Paris du ¼ heure. From Paris en commun. Click to enlarge.

Clearly, if people could live close to everything they needed, life would be a lot better. People would be healthier thanks to exercise and reduced fumes from vehicles. Is this a possibility for Weston and Mount Dennis? We certainly have the parks, outdoor exercise opportunities and fresh air (given the constraints of local highway pollution). Access to a doctor / health care is probably reasonable (readers may wish to comment). The things our community seems to lack are cultural opportunities, good produce stores, a decent bakery (mmm baguettes) and a bigger variety of workplaces.

Charlottesville Virginia has become a walkable city. From c-ville.com.

It doesn’t help that in the past 20 years the bike network in York South Weston seems to have grown at the same rate as a sloth’s fingernail. Toronto routinely fails to spend its annual budgeted allocation on bike trails and lanes. In 2016, the City’s 10-year cycling plan was supposed to create 560 km of bike lanes and cycle paths. Two years later, 33 km had been built. The City claims it’s because of the environmental and other assessments that need to be done beforehand. I think it’s a lack of will. On this side of the pond, Charlottesville has made their city walkable. So it is possible if the will is there.

Rio de Janeiro’s version of Lakeshore Boulevard (oh the irony) is closed to traffic every Sunday. File.

We need to impress on politicians that traffic-clogged streets and car-dependent neighbourhoods are harmful to our health. Developers and city planners should be working towards the day when everything is within walking or cycling distance. This is why we as a community should be vigilant and not allow poor design, rampant greed or both to be the deciding factors in what gets built here. We need to be vigilant for the people who will make Weston and Mount Dennis home over the next 50 years.

Christmas Tradition in Weston

For 26 years now, 5 families in Weston have had a tradition of a ‘walk around dinner’.  The families are neighbours, living within a few paces of one another. In early December, each family prepares one course: Appetizers, Soup, Salad, Main and Dessert.  Then, starting in the early evening, the adults all walk to the home serving the Appetizers, and spend an hour or so over that course, talking and catching up.  The couple serving the soup walks to their house to finish the prep, and a few minutes later everyone else moves to the soup course. The conversations continue. And so on through the evening, until finally, dessert.  There’s always some Christmas music in the background, and Christmas decorations are mostly up.

Because each couple only prepares one course, it is usually something special.  This year’s menu featured shrimp, seafood, brie and cranberry tarts, squash and pear soup, radicchio salad, spicy and mild chicken wings, a fruit pavlova, butter and mince tarts and a cheese board.

In the beginning, the children were all fed and looked after by each other in the basement of one of the houses over a movie or games while their parents walked from course to course.  As the night wore on, various ages of kids fell asleep and had to be moved home at the end of the evening.  As the years went by, the kids grew up, moved out and had families of their own.

Though the tradition continues, the conversations change.  Early on, it was home renovations, or children’s schoolwork, or decorating the house for Christmas.  As the couples age, it becomes catching up on children and grandchildren, with the requisite photos shown around.  The more recent conversations tend to revolve around bodily ailments, who’s back is acting up, who just went for an MRI, who had cataract replacements.

Alcohol is served with each course, though the quantities have diminished greatly over the years. But being a walk around event, no one needs to be a designated driver. And the timing changes, too.  What used to start at 7 and go until 2 am, now starts at 6 and the yawning starts at 1030.  All are in bed by 11.

Arranging the date can be laborious.  One of the participants keeps track of who serves what course over time, so there isn’t a repeat, and sends out the reminder in November.  Invariably, someone has a conflict, so emails and phone calls go back and forth until a date is set.

One of the couples moved away from Weston, but comes back with food in tow, just for this event each year.  It is a lovely tradition.

Shakespeare in Action now hiring

Shakespeare in Action’s performance of the Lorde song, ‘Royals’ as applied to Lady Macbeth.

Shakespeare in Action is looking for new talent to assist in providing programs for young people. They’re looking for people with skills in teaching/education, music, spoken word, hip hop dance, rap, classical text, clown, and more. Those hired will join a roster of talent working in four capacities:

  • Running experiential workshops in schools (with commitments on a day-by-day basis)
  • Leading groups in the TD Shakespeare for Kids Library Club (commitment of 6 Saturdays required)
  • Performing in touring and mainstage productions (commitment of 4 to 6 weeks)
  • Being part of an exciting new program “Shakespeare Hip Hop Fusion” in association with the Toronto Public Library. Participants will serve as instructors and mentors to youth aged 13-17, helping to teach Shakespearean text, rap, hip hop dance, and/or spoken word.

Applicants will be asked to perform two of the following (of your choice):

  • a classical monologue
  • a song or rap
  • an original piece of text
  • a piece of spoken word or poem
  • a contemporary monologue

Auditions will be held on Thursday October 11th, 2018. Successful applicants will be trained on October 23rd and 24th.

For more information, click here.

York South–Weston will be part of ‘cultural hotspot’ next year

The former City of York, which includes Weston and Mount Dennis, will be a ‘cultural hotspot‘ from May through October of next year.

The city’s hotspot program brings “cultural activities, art interventions, development opportunities and legacy projects to the Hotspot neighbourhoods”, and it includes online marketing, events, and exploration guides.

It sounds great!

City of York map
The former City of York