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2011 Holiday Letter

ImageThis year really began with a holiday in Cuba at the end of 2010. We stayed in a western suburb  of Havana in an attractive ocean side resort. It was a $10 CUCs taxi ride from old Havana. (Cuba still has strong socialist and central control tendencies - with CUCs aimed at the tourists and worth 25 times the native CUPs.) It was a sufficiently pleasant experience that we’re returning to Cuba at the beginning of February, this time staying in old Havana. (The image shows street dancers performing for the public. Click on any image to see a larger pop-up version. Click on the expansion icon in the lower right to see a full-sized version of the image.)

Mira, Marie, & DorisMira went to California with her sisters in April. One sister, Doris, lives in Baltimore, the other, Marie, in California. They started in Bakersfield where Marie lives, but spent several days on the coast. They even reconnected with a cousin that none of them had seen in 60 years. And they returned for a visit to Cambria, the costal town that was the last home of their parents. It was a time for connecting and reconnecting. (The photo shows Mira, her California sister Marie, and her Baltimore sister Doris).

Mira in Quebec CityOur first joint trip in calendar 2011 was to Quebec City in late May. We had never visited the city. It’s an interesting place. The old city is something of a tourist trap, but it has enough original architecture that the result is still interesting. Until business took me to Quebec City a few years ago I had been apprehensive about communicating given my very limited French. It wasn’t a problem on my business trip, nor was it a problem on our holiday. Quebec City is well worth a visit. (The image is of Mira on the boardwalk next to the Quebec City railroad hotel.)

Boys' boysThis year Mira’s nephew and his partner brought their three children with them to visit us. Paul and Jonathan have an interesting arrangement with the mothers of the boys - they have shared parenting with the boys' mothers since the twins were born. The boys now talk of having two mothers and two fathers. It’s a new life style arrangement and seems to work quite well. It was enjoyable having them visit. We hope Paul and Jonathan will bring them for another visit in 2012.

Our Poor BoatMaybe because of global warming, but whatever the reason, this year saw some serious wind storms at our cottage. It cost me $60 to buy two sheets of clear plastic to replace the windshield that a tree broke as our small boat was parked in its winter spot. And then it cost $1,200 to have the trees taken down that the wind damaged. One positive side effect of taking all those trees down is that we now have enough fire wood to last for several years.

ImageThe spring also saw the signs go up announcing that a new building was being proposed for the lot immediately west of our condo in Toronto. They are proposing to put up twin 58 storey condos on top of a 7 storey podium that is to contain a 5 storey parking structure. If it goes as proposed, we’ll be looking at a “textured metal” face some 30 feet from our window. This inspired a strong NIMBY (not in my back yard) reaction, and began my increasingly intense involvement with urban design. (The image is a copy from the sign announcing the proposal. Our condo would be behind and below the top of the 7 storey podium.)

I established a website dedicated to the project - 501yonge.ca  I became one of the active members of the Working Group behind our Church Wellesley Neighbourhood Association, and am the webmaster for its website at cwna.ca . Now, most weeks see me at two or more meetings in connection with neighbourhood concerns. I’ve learned more than I ever wanted to know about the planning process in the City of Toronto. We may be able to guide new developments away from the most unhealthy directions. There’s reason for some optimism, but a positive outcome is far from assured.

Almost in parallel with my growing involvement in urban design, Mira’s term as President of the Canadian Association of Women in Construction (cawic.ca) was coming to an end. The organization has moved from being a chapter of the US National Association of Women in Construction to an independent Canadian entity. This year CAWIC has taken the step of actually hiring someone to look after their administrative affairs. Mira continues to be actively involved, and I continue in my tech support role. They’ve added a Career Centre (cawic.com) that is based on my favorite web Content Management System - Drupal.

ImageBarbara Deller again visited us on her way to Arowhon Pines. We first met Barbara some 20 years ago at “the Pines”. She returns faithfully at least once a year and we have an opportunity to spend an evening with her either on her way to or from The Pines. It’s one of the most civilized ways to experience the great Canadian shield. The resort is one of only three private resorts allowed in Algonquin Park - a large Provincal wilderness park. The setting is perfect and the food is at the level of a better Toronto restaurant.

ImageOctober saw us revisit Cleveland, this time for my 50th Case Institute of Technology reunion (now Case Western Reserve University). My fellow math graduates are an interesting lot. There were only eight of us, and seven remain. Almost all of us have one or more graduate degrees and four returned for the reunion. Neil Davidson and I have stayed in touch - he makes an annual pilgrimage to a conference in Toronto and we find time for a long dinner. But I had not seen Jon Seaman since we left Case. It was good reconnecting. (The image on the right shows the chapel on the Western Reserve campus with a gargoyle facing what was the separate Case campus when the chapel was built - it was a Christian's view of the Case Darwinians.) On the trip back to Toronto we stopped in Niagra-on-the-Lake to see a very good production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.


Paul and Jonathan returned for a welcomed second visit in October. And our building greeted them with a 2:00 am flood in our guest suite. Fortunately, nothing of theirs was damaged, but it did mean that they had to move to a nearby hotel. Given the age of our building, some problems are inevitable. Management is generally good and they did have the guest suite back in operation within only a few weeks. With it all, it was a good visit. We even learned a bit about the protocol followed by the Occupy movement. Paul was/is an enthusiastic supporter. The Toronto Occupy camp had closed down just before they arrived or we might not have seen much of Paul - he would have been down with our Occupy campers.

During the year we increased the number and kinds of concerts we attended. This is our second year of attending the Canadian Opera Company’s seven opera series with our good friends, the Borodins. I continue to have decidedly mixed feelings about opera. The story and stage action get in the way of the music, and too often the music is subordinate to either the story or the action, or both. Still, it does mean that we spend seven evenings with the Borodins, ... and that’s good. This year we also began to attend the Women’s Music in the Afternoon concert series. It’s a series of early afternoon chamber music concerts of generally high quality. Given the time, it attracts the grey hair crowd, but that now includes us. We also found time to attend the occasional play or concert not in a series. It’s amazing how busy retirement has become.

The new year includes plans for a trip to Guatemala to see the Mayan ruins at Tikal as well as our second trip to Cuba. The operas and the concerts and the plays continue into 2012. Mira continues to be involved with CAWIC, albeit at a reduced level. And I continue to be actively involved in urban design, hopefully seeing a Great Yonge Street Conference early in the new year. Maybe even working on a pattern language for the redevelopment of Yonge Street. All interesting suff. It’s great that we don’t have to worry about working for money - the volunteer and recreation activities threaten to keep us more than busy enough.