Today is Earth Day. As a kid I always wanted to become a marine biologist. The goal was to study Marine Science at a university in Hawai’i or Florida and become like my childhood hero Dr. David Suzuki, spending time cataloging and studying nature and marine ecosystems. As a tribute to Earth Day, here is Pearl Jam’s – “Do the Evolution.” While the vocals and guitar riffs are amazing, the video itself is a bit over the top in a lot of ways, but it still carries a strong message – a warning of what could happen if we are not responsible caretakers of this planet .
What’s the difference between Washington, DC and Toronto? ’bout a foot of snow! ahaha.. No really, having been born and raised in the northern suburbs of Torontoland, and after living for the past two-odd years in Washington, DC, I’ve noticed a lot of similarities between these two seemingly different cities. Both are home to me now. Both are vibrant, interesting and fun places to live. Here’s my take on these two metropolises.
|Size||6 million folks live in the Greater Toronto Area, an area also known as the Golden Horseshoe which extends around the southern rim of Lake Ontario. Located in Southern Ontario, which geographically is a blend of the ‘Midwest’ and ‘Northeast’. Around 2.8 million people live in Metropolitan Toronto proper.Nearby cities: Buffalo, NY (1.5 hrs), Ottawa (4 hours), Detroit (4 hours), Cleveland (4 hours), Montreal (6 hours)||About the same number of people live in Greater DC, which extends into Northern Virginia and into Maryland. The District itself is small parcel of land sandwiched between the two above mentioned States, with a population of about 1 million including commuters. It kind of has Northeast feel but not really, more like a Mid-Atlantic southern feel. Nearby cities: Baltimore (1 hour), Philadelphia, (2 hrs), New York City (4 hours), Richmond, VA (3 hrs)|
|Transportation||The best way to get around Toronto is the TTC system which includes streetcars, buses and a subway. There are two subway main lines, one running East-West and the other North-South throughout the city proper. The subway doesn’t run into many of the highly populated suburbs, and sadly, Torontoland outgrew its present subway infrastructure sometime in the 80s. There are major expansion plans but these are still tentative and probably won’t be implemented until 2016. It is also expensive, and there is no subway link to Toronto Pearson Airport.||The Washington DC Metro system is superior. With five or so subway lines crisscrossing the District, it is very easy to get around. The subway goes well into the suburbs of Maryland and Virginia making transportation quite easy and hassle free. Ronald Reagan Airport is even connected on the subway line. The bus system is good, too. You can check arrival times on a smart phone, and they are pretty reliable most of the time even though the Sunday schedule is a bit of a pain. Problems on the Red Line|
|Culture||Toronto is probably one of the cultural capitals of the world, there are all sorts of different people in this town. Over 50% of Toronto is foreign born, and many different languages are spoken. Toronto is also the hockey capital of the world, located in a hockey crazed hotbed of Southern Ontario.There are large Italian, Greek, Jewish, South Asian, Eastern European, Caribbean, Chinese and Korean communities across the GTA. But don’t let this confuse you – Toronto has a uniquely Canadian feel to it regardless of where the people were born.One thing about Toronto is that people are generally mixed up pretty well around the city, people blend in pretty well. There aren’t too many ethnic enclaves, but even in those areas, you can find a pretty diverse group of people. It is a really good blend of folks, and going to N.Y.C. or even Miami and seeing the diversity there often reminds me of Toronto.||Washington is diverse, but definately not as diverse as Toronto. There’s a good blend of people here, with a large Hispanic and Black population, as well as large Chinese and Korean communities in the suburbs of Rockville, MD and Annandale, VA respectively. There are way more Spanish speaking people here than in Toronto, and I also find that Toronto doesn’t have too much Latin culture.Washington does attract a lot of out of state folks, in fact most people seem to come from other parts of the country. There’s a sizeable Canadian community here, with lots of alumni from Canadian schools and also a lot of Torontonians (as evidenced by the large number of Maple Leafs jerseys I saw during a Caps. v. Leafs game at the Verizon Center). Washington’s diversity is found primarily in its out of state citizenry.Washington is very much a city of neighbourboods, and so is Toronto. Georgetown, Adams Morgan, Friendship Heights and Cleveland Park are pretty cool neighbourhoods. They are vibrant and interesting.|
|Sports||NHL – Maple LeafsMLB – Blue JaysNBA – Raptors
MLS – Toronto FC
CFL – Argonauts
NHL – Buffalo Bills*
Toronto and DC have pretty similar sports stories, both cities haven’t won a major championship in quite some time, and the teams seem to constantly underperform. Sure the Bills play in Buffalo, but let’s face it, they are Toronto’s and are probably are still in Buffalo mostly due to support from Toronto fans. Also, gotta love the Jays, 1992 and 1993 World Champions. The Blue Jays have a lot of loyal fans, and baseball is big in Toronto. We just can’t seem to get into the playoffs being in the same division as Boston and N.Y. and a well performing Tampa Bay team. Fingers crossed for the wildcard this season.
Unfortunately for the other Toronto teams, hockey is king here, and no matter how good they play, they will always take a backseat to the Maple Leafs. Leafs fans bleed blue through anything, even though the team has been perpetually underperforming for the last 8 years, the fans are still there and will support the team to the end. Can’t say that about a lot of other cities.
|NHL – CapitalsMLB – NationalsNBA – Wizards
MLS – DC United
NHL – Redskins
Capitals fans are an interesting bunch, I have yet to meet a ‘die hard’ Caps fan. Hockey is big, but no where near the religion status it is given in Toronto.
Sure the Caps have Ovie, Semin and a lot of other talented players, but I’m hard pressed to find a true Caps fan who remembers the days of Peter Bondra and Olaf Kolzig.
Redskins fans are passionate, even though the team has been terrible for years. The Nationals have a beautiful stadium, but then again DC stole the Expos from Montreal. The Wizards and the Raptors both are terrible, so I’m not going to even bother with them. Also, very few ice rinks in DC. In Toronto, there are two or three within walking distance from my house. In DC, you gotta go across town just to find an arena. The AU Hockey team has late night practices in Anacostia, just because there’s no place closer. Kettler IcePlex (where the Capitals practice) is out in Virginia, but it’s a great facility. There’s also Cabin John Arena in Maryland, and the UMD facility which are great but too damn far.
|Universities||University of Toronto, York University and Ryerson are all great schools, but UofT is the only one with a truly international reputation. No NCAA sports here, and CIS/OUA Athletics haven’t really caught on even though they feature extremely talented student-athletes.Toronto has two law schools (UofT Law and Osgoode Hall Law School), for a metro area of six million people, there need to be more. Canada has the lowest proportion of lawyers per capita in the population of all the common law countries, but two law schools in one of North America’s biggest cities is ridiculous. That being said, UofT Law is easily comparable to a top-14 U.S. school and New York and Boston regularly recruit there. Toronto has a lot of lawyers too, mostly in private practice and the government.||American University, Catholic University, Georgetown and George Washington University are the big ones, and there are countless others around the area. These schools are generally very well known.Law schools: There are tons, AU WCL, G’town, GW, Catholic, UMD, UDC, GMU (across the Potomac). DC has a lot of lawyers, in fact it may have the most proportionally of all the American cities.DC is a lawyers’ town, and a pretty cool place to be. WCL is a fantastic school, it’s a Tier 1 law school, and opens a lot of doors for law students. Corporate, public interest, government, whatever – students can find their niche here. I am partial to WCL.|
|Outdoors / Recreation||Toronto suffers from urban sprawl, it’s just a massive city. There are great ski hills two hours north of the city, and Cottage Country to the north is just spectacular. The lakes and forests north of the city are a popular retreat for those weary of the confines of Toronto’s concrete jungle. In the winter, you can find tons of outdoor rinks and frozen ponds to skate on. Good bike paths, and trails for running and walking. In the summer, the Beaches are great for Volleyball, walking around, but not that great for swimming.||The Potomac river flows into the District of Columbia, and Rock Creek Park is a large forest with many bike trails and places to walk around. DC is more hilly than flat Toronto.There are great running route throughout the city, my personal favorites include the “Embassy Run” down Massachusetts Avenue, or a good 10-miler from the Maryland border where I live in Friendship Heights, down Connecticut Avenue to Dupont Circle. Running down the National Mall and around some of the monuments is also really freakin’ cool. Chesapeake Bay in Maryland and beautiful beaches are literally hours away and are spectacular.|
|Museums||Royal Ontario Museum, Art Gallery of Ontario and the Science Centre are all pretty amazing.||Smithsonian, Holocaust Museum, Spy Museum, Newseum.. so many flippin’ cool places!|
|Food||Because Toronto is so diverse, there are many different food options and they’re all authentic. Toronto has great Italian, Greek and Asian food. Little Italy, Greektown have some places to eat, and don’t forget wicked places in Chinatown. And that’s only downtown. The food options in Toronto are comparable to New York – there’s simply everything here. There is only one Five Guys Burgers in Toronto… and no Chipolte! Fail!||DC has great food too, lot’s of neat little joints to check out. More Hispanic/Latin American food than Toronto. Asian food is pretty good too. There are better burger places in DC. The suburbs have some great place to eat as well, but they’re harder to get to if you don’t have a car.|
|Weather||Toronto is colder than DC, it’s weather is like Chicago, but maybe a few degrees colder on average. Hot summers, cold-ish winters. To be honest, it’s actually not that cold in Toronto. Four distinct seasons make the weather interesting. It snows here, but not as much lake-effect snow as Buffalo (the eastern anchor of the Golden Horseshoe)||Hot, humid, sticky summers, beautiful spring and autumn. Minimal winter. Mild. In fact, it doesn’t really get cold in DC, that’s what I love about the place, and when it snows, the whole city shuts down! More snow days than Toronto because the city and residents become paralyzed when the white stuff begins to fall. DC can’t deal with snow.|
|Function and Influence||Toronto is a world financial center. It’s a fast paced business town. It is home to one of the largest stock exchanges in the G7. Toronto’s banks are the most safe and stable in the entire world. Functionally, Toronto compares more to like New York City even though it looks and feels a lot like Chicago||DC isn’t a financial center, but it is the capital city of the most powerful country in the world. It’s the capital city of the free world. It’s influence stems from it’s enormous political clout. It’s also a lawyers town and has more lawyers per capita than Toronto. Heck, Obama is here therefore DC is important. DC is also a large administrative center home to the headquarters of most of the federal agencies.|
By 23991 David Chee (RMC 2008)
There are vacations, and then there are road trips. In a typical vacation, the journey is short, and lacks spontaneity. Elements of challenge and adventure are absent. The path less traveled is not taken, and risks are avoided. A road trip, by contrast, is a journey of uncertainties. It involves leaving your comfort zone and flying by the seat of your pants. It goes against the grain.
This past summer, 24074 John Im (RMC 2008) and I spent the month of July traveling across western North America on what can only be described as the ultimate road trip. As outdoors enthusiasts, we were more interested in exploring the mountains, forests, and deserts of the continent, rather than wandering around the urban sprawl of the cities. We cooked our own food, surfed the ocean, squeezed in Cross-Fit workouts whenever possible, and took the time to enjoy the natural wonders of North America. There was no GPS, and (almost) no hotels. We spent our time in the wilderness camping out underneath the stars, took refuge in the hospitality that was offered to us, and tamed the jungles of Las Vegas (A road trip becomes the ultimate road trip with a stop at Vegas).
The 11,000-km journey extended across two provinces, and seven American states. The trip began in Edmonton, continuing through the Canadian Rockies to Vancouver. We then followed U.S. Route 101 from Seattle, Wash., south along the entire U.S. Pacific Coast. Scaling giant sand dunes in Oregon, to catching waves on the rough and rocky Malibu coast, we definitely had our fill of (mis)adventure. Driving along the Oregon coast is riveting, the curves are tight, the cliffs are steep and deadly, and the ocean is endless. We arrived at our destination just north of Reedsport, Ore., in the evening, with a few hours of daylight to spare. Not knowing much about sand dunes, we drove onto a sandy cliff, and disembarked for dune exploration. Unfortunately, shorts and a t-shirt didn’t offer much protection against the howling 30 knot winds, and we were tamed by the stinging blasts of sand. The next day we stopped at the world’s largest sea lion cave, and returned back to the dunes. This time, we arrived prepared. With sand protection, goggles, and of course a dune buggy, we subsequently tamed the dunes.
The Redwood Forest, near California’s border with Oregon, contains the largest collection of redwood trees in the world. Not only are the trees very old, they are gigantic and surrounded by lush vegetation. The giant ferns, and abundant wildlife make the Redwood Forest seem like it belongs in Jurassic Park. Lt. Im and I quenched our thirst for fitness here, Cross-Fitting on ancient tree stumps for box jumps, tree branches for chin-ups, and running along the meandering forest trails. In this oxygen rich environment, novice athletes will have no trouble, and experienced athletes will feel bulletproof.
We proceeded east to Lassen Volcanic Park, which is peppered with hydrothermal and geothermal features, making it one of the most unique places in North America. From sulfur springs to mud pots, and lava beds, there is no shortage of interesting things to see. We found a good way to experience the park is by running one of the mountain trails. Parking the car at the visitor centre, we laced up a good pair of sneakers, and jogged the trail down to Bumpass Hell. Travel on the trail is actually not recommended; a slip off the side of the cliff could prove fatal. The slippery snow covered trail descends down semi-mountainous terrain, around giant boulders, and snakes through a forest of pine trees, to one of the main highlights of the park – Bumpass Hell. It contains many thermal vents, steaming pools of water, and colourful patches of mineral stained snow.
We left Lassen, Calif., following a winding two lane highway through the ranges of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, towards the Mojave desert. Our next destination was the hottest and lowest point in North America, the Badwater basin of Death Valley. After gassing up at a small outpost in Jawbone Canyon, Calif., we set off to explore some of the 13,628-sq km park. Taking extra gas and a plentiful supply of water, it took two full days. We drove from Panamint Springs, on the western edge of the park, to Stovepipe Wells, via the remote backcountry desert trails. During the day, the sun-scorched terrain of Death Valley is extremely harsh, but it offers a great number of places to explore. We found hidden caves along the Armagosa Mountain range, and walked across superheated salt flats. At night, the park transformed itself into a completely different world. Cottontail rabbits, rattlesnakes, and scorpions are just a few of the many creatures that emerge under the cover of darkness. With not a drop of water left, needless to say, Death Valley kept us busy and exhausted enough to skip the Cross-Fit of the day. Making our way back to Highway 101, we continued to San Diego, Calif., the southern most extent of the road trip. Precluded from crossing the border into Mexico, we turned east, driving across Arizona’s Sonora desert, and through Navajo country in New Mexico. Setting our sights north to Alberta, we traversed the Great Plains in Colorado, and crossed the empty Wyoming countryside on our way back home. At many instances throughout the road trip, I couldn’t help but consider the hardships endured by the early explorers such as Capt. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, during the Corps of Discovery. On their mission of exploration, they, too, at times must have felt insignificant alongside some of the most awe-inspiring places on the continent.
California’s national parks are fantastic places to explore, camp out, and enjoy nature. The Pacific Northwest offers similar opportunities to satisfy the outdoorsman’s hunger for adventure. Next year, if you have difficulty deciding how to spend block leave, consider embarking on a road trip. This means going off the grid. Leave the big city comforts and convenience behind, take a few emergency rations, leave an itinerary in the hands of someone trustworthy, and journey into the rugged, unpredictable, and breathtaking wilderness of North America.
2x Digital Cameras
1x Disposable Camera (MIA)
1x Sea Lion
1x Off-road Tire
1x Cottontail Rabbit
1x Kit Fox
1x Awesome Road Trip
Alright folks, after a little break there, it’s time to start blogging again. I’m going to try to focus a bit more on what this blog was originally designed for – patent litigation and other cool IP stuff – instead of hockey, music and random stuff that I’ve put on here recently. There are several interesting developments in the IP world that I will try to keep everyone appraised of in the next few weeks.