Saturday, June 27, 2015

Back online with NYT

I was pleased today to sign up for another year with the New York Times, online edition. I first signed up back in 2011 and after many months, when I had gathered all the research I wanted, I quit. It works out to less than $3 a week.
Here's something interesting. The NYT has better archives about Canadian news than either the Globe and Mail or The Toronto Star. The Globe and the Star both began doing digital archives in the late 1980s. Their archives are pretty basic. The New York Times has incredible archives going back to the mid-1800s and they've been able to reproduce it in a nice PDF doc form. When I need to look something up about Canada, or even Timmins or Northern Ontario, I can search the archive and find what I need. Excellent! Below is a news clipping from the front page in 1928, when there was a disaster at the Hollinger Mine.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Concert season

Timmins is struggling with the fact that a lot of big name music acts don't bother coming here. The problem seems to be the fact that no one wants to buy tickets ahead of time and the promoters are not willing to take the chance of bringing in a big-name act without financial security of advanced sales. So a local committee has been formed to try to convince people to be more accepting. I agree with that. The Tragically Hip is performing in Kirkland Lake for two nights this week, and the concerts are sold out. Here's the thing. A lot of people will not pay $100 for a concert ticket but they will think nothing of going out of town, paying gas, paying hotel, paying restaurants etc to see a concert. I would rather go out to a great dinner with friends and then take in a nice concert right here in town. $100 would be a bargain!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Socks and suits

I mentioned I was in court last week. And the lawyers were there. Suits and socks. Did you know that it’s a fashion thing now to have loud colourful socks? Oh yeah! That’s the thing when you have to wear a suit now. So when you’re in court, you’ve got lots of time to look around. Sure enough, Toronto lawyer guy is wearing socks with big polka dots on them. Oh well, if that’s what you like, enjoy.
But then I noticed all these guys wearing suits that looked just so, so uncomfortable. I mean, the men’s fashion industry is just terrible. I know these people have to change things around every now and then make money, but holy moley, these new suits just suck. They may look pleasing to some people, but I think they look so uncomfortable to wear. I am sure I felt uncomfortable just looking at them. I dropped into a men’s store last week to check out some blazers. By mistake I grabbed a suit jacket, with my size, and tried it on. OMG it was terrible. The arms were so skinny and the armpits felt like they were up to my ears. I couldn’t possibly imagine wearing a suit jacket all day. The guy said it was the “European cut”. I mentioned that I thought we got rid of all the dumb stuff from Europe in the last war. The guy just looked at me. Blank. I don’t think he got it.
Anyway, I wore suits for years. Still have one, just in case somebody dies! LOL I am not being disrespectful to the courts. I like to wear a nice cashmere blazer, a crisply pressed shirt and my best jeans. I don’t have any loud socks. Just sayin’

Helicopters and Horses

It has been a crazy week for news in Timmins, but as I always tell the younger reporters, there is more news in Timmins than you can wish for. On Wednesday we learned there had been a break-in at Canadian Tire and that it was suspected an armed gunman was still inside the store. It created a huge response from local police and OPP. As it turned out, the guy who did the break-in got away minutes before police showed up, even though he was on the surveillance video.
Another story was a happy news story about our local firefighters were rescued a horse that fell into a mudhole in a gully. I was happy to be there and watch the rescue. And yes, at last word, the horse is okay.

Monday, June 15, 2015

My hands were shaking...

Okay some days, the news gets a little too intense. It happened on the weekend when a seriously disturbed young man set fire to a two-storey apartment house, while arguing with the Timmins police. The man was refusing to leave the house. He holed up in an upstairs room, while the fire burned and the smoke grew thicker. After several minutes, he opened the window and decided to get out. I thought, holy crap, he's going to jump. I didn't like watching this, but I knew I had to photograph it. I felt ill and my hands were shaking. As it turned out, he jumped onto the little porch roof at the left. After several more minutes, police were able to convince him to climb down a ladder. The guy was arrested and charged with arson, among other things. I hope he gets some professional help.
Photo by Len Gillis ©

Waiting on my pears...

The doctor tells me I have to eat more fruit ... but nothing too sweet or sugary! What? Yeah, so he gave me a list of "good" fruits. Seems bananas are not on the good list, neither are grapes. I love grapes. So the other night, I closed the curtains and turned off my cell phone just in case. I ate some grapes. Oh god, they were so juicy and good. Now,  he says pears are good. I like pears. But you have to wait for pears to get just right, just when they're soft, and so juicy. I call it slooshy! So I am waiting. I bought these pears about five days ago. They're still hard, well not THAT hard. But I came home from work today just hoping to have them. They were not ready.  I figure sometime in the next day and half, they will be perfect. I can't wait!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Covering court

Spent a couple of days this week in court, covering police commission hearings, since our police chief was accused of improper conduct. It was all about a couple of traffic tickets and a member of city council. Here's the thing that worries me. There was very little news coverage of it since our local media companies are not willing to commit the time to sending their news people to cover local stories that requires some time and effort. The reporters are all great people. Young and hard working and willing to learn. Their bosses don't care. Only three reporters showed up the first day of the hearing. Four reporters showed up for the second day. I remember there was a time when our local radio station CKGB would run with a full ten minutes of news and sports every morning at eight oclock. Now they run 92 seconds of information, and it is certainly not news.
Rant number two: Court is boring. The lawyers and witnesses drone on and on, hour after hour, repeating the same testimony. It is hard to hear because even the air conditioning system is louder. Every now and then,  a real interesting bit of info comes up and you furiously take notes ... and then the reporter next to you, a smoker, breaks into a coughing fit and you can't hear a damned thing.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

You still play CDs?

So when is the last time you played a CD? I was thinking about that last night just before I went to bed... You see my bedtime is something of a ritual. A glass of water, a book and music. I usually tune in to for my music, or CBC Radio and I set the time so the radio shuts off in 59 minutes. I am usually snoring by then and the book is stuck to my face. Eventually I will wake up, have a drink of water, turn off the bedlamp and go back to sleep.
Here's the thing. I found out Friday that Grooveshark was shut down for legal reasons. So there went my link to free music...  Music that I liked and that I picked. Oh well. So then I went to my ROKU box and picked up on another music service, which has thousands of free internet radio stations. Last night I found a very agreeable jazz station; Global Smoothjazz out of Monterey, California.  So I set the volume low and there was relaxing music all night. The other cool thing was that I could have chosen rock, country, classical or even folk. And that made me wonder, why do I even have CDs anymore. I guess every now and then, I can pull out an album, blow the dust off my CD player and listen to Bob Bylan or Jimi Hendrex, or even Shania.

Saturday, June 06, 2015


I have been on a real coffee jag in the past few weeks. I wasn't sure why but now I think I know. Usually I will drink tea in the mornings, which is great. But then during work hours I will run out and grab a hot cup of coffee to keep my engine running. So a few weeks back I had a really great cup of McCafe from McDonalds. It just hit the spot. So every morning now, and lunch too, I make my own coffee ... with the Keurig of course. My brand of choice these days is President's Choice, Costa Rica medium roast. I will go back to tea eventually, but only if I make a bad cup of coffee.

Work in the pit.

As the weeks go by in Timmins I have been checking out the work on the new Hollinger open pit. You can see the bowl developing gradually as they blast away the high ground that has been part of the landscape for the last 106 years. Actually the rock has been there for about two billion years, if you talk to any geologist. (Timmins has lots and lots of geologists, but's that another story).
So I am posting photos from the vantage point of the old golf course road, looking east. I will keep doing that as long as I can see the pit. They haven't put up the "berm" in that area yet. In the bottom photo here, you can see where they poured tonnes of concrete in the foreground. Somebody said that will become part of the road as the trucks will descend into the pit. By the way, some of those trucks are big. That truck near the upper right part of the top photo is as tall as a two-storey house!

Dreams and good smells

As I woke up a short time ago I realized I was dreaming about cigarettes. I have not smoked since 1986 but I remembered a good smell one morning this week as I was heading in to work. It was one of those really nice mild, sunny mornings with a light breeze. A guy on the sidewalk had just lit a smoke. As I walked by, I realized that I really liked that smell. For just a few moments. I remembered being a smoker and lighting that first cigarette in the morning, and inhaling it deeply. Yup, I liked that. Okay, so I am glad I quit, but there were some things about smoking I liked.
That reminded me of the time I worked a whole summer on a tobacco farm, near Simcoe, ON. It was hard work, but the money was good and I needed the money for school. The summer of '73. I have a great memory of a wonderful smell from that time. I worked for a farmer named Hank Bakker and he gave me responsibility for my own field of crop. I never worked in farming before, but I enjoyed it and so Hank kept me on beyond the greenhouse season, which was late May.
I don't know how big my field was, but it was several acres. I had to cultivate it, disc it,  plant it, hoe it, irrigate it, do the topping and suckering and by early August, it was one beautiful field of shoulder high tobacco plants. The plants get topped with very nice white flowers and I remember being out at about 5:30 one morning to admire the field. It's kind of like looking in the mirror when you're a teenager. That's when I realized how amazingly good the field smelled. The flowers give off a fragrance that is a cross between honey and vanilla. I won't forget how nice that smelled.