Friday, October 5, 2012

Movin' on

Almost 14,000 visits later, I am moving on from blogger and blogspot to Wordpress.  As I venture into more  freelance writing, it just makes sense, with more options, features, and a smoother appearance, to explore my options. (

In addition to my day job I have a few projects underway.  Two are novels - and who among us truly knows where they will end up (store shelves and your coffee table, I hope) and two are children's books.  I am also in the midst of developing magazine queries and intend to make a new life and new career for myself, and for my family as well. (

Your comments and encouragement have helped sustain my adventure in words for the past few years.  It has grown into a love that I hope remains for many more to come.  I look forward to continuing to share my writing with you over at  See you there!  And keep the comments coming.

- Todd

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Just Eat It!

Without a doubt, each person reading this has heard at least one story of random food findings.  When the stories break there’s a rush of stories hitting Facebook and Twitter with people telling their tales – some true, others, well, that’s up to the reader to decide. 

Such items have been reported in the media including a knife in a Subway sandwich, a finger in a bowl of Wendy’s chili, and a chicken’s head in a package of McDonalds chicken McNuggets.  I’ve seen the pictures online…they look real to me.

I turned to Facebook to ask my friends what they had found in their food.  Though not as extreme as the aforementioned treasures, a few were reported:

- a black rubber washer in my burger

- an elastic in my salad

- a piece of stem-like wood in my salad

- a screw in my Wendy’s salad (I was there for this one.  She took it back in and they were thankful because they knew where the screw had come from and they were now able to fix their equipment!)

*** NOTE: Looking at this list I have found that my friends eat a lot of salad.  Looks like it’s safer to eat meat.  And after reading this, you’ll find a considerable amount of “meat” or at least “meat alternatives” in your food anyways.

Certainly these sorts of finds are unusual.  Many more, though, are permitted through the US Food and Drug Administration.  Title 21, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 110.110 allows the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to establish maximum levels of natural or unavoidable defects in foods for human use that present no health hazard,” and “The FDA set these action levels because it is economically impractical to grow, harvest, or process raw products that are totally free of non-hazardous, naturally occurring, unavoidable defects,” and “It is incorrect to assume that because the FDA has an established defect action level for a food commodity, the food manufacturer need only stay just below that level.”  The site assures that while these limits are set, the averages are much lower.

So, on that note, let’s get specific (Gag ALERT…read on if you dare)

- 20 maggots are allowed for every 100 grams of drained mushroom

- At anywhere from 1/25 to 1/8 of an inch long, Thrips, these tiny little winged parasites are legally allowed in apple butter, canned or frozen asparagus, frozen broccoli, and frozen Brussels sprouts. 
- Five fruit flies with every 8-ounce cup of juice. An 8-ounce handful of raisins and you could be eating as many as 35 fruit-fly eggs.
- 30 or more insect fragments in 100 grams of peanut butter
- 475 insect fragments in 50 grams of ground pepper
- Average of 10 or more fly eggs per 100 grams, OR 5 or more fly eggs and 1 or more maggots per 100 grams, OR 2 or more maggots per 100 grams, in a minimum of 12 subsamples of tomato juice

This list is extensive and can be found online at the FDA site.

Take comfort friends, the government has everything under control and is only looking out for the good of it’s citizens.  So, what are you having for lunch today?  Still hungry?

Everyone has a story and I think that if animals could talk in a language we could understand, they would have a story too.  I wonder what story the frog found in a can of Diet Pepsi would be…?

More food findings found can be found here…

Monday, October 1, 2012

The World is My Home

I have been blessed with fortune of doing some travel for a variety of reasons – work, vacation, and missions.  My first out of country experience was a trip to England when I was only four years old.  I remember very little, but what I do recall is filled with joy.

Living in southern Ontario a trip south across the world’s friendliest boarder is less than 90 minutes away.  I ventured to Florida when I was 16 to take in Disney experience.  I’ve ridden my motorcycle to Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Kentucky.

In Red Square, Moscow
When my wife and I were first married and venturing out on our honeymoon, we did so without any planning.  When we awoke after a night in Niagara Falls we quite randomly decided to go out east (“Where do you want to go today?”  “I don’t know.  How about out east”  “Sure!”).  We began our drive and soon (14 hours later) found ourselves in New Brunswick.  We toured around New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island.

In Ocho Rios, Jamaica
In 1998 we moved out to Edmonton, Alberta.  A mere 36 hour drive from our home in Ontario.  We took time to visit Jasper, Lake Louise, and Banff in the Rocky Mountains.  We met up with family in Kelowna, British Columbia.  Toured through Calgary, Alberta and over to Vancouver, British Columbia.

I Love Canada!  It is such a tremendous country to take in, but you need time.  A lot of time.  I still have much to see and I hope to make many more visits to each province and territory.

I have been to Novokuznetsk, Ocinniki, and Moscow in Russia.  To Ciego de Avila, Camaguey, and Florida in Cuba.  To Ocho Rios in Jamaica.

Me, playing catch in Florida, Cuba
The children had not seen an 'American'
football before
And I long, I ache, to see more.

I posed the question to my Facebook friends, “If you could live anywhere, where would you choose and why?”  I expected some tropical and exotic replies, and certainly there were some: “The moon so I could fly,” and “Italy…just cuz,” and “Israel. Because it is warm all year but mostly because of the wonderful people, the culture and the incredible history.”  Instead, though, I was mostly surprised by people’s contentment and I questioned my own desire to go into the all world.

Many responded that they liked where they lived and wanted to stay in their current home!  “I actually love where I live (Ontario),” “Colorado.  I love the mountains in the summer, but my home the rest of the year (Ohio),” and “Florida for the summer and my home the rest of the time (Ontario).”

Clingman's Dome, Tennessee
Highest point in the eastern US.
Maybe I’m different.  Well, truth be told, I know I’m different.  I’m just not sure why.  I don’t really want to live anywhere, but I want to experience it all.  I long to see parts of the world that are vastly different than my own back yard.  To spend time in the mountains of Peru.  To hear the sounds of the jungles in South America.  To feel the emotion in Rwanda.  To experience the culture shock in Asia.  Just to see how others live.  And maybe find a fit in this world.  Or maybe, just maybe, the world is my home, and there are so many rooms that I just haven’t seen them all yet. 

If you have a few moments, take a visit at  I think this guy is really on to something.  Even if it’s a lifestyle that doesn’t interest you, but you find yourself having to pack up and travel for work or missions trips, he has some ideas that you may find helpful.

Everyone has a story.  Many more chapters in mine are yet to be written, with many more destinations to come.  If you could live anywhere, where would you choose…and why?  How about you, Chris?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

STEP - St. Thomas Elevated Park

Well, that was interesting.  One thing that I admire about my brother-in-law, Damon, is his activity in his community.  He moved to Stanstead, Quebec a few years back and jumped into community development and the arts.  My wife and I just came back from our first open “Town Hall” meeting.  One thing I saw clearly before my eyes – you just can’t please everyone, but you can take the chance to rally the troops and engage people in honest debate and productive discussion.

St. Thomas, Ontario is purportedly the “Railway Capital” of Canada.  During the late 1800s and early 1900s as many as 140 trains rumbled down the iron tracks that weaved through the city.  The old railway station stood abandoned when we moved into town in 1999.  There was little to truly declare that the reputation of the railway capital was based on much more than lore.

Take a walk down the streets of St. Thomas and you will soon see that there is a very different feel and it makes many uncomfortable.  There is a higher than average population of our neighbours living with problems related to mental health struggles.  The regional mental health centre is situated on the outskirts of town along a road that once showed warning signs “Don’t Pick Up Hitchhikers.”  A new forensic psychiatric facility is being built as we speak.  There are a number of adult group homes supporting those with challenges.  Ontario Works (welfare) is situated on the main street.  Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) is on the main street – at least until the province makes the final decision to close the office.  A satellite office of Family and Children’s Services is on the main street.  A methadone clinic is on the main street.

Alma College, a lost treasure
A number of companies have packed up shop and moved out of the city.  Factories have closed and moved out of the country.  Mom and Pop shops closed.  Schools have amalgamated leaving empty century-old structures that once stood proud.  The historic old jail was torn down.  The old Alma College burned to the ground at the hands of teenage arsonists.  Granted, some schools have been re-purposed and are once again in use.

The old Michigan Central Railroad Kettle Creek Bridge is no longer in service and was sold by the railway to a developer.  Many of the other rail lines have been removed from the city, but this 80-90 foot high, iconic structure remains a landmark in Ontario straddling the road between London and Port Stanley.  It was an engineering marvel in it’s day and truly is something to behold.

Future home STEP...with the community support, YES!
Tonight, community based program ‘On Track’ presented the concept of the St. Thomas Elevated Park (STEP).  If this idea moves ahead, it will take the title of first elevated park in Canada!  Similar elevated parks exist in New York and Paris, but nothing in Canada.  Sure there are bridges that are incorporated in various trails throughout the country, like the historic wooden Kinsol Trestle on Vancouver Island, but nothing like what was proposed.  A Canadian first…in St. Thomas!  It could be a reality.  As a public park, it would serve as a high profile addition to the Trans Canada Trail offering panoramic views of the Kettle Creek valley.
New York Elevated Park

 The City has put forward an offer to the developer with the hopes that a community partner would come alongside them with the finances as St. Thomas wasn’t in the position to spend that sort of money.  On Track is seeking $250,000 to cover the purchase of the land, and to cover the associated costs such as a safety and security assessment and a land survey.

Paris Elevated Park
One outspoken community member spoke out tonight citing the numerous losses of the city and requested that the community embrace this possibility and to no longer sit idly by and allow opportunities to slip through their hands as many have in the past.  Others made brash comments about annual suicides occurring as people chose to end their life by jumping 80 feet to their death.  The On Track committee assured the public that a safety assessment would be reflective of this reality. 

Landowners complained that they weren’t made aware that the property backing their land was up for sale, but a 16 year old stood up and said that if she was able to find this out then there wasn’t much of an excuse for others. 

Concerns were raised about vandals having access to people’s properties.  I thought there was a valid point, but generally speaking, people who are hiking or exercising aren’t usually the destructive type.

Traffic flow and parking were concerns, but plans would have to be approved by the city with public input.

A loss of tranquility was raised.  There were once 140 trains a day rumbling by.

“There’s no where to go, nothing to do in this city.”  How about a one of kind park in Canada being located in St. Thomas?

CASO under extensive renovation
Regardless of personal opinion, On Track has brought rail heritage back to St. Thomas.  Numerous murals appear throughout the city, Thomas the Train visits for two weekends each summer much to the delight of children and their parents, and they have seen to the restoration of the deteriorating railway station which now stands proudly as a beacon to railway enthusiasts – it also houses the office of MP Jeff Yuerk and small commercial spaces.  Another railway park along a former rail corridor is underway.

It’s easy to view the city in a negative light and I have often been critical of the condition of St. Thomas.  But I am seeing small steps being taken by brave people to restore the city to it’s glory days, despite the problems that exist.  The city needs an economical boost.  The influx of dollars would be beneficial to business.  Tourism Elgin would have some new bragging rights, too.

Everyone has a story.  St. Thomas had a story that many have forgotten.  I hope that people who were unaware of this project would throw their support behind it and learn a bit more about the heritage of the city that they, that we, call home.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Support your Red and White

I woke up this morning and went about my usual routine; staying in bed as long as possible, having a coffee, checking in with Facebook, Twitter, and Gmail, double checking my agenda to make sure I’m on my way to the right place, getting another coffee ready for the road.  Nothing glamorous about my mornings.

Another great day was shaping up.  Sun was out, the breeze warm.  My car, unlocked and the door not quite closed.  Wait, what?  I don’t always lock my car, and this wasn’t the first time that someone exploited my trust.  CDs, papers, and business cards were scattered across the drivers seat.  My multi-tool money clip from the church was gone, a red Bic lighter was gone, some loose change was gone although some remained.  This is the second time I’ve had a red Bic go missing, yet I’ve never purchased a Bic lighter before; I find them on the ground, in parks, along the curb.  The first one was taken from my office.

It wasn’t really worth phoning the police over, but the last time this happened, the local authorities advised me that they need these reports for two reasons: 1st, statistics, 2nd, they know where to focus their time during shifts.  It’s not uncommon to see the police roll through out neighbourhood, but nothing substantial goes down.  Most times it’s for things such as what I faced this morning, or to recover stolen bicycles that found their final resting spot on a front lawn.

As I waited for the police to arrive, I noticed a 31” scrape along the rear right quarter panel.  That’s new.  I initially thought it looked like a scrape from a bicycle’s handlebar, but the police advised me that it was keyed.  They’d faced a series of similar concerns on the south side of town a couple weeks back, but there has been little to report over the past week or so.  I was now the first of five calls this morning.  Looks like things have moved to the north side.

This sort of thing doesn’t really bother me.  It’s annoying, it’s rude, it’s an invasion.  It’s stupid.  I hope that whatever they were looking for, they found.  I hope they find it useful. 

It’s in these situations that I am reminded, “It’s just stuff.”  And I rarely find myself concerned about stuff.  Stuff can always be replaced, but those things that matter, the people in life, the relationships, and the memories…those are the parts of life that matter.

Everyone has a story.  Mine goes on.  The people that took my stuff, well, only time will tell how theirs will end…

All of this got me thinking about being robbed.  I’ve been watching the Olympics every day since they began.  While I wasn’t able to watch the entire opening ceremony, what I did see was quite a spectacle.  Visually thrilling, and I think that a seat at home was the best place to watch such a production.

The men’s gymnastics seems to have so many pieces and events to make up the event, I really don’t know when it was, but there was an event that saw the China team file an appeal which resulted in Canada being bumped from the medal standings. 

Now I am the first to admit that I don’t know a ton about gymnastics, but if you saw the video recap to determine whether the hand stand by the Chinese was worthy of points, I am sure most people would say “Nope.  That wasn’t a handstand.”  The judges, however, changed their original scoring, elevating the Chinese team from fourth, to second, moving Canada from silver to bronze, and removing Ukraine out of the standings.

I felt robbed as a Canadian.

I’m not an athlete.  I don’t represent Canada on a public stage (except on my various missions trips).  But I do have a sense of pride in Canada.  I feel a genuine sense of joy when our athletes capture a medal.  To be the winners of silver, only to have it downgraded to bronze because of a disagreement just felt wrong.  Robbed.

Much like I felt this morning.  Disappointed in the actions of others, actions that cost me.

As a final word, I want to encourage my Canadian readers to support your Red and White – the colours of Canada.  Be proud of our country, stand up for it, defend it.  Support your Red and White.  Fly your flag with the pride that so many other countries show. (Watch for another blog coming soon on the Red, White, and Blue).