Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A solution to the bystander effect: pay it forward

The bystander effect has been in the news recently thanks to a mugging in Toronto and the death of a good Samaritan in New York. In both cases, witnesses did very little to assist those in need.

It is pointless to act outraged and claim moral superiority because everyone, at some point, has passed the buck. I cannot even recall how many times I have passed a homeless person lying on a grate in the middle of winter, without checking to see if s/he was even breathing.

Ever since I learned about the bystander effect in my first year Psychology class, I have always assumed that I might not get the help I need if I was ever in danger. This is not to say that there are no helpful people in society. In fact, with such a spotlight on the bystander effect, I believe that people are bound to be more proactive, if only for the next little while.

However, if faced with danger, it is best to make your predicament someone else's problem as well:
  • If you're being attacked, start breaking windows or damaging merchandise. Now, the store owner will definitely call the police.
  • If you're being mugged, grab someone's purse or wallet and start running after the mugger. Now, you have an army of dubious support following you. Avoid taking anything that might slow you down like laptops or groceries lest you get overtaken before you reach your mugger.
  • If you are being abducted, drag someone else along. Two heads are better than one, and maybe s/he will have friends that will work harder than yours to find missing people.
Since it would appear that I am advocating criminal behaviour, I will insist that I'm kidding (kind of). Unfortunately, the bystander effect is emblematic of urban life, and until Kick-Ass* becomes reality, everyone should be prepared to become their own little antihero.

*That's an awesome movie, and the apathetic bystander character is topical.

Monday, April 26, 2010

10K training update + Okay Okay Diner

Activities over the last five weeks suggest that I've lost that hunger to beat a predetermined race finishing time and beat my body into submission in the process.

I have run about twice a week for the last five weeks, but the runs have been sloppy affairs; 30 minutes here, 8 km there, mostly by myself but occasionally accompanied by a disgusted Joe. I finally went for a run with a group of over-athletic overachievers last Thursday, during which my eyes roamed desperately for a red light. The only person who approves of my floundering is Flocons, who is pleased to find a fellow advocate for pit-stops at fast food chains along the route.

Traditionally, I have not done well in the Sporting Life 10K, in spite of the downhill course, because I tend to train poorly over the winter. In light of my history, prior and recent, I will be very happy to finish the Sporting Life 10K in one hour. In anticipation of disappointment, I am going to look forward to the next race. Which one to do next?

Hunger had nothing to do with my experience of the latest stop on my Leslieville culinary journey.

Okay Okay Diner (1128 Queen St. E.)
Their pancakes were amazing: fluffy but with substance and packed with flavour. Hence, shoving the flapjacks into my cake hole at record speed was no chore, as my lunch companion and I attempted to eat our way out of the freezing patio as quickly as possible. Still, I wish the pancakes came with some sort of accompaniment like fruit or vegetables, even if it would have prolonged our suffering.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Cyclists: the new urban cowboys

I've always been proud of how hard core cyclists are in Toronto. Even in the midst of a blizzard, you can always find a cyclist trying to stay upright in a snow drift.

Now, with the good weather, cyclists are out en masse and, unfortunately, some are acting like a gang of roving delinquents, thumbing their noses at the rules of the road.

I understand that stopping then starting a bicycle is work. It's not like simply releasing then pushing the acceleration pedal of your car. However, if passengers are attempting to board the streetcar, or pedestrians are crossing the road and have the right of way, cyclists are supposed to stop.

Three cyclists whizzed right through a red light as I was crossing the road this morning. Admittedly, my tone was not congenial when I pointed out the red light to them. One cyclist responded with "We're letting you walk, aren't we?" A fourth cyclist who pedaled past told me to "relax".

It is hypocritical of cyclists to demand respect from drivers as vehicles of the road then flout the rules of the road at their convenience. Granted, when drivers fail to observe a red light or wear their seat belt, the results can be fatal. However, I challenge anyone to feel the impact of being hit by a bicycle at moderate speed or of flying over the handlebars without a helmet before arguing that the rules of the road are merely suggestions of etiquette for cyclists.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Me, my mother and "Steven and Chris"

My mother does not have any passionate hobbies but she does enjoy watching TV. So, attending a live taping of "Steven and Chris" for her birthday seemed like a great idea. I got us on the guest list for the final show of the season with the hope that car giveaway madness à la Oprah would ensue. However, it was neither as frenzied nor as fabulous as one would hope.

There was the usual tension that sets in when you haphazardly corral a large group of single minded women then create a bottleneck to their common desire - a good seat. Apparently, it was the biggest audience of the season; the unfortunate overflow audience members were forced to sit in the aisle, and vacate their seats after every segment to allow props to be wheeled in and out of the studio. The rest of the audience were seated so comfortably that they barely registered a pulse when not prompted to enthusiasm by the director. The exception to this were the awkward few who insisted on doing the seated two step to the dance music that blared from the speakers in between filming.

Steven and Chris only revealed themselves to the audience when they were cued to do so before the cameras. There were sweet nothings and hugs for a special few, but the rest of the audience were pretty much ignored by the hosts until they were ready to bid us farewell. If I were to choose the friendlier half of the duo, it would have to be Chris, who was entertainingly flamboyant, even in between takes.

Perhaps the disconnect between the hosts and the audience was caused by the wall of cameras that separated us. An overhead monitor showed audience members what was happening a mere 15 feet in front of them. Add the set ups for each segment, which lasted longer than a commercial break and inflicted audio torture what with the aforementioned dance music, and I found myself wishing that I was watching "Steven and Chris" in the comfort of my own home.

My complaints are all my own and probably don't reflect my mother's experience. When guest chef, Lynn Crawford, showed up to promote her new show, "Pitchin’ In", I was a little alarmed at how excitedly my mom laughed and applauded. It is not a side of my mother that I am used to since I failed to become a doctor or any professional of note.

Seeing how much my mother enjoyed herself, I soberly suggested attending a live taping of "CityLine" in the future, which my mom said would be agreeable to her. The things I do for love.

Monday, April 05, 2010

More gastronomic delights and our new favourite in Leslieville

Over the weekend, we made two stops on our fantastic gastronomic journey in Leslieville:

Gio Rana's Really Really Nice Restaurant (1220 Queen Street East, Toronto)
The giant paper-mâché nose above the restaurant entrance may remind Torontonians of its previous location at Yonge & Eglinton or the American Express TV commercial. However, this was my first experience of the Italian restaurant, which has a surprisingly limited selection of pasta on its menu. Instead, the chef's focus is on seafood and meat.

We were all really (really) happy with our meal though I found my portion size on the small side; my lamb was very juicy and flavourful while Joe's osso bucco was tender and delicious. However, the desserts were to die for: the goatcheese cheese cake was just perfection while the tiramisu was the best I've ever had - light, both in texture and taste, yet still rich with flavour.

Leonidas Belgium Chocolates and Cafe (5 Coady Avenue, Toronto)
Strolling around in nice weather makes one susceptible to tasty summer treats so when we noticed the trash can shaped like an ice cream cone outside Leonidas, we ran for the front door. I usually prefer the creamy flavour of ice cream to the lighter texture of gelato but Leonidas's raspberry coconut and Tiramisu flavours were creamier than any gelato I have ever had. We have a coupon for a 1 litre tub of Leonidas gelato, which I had scoffed at previously but now, am simply biding my time for an opportunity to lock myself in with said tub and possibly the first season DVD of "Spartacus: Blood and Sand".

And the furniture store that will save us from Ikea:

G.U.F.F. (1142 Queen Street East, Toronto)
Joe and I discovered this used furniture store while they were in the midst of a moving sale, which we took advantage of to acquire a task chair with chrome legs ($45) and an industrial console table ($95). With their grand re-opening on April 3, Joe and I couldn't resist buying a full length mirror in a solid wood frame ($95). From the many 'sold' signs attached to the merchandise on display, it appears that G.U.F.F.'s reasonably priced vintage furniture has a high turnover rate.