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Remembering not to be forgotten
Remembrance Day Parade. Riverside Branch 255 Windsor, Ont.
By Bernard de Vaal. 2017.11.06
“T. Murray, Pat Phillips, Joe Prier, Charlie Johnston…”
The names of fallen comrades. Young cadets with stony faces avert their gaze in sympathy with veterans of wars long since forgotten. Long serving veterans, in military dress adorned with accoutrements. Their weakening fists clenched to keep the emotions stealthy.
The is parade led by the Scottish Society Pipe Band’s “Lament.” In their drag, humble vigil sentries of flag bearers, legion cadets and Scouts Canada.
In previous years the Remembrance Day Parade passed down Wayndotte Avenue. This year a no-less emotional procession marches down a parking terrain.
The Royal Canadian Legion, Riverside Branch 255 hosted the Remembrance Day Parade at the Cenotaph at the old Riverside Arena on the eleventh day, of the eleventh month.
Wreaths were placed by various civic societies at the foot of the empty tomb in remembrance for those whose remains still reside in countries they never called home.
Ronald Ewing, 93, joined the militia at age thirteen in step with family tradition.
“There were nine of us, in my family, in the service. And my father was in the service. Both wars.”
Ewing guarded 700 Italian and German soldiers onboard the Queen Mary, giddily recalling his fortunate deployment.
“The Queen Mary was well equipped and we served way North. It traveled the way north so there were no submarines.”
This was not the fortune for all the members of his enlisted family.
“I lost a brother in the air force. He’s buried over there. I had a brother wounded in Italy. We all came back except the one who got wounded in the air force.”
For Raymond Silvius, a Korean War veteran, the day is a stark reminder of realities they will never manage to outlive. His eyes have red rings around them and his voice is quivering.
“Some of them are still there. Some of them are still there.”
Despite its aging members and diminishing involvement of younger generations, Branch 255 of the Legion offers comradery and a social platform for every veteran says Branch President, Tim Copland.
“We have programs set up for our veterans that come over and we do anything we can to help them. From hospital care, mental care – we continue to do that – but we do need young people to come into the legion to carry this on for us”.
Scott Flynn, the training coordinator for branch 255’s cadet core, has lasting empathy for these aging warriors. A sense of personal significance that got infused in his family life.
“My father was a veteran of World War II. Blinded in Byron so, it has a lot of significance for me too. My mother used to tell me that my dad, during a thunderstorm, would jump from his bed thinking it’s shells.”
Not everyone is destined to serve on the front line. For those who do, being forgotten is non-negotiable according to Silvius.
“We’ve got to remember the ones who didn’t come back. There’s no way that we could forget. No way.”
At 93, Ewing reiterates the value of the price soldiers pay.
“We have a free country and we should try to keep it that way.”
Wearing the red poppy is one way to show gratitude says Flynn. Another way…
“Say thank you. You know a lot of these guys…people walk by them like they’re nothing. Like they don’t exist. People just need to say thank you.”
Student rally takes on Canada's biggest restaurant chain
NDP believe franchisees are being directed by the parent company, which it denies.
By Bernard de Vaal. Jan. 19, 2018
Angela Hzu, and activist with the NDP of UWindsor chanting in front of Lisa Gretzky's office in Windsor, Ont. Photo by Bernard de Vaal.
An NDP of UWindosr pin on co-president, Kiera Royle's jacket. Photo by Bernard de Vaal.
Lisa Gretzky, NDP MPP for Windsor West at her offices during the minimum wage rally. Photo by Bernard de Vaal.
A student group is calling out big corporations that they believe are using loopholes in labour laws to offset profit losses as a result of the minimum wage hike to $14/hour.
The New Democrats of UWindsor on Friday rallied against a number of Tim Hortons franchises they say cut employees’ benefits and working hours. They gathered at Lisa Gretzky’s offices, the New Democratic Party MPP for Windsor West.
Jocelyn Gates, the rally organizer, said she knows people in various industries who have suffered similar fates.
“A lot of my friends have had their hours cut if they’re full time. I know a manager who worked 44 hours and now she works 26 hours.”
Gates said if a worker works less than a certain number of hours, the company doesn’t have to provide benefits.
In a media release, Tim Hortons head office attributes these cuts to “a reckless few” and called this “rogue group” out for their actions. But the New Democrats said something isn’t right.
“Right now some head corporations at Tim Hortons are claiming that it is just the rogue franchises that are acting in this way, but what we’re not seeing is them taking any action,” said Angela Hzu, an activist with the New Democrats of UWindsor.
Gretzky said she has sympathy for workers and franchise owners, and she believes they are victims of corporate directives.
“Many of them will actually end up taking home less money than before they got the wage increase,” said Gretzky.
The rally organisers want laws that will prevent corporations from taking advantage of employees.
“Employers must provide benefits to employees, a certain level, as well as making sure there is stable work schedules,” said Kiera Royle, co-president of New Democrats of UWindsor.
Gretzky said the NDP tabled amendments to the current Employment Standards Act which could have prevented this. The proposals were shot down by the Liberals and the Conservatives abstained from voting.
“Card check certification which means that they would be able to unionize easier. First contract arbitration, so when they had unionized, it would be easier for them to get their first contract,” she said.
The new Fair Workplaces and Better Jobs Act saw the provincial government provide several incentives. It cut the tax levy for businesses from 4.5 to 3.5 per cent. Further, it’s planning to hire 175 more employment standard officers, start education and training programs and publish the names online of employers who don’t comply with the law.
Gretzky advises local workers who feel they have been unfairly treated to speak up.
“Reach out to the local labour force here in Windsor to see what can be done to organize them to unionize, so that they have stronger protection,” she said.
Royal says that the next step for New Democrats of UWindsor is looking into the effect the minimum wage increase has had on migrant workers.
Canadian's data also stolen in Cambridge Analytica data breach
“Malicious actors could have scraped your public profile information," Facebook CEO and founder, Mark Zuckerberg
By Bernard de Vaal. April 6, 2018
Graphic by Bernard de Vaal
Aiden Varju (left) and Matt Reddy, both St. Clair College students, said they hardly use Facebook. Photo by Bernard de Vaal.
Facebook will add a new tool for its more than 2 billion users this Monday: people will be able to see if their private information was stolen.
On March 27, Canadian Christopher Wylie, co-founder of Cambridge Analytica, blew the whistle on the data privacy breach. He testified before the British parliamentary media committee that public and private data of around 50 million people world-wide might have been used to influence, among several prominent campaigns, the 2016 general US elections and the Brexit vote in the UK.
Yesterday, Facebook released new data saying the number of users implicated has increased to 87 million. The company is now doing damage control by drastically upgrading user security along with offering the functionality for users to see what data they shared with which third party applications.
In a Facebook press release on Wednesday, the company said that as many as 620,000 Canadians were compromised in this data breach. The number is still growing.
Facebook stocks have taken a major plunge, having lost as much as US$5 billion in value on Thursday.
But what will users in Windsor do come Monday, if they find they might have fallen victim?
Aidan Varju, a St. Clair College student said, he doesn't care. “Well come Monday, I probably won’t care too much. I don’t use Facebook all that often. I would just say it’s something of the past. All these new social media apps coming out are so much better,” he said.
Fellow student Matt Reddy agreed.
“I don’t really put anything out there that people don’t already know, so I don't really care,” said Reddy.
Yvonne Pilon, an instructor at St. Clair College, said it won't affect her much either. “I will definitely check and I think it will be an eye opener,” she said. “Is it going to change the way I use social media? Probably not, but it will make me more aware of the importance of pushing social media platforms like Facebook to be more responsible.”
A personality quiz application developed by academic researcher Aleksandr Kogan allowed Cambridge Analytica access to users’ public and private data such as location check-ins and even personal messages. From this data, psychological profiles were carefully constructed enabling the company to advertise to users by focusing on their vulnerabilities.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg apologised in a March 21 Facebook status, saying the company did not react to knowledge of the privacy breach when they first realized it back in 2014.
Canada’s privacy watchdog has launched an investigation to find out if any Canadian privacy laws have been broken.
Windsor's ailing bicycle route infrastructure
The City of Windsor has secured $1.7 million in funding for the city’s disjointed cycling network.
By Bernard de Vaal. Dec. 18, 2017
Lori Newton from Windsor Bike wants to see and integrated cycling network for commuters in Windsor, Ont.
Windsor's ailing bicycle infrastructure set to receive an upgrade after a $1.7 million grant.
Dwayne Dawson, executive manager of operations in Windsor recognizes the challenges faced by commuters.
Whether you prefer riding with the breeze in your hair on the Riverside Drive waterfront trail or just love the sound of leaves rustling while pedaling on the Ganatchio Trail, Windsor’s leisure bike routes are a feast for bike lovers. Cycling to work however, is a completely different type of adventure.
The City of Windsor applied to the Ontario Municipal Cycling Infrastructure Program with what it calls 13 “shovel ready” projects. It successfully secured $1.7 million in much needed funding for the city’s disjointed cycling network.
There is little agreement on where this money should be spent.
The funds were made available by the province from carbon emission taxes. The projects that municipalities submitted, had to go towards raising their green footprint.
“The proposal was done in conjunction with Windsor Bicycling Committee who gave us some of their suggestions and also council added a couple from their list as well,” says Dwayne Dawson, executive manager of operations in Windsor.
Despite the broad community participation, the projects will not offer “a visible and connected cycling network that is easily accessible, safe and actively used by all types of cyclists,” as indicated in a summary of the city’s Bicycle Use Masterplan Network (BUMP).
The city has done a lot for cycling. It launched several successful initiatives such as the Windsor police bicycle registry, bicycle maintenance stations and the bike and bus transport facilities.
In spite of these concessions, current census data shows that only 1.1 per cent of Windsorites commute to work on bicycles.
Lori Newton, executive director of Bike Windsor Essex says they surveyed almost 1000 residents on what they thought “cycle commuter dollars” should be spent on.
“Well we don’t have an integrated cycling network,” Newton said. “What we have is a lot of disjointed unconnected cycling infrastructure that residents speak about frequently and complain about how difficult it is getting around the city on a bicycle.”
She further says that the central reason most respondents cited for not commuting to work on bicycles, are safety concerns.
One flash point topic has been the Dougall death trap. A 2013 council proposal to have the very dangerous 1 kilometer bottleneck restructured, was never undertaken. It was due to the costs as well as parts of the land not belonging to the city, but to Canadian Pacific Railway.
“Because I drove through the Dougall death trap for many many years and it was never fun or an enjoyable experience,” said Oliver Swainson, a local cyclist who commutes to work. “I’d definitely like to see something done there.”
Dwayne Dawson, executive manager of operations in Windsor is frank about why projects like these are still lying dormant.
“We have a high range of projects that we can spread the money over, but obviously we have much more need than we have funding for right now,” he said.
To understand what the needs of the community are and what the projects are that the city have given the green light to, one needs to look at a map.
Bike Windsor Essex created an interactive online map showing existing and proposed cycling infrastructure.
Multi-use paths are marked in green and city street commuting routes in red.
Multi-use paths are marked in green and city street commuting routes in red.
The projects the city will implement show a notable fractured connectivity.
The ideal pink routes, which will allow cyclists to commute safely on continuous bike paths, will remain pipe dreams for very practical reasons.
“The existing roads are only so wide so, you have to deal with existing parking considerations and a lot of times it doesn’t leave room with the parked cars for proper cycling facilities,” said Dawson.
Newton understands the issues.
“These however are very large projects that need environmental assessments and would probably not be appropriate for this sort of funding,” she said. "Whichever way the $1.7 million is spent, it will make headway towards a vision of integrated transport."
In pink are connections proposed by the commuters surveyed by Bike Windsor Essex.
The programs proposed by Windsor Public Works are indicated in black.
“From ancient Greece, they have the golden ratio. The golden rule,” said Walden. “The golden rule applies to everything. They apply to the human body. Proportionally. They apply to buildings. They apply to every single thing that appears in our lives.
The Chinese hieroglyphics also has the golden ratio inside. Like the Greek’s ancient buildings.”
As a second-career student, her goals are clear.
“I really need to refresh my mind. To come out. To communicate with this world,” said Walden.
On the right, Ada Walman's work "Golden Section Rectangle." It draws correlations in the universal 1.618 ratio present in natural and aesthetic designs. Photo by Bernard de Vaal. March 22, 2018
UWill Discover brings humanities back into the fold
“Instead of putting out a call for abstracts, we put out a call for submissions,” said Phillipe Wernette, UWill Discover conference chair.
By Bernard de Vaal. March 23, 2018
Ada Walman in front of her charcoal installation at the UWill Discover Conference at the University of Windsor. Photo by Bernard de Vaal.
In Ada Walman's work, "Golden Ratio," she draws correlations between eastern and western design principles. Photo by Bernard de Vaal.
Phillipe Wernette is the UWill Discover conference chair for this first time in the event's four year existence. Photo by Bernard de Vaal.
It’s rare that pregraduate students are offered a platform to showcase their research in a conference setting. The UWill Discover Conference! at the University of Windsor changed this for more than 140 student authors.
The 2018 UWill Discover! Conference is a collaborative effort from a host of University of Windsor offices to highlight achievement and discovery in the Windsor-Essex region.
Their aim is to develop student curiosity for research across all disciplines by providing the same presentation and networking opportunities a conventional conference would.
They had three previous conferences dominated by submissions from scientific research efforts. A concerted effort was made this year to draw research from the humanities on a pregrad level by broadening the definition of what defines research.
“Instead of putting out a call for abstracts, we put out a call for submissions,” said Phillipe Wernette, UWill Discover conference chair. “Discovery can take many different forms. It’s not restricted to working one-on-one with the faculty. It can take place in the classroom. It can take place outside of the class room.”
A first for the conference is a unique charcoal arts installation from Ada Walman, a pregrad visual arts student at the university.
Walman completed a three-year course in animation at St.Clair College, but found her passion for working in conventional mediums much more enticing.
Her aesthetic and understanding of Western culture was informed by accessibility to popular culture television and magazines available in China where she was raised.
“The way that I understand the Westerner word (language) is from your movies,” said Walman.
She also draws correlations between the two cultures in one of her works, Golden Section Rectangle.
Austin Di Pietro is a final year live jazz student major who presented his research on the effect the Detroit Jazz scene had on developing and influencing the local scene.
“A lot of people don’t really know that Windsor has this jazz scene or this history and it’s really rooted in Detroit,” said Di Pietro. “Some interviews I did really showed that Detroit was a huge influence on Windsor’s music scene.”
Pi Dietro noted a startling revelation in his research was that several local jazz clubs in the 40s and 50s advertised solely to American clientele to bring in customers.
Austin Di Pietro presented research on the effect the Detroit Jazz scene played in developing Windsor's.
Photo by Bernard de Vaal. March 22, 2018.
“I didn’t find that the other way around,” said Di Pietro. “The Detroit jazz bars were doing this but not the Windsor ones. There was such a large American clientele because it was considered an American art form.
Using an interactive map, Di Pietro shows the locations of jazz clubs on both sides of the border in the 1940’s and 50s. Strong cultural assimilation took place, because jazz lovers were in walking distance of world-class modern jazz music in Detroit.
Di Pietro feels his research is contributing to the broader Canada-U.S. discourse.
“It’s just incredible to show that this really important cultural scene influenced Canada’s cultural scene and Windsor too,” said Di Pietro.
Wernette felt there still wasn't a broad enough representation in some fields of study. He aims to address this by extending future conferences to a four-day program.
“We want to highlight undergraduate research, but add a graduateur as well so you have that graduate/undergraduate mentorship possibility,” said Wernette.
If you want to find out more about the event or would like to make a submission for next year’s conference, visit their website.
Walkerville Holiday Extravaganza, 2017
Adding the spice of care at Walkerville Brewery help s benefit local charity.
By Bernard de Vaal. Dec. 4, 2017
The Spiced Mocha Porter is a limited edition from Walkerville Brewery. One Dollar of each unit sold will got to the charity, Street Help
Walkerville Brewery is spicing up the holidays with two sentimental favorites – coffee and beer – combined into one limited series drink they like to call Spiced Mocha Porter.
The brewery uncapped its new brew in support of Street Help this past Saturday, Dec. 2, during its annual Holiday Extravaganza.
The Spiced Mocha Porter is a collaborative effort with Anchor Coffee, another Walkerville business.
“We got a lot of great response this evening from it. One person said the beer doesn’t overpower the coffee, the coffee doesn’t overpower the beer,” said Mike Brkovich, co-owner of Walkerville Brewery. “We’re really happy selling it over the holiday season.”
A capacity crowd was entertained with arts and crafts, live music including carolers, food, beer and, of course, the big man himself, Kris Kringle.
Dartis Willis, co-owner of the Windsor Express, was in the crowd. He sees himself as a beer aficionado and he approves of the spicy coffee-beer blend.
“I’m a big beer drinker so I’m pretty critical. They’ve done a fantastic job of putting both love as well as flavor into a beer and it shows,” said Willis.
Ryan Nantais, a barista from Anchor Coffee shared the secret of how to fix that perfect cup of holiday ‘joe.’
“Get fresh roasted coffee and grind it fresh, right before you brew that coffee.”
The brewery will give one dollar of each unit sold to Street Help.
Anthony Nelson, a volunteer at the charity who prepares food for the homeless, was on hand to tell people about its projects.
“We want to make sure that people come by Street Help. Donate someone a sleeping bag. Donate some clothes. A cash donation,” he said. “We just want people to recognize what Street Help is about. We are here to help the homeless.”
The Spiced Mocha Porter has limited stock, so if you’re interested, get over to Walkerville Brewery soon. And they’d love it if you would support a great cause too.
Windsor’s massive Mini Maker Faire brings out the kid in everyone
Robotics exhibits draw youths from all ages towards a competitive industry
By Bernard de Vaal. Feb. 28, 2018
A stilt walking performer preparing for his appearance at the Mini Maker Faire in Windsor, Ont. Feb. 24, 2018. Photo by Bernard de Vaal.
It’s called the greatest show-and-tell on earth and Windsor launched its own version of the world-renowned Maker Faire for the first time last Saturday.
The original Maker Faire started back in 2006 in San Fransisco. It provides a platform for anyone from scientists to hobbyists to show off their experimental projects and share what they have learned.
“This one brings all the different crafts and makers together all in one space, so there is a huge variety,” said Cathy Mombourquette, program manager of the EPIC Genesis Centre, which hosted the faire. “It exposes everybody, from children to adults, to something that they won’t normally see.”
CO2 laser engraving at the Mini Maker Faire. Photo by Bernard De Vaal.
On show were automated embroidering, CO2 laser engraving and cutting, 3D printing and robots. Lots and lots of robots. The bonus: an interactive environment.
School robotics programs were vying strongly to grab hold of youngsters’ attention for the opportunity to guide them towards mastery of robotics.
These prospective engineers were able to first hone their building skills at Hetherington Public School’s Maker Space stall, where nuts, bolts and brackets were available to style a “mechanimal.”
Villanova Secondary School WiredCats Robotic team’s, “build your own bristle bot.” Photo by Bernard De Vaal.
After mastering the basics, it was off to Villanova Secondary School WiredCats Robotics team’s stall for their first robot. A “bristle bot.”
“To make a bristle bot, you need a motor, a toothbrush and a battery. To complete the circuit, connect the red wire to the positive side of the battery and the blue wire to the negative side of the battery,” said Erica Rossi, a Grade 11 student.
The vibrations of the motor cause the brush head to start moving. It’s the pipe cleaner design that determines how successful the robot will navigate their racecourse.
Animal hybrids seemed to work best.
Once the child’s interest in the motorized components had been sparked, the next step: Lego.
From the age of six, students can join the Junior Lego League where they are guided by mentors in the three main components of robotics. Kouthar Waled, a Grade 12 student from Sandwich High School and member of Sabre Bytes team 772 acts as such a mentor.
“(The Junior Lego League) sparks their interest for mechanical, electrical and programming because there are wires they need to connect motors to,” said Waled.
“There are small motors they need to assemble to wheels and to other mechanisms to move. Then there is a program that is block based. Very visual and simple and easy to wrap your mind around.”
The code gets uploaded on the brain of the robot called the brick.
Junior Lego League robot. Photo by Bernard De Vaal.
Angela Bi, team coordinator of team 772 with Sabre Byte’s competition robot. Photo by Bernard De Vaal.
“It sends signals to the motor in the order that they programmed in the code, which makes the motors move,” said Waled.
Things can get tricky when sensors that react to colour or temperature are introduced into the mix.
After a concrete understanding had been developed of compiling these basic building blocks of robotics, they can graduate to competitive building.
A student can join the high school program without any previous knowledge of robotics. FIRST, a non-profit educational organization sets a game challenge for teams in January. They have six weeks to build the robot. Typically, teams will meet three months in advance to learn basic skills and strategize.
“The student will gain hands on experience by touching the robot, programming it, wiring it and designing, whatever it is that they’re interested in,” said Angela Bi, team coordinator of team 772.
This year’s game is called “Power-up” where robots must climb and stack cubes.
In the program, students are introduced to the real-world applications of their machines that they put into practice in competitions.
To guide students towards career opportunities in the field, the CAD/CAM and industrial programs at St. Clair College offer mentoring services to help them design and build components for their robots.
Daniele DeFranceschi, CAD/CAM and industrial coordinator at St.Clair College shows off a industrial design. Photo by Bernard De Vaal.
“We’ll go out to the high schools,” said Daniele DeFranceschi, CAD/CAM and industrial coordinator at St.Clair College. “We’ll say yes, this is a CAD/CAM project, a CNC project, this is a 3D printable. Come over to the college. We’ll help you manufacture those components for your robots.”
To DeFranceschi, the pay-off of involvement in student’s projects is immeasurable when they work with the manufacturing components.
“It’s usually, 'Wow, it’s so cool. I can’t wait to run one of these myself. I’d love to have one of these in my garage.'”
To Mombourquette, the success of the faire came as a bit of a surprise.
“To be honest I didn’t think it was going to be this popular,” she confessed. “Maybe it’s the weather outside or maybe people really are interested in something like this and we’re just thrilled that it’s been this successful and the intent is to do it every year.”
Surface flooding a possible headache for Windsor
The rising temperatures and forecast rain could test the city's storm sewers yet again.
By Bernard de Vaal. Feb. 16, 2018
An example of surface flooding on Partington Ave. in Windsor, Ont. on Feb. 15, 2018. Picture by Bernard de Vaal
The rising temperatures and forecast rain could test the city's storm sewers yet again.
On many residential roads, catch basins are blocked by mounds of snow left behind by plowing, especially around parked cars.
“Sometimes people wouldn’t, couldn’t move their cars,” said City of Windsor engineer Mark Winterton. “When the plows came down, they pushed that large amount of snow and it didn’t push it right off the road but just onto the top of a catch basin.”
He added said people were notified to remove their vehicles off the roads during snow plowing and were even provided free parking at municipal lots.
This piled up snow leads to surface ponding especially in low lying areas. Rapid melting places strain on the city’s storm sewerage system.
This isn’t the city’s first rodeo — it has tracked 311 calls on the incidence of flooding spanning 18 years.
The map in Winterton’s office indicates high instances of surface and basement flooding in the Riverside area over a period of 18 years. Windsor, Ont. Feb. 15, 2018
And a map in Winterton's office shows every call of significant surface or basement flooding.
“What this does is it helps us to game-plan. If we see a pattern that has developed we will then use that towards our capital plan and when we’re designing major infrastructure upgrades,” said Winterton.
Riverside Drive, for example, shows a pattern of high concentrations of overland issues. Areas like that are included in an eight-point plan that includes the master plan for upgrading the sewers.
“We’re already actively planning on doing some upgrades to the infrastructure as result of the August 29 event,” said Winterton, referring to last summer's massive rainfall that resulted in thousands of flooded basements.
Winterton advises property owners to make sure that down spouts are cleared and directed away from the home and towards catch basins.
He is also asking for the community’s help.
“If there is a catch basin in front of your house and you’re able, dig it out. That will allow the water in your neighbourhood to get away and help in the public safety.”
Another major concern of surface ponding is hydroplaning where drivers lose control.
“Make sure when you’re driving, you can see the road. When the water is to a depth where you can’t see the pavement, we don’t recommend you drive through it,” Winterton cautioned.
Winterton said the city’s sewer system and pumps have ample capacity for regular conditions but are put to the test in extreme weather.
“We’re hoping that we don’t get a significant rainfall and that it’s strictly a melt event,” says Winterton. “Our sewers should be able to handle that adequately, depending on how much rain comes. We are well prepared both from a pollution control and sewer point of view.”