Thursday, February 25, 2016


Renovations can impact people in so many different ways and some are easier to handle than others. Recently we have been exposed to two different renovations and both of them are impacting us in different ways which is interesting.

Renovation #1 – New windows and siding on our apartment building

This renovation is a three year project that is going to be effecting us both directly and indirectly. See all the units will be getting new windows within the next three years if everything remains on schedule.

The indirect impact on us is when they are working on the outside of the building and attaching new isolation and siding. This involves the pounding onto the side of the building when they are securing the isolation. Our building is a concrete building so yes the pounding does carry through the building so it isn't just when they are near you do you get impacted. Currently we can hear when they are working on the other side of the building, so I wonder what it is going to be like when they are on our side of the building.

The direct impact is going to be when they change all the windows in our unit. Of course this means that we will have to deal with open areas as they replace each of the windows and this may also mean people having to come into our unit to work on the windows as they are installed.

Renovation #2 – Main floor and concourse renovation near our executive office

Renovation #2 impacts us more indirectly than anything but again it does impact us when we are in our executive office. What has been happening over the last little bit is that most of the stores in our lower levels have been closing and relocating for the renovation. Some stores relocated and some stores just closed so it does impact business owners as well. The impact to us is a change in how we actually get into our executive office during the renovation of the concourse level.

This second renovation is suppose to take 6 – 12 months to complete but we will see how long it really takes to do. The other impact to a lot of us is that most of the food type tenants have closed so there aren't as many choices for lunch. Hopefully after all the renovation is said and done we will get some more options for lunch because currently there is one coffee shop and a grocery store as lunch options within our complex. Of course, there are other options outside and within walking distance but it is nice to have something where you don't have to get all bundled up just to go and grab a bit of food.

Renovations in general

The impact of any renovation will really depend on what type of renovation is occurring. Some renovations don't impact people at all while other renovations can have a major impact. The outcome of any renovation is for the better but it is how you handle the actual time that can make a big difference. For us, renovation #1 means that we do more of our work away from the home office when they are doing the pounding. Renovation #2 means that we will either be bringing more lunches or bundling up to grab something from outside of our complex.

Renovations do impact people no matter what so you just have to be prepared for some of the inconveniences for the time being.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Dealing with emergency vehicles

How many people don't really understand how to deal with emergency vehicles?

I am writing this after watching some drivers forget about the common sense when dealing with emergency vehicles. There are times you can drive around them and then there are the times when it isn't something that you should be doing.

What I am talking about is when a fire truck is dealing with a fire and there are hoses on the roadway. No you are not to drive over the hoses because they are in your way. I have seen cars just drive over the fire hoses because the driver felt that they had the right to do this as the hose was in their way. The hose is out to assist in fighting a fire and driving it can cause a lot of issues. The other thing I have seen is when police are blocking the road and cars will drive around or between the police cars so they can continue on the route that they wanted to do. Yes, people do think the police car is just in the way for most people and not for them.

The emergency vehicles block the road when they have to and not because they enjoy doing it. The normal reason is because the fire is big and needs the extra fire fighters to help put it out. The vehicles on the roads are also meaning that the fire fighters are a little more at risk themselves due to other drivers not really thinking about the issues.

It is understandable that some people only know one route to get to place but then it is blocked it is time to figure out a new route. If you are someone that only knows one way to get most places maybe it is time for you to figure out a couple of other routes to the same spots. You never want to see a street blocked with emergency vehicles but it does happen.

When you see an emergency vehicle blocking the road remember they are there for a reason and it may be an inconvenience to go a different route but you are going to have to. Don't try and drive around a police vehicle that is blocking the road because you don't want to put yourself or the emergency responders at unnecessary risk.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

UP Express -- A customer view

This past weekend we decided to try out the new UP Express that goes between Union Station in downtown Toronto to Toronto Pearson Airport. One reason that we did it this weekend (February 14th) was UP was offering it for free as part of family day activities in Toronto. We had looked at it a couple of times but as we haven't had any trips to the airport since it opened we hadn't had a chance to try it prior to this. This weekend gave us the opportunity to try it out and see if it is a means of getting to the airport for us.

The actual trip times:

I wanted to compare how long it would take to get to the airport from our place using UP Express versus the other ways of getting there.

TTC to Union and then Up Express – 90 minutes – actual trip on Sunday and we waited for an Up Express to arrive at Union so that was about 10 minutes otherwise the trip could have been 80 minutes.
TTC from home to airport – estimated time 78 minutes (if everything works well and no delays on the subway or traffic issues on the 427)
Driving – estimated time 38 minutes not during rush hour, and hour and 5 minutes during rush hour and this doesn't include parking the car at the airport.
Limo – same estimated time as driving myself without the parking challenges.

Actual trip:

Signage at Union Station – The signage that I used wasn't the best as I ended up missing one sign that showed me that I needed to go upstairs in Union Station and I ended up in the York Concourse and had to backtrack a little bit. I think the signage problem is due to Union Station itself being under renovation.

UP Express Station – Union Station – this station is very open and organized and they were ready to expect a lot of travellers especially this weekend when it was free. There were signs showing where to line up for “Family Day Activities” and signs showing the Travellers where they were to go. When we arrived there wasn't any line up and the staff were very friendly and were able to explain things to us. There was a train at the station when we got there but it was fairly crowded so we decided to wait for the next one. There are charging stations at the station so you can top up your mobile devices while waiting for the train.

The Train – The actual train is very comfortable and there are quite a few seats and they do face both directions so that if you need to face the way you are travelling you would normally be able to do that. Given the free rides it wasn't always doable but that wasn't something that I even considered on this trip.

  • Seats – the seats are very comfortable and there is enough leg room for most people. There are tables on the backs of the seats in front of you so that is a bonus especially for people that want to work while on the train. In each row of seats there is also power outlets so that you can be topping up your mobile devices during your trip to or from the airport.
  • WiFi – There is free WiFi on the train and it worked very well during both of the rides that I took. I was using Google maps to show me the route on the train and the wifi was able to keep up with the map. The WiFi would be great for professionals connecting into the office while on the commute or for checking flight times.
  • Washrooms – I heard that there is a washroom on the train so that is another bonus.
  • Luggage room – there is a lot of room for luggage on the train and there are compartments above the seats like in most planes and then there are areas for bigger luggage near the doors.
  • Announcements – the announcements that are made on the train are very clean and easy to understand. The announcements are in both English and French so great for the travellers.

The Trip – The actual trip does take about 25 minutes from station to station with two other quick stops at two other stations along the way. Both of the stops are announced with what transit connections are available close to these stations. The ride is very smooth and you can look out the windows and see the actual traffic that you are passing on the highway in some sections of your trip.

Up Express Station – Pearson Airport – This station is connected to Terminal 1 and is also right at the Link which is the connecting train to Terminal 3. This makes getting to Terminal 3 very easy once you are off the Up Express. You walk right by the Link area as you are walking to Terminal 1.

Signage at Pearson Airport – The signage at both terminals at the airport were very good. We had the opportunity to wander both terminals as we had the time and weren't rushing for a flight.

Trip Back – We did have a bit of a wait for the return trip from the airport but again they were ready for the volume of people and it went smoothly.

Overall opinion:

Given that we took the Up Express during an extremely busy time I was very impressed with how professional the staff where even with the additional pressure that they were under. The volume of people that rode the train this past weekend to and from Pearson just for the experience was amazing. At times there were line ups at Union Station of between two and three hours for people just wanted the experience. What I did like was that the travellers and airport staff were given priority boarding at both ends of the trip and I total agreed with that. These are the people that are going to make the service stay around for the rest of us.

I would love the opportunity to do this trip again during normal business to see it operating under normal circumstances. I would really consider taking UP Express to or from the airport in the future if my flight worked well. I won't want to have to get downtown during rush hour with luggage but other than that it is a means of transportation that I would use. If you are downtown I would recommend it as a means of getting to the airport and avoiding the Toronto traffic that we have.


For UP Express to be good for two people going from Pearson to downtown or the other direction the fare should be comparable to taking a Limo from a hotel that is very close to the station. A Limo is $48 and two tickets for UP without a Presto pass is $55 so it is a little more expensive. For one person travelling it is cheaper to take UP as the ticket is only $27.50 one way or $44 return. These are the prices without the Presto pass as Presto pass rates are $19 each way.

For UP Express I would also show some of the times of getting to or from the airport in a Limo or other transit to show the comparison to the train. For a lot of cities 25 minutes is a normal commute to downtown but in Toronto 25 minutes doesn't get you to the airport from downtown unless there is no traffic. Google Maps shows it can often be over an hour at time either way.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Security & BYOD, is it good for your business?

Security isn't just the locks on the doors. Part of it can also be having the proper policies, procedures and processes in place.

For companies, security should be something that is continually thought about and enhanced. When a security feature is put into place it must be maintained and not forgotten about. In so many cases a security feature needs to be continually updated due to the every changing environment. Something else to consider is, has a security feature been “temporarily” turned off when fixing another issue and not been turned back on.

Here is something that really needs to be thought about. Think about the whole BYOD (bring your own device) situation for companies. Is the BYOD something your company has thought about or is dong? BYOD isn't just the tablets and smart-phones, it is also the external hard-drives, usb keys, flash drives and laptops.

If you are considering changing from company issues devices to employee owned devices you might want to think about some of these points:
  • Ownership of the device and do you have the legal right to access the data on it?
  • The actual management of the data on the device and who is responsible for backing up the data, it should be the responsibility of the owner of the device.
  • When do staff have access to the corporate data and what data is available to each person.
  • What data can be saved to the personal devices and taken off-site.
  • Are there policies about BYOD, usage, backing up data, etc.
  • Are there standard devices or can you bring in whatever you want.
  • Who manages the devices, if not corporate property it should be the corporate staff that is responsible.
  • If a BYOD device is infected and is plugged into the corporate network it then infects the corporate network. The infection is now the corporate IT's staff problem.
  • The devices need to be updated and patched on a regular basis. Who is responsible for that?

These are just a few of the points that need to be thought about when deciding to implement the whole BYOD idea for a company. So, when you think about the whole BYOD program, think about all the hidden costs to the business. Are these costs something that a business wants to incur or is it something that could be avoided with the right equipment, policies and procedures.

It has actually been shown that it is cheaper to issue corporate devices than to try and maintain the BYOD items. This is is true when the company issues a list of standard supported devices because of all the other issues that can happen.

Security for a business will be an ever growing thing. Do you want some of the risks that BYOD can bring to your business? By having the necessary equipment provided from within you can eliminate some of these hidden risks and unknown costs.

Security can be summed up this way “Security is not having to say I'm Sorry”.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Meals out

It seems that some meals in restaurants are getting bigger and bigger. It isn't the meat that is larger it is all the carbs that seem to be taking up more and more of the plate.

When it comes to eating out it would be really nice to have more choices when it comes to a meal in a restaurant. It would be really nice to see choices that include and exclude the carbs and maybe offer the double vegetable or a second vegetable instead of the carbs. I am not one of those that likes a lot of the carbs with my meals out other than when I have a steak and really do enjoy a baked potatoe. Of course, a lot of people do enjoy the potatoes or fries that come with their meal but those aren't things that I normally eat a lot of. I would rather have a choice of a vegetable or a little lower cost if I did without the carb.
An idea would be more of the “I design meals” and you pay per item but it would need to be cheaper than the a-la-carte costs. I am not saying that I want a buffet as that isn't really a good option for me with the food allergies. It would be so nice to see a menu with the main item at a set price and then you add the vegetables or carbs that you want and the price goes up based on the number of sides that you choose.

The other benefit of having the choices is it means that you aren't going to be charged for substituting an item because you want a healthier choice. I have had to pay for a substitution due to my allergies because I can't have the french fries that come with some meals. It isn't my choice to do without the fries but due to my shellfish allergy I cannot have the french fries if either shrimp or calamari are fried in the same oil.

Restaurants need to start thinking about the other options to the large carbs that are being added to the meals. Sure the plate looks really full when you get your meal but considering I don't eat many, if any, why do I want it on my plate. Just give me a little smaller plate and put my vegetables on it and I will be happy.

Meals out need to meet the needs of the customer more than they did before. If I can't find the meals that I want while I am out I will eat more and more meals at home. Restaurants need to figure out how to meet the needs of the customers.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Food courts and food allergies

There seems to be more and more shellfish being served in food courts and that is of a concern for anyone with a shellfish allergy. I am one of those individuals that carries an EpiPen due to my life-threatening allergy to shellfish.

It is amazing how many food court locations are now offering some sort of shellfish as part of their menu. It has been a real challenge to find spots where I can have a lunch without having to be concerned about cross-contamination being an issue. Before it was a rare thing to see shellfish being offered as part of food court menus but now it seems to be everywhere.

Pizza/Pasta locations now offer shrimp as a part of their pasta dishes, Sub locations now have a shellfish/seafood sub, Greek locations offer shrimp as a meat and the Chinese food locations are also offering shrimp as a selection. It makes the selection in any food court very slim when it comes to someone that deals with a shellfish allergy. There are individuals (customers and servers) that don't understand the risk of cross contamination, so any food being offered at a specific location (where shellfish is offered) is a risk.

The concern for peanuts in a lot of food court locations seems to have eased, but now it is the shellfish which is the issue. Shellfish allergies is one of the most common allergies for adults and who are the ones that are going into the food court either themselves or with their families? It is amazing when you address the issue of a shellfish allergy to staff, within the various locations in the food court. A number of them are not aware of the risks and issues of food allergies. The lack of knowledge of the staff makes it a bigger issue for someone to eat at these locations because of the risk that they are taking.

Food courts have always been a place for a quick meal especially when you are on the go. For me, a food court now is a challenge to find a location that doesn't offer shellfish. Being aware of your allergies and how to handle them makes going out a little easier. Of course, there will always be challenges when eating out but being able to find places where I can eat would make my life just that little bit easier.

For food court owners, remember that shellfish doesn't need to be offered everywhere. There are people that you are preventing from eating at your location due to that shellfish. If even a few chains decided to eliminate shellfish from their menu in the food court it would make it easier for so many of us to eat in the food court.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Me Too!

These simple two words can mean so much when you are talking to someone else. The words “Me Too” can show you that you are not alone in dealing with something. It can also be the support that you need to face a challenge a little easier.

The first step is you have to admit something before you can hear these words “Me Too” and that does take a lot of strength and courage. I have heard those words when I needed them the most and they have really helped me face something that I have been dealing with in the past. “Me Too” is something people can say when they want to admit something but can't find the words themselves to express it.

Knowing that you aren't alone can make such a difference in how you handle a situation. It can be a simple challenge or it can be something bigger but at least knowing someone else has gone through it or is going through it can make the load just a little bit easier to handle.

Recently, during “Let's Talk Day”, you saw a lot of people come forward to say “Me Too” and express things, that in the past that they couldn't talk about. Knowing that you aren't alone and there are many people dealing with issues, maybe not the same as yours, but at least dealing with something, helps.

So remember, next time you find you need a little bit of help dealing with an issue, just say something to someone else. You may hear “Me Too” and that will make it easier to face the issue and then you will also know someone that you can talk to when things aren't going as well as you would like them. If you are the person that says “Me Too” you will also have someone that you can talk to. Don't be afraid to speak up about things because there are a lot of people that are willing to listen and to help but you first need to have the voice to say something.

“Me Too” can open a lot of doors and once they are open you could be surprised how things improve.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016


When you say the word PROJECT, so many people appear to think of the end result of something and not what needs to be accomplished to reach the end result.

Recently I have been helping deal with a project that hasn't been going as well as it should have been. Now the biggest issue I can see is that the project wasn't looked at as a project but just a deadline that things needs to be done by. Yes, things needed to be done but they were not outlined in a manner that meant they could be done and tracked. Now add to the issue that there was a couple of holidays in the middle of when things needed to be done and a lot of people were also on vacation during this time. Yes, the project deadline was during the Holiday season.

There are so many different ways to handle a project and everyone does handle them a little differently. For me, when I think of a project, I automatically think of all the different little things that need to be done to ensure the deadline is met. Here is a list of some of the things that I would be doing when finding out there was a project that needs to be completed.
  1. What is the hard deadline that needs to be met?
  2. What can effect the deadline actually being met? (eg. Statutory holidays, office closure, etc)
  3. What external skills are required and when are they required.
  4. What is the deadline that I am setting to ensure the hard deadline is met even if delays are incurred?
  5. What tasks do you want to accomplish that use the new project results and when do you want to complete these tasks?
  6. What are all the steps required to accomplish the project.

Now this is just a simple list of the items that I would start documenting so that I could see how I was going to meet the deadline that has been set. In #4, what I am saying is that it is always good to set yourself a deadline prior to the hard deadline that you are going to aim for. This also means that you are giving yourself time to deal with the unexpected issues that could arise and slow down or delay the actual project.

The best way to deal with a project is once you have figured out the deadline that you are setting for yourself is then to work back from there and look at all the pieces that are needed to ensure the project is completed. When I am writing down the steps that are required to complete a project, I really don't care, how small a step it, I am going to write it down so that it isn't missed. It is amazing how some of the smallest steps can be missed which can have a big impact on the project getting completed.

There are always times when steps are going to be missed when dealing with external skills but at least knowing that you are going to need them and ensuring they are available is always helpful. Making sure that your skills are lined up will make it so much easier when the time comes when you need them to actually do the work. It is better to have more skills lined up then you think you need because you never know when a problem will arise and you need that extra skill.

Of course, everyone is going to have a different way of working through a project but this is just an outline that I would use to ensure that deadlines are met. Making sure that you give yourself time in case of delays is always good. It is always better to finish something before the hard deadline than miss the hard deadline and deal with all the issues that will arise.

Now, it is time for me to go and write up a complete report on the project that I was brought in to assist with when the hard deadline was going to be missed. I think we are moving forward and have saved the project.