Monday, December 21, 2009

My Black President

Mmabatho Ramoupi sings an a cuppella rendition of My Black President. This song by Brenda Fassi, is about and dedicated to Nelson Mandela. The song became a rallying cry for justice and freedom in South Africa and around the world.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Holiday Travel Survival Tips

This is the busiest time of year on the travel calendar. So how do you survive the stresses?

1. Advance Online Check-in 24 hours prior to Departure
To avoid the long line-ups try checking-in online at home. But before you actually book your seat, go to in advance and find out what airline you will be travelling on and make a list of seats that look appealing to you. This way you’ve done your homework and can better determine where you wish to sit. Often times, the airline will have pre-assigned you a seat which depending on the flight capacity, you might be able to switch.

The point about online check-in is you can only do this 24 hours in advance.

2. Check Flight Times Before You Leave Home
Visit, the Toronto Pearson International Airport schedule

3. Smart Packing
This is a big issue especially with gifts and things. Remember gift wrapping a present does not in any way mean your gift will be exempt from Custom searches. It’s quite the opposite. Everything needs to be transparent, making the Custom officials do their job faster.

Make sure your carry-on luggage is within restricted liquid limits. Remember the Liquids and 3-1-1 Rule. That's any number of 3oz (or 100ml) or less of any 1 type of liquid, all of which must fit inside 1 plastic zip-lock bag. You can pick up empty refill bottles or travel-sized toiletries from drug stores or hold on to the tiny toiletries from hotel rooms.

For rules on packing requirements visit either the from Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada or CATSA, the Canadian Airport Transport Security and Authority.

The CATSA has a handy “Pack Smart” list you can check which has a complete item list or a search engine you can use if you are not sure of some of your items.

Packing oversized objects like skis, a snowboard. Check with your airline on this. You might find it’s better to leave your skis and snowboard at home. If you’re planning a short ski trip many of these resorts are fully equipped for rentals. And if they don’t rent there will be a local tour operator nearby who could.

4. Arrive to the Airport Early
If you have an early morning departure overnight in a hotel near the airport.

5.Getting to the Airport
Leave the car at home if you can. The TTC actually has a #192 Airport Rocket which is an express bus to the airport from Kipling Station. For the price of a TTC ticket you won’t need to worry about the parking.

6. Check-in Luggage
Check-in only one bag if possible. Even better if you can travel light and carry on all your belongings. Go to for all the handy info.

7. Airport Security
Make sure you have all your documents and forms on hand at all times. You want to dress without hassle as you’ll have to remove clothing and shoes. has come up with an easy Tip Sheet you can download online. It’s called Secrets to Getting Through Airport Security. The CATSE publishes a list online titled “Speed up screening” on how to manage your bins, understanding the physical search and more.

8. Keep Hydrated and Eat Properly
Pack healthy snacks, lunches for flights as most airlines with the exception of international flights no longer offer complimentary food.

9. Coping with Kids
Thankfully most of the holiday travel will be short haul flights under four hours. But if you find you’ve got connecting flights or will be on a long haul, be prepared. In both cases, parents should pack toys, treats and try to keep kids under control. Other passengers will love you for it. Things like being mindful of your child kicking the seat in front of them or pulling a passenger’s hair etc…

10. Medications
Some travellers need their prescriptions. Just make sure you pack this in your personal belongings and have the necessary documentation ready to show the Customs officials. The pills should also be in their original labeled bottle.

11. Stay Healthy
You want to be mindful of germs. You can pack small packets 100 ml (trial sizes) or less of hand sanitizer for the plane and remember to keep your hands away from your mouth, eyes and nose. To help you survive holiday travel, has a handy Top 10 list of “Things To Keep In Your Hand Luggage To Keep You Healthy.” you can read it on their web site.

The list includes: taking an inflatable neck pillow and using your coat as a blanket. Many airlines are no longer providing pillows or even blankets. Antibacterial wipes to wipe down your seat area like the tray and TV monitor. Also carry fizzy Vitamin C tablets. They dissolve in water and can be taken during your flight.

12. Talk to your Travel Agent
Travel agents have a wealth of knowledge about your destination and your flight booking.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Road to Castagno: A Renaissance Dream

From the timeless beauty and magic of Tuscany, springs this romantic tale of an artist's unfulfilled dream to paint the portraits of the town's people on the chuch walls of Castagno de Andrea.

The Road to Castagno is a portrait of a Canadian portraitist in his adopted landscape. Michael John Angel is a classically trained painter who studied in Florence in the 1960s and returned to live and work in Italy in 1989. Michelangelo is both his namesake and his mentor. Angel was inspired to become a painter at the age of seven when he first saw pictures of the Judgement from Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling.

The village of Castagno d'Andrea in the remote mountains of northern Tuscany is lovingly photographed in warm tones that evoke Renaissance images. Angel first visited the village when he went there in 1957 as an apprentice to his teacher, who was commissioned to paint a crucifix in the church commemorating the 500th anniversary of the town's most famous son, the painter Andre del Castagno. The film shows Angel's own work in progress, a commissioned mural in the same church that will eventually include more than 100 figures, all portraits of the villagers.

Angel works on initial portraits in his studio and painting en plein air. The indoor shots give scope to a discussion of the art of painting and portraiture, and the outdoor shots allow exploration of the intriguing, timeless countryside. Other than one conversation, the only voice beside that of Angel's is that of the local priest, who gives us a brief history of the town starting with its relocation in 1335 when a rock slide from Mount Falterona covered the town.

DVD available at:

Monday, December 14, 2009

Young Leopard

A young leopard rests in the shade. Head Ranger of Ulusaba Karl Langdon talks about how the leopard hunts and the importance of the leopards long whiskers.

The leopard is a member of the Felidae family and the smallest of the four "big cats" in the genus Panthera, the other three being the tiger, lion and jaguar. Once distributed across southern Asia and Africa, from Korea to South Africa, the leopard's range of distribution has decreased radically due to hunting and loss of habitat, and the greatest concentration of leopards now occurs chiefly in sub-Saharan Africa. Due to the loss of range and declines in population, it is graded as a "near threatened" species. Its numbers are greater than other Panthera species, all of which face more acute conservation concerns.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Authentic African Sound: The Nut Whistle

Two Shangaan musicians play an authentic African instrument. The whistle is made from the hollowed out nut from the black monkey orange tree. Three holes are cut into the nut to make the whistle. It produces a unique traditional African sound.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Building Boon Hits Upstate New York

GREEN IS THE NEW BLACK. Al Gore tells us. Sheryl Crow supports environmental causes, and hundreds of other celebrities are leaving their green thumbprint on the growing eco trend.

So what does a former industrial town in upstate New York do?

Syracuse, N.Y. -- quickly earning the accolade as “Emerald City” for environmental breakthroughs -- recently staged a Healthy Buildings Conference for academic researchers and other professionals from architecture, building products and services, public health, urban planning and environmentalist types.

And the timing couldn’t be better, report city insiders.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Lions Hunting at Night in Kruger - SA

A pride of 5 lions and one male stalk their prey at night in Kruger National Park in South Africa. Ulusaba's head ranger Karl Langdon takes us on a thrilling night safari. We follow the lion pride through the African bush as Karl gives fascinating narration of the lions hunting behaviour.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

African Frogs Singing in Kruger

On a night safari, African singing frogs pierce the darkness with a cacophony of mating sounds. Karl Langdon Head Ranger of Ulusaba, identifies the different frogs by their songs, from the Bubbling Kassina to the Banded Rubber frog, to the Painted Reed frog. It is a feast for your ears.