Tag Archives: Ontario

On the great Billy Munnelly and what he can still teach us about buying wine at the LCBO in 2022


Since the 1980s I’ve been getting expert advice from Billy on how to buy wine at the LCBO. So I was shocked to see he had moved away and he won’t be offering LCBO wine buying tips anymore. It’s great for him, but not so great for folks looking to know what to buy and what to avoid at the LCBO.

But here’s a tip. Go to his blog Billy’s Best Bottles, and with a pen and paper take notes on what wines he likes and what he likes about them. Do you feel like a good summer wine? He has posts on them. Do you feel like a good bistro red to go with your steak frites? He has a wine for that! It doesn’t matter too much about the year (most of the time). Go and seek out those wines he recommends. The prices will have gone up, but most times the quality will be consistent year over year.

There are wines from the 80s he recommended that are still good and recommended today. (I know because I’ve been drinking them all this time.) There are many newer and better ones since then: the LCBO has improved considerably in the last few decades. There is still lots of not so great wine, though, and Billy can help you avoid those.

There are a great many people writing about wine at the LCBO these days. But back in the 1980s such info was rare. Billy had put out a small comic book back then on how to buy wine at the LCBO, and it was my mainstay for many years whenever I needed something for dinner or a special occasion. He eventually moved to the web like the rest of us, but the spirit of that little comic book lives on at Billy’s Best Bottles, Go check it out, then go get some wine.

 

On retiring my COVID-19 reporting (for now)


Recently I was reporting COVID-19 data daily. I wrote a program called covid.py that scraped the Ontario.ca Covid web site and and pulled out data for hospitalization and cases. It was a rough but useful gauge to see how COVID was going in Ontario, and I was able to get the information in a snap.

Unfortunately the information is no longer posted on the page I was visiting with my code. The data is out there somewhere in the datasets, but I think I will reconsider things before modifying my code. It is a shame that the data is harder to get though.

All these actions by government organizations to make it harder to get data is a bit frustrating. I read people say: you should track the pandemic and make good decisions. It’s hard to do that though when the information is hard to get.

For more information and data:  Government of Ontario data sets on COVID-19 are here. Government of Canada COVID-19 information is here. More on my code, here.

 

Is math political? Does it need to be? A few thoughts

You would think so, if you read this: Sneering at Ontario’s anti-racist math curriculum reveals a straight line to what people value in The Star

What has the columnist angry was the removal of several passages of progressive political text that went with the update to the recent changes of the math curriculum. I can see why that removal would anger some people with progressive political values.

I can also imagine how many conservatives would have been angry if there was text like this removed from a new curriculum: “recognize the ways in which mathematics can be used as a tool to uncover, explore, analyse, and promote actions to address greater productivity and growth within our economy and to lead Canada to a strong future of wealth and opportunity”, or if the government removed anything to do with teachers creating “pro-capitalist and pro-business teaching and learning opportunities.” Any group that tries to explicitly frame a curriculum and then have that framing removed will be upset.

Mathematics itself is not political, but it is always taught within a political and historical context. For example, I have math texts that make it seem that the only worthwhile math came from European men, while I have others that show mathematics has roots all over the world. I have math textbooks that mention 0 women, while other texts show the role women have played in mathematics and delve into why women had a hard time making more of a contribution.

Whatever context you want to frame a curriculum, I think that emphasizing politics and history with regards to teaching mathematics will not achieve some of the goals that progressive thinkers hope it will achieve. I think the new changes in the curriculum with regards to things such as streaming will help achieve those goals, as I wrote here.

Additionally, I think there are other things that can be done outside the curriculum that could help students that are disadvantaged when it comes to education in math. I am thinking of the work done by organizations like BlackGirlsCode. We could use more organizations like that who can provide specialized programs not just to help kids who are struggling with math, but to uplift kids that excel in math. Organizations that can support the next Maryam Mirzakhani, wherever she is. The kids who are struggling with math need more help than what the schools can provide: the same is true for kids that excel in math.

(Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash)

Piquette: your new summer quaffable drink


I remember when rose used to be a hard sell in Ontario. It took years before people started drinking it in the summer.

Now people adopt new approaches to wine as fast as they can. In the last few years I’ve seen cremants, orange wines and pet nats all become hugely successful. (Though you wouldn’t know it at the LCBO).  The latest thing to catch my fancy are piquettes. This write up of them in Toronto Life describes them better than I can. As they say, piquette is a …

…low-alcohol wine is made by fermenting the pomace—leftover skins and dregs of the winemaking process—and diluting it with water. What results is a wine lover’s answer to summer-y spiked seltzers. It’s zippy, sessionable, slightly bubbly and certainly affordable—you’ll be hard-pressed to find a bottle over $20. Traditionally, piquette was reserved for farmhands and winemakers to sip while working the fields, when wine may have been easier to come by than clean drinking water. And it’s low enough in alcohol (typically, 5-9 per cent ABV) to not impact productivity. “Vineyard work is very tough, physical work, and your body gets sore and full of aches and pains,” says Mike Traynor, of Prince Edward County’s Traynor Vineyard. “Piquette takes that edge off without putting you out.”  There’s also a huge sustainability appeal to piquette. Once nothing more than compost, discarded wine skins can be a thirst-quenching source of revenue. “This actually allows me to bring down the prices on a lot of my wines because I’m getting a better yield from the grapes,” Traynor says.

A few additional thoughts:

  • piquettes are fun, but the taste of them vary widely. If you get an apple cider or a glass of sauvignon blanc, you know what to expect. With piquettes, I have not found that to be the case. The taste of one brand of piquette can be very different from another. They are like pet nats in that way.
  • I can see why winemakers like them: they can squeeze another product out of their harvest. Good for them.
  • I can’t see piquettes reaching a large audience like pinot grigio or moscato did. They will have to compete with beer and cider, which already have a huge part of the summer beverage market. But I am a bad predictor, so who knows.
  • a bottle of piquette can also be good at the end of the evening if you have a big group over for a dinner party. Try it sometime.
  • I’ve had a few piquettes now and I really like the one from Leaning Post. Indeed I like much of the wine from them. Good people, great wine.
  • The wine pictured above is from Leaning Post. It has a great punk rock vibe to it, which perfectly describes a piquette.

My thoughts on the Ontario government changing the curriculum for math.

My first thought in going over some of the big changes to the Ontario high school math curriculum was: good! I am critical of the current government for many reasons, but this is a positive change by them.

I have been helping my son with his math since at least grade 9 to grade 12, and it has been frustrating for him and for me. The math he needs for university is academic and limited to specific areas like functions. This academic math  benefits students who will go to university to study physics or math and very few other subjects.  The non academic math is better, but you can’t get into even a business program with it. By changing the curriculum and stopping streaming, the government has done away with two problems with the way math is currently taught. The only downside to this is for math tutors. (Maybe.)

So “1/sine 30 degrees”**  cheers to government for this. 🙂

(Photo by Antoine Dautry on Unsplash )

** sine 30 degrees = 1/2. So 2 = 1 over that. lol.