Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christmas Eve Service



We had our annual Christmas Eve dinner and service at church last week. We normally have roast beef with rice and vegetables and stuff. This year was no different. And, as usual, they had a draw for small door prizes. One lady at our table won a macrame, hanging pot holder (for potted plants). Her sister won a small travel chopstick, spoon and fork set.

After dinner we went upstairs from the gym to the sanctuary for service. Pastor Tom spoke again. But, instead of Bill Mak being the interpreter like he usually is, he was replaced by Kevin Leung. Bill was away I believe. Maybe on holiday... I can't remember. Kevin is a young fellow. I'm sure he did a fine job even though I couldn't understand what he was saying (because he was speaking in Cantonese).

After the service we went back down to the gym for snacks. Richard Wong dressed up as Santa and gave out "presents" to the kids. The were packages of cookies and chips and things like that. He was in town from Beijing with Alison and their two kids for the holidays. They're missionaries over there.

There weren't as many "regulars" as I normally see there this year. I guess some people must have been away. I did see a few old faces of members who used to come here. One notable exception was the Tsang family. Usually Jennifer, Rosalind and Victor show up with their parents. I believe Victor is in Vancouver and Rosalind is in New York. I think Jennifer and her parents still live in the city.

I took a few photos for our 100th anniversary book. We're way behind schedule. I figure we could use them if we need to fill any space. After that my parents gave me a lift back home.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tobogganing with my Nephews



I took my nephews tobogganing last week. It took us 30 seconds to walk there. They have a golf course behind their house that has a wee hill that you can sled down. The workers there didn't mind that we used their course for an hour.

As you can see we don't have much snow yet in Toronto. There are patches of grass sticking up through the snow everywhere. Still it was good enough to pick up a little speed.

My nephews were playing a game where they would take wipeouts part way down the hill and I was supposed to take pictures of them. That didn't work out so well. Anyway, here's a shot of them actually on the sled.

We had a contest at the end where we tried to see who could go farthest down the hill. Since I weigh more than twice as much as the older one I thought I'd have gravity on my side. While that may have helped going down the hill. On the gradual slope near the bottom it worked against me. Too much friction. I came last. Oh the shame. Beaten by a 7 and 10-year-old.

Next year I'll work on losing 100 lbs and kick their butts!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

$13 Shirt from Club Monaco



It's true... no joke. I bought this shirt for $13.30 plus tax at Club Monaco on Sunday. It regularly goes for $79. But, out of the goodness of their hearts (and the fact they want to get rid of old stock) they generously slashed the price so that even unemployed bums like myself could afford them.

Sorry I didn't post this earlier. I think they're going to be sold out fast. Perhaps if you go on Boxing Day you'll be able to find other good deals though. Good luck!

Merry Christmas, everyone!!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Dinner with Auntie Mary



After the wedding ceremony everyone went down from the sanctuary to the gym for refreshments and to take group shots. Daphne stayed with Auntie Mary until I finished.

We went to Chinatown afterwards. Auntie Mary wanted to go shopping for food. I waited in the car while they walked around.

After they finished shopping we went to Rol Jui for dinner. We order Auntie Mary some fish congee and Daphne and I split a plate of beef and tomato on rice and chicken and tofu on rice. They also brought us some soup as a starter and some sweet, green bean soup for dessert. It's kind of like red bean soup, but not red. It was tasty.

It's always great going out with Auntie Mary. She always has a lot of interesting stories to tell.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Tony and Iris get Married



My friends, Tony Lai, and, Iris-youngsun Eom, got married this past Saturday, December 18th, 2010. Pastor Tom Eng presided over the ceremony at our church (Toronto Chinese Presbyterian Church). Most of the guests were friends from our church and Tony's associates from Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship.

I picked up Auntie Mary for Tony and brought her to the wedding. My friend Daphne sat with her while I was taking photos. It was a lot of working running around trying to capture all the important moments.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Voices Carry



It was just downright weird... I was having lunch with a friend last week at the Pickle Barrel by my place when I heard a song over the restaurant sound system that I haven't heard in years. It was the popular 1985 release Voices Carry by 'Til Tuesday.

Sung by lead singer Aimee Mann the video won the MTV Video Music Award for Best New Artist when it came out. Of course I was fully enamored by the tune back then. When the group came to town to promote their album I went to Much Music (back on Queen East at the time if I remember correctly) to try and get an autograph from Aimee (which I managed to successfully pull off, thank you very much).

Now that might not seem so odd if that were the end of the story. But, it just so happened that later that day I met up with another friend around Sherbourne and Wellesley Streets for a bite at a local burger joint. We were happily enjoying our burgers when guess what song comes up on their sound system? You guessed it... Voices Carry. This time it was a slower version. One I had never heard before. I'm not sure who performed it, but it was pretty cool nonetheless.

It's strange though... I was quite surprised to hear it once. But, twice in one day? What are the odds of that? Astronomically low as far as I'm concerned. Time to buy a lottery ticket perhaps.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Addicted to Scrabble



It's strange I know, but, lately, I've been hooked on playing Scrabble online. I believe part of the appeal is winning "points" from this site, POGO, I play on. What you can do with these so-called points that you can win is a mystery to me. Perhaps you can use them to enter a contest to win prizes on their site or something. Whatever the case, I just like accumulating them.

The actual act of playing the game is fun too though. I normally play against the computer. I find it tends to make really short words which is kind of annoying. It's hard to make words yourself when there aren't a lot of places to place your letters.

I've also learned a lot of really weird words. You can experiment with "words" by placing your letters on the board. If it's actually a real word that you've placed on the board the play button on your computer screen will turn yellow to signify you can use it.

As well, they have a button you can press to show 2-letter words. This is really helpful when you want to use up difficult letters like J, X, Q or Z. Did you know that JO, XI, XU, EX, QI and ZA are words in the Scrabble Dictionary? It's true. So if you're ever stuck with those letters you can find various vowels to place them next to.

On the picture at the top of this particular blog you can see I placed the word ZA, ZA and AT for 50 points. I got 33 points for the first ZA on the triple word score, 11 points for the second ZA and 6 points for the AT on the triple word score.

My highest point total for one play was 88 for a combination of ZEPS, ZA and EM. I got 63 points for ZEPS (the Z was on a double letter score, and the word was on a triple word score. The P and S were blanks), 21 points for ZA and 4 points for EM.

I also got a total score of 89 for SQUIRTS and ERAS. 45 points for SQUIRTS on a triple word score with I on a double letter score (T and S were blanks) plus 50 bonus points for using all seven tiles, and 4 points for ERAS.

To do well you have to take advantage of the letters that give you the big points and put them on squares that increase their value like double or triple letter score or double or triple word score.

Good luck and have fun!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Dinner with Dickie, Lawrence and Big Jon



I had dinner with Dickie, Lawrence and Big Jon last Monday at Imperial Buffet in Scarborough. They keep sending 2-for-1 coupons over to my sister and parents' place, so I keep taking my friends there to eat. There was one stretch in the summer where it seemed like they were delivering coupons every month. Needless to say I went there an awful lot.

The grub there is fine. You're not going to expect anything extremely tantalizing at a Chinese buffet anyway now are you? They have King Crab legs which Dickie and Big Jon made a beeline for. I'm too lazy to eat them. I can't be bothered to crack the shells and dig the meat out. I know there's a seemingly easy technique that those guys used, but I'm just too impatient. I just want to go up and grab my food and eat. It's okay. For less than $10 per person before tax and tip, how can you complain?

So, Imperial Buffet, you just keep those coupons coming and me and my friends will go there to eat regularly!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Morality and God



I'm currently reading a book for our church's small group study by Lee Strobel called The Case for Faith. In the second chapter interviewee, William Craig, argues that God must exist because we have objective moral values - basically the ability to tell right from wrong.

"If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist." he says.

I tend to take on the view of an example he gives from philosopher, Michael Ruse, to refute this statement. "Morality is a biological adaptation no less than are hands and feet and teeth." It is "just an aid to survival and reproduction... any deeper meaning is illusory."

I believe it's in our best interest as a species to live in relative harmony if we want to not only survive, but thrive. If we go around attacking, raping or killing one another this will never be achieved. And if someone tried to do this to us or someone we cared about we'd obviously be upset about it. It's basic biological behavior by humans and even less advanced species.

Like humans there are a lot of animals that have to live together in groups. To survive they must learn not only to get along well together, but work together as a unit. Take meerkats for instance. For those of you who don't know, meerkats are small mammals. They are burrowing members of the mongoose family who live in South Africa. They live in large family units in arid areas. To survive they work together to gather food for their young. They post sentries to look out for predators. If they see a hawk they will sound the alarm and everyone will dash for cover. If there is a poisonous snake that's threatening the group they attack it together. And if a member of the meerkat family doesn't follow the rules of the clan they will be banished from the group. Unfortunately that's pretty much a death sentence for the lone meerkat. For it can't survive on it's own trying to gather food safely while avoiding predators.

So, I'd argue it's basic animal instinct for survival that drives them to live in harmony. And I believe we achieved our objective moral values in much the same way. It's a basic survival instinct. Nothing more, nothing less.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Trader Friends at Badger and Firkin



I met up with my Trader friends for dinner at the Firkin pub across the street from my old office today. Viola sent out an e-mail asking people to come. It's been a bit over a year since I've seen the guys. So it was cool to see them again.

I came over a bit early so I could drop by the office to see some other friends too. Unfortunately I didn't go as early as I should have. By the time I got there (a bit after 5:00) quite a few people had already left. Still, I had the chance to talk with a fair number of friends. It was really good seeing them again.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Kids are Alright



I took my cousin's daughter and nephews out to the Brick Works with my friend Daphne last weekend. We just went out for an hour or so before dinner. I thought it would be nice to take the kids there to run around a bit. Get some fresh air, you know. I think it's good for kids to get out and get a little exercise every now and then.

We got there around 4:30 p.m. At this time of the year it gets dark fairly early. So we didn't actually have a lot of time. But, knowing young people, I know they get bored fairly quickly. So even having one hour outside would be enough.

I tried to make it a bit fun by having them run around a little. There was a steep hill leading to an area that overlooked to Brick Works. We took that even though it may not have been a very safe route. I guess they looked at it as a challenge to overcome. There were also some ponds there that they enjoyed looking at and throwing stones into.

It's too bad we missed the fall colours. But, all-in-all, I think everyone had an enjoyable time out.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

My New Lens



Yay, I got a new lens. My cousin, Donna, bought a new lens for me. It's a 50 mm f/1.8 Canon lens. In the U.S. it was advertised for about $95. Up here in Canada it ranges from $130-$140. Though I did see it on sale at one store for $120 not too long ago. Anyway, I asked my cousin to buy it for me. After tax it ended up being $103 (U.S.). With our dollar being as strong as it is now, it was almost at par. My eldest cousin, Zena, brought the lens up this past week when she flew here to visit.

I had always wanted a fast prime lens to add to my collection. I only have two other lenses that I use. My 10-22 mm f/3.5-4.5 and 24-105mm IS f/4. This new lens should be good for portraits and other shots where I want a really shallow depth of field. Joy.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tropicana

Back row: Johnson, Anthony, Sang Hee, Steve, Sang Woo
Front row: Me, Winnie, Andrew, Rupert, Wendy

Tropicana... that's the name of our Gym Night/Sports Night team. Grace (who's not actually in the picture because she had to leave early because Sopheak hurt his ankle) suggested that name and the team picked it. We have orange coloured shirts, so it seemed appropriate.

Gym Night is organized by the folks at Cornerstone Church up in Markham. They're the same people that organized the Ultimate League I was in in the summer.

I've been going to Gym Night for at least five years now if I remember correctly. I think we've been up at the Unionville High School gym for at least three or four years now. We play different sports over the course of the winter. The three main ones are European handball, volleyball and floor hockey. Often we'll throw in dodgeball and sometimes soccer or badminton. It's fun and you get a little exercise for a couple of hours once a week.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

I'm really dumb sometimes.



Yes, it's true. Sometimes I'm just a big dummy. I've done this enough times, you'd think I'd have learnt by now. You know... talking about someone behind their back when, all of a sudden, they walk by or come into the room or whatever. Oh, the shame.

And it's never when you're saying something good about the person. Like, that Anne from accounting is such a smart girl. She found a way to save the company $100,000 last year. Oh, hi Anne, I didn't see you there. Yes, we were just saying how smart you were. Would I like to go out on a date with you? Oh, yes please.

No, it's more like, Mr. Wilkerson has to be the dumbest person ever. If he were any dumber you'd have to water him. Oh, Mr. Wilkerson, I didn't see you there. Gee, I was just telling the guys what a great boss you were. That's the way it is with me. (sigh)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Grandma's 99th Birthday



We celebrated my grandmother's 99th birthday last night (November 18th, 2010) by going to dinner at a Chinese restaurant at Market Village (Kennedy and Steeles).

I believe her actual birthday is either on the 20th 0r 22nd. My sister couldn't remember which day either. My mother's birthday is on the other day.

My aunt, Betty, and uncle, Cheuck, from Long Island, New York drove up last Saturday. My aunt, Angela, from France flew in on Monday. My eldest cousin, Zena, and her daughter, Nicole, flew in on Wednesday. Betty is my grandmother's eldest daughter, Angela is the youngest. My mom is in the middle.

Also joining us for dinner where my father, my uncle, Jit, my sister, Karleen, and my two nephews, Avery and Aaron.

Pictured here are my grandmother and her daughters.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Lawrence's Father



My friend Lawrence's father passed away this past Thursday (Remembrance Day). He had been battling diabetes among other things. I knew he had been unwell, but I didn't know to what extent. So it was surprise to me when Lawrence phoned to tell me the news.

The viewing was on Sunday. I went in the evening with my friend Daphne because I had to go to the boarding home to volunteer in the afternoon. We met many of Lawrence's relatives from various parts of the U.S. there. They're all very nice. I also saw a number of my church friends. Some from CPC and some from RHCCC. A few of us went to dinner afterwards at Congee Queen (pictured above - from left to right: Jason, Dickie, Steve, Big John, me and Perry).

The funeral was yesterday (Monday, November 15th, 2010). It was held at the Turner & Porter Funeral Home, Butler Chapel on Dundas Street West, near Burnhamthrope Road. I took the TTC there. It's not much more than 5 minute's walk from Islington Station.

I had never met Lawrence's family (parents or sister) before. From what the presiding pastor said, David Chui, was a really good man. He was a social worker who volunteered in helping with the less fortunate whenever he had the opportunity to do so. My condolences go out to Lawrence, his mother, sister and relatives. I know Mr. Chui will be missed by many.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

100 Years at CPC

Sid Ingham giving his testimony with Bill Mak translating. Pastor Kan and Eng sitting behind them.

We had our 100th Anniversary at our church, Toronto Chinese Presbyterian Church, this past weekend. To celebrate we had a special Saturday service in the afternoon followed by a dinner in the evening. We also had a combined service (English/Cantonese) that was similar to Saturday's on Sunday for those who didn't make it that time.

Our church was started back in 1910 to cater to Chinese immigrants who were new to the city. The did outreach to those people too. We weren't always at our current location on Beverley Street. This building was built in 1960. We used to be located on University Avenue when we first started. Our first pastor was Reverend Ma Wou (I believe). Currently our pastors are Tom Eng (English service) and Joseph Kan (Cantonese service).

I've been attending CPC since 1986. It's been a great experience over the years. I've met a lot of wonderful friends. I have to admit many of them have moved away. But, I still see some of them on a semi-regular basis. Especially the close ones.

Here's to another great 100 years!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

We Are Family Fundraiser



We held the 2nd Annual We Are Family Fundraiser supporting Project 417 at the RBC auditorium in their building on Front Street this past Saturday (November 6th). They were generous enough to let us use their facilities at no charge just like last year. Kathi, Kara, Darlene, Jenn, and Patricia and Joe did the bulk of the organizing. They pulled everything together in a few short weeks.

Like last year there was a silent auction and we had hors d'oeuvres to munch on. The M.C. was Andrew Craig from CBC Radio 2 "Canada Live". The Lester McLean band provided the music along with guest singers Carlos Morgan, Toya Alexis and Gary Beals. In between breaks DJ Jude Kelly kept the music going.

It was a nice evening with proceeds going to a very worthy cause.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Out of the Cold, 2010-2011

John, Mike, Harim from last year.

The Out of the Cold program at Knox Presbyterian Church started again this past Tuesday. We provide hot meals to underprivileged young people (under the age of 26) every Tuesday evening from the beginning of November to the end of April. As well as the dinner we have a food bank where they can grab stuff to take home with them to supplement their groceries for the week. There are also some activities they can do like half-court basketball, there's an old video game console and Darlene runs her sewing table were kids can do some crafts or mend their clothes. Bill will start his hair dying clinic at some point too. We even have a three lanes of 5-pin bowling that we open every now and then.

For me, I help with the clean up. Specifically washing all the dirty dishes. Last year I had Michael helping me. Sometimes his now wife, Nicole, would assist as would an older gentleman named John and once in awhile Trevor would show up. Michael and Nicole are gone now. After they got married this past summer one of the ladies here, Helen, mentioned they moved to London, Ontario where I believe Michael is doing his residency.

We'll see who my helper ends up being then. Yesterday Harim helped me out by putting the clean dishes away. This is her second year here. She was a really big help. Very efficient since she already knew where everything goes. Things can be really crazy in the second kitchen where we wash everything. The dirty dishes come in so quickly you barely get a chance to breathe at the busiest point. I have a system worked out though. As long as no one comes in and gets in the way it seems to work pretty well. The dishes from the gym (plates, cups, cutlery) get first priority. The pots and pans and utensils etc. used in the preparation of the food get second priority. They can soak in the sink (if there's enough space) or we'll leave them on the stoves until there is space. There are three trolleys. I commandeer all of them. One stays in the gym for the dirty dishes. One stays in the second kitchen ready to go out to replace that one when it comes in. One is used to transfer the clean dishes to the first kitchen. That's it.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Sunday


@ Scruffy Murphys on Eglinton

Sunday started off like any typical Sunday for me. I went to church, had lunch in Chinatown after service and visited the guys at Terry's boarding home at 103 Tyndall.

Pastor Tom spoke about helping people with depression. It was a good sermon. I think he gave some useful advice. Lunch at Rol Jui was good as usual. I had chow mien with assorted meat on top. It's part of my regular rotation of orders.

The boarding home visit was alright too. It was Kate's birthday. She's Rodger's assistant. She goes to the various homes with him on a regular basis. She kept getting Facebook notifications on her phone from people sending their best wishes while we were there. Robert (I just forgot his last name) was feeling a little odd though. Rodger offered to take him somewhere if he wanted to get some treatment, but he declined instead deciding just to get a bit of rest.

After we finished the boarding home visit I went to see Auntie Mary (Ko Bong) at East General. Tony mentioned she was there after having a fall last Sunday. She wasn't injured. I think just a bump on her head or something like that. I suppose they were keeping her there for observation. She's pretty frail at the moment.

I stayed for around 3 hours just chatting with her. I was there over her dinnertime too. Tony mentioned she wasn't eating a lot. So I was trying to encourage her to eat as much as possible. Still she didn't put away very much food. Just a few small bites of this and that. Truth be told, the food they served looked pretty terrible. It was bland-looking, puréed mush. From what she told me it didn't taste very good either. Anyway, she appreciated the visit. I'm sure it must get pretty boring there by herself. Over the weeks she's been there she did have roommates from time to time though. Some of them were alright while others were kind of annoying.

After visiting Mary I met up with a couple friends at Scruffy Murphys for a beer. It's a local pub in my area that we like. We went there once or twice before. They have a live band performing at one point in the evening. They let people go up and sing or play musical instruments with them. It's sort of like live Karaoke. Except that everyone is pretty much a professional. I'm sure most of the people that went up are in bands of their own. Anyway, it was fun. And since it was Halloween people quite a few people were dressed up in costumes which was cool too.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Lazy me...



Okay, sorry... I've been neglecting my blog. It's been a week since I've last published.

It's not like I haven't been up to anything either. I do have some things to share. I went to dinner with Dickie at Imperial Buffet on Monday (pictured here)... oh wait... that was last Monday. Anyway, I got a 2-for-1 coupon from my parents. A wonderful invention if I do say so myself. It's funny... Imperial Buffet has been sending these coupons out on a regular basis to my sister and parents' homes. I go there about once every month or two and never pay full price. I don't know how they make money.

I wrote that hockey started again for us a couple of blogs ago. It's going alright. One fellow hasn't shown up for three weeks though. I hope he's paid up already or else we might be short on money. My friend Frank is taking care of the finances this year. He was in charge of the whole operation last year, but this year I'm helping with the rest of the organization. It mostly entails sending out weekly e-mails to see who's going to be there or not and making up the teams.

Gym night has started too. I'm one of the three "captains". Truthfully speaking we don't do much. All we've done so far is chosen our teams and picked the shirt colours. There's no coaching involved. I've been sending out some e-mails to my team members, but people don't really have to respond saying if they're going to be there or not. It's not like we can really grab members from other teams if we're short (I don't think). We'll see.

We had another "Sandwich Run" this evening. It wasn't really an official one though. I just took some of my church friends out who wanted to go. Surprisingly we didn't see very many people where we normally see them. Nathan Philips Square was all but empty. We saw one fellow at the bus shelter on the northeast side on Bay Street. That's his normal spot. There weren't many guys on the benches on the east side of the Square. Same with the south side along Queen or the southeast corner where there normally are 10-15 guys in the summer. Even on the northwest side. I just saw Richard and Raymond and one of Raymond's friends (I didn't ask him his name). Normally there are about 7-10 guys there. Raymond said a lot of the shelters are open on the weekends now. So a lot of guys go to them.

On a sad note, Richard mentioned to me that his friend Ozzie passed away. They used to hang out together at their regular spot in between one of the concrete support beams for the walkway that goes around the Square and a stairway that goes down to the parking area under the Square. Ozzie was a nice, old guy. Smallish fellow with a bushy, white beard. Richard said he was about 65. Though, to me, he looked quite a bit older. I guess living on the street will wear on you. Richard found him passed away one day not long ago. That's sad. I feel for him. He's not getting along with some of the other guys who've taken up residence around him. I guess they're a bit too rowdy. I think some of them drink and cause trouble. One girl supposedly has been stealing stuff too. At least it was a quiet night for the guys who were there tonight. A deserved break for them.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Canon 50 mm f/1.8 Lens

Shot of Canon Rebel T1i with Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens.

I went to the Henry's Camera Show last weekend. It was quite good. Much better than the other photo show I went to before. They only had two areas for seminars while the Henry's one had five. As well, the Henry's show had a lot more products for sale. It was just a lot bigger.

I didn't attend as many seminars as I would have liked at the Henry's show. But, the ones I did go to were good. I attended a couple on studio lighting for portraits, another two on photo manipulation software (Aperture and Photoshop) and one on the merits of RAW vs. JPG format. They were all really insightful.

As well I got to try out a lens I was interested in, the Canon 50 mm f/1.8. It's a low-end Canon lens. But, for the price (about $130-$140) it's a reasonably good deal. I like that it's a fast lens. It's good in low light situations and has a shallow depth of field.

I also tried the Lensbaby Muse on my camera and the Lensbaby Composer on the Nikon they had there. I've always been interested in it. You can get some neat-looking shots. I couldn't figure out exactly how to focus it properly though. It was hard. Maybe I just need more practice.

Anyway, the show was good. I'll attend again in the future provided I get a free coupon somewhere.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Hockey Starts Again



We started another season at Goulding this past Friday (October 15th). Officially I'm organizing this year, but last year's organizer, Frank, has done an awful lot for sure.

There aren't too many changes from last year. One of our goalies has changed. We lost one fellow who was replaced by someone else's friend. I'm going to switch the team line ups more frequently too. That should make it more interesting for the guys.

One thing that hasn't changed from last year is that my skates are still killing my feet. When I first got them last year they were just ill-fitting. I could barely stand in them for very long. That part got better as the season progressed. But, another problem surfaced... blisters developing on my insteps. It's especially bad on my left foot. For the second time it worsened to the point of just ripping and tearing the skin off that part of my foot. It's feeling pretty tender and raw right now. I hope it improves enough to play the upcoming week because I do enjoy playing quite a lot.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Second Trip to the Brick Works



I went to the Evergreen/Don Valley Brick Works again last Saturday (October 9th). This time I made it part of a longer hike with my friend from church, Gloria. My other friend, Daphne, was supposed to come too, but she came down with something unfortunately. We'll have to try and make it out again. Hopefully the weather will cooperate again.

It was a great day for a hike. I met Gloria at the Davisville subway station. I had planned a route that was probably around 10 kms long in my estimation.

We started at Mount Pleasant Cemetery. There's a walkway just off Yonge and Merton Streets. From there we headed west through the underpass under Mount Pleasant Avenue in to the section of the cemetery between Mount Pleasant and Bayview. There's an exit by the Viewing Centre (at south central boundary of the cemetery) that leads to a path in the Moore Park Ravine. That will take you straight to the Brick Works.

Along the way, both through the cemetery and along the ravine path, I would stop to take pictures. It was an amazing day for taking shots. The skies were clear blue and the leaves bright yellows, oranges and reds. Perfect for photographing. To kill some time while she waited for me, Gloria collected leaves which she planned to use for a project later.

We arrived at the Brick Works and did a walk of the grounds before stopping for a break. I made a crappy peanut butter sandwich which I ate. Gloria just had some water. We sat on a picnic table in front of the pond right outside the buildings there. It was so nice. Just chilling and looking over the water at the trees and landscape, it was a great way to spend the afternoon.

After the break we walked around a bit more and I took a few more photos before we decided to head back. Instead of completely retracing our steps we took a detour through some city streets which eventually led out to the entrance of another park, David A. Balfour Park, just off Mount Pleasant Avenue and Roxborough Drive. The path in the park ends at another entrance/exit at Mount Pleasant Cemetery (on the south end of the part between Yonge and Mount Pleasant north of Heath Street). We walked through that part of the cemetery back to Davisville subway station and that was the end of our day.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Chilean Mine Rescue



Happy day. Guarded optimism. The first of the 33 Chilean miners trapped underground in a mine disaster are finally being brought up from 622-metres below ground today (October 12th-13th, 2010).

The men, discovered alive 17 days after the mine collapse on August 5th, 2010, have been trapped for over two months. Food and medication was sent down to them through boreholes drilled into the ground.

Because of the hard ground, a larger hole, big enough to lower a rescue capsule, down took nearly two months to drill. The capsule, named Fenix (as in Phoenix, the mythical bird that rose from the ashes), is 54 centimetres in diameter, 4 metres tall and weighs 450 kilograms. It takes about half an hour to be lowered to where the miners are and the ride back up is about 16 minutes.

The photo here (which was incorrectly labeled on the site I got it from) is of Mario Sepulveda, 39, the second miner to be rescued. They said it was the first miner to come up, Florencio Avalos, 31.

The oldest miner trapped is Mario Gomez at 63-years of age. The youngest, Jimmy Sanchez, is 19-years-old. He was the fifth miner rescued. They decided to rescue the strongest miners first to make sure everything went well. Next will be the weaker ones, followed by the strongest again at the end.

In total the extraction of all the miners is supposed to take up to 48 hours. Our thoughts will be with you as the operation continues.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Cousin Bruce



Our cousin, Bruce, came to visit from Vancouver last week. He was here briefly on business. He's co-owner of a company that makes cedar sheds and other products like that. He was in Toronto meeting with representatives of Lowes, a home improvement store. His company does business with both the Canadian and American arm of Lowes among others.

On his second day in town we all met up for dinner at Linda at Shops of Don Mills. It's run by the Salad King folks. It's a pretty nice place. It was my first time there, though my sister has gone before. My sister and I did the ordering. We ordered the traditional Pad Thai (which they call Phud Thai there). As well as Green Curry Chicken and Salmon in Thom Yum Sauce. My favorite had to be the Beef Panang though. That was really tasty. Mmm.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Zoikz



I was over at my sister's place a little while ago and my nephews got me hooked on one of those "tower defence" type games. This one is called Zoikz.

Like all tower defence-type games you have to place your defensive weapons around the game board and try to block the enemy from getting through. In Zoikz the enemy is various computer viruses. The game board is your computer mainframe.

There are three different levels: 1 to 3. Level 1 is really easy. You can't lose unless you really try to. Level 3 is quite tough. I only tried it a few times, but fail miserably most times. Level 2 is one you can have moderate success at providing you develop the correct strategy.

It took me awhile to figure out the best suited pattern of where to place my weapons. At one point I was stuck for quite awhile having only gotten close to finishing a few times. And the one or two times I did complete all 40 levels it just as easily could have been luck as anything else.

Recently I decided to alter my placement of weapons slightly and, lo and behold, most times I tried the game I was able to complete it. Still, as I found out today, there is no guarantee you'll beat the Zoikz even if you place all your weapons in the appropriate spots. There game is still random enough to make it exciting or frustrating depending on how you look at it.

Give it a shot and let me know how you do if you want - Zoikz

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

2010 Scotia Bank Nuit Blanche



This is the 5th year Nuit Blanche has been held in Toronto, and the fourth year I've attended. It's always been fun for me. Besides my first year out I've pretty much stayed out from the start to finish (7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.). This year was no exception. In fact it was the latest I've ever arrived home at 7:45 a.m. (which I'll explain later).

Overall the event was good. I always enjoy myself. I love taking pictures, especially at night. In the past I always started in the Distillery District and worked my way west eventually ending up in Liberty Village. This year I decided to skip the Distillery District to save time and start out west and come back along Queen to central downtown. One reason was because of the unreliable transportation the TTC provided in the past (which continued this year).

I have to say Liberty Village was disappointing compared to previous years when they had numerous installations. This year they noticeably pared it down. And all but one installation were relegated to Lamport Stadium and it's parking lot.

After leaving Liberty Village I walked up to Queen and hit the Gladstone Hotel. My friend Marcel was performing in a Burlesque Show there. Unfortunately he was going to be on later and I didn't have time to stay and catch his show.

After the Gladstone I continued east along Queen Street viewing various installations along the way. When I was at Trinity Bellwoods Park my friend John called me to meet up. That was at around midnight. He had a previous engagement to attend earlier.

We hung out for about three hours until he had to call it a night because of the cold. The temperatures went down to about 5C and he just wasn't properly attired. We parted ways at Nathan Philips Square and I continued on solo.

I did the circuit running down Bay and up Yonge between Dundas and Front. That took me from about 1:30 - 6:50 a.m. A long, but still fun night for sure... except for... my trek back home.

At 6:50 in the morning I headed for the subway at Dundas Station. I thought the subway was supposed to run all night long. I was wrong about that. But, according to the ticket lady there there was supposed to be one more train going northbound.

The electronic signboard on the platform read 10 minutes until train arrives in the station when I first looked at it. I impatiently waited as it counted down - 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4.... minutes to go... then it stopped. The sign said the train was delayed. The other patrons on the platform and I waited about 10 minutes longer until an ominous voice came on the P.A. and announced the train would no longer be coming. We'd have to go up to Yonge to take the bus. The only problem with that was that Yonge Street was closed to vehicular traffic up to Bloor because of Nuit Blanche. So everyone who had to take the bus had to walk up to Yonge and Church to catch the first available one. Not very impressive.

Besides that my only other disappointment was not being able to make it up to the installations along Bloor such as the ones in Yorkville, the ROM and the Royal Conservatory of Music. I was looking forward to seeing them. I guess I was overly ambitious in planning my itinerary. Next year...

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Don Valley Brickworks



It was the "Grand Opening" of the Don Valley Brickworks this past weekend (September 25th-26th, 2010). Though, in actuality, it was really more of a re-opening.

It was first built in 1889 by John Taylor and his brothers, William and George (according to Wikipedia). They had first purchased the site in the 1830s where they established a paper mill. While digging post holes to make a fence, William came across some good quality clay. Thus began their brick making business.

Many years passed and eventually all the usable shale and clay had been quarried. After a few legal battles the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority laid claim to the land in 1986. In 1992 the first phase of park development on the site began.

The site is now open year round. There is a welcome centre, evergreen gardens and ponds surrounded by walking paths for the public to use. The old kilns for baking bricks are still there. As well there is event space for rent and soon there will be office space available.

It's a grat place to spend a couple hours wandering around any time of the year.

Monday, September 27, 2010

My Grandma



This is a photo of me and my grandmother. She'll be 99 in November. Nearly a century old. Pretty good, eh?

My sister took this picture. We were having lunch with my nephews at the Congee Queen in Don Mills. By chance we happened to bump into my good friend, Vince, there. He was having lunch with his wife and kids and parents.

Our parents were away on holiday. They were flying back to New York from France with my aunt (mom's older sister) and uncle the day we were out. They visited their younger sister (my other aunt) prior to flying back to the States.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Kevin from Trader



Wow... this is getting freaky. Last week it was Ken MacDonald. This week it's Kevin Cheng. I've been bumping into a lot of old friends recently. Even yesterday I ran into an old high school classmate, Peter Lipson. He was going to have dinner with his family at a Chinese restaurant near my church last night. I saw him last year at our high school reunion though.

As for Kevin, I saw him this evening at a sushi buffet restaurant, Maison du Japon, in Markham. I was there for dinner with some friends from Richmond Hill Chinese Community Church. One friend Steve Quan had his birthday on Friday and we were celebrating. Originally we were supposed to go to the Congee Queen at Don Mills and Steeles, but at the last minute changed locations. Isn't that weird?

Kevin was there having dinner with his family too. I first noticed him when I went out of the restaurant to pick something up from my friend Daphne. On the way back I smiled at this fellow sitting at one of the tables and he smiled back. I thought he looked kind of familiar, but didn't quite recognize him yet.

The second time I passed him was on the way back from the bathroom. This time he caught my eye and I went up to him and told him I think I knew him. Then I figured out that he was my old co-worker from Trader. I even remembered his name. Well, his first name anyway. We chatted a bit and he mentioned he left back in 1995. I couldn't believe it had been fifteen years since we last saw each other.

We talked about what we both had been up to lately. He's doing freelance illustration. I'm not doing anything at all. We talked about some old Trader friends. I've kept in touch with most of the names he remembered. I'm going to try and reconnect him with some of them if I can.

Anyway, that was a cool way to end the evening for me, meeting another old friend.

Monday, September 20, 2010

I Love My Bike



I know... it sounds kind of weird... "I love my bike"... but, I do. Well, it's more than just loving my bike... I suppose I should be more specific - I love riding my bike.

It may sound kind of strange to some people and I'm not sure how well I can explain it. There's this indescribable feeling of absolute joy you sometimes get while riding on that perfect day. You know... when the sun is out and it's not too hot and there is little or no wind. Those are ideal conditions.

You feel a certain energy as your pedals turn over effortlessly. When you see the drivers stuck in gridlock you think, Adios señor/señorita!, and smile to yourself as you pass by. That's the freedom you have on your bicycle.

There's also the excitement factor you get riding in downtown too. Not only do you have to be wary of drivers who don't know you're there, but pedestrians as well. In the heart of the city inattentive people will cross the street without even glancing to see if the way is clear. You really have to be on your toes.

The speeds you can achieve, the feeling you get of wind blowing in your face... it all adds up to making cycling one of the most enjoyable activities I can think of doing on a lovely summer's day.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

TIFF - Aftershock



We finally got around to seeing this movie, Aftershock. It was the first movie I traded my friend's vouchers for. It was the only one we didn't get a 4-for-1 or 2-for-1 deal on. Let me just say it was well worth the price of full admission (one voucher for one ticket).

According to the TIFF website, Aftershock, was the most successful movie in Chinese history. It did extremely well when released there. So my expectations were quite high. It didn't disappoint. Zhang Ling, the Canadian author whose book the movie was based upon was at the screening. At one point she mentioned that people should have some tissues handy. She wasn't kidding. It's an extremely emotional movie.

Aftershock follows the lives of a young family living in Tangshan, China when a devastating earthquake hits and tears their lives apart. Their father is killed trying to save his two young children. They are separated when the mother takes the son for medical help thinking her daughter is dead. The movie follows their lives as they go down separate paths and deal with the guilt, remorse and sadness of what happened that fateful day. It's a powerful yet touching saga.

If it's ever released wherever you live I'd encourage you to take it in. Just thank me for recommending it after it's over.

Friday, September 17, 2010

TIFF 2010



My friend is volunteering at this year's Toronto International Film Festival. She's been doing it for a few years now. All the volunteers get vouchers that they can trade in to see movies. My job in this little arrangement is to go down to the box office at King and Peter to pick up the tickets. I've gone three times so far.

The first movie I picked up tickets for was Aftershock. It's set in China and follows a family through their experience with the 1976 Tangshan earthquake. According to the TIFF website it's supposed to be the most successful Chinese movie of all time. We've yet to see it. We're going tomorrow (Friday) night.

The first movie we actually saw was a 4-for-1 deal called The Human Resources Manager. You get four tickets for one voucher. I guess they offer that promotion when a movie hasn't sold many tickets before it's showing.

Anyway, I thought the movie was so-so. For me I had a problem with the basic premise of the story. It's about a large, popular Jewish bakery that has a PR problem that they send the HR manager out to fix.

Personally I don't consider what they did (or in this case didn't do) to be their responsibility. They were getting bad press from one particular newspaper because one of their employees died. She had no relatives living in Israel and no one identified her body in the morgue for days until a reporter caught wind of this and the bakery was blamed for being insensitive or something or other because they didn't even know one of their employees was missing. I mean, it's not the bakery's responsibility to go searching for a missing employee.

Anyway, the movie was about how the HR manager went about trying to restore the bakery's image by doing the right thing and returning her body home. It follows his adventure filled road trip to that end. My rating: 3/5

The second movie we saw (tonight, Thursday) was called Pinoy Sunday. It was also a 4-for-1 deal. It's based in Taiwan. I'm going to copy and paste the brief description from the TIFF site here - Pinoy Sunday is the story of Manuel and Dado, two Filipino migrant workers, who discover a discarded sofa. This transforms their normal Sunday routine into a tale of adventure, perseverance and self-discovery.

I have to say I enjoyed this movie quite a bit. The first 2/3 of the movie was really funny. It had me as well as most of the audience laughing right out loud. It also had it's sweet moments too. The story, though simple was very good. The two lead actors did a brilliant job with their parts.

The movie slowed down in the latter stages though. I think it's hard to keep a story of two guys hauling a sofa around Taipei fresh and funny for that long. Still I think it was good enough to warrant a rating of 4/5.

There are a three more days left before the roll up the red carpet for the last time. Hopefully we'll see a few more good films before the end.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Weekend for Meeting Old Friends (again!)


Ken MacDonald and Lawrence Law

It's amazing where you'll bump into old friends. I attended the PMA Canada Photo Expo 2010 this past Saturday. I had a code to enter while buying the ticket on-line to get in free. So that was nice.

It was held at the Toronto Congress Centre out by the airport. When I first went into the exhibition hall I was a bit disappointed. It wasn't as big as I imagined it would be. As well... to my utter dismay, the Canon booth was completely empty save a video projector which they used to demonstrate some new products or something. I don't really know because I didn't watch. They didn't have one camera, camera body, lens or anything else. How sad. One of the two reps there mentioned to someone else that a lot of the retailers there sold their products. So if you wanted to see them you could go over to their booths. How lame is that? Every other camera company had a full compliment of equipment. Man... if I were a Nikon user I would have been drooling at their display.

Anyway, I got to the show fairly early because I had signed up for some of the early seminars on-line. Well it turns out you didn't need to sign up to see them. Anyone just walking by could pull up a chair and take a seat.

Since I was slightly bored after I first walked in I decided not to wait for the first seminar I wanted to see to start. That was one on Lighting Tips. Instead I started with the one on Youth Sports Photography. It was lead by a fellow from Florida who's been doing it for a number of years. It was informative. Though I'd never get into it. It may be profitable if you can establish yourself, but it's pretty much like shooting portraits at Walmart. Boring as heck. You have no creative freedom at all.

I missed the Lighting Tip seminar because the Youth Sports talk overlapped it. But, they were going to hold it again a little later so it was fine.

In the end I ended up attending just about all the seminars. The only one I wasn't too interested in was Fantastic Framing. I thought it was about framing your photo in the viewfinder. But, it was actually about real picture frames.

The Lighting Tips seminar was cool. The equipment is way too expensive for me though. I also went to a talk on How to Print on Various Media and presented by and Epson rep. That was useful. He spoke a lot about calibrating your monitor properly so that if you're printing your work out what you see on your monitor will resemble your physical print.

He spoke again on Calibrating and Printing. That talk was similar to his first one. One thing he emphasize other than keeping your monitor calibrated was not to use the SRGB (standard RGB) setting in Photoshop. That dumbs down your picture to the lowest quality. It's good for internet use he said, but if you're going to print your stuff out you're losing so many colours you could have used. And he says to shoot in RAW instead of JPG.

Anyway, I stayed longer than I thought I would. In doing so I managed to bump into quite a few friends. Two were former co-workers from Trader, Carol Chan and Rosa. Carol's still there. Rosa left quite a few years ago. She's married to Jeff Wessling who just left this past year. As well I bumped into Big Jon (Wong). He was there with his friend Jackie from RHCCC (Richmond Hill Chinese Community Church). I actually met her once or twice a few years back when I went to see those guys at softball practice.

Now those weren't the only old friends I met on Saturday. In the evening Daphne dropped by to give me some TIFF vouchers from Diane. Since I have the most free time it's my job to go down to the TIFF box office at King and Peter Streets to pick up movie tickets.

When Daph came over I mentioned we should go over and hang at Tim Hortons. I had my nephew's polar bear puzzle game she likes playing. So we went over the for a bite and to chill.

Well part way through the time that we were there who should show up, but one of my old college classmates, Ken MacDonald. I actually found him on Facebook a short time ago, but we really didn't have any contact even through it.

It had been in or around 20 years since we last saw each other. Our graphic design program concluded in 1990. After that, like many of our other classmates, we parted ways never to see each other again. With the advent of the internet and social networking sites like Facebook it became possible to look people up again. But, still, when you meet them face to face that's the best.

Ken is doing well. He had been working in graphic design for awhile, with the military or something like that I believe. He switched roles to the hardware part of computers more recently. But, I think he's still with them. He's going to Ottawa for work soon. When he returns he'll move into his new condo at Dundas and Keele (I think).

He was in my neighbourhood because he just finished seeing The Expendables at Yonge/Eglinton Silver City with his friend Chris. We'll definitely have to try to round up a few of our other former classmates to do something in the not too distant future.