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.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Margaret's Cottage

I went up to my friend's friend's cottage this past weekend. Her name is Margaret and her family cottage is up on Pickerel River right off Highway 69 in between Parry Sound and Sudbury. You have to take Highway 400 most of the way up. North of Parry Sound it turns into Highway 69. It's at the northeast point of Georgian Bay, a bit north of Grundy Lake Provincial Park.

You have to take a boat to her cottage from Smith Marina. It's a fair trek. In the speed boat you can get there in about 20 minutes. If you take the pontoon boat it might take double the time.

The cottage is built on the rocks right off the Pickerel River. It's not too hard to locate because you pass under a railway bridge (just east of the cottage) before you reach it.

I believe the cottage used to be an old hunting lodge. The main cabin seems like it used to be an old store. Now it has a kitchen, dining room and living room area. Upstairs, I believe, are the bedrooms. I'm just guessing because I never went up there.

A few people stayed at the main cabin. Margaret's church friends and me stayed at another cabin nearby. It was very nice. They have full facilities with running water and electricity. The electricity is supplied by both solar power and a gas generator.

When Lawrence and I arrived at the marina the weather was pretty miserable. It was raining on and off the whole way up and the skies were overcast. I knew it would be like this before coming up, but I wanted to come anyway. I figured there would be nice breaks here and there.

Margaret was already there waiting for us when we arrived. We had talked with her on the phone prior to getting there so neither of us would have to wait too long.

We sat in Lawrence's car for a short time trying to wait the rain out, but, at one point, decided to make a run for it. Besides we got just as wet from the spray coming from the boat as we did from the rain above. So we weren't going to keep very dry either way.

Most of the people at the cottage came up the day before. They took Friday off and drove up that afternoon. Three people from their church group were already there - Ken and Elaine, and Josephine. Margaret's co-worker Enoch (I believe) and his family (wife and son and daughter) were there too. As well, Margaret's dad came along.

The weather didn't stay bad for long. The sun eventually came out and everyone went out to do different activities. Margaret showed Lawrence and I around a bit more in the motorboat. Some of the others took another boat out fishing. My favorite activity was canoeing. I took one of the canoes out quite a few times with different people. It's so nice and quiet in a canoe. Very relaxing.

It's also a great place to take pictures. The scenery is wonderful. I took a fair number of shots both on the water and around the cabins. I even have some hummingbird shots. There's a feeder on the porch of the main lodge. So I hung out there waiting for the birds to come by for a snack.

All-in-all I had a really enjoyable time. It was nice meeting a few new people. And it was great to get out of the city for a short time. To enjoy some "quiet time" and leave the hustle and bustle behind. Many thanks go out to Margaret and her father for opening their place up to us.

Saturday, September 4, 2010


Someone I know posted a note on his Facebook page recently that he was feeling depressed about certain things in his life. He received a reasonable number of comments from friends who were concerned about his well being. Some were insightful, while others were just silly clichés.

I know they were meant to try to cheer him up and they came with wholly good intentions. But, little quips such as Hang in there buddy....when you're down, there's only one direction left to go....and that's up! don't do anything to really help a person who's feeling sad or depressed.

Whenever I see a friend who's posted something on-line about their struggles in life I'll take the time to try and assess their situation and write something meaningful. Something with concrete suggestions of what they may do (or in some cases avoid) to try to remedy the situation.

I never try to sugarcoat things either. Because the last thing you want to do is give false hope. Failure is always a possibility and people have to be prepared for it as well.

I think if someone is truly a friend the least you can do is invest a bit of time trying to come up with a bit of advice that offers attainable solutions, don't you?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010 Meet Up

I went to my first meet up last night. One of my Flickr friends, Philip, (PiscesDreamer) from Vancouver suggested I go. It was organized by one of his friends here, Georgette.

We met at the Cadillac Lounge out on Queen West, just west of Dufferin. In all I'd say about 15-20 people showed up at various stages throughout the night. For the longest time Georgette was the only girl. But, I think one other girl showed up eventually to keep her company.

I got there right at the start time of 6:30 p.m. There were already three guys there having their beers. I can't remember the one fellow's name who had the Rolleicord camera. But, the other two were Mark and Paul. Mark does some underwater photography and Paul loves F1 race cars. He shot some of the Toronto Honda Indy when it was here recently.

Georgette was a lovely host. She's very friendly and outgoing. I'm sure I'll try to meet up with the gang another time in the future.