Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Chicken a la Carte (a short film) and Pastor Fred

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Near Christmastime I joined my friend Steve at his Barnabas fellowship potluck dinner. It was held at Richmond Hill Christian Community Church on Bayview between 16th and Major Mackenzie. It was nice to see some old friends again and meet some new ones as well.

After we ate Pastor Fred (the fellowship pastor) gave a short talk. He shared one story about this fellow who was quite depressed. This man spoke to his pastor about it. The advice he received was to think of people in the past who made a significant difference in your life and write them letters.

Out of the four letters he wrote, one person, his fourth grade teacher, responded. She was very touched by what he said. Out of the thousands of children that passed through her classroom over the years, she said his was the only letter of thanks she ever received. She was deeply appreciative of it. This pleased the man and he decided to write to other people he knew. Soon he felt much better about his situation in life.

But, this is not my main purpose for writing this blog. It's to pass on this link of a short film from Youtube that pastor Fred shared. It's about overconsumption and waste. Something quite common in western culture, but also something we rarely think about.

It was a powerful film. He was quite brave for showing it. Especially at a Christmastime gathering – a time of general happiness, and right after we ate a big meal. I believe it sent a sobering message to everyone.

Too often, I think, we're holed up in our tiny, sanitized cocoons. We choose to ignore the plight of the downtrodden amongst us so we don't offend our delicate sensitivities. We don't want to be associated with dirty, poor people. Sometimes I believe that how some churches feel. It's almost like a well-to-do person's social club.

We send our members to far off lands to do missionary work. They tell us they want prayer so they can be strong because they're "leaving their comfort zones". Well, my friend, you're going there for two weeks then you get to come back home. Think about the people living there. They don't get to leave to fly home to a four-bedroom home with three big screen TVs and manicured yard. To them, that's reality. That's life. Deal with it.

So, bravo, to pastor Fred. Good for you for showing the film at the risk of offending or upsetting some people.

And to you, my friends, take a few minutes to watch it. It's probably nothing new that you don't already know. But, it's a good reminder for us to waste less and not complain about the troubles we have. You do it and I do it. We all do it. But, really... millions upon millions of people would be happy to trade places with us in a heartbeat.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Nathan Philips Square, December 2008

I want to wish all my friends and family a Merry Christmas. I hope you've found the time to slow down and relax and enjoy this holiday season. I know it can be quite hectic for some, stressful even for others. I wish you an hour at the coffee shop of your choice with a warm mug of hot chocolate for a time of meaningful conversation with your best friend(s).

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Day without Water

Not my image.

We take a lot of things for granted living here in North America. We have religious freedom, schooling for our children and many social services to name a few. But, here's one thing we may not have thought about - clean, potable water piped straight into our homes.

A few days ago they were fixing something with the water connection at my condo. The water was shut off to the whole building from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Think about it... no water for 1/3 of the day. Think about how many times you use water a day at home. When you wake up to go brush your teeth, wash your face, take a shower, flush the toilet. No tea, no coffee, you can't boil rice or pasta or eggs. After you eat breakfast or lunch and you want to wash the dishes, wash your hands, get a glass of water to drink or try to do your laundry... and nothing... nothing comes out of the faucet.

Try living without water for a day. Each time you go to the sink just pause and turn away. How long do you think you'll last? Not long I'm guessing. Try it and you'll see how many people around the world live. Where there is no running water and they have to walk across their village to a well or a kilometre or more to the nearest river to access it. Where they have to lug a heavy container back with them in the hot sun, the pouring rain, the cold, the dark of night... whenever they need it.

Think about it the next time you turn on the tap to brush your teeth and let the water flow down the drain. To many people that's life flowing down the drain. And we don't even give it a second thought. I suppose maybe now we should.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Watchmen - A Social Commentary

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A few nights ago I watched Watchmen on DVD. They had a copy at the library which I borrowed. It was my second time seeing it. The first was at the theatre when it first came out. I have to admit I was skeptical about whether or not I would enjoy it after seeing the TV commercials. They seemed a bit cheesy. But, I remember liking the film quite a bit.

Now, I have to admit, some details of the movie had slipped my mind over time. Especially the graphic violence. It was a comic book after all. But, when you translate that sort of violence onto film, let's just say, you'd better not be squeamish.

For those of you who, like me (at the time), had no idea who the Watchmen were, here's a brief description from Wikipedia:

Watchmen depicts an alternate history where superheroes emerged in the 1940s and 1960s, helping the United States to win the Vietnam War. The country is edging towards a nuclear war with the Soviet Union, freelance costumed vigilantes have been outlawed and most former superheroes are in retirement or working for the government. The story focuses on the personal development and struggles of the protagonists as an investigation into the murder of a government sponsored superhero pulls them out of retirement, and eventually leads them to confront a plot that would stave off nuclear war by killing millions of people.

I think part of the appeal to me about the story was the vigilantism of the characters. Where the law could only deal a slap on the wrist to the perpetrators of crime (or none at all) the Watchmen dealt on the spot justice.

That's something I think a lot of people in today's society are frustrated with. We see repeat offenders like those convicted of multiple drunk driving offenses set free only to take innocent lives on the road after yet another night of binge drinking. Or serial spousal abusers being let go by judges with their heads stuck in last century only to come back and murder their estranged wife and/or children. It happens far too often and I don't see why we should stand for it any longer.

And don't get me started on The Young Offenders Act (or whatever version they have of it now). There's a certain population of young people that know they can repeatedly get away with whatever they want and no one will do anything to stop them. Why, oh why, are we protecting them?

So when I see a movie like Watchmen where a child sex predator gets an axe to the head, I think, well, he certainly deserved that. Now, of course, I wouldn't say you need push justice that far. But, you understand what I'm getting at. When called for, the punishment should fit the crime. If you can rehabilitate the offender, by all means, do that. In all other cases... fasten your seatbelts.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The REAL 99%

Top 40 Poorest Countries in the World

The headline on the BBC News blog read - "China increases rural poverty limit to $1 a day" ... $1 a day ... If you earned more than $1 a day in rural China you weren't considered to live in poverty. This is up from what the Chinese government previously considered poor (in the countryside) at 55 cents a day.

Take a walk down the street where you live. Go into a Starbucks. What can you buy for $1.00? A cookie? A bottle of water? Maybe, maybe not. Walk into a grocery store. What can you get for $1.00 there? A 500 ml carton of milk? A can of soup? A banana, maybe two? You'd be dead from starvation in less than a month.

Now, of course, I know the cost of living is different in China compared to North America. But, even if you multiplied the daily amount of $1 day tenfold do you think you could survive here? $10.00 a day to live on? Really?

So you want to occupy Wall Street? You want to occupy a park? Go to Somalia to occupy a park. Go to rural China to occupy a park. Go to Ethiopia to occupy a park. Go to Haiti to occupy a park. Because that's where the true 99% live. Not here in our backyards.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Racist Woman on Tram

After viewing a video of a racist woman ranting on public transit in the U.K. I thought a bit about the subject and came to this conclusion. Racists are dysfunctional people who can't think of any other reason but how others look for their own inadequacies.

For example, they may blame immigrants for their lack of employment saying, if it wasn't for them I'd have a job. The truth is they'd have a job if they didn't drop out of high school when they were sixteen because they enjoyed hanging out at the mall and smoking pot more.

They can't admit their own weaknesses so they try to blame others for the problems that have befallen them. How weak is that? Have the guts to take ownership of your failures and missteps. Only a coward looks for the easy way out.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Living with Schizophrenia

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I was reading this book I found lying on a table at the library the other day. It's called Living with Schizophrenia by Dr. Neel Burton and Dr. Phil Davison. Since I've been visiting a boarding home where many of the residents are coping with the illness I thought it would be good to brush up on what it's all about. Here's a recap (some of it copied straight out) of what the book said.

The term schizophrenia was coined by Swiss psychiatrist Paul Eugen Bleuler in 1910. It is derived from the Greek words "schizo" (split) and "phren" (mind).

The chance of developing schizophrenia is 1 in 100 (1%). The chance of any given person suffering from schizophrenia at any one time is 0.4% or one in 250.

Most cases of schizophrenia are diagnosed in late adolescence or early adulthood.

Schizophrenia more or less affect men and women in equal numbers. It exists in all cultures, climates and ethnic groups.

Stress can be a contributor to developing schizophrenia. Genes (family history) play a roll in developing schizophrenia, but they are "not the whole story".

People who smoke cannabis are up to six times more likely to develop schizophrenia. Other drugs that have been associated with schizophrenia include stimulant drugs such as amphetamines, ecstasy and cocaine.

Symptoms of schizophrenia -

Positive symptoms:

Cognitive symptoms:
Difficulties with attention, concentration and memory

Negative symptoms:
Impaired attention
Restricted amount and/or range of thought and speech
Restricted range of emotions, or inappropriate emotions
Loss or drive and motivation
Social withdrawal

Hallucination is defined as a "sense of perception that arises in the absence of stimulus." Hallucinations involve hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting or feeling things that are not actually there. The most common hallucinations in schizophrenia are auditory hallucinations - hallucinations of sounds and voices. Voices can either speak directly to the schizophrenia sufferer (second-person - "you" voices) or about the sufferer (third-person - "he or she" - voices). Voices can be highly distressing, especially if they involve threats or abuse or if they are loud and incessant.

Delusions are defined as being "strongly held beliefs that are not amenable to logic or persuasion and that are out of keeping with their holder's background". Although delusions are not necessarily false, the process by which they are arrived at is usually bizarre and illogical. In schizophrenia the delusions are most often of being persecuted or controlled, although they can also follow a number or other themes.

What causes the symptoms of schizophrenia?

According to the "dopamine hypothesis" of schizophrenia, positive symptoms result from an increased level of a chemical messenger, dopamine, in a part of the rain referred to as the mesolimbic tract. Antipsychotic medications that are effective in the treatment of the positive symptoms of schizophrenia block the effects of increased dopamine in the mesolimbic tract.

Negative symptoms result from a decreased level of dopamine in another part of the brain referred to as the mesocortical tract.

More recent research has found that a number of other chemical messengers in the brain, such as glutamate and serotonin, are also involved in schizophrenia, although their precise roles are as yet unclear.

Antipsychotic medication

Although there is no miracle cure for schizophrenia, the illness can be treated, and three out of four schizophrenia sufferers can expect either to recover completely or to improve significantly. Antipsychotic medication is the mainstay of treatment, but psychological treatments such as patient and family education, self-help groups, illness self-management, social and vocational skills training, and cognitive-behaviorural therapy can also play an important role in reducing symptoms, preventing relapse and re-hospitalization, and helping one take control over their illness.

How antipsychotic medication works

Positive symptoms of schizophrenia result from an increased level of the chemical messenger dopamine in a part of the brain called the mesolimbic tract. Antipsychotics are effective in the treatment of positive symptoms principally because they block the effects of dopamine in the mesolimbic tract.

How effective is antipsychotic medication?

Antipsychotic medication is effective in controlling positive symptoms in about 70-80% of schizophrenia sufferers, although it often takes several days before any effects are evident. Until then the schizophrenia sufferer may benefit from taking a sedative such as lorazepam if he or she is distressed or agitated. In some cases, several antipsychotics may need to be tried before the one that is best for them can be found. Unfortunately, antipsychotic medicine has relatively little effect on the cognitive and, especially, the negative symptoms of schizophrenia.

Is antipsychotic medication always needed?

Yes, it is always needed. Although non-pharmacological, psychological treatments have an important role to play in the management of schizophrenia as well.

Which antipsychotic medication?

Current treatment guidelines for the treatment of schizophrenia recommend start on one of the more recent "atypical" antipsychotics. The most commonly prescribed ones are risperidone (Risperdal), olanzapine (Zyprexa), quetiapine (Seroquel), amisupiride (Solian) and clozapine (Clozaril/Denzapine). Each has a slightly different side effect profile such as a disturbance in voluntary muscle function (for example).

Starting antipsychotic medication

The starting does of antipsychotic medication is usually small as to minimize any potential side effects.

What if the antipsychotic medication is ineffective?

If a person does not respond to the chosen atypical antipsychotic after a trial period of 6-8 weeks, the antipsychotic can be stopped and a different one started.

For how long should antipsychotic medication be taken?

Antipsychotics not only combat the symptoms of schizophrenia, but also prevent the symptoms from recurring. If one has improved on a particular antipsychotic, they should continue taking it at the same does for at least he next 6 months, preferably for the next 12-24 months and possibly much longer.

Psychosocial treatments

Managing stress and anxiety

Stress and anxiety can make you more vulnerable to a relapse in your illness. People with positive coping and thinking styles and good social skills are better able to diffuse stressful situations; for example, by doing something about them, putting them in their correct context, or by simply talking about them and "sharing the pain".

One common and effective strategy is called "deep breathing". Breath in through your nose and hold the air for a several seconds. Then purse your lips and gradually let the air out making sure you let out as much as you can. Continue doing this until you are feeling more relaxed.

LIfestyle changes also help. You can simplify your life, even if this means doing less or doing only one thing at a time. Have a schedule and stick to it. Get enough sleep. Exercise regularly; for example, walk, swim or do yoga. Eat a balanced diet based on starchy foods such as wholegrain bread, potatoes, pasta and rice. Eat five portions of fruits and vegetables a day. Eat some protein-rich foods such as fish, poultry, meat, eggs and pulses. Avoid fat, sugar and salt. Avoid excessive caffeine and alcohol. Take the time to do things you enjoy. Connect with others and share your problems with them. Change your thinking style: have realistic expectations, reframe problems, express your feelings, maintain a sense of humour.

Coping with voices

Sometimes voices can in themselves be a significant source of stress and distress. Simple strategies to reduce or eliminate voices include: Keep a diary of the voices to help you to identify and avoid situations in which they arise. Find a trusted person to talk to about the voices. Focus your attention on an activity such as reading, gardening, singing or listening to your favourite music. Talk back to the voices: challenge them and ask them to go away. Manage your anxiety and stress using the techniques discussed. Take your antipsychotic medication as prescribed. Avoid drugs and alcohol.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Farewell to Tae Hoon

We had dinner at Tony and Iris' place today. It was in honour of Iris' brother Tae Hoon who was here studying English in Toronto. He'll be returning home to Korea on Wednesday.

After Tae Hoon, Tony and Iris, I was the next person there. I arrived half an hour after the stated starting time so I was surprised no one else came before me. I guess starting at 4:00 p.m. was a bit early for most people.

Ying came next. I let both her and Tae Hoon play the Camouflage and Airport games I grabbed from my nephews. They're puzzle games that I often bring to gatherings. People really like playing them.

Mike arrived at 6:00. We started dinner shortly after. Tony and Iris had made a lot of wonderful food (like they always do). Along with rice, vegetables and salad, there was a Korean boiled pork dish and soup. It was all very good.

Andrew showed up while we were eating and we saved John some food after he arrived at 7:30. He had been delayed by a detour on the subway he was taking. They were doing some track work there.

All in all it was a lovely evening. We played my nephews' games. We chatted a bit and listened to Christmas music on the radio. Tony and Iris had a crackling, fireplace video on their television set. And the wee Christmas tree they bought from Canadian Tire on Sunday was twinkling beside it.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

My beef with Groupon and Ristorante Roma

Last week I got an e-mail from Groupon for one of their "Now! Deals". Groupon is one of many discount coupons providers that offer deals to a variety of retailers, restaurants and other service providers. As a subscriber to their free service I get e-mails sent daily to me.

Unlike regular Groupons which, when purchased, are usually good for anywhere from six months to a year, Now! Deals are a one day offer for a particular good, service or restaurant.

On Friday I saw one for $1 for $40 worth of food at Ristorante Roma, an Italian restaurant on Bloor east of Dufferin. Not being one to pass up a great deal I eagerly bought one. There was one stipulation - the Groupon had to be used between 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.

Now, being a last minute purchase it was hard for me to find someone to go with. Unlike me, most of my friends work Monday through Friday. I contacted a few people, but in the end no one else could go. I suppose it didn't help that it was already late in the afternoon as well. Earlier in the day I had run an errand for my sister getting the all season tires on her car changed to winter.

Before I went, I called the restaurant up to see if it was very busy and if there would be much of a wait for a table. I asked the young lady who answered this and mention I had a Groupon. She said it wasn't busy and I told her I'd be down in about half an hour. It was already 2:00 in the afternoon by this time. So after the phone call I quickly hopped on the subway and made my way downtown.

When I arrived at the restaurant I gave my Groupon to the hostess/server. She told me I could sit anywhere since there weren't too many people there at the time. Even though I was on my own I picked a table for four near the back of the restaurant.

The server came by with a menu and asked me if I'd like something to drink. I just asked for a glass of water and went back to studying the menu.

A short time later a young lady came in on her own. She also had a $1 for $40 Groupon just like me. She sat at the table beside me and we chatted about how good the deal was.

A few minutes later I gave the server my order and she took it into the kitchen. Not long after we saw and older lady walking around mumbling some things under her breath. She seemed perturbed about something.

Well, we found out what it was about when she came out and told us she was the owner and that she couldn't honour our Groupons. She told us that she didn't order them from Groupon and that she didn't know how they got on their site. She was trying to contact them to resolve the problem. She said the last time she ordered from them was three months ago.

She told us that she was losing a lot of money honouring the coupons. Quite a few people had already come in to this point. So we were the people she decided to cut it off at.

The other girl was quite annoyed at that. She walked pretty far to get there. And I had taken the subway down from my place which also took awhile. So not only did I waste transit fare, but a good part of my afternoon.

I e-mailed Groupon about this. After a couple of days they got back to me. All they could offer was an apology and refund my $1. There was no explanation of what happened. I don't know who made the error, Groupon or the restaurant, but I wasn't very impressed with either of them.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Santa Claus Parade

I went to the Santa Claus Parade for the first time in I don't know how long after church today. Well... I don't know if I could really say I went to the parade... it was more of a passing glance.

The Santa Claus Parade is always held on a Sunday. So normally I'll be at church in the morning. After that I always go eat lunch in Chinatown. That's my normal routine. The problem is for most of the parades in Toronto, if you want to get a good spot you have to arrive early (which I didn't).

This year Tony, Iris and her brother Tae Hoon decided to go too. Like I mentioned we went to have lunch at our usual haunt, Rol Jui, beforehand. For some reason, this week, the food took longer than normal to arrive.

Since Tony was planning on meeting some international students to watch the parade together he had to take off early. Iris and her brother waited a bit longer, but they decided to get take out and eat while watching the parade too. One of their dishes didn't arrive by the time they wanted to leave. So I brought it over to them after I finished eating.

When I was done at Rol Jui I walked over to Dundas and University where Tony found me from his perch upon the stairs at the CIBC Banking Centre (on the northwest corner). I gave them their food and joined them there.

Iris told me Tae Hoon was across the street on the east side. He was closer to the action (as the parade was going down that side of University Avenue), but we had a higher vantage point.

I don't believe Tony and Iris managed to meet any of the other international students. Some were blocked up at Bloor Street where the parade had begun earlier in the day. A couple of others came by to say, hi. I think they were a bit bored and decided to leave.

I have to say, it wasn't so interesting for me either, having gone to other parades such as Pride. I guess I'm "all grown up" now and Santa and the commercialized side of Christmas has lost some of its magic for me.

Anyway, I thought I should still try to catch it. Just because it's a longstanding part of the history of Toronto. As a long time resident here I don't think I always appreciate all the culture and traditions our city has to offer. I think I should try to see it through new eyes like visitors and people new to Toronto often do. That way I'll enjoy where I live even more.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

We Are Family Fund Raiser

The 3rd Annual We Are Family Fundraiser for Project 417 was held at the beginning of November. This year we had it at the Royal Canadian Legion, Todmorden Branch on Pape Avenue, south of O'Connor.

The Lester McLean Band played again. This time they had some guest vocalists. The girl pictured above is Quisha Wint. Everyone performed well.

The new location was pretty good. There was free parking close by. The venue was smaller. But, that was a good thing. It made things feel cozier.

Like previous years there was a bar selling drinks to raise money. As well they had items for their silent auction.

I couldn't stay as late as other years because I had to go to hockey. So I took fewer pictures this time. Still, you can view them on after I post them.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Angry Birds... No, not those ones

This is a picture of our Cornerstone Sports Night team... well, not exactly. Thanks to the creative thinking of one of our members, Allan, our team name is Angry Birds. I think it's appropriate considering our shirt colour is red.

We started on October 3rd which was a Monday. That was a change from the previous years. In the past we always played on Thursdays. We also changed locations from Unionville High School at Warden and Highway 7 to Milliken Mills Secondary School at Denison and Kennedy. It has a large double gym there. That afforded us the luxury of expanding from three to six teams.

The first week was mainly an introduction for all the new people. We got to meet the members of our teams for the first time as well. The sport for that week was dodge ball (which our team did pretty well in).

The following week was Thanksgiving. So, instead of exercising, everyone stayed at home and ate turkey.

After that we had three weeks of European handball. I'm not sure what happened to the girls on our team the first week we returned. But, only Ellen showed up. We ended up playing short one player the whole night (since each team was supposed to field a contingent of three guys and two girls). Still we did well.

Each of the following two weeks we had three girls turn out. That was better. As usual we had around five guys to rotate through. That's an ideal number to give each one of us enough rest between shifts. Most of us have decent cardio which helps when you have to run so much.

To that end our results have been quite good. We're just a bunch of skinny guys that like running. Hopefully we can keep it up for the rest of the season.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Remembrance Day, 2011

I went to the Remembrance Day service at Old City Hall today. It was my first time attending it there. A couple of years ago I attended the service at Queen's Park with Premier McGuinty speaking. This time our mayor, Rob Ford, spoke.

By the time 11:00 a.m. rolled around, quite a crowd had amassed around the cenotaph. There were veterans and their guests, news crews and the general public. It was a nice service even though it was quite chilly out.

The bells at Old City Hall tolled at 11 o'clock. Then there were two minutes of silence. An elderly vet and young student read out In Flanders Fields afterward. There were musical interludes with hymns, the national anthem and other songs sung too.

At the end many different organizations laid wreathes of remembrance at the base of the cenotaph there. A time to pay tribute to all the men and women who've made the ultimate sacrifice to protect the freedoms we so often take for granted.

Monday, November 7, 2011


Okay, what's wrong with the picture above? I was researching shoe store names for a previous blog when I came upon this page from Town Shoes. It was promoting "Confessions" of "Shoe-Aholics" to win a $100 gift card to the store. (Personally, I think it's a bit irresponsible of them to encourage such an unfavorable addiction, but that's another story.)

Payton Colantonia, Shona Ancog et al... are you nuts? 279 pairs of shoes... 298 pairs of shoes... The list of names and ungodly number of shoes they own goes on. What is wrong with you all? These young ladies (and that's just a loose assumption) could singlehandedly bring our country out of the recession. Set them loose worldwide. They'll get the economy back on its feet in no time, no doubt. No need for the world financiers to worry about Greece's debt woes. There's a new sheriff in town and she has a pair of Michael Kors pumps in her holster. Quicker than you can say, drop those Ivanka Trump boots, I saw them first! She'll drop two or three hundred bucks on a pair and come back next week for more. With that sort of reckless spending the world could be free of the grip of its weakened economy faster than you could say, Birkenstock.

I don't know who taught them the value of money. But, they certainly failed big time. And I hope it's not their daddy's money they're spending but their own. That way when they lose their jobs and have no money to pay for food or rent, they can comfort themselves by lying in a pile of their shoes on the living room floor and cry about how foolish they were when they were young, carefree and impetuous.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Is Technology an Intrusion in our Lives?

Not my image

To Tweet or not to Tweet. To text or not to text. Why do we do it? Why do people feel the need to be in constant contact with one another lest a moment pass without us knowing what the other is up to? Is what any one of us doing at any particular point in time that important that we feel the need to broadcast it to the world? Does anyone really care that you're bored in chemistry class or about the new pair of Uggs you bought at Town Shoes or who your newest BFF is? Will the world stop turning if we stop Tweeting? Of course not.

So why the undying devotion to Twitter and texting and whatever else the gods of technology have blessed us with to keep our fingers busily typing away? Is this nothing more than a security blanket to let us know our friends are nearby and that they care about every single thing that we do? Are we comforted by the fact that someone, anyone out there, is somewhat interested in what happens in our lives? Does it validate us? Gives our meager existence meaning? Perhaps to some people it does.

For me... I just don't get it. It's a phenomenon I don't understand. Perhaps I'm getting old. The world is leaving me in its dust. In this case I can't say I care much. Tweet away my friends. As for me... I'll catch up with you at lunch next week and you can tell me what you've been up to face to face.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

When God was a Rabbit

I went to the library the other day. Just to see what was there. Ever since they renovated it I like going there. It's such a nice place to hang out.

When you first enter there's a section of new books on the left. One of the first ones I saw was a design book on logos. I took some time to go through it and realized I still love design.

The next book I picked up was When God was a Rabbit, by Sarah Winman. I'm not sure why I picked it up, but I did. Perhaps it was the cover. Or maybe the reference to God, who knows?

I took it, I found a good chair and started reading.

Ms. Winman writes really well. I have to say, I'm not a big reader. But, the way she describes things is marvelous.

Now I'm not going to go into much detail, but the book is basically about a girl named Elly. It follows her life, from youth through to her mid to late thirties.

It's about her relationships. With her older brother Joe, Joe's friend Charlie, her best friend Jenny Penny, her aunt Nancy, her parents, Arthur and more. You find out how these people shape her life and you begin to care for them.

Along the way, Ms. Winman, inserts actual historical events. Some of them, like the passing of John Lennon or Princess Diana act like signposts along the way. Telling us, this is the particular time that we're now in. Others, like the terrorist attacks of 9/11 in New York City, play a more integral role in the story.

The overall theme is of sadness and struggle. Of learning to live as an outsider. Someone who doesn't quite fit it. At the same time it shows compassion and caring. From those who are close to you. The people who love you.

I enjoyed the book.

About the author: Sarah Winman grew up in Essex and now resides in London, England. She attended the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art and went on to act in theatre, film and television. Winman’s debut, When God Was a Rabbit, is an extraordinary novel about childhood and growing up, friendships and families, triumph and tragedy, and everything in between.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The 99%

Not my photo

Direct from Wall Street in New York City the We Are the 99%/Occupy Wall Street movement made its way up to Toronto this past weekend. While largely peaceful I fail to see the reason behind it here.

While I can sympathize with the plight of many Americans, the situation in Canada isn't quite the same. Our government never had to bail out the banks. Our tax system is different too. It's scalable. People who declare more pay a higher percentage of tax. So what is our beef?

Perhaps we just want to copy what everyone else is doing. The movement has spread worldwide. People in Toronto don't want to feel left out?

It seems like a lot of protesters (no matter where they're from) don't even know what they want. Maybe they're just jealous that there are people who are better off than they are.

I know things are tough out there. A lot of people are struggling. But, I don't think we can blame any one particular group. Some people were greedy, others may have been shortsighted. It all culminated in a catastrophic event that affected everyone.

Unfortunately recovery has been slow. Much slower than people hoped or expected. People are justifiably upset.

I think Americans have it worse than us. But, I also think they have themselves to blame. They're a more self-centred society than us with less social welfare programs. That's part of the reason there's more disparity in wealth there. So, why are you protesting? Isn't this the American way of life you so proudly espouse?

And, to the Canadian protesters... why are you protesting? Really. How badly off do you think we are here? Out of all the G7 countries we're in the best shape. Could things be better? Of course they could. And they will be. Just don't try to blame Bay Street for any of the mess will you?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Fall Walk #2

Cynara, May and Alan

Okay, as you can well see, this autumn outing wasn't nearly as nice as the previous one, a scant seven days ago. What a difference a week makes. From sunny, blue skies, 25C+ temperatures and leaves on the trees that looked like they were on fire to a cold, wet, dreary, grey day. Yep, that's Canadian weather for you.

Alan organized this walk for us. He found a place called Speyside Forest on the internet. It's west, near Limehouse (a bit north of Milton off the 401).

Eight of us met at Fairview Mall in the early afternoon. We assembled into two groups and carpooled from there. I went with Alan. He drove May and Sopheak too. I don't know what Sopheak was thinking... but, he had nice, leather shoes on. Sopheak! What are you doing? Jon drove Cynara, Norm and Amanda. One couple, Oliver and Teri, met us there. They live in Mississauga (which is half way to Milton from Toronto).

When we left Fairview it was grey, windy and dreary. When we arrived at the trailhead it was grey, windy, dreary and rainy. I must say it was a light sprinkle and, more or less, intermittent. But, nevertheless, it was rain.

Still we trudged on. Alan sported a bright, yellow, rain poncho. While not a high fashion statement, it was very practical. A few others, myself included, brought umbrellas. The rest made do with hats or hoodies or just let the rain fall on their heads.

Jon and I were the only ones who brought our cameras out. I have to admit I felt tempted to leave it in the car. But, you never know what you might regret not shooting if you don't have your camera along. So, of course, I brought it.

I was happy I did. Even though it wasn't a spectacular, bright, sunny day like the week before, I still got some moody shots that I liked.

Check out my page soon to see them.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Dumb Protesters

Not my photo

I believe some people are confused about how to get sympathy/support for the cause they're fighting for.

In recent years there have been a lot of protests and strikes in and around our fair city. People want support for citizens of their homeland. Or they're unhappy with their working conditions and want them improved. That's all fine and dandy, but I have to say, in most cases, you're going about it the wrong way if you want Joe Public to support you.

For instance... not long ago there was a support workers strike at Ontario colleges. They wanted more pay among other things and possibly more benefits or job security. All I can say is, buddy, in this day and time you're lucky to have a job.

But, I digress... sure, you have the right to strike. You have the right to picket. But, if you think you're going to garner support for your cause by inconveniencing students on their first day back to classes by blocking the roads leading to their campuses you have another thing coming. If you think you're going to gain their sympathies by not processing their loans so that some of them might have to drop out because they can't afford to study any longer, you must be dreaming. If you think the public will support you when you stage a protest march during rush hour in the downtown core, I have to say you're delusional. No one will support your cause. In fact all you're doing is making enemies. People with loathe you and you will get sympathy from no one.

To me this doesn't seem that hard to understand. I don't know why these clowns can't figure it out either. If you want people to like you you do nice things for them instead of pissing them off. Try baking everyone cookies why don't you? Maybe instead of people giving you the finger as they drive by they'll say a kind word of encouragement.

Personally, the activities of this particular group hasn't affected me. But, I've seen long lines of agitated people trying to drive onto campus and heard (on the radio) angry, frustrated students stuck in those lines already late for their classes. I sympathize with them, not the greedy, inconsiderate people who disrupt the lives of others trying to further their cause.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Fall Walk

Last Saturday I went to Edwards Gardens and Wilket Creek for a walk to see the fall colours. I have to say they were spectacular. In conjunction with the bright blue skies, the leaves looked like they were on fire under the afternoon sun.

I walked over there from my parents' place. They live about 10 minutes away on foot. Not only was it a bit of extra exercise (which is good for anyone). But, the parking situation at Edwards Gardens was a mess. They had torn up at least 2/3 of their parking lot for resurfacing. So many visitors had to find spots on the surrounding side streets (there were a few wedding photography sessions going on).

As usual, the park was in immaculate condition. The lawns were well manicured and the flowers and other plants looked beautiful. I strolled around for the good part of an hour taking pictures there before heading down the path to the Wilket Creek side.

The scenery there was just as spectacular. Just in a different way. The star of the show here were the many colourful trees.

Now I've complained over the past few years that the leaves on the trees aren't as vibrant as they used to be. I'm not sure why. Perhaps it's the pollution or something. And while that may be the case, on this day, they still stood out against the lovely, blue skies. I think I got some really fantastic shots. Check out my page in the near future to see them.

Anyway, it was a really nice way to spend a Saturday afternoon. It's too bad autumn will be ending soon and we'll be stuck with the dreariness of winter for the next few months.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Funny things people have said on Facebook

Here are a couple of conversations I'm reposting from my Facebook home page. The first is from my friend's nephew. It's him texting his mother. The second is from a high school acquaintance of mine. Funny!

Me texting mom -

Me: I got an A on my chem test

Mom: WTF that's great :D

Me: do u know what WTF means?

Mom: Well that's fantastic!

True story! Gotta love moms :D"

Gail R: Thinking of switching to Cox? They're huge! Let me know prior and maybe I can hook you up with a deal.
Like · 12 hours ago via mobile · 2 people like this.

Tom R: Next time I get paid, does cox hav a friends and family deal?
12 hours ago · Like

Gail R: Well they might, I've seen emails pop up so let me check. If I can save anyone money I am happy to do it. This goes for anyone =). Will msg you monday
12 hours ago · Like

Tom R: Righty-o!
12 hours ago · Like

Christine K: Did you really just say Cox are huge?
12 hours ago · Like · 3 people

*Cox Communications is the third-largest cable entertainment and broadband services provider in the U.S.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

2011 Scotiabank Nuit Blanche

Once again I went to the annual Scotiabank Nuit Blanche event. This year I started with my cousin David. He was in town for our grandmother's funeral. This is something I normally don't do. Besides the first year when I went out with a group I've always gone solo. It's just easier to take photos when I'm on my own I find.

We arrived downtown at about quarter to 7:00 and parked at my church. As in previous years we were blessed with dry weather. The temperatures were cool though with a low of 5C predicted. I wore my winter jacket and a warm hat to fend of the cold.

The nearest installation to our church was B16 at the Art Gallery of Ontario. It was called The Other Painting Competition and like the name states was a competition between different artists. Over the course of the evening they would paint different subjects and be judged to see who was the best.

The most elaborate set up was Flightpath Toronto at Nathan Phillips Square. As well as a laser light show they had a series of towers set up where people could get hooked up to lines strung between them and go for a ride.

My favorite types of installations involve those with colourful lights. There were quite a few of them of course.

As well, C9, Soon, at Commerce Court courtyard was neat. It was big and loud. It consisted of a bunch of floodlights following people on the ground with the soundtrack of what sounded like army choppers blasting through speakers.

The atmosphere is always quite lively. A lot of people roaming the streets having fun. It's surprising how many young people were out.

I didn't stay out as late as previous years. This year I packed it in at 4:15 a.m. I took a lot of pictures like I always do. Check my page soon to see them. I still have to go through quite a few of them though.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Sandwich Runs - the Link

I know I've posted something about Sandwich Runs before. But, I noticed our organizers at Project 417 have produced a short video about what we do. It's just over one minute long and well made. You should have a look.

Basically, we lead groups through the streets of downtown Toronto handing out bag lunches to the homeless folks we meet. If possible we'll try to engage them in some sort of dialogue to see how they're doing because, quite frankly, most people won't even give them the time of day. They'll either walk right by totally ignoring them or say something snarky like, why don't you get a job? To us it's about outreach and instilling a bit of dignity and self worth in their lives. And sometimes all it takes is a bag lunch to start it all off.

So if you're ready and willing, why don't you gather a few friends together and go over to the Project 417 site and contact us to let us know you want to go out. We'll be waiting to hear from you.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Plan Canada - Because I am a Girl project

Recently I started sponsoring the Because I am a Girl project from Plan Canada. A few years ago I had been sponsoring a child through them, but after not working for a couple of years I stopped. Now that I'm working one day a week I figured I could help again.

The $25 a month that I give will be matched to $100 by Plans partners. So the effects are multiplied by three. And they will issue a tax receipt which will benefit you as well (so everyone is happy).

This is from their website:

Because I am a Girl: the big picture.

Girls represent half of the world’s population, but they account for over 60% of the world’s hungry people. In the poorest regions of the world, they are amongst the most disadvantaged people on the planet, yet they are the key to breaking the cycle of poverty for everyone.

Being Poor

Being poor means more than not having any money. It can mean not having enough to eat or a roof over your head, being in poor health, and having little or no education. It can mean feeling powerless to change your life, and not being able to control what happens to you.

Effects on Girls

Girls and women are particularly affected by poverty. This is partly because they have less power to fight it, less access to the means to overcome it, or their entire families are suffering in poverty. Being born underweight, given little or poor-quality food and having little or no education can prevent girls from developing properly. Poverty can also force girls to work or get married at young age instead of going to school.

Causes of Poverty

The underlying reasons for poverty can include war or armed conflict, natural disasters, population growth, debt, poor government planning, limited job opportunities, as well as inequalities linked to race, gender, age or disability. Poverty is at the root of most problems facing girls today - even issues that at first glance may seem to have nothing to do with it, like HIV and AIDS, violence, or disability, are often related to poverty.

Basic rights are denied to millions of girls in the developing world, just because they are girls. They are denied the right to basic necessities like clean water, healthcare, education, and the right to decide their own futures.

This is the reason we focus on empowering girls in developing countries.

I think this or any other Plan Canada project is worthwhile. For only as little as a dollar a day you can make a significant difference in someone's life. I don't think it's too much to ask so please consider it.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Ban Shark Fin Soup!

One of my friends posted a link to this video with Chef Gordon Ramsay on Facebook recently. It was an exposé on the practice of capturing and mutilating live sharks for their fins to make shark fin soup. His purpose, to raise awareness of this inhumane practice and start a worldwide ban on it.

I have to say the video is utterly disturbing and disgusting. It's revolting and will make your stomach turn. That being said, you have to watch it. Spend 15 minutes and watch it in it's entirety and tell your friends to do the same.

Next contact your government representatives (local, state/provincial, federal or otherwise) and get them to act. Tell them you demand a ban at all levels of the possession and trade of shark fins. Forget the hundreds of years of Chinese tradition. If our ancestors knew now how out of control the slaughter has gotten, the practice would have stopped years ago. In it's kindest term it can be called it nothing less than barbaric.

I think many governments are coming to the realization of the horrors of shark finning. It is being recognized and bans are coming into effect. According to this article Hawaii, Oregon, California, Saipan and Guam have all passed legislation to ban the sale of shark fins. As well a number of prominent celebrities including Edward Norton, Ian Somerhalder, Kristen Bell, Ben Stiller, Scarlett Johansson, Michael Vartan, Megan Fox, Paul Rudd, Michael Sheen, Yao Ming and Ang Lee have gotten behind the cause. Yes, Ang Lee and Yao Ming. That's great news.

My biggest concern is getting through to the people of Asia, most notably China and Hong Kong. From another website here's a bit of the history behind it -

The majority of shark fin soup is served “big bowl” style during banquets or large dinners for birthdays, anniversaries, baby showers or business celebrations. However, shark fin soup is most notably served during wedding banquets as a sign of wealth and a demonstration of “mian zi”, or face. Traditionally, at weddings where shark fin soup is served, the groom’s side of the family pays for the wedding. There is a long-established expression that says “if there is no shark fin soup at the wedding banquet, the bride is marrying into a poor family”. This folklore has been so deeply engrained in consumers that it is seen as distasteful, cheap and sometimes disrespectful to not serve one’s guests shark fin soup. Shark fin is also expresses a Chinese tradition to share one’s fortune with your friends and family.

I believe most Chinese are proud and stubborn, but attitudes have to be changed. I realize it may be too late to change the minds of our elders. But, the next generation must act. If you're Chinese and you're getting married, don't be bullied by your parents or grandparents to have shark fin soup at your banquet. It's up to you to stand for what you know is right. It's up to you to stop this madness. You can take responsibility and be the first person to stand up and say, no, to something you know, in no uncertain terms, is offensive. Be that person.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Rest in Peace, Grandma

This is a photo of my grandmother with her three daughters and my sister (her granddaughter). It was taken in May of 2009. My grandmother loved to knit. Everyone is wearing hats that she knit.

My grandmother passed away last night at 7:30 at the nursing home where she lived. My sister, mother and youngest nephew were there visiting at the time. I was driving home from working in Brampton with my friend's company when I got the call from my sister.

Up until about a month ago my grandmother was in great shape for her age. She would have been 99 in November. Around that time she had a fall in her room at the nursing home. They thought she might have had a stroke. But, when they took her to the hospital they said it was pneumonia. When I heard the news I was relieved because I thought a stroke would have been more serious.

They kept my grandmother in hospital for over a week. I suppose at that age it takes longer for one to recover. Upon her return to the nursing home she wasn't the same. She wasn't able to speak properly. When she tried it came out more like a moan. As well, she had trouble eating. In fact, her new diet consisted of thickened liquids. They had to give her thickened liquids so they wouldn't get into her lungs they said. Most of the time they gave her Ensure nutritional drinks.

I have to say, I wasn't the ideal grandson. I only saw my grandmother on occasions when we met for family gatherings or meals. I never went to the nursing home. It's mostly because I couldn't talk with my grandmother. She only spoke Toisan (a dialect of Chinese) and I, English.

I did visit on Tuesday after work with my mother though. I tried to help feed her, but it seemed to make her tummy really hurt each time she took a sip of the nutritional drink. It was a difficult predicament. To be fed was a painful experience most of the time. But, if you don't eat you won't survive. Anyway, the visit wasn't very good.

The next day (Wednesday), I went back in the late afternoon with my friend, Daphne. She speaks Cantonese. Even though that's not my grandmother's dialect she understands enough of it to converse.

Since my grandmother couldn't speak, when Daphne spoke to her and she either nodded her head to respond, yes, or shook it to say, no. I believe we even saw a glimpse of a smile when Daphne was talking to her. That was wonderful to see.

This visit went much better. We were able to feed my grandmother quite a bit compared to my previous visit. She pretty much finished an entire bottle of Ensure (which is quite a bit for her). Daphne and I gave her a massage too. We did her arms, legs and feet and Daphne did her head as well.

My mom came a little later (after dinner). My parents live close by so my mom has been visiting her three times a day to help feed her. The process can take 1-1/2 to 2 hours each meal. So the staff at the home don't have time to do it themselves.

We fed her more and even moved her to a wheelchair so she could sit up. It's very tough lying bed for nearly 24 hours a day. I gave her a back, neck and shoulder massage and brushed her hair while we continued to try to feed her.

At around 8:00 p.m. Daphne and I took a dinner break. We went to Congee Queen for about 1-1/2 hours. When we returned my grandmother was sleeping. My mom said it was the first time she's had such a peaceful sleep in awhile. Normally I guess she's in pain. Or uncomfortable, at the very least. So, needless to say, I was in shock when I received the phone call from my sister the next evening saying my grandmother had passed away.

I went to the nursing home after stopping briefly at home. My mom was on the phone with the people at the funeral home. She was trying to arrange having them pick up my grandmother's body. The nursing home doesn't have cold storage or anything like that for a person who is deceased. My sister was out having taken my nephew home. She returned afterwards.

While we were waiting for the doctor to come to issue a death certificate I cleaned out my grandmother's room. I had to do it quietly because she shared it with another elderly lady who was asleep.

I packed her clothes and pictures and things. After the doctor came and left I brought them to my parents' place with my sister. After that she returned home and I went back to the nursing home to wait with my mother for the people from the funeral home to come.

We were told by the staff at the home that they would be arriving shortly a couple of times. But, they actually took a fair amount of time to come. Oh well. They arrived a bit after 11:30 p.m. I believe.

They took my grandmother in one of those long, black, plastic bags. After that I took my mom home. She had had a long and emotionally draining day. She had gotten up at 6:00 in the morning to prepare lunch for my dad because she was going to be away at lunchtime (at the nursing home) and now it was nearly midnight.

My mom's older sister and her husband will come on Saturday. They're driving up from Long Island, New York. They'll visit the funeral home on Sunday to make funeral arrangements. Our other relatives will come slightly later. They all actually had planned their trips to see my grandmother while she was alive. But, now it will be for her funeral unfortunately.

Rest in peace, grandma.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

TIFF Tough

I saw three movies at this year's Toronto International Film Festival. Two were my choice one was my friend's. The two I picked were awful. Though, in my defense, the second one I chose out of the blue because my first choice was off sale and I was in front of the volunteer selling the tickets so I had to make a snap decision from the suggestions he gave me.

I should mention that I didn't have to pay for any of the tickets. One of my friends volunteered and they gave her vouchers to exchange. I would have felt so ripped off if I had to pay for the two movies that totally sucked.

The first movie we saw was called The Silver Cliff. Based in Rio, Brazil it's about a woman, Violeta, who's devastated at the loss of her husband, Djalma. One day he simply disappears only leaving her a phone message to say he no longer loves her. He says he's going away to another city to start life anew.

Taken totally off guard Violeta leaves her 13-year-old son with her 10-year-old niece (really?) and sets off to search for her lost love. Arriving late at the airport she's told the last flight of the day has left for wherever she was trying to go to find her husband. Resigned, she wanders the streets of Rio wallowing in her sorrow and meeting new people along the way.

The movie was so slow. I mean extremely slow. I mean really, really slow. It was slow. Each scene dragged on and on. I can't remember exactly how the movie ended. Probably because I was asleep by then. Oh... it was awful.

I feel like I was tricked after reading the description of the movie online. They made it sound so appealing. What was the programmer thinking when he/she chose this movie to be included in TIFF?

The second movie was much better. I mean it was just an average movie, but compared to the first, it was like an Oscar Award-winning film. It was called Countdown.

Based in South Korea it tells the story of a highly, successful debt collector, Tae, who, one day, collapses in his car. Upon seeing the doctor he is told he has terminal liver cancer. Given no chance of surviving he goes to successive doctors until one gives him the answer he is looking for - That with a liver transplant he has a chance of living.

The film follows Tae around as he searches for a suitable donor which turns out to be an attractive, young lady named, Cha-Ha Yeon. Recently released from prison she's a swindler who's made many an enemy. While struggling with his own demons, Tae, has to keep her safe from her enemies until the transplant can take place.

Movie number three was called Avalon and was based in Sweden. Oh my goodness, it was terrible! Like I said, this wasn't a movie I had originally intended on seeing. So I won't take the full blame for picking this one. But, why didn't they just stick a needle in my eye and get it over with?

It was about an elderly club promoter named, Janne. On the eve of the opening of a new, high end night club with his business partner, Klas, Janne inadvertanly kills Klas' Lithuanian handyman they unwisely decided to hire a couple of thugs to "make him disappear".

Things are further complicated when the dead handyman's girlfriend comes looking for him. Eventually she catches on to the fact that something has gone terribly wrong and confronts Janne who confesses. She takes off into the woods with him chasing her and they cut to a different scene.

Next they're at the night club's opening where we see Janne stealing all the money from the numerous bar tills. He escapes with his sister and Klas in a small, motor boat down a river. Yes, that's what I said... he escapes with his sister and Klas in a small, motor boat down a river. The end.

That's it. The movie is mercifully over. No one claps. In fact two people leave slightly before the end. The rest of us file silently out. Perhaps stunned by the fact we've just wasted the past 76 minutes of our lives. Or maybe still dizzy from the jittery, in and out of focus camerawork, we were all just happy to leave.

The TIFF volunteers at the theatre exits beg patrons to take a Cadillac People's Choice ballot and vote for the movie. No one takes a ballot. I don't think the volunteers watched the movie. Otherwise they probably wouldn't have wasted their breath trying to get votes for it.

So, what have we learned? Not to trust my picks for TIFF movies? Perhaps. But, come on guys (programmers)... why pick such stinkers? Who's paying you money under the table to run these horrible films? Something's going on, but I can't think of any other reason they'd be in the Film Festival.

Friday, September 16, 2011

9/11 - Ten Years Later

Where were you on September 11th, 2001 at 8:46 a.m.? That's when Flight 11, the first plane, hit the north tower (World Trade Center 1). I was at my parents' place, either asleep or having barely woken up. I was staying there temporarily having sold my house in Scarborough while waiting for my new condo to be completed.

My mother was listening to the news on the radio at the time. I think details were sketchy at first. No one really knew what was going on. If it was some kind of accident or something far worse. As we all know now it was something much worse.

After confirming it was an attack and turning on the television my mom came to get me to tell me what was going on. I went into the living room and sat on the sofa and watched the coverage.

The news reporters still weren't clear on what was going on. The was panic because no one knew how many targets the terrorists had in mind. The twin towers had been hit and so had the Pentagon, but how many more. Everyone was on high alert.

Most of the coverage was now focused on New York City. The two World Trade Center buildings were afire. They kept on burning and burning and burning. I watched it live as it was happening. I'm not sure what was going through my mind. Probably I was wondering how they would put the fires out.

To my horror, at 9:59 a.m., the South Tower collapsed. I did not expect that at all. Not at all. I can't recall my exact reaction right now. But, I believe something that terrible would have made me cry. To imagine all the lives lost in that single instant would have been overwhelming.

Nearly half an hour later at 10:28 a.m., the North Tower collapsed. After seeing the first building fall I suppose it was inevitable. Still it didn't lessen the shock.

If I was able to I would have liked to have stayed home to watch the rest of the news. But, it was getting late and I had to go to work. I would have to get updates throughout the day from whoever was following it there.

In the following days I was relieved to hear that since it was so early in the day the buildings weren't completely filled. The loss of life, though quite high, was less than it could have been.

I was saddened to discover that one of my high school friends, Ralph Gerhardt, was killed in the attacks though. My sister read it in the Saturday Star (newspaper). She saw that he graduated from my high school the same year as me and asked me if I knew him. That's how I found out.

While I wasn't extremely close to Ralph, we did go out cycling a few times. I recall he used to start off really quickly on his 10-speed after the traffic lights changed. Me, I started in a higher gear and slowly caught up to him.

Ralph was a really nice guy. He had a big, bright smile. His family held a memorial service for him not long after. Along with other family and friends a group of us from his high school class attended. It was nice to seem them again after about 15 years. Though I know all of us wished it could have been under other circumstances.

In 2005 I was down in New York City. I took a photo of Ralph's name on the memorial at that time. I was down again in 2008. The memorial was gone. There was a lot of construction going on.

The photo above is of the World Trade Center site now (in 2011, ten years later). Progress has been made. Structures are going up. The new memorial is almost complete. Once again the names of the lost will be there for all to see. I will go down again. And I will take pictures. We won't forget what happened that fateful day back in 2001.