Sunday, January 30, 2011

Eyes of Hope - Umbrellas

These umbrellas had been displayed at the U of T's SKULE (engineering department) Arts Festival at 40 St. George Street. Along with artwork from some of the other students there, the exhibition ran for one week between Monday, January 24th and Friday, January 28th, 2011.

The umbrellas were painted by some of the youths who attend the Out of the Cold program at Knox Presbyterian Church on Tuesday evenings during the winter.

I'll retype what's printed on the paper on the easel telling more about the project:

University of Toronto - Eyes of Hope

Eyes of Hope started the new school year with a fresh and exciting project to connect with the homeless youth in the Toronto community. Since November 2010, Eyes of Hope has been organizing umbrella painting sessions through the Out of the Cold Program at Knox Church every Tuesday night.

The sessions provide a platform for both the university students and the homeless youth to engage in a shared interest in the arts. Through this program, the club hope that the youth will feel more included in our society.

Now, Eyes of Hope would like to take this opportunity to share this hope and friendship with you!

The following are thoughts left by some of the youth from the program:

"I'm 30-years-old and I come and volunteer at the Knox drop-in on Tuesdays. I really like to be creative, so when the students came from U of T I was very excited. I did a flower because I think it represents friendship. I also have two types of ADHD and being creative is what calms me down not have scary thoughts. Thanks for coming. I hope we get to meet soon"

- Traci Noble

"The measure of a man is what he does with Power" - Plato

- Delano Grant

Monday, January 24, 2011

Rest in Peace Mary

I'm deeply saddened to report the passing of dear friend, Mary Ko Bong, at age 93. I received an e-mail from my friend Tony Lai informing me of the news this morning. I'll re-post it here so you can see the details.

Dear Elders and friends

I regret to inform you of the passing of Mary Ko Bong. She was found this morning outside her apartment by a neighbour. I'm afraid I have little information at the present time.

I would be grateful if you would ensure all the relevant CPC people are informed. I'm thinking of people like Elizabeth Kwan (?) Anna Lee (?) and Alice Yeh.

We all knew Mary as a fiercely independent woman, who knew what she wanted and constantly reached for those things and rose to all sorts of challenges and survived the impossible. May she rest in peace, freed from the frustrating infirmities of recent years. Sadly for many of us but perhaps better for her I like to think she can dance her ballet and flamenco again, sing her heart out, and now do the arts and crafts she loved and even learn a few more.


My friend Daphne and I just visited Mary less than two weeks ago. We had a wonderful talk with her in her little basement apartment. We had seen her photos with her and her father and brothers in uniform and I wanted to go back and take a few pictures of her in them. She served in the Second World War and still had three uniforms in her closet.

Daphne was just out recently looking to buy her a winter coat too. When we were getting ready to leave Mary commented that she liked Daphne's coat. So Daphne went out looking, but couldn't find her size yet. She was planning on going again today after work.

We'll miss you and your wonderful stories Mary. I hope you're in heaven now smiling down on us ~

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Stupid Cyclists

Now, I'm an avid cyclist and I'm all for cyclists' rights and all that. But, I was flipping through TV channels a while back when I came upon a discussion between cyclists and drivers on MTV Canada. There were some bike couriers who were talking about how they get no respect from people in cars.

During the talk one courier mentioned how she never stops at stop signs. She said that drivers should just expect that from cyclists. That's the kind of attitude that makes drivers want to run us off the road. People like her deserve to be hit by cars. No wonder there's so much animosity between us.

If you don't respect the rules of the road, you don't deserve any respect yourself. Getting that through the thick skulls of morons like her is the first step between mending relations between cyclists and drivers that's for sure.

It's already dangerous enough out there. Don't make it worse by pissing off people driving around 1-1/2 tons of steel, glass and rubber. Trust me, it's a fight you're not going to win.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Maybe the French have something there...

I read this in last Saturday's Toronto Star: The French work less than Americans do, while sleeping more, taking more time over meals, and spending longer hours on leisure activities - and guess what? The French feel happier than Americans do. I think we can all learn a lesson from that.

It seems that certain cultures are quite driven to achieve more monetarily and career-wise. And it comes at the expense of relationships and even personal health. I'm sure the Americans aren't even the worst in that regard.

Sometimes it may be good to step back and take a look your own situation and realistically assess yourself. Now I'm not saying take a 1-1/2 year vacation like me. But, take time to smell the roses now and then, that's all. If you need to take a break from the hamster wheel of life, then so be it. The world won't come to an end if you're not there to greet it, bright eyed and bushy tailed, each and every morning.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Visiting Mary

Daphne and I went to visit Mary from my church yesterday. The weather hasn't been that great lately and we figure Mary could use some groceries and some company. It's been cold and it snowed a few times making it difficult to get around. Mary is 93 after all and is a little on the fragile side. Daphne has been shopping with Mary before so she knew what sort of food she likes. So, earlier in the day, she went out and bought some stuff and brought it down.

We had a nice visit. After first arriving Daphne put everything away in Mary's refrigerator. Mary was already watching some TV. She doesn't have cable and the channel she was watching was flickering a bit. So, I tuned it by turning a few knobs one way or another. The Big Bang Theory was on on CTV. It's a popular sitcom.

Mary's friend Valerie had given her a few shots she took at our friends' (Tony and Iris) wedding. We took a look through them. We also saw some shots around Mary's place of her and her dad and three of her brothers. They were in uniform having served in the Canadian military back in World War II. Mary still has three uniforms. One is for summer, one for winter... I forgot what the other one is for. I said I'd bring my camera next time to take photos of her in them.

Mary also showed us some of her soapstone carvings. She has a few wrapped up. At one point she joined a group once a month to do carvings. I can't remember if she's currently going or not. The picture above is one of her carvings of a fish.

As usual, Mary told us a lot of stories about her life growing up. Like my dad, she attended Central Tech. I don't know what my dad took there. Mary said she took a 2-year watchmaking course.

Mary told us more about her life out in Victoria, B.C. We had heard some of it before. She may have been one of the youngest of seven siblings. Her brothers and sisters were kind of mean to her because she was the littlest. They picked on her and made her do most of the chores like chopping kindling and doing laundry. A lot of things were done by hand back then. Poor Mary.

Anyway, we stayed kind of late, until ten to eleven. I thought Mary went to bed earlier, but I guess not. She didn't seem sleepy or anything. It was nice chatting with her again. I'm sure she enjoyed it as much as we did. Until next time...

Monday, January 10, 2011

Room with a View

This is the view from our 29th floor window at Fallsview Casino and Hotel. Actually, it's probably more like 26th floor or so because the hotel, like many other buildings, superstitiously avoided the 4th, 13th and 14th floors (4 means death in some Asian cultures). But, hey... when you're this high up, who's counting?

One of my friends managed to collect enough points on their casino card that they offered two nights' stay free at the hotel. And out of the goodness of their hearts, the kind people at the front desk graciously upgraded us to an $800-a-night room. My utmost thanks is directed their way.

Our room was sweet. It had two, beautiful, queen-sized beds, a huge bathroom with separate shower and whirlpool tub, a small dining area and a separate living/sitting room with a second, flatscreen TV. And the views looking out the windows were absolutely outstanding. We overlooked the Falls and Niagara Falls, USA to the east. And you could see the Sky Screamer (ride) at Marineland (game farm and amusement park) to the south.

In my 43 years on earth, it was my first time to Niagara Falls in the winter. So, of course, I had to take advantage of it by going out at night to take pictures of everything all lit up. While my friends were warm gambling inside at the casino, I was outside freezing my ass off. It was pretty with the snow and ice covering much of the landscape though. Definitely worth staying out for.

I even missed watching a bit of the IIHF (International Ice Hockey Federation) Junior gold medal game between Canada and Russia (which we unfortunately lost, 5-3) to go out. Torn between my loyalties to being a true, red-blooded Canadian and taking photos. But, who knows the next time I'll be here in the winter, right? I can't say it's the time of year I'd first think of coming at.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Are you Kidding Me?

Okay, this has to be a joke... I was in Niagara Falls with some of my friends last week. Across from the Fallsview Casino and Hotel we saw a IHOP restaurant (in the Four Points Sheraton Hotel). I hadn't seen one in Canada before. I used to go with my friend Lawrence whenever we headed over the boarding into the U.S. The food was decent and the prices reasonable.

Anyway, one of my friends (who had also gone to an IHOP in the States before) and I suggested to our two other friends that we should grab breakfast there. We told them it was a pretty good place to eat.

We went inside and were seated at a table where there was a really foul odor. If you know me, you know that my sense of smell pretty much sucks. I seem to have permanently clogged nasal passages. So for me to have smelt whatever it was that we all smelled, it must have been pretty horrible. Anyway, we just asked to be seated in another area by the windows. To be polite we just said we wanted to enjoy the sunshine or the view or something like that.

But, that wasn't the big shock we received. It was when our server came and gave us the menus. When we opened them up we saw all the omelettes going for $17 or $18, coffee for $3.50 and, if I remember correctly, 2-eggs going for something like $10. Two eggs! You get the idea. The whole menu was priced similarly. Who are they kidding? This is IHOP for goodness sake, not some Michelin three-star, fine dining establishment.

I believe they sucker people like my friend and I in. There is no menu posted outside. Of course not. No one would enter the restaurant if they saw prices like that. We just assumed, in good faith, that the prices would run on par to what we were used to paying in the past (or slightly higher to compensate for inflation). I mean, why wouldn't they be? And it's not like you can say the value of the U.S. dollar is higher because, as of this moment, we're slightly above parity (the Canadian dollar).

No, they're just plain scammers. No one likes to get up and leave a restaurant after they've taken their coats off and been seated. It's kind of embarrassing. I'm sure the management at this particular IHOP is banking on that. So, we stayed and ate and now I'm going to blog about it. So, stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

To the restaurant manager there, this is all I have to say, have some kahunas... post the menu (with prices) outside your establishment. Because if you continue to deceive patrons like this, word will get around and your establishment will soon be as empty as the vacuum in Brittany Spears' head.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Rewiring 59 Cecil Street

Last Wednesday I helped Dickie do some rewiring at May and Judy Eng's mom's place at 59 Cecil Street, not far from the church. My uncle, Jit, actually rents out a room there on the second floor. There are two students who rent out rooms on the third floor according to Dickie.

We were going to lay down some heavy-duty wire from the electrical junction box through the length of the basement up to the third floor kitchen for the new electric stove they bought. The existing 3-burner gas stove they had currently was on it's last legs. Only one of the burners was actually working. So the two girls up there were having a heck of a time trying to cook their meals.

There was already a thinner wire running through the spot Dickie wanted to put the new, heavy duty one in. We decided to use that as a guideline. We attached the new wire from the basement to the end of the old one. But, the hole from the basement through to the main floor was too tight. So Dickie got his drill out and enlarged it slight. Luckily it was big enough to fit.

The new wire was quite heavy. And it was larger in diameter. It's made to carry enough electricity to run a stove or dryer after all. We had a heck of a time pulling it through each of the floors. It was a really slow process. One of us would be pushing up from the floor below, while the other guy would be the floor above pulling. We had to do it floor by floor because there was too much friction to pull straight from the top.

We finally pulled the wire up from the basement to the third floor when we decided we should have about 2-3 more feet of wire up there just in case. So we repeated the whole process (from floor to floor again).

After we did that, Dickie attached the box to accept the plug from the stove to the upper end of the wire and I strung the wire across the length of the basement to the junction box. It was a lot of work. The wire was heavy and not very flexible. Sometimes I would have to pull a long length of it back so it would go the best way around obstacles.

At the end Dickie hooked it up to the junction box. We went upstairs and tested it. Everything was fine. The stove worked well. I'm sure the girls up there will be happy. They now have a stove with four working burners to use.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Year's Eve Party

I attended the Meet Market Adventures New Year's Eve Party last night. As they've often done in the past, they sent me an e-mail to go for free. If you were to pay, tickets were going for $79.99 or $100 at the door (plus HST). Sometimes I think they need to fill a certain demographic, so that's why they do it (give away tickets to certain people).

It was held at the Arcadian Court (shown above) on the 8th floor of the Simpson Tower at 401 Bay Street (south of Queen Street West). Unlike the photo, the room was empty. It just had booth seating around the edges with open spacing for dancing in the middle. Not nearly as elegant as the picture. As usual the music was way too loud for talking, but what else is new?

There were supposed to be 1,000 people in attendance. That may sound like good odds for meeting someone, but there was quite a disparity in age. I spoke with a few younger folks who were pretty unhappy about that. Most of the attendees were a bit older I have to admit.

I have to say it's really not that interesting when I go by myself. While I can always find people to talk to every now and then. Sometimes that's not always the case. That's when it gets kind of boring. I guess I'm just a sucker for a free deal. I'm pretty sure I would have had more fun if I hung out with my friends doing something more entertaining.

I feel sorry for the people who paid full price for this event. I think they got ripped off. All they really provided was a few hors d'oeuvres, a wee sip of Champagne and some cheap party favors for nearly $80 (or more). I probably shouldn't have told so many people there I went for free. Oh well, what can you do? Happy New Year.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Tropicana Team Dinner

back: Rupert, Wendy, Grace, Winnie, Anthony's girlfriend, Anthony
front: Steve, Sang Hee, Chris

This is our "Sports Night" team, Tropicana. Every Thursday night over the winter we get together with the other two teams in the Cornerstone church league and play different sports. For the first seven weeks we played European Handball. Since the school is closed over the Christmas/New Year's holidays we decided to get together for dinner.

We met up at Kam Toa off Leslie Street, north of Highway 7 for Hot Pot. We were going to go bowling across the street at World Bowl afterwards, but we ran late. The food was good, but service was really slow. We ended up staying over three hours because of that.

While there we had an "Evil Santa" gift exchange. Everyone bought presents that cost about $10. Then we drew numbers and picked from the gifts available. Normally being the first pick would be the most advantageous. But, in Evil Santa being last is best. Because each successive person can steal any of the gifts they see from people picking ahead of them.

I was fortunate enough to be number 10, the last person to go. Normally I'm not that mean when it comes to Evil Santa. But, this year I "stole" a gift that I thought was pretty decent. It was a Bailey's gift box that Chris bought. Sang Hee was funny. She stole the gift that she brought from Grace. It was a mug that she really liked. I don't know if I would have ever done that. Stolen the present that I brought myself. Anyway, we all had a fun time there.

Until we meet again in January... have a Happy New Year.