Monday, December 31, 2012

Sue's Party

Perry's friend, Sue, helped organize a dinner party on Saturday. It was out in Mississauga at someone's condo. They rented out the party room on the top floor.

There were two distinct groups in attendance. Ours was the English-speaking CBCers (for the most part). Sue's group was mostly people from China who spoke Mandarin. So there was an interesting dynamic to say the least.

Most of the music was in Chinese (except for when they played Gangnam Style, then it was in Korean). And when the organizers spoke it was in Mandarin as well. One of Perry's friends, Linda, translated a bit. There was a Karaoke machine. But, the interface was in Chinese. And I believe almost all of the songs were Chinese too.

Perry drove me with his friend, Linda, and her daughter. Dickie drove Big Jon, Donald and Steve. They came a bit late. We all waited for them before starting dinner. They were waiting for their Little Caesars pizza to be made. It was potluck.

There was quite an assortment of food for dinner. Of course there was the typical Chinese fare of rice and noodle dishes. Someone brought pasta, and Dickie's group bought pizza like I mentioned. I went to Metro and got an apple pie. That's what I usually bring to potluck dinners - pie.

After dinner they did some games. One was musical chairs. The rest were in Chinese. So we just watched.

Afterwards they played some music. Some of it was regular, uptempo music that you could dance to. But, it was in Chinese. Other times the fellow in charge of the music would play waltz or other ballroom dancing music. I guess some of them know how to dance to that sort of music. The sound system was awful I must say. It wasn't very clear and there was no treble (only bass for some reason).

Still, it was a good opportunity to meet some new people. I think that was the main objective for both groups.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

My New Toy

... Well, not exactly a "toy", but you know what I mean.

I had been looking to replace my aging Canon 20D (that I bought in 2006) with the latest version, the 60D (which is actually on the verge of being replaced having come out in September, 2010).

Prices have dropped significantly since that point in time. The original MSRP for the body was $1,099 (U.S.). I believe I saw it advertised for as low as $900 last Christmas/Boxing Day (2011).

This year the trend continued. One of the first advertisements I saw was from Aden Camera. It listed the body for $834. Not bad. Vistek countered next with a price of $799. Aden then upped the ante at $769.

I took this flyer to Future Shop and they said they would beat the price. Turns out they didn't have any 60D bodies in stock, only kits (with cheap kit lenses). They did have an open box body though. The manager offered to sell it to me for $700.

I thought about for a bit and decided to go for it. The sales person put a lens on and I tried it out in the store snapping a few test shots. It worked like a charm. As well, it came with the same manufacturer's warranty as a new one.

I'll be looking to give it a workout a my next get together this coming Saturday. Stay tuned for more pictures...

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Dinner at Tom and Florianne's

Tom and Florianne invited a group of us over to their place for a holiday dinner last night. It's something they've been doing for a little while now.

It was nice to reconnect with a few familiar faces again. Some of them I only see once a year at these annual get togethers.

Tom and Florianne are both great cooks. So the food is always quite lovely. They put a lot of work into their parties which I'm sure everyone appreciates.

I took some photos with Tom and Florianne's Canon 60D. I have an older generation of the camera and was thinking about picking up this, the latest version. It's been out a couple of years now and the price has been consistently dropping. I thought I'd give it a test run to see how I like it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

YPG/Trader Christmas Party

My friend invited a few of us to her work Christmas party on Saturday. Two of us (Taku and myself) actually worked there before. For me, it was about 3-1/2 years ago and Taku, about 5.

The company has seen many changes in the past few years. From being privately owned by the Francis family to being acquired by Yellow Pages Group to half the company being sold by them to a British group.

The party was open to three different YPG companies (I believe) besides Wall2Wall (the new name of my former company). So there were quite a few new faces in attendance.

Still, I saw Jacky Hill, Sue Legge, Miss Dee (Dionne Fraser), Susan Maxwell and Elisa Krovblit from New Homes/Condo Guide. Those were the guys I worked most closely with.

Other familiar faces from production were the two Balas (Gnanapandithan and Menon), Greg Van Sluytman and Curtis King.

Even though we didn't get to sit with most of our friends I still had a really good time. Dinner was decent and I actually got up and danced a little.

Until next time...

Friday, December 14, 2012

Water Main Break

Late last week I was walking along the sidewalk on the south side of Eglinton near Yonge when I saw a small fountain of water shooting out from the ground. I thought it was odd, but didn't think too much about it. It wasn't a lot and it just flowed into the sewer on the street.

Well that small leak turned into a torrent by Friday evening. When I returned from hockey early Saturday morning Eglinton east of Yonge was blocked off. The water shooting out of the ground there flowed onto Eglinton and the overflow went south on Yonge past Sudan (the set of traffic lights).

I was a bit concerned that my condo might be affected in some way. But, when I got home my water was still on and I didn't have any other issues. After putting my stinky hockey gear in the washing machine I headed downstairs to take some photos.

By this time the police had blocked all traffic going both east and west on Eglinton between Yonge and Holly. There were a few news vehicles there too. I stayed on the north sidewalk and snapped some photos. No one bothered me there.

I overheard the TTC subway was flooded. The buses had to be diverted down Holly while they looked into fixing the problem. Surprisingly, the street was opened not long after.

I didn't hear anything else regarding the break until Monday when I was doing deliveries up Yonge for Sid. Dr. Soll's office (in the new Minto south tower, a minute or so from my building) was still without power. They had some extension cords hooked up to the hall outlets in the building to supply their computers and other things. But their unit was basically off the grid. Hopefully it didn't take too long for Hydro to restore their electricity.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Greedy, Greedy

Greedy owners + greedy players = No NHL hockey = Disgruntled fans who, at this point (nearly 90 days lost), really don't give a hoot any longer.

It's quite astonishing that seemingly intelligent, grown men cannot come to some sort of a mutually beneficial agreement over a nearly three month period (not even including off season negotiations).

And even more ridiculous is that the combatants aren't poor, struggling peons, but billionaires vs. multi-millionaires. People with too much money to shake a stick at yet their disagreements are affecting many, many others who really need the income. People like those who run concessions and support workers at the arenas or sports bar and restaurant owners and their staff. It's pretty sickening.

Me? I put most of the blame on the players. I know the owners are more than loaded. But, they're the ones who've built their franchises and took a chance investing in their respective teams. The players make a great living considering what they do.

If you think about it, what other options would most players have if they weren't playing hockey? Dishwasher? Janitor? Stock person at a grocery store?

When so many people are either struggling to find or keep menial jobs, you're going on strike because 2, 3 or 4 million dollars a year isn't enough? I don't feel an ounce of sympathy for you. I hope you all lose your jobs and see what working in the real world is like. Then you'll realize how lucky you really were.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Atomic Green Beans

Atomic Green Beans - No, it's not some post apocalyptic food item, it's the name of our current Cornerstone Multi-Sport team (aka - the Beans). We're so named because of our bright, lime-green sports jerseys if you must know.

Our season began at the beginning of October. We played a variety of team building games. The following week was Thanksgiving so, of course, we had it off. After that we started eight weeks of volleyball.

Our team did well in volleyball. We had the best record during the regular season. The playoffs were a different story. We skipped directly into the semis where we lost the best of three series 2 games to 1 to Michael's Yellow Team (the eventual winners).

We ended up winning the rest of the games we played that evening unofficially ending up in third. That's alright... it was fun. We put in a good effort.

The picture (above) is from our team dinner at Holly's place. We met up on the first Sunday in December. It was hard finding a day where most people could make it especially in December (close to Christmas). Unfortunately Ken and Brian couldn't come. Freda came late.

Dinner was a little sparse. We didn't really coordinate it as well as we could have I suppose. Winnie and Andrew bought duck and roast pork. Jennifer made a vegetable platter with some dip she bought at the One-of-a-Kind Show,  Holly made some pork and a pot of rice and I bought a tray of sushi with the $50 the Multi-Sport organizers gave us.

For dessert Danny bought ice cream and pie, I bought pie and Joe and Karen bought two tubs of ice cream. Needless to say we had a lot of pie and ice cream.

After dinner we headed to the basement to play board games. I don't remember the names of any of the games we played, but they were fun. Holly has a lot of games.

Our next idea for a team outing is skating at Harbourfront. That ought to be fun.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Sisters Brothers

I just finished reading The Sisters Brothers, by Patrick deWitt. Though I have to admit I don't read an awful lot, it was a bit of a departure from what I might normally choose.

Set in California in the 1850s, The Sisters Brothers is a western about brothers Eli and Charlie Sisters. They are hired killers who work for a rich and powerful man known simply as the Commodore. What he commands they do, no questions asked.

The novel tells the tale of their adventures in seeking out and confronting their next target, Hermann Kermit Warm. Along the way they meet a varied and motley group of characters with varying consequences.

As well, Eli begins to reflect on his chosen profession and wrestles with his choices in life. Though they are generally self-serving, cold blooded killers they do have a human side and I found myself warming towards them.

deWitt's style of writing fits the timeframe of the story well. At no time did I find myself getting weary of reading (as sometimes happens with me).

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Go, Argos, Go!

I have to admit... I'm not much of a CFL (Canadian Football League) fan. To me, the league is made up of players who've yet to make it to the big time - the NFL (National Football League).

This was not always the case. Back when the first Grey Cup was played in 1909 we were the only game in town. The NFL was years away not having formed until 1920 (according to various internet sources).

Of course the CFL was much different back then. For one, it only included teams from eastern Canada (since we were a much more developed part of the country in those days). Winnipeg was the first team from the west to join and was routinely routed up by its eastern counterparts.

The CFL has had a storied past. We expanded to the U.S. at one point. Survived near bankruptcy another time. Teams have come and gone and have been resurrected yet again.

Now in the year of the Grey Cup's 100th Anniversary, the championship game was played in Toronto (where the first championship was won).

Before a sellout crowd of over 50,000 spectators the Toronto Argonauts prevailed beating the Calgary Stampeders 35-22.

While it's no Stanley Cup, MLB World Series win or NBA Championship trophy, in a city full of woeful professional sports franchises, this put a temporary stop to the bleeding.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

$6 Haircuts

$6 haircuts... yes, you heard right, $6 haircuts. There's a place on the northeast corner of Dundas West and Kensington Avenue that cuts men's hair for 6 bucks (and women $7).

I've been going to this place for awhile. Originally they were located right on Kensington Avenue and only charged $4. A friend from church told me about it.

Yes, the cuts are basic. But what do you expect at that price? And even though they barely speak English what do you really need to say when you walk in the doors (especially if you're a guy)? To me there isn't an awful lot you can do with men's hair. It's really all very simple. Normally I just go in and say, cut short, and they take it from there.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Old Friends

My friends Jim and Marilyn invited me over to their house up in Markham for dinner on the weekend. One of our friends, Ling, who now lives in Hong Kong was visiting for a few days. So they decided to round up the gang of former CPCers (Toronto Chinese Presbyterian Church) for a get together.

Our particular group formed during our college years through the Genesis fellowship there. That was more than 25 years ago. Over that time most people drifted to different corners of the city/country or even globe. I'm actually the only one who still attends CPC. Everyone else is gone.

The majority of us still live in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area). Ling was the only one who left the country. Monica moved west to B.C. where she resided for a number of years. She recently returned to Ontario with her husband and kids at the beginning of the 2012. So it was nice seeing her too.

Even though most of them don't live that far from me I rarely see them anymore. I suppose it could be the fact that they're involved with church and family life. Most of them have young children which, I'm sure, keeps them quite busy.

Anyway, it was great to have the chance to meet up with everyone again. Until next time...

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Wind Mobile

Recently my Virgin Mobile pay-as-you-go account expired. I had the option of renewing with them again, but decided to shop around. One carrier I found that offered a great deal was Wind Mobile.

I had been paying 30¢ a minute for phone calls with Virgin Mobile. Text messages were free to receive and 20¢ apiece to send. Wind offered 20¢ a minute outgoing phone calls and free incoming. Outgoing texts were 15¢ each and free to receive. So, as you can see, it was a much better deal.

Still I had concerns - One was about their reception (even in the city). I heard from a few people that they had poor reception in the city. When I asked the salesperson about it he said I could try it for 2-weeks and if I didn't find it adequate I could get a refund or something. Actually, I can't remember exactly what he said. All I know is that the reception has been fine for me, so I don't care. I'm not bringing it back.

My other concern was the choice of phones they had. I didn't want a Smart phone, but their selection of regular cell phones limited to say the least.

My previous phone was a trusty LG flip phone. I was hoping to find a reliable, relatively inexpensive equivalent with Wind. Their only flip phone option was the Samsung C414 at $99. I looked it up online and it got terrible reviews. A few people mentioned it would shut itself off on it's own. Not good.

They offered a non-flip, regular cell phone from Huawei, the 2801, for $49. They're a Chinese company. It only had one review that I could find online and it wasn't very good. Still it was better than the C414, so I chose the lesser of two evils and picked the Huawei.

I have to say the Huawei 2801 is very basic. The interface is nowhere near intuitive as the LG. It's just not up to par. I like my old interface much better. But, to get the superior Wind plan it was a sacrifice I was willing to make. I could get away with spending $20 less a year and talk waaay more with them. That's just the way the Wind blows.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Me Time

It seems, to me, that a lot of people are overly busy in life. They run around like chickens with their heads cut off trying to do this or that in order to keep ahead of the Joneses (or at the very least keep up).

Of course many of them have legitimate responsibilities. They're trying to provide a minimum standard of living for themselves or their families which is great. But, I think you have to be careful not to do it at the expense of your own well being.

A lot of people are terribly stressed out by the trials of everyday life. They're burnt out, used up, rundown, worn out. This can't go on. Either you have to stop it yourself or your body will do it on its own. One day it will say, enough is enough.

I'm suggesting everyone needs a bit of me time. Time on your own for yourself and no one else. Look at it as an investment. Like your car needs a tune up every now and then to run smoothly, so do you.

Take some time to read a book, go for a walk or meditate undisturbed. Meet up with friends; go for coffee, tea, lunch, brunch... see a movie.

When you invest time in yourself you recharge your batteries, you fill up your gas tank. That should give you the energy to tackle whatever challenges life puts in front of you.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

We Are Family Fundraiser 4

This past Saturday was our 4th annual We Are Family fundraiser in support of Project 417 (the group I help with Sandwich Runs). Like last year we were at the Royal Canadian Legion Todmorden Memorial Hall (on Pape, south of O'Connor). And also like last year I believe the main organizers were Kathi Nicoll, Darlene Winning, Jenn Ford and Kara Purdy (but don't quote me on that).

Lester McLean and his band provided the music and DJ Jude Kelly spun tunes in between sets.

Finger food was served throughout the evening by volunteers and there was a silent auction (among other things) to raise a bit of extra money.

Joe Elkerton (the founder of Project 417) handed out the James Potter Memorial Volunteer Award to a very deserving Darlene Winning. Over the years she's given much of her time and knowledge to aid the organization. An incredible lady.

It was good to see a few old faces again (once a year it seems) and a few new ones as well. Here's to many more years of fundraising success.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

My Trip to Chicago - Day 2

The following day Sid and Pauline dropped me off downtown again. This time is was at West Roosevelt Road west of State Street (pretty much on the bridge over the south branch of the Chicago River). We were driving into the city when I saw a great view of the Willis Tower from the south. So I asked them to drop me off there so I could take some pictures.

After snapping a bunch of shots there I headed east along Roosevelt towards Lake Michigan. I ended up at Grant Park (where Buckingham Fountain is). I was at the south end where the large metal statues/sculpture of the legs/feet were.

From there I walked north on Michigan Avenue taking pictures along the way. I made it up to the Bean at Millennium Park (at Michigan and Madison Street). That's when I went into the Chicago Cultural Center (which I had missed the day before because I arrived just before it closed). Built in 1897 it was Chicago's first central public library. It has a beautiful stained-glass dome on the upper floor. Located on the south side of the building, it's the world’s largest stained-glass Tiffany dome - 38 feet in diameter with some 30,000 pieces of glass.

Afterwards I followed the route I had planned on going on the day before. I saw the Monadnock building at West Jackson Boulevard and South Dearborn Street; the Rookery building at West Adams Street and South La Salle Street; the Willis Tower at South Wacker Drive, south of West Adams Street; and 333 West Wacker, right at the bend/fork of the Chicago River.

By now I was back at Marina City and the Trump International Tower & Hotel at West Wacker and State Street. So I took more pictures of them and the surrounding city views along the river. It was only 4:30 p.m., but I decided to call it a day.

I texted Sid (with Pauline's Blackberry again) and arranged to have them pick me up at the Dunkin' Donuts across from the Trump hotel. Those guys went tire shopping and had a AYCE sushi lunch near the hotel before Sid took an afternoon nap.

We went to Famous Dave's BBQ for dinner. I can't remember where it was. The food there was pretty good though.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

My Trip to Chicago - Day 1

My friend Sid and his wife, Pauline, were going to Chicago for a trade show and asked me if I would like to go along. I believe I mentioned a few times in the past that I wanted to go, so he knew I had some interest. Even though it was late in the year (so the weather was cold and it got dark early), I figured I couldn't pass up the opportunity. We went on Thursday, October 27th after work.

Sid did the driving. I thought he might want a break part way through, but he drove the whole way down (and the whole way back). Since we left fairly late in the day we decided to stop at the Best Western Hotel in Battle Creek, Michigan. We would continue on to Chicago the following morning.

We left the hotel at around 8:30 the next morning. The remaining drive to Chicago would take about three hours. The plan was to drop me off in the city while Sid and Pauline attended the show at McCormick Place convention centre. We would meet up later...Well things didn't quite work out that way...

When we got to the convention center it was surprisingly empty. The only people there were a couple of security guards. Sid pulled up and asked them about the trade show. The one fellow said it started on Sunday. Oops... Sid got the dates wrong.

Our original plan was for them to attend the show on Friday and maybe Saturday while I would wander the city on my own. We would leave Chicago on Sunday morning, stop at an outlet mall in Michigan to do some shopping on the way back and arrive with plenty of time to spare. That would be thrown out the window. Instead they dropped me off in the city and drove off. They didn't know exactly what they were going to do yet. We just agreed to meet later for dinner.

My first stop was at Marina City. It's a mixed us residential/commercial complex on State Street just north of Wacker Drive (just north of the Chicago River leading out to Lake Michigan. Designed by architect Bertrand Goldberg the complex was completed in 1964. I think they look like two giant corn cobs. Very unique.

I wandered along the river between State Street and Michigan Avenue for awhile. Not far from Marina City was the Trump International Hotel and Tower (hotel and condos), the Wrigley Building and the Tribune Tower (Chicago Tribune newspaper). All beautiful landmarks.

Next I wandered down State Street a bit. I took some shots of the Chicago Theatre there (just south of Lake Street). I also tried to get a few shots of the El (elevated subway) trains as they passed by.

After a bathroom break at the Macy's (on State Street) between Randolph and Washington Streets, I headed due east to Millennium Park where I took shots of Anish Kapoor's Cloud Gate (aka The Bean) and the Jay Priztker Pavilion designed by famed Canadian architect Frank Gehry.

Next I headed south to Grant Park to take photos of Buckingham Fountain (as seen in the opening credits of 90's TV show Married With Children). It was empty. I guess that's what you get for coming in late October.

Since it was sunny out I decided I'd better continue my tour of the Chicago outdoors (instead of following my original plan of going to a bunch of buildings in the downtown area). I headed to Navy Pier next.

When I arrived at Navy Pier the first thing I saw was a temporary children's petting farm with camel for rides. It was set up outside the grounds. Cute animals.

I didn't really know what to expect at Navy Pier. I thought it would be more of an amusement park with a bunch of rides. They only had about three rides there - a ferris wheel, a merry-go-round and "Wave Swinger". There was also an 18-hole mini putt course. I believe there are also restaurants and theatres there. Not anything that really caught my attention though.

I headed back into the Loop (downtown) area after. It was already 5:00 p.m. and getting dark.

Eventually I wandered back to Millennium Park, took a bunch of evening shots then BBM'd (Blackberry Messenger) Sid (with Pauline's Blackberry which she lent me) to arrange a pick up at our arranged time of 6:30 p.m.

We had Chicago-style deep dish pizza for dinner at the Giordano's (pizzeria) near our hotel (another Best Western) close to Midway Airport, about 1/2 hour outside downtown Chicago. It was pretty good.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Toronto Zombie Walk

I attended my first Toronto Zombie Walk this past Saturday. This year it was held at Nathan Philips Square at Toronto City Hall.

I had seen pictures from it posted on some of my friends' pages and thought it looked really cool. But, like my first attempt or two at trying to catch the cherry blossoms in the spring at High Park, I kept missing it.

The day had started off pretty gloomy. Spotty showers were predicted throughout the day. I was pretty sleepy from the night before. We had started Friday night hockey a few weeks earlier. I left home later than I had planned.

The event was slated to start at 12:00 noon with the walk to begin at 3:00 p.m. I arrived down at Nathan Philips Square by around 2:30 p.m.

There were a lot of Zombies still lurking around at that time. And there were a great number of photographers stalking them with their cameras as well. Most of them just snuck up and shot pictures of them, but I thought I would ask them to take their pictures. I could get them to pose nicely that way too.

I was down there for over an hour, but didn't stick around for the walk. I'm not exactly sure where they went. Though from checking out a friend's shots it looked like they made their way up University Avenue.

By the time I got home it was raining pretty steadily. Poor Zombies. I hope they're not allergic to water.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Trader Reunion

Last Saturday we had an Old Timers Trader reunion at the Monarch Tavern off College Street in Little Italy. Andrea started the ball rolling and Jenn and Mike P. kept it going.

Andrea arrived first followed by Helen and Jenn. I came next then, surprise!, Dave Ablard. He was the old plant/press manager when we were at 23 Apex. I don't think any one of the organizers thought about contacting him. One of the former front office ladies, Janice, had the forethought to look up his phone number and call him. It was great seeing him again. I think it's been at least 6-7 years since I've seen him.

As for Andrea, Helen and Jennifer, I don't believe I've seen those guys in 10-15 years. Jenn said she left in the mid-90's. Helen said she left in '99 (I think) and I forgot when Andrea left. It was a long time ago though.

I don't remember the exact order of who came next, but I'll list the rest of the people who showed up - Steve L., Jorgen L., Lisa R., Dave W., Janice L.B., Jeff W. and Rosa, Reay J., Don M. and Soma.

Dave and Steve are the real old timers. I believe they started around the inception of the company. I'm guessing Janice had been around a long time too. Jorgen started not long after me (I started in June of 1989). Andrea came around that time as well. Jeff and Helen were probably next. The newer ones are Don, Soma, Rosa and Lisa. I'm guessing they started between 10-15 years ago.

Anyway, it was really good to see everyone again. I have to say one of the people I was most looking forward to seeing was Jorgen. I think he's one of the guys I hadn't seen in the longest time.

Andrea and I were e-mailing beforehand about other folks we wanted to see (or were wondering about their whereabouts). People like John Kovar, Greg Smart, the guys in the stripping room (Sudan, Derek, Jeya, Jenny and Ian), Alison Fiddler, Renée Adams, Sid P. ... I'm sure there were more. If you guys are out there give us a shout.

I'm happy to say I'm in contact with a few of the others on Facebook. Friends like Jerry L., Rob B., Doug M., Lawrence L. and Viola. Or I have their phone numbers still, like Rob L.

We'll have to do this again another time. This time with a larger turnout (hopefully).

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Mono Cliffs Autumn Hike

I went for a fall hike on the Friday before Thanksgiving with one of my friends. The colours of the leaves were just about at their peak at that time.

We went to Mono Falls. It's up Highway 10 about 20 kilometres north of Orangeville. I found out about it from doing an online search. There was an article at about it.

I checked a provincial park website about the park. There were a few interesting trails I thought I might like to see - the Cliff-Top Side Trail and the South Outlier Trail to name a couple.

My friend and I got to the park a bit late. Somewhere around 2:30 p.m. The lot wasn't very full. At one end there was a pay parking machine. We selected the 4-hour option for $5.

The trails I selected were between 3 and 4 kilometres long. Though I'm not sure if the 3 kilometre one was one way or round trip. As well we had to take the Carriage Trail (1 kilometre long) in to get to the other ones.

I thought we would start with the Cliff-Top Side Trail (3 kms). Then if we had time we could do the South Outlier Trail (4 kms).

The Carriage Trail (1 km) that we took in from the parking lot met the Cliff-Top Side Trail in the middle. We decided to do the north side first.

Part way along that trail is a lookout where you can see over the valley. The view was spectacular (see above). It was absolutely amazing with the bright yellows, blazing oranges and fiery reds. While we were there we met an older couple who told us about another lookout we should see.

It was off the McCarston's Lake Trail. There's a Lookout Trail that goes off of it. Without a trail map it could have been complicated, but the lady gave us good directions and we found our way there (as well as our way back).

We never got to do the South Outlier Trail. It was getting late and the light was fading. Perhaps next time.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Nuit Blanche 2012

Scotia Bank Nuit Blanche was a couple of Saturdays ago (September 29th). Normally it's the first Saturday in October. This was the first year it was in September. One noticeable difference from moving the date up was the temperature. It was much warmer this year which was great.

I started the evening at 7:30 p.m. This year I decided to drive down to my church and park and go from there. One reason I did this was because I had to visit the boarding home the following afternoon and I knew there were going to be road closures around the church for a 5 km fundraising run the next morning.

I had planned my evening out a week ahead of time. It took quite a bit of time. This year I decided to concentrate on covering the downtown core (Dundas Street to the north, Front Street to the south, Spadina to the west and Yonge to the east). In previous years I stretched it out too far (from The Distillery District in the east to Liberty Village in the west) and was quite tired afterwards. Too much walking.

My first stop was the AGO. It was the installation closest to my church. I have to say most of the installations were alright. I don't know if I can say I really liked one installation over another. For me it's the night as a whole that I count as my experience. Just wandering the city from one area to another as the hours pass taking lots and lots of pictures. Fun.

In total I saw about 30 installations. I'm counting all the ones in the underground parking lot at Toronto City Hall as one (even though, officially, I believe there were five or six there).

I stayed out for eleven hours returning to my car at 6:30 a.m. Most things were shut down by then. I tried to get some sleep, but the sun was coming up.

Lillian ,who was working in the church office that morning, came and woke me up a bit before 9:00. I was parked in the wrong spot. So I moved to the Steel Workers Union lot. But, the folks from the Russian church who use the outside lot started coming in for their early morning service so I didn't get much rest there either. Oh well.

You can check out my photos here. Enjoy.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Every Day A Friday

I just read (most of) Every Day A Friday - How to be Happier 7 Days a Week, by Joel Osteen. It's an advice book on how to be happier from a Christian Minister's perspective. While he does give some good advice, most of the book seems to rely on the goodness of God to turn sad days into glad.

First the good advice.

Sometimes it all comes down to perspective. In his book Joel writes, don't say, I have to go to work today. Instead say, I get to go to work today. Look on the positive side. There are many people who are unemployed currently. They would do anything to find a job. You? You're lucky. You have one.

Or, you might say, Oh... goodness, I've got to drive in traffic again. Joel turns it around and says, you get to drive in traffic again. You're blessed with a car. Unlike many people who have to walk or take public transit you're that much more well off.

Focus on what's important.

Joel says you should make your family and those you love a priority in your life. I agree with that. He says, too often we're so occupied with trying to stay on top of things in our lives we don't take the time to actually live our lives.

He says he'd rather make less money and enjoy his life and enjoy his family rather than be so overworked that he never has any extra energy. I believe that's the right attitude.

He tells the story of renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright and his uncle. One day they're walking through a snow covered field. As they were walking, young Frank would veer off stopping at a barn to look at the animals or by a pond to look at the water.

When he finally caught up with his uncle his uncle said, Now, Frank, I want to teach you a lesson. Look back at our footsteps in the snow. Mine came straight here while yours zigzagged all over the place. You wasted so much time stopping along the way. I never ventured off and came here much quicker than you.

Frank Lloyd Wright said that was one of the best lessons he had ever learned. But, in the opposite manner in which his uncle had intended. His philosophy was, I still arrived at the same destination, but I enjoyed all the sights along the way. Good advice.

Be thankful for what you have.

Keep the right point of view. If you're having trouble sleeping at night, think of all the homeless people without beds. If you are stuck in traffic, think about all the people who can't afford cars. If you have a bad day at the office, think about all those who are unemployed. If you have to walk three blocks to church, thank God you are healthy enough to walk (yeah... I noticed that too... Joel does get repetitive in his book).

Joel tells the story of a young man he knew, Matt. Matt had always been strong and healthy. But, one day his eyes started to bother him and he went to see the doctor. The doctor checked him out and told him that he had cancer of the eye and there was a good chance he would lose his vision. Of course Matt was distraught at this news.

Well, when the day of the surgery came the doctor started to operate. At that time he discovered that Matt did not have cancer but an eye fungus that could they could remove simply to restore his vision.

When Matt awoke from surgery he was the happiest man alive. Because he had nearly lost his vision being able to see normally took on new meaning for him. He would never again take his eyesight for granted. That's the attitude we should take with all things in our lives.

Live a No Excuses Life.

There was a boy named Mordecai Brown, tells Joel. His dream was to pitch in the major leagues. Young Mordecai had a natural talent. He was so good that professional scouts regularly came to see his games.

One day while working on the farm he had an accident and lost his whole forefinger and most of his middle finger on his throwing hand. Being the determined person he was he didn't let this setback affect his drive. In fact the loss of those two fingers put such an irregular spin on his pitches that they were even harder to hit.

Mordecai "Three Fingers" Brown went on to become one of the most dominant pitchers in the history of early Major League Baseball.

The Bad Advice...

God is in control of your destiny... He allows bad things to happen to people to strengthen them. Trust in Him and He will turn things around. Just wait and see. Baloney.

Joel tells of the time he was in a plane and they hit some very serious turbulence. Items were tossed around and people shaken up. This lasted a good ten minutes. But, in the end, they all landed safely. He compares that to rough patches in our lives. God shakes things up to make us stronger and to depend on him. But, in the end, He comes through.

Well, He didn't come through for the 43 players and coaches who died in the KHL (Russian hockey league) plane crash in September of 2011. Their moments of turbulence ended in their deaths. What lesson does God have for them? Sorry... your life was inconsequential? Too bad, so sad?

Joel says, When things are difficult, smile by faith. If you develop a habit of smiling, God will reward you with His favor. You'll not only feel better, you'll also earn better breaks. You will see increase and promotion. People will be drawn to you, and I believe and declare you'll live that life of victory God has in store for you.

That's a load of malarkey if I've ever heard any. I believe he's giving false hope to those who are already vulnerable. If things don't improve like he says they will these people will fall into even deeper despair. That's not right at all.

In the end I think this book relies too much on "Keep smiling, God is in control. He'll make things better. Trust me." While it gives little new advice on how to be happy.

Instead of spending your hard earned money on it go out and have a steak dinner. As far as I'm concerned that's something that will truly make you happy (unless you're a vegetarian... in that case go on suffering in life).

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Lisa Cheong and Ratanak International

Lisa Cheong spoke at our church this past Sunday. She's a former member here. Currently she's serving in Svay Pak, Cambodia with Ratanak International. Their aim is to help better the lives of the citizens there. Lisa's main focus is to combat child sex trafficking and to help rehabilitate the girls who are fortunate enough to be rescued.

Child sex trafficking is a huge problem in Cambodia. Young girls are often sold by their parents to brothels where they are expected to service 8-10 adult males per night and 50-60 over the course of a weekend. If quotas aren't met beatings or electrocution is meted out. To enhance performance many of the girls are given methamphetamines which leads to their addiction. Girls old enough to get pregnant are subject to frequent "back alley abortions". The number of assaults endured by these girls often numbers in the thousands.

Along with the authorities there Ratanak International has managed to shut down some brothels. They've even converted some of them to rescue centres which help the girls reintegrate into society. They even minister to pimps and the people who run the brothels for they know they need to change their attitudes too.

Lisa's organization is doing tremendous work there. They're affecting positive change in many young girls lives. It's amazing. You can find out more about Ratanak International here - While you're there please consider giving a donation. I can't think of a more worthy cause than this. Really.

And to follow what Lisa's up to in Cambodia you can follow her blog here -

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Memorial Service

I attended a memorial service this past Friday for our neighbour Mr. Reeve (Kevan John Reeve). He was father to Richard and Lynn, and husband to Joan. They lived in the house next door to my parents where my sister and I grew up. He had been ill for some time and passed away last October 14th, 2011.

The service was held at the Church of the Ascension on Overland Drive on the opposite side of The Donway from where we lived. I attended with my parents and sister.

Richard gave a tribute to his father telling us of his life, how he met his wife, what he liked to do and how he raised his family. That got me thinking; if I were in his position, what would I say?

My father has always been a quiet guy. Probably a bit like me growing up, shy. He never took the spotlight preferring to stay in the background. More like the supporting cast while my mother was the star in raising our family.

I don't remember doing a lot of things with my dad growing up. I do remember playing baseball with him at the local schoolyard when I was young.

I believe it was my mother who brought me out to most of my activities like skating or swimming lessons. Either that or I walked there on my own. We were pretty self sufficient in that respect. We never worried about child predators or anything like that when I was growing up. It was a different era.

My dad was the breadwinner of the family while my mother was the stay at home mom who doted on her children. So while I don't remember doing many things with my father, I know both he and my mother always supported my sister and I.

Among other things, my parents helped me buy my first home. I know if I ever needed any help financially speaking they'd be there. And, of course, if they needed any help in the same way they know they could count on me.

So that's how I would portray my father... as someone who played an integral part in raising his family, but who never took the limelight. Preferring, instead, to stay in the background a proud supporter.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Honey Boo Boo... What the heck?

This plain just wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Wrong.

One of my Facebook friends posted something recently about the TLC reality show: Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. I had never heard of it before and went to their website to find out more about it.

Here's what it says,

About the Show
Take an inside look into life with "Honey Boo Boo" where the six-year-old pageant sensation (Alana Thompson) proves that she is more than just a beauty queen.

My goodness... Has it come down to this? Our lives have gotten so bad we have to resort to watching this rubbish to start feeling better about ourselves? Is that it? This is just reinforcing the stereotype of the uncouth American to the rest of the world. And you wonder why so many people feel disdain towards you?

P.S. - Whoever thought up the idea of beauty pageants for children should be cracked across the head with a bat.

P.P.S. - The Learning Channel... what is wrong with you? What are we learning here? We're not learning anything except how ridiculous Americans can be. When mothers and their children dress up like clowns that's what you're portraying.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Steve's Birthday

It was Steve Quan's birthday recently. I know him through Lawrence Chui. He's part of the group of young professionals who attend Richmond Hill Christian Community Church.

I was chatting with my friend, Dickie, (who also knows Lawrence and Steve) and he mentioned they were taking Steve out to dinner on Sunday. I hadn't done anything with their group in awhile so I thought I'd join them.

I arrived at 6:00 (half an hour early) from Fairview Mall where I had gone to kill some time after volunteering at the boarding home (where I go every other Sunday afternoon). Of course I was the first one there.

A couple with a baby arrived next. Unfortunately I can't remember their names.

There were other new faces as well, plus some old, familiar ones. Glen was there. So was Ernest, Wanmy, Pastor Fred and his two boys, John, Ken and Elaine, Rebecca and Bobby (from RHCCC). Of course Dickie and Big Jon came too. They're ex-CPCers who started attending the fellowship up there.

It was nice seeing everyone again and sharing a meal together. I know Steve really appreciated everyone coming out in his honour.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Open House Day

My housemate, her friend, Markus and I went to eat lunch at Echo Sushi this afternoon. It's located on the west side of Yonge, a few blocks south of Eglinton (just south of St. Louis Bar and Grill). They have all-you-can-eat sushi for $13.99 for lunch.

Markus and I got there first. Naomi came a bit later having taught her Japanese school class earlier that morning. I ordered my usual salmon nigiri and a variety of maki rolls such as the green and red dragon rolls and the rainbow roll. They have a variety of raw fish, barbecued eel and avocado and other items in them. I absolutely love sushi.

I ordered a bit too much the second round. I was able to finish it, but it took some effort. I probably could have done with one less maki roll. I guess my eyes are bigger than my stomach. It was great nevertheless.

We topped our meal off with green tea ice cream and a delicious mango pudding. I also had a piece of deep fried banana which was so-so.

Afterwards we were walking back to our place when we passed an Open House sign at the corner of Yonge and Manor Road. It was for a place on 80 Manor Road East. Curious, we decided to take a look.

As we were walking east on Manor Road we came upon another house having an open house, number 38. So we went in.

It was beautiful, both inside and out, having been recently renovated. Though approximately 1387 sq. ft. (not including the 667 sq. ft. finished basement), the 3-bedroom, 2-storey house was quite small.

One bonus was the absolutely huge, two-level deck in the backyard complete with 6 person hot tub.

80 Manor Road East was quite a bit larger. I can't remember the exact size, but I believe it was between 2000-2500 sq. ft. It also was recently renovated having been extended a significant amount out into the backyard.

While the finishes weren't as nice as number 38, it did have size going for it. The master bedroom on the second floor was quite large. As well it had a room in the converted attic with a 2-piece (toilet and sink).

The basement was also finished and, if one wanted, it could easily be converted into a legal basement apartment. Though it would take a long, long time to get your money back because this place was going for $1.6 million. That's what Markus was considering doing.

My advice to him would have been - Just buy three 2-bedroom condos for $500K a piece at the new 50-storey Menkes buildings nearby and live in one and rent the other two out. You'd probably have an easier time making your money back that way.

Anyway, these homes were beautiful, but beyond my means. It was fun to walk through them and pretend what it would be like to live in them.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Cover Band at Scruffy Murphy's

After dinner at Rancho Relaxo my friend and I still felt like having a beer. So we went up to my neighbourhood to a bar called Scruffy Murphy's.

We ordered a pitcher of Rickard's Red and some sweet potato fries to munch on. I was still a bit full from the Mexican food, but the fries were tasty. Cold beer and sweet potato fries? How could anyone resist?

We talked and watched a bit of U.S. college football on the TV until some musicians came and set up their equipment. Turns out they had a cover band booked for the evening.

I don't know who they were, but they were pretty good. They played a bunch of songs that I liked. I can't remember any offhand. They were from a few years back. Probably the 90's and early 2000's.

The patrons at the bar seemed to like them too. Quite a few of them were up dancing. Since I had my camera I took a bunch of pics of the band. It was fun.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Rancho Relaxo

I went to dinner at Rancho Relaxo with my friend on Saturday. We had a Living Deal voucher (I believe that was the company) that was good for $40 worth of food, but no alcohol unfortunately. I pretty much had my heart set on Mexican food and beer.

Since Rancho Relaxo is pretty much the only Mexican restaurant I know, by default, it's my favorite. It's located on College Street, a block west of Spadina. Just north of Kensington Market and Chinatown.

As usual I had the Enchilada de Casa with steak. It's steak wrapped in a soft corn tortilla with melted cheese, sour cream and their house salsa. It's served on a piping hot plate with rice, refried beans and house salad.

My friend tried the Pescado de Corona. It's a pan-fried filet of Atlantic Grouper smothered in a smooth avocado mousse. I tried some. It was good. Not as good as my enchilada, but good still. I guess I'm just partial to enchiladas here, so nothing can top them. It was also served with rice, refried beans and house salad.

Since we couldn't use the voucher towards alcohol we scanned the dessert selections. One of their specialties is Deep Fried Ice Cream, so we ordered that. It's vanilla ice cream battered and deep fried with cinnamon and honey/agave drizzled on top. Yummy with a capital Y.

I tried to order the Chocolate Cheesecake as well, but they didn't have that. So we tried the Chocolate Fudge Cake. They didn't have that either. They did have Volcano Cake. So we had that. It was very good too. It's a chocolate cake with soft chocolate goop inside. I guess the best way I can describe it. We had it with water because their coffee machine was out of order too.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Snack Sized portions - The Genius of Marketing

A few years ago we were Super-Sizing everything... now it seems the trend is Snack-Sized items. Oh how times have changed.

I'm sure McDonalds with their snack-sized McFlurry, Haagen-Dazs with their Vanilla and Almond snack-sized ice cream bar or Tim Hortons with their Toasted Chicken Minis aren't looking out for your waistline. No, they're looking out for their bottom line. And what easier way than reducing the size of their products?

Under the guise of showing concern for your well being by cutting calories the companies are just cutting costs (and increasing their profits). How smart is that? You put a new spin on things and turn out looking like the good guy.

In the long run I suppose it's a good thing. Overall, as a society, we're way too big. We need to shift our way of thinking to eat healthier food in moderation and to exercise. So if increasing profits for big corporations is one way to kick start the movement then so be it.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Massey Tower Condo

Last Sunday, as I previously wrote, I hung out with Kerry in the afternoon after church. We saw at bit of the NBA 3x tournament as well as visiting the Massey Tower condo sales office on Yonge.

In a previous life the Canadian Bank of Commerce did business here. It was first built in 1905 and is a truly beautiful building.

The new 60-storey Massey Tower will use the former bank as it's entrance lobby off Yonge. As with many of the suites, it will be designed by renowned interior design team Cecconi Simone. We walked through the 645-square-foot One Bedroom plus Den model suite and it was, well... sweet. High end for sure. And the prices reflect it.

A 377-square-foot shoebox they call a Junior One Bedroom will start at $366,000. A 643-square-foot Junior Two Bedroom unit on the 60th (Penthouse level) will start at $570,250. And a 882-square-foot Three Bedroom unit will set you back $601,000 (starting price). There are floor and view premiums as well.

Unfortunately lockers aren't available, so you'll have to store all your extra junk in your parents' basement. And there are a limited number of spots in the above ground parking. They will be a mechanical elevator type of unit. So you won't actually drive your car up a ramp to get to your spot. Parking spots are only available for suites over 800-square-feet and will cost you a lofty $69,000.

A great looking condo in a great location with prices to match.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

NBA 3 on 3

The NBA sponsored a 3x (three on three) tournament here in Toronto again. I believe they've had them here in the past too. This one was at Yonge/Dundas Square last Sunday. I hooked up with Kerry again after church. After lunch we wandered around the city.

Like last week we went by City Hall and Nathan Philips Square. I went to see if Richard was sitting in his usual spot, but he wasn't. I haven't seen him in awhile. I hope he's doing alright. I'm sure he must be.

We walked into City Hall to use the bathrooms. While there I took some photos of the nail sculpture on the wall (on the right side as you enter). I've never taken a shot of it all these years it's been there. It's called Metropolis and was created by David Partridge in 1974. It was created using more than 100,000 "common nails" as the City of Toronto website puts it.

After that I wanted to go through the Eaton Centre back to the Massey Tower sales office on the east side of Yonge (just north of Queen Street). We were there last week to see the model suite. It's on the site of the old Canadian Bank of Commerce.

The building hasn't been occupied in over 20 years I believe and was in neglect. Now they're restoring it and it'll be the lobby for the new condo. I'll be writing a bit about that later.

Next we walked up to Yonge/Dundas Square where we discovered the 3x tournament. It was interesting to see. They had different categories depending on your skill level. Some players were quite high level. Probably former college players.

Of course there were fun activities for the kids too. And a DJ blasting out the tunes. Something for all ages. The atmosphere was hopping.

We stayed for about half an hour before retreating back to the food court at the Eaton Centre to relax with our $1 McDonalds soft drinks.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Washing Machine Blues

I was over at my sister's place last week. Her washing machine was acting up. It did everything normally but the spin cycle at the end (to get rid of the excess water before taking the clothes out).

She tried looking up solutions on the internet. She believed her washing machine/dryer was only 4-6 years old, but couldn't find anything on it (even from the G.E. site which is the brand she has). Eventually she decided to call a repairman which she found from the local free newspaper.

He came one evening with his young assistant and they looked at the machine for 20-30 minutes. They had to take the stackable dryer off from on top to access the washer below. We stuck it in my younger nephew's room.

After a little while he told us that they had to replace the control board (or something like that). It was supposed to run between $300-$400. He would get back to us confirming the price once he found the part.

My sister was a little bit suspicious because she thought he didn't take very long and didn't do all the tests she thought he might do. So after he left we did more digging on the internet to see what we could find.

There was one thing that we thought we might try - checking the filter to see if it was plugged (it filters the water before it drain out to the sewer). Supposedly if it's plugged and you unplug it it solves some of the problems similar to what we had.

We managed to open the bottom panel on the front of the machine by unscrewing a couple of small screws. When we did we found an instruction manual inside that was supposed to be only for repairmen. We don't know if the repair guy left it there or if it was put there by the manufacturer. In any case we decided to give it a once over.

It told us how to run the diagnostic tests for the washer. So we gave it a shot. Eventually the error code 43 came up - Replace the control board... just like the repairman said.

Still we looked for the filter to see if was plugged. Newer models have a panel in the front that you can pop open with relative ease to access the filter and clean out any gunk that might be stuck in there. Unfortunately my sister's model was different. And not in a good way.

To access the filter you had to unscrew a couple of screws and pull a rubber covering off. I don't think it's meant to be accessed for some strange reason. Instead unscrewing too many things I only undid one screw and tried to dig my fingers in to see if I could fish anything out.

It was very slimy and disgusting as I was feeling my away around blindly. I couldn't see anything because the gap I squeezed my fingers through was too small. I was just going by touch and it was not pleasant.

I did manage to find a half ground up sock. I guess it's true... washing machines do eat socks. There was also miscellaneous goop like hair and other bits of things that we dug out.

In the end it didn't make a difference. The spin cycle still didn't work (even though we got it to run in the diagnostic test).

My sister told me the following day (or two) the repairman returned with the control board and put it in. No luck... the spin cycle still didn't run. Who knows where we go from here.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Sunday Afternoon Downtown

After church and after lunch last Sunday I went for a walk downtown with my friend Kerry. It was a bit overcast out, but that was fine. I brought my camera because I thought I'd like to do some shooting for fun.

Our first stop was Toronto City Hall. I went to check on Richard, but I didn't see him. I haven't seen him very often especially since they started the renovations around Nathan Philips Square. I hope he's doing alright. There's all sorts of construction work around the spot he usually stays at in his wheelchair.

After spending a bit of time at City Hall we walked over to the Eaton Centre. I heard on 680 News they were going to show the closing ceremony of the 2012 Olympics in London there. We found a spot in front of one of the TV sets they had set up in the food court and watched it there.

Though after returning home and watching the news I don't think that was the spot where they had the big showing. Our set was small and had no sound. It looked like they had something set up elsewhere in the mall and were giving out free cupcakes and other things to the people who gathered to watch.

It was getting a bit late by the time the closing ceremony ended. I went up to street level at Yonge Dundas Square and hung out just a little while longer with Kerry before walking back home.

I got a few good shots while I was out. Including the funny one above of Spiderman posing with people. If you gave him some spare change he would hold you and let your friend(s) take a picture. You see all sorts of interesting characters around the city in the summer.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Walk at Edwards Gardens

After lunch (and coffee at McDonalds) I parted ways with my friends and went over to Edwards Gardens to take some pictures. I hadn't gone there in a while and wanted to take a few shots.

Unfortunately the weather wasn't that great. It was overcast with spotty showers. Every now and then I had to scoot back to my car until the rain stopped and I could get back out.

The cloud cover actually wasn't that bad. It toned down what would have otherwise been a harsh sun. Not that shooting in direct sunlight isn't good either. It's just different.

I spent a couple of hours in the park. Part of it chasing a Monarch butterfly with beat up wings around (mostly unsuccessfully). Part of it trying to photograph a cute bunny rabbit who was munching on grass (again, mostly unsuccessfully). But, mostly, I was shooting the wide variety of flowers they had there.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Lunch at Jerusalem Restaurant

I met up with my friends for lunch on Saturday. We went to Jerusalem Restaurant on Leslie north of Sheppard. It was my second time there. My friend, Gabe, suggested it the first time. This time it was my decision.

Jerusalem Restaurant serves Middle Eastern food buffet style. It's really good. At certain times they even have a belly dancer performing. Though, this time, there wasn't one.

That was fine. We had a great lunch and engrossing conversation. It was nice to just hang out and eat and talk and sit and relax. Other customers came and went, in and out. We were in no rush.

After lunch we headed over to McDonalds to grab a free coffee. They had a one week promotion at the time.

While there we saw the Men's 4x100 metre relay finals. The Jamaicans with Usain Bolt were the overwhelming favorites with the U.S. men following a strong second. Third place was up for grabs though. The Canadians were entered, but being ranked 11th in the world at the time I didn't think we stood a chance.

It was a close race between the Americans and Jamaicans until the final runners. Usain Bolt was the Jamaican anchor. He pulled away from the American runner and won in world record time. Another incredible performance. Could you expect anything else?

Surprisingly, the Canadians came in third. It was all very exciting for everyone watching at McDonalds. We were all so proud of them.

They were very happy too hugging each other and running around the track carrying Canadian flags.

But, then something happened. We (the people watching in McDonalds) saw the Canadian sprinters fall to their knees at the stadium. Tears were coming from their eyes. There was no sound from the television so we couldn't hear what the commentators were saying.

After watching a few replays we figured it out. The Canadian team was disqualified because one of the team member's feet touched the line while running round the track. An innocent, but costly mistake. There was no mercy from the officials.

The bronze medal we would have won (should have won) would have been our 19th of the London games besting our total of 18 from Beijing in 2008. Instead we tied.

I guess that sums up the games regarding the Canadian team. There were some unexpected triumphs as well as unfulfilled potential. Both overwhelming joy and disappointing heartbreak.

It sounds like the story of life. And for seventeen days it helped most of the world escape theirs as they lived vicariously through the athletes that represented their nations.

Note: Lunch price ranges from $12.95 to $20.95 at Jerusalem Restaurant. Dinner is from $19.95 to $27.95.

Sunday, August 12, 2012


As most of you know I have a little something called Olympic Fever. It's not serious, but every now and then I need to get my fix.

Today's must see event was the Men's 200 metre race. It featured the world's fastest man, Usain Bolt, of Jamaica and two of his fellow compatriots. After the 100 metre race, which Bolt won in an Olympic best time of 9.63 seconds, this was the next most anticipated one.

It was slated to begin at 3:55 p.m. Eastern Time. 680 News (680 AM) said they'd air it live on the radio as it happened. Since I would be on the road working, it would be the next best thing to seeing it.

Throughout the day I made my deliveries watching the clock as it counted down closer and closer to start time.

At around 3:50 I arrived at the back of Golden Court Chinese restaurant on Highway 7. Only five minutes to go until the race. I asked myself if I should sit in the van and wait or run in and make a quick drop off. Normally it would only take three or four minutes tops for me to pop in and out of this particular place.

I decided I would go in.

The lady I usually deal with was nowhere to be found. Instead I found the cashier. I told her there was one and 1/3 box of wet towels left and she agreed that I should bring another box in.

When I came back from the van with the new box she had the money all ready to give to me. That was good. It made things faster. She gave me the cash and I gave her a copy of the receipt from my book.

I put the new box beside the full one that I brought last week and took the small bag of wet towels out of the other box and put it up on top of the cupboard beside the other two boxes.

As for the empty box? I brought outside where I saw a large recycling bin. You know... the ones the size of a big dumpster.

Now I can't remember exactly what happened next... I believe I had the money and my receipt book in my left hand and the empty box in the other. From the top step (fourth or fifth step of the metal stairs leading into the back of the restaurant) I tossed the box into the bin. As I did I inadvertently bumped my left hand. Something fell into the recycling bin.

I checked my left hand. The cash was still there. Thankfully. But, the receipt book was gone. I had to get it.

I looked over the edge of the bin. The box was on top, but the book wasn't. Why, oh why, wasn't it on top? No, it had to fall down a slim crack to the bottom of the wet bin (it had been raining all day). I had no choice but to jump in and dig. Thankfully this was the cardboard recycling bin, not the garbage bin on the other side of the steps. I seriously don't know if I could have waded through that filth.

A few minutes later I found the book. A little damp, a little dirty, but fine nevertheless. I had to move a bunch of stuff around inside the bin (yuck) so I could get down to the very bottom, but I eventually found it.

When I got back to the van and turned on the radio I was just in time to hear the announcer say that Usain Bolt had made history becoming the first person to defend both the 100 and 200 metre titles he won in the previous games. Greeeaaat.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Olympics - Day 8

Day 8 was pretty special for Canada at the 2012 Olympics in London. Understand that we're a relatively small country. Winning a medal of any kind is great for us. So when we won three on Saturday it was a wonderful accomplishment.

Up until that day we had only won seven medals (2 silver and 5 bronze) in total. That all changed when 23-year-old, Rosie MacLennan, of Toronto won gold in Trampoline. She beat her main rivals from China Shanshan Huang (silver) and He Wenna (bronze). Unfortunately they bumped fellow Canadian Karen Cockburn to fourth.

In the pool Ryan Cochrane edged out Tunisian swimmer Oussama Mellouli for silver in the Men's 1500-metre Freestyle. China's Sun Yang won the event going away setting a new world record at 14:31.02.

Finally the trio of Gillian Carleton, Jasmin Glaesser and Tara Whitten won bronze on the track in the Women's Team Pursuit. They edged out a game Australian team over the 12-lap (3000-metre) race by less than two-tenths of a second. Thrilling.

Sadly it wasn't all happy news for Canadian Olympic fans. We saw a tearful Paula Findlay struggle through injury to finish last (52nd place) in the Women's Triathlon. An emotional, Findlay, apologized to Canadians for letting us down.

What she didn't realize is she has nothing to apologize for. She's a hero to many of us epitomizing the Olympic spirit of perseverance and class by never giving up no matter how badly she felt. She made me, for one, proud to be a Canadian with her gutsy performance. That's as important as any medal as far as I'm concerned.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Niagara Falls with Tony and Iris

... and Iris' mother.

Iris' mum was visiting from Korea. She arrived over a month ago I believe. Since they don't have a car I drove them to Niagara Falls this past Sunday.

They decided to start at Canada One outlet mall on Lundy's Lane. They had gone once before when Iris' parents visited last year. Tony couldn't remember exactly where it was so I stopped to ask strangers on the street for directions. I suppose I'm not like typical guys that way (I'll ask directions). I'm too impatient to drive around aimlessly.

The main attraction for Iris and her mother (and, perhaps, most women who shop at the mall) was the Coach outlet store. In fact it's the only store with crowd control stanchions (ropes). They're the only store where people actually have to wait in line to get in. Well, at the women's location anyway. They also have a men's store (no line there).

Tony and I ate our Vietnamese sandwiches while we waited. Then we headed to a few shoe stores because my running shoes were a bit worn. The deals weren't as good as in the U.S. though, so I didn't buy anything.

Afterwards we headed over to the Falls. I dropped Tony, Iris and her mum by the Falls and went to look for free parking. Tony offered to pay for parking, but I didn't want him to waste the money.

It took me a bit of time, but I accidently came upon the free lot we used a few years ago. It's on Portage Road a bit south of Fallsview Casino Resort. It's about 5-10 minutes walk away from the back entrance where the casino buses drop passengers off.

After I parked I walked down to the Falls to snap a few quick pictures. I actually didn't have much time before I was supposed to meet them at the designated spot near the police station on Niagara Parkway/River Road.

I met Tony there at 5:30. Iris and her mom were still out sightseeing. Instead of having them walk back to the car I arranged to meet them at the Fallsview Casino Resort parking circle at the main entrance. It was really hot and humid out. I didn't think it would be good to make Iris' mum walk any more than necessary.

Iris wanted to eat at Burger King because she had some coupons. Instead of eating in Niagara Falls I thought we should head back along the QEW and stop somewhere along the way when we encountered traffic. The drive was relatively smooth though. So we pulled over in Hamilton and ate at the BK on Centennial Parkway near the Kings Buffet where I drop off the wet towels.

After dinner we hopped back on the highway and I drove them back to their place.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Sky Zone 3-D Dodgeball

On Saturday my friend, Benson, organized a group of about 20 of his friends to go to Sky Zone to play 3-D Dodgeball. The facility in Mississauga offers many different trampoline based activities. It looks pretty cool. Most of us had never done anything trampoline related before.

Benson had first become interested after seeing some photos posted on Facebook by his friends. That's how I found out about it too.

In my mind I had thought about all the different things I wanted to try. Like doing flips and things like that. When we first arrived there was a instructional video playing saying what you could and could not do. Some of the people were doing flips and twists and things. All I can say it's way harder than it looks.

We booked an hour on one of their courts. Once there a girl with Sky Zone gave us some instructions then we divided our group in two and proceeded to play. Surprisingly enough 15 minutes in we were all pooped. I for one certainly didn't expect that. But, all that jumping was more tiring than we thought it would be. Still we pressed on taking short breaks between games. It was fun for sure.

At the end I don't think there was a dry brow to be seen. Time for everyone to go home and shower before heading over to Benson's for his birthday, potluck dinner later in the evening.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Sunday - Wedding Day

I attended two weddings this past Sunday. One was planned over many months... the other... over a course of less than a week.

One friend called me on Saturday night and asked me if I was still attending my church downtown. I told him, yes. He told me he was getting married there the next day and asked if I could take pictures for him. I told him, of course I could. The next day at 1:00 I met him there along with his fiancée, mother and sister. She told me he decided to get married the previous Tuesday. He had been seeing his girlfriend for many years and they discussed marriage in the past though.

Our pastor Tom conducted the ceremony. It was simple and fast, but not without it's humorous moments. Part way through the Star Wars theme chimed loudly throughout the sanctuary. It was my friend's phone. He ignored if for awhile, but it wouldn't stop so he turned it off (which he probably should have done before). I tried to keep my composure, but broke out laughing. I have to say it was quite hilarious.

Right after that I went to my former Trader co-worker Carol Chan's wedding at 3:00. She married her long time boyfriend/fiancé Kelvin Siu. The ceremony and reception were held at a banquet facility not far from Vaughan Mills mall.

It was quite nice. I was happy to see a group of my former friends from work again. It's been awhile since I've seen some of them. I was last there three years ago (the summer of 2009). We all sat together at the same table at the reception. Unfortunately we were kind of left in the dark for a good part of the evening because the emcee (and most everyone else who gave speeches) spoke solely in Cantonese. Only Viola (who hails from Hong Kong) could understand what they were saying. Oh well.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Money = Happiness?

I recently watched a few episodes of show on TLC (The Learning Channel) about lottery winners (mostly based in the United States). It was pretty interesting.

One thing I learned is that if you win, say, $35 million, you don't actually get $35 million. They said something about if the winners wanted their money in a lump sum they received only about half of it (I'm not sure why).

As well, the government takes about a third of that amount in taxes so you end up with only about $11-$12 million. Not chump change, but far from what you would get had you won the lottery here in Canada (which is the entire amount).

The second thing I learned is that after you win you'll make a lot of new "friends"... who want your money. And if you're silly enough to give some to them that's the last you'll see of them (until they want more I suppose).

One winner had to move from the small town he grew up in because people were contantly harassing him. If he drove somewhere and parked his truck, upon his return he would find notes stuck to it from strangers asking for money to help them pay their bills or some other sob story.

Another self-described "redneck" woman took her children out of school because the other kids were picking on them after she won the lottery. Greaaaat... home schooled by someone who probably didn't complete high school. At least the kids had fun at "recess" riding around on their ATVs in the yard behind their newly expanded trailer.

For these so called "winners" winning meant isolation. Sure they had big homes and a lot of nice toys. But, they had to either move or close themselves off from many of the people they once knew because of it.

Other people were just plain dumb. One young, 19-year-old winner gave some of his winnings to his mother (which was nice) then moved out and bought a mansion in Florida. While there he "invested" in an all women's pro-wrestling league among other things.

After giving away at least a million dollars he smartened up and sold his place in Florida and moved back home with his mom and brothers. There he would have time to think about all the foolish things he had done.

Then there was this tragic story about an illiterate, Florida man who won about $30 million ($17 million after taxes).

A lot of people took advantage of him. Either he was just too kind or didn't know how to say, no. He gave a lot of people "loans" (which I'm sure they had no intention of paying back).

But his story really took a tragic turn when a stranger conned him into selling her his expensive, newly purchased home and took over all his finances under the pretense of being his advisor.

At one point he dropped out of sight not contacting anyone he knew for a few months. That is until, one day, his mother received a text from him saying, not to worry and that he was alright. Well, of course, that set off alarm bells as he was illiterate and couldn't read or write.

Long story short... authorities found his remains some time later buried in the woman's backyard. She was charged as an accessory after the fact to first-degree murder.

I'm not saying winning the lottery couldn't or wouldn't be great. But, it brings it's own set of problems along with it.