Thursday, January 31, 2013

Echo Sushi - $13.99 AYCE Lunch

My friend Ying and I went to Echo Sushi for lunch a little while ago. I had gone there once before with my roommate, Naomi, and her friend Markus. It's an All-You-Can-Eat Japanese restaurant on the west side of Yonge in between Eglinton and Davisville.

My previous favorite place for AYCE sushi was Ajimi (at Yonge and Davisville). They charge $11.99 for lunch. Echo Sushi is a little more expensive at $13.99, but you get a lot more selection. And better stuff too (like rainbow rolls and things like that). Ajimi doesn't even offer dessert at lunch time (and Echo does).

So, while dinner (at $18.99) is great at Ajimi... I'd say pay the $2 more and go to Echo for AYCE sushi at lunchtime.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Common Sense - Finally

Not long ago Toronto Mayor, Rob Ford, was ordered removed from office by a lower court judge on conflict of interest charges. This was appealed by Mayor Ford's lawyers and, today (January 25th), the verdict came in. The three judge panel reversed the decision and Mayor Ford was allowed to keep his job. Finally, some common sense.

The whole incident was totally ridiculous as far as I was concerned. It was over a matter where Mayor Ford used City of Toronto letterhead (I believe) to solicit funds for his charity, youth football team. Around $3,000 was raised. This was in violation of city policy (using city letterhead to solicit funds).

The integrity commissioner became involved and there was a debate in city council in which Mayor Ford participated in (also a violation of city policy). What came next was a court challenge late last year which Mayor Ford lost.

How it even got that far is beyond me. One news reporter said that the incident probably shouldn't have even gone to court. That the integrity commissioner didn't have the power to take it that far. That Mayor Ford should have only gotten a reprimand and that's it.

So much time and money has been wasted on this circus. Not to mention the distraction from conducting important city business for something this trivial. And it was trivial - They wanted to remove a democratically elected mayor from office possibly triggering a $7-$10 million by-election over a $3,000 charity fundraising misstep? Are you kidding me? Yes, he was wrong. Yes, he made a mistake. But, does the penalty fit the crime? It's like sentencing someone to 10-years in jail for shoplifting. Think about it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Water, O how I take thee for Granted

After playing floor hockey at Cornerstone Sports Night a couple of Mondays ago I arrived home shortly before 11:00. Instead of jumping straight into the shower I returned a missed call to one of my friends. We ended up chatting a bit longer than both of us probably intended. After hanging up I went to wash up.

I went to my ensuite shower and turned the tap and... nothing. No water... not a drip. That's when I remember... they turned off all the water in our condo for maintenance at 11:00 p.m. and weren't going to turn it back on until 5:00 a.m. the next morning. Oh my goodness!

After the feeling of self-pity dissipated, I started thinking about how much we take having running water for granted. When you don't have something, that it is when you really value it. I couldn't wash my hands, brush my teeth, flush the toilet... nothing. And I was only inconvenienced for a few hours.

I thought about the folks in New York and New Jersey that were affected by Super Storm Sandy. They were without water and power for days. I thought about people in developing countries who have to walk great distances to wells or rivers to get their water. It's such a precious commodity to them while we just flush it down the toilet without giving it a second thought. How crazy is that?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Preferential Treatment in the Military - Yes or No?

My friends and I were having a discussion over lunch last Sunday. It was about whether or not certain people should receive preferential over others in military service. We started talking about it because one of them mentioned that current pop sensation Psy was reprimanded for breaking some kind of dress code while serving in the Korean military.

My friends argued that everyone should receive equal treatment while serving in the military. Now, I'm sure some of you may find it strange (if you know me), that I'd be arguing for the other side. But, that's what happened.

While I believe in fair and equal treatment for people in most cases, I think that, in certain, rare circumstances, the rule should be broken to accommodate certain individuals who are more useful alive (as opposed to dead). This could be because they possess one-of-a-kind, intellectual capacity or could provide an unparalleled morale boost to either the general populace or men in uniform (like those entertainers who were sent overseas to entertain the troops in the second World War). I think there would have been a great outcry among the citizens of the U.S. if Elvis Presley were sent to battle and was killed in action for instance.

I also gave the example of if Prince Harry were put on the front lines of battle and happened to be killed. But, even he might not be of high enough standing in society to warrant preferential treatment. I probably should have mentioned someone like Prince William who's next in line for the throne. He shouldn't have to fight on the front lines. I believe if he were required to do so and happened to be killed irreparable damage may be done to the psyche of the Brits (to lose someone of his royal stature). I believe someone like him should be given preferential treatment over the common man.

Or course there will be the question of "where do you draw the line?" Who should receive preferential treatment and who shouldn't? That will be an intense debate to say the least (and one I don't have an answer to). It should be left to the people of whichever country it concerns. I just think it should be an option that's all.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

419 by Will Ferguson

I just finished reading 419 by Will Ferguson. It recently won the 2012 Scotia Bank Giller Prize. The annual award, named after the late Doris Giller, recognizes excellence in Canadian fiction with a $50,000 grand prize.

The story is based on the internet scams running out of Nigeria. They're called 419 scams which refers to "the section in the Nigerian Criminal Code that deals with obtaining money or goods under false pretenses". Basically, fraud.

In this book it's internet fraud committed by one Winston Balogun of Lagos over his unwitting victim, an elderly gentleman named Henry Curtis. Mr. Curtis is a retired school teacher from "a cold northern town". He's a family man with a loving wife, a son and daughter and grandchildren. This scam leaves him penniless and unbearably shamed. A shame so painful that he tragically takes his own life because of it.

After Mr. Curtis' untimely death his daughter, Laura, takes up the investigation (after the local police close their file on him). It leads her on a journey to the underbelly of a far away land where she meets some truly menacing degenerates and unwittingly finds herself well in over her head.

Will Ferguson takes us back and forth through time introducing a cast of seemingly unrelated characters along the way. Along with Laura and Winston, there's Amina, a pregnant young girl from northern Nigeria, Oga (boss) Ironsi-Egobia from Lagos, Nnamdi from a small, unnamed village in the Niger Delta, the Shell Man an oyibos from the Netherlands and Igbo Joe from Port Harcourt (also in the Niger Delta).

Like a spiderweb where all the threads meet in the middle their lives will eventually intersect; and that's where they story comes to a head.

This book isn't only about the 419 scams, but life in Nigeria amongst the natives, how they interact with one another and with the oyibos (white men) in the oil industry. It is a poisoned relationship to say the least.

The ending is gripping. I'll leave it at that. Laura's intense desire for retribution leaves her blind to the peril that's closing in from all sides.

Friday, January 11, 2013

In a Jam-ma at Kama

Kama is an Indian restaurant on King Street West (west of University Avenue). was offering buffet lunch and dinner vouchers for them a month or two ago. Since I like eating Indian food every now and then I bought a couple of lunch buffet vouchers (each good for two adults). They're valid until January 25th, 2013.

On Wednesday, January 2nd I asked one of my friends if she'd like to go on the weekend. She seemed pretty enthused about it. Neither of us had had East Indian food in awhile, so I think we were both looking forward to it.

Saturday (the 5th) rolls around and I give her a ring at about 11:00 a.m. She tells me she's under-the-weather and doesn't think she should go. She doesn't want to pass on her germs, she tells me. But, I'm persistent (I have to use up two vouchers in about three weeks after all), so she gives in.

We don't start driving down from my place until about 1:00 p.m. (or thereabouts). I'm a bit concerned that we might not have much time to eat so I ask her to call them and ask what their hours are (for lunch). It's at that time she's informed that, for the month of January, they're closed for lunch on the weekends.

Well, you can imagine my reaction. I wasn't too pleased to say the least. I supposed you could say we were lucky we didn't drive all the way downtown and pay for parking before we found this out, but I certainly didn't feel that way.

What kind of business would do something like that? Offer a lunch buffet voucher (that expires before the end of January) and then say, we're closed for lunch on the weekends for the month of January?

I suppose if you're not working and you have time to go down there during the week for lunch that's just great. But, if you're like most people and you have a 9 to 5 job during the week... well, you're up the creek without a paddle.

Fortunately for me (and even more fortunate for my sister), I found someone to give them to (her). She actually works across the street from the restaurant. I gave her the vouchers and told her to take one of her co-workers to lunch with her.

Still, I must say, the restaurant is pretty rotten for pulling a stunt like that.

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Magna Man

I saw a book at Indigo a short time ago. It was called The Magna Man. It's an autobiography by Frank Stronach, founder of car parts manufacturing giant Magna International. Since I couldn't read the whole thing there, I reserved it at the library. It came in three weeks ago.

Frank Stronach is a remarkable person. Born to working class parents in a small town in Austria, he made his way to Canada, at age 21, in search of adventure and a better life. The year was 1954.

Disembarking the freighter ship in Montreal he struggled to get by in the early days. With the little money he had fast dwindling he soon had to seek help from a friend, Max Windhager, who lived in Kitchener, Ontario at the time.

A few days later Frank got his first job working in the basement of a hospital out there. He washed dishes and peeled carrots and potatoes for them. A far cry the specialized tool and die training he received as a teenager in Weiz (his hometown).

Max helped him get a job as a machinist at a plant that made components for the Avro Arrow (the ill-fated Canadian jet plane). Frank worked there for a few months before getting laid off.

After that he applied for a job at the Ford plant in Oakville with no success. It was then he decided to make his way to Toronto where he found a job with auto parts manufacturer A.G. Simpson. That lasted a good 3-4 months, again with the same result as his previous employment at the Avro Arrow plant - being laid off.

What happened next was, as he says, a turning point for him - In 1955 he was hired to work at a small tool shop in downtown Toronto. After a short time Frank was promoted to manager thus receiving his first taste of what it would be like to run his own company.

Long story, short... in 1957, Frank Stronach, at age 24, with $3,000 of his own money and a loan from the bank, opened his own tool and die shop. Working 16-hour days, 7 days a week and knocking on countless doors looking for business his tiny one-man shop grew and grew and grew to a multi-billion dollar company that currently employs over 100,000 people worldwide.

The book is quite interesting. Among other things it chronicles Mr. Stronach's interest in horse breeding and racing, his formula for success (sharing profits and ownership), his business philosophy (fair enterprise which gives all employees a slice of the profits) and his many charitable offerings (to the needy worldwide).

He's hardworking, practical, charitable and driven. I must say I admire the man greatly.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

New Year's Eve @ Dickie's

Dickie and Perry organized another New Year's Eve party this year. Dickie opened up his home to everyone again. His mother made a huge tray of noodles, Perry made his yummy salmon and other people brought various food items.

The guests consisted of two main groups - The church folks from CPC and RHCCC and Sue's Mandarin-speaking friends.

The activities were pretty much the same as last year. Perry brought his Rock Band video games for the Xbox. Other people kept themselves entertained watching DVDs on Dickie's big screen TV before the countdown. And there was a ping pong table in the basement for those who were so inclined to play table tennis. New this year was a Karaoke machine upstairs that Dickie either found or was given. It was a little hard to operate so I don't believe it was used too much.

I arrived sometime after 7:00 (if I remember correctly). Dickie's place was already quite full. I discovered the Karaoke machine in the computer room when I went upstairs to change. Linda came up shortly after and we tried to figure out how to work it. We managed to sing a couple of songs before it was time for dinner.

I watched a bit of Men In Black III on DVD, but most of my time was spent playing Rock Band. I really like it. Singing is fun. So is playing the guitar and bass. The drums are more challenging, but cool too.

People dropped by throughout the evening. At midnight we probably had around 20 folks watching the countdown on CityTV.

Happy New Year, everyone! All the best in 2013!