Monday, February 25, 2013

Guidance Counsellors

We had our monthly bible study meeting this past Friday. There are about 8-9 people in my group. Most of them have kids who, at lower range of the age scale, are graduating high school. Part way through the evening the discussion turned from the book we were looking at to the frustration some of them were having with some of their children.

I should mention everyone in our group is Chinese. So there are certain expectations I believe most parents have of their kids. They are pressured to graduate from university and gain some sort of professional employment as an engineer, lawyer, accountant or doctor for example. However, for one reason or another, these expectations may not be met and that can lead to conflict.

I don't think it's enough to tell your child to study hard (particularly if he or she is of marginal intelligence). I believe it's imperative to explain why education is important as well. You have to tell them the consequences of not completing certain levels of education and the options they have if they don't. They need to see the big picture and how it will impact their future.

Not everyone can or needs to attend university. Sometimes a college diploma or learning a trade will suit some people much better. Graduating with a degree in certain fields may leave you not only struggling to find meaningful work, but owing a lot of money in student loans too. It's a lose-lose situation (being unemployed and in debt).

I think children need to be groomed at a young age towards the kind of education that suits them. It has to be something they are able to excel in as well as being practical towards finding work. You need to know what sort of jobs will be in demand at graduation.

As well (on a separate note), kids need to be taught the value of money. This is vitally important. No matter how much you earn you have to learn how to manage what you have and know how much you need to save and invest to guarantee yourself a comfortable retirement.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Caribbean Bistro

Last Saturday I went to Caribbean Bistro with my friend Gabe for lunch. He was going there with his friend from work, Ron, and invited me along. Ron is from Trinidad and is always on the lookout for authentic Caribbean restaurants.

We met up at around 11:30. The restaurant is in my neck of the woods on the east side of Yonge a few blocks north of Eglinton. Since we arrived relatively early the only other person there was the proprietor, Sheila.

I don't normally eat Caribbean food, so it took me some time to peruse the menu. I have had roti before and decided on a curried beef and potato version. Gabe ordered stewed beef with a side of rice and peas and Ron had the Callaloo and beef with rice. Gabe and I each had a cup of Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee too. It was really good.

The portions were decent and the food was tasty and reasonably priced. Sheila was quite friendly and even took the time to chat a little.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Winter Walk

Last Friday we had a huge snow storm. The forecast was for 25 centimetres of snow to fall. To me, it seemed like a lot more. I was on the road that day and traffic was a mess (to put it lightly). There were many, many cars stuck in piles of deep snow which snarled things up everywhere.

While tonnes of snow is a pain to drive through, it's certainly pretty to look at. On Sunday (after church) I thought I'd go for a walk through Mount Pleasant Cemetery. It was the only place near my condo I could think of which had a park-like setting.

It wasn't as much of a "winter wonderland" as I was hoping for. The roads inside had been plowed and most of the snow which had covered the trees had fallen to the ground.

I eventually made my way to the ravine behind the cemetery (on the south end). Part of it runs south and eventually connects with Mount Pleasant Avenue. You can also head west up the hill to St. Clair Avenue.

It was nice down there. Fairly quiet. Not too many people. A few joggers and some dog walkers. That's about it.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Famoso Pizzeria

My friend Gabe and I went to Famoso Pizzeria at Yorkdale a couple of weeks ago. I had bought a $40 voucher for the restaurant from one of those discount voucher companies.

It was a decent looking place for a mall eatery. Of course Yorkdale is an upscale mall so I suppose you couldn't expect anything less.

The prices pretty much matched the swanky setting. I ordered a pepperoni and mushroom pizza for $13.75. It was supposed to be 11" across. It tasted quite good, but I'm sure you could have gotten it for less at most other places.

My friend ordered a spicy Thai pizza with chicken and bean sprouts for $14.75. I have to admit it was a little weird. I can't say I'm a big fan of bean sprouts on pizza.

To top lunch off we each had a piece of Tiramisu at $6 each. It was really tasty.

After we ate we headed over to the movie theatre there and caught Gangster Squad starring Sean Penn and Josh Brolin. It was about an off-the-record police squad organized to fight a L.A. kingpin's mob organization. Of course it was violent, but I thought it was quite entertaining nevertheless.

After the movie we still weren't done. We went to the Boston Pizza near my friend's place and watched the UFC card on the big screen television sets there. A fun day all round.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Skating @ Harbourfront

Our Cornerstone Sports Night team went skating at Harbourfront on Saturday. Well, at least four of us did. We had asked people to pick a day that suited them best and this was supposed to be it. But, there were some last minute cancellations and one person forgot and another just didn't show. So there ended up being four of us.

It was still good. I like skating outdoors. And the Harbourfront is a great place to skate outside. The scenery is nicer than Nathan Philips Square where you're surrounded by concrete and buildings. At least you have Lake Ontario nearby when you're by the waterfront.

After skating we went to dinner at Gonoe Sushi which was just across the street. We ordered a huge 80-piece sushi boat and split it between the four of us. It was impressive looking I have to say. Maybe we'll try again soon and see if we can get a few more people out.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Escape from Camp 14

I was at the library last Friday and I happened upon this book, Escape from Camp 14. It's about a young, Korean man named, Shin Dong-hyuk. He's believed to be the only person to escape from the political prison in the remote hills in rural North Korea and make it to the West.

The story is absolutely horrific. If there were a stronger term I'd use it. The way the detainees are treated there (and many of them are young children) is unfathomable. They are slaves who are beaten, starved and abused in ways that are unimaginable. Their sense of reality is so distorted by the mistreatment of the "teachers" there that it's a wonder how escapees ever learn to adjust to life outside the electrified, barbed wire enclosure (if at all).

Shin Dong-hyuk was born in the prison in 1982. His mother, Jang Hye Gyung, was a prisoner there as was his father, Shin Gyung Sub. His father was given his mother as his bride by the guards as a reward for being a good worker there. Husbands and wives live in separated barracks. They were permitted to meet a few times a year. There is virtually no contact (verbal or otherwise) between prisoners of opposite sex. Penalty for breaking camp rules is death.

Shin Dong-hyuk had an older brother, He Geun, who was born in 1974. Both He Geun and his mother were publicly executed at the camp because they plotted to escape. Other prisoners were made to watch as Jang Hye Gyung was hanged and He Geun was shot multiple times until dead.

Shin's father was imprisoned because two of his brothers escaped to South Korea. According to the "three generations of punishment" law instituted by North Korea's first dictator Kim Il Sung, relatives of "perpetrators" were sent to these, in effect, concentration camps to wipe out the lineage of the entire family. If you were cursed to be born there you were treated as barbarically as if you yourself committed an offense against the regime.

Prisoners are slaves who are beaten, tortured, starved and regularly murdered. It's incomprehensible how a so-called leader could do this to anyone let alone the citizens of his own country, the ones he purports to hold so dearly to his heart.

In the book you'll get a glimpse into what "life" is like inside the camp as well as outside. You'll see the distorted view of the world bestowed upon the young minds there. You'll follow Shin's journey of discovery where he learns there is a completely different reality outside the prison walls. And you'll follow his incredible journey to freedom – and it is incredible.

This story is not for the faint of heart. But, it is essential it be heard. Former "Dear Leader" Kim Jong Il is dead. He died from a heart attack in late 2011. May he rot in hell. His youngest son, Kim Jong Eun, has succeeded him and assumed the role of supreme leader. It is of foremost importance that he and his cronies be held responsible for their roles in the torture and murder of the citizens of North Korea.