Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Beef Patty

The Christmas Patty

This was the only food I had today. It might sound sad that the only food I ate was a beef patty and a can of ginger ale being that A) I enjoy food and B) its on one of the days when the whole nation is stuffing themselves silly.  Truth be told I was still stuffed from last night's feast.  I practically ate an entire pork roast by myself then went into a major food coma that lasted until this morning.

The wobbly feeling of having eaten too much combined with hours of sleep and the thought of becoming a fat blob was enough to get me to go outside to walk around a bit.  The walk would also serve as a chance to collect photos with matching GPS data to test my GPXdistiller program.

It's pretty great to walk around during Christmas day as there's hardly any traffic and the streets are empty. See attached photos...

The neighbourhood CoffeeTime N43° 39.892'  W79° 27.521'

Ski-doo N43° 39.920' W79° 27.932'

Here's a sad BlockBuster location N43° 39.917' W79° 27.953'

N43° 39.936' W79° 28.113'

N43° 39.930' W79° 28.130'

Some random Christmas windowN43° 39.928' W79° 28.147'

N43° 39.928' W79° 28.272'

N43° 39.935' W79° 28.538'

N43° 39.933' W79° 28.382'

N43° 39.933'  W79° 27.789'

N43° 39.864'  W79° 27.461'

N43° 39.868'  W79° 27.415'

N43° 40.026'  W79° 27.471'

N43° 40.098'  W79° 27.324'

I returned home to find this at my door. A package from my amazing landlords. It was a box of chocolate. Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Snakes and Lattes

Playing Hanabi

There's this place on Bloor just west of Bathurst called Snakes and Lattes. It could be considered a coffee shop which it technically is (hence the lattes part of the title). The spin is that there are board games available to play. You and your friends get a table, a server comes by with a menu, and offers a selection of games that can be played. You can choose something from the shelf but if you're unsure you can not only ask the server for a recommendation but you can also have them teach you how to play.  The cost is $5 per player.

In the world of electronic doodads and interactivity (without actually interacting with a person in real life) this games cafe is a nice change. You get to play an assortment of games, ones where you compete with one another and ones where you can actually play together for a common goal.

There are advantages of places like these in that A) you don't actually have to own the board game which might take up space in your apartment. B) your apartment is small, a disaster zone, C) you want to eat snacks or drink something being served to you (yes, this is always nice).

I had walked by this place a couple of times wondering what it was.  Since I don't drink coffee there was no real incentive to go in. Usually when I walked by the place I had another place I was on my way to so again not a lot of time to explore.  It was actually my friend Diane that offered it up as a suggested place to spend some time.  She was in town visiting her grand mother and had some time in Toronto before going back to London.

We were introduced to a card game called Hanabi.  It's a cooperative game which requires memory skills.  The game is simple once you learn it and lasts for about 30 minutes to an hour.  It was enough time to have a sandwich and a half bowl of nuts.

I'll have to visit again.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The IKEA Adventure

food at IKEA

Today's fun is an adventure to IKEA. My friend Larry needed to get some shelf parts. Me? Meatballs! There was this meatball combo, swedish meatballs, munched potatoes, salad and a drink for $6.

Larry in the IKEA cafeteria

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Hong Shing

Sometimes you just have to post about food.

Some beef with fried noodles.

192 Dundas street west.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Recovery of a Hamster

Captain Hill enjoys some Brussels sprouts

Captain Hill seemed better today. She wasn't bleeding any more so that was good. Her movement however seemed limited to getting food and sitting or sleeping in her fluffy bed area. She didn't really move much more than that. I'm going to keep an eye on her over the following days just to see if she's okay.

eating a peanut

Update:  Captain Hill started crawling around from level one to level three of the cage.  Although it looked like she was panting going up the tubes.  Maybe she's getting a bit overweight.  You'd think she was a smoker.  She'd crawl up a tube then just before going up the next one would stop, pant, like she was contemplating the next climb.  She hasn't been exercising in the ball as of late, it's possible she's getting out of shape.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Captain Hill, the $5 hamster

Feeding Captain Hill a peanut

Hamsters are on sale! "Hey, that's cool I always wanted to get a Hamster as a pet." Maybe because they eat and sleep all day. I could relate to that. And at $5, the only pet less expensive would be a pet fish or maybe a worm (more on that experiment here).

Of course once you add the food, the cage, the total racked up to about $200.00, Then with additional add ons, treats, more food, some hamster toys, shelving, bedding, and a hamster fluff supply over two and a half years the total increases to about $600. Then there was the operation add another $1200. Bringing us to a grand total of $1800, sorry $1805.

When Captain Hill had the tumor I thought about letting her go in a park, crawling off into the sunset. $1200 is a lot of money. I had been paid just then so I had the money and seeing the poor thing trying to crawl through tubes was sad. I had gotten attached to the thing, dammit.

Captain Hill made a full recovery from the surgery in less than a day. That was quite good news and she has been crawling around since and eating and sleeping.

Today I noticed she was leaving a trail of blood. I did some research online. It could be cysts developing in the ovaries. This is common in female hamsters that haven't produced off spring. It could also be a urinary infection or a vaginal discharge.

The pet doctor isn't open until monday so I can't do anything until then. I can only hope the bleeding stops or if it doesn't that my cheque comes in so I can afford to take her to the vet.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Rise of Los Conos

Joe Mac with his Five on Five cover (N43° 15.236' W79° 52.045')

Los Conos would play their first game against London. It's a team/league that has been assembled from skaters that used to skate with the Hammer City Roller Girls and is a fun/recreational league. Carla coma, Dicey, Mean little Mama, Chainsaw Mary, Killson, Ginsane Bruiser were skating tonight along with some new faces. The opposing team was from London, also made up of familiar skaters (Suffer jet, Andi Slamburg, Anya-face, Back Alley Sally, to name a few).

Los Conos (N43° 11.291' W80° 2.543')

The game was played in Ancaster in a building configuration that looked like it held a farmer's market. While Los Conos hasa been around for some time, this is the first game I've been to with them playing. They hosted the Ontario Skills competition a few weeks ago.

The London girls are up to something, they look suspicious.

Ginsane Bruiser warms up

Mean Little Mama breaks through the pack

Killson attempts to skate around London pivot Andi Slamburg

The return of Carla Coma

The Group photo

As with any derby outing I missed the after party/eating.  This is the social part for me as I can't really talk to anyone during the actual skating.  As usual the time here spent talking is always too short.

Carl sports the amazing Hammer City T-shirt

post derby hijinks

Friday, December 14, 2012

Gun Control

In the US today 26 people were shot and killed in a school in Connecticut, 20 of the victims were kids. Meanwhile across the globe in China 22 kids were stabbed by a man wielding a knife. Ugh.

I read this news and get depressed. What's even more depressing is that gun sales go up in America after one of these shootings. Being from Canada this just seems confusing. Americans have a gun problem and in order to solve it they buy more guns to circulate around. One of the solutions that someone came up with was to give teachers firearms or have security in and around the schools. Trying to wrap my head around this I've talked to people that live in the States. Who watches the watchers? How can the country afford to employ this protectors when schools don't have enough money for education as it is?

There are people who are opposed to guns but i was more interested in people that were for guns. I wanted to see how they thought and wanted to see the basis for their beliefs in having guns.

The main argument that was made was that Americans have the right to defend themselves. This is outlined in the 2nd amendment to the constitution, the right to bear arms. Which when written probably made a lot of sense. The main way back then to take over a country was to send in an army of men with guns and armour. Now you can just nuke a place or use drones. Guns wouldn't be a very successful defence for either.

Some arguments have been brought up like "People can kill with cars, are you going to try to ban cars too?". WTF? I can't even believe someone is using this as an argument to keep using guns. People driving in cars can kill people? Yes they can, it's true!

I find it sadly odd that I have to explain to these people that cars have another purpose other than killing and that's for transportation. The primary function of a car is not to kill but to get a person from point A to point B. A gun on the other hand has only one purpose in it's design and that's to kill or maim. The comeback reply was that the gun can also be used for sport. I would like to add that the handle can also be used to crush walnuts or the barrel as a pencil holder but in the end the gun's main purpose hasn't changed. It is a weapon and it's capable of ending a life.

Other things to consider are little points like cars can't be concealed in your pocket and have a harder time getting into classrooms to kill children. How cars are even compared to guns really astounds me.

It's true that not all people that carry guns will kill another human or even fire at another human. This is a good thing. So it's fair to listen to these people complain about tougher gun laws or even worse gun bans. After all they didn't break the law. The person who used the gun on the kids should be punished. To them I say 'tough shit'.

My friend's kids can't bring peanut butter to school. Why? Because it has the potential to kill a small percentage of kids at the school. Since the peanut butter ban kids aren't dying in schools to allergic reactions due to peanuts. So the good of the many (or in this case a small percentage) out weighs the needs of the few (or possibly many). The end result is what ultimately counts, safer public schools.

When you look at stats numbers on how many people are killed in the USA by handguns the numbers are 8583 in last year alone. In Canada by comparison around 200 (there were 170 in 2010). There is no denying that the number of accessible guns has a relation to how many people are killed by them.

The banning of guns alone won't solve the problem. It will help and yes even if people have the urge to kill one another it can still be done but at least without guns. Another thing to consider is the education and ways we look at guns. You could argue it's because using guns is glamorized in movies, tv, heck even rap music. But if you look at the deaths in Canada by hand guns it's considerably lower. We share the same movies and TV shows and music.

I think the big difference here is the news. In Canada we have reputable news networks (for now). There is the CBC, Global, and CTV nationally and other news stations locally. SunTv would be the Canadian version of FOX or CNN, channels that are known for their repetitiveness and lack of quality unbiased news.

To test this watch your favourite station and see how much news is aired that is not celebrity gossip or sports related,modes the news mention places other than your local area? Does it include other states/provinces on a regular basis? What about other countries (that your country is not at war with)? If you get a chance watch an American channel then watch a channel from another country if you're travelling. Compare.

in my experience watching the news in America is pretty sensationalized. Any person watching the news can become easily paranoid. People are out to get me! I need to defend myself! I need a gun!

While I would love a gun ban in the USA and Canada I can see this not happening for a bunch of different reasons.

A) gun hobbyists - to throw away something that you enjoy and have invested a lot of time in (that would be like me throwing away my camera)

B) gun lobbyists - basically anyone that makes their living off selling guns. No one wants to lose money, after all America was built on going from poor to rich by selling stuff. Look at how long it took to get rid of smoking in restaurants? We'll probably get bombarded by ads with other criminals killing people without the use of guns just to sell the idea that guns aren't the problem. I think this will be one of the toughest obstacles as this group will attempt to control popular opinion for their own gains. They will fight tooth and nail to see that guns should be sold and available to anyone that wants them. I wish the solution were simple here like converting all the plants that made guns into factories that made air guns that shot plastic pellets or nerf guns. Something non-lethal but something the companies could still make a fortune on.

C) American mind set - the right to defend one self, Freedom has a price.... Blah blah blah. To this I say find another way to defend yourself. Maybe a knife or baseball bat? Better yet learn a martial art. If someone is pointing a gun at you are you really going to go for a gun to shoot the other guy? Will you have time before they shoot you? Maybe they miss, maybe not and if they do gun you down you have just given them another gun to use.

D) Laziness - Let's face it. How many people will actually get up from behind their computer screens and actually do something. Oh sure someone might post a photo of a candle or something and pray for the victims (which is nice) but will they call their local member of parliament? Probably not. They'll sit on their ass and hopes someone else will do it. I'll be honest I'll type up some angry email and this blog entry and that's about it. At least I have the luxury of living in another country. Good or bad, Canada being so close to the USA, we will feel the effects of whatever USA does in the end.

One of the other arguments made was that not having guns will make America look weak. I don't have an answer to this. I still support law enforcement and the army to have guns. I think that it comes down to the American people. Safety for everyone in the country from guns or not? How badly do they want it and what will they do to get it? It is possible to amend the constitution.

Obviously this won't be easy but it's not impossible. Heck, if we can learn that the Earth isn't flat, can stop burning "witches" at stakes, stop the identification of orphans as illegitimate citizens, we can learn how to live with guns (by living without them) in our society.

Thanks for reading this. I realize this blog entry is pretty heavy (and there is no photos) but needed to vent somewhere.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Scratch that

Dave shows his scratch built models

While meeting up with Dave for lunch I, being the exploring adventurer (note: this is the politically correct term for 'nosy busy body'), looked around the apartment focusing on the number of scratch build models Dave had built.

Note the detail on the R2 unit

As a person that has loved computer graphics since seeing an asterisk run around a 2001 series PET computer I find it disheartening that well built physical models are becoming a thing of the past. It's a dying art (at least in the movie/TV business) as computer graphics become more real looking, the need for practical models is lessened.

X-wing fighter (uh duh)

For those that don't know, a scratch build model is a model made from scratch. Parts are hand crafted, moulded, sanded and glued to fit together. It's a lot more work than making a model from a kit. There's also more skill required. So when you see a model made from scratch there is a certain amount of awe and appreciation for the person that made the thing, especially if the models look good.

fish and chips N43° 42.378' W79° 21.718'

Getting back to the food. We ended up going to Olde Yorke Fish and Chips restaurant on Laird, south of Eglinton.  I must say this is probably one of the best fish and chips places in all of  Toronto.  The fish is fresh and the batter is not greasy. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Something to brighten your day (or night)

While walking to a nearby Pho restaurant with Hilary I saw a sign on a tree. Hilary told me the story behind the sign about the poor, old, lady that lived in the house behind the tree had her Christmas lights stolen. Some jogger bought her new lights and this resulted in the thank you sign.

I have a friend Michelle who would be asking for more details as she reads this. It really aggravates her when answers to "Who took the lights in the first place?", "How did the jogger find out the lights were stolen?", "Why did the jogger replace them?", "Were the replacement lights on sale?", all these questions I have no answer to. It makes me a bad reporter or a bad gossip. I laugh because I know Michelle is probably pulling her hair out right now reading this.

Sometimes a story just doesn't have the answers, as in this case. An old lady got her lights ripped off, a jogger got her replacement ones. It's a happy ending. "Michelle, I don't even know if the lady was old. I just threw that in so you'd feel more sorry for her."

I couldn't sell the story as well if I couldn't pull the ole Christmas time heart strings. "The lady was a crack addict that abused the neighborhood cats..." wouldn't get much sympathy and you, the reader, would think the jogger was an idiot (although a kind idiot).

So 'old' lady it is. Perhaps I'll make it my personal goal to ask more questions later.

12 cubed

Curry chicken on rice at Yueh Tong

Being that the date today is the 12th of December, 2012 or as the internet refers to it as 12/12/12 I figured I should go outside and do something crazy awesome to remember this fictionally auspicious occasion.

I ended up finding myself downtown at a 20% off sale at sunrise records. They had some Christmas DVDs on sale. One of them being "It Happened on Fifth avenue". A movie I had just watched. It was jammed in a set of four being sold for $12.

"What? It's not on Blu-ray?", I found myself thinking. I have become a Blu-ray snob and I'm not even that keen on the format. I'm not a fan of the open specs where you can download new settings to your Blu-ray player. It just feels like the people that thought it up didn't put much effort into it. They made a standard and left it open ended so they could install bandage solutions later on. It bugs me like software companies that release software untested and filled with bugs only to address them in the next release, a release you the consumer has to pay for.

I bought the DVD set anyway. 20% off after all and it wasn't even noon yet. It was time to eat. I went over to Yueh Tong. It was 11:30, the place was pretty much empty. I had beat the lunch crowd.

After stuffing myself with a plate of curry chicken on rice I headed back to the apartment to nap. The day of awesomeness was over at least for the time being.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Imagine Nation

A masterpiece of art and distraction

My hours are still pretty messed up. I woke up pretty late and spent the day installing C# on my NetBook. It shouldn't have taken the whole day but a lot of the time was used up looking for a 750 meg CDrom to burn an ISO image to. That led to looking through a few bins of computer stuff which led to reminiscing on objects like the magic 8 ball and derby programs that were stored along with random cables and installation disks.

At 18:30 I got an invite to meet for dinner with William and Irmena.

As with any friends that have kids I have found that you spend a lot of time talking and interacting with the kids. Equal to or more so than the amount of time you get to talk to your friends. Especially if the kids are brought up to be social. My parents probably loved me as a child, I stayed in my room programming my apple ][+ and didn't really like talking to people because I was "shy". William and Irmena's children would be classified and social or to a single person 'high maintenance', at least from an interacting point of view.

The main course was a tasty Beef stew and after dinner that's when the barrage of the kids began. Asha grilled me with music flash cards and Finn showed off his drawing talents in a sketch book, a large sketch book. I noticed the parents had magically disappeared and I was stuck with the offspring.

Actually kids take up a lot of energy, a lot of energy. If you're a parent you probably know this. Also as a parent after having the first child you're probably already good at keeping the kids occupied so they don't completely drive you nuts. I am completely enamoured with people that have these skills. I think there should be a book on this for single people, people like me.

One of the techniques is to invite friends that are single to come hang out with you. Entice them to dinner. The more yummy the dinner the better. Then, when they are filled with food and the blood from their brain is being used to digest said food, when their state is between lethargic and fast asleep that's when you release the kids.

As a tactful friend it is impolite to tell the kids "go away" for no reason plus just having eaten your friends out of house and home there's a tinge of guilt that makes you want to interact with the kids a little. Get and little, give a little and all that.

Tonight I figured out that if you ask a kid to draw something that will distract said child from interacting with you, freeing you up to talk to the parents (if they are around). Also never request something simple (eg. Draw a pig). You want something that will suck up as much time as possible before the child has to go to bed. It's not a coincidence that kids are told to go to bed early (8pm). It gives parents a few hours to themselves to collect their wits. Drawing a pig would take no time at all. You need something that will take time and something you can add on to if the child you're requesting this from is lazy.

It is better to request of the child to draw some kind of scene. (eg. Draw a giant caterpillar attacking a city). Not only does this take longer to draw something this epic but it allows the child to explore their creative side. They get to draw the animal but it's also up to them as to how the animal will interact with the city. Stomping, laser eyes, lighting bolts from antennae, chomping, releasing a deadly virus? They might even add tanks, police cars, ambulances, and screaming victims if you're lucky.

The results are pretty great. It's a win-win. The kid creates a masterpiece and likes you because you're impressed (look impressed and say things like "Good Job!"), you get to talk to the parents, the parents also get to talk to someone more grown up than the kids. Okay scratch the last point. They get the privilege of feeding you.

Monday, December 10, 2012


James on subway after seeing Looper

I finally got to see Looper. I was half surprised it was still in the theatres. I recall seeing it listed in the rep cinemas, the theatres where the admission is less expensive and the seats are generally more lumpy. The nice thing about the rep cinema is that it has a living room like quality. Perhaps from being independently owned.

My review of Looper without spoiling the story is that it was a good solid story. No plot holes, no characters acting dumb (or out of character), good acting. Also and most importantly at this time and age of movies for stupid people. The trailer doesn't give away the best parts of the movie but shows you enough to want to see it.

It was no Lawrence of Arabia but after seeing the last Bond movie Skyfall it was quite an improvement. I am perplexed at why Skyfall has been getting such great reviews. Did the reviewers only watch the first 10 minutes of the movie? How can it be the "Best Bond ever"? While it had a great concept for a movie after the opening credit sequence it just start falling apart. Was this a comment that was made by the asshats at Time magazine that thought Cloud Atlas was the worst movie in all of 2012? 2012, The same year that released Piranha 3DD? Who are these critics? Stupid jerks.

I don't know why this gets me all worked up.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Choose your own Adventure

Birthday Girl, Hilary

My friend Hilary hosted a boozy birthday party for herself featuring drinking and mingling. As history would point out booze and people always make for an interesting evening and there was a lot of both. From a Burnt Zombie to a mixed Stalin, there were a bunch of drinks you could create. What made this party unique was a computer program to help choose the drink for you. The drink selection was presented in a Choose hour own Adventure format. A story on a laptop started you off in front of Toronto's Union station. As you read through the story you would be presented with options on what you could do (ie. head to the visible hot dog stand). Eventually your story would come to a conclusion and with it a drink.

My adventure took me to a hot dog stand ordering a hot dog and waiting for change only to be attacked by zombies. My drink? A Burnt Zombie of course. From the laptop story station I would then go to the nearby booze table with an assortment of various spirits and a convenient book on how to mix your drinks.

Assortment of Booze

There is a lot of rum in a zombie with a bit of pineapple juice. I mistakenly poured lime juice into my glass of rum instead of pineapple juice with a result that tasted like, what I imagined to be, battery acid.

Another concoction I had was cranberry with vodka, vodka with fluffed marshmallow flavor. The bitter sweet taste the artificial mechanical substance when down better than the battery acid but was, to lack a better description, weird tasting.

The small apartment with a narrow submarine like hallway connecting the living room to the kitchen as filled with a bunch of Hilary's friends. It was a fun night and lasted until just after 4am. 4am for me at least. There were still others lingering around.

Friday, December 07, 2012

It happened on 5th avenue

Emmanuel at Swatow

So today I went to see a viewing of "It happened on Fifth avenue" at a church on Bloor. It was a screening room on the third floor which resembled more of a living room with six or seven couches. It fact it felt like being in a living room once I sat down and was half absorbed by the lush cushions.

Churches and religious buildings in general make me uncomfortable. Perhaps this stems from going to church with my grandmother when I was a kid. "Sit still and be quiet." It might have been from getting lured into seeing movies at the Christian Fellowship during high school or maybe it was going to Sunday morning classes. Maybe it was witnessing my friend Les covert to being a Mormon to chase after a girl.

In a church I suppose I feel like someone is going to jump out from behind a curtain or spring from a wall to "change my life for the better", to "save my soul", to bible thump me into oblivion. It's like being faced with sales staff at future shop and being offered the extended warranty.

At least with future shop you know why they're offering you the warranty, it's to make more money. When someone offers you religion it could be that they want what's best for you but chances are they want to make themselves feel better for making your life better. If you look at Mormons, they actually go out on missions in pairs to convert people.

So despite the comfy couch filled environment I was in a church surrounded by church goers. I was there to see the movie. It was a Christmas story about a homeless guy squatting in a house and sharing it with others that needed a home for Christmas. It was compared to "It's a wonderful life" as no man (or woman) is poor if they have friends. It was the first time I heard of the film and in the end was glad I saw it. Being that it's near Christmas I love watching that sappy stuff.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

The Tooth Filling

The tooth filling

So I'm lying in bed reading when "Plop" a piece of metal falls out of my mouth. What the heck?  It was a bit of a surprise.  Usually fillings fall out while I'm eating something.  This just happened.  The last time this happened was a year ago while in Boston.

The good news is that the filling picked a great time to fall out.  I've been out of the country quite a bit this year and the filling could have fallen out while on a gig halfway around the world.  Even though I might have been covered with medical insurance having to go to a dentist while travelling would have been an annoyance.  Taking the time away from work/vacationing, finding a dentist using English in a non-English speaking country, not being able to eat food until the tooth was repaired.  The later being probably the most horrendous of them all.  Not being able to eat foreign food.  The thought makes me shudder.

With the tooth falling out while in Toronto I have the luxury of visiting my dentist, the one that's worked on my teeth for years.  Having a consistent person, someone with X-rays of your jaws, puts one at ease.  Why wouldn't it?

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Dim sum with Colin

It's Saturday. It's the first of December.  Went to the under ground restaurant, The New Treasure, for dim sum with Colin.  I really should do this kind of thing more often.  Catching up with friends that is.  Eating food is good and the list of people I'd like to catch up with is enormous.  I could see myself getting fat and poor financially by undertaking something as grand as this.

The trouble is a lot of my friends are married and/or live far away.  Adding to the fact that people are working whittles the available time to meet to weekends and even those are filled up if there are kids in the equation.

Maybe I need new friends that are single and live closer.  Ha ha.