Sunday, September 30, 2012

Typhoon 17 and the weather over here

Sunday September 30, 3:10 p.m.

It's been a nice weekend here in The Big Smoke. No precipitation, lots of sun and the temperatures have been great for walking. Which is what I did this morning. Took my 75 minutes of exercise strolling around the neighbourhood. It was nice to get that exercise to lose some modest amount of weight and clear my head since I had some work to get done for tomorrow.
The leaves are starting to change colour but I think it'll be another two weeks or so before they become really brilliant.

Meanwhile, over in my old country, Japan has been fighting off the effects of Typhoon No. 17. I was watching some of the news coverage from Okinawa. Naha was getting scoured clean, and one of my Mixi buddies said that Yokohama was getting majorly buffeted by high winds and rain. Autumn is always known as the season for that along the Pacific Coast. It used to be Okinawa that often the worst of the meteorological rage, but in recent years, Typhoon Alley has become Typhoon Boulevard so that Tokyo can also be in the crosshairs.

Took care of some invoices for the translator boss before figuring out my lesson plans for my final stint for that hyper-organized teacher tomorrow.

As it turned out, that former student and her family won't be coming here after all. I had kinda figured that when I didn't hear anything more from her in the last several days after her initial desire.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Ume-chan Sensei and Haruhi Suzumiya

Saturday September 29, 12:51 p.m.

Well, the latest NHK morning serial drama has wrapped up after its 6-month run. "Ume-chan Sensei" finished its time on Japan TV last night all happy and stuff. It didn't have nearly the scope and sturm und drang of its predecessor, "Carnation"; the story spanned a mere 16 years or so for this one as compared to the latter's near-century. And despite some of the tensions that have to pop up in a serial, it only took a mere episode of 15 minutes to get everything back into balance for the most part. Just like its setting in the immediate postwar era, "Ume-chan Sensei" was more of a gentle slice-of-life and day-in-the-life series with the oft-thrown in batch of comedy. Went down smooth. According to the teaser for the next serial which will premiere here on Sunday night, it looks like the new serial will be set in the present-day.

Just went through the fourth episode of "Haruhi Suzumiya". It's the one where all of the cards have been laid on the table by the three time travelers investigating Haruhi, with Kyon as the representative of the viewers. I mentioned in my last entry on the anime that Haruhi reminds me a bit of Lucy Van Pelt. Well, after watching this episode, I'm starting to think that the "Peanuts"analogy can be further expanded. Kyon strikes me as a far more competent Charlie Brown just because he's the male protagonist who has to watch all that is going on with a skeptical and cynical eye, Mikuru is the much put-upon Linus of the anime, while Nagato seems to be a Snoopy/Marcie hybrid. The newest guy is Koizumi....well, he seems to be the most well-adjusted fellow of the SOS Brigade, so I guess he wouldn't have a Peanuts equivalent. Franklin, perhaps?

Glad that I did read the summary about the series online. I would've been absolutely lost with the series without it.

courtesy of tarale
from Flickr

Another Client Back in from the Cold?

Saturday September 29, 12:34 p.m.

Well, I've had Mr. Moriya for the better part of a year as a Skype student. Now, another former student may be coming back into my depleted flock. Swank (a nickname I gave her since she looks somewhat like Hilary Swank the actress) has contacted me after several months to see if I could help her again with her written English. Apparently, it looks like she's back on the Eiken wagon again. Eiken is the Japanese abbreviation for the English Proficiency Examination back there which is one of the pillars academically and professionally for how good one is in the world's lingua franca.

I don't think she'll become a Skyper since this is all about the written stuff, and besides,  considering my current Internet package with Rogers, I don't think my bandwidth could suffer another regular student through Skype. However, she'll probably be thinking about having me proofread her stuff regularly, and she was quite adamant about making sure I get paid. Hey, no complaints from this teacher. Plus, I've got the structure for any of that processing down pat thanks to Mr. Moriya. So, I'll be doing some light work today after all.

I used to teach Swank first at a nice cafe in Roppongi Hills, Tokyo for a few years before the gigs switched over to the local library near her home. I also taught her husband, the president of a company in Shinjuku for a year or so. Both of them are the nicest Japanese Trekkies one could meet. And the fact that Mr. Swank also likes kayo kyoku meant some classes went by without a single stitch of meaningful English grammar getting perused. Man, what I got away with at times!

What the FAX?

Saturday September 29, 12:22 p.m.

Had a bit of a mystery when I got home yesterday and saw no less than 6 messages on the machine of which 5 were from the same number. One number I checked on the Net was 905-323-3900 which turned out to be some sort of spammyish enterprise. There was the usual give-and-take in the comments section with folks complaining about it while a few supposed folks who "work for the company"in question were defending themselves.

The other five were straight from the same number as I said. And all of them were made within a period of 40 minutes and left the same message of high-pitched fax wheezing. And my family has never owned a fax machine. It turned out that the number belongs to the X-Ray/Ultrasound clinic I had gone to a few days ago. For a couple of paranoid minutes, I thought the folks there were trying to tell me that I was in the late stages of a terminal disease. But of course, hearing the fax noises for each message that came within an average of 8 minutes of each other hinted strongly at more of a technological and communications breakdown. Plus, by law, clinic technicians are forbidden to give any diagnoses to patients, so I figured some receptionist dropped the ball. In any case, the clinic is closed so I left a message stating the problem. Annoying as hell, though.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Herbert Lom

courtesy of snapper31
from Flickr
Friday September 28, 9:16 p.m.

2012 is started to seem like the Year of Celebrity Deaths. Every year has its share of famous folks leaving this mortal coil, but it just feels like this year has had an especially big bumper crop. I mean, just a couple of days ago, it was crooner Andy Williams.
And now it's actor Herbert Lom. Unfortunately, I only came across a small rectangle of an obituary in today's Toronto Sun, although admittedly it's been a few decades since the heyday of "The Pink Panther"series, but I loved the first few entries. I've only known Lom almost only for that series (the only other movie I've seen him outside of it was "The Ladykillers"with Sir Alec Guinness). His harried portrayal of the increasingly insane Chief Inspector Dreyfus was one of the highlights of every movie. In the very first "Pink Panther", he, and Inspector Clouseau (Peter Sellers), played it both quite straight which reminded me of how the similar series "Get Smart"started off with Agent 86 and The Chief.
But then from "A Shot in the Dark"onwards, it was total mayhem between the two. A couple of my favourite highlights: in "A Shot in the Dark", after one near-meltdown by Dreyfus, he calmly asked his assistant to help find his nose. And then in a later entry at a sanitorium, Clouseau had to rescue his old boss from the pond and while he was administering mouth-to-mouth, a couple of old ladies physically remonstrated the pair for indecent activities. Just some classic comedy.

I heard he passed away at the age of 95. Hopefully, it was a good life as well as a long one.

Comfort Friday

Friday September 28, 8:52 p.m.

Unlike the brooding I was doing last night commiserating about yesterday's teaching performance, things went a little better today although my general feelings about teaching haven't really abated. At least, I was happily done at noon today. In fact, it's been my first day without either teaching or translation duties....and will continue to be so for this weekend.

I was hoping to grab a hot dog from the stand outside the school, but for some reason, it wasn't there, so I just got some paperwork done before I walked over a few blocks to that Chinese restaurant, Yueh Tung, that Sam had introduced me to back in August. Even after 1 p.m., the place was bustling like crazy. I did manage to get a corner table by the windows, and ordered my now-regular Manchurian Chicken on Rice. I'm sure a lot of the Chinese food purists would blanch at the name, but heck if it's good food, why knock it? The service was brisk but not unfriendly. It was obvious that the staff were looking out for the customers. The fact that I saw a number of regulars coming down and chatting a bit with the older waiters meant something to me.

I love my MCOR, but from my first two times with the dish, I had felt that something was missing from it. So I just added a bit of soy sauce, and things were fine with the world. At $6.99, not a bad way for lunch. And easy when tipping, too. I just hand over a $10 bill to the cashier (she kinda reminded me of Penny from "The Big Bang Theory"....but no need to worry about me getting my age, she's now just niece/daughter status to me) and skip the change.

It was nice getting a bit few zzz's on the subway although it was another interminable wait at Eglinton for the 34 bus yet again. But got back home and a few hours later, the parentals got back with a bag from The Golden Arches. From a weekly habit of noshing on Big Mac sets back in Tokyo to once every 6 months here in Toronto, it's ironic that I'm having to get my weight down right now.

Shard was supposed to drop on by tonight to give me some damn fine snow boots, but had to cancel at the last moment. He was quite apologetic, but unnecessarily so. I just suggested Tuesday as the next window of opportunity. Plus, I figure we can try the nearby Pizza Hut for a nice lunch.

The weather is quite comfortable now in The Big Smoke. Autumn has certainly arrived.

Tako Sushi

Friday September 28, 8:35 p.m.

Forgot to mention that the last part of Anime-and-Foodie Sunday was heading out to Tako Sushi. I've been to my fair share of Japanese restaurants here in Toronto since my return: Zen, Kenzo, Don Don, etc.

However, it's been some years on either side of the Pacific since I've had teppanyaki at a restaurant. Twice a year, my family does it at home but my mother obviously doesn't do the knife acrobatics that are customarily shown at a Benihana.

The Anime King and I were seated at the end of one grill. The King said that he always went there for the teppanyaki....has never tried the sushi despite the name. Apparently, the lunch grill special is less than $10, so say no more.

The head waiter was polite if not all that friendly, but our chef at the grill was an amiable sort. Since it was dinner, we couldn't quite make it under $10 but at $12.95, this was my most inexpensive teppanyaki experience that I've ever had. The fellow wasn't too flashy with his cutlery, but then again I didn't come for the show. I wanted my sirloin.

I think the meat was fine although the folks there probably threw in a lot of the veg so that the whole meal would look a lot more substantial just in case the beef seemed a bit sparse. No problems there. I got my fiber just fine. The chef also made up some fried rice for us, but though it had the garlic flavour, it was somewhat lacking in the salt department. But with miso soup, salad and ice cream thrown in, that $12.95 price tag was quite generous.

The outer structure of Tako Sushi was also interesting in that the building reminded me of family restaurants in suburban Tokyo. There was an upper level with the ground area underneath used as a garage.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Why Didn't I Retire?

Thursday September 27, 10:09 p.m.

Had my first day of three of subbing for a teacher. When I met her yesterday to get briefed, I found her to be the most well-organized educator I'd come across at the school....which was actually a bit of a disadvantage for me since I wasn't sure whether the students would take to my approach and also because I felt obliged to follow her style to the letter, despite her assurances that I could do whatever I wanted. As it turned out, the morning class started out well but started descending into a morass by the end....because I was trying to fulfill the scheduled her way. Luckily, the afternoon class was a bit better. Still, I feel like Ricky Romero trying to get out of his annus horribilis. I'm gonna have to wonder if I'm gonna have much of an attendance tomorrow morning.

For a teacher, the expression "You can't please everyone"takes on a heavier meaning. I've known that almost ever since I became one. But as I get older, it's getting harder to take that sort of truth anymore. I've been a sub at the school now for almost 8 months, and again thoughts are rising about whether it's time to move on from teaching. Just doesn't seem to be all that fun anymore.


Thursday September 27, 10:02 p.m.

Yesterday morning, I had my very first ultrasound examination at a nearby clinic on the suggestion of my doctor. Apparently, my urine sample had contained about a few platelets of blood....nothing really to cry about but hey, why take the chance? So, I followed the directions on the green sheet and had nothing for 12 hours before the exam, and then just 45 minutes before it, I drank down 500 ml of water. Mom was warning me that I'd be going through bladder-imposed hell in the minutes before exam time. I was bladder was going to cry "Uncle!"just because of half a litre of water? Hardly. I drink 500 ml cans of soda pop....or at least I used to.

The technician kept asking me whether I needed to go pee during the exam but I just kept saying no. The exam itself wasn't bad although it went on for about 30 minutes. As she used my lower regions as her professional Etch-A-Sketch with that scanner, I half-expected the lass to exclaim, "It's a boy!" The whole experience felt like I was being rolfed in slo-mo. In any case, it'll be a week before I find out the results.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Goodbye, Andy

Wednesday September 26, 10:45 a.m.

Heard the somewhat surprising news of Andy Williams' passing just this morning coming back from my ultrasound appointment. Mind you, he was 84....but still, my impressions were that the legendary singer had the stamina of a bull. He was giving performances all the way in Japan not that long ago.

His golden voice was one I heard regularly on TV and stereo. He had those Xmas specials which came on NBC just about every year just like those for Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. Mom had an album of his love songs which she played fairly often. And while I was in Japan, his old TV show, which I may or may not have seen as a toddler, was being re-broadcast on one of the local cable networks every Sunday night. He was one of those entertainers that seemed to have had a more successful legacy in that country than in his native one. The Carpenters can be added to that list.

It was interesting watching "The Andy Williams Show". The broadcasts tended to jump all over the 60s timeline. One episode was from 1963, so Andy and all the guests looked like they just got drafted into the military while wearing dapper suits....then the following week, it was the late 60s with Andy's hair a big shaggier and wearing somewhat more wilder shirts sans tie.

In any case, "Moon River"is just going to get more poignant now.

Lost another Andy....first, Griffith and now Williams.

Monday, September 24, 2012

More Translation Blues

Monday September 24, 10:17 p.m.

I'm currently well into my latest translation assignment....a PowerPoint presentation. When I first got it and realized it was 42 slides, I was a little troubled but being slides, a lot of them just have one or two statements. Not too bad, and despite the boss' deadline of late Wednesday night, I think I should be able to have everything done by tomorrow afternoon.

Nope, the blues part came when the boss sent me a breathless e-mail stating that I hadn't seen the other tabs on one of the Excel pages I had done last week, and therefore I had to do an emergency translation on the remaining pages. I wasn't a happy camper....and I'm pretty sure he wasn't either. But thanks to a very quick lunch and an hour, I was able to get it back to him....fully done this time.

Anime Sunday

Monday September 24, 9:21 p.m.

It had been 3 weeks since meeting up with The Anime King....last Sunday was a family dinner outing. Of course, the day was bracketed with another tour of restaurants but I'll leave that to the next entry. In the middle was the usual stopover to the King's place for a few hours of anime viewing and soundtrack listening. He let me listen to his Precure soundtrack which he had enthusiastically bought the week before. For the past number of months, we've been viewing the latest series in the Precure Odyssey....basically a 9-year set of Sunday morning anime in which specially selected junior high school girls become magical heroines. Currently, it's the Smile Precure series which has fairy tales as its overarching theme....five girls who live in a conventional Japanese suburban neighborhood and all of whom are good buddies. The King also showed me for the first time the first couple of episodes from the preceding series, Suite Precure, which has a distinctly different feel. For one thing, the two protagonists there start off yelling at each other and continue to do so for most of the program. And the town they live in is somewhat more fantastical in appearance.

The clip here is pretty much self-explanatory. One of the heroines has a bad case of entomophobia.

The other anime that has been getting some good play in the basement of my good buddy has been "Joshiraku". Just imagine combining five female rakugo storytellers with the mind of a Japanese-speaking Robin Williams, and that will get you closer to understanding the madness that takes up the 30 minutes. Ability in comprehending the Japanese language will need to be at an advanced level, although the ladies often riff on pop culture on both sides of the Pacific. It also helps that the show is serviced by a couple of head-invadingly catchy theme songs.

I've also been continue to borrow anime from the King as well. After "Mawaru Penguindrum", "Usagi Drops", "Madoka Magica"and "Ben-To", I've just started on "Haruhi Suzumiya". I'm admittedly getting into this very late into the game since the anime came on the scene back in 2006. And I've been hearing raves about the movie for its cinematography and the drama. So you can imagine, my surprise when I saw Episode 0 and first saw the homemade movie directed by the main character and starring the timid beauty, Mikuru. I've also got to admit that Haruhi strikes me as being one of the crabbier and more self-absorbed characters I've seen in this medium....kinda like the J-version of Lucy Van Pelt. The series starts off like any other high school-based anime but I just left off where the bookworm Nagato gives her surprising news about herself. I told The King this and he just told me to put on my seat belt.

Chinatown Saturday

Monday September 24, 8:50 p.m.

It was another foodies & friends weekend for me. The weather was fine for walking....a bit overcast but comfortably cool, so I walked down Spadina from the station and made it to Chinatown. Unsurprisingly, the neighbourhood was crowded with tourists and citizens alike, just like old times.
Dragon City was the same as always. I don't know how long that place has been on the southwest corner of Spadina & Dundas, but I remember back in my U of T days when a bunch of us would head over to the basement late on a weekday night (this was when Chinatown was still perfectly safe to walk around at that time of night), and hit the food court stalls that were there. I couldn't believe the slop and dregs we heartily ate; the vendors were more than happy to unload everything for virtually free. We all had the GI tracts of bottom-feeding loaches.

I met up with The Wild Guy, Automan and his missus, The Egg, and The Tea Lady for a round of lunch at this place you see here. It's right on Dundas just east of Spadina on the north side. The traffic going in and out of the place was brisk when I arrived there about half an hour before meeting time, but by the time the six of us got in, things had settled down quite a bit, as The Wild Guy had predicted. The Wild Guy set this one up since he'll be heading to Japan tomorrow, ostensibly to pick up his wife and son in Osaka after they enjoyed a month of holiday there.

Now, Hot & Sour Soup is pretty much a run-of-the-mill item in any Chinese restaurant. Still, this version merits mention since even for something that often has a kick, this had an extra bootnail at the toe. There was a goodly amount of pepper....nice way to start off lunch. It was my first time at the House of Gourmet Seafood, but The Egg and The Wild Guy are veterans and they stand by it. Yup, count me in, too.

Of course, with all of the hanging BBQ carcasses hanging out in the front window, ordering the stuff was a foregone conclusion. The chicken and pork were very tender and went excellently with rice. Off in the back there, we had to have the vegetable family represented, so we got a dish of Stir-Fry Garlic Bok Choy. I could taste the garlic but it wasn't a killer dose. Mild, but very nice.

Two heaping plates of Shanghai and Cantonese Noodles, and Yang Chow Fried Rice later, we were all quite happy to waddle out of the restaurant and head over to Kim Moon Bakery for tea. I was tempted in the goodies there, but I think having all of the main courses in my stomach pretty much deleted that idea.

Friday, September 21, 2012


Friday September 21, 1:35 p.m.

Quiet day today. No teaching and no translating. I was able to walk with my Dad and enjoy 90 minutes of magazine reading in the mall library. I read the most recent issue of "Toronto Life", a magazine that often allows The Big Smoke's 99% to read about what the 1% is doing. There was a small article on Kinton, currently everyone's Holy Grail in terms of ramen restaurants here. There was a top-view photo of a bowl of ramen from there which looked very set up. I mean the noodles basically obscured the looked like a bunch of yakisoba instead of ramen. And there were two browned strips of what appeared more like fatty bacon instead of cha-siu. Plus, the author talked about the changes in taste and texture, and mentioned connoisseur-type expressions such as caramel....oh, boy.

Actually, it ended up that The Anime King went down to Kinton yesterday on a whim since his current place of employment is at the U of T. Since the restaurant is on Baldwin St, he could get there within 10 minutes. Despite the fears of "The Dark Knight Rises"-level lineups, he reported that it didn't take him too long to get in although he noted that it was a tight fit inside. As for the ramen, he didn't particularly rave about the stuff but said that it was the first bowl for him in Toronto (and he's made ramen-crawling in Japan as much of a mission as he does with anime whenever he goes there) where the noodles and the soup actually complemented each other.

Good enough review from him. I'll have to try it out next week before I start on that long supply stint at the school.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Keeps on Piling Up

Friday September 21, 1:15 a.m.

The parentals are back from Niagara; as usual, they didn't strike it rich. But they apparently got a good deal on the Hilton there. It only cost them a little over $100 but their room had a bedroom and a den. Mind you, the room had a view of the city and not the Falls, but when you consider how many times they've been there, they can easily sleep well without them.

Had another challenging translation assignment due to some stubborn graphics. Luckily, the boss didn't want it lickety-split, so I could get through it without risking a stroke. He will have to do without me for the latter part of next week since I've been called by my other boss at the school to do a four-day sub stint.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Kanji'ed Out

Wednesday September 19, 5:43 p.m.

Well, got another big translation assignment out of the way. I was hoping to get the pages done by noon, but because of some stubbornly difficult kanji and other expressions, the thing got done close to 2:30. Had to skip lunch and almost lost it on one especially truculent Chinese character (you thought Leafs manager Brian Burke had a monopoly on that word?). Also ran through a couple of other files as an editor and I am done....for the next dozen hours or so. The boss told me that there would be another smaller assignment coming in tomorrow...or perhaps Friday.

Actually, the parentals are out in Niagara Falls once again hitting the casino. I'd only found out this morning, just a few minutes before they left, that they would be staying the night at the Falls. Just as well, since with all my teeth-gnashing and hair-pulling, I wouldn't have been too good a son today.

Gonna decompress for the rest of the night. I'll be making myself a nice little steak for dinner, watch some anime, tape that episode of "Ume-chan Sensei" for my parents and then hit the music blog for another couple of entries.

Man, it was pretty chilly out in the corridor today (had no time to go outside). I can only imagine what it must've been like outside this morning. Timing couldn't be better.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Kanji Krunch

Wednesday September 19, 12:54 a.m.

It's been a bustling past couple of days. On top of teaching at the school yesterday, I've been getting my fair share of translation assignments, and the boss is hinting that a small deluge will be  driving in over the next few days. Not too bad, although at one point, my boss left me a message begging me to send over a couple of finished pages for his demanding client. No problems there.

Looks like my October may be having some further visitations. I've got my old students coming in and then my parents got the call that my cousin and her husband will be flying in from Vancouver around Halloween. Appropriate since after not seeing me for 30 years, they may get quite a scare when they lay their eyes on me.

My new computer has gotten a clean bill of health. My brother wasn't too hard on me but he did warn me not to use the Factory Restore anymore. Man, I'm just not getting along with technology.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Lazy Sunday

Sunday September 16, 3:20 p.m.

Yup, it's feeling a little more like Autumn today. Took a brisk walk around the neighbourhood...not too warm and not too cool. I finally got those translations off to the boss just a half-hour ago. I hope that these pass muster, although I sometimes have the feeling that it's really up to the editor's whims as to how words are put down. Coincidentally, just one second after I'd sent them, the boss sent me a message stating that this could be another buys week. Feeling tired enough as it is.

Will be heading out in a couple of hours with the family to celebrate my sister-in-law's birthday. We're supposed to be going to Congee Queen up near my old high school. I was a bit surprised at the choice; at first thought, I'd imagined that the restaurant was just the Chinese gruel equivalent of Dairy Queen, but according to some Net research, the place is a bona fide restaurant.

I've got a full day at the school tomorrow. I know the guy I'm subbing for. He's teaching the Business English classes, so things should be fairly straightforward.

On my Twitter account, I got followed by some Japanese idol/TV personality. Never heard of this young lady before, Ayumi Yasuoka, but apparently she's also a fashion director of sorts, although at the age of 24, I can't be quite sure how much of that is true. But I'm not exactly jumping for joy, since she "follows"over 10,000 people as she is followed by over 10,000 people. On her profile, she admitted that she pretty much presses the "Follow" button for just about everything..

Yasuoka is the one on the right. Apparently, the ladies are enjoying the wonders of roast beef.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Finally get to cook!

Saturday September 15, 3:42 p.m.

Hard to believe that we're already at the midpoint of September. It's feeling a little closer to Fall now....not one to complain, especially when my old home is still blazing away and going through a water crisis.

Just by myself since the parentals are out at some big party with their fellow Japanese-Canadians. So, for the first time in several months, I will be able to cook something up by myself. Usually, my mother always had something bought like a steak so that I can just throw it into the pan, but I guess after my health check, she doesn't want to give me any more red meat. And since I don't want to add any complications myself, after my hour of walking, I hit the supermarket...just 5 minutes' walk away...and bought some boneless (and skinless) chicken fillets, a jar of kimchi and bread. I'll be making my old favourite from my Ichikawa days, the Open-Faced Kimchi Chicken Sandwich. My parents may be wondering about the smell afterwards, though.

Basically finished my most recent translation assignment. Once again, I got slagged for one of the other ones for not paying attention to the client's boss did warn me that my progression into the realm of professional translator wouldn't be too easy. Ehn! I'll just slog and learn.

My sister-in-law has her birthday tomorrow. My brother was asking me if I knew of any good places around the neighbourhood. It looks like our usual to-go place, Zen in Scarberia, is closed on Sundays. If worse comes to worse, there is always Swiss Chalet. Yup, plenty greasy and with a ton of that BBQ skin....but hey, the doc did say that I can ease myself into the new lifestyle.

Looks like we'll have another NHL strike at midnight. It's been said that this will turn fans off of hockey. I say that the Toronto Maple Leafs did that to me long ago.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Thumbs-Up and Club Day

Easy to remember....think the Fonz!

Mine....all mine!
Wednesday September 12, 11:51 a.m.

Yesterday, I continued on my new regimen of walking briskly for an hour every other day. But I took it downtown. And there was a stopover for lunch in Koreatown. I had been hoping that there would be some of those special food trucks in front of the Hot Docs theatre where some of the TIFF movies were showing. But no such luck, or they were more of a nightly thing. Still, I had the backup in the form of the Thumbs-Up Eatery.

For $6, this is what I could get...and what I've been getting for most of the times I've gone there with Shard. A nice heaping of Pork Kimchi and Rice with complementary kimchi, sprouts and pickled cabbage. Yup, this is what one can get for less than $10 even in Toronto....and it doesn't come with fries. The kimchi in the main dish was slightly sweeter. I'm more for totally savory kimchi but still, this is the dish that I usually order when I come to Thumbs-Up.

Hot Docs
This was the scene at the Hot Docs on my way into Koreatown. Yup, quite a lineup even in the morning. TIFF is starting to wind down according to the photos showing celebs heading out from Pearson. For the last leg of my walk, I ended up going past the Bell Lightbox once again, and the feeling was a lot less exciting than it was almost a week prior.

Et tu, Chicken Parmagiana?

Afterwards, I decided to veer into University of Toronto. The St. George Campus is always a good area for a walk. However, I was unaware that Club Day was going on. In my day, all of the clubs would be inside the atrium of Sid Smith, but this time everyone was outside on a closed-off St. George St. (I'm sure drivers were mouthing off at the MPP in the area). A lot of kids were strolling through the area browsing the various clubs and associations. And of course, where there are kids, there are food trucks. And boy, these trucks are getting more decoratively elaborate. No wonder the prices for food are going up!
 Still, despite any rancor from the drivers not being able to go down St. George, it's a good idea to have this sort of festival atmosphere for a Club Day. It was the perfect weather and a lot more logical for clubs to get tons more space to recruit frosh.

Heck, these clubs are really getting more specific! I wonder if Hart House will rent equipment from Janitorial Services for this club.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Potpourri Entry of the Week

Tuesday September 11, 8:41 a.m.

Yesterday was pretty much devoted to translation. I got a bit of a good-natured chewout from the boss for handing an admittedly half-assed assignment, but it was very difficult...all of those pharmaceutical terms. Actually, my boss didn't even jump on me but he told me matter-of-factly that the editor really had to earn her pay with my hand-in. I apologized for the work but he kindly brushed it off saying that it was a learning experience and he knew how it difficult it was. In a way, he rather reminds me of that Warner Bros. cartoon bulldog....not the aggressive one who was always chasing after Sylvester the Cat, but the one who counseled the other cat like a good buddy. Still, I've been served....I'm gonna have to be at the top of my game. Fortunately, I did hand in something yesterday that I think is a much better product, and I will be getting a pretty big payday in about a month for another large product. And there is another much smaller and hopefully easier assignment for today.

I'll be taking off for downtown on somewhat of a TIFF journey. The Toronto International Film Festival is past the halfway point, so I expect that the celeb population is starting to peter out. However, I will be taking a look at the Hot Docs Cinema near Bathurst and Bloor since that's one of the venues, although in my case, I don't think I'll be lucky enough to catch any celebs. In fact, I'm more interested in seeing what food trucks will be there for lunch. If they've pulled out, I can just head over to The Thumbs-Up Eatery for a bit of Korean. Afterwards, I will walk over to Yorkville and see if the fishing is good there.

The big chewout I'm expecting to get is from my brother. I received that new laptop from him about 10 days ago, and I managed to destroy it over the weekend due to some stupidity on my part. Suffice it to say, my wonderful palette of software is no more. I've already sent him the bad news and going hat in hand to see if there is some way to salvage any recovery.

I've gotten some good news from my former students-turned-friends back in Japan. Two of them sent me a package of Kaki-P (a snack mix of rice crackers and peanuts) that I used to engorge weekly but haven't had in 9 months since returning to Canada....I can probably buy them here, but I'm not gonna shuck out a ton of cash and take the TTC all the way to the boonies to J-Town to get them. Apparently, they'll be heading over to France next month for a vacation. Then I received word from another student that she and her family will be coming to Toronto in October for a bit of a leafwatching. So it'll be time to put on the tour guide hat once more. Too bad they couldn't come over during the TIFF.

Apparently the Kanto area has been going through some major water rationing blues because of the extreme heat and the extreme lack of rain this past couple of months. One of the major reservoirs in Gunma Prefecture currently looks like a nearly-drained bathtub at just 6% capacity. The government had called a major crisis several years ago when the reservoir had been at 30% capacity, so things are pretty dire over there. I miss Japan but the summers are one thing I have been happy to do without. It was like swimming through atmosphere.

Sunday, September 9, 2012


Sunday September 9, 2:25 p.m.

About 24 hours after I got that diagnosis from my doctor about my health, I took that hour-long walk. The weather was good for it: cool, though not Fall cool, sunny and dry. I actually worn a jacket although things were getting a bit sweaty near the end. That should be good news. Actually, the walk turned out to be about 1 hour and 20 minutes, so even better. I ended up walking past the relatively new Japanese-Canadian Cultural Centre on Wynford Dr., west of the Don Valley Parkway. There was some sort of bazaar going on there. I didn't bother checking it out....just walked by. I also passed by the JCCC's old digs which were located east of the DVP. The original structure is still there, but the place has been taken over by the Noor Cultural Centre. I'll have to go visit the new JCCC someday. And if I actually stay on my new regimen, I'll have plenty of opportunities to do so.

Meanwhile, TIFF is in Day 4. And who in da house now? Well, it's The Fresh Prince and Niobe, aka Will and Jada Pinkett Smith. Looks like they had just co-produced a movie that they'd love to show at the festival. Thankfully, Jackie Crandalls didn't suddenly try to kiss Jada. The more and more I see of this TIFF, the more I think this is: A) the cinematic equivalent of a junior high school Open House,  or B) summer camp for celebs. Not sure how long these guys are staying over; I know that the Smiths will be taking off pretty soon. I'm rather intrigued about Tom Hanks' latest called "Cloud Atlas"...although it seems a little too artsy for me, judging from the description I read in Wiki. I kinda wonder how much bigger this Festival is gonna get. In an interview, Hanks, in his own manic way, compared TIFF to Cannes' high-pressure artistry and Venice's foodie paradise as a festival which attracts another type of cinephile...the one that would happily fight over a movie's merits on the streets. Not sure if he was being complimentary or not.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Verdict on my Health

Saturday September 8, 2:31 p.m.

Well, I waited as humbly as I could in the waiting room of my family doctor. He was pretty busy today. I had to wait an extra half-hour past my scheduled appointment time as he had to take care of three more patients ahead of me. When I finally got in, the diagnosis wasn't too bad. To noone's surprise, my cholesterol was up there but still low enough so that I wouldn't need the drugs to control the situation which had been my biggest fear. However, he did tell me it was time to start altering that foodie lifestyle of mine. Don't touch the red meat as much anymore, tilt towards the white meat of chicken and fish (although I had to stay away from the chicken skin...which did hurt), and take it easy on the eggs and dessert and dairy.

To be honest, my diet at home had already been in that mode since my mother has been watching my father like a hawk with his diet. So, really, the main thing is about how I handle my lunch whenever I'm outside, how I deal with my biweekly outings with The Anime King, and the dreaded "E" word: exercise. The doc was quite kind to me, though. He just recommended a brisk hour of activity every other day. There are other doctors who probably would've taken a more "Billy's Boot Camp"approach to my case.

TIFF is currently on Day 3. Saw folks like David Spade, Adam Sandler and Johnny Depp walking the line on CP24. Even Jackie Crandles looked somewhat starstruck. And this is gonna continue for another 8 days. It's been quietly amazing at how downtown Toronto has become the hunting grounds for celebstalkers. Heck, even Elton John is in town. At the rate that the Hollywood elite are just flying in, I may not even have to head into Yorkville or King West to bump into a star.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Yueh Tung

Saturday September 8, 12:36 a.m.

I rather enjoyed the lunch that Sam had taken me and one other friend to the other Thursday, so I decided to give Yueh Tung another shot a couple of days ago. It's located just a few dozen metres north of City Hall on Elizabeth St. I got there at around 11:15; it doesn't open until 11:30, but there were already a few folks waiting until that big hand hit the 6. Judging by the veteran status of all of them, these guys looked like regulars. Beside the doors, there were a few articles raving about the food in the restaurant, especially for the Hot N' Sour Soup.

A lot of that empty space you see there filled up quickly within 15 minutes. The service was pretty cordial...there were a lot of "How ya doin'?"type greetings. Last time I was there with the others, it was nearly 12:30, so things were packed to the gills, but we were still seated quickly....just shared one of the big round tables with a couple of other folks. No problems with us...and that was something that was pretty common in the izakaya in Japan.

Now since I was all by my lonesome, I just went for the one dish....knowing what the portions are like in Chinese restaurants. I went for the dish that attracted me to Yueh Tung in the first place: Manchurian Chicken on Rice. For a little under $7, I got a nice big plate of fairly spicy chicken in a thick sauce that smacked of soy and vinegar over a bed of fluffy white. And with a can of Coke, I was making a nuclear bomb inside my GI tract. I do like the Manchurian, but it's not perfect...I suspect that there are other better-tasting dishes on the menu, such as the aforementioned Hot N' Sour Soup. It really just needs either a tad more vinegar or a tad more spice to really hit the peak. But hey, I came all the way downtown to try it again, so it's good enough by me. Next time, though, I will be ordering one of the other one-dish lunches. As for the Hot N' Sour, I'll have to have Sam with me.

Loopers and Losers

Friday September 7, 5:28 p.m.

Well, the Toronto International Film Festival has arrived. It's my first one since when I left for Japan 18 years ago, the TIFF was really nowhere near as big as it is now. Now, it's become a bellwether for the big awards shows like the Oscars and the Golden Globes....and a celeb magnet.
It's been remarkable how the local media has been treating TIFF. It's being covered like a cinematic Olympics with reporters and telecasters using terms like Day 1 and making the festival the top news story. The Tokyo International Film Festival is still embryonic on that level. Unless people living there are big cinephiles, the Japanese TIFF is just a mere diversion of interest.
So yesterday after lunch, I walked down to King St. and noticed that the segment of the street between Spadina and University was a whole lot more crowded than usual, especially the part in front of the Bell Lightbox.
To be honest, it's not my intention to catch any of the least not for this year, although I do have some interest in "Looper", the time-traveling thriller with Bruce Willis. And I certainly wasn't expecting to see any celebs when I went down there yesterday. But I was keen on seeing what the hoopla was all about. I passed by the front of the Lightbox a couple of times; saw a lot of orange-wearing TIFF volunteers, and most likely star handlers...I could detect them from the cellphones permanently attached to their ears.

No celebs per se, but there were a few journalists and cameramen looking for spots to do their reports. CTV, CBC and CP24 were all represented. The unions going up against Bell Telephone were also well represented as they were trying to air their grievances via flyers and placards.

Over the next several days, TIFF will be scattering itself throughout downtown, but the Lightbox is TIFF Central. And I can imagine the restaurants across the street on King have been and will reap the benefits of a hungry group of moviegoers and celebwatchers. I passed by those places and there were staffers outside greeting and enticing potential diners.

This is the red carpet. At around 1 p.m. yesterday, it was about as lonely as Charlie Brown on Valentine's Day, but since last night it's probably been covered by more stars than Heidi Fleiss' black book.

TIFF will be around for all this weekend and next week. Chances are that I will be downtown somewhere then. Maybe I will take that long walk around Yorkville and Bloor. But for me, there is a theatre on Bloor West that seems to have attracted a whole ton of food trucks. I will definitely have to check that action out. But maybe, just maybe, I might finally get that celeb on digital.

Now, as for the "loser"part of this entry. Apparently, the Toronto Maple Leafs have been tarred and feathered as the Worst Sports Team in North America by ESPN or some sports magazine. All I can say is "What?! You only came to that realization just now?" When I heard that the NHL could face a lockout strike next week, I could only sigh in relief. After the debacle of last season and the diminishing returns of the playoffs, I'm really not in any hurry to catch any professional ice hockey. Well, at least it's now official. If there is any sliver of a silver lining here, it's that anything the Leafs do this season (provided that there is a season) that looks hopeful will be a major victory.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Computer Blues

Thursday September 5, 1:57 a.m.

I haven't had my new computer for even a week, and I'm already facing a hiccup with it. Looks my Samsung refuses to accept the product key for the MS Office, and for some reason it won't do downloads of songs due to some error somewhere. Ugh! I've called The Anime King for some assistance.

Although I taught a full day back on Tuesday, it was just a quiet day of translation yesterday with me meeting the boss and another colleague in our translating collective. The boss picked us up at the station and just drove us down to one of his working haunts for a brief hour about what's up with the latest work assignments. I'm in the middle of one such assignment and should be getting an editing job in the next couple of days or so.

Earlier in the summer, we all had been wondering whether Toronto was gonna have Summer of the Gun II after the shooting at the Eaton Centre and the Danzig St. massacre. It seems that the crazy season may end up as the Summer of Body Parts. First, there was the horrific Luka Magnotta murder of that poor Chinese student, then the murder of that Chinese woman here in Toronto by an ex-boyfriend, next came the torso that had popped up in the Niagara River. Finally, we just got another case today with a couple of folks coming across a decomposing torso in a suitcase floating in the water.

I will be heading out tomorrow to have that lunch at the Chinese restaurant that Ol' Sam took me and our other old friend last week. And then, I will see if I can get to the Bell Lightbox further downtown on the first day of the Toronto International Film Festival in probably vain attempt to catch some celebs. And tomorrow, I actually cook for the parentals for the first time. They are hinting that with their advancing age, they'll need a rotation now when it comes to cooking meals.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Labour Day Weekend

Brant and James in Burlington
Wednesday September 4, 1:15 a.m.

On Labour Day, the Anime Court and I headed over to Burlington for the final Ribfest of the year. I'd never actually been to Burlington...I've only passed it en route to Niagara Falls. However, when we drove into the city, I was impressed at how very scenic it looked. Right by Lake Ontario, it almost looked like a resort town by the Mediterranean. And we couldn't have asked for a better day....sunny, reasonable temperatures and a nice breeze coming in off the lake. Perfect rib-noshing weather.

The Burlington Ribfest is purported to be the largest one of its kind in all of Canada. But to be honest, I didn't think it was any bigger or smaller than the other two Ribfests I visited in Etobicoke and Scarborough. It was located inside the lakeside park, so the view was definitely an improvement on the other two on that point. As usual, each of the rib stands had huge signs overhanging the grills and crews manning them. This time I went for the Blazin BBQ Ribhouse all the way from Chatham.

As usual, the bunch of us went to the different stands and brought over the ribs to be shared. Well, as for my contribution, I think it's fair to say that they were probably the least of a good bunch. The ribs didn't seem to have nearly as much meat as the others. The one thing different about this last Ribfest was that we weren't nearly as big a group as the last two times. It was just me, The Anime King, The Anime Bishop and The Anime Jester, and we all went for the half-racks instead. So we didn't end up stuffing ourselves to the danger point.

This, of course, meant that our stomachs were open enough to engage in that fine dessert accompaniment to any bunch of spareribs, the funnel cake. Not too long after we got our fill of charred protein, we all went down to the far end of the Fest and bought ourselves a good helping of deep-fried dough. My funnel cake had strawberries and whipped cream. Downing that pretty much fit the bill for us for our time.

We were also pretty lucky with the music, too. None of that karaoke stuff on the stage. There were professional bands there doing the slow rock. Very nice to chill out there.

As I said, grand weather for a BBQ and beach. We all took a walk along the shoreline to lose some of the calories in vain. And then it was back to the car for the 90-minute ride back to Toronto. So, my inaugural Ribfests since getting back from Japan were good ones. This year's experience will definitely whet my appetite for next year's big foodie festivals.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Vending Machines

Yup, cheap things can be had in Tokyo.
Saturday September 1, 4:09 p.m.

I've been back in The Great White North for 8-and-a-half months after my long odyssey in Japan, and to be honest, I don't have any huge regrets about coming back. Still, sometimes I get twinges now and then for some of the more convenient elements of living life in The Big Sushi.

Vending machines are one of those things. They seem to populate every nook and cranny of every urban/suburban/rural area, with the exception of the areas immediately surrounding restaurants. Whenever I needed a drink of some sort....whether it be a cola, iced coffee or an oolong tea, it didn't take long before I came across one or an entire bank of vending machines. The average price of a pop in the machine is around 120 yen, but in the theatres, the price can rocket up to 200 yen easily. On the flip side, though, there are some machines which offer generic pop for as cheap as 80 yen, such as the ones in the picture. I found those on the side street where my old student and friend, Cozy, had his tax accounting office.

"So, do we have to use solid maple syrup then?"
Then again in Akihabara, that bastion of the weird and wonderful in Japanese pop culture, vending machines can sell some fairly twisted stuff. For example, for Canadians on an extended tour who start missing the old flapjacks, they can get the liquid stuff from the local machine for the same price as a Coke. Really. I've also seen the same thing for ramen and curry udon. I'm a foodie but I guess I'm more on the conservative side; I will never have my pancakes in any other way other than solid.

One of those bizarro weeks

Saturday September 1, 3:45 p.m.

Just haven't had any time to blog here for the past number of days. I had that huge translation assignment which I finally got done with 3 days to spare. Translating tax returns is just as onerous as actually filling them out....except with the former, I will actually earn money. I've already got a less epic assignment but I've decided to not touch that one until Labour Day.

Newswise, it's been one for the year. The police caught the psychopath ex-boyfriend who had killed and chopped up that poor woman a few weeks ago. But now, it seems as if the GTA has started seeing body parts everywhere. A woman's torso popped up in the Niagara River a few nights ago. And even out west in Victoria, BC, shoes with a certain meat-like substance inside them also been washing ashore; methinks that's probably a hoax since similar things had occurred  across the bay in Vancouver a few years ago.

Then, it was seeing a wizened Clint Eastwood doing some unfunny Vaudevillian bit with an empty chair at the Republican National Convention. Man, I didn't think anything could make Dirty Harry look uncool. It almost looked like Clint was channeling Foster Brooks. And he looked OLD! Even in his most recent movies, Clint had that residual steel glint in his eye which could still make people sit up straight, but up on the podium there on Thursday night, he looked more like that doddering family uncle who the relatives humoured on Thanksgiving Day. Still, Jay, Bill, David, Jon and the rest of the late-night gang must've popped champagne corks on seeing all this play out.

Had a teaching gig in the morning yesterday. Basically, only half the class showed up....being the Friday before the long weekend can take the winds out of any student's sails. I just did a stand-up routine and presented the material that the regular teacher had given me. I've also got a full-day deal on Tuesday. But until then, I've got one more Ribfest to attend with The Anime King and his crew tomorrow out in Burlington. My last chance to zestfully enjoy food before my doctor lowers the boom on me; he asked me to come in next Saturday to discuss the findings from my checkup the week before. I'm sure he saw blood platelets the shape of Krispy Kreme donuts.

Well, September is indeed here. More comfy than yesterday's steam bath. Looking forward to my first Fall in Toronto in 17 years.