Thursday, April 4, 2013

Balance in the Force

Thursday April 4, 11:41 p.m.

Well, there's been a switch in tonight's fortunes with our sports teams. The Blue Jays finally won one after losing the first two games of the season to the Cleveland Indians. They pulled off a victory 10-8; so their bats were finally firing on all cylinders although the pitching was a bit off. Just down the block, the Leafs couldn't quite catch up with the Flyers, and perhaps in worse news, Lupul may be off injured again.

Got whomped with another major translation assignment again which will probably take me into next week. And I gotta do some more changes on Saturday. When it rains, it pours.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

Wednesday April 4, 11:57 a.m.

Yes, it's that time of year when all Canadians seriously talk about a topic that is enormously near and dear to our hearts on a day that is sunny but still retains that not unappealing tang of chill in the air. Right now, folks across The Great White North are glued to their I-Phones, tablets and even those ancient devices known as television sets to glean as much information as they can about the day's proceedings.

Yes, it's the NHL Trading Deadline Day...

Right from 8 a.m. EDT, TSN and Sportscentre started their days with various sportscasters, former NHL players and former NHL general managers gabbing away about what trades have been done and what trades may be pulled off in the next several hours. I think in Toronto today, people are quite smitten not only to find out if the Leafs are able to grab a veteran playoff-seasoned goalie from either Calgary or Vancouver, but also just to forget the lousy results to the Blue Jays home opener last night (Mr. Arencibia, how does it feel to be the first one in the doghouse this year? Nope, not fair....he was on the receiving end of Dickey knucklers[trying not to giggle here]).

Last year, I caught my first experience of the big day and wasn't all that impressed since not all that much happened. But I've realized from all the tweets coming in on the screen that folks are just happy to see and hear the talking heads talking about trades; any trades that do come in are icing on the cake. And if that one blockbuster trade comes in? Manna from Heaven!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Blue Jays are Back!

Tuesday April 2, 12:15 p.m.

Well, I don't think I've heard so much talk about the Blue Jays than has occurred in the past number of months. All these new players like R.A. Dickey, Melky Cabrera and the rest along with the veterans such as Arencibia and Batista. Now, after the previous season of disappointment, everyone here is just gabbing away about a possible World Series victory. Hmmm.....way too early to talk about that, in my opinion. I just heard the president of the Blue Jays himself say "You can't buy chemistry." And we have yet to see that with the so-called New Look Jays....although in several hours, we'll all get that opportunity when they take on the Indians tonight down at the Rogers Centre. At this point, I'll be grateful if they win the home opener and then eventually get into the post-season.

It's hard for me to believe that after the Jays won that dramatic 1993 World Series, they never got back into the playoffs. It was in 1994 that I went off to Japan for my long stint there, so my connection with the Bluebirds became very tenuous; I'd thought that the team had made it into October at least a couple of times. But it's been a very long drought for them. I still remember that night when the Jays took it all at Skydome. I was in a bar just north of Summerhill on Yonge with a lot of my friends when the up-and-down Game 6 unfolded like a Hollywood movie in front of our eyes. Me and the folks in the bar were suffering and exulting on every run and out. But that 9th inning was one for my life....when Joe Carter hit that home run, everyone lost it. I haven't had that feeling of joy shake my bones since that moment. And then I saw the other bars and taverns just vomit the customers onto Yonge St as car horns blared like trumpets. By the time, we got down to Yonge and Bloor, the streets were as packed as rush hour subways. At one point, we got scared that we were going to be crushed to death so we ended up taking refuge at a donut shop for an hour or two before things calmed down....relatively speaking.

We all tiredly separated around 2 a.m in the morning. I had to walk all the way east to Broadview and Danforth before I could actually hail a taxi to get home.  But those were happy days in Toronto. I wonder if the 2013 Jays will bring that joy back in October.

This is the commercial that played immediately after the Jays clinched it all. I never heard a whole bar sing a Coke jingle before.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Weekend

Sunday March 31, 8:58 p.m.

Hard to believe that we're almost into April, and there is still the threat of snow tomorrow. And the weekend was so mild, too. Maybe April Fool's is coming a bit early this year. Hey, this is of wacky weather!

Since I'm neither religious nor a huge eater of chocolate anymore, Easter doesn't have that much meaning for me. And since I work almost exclusively at home now, the long weekend didn't really have that oomph. Still, since it was a holiday weekend, our family went out for good ol' Fish n' Chips. But because the Catholics are indeed keeping to tradition and not eating any red meat, the Fish n' Chips places were doing volume business; I think one owner remarked that Good Friday is the busiest day of the year for them. My family hit The Olde York, a venerable old place, on Saturday evening. And sure enough, Good Friday was spilling over into Good Saturday. We had to wait for about 30 minutes before we could get a table, but the service was absolutely friendly and unruffled despite the hungry hordes, and we all splurged for the Halibut. Of course, that fish is the most delicious (and not surprisingly, the fattiest one); whenever I've gone there in the past, I've gone for the more inexpensive but drier Haddock but since I was eschewing the chowder and the dessert, I decided to go for the gusto. Wasn't disappointed.

Got back home to see the Leafs trounce the Senators columnist for "The Toronto Star" has all but anointed the team into Playoff Nirvana. I'm not quite ready to make that pronouncement myself, but it's nice to hear such happy thoughts this year compared to the horror that was on the ice this time last year.

Then, I saw the start of the 2nd half of Season 7 of "Doctor Who" with a new companion and a slightly new outfit for the Time Lord. Apparently, the reviews have been somewhat mixed for "The Bells of St. John". I'm more in the middle of the pack. It was nice to see Matt Smith happy and madly eccentric, especially after that horrid swan song episode to the Ponds, and the accompanying travelogue to London reminded me of "Skyfall". However, the episode didn't have quite the oomph I had been expecting for the 11th Doctor, especially after all of the accolades that the Xmas Special had gotten (still haven't had the chance to watch it). Hopefully, things will be going ever upwards.

Unfortunately, there has been another shooting at another major shopping mall in Toronto in as many years. The Toronto news channels were all fixated on Yorkdale Mall for the rest of the night after some sort of altercation; from the sounds of the victim's and the instigators' names, it may be a Vietnamese gang issue. Just another way that Toronto seems to be resembling more like an American metropolis....creaking transit system and urban crime.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Fun and Games in T.O.

Tuesday March 26, 11:53 a.m.

Well, it's come to the point that whenever Mayor Rob Ford's name pops up in a broadcast, Torontonians' eyes roll to the back of the head with the dependence of an involuntary reflex. And so, the latest in the 2-year series of The Perils of Rob has "The Toronto Star" splashing this exclusive on the front page about allegations of alcohol abuse. Of course, the triumvirate of the Ford Brothers and Deputy Mayor Holyday immediately put up their shields and fired some warning phaser shots almost immediately after the news got out.

At this point, after all of the sturm und drang that has followed Rob Ford for the past couple of years with the court stuff and the recent accusation by a former election rival of sexual assault, it'll probably take even more than today's headline to have this news last beyond the better part of this week. Confidential sources are one thing, but I think it'll take some big names and absolute hand-in-the-cookie-jar proof to even dislodge anything. We've just gotten so inured to all of the bread and circuses.

And what about The Leafs? They took three out of four points from the Boston Bruins. Yep, the Buds aren't exactly great at shootouts but since once the game is at that stage, both teams are gonna come away with something, so it's not such a terrible thing to lose, aside from the pride aspect. But the big thing here is that not a lot of fans had expected Phaneuf, Kadri and company to get anything from the Bruins considering the past couple of years, so three points is pretty darn good.

Took that needed hour's walk today. Nope, not that cold but the winds are out there. I actually got a rare Monday off from translation. I got a heads-up last week from one of my colleagues that things could be a bit slower than usual for the next week or so since Japan is entering the final week of the fiscal calendar. Plus, April is the reset month for a lot of everything over there so the normal course of things will be disrupted for a bit. A lot of corporate parties for welcoming and saying goodbye will be in order for the next several weeks leading up to Golden Week.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Back to Anime and Foodie Sunday

Monday March 25, 1:28 p.m.

Been a while but with all of the translation, Mr. Moriya's return and yesterday being another outing with The Anime King, there wasn't much time for blogging. As for my Skype student, he had a good business trip to Australia for the better part of a week; his fluency certainly showed it. And he didn't have to contend with hay fever over there....something that is plaguing Japan right now as it usually does this time of year.

It was a 3-week absence for The Anime King since he had his own business trip to conduct in Chicago. He was rather disappointed in the food selection although he did say the famed Deep-Dish Pizza was the one highlight. Still, he was grateful to be back in Toronto.

Our Sunday started off with a visit to Eggsmart. I actually went for a new item on the menu which was this plate of Hash Browns using Montreal corned beef and very roughly chopped onion and potatoes. I guess I could say it was a very raw version of the breakfast staple. Nothing like the stuff at Sunset Grill. It was quite good, though, and very filling. And I'm always appreciative for bottomless cups of coffee.

Had our first period of anime involving a couple of movies and some eps from the Precure franchise and then the usual bawdy episode of "Ixion". We took a brief break by heading to the nearest Second Cup. I went for the Poppy Seed Lemon Cake with a thick slap of icing on top. It was actually surprisingly light despite the appearance. The King and I spoke a bit about any future trips over to Japan. I can't see myself heading over there any earlier than Spring 2014; gotta save up the money. The Anime Bishop called up suddenly and said he would be joining us for dinner.

Came back to hear some soundtrack stuff before we watched the 2000 anime of "Blood: The Last Vampire". It had that gritty animation style which reminded me of "Akira", but the voice acting was pretty subpar...frankly, almost as if this had been a high school project. So it was somewhat surprising to hear that Saya was voiced by actress Yuki Kudo from movies like "Memoirs of a Geisha". It was too bad since I think it could've come off quite well.

The Bishop arrived just in the last few minutes of "Blood". And then we were off to a place called Hot Spicy Spicy. We hadn't been there in perhaps 18 months. My first time to the place was just shortly after my exodus home. It's a larger version of the down-to-earth Chinese eateries over downtown, and the portions are quite generous. I had the Mushu Pork on Rice; nothing surpremely spectacular but it fit the bill quite nicely. The conversation between the King and the Bishop went a bit deep into electronics, not my strong suit at all so I was able to focus on dinner. However, we were able to connect a bit more when it came to headphones.

The Bishop ordered a side dish of dumplings. They were quite big so I had one of them. As soon as I took a bite, the package just shot a phaser of meat juice about a metre away. Gotta say that it's been a while I've something like that. But the Japanese gyoza aren't quite as large as these dumplings were. The three of us are still thinking about getting that big get-together of the Court for dinner sometime in the next number of weeks, but with a number of the group now fully-grounded family men, it could be difficult.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Telecommuting and Proud of It!

Wednesday March 20, 10:52 a.m.

Monday night was apparently a hellish one for TTC least, more so than usual. Satan must've been stoking the fires a little harder. It seemed to be a perfect storm of emergency buzzers (one for a fight that broke out on a subway...odd, it's not even the weekend) and one dangerous incident in which the doors suddenly opened on a moving packed subway. The response from the TTC was interesting, though. The top brass, including a pale-looking CEO Andy Byford, went on video to publicly apologize for the lousy service. That struck me as a very Japanese thing to do....mind you, he didn't bow deeply, but still, it was a good thing. Commuters were understandably only fairly charitable to the apology....after decades of lousy service, it's gonna take more than a mea culpa to fix things between The Better Way and the unhappy customers.

When I saw that transportation disaster happen on TV, I just thanked my circumstances that I now work from home. Yup, I'm a grateful telecommuter. Since I tap on my computer all day as a translator, I now just leave my home only to either take that needed walk or go downtown because I want to, not because I have to. There was that big news in business in which some of the large companies such as Yahoo or Google (not sure which) recently rescinded the telecommuting policy and forced all employees to return to the ship and batten down the hatches...perhaps nervous that some of those formerly far-flung employees were taking advantage of working at home or at the nearest Starbucks.

To be honest, there are some people who are just not made out to be telecommuters. The temptations are too great: easy access to regular TV and no access by the powers-that-be to look over your shoulder. It's like being back at university. Some students study better by being at the campus library. Some workers are more productive being in the cubicles. As for me, I seem to be able to exercise far more discipline when it comes to my translating work than when it comes to my weight. If I get an assignment, I get at it until it's done. Mind you, my interest in TV has waned down to a nub and frankly I like my job.

Still, it seems as if this sudden switch in the trend of telecommuting is very localized. According to a newspaper article, people being given sanction to work in the comfort of their homes is still alive and well and probably will not be reversed unless the economy really tanks.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Spring Supposedly

Monday March 18, 12:02 p.m.

Well, rumour has it that Spring is on its way, but despite the expert opinion of several large lumbering rodents in February, it's still gonna be plenty chilly here for this week. Plus, we've got some messy weather on the way as of 4 this afternoon. So, there may be some Vernal enthusiasts who are thinking up of some evil plots to cook groundhog.

Team Japan just lost to Puerto Rico in the semi-finals of the World Baseball Classic in San Francisco, I believe. Probably a lot of disappointed folks over in Japan right now but after winning the first two championships, the country has nothing to be ashamed about. Plus, they can start back on how to regain the big prize for next time, and I think that's always more fun for everyone involved rather than trying to defend a championship.

Had my brother's family over for dinner last night. The usual pleasant time involved, including playing with my niece. But we did have one casualty in the form of the coffee carafe which ended its long life by cracking and pouring some fresh brewed onto the kitchen floor. Mom seemed to be quite eager in getting a new coffeemaker anyways.

Just been taking care of some invoicing and awaiting my next translation assignment which should be in sometime over the next few hours.

Looks like Pope Francis I is having an immediate effect on the world at large with his charm and Gorbachevian openness. I think Pope Benedict XVI is probably grumbling and muttering, "Dang whippersnapper!" And apparently, the leader of the Orthodox Christians is even gonna attend tomorrow's Papal Inauguration for the first time in a millenium. Rather unorthodox, if you ask me. (thank you, I play Vegas til Friday)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Clearing the Air

Sunday March 17, 12:15 p.m.

St. Patrick's Day again....or Don't-You-Dare-Drive-In-Downtown-Toronto Day. Because of the annual parade and the fact that one major long segment of the TTC is out of commission, driving downtown must be a huge migraine....even more than usual. A couple of my old friends who used to love putzing about in their cars have basically had their love leached out from them due to the horrors of navigating badly-maintained streets, chronic construction, few and pricey parking lots and incompetent drivers. Ah, and we do have those Pan Am Games in a couple of years, right?

Having the windows open in a number of the rooms here just to clear all the stale stuff out. My brother's family is popping over for dinner tonight, so I don't want my niece making any remarks since kids are very straightforward about their opinions.

Met up with The Egg and his wife for lunch out in North York yesterday. We went to the local branch of Asian Legend, one of the popular Chinese food franchises. The Anime King and I often head out to the branch near his place where we usually just nosh on some soy milk soup and perhaps some potstickers. But I was kinda surprised that we all went a bit wild on the quantity of our choices. The Egg and I were champion eaters in our day, and I can still surprise even myself at times but, I think our best days are well behind us now.

I've sorted out my tax stuff so that I can hand over the numbers to my brother since he's got some whiz-bang software. If I were still in Japan, I would've done this a month ago since the due date is actually right now there for returns. Aside from the kanji, it was never all that bad filling out the forms.

The Leafs lost another heartbreaker to the Winnipeg Jets in a shootout. But the news media isn't exactly getting too upset since losing teams in a shootout still earn a point. But that's 5 in a row for the Buds, and so I'm just wondering if recent history is gonna repeat itself, and the players will have to don disguises when they go shopping locally. In any case, I have a feeling that they're probably gonna make the playoffs by the skin of their noses.

I guess the other big news here is this looming pachyderm known as the Big Casino Debate. The casino conglomerates have been courting Toronto like really desperate bachelors, and Mayor Rob Ford has been more than happy to show them inside the house. Meanwhile, a lot of us are not feeling too good about having a bit of Las Vegas (or as my old high school History teacher used to say it, Lost Wages) or Detroit/Windsor/Vancouver/Niagara Falls plunked down in downtown. Sure, jobs may increase but at best, I think it would be a Faustian victory. There was a job fair for jobs that don't yet exist for this casino that doesn't yet exist yesterday somewhere which struck me as somewhat odd. And as it turned out, the turnout was indeed sparse and the so-called job fair was really a badly-disguised group of lobbyists trying to show the merits of having a casino. Supposedly, some of the officials who did come on out were caught off-guard themselves when confronted with the question about this "job fair". The pro-casino side is having a tough enough time of trying to convince a very skeptical city, so false advertising on this level isn't exactly going to help their cause.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Francis the Humble Pope

Friday March 15, 3:16 p.m.

I was just a minute away from having a perfect 3/15 3:15. Beware the Ides of March! Thought I'd throw that in as well.

In any case, I've gone through another muscle-aching round of translations for this week. A lot of my upper-body muscles are feeling properly sore including the one between my ears. I can't really divulge the contents of the source, only to say that it involves tourism, and tourism projects always involve very flowery language. Rather obvious thing to say, even to those not in the translation business, but it's never a straight one-to-one bilingual transliteration; there's always some detective work about what the client really wants to be said. But I can do it and I can make money out of it.

Anyways, last time I wrote an entry here, it was just before the white smoke billowed out of the world's most famous chimney, Habeas Papum and the emergence of Pope Francis I. There are probably a lot of very happy bettors in Las Vegas who went for the Argentinian....the payoffs must've been huge. There was absolutely no mention of the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio in any media site or paper; he just literally popped up from behind that curtain from nowhere. Mind you, Chris Cuomo of CNN is probably being even more obnoxious about the fact that he was the only one to have even mentioned his possibility in becoming Pope. Well, in any case, Francis is getting his honeymoon period right now and the world media is talking about how humble and pious he had been in his native Argentina. We shall see what happens after his Inauguration Mass this weekend.

Yesterday, while Pope Francis I was probably lining up to get his Big Mac Meal at the Vatican Golden Arches (again, humility), I was having lunch with Shard at Kinton Ramen downtown. I was back at the counter again which I actually do prefer instead of the Kyushu table at the front. I went for the regular Shio Ramen while Shard went for Miso. It's been interesting going out with different folks in my last three visits to Kinton. Back on Boxing Day, it was with one member of the Anime Court and Automan in which the conversation was pretty regular, while with The Wild Guy and The Banker and Egg a few weeks ago, it was more business-oriented. Yesterday, Shard, who has a deep interest in design, got into the nitty-gritty of the decor inside and outside of the restaurant. I think I have a deeper appreciation of all of the wood that was sacrificed for the place. I'm happy that Shard enjoyed his ramen and the surroundings. My bowl just had a bit of a rancid whiff of pork which was not that great but the karaage chicken was crunchy and juicy at the same time. And the two of us ended up getting recruited into the restaurant's Kinton Bowler program in which if we drain our bowls over the next 10 visits, Kinton will throw in a free plate of gyoza on our 11th visit....that is, if we don't keel over from cholesterol toxicity at the end of the year.

Of course, after such a rich lunch, we fairly waddled our way over to a Starbucks inside Sick Kids Hospital. Shard informed me of this deal with a coupon for a free Caramel or Hazelnut Macchiatto. As it turned out, it was a bit of a hoax by an uploader, but the staff there had been apprised of the ruse and yet were still smilingly willing to give out the free coffee. The other lesson I learned that is if you decide to get a coffee at a Timmies or a Starbucks during the noon hour, getting one at a hospital atrium or being near a huge atrium in an office building will usually guarantee empty seats for you.

It will be a quiet weekend. No Skype lessons and no outing with The Anime King since he is off to Chicago on a business trip. We did have our biweekly telephone conversation a couple of days ago. However, The Egg contacted me to see about dinner plans for tomorrow. Gotta follow up on that.

And by the way, if any of you are having a bad day, just think about the executives at Carnival Cruises, and you'll feel much better.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Neighbourhood Stuff

Tuesday March 12, 11:16 p.m.

Well, it's been mostly a day of translation and watching the start of the Conclave at the Vatican. I'm not religious by any means but as an observer of world events, it's been interesting watching all the mysterious pomp and circumstance surrounding the choice of a new Pope. And now, SmokeWatch has begun....just love how the media can jargonize even a centuries-old tradition. A chimney is getting more attention than it even gets during Christmas Eve. Of course, nothing came of the first vote as expected, but perhaps tomorrow. However, most folks say the new Pope will appear on Thursday at the earliest.

Got through another round of translation. I got a new assignment of hunting and translating for tomorrow which could be intriguing. It looks like I'm getting into a good groove with my new profession.

Tonight, I actually went to a meeting concerning the unit owners of our development for the first time with Dad. The session involved the presentation of a company coming over to increase the efficiency of our toilets and other fixtures, but we went there to primarily talk with the new property manager about that problem with leakage in the bedroom. Not surprisingly, I was the 2nd-youngest guy there and the questions to the slick presenter were refreshingly direct. To the sales representative's credit, he did a pretty good job and he even went right up to one old fellow whose hearing wasn't too good to explain things as best as he could. Having turned into a major skeptic about most things in life, I wasn't willing to believe everything at first speak so I'm gonna see how the board and residents decide. The jury is out on the manager as well. The regional guy was quite sold on him and made it quite known but the oft-frustrated custodian of our buildings before the new management company came in made it known to my parents that he has no love for this new guy. I did get a straight answer from the regional manager about my problem, but it was unfortunate that the property manager said absolutely nothing to us. Not a good start to me.

And buried in all that stuff about the Conclave and translations and toilet talk was the news that life could have very well existed on Mars after all. Geeks are dancing in the street....or in the basement.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Soggy Start

Monday March 11, 12:09 pm

Well, pretty wet and gloomy out there, but at least it's warmer. However, the weather folks are saying that the minus temperatures are still gonna plague us later this week. The snow is melting, though, which is revealing a lot of stuff that the dogs left behind. There is also a dead raccoon nearby which the killer car driver deposited on the curb. I'm now considering calling Animal Services.

Not a great sports weekend for Canada or Toronto. The Leafs were squeaked out of a win by the Penguins on Saturday...the Buds did show heart but just couldn't beat Crosby or Malkin. And of course, there was that kerfuffle with Team Canada in the World Baseball Classic against Team Mexico; there has been some back-&-forth since then with the Blue Jays' Jose Bautista putting in his two nickels by scolding Canada for trying to run up the score. And then Canada had to go home with their tails between their legs after collapsing against the USA yesterday. However, Toronto FC did provide a glimmer of good news by winning its first game since last July.

Still waiting for my regular translation assignment from the company; apparently, things are a bit slow in Japan today. But today is the 2nd anniversary of the big Tohoku Earthquake/Tsunami, so I'm sure people are being quite reflective. I'm finding the media coverage quite interesting depending on the country. Of course, NHK and probably the commercial networks in Japan have been providing very somber and wistful programs about 3/11, and NHK was visiting a lot of individuals in the affected areas to get their impressions and reminiscences, but very little has been shown about the progress of the cleanup. On the other hand, CNN and BBC have been focusing on that aspect of the disaster aftermath, and showing that after 2 years, not much has been done. It was the first time in several months that I've seen anything on the Fukushima nuclear reactor disaster still in progress, and that was through BBC only. The reporter for the British network remarked that in a society where consensus-building is often still paramount, there has been little consensus built about how to fix something this enormous which would explain the delay. I think the Japanese media's take on it is that the ramifications will simply not go away for decades, so it's sho ga nai...let's work on the emotional healing and getting people to regain their energy and confidence to work around the difficulties while the upper echelons deal (or try to deal) with them directly. NHK's report did pick up on one angle and that was whether the memories of the disaster have started to fade; apparently, corporate and perhaps private contributions to the quake-affected areas have fallen by a huge margin, and the weekly protests in front of Parliament against nuclear power have also shrunk (although there was a huge parade in downtown Tokyo yesterday). I think the fading is a natural thing and is part of the healing process, but I was surprised at how quickly the fade has been in the country itself. But at the same time, the national TV network has been keeping up its end of the bargain by broadcasting a lot of programming on the situation over the months.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Springing Forward

Friday March 8, 10:54 p.m.

Looking a bit more optimistic out there in the weather department. Went out with Dad and it felt quite warm. Mind you, +1 degree is pretty relative but it was also quite sunny, and things are just looking better for the weekend. Makes one wonder why anyone would like to head down south for March Break. Well, mind you, the folks down there are getting 29 more degrees than we are.

Finished off a good week of translation, and looking forward to a bit of respite perhaps just blogging and watching TV. Spring seems to be coming in and our clocks are gonna be springing forward one hour as of early Sunday morning. But I saw an amazing instance of springing back...from adversity, that is. I woke up this morning to see a bit of that Japan vs. Taiwan game at The World Baseball Classic. Japan was behind 2-0 in the bottom of the 8th when they started to pull off a major upset by tying things up. Then when Taiwan pulled ahead 3-2 at the top of the 9th, Japan just tied things up again before winning for good in the 10th. That is grit. The Leafs have pulled this sort of feat before, and hopefully they will remember to do so in the latter half of this strike-shortened schedule.

Still, not all lightness and heart in Toronto. There was that tragic case of that 5-year-old girl getting struck down and killed by a garbage truck yesterday; the school and surrounding neighbourhood are mourning very deeply. And then at Thistledown Collegiate yesterday, scum actually had the gall...and ooze in and rob two students of their cellphones and fire a bullet at one other kid before taking off and pulling off some more robberies. Luckily, those kids left a pretty good bread crumb trail in the form of their blue Toyota with a fully-recognizable license plate and security camera footage. It's almost as if they were begging to be arrested. And then of course, our walking trouble magnet, Mayor Rob Ford, is back in the news for allegedly groping a former mayoral candidate at a party the night before, although I'm getting the feeling that there may be holes developing in her story. Never a dull day in this city....kinda wish for some, though.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Tokyo Olympics 2020?

courtesy of Jamie Barras
from Flickr
Thursday March 7, 1:22 p.m.

Was watching NHK News this morning. For the past few mornings, the broadcast has been focusing on the IOC's visit to Tokyo to see if Japan's capital is up to hosting the Olympics for a 2nd time since its inaugural shot in 1964. The Games there happened just several months before my birth, so the only record I have of them is a very old, beat-up but huge commemorative magazine and a coin given to me by my late grandfather.

It's been the grand inu-&-kouma show for the gang at IOC. Prime Minister Abe was abnormally cheerful and gave a fairly bizarre first few words in his speech as he persuaded the visiting group to give Tokyo the opportunity. And during a tour around the city, the IOC stopped at some table tennis training facility where table tennis Olympic darling, Ai Fukuhara, was working up a massive sweat pounding away at the table with a huge nailed-on smile that rather unnerved me. I've seen Fukuhara practice on TV, and she has only had the most serious expression during training.

Do I seem a bit skeptical? You bet. When Tokyo was vying for the 2016 Games under former Governor Shintaro Ishihara, it seemed that the only folks interested in getting the Olympics were the folks talking with the IOC about the possibility. 99.9% of the citizens around the country, however, gave a collective yawn, or if they lived in the capital, grumbled about having to head out of the city to avoid the traffic craziness. It's kinda like how a lot of Torontonians felt about having an Olympics come over here....not very excited. I think the Chinese were excited about the 2000 Games and the British were ecstatic about getting the London Olympics, but Toronto?....meh. We're getting the Pan Am Games in a couple of years, and the news hasn't exactly been all that overwhelmingly approving here about those.

In the NHK report, a reporter who's been on the Olympics beat for years, did some man-on-the-street interviews in front of Shimbashi Station in Tokyo, one of the places to be to get the opinion of the common working person. I'm sure there was quite a bit of editing involved for the report since the man was giving out a lot of "Sumimasen"; I could imagine that a lot of the folks probably just wanted to avoid him to avoid the embarrassment of using the English language despite the fact that an interpreter was there on hand. However, he was able to snag a few people and ask them their opinions of an Olympics in their city. And frankly, my impression of their answers was that they were on the polite "Well, it would be n-i-i-i-c-e...." level, but nothing exciting. Now, the Japanese are relatively reserved when dealing with people they're not familiar with, but I think they can be a lot more excited about things they really support, and I didn't see it with those interviewees. The reporter himself observed that Japan certainly has the technology and the logistics, but he was still looking for more spirit behind the bid. And the expression on his face and his tone kinda said that there wasn't a lot of that.

When Japan was bidding for the 1964 Olympics, I could imagine a people who would rally around the flag, as they were already doing for some years just to rebuild their country. That collective oomph didn't need to be generated by an Olympic committee of old folks or the national government; it was already there, ready to be harvested. A Tokyo Olympics would be the globally-sanctioned welcome back for Japan, and the national celebration for the people to say that Japan was becoming healthy again. The Japanese then had something to prove, and any grumbles about traffic and overcrowding probably didn't exist to a great degree since the people had been going through much more hardship. Nowadays, most folks have been accustomed to the good life, even in the last two decades of economic doldrums, so that they will grumble loudly about an international sports event invading their city in terms of what it may do to their surrounding infrastructure for 2 weeks and their tax payments for the 7 years leading up to the Games. Probably a lot of people may feel that there is nothing to prove about their country. Plus, they've got plenty of smaller international sports events such as The World Baseball Classic or the numerous running marathons, they would say.

It's possible that people could be brought together on behalf of all those who have suffered from the 2011 Earthquake/Tsunami/Nuclear Disaster. Obviously that was an environmental maelstrom that had international coverage and its effects were felt well beyond the Tohoku region. However, I'm not sure if even something of that magnitude would rally people around an Olympic bid these days. Some people in the quake-ravaged areas may question the sense of spending money on a sports event years down the line when there is still so much that needs to be done in the short-term alone. Some Tokyoites may wonder about the sense of supporting an Olympic bid just because a totally separate area got wrecked. But then again, the Tohoku may reap dividends from the fact that thousands of foreign tourists may visit the area during their time attending the Games.

But it all comes down to how much the Japanese want the Games. That reporter stated something that stuck in my head: "The IOC won't give the Games to a city that doesn't want them." I think the next 6 months will be critical to see how much Tokyo and Japan want them.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Madoka Magica at Fairview?!

Monday March 4, 2:41 p.m.

Found out from the exiled Anime Chamberlain this past weekend that an anime series that I had watched last summer, "Madoka Magica", has its movie version scheduled for showing right here in Toronto at the Cineplex at Fairview Mall next week. May explain the strange increase in pageviews for my posting on it.

I'd be interested in not only watching it for the bizarre clash of animation styles and just to be able to understand it via the miracle of subtitles (saw the series that The King had lent me via USB without any, and my Japanese isn't too good on the esoteric stuff), but also to see who comes on out to watch this anime.

I will reiterate..."Madoka Magica" ain't your Precure franchise, despite the cute girls.

Fun and Work

Monday March 4, 2:30 p.m.

Well, just to link back to what I'd said last entry....I should've knocked on wood a bit harder. As soon as I mentioned that I would be having a slight respite from all that translating, a big assignment landed on my lap which I've finally completed for hand-in tonight. But I'd also mentioned that that textbook wouldn't get to Mr. Moriya in time?.....well, it got just there in the nick of it, miraculously enough.

However, I was able to spend some time enjoying more ramen at Kinton on Friday afternoon. As usual, I was the first one in line at about 11:10 a.m. Believe me, I don't mean to be so early but I don't really have a very good temporal sense so I always err on the side of caution. Luckily, all three of my ramen companions showed up in plenty of time. We got the Kyushu table right at the front. And as usual, it didn't take long for the place to get filled up. I could actually eat the Extra Pork Ramen with a sampling of gyoza and karaage without re-enacting one of the climactic scenes of "Alien". Then, it was up to the Second Cup across from U of T for a bit of coffee, conversation and digestion.

On Sunday, it was the usual get-together with The Anime King for a round of food and anime. Did Asian Legend for lunch and then that Chinese hot pot place on McNicoll for dinner. That hot place wasn't too bad but unfortunately, the chicken was pretty chintzy. I get far more stuff on the bones in my mother's hot pot.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Hopefully, a quantum of solace today....

Thursday February 28, 10:42 a.m.

No real allusions to the relatively worst of the current Daniel Craig Bond movies....just would like to have a brief respite from the translation work. However, I still have to think about what to do with my Skype student on Saturday night since basically it is assumed that the new textbook will not reach him in time for the next lesson. I have some ideas...just hope that they haven't already been utilized sometime over the past 2 years.

Yesterday, Toronto did get another walloping of snow. However, although it didn't quite live up to the sturm und drang of a couple of weeks ago, the fact that it was heavy wet snow made things a nightmare for commuters, and even for me. I only had to walk across the street to the nearest convenience store for a paper but I distinctly had to make several chess knight-like moves to avoid the worst of the glacial quicksand. Speaking with The Anime King last night, he told me that he literally had had to move through and around slushy lakes to and from work. It also became a prime part of the newscast last night as well.

Well, the world loses a Pope today due to retirement and not death for the first time in 600 years. Of course, there is all the pomp and circumstance that the media outlets can provide. It looks like the next half-month can be depended on for non-stop coverage of the crowning of a new Pontiff. Perhaps CNN should change its full name to the "Catholic News Network" for the interim. Hey, maybe if Cardinal Oullet does become the first Canadian Pope, he could be called Pope Mackenzie A(rimshot!)

Speaking about losing, the Leafs dropped one to the Canadiens last night. I took a brief look when the game was still tied at 2-2, but then apparently the bottom fell out at the ACC. I hope Randy Carlyle gave a good verbal whopping to the troops. I also hope that this isn't the beginning of another mid-season collapse that's become all too much of a custom in Toronto. It looks like it was generally a bad day for local team sports. The Blue Jays got eviscerated in Dunedin and I think the Raptors lost as well.

Getting back to Bond, that limp 007 tribute at the Oscars on Sunday apparently got someone to make a superior brand of tribute on YouTube. Dark thought it good enough to show on their website. I don't think it's quite the grand slam homer but it's a definite improvement and at least it has actual quotes. For me, it would've been even better if instead of just the theme from "Skyfall", the other classic original themes from entries like "Goldfinger", "Live and Let Die" and "From Russia With Love" could've also been inserted.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Bye Seth, Hello Storm

Tuesday February 26, 11:12 a.m.

Well, in a not-too-surprising PS to last night's entry about Seth MacFarlane and the Oscars, Hollywood's current bullseye just tweeted that he would definitely not come back as the host next year. So I guess Amy and Tina are up! But the producers may have to do battle with the Golden Globes guys to get them. Perhaps the producers can throw in a couple of names to be added later: Paul Rudd and Melissa McCarthy...please.

Supposedly, we got another major storm on the way which could veer from a lot of rain to a lot of snow. Whatever the precip, there's a lot of it coming. It's looking pretty nice out there right now, though.

Got the latest translation off to the company, but I've got one more to finish for Cozy today. Not too difficult.

The Leafs have won another one against the Flyers. It's been a good time to be a Torontonian when it comes to sports. The Blue Jays are not doing too shabbily in Dunedin, the Leafs have been doing far better than last year's sad sacks and the Raptors aren't too bad either (although they lost at home to the NBA's worst road team last night, the Washington Wizards...a bit embarrassing, that). I guess a lot of Toronto sports fans almost feel like a guy who's just come out of rehab a new man.

Unfortunately, I've just heard that 4 Japanese nationals have been killed in Egypt due to a hot air balloon exploding and falling near Luxor. From the names, the four sound like older people; very sad.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Nice College Try, Seth

Monday February 25, 11:22 p.m.

Well, I saw my 2nd Oscars in as many years last night. And well, Seth MacFarlane....I'll cut to the chase here. He wasn't great, but he wasn't the worst host either. And he was better than Billy Crystal was last year. I think we had been all forewarned about MacFarlane's frat boy humour, and he definitely proved it with the now-and-forever infamous "Saw Your Boobs" song-and-dance. To be honest, I had no particular problems with the least, the jokes that didn't land with a thud. But there was a bit of a desperation with Seth as the night wore on, especially when the show went beyond its mandated 3 hours. Apparently, the ratings were quite a ways up when all was said and done, so there is a pretty fair chance that he may be asked back, and while I was watching it, I was actually tensing up whenever he showed up just to see and hear what other terrifying thing might emanate from his mouth. But then again, I wouldn't be surprised if the producers decided to keep on searching. Amy Poehler and Tina Fey hit a grand slam apparently at The Golden Globes, something that Seth pointedly did not do.

Still, it was nice to see Shatner ham it up, MacFarlane bring back some of that ol' time big band glitz that he loves so much, and even some of the stars get into the act like Charlize Theron and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Christopher Plummer was class personified, and Barbra/Shirley/Adele brought the house down, especially Dame Bassey with "Goldfinger". She's older than my Dad but she just slammed that song out of the park. It's too bad that the so-called Oscar tribute to James Bond was just quick cuts of the movies and a couple of songs by the orchestra. But Sir Sean is too frail and Pierce is probably too embittered. The Les Miserables cast performance was fine until Russell Crowe burst in when it truly became the miserable. And I was getting desperate when I was witnessing Paul Rudd and that lady from "Identity Thief" bombing as they were trying to present an award. But I guess that's what audiences also wanted to see.....who will soar and who will die.

I think the Oscars reflects not only what the fashion is like for the year but basically what pop culture is like. In our current time of reality show programming and lowbrow humour, getting a lot of nasty jokes and "WOW! He actually said THAT?!" moments on the biggest show of the Hollywood year is part and parcel. It's probably what we deserve although I have never and never will watch a (sur)reality show. But when I see a terrified Ben Affleck throw an irritated verbal missile at Seth (who is probably the first host in a while since David Letterman to have already had a built-in list of celeb haters, thanks to "Family Guy" ) and Salma Hayek come out to present with a plastic smile after Seth had made a pretty insulting introduction about her linguistic abilities, I kinda wonder if it's time for the next host to not only bring back old time music but to bring back some form of old time class to the proceedings.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

ESL Shop and The Clubhouse

Saturday February 23, 3:13 p.m.

One of those damp and dreary February days although the temperature wasn't too bad hovering at the zero point.

Had to pick up a new textbook for Mr. Moriya which I did by going over to The ESL Shop south of Dundas West Station. I found out about this place purely by searching on the Net when I was trying to track down the text, so I placed the order and decided to head on down. It's a bit of a pity that I'm pretty much retired from teaching now since Moriya is now my lone student; the store looks pretty well stocked, although I couldn't get 2 copies of the text. And the proprietor of the shop, Mr. King, is a very amiable sort and was willing to give me a nice discount even though the text was a new purchase, and the quoted price was still quite a ways below what other sites were selling it for new....apparently, it's no longer being published so I'm gonna have to search elsewhere for my copy on Amazon. But there are plenty of used copies there when I checked.

I made some photocopies and bought a large enough envelope next door at the stationery shop so that at least I will be covered until I get that used copy. I may be paying through the nose in terms of postage since I want to get it over there by next Friday at the latest, in which case it'll be going ExpressPost....not that cheap at all but it'll get to Japan quickly.

I decided to have my meal at the lunch shop in between the stationery store and The ESL Shop. Aside from one old fellow, I was the only customer inside the place. I ordered a Clubhouse Sandwich with coffee. The old fellow came in, had his soup and stuff, and then left...while I was waiting for my sandwich. I was pretty patient, though, since the owner gave me a free copy of "The Toronto Sun" to peruse with my coffee (very good...very double-double...and that is NOT an oxymoron to me).

Then, I realized when the guy finally brought the plate over. Man, that was one massive Clubhouse Sandwich. He made it totally from scratch which included toasting and buttering the bread, and perhaps even frying up the bacon. I was so accustomed to getting the pre-made wrapped stuff from Starbucks or any other similar place that I didn't expect someone to actually make a sandwich for me. And I had completely forgotten the architecture that goes into a Clubhouse. This was one tasty meal....something that Japan still hasn't quite discovered yet. Hamburgers have been a boom there for the last several years but their sandwiches are still kinda emaciated overall. And heck, they even sell strawberry-and-cream sandwiches in the convenience stores...I like my desserts, but not between two slices of white bread.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Memories of Genkatsu

A lunch at Genkatsu
Thursday February 21, 10:12 p.m.

Sunday's tonkatsu dinner at Tako Sushi in North York brought back some memories of being a foodie in Tokyo. And one of my great memories is of a tonkatsu restaurant in Ginza called Genkatsu.(ゲンカツ

There is a show on The Food Network here in Canada called "You Gotta Here". Well, if the host, John Catucci, were ever to make it out to The Big Sushi for a special show, I would heartily recommend him to go there. Mind you, I'm not sure if the chefs would be too welcoming, though. Some of these guys in Japan can be a bit secretive about their techniques. But then again, Genkatsu is not secret at all about one technique: how they slice up the pork.

Genkatsu's claim to fame is that they take this luscious pork and slice the slab that would become a lunch or dinner entree into 25 thin slices, and then do all the egging and breading and deep-frying as if it were still one huge chunk. What gets served then has an interesting mouth feel with the juices coming out into your mouth as you break through the crispy panko coating into the layered meat.

Salty dipping sauce
Being located just a few metres away from the main Ginza intersection, it's not inexpensive like going to McDonalds or the student bento places, but it's worth every yen; I think the lunch is still going for about 1,200 yen....not bad at all for a good filling lunch in one of the most expensive neighbourhoods on the planet. The lunch comes with the usual salad and bottomless rice and tea...and of course, the shredded cabbage. Any decent tonkatsu restaurant mates that deep-fried cutlet with endless cabbage. No ifs, ands or buts on that. And besides, fiber is good. The other wonderful thing about Genkatsu is that you don't only need to have the Bulldog or Worcestershire sauce to dip the meat into. I received a bowl of salty dipping sauce....kinda like a really intense bowl of consomme for lunch, but dinner can also have a tiny tray filled with different types of salt in lieu of sauce.

And the dinners have one great entree option for neophytes. You can opt for the Assorted Platter in which you can get a plate of different types of tonkatsu with the layers stuffed with cheese or garlic or shiso. Did I mention you can get bottomless bowls of rice?

Tonkatsu restaurants are plentiful all over Tokyo, but Genkatsu and its sister restaurant, Kimukatsu, are definitely two of a kind.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Family Day, Foodie Weekend

Wednesday February 20, 12:23 p.m.

Been a while. Being away all those years, I still need to be reminded that, yes, there is an actual long weekend in February least for 3 provinces in this country. And I think having the Family Day Weekend is a necessity during a time of year when Xmas is long past us and Winter has outgrown its welcome.

Certainly, this past Saturday gave us a good reminder why Ol' Man Winter needs to get going. Although, the weather on that day was not quite the big storm from a couple of weeks ago, the snow and winds made for some treacherous driving on the highways...which is why I felt a little badly that my old friends, CG and The Entrepreneur with respective families in tow, came to my neck of the woods for a brief dinner at a place called Congee Star in the Don Mills and Eglinton area. When we had made the plans to meet up, there wasn't too much of a sign of the nutso weather, but still, it was very good of them to trudge on up all the way from the West End of town. It was brief....about a couple of hours since the kids were still very young, but it was good to chat for a while over har gow and brisket. I'll definitely head over to Mississauga next time since the two of them have raved about this restaurant called Spoon and Fork.

Sunday was the official Family Day for my clan. We decided on doing The Keg up on Leslie. I made reservations which was the smartest thing to do since when we got there at 6 pm, there was a ton of folks waiting to get a table....and the parking was something reminiscent of Yorkdale Plaza on Xmas Eve. I don't think I've had a Keg steak in a few years....went for the Baseball Top Sirloin. I wasn't disappointed; my steak looked like a slab of beef with a thyroid condition. Definitely not the definition of a Kobe steak. It was thick, juicy and was seasoned quite well. Just the right amount of salt and pepper...which probably means that it was still too much. Thick steak isn't exactly popular with a number of Japanese....they like their beef thin and melt-in-your-mouth, kinda like sukiyaki. I've told my old students in the past that here in the Americas, chewing a bite for several seconds before swallowing is part of the pleasure of enjoying a good steak. I don't think I saw that many shrugs in one room before.

Then on the holiday Monday was the biweekly meeting with The Anime King. We just can't seem to catch a break with The Olde York Fish N' Chips place on Laird. It was closed for Family Day and it's closed regularly on Sundays. So instead it was off to one of our regular Dim Sum places up in Scarberia. Not surprisingly, it was pretty brisk business there. Afterwards, it was the usual mix of Second Cup, Timmies and a few hours of anime before dinner at Tako Sushi nearby. It was my second time there, and I guess because of the Family Day weekend, there was a lineup there to rival that of what I'd witnessed at The Keg. The King didn't make any reservations but it was just a 10-minute wait.

Couldn't get a place at any of the teppanyaki tables like last time, so the two of us settled for a regular booth and the entrees. The King went for his steak dinner while I opted for tonkatsu. Tako Sushi tonkatsu is frankly more thin wiener schnitzel than Japanese deep-fried pork cutlet....which may be why I got three flat wide slabs of the pork. Tonkatsu in Japan is pretty thick stuff with plenty of shredded cabbage; one slab for lunch is enough to keep you sated until dinner. But I'm not gonna get snobby about it since I enjoyed the dinner just the same.

The King and I had a talk about possibly getting as many of the Court together for a bigger dinner, perhaps as soon as early March. But again, a couple of our number are established family men so I have my doubts whether the entire group can get together but it'll still be nice to have a group outing that doesn't involve a Ribfest. Perhaps The Baton Rouge may be the venue.

Back in the regular work week. I actually got an assignment done for translation yesterday. And I sent the invoice to Cozy for the first of the annual financial statements. Was a bit disappointed that I didn't get too many more during the two weeks that I kept open for him, so I'm potentially gonna have to deal with both Cozy's requests and those of the translation company.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Triumph Comes Home

Friday February 15, 10:24 a.m.

The above is a promotional video of the now-notorious cruise ship Triumph that was taped in 2011. Lots of panoramic shots of what to look forward to when passengers plunk down the big money for an opportunity to sail the Caribbean in relative luxury.

Of course, that final voyage was anything but for those passengers.

The comments by the unbelievably exhausted, frustrated and disgusted customers are definitely not something the management wanted to hear: "I'm just so glad to be off the ship". As someone who was on his first cruise aboard The Oasis of the Seas via Royal Caribbean last year, I can't even imagine the hell these poor folks went through. They paid for something high-class; instead they got an experience in what abject poverty is like in a number of developing countries. Sewage in the corridors and on the walls? I couldn't even imagine what my family would have done if something similar had befallen The Oasis.

Nothing compared to the Triumph, but I had a small similar taste of what those passengers had been force-fed several years ago. I was on a Northwest Airlines trip coming from Tokyo to Detroit to Toronto when the toilets stopped working over the Pacific for about 6 hours. And this happened just after we got our lunch service. Toilets were almost overflowing and looked pretty bad. Just before getting the good news, I had been looking at my paper cup with some desperation.


Friday February 15, 10:05 a.m.

Woke up a couple of hours ago to see this being featured on NHK News:

Yep, some meteor decided to drop in unannounced over the Urals. It pretty much took over the media airwaves all over the planet....even CNN which had been blanketing the most-covered cruise ship arrival in history. I think the only thing that was missing from the coverage was some John Williams music and a dark screen with the credits: "A movie by J.J. Abrams". Heck, one video of the approaching meteor even had the typical Abrams lens flare.

Apparently, this kitchen table-sized meteor slammed into the atmosphere at a breezy 33,000 mph and left a 6-metre-wide hole along with countless shattered windows and 1,000 injured of which 1% are in bad shape.

It's interesting that this piece of space rock comes roaring down several hours before a very close asteroid fly-by at about 1430 hours EST today. Things that make one go Hmmmmm! I wonder if we may actually get our very first blockbuster of the year.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Japanese Foodie Tuesday

Nope, it may not be the Priestly but I'm more than
happy with my Maple Donut and Double-Double.
Thursday February 14, 3:00 p.m.

Yes, it is indeed Valentine's Day. As usual, I'm on the outside looking in as those couples woo or re-woo each other with chocolates, roses and other paraphernalia (batteries not included).

In any case, I'm not talking about today. I'm more talking about Tuesday the 12th, otherwise known as the day I went for a nearly all-day session of noshing on Japanese outside of my home. The parentals were off in Niagara Falls for an overnighter, so I could go off guilt-free into the big city with a couple of old friends. The Egg, The Banker and I met in front of Santouka, the ramen place east of Yonge and Dundas. It was my 2nd trip to the place in as many weeks. The Banker is a big ramen fan, so he and I got together last year to try out Kenzo, but since then we hadn't met up for a bowl of Japanese noodles until a couple of days ago. We hope to shorten the time between ramen outings considerably. In any case, I partook in a bowl of their lovely toroniku ramen with the slices of tender-as-butter pork jowl cha-siu. Man, those slices really did melt in my mouth! Over in Japan, pig farmers pride themselves on making their future bacon taste so good that even the fat is delicious. I'm pretty much guaranteed that I will inherit those jowls into my own face if I keep on ordering that into the near future.

Afterwards, we walked west on Dundas past a couple of ramen joints: Sansotei and Kenzo. Ramen restaurants are continuing to spread like viruses all over the GTA, and I figure that there will be the eventual war of attrition among them. Kenzo was good and certainly above the average lunch of Sapporo Ichiban instant noodles but I think places like Santouka and Kinton have gone far ahead and have the lineups to show for it. And now, The Egg has told me that there is yet another similar joint in the neighbourhood there called Raijin. I'm OK with Ajisen although I don't consider the stuff there to be authentic Japanese ramen; it has its own brand of noodles which I'm fine with, and I did like their karaage teishoku back in December.

The three of us stopped off at a Timmies on University and Dundas for a couple of hours of chat. It'd been a very long time since all three of us got together, so a lot of stuff to catch up on. Knowing that I would later be having stuff at an izakaya, I figured I needed something purely Canadian in my gut.

The Banker had to take off for home, but The Egg and I decided to walk around a bit more. We dropped off at the World's Biggest Bookstore so that I could search for a new textbook for my Skype student but couldn't find it (I would later purchase it at The ESL Shop online). Had a brief look-see into the new and condensed Silver Snail before heading uptown to crash at The Egg's place for a few hours. Ended up watching a couple of repeat episodes from "Yamato 2199"; I think I'm gonna have to get my friend and The Anime King together once more since they've been on their own tracks of watching the genre.

Kingyo in Cabbagetown
At about 5:30, the two of us took off on the Yonge Line once more to head over to Kingyo in Cabbagetown. The Egg's wife was to have joined us but unfortunately she was under the weather so she had to pull out at the last minute. Aside from riding through the neighbourhood on my way to the Christmas Market in The Distillery back in December, I hadn't walked through Cabbagetown in many, many years. I lived right beside it in my childhood and used to regularly go to a clinic there but since we moved away back in the mid-70s, that was it for me. There have been quite a few changes in terms of a Starbucks and a number of modern commercial additions to the area, but my old area still seemed to have that old-fashioned, slightly seedy quality.

A pachinko machine on the wall.
The ramen boom may have been and still be the big culinary thing in Toronto, but izakayas have also been enjoying popularity in The Big Smoke as of late. I'd only been to DonDon with Sam last year but that was just for lunch. Kingyo was the big time. Unlike most izakayas in Japan, reservations and lineups are common in the Toronto variety. Fortunately, The Egg got that reservation although when we arrived, the place was still pretty empty at that time. Kingyo, which means "goldfish", had that mix of Japanese cuisine and service with Western size and urban upscale ambiance. Still, there were some tips of the hat to Japanese pop culture in terms of a pachinko machine on one side, a number of katana on another (probably created by the wondrous and fictional Hanzo Hattori), and reruns of an old Ultra Seven series on the big-screen TV. However, the cheesiness factor didn't quite register. Although most izakayas I had gone to in Japan were very much of the cheaper neighbourhood pub mode which stressed imbibing of mass quantities over noshing of decent fare, there was one place in Tokyo which resembled Kingyo (and the other Toronto izakaya, I assume) in terms of price, fare and atmosphere, and that was En, a classy upper-scale restaurant on the 11th floor of the Bic Camera building in Shibuya.

Ebi-Mayo (basically shrimp tempura in a spicy
mayonnaise sauce)
Neither the Egg and I are big drinkers by any means, so we were more than happy with the homemade Ginger Ale. And yep, it was good sipping. The ginger tasted very fresh without overpowering my taste buds. We rather went nuts on the menu, although things were tempered by the fact that we were missing our third member. One of our first orders was Ebi-Mayo, a standard dish at any izakaya or ramen restaurant. The original variety is served very plainly....just shrimp tempura with dollops of the sinful Kewpie mayonnaise on the plate. Over at Kingyo, it's a bit more dolled up....there's a bit of a fiery spicy component installed into the mayo. And the combination of textures was great. The crispiness of the batter with the succulence of the shrimp dunked into the creamy mayo. Lovely, lovely.

Karaage with Special Salt and Lemon
Another must-order at any decent izakaya is the plate of karaage....Japanese-style fried chicken. It's absolutely ubiquitous everywhere in Japanese supermarkets, convenience stores, ramen joints, izakaya, etc. There's something about marinated chicken deep-fried in batter that just gets everyone there slavering away, including me. And yep, the plate we ordered of Kingyo-upgraded karaage was another plus. Six huge chunks of flavoured thigh meat in crispy and crunchy batter with some dipping salt and a lemon wedge. Flavour bombs, indeed.

Maguro Carpaccio
Of course, it wasn't all upgrades of old izakaya favourites. There were some fancy dishes that usually wouldn't appear on a regular izakaya menu. We also had a couple of plates of maguro and salmon carpaccio. We didn't order salad so it was good to have some vegetation as fiber. And the sashimi underneath soaked a bit of that vinaigrette but still retained that firm but yielding texture.

One thing about the was ultra-friendly. I knew that The Eggs had been to Kingyo a couple of times previously so I had assumed that our main waitress for the evening and The Egg were quite familiar with each other, until he told me that it was the first time he had met her. He also told me that the owner was quite strict on how good the service had to be. But service in Japanese restaurants focuses far more on polite and very competent professional distance (think of a butler handling guests at a mansion); the service at Kingyo was more on the level of being a girl's new beau entering the house of the girl's eager-beaver welcoming family. It almost...but thankfully didn't...hit the overbearing level, but that's just me. Other people are far more people-loving than I am.

Matcha Brulee
And what better way to finish off a large meal than some potentially artery-hardening dessert? Mind you, I don't think my Matcha Brulee would compare to a huge slab of Black Forest Cake in the calories department, but it was a nice treat. And there was that characteristic crackling of the caramelized surface with the spoon.

It was a nice 2 hours there. A good meal at Kingyo will not be cheap but I had fully expected that I would be paying a bit more than usual. And it was a worthy repast at $65 with tax and tip. The frequency of visits there will depend on one's income tax bracket. For me, I think semi-annual trips there are quite good for me. But yep, I had a fine time there. Will need to try their Kobe steak next time, provided that my translation work becomes more lucrative.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Hair Gone...and so is the Pope

Monday February 11, 9:34 p.m.

After letting my hair go into a shag for over 3 months, I finally made the trip down to Spadina and to that barber shop, Monsieur, to get my hair cut into something more reasonable. It was my second trip down there and things worked out very well. I'm starting to get really tempted to try some of their other services such as a massage or even a shave.

The weather is quite a bit warmer when compared to Friday when the huge storm barreled in. So it was relatively pleasant at 1 degree, but boy the curbs were flooded. I was looking at lakes while trying to cross the streets. My shoes and socks were partial casualties.

Before I left for downtown, I had been watching the news concerning Pope Benedict XVI's retirement announcement. Supposedly, there hasn't been a papal resignation in almost 600 years, so the former and soon-to-be once again Cardinal Ratzinger pulled off a bold move and managed to upstage any news about the weather craziness in the States and that rogue ex-cop in California. Of course, the news media here have been playing up the possibility of having the first Canadian Pope but I think the chances are better for the Catholic World's first African Pope.

Managed to crunch through another translation assignment worth a few hours work. I told the boss that I wouldn't be available for the next couple of days. There has been some give and take among myself, CG and The Entrepreneur about getting together on Saturday for an early dinner. Most of the snags in the schedule have to do with the kids. But I think things will get settled down easily.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The 12th Doctor?

Sunday February 10, 3:09 p.m.

Well, two days after the storm of the season, I think Torontonians are still trying to dig out of the 25 cm or so of snow that has befallen them. Even in my neighbourhood which has a major street alongside, a large segment of the sidewalk is still totally covered in the white stuff. But I have to say unlike a lot of aftermath days following a major snowstorm, it's been very pleasantly sunny out there, which gives an appealing glisten to the still largely untouched snow.

Anyways, onto something far more whimsical and geeky. Of course, any Whovians looking at this blog know that this year is the 50th anniversary of our favourite series, "Doctor Who", and there are plenty of events in store on the BBC and everywhere to commemorate the occasion.

Courtesy of Darth Ray
from Flickr
But my main question bouncing off the walls of my ever-fragile cranium is who will follow the 11th Doctor, thespian and character-wise. I realize it's probably quite too early for anyone but the most far forward-looking fan to consider THE most important question that Great Britain must ponder next to the question of who the next 007 will be or when Prince Charles will finally ascend to the throne. Still, the question begs to be contemplated if not answered immediately.
courtesy of Naomi Roper
from Flickr
I have come across a page that had people trying to answer that question with their own thespian choices and even right down to the type of costume. Apparently, Benedict Cumberbatch may be a busy man for the next several years if the 'Beeb' actually heeds the viewers' opinions. He's already a popular man because of the UK version of the current Sherlock Holmes program, and he's up-and-coming as the main villain on the next "Star Trek"movie. I figure if he's a lock for "Doctor Who", he only needs to score a role as a Jedi to reach ultimate sci-fi legendry.

And Cumberbatch does fulfill at least one of my conditions to become a Who: he's older. I think the Twelfth Doctor has to be someone in his late 30 or 40s, and not an obviously youthful-looking 30s or 40s either. There has been a de-aging of sorts of the Time Lord after Chris Eccleston's regeneration into David Tennant which should stop, lest we start getting the next Harry Potter or Encyclopedia Brown as the next Gallifreyan. Also, it should be someone who looks less geeky and more seasoned, someone along the lines of Eccleston or his predecessor, Paul McGann, although he shouldn't be quite as intimidatingly manic or angry as the former. The basic Doctor personality should be intact: curious and whimsical if a bit tetchy but a being who won't suffer fools gladly and can stand up for a fallen universe.

As for the new Doctor costume, again let's be away from the obviously geeky sartorial references such as bow ties, specs and suspenders The First Doctor went for Victorian; well, perhaps, the next guy can go for something more Edwardian. I think David Bowie and his besuited style immediately struck me as a Who-type when he made his dramatic entrance in the movie "The Prestige"as Nikola Tesla. I think there needs to be a certain conservatism in the next guy since the Doctor is approaching the end of his lives, and I'm also considering that situation with the Valeyard in "The Trial of a Time Lord" back during the Sixth Doctor's reign. The final 13th Doctor can deal contentedly with lives well lived, but the 12th Doctor will have to finally confront his sins and those of others before that final regeneration.

As for names, I can only think of the worldwide well-known British thespians such as Jude Law or Colin Firth, and most likely the BBC will usually eschew them for the more obscure or up-and-coming actors, so I really can't say. But one thing I can say is that when Matt Smith decides to hang up his tweed jacket for good, whether it's next year or a few years down the line, the 12th Doctor Sweepstakes will burn through the wires like no other entertainment news story.