November 24, 2009

Devin Hester's butt

The highlight in an otherwise regrettable game by the Chicago Bears.

September 23, 2009

The Twitter edition #1

I have several partially written posts dated all the way back to June, which I never could post because it wouldn't feel right to post unfinished work. And looking back in my list of drafts I've got unfinished posts dating back to 2004. I got this idea from another blogger who recently posted a bunch of his backdated thoughts.

So without further adieu, I'd like to do the same, while adding a little spin -- I present to you In The Blink Of An Eye's inaugural Twitter edition:

(06/29/2009) ebrian: I'm often asked about my thoughts on the garbage strike for the City of Toronto. I tell people that I support what they're doing, but I'd r

(07/24/2009) ebrian: It's come to my attention that the left lane is no longer the faster lane on Toronto roads. It has officially become the "I refuse to go fa

(08/10/2009) ebrian: Why is it always the fat people who take the elevator to go up (or down) 1 floor? Take the friggin' stairs, you need it! Over the past yea

(08/22/2009) ebrian: My wife and I have been having BBQs on almost available Saturday since we moved into our new home. We usually invite 6-8 people to keep the

(09/02/2009) ebrian: NFL Football is about to begin, and I'd like to make my annual predictions for the upcoming season. I think the Superbowl Champs will be th

September 17, 2009

Myths about preaching

I found this article recently and found it pretty insightful. It talks about the 3 myths of preaching. I'm no preacher, but I still found it interesting to think about.

1) If You Preach a Good Sermon the Church Will Grow

I definitely agree with this one because our church has grown significantly over the past 2-3 years and I haven't noticed anything different in the sermons. If anything I've noticed the sermons have been getting worse; which was part of the reason why this past summer my wife and I decided to go and try some other church, although in the end we went back to the original one. Our beef was that some of our preachers don't necessarily use the bible it its correct context, but rather choosing to cherry pick verses in order to make point stand out. Which is bad, of course, but not bad enough to make us leave and start an entirely new community, etc.

2) Who You Preach To is Who You Will Reach

This one I wholeheartedly agree on. When I was younger I used to invite my friends to church because I knew they were talking about certain topics that might interest a non-believer, or maybe it was a message I thought my friend needed to hear. 9 times out of 10 they were offended and never came back. A great example of this is inviting your atheist friend when you know an apologist was going to speak. That's pretty much the LAST way you want your friend to learn about Christianity.

3) The Goal of Preaching is to Make the Bible Relevant

I was talking to a co-worker yesterday about favorite movies, and he said he like Casablanca the best. I couldn't understand because I've seen it a couple of times and I've never enjoyed it. I asked him to explain himself, and he said it was because every line in the movie was still relevant today as much as it was 40 years ago. And the other thing was even though he'd seen the movie 20 times, every time he saw it, he would discover something new.

I think that's the perfect way to describe the bible. Every scripture and every verse is relevant even centuries after it was written. Everything that Jesus spoke about and taught still applies today. And every time you read the bible, there's something new to be learned.

So in that sense I understand what the guy is saying here. You don't need to make the bible relevant because it already is relevant.

Perhaps what I find most frustrating about preaching today is that the preacher is too afraid to step on anyone's toes. They're afraid to offer the extremes, even if it is the truth. When the bible says we should sell everything and follow Jesus, the preacher simply turns it aside as metaphor and a "worldly goods / materialism" sermon follows. But is that really what Jesus is saying?

The simple truth is difficult to preach because often you're afraid to offend, or you don't want to look like a hypocrite, or perhaps you're simply not ready to face that truth yourself so how can you ask your congregation to do the same.

September 04, 2009

The Grill Express

My wife and I attended a wedding this past weekend in Ottawa. It was about the most fun I've ever had at a wedding, and certainly one of the best weddings out of many weddings we've been to this year. (Congrats Ben & Erin!) In part I think it was because I felt closer to (the groom) than any other of the wedding participants I've attended this year. And the other part was it being in Ottawa -- a chance to see the many friends I had gotten to know 10 years ago when I lived there -- many people who to this day I consider to be some of the best people I've ever known.

Being in Ottawa made me think about all the memories I had there, and had me reminiscing about "the good ol' days". During that time I met this guy, a very passionate person and all he ever talked about, at least when I first met him, was a device called "The Grill Express". His name was Lon Wong.

He would talk about this mythical Grill Express like it was some kind of super appliance to end all other appliances. If I recall it was a pre-George Foreman grill, better than all of its predecessors. It was supposed to be able to grill almost any fresh food in under 4 minutes, while sealing in all the flavors. It just happened that around that time Lon discovered someone selling their Grill Express on EBay, and of course he had to have it. As the shipping date neared, I could see in his eyes that he was about fulfill one of his many lifelong dreams.

After he finally received it, I heard very little about it. I was never invited over to try it out, and it seemed like I stopped hearing about it. We all did. It's as if it never existed. One day, and I believe this was Canada Day, 1999, another friend named Jason Chau and I drove over to this guy's house to hang out. It was this big yellow house that had at one point in time been used as a bordello. Lon was still in his room sleeping, so we wandered around the house to explore. We walked past into the kitchen and noticed something on the counter -- it was the Grill Express.

It really didn't look all that impressive. I remember thinking it was so small, how could you fit a meal in there other than for small children? Jason picked it up and tried to figure out how it worked, tried to open up the latch, and wouldn't you know it, a piece of it BROKE off. Jason and I looked at eachother and thought "OH NO!". Jason did the best he could to try to fix it while I watched to make sure Lon wasn't coming downstairs. We whispered as quietly as we could as we (two engineers) did our best to fix it. But it was to no avail. The part that had broken off was an integral piece that held the spring which then held the rest of it together, forming the "juice seal". We tried but it was no use. The Grill Express was done.

I have a picture somewhere of Jason giving Lon an apologetic hug, but somehow I think that Lon's Grill Express dream had died way before it had broken.

August 20, 2009

FAIL: Google makes GrandCentral useless

I've been using GrandCentral for little over 2 years now, a nice little forwarding service which allowed my parents and other US friends to call me for free in Canada. I had signed up for a Nevada number since my parents lived there at the time.

I remember showing off to friends that I had GrandCentral, whose access was strictly by invitation only, and invitations were extremely rare.

Google bought out GrandCentral and told that we'd have to migrate over to Google Voice. At first, things were great, I added my in-law's phone number, and after I got married I moved into my wife's condo and I was able to add that number too. Now my parents would be able to call me, my brother, or my in-laws.

My wife and I moved a couple of months ago, so I wanted to set up the new home phone number on my account so that friends could still reach me from the US. So I logged into "Google Voice". I went into settings, and tried to add my new number.

I got an error: "International numbers are not supported as forwarding phones."

Well, that can't be right because my account still shows the 3 other international numbers that are still being forwarded properly. So I tried updating one of the existing numbers -- the one from the place we had just moved out of. Same error.


June 24, 2009

More Bell awfulness

Just to follow up on Bell's awfulness:

The Rogers guy had just finished setting up our home phone so we called Bell to cancel the phone line at our old place (we moved into our new place this past weekend -- yay!).

So we call Bell.

We tell them we want to cancel the phone. We give them our phone number and tell them up front that we have moved and we have already signed up for a new service with Rogers so please don't try to sell us any deals because we have moved on. All we want to do is cancel the line.

BR has an accent, possibly Indian.

She asks us who we signed up with for our new phone. We say Rogers, and just to stick to her, we add that we got their internet, cable and wireless too. In your face!

BR tells us that she sees on our record that we've been Bell customers for a long time, and wants to know if we'd like to hear some deals. It's such a "shame" to lose our loyalty. My wife is adamant - we do not want to hear about your deals, we just want to cancel the phone.

BR understands, re-confirms that we signed up with Rogers, and just wants to know why we made the switch. We tell her it's because the last time we called them, it took 45 minutes to try to set up the phone line to begin with and it was so much trouble that we simply gave up because the Bell rep was so annoying.

BR laughs, and asks us where we moved. We tell her Markham, and she congratulates us on our new home, and then starts talking about how Bell serves a lot of people in Markham. My wife repeats that she has no interest in any offers, all we want to do is cancel the phone.

BR asks us if we were able to transfer our old phone number to the new one, because Bell can offer that service. Again, my wife reiterates -- all we want to do is cancel the phone. We don't care about the phone number. We already have a phone number.

BR asks for our new home "oddress". What's an oddress? We finally realize she's trying to say address. We tell BR there is no reason for Bell to know about our new address. BR says she needs to send us the final bill. We tell BR to send the bill to the original address.

My wife realizes what's happening because we're now 5-10 minutes into the call with no end in sight. So she clarifies things again, adamantly demanding that we want to cancel and we have no interest in your deals. None at all. Please, please stop -- we know you have a job to do but for goodness sake, just let us cancel our phone!

BR laughs annoyingly. Does she think this is funny? BR asks us for a contact number and my wife gives up her cell number. BR explains that it takes 2 days to cut off the line but you need to give a month's notice, so we will have to pay another month of service ($25). So.. the service gets cut off in two days, and we have to pay for another 28 days after. WTF? My wife and I look at eachother and shrug -- let's just get this over with.. what's another 25 bucks to rid ourselves of Bell?

BR goes over the final details. $25, with an additional $15 for forwarding service and asks if we have any other questions. Huh? Forwarding what? BR explains that once the phone is canceled, Bell will automatically forward our calls to the number we gave them. I'm looking at my wife and she looks pissed. No way, she says. We don't want the forwarding. BR asks what happens if someone tries to call? We don't care. We can't believe she just tried to sneak that in without even asking if we wanted it!

BR laughs again. Okay, okay. Just the $25. She confirms it and FINALLY, Bell phone is canceled.

Good riddance.

June 17, 2009

Night and Day

Our new house required a landline because of the security system, so my wife and I decided to get Bell to give us the bare minimum landline that money could buy. We hadn't actually decided what to do about internet yet, whether to go DSL or cable, and we had already decided to stick with Rogers for television.

I got into the Bell website and they had this home phone lite, bare minimum telephone service, which is all we needed. I used their call back service and to my surprise the second I click on Submit, my phone was ringing. So far so good. Turns out that was the highlight of the call.

This female Bell Rep (BR) answers the call and I tell her I need to set up basic phone service for my new house.

For the next hour, I am treated with the most annoying experience I have ever faced with any phone sales rep. BR asks me a few questions, like how much internet do I use. What shows I like to watch. I answer a few questions, but reiterate that all I want is basic telephone service.

BR decides that I will be very satisfied with one of their phone packages. She proceeds to tell me all about their most expensive plan. It's got a long distance package, call display, voicemail, etc. I repeat again, all I want is basic telephone service.

BR thinks I need Call Waiting. I tell her no. BR asks me what happens if someone calls me while I'm on the phone. I tell her they'll have to call me back, or call my cell phone. BR thinks it would be better if I had Call Waiting. I repeat again, all I want is basic telephone service.

BR thinks I need long distance. I tell her no. She points out that Oakville is considered long distance. I tell her I don't call long distance. She points out Brampton is long distance. Again, I do not use long distance. BR points out that for just $5.99/month, I can get 15 cents per minute long distance. I do a quick calculation, noting that this gives me 40 15-cent minutes of long distance. I tell her that I haven't even used 40 minutes for the whole entire year. BR thinks I might use long distance, and $5.99 is well worth it. I tell her I use Skype (not actually true), and Google Voice (true). She says we'll discuss internet later. I repeat again, all I want is basic telephone service. BR gives up on the long distance.

BR believes I need voice mail. She says that if I'm away from home, I'll need it. I tell her this is why I have a cell phone. BR still thinks I need voice mail. I tell her no. BR asks what if I'm busy and I can't answer the phone? I tell her my phone has an answering machine. BR says Bell's voicemail allows you to call remotely and check your messages. I tell her that I rarely give out my landline and most people call my cellphone, which already has voicemail. (Also, I'm pretty sure my answering machine has a code that I can enter to check my messages.. I've never used it though.) BR gives up on the voice mail.

BR thinks I need some kind of maintenance package. You pay $6 per month and if your line ever breaks, and they will come in for free to fix it. Even if your phone breaks, they will come fix it (I think this is a lie, but anyway..). I tell her that I've been with Bell home phone for as long as I've been alive and I've never had a problem with my phone. She says that's great, but points out that if something does break, it will cost me $99 to have it repaired. I say no. BR gives up on the maintenance package.

Now BR thinks I need call display. Sometimes you're busy and you don't have time to pick up the phone, you can at least see who's calling. This way you'll know whether or not the call is important. I think about lying and saying my phone doesn't have a display, but then I think maybe that will prompt her to try to sell me a Bell phone, so instead I just say no. Once again, I repeat that all I want is basic telephone service.

Btw, I should mention that this whole time and beyond, whenever I said no she would give me at least 2 to 3 "Are you sure?". At this point I'm beginning to feel like I'm talking to Regis on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, like I need to say "No, FINAL ANSWER".

Finally, 45 minutes later, BR dejectedly confirms that I am only getting Home Phone Lite package. It's a $55 installation fee and comes out to around $30/month with all the access fees and taxes.

Next, BR brings up television. BR claims Bell has the most HD channels, however on the website they list 6 extra channels that I have never watched in my life. And they don't have internet. BR says Bell is absolutely the best HD experience. I look at the website and notice there is no sports channel in the basic package. In otherwords.. NEXT! I tell her that I would have to ask my wife (I figure she will understand this) if she is okay with a gaudy satellite sticking off the house. She gives up.

Next BR brings up the internet. At this point, I feel like I've won so I decide to let her have something so I let her explain to me my internet options. She asks me how much I use internet, and I say 4-5 hours per day. BR believes that I will be very satisfied with the ever popular Performance package. BR claims Bell has the best internet and also the cheapest offers. Performance is cheaper than the comparable Express package offered by Rogers. I look online and sure enough, it's cheaper. It's also slower.

Finally the jig is up, and I decide to close it all out. I am not interested in anything but the home phone service. Lite. BR is not too happy about this. BR brings up the bundles. BR will waive the home phone installation fee of $55, and the internet installation fee of $79, if I get them both today. I ask BR if I can get the home phone today, and sign up the internet on another day, will Bell credit me with the installation costs since I have indeed ordered two Bell services and therefore, am then bundled. BR says this is impossible. BR claims you can only bundle at the time of the initial call. (I have no way to confirm this, but I'm pretty sure it's a flat out lie.. it would make no sense at all if you couldn't bundle later on). BR's lie backfires. Seeing that I cannot bundle later on, I decide not to sign up for home phone either, until I can discuss with my wife about the internet. BR, realizing her mistake, asks a truly stupid and desperate question: How could a discussion with my wife change my final decision? I am about to ask BR if she is married, but I decide not to and tell her that I will have to call back later. Goodbye.

Later in the evening, my wife and I get on the phone and call Rogers. My wife's got Rogers wireless mobile so we can bundle it with Home Phone and it ends up being cheaper than Bell's Home Phone Lite. The Rogers rep is a guy (I don't know if this makes a difference, but all I can say is I felt way more at ease with this guy than the BR). 15 minutes later, we have set up the basic Rogers Home Phone (no setup fee), transferred our existing Rogers cable internet (no setup fee), transferred our HD television (no setup fee), and bundled it all together for an overall 15% discount. As a bonus when we were setting up the home phone, the Rogers guy tells us about a phone plan that wasn't even listed online (an older promotion) and he lets us sign up with that. It saves us an additional $6 per month.

I'm by no means a huge supporter of Rogers, but their customer service compared to Bell's? Wow. It's like night and day.

May 28, 2009

Archie chooses Veronica

I read in the news that the latest Archie comics had Archie proposing to Veronica. This is absolutely ludicrous in my opinion, why in the world would Archie pick Veronica over Betty?

This reminded me of grade 6 in Ms. Paul's class at Parkview Public School, when I was caught reading Archie comics, which I had hidden inside pretty much any textbook or novel that I could fit them into. Yes, that old cliche story of kids hiding comic books inside their books.. I actually tried it, and failed.

I remember getting into trouble for it, and then, I assume because Archie has a fairly "mature" theme, even if subtle, the teacher called my parents. I was fortunate; my mom picked up the phone and told me she wouldn't tell dad unless I got caught again. Saved me a few bruises for sure. Of course, the irony of all of it was that dad was the one who got me into Archie comics in the first place. He'd purchased one at an airport and given it to me when he got home. It was my first ever comic and I was hooked.

Anyway, on a *completely unrelated* note, I stumbled upon some Creed music today, and was listening to One Last Breath, and it kinda got me remembering about the *very* brief moments in my life when I was contemplating suicide. It's not so much that I was thinking about killing myself, but more about the idea of suicide. Because let's face it, I had a pretty good teenage life.

When you're a kid, or a teenager though, life just seems harder than it really is. Whether it be the peer pressure, or popularity (or lack their of), or just being unhappy with yourself hard not to have thought about suicide at some point. Maybe I'm wrong, but I think every person at some point thinks about his or her own death, and maybe half of those people have thought about how or what it would be like to do it to themselves. I'm pretty sure I remember having a pretty vivid imagination too, having drawn many very morbid pictures of people hanging themselves or shooting themselves in the face.

Anyway, back to the Archie thing. It's a big mistake. Maybe the Archie world has changed a lot over the past 20 years and I've missed something.. but from what I remember Archie is going down the wrong path. Betty was always the one who liked him for who he was. Veronica was the (albeit hotter) girl (with more money) who was always trying to change Archie, she was rich and stuck up.. and what about Reggie? Where's he? Will she cheat on Archie when he can't find a job and tries to just leech off her? And what about Jughead? Will Veronica be willing to put up with Jug's shenanigans?

I think not.

May 14, 2009

And the Oscar goes to..

After 5 seasons of LOST, I still don't know what the show is about.

I could not believe the drivel that was coming out of the mouths of the 4 judges on American Idol on Tuesday night. I truly believe their performance deserves an Oscar, in how they tried to say that everyone was good when in fact all 3 of them were only okay, if not bad. All in the name of boosting the ratings, I guess. They actually considered Adam Lambert's butchering of U2 and Aerosmith songs good, and thought he deserved to be in the final. Hearing Lambert shriek and scream as usual, and then have the judges applaud it has been mind boggling to say the least.

The only guy who can actually sing is Danny Gokey, but he was eliminated. You knew he was the next to go though, he was the last remnant of what was left of this so-called "singing competition" farce. It has been pretty obvious at this point that America (and the judges) had had enough of the actual singing part of this competition. I mean, let's be honest with ourselves -- if we were to rank the top 6 *singers* from this season, they would be:

1) Danny Gokey (eliminated)
2) Allison Iraheta (eliminated)
3) Anoop Desai (eliminated)
4) Lil Rounds (eliminated)
5) Adam Lambert
6) Kris Allen

But unfortunately this show isn't just about singing even though it pretends to be, which explains why Gokey lasted as long as he did. He had no chance once it was down to him, the Shrieker, and the pretty boy.

Speaking of which, there's Kris Allen. He's like the little engine that could, pretty much a complete longshot, the posterboy for this non-singing competition. Vocally he's in way over his head, but keeps plugging (strumming) away, selling his face and knowing (playing) his audience (young girls). He's like a poor man's Jason Mraz. But let's face it, in a year or so he'll be about as relevant as Justin Guarini.

This year's American Idol has been nothing but a disappointment.

I never thought I would say this, but if there is anything I have learned from this season of American Idol, it's that I've very likely lost touch with popular music and culture. I've reached that age in my life that I can no longer distinguish between what is "good" or "bad" in today's current music industry, and I put these terms in quotes because it's obviously extremely subjective. Perhaps it's also the same reason I think Twitter is a joke, and what's the deal with these kids connecting speakers to their cellphones and blasting music so the whole subway can hear? Am I wrong?

May 11, 2009

FAIL: SilverCity Fairview

Years ago Fairview Mall was the choice theater for any movie that didn't have good special effects because it was pretty much a ghetto theater. They were run by Rainbow Theaters and basically you went in there and it felt no better than a highschool auditorium, if not worse. But the price was extremely cheap, like $7 for a movie or $4.25 on Tuesday, prices that are unheard of these days.

But over the past couple years they had done a major overhaul and moved in with a SilverCity theater, and remodeled the whole thing. So, for the first time in years, my wife and I along with JW went to watch Star Trek there.

Anyway, to get to the fail part -- they got it all right, the place looks great, the theaters are the nice stadium seating you would expect, no more worries about even a medium sized dude blocking your view -- everything was good except for the seats.

What has happened is they've installed seats that lean back, which is great, but the issue here is that the seat part also leans back when you lean on the back part. In order to lean back, your feet have to pretty much go into the air. And, the lean back option offers quite a bit of resistance. You can't just lean back into that position and just sit there.

For people with longer legs, we found the trick is to wedge your leg below the chair and basically prop yourself up. Those with shorter legs have to put their feet up to the chair in front of you and kick out to hold the chair back.

It's just a huge, huge mistake on their part.

Btw, Star Trek was great.. probably one of the best movies I've seen in the past couple years.

April 23, 2009

Where did people go?

Sometime when I'm sitting in the subway, I wonder where everyone went. All the people that I've had the pleasure of knowing throughout my life. For example people who grew up with me at Parkview Public School. Are they all still in Unionville? How could it be that none of them live or work in the downtown areas? Surely at some point I should be able to bump into one of them on the subway.

The fact is I don't even see my old highschool friends on subway. How is that possible, what are the odds of this? I run into church friends all the time. Is it that Chinese Christians all work downtown and everyone else doesn't? What's up with that? I rarely even see my old university friends. You'd think with all the people I've known or met, I might run into *someone* at some point at random.

Then yesterday while looking at Facebook's "People You May Know" tool, it dawned on me. I probably have run into many of my old friends. They've all grown up and don't look the same as they did 20 years ago.

April 20, 2009

Which of the poor deserve the most help?

Ina and I have gotten interested in the creation of sustainable solutions for impoverished people. We've become interested in micro-financing -- helping people get off their feet and help themselves with very tangible solutions that will help them to earn a living doing something that is requires skill but is not entirely foreign to them. Anyway, that's a topic for another day.

I recently had my eyes opened to something that may be controversial or maybe it's just the natural human thought process.

This entry could spawn several other interesting topics that I'll probably be too lazy to write, but I wanted to at least get this thought down. Just a note.. some of this is hypothetical and by no means do I mean this to offend anyone -- the purpose is purely for thought provocation.

The idea is that people are less willing to help poor people when they know there are even more poorer people out there. They might feel like a certain group of people don't deserve their help or support because there are poorer people out there who deserve it more. They tend to have less sympathy knowing there is much worse in the world.

Whether this means they will help those poorer people is not really an issue, for them it's just a matter of principle -- that this poor person doesn't need my help as much as that other much poorer person, so therefore I will not help this marginally poor person.

For example, someone who has witnessed poverty in India or Africa might have less compassion towards someone who lives in a garbage dump because hey, at least they have *some* form of food.

Or say a person has no sympathy towards people on welfare because at least they are getting free handouts from the government, whereas the people they saw in Nicaragua were eating garbage.

I could be wrong I think it says somewhere in the bible that everyone needs compassion.

April 07, 2009

Tony Campolo is 74

Wow, time flies. The first time I heard Tony Campolo was at my old church M3C, during highschool fellowship on a Friday night. Pastor Ted brought a VHS tape of Tony speaking at a conference (possibly from an old Urbana back in the 1800s). All joking aside, I thought he was a great speaker, so dynamic and charismatic. A welcome change from what I'd grown up listening to in a Chinese church.

I remember him being animated, speaking loudly and waving his arms while he spat his words out. Honestly I don't remember a single thing he said but what I do remember is after the video was shown, Campolo was all we could talk about for the rest of the evening, and that includes some of the non-believers who were there.

Tony Campolo is speaking on Thursday April 16th in Toronto at the International Center, to kick off MissionFest 2009, and you must come up with a valid reason not to be there. Personally, I can't think of any besides you being in the hospital or out on missions yourself.

I'll leave you now with a couple of quotes:
"I have three things I'd like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don't give a shit. What's worse is that you're more upset with the fact that I said shit than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night."
"Jesus transcends partisan politics. That's what's wrong with the religious right... they have made Jesus into a Republican, and he's not!"

March 27, 2009

Is Easter sacred?

I'd like to pose a question to my readers, whether you are a believer in Christ or not.

Let me just start by saying that I'm desperate for a vacation. I need time off and so does my wife. We haven't been on vacation in months, not since Christmas time and even then it was family time; not "us" time.

We both work for the government so we get Good Friday and Easter Monday off. This means a 4 day weekend -- the first long weekend we've had since Christmas/Boxing Day weekend, last year. 4 months ago. In 2008.

Now as Christians, Good Friday and Easter signifies the time when Jesus was crucified, dying for and washing away all of the sins we (and you) ever commit.

So is Easter a sacred day then? Should it be? Should we be planning for a vacation or a getaway during this very rare 4-day weekend?

And for non-Christians, how do you view Christians if they're willing to spend the holiest of holy days shopping, or lying on a beach? Do you have friends who are always talking to you about the real meaning of Christmas and Easter, and yet they go on vacation during these times of the year and that puzzles you? Would you respect Christians and their religion any less if you knew this was happening, and you use this as ammunition towards proof that Christians are all hypocrites?

March 19, 2009

NCAA Bracket

So here's the deal. I accidentally screwed up in my spreadsheet for calculating who will win this thing by taking the average of the wrong two columns, which adversely affected my bracket where it mattered the most. Unfortunately I discovered this about 15 minutes ago, too late to do anything about it. Since I'll likely lose because of this, I've decided to blog it here so I have a record of me being 100% right on the bracket this year.

So here are my picks!


1st round winners:
Ohio State
Wake Forest
West Virginia
Michigan State

2nd round winners:
Wake Forest

Reg. Semis winners:
Wake Forest


1st round winners:
Mississippi State

2nd round winners:
Mississippi State

Reg. Semis winners:


1st round winners:
Florida State

2nd round winners:

Reg. Semis winners:


1st round winners:
North Carolina
Arizona State

2nd round winners:
North Carolina
Arizona State

Reg. Semis winners:
North Carolina


Reg. Finals winners:
Wake Forest

Nat. Semis winners:
Wake Forest


Hard to say, these teams both have strengths and weaknesses, but I'd give it to Oklahoma though. I'd change my stance on this one as the tournament goes on, but I'm positive it's these two in the finals.

March 18, 2009

Books I've read in the past month

I'm not sure that I've read more than 5 novels over the past 10 years up to this past month. I've always focused more on the non-fiction side, hoping more to learn rather than entertain myself through books. So I guess the fact that I've read nearly 4 books in the past month means I'm on a tear.

This all came about because I had just finished reading "Dune". It took me nearly 2 months to read, either because I found the english to be difficult and kept having to turn to the glossary to look up things like "Kwisatz Haderach" and "Bene Gesserit", or maybe it was because I just wasn't used to reading.

Anyway, I thought the book was amazing, so I borrowed the movie from a friend. Boy did it ever suck. It was unbearable to watch, I couldn't even get through the first 20 minutes, and that led me to post about it on a forum. Someone on the forum recommended I read the Ender series. Then later while talking about Dune with my brother and Ina, they also recommended that I give the Ender series a try.

So we went to Chapters and I bought the first book, "Ender's Game", along with book two of the Dune series, "Dune Messiah".

Ender's Game was amazing. Just amazing. I was blown away. It was just so cool and fast paced, I loved it. I decided then that I had to read them all. In the forums, one of the guys recommended that I read book five "Ender's Shadow" first because it kinda worked together with Ender's Game. So we went to the library and got it. Within a week I finished it and I was really impressed. After that I reserved "Speaker For The Dead" which I'm reading now, and in the meantime I read Dune Messiah.

Dune Messiah was okay. It followed the story of the original book but it wasn't nearly the rush that Dune was. I think I'd probably read the rest of the books eventually but I'm not in any big rush anymore.

March 12, 2009

In the news: Loblaws finding new ways to rip people off

I recently noticed that Loblaws became a major player in the garbage bag industry. I used to live above a Loblaws and shopped there all the time but since I got married we've been going to Longo's because it's closer. Actually, that's inaccurate -- it's just better. The produce is better, the products are better, and everything is cheaper.

Anyway, I just thought that it was interesting that Loblaws decided to start charging for a previously free service -- they've started charging 5 cents for their garbage bags. I wonder which bonehead came up with that one. Isn't it bad enough that they are already one of the most expensive grocers in Canada?

Where are their loyal customers expected to get their garbage bags from now on? There really is no alternative besides going to another store to shop. Other than No Frill's (which essentially sells Loblaws food that are about to go bad), every other grocer is giving away free garbage bags. What reason could you possibly have to keep shopping at Loblaws?

And I get that they want to help the environment and encourage people not to use plastic bags. I get that. But how will people bag up their garbage? Where will they put it? In my condo, we're required to double-bag all our garbage. That's 10 cents in Loblaws' land.

I propose a solution to all this. Rather than alienate your own customers, you boycott Glad. Stop selling their products altogether. And you band together with other grocers to do the same. Demand that companies like Glad lower their prices for their products, especially their garbage bags. The only reason everyone insists on using plastic grocery bags is because companies like Glad are charging an arm and a leg for their garbage bags. Of course people will continue to choose plastic garbage bags if they have no other alternative.

March 09, 2009

In the news: Watchmen, Obama=BC,

I saw this trailer for a movie that looks extremely cheesy, called The Watchmen. It was just one of those trailers than you watch and you turn to the guy beside you and say "Does that look stupid or what?".

I've heard since then that apparently it's based on the best comic book ever made. I don't know anything about comic books so I can't really comment on this. I do know that there are a ton of GREAT books out there that have been called the best book ever, but have not been made into movies because nothing on screen could ever do them any justice, and I've seen some movies based on some amazing books that really sucked bad. So just because it's a great comic book, doesn't mean it'll be a good movie.

I had this dream about Obama and how he could do no wrong. No matter what he did, people cheered him for it. In my dream, he had decided to make George Bush Sr his top advisor and people were still cheering like he was the greatest leader ever. Later in the dream he was making a speech, and Laura Bush came up and was yelling at Barbara Bush. And outside the plane (the speeches were made inside Air Force One), there were bombs going off and terrorists were attacking the US. Luckily we took off and flew away from all that.

Obama detractors are interested in seeing him fail at fixing the economy, while supporters say he'll be successful and then when he isn't, they'll say he inherited this horrible Republican economy and it's not his fault if he's unable to save it.

I just find this interesting because it's very similar to Bryan Colangelo and his ascent as the GM of the Toronto Raptors this time last year. He inherited a flawed team with a bad coach and he made some moves and everyone (including me) thought he was taking the right steps towards turning the team around. Instead, it just kept going downhill. Now it's hit rock bottom, and I have no idea what he's doing, he's assembled a horrible team, and not only that, the players he's acquired over the years don't even fit into his philosophy. He wants a running team but Bosh, Calderon, Bargnani, even O'Neal -- none of these players will (ever) thrive in a run-and-gun offense.

A year from now, we will see how popular Obama really is.

February 06, 2009

Superbowl, Dune, Cake

The Superbowl was great. It was the second best Superbowl I've ever seen, with last year's game being number one. The Cardinals didn't win, but I can't deny that the game wasn't great, and honestly, I might have called it the best game ever if I'd been cheering for Pittsburgh.

But if you had to compare the two, it really comes down to which team made a huge comeback and which one won the game. This year's game couldn't be #1 because the team who made the huge comeback didn't win the game. The best football game I've ever seen was last year's Superbowl, where comeback was made by the winning team.

Our party turned out pretty good, because in addition to the excitement of the game itself, my wife and I lost out in a bidding war for a house we were trying to buy. I thought it was quite thrilling, the whole process of making offers, then trying to beat your own offer and trying to guess if it would be enough to throw off the other bidder. In fact come to think of it, it was not unlike the Superbowl itself. Like the Cardinals, we came in as an underdog because we were a late entry to the bids. But we very nearly tied it up with our offer, and then took the lead, but in the end, we lost.

Yesterday I called in sick due to the previous day I had been coughing quite a bit at work, and then followed by that I got almost no sleep and thought it was definitely going to catch up with me. So I stayed home and between my Nutella lunch and one of my naps, I decided to watch the movie "Dune". I had read the book a few months ago and I really enjoyed it.

After watching the 30-40 minutes, I really must say -- this book.. this movie, it needs to be re-done. It needs it. For one thing, the characters, the costumes, the machines.. they were nothing.. NOTHING like what I had imagined. I certainly didn't think an ornithopter was going to be this triangular disc-like ship! Where was it's wings?! Further, it being a fairly old movie, one thing that totally threw me off was the special effects. I really truly, TRULY believe this movie has to be re-done. It just has to.

January 30, 2009

How to have a Superbowl party

I've been hosting Superbowl parties for the last 4-5 years and they've always been a blast. This year Ina and I are going much smaller because our place isn't nearly as large as my old place, so we've reduced our party size significantly.

I read this blog entry about how to have the perfect Superbowl party. Just a warning, it's a little vulgar, but hilarious nonetheless. They've got a pretty good looking chili recipe somewhere near the middle too. I've included some of my favorites below, and tried to clean it up a little.

If there are people at your party who don’t know (crap) about football, they better (effing) be all be women.
People who come to watch the game are here to watch the game, not explain what's going on for every play!

You must have a high definition television.
Check. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't watch the game from home if we didn't have high definition!

You must have enough seating for all guests, and clear sightlines to the screen.
Ina and I debated for awhile because she wanted to invite more people and I just didn't think there would be enough space. We estimated the seating and in the end we both agreed that 6 people (plus us 2) was the absolute max that our place and setup could handle.

Do not mix partisan guests and nonpartisan guests.
Last year we had the perfect setup with an entire room full of people cheering for the Giants and quite a few of us who hated those cheating Patriots. When David Tyree made that catch off his helmet, my living room absolutely exploded. This year, I'm not sure who will be cheering for whom. I personally don't mind seeing the Steelers win (it's not like it would be unexpected) but I think most people who don't know who to cheer tend to cheer for the (heavy) underdogs. Go Cardinals!

Make the volume of the TV loud enough to shut down any potential conversation.
This one is huge for me. I hate it when people talk during anything I'm watching, even if it's about the show we're watching. Wait until a commercial break or something. I need to here *everything*. Plus I just love listening to John Madden's cliche commentary.

Mandatory food items: Wings, Nacho Cheese Doritos, Nachos, chips and salsa, guacamole, pizza, popcorn, jar of Nutella with spoon in it (for me only).

Have weed handy in case the game goes to (crap).
No weed, but we do have Wii, PS3, XBOX360 and board games just in case.

January 26, 2009

In the news: Batman, Blow outs, and TAs

Apparently people are upset that The Dark Knight didn't get nominated for Best Picture. I don't know about that one... I saw Dark Knight and I enjoyed it and thought it was a good movie. But did I think it deserved to be nominated for Best Picture? Did I think it was a special film? I think getting a nomination for Heath Ledger, that was deserved. Dark Knight was a very good action film, easily the best Batman film to date, and thoroughly entertaining. But Best Picture? C'mon.

About the only argument I can give for Dark Knight, is that since getting hitched I haven't really been too active in trying to catch all the nominated films like in previous years (sorry KL). So maybe it's been a weak year for films and therefore, maybe it DID deserve to be nominated. But if I were to put it up with previous years where I did watch most of the nominated films, there is no way Dark Knight gets nominated.

I have however, found time to watch Slumdog Millionaire and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. I enjoyed both movies. In terms of the Button film, I wonder if I could have had a little more respect for the film if I hadn't already seen Forrest Gump (and considered it to be one of my all-time favorite movies). It's hard not to compare movies like that. I would imagine that being an Academy Award judge could be very difficult after you've seen as many movies as they have, and being that so many films are similar, how do you make an objective opinion? As much as I enjoy watching movies, that doesn't sound like a very easy job to me. Btw, I loved Slumdog Millionaire.

I read this article last week about a girl's highschool basketball game, where one team absolutely destroyed another team 100-0. Even if you ignore the fact that the losing team was comprised of students from a school of students with learning disabilities, you can't not wonder how it came to that score. I mean, if you're up 30-0, wouldn't you let up at that point? Scoring 100 points in no easy task, even most college basketball games end up with teams scoring somewhere between 60-80 points. What made this story worse was that the winning school was a Christian academy. Apparently the coach refused to apologize for allowing the game to get out of hand the way it did, and he was fired as a result. The school said this in a statement: "It is shameful and an embarrassment that this happened. This clearly does not reflect a Christ-like and honorable approach to competition."

I'm guessing that statement would fall on deaf ears in the CCSA.

Another bit of news I found interesting was the York TA Strike. And by interesting, what I really mean is "stupid". Keep in mind that I have very little understanding of this situation so take whatever I say here with a grain of salt. I read this article about how this guy was making just $14,000 per year and the author made it a point that this is well below the poverty line. As well, the person talks about how he is supported by his parents, and that they own a store and are struggling too, so that makes it difficult for the family.

Don't get me wrong.. I get that this is a tough economy. But aren't we talking about a part-time job here? Can you really be complaining about being under the poverty line when you're not making a full effort to make money? I mean I can totally feel for a person working 60-70 hours per week doing various jobs to feed their family. But aren't we talking about a bunch of grad students who are basically working part time to pay for their tuition? At the end of the day, staying in school is a choice. If you can't afford it, why not quit your job and join the workforce like the rest of us?

And how is it that we're always hearing about strikes at York University and not at other schools? Are they being paid significantly less than TAs from other schools? What is the average salary of a unionized TA? Google says approximately $20-24 per hour. What is that, like 15 hours per week? Below the poverty line my ass. No one is forcing you to get another degree.

January 19, 2009

Second post about broccoli

I posted about broccoli a couple of years ago and here I am doing it again. Broccoli is one of my all time favorite vegetables. I like them raw or cooked, however, I do not like them mushy.

I could never figure out why grocery stores would sell broccoli for the same price as broccoli crowns. Now I know why. Found this on the web.


Does the stem of broccoli have the same nutritient content as the florets for those people who prefer to eat only the stems?


Thanks for your question. The stems of broccoli are a good source of insoluble fiber, but do not have the same beta-carotene, potassium or vitamin C content of the florets.

So basically the stems are junk and worthless to farmers, otherwise why charge the same price?

January 12, 2009

Another weekend of football

I just noticed in the news that Tony Dungy retired from coaching the Indianapolis Colts. That's sad news coming from a Colts fan. The NFL needs more guys like him -- great role models, guys with integrity and strong character. It's unfortunate but probably for the better. He's young enough that he can still work on the many ministries he's involved with, and of course spend more time with his family.

Ina and I watched approximately 14-16 hours of football over the past two days and to be honest, as much I enjoyed watching these games, my eyes were getting pretty tired from staring at the television last night.. especially since there was an additional 2 hours of 24 tacked on after the Steelers/Chargers game.

In the first game, I thought Tennessee would be able to hold off the Baltimore Ravens in a matchup of two of the most unforgiving defenses in the league. These two teams had played before and I guess the matchup had ended in not-so-friendly terms. The two teams appeared to hate eachother.

I told my brother before the game that I thought the Titans would win it because the Titans possessed the only play-maker on the field -- Chris Johnson. There was never any doubt that both teams had strengths and weaknesses, but overall they were pretty evenly matched. What it came down, at least for me, was the presence of one Chris Johnson, the rookie runningback for the Tennessee Titans.

So for the first half, I was proven right. Chris Johnson led the way, moving the chains and pretty much making the Ravens defense look human. But then he hurts his ankle and he's out for the second half, and the Ravens claw back and win it. Titans were completely useless on offense without Chris, which is not surprising since he was pretty much all they had going for them in the first half.

The second game I expected to be a blowout. I was telling my friend from the States (who was cheering for Kurt Warner) that Carolina had Arizona dominated in pretty much every statistical category there was. I told him that the only chance Arizona had was if they were to run the ball effectively; and their run offense was the worst in the league. The chances of Arizona winning this game was close to nothing.

Arizona did everything that I thought they couldn't pull off. The stars aligned and Warner used Edgerrin James like during his glory days with Marshall Faulk and got the offense running on all cylinders. Further, they took an early lead preventing Carolina from using their dominant running game.

Throughout the 3rd and 4th quarters I felt that Carolina should have just run the ball down Arizona's throats. Forget the conventional wisdom of airing it out when you're down and just run like hell. If they had started doing this earlier in the game, there would be no reason to force the ball to Steve Smith or worry about running the clock down. Instead, Jake Delhomme throws 5 interceptions on his way to quite easily one of the worst performances of his life.

The Saturday games were more exciting than the Sunday games, even though I thought Sunday's games were more important.

Next up were the Giants against the surging Eagles. I told my brother that this game was going to go either way, McNabb had been playing well and the Eagles' defense had been very, very good over their last few games. But the game was being played in the Meadowlands and I just didn't think Philly would be able to stop all 3 of Bradshaw, Jacobs and Ward -- the Giant's 3-headed running force.

I was proven wrong though as the Eagles were able to stop them from running and then it came down to Eli trying to beat Eagles' secondary. Eli just was not on his game, at all, throwing inaccurate passes on his way to an unimpressive day. I thought the Giants did a good job of limiting Brian Westbrook and had a fair shot to win this game if it weren't for Eli's uninspiring performance. Any time your defense plays great and you still can't win the game, it's easy to point fingers. They lost this game because of Eli and that hurts, especially after his back-to-the-wall performances in the playoffs last year.

In the final game was Chargers vs Pittsburgh, and I have to admit at this point I was pretty football'ed out. Ina was cheering for Pittsburgh and I cheered for the Chargers which in all honesty came down to me just wanting to see an offense-heavy team win over a superb defense. I saw no reason they could win except through some freakish luck or tragedy from the Steelers' side. I thought even if they had to go with their backup Byron Leftwich, the Steelers should still win this game handily.

Vincent Jackson has had a great year, which surprises me because I never expected that he would be. In previous years, the #1 WR in SD was always the 3rd option on offense after Tomlinson and Gates, and even so I thought Chris Chambers was their best WR. Philip Rivers has had a fantastic year, and has really grown into a good leader of the team even if he's got a bit of a chip on his shoulder. Looking back I'm not even sure Vincent Jackson was even drafted in either of my leagues. I guess the minute we heard Tomlinson was iffy I should have went out and grabbed him.

Somehow I can never get fantasy football out of my head. Okay, back to the game. The Steelers dominated this game because the Chargers had no running game. I hope that all the talk about Darren Sproles being good enough to be a starter, or that he is anywhere nearly as good as Michael Turner can finally stop. The guy is fast and quick, but he's too small and outside of a couple of big meaningless saving-face plays towards the end of the game, when Pittsburgh was just going through the motions and looking towards next week, he was a non-factor in the game.

Next week is Pittsburgh against Baltimore, which I think Pittsburgh should take because they have an offense, and then the more interesting matchup between the Philadelphia Eagles and the upstart Arizona Cardinals.

I'm going to be cheering for the Cards next week, but looking at the way the Eagles contained the Giant's runners, I don't really see how the Cards can run. I would be just as happy to see the Eagles make it.

January 08, 2009

Wildcard Weekend

A friend showed me this site,, which I've spent quite a bit of time reading over the past few days. The author takes a lot of misconceptions in football and clarifies them with statistical analysis. Being a numbers guy I'm fascinated with the stuff he's got here, everything from debunking things like "establishing the run", to whether or not defenses truly win championships, or his take on Spygate.

A lot went on last weekend and I just wanted to weigh in on the weekend of exciting football.

The first game we watched was Atlanta in Arizona. Right off the bat Matt Ryan threw an interception and I thought oh boy, this rookie needs to settle down, which he did. What shocked me early on about the Cards was how much they were running the football in the first quarter, and then why they abandoned the run thereafter. It's a wonder to me how such a potent aerial assault remained successful with no running game whatsoever, unless you count goal-line plunges/dives by Tim Hightower.

Even though Atlanta lost, you'd have to be pretty satisfied and if anything, vindicated, if you're a Falcons fan after the Michael Vick fiasco. This team is headed back in the right direction. Matt Ryan easily had one of the best rookie seasons for a QB since, well, this season's MVP Peyton Manning. And his team certainly had a far better record to show for.

Arizona faces Carolina next week in Carolina, where they face very steep odds of upsetting a team that pretty much dominates them in every facet of the sport. My advice for the Cards is to run, run, and then run some more. Edgerrin James is a fresh after having done almost nothing this year! USE HIM! If there is one thing Carolina isn't so great at, it's stopping the run.

The second game we watched was a heartbreaker. My brother says he hates being a Colts fan in January, and I can see exactly what he means. They break your heart.

I'm not going to say much about this game because it was too close to my heart. Neither of these teams were headed to the Superbowl anyway. Anyone who watched it knows why the Colts lost. Bad defense, terrible tackling and an ineffective running game. Why the Chargers won? Darren Sproles. Their offense sputtered and their backup runningback stepped up against one of the worst run defenses in the playoffs to win it. The Chargers are gonna get demolished by the Steelers.

What I do want to talk about is two things. How in world does an 8-8 team have home field advantage over a 12-4 team? Where is Mark Cuban when you need him most? Mr. Goodell, I propose that you change the rules: Divisional Champs can still make the playoffs, but the seeding needs to change. Home field goes to teams with better records.

Second thing is the overtime. The coin toss that has decided 60% of all overtime games in the past 8 years. Did you know that 99% of all team who won the coin toss in overtime have elected to receive? And 60% of those teams who got the ball first won the game? 30% of all overtime games ended in the coin-toss loser having never touched the ball on offense.

My proposal is this: Have a 5th period that is not sudden death, teams just play another 15 minutes to decide the game. If the game is still tied by the end of the 5th quarter, then play college style where one team tries to equal or better the other as they take turns on offense. Loser of a coin toss tries first. It's a shoot-out of sorts, football style.

I missed the Baltimore Ravens against the Miami Dolphins because I was watching the Raptors beat the Magic at the ACC. Joe Flacco won that game Trent Dilfer style, by doing nothing and relying on blistering defense. The NFL's Most Improved Player Chad Pennington decided to kick it "old school" and reminded the league of why the Jets gave up on him in the first place, throwing 4 interceptions in a 35-9 drubbing.

The Ravens will have to show a lot more on offense against the Titans in Tennessee. I believe in Joe Flacco more than Kerry Collins, but I think the Titans can take this simply by shoving the ball down the Ravens' throats with Chris Johnson and Lendale White. I am hoping Jeff Fisher has dissected every second of the Giants' win over the Ravens back in November. In that game, the Giants attacked Ravens' formidable run defense and found a way to get through. Lendale White is built like a tank, similar to Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward. And between you and me, there is no comparison between Chris Johnson and Ahmad Bradshaw. The Titans have what it takes to win this one.

The final matchup was between the Eagles and the Vikings. I've never been a huge fan of the Eagles, or Donovan McNabb but I thought this game was the Eagles to lose. Even though they squeaked into the playoffs having had pretty much every impossible scenario fall into place, I honestly thought they were the better team even coming into it. Tavaris Jackson was replaced for a reason. He's young and raw and given that he didn't have the entire season to develop confidence, the minute he started to thwart, it was all downhill and you could feel it happening right before your eyes. There was no way this team was going to go deep into the playoffs with an inexperienced quarterback. McNabb is the QB that Tavaris Jackson hopes to become in 5-6 years.

The Eagles at the Giants game this week is the one to look out for. I think it is the most evenly matched.