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Monday, December 25, 2006

A very Family Christmas

It really has been six years since my family all sat down to have a meal at Christmas. My sister now lives in France with her husband and my parents until two years ago lived in Singapore. Hence, geography was not in our favour for the holidays. That all changed last evening with a grand Christmas even dinner prepared by my sister.

Turkey is NOT on our family Christmas menu. This is most unfortunate for my sister's husband and my boyfriend, Mr. Hippo who both simply adore it. In fact, Mr. Hippo cheekly remarked that he was returning home to Winnipeg on Christmas day for the sole purpose for eating this bird. A very expensive meal indeed.

The meal was mostly inspired by french cuisine with a little Singapore side addition. Nardac, my sister, prepared an excellent meal of Roast Duck with a lovely citrus sauce. She then rounded off the menu with beans and asparagus in garlic and butter, wild rice with chanterelle mushrooms, fresh orange wedges and fried bean sprouts favoured with salted dried fish (more singaporean than french of course). The real surprise for me was the apple, potato and leek puree with a hint of Guiness. Yum Yum. Mr. Hippo was slightly appalled to discover the half drunk can in the fridge later.

This was washed down with French Champagne, French Red Wine, Italian Chanti and English Guiness. After the Anglo-French summit was concluded, other strange and bizarre photos were found. Merry Christmas everyone....*hic

Sunday, December 17, 2006

VOIP evolution: Skype to Freecall

I may be a late comer to this game but let me express my absolute delight at discovering the joys of voice over the internet phone access. First there was Skype to which my sister introduced me and then Mr. Hippo re-introduced me. To date, computer to landline calls within Canada and USA through Skype have been free but in the new year, a charge of $15 per year will apply in January 2007. Again, this is no big expense considering what long distance companies have been charging for years. Overseas calling of computer to landline or mobile through Skype is quite low at 1-2 cents per minute.

As torrents have overtaken Kazaa/Limewire/Napster, a new kid on the block has appeared in VOIP called Freecall. Free calls from computer to landlines to many countries throughout the world from the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, France, etc. I tried it out last night and called my grandmother in Singapore. Wow, the clarity was amazing and she certainly couldn't tell the difference. A whole hour (that was the limit) free long distance why are we still paying for long distance with Vonage, Rogers, Primus, Bell, etc. With Freecall, you can even choose to take the long distance calls on your home phone (no added technology required).

Google FreeCall and check it out yourself.

The Smells, Sounds and Sights of the Season

Nothing says it better with food. So I must begin my holiday season with a kitchen party. A small gathering of friends with a twist. In place of cooking for them, I decided to hold a cooking party. After all, everyone is always wondering where the recipe for this or that is. On this holiday menu was no ordinary, run of the mill standard fare. No turkey or roasted ham or stuffing or cranberry sauce....none of which I have any liking for.

Instead, a spread of mee siam, rojak, chicken cacciatore and ayam prawns (many thanks to Ms. Crowded House for getting these from Loblaws) was prepared with a little help from my friends. These celebrations also allow me to catch up with their lives. Desi assured us that no other misfortunes visited her on her dive trip to Palau. Despite a hard week with her two sons, Ms. Jane Austen enjoyed the party as did her husband. Can't wait to see their new BMW SUV! Desi is getting a little something of this deal too. Not just a new car but an Audi A4. My little Jetta is going strong after the repair work from the accident was done. The party was such a success that I think another session will be planned soon for Chinese New Year.

The sounds of the seaon were brought in by the annual reading of a Christmas Carol. This event is sponsored by the CBC each year with ticket sales being donated to literacy groups across Canada. This is my third year of attendance.
It all started with an invitation from my pals in Hamilton, Juventus and his wife Limerick. Last year, I introduced Mr. Hippo to this Christmas tradition of mine. We went to Oakville and for this year's reading, it was off to Georgetown. Ken Sylvester was the CBC reader present. Although his recitation of the Ghost of Christmas Present was very boisterous, jovial and entertaining, it was Vera MacDonald who stole the show while she read the staves on the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. Carols were sung between the chapters and I was not surprised to learn that Dickens himself had started this Christmas tradition of public readings of this truncated version of his tale.

It is nearly here now, one week before Christmas eve. I am a big fan of Christmas despite not being a devout Catholic. I also love the decorations and get started early on the trimmings of the season.

The sights of the season begin with the Christmas tree. This year, it is a Douglas Fir and more appropriate in size for the living room. Yesteryear's tree was nearly eight feet where this one is closer to seven feet. This tree also sheds a lot less needles but provides sufficient room for the cat to slumber beneath its branches.

The smell of the tree is great too. Imagine walking in a forest beneath the bright moonlight crunching on a blanket of fresh snow to stimulate those scents in your brain. This year, a simple theme of Red and Gold in ribbons, balls and lights.

This year's celebrations will be made even more special with the arrival of my sister Nardac and her husband, Mr. Moustache. In fact, this is the first Christmas when we will all be together since I don't remember when. Very exciting as Nardac and Mr. Moustache will meet Mr. Hippo too. I hope there'll be a some snow too. Can hardly wait!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

After the Credits

After having watching over 10 movies on the flights to and from Singapore to Toronto, I made a little observation regarding a new trend in movie making. I am referring to that little extra teaser or perhaps reward for those few who have sat through the last 5 minutes of the movie watching the credits. This little 1-2 minute film strip can be just a fun tid bit or a meaningful link to a sequel. I cite these films:

First, in animated film Cars, the end film strip is of the "typical" american couple (depicted as cars of course) still lost somewhere in America. The "wife" car pleading with her "husband" to please stop and ask someone for directions. The scene ends with a "fly" car hitting the screen.

Second, in Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Men's Chest, the extra scene is of the dog on Cannibal island is seated on the throne of bones with (yes, you guessed it) a long bone in its mouth. The natives of the island are celebrating the coronation of their new canine lord.

Thirdly, in You, Me and Dupree, the last few minutes belong to Lance Armstrong who makes yet another cameo appearance in this movie. He lies on the grass reading a motivational book written by the Dupree charater speaking the words: Lance-ness, Lanceness.

Fourthly, in X-men 3, this last film's extra post-credit scene was so important, the ushers at the theatre were actively instructing movie patrons to stay and see it. The voice of Xavier arises from his hospital bed. The audience learns that he didn't really die in the film. Then again, it is a comic book and does anyone really die in the comics. Jean Grey already did it once. However, the movie foretells the return of the Professor in likely the 4th X-men movie.

I still puzzled as to the reason for this trend in movie making. Is this to force us to stay through the credits and read who the Gaffer was or who the Personal assistant to Mr. B. Pitt was? Aside from the X-men 3 scene, most of these film scenes add nothing to the main body of the film. Most of the audience at these movies have actually begin to review the movie as they wait for that "after credits" scene. But, in the advent of DVD, most of us will probably just fast forward to the end... the "after credits" end that is.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Misadventures in Diving

Desi and I also spent a not so busy day diving near Menjangan Island (Deer Island). It is a national park and the waters are protected from the usual currents around Indonesia. The reefs are in quite good shape and I did see some lovely clownfish, scorpionfish, a small lionfish as well as several interesting nudibrachs.

The final disaster (to date on this trip) for Desi was the onset of a crippling headache at the end of the first dive. She could barely raise her head after exitin the water and was profoundly lightheaded too. The divemaster had to help her off with her equipment as she sat paralyzed by this blinding headache. Perhaps it was the heat or maybe lack of proper hydration or maybe a combination of the two. This headache did not let up until about an hour and a half. She reported feeling 98% better. However, about 7 minutes into our second dive, she had to abort the dive as her headache returned. She surfaced quickly as the divemaster and I completed the remainder for this second 55 minute dive. I beginning to worry that she had a case of decompression illness and recalled that the nearest decompression chamber was in Singapore (2.5hours away by air).

Thankfully, she recovered and all seemed well on the ride home. After dinner, she had a precipitous relapse of lightheadness and nausea. She went to bed immediately. I hope this is not a harbinger of her future experiences in diving as the next stop in her vacation was a seven day liveaboard trip in Palau. One further insight into what may have been the cause came from Wayan, the divemaster. He commented that she had issues with buoyancy. Her depth would fluctuate rapidly during the dive and hence, the wild changes in baro pressure may have contributed to her headache. Sadly, not the first time I have heard this comment about her diving.

Ubud and Tanah Lot

Desi and I did manage to leave the resort on two day trips. The first was to to area about Ubud, the cultural and artscentre of Bali. The most amazing trait of the various "factories" from the silversmiths to the Batik makers to the wood carvers is the attention to detail.
There was a 70 year old woman putting micro size silver petals on flower earrings....see the above pictures. Another episode of Desi's unlucky adventures occured at the start of the trip. Her digital camera of only a year old malfunctioned. The LCD screen colours were totally off. Everyone's skin looked ashade of green or blue making Hulks and Beasts of all in the camera's eye. I think this may be the monitor only and suggested she not give up on the camera. Unfortunately, she did not takeany other above water pictures of Bali. Thankfully her dive camera was in working condition. I did suggest that maybe she should try to get the camera repaired before buying another one....but she seems set on getting a new one after seeing my newest toy.
We did a little bit of shopping in the Batik (fabric printing), Silverand Wood carving factories. I did try my hand at some bargaining and did get them to lower their prices to about 60% of the asking price atone locale. The Neka Art Museum was also stop....yes there was some mordern art as well interesting photographs of Bali from before WWII. The day ended with a wonderful sunset viewing of Tanah Lot Temple...there is never a bad sunset in Bali. This Hindu temple is carved from a rock on the beach. At high tide, the temple is isolated from the mainland. Waves crash along its side making it quite a tourist attraction at dusk.

Bali Resort

Medewi Beach resort seems the perfect get a away. There are no land lines, no internet and a few TV channels accessible by satellite. Just the way I like it. This area of Bali is noted for its black sandbeaches. However, the long stretches of the beaches remind me of Pelican Beach in the Bahamas where I last had a romantic walk with Hippo.

It was the rainy season but on most days, it rained for but 2 hours in the afternoon before clearing up to offer that gorgeous Balinese sunset. The pool at the resort was a lovely oasis from the humidity of the day. Desi and I relaxed by the pool and enjoyed a Balinese massage and facial treatment.

My episode of vomiting in Singapore only lasted 24hrs which means it was likely food poisoning. No problems with sampling the diet of Indonesia.

In the continuing adventures of Desi's luck, we can add another chapter....the missed flight. She stayed in Manila overnight after flying from Toronto. She was to catch her flight to Bali at around 10am. However, she misread the flight departure time at noon and missed her flight by 2 hours. Singapore Airlines was quite flexible and she managed to get on a later flight at only an added cost of $50. She arrived at shortly before midnight instead the expected time of 10pm. Needless to say, I was fast asleep.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Singapore Food

In no particular order, these are just some of my favourite foods in Singapore. The next evolution of technology should incoporate some element of taste or smell. Boy am I hungry again.


Chili Crab (Left)

Gado Gado (Below)

Mee Siam (Hawker Stall)
Fish Head Curry (Banana Leaf Apollo)

Sleepless Birthday

Okay it is 3:30am and I just woke up after going to bed at 6:30pm yesterday. This jet lag thing is quite drag with the additional bonus that I have to work tomorrow. Thankfully, Red didn't put me on call (so considerate and so knowledgeable that it is my birthday today). However, given my sleep alterations, being on call may not be a bad thing.

Hippo picked me up from the airport at 6:30am yesterday morning. Poor fellow was rather tired too. I unpacked my clothes, souvenirs too and washed and put everything away before heading to bed 12 hours later.

So after lying in bed for the past hour, I answered my emails (personal and office), paid my bills (internet, snail mail), sent some books to my sister nardac for her birthday and am now proceeding to organize my photos from the trip. Gradually becoming more tired again.

Can't wait to fall asleep at tonight's birthday meal. What a way to begin my 34th year of existence.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Internet access

Well for a country with lots of computers, my search for free internet access has ended with great success. These coffee shops and mobile phone stores in Singapore were the jackpot. So what has happened in the past week.

I paid a surprise visit of a former vice principal of mine, Miss D, with my sister's godmother and wouldn't you know it but she recogized me despite the fact she hadn't seen me in almost 25 years. She could identify that I was one of two daughters that my mom had. Although she could not recall my name or if I was the first or second daughter.

The list of food is quite endless but I have documented each meal with my camera which will feature in a future blog.

I have been out with my cousin, Tym quite a few times including a lovely Tiffin at the Raffles Hotel. She was not surprised to know Mr. Hippo...given that she reads my blog and has access to the pictures on Flickr too this should come as no surprise.

I had also been to Man Fatt Temple, the temple where my maternal grandparents reside in the afterworld apartments of urns. Lots of renovations to the temple have been done but there seemed to be more monks about that I recall.

One of my mother's brothers brought me here. He is losing his hair and his wife is losing her hearing. She seems to shout rather than talk to everyone. After visiting Man Fatt Temple, it was off to have a grand dinner of chilli crabs, black pepper baby squid and a noodle dish called meegoreng.

No shoe purchases to date but my cousin's husband Terz, took me shopping for a new digital camera. Now, I am the proud owner of aCanon IXUS 850 IS....7.1 mpeg with image stabilization (just what a drunk photographer or underwater photographer needs). I did check out the camera on line and there is an associated underwater housing available too. Nothing like a little technology to please miss gadgetgirl.

Unfortunately I had a bout of food poisoning likely from the meal with my godmother and her family. It did not surface literally until I was out with another family friend and also our lawyer. She was quite thoughtful when last evening's activities was cut short after I threw up three times after dinner.The night however was not without a little shopping success in LittleIndia. I did obtain a few Bollywood films: Mangel Pandey and Devdas.

Despite the recent illness, I am looking forward to the last dish on my must eat list in Singapore: Fish Head Curry.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A quiet day

Well the jet lag finally caught up with me. I slept through most of yesterday afternoon and evening. Thankfully i have gone out to get some fine dining: gado gado and rojak to sustain. My aunt's place in addition to a lack of home computer also lacks any real food in the refrigerator. I did buy some soya milk, regular milk and fruit too.

It is suprisingly easy to get a sim card, phone number and prepaid calling cards in Singapore as a visitor. So now my relatives can contact me any time and anywhere. Even managed to get some groceries for my sister and mother.

I did discover that I have the same shoe size as my aunt which is quite a joy as I did not bring any flats to Singapore....silly me and we share the same taste in movies: serious, and subtitled i.e. foreign. I even watched Ararat, a Canadian movie, I do acknowledge the irony of watching this in Singapore.

Today, my cousin and I did a brief tour of the soon to be torn down National Stadium. There is even a Sports museum in stadium. I didn't know there was a Grand Pree in Singapore. Built in 1973 but soon to replaced by something newer and more modern. Such is the way of Singapore.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Returning to the Native

It has been a busy build up to my trip to Singapore. I finally got my car back from the body shop and the repair is quite amazing. Then my computer also came back from the repair shop after being bogged down by adware ads! The flight or rather flights to Singapore were uneventful.

Trans-pacific flights have much in common with the field ofobstetrics. The sleep deprivation for one thing is easier to dealwith. I did manage to grab a solid three hours on the flight leg from Toronto to Vancouver, another 5 hours on the Vancouver to Soeul portion and another four hours from the Seoul to Singapore leg. 'Tis a gift to sleep upright in an uncomfortable chair but that's another skill I mastered as a resident in obstetrics.

Then there is the eternity of sheer boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror (bad turbulence) or joy (the arrival). In obstetrics,this would be the equivalent of waiting for the delivery and then having to do a stat C-section (terror) or then the birth (joy).

Finally, the very close quarters and lack of space which recall theliving conditions of Roman galley slaves predispose to a DVT...blood clot which forms in the leg which may fragment and migrate to the lungs...extremely bad. Naturally, after my left leg became swollen on the third and final leg of my flight, I became concerned.
There was no pain in the leg and the skin colour remained unchanged (both good things). By the following morning it was back to normal. After experiecing this degree of pedal edema, I will soon be doning TEDs pressure stockings. This does not bode well for future pregnancies.

After arriving at about ten after midnight, I then had some roti plata (great dish consisting of indian bread and curry dish) with my cousin and her family. Then it was off to my aunt's place. It is a gorgeous apartment on the sixteenth floor. Although the night was warm, there was a cool breeze blowing through the place.

Her apartment though is most certainly not kid or pet friendly. It has a NC-19 rating: you would need to be a mature individual of at least 19 years to enter. The place is decorated with loads of paintings, rugs and ceramics as well as other antiques. The most striking thing is the lack of a home computer (by choice of course).

I have contacted my uncles and soon to enjoy some family time in the next few days. For today, I walked a bit about the Merlion Park and Esplande (one of the newest malls in Singapore). The Merlion is the symbol of Singapore (at least the one adopted by the tourism board) and sits at the mouth of the Singapore river. It has the head of a lion and the body of a fish...hence the name.

The Esplande is home to the new arts centre (performing and visual). The building itselfi s quite controversial as it resembles a local fruit called the durian. That's art for you.

Monday, October 09, 2006


My family's Thanksgiving meal is not a traditional one. No one can stand turkey or ham. We're not real fans of stuffing either...or at least the bread crumb kind. Instead, we had a BBQ in honour of the lovely warm weather. Chili chicken skewers, pork cutlets, beets, corn and rosemary roasted potatoes were washed down with some chanti.

Instead of the usual football game, we took pictures from my parent's recent holiday in Ireland. The seascapes and ruins left me with the impression that Ireland is very windy and very wet. In fact, it did rain a little everyday they were there. It is no wonder with such a climate that the emerald island has earned this island its nickname.

In direct contrast, the Niagara escarpment is going golden and scarlet. Walking through the various parks and conservation areas around Milton, crisp scent of autumn was in the air. Quite wonderous to take in nature that is but a few steps from your home. The afternoon hike around Mill Pond revealed a bit of history. The hiking trail lies on the path, millworkers of old would take to the Old Mill. Today, only the pond is left from Milton's early days as a rural village.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

La Nuit Blanche Boring TO

That all night art festival in the wet night in Toronto was quite a disappointment. This event that was launched in Paris and held in other world capitals from Madrid to Brussels and even in Montreal was to be showcase of art in Toronto. It was more tacky than style. The best of the night's offerings were in Yorkville. The "Hold that Thought" exhibit in the lovely church at the corner of Avenue Road and Bloor Street was what the night could have been. A chance to encounter the quiet private spaces of the city normally reserved to a precious few. "To a watery grave" at the UC college was another clever collection of pieces in private gallery mixed with a sound bite of a ?drowning death in the UC quadrangle.

The rest of it,well it was very weird and quite frankly lacking in originality. The students chained to the stairs in front of UC college attempting to paper the floor, the collection of family board games in the OACD courtyard and the neon word poetry on Baldwin were quite uninspired. The fog at Philosopher's Walk was more touristy than art. Surreal though it was to see the mayor TO David Miller stubbling the mist with the students. The little round table discussion on art in the Buttery park was quite lame.

Not sure if I can recommend La Nuit Blanche to anyone if there was a second event or perhaps the question is will there be another La nuit blanche in TO.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Is this really ten thousand dollars worth in damages?

Well statistics finally caught up with me and I was involved in an accident a major highway. The story is short and rather ordinary. Jeep fails to stop and then rear my Jetta which then hits the Saab in front me which then hits the Minivan in front of it. Everyone got out of their vehicles uninjured. In an ironic twist of fate, the woman driving the Saab was 30 weeks pregnant and somewhat distressed. In the end though, the jeep, my jetta and the saab were all towed. For the past two weeks, I have been driving a rental Civic at some other insurance company's expense. Now I get to drive it for a bit longer as Ms. Greta Jetta gets a $10 000 makeover. All this is a result of a night out to the last film I was to have seen at the Toronto Film Festival. How anti-climatic was this end.

Monday, September 11, 2006

A List Stars

At this year's Toronto Film Festival, I have already seen more stars in two days than in all the days I spent at last year's film festival. I am seeing the same number of films but this year, the movies all seem to be more mainstream. Is mainstream a bad thing?

Well I guess it depends on why you want to see the movies. Sure some of the films seen here may never to show anywhere else. Either lack of interest, inability to find a distributor, perhaps some are so awful, they do belong in a straight to DVD pile. Others are hidden gems lost forever.

However, seeing Stranger than Fiction was a mainstream film that was worth the price of its A-List stars: Will Ferrell, Emma Thompson, Dustin Hoffman. A few words of introduction and some improv humour followed by a really enjoyable, darkly comic and romantic movie. It reaffirmed my belief that TIFF is the film festival that is most accessible to the public. Today's screening of The Last Kiss, with a screenplay by Paul Haggis echoed this sentiment.

In direct contrast is the Post-modern life of my Aunt. Captivating acting by the lead but the story line meandered. The perspective of the story was allegedly from that of her nephew yet the boy makes appearance only the start and end of the film. Add in a "moon" fantasy sequence that left most people scratching their heads and jarring change in the tone of the film from romantic comedy to greek tragedy to get a thoroughly disjointed movie. Yet, I do think it was worth watching if only of the delightful performance of Chow Yuen Fat.

And so I await the coming 6 films left to view at this year's TIFF with great anticipation for each movie holds new promise.

Sunday, September 03, 2006


Yes, just like that Staples commercial says, it is that most wonderful time of the year....the start of fall. The air gets crisp, the leaves change colour, the harvest comes in and the film festival in TO gets the whole season off to wonder start. I love movies. Not just the artsy type too, although my family and friends would probably defer. Going to TIFF is for me like a food tour of Singapore. The choices are wide and varied and never a disappointment.

There is also something to please everyone's palette. This year is no exception. An opera based on a ancient Hindu text, a documentary on a landscape photographer, a film noir cartoon feature. What about the stars you say? Well, yes sometimes festivals are measured by the number of stars who attend or rather by the parties they attend. Although I don't go out of my way to see them, it is rather fun to run into one or two as they prowl the city.

And the food of course. Nothing like being downtown to get back to some of my favourite restaurants. Recently, someone commented on how well I knew the restaurants, theatres, shops, etc of the city. This despite the fact that I have not lived in Toronto for more than 10 years. However, each time I make the trip back, it is like going home again.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Live from New York, its....

Just returned from a trip to New York City with a few friends. Mr. Hippo decided not to come so I took my mother. After all, she enjoys good food, shopping and little culture like her sophisticated daughter. Some of the NYC sites were quite alarming. The fact that the WTC, "Ground Zero" now looks like a ordinary construction site. Seemingly devoid of any clues from the fall of the two towers. Then there were two panhandlers outside the McDonalds near Wall Street who exchanged racial slurs and then fisticuffs.

The food never failed to satisfy. From the seafood restaurant at corner of 53rd and 6th avenue to the very fine omakase dinner at Nobu. No celebrities to be seen but there were a few well dressed and well armed jeeps in the front of the restaurant suggesting other VIPs on the premises. My very favourite apple martini was made at the bar in the Millineum Hilton. Just yummy.

A little culture was taken in at the Museum of Modern Art where admission was free that night. The place was quite crowded but the paintings of Picasso, Modrian, Magritte and other notables could be appreciated nevertheless. And the visit to NYC won't be complete without a walk in Central Park. The Mall, the Obelisk, the Belvedere Castle and of course, Strawberry fields. A late lunch at the Boathouse completed a lovely day in the city that never sleeps.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

This day in History

Birthdates. As part of a profession involving bringing babies in the world, I am always amazed by the strangness of requests. This pertains of course mostly to births which can be planned i.e. CS dates.

The old superstitions of avoiding Friday the 13th as birth date for one. Those of the ancient chinese beliefs avoid anything with combinations of "4" which is a homonym for "death" in the spoken chinese tongue. Then there is the avoidance of dates which coincident with other relatives or friends birthdays or worse, the anniversary death of another relative or friend.

A recent request took me by surprise. A request not to have a CS on September 11th. Very odd I thought. "I would prefer September 13th", she said. I thought about this for a moment and decided to probe furthe and asked her reasons for this decision. She looked incredulous at me at first and then said, "the world trade centre bombing of course occured on this day." "Did you lose a relative or friend at the world trade centre bombing?" "No, no, I just don't want my child's birthday associated with September 11th."

Wow, I had to bite my tongue to stem the laughter. This patient was neither american nor knew any one associated with the bombing in New York. Of course, this is a new form of superstition and astounding ignorance. Lots of other massacres have occurred through out the various dates in history. December 7th...bombing in Pearl Harbour, August 6th and 9th (A-bomb in Hiroshima and then Nagasaki), February 14th (St. Valentine's Day massacre)....etc.

For interest, September 13th 1759 was the battle for Quebec on the plains of Abraham where General Wolfe defeated the Marquis Montcalm. Hence giving the English control over Canada. I wonder where my patient with the September 13th request and who is French Canadian would have thought of this revelation.

September 13th 1942 was the start of the Battle of Stalingard, one of the bloodiest human conflicts ever. Over 800 000 Axis soldiers and over 500 000 Russian troops lost their lives in the 5 month battle. The battle was a major turning out in the outcome of WWII. This number does not include the wounded or the civilians killed. Kind of makes the events at the World Trade Centre pale in comparsion.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

My recent coronation

This blog is now part of the house of royalty. Okay, my name does mean king of the jungle but now the house is part of the Kingdom of Garnet. The annual feast of BBQ and beer was held with the usual dignitaries being present. All the kings save one managed to make the occasion. King Frank (the first king of Garnet) unfortunately had to work and left early but his lovely consort Queen Barb performed the coronation ceremony with her usual grace. Later this month, the big block party i.e. Kingdom of Garnet will be celebrated with a new tradition.....chalking the street.

Pandas in the Forest

Wow, this is a sur-real image, eh. Lots of little tiny cartoon pandas dancing by the moonlight. Who needs LSD?

Chinese Lantern Festival

More for nostalgia and little for curiosity were my reasons for going to the Chinese Lantern Festival down by Ontario place on Civic Holiday Monday. As a child in Singapore, the Lantern festival was one of my favourite times of the year. My sister and I received lanterns usually made from coloured plastic stretched across a wire frame. She was quite young at the time and had a battery lit bulb placed in a plastic swan. I got a candle held in the centre of the wire frame of my goldfish. It was quite magical walking about in the parks at night in Singapore carrying the lantern communing with other families carrying similarly lit objects.

The festival at Ontario Place is a different affair. For one thing, the lanterns are HUGE. Actually, they are more like mini temples, theatre stages, forests and mechanical marvels. They ranged from the traditional dragon on the waters float, to the 12 Chinese zodiac figures wandering in a forest, chinese lions in pursuit of a giant fire ball to the more modern floats which consisted of the Toronto Skyline including the CN tower. I was most amazed by the constructions of elephants, dragons, and a phoenix made of china. There was lots of dim sum dishes to be sampled and a lion dance at the end. So not quite what I envisioned Lantern Festival to be but a satisfying remembrance of things past.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Wrecks of the St. Lawrence

It was a very pleasant surprise for me to discover that there was a place to dive in Canada that did not involve an encounter with thermoclines. The gorgeous and warm waters of the St. Lawrence are literally littered with wrecks. This great shipping lane is home to several well preserved ships of which many are nearly one hundred years old. Thanks to the fresh water, the decomposition process has been retarded. Mr. Hippo and I set off on a weekend of wreck diving in Brockville and Rockport.

After long excuriating wait at the american customs house at Boat Castle, we finally arrived at this splendid wreck. Why in the world we needed to pass through customs considering we never touched american soil (unless you consider the riverbed) remains a bit of a mystery. Not sure if the american divers have to pass through a similar "rigorous" routine to dive in Rockport and Brockville. All this so that we could dive the Keystorm. This wasn't a bad dive but really not sure if it was worth the hassle.

The second dive of the day was on the sunken wooden barge called the Kingshorn. Very pleasant dive with great visibility. The ship is littered with loads of china, a plastic Jesus and lawn ornaments. It is funny how ordinary objects like plates and cups take on new meaning at 90 feet below sea level. Our dives the follow day were both in Canadian waters. The first on the Henry C. Daryaw. A steel frieghter built in 1919 and the second was on the Lillie Parsons off Sparrow Island where Mr. Hippo and I first met a year ago. A lovely anniversary dive trip!

Monday, July 31, 2006

Doggie carriers

I realize they have dog carriers shaped like handbags from the top designers but I never thought I would see man's best friend in steel cage on a bike. The pooch didn't seem very nervous about the ride. No pacing or yelping that I could hear. Not sure if he is too comfortable as he can't turn about in the cage. Hope the rider doesn't have too far to go.

Cooking by my honey

Chef Hippo made a beef and veggie stirfry for dinner. Okay, he did serve the stirfry with a potato salad and bread. Quite shocking as firstly he doesn't really cook but "heats things up" and secondly, most of his meals consist for bread and cheese washed down with Guiness. Regardless, it is the thought that counts. Bon Appetite.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Recycling Human Tissue

I realize that the rejuvenating qualities of fetal cells have been used to treat patients with Parkinsons but using placental cream to reverse the ageing process is a whole other kettle of fish. Naturally I am kicking myself as having the cornerstone to an endless supply of the stuff, I had never thought to sell this "by-product" of birth. Human placentas are generally incinerated in North America. I have heard a whole cornocopia of other uses from burial in the backyard (fertilizer) to injestion of the tissue (sustenance).

Other superstitions is keeping the placenta in a jar for luck. The membranes and placenta were of "read" at birth by wise women to forecast the fortunes of the child. If the baby was born with its membranes wrapped around its...."born in the caul", this is considered quite lucky as the child was not likely to drown. Others viewed such "veiled births" are individuals who are born with second sight. I guess the placenta cream is just another in long list of superstitions about the mystical properties of fetal tissue.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Window to my soul

So today I finally went to get my eyes checked after three long years. The recommended interval being about 2 years at maximum. My prescription hadn't changed much which wasn't much of a surprise as I didnt' notice any obvious changes either in my day to day function.

The really shocker though is the process I had to go through to get my eye pressure assessed and to get my retina examined. There were two solutions. One was to dilate my pupils. Suddenly, my vision was somewhat fuzzy and the bright lights of the office really stung my eyes. My optometrist was quite professional and did inform me of the effects of the drops before hand.

After a detailed retinal examination with the opthalmoscope, she told me that I had a cupped optic nerve which was likely normal. In the near future, she would like to do visual field testing (best done when I could actually see more precisely) and to use a optic scanner which essentially take a detailed picture of each of my retina. A second solution of topical anesthetic and fluoroscene solution was next added. weird to be able to touch our eye ball with your whole thumb and not feel anything. My eye pressure is low which means no glaucoma.

I then put on the darkest pair of sunglasses I had and drove home on what is probably one of the hottest and sunniest days of the summer to lock myself in my dark basement until the solutions wear off....probably in the next hour. Can't really do much else as my visual accomodation does not allow my to read at present and I really don't think I can cut veggies when I can barely focus on this computer monitor. It is amazing how much our lives depend on our vision (and good vision at that). Society has certainly taken this seriously as there is a whole field of medicine dedicated to the eye: ophthalmology. But why eye exams no longer part of the public health care plan in Ontario! Outrageous!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Only in Vancouver

Well I wouldn't believe if I didn't see it. A sharps container (for used needles) in a public bathroom in Vancouver. No this is not for diabetics necessary. This caused great controversy along with the needle exchange, but together, this is a new area of public health...harm reduction. After all, do you really think the fear of contracting HIV or Hepatits C prevents addicts from shooting up?

Musings on the West Coast

Well, it back to the Eastern Canada after a week out on the west coast of (yes, it is beautiful) British Columbia. The trip was blessed with great weather which naturally colours my impression of the land. Vancouver and Victoria are very laid back cities and environmentally conscious. The public buses in Vancouver have bike racks on the front to facilitate use of public transit by cyclists. To reduce the number of cars, there is a car co-op to join. You can rent car for a few hours (to perhaps pick up a friend or relative at the airport) or for a day's getaway to the mountains.

I did have a run-with nature. The birds, the birds...more specifically the crows. Near my friend's home in Vancouver, there are a pair of crows. As it is nesting season, they are quite agressive about protecting their territory. They swoop down on unsuspecting passerby's such as myself. The doppler effect of the screech is quite alarming. But I did manage to duck as the last minute. It caused great distress and confusion on my part such that I inadvertently tried to enter the house adjacent to the house where my friend resides. One wonders what the deaf do in such neighbourhoods. As I recall this story to my friend later that evening, she did share a similar "attack" story a few days earlier. Two days after my encouter with the birds, the above sign was posted on the tree in front of her home.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Diving in Nanaimo

The wreck of the Saskatchewan covered in soft corals and other gorgeous sea life.

Duking it out for land rights to this piece of slit.

This was truly a momentous day. Diving in Nanaimo is probably the coldest dive I have made including that one made in Manitoulin last summer. The trek from Victoria to Nanaimo took about 90 minutes. The hardest part was finding the dive store which isn't even marked by a sign just dive flag on the side of the building. By Ocean Explorers Diving Limited was quite capable as a dive store despite its lack of advertising.

There was a 17 knot wind in the morning and hence a trip out to the wrecks of the HMCS Cape Breton or Saskatchewan was not possible for safety reason. About three years ago, a dive boat sank as it tried to rescue some divers. The waves overtuned the boat which then washed onto Snake Island. It smashed to a thousand shards.

Hence our first dive as on the Rivtow Lion, 157 foot North Sea Rescue Tug sunk in February 6, 2005. There was little wildlife on the boat/artificial reef unsurprisingly but give it a few years and d we'll see what grows on it. I did see these two Dungeness crabs duking it out on the slit floor and then a huge jellyfish called a Lions Mane. It was the size of a human head. And the water temperature was 10-12 degrees celsius. Yes, I did survive the whole 30 minutes at 83ft depth in this temperature to even my surprise. It reminded a litte of that dive of the wreck of the North Wind I did last summer.

We were fortunate as the waves died down in the afternoon and we managed to dive the HMCS Saskatchewan. This is considered the best and healthest artificial reef in the world by the National Geographic society and Jacque Cousteau(I really wonder where in the dive world) this guy has not been. It is quite a wonder to behold and did not disappoint. The entireship (over 300 feet long) is covered in soft corals and anemone. Although it was sunk in June 14, 1997, its 9 years under the sea have generated such a density of sea critters that you can hardly recognize the architectural features of the ship itself. Visiblity at both sites was a about 20 feet in the frigid waters. The only other ship/artifical reef in world that compares apparentlyto it is the Yongala in Australia.

The icing on the cake was the harbour seals that snorkled with us at the end of the day. They are quite friendly. Actually I think a bit too friendly as they were nibbling on my fins and coming right up to my face. The divemaster suggest not taking a camera as they are drawn to the flashand reflections of themselves in the camera housing. One of thedivers was almost kissed by the seal. So no close up pictures of this but what an experience diving in Nanaimo was.