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Treating Yourself

Yesterday saw me walking through a huge outlet mall. We were visiting to return something, so this was less a shopping trip and more a dedicated mission. That feels good–clear targets and clear tasks. Poor parking choices meant a longer than desired march through the mall and while I wasn’t there to shop, I did find myself in the mood to snack.

Like every other mall on the planet, there was food court–which was really just like taking a bunch of fast food places, jamming them together, and making them even more crowded than they would be on the street. I guess shopping gives people an appetite because the place was packed. Luckily that meant I could quickly bypass that and head towards the shop–or so you would think. Instead, I was faced by numerous kiosks–all offering sweet treats of one type or another.

I wish I could say I fought the good fight and resisted, but no. The only good thing I can say is that I ditched the flash and had a simple cup of ice cream. They only had a few flavours, but what they had was enough. I chose a delicious coffee flake and chocolate. Why isn’t there more coffee flavoured ice cream out there?

What is your favourite ice cream flavour?

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Character Study

I would like to take a moment to write a character study. I hope you find it amusing and enlightening. I welcome all of your comments.

On the bus the other day, sitting in the seats in front of us, there was someone I understood so well. Not surprisingly, my girlfriend was the first to remark out loud on the similarity.

I am not sure at what part of the journey I managed to notice this. The bus was running through the dark with very few interior lights on. I was alternately buried in my book (The Flamethrowers) and aimlessly wondering about why morning drives are so concerned with racing towards sunrise rather than racing away from darkness. With my time so completely used up, you can understand my lack of clarity on the issue.

Somewhat more than halfway along the route, the bus makes a detour off the main street to link up with a transport hub. Hopefully, one day, this hub will be the end of the bus route and mark the start of a subway route. I was under the impression the tunnel had already been dug, but I might be mistaken. Nevertheless, this hub features links to a variety of buses (both city buses and buses which go further afield) as well as some commuter trains. When I need to go to the airport, this is the place I make my change.

As we were making this detour, I could sense some agitation coming from this person. I hear the first of many audible “come on” expressions as we turned the corner. I don’t know if we had a new driver, but even I could feel that the bus was being driven somewhat tentatively. Some would call that safely, whereas others might call it maddeningly slow or unnecessarily cautious. If you know me well enough, you can guess my opinion.

As we pulled into the hub, needing to make a complete circle around it to fulfill our function, the number and intensity of the “come on” expressions grew both more frequent and more intense. As I mentioned, I was certainly sympathetic. Nonetheless, I did find it a bit comical. Every time the bus slowed because another bus wanted to cut it off, or when it stopped to allow a pedestrian to cross in a non-designated area this man grew more irate. It didn’t take Sherlock Holmes to deduce that he was running late and had already missed or was in the process of missing his connection.

When he finally managed to sprint off the bus, nearly bowling over several people, my girlfriend remarked that the two of us had a lot in common. “Did you hear him growling” she asked me. I had to admit that I hadn’t, but I wasn’t actually surprised. I have been in that situation many times myself. Once I missed my connection to the airport by less than a minute for much the same reason.

Have you ever come across someone whose behaviour and possible outrage you understood so well?

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Thinking of colour

When I think of the green, my mind goes to things like traffic lights or the colour of my Oma’s kitchen. When I think of Midori, the colour I come up with is decidedly darker. Why is that? When I think of vert, I am confronted with the image of the pale green tea they sell here from national distributors rather than the green tea of Japan. I suppose this has to do with advertising more than anything.

When I think of purple, I immediately think of the colours of my university. I suppose some of you start thinking about rainbows or eggplants. I think of colours on so many sweatshirts. As for mauve….I don’t ever think of that one.

Why this ramble through colour? Obviously, the leaves are changing dramatically every day. I am confronted with colours all the time. They are spectacular. They are, what my girlfriend asserts every time we see the trees, a bribe to get us through the white landscape of winter.

How do you see colour? What comes to mind when I write purple. If you’re on the blog page and not the reader, a photo below on my Instagram link should surprise you.

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I grapple with this question a lot. Where is the best place to submit a short story for publication?

I have looked at the Writer’s Market. I have considered many places, but I just don’t have an answer. I know there are many things to consider, but could anyone make it simpler for me? How does one jumpstart their career?

Any advice would be welcome.

Thank you.

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I love to travel and have done a decent job of seeing some of it. I have set foot on five continents and experienced countless wonderful things. I have, however, done a pretty weak job of seeing my own country. For most travelers, I suspect that is the case. This week, I decided to rectify that a little and took my girlfriend to see the nation’s capital.

We spent several days in Ottawa. We drove from Aurora and because of the location, it meant that either taking the highway or secondary roads was bound to take the same amount of time. That was good because I wanted to see some beauty, and the view from the highway really lacks that.

The drive was nice and the GPS seemed to handle it well. We weren’t sent off in strange directions and we weren’t told to cross non-existent bridges (I have heard of people almost drowning because of this phenomenon). We saw so many beautiful lakes and cute small towns that I will buy a house on whenever we win the lottery.

Ottawa is a beautiful city. I will eventually post some of my pictures to Instagram–currently, every time I post more than one picture, the filter switches to something awful and makes the photos look horrible–you can see what I mean on the bottom left of this blog–I will eventually post them and then you will be able to see what a beautiful city it is.

We visited the War Museum, the History Museum, the Mint, as well as walking around the Parliament buildings. Unfortunately, the Parliament was closed to visitors because they are in session and because there is a massive renovation being done at the moment. I tried to look up information before we went, but the tourist information site was worse than useless. Once we took the time off we were committed and regardless of those closures, I am glad we went. We also planned on taking a river cruise, but we couldn’t find an open ticket office and the QR codes on the posters did not lead to where they said they would.

The museums were great and I definitely feel as though I could see them again. We also had some good meals. The temperature was fine, but the skies were mostly grey. In fact, we didn’t get any real sun until the day we left.

One of the more interesting highlights of the trip were two bookstores. Both were independent bookshops–a rarity these days. While the big chain shops seem to carry a lot of books, they don’t really. There is no room for alternate editions and unique displays. The only chain in Canada is celebrating their anniversary right now with a new printing of some of their favourite books. The books are good, but the overall look of the series leaves something to be desired. I am determined to visit more independent bookshops–I have already googled their locations.

The first was a French only bookshop that drew me in because of the fantastic display of jigsaw puzzles and Tintin figures. I almost bought a 5000 piece puzzle, but sanity returned and I put it back. I didn’t pull the trigger on the figures either because I really don’t need any more knickknacks. Since all the books are in French, and my French is poor, at best I considered some comic books. My girlfriend considered getting some textbooks to study French, but in the end we left happy for the experience. Check it out here.

The other bookstore was really close to our hotel. It was small, but they packed the space well with some interesting editions. I bought a few books and considered buying even more. Once again, the space was small, but they organized it well. They had editions of books I had never seen and book series that put the chain store to shame. I will definitely go back. If you are interested, check it out here.

While this trip was not on the scale of other journeys, it was wonderful and I am already thinking about where I can go next.

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On my Mind

I have nothing to write about, so I thought I would let you in on some of my thoughts. Read at your own risk.

The sun is rising later and I find myself walking to the bus stop in the dark. I can’t say as I like that much.

I have come to suspect that C club rides are no slower than B club rides, but that the B club knows the route and doesn’t have to stop and reassess all the time. This is partly a technological issue and partly a memory thing. I am as guilty as the next person. I have a vague idea of the route, but not the detailed intricacies needed because no roads around here are straight and some tend to stop of a few blocks and then pick up again–yes, this is true. It is also true that streets that run perfectly straight change their names. There might be reasons for this, but none of them are noted as I travel along.

I finally broke down and bought an electronic map system for the car. (I want to call it a GPS, but doesn’t the S stand for satellite?) I really should have bought one for the bike first, but they are so much more economical for the car. Having used one in other people’s vehicles, I know they are prone to send people the wrong way and into lakes (so I’ve heard) but my experience is mostly positive. I will let you know if I have any “incidents”.

I didn’t cut my grass very often this summer, or at least I don’t remember doing so. This means one of two things. It might mean that wasn’t much rain and it didn’t grow much or it might mean that I let it get too long and look like crap. I am sure if I polled the neighbours I would get a quick answers as to which of those it was.

Hearing a song you hadn’t heard in a long time–and I mean a song you actually liked–brings both joy and confusion. I am in the process of “sharing” my musical tastes with my girlfriend. For the most part she has been enjoying what I have shared. I can always tell if what I have recommended is good because it makes its way onto our Sunday breakfast playlist.

With only 3 games into the regular season of college football, I already feel like the season is a lost cause. This is a horrible way to look at things, but that is the state of college football. A couple of losses and the rest of the season is merely an “experiment” or practice for the next season.

Playing scrabble like games on my phone is fine until I am either dealt that’s either all vowels or all consonants. I haven’t decided which is worse, but I suspect the low point value of the vowels tips the scales in that direction. Having an answer to this questions doesn’t make it any less frustrating.

I finally got to see the Friends TV reunion. As far as TV reunions were done, this was a good one. I remember watching various programs of the genre (Batman, Gilligan’s Island) and none of them were on par with this one. Well done.

Now, I should stop thinking out loud and check over the lesson plans for tomorrow’s classes. I should also check to make sure my alarm is set for the early morning rude end to my dreamlike state.

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The Opposite of “Adulting”.

Adulting is a word I have heard young people use on Social Media. The act of paying a bill on time was deemed “adulting” by one person. It isn’t that I want to cast aspersions on these people, because I don’t. I am happy that they understand being responsible constitutes a connection to adulthood. There are many adults who so clearly misunderstand responsibility that I wouldn’t want to ridicule these young people.

Instead, it is just that I find it rather odd that instead of being happy about being an adult, many of us would rather recapture something of our childhood. Many of us would like to go back to that time when we ran wildly, caught snowflakes with our tongue, ran through the sprinkler, two fisted popsicles, burnt marshmallows over an open fire, chased bugs….when we were kids with kid sensibilities.

An interesting case in point that was the impetus for this post was a scene I caught at the bus stop. Half asleep, clutching my book in one had and my backpack in the other, I absently looked out the window across the street to the opposite bus platform–parts of my bus route have bus specific lanes with elaborate waiting platforms. A man, seemingly around my age, was blowing bubbles using a large stick. With every large bubble he launched his grin grew bigger, his joyous hops grew taller, and his eyes grew bigger to take in what he had wrought.

There are those of us who claim to be in touch with our inner child, but there are those who display it on a daily basis. Who amongst us would be so brave?

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Chocolate Croissants

I am not a “stop for a coffee” kind of person. I love my morning coffee, but I prefer to make it at home. While most of my family might argue that I enjoy the frugality of it, I actually enjoy the taste of my own coffee more. I do think though, that a lot of people don’t really consider how much their coffee habit or morning fast food breakfast eats into their savings–but that is a blog for another day.

On Friday morning, having had a rather long work day on Thursday, and looking ahead to a long work day on Friday, my girlfriend and I stopped to grab a cup of coffee at a Tim Horton’s. This is the habit of many Canadians and these places are easy to find–some would argue far too easy to find. Since this was a “special” or “one-off” we decided to treat ourselves to a baked good or two. My girlfriend loves the Canadian Maple, whereas I am usually a Honey Cruller person. On this day, however, I discovered the Chocolate Croissant.

A short aside might be needed here. I teach students from all over the world and despite their affection for the city, many of them spend time telling me (scolding me might be a better word) about how we have things “all wrong” here. They tell me that (fill in the blank) is so much better in their country and that (fill in the blank) is a pale imitation of (fill in the blank) in their country. I try and take it in stride. They may or may not have a point, but apart from teaching more indirect modes of criticism, or diplomatic language, there isn’t much I can do. A case in point is “pain chocolate”. My French students spend a lot of time extolling the virtues of it, and ridiculing any other attempt to replicate it.

Back to my story. We arrived at work with the two cups of coffee and the two chocolate croissants and decided to spend a bit of relaxed time devouring them. It turns out that we were very lucky indeed. The croissants had just come out of the oven and were still pleasantly warm even after the walk to work. The chocolate was melty good and was a perfect accompaniment to coffee. For a brief few minutes, I didn’t have to think about starting work and dealing with students, or grammar, or pronunciation, or disparaging remarks…..A Perfect Moment.

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In Service or not In Service?

I have to admit, I haven’t been enjoying my commute lately. It’s a combination of frustration with slow drivers, slow boarders, slow de-boarders, inconsiderate passengers, loud passengers, long red lights, short green lights, untalented buskers, long coffee lines, broken escalators, uninspiring books, and just a generally faint feeling that there should be more to this than there seems to be.

If you’re wondering if I would like some cheese for my whine, I wouldn’t blame you. In fact, to make up for it, I will relate Today’s Perfect Moment. Hopefully, I can compose a tale to make you forget everything from above. It was able to do it for me, if only for a short moment.

I arrived at the subway platform to find it rather crowded. Perhaps this was because some of construction made the space a bit smaller. Perhaps this was because students back at school were bound to have different finishing times. In fact, the other school in my building seemed to have a large number of students all heading for the subway at the same time. Whatever the reason, I groaned inwardly and prepared to read my book (Julie and Julia–you might have seen the movie. The book is funnier) standing up while clutching my backpack or jamming myself back against the doors that didn’t open during my part of the trip.

The subway arrived and it was completely empty. Having seen that a few times, and knowing that a holding yard existed between this station and the one south, it didn’t surprise me. In fact, I was quite giddy. The digital sign on the subway saying it was “out of service” on the other hand was less comforting. As the doors opened, a recorded voice backed up the sign with a loud, “this train is out of service” reminder. I said to myself that if it truly was out of service, the doors wouldn’t even open up. So, I got on and took a seat.

Behind me, I heard someone say “this train is in service”, though I suspect it wasn’t clear because more than half the people waiting with me on the platform exercised their right to self-exclusion and stayed right where they were. In fact, two Korean students in front of me were discussing whether they should get off the train. I motioned them to sit.

And the subway departed for its destination. Those of us in the car wondered loudly why so few people had gotten on the car and why so many had elected to remain on the platform. I didn’t see any good in arguing politics–or the state of public transportation–and let the whole thing die down.

It wasn’t schadenfreude. I was just glad to not be packed into the subway like sardines for once. I was glad to have a seat and a chance to knock off a few more pages from my book.

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Nostalgia for Japan and Other Stuff

In the week that was, there was a smattering of things that are worth remarking on. As a preview sentence, that really isn’t a lot to go on. I suspect that is because until I write it, I am not sure how I will feel about it.

At the LCBO

I happened to accompany one of my students to the liquor store as he was shopping for souvenirs. He had already bought the obligatory maple syrup and typical knickknacks, and he mentioned stopping at the LCBO (where they sell alcohol and small packs of beer in my province). It was on the way to the subway and I accompanied him. He is a large Italian man who looks like a biker (bald with a long beard) but in reality is a friendly person with a very unusual sense of humour. I thought it might be fun to see people’s reaction.

He was looking for ice wine. I had never been to that particular location, but I expected them all to be more or less the same. We were both confused as to the location and when asked the clerk pointed to a bottom shelf. For something that is sold as a premium product and often has a prime location in most of the stores I have been in, I was surprised. Actually, maybe confused is a better word. I guess they don’t sell many bottles in that location.

On the Bus

On my way home one day this week, a rather obnoxious woman got on the bus and started shouting at a young girl who happened to be sitting in the priority seating. She started chastising her and demanding that she vacate the area. There were three other empty seats, but this woman demanded that she not sit in any of them. Even after the startled young lady got up the woman continued haranguing her about how things were done in “this country” and how things might be different in her country. This elderly lady was not from Canada, but she seemed to declare herself an authority. Despite her belief, I suspect that the young woman was Canadian. She moved after all.

She concluded her rant by appealing to the rest of us sitting in the area. I certainly didn’t nod my head in agreement and gave her a rather bad look–but I had my public transportation mask on and it probably wasn’t as bad as it might have been. I was thinking of giving her a piece of my mind but she turned away looking for other allies–I am happy to say that she found none.

Work Meetings

My job relies on people from foreign countries coming to Canada. Sadly, visas are proving difficult for many people. I will still be working throughout the winter, but I suspect that this is not true for all my colleagues. Despite the negativity, it was probably one of the best meetings we’ve had since unionization. I guess four years is enough time for feelings to recover.


I found two great cycling trips. Unfortunately, both of them look like difficult flights. Neither of them (Sri Lanka or Albania) have easy connections to Toronto. I wish I had more skill in this area.

Also, my girlfriend and I are determined to spend a few days in Ottawa in September. This is much easier to organize, but I am not good at booking accommodations. I don’t want something too cheap, but I also don’t want to break the bank. Any thoughts would be nice.

Ramen and the Japan theme to the Weekend

Having lived in Japan, I take my ramen seriously. I told my girlfriend that she would have to be at least competent with chopsticks before we went out for ramen. I know that this isn’t nice of me, but having goals is important. She practiced and was proficient enough somewhere in the middle of the pandemic. Thanks to working schedules and locations, we were finally able to go out for a bite on Thursday. While it wasn’t Japan, and the prices didn’t even come close, it was tasty enough. In fact, the gyoza appetizer was fantastic. The last time I had been there, the staff all spoke Japanese and I had my chance to practice. Sadly this time, I didn’t hear the staff speaking any Japanese and when I tried, barely any of them noticed. Oh well.

We chose a three course meal that included a choice of two gyoza dishes, two bowls of ramen, and two desserts. Basically we got to try six different items and they were all good. I went for the spicy ramen and wasn’t disappointed. It wasn’t super spicy, but pretty spicy for anything coming from Japan.

I decided to carry the Japan theme into the weekend. I visited JTown shopping centre and picked up a few treats for myself. I got some HiSoft, some Marble candies, some sembe and some curry blocks. I then went home and had an Asahi SuperDry while I watched Tom Selleck in Mr. Baseball. I especially liked Takakura Ken (who you might remember from Black Rain) as the manager of the team. It isn’t the best movie on Japan I have seen, but it is a pretty good one.


I had a good ride with a couple of gentlemen in the C group this weekend. In fact, I was planning on tackling the B group ride, but not knowing the route, I decided to join the C group. I was a bit fast for them and as a result, we accidently dropped one guy on a couple of the hills. We waited, but that doesn’t always make for great riding. I think next week, I am definitely going back to the B group. I really have to either get a cycling computer or memorize the route.

The Perfect Moment

Looking back at it, I would have to say date night eating ramen was the best. It was nice to introduce my girlfriend to something that is important to me and that featured so large in my maturity–like that line from Neil Young’s Helpless–“all of my changes were there”. I wish I had enough money to take her there and show her around.

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