January 3rd, 2012
|07:21 am - Writer's Block: Words to Live by|
Better that I devote myself to study the other great mystery of the universe: women!
November 22nd, 2011
|01:48 am - Writer's Block: Occupy Wall-et|
Zip, Zilch, Nadda, None, Nope, not a dime. I have never gotten myself into debt, and hope never to have to.
October 28th, 2011
|01:23 am - Writer's Block: R.I.P|
I want my organs harvested for any possibly donor use, and the rest donated to Science/Body Farm.
I don't want any sort of memorial or grave, urn of ashes or some such, I will be done with this body, find someone who can use it, then get rid of it.
July 26th, 2011
|10:45 am - Day 1: Karachi Addition|
I can't believe I forgot to add it in there.
Before leaving for the TMS, I, Pete, Went to a Mosque.
I had arrived on a Friday, which is the holy day of the Muslim Calender, and hence, was the big prayer day.
So I was invited by my host to go with him, to the local Mosque and attend one of their ceremonies.
To wit I said.... why not?
Funky thing mosques, this one we attended was just the small one down the street, A prayer hall with a little room, and a voice droning in the background, an open courtyard covered in mats where most of the people, especially late comers like us, end up.
We had arrived just as the call to prayer had ended, I droning like song that had been playing over the loud speakers attached to the tower on top of the mosque.
The actual prayer began in earnest, while I, not speaking a word of the local language had no idea what was going on, kind of tried to blend in.
The prayer was much shorter than I expected, lasting maybe 5 minutes in total, a few bows, a couple touching of our heads to the carpet, I almost felt like I was doing Yoga more than connecting with Allah, but hey, everyone else was doing it...
July 21st, 2011
|04:22 am - Day 1 Karachi;|
I arrived at 5am Karachi time (I don’t even know what time zone that is… but it’s roughly 18 hours off of my native GMT) (I would look it up, but that would disrupt my stream of conscious writing, which is what I am better at…Anyways…) Being one of the first things you will ever notice after stepping out of the climate controlled cab of an airplane, the weather really didn’t strike me as too jarring. Maybe it was because I had already felt the blast of heat during one of my stopovers in Qatar earlier in my journey. The air was mild, the sun muted as it was starting to crest the edge of the long skyline ahead of me. I didn’t have much time to admire my new surroundings as I trudged forward in the mass of disembarking passengers as we entered the land of Pure.
Security was easier than I had anticipated; the line-up was the hardest part, as I waited with anticipation that I had all my paperwork in order. The lady sitting in her small booth simply read over my passport and enclosed VISA, checked my security statement, and simply let me pass with nary a word.
I had made it, months of planning, paperwork, last minute details, and 36 hours of traveling, I was in Karachi, Pakistan, across the world from my small town of Calgary, Canada.
At which point I noticed that the Canadian Currency that I had been carrying with me in my wallet had disappeared… My wallet was still there, my passport and other paperwork likewise ensconced, my $600 in cash, vanished… Henceforth one of my first thoughts upon arriving in this fair land was. “Oh Shit”
Just my luck, knowing me and my clumsiness, it probably fell out en masse as I was pulling my passport or travel itinerary out and I simply did not notice, so I arrived in Pakistan with no money, no Credit Card, and no set plans on where I was staying. Sounds like the beginning of a great adventure ;)
Thankfully the problem with where I was staying was set to right upon stepping outside the airport and being greeted by the throngs of people waiting anxiously for friends, family, business partners, and taxi fares to arrive on each sardine can Airplane. Sheraz Al Khan, international traveler, President of the Pakistan Youth Organization (PYO), student of the University of Calgary, and my host, was there with a smile and a wave to greet me to his homeland. It had been a difficult getting a hold of him in the weeks prior to my trip, he had spent the preceding fortnight in Russia attending a conference called Seilger. So that I had been unsure if he had received my itinerary, or with a last minute correspondence he had gotten to me, whether the political climate in Karachi would be safe for me to be traveling around and if he would be able to meet me at the airport to pick me up. As things are want to do however, they worked themselves out, after a short barter with a cab driver we were on our way to our base of operations in Karachi, a.k.a. Sheraz’s grandmother’s house.
I spent the drive looking out the window as this strange new city was waking up around me. Well waking up as ever Karachi can, as I have learned in my stay, the city never fully goes to sleep, the hot climate keeps people hidden indoors during the early afternoon and morning hours, while the cool breeze from the Arabian sea upon which Karachi borders, allows the temperate evenings and nights to bring the people, and commerce, of Karachi to the forefront. Cars, motorcycles, rickshaws, pedestrians, and even the occasional donkey pulled cart, all vied for attention on the tightly packed streets. Vendors were starting to open their stall shutters, the smell of food cooking in outdoor carts was beginning to push through the smell of gasoline that covered the streets we were passing.
It was soon we arrived at my home for the next week, a two story building, surrounded by a stark white gate it did not stand out amongst its neighbours on the narrow street it shared with them. A long balcony stretched out across its front, framing the house’s white walls which were dwarfed by the stylish brown window frames that covered ever spare space on the street facing wall.
We trekked the staircase to the second floor and met the family. Sheraz’s grandmother, aunt, and two young nephews all shared this four bedroom domicile, which was spacious and roomy. The bedrooms all have attached full bathrooms, the long drawing room stretched across the entire side of the house leaving plenty of room for furniture, and a place for the kids to play.
We spent the morning in rest, but soon began our adventure in earnest. Part of Sheraz’s duties in the PYO was his assistance in running a school for underprivileged children in the slums of Karachi; so this was our first stop. The Tauseef Memorial School (TMS) is a small two room school wedged in between food stalls in the dingy off streets of the big city. Inside was over 40 students of ages that looked like they ranged from 5-13 all there to be taught by volunteer teachers, with donated books and equipment in the hopes of bringing another life to this kids who would otherwise be relegated to working manual labour tasks to make even a small stipend to help provide to their families. Today was Friday, so it was the extra activity day, the PYO had raised the money to hire a bus and take them all to a local amusement park; “Sinbad’s”. So with me nary being in the country for four hours, we were off to the park.
The small park reminded me of my own local amusement spot, Calaway Park in the outskirts of Calgary. Except this was in the heart of the city, I remember seeing the large signage of Sinbad’s smiling head earlier that morning as we drove past it near the airport. It was populated by a group of small rides, including a Log Ride, Bumper Cars, and a small roller coaster. It is always a treat to see kids amuse themselves at an amusement park, and this was no exception, the large group swarmed the rides they were in line for, and took over entire rest areas as they played in the hot sun.
I was included as an amusement, though I had been prepared and dressed in the local custom of the Shalwar Qamiz, it did not hide the fact of the 6’4’ white man in their midst. I was stared at, quite politely for the most part, but I still felt a bit of the spectacle. A few of the older children had learned some semblance of English, and managed to communicate with me in part, but for the most part it was a mixture of sign language and me looking haggardly at one of the teachers for translation whenever I was approached by one of these Urdu speaking students.
The time passed too quickly and the night began to fall, as the rides became lit with bright lights and colourful signs, we turned to leave. Pilling back on to our bus we headed off into the depths of Karachi once again. This time our destination was a local franchise restaurant; “Student Biryani.” This large restaurant was decked out with a play area and ball pen on the second floor, and we crowded all the children in to their party room and feasted upon plates and plates of Biryani and a case or two of Sprite.
However my evening with the students of the TMS would be cut short as we had other details to attend to. With little fanfare we left our young wards behind and moved on to our next destination, on the edge of the city the Carlton hotel stands tall against the backdrop of often low structures, not many places seem to be over two-three stories tall throughout the large sprawling city of 18 million people. So the multi-storied building stood out quite well in contrast. As did my first encounter with Karachi security, having to pass by scanners and metal detectors to enter the building was a slightly new experience for me, but one you get accustomed to quite quickly.
Here is where we met another member of our entourage, Ozair, our Camera man for our upcoming documentary shoot. He and Sheraz spent time discussing their trip back in forth in Urdu as the time of my trip and hot weather started to get to me, I dozed off in the foyer of the hotel as they talked, to be awakened abruptly as they left.
The night was wearing on, but the two young Pakistanis were just getting started, our next stop was Clifton beach which was quiet under the night sky. I watched a camel trundled across the open beach backlit by a small moon deep in the sky above. It was a short stop with the taxi waiting, and off we were again to Damascus, one of the local hot spots, a Sheesha café, were food and drink were available late into the night. Again we fell into repose as talk about our upcoming journey, and past adventures continued. I again fell asleep as I was want to do, and thankfully quickly was given a chance to return home, and some much needed rest on my part.
Such was my introduction to Karachi, to Pakistan, and its people; a busy first day to be sure, but only a snippet of the things to come.
June 25th, 2011
So my big news of the ... year...
I am going to Pakistan, to be filmed in a documentary!
Sadly I have hit a rough spot, that being paying my airfare.
So I am asking oh kind people that you are... please help!
I have the money to cover it... but it would pretty much empty my bank account, and I would like some money to live on for the next month or so :P
June 20th, 2011
June 16th, 2011
|10:28 pm - Good food, but at what price?|
Since I've started my culinary career a lot of my friends have made comments on how it's no longer fun to go to dinner with me, as I tend to critique a lot of the food and dishes put before me. However when I asked my friend if he wanted to join me in doing a review for a local restaurant, he was quite excited about the chance to practice his own critical eye.
We started with Ric's Grill located at 1436 Eighth Street SW just north of Calgary's hot spot 17th avenue. The location was easy to get for myself via mass transit, while my guest had to drive around to find parking on the packed side streets.
Upon entering the restaurant I was met by a young hostess who quickly got me seated in the main area, arriving promptly at 5:30 I was the first person to fill the 40 person capacity dining room. The room was dark for the late afternoon, the dark walls and heavy curtains covering the wall of windows to the street left the room with an almost cave like atmosphere, the only light coming from low wattage bulbs over every table and the occasional glint of sun brightly reflected off passing cars as they peeked between the curtains. Techno music I was later told was “House” was playing over the sound system.
While waiting for my guest to find parking I took the time to make sure I checked in on FourSquare and look at the local reviews. FourSquare had a 50-50 rating of Ric's; one remark complimented the food, while the other denounced the service.
Our server arrived promptly, she gave me a quick tour of the wine and cocktail menu took my drink order and left quickly and efficiently. By the time she had come returned with my drink my guest I had arrived sitting down with an abrupt “Parking sucks here.”
We quickly went through the appetizer menu, with barely a few moments his voice picked up, “What do all these symbols mean?” in reference to the symbols marked on the menu to denote “Vegetarian”, and “OceanWise” food items. While there was an explanation on a later page of the menu on OceanWise I never saw a legend for the vegetarian symbol anywhere on the menu.
My friend had a problem finding something that he liked due the shear amount of seafood in the starter menu, he ended up picking the only item that did not include seafood; “Sesame Ginger Chilli Chicken” (11.95) while I waited for the server to return to ask what the Soup of the day was. Once she had told me; I decided it sounded like a good idea “Green Bean and Lentil Soup” (7.95) She left with our appetizers orders which gave us a chance to pursue their entree menu.
The entrees seemed reasonable for a level of restaurant Ric’s was trying to show. With prices ranging from 16.95 for their Vegetarian Linguine to 36.95 for their 12oz. New York Striploin.
After she had taken our appetizer order she came back to drop off a small bundle of bread for us to share, 20 minutes after we had both sat down at her table.
My soup arrived in a small 4oz bowl, on a doily-laden plate with the doily off centre and with the soup bowl only placed upon the rim of the paper. My guests chicken tenders arrived neatly placed upon a small bed of mesclun greens. The soup tasted very nice, it was well seasoned with a nice smooth texture and rich flavour. I just felt the portion size and plating was very poor for the price point it was being offered at. My guest remarked that his chicken was “Very nice, tender, not dripping with sauce.”
A short period after we finished, the server came by to take our appetizer plates, as well as our bread basket without asking if we would like a refill.
She followed by asking us for our entree order, we had delayed giving it so that I would have more chance to go over the menu. My guest went with their Top Sirloin (28.95) with a piece of fatherly advice he was once given “You can never have a bad top sirloin.” Our server deftly tried to upsell a prawn skewer on top of his steak, which he declined. I went with an item of their spring feature menu, their Steelhead Halibut (26.95). Our server nicely pointed out that it was freshly caught in season and just arrived just that day.
When asked if we would like wine with our order, I asked her to recommend something for me. For which she was more than capable of doing. Her recommendations were for either their 2009 Larch tree Prospect Winery Riesling (9), the 2009 Desert Hills Okanagan Valley VQA Gewurztraminer, (12) as well their special bottle of Mission Hill Chardonnay that wasn’t even on their menu that had been used as part of a Chef’s taster they had the week prior. When I showed a reluctance to choose one over the other she offered to bring me a taster set with my order so that I could have a better chance to get a feel for the wines, which I felt was a very nice touch.
While waiting for our entrees the dining room started to fill up to about half capacity tables spread out here and there with one other server working the room. The music felt off with the dark ambiance and steak house feel of the room, its constant bass beat in the background tended to break into conversation. It wasn’t enough to deter my guest “I like this ambiance, it makes for good conversation.”
Shortly before our entrees arrived the server dropped off three small wine glasses labelled with marker 1-3, which she explained which was which as she placed them next to my cutlery.
My halibut soon arrived, covered with a very nice seasoning, was cooked through and still moist. I had a small selection of seasonal vegetables cooked perfectly al dente in jammed into one corner of the plate, while the rest was taken up by a huge portion of Basmati Rice Pilaf which was overflowing the plate and onto the rim. While the halibut was nicely flavoured, and the vegetables were nicely cooked, the rice was bland, slightly dry, and way to large taking up almost half of the plate, especially when compared to the small portion of vegetables that came with it. Of the three pairings that accompanied my meal I would highly recommend the Gewurztraminer, it was sweet, and smooth and easily worked with the halibut.
My guests steak arrived on a piping hot plate, which he realized quite quickly with a painful yelp and a rub of the arm. It was plated with the potato special of the day “Roasted Potato in a Fire Tomato Sauce” and a larger portion of the seasonal vegetables than I had received. His comments were that the steak was underdone, only Medium-Rare to his requested Medium. He said “There is not a lot of spice on top of the steak,” finding it bland. He added that the potatoes were Earthy, tasted well but “nothing I would write home about.”
For an after dinner course, my guest opted for the Cheesecake of the Day “Raspberry” (8) while I again went to the spring special menu for their “Red Velvet Cake” (7.95).
The cheesecake was and I quote “Awesome”, while my Red Velvet cake with cheesecake icing, was rich and a nice ending to the meal.
All in all the meal was... good. In regards to flavours and tastes, I have nothing to complain about, they all turned out well, and it was a joy to eat. It was the plating presentation, and portion sizing that honestly seemed sloppy to me, and at this price point I find that unacceptable, I can go a lot of places for good tasting food, I would hope for $30 a plate they would take a bit more care into their presentation. The atmosphere struck me as dark, with music I felt fit more into a pub, then for a more upscale dining establishment. The service was spotty, with long waits between seeing the server, whose name I never was given. I can not highly recommend Ric's Grill as they are, I feel they should work on creating more equal portion sizes, and more eye to detail when it comes to plate presentations .
March 5th, 2011
|01:41 am - Writer's Block: Dear LiveJournal|
June 8th 2002,
So, almost 9 years...
Wow, life changes? everything used to be on here; Zellers, Katimavik, my own self developing as an adult, first girlfriend, College, (the first time), second girlfriend, Failing college, Hitchhiking, jobs, graduating college, parental drama, Lucille, epic drama there, Work, YMCA, Bank, Porn store, Catching the Vandals, catching shoplifters, Second time through school.
This used to be my diary where I would literally share all my thoughts and ideas of the day.
I still follow it often, read other peoples posts, but I never feel people really care enough about what I do anymore, and if I do do something interesting it's usually on Twitter as it happens, which slows down the idea of writing a big blog post about the event later.
But It's still here, and I will keep it here, (Heck I own a permanent account they can't get rid of me :P)
So til next time....
December 27th, 2010
|02:04 am - Writer's Block: Best new game|
Damn that is a tough question!
I can give a top three....
in no particular order
Innovation - http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/63888
Done by the makers of Win Lose banana, and We didn't playtest this at all... Come's an epic game of civilization building, from starting off with nothing but a wheel, or a pot, you build yourselves into the digital age. War, cooperation, destruction, and rebuilding, all in about 30 minutes...
Dominion: Prosperity - http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgameexpansion/66690
The newest add-on to the Dominion franchise, adding many new treasures, cards, and fun ways to play the game, my favorite addition to Dominion, and an all around excellent game.
Mystery Express - http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/65907
A great new take on Clue, who did it? where? with what weapon?.. for what reason! at what time! And why are you going through my luggage?
Mind bending and fun!