Monday, December 27, 2010

Happy New Year

Hi all,

I will be travelling for the next month and a half to exciting destinations, I promise thrilling travel tales soon.  In the meantime, grab someone near you and kiss the heck out of him/her.

I wish you all a wonderful new year.  


A decorated tree

The day after the birth of Jesus
I stare at the same tree
of shinny balls and crepe bows
tiny lights glittering still

Angel atop in a flowing dress
her face calmingly serene
yet she looks down differently
waiting she stay very still

I stroke the prickly needles
perfect with seeming life
hangs a few gold dusted pine cones
smelling sweet in death still

No more gifts boxes to hide its fate
most eyes had turned away
sadly it tries to look the same
but Christmas is over


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A wish

I sometimes look up and make a wish
to an empty sky when I didn't care 
But there are times when I am desperate
I figure the sun is most able in granting
he who can give life all around 
his fiery burning never cease in intensity
but I cannot look him in the eyes
I am but a voiceless dark speck 
drowned out by the busy world in daylight 
It is no wonder he does not give a damn

Next I try for the moon, for she is more gentle
a great lady subtle in mind and steely in spirit
When the sky is dark and she is illuminated
I stand next to a lamp post to make myself clear
I waited till the world is asleep and she is high 
to speak to her slowly and make my wish
as humble as I can but an urgent appeal
I fancy she glowed in acknowledgment
when she heard all that I want, and I 
turned back to my bed wondering

The moon is sure to act like the sun
but she is a great deal more patient
and she sees longer and darker shadows
the truths in our quiet solitudes and dreams
it is no wonder she is ironic in reply
and my wish turns into a half curse
when the great lady is determine to teach
and her lesson is chilling to the heart
I go back to see her full of regrets
a bright crying figure in a field of darkness


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Terms of Endearment

Photo taken from Site

"You dirty bitch"  My Harry says to me with a smirk.  I laugh every time, it is our thing.

"Being your wife means I am always ready to be embarrassed."  I'd say in front of others, and it is true.  He laughs with a funny glint in his eyes, and he throws a kiss in the air for good measure.

"I can't believe I married you sometimes, just look at us."  I said, and he'll say,  "Ha ha, you are screwed.  I am Jewish and you are Chinese, which one of us do you think made a bad deal?"  People around us chuckle, and they call us an odd couple.

When we are by ourselves, he calls me "Lov-ee", and I call him "Doctor Evil".

I don't know how it happened to be, in my twenties, I thought the language of love should sound more

Sometimes I tickle him bad, he blocks me off.  I tried and tried, and then I'd say, exasperated, "Can't you just stay still so I can tickle you already?"  

I am the only one who is allowed to pet his bald head, people around thinks I am being rude, they told me I am making him more insecure about his shinny head. "Rubbish" I said, and I make a point of stroking his head right then.

"I look beautiful don't I?"  He says smiling, mighty proud too.

Recently, a few years into our marriage, things got a little morose.

"Move over to your side."  I push him to his side of the bed at night, he responds, "You stay on your side."

You see, our cats sometimes squeeze us in, they each take one side of the bed, and the two of us are trapped in the middle all through the night.

"Someday I will tell your skeleton to move to your side of the coffin."  He'll say.

"If I die first I will haunt you."  I told him, then I added, "You are not allowed to die first."

"Oh, and if you ever cheat and leave me for a younger woman, you'll loose your balls." I say this quite a bit, it is set in stone and he knows it well.

"Yes, if I ever want to cheat, I will just cut them off myself."  He answers.

"No, don't you dare do it yourself, the pleasure is all mine." I'd say.  But I guess I went overboard with this threat, sometimes use the nuke on lesser crimes than cheating, which prompted him to ask me,

"Is there any scenario where I get to keep Humpty Dumpty?"  I'll admit this is a fair question.

I am not sure why we are like this, but I have a feeling this is a good marriage make.


Friday, December 17, 2010

Learning sex in Hong Kong

Photo taken from site

What would you say is good sex education to a child of eight who has yet to learn the basic knowledge of life:  that all girls have a vagina, babies do not come from a woman's anus, and penises are useful for more than peeing?  Just give the facts straight up would be my answer....the Hong Kong government thought differently.

For months there was talk about the need to teach safe sex to children, this was in the Eighties, when the whole world grappled with fear over the spread of AIDs seemingly overnight.  "The teachers ought to do something." was whispered among parents.  "Ain't our problem, these kids have parents." the teachers said.  In the meantime, we the children let our imagination play out with our Barbies and Kens, but really, nothing in our wildest dreams could come close to the actual genius of coupling.  Eventually, the government took matters into it's own hands.

It was deemed early on that teachers were unable to handle such a task, after all, their Gestapo like approach in keeping discipline would be seriously compromised by sex education.  Parents were also out of the question; the strict conservative Chinese parenting culture must not be meddled with either.  Time passes and frustration mounted as the city watched debates on the news discussing what to do, until one day, the government announced that it was producing a TV series to be aired on a prime time slot.  Immediately after that, a short ad was shown over and over, "The Nature of Sex", the show was to be called.

The parents were relieved.  At last, their children will learn the truth without any hassles to themselves.  They didn't mind loosing their favorite TV dramas to this upcoming new show either, in fact, they were looking forward to it because finally sex is on screen.  Before this, only soapy melodramas were available where the same pregnant wife character appeared again and again in different story lines, and she inevitably banged her bump like an African drum whenever her husband was unkind to her.

All this was followed by months of anticipation, until the day came when the first sex show was to air.  The city was electrified, we could not wait to get out of school; our teachers gave us less homework that day and sent us home with an unprecedented "Make sure you watch TV tonight.  Channel 2, seven o'clock."

Forgive me for remembering it so well, but really, it isn't something you'd forget given the circumstances.  This was the plot of the episode:

A boy of fifteen was living with his brother who was a cop after his parents had passed away.  The boy and his school friends were very curious about sex.  After playing sports in the evening, they took with them a ruler and stayed behind in the change room; they did something to themselves [not shown] which brought the boys a lot of pain.  
One day the boy was walking down the street when a young attractive girl ran quickly towards him, she was being chased by the cops.  She saw that she was cornered and she begged the boy for help.  The cops surrounded them, and the boy gallantly wrapped his arm around the girl and said to the police, "Why are you bothering my girlfriend?"  One of the cops ends up being the boy's brother, so the cops let them go.  The girl kissed him on the cheek, thanked him, gave him her pager number and said "Call me whenever, I'll give you a discount."
The boy couldn't stop thinking about the girl and her 'offer'.  He started saving money, and he purchased five condoms.  He reasoned he could wear three condoms for the first round and still have two backups for seconds.  During this time, he went through a moody period when he tried to decide if he should go through with paying for sex, his brother was worried about him.  
The boy decided to meet the girl, and they got a room somewhere.  She was in the bathroom when he tried nervously to put on a condom, he barely got one on him when the girl came out wearing nothing but a towel.  She smiled sweetly and unwraps the towel in front of him. [no sex or nudity shown]
The next scene both boy and girl were lying in bed.  He was calm now and was reflecting on what he just did when the cops burst into the room to arrest the prostitute.  One of the cop was the boy's brother.  
The final scene was the boy walking out of his school after he was suspended, and his friends rushed out to talk to him.  They asked him what sex was like, and they called him their hero.  He smiled proudly but told his friends not to have sex with prostitutes.  
- The end -

To this day I do not know what to make of it.  Two weeks after the show, my mom caught me and my sister playing a game of hookers and cops.  I'll leave it to you to conjecture the effects of this sex education to a generation of youngsters.


Monday, December 13, 2010


There was once a long corridor in my life not so long ago.  I have walked through it thousands of times, maybe even tens of thousands, back and forth, sometimes due to need, other times deliberately.  I remember I always walked a little slower in that corridor, to savor a moment, which by design, as absurd that it is if you really think about it, has served as a sanctuary for me.  

The corridor was built to permit a walkway between two separate buildings, which in the beginning were two distinct companies, but through natural corporate evolution it is now one massive complex after the dominant company swallowed the other.  Over the years, as the company grew, various extensions blocks were added throughout, they popped out from corners and stacked on top of each other; giving the whole structure a Tetris like appearance.     

When you drive into the car park, at first you'd see enormous columns where huge puffy clouds of hot gas puffs into the air, which makes you wonder exactly what goes on within despite the clean futuristic exterior of the building.  Then at the far end of the other side stands the main lobby, and above the door, the bland company name is prominently displayed in block letters.  The name itself invokes a certain feeling, something along the lines of say Initech or Intrude a la the movie Office Space.  

But amidst this utilitarian nightmare there is the corridor, which takes away a little bit of the coldness I think.  It is the only section fully glassed from the front, which gives the look of an exposed vein; it reassures you a little that real people are indeed inside.  And a couple of years ago, a true genius from human resource hung paintings done by employees all along the back wall of the corridor, which strengthened that feeling from both within and out.

When I close my eyes today and think back to all my years in the company, the physical location I remember most is indeed the corridor where the sun is literally allowed to shine.  Within that tight temperature controlled environment, sunlight was almost a luxury.  I remember during those long hours at work, when seasons didn't matter, when I carried a pager 24 hours a day, when nauseating tasks were no end in view; I was always uplifted by the sight of that little plot of grass just outside, even when as far as nature goes it was in fact very meagre.

My mind was always occupied back then, and as far as I remember, my thoughts were mostly tinged with bitterness.  Most of it was likely my own fault, since I was ambitious as hell and I wanted more out of my career than I was entitled.  Towards the end, I frequented the corridor for no apparent reason.  My Harry and I sometimes exchanged cryptic pages during work hours like "holy meeting" or "Let's leave the Smurfs" of "big dogs", all code words to meet up.  It sounds silly now, but it was just the thing to keep both of us sane.

One day, big yellow cones were placed on both ends of the corridor with an unmistakable message: "Caution, Wet floor" along with the picture of a stick figure falling on his ass.  As I approached, I could see the floor was indeed gleaming wet under the morning light.   A cleaning lady, of whom I know did not speak a word of English was mindfully mopping.  And as I gestured to seek permission to pass, she pointed to something at the window; it was a grey squirrel sitting right up against the glass.  He had the a lovely playful expression on his face, and he was hugging a pine cone in his chest like it was his only possession in the whole wide world.  The lady and I were both delighted, we spent some minutes oohing and aahing together, a common language it would seem.

Moments later, I noticed the lady's wet mop was leaning against the rail, and behind it was the outstretched floor of the corridor.  And suddenly, out of nowhere it seemed, from some physical depths of me, I had an overwhelming desire to pick up the mop.  I thought to myself, here is a job that makes sense, a clean floor is a goal that is attainable.  The lady stared at me and my awkward expression; she looked a little worried, but there was no way for us to communicate.  It took me a few seconds to eventually come to my senses, and when I did, I spoke a few cheerful words in English and hurriedly went away.



Sunday, December 12, 2010

The sad look of trees

The only time I ever saw my father exact revenge on anyone was over the killing of seven majestic trees.

I live in a place where trees are killed for very little.  I wrote about it in my last post.  I see it everywhere, here and there forests are flattened; McMansions are popping up, each new one uglier than the last.

I went out with my camera today, I didn't set out looking for it, but as it turns out today was all trees...the sad look of trees.


Thursday, December 9, 2010


What is dejection?

It is driving behind big SUVs
trailing after their poisonous fumes

It is a new sign by the road
telling lies with happy faces

It is more stores coming near me
to give more shopping pleasure

It is a forest chopped down to make way
branches, leaves and roots in a heap

It is other drivers slowing down to look
but no way to know what they think

It is I can't blame it on anyone
I can only blame it on everyone

It is what denial failed to suppress
an awful guilt trip, a terrible fear


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Champagne the cat

Picture taken from Site

I wrote in an earlier post that my first real job was an unpleasant one, and indeed it was a terrible place to work.  The only good thing about it was a chance for me to see first hand what happens to people who are too afraid to leave, in that my first job was priceless.  However, outside of work, my life in the Ottawa area was not at all horrible.  I have made one long lasting friend, and another I will never forget.

Being a big city girl all my life, I was not eager to live in the small town where my company was located.  Instead, I rented a room in the city of Kanata, a nice suburb area of Ottawa, also dubbed the silicon valley of the north.  My landlady, Vidya, had only just purchased the house, which was a large one in a quiet neighborhood, with woods to the back.  I had my own room and bathroom on the second floor.

The day I arrived, movers were bringing in furniture and Vidya was busy directing the men, and so I went on a quick tour of the house on my own.  And as I looked around, I took an instant liking to my new home, seeing the possibilities clearly amidst the chaos of the move.  The rooms had good light, tall ceilings and wide windows, and the kitchen had a good view of the gazebo in the yard.  My room was a spacious one, and Vidya provided me with a nice bedroom set; the pieces were already in the room but strangely positioned and partially covered in cardboard wrappings.

"Jackie, do be careful with your closet room.  Champagne is in there."  Vidya shouted urgently from downstairs.

"Alright, I'll watch it."  I answered back.

I shut my bedroom door and prepared myself to open the closet.  Vidya and I had discussed much about her cats prior to our meeting, and I had a strong curiosity to see them, especially the tomcat Champagne.  Vidya had three cats, two girls and one boy, they were all elderly I was told.  She made particular mention of Champagne in her correspondence.

"He is a rambunctious man."  That was the way she puts it.

I opened the closet door and I heard a bit of growling.  A fawn colored cat walked out with his tail down signaling his displeasure at being locked up for more than an hour.  I looked inside the closet and I saw two other cats cowering in the corner, I let them be.

"Well hullo Champagne.  I have heard much about you."  I said to the famous cat.  He gave me a sidelong glance and continued to survey the room, the furniture, the height of the desk, the workings of the lamp, the zipper of my suitcase..etc.  I sat at the edge of the bed watching him, fascinated.  I had never really lived with a cat before, though I had always wanted to, and here was the finest of his kind, who was once awarded the title of second household cat of all of Ontario.

Vidya and I had an interesting start.  She was a newly divorced woman with a young son of five, and she shared joint custody of the boy with her ex-husband.  She purchased the house to start a new life, and me the renter would help to fund it.  I first witnessed her tense meeting with her ex a few days after we moved into the house, it was a Saturday morning and I came down the spiral staircase in my pajamas.  Vidya didn't bother to introduce us but ushered the boy to leave with his father.

After the father and son left, Vidya immediately turned around and asked me:

"Isn't he an idiot?  Have you ever seen such a stupid man?"  She looked eagerly at me to confirm her opinion on the father of her child.

"Well, I only saw him for a few minutes, we barely spoke so I cannot say."  I answered reasonably.

"You have no idea."  Vidya rolled her eyes.

A few days later I would have to agree with Vidya over the stupidity of the situation, when she came back all riled up after speaking with her lawyer.  Apparently after seeing me at the staircase, Vidya's ex husband was not satisfied with the explanation that I was a renter and decided instead I was the lesbian lover of his ex wife, and somehow such a claim would help his legal case to lesson child support, gain custody to the boy...etc.  I was surprised.

"I need to do something."  Vidya was livid, pacing back and forth in her lovely sitting room raging to bring her nemesis down at all cost.  I tried to calm her with words, but it was no use, they just sparked new ideas in her head.  Champagne however did better, he jumped on top of the entertainment unit and commandingly meowed a few times, and he stood there like a sphinx; it seemed to trigger something in Vidya.

"Oh Champ, you are the man of my life aren't you?  I can always count on you can't I?" She said dejectedly.

I took the cat's cue and asked her for stories of Champagne to distract her.  It worked, we spent the night talking about his past.

Champagne was fifteen years old when I met him, and he was with Vidya since he was a kitten.  She purchased him from a pet store for $100.

"He was a funny kitten, completely unmanageable."  She said, laughing as she spoke of him.

A long time ago she said, and in better days with her ex husband, she purchased a new couch and was transporting it to a new house when they heard sneezes from inside the cushions.  Champagne had somehow found a way into the inner compartment of the chair and got trapped there, in the end they had to cut open the cushions to get him out.  Another time Champagne sneaked outside through some opening at night and got caught in the rain, the next morning she found some wet dirty thing outside her front steps and she shrieked from thinking he was a possum.

And over the next few months, I found out on my own what it was like to live with Champagne.  I have two words to describe it:  pure joy.  At nights he gave us gifts.  I could hear him in my half sleep dancing some hunting sequence downstairs, he howled and chased his fuzzy bite sized toys around, then ceremoniously marched upstairs and delivered them to us while we slept.  In the mornings I'd find colorful little things at the foot of my bed, but I always had one less than Vidya, which I am sure signified something in Champagne's feline logic.

The one thing Champagne valued more than anything was freedom.  There was no end to his effort to break free from the house.  He learned how to open doors, sometimes he organized a joint effort with Snowflake his white cat girlfriend.  One time he followed a boy we hired to mow the lawn all over the house, we found out it was because he figured that when the eventually boy leaves the house, it would give him a chance to escape.  Yet despite his love of independence, he very much enjoyed people's attention, on Halloween he proudly wore a black bow tie and stood waiting at the door for trick or treating children.  It was delightful.

I was content in being a homebody back then, my job was horrible and it was very cold in Ottawa.  I loved being in the house and me sitting at the breakfast table on Sunday mornings observing Champagne's ingenious ways to steal my bacon.  But Vidya was full of plans, she was determined to meet the man of her life after her divorce.  We spent interminable hours talking of her hopes for a new romance and my wish for a new job, while Champagne stood quietly next to us.  I gathered he took real pride in being the man of the house, and in his own way he was taking care of us, just as he cared for his kitty girlfriend Snowflake.  Champagne and Snowflake curled up and slept together everyday, and whenever she made the slightest demand, he would diligently lick her inch by inch.  On some nights Vidya and I sat watching their romance while snow fell and a cup of tea in hand, and I never felt so entranced by any other sight.

Vidya and I both agreed Champagne was the man of our dreams.

The ugly legal battle continued throughout the winter, it seemed Vidya and her ex could not agree on anything.  Every time her ex called, Vidya would spend hours analyzing his words to sieve for something to use against him in court, and the legal fees mounted.  Up to that point, divorce was some vague idea in my mind, but in the Ottawa area I witnessed the realities of broken families when I saw scores of fathers with young children in McDonalds on Wednesday nights, it was sad.

Vidya's son reacted by throwing the worst temper tantrums imaginable, and he took to kicking Champagne in the gut.  Sometimes I'd see Champagne flying across the hallway because the kid went mad, it took all my restraint not to shout at that moment.  For some reason though, Champagne never gave up on the kid, he seemed to understand the situation and pitied his abuser.  I talked to Vidya about it.

"You know Champagne really cares about my son.  When my son was a baby and cried, Champagne would insist I come to the crib.  He could not stand to hear my son cry."  Vidya told me.  Yet she didn't do enough to end the problem, I suspected it was because she felt more guilty about the stress of the divorce on her son.

Over time, as the temperature dropped, Vidya and I got closer as friends.  We went out together, I even concealed my age and accompanied her to singles dance for the over thirties. I came to respect her resilience.  After two failed marriages, one being physically abusive, it was a marvel she didn't loose hope on men.  I admired that positivity.

One day in spring I got a new job in the US, it was considered a very good thing, but I was sorry to leave Vidya and Champagne.  They both saw me to the door and watched as the taxi drove me away to the airport, and I saw Champagne meowing at the window for the last time.  Vidya and I kept in touch over the years, we'd call to debrief each other on our love lives and career status.  She had never found the right man, but as time passes that no longer mattered to her.  

About a year ago I received a phone call from Vidya and she informed me Champagne had passed away.  I was stunned though not surprised, he was by then twenty-two years old.  The old devil outlived his two younger feline companions, as I was sure he would, and lived to the fullest till his very last breath.  Through her sobs, Vidya told me Champagne demanded his freedom all the way to the end, despite being in pain, and the last thing he did was smelling the flowers in the garden.  He died in the gazebo in Vidya's arms; I have a vivid picture of them together in my mind, I often think of it.


Friday, December 3, 2010

Chick lit

I am one among hundreds
sit waiting at eye level
For a lady to come searching
to be captured by my title

I lure her with a young man
dashing in mails of metal
In foreign lands so long ago
swording in a gruesome battle

I threw in dragons and fireballs
Speeches of enemies immortal
But I know she had no interest
Save for love scenes that follows

Her hands grips me tight
as she hears my tale of sorrow
When a sharp arrow came flying
pierced the heart of my hero

My lady holds her dying love
she mourns for my made up fellow
Tears streaming down her face
turn my page wet and yellow


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A job in the sticks

Picture taken from Site

I remember vividly how I had only one thing on my mind when I graduated from my first engineering degree:  Escape. I was a girl obsessed.  I ruthlessly let go of a perfectly good boyfriend who wanted to marry me, I cut off from my friends, I said goodbye to everyone before I even had a job in hand. My father tried to guilt trip me into staying,

"We have sacrificed so much for you." he pleaded.

I answered him dramatically, "Those who are grateful end up slaves.  I choose resentment and I will escape."


I took the very first job I could find, I purchased my parent's old car and drove off full of naive expectations in my head.  And I think you can guess how that turned out.

I spent my teenage and college years in Toronto Canada, a fairly big and cosmopolitan city by all standards.  I didn't think there was much to love with Toronto. There is nothing to be ashamed of either of course, it is a perfectly functional city: decent employment rates, excellent restaurants, sane politics, good roads...etc.  But I was hoping for some place remarkable, like New York, or Moscow, or Nairobi. In truth Toronto was not really the problem, it was my life there and the burdens come with.  I feared if I weren't steadfast in leaving, I wouldn't stand a chance but to go down a very narrow path, slowly and painfully.

My first job was located in a small town named Arnprior about 50 km west of Ottawa, home to about 7000 people.  It is one of the capital city's satellite communities, except Arnprior was a particularly insular place, I was warned that people there are of a different breed.  No matter.  I was there for a brilliant career, I cared not for the distractions of my surroundings.

Now imagine a delicate and tall Chinese girl, dressed in a flattering business casual ensemble with open toe flats, she walks confidently into a manufacturing plant and straight to the President's office.  She shakes hands with her new boss, the President himself, and was immediately directed to her station ready to assume the role of engineer of a 80-workers strong medical device company.  Technically, that was what happened.

"You is the new engineer?"  Some guy name Frank shouted at me through the deafening noise of the machines.  He was covered in soots, lubricants and whatever else.

"Yes I am, very nice to meet you." I replied.

"You is what they come up with huh.  Certainly different."  He indiscreetly eyed me from top to bottom, then he added, "The last guy was here for only two months."

"What happened to him?"  I asked,

"Oh eh, he eh, he misses his home.  He is from a small town out in New Foundland ya know, those types are f*@!in' idiots.  He was crying like a pussy, bangin' on his desk (my desk) sayin' he wants home and mommy for days."

"Huh." I didn't think there was a town smaller than Arnprior but I held my tongue.

When I arrived at my desk it was completely covered in dirt and junk.  Lorie from shipping snuck up behind me.

"You are a pretty little thing."  She said, I was in fact a head taller than her, I was much thinner though.

"Thank you."  I replied.

"How old are you?" She asked,

"Twenty three."  

"How many kids do you have?"  No one had asked me that before...ever...up to that point.


"Well, if you stay here you soon will."  She said, I glared at her.  "The men here, they have their ways...."  She explained.

I thought the wisest thing to do in response was to clear my so called desk.  I searched high and low for cleaning materials, and came back with some bottles of unidentified chemicals.  They worked, at least I could see that the desk was made of good solid wood.

Two days later they found a dead woman in front of the company grounds just off of the main road.  Everyone was talking about it when I got to work.

"She died in her PJs."  Lorie came to tell me.

"Did you know her?"  I asked.

"No."  She said, "This kind of thing isn't abnormal you know, especially in the winter.  This highway is called the killer stretch.  They'd find dead bodies every so often, sometimes they are left there for weeks."

"The drivers just leave them there?"  I asked, trying to conceal my amazement.

"Oh yeah.  They are just drunks."  She said.

"You mean the dead?"

"Well yes, people got drunk and they walk out of their house in the cold and die.  Sometimes they get hit by a car.  But then come to think of it, the drivers are often drunk too."  Lorie was right.  That was exactly what happened to the woman, she was a drunk who walked out into the road late one night and died due to some complication from her alcoholism.

It was a terribly rough first week.  I thought my life would finally begin in this new place, but instead all my hopes were destroyed pretty much in those first few days, and very soon I was again on escape mode.

Since I was new to the professional world, naturally, I tend overreact to the smallest upset.  But this was made infinitely worse by the fact that I came to the most ridiculous workplace in the western world.  From the outside looking in, my job wasn't so bad.  I interacted with FDA and surgeons to design and produce orthopedic implants and instruments.  I attended surgeries, I used state of the art software, and compared to all other employees there, I was a highly paid individual.

The President started his business when he got a contract from the Johnson and Johnson Company, the behemoth cash cow south of the border, and he built his plant from that initial capital.  The problem is, he never grew out of his entrepreneur phase into a real businessman.  His operation was a complete disaster, we were scrapping upwards of 95% of the product line because they were not meeting spec.  In my naivety, I wanted to improve the efficiency and quality of our processes, that was the job of an engineer after all.  But the President had other ideas.

One day, he threw a bowie knife onto my desk.

"I want you to design something like this."  He told me.

"This is a knife."  I said, utterly confused.

"Yeah, I talked to my butcher and he told me how much he paid for his knifes.  I could make a fortune with all that scrap metal."  Rumor has it, he kept the defect metal implants in his barn shed.  I heard there was a mountain of it.  So I spent the day on my CAD program designing a knife.  Why not?  Except he forgot it the very next day and came back with another bonehead idea.

However, that was nothing compared to the safety violations of this place, I was working in mild fear for my life everyday.  The President is by far the most frugal man I know, he would do bloody anything to save a buck.

"There is no fire alarm in this place."  I said in one managers meeting.

The President eyed me darkly.  The production managers, shipping staff and the engineers were all housed in a large room above the plant with only one small staircase in and out.  The staircase was above a compressor.

I boldly added some safety items in our meeting agenda, exercising my engineer authority.  "We need a fire escape and a fire alarm."

"Now, that is not being flexible.  There is an announcement system."  The President replied.

"Yes, but no one can hear it, the machines here are really loud.  Besides, the system is locked inside your office, no one can get to it.  Everyone upstairs will surely die if there is a fire."  Someone else said.

"No no, there is no need.  Everything is good and proper here."  The President soon changed the subject.

But I suppose he feared what I may do, report him to the authorities perhaps.  The next morning when I came to my desk, Chuck the maintenance guy was doing something next to it.

"What are you doing?"  I asked.

"Oh, I am making you a fire escape."  Chuck said.  He was in fact making a rope ladder.

"Is this a joke?"  I asked.

"Well, if there is a fire, you can use this to jump out of the window."  Chuck answered, apparently he thought it was a clever idea.

"The windows do not open, and they are less than a feet wide."  I pointed at the windows.

"I suppose you are right.  I wonder why the boss asked me to do this. This makes no sense at all."  Chuck said, genuinely confused.  He then abandoned the ladder and went away.

After a while, I was accustomed to the absurdity and took things in stride, to a point.  I barely reacted when Pete, the production manager, yelled out the loudest F word I have ever heard because his computer crashed once too many times (The President refused to buy him a new computer though the old one crashes every half an hour).  Pete came to work the next day insanely drunk after five years of sobriety.  The President came up the stairs, dragged Pete by the collar into the front yard and hosed him down with water.  The rest of us barely turned around to look, events like that were normal.

Crazy as it may seem looking back, going home to Toronto was not an option for me, I never even thought about it.  I cried all the time of course, at nights when I couldn't sleep, or when I drove on thick sheet of black ice in the winter through the killer stretch.  I got into inconsolable self pitying moods where I was sure that my life was forever doomed because I couldn't find another job.  Still, going home was out of the question.

The most brilliant incident though happened near the end of my employment there.  The President was always looking for government saving opportunities for small businesses and he found the perfect one.  At that time, the Canadian government was offering cheap environmental greening services for manufacturing operations and I suspect there were some taxation benefits along with it.  He was ecstatic.

The government sent a consultant to the plant and they rerouted all the water and coolant drainage systems in the building.  It was a good thing.  The point was to improve sustainability and to preserve clean water.  However, the President saw this as an opportunity to further cut cost, he had the genius idea of hooking up the toilet water along with the waste water treatment lines.  Why not?  It was only toilet water.  There were only two toilets, one for men, the other for women.

The toilet water overnight turned into black puddles of acids, antifreeze, slimes, engine oils, bacterial cultures and foulness I don't want to know about.  The stench was unbelievable.  The guys could at least pee standing, the women had to risk splashing from this awful stew.  The President told me this was an excellent thing the next day because the women would no longer be able to take long bathroom breaks, he went as far as bragging about it in the company website in the President's address.

I was in heaven when I finally left that job.  As fate would have it, I was awarded a small career miracle.  My next job was to be in the most venerable research facility in the world, something to this day I have no idea how it came to be.  More importantly, I was to meet my ex-fiance, but that's a story for another day.


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The world of shopping

[Fort Worth, November 27. Image via Getty]

When I was a teenager and I didn't have much money, and things were generally more expensive, I remember the excitement I get when I purchase something new. Despite the fact that we had a lot less than we do today, I feel we had way more style back then.  Today, shopping is such a sick hobby, I see fancy things for cheaps everywhere.  The news programs here are blasting scenes of shopping mania from the Thanksgiving weekend and calling it the greatest news of the year or such nonsense and I wonder, how did we get here?

After becoming a vegan, of which I am very proud, the next big step for me is to drastically reduce my consumption.  It makes sense right?  First no violence, then love life, preserve all life....preserve the environment....see things for what they are....see people for what they are....question more denial....fear a whole lot less....lead by example....act on with a purpose and so on it goes.  

See this is what I love about veganism, once having reached it, all those other good stuff follows and aligns....naturally.

I have recently seen this excellent video called The Story of Stuff, it perfectly describes our obsession with material goods and the damage it has cost us.  Please please please watch it.  This video brought me to my next goal:  To reduce consumption to a point I find acceptable.  So far, I have mixed success since I have yet defined where to draw the line, unlike veganism, I will have to make compromises with this one.  

It is impossible to completely stop all purchases, but at least I can shop responsibly.  As a family we have already made quite a few changes to become more eco-friendly, I have cut back a great deal on shopping, and we try to buy only when absolutely necessary. But I have made exceptions.  Recently, I allowed myself to justify some purchases to replace my old clothes which are made with animal products such as:  leather, sheepskin, fur, silk, wool, cashmere, angora, and down.  

You may think this is extreme, but the idea of killing the innocent for looks is simply unacceptable to me these days.  I have continued to use some items, but I have replaced most of my leather shoes and my sheepskin coat.  I know it isn't perfect, those animals are already killed on my account, but there are certain things I just cannot bring myself to wear anymore, so I donated them and purchased cruelty-free stuff.  

Strangely, I find shopping meaningful under my current circumstances.  It is fun to look for cruelty-free things because they are rare (isn't it sad?), it is like a treasure hunt.  I have found some beautiful pieces out there by laudable vendors and when I wear them, I feel very unique.  That's the point of fashion ain't it?  To make people notice me, the woman, and not just my clothes.        

Here are some of the things I bought:
Audrey coat from Vaute Couture

Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart

Vaute Couture is a small design house in New York City.  They make the most beautiful coats from recycled materials.  I have met the founder Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart, she is one amazing young lady.

I found some awesome boots too, I intend to wear them for life.  Vegan shoes and handbags are actually quite easy to find, for example, check out this Site.  I am totally done in the shoes department.

But of course, the best part about buying tall boots is that extra long shoe box.  In the end, I think we should learn from kitty cats, it takes so little to make them happy.

Well, there you have it.  A work in progress.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

A nod to Roosts

Illustration of a hoot owl.

Here in the US, the NPR station has a three minute fiction contest and the winner piece for this month is named Roosts by Zach Brockhouse.  It is a beautifully written story, very original, please do read it.  The picture above goes with his story.  For this competition, writers are asked to submit a short fiction that began with the line, "Some people swore that the house was haunted," and ended with the line, "nothing was ever the same again after that."

For fun, I thought I'd give it a try tonight.  I think I will name it Midnight.  So here it goes:  

Some people swore that the house was haunted.  Mother says differently, and she was the one with the facts.  You see, it is easier for others to blame the house because it is worse to let us believe my baby sister was possessed.  They told us we could leave the house and there, problems solved.

Mother wouldn't have it though.  She'd say it wasn't the house and she was sure of it.  She would repeat to them the story of the hospital visit, when Grandpa had a cholecystectomy and she brought my baby sister along to see him.  My sister was only a toddler she said, and before she was inside she was happy as a bee, cute as a button.  But after, Mother exclaimed, after my sister was brought into the hospital she went crazy. 

"My baby cried so hard she went upside down in her carriage, I thought she'd choke.  Something awful happened to her there."

Yes but that was also around the time when you moved into the house isn't it, people would counter.  But I knew there was no convincing Mother, she wanted to be right so bad.

It comes and goes her crying, the same ghastly tone in her wail every time.  It always happened at midnight, and stops within a minute.  I had heard it of course; I slept next to my sister in the same bed all those years.  Grandma came to witness once, and the next day she came back with some Buddhist charms and amulets and she asked my sister questions.  It won't work Mother would say.

Mother preferred the bible; she placed one between our pillows.  The Lord Jesus Christ will protect you, Mother told my sister.

Protect her from what I wondered, the ghost was rather courteous.  My sister grew tall, she learned to ride a bike, she did her homework okay, what's a little crying in the middle of the night?  

But Mother had to be right, the bible had to work.  The crying is less she assured everyone.

She didn't know I had made deals with the ghost.  On some nights I told him to hush it because I had a test the next day.  He was rather obliging; he must have cared about us.

Except nothing is so simple, in death or in life, change is inevitable.  When my family moved to a new country, the ghost had to decide.  He chose to stay in the house and not board a plane with my sister.  In the airport we were nervous but my sister, she didn't look any different.  We said goodbye to many and crossed an ocean, and as it were nothing was ever the same again after that. 


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Lovely things

It is Thanksgiving in United States and I spent the week roaming around town together with my folks.  Here are some of the lovely things we saw.  





Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Family Rhapsody

My parents and sister are in town this week for my mom's 6oth birthday visit.  They are all staying with us in our two bedroom apartment, and I am glad no one gets killed yet.  I would like to record here some conversational highlights, but first, let me acquaint you with the players:

Dad - A very loving father but a highly eccentric Chinese man.  He is a passionate photographer who walks everywhere with his bag full of Pentax equipment and Russian made lenses.  He is also a big proponent in overthrowing the oppressive pseudo-communist regime in China through endless discussions in political forums to promote free-speech (of sorts) in said nation.  He also likes to tinker with other people's computer by installing whatever he fancies.

Mom - The only religious person in the family, she is of the Bible Thumper persuasion (the Chinese Canadian religious from this group typically has no idea of the history of religions except what is written in the translated bible in the most literal sense).  She is very nervous and will freak out over the smallest thing.  She is an excellent cook and will freely give cooking tips out of nowhere.   

Sis - Recently broke up with a guy we were sure would be our bro-in-law.  She seems to be over the guy but not yet officially on the prowl.  She is historically an unbelievable dude magnet (it is possible she is a babe magnet as well), particularly for the geeky successful type who own Internet companies or write ridiculous software codes for a living.  Oh and those with even an itsy bitsy wee bit of yellow fever.  The attraction is simple to explain: she is a geeky dude writing ridiculous software codes for a living, except she does it in a hot Asian chick body.

My Harry - Impatient son-in-law.  Bald and former Israeli tank commander. Does not heed the oft repeated advice by his much wiser wife and sis-in-law to keep his nerves.  He listens to what dad says verbatim and therefore reacts inappropriately.  He dislikes religion but unfortunately knows too much of its' history.  His voice goes high pitch when he is agitated.   

Peter Cottontail the cat - Though never been in question before, his loyalty is now seriously in doubt.  True to his nature, he is cautious and suspicious of new people the first day.  But with three new bellies available to lie on at night, Peter was found sleeping on Sis' tummy instead of mine last night, and he was subsequently been called a traitor. 

Josie the cat - A complete mistress of herself always, Josie has not changed one bit from this visit thus far.  The golden rule in the house has not changed:  only the cats are allowed to eat meat occasionally.  Today Josie caught mom chewing pieces of illegal beef jerky in the room.  She meowed her disapproval and called for immediate seizure of the apparent kitty nibble.

Me - I leave it to you the reader to decide what I am from my other posts.  The only thing I will say is I am the wild card in this scenario, sometimes I am the mediator, sometimes the victimized daughter, sometimes the agitator...

I have noticed that conversations between related individuals are never simple, or make much sense.  It is interesting to see how dialogues turn topsy turvy very fast, here are some examples from this visit:

Conversation 1

(Over the dinner table)

Dad:  "I go to these fashion shows and photography expo, I meet lots of models." 

My Harry:  "What?  Where?"

Dad:  "Toronto, all in Toronto.  Pretty big fashion scene there."

My Harry:  "My impression of Toronto is all ghetto Chinese restaurants." 

Dad:  "No, lots of models."

Me:  "You meet models dad?  Seriously?"

Dad:  "Yeah, they keep asking for my business card.  They follow me around."

My Harry:  "What?"

Dad:  "They want me to take their pictures.  I tell them I don't have any business cards.  I just take their picture and walk away."

Me:  "I am impressed dad." 

Dad:  "I am old you know."

My Harry:  "I should see Toronto again."

Dad:  "They are really pushy, I don't like them.  They keep bugging me."

Me:  "What kinds of models?"

Dad:  "I'll show you.  I'll show you."

Me:  "Huh, who would have thought it."

Dad:  "What can I say, I am a dork."
Conversation 2

(In the car, completely out of the blue) 

Mom: "So my Harry, do you believe in Jesus?"

My Harry: "Well, the Jews killed him."

Mom: "what?"

My Harry: "I wasn't there that day though."

Mom: "So you don't believe in Jesus then?"

Me:  "If I have to pick a religion today, it would be Buddhism."

Mom:  "Why not Christian?"

Me:  "I am still doing comparative shop."

My Harry:  "The Jews do not believe in Jesus, plus I am not religious."

Mom:  "Christians are good.  Christians are never violent."

Me:  "err...okay."

My Harry:  "I have a rule, I do not discuss God and football on the same day.  Today is football day."

Mom:  "The Jews killed Jesus."

Me:  "That's like....ancient history ma."

Mom:  "My Harry, Jews should believe in Jesus.  It will be good for you."

My Harry:  "Not today though.  Today is all football."

Conversation 3

(In a giant electronics store.  Sis is looking for a stereo system)

Me:  "So, you want to buy this stereo system huh.  Well it is on sale for $299."

Sis:  "It is cheaper here." 

Dad:  "No don't buy! this is cheapy stuff...cheapy stuff."

Me:  "Dad, she listens to cheapy music."

Sis:  "That's true."

Dad:  "NO NO NO"

Sis:  "Well, my current set is more than eight years old."

Me:  "I don't even have one." 

Dad:  "This is cheapy.  Don't buy this."

(Dad dragged sis to another section at the store.)

Me:  "Well, are you buying it?"

Sis:  "No, dad convinced me to spend a few thousand dollars on an amplifier and a good pair of speakers."

My Harry:  "What?"  (high pitch)

Me:  "Hold on..wait a sec.  Why are you buying anything at all?  Why don't you just find a dude comes with those fancy gadgets.  Don't you usually have one of those by now?"

Sis:  "That is true.  I'll need to think about this."

Conversation 4

(Dad lifted Josie the cat by the shoulder and staring straight into her eyes for no apparent reason)

Dad:  "What's wrong with your cat?"

Me:  "Dad, what on earth are you doing?"

Josie the cat:  "Who do you think you are?"

Me:  "Dad.  Put her down!  Staring into a cat's eyes is the same as challenging her." 

Dad:  "I don't think she likes this."

Josie the cat:  "Give me fish."

Dad:  "There are cats out who would like this."

Me:  "This is crazy!  You are upsetting her.  Put her down right now!"

Dad:  "Theoretically cats should like this."

Josie the cat:  "Extra brown stuff on your pillow it is."

Dad:  "Your cat's weird."

If you are alarmed at any moment while reading this post, don't worry, it's all good, it is nothing more than affectionate mocking between family. 


Monday, November 22, 2010

One orange furball

This is my girl Josie the cat, she came from Spotsylvania, VA.  She is one colorful girl; has spots in the most unexpected places.  I've always said the maker spent extra time on her:  one extra naughty cat + 2 parts orange coloring + 1 part black + 1 part white, all put together in a gentle cycle. 

My father the photographer snapped more than fifty pictures like this one of Josie the cat.

A smiling Josie.  She is so accommodating, she lets us jam the camera right in her face.

Yes bring on the lighting blitz you papparazzi.

The naughty girl has no fear.  She was sitting on a lamp three stories high.  Freaks us out.


Friday, November 19, 2010

On being a cynic

I am a newbie in blogging, both in writing and maintaining my own blog as well as surfing what's out there. I am enjoying the experience so far. I have visited quite a few blogs and found some excellent writers and I make a point of leaving a comment behind whenever I can. Most of my comments are positive of course. But the other day I read something which bothered me enough to break that trend, and I left a negative comment for the first time even though the writing is actually pretty good.

I am still very new at this but I am finding that writing is a great way to figure something out. I thought about this negative comment quite a bit since, because I didn't like doing it at all, but having done it made me realize something: I really dislike cynicism.

This was not always the case, I was told for many years that I am a sarcastic and caustic person, and my sense of humor was very much derived from that source. It is such an easy thing to play cool and to self promote through cynicism. But not anymore. Today I actually find it disgusting and I do not miss that part of myself one bit, even when I lost my sense of humor along the way.

This idea is not original I suppose, and I didn't figure it out on my own either. About six months ago I was listening to my favorite podcast and this woman I really admire said something like "Cynicism is so boring." That was an Eureka moment! Maybe this is obvious to everyone, but it wasn't to me. It never occurred to me to link the two, but the idea slowly grew in my head. Yeah, damn it, it is boring! Cynicism is never creative really, kinda like evil. People use it to divert personality responsibility, mask their sense of insecurity, and to deny the chance of real discussion and progress.

So am I successful in dropping cynicism out of my life? it is very hard to say. I am definitely trying, but I am well aware that I am not so witty and light hearted anymore. Perhaps the road out the land of the selfish and the bitter must be a serious one. I would love to find a way to be humorous without being negative...but I fear it may be a study of many years, decades even. I suspect it would be a worthy goal.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A bizarre dream

Picture taken from site

I dreamt I was inside a large room of a very grand estate. The room was old and plush like one from the turn of the century, full of dark colors and antique furnishings. The sunlight was beaming through a large window, and the shadow of the window panes casted on the wooden floors. The house may have been English, or perhaps French; I am no expert to tell. I walked across the room and my footsteps echoed; it was a pleasant sound, brisk and commanding.

But as I walked I was aware of many restrictions on my movements. When I looked down I saw the spread of a heavy skirt. I felt the tightness on my waist held together by a clever corset, which also anchored the weight of the skirt. I wore an enormous hat, and the bottom of its broad brim shielded part of my vision. I did not know what the hat looked like, but I was sure it was an ornate one; perhaps covered in flamboyant plumes and elaborate fabric trims. The hat was held tight on my head cocked to one side, which was perfectly balanced by the coiffure of my hair.

I moved towards the window and I looked out. I saw a party of men and women sitting outside in a garden. There were rose bushes and willowy trees behind, and the people were dressed to the same style as me. They were beautiful like an impressionist painting. I stood there watching them laughing and chatting easily together; while my gloved finger stroked the face of a brooch high on my neck, the weight of it suspended at my collar. I felt its contours and decided it must be lovely too, though I did not make out what it was. A lady saw me and she called out for me to join them. The next thing I was transported outside.

"Come, come my dear sister. Do join us." She waved her arm wide to one side. The men stood up and smoothen their tailored jackets.

She called me her sister, but I did not recognized her. She was small and delicate. I was faintly aware that I was no longer myself, but there was no mirrors about to let me see my face. Yet I assumed this role easily enough and I waved back at them. There was a man opposite to the lady; he was the first to stand, but he did so very slowly. He was tall and handsome, and he smiled at me.

"Will you not join us?" The lady asked again, framing the choice as an ambiguous one. I saw the table in front of them was laden with food and drink served in exquisite China and the party was waiting for my answer. The beautiful man looked at me knowingly and inexplicably that settled the matter in my head.

"No, I believe I will go for a walk." I said.

"An excellent idea." The man said, suggesting he planned to join me. I took one good look at him, and I thought his handsomeness was only surpassed by his gentlemanly manners.

"Yes, a walk is a fine idea." My make-believe sister wished to join us as well.

The next scene the three of us were strolling on a narrow lane, flowers and trees all around us.  I did not know our direction but I determinedly pressed on. I didn't say very much, but I guided the other two. The lady mindlessly followed while talking nonstop, the gentleman kept very close behind me.

"What a beautiful day, it is so wonderful to be out." The lady said.

"It is always very fine this time of year." The gentleman answered.

"Do you think there are many birds around? It sounds like there are many." The lady continued.

"It certainly does." The gentleman replied.

Their silly conversation continued like this, his politeness never failed him. But I felt his interest was entirely feigned, which made me like him even more. So we walked on, and the lane began to widen. At first there were still trees about, then suddenly we were in an open field. The sky was clear and bright, but the sudden vastness was slightly disconcerting.

The next scene we were approaching some kind of farm. There was a decrepit split and rail fence and a sorry looking farm house in the field. We stopped to survey our surroundings. The lady again spoke.

"What a charming farm." She said.

"Beautiful country indeed." The gentleman replied.

"What are you talking about? This is covered in shit." I said, pointing out the obvious. The lady pursed her lips.

"You are correct, so it is." The gentleman said.

The muddy shit was thick and we were foot deep in it. I passed through the fence and I headed to the direction of the farm house. The gentleman again followed me close behind. The lady however stayed behind.

"We should have dinner." She said. That was the last time I saw her.

There were farm animals scattered about in the field, chickens, pigs, cows. Each one of the them was missing one limp, and they were covered and lying in shit. The animals were in such terrible shape I couldn't tell if the chickens were roosters or a hens, their feathers had completely fallen. I tried to reach out to them, but they tobogganed away on their stomaches, their remaining limps desperately propelling them in the thick shit. They were moving slow, but I moved slower in my binding dress, and eventually they were gone from my view.

The next scene I was inside the farm house observing the total chaos inside. The floor indoors was covered in shit as well. I looked down and my skirt was stained, and my footsteps were sticky to the floor. It was a more modern house, the kitchen was in front, and there were filthy furniture about, some fallen broken chairs here and there. The farmer and his woman were in the room, but they were not surprised to see me. At first I wanted to ask them about the animals, to see about improving their situation. But then I looked at the two people in front of me and I saw that they too were covered in shit, I didn't think they were in control anymore than the animals.

"Your neck is covered in shit sir." I said.

"No'm, I ain't." He said. His mouth opened wide and many of his teeth were missing.

"You and your lady, you two are covered in shit." I said, again pointing out the obvious.

They didn't answer. The farmer stared at my neck. His woman too, they were both looking intently at the direction of my brooch, my hand instinctively went there, again stroking the face of it.

"You have a lovely place." The gentleman said to the farmer. I had forgotten all about him.

"Would you like some food?" The farmer's woman asked.

"No." I answered bluntly.

"Perhaps another time." The gentleman politely answered, his manners remains impeccable in all this horror. I was shocked at him.

At this point it was near the end and I became very angry. I wanted to make a scene and protest against the state of this place. I tried to bend down and pick up some shit. I would like to throw it at the gentleman. But I was stuck, the dream would not allow me to do such a thing.


This was my dream from last night. If there are any Freudian disciples out there who would like to analyze it for me, I would love to know the meaning. Feel free to comment and tell me I am nuts. :)