December 29, 2007

New York, New York

I went to New York this week with nine of my friends. It was a three-day trip that felt like a week. It all started when my brother was told about this Chinese travel agency that offers good deals on trips to New York. So we decided to go enjoy our Christmas holiday there and see what the hype is all about.

We got on bus # 69 at 6:00 AM and started heading to the third most populous American state. Our tour guide, Eric, introduced himself in the microphone. (Why is it always that Asians choose an English name for themselves once they immigrate to a western country?). He was not friendly at all. He never smiled, and always hated it when people talked while he was yakking in the microphone. Not to mention that he had the speakers on high all the time, which would terrorize us while we're sleeping. He also hated it when two people talked (or whispered) while he was talking on the bus, even when he was speaking in Mandarin. I can write a short book about Eric and call it "When The Tour Guide Attacks" or "Tour Guide From Hell".

It took us a couple of hours to reach the border. And the American authorities kept us hanging there for a long while because we had several Non-North Americans on the bus. But we tried to sleep at times when Eric wasn't talking in the microphone. We finally started to get going again and we had more sleep on the way. Eric pressed on the microphone button a bit earlier than he was supposed to and sneezed out loud which was like a big bang that woke us up. He announced that we've reached our next stop at some rest house in Pennsylvania and warned us that he'd take off in exactly 15 minutes so if we're not back on time, we're stuck there alone. The washrooms (or bathrooms like Americans call them) were busy and there were lineups especially on the women's washroom. So we were three minutes late for the bus.
'I tol you to come back in fetty minutes and you come back in eightee minutes. Nex tie I live you alone. Is it true?', said Eric in an aggressive tone in the microphone.
What he really meant was "I told you to come back in 15 minutes and you came back in 18 minutes. Next time I'll leave you alone. Is this clear?" It was clear that he was not happy.

The trip just seemed too long. I never knew it would feel so long like that. But we made friends with a 5-year-old Chinese kid named Vince. He was going to New York with his parents on our same bus. He is the cutest kid ever. He's so chubby, very active, and always smiling. So Vince was a source of entertainment for us as we were chatting with him and taking photos of his cheeks and belly. I also saw one of us poking him in the stomach. His mom hated us, I think. Not because of the fact that some strangers are talking to her son, but because she was trying to sleep and we were the reason she couldn't. After many hours, we stopped at some outlet mall. We did lots of shopping there. We shopped till we dropped, literally. The prices of all famous brand clothing were amazing. Three hours after we all met at the same point again for the bus. Everyone got there on time, but Eric was still not happy.

And finally, we went to the hotel in New Jersey that we were supposed to stay at. It was the Crown Plaza hotel. We liked it. My friends and I split into three rooms. Four girls in a room, and six guys in the other two. We were really exhausted that night but we still went for a couple of drinks at the hotel's pub.

Next day morning (I'm not even sure if it's to be called "morning"), we got a wake up call at 5:30 AM. Eric had asked the hotel's lobby to wake up everyone on that damn bus at that time so he can start moving at 6:30. Why would you want us to wake up a 5:30, Eric? We're not in Boot camp for God's sake. Anyway, all 50 people on the bus got to the bus on time except two from our group. You can guess for yourself that these two are girls. Eric kept crying at the other eight of us even though it's not our fault that two of our group are missing. He told our bus driver, Tony, to take off because he cannot wait any longer. And as the bus started moving, we saw the two girls coming and, of course, they heard a good speech from Eric. And Tony drove to midtown Manhattan.

I won't get into details about the places that we saw and visited that day because they were many. But I'll just give you the names of the places and here they are: Empire State building, Freedom Tower (still under construction), Rockefeller Center (which Eric once pronounced as "wakafala" and once "wakifilips"), Ground Zero, Times Square, Statue of Liberty, UN Headquarters, Broadway st., Wall Street and China Town.

We went shopping in a different mall on this day. Apparently, one of the most famous outlet malls in the states. And we bought some good stuff from there too. Typically, some of us were a couple of minutes late for the bus and Eric told us that he is sick of us not respecting his appointed times, and then he said a few words in Chinese. He was not happy.

After we were dropped off at the hotel, our group decided to go to downtown Manhattan to spend our last night there. We took two cabs and both drivers were Arabs. George, the Lebanese taxi driver driving the car I was in, talked to us about how this country (The States) is better than his. He's happy to leave all discrimination and terrorism behind and come live peacefully in a free country. After a 10 minute ride, he dropped us off at the train station and asked for $20. I paid him the money and he gave me his business card to call him next time we go to New York. What a nice guy! A few minutes after, I found out that this 10 minute trip was worth $10 only. Great!

We took the train to Manhattan and it was so crowded down there. People are walking by everywhere. Eating, drinking and just enjoying themselves. We realized in this trip that Americans are really friendly. There were lots of artists in the streets drawing portraits of people. I got one of them to draw a caricature of me. There were also many people selling wieners and barbecued shish kebabs in stands. Most of the passers-by were people our age. We hardly saw any families or older people at this time of the day past midnight. It was fun. We spent almost most of that long night in Times Square. When we got tired from walking, we went to a bar there called Tonic. It was my first time trying a drink named Bahama Mama. It was good. We went back to the train station at about 4 AM only to find out that our train got canceled and we had to wait for the next one which departs at 5:15. This was terrible news for us. If the train departs at 5:15, we'll get to the hotel at 6:15, which is 15 minutes before our bus leaves in the morning. And we knew that it was a huge risk packing all our luggage (since it's our last night at the hotel) and being in the bus in 15 minutes. And if we didn't make it on time, the bus will leave us all alone in a city that we know nobody in... and Eric will not be happy.

We had no option but to sit and wait for the train beside some scary looking people in the station. Some of them took the station as a temporary shelter from the rain and others took it as a permanent dwelling. Some of them were sleeping, some were drunk, and some were checking out the girls in our group. But the train finally arrived and we got to the hotel as anticipated, packed everything and were on the bus by 6:30 sharp. We realized after this long experience with Eric that his watch was seven minutes ahead of ours. So this was our inside joke for the rest of the trip. When one asks what time it is, the other would answer 'Normal time or Eric's time?'

Now, we hadn't slept in exactly 24 hours so we dozed off the minute we sat in the bus. And that was until we reached our second last stop; a third outlet mall for more shopping. And we did buy more stuff. I could really feel my wallet getting thinner and thinner because I decided to use cash on everything in this trip. I didn't use my credit card once to avoid the bad exchange rate. Everything went fine and our last stop was at the duty free shop at the American-Canadian border. I was looking at the endless variety of liquor they had in stock, and a bottle of grain alcohol grabbed my attention because it was 95% alc/vol (190 proof). I saw a lady beside me looking at me who then started conversing with me.
'This tastes terrible. It will only get you drunk', she said, with a smile on her face.
'Does that mean it's good or bad?'
She laughed out loud because she thought my question was funny. I like people with a good sense of humor. So I just bought the bottle to say that I had tried a 95% alcoholic beverage.

We were stuck for a very long while at the customs. The cops wanted to make sure that everyone bought goods within the customs limit. 'Don't nervous, just smiling', said Eric to try avoiding the long waiting time at the customs. We finally reached Toronto and the bus dropped us off at the same location where it had picked us on the first day. We took photos of Eric and yelled 'We love you Eriiiic'. He was still not happy.

Some of us went home, and the rest of us went to my uncle's place for a midnight dinner. I dropped off one of my friends on the way. And while I was driving home from her house, I felt like I'm hearing my bed call my name. And at long last, I came to sleep on my four-legged beloved.

It's good to be home.

December 25, 2007

December 21, 2007

That'll Cost Ya, Sweety

To be stupid, selfish, and have good health are three requirements for happiness.
God bless Gustave Flaubert for speaking these Words of Wisdom. I remembered this quote when I read a rather funny article in the news this morning while having breakfast. I found it baffling at first, but it's funny nonetheless.
The story goes as follows: A Detroit bus driver was arrested after allegedly trying to pick up a prostitute while driving special-needs children to school on Wednesday morning. The 30-year-old man was arrested after he drove the bus up to a decoy officer posing as a prostitute working in the area and inquired about having sex with her. He only had one child on the bus and told the decoy officer he would be right back.

A few moments later he returned with three more special needs children on the bus and offered to pay the officer to have sex with him. He handed the undercover officer a paper with his name and phone number and was arrested on the spot
around 7 a.m. The driver said he had planned on dropping off the four special needs children, ages 5 to 9 years old at their school and return to have sex.

Now, how stupid is that? No discretion in front of the children whatsoever? Drop off the kids first, at least. My mind gets blown by people who are scooped out of their idiocy like that. Oh, and who gets laid at 7 AM? You know, a new study published in American Naturalist has found that hens in male-dominated groups rather initiate sex in mornings. The reason is that they (the hens) avoid the intense sexual harassment in the evening. So you're no different than CHICKEN, you caitiff!!! Well, Maybe I shouldn't blame him so much. It's a "special needs" bus after all, isn't it?

December 18, 2007

December 12, 2007

I Still Want a Hula Hoop

Don't we all love Christmas songs and carols? It's now the time of the year when we get to listen to those beautiful tunes. And that's another reason I love Christmas! I just love walking in the mall and listening to the different Christmas carols playing in the stores. Looking at the Christmas trees and decorations also makes the image perfect.

If you love Christmas songs, and love Sesame Street and The Chipmunks, then you'll like the little something I have for you today. Here are four Christmas songs sung by Sesame Street's muppet characters and one song sung by Alvin and the Chipmunks. They're really funny and cute. They reminded me of those shows that I grew up with. I generally miss so many things about my childhood.

A Sesame Street Christmas - All I Want For Christmas
A Sesame Street Christmas - Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
A Sesame Street Christmas - Keep Christmas With You
A Sesame Street Christmas - The Twelve Days of Christmas
Alvin and the Chipmunks - Christmas Don't Be Late

December 9, 2007

Neither Micro Nor Soft

I like to stay up-to-date on information relating to the latest technologies and gadgets of the future. I get very impressed with all those dandy doodads out there. New advances in technology make what previously was a hassle very possible and with less effort.

I just read today some reviews about Microsoft's new multi-touch computing system, the Microsoft Surface. It's basically a coffee table with a 30-inch display screen (not a touch screen) and five integrated cameras to enable multi-touch access to photos, music, the web and more. It recognizes objects placed on the screen such as digital cameras and cell phones. You simply affix some special codes to your devices for them to be recognized by the unit. You can rotate, resize and move virtual objects on the screen using your hands, just like the mouse on a traditional PC.
The only niggle about it is that it costs somewhere around $8000. So we're most probably not gonna see them so often in the near future. Eventually, the price will go down and we'll be scrolling down the music lists on our coffee tables at home before we know it. Go Gates Go. Take that, Apple!

I'll leave you with this Must-See clip.

December 7, 2007

'G' is for Granite

My level G road test was today. Of course, It had to snow on the day of my test. But I didn't let the weather conditions affect my driving. My Chinese examiner's mouth smelled like rotten eggs. Now that was affecting my driving. I also received a text message while I was driving so that was another temporary distraction. Anyways, the good news is that I passed my driving test. Woohoo!

I was so happy. I called the close ones to let them know I passed and went to have lunch at some Chinese restaurant. On my drive down the multi-storey car parking, I miscalculated the distance from a huge granite pole and accidentally hit it. Maybe It's wrong to sing (while driving) the song that goes: I'm Boombastic say me fantastic touch me on my back she says I'm Mr Ro...mantic. I felt like crud, and decided to go to Urban Behavior to buy me something to cheer me up. So I went and bought a suit and a pair of leather gloves.

Now I'm left with scratches on my dented passenger back door and I gotta fix it soon because it looks ugly. The absurd thing is that my car never touched an object on the go ever since I bought it. But it did on the day I got my G license. Please refer to this post Life's Ironic and Vexing Facts.

December 6, 2007

The Blue Cafe

Because my old guitar is haggard from the many years of play, my brother bought me this beautiful Fender guitar (photo attached to the right) for my birthday. It looks and sounds great. And I thought it would be nice if I could share some of my music with you.

So here's the first recording of a song played on my new guitar. I'll post some more songs later.

MaximEyes - The Blue Cafe

December 1, 2007

Life's Ironic and Vexing Facts

These 16 points are life's perpetually annoying facts that you and I have to accept. Well, even if we don't accept them.. umm.. too bad! Life is rigid, tough luck.
I've written these points myself. They are not copied from any other resource. Copyrights are property of their respective owner*.
1. You will always try not to give in to the temptation of buying things you don't need, but you'll still do it.

2. If you are cyberslacking** at work and one person walks in, it has to be your boss!

3. If you're really scared of something, you'll dream of it one day or another.

4. It will rain on the day you take your vehicle to a car wash. And it will storm if you decided to wax it.

5. If you wanna increase the chance of spilling food or drinks on your shirt, try wearing a new shirt.

6. You will get more online pop-ups than personal e-mail messages.

7. At the least appropriate time, you'll have your most intense laughter.

8. If you lose your remote control, it's most probably in the couch. You just won't think of the place at the time.

9. No matter how hard you try, there are some words that you just won't pronounce right.

10. If you're running late or urgently need to pee, all traffic lights will turn red on you just before you get to them.

11. Your foot will hit something when you're walking barefoot, not when you have something on.

12. Some of your secrets won't be secrets.

13. If you're gonna drop your cell phone in the washroom, chances are, you will probably drop it in the toilet.

15. You almost have no chance of being richer and more famous than Paris Hilton.

16. You didn't notice that these points are missing number fourteen. And whether you did or didn't notice it, you know that I won't fix it.

The respective owner happens to be myself you scammers!!
**Cyberslacking: Engaging in your favorite time waster, the internet.

November 22, 2007

Let It Snow

Today is officially the first day of snow in Toronto and the GTA. Driving to work was quite an adventure this morning. Though my car is all loaded up with winter tires and a good anti-lock braking system, yet I still felt out of control of the car at some points. Other drivers were being extra cautious, especially women. They were driving extremely slow it was getting on my nerves. I had to turn on my seat massager, put on some relaxing Smooth Jazz music, and munch on a granola bar. That worked, but I still got to work an hour late. Argh!

Look at the bright side, though. The scene around me was magnificent. The city was white as snow (duh!!). I marveled at how detailed the snowflakes looked. And those icicles hanging from tree branches also looked amazing. Oh, speaking of icicles, I highly recommend you to listen to the song "I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm" on a snowy day, that's what I did. And to add the cherry on top, I got to work before my boss did. He got stuck in traffic too (tee-hee).

By the way, I never let the weather affect me negatively. I won't lie and say I'm looking forward to tomorrow's -9°C (-15°C with the wind chill factor). But there is nothing you can do about it except be prepared. So stop complaining! It's time to pull out the winter gear so you can hit the road with peace of mind.

Please drive safely, guys!

November 20, 2007

Human Rights.. Yeah Right!

I read on the news today that an Egyptian blogger serving a 4-year jail term for insulting Islam and President Hosni Mubarak has been beaten in prison and sent to an isolation cell.

Abdel Karim Suleiman, a former law student convicted in connection with eight articles he wrote since 2004, was the first blogger to stand trial in Egypt for Internet writings. "I have been subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment", rights groups quoted Suleiman as saying.

I am not taking any sides in this issue. On the one hand, my heart goes out to all those who suffer from human rights violation by governments. On the other hand, I think it was unwise of Mr. Suleiman to insult his country's government in an online website. I mean, come on, this is such a preposterous thing to do. Here is the scenario that he should have seen coming: Someone will read his blog and pass it on to his fellow corrupted police officer who will come and hunt his back down. I'm talking basic common sense here. You don't just attack the government of a third world country that you live in and not expect them to resent you.

November 9, 2007

Influenca is Contagious

It's not a typo. I did mean to write the word influenca in the title with a 'C' instead of the 'Z'. We all know how good it feels when we social influence other people. I'm not talking about peer pressure here. Because peer pressure is when one is forced to do something he might not like just to go with the flow. I'm actually talking about socializing with people and later on seeing for yourself the changes you exerted on them, especially if they were positive changes.

I went to Michigan with some friends and I saw there a friend that I haven't seen for a while. So we had some one-on-one chat time at some Arabic café there. He opened up and told me that he was dating this girl he met at work who's not suitable for him. They both couldn't see any future together, and the weird thing is that they actually talked about it. They both admitted to one another that they cannot see anything serious happening between them. So they just decided to date until he leaves the country. I told him this is so wrong. I really hate it when people get into relationships when they know it's not gonna go anywhere. What a waste of time and emotions!
Of course, I didn't want to be pushful with my views. I didn't want to bore and annoy him. So I just told him how this relationship is not fruitful and should be ended sooner or later.

We finished our drinks and I told him to come spend some time with us at the hotel. So he came and lied down on one of the beds and I went outside the room to check on my friends in the other rooms. Half an hour later, I came back to the room and saw him sorrowfully looking at me. "I broke up with her", he said. I did not believe him at first. But it turned out that he did call her and tell her he wanted to end their relationship. I was really surprised and I had a lot of mixed feelings. I was happy he did the right thing, I felt bad for the girl that cried on the phone, and I felt proud of myself for having the power to convince someone of something without doing much effort.

It's a strategy that anyone can learn. It's just that people don't like to learn things. You must think deliberately (does this word ring a bell?) about the words you're saying before they actually come out of your mouth. You must be committed to the goals of the message you're trying to deliver. Do not use words such as "might" or maybe". Instead, use positive words such as "must" and "will". Don't ever be a dissembler! You have to be truthful and honest. Some people can know the difference in your tone of voice because it does reflect the psychological arousal.

If you care about your friends, you have to take their hand and open their eyes. That's what friends are for. It really grinds my gears when someone says "I don't care what my friends do as long as they don't do anything bad to me". That's only what a selfish person would say. Be nice and support those who might need your help.

Don't you know that we can change the world? I do.

November 3, 2007

And the Blogging Begins

Dear miladies and milords,

If you're reading this, it means that you have clicked through to my little corner of the blogosphere. Thank you for reading. I am most grateful.

Let me introduce myself to you without sounding like those singles from the online dating websites.
I'm a strong believer in Jesus Christ. I am not a simple guy. In fact, I think I'm complicated. Hence, my reviews can be of the same sort. I'm blunt and brutally honest. Sarcastic at times kind of guy and proudly genuine. I get amazed by the simplest things. I like to better educate myself and I cherish good friendships. Also, known to spill and express my views freely and love listening to people's feedback on them.

I'm new to this blogging world. So I'm still fumbling around in the dark trying to figure out how this gets done. Though I've been reading a couple of other people's blogs for a while, I've resisted the idea of having my own. Maybe because I never thought that my writing skills were anywhere near impeccable. And I know for a fact that my posts won't be perfectly formed essays. But I thought that I could make this blog my writing training ground. I'll eventually get better and maybe I could use some suggestions from those who might proofread my posts. So I finally gave in. And you are now reading my first entry in a blog.

If you're still reading, I tremendously thank you from the depths of my soul and the core of my heart. And I sure hope you come back again.