This Year’s Reading

careless loveGetting books from the library is awesome. Except for the cost of transportation (bus fare or gas) it’s free.  If you use an e-reader you don’t even need to go there, and in some cases, can keep the book for a very long time without having to renew it.

I took out a bunch of books a few weeks ago. I started to read one, but was dulled into submission or found myself planning lessons on the bus, or quietly contemplating life rather than reading.

I checked the status of my books and realized that they were due today. So, I did what I normally do.  I renewed all of them in the optimistic belief that I would finish reading them on time.  Sadly, the one I had just started was due and there was somebody waiting for it.  Inwardly I screamed, but outwardly I remained calm.  The book wasn’t very long and I had a few days.  So, I managed to read it and I will be taking it back to the library shortly after I publish this blog.

Before you worry, this is not an angry blog at someone who reserved the book I was reading. That’s the way the system works if you want a popular book from the library.  You have to wait, and your time is limited.  For some of the really popular books the borrowing time is cut to only one week–they are called express loans and I have taken advantage of them on occasions, but mostly for movies.

The book that I had to read by today was Peter Robinson’s Careless Love–an Inspector Banks novel. I have read almost all of the books in this series and I really do like them.  That the author spends his time between Toronto and the Dales in England is merely a bonus.  The writing is quite good and the detective is a good representative of the genre without being too strong a character.  The protagonists of most detective fiction usually have some terrible flaw or back-story that makes their quest for truth and justice central to their being.  They’re alcoholics or gamblers.  They’re victims of abuse or abandonment.  They’re paranoid of the government or some mix of all of them.  Inspector Banks is just a good detective–except that he seems completely incapable of finding true romance in his life.  He had dalliances, but he never seems to find the one.  He does get a bit maudlin at times about it, but he’s got his music to soothe his soul.

In the past, I had reading goals for the year. I stopped doing that when I realized that reading to some number was really not the best way to approach literature.  It is great to look back on the year and see how many books I’ve read, but it isn’t fun to look forward and wonder if I will read the “required number of books” for the year.  One great book is worth 50 mediocre ones.

Today’s Perfect Moment is getting that first book of the year read. I enjoyed myself and my commuting time, while not really changed, has felt less like drudgery.  I am not sure what I am going to read next, but I am sure I will find something.

Posted in ambition, books, bus, commuting, e-book, goals, library, perfect moment, reading, review, Viva, YRT | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

A Break from the Noise

In light of the days events, writing about A Perfect Moment seems callous and is quite hard. The media and even the people around me are all talking about war and death.  Everyone is waiting for the Trump speech in the morning.  Everyone is putting forward their theories and ideas.  I would find it surprising if anyone wanted to talk about my new computer, a chat with a friend about a possible cycling vacation to somewhere I had never even considered before, or some nonsense about sleeping late and drinking way too much coffee in the morning.

Or maybe we need an antidote to all the depressing news around us. Maybe, I should just ramble on and if you are not interested right now, I would invite you to come back later.  If you would like to take your eyes and minds off of what everyone tells you is war, keep reading.

New Computer

I bought a new computer recently, but hadn’t turned it on. I love the idea of new technology, but I just worried that all the changes would be overwhelming.  I like change and can adapt to it well, but I don’t always initiate it well.  In the case of a new computer, I know I’ve got to import or transfer documents and programs and lots of stuff.  If it were like my phone, I could do it in a flash.  Sadly, that is not the case.

The main thing is it is now on and ready to use when I am ready to use it.

New Vacation Idea

A friend who I had met on a cycling trip in Vietnam and met again on a cycling trip of Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam suggested we meet up for another trip at the end of the year.  We found a date we both liked and checked out some trips.  Having explored Asia together, more trips there seemed a bit superfluous–though I still want to get to Laos and Sri Lanka.  Also, since I am on my way to Colombia in the near future, and I feel like I just got back from Costa Rica, both Central and South America were a bit lower down on the ranking.  So, it seems like we might be going to South Africa.  I really had not even had that on the radar, but one look at some of the photos completely changed that.

Sleeping Late

Catching up on sleep seems wise. It leads to late nights.  This leads to writing blogs late at night as well.  I suppose that could be considered a win-win situation….until the next morning when I am on the bus and wishing I were still in bed.

Posted in adapting, adventure, adversity, blog, blog posts, blogging, blogposts, changes, coffee, computers, Exodus Travels, perfect moment, taking chances, travel, travel writing, vacation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

What a Great Start to the Year

thank you

I have just had a chance to look over the blog statistics of the past few days and I am astounded.  Quite a large number of you have shown up to take a look.

Thank you.

I want to be optimistic, but I have to figure that blogging at the beginning of the year is like all of us who got gym memberships and go like gangbusters at the beginning but might taper off come February.  I hope that isn’t the case and I hope that those of you who are new will stick around.  I plan to keep blogging.

Thank you again.

Posted in appreciation, blog, blog posts, blogging, blogposts, growing your blog, increasing blog traffic, perfect moment, starting a blog, thanks, view | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

A Job Well Done

two pilots flying an airplane

Photo by KML on Pexels.com

You know that part of the airplane journey where the captain comes on over the loudspeaker and tells you about the flight you are going to take. The Captain predicts the flying time, claims that we are going to be early if the tower lets us leave on time,  and then makes some jokes about the food.  At the end of the flight, the captain later comes on and thanks you for flying with that particular airline, informs you of the current temperature and bids you a final goodbye.

I do enjoy these rituals of flight. They get me excited for my destination and let me know that something different is happening.  I guess it is similar to hearing the “start your engines” call at a car race.  Maybe it is not dissimilar to the advisory when getting on a scary amusement park ride.  Something different is about to happen.

Today, I heard one of those announcements in a rather unusual place. I was on the subway, slowly creeping towards my destination when the voice over the PA system said something like

Attention ladies and gentlemen. We are approaching Finch station.  We will be arriving shortly.  On behalf of the TTC, my driving partner, and myself, I want to wish you a wonderful evening.

I was a bit dumbfounded. The usual TTC voice is a disinterested one that can barely pronounce all the syllables in the station names.  My students often remark that when they can understand the TTC driver’s announcements, they will feel very confident in their English.

I am not entirely sure why I am drawn to this moment or why it is Today’s Perfect Moment except to say that I can appreciate it when someone does their job well–above and beyond what is expected of them. I also like being reminded that I am going to get on a plane in a few weeks and depart for a warmer climate.

Posted in commuting, perfect moment, subway, TTC | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Exploring Stores

20200105_183229Knowing I’ve got to do more walking before I head off on my vacation to Colombia, my girlfriend and I headed out into the cool afternoon. I hadn’t checked the weather forecast and was a bit underdressed, but I was undeterred.

We planned to explore a park, but we were lured to some shopping areas instead. I don’t really know how that happened, but since it turned out quite well, I am not bothered by it.  I also took the opportunity to look into a few shops that I have seen from the bus window, but never actually looked into.

The first one that caught my eye was called Toppu Dorru. Considering the area we were in, I expected it to be a Persian restaurant but my girlfriend shrugged off that idea.  When I looked in the window, they had plushy Japanese characters.  A quick examination revealed it to be a store filled with Japanese stuff–houseware, stationery, character goods, bags, and some pottery.  Some of it was cute, and some of it was ingenious–oh how I sometimes miss Japan.

Of all the things in the store, the one that spoke to me most was the cup you see pictured at the top of the page. I don’t really need any more cups, but I just loved the two colour pottery of Japan.  I have a cereal bowl that features the dipping technique featured here and I have always loved it.  This is a little more intricate, but something made me want it.  There was only one of these cups, so I couldn’t possibly get a set of them.  Additionally, of all the cups they had, this was one of the few that was made in Japan.  The others had all been made in China.

At the cash register, I realized that Toppu Dorru was meant to be Top Dollar–It has been a while since I needed to use my katakana skills.

The walk was good. It was nice to spend time with my girlfriend that kept us away from computer screens, TV screens, and all the leftover Christmas chocolate.  We also went to a couple of beauty supply houses, a Persian grocery store, a Korean grocery store, a butcher shop, and a pizza place.  I probably should have had a shawarma instead of the pizza, but mistakes in eating choices are good learning experiences..  Since my fitbit broke a long time ago, I really couldn’t tell you how many steps I have done, but it was quite a few.  I am going to have to force myself to do more with the weeks leading up to vacation, but that was as good a start as any.

By the time we got back the weather had become colder and I was glad to warm up with some nice tea. Just in case you were wondering, I did not use my new cup as I felt it probably needed to be washed first.

Posted in contemplation, ethnic food, exercise, food shopping, grocery shopping, Japan, Japanese, perfect moment, seasons, shopping, temperature, walking, winter | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Bittersweet Saturday Morning

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For quite some time now, Saturday morning has meant a good breakfast and coffee. It is the time that I can make and enjoy more cups of coffee than I can during the work week.  I have the time to make it, and more importantly, I have the time to drink it.  Another aspect of Saturday mornings that has existed since long before I even started drinking coffee is reading the Saturday comics.  They provide much needed relief from the often bleak news–today’s talk of war can be quite worrying and depressing.

In the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) the Toronto Star publishes the colour comics insert on Saturdays. I suppose this is different in other major cities on the continent, but this is my reality.  The other rival paper, the Toronto Sun, publishes (I believe, but I am not actually sure) their comics insert on Sunday.  My preference has always been for the Saturday comics.  With only doom and gloom about the newspaper industry being spoken, I hope that this tradition will continue.

I have been reading these strips for years and enjoy many of them. The problem is that they come and go, or creators die and their children take over and keep them going.  I loved Calvin and Hobbes, but the creator Bill Watterson decided to move on.  Currently I have been enjoying Retail, Sherman’s Lagoon, Zits, Pajama Diaries, and others.

Sadly, Pajama Diaries will no longer be published as its creator Terri Libenson has other things to pursue. She has written acclaimed books and greeting cards–so it isn’t hard to imagine that she’s got some other creative ideas to work on.  Thank you Terri for your awesome cartoon strip.  I have really enjoyed it and I am sad to see it go.

It’s replacement does not seem nearly as funny, but I say the same thing at the start of every TV season–the new shows can’t replace the ones that were cancelled or had their finales–then I find something that I like.

My Saturday morning might have been bittersweet, but it was still a good Saturday morning.

Posted in coffee, comic strips, funny story, humor, humour, news, newspaper, perfect moment, reading, relaxation, Saturday morning | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Swapping Travel Stories

Today’s Perfect Moment is a simple one. One of my coworkers is going to Vietnam and Cambodia in the upcoming months.  He is very excited about it.  He knows that I have visited both of those countries and really enjoyed both of them, so we have been talking about them. Vietnam still rates as one of my best trips and I never tire of talking about it.  As for my co-worker, his enthusiasm is infectious.

Swapping travel tips and stories is an awesome way to spend lunch. Many of my coworkers are travelers.  Most of us got into the ESL profession because it afforded the opportunity to travel and make a few dollars while doing it.  Some have taken great advantage of it, while others have taken small advantage of it.  Either way, we’ve all got stories of train journeys short and epic.  We’ve all met weird and wonderful people in amazing and banal situations.  We’ve all eaten something we shouldn’t have and we’ve eaten things we should have eaten more of.  We’ve been on beaches, mountains, and islands.  We’ve crossed lakes, rivers, mountains, and borders.  We’ve gotten lost and we’ve been found.  We also want to regale you with all of it.

Of course, better than talking about traveling is traveling itself. My journey is fast approaching and I still have to get ready.

Posted in adventure, advice, airplanes, ESL, Exodus Travels, funny story, G Adventures, perfect moment, teaching, trains, travel, travel tips, travel writing, vacation, Vietnam | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Year That Will Be

new year

A couple of days before the dawning of the New Year, I was checking out Erin Karpluk’s instagram page (I have been a fan since Being Erica) and it had one of those giant word search puzzles. It stated that the first four words you see will be the four words that define your year.  I tried to reproduce it here on this blog, but I am not technologically gifted enough for that. Skipping over that, I should tell you about the words I found first.  The words I got were power, miracles, gratitude, and creation. I was feeling pretty good about these and felt even better when Erin responded to my comment.

RESOLUTIONS

I resolve to be:

  • neater at home and in my personal style
  • hardworking both at my job and in my writing
  • less grumpy towards my family members
  • more decisive about both important and trivial things

GOALS

Travel

I have one trip to Colombia booked, but I would also like to do another cycling trip this year.  Obviously to make this happen, I will need to save more money and find better cheaper ways to fly.  It would be nice if I could do a European trip or another trip to Asia this year.

It would be nice if my girlfriend and I could travel together.  I know that traveling with someone is the ultimate stress test of a relationship, but I have the feeling that we have what it takes to accomplish that.

To be a better traveler, I should also learn to pack smarter. I am sure there are tons of blogs and vlogs to help me learn this.  I just have to make it work for me.

Write

This blog has given me lots of interesting new people to interact with.  I have really enjoyed that even more this year.  I want to keep that going and I want my blog to have more than 1000 followers by the end of the year.

This blog was supposed to be exercise for my creative muscles and my word crafting.Now I’ve got to take it to another level and write short stories for submission and write a book.  I lack neither ideas nor ambition and I should make them work for me.

I wrote t hat I should sleep more.  Getting these posts done a bit earlier in the evening would go a long way towards making that possible.  It might also improve my writing since I won’t be falling asleep at the keyboard.

Be healthier

Every year I write this and only a few times have I really managed it. It isn’t merely weight that needs attention.  I should work on my flexibility and stamina.  I should eat healthier and enjoy what I eat more.  I should also sleep more regularly.

Enjoy

This last year was great for an improvement in my overall mood and ability to deal with things. Now, I want to take that positivity and expand it to other areas of my life.  I want to feel good about the moments as they pass and I don’t want to pass things up.

Ride my bicycle

Last year, I accomplished the goal of consistently riding with the B group. This year, I want to stay in the B group and not fade at the end of the ride.  If I can finish strong, I will know I have done this.  Of course, this means I am going to have to get out more than once a week.  I am going to have to ride more, and ride harder.

Posted in ambition, blog, blog posts, blogging, blogposts, books, cycling, decluttering, Erin Karpluk, exercise, goals, growing your blog, health, increasing blog traffic, New Year's Resolutions, packing, perfect moment, reading, travel, travel writing, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Year That Was

Happy New Year to everyone.  Let’s hope 2020 is a fantastic year for everyone.

So 2019 is in the books. Before I look forward to the year ahead, I should probably take a moment to look back.

I would have to say the year held a lot of positives for me.

I traveled to Costa Rica.  I had really been planning a completely different trip that fell through and basically took this trip as a consolation.  I didn’t know much about the place, and even less about the company that put it together.  It had come highly recommended, and it was on sale.  Looking back it was a stellar trip with lots of great moments.  It definitely helped push me towards 2020’s Colombia trip.

After letting everyone in on the relationship I had been keeping secret, we went on to pass the one year mark. I don’t really need to count months or years, but anniversaries should be noted in some way.  Through the course of the year we had some great dates and it was nice to have someone to share things with.

My blogging really ramped up and I managed to write more posts than I did the year before. This led to a slight increase in readership and followers, but more importantly, allowed me to get a little better at my writing.  Now I just have to get better at marketing myself and the blog.

I got back to more enjoyable cycling this year and finally found myself making gains as the summer and autumn went by. The scenery passing by on the bike was wonderful and the camaraderie shared by fellow enthusiasts is awesome.

My true friends continue to be just that.  We are all heading for a milestone year this  year and our friendship is as strong as ever.  Don’t let anyone tell you that you don’t need friends.  You need friends, just choose wisely.

I discovered some new authors, bloggers, and vloggers. There are a number of creative and talented people out there and it’s great when you discover them, or someone else helps you discover them.  I only hope I can create that feeling for some people out there.

Unfortunately, the year had its lows.

Death reared its head and took away people it shouldn’t have. I could write post after post complaining of this, and it wouldn’t do any good.  It was nice to see how supportive people can be, but it is still a punch in the gut.  It isn’t fair.  It just isn’t fair.

The atmosphere at my work changed considerably this year and not for the better. Fortunately that isn’t in the classroom and is just in the staff room.  I would like to think that it will get better now, but some wounds just won’t heal.  It’s a transient workplace and maybe some of the aggravating ones will leave and things will find a new balance.  If they don’t, there will just be another Misfits’ Christmas party next year.

The weight I lost before going to Costa Rica to do some zip-lining came back with a little bit of a vengeance.  Again, complaining won’t do anybody any good.  Besides, I know that I would only be complaining to myself–and I know I am too stubborn to listen.

If you would like to look at my year, I invite you to take a look at some of the posts I have highlighted from the past year.  I don’t know if these are a representative sample or just the ones that caught my eye.  Let me know what you think.

Posted in 2019, blog, blog posts, blogging, blogposts, friends, friendship, growing your blog, Happy New Year, increasing blog traffic, perfect moment, personal best, photography, review, travel writing, writing | 2 Comments

How My Day Was Like a Sandwich

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Today’s two Perfect Moments nicely sandwich a particularly ugly part of my day. For you to fully understand, I am going to have to write about all three of them.

The first Perfect Moment, or the bottom slice of bread if you are still following the sandwich analogy, happened when I arrived at my bus stop early this morning. It was cool, but not particularly cold.  It was raining a bit, but nothing I couldn’t handle.  The digital sign board explained that the regular bus was arriving in five minutes and the express bus was arriving in five minutes.  Obviously, I chose to take the express bus, which meant waiting around because despite what the sign said, I knew they weren’t both going to arrive at the same time.

When I finally stepped onto my bus, which arrived two minutes after the regular one, I quickly realized that I was the only passenger. I have been the last passenger on the bus before, but that was as I was heading home and people got off the bus one by one, leaving me alone.  In this case, I was first.

While this is definitely a Perfect Moment, it was short lived as people got on at the next stop. Oddly enough, the next passenger to board the bus walked right past me to sit at the back seat.  He then proceeded to share his particularly bad taste in music with me, rather than savour it with his headphones.  Maybe he didn’t have headphones.  Maybe he enjoyed hearing his music played over tiny speakers with lots of distortion.  After putting up with it for a while, I turned around and asked him to turn it down.  He turned it off.

Standing up for oneself is definitely worth being called Today’s Perfect Moment.

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The other Perfect Moment, or top slice in the ugly sandwich, was a little treat I was saving for the last break. It was an icy square.  These have been a Christmas tradition in my family for as long as I can remember.  Having one of these delicious treats after my horrible morning certainly went a long way towards redeeming the day.

What was so ugly about my day, you wonder. Hold on to your hats as this ride is about to get bumpy.

In my morning class I have a student who has told me that he is better than his level indicates. I asked him to stop telling me and start showing me.  Instead, he has spent his time on his cell phone, rarely participating, and not even answering direct questions.  He has displayed other anti-social behaviour, but I don’t want to get into the specifics.

Today, after arriving late, he did not participate and put his head down on his desk and went to sleep. While I might be sympathetic to the plight of the tired teenager, I don’t think school is the place to sleep.

I snuck out and talked to my boss. He advised kicking him out of class, so that is what I did after writing an email and identifying all of his personality deficiencies.  I tried to be as truthful as possible.

Of course, the student refused to leave. Rather than get into a confrontation with him, I let him stew on his own and just made sure he didn’t sleep again–and believe me he tried.  I gave him a chance to participate, but he refused.

I had hoped he would turn it around and show me that he was in the wrong level. Instead, he showed me that he is in the right level, but may never get out of there.  The key things for me were that my boss backed me up, my boss seemed likely to do something about it (suspension, expulsion….we will see) and that I was given some empowerment.

Posted in bus, commuting, difficulties, empowerment, ESL, perfect moment, sandwich, students, teaching, Viva, York Region | 3 Comments