Monthly archive for ‘ July, 2007 ’

Technology in Toilets

30th July 2007 | Closed

I think that you can tell how developed a country is, by the state of their toilets. Japan must be the world’s leader. I read about it in the guide books but its still a surprise when you have to use one.

There are 2 main brands: Toto and National. All beige. The first thing is that they have a control panel on one side. Once you sit down, the water reservior for the bidet starts filling up. The control panels on the basic model is for bidet functions. However in one of the upscale department stores, I encountered the deluxe model but didn’t try all the functions. It was just enough to read what they were: music (to cover up body noises), strong deordorizer button, dry, back wash, front wash and off. Then I realized that I didn’t know how to flush it. Japanese signage didn’t help, pressing other buttons didn’t help so I got up and left. Then it flushed itself. Then there was another time, different model where I came out and the attendant just happened to be by and she showed where the sensor button was. It had flushed once when I was still inside but I couldn’t figure where it was triggering.

Oh yes, especially in the high end department stores, the stalls are also equipped with toilet disinfecting spray dispensers with instructions that you take a recommended amount of toilet paper, put it under the spray dispenser etc. The upscale toilets are like little rooms with doors. They also have a built in baby seat in the corner for your infant.

Most sinks have water and soap sensors. And the first time I couldn’t find the paper towel dispenser, couldn’t see a hand dryer. Its a different style where you stick your hands down inside a wall can thingamigjiggy.

Toilet paper: cheap version is one ply and non perforated. Expensive version: two ply and perforated. I’m finding non perforated type annoying.

Such are the basic things of life that can be so different when you are travelling in a foreign country.

But there’s always cornflakes

28th July 2007 | 1 Comment

The lobby/lounge is on the 3rd floor or 3F.

Breakfast choices were:
Japanese item: triangular shape rice snacks filled with different toppings liked bonita flakes or salmon. Just like the ones Terra made for us. coleslaw, instant cream of corn soup make by Knorr which David likes, instant red or brown miso soup mix-just add water.

hardboiled eggs-already shelled, fruit salad -individual servings, different types of sweet buns, jams
yogurt – they like it really sweet here
green tea, orange juice, coffee

and of course cocoa puffs and cornflakes

There was a young American named Matt from Virgina Beach travelling by himself. So we asked him to join us. He was about Adam’s age so I thought he would appreciate some English conversation. He checked in last night and discovered that the youth hostel is close by so he will be checking out. There is free internet in the lobby here.

We will soon discover that most Japanese meals will include miso soup, coleslaw, corn and eggs. The water here is fine so we are usually offered cold water not tea.

Kyoto Comfort Inn

28th July 2007 | Closed

Our first dinner meal in Japan, was close to the hotel. It was Royal Host featuring curry specials. It was like an American style dinner. Smoking is allowed in restaurants and many other public spaces. As we will discover, any other cuisine will have their Japanese twist to it.

July 24th. Our first day in Japan started really early. We had went to bed local time of 9:30 and 10:30. David always sleeps earlier. But we were both up by 4:00am, plenty of time of time to get to the hotel breakfast for 6:30am.

OUr room is on the 7th floor and although it is one of the larger rooms since it had two beds, its compact in size. The total size would have equalled our master bedroom at home. The hotel room had 2 3/4 sized beds, a loveseat, a round table, a tub chair, a desk with a bar fridge under it. And of course internet connection. They have these ergonomically padded shaped pillows at least that what the brochure depicted. Although some things have diagrams, since we can’t read the text, you have to guess at the meaning. Japanese text looks like Chinese text but doesn’t have the same meanings.

You are provided with a button up nightshirt, disposable brush, toothbrush & toothpaste, razors, a room hotpot so that you can have your own tea or coffee. They have green tea powder packets which I quite enjoy. Each floor has its own pant press that you can borrow.

But the bathroom was a step up room meaning you had to step up into it. It seems Japanese plumbing is built above ground so that you can always hear the water draining. Since it was a small bathroom, so small that if you were 6′ or taller, if you sat on the toilet, your knees would hit the toilet paper dispenser or if you rotated your body, your knees would then hit the bathtub. It made me feel so claustrophic that I wanted to leave the door open but you can’t since the sign said “leaving the door open will cause the smoke detectors to go off because of the humidity”. The interesting plumbing feature was having the same faucet for both the sink and tub. You would just swing the faucet between the two. And the toilets…I will have a separate page for that.

Osaka to Kyoto

28th July 2007 | Closed

I have a Dream List comprised of things to do before ….
Visiting Kyoto can now be crossed off the list. Why Kyoto? It was the ancient capital of Japan and has retained much of its history unlike Tokyo.

We landed in Osaka. We stepped off the plane and once outside, you get blasted. After typhoon season is over, you get hot temperatures and high humidity for all of July and August. 30-40c.

You can tell that you are in a real foreign country when you are desparately searching for any English signage. Being in Hong Kong wasn’t nearly as bad because it was a British Colony so that there was lots of English. But here in Osaka airport, we had to figure out the train routes to get us to Kyoto. We bought a Kansai Rail pass which gives us 3 days unlimited travel between Osaka, Kobe, Nara on trains, subways and buses. Its a great deal.

So we got the train from Osaka to Kyoto. It should have been 2 hours but due to our inexperience much longer since we should have transferred from train to train not train to subway to subway. IF you think Toronto’s subway map is confusing, its peanuts compared to any Japanese city.

So we get into Kyoto and try to get to our hotel. What David thought was a 15 min walk from the subway station was once again longer walk since the map he had wasnt to scale.

We got off the subway station and got a bit of a local parade. It is the Matusi festival – giving thanks to the local deity for a good harvest’, lots of people walking in white costumes and drumming. Another aspects of Kyoto life – constant whining of cicadas. They are really noisy. Plums trees.

It a drive on the left hand side country and people also ride the bikes on the sidewalk. You have to remember watch traffic coming from the other direction.

We finally get to Kyoto Comfort Inn at 8:40pm after a 5 trip to Vancovuer, a 4 hour layover in Vancouver and a 10.5 hour flight to Osaka, 3 hours to Kyoto. The hotel clerk said we looked tired and yes we were.

Flying Forever (air travel to Japan)

28th July 2007 | 1 Comment

Last night, David went to bed at 11:00 pm and set the alarm for 3:45am since the limo would be picking us up at 4:15am. Such an ungodly that we couldn’t ask anyone to drive us to the airport. It was so early that I wish we didn’t have a chatty, friendly driver.

I never slept since I was packing and cleaning. It was like being a teenager and pulling an all-nighter with the boys. Since all the boys were obviously not interested in going to sleep, I got photos of them together. At least they were awake enough to see us off. And also to give us their wish list for Japanese gifts. Eric said no consumables since he wanted a durable souvenir. Chinglish t-shirts for all, a sushi poster for Eric or fake sushi, of course they would love electric games or toys!

The goal was to stay awake and not fall asleep until the flight to Japan. I had 2 cat naps. Since I had an aisle seat, I was woken up. I watched Time Machine (Jeremy Irons plays a villan) and Lookout (Jeff Daniels). Time Machine was predictable 2/5 but Lookout was much better 4/5*.

I writing at the 3rd Maple Leaf lounge today. Benefits of being an elite flyer. We had 1/5 hour before we board in Toronto and ate breakfast there. Cold cereals, toast, yogurt, fresh fruit were offered. I had mocha coffee from the machine. It was too sweet but I was looking a caffeine hit. The first lag wasn’t too bad and of course its raining when we landed in Vancouver. Then went to the 2 lounges in Vancouver. One in the domestic terminal and one in the international terminal. And they were serving breakfast once again. I can’t remember the last time I had a teenage burger but that the best lunch option at 9:30am Vancouver time. I confess that it was a double teenage burger with onion rings. Once a decade can’t be too naughty. We were hoping for steak & eggs at Milestones but they weren’t open.

So we are camping here until we board our flight to Osaka. I’ve never had a chance to walk around the international terminal here. Probably because it wasn’t built the last time I had to fly international from here, or it wasn’t finished when we flew here to Hong Kong. It has an ocean aquarium wall and running stream too.

Now the lounge is offering instant noodles and crudites for lunch. David took some noodles. I also found vegetable soup, bread & butter, vegetable chips and cookies for dessert. David said to eat as much as possible before boarding so that you can sleep on the flight. Sleep over food!

This is now being typed from the executive business centre in our hotel in Tokyo Ginza. David is working upstairs in our room which leaves me to type here.

Second leg of trip is a 10.5 hour flight. What does one do? I was supposed to be sleeping as much as possible but its not that comfortable. Unless you were in first class. They had the last in what looked like chaise lounges with the chair back that flip down. They looked like a space age cocoons. Back to our economy class seats. I watched 2 movies. The first was Air Hogs starring Tim Allen, John Travolta. It was really hard to hear the dialogue over the noise of the plane unless I squished the airphone to my head. The movie kept jamming so I never saw the end. The trick is to find a movie under the appropriate genre. David found Pan’s Labyrinth on ‘international’ listing. It certainly deserved all the awards despite the civil war theme and cruelty. The next movie was Children of Men starring Clive Owens. I am a Clive Owens fan. This movie probably had the shortest screen time for Julianne Moore though. It was predictable. Al together I would have had a 5 hours sleep.

Japanese Tour Books

18th July 2007 | Closed

Paul let me his 2 travel guide books which I started to read.  I’m starting to get excited.

We had to replace the torsion spring on our garage door.  This meant that we couldn’t use our car until the service guy came.  We could have lifted the garage door manually but its a 10×7′ door.  Its like having your car locked in.

Eric went to the Chinese Embassy to get his visa today.

Adam is singing Chinese songs now.

Terra had her pet white rat with her today.   I’m trying not to be biased against it.  I’m fine as long as it in its travel case.

I spent yesterday weeding a rose garden for a client.  (a summer infill job).  I now hate roses.  I had to constantly reposition myself so that I wouldn’t get thorns in my bum when I was squatting down.   Actually it would have been nice if there were blooms then it wouldn’t have been so bad.  Only 3 of the bushes had blooms.

Adam’s Arrival

16th July 2007 | Closed

His flight arrived earlier so we rushed off to the airport.  Some of his friends went too so I made them hold  the banner that said “welcome home, Adam”  One strange guy saw it, read it and told  his arriving friend that we had made it for him because his friend’s name happened to Aaron.  We had to wait 1/2 hour before Adam came through the luggage doors.  Even strangers were clapping when we were cheering.  Then we got Adam to run through the banner.
One woman was holding a sign that said ‘congratulations, you made bail’ and on the other said it said Hacker.  It must have been a joke.

The most surprising thing for Adam to see was how much Ryan had changed;  grown taller, longer hair and contacts in 2 years.

Adam’s’ friends came over.  Adam unpacked and showed us everything that he brought back.  What was fake and what wasn’t.  The fans were a big hit.  Lots of tea. He didn’t have room for a tea set so I got paper cutouts.  His peking duck was confiscated by Vancouver customs.

Then they all tried shots of some booze that he brought back.  And dried fruits, seaweed and candy.   He didn’t realize a lot of stuff you can get here but more costly.

All the princes are home.

Food & Art

16th July 2007 | Closed

Where: Saturday, we went out for lunch at a restaurant Indo-Chyna on Ossington that served Chinese, Vietnamese & Thai food. It had only been opened for 2 months. It had 2 wonderful paintings on the wall, one depicting a woman sitting down on the grass with a bowl of fruit.  It was sorta like a retro vintage advertisement with a plain background.  The rest of the wall were plain.  There was also french music playing in the background.  Imagine Stevie Wonder sung in French by a woman.

Who: David, his old manager Greg who is now his co-author.  Greg’s girlfriend, Indira and her sister Sonia

Why: Greg was over here writing with David. And so the plan was to met with Indira and Sonia for lunch.  Sonia lives in Parkdale.

Food:  I ordered my main dish of fish cakes noodle soup, with chicken, pork, tomatoes in a tamarind base.  However, everyone else spring rolls and fishcakes as appetizers. Disappointed that they were out of calamari.  So my main course was pretty similar to the appetizers.  Lovely presentation, food was okay.  Fancy bowls, crackers as nibblies and those chocolate rolled cyclinder things as a dessert.

The fish cakes were supposed to be cod and dace.  I remember buying canned dace in oval tins and loving it.  However when I think about how much oil that the dace was sitting it, its enough for a car lube job.

It was a case of serendipity where I had already read the newspaper and was folding it up to put into recycling when the following announcement caught my eye.

Edward Day Gallery (952 Queen St.) unveils a series of intricately set-up mini sculptures by Cybele Young.  She creates little scenes inside black rimmed  box using Japanese paper and other materials, folded with tremendous skills.

So  after lunch which happened to be in the same neighborhood, we went to the gallery.  Co-incidently Indira said that she wanted to be at 920 Queen since she saw a lingerie shop that she wanted to be checked out. So David went into Museum of Canadian Contemporary Art, right next door to Edward Day Gallery.  Greg, Indira& Sonia went to 920.

So it was small exhibit and I didn’t see the best pieces until the very end when David told me that it was time to go.  Yes, they are tiny and the titles are very witty.  Such as ‘where did my shopping list go?’ and its a shopping cart being carried off by a balloon.   Edward Day Gallery and MofCCA are both free.  MofCCA had a lot of diverse exhibits there, some were interesting.  I’m hoping that Cybele Young has a website so that I can see more of her stuff.

Cool Waters, Hot Women

14th July 2007 | 1 Comment

Hot Women was the theme for Bizzy B’s Hive ATC meeting yesterday. It was a rowdier meeting more than usual due to the subject matter. S.V. went for the smut factor. C.M. said that she had suffered for her art since she was accused of buying porn, and not even good porn as artwork for her cards. She got a lot of strange looks as she was cutting up nudie figures while riding TTC. L.W. was really productive while she was waiting for the police since she had witnessed a B&E. MDW wasn’t as productive as she had hoped since her car was AWOL. Its these interesting background details that I find fun and enjoyable as well as what inspired people. S.V. said that she used parts of her daughter’s discarded bustier for her cards.

Suprisingly I wasn’t the only one who used mermaids for their cards. I really didn’t have any hot women images and I really wanted to use my mermaids. So I used the theme ‘ cool waters, hot women’. The hot women being mermaids. Mermaids were also known as sirens- singing their songs to lure sailors to their death. Can’t get any hotter than that.

I forgot that I could have used my postage stamps that have female nudes. In case you are wondering, what country would use female nudes as postage stamps, they come from some obscure African countries.

Filling the Pantry

14th July 2007 | Closed

With Adam away in China, and Noah visiting his grandparents for 2 weeks, the fridge wasn’t particularly full. Then I realized ‘oh my God, I’m such a bad mother, there isn’t enough food for when they both come back home! Off to the grocery for a major haul of food. Feeding four teenagers is quite a feat compared to just when two of them are living at home. Even then, Ryan’s friends were here a lot and they were being fed too.

One of things that Adam said that he missed while in China was turkey. So I thought that for a homecoming dinner, we would have a full turkey dinner, stuffing, cranberry sauce etc. Well you can image the turkey selection in July.

More Estrogen

14th July 2007 | Closed

We had Eric’s girlfriend stay with us for a week. Terra is Korean so we had to explain some of the food items. And that in her family, they use food leftovers to make sushi just like we use leftover to make fried rice. It was a fun having another female in the house.

Whispers & Lies

13th July 2007 | Closed

This is the third book that I have read by Joy Fielding. It didn’t have the abused wife or lesbian themes like the first two books that I read but there were the abused and lesbian threads in this one. I think I enjoyed this one the most since it had ‘you never saw it coming’ ending.

Primping for Prom

13th July 2007 | Closed

June 23.  Not having daughters, I some times wonder what I am missing out on. Eric and his buddies were here getting ready for prom. Your tie must match your date’s dress. You rent a limo. You get a haircut. You shave. You put on body spray. They all got dressed and then I had to deliver the corsages since they left them behind in my fridge. The corsages now have a velcro strap. Thanks goodness for velcro. I had to beg for the photo op.

Eric wanted to wear a 3 piece suit despite that it was the warmest day this week – 34c. I told them to walk slowly as not to build up sweat.

Rickie Lee Jones

13th July 2007 | 1 Comment

June 30th. David got us great seats for her concert at the Music Hall which is close to home and a small venue. We were in row D, #14,15 meaning close to the stage and center. I told David that it was BG crowd since most people were grey and bald. Not surprisingly since Rickie Lee is 52. She is not aging well. I always find it surprising that her singing voice is different from her speaking voice. She had a lot of problems with her sound mix, we couldn’t hear her vocals. She is still a rocker chick but does other stuff like ballads, uses a bow on her electric guitar ( it was a good thing that the stage hand got her floor cushions) like a cello. Her bass player was good too.

Better than Valedictorian

13th July 2007 | Closed

Eric was nominated for valedictorian but wasn’t as disappointed that he didn’t win. He won the Aristeia Award which is Riverdale’s highest award ‘to students in their graduating year. That you have won the award, as the result of a balloting of your colleagues, indicates that your academic achievement and your contribution to the extra-curricular program of the school have earned well-deserved recognition’ – as written by the principal.

He gets a photo plaque and trophy. Great way to end high school.

We went to the professional photographer today for the photo. Her name is Donna Miller. She is an award winner and one of her claims to fame is that she photographed Joni Mitchell.