Talk About Sporatic

Wowzers! Holy Dingle! Gee Willikers!

These could be terms used to describe the proliferation of posts that I’ve had over the past two years.

Oh wait, that should actually be the dearth of posts I’ve had over the past two years.

Many years ago, I made a New Year’s Resolution – not to make New Year’s Resolutions – and I have kept it extremely well.

With that in mind, I will not make a resolution here, however I will seriously consider the aspect of writing blog posts a wee bit more often. (Notice how much leeway I give myself.)

Over the years I have done posts using several different platforms, like Blogger, Tumblr and WordPress. Now I have decided to stick with one, and have chosen WordPress and have moved everything here.

So, we will proceed, and try to talk about things that life decides to bring us.

The Settling In Continues

It has been a few interesting, and busy, days since my last blog post.

When I left you last, we had taken delivery of our washing machine.  The installer put it in and hooked it up, it looked fine and we couldn’t wait to use it.  In went the first load, with great ceremony, and the machine was started.  When checked several hours later it had halted in the spin cycle and remained full of water. Hmmm… Back to the instructions we went (those usually undecipherable writings to be referenced when all else fails). Started over, same result. Called shop, installer would be by to check, shop called, installer would not be by, we would deal with next day.

Meanwhile, we were seeking some furniture for the apartment (here it’s called an apartment, back home it would be called a condo). Cynthia had a severe lack of storage space in her room so we were looking for a wardrobe cabinet for her.  After visiting several furniture shops we were very disappointed, in both the quality of material and the empathy of the sales staffs. Then, as with the electrical shop, we received a recommendation for a furniture guy. Off we went to visit Andrew. Success plus! We got not one, but two different wardrobe cabinets for Cynthia, one for hanging clothes and one with many shelves. Then we spotted a china cabinet for the dining room. Bonus. Extra bonus, all for only RM1100 (Cdn$385), free delivery same day as ordering.

Now back to the washing machine saga. In the morning off we went to the electrical shop, arriving just after 9am. Not open yet, what should we do.

Ahh, as any good Malaysian would do we looked around for food, seeing a small Malay coffee shop, looking less than pristine. We will try there. Seeing as how it was morning the menu was fairly limited. Kim had mee-rebus and I had mee-rojak.  Both were absolutely delicious and the people there very friendly. We have learned not to judge any place by it’s appearance, and this was proven once again.

While eating we determined that the electrical shop didn’t open until 11am so we decided that we would travel down the road to the Lui-chew Cemetery and visit Kim’s grandmother and grandfather. Kim’s first visit there in over twenty years. We spent quite a while there, driving up to the very top of the cemetary (four-wheel drive comes in handy) and looking out over the city. It was an emotional time for both of us, however very peaceful as well.

Back to the electrical shop, had a nice visit with the boss there.  We do really like the staff and have no complaints with them.  While there they arranged for a maintenance person to look at the washing machine and we picked up a countertop induction hob for the apartment. (Hob – Collins English Dictionary definition – (British) the flat top part of a cooking stove, or a separate flat surface, containing hotplates or burners). More on these items later.

Next stop was Tesco.  This multinational retailer, headquartered in England, is kind of like a cross between Walmart and CostCo.  It is a huge place with pretty much everything one might want. Good prices, extra benefits for members, and good quality products. Their big competitor is Aeon Jusco. Aeon is a Japanese company that operates shopping centres across Asia, with their retailer Jusco as the primary anchor. Jusco has similar member benefits and so on to Tesco.

Upon returning home, the maintenance guy arrives to look at the washing machine.  Simple fix, it seems that the machine does not have a pump to remove the water, but rather drains by gravity, hence re-positioning the hose solves the problem. This is common with all top-loading machines. Unfortunately the installer appears not to have been aware of this wee detail. anythewho, we were happy and maintenance guy had an easy task.

Then came learning how to use the induction hob. Easy to use, takes up little counter space and is extremely efficient, we really like it. Again, happiness.

Enough for now, long lost cousins in the next post.  Until then, enjoy.

Arrived and Getting Settled

After a long, albeit pleasant, flight from Vancouver, we arrived in Hong Kong.  It was early in the morning, just after sunrise, about 23C and quite misty, so not much to be seen.

Upon landing, we had a wee walk, a train ride, and another wee walk to get to our departure gate.  Then a few moments to relax before boarding our flight to Kuala Lumpur, the final air leg of our trip.  Good wifi allowed me to upload my latest blog post and to catch up on Facebook with those following our journey.

The flight to Kuala Lumpur via Cathay Pacific was, once again, pleasant and quiet, with most passengers either watching television or looking out the window.  Breakfast was eggs with bacon or chicken with rice.  As usual we had one of each, both were very good.  We touch down in Malaysia with a soft bump and prepare to de-plane.

Now is time for a walk, then a train ride, with one stop before Immigration.  Kim and Richard have to visit one of the duty-free shops to pick up a couple of “beverages” for presents.  From there to Immigration, passports checked, index fingers scanned, all is good, and we go to collect our baggage.  Another successful flight, ALL six bags are present, accounted for, and undamaged. Win!

Then comes our first hiccup.  We proceed to the departure hall, to find a payphone and alert our ride of our arrival.  Kim and Richard were able to locate two payphones, however neither one worked.  Plan B was now put into play.  We will purchase our Malaysia SIM cards now for our cell phones.  Meanwhile, one of the transportation booths was kind enough to allow Kim to use their phone.  Driver contracted, but oops, he thought we were arriving at 4:00 not 1:00 as we did, so he was still in Melaka.  Never fear, he had an associate who was available, and it turned out we only had to wait about 15 minutes.  Meanwhile we all got our new SIM cards.  I got one with lots of data so as to be able to do all my social media things.  In addition to my phone service I got 3GB of data (plus receiving a promo of 1.5GB free) for RM100 for the month.  If you are comparing data charges, that is Cdn$35.


Now our driver, Mr Soh, arrives and we have the challenge of putting the luggage into his Toyota SUV.  After no small amount of effort, we managed to place six checked bags, three carry-on bags, two computer bags, one purse and four people in the vehicle, and off we went.  A most personable chap, Mr Soh soon determined that a meal enroute would not be unacceptable, indicating that he knew of an excellent chicken rice place on the way.
He was correct.  The chickens were raised on a soybean diet, the meat being very smooth and very little fat.  The chicken rice, combined with fresh fish-ball soup, made a delicious meal.  It was also a great time to relax for the rest of the drive to Melaka.

First stop in Melaka was at sister Hong’s house to drop off Richard.  One of the first things I did was to go inside and give niece Ah Kim a big hug and a kiss on the forehead.  It is so nice to see her, she was stricken with polio as a very young child and has been basically bound to her modified lawn chair for almost fifty years, yet she is always so cheerful and bubbly.  She spends a great deal of time on Facebook and has many friends.

Next on the agenda, is our Melaka home, it is also where daughter Cynthia lives.  Great hugs all round, so nice to be home.  Baggage is taken inside and soon the living room here looks the same as did our living room in Edmonton, only this time things were coming out of the suitcases, not going in.  Well that is not really true, actually things were being relocated for future delivery to daughter Jaclyn and grandchildren in Johor Bahru.

To finish the day we were off to enjoy an nice meal then home and bed about 11:00.

Next morning, up before 7:00, relaxing with a Malaysian coffee and enjoying the morning from our small (quite small) balcony.  Temperature was 23C and a nice breeze was blowing.  A far cry from the -15C we left in Edmonton, however we are managing to suffer through it.

Very close to our apartment is the coffee shop that used to be owned by Kim’s father.  It is still owned by the folks who bought it from him and they always look forward to seeing us, well particularly Kim.

So over we went for breakfast, after which we went over to sister Hong’s to visit and pick up Richard.  Oh, and we also have a few things to drop off, and, lo and behold, take a few photos such as the one shown on the left.  There we have Cynthia, Richard, Ah Kim, Hong, Phuong and Kim.

Then nephew Ah Boy shows up and we all decide to go for Teo-Chew style congee, joined by brother Ming, also visiting from Canada.  It seems we are settling nicely into the routine of regular food occurrences, which is fine by us.



By now I am also getting into the routine of driving in Malaysia.  As seems to be the norm, there are three systems of driving here.  The first is the official rules of the road, the second being the way that people actually drive, and the third being for motos (those on motorbikes).  The key seems to be knowing how the first is being interpreted by the second and then being on the constant lookout for the third.  The other aspect which must be kept in mind is that the steering wheel in on the right side of the vehicle, meaning that the vehicle is maintained on the left side of the road.  That all being said, driving in places like Chicago, Montreal or Vancouver can be good practice for Malaysia, then adding the wild card that is the motos.

Okay, we are going to a place recommended by Ah Boy to pick up a washing machine, microwave and a toaster for the apartment.  It was a good recommendation as we bought all three for RM1170 (Cdn$410), including delivery and installation.  The installation was scheduled for three hours later.

A little more shopping and then heading home when another oops occurred.  Our loyal steed overheated, in the middle of rush hour traffic.  Aargh!  Okay, no major issue, we pulled over, let it cool down and added water, a nearby shop let us use their tap.  Hmm, seems that the upper rad hose had sprung a leak.  We got home, installation guy was waiting for us, inside we went, and washing machine was installed.  Kim took Richard back to sister’s, Cynthia went off to work and yours truly relaxed in the apartment.  Kim returned with food that sister Hong had prepared, and then it was time for bed.  The first full day in Malaysia had come to a conclusion.

Crossing The Pacific

As I start this blog post we are approximately four and a half hours into our flight from Vancouver to Hong Kong, with about nine hours until our arrival.  It occurred to me that perhaps I should put some thoughts into words during this leg of our journey.
For many years my experiences with more lengthy flights were highlighted by my travels in the Canadian military when, over the years, I made a number of trips from Trenton, Ontario, to Alert, Nunavut, in the far north, usually by way of Thule, Greenland.  These flights, six to eight hours in duration, were, almost literally, made as part of the cargo in a CF-130 Hercules aircraft.  Conversation by the handful of passengers was accomplished only by shouting and sleep eluded many, unless they were able to drift off to the incessant roar of the engines.  Also, most of us did not remove our parkas as they both shielded us from the noise and kept us warm.
Most certainly this flight is considerably longer, however the biggest difference, to me, is the fact that I am sharing this aircraft with 300+ people.  As I look around right now, the majority of them are sleeping, in an amazingly diverse variety of poses, some of which one might think to be extremely uncomfortable.
It is now close to two hours later.  All around me more television screens have become active again, some folks are moving about, and the flight attendents have made the rounds with hot noodles, which are quite popular (and quite tasty as well).  I suspect this will be a reasonably brief activity time and that soon all will be quiet once more. 
I should mention that we left Vancouver at 1:25 am and it is now 7:00am Vancouver time, and midnight Hong Kong time, where we will arrive at 7:00am.
Shortly after takeoff, with no empty seats, dinner was served.  Choices were smoked salmon, chicken with black bean sauce, braised beef or vegetarian ziti pasta.  We had chicken and beef, both were good.  Then most people were watching their screens, with some counting sheep right away.  Over time the screens began darkening until we reached the point where I began this post.
Another two hours have past, many more screens have gone dark while a good number of others are shining only on the outside of their viewers eyelids.  With five hours to go we are basically quiet again.
Two and a half hours to go, the plane starts to wake up.  Breakfast has been warming for some time now, although the passengers were not aware, now the lights come on, the curtains are opened and people are opening their eyes, stretching, and talking with their neighbours.  Looking around I note that quite a few screens are now showing the tracking of the aircraft, 894 miles to go, 2 hours 24 minutes.  Face wipes are handed out, pretty much everyone is awake, conversations all over between folks who didn’t know each other fifteen hours ago and probably won’t fifteen hours from now.
Breakfast was beef congee or ham fritatta.  We had one of each and once again, both were good.
With breakfast over it’s a good time to say a few words about the cabin crew.  This is my second trip to Malaysia and both times have been with Cathay Pacific.  I continue to be both impressed and pleased by the quality of service.  As many of my friends know I do like to chat with folks and this flight I spent  considerable time chatting with crew members in the galley area.
We have one hour to go and all around I can see, and hear, passengers preparing for arrival, as well as crew doing all their tasks.  For me, I will wrap up here and post this while in Hong Kong.
All in all, a most excellent flight.

The Time Has Arrived

As we are sitting here in the Edmonton airport awaiting the start of the first leg of our journey I reflect on the past few days.  There was a point earlier in the week when the spectre of having to cancel the trip raised its ugly head.  It seems that I was suffering from a nasty pain in my abdominal area, well it seemed nasty to me, because I didn’t like it one bit.  Kim was worried and instructed me to proceed to emergency to have it checked out.  Something about being an old guy I guess.
Well, luckily it turned out to be only a bit of a pulled muscle, however having told the doctor that we were planning to travel in a couple of days, he put me thru a couple of extra tests just to make sure.  Although the whole episode took a good few hours, we really appreciated the work done by all the hospital staff, especially considering the volume of people they were dealing with.  So, bottom line, we were good to go.
Now, if have to share with you, one of our reasons for going to Malaysia is to see family.  As you likely know, Kim is from there, and she has two daughters and seven grandchildren we will be visiting, not to mention her sister and a number of nieces and nephews.  So you can probably imagine, we are bringing the odd gift or two.  Kim had been packing for weeks, and because brother Richard is traveling with us, managed to pretty much fill six checked baggage, leaving a small amount of space for our clothes and such.  So… prior to leaving for the airport there was much weighing of bags (only 50 pounds you know), and then marking the bags so that they stand out from a thousand other bags, and finally strapping them so they wouldn’t burst apart when loaded on the plane.  I told Kim that if she wanted to take any more we would need a bigger plane.
Son-in-law Aaron transported us to the airport in our van, check-in and security were smooth, and although the plane was an hour late, it is less than half full so the ride is good.  Yes, you are correct in assuming that this post is being completed on the way to Vancouver.  I will send it off when on the ground and catch up with you later on.

Departure Time Approaches

My goodness, we are getting near to the time for our trip. The most obvious sign is that the living room has turned into a staging area for suitcases and the “stuff” that will be going into them.

Believe it or not, it seems we have more to take with us this trip than we did on our last trip fifteen months ago.  Things for family as well as things for our condo apartment.  I suspect that we will be bringing more back with us as well (please, nobody else ask us to bring them something).  One of the handiest things I purchased for our last trip will be in use again.  Our handy dandy luggage scale will ensure that none of our checked luggage will exceed the fifty pound maximum (including straps and locks).

To say that Kim is excited about going would be an understatement, especially considering that packing commenced at least three weeks in advance – must get it right you know!

The timing of this trip is to celebrate Chinese New Year with the family in Malaysia, although missing out on a month of Edmonton winter is not a bad thing either.  We will also be celebrating the birthdays of Valen, our oldest grandchild, Kim and her brother Richard.  We received a photo yesterday of Valen standing beside his mother.  Wow, he has become quite a good sized young man.

While in Malaysia we are hoping to visit with many of our Malaysia District Kiwanis friends.  Kim and I are both members of two clubs there as well as our home club in Edmonton.

Traveling around Malaysia is not difficult and my new camera is itching to take all kinds of photos of different areas.  Fear not though, all ye who are expecting food pictures, there will be plenty of them as well.  A friend of mine has a great blog called “Then I Ate” giving reviews of various eateries in Edmonton.  I won’t be writing reviews, however we will be eating and sharing at least the photos, and sometimes maybe a bit of a description.  Just because of course.

Well back to preparations.  Packing will be pretty straightforward for me.  I will take the necessities: shorts, sandals and t-shirts.  That should about do it.  Oh, and of course a few electronic items in my carry-on.  Then Kim takes over the rest of my luggage for the stuff that has been accumulating in the house over the past year.  Good thing we’re only allowed two checked bags each, or we’d need a bigger plane.

Until next time.

Suicide – Some Thoughts

Just prior to the end of 2014, a lady I know lost her son to suicide.  He was not quite nineteen years old.

Although we had never met in person, we have spoken numerous times via social media and I have also seen her often on television.  As a result I feel that I know her reasonably well, although not as a personal friend.  In this case also it turns out that I work with the police officers who responded to her son’s passing.

Over the years, this is the fourth time that I have been close, in some fashion, to the suicide of a young person.  They have all been males, under the age of twenty-two.

One was the son of a lady that I worked with while in the military.  Another was the son of one of my dearest friends, a lady who has spent her life helping people.  The third was a close friend, like a brother, of a lady that I lived with for a few years.

These four events were, not surprisingly, remarkably similar in many ways.  However, there is one area in which the latest event is distinctively different.

The first three suicides were dealt with quietly so as to draw no undue attention, “kept under wraps” so to speak.

Not so with this latest suicide.  The approach is exactly opposite.  This young lad’s mother and father (they were divorced and had both remarried), have decided that it is long past time to put these occurrences front and centre, to have them recognized as a mental health issue and treated as such.

To this end, she has been appearing on radio talk shows, television news, and has had articles about her, and her son, in quite a number of newspapers.  She has a very strong social media following and is using that to spread the word as well.  It is not an easy road she has chosen to follow, however she strongly feels it to be necessary and the right thing to do.  I also believe that what she is doing is her way of helping to cope with the aspects of losing her son.

Suicide is a disease, it inflicts a terrible toll on the family and friends of those who die.  According to a fact sheet posted in October 2011 by CTV News, suicide accounts for 24% of deaths among 15-24 year old Canadians and is the second leading cause of death for those between 10 and 24.

I consider this woman to be brave, for confronting the pain of her loss head on, and courageous, as she strives to create greater recognition of suicide as a serious form of mental illness.  I know how outspoken and stubborn she can be, and I both admire and applaud what she is doing.  It is my hope that she will succeed in not only creating a much greater awareness, but achieving some progress in dealing with this disease.  This blog post is part of my way to support her and to help this process along.

Over 3500 Canadians will die as a result of suicide this year.  Don’t you think that it’s about time that we all did something about it!

The Family Christmas Tree

2014-12-16 19.49.48Tonight Kim and I went to the South Edmonton Kiwanis Christmas Tree Lot and got our real tree. It was great to chat with Donna and the two MacEwan CKI members who were working this evening.

This year is special, for although, during the past dozen or so years that we have been volunteering and selling Christmas trees, this is the first time we have had one ourselves. You see, where we lived before, the rental company did not allow live Christmas trees in their units. We are both, Kim particularly, quite excited.

Now the tree is up, fully watered and getting familiar with its surroundings. Thursday evening will come the decorating as per my family tradition where Mum and Dad had the tree up for twelve days of Christmas.

It has been a great many years, for one reason or another, since I have had what I would consider to be a traditional Christmas.

There are a number of things that I distinctly remember about Christmas from when I was a young lad living just east of Edmonton.  We had a property of five acres, three of which were wooded, overlooking the North Saskatchewan River.

As Christmas approached we would go out, as a family, looking for a suitable tree which would occupy a corner of our large dining room.  Now this would be a large tree, seeing as how our dining room had a twelve foot ceiling.  We would eventually see one that satisfied Mum, since she was the prime decider in such matters.

The tree that Dad would chop down was normally about thirty feet tall.  We would then take the top eleven feet or so and a number of the boughs from the rest of the trunk for decoration around the house.  The remainder would be left until summer, when we would return and transport the by-now dried wood back to the house for use in the fireplace during the following year.

The decoration of the tree, and the house, was also a family event, complete with Christmas carols on the phonograph, hot chocolate and delicious snacks, like ginger snaps, chocolate chip cookies or butter tarts, all homemade of course.  Many of the decorations as well were homemade, or at least handmade, including those made from bristol board or construction paper.  Quite often friends and neighbours would drop by as well.

We had quite a large house, and each year we would also have a smaller, much smaller, tree downstairs for the kids.

When my children were young we had much the same tradition for getting and decorating the tree.  Sometimes we were able to cut down our own tree as there was a few local Christmas tree farms, but usually it was a family trip to the Christmas tree lot to select one.

Times have changed over the years, it makes a great deal of environmental sense to buy a properly farmed Christmas tree, however some of the places offering trees leave something to be desired.  That is one of the reasons I, and so many other people, so enjoy working at the Kiwanis Christmas tree lot.  We get to interact with the families when they come in, year after year, generation after generation, to get their trees and support the work that Kiwanis does for children.

Sometimes, the more things change, the more they stay the same.  The concept of a family outing to get the family Christmas tree, and a family event to decorate it, and the inside of the house, remain to this day in many families, and that is a part of what Christmas is all about.

Mini Rant – Perplexed By Email

I have a confession to make.

I am a Google product user.  My phone and tablet are both Android, my browser is Chrome, I use Google Maps, Google Calendar, Google Tasks, Google Drive, YouTube, Google +, Blogger, and of course, Gmail.

Gmail, there comes the rub. Unlike other email software, Gmail has a unique feature.  It does not recognize the lowly dot ( . ).  Hence “joe.bloggins” and “joebloggins” are treated exactly the same (This link explains).  Now, according to Gmail, their system will not allow anyone to have the same email address that someone already has, therefore it should be impossible for “joebloggins” to be approved if “joe.bloggins” had already received his address.

Of course, my name is not Joe Bloggins, however I did choose to use that for demonstration purposes.

Considering that my name is probably about as uncommon as Joe Bloggins, I still manage to receive emails from multiple organizations in the United Kingdom, the Western United States and Australia.  I have been notified of dental appointments, insurance quotes, environmental issues, and that my car was in need of servicing, to mention a few.  I have responded many times that I am not the person they are providing the information for, I have unsubscribed from a great number of email notifications, but they continue to come.  I am used to it now and just use my friendly delete button.

Looking at the variety of organizations I receive emails from, I am forced to conclude that there are several people out there who are convinced that they are providing these organizations with the correct email address, which happens to be the same Gmail address as me except containing a different number of dots.  This is perplexing, particularly with the understanding that Gmail says it’s not possible.

As Gmail addresses the question, it would appear to be a common issue.  To me, it has ranged from a minor irritant to mildly humerous.  It is what it is.  Here endeth today’s wee rant.

A Single Meeting, A Lasting Memory

After the death of our mother in May 2012, Kim and I were in Camlachie, Ontario attending her memorial service at Christ Church, the local Anglican church.

During the reception, after the service, we met a number of Mum’s friends, including a fine British DSC_8908gentleman by the name of Tom Flint, who had walked a bit of a distance down the road to say goodbye to his friend Marie.  As Tom was getting on in years he was beginning to feel tired part way through the reception, and I overheard folks wondering who might be available to drive Tom home.  Kim and I immediately volunteered to do so, and looking back, I am so glad that we did.

You see, Tom died this week, and both of us were instantly very sad, and also, we felt blessed that we had experienced part of an afternoon with Tom back on June 8, 2012.

We drove Tom home and were given a tour of his beautiful yard, very well kept, a custom build shed,DSC_8906 DSC_8907and a wee pond complete with a running brook.  All done by Tom.  His house would remind one of any number of eclectic homes scattered across Great Britain, looking similar but each one distinct, having a few add-ons here and there.

During a fairly short time our discussions covered a vast number of topics as well as spanning the globe.  It was a time that Kim and I vividly remember and think fondly about.

Thank you Tom, for being our Mum’s friend, and for the memories you gave us that afternoon.