Sunday, December 26, 2010

I am a zipster now

I lost all the motivation to buy a car, when I moved to the city with a reliable and well connected public transit. I was not able in any shape or form justify the cost of a car and car insurance especially when my residence is close to subway station, one connecting me to North and South of the city and the other connecting me to the East of the city. But still there were days, winter, windy, rainy, shopping days, that I wished I could have the convenience of the car without the "inconvenience" of the monthly cost.

I learned about the rental companies in my neighborhood and started using them on an on demand basis. Around the same time, I learned about zipcar. I decided to prefer renting to car sharing, because I was convinced that the North American mind set will never give a chance to car sharing to grow and flourish.

I stand corrected! Car renting is becoming a thing of a past.

I became a zipster and have been enjoying the ease of use, the efficiency of service and the low cost --all at the same time.

zipcars are readily available in the neighborhood*. They can be booked any time, even minutes before the time of pick-up (upon availability)**. The price includes gas and insurance***. They can be booked for one hour or for one day; the booking can be extended****. The entire process is green; everything from booking to billing is done on-line (e-mail and/or text); which means no more receipts to carry around.

Companies have rules; if broken there are fines and penalties! Those who read the rules will never get burnt, for the rest there is learn by experience (a.k.a the hard way!)

Zipcar is no exception. Consider the following as an introduction to the Zipcar rules:

*Although they are all over, (50+ cities in US, Canada and UK and 100+ university campuses in North America), but coverage may be sparse in the neighborhood you work, play or live. The locations are decided based on the demand. They are good about showing you the zipcars in your city.

**You can change or cancel your reservation with no penalty:
-for reservations less than 8 hours long, you've got until 3 hours before the start of your reservation.
-for reservations 8 hours or longer, you've got to do it at least 24 hours in advance.
Since you can book minutes before your planned departure this should not be a problem, unless you like advance booking but change your plan haphazardly.

***Yes, the price does include insurance, but they charge you $750 damage fee, unless you sign up for a waiver which costs $5 per month.
I don't quite understand the logic behind this rule; if insurance is included in the price then what's the $750 damage fee? Let me know if you have this figured out, will you?

****Half an hour before the end of the reservation they send a text to remind you that time is almost up and you've got to return the car or extend your reservation. They value punctuality, so much that they charge you a late fee if you run late. And don't you think that they will not find out --after all there is no one there to check you in or out you may think. The smart technology built in your zipcard will let them know. Intriguing, eh?
Well, if you are good in managing your time then this is not something you need to worry about. And for the rest of us, this is a great way to develop and practice the essential time management skill. Value your time, dude!

You've got questions and/or concerns that are available 24/7 year round to answer and/or address them. Call them up. The prompts quickly connects you to the right person or panel (if you choose to DIY). The agent, I spoke with, Sunday morning 8:17 AM, was able to give an answer to my question very quickly.

So, what's the cost to become a zipster in T.O.?
-a one-time non-refundable application processing fee, $35 + HST
-a non-refundable annual fee, $65 + HST (refundable within the first 30 days of signing for the service)
-pay per use of ~$8/hour the week and ~$11.75/hour the weekend, plus good deals M-Th after 6PM

Whereas with rental cars, I paid for the whole day and used it for maybe 3 hours, with zipcars, I pay for 3 hours and use it for 3 hours.

Live long car sharing!!

Monday, November 08, 2010

Olive Kitteridge

Olive Kitteridge is a novel by Elizabeth Strout. The novel takes place in Crosby, Main, where Olive lives with her husband, Henry, and her son, Christopher and teaches math to 7th Grades. In this town there is one church, one supermarket and a hardware store. Strout takes us through the lives of the Crosby residents through mini-stories. It's the presence of Olive in these stories that gives one the feeling of reading a novel.

Strout says, it is through our most intimate relationship that we are revealed. She does a brilliant job in doing just that in this book. It is through her well crafted relationships that each character is introduced to the reader. She is one of those authors that leaves making the conclusion to the reader. Readers' imagination can go wild, to make the ending of some of the characters. I felt the stories ended with ... rather than a . :)

The characters in this book are more middle aged women, and men. Their quest is to adjust to children moving away, to not having to show up to work everyday, to having to spend time with their significant other who may or may not understand them.

Olive's experience is no different than others. Except for her grand presence. She is physically a big woman; and through her actions, she is present through out the book. She is a wife who never realized her husband's true worth, and genuine love for her a mother who loved her only son dearly a feeling that for valid reasons was not mutual, and a teacher who was feared but respected by her students. Sometimes one needs a jolt to realize all the good things she is surrounded with in her life. And for Olive, unfortunately, it had to be Henry's stroke.

There is a lot to be learned about compromise, kindness and forgiveness through the stories in this book.

It's a great book!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Comedians hold rally in Washington D.C.

I should have laughed, but I didn't. Instead, as I read more about the recent rally in Washington D.C. organised by eminent comedians, Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert, I became more worried about the state USA is in today!

On the surface, this appears as a harmless, let's-poke-fun-at-ourselves type of event, but beyond the surface, I find that this event highlights a disturbing fact; The United States of America's domestic and foreign policies are failing!

This event is the 21st century's, a century overloaded with redundant information, "amplified" by media, way of dealing with looming "Depression" in the U.S.

The event has a noble message, let's compromise! If we cannot agree on "Peace Train" or "Crazy Train", let's come together for the sake of "Love". This is the strongest, non-partisan, call to action I have heard from United States of America in such a long time!

The question is: can those thousands gathered in Washington D.C.'s National Mall, cheering for this rally deliver on this message.

Can America's divide to conquer foreign policy, intrusion in developing and third world countries' domestic affairs to gain access to natural resources or to strengthen strategic power in the area, take a turn for "Love"?

Can America's out of control greed, paying billions of dollars in compensation to the top executives on Wall Street, take a turn for creating equal opportunities for all Americans?

I can only HOPE!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

How did I spend 8 days in Italy?

I spent eight days in September visiting three cities in Italy. Despite the fact that September is high season in Italy, thanks to the availability of many resources on the Internet, I was able to make my trip as cost efficient as possible; without too much giving up on comfort. I spent $250.0 CAD per day. This includes: round trip air travel, train tickets to three cities, hotel, sight seeing, food, post cards, mail, souvenier and a couple of personal items.

I spent 3 days in Florence, 2 days in Venice, and 3 days in Rome. This gave me enough time to visit the most significant sights, enjoy a bit of culture and cuisine without spending a lot of money on hotel. Hotels are very expensive, especially during the high season, in Italy.

Restaurants, bars, and cafes add a service charge, 1 to 2 euro, to the price of the each order if served. Take out price does not include this service charge. Therefore, tipping is not necessary, unless the service is impressive!

Rome Fiumicino airport is connected to Roma Termini, main bus and train station of Rome. Trains depart every 10 minutes. The trip takes 30 minutes. One way ticket is 14 euro, available at the ticket counter during the business hours, or self service machines out of the business hours.

All tickets, bus, metro, train, water taxi (Venice), should be validated prior to embarking on the trip. The validating machines are located at the train station or water taxi stations or in the case of the buses, they are located in the bus. Validate your ticket to avoid the fine!

Major Italian cities are serviced by the TrenItalia regional train. On line booking is available. The website offers an English version for those unfamiliar with Italian language. There are two types of discounts suitable for tourists, meno30 and meno15, giving travelers who book at least 15 days in advance 30% discount an those booking at least 7 days in advance 15% discount respectively. Trains are either class 1 or 2. meno30 class 1 ticket from Rome to Florence 26 euro. Trip takes about 3 hours. Class 2 ticket from Florence to Venice 19 euro. Trip takes 2 hours. The fewer stops the train makes on the way to its destination the more expensive the ticket price is.

There are two train stations in Florence, Santa Monica Novella, and Rifredi. They are 15 minutes apart by the city bus, number 28. The bus ticket is 1.20 euro and can be purchased from any tabacco stand. Validate your tickets on the bus. If you arrive in one station and depart from the other on the same day, you can catch the connecting train using the same ticket. I arrived in Rifredi from Venice, and I had a ticket the same day from S.M. Novella to Rome, so I used my Florence-Rome ticket to travel from Rifredi to S.M. Novella.

Finding a decent hotel, in a location close to all city sights is very difficult. Websites like TripAdvisor help in the search process. Most hotels provide breakfast and some have free wi-fi. Of the three hotels I stayed in, only one provided computer and Internet access. The other two had free wi-fi; which was useless, because I was not travelling with my laptop.

In Florence I stayed at Hotel Waldorf Suites located in Piazza del Stazione. The hotel was walking distance from Santa Monica Novella train station. Given that I travelled by train, the proximity of the hotel to the station was a plus. The hotel was furnished with contemporary style furniture. The room sizes were generous. We had two rooms, two washrooms, two LCD TVs, and a kitchentte in our room. For 351 euro for two nights, this was a great find!

In Venice I stayed at Pension Guerrato, recommended by Rick Steves. The pension offers rooms with and without private bathrooms. I made reservation for room with private bathroom, but didnot take a shower there! The furniture is somewhat old; European style antique lovers would love browsing the second floor of this place. Rate for a double room if paid in cash is 135 euro per night. The rate includes breakfast: coffee, tea, fruit, yogurt, croissant, cereal, milk, honey, jam, butter, cheese and orange juice. The hotel is within walking distance of Rialto Mercato station. The water taxi one way costs 6.50 euro, needs to be validated prior to getting on the taxi. It is quite an experience to get on and off while the taxi is floating and the passengers are pushing each other to get off before the boat departs!

In Rome I stayed at Sonya hotel. The hotel is within walking distance of the Roma Termini; breakfast is included. Beware, the single rooms are very small in this hotel.

In general hotel web sites offer sigle, double rooms; single rooms are good for one person and double for two. Italian hotels give a better rate to guests who pay in cash.

In Florence I walked to all the sights with occassional gelato stops ;) it was easy to get to all the sights. In Venice except for the round trip on the water taxi to the pensione and to the train station, again I walked every where. Rome, however, is a big city. I took the sightseeing Rome double decker bus. They offer a two days hop on hop off tour of all of the Rome major sites for 18 euro per person. This was a considerably better price than the more popular 110 open tour. Their first bus leaves at 9 AM from close to Roma Termini and the last bus leaves at 8 PM. They cover all the major sites, including the Vatican City.

In Rome, I also used the bus Urbana H to Porta Portese, Rome Sunday Flea market. Metro and bus tickets are 1 euro for one trip. The tickets are valid for 75 minutes from the time you validate them. I was able to use the same ticket from Piazza dela Republica to Viale Trastevere and back from Trastevere to Piazza Venizia. There are day tickets for 4 euro a day for travelers who wish to see the sites using the public transit. We were told at the hotel that bus number 64 or 40 goes to Vatican City. The bus for either 40 and 60 stops at Via Nazionale close to Piazza della Republica.

Of all the sites that I saw, the most breathtaking, worth the endless time waiting in the line, and the expensive admission fee were:
... Michalangelo Sistine Chapel
... climbing to the top of the Duomo (Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence)

Michalangelo Sistine Chapel is located inside Vatican Museum. I waited close to 2 hours in line and paid 15 euro admission fee. For Duomo the wait time was less, half an hour, and the admission fee was 8 euro.

Rome is famous for its beautiful piazzas, the ones unique are those adorned with Bernini fountains. The most gorgeous ones are:
... Piazza di Trevi, Fontana di Trevi
... Piazza Navona, Fontana Navona
... Piazza Barberini, Fontana del Tritone

Italians are somewhat slick in their dealings with tourists. Places you can experience this the most are restaurants. Make sure you ask for menue especially if you are just walking in a restaurant without advance research.

I ate at Ristorante La Giosta, 12 Borgo Pinit, near Duomo in Florence and had the most wonderful experience. The food was great. The staff were great. The decoration was unique. There were a drink and a platter of anti pasta offered on the house. The total of cost of appetetizer plus ravioli came to 30 euros.

On the contrary, I ate at the self service bar right across from museum vatican. I ate there because after 2 hours of waiting and 3 hours of walking inside of the museum I was famished and could not take one more step. The restaurant didnot appear expensive. I walked in had a small piece of lasagna, a coke and a piece of pizza and for this I also paid 30 euros! I should have known to be more careful when I was not offered a menu.

All, in all, I had a great experience in Italy. I learned a lot about the country, people and culture and am taking back great memories as souvenier.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Book review: Think of a Number

It's a murder investigation, one that starts before the victim is killed. Mark Mellery a transformed man, from a-living-a-high-life stock broker to a spiritual guru, calls his buddy from twenty-five years ago, Dave Gurney, a retired NYPD detective to let him in on a personal problem.
Mellery has received a hand written note in red ink. The note reads, I know you well enough to know what you are thinking. Think of a number! And open the second envelope!
How could the author of the mail have known the number Mellery was thinking?
Shocked, baffled, scared Mellery, does as he is told. He sends him $289.87 check to X. Arybdis. That's how much it cost Arybdis to find him.
It gets more complicated when the second mail arrives; a poem:

How many bright angles
can dance on a pin?
How many hopes drown in a bottle of gin?
Did the thought ever come
that your glass was a gun
and one day you'd wonder,
God, what have I done?

What you took you will give
when you get what you gave.
I know what you think,
when you blink,
where you've been,
where you'll be.
You and I have a date,
Mr. 658.

And then Mellery is killed; stabbed in the throat with a bottle of Whisky. And within a few days two more murders, one in Flounder Beach, Bronx and the other one in ...

What's the connection between these geographically dispersed murders?

That's what Dave Gurney is so intrigued to find out. Except for, this puzzle has caught him at a turning point in his personal life. He and his wife have recently moved to the Catskill region, Upstate New York, to resolve memories of past horrible incident, to reconnect with nature and with each other.

If you are interested in deciphering human actions through psychology, this book is going to be a joy for you to read.

This is a great debut novel by John Verdon. I am looking forward to a sequel!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

TM - Speech 5 - Your Body Speaks - False assumptions can get you in all sorts of trouble

A couple of years ago an interesting thing happened to me. I was on my way to work. Like any other day, I was riding in the first car of the train, because I knew when I get off the train at Finch station there will be an escalator that takes me to the main level. I got on the escalator and started taking steps up. But, I noticed my steps were not bringing me closer to the top of the escalator. All of a sudden, I lost my balance and fell on all four. At this point in time I panicked, my brain logic system shut down and it started working in survival mode. I had to survive whatever was happening to me. So, I dropped my bag then I got rid of my lunch box. And took hold of the hand rail with both hands. My grip was so tight my knuckles turned white. I started literally climbing up the stairs. Finally, when I got to the top of the escalator, I looked down for my bag and lunch box; I noticed that the escalator that I assumed was going up, is going down.

Obviously, this assumption got me into trouble!

As human beings we usually make assumptions based on past experiences, cultural stereotypes and social stigmas. We see a tall guy we say, oh he must be a good basketball player, we see an Asian gal, we say she is definitely good in math, we are introduced to an Italian and we think he must like pasta. By way of assumption, we are taking a shortcut in our decision making process. We avoid fact gathering, analysis and deduction.

Let's take a look at one example together. How many of you think that the express lane of a supermarket is faster than other lanes?

I found this example on Dan Myer's weblog. Dan is a math teacher. He uses this example to teach his students math reasoning. The students, in order to find an answer for this question, go to a supermarket and observe how fast the lines at the registers are moving. They collect two piece of data, the number of items in a customer's baskets and the time it took for the customer to pay for these items. The graph, based on this data, looks like this.

When I looked at this graph, two things caught my eye.
1. there is a nominal time spent in front of a cash register even if you have no items to pay. Interesting? What may you be doing at the cash register if you have no items. Well you may ask the cashier where you can find soap.
2. the second thing were the outlier data. e.g. it look less for an individual with 26 items to pay for his items than it did for another individual to pay for 17 items in the express lane. How could this be? Well, we often overlook that methods of payment such as debit or credit can take longer than cash.

The point I am trying to make is assumptions may not yield the right answer. As we clearly see in this example.

I'd like to suggest that we become more aware of our thinking process. Realize when our decisions are based on assumptions. And ask ourselves what those assumptions are based.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

FIFA: WC 2010 Viva Espana!!!

Not necessarily a good game to watch, lots of fouls, but in the end, it was the great passing the ball, teamwork, that got the La Roja the golden cup.

The Netherlands team tried to build frustration amongst the Spanish players, however, this tactic only resulted in many yellow cards and one Dutch player, John HEITINGA, being expelled. There were a couple of opportunities for Arjen ROBBEN to score, but both times he was blocked by Spain's great defense duo, Carols PUYOL-Gerard PIQUE and the agile goal keeper, Iker CASILLAS.
Spain had many opportunities on the Dutch goal, Sergio RAMOS missed the net twice; Jesus NAVAS, and David VILLA both got very close to becoming heroes for their country, but didn't make it.
At the end it was Andres INIESTA who took the ball close to the goal and scored, undoubtedly, the most entertaining goal of the WC 2010!!

Well done! Well deserved!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

FIFA: WC 2010 The Final

It's 20 minutes into the final games of Fifa World Cup 2010. Germans are 1 goal ahead of the Uruguay team, scored by Muller. They both deserve the best. They have worked hard, trained well, and played an exceptional football to get to this point. Wow, as I am writing this, Cavani scored the equalizer for the Uruguay team!!

It has been an interesting, exciting and entertaining World Cup. The teams, France, Italy and England, came into the competition with high hopes, but they were ill fit, physically and mentally, for the task. They left early, making way for exceptional teams such as: Ghana, South Korea, Japan, Argentina, Brazil, Slovakia, and others to keep playing. The games were extremely close. Players put in their best game. But, sometimes even the best of games is not enough to take you through, e.g. Brazil loss to the Netherlands.

I had my eye on one team from the beginning, Spain. I am so happy they have made it to the final. Let's see what they bring to the field in the last game of the Fifa World Cup 2010. Let's hope their tactics, game making, teaming and mental strength is enough to keep them cool for 90 minutes and push them to deliver goals and wining the trophy!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

FIFA: WC 2010 Round of 16 is on its way

The round of 16 started this weekend. Unlike the first round, in this round, the teams only get one chance of qualifying for the next round, the quarter final. Each game has to produce a winner, if not in the allotted 90 minutes then the teams have to play for two additional 15 minutes. If by then none of the teams scored a winning goal, the players proceed to penalty kicks. Games could become very long but exciting.

Yesterday, Uruguay and Ghana became the first teams to qualify for the quarter finals!!

Uruguay has been incredibly strong in this world cup. The team plays with eyes open, passing the ball to each other at the right moment. They have also shown creative ways of opening their opponent's goal. The first goal they scored against South Korea, yesterday is an example of such masterful game making. Forlan saw Suarez in the right spot, he passed a beautiful ball which reached Suarez with no blockage from South Korean defense. Suarez sent the ball in the goal with a right kick. Beautiful finish!

And so Uruguay has a rightful spot in the quarter finals. Its next game will be against Ghana.

Yesterday, Ghana and USA played a very intense game which produced a 1-1 result at the end of 90 minutes and many yellow cards for players of both sides. Prince produced the first goal for Ghana and Donovan from the USA squad shot the equalizer penalty kick for his team. "Gyan scored the winner with a classic front-runner's goal, outmusceling US captain Carlos Bocanegra - Gyan's friend and team-mate with French club Rennes - before crashing a shot past Tim Howard."

Ghana being the only African team left in the World Cup is considered the "Pride of Africa"!

Uruguay will play against Ghana in the quarter final.

Let the best team win!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

FIFA: WC 2010 Day 4 Intensity as the defending World Champions nearly loose to Paraguay

Blame it on rain, that the Italians were 1-0 behind at the end of the first half. Anyone who watched the game saw that Paraguay's defense was strong and Antolin Alcaraz first goal was beautiful. Here is what Gerardo Martino, Paraguay's coach had to say about the game: "We played this game equally against the current world champions," he said. "To play against a rival with such skills is a very good sign for us. It gives is a lot of confidence going ahead in this tournament."
In the second half the Italians took possession of the ball most of the time. They put a lot of pressure on the Paraguay team. Finally, Daniele De Rossi scored the first goal after 63 minutes to make it equal.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

FIFA: WC 2010 Day 3 A hand ball followed by Solvenian dance

Controlling the ball with hand is foul according to football rules. The likelihood of this type of foul increases in proportion with the competitiveness of the game. The outcome, however, should be the same. "...if the player touches the ball with his hand, he must be penalized with a direct free kick and a disciplinary sanction if required." quote from Law of the Game 2010.

World Cup 2010 has produced an anomaly: two hand balls with two different outcomes. In one case the referee ignores the foul and as a result sends the team to the World Cup, France vs Ireland, in the other the referee (correctly) sends the player who performs it out of the game and makes the way for the opponents to win the game, Algeria vs Slovenia. ha!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

FIFA: WC 2010 Day 2 is all about Maradona

Diego Maradona is the man of the hour, even more than Gabriel Heinz who scored the winning goal for the team in the game against Nigeria; he has shown extreme characteristics through out his sport career, as a player for Argentina's national team, to its captain leading the team to winning the FIFA World Cup 1986, and to its coach today.

Watching him exhibit great emotion from the coach seat, Diego is holding a bracelet/rosary in his hand, which I think demonstrates some sort of superstitious belief. He is waving his hand in the air, and screaming something to his team, as if they can or should hear him.

As for the team itself, after watching 60 minutes of the game against Nigeria, I would be very surprised, if they make it beyond round 2. They are not that good.

Friday, June 11, 2010

FIFA: WC 2010 The magic of opening match

Dear soccer/football fans around the world,
South Africa is playing against Mexico to kick the FIFA World Cup 2010 games to a start.
The odds are for the South African team, being the host country with no defeats in the past 13 games, they beam with confidence. The Mexican team on the other hand had to overcome many bumps in the road, lose against USA, and Honduras in the WC qualifying matches, to make it this far; they are ready.

So, who do you think will win this game?

We are set for an exciting opening match!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Discovery Walk - Don Valley Parkway Trail

Exploring the city where we reside doesn't come naturally, because we often fall into the routine and as a result become oblivious to the fact that our cities can provide us with more than a place to go to work, school, etc.

I know this. I have first hand experience.

This Spring, however, as the nature was reborn, the non-existing snow melted (we had very little snow this winter) and the days grew longer, brighter and warmer, I took out a piece of paper and made a list of the places I had seen tourists virtually mark with a red cross --to indicate not to be missed-- on sites like

Here are a few places I have been:

Edwards Garden (
Botanical Garden (
High Park (

along with pictures I have taken and published on Picasa Web so far.

But besides encouraging you to explore the city you live in, I want to share with you my latest discovery of one of Toronto's finest multi-purpose trails. I only explored a small portion of it, from Broadview and Danforth to Lakeshore Blvd. The map, below, shows the trail and its connections to other parts of the city via the city roads. You can lose yourself in this lush forested area for hours. The occasional traffic noise speeding by or the down town skyscrapers peeking through the trees, are the only reminders that you are in the city!

Here is the map, courtesy of

Saturday, April 03, 2010

TM: Speech 4 - How to Say it

Project 3 for Competent Communication manual is a hard project to tackle. Some masterfully play with meanings, words and figures of speech to vivify an experience for their audience. I don't! I have notebooks of phrases that eloquently convey the meaning. I take them down as I come across them in written or spoken language. But, I rarely use them!

For this project, I consulted with family, my Toastmaster's mentor, and a friend on what topic to talk about. After many brainstorming discussions, talking about a Recipe got the most number of votes. I delivered the speech on April Fool's, Thursday April 1. So take the wrapper text around the cooking tips with a grain of salt. :)

Here is the text for my fourth TM project --How to Say it.

"Welcome to the Fool's edition of our Cooking Show. I am glad that you could join me today because today I have a rare opportunity to bring to you the international recipe for April Fool's day on the day it was discovered.

This one of a kind recipe originated in a small, cute town in France. The French man who first discovered it was a veterinarian called Jacques. On April 1, 1832 Jacques was performing an autopsy on a cow when he accidentally touched the meat around the back rib cage of the animal. It felt so smooth and soft. If it feels so tender when it is raw, imagine how succulent it tastes when it is cooked, he thought. He took a sharp knife cut a thick piece from the tail end of the loin and took it home with him. He stayed up all night, toiling away in his kitchen until he perfected his idea. Jacques discovered one of the most delicious, luxurious, expensive dishes in the world. He called it fool Mignon since it was on April's fool's day that this genius idea came to him. But later the French changed it to a more sophisticated name: fillet Mignon to literally mean thick slice of dainty.

Like flowers on Valentine day, this dish could be quite expensive when dining out on April fool's day, but it is much more reasonable if you make it at home. On that note I would like to share with you a few tips on cooking fillet Mignon at home.

  • When selecting tenderloin or fillet Mignon slices choose the lighter colored ones over the dark ones. The lighter the color the more marbling it has which makes the meat more tender.

  • Since the beef has little fat on its surface, it is often wrapped in a bacon or some sort of fat to make it more favorable.

  • Use a dry high heat method of cooking: such as broiling, roasting or grilling.

  • Avoid cutting into the meat to check doneness, because all the juice will ooze out. Use the touch method. Press the meat with two fingers, if it feels soft and mushy and leaves imprints, it is rare. If it is soft but slightly resilient, it is medium rare. The minute it begins to feel firm it is over-done start over again.

  • You can garnish fillet Mignon with garlic, salt, pepper and some rosemary.

  • To match a wine with fillet Mignon look for dry, red wines. The top matches are Merlot, Cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, or Shiraz. don't try all at the same time.

With these tips you can make a tasty fillet Mignon at home that is so tender you can cut it with a fork and so juicy that it will melt in your mouth. And since today is the day this recipe was discovered you have a strong motivation to make it today. Try this recipe out today!

Thank you for joining me. I hope you enjoyed this edition of our cooking show and you join me again next week when i make another world renowned, exotic dish simple enough for you to make it at home."

Monday, March 22, 2010

Earth hour 2010 in Toronto!

Toronto is participating in Earth Hour 2010!
Toronto's family-friendly Earth Hour celebration will be hosted by Citytv personalities Kevin Frankish and Dina Pugliese, and feature performances by Chantal Kreviazuk, Jarvis Church and Justin Nozuka beginning at 7:30 p.m. Also enjoy aerial artists, fire-throwers, hip-hop dance crews and display your wish for the planet on an Earth Hour wishing tree.
Saturday, March 27, 2010
5:30 – 9:30 p.m.
Yonge-Dundas Square

Sunday, March 28:

Toronto, March 27, 2010... The Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) tonight reported that compared to a typical Saturday in late March, demand for electricity in Ontario fell by approximately four per cent or 560 megawatts (MW) as a result of Earth Hour. This drop is equivalent to the average peak energy needs of a city the size of Brampton.

"More than anything, Earth Hour gives people a chance to think about their energy use," said Paul Murphy, President and CEO of the IESO. "Ontarians have become keenly aware of the need to conserve electricity - not just during Earth Hour, but at other times of the year as well."

I hope he is right!

It was a disappointing Earth Hour as lights in many commercial, residential buildings as well as restaurants in North York stayed on during the Earth Hour.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

TM: Speech 3 - Get to the Point

I am delivering my third Toastmaster speech in half an hour. For this speech I feel the butterflies as much if not more than the first time I stood in front of the crowd and gave my Ice Breaker speech. It is going to be OK. The worse could happen that I blank out. If that happens, I can pause, smile and pick up where I left off. Easy to say!

The objective of this speech is: Get to the Point. I will be talking about happiness. I have 7 minutes! My Toastmasters mentor and I have been working on the structure of the speech for many hours. It has been a --task to make boundaries and bullets for happiness.

So, here is a sneak peek at what I will say:

I will talk about health, wealth and purpose and the impact they have on our well being. I picked these three firstly because they rhyme with my speech opening line :) and secondly because they are simple facts that audience can relate to. The most important part of the speech is sandwiching the philosophy of happiness with a good dose of real life example. I am good in writing the philosophical part but no so good with the second part; to help me find examples I used google! I used keywords: happiness, prosperity, wealth, health, purpose, correlation many times.

To get an idea about my speech, my evaluator was kind enough to meet with me yesterday. I will append her evaluation here.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Prosperity: what does it mean to you?

Mirror, mirror on the wall who is the most prosper of them all?

Is it the healthy?

Is it the wealthy?

Or the successful?

Prosperity! How many times have you heard this word in the past couple of weeks? This time of the year we wish our friends, family and loved ones a prosper New Year over and over again. What do we exactly mean by that?

A prosper person is someone who has it all; who has health, wealth and success. [to the audience] Do you all agree that this is a good definition for prosperity? Visualize yourself: with a lot of money, a healthy body and a successful career. How would you feel seeing yourself in this person's shoes? Prosper? Hell, ya, I would! After all what else is there to want.

I strive everyday to achieve a little bit --just a little bit-- of each of these. I go to bed every night thinking about which path can get me the successful career, tons of money and a toned, healthy body faster? I make five, three, and one year wish lists every year, in fact I do it just around this time of the year. Then I write them down on a piece of a paper in a notebook, because I read in Keith Ferrazi's book, Never Eat Alone, that, "An unwritten wish is just a dream."...and you know how dreams are, you may or may not remember them the next day!

Back to my statement: How would I feel seeing myself having all three? Excellent; but, for one year, or maybe two years. After the third year I am gonna feel BORED! Yep, you heard me right. BORED! I will start missing making career plans. With all the money I have, I will probably be eating at the "best" restaurants in town. Sounds superb. But no food is as healthy as the food one makes at home. The point I am trying to make is after a few years of this superb life, I will stop feeling prosper anymore.

Oh, I know what the problem is, I have them all --that leaves me with nothing more to want. Human beings always "want" something. "Want" is the compass in our lives. Without it we will be lost!

Well, the solution is to have one of the three, so that I still have something left to strive for --sort of a motivation to get up the next day. But which one? That's the topic for another blog. :)

To wrap this one up, I want to conclude by leaving you with something to reflect upon: explore your relationship with any of these three goals, health, wealth and success and see to which you can relate more.