Red Egg and Ginger Banquet

A friend of ours recently had a baby, and my wife and I were invited to a Red Egg and Ginger Banquet to officially welcome the little one.  We had given the parents a gift shortly after the birth, but I did some research online to find out if there were any customary gifts or tokens that one brings to such a celebration.  It turns out that lycee, the little red envelopes of lucky money aren’t just for Chinese New Year!

We arrived at the restaurant a little early.  Because we were the only people there who weren’t Chinese Canadian and who didn’t speak Cantonese, our friend took care to ensure that we sat with some of her friends who spoke English.  We recognized one woman from our friend’s wedding a few years back, and got to know the other couples at our table.  Then the food began.

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We started with the aforementioned red eggs and ginger.  The red colour obviously symbolizes good fortune, but I learned from one of the people at the table that the egg represents harmony and the ginger is intended to bring balance.  These offerings were followed by no fewer than eight to ten courses, including such luxuries as barbecued duck, lobster, a fish I could not identify, and goose feet (anything once!).  We finished it all off with steaming bowls of red bean soup.

Beverage wise, we had our choice of green tea or a floral tea that was incredibly soothing.  I was also offered a clear, grain liqueur that one of our companions told me was the finest that China had to offer.  It was powerful stuff, and most probably flammable!  After my glass was filled up for the third time in spite of my protests, I decided to let it sit full so that it could not be refilled yet again.

Throughout the evening, the proud parents brought their new baby around to say hello to each and every guest.  I am sure they barely had a moment to sit down at all!  The whole event was slightly more casual than I had expected, but better to be over rather than underdressed.  All in all, the banquet was an excellent opportunity for cultural learning and a great way to celebrate the next adventure in the life of a family.

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This just in…

Well, it looks like the BC Liberal Party has just won another majority government. I personally thought that the race would be a little tighter, although I can’t say that I am surprised at the outcome overall.

What did surprise me, on the other hand, was the referendum on the Single Transferable Vote (STV). Whether or not you support STV, the campaigns for and against were lacklustre to the point of being invisible.

It’s not surprising that the dominant parties were pretty much silent on the issue – they would very much like STV to die a quiet death. Regardless of where you stand on this, it is disappointing that the public debate was not more pronounced. Many people weren’t even aware that there was a referendum!

Early reports suggest that voter turnout improved with this election, which would be good news indeed. As citizens, we have a responsibility to exercise our franchise. If nothing else, if you don’t earn the right to complain for the next four years if you don’t vote!

In other news, I have just signed up for Twitter, and have added the feed to the right hand side bar of this blog. I am also experimenting with posting to my blog by email for the first time – here goes nothing!

Postscript:  I am completely disgusted.  Despite a record turn out at the advance polls, less than 50% of eligible voters cast their ballots.  And we have the nerve to lecture other countries on the democratic process!

What a beautiful evening…

I was coming home when I noticed a sliver of the moon high up above the Surrey Central Tower.  What a beautiful evening!

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Surrey Central Tower

Hey, where is everybody?

The Skytrain is really quiet this morning, and it was the same yesterday too.  The trains are usually packed to the rafters before they even get out of Surrey, but only about two thirds of the seats are taken this morning and we are well on our way into Burnaby.  Where is everybody?

Hmmm…  Is it because the weather is so beautiful?  We are finally getting temperatures in the high teens and low twenties, and there is a lot to do in town at this time of year.  Maybe people are digging into their annual vacation allotments.  Makes me wonder why I didn’t do that…

I have to wonder whether it might also have to do with the H1N1 virus, commonly referred to as the swine flu.  People seem to be suspicious of the tiniest cough or sniffle, and I know of at least one person who has been sent home from work because he exhibited these symptoms.  Probably just a cold, but better that he not pass it on to his co-workers anyway.

The headline in the daily tabloid that the woman beside me is reading says that there are eleven confirmed cases of H1N1 in BC (no, I wasn’t snooping – it just caught my eye), and a CBC report said Canadian cases are fairly minor so far.  Maybe the heightened sensitivity stems from the initial death toll in Mexico (which the World Health Organization has now discounted).  Or perhaps it is due to talk that this virus could mutate quickly and in unexpected ways.

Talk of a virus can also mean boom or bust for businesses. Sales of hand sanitizer are way up.  On the other hand, pig farmers worry that sales of pork will go way down due to H1N1’s association with swine, even though there are no food related risks associated with this virus.  Maybe that’s why Prime Minister Harper is referring to H1N1 as the Mexican flu instead of the swine flu.

What is one to do?  Don’t panic because this too shall pass.  Hope that the virus peters out quickly.  Most of all, don’t touch your face, and wash your hands a lot!

Must… resist… coffee chain…

I work in a downtown, low-rise office building, which is cursed with having one of the big coffee chain stores located on the main floor.  Right by the front door, no less…

I am usually so good about brewing my own coffee, a habit I picked up when I worked in an office located in the middle of nowhere.  Okay, it was Burnaby, but there wasn’t very much around…  Anyway, I have gotten really lazy lately, and have been buying my morning brew with increasing regularity.

At first, I justified it be telling myself that I had just changed jobs and was making a little more money.  Surely I deserve to treat myself as a reward.  Then I told myself that things were quite hectic right now.  It’s okay to buy myself a cup of coffee if it saves me some time when things are a little crazy.  But really, when are things NOT crazy?

I also told myself that I was being much more economical than those people who buy one of those fancy drinks seemingly every morning.  My coffee is only $2.00 (with  a dime off if I bring my own travel mug!).  But even if I only buy my coffee three times each week, that’s still $312 per year.  On coffee!

I even tried to tell myself that I was supporting local jobs during a major recession.  Although it is a chain store, they pay above minimum wage and provide employee benefits.  And their employees get free coffee.  Lucky employees…  I don’t think my $2.00 caffeine habit is really propping up a multinational corporation, however…

Putting aside my rationalizing, it’s still a chain, the paper cups are still bad for the environment, the coffee trade is probably not equitable for producers, and I am still needlessly wasting money.  Alright, I will brew my own coffee at work from now on.  After this morning, though – I am running a little late…

Postscript – I went and bought a big bag of Fair Trade coffee after work today…

What a beautiful day! So, why am I so grouchy?

Today, it truly feels like we have thrown off the last vestiges of winter and are finally able to enjoy the warmth of spring.  I have been trying to come up with a cheerful post in keeping with the weather, but somehow I just can’t quite do it.  Instead, I am going to rail about the things that some of my fellow transit passengers do that make me crazy. If that’s you, stop it!

  1. Smoking in line – I get enough carbon monoxide from the traffic, and do not need your second hand smoke on top of it.  Before you get all up on your high horse about me wanting to quash your civil liberties, have a look at the signage,  See the one with the picture of the cigarette with a line through it?  It means no smoking!
  2. Hogging seats – While we are on the topic of signage, there’s a sign that says that elderly people and people with disabilities have priority for the seats at the front of the bus.  If that does not describe you, then please let someone else have your seat if they need it.  And please don’t block an entire seat with your bag – it’s not my problem if you feel compelled to pack all of worldly possessions along with you on the bus.
  3. Talking like there is nobody else there – I get that it is a public place and that people will be on their cell phones; however, I do not need to hear the gory details of why your significant other is a complete loser.  I also do not need to hear you curse your significant other out – and neither do the toddlers that are on the bus along with us.
  4. Clipping nails – Yes, I hear the rest of you saying, “you’re kidding me!”.  On at least two occasions, I have been along for the ride when someone pulls out the nail clippers.  Unbelievable!  Enough said.

A little consideration for our fellow passengers would go a very long way.  Whew,  now that I got that off my chest, maybe I can get on with enjoying the sunshine.  Cheers!

Hello world!

Welcome to the inaugural post on my very first blog!  Why is it called keeskee, you ask?  Good question!  Keeskee is a Bungee word that means “off balance”.  Being new to blogging, I am feeling just a little off balance myself.   Hopefully, this will be an opportunity to have a little fun and become a more savvy blogger along the way.

I am also going to break one of the cardinal rules of blogging and hit on a number of disparate topics, which means that my blog is going to be a little keeskee, too.  Better than being appech-e-quanee!  Topics that I will likely hit on include community events, local finds, where to go for a great cup of coffee, things to do, and my garden…