Friday, January 30, 2009

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Downtown Burlington

My Dad, stepmom and I walked downtown to go out for lunch on Friday. The neighbourhoods around downtown Burlington are well manicured and pleasant to walk through. We went to Mikado Japanese Cuisine, located on 415 Elizabeth Street in Village Square. We didn't walk through Village Square this time, but it is an interesting quaint brick walkway through a collection of shops and restaurants. Its transformative atmostphere is so different than the surrounding streets that it kind of makes me feel like I've somehow transcended to Disneyland.

Upon entering this small, bright and sunny restaurant, we were greeted by the friendly and quite humourous staff there. The menu was enourmous, well priced, and had a large section of lunch specials. I ordered the vegetarian lunch special, consisting of avacado and cucumber roll, and also came with miso soup, salad, vegetable dumplings, and two other peices of vegetable sushi. The meal was attractively presented in a bento box, all the food was well prepared and delicious, and there was a perfect amount of food. The miso soup had wonderful flavour and was a nice way to warm up and start the meal. The sushi was quite nice, and did not at all have a fishy taste. I would definately come back here, the food was great, the service friendly, and the prices were very reasonable.


Next we walked to A Different Drummer Bookstore, an independant bookstore located in an old house at 513 Locust Street. Its no surprise how well known this place is, considering it gives the epitome of 'bookstore' feel. The visual displays are a treat, showcasing attractively arranged books with a plethora of unique covers. There are three floors, the top one being a small nook, offering you plenty of titles to explore. There is also a sunroom where you can sit and browse through a book, and there used to be an old cat that would snuggle up with you, who sadly died this year. The staff are knowledgable and this selection is unique and extensive, and they can also order in books that they don't have in stock. Even if you aren't shopping for a book, I would suggest coming here just for the experience of it.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Pasta recipe


For the sauce:
melt margarine in a frying pan
add chopped onions, garlic, and crumbled tofu
peas (frozen or fresh), spinach
plain soymilk (be careful not to add too much)
parsley or whatever herb you want

cook everything together in frying pan, allow soymilk to reduce. Serve over pasta (preferably whole wheat). I used chow mein noodles in the picture.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Happy Inauguration Day!

Congratulations to Barack and Michelle Obama and to the people of the United States of America. Good winds are blowing in, and I hope they take out all the terrible things plaguing the states such as class division, overconsumption, bad foreign policy, etc. etc. etc. Watching the election made the excitement from the election come back, and I'm sincerely hoping that this will be a new era for the states and that the government will be able to make positive changes with support of the US population.

As a final farewell tribute to George W. Bush, check out this video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TsGvrKRrDYM

Monday, January 19, 2009

Affinity Vegetarin Restaurant




This is one of my favourite restaurants to go to in Hamilton, and offers authentic Chinese dining sure to please even the toughest carnivore. The menu is enourmous, and every thing that I've tried so far has been fabulous.

The oriental decor is classy, the waiters and waitresses are always very friendly and helpful, and the entire place is spotless. There is plenty of seating, a private feel, and a relaxed yet elegant atmosphere. I have come here for everything from a casual lunch with friends to a fancy celebratory dinner with family. This restaurant is really suited for anything and is large enough to accomodate big groups.

There are shelves with glass jars of loose leaf tea that you can buy to take home, as well as a variety of very unique tea pots and mugs for sale.

The menu features very fine quality Chinese food, and everything on the menu is vegetarian. Mostly everything is vegan, and items that contain milk or eggs are clearly marked. There is a wide variety of tea, bubble tea and smoothies to drink, and to be honest I have not noticed whether or not they serve alcohol. There are enough appetizers to choose from to make a meal out of, and a great dim sum menu. I've tried everything in the dim sum section and it is all great. Its a treat to find vegetarian dim sum, and their selection certaintly stands its ground against the options you would generally find containing meat. I frequently come here with my Mom, a dim sum lover who is not vegetarian, and she too loves the dim sum served here. There are many types of dishes, featuring convincing imitation chicken, beef and pork alternatives (made of tvp), tofu, noodles, vegetables and rice. There are so many different menu items, and most have the option of a medium sized portion for a cheaper price, a gesture sure to be appreciated by those with smaller appetites.

For $15.99 I had the white jade combination dinner, which started with the soup of the day (pumpkin and vegetable) shortly followed by a spring roll with dipping sauce. Next came an attractive rectangular dish squared off into sections, which included a salad with a delicious light dressing, soy nuggets, soy sauce for dipping, and purple rice (a blend of jasmine, brown and wild rice which takes on a purple colour and a hearty, nutty flavour. All of those items come with every combination dinner, and in the last section is your main dish of choice. I had the white jade on vegetables, which is a soft tofu on a seaweed crust drizzled with sauce, meant to imitate fish. It had very soft texture unlike I've ever experienced with tofu, and although I generally don't like meat imitations, this was completely delicious. Green tea and dessert also came with the combination dinner, the green tea having the nice flavour of good quality green tea. For dessert was an option of jelly or soy ice cream. I chose pistachio soy ice cream and it was flavoured with a nice amount of sweetness and had peices of chopped pistachio in it. They have a selection of 10 types of soy ice cream (100% vegan), and let me tell you, for a vegan this is VERY exciting! I've also tried the hazelnut and green tea flavours, and both were very rich and creamy and were basically the most delicious thing I've ever experienced.

Everything is reasonably priced, and regardless of your budget or appetite you should be able to find something right for you. They have lunch specials and offer take out as well.

*****/*****

Affinity is located on 87 John St. South in Hamilton ON. South of Main, a great location for both mountain and downtown folks alike. Also very close to the GO station, so I often come here straight off the bus from Toronto.
905-529-2498

Thai Spring Roll

The other night I had dinner at Thai Spring Roll, located at 525 Bloor St. West. The restaurant also has another location at 500 Queen St. West.

The menu is extensive, and had a section dedicated to Malaysian cuisine. I ordered the Malay curry, described as a blend of coconut milk and malaysian spice with vegetables, tomatoes and coriander. You choose between tofu and four types of meat, and each is individually priced which is nice for vegetarians so we don't have to pay the same price as you would for beef.

The sauce was fragrant, flavourful and slightly spicy, and came with triangles of tofu and different types of vegetables, including peppers, broccoli, mushrooms, onions, carrots and bok choy. The dish also came with a bowl of rice.

The restaurant is in a great location to be paired with an afternoon of shopping or seeing a film at Bloor cinema, or to meet up with friends for dinner.

Friendly service, plenty of veg*n options.

Their website, www.ThaiSpringRoll.com features their full menu.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Cheat Neutral

Great idea...
Please check out the website and watch the video. You MUST watch the entire video.

http://www.cheatneutral.com/

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Recipe for Disaster

I saw this film tonight at Bloor Cinema. It's about a family in Finland that decides to give up fossil fuels for a year. This means no cars, planes, and switching to renewable energy (all easy enough, really), and not buying anything made out of or packaged in plastic. That was (in my opinion) the hard part. It seems easy enough to avoid plastic and not buy over packaged goods, but this family gave up all plastic altogether, which proved to be challenging when shopping for toilet paper, toothpaste, etc. There was a Q&A session with the filmmaker via Skype after the film was shown.

They made many changes in their lifestyle, not just for the one year but long term. It was the husband's idea and the wife wasn't as keen, but I liked how they involved the children in the project and were very open with the kids about climate change, doing it in a way that was fun for the kids and not stressful.

They were an example of actually making real changes in your life to reduce your carbon footprint (note that the film is focused on carbon and doesn't really discuss many other environmental issues).

Living in Toronto and getting around fine by bus and subway I personally have an enormous dislike for car culture and get annoyed when people just can't seem to live without cars. I understand that the infrastructure in many areas is so built around driving (which also makes for a very classist system) that it is difficult for people to live their lives without cars. When you're used to driving everywhere its hard to make the decision not to. But if someone took your car away, you would find alternatives, adjust, and do just fine. Yes, some people actually do need their car, but most people don't but aren't willing to make the personal sacrifice to give it up. Anyways, this film is aimed at middle class suburb dwellers, so if you think you can't do it, then watch this film and see people who are. Also, biodiesel itself has led to many environmental problems not discussed in this film, so please do reasearch on that yourself and note that the film maker carefully sourced his biodiesel.

Easy chickpea soup


Here is a quick and easy soup that I made for lunch today. I generally don't follow recipes when I'm cooking and just throw together food using whatever ingredients I have that will work well together. I'm not going to indicate how much to use of what, since it really doesn't matter. Just throw it in a pot and heat until the potatoes are cooked through.

Vegetable broth (low sodium vegetable boullion cubes are my favourite, and wayy cheaper than buying cans or tetra packs of broth)
Potatoes
Tomatoes
Carrots
Onions
Chickpeas (I also used fava beans)
curry powder

I also like to make cabbage soup, its very simple but also delicious:
vegetable broth
cabbage
onion
carrots
potatoes

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Reflections on the strike at York

CUPE 3903 (the union representing contract faculty, TAs, GAs and RAs at York University) has been on strike for 10 weeks now. Being a York student myself, I strongly feel the effects that this strike is having on my school year, and at this point know that I will not receive the same quality of education this year as I expected when I payed my tuition and signed up for courses. However, these are my very own teachers that are on strike, and they are the reason why I answer "I love it" when people ask me if I like York. No, I don't like York because of the admin or the campus, I love it because of the wonderful professors, course directors and TAs (the latter two are members of CUPE 3903), the open minded course material they present us with, and the wonderful people I have met here. Many of my courses are taught by contract faculty, and it is sickening that they are a prime example of the casualization of labour - they have to apply for their jobs EVERY YEAR! Such short contracts for people who selflessly dedicate themselves to their work shows an utter disregard for human dignity and quality of life.

I may not agree with all aspects of this strike, and I too have become frustrated by the lack of progress being made, but we must remember that there are two sides at the bargaining table, and York university is every bit as responsible for our loss of education as the union is. I'm sure most 3903 members don't want to spend their winter standing around in the freezing cold at picket lines, yet York has flooded its website with propaganda and new releases with titles such as "Does CUPE 3903 really want to settle?" (Which has dissapeared from the media release archive, but I clearly remember it.)

After over 2 months of waiting to see what will happen and wondering when we will be going back to class, I will be extremely dissapointed if the union does not get a fair deal. In that case, all of this would have happened for nothing and it will likely occur again another year if the problem isn' t solved. I am not blindly supporting CUPE 3903, and feel that both sides need to be heavily questioned at this point in time, but I am hoping this will be resolved in CUPEs favour, because without teachers, my education at York amounts to very little. York has made a new offer, which is a least a step forward in bargaining. I'm not going to comment just now over the issue over pay increases, but York's new offer doesn't even begin to address the issue of job security. Opening 22 new full time positions only benefits the lucky few who get promoted to YUFA, and does nothing for the rest of the contract faculty left in CUPE 3903.

So once we hear the result from the supervised vote which is going to take place, we will know if we're headed back to school or if we're doomed to keep waiting for a solution. In the meantime, for those of you that are frustrated by the strike and are trying to 'take action', please try to use problem solving skills that demonstrate that you are actually capable of rational thought. Spray painting insults on picket line shelters, yelling rude comments at picketers, and displaying acts of violence are not going to make this strike end. Picket lines can be dangerous places for strikers, as some people choose to comfront the individual (even though the union member may not even agree with all aspects of the strike, but still has to show up for picket duty). With many cars trying to get through and some drivers allowing their anger to affect their self control, incidents do sometimes happen where cars will even hit picketers.

Apparently Todd from the Dean Blundell show on 102.1 the Edge somehow found it suiting to take matters into his own hands and raise a ruckus at a York picket line. His behaviour was dangerous and inexcusable. I can't beleive that he got away with this in an Edge vehicle and it was broadcasted live on air. He uses intelligent language such as 'douchlords' to describe the actions of the union, and shows an inability to think for himself as he does whatever his buddys on the radio tell him to do, going as far as to threaten to punch a picketer and insulting individual strikers with no restraint, many of his insulsts having nothing to do with the strike and being personal attacks.
Go to http://www.edge.ca/DJsandShows/DeanBlundellShow/Audio.aspx and click on Todd at York Dec. 2-08 to listen for yourself.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Miniature Mandarin Oranges





Today's Art



The disposable is dispensable

Paper cups strewn on the earth
Trampled and tired
Dirty and dull
Their fading label
Wasting away into shreds

Trees are cut down
Landfills pile up
For the short lived life
Of this disposable cup

Thousands of people daily
Line up for this treat
Is it really necessary?
WHY DO WE TREAT THE EARTH LIKE SOMETHING THAT CAN BE GOBBLED UP AND DISCARDED
FOR A FEW MINUTES OF CONVENIENCE?

Take your disposable cup
And your disposable culture too
And replace it with something more sustainable
Would it kill you to use something more than once?

Friday, January 9, 2009

Persepolis


This film starts with a young girl in Iran who is living through the revolution to overthrow the Shah and introduce communism. The film is a true story and is based on a French graphic novel written by Marjane Satrapi . The film is animated using drawings similar to the ones used in the book, and follows the relationships among those dreaming of communism, the war that kills many to no benefit, the lack of freedoms in Iran, and the fear and secrecy that its residences must live with. We follow Marjane as she grows up, learns about the politics affecting her country from her relatives, many of whom have served jail time because of their beliefs, receives messages from God, moves to Austria as a teen, falls in and out of love, deals with homelessness and depression, returns home and leaves again. The dark drawings and animation are beautiful and illustrate the hearts and struggles of the characters, how Iran is part of who they are, yet the country they love and care about restricts them so much. Amongst their family and friends, they are able to live enjoyable lives, yet live under fear of the authorities. They remain committed to their political ideals and never allow the appeal of leading a comfortable life come in the way of fighting for what they think is right.

The World According to Monsanto




Explores the prominence that Monsanto has around the globe, how it is often misleading about the safety of its products, and scandals that the company has been involved in. It discusses biotechnology, the affect of 'roundup ready' crops, and the effects that Monsanto has on farmers, communities and consumers around the globe. I liked the diversity of people interviewed for the film, and how it was filmed on location in different areas that are experiencing the negative effects of Monsanto. One thing I didn’t like about this documentary was how it kept showing the woman at the computer looking up things on Google. This is effective in showing how accessible and widespread this information is (search results would show thousands of hits), however it became boring very quickly. It would be effective enough to use that method a couple of times, but it kept going back to it throughout the movie. It also made their research methods seem less reliable. Obviously they did not solely use google to do their research, and all the sources that they showed that came up on google were reliable sources, it just didn’t seem professional to consistently refer back to google, and I felt that they could have shown the documents and highlighted text without constantly showing the woman searching on google, as this would make it far less monotonous and would allow the movie to flow better. The part of the film that I found most interesting was the affects that genetically altered corn is having on traditional farming families in Mexico. They have a local and sustainable food system and Monsanto’s modified seeds are threatening their food sovereignty. I personally do not trust Monsanto one bit, and am concerned for the future of our food system. Monsanto is putting our health, environment, and food security at risk. If we let them control our food system, they basically have control over our lives. This film briefly touched on gene patents, but didn’t talk about the issue of farmers being sued if Monsanto finds plants with their gene in farmer’s fields, or terminator seeds (plants that won’t reproduce, so farmers cannot save seeds, and must rely on Monsanto to buy their seeds every year. This film showed many problems of Monsanto, yet there are even more to explore. This corporation cannot be trusted and I will write an entire blog about it later. This film served as a reminder of Monsanto’s power and made me want to start growing more of my own food.

Sharkwater

Documentary on the shark fin industry and the killing of sharks. Discusses how shark numbers are dwindling and not a lot is being done to protect sharks despite the fact that they are recognized as being endangered. The filmmaker is very passionate about sharks and has spent a lot of time with them in the water, and in this film he questions human perceptions about sharks and tries to prove that they really aren't dangerous. This leads us to ask why people are so afraid of sharks, and maybe this fear is partially why little is being done to protect these animals. The shark fin industry is ruthless and extremely wasteful (the shark is killed for its fins and the rest of the body is thrown back in the water). Why is China holding on so tightly to this 'delicacy', and why have so many other countries become involved in supplying the fins? I found it fascinating how sharks were one of the first mammals on earth (they were here 150 million years before dinosaurs), and the importance they hold in the ocean: being the top predator, they effect all life below them. Several people who are involved in the shark fin industry were interviewed, and they all come off as being extremely ignorant. One man who is a shark hunter simply kills as many great white sharks as he can, and believes that he is saving peoples lives by doing this, to prevent shark attacks. (The film also goes into great detail on how exaggerated the risk of shark attacks is). This film is a reminder of just how difficult it is to regulate what is going on in the oceans, and often laws aren't effective to protect species.