Thursday, November 20, 2008

Ha! Amato's, You Suck!

So, I mentioned once before, while extolling my local pizza place, King Slice, that not only is Amato's pizza highly over-rated, but they also have this habit of jerking their workers around with stuff like no overtime pay, or occasionally no pay at all. Nice.

Anyway, while catching up on the feeds after my awesome Korean Adventure, I came upon this. Apparently, after 3 years, they've finally been fined over $300,000. The article says it's, "one of the biggest fines ever over unpaid wages", and quote they, "committed numerous violations of the Employment Standards Act in connection with wages owed to former employees."


Monday, November 17, 2008

Santa Claus Parade

Sunday was the Toronto Santa Claus Parade. I have been marching in it for the past 14 years. This year, I was set to be a Santa Guard. Unfortunately, when I showed up and tried the costume, I discovered that they had given me size 29 waist pants that I could definitely not fit into. They take your measurements in the spring and select a costume for you. This was the first year I ever had a size screw up, so they're pretty good considering the number of marchers. So, what to do? I found the costume room manager and she told me they keep spare Greeter Clown costumes for those who can't fit their costumes. I picked one out, but after 11am when they start calling on backup people to fill costumes for no-shows, I saw that none of the 3 Reindeer costumes had been filled. So, I asked if I could be one of them. Sweet! It was actually my second time in one of the reindeer costumes. Kids love them. Also, it was a really cold day, and being upgraded to a furrier, warmer costume was a plus.

Here, through the wonders of flickr, is a picture of me from someone I don't know. Thanks. I can tell it was me by the gloves and sleeve poking out near my wrist.

Subways and OCAD

So the TTC has been starting to heavily advertise their new transit plan for Toronto and our neighbours. I've seen Transit City ads on the subway and in the papers. I really excited about this. I think it's a great plan that would greatly improve public transit in the city. I just wish we had it now. I would used the Don Mills Rd line everyday. But sadly, of course, it can't be instantaneous. I just hope it does happen, as I don't believe they're secured funding from the various levels of government that will need to cough up some cash.
One thing they do have funds for though, at least, the last time I checked, is the extension to the University/Spadina line to go north to York University and beyond. I posted a picture of this extension as shown on the new subway car sample at The Ex. The Toronto Star had an article the other day on the architects the TTC is choosing to design these new stations. Unfortunately, at least in my opinion, one of them is the man designed the extension to the OCAD. I really, really, dislike that hideous building. It describes it as the, "celebrated "flying tabletop" at the Ontario College of Art and Design." Great. Celebrated. I hate that thing so much. Unfortunately, I'm a minority with that opinion. Most people I know seem to like it, claiming that it's nice to have something different. I agree, as long as it's not hideously different! I mean, at least they could have painted the top pink, so it would look like an eraser sitting on top of pencils. I mean, it would have been slightly more hideous, but at least a funny hideous.

Anyhow, my post on my excitement over the coming TTC has turned into a rant about the OCAD, so I should stop. At least I didn't get started on my hatred of the stupid ROM extension. That would have been worse.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Korean Adventure: Friday and Saturday

For my last full day in Korea, we decided we wanted to get a fair bit done. Up first, was the National Museum.

It was quite a massive building with a lot of exhibits. We followed through Korean history from the Neolithic period, through the Three Kingdoms Period and the Joseon Dynasty and up to modern times. One thing about the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Canada, as a country, doesn't have a very long history, so our museum is filled with ancient things from other places. The Seoul museum however, is filled with things Korean. The pottery section was quite nice, filled with green and pale ceramics, different from the red and black Greek pottery I've studied. They also had sections for Indian and South East Asian history, and an exhibit on Buddhism. We also got in for free, because this year is the anniversary of the Korean flag (I think), which is pretty sweet.

After the museum, we went off to COEX Mall (Convention and Exhibition Center), a massive mall in southern Seoul right next to the Seoul World Trade Tower.

The mall itself is filled with restaurants, stores, arcades, a 16 screen theatre, and an aquarium. We took a look inside on of the arcades and went to the DDR, hoping to see some mad Korean Dance Skills, but sadly no one was playing. It looks as though the DDR fad has passed in Korean, as it has here. Oh well.

We saw Jackie Chan's restaurant: Jackie's Kitchen where you can eat his favourite noodles and dimsum. I also got one of the tastiest pretzels I've had in a while. It was soft, a little buttery, not too salty. Perfect. It also had awesome packaging.

There was also a Buddhist temple near the mall that we visited. It had some beautiful buildings. We wandered around for a while an looked at the buildings. My fiancee also loved the incense they were burning and we bought some from a small shop they had at the front.

After the temple and COEX, we took a trip up to Dondaemun (the market I went my first Tuesday) as my fiancee wanted to pick up some yarn. We searched around there for a while, looking for some good yarn, in a good colour, for a good deal. We found just what we needed.

Then we took a trip to the foreigner district, just to see it. It's kind of a seedy looking area, but we walked around for a few minutes before going into an Irish pub and enjoying some cheap cheap ($2) happy hour pints of Cass (a Korean beer). The place also had Guinness, Hoegaarden, and a few other imports, though they were all fairly expensive.

We also took a trip through Namdaemun Market, another popular market area near the Namdaemun gate just as Dondaemun is near the Dondaemun gate. Unfortunately the wooden part of Namdaemun was destroyed by fire this year, so there's not really much to see. The market was pretty extensive once you went off of the main streets. Like other markets in Seoul, it was a packed warren of stores and stalls.

We went home and had the most excellent fried chicken as my last supper in Korea.

Saturday was a lazy day. My fiancee had come down with a fairly bad cold, so it was a sleepy day of relaxation. My flight was around 6:45, and 18 hours later I was back home. And so ended my first Korean Adventure. I'm looking forward to the second.

Oh, a parting note. There's a bar on the way to my fiancee's school with the Blues Brothers standing on top. Haven't been, so I've no idea what it's like, and I have no idea how a bar called the Texas Palms relates exactly to the Blues Brothers, but oh well.

Korean Adventure: Thursday Cont. - Dog Cafe

As I said, our trip to the 63 Building was not entirely successful. Well afterward, we decided to head over to Hongdae, the university area, that evening, and take a look around. This is the same place we went for Halloween. We got a little turned around on the way there, but got help from a Korean man who knew English. He pointed us in the right direction and told us which bus to take. We didn't think we were very far away, so we asked him how long it would take to walk. He seemed surprised by the question, and said we should really take the bus because it was far. It actually was only 2-3 bus stops, but for some reason Koreans, while incredibly hardcore when it comes to mountain hiking, don't seem to like walking far in the city. All of my fiancee's co-teachers are shocked that she walks 25 minutes to get to school.

Anyway, reaching Hongdae, we had three goals: 1) See the area and the many bars/clubs. 2) Find Gogos (the bar we went to for Halloween) as the area is a bit of a warren and my fiancee wanted to prove she could find something there. 3) Visit a dog cafe we had heard of.

Dog Cafe. Yes. It was apparently quite the thing a year or two ago, and there are still a few of them kicking. It's basically what you would think: a cafe with dogs in it. You can go there, eat and drink, and be around dogs. Many Koreans don't have pets, and generally when they do, they only have small dogs. So this is a place for the animal lovers to hang out with a wide range of dogs. You can buy treats and feed them. There are staff on hand to keep them under control and clean up any accidents. We went in, sat down, and were amazed at how the dogs just roved anywhere. One dog took a rather stinky crap near us, which was cleaned up fairly quickly, but we had already shifted table anyway. If you aren't a dog person, I would not recommend. But, if you love dogs as much as my fiancee, it's quite the experience.

We wandered around a bit, and I saw Ho bars 1 through 5. You see, a lot of the bars in the area have multiple locations, I saw several names repeated with roman numerals following the names. After seeing the area on a Friday night, I'm not too surprised that it's busy enough to support 5 locations of Ho Bar.

We continued to explore and eventually found Gogos. Our task complete, we started walking out of Hongdae but stopped when we saw a large Canada flag. It was the Rocky Mountain Tavern II (number 1 is in Itaewon, the foreigner district). We decided to go in and have a drink. Nothing too spectacular, but they were showing a hockey game on satellite, had poutine on the menu, and server moosehead. We each had a pint, ate some food, and went on our way.

Oh, and I'm sure I've mentioned already that travelling around Seoul involves using a lot of stairs. Not only is the city fairly vertical building wise, the subways are burried pretty deep. Here is just one of the many long sets of stairs I had to use any day I went out.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

More Funny Korean English Shirts

I mentioned before the funny English shirts Korean kids wear. Well, before I went on my trip, my fiancee sent me a thread from Dave's ESL Cafe, a forum for ESL teachers. It contains a few more priceless shirt quotes and pictures:

One of my kinders, "Happiness is a strong cocktail".

Girl in first grade middle school came into my class last week with a t-shirt that said:
"I want to use your thighs as earmuffs"
Through fits of laughter I offered her 10,000 won for it. The only thing she could say was "Teacher, what it means?"
Saw another recently, on a 20-something girl:
Big letters : FEEL ME UP
Smaller letters under it: Like a child

Such A Typical Ajumma

I previously explain the Korean stereotype of the Ajumma. Well, here is a video that sums the Ajumma and their ability to push through anyone unphased (it happens 30-40 seconds in):

Korean Adventure: Thursday

Friday was a school holiday of some sort, so Thursday was my last day at the school. It was fairly uneventful, marked by the occasional group of students making their way to the English office to say goodbye. More goodbyes were said to the teachers, some of whom are transferring schools and won't be there when I come back in the spring.

In the evening, we decided to head to the financial area of Seoul which occupies an island in in the Han river. Our destination of the 63 Building, the largest building in the area and third tallest building in Seoul. It's 60 stories tall, with 3 more underground, hence the 63 Building. There's a windowed observation elevator and the top floor has an observation deck and mini art gallery. There's also a aquarium at the base. Oh, and the place is a horrible ripoff.

First, we didn't realise that the observation deck and the art gallery were the same place, so we weren't guessing we'd have to pay to see the deck, or at least, not much. The gallery cost 10000 won each. Now, every museum and tourist attraction I've been to in Seoul was less than 6000 won entry, usually 3000-4000. This place was 2-3 times the cost, and was so bad. The art gallery is tiny, and not exactly quality. The current exhibit, which had been showing for the last 6 months, was Hello Kitty art. Seriously, and the stuff was really bad. I could not make this up, take a look:

I mean, what is this stuff?

Never underestimate the Asian popularity of Hello Kitty.

And this was a video of shitting snowman ice cream cones!

And the observation deck itself wasn't that great. The glass had this extreme sheen to it that made it incredibly difficult to take photographs. I mean, I know the flash would ruin things, but even just the lighting messed things up unless you were really careful to block all light. I'm glad we didn't pay for the aquarium too. My fiancee claims that this was the first time in Korea where she felt ripped off.

Traffic anyone?

Afterwards, disappointed, we decided to walk in the park that runs along the Han.

Perhaps not the most successful evening, but we had a good laugh at least.