Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Regal Feast

Located in a rougher part of downtown Vancouver, the Regal Hotel is home to some of the city's low-income residents, many of whom stay at the hotel for months at a time.

My girlfriend's mom, Catalina, has worked at Regal since 1993, then as a cleaner and now as the hotel's manager. Since 2005, she has organized an annual holiday feast for the Regal residents, who all anticipate the serving of lechón - a roast suckling pig that is a popular dish in the Philippines.

Here is the whole roast pig, carried by a Regal resident standing next to Catalina:

Along with lechón, 2009's feast included turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, roast duck, pancit noodles, macaroni salad, mixed vegetables, multi-layer cakes and a trifle dessert.

The feast was held in the hotel's small hallway, where the food was handed out by Catalina, my girlfriend MJ, and Hector (a chef and former resident of Regal Hotel):

To celebrate Catalina's charitable soul, I crocheted this trophy of her and her famous roast pig dish:

We surprised her with the trophy during the feast, captured in this video:

It's fun to recognize someone who has never sought recognition for their kind deeds. Every holiday season, Catalina is purely happy to provide a regal feast to those who appreciate it the most.

With that spirit of generosity, I hope everyone's new year is full of charitable acts, both given and received. Happy 2010!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

All Thumbs

As a teenager, my favourite TV show was "Siskel & Ebert". Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert would debate the pros and cons of a film before declaring their ultimate rating: Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down.

Ah, if only I could review my everyday life in the same simple way....

Now I can!

This is the All-Thumbs Portable Reviewer. Thumbs Up on this side:

Thumbs Down on the other:

And here are my Woo Reviews!

The movie "Up": Thumbs Up

The movie "Fired Up": Thumbs Down

My local yarn store, "Black Sheep Yarns": Thumbs Up

The Staples store that accepted my online order for an office chair, then mistakenly delivered that chair to an Alan Wu (even though our last names are spelled differently) before forcing me to visit the store in person—twice—to receive my refund for the now out-of-stock chair: Thumbs Down

Jalepeño chips: Thumbs Up

Parking tickets: Thumbs Down

Stepping into my shot: Thumbs Down

Long-term effect of the 2010 Olympics on the Vancouver economy: undecided

Our finite existence in the infinite universe: Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down

Regular readers of the blog, including my girlfriend, my mom and you: Thumbs Up!

...and Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Eye See 3D

After 3 weeks of steroid drops, my left eye has recovered from it's blurry situation and I can see clearly now.

The rain is gone.

Hopefully, it will be many years before I return to the eye doctor. Until then, I made this eyeclops guy for the eye clinic:

He now lives on their front desk, next to a plastic eye toy:

I love seeing in stereo vision again, and I appreciate my overall eyesight even more. To celebrate my 3D vision, I'll enjoy a 3D movie this weekend.

If you'd like to join the 3D fun, bring out your 3D glasses (I bought mine from here or you can make your own) to see the eyeclops in an eye-popping way!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Sin of Fin

MJ and I recently watched a documentary where fishermen sliced off the fins of sharks, then tossed the bodies back into the sea to drown. The brutal practice of shark finning is fueled by the high price that Chinese restaurants can charge for shark fin soup: $30 to $40 per small bowl.

Outraged, MJ resolved to never drink this popular Asian delicacy again. I agreed.

A few months ago, MJ and I attended my cousin Ray's wedding, where they served shark fin soup. It didn't look exactly like this:

Despite insistences from my relatives to "eat it, it's good for you", MJ politely yet firmly refused to drink the soup.

Bravo, MJ! I'm proud of you for standing up against shark finning.

What did I do? I'm embarrassed to say I caved to peer pressure and finished my bowl.

But from now on, I will follow MJ's example and skip the shark fin soup. I will listen to Sherman the Shark:

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Woomi Plays Basketball

My recent eyeball escapade made me realize that there will be times when I'm unable to blog. Whether they're health-related or work-related, some urgent demands may require me to temporarily hand the blogging ball to another teammate.

Have you met Woomi?

Crocheted in late 2008, he's my more-athletic, more-mischievous alter ego.

Today, he returns to the spotlight with the debut of his own comic strip:

In my teens, I loved playing basketball. But I abandoned sports when an early onset of arthritis sidelined me from high-impact activities. Woomi—lacking bones—is arthritis-free and surprisingly aerodynamic:

Play on, Woomi! You're the star this week! Win one for the WooWork team!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Uveitis? It's alrightis.

Last week, the vision in my left eye became blurred. I experienced this inflammation before and knew the condition by name: uveitis. The grisly photo in Wikipedia's uveitis page doesn't reflect my current state, but my eye was red enough to require medical attention. With any eye inflammation, seek medical attention ASAP!

My mom and my girlfriend kindly took me to the eye doctor's office, where I was prescribed steroid eye drops for the next three weeks. On the way home, we looked for an eye patch, but the stores didn't have them in stock.

So—with the help of my good right eye—I crocheted this eye patch:

This muscular eye patch is made to enhance the steroids my left eye is taking. After three weeks, I expect my performance-enhanced eye to be inflammation-free and able to lift tanker trucks!

I'll be recovering for a bit, so a special guest will be starring in next week's blog entry.

If you have an unwelcome illness visiting you, I wish you a quick and complete recovery. And may your health outlook be positive for as far as the eye can see.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Sour over Lemon Sharks

Wikipedia? More like Wrongipedia!

Did you read their article about the lemon shark? Laughable!

Not only does the site fail to mention the pale yellow skin of the lemon shark, but their page shows a photo of the wrong shark!

Everyone knows what a real lemon shark looks like:

The lemon shark is often mistaken for a lemonhead shark, which was named after Lemonhead® candy in the 1960s.
This is a lemonhead shark:

Someone should fix Wikipedia and correct their shameful errors & omissions about lemon sharks. Until then, I'll be getting my facts about citrus fish elsewhere!

Sourly yours,

Old Man Howie

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Beware the Box Monster

What is the scariest monster you've seen on Halloween? A zombie? A werewolf? A ghost?

When I was a pre-teen boy trick-or-treating, I saw a creature that chilled my blood.

From a distance, the figure looked like a box: a box with feet and long arms that dragged on the pavement. The box was the same height as I was, so there must have been a child wearing that odd disguise.

As I approached the box costume, I saw that it wore a ghoulish, terrible face. And then it spoke:

The voice was gravelly—like an elderly man—but distorted like a smoker's artificial speaking valve. Was there a grown man inside that child-sized costume? Was it even... human?

The box costume became the Box Monster. I ran away, convinced the Monster's snake-like arms would grab my ankles and pull my fright-filled self into its eternal embrace.

I made it home alive, but I stayed frightened of the Box Monster for many nightmarish nights. If I never went trick-or-treating again, my excuse was that I had outgrown it. But I knew the real reason:

So be careful this Halloween. There are scary monsters out there. And there is one monster who may put you in a box too.

Beware the Box Monster

Saturday, October 17, 2009

My Day at the Ranch

When I was ten years old, I wanted to be a cowboy. I even had my own cowboy hat.

So when my teacher announced that our forth grade class was taking a field trip to a ranch, I was in heaven! My maverick destiny had arrived, I reckoned.

At the ranch, we were each assigned a horse. My horse—named Joker—was taller than I had imagined, but it was a hoot 'n' a holler to ride at a relaxed trot.

But as the horses sped to a run, I was suddenly overwhelmed with panic.

So I jumped.

A ranch hand told me how dangerous it was to jump off a moving horse, and to please get back in the saddle. Holding back tears, I did.

But when my horse regained its fast gallop, my reflexes took over: crying, I jumped off again.

And once more.

After that, my classmates watched the ranch hand lead me and Joker back to the barn. There's an Old West saying: "Never walk when you can ride."

I walked.

Humiliated, I rejoined some classmates at the pier, where the next outdoor lesson seemed simple: row a boat.

I stepped on the side of the boat, it pushed away, and I fell in the water.

While I shivered by the campfire, I witnessed my third ranch-related trauma.

My schoolmate, Tim, was screaming while his runaway horse tore down a steep hill. A ranch hand was yelling for him to "Pull the reins! Pull the reins!"

Tim replied:

He survived, but our outdoor spirits had not. We barely cared when the ranch hands gave us unlabeled cans of orange soda.

I took a sip.

That orange soda tasted like bliss. It was so sweet, so reassuring, and so everything right where the field trip had gone wrong.

My day at the ranch was filled with vivid memories. But I'll always remember that orange pop most clearly.

After that field trip, I never wanted to be a cowboy again. As a grown-up now, I prefer the comforts and joys of the great indoors.

But what if I had stayed on that horse, or stepped into that boat, or if my schoolmate pulled the reins?

Things might have turned out very differently:

Howie "Howdy" Woo

UPDATE - Nov 13, 2009: Here is my class journal from when I was ten years old, describing that day at the ranch:

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