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“Never in my life have I seen someone so chitchat with cashier staff.”

- Akemi today on my propensity for engaging retail staff in conversation.

It happens a lot at Whole Foods whenever the cashier gives us the option of getting ten cents off our total or making a contribution to charity (for bringing in our own reusable shopping bag because Akemi always remembers).  I always go with the donation and am invariably offered three possible charities.

“Who’s winning?”I always ask.  Not that I’m really curious because I already know the answer.  The animal charity is winning.  It’s always winning.  And any charity to do with cycling is always losing.  It should come as absolutely no surprise that people love puppies and kittens, and despise cyclists.  Giving money to support cycling projects is akin to donating the money to juvenile offenders or telemarketing companies – except that juvenile offenders and telemarketing companies don’t occasionally veer into your lane, block you from making right turns, or sail through red lights assuming you’ll stop.

And it’s not just retail staff.  I’ll talk to anyone: fellow customers, taxi drivers, those people standing in line to use the bathroom.

“I thought he was your Stargate friend.”

She makes this assumption a lot.  I’ll talk to someone for a little while and then, as my conversation partner heads off, she’ll ask: “Who was that?”

And I’ll often shrug and say: “I dunno.”   Or, maybe, “Phil” or “Tom” or “Henrietta” if the person offered their name AND I happen to still remember it seconds later (an admittedly rare occurrence).

I suppose that, in Japan, social interaction with strangers is considered unusual, if not frowned upon – although, from my limited experience, Japanese retail staff are surprisingly receptive to the odd (in both senses of the word) attempt to engage them in conversation, possibly due to a number of reasons: professional courtesy, genuine delight, or sheer terror.  I can’t wait to continue this social experiment when I hit Tokyo and Osaka late next week.  And I’m sure Akemi will be thrilled.

Am I unique?  What say you?  Do you ignore that age-old advice and actually “talk to strangers”?

 

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This time, it was Taiwan Fest where Akemi and I enjoyed grilled spicy squid, even spicier lamb skewers, and more inclement weather!

This time, we came prepared.

This time, we came prepared.

More or less.

More or less.

We arrived early to beat the line-ups.

We arrived early to beat the line-ups.

There were about a half dozen different stands offering about a half dozen different food items.

There were about a half dozen different stands offering about a half dozen different food items.

The giant steamed barbecued pork buns weren't bad...but you had to go through A LOT of dough to get to that pork.

The giant steamed barbecued pork buns weren’t bad…but you had to go through A LOT of dough to get to that pork.

Want a bite?

Want a bite?

Hot dogs and chicken nuggets - just like your Taiwanese mother used to make 'em!

Hot dogs and chicken nuggets – just like your Taiwanese mother used to make ‘em!

Akemi can't wait to get her hands on those chicken nuggets.

Akemi can’t wait to get her hands on those chicken nuggets.

Festival revellers!

Festival revellers!

The game plan: 1. Order 2. Retreat across the street to seek shelter under the store awnings and await our orders. 3. Pick up orders. 4. Retreats back across the street to eat.

The game plan: 1. Order 2. Retreat across the street to seek shelter under the store awnings and await our orders. 3. Pick up orders. 4. Retreats back across the street to eat.

Manning the squid grill.

Manning the squid grill.

Akemi keeping her spirits up…

What's in the mystery box?

What’s in the mystery box?

Right on the first guess!  Goopy oyster omelet!

Right on the first guess! Goopy oyster omelet!

Delicious Taiwanese sausages: sweet, savory, and fatty.

Delicious Taiwanese sausages: sweet, savory, and fatty.

Master Chef!

Master Chef!

The lamb skewers were practically dipped in the cumin and chill.  Not for the weak of heart.  Or stomach.

The lamb skewers were practically dipped in the cumin and chill. Not for the weak of heart. Or stomach.

No food festivals tomorrow.  It’s Draft Day!  Time to set aside my script and start some intensive fantasy football research!

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Akemi this morning on her love for Bubba:

“Bubba is best thing that happened to me this lifetime.  I’m so glad I met you.”

The other day, she made a little something for Bubba:

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And a little something for me as well:

Scotch-laced hot chocolate

Scotch-laced hot chocolate

Also, yesterday, Akemi experienced an allergic reaction to something – and we suspect it might be…uh oh…lobster!  She was understandably alarmed at the prospect:

“But how possible?  I am Japanese!”

and because she only discovered the true joys of lobster rolls all too recently:

“So sad my lobster honeymoon over after just one year.”

In the end, she blames everything on Martin Gero who introduced her to lobster rolls when he hired a lobster food truck to serve them at his birthday party a couple of years ago.

What the hell was Martin thinking?!!!

Today’s entry is dedicated to belated birthday gal Kathode!

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My girlfriend enjoys cooking, studying Italian, internet shopping, and posing for photographs behind those placards with the cut-out faces…

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She just can’t help herself.

Lulu, meanwhile, loves any opportunity for a photo session…

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And check out these gorgeous shots taken by our friend, Nicole:

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I have a big Skype video conference tomorrow morning to nail down the look of our hero ship and space station.  I’m not sure how to arrange a Skype session with more than two people, so I’m off to google “three-way” in the hopes that it yields some informative results.

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I say “My Top 10″ because “Your Top 10″ will no doubt vary.  Having read the Ice & Fire series before sitting down to watch Game of Thrones, I was prepared for moments like Ned Stark’s execution, The Red Wedding, and the duel between The Mountain and The Red Viper.  Similarly, behind-the-scenes developments on other shows prepared me for the “writing off” of certain characters.  And then there are those shows whose entanglements keeps you in a constant state of wariness, waiting for the other shoe to drop so that when it does and a character like The Sopranos’ Adriana gets bumped off, you’re left surprised…but not all that shocked.

No, the following 10 television deaths are moments that took me by surprise; moments I didn’t see coming.  In some cases, I really should have.  But at the time I watched them – spoiler free – these deaths left me completely and utterly shocked.

WARNING: SPOILERS ABOUND!

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#10. Lady Sybil (Downton Abbey)

Look, I know it’s a soap opera and that characters die all the time in soap operas but…Lady Sybil?  Young, earnest, idealistic Lady Sybil dying during childbirth?  And her death partly attributable to her own father’s ignorance?  Shocking!

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#9. Dale (The Walking Dead)

I’ve been reading the comic book series for years, so the deaths of Shane and Lori weren’t all that shocking as the characters had far outlived their comic book counterparts.  But Dale?  Dale?!  Now THAT was a shocker!

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#8. Jimmy Darmody (Boardwalk Empire)

The death of Jimmy Darmody at the hands of Nucky Thompson was shocking in most part because it didn’t make a whole lot of sense.  Nucky executes Jimmy for turning against him, yet lets Eli walk free.  Yes, I know, Eli is Nucky’s brother, but Jimmy was like a son to him.  Strange.

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#7. Lem (The Shield)

For seasons, the members of Mackey’s strike team were inseparable: Vic, Shane, Lem, and the guy who got his face seared on the stove top.  And then, the team was blown apart by suspicion, betrayal, and the grenades Shane drops into Lem’s lap at the end of the show’s fifth season.

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#6. Lizzie and Mika (The Walking Dead)

A two for one here.  First, psychotic little Lizzie offs her own sister and then Carol caps Lizzie to end her threat.  Critics were livid, but I thought it brave and shockingly perfect.  The best episode of the series to date.

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#5. Zoe Barnes (House of Cards)

Zoe was a pivotal character throughout the show’s first season, so to kill her off so early in the second – well I, for one, did NOT see that coming.

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#4. Edith Bunker (Archie Bunker’s Place)

It’s hard to lose a loveable character, especially when said character is a television icon – even more so when she’s a television comedy icon.  And for Edith to pass away in her sleep off-screen.  Agh, the anguish!

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#3. Omar Little (The Wire)

Yeah, I know.  He was living on borrowed time and, sooner or later, his renegade disregard for all sides of the law would catch up with him – but for Omar to go out the way he did, gunned down at a convenience store by a young boy.  That was a shocker.

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#2. Terry Crowley (The Shield)

The pilot of The Shield still ranks as my very favorite for the sudden and unexpected twist at episode’s end, the death of undercover detective Terry Crowley at the hands of the show protagonist (???) Vic Mackey.

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#1. Lt. Col. Henry Blake (M*A*S*H*)

This oen gets the #1 spot because it left such an indelible mark on my young and naive t.v. viewing self.   M*A*S*H* started off as a goofy comedy that, in time, morphed into a smart, provocative dramedy – and a television classic.  And the death of the clownish Henry Blake at the end of the show’s third season marked a pivotal shift for the show – and the television landscape as a whole.

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Well, I had a lot I wanted to get done to day and, although I didn’t accomplish everything, it was a nice, full day…

1) The Running of the Bulldogs

Akemi and I headed down to Yaletown early this morning to register our french bulldog, Lulu, for “the running of the bulldogs”, part of a HUGE dog-themed festival that included various vendor booths, complimentary dog treats, and doggy wading pools.  I registered her at 11: 00 a.m. as per the instructions in the flyer, specifying her name, my name, her weight (21 lbs), and her nickname (LeLouche).  Unfortunately, when it came time for the actual races, we could hardly hear the host and his ineffective bullhorn.  Perhaps more frustrating was the fact that they were calling in the participants out of sequence, NOT in the order in which they registered but some weird, randomized order known only to them.  I was eager to have Lulu run (she had carbed up that morning), but we were dog-sitting our old friend Petunia who was so exhausted that Akemi feared she might pass out.  So we left early.  Lulu missed out on her chance to run.  And I had to carry Petunia back to the car.

The pre-race turf

The pre-race turf

Out and about with the little lady

Out and about with the little lady

Lulu - yet to race and already tired

Lulu – yet to race and already tired

Petunia - ready for bedtime.

Petunia – ready for bedtime.

THIS guy!

THIS guy!

THAT guy!

THAT guy!

"Toons" gives me her it's-time-to-go look.

“Toons” gives me her it’s-time-to-go look.

2) Garlic Fest

We dropped off the dogs, then headed over the Richmond for the Garlic Festival – to try the much-hyped garlic ice cream.  A potential weird-food-purchase-of-the-day perhaps?  Alas, the garlic ice cream was sold out by the time we got there – so we had to settle for garlic scape pizza, roasted garlic, and six bulbs of Russian Red!

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Snacktime!

Snacktime!

3) Pie Championship!

We returned home, walked the dogs, then hopped back into the car and headed over to the city’s east end for the Incredible Pie Championship!  $5 got you a  taste of all 21 pies competing across five categories: Sweet, Savory, Structural, Vegan and Best in Show.  We met up with friends (Nicole and Lan), made new ones (Kirsten, Liz, Wendy, and guy standing in line who looked like Ronon Dex), and enjoyed A LOT of pie.

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The pirate-themed rum-pecan pie got my vote in the structural category.

The pirate-themed rum-pecan pie got my vote in the structural category.

The banana cream pie won my vote in the Sweet category as well as Best In Show

The banana cream pie won my vote in the Sweet category as well as Best In Show

The Lumberjack Royale, with its medley of roasted apples and bacon, got my vote in the Savory category.

The Lumberjack Royale, with its medley of roasted apples and bacon, got my vote in the Savory category.

The inspired onion-meringue came in a close second in the savory category.

The inspired onion-meringue came in a close second in the savory category.

Building the list of entries.

Building the list of entries.

Akemi preferred the cherry pie

Akemi preferred the cherry pie

Kirsten and Liz, who recognized me from this blog - and still elected to say hi and chat rather than throw a pie in my face.

Kirsten and Liz, who recognized me from this blog – and still elected to say hi and chat rather than throw a pie in my face.

Me and my 21 empty cups.  One thing they don't tell you: bring your own plate.  And utensils!  Otherwise, you'll end up doing pie shots for most of the afternoon.

Me and my 21 empty cups. One thing they don’t tell you: bring your own plate. And utensils! Otherwise, you’ll end up doing pie shots for most of the afternoon.

Liz shows off her stack.

Liz shows off her stack.

Nicole and Lan came prepared!

Nicole and Lan came prepared!

We came home, exhausted.  Akemi took her shower and was ready for bed.  At 8:00 p.m.!  Also, she sunburnt her ears. :(

 

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Oh, it’s on!  This Sunday, come cheer Lulu on as she puts her undefeated record on the line (note: she’s never participated before so she is, technically, undefeated) in the Running of the Bulls at Pet-A-Palooza!

Looks to be a busy day because, in addition to that, there’s this:

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And then this:

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Finally, here’s Akemi’s take on that vegetarian restaurant (guest-starring yours truly):

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