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Travel

Both my sister and my niece had recently traveled abroad to attend an event there. For my niece specifically, it probably was a learning experience for her in more ways than one. Not only did she get to know a country by being physically there but also to meet some relatives from our side of the family still residing there as well. It’s like getting to know some branches of your family tree in a way.

I could tell from their travel pictures that both my sister and my niece enjoyed about the overall trip.
I have yet to talk to my niece about her specific viewpoints on this very recent overseas trip of hers.

One thing’s for sure. She is able not only to learn more about the world around her but also more about herself in relation to this world.

This particular viewpoint can also apply to all of us,not only to those bitten by the travel bug.

Josie

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On my 9/9/12 Blog, I mentioned about my local transit bus strike which had been actually on lockout by city hall since late June. It was just announced this past Friday that the tentative agreement which came out this past Tuesday has already been voted by the bus drivers union by a big majority.

It was a great relief for me since I often use public transit to get around. I’m lucky though that I live in a residential area surrounded by numerous businesses especially big box stores to fulfill my essential needs of daily living.  My local Walmart is only a 5 minute walk from my humble maison,mon ami. Dealing with this strike was tolerable for me but I can just imagine  how some folks who live in the outskirts had to deal with this either by walking long distances, taking a cab or hitching a ride.

The buses are currently being inspected before they officially start running again. It’ll happen before Christmas for sure, probably to help give the stores a last minute surge of Christmas shoppers to help boost their yearend profit. As a token of goodwill,  the bus company will  offer for a limited period of time, free bus rides to the public.

Thank God, both sides of the 2 involved parties had reached an agreement! We, the taxpayers pay for their service. With the upcoming Canadian winter season , it is really unimaginable as to how people can cope without bus service especially if they don’t have a car. Getting and maintaining a car is costly nowadays, no bones about it.

Bus service for sure isn’t the be- all and end- all in any society but definitely, it contributes a great deal in more ways than one in terms of  service for anyone’s personal and commercial reasons.

Bonjour!

Josie

The Canadian shopping scene is becoming more Americanized especially these past 2 years in my opinion. Proof is their coinciding with Black Friday sales in the United States. In my previous blogs, I had discussed about early Christmas mindset and shopping, even about the US Black Friday and now Black Thursday deals. Well, here in Canada, we don’t yet see the stampeding crowds grabbing the last sale item or the long overnight queues outside the stores. Black Friday in Canada is mainly about a barrage of sales not only on Black Friday but for the rest of the 3 day weekend in sync with the US Thanksgiving weekend. Some even make it a 4 day weekend to coincide with Black Thursday in the US.

With the recent increase of exemption limits of duty-free products that a Canuck can bring back from abroad,Canadian retailers are forced to compete with their American counterparts to try to keep the price-conscious Canucks from going down south of the border to spend their money to bolster the US economy instead of the Canadian economy.

But some experts think that all this Black Friday hype in Canada will eventually fizzle down. With the influx of some American retail stores already setting up shop here in Canada,bringing with them the same promotions and strategies that they show in the U.S., the need to go down south will die down to a degree.

Seriously, I doubt it and it remains to be seen how price regulation in Canada will continue. Even if an American store sets up shop here, if they’re going to be bound by  Canadian tax regulation similar to the Canadian stores, then it’ll still be expensive to shop at that American store which opened on Canadian soil.

Therefore,Canadian retail and taxation need to be evaluated further for any possible reform if they want to be at par with their American counterparts.

Today’s reality is that the Canuck will always look for the best deal whether here or outside Canada. Saving a few extra dollars will always take top priority as much as possible.

By the way, since today’s Saturday, it’s also known as Small Business Saturday wherein during this start of the Christmas shopping season, we’re being encouraged to support small and independently-owned stores(known as “mom and pop’ stores) by patronizing their business so as to boost the local economy. It emphasizes the need for small business owners to survive in this crucial time and not only the big box stores.

Happy shopping!

Josie

Twinkies, known as the”Golden Sponge Cake with Creamy Filling” was invented in 1930  by James Alexander Dewar, a baker for the Continental Baking Company. This iconic American snack cake got its name from a St. Louis billboard–“Twinkle Toe Shoes”.

I wonder what Mr. Dewar would think if he knew that years later, his baking invention would cause an uproar these past few days as well as panic buying,hoarding and even scalping at eBay .

Twinkie’s manufacturer Hostess Foods,Inc. which is also the maker of Wonder Bread,Ho-Hos,etc, had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in  January 2012, claiming that majority of their clientele have switched to healthy snacks. On Nov. 2012, it announced ceasing production of all Hostess Foods products especially after a current bakers’ strike at their plant had occurred due to grievances over pay and job benefit cuts.

In my opinion, I hope that another company would buy out Hostess Foods,Inc. so that the production of Twinkies and its counterparts would enjoy production longevity as well as continuing happiness for its American consumer fans. We can sometimes be emotionally attached to certain foods , you know, mon  ami especially if it evokes great memories.

To the  American Twinkies fan base, please take note….

Here in Canada, Twinkies are still being produced by  Vachon,Inc.,a subsidiary of Saputo Incorporated(a Montreal based company known for dairy especially cheese products). Vachon,Inc. owns the Canadian rights from Hostess Foods,therefore it isn’t affected by the impending closure of the U.S. plant.

So if you or any of your friends get a chance to drop by Canada, aside from getting a bottle of maple syrup, you might just also buy a box of Twinkies too.

I don’t know if there’s an actual Canadian online shopping website particularly for Twinkies purchases but I wouldn’t doubt if something would eventually come up by an enterprising soul in light of what has been happening with Hostess Foods–USA. The only other shopping website that I know is eBay.ca here in Canada but since it involves bidding, expect inflated pricing.

Bonjour!

Josie

From October 28 to 29,2012  Hurricane Sandy became an unforgettable storm for all ages. Initially, she was called Frankenstorm because it’s occurring a few days before Halloween. She’s also described as a once in a lifetime storm and others say, even The Perfect Storm… the big one. She is currently now downgraded to a subtropical cyclone but still leaving a path of death and destruction complicated by the fact that she’s a lingering storm. Right now, she’s called Superstorm Sandy and still going strong by pouring more rain and winds along Chicago and  Lake Michigan as well as  continuing to dump more snow on West Virginia and Maryland.

What makes her unique in so many ways is in a way immeasurable but I’ll try as humanly possible to describe her from my point of view.

Hurricane Sandy is a combination of the worst of both a Category 1 Hurricane and a Nor-easter. That’s a double punch! It consists of srong gale winds, heavy rainfall with flooding and a cold front with heavy snow potential.

She came at an unusual time..near the tail end of the hurricane season which meteorologists say is unusual this time of year.

She came during the tail end of the current U.S. presidential election campaign which caused both presidential candidates to revise their campaign schedules so as to get themselves and their constituents out of harm’s way. I believe that the election outcome will be affected by her . As to which way, we will know in the coming days. Talk about an October surprise!

She first went to the Caribbean,then would ascend upwards along the Atlantic Ocean and would enter an unusual path… westward towards  the Carolinas then up  further westward towards Maryland,Washington DC,West Virginia,Pennsylvania ,Ohio,Illinois and yet at the same time ,also going up northward towards the Northeast United States(New York,New Jersey,Connecticut and New England states of Massachusetts,New Hampshire and Maine. It even reached Ontario province in Canada specifically Toronto and parts of Quebec province and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. It’s possible for this to happen because she covers a wide upward yet northwesternly swath in her trail. Accdg. to weather reports, it covers 800-1000 miles and would affect at least 80 million people . And to think that this upper part of the United States especially the Northeastern U.S. rarely encounters such a natural climate disturbance!

Of course, we humans have to go into survival mode, stocking up on rations, getting generators,flashlights,batteries,plywood,etc,bunkering down or going elsewhere for safer grounds. Common sense is imperative here .

All sorts of land,water and air travel were suspended during this difficult time. Offices and schools were closed. Only the news media were on deck to deliver the news and updates on this storm.City,state and federal officials ,the Red Cross and all hospitals and other related agencies were all on deck to provide any further assistance to the public.

What we can learn from this is that Mother Nature has her own timetable and we humans can be powerless at times to control her. Mother Nature deserves our respect . Same with Hurricane Sandy. They’re both creatures of nature that we shouldn’t mess with.The best that we can do is to let nature take its course and we adapt by going into survival mode and avoiding nature’s path.

Hurricane Sandy may be waning now but her trail of death and destruction and its aftermath will be felt profoundly. The massive cleanup and rehabilitation will continue for a considerably long period of time.

It may be hard to believe but I think that any natural disaster is part of how Mother Earth works to keep the ecological balance in place. Same with earthquakes,tsunamis, cyclones,blizzards,etc.

It is very important to respect and save the environment or else,consequences like global warming will continue to prevail leading to probable natural disasters to come.

Just my food for thought on this!

Josie

I noticed this as far back as 2 years ago when Christmas stuff(decorations,wrapping paper,cards,etc) have started appearing as early as September. Even the local Hallmark card shop has been selling Christmas tree ornaments as early as July every year since God knows when.(Definitely more than 2 years ago).

They’re around already before Canadian Thanksgiving, Halloween,Remembrance Day ,Rosh Hashanah,Hanukkah but NOT before Labor Day(the unofficial end of summer). It’s almost like you have to have a flexible mindset when you go into a store and see them around and tell yourself, it’s not that time yet to celebrate.

The economy nowadays isn’t as upbeat for the past 4 years and I couldn’t blame the stores for being so preoccupied with Yuletide  profits since it comprises 25% of their annual profit. Without it, they’ll have to close shop. They’re so eager to get your money that they’ll  try to entice you with all sorts of sales whether instore or online until the after-Christmas Day sale. Here in Canada,we call it Boxing Day–Dec. 26), a British traditon wherein the masters reward their servants  with boxes of gifts after Christmas Day.

Last year, many Canadian stores even have a Black Friday,same day as the Americans have after  the U.S. Thanksgiving as the unofficial start of the Christmas shopping season. Reason for such opening is that the Canadian retailers want to keep their fellow  bargainhunting Canucks from doing crossborder shopping  in the U.S. whether traveling down there or going online with free shipping to boot. I wouldn’t be surprised if this happens again this year, mon ami.

That’s our new reality as far as Christmas shopping is concerned.

Enjoy it anyway. We’re the ones to gain with getting the best prices for the things that we want to buy.

Happy shopping!

Josie

It has been 11 years since that fateful day—Sept. 11,2001(9/11/01) when terrorists hijacked 4 U.S. domestic,commercial passenger airplanes while on flight  with plans to hit target points in suicide mission mode. 3 of the planes hit on 3 separate targets–2  at the World Trade Center  in NYC and 1 at the Pentagon Building in Washington,DC. The 4th plane(United Airlines Flight 93) didn’t reach its intended target in Washington,DC. We will never know which specific target  because the brave passengers of  United Airlines Flight 93 fought with the terrorists to the bitter end and was able to divert the plane to a farm field in Shanksville,Pennsyvania.

We all know all the horrifying details of that fateful day. We also know where we all were as these tragic events kept unfolding one by one that day. Aside from ongoing TV news coverage, with  the magic of technology,those passengers’ cellphone messages to their loved ones describe their ordeal and encounters with the terrorists. Because of those cell phone messages,air travel was never the same again. Not only for all airports in the United States but worldwide. New airline and airport security measures as well as high-tech surveillance equipment were implemented  and kept being updated through the years as the terrorists try new ways to outwit US airline authorities but weren’t successful because of astute intelligence gathering.

The Department of Homeland Security was created and intelligence data gathering was shared and coordinated with other agencies(FBI,CIA,Defense Dept,etc) so as to be one step ahead of terrorist networks.

Every year since then, we keep observing this specific date in memory of lives which were lost as well as the loss of innocence in one’s perspective that the world is no longer safe as it was.

And to think that on Sept. 11,2001,I remember it as a bright,cloudless Tuesday with nothing much in the news except that Michael Jordan, an NBA veteran is coming out of retirement.

It goes to show you,mon ami, that life is full of surprises. Things happen for a reason even during  this horrific period of time–a turning point in the 21st century. Whatever the reason, we may not know it now but perhaps in due time.

They say that experience is the best teacher. The Sept. 11 event was a very horrible experience. Whatever we learned from it is an ongoing process  through these years consisting of reacting, adapting and reflecting.

As I reflect on it  11 years later on this 11th day of September, the only way that we could do is to try to live our lives the way we want it to be but to be also cognizant of the fact that we have to be on alert just in case another intrusion like this(God forbid!) happens again.

Whether we like it or not, it’s the new normal,folks!

Josie