The strategic mango reserve

Sarah asked me if I knew exactly how many mangos I ordered. I had forgotten the exact number, but I was aiming for a lot. I clearly succeeded.

For perspective, that bowl is about three feet in diameter.

One of my biggest disappointments of life in Mumbai was the day last year, shortly after our arrival, that I was informed that mango season was over and they wouldn’t be available for another ten months. I wasn’t about to let that happen again, so now we have a freezer full of mangos; a stockpile that will hopefully fill cravings through from August until next May.

My first solo flight

I’ve always wanted to learn to fly. About a year ago, I realized that I will probably never find an airport more convenient than Rockcliffe Airport (CYRO) and so I started taking lessons.

Up until now, I’ve had the comfort of having a trained instructor sitting at the controls next to me.  It was a little unnerving seeing the seat empty for the first time.
See the video

Why are liquids banned? and other questions answered in pictures

In honour of the tenth anniversary of the war on moisture, I dug out this series of “explanations” for why airline security is the way it is, presented in elementary school history project format.  The universal theme: knee-jerk reaction.  They were hanging on the wall behind the security checkpoint in Maui, so I can only assume they’re official explanations from the TSA.

In case you were wondering, liquids are banned because of… Tang and hair bleach.

See the photos

Motorcades along Sussex Drive

I’m moving offices out of the Lester B. Pearson Building today and across the river into the Portage complex.  One of the things I’ll miss the most about the view from my old office was watching the motorcades of the Prime Minister and visiting delegations roll up and down Sussex Drive.

Indian Presidential Motorcade on Sussex Drive, Ottawa

Leaving Beijing

Jak was not impressed with riding the train to the international terminal of Beijing Capital Airport.  We’re returning to Canada after 7 years away.  Hopefully more adventures will follow.


I’ll be happy to be leaving the pollution behind.  I think Beijing was buried somewhere in that smog.


China Snacks: Lay’s Numb & Spicy Hot Pot Flavour Chips

I think Sichuan peppers are absolutely awesome.  The first time I had them in a dish, I didn’t like the heat and numbness on my tongue.  It was on my second dish that I learned to like the sensation.  It wasn’t long before I learned to love Huājiāo.  The endorphin rush that comes with turning flush in the face is incredible.  I’m really going to miss hot pot.

That’s why I was excited to try numbing spice flavoured chips, especially when they’re advertised as “Intense & Stimulating.”  My assessment is that they weren’t anywhere near spicy enough.

Lay's Numb & Spicy Hot Pot Flavour Chips

Air Canada’s Premium Economy means smaller economy seats

On July 12, Air Canada introduced “Premium Economy” seating.  I thought I’d take a look at the configurations on the Montreal to Paris flight where it’s being introduced.  It turns out that Premium Economy means less legroom and narrower seats for everyone else in Economy.

Here’s the old configuration.  In economy, there’s a 32″ seat pitch and a width of 18.5″ in a 3-3-3 configuration.

Air Canada Existing Seat Configuration_540

Here’s the new configuration.  Economy class has an inch less legroom (31″ pitch) and an inch and a half narrower seats (17″) in a 3-4-3 configuration.  In essence, they’ve squeezed in an extra column of seating and shortened the length of each seat.

Air Canada Premium Economy Seat Configuration_540

If you thought that maybe premium economy would be well-priced, or that adding 98 additional seats to the same airplane would lead to cheaper economy seats, you’d be mistaken.  When I looked, a Premium Economy flight was $854 plus taxes for one segment on a round-trip itinerary compared to the discounted economy fare of $465.  Economy is no cheaper on the new configuration.

Air Canada Premium Economy Pricing_650

As a relatively tall person, I barely fit on the old 32″ configuration.  The person in front of me definitely can not recline without destroying my knees.  A narrower seat with less legroom is just going to be crappy.

I also just noticed that they specifically state that they do not accept pets in the cabin on this plane.  I can only assume that’s because the under-seat space isn’t big enough.

Lobster night

We decided to get together and place an order of live Canadian lobster.  What a great meal!  When the box arrived Jak was curious because he could hear them moving around inside the box.  When we opened the lid, he decided that he really didn’t want to play with the lobster.


They were delicious!

Restaurant waste collection in Beijing

Starting around 9:00 pm every night, trucks of empty plastic barrels roll into the city to collect waste from restaurants.  The foul smell of rotting food fills the air of the back alleys as the waste is poured out of garbage cans and into the barrels.    A lot of the food scraps are used to feed pigs in the city’s farms.  But the most popular collection points seem to be from hotpot restaurants, probably because the oil is still being illegally recycled.  This recycled oil is called “gutter oil” and is particularly disgusting to read about.

Restaurant waste oil collection for recycling in Beijing, China

I’ve walked past this truck hundreds of times as it’s always being loaded out the back of a hotpot restaurant just outside of my apartment.  I’ve always wondered where the oil goes.

Chinese New Year fireworks in Beijing

Each of the two weeks (or so) of Chinese New Year means only one thing in Beijing: Fireworks. They start before the official holiday and run well after.


This year, the government was very strict in enforcing the period during which fireworks could be set off. Not only that, they raised the prices significantly from previous years.


That didn’t stop people from unloading cars full of fireworks to set them off in any open space. Open space can loosely be defined as the width of any street.



The last night when fireworks can be sold translates into discounted fireworks. After three Chinese New Years celebrations in Beijing, I finally got up the nerve to set off my own fireworks. From the local stand I ended up with this big box of American cowboy gun-shooting motorcycle-riding fireworks from the Panda Fireworks Company.


I’m sure the Panda Fireworks Company is a reliable manufacturer of fireworks, and these were trucked across the country without incident, but they still scared the crap out of me. Seriously, everyone has reason to be scared of a box of explosives made in China for domestic consumption. After all, this is a country that can’t sell watermelons that don’t explode.

The salesman definitely found it novel that I had to ask how to light the box. He tore at a bit of tape off one corner of the box and revealed a fuse that looked much too short to be reasonable.

I proudly and nervously carried my giant box of fireworks to an open space outside of a Bentley dealership. I pulled a lighter from my pack, lit that little fuse and, as the you can tell from this photo, I ran like hell.

I survived, and managed to get a photo of the awesomeness that erupted from my box of Panda Fireworks Company fun. The motorcycle-riding gun-shooting cowboy is an entirely fitting image for what happened. Awesome.


Haidilao hot pot restaurant, Beijing

Haidilao is a famous hot pot restaurant in Beijing. They don’t take reservations, but while you wait you can get a manicure, have your shoes shined, and play games. Once you’re at your table, be sure to order the hand pulled noodles because they’re served by a dancing noodle puller.


This is one of the first times I’ve been to Haidilao at a normal meal time. It’s open 24/7. I can assure you that hot pot tastes even better at 4:00 am.