A Day At The Banff

I was out on a business trip out west last week. I was back in Calgary again to do a project. Perhaps it is a sign that the economy is recovering 😉 I’ve been to the city quite a few times but never had been to nearby Banff National Park, about 130 kms away, a pleasant 1.5 hour trip to the Canadian Rockies.   The reason/s were quite obvious – most of my trips were in the dead of winter and moreover, I prefer to make the trip with the family to the Banff. This time around my trip included a weekend stay and I thought of avoiding boredom and spending the Sunday at the famous Banff being early spring and the snow had already melted. I had already packed my DSLR camera backpack but at the last moment changed my mind because I didn’t want to carry 3 bags on the plane. I had my laptop bag and my carry on luggage and a third bag plus a tripod would be a nuisance. Besides, I was on a darn business trip and I wanted to travel light. So I took my backup camera, my trusty little Panasonic Lumix FX-35 , that if I had the time to trek to Banff, I could take photos and videos. Well , I made it to the Banff and took photos but somehow regret that I didn’t take my DSLR with me. Taking landscape pictures at such a special place without adequate zoom, lens filters, aperture priority and raw file output isn’t quite the real game. I went with a buddy who was with me on the project team to check the place out, eat , have a few beers, drive around and take a few snapshots and drive back to the city. Yep, I had fun taking pictures and not worrying about lenses, filters, tripods and settings this time around. Oh well, there’s always a next time when I could return on one awesome summer with the family , make a side trip to nearby Jasper and on to Kelowna, BC at the Okanagan Valley  and take all the photos I want with my DSLR camera 😉

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Reversal of Fortune

images_richIn my lifetime I’ve read and heard countless of rags to riches stories that gave me that pleasant feeling of joy and mild inspiration. After all, who wouldn’t be happy to hear about success stories of people who overcome overwhelmingly difficult challenges, especially those who come from the under privileged class. On the other hand, there are those born privileged, with a silver spoon in their mouth and by some twist of fate, lose their stature and wealth and fall from riches to rags. Just as the wind turns into a gale without warning, life is the same – utterly unpredictable. But I guess the worst kind reversal of fortune one could go through in this life is one that goes full circle – from rags to riches and back to rags. This is often the case where you hear of people blowing their brains out in total despondency and despair. One stint at the gutter is enough. A second trip is hell itself.

images_ragsWhen I was a young lad growing up in the Visayas I remember a family that was a classic case of the rags to riches story. With hard work the enterprising couple who were barely making 3 square meals a day were able to acquire land and engaged in real estate. The success was gradual but steady and the couple were able to acquire haciendas, moved to a very large house and bought cars, sent their children to private schools. Money was a plenty and life was great. I remember the man of the house having a haircut lying sideways on the hammock, occasionally dozing off , keeping the poor barber on his toes all the time, unsure whether he cut both “patilyas” properly. He would switch sides to get the other side done. If I was the barber I would f-off in a jiffy but he was da man and a great tipper so you got to do it his way. When you were a kid you didn’t think much about it but remembering it now makes you realize what a moron the guy was and I would rather cut a baboon’s hair than doing guesswork on a head that’s filled with what looked like curly pubic hair. When you got lots of money you get things done your way and people won’t complain. To make the story short – the kids went to school but none of them finished college, the family was embroiled in a nasty and protracted court case that depleted their treasure chest, the sugar industry suffered a paralyzing recession. The family lost everything and went back to the gutter. They went full circle. Sad indeed.
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Bigotry or Honesty ?

gay_marriageThe gay marriage issue is extremely controversial because it not only divides the people of a nation – it further causes deep divisions even within the church itself. While the Catholic church firmly opposes same sex marriage, some denominations even within the more fundamentalist Evangelical churches are struggling with the conflicting sentiments of their adherents. If there are die hard fundamentalists, there are those who ditch their religious leanings in favor of secularism and abide by the wishes of the law of the land. Canada had passed the same sex marriage law and the rest of the world criticized the country as the modern day equivalent of Sodom and Gomorrah. The prophets of doom expected God’s wrath to burn the country to the ground and turn its cursed people into stone. At the end of the day though, the law didn’t encroach on people’s religious persuasions. They were free to continue to believe and practice their time honored religious traditions. In other words the name of the game turned into respect and  tolerance – live and let live.

When Carrie Prejean, Miss California was asked at the Miss USA pageant of what she thinks of same sex marriage, here’s her reply :

“I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody out there, but that’s how I was raised.”

Miss California’s answer incensed many people including one of the pageant’s directors. Celebrity blogger Perez Hilton called her a stupid bitch. What did they expect her to say ? That she MUST adhere to political correctness and does being politically correct mean that she acquiesce to liberal and popular opinion ?  She was asked and she expressed her opinion without berating the other side – what is wrong with that ? She didn’t she conduct a sermon of what things ought to be, didn’t  she? Alas,  people don’t seem to  understand that there are those who will never agree with gay marriage until their last breath !  We can all have different opinions and need not agree on everything but we can stay united. What’s is the glue of unity ? Respect and tolerance. Sadly, many people have lost touch with reality. They are abusing the tolerance the majority had so graciously afforded them.

(more photos of Quebec City next page )

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Photograph

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Last Friday my wife called me at the office informing me that when I arrive home we were going to Niagara Falls to spend the long weekend . She booked a hotel room for us and our daughter for 2 nights. Monday Feb 16 is Family Day holiday in this province, recently legislated, two years ago in fact. It meant that we will spend Valentine’s Day at the Falls. Niagara Falls being in our “backyard”, meaning less than 2 hours drive is like going to a picnic at a nearby park. True, it is a celebrated world class tourist spot but going to the Falls isn’t what you do here when you want something really cool. But I guess we are in a recession, the weather had been sucky this winter and it was an impromptu trip so the Falls was a safe bet. The good news is the falls is still there, vibrant and intimidating as ever 🙂

 

ODD TOWN

Niagara Falls is an odd town. Half of it is in Ontario, Canada and the other half is in the state of New York, U.S.A. , separated by a bridge across the Niagara River. When you say you live in Niagara Falls you better finish it with a N.Y. or Ont. lest you forget 🙂 Canada however got the better part of the real estate. For starters, the smaller American Falls is on the U.S. side and the much bigger Horseshoe Falls is on the Canadian side. It follows then that much of the action is on the Canadian side – hotels, Casinos, amusement arcades, tours, shops and restaurants. There are a slew of hotels and tours on the American side as well and people just hop over the bridge to visit the other side to complete the visit. Just be wary that there is immigration on both sides of the border and depending on the passport one carries, crossing the bridge can be a hassle. ( click on photo for more detail)


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The Party Season

images1In these tough economic times, salaries and bonuses are likely to be trimmed severely, especially those companies that are struggling to make a profit or those desperately trying to improve their balance sheets. Company Christmas parties have been shelved, at least for this year to save expenses. Our company is no exception. Every year we hold a Christmas dinner dance at a first class hotel but this year, it is cancelled. Now several groups within our company are organizing Christmas parties and I have been invited to four of them ! The bad news is, the revelers have to foot the bill so every attendee must contribute money 🙂 Dang, 4 parties is too much for me to attend, let alone the availability of time but I decided to attend two parties – my own department’s party and our division party.

Our business partners also invite us to parties organized for their customers like us. One account rep had been calling me up to confirm my attendance at their Christmas bash. Last Friday I received an email from him informing me that the party had been cancelled. Yikes, that was a bit embarassing don’t you think? Before you circulate invitations, you bloody make sure that you work out the finances ! I didn’t bother to ask why the cancellation but clearly it was done haphazardly and in poor taste methinks.

Consumer spending is anticipated to be down this holiday season. But seeing the malls packed these days, I’d be curious to know the decline percentage. Stores have been marking down their items so attractively that as a buyer, you’d wonder if you’ll see these prices after the season. Today I saw a Sergio Leone original DVD pack with 4 of Clint Eastwood’s famous spaghetti western movies for $29 bucks with a voucher of $15 for gas as freebie. How can you possibly beat that? 😉 I’m quite sure more crazy deals are in the offing for those who plan to do their shopping on the 24th 🙂


THE WINNING CAMERA- Canon SD500 Scores a Pacquaio-like Upset

canon1I hate lugging around with a camera bag. Seriously. I’ve been really wanting a small but powerful compact camera, one that I can stick into my pocket and take quality pictures when a photo moment arises. I had been scoping out the Panasonic Lumix DMC TZ5 as my Xmas present to myself but my brain keeps telling me – “you don’t need the darn thing kid. You have a bigger camera and you didn’t even learn all it’s functions yet”. Alright 🙂  Just as I was about to can the whole idea, my craving had been rekindled when the 2008 Global Metro Photo Challenge in Toronto was won by a diminutive point and shoot camera, a Canon SD500 . The theme of the contest was Urban Jungle.  Man, when you think that there were 55,000 entries from all over the world the win is  truly a gargantuan upset.  An aspiring young photographer – totally low budget with his little point and shoot camera and plastic $20 tripod waits for hours to take a shot of the tram car in the early morning hours to create the winning shot. Check the amazing story here.  One heck of a great win really. For his effort the winner gets $2000 cash and a trip to Paris plus a spanking new Nikon 700D camera worth $5,000. Now that is a real dandy camera. You would definitely need a pretty decent knapsack to lug it around 🙂

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