By Richard Hsu
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Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. It is a time to get together with friends and family, exchange presents, take time off from work, and refresh before the new year.

It is also a time to look back at the year that past, consider how it was spent, memories made, remember those that have pass.

My family brings me joy, meaning, and purpose to my life. But I also miss the family that I am part of but are oceans away: my parents, brothers, and the extended family in India.

This is an immigrant's pain. An immigrant's sacrifice. An immigrant's bargain.

It is the asterisk that has been there for the past 12 years, in all the headlines of my life, reminding me of the family that I left as I embarked on new life in Canada to make my own.

I miss them, wish them well, and pray for them.

Excuse for Not Eating

Adele didn't want to finish her lunch(old news). She wanted to skip to the drink (Sprite). She started with her usual excuses but realised it wasn't working. So she came up with a new one.

She said: In my stomach, the food section is full but the drink section still has space.

It worked!

How to Disney

If you are staying at a Disney Resort hotel and you bought day passes (1 park per day) for all four parks, then the first thing to decide is which park on which day.

Three things to consider:

1) Day specific events
Firework shows don't happen every day. During our visit, the Magic Kingdom fireworks was on Monday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday only. This is the best fireworks show I have seen so you should not miss it.

2) Extra Magic Hours
On select days, parks are open earlier or close later only for Disney hotel guests. Disney calls this extra time "Extra Magic Hours". During our visit, Animal Kingdom had Extra Magic Hours from 8am-9am on Tuesday. We used that early entry to line up for the very popular Avatar Flight of Passage ride*. As we entered Animal Kingdom, I saw a line of visitors (not staying at Disney hotel) that weren't allowed to get in yet so the one hour head start does make a difference.

3) Arriving and Departure days
On the day you arrive or depart, you will not have a full day so either don't visit a park or pick one that you can enjoy in the shorter day without rushing. We arrived Saturday noon and didn't visit any park. After a leisurely lunch, we spent the afternoon shopping at The Loop outlet. On the day of departure, our bus from hotel to airport was at 5.45pm so we picked Epcot for that shorter day since it seemed the most relaxing**.

Planning help
Please refer to the guide for park hours to find out Fireworks days and Extra Magic hours.

I had three guides in my pocket all the time and used it often. You can get these at the hotel or parks.

  1. Times Guide for all parks. This is a weekly guide for park hours, Extra Magic Hours and times for popular events.
  2. Times Guide for the parks. One per park. This is a two page park specific list of times for popular attractions and events.
  3. Guide map for the parks. One per park. Large well made map of the park, attractions, restaurants, washrooms etc.

They have a mobile app that is very useful but the Wi-Fi in the parks wasn't reliable so we used the paper guide and maps most of the time. We did use our roaming data connection to check wait times for rides.

After selecting the park to visit for each day, next comes selecting three FastPass for each park.

*Still ended up waiting for over an hour for the ride but it was worth it. Due to height restrictions, my daughter couldn't go so the wife stayed with her while my son and I went in. To our pleasant surprise, we got a FastPass that the wife used to get into the ride later without starting at the beginning of the line again. She waited just 30 mins compared to the normal 2 hrs wait.

**After 3 days of rides and shows, Epcot was indeed more relaxing and we didn't wait more than 10 mins for any show or ride thanks to our FastPasses. I wish we had more time to cover all the countries and the variety of food options. I understand now why some say it is their favourite park.


A recent episode of CBC's Now or Never asked listeners to make their own Now or Never list. Its a checklist to help get things done. I decided to give it a try*. First question: "One thing I did as a kid that I’d love to do now is ". I filled in "Play". Few days later, I got an email from the show asking me to expand on that answer. Here it is:

As a child, playing occupied most of my time. When I wasn't playing (school, homework, tuition, chores), I was thinking of playing, or reading about it, or watching a game. Growing up in the 80s & 90s in India, football (soccer) and cricket were the two games I played the most both indoors and outdoors. I also played tops, marbles, flew kites, field hockey, chess, and others. Playing gave me pure joy. Scoring a fluke goal in football (school inter-class game), hitting a "full toss" for a "six", winning my first Chess game for school are some memories I still look back fondly. Of the hundreds of kites that I tried to fly on trespassed rooftops, I just got a handful in the air but it was worth the cuts to the fingers and the yelling I got.

Playing indoors is another memory I cherish because of the fun I had playing with my brothers and cousins. I got yelled at a lot for breaking things but I am grateful to my grandmother and parents for allowing us to play. One time, in an indoor cricket game, I was bowling to my brother Robert who hit the ball towards my father's plants behind me by the windows. One of the plants fell and I instinctively ran to it and caught it. Unfortunately for me, it was a cactus! My father was upset but didn't overreact (something I only truly appreciated after I became a father myself). This is one of my kids' favourite bedtime stories.

I also followed sports regularly on TV and magazines. Tennis (Sampras-era) and Formula 1 (Schumacher-Ferrari era) were the two sports I didn't play but followed regularly (cut-outs of Sampras kissing his Wimbledon trophy is probably still sitting in some scrapbook somewhere).

Watching Romario score a goal for Brazil in the Football World Cup, or Sachin Tendulkar hit a Six against Pakistan in Cricket, or a clean Sampras forehand winner, or Mika Häkkinen overtaking someone in F1 gave me thrills that words cannot describe. A couple of years ago, I rode the go-cart for the first time and I imagined myself in an F1 car trying to find the perfect racing line. It was fun.

The playing stopped around the time I got into university but the following didn't. Then came computers, marriage, immigration to Canada, making a life here, and I stopped following as well (except for the occasional "historic" game like Federer vs Nadal in the 2006 French Open final).

Things changed after my son was born. I started playing again with him (and still do to this day). He plays drop-in soccer at YMCA twice a week, started Shinny hockey last year and I enjoy watching all of it. Hockey is the only sport we both follow regularly and we do it with the same nerdy obsession like I had when I was a growing up. My favourite is the Leafs, followed by Penguins. My son knows all the jersey numbers of Penguins players and he will cheer against the Leafs just to irritate me but he likes the M, N, M (Awesome Mathews, Nylander, Marner). I can't wait for the NHL season to start.

*Online surveys are a pain but this was implemented using Typeform, the most pleasant online form filling system.


Backstory: The wife offered Aiden one Monopoly house as payment for an essay about Minecraft. He wrote it by hand on paper. Below is the digital version.

Aiden 08/18/17
Salary: 1 house (Monopoly)

Minecraft Essay (Job)
The topic of the essay is Minecraft. Minecraft is a 3-D Pixel block game. The producers of the game are Jeb, and Notch. The main objective is to survive, create, and have fun.

Minecraft is a simple and fun pixel game. It takes your creativity and imagination to become a reality! In Minecraft, there are two modes to choose from: Creative or Survival. Creative is where you focus more on building. You have access to all the blocks, in the Creative inventory. Survival, you have to focus on more, well, surviving. You have nothing when you start the world. You have to gather resources, and build a shelter. You can craft, farm, build, battle, go to other dimensions, and get a few pets. There are few mobs (short for mobile), there are passive, neutral, and hostile mobs. Passive mobs never attack you, neutral mobs don't attack you unless you attack them or provoke them. Hostile mobs will attack you on sight.

Well, that's Minecraft. Hope you like my essay and download Minecraft available on these platforms: PC, Mac, XBox 360, XBox One, PS3, PS4, XBox One S, iPad/tablet, Nitendo Switch, Wii, Wii U, Phone, and more. If you have already downloaded Minecraft, then why did you read this?

Ode to Joy

She walked on stage, bowed to us, then sat down in front of the grand piano. She played the first notes but it didn’t sound right. After scanning through the keys, she tried again, and it still didn’t sound right. She looked worried. She tried it again and stopped, shaking her head. Her eyes briefly turned towards the audience looking for someone (her lips read mommy). She looked back at the piano keys one more time to search for the starting key. All this happened quickly but I could imagine the teacher, seated in the front row, patiently alternating between waiting or helping.

When it became clear she needed help, the teacher walked up to the piano, gently placed her fingers on the right key and we were treated to a beautiful performance of Ode to Joy. It was an amazing thing to see. She played confidently, not missing a beat or key, and completed what was likely the first performance of her life. We clapped and cheered for her as she bowed to us and walked back to her seat.

This wasn’t the only memorable moment in the Spring music concert for students. My daughter also performed for the first time in her life and it went well. In five months, Adele went from knowing nothing about music or piano to playing Part of your world in front of an audience full of strangers. I hope she continues to learn and enjoy music.


I wish a phone call is still about something other than a donation, credit card, survey, vacation, or duct cleaning. Most of the time it isn't, so I hardly pick up phones now. If I am nearby, I will glance at the caller ID and see if I recognise the name or number. Most of the time I don't, so it goes unanswered and the automated voice messaging system takes over. If I am still nearby, I will listen to the voice message. Most of the time, there is none. If the message is from someone that isn't soliciting, I will call back.

It is sad that marketing calls have turned a simple, elegant solution into a nuisance.

When I was a kid (90s in Kolkata, India), my elderly neighbour had the first phone in the entire building! Her son in Germany sponsored what was then a luxurious gadget. The ring of the phone was distinct and eventful for everyone in the building (we had open doors and windows during the day). Others in the building or nearby also benefited as they got prearranged calls from distant places. It was a magical gadget. Eventually, we got one as well. Having a phone at home eliminated errands I despised. I didn't have to bike to the residential gas cylinder office and stand in line for an hour to book a replacement. A phone call worked.

The Canadian National Do Not Call List and regulatory enforcement has helped but it hasn’t eliminated marketing calls completely. I am looking forward to a screening solution like Adblockers, firewalls, etc. for computers. Hopefully, it will bring the magic back, when the voice of a person follows my Hello and we have a delightful conversation.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Dear Toronto Maple Leafs,

It has been an entertaining and fun season so far. Good luck with the playoffs. I will be cheering for you!

Thanks, merci (French), gracias (Spanish), dhanyawad (धन्यवाद Hindi), danke (German), efharisto (ευχαριστώ Greek), toda (תודה Hebrew), grazie (Italian), arigato gozaimasu (ありがとうございます Japanese), gratias tibi ago (Latin), khawp khun (ขอบคุณ Thai), takk (Faroese), mahalo (Hawaiian), dziękuję (Polish), mulțumesc (Romanian), spasibo (Спасибо Russian), blagodarya (благодаря Bulgarian), salamat (Tagalog), shukran (شكرا Arabic), köszönöm (Hungarian), obrigado (Portuguese), děkuji (Czech), ďakujem (Slovak), takk (Icelandic), dankon (Esperanto), teşekkür ederim (Turkish), dhanwaad (ਧੰਨਵਾਦ Punjabi), diolch (Welsh), ahéhee' (Navajo), asante (Swahili), e sé (Yoruba), ...

Update: My brother says xièxie (謝謝 Chinese traditional, 谢谢 simplified) was left out.

Credit to wordsmith.org for the words.

No Smoking

Adele noticed the No Smoking signs at the train stop and said:
Daddy! Look! No smoking!

A lady standing by heard it and smiled.

Later, inside the train, Adele noticed No Smoking signs again and said:
Daddy! Look! No smoking!

The same lady, now sitting across from us smiled and said:
She is a sweetie. Like mommy, taking care of Daddy.

Waiting to Pay

Standing in the snake line
Waiting to pay
Passing my time at Winners
It's half day
Notebooks on the left
Protein food on the right
Thinking to myself
I am feeling bright