2008 Annual Letter


Well, the crows in the alley seem to be doing well. As near as Chris and I can tell, the front of the card shows the original mother and father with this year's baby. All three crows are getting more comfortable and bolder around Chris, our neighborhood crow whisperer. They go for walks/fly-bys with her, silently skimming by her shoulders and landing expectantly a few steps in front of her as she goes out to get the morning paper. We think that with enough patience, it might be possible to teach the crows to put quarters in the newspaper box for her. After that, it shouldn't take much more work to send them on regular trips to the gas station to fetch candy bars and frosty beverages from the vending machines.


Finally finished the ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher-training program at the local community college. The original plan was to get some sort of credential to add credibility to author a book on games to be used in ESL classrooms. Now that the program is over, it has come time to actually write the book. That's next year's project. This past Spring I started working for a private ESL school in downtown Vancouver. The students mostly come from Japan, Korea, and Mexico. They are in their teens or twenties and have moved to Canada for several months to a year to improve their English. While the book will be aimed at teachers who work with younger students, the college-aged international students are fun to be around.


For the most part working with ESL students is interesting, rewarding, and, as a rule, not life threatening. OK, there was that one time; more on that later. Truth be told, hanging out with young, international students is a lot of fun. The idea of a global economy gets reinforced on a near-daily basis. Let's hope a good book comes out of all of this.


There is an Asian supermarket that I can walk past on the way home from work. Inspired by the students from Korea and Japan, every so often I venture in to see what is there to be discovered. Usually, this ends in a happy story, for example, with me finding out about onigiri with a spicy, kimchee filling. One time I spotted a sale in the snack food aisle. There was a discount on bags of some sort of popped, toasted, or fried vegetable matter. Imagine buying a package of assorted, individual styles of potato chips, only the chips are probably not made from potatoes, and you have the idea. Even without being able to read the packaging, I could tell it was a pretty good sale. Lots of people with very dark hair were putting the bags of eight-pack chip thingies in their shopping baskets. Remembering how the strategy of buy what the locals buy worked well in France, I purchased a bag.


On getting home I opened the large bag to find eight smaller bags. Each of the eight smaller bags had different designs on them. Randomly, I picked one to sample. Studying the picture, it looked like some sort of popped-corn product, with a powdery coating. Opened up that bag, and found a smaller, silver-foil bag inside. This must be the seasoning to make the contents taste really good,  I thought. So, opened up the smallest bag and poured the particles on the small balls of popped something.


The first taste was OK. A bit sweeter than assumed, but it was pretty easy to switch from expecting a salted snack to more of a sweet, dessert snack. The third taste was the one. This is really spicy,  I thought. The spiciness factor kept rising until I had to stop munching. This was the spiciest food I had ever eaten. I had to stop nibbling and rinse out my mouth. It was during the mouth rinsing that I noticed a small blister on the inside of my lip. The smallest bag contained desiccant, to make sure the edible contents remained fresh and dry. So much for illiterate snack-food shopping.


Except for stationary, indoor rowing haven't done much traveling this year. Have managed to get to the halfway point of a lifetime goal to row from the equator to the North Pole by hitting the five million meter mark in the Summer. Instead of travel I try to spend time around men who are five to ten years older than I am. No real reason for this other than I'm curious about what types of ailments and medications I'll soon be taking.


People with good memories may notice that the typeface is a bit larger this year. That probably reflects my progression towards ever-so-slowly diminishing vision. January might be the time to breakdown and replace my fleet of 1.5 reading glasses for 1.75s or even 2.0s. It amazes me that Garry Trudeau still uses the same, tiny letters for Doonesbury that I remember being able to read effortlessly not too long ago.


You might have heard a collective cheer from Canada when Barack Obama was elected. While it is nice to witness such optimism, have to admit that ties to the US are diminishing. Decided to disconnect the phone and drop the old e-mail address. Still keeping the post office box, though, The new e-mail address should be easy to remember. (My e-mail address is at the bottom of every page of this web site).


As always, the best to you and yours.


copyright 2008 by Todd Strong


Copyright © Todd Strong

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The next batch of orders will go out on Tuesday, December 24, 2019.


This web site was last updated on December 21, 2019.