Happy 5th Anniversary To Me

This was a cover that I used for my second level Niei Chi

This was a cover that I used for my second level Niei Chi

Saturday marked a real milestone in my life. It has been five years since I stopped smoking. It also marks 5 years since I graded for my first black belt.

I was never a very heavy smoker. A pack a day was a challenge. I averaged 7 or 8 a day and smoked ultra light menthols. I’d tried quitting before and it usually lasted about 6-8 weeks before I’d go back to it. I even had major surgery to remove my spleen and thought I could beat it. I tried acupuncture but because I could go for 6-8 weeks on my own, they said it wouldn’t do much good.

Taken one day after class on the East Beach in Toronto

Taken one day after class on the East Beach in Toronto

In our organization, all black belts must sign their name stating that they are smoke free. I’d been promising myself each belt level that I was going to quit. But as I went through them, I kept smoking.

Grading for your black belt is a great honour and I regarded it as such, including the oath I took. The day I graded for my black belt is the day I smoked my last cigarette.  A month later when I was awarded my first black belt, I smoke half a cigar in celebration and haven’t smoked since.

Since then, I’ve been to Hong Kong for 5 months, where everyone smokes like chimneys. I could have cheated but something a friend of mine kept me in line. Whenever I thought “Maybe just one; no one will know.” His voice would answer: “But you will.”

I finished university, go the rest of my shodans, went onto my nidans and about to start my sandans in the fall.

Thank you Sensei. Ous.

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What I Learned in Traffic Court

If you have to go to court, be prepared and be respectful!

If you have to go to court, be prepared and be respectful!

I had the misfortune of getting caught going through a red light back in October of last year. And before you ask, yes, it was in the car for the campaign, with the candidate in the car. I went in to request the trial within the two weeks and received my notice to appear in court a short time later.

I spoke to a friend who had been in this situation a couple of times before and his advice was amazing! This was the first time I was appearing in court as a defendant and I haven’t had an issue on my driving record in over 15 years.  He suggested that I go at least an hour in advance of the court time and speak to the prosecutor. They will set up a table outside the court at which time, I could try to negotiate for a quick trial and a potential settlement. I was forewarned that an offence of this type is usually viewed as being more severe than other offences, including speeding.

The Joe Pantalone Smart Car

The car I was driving when I was pulled over for failing to stop at a red light.

As suggested, I arrived an hour in advance, with my ticket, my notice to appear and a photo of the car, just in case. The gentleman said there was nothing he could do about the three points that would be taken off my licence, but that the fine might be reduced. I asked if there was anything that could be done to which he replied: “No.” He said that I would have to wait in court until my name was called and that I needed to understand that I would in fact be pleading guilty to the charge. I said that I did and waited until the judge came in.

I’ve watched enough court shows to know that there are formalities and procedures to be followed. I was also taught that if you are going to appear in court, you should dress appropriately. I saw people coming in wearing flip-flops, t-shirts and shorts. When some people addressed the judge, they had their hands in their pockets, even though they were instructed not to do so. At least two men did this.

In one case, a representative of the defendant was in front of the judge asked for a continuance because he had been retained the day before court. The offence was around the same time as my own, the judge granted it, but asked that it be noted on the file that this was highly improper and that the defendant should have been prepared long before one day prior to the trial date.

There was one man in the back row near me who was leaning over in his seat. The judge actually stopped court and told this young man to sit up. “This is a court of law and it should be respected,” said the judge, pointing at the shield behind him. As the young man sat up, the judge noted the coffee in his hand. “Young man, you are not allowed to have coffee in the court! Please, sir, remove it from the court,” the judge scolded, then turned to everyone else. “There is no coffee, food, water or any thing of that nature allowed in here.” After the man came back into the court, he sat back down and the judge asked the prosecutor for the next case. Guess who? Yep. Same guy. When he stood up, the judge said, “You? You’re the next case? No, have a seat, sir. We’ll deal with you later.”

One thing I observed was that when a case was called, the prosecutor may turn around, ask for a badge number and if the officer was not present, the prosecutor would ask that the case be withdrawn. This seemed to be planned or at least was known in advance of the prosecutor and the defence being in front of the judge.

Eventually, after all the lawyers had been dealt with, my case was called. Seeing them go first, I at least could see what might or might not be appropriate to say. I had a pretty good idea, but mostly from US television shows, so it couldn’t hurt to see the differences between there and here at home. I moved as quickly as possible without fumbling over everything and remained calm. I put my briefcase on the floor and put my hands behind my back, not in my pockets. I was asked to state my name for the court, which I did. The judge at least gave a small smile indicating that he was pleased with my actions and attention. The prosecutor then asked his honour if he could have the case withdrawn. Did I miss something? Did he even ask if the officer was present? Before I knew it, the judge stated that my case was withdrawn and that I was free to go. I thanked his honour and the prosecutor, wished them all a good weekend (since it was a Friday) and left. I couldn’t believe my luck and I wasn’t sticking around in case they changed their minds. I asked a young woman sitting outside if I should expect anything in the mail or whether that was it. She said that no, it’s entered into the record and that’s all there is. Looks like my karma ran over my traffic ticket!

The lesson here is simple: Show some respect, do what you are supposed to do, be prepared, speak only when asked to do so and say as little as is needed. As long as I did these things, I had no difficulty. It seemed to me that these things were common knowledge when you go to court, but after this event, I’m not so sure anymore. So take note if you ever have to appear before a judge, even if it’s just a traffic ticket.

#MexiTO

I know I’m late in posting this, but given his recent successes, I figured the window might be open long enough for me to get this one down.

A few weeks ago, I decided to skip my usual Monday routine and attend #MexiTO at La Mexicana (@LaMexicanaResto) on Yonge Street. This was the first of Jo’s events that I had attended, though we had met a couple of times before (See my post on #HoHoTo and the follow up).

For $15, we had all-you-can eat tacos, a selection of appetizers and desserts. You could pile whatever you wanted on the tacos from refried beans, to chicken, to veggies. Did I mention that it was $5 margarita night? I highly recommend the mango flavour. 😉

In addtion to the meal and environment, we were also treated to a pinata! There were some videos and photos, but I apologize for not taking more myself. And no, my Sensei will not be seeing any of my poor performance. Last, but not least, we were also given samples of El Jimador tequila along with some cute swag, including a shot glass, key chain and mini shaker.

Of course, the company and connections that were made that night were too many to count, so I must thank Jo for putting us all in touch. This is what Twitter is all about. Make sure you keep an eye on this guy! Now you all know why I jumped at the chance to attend St. Louis! Check my post on that here.

My biggest #FollowFriday goes to Jo (@clickflickca).

Tweetup at St. Louis Wings – 528 Yonge Street, Toronto

I received an invitation from Jo about Wednesday of last week. I’ve had the pleasure of attending another of Jo’s events, #MexiTO and he’s raised the bar yet again.

On Saturday I was fortunate enough to be one of about 150 people to attend the Tweetup at the 528 Yonge Street location of St. Louis (#528YongeStLouis – smart huh?)

Coors Light almost gone with Jennie next to me.

Coors Light almost gone with Jennie next to me.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was not just our wings or main course that was covered, it was everything! Under their permit, they were able to give us one alcoholic beverage, as many non-alcoholic drinks as we wanted, an appetizer, our main course AND dessert!

I ordered a Coors Light since I’m not a big beer drinker, but figured one must have beer with wings. Before the wings even arrived, I was almost done, but not because of lack of service! I wanted to pace myself and it was going down way too nicely!

I started the meal with the garlic bread and had to stop for fear of not being able to finish my dinner, but it is amazing! Shared it with some other peeps at the table, since that’s what an appetizer was for. I didn’t get a pic of it, but trust me, it’s worthwhile.

Sweet Asian Wings and Caesar Salad

Sweet Asian Wings and Caesar Salad

Then came the main course. Thanks to Jennie (@gwenstyles)for her ordering a caesar salad and giving me the idea. It was very refreshing along with my Sweet Asian Wings. I have to admit my shame in not being able to finish them all. For the record, I couldn’t wait for lunch to arrive the next day so I could have the leftovers. What? You thought I’d let them go to waste? Hell no!

The Lindt Chocolate Ice Cream Cake x4

The Lindt Chocolate Ice Cream Cake x4

There were a couple of us that had a similar dilemma. We wanted to make sure that we could have dessert. And boy did we! At the recommendation of one of the guys from the previous sitting, William (@william_penman) we all ordered the Lindt Chocolate Ice Cream Cake. I didn’t care how sick I was going to be, I was going to finish it!!! And boy was it worth it. I still think this photo should be the one to win for the best photo that day.

Since I couldn’t have everything, I know that some of the other comments that I heard were about the fried pickles, the fries and the sweet potato fries as well as the ribs. Not a complaint amongst them.

Besides all the great food, was the chance to meet up with old friends and meet some new ones. Some of my “tablemates” in addition to the above were: Bruce (@BBICON), JP (@JayPIsHere) and the infamous Jon (@JonGautier) . Afterwards, some of us even went out and hit a couple of other places. This was twitter at its best!

One of the comments I made during the dinner was “What’s better than great wings? Answer: Great FREE wings.”  At the end of the meal, we got a gift certificate for ANOTHER main course! So, what’s better than great free wings? Answer: MORE great free wings!

Better reserve a spot for me at every event Jo, because I’ll be there! We’ve even given him his next project: #SushiTO Stay tuned and make sure you follow both @StLouisWings and Jo (@ClickFlickCa). Congratulations on a great event and best wishes on your grand opening today! Ok, time to stop writing. I’m getting hungry again…;)

Why Am I Posting All This Stuff?

A fellow Twitter fan that I follow, Dan Levy (@TheDanLevy) did a post a short time ago and I thought I might do the same. So, firstly, thanks to Dan for the idea.

Some people may be asking why I’m posting all this stuff? I jump around to a lot of different topics and some are pretty obscure. Well, Dan and I are both participating in the WordPress “Post A Day 2011”. Every day, @PostADay gives you a topic. You don’t have to write about it, but the purpose is to give you ideas about what to write about and get you into the mood of writing.

So what have I learned so far? Firstly, I enjoy using WordPress. I’m learning now about some of the more advanced features, including hosting it and possibly setting up other clients on this platform.

Secondly, a post doesn’t have to be the length of an essay. Even this post is smaller than most, but it’s something that I felt I needed to talk about and explain to those who know me as to why I was doing this. I’ve found there are things that I enjoy writing about and that through this I will find my focus. I’m finding that I’m even posting more than once a day in some cases. I’m reviving old posts that I put on my previous blogs that I easily imported to WordPress. Besides, I know that I haven’t been posting every single day, but I certainly have enough material that I’m catching up.

Hope you all enjoy the ride with me. Thanks Post A Day!

Automatic Mutual Follows On Twitter – My Take On It

I have read a number of posts about automatically following people when they follow you. It’s the polite thing to do.  I’m not sure why people follow me, but if you have some thing to say, then I will follow you back.

When I find out that I have a new follower, they obviously have a reason. If I don’t know them, I look at the other people that follow them and follows that we have in common. If they follow a bunch of famous people or common companies that have a huge number, then there is a good likelihood that we have common interests, but I still may not follow you. However, if the follows in common are people I actually know or have had conversations with, then I believe we have more in common, so I will be more likely to follow you back.

Suffice to say, that if we have no followings in common, and you have nothing written in your bio, I will most likely not follow you back. If you have something to say to me, I’m quite approachable. Speak up! Give me a reason to follow you.

I have followed some people based on the guidelines above, and for the most part, it works. Some people I have unfollowed, but at least I give them a shot. I’m really not a bad person, so follow me and we’ll get along just fine.

Bonus: If I Had An Hour To Live

Bonus topic: you only have an hour to live.

Interesting how these things flow when you’ve had about the equivalent of a bottle of wine and you’re on the TTC late at night on a Saturday…

If I had an hour to live, I would make a video diary in which I would tell that only have one regret in my life and that I’ve lived my life to the fullest. I would ask my dear friends to look after my brother Ravi since I wouldn’t be there to do it and give thanks for having each of them in my life. The list would be extensive and I’d give thanks for something that I remember them for, no matter how insignificant it might seem.

No regrets, but would probably spend the hour listing all the things I didn’t get to do and suggest that my friends take one of them and do it for me. All of this would take at least an hour. Have a lot to be thankful for.

HoHoTo

I had the pleasure of attending an event called HoHoTo last night. I noticed that a number of the people that I follow on Twitter were going to be there, some I’ve met before and some I’ve been dying to meet. I’m now really starting to get the idea of social media and engaging people. Just meeting online is not enough.

One of the things that I’ve learned from Scott Stratten (@unmarketing) is that you should #FollowFriday fewer people, but with reason. I’ve got a few today, but all have good reasons. PS. I have yet to meet Scott, but it’s on my list!

Firstly, I had the pleasure of meeting April Dunford (@aprildunford) at Product Camp last year. She was one of the people who helped me understand the difference between Facebook and Twitter. Thanks to her, I am an active Twitter user. I finally got the chance to see her again last night since last year.

These skills improved over the few months with the help of someone that many of you know and love, Alex Blom (@alexblom). I met him at the next Product Camp because of his comments on Twitter. We chatted over lunch and he has become a very good friend. With his guidance, I was able to find my way to #HoHoTO last night, not because he told me to go, but because of the people that I’ve met through him and his teachings of the “finesse” of Twitter and social media. I even started writing this wonderful blog.

Through him, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and hopefully will continue to meet further these amazing people:

Joe Puopolo (@jpuopolo and @stickeryou)

Karim Kanji (@karimkanji and @wearethirdocean)

Carolyn Van (@carolynvan and @wearethirdocean) – We haven’t met yet, but turns out we graduated from the same faculty at Ryerson. Discussions will be had!

My last #FollowFriday goes out to @HoHoTo. Though the event was held last night, there will be a Hangover Auction on Monday night for all of the unclaimed prizes from the raffle. They have raised over $61,000 for the Daily Bread Foodbank so far. Let’s see if we can do better. Thanks go out to all the organizers who did a wonderful job. Because of this event, I got to go to a holiday party this year. Please follow them and show your support for the Daily Bread Foodbank, especially if you couldn’t make it last night. I had a blast!

And lastly, for all those “haters” out there, if you spent as much time helping others and positively contributing to the world for things that matter, the world would be a better place. If you don’t like it, don’t follow.

Have a wonderful holiday everyone. Peace.