Sunday, 13 December 2015

A Buddha of a Party

Wow.  I mean WOW.  On Saturday night I went with my husband to his office's Christmas party and it was totally fun.

It was held, according to the company's established tradition, at a downtown restaurant called L'Orchidée De Chine (China's Orchid).  Since the company had expanded so much this past year, the party took up the entire second floor of the establishment, which included a dining area and a section for the "players": roulette, blackjack, and poker.

My husband and I shared a table with his co-worker Mark and his wife Anne, an older couple of Eastern European descent from their accent, although they spoke both English and French fluently.  We had some really nice discussions before the first courses of the meal arrived.

And what a meal.  This was no run-of-the-mill buffet that most people are used to.  It was a multiple course traditional Chinese feast that was served in small portions over several hours.  I'm usually a light eater and I was grateful for the spacing out of the courses; I haven't eaten that much food in a very long time.  (In fact I wasn't even hungry for breakfast the next morning.)

The flavours alternated between spicy and sweet so as to not overwhelm the palate, along with helpings of steamed rice and fried noodles on the side.  There were even steamed vegetable plates available for those who were vegetarian.  The menu was as follows:

Soup (choice of won-ton or hot-and-sour)
Crispy Duck in Pancake (it was more like a thin crepe)
Chicken Lettuce Wrap
Duck Potstickers
Vegetable Spring Roll
Steamed Sea Bass in Ginger and Scallion
Salt and Pepper Crispy Shrimp
Steamed Rice
Pan Fried Noodles with Vegetables
Beef with Oriental Basil
(Veg. option Spiced String Beans)
General Tao Chicken
(Veg. option Steamed Eggplant)
Szechuan Pepper Chicken with Crispy Spinach
Moka Ice Cream Cake
Fortune Cookie with Coffee or Tea

Every course was delicious.  The hot-and-sour soup was spicy but not overly so, and pleasantly warming.  Although my husband is not fond of seafood, even he enjoyed the sea bass which was delicately flavoured and just melted in the mouth.  The crispy shrimp was deceiving: the spices hit only after you take a bite or two, and I was forced to wait for the rice to show up so I could clear my palate before continuing.

I can't say I had a particular favourite because it was all so good.  And throughout the meal, there was laughter and noise.  At the start, employees were given envelopes of "Monopoly money" they could use to bid on secret gifts or play at the aforementioned gambling tables.  Among the gifts was hidden the joke gift of a Palm Pilot case, left over from a large stash the company had inherited from a past client.  The person who ended up getting it had bid a substantial amount of his "money".

The meal finally ended at around 11:30 PM, at which point many left.  Those who remained were invited to talk, dance, or try their luck at the gambling tables.  While I walked around and socialized, hubby sat at the blackjack table.  Supposedly people who stayed until 2 AM would be eligible for another special prize, but we didn't see the outcome of that because we left at 12:30 AM.  (After all, we had a young one at home who was being taken care of by our teenaged niece.)

It was one of the best holiday parties that I'd been to for a long time.  The biggest laugh (and irony) of the evening was that the prize my husband bid on and won turned out to be a mini beer-making kit - and neither of us drink much.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Thoughts on Gun Ownership

Tomorrow is the 26th anniversary of the day a young man armed with guns and a hatred of women stormed into the Polytechnique School of the University of Montreal.  He shot 28 people, mainly women, killing 14 of them.  This event caused the Canadian government to pass some of the most stringent gun laws anywhere.  How many gun-related incidents with multiple casualties have there been in Canada since then?  22.

Fast forward to 2012 where a young man from Newtown Connecticut stole his own mother's gun and killed her with it, and then went into an elementary school to kill 6 staff members and 20 children. Were there any changes to the laws?  Nope. None. It has been debated ad nauseum but nothing ever gets done.  There have been over 350 mass shootings in the United States THIS YEAR ALONE.

Consider this:

Whatever laws are eventually passed (whenever that will be) The U.S. must address the real issue of keeping guns out of the hands of those who would misuse them without penalizing the millions of responsible gun owners.

1) What if there was legislation to make every crime committed with a gun a federal crime? This would guarantee uniform enforcement across all fifty states. Make it simple: Use a gun, go to federal prison. Past history has demonstrated that this does function as a deterrent.

2) What if people demanded a nationwide standard of liability? If you own a gun, you are responsible for keeping it safe.  If your gun is used in a crime, or if it is fired by accident resulting in injuries to others, then the registered owner should be legally and financially accountable for those consequences.

3) What if people also demanded a nationwide standard of seller liability?  If a shop or an individual sells a gun that is later used in a crime, that seller should be held liable as well, especially if he failed to adequately perform a background check.

4) What if the law required a nationwide three-day waiting period before a gun can be sold to a buyer? This would allow the seller to run appropriate background checks and it would allow buyers the opportunity to rethink the hasty impulse buy.

All of the above should help. They would not penalize responsible gun owners. They would slow down the access to guns by criminals, the mentally disturbed, and potential terrorists.  But there is one more thing that could be done, and  it would not violate the Second Amendment, not even the most extreme interpretation of the Second Amendment: gun insurance.

Just as car owners are required to have insurance, gun owners should be required to have insurance for themselves and their weapons.  It can be done state-by-state or at the national level.  Then gun owners would have sufficient incentive to protect their financial obligations. The federal government would not have to manage gun ownership: the insurance companies would take on that responsibility.  Applying the same resources to gun ownership as they do to car ownership would result in low rates for responsible gun owners.  Because the great majority of gun owners in the United States are responsible, their insurance rates would likely be as affordable as car insurance.

With a requirement for gun insurance in place, law enforcement agencies would then have new mechanisms for protecting the public safety.  Such a law would not empower the government to confiscate a person’s lawfully-owned weapons, but at the same time if a person was found to have a gun that was uninsured, the state or local government would have the authority to hold the weapon or weapons in impound until proof of insurance is demonstrated.

Therefore a solution to gun safety is to have it be cost-effective.  Have it be a source of income for insurance companies.  Once the corporations can see a way for gun safety to be a profit source, the result is inevitable.