Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Belief and Discussion of Belief Tolerance

I have two stories and two points to make that are really one point.

A couple of years ago, I took the subway downtown with Andrew and Danny to go study at the UT library. On the way there, we started discussing the subject of Santa Claus. I stated, quite loudly because I have a loud voice, that I would never allow my children to believe in Santa Claus; the idea of being bribed to be good is pretty absurd to me, a lot more so than blackmail (i.e., if you don't be good, I am going to take you home and never take you out again). I feel that people, big or small, should realize that they will not always be awarded for being good, whatever good may mean to them. I want to teach my children the value of caring for other people, and being considerate, and that they should never expect to be rewarded for doing the right thing. Now here, we can get into a whole discussion on what being good is to them, or what doing the right thing is. But my point is, I don't believe that children should be awarded for being good, because being good should be a fundamental way of life.

Upon hearing our conversation, in which Danny and Andrew stated their full agreement, a malicious and cowardly lady on the subway came up to us, as the subway was halting to a stop, and told us condescendingly that we should watch what we say and that there are little kids in the car. Then, she left the train without waiting for a reply. Her attitude was very rude and disdainful, as though we were ignorant little Chinese kids who were too obnoxious and self-absorbed to watch what we say in public. The three of us all felt very indignant. Admittedly, we did not take note of whether there were children in the car throughout our conversation, but after she got out, we looked around and found that there were no children in the car.

But let's say there were children in the car that day and there we were spewing our mouths off about how we would never lie to our children about Santa Claus...Are we being obnoxious or religiously intolerant? Or are we enjoying the freedom of speech that we so deserve? Or maybe, to that lady, we were immigrants who have no respect for its culture.

Today, during lunch, the subject of Santa Claus came up among a table of full-grown adults, who have all stopped, at some point, believing that Santa Claus is real. Now I, being the run-my-mouth-no-matte-where-I-am dumbass, decided to state my opinion, to a guy, who happens to be Jewish, about the absurdity of Santa Claus, because, you know, we're all adults here, we're allowed to have a mature discussion on whether or not we should allow our kids to believe in Santa. The guy agreed with me. But just as he began to elaborate on his reasons for having told his children that Santa was not real, a woman heatedly interrupted, sounding very very offended, and began defending the idea. She said that the reason why she thinks Santa is important is because you can't buy your children everything just because they want it. That's why there is Santa. Parents draw the line, but Santa can give them whatever they want without spoiling them.

She then proceeded to tell me that when I have children, I will know what it's like--as though I am not allowed to have an opinion on this matter unless I have children. Perhaps she felt attacked when I said that children should not be awarded for being good. Or perhaps she really believes that I have no right to have an opinion on Santa Claus unless I have children. But either way, she completely nazied the conversation. No one replied to her after her angry speech. You know, I would have loved to have continued exploring this matter with her a little deeper and hear her opinion, but the anger in her voice completely took everyone by surprise and we all shut up.

Similarly, the topic of Secret Santa is not a topic to be discussed at the table either. "WE DON'T DO PRESENTS IN THIS COMPANY" one woman stated loudly, at least twice. No ifs and buts, no discussion.

What about Christmas decorations? Apparently the decorations need to be non-denominated because a few years ago someone complained about Christmas wreaths.

I know, right?!

In both of these stories, the question of beliefs and value come into place: you have a series of people with beliefs and values that they try to enforce it on to other people and they can't tolerate otherwise.
  1. Santa Claus is real and should stay real for children. You can't state otherwise, even if it's on a subway or a table filled with grown adults, or someone will get very offended.
  2. You can't put Christmas decorations up or else people who are not Christian will get offended and feel persecuted.
  3. We don't do presents in this company, no matter who wants to do it.

Why is it that we can't tolerate the fact that people have their own beliefs? Someone without a belief but enforces other people to give up their beliefs in their presence, that's a belief too.

That situation on the subway should be a two-fold compromise:
  1. Knowing that many people around me choose to weave this fantasy tale of an old man who reward children for being good and give coals for the bad ones, I should be more careful next time I talk about the idea of Santa Claus being a bad idea so I don't make kids cry. In this case, I respect your beliefs and values on how to raise children.
  2. If you choose to lie to your kids about the fact that Santa Claus exists, you should be prepared that your child might have to hear that Santa Claus is not real and not go telling every person in the world to shut up as soon as the topic of "Santa is not real" comes up. In this case, you respect my beliefs and values on how the world works.
I have no problems with you wanting your children to believe in Santa, but you cannot expect the world to censor itself based on your belief.

Similarly, if you don't want to exchange presents, don't participate--don't stop others from doing it. And if you don't like Christmas decorations/Hannukah Candles/Chinese New Year stickers, should you really get offended if someone puts it up? I mind my business and you mind yours. I won't enforce my beliefs on you, don't enforce yours on mine.

Sometimes, you have two beliefs that clash. Some people might feel that if I put up Christmas decorations in the office, I am enforcing my belief on them (an example of course, since I am not Christian). I get that and this is where discussions happen. If you try to discuss these beliefs or values, these people will get offended and upset.

Why can't we discuss why you really want Christmas decorations or why Christmas decorations bother you? Why can't we discuss why Santa is important or not important to you?
I don't understand why there is
no room for discussion.

Is tolerance for other people's beliefs, or even the discussion of other people's beliefs that hard?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Origin of Boston Pizza

There's a Pizzeria downstairs of our complex called Regina Pizzeria. This place is the only place that rendered me to actually crave for pizza. Otherwise, I tend to go "ugh" when pizza is being served, anywhere. Sometimes Adam and I would order one of their gourmet pizzas, bring it upstairs, and eat it fancy...i.e., with wine.

When guests come and visit, we usually tell them about this place, and if they are so inclined, we'd go in, order a pizza, and have a few beer (or pina colada). After the guests eat the pizza, they'd sigh with satisfaction and say, "Oh, this is the real Boston Pizza," which would usually remind me of the fact that I have not seen a Boston Pizza anywhere in Boston.

Today, Kenny randomly msged me on MSN. "Why is it called Boston Pizza! [sic]" he asked. Not knowing the answer, I asked Google. The Boston Pizza website did not give me any story about its origin, but it did tell me to direct my questions to their three regional offices: one for Western Canada, one Eastern Canada (ON and the Atlantic), and one for Quebec...because obviously, Quebec is neither Western nor Eastern Canada... I know, right?! But I digress.

This information led me to believe that Boston Pizza is wholly Canadian...until I realized that there was a tiny link at the bottom of the "About" page for the U.S. site. Clicking on it led me to Boston's The Gourmet Pizza restaurant website, leading me to believe that perhaps it is American after all. So I go into their locations section, where they provided me a map of American States--the dark blue states are ones I can click on to find the locations. After clicking around all the dark blue States along the Atlantic (I still don't know where I am on the map), I realized Massachusetts is one that is NOT clickable. Double-checking on their pull-down list of States (I should have done that first) confirmed the fact that there is not, indeed, a Boston Pizza in Boston.

Finally, after doing some investigating, I found their "Our Heritage" page in the "Company Info" link menu, which proceeded to tell me:
  1. The first Boston Pizza opened in Edmonton, Alberta in 1964.
  2. It was opened by an illegal Greek immigrant who had jumped ship in Vancouver.
  3. In 1998, Boston Pizza expanded "south of the border" into Dallas, Texas. "The Boston Pizza name was changed to Boston's The Gourmet Pizza to communicate [that] it's 'gourmet pizza.'"
  4. The real reason why it was named Boston's is because "Boston was a recognizable and established name ... Boston Bruins, Boston Red Sox, Boston Celtics, Boston Cream Pie. It was the 'Big Leagues.'"
To take Adam's favourite phrase....Are you joking me?!

What a scam.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Location is key

I know a lot of people complain that coffee at Starbucks is ridiculously expensive, but that's usually because they are not buying regular brewed coffee when they go there. If you are asking for an "iced, grande, caramel, triple, non-fat latte, easy ice", or any other espresso drinks that are as ridiculously customized, then yes, you might be paying around the ballpark of $5. However, if you went to the counter and asked for a "tall bold", essentially a ready-made dark roast brewed coffee, you'd be paying around the $1.50 range, give and take a couple of dimes...probably a little more pricey than Tim Hortons but not to the point of unreasonable.

Every time I take the T at my home stop, next to the gates is this little donut/coffee shop that makes the station smell like heaven. The line up is long and the place is always busy. One day, as I watched my train leave the station without me, I decided I'd give the place a try while waiting for the next train to arrive. I asked for a medium hazelnut coffee (I admit I'm a lover of flavoured coffee) and the total came to be $2.05. I was a bit shocked because from what I recall, a "Grande bold" at Starbucks in Canada was exactly $2 after tax. This coffee is not only five cents more, but the price is also in AMERICAN. Admittedly though, if I were to ask for a hazelnut flavoured shot at Starbucks, it'd be thirty cents more so I accepted that cost in my head after doing some thinking. Was the coffee good you ask? It was decent, as far as I could tell (I asked for two cream and two sugar and it ended up tasting like quadruple-quadruple on crack).

A few weeks went by without me missing the train so I didn't have the opportunity to stop by this little stand again...but then one day, I decided, I believe on a weekend, to spend that $2.05 again because Adam's mom gave me a bag of change she didn't want. I carefully counted out the exact change in pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters before I left the house, only to be told that the price is $2.30 after I ordered. Apparently last time a mistake was made last time and I was not charged the extra quarter for the hazelnut flavour. I had to give the man bills rather than getting rid of the change, but that's not the point. I felt a little ridiculous walking into the train with an un-corporately-branded cup of joe that cost me more than what I would have paid for had I gone to Starbucks (especially because I don't pay for the price of syrup with my registered Starbucks card (I know, I have issues)).

Now some of you might point out the shallowness of the above comment...why does the brand even matter? Shouldn't you just pay for the quality of the coffee? Well, yes, of course, ideally, if the coffee was that good, it would be worth it to pay a little more, brand-name or not, especially when it's just a cup of coffee and not an ugly little handbag with little G's printed all over it. Well I guess my point is, Starbucks jacks up the price of their brewed coffee because they can. They have upped their branding enough (with all the advertising and customization and interior design) so that their pricing appears justified. The question is, what justifies the coffee price next to the T? Their coffee is not, by any means, so good that I'm willing to pay more than for an avg Dunkin Donut coffee. My answer: location, location, location.

On another note, I should make a new tag for my coffee posts.