Monday, August 14, 2017

Out to eat

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This is the third summer I’ve spent working at a restaurant and in total worked at 3 different establishments. It’s a nice break from teaching but also keeps that cash flow trickling in. I’ve learned a few things working at these restaurants but the main takeaway that keeps entering my mind is this: eating out typically is not worth it in terms of value, practicality and deliciousness. Let’s dive in.

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Let’s start where everyone would suspect I would start: “When I lived in Thailand, I would eat out 3 times a day, could pay for dinner with friends and it wouldn’t hurt my wallet and they would make meals I could essentially never compete with.” Basically none of those hold true in Canada. When was the last time you picked up a bill for dinner and drinks for you and a few friends? What would you say that cost you? Over $200 if it wasn’t breakfast? I had a table the other week come in for lunch and gave me just under $700 cash for a family of about 10 or so. I understand that everyone needs to eat and eating out can be convenient but spending $700 on lunch doesn’t seem like the best way to allocate our financial resources. On the other hand, some people are extremely wealthy and can take the hit but I have a feeling most people eating out can’t afford it but make it happen anyway.

“I was at this restaurant. The sign said 'Breakfast Anytime.' So I ordered French Toast in the Renaissance.” - Steven Wright

Putting the astronomical price aside, most food I eat in and around Toronto isn’t so spectacular that I think I couldn’t put in a similar output given the time and effort. I paid $7 the other day for a smoothie at vegetarian spot and it tasted awful (not surprisingly) but while I’m sure it was good for my health, I can’t help but think they are making a fortune off of people trying to look and feel good. How often do you go somewhere and the food absolutely blows you away and was reasonably priced? I feel like it is rare. Even getting half off at the restaurants I’ve worked at, I still don’t feel like I’m getting value. 

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You know a place where this bad food for a lot of money has gotten completely out of control? Wonderland. $9 for a hot. $10 for a hamburger. Are people millionaires? Millionaires are avoiding Wonderland because staying away from those places is one reason they have millions of dollars. I somehow managed to only buy a small treat for my nephew and ate a late lunch right after leaving the park the other day but a family of 4 could easily spend $150 on food for the day. The life hack for Wonderland is bringing a cooler, getting stamped on your way out, eating fruit and whatever it is other humans eat for lunch then going back into the melee for round two after everyone has eaten.

“Some people ask the secret of our long marriage. We take time to go to a restaurant two times a week. A little candlelight, dinner, soft music and dancing. She goes Tuesdays, I go Fridays.” - Henry Youngman

I’m sure you can think of exceptions of a delightful little Indian restaurant down the road with terrific service or your favourite Polish pirogi joint that gives you extra dipping sauce for free but as a general rule, going out for dinner solo, date wise or a large group of friends is a terrible idea; there I said it. What’s your suggestion then Mr. I Hate Restaurants? I have a few:

1-Picnics are underrated. Grab a picnic basket, blanket, a few beers or a bottle of wine, cheese, crackers and other snacks and you are off to the races. Sit near the water or in a park and rattle off the best questions you can think of to whoever it is lucky enough to experience this picnic experience with you.

2-BBQ at home, homemade pizzas, breakfast for dinner nights or whatever fun theme you can think of. Buy what’s on sale, plan your meals ahead, take part of the meal prep Sunday rage and join the thrifty is 2017.

3-Eat a bunch of samples at Costco and call it a night.

4-Move to Thailand where the food is cheap, legit and won’t disappoint you like that taco food truck people in the office think is good.

5-Potlucks. Everyone needs a go to potluck dish. Mine is 7 layered taco dip. 

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Add in reservations, tipping, potentially terrible service, parking, lunar eclipses and the odds are increasingly stacked against you. Am I wrong? Completely off base? Unlikely but tell me how I could be mistaken and your suggestions for eating in this country. SUMMER!

Exceptions: Being extremely hungover, occasional birthday/special occasion, convenience of meeting on a patio for a few drinks, needing to feed children quickly, all you can eat buffets. There's also a fancy grilled cheese spot in Shanghai called Cheese Co that owns my heart. Porchetta & Co in Toronto is also can't miss. Exceptions exist but as a general rule, value found elsewhere. 

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“I eat at this German-Chinese restaurant and the food is delicious. The only problem is that an hour later you’re hungry for power.”   
Dick Cavett

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Let me name your baby!

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For a variety of reasons lately I have been researching baby names. I’m not married so obviously I’m not having a kid so let’s just get that out there now. However I have been tasked with researching and finding hip and eccentric names for future children. What a journey it has been! I don’t know where to start so I will go with the most intriguing part of my research first.

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I have heard of this phenomenon before but never actually processed it as truth. From looking into baby names and asking other human beings on planet Earth their opinion, it has come to my attention that a majority of ladies have been pondering this question for some time now and have a short list of names they love. These ladies also guard these names as a mother bear does her cubs. The fact that I am Bertram Leonard Brandon the third and have been requested to name my kid the 4th, I haven’t agonized over what to name my kid. The only part I’ve debated is when to tell my future wife our kid needs to be named Bert. I’m thinking after we get married is when I give her the news.

Now when searching for creative names, you can go in a variety of different styles. You can research constellations, Greek mythology, minerals, pick a century and research popular names by era, fruit, number, celebrity choices, cities and countless others. I may or may not have looked at every French inspired name for my ambitious research. I have compiled a short list of names for your reading pleasure. Don’t judge too quickly. Let the name marinate a little while in your brain before coming to any hard conclusions.

Boy names:

It means bald but don’t let that get you down. It’s a solid name and we both know it.

Love this name however not sure it works for my already Sesame Street centric name.

Oliver sounds like a studious young chap who would be more than happy to tutor your son or daughter free of charge.

Benedict Cumberbatch. Benedict Cumberbatch.

I like it ok?


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Great name. Classic. I know you don’t like it but keep your comments to yourself.

If you don’t like this name, I kindly ask you to leave immediately.

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Girl names:

It’s a city but also works for a future writer, entrepreneur or architect.

A little edgy but with the right family could work.

This one is a crowd pleasure let me tell you. I also had a student named Maia and she was just terrific.

I’ve received some hate on this one but not backing down.

Enough with the criticisms alright? Just think it over.

Means “little ruler” and also name of one of the daughter’s in King Lear

Love cities as names and love Austin

My niece is named Madeleine and I’ve got no beef with her.

Another fan favourite and old student of mine.

This one is rising in my books.

Which one is my top pick? YOU THINK I’D SHARE THAT SECRET?!  It’s not on this list but it’s a good one though but need to keep it under wraps. I’ve never met someone with this name and it works for a boy or a girl but I’m leaning girl. If you have any interesting baby names you would like to share, let me know.

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"Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability." 

Sam Keen

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Most Improved

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I understand that the most improved award is something you give to kids who can’t read good but have somehow managed to read bat, cat and rat however I’m just going to go ahead and embrace my most improved lacrosse player award. There are upsides to being absolutely terrible at things. People notice even minimal gains and heap praise upon you whilst forgetting that you are still the chink in the armour. I don’t remember ever winning this prestigious award before in my life but I did win a rock solid/consistency award from everyone’s favourite country, New Zealand. I might be off base with this but I doubt that I am when I say that part of winning awards is deserving it but another part is having people like you. I’m not saying everyone loves teacher Bert but I think a skill that has been cultivated is how to make friends and have people not plot against my demise.

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I was going to call this post a lone wolf’s guide to making friends but after my come from behind victory, I couldn’t have any other title than Most Improved. Now the advice I’m about to offer is not universal nor recommended at all to anyone but has worked for me from time to time.

Lone Wolf’s Guide Rule #1
Be patient.  

You will rarely fall backwards into great friendships. The tricky thing about making friends is that it must be a mutual thing and friendships are formed through experiences. Don’t focus on hitting a home run this weekend just focus on doing a few practice swings, getting a feel for the pitcher and living to bat another day.

Lone Wolf’s Guide Rule #2

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I lean towards listening more than talking and not being the centre of attention….to start with. I’ve heard this on multiple occasions that people were initially unsure about me, I was very quiet, kept to myself and wasn’t a part of the group. Slowly but surely the Bert laugh comes out, we all go out for drinks one night and the Bert spell has already begun to take hold. Some people act more quickly than myself but for my style, this has proven beneficial.

Lone Wolf’s Guide Rule #3
Be curious.

The long of the short of it is that people want to hear themselves talk. People want to tell stories and feel important. Let them. That’s not being insincere; it’s being a good conversationalist. Ask people (a reasonable amount of) questions that you want answered. What do you love to do? Tell me 2 things most people don’t know about you. What’s a story your friends or family like to tell about you? I take it to the extreme and people pretend like they don’t like the question game but eventually (almost) everyone becomes a fan.

Lone Wolf’s Guide Rule #4
Be helpful.

Ask other people: How can I help? Don’t just take like a savage. What can I bring over? Do you need help? Let me get that for you. Be a good friend and you will attract good friends. Do the opposite and you will get the opposite.

Lone Wolf’s Guide Rule #5
Do fun things

People don’t want boring friends. People want friends who they can go on adventures with, learn new things from, have fascinating conversations, eat new foods with and generally enjoy life with. If you’re bored that means you’re being boring. Don’t be boring and your friends won’t be either.

In other news, home is less than two weeks away. I organized a Sports Day at school and if you can imagine it was a tremendous success. Water balloons tosses, tug o war and watermelon are the keys to any fun sports day. New Wonder Woman flick is fantastic. Interesting premise and her being quite cute doesn’t hurt my rating. New podcast favourite: Hamish and Andy.

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Talent show this week and I’m going to do a quick 10 minute performance. Will keep it a surprise but I’m confident the students will pretend not to enjoy it but will improve their current and future selves. I wish you all a delightful rest of June and hope your days are filled with all the raspberries and mango you can eat.

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"Live a little, love a lot." Kenny Chesney

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Shanghai update

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6 years! Oh brother. That’s a lot of lunches. To anyone who has read each post I’ve written I would say you certainly could have found a more productive use of your time but I thank you for your loyalty. What’s the next 6 years look like? What does this year look like? Let’s dive in.

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Shanghai and my suburb of Fengxian is growing on me. The city has lots of funky neighbourhoods with fun places to eat and drink water. The weather has improved, I’m not the worst player on the lacrosse team, a few people know my name and don’t call me names to my face so I’d say things are looking up. I’m in more of a groove at school and am not spending so much time there late at night which has helped my mental health. I’ve also been getting a bit more into meditating using Headspace. Headspace is essentially guided mediation which helps with relaxation and focus. I just keep hearing how successful people meditate and I felt like it couldn't hurt. The first 10 days are free so if you could use some Headspace, give it a shot.

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I also started biking to school which was of my main loves from living in Warsaw so it’s nice to feel the freedom having a bike offers. Days keep ticking away till my summer return to Toronto that I am eagerly anticipating. I’ve made a list of things I want to get done that obviously includes Toronto Island, Jays games and Wonderland. Canada is 100% the best and whoever tells you differently isn’t someone you should be associating yourself with.

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I’ve decided to come back to my school next year because high school is kinda fun and I think it’s making me smarter. I’m re-learning a few things and reading novels with my kids. Getting paid to learn isn’t a terrible way to live your life.I just crushed Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne and loved it. If you like fiction and adventure, it's a can't miss.

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In terms of what the next 6 years hold, Japan like always is still at the top of the list and would like to find a way to make that a reality in the upcoming few years. I would like the next 6 years to be filled with stories, travel and spending time with people I love. This post is mainly due to my lack of writing this last month, to let you know my heart is still beating and I will be in my motherland soon. I wrote a bucklist post a few years ago and I feel like it’s time to review it, see what I’ve done and what I can get accomplished in the following months. I also turned 31 last week. 31! I went to Hong Kong the weekend before and it’s a top notch city. Got to see some old Nakhon crew and was good for my heart. Life is good everyone and everything is going to be just fine. Will crank out another 1-2 posts before summer really gets going.

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"Salary is the bribe they give you to forget your dreams."

Wednesday, April 5, 2017


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I love podcasts. I don’t have a clever opening line to hook you or something to make you laugh. I genuinely love podcasts. My music intake has plummeted with the rise of my use of podcasts. I first started listening to podcasts during the summer of 2008 whilst doing landscaping with my main man Mathew. Ever since, I try to almost always be listening to someone smarter than me try to teach me something or tell me a story. You’re never alone with podcasts; at least that’s what I tell myself.

Why listen? Well do you like to learn, be entertained, scared or enlightened? There has been a massive explosion of podcasts available to the masses lately which is one reason for this post. What is a podcast? Basically radio on demand covering any subject you can think of. Have a long commute or want to listen to something to help you fall asleep? There’s a podcast for that. Need something to distract you at the gym or something to listen to while your boyfriend talks about his new cute secretary? We’ve got you covered.

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The new hottest podcast right now is called S-Town. From the creators of Serial and This American Life,  they dive deep in a sort of murder/detective kind of vibe. So hot right now.

My personal favourite is If I Were You. I try to listen to each new episode as soon as I get the chance or save a few for a long flight. Readers email in with questions and hilarity ensues. Teacher Bert approved.

Start listening at 2:40.

They also have their own podcast network so if for some reason you don’t like them, you will find something in their network no doubt.

Waking Up podcast with Sam Harris. A hundred times smarter than the majority of the people on planet Earth. He talks and interviews with people about religion, philosophy, Islam, technology, politics and more. If you want to learn from someone who knows what’s up, check him out.

The Bills Simmons podcast is a must for people who love sports and pop culture. Loves the Patriots and Red Sox which can get annoying but tremendous guests and he’s quite knowledgeable.

Freakonomics. Discover the hidden side of everything. From the Freakonomics books, takes economics and applies it to everyday problems.

The Tim Ferris Show. Probably the most useful, actionable content. He’s a multimillionaire who excels at life and he interviews the most successful and good at life people on the planet. Need to check out at least two episodes. Deep dives so give yourself some time.

Ross Tucker Football podcast for those NFL lovers. He’s an ex-player who has great insight and weekly guests. Overall seems like a stand-up guy.

Here’s The Thing with Alec Baldwin. Alec Baldwin is all you need to know. Just listen.

The Herd with Colin Cowherd. Interesting take on sports and on life. Might be the best radio host in America.

Revisionist History with Malcolm Gladwell. The man behind The Tipping Point and Outliers is using his unique mind to blow yours away.

Notable mentions go to Hardcore History by Dan Carlin, Entrepreneur On Fire, Missing Richard Simmons is supposed to be entertaining and How I Built This.

Here is a link to some kid friendly podcasts if that is your current life situation:

Check out a few of mine or go head first into something you find enjoyable but at least try one then when you hear people talking about podcasts at the local watering hole, you can give your 2 cents. 

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"Work while they sleep. Learn while they party. Save while they spend. Live like they dream."

Sunday, April 2, 2017

My Darkest Teacher

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My darkest teacher taught me that even if you want something extremely badly, the world does not bend to your desires. My darkest teacher has taught me that we shouldn’t rely on others for our own happiness. My darkest teacher has taught me that what our mind thinks and what our hearts seek can be two very different things. My darkest teacher has taught me that you need to be able to feel like you can walk away from any job, person, place or thing. My darkest teacher has taught me that no matter how badly you fight to forget, there are some things your mind won’t let go of. My darkest teacher has taught me that I might be someone’s darkest teacher. My darkest teacher has taught me that it shouldn’t take a stranger walking into your life to make you feel complete. My darkest teacher has taught me to hope to encounter my brightest teacher where we can both learn from each other until the end of time.

Who has been your darkest teacher and have they taught you?

Saturday, April 1, 2017


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Apparently having no money or zero affinity for malls had indirectly turned me towards having minimalism tendencies so I was thrilled to find out I didn’t need to make any drastic changes to reach my new goal of being a minimalist. But Emperor Bert, what is a minimalist?

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” Antoine de Saint-Exupe

It would seem to me that minimalism can take different shapes and adaptations. Minimalism is essentially about everything you owning in your life giving you value. You love collecting old robots to display around the house? Great! Get another one. You just need to have another Dallas Cowboys game worn helmet? Super duper! The key is being able to answer these two questions:

1         1- Can you afford it? Affording it does not just mean not going into debt buying it but also maintaining, storing etc. the item.
      2- Does it add value to your life?

The tipping point in me learning and trying to embrace minimalism came during my trip to Colombia. The night before leaving, my friend Kenora came over to hangout, drive me to the airport in the morning (top notch friend) and also watch me pack whilst we watched The Godfather. Granted, I was in the state of mind of hoping to be in Colombia long term and live there for the next two years so I packed slightly more than I would have normally. Not long after arriving in Colombia, I knew I brought too much stuff. I had one checked bag that is a classic backpack you see on guidebooks. I also had a gym bag completely filled and a school backpack with little to no room left inside. 

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Everywhere I went I had these bags. I took up entire back and front seats of the cabs I procured. It took some of the fun out of my trip to be sure. Every time I contemplated changing hostels or cities I inevitably looked at my bags as dead weight I’d need to lug around on the next leg of the tour. Eventually I was going to a national park/jungle near the sea and the hostel I was staying before leaving let people keep their bags while they were away. I WAS FREE! I still brought too much stuff and left a few things I could have used but net net it was a win.

“Fear less, hope more; eat less, chew more; whine less, breathe more; talk less, say more; love more, and all good things will be yours.”
 Swedish Proverb.

After coming home, I promised I wouldn’t make that mistake again. I had heard/read about minimalism before but now I was motivated to make gains. I started listening to a minimalism podcast, watched a documentary on Netflix and their TedTalks. When my quick turnaround to China happened, I was excited to see how few things I could bring. Instead of bringing the three bags I brought to Colombia, I only brought my gym bag and my school backpack. A few pairs of pants, shirts, underwear, socks, my jacket, a few electronics, books, toiletries and a few other miscellaneous items and I was on my way. Granted, I needed to be talked out of bringing the largest book I’ve bought by my brother’s wife but overall, I’m proud that I have been able to live with fewer things.

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(Side note: I only brought 3 pairs of pants I can wear to work and two of them are blue and I wear a blue jacket every day so I look like a blueberry. Another teacher told me the kids have started calling me Blue Man. I bought new clothes this week mainly to shed this slur I’ve been given.)

My apartment barely has anything but I did buy a cheap piece of art from IKEA and I have a Canadian flag that decorates my couch. The students at my school go to a mall almost every Sunday and I want to tell them not to buy things but to embrace experiences but they already think I’m old and out of touch so I might wait to teach them about minimalism till next fall when I have more street cred.

“Love people use things because the opposite never works.”

What about Christmas and birthdays presents? Your Emperor is here to help.
Think about all the gifts you’ve received throughout your entire life. Think about it…….I said THINK ABOUT IT! DETENTION! Oh sorry…force of habit.

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That dress you received? New tires? Your colourful loofah? Eraser? New hair gel? My guess is probably not. You probably remember going to Disney with your family or that fishing trip with your grandpa. We remember experiences not things. I usually gives gifts that I can do with that person or gives them time with someone they like more than me. Books aren’t a bad idea as long as they are minimized after using i.e. given away to someone new. Go to a concert, art show, Wonderland, farmer’s market, skating, snowboarding, scuba diving, geocaching, picnics, sailing and countless other outside exploration ideas. Go on an adventure. I feel like these aren’t radical ideas but it is easier to just buy something that is on someone’s list and move on. I say put a little extra thought and think about what you two could do together or give them an experience to enjoy without you.

“This is your life and it is ending one minute at a time.”

Getting started:


Minimalism documentary on Netflix.

Minimalism articles:
Minimalism podcast:

Minimalism Books:

Everything That Remains-Millburn and Nicodemus
Live a Meaningful Life-Millburn and Nicodemus

If you are against clicking on things, here is another suggestion people use to get started. The 30 day minimalism challenge. Find a friend, family member or lover (preferably not all three in one) and attempt the 30 day minimalism challenge. Each day get rid of that many items.

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Day 1: Get rid of one thing.
Day 2: Get rid of two things.
Day 10: Get rid of ten things.
Day 15: Get rid of fifteen things….etc

Until you’ve reached the end of the month. If you both make it to the end of the month, everyone wins and you’ve gotten rid of around 500 items! Yaaay! Another good way to get started is to ask yourself “How could my life be better with less?” Getting rid of everything then coming home to each room being empty won’t make you happier but maybe not having that clutter or being able to park your car in your garage could add value. The average American household has around 300, 000 items. While you might not make it the thirty days, you could put a big dent into things you don’t need. Donate clothes, toys or books you no longer use. Reconsider if it’s worth paying hundreds of dollars each year for your storage unit to store things you probably aren’t using hence they aren’t in your house. Storage units really grind my gears if you’re wondering.

“You say ‘If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.’ You make a mistake, if you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.” 
Charles Spurgeon

To sum up, if you think this is silly and I’m a wacko, fair enough. If you think you might have a few too many things, start with one area of your house and do what you can. I wish you a minimum amount of luck with your journey.

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“There are two ways to be rich: One is by acquiring much, and the other is by desiring little.”

Jackie French Koller