The weekend that was

Sunday, 3 July 2011 11:24 pm
Hello world! Happy Canada Day!

Happy 4th of July, those who get tomorrow off (and those who wish they got tomorrow off. Whether or not they live in the US...)

I have three music reviews in the queue, which I expected I'd have time to do this weekend.

Instead of writing them, I:

* went away to the cottage of [ profile] the_infamous_j, for an afternoon of lazing and not-sailing (which would have been fun, but watching the water from indoors was also fun, and less effort)

* spent about 5 hours playing with Google Sketchup, enough to turn our notional condo layout into a zippy 3D representation thereto.

I will not, however, spend the next six months making ever more detailed models of the condo and our current (and new) furniture. As much fun as that might be. Just watch me not do that. Uh hum.

* watched a fascinating documentary with [ profile] catbear, [ profile] dawn_guy, and Boy about Henry Darger, who "became famous for his posthumously discovered 15,145-page, single-spaced fantasy manuscript called The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinnian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion, along with several hundred drawings and watercolor paintings illustrating the story." (thanks wikipedia). It was utterly bizarre, and I'm glad we saw it.

* Friday I spent a night away with [ profile] melted_snowball for Canada Day; at the local inn where we have gone for outrageously tasty food, plus very comfortable accommodations including [ profile] roverthedog. Their Canada Day picnic dinner featured grilled trout, beer can vinegar chicken, suasage and lobster gumbo, heirloom tomato salad, pickled veggies, bbq onion rings, morel mac & cheese, and for desert: strawberry shortcake, hemp seed pie, maple crème caramel, s'mores, and something they called "caramelized sea buckthorn tart," though for some reason I have doubts that it contained real buckthorn berries. Because who has actually tasted buckthorn and could vouch for them? Hmmm? (Sorry; side-tracked).

There were fireworks, we had a super 4-km hike with [ profile] roverthedog, and in the morning we had a wonderful breakfast: d. had duck confit fritata, and I had french toast, both with the "continental breakfast" which had yogurt and honey smoothie, heaping plates of berries, lox and cream cheese, pastries made with their in-house churned butter, and a really good coffee.

Oh, and the night before, we met this wonderful couple, about our age, who asserted that the honey-butter was actually made of crack, it was that good. (The only down-side to this vacation was that during dinner, back at the room Rover decided she needed to pee, despite having gone right before we left; and the right place to do that was on the feather-bed. Which they apparently discovered when they came to turn down our bed; they left us an apologetic phone-message that they wished they had another feather-bed, but they didn't and hoped we would understand. Eep. And we apologized to them, figured out that over breakfast we could leave Rover in the entry foyer (which had two doors and a comfortable mat to rest on, but not our bed)).

And that was our three-day long weekend, more or less.
My last 24 hours, in three acts.

Act I

Last night, I wanted a burger for dinner. So I drove to our nearby veggie-burger joint, had a yummy dinner, then discovered the car's battery was flat. Lights on? Nope, it was still sunny when I got there. I opened the hood, the battery's covered in corrosion. Ooookay. So I called Rachel and Robin, Quaker friends who live 3 minutes away, and they drove up and gave me a jump-start. The car started right away. Exeunt both directions, warm fuzzies and happy music.

I took a 30-minute drive around town to recharge the battery, with the windows down, yippee!, got home, parked in front of the house (just in case). Turned off the car, waited a moment, tried to turn on the lights, and it went "click-click-click-click".

Oh. Damn.

Act II

This morning at 8, I walked to the tire-place down the street and swapped batteries. I rolled back home (with battery in a cart; I ain't carrying that thing even 4 blocks.) Put it in, tried to turn on the lights, and it still just goes "click-click-click-click." Grr.

I called the car shop we use; they said Mondays are busy, but yeah, I could drop it off. Now, on Tuesdays we're still leaving the hosue at 7:30, and dan's not yet healthy enough for a walk to work, or even really the walk to/from the bus. So this ain't great. Not a disaster, we have funds, but not great. I got a recommendation for a towing company, called them, they said they'd be 30 minutes.

Then, I asked my local programmer-friends on IRC whether the tow would drop the car off without me going with it, a suggestion from my clever boyfriend (who hasn't ever done that, but thought it was sensible.)

Yes, a friend said, you can do that, especially if the tow company has a relationship with the garage. Yay, I said, they recommended them. And it saves me a trip which I know would take at least 90 minutes, since the bus up there is sporadic.

Then Justin chimed into the IRC conversation, and said this problem sounds strange, it still sounds like a dead battery problem to him. He suggested I take some 400-grit sandpaper to the terminals to make sure it's a clean connection. Good idea! That I did, and also noticed that the positive terminal didn't even have a bolt clamping it on. Which I sort-of fixed. And Lo, the car started. I ran in, called the tow company and canceled, and went back on IRC to tell Justin I owed him one.

Then I heard the sound of a tow-truck backing up outside. Oops! Came out, waving, jumped on the running board to find myself face to face with the butchest woman I've seen in ages. Her head was half-shaved, half long-orange hair, she had a lip piercing, and when I said hi, I'm really sorry, I called a few minutes ago to cancel, she laughed and her tongue piercing didn't look at all out of place. She looked tough. I'm glad she was friendly. And it wasn't until she had left that I realized, I totally should've gotten her name, at least.

Right. So, off to work; got some stuff done, then at 2pm, dan asked if I could take him home.

Out to the car, which... started immediately.

Dropped him home, stopped to run an errand, and... it refused to start again.

This time, I had the jumper cables out and the hood up, at the ready for a quick jump from the next available driver. Yes, I've lost any inhibition against asking just anyone... And y'know, people in this town? They'll jump you just as promptly. At least if you're able to get your hood up quick.

Curtain, before the snickering gets too loud.

Act III:

What now? Maybe alternator, maybe starter, maybe dud battery. Motor's running, at least. Off to the auto shop, on the north side of town, to beg them to maybe fit me in this afternoon somehow?

They were busy; 4 cars had to be finished today. But the head guy said OK, I can wait around and see where they are in an hour. So I sat in the car, windows down, and listened to their radio and machinery. In my short sleeve shirt- OMG this weather! If it wasn't the uncertainty about the car, it would be pretty much divine. I even meditated for a while. And I discovered a pair of sunglasses in the glove compartment, which helped.

90 minutes later, I was back on the road. Here's what I learned:
1) the terminals need to be clamped down so they can't shake off.
2) hand-tight is NOWHERE near good enough, even if that's what they were when I took off the old battery. (Gee, maybe that was the root cause? Not the dying ancient battery? Hm.)
3) gruff car guys are still OK folks. I tipped him, because he didn't even bother writing it up, just said how about $20. And he could've said, no guarantee he'll even be able to look at it today, but he didn't.

And that is, I hope, the end of this story.
Last night at the bar after our Perl Mongers meeting, a guy who's new to town explained that his young son is soon going to have five citizenships.

He's German, which passes to his child.
His wife is British, ditto.
His wife's parent is Jamaican, which passes to her child.
The son was born in the United States.
They will soon be able to apply for Canadian citizenship.
None of the five will require relinquishing any others.

After hearing a few stories from [ profile] tbiedl, I'm sympathetic for the bureaucracy this family may go through.

I wonder how much this is the Canadian experience: they tried to settle in the US some years back, but were denied citizenship; they went back to Europe, but decided they preferred North America, so Canada was it.
It seems Pharma Plus is having a sale on Canadian postage: 10% off a book of ten regular 52-cent stamps. How odd is that? I've never heard of a sale on stamps.

I was suspicious, because Canada Post always raises rates in January, but it turns out the stamps are permanent, so they'll be good. I'm thinking maybe I should buy some more.

I googled and apparently it's Ontario wide. I don't know the ending-date. [ETA: the online flier claims it's through yesterday, but presumably this week's flier includes the same sale, suggesting it's through next Saturday at least.]

The author of Unlikely Utopia: the Surprising Triumph of Canadian Pluralism spoke here last night.

[...and I'll fill in the details later.]

[and I suck. I didn't get to this until today, Sunday the 18th, and I barely remember any of the talk's details.]

Michael Adams is an engaging speaker (as well as a good writer, judging by Fire and Ice.

The point to the talk was that pluralism has been successful in Canada in the second half of the 20th century in a very different way from in the US or Europe; and it has been surprisingly successful at integrating immigrants in important ways. Case in point: you might judge first-generation Canadian integration by their civic involvement- as a measure of how strongly people feel connected to their new communities.

Measuring foreign-born members of Parliament is interesting- because not only do they need to *want* to run for office, they need to successfully *win* office, and the statistics usually describe highly mixed-ethnicity MP ridings, so they're not winning solely among their own ethnicity of voters. One example was a Toronto riding with a Chinese-Canadian MP, where the majority ethnicity is Italian.

Anyhow: 13% of MPs are foreign born; first-generation Canadian; versus roughly 20% of the population being first-generation Canadian.

Or in the United States, where 4% of the House of Representatives are foreign-born, versus something like 11% of the population are foreign-born.

This review covers a small wedge of the talk's topics. I might've taken more complete notes, but I didn't. I hope to eventually read the book, and I can review it properly then. But don't hold your breath.

That's that.

Friday, 22 June 2007 01:30 pm
I'm official.

Now, time for a nap.
The recent UN report on climate change released in Paris last week seems to be affecting Canadian politics much more strongly than those in the US, though I was interested to see that the NYT article on that report is currently their most emailed and blogged story. But not so for a few other papers I just looked at, namely the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and the LA Times. (Chosen somewhat unscientifically).

It's frustrating that this seems to be an "elitist issue" as much as ever in the US; and the Associated Press seems to be casting the report as a French statement, highlighting Chirac's statements, when the Canadian papers (Globe and Mail, Toronto Star) are casting it as an international coalition of scientists, as it seems to be from looking at the actual report.

Anyway, the environtment and advance notice about this report has been front-and-centre on the Globe and Mail for the last two weeks, and according to their reader polls, Canadians have plunked Climate Change at (or near) the top of their list of governmental priorities. This has made for an interesting political football, since the current minority government was elected on a platform of not particularly caring about the environment, including proposing to pull out of the Kyoto Agreement, and now Harper is scared of not looking green enough.

I liked an article I read in yesterday's Globe and Mail. It showed up in the Business section of all places. I think the author hit the essentials that politicians should consider, for the near and long term.

I would love to send something like the following to federal, provincial, and local representatives. (A major problem is that I can't vote here at all, so the first paragraph is disingenuous, at least for the time being).


Yesterday's Globe and Mail had an article by Eric Reguly with five suggestions for a Canadian response to climate change. These are great ideas, and I would sincerely like to be able to vote for whoever was able to make all of them happen.

  • The first point is essentially that increasing gas taxes would be political suicide. Instead, mandate increased product standards. We should be using the technology we have. Mandated standards would push development of better technologies.

    The remaining four points are excerpts from the article:

  • Rail, not roads: Canada was built on the railway. It's time to recreate it. Shipping by truck emits five to eight times as much greenhouse gas per tonne of freight than rail. Shifting the freight onto rail for medium- to long-haul routes would work wonders for the environment, for highway safety and for infrastructure maintenance budgets; it is trucks, not cars, that do the most damage to roads.

  • There isn't a road built on the planet that cured traffic congestion. They're highly skilled at achieving the opposite. Keep the maintenance budget and axe the capital budgets for construction. In the latest fiscal year alone, Ontario's construction budget was $1.4-billion, up from $1-billion in 2002. Imagine if that money were put into public transportation.

  • Insulate homes: Mr. Harper's Tories killed the EnerGuide program, which paid for home energy audits and reimbursed owners for the cost of better insulation, more efficient furnaces and the like. Realizing their mistake, they have just launched a program inspired by EnerGuide. But it's not ambitious. An ambitious program would retrofit all of Canada's 1.6 million or so low-income households. At, say, $5,000 a pop, the bill would come to about $8-billion.

  • Kill ethanol: In Canada and the United States, ethanol, the fuel additive made from corn, consumes vast amounts of taxpayer subsidies. If ethanol were the miracle cure for greenhouse gas emissions from transportation fuels, the expense might be worthwhile. But, at best, the environmental benefits are inconclusive. It would be far better to divert Canada's hundreds of millions of dollars of ethanol subsidies to technologies of proven environmental benefit.


    I can't say I disagree with any of these, and I'm glad to see them appearing in the Business section of the more conservative national paper. [ETA: hm, not sure why I just thought the G&M was more conservative than the Post. Must've been thinking of the Star? Donno.]

    The complete article is behind the globe and mail's paid subscriber wall. The rest of the article is mostly lightweight. But give a shout if you want a copy.

    I wish I thought the Canadian government were sincere about making real change. But, even more, I wish that citizens in both the US and Canada had the political will to elect politicians to make real change. I don't think that's there yet really, in either country. (In a month, will climate change be replaced here by Quebec as the biggest issue facing the nation? Or US relations? Sigh.)


Tuesday, 23 January 2007 12:12 am
Blame America... and oh yeah, the Jews is a review in this week's Globe and Mail Books section, of a new book, Uncouth Nation: Why Europe Dislikes America by Andrei Markovits. The book sounds challenging: how opinion of the US in Europe has been prejudicially negative (giving a number of "damned if you do, damned if you don't" examples, such as broad public protests in France and Germany against both US globalization and US protectionism). Part of his thesis is that Europe resents America for the dependence Europe had on the US after WWII; and for the changes the US has wrought in Europe since.

But the most challenging part to the book is possibly the chapter on the connections between anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism, in part due to the US's support for Israel, and due to a belief that the US is run by Jews.
Markovits argues that "all the historical ingredients used to demonize Jews are simply transferred to the state of Israel, which -- in the standard diction of anti-Semitism -- behaves Jew-like by grasping for global power, exhibiting Old Testament-like (pre-Christian) vengefulness. It bamboozles the world, as cunning Jews are wont to do, extorts money from hapless victims who have been fooled into seeing the Jews as victims, exhibits capitalist greed and, of course, indulges in constant brutality toward the weak. Israel thus becomes a sort of new Jew, a collective Jew among the world's nations." And that reinforces anti-Americanism, and vice-versa. Ugh. Markovits points to recent and rising cases of anti-Semitism among the European Left, and I'm a bit worried he knows what he's talking about.

Ultimately, too, I don't understand nationalism terribly well; this was drilled into me some time ago by [ profile] zubatac as he tried to explain the nature of Croatian nationalism as a small country within Europe. But since coming to Canada, I do feel a bit... I guess defensive is the right word, sometimes, when the conversation turns to US offences; which might be very similar conversations to the ones I'd be having back in the US, but the difference... I can see this as a bit of nationalism.

I guess I'd like to understand anti-X-ism better, where X isn't a personality trait or a religion, but rather an entire country, and possibly against the people who live there.

I hope to read this book, even if the cover looks totally stupid, and also the author has received laurels for writing a semi-scholarly book on Soccer and American Exceptionalism. Maybe I'll wait for the NYT to review it.

But also, I'm writing about the reviewer for the Globe and Mail, who sounds like a jerk. His end paragraph concerns anti-Americanism driving America further away from the rest of the West, because America cares too much what other countries think of it: "At stake here, however, is much more than mere vanity. The Americans don't really have much else besides that for which they stand." Ouch. That's not only a harsh blow, it has little to do with the book's thesis or his review before that throwaway line. Seems like sloppy writing and sloppy editing, and I'd have expected better from the Globe and Mail.

...Finally, on a related note, today I got a letter from Citizenship and Immigration. It came in a thick packet, so I was convinced they returned my Citizenship application for missing something. But no, it's a letter acknowledging my application, and a study guide for the test I'll take in 8 to 10 months. Yay!


Tuesday, 26 December 2006 09:34 pm
da: (blue)
Big kudos to [ profile] persephoneplace for offering to mail a package for me when she crosses the border into Michigan tomorrow. This means the second half of my Christmas present to dan's father (the homemade half) will arrive on or around New Year's Day, just as his parents return home from a trip to Florida, rather than the following week. To make things easier so she doesn't have to stand in a post-office line, I worked out the USPS online postage-printing tool and printed off a Priority Mail label. If I lived in the US I'd probably use it for all my shipping; it was easier to use than the program I downloaded for the same function last week.

The USPS require the zip-code from where it's being shipped, and a credit-card with a US address, neither of which I had, but I fudged both.

Also kudos to my wonderful sweetie for pointing out that since my package is more than one pound, I can't just ask [ profile] persephoneplace to drop it in any old mailbox. As he pointed out, I've not lived in the US since 9/11/01, and he has. I sort of wonder what happens to >1lb. packages that get dropped in a mailbox; do they bury them at sea, or return them to sender, or subject them to a fine in delayed delivery and further inspection?

Anyhow, I'm happy to be done with this.
As he noted a few weeks ago, [ profile] melted_snowball is becoming a citizen this month.

To celebrate, you are invited to a party at our house, Friday the 30th of June, from 5pm onward.

At Cait & Janelle's artsy-fartsy night this Tuesday, they badgered me mercilessly until I gave them details, made up on the spot, which summarize to:

The theme is citizenship. Wear a flag if you like. Or don't. Really, your choice. Dan will have just been declared a citizen a few hours prior. (in a nice bit of coincidence, two of his students will also become citizens the same day).

Food: I will be making stuff as I see fit, so you don't have to bring. But feel free to also. I hear a rumour a flag cake is in the works.

For number-planning purposes, it would be great if you could let me know if you're coming. Thanks.

Apologies for: the late announcement; and for the timing. I know those of you involved in a certain play will be on stage that evening. But dan's only in town for 4 nights before he's off to a conference, and we decided Canada Day wasn't the best day for it, so it's canada day minus 1.

And since it's the next question people seem to ask: dan's due back July 15th. (yay!)

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