May 20, 2007

Investment Tip

Here's a pretty solid investment tip for you: check with me to see when I plan to visit Canada, then buy lots of Canadian dollars. In response to me buying a plane ticket to Toronto for next weekend, the Loonie hit a 30-year high.

Bonnie and I will be in Toronto from May 26 to 29, then in Montreal from May 29 to June 2. I told Bonnie I was a big shot in Canada, so my Canadian readers, plan a ticker tape parade for my arrival or have some Mounties meet us at the airport or something.

11:05 | Canada , Travel | Comments (0)

February 8, 2007

Where's The Beef?


BSE confirmed in Alberta bull.

About two years ago I seriously cut down on my red meat consumption (beef in particular), never buying it myself, and only eating it when it is served to me (or on the rare occasions I craved a burger). The reason I told people was that it was part of an effort to lower my cholesterol. Now, I'm about ready to join to paranoid fringe avoiding beef to prevent my brain from turning into a sponge.

I've asked it before, but I have to ask it again: How freakin' hard is it to stop feeding cows other cows?!

08:46 | Canada | Comments (2)

January 11, 2007

Brother, Can You Spare A Surveillance Device?

According to this AP article, American defense contractors working in Canada have discovered tiny surveillance devices inside Canadian coins.

Sound incredible? It just might not be true.

This Globe and Mail article tells that the coins believed to have been tampered with are actually special commemorative coins produced by the Royal Canadian Mint. I can't say I blame foreigners in Canada for getting confused about our coinage, it seems every other year the Mint is commemorating something new, from the Terry Fox Loonie to the 12 different quarters marking Canada's 125th anniversary, to the 24 different quarters marking the new millennium, to the coloured quarters (link). I collect these things and I get confused!

It would seem to me that coins are a bad way to track people, since they get spent, lost or given away so easily. Who knows, maybe some foreign intelligence service is really concerned about how much Second Cup baristas get tipped?

16:58 | America , Canada | Comments (1)

December 23, 2006

Hockey Night In Canada

There's nothing like hanging out in my sister's garage drinking a couple of beer and getting my jacket covered in salt from leaning against her boyfriend's truck while watching a Leafs game on the TV he has set up in there.

The only thing missing is the snow!

22:54 | Canada | Comments (1)

December 8, 2006

No Debate on Same-Sex Marriage

Yesterday Parliament voted against reopening debate on the legality of same-sex marriage in Canada, meaning the law stays on the books, and gays and lesbians can continue to marry (and divorce) .

As someone who is in support of same-sex marriage, I'm glad debate will not be reopened. But I'm also a little impressed with Prime Minister Harper for making good on his promise to reopen debate, despite the fact the motion had little chance of passing. It's refreshing when politicians deliver on unpopular campaign promises, I just wish Harper had made some different ones.

08:12 | Canada | Comments (0)

November 19, 2006

Canadian Water: On Par With Mexico

Well, I picked a heck of a weekend to visit Vancouver: a water advisory. The heavy rains for the past few days have taken their toll, causing mudslides to soil local drinking water reservoirs. That meant only bottled water for us to drink, and to use to brush our teeth.

The last time I experienced this was my trip to Mexico, and I foolishly thought I would never experience such a health hazard in my native Canada, let alone the third largest city in Canada. Hopefully their Grey Cup win makes up for having to boil their water.

Besides the water situation, Bonnie and I had a great time in Vancouver (as usual). We even caught the Santa Claus parade (complete with Mounties, cowboys, and extras stars from Stargate SG-1).

23:36 | Canada | Comments (2)

August 29, 2006

I Like My Coffee Crisp!

One of the most inconvenient things about my apartment is the fact the laundry machines are coin operated. Oh sure, sometimes there's contention for the three washers and three dryers between the occupants of the 32 units, but I find my lack of quarters to be most bothersome. I rarely use cash, and when I do, I jealously squirrel away any quarters I get as change. This method usually leaves me short, so I became somewhat less picky when it came to sniff testing my not-quite-dirty clothes. This was, until I found out the vending machines at work give quarters for change, no purchase required. It has now become routine for me to stop by the vending machine on my way out the door, slip in a fiver, and walk to the bus stop, my pocket jingling with the promise of cleaner clothes.

Yesterday I as I knelt down to scoop my 20 quarters out of the change return, I glanced at the various snack foods behind the glass. Most of it was the usual programmer's fare: potato chips, candy bars, two packets of Jimmy Dean beef jerky (plain and teriyaki), wasabi almonds and three kinds of chewing gum. I was about the walk away, when I noticed a familiar yellow and red wrapper. I couldn't believe what I saw. I ran to my co-worker Thomas's office to make sure I wasn't dreaming.

Me: "Hey Thomas, have you been to the vending machine lately?"
Thomas: (staring at me for a few seconds, then smiling) "Coffee Crisp. I had two on Friday."

Coffee Crisp was one of my favourite childhood chocolate bars, and I was more than a little disappointed to find out it wasn't available in the US. This meant that along with Tim Horton's Coffee, Niagara Ice Wine and ketchup chips, Coffee Crisp would be part of my undeclared swag from trips across the border. And for three long years it was. Luckily for me and countless other Canadians, some kind-hearted souls set up the Coffee Crisp Petition to get this Canadian delicacy sold in the US. In July, 2006, Nestle caved to the incredible pressure of thousands of site visitors, and agreed to sell Coffee Crisp across the US, eventually making its way into Microsoft's vending machines, and into my trembling hands.

Having just returned from a weekend in Vancouver, I turned Bonnie into a Coffee Crisp addict. She started asking daily when we can return to Canada so she can get her next fix. Now she has to look no further than her corner store.

When someone asks me how I like my coffee, I can now answer proudly, I like my Coffee Crisp!

21:08 | Canada | Comments (0)

July 6, 2006

Birthday Gifts For W

Prime Minister Harper will be presenting President Bush with some authentic Canadiana for his 60th birthday, in the form of a belt buckle and a genuine Mountie Stetson.

These gifts will probably be more appreciated than former PM Martin's gift of an Inuit sculpture, valued at $350, or Chrétien's fantastic wooden pen rest, valued at approximitely $20.

Wow, a pen rest... I wonder if Jean forgot it was George's birthday and picked it up at the airport.

00:26 | America , Canada , Politics | Comments (0)

July 1, 2006

Canada Day Mixed Bag

The nice thing about getting the 4th of July off work, is that it usually shares a weekend with Canada Day. So today, after dropping Bonnie off at the airport (she's going back to New Mexico for a wedding), I'm kicking back. Sadly, good Canadian food is hard to find around here (no peameal bacon, no Creemore, although one of the Microsoft cafeterias was serving poutine on Wednesday), so I had my customary swig from the maple syrup bottle, for that little taste of home.

So far, 2006 has been an interesting year for Canada. The planned terrorist attack in Toronto, complete with threats to behead the Prime Minister, had me shaken up, and I was relieved the plot could be foiled before anyone was hurt. South of the border, the news didn't get much attention. Most of my peers either hadn't heard of it, or didn't care. I just hope Canada can handle the situation without the government taking illegal measures, like what's happening here.

Also, today is the day the much-hated GST is reduced by a percentage point. I must say, paying the measly 8.8% sales tax here in Washington State has spoiled me.

Well, back to my weekend of house parties, barbeques and fireworks. Happy Canada Day!

11:31 | America , Canada | Comments (1)

May 31, 2006

Butt Out

Today, Ontario and Québec joined the growing list of provinces and states that ban indoor smoking.

Washington State has been non-smoking for over six months now, and contrary to predctions by bar and restaurant owners, the entire service industry has not collapsed. In fact, I find myself going out to drink more often, and to more different bars and pubs, than before the ban. Hm, maybe the beer gut I'm developing indicates the ban has a downside after all...

07:52 | Canada | Comments (1)

April 21, 2006

The Land Where Expo 67 Never Ended

The Canadian Design Resource Gallery has an incredible collection of objects of uniquely Canadian design. Many of these photos bring back all kinds of childhood memories for me, including the Project G Stereo (my uncle had one), my dad's pair of old Muk Luks, the Montréal Olympic Logo (my parents were living in Montréal in the 1970s when I was born), and the ubiquitous Contempra phone.

Is it just me, or do the majority of Canadian design look like it's forever trapped in 1972?

18:27 | Canada | Comments (0)

February 14, 2006

Very Canadian Security Question

I bought a couple items from the CBC Shop today. Since this was my first time shopping there, I needed to create an account before I could proceed to the checkout page. Like most online e-commerce sites, as well as a username and password, it ask for a supplimentary security question. These are the choices they provided. I guess they know their audience.

Security Questions
What is your mother's maiden name?
What is the name of your pet?
What is your favourite hockey team?

I wonder how many people who chose the last question didn't buy some Don Cherry-related DVD?

21:34 | Canada | Comments (4)

January 24, 2006

Prime Minister Harper

As expected, the Conservative Party of Canada won a minority government. I'm proud that almost 65% of voters participated, up from 2004. I'll be really interested in following Canadian politics during this term, considering the Conservatives will have to make nice with the other, more leftist, parties. Also, the Conservatives didn't get a clear mandate from the people. In fact, according to this CBC poll, most Canadians who voted for the Conservatives did so for a change, not because they support a right-of-center agenda.

I was glad to hear how the NDP made big gains and glad that the Greens got over 4% of the popular vote (although no seats), although I am a little dismayed how skewed our riding system is. Le Bloc got about 10% of the popular vote and 17% of the House's seats, while the NDP got about 17% of the popular vote, and only 9% of the seats.

I am also glad to hear that Paul Martin is resigning as head of the Liberal Party. Not that I disliked him, in fact, I felt he get dealt a losing hand when he won the leadership after Chrétien's resignation. But I think the party needs to be cleansed before people (in particular, me) can trust it again.

Overall, I think it's going to be ok until the next election. I give it 2 years tops.

For those interested, full election results can be found here.

21:52 | Canada , Politics | Comments (2)

January 21, 2006

Get Your Vote On

So which one of these fine fine parties did I vote for? Considering I have an equal amount of confidence in each of them (none), it was a tough choice. So I took the advice of a good friend of mine, and voted for the NDP. To paraphrase her advice, although the NDP won't win enough votes to form a government, having a strong NDP presence in Parliament is important to ensure social programs get enough attention. I don't agree with their fiscal policies, but I do like their focus on social programs. Also, it's a way of registering a complaint against the Liberals and Conservatives, who stand the best chance of actually winning.

Unlike here in the US, where a vote for a third party during the presidential elections is essentially a symbolic protest (yes, some would argue that it sends a message, just not a very loud one), a vote for the NDP, knowing full well they won't win makes more of a difference since they win seats.

For those of you so disillusioned with the prospects you're considering not voting, may I recommend you consider some of the smaller parties (NDP, Green or independents). That way you're sending the message that you're unhappy with the way things are. By not voting, you're not sending any message at all.

If that didn't convince you to vote, consider this: Canadian voter participation has been dropping steadily for over a decade, hitting less than 61% in 2004. In the 2004 US presidential elections, voter turnout was 64% up from 60% in 2000. We don't want a lower voter turnout than the Americans, do we? Get out and vote!

17:05 | Canada , Politics | Comments (2)

January 17, 2006

If You Don't Mind, Please Rock The Vote

Today I dropped off my absentee ballot for the upcoming Canadian election. Living in the US, and not being able to watch CBC, I had to base my judgment on something less typical: I read the party platforms.

I made up a table of the issues I cared about and each of the four parties' stances. The parties are (in alphabetical order): The Conservatives, The Greens, The Liberals and The New Democrats. If Le Bloc Québécois were running outside of Québec, I would have read their platform too.

In case any of you care about my crack-pot political views, read on. For those of you whose eyes have glazed over already, maybe you'd prefer something a little less serious.

So here goes (note, I'm only highlighting the issues most relevant to me. This list is far from exhaustive):

The Conservatives

The Good
Reform our currently appointed-for-life Senate, more money for R&D, support for the Council of the Federation, increase the size of our pitiful Armed Forces, fixed federal election dates.
The Bad
Another vote on the legality of gay marriage, cutting the GST instead of income taxes, halt plans for the decriminalization of marijuana.
The Ugly
A hidden right-wing social agenda. Harper's speech praising the US's conservative administration makes me suspicious.

The Greens
The Good
Environment first, lower taxes for lowest income bracket, a focus on preventative health care, investment in public transportation and alternative renewable fuels, focus on "green collar" jobs.
The Bad
A vague commitment to "Recognize a clear result to a clear question in the event of a future Québec referendum".
The Ugly
The Greens strike me as a local chapter of a world-wide organization, and not a Canadian party for Canadians. As such, I found Canadian issues, like national unity, health care, defence all took a back seat to environmental issues.
The Liberals
The Good
Good economic and job-creation record, R&D investment, enforcement of Canada's northern sovereignty, beefing up the armed forces, ban the weaponization of space,
The Bad
A platform full of "Look how great a job we did, and we swear there won't be any more scandals. Scout's honour.", no criminal prosecution for those that embezzeled hundreds of millions of taxpayers' dollars, no mention of marijuana decriminalization.
The Ugly
Sorry, I just don't trust these guys anymore.
The Good
More money for social programs, tax cuts for lowest income bracket, armed border guards (duh!), more money for public transportation, stronger provincial rights, fixed election dates, laws to restrict lobby groups, refocus the Armed Forces for peacekeeping missions, "Fair-trade" not Free-trade, money for the arts, money for the environment, national prescription drug plan.
The Bad
Repeal Liberal tax cuts. So that's how we are going to pay for this platform?
The Ugly
Knowing they won't form a government allows the NDP to make pie-in-the-sky promises, without having to deliver.

So who did I vote for? Sorry, you'll have to wait for my next blog entry.

23:56 | Canada , Politics | Comments (3)

December 16, 2005

Bon Voyage

Well, I'm (mostly) packed up and ready for my flight to Toronto tonight. I got my (new) passport, my ticket and a suitecase full of gifts. I'll be there until Jan 1, so if anyone wants to see me, email me, or call my parents.

Unfortunately, it looks like Canada itself isn't too thrilled to see me judging by the huge winter storm moving to Southern Ontario. It has already closed airports in Québec and coming to greet my flight. Don't worry, I brought plenty of reading material for my inevitable extended layover.

07:34 | Canada | Comments (2)

December 12, 2005

Labeling Of Trans Fats Now Mandatory

This bit of health news made me happy to read: Canada is the first country in the world to require labeling of trans fats on food products. As someone who consciously watches for and avoids the insidious, industry-made trans fats, I applaud this initiative to better inform consumers.

Now what about that trans fat ban?

08:04 | Canada | Comments (7)

August 22, 2005

Margarine of Colour Unite!

Remember Québec's ban on butter-coloured margarine? An interprovincial panel has finally struck it down. Analysts say this will be a loss for Québec's dairy farmers, who have enjoyed government protection in the lucrative butter-coloured spread market, while providing a boon for canola and soybean farmers.

Although not quoted in the article, I'll bet the people who make I Can't Believe It's Not Butter are thrilled that they can finally discontinue their Québec-only I Can't Believe It's Not Butter As Long As I Don't Look At It brand.

20:38 | Canada , Politics | Comments (0)

August 3, 2005

New Governor General

On Thursday Prime Minister Martin will announce Canada's new Governor General, Michaëlle Jean.

So, what the heck does the Governor General do? According to this CBC page, the GG is essentially appointed by the Prime Minister, and duties include:

Oh, and get paid over $100,000 a year. Not bad, eh?

If I had known that a career in journalism could get me appointed to one of the highest positions in the country, then I might have chosen a different career path, and maybe played up the whole being-born-in-Québec-thing.

Félicitations Mlle Jean!

22:27 | Canada , Politics | Comments (1)

July 9, 2005

Civil Unity

I rarely see eye-to-eye with Alberta Premier Ralph Klein when it comes to social issues. But a few weeks ago he mused that his government "wouldn't be involved in the solemnization of marriage", as a way of opposing the recently passed Bill C-38, which if made into law, would make gay marriage legal in Canada, under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Since in Canada marriage is federal jurisdiction, Klein has no other recourse. In my opinion, his comment about solemnization is a perfect solution. This was actually an idea I had thought up months ago, but for the opposite reason Klein has.

Imagine a system where the government only recognizes civil unions, and has no concept of marriage. Marriage would be a purely religious rite with no legal standing. Before or after the wedding ceremony, the "newlyweds" would stop by the local judge's office and sign a civil union license. Obviously property and tax laws, etc. would have to be changed accordingly, but we skirt the entire issue of the government condoning an untraditional form of marriage.

I really hope this idea catches on, and people in support of gay marriage don't reject it just because Klein proposed it.

12:54 | Canada , Politics | Comments (5)

July 1, 2005

Canada Day Quiz

Happy Canada Day!

Take the CBC Canada Day quiz to find out how much you know about Canada's past. I scored 17/20 :)

I'm off to Vancouver this weekend to celebrate. I'll be back in time to enjoy the 4th of July celebrations here.

07:59 | Canada

May 17, 2005

Would You Mind If I Told You How We Did It In Canada?

This news is a little old, but worth noting. NDP MP Ed Broadbent has agreed to abstain from Thursday's budget vote to compensate for Conservative MP Darrel Stinton's planned absence in a procedure known as pairing.

Stinton is scheduled for cancer surgery Wednesday, and Broadbent (whose arty has formed a shaky alliance with the Liberals) has decided to sit out as a courtesy. This is not an unprecedented move, and I think is clearly in the best interest of voters (instead of the best interest of the party), since it will negate any unfair advantage one side may have. Not that I particularly agree with the Conservatives, or the NDP, but I do think taking advantage of a representative's illness to be somewhat undemocratic.

I've discussed this with several of my American friends, who all seem shocked by the very idea. When asked if such a thing would happen in the US, all I got was laughter for a response. I guess we do things a little differently in Canada, and I'm ok with that.

20:39 | Canada , Politics | Comments (2)

April 11, 2005

Dancing Mom

A Toronto woman was sentenced to three years in jail for abandoning her daughter for 33 hours. The two-year-old died of dehydration in the hot apartment while the mother went out dancing.

Sometimes I can't understand how people get so upset about the idea of same-sex couples adopting, when any irresponsible straight person can have kids and neglect them.

21:37 | Canada | Comments (1)

April 4, 2005


The Gomery Inquest, currently investigating the Liberal Sponsorship Scandal is in full swing. As many Canadians know (or maybe they don't), there is currently a media ban on testimonies. Luckily, in the digital age of the Internets, non-Canadian sites are free to post details, although it's unclear whether Canadian sites can link to them. So I'm going to link to a Slashdot story, that happens to link to the forbidden story. But if you're Canadian, whatever you do, don't click the link.

In related news, the Conservative Party of Canada is making plans for a spring election.

22:05 | Canada , Politics | Comments (2)

March 19, 2005

Down With Margarine!

US states may be debating banning things like gay marriage and evolution in schools, but in Canada, Québec bans something much more insidious: coloured margarine.

Quebec's strong dairy lobby was able to persuade the government to protect the population from margarine until 1961. But margarine did manage to make its way to morning toast in the province. The dairy lobby, though, was determined to make sure that Quebecers would not be confused and buy margarine if they were really after butter.

These kinds of laws really annoy me. Clearly they were enacted to protect businesses (in this case, Québec's dairy lobby), and not the public (I don't know about you, but I have *never* confused butter with margarine due to being the same colour).

11:26 | Canada , Politics | Comments (1)

March 16, 2005

Got Change For A Terry?

The Royal Canadian Mint is following a tradition of keeping the loon off the dollar coin and replacing it with various commemorative designs. This year they're dropping the loon in favour of a picture of Canadian hero, Terry Fox. For any non-Canadians reading this blog, Fox was an 18-year-old Canadian diagnosed with cancer, and had his right leg amputated. In his determination to raise money for cancer research, he pledged to walk from the east coast of Newfoundland to the west coast of British Columbia. Unfortunately, he died before finishing.

This coin will be the first in Canadian history to actually feature the image of a Canadian (that should indicate how few national heroes we actually recognize). Fox's family is asking that this year, Canadians don't refer to the coin as a "Loonie", but rather a "Terry".

07:51 | Canada | Comments (2)

March 3, 2005

Toronto As A Sphere

An awesome 360° panoramic photo of Toronto taken from the CN Tower.

08:04 | Canada | Comments (1)

March 1, 2005

Being Socially Progressive

First, legalizing gay marriage, then decriminalizing marijuana, now Canada's Liberals are considering decriminalize prostitution.

This is something I would be in favour of, not because I would go out and me a hooker, but because sex for money between consenting adults is a victimless crime. Plus a legal sex trade would mean workplace safety laws and benefits for abused women who otherwise work for little money or drugs.

The purpose of laws is not to enforce morality, but to protect the public.

Speaking of being socially progressive, the United States Supreme Court has outlawed juvenile death penalty.

Good news all around.

22:48 | Canada , Politics | Comments (2)

January 29, 2005

Campaign Promises Not Legally Binding

An Ontario judge has found that anyone who expect politicians to be accountable for their campaign promises is naive about the democratic system, after the Canadian Taxpayers Federation tried to sue the Ontario Liberal government for breaking their no new taxes campaign promise.

On the one hand, yes, you can't take a politician's word at face value, on the other, how are voters supposed to make informed decisions, if there is no accountability until the next election?

15:04 | Canada , Politics | Comments (5)

December 23, 2004

The Weather Outside Is Frightful...

What a lovely winter's day here in Southern Ontario. It snowed a good 10 cm overnight, and topped it off with freezing rain this morning, giving everything a translucent crunchy quality. I say today was lovely, only compared to the bitter -37°C (with the windchill) we experienced earlier this week, a 60-year low for December.

ASIDE: windchill is one of those words I haven't had to use since moving to Seattle. Remind me of this the next time I complain about missing Canadian winters.

The bright side to all this cold and snow, of course, is that I was justified in taking up precious luggage space with my hiking boots.

14:04 | Canada

December 21, 2004

An Unprecedented Orgy

On the bottom floor of my parents' condo is a library of donated books. Among the large number of Harlequin romances, Reader's Digest condensed novels and John Grisham books are a surprising number of books on Canadian history. Besides books on the war of 1812 and Trudeau biographies, I found a book called On The Take: Crime, Corruption and Greed in the Mulroney Years by Stevie Cameron. Having always wondered why Canadians revile Mulroney so, I took a peek at the book's description on the inside of the dust cover:

When Brian Mulroney's Tories left office in 1993, Canadians breathed a collective sigh of relief. There had been boondoggles, cover-ups, and scandals aplenty - and the strong suspicion that among those in power many had looked after themselves and their cronies at the expense of the citizens who had elected them.

The dust cover also describes Cameron's account of "flagrant kick-back schemes... misappropriation of parliamentary budgets, favours to corporate supporters of the party, and an unprecedented orgy of patronage appointments..."

The funny thing is, you can replace the words Tories with Liberals, Mulroney with Chrétien, and 1993 with 2003 and the text still holds true.

So why are the PCs considered worse than Hitler, while the Liberals were re-elected three times? Maybe because Canadians have gotten so used to hearing the word boondoggle in the news so often, they are no longer fazed. Or maybe it's because the economy is going so well. Or maybe it's because despite numerous scandals and misappropriation of public funds, the competition makes Canadians think "Well, maybe the Liberals aren't so bad..."

21:12 | Canada , Politics

December 16, 2004

Ontario To Go Smokeless

Just in time for me to go home to Ontario, the current provincial government is proposing a complete ban on indoor smoking. I for one, think this is a good thing, not just because I'm not a smoker.

In a country with socialized health care, everybody foots the bill for smokers' health problems. In such a position, I feel it's the government's duty to keep us healthy. I see a much weaker argument in the US, where individuals' health insurance pays. If you smoke, your premiums go up, which is not the case in Canada.

I also think it's unfair to subject workers (bartenders, servers, etc) to second-hand smoke to make a living. If they are putting themselves in a scientifically-recognized dangerous position, give them hazard pay, not unlike construction workers.

Remember, there's no clause in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guaranteeing so-called Smokers' Rights.

07:44 | Canada

December 14, 2004

No More Blockbuster Late Fees

Starting January 1, 2005, Blockbuster Canada will no longer charge late fees for overdue movies and games. Instead, after a week-long grace period, the tardy customer's account will be charged the price of the movie (minus the rental fee, plus a restocking fee) and get to keep it.

This sounds kinda cool to me. It's like a try-before-you-buy store. This should be welcome news to Teresa, since every time she returns a movie to our local video store, they're always slapping on a late fee, regardless of whether she returned the movie on time or not.

22:11 | Canada

December 9, 2004

Love And Marriage in Canada

Today I am very proud to be a Canadian. The Supreme Court ruled that the federal government can change the legal definition of marriage to include same-sex marriages. According to Prime Minister Martin, the Liberal government will introduce a bill to do this as soon as January.

I wonder sometimes if Canadians' support for gay marriage is merely support for Canada exercising its sovereignty, despite (or perhaps in spite of?) the recent American anti-gay sentiment (like an election "decided" by so-called Moral Values). I wonder how many Canadians are somewhat indifferent to gay marriage, but just want to stick it to Bush.

Meanwhile, groups opposed to gay marriage are asking for a referendum on the issue. I'm kind of split on this. On the one hand, in a democracy the majority rule, and should the majority be against gay marriage, then maybe it shouldn't be allowed (although my opinion is that a nation-wide referendum would be for gay marriage). On the other hand, there needs to be a careful balance between the desires of the majority, and the needs of the minority. Sometimes laws need to be made to protect minority rights, however unpopular (take anti-Japanese internment after World War II as an example of the need for such laws).

Today I'm proud because as a nation, we are moving forward and eliminating discrimination. Ok, and maybe a little bit because we're sticking it to Bush too.

22:04 | Canada , Politics | Comments (4)

October 8, 2004

Loonie Hits 11-Year High

Just in time for my parents to come visit, the Canadian Dollar hit $0.80 USD.

In case you're too lazy to read the article explaining Canada's low unemployment versus the US's lower than expected job creation, just look at this image from the CBC story:

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. What thousand words come to your mind looking at this? To me, this image makes me think of a story like "Dollar ascends to gassy shiny globe". Personally, I would have chosen to accompany the story with a photo like this:

07:51 | Canada

October 2, 2004

Mad Cow Fed to Other Cows

Seriously, how hard is it not to feed dead cows to other cows? On top of that, how hard is it to properly dispose of the single identified BSE (Mad Cow Disease) infected cow in Canada, and make sure it doesn't get made into cattle feed, which, by the way, is the only known way to spread BSE?

Apparently, pretty hard.

09:05 | Canada

February 14, 2004


I am really sick of hearing about yet another Liberal scandal. It's a wonder the Liberal government managed to post a surplus, what with this sponsorship scandal and the gun registry hitting $2 billion, among others.

Well, at least it's not my tax money. Not that mine is going anywhere better.

13:44 | Canada , Politics | Comments (1)

January 23, 2004

Church, Meet State

France has been in the news a lot lately for their controversial ban on religious symbols in government establishments, including schools. France practices a very strict separation of church and state as a result of their history of religious monarchy, and religious persecution. In order to preserve this separation, they are taking radical measures.

The United States also practices separation of church and state. This is taken from the first amendment to the US Bill of Rights: " Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...". The American point of view is to let the people practice, as long as the government stays out of it. For example, the removal of the Ten Commandments from the Alabama Supreme Court building. Note, that the fact that the monument was put there in the first place indicates a much softer stance than that of France. Even more to the point, in President Bush's State of the Union Address, he implied he would go as far as a constitutional amendment to "value the institution of marriage".

Canada, on the other hand, has no explicit separation of church and state. In fact, the first line in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms recognizes "the supremacy of God and the rule of law". As a result, Catholic schools are given public funding in many provinces. But, Canada is also very socially progressive; it's of the only countries in the world to move to legalize gay marriage.

It's interesting that most people would consider Canada a very socially liberal country, even though its government is the least disentagled from religion (more specifically, Christianity) of the three.

07:53 | Canada , Politics | Comments (2)

December 26, 2003

Happy Boxing Day

I'm going to spend the day chilling out with my family and playing with my new toys. Here's a short article for those of you who want to learn the true meaning of Boxing Day.

07:30 | Canada

December 12, 2003

Jean, We Hardly Knew Ye

Goodbye Jean, and hello Paul.

I truly hope Martin's Liberals will have less scandal, better relations with the provinces, more R&D investment, and generally everything Martin says it will. Yes, I'm sceptical.

I'm not sure, but if the Conservative Party combines the social right of the Alliance with the fiscal right of the Progressive Conservatives, then Canada will have its very own Republican Party.

Then Martin will be unstoppable.

07:11 | Canada , Politics

November 27, 2003

Long Way To Go

It's nice to sit back and think about how progressive and liberal Canada is, only to be proven wrong by bigot politicians. The Canadian Alliance has a long way to go if they want to shed their image of homophobic right-wing conservatives.

It's also interesting to see how gays and lesbians have been treated in Canada, since homosexuality became no longer illegal (gotta love CBC and their timelines).

13:30 | Canada , Politics | Comments (2)

November 7, 2003

It's About Time

And just in time for Christmas: Chrétien is (probably) stepping down early.

I wish Jean and Aline all the best in their post-political lives, enjoying family, friends, and of course marijuana.

06:45 | Canada , Politics

October 27, 2003

Clouds And Coffee

The one thing that annoys me about the otherwise beautiful and all-Canadian city of Vancouver, is their West coast coffee mindset. Like Seattle, every other downtown street corner has a trendy espresso shop, like Starbucks, Seattle's Best Coffee or Blenz. All I wanted was a cup of Tim Hortons coffee! Why was it so hard to find a Tim Hortons that wasn't attached to a gas station?

Other than that, I had a great time in Vancouver. Sunday morning a fog had started to form off the Lion's Gate bridge. By the afternoon, the fog had enveloped most of the city in a damp cold cloud. Somehow we managed to find our way home through the mist (and stopped at a gas station Tim's on the way).

07:18 | Canada

October 22, 2003

Who's Who

Ever wonder about the diet of the majestic moose, or the mating habits of the red-breasted nuthatch? Me neither, but you can learn these fun facts about Canadian wildlife now that Hinterland's Who's Who is back on the air.

In case you can't wait for your favorite segment to appear on the airwaves (or, if you're like me, you don't get many Canadian channels) you can view them online.

Now if they just bring back some of those children's TVOntario shows from my childhood, my trip down Canadian TV nostalgia-lane would be complete.

07:14 | Canada | Comments (3)

October 15, 2003

The Homeland

I'm planning a trip to Vancouver next weekend. It will be my first jaunt into the homeland since the summer. I suspect Vancouver will look and feel much like Seattle this time of year: overcast, damp, cool. But the money will be familiar (although the US has finally launched coloured bills. The rest of the world congratulates you, America).

Speaking of money, of course the Canadian economy anticipated my return and was sure to drive the Loonie up to a 10-year high. Here's a timeline that properly illustrates my frustration.

I learned recently that Cadbury products are not available in the US. I hadn't noticed before, but now that I know, I've been getting Dairy Milk cravings.

07:04 | Canada

October 3, 2003

The Wheels Of Democracy

Last night was the provincial election in my home province of Ontario. It came as no surprise to me to hear that the Liberals won. This is one election I'm glad I missed. I had always been a PC supporter, but after Mike Harris left, the party just wasn't the same. I didn't like Eves, and I felt the decisions he made as premier hurt more than they helped.

Howard Hampton seemed like a decent leader, but I can't agree with anything the NDP does. I think Ontarians are still smarting from Bob Rae's reign.

That leaves the Liberals. I don't agree much with their policies, and I have very little confidence in Dalton McGuinty. To me he seems very inexperienced, so I hope he put the last four years to good use.

Since I couldn't vote in this election, most of these impressions were formed during the 1999 election campaign and debate, so my information may be a little out of date. Prove me wrong Ontario. Prove me wrong.

07:18 | Canada , Politics | Comments (3)

July 1, 2003

Terre De Nos Aïeux

My friend Justin has a terrible habit of putting his foot in his mouth, especially when talking about Canada and world affairs. He once claimed that Canada had not been involved in any wars, and until meeting me, thought Canada was geographically smaller than the United States (he went to MIT, in case any of you thought of sending your children there). Here's an excerpt of the conversation we had yesterday about Canada's upcoming 136th birthday.

Me: "Tomorrow is Canada Day."
Justin: "Canada Day?! What's that?"
Me: "It's the anniversary of the birth of our nation."
Justin: "You call it Canada Day? That's the stupidest name for a holiday I've ever heard."
Me: "Oh yeah? So what do you call America's anniversary?"
Justin (chest swelling with pride): "The fourth of July!"
Me: "You're right Justin. That's a much better name."

I can't believe he walked right into that one.

Happy Dominion Day everyone! And thanks to my Mom and Dad for the card!

00:00 | Canada

June 26, 2003

The Great Coffee Divide

I got an email from John (no link available), which included an article about the great Canadian culture division. No, not independence for Québec. The Great Coffee Divide. I'll take a one-milk-one-sugar over a grande non-fat any day.

00:00 | Canada

June 16, 2003

G'day, Eh?

We (my roommate Andy, our friend Megan and myself) headed up to Vancouver, Canada around 10:00 Sunday morning. We hit the border around noon, and were greeted by an unfriendly customs officer who seemed more concerned with how much cash we were bringing with us than proof of our citizenship (she didn't even ask to see our passports). I guess American cash is all the identification you need to get into Canada.

On our way into Vancouver I forced Andy to pull over at the first Tim Hortons and drank my fill. He and Megan seemed to enjoy the sour cream doughnuts they picked up. I realized then that I had forgotten my Canadian bank card at home. Luckily I had a five dollar bill on me to pay for the coffee and my Canadian credit card for any other expenses.

When we got into Chinatown, we decided to stop for something to eat. We let Andy pick the restaurant, since he had a hankerin' for some Vietnamese Pho. It turned out to be the only cash-only restaurant in Vancouver, so I had to play the exchange game at a bank machine.

We met up with Travis, a friend of mine from high school, who I hadn't seen since my going-away party to Japan in 2000. He took us to Kitsilano beach where we walked in the sand and enjoyed the nice weather (sunny and 20°C. I refused to use anything but Metric measurements while in Canada. Also I said "eh" a lot and laughed at Andy and Megan's "American accents". Yes, I'm a jerk).

After the beach, Trav took us into town for some great burgers at Fatzo's. He drove with us to the border and dropped us off at the duty-free, where I picked up a Coffee Crisp, some Canadian Club, and a maple leaf patch for my backpack (gotta keep up the stereotypes).

The American border guard was a little more discriminating, and carefully poured over my passport before finally letting us through.

I had a great time visiting with Trav, reacquainting myself with BC and showing off our beautiful country (it was Megan's first time in Canada). Now to take my proper place in my friends' social circle as "dirty immigrant who steals American jobs".

00:00 | Canada

June 15, 2003

Loonies And Toonies

Just got back from Vancouver, British Columbia and I'm exhausted. Too tired to blog about it tonight, but a brief synopsis: had a lot of fun, hung out with an old high school friend (and avid One Big Rant reader, Travis) and enjoyed some great coffee. Fortunately for me, crossing the border back into the States was no problem. It always surprises me how the US customs officers always seemed to be friendlier than the Canadian ones.

00:00 | Canada

June 12, 2003

Up North

While I was sitting in my office today thinking how much more rational we Canadians are than our southern neighbours, I happened to find this article on the CBC. Brief synopsis: angry that Children's Services took her children away, this woman attacks the neighbour who reported her, and cuts off her hands. Obviously this neighbour had no idea what she was talking about, I mean just look how rational and able to look after children the mother is.

It makes me just sick.

Speaking of Canada, my roommate Andy just sprung the news on me that he's planning a trip to Vancouver this weekend. My heart leapt at the thought of just one cup of Tim's special blend. I should have some interesting stories to write about when I get back. That is if I don't get held at customs and shipped to Guantanamo Bay.

00:00 | Canada

May 6, 2003

The Loon That Soared

It seems like the whole time I'm in Canada, the Loonie stays in the gutter, but every time I leave to work outside of Canada, the Loonie soars, and the local currency I'm making falls. Maybe it's no coincidence...

00:00 | Canada

April 5, 2003

Have Plow, Will Travel

It appears that arriving a whole hour early to the train station is not sufficient time to secure a ticket to Kitchener. So I missed the Maple Syrup Festival. No boiled tree sugar for me. Luckily Ang braved the newly-plowed roads and came here.

Speaking of newly-plowed things, here's a few tips for drivers who are obviously unaccustomed to driving in Canada's April Winter conditions (this seems to include everyone in my neighbourhood):

If you can do these few things for me, then my final memories of Canadian winters won't be filled with hate towards my fellow man.

00:00 | Canada

April 4, 2003

To Miss Or Not To Miss

Everything outside is encrusted with a thin layer of ice thanks to the all-night hailstorm nature had in store for us. One more reason to not miss southern Ontario.

Driving is particularly treacherous, but hopefully the trains are still running so I can get to Waterloo to visit Angela and to see the Maple Syrup Festival in Elmira (a small Mennonite community outside of Waterloo). Two more reasons to miss southern Ontario.

00:00 | Canada

April 1, 2003

The April Fool As It Were

Today Canada showed me once again what I'll be missing by moving to the US: snow in the spring. It's nature's April Fool's joke. The constant rain I'll be experiencing in Washington state will come as a sharp contrast to the unpredictable southern Ontario weather I've endured for most of my life.

I've decided to replace the banner image with something a little more patriotic. Just because I'm going down the states, doesn't mean I don't still love Canada, or think myself any less Canadian. One of my fellow classmates once implied that by taking this job, I was selling out. So I asked him to find me a job at the Canadian company he works at. He told me they weren't hiring. Well if selling out is choosing a job in the states over unemployment in Canada (having not worked in Canada in the last 52 weeks, I don't qualify for EI), then I guess I'm just a big sell-out.

00:00 | Canada

March 5, 2003

Snow Job

Mere weeks before I leave to go live in the United States, Canada decides to show me what I'll be missing: snow, and lots of it. Looks like I'll be spending the rest of today shovelling the driveway, but unlike our next door neighbours, I won't stand there and gawk when someone gets stuck in the street right in front of our house; I'll go help out.

Where's Mr Plow when you need him?

00:00 | Canada

January 4, 2003

The Big O

There's a new banner today. Please refresh if you don't see it. It's the Centre de medicine sportive in Montréal, at the base of the Olympic Stadium. I love the quasi-futuristic architecture of the stadium, the centre and the Biodome. Too bad it wasn't built with longevity in mind; the stadium's roof has a nasty habit of collapsing. Good thing the Expos don't bring in a huge crowd, or someone could get hurt.

Speaking of Montréal, I forgot to mention that I saw a group of Raelians (a Québec-based cult that believes human beings are descendants of alien clones) outside the Centre Eaton when I was there last weekend. It was the same day Clonaid announced a successful human clone. I can't even begin to express my disgust at the irresponsibility of cloning a human being, considering the poor success rate (there were over 250 failed attempts before Dolly the sheep was born) and physical problems in adult clones. Talk about putting freedom of religion to the test.

00:00 | Canada

December 30, 2002

La Belle Province

I love Montréal. I had such a good time there over the last few days (sorry, nothing to rant about!). Ang, Ryan, John and I all drove down, and stayed in a suite downtown. We met up with two friends I met in Japan: Hilory, a Waterloo student who now lives there, and Guillaume, a French student who was just visiting.

We ate all the Montréal delicacies: smoked meat sandwiches from Schwartz's, Beavertails and poutine. We visited the Olympic Stadium and took several walks down Rue de St. Catherine (and gazed longingly at Club SuperSexe, among others). Yes, at some point I'll upload pics.

I was pleased to find out my French wasn't nearly as bad as I thought, and I even enjoyed several conversations with locals (they were probably just being kind and not pointing out my mistakes). I really love how Canada is bilingual and I really like what little I know of the French-Canadian culture. I'm thankful that my parents had me go to a Francophone school (more hardcore than French emersion), so I can better appreciate how diverse Canada is.

00:00 | Canada

December 21, 2002

Memories Of Southern Ontario

I've been spending most of my time visiting with the family, so I have little to blog about. I did go to Dav's Christmas party last night. It was the first time I was in downtown Toronto since August 2000 when I applied for my visa to live in Japan. It's the same as I remember it: big, dirty and something always going on. I also went up to Caledon where Dav and I grew up. It's also the same as I remember it: small, clean and nothing ever going on. I'm not sure which one I miss more.

00:00 | Canada

December 4, 2002

Political Digression

I know I shouldn't spend my studying time bitching to you all about my political views, but this made me so mad: Ottawa hid huge costs of gun plan, audit finds. Now I'm neither for, or against the gun registry in Canada. Unlike our neighbours to the south, it's not our God-given right as Canadians to have a small anti-aircraft arsenal in our basements, so the gun registry doesn't rate very high on my politica-meter. But what does make me mad, is that this is just the latest (and won't be the last) in a series of bunglings the Liberals have done that cost tax payers hundreds of millions of dollars. And here's the clincher:

The Liberals will be re-elected.

Don't you see? It doesn't matter how many scandals (HRDC, Shawinnigan, patronage, gun registry, etc) the Liberals are responsible for, we keep voting for them, in the hopes that Chrétien will retire. Everyone is hoping that Paul Martin is going to save the day, without knowing anything about him, except that he's not Chrétien.

You're probably now asking yourself: "Ok Chris, great rant, but who then should we vote for? The right-wing Alliance? The left-wing NDP? The last-runners-up PCs? Le Bloc? Some wing-nut fringe party? What?"

I have no idea. I really don't. But the nice thing is, we have choice. The bad thing is, this choice almost guarantees us another term with the Liberals. All I'm saying is, remember these scandals come next election. And for my American readers: make sure the safety on your AK-47 is on.

00:00 | Canada , Politics

November 12, 2002

Blow, Not Grow, Part 2

Re: yesterday's entry. I got several inquiries about the $10 bill fiasco, so I thought I should clarify: The new $10 always had the correct poem, people just conveniently forgot the correct line at the thought of having a drawer full of collector's items.

00:00 | Canada

November 11, 2002

Blow, Not Grow

Canada's new $10 bill came out while I was in Japan last year. Since I'm a Canadian coin collector, I took great interest in learning about it (also so I wouldn't be shocked when I got back to Canada and someone gave me one for change). On the back on the bill is the first couple of verses from John McCrae's In Flanders Fields. This poem is taught early in Canadian schools (I learned it in grade 4). It really saddened me to hear that a lot of Canadians were stockpiling the bills because of a "typo" in the first line of the poem:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Blow, not grow. A two-second Google search revealed that. I think people are to ready to abandon common sense and their education when it comes to making a potential fortune.

00:00 | Canada

Let We Forget

It appears this year Canadians are buying more poppies than ever before. Some attribute it to the September 11th attacks last year, some think it's the new stylish back-centered poppies. Now, I know the green represented the green of Flanders Fields, but I haven't heard the official story behind the new black. Mourning? Maybe because poppies really are black inside.

For the first time in my life, I received poppies in the mail. Maybe that's the reason poppies are in short supply, people think the Legion envelope is junk mail and toss it without getting the poppies inside.

00:00 | Canada

July 1, 2002

Oh Canada

Spent the weekend in Vancouver with Angela. Had a great time. Took lots of pictures that may one day end up on this site. We'll have to wait and see.

I sent out an email to the other members of my team wishing them all a happy Canada Day. I also brought back with me 3 bags of ketchup chips and invited my teammates to partake. Apparently it's a Canadian phenomenon that hasn't made it south of the border.

I have a lot to write about today, but no time to do so. What to expect: a rant about Budget rental cars, my trip to Vancouver, and Bill Sightings (the photos Microsoft Security doesn't want you to see).

00:00 | Canada

June 3, 2002

Stupid Loonie

It's like the Canadian Dollar waits for me to leave the country before skyrocketing to a nine-month high of 65.53 cents US. When I left it was at 62 cents or something. The same thing happened when I left for Japan. The Loonie is watching. The Loonie is waiting.

00:00 | Canada

January 29, 2002

Oh Canada!

Poutine, that artery-clogging french fry, cheese and gravy snack is uniquely French-Canadian, but did you know it wasn't always made with potatoes? In the 1840s and 50s the French and Métis couriers de bois would take with them on their hunt for beaver pelts, cheese for snacking. Upon catching and skinning a beaver, the fur traders would build a fire and cook the beaver meat, spreading cheese and a sauce made from the drippings on the meat. They would then extend this dish to their companions saying "Pour toi" meaning for you. This eventually got shortened and colloquialized to "poutine".

After making the beaver Canada's national animal, the fur trade was prohibited from killing these tree-munching rodents. The poutine was nearly lost forever, until, in 1901, a Québec resident of French and Irish background Charles O'Gratin had a brainstorm. Knowing his Irish ancestors were saved from famine by potatoes, he sliced a boiled one up, poured cheese and deer drippings (still legal to kill) onto it and invented a national food. Oh Canada!

00:00 | Canada