Monthly Archives: August 2007

Random Thoughts and Soap…I Mean Such

didn’t do much this weekend in preparation for what will likely be a busy visit from my parents next weekend. i drove for about 40 minutes to find a famous bread bakery and while it was good, it wasn’t worth 40 minutes of $4.40/gallon gas. i recently started watching prime suspect – a british detective series with helen mirren that first showed in the states on pbs as part of masterpiece theatre in the 90’s. it’s fantastic and i’ve quickly become addicted. i found the best video store i’ve ever seen – they arrange their videos by director in addition to country and genre, so if you’re in the mood for a robert altman film, you just go to that section and choose from there. they claim to have over 52,000 titles, but what i love is that their series rentals (i.e. television shows) are altogether, meaning that you get all of season one at once, rather than season one, disc 1, etc. best part is it’s only $3.50 per rental which is dirt cheap for T.O. it’s called queen video on queen street west – definitely a must see place for any movie buff. i also rented the new roberto bernini called “the tiger in the snow” and an indie called “flannel pajamas”.

on to my soapbox for the day…
i’ve been surprised at how quickly i’ve adjusted to the culture here and how i subsequently feel very protective of the people and the country. at least once a day, i’m surprised at the kindness and generosity of torontonians; in turn, it makes me realize how unkind and judgemental americans can be, yours truly included. over the weekend, a man in his mid-30’s was killed here by 4 panhandlers. as he walked by, they asked him for money and when he said no, they attacked him and killed him. for a few fucking bucks. he was a banker for one of the large canadian banks and was engaged to be married. and, wait for it…..the 4 panhandlers were american. it makes me absolutely sick and it should make you sick too. does anyone realize what a violent society we live in? fear that something could happen any minute is plaguing our once great nation. when i first arrived, i found it strange when one of my co-workers asked me whether i was afraid to go outside in texas. i’m sure the look on my face gave away my frustration at that question. now i realize what she meant and have a different perspective as an “outsider” looking back/in. of course, while canada is not a violent society, they are not saints either – there is violence everywhere and i realize that. the difference is that in the states, the first 28 minutes of the news is about that day’s random acts of violence and here, they wrap them up in the first 2. i can tell that each day i live in such a tolerant culture, i become more tolerant myself. and that’s a good thing. i am NEVER afraid to walk in the city alone and while this may be a false sense of security, i am not fearful because i know that the probability that i’ll be the victim of a random act of violence here is slim to none. it’s more likely that someone would help me than hurt me. maybe i’m living in pleasantville, but i know this – the litigiousness, selfishness, greed, violence, health care systems, political processes – are all denigrading our once great society and it’s up to each one of us to stand up and make a difference.

wishing you all a safe week (keep away Dean, you bastard!),
carm

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More Fun Stuff! Bet You Can’t Wait, Can You?

hi y’all.

i have seen so many license (spelled “licence” here) plates from the states and i love it. i get all giddy inside and give them the “nod” like we’re old bro’s or something. i’ve seen: michigan, new york, vermont, rhode island, virginia, florida, california, new jersey, pennsylvania, TEXAS (woo-hoo…okay, just mine), illinois, missouri and ohio. one day, there were 3 american cars in a row: michigan, texas and virginia! what fun! i wonder if their speedometers are also difficult to read since ours are in MPH instead of KPH? it’s interesting not really knowing exactly how fast you’re going – i know that 90 KPH is somewhere around 55 MPH but instead, i choose to just go with the flow. although, i do know an american who got a ticket because the speed sign said 60 (they don’t actually say MPH or KPH here…it’s just a number – i say technically you could argue that since it could be either) and she was going 60 MPH in her car which is actually about 100 KPH. the judge didn’t let her off either. such hate! i’ve decided to see how long i can keep my texas plates. they’ve become a conversation piece – people a) can’t believe you’d ever move to canada from the us and b) can’t believe you’d drive all that way. every person who’s commented on my plates ask me if i like canada – they are very interested in what we think of their country. oh, i’ve seen the majority of license plates from the provinces, too: newfoundland and labrador, nova scotia, quebec, ontario (obviously), manitoba, saskatchewan, alberta and british columbia. the only ones i haven’t seen are prince edward island or any of the northern territories (like nunavut – pronounced “none of it” or yellowknife). i personally think alberta’s are the prettiest.

my first best buy experience here was exactly like the states – slow. geez – even in canada it takes forever to return something (no comments, d) even though there were 974 employees standing around doing nothing.

the high today was 83 and a cool front is coming through so the high this saturday is going to be 69! nice!

i met a famous canadian over the weekend. what’s funny to me is how accessible things are in T.O. i guess it’s equivalent to being in new york city in the states, but everything seems to happen right in my backyard. i’ve seen claire danes at muchmusic right around the corner from my house, david beckham and tara reid were at a club 4 blocks from me and rachel mcadams was evidently seen riding her bike on a street 2 blocks over. cool!

i met the leader of one of their 3 main political parties, jack layton of the new democratic party. he would run for prime minister if they were to call an election since their elections aren’t at specific times. he was at “taste of the danforth” and the canadians we were with were like “go take your picture with him – he’s famous! so, of course, i did. he’s the equivalent to obama or hillary in the us. and lemme tell ya, he kissed many a baby that night.(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Layton) the elections here aren’t like ours – theirs here is like the british system so you don’t necessarily vote for a person, you vote for a party here and whomever is the leader of that party becomes the prime minister. it’s not my best photo, but you get the picture (ha!)

i found out today that the retirement age in canada is 69. ew. moral of the story – have a baby in canada to get a year off, then move to the us and retire at 55.

ooh, i found another great restaurant! boy, research sure pays off in a city as dense with places to eat as T.O. it’s called epicure cafe on queen street west (my favorite street). everytime i eat out i get so angry about how slow the service is. then, when i get my food, i realize that it takes time because everything is prepared freshly here. you’ll see workers at the fast food place in the mall cutting up fresh fruit and sandwiches being made freshly right in front of you. the food that is served in restaurants never seems to have come from a bag and i can tell it’s fresher because my hands don’t swell up here from the salt & preservatives like it used to when i’d eat out at home. so, i guess a trade off for speedy service and always being on the go at home is slow service but very fresh and yummy food. (http://www.theepicure.ca/home.html) they play a french jazz radio station inside so it’s cozy, yummy and one of my favorite new places. plus, they give you a lot of coke – at most places, i’m basically parched after eating. how do these people not drink when they eat?

signing off with hugs,
carm

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Weird Factoids of the Week

one more post today – here are some interesting and weird facts that i, and probably you, didn’t know.

  • it would take 1,200,000 mosquitoes (or “nippers”, as newfoundlanders call them!), each sucking once, to completely drain the average human of blood. (discoverymagazine.com)
  • if the sensory nerve to a female mosquito’s abdomen is cut, she will keep sucking until she explodes. ewww! (science.howstuffworks.com)
  • people named Paul have appeared on more no. 1 singles in the UK (57) than people with any other name. John is second (54), followed by David (53) and Brian (43). (news.bbc.co.uk)
  • the odds of successfully quitting smoking for at least six months are about 2.5 times higher for spontaneous, umplanned attempts than for planned ones. (British medical journal)
  • the air filling carnegie hall weighs about 31,750 kilograms (70,000 pounds)
  • barn owls are about twice as proficient at tracking sounds that move horizontally than those that move vertically. (nature.com)
  • here’s a good one – the same ingredient that flavours salt-and-vinegar chips can be used to waterproof concrete. wow.
  • the three TV bosses that most remind workers of their real-life bosses are: 1. Sam Malone from Cheers (fun), 2. Charlie from Charlie’s Angels (absentee) and 3. Judge Judy (no nonsense). others mentioned in the top 10: Simon Cowell (judgmental), Miranda Bailey from Grey’s (tough but fair) and disturbingly, The Simpsons’ Mr. Burns (sinister). (careerbuilder.com)
  • as a baby name, August ranked 618th in popularity last year. April was 319th. May hasn’t been in the top 1,000 since the 1950’s and June fell out in the 1990’s.
  • here’s one for my left leaning friends – not counting the august break that he embarked on last thursday, President George W. Bush has taken 418 vacation days. The late Ronald Reagan holds the record for the most vacation time taken by a US president: 436 days. (the Houston Chronicle)
  • worker performance declines about 1% for each degree that an office’s temperature varies (hotter or cooler) from 22C (or about 74F).
  • it a man’s tie is too tight, his vision gets worse.
  • today is International Left-Handers Day. the occasion is intended to raise awareness of “the challenges of living in a right-handed world”. Their slogan? “Celebrate your right to be left-handed”. dedicated to jennifer and jilly bean.
  • lastly, yesterday was psychic sunday. but you probably already knew that. ha!

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It’s All About the Food

there are so many different cultures here, hence, many fantastic (and new to me) cuisines. they have tunisian restaurants, ethiopian restaurants, inuit restaurants and everything in between.

caribana, a two-week cultural explosion of caribbean music, cuisine, revelry as well as visual and performing arts, is in its 40th year it has become a major international event. apparently, it’s the largest cultural festival of its kind in North America (http://www.caribanafestival.com/). the city has been packed with people going to caribana and i’ve heard that over 1 million people attended this year. it was great for me, not only to see the multiple cultures it represented, but to try some fantastic foods! i ate jerk chicken for the first time – it was so spicy that my lips almost burnt off – plantains with sweet cheese and grilled, spiced corn on the cob. again, it was quite spicy and i almost ripped the fire extinguisher from the wall next to me and asked the hot fireman to help put out my fire. the corn ended up being my favorite of all the foods as evidenced by the picture below. as you can see, this is definitely not a date food!

i made a trip to wal-mart recently, due to the sad absence of target in canada. at home, i wasn’t the biggest chip eater – my thing is definitely sweets, as you all know – but i was shocked at the sheer number of different chip types on the chip aisle here. seriously, i have never seen anything like it. i’m told by people in the know that it’s a “midwest thing” (ok, i guess toronto is sort of midwest) and that evidently, this part of north america consumes the largest amount of chips anywhere. i believe it. this is just a sampling of the chip flavors i’ve seen:
– ketchup
– dill pickle
– tandoori
– sweet chili heat
– jalapeno cheddar
– chili cheese lime
– zesty cheddar
and those are just the doritos brands that i could remember. it’s very interesting – i tried the tandoori chips and true to their name, they are very spicy. i can only imagine the quantity of chemicals i’m ingesting from eating these fancy chips.

i found another great brunch place. when i first got here, i didn’t think brunch was such a big thing in T.O. boy, was i wrong! they are very big into brunch here and if you don’t get to the good places early, the queues are very long. i went french this week and tried le petit dejeuner for brunch (http://www.petitdejeuner.ca/. the owner is belgian but grew up in france. lemme tell ya – the belgian waffles are authentic and to die for! in the spirit of trying more than one thing when i find new places, i also had the croque monsieur which was also fantabulous. for dinner, i ate at jules, a french restaurant near my house – V. good nutella crepes (see, i do have a sweet tooth). the steak frites were really good here, too. (http://www.yummybaguette.com/magasin.php-id=159.htm)

rounding out my food edition was a trip to the “taste of the danforth” (http://www.tasteofthedanforth.com/6tastlist.html). there is an area in T.O. called greektown, although rumor has it that no greeks actually live there anymore as they have been ousted by the urban professional yuppies. the festival is basically a huge street party – the city closes the streets and hundreds of vendors come out selling all kinds of greek foods (and others too – i actually saw someone selling churros and it felt like home for just a split second). we made our way down the danforth eating things on sticks and had a ball. i tried mousaka, baklava (heavenly!), souvlaki, spinach pie and loukemades. they also have a hot sauce store with over 200 kinds of hot sauces – i have a friend in houston who would love the place, as they encourage sampling so you can get your heat on (and not a la glenn frey)! oddly, they also sold “mad cow jerky” there – i didn’t think that was too funny.

as the evening went on, people would spontaneously break out in greek song and start dancing, locking arms and spinning around in circles just like on “my big fat greek wedding”. we held court at the beer garden listening to the greek bands that were playing and finally made our way home after eating and drinking for 5 hours, with proof of our attendance down the fronts of our shirts.

overall, i am feeling well. some days, i wish i could snap my fingers and be in houston. sadly, since i can’t seem to find my ruby slippers, i’ll have to settle for visitors coming here for now. i’ll be home in october and am thoroughly looking forward to it and seeing all of you.

much love to you all,
carm

new word of the week = rye. this is what canadians call whiskey or jack daniels. they’ll order a “rye & diet” at the bar.

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