Canadian Yankee
Friday, August 29, 2003
Ok, so I've been a bad blogger again. Is this what I really wanted when I started a blog? Another thing that slips behind schedule and serves as yet another source of self-loathing and anomie? Just one more example of my own indecisiveness and incompetence that hastens my inevitable moment of self-immolation in the public square in an attempt to purge the shame of my existence?

Um, sorry about that. Ignore the above paragraph. Work is very difficult these days and shows no sign of easing up until around Halloween or so.

By the way, if you've ever wondered why most commercial software consists of bug-ridden piles of poo, it might have something to do with the fact that Dilbert is more documentary than fictional. I wonder if the marketing department would stop saying things like, "Why don't we just add a little feature that will compose symphonies, cure cancer, and transcend space and time as we know it - I'll add it to the brochure, so it really has to be ready for testing in two weeks," if they knew that sort of thing was making me post thinly-disguised calls for help on the web.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003
I've been a bad blogger. I was all set to post another On the Way to Work installment last week when the power went out. Since the power came back, I've been trying to decide what to write about the blackout, but it's hard to come up with something original. No power, blah blah, no air conditioning, blah blah, the end of civilization as we know it, blah blah, nauseatingly heart-warming tales of good Samaritans who selflessly helped their neighbors, blah blah blah.

But it's been almost a week since my last post, so I have to post now or David will send me more sarcastic email.

I did learn something new during the blackout - apparently our building has a generator. It wasn't enough to supply power to the individual units; but we did have elevator service, cold water, and lighting in the public hallways and the parking garage. That just makes my own blackout story all the more boring. "I couldn't even grind coffee beans for my morning latte!" isn't exactly an epic tale of woe and hardship that will inspire an award-winning TV miniseries starring Goran Visnjic (as The Boyfriend), Glenn Close (as me), and Sylvester Stallone (as a pile of coffee beans - probably a real stretch for his acting abilities, but he needs the work these days).

So since I don't have a fabulous story to spin, let's just do a quickie Harper's Index style rundown:

Number of hours our home was without power: 22

Number of people lined up at the local hotdog vendor's stand on Thursday night: about 3 dozen

Number of hours either of us worked on Friday: 0

Number of blocks south we had to walk to find a coffee shop with power on Friday morning: 6

Hours it took us on Friday to drive to the border and back to get our permanent residency status approved: 4

Amount of time we spent in the U.S. when we left and re-entered: none (we pulled a U-turn on the bridge and never really entered the U.S. at all)

Amount we had to pay for gas: 73.9 cents/liter (that's US$2.01/gallon)

Amount of food we lost due to spoilage: none

Number of formerly frozen hamburgers we had to eat before they spoiled: 4

Number of nauseating stories I've read in the newspapers about people selflessly helping their neighbors and bonding together in their shared misfortune and generally showing a surprising degree of community spirit despite the increasingly anonymous nature of our technological society and the diminishing blah blah blah: about 7 too many

Wednesday, August 13, 2003
Yay! I have my passport back! Those of you who read me over at David's blog know that I had to send it off to Buffalo to get a visa for my Landed Immigrant status. It should have come back even faster, but our immigration lawyer called last week and said that they had misspelled my last name on the visa and he needed to contact them about it (since a difference between the name on your passport and the name on your visa can look very suspicious). We didn't have to send it back to get a new visa, fortunately. The claim is that the Immigration department has attached a special note to my computerized file warning the official about the name misspelling. It sounds a bit dicey to me. If I vanish off the face of the earth this weekend, you know it's because I tried to land and got detained in a small, windowless room somewhere to be endlessly questioned and perhaps even tortured. (If you've ever wondered how Canadians torture would you, what they do is jostle you and then they don't say, "Sorry". It's horrible.)

This is actually the second Canadian government agency that has screwed up my last name. I had to get my drivers license twice because they spelled my name wrong on the first one. You'd think that Canadians would be able to spell the middle name of one of their most memorable post-WWII prime ministers (Pierre Elliott Trudeau), but apparently not.

The silliest thing about receiving my passport is that the lawyer FedExed it to our home, even though his office is about ten blocks away. The FedEx package says "YYZ" on it, which is the local airport code. I hope that FedEx is efficient enough that they didn't truck it all the way out to the airport and back just to go ten blocks, but the point is that the lawyer probably could have sent it by bicycle messenger or something for much cheaper. They could even have sent out one of their secretaries in a taxi to hand deliver it for cheaper. Or even better yet, they could have called me on the phone to pick it up on the way home from work for free.

I smell kick-backs - some vast conspiracy invloving FedEx and the bar association (probably also including the Queen of England, not to mention that one polar bear at the zoo who always sits in the back of the enclosure looking suspiciously nonchalant) designed to soak as much money from the lawyers' clients as possible. I guess I'm not too upset because I'm not paying the lawyer myself (The Boyfriend's employer is), but still - that FedEx envelope did disturb me a bit, lying there in its mocking way, shooting off "I cost way more than I should" rays. Stupid, evil, taunting envelope.

Friday, August 08, 2003
Today I am inaugurating what I hope will be a regular feature here on Canadian Yankee. I call it On the Way to Work. It takes me about thirty minutes to walk to work and my commute is across a pretty major chunk of Toronto's downtown. Once a week or so I'll take pictures of something On the Way to Work and post them here. Since I've always been fascinated by architecture, many of the episodes of On the Way to Work will feature buildings, but there will certainly be other stuff as well.

The building we're featuring for the first On the Way to Work ties in nicely with a slideshow I recently saw at
Slate about the new architecture of modesty. Essentially, the article was claiming that the era of big, flamboyant, crazy buildings that had been kicked off by Frank Gehry's Bilbao Guggenheim is ending and is being replaced by an era of new, more modest and restrained buildings, exemplified by the yet-to-be-built New York Times headquarters and the under-construction MOMA expansion.

Toronto actually has one of each of these styles going up right now. The big, flamboyant, crazy building is a Daniel Libeskind-designed expansion to the Royal Ontario Museum that looks rather like a big pile of wadded-up, used crystalline Kleenex. The more modest building will be the new Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts (more often called the "new opera house" by us locals), designed by a local architecture firm. It will basically be a big concrete box with lots of glass on the outside. It's On the Way to Work, but currently it's just a big hole in the ground, so pictures of it will have to wait a bit.

Now we come to the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD), which is today's On the Way to Work subject. OCAD is building a new wing called the Sharp Centre for Design. Apparently the new, restrained style just wouldn't work at a design school. Instead, they seem to be trying to revive the dying big, flamboyant style singlehandedly. Since the trend is dying, they have to come up with something really wacky to compensate. They've really only just started building, but you can see the craziness already:

(Photo made possible by Adobe Photoshop Elements' nifty photomerge feature.) Note the colorful tapered columns that appear to be holding up the structure. Those are not temporary construction braces - those are actual planned parts of the final building.

Here's another angle:

You can see here that the suspended box that is the new wing is being extended out into space, supported by those big colorful metal columns. To get a true picture of the horror that this building will eventually become, here's a link to the architect's rendering. I'm not sure what the architect's exact vision was, but I'm seeing "shoebox covered with bathroom tiles and supported by pick-up sticks." The big, yellow "OCAD" on top is a particularly odd touch ("let's make our school look like a cheap highway motel for truckers!"). More renderings are available at the main OCAD homepage.

At least I'm not from California. Every Californian I've known who has seen this new building has said, "Omigod! One minor little earthquake and they're all dead! Dead, I tell you, dead!!!"

Thursday, August 07, 2003
This morning I was bitch-slapped by Dame Karma.

It started out innocently enough. I taunted The Boyfriend after breakfast for having a smudge on the crotch of his pants. He went and cleaned it off, and then I taunted him for having a big wet spot on the crotch of his pants. Who could blame me - it was completely reflexive reaction. I've read that they've even tested this with laboratory rats. Two biologists were used - one with a wet spot on his pants and one control biologist with dry pants. Nine out of ten rats made sophomoric jokes about the wet-pantsed biologist. The tenth rat was vaguely aroused.

Anyway, on the way to work, I was trying to put away my camera (yes, a camera! That means pictures here at Canadian Yankee real soon now) and I spilled coffee on myself. Stupid "spill-proof" travel mug. So here I am, dressed vaguely respectably for work today since we're interviewing a prospective new boss for my department, and now I have a coffee stain on my leg. I tried to blot it off with a damp paper towel when I got to work (quoting Lady Macbeth all the while), so now I have a big wet spot with a coffee stain in the middle.

Actually, I suppose "bitch-slap" is a little extreme - I didn't loose any major limbs or anything - maybe it was just an affectionate noogie from Dame Karma. Still, I'm hoping that we'll get to go sit in the conference room before the new boss comes in so that my secret shame is safely hidden under the table.

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