thank you to someone

One of you crazy people nominated we move to canada for a 2005 Best Canadian Blog award, in the personal category. Whoever you are, I thank you.

I notice that two of my favorite Canadian blogs, Canadian Cynic and The Gazetteer, were nominated in the liberal category.

Now everyone go stuff that ballot box!

I'm kidding. I don't even know who votes or how the voting works.



lucky 700,000

Would-be Canadians, take note. Lead story in today's Globe And Mail:
Ottawa plans to unveil sweeping changes to immigration, starting today with an increase in the annual intake of new Canadians, and a promise to increase much-needed temporary workers and tackle the enormous backlog of 700,000 prospective immigrants.

Immigration Minister Joe Volpe, who will table his annual report to Parliament today, says Canada hopes to be taking in as many as 300,000 immigrants a year within five years, and will start by raising its target for next year to between 225,000 and 255,000. Canada is on track to accept 245,000 this year, the very high end of last year's target.

"We have to start thinking about the Immigration Department as a recruiting vehicle for Canada's demographic and labour market needs ..... we are the lungs of the country," said Mr. Volpe in an interview with The Globe and Mail. "We are producing more jobs than the labour market has workers for. ..... We're desperate for immigration."

He also pledged to tackle the backlog problem and introduce a system to expedite the processing of the more than 700,000 prospective immigrants who face waits of as long as 48 months to have their applications processed in Canadian missions around the world.

Under the current process, immigrants are selected on the basis of education, French-and English-language skills, and adaptability, a recruitment system that attracts mainly highly educated people who complain their professional credentials are not accepted in Canada. Many foreign doctors and engineers say they end up working as taxi drivers and waiters — a trend confirmed by Statistics Canada, which has found that recent immigrants earn less than their Canadian-born counterparts despite higher levels of education.

Mr. Volpe does not want to scrap this selection system, but he wants to bring in more workers on temporary visas (there are about 95,000 a year) to fill positions in the trades, such as pipe fitters and truck drivers.

He plans to consult with his provincial counterparts, unions, business and immigrant-serving groups to better understand exactly what kinds of workers are needed. He envisions an expanded local and provincial role in immigrant selection.

"Every provincial minister wants more immigrants. Today in Saskatoon, they need 5,000 more people to fill new jobs. But in order for us under the current system to bring in 5,000 people, we have to bring in 15,000 (their family members) and it will take three years," Mr. Volpe said. "So we have to think about a more flexible system, a way to get in professional people and skilled people."

Mr. Volpe is also planning to introduce a new "in-Canada" application that will allow temporary workers and students to apply for landed-immigrant status once they have worked here for a certain number of months, in much the same way that live-in caregivers can apply for permanent residency after two years working as nannies.

Another priority for the Immigration Department is to process applications more quickly.

"Under the current system, we make people wait months before we even open their application. We would like to open their applications more quickly, and get them started on the process," an immigration official said. Applicants who have been accepted on a provisional basis could start language training and credential recognition overseas, while awaiting their landed papers. The department also plans to hire more staff in either missions overseas or in a centralized processing centre in Canada.

Mr. Volpe is also in favour of introducing a limited amnesty plan and granting legal status to the thousands of workers who toil in the black-market economy, particularly in Ontario's construction sector. This initiative, however, is complicated because 11 other federal agencies must sign on, including the RCMP, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the Finance and Justice departments and Human Resources Skills Development Canada.

"You have to sell them a model that everybody can live with because there are consequences for all of them," said Mr. Volpe, adding that he "totally supports" a plan to regularize the status of undocumented workers, if they pass security and background checks. An estimated 200,000 undocumented workers live in Canada.

This year's annual report will show that Canada accepted 236,000 immigrants in 2004. Of those, 57 per cent are economic immigrants, and 43 per cent are in the family class, including refugees and others granted permanent residency on humanitarian grounds. Canada is on track to accept 245,000 immigrants in 2005 -- at the high end of its target and a signal of what's to come.


what i'm watching: rock and roll circus

Have you seen The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus? This private concert film, directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg, was made for a British TV special in 1968. Besides the Stones, featuring Brian Jones at what turned out to be the very end of his life, it included The Who, John Lennon (playing in a band with Eric Clapton, Mitch Mitchell and Keith Richards), Yoko Ono, Jethro Tull, Taj Mahal and others.

After filming Circus, the Stones weren't happy with its quality, and it never aired. Naturally it became legendary, with bootleg copies popping up now and again, and clips seen in other rock movies like the Stones's "Twenty Five By Five" and The Who's "The Kids Are Alright".

Rock And Roll Circus was finally released in 1996, and now it's on DVD with some juicy extras. We saw it last night and were utterly riveted.

The music is great, the bands are exciting and the staging is wacky and original, but it's Mick who steals the show. To see Mick Jagger in 1968 is to marvel at a master. I've always been fascinated by, and in awe of, Jagger's abilities as a showman. I've seen hundreds of concerts, dozens and dozens of bands, and to me, he is The Best. I don't mean no one else thrills me, or that I don't recognize all kinds of talents when I see them. I mean that in the category of Lead Singer, Front Man, Showman, Jagger sets the standard against which all others can be measured.

In Rock And Roll Circus, you see a side of Jagger that you don't get in concert, whether live or on film. He's playing directly into the camera, and his presence is positively electric. He is powerful, emotional, always in complete control, and unbelievably hot. No, not hot, I'll use a more old-fashioned word: he is sexy. He just oozes sexuality. This movie is made of great performances, but Jagger performing "Sympathy For The Devil" is out of this world.

The DVD has a long interview with Pete Townshend about the filming of "Circus," from its origins to memories of the day itself. Townshend is wonderfully articulate, and the interview alone is worth the price of the rental. Although this morning I'm thinking we have to own this. (More on the movie here.)


Wmtc has a flurry of new readers lately. Many people seem to be finding me through the expatriate connection. Friends of wmtc who file themselves under "Expatriate Bloggers" are (in alpha order) Expat Traveler, Melusina, Nicole in London, Suitcase Jenny (I love your name!) and Traveller One. The Student Nurse is soon to become an expatriate, and I feel I should mention one of wmtc's most longtime readers, the Canadian Expatriates. Did I miss anyone? Don't be shy!

No matter how you stumbled on our little community, welcome. This blog has become, among other things, my invaluable resource for learning about Canada, Canadians and what people are thinking.

Yesterday, people were thinking about the GO trains. I'll tell you what I know, then others who know much more can fill things in. At least one transpotter reads wmtc, as well as several GTA folks who may want to add to my impressions.

According to their own website, GO Transit "is Canada's first, and Ontario's only, interregional public transit system, linking Toronto with the surrounding regions of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA)." Several train and bus lines connect Toronto-area suburbs and exurbs with downtown T.O. Here's a map of the system; train lines are in color, buses in black. All the train lines feed into Union Station.

Our line, Lakeshore, is in red, running from Hamilton in the west (Hi ALPF!) to Oshawa in the east. We're the Port Credit stop. Our house is a ten-minute walk or a two-minute drive from the station.

The GO trains are clean, fast and reliable. They're the first double-decker trains I've ever seen. (Here's a picture.) Riding isn't cheap, but the fares don't seem outrageous, at least to someone from the New York metro area. As I've noted elsewhere, payment is mostly on the honour system. Allan, who has ridden much more than me because he's been temping, has never seen a ticket check. I saw one: one morning, a GO employee was cruising through the cars asking everyone to show their tickets.

The downside, in my opinion, is the infrequency of service. We were originally looking at townhouses further out in Mississauga (look for the Meadowvale stop on the orange line). In researching the area, we naturally checked out the train schedules, to see how much commuting would cost. We were shocked to learn that the trains only operate for standard commuting hours. A few trains run inbound (from the suburbs to the downtown), say from 7:30 to 9:00 a.m., then a few trains run outbound (from downtown back to the suburbs) from around 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.. And that's it. Nothing during the day, no nights, and no weekends.

This strikes me as very poor planning. As a former (very former, a small lifetime ago) theatre administrator, I immediately thought of all the cultural organizations who are effectively cut off from a commuter audience. If you wanted to do something downtown after work, you'd have to drive in, which means dealing with traffic and paying for parking, and you'd have to plan ahead. You could never just stay in the city spontaneously, to go to a Blue Jays game or take in some music. For Allan and I, working nontraditional hours, it would be disastrous. Looking deeper into the schedules, we learned that the Lakeshore Line had service all day and on weekends, and determined that we had to live near those trains. (Long-time readers must be so friggin sick of reading that!) There were many other reasons we wanted to live in Port Credit, but the train service was a huge factor.

I think that's all I know about GO.


he gets a job

The Large Canadian Law Firm was very impressed. Allan starts training on Monday.

It's the kind of position we were hoping for: full-time hours squeezed into three long days. We've both worked that way for many years, although for a long time we had it down to two days. (We knew we wouldn't be able to do that in Toronto, because the per-hour rate wouldn't be as high.) The third day's a killer, but it's worth it to get the day-job over with all at once. Allan is submitting a book proposal soon, and three days a week will leave him lots of time to write procrastinate.

This job has decent pay and good benefits, but there are some strange hours. I always say that we were intent on living near the Lakeshore Line GO trains, because it's the only line that runs all day and on weekends, and we were sure our day-jobs would have unconventional hours. Unfortunately, Allan's hours will be so unconventional that there won't be any trains at all. He'll get out too late, the trains will have stopped running.

So he'll be driving to work after all. The firm pays for parking, and there won't be any real traffic at that hour, so I think it will be fine. But still, it's funny how you can't plan things too precisely. At the same time, it's our desire to be on the Lakeshore Line that brought us to Port Credit, and our house. Lucky, that.

Major leaf-raking this weekend, plus other household chores. No exploring planned, that's probably on hold until Allan settles in on his new job. Training days + regular hours = lots and lots of work for a while.

Have greet weekends, everybody!


first frost

This morning when I walked the dogs, the plants along the waterfront trail were covered in a layer of ice. It's still mild enough for a light jacket, but I need gloves in the morning, and today I could have used my ear muffs.

can of worms

I'm opening a sticky subject here, my need to understand causing me to throw caution to the wind. It's about Alberta. Alberta vs. the rest of the Canada.

The Globe And Mail runs something about Alberta's gripes every day, and I try to follow along. If it weren't for wmtc's resident Albertan, and the ensuing arguments in comments, I would've had no warning. It's not something Americans know about. As is, observing for more than a year, I have only the smallest of clues.

Here's what I know. Please pardon my ignorance and oversimplification, but I have to start somewhere.

The province of Alberta is rich, because it has oil.

The province of Alberta is conservative, relative to the rest of Canada. Hmm. Funny how those two go together.

Because of its great oil wealth, Alberta revenue helps fund services in the rest of Canada. (These are transfer payments?) Apparently many Albertans resent this. They want to keep Alberta's money in Alberta. They don't want the rest of Canada to have as many "social programs" (very broad term there) as it does now, or they want them to pay their own way.

I don't get this.

Canada is a country. There is oil in one place and not another. A place with high revenues from oil reserves can help balance lower revenues elsewhere. What's wrong with that? Should the provinces be treated as separate countries, and take a sink-or-swim attitude towards each other? (What is it about conservatives and "states rights"?)

It's not as if the people of Alberta are somehow more talented than the rest of the country, and have become rich off their peculiar talents. It's the geology upon which they happen to live. If I were typing this in Calgary instead of outside Toronto, how would that make a difference? Why should I keep the wealth of the land simply because I live there, rather than more equitably distribute it throughout the country?

I've caught a tremendous amount of anger from Albertans towards the rest of Canada, and talk of secession. I can't say I understand it. Once in an earlier post, I remarked, they act as if Albertans are the only people who pay taxes. I pay taxes, too. What am I missing here? Why all this anger and bitterness?

I understand that every resident of Alberta will soon receive a $400 "prosperity cheque", a piece of the great windfall in their province's coffers. To me this sounds suspiciously like the $600 tax rebate bribe W gave out when he first took office. (Along with many other Americans, we sent ours to groups trying to stem the devastation caused by the 2000 Selection.) I heard Paul Martin making noises about tax rebates, then read many letters in the Globe And Mail from taxpayers expressing the same sentiments: we don't want it. Use it.

Here's a view on those Albertan cheques. It's very funny, especially now that I understand the provincial stereotypes.

So here are my questions, folks: What's up with Alberta? Why do Albertans want to secede? Should the threat be taken seriously? What would make them happy? That is, what kind of Canada would they like to be living in?

I'm looking forward to reading your answers, from many different points of view. I ask only that you be reasonable and refrain from personal attacks. That is, no posts that begin with "Rob thinks..."


more congratulations

Congratulations to WNBA star Sheryl Swoopes on coming out as a lesbian.
Houston Comets forward Sheryl Swoopes is opening up about being a lesbian, telling a magazine that she's "tired of having to hide my feelings about the person I care about."

Swoopes, honored last month as the WNBA's Most Valuable Player, told ESPN The Magazine for a story on newsstands Wednesday that she didn't always know she was gay and fears that coming out could jeopardize her status as a role model.

"Do I think I was born this way? No," Swoopes said. "And that's probably confusing to some, because I know a lot of people believe that you are."

Swoopes, who was married and has an 8-year-old son, said her 1999 divorce "wasn't because I'm gay."

She said her reason for coming out now is merely because she wants to be honest.

"It's not something that I want to throw in people's faces. I'm just at a point in my life where I'm tired of having to pretend to be somebody I'm not," the 34-year-old Swoopes said. "I'm tired of having to hide my feelings about the person I care about. About the person I love."

A release from ESPN The Magazine about the story did not disclose the identity of Swoopes' partner.

A five-time All-Star and three-time Olympic gold medalist, Swoopes is the WNBA's only three-time MVP. She played for the Comets during their run of four championships from 1997-2000, but missed the 2001 season with a knee injury.

She said her biggest worry about her revelation is that people will be afraid to look up to her.

"I don't want that to happen," she said. "Being gay has nothing to do with the three gold medals or the three MVPs or the four championships I've won. I'm still the same person. I'm Sheryl."

Swoopes led the WNBA in scoring last year, averaging 18.6 points. She also averaged 4.3 assists and 2.65 steals while making 85 percent of her free throws and playing a league-high 37.1 minutes a game.

She said it "irritates" her that no one talks about gays playing in men's sports, but that it's become an issue in the WNBA.

"Sexuality and gender don't change anyone's performance on the court," she said. "Women play just as hard as guys do. We're just as competitive."
Hey Sheryl, it irritates me, too. Female athletes are put in a convoluted double-bind. If male athletes can't be gay because they're too manly, female athletes have to be gay because they're so manly. Or some shit like that. Many female athletes feel pressure to constantly display their femininity and heterosexuality. If they are queer, they're confirming the worst, so they'd better stay in the closet. Props to Swoopes for just being herself.

I love that she's not denying her hetero past and succumbing to the "born that way" trap. Sure, you might be born that way, and that's fine. But what if you're not? What if you just fell in love or lust, and decided to go with it - and it happened to be with someone of the same gender? You know what? That's ok, too.

Professional athletes who come out are pioneers, blazing trails for future generations. I await the first male professional athlete - in a team sport - who comes out while he's still playing. I can't wait for him to rock the world.


Congratulations to the 2005 Chicago White Sox on sweeping the Houston Astros to win the franchise's first championship in 88 years.

Red Sox in 2004 (first since 1918), White Sox in 2005 (first since 1917), and both sweeps! What are the odds? I don't believe in curses, but I do love the coincidence of all these long-suffering fans being delivered into joy in successive years.

The pressure's on the Cubs now!

a reader writes

I get email on a regular basis from Americans interested in emigrating to Canada. It seems to come in bunches - nothing for a weeks, then three or four at once. This one was particularly moving. I'm omitting some personal details and some embarrassing (though highly gratifying) praise of wmtc.
I just wanted to tell you that I'm happy to have stumbled across your blog in the course of my research. It's been very informative and has given me some hope that I'll be able to somehow get my family out of the U.S. I greatly appreciate your unapologetic tone and the way you are able to articulate the reasons for your departure. People like to talk a lot of shit about departing these shores but they can never back it up, know what I'm sayin'?

Since January of 2004 I've been looking for a way to emigrate to either NZ or Canada. After 11 months of researching NZ immigration requirements I concluded that the expense, difficulty, and distance from family would just be too much to deal with. I keep tabs on the situation to see if things could shift in our favor; however with Winston Peters being appointed the new Minister of Foreign Affairs and the weakening of the Labor Party, I'm feeling doubtful about any liberalization of the immigration process.

So Canada... . . . It's way too cold, but democracy...Hey! What a novelty! . . . I cannot yet figure out how to qualify under the skilled worker category as I don't have quite enough points and quite the right job description. My main problem is that I dropped out of university and I lose out on a lot of potential points because of that. I'm gonna keep working on it though-I may go back to school and finish my degree, making sure to include some French courses to improve my proficiency so that I can gain some more points on my application.

I've resigned myself to the fact that it is a process of two to five years, possibly longer. I just try to take things in steps, paying off [debt], saving money, finding a way to go back to school, looking for different skills I can pick up at work, learning more computer programs, etc. Just trying to keep myself from getting overwhelmed and just chipping away at things. My mother was an immigrant and I think the whole task before me scares and depresses me sometimes. We used to spend some time at the INS office, let me tell you.

When I remind myself why I need to do this the task becomes easier. We are firmly entrenched in Iraq. I believe we will eventually be instituting a draft in this country. I have a 19-year old sister who speaks, reads and writes Arabic, a 16-year old brother and a 14-year old sister and I will not let them be killed by the psychopathic criminals who comprise Bush's administration. No. If there is any way I can position myself in another country where I can harbor them for the duration of the war, I will. Their friends can come too, and I don't give a shit if I'm prosecuted for it.

I have a three-year old son. If it's not this war it will be another war and then another war...Syria, Iran, who knows where. Do you know what I mean? I cannot even say these things to other Americans-the citizens of this country are just delusional at this point. I cannot even bear the thought of such things coming to pass, yet I fear they might. Cheney and his bullshit..."decades of war"...well, I had a crying jag over that one. Insane.

My father served eight years in Vietnam. He thought he was going to be drafted so he went voluntarily in order to have a choice and not be put into ground combat. I can say from personal experience that war has effects that last a lifetime. The people who are sending the troops to die don't care. To them, other people's children are disposable objects.

. .. I simply cannot find a way to do that and provide an adequate upbringing for my son. And so, I need to remove myself from the equation completely and take my education, skills and child elsewhere. No matter how long it takes.

Thanks for providing a good example for working class people-people who aren't lawyers, IT professionals, academics or corporate managers, people who don't have equity from the sale of their homes because we could never own homes in a million years, people who don't have tons of savings or immigration lawyers, but who DO have a conscience. . .
Pretty amazing, huh? Here's an excerpt from her second email, after I wrote back.
You know, what I wrote yesterday was only one aspect of why I want to emigrate. There is also the issue of healthcare, which I currently have but could easily lose, the affordability of university education for my son, and also what I perceive as being more of an acceptance of multiculturalism. My family is multiethnic and this is an important issue for us. The United States is a racist country. I have dealt with that fact for three decades and I'm done with it. I am just done with it. I realize that Canada is not perfect and that all of these things are subject to change but I don't think it will ever be quite like the U.S. And that's good.
You know, the one thing these emails all have in common is the expression "You've given me hope". "Your blog gives me hope." Interesting how in the GNOTFOTE, so many people need hope - that they can get out.

comment gems

At my recent post about waiting for health care, Evan posted this excellent comment:
. . . BC also has an approximately 3 month waiting period: New residents or persons re-establishing residence in B.C. are eligible for coverage after completing a waiting period that normally consists of the balance of the month of arrival plus two months. For example, if an eligible person arrives during the month of July, coverage is available October 1. If absences from Canada exceed a total of 30 days during the waiting period, eligibility for coverage may be affected.

As another American transplanted to Canada I am in awe of the Canadian health system. The fact that it gets the job done with less government funding is also incredible.

It's not perfect. Waiting times can be a problem for non-life-threatening conditions (my wife has waited 10 months and will probably wait another 4-8 for a knee operation). But one of my blue-collar neighbors recently had a massive heart problem and was in ICU for about 4 weeks. He's home now. He's alive, although he may never work as a carpenter again, and he's not going to lose everything he owns to medical bills. I'll endure wait times for that kind of tradeoff.

The American system is as it is for the benefit of politicians and health care companies, not for the benefit of the American people. It's going to stay that way until the American people decide it's got the change and make it a priority. You'd think that 50 million people (is it up to 50? I usually hear 40) would make it a priority and start telling their congresscritters that their vote is dependent upon healthcare reform, but apparently wasting money in Iraq is more important. :-(
It's hard for me to imagine the American people making national health insurance a priority and electing leadership who will make it a reality. The people who would benefit from such a system are so divided, and so rarely see their common interests. (Cross-reference recent remarks about ignorant Americans voting against their economic interests.)

It's so easy for a politician with a stake in the insurance industry to wave the spectre of "free choice" and "big government" (i.e., socialism), not to mention the death-knell: taxes. And who is willing to take on the insurance companies? The last attempt we saw at national health insurance, a la Clinton, was pre-approved by Big Insurance, not exactly a recipe for lowering costs and extending care.

But hey. Just because I can't imagine something happening doesn't mean it can't or won't. It may only mean I lack imagination.

In yesterday's progress report, Tijo directed me to this blog - another American living in Canada - and the blogger's one-year update. Here are some highlights:
It's nice to have a healthplan that lets me choose any doctor I want at a net increase in taxes significantly less than what I would have paid for equivalent healthcare in the US. It's sad to listen to so many foolhardy Americans defending a freedom of choice healthcare system which was in truth driven to extinction over a decade ago by insurance companies seeking to slice a profit out of already expensive medical care. Sure the Canadian system has its own problems, but if you want to know what those problems are, ask any Canadian, not an American.

. . .

Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and pretty close to true ethnic equal opportunity are nice concepts as well. Americans who are into that kind of thing should give them a try, rather than pretending they already have them.
For someone I know is reading, he also mentions "near blanket wifi coverage - if there's no network where you're sitting, walk half a block and you'll find one." OK, now you have to move to Canada!

The rest of the post is great, too, and really well written. Looks like an interesting site.


progress report

Life here in Port Credit continues to feel more like real life, and less like some strange role-play game. It's remarkably easy to adjust to more comfort and more convenience: the house, the car, the washer-dryer, the dishwasher.

Allan has been temping three or four days each week at a downtown law firm. They are - of course - wowed by his performance. Yesterday he had a second interview for a permanent position of the kind we're hoping for him - three long days with odd hours. This spot would be Friday, Saturday and Sunday, about 2 pm to 1 am. It's at one of the biggest Canadian firms, so the job comes with good benefits, like dental and prescription coverage (Americans may not realize those are not covered under the provincial health plans), a transportation allowance, and a fair amount of paid time off. We're waiting to see if they make him an offer.

My second Ancient Civilizations book assignment still hasn't started - it was supposed to begin in early or mid September! But my editor assures me the book is mine, and that's all that matters. I've started to write my next Kids On Wheels assignment, and hope to get that out of the way before the grueling book deadlines begin.

I'm purposely keeping my KOW work light this issue, to leave maximum time for Ancient Civs. At some point I'll be writing a substantial chunk of the KOW magazine. It doesn't pay well (although the publishers are very fair, and pay me as best as they can), but I love it and love being part of the project. Here's my big perk.

kow card

That's sarcasm, by the way. The title doesn't mean anything.

A dogsitter came over yesterday, and I think she's going to work out excellently. Introducing Buster to a new person is a time-consuming (and expensive) process. Sometimes I feel discouraged at the amount of effort involved, I wish he were a normal dog. But on the positive side, which is the far greater share, an excellent trainer taught us how to acclimate Buster to a new care-person in progressive steps. The method is logical, safe and works every time. It's even worked with a dogwalker who was a little afraid of Buster and not very good at following our direction, so when conditions are better, it's virtually guaranteed.

The woman who came over yesterday is heavily involved in animal rescue, so she's very familiar with dealing with frightened or anxious animals, plus she has a dog of her own with behavioral issues. (Of course, her dog weighs 10 pounds, and Buster weighs 60, but the principles are the same.) She enjoys petsitting while her partner takes care of their animals, and she lives not far from us. She's coming over again today. I'm very optimistic that we'll be able to go away without the pups.

The house is pretty much finished. The only things that aren't done: nothing on the walls yet, nothing on the living and dining room windows, no knick-knacks anywhere (which I'm kind of liking) and a few long-term projects that I'll do when I'm motivated and have money, all cosmetic, nothing necessary.

We had a hell of time establishing good internet access in Allan's basement lair, but we think we've finally found the right equipment and settings. Here's hoping, because we both want his laptop off the dining room table.

That's the ground-level view. From the stratosphere, I love not being in the United States. I love being in Canada. It's better here.


2,000 US men and women have now died in Iraq.

From United for Peace And Justice:
We grieve for these two thousand men and women, killed in the prime of their lives, for a war based on lies, and we grieve for the tens of thousands of Iraqis who have also died in the chaos and carnage the Bush Administration has brought to their country.

It's time to bring the troops home -- now. Not one more U.S. serviceperson should give his or her life to this senseless war. Not one more Iraqi should be killed. Not one more U.S. dollar should be spent sustaining this war and occupation.

All around the country, people will gather tomorrow, Wednesday, October 26, to honor the dead and call for the troops to come home. We urge you to join one of these events -- or organize one in your community if none has yet been planned.

UFPJ is supporting the call made by UFPJ member groups -- American Friends Service Committee, Gold Star Families for Peace and Military Families Speak Out -- for these actions.
For a list of the more than 400 events being planned, or to list your own event, go to the American Friends Service Committee's Wage Peace Campaign.



Recently I was contacted by someone who wants to reprint my Roe v. Wade essay from Common Dreams. It's an educational publisher that compiles writing on specific Supreme Court decisions, for study in schools. I was very flattered to be included.

The publishers sent me a permissions agreement, which looked acceptable, meaning they weren't asking for anything ridiculous like exclusive rights or a copyright transfer. Under "payment", there were two checkboxes - "gratis", and "fee"; under "fee" there was a blank for an amount.

The man who emailed me hadn't mentioned a fee. Mind you, they aren't asking to use the essay on a website which the public accesses for free. It's for a hardcover book, published by a for-profit company.

I thanked him, told him I was flattered, and asked about payment. Guess what? There is a fee - for those who ask. No one ever would have mentioned money if I hadn't.

Lesson #1: Always ask for money.

Lesson #2: Always ask for more money. The worst they can do is say no.

Lesson #3: Your time and your work is valuable. In our society, value can be measured in several ways, but only one of them will pay your rent.

Lesson #4: Businesses are always trying to cut costs. One cost that's historically easy to trim is writer's fees, since there are so many writers, many desperate for work, and many undervaluing their worth.*

Thank you, thank you, thank you, National Writers Union. I learned so much, and those lessons continue to serve me well.

* If anyone questions why writers should be paid for re-use of their work - after all, we're all blogging for free, right? - ask yourself how much of your job you'd be willing to donate to your employer without compensation. If you still have questions, ask me and I'll try to explain.

the wait

Yesterday it was announced that provincial health ministries will have set wait-times benchmarks for five health conditions by the December 31st deadline.
Health ministers from across the country say they will establish by a December deadline the first targets for how long people must wait to be treated for such ailments as cancer and joint replacements. But it was unclear how extensive the list will be and how much it will help patients.

"How many [benchmarks] there are will depend on the evidence in a number of areas that we have," federal Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh said yesterday after a weekend meeting with his provincial and territorial counterparts.

"If you ask me if we'll have 20 benchmarks in the area of cancer, I will tell you no, from what I know now, because it is a very sophisticated, complex area," he said. "But we will have some benchmarks in all areas."

Provincial and territorial ministers committed in a health accord signed last year to establish scientifically based benchmarks for waiting times in five treatment areas -- cancer care, heart treatment, diagnostic imaging, sight restoration and joint replacement -- by Dec. 31. In return, the federal government agreed to give them an extra $41-billion over 10 years.
The waiting benchmark is a complex idea, and I'll be interested to see how it plays out. But I mention it for a specific reason. I've mentioned before that US media coverage of the Canadian health care system is uniformly negative. I'm not just talking about right-wingnuts. Even in moderate venues like The New York Times or Time magazine, articles about Canada's system always have a negative slant. Is it any wonder, then, that most Americans have a distorted view of the system, based on myths and lies?

Every American I've ever spoken to, except those who have researched the Canadian system on their own, believe Canadians wait dangerously long times for treatment and that anyone with any money travels to the US for health care. If I press for a source, it's a vague "I've heard...". They've heard. Yeah.

If the Canadian health care system was as bad as the American media reports, Canada would have shockingly high rates of untreated diabetes, heart disease and cancer, and millions of Canadians would be dropping dead while they waited for treatment. Somehow I think we'd hear about that.

Now, it would take an awful lot to convince me that a national single-payer system, no matter how problematic in reality, could ever be worse than the crazy non-system in the US. As Allan likes to say, there are 50 million Americans who would love to be waiting for an operation! (That is, the uninsured.) That number doesn't count the underinsured, and everyone who can't leave their dead-end jobs because they would lose their coverage, and all the folks paying increasingly gigantic amounts of their salary for insurance.

Suffice to say that I do not need convincing.

However, I understand there are problems - mainly caused, according to my progressive Canadian friends, by funding cutbacks that are now being restored. I've had uniformly good reports from wmtc readers, except for the serious shortage of doctors, especially in Ontario, and especially in the GTA. In another month, Allan and I will qualify for Ontario Health (Ontario being the only province without immediate coverage; there's a 90-day waiting period). Naturally I'm extremely curious to see how the system works in reality.

The recent focus on waiting benchmarks cuts to the heart of the most popular American myth about the Canadian system. On the Ontario Health website, there's a big section on wait times, including a page on wait time myths, and what is being done.

Part of me (the immature part!) feels like tracking down all the nut-jobs who've left comments here warning me that if I ever get sick, I'll die waiting for treatment, unless I come running back to TGNOTFOTE.

rosa parks

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Rosa Parks, 1913-2005

Parks was already living the movement when she was tapped for her pivotal role. She was chosen for her courage, her commitment to the cause, her unblemished reputation (very important for movement strategy!) and her unflappable poise.

For the complete story behind Parks's courageous act of defiance - and for an in-depth history of the American civil rights movement - I highly recommend Taylor Branch's Parting The Waters.


halloween question

We're being good Halloween hosts this year.

In New York, we pretended we weren't home. Yup, we were mean old cranks. We just couldn't stand dealing with our neighbours and their kids and our barking dogs.

But now, being in a house, feeling so friendly and upbeat, I'm going all the way. Putting up decorations on the front door and steps, keeping a big supply of candy at the ready - and answering the door in costume! I'm thinking I'll get a rubber mask, that's always good for a startle. I'm not going to be Dick Cheney or anything, don't want to give anyone a massive coronary, but someone suitably gross.

My question is, is there charity attached to Trick Or Treat here? I know there's Trick Or Treat because I see all the stuff in the supermarket. But do kids also collect coins for charity? When I was a kid, the schools gave out these little orange cardboard Unicef boxes, and most houses put in a penny or two along with your candy. I remember my mom buying rolls of pennies.

No wonder my Halloween memories stand out: it was the only time all year we were allowed to eat candy. My parents were early health food types. Sugar was regarded as only slightly more nutritious than strychnine.

So, should we stock up on nickels or dimes along with the individual candies?

one was too much for me, too

Cindy Sheehan addresses us.

Before you start reading, grab a box of tissues.


On Friday, Marnie and I had a lovely walk through Mt. Pleasant Cemetery.

You may recall that I did a cemetery walk shortly before I left New York, touring a historic cemetery that I had once lived near, but never visited. I also enjoyed Marnie's post about her Mt. Pleasant visit, so this seemed like a good fit.

Mt. Pleasant is an absolutely beautiful park. Like many old manicured cemeteries, it also serves as an arboretum and sculpture garden. There were incredible old trees in blazing fall colors, and an immense weeping willow that had us gaping. Many famous people are buried in Mt. Pleasant, among them Mackenzie King (whose grave we noticed early on), Frederick Banting and Charles Best, the discovers of insulin, Jennie Smillie-Robinson, Canada's first female surgeon, and pianist Glenn Gould.

We paid our respects to victims of a 1970 plane crash, and got choked up in the children's garden. Is there anything sadder than seeing a grave with a cradle and little toys pictured on it? On the other side of the spectrum, we scoffed at the miniature Greek temples that the scions of Canadian business and industry had built to house their remains, complete with stained glass and Persian rugs. There are some nice photos of the cemetery here.

After we had lunch on Yonge Street, I had my first GO train screw-up. It was bound to happen, but it left us with at least an hour to kill. Note to self: don't just "remember" the train schedule. Write. It. Down.

Fortunately, Marnie had a great idea for a nearby time-killer: we visited CBC headquarters. There's a little museum, where you can hear snippets of famous CBC broadcasts, plus a screening room where there's always something on. And what was on as we wandered in? James, take note: The Frantics! My first exposure to the legend. As this Canadian comedy troupe has been mentioned dozens of times on wmtc, we were all kinds of pleased at the serendipity. (James, I still haven't seen those cows yet, but we didn't have time!)

We had to hightail it back to Union Station in order to get the second half of my GO train screw-up and wait yet another half-hour. I wouldn't care at all, I was having a great day, but I'm overly concerned with Buster's needs, as he's still taking a small dose of prednisone.

Other than the infrequency of service, I really like the GO trains. They are clean, comfortable, reliable (so far) and the trip from Port Credit is wonderfully short. So far the Toronto subway has been good, too - clean, fairly frequent and self-explanatory. At the risk of exposing my inner New York snob, it's a tiny system compared to the MTA, so very easy to manage.


what i'm watching: netflix vs. zip

With the very end of baseball fast approaching, Movie Season is about to begin. We had already joined a local video store - autumn training? - but now we've plunged into Zip.ca, the Canadian version of Netflix. We joined this morning, rebuilding our old Netflix Queue as a ZipList.

If you've been reading wmtc for a while, you know I lived and died by Netflix, and nothing else will do. Local movie-rental stores are nice, but they never have enough selection, you have to make a special trip there, and if you don't get around to watching the movie, you're paying late fees. Movies-on-demand favor the blockbusters, plus a small sample of independents, even more limited than a corner store. In Netflix I found movie nirvana: massive selection, unlimited rentals, no due dates, and I can control it all from my desk while I have my morning coffee.

I was horrified when Netflix cancelled its plans to expand into Canada. The selection at Zip seems almost as good; we'll see if their service is, too.

We watch a lot of movies. Where I used to be out most evenings, either hearing music, seeing theatre, doing activism or volunteering, or out to dinner with friends, in recent years I'm more likely to be home at night than anything else. And quite happy about it.


The World Series starts today, with the Chicago White Sox meeting the Houston Astros. I watched very little of the playoffs, for the first time in a good 20 years, but Allan and I are both back on board for the October Classic.

I generally can't watch a series without some sort of rooting interest, and this one's an easy choice.

The White Sox are an original American League team, born in 1901. (The Astros are a relatively young team, born the same year as me.)

I am one of the few people who likes the new Comiskey Park (now called by a corporate name, but Comiskey to me). I thoroughly enjoyed the ballpark experience there, full of quirks and odd traditions. Plus, Mariano Rivera signed my cap there. Say no more.

They wear pinstripes. And even though I've traded my pinstripes for citizenship in the Nation, I cheered for pinstripes for about 30 years. They're imprinted in my heart.

They are the team of the great Bill Veeck (rhymes with wreck), one of the most creative (and strangest) team owners in baseball history, and the first person to sign an African-American player to an American League team (Larry Doby, Cleveland, 1947).

The White Sox haven't won a World Series since 1917. Standard longest-championship-drought cliches always focused on the Red Sox (1918... 2004) and the Cubs (1908). The White Sox were the forgotten losers. They haven't even been in a World Series since 1959.

The White Sox's manager and general manager are both people of color, in a game in which management is still too uniformly white.

So that's enough for me. But come on, they're playing a team from Texas! This makes it a total no-brainer. Let's see, Chicago vs. Houston...

Chicago: blues
Houston: anyone ever hear of any Houston music? Whitney?

Chicago: north of the Mason-Dixon line, a place of freedom
Texas: slave state, stolen from Mexico

Chicago: deep-dish pizza, soul food, world famous restaurants
Houston: yeah, right

Chicago: ER, Chicago Hope, many other good TV shows set in this great city
Houston: the closest I could come was Dallas

Chicago: Louis Sullivan and the birthplace of the skyscraper
Houston: ugly faceless oil headquarters

Texas: executions
Illinois: exonerations

Texas: George W. Bush
Illinois: anyone else

Houston: First World Series ever (first pennant in their history!), and no one should win their first time out. (Curse those Diamondbacks! I'll never get over it.)
Chicago: It's about time. Let's see all those drought stories rewritten - first Boston, now the White Sox, and next the Cubs.

This promises to be a great series, with awesome pitching on both sides. First pitch, 7:50 p.m.

crime, worse

A few days ago, a Rwandan-born man living in Toronto became the first person to be arrested under Canada's Crimes Against Humanities Law. Under this law, passed in 2000, if there is enough evidence that someone has committed war crimes or crimes against humanity, the RCMP can arrest him, no matter where those crimes are alleged to have been committed, and no matter how long ago.

This is a big step in the history of justice. With this law, Canada sets an example to the world.

Desire Munyaneza, the Toronto man who was arrested, is accused of helping to orchestrate the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

For me, one of the most striking parts of this story was seeing a man who helped identify Munyaneza, which led to the five-year investigation, which in turn led to his arrest. Jean-Paul Nyilinkwaya is a survivor of the Rwandan genocide; he lost about 70 family members. In 2000, living in Toronto (he now lives in Montreal), Nyilinkwaya would see Munyaneza going about his business - taking the subway, going to his job, living his life. Can we even imagine how that must feel? It's a wonder Nyilinkwaya didn't murder Munyaneza on the spot. But he didn't - and there was a system of justice in place to help him do the right thing.

All about the Rwandan genocide here.



If crime is disproportionately low in Canada, fame is disproportionately high. It seems every day I learn some famous person is Canadian.

Through this blog, I learned that William Shatner is Canadian! Amazing that I didn't know that, as I really like the original Star Trek series. (Although I'm not a Sci Fi or Star Trek aficionado by any means, so I've never read a word about the show.) I recently learned that Bruce McCall, whose work I enjoy so much in The New Yorker, is Canadian. Diana Krall, Jane Siberry and Marshall McLuhan are others I recently found out about.

Usually Allan can't believe I didn't know that the person is from Canada. Jane Siberry, for example, inspired "Where were you in college radio during the mid-80s?" Funny, since Allan was a college radio DJ in the mid-80s and introduced me to a ton of music. Well, I still didn't know. And even Allan was surprised about William Shatner.

Everyone knows that Canadians collect famous Canadians. There are websites galore listing them, and if some names stretch the limits of the word "famous," well, at least their hearts are in the right place.

For some wmtc readers' Famous Canadians Lists, see comments in yesterday's non-post.

Two questions.

Anyone know Canadian Paul Shaffer's original name? Look it up!

Is Canuck a derogatory term? Or is it a friendly or neutral nickname, like Kiwi or Brit?

I won't be around in comments today, I'm going exploring with Marnie! Looks like we have a gorgeous autumn day for it. Talk to you all later.


A big news story when we first got here was a rash of gun-related deaths in Toronto, mostly attributable to gang violence. By September, there had been 37. Last year Toronto hit an all-time high of deaths by guns: 50.

To our American ears, this number sounds almost like zero.

I don't want to minimize 50 deaths. Those are fifty people who could still be alive, fifty people whose families mourn them. And the fact that a city wants to reduce gun-related deaths is only a good thing.

But still, to our American ears, that number is miniscule.

The population of Toronto is 2.5 million, with another 2.5 million living in the Greater Toronto Area, for a total of 5 million.

The population of New York City is 8 million. The equivalent number of gun deaths in New York, based on relative population, would be 80. The Mayor who presided over that year could just about set him or herself up for life.

Also - and I'm not sure how this figures in - the population of Canada being so much smaller than that of the US, the percentage of Canadians living in the GTA is much, much higher than the percentage of Americans living in New York.

In comments here, James linked to some crime statistics from the Globe And Mail, via No More Mister Nice Blog. NMMNB notes:
The worst metro area in Canada -- the murder capital, the place decent people fear to go -- has a lower murder rate than the U.S. as a whole. Our murder rate is 5.5. per 100,000 population.

4.89? That's nothing. Several metropolitan areas in America (at least as of 2002) had murder rates over 10 per 100,000: Los Angeles-Long Beach; Detroit; Baltimore; Little Rock-North Little Rock; Baton Rouge; Gary, Indiana; Mobile, Alabama; Richmond-Petersburg, Virginia; and Stockton-Lodi, California. The rate in Memphis? Over 15. In, er, New Orleans? 24.4.

Also over 10 per 100,000: Jackson, Mississippi; Savannah, Georgia; Shreveport-Bossier City, Louisiana; and Fayetteville, North Carolina. Oh, and: Hattiesburg, Mississippi; Alexandria, Louisiana; and (over 15) Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and Victoria, Texas. [source links available on that site]
James noticed the disproportionate number of murders in Winnipeg, relative to its very small population. Lone Primate noted the very small sample size, and how easily numbers that small become distorted, which is true. But Kyle pointed out that crime in Winnipeg is disproportionate to its population, that the province has high levels of poverty and crime relative to Canada. (See his comment for a Wikipedia entry about this).

Yesterday Canada's new Governor General visited an inner city school there, talked with students, listened to them, hung out with them. Having worked with inner-city kids, I know what a visit like that means to them - this beautiful, accomplished, dark-skinned woman, once a refugee herself, now in a position of great status, paying attention to them, showing them possibilities. I can tell you, on an individual level, it means a lot. To hear Michaelle Jean, it might mean something on a policy level, too.

That, I don't know. I just really like her, and I dig the idea of the Queen's representative in Canada being a brown woman, a former journalist, a student of literature, and someone who has worked in the movement against violence against women. I loved that she started her Canadian tour in Manitoba, the geographic center of Canada, and was so up-close and personal with the people there.

Getting back to crime, I didn't have any big conclusion to draw - just that there is very little here, relative to the United States.


day off

I need a day off from blogging. Have a good day, see you tomorrow (and in comments).


flags encore

My recent post on the US and Canada's flags inspired some terrific comments. You can read them here.


In the US, especially for the last four years, the Stars and Stripes flies everywhere. I hated it.

In Canada, the Maple Leaf flies everywhere. I like it.

This is so different for me. I've been rejecting the US flag one way or another for most of my adult life - refusing to stand for the national anthem, turning flag postage stamps upside down, any little symbolic act that subverts the powerful symbol.

Here, I look at the Maple Leaf, and I smile inside. At the very least, I'm neutral.

Why do the two flags evoke such different responses for me?

When I mentioned this to Allan, he said he's been thinking about the same thing. For him, he said, the bad feelings about the US flag stem from who flies it. He imagines the flag-fliers are right-wing, war-happy, love-it-or-leave-it types, the folks listening to Bill O'Reilly and boycotting France. The working-class Americans ignorant enough to think the Republicans are on their side.

It's a stereotype, of course, but it's one that bears out more often than not.

For me, it's what the flag itself means to me. A flag is a symbol. And right now, the American flag symbolizes war and empire. Greed and unchecked capitalism. Arrogance and belligerence. And rampant hypocrisy, since we're told the Stars and Stripes symbolizes freedom and democracy, and both are in such short supply.

The Maple Leaf, by contrast, seems so benign. So understated. It beckons to me: Live a good life. Live a quieter life. We don't have all the answers, we're just trying to do the best we can in an imperfect world. Join us and we'll work on it together.


port credit in autumn

I took a long walk through our neighbourhood yesterday afternoon. Here's some of what I saw.

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This neighbourhood is full of huge new "McMansions",
but I prefer the smaller, older homes.

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what i'm watching: life, the movie - updated!!

Anyone see The Daily Show last night? Jon Stewart was covering W's little chat with the troops. You know, the "impromptu" talk for which the Department of Defense rehearsed the soldiers? They really ought to run that teleprompter faster; W sounded like such an idiot. (See here.) Even in a scripted event, he still can't get it together to speak in coherent sentences. Scary.

Anyway, after Stewart finished, Rob Corddry did a brilliant bit of post-modern brain-teasing, reviewing the hit TV series called "The White House". Move over, Geena Davis, this fall - a man will... still... be president. Remember that great scene in Season 3, where the President, called "George W. Bush", a competitive, born-again, ex-alcoholic with a Texas twang and a chip on his shoulder, landed a fighter plane on the deck of an aircraft carrier and shouted "Mission Accomplished"? Wasn't that great?? Corddry tells us fans of this smash TV show are called "Whiteys".

This was a great piece. If you missed it, keep checking The Daily Show website for Corddry videos; it'll be called something like "White House, The Series".

Corddry's advice to the producers? Bring back Osama. The guy disappears in Season 1 and they never wrap up the story line.

* * * *

Melusina told me the full video is posted at Crooks and Liars: click here and choose your version. Thanks Mel!


An anonymous (of course) commenter chastised me for not blogging about the Iraqi constitution, as if I'm some kind of international news service, or as if somehow the existence of that piece of paper should change my opinion about anything.

One story I have been following with great interest is the teachers' strike in British Columbia. I'm thrilled to see the teachers standing together in support of their right to collective bargaining, despite court orders and whatever else the government can throw at them. The strike is technically "illegal" - because the provincial legislature passed a new law declaring it so.

I've read some letters in the Globe And Mail whining about "what message does it send the children when teachers break the law?" - and some terrific letters in response, reminding us that there are many kinds of lessons. If our highest value is obedience to the law, we'll need to remove some heroic names from our history books: Gandhi, King, Mandela, Tubman, Chavez, to name a few. Laws, after all, are made by humans. They are often unjust.

There are other lessons, too - about justice, solidarity, and the value of work. And about hypocrisy. Do we really value education, or just pay lip-service to that ideal?

Yesterday on "The National," we saw footage of a tremendous rally and sympathy strike; thousands of BC unionized workers walked off their jobs to attend. That's the power of a unionized work force.

A young male teacher said, "I've never been a part of anything this big before." That feeling - of being a part of something larger and more important than oneself - is incredible. Fighting for something side by side with people all striving for the same goal is a rare joy.

I wish there was something I could from here to support the striking teachers; I'm at least due for a letter to the editor.



I was just answering a question in comments, when I realized I might as well make it a post. Sassycat asked:
PS: have you had trouble converting temperatures/ measurements/currency yet? I know when I moved south of the border, it messed me up a lot ("what the hell is a yard?").
I'm trying to go cold-turkey - to not convert, but to think in metric. Litres and metres are easy. Centimetres and millilitres, not so much. I don't know them at all.

Kilometres are easy, especially if you don't convert, just drive. Kilometres per hour is even easier, once you're driving a Canadian car with the KpH more prominent in the dashboard.

Celsius is still tough! Every morning I look at the local weather, then try to associate how it feels outside with the number. I often go to my convert anything to anything link to see the Fahrenheit equivalent.

And these Canadian spellings are still killing me. Did I get them all?

* * * *

Lone Primate's comment below made me think of a few more. Like grams! Ordering deli at the Loblaws was tricky at first - we had to ask the counterperson how to order. But now I have it. 500 grams is the rough equivalent of a pound, in deli terms.

Yesterday we wondered about the word "mileage". You put mileage on a car, figure out the mileage from one place to the next. So what do you say, kilometrage? Just plain distance? Or do you use mileage, the way we say "dial a phone," even though phones don't have dials anymore?

we drive (slightly) north

Yesterday, after presents, we bought a map of Ontario (which we needed anyway), drove around the corner and kept driving. It's kind of funny - the main north-south street near us is Hurontario, or Highway 10, which stretches from Lake Ontario to Georgian Bay.

We were wondering how far we'd have to drive before the suburban sprawl and fast-food chains disappeared. Mississauga bleeds into Brampton, which has a pretty stretch of original town on Hurontario, but looks poised to be overwhelmed by sprawl. (We looked at houses in Brampton last year, and you could practically see the open space being devoured by townhouse developments in front of your eyes.) But slightly north of Brampton, the development thins out and you're in rural country.

We found a roadside diner, our favorite kind of place when driving around. Eating at a joint like that, you could be anywhere. Rural people look the same everywhere in North America, only the accents change.

Further on, we poked around the town of Orangeville, which has preserved its little main street apart from the development near the highway. I love little towns with main streets - the old church, the original town hall now used for something else, the storefronts. I noticed this town's library was originally a Carnegie library. I didn't know they were in Canada.

At Orangeville we turned back. We stopped at a roadside pumpkin and fruit stand to pick up some autumn colors for the house. We also stopped at a provincial park called Forks of the Credit. That's the Credit River, from which our town of Port Credit gets its name, because the river empties into Lake Ontario here.

The parking lot was nearly full, and there were a lot of people setting out on trails with cameras, which was nice to see. We only took a short walk - it was getting late to keep the dogs waiting, and we weren't really dressed for a serious hike. But it was great to see where nice country hiking spots are, a relatively short drive away. I noticed several provincial parks on the map in this general area. These are good places to take the dogs and spend the day out when we're not exploring.

The autumn colours were beautiful, but muted, not the brilliant, knock-out colours you sometimes see. I don't know if that's the variety of tree or this particular autumn, because the strength of the colours does vary from year to year. (I had to go back and add all those us.) But it was terrific to be out in the country, to feel the sky and space all around us, and to know this is only a short drive away.

I don't have a lot of foliage photos, I didn't know folks would be asking for them! But here's a little taste of our day.

P.S.: a big thank you to James for suggesting this little jaunt and heading us in the right direction.

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another new friend

I knew I'd forget somebody. Also new to my blogroll:

Expat Travels: From Switzerland to Canada, a traveling, hiking, photographing Canadian with a cool blog. (Sorry to have omitted you earlier, Expat Traveler!)

If I've forgotten you, too, please don't be shy. Email me so I can add you to my blogroll. Why not. Links are good.

we take a drive

Alternative title: Happy Birthday Allan!

It's Redsock's birthday today. Sadly, I could not arrange a repeat of last year's birthday present, but I do have some cool consolation prizes.

In comments here, James suggested we take a fall foliage drive in the country, and Marnie reminded me that the window of opportunity would soon be closing. My Canadian geography still being dismal, I thought we'd have to drive way far away to be "out in the country," but apparently not. And, to my happy surprise, Allan said he'd been wondering what is just north of us, and where we might see some small towns and pretty country roads.

So instead of a birthday dinner, we're doing a birthday drive. Sans chiens, I'm afraid. They'll have a nice walk before we leave, but leaving them home gives us more freedom. That's how it is when you have a mentally ill dog.

I've been taking advantage of this lovely autumnal weather, knowing how short-lived it usually is. Yesterday we raked leaves for a couple of hours, which I am still enjoying, and at night we walked by the lake. An almost-full moon was shining a bright ribbon of light on the water. It was beautiful. Every day I feel lucky to be here. I mean that in every sense.


what i'm watching: the national

Since the CBC is back, I've been watching "The National" every night (or every night that I remember to - trying to get into a new habit).

For those of you who don't watch CBC, The National is an hour-long nightly news show. I love it. First, it's a pleasure to watch a full hour of visual news with minimal commercial interruption. I really like the in-depth features on various aspects of Canadian life. The reporting on the US is edged with a heavy dose of skepticism, which of course I appreciate. In general, I actually feel like I'm learning something.

On last night's broadcast, there were excerpts from a "Mansbridge One On One" interview with Don Cherry. Since we've been talking about Mr Cherry (here and here), I had to watch. I must say, Cherry looked like an idiot next to Mansbridge, and not because Mansbridge was playing the interview that way. Cherry just sounded ridiculous, defending fighting in hockey, declaring that "whatever the fans want" is how the game should be played. (A sure-fire way to ruin a game!)

After Cherry declared that all hockey fans love fights, Mansbridge sought to soften the statement into "most fans". Cherry wouldn't concede the point, insisting that all hockey fans want to see a lot of fighting. Of course, whenever you say "all" instead of "most," you're setting yourself up to be wrong.

I don't pretend to know a thing about hockey, but Cherry sounded exactly like the blustery, idiotic baseball announcers that ruin ESPN and FOX broadcasts on a regular basis. No wonder he needs the jackets and the loud mouth. If he didn't make himself into a show, someone might peek behind the curtain.

Before we left New York, a friend gave us this assignment: Answer the question, why is it called "The National"? I have no idea.

watch this

Mitch, wmtc's resident surfer, stopped by to give me this really cool link.

The main site, Canada4Life.Ca is a bit over-the-top for my tastes - too much flag-waving of the US variety. But hey, at least when a Canadian says, "This is the greatest country in the world," he has a leg to stand on.

Anyway, the video is great. Although I've never noticed that greenbacks smell.


new friends

This blog has been turning up in many places lately, so I've added several sites to the wmtc blogroll. You might enjoy checking them out.

I may have highlighted some of these before, but I'd rather hit one twice than leave anyone out.

Canadian Gourdess, a/k/a Kyahgirl, a Perfumista.

Lucious. Nope. Elin has changed the name to Filoli.

Mel's Diner, a Tennessee grrl in Greece. Check out the cool banner.

Now THAT'S Amateur, written by a former Olympic athlete.

Nicole In London, another expatriate.

Peregrinato, and I'll highlight this post, for ego-stroking reasons.

Rududu on the road, a traveler who pops up here now and again.

'77 Track 7, blog-friend James in his book-reading guise.

The Gazetteer, a lefty from Vancouver.

This Space For Rent, who has changed the name of this blog to past tense.

Urban Chick, a woman after my own heart.

Wrytings, Too, wmtc's own Wrye.

You Are Here, our own Marnie, whose blog is newly unveiled. (Still waiting to see a post about our walk. No pressure or anything.)

jibjab alert

Remember JibJab, the team who brought us those terrific US election parodies? They've taken on Wal-Mart. Click, watch and spread the word!

what i'm reading: robertson davies

I finished Fifth Business, the first book in Robertson Davies's Deptford Trilogy, and am starting the second, The Manticore.

The first book was brilliant. It's very difficult to describe, as it weaves together so many themes - religion, myth, vengeance, the complexity of human motivations, love in all its many guises. It's also a mystery, in the sense that a novel can be full of surprises and reveal itself only to the patient reader. The device that joins the first and second novels is as elegant a bit of writing as I've ever seen.

I recommend these books to everyone who appreciates good writing and great novels. I'm thrilled to have finally discovered Davies, and will be devouring many of his works over the months and years ahead.

i go forth

Yesterday I went to the Toronto neighbourhood known as the Danforth. I took the GO train into the city, then got the subway at Union Station.

It was my first time on the subway since we got here. We rode the subway on our first trip to Toronto, though only for a few stops, from our hotel to Skydome. This was a more substantial trip, with a switch between lines. I felt like I live here. (Oh wait, I do live here.) Also, I love public transportation, and like to ride subways anywhere I am.

What is up with those tokens? They are tiny, lightweight little coins, easily confused with dimes. Note to self: keep subway tokens separate!

I was very pleasantly surprised when, shortly before my stop, the train emerged from the tunnel, revealing a panoramic view. The train was high above a big valley. There were highways and train tracks below, but there was also a river, and a large swath of trees, all decked out for autumn. The Don River Valley, maybe? (James and Marnie can let me know.)

I love when subways take brief above-ground trips. The New York City system has some great views, especially of the downtown skyline and the Brooklyn Bridge. Paris, too, is great for that. Toronto's sudden scenery was beautiful, all the more because it was a surprise.

When I first started blogging, several people recommended we look for apartments in the Danforth, and I can see why. It seems like a great neighbourhood. There's a long commercial strip, full of restaurants and interesting shops to poke around in, and lovely old homes on the side-streets. The strip turns into Toronto's Greektown (note to a certain reader in Colorado... though if I recall correctly, he maybe doesn't want to live in Greektown, his life being Greek enough without that). I noticed two or three really nice looking pubs, which I am always after. Not bars, mind you - although a nice bar is a good thing, too - but a real pub, something special.

I did a bit of shopping, which I can't reveal here, due to upcoming birthday celebrations, and had lunch. Ahh, lunch out by myself, one of life's great pleasures.

Somehow I even managed to time my return trip so that I wasn't waiting for my GO train for too long. The trains run once an hour, and I'm not used to thinking in those terms. I suppose at the very worst, I'd have an hour to kill around Union Station, which wouldn't be so bad. Although Buster wouldn't like it.


what i'm watching: we heart springfield

Last night we caught a re-broadcast of "The Simpsons" gay marriage episode from earlier this year. It was both hilarious and skewering in the best Simpsons tradition. As the song goes (sung to the tune of "The Banana Boat Song"): "Gaaay-o, it's OK-o... Tie the knot and spend all your dough."

Homer, raking in said dough performing same-sex marriage ceremonies, asks, "What do you call a guy that's gay for a girl?" (Straight!)

In case you haven't seen it, I don't want to give any major spoilers. I was so happy that the character who comes out - despite the conventional plot twist that might save [the character's] straight bacon - stays out.

Read more here and try to catch it if you can. I can't be the only person who saw this 8 months late.

the prize

I just drove Allan to the GO station for his second day of work. The work itself sounded fine, but the pay rate is a bit of a shock for us (though fully expected). On one hand, temping doesn't pay very well - a steady word-processing gig will pay much better. And on the other hand, our last jobs in New York paid ridiculously well, enabling us to keep only part-time day-jobs, giving us a lot more time to write. (Or procrastinate, as the case may be.)

We knew we'd never see the likes of those jobs again. Our biggest dread about leaving New York was that it would almost certainly mean working full-time. For now, we've been granted a reprieve by these very well-paid writing assignments falling into my lap. I'm expecting this to be temporary - don't want to get my hopes up too high - but it's great while it lasts.

I'm headed into Toronto today for a little exploring and possibly shopping for a certain someone's upcoming birthday. Report to follow.

* * * *

Congratulations to Harold Pinter. The great British playwright has won the Nobel Prize in Literature, which he richly deserves. Pinter's website is full of interesting info and links.

asking the wrong question

What is the matter with Kansas, anyway? Could it be the voting machines?

I'm sure you've heard of Tom Frank's book, What's The Matter With Kansas?, which examines why blue-collar, working-class, white Americans vote against their own economic interests - i.e., have abandoned the Democratic party and are voting Republican.

Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation, says that the answer might be: nothing.
I'm a Tom Frank fan. I think he's a wonderful and passionate writer. But, now a respected political scientist is arguing that the "Great Backlash" Frank chronicled in his last book, in which "conservatives won the heart of America" and created a "dominant political coalition" by convincing Kansans and blue-collar, working-class people to vote against their own economic interests in order to defend traditional cultural values against bicoastal elites "isn't actually happening--at least, not in anything like the way Frank portrays." (Thanks to Doug Henwood--editor of the invaluable Left Business Observer and longtime Nation contributing editor--for turning me on to this new study.)

In a fascinating paper called "What's the Matter With What's the Matter with Kansas?", Princeton professor Larry Bartels uses data from National Election Study (NES) surveys to test Frank's thesis. He examines class-related patterns of issue preferences, partisanship, and voting over the past half-century. Bartels concludes that the white working class hasn't moved right and that "moral values" are not pushing them to vote Republican.

Moreover, for the most part, voters' economic and cultural attitudes are either both liberal or both conservative rather than the bifurcated split Frank sees. Bartels also disproves the argument that there's been a long-term decline in turnout.
Vanden Heuvel gives a summary of Bartels's conclusions:
Has the white working class abandoned the Democratic Party? No. White voters in the bottom third of the income distribution have actually become more reliably Democratic in presidential elections over the past half-century, while middle and upper-income white voters have trended Republican. Low-income whites have become less Democratic in their partisan identifications, but at a slower rate than more affluent whites--and that trend is entirely confined to the South, where Democratic identification was artificially inflated by the one-party system of the Jim Crow era--itself a holdover from the legacy of the Civil War and Reconstruction.

* Has the white working class become more conservative? No. The typical views of low-income whites have remained virtually unchanged over the past 30 years. (A pro-choice shift on abortion in the 1970s and '80s has been partially reversed since the early 1990s.) Their positions relative to more affluent white voters--generally less liberal on social issues and less conservative on economic issues--have also remained virtually unchanged.

* Do working class "moral values" trump economics in determining voting patterns? No. Social issues (including abortion) are less strongly related to party identification and presidential votes than economic issues, and that is even more true for whites in the bottom third of the income distribution than for more affluent whites. Moreover, while social issue preferences have become more strongly related to presidential votes among middle- and high-income whites, there is no evidence of a corresponding trend among low-income whites.

* Are religious voters distracted from economic issues? No. For church-goers as for non-church-goers, partisanship and voting behavior are primarily shaped by economic issues, not cultural issues.
Here's vanden Heuvel's blog post, also found here on Common Dreams.

This reminded me of our discussions about George Lakoff's ideas: here, here, a little bit here, and a lot more here.

I don't have much to add. I'm just reiterating my long-held belief that the Democrats, by moving farther and farther to the right, trying to mimic Republicans, end up shooting themselves in the foot. Or the head.


friendly fire

Remember Pat Tillman, the NFL player who met a "hero's" death in Afghanistan? First we discovered he was killed by his own compatriots. Now I've learned he opposed W and the invasion of Iraq. Read this amazing story about him, which I found through In Cold Blog.

I am always interested in why more athletes don't speak out, and in those times when they do. Both those wmtc posts link to good essays on sports and politics.

This Pat Tillman information is amazing. Can you imagine how their wingnuttified heads would explode if they knew Tillman was cozy with the radical critic Noam Chomsky? Of course, as Redsock points out, they've forgotten all about Tillman by now. But still.


Letter to the editor in today's Globe And Mail:
It's a pity that, as a side effect of hockey's return, we have to endure Don Cherry and his rants once again. Mr. Cherry is to Canada what George W. Bush is to the United States: a disgrace. - Werner Schmalz, Toronto
Dear Mr Schmalz:

I wish with all my heart George W. Bush was a commentator on a weekly sports show. He could wear ugly clothes and rant to his heart's content, and I'd never raise a peep of protest.

Last time I checked, sports commentators were not authorized to drop bombs or give away their country's natural resources to industries. As far as I know, no sports commentator has ever made an appointment to the Supreme Court, or stolen an election.

My dear Mr Schmalz, whose sensibilities are so offended by this national disgrace, I will trade you one George W. Bush for an entire province full of Don Cherrys. The United States won't notice Mr Cherry's voice - or his jackets - above the din, and the world will be a much safer place.

Do let me know how we can proceed.

we go to work

Allan has temp work today and for the rest of the week, our first paid employment since arriving. In my experience with temping (which is considerable), once you get work and get a good review, the work starts flowing. It's excellent timing. The Red Sox are home for the winter, Allan's not working on any big writing projects, and a little income will be very welcome.

I have spotted my second Ancient Civs book on the horizon. My editor tells me the assignment is definite, there's just a lot of internal debate about deadlines going on. I sure hope she wins those. I'm likely to get my Kids On Wheels assignment at the same time. No work for two months, then everything at once. The usual.

I truly enjoyed my mother's visit. It made me realize how low-stress my life is right now. In our last months in New York, I was dealing with big writing deadlines, a critically ill dog, and all the pressures and concerns of the impending move. After the move, all that dissipated, then disappeared. Our street and neighbourhood are so quiet and beautiful. I find it so soothing. It's a complete turnaround.


moving on

Looks like the threat to the New York City subway system wasn't real after all. There's a surprise. According to this New York Times story, the increased security has been stepped down.
New York officials scaled back security in the city's subways yesterday after federal and local law enforcement authorities discounted the report of a terrorist threat to the city's underground transportation system.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said that the extraordinary measures put in place on Thursday - police officers on every train, major shows of force at transportation centers - would be relaxed, but that the city would continue many of the enhanced measures it has taken to protect the subways since the bombings in London in July.

"There was no there there," one senior United States counterterrorism official said of the possible threat that surfaced publicly late last week.

From the outset, some federal officials, including those with the Department of Homeland Security, questioned just how real a plot against the subway system had been, and while some supported the city's measures, at least one official said he was astonished by how the city had reacted.

But Mr. Bloomberg and other city officials were adamant yesterday that they had made the right decision, to go public with the report and heighten security. New York officials described the threat last week as alarming for its specificity and timing, noting that information on the possible plot was strong enough to prompt a military operation that swept up three Iraqi men thought to be involved.

City officials also reiterated yesterday that they would much rather risk frightening and inconveniencing New Yorkers than be caught unprepared for an attack.
Any New Yorkers who are reading, I'd be very interested in knowing how visible the police presence was, and whether the city felt any different, if people were behaving any differently. I can't imagine they were.

And if anyone can explain how extra police on a subway car can prevent a terrorist attack, I'd love to hear that, too.

Somewhat closer to home, I notice the Canadian media is giving a lot of attention to the recent catastrophic earthquake in Pakistan. In New York City, international events like this always have a local angle, because there are New Yorkers who have family in every part of the world. In Canada, that applies to the whole country, or at least every major population centres. It's good. People here seem more aware of the world outside their borders.

And much closer to home, we take my mom to the airport later this morning. We had a terrific visit! I'm glad I'll see her again in about a month. She's spending the winter in Florida this year, and I'll see her a couple of times before she goes. Don't worry, she'll be hanging around with other Jewish ladies from New York, so no one should feel too threatened.