Sat, 16 Apr 2005

In Canada

Canadian coat of armsI spent 3 days earlier this week shuttling back and forth between Strathroy and London, Ontario, doing work stuff.

As a kid, I spent several weekends every summer in southeastern Ontario — our family camped quite often at Kettle Point Campground, and some of my fondest childhood memories are of these summer camping trips.

As an adult, I quite frequently visited Windsor, as it is chock full of excellent restaurants and really quite close, geographically, to my home. Before 9/11/2001, the US/Canada border was quite open, and it wasn’t uncommon for people working in downtown Detroit to actually cross the Ambassador Bridge or the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel (“the only vehicular international subaqueous border crossing in the world”) and eat lunch in another country. Sadly, the extra long border checks and unpredictable traffic that followed the terrorist attacks have made that sort of crossing impractical.

It was interesting to note the differences between what I remember from the frequent Canadian visits of my youth to the way things seem to me now, 20+ years on. It’s fascinating to see how much difference 100 miles of geography can make . While things are still fresh in my mind, a bullet list of fun/curious/befuddling things I noticed while visiting our neighbor to the south :)

  • Canadians are really friendly people. I already knew this, of course, but the national character really is remarkably easygoing.
  • Canadians are really weird about french fries. At every meal, I had to stop people from putting gravy on my french fries. Don’t even get me started on poutine… Heart attack on a plate.
  • Things are moderately more expensive there, but not ridiculous, except for gasoline and cigarettes, and I don’t smoke, so…
  • Globalization means that WalMart, McDonalds, and a few other oppressively familiar brands are just as inescapable in Canada as in the USA. They’ve returned the favor, though, as there seems to be a Tim Horton’s on every block in the USA now, as well.
  • Yes, the ordinary Ontarian on the street really does say “eh”, a lot. :) The folks working the hotels and chain restaurants and reading news on TV seem to be trying to suppress their regional dialects as much as possible, though. The pace of speech reminds me a bit of that of American southerners, actually… very relaxed, quite often in no particular hurry to get to the point. :)
  • Great beer. Obviously.
  • I really do like back bacon.
  • Canada has about 1/9 as many people in roughly the same surface area as the USA. The difference isn’t in the size of the cities, it’s that the area between the cities is so much more rural, proportionally.

:: 12:05
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The Magic Word:
Which planet is closest to the sun? (hint -- it's Mercury...)

Meantime, in the slums below Ronnie’s Ranch, Cynthia feels as if some one
has made voodoo boxen of her and her favorite backplanes. On this fine
moonlit night, some horrible persona has been jabbing away at, dragging
magnets over, and surging these voodoo boxen. Fortunately, they seem to
have gotten a bit bored and fallen asleep, for it looks like Cynthia may
get to go home. However, she has made note to quickly put together a totem
of sweaty, sordid static straps, random bits of wire, flecks of once meaniful
oxide, bus grant cards, gummy worms, and some bits of old pdp backplane to
hang above the machine room. This totem must be blessed by the old and wise
venerable god of unibus at once, before the idolatization of vme, q and pc
bus drive him to bitter revenge. Alas, if this fails, and the voodoo boxen
aren’t destroyed, there may be more than worms in the apple. Next, the
arrival of voodoo optico transmitigational magneto killer paramecium, capable
of teleporting from cable to cable, screen to screen, ear to ear and hoof
to mouth…