Friday, September 19, 2003

Stupidity and Cars

Ok, folks, hock your stereo, drive three hours to the only cinema playing it- go and see Stupidity! This is the funniest film I have seen in ages, so you must all go see it ASAP. I really can't remember when I last saw a film that funny...

And, a guy that taught my dad at York University has a quick soundbite... (the one who wrote that book called "Who Killed Canadian History")

I went out to see the Sierra Club presentation in advance of International Car Free Day on Monday. Did you guys know that Bogota, the capital of Columbia, has an annual day where no private cars are allowed in the city while people still have to go to work and school? It looked fantastic seeing 8 million people all biking or walking or taking the bus, and the people interviewed all seemed very positive. It's been going for about three years now. So, everyone, if 8 million people can do it for a day, so can we... Granted, it's not like I have to give up much, not having ever had a driver's license ;)

"I think using one or two tonnes of metal to move 70 kilos of humanity is..., well, irrational." supporter of Car Free Day, Bogota, Columbia

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Paperclip man likes me!

Today I spent another day working with paperclip man. He requested me specifically from the temp agency. I go back tomorrow as well.

I am going to see a documentary tonight called Stupidity. It sounds good, though I may get rained on getting home since Isabel has now hit the US coast and we are meant to get strong winds and lots of rain up here.

My Uncle Bill's 50th birthday is this Sunday. And I am off to Jasmine's for a wine and cheese tomorrow evening.

I bought another book by the guy who wrote calculating god. It's about parallel universes that collide, ours and one where humans died out and Neaderthals survived. It's really good so far.

I am looking into some programmes here for international development and social work. I don't know if I want to go back to uni or not or how I would fund it, but I am looking. If we stay in Canada more than the one year, I think I would go back. Vanessa said the two programmes are very similar in terms of skill sets, but that international development is more intellectually rigorous. I suppose social work is more practical, but I wonder how hard it is to get into.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Toronto Tales

Had a fun Monday-odd situation where the company I was sent to thought they were getting someone who worked there before (obviously, I hadn't) and there was some calling back and forth to see if I was actually going to do the work that day (it turns out it was a piece of cake, just switchboard stuff). Not the nicest way to start off a Monday...

However, the day finished off really well. I went to see a documentary called Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the media. It was really good-I really must read more of his stuff. Martin (from royal bank in Scotland) lent me one book but other than that all my Noam knowledge comes from listening to Luis (old housemate)> nattering on about the linguistics in second year. My only complaint is that if you are going to schedule a three hour film (plus an intermission) it would be nice to start it earlier than 9.15. I've actually joined the Bloor Cinema, since the films they show are fantastic, and you start to save money the second time you go (so if anyone wants the membership once I leave Toronto, let me know). I liked the cinema itself too, love the balcony and the popcorn smell was actually fresh! Much nicer than all these new fancy places, and much cheaper too. (and no, I don't sound at all like an old person complaining about progress...)

Today I did an hour's training for a job that I start at the end of the month. Looks a bit complicated but the people all seemed nice. I am going to go and watch Whale Rider this afternoon, since I don't have much else to do.

So, life goes on in Toronto.

Monday, September 15, 2003

I think this is me!

How many of these apply to you?

1. I have read fiction when I was depressed, or to cheer myself up.

2. I have gone on reading binges of an entire book or more in a day.

3. I read rapidly, often 'gulping' chapters.

4. I have sometimes read early in the morning or before work.

5. I have hidden books in different places to sneak a chapter without being seen.

6. Sometimes I avoid friends or family obligations in order to read novels.

7. Sometimes I re-write film or television dialog as the characters speak.

8. I am unable to enjoy myself with others unless there is a book nearby.

9. At a party, I will often slip off unnoticed to read.

10. Reading has made me seek haunts and companions which I would otherwise avoid.

11. I have neglected personal hygiene or household chores until I have finished a novel.

12. I have spent money meant for necessities on books instead.

13. I have attempted to check out more library books than permitted.

14. Most of my friends are heavy fiction readers.

15. I have sometimes passed out from a night of heavy reading.

16. I have suffered 'blackouts' or memory loss from a bout of reading.

17. I have wept, become angry or irrational because of something I read.

18. I have sometimes wished I did not read so much.

19. Sometimes I think my reading is out of control.

If you answered 'yes' to three or more of these questions, you may be a literature abuser. Affirmative responses to five or more indicates a serious problem.

Once a relatively rare disorder, Literature Abuse, or LA, has risen to new levels due to the accessibility of higher education and increased college enrollment since the end of the Second World War. The number of literature abusers is currently at record levels.


Abusers become withdrawn, uninterested in society or normal relationships. They fantasize, creating alternative worlds to occupy, to the neglect of friends and family. In severe cases they develop bad posture from reading in awkward positions or carrying heavy book bags. In the worst instances, they become cranky reference librarians in small towns.

Excessive reading during pregnancy is perhaps the number one cause of moral deformity among the children of English professors, teachers of English and creative writing. Known as Fetal Fiction Syndrome, this disease also leaves its victims prone to a lifetime of nearsightedness, daydreaming and emotional instability.


Recent Harvard studies have established that heredity plays a considerable role in determining whether a person will become an abuser of literature. Most abusers have at least one parent who abused literature, often beginning at an early age and pogressing into adulthood. Many spouses of an abuser become abusers themselves.


Fathers or mothers who are English teachers, professors, or heavy fiction readers; parents who do not encourage children to play games, participate in healthy sports, or watch television in the evening.


Pre-marital screening and counseling, referral to adoption agencies in order to break the chain of abuse. English teachers in particular should seek partners active in other fields. Children should be encouraged to seek physical activity and to avoid isolation and morbid introspection.


Within the sordid world of literature abuse, the lowest circle belongs to those sufferers who have thrown their lives and hopes away to study literature in our colleges. Parents should look for signs that their children are taking the wrong path--don't expect your teenager to approach you and say, "I can't stop reading Spenser." By the time you visit her dorm room and find the secret stash of the Paris Review, it may already be too late.

What to do if you suspect your child is becoming an English major:

1. Talk to your child in a loving way. Show your concern. Let her know you won't abandon her--but that you aren't spending a hundred grand to put her through Stanford so she can clerk at Waldenbooks, either. But remember that she may not be able to make a decision without help; perhaps she has just finished Madame Bovary and is dying of arsenic poisoning.

2. Face the issue: Tell her what you know, and how: "I found this book in your purse. How long has this been going on?" Ask the hard question--Who is this Count Vronsky?

3. Show her another way. Move the television set into her room. Introduce her to frat boys.

4. Do what you have to do. Tear up her library card. Make her stop signing her letters as 'Emma.' Force her to take a math class, or minor in Spanish. Transfer her to a Florida college.

You may be dealing with a life-threatening problem if one or more of the following applies:

* *She can tell you how and when Thomas Chatterton died.

* *She names one or more of her cats after a Romantic poet.

* *Next to her bed is a picture of: Lord Byron, Virginia Woolf, Faulkner or any scene from the Lake District.

Most important, remember, you are not alone. To seek help for yourself or someone you love, contact the nearest chapter of the American Literature Abuse Society, or look under ALAS in your telephone directory.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Mailbox Invasion

If anyone has been trying to email me the past week, I'm guessing it didn't get through. I seem to be getting tons of virus attachments sent to me that are overloading my inbox. Very annoying.

Seems I spoke too soon about this temp job, not only do I get to go out and buy a SINGLE box of 100 paperclips, I also get to make the coffee. In fact, in the last 4 hours of work, I have made two pots and answered about 3 emails. This is such a ridiculous job, I have nothing to do. However, I get to go back on Friday!!! Can't wait (insert sarcasm here).

What do they put in the water here in Toronto??? I've been hit on three times on the subway, been whistled at from guys in cars twice at Keele & Lawrence, and then when I went shopping at Dominion grocery store yesterday, some guy invited me for coffee in the cheese aisle! I said no, obviously, and then he asks if I'm involved, I said yes, and he suggests I should come anyway, maybe I'll find him to be more interesting!!! For christ's sake! however, jenni, you may find this to be encouraging, assuming guys in Vancouver are just as forward! I need to find that fake wedding ring I bought for Greece, though if cheese guy is any indication, it
might not help much.

Off to an interview with another temp agency, wish me luck...

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Well, yes sir, I'd love to buy some paperclips...

I am back in Toronto and last week was very, very boring. I didn't get any jobs, which maybe isn't a surprise since it was a four day week (or not, who knows). However, this gave me more than enough time to spend reading (a good thing) while my gran constantly queried me about food. I kid you not, she came down one evening just before 11 pm to ask if I wanted anything to eat! She tries to cook me elaborate breakfasts each morning, instead of my toast or cereal. Funny thing is, or ironic thing, when I do eat, it's always meat! And as you all know, I am not a big meat eater at all-however, I feel that I can't really complain...

Dinners out with Fran and Vanessa saved me from a meat overload and death by boredom. And then on Saturday I went down to the Cabbagetown Festival. On my way, I happened upon a parade of Christians (it turns out that Chinese Christian Canadians say no to redefining marriage...). I managed to miss all of the events, so I just wandered down parliament street and people watched. There was a lady pushing a very overweight dog (Pekinese I think) in a child's stroller. And I had no idea how bizarre it looks when parrots eat things. Sunday my aunt and cousin, Alannah who's 5, came over and I got to play an elaborate game of restaurant where all you can eat is food from McDonald's.

Come Monday morning, I had a one day temp assignment (it has now managed to last until at least tomorrow so far). And, the guy is a prick. Possibly this isn't helped by the dental work he had done yesterday, but he was annoying to begin with. He asked about my accent, I said I had been living in Scotland. He said that he had been to Scotland, didn't like it, and didn't know why they bothered. To exist apparently. He is a big NDP supporter (lefty political group, for all you non Canadians) and so that has made his conversations interesting, but he also believes that everyone is stupid and EVERYTHING annoys this man.

Plus, the job is stupid, I have no idea why I am there. All I do is type out his emails while he dictates. Oh, and I check them and read them out to him too. I have also edited two documents-I print out things someone else has done before, he edits, I retype. And I do a lot of sitting around, while he talks on the phone, stares into space, wanders randomly out of the room. I thought maybe he couldn't type, but he did today while looking up things to do with his diner's club account, and I found out that he used to do computer programming... I can't figure out why I am paid to do things he can do himself. Except that he is the chairperson of the company-maybe I'm paid to make him feel more important? By sitting there uselessly until he wants me to type him an email??? Today I hit a new low, however, when I was sent out to buy a box of 100 paperclips. And reminded not to forget to bring him the receipt. Possibly the only good point is that I haven't yet been asked to make the coffee. Today he pointed out that over half of all people you meet are below average... I don't think I was meant to take that personally.

Tomorrow is only a half day, thank god, since I have an interview with another agency in the afternoon. The one I am with now is ok, but the pay isn't great and I keep being assigned one day jobs-I would rather do something slightly longer-even a week would be preferable. Ah, the life of a temp.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

The Great Saskatoon Debate of 2003

To visit Saskatoon or not?

The train arrives there just after 1 in the morning. Which means if we stay a couple of days, we will also be departing at that time.

If we have to skip Saskatoon (I don't personally want to pay for a motel and three might be a hard number to fit into a motel room), we could add days to more exciting cities.

Also, I went down to MEC to buy a new pair of hiking shoes and found a book about Canadian hostels. It was a bit old, but it said that Saskatoon only has a hostel open in the summer. I will check out the LP Canada next time I am in a bookstore to see if it is still the case.

(I also went down to VIA Rail to ask why they never sent our CanRail passes, turns out they are just incompetent, so they are in the mail as of tomorrow)

Monday, September 01, 2003

Oh, Caaanada

I am back in Canada. Surprisingly, I am missing Scotland much less than I thought. All the travelling before flying out to Toronto probably helped and I am also really enjoying discovering Toronto. While I may have lived outside the city for a long time, up until now really all I have done is taken the subway somewhere. Now I am becoming familiar with all the big intersections and am slowly developing a mental map. Real Torontonians find me a bit funny (Jas...), as I have bought myself a Lonely Planet to the city, but I am only here for two months and I do want to make the most of it.

I flew back on a Friday, with only three hours of sleep under my belt to prepare me for a day with five extra hours in it. I seem to have started a habit of going out to the pub the night before early morning flights-not the most intelligent habit in many ways. However, how could I miss one last night at Sandy Bells, listening to folk music, and blethering away... I couldn't of course.

I spent the first weekend in Bolton, finding out that my dog is very, very deaf (and looks stupid clipped, don't try this with your Shelties!). Otherwise, Bolton is familiar but so different, so it is an odd place to visit again. I managed to hook up with Sarah and Amy in Bolton and we went to Mainstreet for a couple of drinks. It hasn't changed!

Then over two days I moved some stuff into my gran's house (really just a lot of dirty laundry from my travels and a CD player-so the essentials). It is a very bizarre room I am staying in. If I ever get access to the internet and a scanner, I will post a photo because this room really has to be seen to be believed. First off, there is a totem pole in one corner. Then there are the fox tails on the wall, alongside a wooden plaque with a hunter's prayer. The wallpaper is a mixture of newspaper design, and horses riding out to the hunt. A macrame owl, an interesting colour of carpet, and it's a basement room with fun fluorescent lighting. But it's in Toronto (ok, ok, North York) and it's mine for the next two months. I can't express strongly enough my desire to have my own place again-well, Alan can be there too ;).

So, of course, my first days in Toronto I went shopping. I threw out so much stuff in Scotland, since much of it didn't seem worth paying excess baggage charges to transport. However, a surprise purchase on my part was a suit (which I bought in about a half hour of shopping, rather quick really). I know, I know, shock horror, Amanda has caved and bought a suit. It is remarkable how long I have managed to work in banks without one, and I thought with interviews in Vancouver just on the horizon it would be a good idea. The funny thing is, I actually kind of like it... I fully intend to wear funny shirts underneath it of course ;)

I went down to drop off resumes around temp agencies, and got signed up with one of them on the same day. They made me do a series of tests and I was shocked to only score 60% on the grammar test! Worse, some of the answers were only scored incorrect because they were in the passive!!! It isn't actually wrong! However, the only other one I was crap at was the one on Microsoft works, and considering I operated a Windows 3.1 system all through uni, I am quite proud of my 55% score. They are such funny tests they have you do at temp agencies.

This all happened on the Wednesday, so imagine my surprise when I am woken at 8.45am Thursday by my gran and am told I have a call. The temp agency wanted me to do a one day job, and wanted me to go asap. I ended up doing reception for a day. My TTC route knowledge being limited, the agency called and told me exactly how to get there. Which was good, until there were power problems on my way home. Our streetcar stopped, so I walked to the subway, it stopped. They sent another, we went a bit further, it stopped. I had to grab a completely different bus back to Lawrence west-took me over two hours for a one hour trip. Hence, the purchase of a guidebook with maps.

For Labour day weekend, Janice came down from London and so we headed out with Vanessa to grab lunch at Marche. Janice and I went to see the Tom Thomson exhibit at the AGO, which was great as I got the advantage of all her history of art class knowledge. I really should have tried harder to fit that class into my schedule, I am thinking. Today I met up with Jas and we went to the Gardiner Museum of Cera mic Art (as Jas said, it is about as interesting as it sounds) and then met Vanessa for some shopping. And I finally saw the Magdalene Sisters at the Bay-Bloor theatre
(ok, now I am totally just showing off that I can find my way around the city!). It was phenomenal. The film, not my map reading ability ;) (or apparently, my grammar...)

So, all I need now are some more temp agency positions, and to get back out of Bolton (I need to fix my bank account here, I didn't use it enough for their liking, it does only have $6.90 in it). Scottish people, beware, Canadian banks are just as bad as the English when it comes to accepting Scottish pounds. It was not an easy thing to change my last 10 pound note. The teller seemed convinced the Scots were actually on the euro and only the English use the pound still. Don't these people read newspapers... (even if they did, I think the brits are right, our news is dumbed down, even in the papers. I may need to start buying British papers over ere if I want to read something really intelligent). Feel free to take shots at me over that comment, Canadians, but I do miss the BBC... And channel 4 news... And the
Guardian and the Herald, and the Scotsman...

The TV over here isn't interesting me either (so Alan, I am totally not up for your "lets buy a TV for the year that we will live in Vancouver" because it isn't worth the cable costs!). Ok, maybe this is contradicting my earlier statement about not missing Scotland...

I also the use of a cell phone for a bit (I hope for the next two months if I can avoid giving it back to my mum for that long). I have tried texting you British folk, but I can't make it work (or you are evil and are not responding to my texts!), so if anyone can manage to text me, maybe I can figure out what I am doing wrong. And it's back to cybercafes, since my gran isn't wired up yet!