pyesetz: (woof)
On Thursday, President Trump announced that if the Republicans did not pass the replacement healthcare system by Friday, then he would drop the matter and stay with ObamaCare (which remember is basically the same as RomneyCare, which was a Republican initiative to begin with).  On Friday, as expected, the replacement plan did not pass because it wasn't mean enough to poor people.  Here we are on Monday night and apparently the TrumpCare plan remains dead.

This is the correct outcome!  The Repubs have been saying for seven years that they would "repair or replace" ObamaCare, which they hated because Barack Obama has black skin.  (It couldn't have been because of anything *in* the plan, because Obama had copied it from the Repubs to begin with.)  For seven years they fundraised off racist donors who hated a plan that helps Black people more than Whites.  The (R)'s won the 2016 election, in part, by promising to get rid of ObamaCare and make Black people die in the gutter as God intended.  But of course they can't actually do that.  ObamaCare, like MediCare, is now a permanent entitlement.  Too many voters are getting benefits from it and it would cost too many votes to get rid of it.

So how did Trump get out of this unimplementable campaign promise, this "pre-existing condition" signature issue of the Republican party?  He made a big show of *trying* to pass a lame attempt at replacement, which of course failed, and then he dusted off his hands, declared failure, and moved on.  End of campaign promise!  ObamaCare is now the law of the Republican land — which is the right answer for America.  Of course, ObamaCare is a stinking pile of rotting garbage compared to what Canadians get, or what most every well-off country on the planet offers to their citizens (except Andorra — what is wrong with those people?).  But Americans can't have nice things, so ObamaCare is the best they can do.  And Trump has now announced what amounts to bipartisan support for it.  Such a nice president!

I sometimes wonder whether the ban-on-some-Muslims is a similar trick.  Trump repeated that promise over and over during the campaign because it got such big roars from the crowd, but banning Muslims will not Make America Great Again.  We've tried that before.  Banning Chinese people did not MAGA.  Putting quotas on Catholic immigrants did not MAGA.  Throwing all the Japanese-looking people into concentration camps did not MAGA.  We know this approach doesn't actually help with anything except generating applause at election rallies.  So Trump has twice now issued an "executive proclamation" in which he appears to be trying to keep his campaign promise to ban Muslims, only to be shut down by Conservative judges appointed by President W.  Did Trump know that would happen?  Was the whole Muslim-ban just a feint to get out of a inadvisable campaign promise?

And how about "Mexico will pay for the wall"?  What a great applause line that was!  But it seems pretty clear that Donald has no idea how to make it actually happen.  Somehow he will need to make an attempt, declare failure, and move on.  Might I suggest that the USA buy something for Canada, which then buys something for Mexico, which then buys the wall for the USA?  It's a three amigos gift exchange!  I can't imagine anything else that could possibly work.

Politics

Jul. 30th, 2016 11:47 am
pyesetz: (flag-over-sunrise)
I don't believe the polls that say Donald is leading.  The media need to create the illusion of a close race in order to sell their ads.  Actually, a vote for anyone other than Donald (or no vote at all) is a vote for Hillary because she has convinced everyone that the election is rigged in her favour and her coronation is now assured unless something catastrophic happens (such as Hillary spending 100× as much as Donald on TV ads, causing everyone to become sick to death of her and voting for him just as a protest).

But protest votes can be dangerous, as England and Wales discovered recently.  It was widely believed that the Brexit was rigged and the "Leave the EU" side would not be permitted to win, so there was no harm in voting for it as a protest against rigged elections.  But there were so many protest votes that "Leave" actually won — and then, unexpectedly, the government accepted the will of the people.  Something like that seems like the only way Donald could win.

I might be willing to vote for Jill Stein as a protest vote (she's pro-Bernie and not actually anti-vax but just anti-FDA/CDC corruption; also she lives in my boyhood hometown).  But Jill is not on the ballot in New Jersey and probably can't get on it by November because NJ is a party-machine state and the Greens have never won more than a schoolboard seat there.  So I guess I'll let Hillary win by not voting for anyone.

Here in Canada, the Liberals are using the American election as a fund-raiser.  This is perhaps typically-Canadian passive-aggressive behaviour in that if you don't know what's going on, it's not even clear that they're dissing the Yanks with this ad.  I would summarize this as, "You should donate to the Liberals because they don't make Canadians feel embarrassed about their country, unlike *some* parties on this continent!"

The improper use of the "success baby" meme is just icing on the cake.
pyesetz: (woof)
Last Saturday, I walked around west Kitchener, knocking on doors and asking people how they felt about their new-ish Liberal Government.  This was part of the kickoff for a national campaign in which Liberal Party operatives walk around neighbourhoods, entering people's responses into an app on their smartphones.

One result of this effort is a collection of tweets showing photographs of the groups of canvassers.  If you knew anything about local politics (which of course you don't), you could determine that one of these tweets came from the only Liberal candidate for Parliament in Waterloo Region last year who *didn't* win.  Clicking on the pic.twitter.com link within that tweet takes you to a photo.  I am the bearded guy with the poorly-parted hair.

It is clear that the Party puts a lot of effort into keeping track of who volunteers for these events and how much time they put in.  Presumably such hours count as "brownie points" within the Party.  What is less clear is the set of prizes for which these brownie points can be traded.  It is perhaps like a Chuck E Cheese restaurant where the prizes are hidden and unadvertised and the only way to trade in your tickets is to ask whether a certain prize might be available.
pyesetz: (flag-over-sunrise)
Last weekend, both the Liberals and the Conservatives held party conventions in Canada.  Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced his retirement, so current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave him some bon mots:

“We need to remember that even though [the Conservatives] may be our opponents, they’re not our enemies. They’re our neighbours and our friends.”

“I can tell you, even if you weren’t a fan of his politics, there can be no doubting Stephen Harper’s commitment to our country.”

Of course, party rivalry being what it is, the main news item from this event was former Liberal leader Bob Rae pretending to throw up at the idea of praising Harper.

Years ago, people used to compare Stephen Harper with George W. Bush, but really this was hyperbole.  Harper wanted his country to do well.  Bush wanted his country to be weak enough to drown in a bathtub.  They sometimes agreed on means, but never on ends.

I joined the Liberal Party of Canada about a month ago, thinking maybe it could help me get a job.  The constant barrage of fund-raising emails has been disheartening, including the ones from the P.M.  But then sometimes Justin puts on his "statesman" hat and I wish everyone else in his party were just like him.
pyesetz: (flag-over-sunrise)
I got a telephone call yesterday.  The caller ID said "GoC–GdC".  I know who that is!  That's "Government of Canada / Gouvernement du Canada".

This is at least the third time they've called me this year.  I did not pick up the phone the previous two times because I did not want to talk to them.  The message on the answering machine asked me to pleeeease call them back to talk about my tax situation.  But I had nothing to say.  Last fall they mailed me a "Request to File an Income Tax Return" for 2014, followed by a "Second Request to File an Income Tax Return" for the same year, along with a deadline of December 20th after which they would get mad at me.  But I didn't file.  I have no excuse, other than that I did not make enough money that year to be eligible for income tax and I wasn't looking forward to grinding through the paperwork to show them in detail just how bad my year was.  (And 2015 was actually even worse in that regard.)

But yesterday I decided to pick up the phone.  The agent went through the familiar identity-check stuff (I've gotten these calls in previous years).  And then, just before beginning her harangue, the agent checked my current status.  "Oh!  You just eFiled last week!" she said.  Yes, I did that.  "You should not have been called.  I'm sorry to bother you".  So I told her I was sorry that the return was so late — it was all so Canadian!  So now I am officially off the government's shitlist.

I still have to file a business tax return for 2014 (I'll get a minuscule refund), and a US income tax return for 2014, plus Canadian and US returns for 2015 (but no business return because my Company 𝔾 consulting business was officially closed in 2014).

Still, it's good news!  I had told the accountant at H&R Block that I wanted to eFile on Friday because I didn't know how much time I had left before CRA made their next move.  Well, their next move was Tuesday and I was ready for them!  What a stroke of luck that I got it done just in time!  I used to get lucky breaks like that all the time, but these last few years it has seemed that my luck had run out.

* * * * *

I went to a job interview recently.  They looked good on paper — they wanted lots of things that were on my résumé.  But the interview didn't go well.  It began very nicely with a discussion of how everyone at the company likes Liberal politics and WTF is up with Trump down in the States???  But the guy who does their C++ work is very possessive of his code, while their guy who does Python and SQL is going on sabbatical and needs to be replaced.  The company is 7 years old and still having trouble making payroll consistently.  Of course, they want 60+ hours a week like everyone does nowadays in Software.  I told them I couldn't offer more than 20 hrs/wk so that was the end of it.

Now that the government is feeling better about me, perhaps I should join the Liberal Party of Canada and try to get a job through the "old boy" network.  It doesn't seem that there is any other possible way to get a part-time programming job.  The inheritance from my mother-in-law is almost half-gone already.
pyesetz: (woof)

TD/Allianz Insurance (via telephone; 10:15am - 10:45am).  Kid #2 still can’t hear much with his right ear, so I call the insurance company to find out which clinic around here will work with them.  They call Lake Buena Vista CentraCare, confirm that it is willing to direct-bill them, and then fax over a pre-authorization form for us.  The insurance company says that the clinic is expecting us and we should proceed there immediately.

CentraCare (Lake Buena Vista FL, 11:00am - 2:30pm).  They received the fax and are expecting us, but still there are hours of waiting during which people who arrive after us are seen first; later I learn that you are supposed to go to their website and make an “appointment” (even though it is an urgent-care clinic) in order to obtain a “significantly” reduced wait-time.
      Of course, the first thing to do is fill out medical-history forms.  The most bizarrely-American item on the forms is the requirement that the patient must identify his “race” and whether he is “hispanic”.  Kid #2 has no idea what his race is (the concept is not much used in Canada).  I tell him that I generally say my race is either “White” or “Other” (because “Jewish” used to be a separate race, but was combined with “White” in the 1930s for political reasons; when I hear “White race” I think of what Sarah Palin calls “real Americans”, who are not my people and have no common ancestry with me in the last 1,000 years); Kid #2 writes ”White” on the form.  There is another Canadian seeking medical care at the clinic, who loudly complains about the absurdity of the race question.  “Everyone’s the same in Canada,” she says.  I elect not to mention to her the situation of the Québécois (or the Aboriginals, for that matter — Canada gives them special ID cards which exempt them from sales tax, but that really doesn’t compensate them for the crap they put up with).
      A person’s declared race is of little medical value.  For example, about 10% of black people have G6PD deficiency which causes certain drugs to be unsuitable for them, but most Blacks don’t have this problem and some Whites do (especially Jews and other Mediterranean people).  Anyway, there is absolutely no medical reason to ask for the race of the guarantor who will be paying for the service!  But yes, the form wants to know my race, too.  I think this is because of US government regulations requiring medical practitioners to collect such data and which obligate them, for patients who refuse to participate in this inanity, to use their own prejudices to guess which race the person providing the money seems to be a member of.
      Another bizarrely-American feature of this medical clinic is the inspirational quote that is painted on the wall over the restroom doors.  It says something like, “Faith in Christ improves wellness of mind, body, and spirit”.  Later I learn that CentraCare is part of Florida Hospital, which is owned by Adventist Health System, which is an arm of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
      The city of Lake Buena Vista is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Walt Disney Corporation, so Florida Hospital must be paying them rent in order to run a business here.  While we were waiting, someone came in claiming to be a Disney employee; he was refused treatment and was told that he must go to DisneyCorp’s own medical facilities.  Lake Buena Vista is basically the implementation of Walt’s EPCOT concept for the corporatist ”city of tomorrow“, where your citizenship class determines which medical facilities you may use.  (In Ontario, anyone can be treated anywhere, although you’ll usually get quicker service in a clinic than at an emergency room and more personalized service if you set up a continuing relationship with a physician’s private practice.)
      * * * * *
      Eventually a doctor examines Kid #2 for (just about) two minutes.  Based on her bedside manner, I think she is a pediatrician.  Kid #2 is 17 years old, which now makes him an ”adult” as far as Canadian healthcare is concerned, but in the American system he is still a “child” and must be seen by a kid-doctor rather than an ear-doctor.  She says his earwax is impacted, prescribes an irrigation of both ear canals using diluted H₂O₂, announces that the clinic will provide this service, then leaves.  After some more waiting, a nurse(?) comes in and performs the procedure, which is effective in restoring Kid #2’s hearing.  Then more waiting.  Then the doctor returns for another few minutes to examine the cleaned ear canals.  The right one is red, so she prescribes ofloxacin drops twice a day for five days.  More waiting.  An orderly(?) announces that the clinic will sell us this medication for $27.  I agree to pay.  More waiting.  The orderly comes back to say that this particular CentraCare clinic is out of stock on that medication; he gives me an scrip and suggests I drive down the street to Walgreens to get the drug.
      And then, a wondrous thing happens: we are let out of the building without having to pay anything!  Thank you, TD Canada Trust bank, for selling us this foreign-travel health insurance that ACTUALLY WORKS!  The insurance cost $80 for two weeks’ coverage of four people; Allianz said on the phone that the estimated cost of an exam for “ear infection” is about $250.

Landscape of Flavors (1:50pm).  Meanwhile, back at the hotel, Wifey and Kid #1 eat lunch in the cafeteria.

Walgreens pharmacy (Lake Buena Vista FL, 2:35pm - 2:45pm).  The pharmacist says that the drug costs $113!  I don’t know why the price is so different, nor whether Allianz would reimburse me so much.  The antibiotic treatment doesn’t seem so important now that the canal is clean, so I decide to put this problem off until tomorrow.

Art of Animation parking lot (2:55pm).  Our first FastPass™ of the day is scheduled for 3:55pm (already rejiggered from 2:50pm because there’s no way we can make that), so the plan is for Wifey and Kid #1 to take the bus to Epcot if we don’t get back to the hotel by 2:55pm.  The bus shows up at the same time we do, so the womenfolk skip the bus and hitch a ride in our rental car to the amusement park.

Epcot®.  The Experimental Prototype City of Tomorrow, brought to you by various corporate sponsors who control which facts each ride may present.  Attractions visited today: Electric Umbrella (lunch, 3:34pm; snack, 4:11pm), Spaceship Earth, Ellen’s Energy Adventure, Mission: SPACE (except Wifey), Test Track (except Wifey), The Seas with Nemo & Friends, Sunshine Seasons (dinner, 7:56pm), Soarin (Kid #1 & I), and The Circle of Life (Wifey & Kid #2).
      Kid #2 and I catch up on lunch at the Electric Umbrella, since we didn’t have time after the medical stuff.  I get a bottle of water for Wifey to use up another snack credit.
      Spaceship Earth is now sponsored by Siemens instead of AT&T; the dioramas have been completely redone to emphasize “communication technology” instead of “connecting people across the world”.
      Ellen’s Energy Adventure has not been redone in 20 years (perhaps because Exxon stopped sponsoring it in 2004); it is now quite dated.  Bill Nye has aged considerably since this presentation was recorded.  He is the co-star with Ms. DeGeneres and his career is currently doing very well (with multiple honorary doctorates received in recent years), so why doesn’t he get billing?  The emphasis on compact fluorescent lightbulbs and wind power as “the future” now seems ridiculous.
      The Seas is a new ride.  It is similar to It’s a Small World, except with an undersea theme rather than toys/Christmas, and is sponsored by Disney’s Finding Nemo rather than Mattel.
      Of the restaurants on our dining plan, Sunshine Seasons seems to have the best selection so far.  My dinner is tuna salad on a croissant, strawberry shortcake, and orange juice (my throat is scratchy).
      Soarin is new.  It is a motion-simulator ride in front of an iMAX-type giant movie screen, where you pretend to be flying with the birds.  On our way out of this ride, I remark to Kid #1 that there was a dirt-spot on the screen that was visible when a pale color was displayed there; some random other park guest walking by says, “Oh, you noticed that, too?”
      The park is open an extra two hours tonight, for Disney resort guests only, but we are too tired to utilize this feature and go back to our hotel at the regular closing time.  Six hours of amusement is enough!  Wifey’s schedule had called for us to visit Club Cool, Journey Into Imagination, Turtle Talk, and Innoventions, but we decide to put those off until our next visit to Epcot later in this vacation.

pyesetz: (sozont)
I have occasionally used the phrase "gothic horror movie" to describe the recurring themes of my life, and why I felt so at home at Company ℱ, and why I have never wanted to work at RIM or most other companies in my local area (because they are more "gladiator movie" than "gothic horror").  My wife has used "Addams Family" to describe her first visit to my parents' house.

So you can imagine my interest in last Friday's article in the Guardian (or Grauniad as the locals call it), which is entitled "How to Tell You're Reading a Gothic Novel".  I guess I'd rather see this title as "How to Tell You're Living in a Gothic Novel".  Anyway, let us review their helpful hints:

1. The villain is a murderous tyrant with scary eyes

Actually not.  I have had a variety of opponents in my life, most of whom did not have especially-scary eyes.  One notable exception was that four-year-old kid I met when I was six.  Aaaaaah!  On the other paw, lots of people have commented that my eyes are scary, so maybe I'm supposed to be the villain?  But I always try to be a good little monster!  I have never murdered anything larger than a flounder, although I have been indirectly involved in the senseless killings of several innocent dogs (may their souls RIP in Heaven).  The notches on my metaphorical pistol refer mainly to the destroyed careers of various evil-doers who were stupid enough to pick fights with me after I told them not to.  Just go away and nobody will get hurt!  But they wouldn't listen.

2. The heroine is a pious virginal orphan, prone to fainting.

I don't know WTF this is supposed to be talking about.  What does morphine diacetate have to do with virginity?  No swoons for me; Victor Frankenstein I ain't!  Though sometimes I wish I could just sleep through the bad periods when there's nothing I can do about my problems.  And since when are orphans known for their piety?  My father is dead and I actually don't know whether my mother still lives.

3. It's set in a spooky castle or stately home.

Not exactly.  But this item has sub-items, so let's review those:

3a. Built in Gothic period: No, my house dates from 1870.  It's old, but not that old.

3b. In a poor state of repair: Yes, the wooden front porch is rotting and needs replacement before it collapses.

3c. In the middle of nowhere: Well, the city folks think so, but really it's only a 15-minute drive from here to Canada's Technology Triangle.

3d. Haunted/cursed: Not really.  My previous house was haunted by the spirit of a little girl who was really, really unhappy that she had to move to Singapore — but I think she was gone by the time we left there, and I have no idea if the folks who bought the house from us thought we were still haunting the place (I insisted on moving to Canada, so the rest of the family got dragged along with me).  My sister used to say about our parent's last house together that it was some sort of spiritual way-station because so many non-corporeal entities passed through it on their way to ¿someplace else? But really the house was just creaky and the spirits had nothing to do with that.

3e. Has a fobidden wing and/or secret passages: Yes!  My house has a variety of inaccessible areas.  The largest is under the mud-room, which I can shine a light into from the basement walk-out but I never see anything.  So far as I know, nothing lives in there except occasionally a family of squeaky little shrews will move in for breeding season.

3f. Has a reclusive and/or sinister owner: Yes, I am left-handed.

-----

4. There is (probably) a ghost or monster

[I like the footnote on this item that refers specifically to Southern Ontario gothic novels.]

I guess this one applies, but let's look at the subcategories:

4a. Ghost: Not currently, I think.  But I was medically dead once and almost-dead another time, so maybe this life is all a dream?  The final episode of Roseanne was the best!

4b. Monster: I sometimes identify as a therian, which is sort of like a furry only totally not.

4c. Witch/sorceress: I'll let my wife answer this one.

4d. Vampire: No, it's a werewolf!  Werewolves are not vampires!  (*spits into mike*) Is this thing on?  A werewolf, I tell you‼  Sheesh.

4e. The Devil: No, although some people have claimed that I should have "666" tattooed on my forehead.  But really, Arabic numerals would make no sense — it should be "DCLXVI" for proper Latin.  Sic gorgiamus allos subjectatos nunc. I said that once (in English) to a lawyer who was trying to depose me.

4f. Not really a ghost at all: It was nice of them to include the footnote here about Scooby Doo, which jumped its shark in later years when the monsters were reimagined as "real" within the story universe.

-----

5. It's set in the olden days.

Hey, we're on Internet time now.  I remember the dark ages before Google, before Wikipedia, before Rule 34, when people actually had to get up and go to the TV and rotate a knob to change the channel.  So, um, yeah.

6. It takes place in foreign parts.

The footnote says this applies if the story takes place in a country that is not where the author was born.  So Canada counts.  And, BTW, I am a citizen now!

7. The weather is always awful.

This is an exaggeration, although there were far too many days with -30° wind-chills last winter.  But next year is supposed to be a monstrous El Niño, so hopefully more to my liking.

8. Anyone who isn't a white middle-class Protestant is frightening.

Yup.  I'm a Jew who lives in a township full of Mennonites.  Be very afraid!

9. The laws of the land are brazenly flouted.

I can't talk about this in a public post, but there are signs that the laws will be a-changing soon to be more to my liking.  The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind!

10. People talk funny.

I've been here for seven years and still don't feel like I have a grip on the local accent.

11. So which gothic novels are the best?

I don't know, but not the one I'm living in — that's fer damn sure.

(p.s.: In case you're wondering, the most important sentence in this essay is the last one for point 6 above, which Wifey wanted to know why I hadn't posted yet to this journal.)
pyesetz: (flag-over-sunrise)
For quite some time now, I've been telling anyone and everyone that I will not get citizenship here in Canada "until Harper is out of office" (because he keeps slashing the budget of the Immigration office).

Today I received a notice sent a week ago, telling me to show up for my citizenship test a week from now.  What a shock!  I might have to study or something.  What are the principal exports of Manitoba?  Who led the Red River Rebellion?  What has David Lloyd Johnston been doing since leaving the presidency of a local university here in Waterloo?  There are so many questions!

After the test, there will be a delay ("less than six months") until the oath-ceremony.  And then (says the paperwork) I will have to wait TWO WHOLE DAYS before I can apply for a passport.

Oh, it's all so exciting!  I guess I'd better get started on those 2012 income tax forms.  I didn't file them last year because it was embarrassing to admit how little money I made (my tax rate was negative).  And it's time too do the 2013 forms as well (negative yet again).
pyesetz: (woof)
I will now make today disappear.  The date is 7/30/13.  7 - 3 - 0 - 1 - 3 = 0.  Magic!

Officially, this joke makes sense only in the USA.  Unofficially, Canadians often use mm/dd/yy format for dates, along with dd/mm/yy, which creates a horrible ambiguity.  Come on, folks!  Everyone knows that today is actually 2013 JL 30!
pyesetz: (sozont)
So I was clicking around the Internet and happened upon this website, which purports to be the "real" history of what eventually became the FurnalEquinox conventions in Toronto.  You probably cannot imagine my surprise to find my own name mentioned in the history.  I did WHAT???  I "designed the logo" for CanFURence?  But I'm not a graphic artist!  There must be some mistake.

So I looked through the "Pyesetz" folder of my email.  Unlike for my IRL name, I actually have a nearly-complete record of every email I have ever exchanged as "Pyesetz".  And there it was: a logo for a furry conference, sent without comment from me to the TorFur mailing list.  WTF???  Did I have an m-trans moment and some other personality in my head did that?  And there were a bunch of other emails around that time, between me and Dan Skunk, in which I sound like I'm actually thinking about paying to attend a Furry convention — which I've never done in my life.  Where's the Twilight Zone music?

The real explanation is probably much simpler.  I was a newcomer in Canada and had noticed that government logos tended to have a flag over the 'a'.  When Dan Skunk suggested "CanFURence" as the name for a project he was working on, I thought the logo was "obvious" so I fired up GIMP and made it, as a throwaway post to a mailing list.  I thought nothing further of it — but Dan did.  As to why I was considering attending, it was probably something like: "I'm in a new country, should meet people, how about a FurCon?"  But I didn't go.

I like to think that I have a præternatural ability to not be there when drama happens.  At university I heard several times that bad things occurred (e.g., police action) shortly after I left a keg party.  So I was not there when the shit hit the fan regarding CanFURence/FurnalEquinox.  Perhaps I thought it best to forget that I had ever paid any attention to that project.

It's too bad that the write-up linked above does such a piss-poor job of explaining what actually happened.  People got mad at other people, but why?  The world may never know.
pyesetz: (Default)

Once upon a time, early last week, I made yet another trip to Buffalo NY to buy groceries.  It needed to be done because our Permanent Resident cards were five years old and about to expire at the end of October.  Immigration Canada is understaffed these days, due to the Recession, so it will take several months to get replacement cards.  The only official purpose for those cards is for gaining re-entry to Canada at the border; now that they’ve expired, we will not be leaving the country anytime soon.

Last July, the children’s passports became five years old and they expired.  Replacing a child’s passport cannot be done by mail and requires a trip to the US consulate in Toronto.  We finally got around to doing that at the end of September.  Actually, the trip wasn't as bad as feared: parking was a pain, the TSA goons at the door were rude, but the inside consulate staff were nice enough.  Kid #1 is now a grown-up and her new passport is good for ten years, while Kid #2 got another five-year kiddie passport.
      During the months between the expiration and the replacement of the children’s passports, Wifey was worried: what would we do if there were a Death In The Family and we had a sudden emergency need to visit the States?  It is against the law for an American citizen to enter that country without showing a US passport if they have one, but what happens if the passport is expired?  I didn’t think it would be such a big deal; surely there would be procedures in place.  We would probably be diverted to the Border Patrol office, have to show alternative ID, get grilled by Blueshirts, then they would let us proceed to the funeral.  Anyway, this didn’t happen.

So we’re on our way to Buffalo, just about to pass the “Last exit in Canada” sign, when Wifey checks the passports to make sure everything is fine… but everything is not fine.  The children are fine, but the parents’ passports expired last July when they became ten years old.  Oopsie!  So now we have to decide whether to turn around and drive an hour back to our house, or brave the border with bad passports.  I made an executive decision to keep going.

At the border, the guard did a double-take when processing the third passport.  I imagine a bright red flashing EXPIRED! indicator on his computer console, but he said nothing.  He asked some unusual questions (e.g., “Have you renounced your US citizenship?”) but nothing specifically about the expired passports.  Eventually he waived us through, without even diverting us to the Big House.

The grocery shopping was uneventful.  We went to the Tops and Wegmans supermarkets as usual.  We spent $800 on this trip, which was the most ever, including over $200 just for canned tuna.  Inflation is bad these days, despite the official lies from the government.

Upon our return to Canada, the border guard was gruff with us.  When we told her we bought $800 worth of food, she asked for the receipts and studied them carefully.  I imagine that she was upset to see $75 worth of boneless skinless chicken breasts (which cost twice as much in Canada because they don’t use undocumented Hispanic serfs in their chicken processing plants).  But perhaps she was less displeased to see that the single largest line-item was the tunafish, which is not caught in Canada so there were no local fishermen that we were refusing to support.  She asked various questions of the form, “Are you going to eat all this food yourselves?”  While there is apparently no sales tax exemption for one-day excursions, no border guard has ever demanded that we pay that tax.  On this day as well we were eventually waived through with no penalty.

Yet another successful shopping trip!
pyesetz: (flag-over-sunrise)
In the Globe & Mail:
Police raids on two downtown Toronto addresses Sunday, including an apartment on trendy Yorkville Avenue, led to the seizure of eight firearms along with a giant haul of drugs that may have included a quantity of the synthetic drug known as "bath salts."  If so, it would be one of the first Canadian seizures of the drug, which drew bizarre headlines last month when a man allegedly high on it was arrested in Miami and charged after eating a portion of another man's face.

Um, no.  The Miami zombie was shot twelve times and died at the scene.  He was not "arrested".  I'm glad that they used the word "allegedly", because there has never been any evidence connecting the Miami assault to any of the three street drugs—it was just some cop's wild guess, which the media picked up because "there has to be *some* explanation".  Note that the police aren't even saying that there was *any* MPDV found in those raids, so this entire article has no foundation and is just trying to keep the Miami zombie attack in people's minds to prevent the fear from wearing off.

Here are the "related stories" provided by the G&M for this article:
  • Face-eating stories trigger questions about mysterious ‘bath salts’ drug
  • Tories seek ban on ‘bath salts’ drug after grisly U.S. face-eating attack
  • These zombies are really scary
Well, you've got to hand it to the Tories: they are masters of fear-mongering.  And the G&M are masters of sucking up to the politicians—whoever happens to be in power today.
pyesetz: (Default)

Day 1: Drive to New York

Drug store: September 27th, 11:12 AM.  Pick up prescription meds before the trip.  This was supposed to have been done last week, but a mix-up with the ℞ scrip required multiple faxes between pharmacist and physician to resolve.  Price was $438 for a 90-day supply.  The American price would have been an obscenity.
      I like this pharmacist because he remembers me from one visit to the next, although the downside is that he harangues me for not taking the pills as often as the doctor ordered.  I’m not entirely sure what his financial situation is, but I think he ran the store independently for 20 years before joining the PharmaSave Corporation.  Wikipedia says PharmaSave is owned by its franchisees.  Socialism!

Post office: Last pick-up of mail before the trip.  Two items of note:
  • PetroCanada/Certigard writes to announce that they are shutting down operations.  You see, now that Suncor has bought PetroCanada, they’ve decided to focus the PetroCanada® brand on gasoline sales, so the Certigard™ line of automotive repair shops no longer fits the corporate vision.  This letter is supposed to serve as an introduction to the owner of my newly-independent repair shop, whose name is Ghaleb Choujaa.  I’ve met Gabe; he seems to be doing a good job on hiring competant mechanics, but I’m not clear on whether he is still picking up a wrench himself.  I don’t know where he’s from, but Google suggests that the name ”Ghaleb” is associated with Lebanon.

  • Citizenship & Immigration Canada has returned our application for citizenship because some checkboxes were not ticked.  On the parents’ forms we ticked No for the question, ”Have you ever been a citizen of Canada?”, but on the kids’ forms we did not answer the question, ”Have your parents ever been citizens of Canada?”  The returned forms have the unanswered questions helpfully highlighted in yellow, along with a warning that if we do not fix this problem within 30 days, our application will be cancelled and the fee returned.  So, back to the post office to mail the forms with the newly-ticked boxes.  Didn’t get a receipt.

Stock market: Sold TNA because its uptrend seems to be over.  7% gain in two days!

US border customs, Lewiston NY.  Easiest border-crossing *ever*!  No snarling dogs, no mobs of blueshirt thugs.  I tell the officer that we’ll be staying for a week; he looks at our US passports and says, ”you can stay as long as you like!”  I guess the Terrorist Threat Level must be rather low right now.

New York Thruway: Paid tolls, no receipts.  Stopped at a rest area; no receipt.  Used their free wi-fi to check the stock market, but made no trades.

Herkimer, NY: Arrive at the Herkimer Motel.  We drop our stuff and go across the street to the Waterfront Grille, which is an Italian restaurant.  We’ve been here before.  Still just as good, I think.  $78.74 for a family dinner.  Exited at 7:17 PM.

Day 2a: Drive to Massachusetts

Herkimer Motel: $124.90 for one night in a one-bedroom suite with wi-fi, mini-kitchen, etc.  Separate queen-sized beds for each kid!

New York Thruway: More receiptless tolls.  At 12:20 PM we stop at the rest area in Guilderland, near Schenectady NY.  $68 for 18⅛ gallons of gasoline (that’s $3.73⁹/gallon).  It’s the ”Mobil” brand, which is now identical to ”Exxon” and ”Esso” and is basically the resurrected Standard Oil Corp. that Teddy Roosevelt was famous for busting up.  But, as we saw again with AT&T, merely splitting a megacorp into parts doesn’t kill it.  The undead pieces spend the rest of eternity ”encouraging and suggesting” (and bribing) the authorities to allow it to “improve efficiency and synergy” by reconstructing its demonic self.  Since people die and corporations don’t, eventually it wins.  Slavery is freedom!  I wonder whether the only way to truly get rid of a megacorp is to reslant the playing field so its business model no longer works.

Mass Pike: I’m old enough to remember when this road was called ”Pilgrim’s Turnpike”; now only the buckled-hat logo survives.  More receiptless tolls.

Blandford MA: 1:34 PM. Stop at a turnpike rest area for lunch.  Wifey and the kidlets go to McDonald’s, while I go to the ”Gulf Express” mini-mart for a pair of egg salad sandwiches.  Lunch total: $30.11.

Hawthorn Suites, Franklin MA.  Our home-away-from-home for the next five nights.  Hawthorn was owned by Hyatt during 1985-2008, but now its owner is Wyndham.  Maintenance is now spotty in places.  There’s always *something* wrong with the pool (this time they’re ”waiting for parts”).  But it’s well-located and much cheaper than most decent accommodations in Eastern Massachusetts.

Shaw’s/Osco, Franklin MA.  I think this used to be a “Star Market” (which bought the Osco pharmacy chain a long time ago).  Shaw’s has been on a tear, buying up all the other supermarket chains.  At 5:38 PM we pay $55.26 for 13 items, only some of which will be used immediately for Rosh Hashanah.

(Tune in next time for part 2b of our saga, where we celebrate the Jewish New Year 5772—in a hotel room!)
pyesetz: (flag-over-sunrise)
As a result of the most massive compromise of civil liberties in Canadian history, the government of Ontario has agreed to repeal the law it used to designate a meeting of foreign leaders as a "Public Works project".  No word yet on what they will do about the police chief who now admits that he just made up the part about how being within 5 metres of a public works project is cause for arrest.

My take is that this is all Harper's fault and McGuinty's problem is that he allowed Harper to twist his arm in some way.

Layton seems to be enjoying his sudden fame!  He's talking about what he would do as prime minister and people are actually listening to him for a few days.  If the NDP gets more seats than the Liberals, the Everyone-but-Conservatives coalition should be a done deal and maybe proportional representation might actually have a chance in this country.
pyesetz: (flag-over-sunrise)
Constable Andalib-Goortani has been charged with assault for beating up a protester whose name really is "Mr. Nobody".  No word on whether Andalib-Goortani has been jailed (probably not).  Looks like the police chief went too far when he accused the amateur videographer of doctoring the footage.  Well it turns out that the videographer is a web designer for a bank.  Hell hath no fury like a techie scorned!  Just so you know...
pyesetz: (Default)
The black line runs off the top of the graph!  The accompanying text says, "We have only had one September in the past 10 years that was colder than the 1971-2000 average (and that was only by 0.1 of a degree). So even though it was full degree above average this year, it was still the third coldest September of the past decade.".

pyesetz: (flag-over-sunrise)
"After his arrest, Vasey announced his plans to launch a charter challenge to the regulation.  Morton said he is confident his client would have been successful in defending himself against the charges had they stuck.  He said it is rare for charges to fall through the cracks due to clerical errors but said it’s possible Toronto police may have failed to properly file Vasey’s charges."  (link)

So now the challenge cannot be mounted because the unconstitutional charges mysteriously got lost on the way to the courtroom?  How convenient!  Now no one has standing to tell the Premier that he can't invent a law in secret and then instruct the police to arrest people under a law that was never passed and wasn't scheduled to be published until after it had expired.

Really, if a Premier can create laws all by himself, why do we have a Provincial Parliament?  We should close the thing down and save lots of money!  Just declare Dalton McGuinty to be Ontario's dictator and be done with it.  Singapore seems to do just fine with dictatorial government, as does Python (BDFL).  But according to the "Canada's Government" section of the citizenship exam that I'll need to take soon, that's not how things are supposed to be done here.
pyesetz: (flag-over-sunrise)
  • Item: Health Canada says no one should take more than 2,000 IU of Vitamin D per day, but one study says the average vitamin D researcher personally takes 5,000 IU.  A day of sunbathing is like taking 10,000 IU.
  • Item: Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq (under orders from Prime Minister Harper) refuses to sign the Vienna Declaration ("criminalization of drug use is fuelling the HIV/AIDS epidemic") because it clashes with Canada's national drug policy.  It isn't news that when facts and policy clash, the Harper govenment doubles down for policy.  Is there a policy regarding Vitamin D supplements?  Why or why not?
  • Item: In a move that shouldn't have been as surprising as it was, the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled unanimously that Nuremberg Principle V is still the law of the land in Canada.  "I was just following orders" does not excuse a Charter violation by a police officer!  The stupid cop chose a high-profile lawyer to pick on and now his department has to pay $5,000 for violating the guy's rights (in addition to a $5,000 payment for false arrest, which was not contested).
  • Item: In Toronto London UK, a cop hid his ID, walked up to a newspaper salesman (note: not a high-profile lawyer), and whacked him with a baton for no visible reason as shown by amateur video.  After the salesman died, a physician already threatened with losing his licence due to poor autopsy work did the autopsy—and exonerated the police officer.  Two other physicians did autopsies on the same corpse and said the death was the cop's fault.  Although the officer's homicidal act was caught on video, no charges will be laid against him because "experts disagree".
  • Item: Joyce Murray, a member of Parliament for Vancouver and a Liberal, exaggerated a little when discussing the mandatory national census (which Harper recently eliminated over the objections of the arm's-length government agency that, you know, is actually supposed to decide such things).  She said the independence of such agencies is "what separates a government from a tyranny."  Never slow to seize such an opportunity, the Conservative Party struck back, saying they "understand what ‘tyranny’ means”.  Yes, I think they do.
pyesetz: (Default)

To Rochester NY for more shopping!  And more shopping!  And even more shopping!!!  We went to the “Land’s End Inlet” which is actually a misnamed outlet store.  It was disappointing; many of our desired items were not on sale.  Then to Wegman’s grocery store to stock up on chicken and butter and other stuff that costs much more in Canada because they don’t abuse undocumented Hispanic serfs to keep their prices down.  When we visit the States, we usually return with more butchered chicken carcasses than is permitted for “personal use” importation, but they never search our car so we get away with it.

We were about to get back on the highway when I remembered that I had wanted to go to Wal*Mart to return a multifunction digital watch that BIL #1 had given me for Christmas.  I already have a digital watch and the gift watch’s face is too large for my taste.  But I couldn't return it at Wal*Mart Canada because the two companies have separate computer systems, so neither the UPC nor the code on the gift receipt would register there.  The Wal*Mart clerk in Rochester thought my story was a little hokey (and Christmas 2009 was a long time ago), but it helped that BIL #1 had sent watches to both me and Kid #2 and the clerk could see that Kid #2 was wearing his.  So she gave me an in-store credit and we went around buying stuff to use it up.

The New York Thruway offers public Wi-Fi at all rest stops.  That’s not so unusual these days but I hadn’t tried the other turnpikes.  To get on the Internet, you have to click past a landing page that asserts the right of the State of New York to monitor your activities and refuse service to anyone for any reason.  But they don’t ask for ID!  This shreds all the RIAA’s arguments that it should be considered a crime to have household Wi-Fi that isn’t protected by password.  Really, the only reason to restrict access to your home Wi-Fi is so that you can’t defend yourself against an RIAA lawsuit by claiming that the songs were downloaded by some random passer-by without your knowledge.  If they really cared about child porn, they wouldn't let you just show up at a rest area and download it without a trace.  But music takes too long to download so the RIAA doesn't care about rest areas, just libraries (where you have to show ID to surf the web).

The Thruway accepts Canadian currency at a steep discount of 10% off face value (the exchange rate would suggest a 6% discount) but they insist on giving change in American money.  The bridge into Canada accepts American money at face value but insists on giving change in the same currency.  So it seems to be impossible to leave the USA without some leftover American coinage in one’s pocket—the Good Lord knows I tried!

We arrived home to find that our second freezer was operating properly and was ready to receive all the chicken carcasses.  It had been malfunctioning for months.  The temperature control was broken and the cooling system just ran continuously, creating a −25°F environment that was too cold for ice cream.  I had taken the freezer to our local electrical shop for repair a couple of days before the trip, but the repairman had other things to do (like attend a funeral) so I didn’t get it back until the morning of our departure.

All’s well that ends!

(This completes the “Mass. Trip '10” series of posts.)

pyesetz: (Default)

Penzey’s Spice Shop in Arlington.  $100 for a year’s supply of spices.  (Actually a bit more, since our kitchen still has a few bits of spice left over from our last visit in 2008.)  The total bill was higher than Wifey had originally planned to spend.  When she showed me the receipt, I exclaimed “Only 59¢ sales tax?  I guess we’re not in Canada!”  The store clerk was apologetic and explained that only the empty glass spice jars were taxable.  Obviously, I enjoy pretending to be rich and not having to care about the bill.  And really, $100 isn’t going to make a lot of difference when paying down my $100,000+ mortgage.

Science museum.  Perhaps I’m partial for having grown up in the area, but I think the Boston Museum of Science is the standard by which all other science museums should be measured.  Lots of buttons and levers and clanging balls and sizzling 700,000-volt lightning generators!  The only problem with it is that it is located in Boston.  There was some construction going on at the entrance to its parking garage, so we pulled forward to ask the cop if things were okay.  He said they were, but then we had to go around the block to get back to the entrance.  But you can’t “go around the block” in Boston because the streets are not parallel, so we ended up driving out to Cambridge and then back into Boston, passing by both the hotel where the Company 𝔾 conference was being held and the Boston Public Library, where I had spent a lot of time back in high school because it was more easily accesssible by mass transit than the library for my own city of Newton.

The subway entrance next to the library has been closed for years.  Apparently the infinitesimal risk of terrorist attack is far more important than the convenience of library patrons.  When I was in high school, my Russian teacher liked to say that the goal of American libraries was to distribute information *to* the public, while the goal of Soviet libraries was to protect information *from* the public.  But I guess we’re not that different after all.

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