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: (woof)
I got only 100% on my citizenship test (because there are no extra-credit questions).  Now I have to wait 1-3 months for the oath-ceremony.

This was a long time ago.  And this was even longer ago.

Now if only I had a Canadian job!  Recently I went to a seminar on SR&ED.  Half the attendees were CEOs at local startups.  I was the only job-seeker.  After the seminar, one of the CEOs gave me a job interview.  A few days later I went for an interview with that company's chief engineer, who is a hard-ass about deadlines.  I thought, "I do not have the health-points for this job".  They wanted device drivers to connect Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to an ARM development board.  I could probably do the work, but I'm just not enthused about working on that team, for no pay, and maybe a share of the booty in six months when the venture-capitalist vultures show up.

Maybe I should be looking for a later-stage startup that already has some VC funding and won't remind me quite so much of working on a pirate ship.
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)

Suppose you need to convince a client to buy your company’s product, so you decide to take him on a hunting trip — and you bring along your dog.  While jawboning to the client about how great the product is, in order to emphasize your company's ability to complete its projects, you shoot a duck out of the sky.  The duck lands in a marsh, so your dog goes and fetches it for you.  As you take the hunk of meat from the dog, you give him a small prepackaged treat and think, “What a stupid trade this dog just agreed to.”  But who is really getting the better deal here?

Suppose instead that you fail to shoot any ducks, so your dog has nothing to do — yet he still gets his dinner when you go home, just like every day.  The dog gets heating and air conditioning, food, vet care for his boo-boos, and an appreciative boss.  He gets fed regardless of whether you end up pulling off that deal with the client.  He got no worries, hakuna matata!

* * * * *

In other news, I gave another lecture at that monthly programmers’ meet-up, which is sponsored by a company that I guess I’ll refer to as “ℙ” on this blog.  I talked about my never-completed doctoral thesis and how it relates to my difficult-but-eventually-completed move to Canada.  (I skipped over the part about how the USA is not actually a “free country” because previous meet-ups clearly indicated that these Canadians didn’t want to hear such talk about our neighbour, friend, and ally The States.)  I talked about the professor that I had hoped would supervise the dissertation and how I had designed the program to match up with his personal proclivities.  I showed some code and discussed how it connected to certain foundational theorems of computer science.

After my speech, a fellow I had never met before, who apparently does not work at Company ℙ, asked me if I was a professor at the local university.  “No,” I replied, “I just sound like one.”  He asked to see my résumé, so I showed it to him.  He was apparently not expecting to see that I have spent the last seven years doing web-monkey work at Company 𝔾, so he never did talk about whatever job he had wanted to offer — which is too bad because the fellow seemed to be quite well off and I could sure use some dough.

The Company ℙ manager asked many questions about my project, but continued to avoid saying anything about possible employment.  My impression was that my presentation had convinced him that I was not a suitable candidate for his own part of the company (perhaps to be called here?) because his group is all about the “awesome user experience” and my program clearly demonstrates that my visual-design skills are not “awesome”.  Damn it, I’m a content guy, not a pretty interface guy!  But apparently there are other positions accessible through the Company ℙ network, so it still seems worthwhile to go back next month.

The Company ℙ guy who’s big on Haskell wasn’t there this month.  In fact, there were less than a dozen people in attendance because so many people were on vacation for August.  But one guy announced that it was his first day on the payroll so he had brought free beer for everyone!  So that was nice.

* * * * *

Doesn’t anyone need a doggie to go fetch a program for them from the marsh after they’ve convinced a client to buy it?  I can fetch really meaty programs and I don’t need especially-fancy treats for them!  And I can and have fetched from areas of the marsh that most doggies wouldn't dare enter.

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: (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: (Default)
Wifey and I emailed our absentee ballots on Monday.  On Tuesday she received an email acknowledgment that her vote was accepted.  I did not get any acknowledgment.  Oh well—every candidate I voted for won anyway.

On Tuesday I got a promotion to Team Leader.  The *fifth* person I've tried to hire as an underling accepted the job.  On Friday he sent in his work for the week.  I wrote back that it was "not the correct solution" and went into considerable technical detail as to exactly why his program doesn't do what is needed, ending with "you did a great job on everything I didn't complain about!"  We'll see if he comes back next week for more punishment.  Hey, in today's economy, a job with an obnoxious boss is better than no job at all—right?

If he does come back, I guess I'll refer to him as ‘Я’ on this blog.  The letter ‘Я’ appears frequently in English parodies of Russian text because it looks like a backwards ‘R’, but it is actually not a very common capital letter: the ‘Я’ section of a Russian dictionary is very short.  But IRL, both Я’s name and mine contain this letter.  (Actually, I've never seen his name in Russian, but I *think* it has a ‘Я’ in it.)  A millennium ago, the letter now written as ‘Я’ represented a nasal vowel, perhaps like French "in", but this fact might not have anything to do with the history of my family's name, where the initial sound might have been the same as today's palatal approximant back when Slavs were writing Я as Ѧ and sounding like Frenchmen when they pronounced it.

So, how about them Team Democrat folks, eh?  Some of them still can't believe they actually won for a change.  President Obama gave a press conference where he announced that he is NOT THE PRESIDENT yet—meanwhile Harper is already trying to get Obama to do a North American deal on global warming so Canadian firms don't get penalized by the new US cap-and-trade system.  Even Dictator Chávez of Venezuela is saying that it's a new day and maybe he doesn't have to hate the USA anymore.  Did you know that Obama is the first-ever US president whose name ends with ‘a’?  It's true!  All previous president's names ended with a consonant or a silent ‘e’.  Also, he's the first-ever US president with a living grandmother in Kenya.  Some pundits have already started using the word Dholuo when referring to the president's family-in-the-Old-Country, while the more idiotic pundits use the word "Swahili" which is the official language of Kenya but is spoken by a completely different group of black people in that country.

The John McCain we saw making his run for the presidency (unlike the real John McCain, who gave his concession speech) was utterly unqualified for higher office, yet 47.5% of American voters pulled the lever for him.  That's like 70 million Americans doing something that no reasonable person should ever do, no matter what their positions might be on abortion and gays and whatnot—you should not hand over the football to a man who is willing to pretend to be a spineless hack!  So no, I will not be moving back to the States any time soon.

pyesetz: (arctic-fox)
It's October in Canada.  I'm still walking around outside without a coat.  Temps are 10°C above historical norms, but then Global Warming is the "new normal".  Québec now has thriving blueberry farms!

The moving van finally arrived today; no more sleeping on an air mattress!  A few bits of minor breakage (van driver gave me $5 for a broken mirror, apologized for a broken lamp which I managed to fix, etc).  Now I am the proud owner of a house full of packing boxes. is disappointing.  I'm supposed to get 7 Mb/s broadband speeds, but I'm actually getting only 1.5-3.5.  Being out in the country has its downside!  The physical plant in my town is old and can't support broadband-telephony or any digital-TV tuner that was made during this century.

I've been here for almost a week and still feel like a fish out of water.  My passport says I'm a permanent resident, but I'm still "an American in Canada", hiding out from the US Fascists.  It seems most of the people on my street are twice my age.  The local hardware store has a cartoon that makes fun of people with college educations who don't know the stuff that really matters.  Maybe I need a local job.  UWaterloo is hiring for a Linux administrator position, but the required qualification is just "a college degree in computer science", so I'm probably overqualified with a master's.

Didn't get anywhere near as much for my NJ house as I had hoped, so the ON house has a lot of debt on it.  Thankfully I moved mucho dinero up from the States back when 1 CAD = 0.97 USD.  Now it's 0.99975 USD.  That makes a difference for a down-payment on a house!
pyesetz: (Default)
Last weekend a buyer showed up for my house.  We agreed on a price, then they hemmed and hawed all week.  This weekend they finally admitted they weren't really going to buy the place after all.  So it's really looking like my house will be empty for awhile and I'll have to pay two mortgages.

I went with North American Van Lines to move my stuff to Canada.  Now that the move is only a week away, they're changing the terms: apparently they expect me to sleep on an air mattress for two weeks until their truck finally gets around to showing up!  Of course, it's probably too late to hire anyone else, but I'll make a few more calls.

As time marches on, the Loonie is headed toward parity with the Greenback, so whatever price I get for my house in banana-republic American dollars will be worth less and less in hard Canadian currency.  Oh, if only I had been allowed to emigrate five years ago when I wanted to, before the CAD/USD ratio increased by 50%!  But I might as well wish for the moon.  In a runaway-credit situation, the next stage after a real-estate crash is either Depression or Hyperinflation.  Depression is probably the more likely outcome for the USA (say most pundits), but neither one is good for trying to sell a house for a decent price in hard currency!  Hopefully I can get Company 𝔾 to accept invoices in Loonies.  I know it's impossible for Mr. Bear to actually *pay* me in any sort of "foreign" currency (the USA has always been very isolationist about such things) but maybe including an exchange rate in the invoice calculations might give me a bit of an inflation hedge.

Company 𝔾 is hiring!  It looks like [ profile] ethethlay is just never going to sign on, so I'm moving on to the "extra credit winners" of my Cookie Contest[ profile] foogle is not available.  [ profile] aethwolf is thinking about it, but the morning after I emailed him about it he woke up with a tummyache*sigh* I'm just spreading stress around to everyone I know.

To make the down-payment on my new house, I deposited at my US bank a large cheque from the line of credit on my old house.  They choked on the sudden change in size of my account and put a "hold" on the deposit for 7 days.  On the eighth day I went to the bank to say "WTF?  I've been paying interest on this money for a week—where is it?"  They released the hold.  Then I had to wait a few more days for my international-currency-trader credentials to be finalized; hopefully the money will actually go to Canada tonight.  Otherwise it could be embarassing to go to settlement on my new house with no down-payment in paw!

I really liked the home inspector I hired for my new house.  His politics are standard "Canadian Liberal", so I thought we had an understanding.  But since then I've sent him two emails, a phone message, and an indirect phone message via my broker—no reply.  I wanted him to reinspect to see whether the improvements the seller was supposed to make had been done properly.  Oh well; guess I'll just have to inspect it myself.  Thankfully it's all electrical work.

*Paw waves to [ profile] avenginglioness!*
pyesetz: (flag-over-sunrise)
Success!  Got our immigrant visas, visited Niagara Falls and Canada's Wonderland, bought a house, even got a mortgage with no job or national credit history!  What a nice country—I can hardly wait to move!

Below the fold is my trip report.  It's rather heavy on the photos (over a megabyte of images).

Read more... )
pyesetz: (flag-over-sunrise)
July 14th: Drive from NJ to NY.  Uneventful.

July 15th: Drive from NY to ON.  No US customs.  Half-hour traffic jam getting to Canadian customs.  The border guard doesn't like our story and sends us to Immigration.  The immigration officer doesn't like our story at all—apparently it is unheard of to enter Canada with a Permanent Resident visa authorized but not yet issued.  The officer is able to confirm that we applied for a visa back in 2005, but can't confirm that it has actually been approved and is ready for issue.  He would have preferred that we had brought along proof of $10,000 in settlement funds.  In his opinion, buying a house before landing is "putting the cart before the horse".  Unlike everyone else I've ever talked to, he says that one could land-as-an-immigrant without presenting an Inventory Of Goods to Follow, then send that in later—but visas are not issued on Sundays so we can't do it now.  After all this carping (we spend at least fifteen minutes at Immigration), he decides to let us in anyway(‼‼), apparently just to avoid ruining our day.  What a nice country!  But, since our story couldn't be confirmed, he sends us to Customs to have our car searched.  The customs inspector looks through everything but makes no complaints.  And now we're in!

July 16th: Kitchener Ontario.  Um, Toto, we aren't in Kingston anymore.  Speed limits here are treated as suggestions.  The local accent is very slight.  Many businesses are US chains.  Entire minutes can go by without any indication that I'm in Canada and not the States.  Caffeine is very popular here—people are hustling along, trying to get ahead.  I can sort of see why Bitch, PhD might have hated this area so much (while working as a tenure-track professor of English) that she wrote a blog for two years in which she pretended to be in the US Midwest.  Toyota has an auto-assembly plant in Cambridge ON, a little to the Southwest.  Detroit is two hours's drive from here.

We spend four hours with the Realtor whom we had contacted two weeks ago.  He tells us that everything in our price range is either a dump, in a red-light district, or is semi-detached.  We drive around looking at semi-detached things, but Wifey just can't bear to move "down" from our current house to one that shares a wall with one neighbour and half a driveway with another.  I tell her that people who didn't leave Germany in the 1930's, because they didn't want to lose social status, later ended up dead, but it's just no good.  The Realtor is a country boy, age 57, who got into real estate after selling his cheese factory 30 years ago.  He lives in the village next to the one he grew up in (they've since been amalgamated into the same township).

The Realty office also has a mortgage broker.  The news from the broker is excellent!  The "Welcome to Canada Program for New Immigrants with 35% Down Payment" means I can borrow money on my new house, with interest-only payments, at a more favorable rate than what I've got on the old house.  What a nice country!  I'd been assuming that I had to pay cash.  Today I'll look at houses costing about $30,000 more, where there's much better selection.  If that doesn't work, I suppose I could even go a little higher, although I still have no job lined up.

I don't like Kitchener, which is very blue-collar.  And its "twin city" Waterloo is too upper-crust, with nothing whatsoever in my price range.  So I expect that I'll probably buy something in the township of Wilmot.
pyesetz: (flag-over-sunrise)
I'm sorry to have offended y'all with my frequent carping about what a crappy country the USA is these days, but I gotta "keep my hate up" until I complete my Northward relocation.  It's not easy to change one's nationality, though Canada is perhaps the least-difficult new country for a USAian to get used to.  Nothing about this move has ever been easy for me (some people are just lucky, I guess).  I have to keep reminding myself what a horrible Sovietesque place the USA has *usually* been, for most of its history, except for brief periods like the one I grew up in.  American historians like to end each of their stories of US atrocity by saying, "and then we learned our lesson!"  No, we didn't, at least not the right lesson.  Like the child who is spanked after being caught with his hand in the cookie jar, the lesson we learned was "don't get caught" rather than "don't steal".  What we learned from Japanese internment during WWII wasn't that discrimination based on ethnic origin is bad government, but that we should try harder not to get caught engaging in such blatant racism.  I'd like to say that what we learned from the Spanish-American War was not to get caught creating a fake casus belli, but these days it seems we didn't even learn that.  I would like my taxes to go to a country that actually is what the USA merely pretends to be: a liberal democracy.  I would like to have a government that often seems to be at least *trying* to do the reasonable thing, rather than one whose last reasonable act (that I can recall) was ordering the National Guard stationed at the airports in Fall '01 to keep their guns unloaded.

After five years of trying, I have managed to clear only one of the roadblocks on the way to my new life as a Canadian.  For some people this would be enough: now I should just emigrate, get an apartment in Toronto like all the other immigrants, then start looking for a job and the other pieces of my new life.  But otiose pride gets in the way.  Some people get their new jobs lined up before they go; why can't I?  Some people find housing that's just perfect for them, why can't I?  When I bought my current house, it met every criterion we could think of, so it was "just perfect".  Our criteria are different now, but I can't find anything in all of Ontario that's perfect enough to justify jumping in the car and driving 600 miles to go look at it.

Things aren't all bad, of course.  Company 𝔾 is willing to continue employing me as a telecommuter to get me through the dark and cold of my first Canadian winter.  My neighbors tell me that housing prices in our area have stabilized somewhat, so things look good as far as getting the price I had hoped for on my current house (about $50,000 less than the going rate around here, since it's somewhat dilapidated).  But with no good news coming in from the new-house search, it's hard to get motivated to prepare this house for sale, or even make it presentable to a house-flipper.  I'd like to pre-sell the house, locking in a price so I know for real how much I can spend.  Then I can say to the kids, as I sign on the dotted line, "Look, kids!  I'm selling the house!  You'd better get started on cleaning your rooms."  But I'm nowhere near ready to do that.  Meanwhile the clock keeps ticking.  My visa (once I get it!) will probably expire in mid-October.  If I can land some academic job then I'll probably have to move in late August.  This is my last summer as an American.  But somehow the move doesn't seem real yet.

I'm in.

May. 14th, 2007 06:40 pm
pyesetz: (flag-over-sunrise)
Heard from my Canadian lawyer today.  I have been approved for immigration.  Tomorrow I'll get the kids' passports renewed, then they go off to the consulate to get a "Permanent Resident of Canada" stamp.  Then I have to prepare my house for sale and find a new house in the Great North.  I have to move by October.  Three months after I move, I will become a voter in receive tax-supported healthcare from the province of Ontario.  As soon as 4½ years after that I can become a citizen of Canada.  By then my daughter will be 18½ years old, having been subject to US military conscription for six months.  Hopefully her number won't be called during that time.

And this took only FIVE YEARS!
pyesetz: (flag-over-sunrise)
As of my last update, at T+4.5 years, my request for permission to move had finally gotten "initial approval", only to have my wife diagnosed with cancer later the same day.  Next, at T+4.66 I was informed by Immigration Canada that the note from my doctor was inadequate and they wanted another one with a more numerical bent.  My immigration lawyer says that final approval (or rejection, since officially cancer patients are inadmissible) is likely to be three months after they receive the second letter.  The Designated Medical Practitioner in Phila. told me that they would mail the new note to Canada for $50, or I could let it piggy-back on someone else's mailing for free. 

I didn't particularly want to receive final rejection during the cancer treatment, so I put off until T+4.83 even telling my doctor that another note was needed.  By T+4.92 the cancer treatment was over, so I checked with the DMP to see whether they had gotten the new note.  No, they hadn't, so I called my doctor's office and asked them to FAX it again.  At T+5.0 years I checked again.  Nope; a FAX number that had worked fine for the first note had mysteriously failed to work *twice* for the second note.  So I went to my doctor's office, got a copy of the note, and drove it over to the DMP's office, who told me it would be off to Canada that same day and I should call back the next day to get a courier tracking number.  Three days later I call back—it still hasn't left, but if I call back the next day at precisely 1:00 PM they'll give me a tracking number.  So I call back at 1:00 PM today.  It hasn't gone out because there is no other Canada-bound mail for it to piggy-back on, but they'll send it right away if I pay $50, or it will definitely go out on Tuesday.  Well, I'm not holding my breath until then!  And it seems odd that they didn't know previously that there would not be any Canada-bound mail today.

If by some miracle it actually goes out on Tuesday, that means final approval can't happen until at least July, which means the 5-year kid passports for my children will expire unused and will have to be replaced with new RFID passports so the "Canada permanent resident" stamp can be placed in them, which means I'll have to buy a *fifth* set of passport-sized photos of my kids (set 1: the current passports, never used because they didn't arrive in time for my job-hunting trip to Canada in 2002, because some Federal-employee union was on strike at the time; set 2: for immigration--expired unused because the FBI took 2½ years to get around to certifying that I am not a criminal; set 3: actually used for immigration app; set 4: actually used for the DMP medical exam that will expire in October '07 if I don't move by then).

I've decided to set the T+0.0 point in my saga at mid-March 2002, which is when I started looking for a Canadian job.  But really I started thinking about emigrating in October 2001, when the Bush Doctrine was promulgated: it is sometimes paraphrased as "If you don't agree with everything the president says, you're a terrorist".

(It has now been 30 days since I arrived on Pharyngula's blogroll.  For some reason I am still there.  Today he writes about the "Blog Amnesty Day" fuck-up that originally caused him to offer an "Open Enrollment Day".  Does the presence of my blog on his roll help him to feel better about continuing to be the target of professional whiners?  If so, glad to be of service!)
pyesetz: (flag-over-sunrise)
On August 28th, at 4:59 PM, I received an email from my immigration lawyer: my request for permanent residence in Canada was approved!  All that remained was medical exams and updated police certificates.

At 5:05 PM that day, [ profile] stuffedwithfluf received a phone call from her doctor: the lump removed from her breast turned out to be malignant.  She needs radiation treatments and there was a 30% chance that chemo would be needed.  Also this makes her ineligible to enter Canada for five years.

Right now Wifey is under general anesthesia, having her lymph nodes examined to see if the cancer has metastasized.  Hopefully I can get this posted before the results arrive, in case the news will be bad.

So, 2½ years of fighting with the US government for the right to leave this "free" country, ½ a year getting an application together, a year waiting for Canada to decide to let me in, and now I'm "medically quarantined" in the USA for another five years.  I'll just mention "Book of Job" here without quoting from it.

It's hard to believe I'm quarantined in this loony-bin.  Recently President Bush said that it was unacceptable to think that the behavior of the US was in any way similar to that of Al Qaeda.  So the States are now a country in which there are officially-unacceptable thoughts.  The Bush government has admitted to spying on its own citizens without warrants, torturing them in Cuba and Syria, holding them indefinitely without charges, and in general acting like the former Soviet Union.  I studied the USSR in my youth; it was not a country I ever expected to find myself living in, and certainly I never expected that I would be medically prohibited from leaving such a place.

The health situation has sort of cooled my interest in getting another full-time job, since I may need to spend rather a lot of time over the next few months shuttling Wifey from one doctor's appointment to another.  I still have the job with 𝔾, but it doesn't pay enough even if I work at it for 40 hours a week.  And these last few weeks I haven't felt like working at it that much.

Update: Nope, didn't manage to post before the news arrived.  Her lymph nodes are clear.
pyesetz: (flag-over-sunrise)
My application has been sent to the Canadian Consulate.  They're a little backed up right now; supposedly it will be about four months before they send an acknowledgment of receipt.  Then it's 2–16 more months until a decision.  Maybe my passport will get stamped by next summer.

I really, really don't want to move to Canada and *then* look for a job, but the only jobs that can be obtained a year in advance are academic.  I've been trying to soften up the chairman of a certain Comp. Sci. department by writing analysis programs for a language he invented.  Here is my latest result.  Note the inscrutable underlying syntax that shines through all the pretty colors and boxes I've added.  His response to my previous emails has been faintly positive; I'm hoping for a "Wow!" for this work but I suppose I may have to be satisfied with an "interesting...".

I've spent the last month on this (in case any of you were wondering why my journal went silent).  The project ran into many problems—I'd be quite surprised to find out that anyone has ever suceeded with this approach before.  The very last problem I ran into today was that my result files are in XML, which is not an acceptable language for pages served from Comcast home-user accounts.  If you put an XML file on a Comcast homepage and then read it with your browser, Comcast's computer tells your browser that the file is plain text, so it looks like colorless gibberish.  Furtopia gets it right, but I didn't want to send him a URL that mentions "pyesetz" because (as explained by [ profile] bitch_phd) it's not a good idea to tell a prospective academic employer that you have a blog, even an innocuous nonfurry one.  So I looked around the web for a free hosting service for low-volume non-furry no-advertising web pages.  I almost picked, but their FAQ lists specific file types allowed and XML isn't on the list (must be a Windows-based site...).  So I went with  Like [ profile] porsupah, I tend to use the same name at every website, so those of you who know my RL name can easily guess what name my files are under at freewebs.  As for the rest of you, don't worry about it—this crap is all academic anyway.
pyesetz: (flag-over-sunrise)
I have selected Abrams & Krochak as my immigration lawyers, based in part on this recommendation (which I'm considering changing to friends-only) and online searches in which I found A&K's successful customers talking about they just get the job done.

I faxed them legal-retainer paperwork and gave them money through their online credit-card system.  I filled out their online versions of the immigration forms (holding my tongue about the infelicities on their PHP coding--remember they're just lawyers).  They sent back an evaluation of my paperwork, recommending that I say more in some areas, less in others.

Progress is happening!

* * * * * * * * * *

All Americans should read US law 109-13, signed by president Bush a month ago.  Especially this part:

Section 102(c) of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (8 U.S.C. 1103 note) is amended to read as follows:
``(c) WAIVER.--
   ``(1) IN GENERAL.--Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall have the authority to waive, and shall waive, all laws such Secretary, in such Secretary's sole discretion, determines necessary to ensure expeditious construction of the barriers and roads under this section.
   ``(2) NO JUDICIAL REVIEW.--Notwithstanding any other provision of law (statutory or nonstatutory), no court, administrative agency, or other entity shall have jurisdiction--
      ``(A) to hear any cause or claim arising from any action undertaken, or any decision made, by the Secretary of Homeland Security pursuant to paragraph (1); or
      ``(B) to order compensatory, declaratory, injunctive, equitable, or any other relief for damage alleged to arise from any such action or decision.''.

Actually this is Karzai, not ChertoffI know it's an instant cliché, but "This is how liberty dies".  This law grants dictatorial powers to Secretary Michael Chertoff, who can do anything whatsoever merely by chanting the magic words "I need it for building that wall to keep out the Wetbacks."  Suppose Chertoff accidentally gets bumped on the head, suffers personality changes, and announces that Islamic saboteurs are interfering with the construction of his Mexican wall, so all Americans of Arab ancestry must now be placed in concentration camps.  Congress cannot stop him because he can waive any law they pass.  The courts cannot stop him because his actions are immune to judicial review.  He is answerable to no one except his boss George Bush, the Überführer.

What we see here is naked Fascism, no longer afraid to speak its name.  So why did 99% of Senators and 89% of Representatives vote for this?  I don't quite know.  In Germany 1933 the Social Democrats voted against the Ermächtigungsgesetz, even knowing that the Brownshirts would kill anyone who voted against transferring all law-making power to Hitler.  Those guys had core beliefs and the guts to vote for them, which most American congresscritters of today seem to be lacking (John McCain and John Conyers being notable exceptions, although both of them voted for the Chertoff dictatorship).

Others have written similar things about the new PATRIOT act.

* * * * * * * * * *

I just hope I can get out of here in time.  Billmon thinks there may be only "another year or two" before the US dollar plunges in value to its rightful place in the world (next to the Argentinian peso).  Then in a later post he says "3-5 years" until the US economy collapses as Asian investors get tired of supporting our deficit-spending binge.  My plans call for me to arrive in Canada with lots of money, to live on while I get myself a doctorate.  Most of my net worth is currently tied up in real estate, which I can't sell until I'm ready to move out of it.  Hopefully the housing bubble will continue for awhile longer.  Some ridiculous reports suggest that my current house has doubled in value over the last 10 years!

Here is it mid-June and New Jersey already has day after day of temperatures near 100°F.  When will the Weather service update their "seasonal averages" to match the new reality?  How far from the Canadian coast do I need to stay so my new house won't be under water when the polar ice caps melt?
pyesetz: (flag-over-sunrise)
([ profile] danruk sort of asked for posts on this topic.  This is friends-only to keep it away from search engines, because If you're not with us, you're a terrorist.  But feel free to discuss this text with other furs.)

For 2½ years I have been "a refusenik in a free country".  The USA would neither allow me to leave nor explain their refusal.  Well, no longer!  After five mailings, three cashier's cheques, and two complete sets of clawprints, they have acquiesced.  At left is the arrangement of ink molecules they finally sent me.  I am a free dog!  With this stamped clawprint card in paw, I can now apply to Immigration Canada for permanent residence.  So my next action should be... to hire an immigration lawyer.  Aroooo!  But it can't be helped.  I've taken as much of this bullshit as I can stand—the rest will have to be outsourced.  The road to Canada is long but I shall press on.  Nobody will be conscripting *my* pups for a war whose rationale changes with the winds!

If you follow such things, you've probably already heard that the US Gestapo (= "TSA") has admitted lying to Congress in the past and apparently plans to do so again in August, when they implement their new "Safe Flight" domestic spying regime despite Congress' direct order to them not to.  My boycott of US air travel (haven't flown since 9/11) will be continuing for the foreseeable future.  Not flying makes it hard to attend FurCons and such, but I refuse to enter any area where the police believe that article I, section 9, clause 3 of the Constitution does not apply to them.  A TSA screener may declare any item whatsoever to be contraband; there is no appeal; you can then be arrested for illegal possession of an item that wasn't illegal when you arrived at the airport; this has happened.

* * * * * * * * * *

From Robert Paxton via Billmon via [ profile] porsupah, a definition of Fascism:
Fascism may be defined as a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.

* * * * *

On a lighter note, I heard some new music on the radio today.  The singer is no kid, but he nails that teenager-angst sound.
I almost got popped for a fight with a thug
Cuz he almost made off with a buncha the drugs
That I almost got hooked on cuz you ran away
And I wished I woulda had the nerve to ask you to stay

And I almost had you
But I guess that doesn't cut it
Almost had you
And I didn't even know it

Here I go thinkin' about all the things I could have done
I'm gonna need a forklift cuz all the baggage weighs a ton
I know we've had our problems. I can't remember one.
pyesetz: (Default)
So I finally got my bank to replace the cashier's check that the FBI refused to take because it was too old (bank had said it was just fine). I was about to send the check and my fingerprints to the FBI for the fourth time, when I looked again at the last form-letter rejection notice -- and noticed that the expiration on fingerprint cards had been moved back from 18 months to 12! Now the prints are too old. It's always something!

So now I have to send them another request for blank cards, wait a month for a reply, get new prints at my police station, send the cards back to the FBI, wait another month, then find out what their latest bureaucratic excuse will be. Bush will be out of office before I'm outta the USA!


pyesetz: (Default)

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