Showing stories tagged with: life

Donuts

<p>I was smiling. And hungry. And breakfast was 30 minutes away. Like a mirage, in the distance, I spotted -- or was it? -- a Donut Pub. Walking onward in the crisp morning, one thing became inevitable.</p> <p>There was a brief hesitation when I realized I had the responsibility to choose all twelve types with speed and accuracy; "Just a mix," I abdicated, "heavy on the chocolate is probably good." I cringed a little as he used excessive amounts of wax paper -- one sheet for every two he withdrew from the trays. Around number eleven, I spied my favourite. "And an apple fritter, please." "Those are a different price," the man behind the counter replied in that uniquely gruff but friendly New York style. "But I'll put one in anyway." Apparently having had his generosity triggered, he proceeded to sprinkle round-dough balls over the box.</p> <p>He closed it up, and began quickly and deftly bundling it up with string. "You've done this before, I see," I smiled. "Too many times" he said with a weary smile.</p> <p></p>
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People Watching

<p>At 6th Ave, on the L. The doors sit open; we're blocked by train traffic.</p> <p>A man, seated, perks up surprised and shouts a name muffled by my iPod. He bustles out of the train, gives the named woman a handshake and a hug. A few gestures later the wander off down the platform. Random encounter worth changing plans for? Absent-minded rider-man? Confused meeting point?</p> <p>Who knows. City livin'. </p>
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City Livin'

<p> "You go to hell! Like yo' motha! You an' you motha are goin' to hell!" -- Angry man yelling at another angry man outside my building </p>
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The Gentlemen Must Have Pants

<p> Josh and I joined a bunch of my workfolk for a dinner out, and then went with one of them to a bar her friends were at, called (and located at) 230 5th Ave.</p> <p>We walked in the door, a little confused 'cause it looked very residential. Once we decided we could just go through, a an short, elderly man said "Excuse me, ma'am. The gentlemen must have pants."</p> <p>And so we left. </p>
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Montauk

<p>[Written on the train back from Montauk yesterday morning]</p> <p>I went to bed early last night, depleted from an accidental century from Babylon to Montauk point and with an early rise to catch the only morning train back to NYC.</p> <p>I woke up at 4, then 5:20, then 5:59, just in time to silence my alarm with waking anyone up. I'm on a train now, for which I was short on cash, and rescued by a stranger to the tune of $5.25. He's American, she's Japanese, and they're headed back to Tokyo.</p> <p>The ride was one of the finest I've ever done -- long, good company, gorgeous sunshine (from whence came some good tan marks), 25km/h tailwind, wide shoulders with only occasional rough spots, and a tasty (but overpriced) lunch in "The Hamptons".</p> <p>We got to the campground after 80 miles (ahh! 128km) and were told it was 4mi (6.4 in sane, metric units) to the lighthouse. Off we went! 10 miles (16km) later, we got there. Surreptitiously, we had celebratory beer on the rock beach (which had awesome surfing waves, except that each of which ended up with death on some hidden rock).</p> <p>By the time we got back, a century was completed. We collapsed, took off our most uncomfortable clothing, then began eating everything in sight. This was a supported ride, in that some other folks had driven and trained down with our stuff, which was lovely.</p> <p>I feel super-awake this morning, with only minor soreness. Still going to nap my way through the train ride, though. =)</p> <p>Hurray summer! </p>
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I went to the Bronx!

<p> You know sometimes if you haven't called your mum in a while, and you know you need to catch up, you feel like you need to find a good chunk of time before you pick up the phone?</p> <p>Yeah. Blogging's like that too. But too bad. </p> <p><a href="http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=2862515">I went to the Bronx!</a>. By bike. On Monday. Just barely went over the bridge to touch down, and then came back. I've now finally been to all five boroughs, four on bicycle, two only to touch down and return (Staten Island ferry being the other one.)</p> <p>Two more parties, a bunch more cycling, been across the Williamsburg bridge, ...[looks at last entry]...oh boy! Been to California by bus (64 hours. Not that crazy.) for three weeks of couchsurfing and working..then flew back. Went wine-"tasting" while I was there (I was the designated drinker). Lost my iPhone, started using my gPhone, started <em>liking</em> my gPhone a few weeks later, had my team shuffled a bit at work, and many other important things I'm forgetting. Oh, had a friend and his gf visit from Germany, had <a href="http://paulschreiber.com/blog/">Paul</a> come for a few days, and Josh is coming this weekend and my parents are coming next weekend. D was here somewhere in there, too. =) </p>
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48 kilometers

<p>I rode to what seemed to be the north end of the West Side Trail today, at about 155th St. I'm not sure if it actually was, but the path turned to dirt. Incidentally, that means I've now been to the Bronx, though I didn't realize it at the time. The transition between neighbourhoods as you go along the trail is palpable: on the Upper West Side there are lovely benches and nice wide spaces; through other parts there are people playing basketball on courts tucked under overpasses. Sometimes the path was side and split between pedestrian and cycle/roller traffic, and sometimes there was a half-meter wide pedestrian "lane". </p> <p><a href="http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/album/aYG32vlKF3cES9Ec4WSiVqNMTjNZETYmyPJy0liipFm0#"><img class="right" src="/images/website/IMG_7698.JPG"></a>I had my first proper random encounter with someone I know, while cycling back down the path when I bumped into someone I'd met two nights before. Wait, actually, second random encounter, 'cause I met her after randomly encountering two friends at the cinema. It's almost like I live here.</p> <p>The return over the Brooklyn Bridge was by far the worst I've ever had, with people leaping out in front of me and not looking even when they were walking facing me. I accidentally scared one older woman ('cause I didn't realize she was older) who was walking right towards me as I yelled and gestured and she noticed rather late. Oops. It was my moment of being a jerky New Yorker, though only by accident.</p> <p>Tonight I had a long chat with the founder of <a href="http://www.ecosanity.org/">EcoSanity</a>, a Toronto-based organization that I like a lot for their uncompromising spouting of the truth, and their attempt to push the term "Climate Emergency" into the public consciousness. As an act of support I'm going to start using the term.</p> <p>Yesterday I had a Pi/Pie party for <a href="http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-10194354-38.html">Pi Day</a> and that was pretty good. Less than half coworkers (partly because of lots of spouses [spice? spousen?]), which is good. I think people had a good time, and hopefully there's some momentum building. I really need to do something course-like to extend my social range, though. Maybe I'll go back to Yoga for a bit.</p> <p>On Wednesday I went to see "<a href="http://www.vampirecowboys.com/shows.htm">Soul Samurai</a> and it was totally excellent &mdash; the kind of stage show I like the most: slightly edgy, cheap and innovative, funny and well-acted. There was an incredible amount of stage fighting, which I think people fail to appreciate in this era of special effects.</p> <p>A very New Yorkey week, with a sprinkling of Toronto. </p>
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18 Degrees Celsius

<p> Freedom is spelled b-i-c-y-c-l-e.</p> <p>Weather warm enough for shorts is awesome. So is sitting in the park with my sis &amp; nephew. I've never wanted wintry weather to go away as much as I do right now. (My knee still seems sub-par from a run two weeks ago, but I think I'm going to ride home sometime this week anyway and see how it goes.)</p> <p>24 hours of oncall and no pages so far. And a clean-ish apartment to show for it. Oh, also, I finally have a reasonable approximation of curtains in my bedroom, to replace the unreasonable approximation made of string and the squishy wrapping bag that my TV came in. It only took me 4 months, people.</p> <p>Baingan bharta (= Indian eggplant curry) under preparation.</p> <p>'sgood. </p>
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Experimenting with Schedules

<p> On Monday, I got back at 7:25 on an overnight bus returning from a trip to my parents' place north of Toronto. Straight to work I went, in by 8am (and in time for breakfast at work like a spoiled weenie) for the first time ever. I left at a reasonable time mostly 'cause I wanted to go home and shower/change after an overnight bus trip. </p> <p>Tuesday started with a 7:50am wakeup from oncall who wanted a bit of help. I'm the lead for my team now, so this kinda falls to me automatically. Dealt with that, and got in to work in time for breakfast again.</p> <p>By Wednesday I had decided this was a habit, caught breakfast despite catching the train the wrong way for one stop thanks to confused signage at my under-construction subway stop. (Yes, dear reader, I'm sure it was the signage and not me that was confused. One stairwell said "Manhattan/Flatbush" (i.e. two different directions depending on which of the two tracks down that stairwell you got on a train) and the other said "MANHATTAN" in big letters. Not wanting to get confused, I went down the Manhattan stairs, and got on the first train that came, which was headed for...Flatbush. Wednesday night the power went out. In the old days, I'd like up a candle and do in-the-dark things. But these days as a fancy pants oncall must-survive-everything guy, I have a laptop with a spare battery and a 3G/EVDO USB wireless internet magic. By 10:30 my first battery was dying and I didn't want to dig into the second one, so off to bed I went. </p> <p>Thursday's commute was brutal: too-full trains that you couldn't get on, slow, and generally unpleasant. This is what happens when you sync your clock with the other 8 trillion people here, though I'm not sure why it was so much worse than Wednesday or Tuesday.</p> <p>Today (Friday) I got up early and I'm trying to work from home 'til 9:30 or so, when things should calm down. I'm not sure if it'll work, since I've mostly been reading blogs and..err..writing blogs. </p> <p>Despite the fact that this week's experimentations were mostly the product of serendipity, it's good because my commute is really bugging me. The narrative right now is that I'm waiting until I can cycle for about four weeks straight, and if I still don't like my commute then I'm moving closer, either in a closer part of Brooklyn or more likely into Manhattan. That will take a while, since I have to find a new 'hood, weasle out of a lease without losing deposits, etc. </p> <p> </p>
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Pollan on Vegetarianism

<p> In <a href="http://www.michaelpollan.com/omnivore.php">Omnivore's Dilemma</a>, Michael Pollan has this to say about his dabbling in vegetarianism: </p> <p><blockquote></p> <p>What troubles me most about my [recently adopted] vegetarianism is the subtle way it alienates me from other people and, odd as this might sound, from a whole dimension of human experience.</p> <p>Other people now have to accommodate me, and I find this uncomfortable: My new dietary restrictions throw a big wrench into the basic host-guest relationship. As a guest, if I neglect to tell my host in advance that I don't eat meat, she feels bad, and if I <em>do</em> tell her, she'll make something special for me, in which case I'll feel bad. On this matter I'm inclined to agree with the French, who gaze upon any personal dietary prohibition as bad manners.</p> <p>Even if the vegetarian is a more highly evolved human being, it seems to me he has lost something along the way, something I'm not prepared to dismiss as trivial. Healthy and virtuous as I may feel these days, I also feel alienated from traditions I value: cultural traditions like the Thanksgiving turkey, or even franks at the ballpart, and family traditions like my mother's beef brisket at Passover. </blockquote></p> <p>I wrestled with my novel dietary changes a bit, but ultimately aimed for (and nearly succeeded at) a vegan Christmas dinner with my parents where I'm comfortable cooking for myself and no one is going to feel bad, but folded entirely to the traditional twelve course Ukrainian Christmas Eve dinner with my extenda-fam, where opting out of the perogies would have been exceedingly poor form.</p> <p>I think that vegetarianism is common enough, at least among my friends and family, that I don't really buy his argument &mdash; it's not very often that I'm the only veggie at a party, and even if I am veggie and it happens that I forget to mention it, I don't think anyone feels really bad about it. But that's just social context &mdash; I think if you apply what he's saying to veganism or my <a href="/blog/life/nyc/shrinking-feet.html">special flavour</a> of diet does seem like an imposition.</p> <p>This is a weird line to walk; if I've decided that, for my day to day life, supporting conventional American factory farming is untenable, why would I let that slide? And yet, these traditions <em>are</em> important, and especially with the recency of my shift it hardly seems fair to induce this breakdown in the host-guest relationship that Pollan speaks of. It's a quandary that I resolve ultimately via social expedience but the rubric of this traditionalism is moderately more satisfying, though Pollan himself doesn't really resolve the issue.</p> <p>Wow, that last sentence was rubbish.</p> <p><hr></p> <p>In other news, I had a nice, relaxing Christmas &mdash; the quietest one I've had ever, I think, though my sister and her family arrive tomorrow to add the requisite snow-playing and children-screaming to the holidays. I got a bunch of kitchen- and food-related stuff, which is most excellent. </p>
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Home

<p> <img class="left" src="/images/Visit_Home/.lowres/IMG_0170.jpg">For the first time since my parents moved away from Saskatoon (and perhaps before then: trips home had already started to feel a bit weird as I grew apart from many &mdash; but not all &mdash; of my highschool friends), I have a Home. I'm <em>from</em> Toronto now, in some incomprehensible sense, given that I've only ever lived here one year. Maybe in two years I'll be <em>from</em> New York in the same sense, or from somewhere else entirely. But for now, as the overnight Greyhound pulled into the city in the clean early morning light, it was with a strong sense of comfortable recognition &mdash; the recognition of a journey I've done a dozen times: the tight curve of the <a href="http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=cn+tower&sll=40.67172,-73.956249&sspn=0.008479,0.019312&ie=UTF8&ll=43.640897,-79.380437&spn=0.004045,0.009656&z=17">Gardiner offramp</a> and the tower in the distance.</p> <p>The buildings are tall here, but not even mildly claustrophobic like I find Manhattan to be some days. My initial aggressive approach to boarding the subway was both unnecessary and unwelcome, but my NYC layer sloughed off pretty quickly. People smile at each other as they negotiate the "who gets which seat" dance at the busy subway stops. And a friendly conversation was struck up as our train apparently struggled to make it between <a href="http://maps.google.com/maps?f=d&saddr=st.+clair+station,+toronto&daddr=davisville+station,+toronto&hl=en&geocode=&mra=ls&dirflg=w&sll=43.693205,-79.395355&sspn=0.016167,0.038624&ie=UTF8&t=h&z=15">St. Clair and Davisville</a> &mdash; a stop-and-start failure of no known cause.</p> <p>Toronto, a bit like my <a href="/blog/travel/disjointed.html">SF trip</a> is instantly filled with people to meet up with. And like my first few trips back to Saskatoon after highschool, it's a gathering place for people who went to <a href="http://www.uwaterloo.ca/">Waterloo</a> &mdash; the <a title="Greater Toronto Area" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greater_Toronto_Area">GTA</a> is the main feeding ground for Waterloo. It's also full of <a href="http://www.greenparty.ca/">Green Party</a> people that I know. Just add beer.</p> <p>I know the town, I know the people; I know the subway and the currency and the health care system and the neighbourhoods and how to get anything done that I need. I have places to stay, numbers to call, and even a reasonable sense of direction, sometimes. But I think it's mostly about the people.</p> <p>Home. </p> <p>Maybe I'll even move back here some day. </p>
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Aim for Where You're Going

<p>[Last bit of musings about environmentalism started during my flight to San Francisco]</p> <p>When I was young, my dad got me involved in <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soap_Box_Derby">Soap Box Derby</a> &mdash building small, aerodynamic, gravity-driven cars and racing them down a hill two at a time. There were all kinds of aspects of it that were important: rigidity of the car, oil choice in the wheel bearings, driver position, but at the end of the day bad steering down the straight track could ruin it all. If you found yourself veering off to the side, my dad taught me to not try to get re-centered in the lane, but just to aim for the center of the finishline &mdash; to aim where you want to go.</p> <p>I recently had a discussion with my sister, who is writing about food and diet, about how at every turn there seems to be an environmental minefield. The topic at hand was local organic food still often having a higher footprint than the same foods bought en masse in grocery stores, because for some unprocessed whole foods the last-mile transport dominates. There are lots of things like this: polystyrene is incredibly low-energy while compostable sustainable paper cups are much higher; small-scale organic clothing operations often sell stuff at exhorbitant costs, which I can only assume is in part because that their small scale means high per-unit footprint along the way in terms of energy, transportation and space usage (think hours of lighting in the shop per unit sold). I support them anyway, because they're aimed where we need to go.</p> <p> Sometimes things aren't clear, sometimes you have to make judgement calls, sometimes you have to give up on something you wanted to do 'cause it's too damn expensive or complicated, but what matters is that you're pulling things the right way, more than the average around you. In some ways it's a weakform of Gandhi's "Be the change you want to see in the world" that's less demanding when the change you want is really substantial and you don't feel strong enough to rise to that challenge in its entirety. </p> <p>I think this pretty important, and helpful in navigating things: you should do a lot, but you don't have to do everything. If you're pulling the world in the right direction &mdash; and being at least transparent if not forceful about it &mdash; I think that's enough. </p> <p></p>
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One Hundred Fifty Dollars of Nom

<p><img src="/images/website/IMG_7022_small.jpg" style="text-align: center"><br></p> <p>That's from my first shop at the <a href="http://www.foodcoop.com/">Food Co-op</a> and in tune with my <a href="/blog/life/nyc/shrinking-feet.html">attempt at a dietary change</a>. Nom nom nom. I bought some canned pumpkin and coconut milk and cilantro, which tomorrow will turn into a delicious soup with any luck. </p> <p>When I got out of the store it was snowing, and by the time I had biked home with all that on my back and handlebars, there was a nice thick coating on the cars &mdash; snow is so pretty.</p> <p>&hearts; food.</p> <p></p>
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Murder of One

<p><blockquote>And I have been to Paris<br> And I have been to Rome<br> And I have gone to London<br> And I am all alone<br> And I have been to Paris<br> And I have been to Rome<br> And I have gone to New York City<br> And I am all alone<br> I'm all alone<br> I am all alone<br> <i><a href="http://www.countingcrows.com/">Counting Crows</a>, <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=30LGN2tsD-U&eurl=http://rob.infinitepigeons.org/blog&feature=player_embedded">Murder of One</a></i> </blockquote></p> <p>Events and conversations finally have made me realize that I'm going to be <a href="http://www.answers.com/lonely">lonely</a> a bunch for a while (sense 1, hopefully not 2 or 3), that I need to become comfortable with something that I'm really unused to and a little fearful of. But just realizing this has made it something to take on, rather than an inevitable cloud hanging on the horizon. It's good to know what you're working with.</p> <p>I've never actually been to Rome, either. </p>
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Shrinking My Feet

<p><a href="http://foodcoop.com/"><img class="left" src="/images/website/parkslopefoodcoop.jpg"></a>At 19:29:55, I plonked down in a plastic chair beside my sister at the <a href="http://foodcoop.com/">Park Slope Food Co-op</a> after riding straight there from work &mdash; "latecomers will not be allowed" the website said of the orientation session, so my timing was most superb. </p> <p>My sister tells me that, as they went over the various rules of the co-op working system I was nodding vigorously at their excellent policy choices, though I don't remember doing so. Every co-op member has to work 2.75 hours every four weeks. You have to pick a fixed shift (mine is 7am Wednesdays on week B of the four-week schedule), and some shift schedules are popular and thus full, and if you can't take an open one you have to plonk your name on a waiting list before you can join. If you travel a lot they have an alternative, more flexible system; if you don't like your shift schedule you can change to any other open one; if you can't make a specific shift you can trade, but if you just don't show up you owe two. If you fall behind you get suspended, but you have 10 days from the first time you're told you're suspended (at the door of the co-op, to get in) to correct clerical errors or make up your shifts. All very excellent, fair, and accommodating without needing a lot of flexible judgement calls. Apparently it used to be a lot more lax, and the co-op nearly collapsed. </p> <p>They now have 15,000 members and do $27M/y in business, so nearly $2000 per member per year, though it was unclear to me if that number included suspended and inactive members. It's the largest food co-op in the US, if I recall correctly. </p> <p>They have a strong <a href="http://foodcoop.com/go.php?id=39">environmental policy</a>, and thus this attacks one major prong of the food issue for me: where it comes from, how it's grown, and how it gets to me. The co-op is at a large enough that it's unlikely to suffer from small-scale issues like some farmers' market purchases can (driving a small truck of tomatoes is more expensive per tomato-mile than a large one), and it's careful enough that I hope I can shop there almost without thinking.</p> <p>The other prong is what I'm actually eating. Thus, complementing this, I've now spent three days dabbling in the diet I've had in mind for a while: vegan plus eggs and dairy only if they're organic and only inasmuch as I "need" to enjoy my food. (You can also call this lacto-ovo vegetarian with all animal products being organic, but I think that description, while perhaps more honest, would result in more confused times when people kind enough to try to match my dietary preferences misunderstand the parameters &mdash; "vegan", despite being incorrect, sets the scene better.) My sister has been buying a lot of "know the farmer" meat and I've been dabbling (bacon is yum!), but the aesthetic (and, somewhat, environmental) arguments just won't go away &mdash; this is descriptive, not prescriptive, though: I support what she's doing, it's just not the diet for me. But it forced my hand, somewhat: I've never really felt okay about eating factory-farmed eggs and cheese, but I've ignored it as too inconvenient. However, if my sister is managing to find this stuff enough to be eating it reasonably regularly, there's really no excuse any more. </p> <p>(Hah, I thought this "living alone" stuff might make me stop being a night owl, since the first couple "normal" nights were pretty early for me, but it's 2am and I'm blogging about feet.) </p>
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Arrive

<p> It's with a decided sense of irony that I'm finally writing the complementary post to <a href="/blog/life/sabbatical/depart.html">the last one</a> from a flight from JFK (New York) to SFO (San Francisco). But it's true &mdash; this morning I got a kitchen table, four chairs, a rocking chair, and a beanbag chair to supplement the boxes of stuff my dad brought down with him from Ontario (thanks dad!). It turned my kitchen from a depressing one-fork town to a proper-looking place of cullinary enjoyment, and gave me more than the suitcase-load of clothes to rotate through &mdash; hurray! Now I just need some food in the cupboards! Moving is "the one thing" I really really can't do independently 'cause I don't drive, and my moving karma is at an all-time low, so if I'm ever in the area when you need help with a move, please let me know.</p> <p>It's good to be back at work, and I'm slowly settling into my new project and new location; it's pretty weird joining a team when you're the "most senior" employee (by start date) but are rusty and uncertain in your own knowledge from a long respite, and certainly in new turf with its own local culture. I'm not sure I navigated it superbly, but nor did I make an utter ass of myself. I hope. There are several former-Dubliners here too, which has been really nice for having a hook into the goings on of various teams and instant pints-after-work.</p> <p><a href="http://picasaweb.google.com/rob.ewaschuk/ArrivalInNYC#5263887925908644674"><img class="left" src="http://lh3.ggpht.com/_ZCr5cqHXhA4/SQ0WLelAo0I/AAAAAAAAEhY/-fSu7fsOw0o/s128/IMG_6622.JPG"></a>I've started learning about New York a bit &mdash; <a href="http://picasaweb.google.com/rob.ewaschuk/ArrivalInNYC">Hallowe'en</a> night was fun and involved lots of ambling around lower Manhattan &mdasah; but between work, settling in, hanging out with my sister and her fam, I haven't explore much still. There's no rush though, and it turns out it's a pretty big place so it may take a while.</p> <p><a href="http://picasaweb.google.com/rob.ewaschuk/ArrivalInNYC#5263888045088241746"><img class="right" src="http://lh3.ggpht.com/_ZCr5cqHXhA4/SQ0WSajo-FI/AAAAAAAAEhs/OnfeUBwo0rE/s128/IMG_6644.JPG"></a>My apartment is good &mdash; I always expect one unanticipated (or, when you're lucky, anticipated!) quirk in any place I rent, and in this case the "Frankie" subway shuttle is louder than I expected: no big deal during waking hours, and it's totally tolerable for sleeping with the windows closed...hopefully by the time it's the season to have windows open I'm used to it. The neighbourhood is hard to gauge. I've met a few of my neighbours, but haven't had much reason to strike out in the immediate vicinity of my building.</p> <p>I am delightedly shocked with the cycling in Manhattan. It's got a wonderful flow to it, and feels much safer than Dublin (with less attentive drivers making more sudden moves) and even Toronto (cursed streetcar tracks!). Most of my commute is on dedicated bike path on the Brooklyn Bridge (where tourists occasionally start walking across the bridge right in front of you and get a good fright) or the west side bike trail, which is basically uninterrupted cycling. It's really invigorating to have a long cycling commute again, and I'm already starting to be back in decent shape after the no-time-for-exercise election madness in September and October.</p> <p>So yeah, I arrived, just before I departed again. </p>
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Depart

<p>I had arranged for my visa paperwork to be sent to my parents' place &mdash; I'd go there for thanksgiving, and maybe we'd drive down that weekend, or maybe I'd bring it back to Ottawa with me. Either way, the key was to try to be in Ottawa for the Tuesday night election results to roll in, and then to get back to New York on Wednesday, to start work on Thursday.</p> <p>My papers didn't arrive on Friday. When the London office opened on Monday morning, I got a tracking number which said it would be delivered on that day by 17:30. Not bad, I hoped: I'd be able to catch, at worst, the overnight bus to Ottawa, and be in the office for election day. But 17:00, then 17:30 came and went. I called the London office of the courier company, and they said it was maybe misrouted. By Tuesday morning, it turned out it had gone to <a href="http://maps.google.com/maps?q=from:windsor,+on+to:orillia,+on&ie=UTF8&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-a&z=7">Windsor instead of Orillia</a> and would take another day.</p> <p>After much scrambling, I decided to redirect the package to Ottawa, to get ahold of a high-quality scan of the original, and then to bus my butt to Ottawa. I'd get there just in time for the election night party, and then try my luck at the border crossing the next day. One of my friends-from-Finland who now lives in Ottawa with her fella has family in <a href="http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=binghamton,+ny,+usa&ie=UTF8&ll=42.098222,-75.915527&spn=8.980439,19.467773&z=6&iwloc=addr">Binghamton, NY</a>, so she was going to take me across the border and visit family. Good deal for all, assuming the border crossing was seamless.</p> <p>The election night party was...well, we lost our only seat, didn't come really close anywhere, and increased our vote by less than 50%. The party was still fun, but there was certainly a degree of deflation. However, some <a href="http://www.greenparty.ca/en/node/8361">further analysis</a> gives a pretty good impression...not the success discontinuity that I had come to hope for, but strong steady gains. I think we left around 3am, and I finally made it to bed by 4am. At 7:30, alarm clocks started going off; by 8:15 I was out the door to head to Avis to get our rental car. We took care of that, picked up my stuff, and rolled out. </p> <p>Fingers crossed, we got to the border. I have only done one land-border crossing in my adult life, and I've never applied for a US visa, so I only had a rough idea of how it would go down. Basically, you talk to the normal border guard, he gives you a yellow piece of paper with your plate numbers on it, and you pull off and go into an office. By then, they have your car keys, your passports, and one (of three) copies of the visa paperwork, so you're pretty stuck. They took my paperwork, and mostly just disappeared, popping out to ask a few questions, then to collect a once-in-a-lifetime 500USD "fraud charge," (presumably you have to pay it again if you are trying to use a different identity. ha.) and to take my fingerprints on the fancy scanner machine. They were friendly and efficient and clear about how the visa worked. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised by the whole experience, having braced for the worst.</p> <p>From there, we drove on to Binghamton, I boxed up my bike and repacked my stuff (it was pretty hastily and hungoverly packed) and I caught a bus onwards to New York.</p> <p>(Note that this marks the end of my sabbatical; if you've got a sabbatical-specific RSS subscription, it will end here; consider the <a href="http://rob.infinitepigeons.org/blog/index.rss">general feed</a>.) </p>
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Asthma and Bogus Surveys

<p> A combination of a precipitous drop in exercise, decreased dietary quality, stress, a cold, and an encounter with fresh oil paint seems to have exacerbated my asthma over the last week. I had a minor cease-up this morning, so decided to get a script for some tasty tasty salbutamol (aka Ventolin). I went to one clinic, but it looked like it was going to take about two hours, so I went to another in the same chain 'cause they allegedly had a five minute wait (hah!).</p> <p>Anyway, when I finally got to sit in a room, they asked me to fill out a survey. "Meh, sure, I have nothing else to do." Name, address, home phone, hmm..this isn't very anonymous.</p> <p>"Which of the following applies to you?" Aha! The survey proper!</p> <p>"I am concerned with excessive hair growth and would like to have it removed." Umm. no. next.</p> <p>"I would like to diminish the appearance of vertical lines on my lips." Hmm. I don't even know which way my lip-lines run. </p> <p>"I would like to enhance the size of my lips." This survey is very focused on my lips. </p> <p>Five more bullets, and then "I have no cosmetic concerns." Yeah.</p> <p>How bogus. </p>
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Onward Journey

<p> I took a ring with two keys on it, spun it off my keychain, and placed it on the countertop. I picked up two shoulder bags and two canvas bags, closed the door behind me, and left. Two couches and a foam mattress sat on the downstairs patio along with a couple bags of magazines &mdash; the last remnants of a flurry of freecycling. (The result was good: less than two "supplementary" large garbage bags of waste from two years of living.) </p> <p>I often wish I had a timelapse photo of my keychain: a solitary bicycle key through highschool, the long UW-branded lanyard from first year that I spun around incessantly; the various sets of housekeys, eventually attached to my pocket knife, and then its progressive decay from an unforgiving life in my pocket; periods, like now, when there's a chaos of loaned keys from places where I'm staying; and still, brief times where the only key is for a bike lock...somehow these changes uniquely represent the transactional points in life.</p> <p>I'm on a bus now, to Ottawa, back to the election campaign. In about two weeks, I'm going with my stuff to NYC, and then popping back up to finish off the campaign. Then begins my onward journey, on October 15th, to New York, for real. To the United States, a place I once thought I'd never work. To Google, and a new project and a new team. To a city absorbing the collapse of a major industry. To a country on the brink of a potentially game-changing election. To live in the same town as my sister for the first time in nearly ten years.</p> <p>To my onward journey.</p> <p></p>
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Credit Card Fraud

<p>Yesterday I looked over my credit card, and noticed a charge I didn't recognize. A few phone calls later and it turned out someone had been using my card to buy wireless time in Toronto. </p> <p>One of the merchants (who will rename nameless) erred somewhat in giving me the details of the purchaser &mdash; probably a violation of their privacy policy, notwithstanding the fraud &mdash; which included a phone number one digit off from mine (the phone is currently off), an email address @live.com, and an address that turns out to be a bike shop in Toronto. </p> <p>Visa was prompt and effective, even promising to investigate the oldest fraudulent charge which was over three months ago. I'm surprised that they got away with it; it seems like the fact that they used a name, email and phone number that weren't mine would enable Visa to shut down that purchase, if the merchants were sharing that information. </p> <p>The whole thing reminded me of this YouTube clip:</p> <p><object width="425" height="344"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/CS9ptA3Ya9E&color1=0xb1b1b1&color2=0xcfcfcf&hl=en&fs=1"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/CS9ptA3Ya9E&color1=0xb1b1b1&color2=0xcfcfcf&hl=en&fs=1" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowfullscreen="true" width="425" height="344"></embed></object></p> <p></p>
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