Monthly Archives: September 2011

Otto-Bus

The car has a name:  Otto!  I hope I don’t have to spell out why this name works so well – not to mention that it is a quirky old man-ish name and my car is kind of like a hipster.  So thank you for the suggestions – as JSLPA and SARS were the people who submitted responses right on the blog they will both get a postcard (if you send me your addresses).  Others gave me suggestions in other formats and I can’t remember who chose the winning name so tough titty (said the kitty).

Otto took me comfortably to Edmonton and back this weekend and did so on a half tank of gas.  Half of a small tank I am hoping.  A quarter tank got me around 175km.  Good, no?  Well, I’m going to assume so except I don’t actually know how large the tank is yet.

The weekend itself was lovely – Edmonton is a surprisingly beautiful city with so much green space.  The H-Burts cooked up a fabulous turkey dins and I stuffed myself then drove home.  First expedition just Otto and me – CHECK!

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Second Nerd Post of the Week

Moving to a town of 100 000 people I was already anticipating library disappointment (yes, that is a real thing).  It isn’t that I don’t appreciate a library that tries hard but for two years I had access to the TORONTO public library.  99 branches.  You want to read the fairly obscure “It’s Our Turn to Eat”?  13 copies.  Feeling like some Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows?  Check out one of the 388 copies.  You can see why I was expecting to be underwhelmed.

Because I had no proof of my address I was forced to wait over a week before I could get my hands on my library card.  Plus they wanted me to PAY for it.  Ok, just $10 but still.  Before even physically entering the library I had run a completely non-scientific survey of the Red Deer library catalogue to determine if they offered my selections and things were not looking good, dear friends.  I got my card, browsed around quickly and went to the check out.  Ready to leave I almost walked away when I remembered to ask about suggesting books for purchase.  That one remark opened a WHOLE NEW WORLD (unbelievable sights, indescribable feelings) of librariness.  There is a secret *shhh* library card you can request and a secret online database that allows you access to ALL 290 BRANCHES in Alberta and their entire holdings.  Take that TPL with your 99 – well, thanks to Rob Ford probably even fewer soon.  So, not only can I browse the holdings of the entire province of Alberta and have them sent directly to my nearest library location I can also use the library in any other city in the network, take out books in person there (for example, Edmonton) and return said books to any other branch in the network (say, Red Deer).  Ding ding ding!  Library heaven.

It’s Our Turn to Eat by Michela Wrong

I am a giant nerd of a classic book-type and I have learned long ago that generally the non-fiction books that interest me are rarely prime conversational material for most other humans.  Lucky for me this is my blog and I decide what to write about and if I am the only one who cares about the topic then, as my pops would say, no skin off my nose.  My latest favourite on the book circuit is journalist Michela Wrong’s “It’s Our Turn to Eat:  The Story of a Kenyan Whistle Blower”.  Of course, I am already a bit biased having just been to Kenya but I think we can all benefit from knowing more about other things that happen in the world (besides the newest Lonely Island video – not that that isn’t noteworthy).


This book felt like a very poignant discussion of the history behind the tribalism so evident to anyone who has been to Kenyan and spoken to its citizens. The one thing I regret is not reading the book BEFORE visiting the country since it would have made me a much more in-tune with the tensions around me and the reasons for it.  It drove home that the corruption I experienced while in Kenya, dirty as it felt, was just the ear of the hippo* compared to the scandals that characterize every government this barely middle-aged nation.  The few men (inevitably men) in the top often siphon off as much from the public purse as enters it from foreign aid.  Our government leaders know this.  They have known this.  Yet they still keep shoving money at the problem.  


When asked what surprised me about Kenya after I returned one thing I often said was how racist I found the country.  Speaking with Kenyans it rarely took more than one meeting to start hearing stereotypes about another tribe “Us ____ are the smart ones, we have sharp brains”; “The ____ tribe are slow, they are better at labour”;  Oh ____ people are always good businessmen”.  What I did not know before reading the book is how much government corruption has led to this inter-tribal hatred.  “It’s Our Turn to Eat” refers to the tendency for each new government to look out for its own and “eat” its fill when given a turn – giving the best positions to fellow tribesmen, the most money to their home provinces, the better schools and newer clinics to their home towns.  


It drives some hard questions for the western world about what impact we are actually having on Africa with our aid money and what message we send the Kenyan people when we fail to act against and condemn blatant corruption. 


*A hippo, like an iceberg, sits primarily below the surface with often only its nose, ears and top butt sticking out.  In the western world we call stuttering an iceberg – Hi-C and I started calling it a more culturally-appropriate hippo while abroad.

Big Day – Short Post

There is surprisingly little to report for this momentous day.  I feel obligated to post something to mark the day but it was pleasantly uneventful.  Parking was fairly easy (many people have told me that it is horrendous there) even if I had to walk 5+ minutes to get to the building.  All of my new coworkers are friendly and helpful.  For the first day I primarily shadowed the other acute care SLP to get a feel for the building and the system plus my rusty skills need some ah’polishin.  I saw one client ALL BY MYSELF today and signed my very first chart as R.SLP.  Based on that information I decided it was time to check “become an SLP” off my list of life goals.  Perhaps next will be professional curler….

Old Butt ain’t so Bad

This week has been a bit insane – new place, new car, new life!  Did I update about the house yet?  I got my second choice but it ended up being the right place for me.  The neighbourhood is nice and quiet, it feels homey and I have it to myself most of the time.  Actually, I have yet to meet one of my housemates (the owner).  That said, I routinely text him annoying questions about the house:  How do I turn on your TV?  Do you have a corkscrew?  Where can I find a Philips head screwdriver (you know, the star one)?  Do you recycle?  He keeps the place extremely clean and tidy (perhaps his army background playing itself out?).  It is painted in warm tones which makes it welcoming.  It does lack a bit of a woman’s touch in terms of wall “art” though.  Case in point:

I think I’ll refer to him as “sherman”

Vintage?
I can’t really complain though as I have my own cozy space and my very own bathroom (eep!).  My favourite thing so far is my brand new stylin’ bed decked out in my colour scheme:  grey and lilac with mustard accents.  Even my new desk is lilac.  
My first weekend alone in this house/town could have been tough but the lovely ShanWow made the trek down from Edmonton to help me explore.  We skyped with the equally lovely Hi-C and JSLPA and then headed out to the farmer’s market.  That was the moment I decided I could really like Red Deer*.  If you circumnavigate the city then all you will find are box stores and big highways; they even have a district named “Gasoline Alley” *eye roll*.  However, if you venture into the meat of the city it is lovely – well-kept, quaint, and green.  The market is held outdoors and it is huge!  It could rival the St. Lawrence in T.O. and offers local produce, local honeys, preserves, baking and even organic, eco-friendly cleaning supplies in glass bottles (I may have caved on that).  Point: Old Butt.  The hospital also seems friendly and modern.  The bowling alley offers 5- and 10-pin lanes. That’s right, we checked it out and showed them how it is done.  The weekend culminated with my first taste of Saskatoon berry jam – delish!
Fresh and local!  Artichokes! On the stalk!

Friendly Mennonite zucchini 

Zucchini or courgette?

Showing them how it is done.
Sorry for the photo quality – I have yet to replace my small camera so the blackberry takes its place and it was on the wrong setting.  In all fairness, ShanWow kicked my butt on the first game but we don’t have a photo of that one.
Car Name Update:  I need some time to test out different names to get the right feel but here are the current submissions
Maximo
Carlos (Carlos the CAR haha….seems to me, SARS, that this could be the Latin edition of good ol’ Carl)
Enrique
Mortimer “morty”
Everett
Sterling
Otto (the auto….I kind of love this)
Warren (since he is so well warrantied)
Thoughts?  Votes?
Plus – TOMORROW IS THE BIG DAY.  ie.  the whole reason I moved out here.  FIRST DAY OF MY NEW JOB!
*The nickname “Old Butt”, coined by myself, ShanWow and Hi-C, does not reflect the city itself. 

The Big Reveal

Thanks for holding your breath, internets.  With the-most-expensive-thing-I-have-ever-owned sitting just outside my new place I can safely blog about it.  Should I just tell you what it is?  Want to see it?
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THE MAZDA 3!!!!!!!!

Me with the stunt double

Oh look, no one else can take it cuz it be MINE!

Right before our first alone time.

Thanks, Ross!

159 956km left on the warranty

Definitely no red herrings thrown in there.  By the time I got to Red Deer I had a pretty good idea that I would be driving away in a Mazda.  It was a matter of testing out the hatchback v. the sedan.  The Matrix remained a close contender but, ultimately, Mazda was willing to offer me 0% financing and that’s smart.  Plus the car is uber cute.  The downside:  it be grey.  My heart was set on the pretty blue-jay colour but I landed my second choice.  The problem is that they are still selling their 2011s (ie the 2012s have yet to come out) so there is limited selection at dealerships.  Plus it is the base model while I wanted the middle of the road model.  Again, limited supply.  But we worked together and added in the features I wanted (mainly cruise control and steering wheel volume control).  Ross threw in some all weather mats, a tank of gas, free first oil change, etc.  Let’s be honest – someone else may have gotten a better deal but I think I did pretty well for my first car, not being a natural born bargainer.  That thing is warrantied up the wazoo because I know that I know nothing about cars and if anything ever went wrong I would definitely be the one being interviewed on the local TV news after falling victim to a mechanic that was charging 3x the price and using parts salvaged from the impound lot.

You may have noticed the outfit change between photos.  That is no camera trick, the first photos were taken the day that I signed ALL the papers and the last few were taken today when I picked up the car to take it home.  That actually isn’t even my car in the first one but it was exactly the same so let’s just pretend.  My mommy got me a lovely, brand new GPS to go with it since I have yet to really drive around this city.  Plus I will throw in a little brag:  I am the SOLE OWNER of aforementioned car*.  Even though I am totally broke I guess having had a well managed credit card for the last 8 years plus some earning potential was enough to seal the deal.  No need to co-sign.  Boo-Yah!

*It’s a boy!  Now he needs a name.  Suggestions?  If someone suggests a name that I end up using I’ll send you a POSTCARD.  From RED DEER!  Now THAT is a prize.  Or I’ll just pick a winner (ie my fave suggestion) even if I go with something else haha.

Moving Fast but Not Fast Enough

Alberta is freakin’ cold right now.  I nearly died of shivering at 9am this morning AT THE BEGINNING OF THE SUMMER.  Red Deer, we aren’t off to a good start.  It is definitely a big change from downtown to Toronto meaning that the entire city seems to be a giant suburb.  Although comparable in size to the city where my parents live and where I went to high school it just recently popped up out of the prairies.  Apparently doing things new means making them box-shaped.  King Kong could have a good time playing legos in (with?) this town.  Most of what I have seen so far lacks character but I’ll try to keep an open mind.  The river is lovely – point: Red Deer.

We rolled into Alberta last night around 5pm and criss-crossed the city looking at 5 different potential places to live.  I wanted to move as quickly as possible but things are not exactly following MY timeline.  I’m waiting to hear from my #1 place (it wins in all categories except for price [a bit more pricey each month] and neighbourhood [nice but near an industrial area]).  So we’re sitting twiddling our thumbs until this evening when we hear because I can’t do much else around here without an official address like change my license, get insurance, buy my car, sign my work papers….and…so…………..on.

The second choice room is in a house, a really nice neighbourhood, a little closer to work, really cute place, I get the place to myself at least 50% of the time BUT I would have to live with two dudes I won’t meet until next week (they work up north in Fort McMurray) and I would have to take the small room until November.  The more I think about it this almost becomes my first pick because of the neighbourhood and distance to work….is that weird that I am willing to live with strangers?  I guess I have done it before.

As for all-the-people-on-the-edge-of-your-computer-chairs waiting patiently to find out which car I would choose – wait no longer.  Ok, keep waiting, I have anxiety issues with saying things before they are official so wait until tomorrow and I’ll let you know what I buy.  But it is hanging out in the sold lot waiting for me to give it a good home but first I need to find that home.  I even got it a present today:  a swanky new GPS.  Best. Investment. Ever.

Reaching the 50% Mark

Around 2pm (mountain time) today I reached the halfway point in attempting to visit all 10 of Canada’s provinces while remaining at a whopping 0% of our territories – they are on the list, I swear!  Not quite used to the time change I managed to set the alarm for 6am so we were on the road early which worked because we hit Regina by 4pm which gave plenty of family hang time.  My dad continued to humour me in my need to document my travels as evidenced below.  Tonight is spent one of my dad’s lovely sisters and her family in Regina.  The trip went something like this:

Flags at half mast in North Dakota for 9/11

The intense North Dakotan prairie sun.  North Dakota counts, right, because I peed there?

It is official – I have been to Manitoba!  That is a big W for Winnipeg

Mom and some lovely Winnipeg flowers

Me and pops – Saskatchewan’s own vanna white’s

The padres in the prairies

The cousins – Gen and Empay lighting it up

Auntie C with the bday cake

It is official, my mom is older than she was two days ago!

Happy Birthday, Mom!

And for your big day you get to drive across the country to bring your daughter three provinces away.  Today was day one of three of “the big move”.  The major excitement is, of course, collecting states and provinces.  Today I added Wisconsin and Minnesota.  Tomorrow we might *fingers crossed* add Manitoba and definitely some Saskatchewan action.  It is an extra 50 minutes to drive up to Manitoba instead of continuing to go the American way but then I may NEVER go to Manitoba.  Boy, my parents love me.

My dad, who somehow decided to drive almost the entire 12 hours today himself, even humoured my weird need to really experience Wisconsin in order to check it off my list.  I was determined not to leave the state without some curdled milk product but, even with our keen eyes, we found ourselves staring down a “15 miles to Duluth [Minnesota]” without any hint of cheese.  Until, low and behold, Beth’s Cheese Shop to the rescue.  My dad had to do some evasive driving maneuvers but I got my wish.

With garlic & dill cheese curds we were free to pass into the next state.  Our first big travel night is being spent in Crookston, Minnesota – home of the Ox Cart and (maybe?) Paul Bunyan.  This is what memories are made of:

(If) The Price is Right

In order to function in my new job in Red Deer I will be needing myself a car to travel outside the city two days per week.  When I first came back from traveling I was entirely gung ho about the process and was determined to test drive every model of small sedan on the market.  Every time I drove one I could hear Bob Barker exclaiming “A neeew caarrrr” in my ear.  But the novelty wore off as I discovered that the excitement of test-driving came with the less exciting car dealers.  This is not a jab a car dealers who often get the “sleaze” title.  I never had a negative experience with any of them and some were exceptionally helpful but, that said, they are there to sell me a car and I was there to shop around.  The phone calls started (thank goodness I gave my parents’s home number instead of my cell) and continued…and continued….and crushed my car-buying spirit.  After speaking with a few friends and my parents’s offer to drive me out west in their vehicle I decided to leave the purchase for out there.  The test-driving did give me a good idea of which car I would like to see myself in.

There are a few decisions that go in to buying a car (ok, many, many decisions) and one of the first I had to consider was new or used.

Decision 1: New or used
Friends:  I’m going with new.  Perhaps not as financially savvy as you used buyers out there but I will gladly take the full warranty that comes with a new car.  The other obstacle is that I have about one day to find a car.  To me, buying used should be a process where one scours the market, compares dealers and vehicles, waits for desired models, years or features and buys when the right car comes up.  Having one day to seal the deal does not give me confidence in my ability to find what I want or to sufficiently research the history of the vehicle and make sure it ain’t no lemon.

Decision 2:  buy or lease
Leasing is a tempting option because the payments are about $100 less per month.  Holla!  I wanna pay off these freakin student loans.  But hold up – you need to pay about $1000 upfront before taking that car home and that is $1000 I ain’t got.  There are km limits on how much you can drive the car and going over costs a bundle.  Plus, everyone I have spoken to about leasing uses the word “scam” or has a story about themselves or a friend (or friend of a friend?) who had to pay insane amounts of cash to hand over the vehicle at the end for minor defects in the car:  scuffed dashboard; a small scratch; a dead, decomposing fox in the trunk.  Ok, I was guessing on the actual problems but it seems like there is always a catch.  Case in point:  the dealers try to so hard to get you to lease.  Why???  Wouldn’t they prefer you drove away with that hunk of metal for good?  My mind has been made up:  A NEW CAR!


Decision 3:  manufacturer and model
This is the one that is currently giving me heartburn.  I only perused three dealers before I gave up and all were Asian-sounding.  Apparently I can get a way more decked-out car for cheaper if I go the Ford (chevy? who?) route but, let’s be honest, I buy into the hype that the others will give me fewer problems down the road.  On this question I’m still up in the air but here have been my experiences.

Test drive 1:  Mazda 3 – A very pretty car with a fun, young interior.  The options packages make sense and I would end up with steering wheel mounted blue tooth and cruise control.  The dashboard is pretty.  It handles smoothly. Friends tell me good things about their Mazdas.  I was instantly smitten with this car.  AND they were willing to offer 0% financing for up to 60 months.  Um, yes please. I hope I didn’t miss the boat on that one by choosing to wait.

Test drive 2:  Honda Civic – My initial impression was “this is a hideous car”.  They put out a new model for 2012 and it is ugly.  The interior is nicer than the exterior but almost a little too showy for me – it felt like it was trying too hard with its little computer screen and digital dashboard.  Plus they were offering financing at a ridiculous 4.99% NO MATTER THE TERM.  Even with the reputation for quality I couldn’t get over how much I hated the look and how stupid I would have to be to finance at that rate.  This car is OUT.

Test drive 3:  Toyota Corolla – my brother drives an 03 and I was honestly expecting this one to give the Mazda a run for its money based on its great reputation.  On first glance it is a sporty little car on the outside with a reputation for reliability – sign me up!  The problem was the interior:  I hated it immediately.  It felt like a grandma car inside.  In fact, I made the remark that I hated the beige interior to a friend and the dealer corrected me saying that it is actually grey inside (correction:  I’m SURE the dash was beige but perhaps the seats were grey) although he conceded that I wasn’t even the first person to say that the car FELT BEIGE.  Who wants to drive a car that feels beige inside!?!?!  Depressing.  On top of that, for some reason, Toyota mounts all of their cruise controls on a stick under the steering wheel and would not mount my bluetooth in a convenient spot.  AND the clock was so low down under the radio and everything else I had to lean back or tip my head sideways to tell the time.  Details, people.  OUT.

Test drive 4:  To attempt to make me happy they convinced me to try the Corolla Sport.  Definitely not beige on the inside and handled even better than the plain corolla.  But when I stepped back it hadn’t remedied any of my other annoyances:  cruise control?  Still the little stick.  Bluetooth?  Not so much.  Clock?  Still in the wrong freakin spot.  Plus the price tag for the “upgrade” was a hefty one.  OUT.

Test drive 5:  Toyota Matrix – I have to thank my lovely friend Mama J here for accompanying me back to the dealership and convincing me to try the Matrix.  It drove well but felt a little heftier on the road which appeals to my slight nervousness for winter highway driving.  The interior was immensely cuter and all black and silver.  The clock wasn’t even annoying!  The cruise control was still that freaking stick but I would be willing to overlook this since I was so happy with the car.  A definite top runner.

Those were all my test drives so far.  Right now the Mazda 3 and the Matrix are neck and neck but that just leads me to more test driving.  Before I buy I am definitely going to try the Mazda 3 hatchback and their other car similar to the matrix.  Depending on how patient I’m feeling in Red Deer I might try whatever that Ford or Dodge or other “in” car is right now.

Then I have to decide on colour and features…..

Please tell me about your car buying experience – what did you end up with and why?  Have you been happy with your decision?