Saturday, May 31, 2008

10 Things I've Learned from my Weekly Commute

  1. Greyhound / Voyageur has more than one model of bus. Some are perfect for sleeping - i.e. the headrests are at the right height for a shorty like myself and the chairs lean back a good amount - and have the better overhead compartments where it's easy to put your bags, and others, well, really aren't. Best to pray for the "good for sleeping" buses and to keep a good book on you for the "bad for sleeping" ones.
  2. My laptop battery really does have a 2 hour lifespan.
  3. You can get good reception of CBC Radio 1 in Montreal until about halfway to Ottawa, but the reverse is not true.
  4. If you're planning to sleep on the bus, don't act friendly to the person sitting next to you. Any act of friendliness, no matter how mild, may be misconstrued as an invitation to talk for the entire trip, at which point you will have lost valuable sleep time.
  5. The Ottawa bus station (on Catherine ave.) has a horrible selection of potato chips. They're too salty, too flavoured, and too greasy. If you really want chips, pick them up before you get to the bus station.
  6. The Montreal bus station's store is not open at 5:30 a.m., so bring your own breakfast/snacks if you want to eat before 8 a.m.
  7. More people take the bus as the weather gets nicer. Summer will be packed.
  8. If you sleep without bringing a travel pillow, expect a terrible crink in your neck.
  9. Buy the round trip Ottawa-Montreal ten-pack from Ottawa, not Montreal, and save about $35 because Quebec applies an extra tax to your tickets. and last,
  10. People in a state of travel are all slightly anxious, and usually eager to smile or talk. Somehow, while we're in between homes, we all want one more friend, one more conversation, one more connection, even if that distance is a minor or routine one.

Friday, May 30, 2008

This is a joke, right?

So Rachael Ray wears a scarf that sort of resembles a Kaffiyeh in a Dunkin Donuts web ad, and the US conservative commentators go crazy!
Michelle Malkin, one such commentator, tells us that the Kaffiyeh "has come to symbolize murderous Palestinian jihad".
Oh, really? So only Palestinians who kill people wear these extremely popular scarves? Umm, no. It's just a part of the Arab culture, and saying it's akin with terrorism essentially means you think everything Arab = Terrorism, which is just so, so wrong.
The silliest part is that Dunkin Donuts pulled the ad. A little too apologist, non?

Canada's First Climate Exchange Now in Business

Check this out. Today is the opening day of the Montreal Climate Exchange, which allows companies to buy and sell carbon credits.
It'd be nice if the government would actually set emission caps to make this more effective, but kudos to these guys for not waiting for Harper et al to actually do something, and making it happen themselves. If nothing else, it's a start, and might have some impact to at least push action on climate change forward.
A scary quote from the article above:

Since 1990, Canada's emissions have risen faster than all of the other Group of Eight industrialized nations -- the United States, Japan, Russia, Germany, France, Britain and Italy.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Pass the Purell

M went to Seattle last week, and along with bringing back a really cool travel mug with a pic of the space needle on it, and a nice little bag from the conference he went to, he brought back the fiercest cold I've had in years. Everywhere I go, I leave garbage cans full of used tissue. In light of this situation, I'd like to bring your attention back to the home remedies I posted last summer about great home remedies for colds.
I wanted to add one last remedy to the list:
  • Onion cores. This stuff is absolutely fantastic, if a little hard to swallow. Chop up the core of the onion, drench it in vinegar, and a little salt and pepper, and then eat it raw with some bread. This really helps with the sinus congestion.

Good luck with any colds you might all be suffering. The weather really is not helping.

Musical Warfare

I found this fascinating: an article in The New Yorker about how music is being used by the U.S. army as a breakdown tactic during interrogations. Though the rest of the article is serious, I couldn't help being amused by the fact that country music seemed to be the most effective - more than hip hop, even - at getting people to talk, effectively making it a tool of torture (so everyone really does hate country then, eh?)


Have you heard about this family's death in Calgary? There were children involved, and one has survived. I'm not even sure what to say, really, just that I'm upset and shocked by it.

I can't imagine why anyone would want to take another life, add to that taking a child's life, and now add to that the possibility of taking the life of a family member, a loved one. Police aren't looking for suspects and have called it a "domestic homicide" so doesn't that essentially mean they think one of the parents did it before taking their own life?

I'm reminded by a verse in the Quran which says something to the meaning of "anyone who kills a soul, it is as if he has killed the whole of humanity, and anyone who has saved a soul, it is as if he has saved the whole of humanity."

Life is precious.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Hockey Night in Canada now available in your native language

I love this country. I always tell any visitor to Canada that there are two things that they'll find quintessentially Canadian: Hockey and Timmy's. Well, Hockey Night in Canada (that great Canadian institution, if you forget about the whole "Don Cherry" part) is now being broadcast in both Mandarin and Punjabi. Check it out here.
I hope one day there's an Arabic broadcast. I would watch out of curiosity, just to see how certain phrases like "faceoff" and "he shoots, he scores!" got translated, but in the end, I know I'd switch back to the hockey broadcast I grew up on, or at least the RDS one that shows me the Habs games when CBC insists on airing the Leafs.

The Typo Eradication Advancement League

I heard about this on the radio today (CBC of course!)
I loved it, although I'm curious, who has time to travel a country looking for typos??

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Baby Ikea

A couple of things I'd consider picking up for my little angels if they weren't up and moving across the world soon.
Have you ever seen the "baby poang" chair from Ikea?? Too cute.

p.s. Shopping in downtown Montreal with a stroller is quite the disaster. Can I call out the Eaton's Centre and the Les Ailes De La Mode complex on their lack of ramps?? What's up with that? Honestly, at least my sisters and I had the option of picking up my little angel's stroller and carrying it up/down stairs when we needed too, but what does a person in a wheel chair do? How many different entrances do you have to walk by before you find one with a ramp? Loving my new town and all, but for a big city? Come on, really disappointing.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Bouchard-Taylor Get it Right

The report is in, and the Bouchard-Taylor commission agrees: My hijab is not a threat to anyone. Barring me from wearing it anywhere but home or in public places in Quebec would be contrary to the values of freedom and integration. Way to go Bouchard-Taylor! Read the full article here.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Little Angel Laundry

Today my little angel was walking around with his Teddy in one hand and his sister's Teddy in the other. Now, we make a point to keep the bathroom doors closed because little angel loves the toilet, but today we accidentally left the door open for about 2 seconds, which was long enough for him to toss not his - but the Little Angela's Teddy - head first into the toilet bowl.
The scene that followed was out of a sitcom - first my short shriek, followed by silence, followed by a complete breakdown from Little Angela. Of course, my sister had fished the Teddy from the toilet almost immediately, but this didn't matter to my niece.
The bottom line is that the Teddy has now been washed and dried and gone through a full laundry cycle, so all is once again well...

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Silver Lining?

Well, I guess I'll have to settle for Markov winning gold. Russia beat Canada in OT, 5-4 to take the world title. We were close, but not close enough.
Congrats on a tournament well-played. Losing in the end is bitter, but at least I can comfort myself with the fact that, since we didn't lose to the US, my american brother-in-law won't be calling to rub it in as he did so many years ago.

One more title? and wedding season continues

Canada is one win away from another world title today, although they do face the mighty Russia, so it won't be easy. One of Les Boys, Andrei Markov, is playing for team Russia, and although there are no Habs on Team Canada, my alleigance definitely lies with my country.
Go Canada Go!

On a separate note, M and I seem to have beat the rush when we had the wedding in February. Last night we were at our second wedding in three weeks, and there are at least two more to come in the next month and a half. A quick shout out to all the lovely couples: May Allah swt Bless you with long and happy lives together (and for those to come, if you need anyone to vent to about how stressful or time consuming wedding planning is, you know where to reach me - that's you Suad!)

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Heeeeee's Back!!!

Check it out! M's posting his lovely pics again (I think it has something to do with the excitement over his brand new SLR, and also no longer having to dedicate long hours to wedding planning - heheh)...
Go take a look. I may be biased, but he could quit his PhD and make this a full-time job/hobby, non?

Coffee Snob?

I've been drinking the good stuff on a regular basis since I was about 15 - the nearly three hour commute to get to and from my fabulous high school five days a week, plus my lack of self control, really cemented any chance I had of sticking to orange juice to just wake me up.
For years, I kept it to myself and only drank the coffee out of the house. The reason: my mother, who is the most health conscious person I know, abhorred (and abhors) caffeine.
I remember a funny coffee related incident the summer after I finished high school, on my way to a trip to Egypt with my kid sister for a few weeks. We were in the car, on our way to Montreal to catch our flight with my mom and dad, and I suddenly felt the urge to confess.
"Mama," I said, "I have to tell you something terrible."
"Yes?" she asked.
"I drink coffee. I drink it EVERYDAY."
My mom laughed and nodded and said something like "I figured".
I've always preferred a "real" coffee - Second Cup, Timothy's, Starbucks - to a Timmy's or the instant stuff, but the bottom line is that I just have to get my fix, and I'll take it however I can get it (see my trying to quit posts from last Ramadan for further proof). I also like the real cappuccinos from Second Cup WAY more than the sugar-filled stuff at Timmy's.

The reason I'm even thinking about any of this is that this morning on CBC radio (my favourite station ever!), they were doing blind taste tests in TO, having people sample instant vs. really brewed coffee in the streets and seeing which they preferred. Most seem to prefer the real brew, but it seems there are more than expected who like their coffee with "three crystals of Folgers, Half a cup of cream and five tablespoons of sugar" as the radio host said - Yuck!

When I'd first started going into "Proper" coffee stores, I would try not to laugh or roll my eyes as I heard people order the complex sounding names. You know, the "I'll have a non-fat, extra foam, double shot, extra hot soy latte" order? Well, when I first discovered my allergies to milk, my ability to drink Lattes was shot in the foot. I also had to avoid the sugar, but I loved my fancy coffee drinks so much that I HAD to find a way to solve the "milk free, sugar free" coffee crisis. I scoured the various coffee shops until I discovered Timothy's "sugar free vanilla syrup", which they could use with soy milk to produce my "small soy vanilla sugar free latte". I suddenly felt like just as much of a coffee snob as those I was laughing about...
I've since eased up, I only treat myself to a soy latte about once every two months now, and most days I just get a regular coffee and allow myself a little bit of milk or cream in my coffee. I don't avoid all milk or sugar products any more, I just make sure to keep it to a minimum and that seems to keep me ok.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Keith Olbermann says it so well

He really couldn't have said it any better. Watch this video if you are as sick and tired of Dubya destroying lives, countries, economies, and just about everything else he gets his hands on. It's beyond true, and it reminds me just how angry I am about this stuff, and how, sadly, I've become hopeless and apathetic and often forget just how angry I am.

A week in the making

It was pointed out to me by a friend today that I haven't posted in about a week - over which I was already feeling somewhat guilty. I've been wanting to post - honestly! really! but there was just a lot else going on that was taking my time up...
I'm now "slightly" more free, so here goes...

On the bus ride home to Montreal today, I was thinking about how much I want to write, and not just posts to this lovely blog, which is only slightly edited and really not in the least refined, but write GOOD writing, write like I used to write in high school when I was in a writing program and the words were more creative and I had characters and all cliches were banished with a red pen if I dared scroll them onto the page to begin with. I want to write a novel, or a book of poetry, or something else fantastic like that, and I want it to be a best seller and I want LOTS of people to enjoy it. I basically want to write the book that I wanted "Does My Head Look Big in This" to be. I loved that book, I thought the author did a fantastic job, but I was hoping it would reflect what I considered to be a "typical" Western Muslim teenager's life (i.e. mine) more closely. And it didn't. Well, I want to write my version of that. And I should be able to, right? I mean, I'm qualified: I have the experience. I was once a Western Muslim teenager and am now a Western Muslim twenty-something, so it should be easy, shouldn't it?
Well, the short answer is no. The long answer is that it takes more discipline, more time, and probably more creativity, than I have to offer right now. It does, however, remain a long term dream. In the short term, I just want to start writing regularly again, even if it's bad and disconnected, it's a step towards good. Not a sufficient step, but definitely a necessary one.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Other Amazing "Speltisies"

That's my new word for "things made with spelt flour" - and the latest in this wonderful addition (you remember the Spelt Biscotti of last Toronto visit?) are little spelt pesto rolls... In T.O. this weekend for a good friend's wedding and a visit with my husbands family, and you cannot even begin to understand how truly delicious these things are. I opened the bag. I finished the bag. In one sitting. That's all there is to it.
My parents-in-law have also discovered spelt sesame sticks. For all you Egyptians out there, this is essentially "bo'somat" a.k.a. that totally fabulous thing you have with your tea. I'm seriously considering just up and moving to T.O.

Monday, May 05, 2008

The Habs Are Out

but we should look on the bright side...