December 31, 2008

Top 20 Alternative Canadian Bands

So the past couple weeks I've been listening to a lot of Canadian music with the hope of coming up with a top ten list by tonight...but I did not have the time to whittle down the list and rank no particular order are my top twenty alternative Canadian bands. A few are more or less mainstream, but without the 'alternative' label I'd have to rethink the entire list (Neil Young, The Guess Who, Rush, Barenaked Ladies, etc...) try not to split hairs. Despite there being many other great alternative bands...I've limited my selection to those available from CBC Radio 3's selection so that you can listen to them on the right hand side.

The list is:

New Pornographers
Ghost Bees
Broken Social Scene
Swan Lake
Tokyo Police Club
Chad VanGaalen
Julie Doiron
Immaculate Machine
The Arcade Fire
Wolf Parade
Sam Roberts
Bedouin Soundclash
The Unicorns
Hey Rosetta 

December 29, 2008

Summer Jobs in Boston for University Students

So I've been spending a few hours looking for different summer jobs for this summer in Boston and I've come up with less than ideal results. I know some of you are reading this from the New England area, so figured a few of you might have an idea or two. I'm brand new to Boston and really have no idea what summer festivals or year-round above minimum wage jobs there are that hire University students. If anybody has suggestions please post them below. I've turned comment moderation they will appear automatically.

The Cigarette is Dead?

One of the first things I noticed in Boston were the number of smokers. At four months at Mount Allison I saw about twenty of the same people smoking every now and then. It really wasn't an issue. But walking down the street in Boston I saw more people smoking in four minutes than I had in four months.

One thing that I'm thankful for is higher taxes on cigarettes.

"Increased taxes on cigarettes have been called the best smoking cessation program in the world. In Canada, between 63 and 79 per cent of the price of a package of cigarettes is tax. In New York, by comparison, the tax on cigarettes is 38 per cent."

I was looking around at other Canadian blogs and came across a post from Canadian University Marketing about a grassroots anti-smoking campaign. I know from taking D.A.R.E. and other generally ineffective drug education programs that telling people what to do generally doesn't work, especially when it comes to smoking. Videos like this seem a bit more credible, but dramatic sounds and words alone won't change behavior.

Yes, cigarettes are terrible for you, but that's nothing new to people who smoke. The site lists different anti-smoking laws around the country and personal stories of people trying to quit. It takes more than "You should stop because it's bad for you" to overcome nicotine addiction. Making cigarettes more expensive and limiting the places people can smoke are a step, but it takes something more personal for addicts to quit.

Studying in Canada: Mount Allison University's International Student Admission Requirements

Seeing as how I decided that I would be coming to Mount Allison around February, I thought I'd provide any possible international students with information on studying in Canada and specifically at Mount Allison.

As I've said before, this is a personal blog. No information here should be relied upon as completely up to date or accurate. For official university information please see the Mount Allison University's website at

That being said it's clear from the Google Analytics information that some people looking for specific information about Mount Allison sometimes come to this page instead of the school site. When I was in the process of applying and getting ready for Mount Allison I noticed that a lot of future students used the Facebook group to ask other students questions in a more informal setting. For questions of different opinions (classes, teachers, residences, meal hall, social life) that seems to be the most helpful in allowing people to have some insider information before coming to Mount Allison.

But, again, following the correct steps in the admission process is your responsibility and for any information you need to be sure is correct contact the school directly. For now, to be the most helpful as students are deciding on University (this time last year I had completed my American applications) I'll provide information with a link to the official page from time to time.

First things first: Admissions requirements. Canadians applying to study at Mount Allison can do so very easily from this and related pages. International students should look at the information reproduced below and links along the left side of their page:

What are my academic requirements as an international student?

Mount Allison’s admissions requirements are intended as broad guidelines for international students. Our admissions process is personable and unique in that it carefully considers the whole person.

In addition to a strong academic record, we consider your extracurricular involvement, leadership skills, maturity, and other relevant background information. Tell us as much about yourself as you like. We listen!

As academic requirements vary by country, please select from the drop-down menu below or contact us for more details. Remember, these are intended as a general guide to our admissions requirements.

American School System

US students comprise our largest international student cohort. We welcome and encourage applications from students taking an American high school curriculum. SAT/ACT results are not required, however we do strongly encourage you to submit your results.

General Certificate of Education (GCE)

Your GCE must include two subjects at Advanced Level and three at Ordinary Level, or three at Advanced Level and one at Ordinary Level, with an overall average of C and no subject below a D grade.

International Baccalaureate

Mount Allison has a very high regard for the IB program and IB students normally excel on our campus. We have a generous transfer credit arrangement for IB students that normally allocates between 18 and 30 credits towards our 120-credit degrees.

Your program should normally include three courses in each of the higher and standard levels with a minimum score of 4 in each subject and a minimum overall score of 28 points.


If you are following France’s system of education, please complete the requirements for the Baccalaureate with a minimum academic standing of Assez Bien.

English Requirements

If your first language is not English, you must provide documentation to show that you exceed our English proficiency requirements.

Studying in Canada: "Study Abroad Guide on International Education for Indian Students"

Since coming across an article about Americans studying abroad in Canada...I wanted to find a different perspective. I'll be posting on different topics of interest to international students looking to study in Canada in the future. For now here is an article with an overview of the programs available at Universities in Canada from The Study Abroad Guide on International Education for Indian Students:

Canadian Universities

Diverse, Vibrant & Dynamic

Canada's universities share a key strength: their high quality. Canadian universities have a long record of providing an accessible university education to students from across Canada and around the world. Reflecting the rich history many cultures and traditions, Canadian universities offer a mix of opportunities in a variety of educational settings.

The 89 Universities that are members of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada are located across the country, with institutions in every Canadian province. Taken together, they offer a wide range of courses.

In addition to universities, Canada's postsecondary system includes 175 community colleges, which respond to the training needs of business, industry and the public service, as well as the educational needs of vocationally oriented secondary school graduates. These colleges, also known as institutes of technology, university colleges or CEGEPS, historically offered diplomas and certificates rather than degrees. Today, some offer degrees themselves, and a number offer university transfer programs or provide programs jointly with neighbouring universities.

A Range of Choices

Canadian universities provide a full spectrum of undergraduate and graduate degree programs, with faculty undertaking research of national and international importance.

Universities in Canada range from large urban, multi-campus and research-intensive universities, offering a wide range of undergraduate, graduate and professional programs, to small liberal arts colleges with a focus on undergraduate education. Others provide specialized professional programs in fields such as business, engineering, art and design or agriculture.

You will find that Canada is nothing if not diverse! University colleges represent a new model for postsecondary education, combining practical vocational programs with more theoretical offerings. Since Canada is a bilingual country, our universities demonstrate this by offering instruction in English, French, or even both!

Three universities are devoted entirely to distance education - a field in which Canada, a country of vast spaces and outstanding achievements in telecommunications, is a world leader. In fact, most universities in Canada offer a wide selection of courses through distance education, with formats ranging from traditional print or audiotape correspondence courses, to teleconference or computer conferences. Support systems for students who study at a distance are common, including counselling and study skills seminars, tutorial assistance by phone, fax or computer, and direct online links to campus libraries.

A Reputation for Excellence

Canadian universities have earned an international reputation for excellence. Their faculty have recognized research and teaching strengths in areas such as computer sciences, business (including MBA programs), health sciences, law, ocean studies, natural resources and agriculture.

In addition to their teaching, universities play a vital role in their local communities, offering concerts and plays, day care centres, sports and fitness facilities, lectures, museums, on-campus radio stations and art galleries open to all. Research is central to the mission of Canadian universities. In fact, 25% of Canada's research capacity is found in our universities - a far higher proportion than most others countries. Universities in Canada employ about one-third of the country's PhDs, who spearhead the national research effort. Students at Canadian universities are frequently involved in research projects, often during their early undergraduate years. Professors see research as an integral component to their classroom teaching. Canadian university research has yielded a wealth of innovations as important as insulin, Pablum, the artificial pacemaker, improved strains of wheat, and the identification of the genetic causes of diseases such as cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy and Lou Gehrig's disease. Today, Canadian researchers are world leaders in areas such as helping people cope with pain and stress, improving human memory, pulp and paper chemistry, dealing with the impact of technology in the workplace, and finding new treatments for cancer, osteoporosis and arthritis.

The System in Profile

Universities in Canada operate under provincial government charters. There is no formal system of university-wide institutional accreditation. Instead, membership of AUCC, in conjunction with the university's provincial government charter, is seen as serving in lieu of institutional accreditation, both in Canada and abroad. In addition, graduate programs and professional schools such as law, nursing, medicine and engineering have rigorous discipline-specific accreditation procedures. Computer science is also developing its own accreditation system.

There are currently 500,000 full-time undergraduates at Canadian universities, 200,000 part-time undergraduates, 75,000 full-time and 40,000 part-time graduate students. Student profiles have changed dramatically over the past decade, with older students, more women and a greater multicultural mix. The social sciences remain by far the largest field of study in Canada, followed by education and the humanities. Biochemistry and computer science have been among the fastest growing disciplines at the bachelor's level in the last five years, closely followed by nursing, sociology and psychology. A wide range of student services is offered by most universities, including special tutoring in writing and math skills, help in finding off-campus housing, academic, career or personal counselling, and health services.

Many universities provide support to students with special needs, including single parents, women, those with physical, sensory or learning disabilities, aboriginal students, part-time students, gays and lesbians, mature students, and students of diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Special programs are also often available to help first-year students improve their chances for success at university. Some offer for-credit courses aimed at integrating students to university life and studies. Many universities provide such assistance on an on-going basis throughout the academic year, with workshops in areas such as essay and exam writing, study and research skills.

A Lasting Reward

A university education translates into new skills, better job prospects and higher salaries. University graduates also have a better chance at promotion throughout their career, better health and benefit packages, as well as better pension plans. Clearly, the rewards of a university education last a lifetime.

December 26, 2008

Thoughtful graffiti in Berlin

I just came across something that Nick from Death Cab for Cutie made a post about...which is this piece of graffiti he found in Berlin:

And when we touch

It reads “and when we touch we’re not really touching. if our atoms did not repel one another we’d pass through each other like galaxies, unscathed." I thought it was a really interesting quote...and got me thinking about the nature of being connected...especially being back home with family in Boston...while all of my friends are hundreds of miles (kilometres) away in different directions.

It turns out the quote is probably paraphrased from a section from Bill Bryson's book: A Short History of Nearly Everything and I think it's worth sharing:

The great Caltech physicist Richard Feynman once observed that if you had to reduce scientific history to one important statement it would be: 'All things are made of atoms.' They are everywhere and they constitute everything. Not just the solid things like walls and tables and sofas, but the air in between. And they are there in numbers that you really cannot conceive.

Because they are so long-lived, atoms really get around. Every atom you possess has almost certainly passed through several stars and been part of millions of organisms on its way to becoming you. When we die, our atoms will disassemble and move off to find new uses elsewhere as part of a leaf or other human being or drop of dew. Above all, atoms are tiny , very tiny indeed. Half a million of them lined up shoulder to shoulder could hide behind a human hair.

By the early twentieth century it was known that atoms were made of parts but it wasn't known how many parts there were or how they fitted together or what shape they took. Rutherford was born in New Zealand, but in 1895 he won a scholarship that took him to the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge University, which was about to become the hottest place in the world to do physics.

In 1910, Rutherford (assisted by his student Hans Geiger) fired ionized helium atoms, or alpha particles, at a sheet of gold foil. To Rutherford's astonishment, some of the particles bounced back. This was just not supposed to happen. After considerable reflection he realized there could be only one possible explanation: the particles that bounced back were striking something small and dense at the heart of the atom, while the other particles sailed through unimpeded. An atom, Rutherford realized, was mostly empty space, with a very dense nucleus at the centre. This presented one immediate problem. By all the laws of conventional physics, atoms shouldn't therefore exist.

Let us pause for a moment and consider the structure of the atom as we know it now. Every atom is made from three kinds of elementary particles: protons, which have a positive electrical charge; electrons, which have a negative electrical charge; and neutrons, which have no charge. Protons and neutrons are packed into the nucleus, while electrons spin around outside. The number of protons is what gives an atom its chemical identity. An atom with one proton is an atom of hydrogen, one with two protons is helium, with three protons is lithium, and so on up the scale. Each time you add a proton you get a new element. Neutrons and protons occupy the atom's nucleus. The nucleus of an atom is tiny - only one-millionth of a billionth of the full volume of the atom - but fantastically dense, since it contains virtually all the atom's mass. As William H.Cropper has put it in his book ‘Great Physicists’, if an atom were expanded to the size of a cathedral, the nucleus would be only about the size of a fly - but a fly many thousands of times heavier than the cathedral.

It was this spaciousness - this resounding , unexpected roominess that had Rutherford scratching his head in 1910. It is still a fairly astounding notion to consider that atoms are mostly empty space, and that the solidity we experience all around us is an illusion. When two objects come together in the real world - billiard balls are most often used for illustration - they don't actually strike each other. 'Rather,' as science author Timothy Ferris explains, 'the negatively charged fields of the two balls repel each other, Were it not for their electrical charges they could, like galaxies, pass right through each other unscathed .' When you sit in a chair, you are not actually sitting there, but levitating above it at a height of one angstrom (a hundred millionth of a centimetre), your electrons and its electrons implacably opposed to any closer intimacy.

December 25, 2008

Proposition 8: Keith Olbermann's Special Comment, The Laramie Project, and Jack Black

Something I missed in Canada was Countown with Keith Olbermann, but I did hear about his special comment about proposition eight in California. It was pretty upsetting to go to class the day after election day and talk more about prop. 8 than Obama's election. It's a sad day when bigotry and hate overpower tolerance and hope.

Finally tonight as promised, a Special Comment on the passage, last week, of Proposition Eight in California, which rescinded the right of same-sex couples to marry, and tilted the balance on this issue, from coast to coast.

Some parameters, as preface. This isn't about yelling, and this isn't about politics, and this isn't really just about Prop-8. And I don't have a personal investment in this: I'm not gay, I had to strain to think of one member of even my very extended family who is, I have no personal stories of close friends or colleagues fighting the prejudice that still pervades their lives.

And yet to me this vote is horrible. Horrible. Because this isn't about yelling, and this isn't about politics. This is about the human heart, and if that sounds corny, so be it.

If you voted for this Proposition or support those who did or the sentiment they expressed, I have some questions, because, truly, I do not understand. Why does this matter to you? What is it to you? In a time of impermanence and fly-by-night relationships, these people over here want the same chance at permanence and happiness that is your option. They don't want to deny you yours. They don't want to take anything away from you. They want what you want—a chance to be a little less alone in the world.

Only now you are saying to them—no. You can't have it on these terms. Maybe something similar. If they behave. If they don't cause too much trouble. You'll even give them all the same legal rights—even as you're taking away the legal right, which they already had. A world around them, still anchored in love and marriage, and you are saying, no, you can't marry. What if somebody passed a law that said you couldn't marry?

I keep hearing this term "re-defining" marriage. If this country hadn't re-defined marriage, black people still couldn't marry white people. Sixteen states had laws on the books which made that illegal in 1967. 1967.

The parents of the President-Elect of the United States couldn't have married in nearly one third of the states of the country their son grew up to lead. But it's worse than that. If this country had not "re-defined" marriage, some black people still couldn't marry black people. It is one of the most overlooked and cruelest parts of our sad story of slavery. Marriages were not legally recognized, if the people were slaves. Since slaves were property, they could not legally be husband and wife, or mother and child. Their marriage vows were different: not "Until Death, Do You Part," but "Until Death or Distance, Do You Part." Marriages among slaves were not legally recognized.

You know, just like marriages today in California are not legally recognized, if the people are gay.

And uncountable in our history are the number of men and women, forced by society into marrying the opposite sex, in sham marriages, or marriages of convenience, or just marriages of not knowing, centuries of men and women who have lived their lives in shame and unhappiness, and who have, through a lie to themselves or others, broken countless other lives, of spouses and children, all because we said a man couldn't marry another man, or a woman couldn't marry another woman. The sanctity of marriage.

How many marriages like that have there been and how on earth do they increase the "sanctity" of marriage rather than render the term, meaningless?

What is this, to you? Nobody is asking you to embrace their expression of love. But don't you, as human beings, have to embrace... that love? The world is barren enough.

It is stacked against love, and against hope, and against those very few and precious emotions that enable us to go forward. Your marriage only stands a 50-50 chance of lasting, no matter how much you feel and how hard you work.

And here are people overjoyed at the prospect of just that chance, and that work, just for the hope of having that feeling. With so much hate in the world, with so much meaningless division, and people pitted against people for no good reason, this is what your religion tells you to do? With your experience of life and this world and all its sadnesses, this is what your conscience tells you to do?

With your knowledge that life, with endless vigor, seems to tilt the playing field on which we all live, in favor of unhappiness and hate... this is what your heart tells you to do? You want to sanctify marriage? You want to honor your God and the universal love you believe he represents? Then Spread happiness—this tiny, symbolic, semantical grain of happiness—share it with all those who seek it. Quote me anything from your religious leader or book of choice telling you to stand against this. And then tell me how you can believe both that statement and another statement, another one which reads only "do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

You are asked now, by your country, and perhaps by your creator, to stand on one side or another. You are asked now to stand, not on a question of politics, not on a question of religion, not on a question of gay or straight. You are asked now to stand, on a question of love. All you need do is stand, and let the tiny ember of love meet its own fate.

You don't have to help it, you don't have it applaud it, you don't have to fight for it. Just don't put it out. Just don't extinguish it. Because while it may at first look like that love is between two people you don't know and you don't understand and maybe you don't even want to know. It is, in fact, the ember of your love, for your fellow person just because this is the only world we have. And the other guy counts, too.

This is the second time in ten days I find myself concluding by turning to, of all things, the closing plea for mercy by Clarence Darrow in a murder trial.

But what he said, fits what is really at the heart of this:

"I was reading last night of the aspiration of the old Persian poet, Omar-Khayyam," he told the judge. It appealed to me as the highest that I can vision. I wish it was in my heart, and I wish it was in the hearts of all: So I be written in the Book of Love; I do not care about that Book above. Erase my name, or write it as you will, So I be written in the Book of Love."

It really was an embarrassing moment when I heard that measure passed. I've written about how people can be a little pessimistic when it comes to government...and that any great achievements stemming from the recent election will take time...but this is really a giant leap backwards. One of the most telling differences about what the definition of freedom is can be seen when it comes to equal rights. In California, proposition is "direct democracy" at work...and that people are free to make the rules, but in Canada, as was seen when the Border Patrol stopped the radical American hate group known as the Westboro Baptist Church; freedom means equal rights. That same group threatened to protest a showing of the Laramie Project in Vancouver...but again did not show. I'm glad they did not make it...but it's awful that anybody would be so filled with hate to even consider it.
Sometimes there is not much you can do about people like that... except to keep them out of your country. That reminds me of something Kurt Vonnegut said
"Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward."

And that brings me to another reaction to prejudice and hate:

Americans Abroad: Going to University in Canada

I was just looking at for some local news, and what do I find but an article about how going to University in Canada is a great idea. It's nice to see in print what I've know for years, that Canadian schools are on par with many American schools as far as quality but much more affordable. They listed a few of Canada's top universities: McGill, St. Mary's, Dalhousie, University of Toronto, and Concordia but left out...let's see...the top three primarily undergraduate Universities in Canada: Acadia, UNBC, and Mount Allison, which has come first place over a dozen times in the survey's 18 year history.

With most Americans I've talked to knowing only McGill, and maybe U of T...Americans should research different Universities before deciding on name alone. Size, especially can make the difference: McGill has 33,000 students and U of T has 70,000. Compare that to the small class sizes available with under 2,300 full-time student at Mount Allison. I don't mean to do the admission's department job for them...but when I read articles like this one...that are about Canadian schools, but leave out some of the best ones, it is worth commenting on.

Canada: passport to higher ed, lower cost

Over the years, Americans have often turned to their Northern neighbor in times of need or convenience, whether to evade the draft or buy prescription drugs. Now, as the US economy heads south, growing ranks of New England students are looking north to Canada as a college destination.

Colleges in eastern Canada report mounting interest this fall among high school seniors from the Northeast, with a recently stronger US dollar making already low tuition costs even more of a bargain for Americans.

Although applications for next academic year are not due for at least a month, schools from Toronto to Halifax say many students in the Boston area and throughout the region are drawn by the allure of an international college experience relatively close to home.

Dalhousie University in Halifax, for instance, said requests for information from New England students have tripled this fall. McGill University in Montreal, where 100 students from Massachusetts enrolled this fall, and the University of Toronto, Canada's largest university, have also seen a new level of interest from across the border.

The number of Americans studying abroad has more than doubled in the past decade, and high school counselors say the influx to Canada reflects a broader trend of students attending foreign universities full time.

Since 2001, the number of American attending college in Canada has risen by 50 percent to about 9,000, according to Canadian Embassy in Washington.

Now, with the greenback packing more punch (as of Tuesday, one US dollar was worth $1.21 Canadian dollars), Americans' dwindling college savings go that much further, said recruiters and guidance counselors.

The Canadian dollar's "decline is unfortunate for us, but good for American students," said Adam Lotesto, a recruitment officer at the University of Toronto. "They can have a great education at a great value."

Because they are publicly funded and heavily subsidized by their government, Canadian universities are generally less expensive than American private schools and some public universities, even for international students who pay more than their Canadian counterparts.

American students can also receive US government-backed loans to attend Canadian colleges and are eligible for merit-based financial aid from the institutions, although public financial aid is restricted to Canadians.

Canadian colleges say they have increased recruiting throughout the region, particularly in the Boston suburbs, to build upon rising demand. Dalhousie University has doubled its number of high school visits and college fairs in New England in the past two years, and earlier this month, the Canadian Consulate in Boston held its first college fair, drawing scores of families and school counselors.

"Students are willing to look more broadly geographically," said Brad MacGowan, a college counselor at Newton North High School, which has sent 10 students to McGill in the past three years. "And Canadian colleges are looking for them."

The Canadian Consulate has been hosting meetings between college recruiters and high school counselors for years.

The colleges say the increased interest owes as much to their strong academic reputations, diverse student bodies, and settings in attractive cities such as Toronto, Montreal, and Halifax as cost. American students had been applying to Canadian colleges in greater numbers for several years, even when the weak American dollar drove up tuition costs before its reversal, they note.

But this fall, economic concerns have assumed a renewed prominence.

"The big piece is the cost," said Chuck Bridges, vice president of external affairs at St. Mary's University in Halifax, which charges about $16,450 tuition in US currency. "We figure it's roughly half the cost of a comparable university in New England."

Average tuition and fees for full-time undergraduate international students are $14,487, according to government statistics, far less than for many US private four-year schools and some public research universities. Canadians pay substantially less - sometimes a small fraction - than foreign students, giving universities a strong incentive to recruit internationally.

For Ian Sandler, a senior at Brookline High School who is applying to McGill, the prospect of attending a renowned university at a discounted price is enticing.

"With the current economic situation, it's definitely in the back of my mind," he said.

But just as important, he said, are McGill's academic strengths, its size - about 24,000 undergraduates - and location in Montreal, a cosmopolitan yet highly livable city.

That's also the sales pitch at McGill's rival, the University of Toronto. Rob Steiner, the university's assistant vice president for strategic communications, said the school and the city offer vast cultural diversity for students eager for a cosmopolitan environment in their native language, relatively close to home.

"An hour away from Mom and Dad but a fundamentally different setting," he said.

For most students, Canada more readily conjures images of caribou and frozen tundra than bright lights and big cities. College counselors say few students suggest Canadian schools at the start and often greet the idea with frowns and furrowed brows. Yet in a chilly economy, they are warming up to the idea.

"Students don't usually come in and say, 'I want to go to Canada,' " said Joan Casey, a Brookline education consultant. "But then they hear about the cost and think: '$18,000 for everything? That's pretty amazing.' "

Counselors said students are also drawn to a simple admission process at Canadian schools, which rarely includes an interview or essay, and relaxed admission standards compared with selective US colleges. Facing far less competition, students with so-so grades and SAT scores can land at a better school than they would otherwise, counselors say.

"It's pretty tough for an American student with that kind of profile to get into an urban university at that price and caliber," Casey said of top Canadian schools.

Emily Acevedo, a senior at Brookline High School, has set her sights on Concordia University, a 45,000-student college in Montreal. She initially visited schools in North Carolina and Virginia, but found their college towns too small and confining.

She loves the idea of studying in an exciting place she's never been, and her parents love the Canadian cost. Off went the application a few days ago.

"Extra stamps and all," she said.

Thinking of a New Year

A little reflection a few days before the new year:The new year is looking better already.

December 23, 2008

Thomas d’Aquino on Canadian-American Relations

Speaking of Canadian-American relations, below is a recent article to president Bush by Thomas d'Aquino. In it he describes how the US and Canada are "bound together not merely by geography and history, but by common values of freedom, democracy and self-determination — the belief that individual men and women should be entitled to achieve to the fullest of their potential, regardless of the circumstances of their birth or position."

While that last sentence seems incredibly corny, I tend to agree with most of what he said in the rest of his article, especially about joint American-Canadian security. But d'Aquino has been criticized in the past for his environmental policies. One section of what he said I do have a problem is where he said:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has signalled his desire to help forge a common North American climate change policy that would bring down emissions of greenhouse gases without further damaging an already fragile continental economy. Canada, home to the world’s second-largest oil reserves, can also play an important role in strengthening American energy security and reducing your country’s dependence on hostile oil-exporting regimes.
I really am not sure how the environmentally-unfriendly and unsustainable Oil Sands in Alberta will mix with Obama's policy of investing in clean, renewable energy resources.

From a recent mayors' conference:
"... the production of tar sands oil from Canada emits approximately three times the carbon dioxide pollution per barrel as does conventional oil production and significantly damages Canada's Boreal forest ecosystem - the world's largest carbon storehouse ..."

Althought I really don't see how the oil sands would fit into the larger environmental and economic vision of the Obama administration, but I am hoping for greater US-Canadian cooperation when it comes security and trade.

Thomas d’Aquino: You've got a friend
Posted: November 19, 2008, 7:28 PM by NP Editor

The following is an open letter from Thomas d’Aquino to the soon-to-be 44th president of the United States

By Thomas d’Aquino

Dear President-Elect Obama,

In exactly two months from today, you will stand on the steps of the United States Capitol and take the oath of office to become your country’s 44th president. Countless millions around the world will celebrate your inauguration, yet it is doubtful that you will have much time to savour the occasion. Rarely in recent history has an incoming administration inherited such seismic challenges: the global financial crisis, economic gloom and the threat of protectionism, two wars, international terrorism and the risk of global climate change, to name only a few.

Fortunately, you and the American people do not confront these daunting challenges alone. Everywhere, friends and allies of the United States are committed to helping in the task of restoring prosperity and promoting the cause of peace.Let there be no doubt: the world needs a strong, united and confident America.

Perhaps nowhere else on earth is the American Dream better understood than in Canada. Our people are bound together not merely by geography and history, but by common values of freedom, democracy and self-determination — the belief that individual men and women should be entitled to achieve to the fullest of their potential, regardless of the circumstances of their birth or position.

Canadians and Americans are cousins, figuratively and in many cases literally. We are also friends, colleagues, co-workers, customers and business partners. Millions of jobs depend on the goods and services that flow back and forth across our shared frontier every hour of every day. Cross-border investment and trade enable millions of American and Canadian families to put food on the table, to finance their children’s education, to pursue a better life for themselves and future generations.

In your election night victory speech, you spoke of the need, in the months and years ahead, to restore economic growth, put people back to work and open doors of opportunity. You spoke of America’s determination to defeat those who would tear the world down, and support those who seek peace and security.

Canadians share those goals and will actively support you in those objectives.

Since 2001, Canadian soldiers, aid workers and medical personnel have been in Afghanistan to help Afghans rebuild their country as a stable, democratic and self-sufficient society. Canada, with 2,500 troops on the ground, has suffered disproportionate fatalities. Our federal government has stated its intention to end Canada’s military role in Afghanistan in 2011, but our commitment to combating extremism is unshakeable. Among other measures, Canada will continue to help train Afghan military and police, strengthen democratic institutions and supply humanitarian aid. As you have made clear, the solution in Afghanistan is not just military — it is political and economic.

Like you, Canadians believe that closer multilateral co-operation is essential to achieving enhanced international security, prosperity, humanitarian rights and environmental protection. Now more than ever, it is vital that we take down walls and build bridges among nations, on issues ranging from climate change and international trade to the regulation of financial markets and the protection of consumer health and safety.

None of this will be easy, but in a number of areas there is good reason for optimism. Already, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has signalled his desire to help forge a common North American climate change policy that would bring down emissions of greenhouse gases without further damaging an already fragile continental economy. Canada, home to the world’s second-largest oil reserves, can also play an important role in strengthening American energy security and reducing your country’s dependence on hostile oil-exporting regimes. There is clear potential for our two countries to work more closely in expanding resource production and the infrastructure needed to move resources from remote areas to the industrial heartland.

Cross-border co-operation also will be critical in responding to the current financial crisis. Canada and the United States are each other’s most important economic partners and we must make every possible effort to work together to restore confidence, encourage investment and create opportunities for future growth.

Fortunately, there is much that we can and should do to ensure that our economies and our societies emerge stronger than ever from the current downturn. Workers and enterprises in both our countries depend on the smooth flow of goods, services and people across the Canada-United States border. To enhance their ability to compete globally, we need to recapture the co-operative spirit, momentum and sense of urgency that guided the initial work of the Smart Border initiatives in the wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. At the same time, closer bilateral regulatory co-operation would reduce costs and delays for shippers and enable governments to focus scarce resources on more urgent issues of security.

Above all, the United States and Canada must be vigilant in resisting the siren call of protectionism. Open markets and open trade have always been vital to the health of our economies, and history shows the folly of responding to a slowing economy by raising barriers to the free flow of goods and services. By improving continental co-operation, our two countries can set a positive example at a time when multilateral progress under the World Trade Organization is stalled.

Canada and the United States are neighbours, friends, partners and allies. We have shown an impressive ability over the years to work together in ways that have strengthened our societies and produced tangible benefits for our people. As you prepare to take office, we hope that you will seize the opportunity to build on this proud record and help shape an even stronger Canada-United States relationship that will once again be a model for the world.

Financial Post
is chief executive and president of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives and chair of the Canadian Secretariat to the North American Competitiveness Council.

Photo: Jason Reed / Reuters

Boston Revisited

I got back to Boston a few days's a really beautiful city. While it's been nice to have some time off of classes and studying, I've been missing my friends lately...they've all gone home too...except one international student staying on campus for the break. After four months of spending all my time less than a minute away from my best friends to being 920 kilometres away from anybody but family it was a little tough.

As I said before...I've only lived in Boston for about a week before I got back. It's a great city...but it felt a little I was just a tourist. (Side note: Locals will know you're not from Boston if you follow the cross-walk signals.)

Today I had the chance to walk around the city a bit and took some pictures...some of them re-makes of earlier ones plus a little snow. Despite all of the noise and lack of working cross-walk signals it was really nice. I'm getting a bit more used to the idea of spending the summer here. It'll be yet another opportunity to start over in a new city with new people and then move on.

I got around to finishing my holiday (come get me Bill O'Reilly) shopping and applied for my passport, which is required to cross into the US land border crossings starting this summer.

Assuming all goes as planned I'll be posting a lot more about Boston in about four months. Once I get all of my grades back I'll be writing a little retrospective about my first semester classes. But for now take a look at a few pictures of Boston:

Visiting Mount Allison

As it gets closer and closer to the new year I'm reminded of when I first visited Mount Allison in February. I know I've talked about it before...but as it's getting closer and closer to admissions deadlines...if you've given any thought to Mount Allison and you're not sure about it, you can schedule a visit very easily. When I visited we got caught in a blizzard..and it was freezing cold the entire time...and most people were smart enough to stay indoors...but walking around campus it was really worth it. To be able to see where I might be living was great...and really reassured me I'd be happy there.

And again, if you have any questions or comments please feel free to post them by clicking on the comments link below.

Ghost Bees at Struts

In my last few days in Sackville before I came back to Boston for Christmas I went to a small performance at the Struts (Sackville's Artist-Run Art Gallery) and saw the interesting artwork they have up followed by a few warm up artists (part-time garage band type groups) followed by a duo that more than made up for the earlier acts. Ghost Bees was an amazing end to the night. (There a lot of great bands from Canada...and I'll be posting about some of my favourites soon. For now there is the playlist to the right.) From CBC Radio 3:

Ghost Bees’ are twin sisters Romy and Sari Lightman, and Amber Phelps Bonderoff. Over antique mandolin, guitar, and violist accompaniment, Ghost Bees’ weave delicate harmonies, dispensing dramatic tales and sorrowful lament like a two headed balladeer
In the formative stages of thier career, Ghost Bees have already embarked upon two cross-Canada tours, as well as performances in New York, New Orleans, LA, San Francisco, and various cities throughout the California Coast. In November 2006, Ghost Bees released a self titled EP, selling nearly 1000 hand-made copies of the album at live performances.

In April 2008, the band will release their debut album, Tasseomancy. Recorded and produced by YouthClub Records coordinator, Andy March (Museum Pieces), Tasseomancy is a collection of songs imparting tales of past empires and great great ancestry; fabled figures and forgotten woe, with vocals appendage together like bones. The sisters’ literary tales emit a sense of mesmerizing fantasy and nostalgia, resurrecting the experience of their birth in Sinai and the terror of the Pol Pot Regime in Tear Tassle Ogre Heart. The whimsical melody in Vampires of the West Coast illustrates the sisters’ ability to erect dark inventive landscapes within the mundane. Ghost Bees’ lyrics address the perils of the bleak and frightening and create delicate and chimerical songs that are overwrought with intensity and intuitive harmonies that are eerily unusual and equally as captivating. Ghost Bees create their music within the majestic hearth of Halifax, Nova Scotia

"As duo Ghost Bees, twin sisters Romy and Sari Lightman make music snuggled between slumber and waking state - a still, peaceful, little disorienting and slightly strange place". - the coast
Sinai was their opening song:

December 22, 2008

The Canadian Invasion

Speaking of border crossing and national security. I just stumbled
acrossa couple pretty funny videos parodying the Department of
Homeland Security's over-zealousness...along with a few jabs at Canada:

To be serious for a minute there are also new border crossing
requirements that Canadians and Americans should be aware of:

The Department of State recommends that travelers apply now
for travel documents that will be required at all land or sea border
entry points as of June 1, 2009. On that date, under the Western
Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) U.S. citizens will be required
to present a government-approved document that denotes both
citizenship and identity when entering the United States.

With few exceptions, Canadians and Americans will need a
passport or enhanceddriver's license to cross the border
beginning June 1, 2009. The State Department even set
up a flash website devoted to clearly explaining the new changes:

"Homeland Security"

A few weeks ago, as I was checking out what the
other Mount Allison Bloggers were writing about,
I came across a
little snippet about Jerilea Zempel.
Apparently over the summer she created an 'artistic
exhibit'consisting of a black SUV covered in yarn on
the University's Swan Pond.

Jerilea Zempel - c. SCS
It was originally described as an exhibit transforming "an oversized, macho, gas-guzzling vehicle into a technological ghost by shrouding it a white, fuzzy cover, reminiscent of women’s handwork from another time, another place."

However, after being stopped at the border she was pulled aside and her car was searched and she was questioned, and she was finally welcomed to the US, she responded “US..SR,” under her breath, and "At that moment the car cozy in Sackville took on a new absurd and infuriating meaning: it was my Homeland Security Blanket."

Somehow the Colbert Report picked up n the "story" and had a short segment about it. Because of a recent deal between CTV owned-Comedy Network and Comedy Central, you can't access videos from the Comedy Central website from Canada or access Comedy Network website from the US. So here is the link to the video in Canada (which doesn't offer an embed option) and below is the video for people in the US:

Her story is a bit more about overzealous border guards
than "Homeland Security" It's certainly not as alarming
as stories detailing new, expanded authority given to
border guards allowing them to
"copy books, documents,
and the data on laptops and other electronic devices
without suspecting a traveler of wrongdoing" and to stop,
search, and
detain anybody they want without probable
cause within 100 miles of the border. There have been a
lot of measures that intrude on personal privacy and the
Constitution...but this one seems to cross the leap cross
over the line bit too far.

I understand how it is important to be able to set up
checkpoints past the physical border, but in practice
is far too widespread to be limited to legitimate
national security concerns, as internal security is not
the job of the border guards.

December 17, 2008

"Third Culture Kid": Being Canadian-American and not having a home

The other day I was talking to someone about how excited they were to go home...and somewhat out of the blue she said something along the lines of "well at least I have a home where people know me" and it sort of got to me a bit. (I actually don't have any friends in Boston I've only actually been there a week...and most of my old friends lived around Vancouver and Chicago and have since spread across North America) When explaining to people where I'm from it often took a while...with the end result being one or both of us concluding that I'm homeless. I've talked about my travels a bit in earlier posts, but right now I'm going to detail it and talk about being what Ruth Hill Useem coined a "Third Culture Kid" means to me.

First give you an idea of my life so far...

I was born in Quebec...moved to a Chicago suburb at age four... Moved around the suburbs a few part-time in Chicago. Then living part-time near Chicago and part-time just outside St. Louis. I then received US citizenship and later moved to British Columbia for a year, moved back to a Chicago suburb for a year, and then to Boston a week before I moved here. I tried counting the number of 'homes' I've lived in and I came up with over a dozen.

Now to being a 'third culture kid'. As the U.S. State Department puts it:

Third-culture kids are those who have spent some of their growing up years in a foreign country and experience a sense of not belonging to their passport country when they return to it. In adapting to life in a 'foreign' country they have also missed learning ways of their homeland and feel most at home in the 'third-culture' which they have created.
I don't think there are any two countries as similar to each other as the U.S. and Canada...and in fact the original study on Third Culture Kids was on North American children living in India, but I've also had the feeling of not having a real home. It's hard to fully tell someone where I'm from in less than thirty words. To Canadians it's usually something like this: Well I was born in Quebec but I've moved around a bit. I moved to the States for a while, around Chicago. I moved up to BC for a while, back to Chicago, and then to Boston and then here.
Then I might go on to say: To be honest I probably liked my time in BC the best...but I went to a better school outside of Chicago...but I don't think I'd move back there.
Do you see how it might be a little complicated?

There are websites dedicated to people in similar situations (albeit most of them have much more varied backgrounds)...and they have a list of answers to the question "Where are you from?" I've probably used ten of them and some of my own:

  • “Somewhere out there”
  • Do you want the long version or the short version?
  • Pick a country—any country!
  • Are you asking where I was born, where I grew up, where my parents are from, or what kind of passport I have?
  • When I find out I’ll let you know.
  • Please don’t ask.
  • Um, it’s kind of hard to explain…
  • Do you have enough time for this?
  • Technically, I’m from…but my parents are from…but I grew up…and I do/don’t speak…but I like living…but technically I’m from…
  • Are you sure you want to know?
  • That’s a tough question.
  • You know, I wish I knew.
  • Um, it depends.
  • I don’t know.
  • Well, all over the world really. Where are you from?
  • Just a sampling of the situations so far that I've felt somewhat out of place, in the (very small) minority, defensive, out of the loop, upset, or confused:
    Political Science: Which system is better, presidential or parliamentary?;
    Canadian History: Everything, especially when hearing what Canadians say about the American Revolution (the British stopped fighting because they were too busy in Europe) and the War of 1812 (the Americans really didn't win);
    Watching Canadian News: especially the most recent political news...I thought Canadian government was democratic;
    Being asked if I identify as American or Canadian (I answered "Umm...I dunno...both?);
    Any political discussion...especially about Canadian politics...or American politics;
    Constant's pretty well deserved...but it gets old sometimes;
    Telling people I'm renewing my passports;
    Price gouging especially in this small town, hours from any major city (There aren't any in New Brunswick...unless you count Moncton)

    It has been a bit of an adjustment, not only to living at University, but to living back in Canada. I've been reconciling being told (somewhat jokingly, I hope) that I'm not a real Canadian for various reasons (including because I sometimes mock Canadian government, politics, and culture in favor of the US) and feeling a bit distant from some mainstream Canadian perceptions (especially of the U.S.) ...with my past nostalgia...seeing Canada as the pristine country of my birth.

    In-depth Analytics

    So as I promised is some detailed information from Google Analytics. It's a service that
    aggregates information about visitor traffic. There is no personally identifiable information in the
    reports. From google: "Due to user privacy concerns, Google Analytics doesn't report on personally identifiable information, including a visitor's IP address. Instead, Google Analytics provides aggregated data..."

    I thought it might be interesting to see where people are visiting this site from...and there are a few surprising results. Here's a map overview showing countries visitors are from over the past 8 weeks:

    and cities:

    Google Analytics also shows a list of the names of the networks people visited's the Universities and a few other interesting ones.

    mount allison university