OC Transpo Kindness

by PenRei

Hello! The holidays aren’t over, but I’ll be damned if I can’t get in one last post before the New Year. Sorry for my incredibly long absence. You all know how crazy the holidays can be.

Nomes has regaled us with tales of the TTC and OC Transpo, so I will add my own chapter to this novella.

This week, I had the pleasure of meeting Douggy Fresh, The Running Man, and Rush-By for lunch at the restaurant Play in downtown Ottawa. It was AWESOME! Sure, Play is a lot more on the priceyer side, but it was worth the money. The idea of the restaurant is that everything in the menu is an appetizer. Remember all those times you went to a restaurant an eyed the appetizer section, but didn’t get anything because you knew you couldn’t eat it on top of your entre? Well that was not the case! We indulged in some excellent food. The most noteworthy ones (to me) were the steak & frites, the braised lamb, and the St-Honore cheese. So delicious! We must return some day. We simply must!

Anyway, this isn’t suppose to be about the amazingness of Play. After food, cupcakes, tea, and many conversations, I had to head home for a Chinese dinner my mom was hosting at our house. As I waited on Mackenzie Kind Bridge, I began to stretch out my dishwashing muscles for the evening. It would be the first time I took the OC Transpo in a couple of months.

Now, since I use OC Transpo so rarely, I usually have outdated tickets. Most drivers will let you use them and then pay the rest of the amount with change, but it’s not a rule, so not all of them do. The bus pulled up and I hopped on. I pulled out my blue bus tickets (I believe the present ones are purple) and asked the bus driver if I could just give him three instead of two to make up the difference. He told me that was nonsense and that on his bus, you only have to put in two tickets, no matter how old they are. I found him to be incredibly generous and told him how grateful I was for his kindness. Also, this whole conversation happened with a polite smile on his face (instead of the impatient frowns from the TTC).

I scooted myself down the bus to take a seat. To my amazement, it was clean! There wasn’t a spilled coffee spreading all over the floor of the bus. There was no hidden gum that you luckily see before putting your hand on a rail. There was no questionnable stain on the seat. There was no unidentifiable smell that you tried to ignore. By golly, public transportation can be clean!

When I take the TTC in Toronto, I generally listen to music since I hate the sound of the screeching streetcar or subway, and because I have no interest in eavesdropping on someone’s innane conversation. On the OC Transpo, I forgot, you don’t have to do that. Nearly everyone around me was having a conversation with another person, but I couldn’t make out a word of their conversation. They were all using their indoor voices. Another noteworthy thing, nobody spoke on their cell phone for more than 5 minutes. Oh how amazing that was!

I was in public transportation without being bombarded by loud conversations, vehicle sounds that could pop your eardrums, or dirtyness. OC Transpo, even if your buses don’t pass as often as the TTC, you remind me every now and then why I love you more.

Another thing that I love about OC Transpo versus TTC are their transfers. Yes, OC Transpo is more expensive per trip, but you pay a fee to use the bus however you like for the next hour and a half. You can run an errand and come back with only one payment. With the TTC, you have to pay for each full trip you make. BS! That means that I have to pay twice to run an errand over my lunchbreak that takes a total 20 minutes travel time. It frustrates me greatly!

Anyway, it was about time I wrote my own public transportation experience in this blog.

Happy New Year everyone! Drink champagne, but not so much that someone has to fish you out of your own vomit. No one wants to ring in a new year with vomit.

Cheers!

Weather Woes, Or why a childhood best friend is the best kind of best friend…

In the true Canadian spirit of weather complaints, here’s one for the Ottawans! So for those who are unfamiliar with Ottawa and its Wily Weather Ways (W.W.W!…. dot giveusabreakottawa dot plz!), let me tell you a leettle about my leettle frrreind: Ah-ooh-tah-vah.

Our lovely nation’s capital is situated in a valley which was once a part of the Champlain Sea; a sea which hung out after the last ice age and, you know, held fish in its bosom. As such it is a known fact (?) that we have some pretty special weather here; a sort of micro-climate of sorts. So in the summer when it’s humid… it’s bloody humid and in the winter when it’s cold… it’s pretty frickin’ cold and it’s a humid kind of cold. SO this all means: WE get to doubly complain about weather AND politics at dinner parties! We win.

How we think we look having a dinner party…

 That being said, the other day it freeze rained,… it rained and froze, …it was freezing rain (THAT’S it.). In short, Mother Nature was pissed so the sidewalks were death planes worthy of a very cold hell. Let me tell you, you just don’t notice a driveway’s “slight slope” down to the road, until you’ve attempted to not be swept away everytime the ground under you isn’t exactly parallel to the planet’s gravity field (?). AND so, last Wednesday, I had been cooped up all day, knowing it was freezing rain, yes, and yet not realizing..really..what was brewing for me outside.

Sidebar here: HOW do we always forget what to do with a “new” weather condition? It’s like every time it’s spring Canadians are wide-eyed and lusty for sun ions: the shorts come out when it’s 11 degrees (that’s Celsius, so Fahrenheit is: 51.8!), patios open around 13 degrees C (55.4 F..), people are tanning by 14 C (…57.2 F) and there’s a general giddiness in the air (Spring Fever = people thinking “Wait… what do you mean I am allowed to have sunlight? Really?! SUN?! HEAT?! WHAT IIIIS THIS?!!?!!!!! WAHOO!!! *runs to the still icey beach…naked*) Other examples of our weather memory loss: Every summer heat wave there are Air Conditioner purchases skyrocketing and people not knowing what to do with themselves.. (i.e. forgetting to hydrate and wear sunscreen. Words to the wise: if you think you won’t get burnt: You will. You will. You will.) Every first snowfall of the year, people forget how to drive. Ditto for thunderstorms. And every time it’s freezing rain…… we are very, very, very afraid for our lives, which was exactly my state for the normally 12 minute walk to the bus station, on Wednesday eve.

I was headed downtown to meet up with my childhood bestie, Legs. (Sidebar II: I could write a whole book on Legs and I; how we were the terrors (read: hyperactive, singing, laughing, Ace-Ventura-quoting machines), of our church choirs and summer camps but I just summed it up nicely there. She basically taught me to be funny in English. …. wait that’s not really an exaggeration! Wow.) So now we both live in Toronto but rarely see each other because: Life. Being both in O-town for the holidays, we planned a lovely dinner and catch up session. This was the only night available so I braved the frickin’ sidewalks oh soo slooowly… I fell once. It spat-rained the whole way. My heart stopped a good dozen times. I almost wiped out into a very busy intersection during rush hour. It spat-rained still. I looked like an arthritic elder. My animal instincts kicked in; I started planning every step in advance, using branches and people’s lawns unabashedly. I made friends with two city workers who were throwing salt on the sidewalk at bus stops. They offered sympathy and refused my request to have them follow me and throw salt 1 minute before I walked anywhere, all night. Darn.

BUT I MADE IT! I did.

Downtown wasn’t as icey. The mall was filled with the entire population of North America, however, so buying wine proved to be… like being a puppy waiting to feed from its mother when you’re the runt of the litter; it took a while and was very crowded, and when you got there there wasn’t much left (of mom’s patience or milk: angry cashiers are scary.). BUT I survived even that… phew! First world problems, I tell you!

Then I met up with my lovely Legs, who had been downtown since 3pm before the ice got bad (smart girl), and we shared drinks before heading to a restaurant her friend worked at…in hopes of a discount… We left the warm interior for the now worsened conditions outside: sheets of water poured on our unprotected heads and sorry selves and the previously untreachourous sidewalk was now back to being heart-attack enducing. Also Legs was “in the bag”, if you will; slightly tipsy… So we slipped, slided, swam and laughed our way to the restaurant, daring to hope for a dry seat in her friend’s section and a warm meal. We got there…. and her friend’s section was full. “Fully booked forever”, as a parade of people, (the manager, hostess, Legs’ friend), came over to confirm. So we sighed and cried and had a more frugal “salad” instead of the desired “meat” but hey: at least we made friends with the two gentlemen across from us whom Legs graciously offered to touch the soaked material, on her thigh, of her tights. And that, folks, is just how she says hello! 🙂 She, later still, explained her behaviour to another friend by exclaiming defensively: “I asked him to feel my thigh because it was wet!!!” OOOH how we laughed! Which unfortunately proves that I am victim to the trend.

In any case the rain subsided as we left the restaurant, hours later, having laughed and cried a little about our lives and loves, discussing politics and the weather (obviously!) making our reunion a most adventure-filled and warm (actual weather conditions notwithstanding) time.

One last thing:  I love childhood best friends; they are like family you chose. Because even though our life paths have taken us on very different courses, the fact is that we always find each other and always love each other because through the love and the tears (of laughter and of joy), the thoughts and the drinks and the bathroom breaks shared, there is really only one thing that we haven’t shared: blood. And that’s ok! Je t’aime, Legs!

P.s. to break the complaint trend: It finally snowed for real and I am filled with glee. I am even excited about it being freezing cold! Merry Christmas to some and Happy Holidays to all!

People vs Machines: Which One Is More Problematic?

by PenRei

About 3 weeks ago, I changed positions in the television company I work for from production coordinator to control room technician. It was a switch that surprised a lot of people, and it seems to still surprise them. The truth is, I have a very strong background in both the technical and production side of film and television. I am one of those employees you can just switch back and forth. The present company was so happy that I left my coordinating position because I was quite good at it. Reasons why I made the switch? The technician position is a full-time permanent job with benefits and vacantion pay. The coordinating job was only until beginning February and there was no guarantee of renewal. Spending the last 4 years jumping from one contract to the next, too freaked out to ever turn down a job (therefor never getting a break), I was on the verge of a burnout and needed to stop. The last time I had any timeoff that was longer than a 4 day weekend was 6 years ago. Enough was enough!

Anyway, I should probably get on with what I was actually planning to write about.

The biggest change between going from a production coordinnator to an in studio technician is that you no longer have to deal with people, but with machines. The question is, which one is better to deal with?

 People can be incredibly annoying to coordinnate because they can be stubborn, inconsiderate, and occasionally unpredictable. They’ll want something and they’ll want it now, despite the fact that you are not their top priority. However, people can be reasoned with, and when you’re working in a good team, everyone should be doing what they can so everything can go as smoothly as possible. There’s a certain give and take when it comes to people which can be really nice.

Machines are idiot boxes. They only do what you tell them to do, so if something goes wrong, generally it’s because YOU did something wrong. This can result in one of three reactions:
1) Relief, because you know how to fix the problem
2) Excitement, because you’re a huge nerd who loves to solve computer problems
3) Immense frustration because you can’t figure it out and somehow it’s your fault
You can’t reason with a machine. A machine only does what you tell it to do while it sits there saying “me so stupid”. However, a computer won’t talk back and give you shit, because a computer doesn’t get frustrating.

On that note, people can be helpful in that they tell you what’s wrong. You can brainstorm with them how to fix it. However, some people will just yell at you to get it done, without any flexibility that will allow you to finish the job. Computers don’t always tell you what’s wrong with them. They can crash, freeze, not respond, or many other things and you’ll have to figure it out for yourself. You can’t ask the computer what’s wrong with it, because then you’ll just get another blank stare of “me so stupid”.

After having coordinate peopled for the last 3 years, some of them stubborn without patience and flexibility, I welcome the problems machines can bring. Sure they’re annoying, but there is a certain rage inside towards a inconsiderate person that is gone. And I can’t get mad at an inconsiderate machine, because machines can’t be inconsiderate, just stupid.

The idea for this post came from the fact that last Thursday, our main server and archiving system crashed here and we all became sitting ducks. It took the whole day to fix, and a week later, we’re still fixing bugs. I was hoping to post this a few days ago, but life happened and such. I feel that the momentum I was building for the post fizzled away in the last 3 days. Still, I felt like it was worth posting this.

Panda’s Playing In the Snow

by PenRei

This weekend, Nanshan Park in the Eastern Shandong province in China received a beautiful blanket of snow. I don’t know how the human population felt, but two giant pandas, Hua’ao (pron: Hua-aw) and Qingfeng (pron: Ching-feng), were ecstatic to see it come down. They turned their zoo habitat into their own winter wonderland as they played for hours with the layer of white.

Click here to see the full article and video from Thomson Reuters. You’ll get to see happy pandas summersault all over the place.

Cereal For Children

by PenRei

Lately, I’ve been on a real kick with visiting cereals that are dedicated to children. Don’t ask me why! Maybe it has something to do with me refusing to admit that I am an adult with adult responsibilities and an adult lifestyle (I kind of had an emotional breakdown about this a month ago). I’m really not sure, but there appears to be a kid in me who wants to eat cereal that isn’t healthy muesli or bran buds.

Mini-Wheats

Mini-Wheats, Original Frosted

It all started with Mini Wheats. I remember having Mini Wheats back when I was a kid and I DID NOT LIKE THEM. I would get upset with my chunks of cereal as they soaked up all the mild and became soggy bran squares. Yuck! Now, I’ve been eating them every morning for two weeks straight and it really does feel like a great way to start the morning. I am loving this cereal more than I should. I actually get upset if I wake up and my box is empty. Sad! Luckily, it’s a pretty healthy cereal choice! It’s high in dietary fiber, iron, and manganese.

Uh… what’s manganese? I know what magnesium is, but manganese? Honestly, I never really thought about it. Let’s have a look shall we!

So what’s the deal with manganese? Trace minerals of manganese can be found in the bones, the liver, kidneys, and pancreas. It helps the body create connective tissue, bones, and hormones and fights blood clotting factors, as well as regulates sugar levels in your blood and absorb calcium. It would also be important to add that manganese is necessary for the brain and the nervous system. Wow! Talk about a multi-purpose power mineral. Other places to find manganese are in various nuts. Good thing I’m an almond fiend, in both the nut and the milk form. (R)

Cinnamon Toast CrunchAnother cereal that I’ve been fawning over is Cinnamon Toast Crunch. The really weird part is that I’ve never had any until October this year when I stole a few pieces from Josie at work. There is absolutely not association to it from my childhood, but the few squares I had back in October awakened a happiness in me that could only be explained by childish joy. Considering that you can tell this cereal is loaded with sugar just by the taste, I decided to refrain from ingesting this one every morning and keep it more so as an occasional snack at work or desert after supper.

Perhaps the reason it appeals to me so much is that the mix of sugar and cinnamon reminds me so much of Beavertails. Oh, what a love of Beavertails I have! There isn’t anyone from Ottawa who can deny the deliciousness and amazingness of beavertails. It’s turned into our local food mascot. If you want a beavertail, go to Ottawa. The only one I’ve found in Toronto is at Toronto Place, but you have to pay to get in. Ugh! A few winters ago, they had a beavertail stand in front of City Hall. I was so excited! Beavertails are a special treat. I decided to call up Douggy Fresh so we could go the next day and share in the nostalgic taste of many evenings spent in the Byward Market. But, to our horror, the next day, the Beavertail stand was gone. We were SO UPSET! You can’t just give us hope like that and take it away. Not cool!

Clearly, I have demonstrated my love for beavertails, hence potentially the appeal of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. On a downside, it is very high in sugar. On the plus side, it very high in iron (who knew!), niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, and vitamin B6. Huh! And here I thought it was just fluff cereal for breakfast. Now, I just named a lot of things I don’t really understand, particularly riboflavin. What is that? (R)

Riboflavin, also known as Vitamin B2 helps us get energy from carbohydrates. It’s important in the production of red blood cells, which are quite necessary to the general functionality of any vertebrae organism on this planet of ours. (R)

My quest for childhood cereals isn’t over. I have very fond memories of Fruit Loops. I especially loved that when you were done the cereal, the milk tasted like a really sweet fruity milk, therefor more appealing to polish off at the end. Mmmm! So tasty! I’m thinking I might want to tackle a box of that this weekend.

Another cereal that I want try is Count Chocula. I’ve never had any, but I really want to give it a shot. I mean, it’s cereal plus chocolate. Sounds like a dynamo combination to me!

Lastly, there is one cereal that I will forever remember fondly, but presently feel like it is best kept as a good memory in the past: Honeycomb Cereal. It was the sweetest cereal my parents allowed me to eat when I was a kid and I devoured them. So much tastiness was happening there, but perhaps the memory of it is better than a possible re-enactment. Therefor, Honeycombs, you will remain on the shelf in my head.

Have a great weekend! (I can’t believe I wrote an entire post about cereal. Apparently there is nothing interesting happening in my life.) Having found that YouTube video with a retro commercial made me nostalgic. Here’s a compilation of a few from 1992. Unfortunately, it cuts out at the end just when MC Hammer makes an appearance. Sigh. They just don’t make commercials like they used it.

Update from Nomes: First of all, so much to learn about cereal! Second of all, BEAVERTAILSZOHMYGOD! I’m making that happen this week… yay Ottawa! Third of all, so much to say about the commercials from our youuuth! The most important, I think, is the literal songs: where they basically say everything that’s happening as it’s happening: You can grate cheese, and put mushrooms on it and make a cake with a little bow on it and blow out the fake candle TOOOOOO …CAUSE PLAY-DOH LOVES YOU MORE THAN YOUR PARENTS DO APPARENTLY, SEE YOUR PARENTS DON’T EVEN MAKE YOU A CAKE!… oh no wait… that’s my interpretation and thus does not belong in “literal commercial song”. It’s for kids. It’s magic by its simplicity. OOOH AND ANOTHER NOTE: in the Mighty Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Rock Band (?) commercial at the beginning…one of them has a Flava Flave clock hanging on his neck!!!

Party. Defined.

THIS is the Flava of the 90s!

Nomes-out.

Update by PenRei:
Wow Nomes! If your interpretation of those commercials goes to how much parents apparently don’t love their kids enough, I am deeply afraid to know what you think of commercials these days. Also, loving the Flava Flave clock necklace. Thanks for the still!

Update from Nomes:

What I think of modern commercials… oh what I think of modern commercials. The horror…the horror…

When Dog Shit Became a Conversation Opener

by PenRei

Monday night, after another full day of work, I walked the 20 minutes it takes me to get back home as usual. I was really tired and just wanted to get back home to enjoy prosciutto whilst watching the latest episode of American Horror Story and then attempting to write some more.

On my way back home, I saw a man letting his dog shit in the street. Despite it being dark, the scene was somehow lit properly so I could see everything. Oh backlighting from headlights! It was a runny kind of poo and was steamy, freshly hot in the cold almost-winter air. I think that’s enough for the description. Now, if you remember from my previous post, I hate people who don’t pick up their dog’s shit. Clearly, I was not impressed and shot this guy a dirty look.

He was ragged with clothes that were old and overly baggy, a hat over his matted brown hair, and this crooked look in his eye. I can’t describe it any better; there was just something off in his eyes. Perhaps he actually saw my disapproving look, because soon he feels like he has to explain himself to me.

He goes on to tell me how his dog had the runs and is recovering. I understand that the runs are gross and very uncomfortable for the dog. I still don’t think it’s a legitimate reason to leave it where people are either walking or cyclists are going by. The least you could do would make the dog do his business on a patch of grass/dirt under a tree, or do what one of my cousins do: have a newspaper ready and put it under the dog as soon as it happens, then throw the thing out.

Anyway, back to my story. I tell this guy that I’m sorry his dog has the runs, look away, and start walking faster to try and pass him. As if this was an invitation of some kind, he picks up his pace to catch up with me and tells me that his dog will be okay. I only give minimal monosyllabic responses out of politeness and walk even faster. He picks up the pace again. Uh… most people who start talking to me on the street take that as a sign of “no, I don’t really want to talk to you”. He then starts telling me about himself, including saying that he’s Irish, despite the fact that there is nothing about his appearance, Canadian accent, or mannerism that would make me believe he’s Irish. I block out most of the conversation, but he starts walking closer to me until I get knocked into a tree.

Finally, I see a street that I can turn onto and end the conversation with a “Have a goodnight!”. He says so as well and acts like we will see each other again some time on another almost-winter night when his dog is shitting and he’s not courteous enough to pick it up.

I have never been in a situation with a complete stranger where they started a conversation with me about their dog’s shit. It especially bothers me since he didn’t even bother to get his dog’s shit out of people’s way. Gross! May I never see him or his dog ever again.