It's dangerous to be this close

Mmmmmmmmm. We’ve only been here 12 hours and it’s already been a pretty sweet trip. Our flight was on time, our cab driver (limo driver, really) was very friendly and helpful (try Crystal Limousine if you’re ever coming from the airport), we got some great food and Garrison beer at the Economy Shoe Shop, one of the few places still serving food. Wiped, we crashed hard in our king bed.

We woke up to a beautiful morning, a welcome respite from what we’ve heard is weeks of gray and rainy weather. We didn’t have too much time before prepping for the wedding, but we did manage to have breakfast, do some emergency sock-shopping at Dugger’s and pick up some wine at Bishop’s Cellar. With all the usual festivals and activities that happen here in the summer, and with Paul McCartney playing here today, the city’s jumping right now.

OK, gotta get ready.

I, for one, find the Harbor Hopper ads very offensive

Just when I really start to like Halifax again, it goes and does something goofy like reject the Atheist Bus ads. (Full disclosure: I donated to the Atheist Bus campaign in Canada.)

A ‘Without God’ ad has proven too controversial for Halifax transit.

Humanist Canada wanted to place ads on Metro Transit buses with the slogan, “You can be good without God.”

But officials with the transit authority deemed that too controversial.

“We’re a public transit system first, and then we sell advertising,” Lori Patterson, spokewoman for Metro Transit, told CBC News on Monday.

“So, if anytime we feel there’s a message that could be controversial and upsetting to people, we don’t necessarily sell the ads.”

First of all, that reasoning is absurd. Virtually every ad could be offensive to someone. If one gives Ms. Patterson the benefit of the doubt and assumes she means “upsetting to the majority of people,” it becomes hard to reconcile the fact that they’ve granted ad space to the anti-abortion organization Birthright, as reported on the Atheist Bus website.

Second, not only is the actual message less inflammatory than the “There’s probably no god…” ads to run in Toronto, it’s completely benign! How can you possibly argue with the statement “You can be good without God.”, let alone find it upsetting? Can, people, can. The ads don’t say you will be better without god, they just state the fact that people who don’t believe in gods are capable of being good.

I’m confident this response — which seems much more like a knee-jerk than a reasoned reaction — is so baseless and silly that, despite how conservative Nova Scotia can be sometimes, will ultimately be reversed. I’m also hopeful that Vancouver will avoid embarrassing themselves in this way.

So far the best response to the ads I’ve heard about is what the United Church of Canada is planning: ads that say “There probably is a God, so stop worrying and enjoy your life.” Hurrah! Instead of trying to silence a contrary argument, they made their own counter-ad, and with a sly wink as well. Well played, UCC. (More full disclosure: I was raised United, and while I’ve been an atheist for many years, my parents remain very active in their church.)

Five years later…

So…yesterday was our anniversary. Our fifth, thanks for asking. We celebrated (after our little shopping excursion to HMV and Duggers) by meeting up with my brother for some drinks at Seven Wine Bar, then enjoying a quiet, delicious dinner for two at Fid Cuisine. Fid’s been there since 2000 but we’d never tried it, and until recently I’d never even heard of it. Not surprising; it certainly wasn’t the sort of place a student would try. Here’s the lineup (some of it is from the website’s outdated menu, some is from memory):

  • Amuse-Bouches: green curry mussels. I don’t particularly care for mussels, so I tried one and donated the other to my lovely wife. Happy anniversary, darling.
  • Appetizers: Nellie had the caramelized scallops (which included some other bits of meat that I thought were quail) while I had the goat cheese.
  • Mains: Nellie had the beef tenderloin with kale (maybe?) & artichoke. I had the pork belly with choy sum and a pureed sweet potato that we both agreed was amazing. This was my first time having pork belly; it was tender and very tasty, but really fatty and rich. I’m glad I spaced it out with the rest of my food. We had this with a powerful New Zealand Pinot Noir (can’t remember which, but it was strong enough to keep up with Nellie’s beef while not overpowering my pork) and cleansed our palates with a tea-flavoured sorbet.
  • Dessert: ginger creme brulee for Nellie, outstanding molten moelleux au chocolat for me. Nellie had a ten-year-old port, I had a local Muscat dessert wine.

Sated, we stumbled out into the miserable night. The earlier snow had degenerated (as it so often does in Halifax) into freezing rain, made worse by biting wind and slippery sidewalks (and us in our fancy shoes!). We got all the way back to the hotel when Nellie realized she was missing an earring…one of the pair I’d given her for Christmas two days earlier. This wouldn’t do. We put on some shoes more befitting the Canadian winter and set back out, knowing it would be nearly impossible to spot a silver earring on the snow-and-ice-covered sidewalk, but we had to try. We retraced our steps all the way to the restaurant with no luck, double-checked the entryway, and left again for the hotel. Happily, I spotted the rogue earring about twenty steps from the restaurant’s entrance, and the evening was saved. We slid back to the hotel to warm up, dry off and digest in agony.

This morning we woke up early to have breakfast with our friend Karen and her new fiance, then made for the airport. Cab ride: no problem. Check-in: no problem. Security: bigger line than usual for Halifax, but no problem. Boarding: no problem. Flight: no problem, save some bumps at the end and a supremely annoying Newfoundland mother sitting right behind us. Luggage collection: no problem. Cab ride home: no problem. All in all, a pretty painless winter travel experience, and a far cry from last week’s fiasco.

Now we’re home, surrounded by presents, being abused by bitchy cats, completely lacking in the grocery department and overall a little wiped. But good. All’s well that ends well.

Can’t wait for the next five years.

Goin' back to Hali

For the third time (or fourth, if you count flying into the airport for a family reunion) in four months, I’m back in Halifax. This is the traditional final phase of the Christmas vacation, where we end up for our anniversary and to chill a little bit before flying back to Toronto.

Christmas eve was a gentle mix of cleaning up, beating my dad at crib, wrapping gifts and lying about. Christmas day was lots of fun, hauling away lots of booty (many DVDs & Wii games, as well as some other cool stuff…IP-enabled camera, Star Wars trivia book, etc.), having a delicious extended-family dinner at my brother’s house across the yard, and finishing off the day playing the Wii with Nellie, the nephew, the nieces, the brother and the sister-in-law.

Boxing Day started off well — driving to my aunt’s house where just about all of the extended family on my father’s side gathered for yearly reunion & feast — but took a bad turn when I realized I’d left my bag (including my wallet, ID, Blackberry, Zen, camera, etc.) back on the farm. That discovery corresponded with one of the worst headaches I’ve ever had. So Nellie did some championship rally-driving back to the farm where I grabbed the bag, swallowed a bunch of advil and gassed up the car, then we hightailed it toward Halifax. Three extra hours in the car wasn’t how I wanted to spend the day, but there you go. We visited Nellie’s cousin and her family for a bit, then drove to our hotel in Halifax. A huge late-night dinner later, we retired to the comfy, quiet room. Ahhhhhhhh.

It’s been an awesome, relaxing morning…in-sleeping, breakfast-eating, paper-reading, price-checking. Now we’re heading out for a stroll and to see if we can locate any particular deals, and to feed Nellie’s craving for fish & chips at the Rogue’s Roost. Cheers, internet. Hope you’re feeling as groovy as we are.

Ah, vacation

It’s been a long two days. Since my last post we spent six hours waiting in the airport, took a bumpy ride into Halifax and thought hard about making the drive to the farm but were thwarted by the oncoming storm. Had the flight left on time, or even close to it, we could have made it to the farm ahead of the severe weather, but with half an inch of snow on the ground already I wasn’t risking it. We ended up spending the night at Nellie’s cousin’s place — which was an adventure in itself — and making the mildly treacherous drive to the farm yesterday. When we left the cousin’s place the power was out; when we reached the farm the power was out there as well. Awesome.

It wasn’t a problem not having power during the day — we were happy just to arrive, finally and in one piece — but as it turned dark and the temperature outside fell, the house began to cool off. A LOT. We also discovered that we were the only two houses around without power, so with tens of thousands of people around the province without power that night we figured we weren’t high on the fix-it list. My parents called the info line and left messages, but we decided the best place for us was in the car, so we took a trip into town, ostensibly for dinner and groceries, but also to keep warm. Good thing, too; the temperature outside had fallen to numbing levels. Returning home, we crossed our fingers as we got close to the farm, but no dice. Or, rather: no lights.

A few hours later, wrapped up in blankets, we saw a power truck pull up. They told us it was a blown transformer and predicted we’d have to wait at least another day for a replacement to be put in, so we went to bed early, wrapped in swaddling comfiness, hoping to sleep through the coldest of it. Happily the workers — who had been going for 36 straight hours, in what must have been -30 windchill — found a plan B and our power came on. I’ve never been so happy to hear the smoke detector chirp.

Today I woke up, stood on the hot-air register downstairs, microwaved myself a croissant and luxuriated in the feeling of my first shower in two days. I luxuriated in the flush toilets as well, but nobody needs to hear about that. Suffice it to say modern living was a big hit this morning when everyone got up.

No time to waste, though. My father still hadn’t done his Christmas shopping, so off we all went to Moncton. Some five hours later we’d braved malls and power centers, and eaten Festive Specials ’til we burst, and returned home to relax, at last. We inspected my brother’s newly-renovated house next door, during which time I was humiliated at foosball by my nine-year-old nephew, but quickly learned how to play and beat him in the next two games. Pwned. Then Nellie wrapped presents while Dad and I did battle at cribbage, and now we’re all just laying about stuffing our faces with bonbons* until we fall asleep. Now THIS is what I flew back to Nova Scotia for.

Tomorrow I’ll have to wrap presents and help my mother make apple pies, but if those are my chores I’ll happily struggle through. If I don’t have time to blog again before tomorrow night, then Merry Christmas everybody!

* To date: chocolate-covered peanut butter balls, chocolate macaroons, peanut butter chocolate drop cookies, three kinds of fudge and Lindt chocolates. Up next: my father’s homemade strawberry ice cream. Then sweet, sweet cardiac failure.

Stop 'n go

We arrived back in Toronto today, just in time to do some laundry, perform some emergency triage on the PVR and pack for two days away at a conference. I leave tomorrow morning and get back Wednesday evening. It’s going to be a tough two days, mainly because of how behind I am on my sleep, but it’ll be fun too.

Now: two reasons to feel guilty when ordering dessert

So let’s see…what’s happened since last I blogged? I had some lunch at Rogue’s Roost, walked around the Public Gardens, walked up to the campus and picked up my gown, fought off a wicked-ass headache, and spent the evening at a very nice work function. Said work function was followed by too many hours at the Lower & Middle Deck.

This morning, after too little sleep, we met some friends for brunch, did a little shopping, met up with my parents, came back and relaxed at the hotel for a bit, and went out to dinner at Il Mercato. This time out wasn’t as good as my visit in August…it was too loud to have a conversation, and there was a massive lineup of people hovering over our tables, staring at our food and silently willing us to eat faster. That kind of put a damper on the dinner.

Tonight I’m happily chilling out for a bit. Nellie’s off having a glass of wine with her mom, while I catch up on some reading and get some quiet time. Tomorrow morning the big event starts early.

I'm a croakin' man with a Halifax beer

We landed in Halifax quite late, and it took forever to get a cab into the city, so it was nearly midnight before we could drop our bags and meet some friends for a beer. Two pints and 90 minutes later we were walking home in the cold rain, and I woke up this morning with a chill and a sore throat. Well, it was either the walk home or the sub-zero temperature in our hotel room. I had to use an ice scraper on the alarm clock just to see what time it was.

We have a few hours to ourselves now. Time to go find some grub and enjoy Halifax.


Canada’s oldest bookstore, The Book Room in Halifax, is closing. I don’t have any particular problem with it closing, I just thought it was cool that the oldest bookstore in Canada was in Halifax.


Today was challenging at times but things started to gel a bit toward the end. I’m going to have to do some work tonight; need to catch up and prepare some study materials. I still have some work work that I want to do but I don’t think I can spare the time. I don’t want to mess up this exam; it’s much too late in the game to mess up now.


I finally finished the Naomi Klein book this week. It drifted toward the end — I think the entire section on Israel was a little too micro to carry the same weight as earlier sections — but it was still a very interesting companion piece to this MBA I’m doing. It’s not as if Friedman worship flares up often, but there’ve been some discussions that in class that’ve sounded eerily similar to some neo-liberal scripture.

I think next I might read Incendiary by Chris Cleave (amazon | indigo). I didn’t realize it’d been made into a movie, so I’d like to read it before that comes out.

[tags]halifax, the book room, mba, naomi klein, shock doctrine, incendiary, chris cleave[/tags]