Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Teeth? At Three Months?

Scott has started to drool a bit more lately. This is often a sign of teething (or so I hear). The other day we noticed something whitish showing through his normally pink gums. I imagine this is also a sign of teething.

Everything that we'd read about baby development said that the teeth come in at about the six-month mark. Perhaps we have a little carnivore on our hands or something.

Based on the experience that we've had selling our guest bed and an extra set of tires, I can say that Kijiji is a better place to sell tires, and craigslist is a better place to sell beds. We posted identical ads on each site and it was remarkable how all the responses regarding the bed came in from craigslist, and vice-versa with the tires. Within 4 hours of posting the ads we had buyers for both, which was refreshing after the lengthy campaign to sell the car.

The car finally sold this weekend, to the guy who had been interested in it the very first day. It took a week of negotiations, a week of repairs, and then a week of him being out of town before it was all finalized. On the bright side, the delay made it easy to ask for a closing date this Saturday -- the day we pack up the truck.

On Sunday, we'll pack the whole family into the loaded truck, drive to church, and then head out down the road. We'll be in the truck for the next five days, driving eight hours per day.

What a week for Scott to start teething.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Reflective Motorcycle Poses From Quebec

It seems like we say good-bye to somebody each day. Today we saw some close church friends for the last time before we leave, because they'll be gone out of town this week. Since it was our last chance to see it, we finally went up to the lake in Val-des-Bois where E and J have purchased property and will soon be building a cottage. It's a perfectly secluded little spot and it's absolutely beautiful.

Since it was a Sunday and we didn't want to get too rowdy, we just enjoyed the water from the shore, dipping in a toe or two here and there -- except for E, who ended up soaked after running out into the water to pull out his 2-year-old son, who had waded in too deep looking for frogs.

The beautiful surroundings afforded an opportunity for reading or quiet reflection. In this case, my brother T did a good job of posing like a reflective reader. This whole shot is staged.

No commentary needed here.

It was sad to drive away and think that could be the last time we ever see some of these friends of ours. I imagine we'll come back through Ottawa someday. We love this place too much not to come back and show Scott he city of his birth.

Speaking of Scott, he's learned a new skill the last day or two. He sticks both arms straight up in the air like he's riding a motorcycle. This evening he did it over and over again for nearly ten minutes. We think it's his way of saying that he wants us to pull him up into a sitting position. If we do pull him up, he stops doing it and looks around with his huge, bright eyes.

Although he doesn't say much, we're sure that there's a lot of activity going on behind those eyes, as he takes in all the world around him. His uncle T has been really helpful in jump-starting his education with little things like reading to him from an Ayn Rand book that we found on the bookshelf while we were packing everything up.

Saturday, July 28, 2007


Today we didn't have to mess with tow trucks or drive-shafts or anything like that. In fact, we only left the house to get a late brunch at Cora's (called Chez Cora in Quebec). I was happy to learn that Cora's has spread far enough to include a location in the South end of Calgary. That means I can still have my "Seven of July" all year round.

Scott and his uncle T seem to be getting along wonderfully. I don't know if you can tell from the photos, but they have similar chins (except Scott seems to have one extra chin that T doesn't have).

Aren't uncles fun?

Friday, July 27, 2007

Adventure Tourism Among The Wrecks

Apparently, you get McDonald's breakfast if you stay overnight in jail here in Ottawa. This is something I learned last night. I also learned that you need to take the drive-shaft off of a big a truck in order to tow it away. You can learn a lot of interesting things if you spend some time at a tow yard.

Yesterday afternoon I went over to the church to get the ownership papers out of our recently-purchased moving truck so that I could get a new temporary permit to take it down to a mechanic for an oil change and a quick inspection. The truck had been parked in the back of the church parking lot since we got the parking ticket for leaving it on the street overnight 10 days ago.

When I pulled into the lot, the truck wasn't there.

I knew right away that it had been towed, since there had been some confusion about the truck when I had parked it there for a few nights earlier in the month -- it looks more like a stray Torontonian supply truck than a moving truck, so people thought it looked suspicious. When I brought it back last week, I cleared it with a guy who helps take care of the building, so I thought I was safe. Apparently not.

Luckily, I have some experience getting cars back from tow lots because a friend of mine (let's call him Ben) had his rental car towed away from our condo parking lot for failing to park in a visitor stall when he was back visiting from England a year or two ago. In that case, we had to go to the police station to get a release form, because the towing company won't give you the car unless you can clearly prove ownership or present the release form. We learned all about the process at about 3am, as we were forced to visit both the police station and the towing company twice each, ultimately paying upwards of $200 in fines and charges.

The only way for me to prove ownership was to get a new copy of the sale agreement faxed to me from the dealership, because all my papers were sitting in the glove compartment (note to self: keep vehicle ownership in a safe place in future). I found out that the Ottawa Police had called the electric supply company who had previously owned the vehicle, who had in turn called the dealership I bought it from, giving them an earful for selling a truck that still had their logo and phone number on the side. The dealership then gave me an earful. I kind of wish I knew who had the truck towed away, because my ears are full and I would like to unload them.

I treated my brother to the vacation of his life as we toured the police station waiting room and then took a road trip 25 km out of town to the tow yard in Carp. As tour guides, we try to show something new to every visitor.

While I was inside the little trailer/office waiting for them to run a $280 charge on my credit card (ouch), I could hear a lively discussion in the next room held by two or three men and a woman -- ostensibly tow truck drivers waiting for a call. One man had gotten back recently from an overnight stint in jail and was giving some tips based on his experience. He mentioned that the police provide McDonald's breakfast in the morning, and he sounded quite pleased with the whole thing. Another guy chimed in and said that you also get a McDonald's combo meal if you get booked early enough in the evening. He seemed to know a lot more about life in the clink, because he had spent several weeks behind bars at one time or another. In fact, he once told his family not to bail him out at all because he thought the living was so good inside.

I got very little indication what crimes or charges had earned them their Big Macs and McMuffins, except that one guy had turned himself in for a violation of his probation. Thankfully, I eventually got my paperwork back and was free to take the truck away.

That's when I learned my second big lesson of the night.

I found the truck in the far end of the lot and started it up without a problem. But when I put it in gear, it wouldn't move. Drive, Reverse, First -- nothing worked. I started to freak out. Because of some lame miscommunication my truck had been towed and ruined. I had visions of my life tearing apart at the seams. I jumped out of the truck and looked at the undercarriage. Even in the darkness I could tell that the drive-shaft was missing.

Then I found it lying on the ground.

I could not imagine what they did to the truck to cause the drive-shaft to tear off on both ends. I pictured them dropping the truck from six feet up into the yard. Insanity licked at the edges of my mind and I started muttering to myself in disbelief mingled with rage.

I approached one of the story-telling men, who was now standing outside the trailer/office. He held up his hand with a quick warning, "Don't come too close, there's a guard dog in here." From a safe distance, I began telling him that the drive-shaft seemed to have come off in the process of towing. He quickly cut me off and explained that they disconnect the drive train as a standard procedure when towing vehicles like mine. Unfortunately, because of liability issues, they could not put it back on -- I would need a licensed mechanic.

I was at once relieved and bewildered. How was I supposed to get a mechanic to come all the way out here -- in the middle of nowhere, really -- to reassemble my drive-shaft at 10pm? I had to leave the truck there for another night. They gave me the number of a mechanic's shop 3 km from the yard who might come by and do the work for me. Just add it to the bill for the evening, I guess.

I think if I didn't have a blog to publicly announce this great misfortune, I would probably self-destruct. Thank you readers everywhere.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

3 Months And Still Cooing Strong

Three months ago today, Scott was born. Has it only been three months? Wow. He certainly looks a lot older. And according to the BC Gurus, he's supposed to be gaining coordination this week. For example, he should be able to bat at a toy or reach for something you hold out. R put a toy key ring in front of him today and that's exactly what he did. Whew! My baby is keeping up with the Joneses.

His cooing is also improving, as he learns more and becomes more responsive. On Sunday, I was able to get some better footage of him "talking." I found in the past that he was distracted by the little beep as the camera started rolling. I was able to hide it from him a little this time, so he didn't stop and just stare.

I also included a shot of Scott demonstrating his #1 skill: holding his head up. We heard that you can pull a child from his back to a sitting position as an exercise to build neck strength, so the child will eventually be able to hold his head up. For some reason, Scott was able to do this pretty early on. Either he's dodged the genes from his father's side and ended up with a small head, or he's got pretty good neck muscles. Either way, it's pretty cute to watch him look around when he sits up.

NOTE: I just wanted to mention that my little trick to get free parking at the Ottawa Airport doesn't work at 4:00pm on a weekday. I went to pick up my younger brother (who will be visiting from NY through the weekend) and I found the security guy making the rounds both downstairs (arrivals) and upstairs (departures). I just had to circle a few times while he waited for his luggage, so it still wasn't that bad.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Rice, Brown Beans and a Can of Soup

How many meals do you think you could make using only the food you have in your house? If you were really prepared, you could probably go for weeks. However, if you had known for months that you would be moving, you would probably have "eaten away" at your stocks of food in the basement or the pantry, so there wouldn't be so much left to choose from.

In fact, when you started using up your food supplies, you probably would go for the tastier stuff first, like applesauce and chili, leaving things like kidney beans and macaroni noodles until the end. When you finally had less than two weeks to go, you would really have to buckle down and eat the food left in your house, whatever it was. This lends to strange combinations.

We are doing our best to find meals that have lots of the following:
- instant mashed potatoes
- cream of mushroom soup
- rice
- maple-syrup-flavoured brown beans
- apple cider
- crisco
- kidney beans
- frozen spring rolls

If any of you have any great recipe suggestions for these ingredients, please let us know. In the mean time, we'll be using the blender a lot to make "nutrition shakes" that taste strongly of beans.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Bye Bye BBQ

Amidst the tremendous excitement of moving across the country to take on new adventures, there is the sadness of leaving some part of your life behind. This weekend, some of the best RISK 2210 players in the city threw a BBQ to bid us farewell.

Coincidentally, many of these RISK 2210 players are also coworkers of mine.

Many of us started work at about the same time, mostly as recent university grads, so we've all been going through the same stages of life at roughly the same time. We happened to be the only ones at this event with any children...

... but there are several kids just waiting in the wings.

After a fine feast on burgers and smokies, they brought out the cake, which was decorated with that classic combination -- war elephants marching on the (chocolate) moon. The only thing missing was a helping of KFC gravy to wash it all down.

Upon closer inspection, you can see that there are many war elephants marching around on the cake as well as the moon. This reminds me of a poster that I once saw encouraging safe business practices. Actually, I made the poster and entered it into a competition at work. Surprisingly, I didn't win. I guess people just don't understand security the way these elephants do.

El Dubya and I proudly displayed our matching t-shirts, which were designed to commemorate that great day back in March when we (along with two of my brothers-in-law) played Settlers of Catan atop the Calgary Tower. This feat may not get us into the Guiness Record Book, but it did warrant a t-shirt.

There are a lot of wonderful friends, memories and inside jokes here in Ottawa. May we be like the war elephants and never forget them.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

We've Been One-Upped

I thought we had a pretty good story to tell about how we plan to move -- until I heard about the way a couple from church are moving out to Victoria, BC (4800 km or 3000 miles). Instead of buying a house in BC, they've decided to build one in Ottawa and tow it all the way out there. They're building it on a trailer, and it's designed so that the walls fold out to make quite a decent-sized home. I had only heard about it, but now that they have a blog, I can better understand what it's going to look like. You should check out their Folding Home Blog.

Friday, July 20, 2007

A Little Bit Each Day

With the big move only two weeks away, we have realized that there is a lot of packing to do. Since we've been busy with everything else, no progress has yet been made on that front. Tonight we spent about two hours working on all the loose items in the basement, and we have a tidy stack of boxes to show for it.

We think that we can get it all ready if we just put in a few hours each day. Hopefully, we can give Scott a few simple tasks to help with the burden.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Ooohhhh, ouuuggghhh, ooohhhhh

It is comforting to read that our little man is keeping up with the development information provided by the experts this week. Of course, I secretly wish that he will completely surpass all milestones and measurements for his age -- mainly so that I can brag to strangers without any warning. Then I can blurt out things like, "Oh, my baby is almost as big as yours, but mine's only half his age! Ha-ha! I win!" (That is almost a direct quote from an encounter I had this week -- minus the victory celebrations.)

As predicted by the baby gurus, what we've noticed the most the last week or two is the increased level of awareness and interaction. Scott smiles when he sees us and he has started to coo back to us quite a lot. He is particularly social in the morning. If you come into his room just after he has awoken, he will chat with you for nearly an hour.

My baby coos better than yours. Ha-ha. I win.

(Actually this cooing video isn't Scott's best work. The camera always comes out late, after the good stuff has already gone by.)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


So, it looks like I've been tagged by Team Kirk and Jessica's Madness to reveal all sorts of trivia about myself. I'm flattered. Here goes...

Places I've worked
1-Money Saving Moving
2-O-Henry's Lawn Care & Window Washing
3-Calgary Herald Paper Route
4-Calgary Minor Basketball Association

Movies I can watch over and over
1-Guys and Dolls
2-Napoleon Dynamite
3-Wallace & Grommit: The Wrong Trousers
4-It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
5-Anything by the Marx Brothers

Places I've lived
1-51°02′42″N, 114°03′26″W
2-39°44′21″N, 104°59′5″W
3-45°25′01″N, 75°42′00″W
4-51°32′60"N, 46°00′00"E

Favorite tv shows
2-Mercer Report

Places I've been
1-47°03′00"N, 8°18′00"E
2-3°8′00″N, 101°42′00″E
3-60°10′15″N, 24°56′15″E
4-32°42′54″N 117°09′45″W

Favorite foods
1-Butter Chicken
2-Hawaiian Pizza
4-Smoked Meat w/ Poutine

Majors I've considered

Places I'd rather be
1-46°48′58″N, 71°13′27″W
2-51°30′25″N, 00°07′39″W
3-50°42′8″N, 119°16′20″W
4-59°26′0″N, 24°45′0″E

Friends i would like to tag (meaning: it's your turn to fill in your answers!)
1-Mister Bourne
2-A Squared
4-Optimus Prime

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Thousand-Dollar Weld

Over the past few days I've learned a lot about exhaust manifolds. I've learned what they're for, and I've also learned that the Honda Civics manufactured in the late 1990s had design problems that caused many of the manifolds to crack. Honda even replaced a lot of them free if they cracked during the first 100,000 miles or so. Unfortunately, our car has passed the magic milestone for free repairs, so we had to ask around for a price quote. No matter who you speak to, it's expensive because the cracked part come attached to a really expensive part -- the catalytic converter -- so you have to replace the whole works. The repair costs about $1000 if you use new parts and about $500 if you use salvaged parts. Either way, it's an expensive proposition for a car worth less than $5000.

...unless you know somebody who knows how to weld.

I had a friend from church help me replace the brakes on the car tonight, and when he found out about the cracked exhaust manifold he was chomping at the bit to try welding it. I'd heard stories about other Honda Civics where they'd tried welding and it had worked for several years, so it seemed worth a try.

We'll find out tomorrow if the car passes the emissions tests. If so, this was a very valuable weld.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Decaffeination Process

With no visitors around, we took a break from our busy tourism schedule this weekend to pursue other aims. Having survived their first overnight separation, mom and baby had a chance to get reacquainted while I set about cleaning our big truck. It was filthy, so it was a big job.

When we bought it, the truck had just come back from 6 years service in the fleet of an electric supply company in Toronto. That's 6 years of dirty hands and dirty boots moving around in that cab. I don't know when the last time was that they cleaned it, but it certainly wasn't anytime in 2007. The worst part was the cup holder. Just imagine how many cups of Tim Horton's coffee sloshed over their r-r-r-rims in that time. The bottom of the little tray for loose change looked like a tar pit. Lodged in the sticky sediments there was a fossilized metal washer.

I managed to clean off the dash, seats and doors, but I didn't even bother trying to wipe down those cup holders. Instead, I pulled the entire apparatus out of the console and dumped it in a bucket of soapy water. When I scrubbed it out, I discovered a second hidden washer and something that resembled a chicken bone. Absolutely disgusting. I think I'll always regard those cup holders with some degree of suspicion.

When I went out this morning to install it all back in the truck, I found a parking ticket waving at me from beneath the wiper blade. I was cited for "parking an oversized vehicle in more than one parking space but providing insufficient coin deposits for meter used" (by-law 2003-530 26). I hate to be picky, but there were no "spaces" marked on the street, and there were no parking meters, so there was nowhere to "provide sufficient coin deposits." Another truck like ours was parked on the same street and he got the same ticket, but the other 25 cars came through unscathed. I would love to contest the ticket, but I've heard you have to wait all day in the courtroom to save yourself $35. I'll try fighting it, but I may have bigger fish to fry when moving time comes around.

Not wanting to risk another ticket, we packed the whole family into the truck and drove it over to the church parking lot, where it will stay for the next three weeks. This also served as a test of our travel arrangements. I'm happy to say that the three of us fit in there quite nicely: dad at the wheel, Scott in his carseat in the middle, and mom over on the other side, craning her neck to see over the dash. It's a bit of a loud, bumpy ride, but it should work. R isn't that enthusiastic about getting behind the wheel. I think she's going to leave most of the driving to me.

I've included some pictures of Scott in his church clothes, since he looked so dapper today. This outfit is for 12-17 pounds, which should be just right for him, but the pants were hanging off his skinny little waist. It's funny how his swelling tummy fades into nothing at his belt line.

Friday, July 13, 2007

We Miss Mommy

Tonight was the first time since the birth that R left long enough that she couldn't feed Scott. She went away to an overnight cottage retreat that she'd help organize for the ladies at church, and it didn't seem practical for her to bring Scott along, especially since he was in a very crabby mood. He's clearly feeling some discomfort in his tummy, and he's been screaming for much of the day today and some of yesterday. What a wonderful time for me to be on my own with him -- when he's peeved.

Actually, things have been going fairly well. It's now been five hours and Scott is asleep, most likely for the night. He was awake and screaming for about 90 minutes back before his 7pm feeding, but I just kept telling myself, "this can't last forever." It makes it easier to be patient, but it's still very sad to see his tears running down his bright red cheeks. Poor little guy.

We sold the piano this morning. That didn't take long. The car is a different matter. The prospective buyer took it into a mechanic who said that it needs tires, rear brakes and a new exhaust manifold to pass the safety inspection. I used trusty Kijiji to find a set of used tires already mounted on rims that I can swap on for cheap (pictured at left). I doubt I'll find an exhaust manifold on there, so we'll need to get that sorted out some other way.

In the meantime, we all miss mommy, and hope she has a great time out there and comes back to us soon.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Virtual Garage Sale

Last night we put our piano and our car up for sale using a few online listing services and today we already had a lot of inquiries. One guy came by and test drove the car tonight, and is coming back tomorrow morning to take it to a mechanic. The piano will have a test drive in the morning as well.

I remember when we bought that piano, we had to comb through the Ottawa Pennysaver, which is a nightmare of a disorganized classified paper. Because listing was cheap, they had a lot of ads, but they didn't bother to categorize anything, so I had to comb through the whole paper each week to find the pianos. Now they have a web version with search functions, and plenty of other free services have popped up on the web to compete. I think Kijiji is quickly emerging as one of the best for selling things in Ottawa (and other places in Canada).

We put our stuff up for sale now, trying to make sure we could sell it before our time runs out. Now we're more concerned about what we might do if the car sells too quickly.

I think I need to comb around on there for any sweet baby gear. I want one of those highchair / boosters that clamps onto the table or counter. My brother has one at their place and it seems like such a good idea -- as long as the table doesn't tip over, I guess.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Eleven Weeks Gone, Ten Days Left

I guess we missed week 10 in all the festivities surrounding "Birthday Week". I looked at the information for last week and we didn't miss too much. This week they say that we should develop a good bedtime routine and introduce Scott to others before he gets too much stranger anxiety. He's had the chance to meet quite a few relatives the last two weeks, but it's hard to say if he'll remember them very well the next time he sees them.

As part of the routines, they say we should try baths, reading and other calming activities. For a while, we were giving Scott a bath every night, but in midst of our tourism madness, we haven't had the baths lately and he's still gone to sleep quite well. R has just spent a little more quiet time with him before putting him to bed. Today I tried reading a book to him again, but he wasn't too interested. I think he doesn't focus on objects all that well yet.

Given this slow progress, I am fairly certain he will not be ready for me to read him the last installment of the Harry Potter series (The Deathly Hallows) when it comes out ten days from now. Instead of pre-ordering the book, we are ordering the CD version, so that we can listen to it on our cross-country trip in early August. Hopefully, no one will spoil the ending for us in the 2-3 weeks between the book's release and our moving date.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Changing Of The Guard

Last Friday I took about 70 pictures. The top ten or so are included here. Most of the day was spent on Parliament Hill, followed by an evening trip to Mooney's Bay (just down the street from our house). Because it was our neice's 3rd birthday, we finished off the day with a bit of blueberry crumble. From the pictures, the day would seem idyllic; however, we'd filled the agenda with too much scenery and not enough activity. As a result, our guests spent much of the time entertaining their young daughter, who was not particularly enthralled with neo-gothic limestone architecture. We learned some valuable lessons about planning family expeditions that day.

We started out with something new that we'd never tried before: The Changing of the Guard. It takes place each morning during the summer months, and includes a military procession along 4 or 5 blocks of downtown Ottawa to the front lawn on Parliament Hill. We set up position on Elgin Street, near the National War Memorial to wait for the procession to go by. During the summer, the Ceremonial Guard also maintains two sentries at the memorial, which provided for some good photographs.

I was surprised at the size of the contingent of uniformed guards that came marching up the street past us. I did not expect to see three divisions plus a full marching band. It was quite impressive, and we had a wonderful view.

We followed them up to the Hill, where a large crowd had already gathered to watch. From then on, our view was more obstructed, and much further away.

Once on the lawns, the guards went through a lengthy series of formations and inspections. Although it was a novel sight, there was very little movement compared to the marching, and the interest level in our group (at all age levels) began to wane. We'd already gotten our tickets for the Parliamentary tour, but those didn't start for another hour, so we had to wait. If I had it to do over again, I would get the tour tickets for 10:30, which is when the ceremony is just wrapping up. That way, you can go directly from one event to the other.

Eventually, we did make it into the Parliament Buildings for the tour. Scott was fairly happy to be there, until we got into the Senate Chamber. Then he started screaming bloody murder and I missed most of the action that followed. The ride up the elevator to the top of the Peace Tower was the big climax, but little Alli was too scared of the height to spend much time looking out the windows. It was a busy day on the hill with a lot of tourists, so everything was a little slower.

TIP: If the only tickets you can get for a Parliamentary Tour are an hour or more away, you can spend your time going up the Peace Tower beforehand. Most people wait until the end of their tour, but you can go up any time.

A long morning filled with soldiers and tours deserves a treat. We made our traditional stop in the Byward Market for a Beaver Tail, a fried dough pastry that has become a bit of a local delicacy. Apparently, The Market can claim status as Canada's oldest continuously-operating farmer's market. It's located in the oldest part of Ottawa, which was called Bytown until becoming the capital in 1857. The Beaver Tails are more of a gimmick than a historic food, but they are still kind of fun. While the girls played it safe with the cinnamon-sugar-lemon-juice variety, Luke and I went big with these monsters, loaded with chocolate, peanut butter, cream cheese and other nutritious substances.

Following a bit of recovery time (you need it after all that cream cheese), we took the group out to the beach at Mooney's Bay. Finally, we found something that appealed to the young mind. With the sun dropping low in the sky, there were plenty of opportunities for prime photographs while Alli enjoyed playing in the sand and her younger brother enjoyed eating the sand.

Scott didn't eat any sand on this day, being quite content to simply relax in his trademark camouflage boonie hat with his lovely mother.

I think I took 30 photographs like this one. I loved the effect as the shimmering sunlight turned figures into silouettes.

We staged this memorable moment, which I have preserved as a banner.

No birthday is complete without candles and some kind of cake or pie. We loaded the blueberry crumble with ice cream and strawberries (it seems we had strawberries at every meal), but the birthday girl opted to eat the toppings and leave most of the crumble. Hey, it's her party.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Dear Mr. Bank Man

Use the following template when you want to get a very large mortgage to buy a home at the same time that you plan to cut back to nearly no income and pursue a full-time graduate degree. Feel free to change the information in brackets to suit your situation.

Dear Mister Bank Man,

I would like to buy a house in [Calgary] so I can live in it with my [wife] and my [baby boy]. Actually, I already bought the house. This is where you come in.

This house costs a lot of money -- more money than I have saved up, even if I include the change in my drawer at work and the bit in the cupholder in our car. I will give some money, but I would really like you to give me the rest -- almost [five] times as much as we could earn in a year.

I would like you to do this even though I am going to move away from my job in [Ottawa] to go to a really big school in [Calgary]. I know I won't make very much money while I am busy going to classes, but I think I have a really nice [personality] and a fantastic [blog], so this is still a very good move on your part. I promise.

If you're not too busy, I would also like a pony.

[D from Our Sesame Seed]

I can't guarantee the results of using this method, but I seem to have been successful with it this afternoon, so perhaps it is worth a try -- if you find yourself in such circumstances.

I also have a similar letter if you want to get insurance for your surprisingly large moving truck. It is entitled "Dear Mrs. Insurance Lady" and has recently proved equally successful. On first attempt, it yielded a quote of $4000/6 months, but a revised approach brought back a more appealing price of $1000/year.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Full-Time Tourism

When you are working hard at being a tourist, you generate a lot of pictures, but not as many blog postings. Over the past three days, as we've hosted my brother and sister-in-law here in Ottawa, I have taken more than 150 pictures. Unfortunately, our ambitious tourism schedule has left little time for blogging. It is now time to bring things back into balance.

We planned a long list of activities and sights to show our visitors, but we probably had the best results on Thursday. This success was mainly because our plans appealed to that most discerning of demographics -- 3-year-olds. Our little niece Alli turned 3 this week, and she loves strawberries.

We took the group out south of town to pick strawberries in the morning, and it didn't take us long to fill four baskets and stain our tongues with juicy red fruit. Picking berries isn't a regular activity for us, but we've wanted to do it again ever since we went out with two of our friends (Eric & Jen) back in 2002. You don't really find berry farms like these out in Alberta, so this was a neat experience for all.

We always take visitors on a driving tour to highlight some of the best sights in the capital. This always includes a loop past the Museum of Civilization on the Quebec side of the river, over in Gatineau. From the museum grounds you can take some fantastic pictures of Parliament Hill and downtown Ottawa. On Thursdays the museum has free admission from 5pm to 9pm, so we stopped in for a few hours instead of just driving by.

In previous visits to the museum, we'd taken in such special exhibits as "The Mysterious Bog People" and the Dead Sea Scrolls, but we'd never noticed the Children's Museum section on the 2nd floor. Perhaps it was because we'd never gone to the museum with children. You see, kids aren't that interested in Bog People, or Sea Scrolls, regardless how Dead or Mysterious they might be. On the other hand, kids are quite interested in international villages constructed to 1/4 scale, shiny buses from Pakistan and kid-sized cargo ships with real operating cranes.

It was total mayhem in there, but it was entirely kid-proof and absolutely enormous, so the mayhem was very civilized. The only incident we caused where they had to get security involved was when little Alli froze at the top of a long escalator and wouldn't come down. She eventually capitulated.

When you are out about town and you need a quick meal, you needn't look far to find a source of shawarma. If you haven't had shawarma before, it's very much like donair/döner or Greek gyros. In fact, they are so similar that I have no idea what the differences are. Regardless what the definition is, there is shawarma a-plenty in this town.

We grabbed some shawarma on Dalhousie Street and headed off to the front lawn of Parliament Hill to watch the "Light and Sound Show", a 30-minute dose of patriotism which is projected onto the front of the Centre Block of Parliament. It's something that every Canadian should get to see. Since it runs every evening at 9:30 and 10:30, a large number will get to see it this year.

It was quite a busy day, quite a tiring day, but quite a wonderful day in the capital.

I've got plenty more material like this, because we kept this pace going for three straight days -- three straight days with three children under the age of three.

More posts coming.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Two Sides Of The Guides

R's sister J arrived last night with her son, while her husband (L) is scheduled to arrive late this evening with their daughter (I will be employing my secret parking strategy to pick them up). Now the birthday week is in full swing and we will do our best to show them everything the Ottawa area has to offer in the few days they are here.

We got off to a bit of rocky start this afternoon, as we delved into unfamiliar territory in rainy conditions. We decided to save Parliament Hill for another day, and went out to see the Supreme Court building and the Currency Museum -- tourist destinations that we'd never visited before. The two were opposite extremes of the guide spectrum. They under-guided us at the courthouse, and they over-guided us at the Currency Museum.

Although the Supreme Court is a hulking mass of a building, the tour covers only two rooms: the lobby and the courtroom itself. Our law-student tour guide had us sit on benches in the back of the surprisingly small (but elegant) courtroom while he explained the workings of the court. It took him about 10 minutes, maybe 15. It took us almost that long just to get the monstrous double stroller and carseats through the security scanner.

The lobby was impressively large, rising the full height of the front of the building. We were in the lobby only briefly, because the guide offered to let us out through the back door (actually a garage door), as a way to avoid taking our caravan back down the steep stone stairs in front of the building. As it turns out, we got an exclusive look at the Supreme Garage, which opens up into the parking lot. Very few people get to see this part of the building.

The view from behind the Supreme Court building is spectacular, and usually is part of any driving tour that we conduct for visitors to Ottawa. You can pull your car right up to an observation point that looks out over the Ottawa River, and provides a striking view of the Library of Parliament -- our favourite piece of local architecture. Any visitor to the Supreme Court should not miss the view.

Since our visit took less than 30 minutes, we still had time to catch the last English tour of the day at the Currency Museum, located just across the street from the Supreme Court, in the bottom of the Bank of Canada building. The museum is quite small, composed of only 7 small gallery rooms, but the tour took most of an hour -- and we only visited 3 of the rooms! The guide was so enthusiastic about his subject material, he kept us at the front desk for the first 15 minutes before we even saw a display. He knew his stuff, but he was one long-winded dude. Once he set us free, I found these tokens from Calgary and Ottawa in one of the displays. One gets you bread, the other gets you beer. I thought they were amusing.

After the lengthy lectures about using beaver pelts and compressed tea leaves as currency, we were pretty worn out, but J managed to find this sweet interactive display about counterfeit bills. She spotted the phony $20 bill, but she totally missed the mark on the $100. Better luck next time!

The consensus of the group was this:
-The Supreme Court is worth visiting, especially since it's a quick, free tour of a large and elegant building on a scenic spot.
-The Currency Museum is also free.