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The girlfriend and I recently returned from a week long vacation in Toronto, where we did ALL THE THINGS, including marching in the annual pride parade, as part of World Pride 2014, in support of asexual awareness and visibility.  I'm still going through all the photographs, of which I shot over 4200, between my two cameras and my phone. However, I have finished all the ones I took at the CN Tower (with a side trip up to the Skypod):

Teddy makes a triumphant return to the top of Toronto!

More photos under the cut... )
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Tomorrow morning, I'm off to Toronto for a week of fun and antics (as well as attending some of the World Pride events)!  Many photos to follow!
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Early last week, my girlfriend and I headed out on a four hour drive to visit her family in Cape Breton for a few days. We managed to make it just ahead of a storm of freezing rain that we figured would clear up the next to allow us to phototrek around the island. Unfortunately, the ice storm front 'stalled', according to the weather experts, pinning us down inside her mom's house for most of the trip, often without power. We even wound up missing a day of work waiting for the road conditions to improve enough to let us get back home safely.

So, no, I didn't get a chance to take many photos and I didn't get to play with the Canon Rebel T5i at all, on account of not wishing to expose it to the freezing rain. But you're welcome to peek at what I did manage to photograph:

More under the cut... )
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Okay, granted the Canada Day fireworks I went to see on Sunday night were not worth the mosquito bites I suffered for it. I'm not sure if it was a matter of cutting back on the budget, but it was kinda lacking. However, the afternoon preceding was quite pleasant. I spent it with my folks, first going to a rather nice brunch buffet at the casino and then sitting outdoors at a pub on Main Street, enjoying a pint and watching the interesting characters gathered to celebrate Canada Day. Of course, in amongst all that was a bunch of Canada Day related spamming on AVEN and Facebook.  In particular, I shared my thoughts from this post I wrote two years ago, which still hold true for me.

Yesterday, I finally got out to a local beach and spent the afternoon embracing the Ocean and Sun (and then enjoying a chicken poutine, afterwards). It was a very restful and relaxing day, good for the spirit. Today (yes, a long weekend), I've got nothing on the agenda but doing some cooking in the kitchen and perhaps going to Kung Fu, if my shoulder is up to it (I injured it last week and it's still quite sore).

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I just learned of the passing of Jack Layton, former leader of the NDP and a man who represented hope and optimisim in the government for many, many Canadians. Not long after leading the NDP to unprecendented levels of success in the last Federal election, he stepped down as leader to wage a private battle with cancer. He lost that battle this morning, passing peacefully in his home surrounded by family.

You will be missed, Jack. May your legacy live on and further inspire your colleagues to battle onwards for the benefit of ordinary Canadians. Be at peace.

May comfort come swiftly for those left behind.

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I've no patriotic YouTube presentations to post here, sorry! I'm quickly getting in my greetings to all my webfriends whilst packing for a BBQ and camp-out with my Kung Fu brothers.  :)
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Proudly displaying some of my favourite moments of Canadianity:

First, the CLASSIC Molson Canadian commercial:

Second, a commercial broadcast during the 2010 Winter Olympics (TEAM  C A N A D A  ROCKS!!!) that really stirred me (and still does):

And, finally, 'O Canada', the Canadian National Anthem, as sung by several thousand hockey fans because no singular musical artist can really compare:

It took living in a foreign land for a number of years
, to be apart from everything Canadian, for me to really understand what 'home' meant to me. In all its diversity and its vast distances, with all that it shares with the rest of the world, there is still something beyond description, but immensely powerful, that unites all of us who live here, that makes us CANADIAN. It is something you will find nowhere else on this planet.

This is the nation of my birth. This is the country of a thousand journeys. This is the land where my dreams take shape and soar. This is where my spirit calls home. This is the best place on earth and its name is
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It might be considered ironic that, whilst a number of folk have suggested a period of isolation to help me find my path, it was actually through many conversations, here and elsewhere, that I found my way. I suppose that shouldn't surprise me: by nature, I'm pretty damn introspective, so if I'm getting lost looking in, clearly the logical path would be to get some outside opinions... and that worked.

The end result is that, for now, I'll be focussing on deepening my connection to Irish Maritime culture. In my discussions, my grandfather's fiddle was brought up numerous times. It has become quite clear to me that, for me to really begin feeling connected to the traditions of my forefathers, I need to learn how to play a fiddle, too. And I shall!

I've hit one stumbling block already, though. Music lessons are frackin' EXPENSIVE! How expensive, you ask? I'm currently looking between $15 and $25 per HALF hour.  *eyes goggle in astonishment*  

Naturally, this means I need to learn as much as I can outside of these lessons. Fortunately, there IS a number of things I can study by myself first. I even already have the instrument and learning material for it. My year-and-a-day challenge, as my first step towards learning the fiddle, is to learn how read music and learn to play the penny whistle sufficiently to perform one of my favourite Maritime songs Farewell To Nova Scotia.

Here is one of my favourite renditions, as performed by The Irish Rovers, (though one of my uncles plays an astounding instrumental version on the mandolin, complete with complex embelishments):

My thanks to all who offered me their ear and their wisdom. 
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It would be nice if the Arrogant Worms came back to revise their classic song to reference OUR 2010 OLYMPIC GOLD WINS FOR BOTH MEN AND WOMEN. Yes, we have once again reaffirmed that we are, as a certain Molson ad puts it, 'the 1st nation of HOCKEY!' Yep, even I'm feeling the National Pride thing right now. I couldn't catch the men's game live, due to my current schedule, but from what I've seen of the game clips, it was one helluva match, a true Clash of the Titans that'll go down as one of the greatest in the history of Canadian sport.

Oh yeah, we also broke the record for most gold medals achieved in the Winter Olympics!


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For the benefit of my dear friend [ profile] itsjustc  and others who have no clue what one looks like.  *big cheesy grin*

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My return to Canada has been good to me. Yes, as I did in England, I've had a few reversals in fortune. But here, they have not been as frequent or as large. 'Course, it may simply be that my perception of them has been skewed by all the good stuff that's come up in my life, like a solid, stress-free job, where appreciation of my services is often demonstrated with bonuses and free use of a Crackberry Curve, and my really fab flat. It may even simply that things seem much easier to bear now that I'm home.

And that means a lot...


Practically speaking, it means I no longer have to worry as much about the consequences of losing my job, should that happen: being able to claim unemployment is a far cry from getting kicked out of a country!  :D

But there's more to it than that, far more...

It's the sense of 'belonging', that I am where I'm supposed to be. Where I am amongst friends and family. Where my accent isn't the subject of curiousity ("Sir, say 'tomato,'" "Sir, are you from America?" "Of course not, he's from Australia!"). Where there are far more places to roam to free. Where I am surrounded by the beauty of my homeland.

Where my heart always belonged.

I am home...
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Happy Holidays!!! May the God(s)/Ideologies of your choice bring you comfort and joy this holiday season!

(Photo taken at Tidalbore Park, Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada)

(Note: Tidalbore Park has a lot more snow in it now.)
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Alas, due to circumstances beyond my control, I've been once again reduced to a Subway Turkey Breast Sub as my sole source of turkey this Thanksgiving. You can read about previous such episodes here:

In this case, much like my first Thanksgiving in the UK, it was simply a matter that I was unable to locate a restaurant that was serving turkey. (Ah, the parallels!) This is rather sad, though, as not only is Thanksgiving celebrated here, but I had actually scouted out a restaurant serving turkey the previous evening. Was this restaurant open tonight? Of course not. Such is my luck sometimes.

I've taken one bite of the sub, thus far. That'll probably be all I'll manage for tonight. That's mostly on account of my decision, in lieu of a proper turkey dinner, stuffing my face with some awesome Mexican cuisine at a restaurant I had been meaning to return to for quite some time. This evening's fare consisted of one well prepared and generously stuffed beef chimichanga, along with rice and refried beans, with a small appetizer of truly decent tortilla chips and salsa. Gaps were filled in with some truly delicious churros with butterscotch sauce. Muy bueno! And all that was washed back with a brace of double frozen margaritas, one banana, one mango, both freakin' YUMMM. I may follow that up with some peach schnapps I happen to have kicking around.

As for Thanksgiving, I'm first and foremost glad to be celebrating it back in Canada! I'm also grateful for a wonderful girlfriend and great friends and family for having seen me through thus far. The decent job and great apartment are further reasons to be thankful to the Universe.

On Thanksgiving, though, I also try to be mindful of my food, offering thanks to those animals and plants whose lives have ended so that mine can continue. To them, I offer my thanks for the gift of their life and I renew my vow to make my life worthy of their sacrifice.

Getting back to turkeys, you can read interesting stuff about them here:

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Found courtesy of [personal profile] thebitterguy  's blog ....

And flowing through [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith 's blog, a website showing how anti-Conservative Canadians can vote to minimize the environmental damage that Stephen Harpy can cause (whilst boosting seats for all other parties):

Here's another amusing YouTube video (a must see for all fans of Big Trouble In Little China) I discovered, thanks to [personal profile] thebitterguy :

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... I counted my last truck. Yay!

'Tis the long weekend after which I begin my job as a technical support rep. Yep. I'z soon to begin my call centre monkey training. I probably would be looking forward to it more if it wasn't going to be from 4:30 PM to 1:00 AM, but I knew I'd have to get used to those hours eventually, anyhow. I'm not entirely thrilled with the idea of biking home at 1 in the morning, but I'll manage.

At some point within the next few months, I'll have to do one of two things, either purchase a car or move into an apartment that's within walking distance of my workplace. Said simply, bikes don't ride so well in the midst of a full on Canadian winter. (This ain't the south of England anymore, me buckies!)

Meanwhile, it has been a very active week, all truck counting aside. The household has undergone successive waves of invasion by assorted relatives from both sides of the family. Being the introvert that I am, this has strained my social muscles some, and it ain't over yet! Still, we've been enjoying the company, especially my mother. I had a blast whilst my favourite aunt with her two teens showed up; it was a riot! All three have a wicked sense of humour that I appreciate immensely. The presence of my two younger cousins also provided sufficient excuse to do activities such as: visit tourist attractions, wandered through a zoo, watched 'Wanted' (NOT recommended for the faint of heart, btw), did a bit of go-carting (though that was a bit disappointing as I found the farm's utility jeep to have much more speed), indulged in some video games, and even engaged in a bit of shopping. Lots of fun all around!

Last night was especially hedonistic as we had BBQd steak for dinner. Not just any steak, mind you, but a ginormous Angus beef steak from BC, cooked to just the right level of rare. It was perfect. *bliss* Said steak, of course, was accompanied by a lovely red and many other tasty food items, including baked potatoes and my mother's baby carrots sweetened with maple syrup (very yummm!).

Aside from picking up another aunt from the airport tomorrow (and sorting out a new bank account into which to deposit my pay), I'm not yet sure what this weekend holds. At least another movie, I suspect... *grin*

Life is good!

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Bloody hell! What happened to the days where the thing you worried about most when travelling on a bus was how gross the toilet was? 

I really feel for the victim's family and the witnesses. That nightmare will likely haunt many of them for years.

I'm also worried, though, that this incident is going to prompt excess paranoia. It's pretty clear that this incident is something beyond the pale in terms of frequency (among other things), but it may still lead to added travel headaches like scans and luggage searches at bus stations. That'll add a lot of excess travel time for each and every passenger pickup. Oh, and it would really limit where passengers could be picked up, too.

Have I ever mentioned how much I enjoyed the trip by train from Ontario to New Brunswick?
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No steak, no BBQ, no cider, NO PARTY. I've celebrated Canada Day better in the UK than I did my first one back! Bloody hell! The folks and I WERE invited out, by my uncle, to a party at a riverside cabin. THAT would've been entertaining, but Mom refused on grounds I've still yet to understand. So we had pizza; that's okay. Now, though, everyone else is watching TV.


If I had bloody access to a bloody vehicle, I could have gone out and ensured that we had the required BBQ stuff (along with sufficient booze) to at least have had a decent BBQ. But I can only carry so much on a bicycle, especially given it's a half hour ride through hot weather from town to home.

My folks don't seem to realize that it's important for me to celebrate these kind of things. To them, it was just another day with very little important to it. *sigh*

To me, having spent nearly four years away in a land where I endured so many hardships, Canada Day had extra special significance and I couldn't celebrate that as I truly wanted to. 

Well, I've got one hard lemonade left. I may as well go drink it.

Happy Canada Day to all my fellow Canucks!

I hope your celebrations go better than mine.

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As I was going back through and tagging some of my previous posts, I came across this one: Homesick:

It suddenly dawned on me, this upcoming weekend is the Canada Day Long Weekend. 

Canada Day.

I'm home for Canada Day!



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Yesterday, at 3:00 PM, Prime Minister Steven Harper made a historical speech which affects the lives of thousands of First People in Canada. In this speech, he, on behalf of the Canadian government, took responsibility and apologized for the shameful era in Canadian history when thousands of Native American children were taken from their families in placed in residential schools in what was a blatant attempt to assimilate them into European culture by forcibly detaching them from their own. 

More about that here: /servlet/story/RTGAM.20080611. wapologymain0611/BNStory/Natio nal/home

I watched his speech, and much of many others that day. It brought up a lot of feelings.

Naturally, as empathic as I am, I was near to tears as I saw the effect of Harper's words upon the members of the First Nations as their pain was finally properly acknowledged by the Canadian government. It was clearly something that many of them had waited a long, long time to hear.

I also felt, stupidly enough, more White guilt. It's sometimes kinda hard being of European origin at such times as that, even though I know, rationally, that I cannot, in any way, hold myself responsible for what happened in the past. Still, that guilt is there.

Finally, though, I had to reflect on what happened to many of these people. Could I truly comprehend all that has happened as a result of this forced assimilation. In many ways, no. I was never totally separated from family, though my father was often away for great periods of time. I cannot relate to the sexual abuse that happened in many of the reserve schools, although I can relate to the physical and psychological abuse at the hands of my so-called peers. What I do understand, to some extent, is what it's like to be detached from one's heritage.

Now it's not the fault of any particular person or group of people, not like what happened in the residential schools, but I don't know what it's like to be anything more than 'generic Whitey'. Though my grandfather clearly identifies as Irish, I know nothing of what it means to be Irish; I can't speak Gaelic, I don't play any instruments (kind of a hingepin for Irish culture), I have never fully explored Celtic art, I know only general bits of Irish history, I know little of the important days and traditions of my forefathers, I can't even stand to drink Guiness (or any other beer, for that matter). There is a rich body of cultural heritage that I should be a part of, that I perhaps even need to be a part of, but I am completely alien from. I have no attachment to my ancestors, my heritage, my cultural past. It leaves me feeling lost, unsettled and perhaps even abandoned. It leaves me without an important element of identity that I will likely never be able to regain. 

I wonder if I share, at all, similar sorts of feelings to those First People who were ripped from their cultures.


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