Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Is a Canadian spell checker a spell chequer?

There are a lot of extra U's, and unexpected double consonants ("jewellery," for crying out loud) in Canadian English. And then, the really odd spelling of seemingly familiar things. I wonder if a Canadian spell checker is a spell chequer? It takes some getting used to.

Many emails, both business and personal, go to Canadians. But I also correspond with friends and family who are Americans, and I want to use American English. I like Thunderbird for my email for lots of reasons. One of them is that I can check my spelling in either Canadian or American English, and it's easy to do. I just have to select "English/Canada" or "English/United States."

But today, I was confused. I was replying to an email from a Canadian about a party scheduled at the home of an American here in town. But the American started the thread. So which way to go on the spell check?

Spell Chequer

I decided to go with both: "neighbo(u)rhood" and both spell checkers choked on it. Maybe I'll add it to both dictionaries!

Monday, September 03, 2007

Gonna Need A Bigger Basement
Hello fellow listeners. Like you, I'm enjoying Daryl's search for Canadian Identity. Unlike you, perhaps, I am not Canadian. Even though I live here now, it takes some getting used to. And like Daryl, I am searching for what it means to be Canadian.

If you've stumbled in here without coming from the podcast, and you're in search of the essence of Canadian Identity, quick go right now and check out the podcast. (And hurry back here.)

If you've ended up here because your search engine suggested that this is a good place to convert Fahrenheit to Celsius, check the sidebar for the Scheherazade numbers, or check here for more.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Canada Day Is Not Like The Fourth of July

On the same day Howard Zinn of "The Progressive" exhorts Americans to "...renounce nationalism and all its symbols: its flags, its pledges of allegiance, its anthems, its insistence in song that God must single out America to be blessed." an Ipsos Reid survey informs us that 39% of Canadians believe that Canadians should not be able to hold dual citizenship.

Zinn confuses nationalism and patriotism. Last Fourth of July, Christopher Dickey wrote a piece called "U.S. Nationalism Run Amok" for Newsweek in which he discussed Orwell's "Notes on Nationalism." Patriotism, Orwell wrote, is “devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force upon other people.”

Dickey elaborates, quoting Orwell:

Nationalism is the habit of identifying oneself with a single nation or an idea, “placing it beyond good and evil and recognizing no other duty than that of advancing its interests.” Patriotism is essentially about ideas and pride. Nationalism is about emotion and blood. The nationalist’s thoughts “always turn on victories, defeats, triumphs and humiliations. … Nationalism is power-hunger tempered by self-deception.”

Flags, pledges of allegiance, anthems, and all that singing, then, are patriotic symbols. Americans believe the United States is the best country in the world and celebrate that on the Fourth of July. We do need to curb the nationalistic behavior, but not necessarily the patriotic celebrations. Americans need something to celebrate.

Here in Canada, it's harder to find people celebrating flags, pledges of allegiance, and Canadian identity. If you're ever going to find it, it's on Canada Day, when Canadians are issued flags at government expense, and encouraged to celebrate...not being Americans. Perhaps I've confused quiet patriotism with noisy nationalism. It takes some getting used to.

When polled by Ipsos Reid, 69% of Canadians said common history, heroes and symbols make Canada a successful society. Just what are those symbols?

Maple Leaf 87%
Beaver 74%
Hockey 73%
Mountie 72%
Canoe 39%
Timbit 31%

(For any non-Canadians who may have stumbled in here, "Maple Leaf" refers to the Canadian flag. "Timbit" is what American call a "donut hole." You get them at Tim Hortons.)

Surprisingly, duct tape didn't make the list. I see cars here held together with duct tape. And they've got a canoe, but no beer. What's up with beer not making the list?

We will celebrate the Fourth of July in this household, at least I will celebrate it. I have some cheap red, white, and blue decorations and banners which arrived in a CARE package several years ago. I have "Stan Freberg Presents The United States of America" on the CD player. I have a Weber grill. And I absolutely have beer. It's Belgian.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Thank You For Waiting

Americans think health care in Canada is free. Some fear that. Some embrace that. But either way, that's what they think.

The truth is health care is not free. You pay a premium and you get health care. If you don't make enough money to pay the premium, you still get health care. But it's not free.

Your taxes pay for health care. You pay federal taxes, the Federal Government transfers some money to the Province, the Province allocates money to health care administrative agencies, and it goes on from there.

Whether you are rich or poor, when you need health care, you get in line for it. It takes some getting used to.

It's against the law to operate private clinics for most things. The lines are getting longer. The government has become more adept at measuring "wait times" so that it might look like the lines are getting shorter. But they're not.

Last week I went to the eye doctor for a routine exam. (This is NOT covered by the BC health care plan, nor do I have supplemental insurance that covers it. So it's paid for by me. But as I told the person in charge of collecting the money, "I'm an American. I'm used to this.")

The exam went fine. It was a very thorough exam. There are no problems with my eyes except that I need glasses. I've needed glasses since I was three, so no surprises there.

However, I have a small skin tag under my left eye. This is not life-threatening, and I don't even think it's especially gross, but it's annoying in the cold weather, and I curl in the winter so I'm very cold for several hours at a time.

"Can we have someone look at this and see if it makes sense to remove it?" I asked my doctor. "I realize it's really minor, but if there's a list, I would like to get on it."

"No worries," she said. "I just have to write a letter referring you to the cosmetic guy since this involves your eyelid. You should get a phone call from his office in about two years, and then they'll make an appointment for a few months after that. If he thinks it makes sense to go ahead and you want to do that, his office will get you on the waiting list for surgery."

Thank you for waiting!You can check the Ministry of Health website to see what the wait time will be. The health care administrative agency and the Provincial government only measure "wait time" for surgeries from when the specialist puts you on the surgery list. The proceeding two and a half years doesn't count against wait time.

So. I'm waiting for a phone call in two years for an appointment in five or six months after that. Then if it makes sense I'll go on a waiting list for surgery.

I feel like a real Canadian now.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Is There A Word For That?

I wrote some time ago about a trick I use to convert Celsius to Fahrenheit. The weather forecasts here give the temperature in degrees Celsius, and it takes some getting used to.
Here's the trick:

28 Celsius = 82 Fahrenheit
16 Celsius = 61 Fahrenheit
4 Celsius = 40 Fahrenheit

Now I know whether I need shorts or a winter coat. But I've been wondering if there is a name for a math palindrome.

I've started listening to the podcast version of "A Way With Words," the NPR radio show. People write or call with questions about the meaning of words, the origin of words, and the correct use of words. So I wrote them with my question, and now they want to talk to me and maybe put the conversation on the radio.

We'll see how it goes. If it works out, the broadcast would be on Saturday, March 24 and Sunday, March 25. The podcast would probably go up sometime that weekend.

I can't wait to find out what the word is!

Update: Host Grant Barrett's wife delivered their son a couple of weeks early, so the show will take a break. They plan to do the interview in late April.

Another update: We did the phone interview at the end of April. The show aired Saturday, May 26. It's a very nice show, and you should listen to the whole thing sometime. But if you just want this part, it's about 38 minutes in. Download or listen to the show here.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Welcome, New Canadians!

Canadian passport
So. The United States now requires Canadians to present a valid passport when traveling to (or through) the United States by air. Next year, the requirement will extend to travel by land. Now there's a stupid idea! Require a passport from citizens of your largest trading partner! Way to Go!

The requirement has been on the books for some time. Whether you think it's a stupid requirement or not, it's not a SECRET requirement. People knew about it. Canadians calling the radio talk shows have been complaining bitterly about it for over a year now. Clearly, if you know you're going to travel by air, or you even think you might travel by air, you need to get a passport, and you really should have been on that before January 23, 2007, when the requirement took effect.

Well, apparently that just didn't happen a lot. It's evidently a Canadian tradition, especially when dealing with the government, to wait until exactly when something is due to happen before you start dealing with it. It takes some getting used to.

So thousands of people, aware that the passport requirement would take effect January 23, waited until January 2 to apply for their passports so they could go to Disneyland February 6.

Not surprisingly, the Government of Canada didn't really bring on any extra people in anticipation of the increased demand, so now not only are there more Canadians applying for passports, there is a longer wait for a passport.

Canadian passports cost $87 or $92 for adults, and are good for five years. Canadians find all of that annoying. However, rather than complain to their government about the cost and the validity period, Canadians have chosen to phone into radio talk shows and write letters to the editor complaining that "this is just a cash grab by the Americans." If you understand how that could possibly be true, please drop me a line and explain it to me.

But wait --- there's more! It turns out that in the avalanche of passport applications, there are between 10,000 and 20,000 people who think they are Canadian citizens, but are not. People who were born to Canadians outside of Canada, and who once were citizens, relinquished their citizenship if they didn't complete proper paperwork. The CBC explains:

. . . Many applying for a Canadian passport have been informed their chance to remain a citizen expired years ago because of an obscure provision in the Citizenship Act, a little-known law that applied between 1947 and 1977.

The law states that if you lived outside Canada on your 24th birthday and failed to sign the right form, you automatically lost your citizenship. . .

So under the current rules, these people would typically have to apply to become Landed Immigrants (what we would call "Permanent Residents" in the US), and presumably they would have to explain why they have been in Canada illegally for 30 or 40 years. Would that count against them? It takes around three years to achieve Landed Immigrant status, if indeed it's granted. Then, after another two years or so you can apply for citizenship. Good news. Folks applying for Landed Immigrant status from within Canada are going to have to curtail their out-of-country travel. That should take some of the burden off the Passport office.

But, with somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 of the "Lost Canadians" out there, Citizenship and Immigration announced that they would "fast-track" this process, and allow these folks to apply for a grant of citizenship in "just eight months." I wonder if the Ministry is planning on bringing in extra staff?

So, welcome, New Canadians! I hope that the rest of the federal and provincial governments are onside with continuing to pay your federal pensions and your medical coverage for that eight months or so that you're not really Canadians. I hope your fellow Canadians don't think less of you for "jumping the queue" with this fast-track process. I hope that once you get that shiny new citizenship card you don't have to apply for a new Social Insurance number, or a new drivers license, or change the information on the title to your house. That's not "the Americans" with their hands in your pocket, people. That's the government of your new country, in both official languages. Welcome home.