31 August 2007

Religious schooling for none!

He hasn't even been elected yet, but candidate for the Ontario premiership, John Tory, has gone straight to the bottom of the barrel with his plan to fund all faith-based schools in the province. Already dead to me before he even had a chance to do anything, tsk tsk. Shame really, though entirely expectable I'm afraid – with a last name like 'Tory' he had nowhere to go but down.

For those not in the know: way back in the days of Upper and Lower Canada, two separate school systems were set up to protect the religious freedoms of Protestants and Catholics. Over time the Protestant system became secular and most provinces realised that schools are for learning while churches are for religion, and subsequently merged the two systems together. Ontario, however, decided to eschew this crazy, new-fangled, division-of-church-and-state thinking and has held on to the two systems, spending public money to fund both the secular and Catholic systems. — I don't know about you, but I'd prefer not to have my taxes go to the No Gays, Condom-free, Pope-raganda Hate machine of the Catholic School System, but that being said, provinces are actually constitutionally obligated to fund both systems.

Now instead of ignoring this constitutional requirement like all the other provinces have done*, Ontario continues to fund religious education for Catholics — but only for Catholics. Those who wish to send their children to private Jewish, Muslim or Protestant schools are on their own to foot the whole bill. This is obviously discriminatory. But rather than making it all even Steven by saying 'no funding for any faith-based education,' John Tory wants everyone to put a finger in the pie and spend $400 million to fund any pastor, imam or rabbi who wants to teach religion as fact.

Great, because the exact thing that Ontario needs is for hundreds of millions of dollars, which could be spent on homelessness, climate change or health care, to instead be spent teaching children the "facts" of Creationism.

Religion's place is not in a school –infuriating young minds à la Northern Ireland– but rather inside a church where it's easily avoidable for people who don't care.

Mr Tory, your policy is stupid and will serve only to further segregate more people from the Ontario mainstream. — Although, since religious people tend to be conservative, and the Ontario mainstream too lefty-loosy, perhaps this is exactly what you are intending. A generation of religious zealots to grow up and vote for you and your Conservative Party of Jerks. I see right through your smoke and mirrors and am putting you directly to 'Dead to Me' Level Two (just one step above your evil overlord Stephen Harper). Thankfully you will most likely lose the upcoming election and you can go back to obscurity where you belong and stop bothering decent secularists like me.

Apartment Found!

After much stress and hair-pulling, worry, baguettes and Gaulois cigarettes, I finally managed to secure an apartment! The religious gay finally got back to me to offer me the apartment and I figured at this point beggars can’t be choosy, so I decided to take it. I’m still weirded out by the religious gayness, and am concerned about waking up in the middle of the night with the guy watching me sleep —but he seemed nice enough on the telephone and the apartment looked alright in photos. It’s close to hip Bastille and Ménilmontant, not far from gay Marais, and conveniently walking distance from ‘Nation’ express RER station.

Now I can stop panicking about that and start panicking about all the other things I have to do in the week and a half before I leave.

23 August 2007

Still no apartment

This is starting to make me really anxious. The other day I sent out about 30 emails to prospective apartments and only got one answer back — and that was to say that the apartment was no longer available. Ack!

Apparently nothing gets done in France while people are on holiday for the month of August, then it's a mad scramble for apartments come September. This is bad news for me because I'll still be in Canada at the beginning of September and unable to line up to view apartments or to meet roommates in person. I decided that desperate times call for desperate measures and contacted the religious gay about his apartment and he hasn't gotten back to me. I also contacted the first-bedroom-through-the-second-bedroom guy and he hasn't gotten back to me either. Then a ray of hope appeared when one of my friends in Paris said her coworker was looking for a roommate – but then when I spoke to her on the phone, she had said that her situation had changed and she wouldn't be looking until later in October. Le blah. The search continues at frenetic pace.

In the interests of taking my mind off more serious and pressing matters, here are two Youtubes about one of my favourite topics: The People's Republic of China!

Loves it! My favourite English names that I came across when I lived there were "Cinderella" and a boy called "Apples."

Ha-ha! It's funny 'cause it's true. Spongebob is both educational and hilarious.

14 August 2007

Brokeback by the Bell

I have to now come out and admit that when I was a young, impressionable gay, I had many a porno fantasy about Zak and Slater getting it on in the high school change rooms.

With sexy, sexy shows like this, it's no wonder that everyone's a homo nowadays.

10 August 2007

Vive la bureaucratie!

1818, from Fr. bureaucratie, from bureau "office," lit. "desk" (see bureau) + Gk. suffix -kratia denoting "power of;" coined by Fr. economist Jean Claude Marie Vincent de Gournay (1712-59). Bureaucrat is from 1842; bureaucratic is from 1836.

So basically, what that is all saying is that the French basically invented bureacracy a long long time ago and have perfecting it ever since. — Today was my visa interview at the French consulate and I have to say I can't wait to plunge right into the labrythine details of France's bureaucratic system! Yeay morose paperpushers getting fat of government largesse!

I arrived at 8:45 for my 9:10 appointment with the Education section, all prepared for my 9:30 apointment with the Visa section afterwards. All is well and I sit and wait. And wait. 9:10 rolls around and I wait a little more. –Now keep in mind that these are appointments which must be booked weeks and weeks in advance, are cancelled immediately if you do not show up on time, and can only be booked online; no rescheduling of missed appointments is possible at the consulate. – It is now 9:29 and a woman from the Education section comes out and says "Didn't you get za messâge zat your appointmunt iz cancel?" –Um,.. no. "My collègue said she left you za messâge to not come for today's meeting." –Um,.. I never got any message, no. "Oh là là! Okay, qweekly we will meet and zen you hurray to za Visa section."

So we make haste for the Education section and run into the infamous 'collègue' of message (the same woman I met in October who didn't tell me anything I needed to know and the same woman who couldn't help me in June when I was having all my problems trying to get in touch with the school). "Why deedn't you get my messâge?!" (As though not getting her message was my fault) –Well, uh, when did you phone me? “Non non. I sent you a messâge on zee appointment booking système on zee internet.” –Uh, I didn’t know I had to check back there after I made my appointment. “Yes, of course you ‘ave to check! Eeet iz very impôrtante!”

Murderous thoughts aside, it clearly was not very important because I filled out the exact same forms and answered the exact same questions as when I met with the Education department in October!

I then make tracks over to the Visa section next door and when I get there the woman says “You are late.” (Implication: Your appointment is cancelled). –I was in Education department having my interview with them. “I see. Neext time, you mûst arrive on time.” (Right, I’ll keep that in mind when I apply for a second French student visa). So I hand in all my paperwork and wait, wait, wait. Finally my name is called and I go back up to the counter: “You need to shew us a banque statement.” –Uh, I didn’t bring one. It wasn’t on the list of documents to bring. “Non. You need to ‘ave a banque statement wiss 9000$ balânce.” –Uh,.. I don’t have that. “You need ziss for zee visa.” –Well, uh, I do have my guarantor’s letter (thanks Mum) signed by her bank manager and notarised showing proof of funds to support me. “Non. Zees is for exchange students only. You need zee banque statement.” (Then why the bloody hell was this costly and obnoxious-to-obtain document on the list of papers to bring for non-exchange students!?) “You come back tomorrow, between 12 and 1, wiss ziss document and you can get your visa.”

Aaargh! So now I have to take more time off work tomorrow, go back to consulate, and provide a document which was never asked for, but says the exact same thing as a document I already had!!!

Boo French bureaucracy!

07 August 2007

Single, White Shallow Grave

(Alternate Title: The Hunt for Non-Crazy Roommate)

Moving is never easy, and moving continents is even harder, but the hardest thing of all is trying to find a roommate. Up to this point, I’ve been pretty lucky with my living situations. I’ve always lived with people I knew well enough to gage if cohabitating was going to result in psychotic puppy murder or burying dead bodies in forests. (The exception being of course Katie, who Jennifer had interviewed when I was on holiday in Japan and I only met once I returned with Katie already moved in. I just kept my eyes well away from her stilettos and everything worked out lovely. And at least I knew that if I ever ended up pinned to kitchen floor with a chef's knife through my shoulder, I could blame it all on Jennifer's poor judgment of character).

With my move to France, however, I'm completely in the dark; potentially moving in straight in from the airport with a person I've never even seen. It's a freaky thought (added to all my other freakouts and panic-attacks regarding my move). That added to the quote-unquote "Old-World charm" of Parisian apartments (e.g. toilet in kitchen, no kitchen at all, common bathroom only accessible through a bedroom) has made my apartment hunt a troublesome affaire. And an expensive affaire too I might add – average price for shared accommodation is around 600€ (+875$ Canadian).

I thought I had something sorted out; decent price, nice area – but then the roommate guy mentioned that going to church is a part of his Sunday routine. Now I'm sorry, but a young gay guy who goes to church is just weird, and it made me worry about spill-over weirdness into other areas of the living situation. So I kept looking and thought I found something cheap and still in a good neighbourhood and was all set to sign on the dotted line when it was mentioned that access to the first bedroom is only though the second bedroom and constant traipsing through is required. Kind of a deal-breaker (and his picture made him seem a little seedy). So I’m back on the hunt. Grumble.

Any quick and easy hints on how to judge a person in a few short emails? All advice welcome.


03 August 2007

Workin' in the Coal Mine

Apologies all for the dearth of posting lately — the blame lies squarely with my work.

Over the past few months, out of a department of eleven people, four have left or changed positions and none of them have been replaced due to budget concerns (which seems strange when said company has billions of dollars in profits, but ours is not to question the logic of the corporate gods). So this fourty percent reduction in staff has meant that the summer, usually a slow season with clients and brokers on vacation, has been rather busy.

Then added on top of that has been the fact that the supervisor has allowed people to take overlapping vacations, so we have even fewer people to do what needs to be done. It's basically call after call after call, without break, for the entire day. Awful! Today and tomorrow, there were only four people in the whole department!

And worse then trying to get stuff done for your previous call while you're on the phone with the subsequent caller and working like a crazy person, is the fact that the supervisor is giving us a hard time about how the stats are bad and we're not meeting our service standards, and we really have to pay attention to how much time we spend on each call, and blah, blah, blah. I just want to scream "That has nothing to do with us! It isn't possible to meet the service standards without enough employees! And even more imposible when the employees we do have are all on vacation at the same time!" (And maybe I want to yell some other things at her too).

I will be so happy to leave there aren't even words.