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The AFL Grand Final Toronto Dingos style

September 28th, 2008 by Raj

Image by \"bootload\" @ flickr

Last night I attended the Toronto Downtown Dingo’s AFL Grand Final party at the Sports Centre Cafe, an annual event organized by one of the local Ontario Australian Football League (OAFL) clubs. Surprisingly there is actually a full league here in Ontario made up of of ten teams, some of which pilfer names and logos from Australian cousins, The Ottawa Swans for example, while others conceptualizing their own colours like the Guelph Gargoyles.

This is my third grand final in a different country in as many years, last year I was in London, the year before that in Paris and whilst each year I’ve been surrounded by Aussie brethren, and the past two finals have been absolute nail-bitter games, this year’s Canadian round takes the cake. It’s not that there were more people at said event, not even close, but this year was the most fun.

At all three of my O/S grand final appearances I’ve been flying solo and going by prior experience I assumed the night to run as it had previously; a few too many beers, some idle banter between unknown punters and the unusually warm feeling of being surrounded by like accents but this time round was a level above and beyond. There was no option for solidarity last night, should anyone have looked to be alone they were quickly met with a smile and familiar “`ow ya doin’ mate?” to the point that I actually missed the entire 3rd quarter chatting with a couple of blokes from Perth & Melbourne, one of which freakishly lived about two blocks from my old apartment in Kensington!

As a now self appointed “veteran” of overseas grand final parties there’s one element common to them all that I feel every Australian needs to experience at least once. It doesn’t necessarily need to be an AFL Grand Final, nor does it need to be in a particular country (well as long as it’s outside of Australia), pick any major Aussie sporting event to attend at any particular bar, pub, or even house that will contain a majority share of Australian persons, stand proudly and sing our country’s anthem with the upmost gusto spurred on by the chorus of fellow ex-pats. Maybe I’m just a sentimental, slightly graying, late 20 year old but that experience alone makes you truly honoured to be an Australian.

Oh and as for the game. Meh. Hawthorn won, I honestly couldn’t have given two hoots who won. Good on ‘em I suppose? Next up; find a place to watch the NRL final. Ca’an the Storm!

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One year ago today…

September 22nd, 2008 by Raj

Today marks one year exactly since whence I first happened upon Canadian borders as a part of my 2007 world trip. Being the sentimental old fool that I am I thought it might be nice to mark the occasion by reproducing a somewhat similar day to that of when I arrived.

While I didn’t go as far as renting a room in The Drake Hotel where I was staying last year I did mimic the morning’s activities by staying in bed until around midday before decided to head down Queen Street West to my original stomping grounds and retake the first Canadian based photo I took last year.

Click for the same shot taken in 2007

Click for 2007's shot

I distinctly remember walking from The Drake down to the Eaton Centre with the beaming sunshine (which seems to be increasingly absent this year), the then newly Foo Fighters’ album Echoes, Silence, Patience pumping away on my iPod, camera shutter fluttering at every corner and just soaking it all in. It’s hard to believe it was only a year ago and now here I am living in a city on the opposite side of the world, that’s not where I saw myself a year ago but here I am!!

Just to put everyone’s mind at ease I’m not developing any form of Canadian accent, unlike whenever I’m in England and I start talking like a Brit in about five seconds I seem impervious to North American accentual assimilation. There’s no “ey” added on to the end of random sentences either but I will conform to the localization of my nouns purely for ease of life. eg. washroom for toilet, or sweater for jumper. No, I’m still pretty “dinkim” for want of a better word, and I’ll be letting it be known when attending the Toronto Dingos AFL grand final party next Friday night!

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Retiring the Asics Onitsuka Tigers

September 17th, 2008 by Raj

Today is truly a sad day, for today, I say goodbye to a pair of good friends that have been at my side (or rather feet) for nigh on three years. Whilst visually they seem to show only a few wrinkles it’s their soul (really it’s their sole) that is beyond repair. Worn thin from the thousands of kilometres they’ve trekked across four different continents my beloved Onitsuka Tigers have nothing left to give.

Accompanying me on three trips overseas, walking the pavements of cities like Paris, London, New York and Toronto to name just a few they have been my one permanent travel companion through all of my adventures.

It with a heavy heart that they’re returned to the box from whence they came and passed on to that big garbage chute in the sky. Goodbye old friends.

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Fan Expo 2008

August 24th, 2008 by Raj

Otaku and Fanboy rejoice for the 14th annual Fan Expo Canada is in full swing at Toronto’s Metro Convention Centre. Running from August 22nd through 24th the convention is covers gaming, comics, anime, horror and science fiction. This year the expo showcases over 600 exhibitors over an area of 220,000 square feet.

More photos here.

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Bicyles + tram tracks = Shredded knees + bruised egos

August 13th, 2008 by Raj

I’m going to give you the ending to this story before I begin to tell it, not because it’s some clever film noir script, but because if my Mum reads the title she’ll freak out and worry that I’m lying in a ditch yet somehow able to write this post with my dying breaths. So, obviously the end is that I’m fine. I’m nursing a rather swollen right knee, feeling extremely stiff and sore the day after but I’m alive and walking and there’s no stitches.

Now for the story behind said injuries. The so called “Summer” here in Toronto seemed to last the first week I was here amidst the humid heat wave of mid 30′s, pffft, whatever… mid 30′s. Since that first week there’s been a mixture of rain that seems scheduled to start at 5pm each day and torrential downpour that just ruins the entire day. With that said I haven’t really had the opportunity to ride my lovely new bike to work; that is, until yesterday.

It was such a beautiful day, the sun was out, some light cloud cover of the fluffy white variety adorned the sky and a cool breeze flowed over me as I rode through the streets of downtown Toronto. So there I was, happily riding down King St heading towards work, a small bird had perched itself on my shoulder, the two of us whistling to the tune of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” when all of a sudden a car door begins to open about 10 metres in front of me.

Now I can’t blame this guy for causing what was about to ensue but it was the catalyst. The door opened gently as they’d obviously not checked for anyone coming, be it car or bike for that matter, and I did what any cyclist would do, check my left shoulder and swerve out to avoid smashing into the door. That was all well and good, no problems getting out of the way there but in swerving out of the way of the car door I’d managed to get my bike tires firmly lodged in the rather deep rut of Toronto’s street car (tram) tracks.

From realizing I had my tires caught in the track and picking myself up off the ground to a resounding yell of “f@#k” took about 3 seconds, most of which was spent sliding along the asphalt in a sort of baseball like position on my right knee and shin. Brushing myself off inspecting the scene I’d remarkably not scratched any part of the bike frame nor any of my body besides the now large hole in my jeans and a sort of cheese grated knee. I was pretty happy with my fall skills, who knew that those two months in Boy Scouts would actually pay off!

The worst part of it all, other than today’s throbbing pain and swelling, is that because I’d passed the car a while back and slid so far on the ground it looked like I’d fallen off for no reason what so ever to those viewing the spectacle. I just looked like a complete numpty that didn’t know how to ride a bike. Good thanks!

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My home, my new tripod & some QTVR

August 5th, 2008 by Raj

I’ve always been a fan of Quicktime VR (QTVR), you know those funny little images that allow you to rotate around and get a 360 degree view of wherever they were taken. There’s something about them that just fascinates me so when I bought a new Canon SLR Camera not long ago I had it in mind that I’d explore the style more and set about taking some wonderful panoramas while I’m away.

Little did I know to have the “professional” set up and tripod mounts to do it would cost a small fortune and seeing how I’d already sold one kidney to fly to PAX at the end of August it seemed like my dream was over. Fortunately for me I found this little baby called the “Panosaurus” which allowed me to have a fully functioning panoramic camera mount for under US$100.

Armed with my new SLR, the Panosaurus and a trial copy of PanoramaFactory I quickly threw together this quick QTVR of my new living room. It’s nothing special but a good trial run and a chance for me to have a play! Look out for more of these (of much more interesting topics) in time to come.

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Canadian Coffee: It’s just that bad

August 2nd, 2008 by Raj

Canadian Coffee = FAIL

Lets for a moment forget the fact that I’ve started a new job that has me slowly taming the beast known to the technorati as “Drupal” into a well trained, obediant King Charles Spaniel and concentrate on the rather unbelievable fact that I haven’t had coffee in about a month!

Yes children of the Internets I know it’s a hard fact to comprehend that I Raj “let’s-have-a-coffee” Sanchez could have been turned away from such a wonderful socially accepted addiction. You must be asking yourself “Why? What has happened to my little friend Raj to turn him away from his only true friend, coffee?” Well that’s a fantastic question really, why don’t you pull up your favourite Japanese-restaurant-sitting-cushion and get all settled in while I explain in intricate detail the justification in my passing on the joe.

Coffee in Canada sucks. Explanation over.

OK, I’ll go into a little more detail. If I wanted brown water I’d go down to the street and scoop out a cup from the nearest mud pool I can find. Why and more importantly “how” people can drink percolated coffee is beyond me! Yes it costs about CAD$1.50 for a jumbo mug of the garbage but that’s no reason for the millions of Tim Hortons’ franchises that exist here in plague proportions putting the US’s Starbucks chain to shame. Dare you ask for a “latte” you might find that you’re given something that resembles frothed milk but 9 times out of 10 it came out of an automated machine the likes of which you’d find in a Shell service station midpoint Melbourne and Adelaide.

There is one place I’ve found that does a good coffee, even if the late does come in a glass cup the size of a small water tower, and that’s the hotel I stayed in last year whilst I was visiting, The Drake. I’ve had about three there now and they’re generally pretty on the money.

Now before everyone (well mostly Canadians) out there starts screaming and rushing me in a mob like fashion I open up the comments section of the post to all of you T.dotters to please, please, tell me where I can get a good coffee!

P.S. If you tell me to go to Starbucks, Second Cup or any other chain that serves crap I’ll hunt you down and pour said establishments scolding muck in your lap ;)

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All good things must come to an end

July 20th, 2008 by Raj

It has nothing to do with the entry

Just like a “Two-piece-feed” with a side of Popcorn Chicken and a Pepsi Max from KFC all good things must unfortunately come to an end; and for me my rather obtuse metaphor relates to my time over the last seven weeks of basically being a bum.

You see on Monday I will once again join the sheepish herd that is man-kind in their Monday to Friday work routine of early rising, nose to the grind stone, sleep and repeat. Really though I can’t complain, I’ve had an amazing time since leaving Australia. I’ve explored Toronto, ducked off to New York for a week, I’ve had fantastic fun albeit rather fuzzily remembered fun due to an array of alcoholic boissons (That’s French for beverages people, see I’ve been learning too!).

So what’s the job and more importantly why aren’t I working at the bookstore (Chapters) like I’d planned essentially continuing the life of freedom? Well you see, life doesn’t always go as planned, even for casual free-loaders like myself. In a nutshell if I was to take a part time job I’d be living in a dwarf’s shoebox that has newspaper for carpet and seven other people whom also claim certain vermin infested areas of said space. Having upgraded in quality of living I also needed to upgrade my employment expectations saying goodbye to my dreams of lattes & books to welcome the cold hard reality of my world of professional comfort, PHP programming.

It’s not that bad really, in fact I’m quite looking forward to the job to be honest. I’ll be working for a media agency called “ClimaxMedia” in a nice converted warehouse not far from where I live. An easy commute on the road bike I’m yet to purchase but I promise I’m definitely getting! Climax’s main office is in the next city over, Mississauga, and have just setup in Toronto so it’s an interesting time to come into the company.

Now with a new home, new job, new mobile phone on a ridiculous three year contract and new furniture I’ve really settled in and whilst there’s always cracks of home sickness that creep in from time to time I’m still really excited about what’s to come!

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Canadians screwed on iPhone stock at launch

July 12th, 2008 by Raj

No iPhone for you!

As if Canadians weren’t already the butt of the iPhone world, being America’s North American co-inhabiter they’ve been denied the iPhone longer than anyone would’ve thought. Today however that was all meant to change, I say “meant” because as any of the hundreds to thousands that lined up this morning were sorely disappointed in a severe shortage of stock.

Out of the four stores that I walked between checking out lines and chatting with their patrons I didn’t find a single store with more than 30 phones and then each store seemed to have a 50/50 split of 8GB & 16GB another move I find strange.

So who’s to blame? Well you could say Apple, they are the ones who’re distributing the device across the world today but the majority, whether they’re right or wrong, will say Rogers. Let’s for the moment forget the fact that Roger’s contract length is 3 years, a period that will surely go well beyond this generation of iPhones life-cycle, and again forget that they have a huge monopoly in being the only GSM provider in the country; what really puts the nail in the coffin for these guys is the past week’s worth of controversy in regards to their exorbitant pricing and that “supposedly” Apple decided they’d teach them a lesson by not supplying much stock.

Now there’s no “official” word that this was the case but all fingers point to Rogers. That said I can understand where they’re coming from, this things a cash cow for them. The 3 year contract, high rate plans, it’s money for jam, not to mention they have no competition why would you make your plans cheap? I’ve worked for a telecommunications company for 7 years and trust me the one thing that drives good pricing is competition and Rogers has none.

So blame who you will, it’s unfortunately not going to change the fact that there’s little to no iPhones out there today and you’ll most likely be waiting another week to get a “Jesus Phone” in your hands. Sorry Canada.

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On the twelfth day of drinking my true love sent to me…

July 8th, 2008 by Raj

In case you’ve been wondering just what I’ve been up to the past week and a bit let me sum it up in a single word, drinking. It’s been an arduous task of constant lifting from table to mouth consuming countless litres of some foul tasting liquid called “beer”.

Statue of Liberty

It all started when my faux housemate and fellow patriot Dansie and I took a leisurely hour and a half flight to Newark, New Jersey, just outside of New York to where we’d be staying with an American friend Aimee and her housemate Andrea. Joining us in this pilgrimage to the “Land of Opportunity” was another Australian schoolmate Jimmy who would arrive later that day and meet us next to Madison Square Garden for welcoming brews.

Times Square

The next week is somewhat of a blur. There were moments of clarity in which activities such as the driving range at Chelsea Piers, viewing the Statue of Liberty and viewing the world from atop Rockefeller Plaza were performed however these were mostly scarcely placed admits long nights of beverage consumption ending in sunrises without bed. I can’t complain, or rather I could, most specifically to the tune of my rapidly depleting bank balance but how can you put a price on the true New York experience I ask you?

Whilst I was basked in the glory of all things New York it was blindingly obvious how different my new home country and America actually are. The levels of service and friendless pale in comparison to T.O’s demeanor and the required gratuity (tip) that is expected seem completely unearned in many places we went, but such is life and that’s the American way, you learn to live with it and move on.

After a week of blurred memories and far too much photographic and video evidence of what had actually occurred on nights prior it was a welcome thought to be returning to Canada our entire crew in tow aiming towards a camping adventure in the Algonquin Park three hours north of Toronto. Not so inspiring in thought was the 6am flight that needed to be caught and the three hours sleep barely stolen the night before.

Niagara Falls

Between New York and the camping adventure to come was a short respite in a drive from Hamilton to Niagara Falls. Hiring a car (in which I drove and actually stayed on the correct side of the road) we travelled contently to a breathtaking destination. Dividing Canada from the US are a set of waterfalls so breath taking that when you stand at the top of them, metres from the megalitres of water that cascade over their edge, your breath is literally sucked from your lungs with the ferocity of the falls power. Water plunges over the falls splashing definitely into the river beneath only to be vaporized and form a cloud of mist that stretches hundreds of metres above it soaking standers by as if caught in a thunderstorm. It’s hard to imagine anyone surviving that has gone over but visit the museum or ask a local and you’ll hear all about it.

One could be forgiven in thinking that perhaps a camping trip would not entail such dizzying drunken heights to which I can only through recorded media attest, but one would be wrong. Despite the four hour drive each way (we started in Hamilton an hour south of Toronto) and despite the daily physical activities of canoeing and hiking (I steered clear of the canoes) each night was met with celebratory liquids. It was Andrea’s birthday on one of the nights after all.

Sunset on the way to Algonquin

Algonquin park is without a doubt one of the most amazing pieces of nature I’ve bared witness to, and for those of you who know me that’s a pretty remarkable thing to come out of my mouth; or rather fingers; you know because I’m typing this; let’s just say “remarkable thing for me to think”. There.

Smokey Lake

Laid out over 50,000km is one of the most picturesque wonderlands filled with lakes, trails, forests and wildlife that you could spend a year exploring. I spent the majority of my time jumping from lake to lake, river to river and hiking lookouts trying to capture just a small percentage of its beauty but photos unfortunately just can’t do it justice.

Finally returning to Hamilton yesterday afternoon our numbers have dwindled, Andrea returning to Jersey, Aimee continuing her holiday flying to Costa Rica, Jimmy off to Germany this morning, myself moving up to Toronto today and Dansie left back where we started in Hamilton a chapter closes on this one of the great Canadian Tales.

Photo Sets:
New York
Niagara Falls
Algonquin Park

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