Dave Duncan

"Eat Well, Stay Fit, Die Anyway"

Archive for October, 2008

“Something something O O economics… VooDoo economics”

Now that my job entails a huge budget component (dealing with a budget that is, not spending one), I am now learning what it meant when everyone else I knew with budget components to their jobs went insane in late October and started rambling about something called ‘year end’.

For those of you who don’t know what that’s all about, here’s a crash course.  In most businesses, the year runs from November 1st to October 31st and is called a Fiscal Year.  If you want some excuses for why the Fiscal Year has to be different, you can read them here, but I think it was just to ruin fall.  At the start of each year, finance departments all over the world require any departments that spend money to submit budget plans which are approved based on certain spending and on November 1st, the department is handed all its money for the year.

All the departmental spending has to be PAINSTAKINGLY tracked and accounted for (sorry, bad pun) and on October 31st, the department will hopefully have spent all their money down to the penny.  If they’ve overspent, the department is in deep crap (which usually flows to the person tracking the budget) and if they’ve underspent, that means that their budget for the next year will be cut as they clearly don’t need all the money they’re given.

So why has my blog been lacking in detailed and well-written reviews of Spain?  Because I’m the guy who tracks the spending for my department who will be in deep crap if we overspend.  Good times.  I’m currently pulling my hair out, and will continue to do so for another week or so, so just bear with me and I promise that very detailed and insightful review of the bullfight is coming.

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Weekend of Fury

I guess that should say ‘weekend of flurry’ as it was more of a blur in speed than anger.  Friday saw Karim gracing our home with his presence and we hit up Ethan’s bachelor party where much poker was played.  On Saturday, I hit up the last TFC homegame of 2008 (sadly no one rushed the field) where our boys in red brought the victory home.  Yesterday, Danielle and I went for a hike in one of the many rural areas here in the city.  Our route started at Rosedale station and looped for 7kms through ravines before ending up at Davisville station.

Going for a hike on a fall day is one of life’s great pleasures, and yesterday was a perfect day for it.  The sun was bright and the sky blue.  Although it was a bit chilly in the ravines, the sunlight on the tree tops made for some pretty stunning scenery.  We also saw half the city out with their kids or their dogs and everyone was smiling and friendly. Well, not everyone.  We saw a few grumpy people and at least one dog owner upset because another dog owner wouldn’t stop her pug from humping his poodle.  We also witnessed a break-up on a park bench in Churchill Park (the Spadina Reservoir) and I hope that dude is feeling better today than he did yesterday.

We saw some really cool features of the city too, like an emergency exit for Spadina station that lets out into the woods.  It looks like any other subway exit, only it’s got grass and forest leading right up to the doors.  I’ll need to take some photos.  We passed under car bridges, train bridges and pedestrian bridges and realized just how much green space there is spread out all across the downtown core.  We also realized how much of it is being spoiled by litter.

Hopefully fall holds out for a few more weeks so we can get some more fall walks in, and maybe even have roll in some fallen leaves.  Yeah, that’d be sweet.

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The Sweet Chill of Fall

I figure we’ll take a break today from talking about you-know-where (plus it buys me some time to get photos up on the web so you can see them and I can include them in posts) so I can share with you my immense pleasure at leaving my house and stepping out into a perfect fall day this morning.  The air was crisp and chilly and smelled just a little sweet thanks to the fallen leaves.  The sun was shining strong and the air was just about breezeless, so when you exhaled you could see the plume of condensation in the air.  Perfect.

Last night was also a perfect fall evening, but I didn’t enjoy it as much.  I spent most of the evening dealing with a little present our car showed off when we got home, a flat tire.  I’d never changed a tire on our car before, so doing it at night was a bit tough, but I put on the spare and loaded the tire into the trunk for the ride to the nearest gas station.  I pumped it (and the other three tires) to the recommended PSI and now it’s sitting in the trunk so I can see if we’ve got a slow leak.

This weekend will be all about enjoying fall.  Tonight I’ll be hanging out with Karim, who is in town from the US to write his citizenship exam (as you read about while I was gone, and he’s seems pretty sure he passed) and tomorrow I’m headed to a TFC game, which means that on Sunday I’ll have to go for a walk in the Don Valley with Danielle so we can get a dose of fall before it’s gone for 2008.

Speaking of fall, mark your calendars for a month today.  On November 16 (Marty’s birthday), we will once again converge on the corner of Queen and Broadview here in Toronto for the Fifth Annual Dangerous Dan’s Burger Eating Feastival.  That’s right… it’s a feast and a festival.  It’s a feastival.  More details will follow soon.

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Tapas: Tiny Food from Spain

Where does one begin when talking about tapas?  They usually come with alcoholic drinks and most of them contain ham in one form or another (like almost all Spanish food), so if you’re devoutly Jewish or Muslim, perhaps you should just scrap your travel plans to Spain altogether.  I kid of course, you don’t need to get boozed to enjoy tapas, you just won’t get them for free, and there are many ham-free options, even some vegetarian ones.  I assume.

During our trip, we heard a few different stories for the origins of tapas.  One was that when the streets of cities were much filthier, flies ruled so bars and restaurants would give patrons little plates to cover their drinks.  To encourage business, the plates would come with a few bits of finger food.  Another theory stated that Francisco Franco (dictator of Spain for 40 years) decreed that food would be served with alcohol to keep people from getting drunk.   Neither theory sounds all that credible to me, so I think it’s just one of those peculiarities of a culture that develops over time.

So, what are tapas?  Well, they’re basically hors d’ouevres, only in smaller portions.  They tend to be greasy or salty (no doubt to encourage your thirst for sangria or cerveza) and if you get them for free, no amount of questioning will help you find out what they are.  The serving staff either won’t tell you or don’t know themselves, so just pop it in your mouth and enjoy it in the full knowledge that you’ll never be able to order it again because you have no clue what it is.

If you purchase tapas as kind of a light meal or snack, the portions are much larger and you will know what they are.  Fish are usually marinated and served with tomato on bread, sausages are chopped in a sauce and ham is thinly sliced and served on just about anything.  I don’t think I’m explaining this adequately to make you as hungry as you should be right now, so I welcome any comments that can help out.

For those of you who are likely to end up at our house for a fine meal, you’ll be pleased to know that we bought a tapas recipe book on our way out of the country, and will spend the next little while learning how to make some of our favourites.  All that remains is to hang hundreds of ham legs from our kitchen ceiling and to litter our floor with hundreds of tiny waxed paper napkins.  Mmmm.

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Hola. I’m Back and Off by Six Hours

Our trip to Spain has now come and gone, leaving only a pile of dirty laundry, some awesome souvenirs, amazing photos and some lifelong memories.  Oh, and a mild case of jetlag that has my body craving a late lunch instead of breakfast.

Seriously though, the trip was fantastic and I highly recommend adding Spain to your list of places to see, especailly Madrid and Valencia.  I’ll write more about specific events this week (the bullfight at Las Ventas in Madrid and Flamenco, for example), but while it’s still fresh in my head, I want to talk about the generalities of Spain.

People are pretty laid back.  As a matter of fact, we wondered if anyone even went to work.  It seems as though everyone just walks around or is sitting in a cafe eating and drinking.  They also have a very loose sense of public politeness when it comes to making way on sidewalks or public transit, which caught me off guard.  More often than not, I found people shoving me or walking right through me on a busy (or even empty street).  Despite all the great food and drink and relaxed atmosphere, it’s pretty rare to see someone smiling or openly enjoying themselves, and I had to frequently remind myself that it hasn’t been that long since Spain was a facist regime, which is bound to change people.

Despite the lack of smiles, we really liked the Spanish people and we know that they appreciated our attempts at conversing with them in their own language, although we were a bit rusty (more me than Danielle).  And the food… oh, the food.  We didn’t have one bad meal in the whole country.  Tapas are the best way to eat (more on this later) and the beer and sangria are plentiful, cheap and everywhere.  They know how to eat.

So, now I’m back at my desk looking at an email inbox that is full to overflowing and I’m wishing I was on a terrace patio enjoying a coffee and watching everyone go by.  I’m sure Danielle is feeling the same.

Thanks to all my guest bloggers for kicking in while I was gone, and thanks to Steve for taking care of the postings.  We’ll be back to our regularly scheduled program starting today.

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Thanksgiving, and Other Notable Dates in the Annual Calendar

Today is Thanksgiving in Canada, one of our last widely observed holidays were stores and offices are actually closed.  This means that you probably even aren’t reading this today, which is fine because I didn’t even write this today.  I actually wrote this over two weeks ago in preparation for the trip to Spain which I’m now just finishing up.  Wow, that’s a bit of a mindbender, so let’s just move along, shall we?

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favourite holidays as it lands right in the most beautiful part of my favourite season, I usually spend it up in the Ottawa Valley and it is intrinsically tied to the overconsumption of poultry, stuffing, gravy and pie.  What’s NOT to love?!

This year, Thanksgiving has a new and special meaning for me as today is also my first wedding anniversary.  On this day last year, up in the Ottawa Valley on a beautiful fall day, I married Danielle in what is probably the smartest move I’ve ever made in my entire life.  That commemoration is why we’re in Spain right now, and probably eating some delicious food and celebrating the day.

So although Danielle won’t read this until we get back, happy anniversary and here’s to many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many more.  I just clinked my glass all the way over in Spain.

To the rest of you, thanks for a year (or more) of support for our relationship and we look forward to sharing those many (etc.) years with you as well.

Be thankful today, and enjoy the gravy and fall colours.

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Tales from a commute … and more!

I was driving to work, slightly in a daze, and at around 8:30 a.m. (already 15 minutes late), while listening to CBC Radio, my blahs went to hahs. The amusing words of host Tom Allen were as follows: “You are listening to Music and Compan… OH! I mean CBC Radio 2!” For any classical music geeks who’ve listened to Tom’s show for years, Music and Company was iconic, and so, to hear him screw up (perhaps on purpose?) before he had to play some folk song to meet CBC’s new Radio 2 line-up (instead of what could have been Vivaldi’s Gloria in D Major, which — incidentally for any unmarried folks — is THE opening to walk down the aisle to) was, simply, delightful.

Such delight has been tempered somewhat by the work email I just received with this subject line: “Adding Humour to Your Life – RESCHEDULED”. My life is so The Office.

In any event, Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Turkey season has arrived once again. I am really looking forward to this long weekend, a chance to relax and unwind, hang out with my bro Doug, and contemplate all the things to be thankful for. Like this awesome Web site.

Let’s back-track a little to the events of last weekend. Did anyone do Nuit Blanche? Normally I’ve always taken in the Queen West stretch of this now-annual arts thing (which takes place all over the downtown region), but this time around, I started close to Bloor and St. George, saw piles of zombies (some on bicycle! yeahhh), checked out all the revelry around U of T, walked through Queen’s Park — a forest truly lit up by the sounds of all these strangers — and was awe-struck by how friendly and fun everyone was. Who would’ve thought a towering canvas of plastic bottles in blue hue could be so breathtaking?

Onto a slightly more serious note, for all the Canadians reading this, don’t forget to vote this coming Tuesday! In the meantime, have a super weekend …


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Allez Les Rouges

After last week’s contribution, I figured that I’d stick with another patriotic subject. Although this subject was mentioned only in passing by Dave about six weeks ago, I figured that it needed a full post.

The Canadian Men’s Soccer Team has not qualified for a World Cup since 1986, where they were eliminated from group play without having scored a goal. Since then, it’s been frustrating loss after frustrating loss leaving the Canucks on the outside looking in. Whether it’s a lack of skill, extremely poor officiating or incredibly bad luck, Canada has failed to be represented on soccer’s biggest stage in over 20 years. A frustrating time for those of us who were too young to watch that campaign in 1986. Sure there was the Gold Cup win in 2000, but I’m not sure how many people realize that Canada was once champion of CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football) or could identify Carlo Corazzin and Craig Forrest as national heroes.

This time around was supposed to be different. Canada was supposed to qualify for 2010 in South Africa. They had a talent level previously unseen in Canadian history with players representing large clubs in England, Spain, and Germany. Unfortunately, it’s never that easy for Canadian soccer. After easily dispatching St. Vincent & The Grenadines, Canada was drawn into an incredibly tough group with Mexico, Honduras and Jamaica, where only the top two teams advance. I know what you’re thinking, “It shouldn’t be that bad. Second place should be attainable. After Mexico, the Canadians should be able to beat everyone else.” Well, unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. The group really features the strongest teams in CONCACAF aside from the United States. But like any good Canadian, optimism reigned. These teams had never seen the talent of Julian De Guzman and Dwayne DeRosario.

We should’ve known something was up when one of the most promising Canadian talents in Jonathan De Guzman acquired Dutch citizenship and offered to ply his trade in Orange rather than red and white. It was all downhill from there. It started off with an embarrassing 1-1 draw with Jamaica before a raucous crowd in Toronto. I say embarrassing not because Canada was outplayed by Jamaica (which they weren’t), or because Jamaican ex-pats in Toronto outcheered the Canadian home support (for the first time in a while in Toronto, this wasn’t true) but because of a miscue on a corner kick where an innocuous kick by Toronto-born Andy Williams wound up in the back of the Canadian net. Whether it was a misplay by goalkeeper Pat Onstad or if he was fouled on the play, it really doesn’t matter as Canada was unable to recover and settled for the 1-1 draw.

Although there was this set back, there was still hope. Canada carried the play against Jamaica and this set them up really well for the next match against Honduras in Montreal. Unfortunately, this would be as good as it got. Canada lost 2-1 to Honduras and then went on to lose 2-1 in Mexico where the score line indicated a much closer game than what actually happened.
So as we stand at the halfway point, we have Mexico with 9 points, Honduras with 6 and Canada and Jamaica with 1 point each.

As you can see, Canada isn’t out of it yet. If they can win out, they still have a chance to finish second. But this means winning in Honduras on Saturday while missing two players to suspension (De Rosario and Adrian Serioux) while their best player, Julian De Guzman, watches from the sidelines with an injury. It’s still possible but even if it does happen, there’s still beating a much superior Mexican team in Edmonton (although they’ll have already clinched a spot and have nothing to play for) and beating a tightly-knit Jamaican squad on their island. While not impossible, it’s definitely daunting and there’s no room for error.

So if you’re finding yourself with nothing to do at 9:30 pm on Saturday night, flick over to Sportsnet and cheer on the boys in red. They’ll need all the support they can get.

Oh yeah, and if my last post didn’t scare you off, get out and vote on Tuesday. Despite what I said, your voice needs to be heard and voting is the easiest way to do that. Unless of course you end up dating a cabinet minister and he leaves sensitive documents lying around the house.


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