September 28, 2003

Milk bag update

Apparently, you're only supposed to cut a very small hole in the very tip of the corner of the milk bag.

My hole is a bit bigger than a toonie. Well, quite a bit bigger.

How was I supposed to know? Back in the Civilized World, we use these things called jugs which have things called caps which screw on and off. That is, we don't have to cut our own holes to get into the milk.

I learned yesterday that Albertans don't have milk-in-a-bag either, which is heartening. This Alberta seems like a sensible province. I say we trade California--heck, the whole West Coast--to Canada for it. No one here seems to like that thought, though.

Posted by Tim at 02:28 PM | Comments (13)

Canadian politics... ugh.

I went to the town-hall meeting/debate that was held here at Redeemer last night for the four candidates running to be state legislator MPP in this electoral district riding. One, Mike Trolley, is a second-year (sophomore) Redeemer student, the candidate for the Family Values Coalition, a grassroots party. The other three were from the Progressive Conservative Party (a contradiction in terms to me, but apparently not up here), the Liberal Party, and the New Democratic Party.

I liked bits from all their platforms, but I couldn't see any real differences between the three major parties, and even the FVC seemed to have no strong stances besides being anti-redefining marriage and anti-politics-as-usual. They all seemed pretty out-there liberal. The Conservative guy was maybe where moderate Democrats are back home, and the othe two were just plain left-liberal.

The NDP lady (former head of the Ontario teacher's union) was the one I liked best -- she mentioned in passing that milk came in a carton. Now if she'd only had an anti-black squirrel plank...

I miss the Republican party, horribly corrupted as it is. As I noted to some people after the debate, in the States the politicians have to at least promise to cut taxes and shrink the government. Here, the Liberals are running "We won't raise your taxes... but we won't cut them either" commercial spots.

Oh, and the media keep talking about how divisive and negative this campaign is. I don't know what they're smoking. The Tories are running ads saying that Dalton McGuinty (the Grit candidate for Governor Premier) is not up to the job; the Liberals counter with commercials about how horrible the Tories are. Come on, we're big people. We can deal with the fact that each party thinks the other one isn't good enough. But then again, this is Canada, land of political correctness. No name-calling here -- although apparently a Tory email called McGuinty a kitten-eater.

Heh. Indeed...

(I think I have a new Filthy Lie to spread)

Posted by Tim at 02:10 PM | Comments (1)

Why I support free trade

There's been a lot of talk recently about the drawbacks of globalization and eeevil multinational corporation GREED $$$ OPPRESSION REPUBLICA... er, sorry, lost my train of thought there...

Anyway, I've never had it satisfactorily explained to me exactly how free trade is going to hurt the poor. And Steven den Beste brings up a lot of good points that I've often thought deserved mention; like the fact that farm subsidies are less about saving the family farm and more about corporate welfare; like the fact that the United States and the European Union have screwed over third world agriculture by instituting high tariffs and other protectionist measures; and let alone the fact that I believe Western nations have a responsibility to use their power in the cause of social justice and freedom, the fact that the better off the rest of the world is, the more safe we are from terrorism. If nothing else, we should be helping others out of purely selfish interest.

I don't always agree with den Beste, especially on matters pertaining to religion and philosophy (though he's a brilliant thinker and always is thought-provoking). And I've not done a huge amount of reading on global economic issues. But as far as I can see, he hits the nail on the head with his post.

Posted by Tim at 01:52 PM | Comments (2)

September 25, 2003

Life and blogland are merging again

All my dormies are now aware that I blog, although I haven't given any of them the URL (but Googling for "Tim Van Alstyne blog" currently gives me the 5th place, and 3 of the four above are other bloggers linking to me, so I'm not too hard to find)... and anyway, my roommate has a friend who's going to school in Detroit, and guess what, she blogs too? Weird, eh? (Oops, I said "eh" again)...

Posted by Tim at 10:13 PM | Comments (11)

September 23, 2003


I'm sittin' in the railway station/ Got a ticket for my destination/ On a tour of one night stands/ My suitcase and guitar in hand/ And every stop is neatly planned/ For a poet and a one man band

Homeward bound
I wish I was
Homeward bound
Home, where my thought's escaping
Home, where my music's playing
Home, where my love lies waiting
Silently for me

Every day's an endless stream/ Of cigarettes and magazines/ And each town looks the same to me/ The movies and the factories/ And every stranger's face I see/ Reminds me that I long to be/ Homeward bound...

Tonight I'll sing my songs again/ I'll play the game and pretend/ But all my words come back to me/ In shades of mediocrity/ Like emptiness in harmony/ I need someone to comfort me/ Homeward bound...
-Paul Simon

If you told me that I could never speak a word of English again, on pain of death, I would be sad. I wouldn't be able to communicate with most people I know, since most of them are monolingual in English. I would have to learn Spanish and probably French. But more than that, I would miss the English language, her curves and secrets, her... ok, maybe I'm over-anthropomorphising this.

What I'm trying to say is, the English word I would miss most, without a doubt, is "home". Think about it. I'm sure other languages have other words to connotate what we mean by "home", but it's not the same. Spanish: casa means both house and home. How can you do that?

Anyway, I'm feeling foreign today. A stranger in a strange land, if you will. I had to deal with sales representatives today, which always depresses me. Basically, my efforts to get a cellphone that I can call home on for a reasonable price are increasingly fruitless. I bought a cellphone here when I came in July to register for classes. I couldn't activate it from the States, so I finally got around to that last week. Then, the cellphone won't pick up the network from campus. Someone else who has the same carrier (Fido) said my phone might be analogue, so I took it back to the (third party) store today. They said it was digital. So I'm going to call tech support for Fido, the one thing I want to avoid above all else. I would rather write the essay for English that I'm avoiding right now by blogging even though it was due yesterday than speak to anyone I don't know over the phone. Whenever I'm in this sort of situation, I feel like my IQ drops 50 points. I absolutely hate having to say, "I don't understand what you're talking about. Tell me what my choices are. Tell me how much they cost. Use English that I can understand." I'm not a Luddite; I'm reasonably up on technical terms. But I do not know cellphone jargon. All I want is a phone that I can carry around with me in case my car breaks down (like happened last week, but that's another story) and that I can call home on so I don't tie up the dorm line forever. We're offered a phone card through school that has a reasonable rate for calls to the States, but I have to get this mess sorted out first.

Wait, you say. What does this have to do with home? You deal with the same insane tech support stuff in the States.

Oh, you thought I was talking about home, as in Grand Rapids, Michigan, as in the United States? That's not my home. A slightly more familiar place than here, I grant you, and I love it a lot, and I do miss it, but for the last six months I lived there I just wanted to get out, and I'm glad to have done so. If I hadn't left, I would be quite miserable right now.

I'm talking about a different sort of Home completely. I want a place where, to put it bluntly, stuff works. I want to live in a land where the government empowers, not enables. Somewhere where life is fulfilling, where people can work and enjoy the work they do. I'm not going to live in some otherworldly Heaven as a disembodied spirit, as most Christians seem to believe they will. I've felt this way for a long time, and in several classes (Missions, Worldview) the prof has been bringing up the same points; that the kingdom of God is not (merely) a land of ideas and spirits and music, but a place where work and play, school, church and marketplace, doctor, artist and plumber can fulfill their purpose.

Do you know the feeling that comes after you've done a hard day of labour? You climb into bed after a warm shower, every muscle aching. The mattress is firm, the pillow soft, and you just have this amazing sense of a day well done. But then, the next day, you go to work or school, slog through mountains of forms and busywork, accomplish nothing substantial, and go to bed unsore but utterly unfulfilled.

That first feeling is the feeling I plan to have every day, and to the extent I can make that joy at work and play a reality in my life and the lives of others around me, I have brought the Kingdom of God so much closer to our earth.

To that extent, I will have come Home, and I wait anxiously for the Day in which there will be no more tears, sin and death -- and no more monotonous work, spam or horrid tech support calls, either.

Posted by Tim at 02:12 PM | Comments (5)

Another quiz...

Via Jen, Quizilla strikes again:

?? Which Of The Greek Gods Are You ??
brought to you by Quizilla

Posted by Tim at 12:46 PM | Comments (2)

Burn, burn, burn

The Bonfire of the Vanities number 12 (wow, has it been three months already?) is up over at Kevin's blog. If you've had any idealistic thoughts about the power of the Internet to bring data and people together, if you've ever thought the words "information superhighway", go here to see the Worst of the Worst: what ordinary people say to complete strangers off the tops of their heads. Oh, I'm in there too.

Posted by Tim at 12:33 PM | Comments (0)

September 22, 2003

Raining like a rather pathetic hurricane

It is raining hard. Tropical-storm force winds and heavy downpours -- that is if that pathetic thing we had last Friday still counted as a tropical storm.

Also, today I met blogger Brian Dijkema, who's a student here at Redeemer UC as well. Actually, there was a forum in which the freshman candidates for Senate were speechifying. When the floor was opened for questions, Brian here asks "Will the real Timmy Van Alstyne please stand up?" I did so, from my position in the third row from the front. With my quick wit, I deduced almost instantly that he was a blogger who wanted to put face to name. Anyway, that's that.

I had another runin with a black squirrel this morning, too. I was going to check my mail and one of the devil creatures was looking at me with a satanic grimace from about 4 meters 13 feet away. I chucked my keys at him, saying in a loud voice "Die, child of Satan, return to your master!" but he cleverly dodged the projectile and skittered up the tree. Them devilspawn are cunning and agile. I'll have to learn how to use a slingshot, since they're probably not allowed to have BB guns up here. Which illustrates the whole gun debate nicely; when you have weapons, the criminals (squirrels) are not so daring. But here they know they have nothing to fear from us, so they sell their souls to Lucifer, no doubt in exchange for free acorns or something like that. Hmm, wonder if I could get my own squirrel army if I offered them even more acorns? Now that would be cool....

Posted by Tim at 05:09 PM | Comments (1)

What. The. Heck.

I know I've used that heading before, but really. What. The. Heck. Read this:
A colorful $20 bill makes its debut from and tell me my world is not going completely. upside. down.

First, there's a tropical storm in Canada. Then, the Feds decide to colourise our money. Our. Money. Not some weird foreign money with bright yellows and reds and purples. Let the foreigners keep their money. I actually like Canadian money. But the United States Dollar is firm, steadfast. It's the currency the world depends on. It's backed by the might of the most powerful economy and military in the world. If someone refuses to accept a US dollar as legal tender, we can call in the Marines. What's Canada going to do, whine to the UN?

Sorry, this is not cool.

What's going to happen next? Will the US, pressured by Hispanic separatists, make Spanish and English co-official languages? (Yes, I'm aware that we have no official language right now.) Will Canada's conservatives get their act together? Stay tuned to Stranger in a Strange Land for all your binational news and commentary.

Posted by Tim at 04:40 PM | Comments (2)

September 21, 2003

Calcium deficiency or personal idiocy?

A couple days after I came to school, I clipped my fingernails. (I remember, because I borrowed clippers off my roommate, and it took forever because they were very, very dull.) That was maybe the 4th or 5th of September. It is now the 21st. My fingernails are still short. I've barely been online (as you know) or on the computer since I got here, so it's not some function of typing time (although I do use my laptop to take notes in class, but I don't think that could account for it, do you?) I'm wondering if I'm starting to get a calcium deficiency. I've drunk maybe 3 glasses of milk since I've been here, due to that whole weird milk-in-a-bag thing. (I poured it myself the other day -- a big step forward. Next--taking the bag out of the fridge, cutting a hole in the corner and putting the bag in a pitcher. Shudder.) Can calcium deficiency do that to you? So quickly? Am I going to get scurvy osteoporosis? Wouldn't that be... Bill-like? Disturbing, to say the least. Maybe it's something in the water... or something in the water back home that does weird things to your fingernails? Wow, I'm totally grossed out now. I'm going to sleep (it's 4:00 and I have church at 11). I'll tell you tomorrow afternoon if I had any weird (or: illuminating) dreams about this.

Posted by Tim at 03:56 AM | Comments (1)

I collide/ with a world I've tried so hard to leave behind

Megapoints if you get the reference in the title; doesn't count if you habitually listen to Christian music.

OK, so I'm going to blogs online and realizing, I've met (or at least seen) this person in The Real World. Too weird. At someone's blog, I left a comment promising that I would compile a list of bloggers here at Redeemer University College. Here goes (I think you should be able to cut-and-paste this right into your template, if you're working off blogspot; MT users (of whom I believe I'm the only one on the list) need only tack <br> tags onto the end of each line.

<a href="">Rob Joustra</a>
<a href="">Prof. David Koyzis</a>
<a href="">Richard Greydanus</a>
<a href="">Brian Dijkema</a>
<a href="">Prof. Gideon Strauss</a>
<a href="">James Brink</a>
<a href="">Rod Glasbergen</a>
<a href="">Jake Belder</a>
<a href="">Tim Van Alstyne</a>

Posted by Tim at 03:42 AM | Comments (3)

September 19, 2003

Weather update #2

Well, that last update was something of a crock. When I got out of class at 10, the downpour had receded to a trickle; it's been raining since then, but not hard at all. Maybe it'll get worse later, but it looks like this isn't going to be as big a thing as we thought it might.

Posted by Tim at 12:08 PM | Comments (0)

Weather Update #1

It's really starting to pick up now. Wind is blowing, rain's downpouring. It's equivalent to a fairly strong thunderstorm, though I've not heard any thunder or seen any lightning. Are electrical events associated with tropical systems? Being a Michigander, I really don't know.

Posted by Tim at 09:01 AM | Comments (1)

Class, con't.

Man, this stuff is so trivial. Can't we get past it? Only two chapters of the Bible (Genesis 1-2) are spent on where we were, and one chapter (Genesis 3) how we fell. The rest of the Bible shows God's story of redemptive history; the amazing saga of a God who refuses to let the hatred of His children for Him stop His plan to redeem them.

Memo to Christians: Let's put the focus on the future, not the past. (Not to say at all that history is unimportant, or that we shouldn't learn about Creation... heck, the Incarnation is an historical event, and it's only the heart of our faith. But there's a difference between having a comprehensive understanding of how we got here, and living in the past.)

Posted by Tim at 08:14 AM | Comments (6)

Have you ever noticed...

...that when your alarm goes off and you make the decision to skip class based on the fact that it's the most boring class ever, you become instantly awake, and realize you might as well go to class then. The act of making a decision immediately after waking is equal to injecting coffee grounds into one's body, I tell you.

The class I'm in is Religion 101. You'd think I would like it, since I'm a Religion major and all about theology, but it's horribly simple (then again, I was raised in Christian schools, so maybe I've gotten more theology than most) and boring. I hate it that so many preachers and theology professors teach so boringly and without-passionly. This prof isn't bad, but the material is just so elementary.

He's going on about the Great Creation Debate now. Yawn. Is it just me, or are people getting way too worked up about this? My position: If God can make Creation from nothing, He's certainly powerful enough to bury a couple bones in the earth or back-date some rocks. So that makes me a disinterested young-earther, I suppose. I don't understand why some non-Christians get worked up about schools saying that some people believe God made everything and some say everything came about by chance. I don't understand why some Christians are so offended by the fact that some people, following their unbelief in God, refuse to admit that He didn't create the World in 7 days. I don't understand why some liberal Christians insist on "theistic evolution" -- they're just taking on the problems of both sides, and making everyone hate them.

Well, I'd better get back to taking notes: since everyone thinks this is so important, it'll probably be on the final. But really, did we need to spend 15 minutes on the Church's condemnation of Copernicus' heliocentric model?

Posted by Tim at 08:01 AM | Comments (3)

September 18, 2003

Canadian insanity, etc.

OK, so I've lived in Canada a total of three weeks.

And in the Globe and Mail yesterday, this:

The weakened remnants of Hurricane Isabel will still cause very heavy rain and extremely high winds when they strike Canada, weather experts said Wednesday.
OK, well that doesn't sound very impressive, bu the Hamilton Spectator (which I couldn't raise online) said today that Isabel would still be a tropical storm by the time it hit Ontario on Friday. Tropical storm in Canada? Crazy, I tell you. And on a smiialr ntoe of brinking insnaity... Form teh Vklooh Cnospciary, tihs psot:
Fcuknig amzanig: Perhaps others have seen this floating around the internet, but it is a first for me:

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a total mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Fcuknig amzanig huh?

Yaeh, 'tis.

Posted by Tim at 11:03 AM | Comments (3)

September 17, 2003

Gay agenda in Canada

News just reported that the Canadian Parliament just passed gay hate crime legislation today by a fair margin; yesterday a proposal supporting a traditional view of marriage was narrowly defeated. They didn't read any specific text -- which makes me really worry -- but a BC cop and a Conservative Nova Scotian MP assured us that religious freedom is specifically protected in the bill. The crowd of protestors didn't seem to think so (and of course, the camera zoomed in on a "Jesus Is Coming Soon" t-shirt.) Way not to use an ad hominem, CBC.

I hope that the gay movement and their liberal sycophants realize the backlash they've created among the Christian community. I live on the largest Christian campus in Ontario, and there are a lot of people angry about this (background: gay marriage was just legalized by judicial fiat á la Roe v. Wade.) Profs use the example of gay marriage in class to illustrate stuff... it's a very alive issue here. I wonder if the upcoming election will reflect this -- or maybe Ontario is secular enough that the Christian community won't have a voice. This is all very disturbing.

Posted by Tim at 11:25 PM | Comments (3)

I'm baaaack!

After a three week hiatus, I feel I must return. Why? Several reasons. One, a filthy lie has been spread about me and Collins and gay marriage in Ontario, over at Munuviana blog. Two, I see from my sitemeter report that I'm still getting 21 visitors a day, even though I've been gone for frickin ever and ever. Three, I miss you guys. (Awww...)

So, I was thinking: what should my big medium-to-small Returning Post be? Of course, something to do with Canada.

Top Five Things I Hate about Canada (in the order I think of them)

1. Milk in a bag. Horrible, horrible. This is the worst of all. Picture an IV bag. Now imagine sticking the bag in a pitcher, cutting a hole in the top corner and pouring milk out of it. I refuse to go near it; if I want milk I get someone to pour it for me. My dormies, lovely guys that they are, have taken to squeezing the bag at me or throwing it at me, forcing me to catch it if I don't want it to break at my feet. Grr.

2. Black squirrels. I don't know about where y'all are at, but in Michigan squirrels are brown. I swear, these animals have sold their souls to the devil. Also, they're unafraid of humans. Shudder.

3. Attitude towards guns. People keep asking me if I've seen Bowling for Columbine. Again, shudder.

4. Lack of Meijers. If you don't live in the Midwest, you haven't got Meijers either. I pity you. You know those super-Walmarts they have now, the ones with groceries? They stole that from Meijers, which is bigger than even the biggest Walmart ever. Oh, and it's open 24/7 except Christmas Day. Anyway, they haven't got them here and I miss them.

5. Politics. Both that all three parties seem to be pretty crappy, and the fact that the government just called elections. I mean, what the heck? You can't just go having elections whenever you think it's best for your party, eh?

OK, on to Things I Like About Canada

1. Money. Both that the exchange rate means that I basically get 35 free bucks for every hundred I change over (prices are about the same, but in CAN bucks instead of US.), and that they have one- and two-dollar coins (loonies and twonies). Makes so much more sense -- not only are coins more economical, but it's so much easier to pull out four twonies to pay for a 7 dollar purchase than it is to get 8 bucks out of your wallet. I like the coloured money, but I wish we would keep our green money.

2. More liberal ideas about alcohol. I can drink [legally] before any of my US friends. Well, except for the one who went to the Netherlands, but she probably won't be drinking anyway.

3. Canadians have cool accents.

4. Canadians use cool spellings.

5. I like winter.

OK, that's it for now. I'll try to write some more later (now that I have some boring classes, maybe I'll compose some good posts then.)

Posted by Tim at 11:00 PM | Comments (27)

September 03, 2003

New name, same great writing...

So, I've changed the name of my blog to Stranger in a Strange Land. What do you think? I can always change it back.

Posted by Tim at 10:42 PM | Comments (16)

I'm back...

OK, I'm here at college university in Ontario. Unfortunately the dorm internet hookups have been messed up, but they seem to be going okay now. I've been going through internet withdrawal; I don't know anything, I haven't read the paper. Anyway, I'll probably do posting later tonight.

Oh, we were watching the news last night. They called an election. Apparently they do this from time to time. Kind of weird, don't you think? Also at opening convocation they sang the Canadian national anthem, which threw me for a loop. It's a nice song I guess, but the line "the true North strong and free" nearly cracked me up. At least there wasn't any mention of igloos or something, I would have lost it for sure.

One last thing: Jen, I actually did bring a weapon, and I did declare it at the border... but it was only a pocketknife and they let me through.

Posted by Tim at 02:28 PM | Comments (3)