Food For Thought

Here is another edition of Tooney Tales and this time I am writing on the topic of food as it is just after lunch here and food is still on my mind.

Depending on the person you ask, they will tell you that either I am very picky when it comes to eating food (that would be from Brian) or I am not picky at all, as I am eating all the time (my immediate family). I think it depends more on what type of available as I am definitely not picky towards South Asian dishes and I have recently opened up my repertoire to include East Asian meals as well – although I still refuse to try sushi no matter what anyone says.

Those who know me, know very well that I could eat kofta, chicken tikka or biryani or any other type of South Asian meal any time of the day without hesitation and there is definitely something to be said of eating a home cooked meal as opposed to the convenience of eating our or ordering in. I’ll be first to admit I’m rather useless when it comes to preparing such foods but that’ll probably have to change soon enough if I am afforded an extended employment opportunity here.

On top of that, I don’t mind the occasional vegetable dish that is usually present at the dinner table but I tend to stay away from broccoli, eggplant and tomatoes. I did however ended up an eggplant dish last week without knowing it was in there, got totally trapped by my aunt for it. So the veggies stuff is fine but as my uncle says, no meal is complete “unless some dead animal is on the table” – my apologies to the animal-friendly people out there (except for PETA) for that admission.

Even though my unhealthy snack consumption at odd times of the day has been significantly reduced in the three weeks here, the lunches and dinners have been awesome here so far, with pretty much a new meal every day courtesy of my aunts. However, I’ve always been a sucker for anything my mom made and she’s still the best cook I know and even all this great food here can’t replace that touch of home. Hopefully my sister will learn a thing or two from her (haha, just kidding).

One last thing: I am still getting readjusted to getting milk in liters and in a bag but such is life here. The different varieties of chocolate available here (such as Mars, Aero and Smarties) that are not available in the States is an awesome upgrade and once again, Halal Popeyes just can’t be beaten.

P.S. (and completely random): I set a personal gchat record in terms of line for a one-day conversation at 1,212 lines – previous longest was at 500-something. I think you have to be a little crazy in the head to talk to me for that long in one day and hopefully therapy over time will fix your nightmares. So if you have a birthday on 12/12 – feel free to celebrate the achievement appropriately.

Different Behaviour And Other Observations

In my second edition of Toonie Tales, noticing the behaviour (<– notice my spelling) of people here has been a refreshing change from those south of the border. No matter where I have gone – take it from the Passport Office to the Tim Hortons to the Government of Ontario offices to the people at Pizza Pizza – there has been nothing short of gracious service and friendly people everywhere. It’s a complete culture shock even though I have visited here nearly every year since I moved away but moving back has been great.

First experience was immediately felt at the border. I presented the guy there with my proper forms of ID for crossing into Canada and I figured since I had tons of stuff with me, I would have my work contract since he would most likely ask. Instead, the guy asked me about my school and where I graduated from, which state I was currently residing in and whether I planned to still own the car the next time I would visit. THAT was it. My contract lying on the seat next to me went by the way side, no luggage check for someone admitting to move into the country and in under a minute, I was on my way. It’s safe to say, people like me are usually the ones “randomly” selected to be inspected at any TSA line.

I thought maybe I had gotten lucky but I was in no mood to push my luck so I carried on. The rest of the travel was rather short and I only unpacked and called it a night. The next day was my first at work and I had spared myself some extra time getting to downtown because of the train commute. I got there a little early and the thing I noticed, (noticed it when I came for the interview too), was that there is no uptight security like we have back in the States. Any work environment I have been a part of, barely lets you set foot into the building before being forced to talk to a security guard of some sort or brandish your work ID. Here, there is a guy sitting at his desk but he just said “Hi” as I walked in like I had been here before. Interestingly, all the doors on every floor including the entrances from the staircase are ID protected so you can get in the building, but can’t do much else.

The relaxed and refreshing environment of security was also present at the passport office too where a very pleasant officer was greeting people waiting in line going out the door and was suggesting alternative timings to come avoid the rush or different places if you were there just to pick up your passport instead of filing for one. The kind people over at Service of Government of Ontario were great too. I didn’t have an appointment (they accept people from 4-7pm with appointments only) but the lady waived me through as the queue was rather empty. Apparently I didn’t have all the necessary paperwork ready that day but when I did come back a couple of days later, a different lady guided me through all the paperwork, even chatted about why I hadn’t lived in Canada since 2000 and what I liked better.

I put all the government offices first because that’s where you are least likely to find a friendly environment in New Jersey or New York but this behaviour transcends those walls too. The local Tim Hortons next to my work has a packed line at 7 or 8 in the morning and yet they each find a way to laugh about something with each customer. How do people get the energy to do that, this early in the morning? The Pizza Pizza near where I am living apparently goes even beyond that. First, the lady upgraded our order from a large to extra-large because there was a sale/it was going to cheaper on our end and then once the order was complete, they opened up each box to show that we were satisfied with what it looked like. Apparently, they go back and cook more / make you a new pie if it is too burned. Good like finding that kind of service at Pizza Hut or Dominos without putting up a fight.

All that praising aside, they do have a complex with identifying every single person who is Canadian though. For example, there have been repeated updates on the radio of injured “Canadian” first baseman of the Minnesota Twins Justin Morneau. It is quite awkward to hear all Blue Jays, Raptors, Leafs and Argos updates and they include a tiny segment for the Twins vs. White Sox update because Morneau is not playing. Also on the radio, there is a rather bizarre obsession with Lady Gaga music here that has to be classified as some sort of disease.

My biggest adjustment so far would probably have to be not crossing the street on a red light. No one and I literally mean no one crosses the street when there is a red hand up. I am sure everyone has places to go but even on an empty road in the morning or the add break in traffic leave for home, everyone seems to patiently wait until the light turns green and the ‘walk’ symbol appears before they start walking. Succumbing to public pressure, I have also stopped and kindly twiddle my thumbs while waiting for the light to turn green – I guess I need to learn to be more patient.

On a funny note to end this, I did experience one incident of road rage while I have been here but it turns out the license plate of the guy was from the great state of New York. Go figure, right? Good Ol’ USA.

P.S. Popeyes still has the best chicken and biscuits of any fried chicken place.

MS Excel: Custom Data Labels

In Microsoft Excel, if you ever needed to graph some data but then attach a data label with it that wasn’t necessarily the data value of that point, there is a way to do that. This also a good way to attach notes to the graphs and can be easily customized.

Let us assume this is your data:

You want to plot the first half of that data like normal:

Next you can right click on each of three bars and select Format Data Series. Now select the Data Labels tab and select Values and press OK.

You should now see the graph like this:

Now since you want to associate the second half of the data values with this bar graph, you select each data value individually – you can do this by click the value once, to select all the values associated with that color:

Then click again to select that point individually:

Now press the “=” key and select the cell the new data value that you would like to show. Repeat this last process for each data point and you will be set to go:

I am pretty sure you can write up a VB script for it and I probably will in due time if necessary, but hopefully this helps for now.