I’ve fallen way behind in posting. Instead of continuing to stare at all the great ideas I have for epic posts and not actually writing any of them, I’ll try to break the bloggers’ block by posting some amusing signs I’ve come across in my last couple of months of travels. They might be amusing only to me, so no guarantees… Photos taken in Montréal, Toronto, and Paris, France.
One of my greatest delights as a Happiness Engineer helping users with their WordPress themes is witnessing “lightbulb moments” – seeing people start to understand technical concepts that had been fuzzy before, as their site starts to take shape.
Recently, one of the folks I helped with some custom CSS in the WordPress.org support forums was particularly grateful. I’d lent a hand getting his custom-song business website looking just the way he wanted, and taught him a bit about responsive design in the process – that’s the art of crafting a site that adapts to any device, from desktops and laptops down through tablet and phone sizes.
Once the site was looking close to what he had in mind, James casually offered to write me an original song on any topic, as a thank you for the help he’d gotten. I couldn’t resist taking him up on his kind – but completely unexpected – offer, and asked if he could write a song about CSS, since it seemed apt.
A week or two later, an audio file and lyric sheet arrived in my inbox. And I’ve been enchanted ever since. Thank you, James!
The CSS Song
by Custom Song Workshop
it’s so mysterious
I wasn’t the best best
in fact, way down on that list
In truth a total novice
hit the forum to enlist
my coding therapist
pray we’ll take care of this
if I really must confess
my mobile columns were a mess
media queries, I didn’t know yet
Concepts like margin and float
like distant islands, too remote
as I flailed and drowned
until Kathryn calmed me down
‘Cause I spent all my life thinking that I’ll never need it
But with Kathryn’s help even I still clumsily succeeded
design a site for my business
it simply couldn’t look a mess
the visuals had to impress
on a variety of screens
from big to small and in between
I sat alone, cowed and upset
‘Cause I didn’t know how…yet
See, I lived all my life having never even coded
When forced to web design my declining confidence eroded
‘Cause I wanted a beautiful site
but I didn’t want to pay with two limbs
Well it all turned out alright
and I owe it all to Kathryn
I copied so much code to the CSS additional section
Who would ever think I’d become somewhat independent?
Should I revisit this mess
won’t feel such pain and distress
for truly Kathryn is the best
Automattic Engineer of Happiness
and to that title I can attest
for I didn’t burst nor implode
send my Mac crashing three floors below
I bought a Lebanese food thing today. I had no idea what it was, really, but it looked golden and tasty, so I pointed to the large platter being kept warm in a heater on the bakery counter and asked for a piece of that, “s’il vous plaît.”
The server didn’t seem entirely convinced I knew what I was ordering (he was right, of course) so he warned me, “It’s sort of like a crème brulée.” Say no more, I thought.
He proceeded to ask me a series of questions, which I didn’t quite comprehend at first. Not because he was speaking in French, but because this was a whole new world of food, and I lacked context. I eventually figured out that he wanted to know if I’d like a small, medium, or large amount of hot syrup on the thing.
Next, did I want the thing in a something-something, or on its own? I really didn’t understand this one, so I just nodded. Let’s go for the whole shebang, I figured.
To go, or to eat here? This one I understood. “To go.”
I paid for my thing – along with the plate of delicate pastries I’d gotten for later; this place has the best Lebanese-style baklava in Montreal, despite its unlikely location in a past-its-prime suburban strip mall – and headed to my car. I lowered the paper wrapper and bit into the soft, gooey thing, encased in a crunchy, sesame seed-studded dough pocket with a tiny built-in handle/finger hole. The verdict? This thing was delicious.
At the 2016 Automattic Grand Meetup (GM) in Whistler, British Columbia, I did a joint flash talk for the first time, with my awesome colleague Laurel Fulford. Since we were hosting 500+ colleagues in our own country, we used the opportunity to share eight minutes of Canadiana with our co-workers. And now we’re sharing it with you!
We’re really excited to be hosting everyone here for the GM this year and we wanted to take the opportunity to tell you a little bit about Canada. I’m Laurel and this is Kathryn, and we’re both members of the Theme Team. [Audience cheers.] Woo! And we’re both Canadians, or Canucks. I’m from just west of here on Vancouver Island, and Kathryn’s from 5000 kilometres east in Montréal, Québec.
To start, there are some stereotypes about Canada that you probably are familiar with – and some of them are even a little bit true. But it’s a big country, and even the ones that are true are not true everywhere. With that in mind, let’s go.
Metric Mixup, or How to measure up to Canadians!
Let’s talk a little bit about the Metric system. In 1970, Prime Minister Trudeau began a process called “Metrication,” which attempted to convert Canada over to the metric system.
But by 1985, we’d only gone about half-way, so the government kind of gave up.
As a result, we use a total mix of metric and imperial measurements, in a very Canadian sort of compromise.
We can tell you the temperature in Celsius – but don’t ask us how tall we are in metres, or how many kilos we weigh, cause we can only tell you that in feet and pounds.
Gas and milk are sold by the litre – but we still talk about mileage.
Canada in Writing, or Use your “U”s, love your “L”s
Similar to the whole metric/imperial thing, we also mix up our spelling. Like the UK, we love our U’s! So we use them as much as humanly possible. We also share some other spellings with the UK. But to make it confusing, we follow the US, as well. And as you can tell, our accents are closer to our American neighbours than not.
Canadian Food, or Friendly refreshments to eat or drink
Looking at food, Canada has some unique food items, with some pretty passionate advocates.
One you might have heard of is poutine – a concoction of fries, cheese curds, and gravy. Delicious or disgusting? You be the judge! [Delicious!]
We’re not the only country with Kraft Dinner (or KD) but the we do tend to use the term interchangeably with any macaroni-and-cheese product.
And what about satisfying our sweet tooth. We’ve got butter tarts, which are little sweet, gooey pies. We also have Nanaimo bars, which are chocolate, custard, and coconut – named after a town on Vancouver Island.
How about some uniquely Canadian booze terminology? Here we have a Caesar, which is kind of like a Bloody Mary… but with clam juice! We also have the term Mickey – which doesn’t refer to this guy – but it’s what we call 375ml of alcohol.
Now let’s say you pick up a case of 24 cans of beer – that’s called a two-four. And let’s say you happen to pick up that beer on the national Victoria Day holiday weekend in May – that makes it a May Two-Four.
Getting away from the booze, in parts of Canada – not here – you can buy your milk in a bag. And if you’re looking for whole milk, we don’t actually call it that. It tends to be called homogenized milk.
Canada is a little bit obsessed with Tim Hortons – you might have stopped off there on the way from the airport. It’s our national doughnut chain named after who else, but a hockey player.
We’ve got Timbits, which are little doughnut holes, similar to munchkins from Dunkin Donuts. A coffee with two creams and two sugars at Tim Hortons is a double-double. And don’t forget to “roll up the rim to win”! Also, this is real, you can get a Tim Horton’s Double Double credit card.
Canadian Money, or Canuck Bucks
Let’s look a little bit at Canadian money. It also has some unique characteristics.
We used to have one-dollar and two-dollar bills, but we got rid of them and replaced them with coins. So now we’ve got loonies – because look at the loon on the front! And then a couple of years later, we came out with the toonie… because it rhymes with loonie. We also got rid of our pennies fairly recently. So don’t be surprised if your change gets rounded up or down if you’re paying for something with cash.
We still haven’t gotten rid of the five-dollar bill, but take a look in your wallet, you might find a “Spocked” five if you’re lucky.
If you happen see one of these things, this is called Canadian Tire Money, which was an early loyalty program from our beloved national hardware, auto parts, and sporting goods chain. You used to get “cash back” in the form of this little funny money, but they got rid of that too, and now they use a refillable card like everyone else.
Canadian Words, or Creative Canadianisms
There are some words Canadians use that tend to make other English-speakers raise an eyebrow.
The first one, we’re kind of infamous for – it’s the toque, instead of a wool hat.
We don’t get into the queue or line, we join a lineup. Look at this long lineup! (Even if we’re not being accused of committing a crime.)
Instead of parking in a parking garage, we use a parkade.
Look at this kid, what a keener! He’s doing his homework during recess. Keener. Not even sure that word even has an equivalent.
I’m not sure you’ve noticed here, instead of restroom or toilet, we tend to label it as a washroom.
And the pièce de résistance. This is not a garbage disposal, at least that’s not what we call it. We call it a garburator. I’m not making this up! This is what we call it, not a joke!
Canadian Music, or Rocking out to “Oh Canada”
Canadian artists have produced a lot of great music over the years, you might be familiar with some of it, from Neil Young to Joni Mitchell to Arcade Fire.
But if you listen to the radio, you may notice a lot of Canadian music. That’s because of a regulation called Cancon, which tries to protect and promote Canadian culture. Commercial radio stations must play at least 35% Canadian content every weekday from 6am to 6pm. Because of this, every Canadian here can probably sing you any top-40 song by a Canadian artist from the past 30 years. [That’s Bryan Adams, by the way.]
Canadian Sports, or Competitive apologizing
Most people associate two sports with Canada: hockey and curling.
But actually, our national sport until quite recently was lacrosse, which is an aboriginal sport that’s been around – at least documented – for almost 1000 years.
In 1994, hockey was added as our national sport of winter, but our national sport of summer is still lacrosse.
Sorry about that, Eh?, or The True North, Strong and Apologetic
Some of the most well known Canadian stereotypes, true or otherwise, can be summed up in three words. The first one…
Canadians apologize a lot. We’re really sorry about that. We can’t help it, it’s compulsive, as soon as we have the opportunity, even if we’re not at fault, we bust out the “S” word.
“Eh” is a handy little multipurpose syllable and we use in many different ways. So let’s look at some of them.
Statement of opinion – La Banquise has the best poutine in Montreal, eh?
Statements of fact – P2 or it didn’t happen, eh?
Questions – Not an awesome idea to deploy on Friday at 5pm, eh?
Exclamation – Best meetup ever, eh!
In fixed expressions – I know, eh?
Telling a story [the narrative eh] – So I deployed this big commit, eh? And it brought down all of WordPress.com, eh? And we had to this really big revert, eh?
So, now we come to about.
No, we don’t really say “a boot”
But there are areas of Canada that pronounce “out” a little differently than your ear might be used to, and it even varies across the country.
So we conducted a highly scientific study, looking at a cross-section of our fellow Canadians to see how they say “About.” Based on the results we are confident in our conclusion that “Peak About” is located in none other than Winnipeg, Manitoba, where the vowel sound is most pronounced.
We hope this gave you a good intro to some of the things that make Canada unique. And if you have any questions, you can ask any of these Canuckamatticians and they’ll be happy to answer for you.
I’m going to come clean right away. By the time I had the idea to post this recipe, I was sitting at my kitchen table, nearly done eating all the leftovers, and I
was too lazy to go get the camera didn’t think the dregs left in the bowl by that point would make for an appealing photo.
This recipe is quite flexible, so feel free to adjust the spices to your taste. Don’t like heat? Use mild chili powder. Like a thinner soup? Omit the tortilla pieces. Think cilantro tastes like soap? (I used to!) Don’t use any, or substitute with parsley for some colour. You can even make a vegetarian version by leaving out the chicken and using vegetable stock.
This recipe makes about 4 large meal-sized servings or 6 smaller portions. Try it before some enchiladas or tacos for a full, homemade Mexican meal.
KP's Tortilla Soup
2 tsp. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
3 cloves garlic, minced
Spice mixture (see below)
6 cups chicken stock
1 14-oz/398 mL can Italian tomatoes (I like Pastene)
3 bay leaves
4 corn tortillas, cut into small pieces
1 tsp. salt
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 lime, juiced
1/2-1 cup shredded chicken breast
2 tbsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. hot chili powder (if your chili powder isn’t hot, add 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper)
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. ground coriander (or freshly crushed whole coriander)
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
Crushed tortilla chips
Fresh chopped cilantro
Avocado slices or small chunks
Sour cream or Mexican crema
- Heat olive oil on medium-high heat in a large pot on the stove until it shimmers but before it smokes.
- Add the onion and lower heat to medium. Cook until onion softens slightly, about 5 minutes.
- Add minced garlic and spice mixture and cook for another few minutes.
- Add stock, tomatoes, bay leaves, tortilla pieces, and salt.
- Simmer for about 20 minutes, crushing the tomatoes against the sides of the pot occasionally to help them break down.
- Add chopped cilantro and simmer another 15 minutes with the cover on.
- Taste and adjust seasonings – you may want to add more salt at this point.
- Add juice of 1/2 lime and shredded chicken.
- Serve with as many optional toppings as you like – or none. It’s flavourful and satisfying on its own.
A friendly fellow named John Parkinson got in touch a few weeks back about doing an interview for his community series on WordPress.tv. Of course, I said yes! We chatted about everything from how I got hooked on WordPress forum support, to my experiences mentoring with Ladies Learning Code, to how Montreal Girl Geeks ditched the “dinner” part of the “Girl Geek Dinners” equation.