Sunday, February 04, 2018

Moving to Canada - Part 2 - Weather

See also:
Part 1 - School and Housing

Let's talk about the weather. All Canadians love to talk about the weather.

This is a cold country. It is cold for almost 6 months of the year. And that is in the good places. In the best of times. Take a look at all brochures of Canada, or Canadian universities, or Canadian tourism, or even our citizenship book. They all show glorious pictures of Canada, but in the summer.

Take a look at the "Canadian" television shows. They all show summer. And why not? Summer in Canada is gorgeous. It is amazing. It is spectacular. It is a wonder of nature.

It is also short.

In Toronto, summer can be June and July. And usually August. That's it. It's cold till almost May, and starts getting cold again at the end of September. Snow is usually from end of November to end of March. In other places, it can be worse. Only in British Columbia (and Vancouver as well as Victoria) is the weather much better.

Otherwise, it's a deep chill. Take a look at some Snow Day pictures.

All of this takes a toll on your health. There is the psychological and depressing effect (also known as "winter blues") at the reduced sunshine half the year. There is also the flu.

Every year in October the government of Canada offers free flu shots to everyone. And why not? The flu season officially gets underway with the onset of winter, and lasts till spring. So better get used to these names.


And the children's versions.

This winter (2017 - 2018) the flu season has been really bad and virulent. And there's only so much you can do against viral attacks.

How does winter affect you other ways?

Think about groceries. If you are a new immigrant, you probably don't have access to a car yet. It's winter, it's snowing and you need groceries. So you have to bundle up and wait outside in the cold weather for a bus that's probably late. And if you are driving, good luck with the terrible weather conditions.

Also, there are Canadians for whom this is perfect biking weather.

Think also about the children. In the Spring, Fall or Summer you can take them outside for activities. In the winter, you are stuck indoors.

So how DO Canadians deal with the winter?

First, by NOT being here.

From November, you start seeing ads of what is called "sun destinations".

Cuba, Mexico, Aruba, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, the whole of Caribbean, etc.

These vacations, in particular Punta Cana and Cuba, are very popular. Almost everyone goes for their "sun escape" at least once, if not twice a year.

Second, bundle up and take it on the chin.

Canadians are very resilient people. We take our flu shots. We always listen to the weather forecast so we can make (or cancel) our plans accordingly. We make sure we are properly attired for the weather. We make sure we have proper winter tires. We enroll our kids in winter activities such as karate or crafts. We make sure they know skating and skiing so they can take advantage of living in a winter country.

And above all, chin up and be optimistic.

After all, whether it's snowing outside or not, you still have to go to work.

My point in writing all of this?

So that immigrants to Canada immigrate for the right reasons. Don't be fooled by glossy brochures and TV images. Be prepared for the True North.

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Moving to Canada - Part 1 - School and Housing

I have a lot of friends who are moving to Canada from the Middle East, so I have noticed the questions they ask sometimes follow a common thread. I thought I would pen this note down on some of the usual things to consider when uprooting your whole family from one place to Canada. This is specifically for moving to Toronto, but with a little change can apply anywhere in Canada.

This is probably part 1 of a multi part series.


Public education is free for all legal residents of the country and is funded by the province, and handled at the municipal level.

Schools in Canada are from September - June. During March, there is a week's break called March Break (also known as Spring Break). The exact dates of the breaks vary from school board to school board.  This is the Toronto school board calendar for 2017-2018.

Almost all public schools are of a similar standard.

In Toronto, the schools in North York are a bit better as the area is a bit more posh (and expensive). There are some schools that should be avoided as they are in areas commonly inhabited by refugees from poor countries and other people who are economically disadvantaged, so they have some issues (such as drugs, gangs). Although with time, those issues are being tackled, but you should be aware.

In Ontario, you can take a look at some rankings here.

Don't rely too much on them. Anything 5 and up is ok. You should always be dealing with a reputable real estate person (a realtor) who will be knowledgeable about these things, which brings me to my next point.

Areas in Toronto

Toronto is divided into boroughs - Scarborough is generally affordable and ethnically very diverse. Downtown is very expensive. North York is good and expensive. I have no idea what's there in Etobicoke (sorry). If it were up to me, I would see North York and then Scarborough as an option to reside in.

Avoid, AVOID, renting or living near an area called Jane and Finch (the intersection of Jane St and Finch St). Never go there. Also avoid Kennedy and Eglinton. Also avoid Westhill.

If you go out of Toronto, then you can look in Mississauga (west of Toronto) or Pickering (east of Toronto). I would go with Mississauga as it's a hip and happening place.

Regarding availability of housing, May and June is when most people move or change residences in Toronto. So you will get lots of vacancies around that time, but also lots of people are looking so things get snapped up very quickly. So, for example, if you move to Canada in March, there should be less listings (less choice) but the landlord is more likely to negotiate the rent down.

You can rent an apartment, a condo or a house. An apartment is a flat in a building - the whole of which has been made to rent to renters. It's cheaper than a condo, which is also an apartment, but the building it's in is mostly owned by individual people, and not one corporation. Condos are more upscale than apartments, and expensive, and have facilities such as pools and gym.

All rent estimates I am giving below are by area, so better area = higher rent. Also, this is as of late 2017.

Condo 2 bedroom is $2000+,
1 bedroom is $1800+ (per month).
Apartments may be 100-200$ cheaper in the area.

Utilities (if not included in rent):
Water - $100
Gas+Heating - $100
Electricity - $100

Other costs:
Internet - $60
Transit (bus) - avg 1$20 / person/month (kids are free)
Each ride on bus is $3.5, monthly pass is 145$
Grocery (family of 4) $500-$800
School - free
General Health Doctor - free
Medicine for kids - free

As I said, this is likely to be a many part series. In some other (future) parts, insha Allah I will talk about cultural factors, children, society etc. when you move in.

Check also my Dubai vs. Toronto series.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

How To Do Arranged Marriage Wrong (Especially Girls)

I once wrote an article defending arranged marriage in response to a nonsense CBC 'article'. In this post, I want to talk about some of the regressive attitudes and behaviours that make arranged marriages a fiasco in some South Asian families.

Warning: The writing may be blunt and to the point. It may make you uncomfortable, especially if you are one of the liberal secular feminist type. It's the truth.

More and more it seems arranged marriages in the South Asian diaspora are becoming a type of "last resort". The boy has played the field and now wants some "domesticated girl" so turns to his mother for help. The girl has been with a boyfriend for so long but suddenly the mother of the said boyfriend decided her "golden boy" would be better off with someone she chose, and the boyfriend is too spineless to say otherwise, so now the girl is left looking for a poor sucker who has no idea where she has been before.

Now these people are in the same 'market' as the boy and girl who has kept away from any physical relationships, kept themselves pure and looking to get married, but finding it extremely difficult to do so.

Parents of Girls

Don't reject a good proposal from a boy just because he is not a doctor or engineer. Despite it being 2017 2018, there is ... unbelievably ... desi parents who still are looking for a doctor or engineer for their princesses. Any other proposal from a thousand other good professions, be it teacher (2 months off, hey), public policy (stable job for life yay), consultant (travel the world, wow), lawyer (moolah much), writer (intelligent people), and so on are all rejected. Automatically, without even a glance. Now that is serious limitation to a good prospect for your girl. In the end she does end up marrying a doctor ten years older than her. Good, bad?

The other thing they do is they tell, convince, argue, threaten and cajol their daughters to please ... PLEASE ... do not get involved in any relationship ... we WILL find someone good for you, and the poor daughter believes it.

And then when it's time to look for a groom, they have all these reasons to reject perfectly good candidates:

He's not a doctor or engineer (civil doesn't count).
He's still living with his parents.
He does not want to leave his job and resettle to where WE are living.
He's not from our biraderi, gram, upojela and so on.

Meanwhile the girl who managed to land herself a good boy is looked at upon jealously.

Oooh oder to chokkor choltesilo (oooh they were having an affair)

Parents of Boys (especially the mother)

Your son is not the Prince of Persia. He's not even the best looking boy in your street. Yet you reject any girl who falls short of Aishwarya Rai standard. You are rejecting girls because you saw her once at a party and she was talking too much. You rejected a girl because she was from Borishal and everyone knows Borishali girls are like this (replace Borishal with Noakhali, Chittagong, Dhaka, NSU, Foridpur, English Medium, as appropriate). You are rejecting girls because they are only three years younger than your son and everyone knows 4 is the ideal number. You are rejecting a girl because she is a Project Manager at BoA and everyone knows career oriented women do not make good wives.

And when I say everyone knows I mean your fellow aunty circle and the good old Indian television serial.

Meanwhile the poor boy doesn't even know of any of this and is wondering why there is a shortage of girls and he should just have tried his luck with the Vietnamese girl in his study group.

Please ... PLEASE ... have an honest discussion with your son to find out what matters to HIM. Half the stuff people write in their biodata is pretty much useless. Who cares what your uncle's son's occupation or grandfather's place of birth was.


You are at a serious disadvantage in this process. Just accept it. Guys and their families (usually) hold all the cards. If you are aware of this fact, you can definitely not screw up even more.

One definite way to screw up is to have a relationship before and then broadcast it to the world, and then something happens, and now you are screwed. Your heart is a precious real estate - not just anyone and everyone should be let into it. Be very wary of falling for playboys and smooth talkers and please, for goodness sake, stop watching rubbish Indian serials. Life is not Bollywood. Life is more like the Quentin Tarantino movie.

If a smooth talking boy charms you, it's not spiritual abuse - you have been played. Be smart.

Also, Liberal feminists like to say to women that a) you are all pretty b) you are all good just the way you are. OK ... false, and false.

First - looks matter, whether you are a guy or a girl. So, rule number one. Please shape up. Maintain yourself physically. Now I know this is rich coming from me, but it is the uncomfortable truth that looks do matter more for women than men.

Second, be educated. It's a common myth that man-hating feminists like to spread that men are scared of a women who is educated. We are not. No man I know is turned off because a woman has a Ph.D. It's usually other reasons.

Third, have an opinion.

Another common fallacy by feminists is that men are turned off by women who are opinionated, strong willed or confident. No... we are turned off by women who are cocky. There's a big difference. If you want to know, its the answer to this question.

Question: What do you think of Justin Trudeau ?
Wrong Answer: Oh he's so cute .. heheheh
Right Answer: I think he has governed well enough, but I don't like the fact that he couldn't get a pipeline built in Alberta ... and so on.

Contrary to what feminists say, a young pretty intelligent girl will win over a young pretty dumb girl any day.

And that's the last point. Be young. If you know marriage is something you want to do, do it when you are young.


Please grow up.


I could go on and on but half the problems would be solved if desi boys would simply grow up, let go of their mother's apron strings and grow a spine.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

10 Key takeaways from the SecTor

This week I was lucky enough to attend the SecTor conference.


It was interesting to network with a group of people whose job it was to find weaknesses in computer programs and defend against them. Not to mention, the lunch was pretty good as well.

The whole conference had lots of interesting sessions and tracks.

Here are my 10 Key takeaways from the conference on IT security:

1. Phishing is the no.1 way to get control of a laptop (so be aware of the emails that you click on). Once you get some control over a laptop, then you can use it to gain access on other networks. We saw how you can use a Git repo to execute malicious programs without leaving a trail.

2. Keep backups offsite and disconnected from the web.

3. If it's not in the budget it's not getting done. If you want to increase security for your site/business/developers etc. make sure it's in the budget.

4. Cheap "smart" devices (especially from China) are easiest to hack into as they have numerous vulnerabilities. We learned in one session how to get control of a smart lock, a smart fridge, a smart thermostat etc. One of the smart coffee machines used to broadcast the wifi credentials of the house in plaintext as part of its programming! Once you have that, you can gain access using packet sniffing and detection of other devices in the house. The presenter showed us how he was opening someone's garage door who had installed a cheap remote garage opener, bought online from China. So buy devices from reputable companies who do patches and upgrades all the time.

5. Security often remains an afterthought. For example, most ATMs run on Windows XP, an old operating system that is now no longer supported.

6.To my surprise, there are a lot of women who work in IT security. This is an anomaly compared to rest of IT sector, especially developers, where there's 1 woman for 10 men.

7.You need to prepare a playbook and drill for incident breaches and have policies in place on what to do.

8.You have to have a "baseline" of activities of what is considered "normal". Any deviation from that is when you should be suspicious. Most breaches are detected on average 6-12 days after when they occur.

9. The simplest common sense measures often thwart costly breaches. For example a difficult password policy, or employees sharing credentials because creating accesses for new users takes too much time, is often how security breaks down.

10. You are more vulnerable common failures and innocent mistakes, and rarely due to malicious activity. Such as not patching regularly, or sharing credentials. Once you tackle those, then the serious criminals can be your focus.

It's a two day conference in Toronto, and it's returning next year in October. If you are in IT, this is a worthwhile conference.