James Leroy Wilson's blog

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Canadian in Me

I spent the ages of 6-17 in Canada, where metric is the rule. But the law was still new, and in my day, even the kids seemed to prefer being weighed in pounds and measured in feet and inches, instead of kilograms and centimeters. That may no longer be true.

I know the conversion ratio of inch to centimeter and mile to kilometer, and fahrenheit to celsius. When I see something in metric, I naturally convert it to English measurements. Except when the temperature is below freezing. In my head, the freezing temperature is 0, not 32. When I see that the temperature is 22 or 7 or -12, I try to do the math to determine what it "really" is. So 32 is 0, 14 is -10, -4 is minus 20, -22 is -30, and -40 is -40, which is the magical, lowest-circle-of-hell cold. I think it's ingrained that's I view "cold" as a countdown from 0 to -40.

We had a few -40 days in Saskatoon 29, 30, 31 years ago, but after that it seemed it reached -30 to -35 only a couple of days per year. (Although, it seems like it was in the -20s, -4 to -21 Fahrenheit, a lot, while in the northern midwest it's usually that cold only a few days all winter.) School was never canceled except once when 18 inches of now fell in early October. But I don't really remember a terribly harsh winter since leaving Canada and living in the northern USA the last 19 years. The best Canadian winter I experienced was more harsh than the worst American one. A "-30 windchill," which I now experience maybe one day a year, isn't so bad if you're not in the wind. But when the temperature itself is -30 without the wind chill factor, that sucks.

Other bits of Canadian-ness is an affection for Coffee Crisp and Corner Gas. And I admire Wayne Gretzky more than just about any other celebrity. And I appreciate the rules of Canadian football, and wonder what it would be like if played by NFL-caliber athletes.

My time in Canada were the economically terrible late-Trudeau and early-Mulroney years. High unemployment, absurdly huge deficits, and shamefully weak dollar. Nevertheless, life was good for most. I'm libertarian, but the socialized medicine for all, and socialized dental for kids, wasn't so terrible, and inspired my piece Socialism vs. Regulation.

Canada and the USA differ in some ways. The dollars are now at parity, but some things will be more expensive up there and others less. Also, what is tolerated and what is suppressed also varies, just as these things vary when compared to prosperous European countries.

Perhaps what I like most in Canada is its junior hockey system, a concept I wish was more widespread for all sports in the USA. The idea is, instead of high school hockey and college hockey, the best players compete in a developmental league of 16-20 year-olds, from which they could be drafted by NHL teams or move on to professional minor leagues. If they play for teams outside their hometown, they board with families in the town they play for and attend school there. I think this is a far superior system, especially for basketball and baseball players where potential pros will face equal competition and develop their skills better than they would by dominating inferior high school players. For instance, LaBron James, in his senior year of high school, had no business playing high school basketball. That was a disgrace, a wasted year in his development.


  1. I've visited Canada twice; once to Montreal and once to Vancouver/Victoria. I loved the people and preferred the European influence in fasion to what we had in the US. The little man on the walk/don't walk signs was hilarious. The Canadian version looked like a nerd trying to break dance, while the US version looks like a hunched over old man about to be hit by a car. Funny, both.

    Your socialism vs. regulation piece made me think about things in a different way. I still oppose socialized medicine here in the US because I'm sure we'd get both socialization and regulation. A double whammy.

  2. When I lived on the US Canada border in Bellingham, the weather maps confused me at first. They had US temps in Farenheit and Canajun temps in Centigrade. I was astoniseed that it was so much colder in Vancouver even when it was just a few miles to the north. Then it hit me that the scales were different.