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The big, wide world out there tends to think of geeks and nerds as social outcasts. We all know the stereotype: the socially awkward, overweight, acne-faced adult living in his/her mother’s basement, coming up only for sustenance that doesn’t rightfully belong on the food pyramid.

Neven Mrgan from Flickr

Photo credit: Neven Mrgan from Flickr

Well, the movers and the shakers of Halifax’s geeky underworld are on a mission to change all that by bringing the social back into social media.

It all started innocently last year with what eventually became Third Wednesdays. Now, we’ve got knitting circles, pupp-e play dates, brunch, sushi, and the list goes on.

Honestly, I’m the kind of person who usually has to plan things weeks in advance due to a busy work and social schedule. So when these things started springing up spontaneously I just couldn’t keep up. That’s where the idea of putting together a wiki came together.

Whether you’re new to the scene or not, check out the Halifax Tweetup page on Google Sites for upcoming events. Then come out from behind the glow and comfort of your computer screens to join in the fun. And, if you’d like to add to the event listings, DM your e-mail addy to me on Twitter and I’ll hook you up as a collaborator.

Coming up on the Halifax Tweetup schedule: Third Wednesday tonight, Twushi (that’s Twitter plus sushi) tomorrow night. Check the wiki for details.

In France, dog culture is part of everyday life. You see them in cafés, dressed up, carried in handbags, sitting in restaurants and pretty much everywhere. In fact, the hotels we were staying at both offered dog-friendly accommodations that included dog beds.

If I didn’t think Air Canada was more than capable of killing my dog (legally liable or not), I might have been half-tempted to bring him along. But on the flight back, I was relieved I did not fully entertain this thought. There was a crazy dog lady whose loud but limited conversation with the staff behind the counter (“I can see dog now?” said repeatedly à la Latka Gravas) that left me little hope and much irritation.

Her dog never made it to the plane.

“Tenk you veddy much.”

In Nice, we were surprised to see how many dogs just roamed the streets free like cats. What this means for pedestrians is that dog poo is left pretty much unchecked. As a tourist this leaves the dilemma of trying to take in the constant marvel of one’s surroundings while watching very carefully where you’re putting your feet.

And let me tell you that a day you will rue is when you step in doggy poo.

A view from the palace wall

A view from the palace wall

Cokebaby and I managed to evade several piles during our first few days. It was on our day trip to Monaco where my misstep took place. And it happened as soon as I stepped foot off the bus. Welcome to the world’s most densely populated sovereign country. *splat*

Thankfully, there were enough puddles and curbs to rid myself of any prolonged afternotes.

Now our little excursion (a 30-minute and 1€ bus trip) was not for the casino or even the palace. Our plan was really just to explore the principality, check out the old city, and take in the exotic gardens.

It was our goal on this trip to just take it easy, see some key things, but not overexert ourselves to the point of site-seeing exhaustion. So, after checking out the beautiful marina with all the luxury private yachts, we had a bite to eat at a waterfront paninerie (yes, it’s a restaurant that specializes in paninis). That’s where we had our first taste of pastis (a delicious an anise-flavored apéritif).

Taken in front of the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco

Taken in front of the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco

While having lunch, I took a peek at the Rick Steves’ Provence & the French Riviera guidebook that we brought with us. That’s when I discovered the most wonderful little overshadowed treasure. The Cousteau Aquarium (aka Oceanographic Museum of Monaco).

Having fond childhood memories of watching the various Jacques Cousteau TV series, I attribute part of my love of wildlife to him. Also, The Life Aquatic is among one of my favourite movies. So, off we went to check out the aquarium.

It did not disappoint. The building itself is magnificent, with carvings all across the front of aquatic life. Inside was a wonderful trove of all sorts of creatures, a lecture hall, whale exhibit, and a rooftop restaurant with a panoramic view of the city.

We even found a red hat to bring back with us as a souvenir! No undersea adventure is complete without that hat. Day = made.

Coming up this week: our excursions to Avignon and Nimes. Inlcuding, how we survived a random transit strike. Vive La Republique! Next week, I’ll wrap up with a tour of French cuisine and our gluttonous last day in the south of France.

What do Amy Winehouse, a gremlin, and dog poop have in common?

Hey, that’s not nice…

What I’m talking relates to things that happened on my vacation in the south of France. However, I’m still recovering from jet-lag and an inbox full of messages that may require my attention. So, you’ll have to wait to find out about the details. But believe me, I’ve got plenty of details to share.

In the meantime, if you didn’t catch these great East Coast guest posts last week, check them out:

The great battles of snow shoveling in Nova Scotia, by Giles Crouch

Livin’ on the East Coast: finally home, by La Belle Ecrivaine

Choosing Wolfville, by Chris Campbell

ECFL, by Craig Moore

The Right Coast, by Maria McGowan

[Wrapping up the week of East Coast Guest Posts is Maria McGowan of The Right Coast. She’s lived on both coasts of Canada and offers this unique perspective on what makes this side the right one.]

By Maria McGowan

The Right Coast is Nova Scotia. “You must mean East Coast”, someone once said to me. That too but not exactly. Because I like to make lists, I’ll explain to you what I mean.

1. Geographically speaking, on the North American continent, there’s Canada. Nova Scotia is on the right hand side. You know, the eye naturally falls to the right.

2. I lived on the west coast for eleven years. My husband and I did what thousands of other new graduates do, we moved there to work. British Columbia was beautiful in many ways. Our children were born there, we made lifelong friends who made us part of the family at Thanksgiving, Christmas and other special occasions. My husband and I knew that there was something missing, even with a nice house and really good jobs, our lives were not complete. We realized that we wanted our children to not only see their grandparents and aunt and uncles every two years for a week or two at a time. It’s tough to form a relationship that way, yet alone maintain one. While it was a painful decision to uproot ourselves to move east, we made the plunge. And plunge we did. With no guarantee of a job in Nova Scotia, we quit our secure ones, sold our house and everything we owned. We made a right hand turn and kept going until be bumped our noses on the Atlantic.

3. This is home. I grew up in a small fishing community on the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia. I was envious of those who could watch cable television, hang out at an arcade and do all those cool things that a teenager could do. While my city slicker friends were mastering Pacman, I was jigging mackerel from the wharf. While none of these things are not necessarily better than the other, they are different and years later I realize that cleaning a fish is a good skill to have. My childhood experiences were humble yet rich.

4. The people are “some” nice. On Twitter I asked the following question: What makes Nova Scotia the “right coast” for you to live? Basically all of the responses made reference to the people. Words like “authenticity”, “warm, kind and fun to be with” came up. Of course, people are nice wherever you go but it’s Nova Scotians who capture tourists’ hearts and uphold our reputation.

For these reasons, Nova Scotia truly is the right coast for me. What are yours?

Maria McGowan lays claim to having lived on both of Canada’s left and right coasts. A marketer and writer who loves the web and is intrigued by social media. Maria is passionate about tourism and especially Nova Scotia. Authors a personal interest blog The Right Coast.

[This next guest post comes from a local entrepreneur and surfing aficionado. Surfing in Nova Scotia, you might ask? Yeah, that was my first reaction, too. But there are plenty of people who get a kick out of riding the waves in the cold, cold Atlantic Ocean. Don’t believe me? Check out Scotia Surfer or SurfDonkey and see for yourself. Personally, I’d rather be by the beach bonfire, but to each their own, right?]

By Craig Moore

You can call me a hard-core East Coaster by any means. This doesn’t mean I drink tea and love cod but it does mean that I’m so bloody “pure laine” that I don’t even know it. My roots go back several generations on both sides for both my wife and I. We’ve grown up here, educated here, work here, choose to live and bring up our kids here. We’re part of the cult and don’t realize it. Or so it would seem.

I never quite realized what it was like to live and interact here until a dean from one of my universities mentioned off-hand how strange it was to work here. I asked what he meant and he said that when you sit with people from around here the conversation quickly goes to who you know, where “ya from” and who’s “yer fadder” (all said with a rural Cape Breton twang, of course).

peppergrasses from Flickr

Photo credit: peppergrasses from Flickr

Although people don’t speak with the twang (not too much at least), it is the flavour of the interaction. Much of how people operate around here is based on your connection to this place. It’s like a one-degree of separation where Kevin Bacon is replaced with the East Coast. I didn’t realize that I did it until I had heard that comment and now I see that I’m just as bad at it, or rather, just as natural at it.

Now, I don’t know if that makes people around here more honest and respectful of the relationship but it does keep in the forefront that this is a place not to pour gasoline on the bridge. Does it make things more insular?  Probably, but the great thing about here is that one-degree thread doesn’t take long to knit into your own East Coast tea cozy.

Craig Moore is married with three kids. Living in Dartmouth (the good side). Owner of Spider Video.  SMU and NSCAD grad. Creator of SurfDonkey, another East Coast feature BTW. Podcamp Halifax organizing team member. Believer that you can do anything you want from here.

[Wolfville is one of my favourite places to visit in the province. So, I have to admit it was really hard for me to read this post because I don’t need any convincing that it’s also a great place to live. If only I had a driver’s license…But I digress. If you haven’t been to Wolfville, you seriously need to drop what you’re doing and go there right now.]

By Chris Campbell

For some reason it was cloudy every day we went house hunting in Windsor. I accepted a job offer to work in the birthplace of hockey and had given my notice in Fredericton. We needed to find a place to live when we moved to Nova Scotia from New Brunswick in June of 2000. It wasn’t an easy decision as I’d grown up in Fredericton, went to school, worked and learned to make films with my friends at the NB Filmmakers’ Co-operative.

Lured by the challenges of a new media startup in rural Nova Scotia, the decision was made to move me, my partner Carolyn and our three children to a relatively unknown future in the Annapolis Valley. Searching for a house (our first house) is a challenge, but doing so remotely is even harder. We found a real estate agent and began our quest. Two days were set aside to find a place and on the first day it wasn’t going well as everything seemed either too small or too run down and we didn’t see the sun at all. For the second day our agent suggested we expand the search to include more of the surround areas such as Wolfville and Kentville.

Chris Campbell from Flickr

Photo credit: Chris Campbell from Flickr

On day two we drove down the highway from our motel in Windsor to Wolfville. The sun broke through the clouds as we came over the hill before the Gaspereau River. We saw Blomidon and the Minas Basin spread out before us and we said “wow” and knew that this was going to be the place. We liked most of the houses we saw and found one that fit within our budget and much paperwork and administrative costs later, we owned it.

We were happy with the house and being relatively close to where we were going to be working and to live in such a beautiful place. The kids could walk to school and the neighbourhood was quiet and peaceful. But we didn’t really know much about Wolfville, so we began to explore our new home. The first pleasant surprise was the Just Us! Coffee roasters in Grand Pré. I had been enjoying the coffee for a while and now lived just down the road and would smell the roasting coffee on the way to work.

Things got even better when Just Us! opened a café downtown in Wolfville in the Acadia Theatre building, which had closed just before we arrived. The café was part of a co-operative established to restore the theatre and after a few years the Fundy Film Society was screening great films that I wanted to see in the Al Whittle Theatre (in recognition of Al, who ran the theatre for almost half a century). To supplement the big screen films is the video rental store Light & Shadow, which has an eclectic collection of films to rival any large rental chain.

There are great restaurants and Paddy’s Pub, where they brew delicious beer and often feature talented local musicians from the surrounding area in the evenings. The town is filled with music and art from the bars and restaurants to the theatre to the Saturday morning farmers’ market with live music accompanying the diverse food and crafts for sale.

Wolfville is a progressive town with a wonderful lack of fast food chains and a commitment to environmental responsibility with anti-smoking and anti-idling (for cars) initiatives. As you walk around the town and through the walking trails you’ll be greeted with smiles as it’s a very friendly place. Even though I work in Dartmouth and need to commute during the school year, I love the balance that Wolfville has struck between work and life with nature and essential things such as good food and drink, good films, and a strong sense of community. Wolfville is a wonderful town that I’m proud to choose as my home.

Chris is a long-time media creator with a keen interest in combining storytelling with new technologies in film, video, audio and the web. During the day he teaches Screen Arts at the Nova Scotia Community College in Halifax with an emphasis on producing and post production. He’s also taught workshops in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and Bermuda. In the past he’s edited a feature-length documentary film about the end of segregation in Bermuda, shot video, recorded sound, hosted radio and TV shows, made web sites, and served on several arts boards and juries, including the NB Filmmakers’ Co-operative. In his spare time at home in Wolfville Chris writes on the web at bitdepth.org, shares photos on Flickr, and microblogs on Twitter.

[Maybe I’m sleeping off Cote du Rhone wine and a belly full of gastronomic wonders here in the lovely south of France, or maybe I’m touring around the ruins of the former Roman Empire. Je ne sais pas. One of my favourite bloggers in the beautiful city of Halifax generously offered to post here while I’m away. So, without further ado, here’s Jenn Belle:]

Although I’m not originally from around here, Halifax has been where I’ve lived the longest. I was born in Germany and spent my first three years there, but I have very little recollection of the place aside from my morning cartoons being transmitted during dinnertime and my kindermädchen, who didn’t speak much English.  After that, I spent a decade in Bagotville, Quebec. I still think of it as a magical place that was perfect for childhood exploration and imagination. I spent my formative years getting dirty by trekking in the coulee, making forts in the woods of our backyards, and going down steep slopes that could put Citadel Hill to shame at breakneck speeds on our three-skis in the wintertime.

My dad was in the military, and as good as he was, there were only so many promotions he could take before he was so high up in the ranks he had to be posted somewhere else. I thought our move to Nova Scotia was the cruelest thing ever done to me, and I spent a lot of time and energy fighting the transition into my new home. When I finally accepted that this would be the place where I’d spend the next chapter of my life, I started to really like it here. It’s more than just a place full of lively, friendly people and delicious, fresh seafood. It’s my home, where my friends and family are, and the place that will always have a part of my heart.

Here’s what I’ve come to love about living here in the East Coast:

1. No one is out to get me. It took me two years to finally come to grips that people walking toward me on the sidewalk with a smile and a “Hello” are not stalkers secretly ready to stab me in the back. They are just a polite strangers saying hi. Compared to Quebec, East Coasters are pleasant people. You wouldn’t catch me dead smiling and speaking to a stranger on a Quebec sidewalk! (Or, rather, maybe you would…)

2. I can turn right on red lights. Given, I don’t drive, so it makes no difference to me, but many people have assured me how great this option is.

KennethMoyle from Flickr

Photo credit: KennethMoyle from Flickr

3. I can BBQ 10 out of the 12 months of the year because the winter weather is mild. I remember when I used to have a house with a yard and a barbecue, we would be grilling up some steaks a week before Christmas. Santa and his reindeer loved ‘cued chicken breasts!

4. If I wanted to, I could take a dip in the ocean. That said, I typically choose not to take a dip in the ocean, because most of the year the water is usually a good ten degrees below “losing your toes” temperature, but I like knowing that I have the option.

5. Part of the East Coast, Halifax in particular, is home to the best, most delicious gastrointestinal delicacy that you will surely regret eating but won’t be able to stop yourself from consuming again in the future: the donair. If my body could handle it, I’d eat donairs daily. There’s just something about spitted meat and sweet garlic sauce wrapped on a warm pita that just hits the spot (and then beats your stomach into submission).

Jenn Belle has been everyone’s hero since 1985. She’s a nerd girl obsessed with television, reading, sequential art, and sometimes film. Chocaholic neat freak with OCD is also another way to describe her. She has a wonderful, supportive group of friends, a lovely family, and a cat that thinks she’s her baby. She’s a Halifax girl blogging all about her ordinary world, even if it’s to no one in particular. You can get to know this nerd over at her blog, La Belle Ecrivaine.

[By now I’m somewhere in the south of France, far removed from thoughts of snow. The only kind of precipitation here will be of the good old-fashioned vertically descending rain type. For the rest of you left on the East Coast, here’s a treat from a Halifax-based blogger on the art and tribulations of shoveling.]

By Giles Crouch

In early November I head down to the basement for the annual check of the weapons cache, to see that all is in order for the coming battles – plow shovel, salt spreader, angled shovel, check and check! This year I vow, yet again, that I will tackle this war with great aplomb as an artiste tackles a masterpiece. Preparation, I argue without much conviction, is half the battle; or perhaps it’s denial. This is the preparation for the inevitable snow storms that will mercilessly pound our coast as we hang precariously out into the most storm-ridden, vitriolic ocean in the world – the Atlantic.

bruceley from Flickr

Photo credit: bruceley from Flickr

The first snow falls. A good 20 centimeters and the next morning I awake early, quickly tilting back a hot cup of tea before donning my battle gear; gloves, hat, big boots, thick winter coat. Before I went to sleep the night before, the battle plan was already engaged in my mind. The shovel selected, method of approach and tactics.

I think we all begin the snow-shoveling season this way out here. Determined that all walkways will be barren of snow and the driveway will be immaculate and guarded against ice with liberal doses of salt or sand. So it is, those first few storms. I shovel a little extra back from the walkway edge, giving room for more snow should it dare to storm again! The corners of the driveway at the roadside are pushed back for good exit and entrance room. I feel like a sculptor and gloat over my fine work. Two days later it is a rain-storm and the snow is all but gone. Then the next storm, but I am holding true to my convictions and plans. Even perhaps for the next.

Some say “snow” is a bad four-letter word after New Years. Some may be right. For it seems that by mid-January the convictions have been lost under a series of snow-drifts. News of another snow-storm is met with groans; of the heart and lower back. By now one is stockpiling Ibuprofen and a heating pad has been acquired. The sidewalk gets enough attention to avoid a law suit from the postal carrier and the driveway has a slim patch of reasonable walking width. The rains hold off just long enough now that one still must shovel. I dream that if the snow were regular enough I’d be as buff as Arnold, but as those of us who live in Nova Scotia know, the warming and cooling does better for head colds than abs of steel. So the inevitable battles goes, the best-laid plans are put to waste through storm attrition, the Atlantic grins wickedly in her victory yet again and Jack Frost giggles in the snowbank. Next year I’m buying a snow blower so it won’t snow.

Giles is an ex-pat Brit turned Canadian living in Halifax, Nova Scotia. A serial entrepreneur and passionate marketer, he is partner in Social Media agency MediaBadger.

Simon Pais-Thomas

Photo credit: Simon Pais-Thomas

In what seems like another life, I used to be quite the fashionista. During my early years of university I worked at a variety of retail clothing stores, from Le Chateau to Club Monaco to the Gap and finally Boutique Jacob. Because of my flare for style back then, I even got a gig as a merchandiser, a job that involved dressing up mannequins and display boards. It was like playing doll.

I became a clothes hog. Every paycheque went toward buying some new item to feed my addiction.

But eventually the reality of a career and life kicked in. No disrespect to the folks who make and earn a living as sales associates and retail store managers, but I needed to move on. I had to find “real work” where I could write and do the things that interested me most which meant no more beloved discounts (up to 50%!).

As the years went by, my wardrobe dwindled. I had to choose more carefully clothes that would outlast one season’s trends. Then, I decided to go back to school as a full-time mature student. There I fell into a wardrobe of jeans and t-shirts.

But it was worth it in the end. Though I may look shabby, today I’m in a dream job making good money to do what I love most: writing, reading, and interacting. It also means I’m finally back in the financial position to buy nice clothes.

Alas, here is my dilemma. I am now out of the fashion loop.

Since declaring I would not buy a fashion magazine because of the industry’s flagrant disregard for the environment, I have been mostly without a clue. There are days where I manage to look stylish but then there are other days where I feel that I may be a fashion train wreck.

In eight sleeps time, Cokebaby and I will be travelling to the south of France for our (belated due to conflicting schedules) 10 year anniversary. Coincidentally, we’ll be there in the middle of soldes d’hiver, a massive nationwide sale.

So my question is: what to buy?!

This is a fashion 911 emergency. Someone please save me.

Is there something fun that should be in every girl’s wardrobe for the upcoming season? And what about Cokebaby? Or Tofu (I’m assuming there will be dog boutiques)?

A view from under the A. Murray McKay Bridge

A view from under the A. Murray McKay Bridge

Nobody likes being called names. But anyone who’s moved to the East Coast is probably familiar with the term “come from away.” No matter how long ago that move was, the phrase sticks. To me it implies that I’ll never quite fit in or belong. A friend turned me on to a new phrase that I instantly became a fan of: East Coast By Choice. Thus my blog was born.

Here, I’ll write about life as I know it. That means from the perspective of a thirtysomething, Euro-Asian (not to be mistaken for Eurasian) Canadian who grew up in Toronto and moved of her own free will to Halifax in August of 1999. My interests are mostly in books, food, culture, and travel but I’ll be blogging about pretty much whatever catches my fancy at any particular moment.

First, here’s a recap of why I decided to be East Coast By Choice.

What sold me on Halifax?

The fall, Peggy’s Cove, ducks in the Public Gardens, the smell of salt air on the skin.

What do I miss about Toronto?

Diversity (not just of people but opinions and experiences). The bright lights, big city. Anonymity (you seriously can’t go anywhere in Halifax without bumping into at least one person that you know).

Why I continue to stay?

Friends, family, pace of life.

The Best of Halifax

Restaurants: Seven Wine Bar, Mosaic Social Dining, Opa Greek Taverna, Chabaa Thai Restaurant, The Old Triangle, and the list goes on.

Trails: Shubie and Point Pleasant Parks (especially for dog walks)

Day trips: Annapolis Valley, South Shore

Fresh produce: Farmer’s Market, Pete’s Frootique, any number of Select Nova Scotia producers/vendors

Worst of Halifax

Public transit: sometimes buses just don’t show up, or are late, or are early but move on anyway, and don’t even get me started on things like routing and schedules.

Youth crime: like most urban centres it’s a problem but either it’s on the rise in Halifax or it’s being reported about more frequently; in either case, something needs to be done to set these kids back on the right course in society.

City council: citizens are so disgruntled that the last electoral voter turnout was a mere 37 per cent.

Now it’s your turn.

What’s your best and worst list of the city?

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