[tpm] country hacker, city hacker

Brandon McCaig bamccaig at gmail.com
Thu Oct 3 19:02:33 PDT 2013


On Wed, 02 Oct 2013 23:29:09 -0400 Uri Guttman said:
> i have an interesting situation that i would like to get help
> with from toronto.pm. i have a young candidate from a small
> city in northwest ontario who has interviewed and tentatively
> been offered a job in the big bad city of toronto. he is wary
> about taking the job and the cto is also wary but wants to hire
> him. the hacker is just not comfortable outside of his small
> town world.
> so my request is for some of you to take him under your wing. i
> don't know what this entails but of course it means inviting
> him to pm meetings and socials (he would sign onto this list)
> and being a big sibling to him. he actually rides his own
> motorcycle so he isn't just a closet case! the work environment
> is also different for him.
> one issue he brought up is living expenses. the salary is on
> the lower end but i am fairly sure he can do fine there. of
> course his current expenses are way lower where he is now but
> he is also woefully underpaid.
> any ideas or interest in helping him? i know you guys are a
> friendly and fun bunch and would welcome him in, but a more
> personal connection would be great. this is an odd situation
> and i am working to help him out.

Breaker, breaker, this is country mouse calling the rubber duck,
come on...

Hello, everyone. Forgive my ignorance. I am new to Perl Mongers.
:) Also, forgive my novel.

I suppose I should introduce myself first. I am Brandon McCaig.
I'm a 27 year old male. I taught myself Perl 3 or 4 years ago and
have been using it increasingly more ever since. I love the
command-line and despise the GUI. I am an avid gamer. I have a 3
year community college diploma titled "Computer
Programmer/Analyst" and graduated in 2007. I have been employed
locally ever since. Mostly working with Microsoft technologies
(and hating every second of it; well that's an exaggeration, but
you get the point). I predominantly develop in ASP.NET/C#
professionally (against my will).

I grew up in a small town in the actual country. The "township"
had around 3000 people. The town probably closer to 500 or 1000.
My yard was over an acre and I was surrounded by woodlands. :)

3 years ago I moved into the city. Tiny compared to Toronto. I
currently reside in Sault Ste. Marie (current population around
70 k, I think).

I have several concerns about Toronto. I flew down for an
overnight stay a couple of weeks ago and found it very
overwhelming. I didn't really have a chance to adjust at all to
the city unfortunately. The only things that I saw are the CN
tower, congested streets, and my hotel room. :)

My immediate reaction was just that there was no way that I could
live there. The more that I think about it the more that I think
I should consider it more. Unfortunately, I don't know how long
the offer will stand. There is surely a lot more to the city than
what I saw so maybe it won't be as bad as I originally feared.
There are several things that concern me though.

Following is a short list. I realize that some of them are
personal and you can't really help with me with them, but I
figure it will help me to express them anyway.

- Commutting. I've never driven in traffic as heavy as Toronto,
and frankly the taxi rides that I had while in the city were
intimidating. I love driving, but I'm genuinely afraid of driving
in Toronto. It looks like chaos. I can't imagine how people avoid
accidents. They seem inevitable. And that's in a cage/car. Let
alone riding my motorcycle, being much more vulnerable... Aside
from the safety concerns, there are the costs involved: repairs,
insurance hikes, etc.

Aside from driving, I don't really know how to get around
affordably. Taxis are certainly not affordable. I probably spent
$120 or $150 on taxis in just the day and a half that I was there
for the interview, and I didn't even go very many places.
Obviously there's a full transit system, but I don't know how
affordable they are, let alone comfortable, convenient, safe,

It sounds like the subway is the fastest way to get around, but
from the maps that I was looking at it only seems to cover
certain parts of the city and even then only stops every so many
city blocks so I imagine you'd still have quite a bit of walking
or have to transfer between transit systems to get to your

When I visited I was afraid of trying to cross Dufferin Street so
I just stayed in my hotel room all night. :( When I was at the CN
tower I almost talked myself into going to Union Station and
trying to figure out how to get to my interview that way, but
decided a taxi would be more reliable with such a small amount of

- As a side note, I like people, but preferrably from a few feet
away. In crowds I get anxious and nervous and self-conscious. I
imagine that I'd be forced to cope and adjust to it in Toronto,
but in the short term it will probably be difficult for me.

- Finding an apartment that I can afford, on such short notice,
that isn't too far away from the office[1], isn't a dump, and
isn't in a bad neighbourhood. I don't know the first thing about
finding an apartment, let alone on short notice, let alone
remotely. Not to mention, being able to afford first and last
month up front if required (on top of all of my other moving
expenses). I imagine finding any apartment would be challenging,
let alone one that I like.

[1] The office is on Wingold Avenue off of Dufferin Street, for

- Coordinating resignation at my current job. My "employment
agreement" or whatever it was specifies at least 1 month notice.
I'm also "contracting" at the moment. It's supposed to be a year
term, but IIRC I haven't signed anything agreeing to that, and
they haven't changed my pay rate or anything else [yet].
Technically it is my employer that is on contract and I'm just
their guinea pig. Legalities aside, I imagine both companies will
be sore about it if I suddenly leave in the middle of this
"contract". I'm afraid of potentially burning a bridge that I may
need to fall back on.

- Release of my current apartment. Last month is paid already so
if I'm forced to leave suddenly in the middle of the month then I
don't know if I'm going to lose that last month's rent...

- Actually moving down there. I'll need help so either I have to
trouble somebody to ride down with me (not a small favor to ask)
or I have to hire help. I have to transport two vehicles, and a
small amount of large furniture.

- All the prices seem to be double down there as compared to here
(and here already seems double what they pay in the USA
[reference for Uri]). That makes the salary offered to me seem
like barely enough to get by, if enough at all. The truth is that
I just have no idea what the cost of living down there will be.
It seems risky to gamble on it and figure it out when I get

Funnily enough I had one super awesome taxi driver that warned me
about it and insisted that I don't let them short change me. He
didn't actually give me any numbers to go on other than that
rent could easily be $2000/mo. for example.

- Having reliable and safe parking for two vehicles (by spring
when my motorcycle will come out). Ideally sheltered parking, but
I don't even have that here. If the transit system is good enough
then I might be able to sell my car and rely on that, but I'm not
too sure about that. If my residence doesn't have laundry then
I'll need to haul my laundry down the block or across the city...
Then there is beer store runs, grocery shopping, etc.. I can't
imagine doing those kinds of things on public transit and staying
sane. I really, really don't want to have to sell my motorcycle
(unless it's to buy a bigger one).

- If my car or motorcycle breaks down then I'll need to take it
to a garage to get it fixed. I won't have my dad nearby to fix it
for free. Garages typically screw you over and can't be trusted
so you need extra money above and beyond the vehicle costs to
afford that...

Already my motorcycle is making money tight. I can't afford for
it to get any tighter. :)


I don't even know how complete that list is. I foolishly didn't
bother writing these things down until I had cooled off from my

What do you guys consider the bare minimum to survive comfortably
in the city? Any advice or comments are appreciated. Thanks.


Brandon McCaig <bamccaig at gmail.com> <bamccaig at castopulence.org>
Castopulence Software <https://www.castopulence.org/>
Blog <http://www.bamccaig.com/>
perl -E '$_=q{V zrna gur orfg jvgu jung V fnl. }.
q{Vg qbrfa'\''g nyjnlf fbhaq gung jnl.};

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