Monday, November 12, 2012

Well, that didn't take long.

Instead of mourning the mothballing of this blog... I just decided to create a new one. C'mon over to Stuff J Writes.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Well, that about does it for now.

When I started writing this in the fall of 2004...
  • I'd just started grad school, after having taught for four years.
  • I owned a car that I lovingly nicknamed "the Deathcar," because I didn't know if it'd die on me on the 401 (and it nearly did).
  • Barack Obama was a (secretly Muslim) state senator in Illinois.
  • Amy Winehouse had just released her first album and was two years away from being a breakout star.
  • The Detroit Tigers were awful; the year before they'd come within one loss of tying the record for most losses in a season.
  • Facebook was only open to university students, and not at every school.
  • Twitter wasn't yet a thing.
  • Current grade 9 students were entering grade 1.
  • I was banging your mom.
  • (Still am.)
I'd kept a journal on and off for the previous seven years, and still kept a private one sporadically in the early days of this blog until I realized that I pretty much got out everything I needed to say right here. And so it continued, for a little more than eight years.

I'm sad to have to say it, but... Facebook ruined this. Once upon a time, if I had something to say, I'd sit down, think up a good topic, and take ten or twenty or sixty minutes to write something here. (Mind you, being a grad student in a joke of a program, I had that sort of time at-hand fairly often.)

These days, let's say I come across a funny quote or have an interesting photo to share or Mayor Fat Fuck does something stupid. Where do I spread the word? You guessed it: Zuckerbergland.

If I have something I need to work out in a longer form, I'll put it up here. That's why I'm not saying I'm ending this blog... but that is why I'm saying this is going to change to be a more intermittent thing. I occasionally look back to 2004 or 2005, see how often I posted — at least three or four times a week, often more — and wonder how I ever managed to put out that much material. And hey, in the future, I might revert to that. But not now.

So, check back here from time to time. Bookmark the thing, and when the late great movie on City-TV isn't so great, take a minute to pop in and see what's going on.

Take 'er easy, folks.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Oh, hi there.

It's been a while, I know.

And yes, I'll get these pangs of guilt now and again... Should I fire up the blog and write? But, as you can see, it's been tough overcoming inertia lately.

Here's the thing. If my life was more exciting, I'd probably let you know a hell of a lot about it. These days, I go to work, hang out with the kiddies (and have fun, definitely), come on home, usually catch part of a baseball game, go to bed way too late, and do it again the next day. Weekends find me hanging out with pals, doing family stuff, or occasionally helping to win co-ed rec-league slo-pitch playoff games. (And yes, we won our division, in an exciting extra-inning game.)

That's just what the working life is like, y'know.

Remember, once upon a time, when Friday nights were for gettin' out there, chasin' tail, hoistin' a few drinks and staying out until the crazy hours?

Gotta level with you... to me, these days, an ideal Friday night finds me in bed by 11.

Is this what life's about? Can I expect another couple of decades of this, roughly speaking? (Plus, if all goes well, a wife, kids, home ownership, and all that jazz.) I guess the key to life is reveling in the everyday and appreciating the routine.

Anyway... I guess that's that for now. Although, I do have a bit of South Scarberian to teach you.

bare (adj.) almost entirely, primarily, overwhelmingly
— example: "I went to the mall, and it was bare emo-kids."

'bout that life (?) into that, interested in that, participated in that
— example: "Hey, did you know Alice played volleyball?"
                   "Really? I didn't know she was 'bout that life."

And a couple of funny exchanges with a kid, J, who's in my Grade 10 class...

Me: "So, when you combine these two elements like this, what's the name of the compound you get?"
J: "Oh... hmm... well, is the name 'sodium fluoride' or some shit like that?"
Me: "Well... yes. Yes, it is. Nice work."

(J walks in about 15 minutes late for his first-period class)
Me: "So, why were you late?"
J: "I slept in."
Me: "I see... when did you go to bed last night?" (expecting "Oh, 1 in the morning, I was playing video games")
J: "Eight o'clock last night."
Me: (bewildered) "Is this a normal thing for you?"
J: "Nah. I was high last night at 8, and I just decided to go to bed."

Despite these unorthodox exchanges — or, perhaps, because of them — I kinda like this kid.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

It's a weird time to be a teacher in Ontario.

It's been a while, but the provincial government feels it's time to pick on teachers again. (Ah, reminds me of the late-'90s and early '00s; they were simpler times, weren't they?). This means people are talking about how much they hate us, or how much they love us.

Now, I'm not going to go on and on, telling you about how hard my job is. If you've been reading this blog for a while, I think you've been able to see that it's a gig that has its challenges — but, of course, it's not the only job that has challenges. I never make teachers out to be holier-than-thou; I mean, over lunch today a bunch of us had a conversation which was inspired by an inane reality show called Here Comes Honey Boo Boo which veered into the profane and vulgar easily within three minutes. We're not saints, but we work fucking hard.

You've heard a group of people talk about teachers working 9-to-3, and you've heard another group (mostly teachers, probably) talk about all the extra hours they put in. Let me tell you what my day was like today, because it's a fairly typical one. And yes, I'm being completely honest here; no sugar-coating or embellishments. You have my word. All the lurid details (the ones I remember, anyway) are after the jump.

Monday, September 17, 2012

A short letter to the defence of the Detroit Tigers.

Toronto, Ontario
September 17, 2012

Dear Detroit Tigers defence,

Catch the fucking ball.

Sincerely,

JTL

Thursday, September 06, 2012

A collection of things that shall be said.

The bottom of my right foot hurts intermittently.

My students this year seem quite alright. Then again, we're in that honeymoon period where they'll do what I tell them, unquestioningly, no matter who they are. That usually lasts about to the end of the second week. But I have a good feeling about most of these kids.

I don't like to be used as a pawn for the Ontario Liberal party. I hope they don't win both by-elections today, thus getting a de facto majority (the Speaker votes with the government).

I think I'm going to start working out. I inadvertently entered a friendly competition amongst a few friends, most of whom already work out, and... well, we'll see how that goes.

Why is it still so damn hot?

I haven't played baseball since July. Watched a hell of a lot of games, but haven't thrown a ball in almost six weeks.

I doubt I've worn a wristwatch more than 20 times in the past dozen years.

I lost a few important little pieces of paper at work today, and I have no clue where they are, and it's driving me crazy.

I don't like losing things.

I "upgraded" my desktop computer's Ubuntu to the latest version, and I hate it with a passion. It took a couple of hours to upgrade, and it'll probably take me a week to reinstall the old version (but not wipe out all my data files; don't worry, mom, I'll back up everything important).

"Mixed Emotions" is probably the best song the Rolling Stones have recorded in the past thirty years.

I might go to bed Friday night and sleep straight through until Monday morning. It could very well happen. 'Tis the season.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Music was better in the '90s.

...right?

In Rolling Stone every week, there's a "From the Vault" section beside the charts on the back page, showing the top 10 singles from some era in the magazine's history. They started publishing the thing in the late '60s, so this goes back some time, but on occasion they have something from only a few years ago.

This week's chart is from August 6, 1992.
  1. Madonna — "This Used To Be My Playground"
  2. Sir Mix-A-Lot — "Baby Got Back"
  3. TLC — "Baby-Baby-Baby"
  4. Boys II Men — "End Of The Road"
  5. Guns N' Roses — "November Rain"
  6. Billy Ray Cyrus — "Achy Breaky Heart"
  7. Jon Secada — "Just Another Day"
  8. Tom Cochrane — "Life Is A Highway"
  9. En Vogue — "Giving Him Something He Can Feel"
  10. George Michael — "Too Funky"
Surprised?

Don't be.

The biggest-selling single of 1969 was "Sugar, Sugar" by a fake group, The Archies. Singles also released in 1969 include:
  • Led Zeppelin — "Whole Lotta Love"
  • Creedence Clearwater Revival — "Bad Moon Rising", "Fortunate Son", and a couple others
  • The Beatles — "Come Together"
  • The Who — "Pinball Wizard"
  • David Bowie — "Space Oddity"
  • Santana — "Evil Ways"
  • Sly & the Family Stone — "Hot Fun In The Summertime"
  • Shocking Blue — "Venus"
...and "Sugar, Sugar" wiped the floor with all of them.

Yeah, when I initially saw the chart from 1992 I was surprised there wasn't anything by Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam... nothing from your favourite alt-rock stalwarts. But then I realized that, above the notion that "music" is either better or worse at a particular point in history than it is now, is that most people have really, really shitty taste in music.

(You, on the other hand, Dear Reader, have immaculate taste in music.)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Five things about aging.

Warning: This blog post "keeps it real."

Look, I'm not getting any younger. (And neither are you; that's just how time works. It goes forwards. Every single thing is getting older, one day per day.)

There are certain things about getting older that nobody seems to mention. I know I've never seen a "60 Minutes" exposé on any of these things, either singly or together. So, consider this a public service.

(Please note that some, or all, or none of the following may apply to you. All I can say is these things have happened to me.)

#1: My taste in women has changed.

When I was a young buck of 19, I was in this weirdo program that UW and Queen's had together, where I did teacher's college in my third year of my undergrad program. This meant that I was around women who were 22-24 for a good long while... and they were fascinating, alluring, intelligent creatures.

You know the "half your age plus seven" rule, right? Well, I'm 34, so (34/2) + 7 = 24, which seems reeeeeeally young for a woman I'd consider dating. Don't get me wrong, 24-year-olds are a hell of a lot of fun to be around and look at, but... crikey, that's a child. A sexy, sexy child.

Obviously, it comes down to a case-by-case basis, but I think 27 would be an appropriate age-floor for me these days. I wouldn't rule a 25-year-old out, but she's gotta be pretty extraordinary.

#2: Hair starts disappearing.

This doesn't apply to everyone, of course. And while I had a little early retreat in my 20s, I think we're pretty much in a holding pattern these days. Of course, with hair this fair, it can be tough to nail down exactly where it is and where it isn't, but yeah, some of it has made its way to the exits.

And you know what? I don't really care that much. I feel like I should care a lot, and I do care some, but... well, here's the deal. Every single person you know has some sort of physical imperfection. You probably noticed it right away when you met them, but after a while it just becomes part of who they are. Some people have funny noses, some people have odd fingernails, some people have flat butts. And some people have lost a little hair.

Really, what good does a full head of hair do? In some anthropological way, it probably signifies to a female mate that you're young, can get it up pretty well, and you're virile and can thus father children. And I know that our brains do work on that level, to an extent, either consciously or subconsciously. In the end, though, once I club a woman and drag her back to the cave to be mine (or, y'know, do that whole "romance" thing instead), does it matter? Not really. So suck it, Rogaine.

#3: Hair starts appearing.

Oh, but it shifts around, it does.

I'll be checking myself out in the mirror and I'll notice one lonely (but prominent) hair sticking out of my skin near, say, my shoulder — absolutely nowhere near my chest hair. But it's there.

How? Why? What the hell is going on? Did a rogue follicle make its way south from my skull and decide to set up camp near my shoulder? I didn't think they could migrate, but there it is.

Do other people get this too?

#4: I hurt a little, but not much.

Once upon a time, after the first baseball game I'd play in a season, I'd hurt a little the morning after, but it'd be gone pretty quickly.

These days, my hurting takes on a different but reliable pattern, and it lasts the first two or three weeks:
  • play baseball on a Sunday night
  • feel absolutely fine Monday morning
  • start hurting Monday evening, through Tuesday morning
  • be fine by Tuesday afternoon
There's a delayed-reaction thing going on, and I don't know why. At least I can plan for it.

#5: I actually like aging, all in all.

If you, and your life, stayed exactly the same... wouldn't that get boring after a while? Doing the same thing, going the same places, seeing the same people. Hrmmpphhh.

Don't get me wrong; obviously there are people and places that have stayed near-and-dear to me for a long time. But I like seeing new things, meeting new folks, going here-and-there and finding new stuff out, discovering new bands (or just new songs from bands I already knew)... which brings me to a bigger point.

I have friends and relatives who got married young and had kids and bought a house and have the whole thing seemingly salted-away... which is fine — believe me, there's a whole lotta stupid stuff they don't have to deal with anymore (e.g. dating), and I'm a little envious of that, I'm not gonna lie.

But at the same time, I can't help but notice the things they don't do anymore, because they have those responsibilities I don't — randomly going on 12-day solo baseball-centered roadtrips to the US midwest, for one — and since I like doing things like that, it makes me a little wary to "settle down."

I think, right now, I'm in this sweet spot where I'm old enough to appreciate things like baseball roadtrips, but still young enough to have a future ahead of me which includes all those great things most of us want out of life (spouse, kids, house, comfort, etc.). But at the same time... y'know, I'm turning 35 in a couple of months, so how long does this extended-adolescence window stay open?

Getting older has agreed with me pretty well so far. It might turn ugly soon, though — or it might not. I'm in a good spot right now, though, and that's about all a fella can hope for, isn't it?

Friday, August 03, 2012

On the Chinese.

It's hard not to think, as I watch a ton of Chinese athletes win gold medals all over the place at the Olympics, it's only a matter of time before they take over the world (and probably enslave the rest of us in the process). Consider:
  • there's 1,339,724,852 of them
  • they're loaded-up on US debt
  • their government does extremely bold things
To me, that's a pretty volatile combination. But as it applies to sports, consider each of the poins:

The Numbers
If you have that many people, odds are that you're going to have someone who has just the right build and mental temperament to excel at pretty much anything. (You can make cracks about how short they are, but consider that (a.) you're probably thinking about Hong Kongers as opposed to mainland Chinese, and (b.) Yao Ming is 7'6".)

The Money
In case you haven't noticed, they have a lot of it, and a lot of that comes from the US because the US is in a lot of debt and a lot of that is owed to China. You can talk about GDP and whatnot, but that doesn't include the amount of money in business/government that doesn't circulate out to the average-folk.

The Government
This is perhaps the most interesting/formidable piece of the puzzle. Remember the Beijing olympics? The government did such things as (a.) build huge/expensive/crazy buildings for all the events, (b.) bulldoze entire neighbourhoods to build things, (c.) ordered industries to shut down for a few weeks to clear the air pollution around the city, and most crazily (d.) seeded the clouds before they got to Beijing, ensuring sunny skies for outdoor events.

But what concerns me the most are the stories about how they train athletes. You know the script: at age 6, someone sees that some kid has a real aptitude for, say, gymnastics. Kid gets yanked from the family and gets put in some special school for athletes halfway across the country. Kid spends all day, every day, training for their event. So, when they finally win that gold medal, of course it's a huge sigh of relief; there's so much invested in them, for decades — not just with themselves and their coaches, but the whole government apparatus as well.

The only thing I can think of which comes close in this country is kids who are trying to climb the ladder to play professional hockey — there are endless tournaments, games, leagues, camps and such, and if you play in the OHL in a team away from home, that can involve a lot of separation from your family, friends and otherwise "normal" life (although I think there are rules that keep kids under 16 in their hometown, or close to it).

I dunno, man. In the end, sure, China may end up kicking all our asses on the medal count. But if the kids-turned-adults have to pay that high a price in order to win everything... they can just keep those medals, thanks, and I'll take kids with normal childhoods instead.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Ridiculousness.

This is a story in several parts. As you might be able to surmise, it is ridiculous.

1. I met a girl, R, back in about March-ish — yes, the online dating thing (from which I'm taking a break, possibly permanently) — and we went out a few times. Things ultimately didn't work out romantically, but we stayed friends.

2. In April, R mentioned that she wanted to play baseball (i.e., slo-pitch) this summer, and hey, do you happen to know any teams that need a player? Turns out ours did; we're a co-ed team and we have to have a certain number of women on the field at all times, so I put R in contact with the people who run the team.

Now, I know what you're thinking: J, you asshole, you're dumber than a pillowcase full of Lego blocks. Why would you do this? The answer is, I don't know. Maybe I was drunk. Anyway, for the majority of this season, it's been very non-awkward, much to my surprise.

3. This past weekend a bunch of us on the team played in a tournament in Brantford on Saturday and Sunday. Most of those people stayed in a hotel in Brantford on both Friday and Saturday nights, as to facilitate drinking; I drove up myself instead on Saturday morning and stayed at my brother's place a short drive away, mostly because (a.) it's free, (b.) it's moderately fun, (c.) I don't get to see him and my niece quite as often as I'd like, and (d.) to be honest I don't really hang out with the rest of the people on my team a lot.

Let me qualify that last one a bit. I genuinely like everyone on the team. Lovely people, solid teammates, good camaraderie. We just don't happen to hang out together, socially; we run in different circles, I guess you could say. R, on the other hand, is blending in well.

4. I was chatting on Facebook today with R, and we were discussing some events from the weekend. Eventually it came out that she thought I was very "negative," I see the world as black-and-white, and that I didn't know how to talk to women. I disagree with each of these.

To the first charge: I would definitely say that I'm an analytical person. It's in my nature to take things apart, see what's going on, and if I don't like it, I'll tell you how I feel about it. Sometimes that's not going to turn out positively, because the world isn't all sunshine and roses. However, if I've learned one thing from my job in the past dozen years, it's how to be diplomatic about it. I would not say that, on the whole, that I exude negativity.

To the second charge: I wholeheartedly disagree. Yes, I see some things as definite — Nickelback sucks, beer is delicious, baseball is fun — but I'm definitely a shades-of-grey, grain-of-salt kind of guy. Life is a set of nuances, and devils lie in details.

To the third charge: I didn't really know how to talk to R, because she's a decade younger than I am. (For the record, she first contacted me; I rolled with it because frankly it was pretty flattering and I wanted to see how it'd go, but after a while I could see it just wasn't going to work.)

5. Perhaps most irritatingly, R did these two things on Facebook:
5a. Posted a vague, passive-aggressive status update along the lines of, "People who have too much negativity in their lives don't belong in mine" — which is worthy of perhaps a 14-year-old girl's diary.
5b. Didn't de-friend me, but made it so that I couldn't see anything except her most basic info, which essentially does the same thing.

In any other situation, I'd de-friend this person on FB and probably never talk to them again. But... y'know, we're on a baseball team together, through mid-September. And possibly next season. So, as much as I'd love to fire off one hell of a kiss-off email and dust my hands of the whole matter... R and this asshole still occasionally have to throw a sphere to each other.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

One-sentence random thought #18.

Sometimes you dodge a bullet, and you don't realize it until much, much, much later.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Choices.

So I'm watching the annual snoozefest that is the Major League Baseball all-star game, and because it's an American national suck-and-fuck, they trot out "God Bless America".

That may be the song I hate the most on planet Earth.

. . .

Yes, I'd rather listen to Eminem rap. I'd rather listen to Inuit throat-singing (which is actually pretty interesting). I would rather listen to the recent hit song by the North Korean dictator's — er, Supreme Leader — rumoured mistress, a married pop star who climed the DPRK charts with this little toe-tapper entitled "Excellent Horse-Like Lady".



I assume something got lost in the translation; it's probably high praise in that language/society to say someone works like a horse, or has the disposition of a horse, or something along those lines.

Still makes for a pretty funny and easy joke, though — which is exactly what we specialize in, around here.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

I oughtta make this my theme song.

I don't believe in astrology (and neither should you), but the rest of the lyrics are pretty applicable to me these days.




(It's fine, I'm fine, don't you worry; I'm chuckling about the whole thing. I probably can't share what this is, though. Trust me, though, it's funny. And yes, I'm a god damn cocktease.)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

This is art.

No, really, it is.


This is a Yoko Ono installation which has three piles of dirt, labelled "Country A", "Country B" and "Country C". On the wall behind the dirt is a poster that says "War is Over".

Look, I know it's weird, but here's why it works for me.

I've heard that astronauts, when asked what they found most striking about their view of Earth from orbit, say the thing that gets them the most is that, when you look down on the Earth, there are no lines separating countries. It's just all one thing, blended and blurred and continuous. The boundaries we draw between each other are just that: drawn. They're not real; we make them up.

Similarly, Ono's piece says that, no matter what country you're from, the dirt is all the same. Her statement about war is apt, of course, but another angle occurred to me: since we all eat things that come from the Earth (directly or indirectly), and we're made up of the atoms and molecules of the things we eat (and breathe, of course), and the things we eat all grow in dirt that looks the same (and is all somewhat chemically homogenous)... we're more similar than we think. We're all the same, from the molecules on up. And yet, we choose to make wars and kill and oppress and exploit.

Go figure.