Wednesday, August 31, 2005

A contradiction.

This is kinda long. Full post is here. You may not want to read it all. If you don't, I recommend Homestar Runner for funny cartoons and other delicious diversions.

The United States of America is a great idea. Their Constitution is a simple and elegant blueprint for a country, Philly Cheesesteaks sound delicious (in moderation), and hey, my favourite baseball team comes from there. But there's a word that gets bandied-about very casually which seems to have been "adopted" by one side of that deeply-divided country.


And I think you know which side is ensconscing itself in those seven letters.

It's a nice thought. Borne out of Revolutionary slogans like "Don't Tread On Me," it could be more crassly put as "leave me the hell alone to do my thing," which I believe is the unofficial motto of various Libertarian political parties. Even though I'm the first to admit I have socialist tendencies (hey, I think our single-payer health care system is a darn good thing), I'm more than willing to have my neighbour, Agnes, worship the eternal fires of The Dark Lord while she pulls on a mighty bong hit that would turn Tommy Chong green... with envy. If it doesn't hurt me, then go to it, and pass the Doritos.

However, things aren't exactly turning out that way in Star-Spangled-Land. Legislation like the Patriot Act can tap your phone and track your library book-borrowing habits without your knowledge. Barbed wire keeps placard-holding protesters several kilometres away from the people, places and things that caused them to turn out in the first place. Corporate lobbyists, representing companies who primarily answer to shareholders, jiggle the marionette strings attached to their constituent Congresspeople, which ultimately places peoples' rights far behind stock prices.

Those three examples above seem like pretty representative fears from Lefties like myself, both in the US and abroad. Those who don't share my point of view might say, Hey, bucko, I have some bones to pick with you. You're way off base.

First off, if you have nothing to hide, why are you so worked-up about someone listening to you talking on the phone to your brother about your new niece, or if someone knows that you took out every single
Babysitters' Club book last week?

The Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution suggests that "unreasonable searches" aren't kosher. So, why would anyone in government need to know if my niece is the cutest 3.5-month old in the world (which she is)? Apparently the violation of the rights of hundreds of millions of people is the price you have to pay for brainless foreign policy. "Whoops, we funded the mujahideen back in the '80s, so now you all get Dr. Jellyfingers when you board an airplane. Sorry about that."

Second, who needs those window-smashing, muck-raking protestors? They should just get real jobs and quit their bitching.

Sounds like something Ann Coulter would say. I'd go confirm that for myself, but anything she writes — and anything written by anyone praising anything she writes — is so ridiculously misinformed, purposefully inflammatory, and out-and-out wrong that it makes me break out in a case of the heebie-jeebies.

At any rate, the point I'm trying to make with this particular straw-man is that, yes, sometimes these people kick in front windows of McDonald's "restaurants." That causes damage, and I don't condone it. (Gandhi wouldn't, either.) The vast majority of people at those demonstrations, though, are "peacable assemblers," which is covered under the First Amendment. Again... how many thousands of peoples' rights need to be violated in order to catch a couple of rock-throwers? Where is the balance?

If big business does well, then we'll do well. We must keep the economy going. So, why shouldn't laws be passed to favour corporations?

Are you a corporation? Do you, personally, have a branch plant in South Bend, Indiana? Then why would you want your government looking out for a corporation's best interests, rather than your own? Happy workers are good for business, but good business doesn't necessarily make happy workers.

Shoot, man, that's kinda catchy. I should try to spread that far and wide. ("Patent pending!")

I could go on for days about this, so instead just watch a movie that does: The Corporation. Good stuff all the way through.

The point I'm trying to laboriously make is this: the things that the current powers-that-be in the US try to pass off as "freedom" are actually the complete opposite, but they attempt to justify them "in a post-9/11 world," which is a load of bull. The world is exactly the same as it has been for the past 25 years; it's just that now things that were once far-away are now closer to home. Nothing has changed, just the locations.

Now comes the wacko-Lefty part. Instead of chasing the symptoms, by banning nailclippers in carry-ons and backpacks at ballparks, could you please look into what would make someone want to ram an airplane into a twin-edifice of commerce? And the "they hate freedom, they hate our way of life" thing is not an acceptable answer.

Well, maybe it is for a C-student at an Ivy League school. But not me.

I go to Queen's.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Such a shame.

I find the first song on the first album from a band is really important. Think about it... the first album holds that group's original idea for how they wanted to make music (assuming they aren't major-label marketing products like Kelly Clarkson and her ilk), and their first song is what they wanted you to hear before anything else.

The first album by The Police was Outlandos d'Amour. The first song on it is "Next To You", which rocks something fierce.

Over the years they were together, they changed. I'm not saying it was for good or bad; they just changed. Bands do this. (Well, maybe the Ramones didn't, but I think you'll agree they were a special case.)

As was the case with Rush, as soon as they discovered synthesizers, they just couldn't put them down. Later albums by Sting & Co. were dripping with synth, slowed down, with sparse guitar and an overall watered-down feeling.

So, in conclusion, instead of buying a "greatest hits" compilation, buy the first album of a group's existence. It'll give you a clearer picture of what those young ragamuffins, whoever they may be, were thinking of when they first got together to goof around and play some tunes.

(Except Toto. Don't get anything by them. They suck.)

(Current MP3 playing: "Africa" by Toto.)

Creepy thought: I'm almost exactly the age Jimi Hendrix was when he died.

Shoot. In his almost-28 years, he did things with an electric guitar that have boggled peoples' minds to this day.

What have I done? Finished the payments on my 2000 Pontiac Sunfire, read several Kurt Vonnegut books, and, oh yeah, there was that time I gouged a hole in my leg in a sidewalk mishap in Cuba.

I'd better get goin', eh?

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Stupid packaging.

If you're ever looking for a deal on commonly-sized watch batteries, check your local dollar store. One of the ones on Princess Street in downtown K-town has packages of five of them for one single dollar (plus tax, natch). They may not be the best quality, but you sure as hell get quantity.

At any rate, a thought occurred to me as I opened the package just enough to extract one tiny cell to pop into the watch I received for being my brother's Best Man nearly six years ago (man, time flies!). I realized that about 90% of what I purchased contained the 10% of what I actually wanted. That is, a tremendous amount of packaging (cardboard and plastic) is surrounding a tiny amount of product (the batteries).

Check this out. Eeek.

See what I mean? Is there anything we can do about this?

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Chocolate, croutons, and sloganeering.

A friend and I went on a bit of a Magical Mystery Tour yesterday, up through Westport, Perth, and Smiths Falls, which is home of a Hershey's chocolate factory. (Self-guided tours are free and mildly interesting, for the record.)

In the gift shop they have bags of "factory seconds" chocolate, which is fine except the bars are broken. So, I scored a bag of mostly busted-up chocolate almond bars which easily weighs (er, weighed) two pounds for around six bucks.

If you don't hear from me, it's probably because I'll be in a diabetic coma from sugar-overload.

If you do a Google Image search for "crouton," a photo of mine comes up first. Huzzah!

I've noticed something about pro- and anti-Iraq War protesters.

Those who are against the war often say things like, "No blood for oil," "The war is based on lies," and "Bring the troops home now."

Those who support the war say things like, "Support our troops."

When you think about it, these slogans are not mutually dichotomous. To use the three anti-war slogans cited above, and turn them around to what their opposites would be (ostensibly these would be pro-war slogans), they would say, "This is not about oil," "The President was telling the truth," and "Keep the trops in Iraq."

But you don't see that on any placards.


Wednesday, August 24, 2005


I admit it, I use MSN Messenger more than I probably should. I think I held out longer than most people when it was first gaining popularity — and I never had ICQ or anything like that — but I usually have it on when I'm sitting here at my connection to the Information Superhighway. (I'm really, really glad nobody uses that moniker anymore.)

Alas, something irritating is going on amongst the users of this device: the "perpetu-Away". These are folks who don't want to be bothered by all sorts of random people on their lists flinging messages at them, mucking-up their otherwise pristine screens (nevermind the dozens of icons on their desktops). Fine, I understand that; sometimes goat-porn viewing takes one's undivided concentration.

But, these people, even when they're sitting there, fully awake and alert, their status says they're away. I know people who have been "away" for several years. I wonder how they get any work done. Or if they've ever seen that clip of the monkey drinking his own pee.

So, friends, it's time to stop. If you want to talk to people, talk to people. If you don't, turn the god damn program off. Simple as that. And hey, if there's someone on your list who you don't like, and don't want them talking to you, remove them. That's what your Delete key is for.

Good lord, I'm a geek.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Pat Robertson has to cool his jets.

It was bad enough a couple of years ago when Pat Robertson, one of the few remaining televangelists of note,* prayed on TV for an opening on the U.S. Supreme Court so it could be a little more wacko-ultra-right-Christian-fear-of-God, and less, um, reasonable. (Since being a Supreme Court Justice is a lifetime appointment, this essentially means he was praying for the death, or permanent incapacitation, of a liberal judge. Don't worry, Scalia, you're safe.)

Oh, and it was certainly bad enough that, now that O'Connor has decided to step down, Robertson started praying for another opening. It's not only a bit greedy, but also a little bit twisted.

But now, Robertson is suggesting that the U.S. assassinate Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. He's actually serious:

You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war ... and I don't think any oil shipments will stop.

I see a flaw in your logic, Pat... if he thinks you're trying to kill him, and you go ahead and kill him... that means Hugo Chavez was right! And he's your enemy! And if your enemy was right, that means you were wrong! And America is never wrong!

This is the point at which Pat Robertson starts speaking in tongues and smoke comes out his ears. His followers, of course, will see it as a divine intervention, and the chequebooks will come out en force.

* I'm not sure how many of you were coherent in the mid-'80s, but there were tons and tons of televangelists, and they were very influential in U.S. politics at the time. Ronald Reagan was very tight with a whole cadre of them, most notably Jerry Falwell. To learn more about televangelism and politics in the 1980s, I recommend "Bloom County" and "Doonesbury" comic strip compilations.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Oh, the detail.

Have you had a bowl of Lucky Charms recently?

The "marshmallows" are pimped-out. They look like a freakin' Georges Seurat painting.

Shoot, I remember when purple horseshoes were new.

Oh, what marvelous times we live in!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

And... we're back.

My housemates are right... Sunday afternoons (the "Flashback" show) are pretty much the only times when K-Rock is listenable. Right now they're playing "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" from Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" album, which very rarely gets airplay because it's over thirteen minutes long. That's the way I like 'em — long and lucid and with minimal words.

...except the band Kinski. They opened for The Constantines last night at Lee's Palace, and their songs were just way too long and repetitive. If you have a neat guitar or keyboard riff, alright, let's hear two or four bars of it. NOT THIRTY-TWO. At any rate, the Cons were pretty darn good, even though I didn't know too many songs... but I have to say, I'm finding the idea of an encore exceedingly cheesy. Just play all your songs and leave the ego-stroking, three-minute-long, crowd-in-a-frenzy ovation at home. And don't save your most well-liked song for it, either. If you're at a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert and they haven't played "Freebird" before the lead singer says, "Good night, Cleveland!", c'mon, you're not fooling anyone.

...which got me thinking on the drive back to K-town. Why do people joke about bands saying "Hello, Cleveland!" or "Goodbye, Cleveland!"? Where did that come from? Why Cleveland and not Albany, Boston, Canton, Detroit, Evansville, Fresno, Gainesville, Huntsville, Indianapolis, Jackson, Kenosha, Lincoln, Madison, Nashua, Omaha, Pittsburgh, Queens, Rochester, Sacramento, Tulsa, Utica, Vicksburg, Wheeling, Xavier, Youngstown or Zanesville? And why are so many of these cities I've listed located in Ohio?

...and hey, what the heck is a "Buckeye," anyway? Who decided it would be a good fit for Ohio?

Alright, I'll stop.

I saw The Aristocrats yesterday with a friend of mine. Absolutely hilarious, and absolutely the filthiest thing I've ever seen, heard, read, or had told to me. But as the credits rolled, I heard a, "Hey, Sir!" from my left... and there was a kid I had in my first year of teaching. He proudly showed me his iron ring (what all Canadian engineering students get upon graduation). I felt pretty fucking proud of him.

And me.

But, it struck me later... this kid, with whom I would have half-hour long afterschool conversations about religion — he was a very devout Muslim — what the heck was he doing watching this movie, anyway?

Thursday, August 18, 2005


I've seen quite a bit of our fair neck of the woods in the past few days, from Kingston to Toronto to Sarnia-ish to Detroit to Woodstock. Hung out with the fam, went to a Tiger game, watched my niece connect "move arm in direction of dangling toy" and "toy will move when struck." Oh, and paid exorbitant amounts for gasoline. But hey, we were spoiled for a looooooong time with artificially-low prices. Hopefully this will make those gigantic-SUV drivers sit back and think for a bit.

Well, maybe if your name isn't Margaret Wente.

While filling up our truck in Port Huron, Michigan (on the way to the baseball game on Wednesday), the guy on the other side of the pump, a rough-and-tumble Michigander with an axe to grind, exclaimed loud enough for me to hear, "Well, thank you Governor Granholm for all these taxes." I pointed this out to him that gasoline is markedly cheaper in the States than Canada, apparently to no avail. (Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm was born in Vancouver, BC; this fellow's van sported a sticker on a side window that said, "Deport Granholm". I'm not sure why.)

This fellow's major bone of contention was the apparent lack of clarity in American laws. "You do this crime, you get this sentence; it could all be boiled down to about thirty laws. Make it simpler." I was going to suggest to him, "Well, you know, some people in your country want to shave that down to ten very specific laws, chisel them in stone, and place them in every public building in the nation. But that hasn't really gone so well lately."

Monday, August 15, 2005

Livin' large in the Big Smoke.

I've been down here in TO for a couple of days, doing lots of hanging out with various people I haven't seen in quite some time. Unfortunately, though, a bit of a miscommunication ended up in missing a lunch appointment... but I'm swinging back through next weekend, and the wrong will be righted at that time.

Torontonians are, for the most part, oblivious to the idea that the rest of the country hates them. They really do think that this fair city is the Centre of the Universe — most non-Torontonians will use that idea in a derogatory way, as you might imagine, but the natives here actually believe it to be 100% true, and don't care if the rest of the country thinks they're imbeciles for thinking that.

The summer I lived in Calgary, I had some fancy-explainin' to do.

Random Person at a Party: So, where are you from?
Me: I'm from Ontario.
RPaaP: [dirty look]
Me: Oh, don't worry, I'm not from Toronto.
RPaaP: [breahes sigh of relief] Alright, cool.

Don't get me wrong, this is a pretty awesome city, as far as cities go. It's relatively clean, the TTC is a breeze to navigate, and the multicultural aspect makes for some really kickass restaurants, including a Brazilian steakhouse which just opened up right across the street from my friend's place on Friday night. (It also helps that a couple of the waitresses are cuties, too.) I highly reccommend Satay on the Road for lovely Thai and Malaysian cuisine, with three convenient locations around the city.

But... there are problems. Violence isn't too bad these days, all headlines notwithstanding. However... the smog and the traffic and the crazy people and the GOD DAMN PARKING NAZIS, those things I could do without. Seriously, I was four minutes over on the parking tag, and they nailed me. Don't ever park on the UofT campus. Take a streetcar or a rickshaw or a piggyback ride instead. Trust me on this.

Friday, August 12, 2005

A lesson in rocking the casbah.

I had probably the most important presentation of my life today — my research colloquium, which is basically an open meeting where you say what you're going to do in your thesis research. A short PowerPoint, then about 45 minutes for questions, is how it would go.

So, picture it... in this room, there's me, and four education professors staring at me, and that's all. Just me and the pros, just waiting to bust me down. (Well, maybe not. Education-folk are pretty nice.) How did I do, you ask?


It actually wasn't nearly as bad as I'd feared. A lot of the time was just spent in interesting conversation, centred around my research topic. But some of the questions that were lobbed at me... I became confident enough not just to say, "Alright, thanks, that's a good suggestion," but to actually go on the offensive a little to explain and defend my choices.

At any rate, it's All Systems Go for my research, assuming it goes through ethics smoothly (which it should).


And, late tonight, I got word that my Ethics submission had no major problems, and it's going to be recommended for expedited review. Awe-some.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Teaching in Japan

I still do fancy myself an educator (albeit one on a bit of a hiatus). And there are some jokes, references, etc. which only other teachers can appreciate... for example, the idea that as you go along in your career you encounter kids so evil that you'd never, ever give that name to your future children. (That's why I'll never have a Tyler, a Caitlin, or an Iftekhar. But I think the last one was going to be a stretch anyway.)

At any rate, here is a set of short, hilarious articles written by an American teaching Grade 7-9 English in Japan. Any one of the articles are great; the second skit in "Open Your Buttcrack" contains a ridiculously funny piece of comedy. Those kids are geniuses.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

My sense of humour.

Courtesy of Erin. Full results here.

the Comic
(47% dark, 34% spontaneous, 47% vulgar)
your humor style:

Yours is the most versatile and also the most popular kind of humor.
You'll crack a joke about just about anything, but you're not
mean-spirited or intimidating, so you can get away with it--even when,
for example, you bust on Mexicans.

You appreciate a good dirty joke as much as next person, but, over all,
you've got a brainier approach to humor than most. Now just go out
there and write up a routine; it's likely you'd be good at it.

PEOPLE LIKE YOU: Dave Chappelle - Rodney Dangerfield

My test tracked 3 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 37% on dark
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 43% on spontaneous
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 87% on vulgar
Link: The 3 Variable Funny Test written by jason_bateman on Ok Cupid

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Bob Feller, mail, and love songs.

The feature piece in the latest Sports Illustrated is an interesting examination of the oldest living baseball Hall of Famer, longtime Cleveland Indians pitcher Bob Feller. He's a funny and crusty old sort, to be sure, but his observation about "those kids today" seems pretty bang-on.

It's the instant-gratification generation. The shameless generation. Nothing shames them. The last 30 years: all greed. All green greed. And everything has to be action. No dead air. Every half inning they have to have some damn thing to amuse them — like they're children. It's like the movies. All the movies today are made for 16-year-old nymphomaniacs.

Occasionally I receive mail addressed to the previous occupant of my swank living quarters. One of them seemed to really like the Fraser Institute; they send the quarterly "Ayn Rand Fan Club" newsletter here, and I thumb through it for laughs. But occasionally something more interesting comes, as did today: it looks like a thank-you card, with no return address.

Here's a question for you. Do you ever open mail addressed to previous occupants? If so, leave an anonymous comment here. (I don't want to have to turn anyone in to the fuzz, now.)

For the record, the card will remain unopened.

Al Green's "Let's Stay Together" came up on the ol' Winamp playlist earlier today, which got me thinking... out of the following list of musical artists, by whose music do you think the most children were conceived?
  • Al Green
  • Barry White
  • Luther Vandross
  • Marvin Gaye
  • Esquivel
Alright, the last one's a bit of a joke. But hey, some people might find experimental space-lounge-pop from the early 1960s a turn-on. Stranger things have happened.

Monday, August 08, 2005

My hunch proved correct.

I know someone who has a birthday coming up in not too long, and told her that I seem to have a knack for having lousy weather on mine, which occurs in late November. So, I went back into Environment Canada's records, and pulled up the conditions and high temperatures for each of my birthdays, reasonably close to where I was living at the time.* Feast your eyes:
Year  High  Conditions        Year  High  Conditions
1977 2 rain, fog 1991 17 clear
1978 -3 clouds, clear 1992 2 drizzle
1979 -3 clouds, snow 1993 3 clear
1980 7 clouds 1994 2 cloudy
1981 4 clouds 1995 1 cloudy
1982 9 clouds, fog 1996 2 drizzle, fog
1983 -2 snow 1997 3 rain, fog
1984 5 clouds 1998 19 clouds, rain
1985 3 drizzle, fog 1999 -3 clear
1986 2 clouds 2000 1 clouds
1987 4 rain, snow, fog 2001 8 rain, fog
1988 4 clouds 2002 3 rain, snow
1989 1 clouds, snow 2003 7 clouds
1990 5 clouds, clear 2004 7 clouds
* 1977-1994, Sarnia; 1995, 1996, 1999, Waterloo; 1997, 1998, 2000-2003, Toronto; 2004, Kingston

Wow. Save for one day (1991; wow, what was the deal then?), it's been crap-tacular nearly every day. Minus-3 and clear I can handle; that could actually be quite a crisp late-autumn day. But two degrees and drizzly fog... oh, lordy.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Thisses and Thats.

I honestly don't know if "thisses" is correct, but it makes phonetic sense, so it'll have to suffice.

Friday night saw the RizJake Entity host a bitchin' house party. I must say, it's been years since I've heard so much Roxette. And you know it's a good time when the cops show up.

Yet another one of my friends is getting married. The twist this time is that it's a same-sex couple... which I think is fantastic. My country rules.

My 17" CRT monitor bit the dust today, so I finally caved and plunked down $279+taxes for a 17" LCD. It's pretty spiffy; I have the resolution cranked up so everything's all tiny, just the way I like it. Soooooooo much more real estate on the screen now. (A tip: try fooling around with your monitor's "gamma" setting, deep within the "Advanced" section of your Windows Display Options thing, if you're hittin' the Microsoft. A little tweaking there can make your monitor much, much easier to look at.)

Mind you, this purchase of mine greatly added to my brokeness, which is a bit of a bummer, but now I have tons of extra desk-space. I have no idea what I'll do with all this extra room. Raise some goats, I imagine. For purely sexual purposes, natch.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Ticketmaster can LICK MY BALLS.

Anatomy of a ticket sale:

I hope this bastard goes about 28 innings. (The one I saw in May went fourteen, so hey, there's hope.)

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Meet your new Governor General.

I dare say Michaƫlle Jean will be the hottest GG we've ever had. Shoot, she makes Adrienne Clarkson look like Nancy Kulp.

(Okay, a Chinese-Canadian Nancy Kulp.)

Do all Governors General have to be ex-employees of the CBC, by the way?

In other news, the President of Mauritania was in Saudi Arabia to attend King Fahd's funeral... and in his absence, he was overthrown in a military coup! Oh, those crazy Mauritanians. You never know what they'll do next when their leaders are away attending state funerals.

PS: If you use Yahoo! to search "blog phoenix prostitutes", my blog comes up #2. Yay!

Monday, August 01, 2005

Suck it, GMAC.

It's been nice, having $298.86 vacuumed out of my account automatically, once a month, since June of 2000. I quite enjoyed not-spending that money on things like fine-quality dining, foreign vacations, and the services of the bountiful, bountiful prostitutes that both Toronto and Kingston have had to offer.

How did I celebrate the last weekend of my first car-payment-free month?

I dinged my bumper on a pole in a parking lot.

Yeah. I really know how to live it up.

I love you, John Bolton.

So, Dubya decides to bypass the Senate and appoints John Bolton, Mr. "I wish the U.N. would just go to Hell," as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Upon his appointment, Bolton said, "It will be a distinct privilege to be an advocate for America’s values and interests at the U.N. and, in the words of the U.N. charter, to help maintain international peace and security."

Bah. Who needs debate and deliberation, anyway? They just gum up the works. The only way to get anything done is to have a take-charge leader that unilaterally makes the decisions it sees fit, without input from elected representatives. That's my kind of government!

Oh, wait, that's a king.