Monday, February 27, 2006

Deadlines are something you do NOT miss.

Because of the lovely bureaucracy that exists in a school board which contains more students than all of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island combined — the school board which also, coincidentally, has me as an employee — I will NOT be going to Boston over the St. Patrick's Day weekend for IB training.


How hard is it to sign four people up for some god damn workshops? And really, how much red tape can there be? Put my name down on a sheet, rig up a flight from Air Canada's website, and bill it all to a TDSB credit card. Fuckin' do 'er up already!

Of course, now all the workshops are full. So they'll be sending me to god-knows-where, god-knows-when. All I know is that the green beer I'll "rent" on March 17 will be purchased with Canadian dollars.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

What I miss.

This could be the third time I've written about my love life (or lack thereof) in a year and a half. So that's, what, once every six months? Yeah, I think it's about time to foist something along these lines upon your brain. Besides, it's been weighing heavily on mine for the past few days.

I've come to the realization that I miss having romance in my life. It's not that I'm a terribly romantic person — there are a couple of people in this world who can soundly attest to that — but it's been a long, long time since I've felt the heart fluttering, the butterflies, the urge to projectile-vomit all over everything in a two-metre radius. You know, pretty much how you feel after spinning yourself dizzy in the front yard like you used to do when you were little (or, in some cases, last week).

Actually, let me amend and clarify. It's been a long time since (a.) I've felt that, and (b.) someone's felt that about me in return (and I've been aware of it), because there have been several instances in the past few months where I've thought, "Hey, Girl X might just dig me a little," but every time it's been me reading things completely wrong.

...which serves to highlight (one of) my problem(s). Since it's been so long since an honest-to-goodness love-interest has come into my life, my brain has been searching in vain for possible inklings of romance, and this has unfortunately led it down some dead-ends. So, if you know me, and I've made an awkward romantic advance in your general direction lately, I wholeheartedly apologize and blame it on Kingston tap-water.

I'm not looking for either pity or condolences or "don't worry, you'll get caught by someone, it'll happen, just be patient." I think I'd just like a girl to dig me, and be nice enough to tell me. (Preferably within a 100-mile radius.)

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

...but mostly Planes.

I can't honestly remember the last time I awoke as early as 4:15 in the morning, but alas, that's what today brought. We were out of the hotel by 5 for a 6 o'clock flight from Timmins to Toronto.

This flight takes a little less than two hours, which means my ass was in Pearson a little bit before 8 this morning. My flight for Kingston was to leave at 12:35, but, whoops!, it was snowing like crazy, so it got delayed.

Then it got delayed again.

The upside to this was that (a.) I could get a little more work done (it's sad that my most productive thesis-writing workspace seems to be Terminal 1 at Pearson Airport), and (b.) there was a really cute girl waiting for the same plane to Kingston.

But, the downside to that was (c.) she wasn't seated next to me, and (d.) really, having gorgeous women around me just reminds me that none of them will willingly disrobe in the privacy of my apartment.

However, the upside to (c.) was that (e.) I sat beside this very grandmotherly German woman on the flight from Toronto to Kingston. It's not too often that one gets to talk to someone who lived in Germany (Hanover, to be precise) in World War II. Apparently after the war ended, the Americans in their city said, "Alright, you can raid the food warehouses for three (3) days, and you can take anything you can carry," so people were hacking open giant bags of sugar and flour, and carrying it away in buckets or whatever else they could find.

That's your silver lining, folks.

At any rate, the trip to Timmins was a success because (f.) I enjoyed hanging around teenagers and doing science with them, (g.) I realized that it's easy to slip back into teacher-mode after a layoff, and (h.) I actually managed to write about 16 pages' worth of thesis, which is (sadly) more than I would've written had I been at home.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Dispatches from Timmins.

Wireless internet access in the hotel room. Hooray! Oh, the wonders of technology.

Today's presentations went very well. It's been a long time since I've worked with kids who are as young as Grade 4. Here are some observations vis-a-vis children who are approximately 9 years old.
  • Random giggling is to be expected. There's always one kid who'll burst out in fits of laughter for no, repeat, no discernible reason.
  • Expect any and all questions. Randomness is the key.
  • They have about one year left where learning new stuff in school, and being excited about it, isn't seen as uncool. By the end of Grade 6, this enthusiasm will somehow be beaten out of them, which is a real shame.
  • Kids this age will invade your personal space. They'll come right up to you and grab you as they ask you for stuff. Thankfully, teenagers don't do this.
  • Making a mess is always awesome. No matter what the reason, they like messy things.
The afternoon was filled with high-schoolers. It's also been a while (although not that long) since I've had two dozen teenagers in the room, and I've honestly how forgotten how rambunctious they can be, if they're a little bit distracted. So, when they started to get a little off-track, it was clearly time to blow something up, or make fun of some kid (in a light-hearted way). All in all, a pretty successful day.

I think the main thing I'm taking away from this experience is that the dream I had a few days ago won't come to fruition. In it, I envisioned myself returning to the classroom, but being a completely ineffectual moron who didn't know anything about how to work with a room full of high-school kids. Today it was surprisingly easy to slip back into the role of teacher, even though I didn't know the kids and have been away from it since June of 2004. So, when this September rolls around, I'll be just fine. And that's pretty comforting.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

I never shoulda signed up for this.

Back in the late fall, it sounded like a great idea: "Hey J, do you want to head up to Timmins to spend a few days in mid-February and do some hands-on science stuff with the kids?"

I replied, "Sure, that sounds neato! I'll be done my thesis-writing by then. No problem!"



I really cannot afford to screw off to northern Ontario for four days in the midst of intense writing. I actually want to write these days, which is a damn rare thing, I've found. Yet, the majority of the past three days have been spent preparing activities, writing presentations, and getting some supplies for this entirely voluntary activity.

Some have suggested sicking-out on a bogus 24-hour flu bug. Others have gone so far as to suggest I fake my own death. But, for whatever ridiculous reason, the idea of skipping out on people who are counting on me is a completely alien idea. When someone's depending on me to be someplace, or do something, I will absolutely, postitively, not ditch them.

This comes from my family, specifically my dad and my uncle Ken, and the gang that hangs out with them. These guys are absolutely rock-solid: if they say they're going to help, they're damn well going to help you. And they'll often help even if you didn't ask (but stop short of getting in the way). Truly remarkable fellows.

...which brings us to me. I really do need to spend the next few days immersed in my work, as time is starting to look like it might run short. But, I gave these people my word that I was going to help them out, and I'd damn well better come through.

Sunday, February 19, 2006


That's about how well the thesis-writing is progressing these days. I'll get going pretty good, then I'll get sidetracked for the rest of the day. I'm starting to think getting it defended by the end April might be a bit... optimistic. Oh well.

On a completely different note, if you've always wanted to listen to yours truly on the radio but don't/can't get up in time on Tuesdays, fear not! I'll be filling in from 1:30-3:00 pm on Tuesday afternoon. That's CFRC, 101.9 on your FM dial, or on the web at

And yes. I am a shameless self-promoter.

The next morning, I'll be off to Timmins for a few days, doing some science outreach-y type stuff at a couple of high schools up there, through Let's Talk Science. I used to work for these fine folks many a summer ago, helping develop workshops to use with K-8 kids, and I still keep in touch... which I suppose is why they're sending me up to the north of Ontario (i.e., I'm someone they could sucker into doing this sort of wacky thing for a few days). Oh well, at least they're paying for the whole thing, including — get this — flying me from Kingston to Toronto, and then up to Timmins. I doubt I've ever been in an airport as small as Kingston's, and never will again. (If you've never walked across a tarmac to board a tiny turbo-prop plane, well then, my friends, you are missing out.)

Two musical asides:

1. If you're ever writing and need awesome background music, I can highly recommend 1950s-era Miles Davis. I own Kind of Blue and Sketches of Spain, two of the most highly-regarded jazz albums of all time, and lordy, they are absolutely amazingly awesome. I could probably just put one of these CDs in, get a bowl of popcorn, turn off the lights, and sink right into this music. It's that good. And don't you believe Dave Banerjee if he tells you otherwise.

2. I finally finally FINALLY found the Mike Watt song "Piss-Bottle Man," after about a solid week of searching. I ended up finding it using aMule, of all things; it's new to me, but damn, I only searched for maybe five minutes, tops, and it'd found about three instances of the song. Screw you Ares, Kazaa and Frostwire. Just — just screw. You.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Aging, Progress, or a little of both?

This is the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. It came to my house today.

It's official: I have no interest in the Swimsuit Issue anymore. I flipped through it, but... meh. The body-painting thing is always interesting; how they get paint to look exactly like a swimsuit, I'll never know. (Well, I guess I do know — they use shading tricks and such. But it's still pretty impressive.)

This leads to my question: What does this mean? Am I just "growing up," am I "becoming less of an oink-oink-typical-male in comparison to my fellow gendermates," or... well, anything? Discuss.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

V-Day aftermath, Writing, and Next Week.

So, yesterday didn't turn out quite as badly as I'd feared. Honestly, I was loathing it for a couple of weeks; I had pictures of kissy-kissy couples walking hand-in-hand all over our fair King's Towne, with cartoony-little pink and red hearts floating above their heads in romantic bliss. Fortunately, there were many articles in many publications yesterday (the Star was NOT one of them) which mirrored my disgruntledness (disgruntlication? disgruntliness? anti-gruntlified sentiment?). So that made me feel marginally better.

Plus, whenever I start acting like a giant sucky-baby, I start thinking about all the people in the world who are oppressed, starving, or engulfed in conflict. Then I feel ashamed about my sorry ass and its trivial concerns.

The thesis-writing is actually progressing along quite nicely. I think I'm starting to get the idea about how to weave a narrative using my own ideas, supported by interview quotes and the odd citation here and there. Page 12 and counting.

I'm going to be in Kingston next week until Wednesday. If anyone wants to share a frosty beer on a frosty day, let me know and we'll work something out.

Extra-Special Bonus Just For You!

Here's a photo of me hangin' with OK Go singer/guitarist/paisley conoisseur Damian Kulash. He's a very friendly guy. He was also very tired at this point in the evening, having played two shows in very tight quarters, and dancing up a storm. Yet, gracious enough to have photos of his lovely self taken with fans. Now that's rock and roll.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Asswords, Dance Music and Failed Attempts at Curmudgeonry.

Three things to take care of here.

1. Asswords
Whilst walking back from campus today, a girl on a bike passed me. This girl was wearing pants that had the word "Sexy" scrawled across the buttockal regions. Why do people (most often girls) buy pants that say things across the ass? There's the standard "put the name and floor of your uni residence" thing (often done on faux-hospital pants), but why-oh-why would you have to label your ass "sexy?" Are you trying to say, "I have defined this thing in here as sexy, so you'd better go along with it"? In that case, I think I'll just reserve judgment. And yes, if you label your ass, you deserve to be judged. Harshly.

2. Dance Music
Not two minutes after "Sexy" cycled past me, I walked past a ratty old Civic with dance music pumping out a slightly-open window. Really loud dance music. This presents a contradiction in masculinity: on the one hand, you're trying to show how large your penis is by playing loud music, but on the other hand it's some cheesy synthesizer and a woman cooing inane lyrics. The hypocrisy of it made me chuckle.

3. Failed Attempts at Curmudgeonry
Today was supposed to be Misanthropy Tuesday, but that's ultimately proven to be a myth. I was supposed to come home from the radio show (more on that later) and not emerge until the 15th, but alas, I have a meeting later today. Oh well. I'll just be grumpy amongst people, rather than grumpy alone.

However, today on the radio show (I held my ground as the "anti-Valentine's Day" pundit), we played a song by Canadian indie-rock legends The Pursuit of Happiness, "Hard To Laugh". What we should have played (and I made sure to read the lyrics on-air) was a song that was eight billion times more heartbreaking, called "Man's Best Friend". I'll reproduce the lyrics below, as to give you a glimpse into a situation in which I find myself far too often. (Printing song lyrics on my blog is not something I usually do, but today I'll make an exception.)

He's the one, the one that you love
And he's a friend of mine
And the two of you, are happy together
As long as the sun shines
But I'm always here, to lend you a shoulder
When it rains again

'Cause I'm not the kind you want for your boyfriend
But I'll be your man's best friend
Well I guess it's no secret to any of us
How I feel about you

But to live it out vicariously through him
Is the best that I can do
If it's true that love is only a game
Well then I can play it pretend

This is not a lovers' triangle
'Cause I know what you see in him
Don't you know that a love unrequited
Is still love in the end

Ouch. I mean, I feel pretty shitty today, but even I can't approach that level. Moe Berg, you win.

Aside: If anyone has the Mike Watt song "Piss-Bottle Man," please forward it to me somehow. I've been trying to download legally acquire it, as it has been in my head for hours, with absolutely no luck. (It's off his "Ball-Hog or Tugboat?" solo LP.) Thanksabunch.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Tricky-Dick 2 goes a-huntin'.

I couldn't resist putting something up here about Dick Cheney "accidentally" shooting a hunting companion of his this past weekend. (Don't worry, the guy's doing alright.)

First joke that popped into my head when I heard this: "Don't you people normally send 160,000 American troops somewhere to shoot one person?"

I'll be here all week, folks.

If you could spare a minute or so, and if you know me personally, kindly head on over here and help me out. Cheers.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Ceremonial musings and preparation for writing.

A couple of thoughts while watching the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics:

1. There's always a weird, freaky, futuristic part of the ceremonies which nobody quite understands. I don't know, maybe Italian crowds know more about "futurist ballet" — as Brian Williams called it — but I sure as hell don't. And Brian didn't sound as if he knew, either.

2. As the teams are marching in, they play some mostly-inaudible background music, I guess to pacify the crowd as the massive Costa Rican delegation (population: 1) pours into the stadium. However, my ears perked up as I thought I recognized a familiar melody... hold onto your hats, kids, because it's the exeedingly obscure disco song from the mid-'70s, "Let's Start The Dance," by Bohannon! It took me a few seconds to pin it down but, sure enough, that unmistakable synthesizer (which one might hear in the background music of Boogie Nights) was chattering away as it is wont to do.

Not that I'm a giant disco fan or anything... I came across the song when I was searching Allmusic in the "Deep Funk" category, and with a clickity-click, I ended up at Bohannon. (Hey, c'mon, he used to drum for Stevie Wonder.)

Finally, it has come to this: tomorrow I start writing my thesis. The interviews are done, transcribed, analyzed, sorted, re-analyzed and commented-upon; I have the basic outline of the whole thesis and the meatiest section; I have the latest version of OpenOffice downloaded and set up with my favourite fonts.


This made me chuckle.

I've been receiving a couple of those "Buy D1sc0unt C1aL1s" spam emails a day on my main account, just like everyone else. But, I have to say, this one caught my eye before I turfed it, and I thought I'd share it with you.

Subject: Former President Bill Klinton uses Voagra!

Everybody knows the great sexual scandal known as "Klinton-Levinsky". After the relations like this Klintons popularity raised a lot! It is a natural phenomenon, because Bill as a real man in order not to shame himself when he was with Monica regularly used Voagra. What happened you see. His political figure became more bright and more attractive. It is very important for a man to be respected as a man!

See our Voagra shop to enter upon the new phase of your life.
[URL of the place that sells the stuff]

You know, I gotta hand it to the person who wrote this in the first place, even given the fact that Viagra (or even Voagra) hadn't been invented yet at the time of the alleged dalliance. It reminds me of a panhandler I once saw in Toronto, who was holding a puppet and said, "Spare change for crack for my puppet? My puppet needs crack!" I chuckled and thought to myself, "This young fellow entertained me. I will give him a dollar for services rendered."

Independent entrepreneurship... Ayn Rand would be so proud.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Chipping away, melting eyeballs, a possible southern sojourn, and the Plan for Tuesday.

The analysis of the ol' thesis data continues... slowly. The cool thing is, as I read, things are sorting themselves into categories in my head, and I'm nothing if not a categorizing/organizing/classifying/let's draw a giant chart and fit this all together kind of guy. The fact I haven't written a single word of the thesis-proper yet is a bit troubling, though, given the timeline I've set out for myself. Then again, I've always been a pretty quick writer, so... we'll see.

Intermission: Wow! This is only the third time I've used my ridiculously-large coffee mug that I got at Dollarama. I believe two times, this one included, it has been used for hot chocolate. Delicious hot chocolate. And now, back to our regularly-scheduled ramblings.

Tomorrow, I'll be doing my second annual "Volunteer to read B.Ed. program application personal statements." That's right, suckers — if you applied to the Intermediate-Senior section of the Queen's B.Ed. program for this upcoming September, your academic future may well be in my grubby little hands. Bribes will be accepted.

My folks are in Florida these days, and will be until mid-March. Seeing as this is my last shot in a long time to take a vacation outside the constraints of the hum-drum school year, I'm strongly considering joining them for a few days. I can score a relatively cheap flight from Syracuse to Orlando ($250-ish, which isn't too too bad); it's a couple hours' drive down to SYR, but c'mon, that's nothing.

(After immersing myself into and Expedia for the past few days sorting through airline prices, I've started to memorize the three-letter airport codes. "Why drive to YYZ or DTW when you can get a flight to MCO easily enough from SYR, only having to connect in CLT or DCA?" Oh, god, I need to get out more.)

As you're no doubt aware, next Tuesday is February 14 — or, as I've started calling it, "Misanthropy Tuesday." After the radio show (Lindsay and I are going to face off with pro- and anti-romance songs), the plan is to come home, unplug the phone, leave the TV and Internets off, and lose myself in my work. Unless I manage to score a hot date between now and then.

. . .

Hey, stop laughing! It could happen.

. . .

Alright, it isn't going to happen. You don't have to rub it in.

. . .


Wednesday, February 08, 2006

This doesn't make sense.

Last weekend, I branched-out a bit and visited the IGA near Division and the 401 to do some grocery-shopping. Unfortunately, they didn't have the brand of rice-crackers to which I've become quite attached lately, so I bought another brand in an odd, hexagonally-prismic cardboard box. And something on the side struck me a bit odd.

Sorry it's a bit blurry — my camera isn't so great with tiny things — but the bluish text says "Best before: / Meilleur avant:", and in the box below it, the number "750" is clearly printed.

Best before 750? What, the year 750?

Man, I am not going back to IGA. They sell 1256-year-old rice crackers!

Funny stuff.

Some funny, funny kids (some of whom hail from Golden Words) made themselves a short film.

Check it on out at YouTube. (Contains a couple of curse-words, FYI. But nothing too drastic.)

Monday, February 06, 2006

The Shoot-down.

Today, we'll be giving you Part 55 of our 180-episode series, "Men and Women in Modern Courtship." This installment will look at the differing roles of men and women in the initiation of an endeavour which may or may not result in such activities as the mutual shedding of clothing in a shared environment. So, let's begin.

"Old habits die hard," goes the saying. This holds true for not only individuals, but for societies in general. Traditions become ingrained and entrenched, and roles are readily assumed by most, without question or examination because, simply, "that's just how things are." To that end, the traditional role of the male in potential courtship situations is to initiate the contact, and the female stands by to either accept or reject the proposition.

For some males, this is an emboldening position; one of power and, ultimately, success. These people possess a certain innate ability — timing is intuitive, delivery is immaculate, and even the subtlest of social cues are noted and played. Successive successful forays into this arena result in a further refinement of the craft and, as another old saying goes, "the cream rises to the top." (Whether or not these attempts result in a successful coupling is the topic of Part 81 of this series, and will be left for a later date.) As a result of their refinement, these males appear, prima facie, especially desirable to females.

For others, this is a position of vulnerability. Being in such a position is difficult enough with someone with whom the male knows well; placing this moment of weakness very early in the acquaintanceship only magnifies its precariousness. In addition, very often the female will not make it known beforehand if their attention has been previously diverted, and in many cases where the female has made it known, the relative subtlety of the disclosure escapes detection by the male.

However, if signs point toward the positive for the even the most apprehensive of males, an attempt may be made to initiate a higher level of contact. The key lies in the interpretation of the cues given by the female: deciphered correctly, the initiator is rewarded for his efforts through his proposition's acceptance by the female. Deciphered incorrectly, the initator experiences certain failure; in common parlance, it is said that he is shot down, similar to an airplane being downed in combat.

Let us now examine the case of the fallout from the latter of the situations above (because, as mentioned before, Part 81 will deal with the former outcome). If the male is of the group for whom the initation of contact is an emboldening position, he will likely brush the incident off as an exception, slightly alter his heretofore-largely-successful strategies, and carry on. But if the male is of the group for whom the initiation of contact is a really fucking awful god damn nervewracking episode of torture, he may retreat to reconsider a radically-altered method of approach, and is often left bewildered and stunned by the incident, pushing him further into the abyss of self-doubt.

Thus, the groups become gradually more polarized: the successful become moreso, and the unsuccessful sink further into the background, achieving a rare breakthrough here and there, but often just really dreading the arrival of fucking Valentine's Day.

We've come to the end of Part 55, "The Shoot-down." Next time we'll address the topic of male footwear: "Do the Shoes Make the Man?". Until then, good night, and good luck.

Nobody did this for Marmaduke.

It's a bit old-hat, but this whole "cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed" thing has really caused a global shitstorm. Embassies are being busted-into, there's rioting in the streets, and they're burning the flag of Denmark. (Denmark? The ol' Stars-and-Stripes, maybe, but it's not often that a Scandinavian country's colours feel the warm kiss o' the flame.)

There are people on both sides of this issue shouting equally vociferously. On one side are the more obvious "this is awful, let's destroy things and shout Praise Allah" folks, who tend to get a lot of air-time, because hey, violence on the news attracts eyeballs. On the other are the "we should be able to print anything we want, including the blasphemous" people, who are usually doing so in countries which are comfortably distant from people in the former group.

In a way, I agree with both. Let me explain.

It's easy to say to the first group, "Calm down, don't get your undies in a knot," but the fact is that Islam really, really doesn't take too kindly to graphic portrayals of its Prophets (especially Mohammed, the last one). After asking around, it apparently has to do with them wanting to avoid idolatry; that is, praying to an image (created by man) rather than directly to the Big Guy. (Protestants have a somewhat similar beef with Catholics who sometimes pray directly to certain Saints rather than to God/Jesus.) The fact is, nobody knows what Mohammed looked like, so apparently it's blasphemous to even try to come up with a picture of him.

While I may not understand this point fully, and I may not believe in Islam (or any other organized religion, for that matter), it still behooves me to respect other peoples' beliefs, so long as they don't unduly affect my life... which brings me to my second point.

The folks that say, "We should be able to print anything we want," have to respect that belief system, too. The sole purpose of printing that cartoon — and you'd damn well better believe someone in all those newspapers knew that any graphic representations of Mohammed would offend a whole lot of people — was to show that they could. Well, yes, technically you can. But, it's kind of like me walking down the middle of my street wearing nothing but the skimpiest of Speedos: technically legal, but not a very good idea.

The media (in the West) have the right to do all these things, but with that right comes the responsibility to not unreasonably offend people. Patrick Martin described it pretty much like that on Studio2 late last week: "We in the West live in an atmosphere of political-correctness. Whether we can publish this or not isn't the question; the question is, was it right to print this, and my answer is 'no'. So we decided not to print the cartoons."

Let's turn things around a bit. We'll pick a fairly secular primarily-Muslim country (say, Turkey) and say a bunch of newspapers printed a cartoon which was blasphemous towards Christianity... the idea of a drawing showing Jesus getting sodomized while gunning down a group of schoolchildren comes to mind. So long as I didn't show cock-and-balls in the picture, I think it would be technically legal to publish. But, would it be a good idea? Hardly, because what's the journalistic or editorial merit in doing so? Its sole purpose would be to offend Christians. And I'd like to think we (as in, 21st-century humankind) are beyond that sort of thing.

Friday, February 03, 2006

An interesting statistic.

It's based on American numbers, but I think it applies equally well here.

The minimum wage in the U.S. in 1968, if it was adjusted for inflation, would be $9.09 an hour.

Currently, it's $5.15 an hour. (I believe it's a touch over $7.00 in Ontario.)

Food for thought.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

State of the Union, Schmate of the Union.

I could go on and on and on about the ridiculousness of this purely theatrical speech, the fact that I didn't watch any of it, or the well-crafted Democratic response which was, ironically, the only part of it I did catch.

The point is, there are more important things facing our continent, and me personally, in the very near future. I herein present the prime example of just such an event.