Monday, July 31, 2006

Clusterfuck.

It's a military term, apparently, to describe a situation in which every imaginable thing which can go wrong has gone wrong. My thesis is turning into just such a situation.

I am currently sitting at a computer lab at the Faculty of Education at Queen's. Yes, I'm in Kingston, not in Toronto, after having blasted down the 401 pretty much faster than I've ever gone before (I'm not one to be a speed-demon on our four-laners), in order to make it to the Grad Studies office before it closed at 4:30 (which I did, by 15 minutes; I made Scarborough to Kingston in two hours flat).

But J, you ask, why didn't you just mail the thing in?

Because I needed "four" copies of the thing here by Monday afternoon, and because I was at a wedding from Thursday onward, I didn't get a chance to print them out or colour-copy the pages that needed colour, which was six per copy.

Why are you wasting time in a computer lab, then?

Because as I handed in my four copies, the grad studies secretary said I needed five, because the one I'd already mailed in a week before, for the grad studies coordinator, needed to have tiny little changes, and also that person will not be at my defence because she'll be... oh, I dunno, probably on a sandy beach somewhere. Also, for some bizarre reason, when I went to print off the PDF containing my thesis, it completely messed up, so now I've had to print the thing off in 50-page chunks, which come out of the printer one. at. a. time. with. a. rest. in. the. middle.

But, at least it's a good thing that you know what you're doing, and that your supervisor helped you along the way, preparing you well.

Yeah, you'd think that, wouldn't you? Only, the thing is, when I have asked my advisor for feedback on what I've done so far he brushed me off and gave me none, and when I pointed this out he snapped at me and, in so many words, threatened to delay the process even more than it already has. (Did I mention I handed in my first draft on March 22nd? And my second on June 6th? And that today is July 31st? And I haven't really received much substantive feedback on anything from my supervisor other than, in essence, "Make sure your 12-point i's are dotted and indented 1.25" on the left side"?

So, in conclusion, clusterfuck.

Now, for some inexplicable reason, this keyboard has flipped into French-Canadian, which means my apostrophes are coming out as èèèèè (and quotation marks as ÈÈÈÈÈ). To quote Dante from Clerks, "What do you do for an encore, pour sugar in my gas tank while anally raping my grandmother?"

(I had to do trial-and-error to find the question mark and quotation marks on this fucked-up keyboard. Fuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuck.)

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Enjoyable, exhausting, and not quite over.

I've been on-the-go since Wednesday morning, pretty much nonstop, until now. And it's not exactly over just because I'm sitting at my computer with a fan pointed straight at me, catching up on blogs and news and how a stellar seven-inning pitching performance today by Jeremy Bonderman got totally fucking wasted by infield hits, errors, and other assorted oddities in the eighth.

On Thursday, after getting a little bracket fixed on my car (it's not often that you get something on your car fixed for a grand total of $38.50, including labour), I hit the 401 at about 3:30 in the afternoon so I could be in London by 6-ish. "Alright, I'm going to beat the traffic!"

...except that, near Milton, because tons of assfucks going west decided it'd be a great idea to slow down and look at a car crash in the eastbound lanes, I spent nearly an hour to go twenty kilometres. This made me late for the rehearsal dinner (which was more a collection of hors-d'oeuvres, really), but the point is that I got there.

The ceremony was to be held on a patio just outside the dining room at a country club outside of London: ceremony at 5, over by 5:30, dinner at 6. I've been to a wedding like this before (no church, everything all in one place), and it made for a nice, relaxed evening. So, we ran through the wedding plan that night, with Mike (a fellow groomsman and teacher) and I cracking-wise throughout the whole thing as Paul (the groom) stood up in front of us, teacher-like, explaining all the steps.

On Friday I came back to London, checked into the hotel (with the meat-locker-like air conditiong in the room; more on this later), got all spiffed-up in the sexiest fucking tux you've ever seen, and we headed off to get photos done. I've known Paul for about fifteen years, and I've never seen him quite so not-quite-himself as Friday... but, seeing as how it was his wedding day, I'll allow him to be a little nervous. Photos were fun, but in black tuxes in the sun and humidity and heat, things got a little toasty. (Fortunately, I was only in about a sixth of all the pictures, which meant most of the time was spent with my jacket off, standing under a tree, in the shade, drinking copious amounts of water, shooting the breeze with my fellow groomsmen and noting that every single one of the six bridesmaids were sporting wedding rings. Balls!)

On the way from pictures to the ceremony, our car (including me, the aforementioned Mike, the aforementioned Paul, and Ali, who is Mike's fiancee) made copious "taint" jokes, blasted the AC to the maximum to try and cool off, and mused about how Paul had about 90 quality minutes left with his testes.

Then, the ceremony: exceedingly nondenominational , punctuated with jokes by the minister-type-dude (I don't think he ever mentioned anything God-like, at all, which was really nice), and since it followed about a half-hour of socializing inside the country club, with a bar which was open for business, some of the people in the crowd were actually sipping drinks during the ceremony. Now that's my kind of wedding ceremony.

(I also had a pint of Sleeman Honey Brown in me.)

The speeches just after (the very excellent) dinner were planned out so that all the bridesmaids went first — presumably to get all the waterworks out of the way — with the groomsmen afterwards left to crack jokes. The thing is, the entire set of speeches — both the ladies and the fellas — were packed with zingers and hilarioius stories. I swear, the whole thing turned into a Dean Martin-style comedy roast... which was truly a great way for things to go, because we've all been at weddings where people are sobbing and blubbering about how they love their mom and dad, and everyone just looks awkwardly down at their wine glasses while the speech-giver tries to compose him/herself. Not fun.

The dance was decent, even if the DJ didn't play any of the songs I suggested ("Build Me Up Buttercup" by the Foundations, "I Want You Back" by the Jackson 5, and "I Wish" by Stevie Wonder" — these songs make me want to dance, for crying out loud, so that must turn average people into James Freakin' Brown). A nice nod to my (and Paul's) background was given via the playing of "Friends In Low Places" by Garth Brooks; I'm not much of a country music fan, but I swear this was played at every high school dance we had. Also, "Home For A Rest" by Spirit of the West was played... which, if you were in university in the mid-late '90s like me, was code for "everybody get up and jumping around on the dance floor like a crazed east-coast maniac and spin around while linking arms with strangers." I know it meant a lot to quite a few of the people there... and if you aren't of that particular time and particular place, it doesn't.

For those of you who are interested... yes, I did manage to put a few drinks in me. Not enough to put me on the floor, mind you, but enough to get a delicious little floaty buzz going for most of the festivities. After the hellish July I had, it was exactly what the doctor ordered.

Next post: musings on the pressure to get hitched. It's new to me, and a little scary.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

I'm up to my arse in exams.

But the freedom's so close, I can taste it.

You know what it tastes like?

Wedding-reception booze.

See you losers on Sunday or so.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Tigers matter.

In today's Detroit News, there's a great story by Terry Foster about his uncle, in the hospital after a stroke, and how news of the Tigers' recent success might just help him recover.

I suggest you read it.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Some thoughts on teaching.

It's been pretty easy to get back in the rhythm of teaching, even though this summer school experience is far from typical (in terms of jamming stuff into four weeks, and also due to the classes being 3 hours long). I like to talk with kids about their experiences in other classes — falling short, of course, of merely gossiping about my colleagues — and it's really gone a long way toward shaping how I approach a class.

In the course of doing some thesis revisions, I was thumbing through Susan Ohanian's excellent book, One Size Fits Few: The Folly of Educational Standards. (That title requires a bit of explanation, which I can do over a beer sometime in August when I have a little time.) This paragraph caught my eye, and I think it bears repeating.

I'm a good third-grade teacher not because I have a master's degree in medieval literature from the University of California or a zillion course hours from New York University on teaching and the humanities, but because I like kids. Plain and simple, I like them. Newspaper and TV editors are enamored by the very idea of retired military men and corporate middle managers going into the schools to teach discipline and mathematics. Well, good for them for making the effort, but if they are to persevere and even triumph, their preeminent concern must be to cherish the children in their care.

Ohanian is an elementary school teacher and I deal with teenagers, so we have slightly different classroom dynamics going on. However, her main point rings true: good teachers like kids.

I told my class on Friday afternoon that, out of the 700 or so kids I've taught in my career, there are only two who come to mind that I genuinely didn't like, and I think one of those had serious emotional problems which came out as hostility towards me. They seemed astonished at this, but I swear to you that it's true.

I guess part of the class' astonishment was the fact that I mentioned that "neither of the two are in this room right now," and there's a kid in that class who drives me up the goddamn wall (who we'll call "P"), pretty much all the time, every day, and everyone in the class knows it.* I carried on, "Yeah, you all know P pretty much makes me want to kill him, because he doesn't know when to shut up. And he says some pretty ridiculous things at times. But, you know, underneath it all, P's kind of a likeable guy." (I decided to eschew the gender-neutrality of P, mostly because it would've been irritating as hell to read.)

We've all had teachers we've liked or hated, who were good or awful. Unfortunately, we tend to remember the terrible ones much more easily than the great ones; I know I do. I like my kids, and I hope they like me, too... but there's a fine line between "wanting the kids to think you're a cool guy who tells jokes" and "having the kids like you because you treat them fairly and teach them a lot of great stuff that's useful to them." I shoot for the latter.

* It's far easier for teachers to think that students don't realize how classroom dynamics work and that you can treat them in their own little compartmentalized way, but let's be honest, they know way more than the teacher does about what goes on between those desks. So, why not say out loud what everybody's thinking anyway? They all know P's a loudmouth — they can hear him just as well as I can — and they know that sort of thing drives teachers bananas. I'm a firm believer in transparency, in many aspects of my life, including inside those four classroom walls.

I told him not to bother.

Me: "So, what's the deal with your cute friend in the red and white dress?"

Buddy: "You mean, so-and-so?"

Me: "Yeah, her — oh, wait. Wait just a second. This is me we're talking about here. Whenever I'm in this situation, successfully chatting up a fine lady, she has got to be one of two things: taken or gay. So, actually, man... don't bother. It's alright. Have a good night, dude, and get home safe."

Buddy: "I hear ya, man."

It's times like that where I wonder why I even try.

Other than that, the evening was superb: tasty pasta was eaten in Little Italy, the Radical Dudez whipped out their ukulele, and Khaki Snack rocked Lee's Palace the only way they know how: with disgusting humour, pleas for the Lebanese, and Chris sitting out the first song to re-inflate the palm tree on stage. ("Chris' job in the band is to play the novelties," Derek mused. "It's the most important position in the band, really.")

Friday, July 21, 2006

It's time for another survey.

To take part in a little survey, click here.

This worked a little while ago when I asked for your input as to what utensil to use for eating breakfast cereal. (If you'll recall, teaspoon nearly beat out tablespoon, with one vote cast for "fingers" — Kelly, we're not at Medieval Times, we use utensils.) And so it comes to pass...

Survey Number Two:
A Survey Concerning The Application
Of Chemical Substances
To The Underarm Area
For The Purpose Of
Preventing Odours

This was borne out of a conversation I had recently in which the other person asked if I used deodorant. I replied, "No, I use anti-perspirant." The aforementioned other person asked, astonished, "You mean, every day? I don't ever use any; I don't sweat."* And thus, a need to cast this question out to the wider masses was realized.

Your choices:
  1. Anti-perspirant
  2. Deodorant
  3. Other substance
  4. Nothing
So, vote via comment, and I'll tally it up. (If you can figure out how to keep your vote anonymous, I don't mind if you do so. But I'll ask that you kindly only vote once; keep in mind my StatCounter thing can track IP addresses of all voters, so I can see if you're stuffing the ballot box.)

Vote #1 is from me, and it's for anti-perspirant. (Sure, the aluminum compounds might speed up any Alzheimer's that might happen later on... but c'mon, at least I'll smell good.) Your turn.

* The hell you don't. It's not like I've ever been around you and thought, "Holy hell, you smell like a city garbage strike," but seriously, thirty-four damn degrees today, you're gonna fuckin' sweat.



I dated this for Friday, because I'd like for this to stay at the top of my blog for a while. Don't worry, I didn't travel to the future or anything. Honest.

Getting busy these days.

Oh... you and your dirty mind. I didn't mean that kind of "getting busy." Silly perverts!

Summer school is drawing to a close. I've basically had no life five days a week since July 3, because from the time I get up until my head hits the pillow (where it spends too little time these days) I'm either at work, recovering from work, or doing work at home (or procrastinating from doing said work; e.g., times like right now). Fortunately, there are two more days of classes left, then a review day, then the exam day, then a day where kids can come in and do some extra little assignments to boost their mark and/or watch Apollo 13 (we're doing the Space unit, so it's germane to the subject matter).

Right after that — literally, I'll be leaving straight from work next Thursday — is my buddy Paul's wedding, down in London. I'm in the wedding party (he's not having one single Best Man, as he doesn't believe in choosing favourites, which is fine by me because I've already been one), and let me tell you, I'm a-gonna get druuuuuuuuuuuunk at that reception. I will be taking my revenge out on this hellish July by drowning the fourth-last day of it in liquor, clad in a tux. The rehearsal dinner (and subsequent rehearsal) is Thursday night, which means I'll be trying to go through Toronto on the 401 at about 3:30 pm. Yeah, that's gonna go well.

Also, it's 95% for-sure that my thesis defence will be Wednesday, August 16th. I finally had to send an ultimatum to my advisor: "Come on, guy, let's get this thing defended so I can stop Queen's from sticking me up for my cash once a month." It looks like things are moving forward alright, but I have to send a copy of my ready-for-defence thesis off sometime next week... the last week of summer school classes, and the days right before leaving for this wedding thing. Guess what I'll be doing this weekend! That's right, thesis revisions. For the umpteenth time. Oh well, at least there's an end in sight.

But there ain't no way I'm missing that Khaki Snack/Radical Dudez gig on Friday night. Plus, maybe a little Clerks II beforehand. Busy, indeed.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

She was right; I lost my shit when I heard this.

Okay, see, whatever you were going to do on Friday night, WIPE THOSE PLANS THE FUCK OFF THE SLATE.

Friday, July 21
Lee's Palace (Bathurst & Bloor)
THE TRIUMPHANT RETURN OF
KHAKI SNACK

If you have never been witness to the greatness of KS — mayhaps you did not attend Queen's University in the early '00s, and/or didn't make your way to Clark Hall Pub on Monday nights — they are the funniest band alive. They're a trio (usually), and they write songs that list people with beards or big teeth or that recommend certain dishes at Cambodiana or describe how one of their moms had an affair with Roberto Alomar Jr. or how one of them got dumped by their girlfriend on Christmas Eve over ICQ or one simply entitled "Every Time I See Islamic Art I Think Of You".

So, in short, it will be the greatest live musical performance that Toronto has ever seen. KS has a blog here; I suggest you check it out.

And I will see you at the show.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Two sides of the Lebanon/Israel conflict.

What the hell is going on over there? Honestly, sometimes I think countries over there lob rockets at one another for the simple reason that they haven't done so in a while. A couple of kidnapped soldiers, a retaliation, a counter-retaliation... and there you have it, a full-on kerfuffle.

For shit's sake, sit down and talk it out.

Anyway.

There was an email exchange lately on the Queen's education grad student listserv, a message and a counter-message, showing just how ridiculous this situation is for a lot of people in those two countries. I felt it was a good idea to share some excerpts with you.

The first person is a M.Ed. student's wife's friend, who managed to find her way to Beirut:

Israel says it is striking military bases, but so far what are army planes targeting? Not bases, but whole buildings of innocent civilians, blasting their limbs here and there. They are striking terrified families who have been warned to evacuate their homes just as they are fleeing in their cars and buses. Entire families are being wiped out. Children and babies who have no idea of what is going on are being charred, trapped in burning houses and cars. Entire bridges, highways, electricity companies, airports, touristic points are being annihilated. There is no way I can possibly convey to you the horrors and the injustices that are being committed. 25,000 have had to flee their homes because their homes have been leveled. All the produce in our farms and fields is going to waste because there is no way to distribute it to the needy families in the country. There is no communication between areas, so families are unable to check on their loved ones. People flee from one area only to be struck in another. And what is the Western world doing? I don't know.

The response came from an M.Ed. student herself, a friend of mine who visits family in Israel fairly often:

I am writing from Jerusalem where I just came out of 48 hours confined to a basement in Safed, northern Israel, trapped without running water and little food as dozens of missles from Lebanon fell around us. The ground shook as rockets fell only metres away from where we lay hidden. Once I held my new born nephew as we watched in horror as a missle fell right outside of our make shift shelter. Everything shook horribly and we thought our lives were over. When morning came and the rockets continued to fall, we ran for our lives through the streets of Sefad to flee the city. Now I jump at every sound I hear.

Over what, again?



On my way home from work, listening to the CBC news talking about this conflict, I couldn't help but realize something about skirmishes in that part of the world:

Israel seems to have been at odds, either directly or indirectly, with most of its neighbours: Lebanon, these days; Iraq, in 1990, lobbed some SCUD missles at it; the Palestinian-controlled areas, since, well, Israel was created; Syria, since '67, over the Golan Heights; Egypt, in the Sinai tussle a few decades ago; Iran, since the Shah was turfed in '79... and so on.

I'm not pro-Israel, and I'm not anti-Israel. I'm just pointing out some facts here. All I want is for cooler heads to prevail. That's it.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

I used to have some semblance of a life.

But nowadays, I'm a hamster on a treadmill.

Get up at six. Clear the cobwebs out of the brain in the shower. Shave half-assedly. Glance at the clock, realize there's no time for breakfast, get in the car and go to work at 7.

Unlock the classroom doors for the people who don't have keys. Fall into the chair in the otherwise-silent office and frantically do the marking that didn't get done last night, or run around like crazy getting equipment together.

Have fun with the kids for three hours.*

Rush around during an all-too-brief lunch. Go back to the office and wolf down some lousy leftovers in silence while doing work. Run to the office to grab the afternoon attendance folder.

Have fun with other kids for three hours.*

Sit and collect thoughts for fifteen minutes. Prepare the lesson for tomorrow, photocopy like a madman, make sure everything's set for the next day, and leave at 5 or 6 or 6:30.

Drive home, pick up the mail. Put off making a half-decent dinner at a reasonable hour. Have a lousy dinner at an unreasonable hour. Spend all evening loathing that god damn fucking marking which only piles up and makes things worse the longer it's ignored. Finally get around to the marking, then submit to fatigue and collapse into bed.

Repeat.

Note that the times marked with an asterisk (*) are the only times during the day that I interact with other people face-to-face. And these are people who were two or three years old when Kurt Cobain bit the big one.

August cannot come fast enough.

Remember, J, you actually like teaching. You love it. This "education" thing is your calling in life, if you believed in having a "calling." You'd give your right fucking arm for those kids, and then the left. And you know it.

Well, it feels like I'm giving them what's left of my sanity.

Stick it out, man. Eight more days of classes, then the exam. Then, get ridiculously drunk at Paul's wedding on the 28th. Unleash your revenge on July when it's all over with.

Yeah, that actually sounds like a decent idea. Besides, I look great in a tux, and with all the "liquid courage" I'm bound to have in me at that reception, there's a decent chance I'll make a pass at the bride's hot cousin, or something along those lines.

Given your luck, J, she'll be married to a Hell's Angel.

Cram it, Conscience, and let me get back to these quizzes.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Striking yet another blow against ignorance.

I enjoy teaching, I really do — sure, teenagers act like aliens most of the time, but they do have some pretty endearing qualities — and one of the most awesomest things about teaching is that you get a little pulpit every day from which to speak your mind, to right some wrongs, to set things straight.

(Mind you, it's tough to draw the line between "telling the kids what they really need to know in this world" and "blatant prostletyzing," but I think I walk it pretty well.)

Today, in my morning class (our summer school is one 3-hour morning class, then a different crew in for the 3-hour afternoon class), one of the kids who doesn't speak English as her/his first language asked me what a particular word was in today's horoscope in the 24.

I lost it. So I decided to take it out on the entire class.

Me, midly disturbed: "Horoscopes, psychics, fortune-tellers, people who claim they can act as a medium to the deceased... they're all CRAP. Every last one of them. The Babylonians disproved horoscopes THREE THOUSAND YEARS AGO, for crying out loud."

Kid #1, feebly: "But I read my horoscope, and sometimes they're true."

Me, sardonically: "Yeah, about one-twelfth of the time, let me guess. And they're so vague: 'Today is a good day to settle debts.' Well, you know what, every day is a good day to settle debts! Have you never heard of a little thing called interest?"

Kid #2, vigorously: "Right on! Read the one today, sir, it's stupid, and it doesn't mean anything."

Me, invigorated: "If I read in the paper today that, at 5:14 pm today, I'd bend over to tie my shoe, now that would be something."

Kid #1, again feebly: "I don't read the ones in the paper. Those aren't real horoscopes."

Me, with a laser-focus: "Dozens upon dozens of studies have proven that all horoscopes, and everything else associated with them, are a hoax, and are, again, absolute crap. Nothing like that has ever been scientifically proven, ever. You have got to believe in things you can see, that you can test scientifically. These are things we can prove to be true, and then there's things like horoscopes. There's a reason they belong on the same page as the Sudoku: they can predict your future about equally well. Do not, repeat, do not believe in horoscopes."

Kid #3, being a smartass: "Well, what about religion, then?"

Me, after a short pause: "Hey, I don't want to get fired here."

[class laughs]

Me, a little quieter: "...but I think you know where I probably stand on that."

Sunday, July 09, 2006

The Hoff takes on Wimbledon.

So, former Baywatch star David Hasselhoff — much-beloved in Germany, but clearly B-list in the rest of the western world — tried to bust into a match at Centre Court, without a ticket.

Apparently, David screamed at the guards, "Do you know who I am? I'm The Hoff." (my emphasis)


The Hoff being led away by security

Priceless.

EDIT (5:52 pm): This is the greatest music video in the history of music videos. Seriously, it kicks the shit out of "Thriller".

EDIT #2 (7:16 pm): I can not. stop. watching. that video. Listen carefully to the lyrics and tell me that isn't a manifesto for a pedophiliac. Plus, the air-guitaring? Peerless. "Don't Hassel The Hoff"? Priceless. References to Baywatch? Shameless. Plus, check out the computer animation... it looks like it's straight out of a Grade 11 student's final project on Flash. Wow.

EDIT #3 (7:21 pm): For some reason, I can't stop bleeding out of my eyes.

Friday, July 07, 2006

I haven't been around much.

That's because I've been spending most of my waking hours at the school at which I'm teaching two Grade 9 Science courses this July. I usually arrive at around 7:40 in the morning, and haven't left earlier than 5:30 (today it was 6:20).

Regular classes in high schools these days are 75 minutes long, which are certainly long enough (I think universities and their 50-minute periods are right on the money). However, since these courses are compressed, each class is three hours long (with a "generous" 45-minute lunch break, which I usually spend marking like a fiend), and I'm teaching two of 'em. Six hours a day standing, talking for a good portion of it, and haranguing a bunch of 15-year old jerks isn't what I'd necessarily call a "walk in the park."

Actually, I take that back. There are a couple of "interesting characters" in these classes, and a couple of slackers/stoners, and a couple of kids who just sit there cluelessly. (Seeing as how this is a summer course designed to help kids pick up a credit that they'd failed the first time through, you're gonna get more than a few of those.) However, there's one kid who just out-weirds them all; click here to read the story.



"K" (let's use pseudonyms here) is only taking this class because s/he'd missed her/his final exam at her/his regular school, which (I guess) means you automatically fail the course. S/he claims s/he was given an exam timetable with incorrect information on it, but I think that's a dubious alibi — with my own kids, I make sure the day of the final exam is written everywhere in the classroom, on nineteen different handouts I give them, and (if possible) tattooed backwards on their foreheads.

The problem with K (one of them) is that s/he's in a "gifted" program at her/his regular school... and that is just the kiss of fucking death for a kid's development. You remember Malcolm in the Middle, with all the weirdos and freaks and doofuses in Malcolm's hyper-advanced class? They'd call K the oddball, I swear to god. A thought occurred to me after school today: "The worst thing about kids in a gifted program is that they know they're in a gifted program." But I digress.

I suppose part of the issue is that K is normally in an environment where s/he doesn't stand out quite so much. However, put K in a regular class, with regular kids (add the summer-school "rough around the edges" factor, too), and suddenly K doesn't know the first thing about interacting with people who aren't as freaky as s/he is.

This is trouble.

I always did pretty well in school, and I admit that I was probably on the weird end of the kid-spectrum growing up. The difference is, I knew I had certain peculiarities even from a young age (I remember coming to this realization in Grade 1 one day out on the playground), and that gives a kid something with which to work. K, on the other hand, carries on in her/his own bizarre way, inadvertently pissing off everyone around her/him (hell, it might be intentional, I don't know), and making feeble attempts using highfalutin' words to perhaps put up a verbal fight.

Seriously, K sits in class hour after hour and makes up her/his own word-puzzles. When the other kids ask her/him what the hell s/he's doing, K cranks up the weirdness and spouts off something about history or scientific discoveries or the fact that s/he speaks "a real language which you've never heard of" (I wish I was making this up). This, of course, sparks an incredulous reaction from her/his classmates, which just cranks them up even more.

I had a little chat with K after class today, when all the other kids had gone. (Actually, two kids were still in the room at the time, but when they started to hear what I had to say, they very quickly ascertained they shouldn't be in the room for it. Hell, I don't care; there's too much secrecy these days anyway. Kids need to know the whole story, rather that just getting bits and pieces doled-out by the Grown Ups.)

Basically, I told K that her/his outward contempt for the inferior abilities of her/his classmates, whether real or not, in conversation with said classmates, might one day get her/his "ass kicked." I added, "Sometimes you've got to keep your head up and look out for your own well-being, and so far you're not doing that." I don't know if it sunk into K's skull or not — we'll see on Monday — but I'm really not holding out a lot of hope.

I'm just curious to know if any of her/his previous teachers ever took her/him aside and told her/him something like that. Lord knows K needed it.



Anyway, the moral of the story is, after four 10- or 11-hour days of being at the school (then doing some work at home, to boot; and when not doing work, I'm worrying about why I'm not doing any work, and feeling guilty about not doing any work), I feel like I've been hit by a dump truck. Initially I was all set to fill my body with copious amounts of liquor tonight, but on the way home an idea dawned on me: dinner at a pub whilst playing NTN trivia (you know, the questions up on the TV screens, and the little keyboards at your table), coming home, getting a book, and being in bed by 11.

The booze will have to wait for tomorrow, and plans are already in the works. If you're up for a night of sitting and drinking at a picnic table near Christie Pits (right near Christie Station on the Bloor line), drop me a line. (BYOB, obviously... but, word to the wise, Labatt Honey is cheap again these days.)

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

We can listen to the sports scores, too, y'know.

Dear Italian soccer fans who insist on honking your horns up and down my street many hours after beating Germany in the semifinals of the World Cup:

We get it already. You won.

Now clam the hell up. Some of us got shit to do.

Sincerely,

The Rest of Toronto

Monday, July 03, 2006

The pros and cons of summer.

As I staggered into my apartment carrying a load of groceries, sweating like Ted Striker in Airplane! after my Everestlike climb up the stairs, I wondered to myself, "How the hell could anyone actually prefer summer as a season?"

These days, I spend at least 80% of my waking hours trying to devise ways to keep my body temperature below "July in Riyadh." I position and re-position my lame fans, strip off as much clothing as possible, and at night I lay in bed and dream of Ellesmere Island (although it won't be long before palm trees sprout up there, if we keep going the way we're going).

Is this the way to live one's life?

I've decided to come up with some pros and cons regarding this current season. Mind you, I am already biased against it, so this list may or may not be "fair and balanced." (Hey, at least I make the disclaimer; Fox News just seems to think that if they repeat that phrase often enough, it'll just become true.)

Pros

Women wear less clothing.
Usually this works in my favour; I am a huge fan of the short skirt and bared midriff. Most women who decide go this route actually do look good in it... but, once in a while, someone goes in way over their head, and that ain't pretty. That being said, the eye-candy around this fair city (owing to its mixed-up, multicultural nature) is very tasty as the temperature rises.

Baseball is played.
I was on a softball team when I lived in Toronto before, and played last summer in Kingston in a very recreational intramural league (e.g. no umpires), and that's always fun. Also, the big-league season is in full swing; around this time of year the Tigers are usually on the cusp of being mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, but as you all know, this year is different. Which makes me a happy guy.

The evenings are nice.
A few nights ago I took a stroll around the neighbourhood at around 9 pm. It was decently cool by then, it was still a bit light out, and people were out on patios and sauntering around and generally enjoying themselves. I like my neighbourhood: it's quaint, has pretty much everything with a 10-minute walk (including excellent bagels), and there are plenty of SUVs to spit on.

Cons

The days are hell.
Sure, the evenings are in the mid-20s, but that means the days are over 30. Pasty bastards with northern European backgrounds are clearly not designed for this type of climate. In fact, I'm positive it wasn't the "harsh Canadian winters" that did-in the Vikings a thousand years ago — they came from places like freakin' Iceland — it was the heat and humidity of a Canadian summer that sent them packing.

Minus-15 is refreshing.
The heat makes me want to lay around and not do anything. The cold, I find, refreshes me: I take a deep breath of crisp, frigid air, and I'm ready to go. Mind you, you've got to be bundled-up for the cold, and that takes a while; it certainly doesn't take five minutes to put on a t-shirt, shorts and sandals. I don't mind, though; I have a warm coat and decent gloves. Bring it on.

Sunburns hurt like a bitch.
If you're pale like me, you know the routine... slap on the sunscreen before you go outside for more than three minutes so you won't get a debilitating second-degree burn that'll make you wince for days. And if you're not pale like me, and have never known the pain of a sunburn caused by the scorching Florida sun that makes your skin blister-up two days later and probably will end up killing you with skin cancer in forty years' time... fuck you.

In conclusion, bring on December. Ho-ho-ho.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Whatever you do, do NOT stop the presses.

Actual, honest-to-goodness story on msn.com's "Health and Fitness" section:

Men Assume Sexual Interest When There May Be None

... Even when they're seated across a table from each other in a first-time, five-minute conversation, a man tends to sexualize a woman and incorrectly assume sexual interest on her part, new research finds. ... [my emphasis]

Really? They needed to do research on this? And someone PAID for this "research?"

Seriously?!?

I could've told them this in ten seconds.