Thursday, May 31, 2007

Seriously, get off the goddamn cellphone.

You're walking down Bathurst. You're on the bus. You're probably driving your car.



Just stop.

Organize your life. Take a minute to plan things out, so you won't be late, so you don't need to call someone... "I'm on the way, I'm going to be late, whatever, it doesn't matter, I'm calling you, so it's okay." It's not. So get off the phone. for. fuck's. sakes.

Oh, and I got my M.Ed. degree today at Convocation. They bagpiped us in, the honourary doctorate guy cracked jokes, and I managed to find out that I wasn't the only one who had a horrible experience with my thesis supervisor. A lovely day, really.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Get some sledgehammers and hop in the car, we're going to Kentucky.

So, there's a "museum" in Kentucky which shows dinosaurs with humans.

Apparently, 60% of Americans (based on an ABC News poll) believe that God created everything in six days, about 6000 years ago... yes, including dinosaurs. A full 100% of the people who write this blog think that 60% of Americans are fucking idiots.

Seriously... how long are we going to put up with this horseshit? Creationism isn't true. It is just not true. Because it's written down in a book that the Gideons give away does not make it true. In fact, tons of research has been done, from Darwin on down the line, showing that evolution was/is the mechanism by which different species came about on this planet.*

Because there's a fancy museum — and I'll hold off on the jokes about it being in a small town in Kentucky — I'm afraid that kids are going to get the wrong impression. "Hey, I saw animatronic robots tell me that Adam lived in a Garden of Eden with a bunch of dinosaurs, so it must be true." It is not, and will never be true.

End of story.

In conclusion,


* A good example of this is "speciation" — that is, a new species being formed. We've studied certain bacteria for a couple of decades and, because there are new generations so frequently, we've watched them evolved into new forms that we've had to classify as new species. This is just a couple of decades, people. The thing that most creationists can't wrap their heads around is the massive time-scale that we've been around... and no, it's not 6000 years, it's 4.5 billion. Billion. We can't mentually visualize anything bigger than a few hundred of anything, much less a million times that. If you give a random set of molecules the right conditions and a few billion years, you can get some pretty crazy things.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Flash, Firefox and Ubuntu: Not a great combination.

The title pretty much says it all.

I'm running Firefox on Ubuntu 7.04 (Feisty Fawn), and I'd say that a good 90% of the time Firefox loads a web page with Flash content on it, my entire system slows to a crawl and my hard drive goes a little crazy. If I close the offending page, I'd say half the time Firefox outright crashes.

This has only started happening in the last couple of days... I think I upgraded some other package or something, and... yeah, this happens. (I wish I could remember what I added — was it the firefox-dev package? — just before the caca hit the fan.)

Anyway, if you run Linux (you don't), and have experience with these sorts of issues (you don't), then drop me a line (you won't).

Monday, May 21, 2007

On aging.

It's 2007.

...holy crap, it's 2007! It seems like yesterday that my parents parked on top of the hill beside UW's Village 1 and helped me haul my gear into my room in residence. (No, seriously... with all the booze and meth and pills and Scotchgard-huffing, I actually have no memories from 1995 to the present. True story.)

Since we are in the year we are, my odometer will roll over from 29 to 30 before the ball drops on Times Square again. This is a big one, and the first potentially scary milepost in one's life: 16 and 19 were both undeniably eagerly-anticipated, and it's kinda nice to hit 21 so you know you can buy a beer in the US. With 25 you can rent a Pontiac anywhere, and your car insurance company decides to start using lube when it bends you over the coffee table. But the Big Three-Oh... that can represent a lot.

For one, I'm definitely not a kid anymore, so the McDonald's Playland is pretty much out. It also means you're going to have to be able to show some sort of "accomplishments" and "skills" and "ability to handle responsibility;" I think I do alright there. You should also be not quite as dumb as you were when you were 16; judging by the average teenager, I think I'm in the clear for that one.

I'm a dude, so the idea of a "biological clock" doesn't apply to me. If ever I get antsy about the ability to ever have a brood of little JTLs running around, I look to the example of the late Tony Randall and breathe a sigh of relief. It's a double-standard to be sure, but hey, someone's gotta come out on the long end of the stick, and that's us. (Sorry, ladies.)

A couple of weeks ago I was riding in a cab, and in talking with the driver, I told him that I was in my seventh year of teaching. (This would've been my 7th if I hadn't taken two years out in the middle, but conversations with cab drivers aren't exactly the time or place to get into the intimate details of one's educational history.) He said, "You don't look like you could've been teaching for seven years." He also could've been fishing for a bigger tip... but because it was a fixed-fare ride (the car dealership gave me a taxi slip beforehand), maybe I don't actually look 29. Which is good, I suppose.

As far as relationships go... well, that one needs a bit of work. The "half your age plus seven" rule puts my lower limit for dateability at 21.5 years, and I think that's reasonable. For assorted reasons (both legal and otherwise) I couldn't date a 17-year-old, nor would I ever envision doing so; 21.5 is about 3rd or 4th year in university, and... well, I think I'd have to take that on a case-by-case basis. I mean, we all know people who are 27 and act 14; there has to be some flexibility there. And I don't really see myself with an older woman.

Physically, I feel alright. I should go to a gym, but every time I have in the past, I've hated it. It's boring as hell; I'll just play more sports, thanks. Mentally, I'm doing alright too — I'd like to think that the rocks between my ears are better-off than they were a few years ago, and that there's nowhere-but-up to go.

So, in conclusion, I fail to see what the big deal is. Age isn't just a number — I find there are some things you can only acquire by living longer, and there ain't no shortcut around it — but to freak out when a new decade rolls around is entirely illogical.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

It was rock, and it was roll. Lots of roll.

Good god damn that good.

1. Bloodshot Bill

We got there about halfway through his set, and it took me a little while to figure out what was going on. When I did, I saw that it was one seated man, playing an acoustic guitar outfitted with a pickup (high on distortion), with one foot playing a bass drum and another playing a set of high-hats. And singing. And flailing his hair around madly. And paying homage to Eddie Cochran. In short, he was great.

2. The Sadies

You know you're going to get some countrified, ass-shakin', chicken-pickin' guitar-playin' when you see the Good brothers... and they did not disappoint in the least. They even brought their mom and dad out to sing and play harmonica, respectively, for about half of their set. Also, another special guest turned out to be Blue Rodeo's resident crazy old man, Greg Keelor, who ripped through "Loved-On Look" and a couple of other songs. Also, I dig bands that do instrumentals, and I'd say a good 40% of their songs had no words. This pleased me. Well done, fellers.

3. Heavy Trash with The Sadies

Jon Spencer and Matt Verta-Ray have a side project, Heavy Trash, from which I'd never really heard anything. However, I've liked the cut of Spencer's jib for over a decade (Orange is still one of my favourite albums of all time), and the thought of his punk-blues madness mingled with the laid-back-yet-exhilarating twanginess of the Sadies was what brought me out tonight. And, let me tell you, they came through with flying colours.

Spencer is a madman up on stage: he falls to his knees, he lunges towards the crowd, he attacks his guitar (in this case, an acoustic) as if it were possessed by the Devil. He stared me down for a good ten seconds — his eyes tried to bore through my skull, out the other side — and you can tell he really gets off on giving the crowd everything he's got. (Tonight, he went one step farther and got off the stage, wandered to the front of the bar, grabbed a mike off the sound guy's table, and kept yelping.) In short, the consummate frontman: full of swagger, and deserving of every ounce of it.

In conclusion, it was a fantastic night of Rock and Roll.

ROCK and ROLL!!!!!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Julian Tavarez's drinking habits; cell phone conversations.

Tonight's Tigers-Red Sox game got rained out. But, just look at the standard-issue mugshot on the Sox' starting pitcher's stats page:

How many drinks did this guy have before they took his picture? photographer: "Hey, Julian, how about we snap off your picture when you're done your next keg-stand?"

Tavarez: "Mmmmrmrrrrrrmmmmffff!!!"

Crowd around Tavarez: "Eight! Nine! Ten! Eleven!"

I bet that was a lot of fun... for everyone but the photographer.

In other news, it occurred to me the other day that there are a hell of a lot of people talking on cell phones. Nearly constantly. Everywhere. All the time. However, the exponential increase in the amount of time people spend on the phone can't possibly be matched by a corresponding increase in the amount of information that simply must be exchanged, like, totally now! Therefore, each phone conversation must be so diluted and devoid of information that I'm left to conclude people merely speak gibberish into those little grey boxes they hold up to their face. There can be no other explanation. That is all.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

It's been a busy weekend.

My niece turns 2 today and, in case you don't already know, she's the most adorable toddler on the planet. (That's an unbiased opinion; the UN did a comprehensive study, and her name came out at the top of a list of several hundred million. In your face, Srikanthasamy Sivapathanandanan of Talaimannar, Sri Lanka! Better luck next year!)

And just because I enjoy making womens' ovaries swoon — if not by my own obvious virility and high sperm-count, than with adorable pictures of 2-year-olds — here's a picture of her chowing down on some birthday ice cream cake:

...aaaaaaaaaaand... ovulate!

In other news, my obsession with fake Coffee Time doughnut shops continues. I snapped a picture a while back of a place on Lakeshore in Oakville which I incorrectly labelled as "Coffee Tree," because the last letter of the sign was pretty mangled: it was at night, so the sign was backlit and the brutal hack-job they did on the sign made it quite unreadable.

However, I passed by it again today in the daylight, and just happened to have my camera on me. I got a good look at the sign, and couldn't quite believe my eyes as to (a.) how bad an alteration they did on the sign (in person, you can clearly see where the word "Time" was), and (b.) how ridiculous the new name is.

I mean, "Coffee Tree" would've been bad enough... but seriously, what the hell is a "Trea?" And why does one announcement of the name have an "s" after it? And, I don't know if you can see this, but after each "Trea" there's a little palm tree.

This could be even more befuddling than "Coffee Tip" (may it rest in peace as the hot new Indian spot, Banjara, after its brief tenure as the also-strangely-named "Marc's Steak Queen"). Hell, at least I know what a "tip" is.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Three Thursday things.

1. Dylan

I watched The Big Lebowski again the other night — one of my favourites, for sure — and I was reminded how awesome the Bob Dylan song "The Man In Me" is. (For the record, it's the song that's played in the surreal sequence after Maude Lebowski's goons knock out The Dude and return the rug to her father's estate.)

Q: "Hey, J, how many times have you listened to that song today?"
A: "Four? Five? It's a lot. For me, anyway."

I had it in my head all day at work. This normally drives me crazy... but not today. It actually kept me sane.

2. Intolerance

Monday night's Colbert Report had a piece on intolerance, in its typical tongue-in-cheek style. "Stephen's" point was that, because the intolerant are increasingly not tolerated, those who preach tolerance are actually hypocrites. (He was joking, of course. The show is satire.)

This got me thinking about what a friend of mine said recently. I'm paraphrasing, but the main
point is this: "If you say all sorts of hateful things, but you tell people that it's your religion (to tell all the fags they're going to hell, or say how women should be barefoot and pregnant, for example), nobody will call you on your hatred, beacause it's your 'religion.' But that's bullshit."

It's an interesting point. Discuss.

3. Burnout

It's May, and May's a busy time in schools: field trips galore, about six sports teams, madly scrambling to get done the curriculum before exams, and a load of other stuff going on. Plus, we've been going for nine months, balls-to-the-wall. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but in the meantime we're trying to deal with kids who, by this point in the year, are getting pretty damn squirrelly.

It's May, and a good number of us, myself included, are about ready to crumble into a heap.

At least it's close to June.

Sunday, May 06, 2007


I grew up a Christian; it was in the United Church of Canada, which is extremely progressive by any measure, but we still had the Christmas Pageant in which I played a shepherd, once upon a time. Then I started learning about science and, yadda yadda yadda, became an athiest. Lately I've softened things up and have gone agnostic with a dash of secular humanism; that is to say, "I don't know, and you don't know, so let's cut the horseshit, sleep in on Sundays, and be nice to each other."

Recently I had a conversation with a friend who considers herself Muslim, although she admits that, because she doesn't adhere strictly to it, many would not be so generous with that label... but that's another conversation entirely. Anyway, the point is that she believes in something, and for the purposes of this blog post (Magic Number 571!), that'll do.

In the course of said conversation, a phrase popped into my head which I think nicely summarizes the whole thing. It's pretty strong, but in these post-9/11 times, you have to think in new ways.

Belief is foolish.

Let me explain. Trust me, it won't take long.

If I told you that, lurking around every corner, there was a hungry wolf with a taste for human flesh, what reason would you have to believe me? None, because I'm just a pale-ass, baseball-playin' motherfucker who likes to trick people for his own amusement. But, if I kept saying it over and over again, and everyone around you keeps saying it over and over again, I bet you're gonna tread a little more lightly than you otherwise would.

Eventually you're going to look behind the corner and see whether or not a wolf is there. If you don't, you'll live your life in perpetual fear of wolves, and that might cause you to miss out on some great stuff. But if you do, the question will be answered and you can take a course of action.

But what if I told you that the wolf was (a.) invisible and (b.) silent, and hence (c.) impossible to detect in any measured, reasonable, logical way? Oh yeah, and that (d.) it was always watching you? Well, because the only way we can definitively find things out one way or another is by investigating them in measured, reasonable and logical ways, you'd think I was up to one of my pranks, because there'd be no way you could ever know if there was something there or not.

All the while, people around you swear they've seen the wolf, heard it breathing, and found what they swear is wolf fur remnants in a bunch of locations. And they have a book that documents the existence of these wolves, and while, no, they couldn't prove they exist, they say the book is really convincing.

What would you think of the whole situation?

I tell you what I'd think. (It's my blog, I can do that.) I'd think it wouldn't matter to me if there were wolves or not. If there were, they're certainly well-hidden, and maybe we weren't meant to find them, so I won't bother trying. If there weren't, then whatever, I can carry on with my life as I was doing before. And since everybody has pretty much the same investigative abilities as I do, since we're all humans, it's a waste of time and effort to try and prove they do or don't exist.

Ergo, agnosticism. I don't believe; I prove to myself that things are true, and I stick with 'em. There aren't too many I've nailed down so far, but here's what I've got:
  1. The Sun looks like it rises in the east.
  2. Gravity pulls down.
  3. People are generally good.
I don't think there's too much more I can add to that list. Maybe something about curveballs will make it to #4. Someday.

Useful, and mesmerizing.

It's a dining room table that expands itself outwards! (With a little help.)

Seriously, check this out.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Another of the million random things that run through your head during a class.

I'm helping a kid with a question in Physics class today, and it hits me like a bolt of lightning:

"Holy crap, this kid looks exactly like Freddie Mercury, but without the buck-teeth."

Let's see you keep your shit together after an epiphany like that.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

This goes a little too far.

A good friend of mine, E, is an athiest. (I think I'm somewhere in "agnostic humanist" territory, but I could be wrong.) E ribs me all the time because I have a "meh, whatever people want to worship or believe, as long as they don't bug me, is fine" attitude towards peoples' religious beliefs. And that's true in most cases, with these exceptions:
  1. Their beliefs contradict direct, irrefutable scientific evidence
    e.g. biblical literalists saying the Universe is 6500-ish years old
  2. Their beliefs physically hurt others
    e.g. Christian Scientists who think that praying beats blood transfusions for helping sick people get better
And, the new addition:
  1. Their beliefs make them non-human
    e.g. the Westboro Baptist Church
You may have heard of these folks before. If you haven't, they're the group whose catch-phrase is "God Hates Fags," and they'll spit some pretty vicious vitriol your way if you don't believe exactly as they do.

They claim that they interpret the Bible exactly correctly (doesn't every Christian sect think that, though?), and they've come to the conclusion that the US is doomed because (some) people who live in it have a (somewhat) tolerant perspective on homosexuality. They even took some time out to denigrate Sweden — seriously, who hates things associated with Sweden?! — and then went back to their usual (and I'm not making this up) picketing of the funerals of US soldiers who have died in Iraq.

The Iraq war, you see, was the Devil working through George W. Bush, putting lies in his mouth. The Iraq War is God's Wrath being brought upon the US, because it coddles fags. Oh, and did I happen to mention the End is near, too? And that Jews "worship the rectum?" (Yeah, that one didn't make much sense to me, either.)

A filmmaker from the BBC took a trip to Kansas — it's the Heartland, y'all — to investigate the aforementioned Westboro Baptist Church, to see what makes it tick. (Parts 1, 2 and 3 of the documentary are available here, here and here, respectively.) Here's an excerpt of a conversation between the filmmaker and a male member of the church:

Filmmaker: "Did you rejoice yesterday when that other [Presbyterian] church burned down?"

Westboro Baptist Church member: "You're supposed to rejoice over all of God's judgments."

F: "Do you rejoice when soldiers die in Iraq?"

WBC: "Absolutely, I do."

F: "Do you rejoice when people are knocked over by cars, and when they get cancer?"

WBC: "Absolutely. I love it. And I can tell you [why] right now, because it's the righteous judgment of God Almighty."

This particular person has lost compassion for their fellow human, and in my eyes that removes a significant part of their humanity. Therefore, I can confidently say that I disapprove of this church and its teachings.

Disagree with me? See for yourself.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Girls should dig geeky guys.

Courtesy of Riz. (I went back to the original post on craigslist... for the record, #10 doesn't apply to me.) See the whole post here.

Why Geeks and Nerds Are Worth It...

In the wide world of dating, there are many options. Do you go for the flashy guy with the smooth smile, or the dude in the corner typing away on his laptop? The following are reasons why I think my fellow females should pay more attention to the quiet geeks and nerds, and less attention to the flashy boys.

1.) While geeks and nerds may be awkward, they’re well-meaning 9 out of 10 times. That smooth dude with the sly grin and the spider hands? Wonder what HIS intentions are... plus, I’ve never had a geek guy not call me when he said he would. Score major points THERE.

2.) They’re useful. In this tech-savvy world, it’s great to have a b/f who can make your laptop, desktop, and just about anything else that plugs into a wall behave itself.

3.) They’re more romantic than they’re given credit for. Ok true, their idea of romance might be to make up a spiffy web-page with all the reasons why they love you, with links to pics of you and sonnets and such... but hey. It lasts longer than flowers, plus you can show your friends.

4.) Due to their neglected status, there are plenty to choose from. You like ‘em tall and slender? There are plenty of geeks/nerds who are. You like ‘em smaller with more meat on their bones? Got that too.

5.) They’ve got brains. Come on now, how can intelligence be a bad thing?

6.) Most are quite good at remembering dates. Like birthdates and such, especially if they know it’ll make you happy. Due again to their neglected status, they’re more attentive than guys who “have more options”. Plus, with all that down time without a steady girlfriend, they’ll likely have mental lists of all the things they’d love to do once they GOT a girlfriend.

7.) Sex. Yep. Sex. I’m not really familiar with this myself, but I’ve friends who’ve been intimate with geek guys and it’s raves all around. They say a virgin wrote the Kama Sutra... all that time thinking about sex, imagining sex, dreaming about sex, (they are male after all) coupled with a desire to make you happy? Use your imagination.

8.) They’re relatively low-maintenance. Most can be fueled on pizza, Twinkies and Mt Dew. No complicated dinners needed here, so if you’re not the best cook, eh. Can you order a pizza?

9.) Most frequent bars as often as slugs frequent salt mines. You won’t have to worry much about your geek guy getting his “groove” on with club hotties because, frankly, he’ll be too busy rooting around under his computer wondering where that spare cable went. You won’t have to worry about him flirting with other women because, 9 out of 10 times, he’ll zip right by them in a perfect b-line towards the nearest electronics store. I’ve seen this happen.
Me: “Eww. Victoria Secret’s Models... They’re so skinny. How is that feminine? You can see her ribs!”
Geek Guy: “ooooooo...”
Me: “Hey!” *notices he is staring lustfully towards the computer store*
Geek Guy: “What?”
Me: “Never mind...”

10.) Although he may not want to go to every outing with you, you can arrange swaps, as in, you’ll go to his Gamer Con dressed as an elf princess if he’ll take you to the ballet. Plus, if he doesn’t want to go someplace with you, you won’t have to worry much about what he’s up to. You’ll probably come home to find him asleep on his keyboard in a sea of Mt. Dew cans with code blinking from the screen. It’s ok. He’s used to this. Just toss a blanket over him and turn out the light.

11.) His friends aren’t jerks. I can’t stress this enough. You’ll more likely get “Omg! A GIRL!! Can I see?!” than “Hey hot stuff back that ass up here and let me get some grub on...” They’re awkward geeks too and will, 9 times out of 10, treat you with the utmost respect and, more than likely, a note of awe. A cute girl picked one of their clan to date? It could happen to them! Hope! Drag some of your single girlfriends over, open up a pack of Mt. Dew, crack open the DnD set and get working. Nothing impresses geek guys more than a girl who can hack-n-slash (well ok maybe if she can code... a geek can dream).

12.) They’re rarely if ever possessive. They trust you, so you can be yourself around them. You like to walk around the house in a ratty t-shirt for comfort? He won’t care. He does too! They won’t get pissy if you don’t wear make-up or don’t want to bother primping your hair. If you gain a few pounds, they won’t try their best to make you feel like crap.

13.) They’re usually very well educated. Physics majors and the like. See #5. You won’t have to listen to him blathering on about his car (ok maybe a little), he’ll have loads of other interesting things to talk about. Politics, world events, how much the chicken burgers down at the local place rock, so long as you douse them in hot sauce...

14.) You’ll almost never have to hear, “Yaw dawg whazzap!!” plop out of their mouths. Unless it’s in jest. They spell properly, use correct punctuation, and are able to tell the difference between the toilet and the floor. They almost never get “wasted”, so you won’t have to worry about coming home to find him and his friends passed out on the floor amidst a pile of beer bottles. Mt. Dew cans, perhaps...

15.) And the final reason why geeks and nerds make great boyfriends: They actually give a damn about you. Not how you look (though that’s a plus), not how skinny you are, not how much make-up you primp yourself up with, but they like you for you. That kind of thing lasts longer than “DaMN baby you got a fine ass!!!” Believe me.