Saturday, March 31, 2007

I had no idea.

Some shocking statistics out of a Newsweek poll in the US:
  • 90% of people surveyed believe in God (I presume this also includes "gods")
    (Alright, so this isn't that surprising. But get ready, the big one is yet to come.)
  • 48% of people surveyed reject the theory of evolution
    (Seriously, what the hell is wrong with Americans?!)
  • 34% of college graduates accept the biblical story of creationism as fact
    (Apparently this number is in the single-digits in most other industrialized countries.)
  • 62% of registered voters say they would not vote for an athiest candidate
    (What better way to achieve separation of church and state?)
  • 36% think organized religion has had an increasing influence on politics in recent years
    (Seriously, why isn't this statistic 100%? Even the evangelicals would have to admit this one.)
  • 31% of people think religion doesn't have enough influence on politics, with this number heavily slanted towards Republicans
    (Surprise, surprise.)
  • 12% think John Edwards is using his wife's illness due to cancer to his political advantage
    (That bastard.)
Oh well... all is not completely lost:
  • 66% are dissatisfied with the direction the country is headed in
Hallelujah.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Well, hell.

Things were going great for the Tigers this spring.

Perhaps a little too great.

Rogers has blood clot removed; likely out until July

LAKELAND, Fla. — Kenny Rogers had surgery Friday to remove a blood clot from his left shoulder and repair arteries, and the Detroit Tigers pitcher likely will be sidelined for the first half of the season.

The 42-year-old left-hander had the operation in Dallas. He is expected to start throwing in six-to-eight weeks, and Tigers president Dave Dombrowski said the earliest Rogers would return to the rotation is July.

Great. Just great. The Tigers have brought in Chad Durbin to take the fifth spot in the rotation, and he did really well this spring, but... wow, this is a shocker.

Please attempt to carry on with your normal business. I'll try to, but it could be a little touch-and-go at times.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Five random things around my apartment.

Without further ado, here are five random things that appear somewhere in my apartment.

1. A coffee table older than you or me, probably


I acquired most of my furniture from my parents' house (who knew that my mom's penchant for redecorating would net me so much loot?). I've had this since I moved to Toronto the first time, and it also accompanied me to Kingston as well. On it is a travel mug that I also obtained for free, as my parents used to work for Bayer and they were giving these things out one day randomly. (I have nicknamed the mug "Steely Dan".)

2. A picture frame containing several pictures


My sister-in-law was nice enough to give me a 5x7 picture frame containing a photo of my then-six(-ish)-month-old niece. As they've had more portraits taken, I just jam the new picture in in the corner of the frame in front of the old one. I figure I'll eventually have to stop this practice... but for now it's a handy-dandy impromptu photo album. (And yes, to reiterate, she is the cutest child in the world. True story.)

3. Cereal boxes aplenty


What can I say? I fucking love breakfast cereal.

4. Dogs Playing Poker


I bought this small poster about three weeks after I started university, and it's been with me ever since. I always put it above my desk, because when you're working really hard on something, it's always a nice break to look up and see the bulldog sneaking an ace of clubs to the terrier* under the table (hence the title of the painting, A Friend In Need).

* I have no idea if the recipient of the card is a terrier. I don't know anything about dogs, but I know a guy named Tavis who does.

5. Fancy shower curtain rings


My process for selecting home furnishings and accessories goes in this order:
  1. Is it free? (1a: Is it cheap?)
  2. Is it simple?
  3. Is it cool?
Whilst sauntering through Canadian Tire the day I moved in, I saw these expensive-ass shower curtain rings. Now, for items such as this I'd normally hit up my local Dollarama, because hey, who really needs to spend ten bucks on something you could spend one buck on, which does as good a job as the thing that costs ten bucks, thereby saving nine bucks which could be used for items such as beer, strippers or more shower curtains?

However, with this item, I didn't pass Go, and didn't collect $200. I went straight for "cool."

I stand by my decision.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Noise.

I've made a very interesting discovery in the past hour or so:

I'm really irritated by excessive noise.

Every day here at the school we're blasted nearly nonstop with announcements (mostly useless, redundant or repeated) over the PA system. This is irritating as hell when you're trying to help out a student, talk with a colleague or just concentrate and get stuff done, which is damn near impossible when you have someone screaming in your ear for such-and-such a person to come to the main office.

Students — especially Grade 9s and 10s, and especially girls — also seem to have this weird habit of talking to each other, at point-blank range, by either screaming or squealing or yelling pretty much as loudly as they can. I can't figure it out (and neither could my Grade 11s, who I asked about this phenomenon yesterday).

Now multiply the screaming girls by about 20 or 30, stick them in a three-metre-wide hallway, add in a squawking PA every 15 seconds, plus all the noise I get from all of my classes (some of which are very, shall we say, "lively") and it's basically an 8:30-to-4:00 nonstop barrage of noise, all day, every day.

I think I'm going to start wearing earplugs to work.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Booze.

God damn I put my liver through hell this weekend. Friday night found five of us laying waste to the vast majority of a bottle of scotch (and some fine cigars), Saturday afternoon was the Afternoon of Doubles (that is, 3 double-rye-and-cokes in short glasses, no fruit, no straw), and Saturday night involved several pints and shots. However, it was all in good fun and, very surprisingly, I never felt particularly inebriated at any time through the whole ordeal. (No hangover, either.)

The event was, of course, the Golden Words 40th Anniversary DebaucheryNite™, held in Kingston. GWers from five different decades came together, shared jokes, ate and (most importantly) drank. It was interesting to see how all the alumni that worked on the paper in the '80s were pretty much the same in person as they were in print: not afraid to say something completely disgusting to get a laugh.

I found myself hanging out all night with people I didn't really know all that well, but felt really comfortable being with: staffers from the late '90s. These people are right around 30 as well, and even though I worked on the paper from 2004 through 2006, it seemed like the people I worked with were a completely different generation... which they are, I suppose: some current staffers are a full 10 years younger than me.

It seems like I've spent a good deal of my life being either the youngest or the oldest person in the room. All throughout school, I was the youngest: I skipped a grade (2, if you're curious), and my birthday's at the end of the year, so I was the last to turn 16 and 19 (which sucked giant cock, by the way). This carries on a bit at work, where I'm often surrounded by co-workers who are old enough to be my parents. But, while at GW, I was easily four years older than everyone else around, and sometimes 7 or 8 years older than everyone else; I've used a cell phone probably no more than a dozen times in my life, but some of these kids have owned one since they were 9 or 10. Crazy.

* * * * * * *

I was walking through the Student Ghetto last night, and as the familiar backgroud din of "Ghetto at 2 a.m." droned on in the background (random shouting echoing off buildings, faint hints of music, far-off drunken conversations spilling out of house parties), I reflected on the time I spent at Queen's on my second kick at the postsecondary education can.

Overall, I think I made a lot out of my return to school: met lots of interesting people, lived the student life again, caroused a little bit, and generally dodged grown-up responsibilities for two years. Having been away from it for almost a year and seeing a bit of it up-close again, though, I'm entirely certain that part of my life is over for good, and there's a very pronounced gap between me and your standard, garden-variety undergraduate student.

I'm good with that, though. It's alright. It happens to everyone, and if it doesn't, that means you're delusional. (Or you're that guy in the US somewhere who did something like 9 years as an undergrad.) I don't know if it happened late to me, or early, or whatever — I did grad school in a slightly unconventional way, having worked for 4 years first — but the point is it's clear to me now, and I'm not frightened by it.

(Well, okay. Maybe a little.)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Mustaches, Feedback and Franken.

1) Mustaches.
Gripping interview on the Daily Show last night: Jon Stewart had the one, the only John Bolton (and his mustache) on. You remember him, right? Bush appointed him to be the US's Ambassador to the UN, even though Bolton had a well-known reputation for having no respect for the UN whatsoever. I won't even bother to try to cover all the interesting, interesting points raised in those few short minutes; just watch it at the DS website.

2) Feedback.
I've been listening to White Light/White Heat, the Velvet Underground's second album (and their not-so-veiled homage to hard drugs) a lot lately, and I can not get enough of "I Heard Her Call My Name". It's frantic and abrasive, it's soaked in feedback, most of it is a crazy guitar solo, and it pretty much sounds like jackhammers attacking amplifiers. But it's stupendously awesome. Acquire song, set volume to "jet engine," find something to grab onto.

3) Franken.
To borrow a phrase from Dick Cheney (i.e., when the VP was talking about the case against Saddam Hussein having WMDs back in '03 as a pretext for war; my, how four years fly by!), Al Franken's latest book, The Truth: With Jokes, is another "slam-dunk." Hilarious, biting, satirical, and well-researched. Then again, I'd expect no less from the man who was Baggage Handler #1 in the Eddie Murphy/Dan Aykroyd film Trading Places.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Free speech, as long as you don't talk about Jesus.

The year was 2002. The place: Juneau, Alaska. The torch relay for the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics came through town, and enterprising high school senior (that's Grade 12 to you and me) Joseph Frederick decided to have a little fun across the street.

You see, Frederick and his buddies put together a 14-foot (that's 4.26-metre to you and me) banner that said "BONG HITS 4 JESUS", and they held it high as the relay passed. Frederick claims the banner didn't promote drug use and was a nonsensical joke meant to test his free-speech rights. (Apparently, pro-drug statements aren't covered under the US Constitution's First Amendment.)

The school's principal, one Deborah Morse, gave him a nice little suspension, because the school was officially in attendance at the torch relay and, even though the banner was across the street on public property, Morse contended that the "pro-drug" banner wasn't suitable for a school event.

Sounds like a fun little news story, doesn't it?

Well, it's gone all the way to the US Supreme Court.

I shit you not.

Incidentally, the lawyer representing Morse is Ken Starr. Does that name ring a bell? It should, because he was the Republican Party's primary attack-dog during the Clinton years, trying to bring Slick Willy down first in the Whitewater real-estate controversy (which probably led to the suicide — some say murder — of Vince Foster), then got the wheels going on the impeachement hearings after Bill "did not... have... sexual relations with that woman."

Also incidentally, Ken Starr is still a loyal friend to the Republican Party.

Very incidentally, the Republican Party is tied in with the whole evangelical Christian movement.

Even more incidentally, the banner had the word "Jesus" on it.

Incredibly incidentally, Starr is offering his services pro bono. (That's "for free" to you and me).

Meanwhile, a quagmire of a war sold on deliberately falsified pretenses rages on in Iraq.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Procrastinationatory tendencies.

Man, you oughtta see the stack of labs and tests I have to mark. Easily one of the biggest of the year.

So, J, you brewed up a big pot of coffee... you hack much out of that pile yet?

Exactly none, mystery-question-asker. Instead I've been giving my guitar chord dictionary fits by trying to figure out how to play Steely Dan's "Any Major Dude Will Tell You". (I substituted a normal G#m7 for the cockeyed "G#m11" suggested in a bunch of tabs and cheaped out with my version of the opening intro, but overall it sounds passable.) Oh, and I straightened-up a little around here.

That's all.

I've also been considering poking around various faculties of education to see if they have any Ph.D. programs in education which focus on pedagogy. I bet there aren't many, seeing as how education professors normally don't touch classrooms with ten-foot poles. But we'll see.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Sorting through the photos.

I downloaded a few Florida photos and movies from my camera, and I'll chuck them in my Yahoo Photos as soon as I can.

My camera has a "stitch assist" feature, which helps you take panoramic photos in multiple shots. But, how to sew them together? In the past I did this manually; it was exceedingly tedious and produced fairly lousy results. After tooling around on the Inter Nets, though, I found a nice little program called AutoStitch, put together by a couple of guys at UBC.

Holy crap is this thing good. Witness this panorama of Al Lang Field in Tampa, put together from three separate photos:

It finds common features, automatically twists and warps the photo if need be, and generally does a fantastic job.

More photos to come, of course.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Greetings from the Sunshine State.

News from the Land of Jeb:

1. Days Inns have lost my business forever.
When I was little and we'd go to Florida, we'd always stay in them and they seemed just fine. However, three of the last four I've stayed at (in Hellsville, New Jersey; Dayton, Ohio and last night in Tampa, Florida) have been terrible. Hey, I don't need room service, but I do expect the hot water in the shower to work.

2. American airport security doesn't know the metric system.
Three fluid ounces is the limit of how much liquid or gel you can bring in a carry-on for a flight in the US. That roughly translates to 90 mL, which was the size of the tube of sunscreen I bought specifically so I could take it on an airplane. (It also happened to be the smallest tube in Shopper's.) So, did Flint Airport security take it on? Did they partake in my miniature lesson in the metric system? You'd better believe they didn't.

I know what you may be thinking: "That's pretty close to the limit. Maybe it actually is just a smidgen over 3 ounces, and they snagged it." Yeah? Well, tell that to my travelling companion Mike, whose 75 mL tube of toothpaste (which he has successfully brought into the US via air twice before) was also confiscated.

Balls.

3. Canadians are everywhere here.
At one traffic light in Tampa, the two other cars I could see had Ontario plates. Hell, I even saw someone on the I-4 with Quebec plates. And, at the baseball game today (Tigers 3, Rays 2; beautiful day, sat in the shade), I sat beside someone from Huntsville and behind someone from Napanee. Craziness.

4. Tampa is a hellhole.
Mile after mile of shitty suburban strip-malls, giant Walgreens pharmacies, auto repair shops, cement nothingness... it sorta reminded me of the aforementioned Hellsville, New Jersey (right across the Hudson from Manhattan), but with slightly more Hispanics.

Tomorrow, Vero Beach and a game with the Dodgers. Wednesday, a home game at Lakeland against the Mets.

Life is good.

...but the weather is great.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Oddly-captured moments.

I've gushed at great length — with good reason — about my niece, because she's pretty much the most awesome 21-month-old on the planet. But a picture I took this weekend struck me in a weird way, because it's pretty unconventional for her to be caught off-guard by a camera.

You see, most of the time when she sees a camera, she starts getting all excited and jumping around and smiling and clapping (as she does when she watches her Dora the Explorer DVDs; claps right on the beat, she does). Witness this adorable photo of her playing in a pile of leaves last fall:


Obviously, an adorable photo. But she's been suffering from a cold lately, and isn't quite as energetic as she normally is. So, when my dad was holding her, as she was sporting her new pink hat that my folks picked up for her in Florida, I got this picture of her:


When I saw this picture on my camera a little while after I took it, the first thought into my head was, "Wow, I can actually picture what she'll look like when she's grown up." And the next thing was, "Hmm... sorta like a blonde version of Maggie Gyllenhaal."

Also, I got my new glasses today. I look stylish and I can see so well I bet I can look through a goddamn wall.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Two things for a Tuesday.

1. "Women don't want to solve their problems. They just want them validated." Discuss.

2. See how many UN member states you can name in ten minutes here. As you type them in — spelling counts — they get checked off. No cheating! (Click here to see how I did; please only do so after you give it a go. Feel free to post your score, too.)

Out of 192 countries, I nailed 131 and left 61. The ones I left (three of which I've set foot in before):

Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brunei, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Comoros, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Fiji, Ghana, Grenada, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Iceland, Jamaica, Kiribati, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Monaco, Nauru, Netherlands, Paraguay, Philippines, Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, The Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Uganda, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu.

Monday, March 05, 2007

I swear I'm going to figure these out.

So, I got my balls checked today.

Eyeballs.

A bit weaker than three years ago, apparently. And glaucoma-free (thanks to some anaesthetic eyedrops and a blue-lit gizmo pressed against my eyeball.) I picked out frames which suit my larger-than-average (but not quite Ted Kennedy-ish) Irish-sized head, enlisting the help of the comely young lass working behind the counter.

Bravely, I decided I'd take the plunge and ask the optician about contact lenses. I saw on a flyer that they'd let you have five free trial pairs; never having worn contacts before, I wasn't sure if they would change my outlook on life (get it? "Outlook?!") or just be a couple of plastic bits that I jab into my eye every morning.

I never even got that far.

I spent a good ten goddamn minutes in the back room, after the optician showed me the technique, trying to get one of those fucking things on my eye, and I couldn't do it for the life of me. I was almost getting there towards the end, but it kept folding up, or flipping inside-out and sticking to my fingertip instead. Then I realized my parking time was over by 15 minutes and decided to go home.

So, to those of you who wear contacts... how long did it take you to successfully insert them in your eyes the first time? And because my vision isn't that bad (+1.00 in the left, +1.50 in the right; I only really wear glasses for driving at night and occasionally movies/television), is it really worth the hassle? I figure they'd be good for sports, but I find glasses throw my depth perception off a bit and the last thing I need to have, with a baseball whizzing towards my head, is wonky depth-perception.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Seriously, cut it out.

First, there was Duran Duran.

...and a host of others in the '80s. You know the type: four or five white guys, very fashionable, questionable sexuality, indifferent looks on their faces, and more makeup than your local Shopper's.

As I pointed out, we've had The Killers:

...and Panic! At The Disco.

Luckily (unluckily?), Rolling Stone hasn't forgotten Fall Out Boy, who "graced" this week's cover:

Sometimes, people wonder why I've retreated into a nerdy music-coccoon filled with indie rock and Steely Dan. I think this pretty much explains it.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

And Americans wonder why someone might be pissed off at them.

Since I'm a relentless Type-A personality, I have most of the details nailed down for my Florida Spring Train-a-thon '07™ already. However, the thought occurred to me today that, hey, I don't really know what sort of freaky restrictions that the US government has on what you can and can't bring on an airplane.

You see, I am a male. Males know how to "pack light." As such, for a 4-day trip, I will easily be able to take everything I need in one piece of carry-on luggage. However, because the US government is quite clearly nuts, they made up all sorts of stupid rules as to what you're able to bring with you onto the plane.

Remember a few months back, when some guy tried to bring a bunch of liquid explosives on a plane somewhere, and then for a long time you couldn't bring so much as a tube of liquid lip-gloss in a carry-on? Yeah, well, liquid lip-gloss is the least of my worries; what about my sunscreen? I can't keep this skin so Wednesday Addams-white in the Florida sun without a little assistance, you know.

I decided to go straight to the horse's mouth... the "horse" being the US Transportation Security Adminstration, the "mouth" being their website, and "straight" being my sexual orientation. (Sorry boys, this one plays for the Ninety-Percenters.) Just look at all the stupid restrictions on carry-on goods — how am I going to hijack a plane if I can't bring on my spear gun, my brass knuckles and my collection of 11-inch-long, razor-sharp screwdrivers?*

...or maybe that was their plan all along! They want to prevent me from causing another 9/11? Shit, with all the ideas the above-linked website is giving me (like how to smuggle my nunchucks from my checked luggage on board with me during the flight), how can I not want to bring that bird down mid-flight?! I dare say I'm sitting at "half-mast" right now thinking about all the possibilities.

Then again, I don't really fancy being sent to Gitmo for March Break as opposed to taking in the Mets-Tigers game on March 14th, so maybe I'll play by the TSA's stupid rules.

* These are all perfectly fine to carry in your checked luggage, by the way.