Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Go east; life is simpler there.

If you need me, I'll be paying homage to one Mr. Alexander Keith for the next few days, in his hometown.

That is, if we make it out of the GTA alive, in one piece, with everyone we're supposed to be taking. I'd say we're looking at about 88% odds on that.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Roadtrippin'.

I enjoy road-trips. Quite a bit, actually — I wish I took more of them.

But they're way more fun when it doesn't take three NASA scientists, a supercomputer, nineteen pots of coffee and three kilos of cocaine to plan them out... which is what this one is turning into.

Consider:
  • There are five of us going on this excursion out to Halifax. This means renting a minivan. Do you know how stupid rental-car companies are? Do you know how completely arbitrary their rates turn out to be? Have you any idea about how they try to rip you off?
  • We don't really know how far we'll get on the first night (we're not driving it straight through, that'd be nutty). So, we have to plan ahead and figure out where five people might stay the night in a hotel. Most rooms fit four people. Oops!
  • One of the trippers' moms picked the morning we were planning on leaving to come into Toronto and get a ride from her daughter to the airport. This means doubling-back across most of the city, in the thick of morning rush hour. Not a problem if you're in Hooterville, but a big problem if you're in the largest and busiest city in the nation.
  • Also, said tripper's driveway may not be able to accommodate any cars, as it has been full of gravel and a dumpster for the past few days. I hope they clear that crap out soon.
  • Oh, and said tripper got a hunk of glass in her foot over the weekend. She had it hacked out this afternoon, but has to apply some sort of goop to the wound thrice daily for the next week. Good luck walking around the city!
  • Actually, we'll spend a lot of the time sitting and drinking. So it won't be much of a problem.
  • Except on the Alexander Keith's brewery tour, when we'll be walking a bit, then drinking.
  • A lot.
  • Dear J's liver: Remember grad school? Yeah, a little more of that. Apologies in advance, J.
  • Plus, we're picking someone up in Brockville. Do you know your way around Brockville? Yeah, me neither.
The reason I liked road-trips before was because (a.) I just used my car, (b.) everyone started from the same place, and (c.) nobody's mom threw a monkey-wrench into the works at the last minute. Driving non-stop to Florida was easier than this Haligonian adventure is turning out to be, and that's even with all that cocaine we smuggled down to NASA.

Seriously, their appetite for the stuff is nothing short of astonishing.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

In search of a free photo-hosting site.

I liked Yahoo! Photos.

No, wait.

I loved Yahoo! Photos.

The interface was extremely tidy, the settings were easy to change, and the photos were unlimited. It didn't have all the bells and whistles that other sites had, but it did exactly what I wanted it to do, and then got the hell out of the way.

But alas, because people who own things that work often decide it's time to fuck everyone up and get rid of these great things, it had to go... I guess. However, since Yahoo! owns Flickr, they told me, "Sit back, pal, we can just move all your photos from Yahoo! to Flickr as you go off and make yourself a sandwich." So I did. (And it was delicious.)

However, after trying to accomplish a couple of very simple tasks within Flickr, I have come to the conclusion that,
  1. It's cumbersome
  2. It's slow as hell
  3. It takes forever to do simple things
  4. It tries to do too much
  5. It sucks
  6. It makes me want to throw things
I'm normally an incredibly patient person. The two things that get me to actually start to feel angry are (a.) stupid drivers, and (b.) non-intuitive software interfaces that I can't change. (I'm serious; those are the only two.) There are a billion stupid things on Flickr, and all of them get in my way.

In addition, there appears to be some sort of limit as to how many photo sets I can have as a free member. ("Pro" members, for the low low price of US$24.95 a year, can have as many as they like. Do you know how many I could have on Yahoo!, at the low low price of $0.00 a year? As many as I wanted.)

Oh, and apparently if my Free account is inactive for ninety consecutive days, it will be DELETED. What the hell?!

So, in conclusion,
  1. I hate Flickr.
  2. I want Yahoo! Photos back.
  3. Does anyone have any ideas as to where I can go instead of Flickr? For free? Please?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Anti-intellectualism.

As I was waiting to get a haircut at my local barbershop, I picked up what looked to be the newest magazine: an April issue of The Economist. Sure, it's a pro-free-market rag, but what sets it apart from shit like the National Post is that it actually tells you the whole story, rather than rah-rah-ing one side and not the other.

At any rate, I read an article that described how the anti-teaching-evolution thing is catching on in other countries. As the article put it, "The more impoverished the country, the easier the message goes down" (or something to that effect); in short, missionaries from assorted evangelical churches are pouncing on poor people all over the world to tell them things like, "Hey, we were around at the same time as the dinosaurs."

What the fuck is going on?

First off... whether or not humans and dinosaurs co-existed is a question of SCIENCE, not of RELIGION. So, you missionaries out there, you leave the science to us, and we'll leave the religion to you, alright? Go ahead and tell people about water-into-wine and plagues and stuff, and we'll take care of the fossil record and why Noah didn't mention Tyrannosaurus Rexes.

Second, and perhaps more pervasively, there seems to be a big backlash against people who have spent their lives carefully studying things like, well, whether or not humans ever had dinosaurs as pets... how the Big Bang happened... why DNA is the way it is... and so on. The trend these days is to get people to accept the answer which is most familiar to them, or which is the most readily-accessible explanation, instead of the one which, while it may require some thought or study, is actually more correct.

An example of this is, unfortunately, how Iraq and al-Qaeda are-or-aren't linked. (They aren't... well, at least they weren't, before the US invaded and turned the entire country into a giant al-Qaeda summer camp. Rest assured, Saddam Hussein had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11. Never has, never will, okay? I'm being serious here.)

Let's face it... for most North Americans (and by that I mean most residents of the US), everyone in the Middle East is pretty much indistinguishable from each other. "Iraq? Iran? Pakistan? Saudi Arabia? Afghanistan? They all look the same to me, bucko — all A-rabs, all Muz-lims, all terrorists. Bush said so."* So, explaining the differences between secular nationalist states (e.g. the former Iraq), theocracies (Iran), clusterfucks where nobody's really in charge (Afghanistan and, to a large extent, Somalia), military dictatorships (Pakistan) and democracies (India), when everyone in those countries is perceived to be the same (e.g. Apu)... that could make the sorting-out of who-bombed-who a little tricky.

Fortunately for George W. Bush, most people in his country (especially in the "red" states; see the Borat movie for a nice example) don't really care to sort out all the differences. If they're brown and they pray five times a day, they're responsible for 9/11.

Why think this way?

It's easier, and it's more familiar.

Because thinking about the situation, and actually understanding it, would require effort. Keep in mind that this is a country of drive-through bank machines we're talking about here.

Oh, and actually "knowing stuff" makes you a nerd. And nerds are to be given wedgies.

* This reminds me of a situation which occurred this past school year, with four kids in my Grade 12 Physics class. All four of them were in a lab group together: one was from Egypt, one from Iran, one from India and one from Pakistan. They were in front of my desk, asking a question about their lab, and I had to stop them mid-question and tell them the thought racing around my head: "You know, in my hometown, we would see all four of you as being pretty much exactly the same, because you're all brown." We all had a good laugh.

Friday, July 20, 2007

It's hard to get good help these days.

Want to see what it looks like when an adorable 2-year-old "helps" you when you pick strawberries?


I doubt if she came out ahead, in the end.

This headline is gold.

I invite you to submit one (or more) jokes, via a Comment, based on this headline I saw today:

Bush will have colonoscopy

(I assure you it's a real story.)

You can come up with anything you like... a witty one-liner, a pun, a mildly dirty limerick, or even a short fake news blurb.

Get to work, now. Comedy!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

It's a new era.

You know how sometimes you'll have those instances in your life when, as soon as they come upon you, you have no choice but to instantly realize their importance as a major milestone? Well, I had one of those today.

I now own cufflinks.

It's really an antiquated way of fastening one's shirt around one's wrists, wouldn't you say? Completely superfluous, yet... classy. Sorta like neckties (which I rarely wear). Of course, in order to justify buying cufflinks, I had to buy a shirt with French Cuffs, which was completely normal as I was in the middle of buying a new suit for a wedding I'm attending in August, with fashion assistance from frequent site-contributor "ECB."

Of course, I look sexy as fuck in said new suit. You oughtta see it. Not only does it bring out the blue in my eyes, it says, "Hey ladies, you know where this suit would look better? In a pile on your bedroom floor, a few feet from us having hot sweaty sex, possibly doing things that, although while completely consensual, are entirely illegal in some US states, and you know you're powerless in resisting me, because this suit is so kickass." Something like that.

So, in conclusion, I'm getting older. But that's ok, 'cause I'm lookin' as fantastic as ever.

Monday, July 16, 2007

A generalized lack of productivity.

It sounds great, doesn't it? Two months out of the year to essentially do whatever it is you like. The problem is, sometimes it seems like the time you have is unlimited, and you don't make the best of it.

Take today, for example. I have a few things on my checklist to do, but it's not essential that I do them right away. I had nothing planned for today, which meant I didn't see the rooster side of noon. You'd think that, with the rest of the day to myself, I'd get all those things done, right?

Wrong.

I heard a saying once: "If you want something done, give it to someone who's already busy." I think there's a lot of truth to that; if you're not busy, you'll have an inertia about you which is hard to overcome.

Any ideas on how to beat this? I really do want to make the most of this summer, and now it's a quarter complete (thanks to Nerd Camp). Any help you might have would be appreciated.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Greetings from Waterloo.

Wow.

I never thought I'd be back here again.

But hey, here I am, in Waterloo... land of geeks, Research In Motion, and the worst tap water of any place I've ever lived, by far. Like, it's not even close. You could drink a gallon of this stuff — assuming you physically could — and still be thirsty. Oh, and when you shower, you never quite feel like you've rinsed off completely. It's pretty bad.

I'm at this workshop thing that the Perimeter Institute is putting on for high school physics teachers, so we can better teach (and better understand for ourselves) concepts in modern physics. You know, the good stuff: relativity, quantum mechanics, wave-particle duality, all that jazz.

I really have to salute the PI here. I mean, sure, we're being housed at a university residence — a nice, new, air-conditioned one at Laurier, though; I'll give them that — but they're treating us super-nicely. We're getting some good ideas for stuff to use in our classes, they're giving us three keynote addresses from researchers in crazy fields like quantum computing, and the food... holy goddamn, the food. Tonight we had this stupendous dinner with about a ton of beef, some tasty wine, and this melt-in-your-mouth dessert which was some sort of awesome chocolate hazelnut mousse thing that I couldn't even pronounce. That was after they stuffed us full at breakfast and lunch and two coffee breaks.

However, a funny thing happened to me this evening. I went over close to UW to have a beer with Riz, who's here this summer working at RIM (yes, he "has a RIM job"). As I walked back through the plaza with Mel's and Sunshine Express (Home of the P1) and the most overpriced HMV on the planet, I felt a very weird sense of nostalgia.

It felt comfortable. It felt familiar. And, dare I say... it felt like home.

Let me explain.

I left home in 1995 to start at UW. On and off, I spent five years in Waterloo (that's how long co-op degrees are). After graduating, I lived in Toronto for almost four, then Kingston for almost two, and I've been back in Toronto for a little over a year now. Therefore, since I was 17, I've lived in Waterloo more consistently than in any other place; in addition, my parents sold the house in which I grew up in 2000.

Every time I look back on my time at UW, I dislike it more and more. (Riz will back me up on this; it's a pretty weird place, with some pretty weird people who, while very nice, aren't exactly my cup of tea). Yet, as I roamed the mean streets of Waterloo tonight, it felt so familiar it was almost as if I'd never left.

I don't entirely know what to make of this, if anything. All I can tell you is that it felt like I was home... which I haven't felt in a good number of years.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Don't buy bottled water.

There's a comedian out there named Jim Gaffigan. He's a funny guy; you oughtta look him up on that website. You know, the one with the video clips. It's like the tube, and it's for you... oh, dammit, what is the name of that website? "You-something"? "Something-tube"? Hell. It'll come to me.

Anyway, Mr. Gaffigan has a bit about bottled water. His observations are along the lines of, "You know, I could get water for free from the faucet... but I think I'd rather pay for it instead." It doesn't help that a nifty trick of the biggest bottled-water brands is to just — and I'm not making this up — selling you TAP WATER FROM ANOTHER CITY.

So, let's check out the logic behind bottled water.
  1. Over a billion people in the world do not have access to safe drinking water.
  2. We do. Hell, I live right beside a giant lake full of the stuff.
  3. All of you who are reading this can go to the kitchen, turn on the tap, and get some of the highest-quality, most-tested, cleanest, safest, best drinking water on the planet.
  4. For less than a penny.
  5. So let's go to the supermarket and spend lots of money for water which
    1. is not tested to nearly the same standard as municipal water supplies
    2. is probably just tap water from another city anyway
    3. tastes like chlorine and plastic
And have you ever noticed how 12-packs of bottled water can be essentially any price? Shopper's will have a "sale" on a dozen bottles for, like, a buck-fifty; other times you can spend five dollars on exactly the same thing. The conclusion I reached is that they can pretty much name any price for the stuff they like, and therefore anything above, like, a dime per bottle is pure profit.

So, it's a big scam. And it's wasteful. And it's the ultimate in asshole opulence, as this article nicely explains.

(Heads-up courtesty of Tavis' new beverage-based blog, SodaPopulation.)

Friday, July 06, 2007

Emblematic of the crappiness of music today.

I was flipping through the dial this evening when I came upon MuchMusic. Now, if you know me at all — and chances are you do — you know I hate most mainstream music made these days. I don't just save my vitriol for the obvious (rap, R&B, opera); mainstream "rock" gets it, too. This means I hate the vast majority of the songs played on MuchMusic.

This one video, though, right from the second I laid eyes on it — I'm thinking it was about two-thirds of the way through — had to be pretty much emblematic of this genre of music which seems to have invaded both Much and outlets such as The Edge (which I don't even bother with anymore, by and large). Some lowlights:
  • four white kids, dressed in black
  • a singer who whines
  • said singer also looks as if he's on the verge of tears
  • the entire video's in black-and-white, for "dramatic effect"
  • the music behind the whimpering is a shade above Nickelback
  • the "plot" of the video is a guy, who's all in black with his face painted black, and a girl, who's all in white with her face painted white... as far as I can tell they, y'know, like each other and stuff, but they, I dunno, have, like, maybe, leprosy or something? I wasn't paying attention
  • by this time I muted the music because I couldn't stand it anymore
  • the only reason I kept watching was so I could tell you the artist and title
  • but those bastards at MuchMusic didn't put it up at the end of the song
  • wait, this isn't really a checklist anymore, is it?
  • it's more like a paragraph, in point form
  • oh well, the song was shit, and I hated it
  • the end
Anyway, the moral of the story is that you should only listen to Steely Dan albums from the '70s, because everything else will make you want to stab your eardrums and eyeballs out.

Okay, maybe some Miles Davis. And some Zeppelin, and some Beatles. And maybe some Mod Primates, if you can get your hands on their stuff. I hear they rocked.

. . .

Wait, was that band "Billy Talent"? It could have been. I think I recognize the whining. Fuckin' terrible, anyway.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Several random things follow; enjoy.

The faint scent of cigarette smoke instantly makes me hungry. It always has. I have no idea why. And I just caught a bit of it wafting in my window.

"Back Of A Car" by Big Star needs to be played very loudly more often. Especially in summer. Oh, those harmonies! Oh, that guitar tone! Oh, the catchiness!

I hope more people learn more about the Mixed Proportional Representation referendum we're having in Ontario this fall. It's an important decision, and I hope people vote to change the current "first past the post" system into something more reflective of the popular vote. I could go on about this for a long time.

There's a very attractive woman who lives a few buildings north of me. I've never seen her before, so she could very well just be visiting someone in the neighbourhood instead. But I hope not.

I also hope she's not a high school student. It's tough to ascertain someone's age without talking to them. But for my professional and personal well-being, I really hope this is the case.

I like my neighbourhood, but I hate all my yuppie neighbours. Actually, that's not entirely correct... the people who own houses here are yuppies, but the renters are your standard mix of crazy and sane, young and old, conservatives and liberals. I just hope the liberals out-vote the conservatives this fall. John Tory's running for MPP around here, and this riding used to be solid for the PCs before Kathleen Wynne won it in '03 for the Libs. The PCs are still as evil as ever. Trust me on this.

Banks were closed today in lieu of Canada Day being on the weekend. Really, though, when was the last time you needed to speak to someone at a bank? I think I've had maybe six face-to-face interactions with tellers in my life, and a couple of those were probably unnecessary.

There are some hot bank tellers out there.

There are also some not-so-hot ones.

I need to get laid.

Lend a brother a helping hand.

Until sometime Thursday evening, you can vote online at the Major League Baseball website to select the final roster spot for each league, for the upcoming All-Star game.

One of the Good Guys, one Mr. Jeremy Bonderman, is on the list. If you were watching the nationally-televised game last night, you would've seen Bondo hurl eight masterful shutout innings to get the victory and go 9-1 on the season.

Nine wins, with one measly loss.

Seriously, how could this guy not be an All-Star? You don't get numbers like that being some schmoe they bring in off the street, ensconsce in a uniform, and shove out on the mound.

You can vote multiple times. I sure did! So, remember... if you can check a box and read a security code, check the box beside "Jeremy Bonderman, DET", read the security code, and click away! Just be sure to un-check the two boxes asking if you want to get junk-email from assorted places.

(I sent one of my votes Roy Halladay's way, though. I was at the game down at SkyDome where he pitched all ten innings against my Tigers; even though I quite dislike the Jays, I had to recognize that amazing effort. Well done, Doc.)