Friday, August 31, 2007

Well, this is it.

No, I don't mean I'm stopping this blog. Hell, with the attention it's garnered me since that unwitting day in November of 2004 I've had interviews in Newsweek, Rolling Stone and Juggs, signed an 8-figure movie development deal, and had a pretty-much-unbroken string of fellatio from assorted supermodels (mostly female).

What I mean is, it's the end of my summer holidays. Back to the grind.

And I am sad.

Don't think that my last day of freedom went without being appreciated, though. Here's an approximate chronology of this last glorious weekday to myself:

10:46 am
Since the sun was shining directly through the gap in my blinds onto my face, thereby rousing me from a delicious nearly-nine-hour slumber, I decided to haul my ass out of bed.

11:04 am
Settled in at the ol' computer-box to rip a CD (Chicago III, finally!), browse the accounts of yesterday's Tiger win vs. KC, news from away, and probably even more articles on Wikipedia about pre-Norman-conquest England. (Why does it always come back to that?)

12:51 pm
Decided that breakfast should be assembled, and eventually constructed a meal of pancakes, scrambled eggs and coffee. Borrowed some of my temporary-housemate's maple syrup, instead of the garbage store-brand table syrup in which I normally drown my pancakes (and sorrows).

1:28 pm
Moved to the couch, and finished this month's National Geographic. The article on Vesuvius was enthralling, yet a little frightening; I thanked my lucky stars I don't live in Naples.

2:58 pm
Decided a nap would be in order.

4:55 pm
Awoke from said nap.

5:08 pm
Started typing this.

I was talking with a teacher-friend last night, who's had a hell of a summer and hasn't had too much time to just chill out; hell, I doubt if he's left the city once since June. I told him that, this summer, when I haven't been out of town, I've made it a point to be as lazy as humanly possible... which I think I've managed to pull off quite nicely, actually.

But now it's time to sharpen the ol' pencils, shine up the ol' shoes, and polish up the ol' "Board of Education" that I keep in the corner for students who misbehave. I have one last stint of sloth to go (i.e., this weekend), and then my next weekday off will be December 24 (not counting Thanksgiving).

But hey, I had a good run.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

C'mon, summer, you had your turn.

I'm sitting here at half past midnight, sweating my balls off.

Seriously... give a guy a break over here!

Dying vestiges of August and it's thirty-four damn degrees out there.

Motherfucker.

* * * * * * * * *

I shop at Food Basics, partially for the prices ($1.99 for a box of Reese Puffs, perhaps the awesomest breakfast cereal known to mankind?!), but mostly for the bitchin' tunes over the PA. A few months ago, I heard "Peg" by Steely Dan on there, which rekindled my love affair with Becker & Fagan, but I think my experience yesterday nicely encapsulates the entire Food Basics musical experience.

I'm in the dairy section, hunting for the perfect carton of eggs (I found it, for the record), and over the speakers comes a song I haven't heard in probably a decade: "Cherish" by Kool and the Gang. If you've never heard it, suffice it to say it's probably one of the cheesiest-sounding ballads you're ever going to hear; couple that with the fact it came out in the early '80s, and you have yourself a Perfect Storm of sappy songs. It's familiar, though, and I remembered most of the words.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that I probably don't have a lot in common with your average African-Canadian woman who's pushing 40. We've probably grown up in different places, led drastically different lives, and had two fairly divergent experiences in life. However, as I walk past her on the way to the margarine... I hear her softly singing the lyrics to herself.

Cheesy '80s ballads: bridging cultural divides since... well, probably the '80s.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

I'm here, bitches.

...so quit yer whinin'.

I realize I've been hither-and-thither a lot recently. But, when your life is as tightly-regimented as mine is for ten months a year, you're gonna make the most of the remaining two by being as out-and-about as you possibly can.

Fear not, faithful members of the Loser Brigade who kill a couple of minutes every so often to pop by here; my life is once again returning to "horrifyingly predictable" come Monday morning (do you know exactly where you'll be at 1:33 pm on Monday, February 18, 2008? I do), so I'll be around more than you ever dreamt of. I'll run into the school to photocopy like a mofo for the next four days, whilst taking a morning out of my busy tree-slaughtering schedule to flip hamburgers for some incoming Grade 9s who are in this fancy-pants IB program we're offering up nowadays. So, that'll be... early. As in, early mornings. Oh, hell.

It's been an eventful summer, though. I spent stretches of time in New Mexico, Waterloo and Halifax; I saw two baseball games in Detroit and two in Toronto; my brother and I took my niece to the local county fair last night (she's cute as the dickens, natch); I ate some terrific corn on the cob. All in all, pretty eventful and satisfying... until I got my Visa bill last week.

Yoiks.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Something looks weird... wait, everything looks weird.

So, I'm reading a story on a sports website about how Michael Vick is going to plead guilty to dogfighting — another football player in trouble with the law, yadda yadda yadda. Anyway, for some bizarre reason, I had Flashblock turned off (perhaps the most useful thing you could ever add to Firefox), and a Viagra ad started playing on the side of the screen.

Now, I'm not saying I need Viagra or anything — hey, c'mon, I'm not even 30 yet — but something caught my eye. Because these ads need all the fine print attached to them, all the side effects start scrolling along, as they legally need to... when I saw this:


Because I run Linux, and because fonts are kind of a nightmare on this OS, I wasn't sure if I was seeing the screen properly... does that say "bluish vision," as in, "things appear blue"? So I went to the Viagra website (honestly, I don't have it bookmarked) to confirm this peculiar possibility. Sure enough, there it was.

The most common side effects of VIAGRA are headache, facial flushing, and upset stomach. Less commonly, bluish vision, blurred vision, or sensitivity to light may briefly occur.

...which is just downright bizarre. I mean, I don't suffer from erectile dysfunction or anything (ladies: I'm still single), but even if I did (which I don't), would I think it's such a bad thing to risk having the colour that I see everything thrown off towards the blue end of the electromagnetic spectrum?! That seems pretty serious.

Anyway, in conclusion, Viagra is some pretty weird shit. And, also in conclusion, I have the bedroom stamina of a high-altitude pack-mule.
_____________________
Thanks to frequent site-contributor ECB for the correct spellng of "side effect." It is apparently two separate, non-hyphenated words. Thelena.

Victory never tasted so sweet.

...especially when you've lost about 13 games in a row beforehand, save for one you won by default.

In a riveting game of co-ed slo-pitch this evening at York Hill park, our team, the Bar Monkeys, pulled away with a 10-5 victory over the Screaming Eagles. The highlight of the evening was a 7-run inning in the top of the 5th (our league has a maximum of 7 runs scored in an inning, lest the score inflate to something out of control; we've been on the other end of 7-run innings more than our fair share, as you can imagine). I'm proud to say I had a hand in it, as I singled and scored one of those runs.

Controversies were abundant, though — none more rousing than a diving catch our centrefielder made, presumably as the third out in the bottom of the fourth. He laid full-out to snag a dying liner; I saw him catch the ball a couple of inches off the ground and clearly hold up his glove. The ump didn't think so, and he stayed silent on the matter as we stood around, confused... not knowing that his silence meant, "He didn't catch it." (Normally, when there's a question as to what's going on, the ump would say something like, "No! It's a trap, he didn't catch it!" Then we'd know that, hey, we've gotta hustle to get the ball back in.) Two runs scored on the play.

Anyway, a few members of our team got pretty worked-up over it, including someone who was sitting off that inning who clearly voiced that she thought the call was "bullshit." I know the call was wrong, and that the ump should've made the situation more clear. But hey, it could've just as easily happened to the other team.

Which got me thinking... life's kinda like that, too. There's a lot more randomness in the world than we perhaps might otherwise think. Sometimes the calls go your way, sometimes they don't. Statistically speaking, it'll all even out... assuming a normalized, non-biased Gaussian distribution.

Which got me thinking... life's kinda like a normalized, non-biased Gaussian distribution sometimes. We all get exactly 1.000 lives, some people are more than 3σ away from the mean in some ways, and ANOVA tables are a pain to figure out by hand.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

An open letter.

To the people who roar past my building,

Hello, motorist and/or motorcyclist. How's your day been? Relaxing and peaceful, I hope.

I couldn't help but notice how you like to gun your vehicle as you make your way past my building. I realize that you've just driven up the Bayview Extension, across the Don River from the DVP, which affords many instances for you to "open 'er up" on a nice, gently curving, picturesque, 4-lane stretch of road. You've come up the hill and been forced to stop at the light by the Petro-Canada, but you see another nice, straight, presumably empty stretch of road with nary a traffic light.

But, there's a difference with this part of the street.

PEOPLE FUCKING LIVE HERE, ASSHOLE.

So, when it's a warm summer night and I have my windows open, and the neighbourhood is all quiet, it irritates the holy living piss out of me, and presumably the hundreds of others who live on this part of Bayview, when you gun your engine. We don't want to hear how powerful your bike's/mid-life-crisis-mobile's engine is — and presumably how big your cock is — because we'd rather not have our morning/afternoon/evening/middle-of-the-night disturbed by your childish whims. We're right down the street from Sunnybrook, so we get enough sirens to wake Rip Van Winkle; we don't need you to add on to it.

In conclusion, fuck off.

Sincerely,

J

PS: If you want to experience the thrill of rapid vehicular acceleration, I suggest you try one of the many broad, not-directly-populated avenues up in York Region instead of my residential street. While there, you can race your car/bike against some Iroc-Z's in Woodbridge and some Hello Kitty-adorned Japanese imports in Markham. It's truly a horsepower-lover's paradise up there, trust me.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Universal health care.

We have it in Canada, and we're just a frozen wasteland full of flannel-wearing, poutine-eating, hockey-playing hosers covered in maple syrup. Why doesn't the US?

This is a question I've always wondered about. It didn't make much sense to me that the richest, most powerful country in the world wouldn't have it, as every other industrialized country seems to. Fortunately, the Inter Nets stepped in and offered an answer.

On the CNBC website, there's a clip of a debate (right side of the page, "Universal health debated") with a guy from the Cato Institute (right-wingers, all) and an economics prof from MIT, who was one of the architects of Massachusetts' foray into universal health care. (Seems as if one state is taking things into its own hands this December 31.) I was interested to hear what the Cato fellow had to say, because I'd never heard a coherent argument against universal health care.

Here are some of the points:

"Regulation leads to rationing, which can lead to higher prices." (As the host introduced the debaters, he mentioned some critics of universal health care were citing this as a reason not to go that route.)
Well, the US is seeing crazy-high prices in the absence of regulation, as pharmaceutical companies continue to gouge consumers deeper and deeper. I'm not sure how it could get any worse, to tell the truth.

"We all want more people to have insurance, but you do that by bringing down the cost of insurance through deregulation, and giving consumers more money, more control, so they can shop around for insurance." (This is from the Cato guy.)
How much further does he want deregulation to go? There's already a big market for different types of insurance, — you can get health insurance from any number of providers — and that system still leaves tens of millions without it. And, if someone's earning $5.75 an hour, how much more can you "give the consumer" in terms of tax deductions? You can't get blood from a stone.

"We don't want the government running the health care system." (Cato guy again.)
I think this is one of the central purposes of government; I can't think of anything more fundamental a government could ever do in terms of caring for its constituents, aside from perhaps a military, and we all know how much the US loves to pump money into that. Besides, who do you want to run the health care system, a bunch of companies whose sole purpose is to create a profit? Corners will be cut, and people will die. 'Nuff said.

"When you look at the track record of the US government, when it comes to defence contracting, the cost escalations that went on there; the inefficiencies that go on with the tax code..." (Host guy, playing a bit of a devil's advocate for the MIT guy.)
This is a simplistic argument, which is easily swatted down. All it takes is a bold leader who says, "Enough with this horseshit, we're booting out the for-profits and we're taking this sucker over. We're nationalizing it." Other countries do it all the time; hell, the UK is re-nationalizing Railtrack, the blood-and-guts of British Rail that was previously turned over to the private sector, which they fucked up ridiculously badly, highlighted by a deadly crash in 2000. Turns out they contracted out the checking of the rails to some other company. (Whoops!) Anyway, the point is that it can be done.

"Two and a half to 3 percent of health care spending is for uncompensated care." (Cato guy.)
This is misleading; this number must be artificially low. Take all these "uncompensated" (i.e., uninsured) people, and give them the level of health care they actually need, rather than what they get (because it's too expensive); you can bet they'll get more pap smears, more colonoscopies, more routine checkups that can catch things before they get out of control. This (a.) saves lives, and (b.) would cost more than three percent of all health care costs. So, is this a number that you can really be proud of? "Our uninsured people are barely getting any health care." No, it doesn't sound too good, framed that way, does it?

Anyway, the moral of the story is that the US should be deeply embarassed that it's the only western country without universal health care. I found the stat in the CNBC clip interesting: the US is 23rd worldwide in infant mortality rates. Well done.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Deities in the doors.

Do you see Jesus in this cupboard door?


The only thing I see, aside from some nondescript, random patters in the woodgrain, is one ugly-ass cupboard door. Kinda reminds me of what we had in our house when I was growing up... except ours had a clearly-visible picture of Lee Marvin in the wood instead.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Holy hell.

It's been a while since I've been able to chill out in my sauna of an apartment, alone, quite possibly shirtless and motionless in front of a fan, reading Sports Illustrated and doing essentially nothing.

In the past twelve days, I've done the following:
  • driven almost five thousand kilometres
  • been involved in an hours-long burping contest
  • hiked two hours through the forest to a cape in the Bay of Fundy
  • saw a not-so-giant potato at the Potato Museum in O'Leary, PEI
  • used an extremely phallic iPod car charger/FM transmitter
  • got moderately drunk a few times in Halifax
  • got very drunk once in Quebec City at a bring-your-own-wine restaurant*
  • watched The Big Lebowski on the side of a warehouse down on the Halifax waterfront
  • found a Uri Geller "meditation circle" in a Value Village in Dartmouth
  • learned that New Brunswick's last fatal pistol duel occurred just south of Fredericton, in New Maryland
  • watched someone eat their first, and probably last, lobster
  • sent my grandma a postcard from the lighthouse at Peggy's Cove
  • gone to the wedding of an old housemate
  • been in a real sauna, as opposed to my apartment which merely approximates one for about five months a year
  • learned a good friend of mine and his wife are expecting a baby
  • laughed a hell of a lot at some extremely inappropriate jokes and/or ethnic slurs
  • met some great people
Therefore, I haven't been so good with the typey-type... but I figure that a full 50% of the people who read this thing have been with me for the past dozen days anyway, so really, I don't think it matters too much, so piss off.

* If you, the reader, happen to be part of that Francophone couple who only wanted to have a nice, quiet, romantic dinner at that somewhat-Greek restaurant in Quebec City on Thursday evening but somehow managed to be seated beside five loud-ass Anglos armed with four bottles of wine making endless references to "gunts," I apologize.