Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Well, so much for a coalition.

Yesterday was Budget Day up on the Hill and, not surprisingly, Harper & Co. had a bunch of treats to give out.

As such, it looks like the Liberal-NDP coalition is dead in the water. And even though I would've been a big fan of having ABC (Anyone But Conservatives, as "Danny Millions" is wont to say) in power, I think the threat of Steve getting toppled was enough to back him and Jim "The Last Surviving Leprechaun" Flaherty away from Mount Arrogance and into a little place I'd like to call Cooperation Cove.

The problem (or benefit, depending on your political stripe) is that now you have Michael Ignatieff strutting around like he owns the place. "We put the Conservative Party on probation," he said today after proposing an amendment to the Budget (which the Cons happily accepted, thereby cementing Steve's power for another few months or so). Not that I mind having Iggy doing a little strutting — again, Anyone But a Conservative these days is a relief — but we'd better not make sure it gets to that handsome carpet-bagger's head.

Now, while all of this Budget-based back-and-forthing is important for the fiscal future of our nation, let's not lose sight of what I believe is the most stunning development of the past, oh, decade or so on the Hill. It's something I not-so-secretly hoped would happen, and whadda ya know, it did: people from different parties worked together on stuff.

I mean, sure, both the Cons and the Libs are each trying to spin this in terms of, "As you can clearly see, we know what we're doing, and we're in charge up here," and since only one party can technically be "in charge" at any one point in space-time, someone must be bending the truth a bit in order to fit their ego.

However, the play-by-play still remains thus:
  1. The Cons put forward a Budget in the fall.
  2. Nobody else liked it, and threatened to fuck shit up.
  3. Steve asked Michaƫlle to hit the Pause button.
  4. Conservatives went back and talked to people.
  5. The Budget got radically changed based on this feedback.
  6. With a few minor tweaks (i.e., Liberal amendments), by gum, this thing is going to pass.
THIS IS HOW
PARLIAMENT SHOULD WORK.

I feel proud of what got done. I mean, I know I shouldn't, because Steve is still the PM, and he makes me feel icky. And, proroguing seems like a sneaky, dirty trick. Still, though, there's a chance this thing might just work.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

One-Sentence Random Thought #1.

The song "Angie" by the Rolling Stones makes me want to learn how to play the piano.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Luck.

It's the Chinese New Year, or so I'm told by commercials for Mandarin all-you-can-eat buffets.

(Holy damn, now I want to go to Mandarin. Seriously. Anyone want to come-with?)

It struck me earlier today that the idea of luck or chance is deeply-ingrained into Chinese culture. I remember hearing once that Chinese people pay huge bucks to get phone numbers with 8's in them. Little did I realize the heights of lunacy these people go to, in the name of luck... until I talked with a Chinese-Canadian colleague of mine about it today.

JTL: "So, that country's pretty big on luck, isn't it?"

Colleague: "Yeah, pretty much."

(J asks Colleague about the phone-number thing)

C: "Oh, that's nothing. You know how the number 4 is unlucky, right?"

J: "Ah... no. Fill me in."

C: "Well, there are four tones in Cantonese — when you say a word your voice either goes up, down, stays flat, or goes down and then up. But, if you say the word for 'four' with the wrong tone, it sounds like the word 'death'."

J: "But that's a coincidence, isn't it?"

C: "Doesn't matter. Four is so unlucky that, up in Markham [huge Asian population up there], houses with the number 4 in the street-number sell for less."

J: "That's crazy. So, you can get good deals up there, eh?"

C: "Not really. Eventually you're going to sell the house, right? Good luck selling it to a Chinese person if it has 4 in the number."

I thought North America was pretty weird about the number 13, and it is. China takes the cake when it comes to superstition, though, and the number 4 is just the tip of the shitberg.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

My first Robbie Burns Day.

When your ancestors have been in Canada as long as mine have, it's easy to lose track of where you came from. In this way I'm actually a little envious of people who are more recent arrivals to our fine patchwork of a country — at least they can grab onto a place and identify with it.

I'd been under the impression that I was just a random British Isles mix; "blonde on blonde," to borrow a Dylan album title. White mixed with whiter, with a hint of so-white-you're-pink. However, a conversation this summer with my late grandmother shone a little light on just what type of Celtic roots I might have... apparently the part of the Kellogg clan which came over here to form part of my ancestry (and changed its name to Kelly to evade the authorities) were from the Isle of Skye, in the northeast of Scotland.

On the other side of the family — the part that my last name comes from — has been a little murkier in terms of roots, as my grandparents on that side were older, and my dad's dad died four years before I was born. And while my last name might be misconstrued as being Chinese, I assure you I'm not; it comes from an old northern English word.

The original Anglo-Saxon tribes that inhabited England were dark-haired, though. But after the middle of the 9th century, the north of England was pretty much taken over by fair-haired Danish vikings who barged in and said, "Alright, pricks, we're taking this over now." Since England's thrones hadn't united as of then, they didn't have much choice other than to draw a line and give the vikings everything north of it; it was either that or have the vikings come on south, a-whompin' and a-whompin' every living thing in sight. ('Cept the women-folk, o' course.)

From this, I've been able to piece together that I'm part-Scot and part-Danish (by way of England)... Celtic and Viking. There's a lot of other stuff in there, too — Anglo-Saxon, probably, and likely some Irish in there for good measure. As such, I've felt compelled today, this Robbie Burns day, to pour a little Scotch and contemplate the nature of haggis. Sure it's a pretty revolting dish, but...

...alright, I got nothin'. It's friggin' gross. The scotch, though, is something I could really get on board with.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

People are wusses.

"Oooooooh, it's sooooo collllllllld!"

IT'S CANADA.
IT'S JANUARY.
IT AIN'T BEACH WEATHER.

I went for a stroll up the street to get some brunch (which probably took about 4-6 weeks off my life) and some bagels. Sure, when you're walking into that little bit of a north breeze your cheeks are going to let you know after a few minutes. But, coming back south with the wind behind you so you can't even feel it... well, I daresay it was lovely out there.

Just bundle up, people. (Hell, I even wore a toque for the first time in about two years. But no scarf... I hate those damn things.) Dress for it, and you'll be fine. Stop your complaining.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I love statistics.

Being a pretty nerdy baseball fan all my life, it probably wouldn't come as much of a surprise if I told you I like statistics. I like reading them, I like creating them, I like slicing-and-dicing them in the right way so a nice bit of insight can be gained — maybe something that nobody's ever seen or thought before.

(Case in point: Alan Trammell's case for making the Baseball Hall of Fame. That guy should totally be in, and I'm not just saying that because he played twenty years for my favourite team. Look at the numbers yourself.)

As I've mentioned before, there's a little page-counter thing on this here blog. It's on the right side of the page, underneath all the Archives links — and right now it reads "00057945", which means that nearly sixty thousand pages of mine have been loaded-up. Amazing! I wonder how many of them found my blog by searching Google for "td canada trust sucks" (which someone did yesterday).

I pop onto the website that gives me my stats fix for this site now and again. It tracks the last hundred page-loads, and gives me a summary of how many people went to such-and-such a page (don't worry, it doesn't read your mind or your mail or anything). Lately my page-hits run about 30-something per day, with most of them coming from "returning visitors" (thanks, by the way).

However, I logged onto the thing today and, for whatever reason, the consistent numbers (e.g. January 16-17) have changed drastically:

      Page Loads  Unique Visitors  First-Timers  Old-Timers
---------- --------------- ------------ ----------
Jan16 37 28 10 18
Jan17 32 24 10 14
Jan18 67 57 45 12
Jan19 142 66 49 17

To quote Taggart from Blazing Saddles, "What in the wide, wide world of sports is a-goin' on here? Did I become an "overnight internet sensation"? I hope this doesn't mean paparazzi — you just know I'd die in a car crash in a tunnel somewhere because of them.

Anyway, the moral of the story is, if I don't know you but you read this tripe, then hello. If I do know you, but don't know you read this tripe... hi as well. If you're the ghost of Sir Charles Tupper reading this tripe... wow, you sure weren't Prime Minister for very long! But at least you had sweet sideburns.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The end of an error.










LET THE

DOOR

HIT

YOU

ON THE

WAY

OUT

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Football and bread.

As I type, I'm watching a presumably-tough football player, a member of the Arizona Cardinals, being interviewed by Pam Oliver on the field after his team just won the NFC championship game (the last game before the Super Bowl, for those of you who don't follow football). Tears of joy were streaming down his face... the first question asked by Oliver just went completely unanswered, as he couldn't compose himself enough to say one word. She took a different tack with her second question — something more specific that he could focus on for an answer — and he got about fifteen words into it (including many "um"s and "you know"s).

At least he didn't just thank the Little Lord Baby Jesus Christ of Nazareth, King of Kings, Prince of Peace (wait, how can you be both a king and a prince at the same time? OH, FIDDLE-DEE-DEE, CHRISTIANITY CONTAINS A CONTINUITY FLAW? SURPRISE, SURPRISE) as his first reflex.

What troubled me was that, during the on-field celebration (rife with red-and-white confetti) the song "We Are The Champions" by Queen was played throughout the stadium. Champions of what? The NFC (the other conference in the NFL being the AFC)? This song's lyrics imply you're at the end, you have nothing left to do or win or conquer. Hey Arizona! You still have one game to go before you can claim anything, you dicktrees!


Above is my latest experiment in baking: partially-whole-wheat bread. I used three cups of white flour and one cup of whole-wheat; it gives the bread a little heartier texture. About an hour into the first rise, though, I realized I forgot the salt; I can taste this, and it's a slightly weird flavour at first, but overall it doesn't really affect the end result too much. Heck, I think I even like it this way — it gives this a flavour you can't get in anything store-bought.

On the left is the result of a loaf pan; on the right is the dough I had left over, which I put on a flat sheet. This whole bread-making thing is still a work-in-progress; obviously I needed more dough in the loaf pan in order to get that classic "crown" look. (I thought it would rise more, but in the end the texture is still pretty light and airy, and a tad spongy.) I'm pleased with the results, and will still go with this 3:1 white:whole-wheat flour ratio for the next batch.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Random humour.

You know the thing where, if you want to post a comment on my blog, you have to decipher those letters to prove you're a real person and not a spam-bot?

Check this one out that I got at ECB's blog tonight:


...and I giggled like my inner 12-year-old.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Let's hear it for Detroit.

(Is the title of this post a play on Deniece Williams' song, "Let's Hear It For The Boy"? Only time will tell, I suppose.)

I have a weird history with the city of Detroit. The town in which I grew up was a 90-minute drive from the Motor City, but a 3-hour drive from Toronto... we always watched Detroit TV stations because the Canadian stations were too lame; we zipped over to Tiger Stadium for games instead of going all that way down the 401; we Sunday-shopped in Port Huron even before you could Sunday-shop in Ontario. I've followed Detroit sports teams all my life, for better or (usually much, much) worse. And I'm a big fan of Motown.

...and not just the record company.

If you could make a fragrance called "Essence of Detroit," it'd smell like a mixture of 30-weight engine oil, the Supremes' hair relaxer, and whatever's dripping from Ted Nugent's crossbow — a quirky yet admirable mix, not something you'd necessarily call pleasant, and as quintessentially all-American as you can get. (I say this, of course, as a fiercely-proud Canadian.)

My family's always been pretty blue-collar. My dad's a retired pipefitter, my brother's a factory worker, and there are plenty of farmers to go around. I'm the odd one who went off and went to school and eventually to the big city, so I'm obviously viewed with a little curiosity whenever I re-make old acquaintances. So the saying goes, "You can take the boy out of the country, you can't take the country out of the boy" — well, I'd argue that the same holds true for an appreciation for the kinds of people who use their hands to make stuff. Useful stuff like cars, steel, wheat and corn, and not suspect stuff like, oh, let's say, I dunno, sub-prime mortgages.

I guess that's part of the reason I've always admired the whole idea of Detroit, even if good chunks of the place don't look too nice these days. The Big 3 are a mess these days, and Detroit's historically been a one-industry town. However, if there's one thing Detroiters are good at, as Mitch Albom says, it's figuring out a way to survive through tough times.

(Seriously, read that article; I know there's a focus on sports, but hey, it's from Sports Illustrated. What were you expecting, knitting?)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

My favourite bars in Toronto.

Last night, ol' buddy Dave and I decided to do a little bit of bar-hopping along College Street. Mind you, this doesn't mean the Little Italy strip — for that we'd need to have shiny suits, more hair gel than the average-sized Shopper's Drug Mart stocks, and coke — I'm talking about a couple of other places, which happen to be my two favourite bars in all of this fine, frigid city.

Grossman's

It looks like a shithole, and it is. Somehow, a bar which looks like something you'd find near my hometown, which serves Molson Stock Ale, and has live blues music every night of the week found its way into the fringes of Chinatown, of all places. This makes it convenient to go on over to the New Ho King afterwards for a heaping plate of lemon chicken, with a side dish of health code violations (seriously, look it up on DineSafe). They recently remodeled the place a bit, taking out the superfluous extra bar in the back of the big room, which lets them put a few more tables in... don't worry, though, it still looks pretty rustic.

Sneaky Dee's

Fortified with some good blues guitar-playin' (and a couple of Stocks), Dave and I strolled across Kensington to my absolute favourite establishment in Hogtown for some kickass nachos, a pitcher of Red Baron, and solid tunes (they played The Clash's entire London Calling album all the way through). Toward the end of our stay there, the booze was beginning to take hold of the joint — so much so that, when Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" came on, the whole place seemed to erupt in a giant sing-along. This would be impressive in a place which has everyone intermingling on a dance floor-ish type of thing, but it was made doubly so by the fact that this was the main floor, which is laid out very much like a restaurant, with tables and booths and a bar and TVs and such.

In conclusion, Toronto doesn't have to be scary or pretentious. A lot of it is, don't get me wrong. But if you know where to look, it can be pretty damn cool.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Procrastination ahoy.

Seeing as tomorrow is the day I return to work, and also seeing as how I have a bit of marking to do... well, I figured it was time to flex the ol' procrastination muscles and get right down to the fine art of wasting time.

"But J," you ask, "however could you waste a good four minutes of a cloudy Sunday afternoon?"

"Well, Dear Reader," I reply, "I filled out a questionnaire about how many of the 250 top-rated films on IMDB that I've seen. My results are here, if you'd like to look at them. And you can even take the quiz for yourself."

. . .

...how far away is June, anyway?

Friday, January 02, 2009

Frigid walks, goal judges, and tons of hockey.

New Year's '08-'09 was spent in our icy Nation's Capital, which was also conveniently the site of the World Junior hockey tournament. As mentioned before, the one-and-only Matt and the one-and-only I made the trip up to Ottawa for a few games, with tickets purchased from a guy on my baseball team this past summer who couldn't attend all the games.

We went up with tickets for four games: Russia/Finland and Sweden/Slovakia, both at the Ottawa Civic Centre (the arena under the stands of Lansdowne Field); Kazakhstan/USA and Kazakhstan/Czech Republic were both at the arena at which the Ottawa Senators play, out in Kanata.*

(*I refuse to call this building by any corporate name; it started off very briefly as The Palladium, then it became the Corel Centre for a decade. These days it's Scotiabank Place, and it will be for about another 13 years or so. But that building will always be on Palladium Drive, so it's the god damn Palladium as far as I'm concerned.)

Kazakhstan, of course, was the team that got blown out 9-0 by Germany and 15-0 by Canada, so those two games we were going to see promised to be, well, not exactly the most competitive hockey in the world. The US team also blew them out, 12-0 (and Matt dressed up as Borat, complete with a 'stache)... but they actually managed to score twice in their final game against the Czech Republic, while losing 10-2. Believe me, when Kazakhstan scored — the second time shorthanded, no less — that building just erupted.

However, during the intermissions of the Czech game, the ads on the scoreboard said that tickets were still available for the marquee matchup of the tournament, Canada vs. USA. After listening to the woman on the other end of the phone think out loud for a good ten minutes as she fumbled through the ticket system on her computer, we finally hit paydirt: two tickets together, against the glass, right behind the net in the front goddamn row.

This was, and will be, the best seat I will ever have for any sporting event in which I am not actually playing. To my immediate right on these comfy chairs was one of the goal judges, decked out in referee zebra-stripes with his finger on a buzzer; he was a young-looking hockey player from Russia (apparently he plays in the KHL, the new elite league in that part of the world) who, I suppose, did a little work for the IIHF on the side.

The Palladium went absolutely ballistic when the Canadian team came out on the ice, every time it scored, or every time an American player got creamed into the boards. We were so close to the action that my view was actually a bit obstructed by the goaltender standing about eight feet in front of me. ("Down in front," I felt like shouting.)

At any rate, it was a night and a game to remember, as Canada came back from a 3-0 deficit to win 7-4; it was actually much closer to that, as we scored two empty-net goals to seal the deal. John Tavares scored a hat trick, the Canadian goalie made the save of the tournament, and a drunken American fan (wearing a Rochester Americans jersey, wildly festooned with many gaudy stars and stripes) got cuffed and hauled out by the cops for picking fights with his neighbours. Well done, you moron! Have another Coors Light while you're at it.

In conclusion, it was a great way to end off a great few days of hockey immersion. Sure, it cost a bit, but really... when am I ever going to get the chance to see a game like that ever again?