Friday, December 30, 2011

A typically Icelandic conversation.

By May of 1940, Germany had easily invaded Denmark and Norway, and the Allies thought that Germany was looking to steamroll its way across the North Atlantic. (They probably were.)

Iceland was formally neutral in World War II. It still had ties to Denmark — their king was still formally the head of the Icelandic government — so the fact that Germany invaded Denmark was sort of a big deal.

The UK thought it'd be a good idea to act first on securing Iceland; might as well grab it before the Krauts do, they surmised. So, they put together a sloppy invasion strategy — because Iceland had no military, it didn't have to be great — and set about the task.

In the middle of the night before British ships were to land, a reconnaissance plane was sent forward to scout out the harbour. The pilot mistakenly flew over downtown Reykjavík, and because Iceland didn't have any airplanes at the time, this woke a lot of people up, including the Prime Minister. So much for surprise.

At any rate, in the morning, the British ships came into the harbour, and a crowd of curious Icelanders was gathered around. The British consul in Iceland knew about the so-called invasion beforehand, so he went down to make sure everything was going smoothly. The crowd — which included some police officers — was getting in the way a bit:

British consul, to Icelandic police:
Would you mind getting the crowd to stand back a bit, so that the soldiers can get off the destroyer?

Police reply, essentially to the army that was there to invade them:

A little later, a pissed-off local did this:
One Icelander snatched a rifle from a [British] marine and stuffed a cigarette in it. He then threw it back to the marine and told him to be careful with it.

Ah, Iceland. My kind of place: endlessly polite, even to invading armies. Full story here.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Cooking Tip #1.

Bacon grease really isn't all that good a substance to fry stuff in.

I usually put a little canola oil in the bottom of my pan before frying. I like it because it has a really high smoke point, unlike olive oil which smokes like crazy if I put the heat on anywhere past medium. Turns out, bacon grease does the exact same thing. Jesus, it looked like a god damn hot box in my kitchen when I was done cooking breakfast. I even took the battery out of my smoke detector, 'cause it was bound to go off like a fuckin' air raid siren.

So, in conclusion, while it sounds like a great idea to fry things in bacon grease... it's really just more trouble than it's worth.

Next time on Cooking Tips With the J-man: huckleberries. Once you've had fresh, you'll never go back to frozen!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Happy anniversary.

Two things happened twenty years ago today.

1. Sgt Pepper taught the band to play.

(Jesus, how high were these guys?!)

2. The Soviet Union broke up.

I remember sitting on my grandparents' couch on Boxing Day, 1991 and watching the evening news that night after a family gathering. I just couldn't believe this big, huge, indestructible thing could just... end. Amazing.

The Current had a really interesting retrospective on it today. Definitely worth a listen.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Oh, teenagers.

First off, a bit of Informal South Scarberian dialect to pass on to you:

facety (fās' tē) adj.
combative, argumentative, in one's face
e.g. "Leave me alone, don't be so facety."

Secondly, this story goes under the "Wow, kids can be exceptionally stupid" file. It happened to a colleague of mine yesterday, who is not one for exaggeration.

The student, who we will call "H" for anonymity's sake, was in a class yesterday with a supply teacher, who is one of our normal full-time teachers who's on a leave of absence this year doing her master's, but comes back frequently to supply on her days off to make a little cash.

The class which contains H is really quite a sight: a good majority of the complete and utter assholes of H's year — and, boy-howdy, there's a lot of 'em — somehow all ended up in the same room. It really is like that scene in The Usual Suspects where all these criminals are in the same holding cell, and naturally they start to plan a crime to commit when they get out.

Shockingly, though, yesterday they were actually being productive and completing the work that their regular teacher left behind for them... except H, who tried his best to let his inner a-hole-ness shine through a little more than it often does. For reference, H is black, and his family comes from Jamaica (although he was born here).

According to our intrepid supply teacher, H spent most of the class dicking-around and not doing a whole lot of anything. But, eventually he decided it'd be more fun to do the following:
  • use a computer in the room to shop for $200 sneakers
  • berate another student in the room for having "Wal-Mart sneakers"
  • make fun of Africans in general, and Nigerians in particular, by...
    • making monkey noises, and
    • imitating Zulu war dances
When the supply teacher confronted H about his racist and insane behaviour, he justified it as such (in a paraphrased way):

H: "Well, I'm black, so I can make fun of Africans. It's okay."
Teacher: "You know your ancestors came from Africa, right?"
H: "No they didn't! There's no way they did." (Presumably, he thought they were "only" from Jamaica, and didn't know/care how they got to Jamaica in the first place.)

(I'll give you a hint: most of them didn't end up in Jamaica of their own free will.)

So, what we have here is a case of terminal stupidity. Apparently the supply teacher attempted to give H a little history lesson, but he just wasn't believing any part of it. And even if he did believe it, he's still an idiot: because he's black he can make fun of any black person, in incredibly racist ways? That's like me mercilessly ripping on the Scots and Irish, which I'm pretty obviously descended from, and then denying my ancestors came from there but saying, "oh, it's okay, because I'm white I can rip on 'em."

Me: "Those cheap motherfucking Scots and those drunk Irish assholes. And don't get me started on people from the north of England!"
Someone: "Uh... isn't your family all from there, many generations ago?"
Me: "Fuck no! Not a damn chance. Don't you worry about this blond hair and my blue eyes and this pale-ass skin. I'm totally not-Celtic. At all."
Someone: "Really? You kinda look like it."
Me: "Hellz-no, dawg. Not in the least. But have you ever seen them on your box of Lucky Charms? What a little gay fag queer that leprechaun is! But it's alright, I'm white."

So, in the end, some kids are idiots. Most are alright, but some are just really, really, really stupid. As H's teacher puts it, "Most kids, even the ones you have that drive you crazy, have at least one redeeming quality. H has absolutely none."

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

One-sentence random thought #15.

Discuss: text-messaging has become the new MSN.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

It's that time of year again.

Yup. It's that time of year when the daily grind has worn us down into a powder, the kids are getting squirrelly, there's all kinds of meetings and engagements and parties and such to attend, and you still sorta have to carry on and plough through your everyday routine even though we've had one weekday off since Labour Day. (And no, PD days don't count, because we gotta come in and do stuff, even though the kiddies get to stay home.)

Christmas gifts purchased: 0

Marking recently done: nearly 0

Times in the past two weeks when I've come home late from a ridiculous waste-of-time meeting and conked-out on my couch for multiple hours: 2

Six days of classes left to go, though — so, in the words of Carl Spackler, "I've got that going for me."

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Everything's coming up J-man.

Well, almost everything. But hey, c'est la vie.

1. Blue Jays Season Pass
No, I didn't suddenly switch allegiances: I'll be a Tiger fan until the day I die. But hey, having Major League Baseball a short bus-and-subway ride away from me is a pretty neat thing, so I'll go to some Jays games now and again. This year, the Jays have their super-amazing deal on again: the Blue Jays Fan Pass, formerly the Toronto Star Fan Pass, gets you into every Jays home game (except Opening Day) for a cool $99. That's eighty games for a hundred bones! You can't beat that deal, not even with your good crowbar. Sure, it's in the 500 level. And sure, the ushers have become Nazis about moving down into lower levels. But it's still a steal of a deal.

2. Trip to Florida
The Sixth Annual "J Goes To Florida To Watch Meaningless Baseball" trip is shaping up nicely for March. I bought my plane tickets and nailed down a rental car today... and I really have to say something here about the prices on rental cars. You can be searching for the same cars on the same days from two different vendors; one will be $35 a day, and the other will be $85 a day. It's nuts! At least I can (somewhat) understand the (convoluted) logic behind plane ticket pricing... but this? Pure craziness. Also: if you have to rent a car, do it through Expedia.

3. Trip to Chicago
Former frequent-commenter ECB is nearing the end of her time in the Windy City, and Porter had a good sale on plane tickets, and I got to take three days off whenever I wanted them for the first time ever (from my union in gratitude for working my ass off during the provincial election). Thus, this weekend I'm headed off to Chicago to finally go out for a serious round of drinking: I've done a lot of stuff in that city, but hitting a bar has (bizarrely) not been one of them. Then again, after this past weekend — yes, my chest still hurts today — I may not want to overdo it too much.

4. Christmas Holidays: Gettin' Closer
If I haven't mentioned it already, my two grade 9 classes are inSANE. Mind you, they're crazy for different reasons; my morning guys just don't give a shit, and my afternoon kids are pathologically frantic. Underneath the crazy, they're all actually pretty nice kids, and will someday make for functional adults, for the most part... but for now, I just gotta grit my teeth and get through it with minimal permanent damage. (For the first time ever, I thought today that I could use a massage; the area between my shoulder blades, and my upper back in general, feels really tense.) But, we've had a countdown on the office chalkboard for the past couple of days, and today it clicked down to 12 school days before The Break.

Monday, December 05, 2011


Earlier this evening I was sitting on my couch and reading something, when I laughed.

And my chest hurt. Not in a heart-attack-y kind of way, but in a muscular kind of way.

At first I didn't know why. But it came to me: I puked so much on Sunday morning (after a hell of a Saturday night) that I still hurt, a day and a half later, indirectly.

Thank you, booze. I needed that.

Also: I really have to fucking grow up.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Another one clicks by.

A wise man once said, "Every day above ground is a good day." That wise man may or may not have been my uncle Frank.

(Honestly, I have no idea who said that. It could've been him; he's been known to snap off a profound statement now and again. Then again, he had surgery for lung cancer and kept right on smoking, so you may want to doubt his capacity for logic and reason.)

It's a good notion, though; a solid way of looking at the world. Even if things don't quite turn out your way, what's the alternative? You're in the cold ground, someone else is nailing your wife, and some raccoon is probably taking a dump on your tombstone.

I turned 34 today. This means I'm solidly in my mid-30s. Y'know what, though? I'm fine with that. I really am. I mean, sure, I haven't got the whole romance thing locked up yet, I still haven't written the Great American Novel, and to this day I get my ass thoroughly kicked every time I play Scrabble.* But other than those little wrinkles, I think I'm doing fine overall.

Yep, your ol' pal J is doing alright, thankyouverymuch.

(Seriously, thank you for reading all my inane posts over the years. This thing has been going since the fall of 2004, when I was but a young buck, a graduate student chasing a dream of being a rockstar astronaut. Now that I am one, all I can say is that playing a the "Freebird" solo on the International Space Station was pretty damn amazing.)
* I'm not entirely sure if this is true, seeing as I haven't played Scrabble in about a decade. But I assume it to be true.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Way to go, Mr. President.

A little while ago, B. Hussein Obama set up a fancy-sounding "Congressional Supercommittee" to wrestle the ol' budget thing to the ground. You know, 12 people — six Democrats, six Republicans — who were going to single-handedly* save the US government's ass when it came to deficits and such.

Guess what? They failed.


Here's why the whole exercise was doomed from the start.

If the Supercommittee somehow was able to work together and magically figure out a way for the US government to avert financial disaster without wholesale hacking-and-slashing of various department budgets, that would've required compromise between parties. And, to quote Del Griffith, "You'd have better luck finding a three-legged ballerina."

If the Supercommittee failed to do this Herculean task, though? Automatic across-the-board cuts to everything the government buys.

So, lemme get this straight.
  • Obama allowed Republicans on this committee; a nice touch, but let's face it, the only thing they do is fuck shit up. Included on this is Sen. John Kyl (R—AZ), who has been ranked as the fourth-most-conservative Senator, and incidentally opposed the new START arms-reduction treaty with Russia. The other Republicans that got named (by Republicans) on this committee include Senators Rob Portman and Pat Toomey, and Representatives Jeb Hensarling, Fred Upton and Dave Camp, all of whom appear to be giant dicks.
  • These Republicans, in no way, shape or form, would EVER agree with a Democrat on ANYTHING. That's just how things are in Washington these days: stall, bicker, remain completely ideological, and for gosh sakes, don't you dare ever work with the other side on anything!
  • Thus, they were never going to get a deal done on anything.
  • Because they didn't get a deal, automatic huge spending cuts kick in for next year's budget. This is the sort of thing that makes Grover Norquist's nipples hard (along with a sizeable chunk of the GOP caucus).
  • So, if there was no deal — to which Republicans never would've agreed anyway — the Republicans win. If the parties had been able to work out a compromise, they'd have gotten something somewhat reasonable, I imagine. But we'll never find that out, will we?
In the end, it didn't work. But I could've told you that.
* This group may in fact have 24 hands, not a single one.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Simpler is not always better.

When it comes to contracts and tax forms and drinking-nights-out, simpler is definitely better. Not so in music.

I was driving home today, and the Doobie Brothers' "Long Train Runnin'" came on my iPod. Now, by any measure, this is a great song, even if the lyrics are a little nonsensical; but you know my stance on lyrics, namely, they don't mean anything and I don't listen to them and I don't care what they say. Besides, I'm too busy listening to the music (also alluded-to in another awesome Doobies' song).

But, what struck me about the song was that, in comparison to a lot of modern popular stuff, there was a hell of a lot going on, musically. I SoundCloud'd the intro, first verse and first chorus for your listening pleasure:

db by frisbeepilot

Layered guitars of all types, actual melodies, some form of technical skill required. On top of that, it's pleasing to the ear (at least to me).

Now, I thought to myself, What band is the complete opposite of this, musically? Naturally, exactly one (1) band came to mind:

With great distaste and much nausea, I headed over to YouTube to, ahem, "borrow" a little snippet of music so I could edit it neatly, SoundCloud it up, and present it to you. Alas, Nickelback's pretty possessive of their copyrighted material, and SoundCloud recognized the music in the clip as belonging to this horrific excuse for a musical act. So, I had to just embed the YouTube clip here... be forewarned, it is very, very loud, so please turn down your volume. (You can stop it at the 1:09 mark, but you'll want to do so much sooner.)

Awful, I know. But, let me try to explain why.

The lyrics are awful. So awful that I actually care. But, aside from that, here's what's going on:
  • The intro riff sounds like something the guitarist came up with two minutes before they started recording. Most likely it was something that sounds very similar to a riff he'd made for another song; this band has a history of things like that.
  • The music behind the lyrics in the verse is exactly the same as the intro riff, just turned down a bit. Nothing new is happening. At all.
  • All four lines in the first verse sound exactly the same. It's the same thing, repeated. A boring thing got repeated. Over and over.
  • The overall sound of the thing is... hard to describe. "Overprocessed" is the technical term for it, I guess. "Homogenous" is a little closer to what I want to say. "Steamroller-y" might get me almost there. "Shitty" is too obvious and not descriptive enough, but yet perfectly bang-on.
  • Chad Kroger's voice is legendarily grating, of course. But what gets me is that he's essentially shout-growling one note. There's no lyrical melody at all.
  • The bass and rhythm guitar are just chugging along, playing (a.) the exact same thing as each other, and (b.) the same note over and over. Go back and compare it with the Doobie Brothers' track, where there are multiple little hills and valleys, chords cycle through, and the bass has a melody all its own.
Who keeps buying all these Nickelback records, anyway? Certainly nobody I know. Anyway, if you need me, I'll be relaxing in my music nook.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

One-sentence random thought #14.

I know less about women than I ever thought possible.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Never a dull moment.

I posted this to my FB status yesterday:

So, a kid has to write a test in my class today. His notes, which he can use for the test, are in his backpack. Someone put a lock on the zipper. A week ago.

Welcome to one of several dozen ridiculous situations I face, every day of my professional life.

And it's true. This is the sort of crazy crap I have to deal with, every day, 194 times a year. (And yes, we count.)

Usually it's the kids who make you shake your head. Sometimes, parents get into the mix. And, even occasionally, my colleagues do and say things that make me wonder, "You teach children for a living?"

There are a lot of things my job isn't, and one of these things is boring. I have to constantly be on my toes, always have to put on a reasonably happy face (even if I feel like crap or someone just did something completely idiotic), and since it's far easier to just come in and slog through a day if I'm feeling sick than to take a sick day — took my first one in nine years, last year — rain-or-shine, I'll be there.

(That being said, I do get three lieu-days from my union for working on assorted political campaigns this fall. One will be spent visiting ECB in Chicago; another will be spent (hopefully) watching the Detroit Tigers' home opener in April, assuming I can get a ticket; the third is just a random Friday in May that I had to pick because, well, I had another day coming.)

(Oh, and the April one is the day before Good Friday, which turns that weekend from a 4-day into an unprecedented 5-day. Will I even remember the kids' names?)

I've often thought to myself, I should write down all the crazy crap my kids say. It'd be amusing, for sure. But, to be honest, if I did that, I'd never have time to do anything else during the day. Because my memory's so terrible, I barely remember anything; the only reason I was able to write that down was because my kids were doing a test, and I have a computer on my front lab bench.

At any rate... there we go. If you're looking for a career where you are guaranteed not to ever, EVER be bored, c'mon down and sign yourself up.

Friday, November 04, 2011

On doohickeys.

I have too many electronic thingamajigs these days.

And yes, new cellular telephone, you are partially at fault. (More on that later.)

Current gadgetry inventory:
  • one desktop computer (Linux)
  • two notebook computers (netbook runs Win7, laptop is an old iBook)
  • one iPod Touch (4th generation)
  • one cell phone (Blackberry Curve 9300)
See, here's the problem. With all these whatzits, there's a million ways to get in contact with me:
  • regular telephone
  • cell phone
  • email
  • text message
  • iMessage
  • MSN Messenger
  • Facebook Chat
  • Gmail Chat
Alright, I grant you, 1,000,000 ≠ 8, but you get the point: 8 is too many for me.

I have my cell phone on my coffee table presently. Will it ding and tell me I have a text?

MSN is on. (Does anyone use MSN anymore?) Who will contact me there?

I'm currently chatting with former blogger ECB on Facebook. Who else will pop up?

I've only contacted two people through iMessage so far. How the hell does it work?*

And don't even get me started on all the Strip-O-Grams I get on a daily basis. Really? Does a man need to see all those boobs?**

Anyway... this is stressing me out. I didn't think it would, but the addition of the cell phone has been the real tipping point. I don't want to have to think about all these things all at once. This is too many. Too many connections to people.

I was fine with landline and email. I really was.

You want to get in touch with me? Call my house. If I'm there, I'm probably alright to talk with you, unless I'm in the shower. But when I get out and dry myself off, I'll hear your message, and call you right back. Or, if I'm out of the house, that means I'm busy doing something else, so when I get back from doing whatever it was that I was doing, I'll check your message and get back to you.

Or, if you wanted to send me something electronically, or just have a textual conversation with me, or if it's not really urgent, or it's just more convenient to type, that's what email and Facebook/MSN messenger are for. If it's urgent, call me. If it's really urgent and I'm at work, call my work and they'll find me, I guarantee you. I've been working ten years and this situation has never come up; I'm not saying it never would, but y'know, ten years.

So, that's the point at which I find myself. I'm antsy, I really am. And I don't want to be. I'm not sure right now, but I think, most of the time, my cell phone will just be off. I don't want it dinging all the time. Call my landline; I've decided to keep it, and keep it as my primary means of communication. If you and I are planning on doing something, maybe I'll have my cell on me, but don't bet on it; I'm betting on you keeping your word, because there's a chance I've had to rearrange other things in my life in order to accommodate this thing we were supposed to be doing, and changing or cancelling at the last minute is a dick move, and then I'm sitting at home alone instead of doing the other thing I'd have been doing if I hadn't made a plan to do the thing with you that you just flaked-out on.

It's ok. I can change this plan I made, he's got his cell on him.

Ah, no, it's not ok., I really got off on a rant there. But rants are good. I'm done, though.

* According to the Insane Clown Posse, probably magic.
** Yes, I do.

Monday, October 31, 2011

How to speak South Scarberian.

I often tell my students, "Y'know, if I'd stayed back in my hometown to teach, I'd have missed out on so much good stuff." (Mind you, I probably would've missed out on hearing that a student of mine got led out of the school in cuffs for bringing a six-inch knife in the building — and, as far as I can deduce, to my classroom — but hey, life's funny sometimes.)

So, I bring you a bit of South Scarberian, circa Fall 2011. Please note that this may vary from area to area, and may only be particular to the part of southern Scarborough in which I work. No guarantees are made that this won't get you stabbed and/or shivved anywhere else, or even within the neighbourhood.*

extra (ĕk' strə)
adj. outrageous or out-of-the-ordinary, often somewhat derisively
Example: "Alice is being so extra today. She's even more annoying than usual."

snake (snāk)
adj. sneaky or underhanded
Example: "Teacher gave us a pop quiz yesterday; that was snake, yo."

greezy (grē' zē)
adj. sly or slick, in a potentially admirable way; cf. "greasy"
Example: "Did you see that move Bob pulled today in the basketball match? That was greezy, dawg."

Lexicographer's note:
Regrettably, my favourite piece of South Scarberian, "arms" (as to describe something which is seen as a slight, but not disrespectfully so) has no meaning anymore. Such is the fluidity of this particular dialect.
* The school at which I teach is actually pretty great. That's not to say it's devoid of, well, let's call them "characters."

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

On Populism.

pop·u·list (n.) \ˈpä-pyə-list\

1. a member of a political party claiming to represent the common people
2. a believer in the rights, wisdom, or virtues of the common people

Since the mid-1990s, so-called "populist" moments in North American politics have had one particular flavour: reactionary conservatism. The Reform Party in Canada, the Tea Party in the US and the Common Sense Revolution in Ontario were all, to some degree, populist — or, at the very least, a very vocal minority had their enthusiasm capitalized-upon by a political party willing to expand the sentiment to the wider electorate, for political gain. (See: Manning, Preston; Palin, Sarah; Harris, Douchefuck.)

Well, these days, there's a populist fog a-brewin', and it's the Occupy X movement. It's vague, but as Matt Taibbi suggests, that may not be such a bad thing at this juncture. To catch populist lightning in a bottle lately, you've had to be organized, fast and relentless... which pretty neatly describes today's neoconservative machines.

But this thing... it defies easy explanation, and that might serve it well, so long as they keep playing the media's game. The way to engender support is not to smash windows — I hope the protest movement has learned this by now, Black Bloc-types included — but to boil your key ideas down to a concise message which you can use as a lever to pry open the broader discourse. Remember "Yes We Can"? It was a little echo-y, but it got a black dude elected in the US of A, so maybe there's something to that tactic.

At any rate, it's going to be interesting to see how this all goes forward. I think the idea of 99%/1% is a great, short, punchy way to get the basic point across. The question is, can this rabble coalesce around some basic, tangible changes they want to see? I sure hope so.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


I'm disgusted that I'm writing this.

I really am.


I'm strongly considering ditching my land line and going with a cell phone.

(pause for gasps of shock and horror)

Look... these things don't seem to be going away, much as I would like them to. And, my landline bill is $32 a month, even if I don't make a single long-distance call — which I usually don't, because I use a phone card which gives me a way better rate anyway.

Plus, there's the text-messaging thing. A lot of people seem to be into it, and it's kinda like portable email, which would be pretty useful.


If you know me, and chances are you do, you know that the non-cell-phone thing is a big part of how I define myself. Perhaps it's misplaced angst, perhaps it's stubborn for stubbornness's sake. Maybe it's just idiotic. I'm not sure. I've always said that, "Oh, it's just a matter of time before I get one." Well, we may be rapidly approaching that time.

But... if I'm shelling out $32 a month for a landline, or $25 a month for an unlimited-local, unlimited-text, unlimited-data plan from Mobilicity, and I can get a free cell phone from a friend who found a fairly-recent Blackberry on the street and can (apparently) get it "broken" for five bucks at Pacific Mall so it'll work on any cell network... then what the hell am I doing giving Ma Bell all this extra money?

So... that's where I'm at.

And I hate it.

But, that's life sometimes.

Monday, October 03, 2011

OK, here's the plan.

Tuesday, 1:55pm
Finish teaching a room full of grade 9s. Hopefully the walls are still intact.

Someone else starts my grade 12s off on research for their project.

I'm in my car, hitting the road... specifically the 401 westbound, hopefully before the majority of the afternoon rush.

Crossing the Bluewater Bridge from Sarnia to Port Huron, and hoping the afternoon rush hour doesn't really affect the lineup too much.

Dropping my stuff off at a hotel on the outskirts of Detroit.

Sipping a beer at the Beer Hall in Comerica Park.

First pitch of Tigers-Yankees, ALDS Game 4... section 218, Mezzanine level.

The game ends, hopefully with a win for the good guys.

Wednesday, 12:30am-ish
Get all tucked into bed in the aforementioned hotel.

Wake up, shower, grab coffee and pastry.

Hit the road.

Arrive back in Toronto, fresh as a daisy.

Teach my period 2 grade 9s; my prep period is first that day.

This is gonna be NUTS.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The kiddies.

Oh, the kiddies this year are interesting.

I wanted to wait until we were a couple of weeks into the school year before writing about them. That first little spell there is what I like to call the Honeymoon Period: they don't really know each other too well, and they don't know you at all, and all the grade 9's are scared shitless already. So, they'll sit quietly, do what you tell them, and won't even consider "misbehaving."

Friends, the Honeymoon is over.

I have two classes of Grade 9 Applied Science — "applied" meaning "not academic" meaning "kids who don't do well in science" — and one class of Grade 12 Earth & Space Science. That one is great; students are there because they want to be, and even if they're not, y'know, as nerdy as I am about all that stuff, at least they know how to play school.

The 9's, though... that's where I earn my money.

Last year's grade 9's were, on balance, sociopaths. I'm not sure if malicious is a strong enough word to describe the admittedly-small number of bad apples that spoiled the whole barrel, but you really had to see some of these kids to believe them. Aforementioned apples: twirpy, chirpy, pre-growth-spurt munchkins that acted like they owned the place from Day One. Teachers hated them, senoir students wanted to bash their heads in, and even their own better-mannered colleagues wanted them gone. Unfortunately, those idiots drowned-out the really good kids who are pretty liable to fly right under your radar if you're not looking for them.

Some of those kids passed all of their grade 9 subjects. Some did not. I have a few of them this year, and they are definitely not pleased to be in the same room as people a year younger than them. Case in point: a grade 10 girl, who seems fairly nice, is absolutely mortified that she's in the same room as her little grade-9 brother, who couldn't sit still for ten minutes if you offered to pay him $10,000 in unmarked bills for such a feat.

I have four students in those two classes (combined) that barely speak any English. Our English as a Second Language (ESL) classes have five classifications, from A (just got off the rickety plane direct from Kazblakistan) to E (good enough to at least attempt regular English classes). In one class I have two A's, from Hungary and Afghanistan; in the other, two very-different B's from Honduras and Cuba. My kid from Hungary probably has the lowest English skills of anyone I've ever taught, and that's saying something. Nonetheless, I've been scanning blocks of text from our textbook, OCRing them, and running them through Google Translate; we'll see how that works out.

The irony about my two Applied classes is that, for kids who are in those courses, they really need a good, focused classroom environment in order to do well — but, of course, this is never the kind of classroom environment you get, precisely because of the kids in it. Zing! Joke's on... well, probably me.

All in all, though, things are going alright. I had some students tell me on a quiz a couple of days ago that the following symbols are paired up with these elements:

Ca = cancer
F = fossil
N = nagnesium it's a work-in-progress, as you can see.

Ah well. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: There's never, EVER a dull moment in my job.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

So, here it is.

Ten years later.

The world has changed in a lot of ways since that day, in some ways.

But in a lot of other, perhaps more important ways, things are still the same:
  • Rich people are still screwing poor people over by the billions.
  • Governments are corrupt in a lot of places.
  • Religious fanatics continue to brainwash massive amounts of people for personal gain.
  • The gap between haves and have-nots continues to grow, in both developed and developing countries.
  • We continue to ruin our planet with shocking efficiency.
I think perhaps the most pressing problem in North America these days is the virulent strain of anti-intellectualism we've been seeing for the past decade or so. I'd argue that its first big modern boost came during the 2000 US presidential election campaign, when people were flocking to George W Bush because he was such a plain-spoken good ol' boy; "There's someone I could sit down and have a beer with."

Well, I'm sorry. The president of the United States, the most powerful person in the world, should not necessarily be someone who is a regular-folk, straight-C student. In fact, quite the opposite should be true: I want that person to be the most brilliant damn person in the world. I couldn't care less how personable they are; Bill Clinton was a Rhodes scholar and was certainly a charmer, but the latter was merely icing on a very smart cake. (And yes, I know we could argue about how the Dems actually set up a lot of the financial problems we're seeing now, but that's an argument for another time.)

So now we have the Tea Party; again, an argument for another time. But the key feature is that these people are proud to not know anything. In a sense, they're a modern revival of the 1800s Know Nothing Party, which was against such things as immigration from predominantly Catholic countries. Substitute Muslim for Catholic in the 21st century, and there's your Tea Party. (Here's a shortcut to the main features of the Know Nothing platform.)

To me, this is a far greater danger to our society than, say, terrorism. Empires usually crumble under their own weight, not because of external factors or influences. Idiocracy might come to fruition a lot sooner than 2505 at the rate we're going, and that's not good for anyone.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

There's an erection a-comin'.

(And no, I never get tired of that joke.)

Executive Summary:

Seeing as my city now has a dipshit Conservative mayor, and my country has a snarky Conservative PM, would it be too much to ask to have a middle-of-the-road Liberal premier?

Long Story Long:

We have fixed provincial election dates in Ontario. I personally hate this, because it means the erstwhile campaigning began months and months ago, turning the election into a decidedly American-style affair. But hey, that's what our previous Conservative premier(s) gave us, so that's what we've gotta live with. (Besides, when you have flexible election dates, you can have fun, neat stuff like David Peterson calling a snap election pretty early in his mandate and having his ass handed to him by once-provincial-NDP-turned-interim-federal-Liberal leader Bob Rae. Good times. (Sorta.))

In the spring, Tim Hudak and the PCs were polling disturbingly high. Very disturbingly high. Even though the campaign was months away from its official start (i.e., today), a lot of us were shitting bricks over the numbers. Then the summer came, and people forgot about Hudak a bit, and the Libs' numbers started inching up. And now it's fall and the race is on and Blue and Red are pretty much neck-and-neck these days. (I'm not sure where Orange is, to be honest. I have nothing against Andrea Horwath (pronounced Horvath), but let's wait until the PCs are at least in a medically-induced coma before we can put some serious effort behind the NDP.)

(That is to say, I'm much more afraid of the Tories running Ontario than Horwath. It's sad that this has to be based on fear, and of whom I'm afraid the least, but...)

(...well, I don't really have a good answer for that. But, back to the task at hand.)

I've been not-so-secretly hoping — and actually somewhat expecting — Hudak to put his foot in his mouth this election campaign like John Tory did so beautifully in 2007. If you'll recall, Tory tried to shore-up his 905 Jewish/immigrant* vote by musing, "Hey, wouldn't it be great if taxes helped pay for private religious schools?" Tory couldn't have gift-wrapped a better sound bite for the Libs if he'd gone to the mall in December and stopped by the little table that wraps your presents for you and donates the profits to some local charity of some flavour. Naturally, that worked out well for me in '07.

And hey, it might just be happening again. Recently, Tim opined that the Liberal goverment's current program which has $12 million headed towards employers who hire immigrants with decent credentials and skills back home but can't find good jobs here is tantamount to "affirmative action" — and he's starting to refer to immigrants as "foreigners."

Now, don't get me wrong, I love a good Foreigner song. But referring to immigrants as foreigners clearly sets up an "us vs. them" mentality, as this Star article points out. I heard a clip of Dalton McGuinty on the radio today, sounding just about as angry as I've ever heard him — seriously, the guy would probably be humming showtunes if his house was burning down — slamming Hudak and comparing him to the Tea Party. And to Dalton's credit, the more I think about that comparison, the better it is.

Listen... I don't like it when politics turns ugly. I don't like campaigns that run on negatives. But McGuinty kicked a lot of verbal ass today, and it was an ass that needed to be kicked. (If it's Tim Hudak's ass, let me invoke Butthead (who's back with Beavis this fall in a series on MTV, hooray!) and call it "the ass of the ass.") More, please!

(And yes, today I am officially embracing parentheses within parentheses (like this), because it just makes sense.)
* I'm not invoking this in any pejorative way at all. I dig Jews and immigrants; I count some of them among my very closest friends. I'm merely pointing out that the 905 had ridings that were real horse-races between the PCs and the Libs, and thumbing the scale in favour of these groups could've meant another few seats.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Time for them kiddies again.

It's been a lovely summer, it really has.

(Except for the "it was so hot for most of the summer in Toronto that it made me want to chop my head off and stick it in the freezer for a good long while" bit.)

And so we have Labour Day. The last day of sleeping in, last day of sloth, last day of possibly not wearing pants a for a good chunk of a weekday.

It's alright, though. I really do enjoy the new challenge that each school year offers. Rumour has it we're getting another, ahem, interesting crew of grade 9's this year. Guess who's teaching several dozen of them? That's right, it's your ol' buddy J.

The night of Labour Day, I'm usually a little nervous, a little excited, and can't get to sleep too easily. Oddly enough, it's after 8 at the moment, and I'm not getting any of that — yet, at least.

An old department head of mine, who taught for over 30 years and retired because he didn't want or have to put up with the bullshit that a certain department member of ours threw and continues to throw around, once said: "If you're not even a little bit nervous on the night before the first day of school, you're not doing your job right."

Because I think I do my job (reasonably) well, maybe it's just a matter of time before I'll get the butterflies. Or maybe I'm just riding on a blissfull cloud because my Tigers just swept the third-place White Sox and nimbly got by the second-place Indians (aka "Cleveland Racist Nicknames") this afternoon. Or maybe it's all the booze I've been throwing down nonstop since getting back from the Great Flat Southwest this afternoon.

Either way... tomorrow morning, it's gonna be me and about 90 other grown-ups vs. 1500 teenagers. GAME ON.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Oh, hi!

Well, hey there!

. . .

No, I didn't see you come in. Relax! Have a seat in the comfy pink chair.

. . .

Can I get you anything?

. . .

Well, I have some beers in the fridge, if you'd like one. I just picked some up today... Mill St Organic, a couple of Kozel, and some Red Baron if you're slumming-it.

. . .

Yeah, Kozel is Czech... I had a bunch of them during this mammoth drinking session in Brno with the-one-and-only-Matt. It was pretty hardcore... we started with the beers around 6:30, a group of five of us won a pub quiz which paid for about half of our bar tab, and then we ended up hitting another bar later on. I fell into bed after 3.

. . .

It's hard to resist when beers are a buck-fifty, and you just came from Denmark where the cheapest drink in town is easily $8.

. . .

Copenhagen was pretty. I liked it, but if I'd had another day, I'd have taken a day-trip up to Elsinore Castle.

. . .

Yeah, that one! Neat, eh?

. . .

Oh, I was just streaming Blitzen Trapper's latest album. I'm nuts about their last one, and this one's pretty solid so far too.

. . .

Yep, back into the school last week for three days, then back in most of this week. These school years don't just put themselves together, y'know. Back to the grind! I can't complain, though.

. . .

Alright, you gotta get going, eh? Gotta take your porcupine to the vet to get its yearly shots?

. . .

Yep, we all do. Gotta take care of the little guys. Seeya!

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Goddag, København!

Er... "good day, Copenhagen." (But you probably figured that out.)

So yes, I'm in Denmark. Last day here, too; got here on the 6th, leaving here tomorrow morning and heading off to Prague to join up with the one-and-only Matt. A few observations about this place:

1. Practically everyone here is pale.
If you know me — and, chances are if you're reading this, you do — you know I'm one exceptionally pale bastard. Oddly so, actually, for Canada... and especially so for Toronto. But ever since coming here, I feel like I more-or-less completely blend in with the native population, even moreso than in Iceland (I didn't have a crazy woolly beard like a lot of the local fellows).

2. I still managed to get a sunburn, which makes no sense.
A few months ago I decided to trace my roots, and found that a lot of them pointed to northern England (with a little Scotland and Ireland thrown in). Now, if you take a look at some history books... after about 900 AD, northern and eastern England were pretty thoroughly Danish, after hordes of vikings showed up on the shore and chased the locals away. Heck, Angles and Saxons (the quasi-original inhabitants of southern Great Britain) were dark-haired folks, and I sure don't fit that description. Thus, I am currently in the land of my raping-and-raiding ancestors, which means I should be built for this climate, right? Well, not after wandering around most of yesterday without a hat on. I suck at summer everywhere but Iceland and Ireland.

3. This place costs a god damn fortune.
Today I got a beer and an open-faced roast beef sandwich (called smørrebrød here, they're pretty common) at a hipster bar, and that cost me 99 kroner; (a handy-dandy currency-exchange-rate site) converts that to a bit over $18. And that's cheap! The other day I got a Carlsberg — not even a full pint or half-litre, and hell, they make the stuff here — and it ran me 55 kr, and I dare you to do the math on that one. Mind you, it was at a pretty nice little cafe, and tips are always included here, so in the end... that's still a fucking expensive-ass beer.

4. Women are gorgeous, but with a caveat.
If I was a scout for a supermodel talent agency — not such a bad moonlighting job, when you think about it — I'd definitely start looking for 'em here. Top-notch talent. However, the caveat is that there's a very typically Danish look: blonde, of course, with a slightly set-back chin and the bluest eyes you've ever laid yours on. Most women around here fall somewhere on this spectrum, and a lot of them fall on the drop-dead-gorgeous end. But, y'know, I kinda like seeing a drop-dead-gorgeous Asian or Indian or African woman now and again, and around here they're a real rarity. (As you might expect, Toronto excels at this sort of thing.)

5. Nationalmuseet needs more vikings.
I took a good look around there today, and while there are a ton of great exhibits, plenty of breathtaking artifacts and oodles of useful explanations guiding the visitor through... c'mon, man, give me more vikings! I can go anywhere and learn about Egypt; jeezie-creezie, every damn museum in the world has something on Egypt. Paintings are nice, too, to be sure. But where else am I going to get the story of the vikings, where they friggin' came from?! Three or four rooms were devoted to the viking era, and the most interesting thing was, "Well, you know, they're pretty misunderstood. They set up a lot of functional towns and trading systems, too." C'mon! Zazz it up a bit! Let's see a mock-up of my Danish 33-greats-grandfather hacking the head off my English 33-greats-grandmother's first husband! Horned helmets for the kids! Miniature Danish flags for everyone! I CAME FOR BLOOD!

Instead, I got, "There were a couple of raids. Now, here, look at these bronze bracelets they wore." Kee-roist.

All in all, though, it's a pretty nice town. Don't bother seeing the Little Mermaid statue if you come here, though. I caught a glimpse of it on the canal tour, and it's nothing to write home about. (Plus, it's not nearly as sexy as the Disney cartoon, and apparently Hans Christian Andersen's original story is quite depressing.)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

It's hot here.

That means a few things are true:
  • Motorcycles just blasted past my building, because there's a nice traffic light-free stretch in front of it, and it's nice and quiet and it's nighttime.
  • My little air conditioner's doing a yeoman's work these days. I gave it the night off because it's actually, somehow, in the 20s outside.
  • It's nice up north, though. Spent the weekend at my buddy Bob Sacamano's family's cottage up near North Bay. The Sacamanos' cottage is on a great little lake, and the sun sets opposite their dock real picturesque-like, and there's a beer store in town, which means I think you have a good idea what I drank all weekend.
  • It's baseball season, and the Tigers are in the thick of the AL Central race. They lost tonight, and the Cleveland Racist Nicknames won, which means the Tigers' lead is one measly game. S'alright, though. The sky isn't falling.
  • ...yet.
  • The All Pale Countries Tour 2011 commences one week from today. This year's lineup includes Iceland (again), Denmark and the Czech Republic; yes, I know Czechs are technically Slavic in origin and not Nordic, but they're still pretty pale. And their beer is excellent.
Fitz and the Tantrums are from now, but sound like they're from then. They gave away their debut EP a couple of years ago, which was a genius move: it got the word (and their music) out to a whole lot of people. Have a listen to their big huge hit single, if you haven't already:


Friday, July 15, 2011

Some observations about Indiana.

I spent the day today somewhat leisurely making my way across Indiana, going from Chicago to Fort Wayne, where I'm staying at this somewhat kooky B&B downtown. Here's what struck me about the state:
  • There are a lot of churches here. A LOT of them.
  • A lot of those are really, really big.
  • Did you know that a shit-ton of Indiana's licence plates have a big ol' "In God We Trust" on them? It's true.
  • Valparaiso University is pretty small, for an American school that I've heard of. (I think they're decent at basketball.)
  • Whoa, they have less than 3000 undergraduates!
  • Downtown Fort Wayne is pretty, but the suburbs are... well, unimpressive to say the least. This is a trait shared by a lot of smaller US cities. I'm not entirely sure what to make of it.
  • The local baseball team here plays in a fantastic stadium, Parkview Field. They have a great selection of beers and the prices are decent, but just like every other place I've ordered chicken fingers in the US, they've never heard of serving them with plum sauce. Can you believe that?!
Four days, four US states, four baseball games: Illinois (Cubs last night), Indiana (Fort Wayne tonight), Michigan (Detroit tomorrow afternoon) and Ohio (Toledo on Sunday night). That's a lot of ballpark beer, but I think I'm up for it.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

A blast from the past.

It's summertime, which means one thing: RE-RUNS.

I'm kidding. (Sort-of.)

I was thumbing through some settings and such on this here site — something I get my team of interns, which I've light-heartedly nicknamed "JTL's Slave Army," to do for me — and I came across the gem reproduced below which I wrote in mid-December of 2006 but never posted. So I guess it's less of a "re-run" and more of an "unreleased classic from the vault." (Yeah, we'll go with that.)

The reason I post this is because a little earlier today, despite my vow of not chasing skirts this summer... well, DB was right, I lasted about two weeks. But, in my defence, the opportunity to strike up a lovely conversation really fell out of nowhere, so I figured I owed it to myself to give it the ol' college try. Moral of the story: NEVER TRY.

Enjoy the vitriol. (I honestly can't remember the incident below that prompted such an angry response. I think it might have been at a staff Christmas party, but I'm not sure where that could've been.)

* * * * * * *

Okay. This is what you don't do:

Strike up a great three-hour conversation with a guy. Share anecdotes about your family back and forth; talk about the teaching profession and your role in it; your disdain for most music these days, loud-ass Richmond Street clubs and "reality television." Move closer to him to suggest some sort of interest in him (because you know he's fucking interested in you: if any guy is talking to any girl, and he's single and straight, NEWSFLASH, IDIOT, HE IS TRYING TO PICK YOU UP, ESPECIALLY IF YOU'RE HOT). Share an easygoing, witty rapport that you've developed over the past few weeks. Have this conversation alone at a table with a guy while the rest of the guy's co-workers hit the dance floor and have a couple of them (middle-aged women, no less) make gestures to him suggesting, "Dude, awesome! She's totally digging you!" as the pair of you sit on the sidelines.

And then, THREE GOD DAMN HOURS into the conversation, casually drop this into the conversation:

"...blah blah, so yeah, my sister's boyfriend and mine are really good friends, blah blah..."

Do this.

Even if you can.

And you will.

(Because you did.)

* * * * * * *

Actually... now that I think about it, I remember that it was a staff Christmas thing at a local banquet hall, being DJ'd by a former co-worker. I don't remember who the girl was, but I have a suspicion she was a teacher who was at our school for a one-semester thing, filling in for someone. Can't remember who, though. Maybe it's for the best.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The following things need to be said.

I officially finished my ninth year of teaching today. I still feel like The New Guy.

I've been obsessed with this song (particularly the live version) for the past week-ish. I think the thing that gets me most about the live version is that it looks completely effortless, but is far more complex (in terms of musicianship) than most stuff released today.

I'm glad June has been this cool. Normally by Canada Day, my balls have been sweated off in their entirety.

The Europe vacation is nearly all planned: Reykjavík again, then Copenhagen, then meeting up with The One And Only Matt in Prague. I was trying to figure out a way to stop in Helsinki for a couple of days on my way back here — the cheapest PRG-YYZ flight was Finnair's two-legger through Helsinki — but apparently that'd be crazy-expensive. (The Finnair rep I called up yesterday morning was as puzzled as I was about it, and was equally unable to explain why a PRG-HEL-YYZ flight was $850-ish, but HEL-YYZ on the same day was $3000.)

Another option might involve going back through Stockholm, but staying there for a couple of days. I think that might be pretty nice, too. My kind of town, Stockholm.

I'm glad the Tigers have sent Phil Coke to the bullpen for now. I like Phil and all, but he really just wasn't getting it done as the fifth starter since the end of May. He did a great job in the 'pen last year, and even though he swore he could hack it in the rotation, he's much more useful to the team as a reliever.

In a couple of weeks, I'll potentially be watching four baseball games in four days, and there's a chance it'll be 5 in 4 days. I'm likely going to watch Roy Halladay's homecoming game on Saturday down at the Dome, which should be absolutely nuts, so I'm getting there as soon as the gates open.

Tomorrow night I plan on getting nice and toasty with a pal-o'-mine in honour of this great nation's birthday. Press Club at 10pm, if anyone's interested.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Back to work, union scum!

Interesting facts I learned from this whole thing:
  • The CEO of Canada Post is named Deepak Chopra.
  • No, not that one.
  • Lisa Raitt, the Minister of Labour, is no relation to blues guitarist Bonnie Raitt.
  • Lisa Raitt is under the impression that CUPW caused this fiasco. CUPW was in a fully legal strike position, had a mandate from its workers to perform a job action, and they did: rotating strikes. Most people still got their mail. It was Canada Post — the company — which locked out its workers and made everyone stop getting their mail.
  • Lisa Raitt hates unions. But this isn't really much of a surprise.
  • Why do the Cons even bother having a Minister of Labour? They should just rename the position Minister of Cornholing Working People.
  • TV cameras are not allowed in the Senate.
So, everyone gets their mail... soon-ish. Fifty-eight hours in the House (and six in the Senate), and the Cons have legislated their second back-to-work orders in a month.



But, as a public sector worker myself... this raises the issue about public-sector unions in general. On the one hand, we do things that the public pays for: teach their kids, collect their garbage, sort their mail. These are all very useful services, obviously. But on the other hand, we're employees with rights and working conditions and all that jazz, and we don't really enjoy being trampled-upon by our employers, or by governments hell-bent on breaking our unions.

(And if the latest polls forecasting this fall's provincial election are anywhere close to right... oy-yoy-yoy, it's gonna be Herr Hudak in charge around here soon enough. Goddammit.)

So, Dear Public, don't worry, you'll get all your back issues of Juggs Weekly in due time. (And your pornographic magazines, too; we all know JW is Canada's best source of information about jugs, buckets, barrels and other containers. Nobody knows why they throw the extra g in there, but it's been spelled that way since the 1920s.)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The summer free from skirt-chasing.

I usually don't talk about my love-life on here, because if I did, I'd post even less frequently than I currently do. (But, let me tell you who does: this girl right here. And she's great.)

I've spent the vast majority of my adult life as a single guy. I'm mostly alright with that; if I was completely alright with that, I doubt I'd have brought it up. (Hell, I'm alright with being right-handed, which is possibly why I never mention that fact on here... until now.) And I guess I could give a laundry-list of excuses:
  • haven't met the right one
  • haven't met the right one at the right time
  • shirtless, I don't look like Matthew McConaughey
  • I tend not to find myself surrounded by the ladies
  • I have a third arm
  • overall romantic incompetence
I could go on all day, lamenting my shortcomings — women love that, right? — but I'll save you (and my therapist*) the trouble. I'm fine, I'm (fairly) sure things'll click eventually, and I've been told by a few non-my-mom women that I'm something of a catch.

But, here's the thing: the search, the relentless search, is fucking tiring. And it's not an easy thing to turn off: we're hard-wired to find someone to screw to pass on that ol' DNA. Women may hear a biological clock ticking, and I'll grant you that's probably not too pleasant an ordeal. But it's not like we fellows get off scot-free either.

However, this summer — today being the first day thereof — I hereby vow to make a concerted effort to NOT actively chase skirts. I mean, if I'm out with some buds somewhere and I strike up a conversation with a Heather Graham look-alike who votes lefty, has a poster of Lou Whitaker on her wall and plays bass in a My Bloody Valentine tribute band,** I'm probably going to have to follow up on that. But that's probably going to be just about it, I think.

There was a very, very brief period of my life where I was able to turn off the radar: it was back in the late '90s, it only lasted a couple of months, and even though I was in the belly of the pressure-cooker that is the University of Waterloo, I'd never felt so relaxed. I realize that's a long time ago, and my life's a lot more complicated than it was back then... but, who knows? I think it's worth a shot.
* Dr. Jack Daniels; you may have heard of him.
** If one of these doesn't exist, I really should start one. I bought a bass off my brother this weekend — I've been babysitting it for months, so I figured I should stop screwing around and make it legal — and perhaps my future bride could use it.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

South-Central Lambton County Crop Report.

Here's what we have as of June 19th, in southern Brooke and southeastern Enniskillen townships:


Late start, with the wetness in May. Couldn't get the beans in on time — 2 weeks late, at the earliest — and that's showing up now. Plants should be about four inches tall; lots haven't even come up yet. Plus, with the dryness lately, that's not good either.


Up, but not as high as it should be. You know how it likes those hot, humid days, though (doesn't everybody?) — and if this summer's as hot as everyone says it's going to be, it should catch up alright.

Winter Wheat

Might be starting to hint at changing colour in some places; my grandfather seemed to think it had lightened up in the past couple of days. My cousin says it could use another good drenching in the next week or two. If it's dry, though, you'll get smaller kernels and a smaller yield.

Overall Precipitation

As mentioned, it was wet early but a lot of places have been dry lately. It's spotty, though; a few days ago, my uncle's neighbour got 7/10ths of an inch, but they barely got anything.

* * * * * * *

This is the sort of stuff my family talks about. I imagine yours is pretty much the same.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

I know, I know.

I'll post something soon, I promise.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

More '90s music.

I was in my music-nook recently, and happened to think about recently-elected NDP MP Andrew Cash. Turns out that I had a song of his from the early '90s on a compliation tape. (Remember tapes?)

(Alright, it was a tape I made from my buddy's CD; his older brother got it in his UWO frosh kit, and I have to say, it really is a stupendous collection of early-'90s alt-rock. Urge Overkill? The Posies? Early Sloan? Yes, yes, yes!)

Anyway, I came across a song I hadn't heard in more than a decade: "Could've Been Love" by a band called Ceremony. I didn't know anything about them at all, so I looked up the video on YouTube, and sure enough it was there.

The lead singer of that band is none other than Chastity Bono, who now calls himself Chaz and is fairly well along in his transition from female to male. However, that doesn't matter: what matters is that this song just really... I dunno, man, it's a darn-near-perfect pop-rock song. I've always been a fan of layering acoustic rhythm and electric lead guitar — having an electric rhythm guitar doesn't differentiate it much from the lead, in terms of tone, and then everything becomes a muddled-up mess.

That was the only single from the only album by Ceremony. As for the Andrew Cash song, it was called "A Lot Of Talk," was very good, and is unfortunately un-YouTubeable. Ah well.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

God did it, of course.

No, I'm not talking about the probably-averted Rapture — although apparently we're not entirely out of the woods yet. See you in October, Jesus!

I was watching the National tonight, and the second-biggest story (right after "Here's how hard Vancouver partied last night because the Canucks got into the Stanley Cup final") was about the big storms which have hit the American southeast. Indeed, the states of Missouri and Kansas and environs have been whalloped by these things, but a clip I saw pissed me off.

The clip showed a family that had all piled into a closet in their home to keep as safe from the tornado as possible. The mom described the situation, and the little girl chipped in, "We made it. God saved us."

Cue the anger.

Listen, if you know me — and chances are, if you're reading this, either (a.) you do, or (b.) I've paid you to read this, so it could go either way, really — you know my stance: hardcore agnostic. Don't know if there "is," don't know if there "isn't," and don't think anyone can know. But hey, the kid's about 8, whatever, I'll cut her some slack.

However... when you think about it, that statement makes no sense at all. Think about all the other good, decent, religious people that God killed, injured or made homeless — and God decided to save you? No disrespect intended, but... why you? Are you any more or less special of God's creations as anyone else?

And did God make all those other people die? Did He wreck their houses, their possessions, their lives? Did God kill those people with those twisters he sent? If the answer to all these questions is yes, then God is a giant dick.

And wait a second... if God "saved" you, then why did He go to all the trouble of making something so horrendous, only to save you from it? To prove His love for you? Jeepers H. Crackers, why would a God do that?!

"It's all a part of God's plan," is what someone says when they don't know why the fuck something random happened. Alice gets hit by a streetcar? God's plan. Bob falls down a mine shaft? God's plan. Stu gets nut cancer? You guessed it, God's plan.

I forget who said this — possibly Mark Twain, he said a lot of great stuff — that they didn't "believe in a trickster God." I think this holds a lot of water: why would an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-seeing entitiy pull suck a dick-move? Killing and all this stuff. It's crazy!

So the kid starts blabbing about God. Kid gets the idea from the parents. Parents brainwash the kid into GodGodGod. Cycle continues, until someone's bold enough to run off and join the circus.

Bah. Shoot me.

Good night.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

More '90s videos.

In the winter of '97, I was living in Deep River. (Well, to be accurate, I was at RR#1 Deep River, about a half-hour walk east of town.) It was a simpler time: I was a lowly co-op student working at AECL, plodding away on make-work projects for my Argentinian-Canadian boss who was infatuated with Diego Maradona. This comet was also crazy-bright in the sky. Good times.

I lived in the basement of a house on a country road. It must've been really, really illegal: the bedroom had exactly zero windows. (It was handy if I wanted to sleep until noon on a Saturday, though, as it could be exceptionally dark.) The pressure in the shower was nonexistent; it was like standing naked in a fog with a light breeze. One of my housemates was this Chinese guy who (a.) we barely ever saw, (b.) spoke little English, and (c.) cooked the most fucking disgusting-smelling food I've ever had the misfortune to smell.

My other two housemates were cousins, one originally from London and the other from Windsor. The Londoner was a soldier stationed at nearby CFB Petawawa, in his late 20s, had done a couple of tours in Kosovo, and gave me a ride home on Easter weekend which scared the bejeezus out of me. The Windsorite was in his mid 20s and worked at AECL as a full-time employee; driving skills unknown, but a fun fact is that he went to high school with the guys who would later form the Tea Party (the band, not the redneck political movement).

And the three of us loved, LOVED this video.

I think you can see why.
UPDATE: Apparently the Tea Party is back together! Maybe the other two guys in the band decided that putting up with Jeff Martin's narcissism was worth it, to get a steady paycheque.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Teenagers Say the Darndest Things, Episode 4.

I figured I'd better start numbering these. Why? BECAUSE I CAN FUCKING COUNT.

These are, again, second-hand but with a reliable source.

* * * * *

teacher is doing her thing, teaching a class
a kid from her previous class bursts in the door, shouting

Kid: "Miss, did I leave my gun in here?"

Teacher, calmly: "No, you didn't leave your gun in here."

K: "Did I say 'gun'? I meant 'cell phone'."

* * * * *

topic of conversation in the classroom:
continents moving tectonically, as related to climate change

K, sincerely: "So, Miss... are they doing any serious investigation as to whether Santa Claus exists?"

class laughs

K, again sincerely: "It's possible, you know."

N.B. this was the same girl that wanted to name her future daughter "Clitoria".

* * * * *

topic of conversation in the classroom:
some global cycles can take 100,000 years to complete

K: "So, a hundred thousand years ago... did Jesus even exist then?"

* * * * *

Concert Review:
Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings
Sound Academy, last night

Fucking awesome.

* * * * *

Apparently I have about a dozen "followers" on this blog. I have no idea who all-but-one is (hi, Lang! Remember when we barely knew each other but shared a hotel room in Montreal?), and I have a feeling most of them are just fake accounts for spam, but hey, I've been wrong before. WHO ARE YOU? AND WHO IS YOUR DADDY? AND WHAT DOES HE DO? Speak up!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Good tune.

Eels has always been a pretty strange outfit: they had a huge hit in 1996 — I suppose that largely paid the bills — and have been quietly putting out albums every few years since, despite the frontman and brains of the project, E, encountering a lot of personal tragedy (e.g. deaths of family members).

At any rate, the hit from '96 was Novocaine For The Soul, which got quite a bit of airplay on radio when it came out. It looks like they/he have a lot more success in places like the UK and Belgium than on this side of the pond. I hadn't thought about that song for a while, but it, and its accompanying video, are both extremely solid.

Thus, without further ado, is the aforementioned song. Enjoy.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Erection recap.

Short answer: Canada, you fucking suck. I thought we were cool, brah.

Longer answer:

The following things happened.

1. The Liberals forgot to show up

This goes farther than "Mike Ignatieff is a lousy leader," unfortunately. This was a full-on, full-team failure: no coherent, nationwide punchy message; old-guarders like Volpe not being able to distinguish themselves anymore; lustres off high-profile incumbents like Dryden and Garneau wore off.

2. The NDP split the centre-left vote

Nobody wanted to admit it today, but this totally happened, and I have the half-assed graphs to prove it.

This is what happened in a lot of ridings, especially in Ontario, last time around: Libs won a lot of narrow victories (e.g. quite a few in the 905), often over Conservatives, with an NDP a distant third.

Possibly because of the reasons outlined in (1) above, some Libs on the Right of the party flipped blue, whereas considerably more on the Left flipped orange; I must admit I was thinking of joining the latter, as I usually paint myself as "my heart is orange but my head is red."

In the case of Don Valley West, where I live, it was much more a case of the Lib, Rob "The Rev" Oliphant, holding his ground and the Con, John "The Car Salesman" Carmichael picking up votes. Czech this shizz out:
        Erection    Lib Votes    Con Votes
2008 22,212 19,441
2011 22,353 22,992
Oliphant held on to his constituents, pretty much exactly. Carmichael, on the other hand, picked up over 3000 votes... but from where? In this riding, it'd be easy enough to say, "Well, all the rich folk, they told their butlers, Jeeves, instead of throwing another wad of Bordens on the fire, chauffeur me to the voting station, I want to mark an X for the Conservative fellow" — but there's more. Much more. And it's compelling.

DVW is a bizarre place: it has the highest average income of any riding in Canada, but it also has a shit-ton of new (presumably not so well off) immigrants in Thorncliffe Park, and a lot of them are from places like Pakistan and India.

DISCLAIMER: I fucking love Muslims. I teach a hell of a lot of them, and they're a stand-up bunch. I'm fortunate to count some amongst my close friends.

However... the conservative ones (i.e., religious, not politically) can get pretty touchy about the Queers, and Oliphant is gay (and married). A website aimed at the GTA Muslim community,, all-but-trumpeted this fact in an op-ed piece in mid-April. As a result, FATMA (the Flemingdon and Thorncliffe Park Muslim Association) endorsed Carmichael because of his "family values" — never actually coming out and saying "we can't support the gay dude," but c'mon now, I'm not stupid.

This was all much easier to do after the mayoral election last fall, when conservative religious folks of many different stripes — including a crapload from immigrant-heavy places like Rexdale and Scarborough — were vigorously pushed away from George Smitherman (another gay dude) and towards Rob Ford (who is pretty anti-gay, to say the least). All Carmichael had to do was to bring this up to the major religious group in DVW, who'd always voted Liberal because of the legacy of the Trudeau era and its opening of the immigration doors decades, and the riding was his for the taking.

(I'm curious to know how many of those votes Carmichael picked up were from recent-citizenship Muslims, and/or active members of FATMA.)

3. Canadians just don't fucking care about crazy shit Harper pulled

Helena Guergis in Simcoe-Grey got booted out of the Conservative Caucus last year because of reasons Harper wouldn't acknowledge. Well, a few weeks ago, Guergis finally got her Access To Information information, and whadda ya know, it was full of lurid stories about doing coke off strippers' tits with her husband, former Con MP Rahim Jaffer. Mind you, none of it was actually proven — the P.I. who did the snooping said he had no actual, y'know, "evidence" of it — but my sources tell me Harper had it in for Guergis for years, and used this to boot her out.

Bev Oda in Durham slipped the word "not" into a policy document which stripped a prominent foreign aid organization, KAIROS, of tens of thousands of dollars. First she said she didn't know who added the word, then after a year of lying she came out and said, well, gosh, I guess it was me that told staff at CIDA to hand-write that little 3-letter word in there. The result: a historic Contempt of Parliament charge, which led to this whole election after a confidence vote.

And then there's all the stuff Steve himself has pulled off: muzzling the Cabinet, forcing all communications through the PMO, the infamous 5-Question Limit, ending of the media scrums in the lobby of the Parliament Buildings, silencing scientists that don't toe the party line, and the list goes on. As I said to my friends on Facebook the weekend before the election, if you vote Conservative, you are saying all of this is okay. Well, I guess Canadians don't mind getting dryly fucked up the democratic ass. I know I prefer lube.

(Actually, I sorta prefer, y'know, not getting fucked up the ass.)

* * * * *

I never thought I'd say this, but I think I'm going to stop following Canadian politics for a while. It's just too insane. I'm going to turn back to following American politics for a break.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Well, that's that.

Bin Laden's gone.

To anyone who wants to trumpet George W. Bush and give him the credit for all this — e.g. a now-former-Facebook-friend of mine, but whatever, good riddance, she was a Republican religious nut anyway — I will offer this quote from Bush 43 from March 13, 2002, about Osama bin Laden:

"I don’t know where he is. I have no idea and I really don’t care. It’s not that important. It’s not our priority."

This was about, oh, seven months after 9/11, and six months after the initial invasion of Afghanistan.

Thank you, Dubya, for being a moron.

And thank you, American idiots, for voting for this douche. (Twice.)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Nardwuar, the Hip Flip, and federal leaders.

If you're Canadian, you know about Nardwuar the Human Serviette. (If you don't, or if you want to learn more about this fascinating character, read this.)

Fun fact: Nardwuar was the person who asked Jean Chrétien the question at the press conference after the APEC fiasco about the protester who got pepper-sprayed by the cops (to which Chrétien's answer was, infamously, "Pepper? I put pepper on my steak.").

Fun fact: Nardwuar the Human Serviette is that man's legal name.

Anyhoo, on to the matter at hand.

We're balls-deep in an election up here, and with a few days to go it looks like crazy shit's happening: the NDP may well be (a.) the Official Opposition, and/or (b.) the governing party if Steve & Co. table the same budget after the election (assuming the Cons have a minority), it fails (which it will if it's the same budget, which it likely will be), and GG Dave "I Personally Gave Prominent Blogger/Sexual Dynamo JTL His Physics Degree At Waterloo" Johnston goes to the Leader of the Opposition — who could be Jack Fucking Layton! — and asks him, "Hey buddy, how's about formin' a gov'mint that has the confidence of the House?"

Natch, Steve Harper might brush it all off and say, in his condescending, passive-aggressive tone, "Well, obviously* Canadians don't want this reckless tax-raising hooligan as their Prime Minister." To you, Steve, I would say this:


Wow. Really got off-track there. I'm off my meds, as you can see. The point is MIKE IGNATIEFF DID THE HIP-FLIP WITH NARDWUAR:

A few years earlier, Jack Layton had an illuminating conversation with Nardwuar, which also included the Hip-Flip:

As mentioned in the Ignatieff clip, Steve Harper's security goons hauled Nardwuar away when he asked to do the Hip-Flip with the leader of the Cons. So, you can draw your own conclusions about that. (No word on whether Gilles Duceppe or Elizabeth May have done it, but our crack research team will get right on that.)
* This is Steve's favourite word, which roughly translates to, "You peons are just far too stupid for my superior intellect."
** This may well be the only time I quote the Insane Clown Posse for anything.

Monday, April 25, 2011


Look... Sun TV News, Sun News Network, Fox News North, whatever the hell you want to call yourself: let me offer you a little advice.

Let's say you want to be the STRAIGHT TALK and HARD HITTING and WE TELL YOU WHAT THOSE OTHER ASSHOLES ARE TOO CHICKENSHIT TO SAY news network of Canada. This means a certain amount of, for lack of a better word, "bombast" is needed. You gotta punch it up!

I've watched snippets of a few different shows on this sad excuse for a news channel, and the one word I'd use to describe it is... boring. With the exception of known nitwit Ezra Levant showing the Prophet Mohammed cartoons on the first day, what sorts of waves has it made? Zero, that's how many.

Oh, don't get me wrong: they say things which are as idiotic as their broadcast cousins to the south. I just finished watching some moron say, on the topic of having some sort of nutritional and exercise guidelines put out by a government, and I'm paraphrasing here a bit, "I don't want the government telling me what I can and can't eat." And that was his big punchline.

(A few minutes earlier, they dragged David Frum out from his adopted cave in DC, only for him to say bizarre and noncommital things like, "If you are a conservative in Canada, you can feel very happy casting a vote for the Tories this election." Why wouldn't you, Dave? There's one party on the Right up here, and it sure ain't Layton's.)

Here's what you need, Sun:

This'll cure what ails ya.

Friday, April 22, 2011

I am reminded yet again about why I developed a crush on Sook-Yin Lee long ago.

From 1989, with her band Bob's Your Uncle:

I mean, sure, she's young here; we were all younger then, obviously. But, it'd be about six years after this that I went off to uni, and thus had cable (and therefore MuchMusic) for the first time, and was exposed to this person for the first time and, well, it's been a slam-dunk ever since.

(Mind you, now that she works for The Mothership and hosts DNTO, well then, that just adds about a billion points to her hotness.)

Oh, Sook-Yin... you will be mine someday.

* * * * *

In other, shittier news, Steve Harper said this today:

My view is that the people of Canada expect the party that wins the election to govern the country ... anything else, the public will not buy.

The "anything else" he means, of course, is some sort of a coalition, which he seems to be pushing pretty hard, but with which I'm not sure he's getting a lot of traction. A couple of years ago when Stéphane Dion was leading the Libs, Steve made a lot of hay out of the false "Liberal/NDP/separatist" trilogy — the Bloc wasn't part of the coalition deal that Dion put forward, but Idiot Conservative Nation believes everything Steve says is true, so they fell for it — but I don't think it's working as well for him now.

My guess is that, mainly, people know Steve's an ass and will do and say anything to stay in power; this not only undermines the direct messages he wants to put out, but also calls into question every single move his government makes.

However... an intriguing new "anything else" option has come to light in the past few days, one which, interestingly, isn't dismissed out-of-hand by Mike Ignatieff. You see, Adrienne Clarkson put in this informal rule saying that, if a minority Parliament is defeated on a confidence motion within its first six months of forming a government, the GG won't automatically dissolve said Parliament but will consider asking the Leader of the Opposition to put together something which will have the confidence of the House.

As it currently stands, this could be a possible scenario:
  • The Cons win another minority, with the Libs forming a fairly solid opposition, or perhaps the Libs+NDP
    Odds of this happening: fairly good. I don't see a huge groundswell in the electorate one way or another since the last election, and the NDP seem to have made gains, especially in Quebec.
  • The Cons stubbornly table the exact same budget that was headed for defeat in the House and thereby triggering an election... but they got nailed the day before that was scheduled for a confidence vote because, oh right, they lied to Parliament about money, and that ended up canning them.
    Odds of this happening: I'd give it 50-50; they're stubborn on things like this, but when they realize it could mean them —gasp!— LOSING POWER, that might get their attention. But let's hope not.
  • The budget fails to pass; it's a confidence motion, wheeeee!
    Odds of this happening: excellent, if the same budget is tabled. You're never going to get a dozen Libs or NDPers rolling over and taking it up the keyster for this one, and doubly so because it'd mean those parties would stay out of power. Duh!
  • Dave Johnston asks Mike Ignatieff to form a Parliament that can get the confidence of the House.
    Odds of this happening: well, unless DJ wants to thumb his nose at AC, it has to happen. Them's the (unofficial) rules.
I, for one, welcome this chain of events (in the event the Libs don't win a majority or even a minority, and I'd give about 3-to-1 odds against the latter happening). Bring it on, baby.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Teenagers say the darndest things.

These are admittedly second-hand, but (a.) the sources are reliable and (b.) they're pretty good. In both cases, both the student and teacher are female.

* * * * *

Student: Miss J! Miss J!

Teacher: Yes, what is it?

S: My friend and I were talking about baby names. [N.B. the student is not pregnant.]

T: Oh? What about them?

S, earnestly: Yeah, we were thinking that a good name for a girl would be... Clitoria.

T: Uh... that's... kind-of... not quite appropriate.

S, thinking for a second: Oh no! Not like that other word, Miss! This is totally different!

As a colleague of mine put it, "What are they going to call her as a short form? Clit?"

* * * * *

A generally well-liked, somewhat-grandmothery Irish-Canadian supply teacher, who knows our school well, is going through the attendance list at the start of a grade 9 science class, which is full of characters such as the following:

Student, with extreme attitude: WHY are you taking the attendance?

Teacher, somewhat befuddled: I have to see who's here and who's not.

S, getting more irate: Well, why don't you... just mark everyone absent?!

T: I think you'd better go to the office and cool down.

S, dismissively: Don't talk to me!

T: Excuse me?


This one baffled pretty much everyone around the department today, and with good reason... until they found out who the student was, and everyone that knew her reacted with an, "Ahhhhh, alright, her." I swear, I can handle a dozen immature idiot 14-year-old boys, but just one of these girls... it's like they're on-guard 24/7, just looking for a reason to snap at you with all they've got.

* * * * *

People ask me if my job is boring, or repetitive, or somehow uninteresting. I think it's pretty clear that it ain't.