Monday, October 31, 2005


I caught a bit of Aliens (I saw it once before) on the weekend, and I was left with a few observations.

1) Costume design got a bit lazy, if you ask me. Maybe it was a ost-cutting measure, but isn't the suit Paul Reiser is wearing a classic men's suit with the collar turned up at the back? I can't help but think that they gave Paul the part on the condition that he provide his own suit.

2) I kept thinking the Flock of Seagulls or The Thompson Twins every time Paul Reiser was in a scene. It's such a bad 80s hair style. I really thought that he was going to start singing Hungry Like the Wolf at any moment.

3) Most importantly, no one in their right mind would ever build an android that looks like Lance Henriksen:

I realize that he has a fascinating face, but for long trips into dark space, I can think of much better faces.

Happy Hallowe'en.

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Friday, October 28, 2005

The Day I Ran (Cycled) from the Cops

It was a warm fall day and I was cycling peacefully through the University of Toronto campus on my way to my old job (about 7 years ago). I was heading down Huron Street, I think. I slowed at the stop sign, checked for traffic, and made a safe left turn right in front of a police officer standing on the corner. OK, so I didn't stop (it was a rolling stop) and I didn't signal, because there was no traffic. I always signal if there are cars or people.

The cop yelled at me, demanding that I stop. I realized that he had been giving out tickets to people like me, rather than giving tickets to all of those drivers who do rolling stops. It was one of those fight or flight scenarios, so I kept on going. There was no way I was going to get a ticket for that. I always stop at red lights; I make rolling stops at stop signs (and stop when there are peds or cars, only to find that other cyclists fly by me, ignoring all road rules); and, I signal when there is a need. In other words, I am a safe cyclist, despite occasionally breaking the rules.

I see cops on bikes riding the wrong way one way streets, riding two abreast, failing to stop, failing to signal, and even riding on sidewalks. The double standard pisses me off. I am pissed off when cars get away with rolling stops all of the time. I am pissed off when I see cops ignoring other cyclists breaking the law. One day, I saw a cyclist on Bloor Street riding on the wrong side of the road at night without a light right in front of a police car. Nothing happened. A few minutes later, a cop car drove up even with and the cop told me he was checking to see if I had a headlight. I did. Give me a break.

I get cut off routinely by cars turning right. Some drivers stare me down and turn left right in front of me (this includes Wheel Trans vehicles, couriers, and even school buses, like this morning).

The next day, there was a police car stationed beside the guy throwing tickets around, I guess in case anyone else decided to make a run for it.

A few good cycling sites:

Advocacy for Respect for Cyclists
Martino's Bike Lane Diary
Get Out of the Bike Lane
Bike Toronto
Toronto Cycling committee
Toronto Bicycle Network
Community Bicycle Network
Critical Mass Toronto

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Thursday, October 27, 2005


Borrowed from Miss Meliss:

Write down five (or more) of your own personal idiosyncracies. Then, if you wish, tag five people from your blogroll or friendslist to do the same.
Main Entry: id·i·o·syn·cra·sy
Pronunciation: "i-dE-&-'si[ng]-kr&-sE
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural -sies
Etymology: Greek idiosynkrasia, from idio- + synkerannynai to blend, from syn- + kerannynai to mingle, mix -- more at CRATER
1 a : a peculiarity of constitution or temperament : an individualizing characteristic or quality b : individual hypersensitiveness (as to a drug or food)
2 : characteristic peculiarity (as of temperament); broadly: ECCENTRICITY
- id·i·o·syn·crat·ic /"i-dE-O-(")sin-'kra-tik/ adjective
- id·i·o·syn·crat·i·cal·ly /-'kra-ti-k(&-)lE/ adverb

01) I often read more than one book at a time, sometimes three or four.

02) I sometimes count stairs as I walk up them. It used to be an obsession, but I have been working on it.

03) I cannot start watching a movie or TV show that has already begun, unless I have seen it. I will often choose not to watch it even if I have only missed a few minutes.

04) I work better in the morning (pre-8:00 am) or late at night (after 11:00 pm).

05) I have to end my shower facing in the proper direction - the curtain. It ruins my day when I am finished and facing the wrong way.

06) I have lists of all of the DVDs, CDs, LPs, and cassettes I own.

07) I keep clothes I will never ever wear again, often for years, before I throw them out or give them away. This is probably deeply psychological, as my mother rarely bought me clothes.

08) I glue things into my daytimer (ticket stubs, etc).

09) I used to only read dead authors. Now, I only read living authors.

10) I am always early.

I am sure I will think of better ones tomorrow. BTW, I tag everybody :-)

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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

$40 million

I just bought the winning ticket for the 6/49 Lottery. Too bad for you.

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Book Review

Frozen in Time: The Fate of the Franklin Expedition, by Owen Beattie and John Geiger. Vancouver: Greystone Books, 1998. 179 pages. ISBN: 1-55154-616-3.

The wretched face of a long-frozen John Torrington, on the cover of Frozen in Time: The Fate of the Franklin Expedition, somehow leaves the viewer with a deep understanding of the horror of his death in the dark and frozen ice fields. The picture forces one to jump ahead to the series of colour photographs that highlight the truly astonishing state of Torrington's body, and that of crew mates John Hartnell and William Braine, the only members of Franklin's crew to receive proper burials deep in the permafrost. These bodies lay frozen for more than 150 years, waiting to tell their stories.

Frozen in Time: The Fate of the Franklin Expedition tells the story of Owen Beattie'’s quest to solve one of the major mysteries of 19th century maritime exploration, the loss the Erebus and the Terror in the Canadian Arctic more than 150 years ago while on a mission to seek the elusive north west passage. Although twenty-five previous expeditions to the north yielded some important answers, the cause of the mission'’s failure had never been fully explained, until now. A complete bibliography of books and articles about the expedition, subsequent explorations, and investigations about the loss of the Franklin Expedition would fill many pages. Frozen in Time offers a conclusive and convincing explanation of what happened and, as such, may well come to be regarded as the definitive work on the topic.

Frozen in time, which reads like a sparkling work of detective fiction-and with the detail of a modern crime scene investigation-—chronicles The Franklin Forensic Project, a fascinating attempt to bring 20th century technology to bear on an old mystery. The authors provide a vivid and compelling account of the meticulously-executed forensic examination of the remnants of the expedition, including autopsies of three remarkably well-preserved crewmen, in the Canadian Arctic.

The frozen faces of these men stand in stark contrast to the jubilation that coincided with the beginning of the mission. On the morning of May 19, 1845, the Erebus and the Terror, under the command of Sir John Franklin, sailed from the Thames with 134 officers and men and a supply chest that included, among other items, 16749 litres of alcohol, 909 litres of wine, nearly 62000 kilograms of flour, 4287 kilograms of chocolate, 1069 kilograms of tea, 3215 kilograms of tobacco, and 8000 large tins (in 1, 2 , 4, 6 and 8 pound capacity) of preserved meat, soups, and vegetables. It is this last item of the manifest that becomes the focus of the forensic detective work.

This is a book of popular science, despite the fact that it is co-authored by Owen Beattie, an anthropologist at the University of Alberta. Beattie saved the more academic elements of the expedition for publication in scholarly journals. But, while the book is well-written and a real page-turner, the prose conveys little emotional depth, as there is a certain level of detachment from the subject matter, almost as if the voice we hear is that of an impartial observer. It quickly becomes obvious that the voice of Beattie is not fully heard. Instead, and for all the book's compelling detail and crystal-clear descriptions, it reads a bit too much like a lengthy piece of journalism written by Geiger. One wishes that Beattie would have written a few sentences about how he really felt when the coffin lids were pried off. Instead, it seems like we are hearing it from a man who wasn'’t there.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Confession #3

I cannot eat a banana in public, at least not in the normal way. After a brief web search, I would conclude that I am not the only one. One person said that she can't "even eat a banana in public without first breaking it into small pieces..." which is exactly what I do. A knife and fork would also work, in a Seinfeldian way. I am not sure why I have this issue. Maybe it's my fear of looking like a monkey. After all, I have very long arms. Maybe it's the phallic nature of this tropical fruit.

I read a post by someone else who asked: "How do you eat a banana in public without it looking obscene?" I'd like to know that too. I once read that it's OK for men to eat bananas in public (something I do not believe), but it made me wonder why such a double standard would exist.

Which leads me to consider that I may have a psychological problem. After all, there are others who have no problems with public banana eating. I am reminded, of course, of Leonard Cohen.

It's good to be back. I was occupied on the weekend, and then I had to finish a long report, but that is over, thank god.

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Thursday, October 20, 2005

I am not here right now

but if you leave a message, I'll get back to when I return on Monday. Have a nice weekend.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

A 50-year-old Letter (saved by my mother)

Another item in the box was a letter sent by my Great Uncle to my Grandparents. I can't resist transcribing part of it and adding a few comments. Please note the odd syntax and grammar.
Dear M___ & M___,

Just a few lines to find out how you people are it appears we never write unless something happens. anyhow we got burnt out not a thing left except the clothes on our back.
"[W]e never write unless something happens." Truer words were never spoken, and he proves his point by disclosing that they had just lost everything in a fire. More:
We,er staying with J___ & B___. Just how the fire started we don't know We were heating with a gas circulator heater installed by the gas co. Everybody are feeling quite well at present now.
So, despite the fact that they were lost everything in a fire, they are all fine and dandy. What strong stock are these folk.
We don't know what we,er going to do yet wheather we build or Buy we owned our own place & had some insurance but always lose a lot more than you put in a home Please let Dad know. Write soon.
I guess he was saving postage by not writing two letters. His dad will have to find out via his brother.
W___ had a 8 1/2 pound Boy doing Well as far as we know,
And then the letter ends, with that hanging comma. It's kinda cool, and reminds me of Ulysses, which really doesn't have an ending, as far as I know,

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Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Gifts from my Mother

My mother knows that I have a few antiques, and she is always on the lookout for some to give me. She has only a tenuous understanding of the word antique. Over the years, she has given me some odd "antiques", like:

Yes, a bed pan. The one she gave me (and I felt compelled to take it) was blue. I sold it at a lawn sale for 50 cents. An elderly gay man talked me down from my original asking price of $1. "The only problem," he said, "is that this (he pointed to the spout) is not wide enough." It was only much later that someone suggested to me that he was probably cruising me. Anyway, he assured me that he would use this thing.

In the recent box of surprises, there was:

- a very heavy and ornate liquor glass with a huge chip on the rim. It is ugly and broken and on its way to a landfill site.

- a coffee mug made of dark brown glass with a white etching of an automobile from 1910. So, while not actually an antique, it makes reference to one. Again, this is enjoying a new life in a garbage dump.

- an embroidered pillow case. It's actually quite nice, but I wonder where it came from.

- a series of gaudy postcards with infantile jokes on the front. They look like they came from the 70s.

- a broken transistor radio from the late 60s or early 70s. More landfill.

- and three things that deserve individual posts. More on that later.

And now, I have to write that big report I have been putting off.

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Friday, October 14, 2005

I Reckon that's a Mighty Big Load of Hay

I recently finished scanning about 1000 of my mother's photographs. That was a big job.

Yes, it's true, my grandparents on my mother's side were farmers. In fact, on my mother's mother's side, they were farmers back as far as I can trace them - to about 1480. Maybe that's why I left my small home town as soon I could and headed for larger urban centres, finally landing in Toronto about 18 years ago.

Farming sucks. I appreciate the work that farmers do, but it sucks. You have to get out of bed too early and walk around in manure-coated rubber boots. I really couldn't stand the noxious stench, the miasma of animal droppings. So, dear farmers, thank you for doing what you do.

No, I have never lived on a farm. Yes, I have bailed hay (with tractors and wagons) for summer employment. I met four or five farmer's daughters.

That's my Grandfather (top left), bringin' in the hay.

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Thursday, October 13, 2005

Marlene Dietrich, Microcephalic Ancestors, & Other Fascinating Tidbits

I was sitting at my desk, listening to the music in my head -- which was Marlene Dietrich's Favourite Poem, by Peter Murphy (see below) -- when I saw this news story: Marlene Dietrich "hated sex": daughter. Is is possible? At least I didn't misread the headline, as I did for this one on MSNBC a couple of days ago: instead of "Liberians head to polls", I thought it said "Librarians head to polls." Now, the second story is far more interesting, if you ask me.

However, my favourite recent news story has to be about those Hobbit-like bones that were found in Indonesia. Imagine, a skull the size of a grapefruit with no chin, and yet these freaky guys could make and use tools. They even hunted pygmy elephants! What a sight that would have been. Of course, there is some controversy over the interpretation of the fossils. Some would have you believe that these hominids were some sort of inbred pygmy-like mutation. I have to confess that when I heard the term "microcephalic hominid", I immediately thought of Dan Quayle and George W. Bush. I know, some people reading this might admire these chaps. I'm just sharing word-associations with you.

Marlene Dietrich's Favourite Poem

My mother loved it so she said
Sad eyed pearl and drop lips
Glancing pierce through writer man
Spoke hushed and frailing hips
Her old eyes skim in creasing lids
A tear falls as she describes
Approaching death with a yearning heart
With pride and no despise

Hot tears flow as she recounts
Her favourite worded token
Forgive me please for hurting so
Don't go away heartbroken no
Don't go away heartbroken no

Just wise owl tones no velvet lies
Crush her velvet call
Oh Marlene suffer all the fools
Who write you on the wall
And hold your tongue about your life
Or dead hands will change the plot
Will make your loving sound like snakes
Like you were never hot

Hot tears flow as she recounts
Her favourite worded token
Forgive me please for hurting so

My mother loved it so she said
Sad eyed pearl and drop lips yeah
Glancing pierce through writer man
Spoke hushed and frailing lips yeah
Old eyes skim in creasing lids
A tear falls as she describes
Approaching death with a yearning heart
With pride and no despise

Hot tears flow as she recounts
Her favourite worded token
Forgive me please for hurting so
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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

You Wanna Know What I Think is Weird about Blogging?

I'll tell you anyway.

Have you ever stopped to consider that the person who comments on your blog regularly might be a moron? But, seriously, I often reflect on the fact that people form cyber-friendships with people they might not otherwise click. Or, that people completely misprepresent themselves for some purpose. I am not referring to any of the fine folks who comment here ;-)

Who can say if that 24 year old college girl is not actually an obese 55 year old man who sits in front of his computer for hours scratching his testicles while dressed only in smelly underwear and a tattered bathrobe? No, I am not describing myself.

What I am trying to say is that I think blogging has sparked cyber-friendships that may not otherwise have happened. I think that's a good thing. By the way, I do not live in Toronto, I am not a librarian, and I am not a man.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2005

My Fly is Down (again)

I am not sure precisely when it happened, but after I turned 30 (or so), I have noticed that my fly is often down. I had no troubles before then - none that I knew about - but now it seems to be a semi-quotidian experience. I've thought of some of the possibilities, like inferior pants, alien conspiracy, voodoo, vindictive ghosts, stronger gravity, or being in a hurry, but the most likely cause has to be forgetfulness. What else could it be? The deeper question is, of course, why I am forgetting to zip up?

It's not like I show up at work with shaving cream all over my face. Whoops! I put on the shaving cream but forgot to shave! I don't forget to rinse the shampoo out of my hair, well, not normally. I remember to eat breakfast. I cycle to work without major mishaps, and I emphasize the word major. I brush my teeth regularly. I even remember to go to work in the morning. I know the days of the week, can count to one hundred, and have not forgotten the alphabet.

The good news is that I am often wearing a shirt that covers that region, and work mates don't come up to me and point out that my fly is down. But, I have to hope that it is not an early-warning sign of Alzheimer's disease. I hope it doesn't get worse. What if I start forgetting to wear pants?

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Monday, October 10, 2005

Happy (Canadian) Thanksgiving

Just a quick note about turkey. In my family, we were always asked if we would like "dark or dry meat." I come from a long tradition of bad turkey cookers. Chicken is better anyway.

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Friday, October 07, 2005

What's a Blog?

So, there I was standing at the front of the class thinking that this was a keen and with-it group of students who were on the cutting edge. And so, I asked a simple question: "Does anyone know what a blog is?" I got 28 blank faces. Not one of these 1st year students had any idea what a blog is. How can this be?

There are millions and millions of the bloody things, with new ones being added every few seconds. I have heard that many people who read blog have no idea what one is. The same, sadly, is true for some students who read journals: they think that they are magazines or newspapers. They also confuse books with journals and the web with libraries, but that's another story.

(By the way, you are reading a blog right now).

I am sure all of them knew what an MP3 player was, and probably the majority had a iPod. They could probably text message faster than I can type. I never knew being all thumbs would be a good thing, but it definitely is when your keyboard is two inches square. I've lost faith in the undergraduates of today.

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Thursday, October 06, 2005

I Just Lost my Appetite

There is a restaurant in Taiwan called Marton -- a word based on the Chinese word for toilet -- that serves food in miniature toilets, some of which have a flush action. What's worse is that the food is made to look like what one usually finds in toilets. You'll never get me to eat chocolate ice cream shaped like fecal matter from a miniature toilet. Never.

But, just when I was digesting that story, I heard about a woman in Liverpool who has been standing on a street corner handing out 5 pound notes. That, to me, is a waste of money. I feel that if you are going to give away money, you need to give larger amounts to fewer people. Instead of giving 100 people 5 pound notes, give 1 person 500 pounds. In fact. I think I'll send her my address.

I'm away tomorrow too. My blogging is all out-of-kilter at the moment.

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Wednesday, October 05, 2005


I'm still out-of-the-office and decided to take an even easier way out: posting almost nothing. Oh, and I haven't visited your blog in a while either, but I will.

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Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Banned Books

I am going to be out-of-the-office for most of the rest of the week, and so that really cuts into my blogging time. I am taking the easy way out and posting a meme-type thing that I borrowed from LeafGirl77, who took it from Doc Ern.

You're supposed to bold all of the banned books you have read. I am not as well-read as I thought I was.

Scary Stories (Series) by Alvin Schwartz
DaddyÂ’s Roommate by Michael Willhoite
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling part of book one, then I got bored
Forever by Judy Blume
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Alice (Series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
The Giver by Lois Lowry
ItÂ’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
Goosebumps (Series) by R.L. Stine
A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck
The Color Purple by Alice Walker saw the movie
Sex by Madonna part of it, mostly the pictures
EarthÂ’s Children (Series) by Jean M. Auel
The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine LÂ’Engle
Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
The Stupids (Series) by Harry Allard one of them
The Witches by Roald Dahl
The New Joy of Gay Sex by Charles Silverstein
Anastasia Krupnik (Series) by Lois Lowry
The Goats by Brock Cole
Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane
Blubber by Judy Blume
Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan
Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam
We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier
Final Exit by Derek Humphry
The HandmaidÂ’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
WhatÂ’s Happening to my Body? Book for Girls: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Daughters by Lynda Madaras
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Beloved by Toni Morrison
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
The Pigman by Paul Zindel
Bumps in the Night by Harry Allard
Deenie by Judy Blume
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden
The Boy Who Lost His Face by Louis Sachar
Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat by Alvin Schwartz
A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)
Asking About Sex and Growing Up by Joanna Cole
Cujo by Stephen King saw the movie
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell
Boys and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
Ordinary People by Judith Guest
American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis saw the movie
WhatÂ’s Happening to my Body? Book for Boys: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Sons by Lynda Madaras
Are You There, God? ItÂ’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
Crazy Lady by Jane Conly
Athletic Shorts by Chris Crutcher
Fade by Robert Cormier
Guess What? by Mem Fox
The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende saw the movie
The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline Cooney
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Native Son by Richard Wright
Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed WomenÂ’s Fantasies by Nancy Friday
Curses, Hexes and Spells by Daniel Cohen
Jack by A.M. Homes
Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo A. Anaya
Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle
Carrie by Stephen King saw the movie
Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume
On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
Arizona Kid by Ron Koertge
Family Secrets by Norma Klein
Mommy Laid An Egg by Babette Cole
The Dead Zone by Stephen King saw the movie The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
Always Running by Luis Rodriguez
Private Parts by Howard Stern
WhereÂ’s Waldo? by Martin Hanford
Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene
Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman
Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
Running Loose by Chris Crutcher
Sex Education by Jenny Davis
The Drowning of Stephen Jones by Bette Greene
Girls and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
View from the Cherry Tree by Willo Davis Roberts
The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
The Terrorist by Caroline Cooney
Jump Ship to Freedom by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

Do this if you want.

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Monday, October 03, 2005

Happy Monday

Happy Monday October 3rd. For those of you who are out-of-the-loop, October 3rd in Virus Appreciation Day. I am not sure if that refers to computer viruses or the traditional variety. Either way, there is little to appreciate, if you ask me. By the way, October 2nd was name your car day. I've had 4 cars and never named any of them, but I swore at one of them a great deal. Oh, and if I forget to mark the occasion, please remember that October 9th is Moldy Cheese Day. Is one supposed to eat moldy cheese or appreciate its aesthetic appeal on that day?

In other news, I am not Impressed:

A British rower has just set a record for the slowest Atlantic crossing. It took him 124 days. The poor bastard was trying to claim the record for the fastest rowing crossing and ended up in the record books for the slowest. I'm not impressed. I am sure that I could beat that by many weeks, possibly months.

OK, I admit that I would like to take a trip to the International Space Station, but not if it's going to cost me $20 million. Gregory Olsen coughed up $20 million to ride on a rocket. I am not impressed with that either. I feel that there are far more interesting ways to spend that kind of cash. Send me $20 million, and Ill show you.

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