Monday, December 29, 2008

The Best of Zydeco Fish 2008 (see: best of 2007, 2006; 2005; 2004; 2003)

It's finally that time of the year again, folks. These are some of my fav posts from the last year. I hope you are having a wonderful holiday.

1) Ringo has a Really Big Nose - Conversations with six-year-olds are always amusing.
2) George W. Bush vs. Dan Quayle - Sometimes, weird things happen when I am cycling.
3) Just Say No! - Or, why I now hate the Songwriters Association of Canada.
4) A Political Detour - Or, oh, how I hate John McCain.
5) From the Mouth of a three-and-a-half-year old - He tells it like it is.
6) Smart Casual - About conference dress codes and Velcro.
7) Overrated - A series of ten posts, some funnier than others (not to be taken too seriously).
8) Pee Mobile - Solving the energy crisis, one leak at a time.
9) A Play in Two Acts - A bleak outlook on the world of business and communication.
10) 666, A Stream of Consciousness Post - Let the metal flow.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Since I am on vacation, I have been ignoring this blog. I have been preoccupied with mistletoe, eggnog, and reindeer recipes. But, I am also compiling my annual Best Of ZF. Stay tuned for that.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

On Giving it Away for Free

People often want to use some of the photos that I have posted on Flickr. My policy has always been to permit not-for-profit organizations to use images (depending on the image) without charge as long as they provide a photo credit and a link back, if possible. I will ask if the org has a budget to acquire photos, and occasionally they do. If the organization is a business or some other money-making venture, then I will charge. Not everyone feels this way.

Too many photographers on Flickr, and probably other photo sharing sites, give it away for free, just to see their photo in print. A contact of mine recently allowed Parks Canada to use a photo in a national brochure for free! That's insane. People like this are doing a serious disservice to professional photographers. If we are all willing to give our work away, how can people who earn a living from photography be expected to stay in business? They are screwing their professional friends.

Recently, a very large Canadian law firm asked to use a photo of mine for some holiday correspondence. I negotiated a fee of $500. The law firm dude told me that he was searching for several photos, but that my price was OK with the company. I heard from this firm one more time, and then they evidently found a few suckers who were willing to surrender their photos to a huge corporation for absolutely no compensation. I am not really too concerned about the cash, though it would have been nice. I am really irritated that these yahoos don't get it.

Submitting a photo to a literary, art, or photography journal is different. Giving your photo to anyone who asks is wrong, especially if they are using it to promote their business and increase profits. Wise up, people.

Monday, December 08, 2008

More Three-year-old Musings

Not for the first time, my son has commented on the disparity in size between our penises. For example, yesterday, he said: "Yours is a really really big penis. It's huge! It's a really big one. [pause] I have a tiny penis." Sure, it's an amusing comment, maybe even funny, but it makes me a bit sad to hear him lament the size of his boyhood.

I try to reassure him. He will grow up and have a big one too. A big penis, with all it's attendant rights, privileges, and responsibilities is something to look forward to. Strangely, his comments always make me stop to consider circumcision.

Lots of men justify having their sons circumcised so that they will look "the same" as they do, or so the boy won't look "different." I suppose these dads don't want any uncomfortable questions about why they lack a foreskin. It my opinion, this is a red herring, because my son hasn't even noticed. He notices the difference in size and that's it.

When boys grow up, they can enjoy their big penises. Once they have had their foreskin cut off, they will never get it back.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Quote of the Day

From the 3.5 year old:

"Monkeys like to eat bananas, just like real people."

Friday, December 05, 2008

Purged

That feels better. I just deleted a whole whack of draft posts that were making me feel guilty for not having finished them, or stupid for having started to write something so dumb. Now I feel smart and on top of things. It's like the word procrastination doesn't exist.

Happy Friday and have a good weekend.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

And the Answer is ...

The GG granted the PM permission to prorogue parliament, which was not unexpected. And now, meetings and such for me. I am thinking that I should prorogue my next meeting.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Ignorant Parrots

The current political "crisis" in Canada has emphasized for me just how ignorant the average Canadian is about our political system. I have read blog posts, Facebook posts, and comments here and there that describe coalition action as being undemocratic, illegal, and unethical. One uneducated person referred to it as a coup d’état! It is none of the above, though I will admit that the situation is bizarre and unusual. To these people, I want to say: "go enroll in a first year overview course on Canadian Politics at your local University!" And, I would bet that a good deal of the people urging Harper to prorogue parliament had never even heard the word prorogue until this week.

But, the whole episode points to a problem in the blogosphere where unsubstantiated statements are repeated with no critical investigation. So, Harper's incorrect comments about the legality of the situation are passed around as gospel. One person uses the word illegal, and suddenly, it is repeated on tons of neocon blogs. I am sure the same happens in reverse on left wing blogs. The web is so polarized that it makes the traditional news outlets appear balanced.

I am not 100% comfortable with this coalition. It is odd in so many ways. Here we have a bizarre array of disparate groups coalescing to form a government. The person to be installed as PM lost the last election quite badly, and was forced to resign. The Bloc has aspirations of changing the constitutional landscape of this nation. Yes, it is odd and strange. But folks, it is not illegal. There is nothing illegal about this coalition seeking the Confidence of the House should the current government lose a vote of Confidence, as is likely to happen should Harper resist the option to prorogue Parliament.

At times like these, when any yahoo can post misinformed rants on the web, I really wish that political education was compulsory. Having to explain what confidence means in the context of a Westminster Parliamentary system is tiresome. Having to explain the concept of Responsible Government is also tiresome. It is irritating too, because one feels like one is bashing one's head against a brick wall. These people are so recalcitrant, so blinded by political allegiances, that they fail to listen to fact. They fail to recall that Harper himself once sought an alliance with the BQ.

This rant comes out of bizarre online exchange I had with supporters of Harper who kept arguing that this alliance is illegal. And then, they argued quite vehemently that Harper should prorogue Parliament when such a course of action would be seen as an affront to our parliamentary traditions.

Sadly, the web is full of uniformed amateur journalists who think they know the answers without having done their homework. Go back to school, people and learn something about our system of government before you spread more disinformation and Tory propaganda.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Double Cups

I used to drink coffee frequently. This year (since January), I have had maybe three cups of coffee, all decaf. I had a cup of decaf yesterday from Tim Hortons. Of course, the franchise should be called Tim Horton's but that's another issue.

Lately, there has been tons of discussion about disposable coffee cups and how they are filling up landfill sites. Some people suggest a tax on these cups, while others want to make sure coffee shops use the kind of cups that can be put in the green box. It makes little difference to me, since I rarely buy coffee, but I wished I had taken my mug from my office with me.

So, I asked for a small decaf and she hands it to me and I walk over to join my colleagues and discover that I had been double cupped. I didn't ask for double cups. I didn't want double cups. I know that the coffee is hot, but is it hot enough to double cup? What am I supposed to do with that extra cup? I am sure that if Tim's stopped double cupping, it would have a big impact on landfill sites.

This reminded me of a time in Starbucks when a colleague asked for double cups and he was told that they don't double cup. Instead, they gave him the cardboard sleeve. That has to contain less waste than a double cup, and you can put the sleeve in the paper recycling.

Next time, I am saying no to the double cup. Suddenly, I am thinking about bras.

I think I need a nap.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Flickr is like a Stalinist Regime

Flickr really pissed me off today. Flickr has a mechanism for users to "flag" their photos as either safe, moderate, or restricted. My interpretation of these flags are:

safe: photos of flowers, sunsets, trees, buildings, cars, food, chairs, puppies, rivers, urban scenes, etc.

moderate
: any photo with nudity, like breasts, bums, flaccid male appendages

restricted
: sex acts, pornography, graphic displays of genitals, etc.
So, I have dutifully flagged any photo with nudity as moderate. Since I have no photos of people crashing the custard truck, I have nothing flagged as restricted. A couple of my photos, from a recent Toronto Pride Day parade, do feature male frontal nudity. I flagged these as moderate.

It's important to note that Flickr allows people to alter their search preferences. So, if you only want to see safe photos, you leave your preferences as safe. There are three settings:
SafeSearch on: You'd prefer to see photos and video that is safe for a global, public audience.

SafeSearch moderate: You're OK seeing the odd "artistic nude" here or there, but that's the limit.

SafeSearch off: You're over 18, and take full responsibility that you're comfortable to see whatever turns up.
As far as I am concerned, I flagged my photos appropriately. But, like the good old days of Joseph Stalin, when someone turns you in, you get punished. Someone, who had changed their search settings to moderate, reported me to the Flickr secret police, who then flagged two photos as restricted without any consultation with me. These are photos that have been viewed more than 22,000 times and 5,000 times respectively, and only one person complained.

I am upset because Flickr has a means for people to self-moderate photostreams, but they can intervene at any time to dictate morality. Here is the guidance Flickr offers when flagging photos:

Safe - Content suitable for a global, public audience

Moderate - If you're not sure whether your content is suitable for a global, public audience but you think that it doesn't need to be restricted per se, this category is for you

Restricted - This is content you probably wouldn't show to your mum, and definitely shouldn't be seen by kids
This sounds like my original interpretation and like the the description in the safe search settings. So, why the hell did the Flickr Politburo change my settings? Because 0.0045% of the people who have viewed one of these photos was offended. In the USSR, under Mr. Stalin, all it took was one person out of millions to point the finger.

The thing that really bothers me is that my mother would have no problem seeing either photo, and neither would my kids. In fact, they saw the real thing at the parade. It's the freaking puritanical US of A that pisses me off. You can watch someone's head being blown off on prime time broadcast television, but show a breast and you have a date with the FCC.

I think we should all adhere to local standards. In Ontario, for example, it is legal for a woman to be topfree in public. She need not fear any oppression from the patriarchy (well, she might suffer some sexual oppression, but legally, she can bare those breasts). Of course, in the puritanical USA, it is illegal for women to be topfree in most states. So, if it is legal for a woman to exercise her topfree rights, then these photos ought to be permitted as safe or moderate. If the city permits men to march nude in a parade, then these photos ought to be considered as safe or moderate, and certainly not resticted.

End of rant.

P.S. My flickr account is not listed under my Zydeoc Fish alias, but my real name. 

Friday, November 21, 2008

Very Amusing

There are several interesting celebrity appearances in this video. You might like it.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

New Shoes!

I know some of you - perhaps the women - might find it surprising to learn that I just purchased my first new pair of shows in about six years. It might even be longer than that. Seriously.

I am breaking them in now, as I type. Ah, new shoes, with that new shoe smell. It's awesome. I might run out and get another pair this week.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I Hate all Couriers

I am fairly sure I will never purchase another piece of equipment from Dell unless it severs all ties with Purolator Courier. Purolator is a disaster. The last time I ordered equipment, I dutifully followed the package's progress on the Purolator web site, taking note of the expected arrival date. I arranged to stay home from work, so that I could take possession of said package and avoid an inconvenient trip to the depot.

Suddenly, the status of my package changed from in transit to returned to depot, or some such status that meant I was not at home when the driver arrived! The blasted courier wo/man did not come to the house and, on top of that, left no note! I called, and was able to arrange delivery for the next day. I took another day off work and guess what? The same thing happened. No courier showed up and the status indicated that the package was once again en route to the depot. I sent a very angry email, 'cause it was impossible to get through to the bonehead on the phone.

How can a company call itself a courier if they fail to even attempt delivery? What's the point of sending something by courier if one has to travel to the depot (usually located in suburbia) to retrieve the package? Why can't they deliver packages to residential addresses during evenings and weekends?

This week, I was expecting a package from UPS, that strange courier that likes to call itself "brown", like shit. Brown is not such an impressive business colour, even if it has been the New Black for years. I worked for this company for part of one summer, by the way. So, I came home on Monday, and saw a note stuck to my door. None of the fields that could have been filled in were filled in. All were blank, in other words, except for the comments field.

There was no indication if this was the first, second, or final attempt to deliver. The date of new attempt field was blank. A field at the bottom read: "In your absence the package(s) was left at: Front Door, Back Door, Side Door, Garage, Neighbour, Other. None of these boxes were checked. In the comments space something illegible was scribbled.

I thought that I would need to take a day off work to wait, but there was no indication of when the package would be re-directed, so I called, and waited and waited. I wanted to tell them that the least they could do is indicate that another delivery attempt would be made. After reciting my waybill number, the dude says:

"The package was left at the side door."

"I don't have a side door," says I.

"Are you sure?"

"Quite."

"What about a garage?"

"Nope"

"Porch?"

"I don't have a porch either" UPS dude advised me to look around. I have to say that I was stunned. I only called because I wanted to know when it was going to be delivered. It's lucky that I even called. Now, he told me that the package was left somewhere, and I had no idea where and the note didn't say where.

On my cell phone, I circled the house, looking here and there. For some unknown reason, I looked behind my new City of Toronto garbage bin, and there it was. How bizarre. It could have been there for days, had I not called the idiots. And then, it all made sense. I was finally able to decode what looked like:

"h eft Ai sio/E" I guess that said "left at side."

Friday, November 14, 2008

Bananas and Sleep and Politics

Is there anything more disappointing than going into your usual grocery store and discovering that all of the bananas are as green as emeralds? It either takes a week for the bastards to ripen, or they do so overnight, because they are genetically-inferior and end up tasting awful.

But, on to more important things. For some inexplicable reason, I slept very badly last night. I woke at 3:00 AM and failed to get back to sleep. I really hate it when that happens, mostly because I am a great sleeper and rarely have any problems.

In other news, an old high school friend showed up on Facebook. Two, actually. That's all well and good. One friend now lives in a large American city. During our exchange of messages, he complained that the democrats were now coming to power and that this would sink the economy. Is he on drugs? I wanted to ask him if he happened to notice that the economy tanked on the Republicans' watch. Of course, talking politics and religion with friends is probably a bad idea.

I am kicking myself for not taking today off. I like taking Fridays off. Why didn't I take Friday off?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Phew!

There is always a great sense of relief after one presents, which I just did at lunch. Granted, it was to a smallish group (25 or so), but I am glad to have that one over with. I have two more coming up. Now, I can get back to the important things, like reconnecting with my online social networks and procrastinating :-)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Reading Update

More books I have read, instead of a real post, because I am too busy to write a real post. Maybe later, when some of this work has passed.

1) The Scheme for Full Employment by Magnus Mills - I'd like to know where this dude gets his ideas. I still believe that his first two novels (The Restraint of Beasts and All Quiet on the Orient Express) were better, but this is quirky and interesting and well worth the journey.

2) Genesis by Jim Crace - Crace is one of my favourite writers. I will admit to not being a fan of Arcadia. That was a tough slog, but Quarantine and Being Dead are very very good. As for Genesis, well, it didn't grab me and I struggled with it. In the end, I give it 2/5. I wished I had liked it more, but I didn't. I just didn't and that's all there is to it.

Currently reading: My Name is Legion by A.N. Wilson - I am 25% in, so I can't really comment.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Depressing Post

I logged in, planning to write, in my best Soup Nazi impersonation, "No post for you!" But, let's just see where stream-of-consciousness takes me.

I just got back from rural Ontario, which is always interesting. My father is fighting 5 types of cancer, but oddly, all of them are considered to be the least deadly types of cancer in each class. He has skin cancer, but not melanoma, for example. But, he looks pale, which makes his wardrobe choices all the more perplexing. His beige pants, beige shirt, and beige socks match his pale, ashen complexion, a complexion that would seem to demand some colour compensation. He just needed a hat to convince all of us that he was about to go on safari.

The loss of 25 or 30 pounds makes him appear completely different. His face is drawn; he has no energy; he needs to nap several times per day. For the first time, he looks old to me. He's lost something. He didn't make a single racy joke and, far more surprising, didn't offer any political commentary or investment advice. Occasionally, he stared off into the distance, and I really wondered what he was thinking about.

I wonder if having skin cancer makes him regret the hours he spent basking in the sun. Somehow, I doubt it. He loved the sun and would probably follow the same route again, given a second chance.

Time prevented an additional junket to visit my mother, now housed in a new home, close to my sister's house. It's here where she will live out her days eating meatloaf and watching her roommates die. I gather she is not enamored with the place, but that might change. At Christmas, I will have to ensure that I visit her in her new abode.

My, wasn't that depressing? I just have to add the title and hit publish.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Is your Cucumber Curved?

If so, or you have undersized melons, there's good news. The European Union is altering its fruit and vegetable policies, and will soon allow the sale of diverse fruits and vegetables, those that might deviate from the norm by being crooked, small, ugly, or asymmetrical. Look how fast the world is changing! The next American President is not on old white guy and now previously prejudiced produce will soon hit the shelves in Europe.

That's all for today. Happy Friday and have a nice weekend. I will be heading into the rural parts of Ontario, where people like the Conservative Party, Celine Dion, and bad grammar.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Vista?

Are you using Vista? I am considering purchasing a new laptop next spring, but I am afraid of Vista. Evidently, very few developers are writing applications for Vista, which I assume means that they are waiting for Windows 7. I would also love to wait for the new OS, but that is not expected to roll out until 2010.

So, if you are running Vista, what do you think? Incidentally, Hitler hates Vista:

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Times they are A-Changin'

All I will say today is that I am delighted by the election results south of the border (Alaska went red, but that's OK).

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There's a battle outside
And it is ragin'.
It'll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin'

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Opium, Cocaine, and LSD

During a seasonal lunch back in 2002, a colleague confessed to having taken opium, cocaine, and LSD. Just to remind you, this person is a librarian. Of course, I made such a confession about LSD in the past (here and here). I don't think it's a big deal, but I would draw the line at addictive stuff, like cocaine and opium, unless I were dying. On my deathbed, I want the full Aldous Huxley experience. I might even smoke a big fat cigar as I lay dying. Yeah, just imagine: me at age 110 (or so), lying on my bed in silk PJs. There would be a dog curled up on the bed with me. We'd be surrounded by young busty nurses in old school uniforms, stockings, and FM boots. I'd have some nice psychedelic music (maybe early Pink Floyd) playing. Mangoes, papayas, and pineapples would all be close by, plus wine and dark chocolate. Come to think of it, this is Hugh Hefner's life right now, except he has 8 blondes, which is not my thing. Maybe Hef is dying?

But, back to the story at hand. I find his/her confession to be extra weird because this person is very childlike. I can't imagine this individual drinking under age or sneaking into a restricted movie. S/he seems to be so law and order, so old, so straight and narrow. If I had to guess, this was the person who clapped the teacher's chalk brushes after school. It makes me wonder what other secrets people are carrying around with them. All of which reminds me of Post Secret, which I am sure you all know about. Heck, even I knew about it, but I often forget to visit it. I think I will go now.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Second Last Word on the US Election

Please vote. Here's my favorite page of the day:

http://www.sarahpalin.com/ (This seems to be a joke. If you go there, it reads: "This page intentionally left blank.")

Notice that I used the American spelling of favorite, in honor (another American spelling) of the election.

I have to admit that I have election fatigue and I am not even American. The whole process takes way too long. There are the endless primaries with all of these presidential wannabes running around, raising cash, spending money, making speeches, kissing babies, etc. etc. etc. And, that is all before the election campaign officially commences. Usually, I am sick of hearing the names of the candidates after a while.

Anyway, please vote. But, if the elections are rigged, I wonder what the point is of even voting:

Friday, October 31, 2008

Hallowe'en Songs

The Jezebel Spirit from Brian Eno and David Byrne, featuring an excerpt from an exorcism:



Everyday is Halloween from Ministry:



Monster Mash by Bobby 'Boris' Pickett and the Cryptkickers:

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Share the Wealth, Dudes!

I have to laugh every time I hear John McCain refer to the "tax and spend liberals" or when he insults Barack Obama for being a liberal. Liberal is such a dirty word in the United States, even though both Republicans and Democrats are liberals. Both parties support classical liberal values such as individual freedom, property rights, civil liberties, and the free market.

Now, I realize that the classic definition of a social liberal in one who supports higher taxation and societal regulation. Maybe so; maybe not so. I really think it boils down to who gets the tax cut and who doesn't. McCain, like our own lesser Bush (aka Stephen Harper), panders to big business, while those to the left argue for tax relief among the lower and middle classes. Which sounds more humane to you?

If McCain is not a liberal, what is he? The opposite of liberalism is fascism, and even I wouldn't call John McCain a Fascist. Conservatism, you might say, is the opposite of liberalism. Yet, there are few quality definitions of conservatism, so I adhere to Lincoln's: "adherence to the old and tried, against the new and untried." That is what this election is all about.

If we can define conservatism as frugality with respect to spending, then George W. Bush's regime fails the test in spectacular fashion. He squandered billions of dollars in taxpayers' money in Iraq. He has spent the USA into a massive debt. It seems to me that Dubya is a liberal, according to McCain's definition.

Up in the Great White North, we have a political party called the Liberal Party of Canada (the Grits). We are not afraid of being called liberals or socialists, though most would draw the line at the term Marxist, mostly because few of us really understand the term after years of perversion by authoritarian regimes. Marx really only provided an excellent critique of capitalism. What happened after the revolution went largely unsaid, leaving ample room for the misapplication of his theories. But, I am getting side-tracked.

When Obama said "share the wealth around", he certainly was not calling for the proletariat to assume control of the means of production. There's no need for the Bourgeoisie to panic. This spin is another desperate Republican tactic to distort the sensible words of a reasonable man, the next President of the United States of America.

P.S. My political theory classes seem so long ago now...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Time Off

Well, I am taking tomorrow and Friday off work. We get a certain number of Professional Development days and I am using two this week. I have to prepare for three upcoming presentations, and I find that I can't really dedicate as much time as I would like here. For some reason, I find that my office is not conducive to work. I know it sounds bizarre, but I have a hard time focusing on things like that here.

And now, I have to do stuff. Thanks for listening.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Monday, October 27, 2008

My Dad might be Getting his own Pair of Breasts

I realize that my dad might be the ultimate breast man, but I am fairly sure that he never wanted his very own pair of breasts. He is all about access, not ownership. A pair of breasts on a woman with visitation rights is what he always wanted. Now, he might actually be getting his own breasts.

No, he is not obese, not buying implants, and not changing gender. Instead, he will be undergoing Hormone Replacement Therapy. Anti-androgens reduce the production of testosterone, which feeds prostate cancer. The alternative treatment is orchidectomy, which sounds unpleasant to me and I am sure to him as well.

HRT, however, does have side effects akin to menopausal symptoms. These include hot flushes, osteoporosis, impotence, breast growth and breast tenderness. Despite that, the treatment should lengthen his life, and that's all that really matters.

By the way, this is post #800. I like to celebrate meaningless milestones.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Palin is Dumber than Dubya!

Sorry, but I couldn't resist another political post. I have to hand it to John McCain. The ancient dude found someone even stupider than George W. Don't believe me? Well, check this out.


1) Sarah Palin has no idea what the Vice President does (10 seconds):



2) Sarah Palin thinks that the VP is in charge of the United States Senate! (50 seconds):



And why do all of her answers sound like she is being scored in a beauty pageant?

3) Sarah Palin has no idea what the Bush Doctrine is (2:34):



4) But, wait! She can see Russia from Alaska! (1:28):



5) "Most pathetic piece of tape I have ever seen..." (2:26):



7) Women should be forced to bear rapists' children (2:07):



8) Sarah Palin can't name a single newspaper she has read (45 seconds):



9) Sarah Palin is stumped (2:05):



10) John Cleese says she's "a nice-looking parrot" (1:22):



Honestly, she makes Mr. Bush look like a genius.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

OCD or Installation?

The other day, I walked into the nearest bathroom to my office, pushed open the stall door (I'll avoid discussing the problems associated with having to do one's business in the workplace) and was confronted by a toilet seat that was wrapped in so much paper, it looked like a Christmas present or possibly a paper throne. I couldn't see any hint of porcelain, no clue that the seat was black. To me, it looked like the most sublime feat of origami in history. Someone had crafted a toilet from toilet paper!

But, no, it seems that someone spent an hour or so making sure all surface areas were covered in toilet paper. What student, I ask you, has the time to devote that much energy to something he will only require for a few moments? Well, unless he had other less obvious plans, that is.

You know, it's impossible to catch an STD - wait, I think we call them STIs now - from a toilet seat. It can't happen, unless there is some sort of new super STI that I don't know about. And, even if you could catch something hideous from a toilet seat, would a few thin strips of toilet paper protect you? I think not.

I honestly believe that it one is that paranoid about catching an infectious disease from a toilet seat, a far better strategy would be to carry around cleaning supplies, like some of those disinfectant wipes. It would be obsessive-compulsive and a little nuts, but creating a paper throne is probably weirder.

Later, I thought that perhaps I had it all wrong. Maybe this was an installation? Now, I regret not photographing it.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Inside the Actors [sic] Studio

I like this show very much, almost enough to excuse the poor grammar in the title. It seems that the entire world has no idea how to use an apostrophe, so it is largely left out, like in the name of the Actors [sic] Studio Drama School, where the show began.

But that is not the point. If you've seen the show, you are not doubt aware that James Lipton uses the Pivot Questionnaire (from the French TV show Bouillon de Culture hosted by Bernard Pivot). So, here are my spontaneous answers:

1. What is your favorite word?

Can't decide...Parabola, hinge, rebellion, or yes.


2. What is your least favorite word?

Clearly, it has to be the "N word" but tax a close second.


3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

Good music.


4. What turns you off?

Bigotry.


5. What is your favorite curse word?

Fuck.


6. What sound or noise do you love?

Bacon frying in a pan or the pop of a cork.


7. What sound or noise do you hate?

Electric hand mixers. They make a truly awful din.


8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

That's a tough one, but I'd have to say either an astronomer or a porn star.


9. What profession would you not like to do?

Dysentery Stool-Sample Analyzer or Barnyard Masturbator.


10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

"No one whose testicles have been crushed or whose penis has been cut off may be admitted into the community of the Lord" (Deuteronomy 23:2), so come on in!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Wow, the work day is almost over, and I have nothing to say. Talk about a huge disappointment. Where does the time go?

So, I guess instead of something entertaining, irreverent, and possibly comical, I will simply tell you that I really liked what Colin Powel said on Meet the Press. He cut through the crap (I originally typed carp) and gave a non-partisan assessment of the two US presidential candidates that makes sense and is completely logical. Personally, I have never understood the way his given name is pronounced: it sounds like a body part or a punctuation mark to me.

In case you missed it:

Friday, October 17, 2008

Rest in Peace, Frankie Venom

Yesterday, I learned of the passing of Frankie Venom (aka Frank Kerr), the front man of Canadian punk band Teenage Head. Teenage Head was one of the first bands I saw live, and I saw them at my high school. Sure, there was controversy over the name. There was that riot at Ontario Place, but that was all in fine punk rock form. I do have some vinyl. I might dig it out and see how it has aged.



P.S. I am not at work today :-)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Good News and Bad News

I am happy that Canadians were intelligent enough to stop short of granting Harper a majority government. But, I can't even figure out why the CRAP party won. At the very least, they ought to have received some comeuppance for ignoring the fixed election date law and wasting $300 million of taxpayers' money on an election we did not need just to come to a decision that is much the same as we had before. Brilliant, Stephen.

But, I have to say that I am really irritated by the election turnout, which was an underwhelming 58%, the lowest in Canadian history. What the hell is wrong with us? Almost half of us don't care who wins and refuse to exercise a right that many in the world would die for? Come on, people. Apathy about elections really infuriates me. I am angry with you 42%, really angry.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Election Day

The most important thing is to vote, of course. The next most important thing is to vote for anybody but the Reform ... I mean ... Conservative Party. Get out there and vote.

Monday, October 13, 2008

HCT

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving. I wish our Thanksgiving was the same as the American one, because right after Halloween, we Canadians are inundated with Christmas advertising. I could be wrong, but I seem to recall that Christmas advertising in the USA doesn't really get going until after Thanksgiving. Maybe that's not true anymore?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Zydeco Fish and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance

I've been disassembling my old mountain bike. I had left it in the shed, after I acquired a new one. And then I thought, why not make the repairs myself? Damn, that was a great idea. I researched, looked at websites, YouTube, books, and I was ready. I removed the wheels and cleaned the rims, spokes, hubs, and rear cassette. I disassembled, cleaned and reassembled the idler pulley and derailleur. I scrubbed the chain stay, seat stay, down tube, top tube, front forks, and removed the rusted chain.

I purchased a crank remover, and removed the cranks quickly and efficiently. I knew I would require a new chain ring. And then, I focused on the bottom bracket. I started with the drive side (left threads, I know). I noticed that the spline teeth were all worn after 9 summers and winters. The spline bottom bracket tool could achieve no purchase. Thankfully, I avoided ripping up my knuckles on the chain rings. The damn thing would not budge no matter how hard I tried. I failed on the other side too.

After soaking the bottom bracket in oil, which I let penetrate over night, I failed once more. I tried everything, including the tips found in various bike forums on the web. Yes, I bolted the bottom bracket tool to the spindle and held it in place with washers. The result? The remaining teeth splintered, disintegrated into small bits of metal, and fell out like Giles's teeth in his dreams in Dead Babies.

This was disheartening as I had read post after post in bike forums where people had achieved success with such a tactic. So, I resorted to plan B, also recommended on various web forums: I brought out a torch. We all know that heat expands metal, so I should be able to get some movement if the whole bracket were heated. No such luck, I'm afraid.

But, I have not yet given up.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

The Last 10 CDs I added to my MP3 Player

I had something to say about the Pope today, but I don't have enough time to say it. Later, maybe. Instead, I made a list, which took about 30 seconds.

1) Spiritualized - Songs in A & E
2) White Stripes - Icky Thump
3) Van Morrison - Saint Dominic's Preview
4) Beck - Modern Guilt
5) Bob Dylan - Modern Times
6) R.E.M. - Accelerate
7) Tokyo Police Club - Elephant Shell
8) Spiritualized - Ladies and Gentlemen we are Floating in Space
9) Can - Tago Mago
10) Hrsta - L'éclat du ciel était insoutenable

Yeah, I load entire CDs, 'cause I have one of those 15GB units that holds, like, 400 CDs.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Bondage

As promised yesterday, here are two shots from Nuit Blanche. I selected these as examples, just to give you an idea. There are others I like much better, and those will probably end up on my Flickr account. I hope these aren't too scandalous for a librarian's blog :-)


Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Nuit Blanche 2008

The bad news is that I started to feel very ill around midnight, and had to cut my night very short. Presently, I am dealing with a cold that has a horrible cough. But, I did enjoy some of this year's Nuit Blanche, mostly because the theme was nudity or, rather, partial nudity.

Early in the evening, I cycled down Bay Street and watched about 8 women (probably late 20s or early 30s) hurry out of a restaurant and attempt to flag down cabs. One slightly overweight woman tried to propel herself along on her little trotters but, in doing so, caused some sort of cascading ripple effect, a fleshquake might describe it. Her body rolled in several directions at once, hindering her forward momentum. It was not a pleasing sight, but then her strapless halter dress gave into the chaos and fell down, exposing both of her bare breasts. Drunkenly, she hoisted it back up, and raised her hand in the air for a cab.

Trying to expunge that from my mind, I soldiered on. Soon, I caught a performance of Japanese Butoh, an extreme form of dance featuring three topless women and a topless man, each wearing a sumo wrestling-like diaper and covered in white body make-up and black writing. I observed and took photos, some of which are very cool.

Much later, I took in my favourite unofficial Nuit Blanche event, which is an annual light bondage show. I got some great photos last year and some even better ones this year. Should I post a photo here? Would that be outrageous or offensive? Let me know if you'd like to see one or two. I also ran into a photography friend I hadn't see for a while at this event. That was cool.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Hogan's Heroes and Jell-O?

I loved Hogan's Heroes. I watched it religiously (in reruns) during my childhood and I periodically look longingly at the DVD box sets on the shelves. I was stunned to find this advertisement that the crew back in the day. I had no idea.



I think that they ought to bring back the vintage TV commercials and rerun them from time to time. That would be a kick. And then there's this odd piece:



Oh, Bob Crane. What a tragic end he met.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Who is the Elitist?

I have no idea where this comes from or even if it is true, but holy shit if it is. And, the Obama vehicle is a hybrid.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Nuit Blanche

I will be staying up all night tonight, thanks to Nuit Blanche. Hopefully, I will get some good photos.

Friday, October 03, 2008

I was just thinking...

... as we neared the end of yesterdays interviews (more to come today) that perhaps I have seen too much reality-based television. After this morning's candidate, I really wanted to say: "Yo dawg, it was like dope; Once you got started, you got your slayin' on. It was like goin' on, dude!"

Yesterday, it would have been. "I'm a definite no" or "that was absolutely dreadful" or "you are almost creepy."

Yeah, that's it, dudes, we should put them through challenges and then I could say, "That's enough. Bring me your torch. The tribe has spoken." Or, even: "you are the last interviewee to arrive. I'm sorry to tell you that you have been eliminated from the competition."

This would shake up the exercise significantly, dawgs.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

I am watching the debate (the Canadian one) and find it both amusing and depressing. I don't understand why anyone would vote Conservative. Harper is doing his best to appear nice and moderate and friendly. He should have worn the sweater.
Interviews, Interviews, and More Interviews

I am swamped with job interviews for the next two days. I am interviewing candidates, not being interviewed. It sounds like fun, but it is not, for many reasons, mostly because I am not a fan of the job interview.

We all convene in a meeting room with an oval table, the five interviewers having chosen a good seat, and the interviewee left to take whatever seat is offered to them. In the office we formerly used, the candidate was forced to stare into the sun, while we all sat comfortably, with the sun to our backs. It reminded me of the interrogation parts of Darkness at Noon.

Resumes are full of lies, or maybe I should say exaggerations. Mine is and I am sure yours is too. If we don't exaggerate and manipulate the truth, we would all appear to be normal, uninteresting, and completely lacking in talent. I don't really have a problem with that, but I do have issues with the interview process and references.

Personally, I think the job interview is a waste of time. Surely, it would make much better sense to work with the person for a few weeks, and then have a conversation about whether they ought to be permitted to stay in the job. An hour long meeting can't be a good way to determine if an individual is a proper fit for the job and the organization. I realize that there can be probationary periods (we have a lengthy one here) but everyone has passed the reviews at six months, twelve months, eighteen months, or twenty-four months. Once you are in, you are in like Flynn.

Instead, we ask them questions. Some employers request presentations, but even that is not good, if you ask me. Interviews are excellent for putting people on the spot, but these days, most people can anticipate the questions. Interviews are polite, formal, and useless. We, as interviewers, never speak our minds and say things like: "wow, that was a dumb answer."

Which brings me to references. Why do we bother to check references? What candidate would list a person who would give them a bad reference? Of course we all list people who will say good things about us. When you add the risk of legal action that some people have taken against those who have given a bad reference, I wonder why we bother with the whole process. The possibility of legal action caused so much concern that one of my former references said she couldn't even speak frankly to potential employers for fear of some sort of legal reprisal. I think we should stop the whole reference thing.

But, I am on the committee, so I will ask my questions over and over. I just have time for lunch, and then I am back in the room...

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

No time to post today. Maybe I will try tomorrow. Off to another meeting.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Mad Men

To be a man in 1960 must have been something. To be a woman looks like it mostly sucked, 'cause it was a man's world back then. Men ruled the business world and the home. These were the days when men could slap their wives, tell them what to do, and keep an apartment in the city for extra-curricular entertainment. Women were essentially servants and mistresses, Well, in the world of the advertising executive, at any rate.

The chain smoking makes me feel asthmatic, or like I am once again a child with my mother smoking in every conceivable place at any time of the day. And then there's the alcohol. They drink and smoke all day - at home, at work, on the train, in the car. It looks like everyone was a chain-smoking alcoholic.

It makes me wonder what would happen if I set up a bar in my office. I'd just need a few bottles of booze, some crystal, and an ice bucket ... and a secretary. Damn, I forgot about that. I'd need her to wash the glasses and fetch the ice, so I am not sure if this would work, but I'd like to try. Would anyone say anything? Would my office become a party zone? I'll run an experiment and report back.

Mad Men has been praised for its historical veracity and its visual style. I concur. It's well-acted, engaging, and highly entertaining. It confirms for me that the business world is not the place for me. I prefer academia and the associated complete lack of supervision.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Spoon by Can

One of my fav Krautrock songs. More info about the band here or here. Keep your eye out for the juggler.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Funny Flashback

I am in a most-of-the-day meeting today, off campus. So, this is the best I can do:

The recent (maybe ongoing is a better word) conflict in Georgia reminds me of a brief conversation I had with another student in a fourth year history seminar, during my undergraduate days. At some point, Joseph Stalin's nationality was raised as it related to a discussion about Hitler's nationality. Hitler was Austrian, not German; Stalin was Georgian, not Russian. It's an interesting thing to ponder, at least for a few moments.

At that point, the woman sitting to the right of me (she was also an upstairs neighbour in my residence) turned to me and quietly said: "Stalin was American?" She hailed from Vancouver, but that is probably not important.

I did wonder how in hell she got into a fourth year seminar. How did she pass all of the prerequisites? Can one really be that ignorant of geography in University? It made me think that there ought to have been entrance exams.

I thought this was very funny, until a colleague informed me that a student recently posed this question at the reference desk: "Who is this Hitler guy?"

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Room 101

I have notched a count of two dead rats: one by poison and one left by a friendly cat, I think, on my back porch. I am disappointed to learn that a new rat has moved into the house. But, I will strangle him or her soon enough. I promise.

I keep all of the food tightly packed away in glass containers and out of reach of rats, mice, children, and guests. I have no idea what s/he is finding to eat, 'cause there's nothin' to be found anywhere. And yet, a new rat bastard is here, making a hell of a noise under the stove. I've seen the droppings and can assert that this is no mouse. And then there's this crazy episode.

If you want to be freaked out, keep reading. My basement tenant told me that a rat jumped head first into his toilet and swam down out of sight. Yes, he flushed. After a web search, I confirmed that this is possible because rats can hold their breath for ages. They can come up and go down. Below the joint, the area is free of water. Even a person could hold their breath for that short of distance.

A dude has patented some sort of cage that one can affix beneath the toilet's wax ring to permit one's business to be flushed away but prevent rats from coming up. I imagine it's like a reverse lobster trap. I have no idea where to get one.

My question is, what the hell is attracting the scurvy rodents to my house? I asked the neighbours, and they have no rats. I've had rats; they haven't had rats. The mice seem to be gone, probably chased away by the rats or captured by them and served up as rat lunch.

Sure, I have read all of the things you are supposed to avoid, and I am going to stick with them. No more fat down the sink. One is supposed to wait for it to congeal and put it in the green bin or soak it up with paper towels and put it in your green bin. Grease is bad for your pipes anyway. They recommend putting bleach down your pipes every now and then. That sounds environmentally-dubious to me, so I am not sure about that. Oh yeah, sealing all of the holes in the house is recommended, but how is that really possible?

"Welcome death, quoth the rat, when the trap fell"

-Thomas Fuller

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Stephen Harper is no Ordinary Canadian

Now the truth is out. We have proof that Stephen Harper is an imbecile or maybe an idiot and possibly a moron. He is so out-of-touch with average Canadians, he thinks we don't care about the arts! Imagine a Prime Minister who believes that artists are 'rich'. It's mind-boggling. Only a truly stupid person would say such a thing. Clearly, he moves in social circles that keep him well away from the toiling artists in this country.

But, it's all part of a Regressive Conservative Party platform of cultural destruction that includes censoring our movies and cutting $45 million from arts funding. I have to agree with Jack Layton that Harper's yahoos are Culture Killers, or les Conserva-tueur de la culture.

Please, Canada, do not vote for Harper's weird anti-Canadian, pro-McBush party.
Please, vote ABC: Anyone But Conservative.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Keyword Mayhem, part 8

It's official. The most common search terms that bring people to this wonderful blog are searches like crocheted penis warmers, or knitted penis warmers, or peter heaters, etc. It all goes back to this post. Once again, I will state that I have no idea why people continue to be interested in such a garment.

Second in popularity is some sort of spin on sybil sheppard naked. I get this over and over and over again. Why her, of all people? I mean, if I were searching for photos of naked women, she would be way down the list. Way way down, in fact.

Other people are searching for Japanese penises, rob black in porn with fish, can you catch an std from touching used hygiene products?, NICOLA KIDMAN PORN, second life female genitalia, helpful head librarian porn, and have a thing for chicks that say aboot.

I am losing hope for humanity.

Most of the rest are people seeking answers to dreams about eating glass and/or cockroaches. I am not alone, it seems.

Lunch is calling me ...

Monday, September 22, 2008

slotMusic

What is the world coming to? I will never understand why people would choose to use a computer as a stereo system. No matter what speakers you attach to a computer, the sound will never be as good as a hi-fidelity system. MP3s are fine for portable MP3 players, but you will never convince me to dump my stereo and rely on a computer. As I have said before, we ought to be investigating options that improve sound, not degrade it.

So, I was disheartened to learn that SanDisk is working with four record labels to sell music on SD cards. I just don't get it.

The really interesting thing is that the vinyl that is sold these days is superb. Most of it would equate with the old half-speed masters produced for audiophiles. But, I guess audiophiles are now all old men - all old men, and me, that is.

At least SanDisk plans to include the cover art, which you can look at on your computer, which is something, I suppose. But, it's like fake cover art, since it's not really a cover. I miss the LP format for many reason, mostly because of the large cover art and legible liner notes.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

From the Mouth of a three and a half year old

"I like to put my hand on my penis because me penis is warm."

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Then and Now

(Started 9:21 AM)

While strapping a helmet to my son's head, I reflected on my experience of learning how to skate. My mother tied a pair of used skates to my feet, pushed me out onto the ice, and sat in the heated area where she drank coffee and smoked. I had no instructors, no mentors, no guides -- aside from the speedy skaters flying past me on the expansive ice -- and no helmet.

Nor did I have a helmet when cycling or skateboarding. You'd have thought that children where expendable back then, especially considering that seat belts were rarely used, except for fun. Sometimes, my brother and I would buckle-up mostly for kicks and because it was a weird thing to do. That is even more interesting when I recall that my parents were not always sober when driving. I remember cruising down rural Ontario highways at 100 KM per hour after my parents had spent a night drinking with two other couples.

Six of them would pile into one car and hit the various booze houses. My brother and I stayed at a house with the children of these three unions, the eldest trying to exert some sort of control over chaos. At 2:00 or 3:00 AM, the parents would roll in and we divided into families: two families headed out into the darkness once again, and one family crawled upstairs to bed. After 45 minutes spent on the highways and side-streets, my dad would steer the huge Ford into the driveway and I would climb out, find my bed and sleep.

The most curious thing is that one of the drinkers in the sextet (there was no swinging, as far as I could determine) was a cop with the Ontario Provincial Police! But, this was back in the days when drinking and driving went together like ham and cheese. These were the days when kids could stand up on the front seat of the car to get a better view, or even crawl onto the back dash just to see if you could fit.

Oh, and there were no infant car seats. I think I was brought home from the hospital in a straw basket that my mother perched on her lap. Yup, kids were expendable and easily replaceable. I remember riding my tricycle and age three on the street in front of my house with no parents anywhere around. I knew enough to move aside when a car came. At age four, I walked to school by myself. The school was maybe half a mile away, but still. I sometimes wonder why I ever made it out of my childhood in one piece.

(Finished 9:25 AM)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Prison Sex

Following on from yesterday's story about a man who had 86 wives -- I have no idea how he could possibly manage to keep them all happy -- I read about a recent survey in Australia regarding sex among inmates. First, the good news. Only 6% of men reported that they had sexual contact in prison, and 5% of that was consensual. This is a relief. I won't be so worried if I ever get sent to jail. Of course, Canada is not Australia.

Now, the more interesting news. 36% of women said that they were having prison sex. The lead researcher, Juliet Richters, added, "which really is quite a lot of sex." It sounds like it to me. Could it be that women are more naturally inclined to bisexuality?

Feel free to read the full article.

Tool is not everyone's cup of tea, but this video (for Prison Sex) is fascinating. It's kind of a nightmare.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Random Thoughts

1) Why does everyone say Farve when his name is Favre? Of course, this is simply metathesis, or the alteration of the order of phonemes, but it irritates me.

2) I think Stephen Harper has a crush on John McCain. Not long after McCain wore his "gay sweater", Stephen Harper popped up on TV wearing a powder blue knit garment. Sure, the sweater might be a way to sell one's wight wing agendas (rich old white men look all nice and warm and cozy and harmless), but I think there is a deeper meaning - much deeper.

3) Megan Fox, who starred in Transformers (no, I haven't seen it), revealed that she once fell in love with a female stripper. Big deal. Who hasn't? I love her quote:
I could see myself in a relationship with a girl -- Olivia Wilde is so sexy she makes me want to strangle a mountain ox with my bare hands. She's mesmerizing. And lately I've been obsessed with Jenna Jameson, but ... oh boy.
4) Mohammed Bello Masaba, age 84, has been arrested in Nigeria for having 86 wives. Apparently, Muslim law limits the number a wives a man can have to 4. What a selfish bastard. He ought to leave a few ladies for his fellow countrymen.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Piles and Piles of Files

Right now, I am digging through boxes of 'files' and dumping most of it in the garbage and a recycling bin. It makes me wonder what's wrong with people. Why would someone think that I would need printouts of email sent in 1991 relating to my current area of responsibility? It is useless. I took over the subject liaison from another librarian, and she decided that it would be a good idea to unload copious amounts of crap on me rather than dealing with it herself.

I am on box number 3 or 4 and 95% of it is junk. The other 5% I see no use for, but she seems to think we should keep it. In other words, it can stay in my office, where no one will ever look at it. Here's an example of what's in the current box: twenty-one 5¼ inch floppy disks! Jesus!

In the past, I have had the displeasure of moving into an office vacated by a certain person. She left piles of junk behind that I had to dispose of. Talk about a complete disregard for others.

In other news, I bought a new bike helmet on Sunday.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Happy Friday

I am tired, 'cause I hung out with some peeps at Rancho Relaxo last night. There were three acts: Luluc, Leif Vollebekk, and Picastro.

Luluc, all the way from Melbourne, is a duet that sing some very pleasing acoustic numbers. At first, I was reminded of Ian and Sylvia Tyson, but since I know virtually nothing about Ian and Sylvia Tyson, I am not sure that this comparison holds, except for the fact that Ian and Sylvia are or were (are the still alive?) a folky duet.

Leif Vollebekk was an unexpected surprise. He was billed as someone who might appeal to fans of Nick Drake, Patrick Watson, Final Fantasy, and Sigur Ros. Maybe, but I keep thinking Jeff Buckley, although the first number made me think of Bob Dylan, but that might have had something to do with the harmonica. He's funny too. I should have bought the CD. You can listen to his songs on his myspace page (god, how I hate myspace).

Picastro are described (somewhere) as sleep rock. It would be difficult to describe just exactly what that means, but you can hear it for yourself at the band's myspace page (god, how I hate myspace). I hear a bit of post-rock and some references to shoegazing, but in a more acoustic way.

So, how did I end up there last night? Well, Liz (from Picastro) went through the MLS program with the people I was with at Rancho Relaxo, and so she is within six degrees (actually two degrees). I suppose now that we sat at the same table, before and after her set, it is really one degree. For some reason, I find this whole six degrees thing fasincating. I am constantly amazed at the mutual friend thing on Facebook. Why is my cousin friends with someone who is a friend of a librarian I know?

BTW, I think I can make it to Kevin Bacon in six degrees.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Throttled

The bastards at Bell Canada, in an affront to the principles of Net Neutrality, have destroyed my once-glorious high-speed Internet connection. It is now a mere trickle that leaks though my phone line like a few drips of water through a rusty faucet. What used to take 40 minutes to download, now takes 10 to 20 days. Why am I paying for a so-called high-speed connection with results like this? I want to strangle those stupid Bell Beavers we have been subjected to over the years.

What this country needs is a bill like US S.215: A bill to amend the Communications Act of 1934 to ensure net neutrality. Without such a law, ISPs are free to hamper your access to sites and services that they deem are inappropriate. Right now, it's like having Big Brother as an ISP.

This is at least the third strike against Bell Canada. I have already decided to change cell phone providers for many reasons, not least of which is the unspeakably horrible customer service. I have to laugh when the CSRs at Bell answer the phone with "how can I provide excellent customer service today." I think this must be a sick joke.

In case you are wondering what Net Neutrality is, Google sums it up nicely:
Network neutrality is the principle that Internet users should be in control of what content they view and what applications they use on the Internet. The Internet has operated according to this neutrality principle since its earliest days... Fundamentally, net neutrality is about equal access to the Internet. In our view, the broadband carriers should not be permitted to use their market power to discriminate against competing applications or content. Just as telephone companies are not permitted to tell consumers who they can call or what they can say, broadband carriers should not be allowed to use their market power to control activity online.
So, I'll likely be downgrading my service to basic DSL, since the high speed is really not high speed at all. And, I will begin to investigate alternatives, but I am under the impression that Rogers is interfering with web access as well.

I am off to speak to a group of 155 students...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Captain Corelli's Mandolin. Louis de Bernières, 1995.

There exist a handful of novels that I would describe as brilliant. Among these are Dostoyevsky's Brothers Karamazov, Don Delillo's White Noise, Arthur Koestler's Darkness at Noon, Leonard Cohen's Beautiful Losers, and François Rabelais' Gargantua and Pantagruel. I would add Louis de Bernières' Captain Corelli's Mandolin to this list. (Let's forget about the film, which I have not seen and do not intend to see. I gather it ruins this book in a rather spectacular fashion).

Captain Corelli's Mandolin is the kind of book that hooks you on the first page and will not let you go. I could not put it down, could not break myself away from de Bernières' prose and the compelling story. 533 pages have never passed so quickly. Perhaps it appeals to me as a former student of history. But, this is far more than an historical account of a small portion of World War II. It's a grand story about a handful of well-drawn characters living through the good and the bad.

We are treated to a first-hand and very personal account of the failed Italian invasion of Greece in 1940, and the subsequent rescue by German forces of the useless Italian army. The author has drawn both enemies and friends in a very human way, even the occupying Italian soldiers and the brutal Nazis. He crafts a wonderful sub-plot about a gay Italian soldier (which I gather was left out of the film). One of my favourite moments is an oblique reference to Leonard Cohen, which might pass many readers by. Of course, there is a love story, a rather unconventional one, and the kind that does not generally appeal to Hollywood.

I will say one thing about the film, even though I have not seen it. The casting of Nicholas Cage as Captain Corelli is an abomination. Penélope Cruz as Pelagia, I can live with.

This novel is nothing short of gripping; it's often funny and ultimately very life-affirming (in truth, I am not really sure if this book is life-affirming, but I have always wanted to use that term, and now I have). Go read it and enjoy it.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Monday, September 08, 2008

Friday, September 05, 2008

The Death of John McCain

The American public should not vote for John McCain, and here is why. Everyone knows that he is old. I mean, did you hear his speech? He remembers the attack on Pearl Harbor, for God's sake. He's ancient. The problem is that he will most likely die in office, leaving the country in the hands of a 40-something ex-beauty pageant contestant and opponent of freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Just imagine having a President who thinks it's OK to ban books in libraries! She doesn't like certain books because that clash with her religious views and wants to deny you the right to read what you want. That's scary. Maybe she'll get a good ole' fashioned book burning going.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Pet Peeve

One thing I hate about my MP3 player is the fact that when you rip a CD, it is alphabetized incorrectly. Neil Young should be under Y not N. It can't be that difficult to reverse the first and last names, can it? It's almost as bad with band names. Some of my CDs from The Smiths end up as "The Smiths" while others are rendered as "Smiths" meaning that they are in two different places. So, one either has to re-tag all of the songs, or live with the less-than-perfect results.

Of course, this is a problem all over the web. I loaded iRead (soon to be WeRead) on Facebook. It permits one to list and review what you are reading or want to read. When your books are sorted by author name, it simply fails to do it properly. Under titles, "The Engineer of Human Souls" is listed under books commencing with T. Did everyone forget what their public school librarian taught them? If the title begins with an article, you drop it when you search for the book.

I find it difficult to operate in such anarchy. The web is a chaotic mess. All new apps or tech ought to be vetted by librarians so that we can avoid things that look like a 7 year old designed them. Maybe librarians ought to run all levels of government. That way, we wouldn't have Sarah Palin trying to ban books that offend her religious views. I am not American, but I can't see why anyone would want a VP who wants to be all fascist against freedom of speech.
Templates

I think I hate all Blogger templates

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Messes

Moving Mess

I have moved the contents of my office to my new office and am trying to put everything in its place, but everything doesn't have a place because there is a distinct lack of places to put things. So, the old saying, a place for everything and everything in its place doesn't quite work yet. It might, once I get some places to put everything, and then I'll be sure to keep everything in its place, at least for a while.

Political Mess

I am laughing at John McCain (ha ha, ha ha). Maybe if the republicans hadn't deleted all of that information about birth control on government web sites - and replaced it with all of that abstinence crap - he wouldn't be in this mess. Anyway, his choice of a woman VP is so transparent, despite the spin he tried to put on it.

I my recent reading review, I forgot to mention:

Platform by Michel Houellebecq - This is a novel about sex tourism, or about a company that sets up sex tourist resorts. It is an interesting read, with lots of sex and some death. I gather that the praise and outrage have been handed out in equal measure in reviews of this book. There is some anti-Islamic sentiments in the book, but it's impossible to say if they are those of the protagonist or the writer. The Arab League condemned the writer when the book was published back in 2001. For some reason, I just got around to reading it recently.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Digging Out

Not much to say today, as I have just carted the contents of my old office to my new (and slightly smaller) office with less furniture. I am out of space and trying to figure out where to put everything. The keyboard tray has been installed in a crazy place. It's useless where it is. I wonder how they expect anyone to work with a keyboard tray in this location. I need a bookcase, a garbage pail, a recycling bin, chairs for visitors, and a filing cabinet that works, for starters.

I am planing my fall TV schedule. So far, it includes Fringe.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Sheep and Pigs: The Last Word on IFLA

It's amazing how much I can forget in such a short period of time. For example, I can't remember which session I was in during the IFLA conference when I heard the bleating of a sheep right behind me. I almost jumped. Why was there a sheep at the World Library and Information Congress? I have never seen a sheep librarian (but I have met some sheepish ones). But, sure enough, there was a sheep sitting right behind me. Any sheep farmer sitting in my chair would have said, "Yes, sir, I reckon that's a sheep right behind me."

I considered glancing around to confirm this, but then the bleating stopped. Soon, I heard the distinctive deep guttural grunting of a pig right behind me. Where had the sheep gone and why was there a pig in it's place? I wondered about Animal Farm. Could this be it? Was it Napoleon the pig? Were we about to be overthrown by a collective of disaffected farm animals?

I was so disappointed when I discovered that I had been listening to the bleats and grunts of a sleeping librarian who was clearly suffering from sleep apnea. Imagine being able to sleep during sessions. This would be fantastic, as C. pointed out. What an enviable skill. Think of how much extra sleep one could get, especially during boring sessions. I have to work on this, but I think I need some sort of alarm system in case I start to snore.

OK, so I am moving offices today. The packing starts now.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

TCOB

I am taking care of business today, so that I can free up my calendar for tomorrow, when I move offices, again. This will be my fifth office here (actually, it's my sixth, if you count temporary moves). So, that's probably all I am going to write today.

Wait, a few days back, I cycled past a colleague who was being ticketed by the cops for cruising through a stop sign. Later, he told me that the ticket was $110. It made me doubly glad that I took a different tactic when this almost happened to me a few years back.

Why is it that I am acquiring allergies as I age? Suddenly, I am sneezing up a storm in the mornings and using lots of tissues. My eyes are so itchy, I want to rip them out of their sockets. Why? Why? Why?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Reading

Instead of a rant about the arrogance of Stephen Harper and his selfish, childish reasons for breaking his own law about fixed election dates, I will talk about some recent reads. No reviews, mind you, just quick notes. I have no energy for reviews, as I think I might have to read a 56 page document for my half-day meeting today, so a quick sentence or two is all I will commit to.

1) Three To See the King by Magnus Mills - I liked this very much, but not as much as The Restraint of Beasts or All Quiet on the Orient Express. Mills has a very simple style, but his messages are certainly deeper. If you haven't read his books, I would suggest that your go with The Restraint of Beasts. It was short-listed for the Booker. It is bizarre and deeply comic.

2) Under the Frog by Tibor Fischer - At times, this book is absolutely hilarious, to me anyway. Some knowledge of dysfunctional communist regimes might enhance the experience. Previously, I had read Fischer's The Collector Collector and pretty much hated it, so I wasn't sure about this one. Under the Frog, too, was shortlisted for the Booker, back in '93. I have another of his books on a bookshelf, so I might get to that someday.

3) Green Grass, Running Water by Thomas King. I enjoyed Truth and Bright Water, One Good Story, That One, and Medicine River, but this one is probably the best of the lot. I've met the man on two occasions and he is a good chap. He will be running for the NDP in Guelph in the next election (which could come at any time, despite the law for fixed election dates. Thank you, Mr. I-want-to-control-parliament-like-a-control-freak Harper).

In progress:

1) The Navigator of New York by Wayne Johnston - The Colony of Unrequited Dreams is one of my all-time favourite books, and I am looking forward to reading The Custodian of Paradise someday. For some reason, Navigator sat on my bookcase for years before I finally got around to opening it. I am enjoying it, but not as much as Colony or Human Amusements. One of the things that really grabbed my about The Colony of Unrequited Dreams and Human Amusements were the father figures who are absolutely hilarious. Still, this is a solid and interesting novel and worth reading.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I've Been Jesused

It finally happened. Yesterday, one of the Jesus Freaks here handed me a brochure called Good News. When the door-to-door Jesus salesmen and saleswomen come calling, I normally slam the door in his/her face. It's difficult to do that at work. Not that I care if anyone is religious. You can be crazy about god, speak in tongues, go all weak in the knees, and faint in a rapturous heap on the floor for all I care. Just keep it to yourself, please. I wonder if she was on break when she handed out her junk mail, or if she did it on company time. Hmmm.

I do have to describe the brochure to you. The front features an image of two men reading a book, which I gather is the bible. Judging from the smiles on their faces, I would have guessed that it was either the Happy Hooker or The Story of O. The two chaps are rendered in a 1950s children picture book manner, if you know what I mean. In other words, they look cheesy as hell.

Inside, we are treated to a drawing of Jesus (in red) looking an awful lot like Brad Pitt in Kalifornia, but without the baseball cap. There's also an image of a person sitting on the ground in front of a robed man (maybe Jesus, maybe not). The thing is that the person's head is at genital height, making it look as though he is about to service Jesus. To make it more convincing, Jesus has placed one hand on the chap's head, as if to guide the kneeling chap along in his task. Maybe it's a new spin on baptism.

Plus, the grammar is all screwy. For example:

"Sin leads, to hell, but God loves us." - What's with the comma craziness?

"Then on the third day after his death - God raised Jesus back to Life!" - Life gets a capital letter, for some reason. The use of a em dash between death and God is wrong. It should be a comma.

I'll stop with the editing, because there are too many other errors to continue.

So, she handed this brochure to me, and I had to restrain myself from saying something that I might regret. I took the badly folded home-printed flyer from her, and said:" I probably won't read it." That didn't seem to bother her at all. And, the truth is, I did read it, but it had the opposite effect: it added to my conviction that those who proselytize are morons and should go to hell for wasting our time.