Saturday, May 31, 2008

Mother's Autograph Books

I have been digging through some boxes and discovered a couple of old autograph books that belonged to my mother when she was in elementary school. I think I rescued them from a fiery death years ago. They are filled with an interesting array poems - some stupid and some religious.

How about this:
[place deleted]
Jan 4, 1949

Dear ____

I love you little
I love you big
I love you like a little pig

your pal,
Which is followed by:
Jan 1st/49

Dear ____

Make us of one heart and mind
Courteous pitiful and kind
Lowly meek in thought and
Altogether like our Lord

Your Grand Dad ______
And then:
January, 24 1949,

Dear _____

All good girls love their brothers
But _____ so good has grown
That she loves other girls brothers
Far better than her own

Your friend,
In the second book, her mother wrote:
Jan 4, 1952

Dear _____

Your future lies before you
Like a sheet of driven snow,
Be careful how you step on it
For every mark will show

Your Mother
That is so like my grandmother, soon to be 89. She is so concerned with appearances, that woman.

Friday, May 30, 2008

What a Relief

One of the curious things about my job is that I have (essentially) no supervision. As faculty members, we are pretty much on our own to set our goals, get things done, anticipate, apologize, compensate, and cover our tracks. But, at this time every year, we have to submit an Annual Report. I say "have to" but it is truly optional, unless we want to get one of our pay increases.

So, we all flutter around at the last minute, compiling, writing, merging, trying to remember what it was we did last year. We add abstracts to articles published or presentations given; we add nice colour charts of instructional statistics; we make sure it is perfect and then submit two copies: one for our supervisor (the university librarian) and one for the Vice President Academic. I am almost 100% sure that the VPA does not read them, but they are stored somewhere on campus, probably in a subterranean bomb-proof vault. I keep a third copy for my ever-expanding dossier.

When I started here, I noticed that there was a great deal of secrecy regarding the content of annual reports. I found only one person who would show me hers (to make things fair, I showed her mine later). Because these reports are not shared, one is never sure if people are being entirely honest about the content. I could put something completely bogus and, most likely, no one would ever know.

So, this being the last working day of May, the end of the academic year, I am done. It is finished. It is all about accomplishment and future direction. By tomorrow, I will have forgotten what is in it.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Excerpts from my Journal (with minor improvements in syntax)

Houston, April 27, 2002

"The worst thing about this hotel and conference centre are the bathrooms. Really, it's the urinals. They are like minor toilets affixed to the wall, but they jut out about two feet. So, one must stand well back. This reduces one's privacy. Also, since they are full of water, everyone can hear how long you are urinating and how forcefully. It's really awful."


"Walking from the Sheraton to the Galleria is a bit like walking out of an airport: it's not designed for that purpose. There are no sidewalks and the cars scream by on eight lane roads. Above, there is a raised expressway. I passed parking lot after parking lot. No one walks in Houston. [snip] After some tricky negotiations with streets and cars and walk signals that last - and I am serious here - about 5 seconds, I made it to the Galleria."


"During the time between a session and the reception, I thought I would look around for some stores outside the Galleria. Aside from the oppressive heat and the fact that there was no easy way for pedestrians to walk away from the mall (in other words, there were no sidewalks), I discovered that there were no stores. This area is utter desolation. [snip] It must have been so odd to see pedestrians, that two taxi drivers asked me if I needed a ride while I was still in the parking lot."


"I went into a pub-type place and asked the hostess about the menu. As I started to explain gluten, she suggested that I speak to the more experienced host. Somehow, he turned around what I said and thought that I must have wheat. He commented that I was "very specialized", and then proceeded to recommend a Monte Cristo sandwich that is deep fried in batter. I guess he figured that that ought to be enough wheat for anybody."

Houston, April 28, 2002

"The good news is that the pillow in the hotel room isn't too bad. The bad news is that the clock radio only has one volume level: ear-splitting. I had to smother it with a pillow so that the alarm wouldn't send me through the roof the next morning. The TV has two volume levels: loud and louder. The minimum volume almost blasted me out of the room. Are Texans hard of hearing?"

"Some other observations about Texans. They aren't as obese as I had expected (I had read an article in the Houston Free Press about obesity in Houstonians) and some do wear cowboy hats and boots. The first "native" I saw when I arrived at the airport was wearing a big black hat and cowboy boots. It was a sight. There was also a guy in fatigues with an automatic weapon at the metal detector."


"Yesterday, the refreshments were Coke and cookies. I know that not everyone is a health food freak, but pop and cookies is really hitting the bottom of the barrel."


"The longer I am here, the more I realize that this area reminds me of the Toronto airport but without the airport. The hotels, the construction, the lack of sidewalks, the lack of trees, the complete desolation is suited to an airport. I wonder why they just don't build an airport and compete the picture."

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


I have no idea why, but I like to celebrate meaningless milestones, so I thought I would take a moment to mark post number 700.

This is it.

So, here are a few things that the number 700 reminds me of:

The 700 Club (I didn't say they were good things).

...and, I think that's it.

Uh, well, there was the Minolta X-700 camera (I never owned one). Oh, how about this: 700 is the sum of four consecutive prime numbers: 167 + 173 + 179 + 181 (yeah, I had to look that one up).

Pretty dismal.

I have to go and write my annual report now.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Part Two - Held Captive on the 54th Floor (or, Superciliousness Run Rampant)

To recap: "Imagine behind trapped on the 54th floor of a building with no way to escape, short of a Hans Gruber exit."

The one thing that I find even more objectionable to religion at my door, is condescension. Waiting doesn't bother me. I waited for 15 or 20 minutes to be admitted to Toronto's second fastest elevator, and be transported to the 54th floor a mere 27 seconds after the doors closed. Now that was a speedy delivery. Once there, the patronizing began. The entrapment began. There was no way out.

Despite my preference for self-guided tours, I can understand how certain establishments may prefer to host an organized tour of the area. You don't want to let loose the yahoos in certain environments. On the other hand, you don't always want a tour that takes an hour, unless you have talented tour guides, and at the Toronto-Dominion Centre during day two of Doors Open Toronto, we did not.

The woman who gathered us together for the start of the tour actually said (and I paraphrase): "the artwork in there is more expensive than any of us can afford, so I like to tell the visitors to touch with your eyes." This came out in her best public school teacher voice and I had unpleasant flash backs to primary school trips to various places where we were chastised in advance.

This was the first time in ages that I felt like I was back in kindergarten. She actually told a group of adults, a group that went out of their way to take in a cultural event, to touch with their eyes! It got worse after that.

I'd just like to point out to the fine folks at TD that most of the people who went up to the 54th floor simply wanted to get a good view of the city. I am an art lover and was simply not interested in art that day, so when the head of the catering services came out to lecture us, in his best failed art-school-dropout manner, about the art, I wanted to scream. He actually said something like (and I paraphrase): "it doesn't matter if you like the art: what matters is that you have an opinion." Good god. I could tell that several people in the room knew more about the art than he did.

The lecture felt longer than it really was, no doubt. and when we were finally permitted access to the next room, he gave another long boring lecture about chairs, tables, lighting, and architecture. We were told to sit in chairs at the board table, but what I really wanted to do was look out of the window. I did snap a few photos from Canoe and in one other room at the end of the tour.

It felt like final bell at school when he reluctantly set his captive audience free. What a relief. Next year, I suggest that they place volunteers in each room and allow people to pass through the rooms at their own pace. I would have been out in 1/3 of the time.

I would have filled out an evaluation after the tour, but I felt like I had lost so much time, I couldn't be bothered. So, this is my evaluation. Count me out next year.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Held Captive on the 54th Floor

Imagine behind trapped on the 54th floor of a building with no way to escape, short of a Hans Gruber exit. But, the theme of captivity started much earlier in the day, the second day of Doors Open. First, I visited the Hare Krishna Temple on Avenue Road.

I am not averse to removing my shoes if asked. I was entering a holy place after all, and so I removed my shoes and placed them in a shoe hole, then wandered into the temple, hoping to have a look around and maybe take some photos. Instead, I was met by a devotee who apologized profusely for having been occupied with another visitor. Instead of leaving me to my own devices, he brought me over and assured me that he would offer a recap at the end to cover what I had missed.

And then, he proceeded to dump huge amounts of information about the Hare Krishna beginning with a photo of George Harrison. I was dying to leave, and not because of any antipathy to the Hare Krishna. I mean, I love their song, mostly because I am a fan of highly repetitive music. It's just that I had seen the temple and had a huge list of other places to go. Then, the refreshments person came by and apologized for not having the refreshments ready.

The whole time, some other devotee - with one tuft of hair on the back of his head - paced around the balcony that enclosed three fourths of the building. He was as mesmerizing as a pendulum, so exact in his pacing. Back and forth he went, almost like a rat in a cage, checking and rechecking for an exit or for enlightenment. I wondered if he was some sort of automaton. Back and forth he went with such deliberate precision I had to stop watching, though it was difficult to avert my eyes.

Soon enough, we got the onion and garlic speech. The minutes were ticking by and I was dying to leave, so I said: "Excuse me. I am really sorry, but I have to leave. I have some more engagements." The dude looked hurt, really. He tried to get another devotee to take me, and then I got the real sense that I was being proselytized to, and when that happens, I flee or slam doors. "Just five more minutes," he pleaded. You would have thought that his world was ending, just because I decided to bail.

I imagine that he cursed me, the garlic and onion eater, as I left to find my shoes.

* * *

So, this is a misnamed post. The 54th floor story will have to come tomorrow.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Doors Open, Day Two

Today wasn't quite so good, for a number of reasons, but perhaps I will post about that later. My travels took me to:

Hare Krishna Temple
Chapel of St. Catherine, Massey College, University of Toronto
Anshei Minsk Synagogue
Campbell House Museum
Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts
Canada Permanent Building
Design Exchange (former Toronto Stock Exchange)
Toronto-Dominion Centre
St. Lawrence Hall
Metropolitan United Church
St. Michael's Cathedral
First Evangelical Lutheran Church
MaRS Centre

I'm very hungry...

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Doors Open, Day One

I am rather exhausted after my trek across the city on bicycle. I made it to these buildings today during the scheduled 10:00 to 5:00 openings:

Soldiers' Memorial Tower at the University of Toronto
Massey College University of Toronto (outside & courtyard only)
Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library at the University of Toronto
St. Thomas's Anglican Church
Church of the Redeemer
Japan Foundation
Annesley Hall at the University of Toronto
Emmanuel College at the University of Toronto
Christie House and Fontbonne Hall at the University of Toronto
Ontario Legislative Building (Queen's Park)
Canada Life
Old City Hall
City Hall
Osgoode Hall
Commerce Court North
St. George-the-Martyr
401 Richmond
Robertson Building
St. Stephens-in-the-Fields Anglican Church

I just need to plan my excursion for tomorrow. Oh, and I need a good night's sleep :-)

Friday, May 23, 2008

Stuff White People Like

"This blog is devoted to stuff that white people like"

I heard about this blog a few months back, and delved into it briefly. I made a return trip today and I have to say that it is hilarious. Post 99 is funny, and I guess I should confess that I use the Oxford comma. There's nothing wrong with that, people. But wait! I already noted that in a prior entry. Oh, and my mp3 player is full of legal tunes. No illegal downloading for this white guy, although some might argue that I have a ridiculously large music collection.

Have a nice weekend.
Doors Open

It's Doors Open time once again. Last year, I only managed to hit a small number of venues, but this year, I have mapped out my route and I will be far more engaged.

Yesterday, I purchased the Lowepro Fastpack 250, which can accommodate my laptop and my digital SLR plus lenses. I have room for cables, journal, mp3 player, charger, card reader, pens, cell phone, etc. I love this thing. For Doors Open this weekend, I will put on the pack, strap my tripod to my bike rack and head out. Tonight, I will be at the opening ceremonies at the ROM. I need to pick up a new compact flash card as well, maybe a 4GB card.

I haven't gone for a run all week. I am slow to get back at this full time. It's not like I am being lazy. After all, I cycle 15km per day, year round. On days when I run, that's 15km plus the run. It adds up.

So, back to work . . . I guess. It's Friday and my motivation is waning, big time. Apologies for the boring post. I wish I had something funny to say today. Maybe next week.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Dear Leonard,

You probably remember that I said "I promise to buy a ticket for your upcoming tour." I was bummed that you were broke, ripped off by that crazy woman. I said it and I meant it, at the time. The trouble is the ticket prices. Man oh man, the ticket prices. Why so much, dude? A friend got a seat to one of your shows down east for a fraction of the cost. Yes, I saw your tour in '93. I was lucky enough to have been in the audience of the Ralph Benmergui Show. I knew the lighting guy, so I got in to see the sound check too. That was sweet. I entered a contest to win tickets, but didn't. I guess I'll miss the last tour. What a drag.

Favourite recent quote from a colleague: "People who wear black jeans are hiding something."

Site of the day: Things younger than Republican Presidential candidate (oh, and did I forget to mention war hero?) John McCain

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


So, I had a dream last night in which I was friends with Conrad Black. He's been in jail since March 3, 2008, but that fact was not reflected in my dream. I simply showed up at his house and was warmly greeted and offered a glass of some sort of Louis Latour wine. I am not sure why I remember this fact.

Later, we travelled to another property that he owned, one that was in a seedy part of town. It looked like hell from the outside, but the house was rather pleasant inside. The dream ended there. 76 months from now, if Conrad invited me over for a glass of wine, I'd certainly accept the invitation.

I blame this dream on my sickly state. Although I feel much better today, and actually dragged my sorry ass to work, I didn't sleep that well. Yesterday, I just flaked out and watched 7 episodes of Battlestar Galactica. I am still enjoying the show very much.

On the downside, I continue to be in deadly combat with a mouse and/or a rat, and I discovered a cash of food scraps they had taken from me and piled on top of my fridge, behind a basket. How do they manage to climb a fridge?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Damn. As Sunday evening approached, I recognized the symptoms of a cold, which was not surprising since the youngest managed to spit on my face a few times. Yup, I was sprayed with little drops of toddler spit laced with millions of germs from his cold. So, today, I am bedridden with a vicious cold. I didn't sleep well either. Long weekends are great, and longer ones are fantastic, but not when you are ill.

I am going to spend the day trying to figure out how I can get my own reality TV show. I have a few good ideas, but no fame or cash. I'll let you know if I have any breakthroughs.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Shift, Baby, Shift

Finally, I have my shift together. The left shift key on my laptop broke off months ago, which seriously hampered my typing, not that I type well, or anything. I realize that there is a right shift key, but I never use it and couldn't train myself to do so. Laptop keys are rather fragile and, bizarrely, there is nowhere you can buy just one key. I emailed a seller on eBay who does sell individual keys, but got no reply at all.

You can send back your laptop to the company and pay something like $250+ for them to install a new one and then wait for it to come back. You can also ask a repair shop to do it for you. The prices I was quoted ranged from $90 for the keyboard + $20 for installation, to $75 for the keyboard + $75 for installation. It seems like I would be getting shafted or shifted. I decided to do it myself.

But first, I bought some extra RAM and installed it. That gave me a much needed boost. Then, I bought a brand new keyboard on eBay from a store in Hong Kong for $9.99. With shipping, I paid almost $25. This afternoon, I partially disassembled my laptop, removed the old keyboard, and installed the new one. I am back in business and loving my left shift key. SEE.

* * *

Late yesterday, I realized that this is a long weekend. I knew that, but it just didn't click. I thought about taking half a day off, but managed to find some backup for the whole day. Now, I have a long list of other things to do...

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Stiff Neck

I've had one for two days. I'm too busy to write anything else right now...

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Conference Review

Welcome to my not funny conference review. I wish I had those two days back. Oh, the things I would do, the places I would go. Instead, I was trapped inside during some lovely weather and forced to endure a really awful conference. Even the free wine at the end did not make up for the dismal conference because it was awful wine, perhaps the worst Gew├╝rztraminer I have ever had. Why didn't I choose the red as usual?

In part, I blame myself for I think I picked the wrong sessions. They sounded good on paper, but the reality was oh so different. I like structure in conference presentations, rather than feeling I have been drawn into a dialogue between the presenters. Some presenters spent part of the time discussing what the next point should be! Weird. Others went on and on, well past the scheduled ending times, clearly because they liked the sound of their own voices.

At the final reception, there were plates of fruit and snacks, which I indulged in, as well as some desserts, which I avoided, of course. I tried the ham wrapped asparagus, but it didn't sit well with me at all. Who wraps ham around asparagus? Worse, they hacked off the tops, leaving ham wrapped around asparagus stalks. It was bizarre and not very tasty at all. I avoided the the piles of cheeses too.

I'll stop now, because I'd hate to say anything too mean.

I have another conference at the end of June, and this one looks much better.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Two Days: Day Two

Day two starts now. We will return to our regularly-scheduled programming soon.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Two Days: Day One

A two-day conference commences now. Sometimes, I think I have too many conferences.

Friday, May 09, 2008


I went running with a friend last evening, the first time I have laced up the trainers in years and years. We did just over 3k, which was a nice gentle reminder of the old days. In high school, I was on the Track team and the Cross-Country team, but I preferred track, as I was really a sprinter (I once held a track record somewhere in southern Ontario, but that has probably been smashed by now). Middle distance didn't really do it for me back then.

When I started running with the X-Country team, I couldn't believe that people could be so chatty when they ran. Here we were, doing a 7.5K circuit, and they were all talking about what they were planning to do on Saturday night. I could barely speak. Soon, talking and running didn't seem so weird, and now I think it might be part of the experience.

The funniest thing was being reminded of the fartlek. Ah, the fartlek. No, this is not a small release of gas while running. It was hard to say fartlek with a straight face back in High School, and I still think it's funny now. Just try saying it and tell me that it's not funny. It's a riot. Oh, those Swedes...

Thursday, May 08, 2008

I am Not a Pot Head

In fact, I haven't had a puff of marijuana in years, nor I have taken anything other than the occasional glass of wine.

But, I just have to say something about a letter to the editor in yesterday's Toronto Star. Jeanette Wiltshire describes marijuana as a gateway drug that causes "an addiction that ultimately spirals into other potent drugs." This is bogus, dude.

I am sure that some people find that marijuana is addictive, like cigarettes or booze. It's probably bad for your lungs too. But, I wish people would drop the garbage about this being some sort of gateway drug. I know lots of professionals, from lawyers, to doctors, to crown attorneys, to professors who have indulged in pot and have never had the need or desire to smoke crack.

Why isn't alcohol labeled a gateway drug? Because it is legal and billions of dollars in profits and tax money are raked in every year. I drink wine and am not addicted to alcohol and have never felt the need to snort coke. I have smoked marijuana and have never been addicted to it and have never felt the need to shoot heroine. In other words, just because something might be addictive to some people doesn't make it a gateway drug.

Addendum: And, besides, how do we know that the gateway drug is not alcohol? Alcohol is generally the first drug that members of our society use, so it would follow that if one takes any other drug, then alcohol (legal and freely-available) should get the blame as having been the gateway drug.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

I Don't Get It

Sales of Grand Theft Auto have surpassed $500 million. Why?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008


I give yesterday's conference a B+. Last year's was worth about a C-. The keynote address was good, despite the presenter's rather boring delivery. Clearly, he tried to be enthusiastic, but it didn't work. One plenary sessions was truly excellent; the other was a pile of dismal mediocrity and I was utterly unconvinced by her strange metrics of technological progress. That's what happens when economists speak to librarians, I suppose. I choose one dud session, but that happens at all conferences.

In August, I will be attending The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions World Library and Information Congress in Quebec City. This is a rare opportunity, for the congress normally meets in rather exotic locations, like South Africa, Korea, and Norway, etc. I am looking forward to this very much, even with a very long train trip (we have to keep costs down, so no flights for us). I am already planning what video files to add to my computer for the trip down and back. Oh, and food - since the train food is generally all gluten-based, I will have to pack a ton of food.

Now, to catch up on a day of missed work, but first, a meeting, and then another meeting...

Monday, May 05, 2008

Conference Day

I decided to test out the new Blogger scheduled posting feature, so I wrote this last night and scheduled a post for 8:00 AM Monday, May 5th. I hope it works.

I am at a day-long conference today. I'll write a real post on Tuesday, but it won't be about the conference, or maybe it will be, since I have no more ideas. I am idea-less.

Friday, May 02, 2008

LSD (or, Confession #5), continued (part 1)

I am not one to immediately jump into a lake because a friend told me to. My method of operation has always been to conduct research about the lake and the dangers of jumping into it first. Only then would I jump.

So, the first thing I did when my friend, K1 (I'll call him K1 to distinguish him from K2), called one day to tell me that he had dropped acid at another friend's house is read a book called Recreational Drugs: Everything You Need to Know About... (by Lawrence A. Young, Linda G. Young, Marjorie M. Klein, Donald M. Klein, et al., Collier Books, 1977).

If someone completely unaware of the cultural and social history of drugs were to read the book Recreational Drugs, I can predict that they would recommend two things: that certain substances like marijuana, hashish, and maybe LSD should not be illegal; they would also enthusiastically argue that nicotine and alcohol should most definitely be illegal. The fact that marijuana is a controlled substance is stupid. Marijuana, as I have said over and over ought to be completely legal and freely available to adults.

The second thing I did was to grab a copy of a Timothy Leary book from my University library (I can't remember which one). I have a different Leary book on my bookcase right now, along with an entire shelf of Aldous Huxley books, including The Doors of Perception. Later, K2 and I watched a film about LSD in the library. I also read some general articles on the substance when I should have been writing my history papers. I also spent an evening surrounded by several tripping people in PB's house, and then went home to finish an essay. My information gathering was complete.

So, to make a long story short, K2 came by one day to my dad's house, and we took acid. The only problem arose when my dad came home from work at midnight. But, I am convinced that he viewed our fits of unexplained laughter as completely normal.

I had two main goals in mind for the evening:

1) Listen to music: K1 told me that Pink Floyd's Animals had never sounded so interesting and that all of his senses, in general, were heightened. I am not sure if he used the term mind-expanding, but that is what he described in essence. I immediatley selected Jon Hassel's Dream Theory in Malaya. After that, we ran though lots of records, but I can't remember what they were.

2) Have sex: Sadly, K2 was the wrong gender, so I concentrated on the music.

I wrote a very long journal entry years later about this experience and later ones, experiences that were not unlike what Albert Hofmann's described is his autobiography LSD: My Problem Child. The day after his second trip, he wrote that all of his senses were "vibrating in a condition of highest sensitivity, which then persisted for the entire day." I can relate to that and I remember having a conversation with a student on campus the next day and feeling like something had sharpened all of my senses.

Perhaps one day, I will post the journal entry, but it might require some censoring.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

LSD (or, Confession #5)

Albert Hofmann, the Swiss dude who discovered LSD in 1938, died on April 29 at the age of 102. One of my goals in life is to live past the 100 year mark. It just makes sense to me. If this guy, Bob Hope, and George Burns can do, so can I. Of course, I'd like to live forever, but that invention is a long way off.

I could tell you lots about the studies and experiments with lysergic acid diethylamide in the quest for curing schizophrenia and other psychiatric disorders or the experiments conducted by the CIA and other intelligence agencies during the Cold War, but that you can easily find on the web. Instead, I will tell you two other stories.

The first is about Father Acid, a tall Rolling Stones fan who lived in my residence during my undergrad. He always had copious amounts of all kinds of drugs at hand, and he liked to trip on acid. Oddly, I did not take any kind of recreational drug during the first two years of my undergrad. I stayed with alcohol, a depressive, psychoactive drug that is probably more dangerous that several of the illegal drugs, but society has deemed it to be acceptable. But, back to Father Acid.

One day, he decided to leave his residence room and live in a tipi (or tepee, teepee) with two other dudes in a park by the river in winter. I wondered how he would survive without electricity to run his stereo system, but that did not seem to concern him. The funny part of the story is that the conservation authority eventually found them and pinned a note to the tipi to alert the squatters that there were living on government land and that they had to move.

Shortly thereafter, he was arrested while in possession of 1000 hits of acid and numerous other drugs, like barbiturates and amphetamines. I remember that he cut his hair prior to his trial, but I have no idea what happened to him after that.

I am running out of time, so part two will have to come tomorrow. I will leave you with a tip: don't buy LSD on the streets as much of it is laced with rat poison.

part 2