Friday, June 26, 2009


Michael Jackson: I never liked your music. I have never owned any of your music and I never will. The Jackson 5 were OK, though. They had some soul. The single glove never bothered me very much, nor did the pajamas. I'd were pajamas in public if I could get away with it, and maybe even a mask. Why not? I was more confused with ever-changing shape of your face, especially your nose. Why the ski jump at the end? I'd go for something a little more subdued if I were in the market for a new nose. More likely, I'd got for a Tycho Brahe kind of nose.

Ed McMahon: Mr. Sidekick, RIP. I never won the Sweepstakes, not that I tried: the damn thing was way too complicated. I am still not sure if you were funny. My gut says no. It also tells me that you fell short of your potential. Hank Kingsley is the man! Oh yeah, Jeffrey Tambor out-Ed-ed you, my friend. I hope you enjoy showing up unexpectedly at people's houses with big cheques in Heaven.

Farrah Fawcett: You will always be Farrah Fawcett-Majors to me. Damn, I was jealous of the Six Million Dollar Man. He had an action-packed TV show, a hot wife, and action figures in his likeness. And then what? The Fall Guy? A failed film career? I have to wonder if things would have been different had you stayed together. I don't blame you though: he's kind of an ugly man, after all.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Temporary Office

It's always a bit weird using someone else's office. You never know what you might find or what you might see. In this temporary office, I have to contend with the pretty pictures on the wall, the odd things tacked to the bulletin board (like one newspaper item on proper business attire), family photos, a series of post-it notes with indecipherable notes, and the general orderliness of the place. I can help but contrast it with mine. My office is in a state of general disorderliness.

But, it's the ergonomics that really gets me. First, the computer monitor is so far forward on the desk, it looks as if it's about to tip over the edge. How could anyone work with their nose pressed against a computer screen? It makes no sense, and I am certain it would have given me a serious headache to use it like that. Of course, I still remember the days when people placed their monitors on top of telephone books, in an effort to make them as high as possible and strain their necks. That made no sense either.

The first thing that I wondered about, however, was how the hell anyone could sit in her chair? It's the same chair as mine, but it has been organized to make it produce only discomfort and pain. (I should point out that there is an even more uncomfortable chair at our reference desk. We have a staff member who transforms this chair into a device of torture every night. Sitting in this chair has given me insights into the practice of medieval torture.

Don't believe me? Imagine sitting in a chair that causes your feet to lift from the ground and your buttocks to feel as though they have been placed into a vice and pulled down towards the floor. It's probably what sitting in a nutcracker would be like. Both chairs suck.

P.S. Just as I was writing this, someone came in to tell me that I can return to my messy office. Hooray! Back to my comfy chair and sane environment. Oh, happy days.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Some recent reads.

Great Expectations by Charlie Dickens - It's difficult to believe that I had never read any Dickens until recently. I have no explanation for that omission. I took Great Expectations on the airplane with me and dipped into it from time to time during the trip. Part of it was ruined by the fact that I had seen most of that dreadful film adaptation with Robert De Niro. Oh, man, did that suck. So, I was aware of the plot in general. At the conclusion, I decided that I need to read more Dickens, and so I am currently reading Oliver Twist.

Beside the Ocean of Time by George Mackay Brown - I am amazed that this writer is not more famous. True, he is dead, but one can be famous and dead, right? I mean, he didn't die that long ago, after all. Still, he is dead, and people sometimes forget about the dead, except for Elvis, JFK, and Kurt Cobain, and if my information is correct, Elvis is alive somewhere in the American midwest eating donuts and deep fried bacon and peanut butter sandwiches. That must be the life. Being a dead writer must not be so glamorous. Well, Shakespeare is fondly remembered. Anyway, George Mackay Brown wrote lots of books: poems, stories, novels, non-fiction, etc. He was a real writer. Now, he is dead. The good news is that you can catch up and read everything because it's not like he is going to write anything else. Dead people don't tend to write very much, although there always seems to be something else found in papers and notebooks, just like when singers die and the record companies decide to release songs that were never meant to see the light of day. Or, the company releases a bunch of live stuff or simply repackages songs in a never-ending stream of best of and greatest hits packages, as has happened with The Smiths. But, wait, they are all still alive. Just imagine what might happen when they pass on.

The Three Cornered Hat by Pedro Antonio de Alarcón: -This is a short lusty tale set in 18th Century Andalusia featuring a rather ugly magistrate who tries to seduce the Miller's gorgeous wife. It features clothes swapping, mistaken identities, misunderstandings, midnight escapades, etc. It's like something Chaucer might have written. It's a fast but enjoyable read.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Series of Unfortunate Events

Wednesday morning - my modem/router seems to be dead. I unplug it for the day and hope for the best when I get back that evening.

Wednesday evening - my modem/router is dead. I call Sympatico and get put through a series of maneuvers that I already attempted with no luck, but I play along anyway. The verdict: they are sending me a new modem/router. I should expect it to arrive "in a few days."

Thursday morning - No hot water! I go downstairs and note that the basement tenant is doing laundry. Can he have used all of the hot water? It could be so...

later Thursday morning - I accidentally smash a plate on the floor. I get the broom. I cycle to work without a shower.

Thursday evening - Still no hot water. I think I can hear the dryer still running in the basement. I call the tenant but his phone is out of service. I knock on his door and get no answer. I enter, fearing that something must be wrong. The floor is flooded with water, most of it heading towards a floor drain. I switch off the dryer, which clearly has been running all day.

still Thursday evening - I call the gas company and get a four-hour service window for the next day. I shut the water off to prevent any more damage.

Friday morning - I call work to say that I am not coming in because of my plumbing issues and add that I cannot work from home owing to a lack of internet connectivity. I volunteer to take a vacation day, leaving me with only 8 more weeks this year. Somehow, I have amassed a large amount of vacation :-)

Friday noonish - Gas person shows up within the last 20 minutes of his four-hour service window. My heater is dead, something I already knew. A replacement tank will arrive in two hours.

Friday afternoon - Hot water tank shows up 3.5 hours later. It's installed in 45 minutes. I spend precious time cleaning up the mess. While it's being installed, I watch my neighbour back out of his driveway and knock over a tank the repair dudes left sitting by the side of the road. The driver looks around quickly and decides to flee.

Friday afternoon - I illegally connect to a very very slow open internet connection and discover that the power to my office at work has been shut down. What would I have been able to do at work had I been there, I wonder?

Monday morning - I roll into work and have no office, so I make inquiries. No one seems to have considered where I should set up a temporary office. I seek out a student computer lab, where I now sit. I am thinking of grabbing a laptop from our tech guys (once they show up) and heading to a green space outside, since it's about 95 degrees in this building anyway because of some sort of building-wide AC issue.

Maybe I should go home and go back to bed?

Monday, June 15, 2009

More Proof that the World is Ending

My sister now has a Facebook account. While you may not think that this is strange, let me put it into context. It would sort of be like finding out that your mother has been a CIA agent for the last 25 years, or that your 85 year-old grandmother is a swinger.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Star Trek

My one short review is: well, it didn't suck, but I thought it would have been better.

I have seen all of the films and many of the episodes from the various TV series. I liked the idea of rebooting the franchise with a new cast and a new look. In that respect, I would say that this film was far more successful than Enterprise, the lame Star Trek prequel series, made interesting mostly because of Jolene Blalock ;-) Well, and the doctor character was really good. Other than that, it stank pretty much, but I watched it anyway, hoping that it would get better.

As much I as like Leonard Nimoy, and as much as I truly believe that the character of Spock is perhaps the best character created in the Star Trek Universe -- except for T'Pol, of course -- it must be evident by now that Leonard Nimoy is not such a great actor. I didn't really like that part of the story line, maybe because his part in the development of the plot was rushed over way too fast. On the other hand, Sylar as Spock kind of works.

The movie is certainly enjoyable: there is lots of action, lots of things explode, people die. The movie does not drag at all. I didn't really see the need for the Kirk car chase flashback scene at all. I would have left that strip of film on the cutting room floor.

So, I give it a 7/10. Last night, my rating was a 6, but it improved with sleep. So that, ladies and gentlemen, is my lass ass review.

By the way, after the show, we caught Tales of the Uncanny, a 90-year-old silent German film at Dundas Square. A live soundtrack was contributed by Robert Lippok, Owen Pallett, and Do Make Say Think, one of my favourite bands. Sadly, the rain interfered. Damn you Mother Nature!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

I've got the Toronto Cycling Blues

It takes only a visit to the bike-friendly parts of Europe to realize that Toronto's cycling infrastructure sucks eggs. Rolling into Amsterdam on the train, I looked out my window and could not believe what I saw. There were literally thousands of bicycles parked at the train station. So numerous were the bikes, that platforms for bike parking had been constructed to accommodate them all.

Throughout the city, bikes are everywhere, taking up all of the available parking spots. In fact, with so many bikes, there are not enough places to lock the bikes, so people have resorted to locking the wheel to the frame and then propping the bike on its kickstand or leaning it against a wall. Many bike parking shelters lack any secure object that one could use to lock the bike.

The most amazing thing is the network of bike lanes, complete with traffic signals just for bikes! There are pedestrian signals, car signals and bike signals. And, what's more impressive is that these bikes lanes are generally separated from traffic. Amsterdam is a bike paradise.

Other things I noticed:

- no one wears helmets
- most of the bikes are old-school, with few or no gears and ancient brakes
- no bike cops to be seen anywhere
- people talk on cell phones and text message while riding or driving scooters
- they pile as many people on bikes or scooters as possible

Really, we saw lots of people doubling (which I think is illegal here). I saw entire families on one scooter. We saw a woman carrying a baby in a sling on a scooter with two other kids on the back. There are bikes with huge wooden "wheelbarrows" at the front where you can drop several kids or a family of four. People are adept at riding bikes, and the only thing I saw that might have one-upped anything we saw in Amsterdam was a man in Geneva who was cycling while picking his nose. Now that probably requires a great deal of concentration.

Back in TO, I felt really nervous getting back on my bike, despite having been a year-round cyclist for years. It seems wrong to put bikes on the road with huge cars and trucks. On the second day of riding after my return, some idiot is a yellow car turned right without shoulder-checking and almost took me out. He should have to re-sit his road-test to remind him that mirrors are not enough, especially while driving on a road with a bike lane clearly marked in white paint.

Toronto languishes in the dark ages of cycling, while Europe is living the dream. This sucks and it really pisses me off.

Monday, June 08, 2009

1 in 70,000,000

I recently read that the odds of being in a plane crash and dying are one in seventy million. Another article I read put the odds at one in five hundred thousand. The second source added that, statistically, you could survive as many as four out of five crashes. Either way, these are pretty good odds.

The first piece of news we heard after landing last week was that Air France flight 447 had gone missing. I haven't done the calculations, but it is possible that we were in the air when that plane crashed. The news kind of freaked me out.

I have never really been afraid of flying, but the thought that the aircraft might fall from the sky while I am on it always crosses my mind whenever I board an airplane. It strikes me as a particularly heinous was to die. If I could rank the ways in which I would like to pass on, a plane crash would be at the very bottom, right after immolation.

So, I was very happy to be on firm ground in my part of the world, where I could do such peaceful things as navigate the streets of Toronto on a bike, something that seems far more dangerous having been to bike-friendly Europe. But, more on that later.

Here is another tiny elevator:

With backpacks on, we often had to enter the elevator backwards or exit backwards. It was difficult to turn around. This elevator was so narrow, I could not stand sideways in it, as it was not wide enough for my shoulders.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Relaxing in le jardin du Luxembourg

That's the Luxembourg Palace in the distance, just beyond my feet and the palm tree. It was all quite relaxing and wonderful until the skies opened up. Sure, we had umbrellas, but what we really needed was an Ark.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

There are Some Small Elevators in Paris

I am in another all-day meeting...

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The Numbers

Countries visited - 4
Cities visited - 11
Days away - 21
Flights - 2
Flight delays - 1
Train trips - 18
Train delays - 0
Times getting on the wrong train - 1
Times booted from 1st class for accidentally sitting there - 2
Times harassed for being in 1st class, despite having valid tickets - 1
Bus trips - 2
Boat trips - 2
Boat trips to unexpected destinations - 1
Photos taken - 1172
Videos shot - 2
Propositions received from prostitutes - 1
Hours spent in bed recovering from the flu - 58
Items accidentally smashed in a supermarket - 1
Accidents witnessed (bike vs car) - 1
Red light districts seen - 3
Comedic tram conductors encountered in Amsterdam - 3
Workmen accidentally locked into office and then freed - 1
Baptisms attended - 1
Glasses of champagne consumed after baptism - several...
Percentage improvement in my French after champagne - 100%
Number of Polish waitresses who couldn't understand French in Geneva - 1
Dutch words I learned - 3
Euros left over - 20
Swiss Francs left over - 15
Roast chickens eaten - too many to count

Monday, June 01, 2009

Back in Town

After three weeks away, I have returned.  The last six days in Switzerland were lacking any sort of internet connection. Anyway, I am tired and need sleep as I stupidly did not take tomorrow off from work :-(  Good night.