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Showing posts from 2004

Out with the old....

I used to hate New Year's Eve, perhaps more than any other day of the calendar.
On December 31, 1991, I went in to work the midnight shift at 7-Eleven without any sense of foreboding, lacking any premonition at all. I emerged very much scathed ten hours later, my opinion of humanity battered, my soul seriously hardened.
I had started at 7-Eleven scarcely two months prior, and was not yet entirely comfortable in the job. But because of my rookie status, I wasn't entitled to stat holiday pay for New Year's Day--only to time and a half--and so it was deemed profitable to throw Ken to the wolves. Alone.
The night was cold, and it was snowing heavily. The first hour of the night dragged by with very few customers, and the streets were all but deserted as midnight approached, struck, and passed.
Half an hour into 1992, it hit.
Seemingly from nowhere, a flood of drunken revellers cascaded into the store. The torrent quickly intensified until there seemed to be no room for anyone else…
This will be among the most difficult blog entries yet. But it must be written.
In fact, to write about anything other than the earthquake and resulting tsunamis that have ravaged ten countries...would be an insult to the tens upon tens of thousands of people who have lost their lives. To even pretend that something happening in my own life should take precedence over this catastrophe would be unspeakably arrogant of me.
Nevertheless, I want to shirk this duty. I'm afraid my limited skill as a writer will utterly fail to convey the sheer scope of devastation and horror. I'm not sure words exist in English to describe it. I'm not even sure it should be attempted. But it has to be. It has to be.

Before all else, flocks of birds.
They darkened the sky overhead, thousands of them, millions; blotting out the moon, screaming as if the winds of Hell were after them.
Then, flocks of animals.
Predator, prey, it made no difference as they trampled through the forest, an overpowering urge…

Happy Boxing Day

You never hear anybody wishing you a Happy Boxing I thought maybe I would. Just to be, you know, different.
Just got back from the in-laws and Christmas #2. Again, really nice to be up there, but this time even nicer to be back. Their house is emphatically their house. They like it warm. Really warm. The kitchen has an indoor/outdoor thermometer and the indoor reading was topping out at 28 degrees at one point. Add to the the effluent from a couple of chain smokers and the floating fur of three large dogs and a cat, and let's just say the air here tastes sweet.
It was a wonderful Christmas, though. We reaped a whirlwind of stuff, and I got a CD and signed sheet music from a pianist/composer friend of Eva's mom's. Just the right level of difficulty for me, too. Watched A Christmas Story, which is the funniest Christmas movie ever made, for my money; got to chow down on Eva's brother's turkey, which was delicious. After five years, I'm still not as comfo…

Some of you have undoubtedly been waiting for this...

Remember Ken, the guy who loved winter? The guy who would would cheer every time there was a blizzard and just generally spread totally unwelcome joy on everyone with every centimeter of snow?
Yeah. That guy died.
He died tonight, shovelling the driveway for the fifth and by far most difficult time this season. You could hear the sound of his death. It sounded remarkably like the shovel that snapped in his hands as he tackled the oft-cursed mound of plough-snow left like a titanic pile of guano at the foot of the driveway.
Winter-loving Ken's last word was, predictably, an expletive.

Meet the new Ken. This Ken detests snow. While he shares with his predecessor a strong dislike for summer, with its searing heat, soaking humidity and sticky ickiness, he wouldn't be at all disappointed with perpetual autumn. He'd still like the nights to plunge below zero--the better to cuddle you with, my dear--but he'd very much like it if he never saw another flake he had to shovel.


Ban the butt?

First of all, let me get something crystal clear: I hate cigarettes.
I hate cigarettes with a visceral fury that overpowers rational thought. The mere sight of one dangling from somebody's lips repulses me. Whenever I see somebody smoking, there's a small part of me that wants to reach out and grab the cancer stick and crush it between my fingers. And when I see smokers drop their butts on the ground, I want to plant their faces into the pavement and make them eat the damned things.
Given this incredibly strong feeling, you'd think I'd be happy to hear about Cambridge Memorial Hospital. Here's a place that has outlawed smoking...everywhere. Not within the building. Not on the grounds. Not even in your car. If you're caught smoking anywhere on the property, you can be charged with trespassing.
Yeah, you'd think I'd be applauding this place.
I'm not.
I understand their a point. Cambridge Memorial Hospital is, by definition, a health care pro…

Broken Koebels

Stan and Frank Koebel were sentenced today.
Their negligence was directly responsible for seven deaths and over two thousand sickened people. Some of those sickened people have not yet recovered.
Some of them never will.
The Koebels were in charge of the water supply in Walkerton, Ontario. For those of you with a short memory for scandal, they deliberately falsified records, neglected to monitor chlorine levels, and ignored repeated warnings that the water was contaminated with E. coli bacteria.
An inquiry seemed to place equal blame on the Koebels and their putative boss, the provincial government. The government "failed to make reporting of positive tests for contamination mandatory" and the Koebels were not properly trained to do their jobs.
A couple of thoughts spring to mind here. Let's create a little town somewhere in Ontario. We'll call it Breadbinville. Congratulations: you're in charge of the water supply in Breadbinville. What was that? You don't k…

No heat, please, we're Britt-ish...

We left yesterday at 5:00 in the morning for UP NORTH. Why so early? Several reasons:
leaving Friday night after work means Toronto's rush hourit also means braving snowsquall country in total darkness. No, thank you5:00 isn't too much earlier than we normally arise, anyway.I'd been paying serious attention to the weather. At any given time you can expect one of our three televisions to be tuned to the Weather Network. Eva sometimes asks me why I can't just look out the window, and I have no satisfactory answer for her. I just like weather, that's all. But as much as I want to see doom and gloom, when there's a road trip afoot, I'd prefer that said doom and gloom keep to the right and left of the highway ahead.Of course, there's a snowsquall warning in effect along our route. Thankfully, it's confined to an area north of Pointe Au Baril Station: that is to say, the last twenty minutes of our jouney.For once, the trip up was completely uneventful. Yo…

All of life's a game...

I would have been eight years old the first time I saw a video game. Mr. Allard, my grade two teacher, saw the future coming. He brought a Commodore PET into the classroom. The PET was the grandfather of the Commodore 64. It had minimal sound, exactly one screen colour--light green on dark green--and less memory than today's dollar-store pocket calculators. Nevertheless, there were games written for it, some of them educational in nature, and I can remember playing one of them during recesses. An addition problem was presented at the bottom of the screen and various possible solution numbers came floating down from the top. You had to shoot the right number before it hit the ground.
My father bought a Pong game soon after, and that was my first time playing a game that had no educational value whatsoever. Pong, for those of you under a certain age, was all the rage in the late seventies. It was table tennis, played with bleep-bleep sound and blocky graphics. The paddles were rectan…

The pen may be mighter than the sword, but...

...the Ken is much mightier than the pen.
I've never met a pen I couldn't break. In fact, most pens last less than an hour on my person before they either run dry (annoying) or blow up (even more annoying). About once every two weeks, the pen I bring to work in` the morning accompanies me home that day, still functional.I'm sure it's breathing hard, though. And cursing my name in its quiet, scritchy-scribble of a voice.
I'm sure your workplace, dear reader, is just like mine: you see a pen and YOINK! into the pocket it goes, right? One of the people at my work, I kid you not, has twenty or more pens on her at any given time. She sucks them up as if by magic. Pens are forever getting lost and found and making the rounds from employee to employee. More than once I have asked to borrow a pen, only to be given one I tossed away months ago. Didn't work for me, you know. I have become Death, destroyer of Pens. I pounce on them with alacrity, only because I know the c…
Tomorrow, the Supreme Court of Canada will almost certainly recognize same-sex marriage.
Today, I read the first coherent argument I have seen against the prospect. It was written by a Catholic priest (surprise, surprise) in the National Post. I have tried to retrieve the article electronically, but alas, in order to read the Post online you must subscribe to it. Silly. This forces me to paraphrase what I read,and it went something like this:

Gay marriage is not the beginning of the end of marriage, but rather the end of the end.
The beginning of the end came with no-fault divorce, a development which allowed married couples to break their contract pretty much on a whim (why stay married?); the middle of the end was common-law relationships (why even get married at all); and now we have same-sex marriage, which allows any two people to marry. Marriage has thus devolved from a sacred contract, almost impossible to break, into something that seems meaningless, since any couple can do it, …

A few items of interest...

Judging from the carnage on the roads today, many Canadians have once again forgotten how to drive.
It happens every winter: the first bit of snow and ice magically causes mass amnesia in the part of our brains concerned with responsibly operating a motor vehicle.
It's not as if there weren't enough assholes on the roads in the middle of June.
I never found driving, what very little I did of it, fun. That's because I couldn't banish the thought that I was supposed to be controlling a ton and a half of hurtling steel and glasss, while trusting a bunch of utter strangers were doing the same...all at speeds up to ninety or more feet a second. That thought wouldn't leave my mind; it wouldn't even recede into the background. Ninety feet a SECOND! Christ! Put baldly like that, it almost seems an invitation to suicide.
There are still a lot of people out there who claim to enjoy this kind of thing. Their numbers do grow fewer, though, as the proportion of utter strangers…

Why are you reading this blog when you could be reading...

I received an email today from Robert Sawyer (, perhaps the best known and most-accomplished Canadian science fiction writer. I had written to praise his recent trilogy The Neanderthal Parallax...and also to point out a little boo-boo I found in the third book. More on that later.
The Neanderthal Parallax is on my "this book really ought to be required reading for everyone" list. (More on that later, too.) Sawyer posits an alternate Earth wherein Homo sapiens died out and Homo neanderthalensis went on to found a civilization. Ponter Boddit, a Neanderthal physicist, breaks through into our universe (right into the heavy water tank at the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory, in fact). Rescued, he is confronted with his first sight of Gliksins, a variety of humans that had been extinct in his world for thousands of years.
He's then confronted with our society, which is radically different from his own. Sawyer has done a masterful job at world-building here. The Nean…

You're married, not dead...

She Ain't Pretty, She Just Looks That Way....
--The Northern Pikes

I've probably heard it, or a variant of it, fifty times since I exchanged vows with my wife. And it's yet another in a seemingly neverending series of things that I'll never quite understand.
It's spoken in a tone of patient exasperation mixed with incredulous wonder: the kind of tone you'd expect to hear directed at a moronic extraterrestrial. You'd think I'd be used to that tone by now. Unfortunately, it's another in a seemingly neverending series of things I'll never get used to.
There are an awful lot of men in this world who get a rise, figurative and literal, out of looking at pretty women. Which is all well and good and to be expected, I suppose. But they always have to spread the cheer. "Would you look at that?" "Check out the tits on her!" "Whew, don't you want to take her home and give her a tour of the ceiling?"
Well, I didn't see her,…

Pssst...wanna hear some secrets?

The price of gas is sitting at 68.5 cents a litre here today.
And you'd think it was free, the way people are lining up to get it.
Now, granted, I haven't seen gas at this price for a couple of years at least. And I also know--as does everyone else, apparently--that tomorrow's price is very likely to be ten cents a litre higher. It always goes up Monday night here; it's axiomatic.
But as usual, I don't get it.
Okay, let's do the math together. The average fill-up (I know this from my days working at a gas station) is about 30 liters. That means a $3.00 saving if you fill up tonight versus tomorrow. But you've got to wait fifteen minutes to fill up if you do it tonight.
How much is your time worth? Mine's worth a lot more that $12.00 an hour.
(Caveat: if you have an SUV sitting on dead-nuts empty, you can put in 120 liters and save yourself $12.00. Then again, if you're driving an SUV around the Greater Toronto Area, and you bought it, and it's y…

Welcome to today's Breadbin.

The special for this evening is whole roasted aardvark. Unfortunately, we ran out of forks an hour ago, so patrons will have to eat with their fingers.

A little potpourri for the day, beginning with some questions...

WHY is the cursor on the Blog entry screen usually about three spaces to the right of where it should be?WHY do my pants still try to slither down my legs no matter how tightly I cinch my belt? Am I the only human being shaped this way?WHY are so many people not content to live in harmony with whatever their vision of God may be, but instead want to jam their God down my throat so I choke?After all these years and Public Service Announcements, WHY does anyone start smoking?Then again, if smoking is so addictive, how is it that many people only smoke in bars?If stock prices always go up when companies merge, and also go up whenever layoffs are announced, shouldn't one company make everything and employ nobody but machines?Apparantly, 26% of Canadians own more than one …

Parrish the thought!

For all the bitterness dividing Paul Martin from his predecessor, Jean Chretien, the two do share some political traits. One is the ability to do the right thing for entirely the wrong reasons. Another is an absolute insistance on party loyalty., meaning, specifically, loyalty to the Leader. Both came into play in l'affaire Parrish.
History will record that maverick Liberal MP Carolyn Parrish was exiled from caucus on this day, after over a year's worth of intermittent sniping at Americans. Here is a woman who has developed an appetite for her own feet. Her bons mots of note: "Damn Americans, I hate those bastards"; those in Iraq were "the coalition of the idiots" ; George Bush is a "stupid, stupid man" and a "warlike" man to boot. History might further record that the last straw came when Parrish, in a taping of This Hour Has 22 Minutes, stomped on a George Bush doll.
History would be wrong.
Paul Martin was all ready to accept Parrish&…

Let's talk about sex...

Okay, now I have to go see this movie, Kinsey.
Dr. Laura is calling for a boycott. So that means this movie is required viewing.
Various right-wing and fundamentalist groups are trying to make Kinsey the next touchstone in the cultural wars.Supposedly this movie is a boon to the 'homosexual movment' (because Kinsey was reputed to be bisexual) and a goldmine for the 'pedophile movement' (because Kinsey dared to ask children about their sexuality). Who knew there was such a thing as a pedophile movement? Sounds like something a bunch of Bush voters dreamed up.
Kinsey, for those who don't know, published a couple of landmark studies in sexuality, one in 1948 concerning men and one in 1953 concerning women. Among his findings: ten percent of men are gay, and half are at least somewhat bisexual; nearly all men masturbate; extramarital affairs were remarkably common. On women, Kinsey noted that a vast majority of those who had acheived orgasm had done so solely through se…

So long Dory, we hardly knew ye

Dory, our resident squirrel, hellraiser and B.B.-baiter, is off to a (hopefully) happier home.
God knows this one didn't work out.
Streak was mostly neutral on Dory. She'd hiss and growl only if the kitten approached her wanting to play, but would avoid her the rest of the time. B.B, on the other hand, actively stalked her, no fooling around. At least once a day (or more likely, once a night) we'd be treated to the aural spectacle of two cats having a melee. Imagine, in your mind's ear, a 78 rpm recording of ten kittens being stepped on, played at 33 1/2. That's been our house for the last little while.
At the very first, B.B reacted very badly to the new kitten. After a couple of days, though, you could see her trying to make friends. Unfortunately, she'd made a piss-poor first impression and Dory was having none of it. So B.B. figured 'okay, this cat hates me, I can hate it too'. Cue the yowling hissyfits.
For some reason, it mortally offended B.B. to…

Ups and Downs

Last night, we went and visited Eva's friend Lisa, her husband Craig, and their little boy, Jake. They live in uptown Waterloo. If my childhood spent slogging through house after house is any guide, theirs was built around the turn of the last century, and it's positively gorgeous.
I got to revisit my own childhood there. They just got a piano, an upright about the age of the house, fairly similar to one that used to be mine. I played half of a tune on it and realized right quick that I will never own another piano.
The proper term for the instrument is 'pianoforte', meaning 'soft-loud', but really they ought to call the things 'forte-fortes', because--and here's something I forgot--it's damn near impossible to play one quietly...or at least at the volume I normally play my electronic keyboard.
I'm okay with this. Eventually I will get a full size electric piano...with a headphone jack.
Craig dragged out some of his old Hot Wheels to go with J…