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Showing posts from October, 2005

All Hallow's Eve

Hallowe' has certainly changed since I was a kid.
For one thing, the kids come around in packs now. Rarely do I open the door to find one or two little goblins: it's usually a crowd of six or eight. I used to go out alone some years, and other years I'd tag along with a friend, but I was never part of a...what's the collective term for kids soliciting candy? Of course! A cavity of trick-or-treaters. And I surely don't recall seeing such huge cavities, back in the day.
While the clocks did go back an hour last weekend, it seems like Hallowe'en's gone back two or three...most of the action is over by seven p.m. Sure, when I was four or five, I did my trick-or-treating early, too. But when I was ten I wouldn't start until seven--and again, there were plenty of kids out there sharing the street with me.
What has happened to the once ubiquitous UNICEF boxes? Last year we didn't see a single child collecting, and this year I was surprised early on to find a …


Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose...
It's been ten years since the referendum. I predict the next one is fewer than ten years away. The last one was one by the forces of federalism by the comfortable margin of 50.6% to 49.4%. (In Florida they call that a landslide.) The next one...
I very much wanted to go to the big keep-Quebec-in-Canada bash held in Montreal. I had to work that day (it happened on a five years, I got three weekends off.) Hindsight being perfect (depending on whose hind you've sighted), I really should have just buggered off and joined in the fray.
The sovereignty issue kind of fell off the radar in the aftermath of that oh-so-close defeat...everywhere but in Ottawa. On Parliament Hill, it was as if Jean Chretien, the engineer on the national train, had slept through a near-derailment only to jerk himself awake and initiate every countermeasure in the book once the moment of truth had passed. Chretien decided to plaster la belle province

A Hallowe'en Trio

This evening, we journeyed up to Palmerston to have dinner with our friends Dana and Bowe. Once dinner--a not-entirely-compatible-with-the-diet stew--was over with, we walked half a block to the Palmerston Legion, which was putting on a haunted house.

I like haunted houses. The fair-day ones, I mean; I've never, to my knowledge, been in a real one. (Well, there was that one experience in Ailsa Craig...but I'm not going to tell you about it. I'd like to get some sleep tonight.)

I mean it.

Okay, fine. Damn you.

My parents had this obsession: looking at houses. It didn't matter if we'd just moved, they were always touring open houses, looking for the perfect place. Some of them were newly built, but most of them were older. They had a real fondness for Victorian farmhouses, and so many of the places we looked at were either rural or in small towns surrounding London.

The Ailsa Craig home was an anomaly. For one thing, it was further out of town that anything we'd hith…


Amid a flurry of finger-pointing, Dalton McGuinty's Liberals have actually done the right thing for once in evacuating the wretched community of Kashetchewan on James Bay. The media has been going full bore to bring the water woes of this Native community to the top of the news.
About bloody time.
That all levels of government, of all political stripes, have fiddled and farted around while Kashetchewan and scores of like communities have been struggling to cope with Third World conditions...for decades! nothing less than a national disgrace, not demonstrably different from South African apartheid.
Kashetchewan is far from the only Native community in Canada with undrinkable water. And undrinkable water is far from the only problem affecting our Native communities. While some of them are functioning reasonably well, a very great many are afflicted with rampant unemployment, alcoholism, crime, and most of all, despair. Not all of these reserves are way the hell up in the bush wh…

My Most Embarrassing Moment...

I'd like to say it was the time in 1975 when I was learning how to read. I read just about everything in sight, or tried to, in a child's piping voice. A packed donut shop. A miraculous simultaneous lull in thirty conversations allowed my three-year-old self to step right up and confidently read the sign over the counter:

Open! 24! Whores!

Naw, that doesn't count...because I had no idea why everybody was laughing at me.

How about this?

JULY 2, 1988: Niagara Falls, Ontario

It was a hot day.
Beastly hot--the kind of heat where you feel like you're breathing wet gauze. My mom and stepdad had taken me here, somewhat on the spur of the moment. I was having a great time roaming the assorted kitchy, tacky cheese on Clifton Hill, when, in the immortal words of Ace of Base, I saw the sign.

I locked eyes with the The "Be A Star!" sign and was guided as if by tractor beam to the video karaoke place...the first one I'd ever seen, or indeed heard of. For a shower-singer like…

Lotto fever

"The 6/49 jackpot tonight is an estimated $30 MILLION DOLLARS!"
Well, slap my ass and call me Sally....I don't care. And furthermore, you couldn't make me care, not even if you turned in into a Powerball lottery and increased the payout by an order of magnitude.
If you play the lotto, more power to you. I hope you win. Myself, I choose not to.
I used to play, though. Back when I was a university student and money was almost a meaningless concept, I' d pick up a few scratch tickets now and again, and if the national lotteries (6/49 and Super 7) got above a certain threshold, I'd plunk down a two dollar coin or two.
(Aside: The popular name for a $2.oo coin in Canada is a 'toonie'. I can put up with 'loonie'--that coin does, after all, have a loon on it--but 'toonie' offends my English major sensibilities. At the very least, it should be spelled 'twonie'. I tried to--ha-ha--coin the word 'doubloon' to describe our two dolla…

Clearing my mind, ignoring my hands...

Of course, the ideas come fast and furious when it hurts to type them out...

I hear this morning that the federal Liberals are now considering tax cuts. There must be an election coming. After all, for years now they've pooh-poohed the idea of letting us keep a little more of the money we've earned. But now that some reports have the surplus up around ten billion dollars, they want to buy your vote.
Funny thing, too, about that surplus. It keeps bouncing around, from $1.6 billion up to ten billion, depending on the political purpose of the person reporting it. Are there no accounting standards? Or is it just that the Liberals, as Canada's Natural Governing Party ("any other party is unnatural!") are above all that?


I'm sorry, I know I'm harping on a dead horse and mixing metaphors like mad. But I can't help it. Every time a child dies at the hand of his/her parents--whether from neglect or from something even worse--I wonder just what kind of monster…

Lamehand Ken

I am a klutz.
Not a run-of-the-mill, garden-variety klutz, either. An All Star. (Wasn't that song by Smashmouth? Yeah? I've done that. Smashed my mouth, I mean. With my own fist.)
You have to understand just how severe this is: At least once a month I will come home with a cut, scratch or bruise I don't remember getting. I don't remember getting it because it's so routine, my brain edits it right out. More than once I have come home from work actually bleeding.
Eva: "What did you do?"
Ken: "Huh?"
Eva: "Your arm is bleeding."
Ken: (scrutinizes arm) "Huh?"
Eva: "Your other arm!"
Ken: "...oh...yeah...hmmm."
Ah, there's a boost to the ol' self-esteem. Not only am I a klutz, I'm also mentally retarded.
Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, I tripped over something in the office at work--my own feet, a dust mote, a stray sunbeam, I dunno what. I reached out to grab a door frame to steady myself, missed, and bent the …

Fire 'em all

Readers who have been with me for a while know full well how I feel about strikes. For those who have recently squeezed into the Breadbin, very briefly: They're wrong.
Especially illegal strikes, such as the one spreading through British Columbia.
Teachers in B.C. are angry. They want a 15% raise. They want smaller class sizes. They want, they want, and they want. In all of this, it's the students who end up wanting...can't teachers see that?
Reading the BCTF's rationale for the illegal strike is fascinating. They claim to be angry because the government unilaterally extended a previous contract that had been allowed to lapse. In other words, in 2003 the contract was satisfactory; in 2005 it's not. Inflation since the contract lapsed, according to StatsCan, is a little over 2%. So teachers are abandoning their jobs over a little bit more than 2% of their pay.
But wait: there's more!

The previous contract, legislated in 2002,

decreed a 2.5%-per-year salary increase ov…

"The Science of Governance"

This needs a wider circulation! Published in today's Toronto Sun.

Written by G. Mimms in Brampton. I only wish I could take credit for this one...

"A major research institution has announced the discovery of the heaviest element yet known to science -- "governmentium."
It has 1 neutron, 12 assistant neutrons, 75 deputy neutrons and 111 assistant deputy neutrons for an atomic mass of 312. These 312 particles are held together by forces called "morons" that are further surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like subparticles called "peons."
Governmentium has no electrons and is therefore inert. It can be detected, however, since it impedes every reaction it comes into contact with.
A tiny amount of governmentium can take a reaction that normally occurs in seconds and slow it to the point where it take days.

Governmentium has a normal half life of three years. It doesn't decay but "re-organizes," a process where assistant deputy neutrons an…

On This Day...

On This Day, we stand together
And pledge our love for one another
Oh my darling, I will love you
From this moment, there will be no other
--Jody Gregorash, "On This Day"

Today is my fifth wedding anniversary, so please forgive the exceedingly mushy tone of this (rather lengthy) blog entry.
It is our annual ritual to take the week around October 14th off to recharge the batteries. I highly recommend this to any working couple out there: take the week around your anniversary off. It lets you re-connect as a couple and it's a low-cost way to recreate a honeymoon atmosphere.
I've had just cause lately to examine my marriage, because it seems that everywhere I look I'm confronted with divorce. In the past two weeks alone, I've run across several in-depth reports on divorce in various media. Even Dear Abby seems to be covering the topic more of late. Recent stats suggest that if you make it to your fifth year of marriage, there is only a 17% chance of marriage failure i…

Okay, where's the TV camera?

The flipside of yesterday's little rant: products I heartily endorse.


Pregnant women, the elderly and children under 10 should avoid prolonged exposure to Happy Fun Ball.
Caution: Happy Fun Ball may suddenly accelerate to dangerous speeds.
Happy Fun Ball Contains a liquid core, which, if exposed due to rupture, should not be touched, inhaled, or looked at.
Do not use Happy Fun Ball on concrete.Discontinue use of Happy Fun Ball if any of the following occurs:
Tingling in extremities
Loss of balance or coordination
Slurred speech
Temporary blindness
Profuse sweating
Heart palpitations
If Happy Fun Ball begins to smoke, get away immediately. Seek shelter and cover head.
Happy Fun Ball may stick to certain types of skin.
When not in use, Happy Fun Ball should be returned to its special container and kept under refrigeration...
Failure to do so relieves the makers of Happy Fun Ball, Wacky Products Incorporated, and its parent company Global Chemical Unlimited, of an…

Stupid commercials...

Commercials, good or bad, don't affect me at all. Not once since I was a child has a commercial directly convinced me to buy a product or use a service.
I'm a market researcher's worst nightmare: when I watch a television spot, I see things evidently nobody else does, and I miss what everybody else sees, to the point where I often have no idea what it was I just watched.

Here's one current example. It's for the Mazda 6 series of automobiles, and if you've seen a Leafs game this year you've seen this commercial about thirty thousand times already. They've personified the guy's arm hair--stop laughing, I haven't even got to the funny part yet--and it muses about how it (the hair) is 'getting a real workout today'. Cue the narrator as the Mazda 'zoom-zooms' by: "All in favour of a car that drives like this...and looks like this...raise your hair."

That must be one scary automobile, friends and neighbours, because all the gu…

Giving thanks

I don't have to look very hard to find things in my world to be grateful for.

If I look behind me, I see my wife of five years, sleeping the sleep of the sick. In the last month, she's worked 129 hours of overtime, converting to a new computer system at work and forcing it to accept thirty years' worth of exceptions and one-offs at a gulp. Since the stress is over now, her body has let its guard down. It's just a cold, but a bad one; she'll recover soon.
I'm thankful to Eva for marrying me and sticking with me. We've been through more in five years than many marriages see in fifty, and my love for her only grows stronger. Familiarity truly breeds content.

If I look over to the left, I see a little dog-ball named Tux laying on his pillow. A more enthusiastically affectionate creature would be -- truth be told -- frightening. He loves his Mommy and his Daddy and enriches their lives beyond measure.

If Tux wasn't in the room, our two little kittycats would …

And a right! And a left!

A few quick jabs tonight. That's all I have left in me; it's been one of the hardest weeks in my nearly five-year tenure at Price Chopper. Not because of any great burst of customer volume (although it is busy) but because we have been shorthanded every day for four days and counting. To use a hockey analogy (HOCKEY'S BACK!!! YAY!!!) , I feel like I've been killing two-man-disadvantage penalties all week long.

Florida just removed itself from my vacation radar with its ridiculous amendment that allows people to shoot kill...if they "feel threatened". I wasn't even aware just how crazy the gun laws are down there: everybody has the right to carry concealed and if you buy your gun at a show, you can go directly to murdering hostile-looking turban-wearers without passing any of those pesky criminal record checks or psychological profiles. In the land of Mickey Mouse, that's just plain goofy.Quick: name the product advertised in the last TV spot …

I found this interesting.

This is from the website of one of the most intelligent authors I've ever read. His name is Dan Simmons, and he's written what are widely considered to be superlatives in nearly every field he's tackled. I've cut-and-pasted because, come next month, this message will be no more...and it deserves to be preserved.


In a landmark 1979 controlled psychology experiment, Lyn Abramson and Lauren Alloy set up a simple game-show-like situation in their laboratory where subjects were placed in front of a panel that looked rather like the starship control boards on the first-season Star Trek shows – i.e. they held only a green light, a yellow light, and a single spring-loaded button.
The subjects were instructed to try to make the green light flash as frequently as possible. In one trial, the subjects won money each time they caused the green light to flash. In another, the same subjects lost money when they didn’t. After the “game,” the subjects were interviewed about how much …

My name is Ken and I AM CANADIAN...

Every once in a while I think I'm getting too liberal. It's at those times when something of a conservative bent arrives in my mailbox and I think to myself, shit, I agree with most of this stuff. (Most of it.) So what the hell am I, anyway?

My name is Ken, and I am Canadian ...
I am a minority in Oakville, Toronto, and every casino in this country.I was born in 1965, yet I am responsible for some FIRST NATIONS PEOPLE BEING SCREWED OUT OF THEIR LAND in the 1700's.
I pay import tax on cars made in Ontario.
I am allowed to skydive and smoke, but not allowed to drive without a seat belt.
All the money I make up until mid July must go to paying taxes.
I live and work among people who believe Americans are ignorant. Thesesame people cannot name this country's newest territory.
Although I am sometimes forced to live on Kraft dinner and don't have a pot to piss in, I sleep well knowing that my taxes helped purchase a nice six figure home in Vancouver for some unskilled refuge…

Notes on a (web) page

"There's more to music than notes on a page. I can teach you notes on a page. I can't teach you that other stuff."
--Richard Dreyfuss in MR. HOLLAND'S OPUS

I've been playing piano since I was three and composing since I was four. All modesty aside, I'm a pretty fair musician--removed from being a very good one by a lack of discipline. I was largely self-taught, and by the time money came along to enroll me in formal lessons, I had taught myself some terrible habits. For one thing, I had a total disregard for correct fingering. My attitude was 'hey, the right note came out, didn't it? Who cares what finger I used?' This was only a misdemeanor when the pieces were easy, but it became a felony when they got harder, and eventually it defeated my attempts to play anything truly brilliant. And do I have the desire to play brilliantly? You bet. Do I have the discipline to go back and unteach myself all the bad habits I ever learned? Not a chance in hel…