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Showing posts from April, 2006

Alphabetical Blog Compendium Detailing Everything...

....frivolous. God! Hey, I'm just Ken! Let me now opine petty quibbles. Right! Still typing...User welcomes xanthrochroi.* Yes, zestfully...

*Xanthrochroi: fair-haired, pale-skinned people. Only half a lie, by the way: the colour of the hair doesn't matter much, but I am a sucker for peaches and cream--mostly cream--complexions.

Jen, you and your damned memes! I don't feel like writing anything serious today, and so I'll tackle this A-Z theme of yours.

Accent: If I have one, I don't know it. If I attempt one, it always comes out vaguely French-Canadian.

Booze, attitudes towards: I am a teetotaller, not because I have anything against alcohol in and of itself, but because I don't need it. Also, I hate observing its effects in others. That said, I like--used to like, that is--drinks no self-respecting man is supposed to allow anywhere near himself: daiquiris, pina coladas, and especially Long Island Iced Teas. And I think beer tastes like moose piss.

Chore I hate: al…


SOFTWOOD LUMBER DEAL: Not long ago, I said a softwood lumber deal with the U.S. was "iffy at best".
Well, we have a deal. It's kind of iffy, but it's a deal.
America's going to give back four of the five billion dollars it essentially stole from us, and as long as "current conditions" obtain--meaning as long as the price of lumber doesn't fall--Canadian lumber can move freely into the U.S. market. If, however, there is a drop in the price of lumber, an "export tax" of between five and fifteen percent will kick in.
This isn't exactly free trade, but it's a far cry from the 27% import duties levied on Canadian lumber in the past.
The U.S. has been arguing for decades that Canadians subsidize lumber producers, who in turn "dump" their products on the U.S. market for less than the cost of production. Canada, in turn, has taken its case to the World Court and various trade tribunals, winning nearly every time. No matter: the Stat…

In memoriam: Chernobyl, April 26-27, 1986

"Farewell to Pripchat"
by Tim Donnehy

as sung by John McDermott

It was a Friday in April, 1986
The day that the nightmare began.
When the dust it fell down on our buildings and streets,
And entered our buildings at noon.
Touched the grass and the trees, bicycles, cars,
Beds, books and picture frames too:
We stood around helpless, confused,
nobody knew what to do.

At 2:00 Sunday the buses arrived...
a fleet of a thousand or more.
We were ordered to be on our way
not knowing what lay in store.
Some of our citizens fled in dismay
and looked for a good place to hide.
When 4:00 came and the last bus pulled out
'twas the day that our lively town died.

And the shirts, sheets and handkerchiefs crack in the wind,
on the window ledge the withering plants.
And the Ladas and Volgas are parked by the doors,
and the bike's in its usual stance.
Our evergreen tree lies withered and drooped.
They've poisoned our once-fertile land.
The streets speak a deafening silence...
Nothing stirs but the sand.

Car problems

Our '92 Chev Cavalier--"Beastie"--was nearing the end of his automotive life.

He was incontinent. We travelled up to my dad's, a five hour trip, through the kind of monsoon rain normally seen in Bangladesh. The next day, I went out to retrieve something or other and found about four inches of water sloshing around inside.

He had terrible circulation. The following winter, I went out for the ritual morning scrape one day to discover that the ice was all on the inside of the windows. That was about the time the heater failed. For weeks, I would scrape the inside of each window, causing little flakes of snow to shoof down on the dash, the seats, and my own head.

And he had age spots. Giant rusty age spots. Beastie, in short, was not aging gracefully. It was time to replace him.

But with what? We wanted a subcompact with excellent fuel economy and superior reliabilility. Research tended to confirm what we already suspected: an import was the way to go. Checking around on t…

Stuff it!

I try not to be materialistic, but I have a streak of it in me that can't be denied on occasion. It looks at other people my age and wonders what kind of magic it is that they know, what strange incantations they recite, what sleight-of-hand they employ...because so many of them seem to "have it made". That feeling has abated somewhat since I joined the ranks of (a) married people (b) who own cars and (c) their own houses, too; but to my surprise, it hasn't disappeared entirely.

Every year at RRSP time we hear that the maximum contribution is seventy-eight kajillion dollars. I know no legal way of amassing seventy-eight kajillion dollars and so, in my dark and depressive moments, I'm sure I'll die long before I can retire.

I'm missing something...I know I am. Because friends and acquaintances have managed to max out their RRSPs, have mortgages almost paid short, are on the off-ramp to Easy St. I went over to MapQuest and typed in "Easy St.&q…

Done In Like Quinn

So the Mighty Quinn's gone.
Quelle surprise.
Out here in Cup-starved Leafs Nation, we've been clamoring for Quinn's head ever since we were thoroughly outcoached by Philadelphia in the playoffs a few years back. The clamoring got deafening as this season progressed. If Pat kept his job, it would have been a blue-sky miracle.

I gave my report card on the Leafs three weeks back, just as they were starting their improbable late-season run. In it, I gave Pat a D+ and his boss, John Ferguson, Jr., an F. I've since had time to revise my thinking a little.
For one thing, there's this: my pre-season take on the Leafs' chances, in which I praised Fergie's moves and predicted a playoff berth "and possible home-ice advantage".
Looking back with 20/20 hindsight, I can't fault JFJ as much as I'd like to.
Take Belfour, for instance. I argued then (and would still argue now) that the Leafs had no other viable option. Khabibulin was the only other choice availa…

What Harper Needs To Do

So far, I don't mind Stephen Harper overmuch.
As someone who voted for him--and to be fair, I was voting against the Liberals and Mr. Dithers as well as voting for the Conservatives--I expected exactly this kind of centrist, firm governance.
It will be interesting to see what the budget has in store. Certainly Harper has made a big deal of his "five key priorities": reducing health care wait times; reducing the GST; giving parents $1200 a year for each child under six and also funding new day care spaces through tax breaks to business; getting tough on crime; and restoring accountability to government. Five priorities? That's Paul Martin's to-do list for a single day. Boy, it sure is nice not to have a scatterbrain in power.
The David Emerson appointment really rocked my picture of Harper to the foundation. I really didn't think he would play old-style politics, at least not so quickly on the heels of winning an election by pledging not to play old-style poli…

Songs from a life

I have been accused of being too serious with this blog. One friend noted "even when you're funny, you're seriously funny"...something I took as a compliment but it evidently wasn't.
As evidence for my "overwhelming, overweaning seriousness", this selfsame friend noted that I almost never use memes--those cutesy post templates that flit around the blogosphere like teenage girls before the prom. What's your favourite colour? If you were a tree, what tree would you be?
No offense meant, but memes just aren't me. And honestly, does anyone want to know that my favourite colour is gray and that I think of myself as a jack pine? Or that I just made that jack pine reference up, because I'm not a tree and never will be? Didn't think so.
I get people telling me to indulge my inner child every other day or so. Trouble is, I don't have one. I was the man of the house at six and pretty much renounced childhood for good at eleven. Most of the tim…

Merrily we write along...

You'd think I like to break rules, or something.
Ask any published writer what the best route to being a published writer is, and chances are one of the signs on that route will say "read a lot". One of my favourite writers, Dan Simmons, goes so far as to claim that if you can't identify the opening passage of a Hemingway novel on sight, you haven't got what it takes.
Snotty bastard. Why should I read, much less commit to memory, the words of a guy cowardly enough not just to off himself, but to do it in the most spectacularly messy way imaginable?
Another of my writing idols, Stephen King, repeats the advice to read a lot, but at least he doesn't throw little pop quizzes at you..."have you read this? No? Then too bad, so sad, you'll never make it, hahahaha...."
Well, I do read a lot...sort of. I used to range across a wide variety of authors....granted, many of them were, how shall we say, thrust upon me in the course of my abbreviated scholastic c…

Progress report: one year

"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me". Why do I get the feeling the guy who coined that idiotic phrase was verbally abusive?
We're coming up on the one-year anniversary of what surely will rank as the biggest rejection of our lives: being told by Family and Children's Services that we were unfit to parent an adoptive child.
It still looks monstrous written out loud, there, doesn't it? Especially if you've paid any attention to the news over the past year. Maybe we're a bit sensitive, but it does seem as if the media's out to rub it in: one foster kid found starved to death here, another adopted girl sexually abused they really think we're that bad? Worse than that, even, since the majority of these kids in the news had been under the care of Children's Aid at some point or another. Somebody actually felt these parents met the grade...and we don't?
Yes, we're overly sensitive, but when you get bur…

Easter Feaster Knock Ya On Yer Keister

I said it with a smile on my face. Really, I did.
"I'd like to express my displeasure with this next flyer we're running."
Trouble was, I had forgotten that the man to whom I addressed this (not quite) tongue-in-cheek comment lost his sense of humour in a tragic frowning accident years ago.
"Displeasure!" he barked back, and I could almost read his mind: the gall of this guy, suggesting that something in my purview is less than absolute perfection.
"Yes," I said, "I'm short seven bunkers here. There are seven things on sale to which I would normally devote extra space. But I can't, because of the sheer volume of other things on sale."
"Don't talk to me about space," he said. "I worked at ------- and we were busier than you in half the square footage. Besides," he added with a glint in his eye, "we spent several hundred thousand dollars renovating your store to give you more space. And now you're compla…

Step on a tax and break your own back!

Okay, time for my rabid right-winger to make an appearance. This popped up in my email today.

Note: It's what comes *after* this colossal list that *really* peeves me off.

This is NOT Ripley's Believe It or Not...This is Canada!

Better pay up:

1. Accounts Receivable Tax
2. Building Permit Tax
3. Capital Gains Tax
4. CDL license Tax
5. Cigarette Tax
6. Corporate Income Tax
7. Court Fines (indirect taxes)
8. Dog License Tax
9. Federal Income Tax
10. Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA)
11. Fishing License Tax
12. Food License Tax
13. Fuel permit tax
14. Gasoline Tax
15. Hunting License Tax
16. Inheritance Tax
17. Revenue Canada Interest Charges (tax on top of tax)
18. Revenue Canada Penalties (tax on top of tax)
19. Liquor Tax
20. Local Income Tax
21. Luxury Taxes
22. Marriage License Tax
23. Medicare Tax
24. Property Tax
25. Real Estate Tax
26. Septic Permit Tax
27. Service Charge Taxes
28. Social Security Tax
29. Road Usage Taxes (Truckers)
30. Sales Taxes (GST & PST, or HST)
31. Recreational Vehicl…


Nihil est, inquis, quod scribam. At hoc ipsum scribe, nihil esse quod scribas...
You say you have nothing to write about. Well, you can at least write about having nothing to write about...
---Pliny the Younger

I joined the Folio Society for a year a while ago, back when money was a little more plentiful. I found, after the required year's membership was up, that I wasn't enough of a book snob to justify the prices. But the reference set that I got at a steep discount by joining was worth every penny. Dictionaries for everything: world history, phrase and fable, the English language, literature...and this massive quotation dictionary.

Okay, I wasn't thinking too clearly at the time. Or at least, my crystal ball was fritzing. I bet Wikipediahas everything in that reference set packed into one small room on its site.
But leafing through these things, particularly the dictionary of quotations, is such fun. And enlightening. How strange to realize that whatever profound or pithy th…

Can we just start the bloody pandemic, already?

Hey, have you heard about this 'avian flu' thing? I heard the Pope's got it. Yup. He contracted it from his cardinals.
All frivolity aside, I'm so sick and tired of H5N1 you'd think I had it. The media have really gone apeshit over this one, haven't they? A week can't go by without somebody on television blurting out how woefully unprepared the world is for the coming scourge.
Well, the world's unprepared for a whole lot of things. I just found out that almost one in three North American homeowners is living in more house than they can afford: a few upward jogs in the interest rates and they'll find out. The price at the pumps this morning was $1.069 a litre, this on speculation that we might have a bad hurricane season. Better hope that's not true. If the supply of oil is really so unstable that a little speculation can drive up the price by ten cents a litre, think what a real bevy of hurricanes would do. I think it's obvious: we've sca…

Bloggus Interruptus

Hello all,

My work life is about to get HAIRY over the next two weeks--quite possibly the strongest flyer we have ever run. I intend to some point. Can't say when, and certainly can't say on what. Apologies in advance to my faithful readers.

Meanwhile, everyone's welcome to go play in my archives. Here's my top ten, as judged by, um, me, to get y'all started:

Red Letter Day

The Monkey On My Back

The Hard Cell

Things Your Kids Really, Really Want

On Marriage

Night Terrors

Beware the Running Slipknots in the Net

How To Save The World

What Hells May Come

This will be among the most difficult blog entries...

Spring forward, and lose all your clothing.

Hey, everybody! How's about an hour's less sleep?
April Fool's!
What? You thought I was April Fooling you? Well, April Fool's all over that!

When I worked for 7-Eleven, I was always scheduled every 'spring forward' night. I used to dread every night store was surrounded by bars catering to the student crowd, and students, as a rule, drink to excess on nights ending in "y". Thursdays through Saturdays were the worst, as even the poorest students scrounged up enough money to intoxicate themselves on those nights. And of course, special occasions like New Year's Eve, Octoberfest, Hallowe'en (and its attendant Devil's Night), the return of the swallows to Capistrano, any of those and a dozen more would provoke an orgy of casual shoplifting and bring threats of violence or vandalism.
But 'spring forward' night was unique, its own special breed of hell.

Drunken louts aside, the actual job of working a night shift at a 7-Eleven st…