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Showing posts from August, 2008


Listeriosis. I'd never heard of it until last week, and when I did first hear the word, I thought it was a disease you got from drinking too much mouthwash.
I know better now, believe me.
There are three classes of food recall. Class III recalls are--well, they're not really "voluntary", no recall is, but they're not terrifically concerning. (Which is not to suggest they're ignored.) These recalls are quite common: we usually see at least one a week. In a typical Class III, something got into a batch of--let's say ice cream, that's the last one I had--and spoiled the flavour. It's a QA thing: the company requests we pull the product, not because it poses any kind of health issue, but because somebody might bring it home, have a wee taste and go bleccccchhh.
Class II recalls are actually fairly common as well--about one a month, give or take. Typically the culprit here is nuts: some nuts got into a batch of something that's not supposed to contain…

Back in Barack

Well, didn't he just nail that one?'

Here's the speech in its entirety. (WARNING: This runs 45:08. DO NOT HIT PLAY IF YOU'RE ON DIAL-UP.)

Here's a transcript, courtesy The New York Times, for those with less-than-blisteringly fast connections.

Highly impressed with this one. Obama finally coupled his soaring rhetoric with some solid policy. We begin to get the picture of what "Change" actually means. A ten year commitment to wean America off foreign oil. The closing of corporate tax loopholes. A nationalized health-care system.
More: a paradigm shift away from corporations and towards individuals. I was particularly moved by Barack's insistence that he will not attack McCain the person--indeed, 'we owe him our gratitude and respect'--only his policies. Just that one statement alone goes a long way towards reinforcing my belief that Barack Obama is a decent man and worthy of anyone's vote.

I hope he gets the majority of votes in November. I …

To sleep, perchance to count a bunch of crap

Sorry to my readers for that unscheduled blog break. I never intend to go a week without posting, but sometimes I can't help it. No energy, no time.
We had an inventory at work this past week.
The fresh departments (produce, meat, and bakery/deli) have these every month, and they have to count every last item and input it all into the computer besides. They look at me with envy because the grocery department only has semiannual inventories and I don't even have to count the stock out on the sales floor, only the stuff in my cooler and freezer.
Only that. No problem, eh?
I usually work afternoons the day before the inventory. The dairy cooler only takes an hour or so to count, but the freezer's another story. That freezer has been the bane of my existence for more than seven years. Try as I might, I just can't get it organized, let alone keep it that way. Product migrates in there and has a hell of a time migrating back out. Despite repeated exhortations, somehow quarter-…

"They're in the process of owning food. All food."

"You have to be genetically modified to resist toxic chemicals if you're going to have a hope of survival around here"

"You have to watch this film", Eva said to me the other day. "I've sent you a link. It's almost two hours long, and within ten minutes you'll be engrossed. I'm not saying you have to blog about it...but I bet you'll want to."
Damn woman knows how to hit every button I have.

I carry a huge dose of skepticism into any of these documentaries. I'm acutely aware that many of them are heavily laden with propaganda and spin, that facts are often ignored or distorted. Still, as I get older I'm becoming a little more paranoid, a little more open to the possibility that some conspiracy theories may have a kernel, or more than a kernel, of truth to them.

I opened up the email message and noted the title of this film, which runs 108 minutes. "The World According To Monsanto: A Documentary Americans Won't Ever Se…

Does This Happen To Anyone Else?

It's midnight, or three a.m., or half past the armpit of the night. LATE, is what I mean. Or early. Certainly not any time you'd expect to have your sleep interrupted by a ringing telephone.

Yet there it is, ringing, jolting you up and out of sleep. Long distance. The call display shows...nothing beyond "Long distance". Or "Name and number unavailable". Sometimes "Private number". The first few times this happened, the display read "thunderking_96".
If you actually pick up the phone--something that rarely happens in this house--you'll hear a babbling cacophony that qualifies as a kind of aural art. Or would, if you weren't so bleary-eyed and pissed off.

The typical "message" lasts between ten and thirty seconds and has at least six discernable tracks. Three of them are answering machine outgoing messages. The other three, or six, or ten, are people yakking away about everything and nothing in particular, interspersed with …

The Machine Stops

"YouTube is where you find out what's happening. Facebook is where you fix it."
--anonymous 13-year-old girl, as reported in today's Toronto Star

If you've a little time and half a mind for an entertaining diversion, I'd urge you to read this story, by E.M. Forster. It was my first real speculative fiction experience, read sometime in high school. I've since gone back and reread it several times, and my admiration for Forster's prescience continues to grow; it's now to the point where I've begun to wonder if he had access to some kind of time travel. The world he describes in here feels eerily similar to our own...moreso with every passing year.

I fancy myself to be pretty connected to what's going on. I listen to 680 News out of Toronto almost religiously..."three, four, five times a day", just as its advertisements ask me to. I watch Global National and the News Hour most nights. I've got a weekend subscription to the Star, t…

Olympic Report: Day 5

Are we ever in fine fail form so far this Games.

Five days. Zero medals. Canadian records galore, particularly in the pool, which is Phelping fast--but no medals.


I'll get back to Team Canada later. For now, some reflections on Beijing's coming-out party.

The opening ceremonies were, as far as I'm concerned, nonpareil. I simply can't imagine how you'd even go about trying to surpass them. Jaw-dropping followed brain-boggling followed awe-inspiring until I was left mesmerized, benumbed, exhilarated and drained in equal measure.
Yet I've run into people who were deeply disturbed by the spectacle.
As with anything else, you got out of those opening ceremonies what you put into them. If you admire a culture that has lasted longer than any on earth, you relished the show it put on. If the thought of 1.3 billion people bound by a communist tyranny scares the wits out of you, then 2008 drummers performing in perfect unison, each with a frozen grin on his face, exhib…

Next on the chopping block: left-wing blogs.

Aren't people supposed to get more conservative as they age? If so, why am I finding myself going increasingly liberal?
I expected an election last fall. This fall, I'm demanding one. Harper has gone stale.
Well, truth be told, Harper always was stale. But now he's going toxic.
It was, in the end, a small thing that turned me against the Conservatives: small on the surface, but oh so telling. On Friday, it was announced that the PromArt program would be killed by spring, saving a piddling $4.7 million.
PromArt is a federal grants program under the aegis of Foreign Affairs. Its purpose is--was--to promote Canadian culture abroad.
Now I'll grant you, I'd question some of the grants that have gone out. I'm not sure, for example, how a band called "Holy Fuck" promotes Canadian culture here or anywhere. But rather than put some simple restrictions in place--in order to be deemed eligible for funding, profanity and gross indecency must be entirely absent--Harp…

People for the Emotional Trivializing of Atrocity

Way to go, PETA. Way to convert people to your cause.

That People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals would even consider running an ad in a Portage La Prairie, Manitoba, newspaper with this copy:

...absolutely enrages me.And while the newspaper (rightly) rejected the ad, PETA remains unapologetic. Basically, they're accusing anyone who has a problem with that ad of gross insensitivity towards animals.Fuck 'em, I say. I say PETA has a gross insensitivity towards humans.Gee, why weren't these people out in force on September 12, 2001 with a lovely photo of roast pigs, hooves lovingly entwined, falling from the inferno of the World Trade Center? As a follow up to this ad, were they going to go to Tim McLean's family's door right around suppertime and, if meat was on the menu, tell them they might as well be eating their son?Infuriated doesn't even begin to describe it.I care about animals. My wife cares deeply about animals. And her dad's a part-time butcher,…

Death On A Bus

I didn't want to write about this. Quite frankly, it turns my stomach.

But it's one of those stories that gets into your head. It sits there, quietly tumescent, causing you to consider things you've never thought before--should bus terminals have metal detectors? how, precisely, do you spot the madman before he goes mad?--and before you know it, the story's up and stampeding around with a hunting knife, hacking and whacking. To forestall that moment, I think I'd better vent some of the story-pressure.

The bare facts: Tim McLean, 22, was stabbed, beheaded, and partially cannibalized on a Greyhound bus en route to Winnipeg from Edmonton, allegedly by 40-year-old Vince Weiguang Li. All reports I've read suggest this was an unprovoked attack by a stranger.

The suspect does not have a criminal record.

Reading the coverage of this tragedy, amidst all the horror, one point fairly leapt out at me: Tim McLean was, by all accounts, asleep when the attack began. His murdere…

Pinch, punch, first day of the month.

August already?

A gathering of mental morsels:

I'm currently reading LETTER TO A CHRISTIAN NATION, by Sam Harris. It cost me two bucks to get from my book club, and when it arrived yesterday I immediately saw why: it's less a book than a pamphlet. 91 pages of fairly large print.
Still, it's an interesting read, so far. The very first point Harris makes, before he really gets started in his demolition of fundycostalism: it's passing strange that Christians, whose faith is (according to them) predicated on love and forgiveness, can be so "deeply, even murderously, intolerant of criticism."
I suspect most of the people who should read this, won't. And if they do, they'll ignore it, trash it, or burn it for heresy.
The missive could perhaps have been worded better. There are little pinpricks scattered liberally throughout, seemingly designed to alienate the very audience the letter's addressing: God is repeatedly referred to as a "myth" or a &q…