29 September, 2010

By Hook Or By Crook (II)

Selling's legal. Fucking's legal. Why isn't selling fucking legal? Why is it illegal to sell something it's perfectly legal to give away?
--George Carlin

I can just hear the consternation emanating out of Ottawa after the Ontario Superior Court decision striking down Canada's prostitution laws as unconstitutional.

"The government is very concerned with the Superior Court decision and is seriously considering an appeal": Justice Minister Rob Nicholson.

Well, of course they are. Legalized prostitution does not fit with Conservative ideology.

Why, the nerve of Justice Susan Himel! How dare she suggest that Canadian prostitution laws endanger sex workers!

...Sex workers, the very term is disgusting. It makes whoring sound legitimate, almost as if these are human beings gainfully employed. Hookers are criminals, people, and we won't let the opinion of some scummy two-bit liberal elite judge convince us otherwise, no siree Bob. Them goshdarned activist judges have it exactly backwards, as usual. Laws don't exist for the protection of CRIMINALS! Laws exist for the protection of community standards and moral decency! What kind of judge doesn't know that? Can we disbar this person? Are there any dirty pictures of her floating around? That'd show her!

I can just bet this is the sentiment going around in Ottawa right now. You bet your private parts they'll appeal this decision to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Which, if it has any sense, will either uphold Justice Himel's ruling or stall a while until it can turn the debate over to a more reasonable Parliament.

This whole chain of events was inevitable, since prostitution itself is not illegal in Canada. That's right: exchanging sex for money is perfectly legal. What isn't is, well, just about everything else about it. Per Wikipedia:

The activities related to sex work that are prohibited by law include operating a premise (sexual services establishment or brothel where such activities take place (that is more than one person involved), being found in such an establishment, procuring for such purposes, or communicating such services (soliciting)in a public place are illegal, making it difficult to engage in prostitution without breaking any law. Automobiles are considered public space if they can be seen...On the other hand working as an independent sex worker and private communication for such purposes (e.g. telephone, internet, e-mail) is legal. This ambivalence can cause confusion and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court called it bizarre.

“We find ourselves in an anomalous, some would say bizarre, situation where almost everything related to prostitution has been regulated by the criminal law except the transaction itself. The appellants' argument then, more precisely stated, is that in criminalizing so many activities surrounding the act itself, Parliament has made prostitution
de facto illegal if not de jure illegal.”,

'Prostitution' is not defined in Canadian statute law, but is based on case law which deems that three elements are necessary to establish that prostitution is taking place - (i) provision of sexual services, (ii) the indiscriminate nature of the act (soliciting rather than choosing clients), and (iii) the necessity for some form of payment.

There are enough loopholes here to drive a stealthy car through. Choosing your clients is okay; randomly soliciting isn't. Communicating for the purposes of prostitution is fine so long as you don't do it in pubic. (Sorry, typo.) This has given rise to a thriving "escort" industry--just check out the classified section of any big-city newspaper--because "escorting" is, wink-wink, what's-that-nudging-me, also legal.

Given these loopholes, it was only a matter of time before somebody questioned a set of laws that seem designed to drive prostitution underground. This state of affairs has been a real contributing factor to many atrocities, the most recent and heinous being the Robert Pickton murders.

My belief has long been that since the government can't very well eradicate "the world's oldest profession", it should do everything in its power to make prostitution more resemble a profession. That starts with legalization and strict regulation. Open up brothels in segregated districts; ensure all who choose to work therein are regularly tested for STIs; provide on-site security and the luxury of denying skeevy prospective clients; and tax sex workers' earnings. Hell, unionize them. Although that brings to mind the following joke:

A staunch union man was cruising the red-light district, badly in need. At the first brothel he came to, he asked the madam what the house take was. "Well", she told him, "the house gets eighty percent and the girl gets twenty percent."
"I'm a union man," he said, "and that rate is monstrously unfair. You've just lost my business."

He proceeded to the second house and asked the same question. The madam said at her establishment, the girl got thirty percent and the house seventy. "Well, that's a little better," he said, "but still not good enough for a union man like me."

The third brothel looked more promising: a "union shop" sign hung in the window. The madam there told the man that at her place, the girls got eighty percent of their earnings and the house took twenty in the form of union dues.
"Now, see, that's much better!" he cried, and emptied his wallet. "Let me see..." and he pointed to a nubile young thing. "I'll take Sindee, there."
"Oh," said the madam, "that won't do." An old crone on a cane hobbled into the room and smiled gummily.
"This is a union shop," said the madam, "and Ethel here has seniority."

All kidding aside, if you legalize and regulate "the profession", you can then use the tax dividend to go after any remaining street walkers, their customers, and especially their pimps with both legal barrels blazing. Remove the pimp from the equation, screen any prospective employee for drug use, and you're more than half way to a huge paradigm shift making prostitution a respectable business. You'll see untold positive ripples elsewhere in jurisprudence, too. Don't believe me? Compare the incidence of rape in countries where prostitution is legal versus those where it isn't.

The same argument can (and, I predict, will) be made with respect to the legalization of marijuana. Make it legal to own, say, four plants for personal use...let people purchase the seeds at government controlled stores, the way they do with alcohol in Ontario at present...charge 'em for the privilege...and use some of the vast revenue stream you'll create to obliterate the black market and all the crime associated with it.

All of this makes so much sense it's little wonder the Conservatives don't have the slightest interest in implementing it.

23 September, 2010

Yum, Delicious...

Below is a menu from a Portuguese restaurant, dug up by Charlie Stross. The English translations are interesting, to say the least.

click to embiggen

Let's eat!

22 September, 2010

Today's Piece Of Doomer Wisdom

comes to us direct from renowned physicist Richard Feynman, who says

"There are 10^11 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But now it's only a hundred billion. It's less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers."

As the Fed signals it's ready with yet another round of necessary, needless quantitative easing, it's long past time to ask ourselves some fundamental questions. The first is, of course, "how can something be both necessary and needless?"

This course of action is absolutely necessary if we wish to maintain the illusion that the economy is recovering, or failing that, that it can recover. And we so wish. We fervently, ardently wish. Right now our entire economy is being powered on wishes and fairy dust. It seems to be working, too, at least on Wall Street: the high muck-a-mucks haven't quite plundered all there is to plunder just yet. That this quantitative easing hasn't qualitatively eased the lives of very many people down on Main Street is neither surprising nor particularly concerning--unless you're Barack Obama, anyway.

The stimulus is unnecessary because--why else?--it won't work. The vast sums of worthless paper-wishes pumped into the economy already haven't done a damn thing except make a bunch of Wall Street tycoons even more obscenely rich than they already were. (Then again, I'm cynical enough at this juncture to believe that was the whole point.) What will even more wish-money do? Is there some magical amount of money that will bring all the jobs back and restore life to its lustrous sheen?

Republicans rubbing your hands together at the prospect of a rout in November, and the eventual expunging of all things Obama, take heed: you won't do any better.

You can't.

Because there are only three roads from here. The first, the one we're on, leads to hyperinflation and total economic collapse. Depending on which doomer you read, those places are still down the road a piece...or just over the next hill. (Me, I think it's still a surprising ways off, if only because, damn it, wishes are powerful things. But since wishes are not all-powerful, those scary places are drawing closer by the day.)

The second road involves taking your hands off the economy, rejecting further stimulus funds. This course would stop robbing a future generation of Peters to pay us Pauls--which means, in turn, us Pauls won't be paid. The economic collapse here would be sudden and probably even more brutal. I'm all for those Republicans and Tea Partiers who wish to acknowledge reality...except they are woefully ignorant of the reality that America is essentially bankrupt and has been for some time.

The third road is the one I'm pretty sure Obama's opponents have their eye on. It makes the other two look flat and serene: it's the road to all-out war.

War does wonders for the economy. It also does wonders for a national self-image that has taken a real beating in the Obama Era. Why, some traitorous Americans, among them the President himself, have taken to the ridiculous notion that Americans are no better than foreign people. A little shock and awe would set that notion straight, yessir it would indeed. The right in America has been laying the groundwork ever since 9/11...maybe even since just before 9/11, depending on how much tinfoil you like to wear on your head. Things are progressing nicely: we're not quite up to Kristillnacht yet, but we're getting there. If this Islamic community center, four blocks from Ground Zero, is even allowed to be built, let's just see how long it lasts before it's firebombed.

At least Muslims have helpfully religiously mandated their dress. It won't be necessary to tattoo the equivalent of the Star of David on anyone.

Think I'm way out on a limb here? I hope you're right. I hope I'm stark raving mad and that all we're facing is economic ruin. I'm hoping pretty hard.

19 September, 2010

A Year Goes Past

A year goes past and the tree grows another ring,
and as a year goes past there are other songs to sing.
And as the sun in May chases away the cold,
another year has past, another story must be told...

And if the poem outlives the poet then one could say
That tomorrow's song springs from life that's lived today...

--from "The Needfire: a Celtic Celebration

My love, your life's a poem
shifting rhythm, shifty rhyme
and it's only getting started, love:
you show it all the time.

41's a prime. It is a number of distinction,
Halfway along the scale that leads from birth unto extinction.
(At least as it is measured now...it lengthens every year)
which means we've got a long road yet to share, so never fear.

What a time of reinvention you've been through the last twelvemonth, my love!
You've come out of it much stronger; you have risen far above
the place you were a year ago. And I'm still here to say
I thought I loved you then: I love you even more today.

I'll be here tomorrow, true:
Still rhyming words and loving you.
And then when you turn forty two
That will be my whispered cue

To say that each year's passing makes me only love you more
(And every day, I'll tell you so...but I've said that before.)
It's hard not to repeat myself, but words alone won't show
The love I have for you, my dear. I only hope you know.

Happy birthday, Eva.

Your loving husband



18 September, 2010

The SUN Goes Down

I grew up reading the Toronto SUN. For many years, I argued with anyone who scorned that paper; I was convinced that most of the people who said it was only good for lining birdcages never actually deigned to read it.
Yeah, its editorial voice is right-wing. But it runs (or at least it used to run) polemics from all over the spectrum. Sid Ryan wrote for them for a while. Eric Margolis was a mainstay for years. Jack Layton's penned the occasional column. You'd often be treated to two columnists duking it out (and a left! and a right!) Even when I disagreed with somebody (and I often did), it was usually a disagreement requiring some thought to justify.
The paper was far from perfect, even at its best. Typos were disturbingly commonplace; the tone of the reportage was overdramatic, sensationalist, and shrill. And no matter how pretty the Sunshine Girls looked, they all tasted like newsprint.
But the diversity of voices was something I looked forward to, particularly every Sunday. Their sports section was repeatedly deemed one of the best on the continent. And the tabloid format was perfect for reading anywhere. Why we even have the broadsheet format in today's portable world is a mystery I can't explain.

I miss the Toronto SUN. In recent years it has hardened its vision, jettisoning most columnists who don't believe as the editors do. Its online edition--still, for my no-money, the best-designed website among the four Toronto dailies--has regrettably added a forum (unmoderated!) for comments, inevitably leading to YouTubeitis, otherwise known as Acute Stupidity Display.

Most distressingly, it has turned its shrill voice, which used to be merely off-putting and even occasionally kind of entertaining--into a shrewish, unrelenting attack on all things liberal, socialist, leftist. It's gone as far right as the Toronto Star is left--and that's not a good thing. How long before it's renamed the Toronto Harp-oon?

I still read the paper--online, mind you, because I don't wish to give them any more of my money--but now it's mostly to keep tabs on an increasingly lunatic fringe. (And for that sports section, damn it all.)

Witness the column reproduced here. (I had to troll all over the Net for this, because it has since disappeared from all Sun Media websites in a flurry of retractions and apologies.) The lawsuit, needless to say, is pending. I read that article when it appeared and said to myself, bring on the lawyers. The SUN I grew up with would never have published this. They were cheeky. This was nasty.

My next missive will tear apart Michael Coren's latest effort. It's shooting fish in a barrel, but at least it doesn't leave such a horrid taste in my mouth.




16 September, 2010

When Did "Elite" Become a Bad Word?

So it looks like the long gun registry's staying put.

I really, really, REALLY don't want to get into a debate on the merits or demerits. The gun registry in Canada is almost as much a hot button as abortion is. Suffice it to say that both sides have their points, and both sides are so sure of their points that they'll talk right through each other to get them out. Sadly, this disease is spreading throughout the Canadian body politic: before long, we'll be in just as sorry a shape as our neighbours to the south.

No, what interested me here was the characterization of Jack Layton and Michael Ignatieff as "Toronto elites".

The intention here, as always, is to accentuate a divide, in this case between urban and rural Canadians. But I find that word 'elite' troubling. When did 'elite' become a derogatory term?

Rhetorical question: everyone knows it happened when Harper gained power. The Starbucks/Tim Horton's dichotomy has been done to death by now. Harper's a Timmies guy through and through, and I've become convinced he doesn't just dislike but actively hates the latte-sipping Starbucks crowd. Would probably deport them if he could find some way to do it, in fact.

Incidentally, I'd be very interested to know how many police officers (who almost unanimously support the gun registry) consider themselves Timmies-types. Most police officers I have known (and I have known quite a few) are of that common-sense practical sort, the kind of folks Harper's usually quick to exalt.
This sort of contradiction is inevitable when you make a habit of practicing divisive politics, especially the endless slicin' and dicin' slap choppin' kind the Conservatives excel at. Eventually you end up alienating people who, under normal circumstances, would be your best friends.

To sneer down your nose at your foe while calling him him "elite"-- that speaks to a vicious anti-intellectualism that has no place in any sane society. Why, let that strain of stupidity in and before you know it you're muzzling scientists, if they dare to scientificate on silly subjects like, say, climate change. (Wouldn't you know it...)

It's already been made clear that Harper cares not one whit for accurate data. If he did, he would have backed down in the long-form census fiasco. And he's not above pulling "facts" straight out of his ass. I'm still laughing/screaming at the "alarming rise in unreported crimes" that's cited as a great reason to build lots of new expensive prisons. Unreported crimes. Yeah. Right. Thoughtcrimes? That's not (yet) clear.

I hope the elites in this country, wherever they get their coffees, rise up and reject this government the first chance they get.

And I hate Starbucks.

15 September, 2010

Dalton McGuinty: Visionary or Nutbar?

So Dalton McGuinty, the Premier of Ontario, believes that cellphones could be useful in school.

I'm going to go against a very heavy flow of CBC.ca commenters and say he's right. And this is coming from a guy who was until recently an avowed hater of cellphones, whose attitude towards them even now could be described as "indifferent at best." I own one. Occasionally I even remember to turn it on and carry it with me. But then I'm a 38 year old with the mindset of an octogenarian.

Most of the incredulity in the comments comes from people saying kids will be too "distracted" by their phones. As if kids aren't distracted without them. Take a teenager's cellphone away from her and chances are that's all she'll think about.

You can't fight technology, not once it's been embraced so lovingly by so many people. Better to make it work for you, rather than trying to work against it.

We've already got people agitating worldwide for Internet access as a basic human right. In some countries, notably Finland and France, this has gone so far as to be enshrined in law. Portability is the next logical step. I can see a time not very long hence when students are provided with cellphones in lieu of textbooks.

Don't laugh. I'm convinced it's now possible to get the equivalent of an advanced degree in many disciplines through judicious and extensive use of Wikipedia. If teachers would accept that their charges are going to surf, they can get down to the business at hand: tutoring them in how to surf safely and critically.

Money, Money, Money...

Still neck-deep and blissfully drowning in Disney plans...occasionally being brought up short by unexpected and often silly obstacles.
Don't ever let anyone tell you Canada and the United States are essentially the same country (even though we currently have a government that might as well be Republican). There are significant differences, and it behooves holidaying Canadians to recognize and prepare for them. Most of them revolve around money.

Imagine visiting ten ATMs before you find one that will accept your bank card. Imagine trying to use that selfsame bank card--the one that works at every Canadian retailer on the Interac network, which is pretty much all of them--at an American store only to have the clerk regard it quizzically and inform you it's useless.

Imagine having to enter a zip code you don't have before being allowed to charge gasoline to your credit card at the pump. Try entering the default zip code every Canadian knows--"90210"--and watch your card get eaten.
The alternative to that--since your debit card won't work and you, as a Canadian, are unaccustomed to and leery of carrying around wads of cash--is to surrender your credit card to the employee inside, violating your cardholder agreement and leaving yourself wide open to skimming (identity theft, in other words).
Weird enough that you have to prepay for gas down there. I still haven't figured out how that works...are you Yankees psychic or something? How do you know how much gas your tank is going to take? Or do you just go around putting twenty bucks in at a time?

(Digression: Twenty bucks. Ha. Sorry, I should have said ten. American gas prices are insanely cheap. According to gasbuddy.com, there are places in the southern states charging $2.42 or less a gallon. Converting that to English: 63.9 cents a liter. I haven't seen that price in Canada since 1985 or so. Our current price here in the Tri-Cities is around a buck a liter--$3.78 and five tenths per gallon--and we're just about the cheapest place in Canada to get gas.)

There are workarounds for all these obstacles. Wal-Mart in the U.S. will take our debit card, and we can get cash back if we need it, for instance. But most of the bank machines where we're going are out of order as far as we're concerned. It's a frustrating problem to have...like you're living in 1970 or something.





08 September, 2010

FOX in the Henhouse

Part of my blogging lassitude over the past three months is simple to explain. No matter the topic, somebody, somewhere has summed it all up better than I ever could. More likely manybody, manywhere.
Such is the case as regards SUN TV News, the FOX News-clone that Stephen Harper is bound and determined to bring to Canada. The Net is bulging with commentary pro and con; you can't open an op-ed page without stubbing your eye on somebody's high dudgeon.

Nevertheless, I'd like to add my voice to the cacophony.

First, let's dispense with the notion that SUN TV NEWS will be, as its name implies, a "news" channel. We already have two 24-hour news channels in Canada and a third, as far as I'm concerned, is doubly redundant. Quebecor knows this; ergo they're not interested in reporting the news. Instead, like FOX south of 49, they are interested in manipulating the news, in browbeating their viewership with opinion disguised as fact. If they can do so in a controversial manner, so much the better for them. To my ever-growing chagrin, "News" as a television genre has been largely replaced with "ooze"--news as entertainment. And sadly, watching a bunch of so-called human beings screaming at each other seems to be endlessly entertaining to a sizeable subset of the population. FOX News slaughters its competitors most hours of most days.

Surely not every rabid American FOX viewer is also a rabid FOX believer. (Then again, if he is, it would explain a great deal about that benighted country.) I figure--I hope--that at least some of the people glued to FOX News are stuck there because of the Howard Stern effect, otherwise known as train-wreck syndrome: what blatant lie will they pass off as truth next?

Now, this is not to pretend that our current sources of 24-hour TV news are pure as the driven snow. CBC News Network in particular can easily be accused of ideological bias, and they don't always (or indeed ever) acknowledge their bias up front. Indeed, this is supposed to be the prime reason for SUN TV News in the first place.

Proponents of the new channel, and there are many, suggest that anyone opposed is either unpatriotic (which is a real stretch when one of the most vocal opponents is Canadian literary icon Margaret Atwood) or somehow against freedom of speech. Speaking for myself alone, I'm not against right-wing ideas getting a fair airing. I am very much against Canadians being forced to pay the carriage costs, especially since by QMI's own admission, the channel would not otherwise survive.

And let's be honest: the prospect of Northern FOX unnerves me a little. because FOX News is extremely good at what they do. They start out by taking a talking point, any talking point, and slowly, ever-so-reasonably twisting things until there's only one "reasonable" conclusion to be drawn. They're not above cutting the microphone of anyone who disagrees with them, leaving that person flapping his lips and looking stupid.

These tactics have demonstrably resulted in an insanely polarized political spectrum in the United States. It frightens me to no end to see my own country looking to go down that road. That way lies madness.

That way also, if Harper plays his cards right, leads to a Reform Conservative majority. Once he controls a whole media stream, he'll find a way to make Canadians drink from it. Which is why he's taking a personal interest in the matter, and why it's been rumoured he's making every effort to remove any impediments.

Interestingly, the head of the CRTC has denied political interference. The following was published in today's Globe and Mail:

I read with consternation Lawrence Martin's column Is Stephen Harper Set To Move Against The CRTC? (Aug. 19) calling into question the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission's independence as a regulatory body. The column stems from Quebecor Media's application to launch a TV news service called Sun TV News. I would like to categorically state that no one at any level of government has approached me about the Sun TV application, the appointment of the CRTC's vice-chair of broadcasting, or my own mandate[...]

Konrad von Finckenstein, chair, CRTC, Gatineau, Que.

Methinks he doth protest too much. Even if he's telling the truth, you can't fault anyone for thinking Harper's applying pressure. Not when Harper's set play whenever faced with anybody who would dare oppose him is to apply lots and lots of pressure.

Can I play political prognosticator here for a minute? I fully expect Harper's next move will be to tarnish the CRTC. He won't mention SUN TV or anything else related to this specific episode. Instead he'll start hammering them on their consistently siding with Bell, Rogers and Telus against any upstart that tries to break in to the cellphone/internet racket. He'll tell Canadians the CRTC is why we pay the highest cellphone rates in the world, and why we can't get all those juicy American channels, and why our internet is so frackin' slow. The hell of it is, he'd be right!

Harper would get a lot of support if he takes this tack, because a lot of Canadians believe the CRTC has served its purpose...if it ever had one. Once he's worked up a good head of publish steam, he'll move to abolish the outfit, throwing Canadian telecommunications and media wide open, and (incidentally) paving the way for his pet TV channel.

That'd be my play, were I him.

But I'm me, and damnit, I want my country back.

06 September, 2010

775 hours and counting...

or, Mousebound (II)

That's 32 days...46531 minutes...2791885 seconds...

That I can figure out at least the minutes in, well, seconds--that should give you some small idea of how obsessed I am with the upcoming trip to "The World".

Disney in a little over a month. Can there be anything else to think about?

My darling wife is getting a little Dis-y, quite frankly. She hasn't quite forbidden the D-word in the house as of yet, but I sense it must be getting close. I told her this morning I would blog some of this Disney-itis out of my system. For over six years now, writing has been my chief stress release, and excitement is its own special kind of stress, particularly when everybody in your real-life vicinity isn't quite ready to feel excitement at this pervasive level.

Compounding the issue: a couple of colleagues and friends are now...RIGHT NOW...at Disney World, she by emphatic choice, he by grudging assent. (He told her he'd go if she could find a way to make Disney cheaper than Atlantic City... I can't help but wonder if she inflated the price of Atlantic City, as (shh) I told her to.

As this trip approached, Andy magically morphed into John Pinette. I think I heard every word of this routine multiple times:





And I'd laugh at him every time. Lauren has enough joie-de-vivre for both of them: she'd live at Disney World if she could. I have no doubt Andy will come back and just as grudgingly admit he had a good time...even if it is 100 degrees with 95% humidity. (Lake Buena Vista, Florida: 77 degrees right now, 94% humidity, and that's accessible with one click from my desktop. Something is wrong with me.)

Luckily, therapy is available online, in the form of DISboards.com. Total immersion therapy...what? Is there any other kind?
You laugh, exasperated, but let me tell you there is value in seeing you're not the only one totally consumed and badly in need of a Mickey or two. (Although it's disconcerting to find it's almost invariably the female half of any couple that's obsessed...) Still, there are folks out there whose immersion level makes mine look trifling. People who have booked their resort, then changed it four and five times because they can't make up their minds where to stay. People who have their every step in the parks planned out commando-style.

That ain't us. We considered each of the 33 resorts on-site in turn, decided on Old Key West, and promptly forgot about it. (Almost: I've had little niggles about the sheer size of the place and the fact we might not get a refurbished villa, but niggles are all they've been.) News came last month of a welcome 40% discount on our accommodations...boy, all these incentives floating around sort of gives a clue to the state of the U.S. economy.)
Our dining package gives us one "quick-service" and one "table-service" meal for each day of our stay. We reserved our table-service meals six months prior, as required (or at least strongly encouraged). The hardest to snag was a table at Le Cellier in EPCOT. I guess this is currently the place to dine at Disney: we attempted to reserve on our first eligible day and were told it was full up; we got in on a different date instead.)

And yes, Mr. Pinette, we're booked in for both a breakfast and a dinner buffet.

Eva flat out refuses to consider where to spend our quick-service credits and, obsessive planner that I am, I agree with her on this. There has to be some spontaneity.

We've got the weather thing licked, I think. The October climate in Florida looks to be similar to ours at the height of July, if the humidex numbers are to be believed. So we're employing countermeasures that go well beyond sunscreen. Eva had a UV-blocking "sun-brella" shipped from Phoenix, AZ that she's already made much use of (and let me tell you, Canadians have no idea what to make of a person carrying an umbrella when there isn't a cloud in the sky). We've got a Camelbak™ for hydration. We've got a sun hat. We've got a portable fan complete with painted Canadian flag. We'll employ any and all of these measures to beat the heat, and should the heat beat us anyway, we'll simply high-tail it back to the villa for a swim or a nap. Aside from ADRs (advance dining reservations), we don't have to be anywhere, anywhen. What's the worst that could happen? We only see half of what we putatively planned? Well, then, that's a good excuse to go ba--

Okay, okay, one trip first.

One tip I've gathered from the DISboards is that there's a lot of walking. I Googled the acreage of each park in the World and was nonplussed to find they were all roughly the size of Canada's Wonderland: big, but not too daunting. I was quickly set straight. The average day at Disney involves a minimum of five miles' walk, possibly as much as twelve. One day will tire you out...seven days straight without prep and you might lose your feet. It seems rather absurd to train for a vacation, but I guess I'd better start.

We're taking a different, allegedly much more scenic route down than we did on our Destin trip three years ago. Eva's planning on quitting smoking while in Florida (as she says, if Disney World can't distract her, it's a lost cause) and so, for ease of navigation and minimal stress on the return trip, I suggested we take I-75 all the way back. That necessitated an updated copy of Along I-75, and as if there weren't enough reasons to recommend this book...

Research showed there'd been a great many changes on this route between the 14th edition we own and the 16th, slated for publication while we're in Florida. I therefore emailed the author and asked if this 16th edition would be available for purchase a mere two days after its publication date. Dave Hunter himself, not some flunky, answered my email within an hour of my sending it, and told me that he was sending out an information package to mail-order customers shortly; prompt response would have the book in my hands three weeks before we leave and a month before it shows up in bookstores. He'd also enclose discount coupons for both Along I-75 and its companion Along Florida's Expressways.

Highly impressed.

Everything is coming together, and drawing nigh. 774 hours and counting...I'm feeling decidedly Goofy.

But then, that's nothing new, right, love?




01 September, 2010

Behind The Curve

After a great deal of thought, I have decided not to join the Twitterverse.

Yet.

"The only people who hate Twitter haven't used it", or so the saying goes. I'll admit to a completely irrational disdain for, almost a fear of, anything so insanely popular. This despite repeated instances in the past of my disdain/fear being completely overturned.

I once held iPods in contempt. That's hard for me to believe nowadays, given that any household task is best accomplished with music.

Same goes for Facebook. You know, Facebook, the only site on the Internet with half a billion members? Hated the very concept of it at one point; now I'm on there, minimum, three times a day.

And don't get me started on cell phones. Actually, that's one piece of tricknology I haven't...quite...succumbed to. I have one. Occasionally I remember to turn it on and carry it with me. And sometimes I even (gasp!) text people. About once a month. I find texting to be indispensable...every once in a blue moon.

It's only a matter of time before I'm a Twit among Twits, is what I'm saying. I will probably join up and follow some people for a good long while before I ever open my beak to tweet myself...if I ever do. In spite of all the above, I'm not sure I will.

That's because if I ever start tweeting away, it'll mean the death of the Breadbin. I've thought about this for some time now, especially as my blog posting this summer has been sporadic at best. Doubtless I'd post more often if "posting" meant composing a single sentence. But I find it extraordinarily difficult to distill my thoughts to just 140 characters or less. Sometimes flat-out impossible. Suppose I have a controversial thought (many of mine are). Do I just put it out there, naked and devoid of context, lacking the space to explain myself? No, I don't: that's what this Breadbin's for. So if I still have this blog, what would I put in my Twitter-feed? "Can't decide between Corn Flakes and Raisin Bran this morning"? Shoot me now. And on those few occasions where I do have a pithy thought that must be shared and can be expressed succintly...hello, Facebook status line. I fail to see how Twitter isn't reductionist and redundant.

Then again, I once said the same thing about Facebook.

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I'm slowly catching up to the rest of you folks in one area, though. A few weeks ago, my iPod went missing. Now this iPod, despite being only a few years old, is hopelessly out of date. It has a mere 8 GB and it won't even play video. But damnit, I missed that little thin music-maker. I looked everywhere. Well, apparently not: if I had looked everywhere, I would have found it. It stubbornly remained lost.

I did not lose the thing on purpose. Honest. I might have been tempted, had I any idea my darling wife would get a discount on an Apple-refurbished iPod Touch and present me with it.

I was ecstatic to get this. I christened it 'The Ken Touch' in iTunes and went about syncing my library to it. That took three and a half hours. I was about to meander into the App store and commence mass downloading of free apps when I noticed that the software build on my 'Pod was version 2.0.6 or some such. The current build is something like 4.1.2. Better update that.

About three minutes into the update process, the iPod crashed. Hard. The computer spat out a warning that my iPod was in recovery mode and told me I must restore it before I could use it again. About five minutes into that process, another error message popped up: "unknown error 3003: the iPod can not be restored."

Let's see: must restore it to use it: it can't be restored. Perhaps naming this thing 'The Ken Touch' was a bad idea.

I find computer error messages darkly funny sometimes. Particularly the "unknown" ones. If the computer doesn't know what the error is, how does it know it's an error? I couldn't help but picture some little guy inside the computer looking around going well, THAT ain't right. Not sure how or why, but something's screwed up here someplace. Besides, this particular error, despite being "unknown", seems to be well enough known to have a specific number attached to it. How exactly does this make sense?

Researching error code 3003 online, I determined the problem was my USB connection. The system requirements for the iPod touch state that a USB 2.0 connection is necessary. Despite the fact my hub says USB 2.0 on it, the computer refused to recognize it as such, even after the driver was updated. Man, this is weird, I thought. The connection's good enough to sync music and video, but not good enough to update software. How exactly does this make sense?

Eventually, after much trial and unknown error and imaginary but extremely satisfying machete attacks on my computer, I hit upon the idea of updating the software on Eva's laptop, which does recognize its USB ports as 2.0. Lo and behold, that worked. Now to restore.

Three and a half more hours and everything seems to be up and running. Everything, that is, except the four videos I've collected in anticipation of the day I get an iPod that can actually play video. I watched a snippet of one of them without incident: the next morning I went to watch it again and was told "the movie could not be played."

Then I noticed that all of the music I had legally purchased prior to about a year ago likewise wouldn't play. I'm a pretty even-tempered guy. I was about to blow my stack. Was this some dark, DRM-related Apple-plot to get my to re-purchase all my content?

Turns out it was only a case of iTunes "forgetting" that I was allowed to listen to and watch the items in its library. Simply de-authorizing and re-authorizing my computer did the trick. Total elapsed troubleshooting time: ten and a half hours, but hey. It's all good now. Really good.

This morning I finally got around to the App store. What a wonderland in there, and so much of it is free. There are a couple of games I simply have to get the next time I've got money in my iTunes account. Top of the list: Peggle.

Of course, "free" is a relative term when you're behind the curve like me. Many of the most interesting apps require a WiFi connection that's better suited to (surprise!) an iPhone than an iPod Touch. The navigation programs, the newspapers, even some of the games require the user to be constantly online--which just isn't practical for me. Let alone desirable.

As much as I salivate over these apps, I am quite content with the device I have. You give me the opportunity to go online anywhere I go and I will have the devil's own time going offline.

Some day, this barrier I've set myself will fall, and I'll be wired every waking moment. I just hope by then I've managed some kind of virtual/real life balance. Until then, I'm happily behind the curve, plodding along at my own pace.