Every year, like a social drinker who wants to prove to herself that she's not an alcoholic, I give up cannabis for a month. It can be a tough and dreary time - and much as I enjoy a glass of wine with dinner, alcohol cannot take its place.Source.
Some people may smoke dope just to relax or have fun, but for me the reason goes deeper. In fact, I can honestly say that without cannabis, most of my scientific research would never have been done and most of my books on psychology and evolution would not have been written.
Some evenings, after a long day at my desk, I'll slip into the bath, light a candle and a spliff, and let the ideas flow - that lecture I have to give to 500 people next week, that article I'm writing for New Scientist, those tricky last words of a book I've been working on for months. This is the time when the sentences seem to write themselves. Or I might sit out in my greenhouse on a summer evening among my tomatoes and peach trees, struggling with questions about free will or the nature of the universe, and find that a smoke gives me new ways of thinking about them.
Yes, I know there are serious risks to my health, and I know I might be caught and fined or put in prison. But I weigh all this up, and go on smoking grass.
For both individuals and society, all drugs present a dilemma: are they worth the risks to health, wealth and sanity? For me, the pay-off is the scientific inspiration, the wealth of new ideas and the spur to inner exploration. But if I end up a mental and physical wreck, I hereby give you my permission to gloat and say: "I told you so".
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Humanity faces the task of ensuring the survival and well being of future generations as well as the preservation of the natural foundations of life on Earth. We are convinced that in order to cope with major challenges such as social disparity, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the threat of terrorism or the endangerment of global ecosystems, all human beings must engage in collaborative efforts.
To ensure international cooperation, secure the acceptance and to enhance the legitimacy of the United Nations and strengthen its capacity to act, people must be more effectively and directly included into the activities of the United Nations and its international organizations. They must be allowed to participate better in the UN’s activities. We therefore recommend a gradual implementation of democratic participation and representation on the global level.
We conceive the establishment of a consultative Parliamentary Assembly at the United Nations as an indispensable step. Without making a change of the UN Charter necessary in the first step, a crucial link between the UN, the organizations of the UN system, the governments, national parliaments and civil society can be achieved through such an assembly.
Friday, December 7, 2007
There are some who claim that torture is a nonissue because it never works--it only produces false information. This is simply not true, as evidenced by the many decent members of the French Resistance who, under Nazi torture, disclosed the locations of their closest friends and relatives.Via babble. I can't help thinking there's a wee bit of an irony in Dershowitz, who jumps up and down and screams "anti-Semitism" the moment someone criticizes his beloved Israel, citing history's most notorious anti-Semites as exemplars of how to extract information from suspects. Of course he includes the obligatory line "I am personally opposed to torture", but then he seems to contradict himself here:
The members of the judiciary committee who voted against Judge Mukasey, because of his unwillingness to support an absolute prohibition on waterboarding and all other forms of torture, should be asked the direct question: Would you authorize the use of waterboarding, or other non-lethal forms of torture, if you believed that it was the only possible way of saving the lives of hundreds of Americans in a situation of the kind faced by Israeli authorities on the eve of Yom Kippur? Would you want your president to authorize extraordinary means of interrogation in such a situation? If so, what means? If not, would you be prepared to accept responsibility for the preventable deaths of hundreds of Americans?
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
A pampered pooch who inherited 12 million dollars from a late US hotel magnate earlier this year has fled to Florida under an assumed name after receiving death threats, a report said Monday.From here.
Trouble, a white Maltese who belonged to billionaire Leona Helmsley until her death in August, was flown by private jet under tight security two months ago after receiving around 20 such threats, the New York Post reported.
It said the rich bitch was now living at an undisclosed location in Florida, a favorite with retirees escaping the winter, without naming its sources.
The paper did not say who was suspected of being behind the threats, but Trouble is said to have earned countless enemies due to a penchant for biting.
Sunday, December 2, 2007
Wads of dollar bills are usually as much a part of rap videos as fast cars, diamond-encrusted jewellery and scantily-clad models.Time to sell your greenbacks now, folks.
But in an apparent nod to the low value of the dollar, rapper Jay-Z's new video Blue Magic features another currency.
He is seen cruising the streets of New York in Bentleys and Rolls Royces (now owned by Germany's Volkswagen and BMW) with a briefcase of 500 euro notes.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
As Gwynne Dyer remarked, "in most countries that would be the end of a political career, but in Australia it was the right answer". For some reason I'm reminded of the Trailer Park Boys episode where Mr. Lahey is running for reelection as trailer park supervisor, and fills his campaign speech with lines like "Who among us hasn't had a bit too much to drink now and then, and maybe ended up passed out in their own driveway pissing themself?"
It was revealed yesterday that Mr Rudd visited Scores gentlemen's club in Manhattan in 2003 with fellow Labor MP Warren Snowdon and New York Post editor Col Allan during a taxpayer-funded trip when he was opposition foreign affairs spokesman.
Mr Rudd has apologised but said he has little recollection of what happened in the strip club, because he had had too much to drink.
"I think any bloke who's honest about their lives can point to times in their lives when they've got it wrong," Mr Rudd said today.
"I've done that, but can I say the attitude of the Australian community, their evaluation of me, that's a matter for them and I accept their judgment.
On an unrelated note, today on Metro Morning I heard Andy Barrie talking about how Jan Wong and Christie Blatchford would be appearing at some library today, and spoke of the opportunity to hear "two very interesting women". Well, Jan Wong, for all her faults, is indeed quite interesting, but Christie Blatchford? She seems to be a one-trick pony, and her trick is advocating for hang 'em high "justice". Her function at the Globe seems to be to make Margaret Wente seem good. What Andy sees in her I don't know, but she used to work for the CBC back in the 80s (I have vague recollections of her vapid monolugues interrupting my enjoyment of the afternoon show) so maybe he knows her. Politically, though, they're worlds apart.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
From here, via this babble thread. Must be nice to redefine inflation so as to be able to say you don't have it...
In 1983 the Bureau of Labor Statistics was faced with an awkward dilemma. If it continued to include the cost of housing in the Consumer Price Index, the CPI would reflect an inflation rate of 15 percent, thereby making the country's economy look like a banana republic. Worse, since investors and bond traders have historically demanded a 2 percent real return after inflation, that would mean that bond and money market yields could climb as high as 17 percent.
The BLS solution was as simple as it was shocking: Exclude the cost of housing as a component in the CPI, and substitute a so-called "Owner Equivalent Rent" component based on what a homeowner might rent his house for.
The result of this statistical sleight of hand was immediate and gratifying, for the reported inflation index quickly dropped to 2 percent. (This was in part because speculators needed to offset their holding costs by renting out their homes while their prices skyrocketed, thereby flooding the market with rentals, which pushed down the cost of renting a house or apartment.)
Friday, November 16, 2007
WASHINGTON (AFP) — The usually sedate world of US bridge has been plunged into an unprecedented political crisis by six little words: "We did not vote for Bush."
Those words were penned on the back of a menu and held up by the US women's team as they stood on a podium in Shanghai, China last month to receive their gold medal at the World Bridge Federation's 2007 Championships.
The US Bridge Federation has decried the impromptu message as "a political statement" and said it was particularly out of place in China, where acts of "political dissent" are frowned upon.
It threatened to suspend the women for a year, but has failed to get them to "grovel" for forgiveness, the captain of the team, Gail Greenberg said.
From here, via babble. Funny thing is, the US Bridge Federation is the entity that's frowning on this particular act of political dissent.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
As a White Anti-Racist:
You Can: Verbally and/or in writing, invoke John Brown as your role model and hero
But You Don’t Have To: Actually do what he did (i.e. pick up arms and forfeit your life)
You Can: Publish an article criticizing white people for trying to “control meaning”
But You Don’t Have To: Actually quit your job as tenured academic publishing your interpretations and critiques of whiteness
You Can: Ritually confess (”own”) that you are a racist
But You Don’t Have To: Let anyone forget that it is an anti-racist act to confess such a thing
… and so much more!
Remind you of anyone you know?
Monday, November 12, 2007
Thanks to atomicat for this one.
Gregory Paul, the author of the study and a social scientist, used data from the International Social Survey Programme, Gallup and other research bodies to reach his conclusions.
He compared social indicators such as murder rates, abortion, suicide and teenage pregnancy.
The study concluded that the US was the world’s only prosperous democracy where murder rates were still high, and that the least devout nations were the least dysfunctional. Mr Paul said that rates of gonorrhoea in adolescents in the US were up to 300 times higher than in less devout democratic countries. The US also suffered from “ uniquely high” adolescent and adult syphilis infection rates, and adolescent abortion rates, the study suggested.
Mr Paul said: “The study shows that England, despite the social ills it has, is actually performing a good deal better than the USA in most indicators, even though it is now a much less religious nation than America.”
He said that the disparity was even greater when the US was compared with other countries, including France, Japan and the Scandinavian countries. These nations had been the most successful in reducing murder rates, early mortality, sexually transmitted diseases and abortion, he added.
Friday, November 9, 2007
Funny thing is, the US is having a hell of a time fighting protracted guerrilla wars at a "safe" distance; having one on their borders would be more than they could handle. Of course, I really hope they're not stupid enough to try, because the consequences would be devastating for both countries.
Canada must start selling its water to the United States before the Americans decide to take it and the country should also pay Alberta to stop tar sands production amid an emerging global climate crisis, international affairs columnist Gwynne Dyer said Monday.
Global warming and its calamitous fallout coming over the rest of this century is the subject of Dyer's next book. He described the sober picture of what might happen in a lecture to a nearly full house at the Roxy Theatre in Owen Sound.
The London-based, Canadian-born syndicated columnist said British policy makers are secretly worried about a scenario in which even a 2 C increase in daily average global temperatures would turn today's agricultural breadbaskets into deserts.
The American midwest, the Mediterranean basin, the north Indian plain, the Australian wheat belt, "those areas will suffer catastrophic losses of rainfall and will see crop yields fall drastically," Dyer said, clad in his trademark worn brown leather jacket.
Saturday, November 3, 2007
A majority of likely voters – 52% – would support a U.S. military strike to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon, and 53% believe it is likely that the U.S. will be involved in a military strike against Iran before the next presidential election, a new Zogby America telephone poll shows.Via Shakesville. The EnMasse thread on the subject, though, has a better title.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
This new poll is not the first of its kind to be done in Afghanistan, but the results are striking because they contradict dozens of comprehensive studies conducted by other agencies. For example a remarkable 73 per cent of respondents in the D3 Systems study said that women's rights were improving in Afghanistan. This contradicts the NGO Womenkind Worldwide which found that attacks against women have actually been on the rise since 2001 and that there had been no improvement in the lives of Afghan women as a whole.From here. No big surprise; unfortunately it's also no big surprise that these discrepancies aren't being discussed in the mainstream media (even the CBC, sadly). In fact, I don't recall hearing D3 even being mentioned in the newscasts I heard, just Environics.
Likewise, a whopping 76 per cent of people said that they have "a lot" or "some" confidence in the Afghan National Army and 60 per cent have faith in the Afghan National Police (ANP). This contradicts countless documents from groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch who have consistently found that a majority of Afghans cite the Army and ANP as a chief source of violence. In fact, poll results from December 2006 found 78 per cent of Afghan people believed that the ANP was corrupt and one in four Afghans had to pay bribes to local police for protection. So therefore, the numbers from D3 Systems either represent an astounding turnaround in public opinion or there was some type of flaw in the research.
These strange results aren't surprising given the history of the D3 Systems polling firm. The group, whose former clients include NATO and the RAND Corporation (a virtual who's who of the military industrial complex) is notorious for providing the results that are needed to advance a political agenda.
Tellingly, D3 Systems is the only polling form in the world that was able to consistently show that a majority of Iraqis felt their lives had improved since the invasion of 2003. In 2004 and 2005, D3 conducted polls for media outlets based in the US and found more than 50 per cent of Iraqis were exited about their future. As late as 2006 D3 found a miraculous 64 per cent of Iraqis who felt that their lives were improving.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Source. Land of the free, eh? Not bloody likely.
March 19, 2007: A Georgia mother has acquired over $70,000 in legal costs in her ongoing struggle to regain custody of her son, after the child was taken away from her based on her religious beliefs.
Rachel Bevilacqua is a high-ranking member of the Church of the SubGenius, known far and wide as a "parody religion" that engages in satire, performance art, and comedy in a manner widely seen as a spoof of dangerous religious cults. In December of 2005, she became involved in a legal dispute regarding custody of her ten-year-old son, though she and the father of the boy had never been married. Rachel had raised her son with her husband, Steve Bevilacqua, and exercised custody from birth, with the father of the child retaining visitation rights. As with many separated couples, this agreement had been followed by each parent, until the father took steps to request sole custody of the child in December of 2005.
Domestic custody battles take place daily in the court system, but this case took a turn into strange territory on February 3, 2006, when Rachel Bevilacqua's chosen religion was introduced in the court room. Her son's father introduced photos of her performing at the annual SubGenius "X-Day" festival, including participation in an unquestionably adult-oriented parody of Mel Gibson's blockbuster movie The Passion of the Christ. In the SubGenius parody, Jesus Christ is dressed in clown makeup and carrying a cross fashioned in the shape of a dollar sign, while dozens of members of the Church of the SubGenius beat him with sexual toys and objects. This performance was enough to outrage Judge James Punch (Orleans, NY), who subsequently removed custody of Bevilacqua's son and ordered sole custody to be granted to the father.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
The biology major aims to provide training which properly captures the breadth of biology while maintaining the necessary depth of preparation needed by graduates who will pursue further specialized training in graduate or professional schools. While most secular biologists are committed to evolution as the basic principle of biology, Bob Jones University trains Christian biologists who see the living world indelibly marked with the fingerprints of a God of limitless wisdom and power.
Uh-huh. I like the bit about the "necessary depth of preparation" for grad school; I guess that's where they teach you the art of compartmentalization.
Friday, October 19, 2007
Across the country, the war is disclosing role reversals, between professors shaped by Vietnam protests and a more conservative student body traumatized by the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Prowar groups have sprung up at Brandeis and Yale and on other campuses. One group at Columbia, where last week an antiwar professor rhetorically called for ''a million Mogadishus,'' is campaigning for the return of R.O.T.C. to Morningside Heights.
Even in antiwar bastions like Cambridge, Berkeley and Madison, the protests have been more town than gown. At Berkeley, where Vietnam protesters shouted, ''Shut it down!'' under clouds of tear gas, Sproul Plaza these days features mostly solo operators who hand out black armbands. The shutdown was in San Francisco, and the crowd was grayer.
You've got to wonder what's gone wrong with that place.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
As for Ryan, a hard look at his bank statements prompted the consolidation of some debt as well as the hunt for a higher paying job. “That is a key conclusion as well,” reasons Maxwell. “Not all of us have the option of searching out higher paying work, but it’s always an alternative.My emphasis. Isn't there something a wee bit contradictory about this sentence? In any case, I think the first part of the sentence is the true part. Sure, things aren't too bad for a lot of people right now, but I know a fair number of people who are just scraping by and haven't been able to find better work. For a long time I haven't, though as previously reported there's a decent chance of that changing soon. And come the next recession, it'll just get worse- especially as interest rates tend to be high at times like that. I just wonder why the author of the article failed to pick up on this small detail.
Friday, October 12, 2007
Friday, October 5, 2007
Even after Kent's win, Eddy reiterated a key theme of his campaign: voters will pay a price for choosing an opposition member.
Yeah, doesn't that just inspire you to vote Conservative? What an arsehole.
Thursday, October 4, 2007
With more and more unsolved murder cases being hampered by the street-level code of silence that can intimidate entire communities, police seem to have a hard enough time when it comes to gathering crucial information. That's why they were so perturbed when they learned a group of law students have been handing out a pamphlet in the troubled Jane and Finch area called "Survival Tactics: Dealing With Police."Oh no, it wouldn't do for kids in an area where police tend to hassle kids a lot to actually know what their rights are, now, would it? Of course, the part they focused on was this:
One section reads; "It's no secret, however, that police often cross the line in both obvious (Rodney King) and hidden ways (racial profiling.)"No, it's no secret, but I imagine the police would like it to be.
Monday, October 1, 2007
Saturday, September 29, 2007
Saudi Arabia has refused to cut interest rates in lockstep with the US Federal Reserve for the first time, signalling that the oil-rich Gulf kingdom is preparing to break the dollar currency peg in a move that risks setting off a stampede out of the dollar across the Middle East.Source. Makes you wonder if our own dollar may rise even further, and what the consequences might be. I know that today I ran into a guy I used to work with, and at the call centre where he still works they're getting a bit nervous. I know that this is currently the main thing that keeps me from going back to call centre work- there's going to be a lot less job security in the near future.
"This is a very dangerous situation for the dollar," said Hans Redeker, currency chief at BNP Paribas.
"Saudi Arabia has $800bn (£400bn) in their future generation fund, and the entire region has $3,500bn under management. They face an inflationary threat and do not want to import an interest rate policy set for the recessionary conditions in the United States," he said.
The Saudi central bank said today that it would take "appropriate measures" to halt huge capital inflows into the country, but analysts say this policy is unsustainable and will inevitably lead to the collapse of the dollar peg.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
What the men in the funny suits found was that the potting shed was dangerously irradiated and that the area's 40,000 residents could be at risk. Publicly, the men in white promised the residents of Golf Manor that they had nothing to fear, and to this day neither Pease nor any of the dozen or so people I interviewed knows the real reason that the Environmental Protection Agency briefly invaded their neighborhood. When asked, most mumble something about a chemical spill. The truth is far more bizarre: the Golf Manor Superfund cleanup was provoked by the boy next door, David Hahn, who attempted to build a nuclear breeder reactor in his mother's potting shed as part of a Boy Scout merit-badge project.You've got to have some admiration for his cleverness and his determination, that's for sure. Incidentally, the book mentioned in the article (The Golden Book of Chemistry Experiments) can be found in PDF form here, among other places (it's virtually impossible to find a hard copy, and those that do exist cost hundreds of dollars from rare book dealers). I remember that book as a kid; the library at my junior high had a copy, and I did a number of the experiments therein. Many of them, however, would not be considered suitable material for a kids' book in this day and age. For that matter, back in the 1970s I received a chemistry set for Christmas one year, and one of the experiments involved the making of hydrogen sulphide - a gas which, dose for dose, is more toxic than hydrogen cyanide. Of course, at the levels I made it the main risk was its characteristic rotten-egg smell, but I still doubt that you'd see such an experiment in a modern chemistry set.
As for Mr. Hahn's experiments, those thinking of following in his footsteps should check out his picture here.
Saturday, September 15, 2007
In any case, if you've found my blog by accident, I hope you'll consider sticking around.
As far as the rest of the week went, it wasn't too bad. Curiously, though, a load of garbage from an apartment building contained around 100 kilograms of concrete paving stones (that's 220 pounds, for all you old fogies and Americans).
Thursday, September 13, 2007
I still feel the usual work-related malaise, but at least I'll be free around 24 hours from now (well, actually a bit more, since 24 hours from now I'll probably be on the 401 driving the piece-of-shit van back to the office and hoping that its faulty speedometer doesn't bring me grief). Then I'll be able to go home and get wasted with my disreputable friends. Hey, I can't really hope for too many higher pleasures, so I might as well get good and high.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
The temps are tolerably competent, but they have a tendency to "duck the fog" unless we are on their asses constantly. It's going to be a long week. Furthermore, next week there's an excellent chance that I'll be spending my evenings finishing a report.
It occurs to me that my attempt to improve my lot by going back to school and becoming an environmental technician has actually led to less job satisfaction than I got out of working in call centres, and hasn't done much for my wages either. Admittedly, I'm now actually doing something useful, but that seems like cold comfort when you're digging through hundreds of kilos per day of congealed shite, and not even able to sleep in your own bed afterwards. I'm going to have to do something about this, though I'm not at all sure what.
One factoid that you hear periodically is that the majority of people nowadays will change careers several times in their lifetimes. What is left unsaid is how many of those people actually experience an improvement in their quality of life as a result of these career changes. I fear it's not very many.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
"People of America: the world is following your news in regards to your invasion of Iraq, for people have recently come to know that, after several years of the tragedies of this war, the vast majority of you want it stopped. Thus, you elected the Democratic Party for this purpose, but the Democrats haven't made a move worth mentioning. On the contrary, they continue to agree to the spending of tens of billions to continue the killing and war there, which has led to the vast majority of you being afflicted with disappointment."Can't really argue with that. Or how about this:
"This war was entirely unnecessary, as testified to by your own reports. And among the most capable of those from your own side who speak to you on this topic and on the manufacturing of public opinion is Noam Chomsky, who spoke sober words of advice prior to the war, but the leader of Texas doesn't like those who give advice. The entire world came out in unprecedented demonstrations to warn against waging the war and describe its true nature in eloquent terms like "no to spilling red blood for black oil," yet he paid them no heed. It is time for humankind to know that talk of the rights of man and freedom are lies produced by the White House and its allies in Europe to deceive humans, take control of their destinies and subjugate them. "Does this mean that the fact that I have some Chomsky books is going to put me on some sort of shit list?
Edited to add: I fixed the link to the speech. Sorry for any confusion.
Monday, September 10, 2007
Sunday, September 9, 2007
Saturday, September 8, 2007
Friday, September 7, 2007
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
On Sunday I went canvassing, and in the evening I met up with Lee's son (who was back in town to retrieve stuff from her house) and a friend of his. This led to a rather late night. On Monday I helped run the NDP table at the annual Labour Day picnic in Waterloo Park.
Saturday, September 1, 2007
Given this, it's not too big a stretch to suggest that a certain amount of credulity might be adaptive. Not too much, obviously (otherwise everyone would take advantage of you) but some. This might go some distance towards explaining why so many people fall for shit like this, this, and this.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Saturday, August 25, 2007
Today I tried to set up the new computer I picked up this week. It's an Athlon 64-bit machine, except this one is effectively a zero bit machine. No video, either from the onboard socket or from another video card I tried sticking in there. I suppose I'll have to take it back and whine to them. I also went to pick up the roll of black and white astrophotos I dropped off at one of the few remaining places in town that does black and white, only to find that I'll have to come back next week because the technician who does B&W is on vacation.
Tomorrow I'm doing some canvassing, then going to the company social gathering in the evening. Oh well, I imagine I'll survive that.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Now, it seems that the cops have admitted that there's some truth to the claim:
Quebec provincial police admitted Thursday that their officers disguised themselves as demonstrators during the protests at the North American leaders summit in Montebello, Que.
The police came under fire Wednesday when protesters accused the force of planting undercover officers in the demonstration to provoke violence. A video surfaced on YouTube that appeared to depict disguised police in the crowd.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Yesterday evening I went to Catherine Fife's place for her campaign kickoff, and ate a couple of veggie burgers. Nice evening, and Catherine is pumped for the campaign... now all we need is for Elizabeth Witmer to bite the head off a rat on live TV or something.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
And you just have to watch this:
Thursday, August 16, 2007
"In short sales," Shapiro explained, "you don't own the share you sell; instead you borrow it. Then you replace it when you cover the short. If you're right and the price has gone down, you replace it at a lower price, and the difference between what you sold it for and what price you replaced it at is your profit. The problem with a naked short is that you don't borrow the share you sell. You sell it without ever borrowing it. In effect, you invent a share."
If this is beginning to sound like a game of Monopoly built on fake money, that's because it is. By injecting so many invented shares into the market using naked shorting, hedge funds have not only created an economy in which they can manipulate the stocks of companies smaller than Microsoft and Wal-Mart, but they have also created a market in which there are more shares than actual stocks. And that's about as hyperreal as an economy can get.
Confused? You're not alone. This could simply be yet another correction, but if you walk down Bay Street (or Wall Street), it wouldn't be a bad idea to bring a good sturdy umbrella, just in case it starts raining brokers.Edited to add: They just said on the radio that even though Canadian companies aren't seriously exposed to the subprime crisis directly, their stocks are falling because they're being sold by US hedge funds, who are trying to cover their losses from the crisis.
I should be upfront here and say that in a very small way, I contributed to the crisis. You see, a few years ago I worked for a call centre that dabbled briefly in selling subprime mortgages to American consumers. I hate to admit it now, but I was actually quite good at it.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Monday, August 13, 2007
Yesterday I didn't do a whole lot except that in the evening I went to visit Lee's son (he's been staying at her house in town, but he's going back to Montreal for a while). He's holding up ok under the circumstances. Also present were two of his childhood friends; interesting guys.
Today I'm either working in the office or in Wellington County. I'll find out when I get there; I'm to come prepared to hit the road, but in all likelyhood I'll be in the office.
Friday, August 10, 2007
On Friday the temp agency finally came through. The guy they sent was, however, a few grams short of an ounce. The HS assigned him to metals and glass, seeing as he had previously worked on the regular sort line at that very same MRF. Then he said, "OK, so you sort the metals and glass, plastic goes to Nitroglycol, paper to Ms N, and the other stuff to me". A few minutes later he had to explain who the different stuff went to again. Then a few minutes later he had to explain it... again. Oh well, the guy did have a genuine work ethic, and the day was slightly less long (even considering the time spent packing the truck).
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
I sent Ms McD a hundred bucks (at an additional cost of $14). The folks at Western Union must rake in huge amounts this way.
Unfortunately I'm still too groggy to say anything more substantial. I probably won't post at least until Friday, either; my laptop still isn't working. In the meantime, try making sense of this story.
Monday, August 6, 2007
If anyone should be gloating at the collapse and disgrace of Lord Black of Crossharbour, the absurd title with which Conrad Black invested himself on being raised to the British peerage, that someone should be me. In the mid-1980s he boasted to a reporter that he was going to buy the London Spectator in order to fire me as its Washington correspondent. When I heard the news, I thought: Here we go again, another newspaper tycoon gone clean off his trolley with megalomania. Next thing we know, he'll have to build himself a revolving room, like Lord Northcliffe of the Daily Mail, or announce that he's a poached egg and demand a large piece of toast to lie down on, or build an opera house in which his untalented girlfriend can sing.
Sunday, August 5, 2007
Ms McD has emailed me saying she's lost her purse and needs money. I'll see what I can scrape up for her, but I won't be able to send much. These things are sent to try us...
Saturday, August 4, 2007
The Agile performance was marked by one weird incident. Midway through their most obscene song, "Dimefront" (aka "Two Inch Dick"), a friend of theirs, the_thaw, came in with three young boys (ages maybe between 10 and 14); apparently they're her cousins. Not the most family-friendly show to bring them to, perhaps, but apparently she'd already shown them Borat, so they were already hopelessly corrupted. I imagine, though, that if this had happened in Alabama, everyone involved would probably be in jail now.
Today I have a funeral to go to, and will hang out with the family afterwards. It will be a sombre occasion, but c'est la vie. Or rather, c'est la mort.
Friday, August 3, 2007
Guitarist Brian May is to spend two days studying the night sky in the Canary Islands as he completes the PhD he abandoned in 1971 to join Queen.
May is going to La Palma to observe the formation of "zodiacal dust clouds".
The subject forms the basis of a thesis for London's Imperial College, where he had been studying before deciding to pursue a career with the rock group.
Of course, if you're a more ordinary dropout (like me for instance) you generally have more pressing issues on your mind... like making a living.
Michael Ignatieff, whose Liberal leadership ambitions have been hampered by his early support for the invasion of Iraq, is moving to cauterize that issue by admitting he was wrong.I guess I have to give him credit for this; it's more than Bush and his cronies will likely ever do.
The MP for Etobicoke-Lakeshore and deputy Liberal leader says in an article to appear in The New York Times Magazine on Sunday that his backing for the U.S.-led military action in 2003 was a mistake.
"The unfolding catastrophe in Iraq has condemned the political judgment of a president," Ignatieff writes in a reference to George W. Bush. "But it has also condemned the judgment of many others, myself included, who as commentators supported the invasion.
Thursday, August 2, 2007
Tuesday was a chaotic day. Ms McD was originally going to take the train to Brampton and stay with her half-sister who just rediscovered her through Facebook, then catch a flight to Saint John on Wednesday. Well, her sister decided that she didn't want Ms McD staying with her on that day. Ms McD decided that she wanted to stay in a hotel in Toronto and catch the airport shuttle in the morning. Sound enough idea, and she figured (correctly) that I'd be enough of a sucker to lend her money for the hotel. (I do hope she didn't order a few hundred bucks worth of room service, but hey, if she did at least I get a few extra Air Miles for using my Amex).
Then yesterday her ex called me, wondering where she was. At her request I said I didn't know (not strictly a lie, since at the time he called she was at some indeterminate location, probably somewhere over Quebec or New England). I've emailed her to inform her of this; I don't know what she'll do with this information, though.
Agile Like This are playing at the Button Factory on Friday; I'm looking forward to that, at least.
Monday, July 30, 2007
I met with Ms McD again yesterday, and we watched Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Even after repeated viewings, I still catch things that I'd missed previously.
My situation later this week is still up in the air. Today and tomorrow I'm working in the office, but later in the week I'm likely going to either Guelph or Markham; presumably I'll find out which today.
Sunday, July 29, 2007
The aforementioned Ms B-D is not doing well. Apparently she suffered a massive stroke as a complication of the surgery, and has not yet regained consciousness. Her son and daughter-in-law have said they'll get back with additional information as soon as it's available, but this definitely does not look good at all.
Yesterday I spent the day with Ms McD, and the whole day had a surreal quality to it (perhaps because of massive substance abuse). She has suddenly decided to go out to New Brunswick for the wedding of a friend that she just reconnected with on Facebook. She's leaving on Tuesday and plans to stay there for most of August. As far as the day's activities, we hung out with a friend of hers (who we'll call Buddy); he's a former cab driver, about 50 years old, now living in a rooming house in downtown Kitchener. We played a wargame that he's developed; it's a lot of fun, though it takes a very long time to play. The whole scene, though, just felt weird for some reason.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
You see, last month when I boarded my return flight from Winnipeg, it was around 7 AM and I was wretchedly overtired and hung over from being up late drinking with Half Muppet Half Mucus and some mutual friends of ours. On the way to the gate I was accosted by someone trying to get people to apply for one of these cards. I was in no mood to say no to anyone, so I did. After all, it has all kinds of cool shit. Extra Air Miles when you buy WestJet flights! Companion flights after you spend $3000 in flights! Deals on car rentals! Deals on hotels! Cash advances! Amazing!
Nothing, however, amazed me as much as the one piece of cool shit that I didn't learn about until I actually received the card. They have given me more than a third of my gross annual income in credit. And that's not including several grand in credit that I already have from my other cards.
Just think about that for a moment. For the simple act of turning up hung over in an airport early in the morning, I have been given the ability to piss away thousands of dollars on all manner of shite in very little time. Want a Wii? Step right up, mister. Plasma TV? No problem. And look at all the cool Air Miles I can collect! Hey, a few flights to Winnipeg or the Dominican Republic and I can afford a flight to Europe! There's an airline that flies to England right out of Hamilton. Or hey, I could just get thousands of dollars in cash advances and go to the casino. I could get lucky, right?
Of course, if I were to do this I would be saddled with enormous payments soon after. Many, many people do this. Naturally, if it got really bad one could declare bankruptcy, but that makes it awfully hard to get credit in the near future.
Or, I could simply store the cards away for emergencies. Not a bad idea, but I've been told (I can't confirm this, but the reasoning seems sound) that having lots of credit that you don't use is actually bad for your credit rating, because it becomes riskier for others to lend you money. After all, your existing credit is virtually a time bomb- given a whole bunch of available credit, sooner or later many people will suddenly go deeply into debt. Anything could stimulate this- losing your job, having a nervous breakdown, falling in love with the wrong person... the possibilities are endless.
So I'm not going to activate this new card, and I should probably cancel at least three of my existing five cards as well. I haven't had any real need for them for a long time anyway.
Monday, July 23, 2007
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Today Ms McD and I are going to the Ps' housewarming, then I have to leave for Bracebridge again at 6 PM.
Saturday, July 21, 2007
Friday, July 20, 2007
This week I had one of those periodic bursts of increased dream activity (or rather, dream recall). In one dream, I was at a social gathering in Winnipeg, and someone who I knew from the U of Winnipeg suddenly cornered me and said, "I heard you're working in a dump! Are you an idiot?" The only response I could come up with was "no, more of a loser." In real life, this person is quite nice and would never have said something like that, but it got me thinking about my job situation, and cost me a couple of hours' sleep brooding over it.
And my laptop is on the fritz. Damn. I hope I can get it working properly before we go back on the road on Sunday night.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Monday, July 16, 2007
Sunday, July 15, 2007
Friday evening I ended up hanging out with Ms McD and the Ps. They'd never met before, but they got along extremely well. Ms McD told us a rather unsavoury story about her crackhead upstairs neighbours. It seems that they got evicted for non-payment of rent, and decided to take a stand for tenants' rights by smearing shit along the walls in the upstairs hallway. Ms McD says she suggested to the caretaker that it might have been a kid who had an accident, but the caretaker said no, the hand prints were adult sized. Yes, hand prints. I don't know about you, but I can't see myself being spiteful enough to smear shit with my bare hands. Then again, I don't smoke crack, so maybe I just can't understand.
Saturday morning I donated blood for the first time since the needlestick. In the afternoon I was going to go to an NDP barbecue with Ms P, but we were deterred by the rain, so we just hung out and watched a movie. Later I met up with Ms McD again, and we watched two more. Not the most productive way to spend a day, but oh well.
Tonight, unfortunately, I have to leave at 6 PM for Bracebridge. C'est la vie...
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
I identified with the Canadian soldiers at the funeral mourning the loss of their friend. Like them, I went to Afghanistan believing in "fighting terrorism" and "liberating Afghans." During my first mission, we were protecting refugees escaping an area that was under attack by the mujahedeen. I was deeply affected by their misery, and by the poverty and suffering of the Afghan people in general. In my mind, our presence was "helping Afghans," particularly with educating women and children. My combat unit participated in "humanitarian aid" -- accompanying doctors and delivering food, fuel, clothing, school and other supplies to Afghan villages.From here.
It was only later that I began to wonder: Did that aid justify our aggression?
Monday, July 9, 2007
I'm finding Facebook oddly fascinating. I've come across people there that haven't even been too keen on computers till recently (the Gravolmeister is there, for instance).
Saturday, July 7, 2007
Friday, July 6, 2007
I guess that means that the next time I go to Winnipeg I should take the Greyhound. Which would suck, being a 33 hour trip and all, but I guess that's one of the ways we have to adapt.
Tuesday, July 3, 2007
The secret's out—many thermostats just trick building occupants into feeling more comfortable and in control. Here's why they're so effective.
On Jan. 15, The Wall Street Journal revealed that the HVAC industry has an unconventional way of attending to the comfort needs of building occupants—using thermostats that aren't configured to have an effect on the HVAC system.
"Looking for an office thermostat that actually works? Good luck and Godspeed," wrote Jared Sandberg. "You may never find it…If you do spy a thermostat, it's probably locked, or encased behind shatterproof glass."
"Even worse, HVAC experts acknowledge what millions of office workers have suspected all along: A lot of office thermostats are completely fake—meant to dupe you into thinking you've altered the office weather conditions."
Some may say "dupe," but the purpose of installing nonfunctional thermostats is to keep building occupants feeling comfortable and in control, say many engineers, contractors and wholesalers in the HVACR industry. Still, some manufacturers do not approve of their intentional use—or non-use for that matter.
And even though these thermostats do not actually provide a direct interface to the mechanical system, by giving the illusion that they do, they act as a placebo in many cases.
Friday, June 29, 2007
Yesterday Mr F and I went to a Goldeyes game. Final score was 3-2 Calgary (unchanged since the end of the third inning). Mr Katz may be a questionable mayor, but he definitely knows how to run a minor league baseball team (notwithstanding their loss). And a seat right behind home plate for $15 is hard to beat.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Last night I met up with a friend who I hadn't seen in some ten years. She's doing well, has a two year old daughter, and is working for the regional health authority here. It was nice to just have a couple of beers and talk about old times. Neither of us has heard from most of the people we knew from those days; I'm rather curious to hear what's become of the Trashcan Man in particular, specifically whether or not he's in jail (he probably should be).
Monday, June 25, 2007
Our cottage plans are on hold till tomorrow, owing to continued thunderstorm warnings for the Kenora area. Since the cottage is only accessible by boat, we figured it might be a bad idea to cross the lake in an aluminum boat in a thunderstorm, so we're going to wait till tomorrow.
My effing laptop is acting awfully sluggish right now, so that's it for this post.
Sunday, June 24, 2007
Needless to say, I won't be posting from the cottage, and my posts may be pretty sparse in general while I'm away.
Friday, June 22, 2007
Tomorrow I help set up the NDP table at the Multicultural Festival, and help run it for a few hours. On Sunday CL will drive me to the airport, and as usual will get to use my car for the week.
From here, via bugsybrown.
There's an irresistible parallel between this and Manning's earlier life, which he spent hectoring an un-conservative Conservative government about its budget deficit, which was this gigantic problem that grew and grew and grew because nobody in office, least of all Tory prime minister Brian Mulroney, had the guts to take it on.
Manning had the guts. The party's got to end, Manning said. He was shrill, he was a scold, he was right, and he smashed the Progressive Conservatives in the West.
Now he's talking about the environment, with the same message: party's over, and somebody's got to pay the bill, even on the sacred oilpatch. A lot of Albertans are very worried indeed about the environmental degradation they can see -- the open-pit oilsands-extraction operations; the gas flares that light the night within minutes of the legislature in Edmonton; the diminishing Athabasca River, which gave its name to the biggest oilsands deposit.Specifically, Manning is talking about water, and how wrong it is that oil companies can take four barrels of water from finite rivers to steam one barrel of oil and sand apart without paying for it. He proposes "full-cost accounting," the idea that an industry that uses up a public resource should pay for it.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Monday, June 18, 2007
The weekend went well, though it was busy. On Friday I went with CL and DL to a performance by Amanda Martinez; the performance was good but the venue left a lot to be desired (it was a big tent in Victoria Park, with terrible acoustics and way too much talking. On Saturday I hung out with Ms McD, and on Sunday I worked with Ms P on some stuff for the NDP's table at the Multicultural Festival next weekend.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Saturday, June 9, 2007
Incidentally, the recently purchased work van is showing itself worthy of being owned by our company. As mentioned previously, the instrument panel has been working erratically almost since we got it, and more recently we found that the air conditioning, which worked when we received the vehicle, no longer worked. It was taken in last weekend. The A/C was fixed (for the time being at least; Norfolk Dude suspects that they system has a slow leak and was simply charged up before selling the van to us); the instrument panel problem was attributed to (and I'm not making this up) a supposed tendency for the dashboards to warp in this model of van. My boss lapped this explanation up with his usual credulity (much like he raved about how this particular guy was so good at restoring insurance writeoffs, he could take two cars of the same make with damage at opposite ends and weld together the good halves of each to make a perfectly sound car). How a warped dashboard is supposed to cause all the erratic behaviour of this instrument panel was not made clear; I suppose a warp could conceivably cause some electrical component to contact metal when it shouldn't and cause a short, but in such a case I'd expect it not to work at all, rather than to behave as it does.
In a little while I'm going to track down flyingbuttress of Agile Like This; she's got a booth at a craft sale today, and I want to buy some additional copies of their CD for people. Let me say it again- they rock.
Thursday, June 7, 2007
Today's load was small; we were done by around 2 PM despite the fact that we stopped to allow the Human Sawmill to read to us from some letters we found in the garbage. It was a collection of love letters between a teenage girl and some guys (the letters they sent along with some of her rough drafts). It was amusing at times, but got uncomfortable when she started mention stuff like cutting herself. At that point I started to feel rather guilty for listening, especially given how unsympathetic my colleagues sounded. Unfortunately, being the meek sort that I am, all I was able to do was to point out that the guys she was corresponding with seemed pretty messed up themselves. My colleagues seemed to acknowledge the point but quickly forgot it and went back to going on about how crazy women are.
On Sunday I bought an MP3 player, but found that it didn't work. I took it back to the store, intending to exchange it, but they didn't have any more of that model, and the next model up was around $20 more, so I asked for a refund. Fortunately they didn't make me fight for it, because I don't think I would have done a very good job. I'd probably have forked over the extra $20 and slunk out of the store. Both this story and the previous one suggest that I ought to be more assertive than I am. Actually a lot of aspects of my life suggest that, though I don't know what to do about it exactly.
Wednesday, June 6, 2007
Tuesday, June 5, 2007
As you might guess, I'm again feeling rather sick of my job. The actual sorts haven't been too bad, but the last couple of evenings have been spent working on other projects (mostly data entry, but there's been some additional shite from that project that was plaguing me up in Pembroke). The whole career change idea keeps coming back into my head, though I kind of think I should try to find another job in my current field first. But I'm coming to believe that fieldwork is a young person's game, and so I'm currently looking at office jobs that are related to the field I'm in now. Unfortunately, most of the ones on the job boards are either jobs like my current one, or else call centre jobs that happen to be specialized in this field (hooray, I could be the person who answers the phone when you call to whine about your garbage collection being late). Even that, though, seems like it would be an improvement. It wouldn't offer much room for advancement, but I have to wonder how much room I have for advancement where I am now.
I've gone as far as checking the library science programs at universities that offer them, but they seem to want someone with a 4-year degree, not two 3-year degrees and an incomplete masters' degree. They might be willing to make an exception, though, so I intend to look into it further. The thing is, that would require going further into hock with OSAP, as well as relocating (the nearest schools that offer such a degree are in Toronto and London; and neither of Winnipeg's universities offer it either). And I'd like to think I'd be employable in the field afterwards- after all, there are so many schools, universities, and municipalities in this country that surely one of them would hire me. Sure, it might mean living in a place like Dauphin or Meaford, but I think I could live with that... at least for a while.
Sunday, June 3, 2007
The Agile Like This show was great. I bought their CD Take Our Load (a 5 track EP) and have been playing it quite a bit this weekend. They're apparently going to have a bunch of shows this summer, so anyone in the Tri-Cities should check them out. (Don't bring your kids, though, unless you want to have to explain some pretty perverse shit to them).
Yesterday I helped the Perfects move. They're now in a nice highrise, and they seem pretty happy with it. It was a very hot day, but the move itself went very smoothly (they had a fair amount of help). Or rather, it went smoothly except for one little thing- they clipped a parked car with the U-Haul. No serious damage, but embarrassing for them.
Friday, June 1, 2007
And, in other news, my site meter has finally reached three digits!
Thursday, May 31, 2007
It seems that dropping celebrities' names definitely brings hits, though the way I tend to drop names it's not the sort of thing that encourages people to stay. Yesterday's post brought one hit from someone searching for a certain rock star, and I also just got a hit from another Ottawa-area searcher (perhaps the same one; same ISP, anyway) who was looking for info on the dishonourable member for Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke. The former was very short (registering zero on Sitemeter's clock) while the latter lasted 45 seconds. I guess if I want meaningful traffic, I'll have to have something that encourages people to actually stay.
Nevertheless, I'm going to drop one more name in this post- the band Agile Like This. They're playing tonight at the Circus Room, and they're friends of mine, so I'm going to check out the show.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
The actual work site is at Muskoka airport, which is remarkably busy this time of year. Most of the traffic has been single engine piston aircraft, but there have been a couple of business jets as well, perhaps owned by the various celebrities (Cindy Crawford, Eddie Van Halen, etc) who are reputed to have cottages in this area. The bins we've been provided with are supposed to be closed to avoid attracting bears and seagulls, but they don't have lids, so the possibility exists that a bear will show up and devour some celebrities as they get off their Learjets. While I certainly don't wish Ms. Crawford or Mr. Van Halen any ill, there's a part of me that wants this to happen (for purely selfish reasons; if this were to happen our company would likely be bankrupted by the ensuing lawsuit, and I'd be able to go on EI to search full time for a better job).
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
And you've got to see this video:
Make sure you watch the whole thing- you'll be amazed at how it ends. Certainly not your typical nature video.