Monday, July 30, 2007

Still no news about Ms B-D. No news is usually good news, but when you're waiting to see if someone will ever regain consciousness, it doesn't work that way. Perhaps this whole situation is responsible for the weird headspace I was in all weekend.

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

An eventful weekend

On Friday I canceled the Mosaik card, along with three other cards. I now just have a MasterCard and an American Express, which give me more than enough credit for now. Canceling the cards was easy enough (the folks on the other end of the phone didn't push too hard to get me to reconsider), although it hurt to cut up all those pretty pieces of plastic.

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

Credit gone wild

I returned from the field this evening, ran out to an NDP meeting, and then hung out with Ms P afterwards. In my mail I found an official looking package which, when opened, turned out to contain my shiny new WestJet Mosaik MasterCard. And therein lies a tale.

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

Technical difficulties... please stand by

I didn't get around to fiddling with my laptop this weekend, but I brought my Windows CD as well as a Linux live CD in the hope of getting it working properly. Unfortunately, when I tried to fix Windows it ended up getting worse, to the point where it no longer boots. The live CD works, but I can't get it to recognize the hotel's network. So I'm reduced to using the public terminal in the hotel lobby. Annoying, and I hope that the bosses don't pick this week as the one where I have to work on some important document, else I'm screwed.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Shocked but not that surprised

Well, after visiting Ms B-D (who, incidentally, is holding up reasonably well under the circumstances), I met up with Ms McD and Ms P. As we were coming back to the building, we ran into the caretaker. Since my neighbour across the hall hasn't been around for several days, and another neighbour had been asking after him, I asked the caretaker what he knew. It turns out he's in jail, charged with sexually assaulting a young woman from the back of the building. I'd always picked up a weird vibe off him, but until now I'd given him the benefit of the doubt. In retrospect, though, this doesn't seem out of character at all. In any case, I don't expect to see him again (no great loss).

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

A busy weekend

I hung out with Ms McD last night, and we watched a number of episodes of The Young Ones. Today I'm going to Toronto to visit a friend of my parents' (who we'll call Ms B-D here). She's in Toronto Western with an aneurysm, albeit a relatively mild one. She's slated to go in for surgery on Monday.Then on Sunday I have the Ps' housewarming, and after that I have to leave for Bracebridge. Not much time to simply relax, but that's the way it goes.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The week in review

As expected, our days were somewhat longer than usual for this project, owing to the absence of the van as well as the fact that a lot of cottagers who weren't around in the winter and spring are out now. However, it was still pretty light.

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.

Monday, July 16, 2007

A decent day, as workdays go

The absence of the van didn't seem to hurt us too much; we were done by 2:30 PM. We ate out (there's a food allowance on this project, so we're milking it for all it's worth); after supper we went to a cafe called Marty's which is renowned for its butter tarts (not to be confused with butter queens, cf. the Mad Dogs and Englishmen movie). They were indeed first rate butter tarts; indeed I can't recall having had a better one. Notably, the place also sells what they call a "Big-Ass Apple Pie", which presumably describes the consequences of eating too many of them.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Yes, I am most definitely back at work... evidenced by the troubles that arose almost immediately. We brought two vehicles, the shitmobile and the van, to facilitate collection. Strangely, the shitmobile has not lived up to the name so far on this trip (mind you, there's still four more days). The van, however, lost power somewhere near Orangeville and we were forced to move all of Norfolk Dude's and the co-op student's bags into the truck. As the smallest person in the vehicle I ended up crammed into the back seat surrounded by stuff. The bosses are apparently going to try to rescue the van tomorrow morning (which probably means having it towed somewhere). But hey, they got it so cheap! It's worth having a few problems if you can get it so cheap. Right?

Another weekend bites the dust

On Friday I was scheduled to work in East Gwillimbury, but when we arrived our trash wasn't there. We waited around for around three hours before the boss decided to pull the plug, then went back to the office.

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

The more things change...

Nikolai Lanine was born in the USSR, and served in Afghanistan in the Soviet army in the 1980s. He has a strange sense of deja vu about the current mission:

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.

It was only later that I began to wonder: Did that aid justify our aggression?

From here.

Has Ricky moved into my neighbourhood??

Monday, July 9, 2007

Happy birthday, bro

So it's my brother's birthday today. Coincidentally, Jian Ghomeshi interviewed him briefly at the Winnipeg Folk Festival, and it was played today.

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

I dodged a bullet

Actually, I dodged it last October, but only got confirmation today. At that time (and no, I wasn't doing much blogging at that time, so it's not mentioned there) I was working on a project in Toronto and got pricked with a little lancet of the type diabetics use to prick their fingers to test their blood sugar. I was never too concerned (I'd have been much more worried if it was a syringe from the high-rise blocks at Jane and Finch, for instance) but it was lingering in the back of my mind for the last seven months or so. Since the incubation period for HIV and hepatitis is long, I had to wait until now to verify that I'm okay. I was never worried about HIV (the virus' life expectancy when exposed to air is measured in minutes) but hepatitis B and C can last months, or so I'm told, so the risk was there. But I'm clean, so for better or for worse my existence is likely to continue for quite some time (unless I do something stupid like, say, getting a fatal case of heat stroke this weekend).

Friday, July 6, 2007

Just one more thing to feel guilty about

I suppose I should have mentioned this Monday, since that was when it was rubbed in my face. On the Current they interviewed George Monbiot on the topic of climate change, and he said that you should never do what I just did and hop on a plane to take a week's vacation. The Bishop of London (the big, far away one, not the medium-sized one an hour's drive from here) has gone further, saying that flying to take a holiday is a sin. According to Monbiot, it's not just the fuel consumption (the consumption per passenger kilometre isn't too much worse with some jets than with cars, at least if they're fully loaded) but the fact that they release water vapour at high altitudes where it lingers and acts as a greenhouse gas (and a more powerful one than CO2, at that).

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.

It's Friday already?

Man, time has flown considering how little fun I've had this week. Work has been okay, though a bit stressful at the start of the week. Other than that, I've had a bit of a relapse on an old addiction- Nethack. I have yet to beat the current version. Ms. P says her significant other has been known to spend weeks on a single game, so maybe I'm too impatient and get myself killed as a result. Good game, though.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Sometimes the best thermostat is one that doesn't work

Is keeping the peace with placebos fair game?

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.


Back to the grind

I returned from Winnipeg on Sunday afternoon, and had a relaxed couple of days. Last night I was in bed by 9 PM in anticipation of having to be at the office for 6 AM today. When I got up I found an email and a voice message (the latter left literally minutes after I drifted off to dreamland) saying that I don't have to be in till 9 AM. Oh well.