Thursday, June 30, 2005

Coffee and environmentalism

At the client where I work, we have some very nice coffee machines, which serve up very nice coffee.

Unfortunately, they recently did away with stir sticks, opting instead to go with plastic spoons. Now, of course we're all becoming more and more environmentally-minded in Canada, so everyone wants to do their part.

To a point.

Here's how it works. Person A comes looking for a coffee, and notices that there are no stir sticks. So s/he takes a plastic spoon, stirs her/his coffee, and thinks

Hmm. What should I do with this spoon? It would be a waste to throw it out, after just one use. I know! I'll fill a cup with water, and put the spoon there. Then people can reuse it!

Well done, Person A! You've struck a blow for environmentalism everywhere.

But wait, let's see how this plays out. Here comes Person B. Person B would also like a coffee, and notices that there are no stir sticks, and thinks

Hmm. There are no stir sticks, but there is this cup of water, with a spoon in it. I wonder how long that spoon's been there... Oh well. Better not take a chance. I'll get a new one.

And so Person B does. And then adds it to the cup of water.

And now, along comes Person C. By this point, there are two spoons in the cup of water, and because there was a little bit of coffee on one of the spoons, the water is kind of brown. That, my friends, is disgusting. I can't even blame Person C for ignoring the cup altogether, and getting a fresh spoon.

And thus it goes, throughout the day, until the cleaning staff comes in late at night, and throws out the cup full of accumulated plastic spoons, so that the cycle can start afresh on the morrow.

Incidentally, in case you're wondering, when I get a coffee I take one of the used spoons from the awful brown-watered cup, and rinse it off and wipe it with a paper towel, then put it back into the cup.

But if I were you, I wouldn't give me any credit until I start bringing in my own cups, instead of using the disposable paper ones...

Testing photos

I just found out that I can upload photos through Blogger. I think this is new - I'm sure I looked into it before, and I couldn't do it. But, we'll see how it goes.

I'm not promising to start a photo blog or anything, but it's nice that I can post some pictures here, if I want to.


I suddenly became dizzy this morning, and it's taking a while to go away.

If I die unexpectedly this weekend, all of my faithful blog readers will know that dizziness was the first symptom. (Either that or a sore left arm, but that's gone now, so it was probably nothing.)

Tell the coroner, if you happen to run into her/him.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005


loser: n.

1. A person who sets up a blog, with no good reason.

2. [extreme] A person who sets aside long periods of time to read his/her own blog writings, in a form of extreme narcissism.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Adjusted the fonts again...

I adjusted the way I specified fonts for this blog. Before, I was specifying a specific size (like 12pt for the main font), but when you do that, if the user adjusts the browser to make the text look bigger, it won't work.

So now I've used relative sizes everywhere. (i.e., make the titles X% of the size of the main font, that type of thing) This should allow users to make the text look bigger or smaller, if they wish.

Hot Hot Heat

I love the summer. I know everyone else is all bogged down by the heat, and saying things like "I really shouldn't complain, since I complained all winter..." But me? I love the heat. I think it's great.

That being said, I didn't love it when I was in college living downtown in a bachelor apartment, where the heat was left on in the middle of winter, and the room was like an oven. And I didn't have a fan. Then I didn't like the heat.

But now I like it just fine.

Monday, June 27, 2005

My Eyes (revisited)

My eyes hurt again. I think I need to get a giant, 21" monitor, so that I don't have to stare as hard at this one.

Somehow, though, I doubt I'll be able to expense something like that...

Actually, I think what I really need is glasses...

An old friend

I saw an old friend on MSN Messenger yesterday, whom I haven't talked to since March - and at the time, the news wasn't happy. So I was overjoyed to see her again, and get a chance to talk with her and catch up.

And then, probably not even five minutes into the conversation, I had to abandon her, so I didn't even get a chance to see how she's doing these days.

Strangely enough, it was one of the few conversations I've ever had where I spent the whole time talking about myself. Usually, in conversations with people that I haven't seen in a while, I spend the whole time talking about the other person, and my only comments about myself are along the lines of "I'm doing fine. Nothing really new going on." (Even when something new is going on. I've had entire conversations with people, logged off my computer, and then thought "oh yeah! I should have told them that I wrote a book!" or "oh yeah! I should have told them that I got engaged!" or (later on) "oh yeah! I should have told them that I got married!" etc. etc.)

I hope I get to see her again soon, because I miss talking to her. (I also miss living vicariously through her, because she's younger than me and has more fun of a life, but for all I know her life might be getting as boring as mine, so I'm not counting on the "living vicariously" part...)

The Weekend

Had a fairly full weekend, but not too stressful.

Friday night was go karting with the Youth Group. But only two of the youth showed up, along with myself and another leader. (Actually, that's not true. Another guy showed up, and then decided to leave since none of his friends were there, and another leader showed up, and we told her she could go home, since we already had a one to one leader to youth ratio. Plus, another leader called me on my cell, and asked if she was needed, and we told her she wasn't. So really, it was only the two guys and the two leaders who actually stayed for the go karting.)

The four of us went go karting anyway, and had a pretty good time, except that:

  • The wheel on my car was so hard to turn that I went home with majorly sore arms.
  • There was a couple there, I'm assuming on a date, and the girl got hurt. (From what I can tell, she drove straight into the wall, and hurt her hand. Probably on that damnable steering wheel...)
But before you get any sexist notions about girls and go karting, she didn't get hurt because she was driving badly. In fact, at one point I cut her off pretty badly (although I pulled it off very well, I must say), and then shortly after she got me back and cut me off just as well.

On a related side note, I think the perfect people to match up against in go karting are a couple out on a date. The guy will be so busy trying to impress his date that he will go out of his way not to be a jerk, and the girl will often go ahead and compete well, but without the male testosterone-soaked competitiveness getting in the way.

So that was Friday. Saturday I had a family reunion, and dragged my better half to it with me. In fact, I made her drive on the way there, for two and a half hours. So I got some quality reading time, and she got some valuable highway driving experience. The reunion itself was nice, all of my relatives are very friendly, but there was a country band there, and after a few hours, we'd both had our fill of country music. (She was relieved that we'd been listening to Asian Dub Foundation and The Roots in the car, so she had some good music along with the country that day...) Not that we have anything against country, but enough is enough and too much is too much.

Sunday was our church picnic. Had a good time there, too, except that a bunch of the kids decided that I would make a good target for water guns and water balloons. I suppose my pastor is happy about that, because it means they weren't targetting him, as they usually do. But it was all in good fun, so I didn't mind.

So all in all, a good weekend, but with a lot of sun. Luckily, I covered myself up nicely with sunscreen, so I'm not burnt.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Three Hours Between Chatham and Toronto

About a year ago, I was driving home by myself from my parents' place to my apartment, and I narrated the whole trip to myself in my head. And then, for some bizarre reason, I went home and wrote it down.

Then this weekend my wife and I went on a drive home for a family reunion, and I remembered it. It has absolutely no importance to anyone, but then again, neither does this blog, so I guess this is the appropriate place for it...

So, without further adieu, here it is.

The long weekend is over, and it’s time to head back to Toronto. I’ve been visiting my family for a few days, but now I have to make the three hour drive back to the apartment, so I can start the new work week.

It’s about 8:30 at night. The rain is hitting the windshield so hard that I can barely see; at times the lines on the road disappear from view, and it’s only sheer instinct that keeps me inside my lane. Who knows, maybe at times I’m not in my lane – but I haven’t ended up in a ditch, yet, so at least I know that I’m on the road. The windshield wipers don’t seem to be doing any good, and I’m tempted to just turn them off, but I’ve read my Douglas Adams, and I know that that wouldn’t be a good idea.

I have the soundtrack from Snatch on the CD player. A great soundtrack for a great movie, but I wish I had some more CD’s in the car, because I know that before three hours is up I’ll be tired of this one. What I’d really love to have in the car is some AC/DC, since I just finished watching a lousy movie that happened to end on some AC/DC music, and I have it running in my head. But I don’t even own any CD’s by the group, and there sure aren’t any in the car. It doesn’t matter. I have the music blaring, as is my wont, but I’m not really listening to it. I just catch a line or two here or there, which intrude on, and colour, my thoughts. Occasionally I attempt to sing along, although I don’t know most of the words to any of the songs.

Just knock… three times… and whisper low
That you… and I… were sent by Joe
Then strike… a match… and you will know
You’re in… Hernando’s Hide… a… way.

The way the rain is blatting against the windshield, it almost seems like snow. However, it’s April, so I choose to believe that it’s just rain.

I normally love to drive. Get out on the open highway, let the music roar, maybe sing along, and let my thoughts wander – what could be better than that? I don’t even mind driving in the dark, especially when I’m on the highway. There isn’t much to see anyway, except the white line on one side and the white dotted line on the other, and it’s not any harder to see those in the dark. Nor do I mind driving in the rain. But driving in the dark and in the rain? Well, that’s enough to keep my nerves on edge for the whole ride. So I know that by the time I get to Toronto, my right arm (my “driving arm”) is going to be sore, from gripping the steering wheel too hard.

I’m tempted to use the idea of being alone on a dark highway, in the rain, heading toward an empty apartment, as a metaphor for my life. However, considering how good my life is, that would be unnecessarily morose. I’m just a guy who happens to be by himself, on the dark highway, in what happens to be a whole heck of a lot of rain. Despite those facts, life is pretty good, and the fact is that I’m warm and comfortable, despite the rain.

In a strange way, I’d almost like to see a hitchhiker I could pick up, just to keep me company. Of course, chances are that if I did see a hitchhiker, I wouldn’t pick him or her up anyway. It’s not smart in this day and age (if it ever was). And it’s just as well; I’m not exactly Mr. Smalltalk, so even if I did pick someone up, they’d be in for a couple of hours of uncomfortable silence. (Maybe they’d like the soundtrack from Snatch, and the drive wouldn’t be so bad. They could even help me figure out the words to Dreadlock Holiday.)

I’m just outside of London, now, and what I’ve mostly been thinking about for the last fifty kilometres or so is both halves of the cup of coffee I drank earlier. One of those halves is currently in my bladder, and my bladder isn’t too happy about that fact – it wants the coffee out of there. Frankly, with my bladder complaining so loudly, I want the coffee out of there too. That fact alone is enough to keep that cup of coffee first and foremost in my thoughts.

The other half of that cup of coffee is spilled down my front. I can feel the stickiness on my hands and the bottom half of my face, as well as the wet spot on my jeans, where most of it went. I’m a bit clumsy, sometimes, when I’m drinking in the car. Well, let’s face it: I’m a bit clumsy all of the time, driving or not.

But all in all, the drive has been pretty good so far. There isn’t much traffic, and the traffic that I do see is being predictable. I still have to get all the way through London before I’ll get to a rest station, so that I can get rid of the coffee that’s in my bladder and on my hands and face, but that shouldn’t take too long.

I attempt to pass a truck, and the driver turns on a blindingly bright light, which points back toward me, and illuminates the driver-side of the truck, where I’m attempting to pass. It’s as if the driver were flashing the bright lights at me, but I just can’t tell what s/he is trying to tell me. Go ahead and pass? Wait a second, because I need to get in that lane? I decide not to take any chances, and I don’t pass the truck. I even flash my brights once, to let the driver know that I’m not going to pass, and the truck can get in the fast lane if desired. Since the truck does, I figure I’ve cracked the “bright light” code, and I wait until the truck has finished passing some other vehicle, and gotten back into the right lane, before I continue on my way.

I’m now left to my thoughts again. At one point, my fears come true, and all of the lines on the road really do disappear. There is an unnerving couple of minutes (yes, I said minutes) where I can’t see the road at all, and only know that I’m still on it because I haven’t felt the shoulder. Whoops, scratch that, I feel the shoulder for a second or two, but I manage to get myself back on the road. Luckily, the rain lets up just in time, and I can see the lines again, just as a group of traffic catches up to me. I’m able to stay in my own lane, so as to avoid an accident, while they pass me. I should be fine, anyway, for a while, because I’m in London now, and there are streetlights along the highway; that will help with visibility.

Finally, I make it to a rest stop. As I’m easing onto the off-ramp, I realize that my foot has been in the same position on the gas pedal for a long time, because it’s cramped, and pretty stiff when I go to press the brake. As a result, the car jerks a couple of times as I’m slowing down, because I’m pressing the brake too hard. I would normally use the cruise-control, for a long drive like this, but with this rain, I’d prefer not to, since I’ll need to keep slowing down and speeding up, as the weather requires.

It would be great if the variety store at this rest stop is selling CD’s, so I can maybe pick something else up to listen to, but I’m not going to get my hopes up.

Strangely enough, I don’t feel my bladder thanking me, once I’ve emptied it. It’s less uncomfortable, sure, but there isn’t an immediate feeling of relief. That must mean I left it too long before relieving myself. At any rate, it doesn’t hurt anymore. Also, it feels good to be able to wash my hands and face – even if this is one of those frigging sinks that won’t stay on unless you hold down the knob, meaning that you can only rinse one hand at a time.

The variety store isn’t even open. Doesn’t matter; I’m sure they wouldn’t have had any CD’s anyway, let alone a CD I’d be willing to buy.

Unfortunately, when I get back to my car, I notice the gathering white flakes on the side, and I’m forced to admit that it really is snow that’s falling, and not just rain. In April. This has really been one of those winters. Oh well.

I’m back on the open road, but it isn’t as open as it was before. There’s more traffic, now, and some of the cars are acting strangely.

At one point, there are two cars coming up fast behind me. That’s no problem, because I’m in the slow lane, and they’re more than welcome to pass me. But only one of them does; the other one stays behind me. And then decides to pass me, and I mean pass me fast. It speeds up to get by me – but then quickly slows down, so that it is just staying even with me, in the fast lane. And then, to confuse me even more, slows down again, and falls back in behind me. At this point I’m very confused, but I figure as long as the car stays behind me, and not in front of me, I’m less likely to get killed by the other driver’s erratic behaviour. (And I may be right: I don’t get killed on this particular drive home.) I speed up just a tiny bit, and slowly leave the car behind. It’s even more of a mystery why the driver doesn’t maintain speed with me, and keep following me, but at this point, it becomes academic, rather than being life and death, as it was with the erratic driving I had been witnessing earlier.

To pass the time, I’m narrating the entire drive to myself in my head, as if I were a character in a novel. (I’m particularly pleased with the passage I came up with earlier in the drive, regarding the “two halves of coffee”. For some reason, it tickles my fancy, and I spend a bit of time on good wording for it.) This type of thinking isn’t uncommon for me. In the past, I’ve spent entire drives making up music videos in my head, to accompany the music I have on the stereo. Actually, “videos” probably isn’t the right word. What I outline in my head is more like silent feature films, with the music as a soundtrack. I feel that if I could get a quality video camera, I could have a great outlet for my creative juices. However, I haven’t yet created any of my imagined films. Frankly, outside of a college cinema class, I don’t know that they would have much of an audience anyway, so it’s not like the world is mourning the loss of my art.

At another point, I attempt to pass another truck, and the driver flashes another of those strange rear-facing lights at me. (Is it the same truck? Maybe it passed me by as I was in the rest station…) I really can’t figure out what the driver is trying to tell me, this time. I try flashing my brights back, but the truck doesn’t take my lane. I finally just drive on by the truck, and hope that it doesn’t suddenly come into my lane, and crush me. (It doesn’t.) Strangely enough, another truck does something similar later on. Maybe this is some new technology in truck lighting systems, that all of the drivers are eager to try out, at the expense of confusing some poor guy from Toronto, trying to make it home.

I spend the next little while of my drive thinking about bright lights, and the various meanings that there can be when a driver flashes their brights at an oncoming car. It’s a little silly to spend so long thinking about this, especially since I can only think of two reasons to flash your brights (those reasons being “hey, you’ve got your brights on, please turn them off” and “hey, there’s a cop up ahead”), but I can’t really control my thoughts that well when I have so much time to myself, so I spend a couple of minutes thinking about it anyway.

The drive continues like this until I get to Mississauga. By this time, the traffic has gotten a lot busier, as it always does heading into the city after the weekend, but we’re still moving along nicely. I’m doing a bit over the speed limit, and almost pass a cop, but for once in my life I actually see the cop while there’s still a chance to do something about it, so by the time I pull even with the cruiser I’m down to the speed limit. The cop is stuck in the slow lane, behind someone who isn’t doing the speed limit (probably because they’re afraid to go too fast, with a cop on their tail), and I’ve left the cruiser behind fairly quickly.

Once I get back onto the city streets, and off the highway, I’m able to turn my windshield wipers down to a slower setting, and they start squeaking. I really need to change the passenger-side one; I have the new blade in the trunk, I just haven’t bothered to do it yet.

And finally, I get home to my apartment. For some reason it looks emptier than usual, but it’s exactly how it was when I left it. There aren’t any new messages on the machine, because I had already checked my messages before I got home. (There is, however a whole load of spam waiting for me in my email Inbox, but that’s hardly a great homecoming.)

I can’t figure out why I feel so disconcerted.
I’ve gotten home just in time to watch one of my favourite shows, which is just starting, and I do. I then watch one of the shows that I recorded while I was gone for the weekend. That’s about it, and it’s time to call it a night. I’ve had a long drive, and I could use the sleep.

Unfortunately, I can’t sleep. I’m just tossing and turning. So, instead of lying in bed, I decide to go and type up my thoughts from the car ride. By the time I’ve finished, I still haven’t figured out why I bothered.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Email hilarity. Or lack thereof.

Got an email (via my wife) from a friend who's working over seas, and I decided to send her back a response email, to say hi. She's more of a friend of my wife's than of mine, but she's been over to visit a number of times, and we've been over there to visit a number of times, so I've got to know her a bit, and I like her. Her daughter is incredibly cute and intelligent for a 3 year old, so it's fun when we get to see her, too.

So, with these facts in mind, you'd think it would be a pretty short email, eh? "Hi, how've you been? I've been well. Write back soon!" Sign my name at the bottom of that (or just put my first initial, as seems to be the fashion these days), and we're done. Badda boom, badda bing.

Instead, I wasn't that busy this afternoon, and I sent a huge, rambling, useless email, that she'll have to waste numerous minutes reading. Heh.

Now, on the one hand, I have to be in a silly mood to write something like that, and I wouldn't normally bother, for someone I don't know that well. And probably wouldn't have, in this case, if I wasn't just pissing away time this afternoon.

But, on the other hand, it sort of makes a twisted practical joke, to send something like that, too. "Is he kidding about some of this stuff, or serious?" "Does he really write emails like this?" And (my favourite), "how does his wife put up with him if he is like this normally? Doesn't it drive her crazy?!?"

Ah, life.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

heart attack?!?

I have a very weird cramp in my left arm, right up near the shoulder. It's been there since at least this morning, and maybe even last night. I don't know if I pulled a muscle or what.

When I mentioned it to my wife this morning, she immediately suggested that it might be a heart attack. So, I would make some kind of comment about her being a doomsayer, but heart attack was the first thing that came into my mind, too, even though I knew that it wasn't... I just thought "left arm", and then the next thought was "heart attack"...

But, as I say, it's been happening since at least this morning, so if it is a heart attack, it's the longest and mildest heart attack in history.


I was downtown last night, for an event, and it was hot, so of course everyone resorted to wearing flip-flops, instead of shoes or sandals.

I'm just going to lay my cards on the table on this issue: flip-flops are ugly. They were ugly 20 years ago, and they're just as ugly now. They're not even comfortable, with that little plastic thing in between your toes, so the one saving grace they would have had, they don't. (I tried them when I was a kid, a couple of decades ago, and I definitely didn't find them comfortable.)

And let me be clear on the word "ugly": I'm not exaggerating, to try and make a point. I'm not overstating things because I'm opinionated. This isn't a situation where I think that other types of footwear look better than flip-flops, so I'm saying "they look ugly" to make my case. Rather, the situation is this: they are ugly.

The strange thing is not that they came back into fashion; the strange thing is that they came back into fashion exactly the same as they were 20 years ago! I mean, platform shoes were ugly in the 70's, and they came back into fashion in the 90's, but they came back into fashion with a "90's twist"; they were sort of the same, but the style had also been updated to look more 90's. But flip-flops look exactly the same today as they did when I was a kid. Same material, same style, same colours, same everything.

Now, I realize that some of the regular readers of this blog might like flip-flops. In fact, I'm pretty sure a high percentage of the regular readers wear them. And my intention isn't to insult anyone - although I'm sure that will happen. So if you want to fill up the comments on this post telling me how out of it I am, or how insulted you are, feel free to do it.

Just put something else on your feet before you do!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The Concert

We've put up some pictures from the Jehovah Shalom concert, on the web site. If you'd like to see them, click here, or here, or here.


At the place where I work, they have a lot of movie posters up, and I just noticed one today for a movie called Birth. And man, is it a creepy poster!


I never post details here about work, because there are lots of issues with that, one of which is that a lot of people who do that are cowardly.

But it's too bad, because someone at work just told me something that I found incredibly funny, and I would have loved to have posted about it. It would have given me the opportunity to say "Wow, I'm so smart in comparison to other people"...

But I don't, so I can't, so I won't.

Monday, June 20, 2005


There are numerous people who bug me to update my blog more often, and I don't listen to them. I'll update it when I have time, and/or when I have something to say.

That being said, here I am, and I still have nothing to say. In a way, if you've been waiting for me to update this, you'll be more disappointed by this post than you would be if I didn't write anything. Heh.

Anyway, here is what is on my mind, this afternoon, as I wait for a conference call that's supposed to start in about 20 minutes:

  • The Jehovah Shalom concert went well on Saturday. I flubbed my lines in a number of places, but not so badly that it ruined anything, I don't think. The singers also did an amazing job, I'm told, but of course I'm always so busy concentrating on my own guitar playing that I hardly hear the singers...
  • Went for Hakka for lunch today, and had garlic chicken, which is what I always get. So my breath is really garlicy at the moment.
  • On a related note, I tried to dispel the garlic breath with coffee, but the coffee tastes really bad this afternoon. So I might have to go downstairs and get something else to eat at the variety store.
And that's it.

I'm sure I'll start posting again regularly, soon. Considering that I'll have more free time, now that the concert is over.

Of course, I do want to get back to work on the book...

Thursday, June 16, 2005

My Eyes

I don't know why, but my eyes hurt like crazy today. I can barely keep them open.

Which makes it hard to carry on my job, which basically requires me to start at a computer all day...

Wednesday, June 15, 2005


On a completely non-rant-related basis, I scraped the back of my hand pretty badly this morning, and had to throw a band-aid on it, to keep blood from getting on my shirt. And I just took the band-aid off.

I have hairy hands.



This whole post is a huge rant. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Talked to some girls at my church last night, who told me that they would have read the Chomsky book review entry, but it was too long, and it was too boring, and blah blah blah.

And I got all indignant and self-righteous on them. "If North Americans aren't willing to learn about this stuff, then we're just contributing to the problem", blah blah blah.

Not that I think that my particular book review was all that important. The problem I have is not that they didn't read my blog entry; the problem is that people in North America get so immediately bored any time you start to talk about world politics. Even mention people dying of starvation in Latin America, and their eyes start to glaze over; good luck even getting to talk about whose fault it is that those people are starving, because by that time your listener will have completely tuned you out.

If we're not even willing to talk about a problem that is our fault, and therefore ours to fix, then how are we going to fix it?

To end this on something concrete, think about this: How much money did you spend on entertainment last year? I'm talking movies, books, CDs, concerts, etc. Could that money have been spent better? Could you have used it to help someone else? And how much time did you spend on entertainment? I wish I could find some concrete figures on how much North Americans spend every year on entertainment... (The only figures I have seen are specific to pornography, and I think world hunger could be wiped out altogether just with the money that was spent on porn last year.)

Think also about the amount of time you spent on entertainment. Could that time have been spent better, by learning how people are mistreated and killed around the world (by us) in the name of capitalism? (It could also have been better spent by reading your bible, but that's another story...)

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Pirates ho!

We were out with some friends recently, and I mentioned that I'd like to see the movie Collateral. One of my friends mentioned that she had it on DVD, and offered to lend it to me, which she did.

The DVD was a pirated(sp?) DVD, which, frankly, I wasn't overly worried about. It played in my DVD player, and that's all I cared about.

But after a few minutes, I started to realize that the music was really bad for this movie. "Who did they get to do the soundtrack?!?" I wondered. By the time we got about 15 minutes into it, my wife finally convinced me what was happening:

Apparently, when the pirates were capturing the movie (camera in a theatre?), they didn't get the music very well. So they decided to, get this, add their own music! My wife noticed pretty quickly that she could hear two pieces of music playing at some times, some classical stuff and some really bad rocky stuff on top of it. (I didn't hear both pieces of music for a while, because my ears apparently don't work very well.)

So the music was so distracting that we eventually had to give up on it. It's not that it was two soundtracks at once, and it's not that the music didn't really match the scenes, and it's not even that the music was really, really bad. It's that all three of those things were happening at once.

I'll have to rent it sometime (or wait for it to come out on TMN), so that I can see what it's actually supposed to sound like.

Quite a few words, but surprisingly little content

I was this close to working on the book this weekend, but then had to give up on it, because when the time was right there were two of us who wanted to use the computer at the same time. But my feeling of urgency around it is growing, which means that I'll probably start working on it in earnest right after the concert.

I also had a very nice day off, yesterday, in which I did almost nothing. (Not even clean the bathrooms, which was one of the very few things I had planned to do...)

And then I came in to work over an hour earlier than usual this morning, so I'm fairly sure that I'll be grumpy by the time I leave work this afternoon.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Previous post

I just re-read my book review, and realized that there are a number of typos: some extra commas I would wish to remove, a misspelled word, and a word that I left out.

Unfortunately, I've decided never to edit my posts once they're up, so the badly written post is now up forever.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Book review

If you're looking for an interesting read on world politics, I recommend Hegemony or Survival, by Noam Chomsky. It's a fascinating read on the concept of Wilsonian idealism, as posited in world politics, and especially as posited in American politics.

If you're not familiar with the term "Wilsonian idealism", here is a good passage from the book (page 5):

Controlling the general population has always been a dominant concern of power and privilege, particularly since the first modern democratic revolution in seventeenth-century England. The self-described "men of best quality" were appalled as a "giddy multitude of beasts in men's shapes" rejected the basic framework of the civil conflict raging in England between king and Parliament, and called for government "by countrymen like ourselves, that know our wants," not by "knights and gentlemen that make us laws, that are chosen for fear and do but oppress us, and do not know the people's sores." The men of best quality recognized that if the people are so "depraved and corrupt" as to "confer places of power and trust upon wicked undeserving men, they forfeit their power in this behalf unto those that are good, though but a few." Almost three centuries later, Wilsonian idealism, as it is standardly termed, adopted a rather similar stance. Abroad, it is Washington's responsibility to ensure that the government is in the hands of "the good, though but a few." At home, it is necessary to safeguard a system of elite decision-making and public ratification - "polyarchy," in the terminology of political science - not democracy.

The first phrase in that quote, "controlling the general population has always been a dominant concern of power and privilege", might seem a bit extreme, if you haven't been studying such things. But this is the central point he goes on to prove through the rest of the book: Everything America does, it does to retain its power over the world (especially it's financial control). It does this externally, by sponsoring death and destruction in other countries, and it does it internally, by misinforming its population on the issues.

(My reading on such things lately has led me to believe that Bush II has taken things to new extremes, when it comes to disinformation. However, Chomsky points out, through numerous examples and documentation, that it's something Washington has always done.)

Another point that may surprise you, if you have a TV (and have therefore been subject to American rhetoric for your entire life), is that the leaders in America don't really care too much for democracy, because when people are given the right to vote, there's always a chance they might vote in their own interests, rather than in the interests of Washington.

As an example, he mentions Turkey, who refused to allow give America everyhing it wanted when it came to the war in Iraq. Why? Well, because the population of Turkey was overwhelmingly opposed to the war. But Washington did not like this! They were furious with Turkey's leaders, for submitting to the will of their democratic people. As Chomsky says (p. 136):

The presuppositions are clear. Strong governments disregard their populations and "accept the role" assigned to them by the global ruler; weak governments succumb to the will of 95 percent of their population.

Chomsky, an American, also takes a hard look at 9-11. Especially at the view that the world was different after 9-11 (p.191):

Let us turn to the belief that 9-11 signaled a sharp change in the course of history. That seems questionable. Nevertheless, something dramatically new and different did happen on that terrible day. The target was not Cuba, or Nicaragua, or Lebanon, or Chechnya, or one of the other traditional victims of international terrorism, but a state with enormous power to shape the future. For the first time, an attack on the rich and powerful countries succeeded on a scale that is, regrettably, not unfamiliar in their traditional domains. Alongside horror at the crime against humanity and sympathy for the victims, commentators outside the ranks of Western privilege often responded to the 9-11 atrocities with a "welcome to the club," particularly in Latin America, where it is not so easy to forget the plague of violence and repression that swept through the region from the early 1960s, or its roots.

Although I don't have any quotes handy, you should know that one of the most important points Chomsky makes in this book is that America is the biggest sponser of terrorism in the world, by a large factor; the only difference is that when America does it, it's called "counter-terrorism", whereas when anyone else does it, it's called "terrorism".

When the attitude in Latin America is "welcome to the club", it can't be surprising, when you consider how many hundreds of thousdands (millions?) of Latin Americans have been killed, either directly or indirectly, by America. (When I say "indirectly", I mean that someone else did the actual killing, but America gave them the money, the weapons, and in many cases even the training.)

So how did America's leadership respond to 9-11? On page 217, we see the following:

Those at the center of power relentlessly pursue their own agendas, understanding that they can exploit the fears and anguish of the moment. They may even institute measures that deepen the abyss and may march resolutely toward it, if that advances the goals of power and privilege. They declare that it is unpatriotic and disruptive to question the workings of authority - but patriotic to institute harsh and regressive policies that benefit the wealthy, undermine social programs that serve the needs of the great majority, and subordinate a frightened population to increased state control. "Literally before the dust had settled" over the World Trade Center ruins, Paul Krugman reported, influential Republicans signaled that they were "determined to use terrorism as an excuse to pursue a radical right-wing agenda." He and others have documented the relentless pursuit of that agenda. A natural reaction of concentrated power to any crisis, it was unusually ugly in this case.

Same story, different day.

Unfortunately, the book doesn't have a happy ending. As the title implies, Chomsky's thesis is that America has a choice: Continue down the road of hegemony, and thus destroy the world, or give up on it, and survive. Chomsky believes the leadership is going to continue down the same path it always has.

To move to another domain, the Bush administration has been widely criticized for undermining the Kyoto Protocol on grounds that to conform would harm the US economy. The criticisms are in a sense odd, because the decision is not irrational within the framework of existing ideology. We are instructed daily to be firm believers in neoclassical markets, in which isolated individuals are rational wealth maximizers. If distortions are eliminated, the market should respond perfectly to their "votes," expressed in dollars or some counterpart. The value of a person's interests is measure the same way. In particular, the interests of those with no votes are valued at zero: future generations, for example. It is therefore rational to destroy the possibility for decent survival for our grandchildren, if by so doing we can maximize our own "wealth" - which means a particular perception of self-interest constructed by vast industries devoted to implanting and reinforcing it. The threats to survival are currently being enhanced by dedicated efforts not only to weaken the institutional structures that have been developed to mitigate the harsh consequences of market fundamentalism, but also to undermine the culture of sympathy and solidarity that sustains these institutions.

(from pages 234-235)

The central goal of Washington is to maintain control over the world, and that won't change. Chomsky mentions grassroots movements as a potential solution to American hegemony, but personally, I have my doubts. If such movements take place outside of America, they won't do as much good to change it from the inside; on the other hand, Americans, even with the best of intentions, can't be trusted to give up their own wealth and luxury.

Even the poorest in America live better than most of the world, and I don't see Americans being willing to give that up. But that's just me.

I wish I could the book better justice in this post, but in order to do so, I'd have to post the whole thing... If you'd like more information, you can go to the book's web site.

Thursday, June 09, 2005


I had a weird dream last night.

I was at home by myself on a Sunday afternoon, and the doorbell rang. I answered the door and there were two women there, who said that they were house cleaners, and asked if they could come in to talk about their services. (I was very surprised, looking over their shoulders, to see that they had backed their van right up to the front door, so that the back tires were right up on the porch steps, instead of parking it in the driveway like a decent person would.)

I knew it was a bad idea to let them in, because they were just going to try and sell me something, but for some reason I decided to let them in anyway. I don't know why. I didn't know why in the dream either; I just did it.

But when I let them in, instead of trying to sell me on their services, they just barged right into my basement, and started looking at things, and figuring out what stuff I had that was valuable, and what wasn't.

At this point, I realized that they weren't trying to sell me anything at all - they were here to rob me! So I was like "Hey!" and they were like "yeah yeah, get out of here." Which I thought was pretty stupid, because the first thing I did was go upstairs and call the police, to let them know that I was in the process of being robbed. (I was pretty surprised that they didn't try to tie me up or something, to prevent me from doing this...)

So the cops sent over somebody, and it turned out to be somebody I knew. (It was, in fact, a real person, that I used to work with at a previous company, not a made-up dream person. Don't ask me why I was dreaming about her, because I barely even knew her...) I saw that she wasn't wearing a uniform, and I asked her "what, they couldn't even send over someone who's on duty?" But she flashed me a silver ring that she was wearing, and apparently this means that she's on duty, but under cover. (In the dream, for some reason, this made sense...)

But as soon as the two women heard me calling the police, they immediately got out brooms, and started cleaning the house, so that when the police got there, they could say "What? Robbers? Not us! We're just house cleaners!" But I thought that this was pretty flimsy, so I wasn't worried about it coming down to my word vs. theirs. I knew the police would believe me that they were trying to rob me.

I don't remember anything about the dream after this; I seem to recall that I might have asked the cop in for something to eat, but I might just be misremembering it.

I do remember, though, thinking "oh, so that's why they backed the van up to the house like that... So they could more easily load my stuff into it!"

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Okay, never mind

I had planned to go to prayer meeting this evening. And then I sat down on the couch ahead of time, and almost dozed off while reading a book.

There's no way I could have gone and sat at prayer meeting for an hour, with my eyes closed, and not fallen asleep.

I'll have to go next Wednesday. LORD willing.


Changed the format, again, just a bit. Made the post titles a little bigger, and the dates a little smaller.


This hasn't been the most productive day. I didn't get enough sleep last night, and have a headache, and I just haven't been able to make myself focus properly.

(Also, there are a few things that I'm waiting on other people for, which is holding me up from doing some of my work.)

On a day like this, I would really have expected to have written a bunch of material in the blog - except that I'm tired and have a headache, which really isn't conducive to writing.


The previous post wasn't written very well.

I choose to believe it's because I'm tired and have a headache, rather than because I have no innate writing skills.

Prayer meeting

I'm on the board at my church, and a while ago we had a board meeting, and talked about prayer, and the fact that prayer meetings are so badly attended at my church. And one of the things that I realized at that meeting is that I'm not going to prayer meetings, and I should be. (I already knew I wasn't going, obviously, the revelation was that I should be.) Of course, I'm very busy, but there are Wednesday nights when I'm free, and could make it.

So I decided that I'd better put it on my calendar, because if it's not in my PDA, it's not in my brain. And so I did. And every Wednesday, it goes off, and reminds me that there will be a prayer meeting in a few hours.

And then the next Wednesday I couldn't make it, because I was busy. The Wednesday after that, I went, for the first time in too long. And then... every single Wednesday since then, I haven't been able to make it. Either my wife was working late, or I was, or something else came up, and I just couldn't get out.

And that was going to be the story tonight, as well, because we were supposed to meet up with some friends who are leaving the country tomorrow. But they have to pack, since they're leaving the country tomorrow, which means that I'm free now. So I can finally go to prayer meeting again tonight, after way too long.

The End

Special characters

This post is in response to a comment from a previous post.

I'm not sure how to get the ö character, aside from doing the ALT+#### method. (ALT+0246, in this case.) Some programs have special key combinations you can use to enter these types of characters, but I looked and couldn't find anything for MSN. (Not that that means anything - MSN's help is pretty shoddy.)

The most common character I use via the ALT+#### method is é, which is ALT+0233. In fact, this is the only one I have memorized, because it's the only one I use regularly.

(For those of you who don't know what Kathryn and I are talking about, open Notepad, make sure your Num Lock is on, hold the Alt key, then press and release the 0 on the keypad, press and release the 2, press and release the 3, and press and release the 3 again. Then release the Alt key; the character é should appear. Make sure you use the keypad, not the numbers across the top of the keyboard.)

On Windows, you can look for the Character Map program (Usually Start->Programs->Accessories->System Tools->Character Map.) When you select any of the characters in there, at the bottom of the window it will tell you the ALT+#### combination to get it (if any).

Otherwise, I would do a search on Google for "special characters", and see what comes up. There are probably lots of sites that will give tables of special characters, especially since MSN users have this annoying habit of using the characters inappropriately, just because they think it looks cool, which just goes to emphasize their ignorance. My name is "serna", not "§éŖñà".

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Blogging on a Tuesday afternoon

The colleague who usually sits with me in my cubicle is working from home this afternoon, which would normally mean that today is a good day to put an entry on the ol' blog, to keep it up to date. (It's always uncomfortable doing this if someone could look over your shoulder, and wonder what you're doing.)

Unfortunately, I've got a bunch of work to do today, so I don't have time to post anything anyway.


I'm getting better at making curry - but still very bad.

I tried it last night, and it was very gooey; in fact, almost powdery. I think I left the heat on too high, so the water just boiled off, and instead of gravy I had paste. (Or, as the Guyanese might say, it was pasty pasty.)

Oh well. I'll keep trying...

Monday, June 06, 2005

Comments - again!

I've changed the way that comments work, again. They're no longer hidden on individual post pages - only on the main page.

You can all rest easy now.


I've gotten very behind on doing my devotions, lately. I'm not consistently reading my bible every day, as I should.

I really need to get myself back into a schedule, which includes my devotions.

serna's blog: all the posting, with none of the useful information

Still haven't done any work on my book. I'm sure I'll get to work on it any day now... I'm actually doing more work on the book about Microsoft Word than on the Christian book, which is the one I really care about.

I notice that I mention the term "PVR" in my last post, but I forgot to mention what a PVR is. In case you're not familiar with the term, it's short for Personal Video Recorder. Think of it as a combination cable box and VCR; it makes it easier to record your shows with the click of a remote. But the nice thing is that it lets you pause and rewind live TV, too. (Basically, while you're watching TV, it's always recording in the background. So if you missed something, and want to go back and see it again, you can rewind and see the stuff the PVR recorded for you.) The other nice thing, which doesn't sound like a big deal but is, is that you don't have to watch the shows in order, if you don't want. But if you record your shows on a VCR, you pretty much have to watch them in the order you recorded them, unless you really want to do a lot of fast forwarding and rewinding.

It also lets me do picture-in-picture, which I was really looking forward to - I thought that was going to be a great feature, because when I watch TV, I always end up flipping between two shows. So, I figured with the picture-in-picture, I'd know when the commercials were over on one show, and I'd be able to just flip back. But, as it turns out, it's so easy to record shows with the PVR now that I hardly ever watch live TV anymore - I'd rather record it, and watch it later so that I can fast forward through the commercials. Ah well, c'est la vie.

I took my car in for service. Whoo boy was it expensive. It needed a lot of work, partially because it's three and a half years old now, but also because it was so way overdue for service, so I had to get a lot done at once. But the best part is that they fixed the weather stripping on the driver side window, so I don't hear wind coming in anymore when I drive over 70. So it's easier to hear my music when I'm on the highway.

We turned on the A/C for the first time on Sunday. I was holding back, figuring that it would be better to just cool the house by opening the windows, but Sunday was really hot and humid, so we figured it was finally time to switch it on.

And then, of course, Toronto Hydro went on strike at midnight, so for all I know the power will be off by the time I get home tonight.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Random Thoughts

I haven't really had much to write about, lately. Plus, I've been busy, so I haven't had a chance to post during the day. But, since I have a few minutes while I wait to go out for lunch, here are some random thoughts, to pacify the gentle reader until I can post something significant:

I've been thinking lately about getting back to work on God in the Driver's Seat, but I just haven't had time. Maybe after the concert I'll have some more free evenings, and then I can get back to work on it.

My PVR has been really filling up, these days, because I keep recording shows, and then not having time to watch them.

I'm finally taking my car in for service tomorrow; I had to make the conscious decision to work from home for a day, so that I could book the appointment. It's way, way overdue, so I'm half afraid that I'll bring it in, and they'll tell me it's not safe to drive or something.