Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Blog Milestone Coming Up

My 500th post is fast approaching. As it does, I have a question for my readers (if any): is there anything you’d like me to post for my 500th post? Anything you’d like to know, any questions you’d like answered, anything you’d like me to comment on?

I don’t normally accept much in the way of feedback, when it comes to this blog, so this is a rare chance to affect the way it’s written—even if it is only for one post.

Of course, the last time I specifically solicited feedback from my blog readers, I got very little in the way of response, and I’m expecting the same this time. (Mostly because I don’t have a lot of blog readers.) But if I’m wrong, and people actually want to influence what goes into my 500th post, I’ll take it under advisement.

Monday, May 29, 2006


Construction Season is now officially here, and, to celebrate, I’ve got a cold. It’s been a long time coming; for weeks now, I’ve felt the initial symptoms, and occasionally remembered to take some Vitamin C to try and fight it. But I’m realizing today that it’s actually here.

They say that non-winter colds are sometimes worse than winter ones; however, I don’t know if that’s true, or if people just feel that way because they don’t expect to get colds in the warmer seasons. It’s too early to tell if this one is going to be bad or not, but so far it’s not—just a bit of sniffling.


The TTC went on strike today. I… have no opinion on it.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

New Toy

I’ve been spending a lot of time on conference calls lately, at work. Too much time; there have been a number of days that I’ve gone home with a sore ear, from holding a phone against it the whole afternoon.

So I’ve got a new toy: a phone headset. (It’s not exactly like the one shown here, but pretty much the same.) And it works great, but there are some things I need to get used to:

  • I can’t drink coffee while I’m using the headset. I keep trying to raise the cup to my lips, only to have it knock against the microphone.
  • When someone calls me, it takes me a few seconds to arrange everything, before I can answer the call. I have to grab the headset and get it arranged on my head—I don’t yet have enough skill with it to be able to just throw it on—clip the wire to my shirt, so as not to get myself tangled up, and then press the appropriate button on my phone to answer the call. As opposed to simply picking up the receiver, and talking.
  • Hopefully the technology compensates for this, but when I’m wearing it, I keep hearing myself breathe. Apparently my nose is close enough to the microphone that it picks it up. As I say, I hope the technology somehow compensates for that, because I don’t want everyone on my conference calls to hear my breathing the whole time!

Warm and Fuzzies

Without going into any details whatsoever, it’s good when someone is willing to go to bat for you. Sometimes, even in an office environment, where people are supposed to be professional, tempers flare up, and jealousies rage, and peoples’ personalities get in the way of doing their jobs. And in those situations, it’s sometimes hard to be professional. Or, worse yet, you can be professional, but others will take advantage of you behind the scenes, and try to make you look bad.

And every once in a while, someone will maintain a cool head, and stand up for the people working under them. “Hey”, they’ll say, “that person works for me. If you have a problem with them, please talk to me. This isn’t their fault, they’re just dealing with the situation like everyone else.”

In my mind, one of the marks of a good manager is the ability to sort through the politics of an organization/situation, and praise people when they need to be praised, and criticize people when they need to be criticized. (And, just as importantly, to be able to do the criticizing properly, meaning constructively and not hurtfully.) A good manager can also shield the people under them from the politics they don’t need to be involved in.


I used to know this girl. Well, I still know her; I still see her online occasionally, on MSN Messenger, and we talk, and we’re happy to “see” each other. But I used to know her better.

I was thinking about her yesterday afternoon. Thinking about the friendship we had; thinking about some of the bad relationships she’d had, and smiling at some of the memories. And then, out of the blue, she messaged me. Spooky.

We talked a while ago, and I had to abandon her in the middle of the conversation. The same thing sort of happened yesterday; I had to leave the office before we’d really had a chance to talk. Hopefully I’ll get to see her again soon, and get a chance to catch up. To find out how she’s doing, because I don’t know much about what’s going on in her life anymore.

mm mm MMM

You know that your breakfast is going to be good when you pull the receipt out of the bag, and it’s got grease stains on it.

That, my friends, is good eatin’!

I would write more, but for some reason, my gut is making a bunch of noises right now. I’m not sure, but I think it’s asking me to fill it with coffee. I’ll try that, and see if it takes care of the problem.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Dead Kennedys, Cont.

I remembered one other thing I had planned to say in my Dead Kennedys post. That’s the problem with doing 8 things at once, two of them being blog entries: you get in such a rush to get it done that you forget things.

On their Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death album, they had a song called Too Drunk to F**k. (You can probably all guess that that word is supposed to be, but I’m still not going to type it.) As opposed to many of their songs, which were concerned with social justice, or deeper topics, this was just a fun song, with no deeper meaning. Unfortunately, there are a number of people out there who claim to be Dead Kennedys fans, but only know this song. I’ve known full-out punks, with the mohawk haircuts, and the safety pins in their cheeks and all that, who had the Dead Kennedys logo (shown again on this post) on their black leather jackets, but if you were to mention Dead Kennedys to them, they’d be like “yeah, too drunk to f**k, man! Woo!”

It always disappointed me.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

My Pictures

I’ve apparently started a blog war with one of my friends, but, unfortunately, I’ve run out of ammo. Every time I think of something clever to say—which isn’t that often, I’ll grant you—he thinks of something clever to say, and backs it up with another unflattering picture of me.

So I’ve decided that I won’t be firing any more salvos of my brilliant wit into the battle, for fear of getting more pictures in return.

Jer, I concede. You’ve won the war. So you don’t need to bring out the picture that we both know you want to post. hehe

Casino Royale

The trailer for Casino Royale is on YouTube. I’ve watched it a bunch of times—and now you can too!

I found it very slow to load at work today, and I don’t know if it’s because the network was so slow, or because YouTube was so slow; it might be a very popular video right now. So if you find it very slow, just be patient. It’s worth it—this is a great trailer.

Even the music is great; they played around with the theme just a little bit, and gave it a very tense, action-packed feel, but still maintained the old-school James Bond theme music feel. I’m looking forward to the movie.

The Long, Long Weekend

This post goes into more detail about work than I normally post, but I don’t think there’s anything in here that shouldn’t be.

This weekend was crazy. For most people, it was a long weekend, but for me it was a long, long weekend. I had to work Friday night, for a deployment, so that pretty much mucked the whole thing up for me.

I woke up Friday morning at the regular time. I would have liked to have slept in, and got some extra sleep in preparation for the late night, but unfortunately Andrea had to be at work on time, so that was out. I wasn’t disappointed, though, because sleeping late in advance of a late night doesn’t really do a lot of good.

I pretty much worked a regular day on Friday, except that I took it really easy in the afternoon. Most of my colleagues, in preparation for the late night, left the office around 1:00 or 2:00, but again, Andrea wasn’t able to leave work early, so I waited around for a normal day. I wasn’t too disappointed by this, however, because I knew if I’d gone home I wouldn’t have been able to sleep anyway. I did, however, leave the office around 2:00 for a late lunch, which I had at the Keg. I had a great steak and a beer; how often do you get to have a nice leisurely lunch like that?

Friday evening, Urban Promise was having an end-of-year pot-luck dinner, to which I was invited. So I basically just dropped Andrea off at home, and went straight to the church. I stayed until around 8:00 or so, and then got back in the car and went back to work.

I brought my guitar with me, and spent some time at the office learning a song that I had to play for someone on Sunday morning. I got an odd look from the security guard at the building, when I came in guitar in hand, but oh well.

After I’d learned my song—or as much as I could, anyway; I realized I’d need Andrea to help me figure out some of the chords—I did some work. And almost messed up one of the test environments we have; I must have spent an hour trying to get it back up and running. Oh well; it gave me something to do, until the deployment could start.

The deployment started at 12:30, and involved two pieces: my piece, which was smooth and flawless, and then another piece, which I had to test against my piece. My part was done around 1:30, then tested, and got the green light. Everything was tested successfully. We then had to wait around until about 2:00, for the other piece to be done, so that we could test.

At 2:00, we checked in with the other team doing the other piece, and they were having problems. We scheduled another checkpoint for 2:30. And then for the rest of the night/morning we had checkpoints every half hour, until about 5:00. Then we had to have all kinds of other meetings, and I finally left the office around 8:00.

At 9:00AM, Andrea and I headed back to church, for Jehovah Shalom choir practice, for our concert on June 17th. Practice went from 9:30–12:30, including some extra setup Andrea and I had to do before and after.

After practice, we went to the grocery store, to stock up on groceries, for Saturday evening. Did I mention we had company over on Saturday? Oh. Well, we did.

By this time, I’d been awake for 30.5 hours straight, so I was exhausted. From 1:30–5:30 or so, I slept.

Company arrived some time around 6:00. Maybe a bit later. It was Andrea’s family, and we had a great time. The food wasn’t too bad, but it wasn’t overwhelming, either. I wish I was a better cook. I got performance anxiety cooking for Andrea’s aunt, because she’s a great cook. But nobody made fun of me, or spit their food out into the plants, so I guess it went okay. (That being said, I should check the plants when I get home.)

I went to sleep around 11:00PM Saturday night. And then my cell phone rang at 12:30; they were re-doing a piece from the previous deployment, and were hoping I could do a quick test from my side. I did the test, and got back into bed around 1:00. The phone rang again at about 5:30AM, because my system was down, and they couldn’t continue their testing. I wasn’t, if I may be frank, at my best, performance-wise, so I didn’t do a lot to figure out what the problem was, but it soon turned out that a separate back-end system, that my system depends on, was down for scheduled maintenance. So they let me go back to bed, and waited until everything came back online, to finish their testing. (As a side note, since I don’t mention it later, the testing went well.)

Sunday was a fairly normal day; church in the morning, choir practice in the afternoon. There was a tense moment during the morning service, when I was supposed to be playing for the woman doing the special music—this is the song I’d practiced for Friday night—when I picked up the guitar, to start playing, and somehow the E string was way out of tune. The poor woman was standing there, ready to start singing, and I had to re-tune. Luckily, however, it only took a few seconds (although that must have felt like an eternity to her—it did to me), and we were back on track. She sang beautifully.

Monday I slept in until noon, and then we didn’t do anything special for the rest of the day.

Chickenshit Conformist Like Your Parents

When I was a teenager, I went through a very very hard rock phase. At the time, the type of music I was listening to was called “Thrash”. It has also been called “Hard Core” (a name I don’t like, because any kind of music can be “hard core”), and “Death Metal”. Some of the stuff I listened to had no redeeming value whatsoever; groups like M.O.D. (Masters of Destruction), and Dayglo Abortions, for example. Some of their stuff was great to listen to, but not exactly intelligent, or socially responsible. Which is fine, because that’s not what they were aiming for.

And then there were the Dead Kennedys. (I was going to put up a link to the Wikipedia article, but it had a warning at the top that it might not be “neutral”, so I didn’t bother.) The Dead Kennedys were a punk rock band that sang about things that really mattered; they cared about politics, both world-wide and domestic. Being a know-nothing teenager in Blenheim, Ontario, I didn’t know half of the things that they were talking about, but I really cared about the things that I did know. And I went off and learned about some of the other things, after. The Dead Kennedys are probably one of the big reasons I’m interested in politics today; they taught me that there is a lot of injustice in the world, and you need to care about it. (And this is before I became a Christian.)

The following song lyrics are a great example. This is a song called Chickenshit Conformist, from their Bedtime for Democracy album. It’s my favourite Dead Kennedys song.

Chickenshit Conformist
Punk’s not dead
It just deserves to die
When it becomes another stale cartoon
A close-minded, self-centered social club
Ideas don’t matter, it’s who you know
If the music’s gotten boring
It’s because of the people
Who want everyone to sound the same
Who drive bright people out
Of our so-called scene
’Til all that’s left Is just a meaningless fad

Hardcore formulas are dogshit
Change and caring are what’s real
Is this a state of mind
Or just another label
The joy and hope of an alternative
Have become its own cliché
A hairstyle’s not a lifestyle
Imagine Sid Vicious at 35
Who needs a scene
Scared to love and to feel
Judging everything
By loud fast rules appeal
Who played last night?
“I don’t know, I forgot.
But diving off the stage was a lot of fun.”

So eager to please
Peer pressure decrees
So eager to please
Peer pressure decrees
Make the same old mistakes
Again and again,
Chickenshit conformist
Like your parents

What’s ripped us apart even more than drugs
Are the thieves and the goddamn liars
Ripping people off when they share their stuff
When someone falls are there any friends?
Harder core than thou for a year or two
Then it’s time to get a real job
Others stay home, it’s no fun to go out
When the gigs are wrecked by gangs and thugs
When the thugs form bands, look who gets record deals
From New York metal labels looking to scam
Who sign the most racist queerbashing bands they can find
To make a buck revving kids up for war

Walk tall, act small
Only as tough as gang approval
Unity is bullshit
When it’s under someone’s fat boot
Where’s the common cause
Too many factions Safely sulk in their shells
Agree with us on everything
Or we won’t help with anything
That kind of attitude
Just makes a split grow wider
Guess who’s laughing while the world explodes
When we’re all cry babies
Who fight best among ourselves


That farty old rock and roll attitude’s back
“It’s competition, man, we wanna break big.”
Who needs friends when the money’s good
That’s right, the ’70s are back.
Cock-rock metal’s like a bad laxative
It just don’t move me, ya know?
The music’s OK when there’s more ideas than solos
Do we rally need the attitude too?

Shedding thin skin too quickly
As a fan it disappoints me
Same old stupid sexist lyrics
Or is Satan all you can think of?
Crossover is just another word
For lack of ideas
Maybe what we need
Are more trolls under the bridge
Will the metalheads finally learn something
Or will the punks throw away their education?
No one’s ever the best
Once they believe their own press
“Maturing” don’t mean rehashing
Mistakes of the past


The more things change
The more they stay the same
We can’t grow
When we won’t criticize ourselves
The ’60s weren’t all failure
It’s the ’70s that stunk
As the clock ticks we dig the same hole
Music scenes ain’t real life
They won’t get rid of the bomb
Won’t eliminate rape
Or bring down the banks
Any kind of real change
Takes more time and work
Than changing channels on a TV set

When I was a teenager, I always had this dream of what my life would be like, when I grew up. It involved wearing jeans and a t-shirt to work every day, and then being in a punk band by night, where I would always show up to gigs dressed in a business suit. Rebelling not just against the authorities, but also rebelling against the “punk scene”. How meta, eh? Unfortunately, I didn’t do it. (I have some colleagues who might claim I’m sort of achieving the first point; I don’t always dress as I should for work. But the only people who would think that are the really old-school fussy business types; not the people whose opinions would matter.) I’m definitely not in a punk band, regardless of how I dress.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Mighty Mouse

Found this on YouTube. IMHO, a bit of classic humour, from Andy Kaufman.


Friday, May 19, 2006

Chomsky Article

I found another good article on Noam Chomsky’s website, called Superpower and Failed States. Check it out, it’s a good read.

As usual, I’ll throw up a couple of quotes. For this first one, he’s talking about the terms “terrorist state”, “rogue state”, and “failed state”:

The rhetoric has always raised difficulties, however. The basic problem has been that under any reasonable interpretation of the terms – even official definitions – the categories are unacceptably broad. It takes discipline not to recognise the elements of truth in historian Arno Mayer’s immediate post-9/11 observation that since 1947, “America has been the chief perpetrator of ‘pre-emptive’ state terror and innumerable other ‘rogue actions’,” causing immense harm, “always in the name of democracy, liberty and justice.”

And I thought this section was nice:

One commonly hears that carping critics complain about what is wrong, but do not present solutions. There is an accurate translation for that charge: “They present solutions, but I don’t like them.”

Here are a few simple suggestions for the US:

1. Accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and the World Court;

2. Sign and carry forward the Kyoto protocols;

3. Let the UN take the lead in international crises;

4. Rely on diplomatic and economic measures rather than military ones in confronting the grave threats of terror;

5. Keep to the traditional interpretation of the UN Charter: The use of force is legitimate only when ordered by the Security Council or when the country is under imminent threat of attack, in accord with Article 51;

6. Give up the Security Council veto, and have “a decent respect for the opinion of mankind,” as the Declaration of Independence advises, even if power centres disagree;

7. Cut back sharply on military spending and sharply increase social spending: health, education, renewable energy and so on.

For people who believe in democracy, these are very conservative suggestions: They appear to be the opinions of the majority of the US population, in most cases the overwhelming majority. They are in radical opposition to public policy; in most cases, to a bipartisan consensus.

Read the article. It’s not too long, and it’s very understandable. (I know some people don’t like reading about politics, because they think it will be boring or indecipherable, but not all of it is like that.)

My Friends

I was thinking today—completely out of the blue, and apropos of nothing—about the friends I left behind when I moved to Toronto. Whom I miss. And, although I’m going to try and convince them all to move to Toronto, it’s probably not going to work, so I’ll have to continue to miss them. Except James, who will soon be in Toronto, I hope.

There is one thing, however, that I don’t like about my friends. The fact that they sometimes put unflattering pictures of me on their blogs.

P.S. Jer, I laughed very hard when I read that.

Thursday, May 18, 2006


My timing (and/or judgement) is still as good as it ever was.

I came to the office on Tuesday, and it was raining. So I used my umbrella, to go from the car to the building. However, on my way out to lunch, I forgot it. I got down to the lobby, looked out the door, saw the rain, and had a brief internal debate, in which it was decided that it was too much bother to go back upstairs and get it. So I braved the rain, and went to my car. It wasn’t raining too hard, so no harm done.

I went to a mall food court, had my lunch, and then went to head back to my car, only to see that the rain was now pouring down. It didn’t look like rain, out the mall doors, so much as a waterfall in front of the building. So I ran back to the car, and got soaked. By the time I got back to the office, the rain was, if anything, coming down even harder. And, of course, I couldn’t find a spot near the door. So I ran from the car to the building. If I had jumped in a swimming pool I might have gotten a little more wet, but not much.

So that was Tuesday.

On Wednesday, when I came to work, it was bright and sunny, so I left the umbrella in the car. Only to find the rain coming down again, when I left work Wednesday afternoon.

Which brings us to today, Thursday. It’s not raining right now. However, my umbrella is in the back seat of my car. I bet it will be raining by the time I leave.

Helpful Hints for Linking to Blogs

At the bottom of each post I put up, there is a link that says “Permalink”. Those links are to individual blog entries; so, for example, if you wanted to link to, oh, I don’t know, the post that had the 10 Things I Hate About Commandments video, as an example, you could either:

  1. Create a link to http://www.sernaferna.com or http://sernaferna.blogspot.com, and instruct the reader to look for the May 17th post. OR
  2. Use the “Permalink”, and simply link to http://sernaferna.blogspot.com/2006/05/10-things-i-hate-about-commandments.html
You can either right-click on the “Permalink” link, and copy the address from there (in Explorer, it’s Copy Shortcut, in Firefox it’s Copy Link Location), or you can click it, and then copy the address from the Address bar in your browser.

And, on a completely unrelated topic, I bet some of you didn’t think I read your blogs on a regular basis, but I do. hehe

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

10 Things I Hate About Commandments

I won’t have time to post to the blog today; much too busy. But I did have time to read Raymi’s blog, and steal an idea from her; the following is from YouTube:

The link above to Raymi’s blog has a link to her Buzznet site, where I originally saw the video.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Mother's Weekend

I don’t really have too much to write about, but I have a few minutes, so let’s get to it!

We did the Mother’s Day thing on Saturday, because that was when my family was able to get together. Nothing special; just got together at my grandparents’ house, with my parents and one of my cousins, and had a nice meal. Including asparagus, which is my favourite vegetable (I think), and which was really fresh. Right off of the farmer’s field. So that was good.

My mom also brought me a cake, since my birthday just passed; beet cake, with home-made cream cheese icing. (It’s like carrot cake, but with beets instead of carrots, obviously.) This is my favourite type of cake; every year, for my birthday, my mom makes it for me. Except for the last couple of years, because she had lost the recipe. But she has now re-found it, so I got my cake this year. (And I ate it too. *insert canned laughter here*) Unfortunately, she can’t remember where she found it, so there is a chance I won’t get my cake next year, if she puts it back there and “loses” it again. At any rate, I have a very large amount of cake sitting in my fridge, but I’m sure I’ll be able to get through it, because I like this cake enough that I usually have some after every meal. And sometimes between meals. But hardly ever as a substitute for a meal.

On Sunday, we didn’t have choir practice in the afternoon, so instead we went out to lunch with Andrea’s dad and sister. We went to Bombay Bhel—my favourite Indian restaurant—and the food was even better than usual. It was busier than I’ve ever seen it (because of Mother’s Day, no doubt), but we still managed to get in after only a short 5 minute wait, which was nice.

Then, unfortunately, Andrea and I spent the bulk of Sunday evening cleaning the house. I hate cleaning the house. I especially hate cleaning the bathrooms—my assigned duty—so it’s even worse. But at least it’s clean, for the time being. Of course, we’re hoping to have some people over on Saturday, which means we’ll have to clean it again.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Hey Trish

Heh. Trish will probably never read this, so that was a silly title to use for this post.

I had a great conference call, from 4:30–5:00; “great” because I didn’t have to do or say anything. And the whole time, I got to catch up on MSN Messenger with a friend I haven’t seen in a long time. (The “Trish” mentioned in the title.)

I probably should have given her the URL to my blog, while I had the chance. But I didn’t, because I’m not very good at remembering things.

More on Colbert

I saw another article talking about Colbert’s “Bush Roast”. The title is Stephen Colbert for President, but the article didn’t actually suggest it; it was probably some editor’s idea of being funny.

One thing I liked about that article is that it also talked about Stephen’s jabs against the press; he didn’t just roast the president, he roasted them, too.

But Colbert aimed his most vicious jokes at the press corps, implying that they had been uncritical of Bush: "We Americans didn’t want to know, and you had the courtesy not to try to find out."

Also, I found the movie on the Google Video website, so if you haven’t seen it yet, go for it.

The Usual

I feel like posting to my blog today, but, as usual, I have nothing to say.

I was going to do a Raymi-style “this is what I posted one year ago today” thing, but when I looked, I saw that I had posted three posts on May 12th, 2005:

  1. A post about the fact that I’d got a new cell phone for work. It was boring to read, even for me.
  2. My now infamous “why would you bother reading this blog” post. It’s infamous because parts of it are out of date, and people keep mentioning those things to me, but really, the main thrust of the post are still as relevant today: There is no reason why you should bother reading this blog. I do now use Andrea’s real name, when posting about her, but I still don’t post any private details about our marriage; I do now post pictures, from time to time, but they’re still not any kind of a draw to my blog.
  3. A post about what it used to be like to go to the dentist, when I was younger. Also boring.
So that wasn’t worth it.

There was a post on Raymi’s blog where she hinted that she might stop blogging. (Fil, her partner, already did.) It would be too bad if she stopped blogging; it’s one of the few blogs out there worth reading. But it’ll be interesting to see how people react to her even suggesting it; she’s got enough rabid fans that I bet there will be a great hue and cry. But I commented and let her know that I’d miss her if she stops.

As a footnote, I finished writing this post during a conference call. I’ve been attending a lot of conference calls, lately. The kind of conference call I like best—and the kind I attend least often—is the kind where I don’t have to say anything.

Roll up the Rim All Done

I figure it’s pretty safe to post the final version of my Roll up the Rim spreadsheet. I actually meant to post it earlier, but I forgot, because I was too busy not posting anything else.

Here’s the spreadsheet:

And, because that’s probably too small for you to see (even if you click it, for the larger version), here are the relevant details:

Didn’t Win36

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Loss of a Good Blog

A while ago, I posted that I’d been reading a whole bunch of blogs, but that most of them were boring, and that I wouldn’t bother going back. And then, a little later, I posted that I’d stopped reading one of the few that I’d bookmarked, because, as I continued to read, it was getting boring, too.

And that’s the problem with the blogging world: Most of the blogs out there are boring, and not worth the time it takes to read them. Oh sure, to the bloggers’ personal friends it’s fine; they’d actually be interested in what Person X did on the weekend, or their opinion of the last episode of Survivor. But why would I want to read it?

Unfortunately, one of the blogs that I actually enjoyed reading, Philogynist, is no more. I’ll miss it; hopefully he’ll start writing again soon.

I would say something along the lines of “Px, we’ll miss you” but there wouldn’t be much point; I’m pretty sure he doesn’t read my blog. (And why would he? Oh sure, to my personal friends it’s fine; they’d actually be interested in what I did on the weekend, or my opinion of the last episode of Survivor. But why would Px want to read it?)

Template Update

I made a slight modification to the template for this blog, today. I changed the format of the pop-ups to work better with Firefox. For people using Internet Explorer, it shouldn’t make any difference, but it wasn’t working very well with Firefox, as it was.

On a related note, I’ve been using Firefox quite a bit lately, at work, and I’ll probably be posting a review of it here soon. And it will probably be favourable, because I like it.

CD Review: Hymned

I’ve been remiss in not reviewing this CD until now, but it’s called Hymned, by Bart Millard. It’s a CD of [mostly] traditional hymns, but with modernized music. (I have trouble categorizing the style of the music, but I guess “Country” will do.)

Near the end of last Construction Season, Andrea and I popped into a Christian music store, to look for some music the choir could sing. She was specifically looking for a CD or two with some hymns on it, but modernized, because those always go over well.

Of course, while she was searching, I was just goofing around, and looking for something I would enjoy. But while I was, I happened on this CD, which was new, at the time, and being advertised heavily. They had it at a listening station, where I could hear it, and so I popped it in. The first song on it was Just a Closer Walk With Thee, and for a couple of minutes, I just couldn’t tell if I liked it or not. I thought I did; it had a “fun” feel to it. But I wasn’t convinced. So I skipped to the next track, MawMaw’s Song, which I definitely didn’t like. It wasn’t, however a hymn—although it uses parts of In The Sweet By and By for the chorus—so I wasn’t worried. By the time I put on track 3, Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior, I was hooked. I knew I was going to buy this CD whether the choir used it or not.

So I brought Andrea over, and had her take a listen. Now, I wasn’t really sure what would happen, at this point. Our tastes in music aren’t always the same, so there was a good chance that she would tell me it was crap, and the choir would never hear of it. But luckily, she loved it too. So far, we’ve already done a few songs off this CD as a choir, and we’ll likely be doing more for the concert.

The CD is good enough that some of the choir members even listen to it for pleasure. That may not sound like a big deal to you, but frankly, when we’re singing a song as a choir, we all get sick of it pretty quick. After you’ve sang the first two lines of the second chorus of the song eighteen thousand times, it starts to grate on you. So the fact that some of the choir members like this music enough to listen to it even after that, indicates to me that this is a pretty quality CD.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Sometimes there's just nothing to write about

Of course, even when there’s nothing to write about, I end up posting here on a regular basis anyway.

I have a bunch of things on my mind (which are more interesting than punctuation), but I can’t write about them. (Some are work-related, some are personal things that people have told me, and some are personal things that I’ve read on complete strangers’ blogs.

I really need to get back to writing. I’m hoping to do some tonight. After I cut the grass. And finish the laundry that’s been piling up. And maybe clean the bathrooms (although I’m hoping to leave that until tomorrow). And fill out my census online.

Monday, May 08, 2006


I stopped learning grammar when I was in elementary school. Or maybe high school; I can’t remember which. In any event, I never really paid attention anyway, so everything I do know about grammar, I’ve learned by doing a lot of reading.

So there are a lot of things I do, grammatically speaking, which are incorrect. (You’ll probably notice some of them if you look through the comments on this blog. I have a lot of readers who enjoy pointing out grammatical mistakes—budding editors, no doubt. Or just jerks.)

This post points out a couple of things I’ve learned recently. They’re more concerned with punctuation, which I consider to be a subset of grammar.


There are three types of dash, which are used in different circumstances. (There are actually more than three types of dash, but for most people, it’s just these three that would matter. If you want to become a hard-core typesetter or something, you might want to look more into the different types of dashes.)

-dash (hypen/minus)

Dash (Hyphen)

The normal dash is what we’re all familiar with. You get it by simply pressing the appropriate key on the keyboard. According to Wikipedia, this is not, strictly speaking, a dash at all; it’s a hyphen. (In the Wikipedia article, they keep calling it a “hyphen-minus”, which I find confusing; I am calling it “hyphen/minus”, for this post, meaning it could be called a hyphen or a minus.)

The hyphen is used for, obviously, hyphenated words. For example, if I said that “President Bush is ultra-conservative”, I would use a hyphen in the phrase “ultra-conservative”. This character is also used as the minus character, for mathematical equations.


The n-dash is used to indicate a range. (It’s called an “n-dash” because it is supposed to be the width of a capital “N” for any particular font.) For example, if I have a meeting from one o’clock to two o’clock, I could say 1:00–2:00, where that dash in the middle is an n-dash. Or, for Biblical quotations, I might say Genesis 1–3, meaning Genesis chapters 1 through 3, or Genesis 1:1–3, meaning Genesis chapter 1, verses 1 through 3.

Since there is no n-dash key on an English keyboard, typing one is different from program to program; in Microsoft Word, you can get an n-dash by holding the Ctrl key, and pressing the hyphen/minus key on the numeric keypad. (The keypad off on its own, to the far right of the keyboard.)


The m-dash is used when you want to break the flow of text, for an aside. (It’s called an “m-dash” because it is supposed to be the width of a capital “M” for any particular font. It should also be twice the width of a hyphen/minus character.)

For example, “I sent an email to Jimmy—whoever he is—to fix my email account.” The dashes used in that sentence are m-dashes. Notice also that there should be no spaces on either side of the m-dash. (If you really, really wanted to include a space before and after, there is a special space character, which is more narrow than a regular space, which could be used, but I wouldn’t recommend it. It should never be necessary.)

An m-dash can also be used for an open-ended range; For example, if I were listing some people, and when they died, I might put:

Andy Kaufman (1949–1984); David Hunter (1974—)

In this case, Andy Kaufman lived from 1949 to 1984; a range of dates, so I used an n-dash. But David Hunter was born in 1974, and hasn’t died yet; an open-ended range, so I used an m-dash instead.

Since there is no m-dash key on an English keyboard, typing one is different from program to program; in Microsoft Word, you can get an m-dash by holding the Ctrl and Alt keys, and pressing the hyphen/minus key on the numeric keypad. Or, in many contexts where there is no such ability, like when using an old-fashioned typewriter, it is permissible to use two hyphens, in place of an m-dash. For example, “I sent an email to Jimmy--whoever he is--to fix my email account.” (I put that in a fixed-width font, to better show the dashes.) If you do this in Microsoft Word, it will correctly replace two hyphens with an m-dash.

m-dash vs. n-dash

There is a newer style of writing, in which people are starting to use a space, an n-dash, and a space, in places where an m-dash would traditionally have been used. For example, instead of writing “I emailed Jimmy—whoever he is—to fix my email account”, the newer style is to type “I emailed Jimmy – whoever he is – to fix my email account.” If you use Microsoft Word, and type in hyphens where those n-dashes are, Word will automatically convert them to n-dashes for you.

For this blog, and any other writing I do, I stick with the m-dash in this situation, but it’s becoming more and more common to use the “space n-dash space” convention instead, so it’s no longer “incorrect” to do so.

Italics, and Punctuation

Another thing I’ve been struggling with, recently, when there is a punctuation mark (comma, period, question mark, etc.) right after an italicized word, should one italicize the punctuation as well? For example:

You can’t be serious!
You can’t be serious!

As you can see, it’s a bit more readable if you do italicize the punctuation. After a bit of searching, I found this site, which indicates that no, you should not italicize the punctuation surrounding the text that you really do want italicized.

This is how I’d always been doing it. It sort of goes along with the Hacker Writing Style I use for quotation marks, when I’m writing. But recently, I started including the punctuation in the italicization, to make it look better, until I finally couldn’t live with myself, and had to look up the proper way of doing it. And now that I have, I’ll go back to the way I was doing it.

Yes, you CAN recover from insanity. Surprisingly quickly.

Anyone who works in an office, where pass-cards are required to open doors into protected areas, are familiar with the high-pitched whine that starts when you leave a door open too long. I’ve had countless conversations where I was in the middle of going into or out of a protected section of the office, and then someone started talking to me, and I continued the conversation until the door started doing its whine, so that I had to pick one side of the door and get on it, and close it quickly to avoid annoying all of my colleagues. (I’ve learned to avoid that, now, and when such a conversation starts I close the door ASAP; I don’t bother continuing on my way until the conversation is over. Not everyone has learned that lesson, though, so it still happens on a regular basis.)

At work, this morning, they were doing some kind of maintenance on one of the doors, and something went horribly wrong, and the high-pitched whine started. And continued. And then continued some more. And then, finally, continued to continue.

Every minute that it stayed on I stepped one step closer to murderous insanity. After 15 minutes, I was choosing the sharpest pens in my drawer, for stabbing. After 30 minutes, I was making a list of people who should be first, on my rampage. Luckily, the list didn’t get very long, because with all of that noise, jabbing directly into my brain, I couldn’t really concentrate.

After an hour, I couldn’t even remember my own name. I couldn’t see straight. In fact, I couldn’t see anything, because my vision was clouded over by visions of blood. (Rose coloured glasses indeed!) I was getting ready to bludgeon the guy beside me—which would have worked out, because he was at the top of my list anyway—with whatever I could find. Which, at the time, was the monitor for my computer. (I’m glad I didn’t, because it would have been embarrassing to have to request a new monitor, for that reason.)

Luckily, somewhere around an hour and 5 minutes or so, the whine stopped, and my sanity instantly returned. I was surprised how quickly calming the silence was.

However, I believe they’re still doing their maintenance, so I’ve decided to keep the list handy.

Friday, May 05, 2006


So every once in a while on TV, or in the movies, or in magazines, or books, or commercials, or movie promos before the movies start, or on bus ads, or in those pamphlets you get in the doctor’s office, or in the farmer’s almanac, or on peoples’ blogs, or on internet news sites, or in songs on the radio, or in poems read by bohemians drinking coffee in coffee shops, I see mention of the seasons. However, whenever people talk about seasons, they always make up a bunch of names for seasons. Like “Spring”, or “Summer”, or “Fall”, or “Autumn”. And I wonder to myself: What is the deal with all of these fake season names? Sure, sometimes people use the name of a real season, like “Winter”, but it’s always in the context of all of these other “seasons”.

At first, I thought it might be some kind of a metaphor or something. I mean, with names like “Spring” and “Fall”, it sort of sounds like they might be metaphors for something, right? Like maybe this “Spring”—whenever that might be—is supposed to be the jumping off point for the year, and maybe “Fall” is… well, okay, I can’t think of a metaphor for “Fall”. And it all unravels when you get to “Summer” anyway; I mean, “Summer”? That’s not even a word! (And don’t even get me started on “Autumn”. What the hell is “Autumn”?!? What is that “n” doing in there?)

So the closest I can think of is that these “season” names probably come from some reference that I don’t get. Maybe Greek mythology; I was never that good at remembering anything from mythology. Or maybe something by Dickens, because I never read any of his books either. (For anyone who’s read Dickens, does the word “Autumn” sound Dickensian?)

Anyway, back to the real seasons. Winter has officially ended, and Construction season has begun. Which means I may be blogging less, until around November or so, because my drive home is taking much longer than it used to, so I have to spend more time driving, and less time doing other things.

On the plus side, the girls are starting to wear their Construction season fashions.

Thursday, May 04, 2006


I had a conversation yesterday, with a colleague, in which I mentioned to him that I can get my hair cut anywhere—I don’t have to go to a fancy place, because my haircut is so basic, I can go to the cheap places, and it’s no big deal.

And then I went to First Choice last night—the place I usually go—and they did a terrible job. Nothing against First Choice, because they usually do a good job. (Well, like I said, my hair style isn’t exactly that hard to get right.) But my head looks awful right now.

The only saving grace is that they didn’t cut it as short as I’d instructed them to; which means that I’ll be able to go for another hair cut sooner, rather than later, and maybe someone can save it.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


I bought some gum, the other day, but for the flavour I wanted, they didn’t have a “normal” sized pack. They only had something called a Megapak.

Which is too much gum, but is kind of a fun package:

It’s almost like a cigarette pack. When I pull a piece of gum out, I almost feel like tapping it against the box.

Blog Counters

After my conversation with James, I got to thinking about blog counters. So I did a quick search, to find out if there are any out there, that I could just throw on my blog.

There are a whole bunch. So after I looked at a few, I realized two things:

  1. There are too many for me to go through; I’m not interested enough to keep looking through them all.
  2. I don’t actually want to know how many people are coming to my blog anyway. The less the better, I say, because the more people that come here, the more comments I’ll get that I don’t care about.
So I abandoned the whole idea before it could even get started.

I can't think of a title for this Messenger conversation

James Mack: Smack off is on Friday! says:
you have to be able to swim to be in the army?... I wonder if the Navy requires that you get your ass kicked in college football

sernaferna says:

James Mack: Smack off is on Friday! says:
why do I write jokes that no one but me gets?

sernaferna says:
Well, I had to make certain assumptions to get that joke, but having made them, I found it funny...

James Mack: Smack off is on Friday! says:
excellent, I hoped you'd make the leap

sernaferna says:

sernaferna says:
Do you mind if I post this to my blog? I have a few minutes to kill at work...

James Mack: Smack off is on Friday! says:
only if you call it a weblog

sernaferna says:

sernaferna says:
No deal!

James Mack: Smack off is on Friday! says:
This ain't over

James Mack: Smack off is on Friday! says:
was that a reach?

sernaferna says:

sernaferna says:
Nope. I got it.

I even heard whatsisname's voice in my head, when I read it...

James Mack: Smack off is on Friday! says:
yes, you can post it

sernaferna says:

James Mack: Smack off is on Friday! says:
Charles Bronson or Hank Azaria?

sernaferna says:
Hank Azaria *doing* Charles Bronson.

James Mack: Smack off is on Friday! says:
that's a visual I didn't need if my head

sernaferna says:

And now millions of OTHERS will get that visual in their heads, too, when this goes up on Blogger.

sernaferna says:
Heh. Millions. My blog doesn't even hit "half dozens"...

James Mack: Smack off is on Friday! says:
mine has hit 55

James Mack: Smack off is on Friday! says:
and I havent posted in ages

sernaferna says:

I haven't put up any counters or anything, so I only have the comments to go by--which I discourage on a regular basis ANYWAY--so I don't really know how many mine is getting.

But I think it's pretty safe to say that it's only 5 people who read mine "regularly".

James Mack: Smack off is on Friday! says:
Me, Jer, Beth, Tara, raymi, Andrea, Tyler...

James Mack: Smack off is on Friday! says:
I got 7!

sernaferna says:
I don't think Raymi would read it; I don't know if Beth reads it regularly, although I guess that depends how you define "regularly". I know Andrea doesn't read it...

sernaferna says:
So I get you, Jer, a friend I speak to on , Tyler, Beth (now that you mention her), and I *was* counting two girls who go to my church, but I just realized that I don't think they read it anymore.

They got bored and moved on...

James Mack: Smack off is on Friday! says:
lol, Jer calls it "making the rounds" when he reads everyone's weblog everyday.... keeps him from having to talk to people

sernaferna says:

James Mack: Smack off is on Friday! says:
oooh, jawlines, that was an excellent Scarbble play

sernaferna says:
I "make the rounds" most mornings at work, too; except most of the blogs I read (except yours and Jers) are from people I don't even know...

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Colbert Roasts Bush

A bit more information on the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner that I briefly mentioned, where Stephen Colbert roasted Bush:

First of all, according to this site, the president was not amused with the whole thing. (Within that article there are links to the video of the roast itself on YouTube, which is in three parts for some reason.)

Second, it was amusing to watch a video on MSN from MSNBC—which has a bit of a conservative bias—trying to spin the story, to try and make it look like Colbert bombed. (Andrea pointed this site out to me; I hope the link continues to work.) Colbert is a hard one for them to handle; he’s not a liberal comedian, he’s a trying-to-look-like-a-conservative comedian. It makes it hard for them to just disagree with him politically, so the best they could do was to try and make it seem like he just wasn’t funny. However, having watched it myself, I found it absolutely hilarious. And, from the clips I saw, the audience did, too; the MSN site edited it to show reactions from the audience (and Bush) not laughing, but in the full video, I think you’ll find that the clips of people not laughing had to have been hand-picked.

Some of my favourite quotes from the roast (from memory, so they are not accurate):

So the president’s approval rating is at 39%. Mr. President, don’t let anyone tell you that the glass is half empty! It’s two-thirds empty. And I wouldn’t drink that last third if I were you; everyone knows that the last third is mostly backwash.


The government that governs best is the government that governs least. And by that standard, we’ve set up a great government in Iraq.

And, as also mentioned on the Truthdig website, he also urged Bush to ignore his approval ratings because they are based on reality, “and reality has a well-known liberal bias.”

Last Night's Fun

As mentioned earlier, I was planning to go out with some friends last night. I went, and I had a good time.

Um… when I started to write this post, I thought I had more to say about that, but I guess I really don’t. Nothing exciting happened, I just met up with some friends and had a good time.

Whoops. What a waste of a blog post. Just like 99.98% of the rest of my blog posts.

Death Revisited

After I posted my death post, I was feeling kind of dumb. All this time, I’d been assuming that everyone was wrong, and that middle-aged wasn’t really middle-aged. And then I found out that, no, they were right all along, and people tend to live longer than I’d been assuming.

But I felt a little bit better this morning, when I mentioned it to Andrea, and it turned out that she’d been thinking the same thing; that people don’t tend to live that long, and that the term “middle-aged” was a bit of a misnomer. So I had to explain the thing to her, trying to demonstrate what the graph looked like with my hands.

The net result of it, though, is that neither of us really want to live that long anyway. (The phrase “die young and leave a beautiful corpse” came up in the conversation. Not that my corpse will be beautiful at any age, but I’m sure it’ll look better at 32 than it would at 71.)

Stephen Harper Eats Babies

I found this article to be very funny. (Hopefully that link will continue to work.) Especially the quote at the end:

Asked about his time with Harper at the National Citizens Coalition, Nicholls said: “I worked with Stephen Harper for five years and never once did he in that time eat a baby.”

Monday, May 01, 2006

Good Day/Bad Day

Today is a good day because:

  • I’m not actually middle-aged, like I thought I was. That doesn’t mean I’m young; I’m just not that old.
  • I’m not too busy at work. That means I might actually get a chance to post to my blog, but more importantly, it means I probably won’t go home with a headache, like I have the last few weekdays.
  • I’m going out with some friends tonight, after work, that I haven’t seen in a long time. It’ll be great to see them again.
  • I saw Stephen Colbert roasting Bush at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, which was good. If I could find a link to it on the internet I’d post it, but the only one I found was on Raymi’s Buzznet site. I don’t know if she has bandwidth limitations if too many people go there, or anything.
  • I’m happily married, have a good job, attend a good church, and just generally enjoy most aspects of my life. (And any of the aspects of my life that I don’t enjoy are minor.)
Today is a bad day because:
  • The network at work today is really crappy. Everything is taking longer than it should to load in my browser. What good is having a not-so-busy day, if you can’t spend it reading useless crap on the internet?
  • I may not be middle-aged, but I’m no longer young, either. I’ve started developing a gut, and it’s becoming more and more evident that I’m not in any kind of shape.
  • I’ve started getting a lot of spam at work. Actually, thst’s just a minor inconvenience; I’m trying to fill out the “bad day” bullet points, to round out the post, but it’s not working, because life is pretty sweet, these days.


How’s that for a title? Heh.

I’ve been telling people for quite a while now—since I was about 30—that I’m middle-aged. And for as long as I’ve been doing that, people have been telling me I am not middle-aged, to which I respond “how long do you expect me to live? I don’t think most people live beyond 60—the numbers are just skewed, because there are a few people living to a ripe old age, and making the average higher.” I had a similar conversation today:

Tara says:
allo guv'na

sernaferna says:

Tara says:
how's life? You've been very scarce lately. Are you hiding from The Man?

sernaferna says:
I *am* the man. Middle-aged, middle class, white guy?

I couldn't be more "the man" without joining the police force...

Tara says:
you're not middle aged, serna.

sernaferna says:
How old exactly do you think I'm going to get?

Tara says:
I dunno... a hundred?

Tara says:
64 isn't really a huge goal to strive for, physically, serna.

sernaferna says:
When I get back from my meeting, I'm going to have to look up some statistics, and find out how long people are living. If I remember.

Which I won't.

sernaferna says:
What I'd really like to see is some kind of bar chart, showing "X number of people live to 1, and X number live to 2, and X number live to 3..." etc.

Tara says:
that's... that's a really depressing bar chart.

you have an obsession with bar charts and pie charts and spreadsheets

Later on, Tara gave me a URL to a document on the Stats Can website, which had listed out all of the deaths for 2003, by age (and sex, and geography, etc.). From which I was able to produce the following graph in Excel:

These are statistics for men who died in 2003, in Canada. I could have been more specific, and taken only men who died in Ontario in 2003—the PDF at the URL mentioned above has the numbers broken down by region—but I was trying to maintain a happy medium, between being precise, but not too precise. It may not be clear, if you’re looking at that graph, but the highest point is 81, meaning that, in 2003, more men were 81 when they died than any other age.

I did a quick calculation for weighted average, and I found that the average age men were when they died in 2003 was 70.9. Unfortunately, statistics are not my forté, so I can’t be 100% sure that this is correct. Also, some of the statistics were for ranges of years, instead of years; for example, the Stats Can numbers are for people under 1 (which I made 0.5 for the weighted average), then 1–4 (for which I used 2.5), etc. Then from 15–99 they listed each year individually, and finally had a category for 100 and over, which I made 100. However, for my purposes, this is good enough.

Then I started playing around with the numbers some more. The first question is, “am I middle-aged?” Well, if I am, then at least half of the people who died in 2003 would have to have been younger than 62, because I’m 31. So I tallied up the following:

Under 6226,467
Over 8519,864

which corresponds to this graph:

I’m not happy with having a range of 62–85 in there, but again, for my purposes, this is good enough. As you can see, the majority of people die between the ages of 62 and 85—much higher than I’d been expecting. And there’s still a significant number of people who die after 85.

So, the overall good news is that people were right, and I have been wrong. I’m not yet what I would consider “middle-aged”.