Archives: “it's all about me”

Things I will not miss at all come this Saturday

…when I finally complete nine months of slowly coming off a very high, prolonged dosage of prednisone, which was prescribed to beat down sarcoidosis, which was diagnosed back in 2001 and decided to come out of remission and kick the mother-trucking shit out of my kidneys last summer:

  • Feeling completely and utterly exhausted nearly all the time, contrasted with…
  • … bursts of manic energy that seemingly came out of nowhere, most often in the middle of the night, resulting in hour upon hour doing something completely ridiculous like organizing my CD collection based on genre, in alphabetical order by composer, by the colour of the spine, etc.
  • Dealing with the jaunty show tune called “systemic fat redistribution”, where all of the fat from all over my body decide to migrate to and hold some kind of lipids-only Burning Man in my stomach region
  • Massive, uncontrollable mood swings that would last for hours, which would find me one moment sitting at my desk feeling like I just swallowed a dozen “I’m so freaking happy” pills, the next hiding in a washroom stall bawling my eyes out for absolutely no reason whatsoever, the next utterly depressed and despondent, then OMG I’M SO HAPPY again, etc.
  • Prolonged, intense crankiness and anger, probably caused in part by the above and by insomnia that would last for days
  • Not feeling in control of myself whatsoever, and isolating myself from others to avoid unleashing a mood on an innocent bystander
  • Being on a sodium-free, fat-free, seemingly flavour-free diet to stave off prednisone’s legendary ability to cause shocking weight gain (successful, thank jersey)
  • Gut issues. The less said, the better.
  • A skin complexion that looked like I had been dropped in a deep fryer filled with five-week old lard
  • Countless visits to multiple doctors, tests out the wazoo (thankfully not IN the wazoo), enduring the WTF experience of being dipped into an MRI machine and massive complications from a seemingly botched biopsy, etc.
  • Subjecting my family to all of the above

Things that this experience makes me thankful for:

  • Getting sick finally got me off my ass and exercising (again, to try and prevent major weight gain)
  • Learning to eat healthy, and actually starting to enjoy aspects of the ascetic diet
  • Having the love and seemingly endless patience of a damn fine woman who was on the receiving end of much of the crankiness and mood swings and frothing at the mouth
  • For the most part avoiding most of the worst side effects of prednisone (especially the weight gain, and the infamous moon face, cf. Jerry Lewis)

It’s been a rough nine months, but so far (crosses fingers, toes, antenna) it looks like my sarcoidosis is in remission again, which is probably the thing I’m the most thankful for at the moment. The crankiness and moodiness is starting to (finally) abate, and I’m slowly starting to feel like myself again. More importantly, I’m starting to feel like I’m in control of myself again, both physically and emotionally, which feels like, no shit, a kind of freedom.

I look forward to eating potato chips again, socializing with other human beings like a regular, non-sociopathic person does, and treating my family to extended periods of me being happy.

Les petites obsessions

Diced oranges, apples, and yogurt with a touch of brown sugar. Listening to my son say the words “octopus”, “worm”, and “geek”. The Planet Money podcast. Ginger snap cookies. The Minimalist. Learning how to be a good Mozillian. Eye magazine. Planning stuff with the Wishingline crew and James. The loud whooshing sound that the air makes as the east/west trains pull into Keele station. Radio Lab. Feeling healthy. Hanging out in IRC with my Canadian Mozilla peeps. Having dreams about places with exotic names like Gaborone, Maseru, and Kigali. This American Life. The Flip Mino HD. Wholphin. Learning JQuery (and actually feeling like I know what I doing). Pondering the (lack of) cartography of the PATH. Allowing my productivity to be interrupted by fiddling with Things / The Hit List / Remember The Milk and many others. Politician hair helmets. Reminding myself daily that whereever I go, there I am.

This is what happens when you work with people who “get the web”: they meme you.

You would think that having to listen to me talk on and on and ON all day in IRC (mostly about lame trivia involving, well, me) would be enough, but no, not for my co-worker robcee. He’s gone and infected memed me.

The Rules

  • Link to your original tagger(s) and list these rules in your post.
  • Share seven facts about yourself in the post.
  • Tag seven people at the end of your post by leaving their names and the links to their blogs.
  • Let them know they’ve been tagged.

I thought long and hard about writing 7 incredibly uncomfortable things you didn’t want to know about me so I’d stop getting these memed memes (like how I was the photographer behind that GOATSE photo; really, that guy is just so misunderstood) but I actually quite enjoy my job and working with these people so…

Seven things you probably don’t know about me (but might, if you’ve read this web site at all in the past nine years)

  1. I don’t drive. I don’t even possess or have ever had a full driver’s license. There’s a lot of good reasons for this lost in the fog of a vicious Fabergé egg habit and too many drags off of the nitrous oxide hookah in high school, but the main chestnut is this: I hate the person I become when I drive, and instead of dealing with that issue, I’ve just eschewed driving altogether. Win-win, for the most part.

    I used to think I was the oldest person I knew who had never gotten their driver’s license until I met James, who I will most definitely meme when this is all said and done so we can hear about that unfortunate teabag incident of ‘01. Er, maybe.

  2. I have no schoolin’. I tried a number of times but I failed university. I first tried sciences and spent most of that time sitting in the campus radio station smoking and drinking coffee. Later attempts at English and Film studies were crushed by a massive disagreement with a professor on the merits of Michael Douglas’ Falling Down (aka “Huge Steaming Pile of Shit”). Consequently, I have no degrees to speak of, except for a trades diploma in “Automation and Robotic Technology” that I used one in 1988 and then have never thought about since.

    This is a source of vague discomfort as I am constantly surrounded by incredibly smart, learned people, but I’ve cultivated an impressive ability to fling bullshit, so I’ve learned to manage.

  3. I still can’t believe I make my living with a computer. From 1989 until approximately 1999 I didn’t touch, think about, or interact with computers except a few times as a glorified typewriter. Considering my dad introduced me to electronics when I was 10 (thanks to Heathkit and my dad’s indulgent purchase of an Apple II+ in 1980) one would think a career in computers was completely obvious. But it wasn’t until I was unemployed and on the dole that getting retrained for this new world wide web thing seemed to be a no brainer.

    Some days I wake up and wish I was out working on a farm growing lima beans and actually doing something of tangible value, but then I drink a coffee and the moment passes.

  4. I have had way too many jobs. I’m not sure if I should be proud or ashamed of this, but since my first job (Smitty’s Pancake House at 15) I’ve had at least 40 jobs, and at least five distinct careers. The reasons for this are many, but ultimately it comes down to a lack of direction, a number of years supplementing an attempt to make a living from music (and almost doing it, for a while), and some borderline ADD. There’s a small sampling of the jobs I’ve had on the FAQ page, if you’re curious.

    As for what I’ve learned from a lifetime of job jumping, I could say that this school of life experience might make up for my lack of education (see #2 above). But really, I’m just kidding myself, right?

  5. I still know how to play Journey’s Open Arms on the piano. Like any good Chinese boy, I took piano lessons for many years in an ultimately futile attempt to become a concert pianist and make my parents proud. One of my teachers thought I should have some more “modern” pieces in my repertoire, and after a trip down to JJH Maclean’s in Winnipeg I had a songbook chock full of modern classics.

    Some other pieces from this era that I learned includes the Hill Street Blues theme, The Stray Cat Strut, Hargood Hardy’s The Homecoming, and most embarrassingly, the theme from Joanie loves Chachi.

  6. Hairfarmer! During my time as a musician in a dark and confusing period known as “The Mullet Years” I used to have hair 3/4 of the way down my back. I mistakenly thought this would make me seem cooler and more intensely sexual but it mostly ended up with me being called “ma’am” a lot and having to spend 45 minutes washing and drying my hair in the morning. After the umpteenth time hearing someone exclaim, “holy shit, you’re one of the guys from Death Angel!” I cut it all off and started dying it instead.

    I then spent a few years enduring, “hey, you’re James Iha from the Smashing Pumpkins!” You can’t win.

  7. For me, the smell of popcorn is like getting my nose stuck between the buttocks of a gassy senior citizen. One of my many jobs was working as a movie critic / entertainment writer, and having to see 1-3 movies a week, every week for around 3 years turned the smell of popcorn from the innocent, er, scent that it is for most to one of pure aromatic agony. Now whenever I smell popcorn all I can think about is trying to put as much distance between my nose and its airborne molecules as quickly as possible.

    Obviously I’ve learned to deal with this or I’d never see a movie in the theatres again, but it’s high up on my cringe list. Because hey, when you smell something you’re basically tasting it. Think about that the next time you use a public washroom.

Spreading the STD (“socially transmitted disease”)

As for whom I’m going to infect with this meme, here are the lucky contestants:

  1. The aforementioned James, grand-pooh-bah behind the Supernerds Local 154 and fellow SXSW veteran.
  2. Gord, the interweb’s master of ceremonies and Toronto’s first living pop culturist.
  3. Scott, he of the fine facial hair and wicked design sense.
  4. Lana, who recently had her first child and has an excuse if she doesn’t get to this quickly.
  5. Magda, who can dish advice like there’s no tomorrow, but can she meme it up equally as well?
  6. ChrisP, my man in Winnipeg. Three-plus years since he last posted anything writerish is just too damn long.
  7. Renée, because four years is even longer, and because she needs a kick in the ass to start writing again.


Looking back, you couldn’t say that twenty-ought-eight was anything less than interesting. Just the act of being a father for an entire year would have been fascinating enough, but the magic wheel of OMGWTF managed to land on a few whammies to add even more spice to the festivities.

  • My son Alec turned a year old in June.
  • Spent the first half of 2008 recovering from a four month descent into infant insomnia that nearly caused a nervous breakdown. Ah, parenthood!
  • The second half was spent dealing with a vicious resurgence of sarcoidosis, which hid in full remission until the middle of the year.
  • Thanks to something I’m calling “Littlest Hobo Syndrome” I somehow managed to jump to three employers in 2008: Tucows, Homezilla, and currently call Mozilla home.

Radio silence

Any of these things would have been fertile ground for web site posts, and yet I didn’t even come close to posting in the double-digits this year. I think a lot of people who started writing online early reached a similar point as I did, where the orgy of introspection and public journalizing turned on itself.

Running into a vague acquaintance in 2005 who I barely knew that followed this site (and thus knew a lot more about me than I about him) was the incident that flipped the privacy switch for me. It’s been a slow return to posting for me ever since. I stil don’t really know how to manage the balance between saying too much and not saying anything at all.

Moving on up to that deluxe apartment in the sky

Looking forward, I have a lot of hope for ‘09. My son is growing quickly and is a daily miracle that I cannot get enough of, and I am in love and loved by an incredibly vibrant, beautiful woman. If just this continues in 2009 it will still be an incredible year, but seeing how it’s in my nature to plan ahead, here’s a few things I hope to accomplish in the ‘09:

  • Maintain my current work-life balance.
    I’ve been incredibly lucky and have worked for some amazing employers, and Mozilla continues this fortunate streak. But I need to constantly remind myself that I work to live and not the other way around.
  • Find more time for the family and friends
  • Get offline even more than I already have, and immerse myself in the RL more often
  • Take life drawing and photography classes
    My drawing abilities are limited to stick figures and crude renderings of boobs and penises, and my photography skills aren’t much better.
  • Improve my french
    Ever since Alec was born it’s been a challenge to maintain my meager french skills. Perhaps starting a weblog written in french is the ticket?
  • Get our asses out of our current rental situation
    Either we buy or at the very least moving into something less ass-hattish, but either way we need to get off our asses and get some equity and continuity going on the homestead front.
  • Do something with this site, even if that means closing it down and starting over
    I post so rarely to this site that it is becoming more and more of a personal embarrassment. I need to shit or get off the virtual pot with this site.
  • Be less judgmental (of self and of others)
  • Exercise and run more often
    After starting at Mozilla I signed up for a gym membership at the JCC, so I have no excuses other than I suck. Goal: Suck less.
  • Worry less
  • Meditate more
  • Add “… but that’s a first world problem” whenever I catch myself complaining
    I need to remind myself of this again and again, but the reality is 99% of the shit I whinge about is complaining for the sake of complaining.

Shout out out outs

In addition to my ass-kicking family if there was anyone I could thank that helped to make ‘08 as positive as it was, I’d have to raise a large, frosty beverage to the Supernerds Local 154 (James, Gord, Scott, Greg, Paul, Johnny, Craig, Frank, Michael, Brent, Dan, and occasionally Joanna) and my many beautiful Winnipeg peeps. Thanks for being a home away from home, and for making me laugh my ass off in ways I didn’t think were possible. Here’s to more beverages, food, and meanderingly idiotic conversations in the new year.

Now let’s kick out these motherfucking jams. Onward!



Since everyone else at work seems to be on the wordle tip, here’s mine. Seeing how I so very rarely post to this site any more (a mere nine posts including this one in all of 2008) I took the liberty of dumping the last 200 entries into Wordle to get a better idea of what I’ve been posting about over the past few years.

I’m kind of surprised how prominent Firefox is, but seeing how much I’ve posted about the optimized builds I guess I shouldn’t be too shocked. That said, besides that word no other themes seem to stand out, which is as good an indication as any of my rather fragmented attention span.


I so rarely talk about work here (hell, I no longer talk here about anything, but ironically there’s a post percolating regarding that very thing) but I do some fairly big work-related news I’m quite excited about that I thought I’d share with the five of you that are still standing (hi mom!).

Giant Lizard

The Big Lizard

At the beginning of November I start my new job working at the formidable Mozilla Corporation as a senior user experience engineer. I will be mostly handling design, usability, and other yummy experience-related stuff for the various Mozillian web sites, but I may also get an opportunity to contribute design, writing, cross-stitching, and various spices and herbs to other projects as well. Yes, I’m seriously geeked.

A few people that I’ve mentioned this to asked if I was moving to the US, and no, I’m staying put here in Toronto. It doesn’t seem to be a very well-known fact, but Mozilla actually has an office here. There are quite a few Canadians that work for Mozilla here (some of them in very high-profile positions) and I’ll be joining them to ensure that the proper spelling of “neighbourhood”, five-pin bowling, poutine, toques, and other uniquely Canadian things get their dues around Mozilla.

As with many things web-related, this job seemingly plopped right out of the interwebs into my lap after a chance email from Mike Beltzner, Mozilla’s director of user experience. One thing led to another and here we are, with my web site being directly responsible for yet another job opportunity. Who says blogging doesn’t pay?

Take my (previous, equally cool) job, please

As with any new opportunity something must move aside to make room, and my previous user experience / front end developer job with (the very coincidentally named) “HomeZilla” is now open. If you’re interested in working for a new & cool real estate start-up with good funding and a super awesome boss get in touch with me and I’ll hook you up with the details.

What about the Firefox optimized builds?

As for the genesis of this whole opportunity, my optimized Firefox builds, it’s still early days but as far as I’m concerned it’s business as usual. I’ll now have a direct line to people that can hopefully help me figure out once and for all if these builds are actually faster or if they’re just a perfect example of the placebo effect. Also, I will probably look into seeing if I can get my builds blessed by the Lizard as “community editions” so they can be hosted on Mozilla servers.

Onward to complete and utter inebriation

For a total web browser ass like myself an opportunity like this is like some strange geek manna dripped from a giant poindexter honey pot in the sky, and I’m drinking it up and getting rather inebriated on the coolness of it all. The jury is still out whether I get so drunk I make a complete ass of myself, however, but I’m going to enjoy the opportunity all the same.

Good Eats, Good Grief

The truth is, I’m obsessed with being healthy.

Okay, maybe “obsessed” is a bit strong — If I was truly serious about my health, I probably wouldn’t be living in a smog|noise|light|stress-polluted major city like Toronto, really — but my interest in maintaining my physical well-being has definitely increased exponentially as each year goes by.


I suppose this is par for the course. Taking care of your body could be like owning your first car in some ways. At the beginning you’re all in awe of this thing you have and what it can do, and before you know it you’re taking it for granted as you’re flying down the highway 50 kilometres over the speed limit with the stereo blasting Deep Purple’s Highway Star and the back seat filled with empty Doritos bags, slurpee cups, and cigarette butts.

After a while, though, you’re sitting on cracked upholstery begging it to “please, just start, I’m already late for work” as it’s drooling oil and antifreeze and god knows what else all over your driveway.

So before I start prematurely leaking fluids I’m getting more serious about what I do with my body as well as what I put into it.

Winning the Genetic Lottery

Being Asian, I’m totally aware that I won the youthfulness lottery. My body has basically maintained the same shape it was when I was in my earlier twenties, and for the most part I look younger than I really am. In the past, this made me complacent. If I wasn’t a vegetarian for most of my twenties I probably would have spent my days gulping back mugs of pure lard while eating twinkies sprinkled with chocolate-flavoured trans fats. Delish!

Even then I still did a lot of damage to myself, including maintaining a nearly pack-a-day habit for fifteen years as well as ingesting a lot of things I definitely would not want the Googlebot to index.

Now, I’m all mostly trying to be about the healthy.

Not Screwing With My Shit (not to be taking literally)

A big part of this commitment to not screwing with my shit involves eating better. I’ve been trying to spend more time eating cuisines that are considered healthy such as Japanese, Greek, and Italian. Heck, if nutritional scientists discovered that a diet consisting of twigs and leaves and steaming mugs of your own urine guaranteed you would live to be 150 in perfect health, I’d probably consider it.

No bathing in the blood of virgins like crafty old Elizabeth Bathory, however — one has to draw the line somewhere.

The point of this obscenely rambling post is to kick start a series of thoughts I’ve wanted to explore about eating healthy in the 21st century. I’m interested to talk about decisions I’ve made and experiments I’m trying out and I’m interested in what you’ve done (or are doing) to keep the gas in your tank sugar-free and high-octane.

And I vow that’s the last of the automobile metaphors you’ll see on this site.

1. Yet Another God Damn Automobile Metaphor

Rannie Turingan’s 20x2: What’s the Difference?

Everyone’s favourite photographer Rannie Turingan presented his two minute video piece at last night’s annual 20x2. The question participants had to work with was “What’s the Difference?” and Rannie’s piece is just awesome.

It doesn’t hurt that my gorgeous family is one of the 20 couples that Rannie asked to participate. Thanks, Rannie!

Where it’s at

Five posts since April. It’s not as though I haven’t been busy, though the cobwebs and ne’er-do-wells sleeping in the doorway of this joint might make you think otherwise.

This isn’t one of those grandiose “return to form” posts that some people do after an incredibly long absence. I’m not going to dazzle you with months of pent up brilliance and wisdom, nor am I going to pontificate on some wildly personal jibber-jabber (thanks Frank, for bringing the jibber back).

This is more of a virtual clearing of the throat.


For those of you who have been patiently waiting for optimized Firefox builds, some good and bad news. The good news is I’m still planning to build and release some optimized builds, and I now have access to a G4 machine so hopefully G4 builds should make a reappearance around these parts soon.

The bad news is I upgraded all of my home machines to OS X 10.5, and wouldn’t you know it, the Firefox 2.x branch doesn’t build on OS X 10.5 without patching. I’ve managed to successfully build Firefox 2.0.11 but it crashes on launch. So it may be a little while before updated builds are available.

In the meantime, I’m working on writing down a step-by-step “how to build optimized versions of Firefox” for your incredibly geeky enjoyment. It should be up before the holidays are completely upon us, assuming I manage to eke out enough sleep to remain semi-human.

Speaking of which, if anyone has any tips on getting a six-month old baby to stop waking up every two hours at night I’d sure be thankful.

C’est tout.

Pros of 2006

Meeting Craig, Greg, Clarke, and Mike and working on the Globe and Mail redesign; releasing Path Finder 4; King Noodle; Nikon D50; Renée in Colombia; skype; a new job; romantic reunion in Costa Rica; Monday nights at Volo; Globe nerds night at The Foggy Dew; Neko Case’s Fox Confessor Brings The Flood; the 20“ Intel iMac; SXSW 2006; ”jheeks“; ”yeti“; Oscar night at James’ & Brooke’s; Everyday Italian; Good Eats; pop77 mixes; House MD; trips back home; Kevin and Jeremy visiting Toronto; The National at the Horseshoe; Montreal in the fall; Ze Frank’s The Show; New York Sub; Stephen Colbert; John Hodgman; Califone’s Roots & Crowns; Tinto Coffee House; 30 Days; The guys and gals of 3rd year Graphic Design 2004; Café 668; September 10th; October 1st; Lollapalooza 2006 in Chicago; Yo La Tengo at The Phoenix & the best album title of 2006, I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass; My Morning Jacket’s Okonokos; The Decemberists; Malajube and Final Fantasy at the Polaris prize awards show; One Degree; making new friends and hanging out with old ones; Nintendo Wii; Parallels Workstation for Mac; Daily Dose of Imagery; working across the street from St. Lawrence Market; remembering to just breathe; High Park in the fall; family; happiness; feeling cozy; being in love.

(Inspired by the estimable Gord Fynes’ personal list of pros.)

Greetings to the new brunette

Winter storm in Winnipeg

I've been back from another lovely (but snowy) trip home and trying in vain to wrap my head around the concept that yet another year has already slouched its way into the history books.

2007 is officially in the house, but for me this will be the Year of Bond, where I try to live every day like 007 would. I've already quit smoking, I don't drink, and I stopped inhaling / eating / injecting / licking illegal substances years ago, so the only self-destructive thing left for me is to strut around like I'm wearing an extra hairy man-vest, insist to random women I meet that I have the sexual prowess of an engorged leprechaun, and generally act like a completely masculine, bungee-jumping, machismo-sprewing man basket.

Ahem. That's what happens when I write stream-of-consciousness after watching the preview for Casino Royale.

Actually, I've decided that this year will be the year I try to not screw shit up.

Back on the air

Hopefully the site should be back up for everyone — my DNS provider (ZoneEdit) was suffering under a major denial of service attack on a bunch of their nameservers for the past two days, but it seems to have been contained.

So, in brief:

  1. Yes, I’m aware that Firefox is available. Seeing how it’s only three days until Christmas and the fact that I’ll be away for a bit means it may take a while before I get to building some optimized builds. (Aside: oh dear god, they’ve added another decimal point — does this mean we’ll see version numbers like Firefox
  2. DID I JUST SAY THREE DAYS UNTIL CHRISTMAS?! (has short but vicious panic attack)
  3. It’s too damn warm here. It’s quite daunting to rouse the festive spirit when you’re walking around in a light fall jacket with nary a flake of snow to be found…

On that note, I better throw myself into some last minute “holycrapIhavenogiftsyet” Christmas shopping before it’s too late and everyone on my gift list gets Kraft Dinner and a hand-drawn facsimile of something they might have actually wanted.

Getting shingly with it

Cheney says GGGRRR!When I was a kid, I used to think that shingles was this disease that really, really old, evil men got where their hair spontaneously turned black, hard, and crusty and their hearts filled with loathing and grizzled spite. I also remember when shingles was the reason David Letterman took a month off of work.

Now I know firsthand just what shingles is all about. There goes three weeks of my life that I’ll never get back.

All I can say is, WORST reoccurrence of a childhood disease EVER.

10 personal equivalents of scooby snacks

In no particular order:

  • Butter chicken roti from Gandhi Cuisine, 1376 Queen Street West, Toronto, Ontario
  • Finnish pancakes from Hoito, 314 Bay Street, Thunder Bay, Ontario
  • Noodles #2, Coconut Cream Pie, and a cup of chai (must be eaten as a group) from The Hunger Hut, somewhere on the East Side of Vancouver, BC (originally in Winnipeg, though)
  • Tandoori Chicken from India Palace, 770 Ellice Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba
  • Huevos Rancheros from Al’s Breakfast, 14th Ave SE, Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Fusilli with Sausage, Artichokes, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes, recipe from Giada De Laurentiis
  • My dad’s special jook (aka congee)
  • Clubhouse sandwich from The Wagon Wheel, 305 Hargrave Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba
  • Chicken Satay burrito from New York Subway at 520 Queen Street West, Toronto, Ontario
  • Homemade Blueberry-banana-peanut butter smoothie

What recipes or restaurant dishes make you go into an orgasmic eating frenzy?


Neil in Arabic

Renée and I started taking Arabic tonight. All I have to say is holy crap is it hard. Still, it’s very cool to learn a language that doesn’t use the roman alphabet. The arabic alphabet is gorgeous - above is a photo of my name in Arabic.

Where I’m calling from

Piper, the wonder dog, in repose

This preoccupation with naming entries with titles of Raymond Carver stories will probably end at some point, but for now they seem fitting, so what the hell.

Hey, a new post! See, I haven’t given up on you, BeatnikPad - I just needed to go out for a long walk in the woods and stare at the raccoons for a while. I’m working on ideas for some new posts, started carrying a journal and camera to help feed the muse, and even kicked around some concepts for a redesign.

I wouldn’t call this the beginning of a renaissance, but I’m feeling more inspired lately than I have in months, so I suppose it’s the start of something. Only time will tell if it’s sustainable and not the blogging equivalent of the dead cat bounce, but who knows (or cares, really).

Renée is going to kill me for using that expression.

I recently had the pleasure of seeing (and meeting) Dave Grey (head honcho at XPLANE) at his workshop on Visual Thinking held at MaRS last week. Both the workshop and meeting Dave kicked all kinds of ass, and were great reminders that getting the opportunity to meet cool people like Dave is as good a reason as any to continue maintaining this site.

SD700Dave talked a lot about giving yourself the tools so that you can quickly capture visual ideas - tools like index cards, journals, and small digital cameras. At one point Dave remarked, “I’m no longer buying a product, I’m buying a process.” I love that.

So I went out the next day and picked myself up a brand new process - the Canon SD700. Ever since I bought my Nikon D50 I’ve been carrying around my camera less and less, and the irony that having a really nice camera meant that I’d take less photos seemed ridiculous. But, having to lug my laptop to work every day didn’t really make me want to add my SLR to the pile. So now I have a nice and light point and shoot to carry with me during the week, and my SLR for the heavy lifting on the weekends.

Expect more photos to appear on my flickr page posthaste.

Besides meeting Dave, it’s been mostly business as usual. I’m fighting off yet another cold, which leads me to believe that my immunity to germs that I built up as a teacher has fled. That, or germs are starting to take lessons from the hardcore viruses that hang out by the garbage bin behind the 7-11.

A movie was shooting in our area last week, which screwed up transit and made me rather exasperated. It didn’t help that they were shooting a remake of John Water’s Hairspray that featured John Travolta as Edna Turnblad. That means John Travolta was acting in drag. <shudder>.

Now I will recommend a very good book that you should read right away: Claire Messud’s The Emperor’s Children. And that’s enough rambling for one post, methinks.

What we talk about when we talk about love

Reality Bites

Looking over the homepage reveals that I’ve posted a grant total of eight posts over the past three months - two of which were Firefox updates so they totally don’t count. All in all I think it’s safe to say I dropped the semi-regular blogging baton a while ago and never picked it back up.

I suppose this web site is easing its way through what might be the plot arc for a cheesy Hollywood romance movie starring a mid-90’s era Ethan Hawke: at first, the novelty and the newness of the relationship is intoxicating: Ohmygod you are such a good listener and you really care about what I’m saying!

After a while a narcissism-induced hangover sets in. Faster than you can say maybe we should just be friends the affair is over, and all you’re left with is a shoebox full of letters, photos, and the distinct feeling that you no longer have anything meaningful to talk about.

I originally started posting online because I enjoyed writing and wanted to improve, and like the truly self-absorbed I didn’t think it was worth doing unless I had an audience. At the same time I thought this site could be my “designer’s playground”: a place for me to experiment and grow as a designer.

The problem of course is the urge to write has faded a lot over the past year or so. I no longer plan and scheme post ideas days (or even weeks) ahead of time, and my flickering desire to inform the world of what I’ve been up to / doing / seeing / thinking hasn’t exactly overwhelmed me into action. At the same time I stopped redesigning the site because a) I was too busy working, and b) my self-induced pressure to knock the redesign out of the ballpark pretty much paralyzed me instead into doing nothing.

You know you’ve jumped the blogging shark when you’ve stooped to posting about the fact that you’ve lost the wherewithal to post in the first place. The obvious next question is, what’s next?

That toddling town

I'm back from five days in Chicago, spent mostly trying to wrap my arms around the behemoth that was Lollapalooza 2006, cavorting with some lovely friends, acting like a social retard, and suffering from a mild generational crisis. The brain is sun-dazed, the body a teensy bit achy (and oh-so tanned), and the ears have been both pampered and pummelled with three whole days of music.

This was also my first time back in Chicago since the early nineties (and my first real trip where I actually had time to explore), and while there wasn't much time or energy outside of the festival for sight-seeing, I did get a bit of a chance to look around. I gotta say: Chicago, you're one damn fine-looking city. Toronto should aspire to look so good.

For the many people who commented or emailed me: yes, I know Firefox is out, and at some point in the next couple of days once I get caught up on sleep / work / quality time with the girlfriend I'll try to update my builds.

Costa Rica and Nicaragua


We’ve been back from our trip to Costa Rica and Nicaragua for a week. I would have posted an “I’m back” sooner, but both Renée and I caught elephant-sized colds within a couple of days of returning home. I’m just now beginning to hold my mental shit together long enough to stare at the computer for a bit, though even five days after impact I’m still a bit bleary-eyed.

Costa Rica is easily the most beautiful country I’ve ever seen. Travel guides kept referring to Costa Rica as being especially verdant, so I was expecting lots of shrubbery. I wasn’t disappointed.

With this being the so-called “Green Season” (Costa Rica’s rainy season) I expected bad weather but was surprised at how nice the weather ended up. Yes, it’s hot and often insanely humid (so much so that my glasses often fogged up when I went outdoors) but we barely had any rain at all. The exception was one massive downpour during the drive back from a day trip to Arenal Volcano and Tabacon Hot Springs (which, I might add, is a Must See if you ever go to Costa Rica).

One big first for me on this trip was the fact that we stayed at an all-inclusive resort. This was my first time staying at a resort, and while it was pleasant, it also was very much like staying on a land-locked cruise ship. The convenience was great, but with not much else to do but eat, drink, swim, and attend suspiciously titled live music revues with titles like “Hooray for Hollywood” (replete with purple sequined costumes) the experience got kind of stale really fast.

hot springs

I still feel a little bit uncomfortable if I’m on vacation and not making at least a bit of effort — probably part of the whole journey is the destination thing I was brought up in — and the resort seemed a little too easy. We ended up using the resort as a home base and spent most of our time taking day trips into the surrounding Guanacaste countryside, which worked out well.

If you’re interested in seeing some of the places we checked out, take a look at my Costa Rica / Nicaragua Flickr photoset. For some of the photos I’ve added little micro-posts that might make them more interesting, or not.

This was our first true vacation in over five years, and my first full week unplugged from email, the web, cell phones, information overload, news, and the rest of that nuttiness. In the end of it all the country, the people, my sweet travelling companion, and the gloriously disconnectedness of it all: pure bliss.

The heat is on


Sticky, smoggy air has pushed its way into every nook and cranny of the apartment. The notoriously humid, hot Toronto weather has started baking the city, releasing aromas even the raccoons find rather disturbing. Grown men have taken to unleashing seat-rumbling flatulence through perspiration-soaked cutoffs on packed subway trains.

Hello, summer!

The business around Casa del Beatnik has been pretty bizzy these days, with the new job slowly revealing itself in a multitude of non-perverted ways, and anticipation growing for a well-deserved trip to a Central American paradise. I’ve been getting back into bike-riding (to the chagrin of my 90-pound-weakling body) and hanging out with all of the coolest Toronto nerds and neighbours whenever I’ve a chance.

This summer my goal is to squeeze the lemon ‘till the juice runs down my leg. That, or maybe figure out if big-legged women really don’t have soul. At least that’s what a dude on the streetcar was pontificatin’ in a rather loud voice a few days ago.

There’s something truly awesome about cheese-ball lyrics belted out loud on a crowded streetcar at 9am without any context whatsoever. The world needs more dada.

All in all, it’s shaping up to be a very unboring summer.

Mac Team TriOsby

I don’t understand how I’ve started slipping into posting once a month but I don’t like it. Things are hopping here so I guess I have an excuse. Still, my site has taken to leaving little post-its around the apartment with increasingly forlorn messages on them. — Are you okay? — Was it something I said? — You know, you can just write me a note if there’s something you want to talk about. — Why haven’t you returned my calls? — I’m going to mother’s and you can phone me there when you’re ready to talk.


Inexplicable high CPU usage on MacBook Pro

If you’re seeing high CPU usage on your MacBook Pro (or any Intel-base mac) that you can’t seem to track down in Activity Monitor or top, try checking the Sharing preference pane in System Preferences. If Windows File Sharing is checked, try toggling its checkbox off and on. I had this issue with a new MacBook Pro that was driving me nuts - nothing was listed in Activity Monitor or top, but the CPU was hovering at 80% and my machine was overheating.

Turns out samba (which powers the Windows File Sharing feature in OS X) was launching and then crashing over and over and over and driving CPU usage nastily high, but toggling the sharing pref fixed the issue.

Gotta love the Apple Store

Speaking of MacBook Pro’s, it turns out my new work machine has a buggered screen. It has a very strong blue / cyan cast that I can’t get rid of through calibration. So I went down to the new Eaton Centre Apple Store to visit the Genuis Bar for the first time.

I didn’t even have to show the issue to the technician. I explained the problem and she promptly asked, “do you have your receipt?” and said that I could exchange my machine for a new one if it was purchased within 14 days.

Unfortunately I was a few days past the cut-off date, but they’re going to order a replacement screen and logic board for me anyway. I explained that I can’t really go without the machine for too long as I need it for work, so they’re going to schedule the repair over the weekend. If that still doesn’t fix the issue she said they’d go ahead and replace the laptop with a brand new one, which is pretty cool. I’ll keep you posted how it turns out.

Oh, besides the screen issue it’s not too bad of a machine, though it does have the whining issue and did get rather hot until I installed the latest SMC firmware updater. But it’s fast and feels pretty much the same as my G4 Powerbook, which is a good thing.


Jumping jehosophat, people, I know a new version of Firefox is out. I get the internets here too, you know.

I gotta say, every person who emails me or posts a comment that tries to:

  1. Guilt me into building a new version,
  2. Assume that insulting me or my intelligence will make a new build magically appear (if you really think this works, I fear for your loved ones), or
  3. Repeatedly email me every day asking when the new build will be available

… makes me not want to post builds at all. Here’s a hint: haranguing me just pisses me off. Please stop.

For everyone else who is patiently waiting for new builds, they’re coming, and if you could kick the idiots in your midst in the ass for me, I’d appreciate it.

For the record, the new builds will take a bit longer as I’m looking into how to set up a Firefox update server. I don’t want to have to build the entire application when it’s just a teensy update that’s been released, and I’m sure you would appreciate being able to update your optimized build from within the browser, too.

So give me a few days and hopefully I should have some new builds posted. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to shut the computer off and go have a life for a bit.

Strange fascination, fascinating me

I wish I could remember where I read this, but one quote that has stuck with me since elementary school goes something like this:

“To live free and happily, you must give up boredom. It is not always an easy sacrifice.”

(edit - it was author Richard Bach. Thank goodness for search engines.)

Life around here is going to get rather unboring (sorry, Ikea) quite quickly.

In just over seven days Renée leaves for a six-week business trip to Bogotá, Colombia. This is both very exciting and equally disturbing in a “freak my shit up” way. Colombia is, after all, a country where western tourism has been almost non-existent for so long it’s almost impossible to find maps for sale or travel information that doesn’t mention the FARC, paramilitary groups, or the Colombia drug cartels.

I’m going to be joining her at the end of June for a couple of weeks, so I’ll get to see first hand what life in Colombia is like. We’re both trying to be positive about it all, and from what I can tell the security situation in Bogotá is much better than, say, five years ago. I’m sure the trip will be uneventful and incredibly rewarding. But the unknownness of everything leaves me feeling more than a little queasy. I wish the newly revised Lonely Planet guide was available.

This will also be the longest that Renée and I have been separated since we started dating, which will be strange and lonely in itself.

Yahoo!Luckily, I will have my own new challenges and changes to keep me busy. I have just accepted a position with Yahoo! as an highfalutin Senior User Experience Designer working out of the Canadian office. My first day is in a couple of weeks.

It seems weird in a way to be moving back into full-time employment after living as a freelancer and consultant for so long; having the luxury of the occasional two hour lunch and bi-weekly “underpants-only” work days has definitely been pretty sweet. But it was time for something new.

There’s something beguiling about getting a chance to tackle some of the big-ass design challenges like those a huge media company like Yahoo! can provide. It doesn’t hurt one bit either that Yahoo has been getting involved with some really cool stuff as of late. So colour me jonesed.

As usual for this site, that’s probably most of what you’ll hear about my work. I don’t write about work very often (for obvious reasons) and this will probably be no different. But now you know.

I’ve been so busy lately I completely forgot to wish the BeatnikPad happy birthday. Last week marked five years since I started this site, and it’s been six and 1/2 years since I started self-publishing online. I had been hoping to roll out a redesign that I’ve been sitting on for ages as long-overdue birthday present — there’s nothing like some new duds to cheer up a slightly ignored friend — but alas, it’ll have to wait.

This year’s birthday resolutions: write more and ramble less (too late), crack more stupid jokes (because it feels good), post more photos, and redesign the damn site before Christmas is upon us. Come back next year to see how I do.


There’s no real tangible reason for me to feel this way, but I’m glad that this week is over. It’s been a tiring five days and I’m not exactly sure why, but I fumbled my way through the week with a cloud of lead ball bearings enveloping my head and shoulders. It felt as if someone had fastened bowling balls to my kneecaps, filled my ears with cotton and UHU Stic, and pushed me into the middle of a highway.

Renée has been feeling the same way all week, too, so either we’re both fighting off another round with the plague, or someone is secretly piping eau de laudanum into our apartment. I blame the patriarchy.

Jane JacobsJane Jacobs died earlier this week, and the first thing I thought when I read the news was, “damn”, followed by, “this is exactly what it felt like when Pauline Kael died.”

Jane Jacobs was another person (like Pauline Kael) whose writing made me feel smart. Discovering and reading The Death and Life of Great American Cities while in high school… well, it was one of those so-called watershed moments. I remember finishing the book and having a sense of my place in the world and a feeling of great potential. Considering at the time I barely had a grasp on my own hormones this was a pretty big deal.

I remember actually thinking that I wanted to become a politician afterwards; the book made you feel like the only proper response to reading it was to act. That was her gift, really - this incredibly intelligent, articulate, unmistakably human voice that made you want to jump up and make shit right.

There was something about the fact that Jacobs chose to live not only in Canada but in my adopted home of Toronto that make me feel proud. It seemed like a little smidgen of proof that Toronto has been doing at least some things right all along.

Rest in peace, Jane Jacobs.

04/05/06 = 36


36 years old at some point this morning, not sure when. Still sick with a nasty flu.

When I was a kid, on my birthday I used to double my age and say, “when I’m x years old, I’m going to…” and make up some outlandish thing like visit Mongolia, tweak the nose of the Prime Minister, or shave my head like Mr. T.

Just as I took this photo I thought, “When I’m 72 I’ll going to… be 72.”

That gave me a moment’s pause. But only a moment - J’aime ma vie beaucoup.

Boy, there was a lot of interesting stuff that happened today, wasn’t there?



I’ve been keeping a fairly low profile since I got back from SXSW a couple of weeks ago. Upon my return I was immediately swamped by Stuff That Needs Immediate Attention, Too Many Clothes That Fail the Smell Test, and of course Quality Time With The Girlfriend and Cats — all priorities to be sure. Things were going just smashingly until last Saturday, when I got walloped by an über-cold that left me quivering, fragile, and phlegmy.

The cold I’m currently playing host to is one of those apocalyptic ailments that left me feeling literally like I was getting the snot kicked out of me (insert emphatic eeeewwwww). Needless to say I haven’t been good for much this week except shaking my fist feebly (but passionately) at shitty daytime television and making a casual attempt to read melodramatic American fiction written by uneasy, balding white guys.

One thing that I did ended up doing this week was start and scrap about a dozen attempts at writing my thoughts on SXSW 2006. My feelings about this year’s conference are complex to say the least, and I was getting stress wrinkles on the back of my neck trying to figure out a way to communicate how I felt.

Thankfully I can unclench myself because my SXSW roommate / good buddy James McNally posted his thoughts on the conference. He nailed what I was feeling more eloquently, passionately, and succinctly than I could possibly have. Thanks, James! I’m still going to go next year, but my expectations will definitely be much lower.

Even with the somewhat disappointing SXSW, 2006 is turning into a very interesting year. There’s a very good chance in a couple of months I will leaving for Bogota, Columbia, where I’ll be staying for 3-6 weeks. If anyone reading this is or knows anyone from there, please get in touch or let me know in the comments any advice, places to visit, or things to see that you can recommend.

Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for the daily clearing of the lungs (A-HEM!) and a hearty session of researching the intricacies of FARC.

Help me read one novel a month

One of the decisions I made while down in Austin surrounded by lots and lots of intimidatingly smart people was: I need to read more long fiction.

Before I got involved with the dirty succubus called The Web I used to read fiction. A lot. Working full-time as a bookseller for a few years probably had plenty to do with this. I would spend hours pouring through The Quill & Quire, the New York Times Book Review, and other collections of book reviews looking for new, interesting books to read. Back then I read a new book probably every two weeks.

Now? Not so much. I read a fair bit of short fiction courtesy of McSweeney’s and other excellent anthologies, but I haven’t read a novel in quite some time. I intend to change that.

Every month, starting April 1st, I want to read a different novel.

So, what should I read? Give me some suggestions in the comments. I tend to prefer literary fiction, but I’ll try anything (except fantasy) for at least 50 to 100 pages.

Texas Bound


It’s that time of year again when designers, web gurus, nerds, and other ne’er-do-wells congregate like party-hungry lamprey in Austin, Texas for another kick at the can that is South by Southwest, version 2006. I’m off bright and early tomorrow morning with my friendly travelling companion James McNally for this year’s conference cum 5-day party, and I’m looking forward to reconnecting with friends and meeting new people.

For those of you attending, see you soon! For those of you who are content to watch from the sidelines, I’ll be sure to bring you back some sunshine, BBQ meat, and stories of frivolity and derring-do. Austin-ho!

Put yourself in my shoes


It’s been quite since I’ve written anything remotely journal-like for this site. This isn’t for lack of ideas of what to write about, however.

The last four or five months have been some of the busiest ever. Everything has been a crazed flurry of running around, and screaming, and gnashing of teeth, and moments of stressed-out, involuntary buttock clenching, and laughing out loud with just a teensy sliver of mania present, and a lot of swooning in damp, dark rooms with a moist towelette on the forehead like Greta Garbo in Grand Hotel, but a hell of a lot less elegantly.

A big part of this was my involvement for the past five months on the redesign of the Globe and Mail, which finally launched a few weeks ago. It was a huge job with six of us working full-time to build out and integrate the new design (by G&M newspaper designer Adrian Norris) with the Globe’s somewhat antiquated content management system.

The new site won’t win any design awards, but it’s a huge improvement over the previous design and we worked our geeky asses off on it. It only has two validation errors on the homepage (both ads-related), and it’s an all-CSS, semantic layout that’ll hopefully garner some poindexter cred with the too-cool pocket protector crowd.


Sporadic victories aside, it’s been a crazy time. I massively over-committed myself to too many projects and have been teetering on the verge of burn-out more than a couple of times - something I promised myself I would be more careful to avoid. The industry is just hopping these days, though, and it’s sometimes hard to say no when big, high-profile projects somehow manage to plop onto the dance card.

I don’t know if it’s something in the air in Toronto, but something about this city brings the workaholic out in me, and I don’t like it. I’ve been so busy lately that my social skills are starting to resemble rotting eggplant. Come to think of it, I’m not smelling so great, either.

The good news is that SXSW 2006 is rapidly approaching, and if that doesn’t knock me hard on my ass in the best way possible, nothing will. I’m heading back down with James McNally, the Zen Master General himself, and I expect to play swing-eights and slam dunk the moon more than a few times. I can’t wait.

Quatre choses

Ça va, ça va. Si tu me veux répondre à ses questions, il serai en français. :)

Just kidding. As if I could keep that up for more than a dozen words.

Four jobs I’ve had:

  1. Semi-professional (meaning I got paid, sometimes) musician (1989-1996)
  2. Ditch digger (two very long weeks in 1994)
  3. Boom operator (1996, got sore shoulders)
  4. Chicken killing machine designer (1989, became a vegetarian)

Four movies I can watch over and over:

  1. Withnail and I: “Of course he’s the fucking farmer!”
  2. The Sweet Smell of Success: “You’re dead, son. Get yourself buried.”
  3. Ran: “Man is born crying. When he has cried enough, he dies.”
  4. Bucket of Blood: “Life is an aimless hobo, bumming a ride on the omnibus of art.”

Four places I’ve lived:

  1. Vancouver
  2. Winnipeg
  3. Toronto
  4. In the back of a van.

Four TV shows I have been known to enjoy:

  1. Jeopardy
  2. CSI
  3. Everyday Italian
  4. The Family Guy

Four places I’ve vacationed:

  1. Vancouver / Victoria (see this post)
  2. Paris
  3. Barcelona
  4. Quite a bit of the U.S.A. except for Wyoming, New Mexico, and Utah.

Four of my favourite dishes:

  1. Butter Chicken Roti from Gandhi Roti on Queen Street West, Toronto
  2. Chicken Poderosa from La Fiesta Bakery in Winnipeg
  3. Finnish Pancakes from Hoito in Thunder Bay
  4. Noodles #2 from The Hunger Hut, Winnipeg (now located in Vancouver, or so I’ve heard)

Four sites I visit daily:

  1. (web nerd)
  2. Versiontracker (mac nerd)
  3. Flickr (photo nerd)
  4. Google (doesn’t everyone?)

Four places I’d rather be right now:

  1. In a lovely, affordable house in a nice, friendly city owned by Renée and I that isn’t located above a rendering plant, next door to a sulfur pit, or within a thousand metres of Mike Fleiss.
  2. Hanging out with my brother and nephew, listening to my dad complain while my mom shakes her head and sighs.
  3. Tuscany, Italy (though I’d gladly settle for Cinque Terre)
  4. Somewhere where they understand the concept of the Frictionless Life. Montreal is an excellent candidate.

Four people I’m tagging

I think I’ll leave it at that, thanks. To make up for this, I’ll add:

Four moments worth savouring:

  1. The first time I successfully performed an ollie, summer 1980
  2. Sleeping under the stars at Shuswap Lake while on tour, 1990
  3. Walking down the backlane with my brother Kevin after playing pool at the UofM, 1986
  4. Standing at the top of a hill in the Parc Guell with Renée, Barcelona, 2001

Four words that I can’t get enough of:

  1. indubitably
  2. boom
  3. squishy
  4. onomatopœia

People I have been mistaken for that I am most definitely not

  1. “Hey, aren’t you the bassist from Death Angel?” (note: he’s Filipino)
  2. “OH MY GOD, you’re James Iha!” (half-Japanese, though I did have blonde hair at the same time he did, for what it’s worth)
  3. Some guy named Terry, who apparently treated this girl rather badly (I got slapped in the face at the bar)
  4. “Holy shit - you’re the guy from 21 Jump Street!” (Vietnamese. This was preceded by the same person saying that my aboriginal buddy was “totally Johnny Depp”.)
  5. Repeatedly mistaken for a guy named Nick. Nick, Neil - they both sounds like verbs, I guess.
  6. Someone with a deep, meaningful grasp of the dark martial arts. You would be amazed how often this still happens. Stop learning your racial stereotypes from 70’s action movies, please.
  7. “Hey, aren’t you the guy from the Mighty Power Rangers?” (Archie Kao, now a semi-regular on CSI, and Chinese.)
  8. Shauna’s boyfriend’s cousin Lance. Maybe this name-as-verbs theory does hold water…
  9. The “surly, bitchy shop owner” from the convenience store down the street.

beautiful moments, not to be forgotten


It’s that time of year again where every magazine, newspaper, weblogger, and opinionated man-about-town weighs in with their best of 2005 lists. I don’t have anything against such retrospection, but once you’ve read one, you’ve probably read them all. I mean unless it’s something incredibly unusual like Top Ten Songs Playing While My Neighbour Had Furtive, Ultimately Unsatisfying Sex With His Girlfriend or Top Six Actors Who Make Me Think Of Tapioca chances are it’s all stuff you’ve seem already.

My favourite songs of 2005 aren’t relegated to just albums that were released this year (though most of them were). These are just songs that struck a nerve, got stuck in my ear, had me quaking in my dancing shoes, or stabbed me in my wimpy little heart and made me bleed a little.

Here’s the list:

  1. John Cale - A Child’s Christmas in Wales (1919)
  2. Broken Social Scene - 7/4 (Shoreline) (Broken Social Scene)
  3. Novillero - The Hypothesist (Aim Right for the Holes in Their Lives)
  4. A Girl Called Eddy - The Long Goodbye (A Girl Called Eddy)
  5. The National - All the Wine (Alligator)
  6. Rogue Wave - California (Descended Like Vultures)
  7. Sufjan Stevens - Casimir Pulaski Day (Illinois)
  8. Josh Rouse - Streetlights (Nashville)
  9. Sigur Rós - Hoppípolla (Takk)
  10. The Decemberists - We Both Go Down Together (Picaresque)
  11. Spoon - The Two Sides of Monsieur Valentin (Gimme Fiction)
  12. Pernice Brothers - Amazing Glow (Discover A Lovelier You)
  13. Calexico / Iron & Wine - He Lays in the Reins (In The Reins)
  14. Howie Beck - Alice (Howie Beck)
  15. The Cardigans - I Need Some Fine Wine (and You Need to be Nicer) (Super Extra Gravity)
  16. The Go! Team - Junior Kickstart (Thunder Lightning Strike)
  17. The Quantic Soul Orchestra - Pushin’ On (Featuring Alice Russell) (Pushin On)
  18. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Nature Boy (Abbatoir Blues)
  19. Stars - Ageless Beauty (Set Yourself on Fire)
  20. Archer Prewitt - O, Ky (Wilderness)
  21. Max Richter - Organum (The Blue Notebooks)

And as a special gift to you all, here’s my first BeatnikPad radio mix featuring these songs. It’s 80 minutes of pure love and it’s my thanks to you for visiting, commenting, emailing, and generally being swell human beings. I’ll probably leave this up for a few weeks as the bandwidth usage might get a bit nutty (it’s 110mbs, after all), but please download it, enjoy, and let me know what you think.

Over the next week I’m going to start going into more detail on why I chose each of these songs. Hopefully it’ll be interesting enough for you to come back, visit, and add your own favourite tracks of 2005.

(Update: Part one is now up.)

Happy holidays to everyone!

Show off your high school hairdo


Yup, here is my 80’s hair in all of its splendour, vainglory, and majesty. Them’s some pretty choice folicles, I must say. I came across this photo on my old high school’s web site (brought to you by the wonders of FrontPage) and figured it was time to share.

Let’s dig those skeletons out of our closets and display them proudly! I don’t care if you had tresses that cascaded over your shoulders like Peter Frampton, a saucy Simon Le Bon whippet, or a egomaniacal Bono mullet, show your high school hair and show it with pride!

Show us your high school hairdo! You know you’ve been dying to.

Pimp my Nikon D50

Nikon D50I just picked up an early Christmas present for myself. I bought a new camera: the Nikon D50.

I thought long and hard about this decision. I’m no great photographer by any stretch, and I’d like to improve my skills and develop photography into more than the occasional habit that it is right now for me. In my mind a big part of this means learning how to actually control the light that enters the camera. This means moving past the digital point-and-shoots that I’ve relied on for the past few years and buying a true SLR camera.

» Pimp my Nikon D50 continues...

Where I’m coming from

I hope everyone had a lovely Hallow’s Eve and are not already getting their eyes poked out by over-zealous retailers firing fake Christmas trees and garland all over the place. I noticed a couple of days ago that the big downtown mall in Toronto, Eaton Centre, already has their big-ass Christmas tree suspended high up in the air. It’s a glowing reminder to all who pass underneath that they are selfish bastards who should be spending their money on presents instead of another pair of gold-filigree denim jeans from Jakob.

That kind of pisses me off (the tree and not the denim, which makes my ass look absolute divine, thank you very much). As long as I can remember Halloween was the unspoken demarcation between the days of Not Christmas and the long run up to It’s Almost Christmas (So You Better Start Panicking And Buying Useless Shit For Your In-laws Immediately). No retailer dared pass this line without incurring the wrath of disgruntled parents and screaming in-laws the world over.

Now, it seems, the week before Halloween is fair game. Pretty soon we’ll have one week where there isn’t Christmas decorations up (between January 1st and 7th), and the rest of the time we’re going to be stuck listening to Feliz-fucking-Navidad and watching A Very Celine Dion Christmas until old age thankfully withers our eardrums and retinas. Frankly, I’m rather inflamed about the whole thing.


As usual, I’m keeping myself pretty busy, which has lead to another long and rather depressing lull in posting to this site. Besides all of the excitement and incredible popularity that my post about musicians who have weblogs generated (which, I have to say, was possibly one of the most half-assed entries I’ve ever posted here - who said effort equals results?) not much has been happening around here.

The reality is after working all day in front of a computer, the last thing I want to do in my spare time is, well, sit in front of the computer. Of course, I end up doing that anyway, but it’s mostly aimlessly clicking on links in NetNewsWire and hitting refresh over and over again on 5ives, hoping for a fleeting moment of mirth. I seriously have no clue how people like Frank or Khoi manage to write such consistently good entries.

On that note, this made me laugh so hard I think I sprained my kidneys. Ow.

10 things I wish Lacuna could erase from my mind

Eternal Sunshine
  1. The existence of nutella. So good, but so wrong.
  2. All instances of Tara Reid, but most especially these horrifying photos (NSFW, and truly frightening)
  3. Stealthy fart smells, especially on the subway and when taking the streetcar down King street. I used to think people were rude, then I realized that the city just smells bad. Well, and people are rude.
  4. That time when I capped off staying awake for over eighty consecutive hours by eating a massive plate of Mongo Bongo (plastic-mall food-stir fry) and riding the so-called “Death Rollercoaster” in West Edmonton Mall. Dear innocent bystanders: I apologize.
  5. Three words: 80’s hair metal. What was I thinking?
  6. The advertising jingle “Everybody loves Marineland.”
  7. Actually thinking that doing the splits in front of Karen H. would impress her, and then trying to do so while wearing tight jeans. In front of many witnesses. Grade 7 was a very long year.
  8. Feliz-fucking-Navidad.
  9. The night when I got into a substance-induced bellowing match with a poor Salisbury House employee over the deluded idea that calling their hamburgers “nips” was a racist act.
  10. Convincing myself she meant no, when she actually meant yes.

Anything you wish you could forget?

Thunderstorm in the summer

This thunderstorm occurred in mid July, just after I had started actually writing (not organizing, not outlining, not pitching) the book. I remember I had been sitting at the desk for almost three hours with a blank Word document in front of me. The flashing cursor was like an SOS signal. I was completely empty.

This spirited thunderstorm started farting and belching outside, and I went into the sun room beside our home office to watch lightning bolts flash into the park in the distance. I shot some shaky video with my Canon Elph, and then this hippie dude and his girlfriend went splashing by on their bikes in water that was at almost two feet deep.

I’d like to say the absurdness of the whole thing sent a lightning bolt of inspiration blazing into my ear, but the truth is I went back to the computer, fired up NetNewsWire, and threw in the towel.

Writing was like that for weeks until I got into the groove. There would be long days of sitting at the computer, cursing my quaggy brain and feeling absolutely moronic, and then one or two days of nearly manic productivity, where at least half of the stuff I wrote was utter shit. But at least I was writing.

The funny thing is even though that book has been cancelled, I’m throwing myself back into the fracas and starting work on another one. I can’t decide if this could be seen as the irrepressible passion of a man who has “something to say”, or just the final bit of drool out of the mouth of an absolute con.

This video proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that my iMovie editing skills absolutely suck. In my defense, this is only the second time I’ve tried playing around with iMovie. There’s only so much room in my brain, and every time I learn something new, something old has to get tossed to make room. Sigh.

(Note: if you’re reading this in your newsreader, you’ll have to visit the site to view the video. I’m using a Javascript method to embed the Quicktime so that it doesn’t break validation.)

A return to your regularly scheduled programming

I got some bad news this morning from my editor: my book has been cancelled. Kaput. Taken a long walk off of a short pier. Given up the ghost. Toasted. Et cetera.

I have to admit this news didn’t come as a massive shock to me. This is actually my second attempt at a book - my first was with a publisher that went out of business just over a month after the book was initially started. I’m keenly aware that the publishing industry can be a world of abrupt endings; the technology publishing industry is even more fragile. I’m not bitter, nor am I devastated.

But I can’t help feeling a little disappointed.

That said, I don’t begrudge the time I put into the book up to this point. My writing has vastly improved since I first started working on this project, and I have gleamed valuable experience in the book writing process. But it would have been nice to have taken things all the way.

My publisher is doing me well and making sure I get some compensation for my time, and the door isn’t closed to the possibility of future opportunities. I gotta say, though, if I get another kick at the can, I really hope the adage that “third time’s the charm” really does hold water.

Things I am currently thankful for (pre-thanksgiving mix)

Six days away from the computer, email, and responsibility. Montreal bagels (specifically St-Viateur bagels). Being told that my first chapter was “great” after weeks of waiting, worrying, and nail-biting. Open wireless access points at my favourite cafés. Clomicalm. The fact that Tom Cruise is no longer in the news every goddamn day. The slight chill in the air that signifies the beginning of autumn. The return of Arrested Development. Modern air flight. The Economist. Funny-shaped post-it notes. Sufjan Stevens. Path Finder. Ocean Spray cranberry juice. That Rockstar:INXS is finished tonight, so I can finally get back to avoiding all reality TV shows. Crumpler bags. Bittorrent (the new VCR poor man’s Tivo). Permanent press button shirts. TVBGone. Simon & Patrick Luthier guitars. Cheesy acoustic guitar ballads from the 80’s. A lovely girlfriend who enjoys “Talk like a pirate day” as much as I do. Cats. Giada De Laurentiis. Dickies work pants (aka “those old man pants of yours”). pop77 mixes (and the DJ, too). The fact that people still read this web site even though I post smelly turd-like posts like this one.

Burning Bottoms and Broken Flowers

"I'm a stalker in a Taurus"

Well, that’s more like it. Had a fairly productive writing day, though the heat is being applied to my buttocks in higher and higher temperatures. The plan this weekend is to hide off in the bush somewhere and write my ass, well, off. Actually caught myself feeling a slight tinge of confidence about the whole project, though it could just be that chicken satay I ate for lunch playing tricks with my self-esteem…

Mood is back to its vaguely crabby but relatively normal self, which is also nice. I got enough work done today that I rewarded myself with a date with Renée to see a matinee of the new Jim Jarmusch movie Broken Flowers. It’s great. After watching the 75% steaming pile that was Coffee and Cigarettes, it’s nice to have the dead-pan, sardonic Jarmusch back again that we know and love.

Bill Murray gives a performance that could only be summed up as spartan. He strips away any excessive movement or facial expression and distills his performance down to the barest of essentials. It’s like the best use of white space you’ve ever seen in a movie; it’s not what’s being shown as much as what isn’t.

» Burning Bottoms and Broken Flowers continues...

A path strewn with banana peels and razor blades

whoopsI don’t know why — maybe there’s a full moon tonight, I got up on the proverbial “wrong” side of the bed, there’s a disturbance in the Force, or someone secretly changed my Livejournal mood to “Crankypants” — but I’ve been feeling unusually stressed out today.

No, scratch that. Stressed out isn’t quite the right way to describe it. It’s more like the mild level of panic, like I’m sensing that an airplane engine is about to come crashing down on our house, or I’m about to get a call from a long-lost fling with news that I’m the father of mutated. angry quintuplets. I would almost say it’s like my spidey-sense is tingling, but that makes me think about Kirsten Durst, and then I start to feel the rumblings of borborygmus deep in my bowels — so I won’t.

I suppose it could stem in part from writer’s anxiety, but that’s not it, really. Today I got into not one, but two arguments on the same mailing list about stuff that really is quite inconsequential; arguments I know better to avoid. A car cut me off as I was riding my bike up to one of the cafés that I write at, and I almost took out the guy’s rear window with my lock. A screaming match nearly ensued. I never get into screaming matches. All day the cats have been keeping their distance from me, like they smell a disaster that they want nothing to do with.

charliebrownI even bought a freaking ice cream cone and dropped the damn thing on the ground like I was part of some kind of Charlie Brown reality performance art piece. SIGH.

So, yeah. I’m going to turn the computer off and back away slowly. It’s time to soak in the tub, put on some early Frank Sinatra, hang out with my sweetie, and ignore the world for a bit in the hopes that it’s all just a phase, and that tomorrow will, as the cliché goes, just be another (hopefully normal) day.

Roger & Me

RogerebertAbout a month ago, I received an email via this site asking me questions about a memoir I had written for Quebec filmmaker Jean-Claude Lauzon. After a quick flurry of emails, I confirmed that it was from Chicago Sun-Times movie critic Roger Ebert, who was doing some research on Lauzon for an upcoming article on Lauzon’s masterpiece Léolo.

That in itself was yet another affirmation that the web rocks harder than Kiss Alive. Imagine my nearly-peeing-myself-in-shock surprise when I was looking at his web site today and came across his recent article on Léolo. Not only does he hat-tip me, he also quotes from my article.

I know this is total self-pimpin’, but I don’t care. I’ve been gradually sinking into a mild funk as the writing for The Book progresses (the usual writer’s self-flagellation of I suck, I’m a terrible writer, I’m a fraud, I don’t know my ass from a pomegranate, etc.), and this little pick-me-up comes at an opportune time.

So, thanks Internets, and thanks Roger Ebert, for so completely making my week. I’ll try to not let this idiotic grin plastered all over my face get too obnoxious. If you haven’t seen Léolo yet, run to your local video store / NetFlix account (update: Netflix doesn’t carry it) and rent it. It’s absolutely incredible.

An Open Letter

Dear loved one -

You may have been wondering why I have not replied to your email. Or why your phone calls to me reach no one but the cold, robotic murmurs of virtual voice messaging or a lonely-sounding girlfriend. You may have been unlucky enough to run into me on the street and thought to yourself, “Damn, that boy is not looking very good these days,” followed by “why is his face so dirty? Wait, is that supposed to be facial hair?”

No, I haven’t joined a cult, and I haven’t lost my last shred of self-dignity and taken to surfing porn sites all day whilst wearing greasy sweat pants. While I’d love to be able to say something dramatic like, “have I ever told you about how absolutely delightful Scientology is?”, the truth is much more mundane. I’m writing a book.

Yes. After months of frenzied negotiations, frantic phone calls at 3am, and long periods of self-doubt interrupted with brief moments of Rock Star: INXS to make me feel temporarily superior, I’m writing a book for O’Reilly. The contract is finally signed and all that’s left now is for me to write, write, write like my life depended on it.

I’m reminded at this point by Joe Clark’s response to my statement, “‘I’ve been offered the opportunity to write a book,” which was simply “Don’t”. Or another experienced author’s sage advice that I “stay hydrated and shower often”. Needless to say, I’ve ignored both of their advice.

Assuming I get through this process without losing my mind (or my girlfriend), I will hopefully post more information as I get closer to finishing. But for now, if you send me email or call me and I don’t reply, please don’t take it personally. I’m probably off in a damp, dark room somewhere, staring blank-eyed at my computer.

Love, Neil

Air Con is in the hizzouse

Air Conditioner

GodDAMN do I feel handy - much better now than a few days ago. And in the nick of time, too - it’s a boiler room out there.

I promise to only use this power for good.

Five things I wish I knew before the day started

  1. That scouring the city for an air conditioner would make me very grumpy.
  2. That getting the last window air conditioner available at Costco would almost precipitate a fist fight with a large, very sweaty and hairy man.
  3. That attempting to install a window air conditioner in +34° temperatures (+42° with the humidity) would leave me feeling woozy and dizzy.
  4. That window air conditioners often require wood shims underneath (less it fall on top of unsuspecting people below) that are very difficult to find in High Park and often mean negotiating with large, very sweaty and hairy men at lumberyards.
  5. That after three hours of struggling and cursing it turns out that air conditioners cannot be installed on side slider windows.

All I can say is: crap.

The Living is Easy

Things that are currently making an oppressively hot, smoggy summer sparkle like a shiny new dime:

  • Indulgiung in smooth, highly caffeinated cups of Café Francese at Sicilian Ice Cream with the latest issue of The Economist
  • Getting a chance to spend a week hanging out with some hometown homies in town on vacation
  • Oodles of free live tuneage, including The Most Serene Republic doing an in-store at Soundscapes on College street, Canada Day celebrations with The Apostles of Hustle and Feist, and Out Hud and The Quantic Soul Orchestra as part of the Beats, Breaks, & Culture festival
  • Living less than 50 feet away from High Park, where there’s tennis to be played, trails to explore, pools to swim in, and Shakespeare to be spectated
  • Being pleasantly busy without feeling that sense of panic that usually accompanies lots of work (though I still need to find a good café with free wifi - anyone?)
  • Gallivanting about with Renée like madcap beatniks without a care in the world
  • Getting to see David Sedaris do a public reading (he’s just as funny in person)
  • The tickle of a cool breeze on a hot, sweaty day that makes your whole body shiver deliciously
  • Not having much of a plan for the summer, and being completely and utterly pleased with that state of affairs

late night stream of consciousness

i was having a dream last week about chris martins from coldplay. he was giving me a rather vigorous massage while weaving this convoluted and rather dull story about sexual conquests in the upper quarry of brazil. i have absolute no idea if there is such a place as the upper quarry of brazil, but that’s what the guy said and you gotta take the brits at their word, don’t you? for some reason stephen chow was there, frowning rather disapprovingly at the spectacle while teaching harry dean anderson the finer points of oyster shucking.

i often have dreams involving famous people. i don’t know if admitting this leaves me just one or two steps away from a life of pure cliché, but what the hell. at any rate, it’s late and i’ve decided i don’t like capitalization any more. well, at least right now, until i get a that dream job redesigning the lcbo nhl abc ibm etc. web site.

it’s been incredibly hot and muggy here. so hot that you start to feel like your brain has evaporated itself into an extended steamy vacation, and nothing but pure bullshit comes gushing out of your mouth in unstoppable waves. i would say that this post fits into that category (which normally mean that it gets regulated into the draft bin for an eternity) but i don’t care, and i’m sick of looking at the previous post. that’s why you subscribe to the feed for this site anyway, right?

okay, enough of that. to make up for this waste of your precious seconds and minutes, here’s a photo of a mace flower i took at the jardin botanique de montréal:


Running, Playing, Working, Broken

Montreal Subway floor

Renée and I are off this weekend to Ottawa for the Ottawa marathon. I’d love to say that I’m running the marathon this year (going to beat last year’s time by at least 45, yessir), but the sad fact is I’m merely a lazy ass spectator. I have started running, ‘tis true, but my report on the status of that endeavor will have to wait for another day when my self-esteem can handle the shame.

Renée has been training to run the half marathon for over eight months, and I’m going to cheer her on, run along side her trailing links of energy-providing bierwursts and kegs of Macedonian wheat grog, and generally make a complete idiot of myself screaming out the melody to Chariots of Fire until I’m hoarse. I would have made a killer cheerleader.

» Running, Playing, Working, Broken continues...

Ich bin ein Music Asshole

Normally anything that seems even vaguely “meme-like” or quizzy — such as the incredibly tired “what kind of fungus are you?”-esque questionnaires (holy crap, I’m a north-facing fuzzy purple lichen!) — earns a wide berth from this beatnik, but for music, I make an exception. Señor Hicks heaved the musical baton my way, and who am I to resist?

Total volume of music files on my computer (thus validating the title of this post in a big way):

51.67 gigabytes. 9305 individual tracks. 27.1 days of music. I have a serious problem.

The last CD I bought was:

Ryan Adams & the Cardinals’ Cold Roses. Not bad, but suffers from a bit of “let’s make a double album!” musical padding.

Song playing right now:

Jah Jah Bless the Dreadlocks by The Mighty Diamonds, off of the Trojan Roots Box Set, CD 1.

Five songs I listen to a lot, or that means a lot to me:

Following the former (songs I listen to a lot), this is the five that seem to be getting a lot of iTunes time:

  1. Iron & Wine - Jezebel
  2. Calexico - Not Even Stevie Nicks
  3. Kathleen Edwards - Back to Me
  4. Femi Kuti - 97
  5. The Futureheads - Decent Days and Nights

Though I’ve been listening to Supergrass’ Supergrass is 10 quite a bit these days, too.

More statistical music nonsense is available on my Audioscrobbler page.

Five people to whom I’m passing the baton:

Apologies for spreading the meme. I feel so venereal.

Four Years of the Pad

Holy crap. Four years of posting to and tending to and getting pissed off by this web site. Going from here to here to what you’re currently soaking in, and all the while musing and bitching and recording for some kind of virtual prosperity the various experiences of this particular carbon unit.

In that time, this site has introduced me to dozens of friends and acquaintances, followed me through two major relocations, listened patiently as I complained about my health and an endless parade of boring minutiae, helped me secure a multitude of consulting and design gigs, and made me feel guilty on numerous occasions when it languished unattended.

I originally started this site on a lark. I never expected it to last longer than a few months, or for anyone to care in the least about its contents. The fact that over a thousand of you come here daily and that you’re here reading this now is still incredibly surprising and inspiring.

Happy birthday, beatnikpad. Let’s go and get some tasty libations into you.

(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

College Flower

(with apologies to e.e. cummings)

Off I go to Winnipeg for a visit, Prairie spring weather, clean air, and some perogi. Have fun while I’m away.

(Where a long-standing ritual/habit is crushed into itsy-bitsy pieces)

Today is a sad day.

Whether I like it or not, I’m a creature of (some) habit. That explains in part how I managed to get addicted to smoking, fizzy drinks, Macs, French, and countless other things. Probably one of my most tenacious and beloved addictions (besides my addiction to injecting black tar heroin into my — oh, nevermind) is my addiction to coffee.

There’s a Turkish proverb about the perfect cup of coffee that my old roommate Caelum once told me:

“Coffee should be black as hell, strong as death, and as sweet as love.”

(He actually made a movie with this as the title, but that’s another story for another time.)

And that pretty much sums it up for me. Every morning I wake up, scrub away the eye gremlins, pet the cats, and brew up a damn fine cuppa Good Morning America that gets poured into my favourite cup. I then sit down with the newspaper (or the laptop) and find out what’s going on in the world. This is all a simple but effective prelude to getting into a good work state of mind, and this ritual / habit has been a comfort for years and years.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once said: Habit is a man’s sole comfort. We dislike doing without even unpleasant things to which we have become accustomed. There is some wisdom in this.

Yesterday morning, without warning, loud explosions, or blaring flugelhorns, my favourite cup broke.


This morning, I woke up, scrubbed away the eye gremlins, petted the cats, and brewed up a fine cuppa Good Morning America. I then sat down with the newspaper to find out what’s going on in the world.

It just didn’t feel the same.

The C word (that doesn’t rhyme with punt)

A caveat: For those of you who are only here for the Firefox builds and the intermittent flurries of mirth, you might want to pass on this entry, because (and here comes the apt dooce all-caps): I TALK ABOUT MY HEALTH.

Alrighty then.

» The C word (that doesn't rhyme with punt) continues...

Around the bend and back home again

Austin Sunset

I’m back from , feeling exhausted but still vibrating from the exhilaration of the past six days. This was my first year at the conference and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I was pretty much pleased with the whole experience. My brain still feels like oatmeal in a Baggie, so instead of writing a rambling 2000-word that might verge on the incoherent, I’ll summarize in bullet points.

» Around the bend and back home again continues...

Deep in the heart (clap clap) of Texas

grackle.gifI just stopped in at the hotel to grab a jacket and figured it was time to break the blog silence. The days have been absolutely spectacular, but it gets chilly in the evenings in Austin, didn’t you know. I’ve also learned that the native bird of Austin is the long-tailed Grackle, and that, when in Rome, it’s best to say, “y’all” whenever possible.

I am on my way to catch what I can of the Fray Café 5. I just had the extreme (extreme!) pleasure of hanging out for a spell with “The British Design Invasion”, which included someone I’d been looking forward to meeting, Jon Hicks. What a blast. I’ve had the great luck to meet lots of damn friendly folk here, and learn a thing or time while I’ve been at it.

Much more hot, sweaty post action on the festivities and the conference soon, as time permits. Ya’ll come back now, ya hear?

South by Southwest or bust

sxswAfter years of sitting on the sidelines (due to busyness, laziness, or lack of financial wherewithal), I’m finally getting off of my duffel bag and headed down to South by Southwest. Judging by the list of panels and speakers, it looks like half the web is going, too.

It’s really exciting to finally get a chance to go to the festival, and will be equally cool and overwhelming to be around so many web nerds. The possibility of finally putting faces, and more importantly voices to names and URLs is going to be a blast.

If you see me wandering around with a glazed donut look on my face, feel free to grab me and say hello. At the very least, please be kind enough to point me in the direction of the nearest caffeinated beverage.

The eye, like a strange balloon, mounts towards infinity

odilonRedonSo what the heck have I been doing for the past three weeks that has prevented me from regaling you with tales of yore and derring-do? Well, work, mostly. Lots and lots of work. But it’s all cool and good, and I’m definitely much happier now than I’ve been in a while vis-a-vis le travail. Thanks for asking.

But, as Jack Nicholson said so eloquently, “All work and no play”… and after staring bug-eyed at CSS rendering bugs, Movable Type limitations, and the evil rat bastard that is Internet Explorer 5 for the Mac, I had to get some play in my system, stat. Renée has a very low tolerance for me busting down doors with axes and typing maniacally at a worn-out Underwood while drooling uncontrollably. She’s funny that way.

So it was the giddy rush of The Incredibles on Friday night, chased down Saturday evening by the deep blue sadness of Million Dollar Baby. Today, we ambled our way down to the St. Lawrence Market area, more to get out of the house than to shop. There was fog in the air, and an invigorating chill tickling the earlobes that made you glad you had blood in your veins, and a beautiful girl holding your hand.

Of course, like good little non-native Torontonians we never knew that the Market was closed on Sundays and Mondays - who knew?


It’s interesting to me that the front page article in today’s Sunday Star (which, by the way, is absolutely kicking ass with its new, gorgeous design and rejigged magazine-style content) was a big article on how the rest of Canada views Toronto, entitled Why do they hate Toronto? Of course, the article was replete with cries of unfriendly! and self-centred! and that hoary chestnut, uptight!

Being a non-native, it’s easy sometimes to see why people view Toronto this way. Every city has its share of uptight, self-centred, unfriendly assholes, and Toronto happens to have quite a few of them. But it’s also quite sad and equally ignorant how many people, who have never actually been to Toronto or spent any meaningful amount of time here, feel so strongly that this place is deserving to be known as the asshat of Canada.

Ah well. All I know is that on Friday afternoon I was riding the streetcar. I could hear a Chinese family talking in front of me, while girls gossiped loudly in Portuguese to my right, and two men held hands quietly just over my shoulder. Earlier that day, I heard Spanish and Italian and Arabic and Hebrew and French while walking down the street. Everyone is just living their lives and getting along. There’s outlandishly foreign soda pop available at the corner store, and my eyes are never bored. It makes me glad to be here, asshat of Canada or not.

Current State of Mind


Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there’s a message in my Alphabits. It says, “Oooooo.” Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.

So this is the New Year

It’s finally time to shimmy the last vestiges of the holidays out of the system and get down to business. Well, if posting to my site could be considered business, that is.

All told, my holidays were quite lovely, thanks. There was lots of visiting, lots of hanging out with friends and family, and much partaking of the “you’re a lucky bastard / don’t take any of this for granted” yuletide epiphanies that somehow makes the holidays even more enjoyable. I stared down a mason’s brick of fruit cake and won, and managed to make it through another freezing winter without losing my sense of humour. Let’s hear it for highs of -40° Celsius with the wind chill!

Okay, that’s enough of that. Consider this to be more of a big-toe-in-the-water test post than anything substantial. My weblogging mojo was weakened a bit from too much time slumming it Franco-Ukrainian style in Winnipeg.

In other words: Helllooo, 2005!

The Weather Outside is Frightful

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

(but inside it’s warm, baby)

Coming back home always feels a bit strange, though the wind chill and my shivering, ice-cold kneecaps has helped take my attention away from such thoughts. To quote the inimitable Mssr. Waits, it’s colder than a well digger’s ass.

Fucking inhuman “exposed-skin-freezes-in-seconds” weather aside, it’s nice to be back. I’ve missed basking in the glow of my friends’ and family’s brilliance. I’ve always felt that the perfect city for me would be one where I could slum with my beautiful kith and kin whenever I wanted, while still being able to indulge in the art / music / culture / humanity that is cities like Toronto and Montréal. You can’t have it all, I suppose.

Homecomings are a strange beast. For one thing, the run-up to the holidays causes Winnipeg’s population to swell by at least a few hundred thousand people, as hordes of expats flood back into the city. Excursions out to the King’s Head pub are half joyous reunions with old friends, and half “hey, isn’t that…” as one recognizes long-lost Winnipeggers, back from far-flung locales to get their annual fix of family and festivities.

Returning home is like time is being folded. You seemingly joins the moment you last left and the moment you returned, and all of the time you were away steps back into the shadows and disappears.

I suppose that’s the small tragedy I feel every time I return to Winnipeg. Even though it seems as if all of my time away somehow vanishes when I step off of the plane, there’s this gap in each of our personal histories. The people I love have changed, have lived through life’s small victories and defeats, and I’ve missed it all. And yet it feels like it once was…

But, this is what warm evenings indoors with friends and families are for: unravelling our histories and sharing ourselves with those we’ve missed. I, for one, am thankful that I am fortunate to have many who have been missed dearly, and whose stories I hold on to every word.

Happy holidays, folks. I hope you’re spending time with your favourite troubadours.

Things I am Addicted To


Good coffee, edamame, Welch’s grape juice, San Pellegrino Chinotto, wasabi peas, listening to my cat Emma say, “maht!”, loud, obnoxious music that only a hair farmer could enjoy, secretly doing my best imitation of Pete Townsend playing guitar while no one is around, Miss Vickie’s potato chips, Mac OS X, stealth smooches, McSweeney’s, the surprised look francophones sometimes get when I start speaking French when they were just talking about me (in French), waking up every morning even more in love and feeling like the luckiest bastard ever, CSI (but only the original - David Caruso is a punk), Amelié Poulain, butter chicken roti from Ghandi Roti on Bathurst, being a big, goddamn softie on the inside but pretending to be a hard-ass because it’s the manly thing to do, wearing the pocket protector in the family, riding the subway while listening to A Girl Called Eddy and pretending I’m a pensive ne’er-do-well living in Paris, working from home in my underwear (just because), laughing so hard I can’t breathe while watching The Family Guy, attempting to grow a scraggly, David Suzuki beard and failing miserably, feeling mildly superior whenever a Windows user starts complaining about how much spyware they found on their machines, chewing way too much Trident White in the futile hopes it will erase fifteen years of coffee and cigarettes.


The Journey is the Destination

Blurred Trees

When I was a child there were two things I could always rely on: being dragged to an endless stream of lessons (piano, organ, school band, swimming & diving, and many others), and family summer road trips.

Every summer the entire family would pile into the camper and make the long, meandering drive out to the West coast, staying at campgrounds along the way. I think I’ve been in every KOA campground along the Trans-Canada Highway from Portage La Prairie, Manitoba to Victoria, British Columbia. These summer trips inevitably ended in Victoria, where my great aunt Jessie would be waiting with Chinese candies, warm, friendly smiles, and an avalanche of hugs.

To me there was something about road trips that seemed right. After more than ten years of these marathon vacations (covering 4640 kms from Winnipeg to Victoria and back), and six years of touring around North America as a penniless musician, I grew to view the road as the only, true way to travel.

The first time I ever flew in an airplane was when I came to visit Renée in Toronto; this was before I moved out here to be with her. The incredibly short flight time and overwhelming convenience of the whole experience left me feeling very disconcerted. Forced to consider a new context of travel nearly broke my unshakeable belief in the road; like some kind of pavement zealot I had come to believe that the road was the only way.

» The Journey is the Destination continues...

From the “my head is swelling” file

large head Still from L’Homme à la Tête en Caoutchouc

Apparently, someone at the Now, Toronto’s weekly rag-about-town has decided that the BeatnikPad is the “Best local weblog”. This seems all the more ironic considering I haven’t been back here long enough to even quality for Ontario health coverage yet. But, it’s swell(ing) to be noticed, any way.

Of course, I’m perplexed by this distinction when you consider that there are many other ass-kicking web sites run by locals that are much more deserving, but best-anythings tend to be a pretty strange collection at the, er, best of times.

For those of you visiting here for the first time, go spend some time over at the GTA Bloggers web site. It’ll make you irresistibly sexy, trust me.

Moment of Clarity


When things are going well, it opens up time to think about the deeper issues. These are the things that the white noise of everyday existence overpowers and pushes into the background. For me, this opening is brought on by the potent mix of Autumn (season of quiet contemplation and change), and of finally being in a place where I can just be.

The proximity of trees can’t hurt, either.

For me, one thing that grates on my conscious is the fact that I don’t contribute “back to society” as much as I’d like. Sure, I donate to the usual suspects (Red Cross, Doctors without Borders, the local Humane Society, Cancer / AIDS / Diabetes research, etc.), but that doesn’t leave me feeling fulfilled. The money goes away somewhere and I have absolutely no idea what it’s used for.


Here’s the thing: I’ve always believed that people generally want to help others. The problem is that people don’t know how to help. They have no idea what the time or energy commitments might be, and I believe there is an air of suspicion surrounding giving:

Oh, they’ll just use that change to buy drugs.

Most of the money I’ll donate will go towards administration - it’s all corrupt, anyway, so why line the pockets of the bureaucrats?

For me, this low-level guilt is augmented by the fact that I work with computers and the Web, which more often than not means that the work I do is directly, or indirectly related to business. The area that I’m working these days is crawling with web-types; it’s all talk about deliverables and monetization and bottom-line residuals. People either want to be where the money is, or are already there and want to stay where they are.

It all leaves me feeling cold. There has to be a better way to do what I enjoy, while still feeling like I’m not contributing to something that in the end is completely meaningless. Really, who gives a shit if some person has turn-key access to top-tier content and just-in-time rich media?

I’ve reached a point where I need to feel like what I’m doing is leaving the world in a better place than before I started, and this includes my career. So the question then is, how can I do this while maintaining a reasonably humble lifestyle?

Do No Evil, as Google espouses, isn’t enough; the connotation is it’s okay to do nothing. You have to Do Good.

These aren’t the droids you’re looking for


Life continues at a pace, with small victories, minor dramas, and the constant battle to make time for cake. I’ve been spending the last few weeks enjoying our new apartment, and exploring the various nooks and crannies of our new neighbourhood, while trying to maintain a semblance of a professional life.

Renée and I went out to see Snow Patrol play last week, which was just awesome. Lead singer Gary Lightbody had the crowd eating out of his hands by the second note of the first song, which was somewhat shocking. After being to countless shows in Toronto where the crowd was busier talking on their cellphones and trying to make the scene, attending a show where people actually seemed enthusiastic about the music seemed almost quaint, and too good to be real.

I’m starting to get back into the swing of things with this site, after a lengthy bout of boredom and cheese-brainedness about the whole thing. I’m working on a couple of fairly lengthy pieces, and a couple of reviews, as well as a somewhat major expansion of the photography section of this site. Hell, everyone else and their cousin has a photoblog, right? I’m such a follower.

But, things are good, and I guess when things are good, I have less to talk about as I’m too busy just enjoying life. That tends to be the case with web sites - if they go silence for a prolonged period, either the person has discovered Life and the fact that, “Hey Mikey!”, they like it too, or they’ve become overwhelmed with a massive bout of disinclination.

Me, I could say I’m lovin’ life (and I am), but the sad fact is I’m a lazy ass.

I’m Neil Lee, and I approve of this post.

High Park

Lloyd!After a day filled with the agony of lifting large objects repeatedly while shuffling up and down stairs, we’re finally in our new apartment. Oh, yeah.

Once a debacle with the landlord and getting keys for the new apartment was worked out, the move went pretty well. For those folks in Toronto who might be in the market for a local moving company, I highly recommend Emerald Moving and Storage - very friendly, reliable, and hard-working. After all of the crap we went through getting our stuff from Winnipeg to here in the first place, it was a relief to deal with someone who didn’t have ASSHAT stamped on their forehead.

Of course, I knew that that nothing bad could come of the move when I saw that one of the movers looked, as his partner described him “exactly like Doc from Back to the Future”. And he did, thus giving me the joy of having my stuff moved by a Christopher Lloyd lookalike.

» High Park continues...

If everyone wants you,
why isn’t anyone calling?

Laura Branigan Dies So much for the move back to Toronto kick-starting my webblogging mojo. It’s funny - I’ve had lots of ideas for posts pop into my head lately, but I just haven’t had the inclination to post here as much as usual. Yeah, I know I suck.

I’m constantly amazed by the incredible multi-culturalness of this city. Today Renée and I went down to walk around our so-to-be new neighbourhood (yes, we’re moving again: I ♥ masochism) - High Park and Bloor West Village. There’s tons of Polish and Ukrainian people that live there, and lots of great little ethnic shops and restaurants.

There was a street festival on today, with the requisite ferris wheel creaking away softly, while dishevelled carnies lurking behind plush Spongebob Squarepants dolls waiting to be won by some pasty. A ruddy-faced man sang loud songs in a robust Ukrainian as a smiling companion sawed away on an accordion, and Renée and I feasted on pierogi and cabbage rolls as people of countless nationalities walked by. The food reminded us of Winnipeg.

I’m almost shocked by this feeling of quiet patriotism that I sometimes feel, but I am unashamed to say that I am proud to be Canadian. Days like today when the beautiful sight of countless nationalities all together and enjoying each other's company just reaffirm this to me.

Rest in peace, Laura Branigan.

Stupidity tries / The Nerd Rides Again

hemsley(With apologies to Sherman Hemsley, who is neither stupid nor a nerd.)

I must be scraping the bottom of the intellectual barrel these days, as lately I've been chock-a-block full of completely asshat decisions. I was really giving myself a serious self-beating today ("Yooooou eeedeeeot!") until I realized that with the end of school, the move, and all of the craziness of getting settled here, I've been going basically full-tilt since September 2003. I suppose that's some kind of excuse... <cough> <cough>

I need to figure out how to relax again. The fact that I have to "figure" that out in the first place is incredibly sad.

The good news is that our stuff finally arrived from AMJ Campbell (warning: gratuitous usage of flash and the Jefferson's theme song), and we're going to be getting a deduction from the cost of our move, which was very much expected. If I had only known what I was getting into...

It's very, very difficult to find good, accurate moving information online, which I think is bizarre, considering how stressful moving can be. To help alleviate this (and add my moving experience to the collective intelligence), I'll be writing a much more thorough review of AMJ Campbell very soon. I'll summarize it here for you now, though: great foot soldiers (the moving guys), poor internal communication, crap transport, and overall not a nightmare, but way more stressful than it needed to be.

Idiots-Are-Running-Wild-In-The-Big-City moment: I actually saw a guy riding a Segway a couple of days ago. Boy, it's no surprise that the Segway hasn't been the runaway hit everyone was expecting: it makes any rider look like the biggest dork on wheels. It fairly screams out, "I HAVE NO SEX LIFE AND THIS ISN'T HELPING".

The fact that the rider in question was already a nerd of epic proportions means that I had to shield my eyes, having allowed myself to gaze upon DAS MAXI-NERD. I proceeded to fall over and had a sudden craving to play a spirited game of Dungeons & Dragons right on the spot. "I can't be a nerd - I have 18 Charisma!"

Okay, enough of that. Sleep make stupid man go away.

Painting with Sound

You’ve probably played “the hypothetical game” with friends way back when you were kicking it, high school-style. No doubt you were lying out on some cool, freshly cut grass with the stars twinkling overhead, a bottle of illegitimately procured alcohol beside you, and The Cure’s “A Night Like This” reverberating from a car parked nearby, when the person you were with asked:

If you had to lose one sense, which one would it be: taste, smell, touch, sight, or hearing?

This question would always provoke a deep contemplation on what life would be like with part of the sensory spectrum removed. For me, a life without a sense of taste or smell would be disastrous, but a life without the ability to hear would be unbearable.

oldEarsSound was ever-present at home. As a kid, I was brought up enveloped in the routine of music lessons (accordian, organ, piano, school band, etc.), as were my sister and brothers. I remember basking in the cacophony that were the stereo wars my two older brothers waged; punk rock and new wave vs. arena schlock and early 80’s guitar posturing. Upstairs, my father played crooners, 60’s lounge music, and a seemingly neverending stream of classic music to help inspire our piano playing.

No doubt because of this, my favourite art is sound-based. Music (the playing of and listening to) has played a huge role in my life, and to this day if I’m feeling stressed out or melancholy, plucking an acoustic guitar or listening to a choice album always helps. Playing music is what helped define who I felt I was in my late teens and earlier twenties. I won’t allow myself to stoop to rampant cliché (too late), but I don’t know what I would have done without music then. Music doth soothe the savage beast, indeed.

Sound fascinates me. I’m especially fascinated by animals and people with highly attuned senses of hearing, like the blind person who can tell who is approaching by the sound of their walk, or my cats, who ignore the sounds of anyone else opening the main door of our building, but leap to attention when some secret auditory signal tells them that Renée has just opened the door.

The idea of sound, and the act of actually listening to and absorbing the sounds you are hearing, are what opens up the possibilities of existence. This, even more so than seeing, allows you to truly connect with the act of living. Between experiences and memory is sound.

This post was inspired by the discovery this afternoon of The Quiet American’s One-Minute Vacation, which describes itself as:

“Surely you can spare a minute to clean your ears? Take a one-minute vacation from the life you are living.

One-minute vacations are unedited recordings of somewhere, somewhen. Sixty seconds of something else. Sixty seconds to be someone else.”

My answer to that hypothetical question posed so long ago? “Anything, as long as it wasn’t the ability to hear.”

The (relatively) Simple Life

eggsOne thing about moving and the extended delay for receiving our worldly goods is the fact the we have been forced to live with just the bare essentials. No TV, no microwave, no electronic gadgets to make life easier…

(Yes, I see the irony in writing a post about simplicity on a Internet connected laptop. Bear with me, I’m a spoiled Western used to the modern life.)

The actual list of stuff that we have right now is:

  • air mattress
  • clock radio
  • small saucepan, frying pan, and enough cutlery / plates / etc. for two
  • the aforementioned laptop

All of this said, we do have access to the other modern conveniences of a fridge, stove, telephone, running water, electricity, etc. But compared to the vast number of devices, gadgets, and other chunks of modernity we had access to before we moved, we’re living pretty slim. And I kind of like it.

I guess my whole point here is that it’s kind of refreshing in a way to be reminded of just how little we actually need to sustain ourselves… and how much it is other forces (society, marketing, The Joneses, our overwhelming urge to be consumers, laziness) that make us believe that we absolutely cannot live with something.

Even last week, before we had Internet access at home and I was going out to find wireless access, I came to realize just how much my sense of reliance on the web was self-manufactured. Being online and connected at all times was something I had come to believe was critical to me… but in the end life without constant access wasn’t just livable - it was relieving.

Don’t mind me. I’m just finally recognizing that sometimes it’s the simple things that matter the most. It’s a good feeling.

Miscellany in the East

My brain feels like wet Kleenex, so I’ll keep it short and point-form-like:

Where the hell is our stuff, AMJ Campbell? Everything was due to arrive by today, and apparently it’s all still sitting in a warehouse in Winnipeg. Now they’re saying at least seven days late. So we sit here, the only furniture in our apartment being a yoga mat, and an air mattress… (grr)

(I was going to post a picture of our woefully empty apartment, but the USB cable for my camera is, natch, packed in one of the boxes. So here’s a picture of Charleton Heston instead.)

HestonAir Canada finally found my missing boxes. They reeked of diesel fuel, and were dropped off by a very monosyllabic delivery man. Who knows where they ended up before they were found - a Siberian refinery? An adobe hut in Istanbul? Donald Rumsfeld’s private oil reserve? At least nothing was broken.

It feels like the entire web is moving. Maybe it’s just my bookmarks.

It seems like a vast majority of the women here wear tight blue jeans. Not that I spend a lot of time staring at women’s jeans, but… It really does feel like the 80’s are back in full force: I’ve seen more pastel colours and neon than I care to admit. Ow, my eyes.

It’s humid like a motherfucker.

Never, ever, deal with a company that outsources their customer support to another country. That said, never deal with a company that has a completely crappy, broken web site.

On a more positive note, Echo Online is fast, friendly, and competent. They quoted me “five business days” for my DSL connection to be working, and assuming that they had to rely on Bell to hook things up, I expected as much. To my surprise, my connection was up and running in two days. Impressive - and you actually speak to someone who works for the company when you phone.

It’s hard to relax and calm down after being very, very stressed out when you don’t have: Couch. TV. Stereo.

There is literally an endless amount of things to do and see. Lana refers to Toronto as “a candystore”, and she’s right. So far: Prince, Madonna Ester (giggle), Camera Obscura, Emily Haines / Amy Millan, a Turner / Whistler / Monet exhibition at the AGO, a plethora of festivals… and Wilco, Bebel Gilberto, Gomez, the Curiosa Festival, the Toronto Film Festival, and so much more on its way.

It’s good to be back. That said, this will not become a site consisting of posts about Toronto, I promise. Humour me for a few weeks until I become jaded, blasé and start to take everything for granted.

Toranna 2004

Well, here I am, in the Big Smoke. I'm currently surrounded by dozens of smiling, very enthusiastic Asians, all babbling loudly in various levels of broken English, as the sky thunders overhead, and the occasional flash of lightning illuminates our faces.

I don't have web access at home yet, but am currently leeching off of the open wireless access point located in the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. For those interested, there's open APs available in the library on the main floor, as well as on the fifth floor cafeteria. The SSID for the cafeteria is "CTS wLAN", in case you were wondering. Thanks, Wireless Bandit!

Seemingly endless ethnicity. The reintroduction of large, roaming packs of 20-34 year-olds to the landscape. Rain, thunder, and rampant humidity. Free wireless. Big city attitude. Thanks for the welcome back, Toronto.

I'm just finally starting to get my mental and physical energy back after what ended up being an incredibly draining four days. Air Canada managed to transport my cats and I safely here, but in the process lost two very large boxes I brought with me as luggage... boxes that contained lots of very expensive computer equipment. Sigh. I'm still waiting for them to track the errant boxes down, though I don't have a lot of hope.

It's simultaneously great and very discombobulating to be back here. I still don't really feel like I've moved, though the aches and pains of the last two weeks in Winnipeg are still freshly throbbing. I'm sure it'll start to sink in after a few weeks...

But, it's great to have Renée and the cats and I all together again, and there is already a veritable smorgasbord of things to do and see. I think this is going to be a fun summer.

I guess I should get myself listed here at some point.

The State of Things

sausageI’m not sure what to talk about these days, except to say that I must be pregnant, because the kinds of food combinations I’m craving are completely, utterly irrational. I’m convinced that anyone suddenly struck with the urge to eat pork sausages with honey mustard while riding the bus is obviously under a delusion that only rampant hormones can bring on.

All of this from a wavering (but generally firm) non-red meat eater, too. I must be going to a hell reserved for mattress-tag ripper-offers, people who fart in public and blame it on their boy / girlfriend, and fallen vegetarians who were once smug in their self-righteousness.

I feel a bit shell-shocked these days, what with the most unbelievably kind remarks that students have been saying, and the rapidly growing to-do list that the move is spawning. I generally do not like compliments at the best of times, but being complimented on one’s teaching ability is extra painful. Now that I’m no longer a teacher, I can safely say this without the threat of someone using it against me in class: I know pretty much nothing.

Here’s a secret for you folks taking classes: every single teacher that stands in front of you is either:

  1. Completely full of him or her self,
  2. Completely full of shit,
  3. Scared to the core of being found out as being full of the aforementioned shit, or
  4. A combination of the above.

On most days, #3 would probably fit the bill, though there were days when #1 took over - these were undoubtedly red-meat-in-the-morning days. This is my confession: I would often find myself standing in front of a class, with the only thought in my head, “I am full of shit, and these people will soon find out and rip me to shreds.”

Teaching is not a good career choice for those prone to bouts of self-doubt. Need I repeat the obvious?

This isn’t why in some way I feel relieved to be leaving my position as a teacher, though I guess it’s a side benefit. The truth is that teaching is this cavernous black hole that swallows up all sense of time and proportion. Apparently it gets easier after three or four years, but the amount of time I threw at teaching to avoid giving away my secret (that I knew nothing) surprised even me. 14 to 18 hours a day, seven days a week, for eight to nine months. It was draining.

But, the summer stretches in front of me like a barcalounger with an extra large cup holder clamped to the side. There’s a gigantic stack of books piled nearby, and a sticky-note on top that simply states, “Read”. I truly will miss my students and my teaching life, but for now, it’s time to get caught up on some reading.

Now where did I put that package of bratwurst?

Annoying Neighbours: The Rave Kids


Lots of action (no, not hot, steamy action) at the BeatnikPad these days, action which has left me feeling discombobulated, exhausted, but at the same time exhilarated and giddy. More as the news develops - now get your mind out of the bordello.

But this post isn’t about my so-called life as much as it is about the lives of other people. Neighbours, actually. Something I read on a friend’s web site this evening reminded me of when I used to live in this beautiful, gigantic old apartment here in Winnipeg called The Roslyn.

» Annoying Neighbours: The Rave Kids continues...

My Life as a Log

rainyToday was one of those days when it felt like the entire universe was heaving a gigantic sigh - half out of some kind of misplaced melancholy, and half just because. As if in accordance with the pervasive humdrumness of the moment, it rained again today, all day and all night, like some kind of prolonged sequence out of a bad 70’s self-actualization movie (sample titles, “Why Me”, “On the Edge of Nowhere”, “The Master of None”, “Oh Lord, Why Hast I Wasted My Life?”).

My mood, surprisingly, has lifted, though I’m still trying to shake a momentary blip in my own social fabric. I guess it just was the incredibly Dickensian weather this weekend, because everyone around the apartment (cats and humans) were a bit on the anti-social side this weekend.

With all of the greyness and rain, it was as good an opportunity as any to tune out the rest of the world and spend some quality time reading, learning, and listening to music. I can’t seem to get enough of Snow Patrol’s Chocolate these days, and I have been getting re-acquainted with the Van Morrison back catalogue. The “redefines-the-word-‘severe’” neo-fado singer Mariza has also been getting a lot of air time.

With school finished, and now that I have a semblance of a life, I have been trying to get through a handful of mid-reads:

  1. Reefer Madness, Eric (Fast Food Nation) Schlosser’s most recent book on the underground economy
  2. The jaw-dropping House Industries Book (highly recommended for all of the designers in the house)
  3. Lonely Planet’s World Food: India (YUM)
  4. The second most recent McSweeney’s (issue #11, and getting ready for #12, the new Comic special, edited by Chris Ware - you listening, crispy?)
  5. A handful of software books too geeky to be worth mentioning

Reading is some kind of manna sent down from an anti-socialite’s concept of heaven. Rain, grey afternoons, cozy living rooms, good music, and books galore: life could be worse.

Three Years (and the end of the toiling)

Today was a special day, for a couple of reasons:

gradCapFirst, the important: I am finished school. I marked nearly two hundred assignments in three bleary, headache-inducing days, starting Friday evening at 8pm, and working nearly straight through (with breaks for occasional nourishment and cat naps) until the wee hours of Monday morning. It was roughly 2am or so when I called it quits and wearily trundled my oatmeal-filled brain to bed.

I still have mountains of administrative work ahead of me, and my graduating class (the first!) of DMT and Graphic Design students are having an open house at the end of the week, so it’s not over yet. But now that we have completed the last week of classes, and I smashed through all of my marking (like the Hulk, but not as pensive), the bulk of my work is done.

The end of the school year is a gigantic, massive relief. I really do feel like I’ve been birthing gargantuan acorns out of both ears for the past eight months, and the pressure (and pain) of the whole process has finally started to abate. One thing I’ve learned throughout this is that a big part of teaching is:

  1. Overcoming dozens of completely different, often wildly conflicting personalities, sometimes simultaneously and for prolonged periods of time, and

  2. Overcoming one’s own personality day in, and day out.

#1 is very hard. Students come to class with all kinds of personal agendas, and not all of them pertain to the furthering of their own education. #2, however, is the most incredibly difficult of them all, especially for me.

Contrary to what some people may think, I am not an overwhelmingly social person. If I had to choose, I would throw my penny into the “introvert” fountain; I function adequately around people, but I would rather just be off by myself.

Teaching is inherently social. This is the conundrum, as I often do not feel social. But, I’ve come to realize that teaching is really just a job like any other, and I’ve gotten pretty good at turning on when I have to.

All of this said, though, I felt a pang of sadness on Friday as my students handed in their final projects and said good-bye for the summer. I’ve grown quite fond of most of them, and have come to really enjoy getting to know them and seeing them learn and grow as designers. The school will echo with their absence.

cupcakeBut, it’s time for some rest. We all deserve it.

The other important fact about today (well, at least important to me) is that today was the third anniversary of the BeatnikPad. Three years ago I signed up for a Blogger account, threw together a somewhat weak three-column design, and started adding my voice to the then slowly growing din of online narcissists writers.

This web site has lead to many good friendships with people from all over the world, helped me find gainful employment more than once, enabled me to learn new things about the web, design, and myself, and much more. Thanks, BeatnikPad, and happy birthday.

Another year, another pair of socks

It's quiet here these days, what with Renée away in more westerly climes (if but for a week) and an oh-so-quick week cut short by a long Easter weekend. I spent my birthday (it was my birthday on Monday, did I forget to mention that?) doing exactly what I wanted to be doing: relaxing with my sweetie, away from anything even remotely resembling school or work or The Computer.

It's funny how the older I get, and the more birthdays I put under my belt (literally, it seems) the less I want to forget that it's actually my birthday. In my twenties it seemed like forgetting was The Thing That You Do: ply one's body with as many noxious poisons and toxins so as to subdue the brain into numbness.

These days it seems like memories are becoming even that much more valuable. I cannot get enough of them. Some days I feel like we are nothing more than memory batteries; slowly, constantly charging.

There will be lots of time for forgetting. Now is the time for remembering.

Stop the Clock, I want to get off

(Two posts in a single week! Man, I’m cooking with gas now.)

Tonight’s one of those nights when I’m toiling away, and looking up at the clock elicits a loud, “WHAT? It’s <insert time here> already? Arrg!” followed by ten to fifteen minutes of teeth gnashing, heart palpitations, and squirming of the buttocks in the chair.

We’re getting into the home stretch. Half of my 1st year group leaves next Monday for a week long design trip to Chicago (“that toddling town”), and with the Easter holiday just after that, it’s four weeks of classes left and then we’re done. Where did the year go?

Of course, and I keep posting about this but I find it somewhat interesting, but there’s no sign more telling that it’s almost the end of a semester than the sudden appearance of patchy facial hair around campus. Stress + lack of time + multiple, bone-crushing deadlines = ZZ Top, it seems, in both student and instructor.

Being someone who is completely incapable of growing more than a passing insult of facial hair, I find the state of chinny-chin-chin hairs to be pretty entertaining. I’ve always believed that Asians should avoid facial hair at all costs (David Suzuki, I’m looking in your direction), and my pitiful attempts at facial hair are telling.

So grow on, fellow students and instructors! I hear by proclaim that you are all my little chin hair proxies, and I will grow cheesy beards and goatees vicariously through all of you.

Okay, it’s time to stop avoiding the inevitable. Back to it.

Breast Warts

dictionariesI love languages. Spoken (and unspoken) languages, programming languages, secret underworld languages, creoles and pidgins—they're all cool. You could say that I'm a… fixalinguist? One of the polyglotsessed? A linguiphile? I don't know if there's a word for someone who's into languages, but whatever it is, that's me.

Luckily for me, my sweetie is a bird of the feather. Our apartment is filled to the rafters with language resources and tapes: The entire Just Listen and Learn language library (from Arabic to Spanish, with stops in between for most of Europe and Asia); Norwegian for Travellers, Essential Kanji, El Principito (The Little Prince, in Spanish); at least a couple dozen dictionaries for all manners of tongue… we got 'em all.

Notice, however, that I said I have a LOVE of languages—I didn't say I could SPEAK them. That's where Renée kicks my ass five ways to next Tuesday, as she speaks more languages than I even dream of. I'm still trying to learn my second (French), and some days I wonder if I have even the barest of facility with my mother tongue. I'm working on it.

Habits of the Language-Obsessed

One of the things I often do when I'm hanging out is to pull a random dictionary off of the bookshelf and start looking up words. This evening I was perusing a German-English dictionary (we have quite a few German books, because that's one of the languages Renée speaks). If I can ever get to a good level in French, German will possibly be the next language I want to learn. I don't know why—in many ways, learning Spanish or Chinese might be more immediately useful—but I think German is pretty neat.

Besides the fact that speaking it is just too much fun (I warned you I was a freak), one of the things I like about German is how logical it is. Just like English, many German words are just other German words smashed together. For example, one of my favourite German expressions is schadenfreude, which directly translates as schaden (damage) + freude (pleasure): the pleasure of seeing someone else suffer. Oh, those wacky Germans!

Word Arithmetic

Some of the other neat ones: onomatopoeia (words whose sounds imitate or evoke what they actually refer to, like boom, or squish) is lautmale'rei in German, which consists of laut (tone) + male'rei (painting), which is a beautiful way of describing what the word really means. Or, some grosser ones (because I'm totally infantile): bunion = entzündeter Fußballen which equals entzündeter (inflammation) + Fußballen (football); rectum, which is mastdarm, which turns out to be mast (fat) and darm (intestine). Hmm.

This is all well and good. Who was it, however, and what were they thinking when they coined the word for nipple? In German, nipple is brustwarze, which consists of brust ("breast"), and warze ("wart").

Breast wart.

Isn't language cool?

Rantings of a Coffee Fanatic

(Editorial note: This is an incredibly long, meandering, and silly rant worthy of the "Rex Murphy" [the Andy Rooney of Canada, but with more pretentiousness] award for pointlessness. Ignore at will.)

coffeeCupAs some of you already know, I'm a bit of a coffee fanatic. I don't drink, I don't smoke anymore, and I don't do drugs anymore either (technically), so I hold on to the few vices I have left with both hands.

Coffee is, to me, the liquid of the gods. It shares a lot of the qualities that has attracted me to other vices: it helps wake me up when I'm tired, it mellows me out when I'm stressed, it can be done socially as well as in the privacy of my own home, it's reasonably accessible, and while it can be cheap, I can indulge in outrageously expensive pursuits if I so feel inclined. Oh, and it tastes good.

I'd like to think that even though I'm a coffee fanatic, I am most definitely not a coffee snob. That is, I'll drink any kind of coffee as long as it tastes good, and it isn't decaf. Decaf makes absolutely no sense to me whatsoever, like being a gifted musician but only playing 80's hairband cover songs (The Darkness, I'm looking in your direction), or drinking Diet-anything when you're not on a diet. Why would you do that?

So, a realization: Tim Horton's coffee is utter crap. Yes: the self-manufactured hallmark of everything that is Canadian sucks pants.

» Rantings of a Coffee Fanatic continues...

Things That Make Me Say “Damn” part 1


TV: The Office

I originally got turned on to this short-lived BBC series via Lana and her frequent declarations of love. With its combination of office politics, strange human behaviour, and cubicle humour, it seemed like a natural. It helps too that Renée has a deep, undying love of British humour, a love which I generally share, though I've never understood her appreciation for Kevin Turvey Investigates.

The first episode was funny, but didn't bowl me over, but by the second episode it was obvious that this was destined to become a home crowd favourite. How could you not love exchanges like this:

Gareth: What ones (catch phrases) are yours that I use?
David: Same shit, different day, that's mine. Exsqueeze me, instead of excuse me.
Tim: Wank you very much.
David: Yeah, I invented that.

This is possibly the first show I've ever watched where I cannot stand watching more than one episode at a time. This is even though we have the entire first season on DVD, and each episode is only 30 minutes, which practically invites devouring the entire season in one sitting.

But no. This is mainly due to the infuriating personalities of the Wernham Hogg crew, who simultaneously make me laugh so hard it hurts, and frustrate me because they are so... infuriatingly evocative. This is really the show's strength: the ability to be both shit-your-pants hilarious, and at the same time maddening beyond belief as it reminds you of past office horrors. Damn good.

» Things That Make Me Say “Damn” part 1 continues...

Cold Cheese, Hot Head

cold!Sorry for the prolonged radio silence around these parts. Besides the fact that I'm seriously considering lighting my feet on fire to ward off the ravages of frostbite, I'm also fighting off a rather nasty bout of work-related burnout.

That said, there's nothing like some high-octane cheese to bring a big ol' grin to even the most rundown soul. I'm talking about the strange and disturbing resurgence of hair rock. I'm talking about The Darkness, whose success completely baffles me. It's as if every new generation never learns the mistakes of the previous one.

Hell, with all of the 80's revival still going strong, I've actually started to see those fuzzy harbingers of fashion doom again. I'm talking about legwarmers... oh lord, take me now. All I know is that if acid wash or those jeans that had the zipper that went from the front all the way up the back ("Ass Jeans"? "ZipperButts"? I don't remember) come back in style, I'm outta here.

Maybe it's just me and my crabby demeanour, but whenever I hear the "music of my youth", I don't feel nostalgic; I start to feel disenfranchised, annoyed, and angry all over again.

Still, The Darkness. I don't know why, but when the singer hits that first falsetto note, and the sounds of cornball Eddie Van Halen-inspired guitar solos wafts past my ears, I start laughing.

I can't figure out if this is a good or bad thing.

Watch I Believe in a Thing Called Love (sorry, Windows Media Player only), if you dare.

Edit: By the way, for the folks who are syndicating the BeatnikPad using newsreader software, I have tweaked the RSS 2.0 feed to contain full entries. Just another way to show you that I love you.

Made in China

Yesterday, I was seized with a strange compulsion (as I often am), and went around trying to find the country of manufacture for as many objects in my apartment as I could stand.

  1. Rarely used JVC VCR, and more frequently used Panasonic DVD player: China.
  2. Picture Frame: China.
  3. Comfy catbed: China.
  4. Wire wastebasket: China.
  5. Faux Tiffany lamp: China.
  6. Roland Electronic Piano: Japan.
  7. Bell Vista 200 phone (not the ultra-complex space console kind with the gigantic LCD screen): Canada - ah!
  8. Fender Jazz bass guitar, lefthanded: Japan.
  9. SMC Barricade Wireless router: Taiwan.
  10. Manhattan Toys fuzzy goat doll: China.
  11. Stainless Steel Scissors: China.

It was here that I realized: if it wasn't for China, Japan, and other Far East countries, we would have absolutely nothing in our apartments.

Seriously, if we really pissed off all of the countries that make all of the shit that we slowly accumulate in our lives, they could easily say, "Screw you", and stop making things for us.

And, because we have spent so long trying to divest ourselves of the responsibility for fabricating any of the things in our lives (hellbent instead on just enjoying the act of buying, and using), we would be lost. Who knows how to make a DVD player from parts, anyway?

Then we would be stuck in our empty apartments, mounds of neglected dust bunnies swirling around our feet, talking on the phone and wondering to anyone who would listen what happened to all of our stuff?

Lungs, don’t fail me now

Tomorrow, I will go to a doctor's office, where I will most probably run on a treadmill for a while, with countless electrodes attached to my body, and a large tube in my mouth. This is part of the process that I now need to go through, now that I have been diagnosed with Sarcoidosis.

"Sarcoid", as my friendly, yet brusque lung specialist has informed me, is a disease of the lungs.

When I was first told this, the first thought through my mind was, "oh, fuck." I immediately began cursing the fourteen-plus years I was a fairly heavy smoker, all of the cigars that I wantonly indulged in, and the long presence of other smokeables that I have greedily inhaled over the years.

(Note: I am now basically drug-free, except for the occasional lapse in good judgement, where I bury myself in mounds of illicit drugs, less I become so straight I bottom out. This I do like some crazed version of Tony "Scarface" Montana, as girlfriend and family look on with a combination of disgust and sadness.)


(Note Deux: just kidding)

Luckily, sarcoid is a somewhat harmless disease, in that it can end up serious, but often is nothing more than an irritant. It's basically these tiny nodules that appear out of nowhere - kind of like goosebumps for the lungs, but lasting longer, and with a bit more repercussions if serious. The strange thing is that sarcoid can affect many different areas of the body. One of these areas is the eyes.

This, of course, explains why I was diagnosed with glaucoma thirty years early, which is a relief in a way, as if my sarcoid is cured, my glaucoma should also go away. Hopefully.

This will mean that the mornings when the world seemingly refuses to come into focus, or the late afternoons after work, when my eye actually ache with fatigue and physical stress, should go away. Hallelujah, I say.

So yes; tomorrow I will run, and sweat, and breathe heavily. It's an interesting way to start the new year.

Home for the Holidays

fruitcake.jpgSo, another Christmas comes and goes. This year's holidays seemed extra anti-climactic, as school finished (for me, at least) on December 23rd. With school work sucking up the majority of my energy right up until Christmas Eve eve, there wasn't a lot of time to whip myself into a festive froth.

On Tuesday, after submitting my marks, I went out and attempted to start my holiday shopping. Yes, start. With exhaustion high and mental focus non-existent, my feeble attempts to get swept up in the wild, consuming orgy that is the holidays was futile. I took the bus out to one of the bigger malls in the city, walked in, took in the screaming children, the wide-eyed hysteria, and the stench of unadulterated panic, and walked right back out.

This year, everyone is getting Happy New Year's gifts, traditions be damned.

So: Christmas was a blur of food, relatives, and the sudden stillness that follows the crush of semester-end marking and assignments. It was also dominated by the "run into people I haven't seen in ten years" game.

When your physical, mental, and emotional states are about as robust as an overcooked rice noodle, attempting to cope with the question, "What have you been up to for the past ten years?" is a recipe for conniptions and intestinal spasms at the best of times.

» Home for the Holidays continues...

The Office

office_sm.jpgI've been really enjoying the design-related posts and discussions over at Speak Up lately. One of the things they've been talking about is how designers seem to be obsessed with other designer's office space, and previously, what's on designer's desks.

I'm not immune to this, either, so I ask: Where do you do work? What does it look like? What kind of crap do you have piled up (or not) around your workspace?

To kickstart the process, I offer this recent photo of my home workspace. Feel free to post links to images in the comments, or if you don't have a web site to post to, get in touch with me and email me your image(s) and I'll add 'em.

Update: How could I forget? If you're looking for more office space porn, head over to The Desktop Project. There's hundreds of offices for you to gawk at. Jason Perkins also has a really nice selection of office space photos collected in his Workspace Exhibit.


Update 2: Here's a hastily assembled office panorama - my desk is on the right. I'd like to pummel whomever chose green as the colour for everything in our office with a big, heavy book on colour theory. Blech.


Last night was the coldest night of the entire year. The temperature was around -30 degrees. Not a very good night for a fire.

Renée and I were sitting in the living room last night, working on school stuff and studying. Renée had a Spanish exam the next day that was worth a fair portion of her final mark, and I had some work-related stuff I needed to get through.

We originally thought that the smoke smell was from our radiators. When we first turn them on we can usually smell a slight woody, smoky smell as the pipes warm up. The sight of smoke pouring out of one of the wall power outlets, however, soon made us realize that this wasn't going to be a normal evening.

With the level of smoke streaming out of the outlet alarming both of us, I called 911 and pulled the fire alarm for the apartment. We hustled our cats into their carriers, put on our jackets, and were just about to leave when the firemen arrived. It took them just barely a minute from when I called 911 to when they arrived at the front door - pretty impressive.

About six or seven fire fighters came upstairs and asked where the problem was. I brought them to the smoking outlet, and the lead fireman called for an evacuation of the entire building. We scurried out into the frigid evening, cats in tow.

» Fire continues...


I'm sitting here trying to work my way through a mound of assignments that need marking, but I can't get any work done.

I found out today that one of my students passed away over the weekend. He was a design student of mine for all of last year, and was planning to return to classes in January. A boating accident, and the freezing waters of Shoal Lake ended those aspirations. He was 22 years old.

I'm hesitant to write about this in many ways, as I've tried to avoid writing about work out of respect for my students, and out of the understanding that many of my students know about this site. But it seems important somehow to acknowledge here the brief time that I knew Sebastian.

Sebastian's death saddens me in many ways, not only because of the pure loss of potential. Sebastian wasn't one of my best students; in fact, at the end of last year he had been suspended from classes for a number of reasons. But we all have been impulsive, brash, and spontaneous at one time in our lives (or even still), and had the chance to learn, to mature, and to mellow.

It saddens me to know that Sebastian won't get that chance.

Sebastian, for all of his all-too human difficulties, was an enthusiastic student, and was a genuinely friendly, well-meaning person. He loved cats at least as much as I do, was an ardent rock collector and was deeply passionate about design.

There are many other designers whose careers would receive acknowledgement throughout the design world upon their passing. Even though Sebastian was just at the beginning of his own career before it was unjustly cut short, I hope this small gesture helps acknowledge what was, what is, and what could have been.

Appliance Karma

fridge.jpgOur fridge is one of those old, icebox-style fridges that were built in the late Sixties, early Seventies. I have no idea who made it, because there is no logo, brand name, or other identifier to be found anywhere on it. I personally like to call it "that piece of crap".

Our fridge really sucks. I've been on the caretaker's back for months to replace it, as it seems to only want to cool things once a lunar month, when the moon is waxing gibbous, or when it's completely empty. I curse at it often, especially whenever I open it up to gaze upon yet another tupperware container of spoilt food that I just put in there a couple of days ago. As I bury another fuzzy meal in the depths of a garbage bag, I'll mutter evil, irrational things under my breath in the fridge's general direction. I'm like that.

A couple of months ago the fridge light gave up the ghost, and I've been too lazy and too disinclined to replace the damned thing. That is, until this weekend, when I was siezed with a mysterious bout of motivation that came from lord knows where.

So I bought some replacement lightbulbs, and went about finally replacing the burnt out one. I reached into the fridge to start unscrewing the old one. As I grabbed the bulb and started turning, I noticed that the bulb was surprisingly cold. I remember thinking, "hm - must be that time of the month again".

As I turned, the chilled bulb suddenly shattered into a thousand tiny, needle-sharp shards, cutting my fingers and sending blood all over the milk and yoghurt containers. The trouble really started, however, when my fingers instinctively closed into a fist, grabbing the firmament of the bulb tightly.

I think I now know what it's like to be a human exclamation point. 120 volts of good ol' Manitoba Hydro power flew giddily from the lightbulb, through my hands, and out the soles of my feet. For a couple of seconds I stood there, grasping the broken lightbulb, and mentally willed my fingers to open and release. I could feel my heart pounding in my stomach and in my throat.

Finally, I managed to wrest myself away from the bulb and fell back against the kitchen table, hard. Blood splattered against the wall from cuts in my fingers, and I noticed in my reflection in the toaster oven my hair was standing on end.

I believe in karma. I no longer curse my fridge.

Celebrate Good Times Come On

reneePub.jpgWhere love is concerned, too much is not even enough.

-- Pierre De Beaumarchais

Happy Birthday, sweetie.

(If you feel so inclined, stop by for a visit, and send along your birthday wishes.)

Golden Brown

fall shot fall shot fall shot

I'm just getting over a totally brutal flu - no delirious hallucinations, drooling mania, or weeping mother dabbing a damp cloth at my feverish brow, but sick all the same. Of course, this happens just as Winnipeg goes through a rather unseasonal heat wave (+28 degrees for the past three days). Suh-eye.

Five Questions

The rules of the interview game:

  1. Leave a comment, saying you want to be interviewed
  2. I will respond; I'll ask you five questions.
  3. You'll update your website with my five questions, and your five answers.
  4. You'll include this explanation.
  5. You'll ask other people five questions when they want to be interviewed.

Finally, here are my answers to Lana's questions:

» Five Questions continues...


This summer, I didn't work to make the world a better place. I irresponsibly avoided serving slightly warm soup to hungry vagabonds at the local soup kitchen. I neglected to cook more than once a week, and when I did, it usually was something fast, cheap, and uninspired. I put off writing that killer pop song that I can't get out of my head. I forgot to partake in deeply moving cultural events that reminded me of why it is good to be alive. I still don't know why Everybody Loves Raymond. I refused to expand my horizons. I renounced my stomach exercises every night. I refrained from performing large tracts from Peer Gynt every time I saw Jon Stewart on television. I denied myself the luxury. I opposed the urge to get busy with yo mama. I repudiated the sphincter-clenchingly sweet music of the ice cream truck. I annulled like it was 1999.

As of yesterday I'm back at work. Where the hell did the summer go?

The Sounds of Summertime

The mosquitos are back in full force now, after many blissful weeks of bug-free summering. They're getting so bad Renée and I could feel their bodies bouncing off of us as we rode home from the park this evening. Not a lot of talking and riding for these cyclists, less there be an accidental indulgence in a buggy buffet. Yeech.

I've been trying to stay away from the computer as much as I possibly can this summer, to spend more time just living and enjoying the weather. It's been a warm, wet summer so far this year, but not an uncomfortable one, and besides the minuscule threat of West Nile virus, or another embarrassing celebrity-sighting in the local paper[1], it's been enjoyable.

Michael BerrymanThe biggest pain in the ass so far has been all of the bikers that roar down the street that runs in front of our apartment. It's like having Michael Berryman stomping through our living room every night, like he did in Weird Science - but not as cool. I'm sure bikers can be smart people if they want to be, but I don't understand their reluctance to embrace modern muffler technology.

This, coupled with the unfortunate sound of people arguing and screaming gut-renching expletives while using the public phone right outside our window (many Winnipeggers don't do cellular) has made for a rather immersive urban experience this summer. I think half of the city has fought with, bellowed at, and broken up with their girlfriend or boyfriend on that goddamn phone. As much as people try to downplay it, Winnipeg has its share of loogans, and they all seem to hang out in our neighbourhood.

But, it's not all headaches and rampant noise violations around here. Late at night, when I'm sitting in the reading room / office enjoying a really great book (Banvard's Folly, by Paul Collins), and the grues have wandered off to terrorize other areas of the city, I can hear the high-pitched keen of the CN railroad cars off in the distance, and the sound of crickets and other late-night folks chatting away the evening. Sometimes the living really is easy.

How's your summer going?

[1]I kid you not: Richard Gere Peed Here, read a recent cringe-worthy headline, with accompanying photo. Oh, we are such hicks. ^

More Toronto observations

It's been an interesting week getting re-aquainted with Toronto. I've always found it a bit discombobulating to visit cities that I used to live in. I keep having to shake the urge to go back to my old home at the end of the day.

I took the College streetcar through my old neighbourhood yesterday, and when it passed my old street (Euclid avenue), I experienced a small twinge of nostalgia. When Renée and I used to live here, the rather shitty condition our apartment was in, coupled with the price of rent and our stubborn refusal to drop more money into the place quickly fueled our resentment. But, life in the College-Euclid area was pretty darn nice.

Some other things:

  1. Everyone seems so young.
  2. Very few people listen to portable music devices on the TTC. This is in stark contrast to the huge majority of people in Winnipeg who whittle away the time in transit listening to music. I guess this is because there's just so many hilarious soundbites and cool big-city sounds to listen to.
  3. Oh, how joyous it is to experience working transit. Torontonians don't know how lucky they have it.
  4. The fashion statement of the summer seems to be, "Check out my thong."
  5. James McNally is a funny, friendly fellow, and more proof that there seems to be a strange force at work that binds and brings people together. 'Twas a pleasure.
  6. Condo developments have appeared everywhere. It's bewildering how quickly the cityscape has changed.
  7. Rent has not only gone down - the vacancy rate downtown is now unbelievably high compared to the demoralizing 0.7% that it was at when we lived here. The impossibility of finding good, reasonable apartment was one of the most annoying things about living here; now that the situation is changing, it's almost appealing again...


Here I am, in hot and humid Toronto. Apparently summer decided to finally make an appearance in the last day or so, bringing back the sweaty, smoggy weather I remember all too well. It's good to be here.

(I hearby vow that I will never [except this one time] refer to Toronto as "T-Dot", less I eviscerate myself as punishment with a large, ripe mango. Who the hell made that up, any way? It smacks of Lastman.)

A few things that I've noticed since I've arrived:

  1. They now use these prison camp-style pointy things on the top of signs and lights in subway stations. I'm guessing this is to prevent pigeons from hanging out on top of them. Weird.
  2. It's refreshing to be back in a city where you can buy from a large selection of ethnic foods and ingredients from your local supermarket. I mean, collard greens and ghee at Dominion? Yes, please!
  3. This sounds incredibly weird, but it's great to see black people in large numbers again. There are almost no black people in Winnipeg.

First things first: can anyone tell me where there are good cafés with free or cheap WiFi access? I need to do some work while I'm here, and I'd like to indulge in one of the benefits of a larger laptop-toting population.

I'm such a geek.

Vacation, all I ever wanted

go-gos.gifNext Monday, I'm taking off for a couple of weeks out East to catch up on my annual smog intake, visit some sorely missed friends, hang out in the my favourite city and take in some jazz, and generally try to chase away any thoughts of school for a bit. It's going to be great.

I was originally planning to take the train, so I could do a bit of a photo journal trip thing, but with Jetsgo's seemingly insane loonie sale (buy one direction full fare, get the return leg for $1) I couldn't resist. This, even though I absolutely loathe flying. I really, really, do. Anything for a bargain, I suppose.

Renée's dad thinks I'm nuts for going to Toronto with all of the SARS stuff going on. I personally don't understand the SARS panic whatsoever; yes, it's a new disease, and yes, it's a horrible cost that it has caused to families who have lost loved ones because of it.

At the same time, the way that the media has reacted to SARS has made it seem more like its the full-fledged return of smallpox to Canada, and not the very isolated disease that it is. Do you find that the mainstream media becomes more and more like those trash 80's pseudo-news shows (A Current Affair, Hard Copy) as time goes by?

At any rate, any web bloggin' types in Toronto or Montreal or Ottawa (where I hope to celebrate Canada Day - maybe hanging with Lana?) who would be interested in getting together for beverages and laughs (GTABloggers, I'm looking in your direction...) let me know - I'd love to meet up with you. Yes, you.

I was an all-star trading card

Trading CardIt's been a little while since I last posted anything of note, mainly because last week was utter mayhem. It was the last week of classes, with my main group of students mired in end-of-term assignment panic, and the Graphic Design students scrambling to prepare for their open house. The GD students show off their work to industry types, brownnose and network for jobs, and make contacts. It's fun.

Every year, the open house show has a different theme. This year's theme was extra special, however, as the 3rd year GD students put together something really cool. They printed trading cards that had their photo on them, some sundry facts about themselves, and an example of their work on the back. They followed this up with a set of "all-star" cards, which features photos and facts from the various design instructors. All were packaged up in foil and given out during the show.

Here's mine.

With the last week of classes finished, and some of my students graduating this year, I find myself in a somewhat discombolulated state. On one hand, I am incredibly relieved to finally have control over my own time again, and to not have my patience tested when I'm tired, and not having to deal with the occassional bouts of student idiocy (which were rare, but annoying nonetheless). :D

At the same time, I'm going to miss my graduating students. I tend to get along with just about anyone, and it's been a real struggle this year to not get too friendly with my students. I have been lucky: there are some seriously cool people taking courses at the college, and it's been interesting meeting and befriending them. I'm curious if I'll run into any of them again...

But, the summer stretches in front of me like a big, fluffy barcalounger. I am going to enjoy the break.

P.S. There's a spelling mistake on my card: it's supposed to be Jacques Carelman, not "Grelman" as it presently says. Oh well.


In a fit of pure narcissism (I guess that's what it was), I submitted shots of yours truly to the Baby Picture Project over at When I Was Little. There's thirty years separating these two photographs. I don't know what I should think about that.

In more congratulatory news, congraulations are in order once more to Jeffrey Zeldman and Carrie Bickner on their upcoming wedding plans. (Insert bad joke here about web standards and validation). Love is a many splendored thing.

One of my students loaned me the DVD set of Six Feet Under's first season. Being HBO-deficient, this is a cause for celebration.

Thanks to this tip over at MacOSXHints, Apple's Safari moves one step closer to becoming my default browser. Now all they need to do is make the tab system work like Camino's: I like to have external links open in existing windows, and not in a new tab, but I can't have both. If I want tabs, external links have to open in a new tab. Hopefully this is fixed at some point.

I could always go begging over at Safari developer David Hyatt's weblog, but that would be rude, wouldn't it?

Edit:Now that I'm using Safari part-time, I just found a bug in Safari's CSS-handling. If you're using Safari, you'll see the title for these posts repeated twice.

I'm using the :first-letter pseudo-class to change the colour and size of just the first letter of each entries titles - it seems Safari doesn't like that very much. Time to file a bug report...

May Day (some other day)

Well, I was really looking forward to participating in the May Day Project, where participants would take one photo every hour today to chronicle what their life was like today.

But I'm still brutally sick with this infernal cold. It would be a rather pitiful representation of my life to have pictures of cold remedy bottles, tea mugs, and other crap around my apartment.

So even though this breaks the spirit of the project, I'm going to postpone my "day of photos" until I'm actually normal again.

It's a rather cool idea, though - go and check it out. <achoo!>


sneezing manI'm sick again. It's another cold.

I've come to realize that for all of the inherent complexities and uncertainties that teachers face, there are three things that has come to dominant this first year of pedagogic pursuits: fatigue, moments of great, almost blinding satisfaction, and colds.

Students come in tired, stressed, besieged by copious amounts of homework and deadlines, and filled to the brim with germs. The teachers aren't much better off, with the pressures of maintaining equilibrium in the face of wild, freak-out panic attacks (both students and teachers), bursts of almost bewildering immaturity, and the always tricky balance of providing constructive criticism without crushing a students' creative spirit.

The school is one big germ factory, and we are perfect hosts.

The strange thing is, I swear teachers get better with age. Some of the older, more seasoned teachers are like human tanks. Their constitutions are hewn from a much mightier stock than us first-year teachers, who are felled by simple colds that seemingly bounce off of the veterans like they were made of galvanized rubber.

I'm going to drink lots of juice, pound back echinacea like it were a sweet liquor, and wallow in vitamin C and tea. There's just four weeks left before school is out for the year - I hope my constitution can handle it.


Like many people who work with computers for the majority of their days, I have and do suffer from various repetitive strain injuries. A lot of this can be traced back to my music-playing days, as I've had bouts of rather nasty wrist and arm pain from twacking a bass guitar for days on end, but much of the present pain is undoubtedly from too many hours spent pecking away at the computer.

(The musician's remedy for RSI / carpal in the wrists, by the way, is cod liver oil, which has been proven to help. I used to take it in capsule form as I personally do not enjoy slurping back spoonfuls of oil made from another organism's organs. That's just rude.)

I replaced one of the bearers of pain last year when I splurged and bought a 6×8 Wacom tablet. Once you've gotten used to a tablet for your pointing needs, you'll never go back to a mouse. The ergonomic benefits of a tablet make the higher cost worth every penny.

keyboardToday I replaced my standard Apple Pro keyboard with a Microsoft-made ergonomic keyboard. Normally I try to avoid Microsoft products, more for the pain in the ass they evoke than any religious reasons. I haven't had great luck with Microsoft.

Their Natural keyboards, however, are some of the highest rated keyboards in the business, so I figured it wouldn't hurt to try one out. Thank you, 10-day no-questions-asked return policy.

The problem is I'm not really a true touch typist. I cheat a bit a lot and use the wrong fingers for certain keys, and have done so for years. That said, I type at around 65 wpm on average, so my imperfect technique seems to work for me.

Using this keyboard, however, forces me to actually type "properly". The agony of not instinctively knowing where a key is located is humbling. For the first time in a long time, I'm not able to just use the computer.

I need to think about what I'm doing again, and that's painful. Anyone know a good touch typing freeware (or cheap) program?

Now, please excuse me while I flail away at this darn split keyboard here... <thwack> <thwack>

Yes, Maybe, Maybe no, No

Spent the evening with my fellow evil dwarves at work going through the entrance portfolios for next year's course. It's long, tiring work, but it's kind of fascinating, in a Doctor Evil pinky-to-the-lip kind of way. It's strange and discombobulating to know that you hold the decision which could spin a person's life into a wholly new orbit.

At the same time, it's bizarre what some people try to pass off as their portfolio work. "Yes. I am applying for a visual design course. Here are my pencil-rendered stick figures that I spent a grand total of 30 seconds thinking about, and five minutes actually drawing."

» Yes, Maybe, Maybe no, No continues...

Things that made me smile today

  • The realization that everyone looks younger when it's nice outside.
  • People who drive by in sad, decrepitly rusted cars, blasting "Hot in Herre".
    Prediction: this summer's can't-avoid hit will be a little ditty called THIS SHIRT IS CHAFING ME, or, dispensing of all innuendo, SCREW IT, LET'S RUT.
  • Hearing an advance copy of Electric Version, the soon-to-be released sophomore album by The New Pornographers. Listen to The Laws Have Changed (mp3, 4.3mb)
  • Knowing that my sweetie will be back from her vacation on Monday.

I am a Camera

Alors - I just came into some extra dough from freelancing work I completed a little while ago, so I went out and upgraded my camera. I originally had a Fuji Finepix 2600, which is a nice point-and-shoot digcam, but it's pretty limited, too. My brother wants a digital camera, so I sold him my old one and bought a new one. Everybody happy!

s45.jpgWhat I wanted was something that was very portable, but still had a strong manual feature set. The point- and-shoot cameras are nice, but sometimes I like to be in control.

We have the Canon Powershot G2 at school, so I'm used to how the Canons are set up (which is rather nicely). It takes gorgeous photos too, so Canon seemed to be a good bet. I find the G2 to be too big and bulky, though, so it and its upgraded brother the G3 were out.

After reading countless reviews and comparing countless cameras, I finally picked up the Canon Powershot S45.

I'll post back with a more detailed review in a week or so, once I've had a good opportunity to put it through some rigorous testing, but so far I'm very impressed. This is one sexy camera. I mean it's sleek metal! It's tiny in that oh-so-irresistable gadgety way that men find irresistable! It has lots of buttons, and you can customize it to make laser sounds when you take photos (not that I would, but damn, I could if I wanted to)!

This kind of rampant consumerism makes me feel greasy and just a bit guilty, in the way that giving into those exceedingly rare (but nigh-overpowering) cravings for McDonald's french fries can make me feel. Oh well. You gotta get it where you can.

Expect the very under-developed photography section to see some updating soon.

Why I am Poor

GraphOkay, so I don't get it.

Blogshares has been getting lots and lots of attention. Mark has been posting about it often, going so far as to put a box on his homepage to display links to folks who have given him stock. The folks at Backup Brain also have been offering to give away their stock to a select few.

This fantasy stock market has made me realize something mildly profound: I have no understanding at all of the stock market. Back when I worked at Sympatico we got some stock. They might as well have given me a bag filled with curds of whey for all I would have known what to do with them.

Apparently the BeatnikPad is worth $0.35 a share, which is up from $0.18 a week and a half ago. I think that's good, but I have no idea. This explains why I never hit the motherlode during the Internet gold rush. Options? Stock splits? Vesting? Colour me clueless.

If someone could explain how the stock market works in layman's terms, I'd be really appreciative. Heck, I'll give you 75 shares in return, though I have no idea if that's good.

<sigh>. Do you ever get the feeling that others are making out like thieves, while you're standing there with this stupid, dumbfound look on your face?

In other blog news, Typepad was announced today by Mena and Ben - very, very, cool. I've always thought that Movable Type is a great publishing platform, but it's not exactly intuitive, and for every person who successfully gets it running, I'm sure there are many others who gave up in frustration and went back to Blogger or some other service.

Typepad sounds like it will make MT as straight-forward to use (or even more so?) than Blogger. That means I can finally get my mom to start weblogging. :)

A good day

Things that plaster a big grin on my face:

  1. Going out for lunch with a friend and ordering exactly what I was craving all day, even though I didn't quite what it was I was craving.
  2. frip.jpgStopping in at the mall for some unknown reason, and finding a copy of The Very Persistant Gappers of Frip (which I've wanted to buy for quite some time) for one dollar. In perfect condition.
  3. Walking home on a beautiful, sunny day, with my iPod playing a seemingly random mix which was almost too perfect to have been meant for anyone except me.
  4. Being surprised by two consecutive +17 degrees Celsius days after getting pounding with a late spring snowstorm on my birthday.
  5. Having two of my web hosting clients upgrade their accounts and renew for an entire year at the same time: I need the extra money.
  6. Listening to Ren�e laughing almost uncontrollably watching Who's Line... in the other room, knowing that she's had a horrible week and any laughter at all is a good thing.
  7. Knowing that there's only seven weeks left of school, and then I can finally get my life back for a few months.
  8. Finally figuring out a MySQL problem that I've been pounding my head against for two days on my own, without having to call my friendly neighbourhood geek.
  9. Saying, "screw my anti-red meatism", and eating one of the fucking best Reuben sandwiches ever with absolutely no guilt whatsoever.
  10. Added: Even better, after expecting that I would owe thousands of dollars by the time I completed my income tax, I was pretty chuffed to discover that I only owed $690. Whew.

What makes for a good day for you?

April 5th

bassWell, my birthday is almost over. It's been a fairly low-key affair this year, as I'm still trying to get my energy back after getting my ass kicked hard during term-end. Two months to go, and then it's summer vacation...

What did I do today? I ate one of my favourite foods (sushi). I listened to some damn fine music. I hung out with my favourite person and my cats. And I did some reading and basically let the brain luxuriate in its own juices for a bit. All in all, not a bad way to celebrate 33 years of kicking out the jams.

Speaking of which, seeing as how I'm going to have some time on my hands in the summer, I went out yesterday and bought myself a day-before-my-birthday gift: a Fender Standard Jazz bass. I used to own a bunch when I was playing semi-professionally, but when we moved back to Winnipeg from Toronto I did what I said I'd never do and sold them all. It was just cheaper and easier to just sell them; I didn't have much nolstagic attachment to them any more, and I figured I'd replace them when we got settled.

Well, it's about time. I've been fooling around a bit since I moved back, but it's always been with borrowed instruments, which never seems right. You can trust that photographic evidence will make its way here if I should make any face-reddening appearances on a stage in the near future.

(And no, for those of you music geeks who would notice this kind of thing - the image of the Fender bass above is not backwards. I'll write a long rant about how it sometimes sucks to be a left-handed musician some other time.)

I just hope I don't drive Ren�e nuts with my practicing. Solo guitar sounds just fine - solo bass seems a bit pitiful, in a Spinal Tap kind of way.


broken wing

I don't know what it is, but it seems like everyone I know is smack dab in the middle of a period of transition.

Friends and family are contemplating new jobs, new homes, new loves, and new lives. People that have worked in The Industry since the web was a place where anything could happen (and did) have decided that they can no longer wring a life from it. Longtime couples have gone their separate ways, leaving behind acrimonious feelings and disappointment. And new lives and new families have been sowed, providing hope, life, and long, sleepless nights.

With all of this, and that is going on in the world, I have found myself feeling more and more introspective. I think about the fact that I will be turning 33 this year; no major milestone, but somehow still a number that brings with it a perceptible weight.

I think about mortality a lot these days.

» Stages continues...

No sleep for the guilty

Lomoized Springtime

Another end of term flops its way past the finish line, and I am once again up to my eyebrows in marking. The strange thing this time around is that the overall student stress level seems much lower than last term.

I can't figure out if this is because everyone (including myself) has prepared themselves for this, or if the grinding workload has pushed everyone past the point of caring; are we now creative automatons, spitting out work to the relentless beat of deadlines?

I would love to write more about my experiences as a teacher, but I can't. Being a spectator and a part of this mass of emotions and personality and intelligence that is my students has been constantly inspiring. Keeping a daily journal has been almost effortless.

And yet my students and the administration know about this site. I have better things to do with my time than deal with any potential fallout from my observations. Web site be damned; it's just easier.

An old acquaintance was in town visiting last week from The East, and it's always refreshing to reconnect with someone I haven't seen in a long, long time. I'm convinced that there's something magical about certain friendships -- how there can be years between visits, and yet the thread is picked up so effortlessly that it is like they never left.

It's spring here. The sidewalks have become one giant, swampy mess, and pedestrians tread carefully, avoiding the deep, slippery puddles strewn everywhere.


I have somehow managed to spend the entire goddamn day in front of the computer, marking assignments and staring slack-jawed at various bits of nothing. I can't wait until summer holidays...

Complete this sentence: "If I were you I'd..."

Life in point-form

Just a few things to bide time until a better post comes along:
(because of #1, and because I'm feeling like a rather grumpy old man who doesn't want to have anything to do with this site right now.)

  1. I'm sick. The flu, I think.
  2. I'm addicted to Fresca.
  3. I'm cranky and tired, and ready for spring to come any day now, thanks.
  4. Renée is sick of seeing exclamation points at the end of sentences!!!
  5. I'm getting really sick of getting email involving poorly spelt, rather violent acts performed on women / horses / children / dogs / pasta pots / toupees / bums / toner cartridges. If you're going to send me your spam, for god's sake at least run it through a spellchecker first.
  6. I know, I know, they gotta get around my stone-cold hardcore motherfucker Bayesian filters somehow. Still: Rapps? Nekid? Anale? Yeesh.
  7. Bad coffee in the morning is much, much better than no coffee at all.
  8. I'm really missing my old work cronies these days.

I will write a real post soon. Or not.

Making Contacts

I started wearing glasses when I was five years old. I suppose it's all part of having the astigmatism typical to Asian eyes: everyone in my immediate and extended family wears corrective lenses of some kind.

glassesMy eyes are also incredibly bad. If it wasn't for the rather incredible advances in lens thinning technology and high-index lenses, I would be The Coke Bottle Kid. I've been wearing glasses for what feels like forever, and they've become a part of my face. Needless to say, I feel naked and vulnerable without them on.

Today I went and got contacts.

I've been thinking about them for a while. My eyeglass perscription has gone so high, buying glasses is quickly becoming an event worthy of financing and six easy payments. The fact that I am still dealing with the annoyances of glaucoma hasn't help lower my perscription, either.

The glasses I have on my face right now as I type this were over $600, and that doesn't include the fancy pants designer frames, which I don't have. Who wants to pay a thousand dollars for eyeglasses?

So, after finding out that a year's worth of contacts would be under $220, I said, "why not?"

Wearing glasses, I've missed out on wearing all of the cheap-ass, bad motherfucker "I'm so ironic it's cool" gas station sunglasses. Plus, walking indoors after being outside in the cold has always resulted in the spectacle of me squinting half-blind through fogged-up glasses. Let's not even talk about trying to walk home in the rain or a snowstorm. Those rather pathetic looking eyeglass wipers almost look attractive when you can barely see through rain-splattered lenses.

I spent over an hour at the optician's, clumsily learning what any person that wears contact lenses must do naturally every day: Attempting to put the lenses in, and attempting to take the lenses out. Apparently (and I already kind of knew this) Asians tend to have some difficulty putting contacts in because we just don't have the ample eyelids that other races have.

Let's not forget that the act of putting one's finger in one's eye just doesn't seem as natural as one would hope. That said, I'm so used to getting probes and glowing rods and crap in my eyes because of the glaucoma, I could stick the blunt end of a summer squash in my eye and probably not blink.

After fumbling with the first lens almost a dozen times (falling on the floor, falling into my lap, getting lost in the the crotch of my pants as the friendly optician said, "I don't think I should help you find that one"), I finally managed to get it in place. I cursed these slanted-eyes and longed for a double-eyelid.

After repeated attempts, I finally got the damn things in. Looking up at the mirror with my contacts in, the strange image of my face sans glasses stared back at me from the mirror. I thought to myself, "After 32 years, this is the first time I have never seen what I really look like without glasses on."

Leaving the optician's with my new contacts in place, I went to put my glasses on. "You don't need those anymore," the optician said with a smile. Old habits die hard.

I walked triumphantly home through a blinding snowstorm. "Ha!" I thought to myself, "No more frozen snow stuck to my glasses! I am now free from the tyranny of near-sightedness!"

Later on that evening, I asked Renée what she thought of my contacts.

"You look like a turtle," she replied. Harrumph.


Something gave me pause this weekend. I was over at my parent's place for dinner on Sunday and decided it was time to weigh myself. It's something I almost never do, because my weight is usually pretty stable so it's not like I'm missing anything dramatic.

Actually, let me start over. The reason I was weighing myself was because I wanted to see how much weight my parent's dog had gained. The (very) good news is that my parent's dog seems to be going into remission. The drugs she's taking to treat her hepatitis seemed to be working their medicinal magic. One side effect of the drugs she's on, however, is a hugely increased appetite. So she's ballooning.

To weigh her, I was going to do the "I weigh this much alone, and this much with Cleo in my arms" bit. Math is an amazing thing.

I got on the scale, and was pretty flabbergasted to notice that I had somehow lost five pounds. Normally losing five pounds for anyone is either a celebration, or no big deal. But I'm already too skinny. In fact, I've been trying for years to gain weight as I've always kind of felt my average weight (around 145 lbs.) is way too low for someone my height (6 feet and a bit). Plus, my weight very rarely fluctuates more than plus or minus a pound or two. So, where the heck did the weight go?

More importantly, how the heck does someone actually gain weight? I mean, good, healthy weight, and not spare-tire-love-handles weight? I tried going to the gym and that just made my weight plummet.

I know Asians are usually (well, stereotypically at least) svelte, but the fact that I'm just barely weighing in at 140 lbs. kind of concerns me. Our family has always had a really high metabolism, and I try to eat fairly consistent, healthy meals, but I'm wondering if this is a healthy weight to be at.

Okay, enough self-absorption.

To Do list

I keep getting these ideas for this site that erupt into my mind like minor geysers. Some of them are the usual dumb ideas that one gets for their site, and then discards with the realization of just how dumb or silly or asinine it will seem. These dumb ideas are usually followed by a prolonged and somewhat depressing evaluation of just why I keep updating this site in the first place.

Luckily, these moments of self-doubt and self-flagellation usually only last long enough for me to remind myself, "It's your site, stupid. If you want to post ridiculous and asinine stuff to your site, who cares?"

It helps that I get extremely kind and supportive email from people saying that they a) enjoy the site, and b) actually come to the site in the first place. I'm a sucker for platitudes and the kindness of strangers.

Sometimes, however, I get good ideas. The problem is that work seems to get into everything, like cat hair or bad MOR background music. And some of these ideas require time. I'm sick of posting these rather lame and low-effort posts to just make sure that the homepage actually has content. This post is almost one of those, but not quite, because I actually want to get this out of my head, if only to make me feel like I'm actually doing something about it.

The good news is that I've got a bit of a respite from work over the next three weeks, as one group of my students are away on work experience. So that means I'm going to be making up for lost time. I don't want to forget some of these ideas I've had, so here's a memo to me:

1. Eatons
2. Hidden City
3. Vancouver tears
4. Circus Circus
5. 21 Jump Street
6. 10 year itch
7. Path Finder / Change Desktop

If I get to even two or three of these before my students come back from work experience, it will be a bloody miracle.

Lost Weekends

I have finally come to the realization that it's okay to feel good about something - the fact that I have nine weeks holidays every year. When I first found out about this mighty wealth, the first thought through my head was, "that's obscene."

The longest time I ever had off (where I wasn't unemployed) was the time Renée and I went to Europe. (For the record, being unemployed is not, as some right-wing politicians will claim, the same as time off. It's hard work being unemployed, but that's another entry for another time.)

But now I've come around. I realize that the nine weeks I get off every year are totally justified. At least, I've justified that to myself. It wasn't hard.

RayFor one thing, the amount of energy I need to expend every day to keep up with my students, help troubleshoot their problem (while maintaining my patience), and be "on" around is staggering. Five beefy, hairy wrestlers beating the bejesus out of each other with large, pointed sticks doesn't even come close to the amount of energy expended every day by a teacher. Really. I love my students, but they sometimes can be greedy lamprey, especially on days when I haven't had enough sleep, or I'm Mr. Crankypants.

Plus, we don't get weekends. I haven't had a day off (excluding sick days, and a few days around the Christmas holidays) since I started, and I don't expect I'll be intimately acquainted with the concept of weekends until the last student dances their way out the front doors come June 30rd. It's all part of never having enough time to mark, grade, and prepare for classes.

I've also gotten a reputation around the college as being a Mr. Fixit kind-of-guy, so I spend at least some of my day troubleshooting problems around the office; network stuff, server issues, Mac troubles... the usual. Truth be told, my nickname when I used to be a musician was "Radio Shack", mainly because I managed somehow to fix nearly everything I touched. If I have an innate talent, that's it.

Finally, there's the whole idea of dealing with the fact that, come September, I'll have to start all over again with a brand new group of students. I now realize that the school year is like a mighty, Aegean struggle; you portage this gigantic canoe that is "the curriculum" and "student knowledge" up this slippery, muddy mountain, and after the students go running off into the world in June, brains heavy with information, you start all over again at the bottom.

I haven't gotten there yet, but I can't imagine having to teach a whole group of students all over again from scratch. Right now I can barely keep up with this group, and they actually know things now. Starting from the beginning all over again? I can't imagine it.

Haunted Hotel Brunch

Fort Garry HotelTonight, Renée and I are spending the evening at the historic Fort Garry Hotel, which was (I believe) the first hotel to open in Winnipeg.

Built by the Grand Truck Pacific Railway in 1913 (when Winnipeg was referred to as "the Chicago of the North"), the hotel has been a fixture of the Winnipeg skyline for years. It's a gorgeous example of turn-of-the-century architecture, but was nearly closed after falling into heavy debt in the early '90's.

Thankfully there was a drive to keep the hotel open, and after fundraising, a savvy marketing campaign, and extensive restorations, the Hotel is doing well.

The Hotel holds a special place for Renée and I, as it was one of the first places that we went out to when we first started dating. The main floor piano lounge, called the "Oval Room", is utterly gorgeous and never fails to leave me feeling like I've been transported to another age.

As with most heritage buildings, the rumours have been passed around for years that the Hotel is haunted. Workers have reported strange sounds, hotel guests have seen bizarre lights, and Room 202 is said to be visited by the long dead ghost in a white ball gown. We've never seen anything spooky there yet, but I have my fingers crossed...

What's even better is that the cost of a room includes brunch for two the next day. I am a brunch monster, and the Hotel has possibly the best brunch in town. I'm already getting hungry. Brunch is just so... decadent.

I'm hoping we can get a tour. I'll take pictures if we do - the ballroom is supposed to be magnificent.

Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions

 1. Love
 2. Listen
 3. Learn
 4. Swim
 5. Design
 6. Play
 7. Laugh
 8. Travel
 9. Relax
 10. Noodle


I can't believe that it's that time again. I know I've been quite busy this year, but that still doesn't explain why, as I get older, Christmas becomes less and less of an eagerly awaited day.

Don't get me wrong; I enjoy the festive season (wild, all-consuming hordes of shoppers aside), and I definitely sync with the whole "peace and goodwill to all" vibe that the holidays bring. Any day that gets us a-lovin' each other is a good day to me. But where did my Christmas spirit go?

A Chinese-Canadian Christmas

When I was a kid, we used to almost explode from pre-Christmas excitement. My family has always celebrated a straight up, religion-free Christmas: artifical tree, turkey in the oven, family gatherings, and lots of photographs were the annual touchstones of the season. We'd hang fake-fur stockings by the front door mantle (my oldest brother Chris somehow getting the biggest one), and my dad would blast the excruciatingly saccharine A James Last Christmas over and over again until cotton candy popped out of my ears.

My mom would slowly add to a burgeoning pile of wrapped presents under our Eaton's special Christmas tree, until the anticipation of the 25th was almost too much to bear. I think my younger sister and I, being much younger than my older brothers, would start shimmying with excitement around the 14th or so. Our vibrations would get increasingly kinetic until Christmas Eve, where we would be almost humming with eagerness.

Where coal starts to appear everywhere

Of course, looking back I realize that a large portion of my "holiday spirit" was actually just the anticipation of wildly rending wrapping paper (and that truly was it; I seem to remember my parents wrapping a few extra boxes with nothing in them just to appease our insatiable urge to unwrap things). As I got older and moved away from the city, the holidays became more about reuniting with the family and the warming glow of friends and festivities.

Christmas WindowIn the last few years, though, Christmas has just stopped... being. It's stopped being the gigantic pink elephant behind the door that we can't wait to see, and instead become just another holiday. The clincher this year was my brothers' decision (made by them without any consultation with the rest of us) that they wouldn't exchange gifts with the rest of us; just for my parents, and for my nephew. Bah humbug, indeed.

The truth of the matter is, even with the joy that the holidays bring, Christmas makes me feel a little sad. I look back on the innocence and the wide-eyed enthusiasm that I used to have for the season and wonder where that kid has gone. With the increasingly frequent excursions that work undertakes on almost everything else in my life, I haven't had much time this year to luxuriate in the warmth of the season.

The Yule, they are a-changin'

I'm deeply thankful for many things, though, and I suppose that's what the holidays bring to me more and more each year: appreciation. I'm thankful that I have a wonderful and loving girlfriend and cat family. I thankful for the continuing health and happiness of my parents and the rest of my family, and for the friendships that I've made over the years that continue to bring surprise, laughter, and delight. And I'm thankful that I'm gainfully employed, and that I enjoy working in a place where I can make a difference.

Now that I've written these things, I realize that it's not that Christmas has changed; I have. It's no longer about a two-week buzz of anticipation, and it's no longer about the gifts or the ripping of wrapping paper. It's a continuing cycle of happiness, fraternity, and warmth that weaves its way through the entire year, and Christmas is just a day that we allow ourselves to appreciate what we have.

In that sense, I am truly lucky.

Happy Holidays to all of the Hoovillians

Happy holidays to everyone that visits here and sends me e-mails or comments - you know who you are, and you make all of this fun, interesting, and fulfilling.

A sigh of relief

The marks were entered in the computer today, and after tomorrow I am finished teaching until 2003. God, I am bone-weary, but incredibly fulfilled.

This, of course, means that I can actually spend some time doing stuff that I've pushed aside for the last few months... like actually completing the redesign for this site. Maybe.

Whereabouts. Another damn Weblog.

Yes, I'm still around. No, I haven't forgotten about you, and I definitely haven't forgotten about putting some effort into my posts, instead of pooping out these rather dry, miniscule turds.

My main group of students (affectionately known as the "DMTers" - the course is awkwardly called Digital Multimedia Technology) had their last day of classes for the first term today, which was a relief. It's been a very busy first term, with both the instructors and the students getting used to the new course, the new campus, the workload, and each other.

Everyone has really worked hard, and I think we should all go out and raise a glass to surviving our first term together. I'm writing this more as a mental note to myself - I really don't want to forget to get the group together before everyone takes off for the holidays.

On a related note, I finally started posting to a Weblog I set up ages ago for my students and co-workers. It's your old-school linkage Weblog, which is more a quick dumping ground for Web and design stuff that folks at the college might find interesting, so there might not be anything new there that heavy Weblog travellers haven't seen elsewhere - your mileage will most definitely vary.

I'm going to be up to my earlobes in marking for the next eight days or so...


Two years ago, my parents decided to get a dog. We've never really had large animals around the house before. There were birds, hamsters, mice, guinea pigs, one beautiful rabbit (named "Aloyisuis"), and a painfully brief dalmatian cross I named "Spanky" that we had to give away after a month (brother was allergic)... but that's it.

My dad has been retired for a few years, forced by company cutbacks and corporate belt-tightening. I think the days away from the workforce have been lonely and bewildering for him; my father has never been good at simply hanging out. He likes to keep busy, but with my mom working full-time, he's had a lot of idle time on his hands.

Cleo LeeSo they got a dog, specifically, a Wheaten Terrier puppy that my dad named Cleo, after Cleopatra of the Nile. I think my dad had a thing for Elizabeth Taylor's Cleopatra; at least that's why I think he chose the name. All of the kid's names have connections to famous people (mine is Neil Armstrong), and it only makes sense that my dad's dog would, too.

The dog completely changed his personality. My dad, usually an impatient, brusque man, was mellowed by Cleo. Having a young, energetic animal around him seemed to bring his enjoyment of life back, and put a smile on his face. Everyone was happy.

(You can see this coming from a mile away, can't you?)

My parents just found out a few days ago that Cleo has hepitatis. The vet apparently cried when she told my parents the news; Cleo's condition is "guarded... grave". She had a long-standing thyroid problem, which masked the hepitatis until just recently. She hadn't eaten in two weeks and has lost five pounds already.

Today I went by my parent's place for Sunday dinner, but the real reason I went was to visit Cleo and my father. She's finally eating again, and on medication, but the prognosis isn't good. I was shocked at how much weight she had lost. The puppy fat that she still carried around a month ago was completely gone, and she seemed tiny; too tiny. Even so, she still bounded to the back door to welcome me as she always has, followed closely by my mom, quietly scolding her as she came. Cleo seemed spent, however. The vitality just wasn't there.

When we take on the responsibility of pets, we take on the quiet (or not so quiet) understanding that there's a very good chance we will outlive them. I've never lost a "big" pet like a dog or cat before, but I know that when Raj and Emma pass away it will be devastating.

Pets take up a special place in our lives that we never knew existed until they came along. As I cleaned up after dinner, my mom, with a slight touch of sadness and wonderment in her voice, said I can't believe how attached we've become to her. It's just like having a child in the house.

Everything is one day at a time, and every moment is precious.

My parents have already talked about it, and they plan to get another dog soon after Cleo passes away. Even so, the experience has profoundly changed them. Even with the stress of Cleo's illness, my dad has seemingly been reborn as a completely different person. What used to infuriate him and his short temper no longer does. His typical crabbiness has been blunted off, and smoothed over.

I saw my parent's hearts breaking today, and mine broke along with theirs. I am also filled with amazement at the immense power that owning a pet can have.

silly busy

The end of first term (already?) is quickly approaching for my students and I. I finally got caught up with my marking after a marathon push over the weekend, and just finished putting the finishing touches on a few of the final term projects I'll be giving my students.

Posts over the next three weeks might be scarce until the wooly-bulliness of the term ending has passed.

(Removed a rather silly question that had absolutely no bearing on anything worthwhile.)

candle = burning both ends

It's twenty-past-one in the morning, and I'm still up, and still working. I have a somewhat heavy course load tomorrow, an early-ish morning class that I definitely will require my wits for (teaching grammar and composition, yeehaw!), and a mountain of work still to do.

If I stay up and try to plow through this (instead of wasting time posting about it), I might get closer to getting the mountain under control... but tomorrow I'm going to be dead to the world. I don't care if you're Super-Kotter-God's-Gift-To-Teachers, it's going to be pretty difficult for anyone to explain comma slices and fused sentences on four hours of sleep.

Sigh. To make matters worse, I had a minor design breakthrough with the on-going rededsign of this site, and I had a great idea a couple of days ago for a Web service that would be truly useful (really!)... I need more hours in the day.

Ah well. Oh, I added the last ten songs iTunes played to the site - it's available here, as well as its permanent home right beside the "Currently listening to" on the homepage. As always, bow down and give thanks to the pow-tastic Kung-Tunes and code-juggler Adriaan Tijsseling.


Heaven's brewToday, I crave beer. Big, overflowing steins with heads that go for miles gallivant through my head. I thirst for nutty brown honey dipped almond burnt oak aged golden bronze creamy top-fermented mild brown pale hopped doppelbock sweet bitters.

There's a pub down the street that serves Guinness Ale with a shamrock drawn into its head, as if to insinuate that it is your good fortune to be imbibing such ale of the gods. And darn it all, like cats want milk, I want one.

But I don't just have to have a Guinness. I'd settle for a pale ale, a cream ale, a brown ale, a Belgian lambic or Finnish sahti... heck, I'm so thirsty for an ale that I'd drink the chosen beverage of the Ford truck drivin', backwards baseball cap wearin', fist-in-the-air-to-Nickelback rockin' mulletheads: Molson Club (also called "fart juice" to some on the Prairies for its less obvious abilities).

I need a beer, but dammit, I'm allergic to alcohol. Talk about frustration.

Dear lord almighty, will someone please be my proxy drinker and have a beer for me? That be just swell thanks.

(Edit: Read in the glaring light of the day after: my goodness, what hyperbole.)

an idea in search of help

I've been working on and off on an idea for a Web service that I think is pretty interesting - cool, even. Here's a few hints: it involves Weblogs, personal opinions, and the power of word of mouth.

I don't want to let the cheese out of the container just yet, but I need some help. Specifically, I need some PHP / MySQL / programming help, as some of the stuff I want to implement is out of range of my only adequate programming skills. Knowledge of XML-RPC, Weblogging software (Movable Type, Greymatter, Radio, etc.), and the mighty comedic prowess of Don Knotts is crucial.

Okay, the last one is negotiable.

If you're interested, drop me a line with your e-mail address, and a 50-word essay on why Three's Company makes you squirm with happiness. No, this doesn't pay a single cent, but you'll be respected by hundreds, adored by tens, and loved by one: me.


Lately, I've been feeling tired.

Scratch that, I'm weary.

These are the times when I wish (just slightly) that I could regress to the party-going, drug-taking, responsibility-shirking person I was ten years ago. I am definitely in need of a life vacation / psycho-emotional enema.

Ah well. There's always the Sopranos, and the Iron Chef.


Note to self:

  1. Somehow, somewhere, I picked up the habit of appending "dude" onto the end of sentences. I am appalled and blame everyone but myself for this despicable habit.
  2. beatnikPad: Less pretention, more jokes!
  3. I will stop referring to Mel Lastman as "that guy that kind of looks like Hans Moleman".
  4. People are not beyond redemption for watching The Bachelor: I need to remember this.
  5. Coffee and a cinnamon bun do not contain the recommended daily intake of vitamins and minerals.
  6. After use, return toilet seat to the down position.
  7. Just because it's rocking your world, doesn't mean the whole bus wants to hear your interpretation of James Brown's inimitable funk skills.
  8. Your class doesn't care about Toronto. Stop mentioning it.

I have to stop here or I'll be here all night.


My brain is swooning in germs. Yesterday afternoon, right in the middle of class, I was sure the shakiness in my head was going to spill over the edge, swamping everyone in aches, sneezes, and virulent pestilence.

It's a vicious flu / cold / bug that I've been fighting off all week. Damn.

Today, all day, it was Introduction to Computers, and with my bleary mental state I thought I was going to send the class into flatline; it's hard to teach when all you can think about is I want to be horizontal.

I finally gave up and sent everyone (including myself) home. Now I'm running a hot bath, and then I'm going to find a comfy place to recline, read, and try to clear the fuzzies out of my head.

See you on the other side.

Of learning, and of life

It's been a while since I last taught anything, and this week has reminded me: teaching is hard, exhausting work. At the school I work full-time, but the actual amount of contact time I have with students teaching is just a small percentage of the time I'm on campus.

After my first full week of teaching I cannot, for the life of me, imagine what life could be like for an elementary school teacher who teaches 6-7 hours per day, five days a week. Working with students is exhausting, depleting work, balanced by the sense of fulfillment one gets at the end of a good day.

Still, I now can completely understand why full-time teachers require the summer off. After nine to ten months of instruction, of patience, of learning, and of life, teachers must have a prolonged time to recharge and rejuvinate the mind and body. It would be nearly impossible for them to come back in September to start all over from the beginning without it.

Posts about school may start to slowly disappear from the site for a while, until I feel out the situation. Because I'm teaching Web courses, I know it's only a matter of time before the bulk of my students discover this site (one already has).

That said - to every single teacher I have ever had in my life: I apologize. I apologize. I apologize.

School’s In!

Well, if I was a good, reliable blogger (which I'm not, and I hate the word 'blog' anyway), I'd post photos and a long, musing entry about how today was the first day of school.

There would be gorgeous photos of campus frippery (masterfully framed and expertly shot); there would be photos of Manitoba's premier (Gary Doer) and Winnipeg's mayor (Glen Murray) doing the obligatory photo-op and shaking of hands; There would be laconic descriptions of unnamed students and the astounding youthfulness of it all (and the looks of joy on some of my student's faces when they received their school laptops)... and there would be coffee and mugs.

But, I've got a headache this big, I can barely keep my eyes open, and I've a fairly early class tomorrow morning to be reasonable awake for. So it will have to wait for another time.

Mal à la tête

Today, part way though a rather tedious work-related "retreat" (who the heck retreats to a casino, anyway?), I got a massive throbber of a headache. I think this is now the sixth or seventh day in a row that I've gotten a headache - this one, however, packed more of a punch, and also was the first one I had gotten that wasn't while I was in front of the computer.

So I have to wonder if this was caused by eyestrain, as I usually get headaches after sitting in front of the computer for a while. Still, it could be my glasses as I'm sure my perscription is out. Either way, I'm going to miss the first half of the continuation of the "retreat" (I can't say that word in this context without rabbit-earring it - how silly) to visit the local, fairly competent walk-in doctor.

With all of the concern over west nile virus (not that I think I have it), and just the basic nastiness that can accompany headaches, I think it's better to err on the side of caution. I'm 99.999% positive it's merely a severe case of eyestrain, though, as I never get the headaches in the evening; just during the day.

Still, you don't come here to listen to me complain about my health, do you? I vow more amusing, ailment-free posts are just over the horizon... I'll let you know what the doctor says.

My life in point-form


1. Prepare, prepare, prepare! Students start classes next Wednesday. Well good golly.

2. Stress! (But only mild, manageable stress.)

3. Spend time installing the sparkling new Mac OS X operating system on anything that resembles an product. Feel geeky and a bit guilty, but don't care. (Yes, I think the whole animal print kerfluffle is rather idiotic, but that's marketing for you,)

4. Decompress. Watch our favorite show.

5. Rediscover the guilty pleasures of eating hamburgers and drinking fizzy soda pop in the summer. Conveniently forget that I normally don't eat red meat; also forget ever reading this book.

6. Headaches almost every day because of the eye problems. Work is going slow because of this; I need to see a doctor but can't get in until October. Stupid overburdened Canadian medical system.

7. Days are getting shorter. Shudder and start dreading the onslaught of another Winnipeg winter.

Please pull the iron wool over my eyes

You know, as the unlucky winner of a rather annoying eye condition, sometimes I really wish one could just pop their eyes out, drop them in some nice warm water and give them a really good scrubbing.

(Now that I think of it, this would probably be a great ability to have with one's brain, too. Just wash them black and moldy thoughts away with some soothing. emotional soap suds.)

I'm in dire need of an eyeglass perscription update - staring at a computer screen all day (even one as good as this) tends to make one bug-eyed even if they've the benefit of 20/20 vision. I'm seriously thinking of getting a set (my first) of contacts - any eyeglass wears have any comments on the pros / cons of contacts?

For the record, my perscription is really high: -10.25 in the right, -11.0 in the left. For all intensive purposes I'm blind as a bat. I've heard that contacts afford high perscription wearers better vision because they reduce the amount of optical distortion you get with the high indexes. Either way, it's expensive and a real pain in the ass. Maybe I should just get the laser surgery and be done with it...

High School Memoirs

It sucked.

It's funny how a few years in one's life can leave such deep, compelling memories. It's even funnier how old I feel now that I've realized that I have now been out of the public school system longer than I ever was in it. That's weird.

This slightly pensive moment was provoked by the CBC's Ian Hanomansing's forum on high school. So, how about it? Was your high school experience a positive or negative one?

And more importantly, did you go to / do you plant to go to your high school reunion?

On Smoking

In the summer of 1985, to escape the dullness that being young, bored, and in Winnipeg can evoke, one of my older brothers performed a vanishing act. He went away to Alberta to work.

Then, he was into punk rock and new wave during a time when having your hair short or spiky instantly branded you a "faggot". He got beat up a lot. He also skateboarded, listened to Black Flag and Crass and The Damned and Hüsker Dü, sang in a punk rock band, and smoked. I looked up to him with that sense of little brother awe that only older brothers can rightfully claim. His bedroom was a treasure trove of cool older brother stuff. And he was gone for the whole summer.

In the summer of 1985 I smoked my first cigarette.

» On Smoking continues...

Chez Nous

Well, I just returned from completely confusing the poor Korean corner store clerk across the street from our apartment. It's hard to switch out of French mode when you've been speaking it for over a week.

Yep, I'm back. It's cool and almost fall-like in Winnipeg, which is nice compared to the sweltering humidity in Montreal. I hate it when it's so muggy just the sensation of skin against linen is enough to turn on the sweat factory. By Wednesday I was nearly trying to contort my body into this strange, almost tantric position to try and avoid touching anything while sleeping. If I could have hovered, I would have.

Besides that, my brain is filled with francophone cultural delights, my belly sated with bagels, stupendous Mexican food, and yummy Quebe&#231ois brunches, and my thighs are toned, tanned, and mighty after walking nearly everywhere. I love pedestrian-friendly cities.

Pardon me while I get caught up on my e-mail and favorite Web sites. I'll post some pictures from my trip soon. (You knew that was coming, didn't you? I'm so predictable.)

P.S. Keeping the art of the postscript alive: this entry was created using Adriaan Tijsseling's new Kung-Log. If you use Mac OS X and Movable Type, go check it out. It's marvy.

Heat and Plastic Surgery

Salut from Montreal! I'm hanging out in the McGill University bookstore to escape the heat and mugginess - it's sweltering out there. Still, this city is so amazing. There's so much stuff going on it's almost overwhelming.

Here's a strange note I found saved on the desktop of this computer. Very strange:

To all the winners of the F.R.C.S © title:

1. Congratulations. You should be very proud of yourselves.

2. I will be happy to mail you the notes of the next year facial plastic course to help you with your American exam. If you are interested, E-mail me your address.

3. Also, I will appreciate it if you take only 5 minutes of your time to write down, very quickly, the questions on facial plastic surgery that you remember from your written or oral exam. This will help me to help future residents like yourselves.

(Stupid computer! It only has Internet Explorer 4 installed!)


Almost two years ago, while I was living hundreds of miles away, my grandmother fell down the stairs.

It was a freakish accident. She had been vaccuuming the entryway in her home and somehow had gotten tangled up in the electrical cord. At least, that's what I think happened. I don't believe she remembers the events of that day at all. Ever since then, she hasn't been the same.

» Housecleaning continues...


Sometimes I panic. It doesn't happen often. It's really annoying.

I'll be sitting in class, or at my computer at work, and from out of nowhere an insistent voice will start nipping at me.

Did you forget to put the iron back after you used it? Was it still plugged in? Does the iron have an auto off function? Did you leave the coffee maker? How about the stove? Did you leave that on after making that disaster of an omelet? Is the apartment burning down right this second, destroying not only all of your precious crap, but also all of your neighbour's stuff? Yes, even the stuff of the obnoxious caretakers and the people next door who blast their classic rock at inhuman levels. And your beautiful but illict cats, kept even though it's against the apartment rules - how about them? And all of the other illicit cats in the building, and that parakeet in apartment 6? How about it, you bastard?

Visions of the apartment reduced to rubble flood my mind, with a surly fire chief standing over the charred remains of our papasan chair, shaking his head: "Some goof left his iron on. I see it all too often." The cats gone, my burgeoning collection of Nigerian funk music CD's melted, my favorite "Rolando" shirt a vintage briquette.

I've added "check the stove and iron before leaving" to my morning ritual.

Company Kilns and Kitty Psychology

As promised, I've stopped accepting participants for the Letter Project. Muchas gracias to everyone who signed up and/or linked to the project during the opening phase. I'll be in contact soon with updates and details to those of you who expressed interest.

What have I been up to this week? Work, of course, plus some freelancing. More importantly, however, there's been a return to relaxing and an injection of desperately needed vitality into the anemic social life. It feels great to finally have time to just be, as clichéd as that sounds. I received an e-mail from an old friend who's coming to visit soon. In it, she expressed her eagerness at spending time with people who aren't "baking their hearts in company kilns."

Now that I have been released from the corporate life, I can safely say that I am my own man again. Having the freedom to decide how one's day will unfold is a powerful thing. I am thankful.

Seeing as some of you fancy yourselves to be knowledgable in all things feline, help me with this distressing problem: what to do with a neurotic cat who sometimes decides to turn everyday objects (a futon, a blanket, a boot mat, a section of the floor) into an outlet for his internal angst? (Read: He peed on them.)

(Clarification for those who care: We've gotten him tested for internal glitches and all that came out okay, though he did have a bout of struvit crystals when we first got him four years ago. I'm positive that his erroneous emissions are the result of some Woody Allen-esque neuroses. Is there a cat shrink in the house?)

Ordinary Independence

Today was a day just like every other that has gone before it; ordinary, but at the same time, somehow unique and beautiful.

It was a slow start. It always is a slow start, because I am not and never have been a good morning person. I farted around the house (not literally) wasting time, firing up the computer to check e-mail even though I was going to sit in front of my work computer in less than an hour. My morning ritual when I was a full-time freelance was: put on coffee. Feed cats. Check e-mail. Shower. Drink coffee while reading the news section. Old habits die hard.

I dashed out the door at the last possible moment, thinking I'd somehow make the bus in time. I never do, of course. Got to work late and spent a while talking with my friend and co-worker, who just went through the heartbreaking task of having to euthanize his dog.

We spoke about pets, and how strange it is that we as a society understand the necessity of euthanasia w/r/t our pets, but not people. I thought about how cruel it is that we willingly enter into these deeply intimate relationships, fully knowing that we will outlive our companions.

Work was uneventful. All of the other instructors are off on summer vacation, leaving just the people that will be teaching the new program that I'm also a part of. It's very still and serene at work after the chaos of students scrambling to finish final projects. I like it. It's refreshing to be able to finally hear your own thoughts after working in corporate environments more noisy than productive.

Came home, worked a bit on a freelance project, read some more of my book, played with the cats, hung out with Renée - typical after work stuff. A lot more inconsequential stuff occurred, which I won't bore you with (as if this post isn't inconsequential to begin with).

Ordinary days are treasures.

Wishing all of our American friends and visitors a safe, happy, and heat-free Independence Day.

Kitty Food Pusher

rajEmmaTile.jpgI'm sure many of the visitors to the BeatnikPad have cats; I'm convinced, actually, that the majority of Webloggers and journal writers have cats. Perhaps we should have a poll somewhere? (This sounds like something I should put together).

Anyway, perhaps someone that visits here has the inside scoop (pun intended) on cat food. Perhaps they're a nutritionist at Purina, or they work as a bagger at Hills Science Diet - where ever they get their dirt from, I have to know:

Do they put catnip (or some other feline freak-out additive) into wet cat food?

» Kitty Food Pusher continues...

The Chair

theChairIt came.

My butt and back have finally been relieved from the contortionist hell that drew heavily from the "wooden chair with a scrunched up pillow for a seat" school of design. This, my friends, is a kind of ass heaven.

It is, of course, the long-awaited chair.

People could launch schemes of elaborate heights and death-defying complexity if they had the proper seatage. They could ponder the mysterious of the genetic code, and pontificate on the wonders of the emotive mind if only they knew comfortable buttock support. They could write a novel that would make all who read it deeply comprehend the vagaries of love, and weep.

All I know is, I am a vain, materialistic, self-centred solipsistic, boastful, all-consuming jerk. But I am happy.

Hand hits forehead

My god, but can I be earhshakingly stupid, or what?


I must be appeasing some unknown, benevolent being these days. The new job is working out rather nicely: I get to use lots of lust-worthy gear; I just went on a tour today of the still under construction downtown campus and got to see where my new office will be; none of the people in my department are knife-wielding maniacs (or asinine ninnies)...

Plus, it's summer in Winnipeg (which means all memories of the brutal winter have vanished into the ether), there's finally cheap airflights out East again, and I've be getting a rather surprising number of incredibly kind and complimentary e-mails about the BeatnikPad. My ego doth swelleth.

Sometimes, life really goes like this.


I don't know what's wrong with me. I've tried, but I can't stop.

I can't stop eating spinach.

Alright, so I know that sounds weird and neurotic, but it's true. I've been eating so much of the stuff I've been forcing my mom to go down to Costco to buy me these unearthly-sized bags... something like one and 1/2 kilograms of green, leafy heroin. The bags are so big, I swear they're bigger than my torso.

My poor little Chinese mother has unwittingly become my pusher.

I cram half the bag into a pot, and after two minutes it's shrunken down so much I end up being forced to eat almost the entire bag to feel sated. This is how the bastards reel you in.

Yes, there are many other things much worse to be addicted to (and frankly, I probably already have been with most of them), but I can't explain this rather sudden obseession with Spinacia Oleracea. Maybe I'm slowly turning into the Swamp Thing. Or Popeye ("Huggu-guh-guh!"). Or that annoying little green spud that always hung out with the Jolly Green Giant, which I always expected would get stepped on by accident. "Ho Ho Hoooo-ooops!"

Enough of that. As you were.

A New Leaf

Okay. This weekend was dominated with rather bitchy posts, so enough of that. You can channel a poor imitation of Walter Matthau for only so long before you're just making a fool of yourself (and besmirching the good Matthau name, at any rate).

I've finally put in an order for that Wacom tablet I've been needing for a while. I used to get rather fierce carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms when I was playing a lot, and have been noticing very similar wrist / arm problems lately with my mousing hand. Cod liver oil is always great for this stuff, and I've started taking the pills again to help alleviate the problem, but the tablet will make a huge difference.

The sore back, wrist and RSI problems, eyestrain complications, and looming threat of rampant office-seat ass... it's hard to believe something as sedentary as computer work could be so potentially bad for one's health, isn't it?

Reality Check

So do you have your ticket for the big Super 7 draw? If I win, I'll share it with you, okay?

Odds of getting all seven numbers: 1 in 22,000,000.

The Odds of:

  • Dying in a car crash: 1 in 5,000
  • Freezing to death: 1 in 3,000,000    (Unless you live in Winnipeg - then your chances are much
  • Dying from flesh-eating bacteria: 1 in 1,000,000
  • Dying from falling out of bed: 1 in 2,000,000
  • Dying in a plane crash: 1 in 250,000
  • Being dealt a royal flush: 1 in 649,739
  • Dying from Asteroid impact: 1 in 20,000
  • Unending spin-offs from Friends on TV for the next two years: 1 in 1
  • Emeril saying "Bam!" at any given time on his show: 1 in 4
  • Jakob Nielsen making some silly prediction about the future of the Internet based on his "own experience": 1 in 3
  • Donnie Osmond appearing in a celebrity version of a popular reality TV show: 1 in 9
  • That guy sitting beside you on the bus being nuts: 1 in 19
  • A movie version of your favorite book sucking hard: 1 in 7
  • Spilling something bright and obvious on that brand new white shirt of yours: 1 in 3

I realize that this could be really funny (and in the hands of someone like Davezilla, it probably would) but I'm feeling pretty mellow and unfunny today... you got any good ones?

Furniture Mover

It's funny. You spent many a day sitting at work, daydreaming about having some time off, and when you finally get some, what do you do? Fritter away the hours aimlessly surfing the Web, screw around with new designs for your personal site, and get some work done. None of it, however, is even close to qualifying as being laudable.

But, enough about work, I've got time off! I could be out gallivanting around the city, tweaking the noses of boring stuffed shirts, eating all the chocolate ice cream I can swallow, spitting off of the footbridge off of Jubilee Ave., giving blood at the Red Cross, and indulging in copious amounts of soul-warming coffee at the local beanery.

Instead, lazyboywhat am I doing? Watching French Sesame Street, eating cereal out of the box, dressing (and slouching) like a lawnchair jockey, and luxuriating in way too much daytime television.

I've got a serious case of the disinclinations this week, partially because I'm trying to force myself to relax a bit (difficult without rampant catholic-esque guilt), and partially because I've come to the sad realization that I work (and live) best when I've got deadlines to meet. When I don't have any looming over my head, I become listless and mentally bleary. Why do anything if there's no deadlines attached?

Indeed, I realize that I'm sometimes a little too used to the working life to fully feel comfortable any other way. That's truly sad, really, and something I really need to address.

Perhaps part of the problem is that I'm still working myself out of the transition from being a man prepared for the great change and upheaval that comes with moving to a new city. Montreal had quickly become the landing pad for us up until I got offered this new job. It's difficult to switch gears from gung-ho "We're moving" to "We're staying for an indeterminate amount of time".

So, what am I doing? Heck! I'm redoing the home office, and moving around stuff in the living room. If I can't have the luxury of massive change from relocation, I can at least get a new perspective on life by moving my furniture around.

This is what excites me today: I've got the second best thing to an Aeron chair on order, which will do wonders for my aching back. Sitting on a wooden kitchen chair with a pillow on it for butt-padding just doesn't cut it. I'm getting a new Herman Miller chair, called the Caper Multitask, which my friend Paul (newly-graduated industrial design student) will probably got nutso over.

This is all very lame, but I suppose life (and some journal entries) is in the little things. Work starts next week; perhaps I should try and get out to the lake this weekend?

Weekend Status Report

(in point form because I'm feeling massively disinclined):

  1. Tormented myself with indecision on whether I could afford to visit my friends in Toronto.
  2. Did my income tax. Realized that I am now truly an adult as I owe a rather frightening amount of money. Scratch that trip off of the list.
  3. Went out for expensive, decadent Japanese food with Renée anyway. Perhaps I'm not so adult-like after all.
  4. Felt guilty for not updating Cultural Joy for two weeks.
  5. Became overcome with apathy. It's still not updated.
  6. Made a prolonged trip to slackville. Got caught up on some reading, watched a lot of television, and played with the cats.
  7. Went and saw Spider-man. Big grins all around.
  8. Ate another gigantic, rather expensive meal with me mom and family.
  9. Went to the Winnipeg Humane Society to look at the cats and dogs. I want a dog rather badly, but we're not supposed to have even cats, so it's risky. Stupid landlords.
  10. Took Renée's mom out for Mum's day brunch. More money leaves my wallet so that someone else will cook for me. Ah, financial irresponsibility!
  11. Spent a lot of time planning the relaunch of my Web design business.
  12. Wrote a completely lame and meandering entry for the Web site.

Sorry - I'll try to be more entertaining tomorrow. Really.

Seeking Patient Testimonials

My eyeglasses now officially cost a small fortune. Ever since I was diagnosed with glaucoma, my glasses perscription has been on the rise. The truth of it is I was already pretty damn near-sighted to begin with - my glasses have always cost around three to four hundred dollars.

With my latest perscription, I have jumped into a whole new ocular bracket. Now, each lens costs about as much as my entire glasses used to cost. Needless to say, I'm not pleased.

So, Laser Eye
I've been seriously considering something I've always poo-pooed: laser-eye surgery. My attitude use to be that it was way too expensive, and way too risky to be worth the possible benefits. With the cost of the surgery plummeting, and more and more people getting the procedure done without problems, I'm starting to reconsider. Facing a few weeks of discomfort and a couple thousand dollars might be much better than spending almost a thousand dollars every time I need new glasses.

This leads, as it should, to questions. Have you had this procedure done? Do you know anyone who has? I'd like to hear your (or their) experiences with laser-eye surgery. How long did your eyes take to heal? How bad were your eyes before the surgery, and how much improvement did you see? Post away in the comments, and help a fella make a decision on whether he's going to allow a stranger to mess around with his eyes. Thanks.

Status: Nitpicky. Nostalgic.

As you may have noticed, I've moved a few things around, and fiddled with the BeatnikPad's style sheet. Again. All of this nitpickiness is just me trying to put off what I really should be doing now that I'm temporarily unemployed, and actually have personal fun time.

That is, of course, redesigning this site and moving it to full XHTML and style sheet positioning compliance, like my woefully under-posted and underdeveloped freelance site, and my girlfriend's personal Website. (Which, by the way, Renée has started updating again, now that she's also found more time. Go pay her a visit and give her a reason to make this a more permanent state of affairs...)

Now that I've been freed from the possibility of putting myself into a conflict of interest position with my old employer, I'm back on the prowl for freelance writing, Web design, and development gigs. That means I need to get off of my lazy glutes and actually start marketing myself again... which then means that I really should finish redesigning my portfolio and freelance site, theNonsuch.

But all I can think about is the fact that a year ago I was gallivanting around Europe with Renée, and trying to scheme up a way to get back out there. One thing's for sure: Rampant nostalgia can paralyze one into a dumbstruck haze - and I am a complete sucker for dwelling a bit too eagerly in the past.

Ah, heck. At least I'm posting more often.

Vacation ideas wanted

Alrighty, folks: I've got 18 lovely, blissful days off between jobs, starting May 3rd. I don't think I'm going to make it out to Spain (even though I REALLY WANT TO) because of that great old thing known as the Great Canadian Airline Monopoly.

Last year at this time I went to France and Spain and my return flight cost $550.

I've checked a bunch of ticket costs, and the cheapest flight I could fine to Paris was $1200.

As I type these sad, bitter words, Rufus Wainwright is musing softly about Barcelona:

Got to get away from here, I think I know which hemisphere
Crazy me don't think there's pain in Barcelona.

So, I ask you, my friends: where should I go that's not terribly expensive, and a pleasant, relaxing place to wash work out of my hair?

Retching in their general direction / being selfish

1. Walking into the living room as Renée was channel-surfing.

2. Thinking that some hapless studio technician had accidentally put in a soap opera tape instead of ER.

3. Realizing that no, this was another one of those goddamn reality TV shows.

4. Throwing the remote at the TV while screaming fuckyoufuckyoufuckyou loudly and most insistently as we barrelled headlong in the handbasket of hell, accompanied by the foul nihilism of The Bachelor.

5. Stomping out, bellowing angrily as the television filled the living room with desperate eyes, egomaniacal male swagger, and the sounds of a once hallowed institution whimpering as it is kicked to the curb yet again.

Okay, so now I'm going to be selfish for a moment.

The chair that my ass currently sits on needs to be replaced. It's an okay looking wooden kitchen chair, with a rather smushed pillow placed on it in a useless attempt at increasing its comfort level. It causes great pain to me when I sit in front of it and work all day. Chinese people aren't know for their big, cushiony bottoms, you know.

What I want is the chair I used to sit in when I worked at Sympatico-Lycos. You got it, my butt used to grace the contours of the Mercedes of office furniture, an Aeron chair. And I want one.

Of The Chaircourse, I've got Aeron chair fantasies, but live in a crappy, hard wooden chair reality. A guy I work with gave me an idea, though. He used to work for one of the gigantic monsters of the dot-com world, and he told me that when they did slash and burn layoffs, they just packed truckloads of office furniture and computer equipment and threw it all away. Dumped it at the dump. He got a 22" studio display for something like 400 bucks, the bastard.

So, I'm thinking that there's gotta be some way I can take advantage of the probably high number of orphaned Aeron chairs out there. But, being in Canada I'm sure there's not as plentiful a-pickin's as in the U.S. Anyone want to help me realize my dream and help me find, er, affordable housing?

I sit a size "B". My butt will thank you profusely.


I'm starting to wonder just how much information a human being can realistically hold in their noodle. I've suddenly gotten very busy over the last week. Not only am I trying to clear the decks at work before I toddle off to a new job, but now I'm faced with the daunting (yet attainable, I suppose) task of not only relearning Flash, but doing stuff that wasn't possible back when I did know how to use the darn thing...

Ow. My brain is feeling, as my girlfriend would say, "wolfingly full". Any BeatnikPad readers out there Flash experts?

Sigh. This industry waits for no one. I suppose my biggest problem with working on the Web is there's just no end to the amount of stuff to learn. You could literally spend forever trying to keep up with all of the program upgrades, new-fangled Web technologies, emerging delivery mechanisms, and lovely Website designs.

The Web is like Audrey II from that Roger Corman / Steve Martin remake of Little Shop of Horrors: constantly squeaking, "Feed me!", while we dump minutes, hours, and days into its gaping maw by the shovel-full. Methinks I need another vacation.

Careening, part two

(Welcome, Wander-Lust readers! And muchas gracias to Daphne at for the blush-worthy feature.)

I gave my notice at work today.

Now, you may, or may not have noticed a distinct lack of entries about my working life here. There's a really good reason for that. You see, two weeks after I started working at my present job, I was blogging something about Winnipeg and pickup trucks. Or was it perogi? Or the preponderance of baseball-cap wearing, massively homophobic men, and the relationship between male-pattern baldness and said caps? Something stupid like that. In the process of this, I made a somewhat snarky remark about salespeople.

» Careening, part two continues...


You know what is one of lifes most exhilirating feelings?

Being on the cusp of a decision that will undoubtedly change your life in a deep and meaningful way. And then stepping off of the platform and making that decision.

I love the feeling you get when you can almost physically feel yourself going past another signpost in your life... and just as you're going by it, you look back on where you've just been and see the long trail of signposts stretching out behind you.

Each one marks a point in time when your life veered of in a new, completely different direction: a move; a breakup; a birth; a death; a conscious decision to change. If you follow them from beginning to end, they form a map which describes the pathway to who you have become.

Another Photographic History Moment

Man working on SubToday's theme is history, and moments frozen in light and emulsion. First off is a recent discovery: the American National Archives and Records Administration Website. This is a veritable treasure trove of forehead-slapping cool old shit - I mean artifacts - such as the Picturing the Century collection.

There's some astounding photos here, including such historic moments as the Wright Brother's first flight, and the explosion of the USS Shaw during the Pearl Harbor attack. There's also work by bigwigs such as Dorothea Lange, Ansel Adams, and colour work by Danny Lyon. Go now.

dickTractor.jpgThe other photographic link for today is images from the Wisconson Historical Society. It's a smaller and less ambitious collection, but still worth poking through. My favorite? This photo of Richard Nixon riding a tractor. Yeehaw!

On a personal note, big thanks and virtual squeezes to all who wished me a happy birthday via e-mail or on this site. For the record, it was a lovely, relaxing weekend, filled with scrumptious Guatemalan cuisine, good company, and big grins all around. I'm normally pretty carefree about birthdays, but this year's comes with a lot of personal baggage; it's an amazing feeling to be surrounded by so much warmth.

Lately, I've been feeling a lot like this. (mp3, 1.1 mb)

On this day…

Birthday CandlesWell, kiss my grits. It's my birthday today.

For those of you keeping score, I am now 32. In other words, young enough to still make stupid mistakes, and old enough to know better.

I was gearing up to write a rather lengthy entry (boring all who gaze upon it in the process) about birthdays, and how we go through a "tipping point" when things stop being about the start of our lives, and start being about that damp, black hole in the ground... in other words, gearing up to be a total birthday bummer.

Then I thought, you've got lots of years to make miserable on your birthday - don't be a maudlin ass.

Stupid rock tricks and other sleep deprivation experiments

I'm so tired I can barely keep my eyes open. It's been a long, bleary-eyed four days. I think I've logged over 48 hours in front of the computer from Friday through to today... busy toiling away on a site for work with a rather immovable deadline. Lovely.

pillow.jpg Sleep deprivation is a fascinating state of mind. As Dale Cooper once said, "Sleep deprivation is a one-way ticket to temporary psychosis." I haven't lost my mind yet, but at the very least it's, well... misplaced. It's also a bit scrubbed.

The longest I ever stayed awake was the first of many tours I went on with this crappy band I was in. We did this marathon driving / playing excursion, where we somehow managed to book Edmonton to Vancouver to Calgary to Victoria, and then into the U.S, all on consecutive nights.

Now, if you listened carefully during Canadian georgraphy class (or, heck - if you're Canadian), you'll know that all of those cities are at least 10-12 hours drive from each other. That meant the methodically insane schedule consisted of:

  1. Drive to city very fast. No stops allowed, except for gas. If you had to pee or leave a porcelain deposit and didn't go at the last gas stop, tough luck.
  2. Stare at a city map intently during the drive to find the venue. Hopefully. instead of wasting valuable time driving around the city, one can sleep, and partake of arcane hygiene rituals.
  3. Drink massive, overwhelming amounts of coffee that would kill a normal human being. Musicians aren't normal humans, though; all of the internal organs of a musician are super-sized and ready for anything. That is, all organs except for the brain. Especially those of drummers.. but we won't start in on that.
  4. Try to evade ones cranky, underslept and over-caffeinated companions. Pray for a reprieve from the drummer's unending flatulence. Smoke a lot of cigarettes to mask the smell.
  5. Play a lot of crazy eight countdown. Over and over.
  6. Arrive in the city and promptly spend an hour and a half completely and utterly lost.
  7. Finally find the bar. Hump music equipment up three flights of narrow, treacherous stairs. If you're lucky, you then find out the show is still on. Watch the strippers stream in to prepare for the night's, ahem, pre-show.
  8. Eat dinner. What was normally dinner? Don't even think of going there.
  9. Play a lot of pool, drink more coffee, smoke more cigarettes, wait and wait and wait to play.
  10. Finally. Rock like you've never rocked before.
  11. Load up gear. If you're lucky you then get paid for the show. If you're even luckier the establishment actually pays you in real money and not cheap-ass portables like beer, or insincere flattery.
  12. Drive off to the next city, 12 hours away. It was usually 4am at this point.

On this particular tour I stayed conscious (saying "awake" here would be a rather unforgivable exaggeration) for a grand total of just under 120 hours. I arrived back home, collapsed into bed and slept for 26 hours straight. The problem is that I thought I had only slept for two hours. It took me a long time to get my internal clock back to a semblance of normalcy.

Rock and roll touring glamourous? Feh. Maybe if you're Creed and you have handlers and a tour manager and ridiculous backstage riders to fill your stomach and airplane tickets to fly your pampered ass everywhere. Otherwise, it's fun, but most of the time, to paraphrase Mark Twain, touring is "a good rood trip spoiled."

Goodness, look what being underslept can bring out. That's enough screeching - G' night.

Sliding down the Disinclination

I've been feeling pretty lame the last few days, mainly because I'm wrestling with a ravenous bout of disinclination. Being on holidays for a week and a half can do that to a person. I'm also missing my Central Canada cronies already, but as one of them has reminded me many times, I am a suck. A nostalgic, sentimental, simpering suck.

The disconnect a person feels when they visit a city they once lived in is always strange. The entire time I was staying at my friend's place, I kept thinking, "Well! Time to go home" as if I could just jump a streetcar and head back to my old apartment.

I have no idea who's living there now, but I'm sure they wouldn't appreciate a shabby stranger poking around their cleaning supplies and using their washroom.

Then again, moving back to my home city was a very unsettling experience, also. Everything is exaclty where I left it, but everyone has changed so much. It's amazing what four years can do to a person; fatter, rounder, balder, more wrinkled, more distance. I barely know anyone here now; a city filled with familiar buildings and complete strangers.

27 Things I Did on my Vacation

  1. Read a lot of this and this.
  2. Indulged in rampant relaxation.
  3. Listened to a bunch of grown men talk about wrestling: "... and then he opened up a can of whoop-ass on him. Wow!"
  4. Drank more coffee than is legally allowed.
  5. Bagels! Bagels! Bagels!
  6. Easily avoided a computer for nearly all of my vacation. (see #2)
  7. Listened (and spoke, sort of) to oodles of French and Italian. Felt inadequate. Started planning to take more language courses.
  8. Luxuriated in the gorgeous, history-soaked bliss of Francophone Canada.
  9. Got snowed on a lot. Colourful language ensued.
  10. Met my friend's parents and brother, who treated me to incredible food, wonderful hospitality, and a good, warm pair of winter boots.
  11. Learned that kids can be fascinating, amazing, and incredibly fun to be around. Who knew?
  12. Laughed my ass off, spoke in hushed, serious tones, babbled endlessly, and felt the warmth of connection.
  13. Purchased some amazing music.
  14. Finally succumbed to some rather strident digital camera urges. Expect rampant narcissism soon.
  15. Had a dream about a man named Joe, a red chef's hat, and gigantic slabs of beef.
  16. Watched a rather scattered but artful (whatever that means) Shakespearean adaptation.
  17. Listened to the endearing sounds of a child singing Il Ragazzo Della Via Gluck.
  18. Ate sushi with a guy from La Broquerie. And liked it.
  19. Had a streetperson call me "Gramps".
  20. Scoured the city for some of my favorite pants (aka "old man pants" - see above).
  21. Skipped breakfast and went directly to brunch.
  22. Realized that I left my toothbrush and toothpaste back home.
  23. Avoided any signs of encroaching boredom and party-poopiness.
  24. Got hit on by a man wearing a gigantic doily.
  25. Didn't once think about what Gwyneth was wearing.
  26. Instantly started missing my beautiful friends upon my return.
  27. Came back to reality: 915 new e-mail messages.


I'm back, with the lights of Montréal's Rue de St. Denis and the faces of my incredibly beautiful friends still glistening in my eyes. My creative battery is also feeling replenished and revitalized; expect travel photos, stories, and other such dazzlements soon.

Bums, Bleach, and Black & White

The job that buried the stake in my increasingly wavering faith in humanity has to have been my sojourn as a photographic printer. My specialty at the lab was E-6 (a.k.a. "slides"), as well as some colour and black & white. Some of the more ancient-looking photos that grace this Web site are from that period in my life.

Camera GuyThe very first thing you learn about working in a photo lab is that photo lab technicians are generally a weird, cagey bunch. I think it has something to do with spending the whole day breathing in photo lab chemicals. I was shocked one day to note, while mixing up a big vat of nostril-hair burning photographic bleach, that the package I was holding in my right hand proudly noted: "Tested on animals."

I never figured out if we were the animals the label referred to. Judging from the burnt-out brain cells of a couple of my co-workers, it won't surprise me.

The job had its benefits, however. My darkroom mate was a big, eminently friendly francophone named Paul, obsessed with pop culture, art, and cocktail music. We used to close the darkroom door (thus signalling that we were printing, so no one could just walk in) and I would take two-hour epic naps to the strains of Arthur Lyman's Yellow Bird. We would then get into heated discussions on the execrable qualities of Feliz Navidad (I hated it; he was crazy for it), and what foreign film was playing at the local Cinematheque.

The point where slack turned to sickness was when I started to realize that people - large tracts of seemingly normal, boring people - often dropped off photos of themselves either getting or giving some pretty rude stuff. It started, like everything always does, innocently with a roll here and there of some rather poor quality amateur boudoir photography. Giggle, giggle.

MotoButtIt wasn't until the fiftieth roll had eased its way out of my printing machine that I started to wonder, "Does the entire female world over 35 want to have their photo taken in poorly constructed lingere?" You could also tell men took the bulk of the photos, as there was an unusually high incidence of nude housewives posing while sprawled on top of vehicles; cars, motorcycles, scooters, power boats (!), and so on.

I knew I had a problem when I walked by a woman while grocery shopping in the neighbourhood and thought, "Wait a minute, I know her from somewh-... ew."

Then there was at least a three week running theme of insertions. Cucumbers, zucchini, carrots... if it was an edible vegetable you can bet someone tried to stick it somewhere, and then document it for all eternity.

"Look, honey, Remember when you stuck that yellow squash up my ass? Ha, ha, ha - those were the days, weren't they?"

Without allowing this entry to devolve into a poor excuse for a Penthouse Forum's letter, it should be said that sexual perversion (at least the photographed kind) seemingly moves in cycles. Leather, denim, and whips. Edible oil products. Plain ol' fashion missionary style. Gay sex. Straight sex. Painful looking sex. Men hanging things off of their, um, members. Lots of photos of women baring their breasts to the world. Slides of US Customs agents, er, "practicing" their inspection techniques on each other, with big, corn-fed smiles on their faces. Really.

What made it all seem even sicker was that there were many people in the "industry" who kept gigantic photo albums of the more choice material.

I begged my friends not to drop any film off at any place that used our lab for printing services. I quit when my warnings were not heeded.

This is my brain on coffee

brainCoffeeThis weekend is brought to you by the letter "J", the number "42", and the Sheep header Kaldi. Goddamn, do I love a good cup of coffee...

There's nothing that says 'relaxing weekend' to me more than brewing a gigantic pot of coffee, cozying up with the cats on the couch, and tackling the books-to-be-read pile. Ahhh.

Life from the bottom of a Roy Rogers

I'm allergic to alcohol.

Whenever I tell people this I almost unanimously get two responses. From the die-hard boozehounds, I get a look of unabashed horror, like I just said, "I have leprosy!" with a big girn on my face. "And it's catching!"

"Oh god," the not-so-closeted beer-hunters will say, "that must be horrible." And then they shudder, cross themselves, and pound back a frosty Pilsner - because they can. Bastards.

And then there's the more mild but still rather shocked, "Wow, really? What happens when you drink?"

To set the record straight, I suffer from a somewhat rare (but more common in Asiatics) high-octane, burnin'-down-on-the-hot-side-of-town-you-dig allergy, where I get a form of anaphylactic shock. The throat swells up like a Brooklyn hot dog in the sun, and I have a lot of trouble breathing. Plus, I get all splotchy and red, like W.C. Field's nose, but all over. It's not pretty. Also, it's an allergy to alcohol in any form: I can't take cold or cough medicine that contains alcohol (so it's Buckley's Cold remedy for this guy), and up to recently I couldn't use mouthwash, or hairspray (due to inhaling the particles)... but that's gotten better with age.

Being allergic to alcohol has its plusses and minuses. A top of the head list:



I've saved a TON of money I've blown it all on pot. Well, used to. ;)
I slowly get to watch a large group of people get drunker and drunker (a fascinating sociological experiment) If I come into a party and everyone is already totally loaded, it's almost impossible to relate to people.
Highly decreased chances of walking up beside someone and not remembering their name. I have absolutely no excuse if I do.
Decreased change of making a complete ass of myself. I do a great job of that without the help of alcohol, and again, noone to blame but sober ol' me.

DrunkThe list goes on and on. It's a strange existence, in some ways. I've come to realize just how much our social lives revolve around the fine art of two-fisting and rampant wine drinking: We go for "Friday drinks" to celebrate making it through another cruddy week at work. We go to the bar to meet and try to cajole the opposite (or same) sex that we're mighty fine examples of studmuffins. We pound a few when they rebuke us, and get some "liquid courage" to try again. We propose toasts to those worthy of such attention, and have wakes for those who have passed on. We start the evening off at the bar before clubbing, or after a movie or the theatre to debrief with friends. We drink at weddings, and drown our sorrows when we've down in the dumps.

I can't help but think of the famous Dean Martin quote at this moment: "I feel sorry for people who don't drink. When they wake up in the morning, that's as good as they're going to feel all day." Well, we didn't end up as a sodden wreck in a bunch of bad Matt Helm movies, either... but, I digress.

Through all of this, I don't actually miss drinking all that much. I used to be able to drink (and boy, did I ever) when I was in high school - after quitting for a while so that I could actually finish off my high school diploma, my allergy popped up: a teensy surprise at the very end of the dark tunnel of chemical changes we call puberty.

What I really miss is the possibility of taste. When I was able to drink, I was a typical "drink to get loaded" type. Who cares if it tastes good - what's the alcoholic percentage? Because of this, I've missed out on fine wine, smokey, high-falutin scotch, manly whiskey drinking, tequila (and the worm), Jack Daniels, creme de menthe, Jägermeister, lime rickeys, and especially all of the actually GOOD beers.

Guinness? Wouldn't know it unless it was prefixed with "Alec". I can just see my friend Trevor, a massive Guinness fan, recoiling in shock. I missed out on all the yummy sounding beers with words like "nutty" and "honey" in them. I missed out on Heineken ("Fuck that shit, man, PABST BLUE RIBBON!"), and Coronas, and... sigh. My beer education consists of Molsom Club (usually found in the sweaty fists of someone with a mullet), Extra Old Stock (for the extra old men), and Labatt's Blue. The words Pee-pee de chat come to mind.

The reality, however, is that I'm 100% used to not drinking. Sure, when it's a hard day, or a really hot summer afternoon, I feel a twinge of desire for a frosty beverage. I think we're programmed to want beer then; it's encoded in our genes. But I don't really miss it at all. I do find that I usually make friends with people based on their personality when they're loaded - happy, smiley drunks are usually a thumbs up, falling over, barfing, easily lost high-maintenance drunks are are a no-no - and really, (here's the thirties thing again), we're at the age now where we just don't put one on as often as we used to, anyway. So life is good.

That is, it's all good until it completely turns to suckitty-suck-suck when I read something like this: Study: Drinking can ward off dementia. SIGH.

Mental floss on a cold Tuesday night

There must be something in the water. It always ends up being the water. That has to be the reason why nearly every single person I know these days is either teetering on the edge of some earthshattering life moment (birthing cathartis like watermelons shooting out of a garden hose), or deep in the cups of "but, what will I DO with my life?" Welcome to the gloriously dirty thirties.

[A caveat: I'm going to talk about the state of being a certain age, and some of the luggage that I, and/or some people I know have accumulated because of being that particular age. If you could give a flying Swedish karate kick about any of this, feel free to head off and try to find something more exciting to read.

Really, it's okay.] 

» Mental floss on a cold Tuesday night continues...

Designed to help prevent bunching and twisting

I can't believe it.

I'm standing in the aisle in the cavernous white glare of SuperValu (masters of the can't - come - in - and - spend - less - than - $100 - on - groceries supermarket), trying desperately to figure out some mysterious words on the shopping list, and failing miserably. The scrawled words on the shopping list are eloquent in their simplicity. Three words. They say: "Maxi: with wings".

My first assumption is that Maxi is some kind of brand name that's been used so often for so long by everyone that it has transcended its mere brandness. Sure - it's become the generic, catch-all term, I think. I need a Maxi, like "I need a Kleenex" when you mean facial tissue, or "I need some Krazy Glue", when you actually need a highly adhesive bonding agent.

I'm scanning one of two seemingly endless aisles of feminine hygiene products (what, are women normally dirty?), trying to find one with wings. A woman is standing nearby with this look of half embarrassment, half utter contempt scrunched up all over her face, like I've got my penis hanging out of my pants and at any second I'm going to face her and bellow, "Come here, woman, so I can ride you like a country-bred donkey in the hair nets and dandruff treatment aisle!"

Maxi. There's Maxi with wings "long". Maxi without wings "long". Maxi that "now fits size 14!". Maxi in soothingly blue packages. Maxi in environmentally responsible green packages. Maxi in the too-obvious feminine pink packages. Maxi "ultra petite". Maxi "thick". Maxi "thick, with new extensible wings". Maxi "with new SureFresh coversheet" (whatever the hell that is). Every goddamn box has Maxi on it, and at least 75% have "wings", too, by my estimate.

And they're not cheap, either. I can't help thinking about all the money a menstruating woman must spend every month, month in, and month out, on products dedicated to her personal hygiene. I start trying to calculate how much a woman must spend in her entire life on tampons, and pads, and "Maxi: with wings", and new, unstained underwear, and aspirin for the cramps, and medicine for the bloating... and then I try to calculate how much money I've spent on "guy hygiene products", and I'm struck by how little I actually spend on, well, hygiene products, with the exception of soap, shaving cream and razors, and shampoo. Which are all things women have to buy. So they don't count.

I contemplate asking the scrunchy woman, whose still standing there gawking at me like I've got Disgusting - masturbatory - pervert - obsessed - with - the - words - "absorbancy" - and - "heavy flow" on a gigantic, glittery sign around my neck, which one to buy. They all seem the same, and they all seem like they, well, do the same thing. But the woman is obviously too embarrassed and contemptuous to give me a straight answer. Her embarrassment is starting to sink into me through some wacky humiliation-osmosis, like water gushing over the top of a broken dam... and after what seems to be hours, I hastily grab a package that looks like the one I'd buy if I was a woman (blue package, natch), and beat a hasty retreat to the hair dye aisle, my introduction to the unscented, ultra-dry world of woman's sanitary napkins complete.

Next week: Neil goes bra shopping!

Television saved my life

I'm the apparently rare breed of person who hasn't watched a lot of television in his life. This was more due to financial contraints than a hipster's disdain for the infamous boob tube - when you've got barely enough money to buy groceries, it's a pretty easy decision. Oh - except for the Simpsons. Man, I love that show.

Perhaps because of this, I'm a complete ignoramus when it comes to television culture. I remember a time when I was lazing about with some folks from work a few years back. They were killing themselves laughing about the exploits of some guy; from the sounds of it, he was just hi-larious. Knee-slapping funny. Stomach-achingly silly.

Interested, I said, "Wow, that sounds funny! Who's this soup nazi fellow?"

They all stopped talking, and simultaneously gave me this look like I had just said, "Jesus? Who the HELL is that?"

No, I've never been well acquainted with the cathode ray tube world of television. That is, until four months ago when I moved back to Winnipeg. Don't get me wrong - there's a lot of things to do in Winnipeg - but in the midst of -30 degrees celsius weather, the last thing you want to do is actually go outside to find them. For the first time since I lived with my parents, televsion became a trusted friend and welcome visitor in my home.

Emeril! Iron Chef! MASH! The Simpsons 24-hours a day! Ancient re-runs of Saturday Night Live! That fucking purple monstrosity, Barney! The pompous Alex Trebek and Jeopardy! LA Law! And, my current favorite, Win Ben Stein's Money.

I love games shows. Always have. Some of my best television moments were spent basking in the warming glow of classic game shows. I learned about the dangers of gluttony from Press Your Luck... got an education in family harmony and cooperation from Family Fued... discovered smart shopping, and my budding heterosexuality from the vixens of The Price Is Right... and dreamed of enlightenment in front of CBC's Reach for the Top. None of these come close to the all-you-can-eat joy of Win Ben Stein's Money.

It's got trivia! Difficult questions! Blatant homo-eroticism! Snarky irreverent behavior! And a cranky old Jewish guy! How could you NOT like it? Ah, yes. Television? Where have you been all my life?

Mr. Crumblepants

Today is a bad eye day.

I woke up this morning, put on my glasses, and the first thought through my brain was, "These can't be my glasses," as I peered through a blurry, vaseline-on-the-camera lense haze. I feel like I'm living in a really, really bad Creed video, and I can't get out. I keep half-expecting a cheese-ball Scott Stapp to jump out of the shower, bellowing some half-assed agony line whilst pumping his fist in the air like a mechanized monkey, surrounded by the murky blur of my bathroom...

Ack. And, to top it off, I have a gargantuan-sized cold. Ah well. You didn't come here to listen to me complain like Grandpa Simpson, did you? <SIGH>

Ma Petite Obsession

Tonight, I sat in a room filled with people speaking a language other than English. And I loved it.

As you may have noticed from the little bits of French I toss in here and there, I like the language. Well, actually, that's not quite accurate: I LOVE languages. All of 'em. Even phlegmy-sounding gargle languages like Arabic and German (no offense meant - that just what it sounds like to my uncultured, unattuned ears).

I've always lamented the fact that I don't speak multiple tongues. Even though my background is Chinese, my parents pulled the typical first generation tomfoolery and refused to teach us the language - something about ensuring that we spoke "pure English" or some nonsense like that.

Oh, I tried going to Chinese school, but it was too little, too late. As for French, being part of a purportedly "bilingual nation", we did have French classes in school. The problem is, I went to some of the crappiest public schools ever. The French teacher didn't even speak French - but she was a toothsome, young bathing suit model - so even though enrollment in her class was incredibly high, we learned exactly rien. Well, we learned how to stare, ogle, induldge in flights of pubescent sexual fantasy, and say, "Voulez-vous couchez avec moi?"... but that's another story.

» Ma Petite Obsession continues...

Itchy and Scratchy

I'm coming down with something. I can feel it.

I'm still in the midst of dealing with the current situation (all eyedrops, tear-filled mornings, and suspicious glances at the office: "Where the hell have you BEEN for the last two weeks?"), and on the way home today I get the itch.

You know, the ITCH. The you're-on-the-verge-of-getting-a-brutal-throat-cold itch. The "welcome to phlegm-town" itch. The "oh-oh" itch.

So I'm <aheming> and clearing my throat and trying to pretend that no, nothing's wrong, I just swallowed that scalding hot coffee too quickly this morning and scarred the back of my throat. Ice cream will fix what ails me. (Denial is a powerful friend.) But, I know I'm on the verge of illness, and I don't like what I see. Blame it on the winter - that's what all Canadians do.

I'm reading Spalding Gray's Gray's Anatomy at the moment, partially because he makes me laugh out loud on the bus (and thusly incuring the wrath of the rather strange, frizzy-haired woman that rides the 14 bus in the morning), but mostly because in it he also suffers from an eye disorder: a Macula Pucker. It sounds hilariously organic (like some kind of funky, frou-frou mollusk) but it's actually rather serious.

Tip for the forlorn: read about someone more self-centred, neurotic, and self-obsessed than yourself. It makes you feel better.

Still, that doesn't help the itch. <AHEM !>

If I were a work of art…

Mona LisaIf I were a work of art, I would be Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa.

I am extremely popular and widely known. Although unassuming and unpretentious, my enigmatic smile has charmed millions. I am a mystery, able to be appreciated from afar, but ultimately unknowable and thus intriguing.

Which work of art would you be? The Art Test

Life as a Rothko painting

I went for my long-awaited appointment with my new opthamologist today. His office was packed full of old people with failing eyesight, sporting Captain Hookesque eyepatches and looking quite miserable. I was the youngest person there by at least fifteen years.

It was incredibly busy and after getting eyedrops to dilate my pupils, I sat down to wait for my turn. The only source of distraction was a television set that played the saccharine-laced horror of Heidi on a seemingly endless loop.

After ten minutes of Shirley Temple, I wished I was blind and deaf.

KeaneThe bad news? My glaucoma is back, and I may need to get eye surgery to get it fixed. Plus, my doctor dilated my eyes so much I've been walking around all afternoon looking like a living Margaret Keane painting. Everything looks like a gigantic wash of colour, swirled together into a big, blurry mess.

In the words of Elvis Costello: "It's the death that's worse than fate". Not only do I dress like and have the cranky temperment of an old man, I now suffer from old man diseases. Are there jobs out there for half-blind Web designers?


Last night, as I was sleeping in my bed for the first time in almost a week, my cat Emma started crying.

She woke me up, and for a confused, bleary five minutes I was convinced that I was back in Toronto, curled up in a young child's bed that was kindly lent to me by my host and dear friend.

The sounds of Emma's crying mixed with the memory of my friend's cat whining for attention, and for a fleeting moment I was thousands of kilometres away...

Emma jumped onto my bed, breaking the reverie and pulling me back into my own bedroom. For that brief five minutes, I stood in two worlds simultaneously.

If only real life were so easy.

Home again

The worse thing about visiting is the inevitable, sometimes painful moment when you have to say goodbye. I've never been good at farewells - even with those I love I stammer, avoid any semblence of eye contact, and run off at the first opportunity. So much for the stalwart macho grunt, shaking-of-hands, and stagger off into the distance...

Hugs, though. I love hugs. Call me mushy.

The Toronto trip was great. I've some journal-type scribblings I'll post when the mood strikes (and the ego inflamed). Those of you who sheltered, fed, entertained, and made merry with me, know that you are loved (especially those who sheltered and fed).

"Come, let's have one other gaudy night. Call to me. All my sad captains. Fill our bowls once more. Let's mock the midnight bell."

Hogtown poetics

I'm obsessed with poetry these days: I just finished re-reading my favorite collection of my favorite poet, Octavio Paz.

I just picked up a new Rainer Maria Rilke collection, which I'll be reading on the plane: I'm off to Toronto in around eight hours. I'm really looking forward to hanging with my homies for a few days: Barbles! Tonia! Thandles! Leslie! Dolon! Mark - and the rest of my people still employed at my old job.

I sometimes spend way too much time reading technology books (self-improvement and self-edification in all of its forms is another obsession of mine). It feels very good to get back to reading just for the pure enjoyment of it.


I stayed up until 5 am this morning, driven on by copious amounts of blessed caffiene, the server move, and a steely determination to finally see the much ballyhooed Leonid meteor shower.

At 4 am I got bundled up and went outside to the park across the street. I stared up at the night sky, waiting for the show to begin.

A couple of bums hassled me for change and cigarettes. Bikers roared by on their buffed-up, mufflerless motorcycles. A group of teenaged kids walked by, dragging a drunk companion between them like a sack of potatoes. And then stillness.

But I saw nothing. Goddamn light pollution. I went back in, defeated and bone-weary.

Fear of flying

Renée's dad swung by this afternoon for a quick visit and a cup of tea. He's a burly, big-hearted man - a real, bred-in-the-blood French Voyageur - the kind of guy that works in a sawmill, makes beautiful furniture out of gigantic logs, and is most in his element when he's outdoors. He's a swell guy.

Renée's dad Marcel used to, as you would expect a man's man to do, fly planes for a living - specifically with Canadian Airlines (which I would link to, except that they were bought out by Air Canada a few years ago). For someone like me who is irrationally terrified of flying, chatting with Marcel about aviation always helps calm the uneasy beast inside.

Lately we've had a lot to talk about.

» Fear of flying continues...

Bleary vol. II

I've been spending a horrendous amount of time in front of the computer the last couple of weeks. It's embarrassing, actually - I went out to see a couple of really stinky bands with my buddy Dave, and realized while standing in the smoke-filled, raucous din of the Royal Albert Arms that it was the first time I'd been around a large group of people in almost three weeks.

Luckily for me, my eyes haven't been bugging me that much because of my new LCD display. For someone with bad eyes (and an annoying habit of getting explosive headaches from screen flicker), it was worth every penny.

Have you noticed eye problems from peering at a shaky CRT for too long? Comments?


Bleary. It's quite late, and I think I'm going to pack it in for the night. Working on some geek stuff: PHP and MySQL and gloriously arcane nerd lore like that... geez, on a Saturday night. Well, it's freezing outside, so that's my excuse. Unless I had a hankerin' to see Alabama, or the mighty ass-kicking powress of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (ahem), there wasn't much going on tonight, anyway.

Have a great Thanksgiving, folks - give your loved ones a squeeze, gorge yourself on decadent morsels and fattening pies, lie back, belch a bit, and enjoy the weekend.

I am a geek.

Geek moment of the month - getting my wireless PC card in the mail today, plugging it in, and logging onto the Web through my Wireless access point from the bathtub. Shameless.

El dramatico

Boy, I never knew I could be so melodramatic. Feeling better today - work, as always, is as good a distraction as any.


The last couple of days have not been good. Had been feeling incredibly empty: Vacuum tornado sucking from the pit of my stomach through to my brain; blackness mixed in with a violent inner storm. Nothingness on the outside.

I suppose this is my way of grieving. I know I can be happy. I know these images in my head will slowly fade like oxygenated Polariods. Through all of this sadness, I feel alive.

Today, it was grey and drizzly, and the chill of a freshly realized Winnipeg fall day draped its sad arms everywhere. After sitting down and watching my cats quietly sleeping together, and listening to the sounds of Renée moving papers and working on homework in the other room... life began to move again.


Today I tried to dive into work - anything to keep the mind off of yesterday's horrifying events. It's so strange how I can almost forget for a moment just what happened - then I see a Web site mentioning the attack, or catch a quick soundbite from a passing radio, or see a flag at half-mast, and it all comes flooding back.

I still haven't heard from my friend Sarah, who works in Manhattan. As far as I can tell, her office is far North enough that she should have been okay - I've tried calling her parents but there was no answer today. I'm hoping for the best.

Images have been permanently burned into my brain. It's as if I have some cruel Viewmaster stuck in my head, playing back the horror over, and over, and over. The plane cutting into the second tower. People, covered in soot and ash walking away from the disaster area, looking like walking corpses...

What I will never forget, though, was an image that thankfully hasn't been shown too much: a medium shot of a man falling to his death from the tower. The camera is far enough away that he's just a dot - but you can see his legs flailing away in the panic of the moment, and you're screaming at the television, ohmygodohmygod he's still alive ohgodohgod and then that's all you can take and you can't cry anymore and you finally turn away to hug your girlfriend and pet your cats and be thankful for what you have, right here, right now.

Gimme shock treatment

Gimme shock treatment: Boy, does my brain feel like week-old, squishy oatmeal. Busy week at work, lots of stuff that needed to get done "last weeK", blah, blah, blah. I'm feeling a rather pervasive sense of disinclination at the moment; I suppose that explains why I'm on my ass in front of the goddamn computer instead of out gallivanting around town on this chilly Friday night...

Renée is away on some kind of university camping retreat for education students. If you knew Renée you'd know just how not her that is. I'm sure she's squatting in a field somewhere, face contorted in a rictus of agony at the idiocy of it all...

Okay, now I'm just wasting both of our time with this babbling... here, do something useful and look at some boxes of macaroni and cheese. Have a great weekend.


I believe strongly in karmic retribution (both good and bad). Today I did my bit to help someone else out who didn’t seem to be doing too well. It wasn’t a big thing, only something small. For all I know, their story could have been complete lies. I probably will never know. But, if I made someone feel better, then I’ve succeeded.

Photographic Evidence

tweak!Neil et Renée en Europe: Updated the Pictures section with the first installment (of many, probably) of our trip to Europe. Enjoy!

By the way…

Oh, by the way, Renée and I just got back from our European vacation yesterday. Two glorious weeks of mind-blowing architecture, those oh-so-beautiful Europeans, soaring vistas, and way too much white bread and cheese. [sigh] - Not looking forward to trudging back to work this week. Jetlag, begone!

summer days

It’s glorious outside today; thank god for summer. Renée and I are busy getting the last minute preparations done for our trip to Europe. I’m starting to feel like a hyperactive kid right before Christmas who can’t wait to open his presents; anticipation is definitely half of the enjoyment.

ISSN 1499-7894
Contact Archives Web Love Writing Photos FAQs Home