Thursday, August 31, 2006

Weekend assignment

   John is speaking Haikunese again, which means this week's Weekend Assignment can be found over here: (not cowboy poetry).

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Rockstar: Supernova

   We've been watching Rockstar: Supernova. Matthew and I. Which, by default, has drawn my wife into the whole thing.
   I'm not a big fan of reality television, generally. Survivor is a scripted fiasco, and Big Brother is nothing more than an excuse to put soft core pornography on television. The Amazing Race has various and divers geography working for it, but fails to impress. What those three, and countless others of their ilk all have in common is no motivation for the contestants other than plain, simple greed.
   Rockstar, a hard rock derivative of American Idol, and a few others, are different in one fundamental way. The contestants are chasing a dream; one that has consumed them for most of their lives.

   Four or five years ago the new "reality television" fad was exploding faster than, well than a supernova, and I had nothing but contempt for any of it. Temptation Island? Joe Millionaire? Wife Swap? The Osbournes? The Simple Life? Survivor? Fear Factor? Not a single redeeming feature among them. Then, completely by accident, I stumbled across something interesting in the most unlikely of places: professional wrestling.
   Now, I grew up here in southern Ontario, where professional wrestling, as we know it today, has been a part of the culture since the 1930s. Names like Whipper Billy Watson, The Sheik, Angelo Mosca, and Ric Flair were staples on Sunday afternoons at Maple Leaf Gardens. The company was eventually accquired by Vince McMahon, and was a big part of the blueprint for what became the World Wrestling Federation. So, professional wrestling is steeped in my cultural subconcious. Still I have little regard for it. I prefer the outcome of sporting events I watch to be decided during the match, rather than in the board room the night before.
   When I heard, in 2001, that there was going to be a WWF reality show, I was incredulous, amused, and disinterested. I find watching a profesional wrestling match to be a tedious pastime. I would rather clean the toilet. Working, as I was at the time, at a retail store that sold electronics, there was a television just about everywhere I looked. Most of the time, those TVs were tuned to TSN, Canada's cable sports network, which, coincidentally, was airing this new show called WWF Tough Enough. So regardless of my indifference to it, I ended up watching itregularly.
   And you know what? It was great! The contestants on the show were all young people who wanted nothing more than to become a WWF superstar. It was their dream; the wish their hearts made. Now, as much as I could scoff at what these kids were aspiring to, I could not deride the strength of their conviction that this was something they were ready to pursue with every fibre of their being. It was compelling TV.
   Another sports related show that caught my eye was The Golf Channel's The Big Break series. Again, the contestants were competing for their lifelong dreams. The prize is nothing tangible. Oh sure, there's the car, and the clubs, and the wardrobe, and all those things, but the competitors couldn't care less about all that. What they want is the shot. The PGA, or LPGA tournament placing that will give them the chance to live out those dreams in real life.

   Along comes American Idol, Making The Band, and other talent based contests, and again I am underwhelmed. A bunch of pretty faces with moderate to piddling talent competing to be the next year's addition to the where are they now? file. No thank you, Sir. I already rejected Star Search back in the eighties. Why would I want to watch a bunch of badly disguised copycats of it?
   Then, washed up rockers INXS decided to attempt to ressurect their career, minus their self-crucified lead singer (Michael Hutchence, much to his own surprise, turned out not to be the second coming), and Rockstar was born. Props to Canadian J.D. Fortune for grasping that brass ring, even though he wasn't even born the last time an INXS song was on the charts. Pretty Vegas aside, it's hard to see the new INXS going much farther than their first (and only to date) single can carry them. I was still unimpressed.

   This season seems different somehow. Is it because Supernova is made up of musicians whose music has been relevant within the last decade? Is it because the musical sub-genre is closer to my own taste than last year's show? Or is it just because I started watching from the beginning, and became invested in the personalities early on?
   Whatever the reason, I have enjoyed watching. Unfortunately, the last few shows have become predictable. Patrice had to go last week because she was the last of the weaker performers. I predicted Ryan's exit this week based on the assumption that the producers didn't want to be down to only one woman left this early. With five contestants left, I suspect two will be sent home on next week's penultimate show, leaving three finalists for the last week. The first of those two will be Storm - we all know Supernova will not be choosing a woman to front their band; we've known it from the beginning. They will, however, keep one woman in the final three, and that woman will be Dilanna. Also sent home next week will be Magni. He's just plain too clean cut to fit in with the likes of Lee, Clarke, and Newsted.
   So, the final three, according to my reckoning, will be Lucas, Toby, and Dilanna.
   Dilanna, of the three, has the most talent. Unfortunately, her vagina rules her out. Not that it should, but these guys aren't going that far out of their own comfort zone. They want a guy.
   Lucas is the best fit style wise, but he is young; by far the youngest of the contestants that made it to the main show. He does have a fair amount of professional experience going for him, but he just may make the other three guys feel too old. Also, he's Canadian; and the producers could balk at making it a win for the Great White North two years in a row.
   Toby has the best ability to belt out hard rock vocals, as evidenced by his performance of Rebel Yell this week. What he doesn't have is the black leather and tatoos look that fits the rest of the band. It may end up coming down to which one of them writes the best song for the band to perform this coming week.

   My psychic prediction: Lucas Rossi will become the new lead singer for Supernova. If I'm wrong, we'll never mention this again, OK?



   I got a bit of a kick out of this: The Bible Letter.

No, I didn't sign it. Two wrongs don't make a right. Does make you think, though.



Unverified fact of the day

In the 2004 United States presidential election, Marilyn Chambers ran for Vice President on the Personal Choice Party ticket, a quasi-libertarian party. She received a total of 69 votes.
Hey, it'd be funny if it's true.


Sunday, August 27, 2006

Hey, Asshole!

   Co-incidentally to the previous entry, one of the new books I referred to in the entry before that was, indeed, Old Man's War, by John Scalzi. Matt and I had gone into The World's Biggest Bookstore to look for book ten in The Guardians of Ga'Hoole series, and there it was, in a brand spanking new, trade paperback version, glistening at me invitingly. How could I resist?
   Beside it was a hardcover of
The Ghost Brigades for almost double the price. I resisted.
   What follows is my non-professional, highly opinionated, personal review. Be aware that while I have tried to be circumspect, some of the statements made in this review may verge on being spoilerish. Proceed at your own risk.

Old Man's War, by 2006 John W. Campbell Award winner John M. Scalzi

'Disturbing a corpse'

   Anyone who has spent a bit of time reading one of John Scalzi's blogs has read the first sentences of Old Man's War. For the three people reading this who that sentence does not describe, here they are:
I did two things on my seventy-fifth birthday. I visited my wife's grave. Then I joined the army.
   With those words, spoken by John Perry, the story's narrator and main character, Scalzi serves notice that the novel's title is not at all figurative, and launches into fifty pages of non-stop, rollicking exposition.
   In and around his massive info dump, Scalzi gets his characters into space, where they eat well, take some tests, undergo some medical procedures, and have sex. A lot of sex. All of which serves as a backdrop for another sixty pages of Scalzi's best impersonation of
Austin Powers' boss.

'Building a better you'

   Scalzi's prose is simple, and straight-forward. His characters are the same. No one other than John Perry is any more than a cardboard cutout of a person. If it wasn't for all the sex going on I might have thought I was reading young adult fiction. He tries hard to make his recruits a light hearted, ironically flippant, yet intellectually diverse group, but the 'clever' dialogue just never works for me.
   As well, he does no more than skim the surface of any social, political, or philosophical implications of what the characters in the story experience. This is not a deep book. It also seems to leave some issues hanging unresolved. For example, we are led down a descriptive path that may lead to the conclusion that there's something amiss in the state of The Colonial Union, but we step off that path, and only ever glimpse it again from afar. Another question is exactly what happens to the original 'John Perry' after the medical procedure he undergoes in the first part of the book. The question is asked, and never satisfactorily answered.
   That doesn't make it an unentertaining book, however. John's literary voice is agreeable, and easily draws his reader into the story. It must be remembered, as well, that this is the first of three novels to be set in this universe, and he may delve more deeply into things later. One could interpret unresolved issues as hanging threads, waiting to be picked up again later in the story.
   One thing Scalzi does exceptionally well is lampoon bureaucracy. The owner's manual John Perry receives along with his new 'military equipment' is priceless. I couldn't help myself, and had to read it out loud in the voice of a narrator of a sixties style military propaganda film: "in the event of a nuclear explosion, crawl under your desk and hold a text book over your head. This will protect you from the radiation." Yeah, right.

'I work for a living!'

   Part two of the novel opens with the most common military cliche there is; the abusive Drill Sergeant. I don't know, maybe there's no way around it in a military story. Scalzi attempts to mitigate the situation somewhat by acknowledging it, but a nod and a wink to the reader; a figurative voice saying, "yeah, I know it's a cliche, so sue me," doesn't make it OK. He tries to make it seem different from every single other war movie you've ever seen, but it doesn't fool anyone. He keeps talking about Master Sergeant Antonio Ruiz, but all I can see is Lou Gossett Jr. I was actually surprised when he didn't trot out the 'queers and steers' line.
   The whole book is like that, actually.There's nothing new here. Anyone who has read a significant amount of science fiction in the past has already read several books that deal with the themes and concepts Scalzi is exploring here, and deal with them in much more depth. Again, I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, pending a reading of The Ghost Brigades, and The Last Colony, but this novel did not challenge me.
   Not that there's anything wrong with that. Many readers don't want to be challenged. They don't want to be asked to think about the philosophical implications of death and rebirth, the social implications of technology that allows it, and the political implications of a society based on it. They just want to read about military supermen kicking evil alien ass across the galaxy. This novel is somewhere in the middle. It's an entertaining two-day read that flirts with making you think.
   And by the end, Scalzi comes back to what drives the best stories: characters who care about each other. While I did not find it intellectually challenging, Old Man's War was emotionally satisfying. As John Perry begins to develop a relationship with one of the most unlikely of fellow officers, the readers begin to truly care about him for the first time. Just in time, for the book is over, and now I do want to know more about what happens. When does The Ghost Brigades come out in paper, John?


Congratulations are in order

   Our Blog-father, John M. Scalzi, has just been awarded the John W. Campbell Award for best new writer at the World Science Fiction Convention in Los Angeles. This is a pretty prestigious award in the science fiction community. I'm pretty sure John did not expect to win (both because of his natural modesty, and his high regard for his fellow nominees), and I can imagine how excited and elated he is right now.
   Head on over to
By The Way, or The Whatever, and offer him your congratulations.


Friday, August 25, 2006

It's another questions meme...

1. A month before it happens you're told you're going to lose your memory. How do you prepare for it and do you attempt to regain what you've lost?

Frame a cop for my wife's murder and leave myself numerous vague clues tattooed on my body to lead me to him later, when I don't remember what happened. No, wait, that was a movie I once saw. 

2. How do you describe your outlook on life?

It's better than the alternative. 

3. You fall in love with your soulmate, decide to get married, and then find out that person is going to die soon. Do you marry them anyway?


4. What are three of your favorite ice cream toppings?

Chocolate chips, chocolate brownie, and chocolate sauce. All on chocolate ice cream, of course. 

5. Is there one article of clothing you love to wear no matter how out of style it is?

I have no style. I wear jeans and t-shirts. And runners. 

6. Is there one color you wish would go away in fashion?

I could care less? I don't think so. 

7. What's the first department you head to when you go shopping in a department store?

TVs. Then candy. Later, women's underwear. I'm lying, of course. I don't actually go shopping. 

8.How far away do you live from your parents?

It's a twenty minute drive. In a car, that is. I'm not sure how long it would take in a horse drawn buggy. Pretend that's relevant.

9. Growing up, who was your favorite cartoon character?

Oh, wow. Test the old memory cells, will you? I can't honestly remember. I watched a lot of cartoons. Scooby Doo? Merrie Melodies? The Bugs Bunny Road Runner Hour? I'm gonna go with the last one, as I watched it with me Grand Dad all the time. I always rooted for the underdog. Go Coyote! 

10. You plan a romantic evening and everything goes wrong, including the fancy dinner you burned. What do you do?

Go with the flow, baby. If you can't laugh at yourself, who can you laugh at? Well, there's always Joe's hair.  

11. What's the last thing you bought at the store?

Today I bought some books. More about that in a future entry. 

12. Have you ever walked out in the middle of a movie?

No. We go to the theater so rarely that we're pretty sure about what we want to see before hand. Marginal movies get the veto right quick like. They come out on video in three months anyway. 

13. What celebrity do most people say you look like?

I don't believe I have ever been compared to a celebrity. Readers? 

14. Is there any piece of jewelry you always wear?

No. Almost always?...yes. I take even my engagement and wedding rings off if I am doing any heavy work. 

15. Have you ever tried to pick someone up?

All the time. I'm generally successful, too. See, I estimate their weight first, and then decide whether to exert the effort or not. 

16. What's the one thing you always manage to lose on your way out the door?

My mind? Oh, no, I found that. It was under the sink.

17. Out of these creatures which one are you most afraid of:
A.) Snakes
B.) Spiders
C.) Rodents

Spiders, no question. Creepy crawlies are the only thing that really get to me. You know those really big millipedes that move like lightning? E

18. What's the last gift you bought for a friend?

Bought my wife a wine funnel in Ottawa last week.

19. Do you ever buy people things for no reason?

Bought my wife a wine funnel in Ottawa last week. 

20.What's your favorite way to spend a lazy summer afternoon?

Bought my wife a wine funnel  Sorry, got stuck in a loop there. Right now I'm having a blast building this dog house.

via: Behind Hazel Eyes


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Monday photo shoot

   This week John's Monday Photo Shoot is being temporarily hosted by Journals Editor Joe over at Magic Smoke. The topic is, and I quote:
Your Monday Photo Shoot: Take a photo that shows you with your camera. A mirror or other reflective surface would probably help here.

Also, tell us a little about your camera, and how you use it.

   Joe talks about the common occurence on teh internets of people taking self portraits by shooting themselves in a mirror (which reminds me of a funny story about my wife that I absolutely cannot recount here if I value my life). He notes that virtually all digital cameras have a self timer mode, which would allow people to prop their cameras on something, and get a more pleasing composition than a reflection holding a camera, yet no one uses it. What he leaves unspoken is what that says about the camera users.
   In my rebelious, conformist, yet non-conformist way, I thought I would twist this assignment a little bit by using a tripod and the self timer feature to get a picture of the camera in the mirror, with me not in the mirror. I thought I was being pretty slick until I realised that Rachael had already done it. And she's cute, which so beats my vaguely clever any day.


   The camera is a Sony point and shoot model, which I generally hate. If I had it to do over again I would buy a Canon or a Nikon any day. I definitely recommend that if you are looking at a digital camera, you not consider a Sony. The focusing system is poor. The exposure system is adequate. The battery life is horrifically bad. OK, enough griping. Go look at someone else's picture now.

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Monday, August 21, 2006

Brass tacks

   I have been asked to mention the 2996 project. If you have not heard about it, it is an attempt to sign up 2996 individual bloggers to each write one tribute on September 11th of this year, to one person who died in the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001. If you are interested, you can read more about it at the 2996 blog. If you are interested in participating, you can sign up here.

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Apparently, it's all my fault

   Today, AWV offers you something a little different: a guest blogger. My decision to stay an extra day in Ottawa had unintended, unexpected, and completely unforseeable consequences. Why don't I let my wife explain it to you in her own words. The following is an e-mail she sent out to her co-workers (no Joe, I won't fall prey to your silly little meme), and CC'd to me. I reproduce it here with her permission.
This past weekend, hubby and son went to Ottawa to visit Auntie Susie and her brood of children.  This is an annual event, and our dog goes into diet mode as he misses terribly his alpha master (my husband). Unfortunately, his hunger strike this weekend has been accompanied by a terrible case of the runs. This means that no matter how well trained a beast,  no matter how house broken even, they can lose control of their bowels. And no, we had no accidents in the house because my puppy is insistent enough and persistent enough to let you know when he 'urgently' needs to go out. (I guess you need to love an animal enough to recognize what different sounds mean, not unlike a mother recognizing the different cries of her new born babe.)

So, throughout the course of the weekend there were numerous 1 AM (and so on) scratches at the door. Well, THIS particular morning was slightly different in the sense that my beast, once let out, (at 12:30 or so),  was not interested in coming back in. Since I am not the Alpha dog in the house, my pleading with him to come back in fell on mute ears. So, what do I do? I leave him. After all, what harm could there be? It's a fully fenced yard, it means that I may actually get a few hours of uninterrupted sleep, and it's much cooler outside than inside for my long haired beast. Well, around 5 AM I startle awake, realizing that the dog has not yet been asking to come in. As I look out my bedroom window, I begin to smell the all too familiar scent of a skunk, up close and personal. The smell of a dead skunk on the road is NOTHING compared to the live, fresh scent of a living critter. I boot it to my side door thinking to rescue my dog before he comes face to face with the oversized rodent. Too late, the poor beast is covered in spray. His face is dripping with the stuff!

So, I have scrubbed and soaped and rinsed him, my patio, my side screen door.....contrary to popular belief, tomato juice, toothpaste and baking soda do not work.So, I missed my usual train this morning, and am sitting on the later train wondering if I too smell given how up close and personal I was to my poor dog.  I can't seem to get rid of the smell from my nostrils, and there is no one home to tell me that I do or do not reek of skunk. I trust you will all let me know. (Of course, if no one sits beside me on the train, I will suspect that my nostrils are not deceiving me!) So, please do not hesitate to let me know! (And if I seem a little distracted today, you will understand why!)

See you all soon.
   My dog has now been skunkified for the third time. The first time, the skunk missed, and he was only covered around his neck, chest and forelegs. The second time, I'm pretty sure he just found a dead skunk and rolled in it. This time, he got the full force of the jet, smack dab in the face. I am told his eyes were more bloodshot than a teenager coming home from a rock concert, and he rubbed his nose and lips raw trying to wipe off the horrible stuff.
   When I got home at about 2:30, he was lying disconsolately in a very smelly kitchen. He perked up considerably as the afternoon wore into evening, and he is almost his old, exuberant self now. We'll see how he eats tomorrow morning before we declare him cured of the blues.
   As for the smell...experience tells us there's only so much one can do. It eventually goes away on its own.


Sunday, August 20, 2006

Change of plan

   Matt and I have decided not to return from Ottawa until Monday morning. So, if you want to get an entry in for CarnivAOL this week, you still have until Monday evening to send it to me via e-mail. I hope you'll consider participating.


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

J-land turns three

AOL Journals 3-Year Anniversary Badge   So, we're coming up on the third anniversary of the inception of this most excellent community we call J-land. Monday, I believe it is, and we have been encouraged to ruminate, speculate, and blogivate on the last year (or three) of blogging and journaling we have done. Here it is.

Three years ago: On August 21, 2003 I was not blogging. I was not even using AOL at the time. I was a member; have been since '98 or so, but I was using another ISP because AOL couldn't offer me DSL. I was paying AOL $4.95 a month, or something, just to maintain my account because I suspected I wasn't completely done with it.
   I had thought about blogging at some point during the previous year, or so, and even went so far as to investigate Never followed it through, though.

Two years ago: On August 21, 2004 I was blogging. Here, on AOL. Well, sort of. The closest entry to that date is this one, on August 24, in which I admit that I am not very "blogalicious." It wasn't looking good for AWV back then.

One year ago: On August 21, 2005 I was blogging. A lot. My stable of blogs had increased to four, including the brand new endeavour, CarnivAOL. I had recently taken a more serious interest in writing about skeptical topics, and on August 22, I started a series about my involvement with an applicant for the James Randi Educational Foundation One Million Dollar Challenge in an entry called
You say you can do what?
   The very next day I admitted to my serious addiction.

Since then: Over the past year I have blogged about my family vacation to Italy, the AOL journals banner ads fiasco, the meltdown of my old computer, Flat Scalzi and Flat Paulsie, and spent a significant amountof time poking the credulous.

   What will another year bring? Only time will tell.

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In case you were wondering

   Here's what the thing looks like so far...



Wednesday "things"

1) CarnivAOL submissions request a day early. Matt and I are heading off to Ottawa for a long weekend with Matt's cousins. We're hoping to check out a couple of shows at the Ottawa Folk Festival. The offshoot is I won't be around tomorrow to make my regular Thursday request, so I'm doing it today. E-mail your submissions to me before Sunday at midnight for inclusion in next Tuesday's edition. It's J-Land's third birthday on Monday, so this is one way you can get in on the action. For more information, read all about it on the CarnivAOL home page.

2) I will also not be around tomorrow to announce the publication of a new
Skeptics' Circle. It will be at Interverbal this week. Plan to drop in and check out the latest crop of writing on skepticism and critical thinking from around this here blogiverse.

3) I dropped into Starbucks on my way out to do some shopping today, and ordered one of them there Grande Caramel Macchiatos. Whenever I do that, I am reminded of
Simon's entry about silly sizing. Moreso today, as they were out of Grande (medium) cups, and upsized me to a Venti (large) for free.
   See, Grande is the Italian word for large, even though it is their medium size. And Venti is the Italian word for twenty...



Yeah, I'm as baffled by that one as you are.
   The smaller size they offer, they call Tall, which isn't an Italian word at all. Where's the consistency, I ask you. Where?

4) Poop on you,
mbna. Today I received a solicitation for business from you in my mail box. Yes, snail mail spam is what it was. You know what? That's not such a big deal. I can handle taking the envelope out of my mail box and tossing it, unopened. The problem is exactly where I have to throw it.
   See, there was a little plastic window in the envelope. Common, I know. Except, this little window didn't have my name and address showing through it. No, this was an unaddressed, snail mail equivalent of a spam flood; one to be found in every single mailbox in town. The plastic window wasn't even in the traditional, lower left quadrant spot. No, this undersized plastic window, near the bottom right corner of the envelope, allowed through the words, "low 6 month rate." That's right, mbna, you spent a crapload of cash on a custom designed, plastic window envelope, to advertise a low six month rate on something. You didn't even say what. Was I supposed to be curious and open the envelope?
   Sorry, but it didn't work. That kind of crap goes directly from my mail box to my recycling box. Usually. But, this envelope had a little plastic window in it, didn't it? I couldn't throw it into my blue box because of that little window. I had to dispose of it in the regular trash.
   You, mbna, have spent all that money, and the only result is that you are contributing to the destruction of our natural environment by creating more solid waste to fill our already overtaxed landfill sites. I'll say it again, mbna. Poop on you!

5) Who the hell is to blame for how the word Wednesday is spelled, anyway?

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A couple of chocolate bars and a can of Coke.

An otter. Or Kempenfelt Kelly. Or both.

Mmmm, Julianne Moore.

What's an IHOP?

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norell, by Susanna Clarke.

I beg your pardon?

I sliced my palm cutting a bagel. D'oh! Also, I've been building a dog house, and my right elbow is a little sore.

Either, but I'm more likely to be able to afford the symphony these days. Sounds strange to me to be saying that, but the prices of rock concert tickets have got out of hand.

A Plasma TV. Or a nice shirt.

12. SODA? 
No. Pop. Usually Root Beer, but only when we eat at a fast food restaurant. We keep Coke and Ginger Ale in the house as mixer for when we entertain, but no one here drinks it on a day to day basis.


I'm not wearing a shirt. Get it?

Personal jet pack.

Wow! according to this, I'm quite the sinner, but it looks like lust is the biggie.

Greed: Medium
Gluttony: Medium
Wrath: Medium
Sloth: High
Envy: Medium
Lust: High
Pride: Medium

Discover Your Sins - Click Here

via She Said What.

Tagged to do it next: nah, Homey don't play dat. If you want to, do.


Sunday, August 13, 2006

You're a what?

   In the several discussions we have had here regarding belief in God, I have very simply described my position as that of being an atheist, without any in-depth explanation of just what that means. Unfortunately, the word 'atheist' carries a host of connotations with it. It means different things to different people, atheists and believers alike.
   Vjack, over at
Atheist Revolution, has just posted an entry addressing this situation. Reclaiming "Atheism" for Atheists outlines the concept of atheism in plain and understandable language, and expresses my feelings very accurately. Give it a read.


Friday, August 11, 2006


Okay, I'm TRYING to inspire you with this question.
If God could grant you any wish...
Oh wait, you don't believe in him/her do you?
Okay, if I could grant you any wish (after all, you know I exist, although often you might wish to deny it), what information or understanding would you wish to instill in all mankind?
In other words, if there was 1 concept or inate understanding which you could have all humans suddenly get, what would it be?
I know how I would answer this question and am very interested in what you would respond with.
I also recognise that my being a very poor writer, your first answer might be...
or being Canadian, I guess that should be "eh?"
Email me if you need clarification... or if you feel it's a stupid question. Be prepared to explain why!!
Comment from bpslider45 - 07/08/06 11:47 PM
   I will answer this one, Brent. It's a good question.

   If I could somehow arrange for a specific knowledge or understanding to instantly become instilled in all of mankind it would be the capability for everyone to engage in critical thinking in all aspects of our lives.
   Of course, that is not enough. I firmly believe that there are very few people in this world who are truly stupid. Most people are capable of learning to exercise critical thinking. Many are simply not interested. In fact, there are many people who choose to be willfully ignorant of easily obtainable evidence in order to continue to engage in their beliefs.
   It's a nice dream, but I know it will never happen. Oh well.


Not entirely clear on the concept.



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Thursday, August 10, 2006

Fun with motivational posters

   John Scalzi reminded me of this website that allows you to create your own motivational posters. I thought I'd play around with it a little bit, and these are the preliminary results.




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Tuesday, August 8, 2006


   The nineteenth edition of CarnivAOL has been published. Drop in over there for links to ten interesting blog entries from around AOL J-land.

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Monday, August 7, 2006

Out of my spots again

   Once more, I am here to be confounding to you; to take you out of your Aurora Walking Vacation comfort zone. That's right, I am going to link to something from somewhere else, even though I have, in the past, expressed my disdain for such things, much like iced cappucino.
   I have absolutely no idea who Andrew Sullivan is, other than the fact that he writes a blog called The Daily Dish for Time. I followed a link there from somewhere else to watch this excerpt from The Colbert Report about Wikipedia, and the nature of reality. It's funny because it's true. It's also unbelievably sad for the same reason.
   If you don't understand why, send me an e-mail, and I will explain it to you.

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Questions, questions, questions

   I have two or three (or four) more questions that have trickled in since I posted my Ask me anything entry. They've been kicking around in my test journal, where I've been staring at them blankly for a week, pretending I have something better to do. Not that they're tough questions, or anything. I just haven't felt like writing anything.
   Still, you asked 'em, and I promised to answer 'em, so here they are.
Dear Paul,
hi! What is your favorite book? :) favorite movie?:) and favorite hobby?:)
yours, natalie
Comment from lurkynat - 20/07/06 12:35 PM
what was your favorite family outing? party?
   I think I would have to say that my favourite book of all time (so far) is Tigana, by Guy Gavriel Kay. Kay is also my favourite author. I highly recommend him.
   My favourite movie would actually be a trio of movies - or a trilogy, to be more precise - The Lord of the Rings, filmed by Peter Jackson.
   I don't really have a hobby. Well, maybe writing here. Come to think of it, I keep an aquarium with live plants and tropical fish in it, does that count? Favourite family outing, or party? I don't really think about those things that way.

Hi, Plittle
    It's my first time to read your blog. I clicked on your blog mainly because I was attracted by its name " Aurora Walking Vacation". That's just beautiful. How did u come up with that name? Is there a story in it to tell?
Comment from shasha1023 - 15/07/06 6:48 AM
Hi Sasha,
   I live in a town called Aurora. When I started this blog two years ago, I had recently quit my job, and did not intend to immediately return to the workforce, hence the word vacation. Like many North Americans, I struggle with my weight and fitness levels, so I wanted to do a lot of walking. There you have it.

Does it appear to you that people who were raised Catholic seem to have serious issues with God/religion/church as an adult more so than people raised Baptist or Methodist, or one of the other various "Jesus" denominations?
Comment from inquestoftruth - 25/07/06 8:56 AM

   I don't know enough about people who were raised Baptist or Methodist to comment. I did find it interesting that you referred to those as "Jesus" denominations, when Catholicism is considered to be a part of Christianity as well, in that they believe that Jesus was God. In fact, they recite the apostle's creed at every church service in confirmation of that belief. Perhaps the word you were looking for was 'evangelical.'

I kept meaning to send in a question but I also kept putting it off. If it's not too late...
It's a multi-part question (which is cheating but I don't care).

List 3 songs that must be heard on a long road-trip.
List 3 songs that, if they don't make you get up and dance, will at least have you tapping your feet.
List 3 songs you strongly associate with a person or a place.
   I hate you. OK, not really, but I hate these kinds of questions. Might have well as just asked me, "if you were a tree, what kind of a tree would you be, and why." No, better you didn't. My wife and child really don't need to see me snap today.

   Road trip music: I think I have to expand this one to entire albums instead of single songs. I've never been much for making music mixes. I tend to pop in a CD and listen to the whole thing.

1) Deep Purple - Machine Head. With songs like Highway Star, Smoke on the Water, Space Truckin' and Lazy, this is one of the greatest road trip albums of all time.

2) Big Sugar - Heated. With driving guitar inspired by bands like Deep Purple, but informed by Canadian influences like Bachman Turner Overdrive, and infused with some extra dub-reggae attitude, Big Sugar is a regular fixture in my car CD player. I had a tough time deciding which of their albums to select, but the inclusion of a cover version of BTO's Let It Ride put Heated over the top.

3) Dr. Dre - 2001. Drawing on his stable of talent, including Eminem and Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre doffed his producer's hat and released an album that redefined Rap and Hip Hop music for the beginning of a new millennium. Especially good if you have a sub-woofer.

Honourable mention: Eric Clapton - Unplugged. Fabulous for a more relaxed time-passer as the miles roll by.

   Dancing music: This one's tougher, as I don't do much dancing. There's a popular expression that says, "dance like no one's watching." I'd like to ask the people who repeat that adage if they've ever been tapped on the shoulder by the party host and told, "dude, no one wants to watch that." Whatever.

1) Kenny Loggins - Footloose. From the film of the same name, the producers could not have chosen a better song to underpin their movie about the joy of dancing.

2) Billy Idol - Mony Mony. If I have to explain this one, you're either eighty, or dead (If you need to know, Chuck, send me an e-mail).

3) B-52s - Rock Lobster. Well, I don't dance to this one, but my wife does, and believe me, it's something to see.

   Three songs you strongly associate with a person or a place... Wow, that's a really tough one. Music doesn't affect me that way at all. I'll have to sit back and let the mind drift for a while...

1) Meat Loaf - Paradise by the Dashboard Light. I was in grade eight when Meat Loaf's debut album came out, and for some reason I always associate it with an image of one of the girls in my class at the time dancing to it. I think her name was Darlene, but I can't remember for sure.

2) Phil Collins - Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now). This song, from the movie of the same name, reminds me of an old high school girlfriend who tortured me for months. I ended up changing schools to get away from her...and met my wife at the new school. Funny how things work out. I don't know why, they just do.

3) Elton John - Your Song. This was one of "the" songs played at our wedding. There were three that we had picked out for specific purposes, none of which I can remember now (the songs or the specific purposes). I do remember that we had a hell of a time choosing a third one, and in the end, the DJ suggested whatever was the most popular choice among the affianced at the time, and we said, "sure." Later, without her knowledge, I contacted the DJ, and had him change that one to Your Song. I don't think she noticed.

   So there you have it, the final crop of questions for this rather successful meme thingy. I'm calling that a wrap. Doesn't mean y'all have to stop asking me questions. I just don't promise to answer them anymore. Unless, you know, they capture my imagination, or give me a chance to insult some more Christians (I'm joking, Dawn, put down that shovel).


Saturday, August 5, 2006

Go somewhere else

   I don't do this very often, but you need to go and read this journal entry. Not only does it look at the recent Mel Gibson kerfuffle from an angle I have not seen discussed before, it may also help some people to understand a person in their own life a little bit better. Written in a simple and straight-forward style, it is nevertheless a remarkably poignant read.


Friday, August 4, 2006

It's not Thursday...

   ...but it was Yesterday, and another edition of the Skeptics' Circle was published at the blog Daylight Atheism. This is the 40th edition and it is chock full of the latest blogging on the topics of skepticality and critical thinking.

   As well, I am looking for your submissions for the next edition of
CarnivAOL, to be published on Tuesday, August 8. E-mail your submissions to me by Sunday at midnight in order to get them included.

, ,

Wednesday, August 2, 2006

What Jessica would be using today


   It's OK, Dan. I don't need the ribbon anymore.


Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Because Dan ain't got nothin'

   Alright, you crybabies. Quit yer complainin'. Here I am, and here's an entry for you. A good friend sent this to me via e-mail. See how many you can get without using Google. I claim a score of eight out of twelve, although I got kinda creative on the last one. If you want the answers, let me know, and I will e-mail them to you.

Quiz for  VERY trivial-minded people!
1. Name the one sport in which neither the spectators nor the participants know the score or the leader until the contest ends.

2. What famous North American landmark is constantly moving backward?

3. Of all vegetables, only two can live to produce on their own for several growing seasons. All other vegetables must be replanted every year. What are the only two perennial vegetables?

4. Name the only sport in which the ball is always in possession of the team on defense and the offensive team can score without touching the ball?

5. What fruit has its seeds on the outside?

6. In many liquor stores, you can buy pear brandy, with a real pear inside the bottle. The pear is whole and ripe, and the bottle is genuine; it hasn't been cut in any way. How did the pear get inside the bottle?

7. Only three words in Standard English begin with the letters "dw" and they are all common words. Name two of them.

8. There are 14 punctuation marks in English grammar. Can you name at least half of them?

9. Where are the lakes that are referred to in the Los Angeles Lakers?

10. There are 7 ways a baseball player can legally reach first base without getting a hit. Taking a base on balls (a walk) is one way. Name the other 6.

11. Name the only vegetable or fruit that is never sold frozen, canned, processed, cooked, or in any other form except fresh.

12. Name 6 or more things that you can wear on your feet beginning with the letter "S."