Sunday, December 31, 2006

There can be only one!

   Via. Dan, here are my results for the Superhero personality quiz. I think I've done this one before, but I can't remember what the result was then. Still, I don't think I can complain about this...

Your results:
You are Spider-Man
Spider-Man 100%
Robin 70%
Supergirl 60%
Hulk 60%
Green Lantern 60%
Superman 40%
Wonder Woman 40%
Catwoman 40%
Batman 20%
The Flash 20%
Iron Man 0%
You are intelligent, witty,
a bit geeky and have great
power and responsibility.
Click here to take the Superhero Personality Quiz

   And since I was in the vicintiy Dan did it too, I did the Supervillain personality test as well...

Your results:
You are Dr. Doom
Dr. Doom 70%
The Joker 60%
Apocalypse 60%
Mr. Freeze 56%
Dark Phoenix 55%
Juggernaut 52%
Lex Luthor 50%
Magneto 44%
Poison Ivy 40%
Green Goblin 36%
Kingpin 36%
Catwoman 33%
Venom 28%
Mystique 20%
Two-Face 20%
Riddler 14%
Blessed with smarts and power but burdened by vanity.
Click here to take the Supervillain Personality Quiz

   Hmm, I sense a potential conflict here. We can't both be Dr. Doom. War is brewing. A war of monumental proportions. I'd step back, if I were you.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

AWV - The year in review


   The end of the year approacheth, and, as most bloggers seem wont to do, I am writing a year end wrap-up/best-of Aurora Walking Vacation post. Actually, I am finished writing it. This is it. Sorry, is that confusing?

   I didn't write one of these last year because my old computer broke down middle of December, and I didn't get a new one until well into February. Not that I left my dear readers entirely out in the cold. That would be quite beyond me,
Just so's you know.

   In February, I was caught speeding on my way home from Ottawa. I mean really speeding. Went to court, and entered
A plea.

Skeptical topics began taking up a significant amount of space here in 2006. An early effort in that direction was
Face in pant leg Santa Claus? A fellow AOL blogger had a question about a photograph she had taken, and I undertook to answer it. I learned a lesson that week, when my rational explanation for what appeared in the picture was met with outright hostility by that blogger. Often, those who ask questions are not really looking for honest answers. In many cases, they are simply looking for someone to confirm their existing preconceptions for them. As Dr. Carl Sagan once said, "You can't convince a believer of anything; for their belief is not based on evidence, it's based on a deep seated need to believe."

   In April the AOL journaling community was hit hard by the death of one of our founding members. Pamela Hilger was blogging on AOL before the product was even officially available in its beta testing stage. Over the almost three years she was blogging, she touched virtually every person in our fledgling community. The extreme grief I felt on her passing greatly surprised me, and speaks to the strength of the bonds that we form in this online world. In tribute to Pamela I wrote
My friend Pamela, and I found a few small words.

   Later in April, I had a surprise visitor, and a skinny one at that. He stayed with me for several days, and we had a few fun adventures. I recounted them in six entries, beginning with A Tuesday story.

   Usually the saying is, "April showers bring May flowers," but this year we seemed to have a late spring, and the showers were deferred until
The frog days of summer. This is one of my favourite entries from the past year.

   Continuing on the path of skeptical blogging, I tackled people's preconceptions about Homeopathic Medicine in
Serial delusions, and took a local television station to task in Breakfast television with little or no effect. That Carl Sagan guy sure seems to have these people pegged.

   August brought a first for Aurora Walking Vacation, with a guest blogger. Well, I called her a "guest blogger," but all I really did was cut and paste an e-mail my wife sent to her co-workers, and CC'd to me. Still, it's a funny story, and she told it well:
Apparently, it's all my fault.

   Then, in September, I foolishly picked up the topic of my wife once more, in
Look at how my children play Commando in the Cul-de-sac. This entry brought a lot of comment from outside the online world, when my father mentioned it at the dinner table one night, bringing it to my wife's attention for the first time. She said she was going to write a rebuttal for me to publish as her second guest stint, but she never did. I guess the truth is just unassailable.

   October's archive is jammed full of interesting blog entries, including several controversial skeptical topics, a fun meme called
National Carry Your Camera Everywhere You Go Week, and other various and sundry offerings. In the end, I felt that the entry I really wanted to highlight here was one that explained a bit about why this journal has taken on a bit of new direction this year: Why skepticism?

   November is grey, and cold, and it seemed to me to need something to lighten the load a bit. Nothing like life to provide fodder for that. An ill-considered action is a true story of human frailty and failings. But light, you know?

   Which brings us to December, and the end of the year. Do I have an entry to highlight this month, kind of a wrap up for a year of Aurora Walking Vacation? How about this one:
There, is that 'meta' enough for you?

Tags: , ,

Friday, December 29, 2006


   The twenty-ninth edition of CarnivAOL has been published. Yes, I know it's late this week. I blame the Turkey. Go read it anyway, OK.



Thursday, December 28, 2006

That last hand nearly killed me

   Just saw the new Bond Flick, Casino Royale, and had some interesting (to me) thoughts about it.

   The theme song is You Know My Name, by Chris Cornell, former lead singer of Soundgarden. It is the first Bond theme since All Time High, sung by Rita Coolidge, to not be named after the movie, or feature the name of the movie in the lyrics, and only the third Bond film in history to do so (the first was Dr. No, which featured just the James Bond theme as a main title song). I liked it, and thought it led well into the movie, both in terms of the plot, and the fact that a new (and a controversial choice for) actor was in the lead role.

   It's a damn good film. Perhaps the best Bond film to date.

   Daniel Craig is a damn good Bond. I've always had a soft spot for Sean Connery in the role, but have enjoyed all of the various Bonds, including the much maligned George Lazenby. Is he the best Bond ever? I don't know. In hindsight, he looks to have truly been the best choice for the role now.

   Judi Dench: best 'M' ever. Dame, that woman can act!

   Mild spoiler below...



   Rather than beginning, the film ends with the famous line, "the name's Bond, James Bond." It's fitting both as a wink to the fans who opposed Craig's hiring - he's pretty firmly established that he owns the role at the end - and as a wind up to the plot, in which Bond's status as a double-0 operative is on shaky ground. In both cases, he's saying, "I have arrived."

   Also, why can't theaters ever get the sound right? This new theater in town started out with quite good sound, but over the last year someone has apparently been slowly inching the volume up to the point where it is now at near ear-bleeding levels. Don't get me wrong, loud is good, but speaker distortion is bad, and so was the sound at this movie. Can't wait until it comes out on video so I can watch it with really good sound, in my living room.

Peculiar nobility

My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
Very Lord Paul the Scattered of Chortling Chesterton
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Toronto psychic May Miller revisited

   I'm working on a year in review post, but this topic deserved it's own forum. If you recall, back in June I talked about a Toronto psychic named May Miller, who appeared on the local morning show. She made a series of predictions on that show, which I determined to keep track of in order to gauge her accuracy. And the time has come to do so...
   First, have a peek at the
list of her original predictions, and my commentary on them at the time, and then come back here and we'll have a look at just how good a "psychic" Ms. Miller is.

Prediction #1: Germany will win the World Cup.

   Strike one. Germany lost to Italy in the Semi-finals. Italy went on to win the World Cup, much to my chagrin. It might almost have been worth it for her to have got this one right.

Prediction #2: While the USA will have to contend with several hurricanes this year, none of them will be as bad as Katrina.

   Strike two. While this was not a difficult prediction to get right, for reasons I outlined at the time, she managed to cock it up completely. You see, not one hurricane touched United States soil all year. So, while she was right about the fact that Katrina would not be surpassed, the fact that the hurricane season was the polar opposite this year than last is so remarkable that her prediction, as she worded it, can only be called a miss.

Prediction #3: Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie will marry this year, and have another child. That child will not be adopted, but via a pregnancy.

   Strike three. Not only did Brad and Angelina not marry, they made a public statement to the effect that they have no intention of doing so. Also, Angelina, to date, has not become pregnant.

Prediction #4: Jennifer Lopez is pregnant right now. The news will come out soon.

   Nope. No news of a pregnant J-Lo. Sorry.

Prediction #5: The morning show interviewer, who is pregnant herself, will deliver her child on July 1st or 2nd.

Liza Fromer gave birth to a baby boy on July 15th, 2006. Another swing and a miss. Where are we, so far? Oh, yeah, zero for five.

Prediction #6: Toronto will have a bad year for shootings, but 2007 will be better due to improved enforcement.

   Again, this seemed like a safe prediction at the time, based on a record number of gun murders in Toronto in 2005, and an apparent trend toward the same during the early part of 2006. Unfortunately, for Ms. Miller at least, the trend was not borne out, and Toronto's murder rate returned this year to a normal range, more in line with 2004 and the years leading up to it. Almost half, in fact, of last year's count.
   Will 2007 be even better? It's hard to predict based upon the statistics. Toronto has seen a significant increase in gang related violence in the last few years. On the other hand, the per capita murder rate in Toronto has been declining for thirty years. So, your guess is as good as mine...or May's. Still, I have to count this one as a miss based on the first half of the prediction.

Prediction #7: Toronto need not worry about a terrorist attack.

   The wording of this one is a bit funny. Not so much as a prediction as a reassurance. Does Toronto need to worry about a terrorist attack? Our politicians seem to think so. According to US intelligence, we are on an Al-Qaeda list of prospective targets. But then again, according to US intelligence, Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, so it's hard to say what that's worth.
   In Ms. Miller's favour, we did not have a terrorist attack in 2006. However, the authorities here arrested a number of people who were allegedly engaged in planning one, which incident prompted Miller's comments in the first place.
   She would, if asked, however, say that part of the reason we need not worry about an attack is our superior police and intelligence services will prevent any future plans from coming to fruition as well. While I don't agree with her, I cannot argue based on current and past events. May gets a grudging hit on this one.

   So, Toronto psychic May Miller's final record on the predictions she made on the Breakfast Television show on June 20th of this year, is onefor seven, or just under fifteen percent. Now believers will trumpet that one hit as being proof of Ms. Miller's awesome psychic abilities, but honestly, would you pay someone for a psychic reading based upon a fifteen percent success rate? If the answer to that is yes, you deserve to be fleeced by this fraud.

   In other fraudulent psychic news, it has been five years and nine months since
Sylvia Browne agreed to be tested for the James Randi Educational Foundation's Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge, and five years and four months since she agreed to a specific and definitive test protocol. She has yet to come forward and complete the test she agreed to take. For more evidence of Sylvia Browne's bumbling, incompetence, visit

Memes as a form of cat vacuuming

   Dan nicked this from Skatje, and since I don't have an original thought in my head, I nicked it from him. Do feel free to show your own knickers...wait...I don't think that's exactly what I meant to say.

1. When you looked at yourself in the mirror today, what was the first thing you thought?
    I haven't looked at myself in the mirror today. Should I? 

2. How much cash do you have on you?

    Zip, zilch, nada... 

3. What’s a word that rhymes with DOOR?

4. Favorite planet?
    I was going to say Pluto, but...

5. Who is the 4th person on your missed call list on your cell phone?
    I don't get that many calls. There's only one number on my missed calls list, and it was me, testing my son's cell phone.

6. What is your favorite ring tone on your phone?
    Ring, ring.

7. What shirt are you wearing?
    What, would you recognise it if I told you? Clearly, this meme was created by high school kids who intimately know each other's wardrobes. Feel free to leave this one out if you nick yourself. I mean...oh, hell, you know what I mean.

8. Do you label yourself?
    Yes: "No returns or exchanges"

9. Name the brand of the shoes you’re currently wearing?
    Socks. (Dan's answer, and I have to agree. Once again we come up against the teen meme phenomenon. If I wear my shoes in the house, I sleep on the couch for a night or two.) 

10. Bright or Dark Room?
    Bright. I think I have SAD.

11. What do you think about the person who took this survey before you?
    He's from Milwaukee. 'Nuff said. 

12. What does your watch look like?
    What do you expect me to say, "it looks like a sailboat?" It looks like a frickin' watch. 

13. What were you doing at midnight last night?
    Downloading porn. Go read Dan's answer, and then laugh at him. He was downloading porn, too.

14. What did your last text message you received on your cell say?
    I have never received a text message on my phone. Nor have I any desire to do so. Got something to say to me? Call me and say it out loud.

15. Where is your nearest 7-11?
    Good question. Do we have any 7-11s in Canada?

16. What’s a word that you say a lot?

17. Who told you he/she loved you last?
    My wife. :D

18. Last furry thing you touched?
    My cat. (You thought I was going to say, "my wife" again, didn't you. I'm not that stupid.)

19. How many drugs have you done in the last three days?
    Popped a couple Tylenols this morning. Does alcohol count? 

20. How many rolls of film do you need developed?
    Last I looked,there was still an old roll of 120 in my antique Baby Brownie. I think it's been over a decade at least since I last played with it.

21. Favorite age you have been so far?
    Hoo, boy. In two months, I will be "the answer." So that's my answer. 

22. Your worst enemy?
    Myself. (Yeah, I gotta stick with Dan on this one, too.)

23. What is your current desktop picture?
    Up until this morning it was a picture of Santa Claus. I just changed it to this. 

24. What was the last thing you said to someone?

25. If you had to choose between a million bucks or to be able to fly what would it be?
    If by flying, you mean that silly cross legged bouncing the TM people do, I'll take the cash. If you meant the kind of flying Superman does...I'll still take the cash. Unless, you know, I could have his X-ray vision, too. That would be cool.

26. Do you like someone?
    Definitely. (I'd be pretty worried about anyone who answered this question in the negative. Yes, I know the kids mean something else when they ask.)

27. The last song you listened to?
    "Headspin" - Supernova.

28. What time of day were you born?
    Probably early morning. That seems to be pretty common. Don't feel like calling my Mom and asking. 

29. What’s your favorite number?
    I am not a number. I am a free man!

30. Where did you live in 1997?

31. Are you jealous of anyone?
    Nah. Jealousy is for babies. 

32. Is anyone jealous of you?
    Couldn't tell you. I rather doubt it, though. If I were someone else, and I were jealous of me, I'd be pretty pathetic.

33. Where were you when 9/11 happened?
    On my way to, and then at work.   

34. What do you do when vending machines steal your money?
    I can't remember the last time I used a vending machine. You see, because I don't eat in high school cafeterias anymore. 

35. Do you consider yourself kind?
    Yes. If you disagree, go f--- yourself.

36. If you had to get a tattoo, where would it be?
    Why would I have to get a tattoo? That doesn't make any sense. I suspect if someone was going to force me to get a tattoo, I would have precious little input on its location.

37. If you could be fluent in any other language, what would it be?
    Italian. Screw the French.

38. Would you move for the person you loved?
    Without a second thought.

39. Are you touchy feely?
    Yeah, pretty much. 

40. What’s your life motto?
    "It's better than the alternative."

41. Name three things that you have on you at all times?

42. What’s your favourite town/city?
    Rome, Italy. 

43. What was the last thing you paid for with cash?
    Parking at the airport.

44. When was the last time you wrote a letter to someone on paper and mailed it?
    Last week. It was attached to a Christmas gift that will arrive quite late. 

45. Can you change the oil on a car?
     I've never tried before, but it can't be all that hard, given the appropriate tools. (No, I don't mean those guys in the pit at the Jiffy Lube.)

46. Your first love: what is the last thing you heard about him/her?
    Haven't heard tell of her for over a decade. She was getting married then, I think. No idea how that turned out, nor do I ever wonder.

47. How far back do you know about your ancestry?
    I only have direct knowledge about my parents' grandparents. An uncle of mine has done a significant amount of research about my father's side of the family, even going so far as to prowl cemeteries in Scotland for clues. One day I should ask him what he has found out. 

48. The last time you dressed fancy, what did you wear and why did you dress fancy?
    Wore a suit to accompany my wife to a business Christmas party a couple of weeks ago.

49. Does anything hurt on your body right now?
    Got a bit of a headache. Could be caffeine withdrawal.

50. Have you been burned by love?
    Hasn't everyone? If you answered, "no" to that question, I can only say, "you will be. You will be."


Monday, December 25, 2006

Run Rudolph, Run?

You Are Blitzen
Always in good spirits, you're the reindeer who loves to party down with Santa.

Why You're Naughty: You're always blitzed on Christmas Eve, while flying!

Why You're Nice: You mix up a mean eggnog martini.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas

   I've been reading in several Atheism based blogs about Atheists' displeasure with being wished a "Merry Christmas," and I'm not sure I understand that point of view. As an atheist myself, I am quite happy to be wished a "Merry Christmas," and will immediately respond in kind. In fact, I have been known to utter the greeting myself at times, totally unprovoked.
   People might ask how, if I don't believe in God, I can participate in what is essentially a Christian Holiday. The answer to that is simple: no man is an island. I am, as much as anything else, a product of my upbringing, and of society at large. I was raised celebrating Christmas. My wife was raised celebrating Christmas. We have raised our son celebrating Christmas. And as much as Christmas - which is essentially an amalgam of several different pagan and early religious celebrations - is today, in name, a Christian holiday, the fact is, in practice, it is a secular holiday as well.
   Simply because I reject the alleged "reason for the season," should I also reject forty years worth of family tradition? Tradition, mind you, that I was brought up participating in long before anyone tried to explain the religious aspects of the day. And quite frankly, the underlying message of Christmas, that it is better to give than to receive, is a good lesson to pass along to my child, whether I choose to attach the religious trappings of it or not.
   So, when someone wishes me a "Merry Christmas," I don't pause to contemplate whether they are a believer in God or not, or how their belief does or does not affect me. I simply return the sentiment, and heartily, and sincerely wish them and theirs a very, Merry Christmas. In fact...

"Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night."

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Because I was curious

   After talking about my wife's cousin, Giovanni, having found my blog, I wondered how much success he might have trying to read it via the Google translate service. So I pasted the previous entry into the text box there, translated it into Italian and then, because I can't read Italian, translated it back into English. This is what I got:

1:40 a.m and all gushes

   That is a flow insonne of the conciousness. Unscripted, unknown. Hell, is not to go not even to the spell-check. Been obtaining it you live, poichè fuoriesce ahead from my mind of the vapid.

   The dog cannot sleep neanche. I can be found only here for so as to wishing, staring to the ceiling and listening to its untrimmed the nail clickity-clack on the pavement of the hard wood as He covers. Lucky person, you obtain a newspaper entrance from my uneasiness. The moglie is russando, so as to it cannot feel.

   I have approximately four newspaper entrances in progress in my newspaper of the test, in varied I declare of the unreadiness and all that can make is cultured Snark. It is like a shipwreck of the train. I cannot observe via. How the cliché it is that one?

   They have become addicted to Sudoku. Incolpo of my parents. Not, it is not some editions buried long from my small upbringing of the city. They have given to Matthew the book of Sudoku of the principiante that I have taken and I read a day because they have been bored. Hour step with McDonald's guid-through every morning of Sunday for the first breakfast because it gives outside the complementary copies of the star de Toronto and they print three puzzle that day.

   We have gone Been born them that we acquire today (well, yesterday, fortune teller). I have never pointed out as put out of order Matthew is? This year is obtaining - not, it never improves not Not sapete. I will say that what is not obtaining. It is not obtaining Nintendo Wii. We were in one of I placed you of electronics in the center trades them and have made five scato them of Wii to collect into a pile in on on one console. The moglie has had to ask. The type has laughed it hardly. Not, they do not have any is some in action. Not, they will not have any of before Is been born them. , They will not have any of after Is been born them neanche. Probably not until February, we say ourselves to Therefore is obtaining the qualcos'altro.

   Moreover, we have spold nearly as well as on its stocking as we have made on its main gift. To nearly they are suffocated me when the employee has squillato on the total. That a lot, since the things that small we have in this bag? I have pointed out I have put out of order? The OH, yeah. Me memory of Second phrase of that last tip.

   Tomorrow (today, really) it will be the 20 December, the tenth anniversary of the dead women of the Carl Sagan. I have a skeptical starter shaft I am trying to write to time to include in the circle of the Skeptics of this week (if it were not two in morning point has included a connection to that - if wished one, go behind some starter shafts - will be in some place) and has wished here to publish it today in order to mark the date, but not task that can obtain made it time. It is mainly approximately for the mathematics that, that I understand very well, but that therefore it is reaming, I cannot levarselo in feet. Nevertheless, I wish rifinirlo because task that it says some important thing.

   The cursed dog is scratching to the hatch in order to exit. I have pointed out are two in point of the morning freaking? The lascerei outside, because the zucca it knows I am going to be on a moment, but are frightened that it will see a squirrell in the iarda posterior and begins scortecciare and alarm clock the neighbors. Naturally, it could scratch and gemere hardly until that my moglie did not wake up. Not sure that it would be defective.

   Originally I have written freakin in how much last tip, therefore variable it to freaking. Law various. Yeah, I know that said I it was not going to make the publication at all. I have meant after that hit “savings „. Still to be ortografico control, because I am composing in motion this here, in my newspaper of the test and the Canadian version of the software still does not offer that characteristic. We have obtained to urls described in this the last modernization to you. Which thing you have obtained?

   It has obtained hardly an email. To be just posterior part… Vat as soon as it has left a comment me. Hi Tina. Thankses for the comment. How it is Decrease currently?

   They are forgotten to me hardly that what I was going to say after.

   The OH yeah. I must say hello to the cousins Giovanniof my moglie, in Italy, to its moglie Chettina and their small girl Moraine. Uncle Mario who visits from the Sicily and says that Giovanni has found my newspaper and printed it outside so as to Mario could read it. Task Giovanni has not read same he to it, poichè not task that English reads. I could be wrong. If been reading this and been understanding it, Giovanni, it it falls an email and an opinion, “hello. „Or, “day of the good ones. „Or any.

   The small clock in of angle says 2:20, so as to it has been forty minuteren from when I have begun this. I would have to move it in on? I will be able to sleep if I try? They are the questions rhetoricals moreover cliché?

   You have noticed that I have calculated outside like rendering to the small surplus of the accent mark “and „in the cliché? Here it is a connection that I will put this evening in (this morning). Special characters of the stop Instructions to that page. An explanation that I will add: you write within the numerical code to machine while been maintaining the key “of the stop „. I have not thought that it has been declared enough clearly. It does not work in every browser, but it seems to work here. Yours it turns out to you can vary.

   To have one good night (morning). I am going upstairs harangue the dog.

modifications: we do not have need of smelling modifications

   So, yeah, I'm not thinking that'll be helping him too much. Now I'm going to go to bed. If, that is, I can convince the damn dog to come back inside.

1:40 A.M. and all's well

   This is an insomniac's stream of conciousness. Unscripted, unedited. Hell, I'm not even going to spell-check. You're getting it live, as it spews forth from my vapid mind.

   The dog can't sleep either. I can only lie there for so long, staring at the ceiling, and listen to his untrimmed nails clickity-clack on the hardwood floor as he paces. Lucky you, you get a journal entry from my discomfort. The wife is snoring, so she can't hear it.

   I have about four journal entries in progress in my test journal, in various states of unreadiness, and all I can do is read Miss Snark. It's like a train wreck. I can't look away. How cliché is that?

   I have become addicted to Sudoku. I blame my parents. No, it's not any long buried issues from my small town upbringing. They gave Matthew the beginner Sudoku book that I picked up and read one day because I was bored. Now I go through the McDonald's drive-thru every Sunday morning for breakfast because they give out complementary copies of the Toronto Star, and they print three puzzles that day.

   We went Christmas shopping today (well, yesterday, I guess). Have I ever mentioned how spoiled Matthew is? This year he's getting - no, better not. You never know.
   I'll tell you what he's not getting. He's not getting a Nintendo Wii. We were in one of the electronics stores in the mall, and they had five Wii boxes stacked up on a shelf. The wife had to ask. The guy just laughed at her. No, they don't have any in stock. No, they won't have any before Christmas. No, they won't have any after Christmas either. Probably not until February, we are told.
   So he's getting something else.

   Also, we spent almost as much on his stocking as we did on his main gift. I almost choked when the clerk rang up the total. That much, for the little things we have in this bag? Did I mention he's spoiled? Oh, yeah. I remember. Second sentence of that last bit.

   Tomorrow (today, actually) is December twentieth, the tenth anniversary of Carl Sagan's death. I have a skeptical post I'm trying to write in time to include in this week's Skeptics' Circle (if it wasn't two o'clock in the morning I'd include a link to that - if you want one, go back a few posts - there'll be one there somewhere) and I wanted to publish it today to mark the date, but I don't think I can get it done in time. It's mostly about math, which I understand fine, but which is so boring, I can't stand it. Still, I want to finish it because I think it says something important.

   The damn dog is scratching at the door to go out. Did I mention it's two o'clock in the freaking morning? I'd let him out, because gourd knows I'm going to be up a while, but I'm afraid he'll see a squirrell in the back yard, and start barking, and wake up the neighbours.
   Of course, he could just scratch and whine until he wakes up my wife. Not sure which would be worse.

   I originally wrote freakin' in that last bit, then changed it to freaking. Reads differently. Yeah, I know I said I wasn't going to do any editing. I meant after I hit 'save'. Still won't be spell checking, because I'm composing this on the fly here, not in my test journal, and the Canadian version of the software doesn't offer that feature yet. We got descriptive urls in this latest update. What did you get?

   Just got an e-mail. Be right back... Tina just left me a comment. Hi Tina. Thanks for the comment. How's Cali these days?

   I just forgot what I was going to say next.

   Oh yeah. I have to say hello to my wife's cousin Giovanni, in Italy, his wife Chettina, and their little girl Morena. Zio Mario's visiting from Sicily, and he says that Giovanni found my journal, and printed it out so Mario could read it. I don't think Giovanni read it himself, as I don't think he reads English. I could be wrong. If you are reading this, and understanding it, Giovanni, drop me an e-mail and say, "hello." Or, "buon giorno." Or whatever.

   The little clock in the corner says 2:20, so it's been forty minutes since I started this. Should I wrap it up? Will I be able to sleep if I try? Are rhetorical questions also cliché?

   Did you notice that I figured out how to make the little accent mark over the 'E' in cliché? Here's the one link I'll put in tonight (this morning).
Special ALT Characters. Instructions at that page. One clarification I'll add: you type in the numeric code while you are holding down the 'ALT' key. I didn't think that was stated clearly enough. Doesn't work in every browser, but it seems to work here. Your results may vary.

   Have a good night (morning). I'm going upstairs to harangue the dog.

tags: we don't need no stinking tags

Saturday, December 16, 2006

I speak for the trees

Which Dr. Seuss character are you?

You are the Lorax!
Take this quiz!

Quizilla | Join | Make A Quiz | More Quizzes | Grab Code

via: De's Thoughts


Friday, December 15, 2006

Knockin' on heaven's door

   Check it out! Someone has uploaded a video of Toby Rand and Juke Kartel playing at The Mod Club in Toronto last week. This was the only cover tune they played the whole night, and I thought they did a fine job of it. As is quite common with You Tube videos, the sound and picture get somewhat out of synch as the video goes on.

tags: , ,

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


   Also, the latest edition of CarnivAOL has been published featuring fourteen examples of blog writing from around AOL J-Land. Check it out.

tags: ,

"Just an abstract guy, under abstract skies, singing abstract songs about you"

note: this is part of a series of posts about a trip to a rock concert with my son. The opening post can be found here: Me You Sick.

   After Whitestarr left the stage, I took the opportunity to visit the little boy's room. I asked Matthew if he needed to go, but he said no. (My mother used to call him The Camel, because even at three years old he could go for hours without needing to use the facilities). Faced with my first parenting dilemma of the evening, I had to decide whether to leave my twelve year old son unattended in a bar full of total strangers, or force him to accompany me to the washroom. I was pretty sure what The Mom decision would have been, but I'm The Dad. I looked him in the eye and said, "promise me you won't move from this spot." He nodded and I left him there. Don't tell my wife.
   As I went down the stairs to the basement, where the washrooms were located, I noted that the guy following me down was the drummer from the band. I said hello, complimented him on a good show, and made some casual comment about the maze-like aspect of the hallways we were traversing. He laughed, and replied in kind. The guy we passed on his way out of the bathroom door didn't play it quite so cool.
   "Dude! You're the drummer, man! You guys were freaking awesome, man! I had never heard of you guys before, but you guys freaking ruled. Dude, you guys totally freaking rocked up there!" The drummer, Orbie (he is allegedly the son of the late Roy Orbison) was quite gracious, and sincere in his thanks, but he was clearly hoping the guy would leave. He had come into the washroom on a mission, and wanted to get it accomplished before someone else took his spot at the available urinal. Finally, the guy backed out of the can, and Orbie gratefully stepped up to the wall.
   But, no! The raving fanatic had merely stepped aside to let someone else leave the room, and now he was leaning, half in-half out the open door, announcing the band's supremacy at the top of his lungs once again. I was embarrassed by the guy. Just as I was about to say, "dude, buddy's hanging his wang. Step off and give the man some privacy," someone else pushed past him and out the door, and I guess the momentum carried him all the way upstairs, because he didn't come back.
   I looked over at the relieved/relieving Orbie and said, "looks like you've got a fan." As I made my way back to my seat, I passed the singer of the band, who had number one fan draped all over him, loudly slurring into the video camera his newfound adoration of all things Whitestarr. I'm telling you, college students and beer. It's not pretty.

   It was sudden. There was no fanfare, not even an announcement. Juke Kartel ran out on stage and started playing. You wanna talk about a contrast. Where the opening act was 60% posing and posturing - the guitarist called himself "Rainbow" fer crissake - the headliners were no nonsense, jeans and t-shirts, straight ahead rock and roll. They knew how to play their instruments, and that's what they did. And there weren't any dancers.
   In every way, Juke Kartel were a step above their opening act. Their "wall of sound" was wallier, though we could clearly hear every instrument, and Toby's voice was audible, which is a common problem a lot of live bands have. I seem to remember the judges on Rockstar: Supernova telling him that it impressed them the way his voice always came through the rest of the band, no matter how loud they were. Their blinding light show was blindier, and more in synch with the music. They used cooler colours, too.

   I was still fuming about the whole camera thing. It was about a third of the way through their set, when Toby reached down off the stage, took a camera out of a young lady's hand, then leaned in and took an arm's length portrait of the two of them, that I made up my mind. I turned to Matt and said, "I'm going for the camera."
   He looked at me and mouthed the word, "what?"
   When the song ended I tried again. "I want to get the camera," I said. "Promise me you'll stay in this exact spot. You won't go anywhere, you won't talk to anyone." he nodded, and I went out to the lobby, claimed my coat, and left my son all alone in a downtown bar for the second time in one evening. Probably best not to tell my wife that either.
   I ran the two blocks to where my car was parked, retrieved the camera, and ran the two blocks back. When I sat back down beside Matt, he looked at me and asked, "didn't you go?"
   Of course, my digital camera is a piece of crap, so most of the pictures I took look like this one:


   OK, so some of that is due to user error. I forgot to put it into the low light sensitivity mode, which would have enabled faster shutter speeds to stop the action, but at the expense of added graininess. That's OK, though. The most important pictures are the two of Matt. One was in a previous entry, of him showing the "EVS" written on his hand. The other is below.
   We hung around after the show ended, and the band came out to press flesh with the fans. Matt and I threaded our way through the throng of young (and some not so young) adoring ladies, and asked Toby if we could get a picture of the two together. He graciously acquiesced, and the result is below. Ah, memories that will last a lifetime. It's gratifying to be able to create some of those with my son.


Bonus points for identifying the quote in the title (you'll surprise the hell out of me if you do).

tags: ,

Me, sarcastic? Nah...

You're Totally Sarcastic

   You sarcastic? Never! You're as sweet as a baby bunny. Seriously, though, you have a sharp tongue - and you aren't afraid to use it. And if people are too wimpy to deal with your attitutde, then too bad. So sad.


Monday, December 11, 2006

A Cautionary Tale

Weekend Assignment #142: Your Christmas/Holiday gift is the ability to expunge one highly annoying yet popular Christmas/Holiday song from the history of the world. Which one is it?

Extra Credit: Fruitcake: Ever actually eat any?

   Funny you should mention this, John. Just the other day, someone on the J-Land Bar and Grill message board asked a similar question. The following was my answer:

   In my area, there is a radio station, called
97.3 EZ-Rock. They play "today's soft rock," a syrupy-sweet combination of Adult Contemporary, and Muzak. For some inexplicable reason, this radio station has decided that it is a good idea to play Christmas music 24/7 starting early November every year. For this reason, many retailers set their in-store radios to EZ 97.3 for the Christmas season. As their entire playlist consists of about fourteen songs, this generally results in retail sales clerks going a little bit loopy by Christmas eve.
   One of the songs this radio station plays on a regular basis - say once every thirty-five minutes or so - is called The Christmas Shoes. Have you heard the one?
Sir, I want to buy these shoes for my Mama, please
It's Christmas Eve and these shoes are just her size
Could you hurry, sir, Daddy says there's not much time
You see she's been sick for quite a while
And I know these shoes would make her smile
And I want her to look beautiful if Mama meets Jesus tonight
  OK, ladies, go and grab your box of Kleenex. I'll wait.
   Are you back? Let's continue. The reason I hate this song is the reaction I just got. Not that you all got a tear in your eye when you read those lyrics, but that those lyrics have been craftily designed to provoke just such a reaction. From the very first time I heard that song, something about it bothered me. I couldn't quite put my finger on what it was, but it always struck me as being less sincere than it sounds. In order to write this piece today, I did some Googling, and discovered some things I didn't know about the song, and suddenly I find my finger right on the button. Listen:

   Did you know there was a book written about that song? Neither did I. Did you know they made a TV movie, based on the book written about that song? Neither did I. In searching for information I discovered the page about it, and read the story behind the song. Did you know that the song was based on an e-mail that got forwarded across the Internet a few years ago? Yeah, one of those things you get in your mail every day letting you in on the secret $250 Neiman Marcus cookie recipe, or offering to pay you thousands of dollars for forwarding e-mails, or promising you the Taco Bell dog will do a dance on your computer screen, or warning you not to open an email with a certain subject line or a virus will burn a hole in your hard disk drive. You know, to match the one in your head?
   According to the CBS web page, Eddie Carswell, of the band Newsong, received the e-mail, and was inspired to write the song.
NewSong, a Christian musical group, sent its record "The Christmas Shoes" to a top DJ in St. Louis in November 2000. When he played it, the station literally shut down: the switchboard was inundated with calls and the computers crashed from the barrage of emails. With virtually no promotion, the record had 3500 spins around the country in just one week, and shot to #1 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary Charts in a record-setting three weeks.
   That's quite a story. It almost sounds like something one would read in a forwarded e-mail, itself. But the most telling thing, to me, is the alleged origin of the song itself. If the story is true - and I can find no suggestion that it is not - then I understand why I object to the song so much. Those forwarded e-mails we all get are designed things. Sure, the tale told may have a kernel of truth to it, but it grows in the telling, as all stories do. People add little details when they recount it to make it more compelling. Like the message in a game of broken telephone, the end result often bears little or no resemblance to the original.
   So what I object to about the song is the way it is crafted with the intent of creating the exact emotional response that it does. I'm not saying that the story isn't true, just that it sounds to me to be too well designed to be. It's smarmy, and maudlin, and fully too manipulative, and we hates it, yessss, my precioussss.


   Here's my point. If you, as I do, hate this Christmas song, there is a lesson to be learned here. Never, ever, under any circumstances, forward one of those stupid e-mail stories. I'm serious. Even if it isn't a hoax, you're just going to cause pain to someone, somewhere along the line; maybe even in a way you never could have imagined. Do this, and retail employees everywhere will thank you.

Extra Credit: No. Fruitcakes are not meant to be eaten. They are meant to be saved, and passed on to someone else the following year.

tags: , , ,

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Once again, Thursday...

...which means the Skeptics' Circle has been published. This, the 49th edition can be found at Autism Street. Check it out.

   It also means that I am looking for submissions for the next edition of
CarnivAOL, which will be the 28th. Email submissions to me before Sunday at midnight for inclusion.

That's all.

tags: , , ,

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Whitestarr, for openers

Concert_ticket   So there we were, Matt and I, sitting along the side wall, people watching while we were waiting for the show to start, and all I could think of was how many people had cameras with them. The guy on the phone had been adamant that they were not going to be permitted, but as far as I could tell, no one at the door had been looking for them. Indeed, even those in plain sight, like the girl at the front of the line with it hanging on a strap around her neck, hadn't even been given a second look.
   The doormen didn't seem to be very diligent about checking anything. Although it was an all ages show, the establishment was licensed to serve alcohol. So anyone over 19 got a green wristband, which meant they could get served at the bar. As we filed in, the doormen asked everyone, "are you nineteen?" and anyone who said yes got a wristband. I didn't see any ID checking going on.

   The "theater" was basically a dance club with a stage. The only seating was one long padded bench along the entire length of the east wall, faced with small, square tables every three feet, or so. The center of the room was one big dance floor, with several standing height tables scattered near the back. Matt and I took up a position along the wall, about a third of the way back from the stage. Because the tables and seats there were raised, we could see over those people standing on the floor in front of the stage.
   The opening act was a band called Whitestarr, one of the members of which had accosted us in line with a microphone and a video camera. He thought he was clever, but when he started with me, I replied to his wisecracks with my own, and left him completely speechless a couple of times. In the end, he told me, "you know we're going to edit this so that the parts where I'm making fun of you stay in, and the parts of you making fun of me are cut, don't you?" With that he moved on to accost some easier targets.

   Eventually - only fifteen minutes late - the show started. The members of Whitestarr filed across the stage, and took thier places. The clown who had interviewed us earlier followed them onstage wearing what looked like a boxer's robe with the hood up, and proceeded to disappear behind the amp stack at the extreme right hand sideof the stage. When they began playing, I scooted down onto the dance floor in order to see around the amp stack and find out what instrument the guy was playing.
   He wasn't. He was dancing. I swear to God! Dancing. You know how a lot of those Rap acts have sexy girls that accompany them on stage and Go-Go dance? The band's website MySpace page (warning: explicit content in the songs playing at this page) lists this guy's position in the band as "movement." Picture an overweight, hairy, bearded, talentless, rhythmically challenged, geek Go-Go dancing. Wait. Stop. Don't picture that. Oh, is it too late? Sorry.
   These guys were pretty good. Their sound reminded me a lot of Alice Cooper, and they did seem to be throwbacks to the seventies. If you check out some of the pictures at their website, you'll see what I mean. They had several songs I thought had a great hook. My favourite went: "I would take you out dancing, but you're too good looking." They were, however, somewhat lacking in the actual performance area. Tempo problems were evident in almost every song. The guitarist played no fewer than four different guitars over the course of the set, and had them all fed through some kind of digital effects pedal that he couldn't stop playing with. Unfortunately, none of that could disguise what was lacking in his playing. This guy would benefit from less time playing with toys and more time actually working on mastering his instrument. Even Matt, with less than a year and a half of basic guitar instruction under his belt was unimpressed.
   The lead singer doffed his t-shirt after one song, and it quickly became apparent that was by design, not because he was hot. He was wearing low rise jeans, as low as he could without them actually falling down. So low that a little tuft was evident just above the belt buckle. At one point, one of the girls in the audience yelled out, "pull your pants up." I kid you not.
   At least if his rock singer gig doesn't work out, he'll have a long and successful career ahead of him as a plumber. Dude! Your smooth and supple abs may be a turn on to the girls, but your ass-crack never is. If you're gonna hang your pants that low, don't turn around, OK?

Stay tuned. Juke Kartel hits the stage next.

tags: ,

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Jew Cartel, what, is that a Hasidic act?


   I know, it's a bad joke. At least it's not mine. Came from the guy from Whitestarr in the funny hat who was carrying a mike around and hamming for the camera before the show last night... But wait - I'm getting ahead of myself.

   Matt and I headed downtown shortly after school let out. I had whipped up a custom CD to listen to in the car on the way down that included Toby Rand's performance of Throw It Away, Ryan Star's performance of Back Of Your Car, and Storm Large's performance of (What The [What] Is) Ladylike (caution - explicit lyrics in the version at that link). Also on the CD were a couple of other songs Matt likes by Evanesence, The Who, and Jimi Hendrix. I threw in a couple of gems for him to discover, too, like the Willie Dixon rendition of I Can't Quit You Baby, and an old Leadbelly performance of Gallows Pole. I'm sly like that. He's a big Led Zeppelin fan, and those raised his eyebrows a bit.
   By some hugely entertaining coincidence, the CD included the song It Doesn't Really Matter, by Platinum Blonde - a Canadian band who had some success in the eighties - and the club we were going to (I found out later) was owned by Mark Holmes, the former lead singer of that band.

   After a quick stop at McDonalds for some McNuggets, McFries, and McRootbeer, we hopped back into the car, where Matt amused himself, and annoyed me, by playing the three songs from Rockstar, and Baba O'Reilly, over and over again until we got to the parking lot around the corner from the club. I had my camera with me, but as I mentioned yesterday, I didn't want to get to the club and find out I couldn't take it in, so I gave them another call and asked. No cameras, I was told, too bad, so sad, so I left it in the car and we set off to line up out front of the club.
Evs   Arriving at the club just before 6:30 (doors opened at 7:00, but we wanted a good spot), we were right near the front of the line, behind two women, who were chatting with a young man on the inside of the barricade, and two young teenage girls. The first thing I noticed was the camera hanging around the neck of the woman at the very front. The second thing I noticed was that the guy she was talking to was actually Toby Rand.
   Matt nudged me, and pointed to him, and I called out, "hey, there's the man, himself," which drew a glance from him, and nothing more. I leaned in towards the girls in front of us and asked, "did you guys write 'Evs' on your eyelids for Toby?" They giggled, and shook their heads, but I caught Toby's attention again.

   "Evs" is the current Australian slang for "whatever" that Toby introduced to America on the Rockstar: Supernova show, and has become somewhat of a rallying cry for his fans. My mention of it drew his full attention, and I nudged Matt and said, "show him your hand." Matt, you see, had written "Evs" on himself, and when he flashed his palm Toby jumped the barrier and came down to see us.
   Let me tell you something, this is one great guy. He went straight up to Matthew, shook his hand, asked his name, and thanked us for coming to the show. He commented on how cold it was here, but said he loved Canada. It felt like home, he said, because of how friendly the people were. Then he shivered, thanked us again for coming, hopped back over the barrier, and joined a couple of band mates.
   They were on the way to a little pub across the street to get away from the hubbub inside the club for a quiet pint before the show started, but when a couple more girls in the line behind us called out to him, and waved, he came running right back up, signed autographs for them, posed for pictures (more cameras - grrrr!), and talked to them for several minutes, too. Class act.
   At this time, I would just like to mention that we Canadians are a bit of a class act, too. After Toby ran off to the pub for a pint with his buddies, his location was repeatedly pointed out to new people in the lineup. Heck, we could even see him through the bar windows, but no one went over and bugged him while he was hanging out with his mates. The man's gotta have a life of his own, too, right?

   More to come later...

tags: ,

Monday, December 4, 2006

Me you sick

Toby_Rand   Matthew and I are on our way downtown to see a band called Juke Kartel, featuring Toby Rand of the TV show Rockstar: Supernova. It'll be Matt's first rock concert, and he's pretty excited. Full report tomorrow.
   I'm currently trying to find out if I'm allowed to bring a camera into the theater with me, so I can document the occasion. Of course, no one's answering the phone at the club, because they probably won't even arrive until six o'clock, or so. I don't want to risk it without explicit permission, because getting turned away at the door would suck in a large way.
   Here, check out the song Toby turned into an underground hit on the Rockstar TV show: Throw it away.

   Also, if AOL would fix the journals breaking of the 'align=left' instruction within the html <img> tag, this post wouldn't look so gol durned silly.

edited Tuesday, 7:29 AM to add: Dan's instructions in the comments section were helpful. His first suggestion didn't work, but I knew it wouldn't - I had already tried it. His second suggestion, though, adding a "border=0" instruction immediately after the "align=left" instruction, did work just fine. So I didn't bother trying the third suggestion. It was rapidly approaching the area of "greekiness" for me anyway.

tags: , , ,

Good morning, Toronto

   I don't do many posts that are just links to other things, but I had to point you at this because the picture there is truly Teh Kewlest of Teh Kewl!

   On another note:
Parody="it's funny because it's true."
Satire="it's scary because it's true."